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Archive for May, 2010

Delusions about God

I am reading Richard Dawkins’ book the God Delusion at the moment, which quotes a paradox about omnipotence. It goes like this:

If God is omnicognisent, then He (or She) knows what will happen in the future, including the actions He will take. Since He knows what He will do, He cannot change that action. This therefore means He is not omnipotent, as His ability to do something different is gone.

Does this hold true? Is it possible that by being omnipotent He can be any place at any time, possibly even every place at every time?

His being outside of the rules that bind the rest of us is almost the definition of God – He made the rules up in the first place, so they don’t affect Him. Otherwise it would be a bit like someone making a chess set and afterwards having to move diagonally or only in straight lines. Time and place surely have little meaning to Him, so future, past & present are as one. There would be no instance of Him knowing ‘what He will do’ as much as knowing ‘what He did’ or even only ‘what He is doing’, even if for us it hasn’t happened yet.

There is therefore no problem about knowledge of future actions binding those actions or making the knowledge false, since there are no future actions – God is omnipotent and omnicognisant all at the same time (so to speak).

Does this mean that there is no paradox?

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This is probably very old hat for anyone who knows anything about philosophy, but I don’t so it seemed like quite an exciting line of questioning to me. What am I talking about, you may be asking yourself, and why are you bothering to read such blather? Well, this question may answer you:

“Does the Big Bang theory mean there has to be a god?”*

My reasoning is thusly (to sound a bit Old Testament about it all) – if the universe was created from a singularity, or in other words everything in creation grew from the same vanishingly small something at the start of the Big Bang, then is it possible that all movements & interaction of every particle in the universe is predictable? If we could know the conditions when everything sprang from nothing, when all the energy and matter in the universe was set in motion, then surely we could predict what those motions would be for the rest of eternity.

It would be a bit like holding a load of marbles in your hand & chucking them into the air – if you know the position and movement of the marbles as they leave your hand, you could predict exactly where they will fly & land.

Now, if we can predict what will happen to all the particles & energy in the universe, we could work out what has happened since the Big Bang and what will happen until the universe freezes to a halt (if indeed it will). If this is the case, then every action and thought has been pre-determined and there is no free will. Such a situation would be pretty much exactly the same as there being a god ruling and directing creation, so as long as we overlook the heaven/hell bit (which is OK as we are taking about gods here, not God) we could say that the Big Bang proves the existence of a god.

So, there I was thinking these thoughts and it was looking quite promising, as long as the universe did indeed start from a singularity and not some rather nebulous collapse of a previous universe, when along came a big but!

Please notice the single ‘T’ in that last word. Thank you, you can now carry on.

BUT, rather excitingly (I am soooo dull) a useful loophole appeared at the moment critique for the there’s-a-god-but-also-free-will fraternity. This loophole was:

(please imagine a fanfare at this point)

THE UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE

This means that it is physically impossible for the location, composition, energy, movement etc of any subatomic particle to be known at the same time – you can know what something is but not where it is, or vice versa. Now, the term ‘know’ here is a little more fundamental than just seeing or hearing: it means that all interactions at the subatomic scale are inherently unpredictable. As they are unpredictable, it means that it is impossible to predict the movement of mater & energy, so there is not necessarily predetermination.

No predetermination means free will and no proof that there is a god, or at least no proof that the universe acts as if there were a god, which to my mind is so ridiculously similar that it would be churlish to argue about it.

So, even if the universe did start from a real singularity there is the potential for free will and the existence of a god is safely returned to being based purely on faith.

Phew!

*I’m not referring to the comedy series, by the way, but the theory that explains how an expanding universe was created in the first place. Or recreated. Possibly.

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