Other Problems with God Theories
- If God is Incomprehensible…
- Life Without Meaning
- The Perfect God
- A Perfect World
- The Speed of Light
- The Riddle of Epicurus
- The Rock Conundrum
- Soul Doubt
- A Jealous God
- God of the Gaps
- A Gap in Evidence
If God is Incomprehensible
There are three primary ways to view god/s:
- Comprehensible Theistic view— god works and moves in this world, is definable, by some means describable, and a listener
- Transcendent Incomprehensible or Deistic view— god is beyond definition and our comprehension, not involved in the universe, and doesn’t necessarily listen. God only made the universe, end of story
- Pantheistic view— god is all, and all is god
If views 2 and 3 justify a claim that objects are dependent on a god, then there is an equally valid claim that objects can be independent in themselves, without a need of being associated with a supernatural power. Both of these propositions can’t be true, pick your poison.
- The Transcendental view begs these questions:
- How is it possible to comprehend that a god is x if it is beyond comprehension?
- If there is no way to know god how do we know that god is incomprehensible?
- What’s the point when we don’t know and can’t know anything about god?
- The Transcendental view begs these questions:
- How can there be a single god if it is everything?
- If everything is god what is the significance of a table being called a table, or a god being called a god?
- If god is all and all is god where do we draw the line for murderers, rapists, dictators, drugs, viruses, poisons, toxins, pollution, nuclear bombs, starving children, etc.?
Life Without Meaning
“Without a god life would have no meaning.” This statement is rendered meaningless for the following reasons:
- The statement may be true, but equally justified is the antithetical conjecture that life indeed has no meaning and there is no god— no meaning and no god vs. meaning and god.
- There is the possibility that even if there is a god life has no meaning.
- There is the possibility that there is no god and life does have meaning.
The Perfect God
The idea of a perfect being creating the universe is self-contradictory. How can perfection be improved upon? To create is to indicate a lack, an imperfection. If that objection can be answered, another arises: if god is all-good and all-Powerful, evil should not exist. Therefore, either god is all-good and allows evil because god is not all-powerful, or god is all-powerful, but allows evil because god is not all-good. Such an argument clearly does not deny the existence of all gods, just perfect ones, they don’t exist.
The Traditional theistic god is considered to have absolute: power, morality, presence, and knowledge. This implies perfection. If god is considered to be perfect, it could not become better. Therefore, a perfect god would have to be content. It could not be forced to be better or more satisfied because it is perfect.
In other words, if god is perfect and content— god lacks nothing and has no desires because it is content/happy. This would make god completely inactive. Action is change, a behavior with a means to change things— to reach an end.
Perfect and content, or dissatisfied?
- If the traditional theistic god is perfect then it is content.
- If content, a god never would have changed things.
- If a god created the universe then it changed things.
- If a god created the universe then it was not content and therefore not perfect.
- A perfect god could not have created the universe out of curiosity because it is supposedly omniscient.
- Curiosity implies dissatisfaction (or “unperfectness”) in one’s knowledge.
- If a god created the universe because it was curious then it is neither omniscient nor perfect.
- A perfect god would not have created the universe just because it felt like it or wanted to either.
- Wanting to create the universe implies a sense of dissatisfaction with the way things were not.
- A perfect god cannot be inspired to feel like doing anything because it is omniscient and content.
A perfect god, or any god, would not have created the universe for no reason at all. If it created the universe it wanted to or felt like doing it, for whatever reason, or it would not have done it.
From the above it can be said that a perfect god could not have created the universe so a perfect god does not exist. If not “perfect” is a god a god?
The Perfect Body
“God, the perfect being, cannot have a perfect physique, [if] God has no body at all.” (p.313, Michael Martin).
The Perfect Role Model
If god is a perfect role model for moral education, it must be able to sin and defeat temptations, if not the pupil could become unmotivated. (p.313 Martin).
Perfect beings would not be troubled by anything, including the behavior of humans. Hence, the notion that the gods will reward or punish us is absurd. To be perfect is to be unperturbed. The concept of perfection, therefore, requires that the gods be indifferent to human behavior. Some have rejected belief in the Christian God for similar reasons.
A Perfect World
Casual Argument: If we can imagine a world that is better than the one we live in, then god is incompetent as it did not create the better world.
If we can imagine a world with one less death, one less accident, one less object out of place, or any slight improvement, then god is incompetent. If god is incompetent, then is it worthy of praise?
The usual response is, “you can’t know god’s will,” or “you can’t know god’s ultimate plan.”
This might be true, but if we don’t know god’s plan and/or will, then why assume god is good, or that there is a will or plan to begin with? The Biblical god seems to be anything but good, having an evil, vengeful, and murderous nature.
Internet Infidels’ Response:
This argument is essentially a version of the problem of evil which might be called the problem of imperfection. While I would disagree with the conclusion that any imperfection makes God “incompetent,” it is a defensible argument that any imperfection makes God less than the omniscient and omnipotent being he is supposed to be. One of the standard replies, as you note, is that whatever imperfections or evil exists is all part of some plan–that it is necessary for some higher purpose. Yet much imperfection seems to be correctable, certainly by an omnipotent being. Another standard reply is that imperfection or evil is introduced through human free will. This defense requires that free will (a) is of great enough value to outweigh or offset all imperfections and evil and (b) is incompatible with determinism. If (a) is not the case, then there is still unnecessary imperfection/evil; if (b) is not the case, then God could have made the world such that people had free will yet the imperfections and evil did not occur.
Infinite vs. Bound
For a god to know “all there is know,” that “all there is to know” must be a finite and bounded set of truths with a first and beginning truth and a last and ending truth, not an unbound and infinite number of truths.
- If there is a finite/bound set of truths, then omniscience is possible.
- If there is an infinite/unbound set of truths, no gods can be omniscient.
- If space and time are infinite then no god can be omniscient.
Knowledge- Omniscience, Moral Perfection, and Omnipotence
- There are three types of philosophical Knowledge:
- prepositional-factual, analyzable as true
- procedural- how to, a know-how, a skill
- knowledge by acquaintance w/x- did x therefore has #1B. (adapted from Michael Martin pp.287-292)
- 1 A-C lead to these problems:
- god has k of envy, lust, hate, and greed etc.: an omniscient god cannot be morally perfect
- god has k of physical activities: an omniscient god must have a body to gain k by acquaintance
- god has k of fear, stress, and weakness
- If a god is omniscient it knows all there is to know about x by 1A-C (Total Knowledge Tk)
- an omniscient and morally perfect god do not exist
- a morally perfect god cannot be omniscient
- an omniscient and omnipresent god does not exist
- an omniscient god with a body cannot be omnipresent (everywhere at once)
- an omnipresent god cannot have Tk
- an omniscient and omnipotent god does not exist
- an omniscient god cannot be omnipotent
- an omniscient god must believe it is limited in power
- an omniscient and morally perfect god do not exist
Omniscience and Prayer
from Mickey Z. : “If your god is all knowing, why do you need to pray in order to let him know what you want? For that matter, if he already knows what’s going to happen, what good is prayer anyway?”
The Speed of Light and God
The speed of light: c=3000,000 km/sec, or 186,000 mi/sec, or seven times around the earth in one second
- At 10% of c, a particle’s mass increases by 0.5%.
- ” 90% ” 2 times its own mass standing still.
Everything with intrinsic mass (matter) is confined to speeds less than c. Using the kinetic energy and work-energy theorems we know that to reach the speed of light it would take an infinite amount of energy because as the speed of light is approached the mass of the object and the energy required by that object to reach the speed of light approach infinity.
Only particles with no intrinsic mass, or material medium not required for motion, can move at c.
Problems the precedent information poses for the existence of a god, or one god:
- Was god inside or outside of the Big Bang?
- If god is a being, composed of matter in some form with size and shape, it could not have been inside the infinitely small and dense matter to cause anything (or survive). If it was, then god is a product of the Big Bang, not vise versa.
- If god was outside, as a cause, how fast could god “run” away from the Big Bang? When, where, and how could god enter the universe again?
- Being that c can never be reached means that god’s omnipotence (all powerfulness) becomes not powerful enough.
- The same holds for a god’s omniscience and its ability to be everywhere at once. Even if a god could travel at infinite speed it could not be everywhere at once because one particle can occupy only one space-time not every possible space-time at once.
- If a god was the impetus of the Big Bang any hint of its sculpting, or modeling/design would be erased by quantum fluctuations during the expansion of the Big Bang and god would have to be extremely lucky to know the results of the cause considering the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle— which puts limits on the prediction of particle momentum and position (i.e. the motion and formation of the universe after the Big Bang).
- If there was no Big Bang and a god just formed elements and molecules by slapping the protons and neutrons of atoms together where did the matter come from, its own body? If so, was it ‘infinitely’ dense?
The Riddle of Epicurus
- Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then God is not Omnipotent.
- Is God able, but not willing? Then God is Malevolent.
- Is God both willing and able? Then whence cometh evil?
- Is God neither able nor willing? Then how can God be called a God?
The Rock Conundrum
Can God make a rock so heavy It can’t pick it up?
The Logical Rock (The following is from a dead site: God is Dead)
Can God create a rock so heavy that even he cannot lift it? This is a question commonly asked of believers, a question with no logical answer. The question’s purpose is to prove that it’s impossible for a being to be omnipotent. If God can create a rock so heavy that he can’t lift it, then there is a rock of a certain weight that God is incapable of lifting, and, therefore, God is not omnipotent. If God can’t create a rock heavy enough, then there is a certain rock that he can’t create, and is, therefore, not omnipotent. In either case, God can’t be omnipotent. Let me state right now that I’m writing this article not to present this well known question to believers, but rather, to dispute its validity. I may be an atheist, but first and foremost, I am a skeptic, and if I find an argument being used by atheists against believers that I deem flawed, it’s my obligation to express my views on it.
Let’s agree that God can lift all rocks — rocks have the property of being able to be lifted by God, that is, if we assume God’s omnipotence. If we say, then, that there is a rock that God cannot lift, then quite simply, by definition, this rock isn’t a rock. God can lift all rocks. Therefore, if there’s something that God can’t lift, then it can’t be a rock. Given this new perspective on the terms involved, we can see that what is really being asked is, “Can God create a rock that isn’t a rock?”. The answer, quite simply, is no. God can’t create a rock that isn’t a rock, for such a thing would be logically impossible. Whether or not the inability to do the logically impossible would place a limit on God’s omnipotence is questionable. Personally, I don’t think it would. Logically impossible concepts are exactly that — concepts, and nothing more, like a married bachelor, or a square circle. They are a contradiction in terms, impossible to be in existence by definition. The logically impossible is impossible. Can God do the impossible? Of course he can’t. No one can do the impossible, by the definition of the word impossible.
The answer to the aforementioned question requires that we deconstruct and abandon the logic with which we asked the question in the first place. It’s a weak argument, and it’s my opinion that it shouldn’t be used.
Omnipotence and the Stone Paradox
(D1) A being S is omnipotent =df S can perform any action A
The Stone Paradox
- Either God can create a stone which God cannot lift, or God cannot create a stone which God cannot lift.
- If God can create a stone which God cannot lift, then He is not omnipotent (since He cannot lift the stone in question.
- If God cannot create a stone which God cannot lift, then He is not omnipotent (since He cannot create the stone in question).
- God is not omnipotent. (1), (2), (3)
Let’s consider what Aquinas says about omnipotence:
All confess that God is omnipotent; but it seems difficult to explain in what his omnipotence precisely consists. For there may be doubt as to the precise meaning of the word ‘all’ when we say that God can do all things. If, however, we consider the matter aright, since power is said in reference to possible things, this phrase, God can do all things, is rightly understood to mean that God can do all things that are possible; and for this reason he is said to be omnipotent. Summa theologica I, 25, a.3
(D2) S is omnipotent =df S can do any action A which is logically possible.
Mavrodes suggests applying Aquinas’ insight to the Stone Paradox. If we accept (D2), we can say that premiss (3) is false, on the grounds that creating a stone that God cannot lift is an impossible action. If it’s an impossible action, then God doesn’t, according to (D2), have to be able to do it in order to be omnipotent. Hence, when (3) says that if God can’t do it then He is not omnipotent, (3) is mistaken. So the argument, on this view, is unsound.
Objections to Mavrodes’ solution:
- creating a stone which God cannot lift
- creating a stone which its maker cannot lift
- building a house which its builder cannot lift
(3′) If God cannot create a stone which its maker cannot lift, then He is not omnipotent, or
(3”) If God cannot build a house which its builder cannot lift, then He is not omnipotent.
- authoring a book whose sole author is Bertrand Russell
(D3) S is omnipotent =df S can do any action A such that it’s logically possible that S do A
Several classical theists endorse the project of recognizing limitations on ability that are compatible with being omnipotent.
Augustine said that God “cannot do some things for the very reason that he is omnipotent” City of God, V, 10.
Anselm held that “God cannot be corrupted, or tell lies, or make the true into the false (such as to undo what has been done).” Proslogion, VII
The tenth-century Jewish philosopher, Saadia ben Joseph spoke of “those absurdities that cannot be ascribed to divine omnipotence, such as the bringing back of yesterday and causing the number five to be more than ten.” The Book of Beliefs and Opinions, Treatise VII (variant), chp. 1
In the twelfth century Moses Maimonides wrote, “That which is impossible has a permanent and constant property, which is not the result of some agent, and cannot in any way change, and consequently we do not ascribe to God the power of doing what is impossible. No thinking man denies the truth of this maxim; none ignore [sic] it, but such as have no idea of Logic. …[i]t is impossible that God should produce a being like Himself, or annihilate, corporify, or change himself. The power of God is not assumed to extend to any of these impossibilities.”
The Paradox of the Stone
- If God exists, then God is omnipotent (definition).
- God either can or can not create a stone so heavy that even God cannot lift it.
- If God can create the stone, God is not, there is at least one thing God can’t do.
- If God cannot create the stone, there is at least one thing God cannot do.
- If there is it at least one thing God can’t do, God is not omnipotent ( – ).
- Therefore God does not exist (, ).
The paradox resolved:
- There are restrictions on God’s omnipotence. As Aquinas noted, God can perform only logically possible feats. But also God’s power is restricted by observing that some actions, while logically possible, are not logically consistent with having been done by God.
- The paradox is either question-begging or logically incoherent. If God is not omnipotent, then there’s no problem in God creating a stone too heavy for even God to lift. But under the supposition that God is omnipotent, it’s contradictory to suppose that there’s a stone God can’t lift (Mavrodes’ solution, see P 279)).
- Frankfurt (P 281-282) argues that if God can do one logically impossible thing (create a stone so heavy it can’t be lifted), then God can also do another logically impossible thing (lift that stone).
We are waiting for some elaboration on the following: http://www.uiowa.edu/~phil/williams/24aug.htm
Savage: The Paradox of the Stone
The version of the paradox that Savage starts out with–which he calls A–is basically the version I presented in class on Tuesday. (See p. 9.) He considers a solution to this argument offered by a philosopher named George Mavrodes. I don’t think there’s any need for us to examine that solution in any detail, since Savage doesn’t think the solution works, and I think he’s right about that. Savage’s solution to that version of the paradox is at the top of p. 10: “creating a stone God cannot lift” is a self-contradictory expression if we assume that God is by definition omnipotent.
The lesson Savage draws from all this is that the original statement of the paradox wasn’t as well-formulated as it should have been. So he tries a more precise reformulation of the argument, which he calls B (p. 10).
Before talking about the solution, we should note why B is a better formulation of the argument. B clearly doesn’t have the problem that A had, because it doesn’t use the incoherent, self-contradictory expression “creating a stone God cannot lift,” but the perfectly coherent and non-self-contradictory expression “creating a stone x cannot lift.” B also makes the target of the argument clearer. It’s not trying to show that God is not omnipotent. It’s trying to show that it’s impossible for anyone or anything to be omnipotent; the very idea of omnipotence is incoherent.
Savage’s solution is to reject premise (3). Why? Just read the last paragraph on 11a, beginning at the second sentence.
We hope to get a reply soon in order to expand on Savage’s points because from the piece above we do not know what to was said.
A Jealous God
How can the Judeo Christian God be a Jealous God (Exodus 20:5) and at the same time, have everything?
Jealously is the envy of another. The dissatisfaction of what others have and what the jealous person does not posses. In the Exodus context it is God’s jealousy of people praying to other ‘pagan’ gods and goddesses. What could those other gods posses that God did not? Followers? And is He braking his own commandment not to covet.
The Reincarnation Problem:
- If souls are made of matter where are new souls coming from?
- When someone is born:
- they get an old soul
- a new one is formed
- A and B are combined
If no new souls are made since some time in the past (when souls came with birth or at whatever time in a person’s existence) then there are lots of empty bodies because there are more people alive today than in our past (unless somehow other animals or insects are in this equation, but then some of them would also be soulless). Were the souls generated in people or entities other than people? And what’s to be said about lost souls, souls in perdition, and souls damned to hell or stuck in heaven? Choose your religion choose, your philosophy, throw away reason, and start guessing…
If each body makes its own soul then the old souls have no where to go. If we throw in the manufacturing of souls in all humans that have ever lived and include insects and other animals all these souls are left to spend their time crowding heaven, hell, and limbo.
Go figure? Your soul is you and it is born and dies with you?
The Stuff Souls Are Made Of?
Everything within our universe is made of matter. There is no supernatural realm with super matter, or other world within ours. Nothing exists outside of nature.
Are souls made of matter? If not, then do they exist… or matter? How do they feel, see, and think? Do they have nerves and neurons? Any connective tissues or electrical gradients?
As far as we know there is no change in body weight when the human animal dies. It is doubtful that souls exist. But its comforting wishful thinking shared by billions who haven’t second guessed this “given” fact. It must feel great to be ‘soulucky’ as to believe something just-because.
Souls, Heaven, Hell, and Nirvana
If souls are made of matter and nerves then the “afterlife,” if it exists, is an issue. Otherwise, with no matter or nerves then how can souls feel the pain of Hell or the pleasure Heaven?
Souls and Entropy
Nothing, even a soul, is immune to the destructive effects of the Boltzmann constant and Entropy. That is, if souls exist and are made of matter. Everything made of matter is susceptible to entropy— the journey of molecular degradation towards chemical equilibrium (i.e. chemical bliss). The old adage that “nothing is forever” is true, but it should be added that everything is fleeting…and this includes souls. Which have eluded all attempts to date to be detected except in the minds of humans.
God of the Gaps
The god of the gaps takes these forms:
- Science can’t explain x, so x can be explained by insisting a god is involved.
- Gaps in scientific knowledge are filled by posting a god in the gap.
God is not an explanation, but an unknown, so x is still not explained because we are left with x as a phenomenon of a god, a supernatural wonder, not a natural process that does not need a god to explain it. Interjecting a god to “explain” x assumes that science might not answer what causes x in the future. Science has closed many gaps throughout its history.
Some Creationists insist that complex molecules (such as amino acids) could not have arisen by natural processes on the early earth. Hence, life could not have arisen by natural means, and god must have miraculously created these chemicals while creating life. The chemicals were part of a purpose, not the result of chaos and statistical chance.
The basis of this argument was a gap in scientific knowledge. This basis fell apart when molecules (including organic molecules) were detected in interstellar space by astronomers. The argument came further apart when amino acids were found inside the Murchison meteorite. Apparently the basic molecules of life form naturally in some quite harsh places, and there is a way for vast quantities to have arrived intact on the early earth.
There will always be unknowns in science. Many theists see these unknowns as reasons for believing in God. The argument usually goes something like this: “We don’t understand how the universe got here, therefore God must have created it.” (This is today’s version of the argument, years ago it was “We don’t understand thunder, therefore the thunder god must have done it.”) But is saying “God did it” really an explanation? No, it isn’t. An explanation is a description of something we don’t currently understand in terms that we do understand. Theists will usually admit that they don’t understand their god, saying things like “God works in mysterious ways”. Well if we don’t understand how God does something, then “God did it” is just about meaningless. We will never have all the answers, but postulating an infinite god and pretending that this provides the answers is just irrational. It is much better to have the intellectual integrity to simply admit that we don’t yet know.
A fairly common example of the god of the gaps fallacy is the argument that since we don’t understand where the dimensionless constants in the equations of physics come from, and since carbon based life could not have evolved if some of the parameters varied by a small amount, a god must have chosen the parameters to produce human life. In addition to being an example of the god of the gaps fallacy, this argument is wrong for several other reasons. For example, it assumes that the dimensionless parameters are fundamentally arbitrary. In other words, it assumes that the parameters cannot be predicted with a more fundamental theory. But in string theory, all dimensionless parameters are expected to be predictable. Several other problems with the argument are discussed in Cosmythology and Is God in the Details?.
A Gap in Evidence
What evidence is there for the existence of deities? Is it tangible? Repeatable? Observable? And what the hell is “supernatural” when all we know is the natural world? Is it beyond this one? What poof have we that super nature exists. What physical laws apply to it?
Its not possible to prove with Absolute certainty that a god or gods do not exist (see Is a Proof of the Non-Existence of a God Even Possible? and Proving a Negative and Argumentum ad Ignorantum). The same “impossibility” can be applied to Santa Claus. How rational would it be to believe that Santa Claus really existed when we know it is just a fabrication? There is “evidence” (false as it may be) that would lead some people to believe that Santa exists? Critical inquiry would reveal it to be bogus. There really is no evidence for Santa, but can the same be said for the evidence for a god? There is no reason to believe in Santa (a god for kids) just as there is no reason to believe in a god (for adults).
The fact that there is no valid reason to believe that a god exists justifies weak atheism (lack of belief in gods), but not strong atheism (belief that there are no gods).
Lack of evidence for a proposition (“God exists” in this case) is, in and of itself, not evidence that the proposition is false. However, lack of evidence for a proposition combined with the expectation that if that proposition were true that evidence would be available does constitute evidence that the proposition is false.
As an example of this reasoning, suppose someone claimed that there is a herd of invisible two-ton elephants stampeding through your living room. If such a claim were true there would be plenty of evidence in the form of broken furniture for example. Now you examine your living room and find no evidence for stampeding elephants. It is, of course, rational to believe that the elephant claim was false. Now lets consider the gods of the dominate theistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Each of these religions postulate a god that is concerned with human welfare and that performs miracles. If such a god exists, there should be ample evidence of the miracles that he works whenever human suffering is present. But human suffering certainly exists and there is no evidence of the theists’ god. This constitutes evidence that this god does not exist.