Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Proofs God Doesn't Exist pt 1

Since I've been talking about proofs that God does exist in the vein of Anselem's Ontological Argument (Descartes, Kant & Russel, Hume, Plantinga), I think I'll now talk about proofs that God doesn't exist. First I'll look at some serious attempts to show God doesn't exist. And I'll follow it with some not so serious proofs that God doesn't exist, from the likes of Douglas Gasking and Douglas Adams respectively.

There are some strong arguments for God's non-existence - such as how could God let such tragedies and devastations happen or how come God doesn't unambiguously reveal themselves - which I won't address, because they have been around at least as long as the Book of Job and have actually shaped religion, and Judaism and its descendants have been built around addressing them. The arguments I'll look at are more strictly logical in character. I brought up much earlier Hume's proof that we can't prove the existence of anything a priori. We might say similarly that we can't prove that we can't prove that something doesn't exist too, but that's not quite true. First of all, we can prove a thing does exist empirically, by experiencing it, but we can't prove a thing doesn't exist empirically, because there's always the possibility that it has escaped our experience. But we can prove something doesn't exist a priori. Hume said the only way we could prove a thing exists a priori is if its opposite is logically incoherent. Similarly here, the only way we could prove that a thing doesn't exist is if it itself is logically incoherent. Thus, a proof that God doesn't exist would have to show that God is logically incoherent. There are arguments that attempt to do this.

Most monotheists believe their God to be all-powerful, by which they simply mean that such a God could do anything. There's a paradox that tries to make omnipotence logically incoherent which is well known and you may have heard it already. It goes: "can God create a rock so heavy He can't lift it?" The idea is that God either can't create a thing or can't lift such a thing, either of which would constitute a limit on God's power, making God not quite omnipotent. First of all, omnipotence is not a necessary characteristic of a God, so one could say that God is super-duper-powerful, just not literally all-powerful. But actually I think the argument itself has problems. The problem is that a rock so heavy God couldn't lift it itself is incoherent. God could lift any sized rock; thus a rock that God couldn't lift couldn't exist. God can lift any sized rock; thus a rock God couldn't lift would have to be a size bigger than all sizes of rock, but this is impossible. God's inability to create such a rock doesn't constitute a limitation on God's power since such a rock is paradoxical. Comparably God can't create a square circle, or a married bachelor or a non-human human, because such things are logically incoherent, not because God has some limit on His power.

Another argument is the incompatibility of free will with omniscience. Simply, if God is omniscient, then God knows what will happen. Thus, God knows what choices we will make. How can there be choice if God knows what choices we will make? By choice I simply mean the ability to do otherwise. If I come to a fork in the road and I can either travel the left path or the right path, I have the ability to do otherwise. Some philosophers don't think we need choice to have free will. For example, Descartes defines free-will as autonomy. If I do something myself, then I have autonomy. To Descartes, even if it is only possible for one to choose the left path, one has autonomy as long as one chooses that path oneself. Another response goes simply: when you watch a video of people doing stuff, they can't do otherwise, but you don't assume they don't have free will. Every time you read about something that happened in the past, it's going to happen the same way - for example, Julius Caesar will always decide to cross the Rubicon - but that doesn't mean there was no choice. Similarly, just because I can successfully predict what my friend will do, doesn't mean she didn't choose to do it freely. If I correctly predict that my friend will divorce her husband, that doesn't mean she didn't freely choose to divorce him.

I'll admit that these counter-arguments may not be entirely rock solid and I can't say whether free will and omniscience + omnipotence are reconcilable, but I'll leave it at that. Besides, even if it is the case they are irreconcilable, it doesn't prove God doesn't exist, because these again aren't necessary characteristics of God. But I assume most monotheists would rather have their cake and eat it too: a God that's all powerful and all knowing and freedom both at once.

Maybe we'd be better off with some not so serious proofs next post.


invenitmundo said...


I'm working on a theory for some time in trying to combine science with religion, looking for an answer to the question "What is the purpose of life in Creation?" Finally thanks to science and space exploration in the universe, we got all to agree on the fact that we are not the only planet that is hosting life. Einstein studied very much the universe, we know it all and came to the conclusion that it is too big and too complex, not be governed by something like a higher energy "From nothing you can not do something he was saying" Big Bang could not be created from nothing so simply out of nowhere and give rise to a complex mechanism so full of laws that creates (suns, planets, solar systems etc etc)In my opinion something above our understanding govern, lead, use, observe the universe,So helped by logic I suppose that we have solved one of the mysteries of mankind, if u agree and want to read my full theory visit my blog on blog secțion. thanks

Eugene Lebedev said...

For the God-Man Jesus Christ everything is possible, as God Jesus can create any stone, and may lift it up but as a man He cant lift a heavy stone up.

DOTF said...

According to cause and effect curiosity is the cause science is the effect, and religion is the outcome. Science is the product of curiosity, religion is the product of science and the byproduct of curiosity. So if we were not curious, science and religion would not exist