Monday, July 30, 2012

Can Theists believe in one less god?

There is a common argument among atheists that 'we are all atheists', in the sense that they just disbelieve in one more god than theists do.

For example, we read:
"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." Stephen F Roberts

Failure of Analogous Arguments

Ed Feser, arguing from philosophical point of view, replies:

While your average “Internet Infidel” seems to regard the “one god further” objection as devastatingly clever, it is in fact embarrassingly inept, a sign of the extreme decadence into which secularist “thought” has fallen in the Age of Dawkins.

Suppose someone skeptical about Euclidean geometry said:
When you understand why you regard all the particular triangles you’ve observed as having sides that are less than perfectly straight, you will understand why I regard Euclidean plane triangles as such to have sides that are less than perfectly straight.
Or suppose a critic of Platonism said:
When you understand why you regard the things of ordinary experience as in various ways imperfect or less than fully good instances of their kinds, you will understand why I regard Plato’s Form of the Good as being less than fully good.
Would these count as devastating objections to Euclidean geometry and Platonism?  Would they serve as fitting mottos for blogs devoted to “Common Sense Anti-Euclideanism” or “Common Sense Anti-Platonism”?  Obviously not.  They would demonstrate only that the speaker didn’t have the slightest clue what the hell he was talking about. The “one god further” objection is no better than these stupid “objections” would be.

Rebuttal in Theism

According to Theism, God is not just one being among many, but is being itself.  Atheists may compare God with other possible creatures such as Santa, Zeus, and the Flying Spaghetti monster, and claim that where is an equal lack of existence for all of them.

However,  God is the "I Am", is being itself, and is therefore in a different category. None of the other putative Gods ever claimed, or had it claimed of them, that they were 'being itself'. In philosophy, this is called aseity, because in latin a se means 'in itself' or 'from itself'.

All we need to note now, for our Rebuttal, is this attribute of God. Just from God being "being itself", we prove that there is only one God:
For consider the logical possibility of two Gods. They would both be being itself, since they are Gods. But God is being itself. Therefore they are both God, and hence identical.
So the nature of God as 'being itself' implies monotheism. It implies that there can only be one god. Not many, and not zero. One is a special number when it comes to counting God.
This is the reason for monotheism, why Gods more than one are rejected, as also are Gods numbered only zero. Theists disbelieve all God who are not being itself. That set includes Zeus, Santa, the FSM, and all those others that have ever entered into polytheism (except, possibly, just one).

More general discussion is here.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Two fatal flaws in Pandeist logic

Pandeism is a modern form of pantheism, and was mentioned briefly in my previous post.  Its advocates prefer the more modern term 'deism' rather than 'theism', in order to emphasize a connection with reason and logic, rather than the traditional theism of the Abrahamic kind.

My previous argument against pantheism,
We see that the Argument from Love has direct consequences concerning the systems of pantheism, nonduality and idealism. The necessity, if love is to function, of a deep division between divinity and us beloved beings is not allowed in pantheism. According to pantheism, we are all and entirely part of God, and that cannot be true if God is to love us unselfishly.
will not work with the pantheist, because they do not accept that God is Love in the first place, let alone Unselfish Love! Sad.

The logical heart of pandeism seems to be some 'theorems' which Robert G. Brown claims to have proved. His personal home page is here, and his university page is here. These theorems appear to prove that God must be identical with the universe. This has many alleged implications, such as that God cannot be a Creator, cannot Love the universe and its peoples, and theism (whereby God sustains the universe) must be false. 

The main theorem is quite simple. First we need to use Brown's definition of 'irreducible information':
We begin by mentally compressing the coordinate description - eliminating all redundant information. This leads us to an irreducible specification of the state of the Universe as a complete set of non-redundant coordinates (where a lot of the reduction will appear in the form of exact or approximate coordinate relationships, a.k.a. ``the laws of nature''). This information is self-encoded in the actual things that exist in the actual Universe.
Then we need to see his definition of 'omniscience':
God must possess a complete knowledge of the state of the Universe, right down to the last electron in the last space-time continuum, the last hidden dimension. 
with his definition of the Universe as 'everything that exists': our world and God.

Finally, then, his 'Pandeist Theorem' is:
If God exists, then God is identical to the Universe.
That is, the theorem is a statement of conditional pandeism. If God exists at all, God must be absolutely everything that exists.  It is therefore quite obvious that if God exists (has being), God must be either a part of the Universe or the whole UniverseGod by the property of omniscience must have precisely the irreducible information content of the entire Universe.

His Proof is given as:
Let us call the irreducible information content of the non-God part of the Universe IN, the irreducible information content of the God part of the Universe IG, and the irreducible information content of the entire Universe IU (where of course any of these quantities could be infinite).
It is obvious that:
I_U \equiv I_G + I_N

as the irreducible information content of the whole must match the total irreducible information content of the disjoint parts. Also,
I_N \not\equiv I_G
as the non-God and God parts are disjoint and cannot be mutually reducible. Clearly,
I_G \equiv I_U
as that's the meaning of omniscience. Therefore:
I_N \equiv \emptyset
The only way the irreducible information content of the non-God part of the irreducible information content of the entire Universe can be encoded in the irreducible information content of the God part is if the irreducible information content of the non-God part is null - no information at all.
No existing system has null information content (this is why we needed the principle that a physical systemis its own minimal encoding, that a system ``knows'' its own state in an incompressible way), so we conclude that if God exists at all, the non-God part of the Universe is (quite literally) no-thing, nothing. It does not exist.
Ian's Reply:

This is an unusual definition of the universe, since God is not usually assumed to be in the universe, but we can accept this as a temporary definition.

First Fatal Flaw in this Proof

1. Brown seems to take objects as composed of information. This is like a computer scientist, who takes  'bits' as the basic thing that exists. This is to treat 'form' as fundamentally existing. Plato would be happy.

However, natural scientists since Aristotle, Galileo and Newton know that substances are made out of something that is not purely formal, but have mass or energy.  This should be obvious to a physicist.

This has the consequence that two distinct existing things can have the same information. Two things, such as a finger and a fingerprint on glass, may share the same information, the same form and the same bits, but be ontologically distinct substances.

The 'irreducible information' of a finger and its fingerprint will be identical. Aspects of both are describable by the same form. Thus, when we aggregate two systems, it may well be that the aggregate has an irreducible information is less than the sum of their individual irreducible informations. The shared forms may be in each part, but do not need to be repeated in the whole's irreducible information.

This should be obvious. If we copy a 1 MB jpeg file on a computer, we have it stored in two places in the physical memory, but the irreducible information is not doubled. It is not 2 MB, but only 1 MB combined with a very short instruction about duplication. (This is how zip compression algorithms work!)

Let us apply this to the G + N = U aggregation that Brown uses in his proof above.

If God G is to be omniscient, then there must be information in God which is a copy of forms seen in the non-God world N. We may think of God's perception as having images of the world that convey the same information as the world does. That is what true perceptions are obviously about.

This implies, then, that the aggregate U has information much less than the total:

IU  <<  IG  + IN

because there is shared (common) information within G and N. Information is not additive between disjoint parts! Therefore his proof fails

Why did Brown make this mistake? Because he confused substance and form. In other words, he confused energy and information. He took the non-overlap of the God and non-God to be non-overlap of information, whereas it should be non-overlap of substance (energy, mass, or whatever). It is only this second non-overlap of substance which pertains to God and the world. It leads to egregious errors, we see, if we forget this fact.  God and humans may share forms: we may both know the forms of geometry, logic, mathematics generally, and many other formal things. Our disjointness does not stop us sharing information!

Second Fatal Flaw in this Proof

Brown says he accepts that any of  IGIN, and IU may be infinite. But he does not realize that adding a finite number to infinity leaves that infinity unchanged. This has been known for over 2000 years. Since God is traditionally taken to be infinite, then IG=infinity and IU=infinity. That is, we accept that  IG and  IU are equal in that sense, but Brown's (flawed) equality 
IU  I + IN
does not imply that IN = 0 when IU=IG=infinity! In this case, the proof fails again, even mathematically.

Brown's Second Proof

Brown as a Second Proof of this theorem, but it begins by assuming that "entropy is an extensive quantity - all of the information carrying capacity of the 'God channel' is being consumed by irreducibly specifying the God state and there is none left over for specifying the not-God state."

We saw above that information is not extensive or additive. This means that, for the purposes of Brown's argument, we can not assume that information is simply negative entropy. If information were extensive, then compression algorithms could never work, but they do. Information is not extensive, even in computers.

The one thing we should know about God

God is Love

All the theistic religions teach that God loves the believers, who are those who follow his commands and love him in return. They also teach that God is continually producing goods and trying to give them to believers and unbelievers alike. This strongly suggests that God loves them all, in the sense of desiring good for them all. This love persists whatever may have been the reason for the unbelief and, hence, whether or not the love is even accepted or reciprocated by the person. God offers a ‘covenant of love’ to all.

Love Itself

It is another step now to assert not only that ‘God loves all’ but that God is Love Itself. This is certainly not an a priori or obvious truth, and it is most explicit in Christianity (notably in 1 John 4:16).  Many now seem to have gotten the message, and the identification of God with Love is now one of the central tenets of theism. We therefore adopt 

Postulate 6  God is Love.

To say that God is Love, is to say that God’s inmost nature is to be loving, however it may initially appear to us with recalcitrant wills and limited vision. If God’s inmost nature is Love, then, because he is being itself, that being must also be Love itself. As was discussed previously, this Love that is God is not a mere emotional state of attraction or feeling good but rather a burning desire to give all of his own to be used by finite beings, for their delight for a long as possible. It is an unconditional love and is not based on feelings or emotions. God loves us all because God is love. The idea that God is Love is not traditionally recognized in philosophical theology. It was not present in Aristotle’s concept of an Unmoved Mover who kept the world in motion. Aquinas allows that ‘in God there is Love’, but makes God’s loving to be unlike ours: to be an act rather than a ‘passion of the appetitive soul’. Most systematic theology starts by defining God as the omniscient and omnipotent being, and the connection between such and a God of Love takes a while to construct. Now, however, the identification of God with Love Itself is taken as one of the primary postulates of our theism. Pope Benedict XVI published “Deus Caritas Est" (“God is Love”) in 2005, asserting in its first sentence that “these words .. express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith.”

Sadly, this cannot be emphasized enough, since it is even denied in the more recent deist and pandeist views. Love is not just a biochemical response to certain stimuli, but the underlying nature of all spiritual beings. And of God, more so.

Love and substance

We now apply an  ontological power analysis of  to the case of God. In that analysis, we saw how the underlying power or propensity of a being could be identified as the substance of that being. That analysis dealt with physical dispositions since it was based on generalizing how science analyzes causes. Once we allow that non-physical beings can exist, exactly the same logic follows for mental, spiritual and divine beings.  We therefore argue:  
  1. The underlying power or propensity is the true substance of that being.
  2. The underlying power or propensity of God is love.
  3. Therefore, love is the true substance of God
This is to conclude that divine Love is the substance of God. It is the substratum in terms of which he exists and is the subject of all his properties. We are not saying that ‘God was formed out of this substance (love)’, because there was never such a forming event in the past. Rather, God is love itself and always has been. We say that we can intellectually distinguish (in God’s present being) the Love that is the basis or substance of that being.   (You may perhaps feel qualms at using the same logic for all cases including that of God, but this is justified when we follow from the previous post that we are an image of God and hence have some functional and structural similarities. More of this later.)

Then, because created objects are a kind of image of God, we can conclude that something like love is the substance of all things in the world. In a nutshell, ‘Love makes the World go Around.’ This is not to say that love is the direct mover of every natural object and the immediate instigator of every natural event. Rather that something like love does these things. For minds, the ‘something like love’ can be loves, desires and motivations that we know are significant in human life. For physics, the ‘something like love’ could be deepest principles of energy, force and propensity that keep the physical world moving. These are grand claims: that desires, propensities and energies are ‘images of love’, and that they respectively are the substance of humans as well as of all animate and inanimate objects. Fleshing out and understanding the details of these claims, especially concerning the relations between the mental and the physical, is the task of theistic science. This task, I take up in my new book "Starting Science From God".

Adapted from chapter 11 of Starting Science From God.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Images of God

We now have to establish principles that make connections between what God is and what we are. We saw previously that we do share ‘being’ . Now we look for more detailed relations that govern our interior constitution. The first thing to establish is whether there is any such detailed relation. Is there a principle in core theism which affords connections between Divinity and the mundane world?  Certainly, if God continually sustains our existence, then we would expect that there must be something about ourselves, and continue to be that something, that allows these acts of sustaining to have their effects. In Judaism and Christianity, humans are made ‘in the image of God, in His likeness.’ (Genesis 1:26) This imageo dei appears to tell us something about humans, and, perhaps, something about God. Some evolutionists take being in the image of God as not making ontological claims at all. It is generally interpreted,  however, to mean that humans are rational or have a rational soul because God is in some sense the Logos, the first principle of rationality. In this view, animals are not images of God and neither are plants or inorganic material. 

Apart from our rationality, we can see that we have many similarities with animals. The internal functions of our bodies are almost all mirrored in simpler forms in some animal or another. Even plants have nutritional functions within their physiology that are simpler forms of the biological functions that go on within our human bodies. Moreover, within the Bible story of creation, the processes leading up to the creation of man suggest that plants and animals were partial contributions to this making, not to mention that they can both be food for humans. There are a great many internal similarities of plants and animals with humans. Such similarities remain even though animals have sensation and locomotion that plants do not and even though humans have a rationality that animals do not.

All these similarities cannot be about size or shape since there is an enormous range of sizes from the smallest plant cells to the largest mammals. Instead, we must be talking of similarities of internal forms and functions. If the similarities concern the systemic organization of living organisms, then there are indeed similarities between cells and mammals, starting from metabolic, genetic and sensory structures. Even nonliving things have their own patterns of nuclear, atomic, molecular and chemical structures, which everything in the world is conceivably able to share in some way.

Humans themselves are, of course, more than just their rationality. It is common to say that a human is a whole and unified person which consists of one body-mind combination and to try in this way to obviate the problems of conceiving minds and bodies together without a ‘dreaded’ dualism. Our own theistic view of the unity of humans will be discussed later; for now we only insist that humans contain not just rationality in the soul, but also sensations, loves, affections, actions—and that all these have effects in the body as well as in the mind and/or soul.

Let us take a broader view of the constitution of humanity and of the structure and materials of which our bodies are formed. We should give a generalized formulation of the way in which we, with all the world, are images of God. This is to add to our set of postulates the assertion:

Postulate 5  All the world, and each of its parts, is a kind of image of God.

This formulation still allows that the rationality of humans is a special kind of image of God, namely a more complete image. To be a ‘likeness’ seems to imply a closer and more complete relationship than an ‘image’. This generalized principle implies that plants and animals are also in the image of God but to a lesser extent. The challenge to theistic science is to elucidate in each case what kind of image of God is involved and what ‘lesser extent’ is implied in connection with plants, or even conceivably, with minerals, etc.

We observe that present-day humans are not angelic in everyday life and that some fail to show even normal humanity, let alone glimpses or pictures of divinity. In such cases, the generalized principle, which allows for lesser images, seems entirely appropriate. We should also note that the ‘image and likeness’ comes at the end of a creation story, and hence that such similarities are more like the culmination than the starting point of our religious and spiritual life. It may therefore be that the creation story describes, by images and likenesses, the stages of spiritual regeneration in religious life, rather than of stars, planets, plants and animals.

The possibility, even widespread likelihood, of lesser images of God is in agreement with the eternity of God. That eternity implies that God is constant while the world varies. That is, variations in the ways that creatures are sustained must reflect the variations in those individual beings, not in God himself. Similar conclusions are indicated by Matt. 5:45: “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”.

Since organic and inorganic non-living materials have extensive similarities in their atomic structures to living materials, we may conclude that physical materials are, in a weak sense, also made in the image of God.

The postulate of theism, that all things in the world (all the human and inhuman, all the good and the barely good) are each a ‘kind of image of God’, allows us to make significant progress in theistic science. The properties of God must be conceived in such a way that our being such images is a sensible claim. The non-trivial question is then to determine what kind of lesser image should be envisaged in each case. The following chapters will describe the structures of the world in such a way that they can be images of the divine. This is the heart of theistic science, which describes general structures for mental and physical objects. Our task will be to identify the specific parts of this structure. This is easier since fortunately many of them have already been discovered by science.

We note that the principle of imageo dei is often criticized as anthropomorphic, as if God were (to much amusement) the ideal creature of each group of humans or animals. However, we are proceeding in the other direction: we are starting from basic features of God and seeing how the world might be constituted and might function in the presence of such a God. In a genuine theism, this is not at all the anthropomorphic ‘God in the image of man’, but rather ‘theomorphic’: man in the image of God.

Adapted from chapter 10 of Starting Science From God.