Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Battleground God

Official: my religious views are mostly consistent. That's nice.

In fact, Battleground God is an enjoyable exercise to be undertaken vaguely seriously. You are taken through a perfectly reasonable progression of philosophical questions to rate as True, False or Don't Know: for instance, "If God does not exist then there is no basis for morality." (For the record, false: Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative immediately comes to my mind as just one example of a viable, non-deity-based moral framework.) The cumulative impact of your responses is used to judge the logical consistency of your position. If you bite a bullet then you have stuck to your logical guns even though this may have led you to a belief that "most people would have found strange, incredible or unpalatable". If you take a hit, that means they detect a logical self-contradiction. I took three.

My first hit:
"You say that if there are no compelling arguments or evidence that show that God does not exist, then atheism is a matter of faith, not rationality. Therefore, it seems that you do not think that the mere absence of evidence for the existence of God is enough to justify believing that she does not exist. This view is also suggested by your earlier claim that it is not rational to believe that the Loch Ness monster does not exist even if, despite years of trying, no evidence has been presented to suggest that it does exist."
One word: categories.

In slightly more words: the Sainted Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker posits a computer-based model of evolution in which biomorphs, creatures existing only in a computer's memory, evolve characteristics over time. Let's get science fictional and assume that by some William Gibson / Neal Stephenson handwaving quirk of electronicness, the biomorphs actually start to evolve intelligence and end up with their own little ecosystem in the computer's RAM. They even develop their own philosophers and scientists, as well as myths and legends of the Great Old Biomorphs that will come again. One of these is NessieMorph, never seen, oft speculated about. The biomorph scientists will be able to make reasonable deductions, from the absence of evidence, as to the non-existence of NessieMorph. However, they will never be able to prove, or disprove, the existence of Richard Dawkins.

Moving on. My second hit:
"You say that God does not have the freedom and power to do impossible things such as create square circles, but in an earlier answer you said that any being which it is right to call God must be free and have the power to do anything. So, on your view, God is not free and does not have the power to do what is impossible. This requires that you accept - in common with most theologians, but contrary to your earlier answer - that God's freedom and power are not unbounded. He does not have the freedom and power to do literally anything."
Yes, but you didn't say "literally anything" in the earlier question, did you? The exact text of the question (no. 3) is "Any being which it is right to call God must be free to do anything". Debating whether God has the power to create square circles is meaningless; to answer your question I assumed meaning in it; therefore I assumed you did not mean "literally anything".

Even in your own FAQ you even say "omnipotence isn't normally felt to require the ability to do the logically impossible". So there, as Wittgenstein might have said but probably didn't.

My third hit:
"Earlier you said that it is not justifiable to base one's beliefs about the external world on a firm, inner conviction, paying no regard to the external evidence, or lack of it, for the truth or falsity of this conviction, but now you say it's justifiable to believe in God on just these grounds. That's a flagrant contradiction!"
No, the question was : "It is justifiable to base one's beliefs about the external world on a firm, inner conviction, even in the absence of any external evidence for the truth of these convictions." Sure it is - in the absence of external evidence. Those beliefs should change, however, if contradictory evidence comes along. But that, again, is something you didn't say originally.

So there you have it. Ben: mostly logical. Not a Vulcan, not a Creationist either. I find this a good place to be and will gladly seek a definitive reconciliation of these remaining contradictions as soon as I've finished deciding whether light is a wave or a particle and which is right, quantum physics or general relativity.


  1. Interesting. I got one hit and bit no bullets. It was the Peter Sutcliffe question, where logically I should have bitten the bullet and taken the hit. But I couldn't bring myself to do it. Mainly because I don't think he had a firm inner conviction. I think he was criminally insane.

  2. I meant I should have bitten the bullet and avoided the hit. (I think!)


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