Claiming omniscience

Cl’s argument with me continues:

A God Who is willing and able to show up in real life is a God Who is willing and able to be found by those who seek Him.

That’s your opinion of what God should be. Why should I be constrained by your opinion of what God should be?

I make no arguments about what God should or should not be, I merely observe the logical consequences implied by Christian premises. It is logically inconsistent to claim both that God is willing and able to show up in real life, and that He is unwilling or unable to be found by those who seek Him. The whole point of the Gospel is for people to find God. If God’s absence prevents men from finding Him, or worse, results in them thinking they’ve found Him when they really haven’t, and if God is willing and able to solve this problem by showing up, then everybody ought to be able to find God. And they ought to all be finding the same One.

God’s failure to show up in real life is a factor that has many direct and inevitable consequences. Even if we cannot feasibly be in all places and at all times in order to observe 100% of the circumstances under which God might be “showing up undetected” (as it were), we can still measure His failure to show up by observing the prevalence of the consequences that must inevitably result from His absence.

I don’t think cl has quite grasped this point, because he seems to be arguing that the brute force approach is the only way we can learn whether God shows up in real life or not.

Therefore I state, not just as my personal opinion, but as an empirical, verifiable, Undeniable Fact, that God does not show up in real life.

There’s no way you can know that unilaterally without being omniscient, and I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree here. I happen to believe what I believe, which is that you are wrong, but I’m not going to try and force my belief, my personal opinion down your throat as “Undeniable Fact” because that’s intellectually dishonest. By appealing to omniscience, you will always produce this disconnect with people like me. Why don’t you just state what you believe instead of claiming to know what you cannot possibly know? Reality is not yours, and you are not reality’s exclusive spokesperson.

By his own standards, cl is claiming omniscience when he claims that there is no way, other than brute force examination, for us to know whether or not God shows up in real life. Notice, he’s not just saying, “I don’t know of any way to do it,” he’s claiming that he knows that no such way exists. It’s an exact parallel to me claiming to know that no objective manifestation of God exists. And because he knows that no such way exists, he knows that when I claim to observe that God does not show up in real life, I must necessarily be employing a technique that would require omniscience. He makes no allowance at all for the possibility that there might be some means, of which he is ignorant, that does not require a brute force enumeration of all possible appearances.

If cl is not omniscient, then he ought to realize that there’s a difference between not knowing a means exists, and knowing that no means exists. His argument is an easy argument to defeat, because all I have to do is produce an example of a means that would allow us to detect God’s failure to show up in real life without taking a brute force approach, and I’ve already produced a few. We can take Christian premises and derive the consequences that would logically ensue were God to have the motives, character, and abilities ascribed to Him, and document that we do not see these consequences manifesting in real life.

We can observe that people who “find God” tend to find a variety of Gods, from the monotheistic deity of the Jews to the trinitarian deity of traditional Christians, to the polytheistic deity of the Mormons, to the gay-loving God of homosexual Christians to the “fag-hating” God of Fred Phelps, to the America-hating God of bin Ladin, etc. etc. And we can observe that any randomly-selected sample of people who think they’ve found God universally turns out to be based either on fraud, or on purely subjective, psychosocial factors like Fantasy, Intuition, Superstition and Hearsay—not on God actually showing up outside of human minds, tangibly and personally real, and able to be seen, touched, photographed and recorded.

We can also observe logical inconsistencies in the basic stories Christians tell about their God, inconsistencies that indicate the stories are not really true, and that we would not therefore expect their God to be able to show up in real life. We can see apologists like Geisler and Turek repeating known-false claims, like the claim that Jesus’ body was under guard the whole time, without any Holy Spirit moving any believer to stand up and say, “Hey, that’s wrong, Matthew says they didn’t even ask for a guard until more than 24 hours later.” We can see early Christian writers getting rid of their “risen” Lord by portraying him as ascending into a Heaven that, as we now know, isn’t up there.

But most of all, each and every one of us can confirm, by direct, personal observation, that God does not show up in his or her life, in person, outside of subjective, mental/emotional, psychosocial “experiences.” Even cl can confirm this.

So, while I do not, in fact, employ the kind of brute force approach that would require omniscience to conclude that God is absent, I do have a wide array of other approaches, each supplying a vast body of evidence that is fully consistent with God’s absence, and inconsistent with the idea that He shows up in real life in order to meet His own goal of having people find Him.

 
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Posted in Unapologetics. 21 Comments »

21 Responses to “Claiming omniscience”

  1. R. C. Moore Says:

    I often tell theists that I cannot prove God does not exist, but I can prove that any God they can think of does not exist. I think this unknowable God is the one cl is after, a God that meets all criteria of logical consistency and cosmological invisibility, but in doing so becomes an abstraction that could never really exist for us humans (or any other species with a God-aware intellect), a sort of “what’s South of the South pole” type of God.

    The only objection I have to such a God is its lack of necessity. Such a God can never interact with our natural world, and so is responsible for nothing. Such a God supplies no explanations, and provides no basis for any change of actions on my part. He does not even cast a shadow on the wall of Plato’s Cave.

  2. Parker Says:

    I would ask cl to read ‘an epistemological nightmare’ by raymond m. smullyan. This short can be found in the book ‘the mind’s I’ arranged and edited by douglas hofstadter and daniel dennett.
    The central point of this short story is that simply saying that you ‘believe’ or that something ‘seems’ one way to you, really goes to show it doesn’t appear that way to you at all; that you are fully implying you might be wrong. (the example in the story has a man looking at a red crayon and telling his eye doctor it ‘seems red to me’. If it truly ‘seemed’ red to him, wouldn’t he have just told the doc it was a red crayon?)

    Anyway, that sort of aside, I’d suggest that your professed ‘belief’ really isn’t as steady as you may be implying by the amount of work you’re doing here to fight with dd. While I do admire your steadfastness, I’d suggest you find out those problems you have with your faith (and I’m not talking xianity, I’m talking about simple faith) and try to resolve them.

  3. cl Says:

    DD,

    Can a human being remain intellectually honest and say, “I know it is an undeniable fact that a man named Morbooboo never walked the Earth?” No. The best they can say while retaining intellectual honesty is, “Of all I’ve seen and know, no man named Morbooboo ever walked the Earth.” Watching you dance for over a month now around the difficulty of upholding a universal negative as ‘Undeniable Fact’ would be hilariously entertaining were it not for the sobering reality that nobody else “rational” seems bothered by it.

    By his own standards, cl is claiming omniscience when he claims that there is no way, other than brute force examination, for us to know whether or not God shows up in real life. Notice, he’s not just saying, “I don’t know of any way to do it,” he’s claiming that he knows that no such way exists. It’s an exact parallel to me claiming to know that no objective manifestation of God exists.

    You’re right. Although you twisted my claim a bit, that’s another issue I’ll overlook temporarily, because yours is actually a valid criticism which shows a legitimate oversight on my behalf, and suggests I could’ve typed a more accurate sentence. See how easy that was to admit?

    However, here’s where it really gets interesting. Let’s call my claim you’re quibbling about X. Now, you have made it undeniably clear that X requires omniscience. So, let’s call your claim Y, and then parse your following statement:

    It’s an exact parallel to me claiming to know that no objective manifestation of God exists. (ital. mine)

    So,

    1) Per DD, X requires omniscience;

    2) Per DD, X is an “exact parallel” to Y;

    3) Per DD, Y must also require omniscience, as it’s an “exact parallel” to X;

    4) Per DD, cl is correct – Y is a claim that requires omniscience.

    Parker,

    Thanks for the reading suggestions, and as far as steadfastness, all one can do is their best and let the chips fall where they will. And speaking of epistemological nightmares, how the hell do you know what I profess to believe or why I’m here? Last time I checked, presupposition doesn’t pass for rationalism, so go resolve your own problems – if you have any.

  4. Arthur Says:

    cl,

    If you require omniscience in order to claim that Deacon requires omniscience for his claim, and if Deacon claims not to require omniscience for his claim, then only one of you is stuck with needing to be omniscient. It’s not Deacon.

    “Watching you dance around the difficulty…”? That’s a little cheeky. You’re still pretending to have a deductive warrant for connecting that Buddhist monk’s prayer to that recapitation.

  5. Chigliakus Says:

    Looks like cl got bitten by the old Gypsy Curse. Has even cl made any attempt to address (or even acknowledge the existence of) the methods DD has elucidated for discerning his Undeniable Fact sans omniscience? He seems to be content to label them “dancing around the difficulty” and be done with them.

  6. Parker Says:

    cl,
    it doesn’t matter exactly what you believe; rather, that you profess to only ‘believing’ it, instead of knowing it (like DD, when he says he knows God does not show up in real life.) You take his surity as a claim to omniscience, when actually, it’s a heaping helping of assuredness in his factual claim that God doesn’t show up. It may seem he’s being arrogant in claiming this, but only because you yourself can only fall upon ‘beliving’ and not ‘knowing.’
    I don’t have to say I ‘believe in gravity’, but rather that I ‘know gravity exist.’ It’s purely semantics but it does show an underlying unconfidence and a bit of subconscious doubt, I’d say.
    The only problems I have right now are with an ex of mine. She’s a maniac.

  7. R. C. Moore Says:

    “Can a human being remain intellectually honest and say, “I know it is an undeniable fact that a man named Morbooboo never walked the Earth?” No.”

    What a terrible example. Names are not an extraordinary attribute — any given name could likely be found. Try something like “I know it is an undeniable fact that a man 10000 feet tall never walked the Earth” .

    Suddenly, you point completely evaporates…

  8. cl Says:

    Chigliakus,

    This is hilarious. Can you make a non-hyocritical argument? You seem content to label my “label” a “Gypsy Curse” and be done with it. What does that suggest about your logic? Address my points in a logical, rational manner and demonstrate my error if you can. If not, save it.

    Parker,

    I definitely feel you on ex’s and maniac’s!

    It may seem he’s being arrogant in claiming this, but only because you yourself can only fall upon ‘beliving’ and not ‘knowing.’

    When I say I believe God exists versus I know God exists, I’m being intellectually honest, and that’s all I ask of any opponent. Of course I say that I believe instead of professing to know God exists. I may never know God exists until FR, if FR happens. Yes, DD’s claim seems arrogant as you suggest, but not for the reason you suggest IMO. It seems arrogant to me because, well, if I went around saying it is an Undeniable Fact that “Parker is a virgin,” would you not correctly respond by asking, “How the hell would you know, cl?” Admittedly the analogy is incomplete, but go ahead and take a stab anyways.

    I don’t have to say I ‘believe in gravity’, but rather that I ‘know gravity exist.’ It’s purely semantics but it does show an underlying unconfidence and a bit of subconscious doubt, I’d say.

    I don’t agree that it is pure semantics to say we know an empirically validated concept exists versus saying we believe it exists. That’s an opinion I’m afraid we can’t share.

  9. Chigliakus Says:

    This is hilarious. Can you make a non-hyocritical argument? You seem content to label my “label” a “Gypsy Curse” and be done with it. What does that suggest about your logic? Address my points in a logical, rational manner and demonstrate my error if you can. If not, save it.

    You appear to have failed to grok the Gypsy Curse reference. It was directed at your accusation – that DD’s claim required omniscience – requiring omniscience.

    As for addressing your claims, I think you’ve missed DD’s point about your claim when you went off on a tangent about it being an exact parallel to his. DD told you why he doesn’t need to be omniscient to say the xtian god doesn’t exist. You ignored those points in favor of playing logic games.

    By his own standards, cl is claiming omniscience when he claims that there is no way, other than brute force examination, for us to know whether or not God shows up in real life.

    He was pointing out to you why your claim was ridiculous not agreeing to your standards, so your points 1 through 4 fail. If you’re finished claiming omniscience maybe you can tell us where you see problems with DD’s methodology for discerning the truth about the xtian god.

  10. cl Says:

    You appear to have failed to grok the Gypsy Curse reference. It was directed at your accusation – that DD’s claim required omniscience – requiring omniscience.

    Yes, I understood the reference and its import. I already conceded DD was correct on that point, and that I typed a sloppy sentence.

    As for addressing your claims, I think you’ve missed DD’s point about your claim when you went off on a tangent about it being an exact parallel to his.

    I heard you the first time. You assumed I missed DD’s points, and apparently you’ve missed a key point about deductive reasoning if you think my reply was tangential. If X requires omniscience as DD claims, and Y is an exact parallel to X as DD claims, well, you do the math.

    DD told you why he doesn’t need to be omniscient to say the xtian god doesn’t exist.

    Yes, I heard the man, and I disagree. That’s okay, right?

    You ignored those points in favor of playing logic games.

    Again, you assumed I ignored those points. Just because somebody doesn’t speak doesn’t mean they didn’t comprehend. As far as “logic games,” should I resort to rhetorical tricks, for example, accusing my opponent of “labeling claims” while labelling my opponent’s claims?

    He was pointing out to you why your claim was ridiculous not agreeing to your standards, so your points 1 through 4 fail.

    What “standards” are you talking about? I wouldn’t want to presume I can read your mind. And I hate to break it to you, but you’ve completely fumbled here if you’re trying to make a cogent argument. Now, if DD wants to recant and say either 1) that X does not require omniscience, or 2) that Y is actually not an exact parallel to X, we can re-parse and see what the results become then.

    If you’re finished claiming omniscience maybe you can tell us where you see problems with DD’s methodology for discerning the truth about the xtian god.

    I don’t necessarily have a problem with DD’s methodology for discerning the truth about any God, because his seems the same as mine: Truth is consistent with itself. Where I do have a problem is when claims generally referred to as “unknowables” are touted as “Undeniable Fact,” and aside from this and its so-called “Inescapable Consequence,” I don’t really have any other problems with DD.

    So what’s your opinion on whether or not a man named Morbooboo ever walked the Earth? Do tell.

  11. Deacon Duncan Says:

    cl,

    You’re right, I phrased that badly. Your claim that there is no way I can know God does not exist is an exact parallel to the strawman version of what I’m saying: that I know each and every individual instance in which God might/could/should show up in real life. That is, it’s an exact parallel to the brute force approach that is not the basis for my conclusion.

    Sorry for the sloppy writing.

  12. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Oh, and by the way, I do not claim to know that no man named Morbooboo ever existed, because if he did, his existence would be trivial and inconsequential. I also do not claim to know that no trivial and inconsequential god exists; however I don’t believe Christians claim that their god is trivial and inconsequential. I claim that a significant and consequential deity (other than Alethea) does not exist, on the grounds that the consequences of His existence are manifestly absent from the real world. This does not require an omniscient knowledge of every man or god who might ever have been named Morbooboo, or any similar thing.

  13. pboyfloyd Says:

    What does ‘cl’ stand for anyways?

    Is it cintellectual l’dishonesty?

  14. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Guys, please. I don’t mind a bit of clever repartee now and then, but this is just sniping. If you want to indulge in derision and personal attacks, take it to a site that welcomes such things. Theologyweb, for instance. ;)

  15. Chigliakus Says:

    Again, you assumed I ignored those points. Just because somebody doesn’t speak doesn’t mean they didn’t comprehend.

    It’s a valid assumption based on your response to the post. You still haven’t addressed any of them.

    So what’s your opinion on whether or not a man named Morbooboo ever walked the Earth? Do tell.

    So what’s your opinion on whether or not a man who had a name that was at once three distinct names and one inseparable name, a name that when spoken sounded like a different name to each listener such that none could agree on the actual name, walked the face of the Earth?

  16. pboyfloyd Says:

    I sorry, I WAS going to point out that your entire post is saying that you didn’t need to have omniscience and cl seems to be completely ignoring that fact, but Arthur beat me to it.

    And, in my defence, I thought it was a ‘good’ guess.

  17. pevo Says:

    DD: Therefore I state, not just as my personal opinion, but as an empirical, verifiable, Undeniable Fact, that God does not show up in real life.

    CL: There’s no way you can know that unilaterally without being omniscient, and I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree here.

    Me: Cl, absolute truth is not obtainable. DD knows that and I suspect he assumed his readers did as well. (DD, sorry if I’m stepping on your toes here, I’m open to corrections.) So when he says ‘undeniable fact’ it is *not* meant as absolute truth, it is meant more as ‘undeniable fact within the scope of that which is known’.

    When we say something is ‘true’ we mean it is not in violation of validated theories. This dos not mean, however, that truth is open to arbitrary definition. The new theories have to explain more to become accepted. We already know all theories are most likely wrong and it is only a matter of time before we come across a repeatable observation that requires us to change them. Such is the nature of improving our approximation to absolute truth.

    Now, if you have at your disposal a means of obtaining observations that are incompatible with currently validated theories, we will be happy to update the theories. But just claiming that ‘you can’t possibly *know* that’ is simply not productive.

    Please excuse the abbreviated use of ‘fact’, ‘truth’, etc and append ‘in accordance with the understood laws of nature’ if that makes it easier to digest what I (and others) are saying.

    If at any point you wish to challenge an accepted law of nature, you are certainly not alone and free to do so. Just please include the observations that you are claiming are in violation of the laws and ideally an improved set of laws that lose no predictive power and additionally explain your new observations.

    To be clear: I believe absolute truth exists, just that I have no way to know what it is. There is, thankfully, a procedure that will allow for continuously improved approximations of the absolute truth. It is this approximation that we refer to when we say ‘true’ or even ‘undeniable fact’.

    Cl, do you believe absolute truth exists? Do you believe it is obtainable?

  18. VeridicusX Says:

    I’ve enjoyed this post and the responses.

    A lot of the preceding argument seems to be caused by a failure on one or both sides to appreciate that an *idea* is being rebutted, not an actual object.
    Were we dealing with an object we could say that it has various properties; x joules of energy, exists at a specified location, has a white beard, etc. In the theist’s case, we are dealing with a definition, ultimately a description of a proposed set of effects or events, quite apart from any object(s).
    In the one case we build a definition from an object, in the other case the definition *is* the object.

    This bit is written in pseudo-code.

    10 So the apologist says, “You *cannot* say that this object doesn’t exist or that this object doesn’t show up! What are you omniscient?”.
    20 The skeptic says, looking around, “What object, where?”. (The apologist says, “Smartass!”).
    30 The apologist says, “Look, this is it’s definition.”, which turn out to be a measurable set of effects.
    40 The skeptic says, “When the requisite measurements are made, those effects are not observed in the real world, therefore your definition has no objective reality.”.
    50 GOTO 10

  19. John Morales Says:

    “The map is not the territory; the word is not the thing defined”.
    General semantics

  20. R. C. Moore Says:

    Veridicus –

    Enjoyed the psuedocode. Personally though, I code line 20 as a NO OP. I don’t answer strawman arguments.

  21. VeridicusX Says:

    “The map is not the territory; the word is not the thing defined”.

    Yes, that was my subtle point. But to the mind of many (most?) theists the definition is the thing defined. In the absence of any object all they have is a concept.
    I think that it is the pleasant subjective experience of this (set of) powerful mental construct(s) that leads to the gigantic reification fallacy that we see.

    It seems to me that a subtle set of switches have been occurring mostly in the mind of the believer. The apologist “describing” something which no-one, (including the apologist), has observed and the skeptic deriving a set of tests from the “description”.

    All the skeptic and the apologist have is a definition which amounts to a set of postulated physical events. So in effect, the postulated set of physical events is the object*.
    When it is shown that these physical events do not occur in the real world, the apologist then switches from the postulated events to the conjectured object that was supposed to be the cause the (non-existent) events and says something to the effect of, “But you haven’t proven that it doesn’t have green eyes!”.
    The apologist then claims that the skeptic is omnisciently claiming to have disproven the existence of an object, but no object was ever presented or described, only a postulated set of events and those events have been shown to be non-existent.

    * That the set of postulated events is the object is proven by the fact that the object is supposed to be magically immaterial. There is no object to be pointed to or to be the possessor of properties.