Posts Tagged ‘omnipotent’

My favourite philosophical disproofs of God’s existence

11/09/2013

SquareCircleMany atheist philosophers have taken an “armchair approach” to disproving God’s existence by arguing that his traditional core attributes are self contradictory: they are like a square circle.

Omnipotence –v- omniscience

One of the key disproofs is the apparent contradiction between God being omnipotent and omniscient.  If God is omniscient (everywhere in space and time) then he knows the future down to the last micro-detail.  But if he is omnipotent (all powerful) as well, then he can interfere with events in space and time in the form of miracles, which make his initial choices fallacious.  Mathematician John Allen Paulo’s gem of a book, Irreligion, summarises the contradiction very well:

If one assumes that God is both omnipotent and omniscient, an obvious contradiction arises.  Being omniscient, God knows how everything will happen; He can predict the future trajectory of every snow flake, the spouting of every blade of grass, and the deeds of every human being, as well as all of His own actions.  But being omnipotent, He can act in any way and do any thing He wants, including behaving in ways different from those he predicted, making his expectations uncertain and fallible.  He thus cannot be both omnipotent and omniscient.

As does Karen Owens’ limerick:

Can the omniscient God, who
Knows the future, find
The omnipotence to
Change His future mind?

Perfect being –v- Creator of the Universe

However, my all time favourite disproof was aired by physicist Victor Stenger at the start of his first debate against Christian apologist William Lane Craig at the University of Hawaii in 2003:

Perfect –v- Creator

If God is perfect, then he has no needs or wants.  This is incompatible with the notion that God created the Universe for some divine purpose.  Divine purpose implies that God wants something he doesn’t already have, which makes him imperfect.

In his rebuttal, Craig moaned that Stenger had not stated the philosophical premises for this argument, however, atheist philosopher Theodore M Drange states them rather well:

  1. If God exists, then he is perfect.
  2. If God exists, then he is the creator of the Universe.
  3. A perfect being can have no needs or wants.
  4. If any being created the universe, then he must have had some need or want.
  5. Therefore, it is impossible for a perfect being to be the creator of the universe (from 3 and 4).
  6. Hence, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 5)

To borrow Douglas Adams’ words in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (albeit in relation to the amazing properties of the Babel Fish, but no less relevant to the matters presently at hand), “‘Oh dear,’ says God, ‘I hadn’t thought of that,’ and promptly disappears in a puff of logic.”

During his rebuttal in the Stenger debate and in this article on his website, Craig has argued that God did not created the Universe to satisfy any needs or wants of his own, but to benefit the objects of his creations so that they can enjoy a personal relationship with him.

To which Sam Harris has replied (sarcastically), “Lucky us…”