Tuesday, February 7, 2012

On Atheism and Agnosticism

Just read an interesting article by a favorite webcomic author of mine. In it, he deplores the false dichotomies of Gnosticism/Agnosticism and Theism/Atheism, the former concerning the "knowability" of the existence of a god, and the latter concerning whether god exists.
As Zack posits, the former question must be resolved before one can even move to the latter, and "If you believe knowledge of the “God question” is impossible, it doesn’t make sense to either join a church or an atheist society."
Just to point out - game theory has been used philosophically in the past to argue that even in the case of uncertainty, belief in god is a good bet to take.

What was actually more important was that he used this as the jumping point for another critical issue: in order to determine how one falls on the scale, it is necessary to define the terms used. You cannot say "god can't exist" anymore than you can assert "Big Stuff exists" without defining what the properties of said items are.
In the end, whether one is agnostic or atheistic/theistic depends on parameters of the question being asked.
Coincidentally, this also applies as thoroughly to attempts to ridicule religion as to religion itself - Pastafarianism is subject to the same scales as Christianity in this manner.

All in all, a well thought out piece that's important to read. I wish we had more of this lucid, critical thinking in the world.

The point of bringing all this up was to engage in a little thought experiment regarding the hypothetical existence of a god.
Imagine the existence of a higher dimensional being who moves through time with the same ability that we travel through space.
While such a creature seems impractical, that does not mean that it is impossible - merely that it is presently beyond our comprehension of how such an entity could come to pass.

They would have the potential to travel through time at will, only moving out of the present moment at will.
Consider the properties of such a being:
  • If it ever existed at any point in space-time, it always existed (functionally).
  • The average instantaneous density of such an entity would be asymptotically zero. The only time we would ever detect such an entity is when its frame of reference crosses our own under observed empty space. Vacuum pressure and virtual particles, anyone?
  • Heisenberg et al could just bugger off, since the equations break down outside of the appropriate frame of reference.
  • IF such an entity could impart/transfer force from one atom to another, it would have the ability to sculpt the world as it sees fit. Knowing which buttons to press just requires optimization of start conditions from a future frame of reference to acheive the desired result.
  • Knowing your future actions and personal free will are independent concepts since its frame of reference is external to yours. You now know what you did two days ago, but this didn't impede your free will then.
  • If such an entity DOES exist, it would ensure it's own existence (this is, admittedly, an assumption of values, but a reasonable one to make).
  • If it evolves or is "born" such an entity may reasonably strive to bring about it's own retroactive existence as rapidly as possible (altering initial conditions, etc. in our frame of reference. Also an assumption. May or may not cause causality paradox issues when it comes to multidimensional time travel.)
Any interest in humanity could be benevolent (because it feels like it) or personal (because it enjoys it). The flipside to it being personal is an extension of an older idea - that god is an emergent entity of some future state of man. Such a construct will inevitably take interest in humanity to the extent that, as above, it would shepherd them toward self-creating end.

Now, note that none of this passes any value judgements about the benevolent nature of such an entity, and omnibenevolence arguments fall short since they ALWAYS fail to consider the possible existence of non-human value systems. Then again, if such an entity did exist, it's system of values may be so foreign to our own that we have no way of relating to it.
I guess that's a bit of a Lovecraftian cosmic take on divinity.
Omnibenevolence is debatable, but that has nothing to do with whether god exists or not, but rather whether you want to listen to what it says if it does exist.

Regardless, the above list posits that if an entity exists that posses higher functional dimensionality than man, then it would inevitably possess (1) omnipotence (2) omniscience and (3) omnipresence. These are the three main attributes that seem to have near-universal acceptance as necessary traits for the divine.

Who created god?
Dunno, but once such an entity exists, it doesn't really matter, does it?

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