Friday, September 03, 2010

Talking of Hawking

Tonight, I am in a somewhat Shakespearean mood:
KING HENRY VI
Why, how now, uncle Gloucester!
GLOUCESTER
Talking of hawking; nothing else, my lord.
(From Henry VI Part II, Act 2 Scene 1, a rather apposite passage.)

The discussion on this page has been on my old neighbour's somewhat indiscreet (perhaps deliberately so?) comment on the necessity of God as far as the existence of this universe is concerned. The comments in particular are amusing grist for the student of epistemology. Some outright howlers have been perpetrated, along with ancient chestnuts so hoary as to be dangerous conkers.

Take for example the following supposedly logical argument for the danger of being a theist, presented by a commenter called 'Natman':
  1. If you believe in a single God, you will have to choose one out of infinite possible varieties.
  2. If any percent of the possible gods will punish you eternally, then there are an infinite number of hypothetical gods who, if they exist, would punish you for eternity.
  3. If there is only one god, then your chance of worshipping it, and not a nonexistent entity instead, is one out of infinity.
  4. Therefore you will almost surely fail to pick up the correct "One True God".
  5. So if a god does exist, the chance of you going to any variety of heaven is infinitesimal, regardless of whether you are religious or not.
What do you think of this reasoning? Personally, I think that my argument for not being an atheist is better, and certainly more entertaining. In my next post, I will probably discuss why I find Natman's 'logic' so funny, and will link that to why 'integrated programmes' are also very amusing. Cheers!

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Update: I've put some responses to Natman's argument in the comments section. Those are better there than in a separate post of their own.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Trebuchet said...

I've decided to outline some of the holes in Natman's 'logic' regarding the danger of being a theist in this comments section. It's easier than to laugh twice at the same joke in the main blog.

1. If you believe in a single God, it does not follow that you will have to choose one out of infinite possible varieties. We actually cannot tell how many gods there are, what their affiliations might be, or whether they are viable 'gods' at all, in an interactive or influential sense.

2. If there are indeed an infinite number of gods, and a subset of those will punish you for eternity, then there is likely a greater subset that will do other things, since 'punish you for eternity' is a single option from an infinity of options.

3. If there is only one god, then your chance of worshipping it is 100% if you listen to it, because the non-existent ones won't say anything.

4. Therefore, you are certain to pick up the One True God if there is only one and He speaks to you. Unless, of course, you choose not to listen.

5. So if a god does exist, the chance of you going to any variety of heaven depends on the god. And even if there are infinitesimal chances of going to one particular heaven, surely there must be chances of going to a heaven that you like. It's just that we can't know, since we are looking at an infinite subset of an infinite set.

Saturday, September 04, 2010 5:54:00 am  

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