I was prompted into contemplating my belly-button by reading the usual crypto-fascist Vox Day. So apologies for that. I’m not going to bother linking to the piece (its dated December 7 if anybody wants to look), it’s neither terrible nor insightful. However, the issue at hand is god and logic and that’s a topic that always sets me off but before I continue let me say something:
You can’t prove using logic that god (in general) doesn’t exist.
Also, I’m not attempting to prove that god doesn’t exist (I mean god doesn’t exist but that’s not what I’m going on about).
The piece in question is looking at Richard Dawkins offering some of the classic issues of the standard conception of god. Specifically that god is both omniscient and omnipotent. Both have issues logically and together they have even more issues. Dawkins is quoted as saying:
Incidentally, it has not escaped the notice of logicians that omniscience and omnipotence are mutually incompatible. If God is omniscient, he must already know how he is going to intervene to change the course of history using his omnipotence. But that means he can’t change his mind about his intervention, which means he is not omnipotent.
Which is fair enough, as far as it goes. Day calls the argument ‘silly and superficial’ but then goes off on a full-on theological retreat in the face of the argument, essentially backpedaling on both qualities. He argues that maybe the bible doesn’t claim either thing and maybe these are just potentialities of god i.e. god has the capacity to know everything but only if he chooses to etc. That’s all fine, you can believe in whatever god you want and your god can have whatever limitations you think appropriate. I’m not the faith policeman.
It is still missing the point though. Put aside the word ‘god’ (or ‘God’) for that matter. Let’s talk about the Ultimate Being instead. The Ultimate Being is a Platonic god i.e. at the end of a chain of abstraction of what is and what is good. It is also a philosophical god, the end point of Thomas Aquinas’s chains of causality and existence.
The supposedly trite question of whether a god (say Zeus) can make a rock so heavy that he can’t lift it is not trite when we consider such an Ultimate Being. Saying that such a being would never choose to do such a thing is not an answer because it avoids the question. The question really is: can such an Ultimate Being do something that is logically contradictory? There are exactly two answers to that question:
“Yes” is a reasonable answer but it comes with a price. The price is that you then can’t reason logically about an ultimate being beyond this. If such a being not only transcends time and space but also logic, then such a being is beyond reason and reasonable inquiry.
“No” is not a reasonable answer. It looks reasonable because it affirms reasonableness but it implies that your Ultimate Being is less than ultimate. It implies that rules exist that limit this ultimate being and raises the questions of where those rules come from and who enforces them. If the answer to that is the rules don’t come from anywhere and nobody has to enforce them, they just are then…why are you bothering with an ultimate being for everything else?
“Are you an agnostic then?”, is something I am asked from time to time. No, except in a much broader sense of believing that knowledge is fallible and absolute certainty about anything is impossible. I don’t have faith in god(s)/God, other people do. I’m cool with that 🙂 Tell me though, that there’s a proof or a logical reason for believing in god then sorry, but no there isn’t.
[see also: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/fideism/]