Two Logical Notes on Debates About God
1. The Problem of Evil (discussed in length here: http://fensel.net/2011/10/17/why-the-common-conception-of-god-is-impossible/)
The point of the above post was that evil is incompatible with God’s existence in the standard sense, and further that no potential excuse could satisfy the incompatibility. Here’s the argument again, in logical form:
Definition of Omnipotence: the ability to bring about the truth of any conceivable, non-contradictory proposition. Ie, the ability to make any logically possible proposition “P” true.
Definition of Rational: the will to, all else being equal, choose the option that you value more
The standard argument for the problem of evil is such:
1. “P” is true
2. God could make “not P” true (Definition of Omnipotence)
3. God is rational
4. If God values “not P” more than “P”, then God will bring about “not P” (Definition of Rational, combined with Premise 2)
5. God does not value “not P” more than “P”.
-The above argument is logically valid. Meaning, to reject the truth of Conclusion 5 for a specific Premise “P”, you have to reject one of the first 4 premises. 2 and 3 cannot be rejected without claiming that God is either not omnipotent or rational (which would be contrary to the common conception). Premise 1 cannot be rejected anytime where the proposition is actually true. Meaning, if Premise 4 follows from 2-3, then the conclusion ”God does not value not P more than P” is true of every proposition “P” that is actually true. This is effectively what I claimed in my previous post: if God exists as we think it, everything that exists/is true is exactly what God would most want.
To reject the argument, a Christian would have to reject Premise 4. This means that Christians would have to claim that “not everything else is equal” so the demand of rationality does not apply. A common example of this type of argument is the free will argument: “God may not value pain/death/suffering, but he allows it to exist so we can have free will”. Here’s the basic idea:
1. If P, then Q
2. God values Q
3. God will make P true, to make Q true through Modus Ponens
Problem: the conditional claim “If P, then Q” is unnecessary for any being that is omnipotent. Here’s the correct argument:
1. God values Q
2. God can bring about the truth of Q (definition of omnipotent)
3. God is rational
4. God will bring about the truth of Q
-The key note of my previous post was to show that using any conditional claim “If P, then Q” to justify the existence of a negative value “P” with a positive value “Q” denies the definition of omnipotence. The only way the conditional “If P, then Q” is relevant is if the condition “If Q, then P” is necessarily true, meaning that it is not logically possible for Q to be true and P to be false. However, there is no such conditional “If Q, then P” that is necessarily true other than tautology (If Q, then Q). Meaning, there are no possible conditions “P’ that are not identical to Q that are necessary for Q to exist, and therefore there are no possible conditions “P” that God allows but does not value.
2. Attempts to Prove the Existence of God
In its simplest form, any argument to prove the existence of God takes Modus Ponens form:
2. If P, then Q
In the above argument, “Q” is “God exists”. “P” is whatever that specific person thinks proves the existence of God (whether it be nature, the stars, or the shape of bananas). The problem with these types of arguments is in the conditional claim “If P, then Q”. To be convincing, this conditional needs to argue that the proposition “P is true and Q is false” is necessarily false. Meaning, there is no logically possible universe where P is true but Q is false.
What this means for any possible “God exists” argument: none of them work. There isn’t a single conceivable proposition, other than “God exists” that is necessarily incompatible with the proposition “God does not exist”. It is logically possible for both the proposition “God does not exist” to be true and for nature/stars/bananas to also be true. Meaning, none of the proposed evidence for God actually proves God’s existence. (There is a lot that needs to be said on probability. Meaning, if “P” is true, what is the likelihood that “Q” is also true? If you want to support the existence of God, treat your arguments as providing probabilistic support for God, not evidence. Further, this argument applies similarly to a lot of arguments against God as an entity. There are sound arguments against a God that is both omnipotent and all-good, but none against a morally neutral God. Keep in mind, however, that the burden of proof lies on those who make the assertive claim that God exists)