Friday, March 8, 2013

For the Love of God, Montresor

Of course, evolution is not the only thing I argue about on the Internet. My other old pal winstoninabox is dissecting Lennox’s “God’s Undertaker” on a website made especially for the purpose.

To clarify where I am coming from in this argument, I thought I should do one of those Pyramid of Logic things, like I did for Anthropogenic Global Warming.

1. The Universe is not a Self-Existent Thing.
The “known universe”; this thing of things that seems to have started 15 billion years ago and obeys certain very complicated rules, is not all there is. It is dependent on some greater reality. Something must exist without having developed from something else: but the “universe” of the cosmologists is not it.

2. The Self Existent Thing is something beyond our comprehension. Look how mind-bogglingly incomprehensible we find things like quantum electrodynamics and black holes, only a few orders of magnitude away from the reality we evolved to comprehend.

3. We can't get there from here. The chain of causation between the mind-bogglingly incomprehensible Self Existent Thing and ourselves is likewise too complicated for us ever to figure out.

(These three points seem more or less self-evident to me, and were very ably outlined by the 14th century Arab historian Ibn-Khaldun)

Which brings us to points 4:

4. With respect to our universe, this Self-Existent thing may be:

a. Omniscient, in the sense of knowing everything about it.

b. Omnibenevolent, in the sense of being favourably disposed towards everything in it.

c. Omnipotent, in the sense of being able to do whatever it wants to it. Which obviously includes:

i. Personal, in the sense of being able to interact with transient epiphenomena within it as if it were one of them, and

ii. Interventionist
, in the sense of actually doing what is in its power to do.

(Postulating any of these points 4 is not irrational, and is not a priori stupid, any more than postulating that the Self-Existent Thing does not have these qualities is irrational or a priori stupid. You are perfectly free, as far as I can see from the facts accessible to us, to believe either way on any of these. Since I agree with Peirce that to “believe” in a thing can only mean “behave as if such a thing were true”, I would say that I believe in point 4.)

5. We can't preemptively dismiss revelation as bogus. Now, if 3 is true, the only way we can have any information about this Self-Existent Thing is what it communicates to us using 4.c.i/ii. So we have no grounds for a priori rejecting the statements about God from any revealed religion as mere “fairy tales”. We can only compare them to the facts we have gleaned about the universe on our own and judge whether they make sense or not on a case by case basis.

(I think, though I often wish I didn’t, that they all fall down rather badly on the details. But that’s just me.)

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