Sunday, August 24, 2008

Proofs God Doesn't Exist pt 2

Continuing the thread of the last post on the non-existence of God, but with less seriousness, there's a joke I heard. A professor once decided to prove before his class that God doesn't exist. He stood up and challenged God to strike him down! The Professor waiting, repeating his challenge and after a few minutes a marine got up and knocked the Professor out. The jock then said, "God was busy so he sent me!" I also remember there's a Simpsons episode where Homer gets a crayon removed from his brain, which ups his intelligence. And while trying to look into a flat tax proposal, he stumbles on a proof that God doesn't exist. We the viewers don't see the proof, but we might wonder what were its contents

Perhaps the argument he made, went something like Douglas Gasking's parody of the Ontological Proof. He basically says the creation of the universe is the greatest achievement one can imagine. But the less able, the creator was, the greater and more impressive the achievement. For example, for Tiger Woods to sink a hole-in-one is impressive, but it would be even more impressive if terrible golfer with a 28 handicap made a hole-in-one. Thus, the less great God was (the greater his handicapped) the more impressive would be the feat of creating the world. The greatest possible handicap would be for God to not exist. So, if creating the world is the greatest possible accomplishment imaginable then God must not exist. I find this proof funny, at least. The argument makes the paradoxical argument that the less great God is, the more impressive is the accomplishment of creating the universe, and thus the greater God is. Additionally, the Creator would be even more impressive if He didn't exist. The two problems with this argument are first, the assumption that creating the universe is the greatest feat imaginable. It may be the greatest feat that's ever been accomplished, but someone could still imagine something greater. The second problem with this argument is the confusion of the greatness of the feat of creation with the greatness of the Creator. For God to be the greatest thing that is, doesn't require God to do the greatest possible thing one could imagine; God doesn't have to impress anyone. Just because creating the universe is easy for God, doesn't diminish God's greatness, just the greatness of the feat itself. Though it does put the speech God makes to Job in a new light (Job 38-42). Maybe Job should have said to God, "Yes, you can pull Leviathan out with a hook and do all those things and know all that stuff, but so what? You're God. Those things aren't that impressive for you."

Then there's Douglas Adams argument which appears in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas Adams was an atheist, but I don't think he meant this argument as a apologetic to convert people to atheism. The argument is predicated on an animal called a Babel Fish, which is a fish that you can use as a universal translator by sticking it into your ear. The argument is that God says "I refuse to prove I exist, for Proof denies faith and without faith I am nothing." Then man responds to God, "but the Babel fish so improbable that it couldn't have been created by accident, thus it proves you must exist. Therefore, since without faith you would be nothing, then you don't exist." Then God says "I hadn't thought of that," and vanishes in a puff of logic. This is another amusing one, since it also makes another paradoxical argument: the babel fish proves that God exists, therefore God doesn't exist. If, you really wanted to both finding the holes in this argument, I guess you could say the problems with this argument are that, even as improbable as the Babel fish is, it could have emerged by accident and thus is not clinching proof of God's existence and second that faith without proof isn't all that mandatory. But I don't think you need a degree in philosophy to recognize any argument that ends with the logical step "it exists, therefore it doesn't exist" might have a few holes in it.

These arguments are good parodies of the ontological argument, and as we've seen earlier, there are a number of arguments for the existence of God, not much better than these two, but considerable better at hider their flaws, and thus a bit more convincing in the end.


Here's a comic strip written by Matt Boyd presenting Anselem's argument and a variation of Guanilo's response, which I first discussed way back when.

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