Is This Really What Passes for Thinking Among Theologians?

dlighe pointed me at an article in Christianity Today by Alvin Plantinga, The Dawkins Confusion. He seemed to find it interesting, and there are a lot of links to it from the blogosphere, and they seem to agree that it’s a good, solid refutation of Dawkins’s The God Delusion.

To which I can only say, WTF?


(This is pretty long; if you’re in a hurry, skip down to “Is God Complex?“.)

Most Unpleasant Character

He starts out by quoting Dawkins’s assessment that “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction.” Then writes,

He [Dawkins] and Dennett both appear to think it requires considerable courage to attack religion these days; says Dennett, “I risk a fist to the face or worse. Yet I persist.” […] Here it’s not easy to take them seriously; religion-bashing in the current Western academy is about as dangerous as endorsing the party’s candidate at a Republican rally.

Paul Mirecki

Dr. Plantinga, meet Dr. Paul Mirecki, associate professor at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, who got beat up for criticizing Christian fundamentalists.

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capricously malevolent bully.
— Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 31

As the above quotation suggests, one shouldn’t look to this book for evenhanded and thoughtful commentary. In fact the proportion of insult, ridicule, mockery, spleen, and vitriol is astounding.

I wish Plantinga would give some examples of what he’s talking about, because as far as I can tell, there’s little or no insult or vitriol in Dawkins’s book. I suspect that Plantinga has become so accustomed to the fact that, by social convention, religious beliefs are immune from ridicule in a way that alien abduction stories aren’t, that he’s upset at Dawkins at calling it like he sees it.

The “most unpleasant character” is a case in point: in what way is Dawkins wrong? We are talking about the character who told Abraham to kill his son; lied to Adam and Eve, then kicked them out of Eden for fear that they would become immortal; prevented the Pharaoh from letting the Hebrews leave Egypt, when he had decided to do so; gave Moses laws prescribing execution for trivial offenses (including gathering firewood on Saturday); sent bears to kill 42 youths who had made fun of Elisha’s baldness; doesn’t have a single disapproving word to say against the practice of buying and selling people like farm machinery; killed everyone in the world with the exception of eight people and a floating menagerie; and so on, and so forth. His redeeming grace is that, unlike the god of the New Testament, he stops tormenting his victims once they’re dead. Pray tell, how, specifically, is Dawkins in error?

The Ultimate 747

Plantinga then turns to Dawkins’s chapter 4, “Why there Almost Certainly Is No God” (though he calls it chapter 3):

Here Dawkins doesn’t appeal to the usual anti-theistic arguments—the argument from evil, for example, or the claim that it’s impossible that there be a being with the attributes believers ascribe to God. So why does he think theism is enormously improbable? The answer: if there were such a person as God, he would have to be
enormously complex, and the more complex something is, the less probable it is: “However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable. God is the Ultimate Boeing 747.” The basic idea is that anything that knows and can do what God knows and can do would have to be incredibly complex. In particular, anything that can create or design something must be at least as complex as the thing it can design or create. Putting it another way, Dawkins says a designer must contain at least as much information as what it creates or designs, and information is inversely related to probability. Therefore, he thinks, God would have to be monumentally complex, hence astronomically improbable; thus it is almost certain that God does not exist.

I’m surprised that Plantinga can’t seem to recognize the “Who designed God?” argument when it bites him in the ass like this. Surely it’s one of the things they cover in Theology 101, no? But then again, he’s missing the point entirely. The reason Dawkins invokes the “747 in a junkyard” argument is that theists like to use the argument from design, saying that anything as monumentally complex as the eye, say, could not have arisen by natural means, and must therefore have been designed by an intelligent being — God. He quotes Dennett describing this as “the idea that it takes a big fancy smart thing to make a lesser thing.” If we are the lesser thing and God is the big fancy smart thing, then it is legitimate to ask what the bigger fancier smarter thing is that created God? And who or what created God’s creator? And so forth ad infinitum.

In other words, either the argument from design is bogus, or else there is an infinite regress of gods. You can’t have it both ways. Dawkins’s aim in this section is, of course, to point out that natural selection is a well-known mechanism (in fact, the only known mechanism) for making complicated things out of simple things. This neatly disposes of both problems.

Climbing Mount Improbable

Plantinga then digresses to criticize Dawkins’s earlier book, Climbing Mount Improbable, and specifically the idea given in its subtitle: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design.

What is truly remarkable, however, is the form of what seems to be the main argument. The premise he argues for is something like this:

1. We know of no irrefutable objections to its being biologically possible that all of life has come to be by way of unguided Darwinian processes;

and Dawkins supports that premise by trying to refute objections to its being biologically possible that life has come to be that way. His conclusion, however, is

2. All of life has come to be by way of unguided Darwinian processes.

It’s worth meditating, if only for a moment, on the striking distance, here, between premise and conclusion.

It’s been a long while since I read Climbing Mount Improbable, so I can’t tell whether this is an accurate criticism or not. Obviously, if this is a fair summary, then Dawkins is wrong. Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it’s true.

But I suspect Plantinga’s leaving something out, like maybe Occam’s Razor. If Dawkins’s argument was closer to

  1. Evolutionary theory accounts for all of the biological phenomena we see.
  2. Evolutionary theory does not require a designer
  3. Therefore, there is no need to postulate an unobserved designer.

then I’d agree with that. If you add a side dish of “no one’s come up with a better explanation in 150 years of assiduous searching”, then you come to the conclusion that evolution is very likely to be not only the best theory we have, but also true.

Is God Complex?

We now return to the argument that God, if he exists, is monumentally complex, and is therefore a phenomenon that requires a darn good explanation:

First, is God complex? According to much classical theology (Thomas Aquinas, for example) God is simple, and simple in a very strong sense, so that in him there is no distinction of thing and property, actuality and potentiality, essence and existence, and the like.

Okay, WTF does any of this mean, if anything? “[N]o distinction of thing and property” sounds as if it means that there’s no difference between God and God’s hair color, or God’s shoe size (and therefore, there’s no difference between God’s hair color and shoe size; presumably they’re both “gray”. Or maybe “11”). And “[no distinction of] actuality and potentiality” means that “God might decide to have pizza for dinner tomorrow night” means that God is eating pizza right now. I call bullshit.

I’d also like to know why Plantinga quotes Aquinas. Is Aquinas right? If so, how do we (or Plantinga) know? Has there been no progress in this area in the last 700 years?

(It isn’t only Catholic theology that declares God simple; according to the Belgic Confession, a splendid expression of Reformed Christianity, God is “a single and simple spiritual being.”) So first, according to classical theology, God is simple, not complex.

Of course, the Belgic Confession doesn’t give any actual arguments for believing that God is simple; the author just asserts it without evidence or justification. His reasons for believing in God are of the same quality: 1) Gee, isn’t the world a really complicated thing? Someone must have made it! and 2) It says so in the Bible.

In short, Plantinga isn’t pulling this argument out of his ass. He’s pulling it out of someone else’s ass.

More remarkable, perhaps, is that according to Dawkins’ own definition of complexity, God is not complex. According to his definition (set out in The Blind Watchmaker), something is complex if it has parts that are “arranged in a way that is unlikely to have arisen by chance alone.” But of course God is a spirit, not a material object at all, and hence has no parts.

See that “hence” there? That’s the single stupidest thing Plantinga’s written in this entire article.

First, let me point out that both “God” and “spirit” are Wittgenstein beetles. There is no widely-agreed-on description of the thing these words refer to, the way there is for “tree” or “justice”. Quite simply, the only thing the word “God” means is “whatever it is that I’m thinking of when I say `God'”. For many people, “God” means a bearded guy in the sky, or a blond, blue-eyed Palestinian from the first century. For others, it’s a disembodied mind that floats around the universe. For Spinoza and Einstein, it meant the union of all physical laws — this god isn’t even conscious.

Likewise, “spirit” is a conveniently-undefined term that comes in handy when talking about things related to God and the supernatural. If “spirit” exists, it has no properties anyone can demonstrate. So when Plantinga says “and hence has no parts”, he’s using what’s formally known as a private definition, and less formally known as making shit up.

A fortiori (as philosophers like to say) God doesn’t have parts arranged in ways unlikely to have arisen by chance. Therefore, given the definition of complexity Dawkins himself proposes, God is not complex.

And yet, Plantinga believes that God is omniscient, which implies something like a brain, sensory organs, communications between the two, and so forth. The Belgic Confession that he cites approvingly claims that God inspired the Bible, which implies that whatever this “spirit” substance is that God is composed of can interact with ordinary matter somehow, by means unknown. It also endorses Genesis in saying, “God created man in his own image”. There’s a lot of argument about what exactly this means, but at the very least it has to mean “humans have some property p, and God also has property p.”

Then there’s the trinity. I decided not to pick on that because Plantinga confesses in a footnote that he doesn’t know what it means, except that even if it means that God has three parts, he doesn’t have a fourth part shared by the three main personalities. Sure, whatever. The trinity is like a sadistic koan: you’re not supposed to understand it, but you’re supposed to believe it anyway.

In short, Plantinga claims that God is simple not because there’s evidence that led him to that conclusion, but simply because somebody else said so. And out of the mountains of contradictory and nonsensical things that have been written about God, he found this useful in trying to refute Dawkins.

But the problem remains: even if God is as simple as Plantinga claims, how did this entity manage to create the universe and inspire the Bible? In fact, how does it manage to be aware that anything exists in the first place?

So why think God must be improbable? According to classical theism, God is a necessary being; it is not so much as possible that there should be no such person as God; he exists in all possible worlds. But if God is a necessary being, if he exists in all possible worlds, then the probability that he exists, of course, is 1, and the probability that he does not exist is 0. Far from its being improbable that he exists, his existence is maximally probable. So if Dawkins proposes that God’s existence is improbable, he owes us an argument for the conclusion that there is no necessary being with the attributes of God

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy draws upon Plantinga’s works in the “God as a Necessary Being” section. Here, God is defined as having every perfection; and existence is a perfection; therefore, God is defined as existing.

By the same reasoning, I can define God’s Beer as having every beery perfection: delicious, cold, always within arm’s reach, and, of course, existence. So why isn’t there a bottle of God’s Beer in front of me?

The problem with this argument is that when you say “God has property (or perfection) p“, that’s the same as saying “if some entity doesn’t have property p, then that entity is not God.” So the argument above really boils down to “show me a god, and I’ll show you an existing god.” Just because there’s a definition doesn’t mean that there are any entities that fit the definition.

C’mon! I figured this stuff out in High School! Why is the ontological argument still circulating, and among people who study this stuff for a living? I know a lot of creationists are stupid enough to believe this, but Plantinga’s supposed to be a philosopher and theologian. He should know better.

Missing the Point 2: the Fine-Tuning Argument

Plantinga then turns to the fine-tuning argument. Notice how he goes from sensible to mental trainwreck in the space of a single paragraph:

Now in response to this kind of theistic argument, Dawkins, along with others, proposes that possibly there are very many (perhaps even infinitely many) universes, with very many different distributions of values over the physical constants. Given that there are so many, it is likely that some of them would display values that are life-friendly. So if there are an enormous number of universes displaying different sets of values of the fundamental constants, it’s not at all improbable that some of them should be “fine-tuned.” We might wonder how likely it is that there are all these other universes, and whether there is any real reason (apart from wanting to blunt the fine-tuning arguments) for supposing there are any such things. But concede for the moment that indeed there are many universes and that it is likely that some are fine-tuned and life-friendly. That still leaves Dawkins with the following problem: even if it’s likely that some universes should be fine-tuned, it is still improbable that this universe should be fine-tuned. Name our universe alpha: the odds that alpha should be fine-tuned are exceedingly, astronomically low, even if it’s likely that some universe or other is fine-tuned.

I don’t think Plantinga could do a better job of missing the point with a fusion-powered point-missing machine with point proximity restraints and GPS-enabled point-avoidance module, mounted on rails aimed directly away from the point.

Let’s say you run across an article in the paper about how Mrs. Norma Rae won $50 million in the Powerball lottery, and wonder why this article exists. Well, given the number of people who play Powerball, it was not unlikely that someone would win. And people winning the lottery is interesting, so the paper would have written about anyone, not necessarily Mrs. Rae, who won. And if no one had won, there would have been no article. Quite simple, really.

But then Plantinga comes along and says, “Yes, but the odds of Mrs. Norma Rae being the one who won are millions to one against!” I want to weep.

Are Brains Reliable?

After dismissing the question of who created God (summary: “Sure, I use God as an explanation for life on earth, but I don’t need to explain God, because… I just don’t, okay?”), Plantinga comes to an interesting philosophical question:

Toward the end of the book, Dawkins endorses a certain limited skepticism. Since we have been cobbled together by (unguided) evolution, it is unlikely, he thinks, that our view of the world is overall accurate; natural selection is interested in adaptive behavior, not in true belief. But Dawkins fails to plumb the real depths of the skeptical implications of the view that we have come to be by way of unguided evolution. […] Now the neurophysiology on which our beliefs depend will doubtless be adaptive; but why think for a moment that the beliefs dependent on or caused by that neurophysiology will be mostly true? Why think our cognitive faculties are reliable?

See that word “adaptive”? That means it has to fucking work in the real world. So there’s your answer.

Want an example of a false belief produced by an adaptive piece of neurophysiology? How about the hyperactive agency detector (HADD) that allows you to see a god where there isn’t one? (See The God Delusion, p. 184. Also, Breaking the Spell, pp. 109 et seq.)

If this is so, the naturalist has a defeater for the natural assumption that his cognitive faculties are reliable […] And if he has a defeater for that belief, he also has a defeater for any belief that is a product of his cognitive faculties. But of course that would be all of his beliefs—including naturalism itself. So the naturalist has a defeater for naturalism; natural- ism, therefore, is self-defeating and cannot be rationally believed.

This is an interesting philosophical problem because, indeed, if your methods of gathering and processing information are not 100% reliable, then you get into recursive uncertainty where you don’t know whether your your thoughts about thoughts (like how to gather information and reason about it) are true.

However, evolution has nothing to do with perfection or sophistication, and everything to do with what works now, under present conditions. And our brains are the product of evolutionary processes.

Plantinga commits the classic “any uncertainty means great gobs of uncertainty” fallacy: he imagines that since naturalistic thought processes aren’t 100% reliable, that that means they’re highly unreliable, and that our ideas are likely to be fundamentally wrong about some very important things. But a few seconds’ thought should be enough to convince you that this sort of subtle, all-pervasive wrongness can only occur in some very unlikely, solipsism-level scenarios. Especially given the fact that, as pointed out above and conceded by Plantinga, our brains have to be good enough to work in the real world.

You Call This Thinking?

Is this really considered good philosophy, or good theology? Please tell me this is an elaborate joke. Because if it isn’t, then theology is even more devoid of substance than I thought. Either that, or Plantinga’s successfully implemented what Orwell called doublethink, the ability not to see elementary flaws in one’s thinking.

I enjoy reading a good argument by people whose views I don’t agree with. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” and all that. But this is beyond pathetic. A lot of Plantinga’s objections are not just bullshit, but elementary, obvious bullshit. I can’t understand why people take this article seriously, let alone consider it praiseworthy.

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12 Responses to Is This Really What Passes for Thinking Among Theologians?

  1. RBH says:

    The argument that a god that created the complexity of the world must be as or more complex than that world rests on a generally unspoken premise: that the god intended the world to be as it is. That requires that the god have some sort of representational system — cognitive system — that isomorphically maps to the (complex) world. And that requires a representational system exactly as complex as the world that is represented. Add the cognitive/mechanical apparatus that the god requires to bring that complicated representation into physical existence and you have a god that must be more complex than the world it created.

    Simple algorithms can generate complex outcomes and simple generative systems (like evolution) can produce really complicated stuff, but they cannot intend the particular complicated outcomes. That’s the principal bitch that theists have about “unguided” evolution: it means that we were not intended; we are not made in (or imitation of) the image of that god.

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  2. arensb says:

    RBH:

    a generally unspoken premise: that the god intended the world to be as it is.

    Good point. I’m not sure I agree with the notion that the map has to be isomorphic (ideas can be fuzzy, so the world might have more detail than the deity intended), but perhaps after some thought I’ll come to agree with you.

    That’s the principal bitch that theists have about “unguided” evolution: it means that we were not intended; we are not made in (or imitation of) the image of that god.

    That would certainly explain the way Plantinga misses the point with the fine-tuning argument.

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  3. RBH says:

    Good point. I’m not sure I agree with the notion that the map has to be isomorphic (ideas can be fuzzy, so the world might have more detail than the deity intended), but perhaps after some thought I’ll come to agree with you.

    No argument from me. But the representation has to have just as much detail as the creator intended to create, along with the additional apparatus for creating. Now, if I am to believe Michael Behe and the ID fellas, that level of detail extends down to bacterial flagella, which is getting to a pretty fine grain of detail.

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  4. arensb says:

    RBH:

    Now, if I am to believe Michael Behe and the ID fellas, that level of detail extends down to bacterial flagella, which is getting to a pretty fine grain of detail.

    Ah, but it might also mean that the creator only cares about small stuff like bacterial flagella. Of course, such a limited creator probably isn’t worth worshiping as a god.

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  5. Fez says:

    arensb,

    it might also mean that the creator only cares about small stuff like bacterial flagella. Of course, such a limited creator probably isn’t worth worshiping as a god.

    The same evaluation strategy can be applied to $EMPLOYER_MANAGEMENT.

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  6. Steven Carr says:

    PLANTINGA ‘Now the neurophysiology on which our beliefs depend will doubtless be adaptive; but why think for a moment that the beliefs dependent on or caused by that neurophysiology will be mostly true? Why think our cognitive faculties are reliable?’

    CARR
    Plantinga doesn’t at all think that nature has granted him the equipment to form reliable beliefs.

    That is why he wears glasses, to form more accurate beliefs of the world around him.

    Natural selection has produced brains which often have faulty reasoning.

    But if Plantinga can use purely naturalistic means (a pair of glasses) to correct what nature has given him, perhaps we don’t need supernatural methods to improve what natural selection has granted us.

    Perhaps wrong beliefs formed by naturalistic methods can be corrected by equally naturalistic methods, as certainly as Plantinga can glasses to improve his vision.

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  7. arensb says:

    I suppose it’s ironic: the naturalist whom Plantinga criticizes—whether he lives in a natural world or not—thinks “My brain is imperfect. I need to be extra-careful to double-check my results”. On the other hand, if Plantinga lives in a natural world, he may have been misled by his brain’s imperfection, yet have no reason to suspect that he might be in error.

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  8. sam says:

    The analysis of Plantinga’s argument is flawed-Plantinga never claims that Aquinas is right that God is infinately simple, only that the assumption that God is infinately complex is flawed. God, I think Plantinga would admit, is a theistic assumption. He’s not saying God DOES exist AND is infinately simple, only that it is logically consistent that God is infinately simple and Aquinas is right. He wrote a paper working on and trying to improve the Ontological argument, and (at least tried to) establish problems with Gaunilo’s objection that was expressed by the writer of this blog. I’m not too sure about his fine tuning argument, he should have backed it up more strongly. But other than that, what he says is not too unfair if you’ve read his literature before.

    So I disagree with Plantinga a lot, but let’s give the man credit here, his arguments are better than the blogger is giving him credit for. His goal is rarely to argue that God is necessary, only that militant, atheist naturalists are making at least as many assumptions as religious folks. Most religious philosophers agree that God can’t be proven, but many would equally prove that God can’t be disproven too easily either, and it’s this attempt on the part of Dawkins that Plantinga is criticizing.

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  9. arensb says:

    sam:

    Plantinga never claims that Aquinas is right that God is infinately simple, only that the assumption that God is infinately complex is flawed.

    First of all, neither Dawkins, Plantinga, nor I use the phrase “infinitely simple”.

    Secondly, in his article, Plantinga writes, in reference to Dawkins’s argument that God must be complex:

    First, is God complex? According to much classical theology (Thomas Aquinas, for example) God is simple, and simple in a very strong sense, so that in him there is no distinction of thing and property, actuality and potentiality, essence and existence, and the like. Some of the discussions of divine simplicity get pretty complicated, not to say arcane.3 (It isn’t only Catholic theology that declares God simple; according to the Belgic Confession, a splendid expression of Reformed Christianity, God is “a single and simple spiritual being.”) So first, according to classical theology, God is simple, not complex.4 More remarkable, perhaps, is that according to Dawkins’ own definition of complexity, God is not complex. According to his definition (set out in The Blind Watchmaker), something is complex if it has parts that are “arranged in a way that is unlikely to have arisen by chance alone.” But of course God is a spirit, not a material object at all, and hence has no parts.5 A fortiori (as philosophers like to say) God doesn’t have parts arranged in ways unlikely to have arisen by chance. Therefore, given the definition of complexity Dawkins himself proposes, God is not complex.

    While he doesn’t explicitly say that this is what he believes, he says that this is a mainstream view, in much the same way as a physicist might say that “relativity is accepted by the majority of physicists” without actually saying “I accept relativity”.

    God, I think Plantinga would admit, is a theistic assumption.

    And this cuts to the heart of the matter: if theology is based on the assumption that God exists, how then is it different from, say, The Star Trek Starfleet Technical Manual? If we assume that there really is a Starship Enterprise, and that the events in Star Trek really happened as depicted, then no doubt a lot of the information in that book follows as a matter of course. But that’s a pretty big assumption.

    Likewise, if, as you say, theologians assume that God exist and figure out what follows from that, then the whole thing is just so much mental masturbation unless that assumption can be shown to be valid. Sure, it’s fun to count how many miles Frodo walked from the Shire to Mordor, or work out which of the doors off of the bridge of the Enterprise leads to the bathroom, but it’s hardly a legitimate field of study. So where is the evidence that theology—the study of God—is a legitimate subject grounded in reality?

    He wrote a paper working on and trying to improve the Ontological argument, and (at least tried to) establish problems with Gaunilo’s objection that was expressed by the writer of this blog.

    Does Plantinga’s version of the ontological argument prove the existence of God’s Own Beer?

    I define God’s Own Beer as the best, most perfect beer imaginable, by any and all criteria you care to name: it’s delicious, cold, free (given two otherwise identical beers, I prefer the cheaper one), and within reach (a beer on the table next to me is better than one that I have to go to the fridge for). And, of course, since existence is a perfection (given two otherwise identical beers, the one that exists is better than the one that doesn’t), it follows that God’s Own Beer must exist on the table next to me, cold, delicious, and with just the right amount of head.

    All of the versions of the ontological argument that I’ve seen say, if you follow the logic, that both God and God’s Own Beer must exist. And yet there’s no beer on the table.

    I’m not too sure about his fine tuning argument, he should have backed it up more strongly.

    It’s bollocks, for reasons that I gave above. It doesn’t need to be backed up more strongly, it needs to be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up.

    Most religious philosophers agree that God can’t be proven, but many would equally prove that God can’t be disproven too easily either, and it’s this attempt on the part of Dawkins that Plantinga is criticizing.

    The problem is that the God that theologians and religious philosophers argue for is vastly different from the God that most Americans believe in: one who heals diseases, helps people find their keys, and sends rain in response to prayer. While sophisticated thinkers often criticize Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, et al. for attacking a naive conception of God, a strawman caricature of the real thing, the fact is that this naive conception is believed by millions who vote based on that conception.

    So while it’s true that while many versions of God cannot be disproved, many popular and dangerous versions can. And on this issue, Plantinga and Dawkins should be on the same side: if we could at least get past ideas such as that God hates homosexuals and will send them to hell, or that prayer cures disease, or that schoolchildren should be taught creationism, or that there’s no point in protecting the environment because Jesus is going to bulldoze the place in a few years anyway, this country would be in far better shape.

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  10. Himangsu Sekhar Pal says:

    WHO CREATED GOD?
    Earlier it was impossible for us to give any satisfactory answer to this question. But modern science, rather we should say that Einstein, has made it an easy task for us. And Stephen Hawking has provided us with the clue necessary for solving this riddle. Actually scientists in their infinite wisdom have already kept the ground well-prepared for us believers so that one day we can give a most plausible and logically sound answer to this age-old question. Let us first see how Hawking has helped us by providing the necessary clue. In his book “A Brief History of Time” (Chapter: The origin and fate of the universe) he informs us that there are 1080 particles in the region of the observable universe. Then he raised the question regarding the origin of these particles, and gave the answer himself. According to quantum theory particles can be created out of energy in the form of particle/antiparticle pairs. But there the question does not stop. Another question props up regarding the origin of that energy. But when it is said that total energy of the universe is exactly zero, then all is said and done. So this is the clue: if we can somehow arrive at zero, then no further question will be raised, and there will be no infinite regression. What I intend to do here is something similar to that. I want to show that our God is a bunch of several zeroes, and that therefore no further question need be raised about His origin. And here comes Einstein with his special theory of relativity for giving us the necessary empirical support to our project.
    God is a Being. Therefore God will have existence as well as essence. So I will have to show that both from the point of view of existence as well as from the point of view of essence God is zero. It is almost a common saying that God is spaceless, timeless, changeless, immortal, and all-pervading. Here we are getting three zeroes; space is zero, time is zero, change is zero. But how to prove that if there is a God, then that God will be spaceless, timeless, and changeless? From special theory of relativity we come to know that for light both distance and time become unreal. For light even an infinite distance is infinitely contracted to zero. The volume of an infinite universe full of light only will be simply zero due to this property of light. A universe with zero volume is a spaceless universe. Again at the speed of light time totally stops. So a universe full of light only is a spaceless, timeless universe. But these are the properties of light only! How do we come to know that God is also having the same properties of light so that God can also be spaceless, timeless? Scientists have shown that if there is a God, then that God can only be light, and nothing else, and that therefore He will have all the properties of light. Here is the proof.
    Scientists have shown that total energy of the universe is always zero. If total energy is zero, then total mass will also be zero due to energy-mass equivalence. Now if there is a God, then scientists have calculated the total energy and mass of the universe by taking that God into consideration. In other words, if there is a God, then this total energy-mass calculation by the scientists is God-inclusive, not God-exclusive. This is due to two reasons. First of all, even if there is a God, they are not aware of the fact that there is a God. Secondly, they do not believe that there is a God. So, if there is a God, then they have not been able to keep that God aside before making this calculation, because they do not know that there is a God. They cannot say that they have kept Him aside and then made this calculation, because by saying so they will admit that there is a God. They cannot say that the behind-the-picture God has always remained behind the picture, and that He has in no way come into the picture when they have made this calculation, because by saying so they will again admit that there is a God. At most they can say that there is no God. But we are not going to accept that statement as the final verdict on God-issue, because we are disputing that statement. So the matter of the fact is this: if God is really there, then total mass and total energy of the universe including that God are both zero. Therefore mass and energy of God will also be zero. God is without any mass, without any energy. And Einstein has already shown that anything having zero rest-mass will have the speed of light. In other words, it will be some sort of light. So, if God is there, then God will also be light, and therefore He will be spaceless, timeless. So from the point of view of existence God is zero, because he is spaceless, timeless, without any mass, without any energy.
    Now we will have to show that from the point of view of essence also God is zero. If there is only one being in the universe, and if there is no second being other than that being, then that being cannot have any such property as love, hate, cruelty, compassion, benevolence, etc. Let us say that God is cruel. Now to whom can He be cruel if there is no other being other than God Himself? So, if God is cruel, then is He cruel to Himself? Therefore if we say that God is all-loving, merciful, benevolent, etc., then we are also admitting that God is not alone, that there is another being co-eternal with God to whom He can show His love, benevolence, goodness, mercy, compassion, etc. If we say that God is all-loving, then we are also saying that this “all” is co-eternal with God. Thus we are admitting that God has not created the universe at all, and that therefore we need not have to revere Him, for the simple reason that He is not our creator!
    It is usually said that God is good. But Bertrand Russell has shown that God cannot be good for the simple reason that if God is good, then there is a standard of goodness which is independent of God’s will. (Book: A History of Western Philosophy, Ch: Plato’s Utopia). Therefore, if God is the ultimate Being, then that God cannot be good. But neither can He be evil. God is beyond good and evil. Like Hindu’s Brahma, a real God can only be nirguna, nirupadhik; without any name, without any quality. From the point of view of essence also, a real God is a zero. Mystics usually say that their God is a no-thing. This is the real God, not the God of the scriptures.
    So, why should there be any need of creation here, if God is existentially, as well as essentially, zero?
    But if there is someone who is intelligent and clever enough, then he will not stop raising question here. He will point out to another infinite regression. If God is light, then He will no doubt be spaceless, timeless, etc. Therefore one infinite regression is thus stopped. But what about the second regression? How, and from whom, does light get its own peculiar properties by means of which we have successfully stopped the first regression? So, here is another infinite regression. But we need not have to worry much about this regression, because this problem has already been solved. A whole thing, by virtue of its being the whole thing, will have all the properties of spacelessness, timelessness, changelessness, deathlessness. It need not have to depend on any other external source for getting these properties. Thus no further infinite regression will be there.

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  11. Himangsu Sekhar Pal says:

    Proof That There Is A God
    Or
    Proof that God has not kept Himself hidden

    A, Properties of a Whole Thing

    If at the beginning there was something at all, and if that something was the whole thing, then it can be shown that by logical necessity that something will have to be spaceless, timeless, changeless, deathless. This is by virtue of that something being the whole thing. Something is the whole thing means there cannot be anything at all outside of that something; neither space, nor time, nor matter, nor anything else. It is the alpha and omega of existence. But, if it is the whole thing, then it must have to be spaceless, timeless, changeless, deathless. Otherwise it will be merely a part of a bigger whole thing. Now let us denote this something by a big X. Now, can this X be in any space? No, it cannot be. If it is, then where is that space itself located? It must have to be in another world outside of X. But by definition there cannot be anything outside of X. Therefore X cannot be in any space. Again, can this X have any space? No, it cannot have. If we say that it can have, then we will again be in a logical contradiction. Because if X can have any space, then that space must have to be outside of it. Therefore when we consider X as a whole, then we will have to say that neither can it be in any space, nor can it have any space. In every respect it will be spaceless. For something to have space it must already have to be in some space. Even a prisoner has some space, although this space is confined within the four walls of his prison cell. But the whole thing, if it is really the whole thing, cannot have any space. If it can have, then it no longer remains the whole thing. It will be self-contradictory for a whole thing to have any space. Similarly it can be shown that this X can neither be in time, nor have any time. For a whole thing there cannot be any ‘before’, any ‘after’. For it there can be only an eternal ‘present’. It will be in a timeless state. If the whole thing is in time, then it is already placed in a world where there is a past, a present, and a future, and therefore it is no longer the whole thing. Now, if X as a whole is spaceless, timeless, then that X as a whole will also be changeless. There might always be some changes going on inside X, but when the question comes as to whether X itself is changing as a whole, then we are in a dilemma. How will we measure that change? In which time-scale shall we have to put that X in order for us to be able to measure that change? That time-scale must necessarily have to be outside of X. But there cannot be any such time-scale. So it is better not to say anything about its change as a whole. For the same reason X as a whole can never cease to be. It cannot die, because death is also a change. Therefore we see that if X is the first thing and the whole thing, then X will have the properties of spacelessness, timelessness, changelessness, deathlessness by virtue of its being the whole thing. It is a logical necessity. Now, this X may be anything; it may be light, it may be sound, or it may be any other thing. Whatever it may be, it will have the above four properties of X. Now, if we find that there is nothing in this universe that possesses the above four properties of X, then we can safely conclude that at the beginning there was nothing at all, and that therefore scientists are absolutely correct in asserting that the entire universe has simply originated out of nothing. But if we find that there is at least one thing in the universe that possesses these properties, then we will be forced to conclude that that thing was the first thing, and that therefore scientists are wrong in their assertion that at the beginning there was nothing. This is only because a thing can have the above four properties by virtue of its being the first thing and by virtue of this first thing being the whole thing, and not for any other reason. Scientists have shown that in this universe light, and light only, is having the above four properties. They have shown that for light time, as well as distance, become unreal. I have already shown elsewhere that a timeless world is a deathless, changeless world. For light even infinite distance becomes zero, and therefore volume of an infinite space also becomes zero. So the only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that at the beginning there was light, and that therefore scientists are wrong in asserting that at the beginning there was nothing.
    Another very strong reason can be given in support of our belief that at the beginning there was light. The whole thing will have another very crucial and important property: immobility. Whole thing as a whole thing cannot move at all, because it has nowhere to go. Movement means going from one place to another place, movement means changing of position with respect to something else. But if the whole thing is really the whole thing, then there cannot be anything else other than the whole thing. Therefore if the whole thing moves at all, then with respect to which other thing is it changing its position? And therefore it cannot have any movement, it is immobile. Now, if light is the whole thing, then light will also have this property of immobility. Now let us suppose that the whole thing occupies an infinite space, and that light is the whole thing. As light is the whole thing, and as space is also infinite here, then within this infinite space light can have the property of immobility if, and only if, for light even the infinite distance is reduced to zero. Scientists have shown that this is just the case. From special theory of relativity we come to know that for light even infinite distance becomes zero, and that therefore it cannot have any movement, because it has nowhere to go. It simply becomes immobile. This gives us another reason to believe that at the beginning there was light, and that therefore scientists are wrong in asserting that at the beginning there was nothing.
    I know very well that an objection will be raised here, and that it will be a very severe objection. I also know what will be the content of that objection: can a whole thing beget another whole thing? I have said that at the beginning there was light, and that light was the whole thing. Again I am saying that the created light is also the whole thing, that is why it has all the properties of the whole thing. So the whole matter comes to this: a whole thing has given birth to another whole thing, which is logically impossible. If the first thing is the whole thing, then there cannot be a second whole thing, but within the whole thing there can be many other created things, none of which will be a whole thing. So the created light can in no way be a whole thing, it is logically impossible. But is it logically impossible for the created light to have all the properties of the whole thing? So what I intend to say here is this: created light is not the original light, but created light has been given all the properties of the original light, so that through the created light we can have a glimpse of the original light. If the created light was not having all these properties, then who would have believed that in this universe it is quite possible to be spaceless, timeless, changeless, deathless? If nobody believes in Scriptures, and if no one has any faith in personal revelation or mystical experience, and if no one wants to depend on any kind of authority here, and if no one even tries to know Him through meditation, then how can the presence of God be made known to man, if not through a created thing only? So, not through Vedas, nor through Bible, nor through Koran, nor through any other religious books, but through light and light only, God has revealed himself to man. That is why we find in created light all the most essential properties of God: spacelessness, timelessness, changelessness, deathlessness.

    Footnote: If the universe is treated as one whole unit, then it can be said to be spaceless, timeless. I first got this idea from an article by Dr. Lee Smolin read in the internet. Rest things I have developed. This is as an acknowledgement.

    B. CLIMAX

    I think we need no further proof for the existence of God. That light has all the five properties of the whole thing is sufficient. I will have to explain.
    Scientists are trying to establish that our universe has started from nothing. We want to contradict it by saying that it has started from something. When we are saying that at the beginning there was something, we are saying that there was something. We are not saying that there was some other thing also other than that something. Therefore when we are saying that at the beginning there was something, we are saying that at the beginning there was a whole thing. Therefore we are contradicting the statement that our universe has started from nothing by the statement that our universe has started from a whole thing.
    I have already shown that a whole thing will have the properties of spacelessness, timelessness, changelessness, deathlessness, immobility (STCDI). This is by logical necessity alone. It is logically contradictory to say that a whole thing can have space. Let us suppose that the whole thing is having space. Then the so-called whole thing along with the space that it is having will constitute the real whole thing. If my arguments that I have offered so far to show that the whole thing will always have the above five properties by virtue of its being the whole thing are sound, and if they cannot be faulted from any angle, then I can make the following statements:
    1. In this universe only a whole thing can have the properties of STCDI by logical necessity alone.
    2. If the universe has started from nothing, then nothing in this universe will have the properties of STCDI.
    3. If the universe has started from a whole thing, then also nothing other than the initial whole thing will have the properties of STCDI. This is only because a whole thing cannot beget another whole thing.
    4. But in this universe we find that light, in spite of its not being a whole thing, is still having the properties of STCDI.
    5. This can only happen if, and only if, the initial whole thing itself has purposefully given its own properties to light, in order to make its presence known to us through light.
    6. But for that the initial whole thing must have to have consciousness.
    7. So, from above we can come to the following conclusion: the fact that light, in spite of its not being a whole thing, still possesses the properties of STCDI, is itself a sufficient proof for the fact that the universe has started from a conscious whole thing, and that this conscious whole thing is none other than God.

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  12. arensb says:

    Himangsu Sekhar Pal:
    Yes, that’s exactly the sort of grandiose yet incoherent textual emesis that theologians, apologists, and other sophists routinely engage in.

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