Friday, February 17, 2006

The 'Triple-O God'

The following was posted in response to a debate on another website, in which I was challenged to disprove the existence of God as currently defined by the Roman Catholic Church

The Official Roman Catholic Church Definition of God, as presented from the on line Catholic encyclopedia...

"Catholicism ... believes that God is one, eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing and omnipresent.

God exists as distinct from and prior to his creation, that is, everything which is not God, and which depends directly on him for existence, and yet is still present intimately in his creation...

When we say that God is a personal being we mean that He is intelligent and free and distinct from the created universe."

Roman Catholics believe in 'divine revelation', but maintain there is substantive 'proof' of God's existence based upon the following:

  • the general argument 'proving' the self-existence of a First Cause,
  • the special arguments 'proving' the existence of an intelligent Designer and of a Supreme Moral Ruler, and
  • the 'confirmatory' argument from the general Consent of mankind.

We will return to the 'proofs' later, first let's examine the actual definition:

The (uncharacteristically terse) Official RCC Definition of God may arguably be deemed imprecise, yet the Roman Catholic definition of transcendence is certainly unequivocal:
“... all-powerful, all-knowing and omnipresent.”
'All-powerful', or 'omnipotence', means all existence is ultimately dependent on and encompassed by the pervasive, 'all powerful force' without which nothing can be. The inevitable corollary is there can be no other separate power or activity independent of God.

Omnipresence, meaning 'all places', is also exclusive. Baldly stated, there is nothing that does not partake of omnipresent existence, or, no matter where the universe goes, there it is! From the massive to the microscopic, there cannot be a place separate from, or independent of, omnipresence.

Omniscience, or 'all-knowing', means complete, intimate, and absolute comprehension of the totality which is the universe. All past, current, and future events are known, and understood, without any possibility of error, indecision or incompleteness. Each past 'cause' , and every future 'effect' is known, either directly by prescience, or indirectly by absolute knowledge of the inevitable result of each present cause and effect relationship. Omniscience, or 'all knowledge', excludes any possibility of a detached or unknown event.

Implicit in the definition is the a-priori assumption reality is a causal system: That the existence of some 'things' are the necessary result of the existence of other 'things'. In this way, we define the perceived physical 'laws', such as gravity, for example, which affect and are affected by other 'laws', or 'things'.

The personal aspect

Although the definition does not explicitly define 'person' in the divine context, that God is deemed one is made quite clear by that portion of the definition which states:
"When we say that God is a personal being we mean that He is intelligent and free and distinct from the created universe."

Currently the RCC attempts to define a 'human person' as that which is created when a human sperm fertilizes a human egg. There remain a number of questions regarding 'souls' and 'free will', however, which the RCC zygote definition either fails to recognize, or chooses to ignore, since although it says when a person occurs, it fails to specify of what a person consists.

Although explicit definition of 'person' seems lacking within the adjective-heavy RCC dogma, the underlying assumptions of what constitutes 'person-hood' may be inferred:
"..a being with a spiritual nature, with intelligence and a will, whose intelligence searches for the truth and whose will aspires to goodness."
"Man is precisely a person because he is master of himself and has self-control."
"Human beings not only determine their own activities but also determine themselves in terms of a most essential quality ... Through self-determination, the human being becomes increasingly more of a "someone" in the ethical sense, although in the ontological sense the human being is a "someone" from the very beginning. ... Self-determination ... points to self-possession and self-governance as the structure proper to a person."

While the bits about truth, goodness and self-mastery may be debatable, at root the RCC definition seems firmly based on the idea that a 'person' or 'being' is a conscious, self-aware, intelligent 'agent', characterized by an ability to affect the outcome of events by dint of making choices from an array of possibilities. Thus, the ability to choose, ie. 'free will', is as central to RCC doctrine as the concept of cause and effect.

The RCC implicit definitions of existence assume the objective reality of 'beings', 'individuals', or 'entities', actually or potentially separate from 'other' objects, beings etc, in a dualistic, mechanistic 'cause/effect' universe in which 'things' are caused by, and cause in turn, other things. Paradoxically, according to RCC teaching, 'persons', are special 'objects' granted the ability to alter the course of events, or otherwise influence an outcome, by exercise of free will, which is by definition 'free' or separate from causality.

The actual nature of being, what is called the 'consciousness question', hardly arises, because the RCC explicit and implicit dualistic definitions of 'person' conflates the ill-defined concept of an 'immaterial' 'soul' with the equally nebulous notion of persistent mind.

Whatever other attributes of the soul, mind, and consciousness exist, according to the RCC an individual, mind, or person, is distinguished by the power of conscious agency, or free will, which is an indispensable requirement of individual, 'personal' existence. Regardless, to the RCC the definitive characteristic of existence as a person is the capability of decision

Thus, the underlying contradiction between omnipotence and personality is revealed: The RCC defining characteristic of a person is as an agent possessing free will, manifested by choosing from myriad possibilities. The RCC definition of omnipotence includes omniscience, which is characterized either by direct knowledge of all future events, prescience, or indirectly by ultimate, intimate knowledge of all 'present' or current causes and effects.

To be 'all-knowing' clearly means knowing all possible outcomes, including knowing which one must occur. Omniscience, which is absolute, total foreknowledge, eliminates choice*. An 'all knowing' person is no less a contradiction than is a square circle.

An omniscient agent is not possible, because of the contradiction between knowing all and the necessity of choice – the requirement of free will.

The notion of an omnipresent entity is an absurdly blatant self-contradictory premise. An entity cannot be both “distinct from” and “present intimately in ... creation”.

An omnipresent being is not possible, because of the contradiction between being literally everywhere, and the separate individuality necessary for existence as a free being or independent agent.

The doctrine of omnipotence, which asserts the prior existence of an a-causal being, a 'cause uncaused', is flawed from the 'beginning'.
“...everything which is not God, and which depends directly on him for existence”
This is a contradiction: No thing can exist independent of god. Since thoughts themselves are things, independent thought cannot exist, ergo, free will is impossible.

An omnipotent being is not possible, partly because it contradicts the requirement of free will, since having all power either currently or initially at the least implies predestination, but mostly because no other 'entity' could have any power independent of the 'god-person'.


The 'Proofs'

The doctrine of omnipotence is directly related to the concept of god as the prime mover, or 'cause uncaused', which is often referred to as the cosmological argument. It is typically regarded as the theist interpretation of the 'Big Bang' theory concerning universal origin.

The RCC concept of a 'cause uncaused' is that of a single 'first cause', responsible for at least initiating the creation of the universe. It could be argued that if a unique event spawned our reality, our very existence is an 'effect' of that 'cause'. However, the Big Bang theory does not state nothing existed prior to the event, but that anything which may have been is and was undetectable, because the time and space of our universe render meaningless such terminology as, 'before time began'.

An intelligent, personal, 'Prime Mover' is impossible, because of the inherent contradiction of unmotivated effect. The 'uncaused cause' concept simply pushes causality back a step: What effect caused an infinite god to suddenly begin everything?

Since the observable reality of which we partake apparently consists of myriad causes and countless effects, it is just as reasonable to suggest the universe was created, or is continually created moment by moment, by any number of concurrent causes, no causes at all, or perhaps an infinite number of causes in an infinite, constantly changing and evolving universal process.

The prime mover notion is based upon a number of assumptions, not the least of which is that effects require causes. The cause/effect nature of reality may seem obvious, however, one of the weirder aspects of quantum physics is that virtual particle pairs apparently come into existence completely uncaused – with total randomness.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, there is no evidence or indication of a cause necessarily being a personal agent, such as the RCC Almighty triune god. A primal cause could just as easily be an impersonal agency or force, or a multitude of such. The 'first cause' argument contains nothing to support the notion an initial cause or creation was or is due to the action of a conscious entity or agent.

The special arguments 'proving' the existence of an Intelligent Designer fail due to similar fallacious reasoning, and because the conclusion does not follow from the premise: The ID argument insists a creator is required, because of “irreducible complexity” found in living things, compared with other 'things', such as rocks. This teleological argument is not really an argument so much as it is a statement of personal incredulity. An Intelligent Designer is rendered superfluous by Occam's razor.

The notion of a 'Supreme Moral Ruler' is hardly worth mentioning, since it is obviously also not an argument, but the conceit is decidedly ironic, considering the history of the RCC.

The 'confirmatory' argument from the general Consent of mankind may be an appeal to popularity, belief or practice, but as an argument is invalid nonetheless.


Conclusion

The RCC definition of god is meaningless according to the definition's inherent premises, and remains unsubstantiated by the putative 'proofs'

*It also eliminates the quaint notion of 'prayer'