‘The God Paradox’ - A Challenge To Academics
Geoffrey Berg has sent (April 2010) a paper copy of the following to practically all faculty members at the American universities of Harvard, Yale and Princeton and to practically all academically active Fellows of all the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England. Bloggers are welcome to reproduce it in whole or in part (and widen the discussion on it). Some interesting responses are hoped for
The full content of the communication is:
The God Paradox – A Challenge To Academics!
I have developed several new arguments/proofs to demonstrate that any coherent concept of God is incompatible with relatively simple Logic. This approach has not been much explored up to now.
I am writing to the academics at leading U.S. and U.K. universities as academics of all disciplines hold opinions on religion and can think analytically and logically.
Below is a Synopsis of the argument I favour most which argues that nothing could possibly reliably identify even itself (let alone anything else) as God – a God paradox! Therefore God cannot logically exist. It, along with my other arguments is set out in much greater detail in my book ‘The Six Ways Of Atheism’, published last year (available from Amazon, by order from book sellers or direct from www.thesixwaysofatheism.com).
I hope you will discuss this argument with your colleagues, friends and students since I am trying to stimulate wide consideration of the argument. I would also very much welcome your comments either by letter or by email (‘email@example.com’).
With thanks for looking at this.
SYNOPSIS OF THE ARGUMENT OF UNIVERSAL
UNCERTAINTY TO DISPROVE THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
The argument of Universal Uncertainty stated as a logical paradox in relation to God is ‘GOD CANNOT EXIST BECAUSE ‘GOD’ CANNOT KNOW THAT IT IS GOD’. This means that an entity with God’s other properties cannot have the final property of certain knowledge nor even in the long term certain power consummating it as God. I put this forward as a logically irrefutable proposition.
The premises for the argument are two:
1. an uncertain God is a contradiction in terms and ridiculous
2. uncertainty is logically universal within the Universe (‘Universe’ = ‘the totality of existence’) in the sense that everything must be fundamentally uncertain about its own relationship to its environment.
If the premises are true this argument is undeniable within reason.
The First Premise: That an entity riddled with uncertainty cannot be the God of Christian, Jewish or Islamic religion is obvious. If the entity seemed like God in other ways but could not be certain of its own permanence (that it would not die), and could not be certain of the extent of its own power and knew therefore it lacked omniscience, it would be but a mockery of God. Furthermore, it could not then ever be certain whether a yet greater entity exists beyond its understanding. How could men pray to God not knowing whether even if it once existed it was not now dead or dying? Who would pray to a God itself uncertain of its own ability to answer prayers? It is bad enough that people are told to have faith in the existence of God, but isn’t it a bit much if ‘God’ also has to have faith in its own authentic existence as God? It has all the absurdity of the blind leading the blind.
The Second Premise: All that remains is to establish reasons for the inevitable universality of some uncertainty, at least three of which are available but any one of which would be sufficient in itself to prove the point.
a) The past cannot predict with certainty the future: The future cannot be known with certainty. Even if something has occurred 5 or 805 or countless times there is no guarantee it will hold true the next time. Even if an entity has been correct in all its previous predictions that does not ensure the correctness of all or even any of its future predictions. The universe or part of it may change unaccountably. For instance it may suddenly change from being a predominantly rational place into being a predominantly irrational place.
b) A question of limited intelligence: If you are a person of limited intelligence it might be that because you have limited intelligence you cannot know that you are a person of limited intelligence and more obviously it is quite likely that you would not know how your intellect is limited. Thus it is perfectly possible for any entity to be limited in its insight and because it is limited in its insight not have the least idea that it is limited in its insight. Such can be the case with people or with ‘apparent gods’. Even more important, nobody or no thing can know that it is not limited in its intellect (because if it were limited part of its limitation would quite likely be to fail to understand that it is limited!). So those that cannot ‘see’ any limitations to their intellect obviously cannot know for sure whether there are any limitations to their intellect.
c) Power is a more difficult concept than it seems: Following from a) above power may only be a temporary phenomenon in any entity’s hands. Following from b) above no entity that exercises seemingly limitless power can be certain of the extent of its true power.
However apart from those two points how can any entity be certain that it is not somehow only wanting and doing those things which it has power to do and not wanting those things which it in fact has not got power to do?
Incidentally, how can any entity be sure it has free will? How can it tell the mechanism doesn’t work like this – something is going to happen and as a related part of that thing going to happen it (the candidate God) is also automatically made to want it to happen, and seeming to arrange its happening?
Note: Underlying these reasons for universal uncertainty is the reality of the nature of knowledge and even power. Knowledge and power are not in themselves tangible, concrete qualities. Application of them may give concrete results but of themselves they can only ever be perceived by mental processes. That mental recognition results either from logic or experience. An entity that is potentially God, being unique and absolute, cannot use experience in the same way as we, who are neither unique nor absolute, can to approximately fit circumstances. Anyhow experience only yields provisional knowledge as environments are all liable to fundamental change from time to time. Therefore rational means are the only reliable means to absolute knowledge even for an entity of God’s apparent power. How even any potential God can be absolutely certain of future developments and of its own ability to for ever know them is a critical logical flaw in monotheism.
In essence most knowledge is a fleeting abstraction which none can possibly be sure of grasping, least of all for ever. There is no route nor sure mechanism for anything to be certain of gaining and maintaining overall knowledge.
Summary of this Argument:
God having to have faith it is in fact God is ridiculous. Many other possible explanations of a God-like entity’s situation can be imagined – any apparent God might only be and can never know that it is not only a temporary local potentate.
The concept of God is a logical impossibility. This is because some qualities that God must have to be God – including certainty and certain knowledge – cannot be logically reconciled with the fundamental position of any entity in relation to the totality of existence (i.e. the Universe) where ultimately uncertainty must prevail. As it is essential to our or any existence that the Universe must exist, it is therefore God that cannot logically (that is without self-contradiction) exist.
I have sent the above argument to most academic staff at Oxford Cambridge, Harvard, Yale and Princeton Universities;
I have had sundry responses to it but in terms of actual argumentation practically the only response I have had from academics is that some of them suppose God somehow exists beyond our Universe and is not bound by its logic. To such a line of argumentation I set out a Core Response below:-
Geoffrey H L Berg MA (Cantab)
The book 'The Six Ways of Atheism' can be ordered through this website at a cost of $14.50 plus postage and packing of $2.95 (US) OR £9.50 (Sterling) plus £1.95 postage and packing. Alternatively the book is available to order through all good bookstores.