Oh Lord, You Are So Absolutely Huge!

Theologians tell us that God has all the perfections, probably because an imperfect God is such a scary prospect that no one wants to think about it. (Unintelligent Design, anyone?) Among His attributes is also placed being “infinite”, despite the fact that this logically excludes His being the Creator. (If God has created a physical world outside Himself, then there exists something that is not God, ergo God is not infinite.) Ordinary people tend to use the word “great” rather than “infinite”. But why exactly should being large constitute a perfection? No one seems to ask the question: What if God were perfect but small?

Posted on April 29, 2009 at 07:48 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE LONGEST CON, Religion And Conceptual Muddle

6 Responses

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  1. Written by Urban Djin
    on April 30, 2009 at 00:06

    That bit about god being infinite has always struck me as a strike for pantheism.

    I’m sure a sophisticated theist would argue that you’re making a category error, that infinity in the supernatural sphere is completely separate from this finite realm. It’s a slippery argument that’s hard to flip and pin once you accept its assumptions. And those assumptions are not incompatible with some contemporary cosmological Physics.

    I’m sure you know of Alan Guth whose inflationary model of the universe remains regnant after a very long time in a rapidly changing field. He claims that the model which best explains the data is that there are an infinite number of universes continuously going into and out of existence. We can detect that they are probably there from looking at small wrinkles in the data, much the same way astronomers detect distant planets by observing gravitational bending of light and can calculate the position and mass of something they can’t actually see. Guth claims that we will probably never be able to say anything else about all these universes. Only that they probably exist. Whether even what we call the laws of physics apply in those other universes will likely remain a mystery.

    Guth’s model is controversial, of course, but if astrophysicists ever detect gravity waves the number of nay-sayers will drop dramatically. If that happens, theism will be all over it like a duck on a junebug. I’m sure fundamentalists would then claim that science has proved the existence of god. It would have done no such thing, of course, but then, that wouldn’t be the first time fundies have misrepresented science, would it?

  2. Written by Hugo Grinebiter
    on April 30, 2009 at 08:23

    I confess to not being able to get my mind round what theists actually mean by “infinite”, if not the sense that exposes them to Spinoza’s coup; I suspect it has only an emotional meaning for them, whence my Python reference.

    I don’t see how a theist can properly exploit Guth, but you’re quite right, they’re good at seizing on some barely understood fact(oid) and claiming it “proves” all sorts of things.

  3. Written by Urban Djin
    on April 30, 2009 at 19:20

    They can exploit Guth by arguing that there is immensely more about ‘what’s out there’ that we can never know using the tools of science than the limited amount we can know. If Guth’s theory is supported by future data, particularly the detection of gravity waves, that would be a thorny problem for science-based arguments against the existence of god in that it would render everything science tells us as only probable within our universe, having no bearing on the bigger and probably unknowable picture.

  4. Written by Hugo Grinebiter
    on May 1, 2009 at 09:29

    Oh, now I get it, you mean what I call the Horatio approach: “scientists don’t know everything, ergo I do”. That doesn’t bother me, because my approach is more about the structure of a good scam rather than the structure of matter and energy and whatnot. Even if Guth’s universe does require a controlling intelligence, it’s still not a good idea to pay the carnies folding money for salvation and healing.

  5. Written by Urban Djin
    on May 1, 2009 at 14:04

    Amen, brother Hugo.

  6. Written by Urban Djin
    on May 1, 2009 at 15:54

    “Oh, now I get it, you mean what I call the Horatio approach: ‘scientists don’t know everything, ergo I do’.”

    I don’t think that will be the reasoning, rather I suspect theism will characterize scientific opponents as arguing the equivalent of: “I have been up and down my street many times and never seen an elephant. My street is all there is. Therefore elephants cannot exist. People who claim that elephants do exist are deluded.”

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