Geometers

Firstly, I apologise for the length of this post. I write this sentence before I even write any response to the argument for God a Facebook user by Daniel Kate Vicente sent me. Firstly, I must say it is NOT Daniel’s argument, but one proposed by F. Gazzerrus in 1734. It is a very lengthy post, with a rather bizarre preface, which includes phrases like:

“So, have them miserable little men rised against You, Lord?”

and

“Don’t the donkeys themselves teach them when they are asked, don’t the fowls of the air show it to them, doesn’t the earth answer them and don’t the fish of the sea speak to them?”

and

“Certainly, my God, they have become vain in their reasonings, but the judgement of the wicked will arrive and they will fear the avenger; and the light of every truth will ascend so that their foolishness is extinguished and they may see their deformity.”

Wow. Consider how that sets the mood for the reportedly logical argument which follow which demonstrates this god’s existence. Frankly, reading this opening drivel adjusted my expectations sharply downward. Reading the remainder did not improve matters.

So let’s have a look at the definitions supplied:

By cause I mean that from which something is, bringing it to existence; and that whose origin is brought by it I call it an effect.

When I was at University we were forced to read R. G. Collingwood’s thoughts on causation. At the time it was heavy going. I imagined a room filled with puffy leather chairs by an open fireplace, monocles, and half filled brandy balloons where the learned aristocracy pondered the meaning of existence. Once such piece focused on causation, and what it means for one thing to “cause” another; it’s a topic I mean to revisit in the near future. For now, it’s enough to think of “causation” as the glue which binds one moment in time to the next. We can discern causation through examination of the world around us to determine which actions give which results, and to what degree. For now I think we should probably leave out quantum mechanics which (according to my naive understanding) says events can happen spontaneously, without “cause”.

By being in itself (Ens a se) I understand that which has not and cannot have a beginning.

Interesting definition. Does the author have any examples of things which do not have a beginning? Or is this axiom been smuggled in to ease the final conclusion of the article? Normally in logical arguments it is not “good form” to assume the conclusion before the syllogism is constructed.

By an absolutely infinite being I mean that which cannot be increased in any sense.

Assuming a “being” which “cannot be increased in any sense” actually does exist does not mean it possesses “absolute infinity” on any vector. Even the words “absolute infinity” are redundant – an infinity is absolute by definition, but I digress. Surely it is possible that a “being” could reach whatever maximal limits might exist before an infinite? That is, what if the maximal values for a “being” are not infinite? The author should show why maximal values must be infinite. It’s also interesting that the word “being” is employed, rather than using the more agnostic “entity”. Again, I suspect this is to support the conclusion yet to come.

Thus, by a being which can be increased I understand that which goes from less to more and, after receiving an addition, is therefore changed.

Seems straight forward; anything which can be added to is changed.

Thus, by being changed I understand ceasing to be in one way and beginning to be another.

Isn’t that the definition of “change”?

By God I understand the being which is infinite in every sense.

OK, this is good; we are defining “god” as “a being which is infinite in every sense”. It should be noted that such a definition is a very long way from the judgemental, self fathering, blood thirsty god of the Bible.

So much for the definitions, let’s move to the axioms:

Some being exists.

This is very weird statement for an axiom. I could accept that “entities exist”, but “beings”? Why are we leaping directly yo “beings” which drags baggage of desires, wishes, emotions, thoughts, behaviours, and actions rather than simply stating “things exist”? This is a very poor axiom indeed.

That which lacks of any beginning cannot have any end.

Another interesting axiom. How many examples of “things without beginnings” has the author examined? How has he determined the properties of these things if he has none to examine? On the surface it seems things which did not have a beginning could come to an end – the two events are separate. To visualise this, imagine a line stretching off into eternity in front of you, but it stops at your feet. Such concepts are common in mathematics. Anyway, there seems to be a few missing syllogisms hiding behind this axiom, so I will go ahead and remove it from the equation until it is substantiated.

The author continues:

These two axioms are so certain and evident that no one, however obstinate, can doubt them.

Except I have shown a number of ways in which they can be doubted. Interesting.

As for the first one, who will deny that some being exists?

I would. This syllogism is meant to provide a logical argument for the existence of god, yet here it is effectively stating it as an axiom. Can anyone say “begging the question”?

But let it be that someone dared to doubt or deny it: by doubting or denying it he confesses his existence.

Naturally. I also do not believe in Atlantis, unicorns, gremlins, fairies, leprechauns, big foot, anal-probing aliens, and the Loch Ness monster. By this brilliant piece of reasoning, my doubt proves beyond doubt they absolutely do exist. I suspect the author of this close reasoning does not believe in these things either, but his doubt only adds to the growing body of doubtful evidence that these things really do exist. They do. Really.

Of course, if he didn’t exist, he wouldn’t be able to doubt or deny anything.

Wow, it’s like they are already giving up on purely logical arguments and resorting to the Transcendental Argument for God (TAG). Yeah, it’s not that the failure of the author to provide a coherent logical argument for their deity of choice, but the very fact we can have logical arguments that proves the existence of their “infinite in every sense god”.

As for the second true axiom, who ignores that it is a blatant contradiction that which lacks of any beginning can have any end?

Is this a logical argument, or a sermon? I cannot help but smirk at “true axiom”; an axiom is usually accepted as true for the sake of argument, unless (as in this case) there is something grievously wrong with them. Axioms are not necessarily true at all, but only accepted as true if they withstand scrutiny. A well constructed syllogism based on firm axioms will lead inescapably to the logical conclusion. That’s how it works, people.

That’s why it is a beginning, since it is the beginning of some end. Beginning and end presuppose necessarily a mutual intercourse and relationship.

O_o Are we now conflating beginnings and ends? And where does this language of “intercourse and relationship” come into the syllogism? Oh wait:

Thus, as the father and the son refer to each other in such a way, so that if there is a son, then there must be some father for that one to become his son; and if there is not a father, for this very reason there cannot be a son neither…

All this analogy with “fathers and sons” make me wonder if the author is poisoning the well with language friendly to his presupposition. However, what is more telling is the alternative he unwittingly places on the table:

…so, also, if there is an end, any beginning is necessary for this end to be, and if there is no beginning, there cannot be any end.

So, according to the author, there is a possibility that “things without beginnings do not have ends”. While I have not seen any evidence that this is actually the case, and am rather interested in how the author has concluded there was not a beginning, thus leading to fathers. Or sons. Or something.

Now we finally get into the meat of the syllogism.

PROP 1: There is no possible effect without a cause.

Empirical evidence certainly seems to suggest that this is the case. Everything which happens has preceding events which cause the effect. Through induction we could surmise (perhaps incorrectly) that all things which occur are caused. One could also assert that “god” is a “thing”, therefore subject to the proposition.

PROP 2: All that exists is either in itself or by another. It is impossible to think that something exists but by itself, by another one or by nothing, as it is evident.

The language here is weird, but I think this is simply a restatement of the law of identity (A is the same as A) and the law of non-contradiction (A is not B).

But nothing can exist from nothing, since there is no possible effect without a cause, by the previous proposition.

Did you catch that? It seems reasonable that “nothing can come from nothing”, but we do not know this to be a fact. In fact, we do not have any examples of “nothing” to examine and observe. While it is difficult for our mammalian brains to comprehend, it may be possible for something to spring from absolutely nothing. I freely admit I cannot fathom how this could happen, but the universe does not have to comply with my feeble interpretations of its intricate wonders. We know enough about the universe to know electrons are not actually little marbles whizzing around the nucleus of an atom like a mini solar system – yet the model aids our understanding. We are bamboozled by (the double slit experiment)[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-slit_experiment], yet countless repetitions of the experiment yield the same bizarre results. The truth is reality is weirder than we suppose – probably weirder than we can suppose.

PROP. 3: There is no possible being existing by another unless there is a being existing by itself.

All together now kiddies: “Presupposition”. Why has the author discounted an infinite chain of causal events? I would suggest the conclusion in this scenario does not validate their previously held convictions. Sorry, logic does not care for your deeply felt beliefs, and nor do I.

Thus, it must have a being in itself as a cause, given that there are no more classes of entities but the ones in itself and the ones by another.

Oh I see, this “being” is an entirely different class of entity that we have never seen before. Everything we experience seems to be the result of another cause, but here you are proposing an entity (sorry, “being”) which does not require a cause. Well, if you allow one you can allow more. Exactly how many of these “beings without causes” exist, and how do you know this? Let’s take it to the other (and I admit, absurd) extreme: what if everything is simply a series of non-related events without causal relations? What if we simply experience a number of universes, each slightly different from the last but caused directly from nowhere without reason? Admittedly this seems unlikely given the uniformity we experience, but the essence of the point is unavoidable – if one entity can exist without cause, then so can an infinite chain of events occur without cause. Where does this leave the “father/son” business?

PROP. 4: There is some being in itself.

That’s a proposition? I do not think that word means what you think it means. Given the (actual) premises are false, this conclusion hold no weight.

PROP. 5: The being in itself is changeless.

Here we go; mixing in the “change is change” definition to support the presupposition.

All that is changed has a beginning and an end, by definition. However, the being in itself cannot have neither any beginning, by definition II, nor any end, by axiom II. Therefore, the being in itself cannot change, and thus it is changeless.

Except the “god” the author is arguing for DID change – it created things which require “causes”. It added the universe to itself, thus becoming more and violating the “absolutely infinite being” definition offered. Oops.

PROP. 6: The being in itself is absolutely infinite.

Except it added the universe to itself. Fail again.

PROP. 7: God exists.

That is not a proposition, but a conclusion. Nevertheless, calling an “absolutely infinite being” a “god” adds nothing to the definition. If you want to worship a “absolutely infinite being” I will not stop you, but I do have to wonder how you know it has desires, and what they may be. Did you miss a few steps, or is this an argument for deism?

COROLLARY I: God is one, since a a plurality of beings infinite in every sense is repugnant to our reason, whenever none of them would be infinite.

What’s better than one infinite being? And infinite number of infinite beings?

COROLLARY II: God is eternal, since if He is infinite in every sense, He is also infinite in His permanence, in which eternity consists.

Flawed, as an “infinite being in every sense” (He?) cannot, by definition, create anything more. Yet the author conveniently ignores this definition when it suits them. Bad logic.

COROLLARY III: God is immense, since if He is infinite in any sense, He is also infinite in His presence, in which immensity consists.

Also brobdingnagian, barn door, boundless, colossal, elephantine, endless, enormous, eternal, extensive, giant, gigantic, great, gross, huge, humongous, illimitable, immeasurable, infinite, interminable, jumbo, limitless, mammoth, massive, measureless, mighty, monstrous, monumental, prodigious, stupendous, super, titanic, tremendous, unbounded, and vast.

COROLLARY IV: God is intelligent. Otherwise, He wouldn’t be infinite in every sense, since He would lack intelligence.

Intelligence is an abstract trait not a physical property, but I guess that doesn’t matter. God is infinite in every sense, so we can also deduce He is infinitely merciless, smelly, violent, repugnant, jealous, and evil. Oh wait, I guess those attributes are left off the list for some reason. Must be that presupposition thing again.

COROLLARY V: God acts freely. Since, if He didn’t, he would lack the power of acting in the opposite way; and, thus, He wouldn’t be infinite in every sense.

Playing this game, are we? Well, “god” is also infinitely knowing, so be definition he would know what the decisions of all his choices will ever be. God is unable to deceive himself by choosing an action he did not previously know he was going to choose. In fact, if god exists and is infinitely knowing (omniscient) then he has absolutely NO free will whatsoever. Oh dear.

COROLLARY VI: God is omnipotent. Otherwise, He wouldn’t be infinite in power.

Except he cannot simply forgive people – we must accept Jesus as our Lord and saviour before being allowed into Heaven. Oh, sorry – this is not an argument for the Christian God is it? Gee, it sure seems that way with all the talk of “fathers and sons”. I guess the logical argument for a specific deity will follow soon.

COROLLARY VII: God is infinitely good. Otherwise, He wouldn’t be infinite in goodness.

And “He” is infinitely evil as well. We can play this game all day.

PROP. 7: Whatever that exists in God is God.

Law of identity. I can say unicorns are unicorns, but that doesn’t make them real. Disbelieving unicorns exist makes them real, remember?

PROP. 9: The universe is not God.

Pffft. Of course not. How could any infinite being actually include an existing item like the universe. Oh wait.

PROP. 10: This universe and everything in it is by God.

So there you have it. The universe is not included in the list of infinite things which make up “god”, it is separate to god but caused by “Him” (The Father) because all effects have a cause. Erm, except this “god” thing.

Posted April 2, 2012
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