God's rocks (was: Re: Good books generally)

Mon Feb 24 10:40:06 PST 2003

On Tue, 18 Feb 2003, Matthew Hunter wrote:

@> > Really, and you're contending that something can be omnipotent without
@> > additionally ending up being God? I'd be quite interested to see that one.
@> Sure.  Consider an omnipotent Satan. 
@> Omnipotent is an attribute that can be attached to just about 
@> anything.  It's not limited to judeo-christian divinity, except 
@> in that judeo-christian divinity is the major source of attempts 
@> to resolve the logical contradictions inherent in the concept.

Well, you'll notice I said "God" rather than "The Judeo-Christian
God". But let's assume that that's really what I meant.

The primary attributes of JHVH are as follows:

1) Omnipotence
2) Omniscience
3) Omnipresence
4) Incomprehensibility
5) Unity
6) Perfect morality
7) Responsible for the creation of the world

If something has all of these attributes, it's the Judeo-Christian
God. Lots of individual sects tack on other requirements, but these are
the ones to which everyone agrees.

The first three are generally taken as a cluster, for good reason: if
something is omnipotent, there is no way it can be prevented from being
omniscient and omnipresent without drastic replumbing of the concept of
omnipotence (that is, the ability to accomplish any task that does not
represent a logical impossibility). The power to do anything represents
both the power to know anything and the power to be anywhere (since these
are both things that can be done).

Incomprehensibility is pretty simple. If someone else knows everything,
and you don't, you will never fully understand that other person, because
you don't know everything.

Unity is a hotly-debated topic. It's not as contraversial as it seems,
though, if you posit the other qualities; if two things possess exactly
the same knowledge and sense of morality, they will always act in exactly
the same way at any given time. If they are both omnipresent, they will
always act at every available time and in every possible situation. If
they both possess the same amount of power, their actions will be limited
in the same way in the same situations (that is, they will not be 
limited). All these things being the case, what we're actually dealing
with is one being by any yardstick which can meaningfully be used. The
relevant analogy would be human: you're really two people, since you have
two entirely functional brain-halves, each of which has its own
personality and abilities. You don't generally notice this, though, unless
the two are rendered unable to communicate with each other, and we don't
tend to actually think of you as being two different people, since you and
yourself are always acting in concert.

The creation of the world one works in a similar way. Time and space
aren't seperate entities (as far as we know), so something that's
omnipresent in one would have to be omnipresent in the other. If something
has perfect morality and the power to alter the universe in any
conceivable way, it must be the case that that being does in fact alter
the universe in such a way as to make it better. That being the case, this
being can easily be said to be responsible for the disposition of all
matter in the universe, of which our planet and its inhabitants are a

So, the only difficult one is the moral quality: can it be guaranteed that
an omnipotent being would also be perfectly moral? Tricky, which is
presumably why you mentioned omnipotent Satans. Try this one on, then: one
of the common methods of playing infinities against each other to disprove
the existance of God involves this very quality. The argument runs,
roughly, that if God can make anything moral, then the only ultimate moral
quantity is power (specifically, the power to make your wishes the
override morality). If God can't make anything moral, then there must be
some power that overrides God's (by creating morality), and therefore God
isn't omnipotent. The only way out of this difficulty is to assume that
there is a logical reason for moral actions; then you can raise the same
objections that can be raised for the unliftable stone argument; that is,
that the concept of a being that knows everything and yet still acts in an
immoral way is logically impossible, because immorality is only a fallacy
of logic or assumptions neither of which can apply to an omniscient being.

Heh. Alright, that's a bit thin, but what the hell. I have a limited time
to do this stuff here at work.