God and Science
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By: Dr. Sam Vaknin
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Could God have failed to exist (especially considering His omnipotence)? Could He have been a contingent being rather than a necessary one? Would the World have existed without Him and, more importantly, would it have existed in the same way? For instance: would it have allowed for the existence of human beings?
To say that God is a necessary being means to accept that He exists (with His attributes intact) in every possible world. It is not enough to say that He exists only in our world: this kind of claim will render Him contingent (present in some worlds - possibly in none! - and absent in others).
We cannot conceive of the World without numbers, relations, and properties, for instance. These are necessary entities because without them the World as we known and perceive it would not exist. Is this equally true when we contemplate God? Can we conceive of a God-less World?
Moreover: numbers, relations, and properties are abstracts. Yet, God is often thought of as a concrete being. Can a concrete being, regardless of the properties imputed to it, ever be necessary? Is there a single concrete being - God - without which the Universe would have perished, or not existed in the first place? If so, what makes God a privileged concrete entity?
Additionally, numbers, relations, and properties depend for their existence (and utility) on other beings, entities, and quantities. Relations subsist between objects; properties are attributes of things; numbers are invariably either preceded by other numbers or followed by them.
Does God depend for His existence on other beings, entities, quantities, properties, or on the World as a whole? If He is a dependent entity, is He also a derivative one? If He is dependent and derivative, in which sense is He necessary?
Many philosophers confuse the issue of existence with that of necessity. Kant and, to some extent, Frege, argued that existence is not even a logical predicate (or at least not a first-order logical predicate). But, far more crucially, that something exists does not make it a necessary being. Thus, contingent beings exist, but they are not necessary (hence their "contingency").
At best, ontological arguments deal with the question: does God necessarily exist? They fail to negotiate the more tricky: can God exist only as a Necessary Being (in all possible worlds)?
Modal ontological arguments even postulate as a premise that God is a necessary being and use that very assumption as a building block in proving that He exists! Even a rigorous logician like Gödel fell in this trap when he attempted to prove God's necessity. In his posthumous ontological argument, he adopted several dubious definitions and axioms:
(1) God's essential properties are all positive (Definition 1); (2) God necessarily exists if and only if every essence of His is necessarily exemplified (Definition 3); (3) The property of being God is positive (Axiom 3); (4) Necessary existence is positive (Axiom 5).
These led to highly-debatable outcomes:
(1) For God, the property of being God is essential (Theorem 2); (2) The property of being God is necessarily exemplified.
Gödel assumed that there is one universal closed set of essential positive properties, of which necessary existence is a member. He was wrong, of course. There may be many such sets (or none whatsoever) and necessary existence may not be a (positive) property (or a member of some of the sets) after all.
Worst of all, Gödel's "proof" falls apart if God does not exist (Axiom 3's veracity depends on the existence of a God-like creature). Plantinga has committed the very same error a decade earlier (1974). His ontological argument incredibly relies on the premise: "There is a possible world in which there is God!"
Veering away from these tautological forays, we can attempt to capture God's alleged necessity by formulating this Axiom Number 1:
"God is necessary (i.e. necessarily exists in every possible world) if there are objects or entities that would not have existed in any possible world in His absence."
We should complement Axiom 1 with Axiom Number 2:
"God is necessary (i.e. necessarily exists in every possible world) even if there are objects or entities that do not exist in any possible world (despite His existence)."
The reverse sentences would be:
Axiom Number 3: "God is not necessary (i.e. does not necessarily exist in every possible world) if there are objects or entities that exist in any possible world in His absence."
Axiom Number 4: "God is not necessary (i.e. does not necessarily exist in every possible world) if there are no objects or entities that exist in any possible world (despite His existence)."
Now consider this sentence:
Axiom Number 5: "Objects and entities are necessary (i.e. necessarily exist in every possible world) if they exist in every possible world even in God's absence."
Consider abstracta, such as numbers. Does their existence depend on God's? Not if we insist on the language above. Clearly, numbers are not dependent on the existence of God, let alone on His necessity.
Yet, because God is all-encompassing, surely it must incorporate all possible worlds as well as all impossible ones! What if we were to modify the language and recast the axioms thus:
Axiom Number 1:
"God is necessary (i.e. necessarily exists in every possible and impossible world) if there are objects or entities that would not have existed in any possible world in His absence."
We should complement Axiom 1 with Axiom Number 2:
"God is necessary (i.e. necessarily exists in every possible and impossible world) even if there are objects or entities that do not exist in any possible world (despite His existence)."
The reverse sentences would be:
Axiom Number 3: "God is not necessary (i.e. does not necessarily exist in every possible and impossible world) if there are objects or entities that exist in any possible world in His absence."
Axiom Number 4: "God is not necessary (i.e. does not necessarily exist in every possible and impossible world) if there are no objects or entities that exist in any possible world (despite His existence)."
Now consider this sentence:
Axiom Number 5: "Objects and entities are necessary (i.e. necessarily exist in every possible and impossible world) if they exist in every possible world even in God's absence."
According to the Vander Laan modification (2004) of the Lewis counterfactuals semantics, impossible worlds are worlds in which the number of propositions is maximal. Inevitably, in such worlds, propositions contradict each other (are inconsistent with each other). In impossible worlds, some counterpossibles (counterfactuals with a necessarily false antecedent) are true or non-trivially true. Put simply: with certain counterpossibles, even when the premise (the antecedent) is patently false, one can agree that the conditional is true because of the (true, formally correct) relationship between the antecedent and the consequent.
Thus, if we adopt an expansive view of God - one that covers all possibilities and impossibilities - we can argue that God's existence is necessary.
Appendix: Ontological Arguments regarding God's Existence
As Lewis (In his book "Anselm and Actuality", 1970) and Sobel ("Logic and Theism", 2004) noted, philosophers and theologians who argued in favor of God's existence have traditionally proffered tautological (question-begging) arguments to support their contentious contention (or are formally invalid). Thus, St. Anselm proposed (in his much-celebrated "Proslogion", 1078) that since God is the Ultimate Being, it essentially and necessarily comprises all modes of perfection, including necessary existence (a form of perfection).
Anselm's was a prototypical ontological argument: God must exist because we can conceive of a being than which no greater can be conceived. It is an "end-of-the-line" God. Descartes concurred: it is contradictory to conceive of a Supreme Being and then to question its very existence.
That we do not have to conceive of such a being is irrelevant. First: clearly, we have conceived of Him repeatedly and second, our ability to conceive is sufficient. That we fail to realize a potential act does not vitiate its existence.
But, how do we know that the God we conceive of is even possible? Can we conceive of impossible entities? For instance, can we conceive of a two-dimensional triangle whose interior angles amount to less than 180 degrees? Is the concept of a God that comprises all compossible perfections at all possible? Leibnitz said that we cannot prove that such a God is impossible because perfections are not amenable to analysis. But that hardly amounts to any kind of proof!
Is God an external object - or
an internal one? Is He a mere voice in our heads - or is He out there?
Psychosis occurs when we confuse and conflate our inner world with outer
reality. In this sense, all religious prophecy is psychotic and all religious
faiths are manifestations of psychosis.
Julian Jaynes (“The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”, 1976) was the most forceful advocate of the idea of bicameralism and the bicameral mind: that supernatural revelation was merely how some people experienced a channel of communication between their cerebral hemispheres. Modern day ambient noise, information pollution, stress, and abnormal living conditions in cities served to suppress and extinguish this intracranial exchange, except in cases of schizophrenia. Instead, we developed compensatory introspection, self-awareness, and consciousness
There is, of course, the added problem of false prophecy: how to tell the ersatz from the echt. Most false prophets are not crooks: they sincerely believe in the authenticity of the provenance of their message and mission.
But does all this really matter? Whether these voices are mere hallucinatory neurological artifacts or the true Word of a god is immaterial as long as they affect the lives of millions, as they all too often do.
Jewish mysticism believes
that humans have a major role: fixing the results of a cosmic catastrophe, the
shattering of the divine vessels through which the infinite divine light poured
forth to create our finite world. If Nature is determined to a predominant
extent by its contained intelligences, then it may well be teleological.
Indeed, goal-orientated behaviour (or behavior that could be explained as goal-orientated) is Nature's hallmark. The question whether automatic or intelligent mechanisms are at work, really deals with an underlying issue, that of consciousness. Are these mechanisms self-aware, introspective? Is intelligence possible without such self-awareness, without the internalized understanding of what it is doing?
Kant's third and the fourth dynamic antinomies deal with this apparent duality: automatism versus intelligent acts.
The third thesis relates to
causation which is the result of free will as opposed to causation which is the
result of the laws of nature (nomic causation)
The antithesis is that freedom is an illusion and everything is pre-determined. So, the third antinomy is really about intelligence that is intrinsic to Nature (deterministic) versus intelligence that is extrinsic to it (free will)
The fourth thesis deals with a related subject: God, the ultimate intelligent creator. It states that there must exist, either as part of the world or as its cause a Necessary Being. There are compelling arguments to support both the theses and the antitheses of the antinomies.
Read Note on Abstract Entities and Objects
Read Note on Complexity and Simplicity
Read Note on Scientific Theories and the Life Cycles of Science
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