So let’s summarize the exchange because some of thoughtsandsquats’ followers seem to be a bunch of children. First and foremost, there was nothing verbose about any of my responses. Sorry that paragraphs intimidate you. “Prideful” and “insufferable” are opinions you can’t possibly make after reading three posts. I’m being a “dick” and yet you’re the one sending this message.
In any case, allow me to summarize. In my first response, I raised a few points—none of which were addressed:
- That the world is fallen is based on a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3 (¶1)
- That Jesus became incarnate to conquer death is a theological belief with zero historical evidence to support it (¶1)
- Omniscience is incompatible with sin entering the world (¶2)
- Omnipotence is incompatible with suffering in the world (¶2); had he addressed this, I would have gotten more specific: omnipotence is incompatible with gratuitous suffering
- In a godless world, these aren’t just things that happen (¶3)—which directly addresses his statements: “The second thing is that we all resonate with the point this man made because we can’t believe that such suffering and evil could be ultimately meaningful in the way the tired popular responses try to tell us it is. But more importantly, we cry out against such suffering because we *know* it is terrible, that it is alien, that it shouldn’t be that way, that something isn’t right when a child dies or a tornado destroys a town or a tsunami wipes out a village. But these feelings themselves don’t fit in a world without God. In such a world, these are just things that happen.”
- The Bible doesn’t solve the Problem of Evil (¶4)
Rather than address any of this, he zeroed in on the last sentence of my response, which said the following: Unfortunately, people like you seem more invested in amateur theodicy than in helping to mitigate the problem—more invested in defending your religion than in doing your part to contribute to a better world. He called that ad hominem, which makes no sense because given the preceding paragraphs, I gave no impression of dismissing his arguments.
I defined ad hominem and then reversed the accusation because he said my response was “very short on substance and theological understanding and big on rhetoric.” I wouldn’t have hesitated to demonstrate this rather than merely assert it. In that second response, I made a few additional points:
- I find the Problem of Evil weak and uninteresting—and by weak, I’m speaking from an atheistic perspective: there are better arguments against theism and Christianity in particular
- He still hadn’t addressed one iota of what I presented
- Norman Geisler and William Lane Craig made better points concerning the Problem of Evil than he did in his initial statements about the HONY status
He then responds with another dismissive statement concerning my initial response and said that I “didn’t present much that was worth responding to.” He was also particularly bothered by the fact that I said I’d run circles around him. He then boasts about being an ABD (All But Dissertation) at an unnamed top university in the US and how he almost has a Ph.D. Then I once again told him that he didn’t address anything. That’s all in my last response.
Ultimately, my three responses amount to only eight paragraphs—with my first response having the most, five to be exact. How is that “verbose”? In any event, I don’t have an agenda. He has his opinion; I have mine. I happen to think his is wrong; I happen to lack belief in the Judeo-Christian god. If that’s an “agenda,” then he also has one: “he’s wrong and an idiot, god do real.” I don’t ever claim to be better than anyone, but my arguments were better than his. Take your head out of his behind. This thoughtsandsquats guy has a hive of puerile, fangirl followers. They’re butthurt over nothing.
People who through no fault of their own have much less in the way of material goods or respect in a society are told in many religions, ‘It doesn’t matter in this life. Yeah, it looks like you’re getting a bad deal, but this is just the twinkling of an eye. What really matters is the next life, and there an implacable cosmic justice awaits you.
All those who seem unjustly enriched by the rewards of this life will be punished greatly in the next, whereas you who are the hewers and carriers, the humble people who are content with your lot in this life, will be raised to glory in the next.
Maybe it’s true. But it’s not hard to see that such a doctrine would be very appealing to the ruling classes of society.
I have no ‘axe to grind’ here regarding atheism v theism, you understand - I’m just pointing out that someone who thinks that the concept of omnipotence implies that any omnipotent being should be able to do logically impossible things doesn’t understand the notion of logical impossibility.
I understand you have no axe to grind, but my arguments have been twofold. Firstly, I maintain that omnipotence is incoherent. Secondly, logical impossibility doesn’t have to be illogical. I’m not asking for a god who can make the square root of thirty-six equal seven. I’m not asking for a god who can make a circular square. Instead, I’m speaking of a god who does things that are non-logical. Rather than be illogical, it would be things that accord to the laws of logic elsewhere. You say they are necessary truths. I beg to differ.
For those following the conversation, allow me to state the laws of logic so that people know what we’re talking about. The laws are as follows:
- The Law of Identity (C = C): Simply put, a cat is a cat and it differs from a dog
- Law of Non-Contradiction ~(C * ~C): The statements “Timmy is a parrot” and “Timmy is not a parrot” cannot be true simultaneously
- The Law of Excluded Middle (C v ~ C): Either “Timmy is a parrot” or “Timmy is not a parrot.”
Given these laws, what I’m proposing are universes that don’t have these laws. I may get us into some trouble here, but it isn’t clear whether these laws are universal within our own universe. A familiarity with science shows us this. I already touched on Everett’s Interpretation. I didn’t, however, talk about wave-particle duality. Photons appear to violate all three laws. To prevent confusion, it’s not that a photon is a wave or a particle. It has properties of both and thus, it can appear to be both simultaneously. I grant that this can be explained without violating every law, but I don’t think that’s been accomplished. Quantum mechanics may not conform to these laws.
I’m not sure why you think (in your comments below) that in making the above point, I’m thinking about voluntarism in any way. I do present well-known arguments regarding voluntarism in my book “’Right’ said Father Fred: Father Ted and moral philosophy”, but voluntarism is not directly relevant to the question of the coherence of the concept of omnipotence. The notion that god can only do what is logically possible is relevant to the above question, but it’s very confused to think that since neither human beings nor god (on the assumption that god exists) can do something logically impossible, that god’s power is thus constrained in any way.
I’m not speaking of voluntarism in ethics. I’m speaking of Cartesian voluntarism. Descartes argued that god could do anything. He says the following:
Again, there is no need to ask how God could have brought it about from eternity that it was not true that twice four make eight, and so on; for I admit this is unintelligible to us. Yet on the other hand I do understand, quite correctly, that there cannot be any class of entity that does not depend on God … it would be irrational for us to doubt what we do understand correctly just because there is something which we do not understand and which, so far as we can see, there is no reason why we should understand.1
He adds the following:
The first consideration shows us that God cannot have been determined to make it true that contradictories cannot be true together, and therefore that he could have done the opposite. The second consideration assures us that even if this be true, we should not try to comprehend it, since our nature is incapable of doing so.2
This, in a nutshell, summarizes Cartesian voluntarism. I argue that arguing from transcendence avoids the issue of begging the question. It may require an argument from ignorance—namely an argument from the ignorance of logical laws outside of our universe. Unfortunately, that’s a consequence of speaking about a concept that’s incoherent in the first place. I maintain that true omnipotence is impossible.
1 Robinson. "Descarte and the Indifference of God". Ohio State University. 5 May 2014
Of course, if someone doesn’t understand the difference between logical and physical impossibility, they might think that the coherence of the notion of omnipotence is undermined if god is conceived of as not ‘transcendent’. (Slight aside - the proper distinction here is the ‘eternal / everlasting’ distinction, imo, not ‘transcendent / not transcendent’ - one can imagine an omnipotent being that is everlasting but also transcendent (as far as this universe is concerned) if e.g. that being exists in time per se, but also in different parallel universes. At least, if there’s any difficulty about this, the difficulty doesn’t seem to be to do with logical impossibility, rather it would be to do with physical impossibility - something physics might be able to find out about.). The naive thought would be that if god is non-transcendent, then he is subject to the same laws of logic as we are, thus he’s not omnipotent.
I’m not confused about the two. I haven’t introduced physical impossibilities. I’ve focused mainly on the laws of logic. I don’t see why an omnipotent being can’t make a free falling object accelerate at more than 9.8 m/s2. A god that is limited by the laws of physics or any of nature’s constraints (e.g. rates of evolution) isn’t omnipotent. The Bible, after all, describes instances where god violated the laws of physics (e.g. stopping the Sun at will). In any case, I’m not arguing for a non-transcendent deity. Ask any Christian and they’ll tell you that god exists both within and outside of space-time. That being the case, he would be aware of laws of logic different from our own and he’ll be able to perhaps superimpose those laws on our universe whenever circumventing the laws of logic in this universe—thus showing that he himself isn’t confined to those laws since he knows every possible variation in which they can exist and every possible way to break them. Physicists already talk about different effective laws of physics; that is to say they speak of the laws of physics being different from what they are today, and that’s as that applies to this universe. Given a multiverse, some universes would definitely have different physical laws. I don’t see why the same can’t apply to the laws of logic.
For instance, the laws of non-contradiction and excluded middle hinge heavily on human language. How in the world would they apply to a universe devoid of linguistic beings? There would be no sense in talking about a statement being either true or false. Either or is a code of our languages. I don’t see a reason to see that as universal. I can very well imagine a linguistic civilization that has no concern for ether or and true or false. in fact, dolphins may be this way. They, for example, have vocalizations for certain objects; furthermore, they even have names for one another and they’ve been shown to recognize individuals after long periods of not seeing that individual. These vocalizations may coincide with self-awareness and spatial intelligence. There are no signs of these vocalizations coinciding with reason. Dolphins have a way of “talking,” but it’s clear they’re not concerned with the truth or falsity of propositions or whether corals are in fact corals or corals and starfish simultaneously. Put simply, I can imagine universes lacking laws of logic.
However, if one understands the notion of a law of logic, and of logical impossibility, one understands that laws of logic are not relative to particular possible universes (they are necessary truths), and that our ‘being subject to’ the same laws to logic that god is subject to does nothing whatsoever to impugn god’s power. (The phrase ‘being subject to a law of logic’ is tendentious because it invites one to think that a law should have a law giver, who decides which laws of logic the subjects should follow. That gives a false impression about logic to people who are ignorant of the subject.)
It may be tendentious if we were talking about a universe without a lawgiver. However, we’ve been discussing a universe in where god exists. God would be that lawgiver. He would have imposed these laws on the world because they benefit humans. To his mind, it would allow us to reason and to understand our world and so on. In universes devoid of near-human, equal-to-human, or superior-to-human intelligence, I see no reason why these laws would apply. Again, they hinge on our language. In a universe devoid of language, why would these laws still apply? Also, universes having different laws are possible. What impugns god’s power are act theories. Voluntarism means precisely what is meant by the word (e.g. with god all things are possible). To make it clear, I don’t think the concept is coherent. I think it’s extremely hypothetical. Furthermore, there are no signs of such a being existing.
When you make the claims below such as -
"A transcendent being would be omnipotent in every possible world; thus, it would be omnipotent in worlds that are not logical according to our world."
(There are possible worlds in which god does not exist, rendering the above antecedent false. The consequent belies ignorance of the fact that logic deals in necessary truth, which spans all possible universes (and not just the actual ones, if there be more than one.)
If Leibnizian intuition is correct, god would exist in and would have created every possible world. That accounts for another attribute—namely omnipresence. Thus my argument would stand.
"If not, you’re speaking of a being who’s all powerful in accordance to our laws of logic and physics—a being that is as powerless against those laws as we are."
(This repeats the basic error of thinking that in order for omnipotence to be coherent, any putatively omnipotent being would need to be able to do logically impossible things. There’s also a naive idea implicit in the quotation above that logic is relative to the universe you live in.)
It would be able to do non-logical things, not illogical things. Again, in order to do non-logical things, it would superimpose laws that exist elsewhere to break the laws that exist here. It would have created every variation and thus, ever manner of breaking the laws governing this or that universe. It wouldn’t be subject to an act theory. Act theories do not account for his supposed transcendence. If he is truly transcendent and omniscient, then circumventing these laws wouldn’t be a problem. I am in no way defending this concept. I’m simply pointing out that theists are inconsistent in their argumentation. Thus, I’m stepping into their shoes and flexing some apologetic muscle so to speak. My voluntarism is both stronger than Descartes’ whilst keeping the central thrust of his version: god can will anything.
- I begin to suspect that the dilemma you attempt to pose for theists is based on a faulty understanding of the nature of the difference between physical and logical possibility.
That’s not possible because I mentioned nothing specific about physical possibilities. I mentioned, in general, that an omnipotent being wouldn’t be limited by the laws of physics. Omnipotence is an incoherent concept that relies on pure speculation. Transcendence is also highly speculative. Both attributes developed over time and are the product of an extended development of god concepts. In other words, the earliest concepts of god weren’t omnipotent or transcendent. They were our Sun, the stars, gods of aspects of nature (i.e. earth, fire, water), etc. Omnipotence and transcendence came much later and regardless of Aristotelian and Platonic notions that influenced the early Church Fathers, the Judeo-Christian god isn’t equal to this concept “sophisticated” theologians speak of. Yahweh is a highly assailable war god belonging to an early polytheistic Jewish pantheon. He isn’t this multi-universal deity occupying some ethereal plain outside our reach. It mustbe stressed that Plato and then Aristotle—who is arguably a neo-Platonist—proposed these god concepts in a prescientific cosmogony. This is where notions of Demiurges and prime movers come into play. Modern cosmology leaves us with no need for such gods nor their indistinguishable Christian concept—the likes of which is promoted by David Bentley Hart, Edward Feser, and other apologists.