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God and Omnipotence/God and morality

TeryWeb

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Reading through older topics I noticed that many here, predominantly the atheists but also some of the more religious-minded individuals, entertain a most naive picture of what an omnipotent God actually would be like.

This is astounding as this is hardly a new matter and even popular entertainment has brought examples of more refined scenarios to the general public offering the opportunity of widening one's intellectual horizon quite universally: the nature of time and causality as explored in LOST or the character of Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen with his ability to be at multiple locations simultaneously and perform different tasks at each one, for example, come to mind here. And yet, cobbling together the simplistic notions one may glean by reading between the lines of some posts in this forum, a staggeringly childish image of God emerges as some bearded wizard breathing life into clay figures He then sends on their merry way only to hand out a few rules here and there. In light of this glaring deficit in imagination I thought it might be useful to spare a moment's thought to the practical implications of omnipotence, although of course this can by virtue of the subject matter only ever be quite literally scratching the surface.

Consider first that the universe is described by the laws of physics, formulated in mathematical form. This is very much a work in progress but the hope is that eventually, centuries from now, a complete such framework - a Theory of Everything - will be available to mankind and as the joke goes fit on a humble T-shirt. Consider now your ability to perform arithmetic operations in your head: on a good day you might be able to multiply double-digit numbers without getting a pencil (or worse a calculator) out and some people might do better; others might do worse but in any case one's ability in this realm is limited and requires some finite effort. Consider finally that the aforementioned final equations of physics involve mathematical operations just like those just referred too but of more exquisite complexity coupled with far richer input data. A theoretical omnipotent God however would dispose of a literally infinite computational processing power, to use a computing metaphor. As such He would be able to calculate the exact state of the universe down to the properties of every single particle by plugging their initial conditions at the beginning of time into the equations and churning through them instantly, that is with an ease infinitely greater than it takes you to add 1 and 1.

Let's now move to the ability to visualise situations and objects., which exists in varying degrees amongst people and can often be trained. Again in this case omnipotence implies that God would be able to conjure up mentally any setting as He wishes experiencing it with the same degree of reality as if it was actually taking place. In fact it further follows that the difference between imagination and reality is at this point a mere matter of choice for an omnipotent being. Trivially He could then also superimpose several such experiences and perfectly divide His attention between them, attention that is of course infinite as well, meaning he could imagine all possible outcomes, at all times, everywhere with absolute accuracy.

Going further true omnipotence obviously entails the ability to craft the very fabric of reality itself, including fixing the initial conditions at the beginning of times and forging the equations that will govern matter, energy, space and time henceforth. In doing so God would have full awareness of the unfolding of his creation, being able to fine-tune with a focus of an intensity infinitely larger than that we devote to the most important moments of our biographies to the swaying of a a single blade of grass on a nondescript lawn in an unremarkable location on a sunny Tuesday afternoon as he does the evolution of life-forms and the whirring of every single particle through the immensity of space to achieve whatever outcome He might see fit according to His sense of morality which by definition would be perfect.

We are very far from a fairy tale wizard indeed...

So: The preceding is illuminating when considering the so-called Problem of Evil as it becomes rather obvious that the notion that an omnipotent benevolent God could never allow evil and suffering might well hinge on a lack of imagination in failing to appreciate that both might be rather different beasts in the context of a Divine Plan spanning both space and time in its entirety...
 

Bomb#20

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... cobbling together the simplistic notions one may glean by reading between the lines of some posts in this forum, a staggeringly childish image of God emerges as some bearded wizard breathing life into clay figures He then sends on their merry way only to hand out a few rules here and there....
Consider first that the universe is described by the laws of physics, formulated in mathematical form. This is very much a work in progress but the hope is that eventually, centuries from now, a complete such framework - a Theory of Everything - will be available to mankind and as the joke goes fit on a humble T-shirt. ...
... to achieve whatever outcome He might see fit according to His sense of morality which by definition would be perfect.
... The preceding is illuminating when considering the so-called Problem of Evil as it becomes rather obvious that the notion that an omnipotent benevolent God could never allow evil and suffering might well hinge on a lack of imagination in failing to appreciate that both might be rather different beasts in the context of a Divine Plan spanning both space and time in its entirety...
So to sum up, everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds; sure, a nine-year-old can think of ways the world could be better, but what he's not grasping is that "omnipotent" actually means "able to do anything logically possible that can be described with an equation that will fit on a T-shirt"; and if somebody isn't persuaded by your brilliant solution to the conundrum of the ages you'll call him childish. Is that about the size of it? Can you actually quote an atheist on this forum expressing an image of God as some bearded wizard, or are you simply bearing false witness against your neighbor as a debating tactic?
 

Angra Mainyu

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This looks like Skeptical Theism to me...

TeryWeb said:
Going further true omnipotence obviously entails the ability to craft the very fabric of reality itself, including fixing the initial conditions at the beginning of times and forging the equations that will govern matter, energy, space and time henceforth. In doing so God would have full awareness of the unfolding of his creation, being able to fine-tune with a focus of an intensity infinitely larger than that we devote to the most important moments of our biographies to the swaying of a a single blade of grass on a nondescript lawn in an unremarkable location on a sunny Tuesday afternoon as he does the evolution of life-forms and the whirring of every single particle through the immensity of space to achieve whatever outcome He might see fit according to His sense of morality which by definition would be perfect.
Alright, so an omnipotent, very knowledgeable, morally perfect being. Maybe almost omniscient, right?

So, what's (roughly) the prior probability [we should assign to the hypothesis] that there is a being who knows what (284742 + 194743284842642.9933)^(4394812734764232) is?
What is the prior that there is a being who knows that, and also knows the result of some other computation? (pick another one). Let's keep adding computations, as many as one wants.
So, what's the probability that a being knows all of that, and knows what I ate for breakfast, and what Napoleon ate for breakfast on such-and-such day, etc., and keep adding conditions? (infinitely many, of course?).

What's the [prior] probability that a being meets all of those conditions, and in addition, has the power to make planets, and destroy them? And let's add infinitely many more conditions.

So, what's the prior probability that a being that meets all of those conditions exists?
Let's add the condition that the being be omnipotent, and let's say that we should assign some prior P. Okay, let's say P might vary from person to person to some extent, or that there is some proper range, perhaps fuzzy. But given all of the conditions (let's call them condition O, or property O), the prior seems to be very slim, so P << 1. In fact, it seems it would be exaggerated to assign P=10^-6.

But I've not mentioned morality yet. An omnimax being is one that meets condition O, and is also morally perfect.
So, let's consider the pairwise disjoint events that:

E1: There is an omnimax being.
E2: There is a being with property O, which is maximally malevolent.

Let's now construct more conditions. After all, a being may have a mind that is not like that of a human. They might be intelligent but with very different value structures. For example, some smart aliens from another planet might not care about good or evil, but about some other alien-good or alien-evil, and the same for right and wrong, etc.

So, for n > 2,

E(n): There is a being with property O, which is maximally motivated by some other value system, say V(n), which is different from moral perfection, or from maximal immorality, and in fact, does not care about morality but about some other thing. Let's stipulate that V(n) =/= V(m) if n=/=m. Given the omnipotence condition, that gives us disjoint events.


TeryWeb said:
So: The preceding is illuminating when considering the so-called Problem of Evil as it becomes rather obvious that the notion that an omnipotent benevolent God could never allow evil and suffering might well hinge on a lack of imagination in failing to appreciate that both might be rather different beasts in the context of a Divine Plan spanning both space and time in its entirety...
Alright, then, but that goes for E2 as well. So, no amount of evidence would distinguish between E1 and E2. So, it seems to me that plausibly the prior P(E1)=P(E2) - at least, they seem to be equally complex -, and so the same goes for the final probability.

So, P(E1/All we observe)≤P/2 << ½, so belief in an omnimax being, after consideration, is irrational. Moreover, it seems P(E1/AWO)≤ ½ * 10^-6.

But that's without even considering E(n), for n > 2.

But let's consider them.
Let's consider those E(n) such that V(n) is roughly as complex as the moral perfection condition, and in fact they're pretty similar, but just with slight variations. Arguably, the prior of those E(n) would be roughly the same as that of E1, sometimes slightly less, sometimes slightly more.
How many of them are there?
I do not know, but it's surely a lot.
But let's now add V(n) that are roughly as complex, but very different in many ways from morality.
That's a lot more.
And yet, in all those cases, one can make the argument about reasons beyond our ken – just not moral reasons, but V(n)-reasons.

If we have, say, at least 10^6 in those categories (it seems to me far more, but at least that), then by an argument as above, we get P(E1/All we observe)≤10^(-12).

In short, it's beyond a reasonable doubt that an omnimax being does not exist (by the way, this argument works also if we include evidence, because in that case, some E(n) would not be significantly affected by our observations, whereas E1 would be defeated by the evidence from both suffering and moral evil, but that aside).
 

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Whether or not we have the nature of a hypothetical omnipotent being straight in our heads, and irrespective of what "his" morality says, we cannot be mistaken about our pain. As long as there is pain, when an omnipotent being could trivially achieve anything it wants without pain, that omnipotent being (if it exists) is a monster. The only morality that counts is the morality of the vulnerable party.
 

Angra Mainyu

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Alright, so an omnipotent, very knowledgeable, morally perfect being. Maybe almost omniscient, right?

So, what's (roughly) the prior probability [we should assign to the hypothesis] that there is a being who knows what (284742 + 194743284842642.9933)^(4394812734764232) is?
What is the prior that there is a being who knows that, and also knows the result of some other computation? (pick another one). Let's keep adding computations, as many as one wants.
So, what's the probability that a being knows all of that, and knows what I ate for breakfast, and what Napoleon ate for breakfast on such-and-such day, etc., and keep adding conditions? (infinitely many, of course?).

What's the [prior] probability that a being meets all of those conditions, and in addition, has the power to make planets, and destroy them? And let's add infinitely many more conditions.

So, what's the prior probability that a being that meets all of those conditions exists?
Let's add the condition that the being be omnipotent, and let's say that we should assign some prior P. Okay, let's say P might vary from person to person to some extent, or that there is some proper range, perhaps fuzzy. But given all of the conditions (let's call them condition O, or property O), the prior seems to be very slim, so P << 1. In fact, it seems it would be exaggerated to assign P=10^-6.

But I've not mentioned morality yet. An omnimax being is one that meets condition O, and is also morally perfect.
So, let's consider the pairwise disjoint events that:

E1: There is an omnimax being.
E2: There is a being with property O, which is maximally malevolent.

Let's now construct more conditions. After all, a being may have a mind that is not like that of a human. They might be intelligent but with very different value structures. For example, some smart aliens from another planet might not care about good or evil, but about some other alien-good or alien-evil, and the same for right and wrong, etc.

So, for n > 2,

E(n): There is a being with property O, which is maximally motivated by some other value system, say V(n), which is different from moral perfection, or from maximal immorality, and in fact, does not care about morality but about some other thing. Let's stipulate that V(n) =/= V(m) if n=/=m. Given the omnipotence condition, that gives us disjoint events.


TeryWeb said:
So: The preceding is illuminating when considering the so-called Problem of Evil as it becomes rather obvious that the notion that an omnipotent benevolent God could never allow evil and suffering might well hinge on a lack of imagination in failing to appreciate that both might be rather different beasts in the context of a Divine Plan spanning both space and time in its entirety...
Alright, then, but that goes for E2 as well. So, no amount of evidence would distinguish between E1 and E2. So, it seems to me that plausibly the prior P(E1)=P(E2) - at least, they seem to be equally complex -, and so the same goes for the final probability.

So, P(E1/All we observe)≤P/2 << ½, so belief in an omnimax being, after consideration, is irrational. Moreover, it seems P(E1/AWO)≤ ½ * 10^-6.

But that's without even considering E(n), for n > 2.

But let's consider them.
Let's consider those E(n) such that V(n) is roughly as complex as the moral perfection condition, and in fact they're pretty similar, but just with slight variations. Arguably, the prior of those E(n) would be roughly the same as that of E1, sometimes slightly less, sometimes slightly more.
How many of them are there?
I do not know, but it's surely a lot.
But let's now add V(n) that are roughly as complex, but very different in many ways from morality.
That's a lot more.
And yet, in all those cases, one can make the argument about reasons beyond our ken – just not moral reasons, but V(n)-reasons.

If we have, say, at least 10^6 in those categories (it seems to me far more, but at least that), then by an argument as above, we get P(E1/All we observe)≤10^(-12).

In short, it's beyond a reasonable doubt that an omnimax being does not exist (by the way, this argument works also if we include evidence, because in that case, some E(n) would not be significantly affected by our observations, whereas E1 would be defeated by the evidence from both suffering and moral evil, but that aside).
As an objection to the above, someone might contend that some evidence would raise the probability of E1 by raising the probability that there is a being with property O, regardless of motivations.

I would say that they're wrong – after all, theist philosophers have been at it for centuries, made a zillion arguments, and after considering the evidence, arguments, etc., one should not raise the probability that there is a being with property O.

However, even that would not save omnimax theism. In fact, we might even assume P=1, and that wouldn't save omnimax theism, which would remain an irrational position, at least after considering the matters, arguments, evidence, etc.
 

TeryWeb

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Usually I would welcome equations...but here I note some confusion.

The logic of your argument is to assign a probability to every little thing an omnipotent being might be able to do and then multiply them together to obtain the probability that He might be bale to do them all. This approach rests critically on two assumptions:

a) each probability is less than one

b) all probabilities are independent

As it turns out those assumptions are both false. There is really only one independent probability which is p(omnipotent) i.e. the probability that an omnipotent being might exist. For all the others we have p=1 exactly as by definition an omnipotent being is always capable of anything. As an aside this also implies that an omnipotent being is also necessarily omniscient.

The second part of your argument relies on assigning importance to subjective and hence typically differing value systems of various species. As it happens they are irrelevant: if good and evil exist in any meaningful way they are determined by exercising one's intellect with an omnipotent God being of course infinitely better placed than anyone to obtain the right answer. As for anyone else the measure of how right they are is the level of overlap with the omnipotent answer which can lie anywhere between 0 and 1.

It remains to address the question of the value of p(omnipotent) which may be deduced from two observations:

a) To prove a being's omnipotence requires recording the full spectrum of its capabilities, which is impossible to a finite observer just as is partial success as any bounded experiment cannot distinguish between an omnipotent being and a sufficiently potent one. So even if God were to humour the scientific community and subject Himself to all manner of tests, not one would bring us an inch closer to prove His identity or the breadth of His power.

The smart atheist might try to interject that this would be proof that there is at least one thing beyond His power, but the argument has no merit since it could merely indicative of a deliberate choice in the design of logical thought. Indeed most religious traditions predict an expanding of the self permitting sure knowledge of God's existence in the afterlife. This is also why the opening post does not in fact amount to skeptical theism: there is no way to deduce any information about an omnipotent being lest He chose otherwise.

b) Conversely no experiment can ever be construed to lessen the likelihood of there in fact existing an omnipotent being. Contrast this to how we exclude with high levels of certainty the existence of all manner of mythical creatures by making statements like "if Bigfoot existed he would by now have been caught on camera with high probability". Such arguments fail completely when applied to an omnipotent being e.g. in the example above God could at any moment decide to simply not emit any light or command it to bend around the camera lens.

This also includes any problem of evil type of arguments, for whatever horror we may point at to doubt the possibility of a benevolent omnipotent God is never even tentatively conclusive evidence since we cannot fathom its role in the Divine Plan whose realisation is by definition the Supreme Good not just to God but to everyone for it is objective. Which God would be cruel: the one who makes a child grow armless or the one who spares him that suffering only for it to realise at the end of times that it is precisely the stone missing in the edifice of perfection that would be his and all of mankind's ultimate joy?

It follows that no evidence can be gathered, not now or ever, to either infirm or confirm the existence of an omnipotent (benevolent) being and in reason of this everlasting exact symmetry p(omnipotent) = 1/2.

In short it seems rather clear your train of thought was erroneous.
 
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Malintent

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Speaking of probabilities... The Universe doesn't actually seem to work on arithmatic alone. There are probabilistic frameworks that govern "what happens". This omni-god-concept of yours does not address the known fact that many facets of how things work are not computable with certainty. All this particular god can do is state the probabilities of things (the most macro / simplistic of which he can be 99.99999(bar) certain of. He apparently would only be a few % certain of the shape a snowflake will take (as the uncertainty principle of where an ion may be located in time is undeterministic).

If you take a simplistic approach at describing the universe, then you can have a simple god create it, I guess.
 

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TeryWeb said:
Usually I would welcome quotations...but here I note some confusion.

The logic of your argument is to assign a probability to every little thing an omnipotent being might be able to do and then multiply them together to obtain the probability that He might be bale to do them all. This approach rests critically on two assumptions:

a) each probability is less than one

b) all probabilities are independent
A few points:

1. There is no assumption of independence.

2. There is no assumption, but an assessment that any proper probabilistic assessment about the existence of a being that knows all of the things I pointed out, or that has the power to make and destroy planets, etc., is less than one. It's obvious to me – and to anyone properly assessing the matter - that it's far less than one. In fact, assigning probability 1 to the hypothesis that there is an agent who can create and destroy planets would be irrational.

TeryWeb said:
As it turns out those assumptions are both false. There is really only one independent probability which is p(omnipotent) i.e. the probability that an omnipotent being might exist. For all the others we have p=1 exactly as by definition an omnipotent being is always capable of anything. As an aside this also implies that an omnipotent being is also necessarily omniscient.
Actually, that is a confusion.

Of course, one may consider the probability to the event “there is an agent with the power to create planets”, and while giving specific numbers may not be doable, it's apparent (to someone making a proper assessment) that giving it 1 (or 1/2) is irrational. And the condition of omnipotence has many more conditions in it, so it's not more probable. While the conditions aren't independent, surely the event "there is an agent who canmake and destroy planets" is more probable than "there is an omnipotent agent", which has infinitely many more weird conditions.

The claim that an omnipotent being is also necessarily omniscient does not follow; maybe it's true (e.g., if omnipotence is impossible, in some sense), but you have not established it. In any case, that would not help your case, but instead make the reply easier. It's again obvious (to someone making a proper assessment) that it's improper to assing a prior 1 to the event "there is a being who knows what (284742 + 194743284842642.9933)^(4394812734764232)", or to the event that there is a being like that, who also knows whether Goldbach's Conjecture is true, and so on.

That aside, as I pointed out, even if we were to assign P(Omnipotent, omniscient being)=1 – an obviously irrational assignment; obvious to someone who is being rational about the matter, that is -, it would still be irrational to believe it's morally perfect.

The rest of your argument fails too, but I will have to go now. I will address it later.
 
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Angra Mainyu

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A little more:
TeryWeb said:
The second part of your argument relies on assigning importance to subjective and hence typically differing value systems of various species.
A species-specific (or perhaps specific to non-empty sets of species, if the universe is big enough) value system does not entail subjectivity of statements tied to it (such as “Alice is a morally good person”, or “A situation in which some aliens have conquered the Earth and hunt humans for fun is a bad situation”), like a species-specific visual system does not entail subjectivity of statements tied to it.

For example, if Bob says he didn't run a red light – the light was green, he claims -, and then Alice says that the light was red, there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether the light was red. Of course, there may be a species, say, species#2, such that the two lights are the same #2-color, but that's irrelevant, and does not make the statements subjective.

TeryWeb said:
As it happens they are irrelevant: if good and evil exist in any meaningful way they are determined by exercising one's intellect with an omnipotent God being of course infinitely better placed than anyone to obtain the right answer. As for anyone else the measure of how right they are is the level of overlap with the omnipotent answer which can lie anywhere between 0 and 1.
That's not true. Different agents generally value different things. An omnipotent, omniscient being may not maximally value good or evil, but #287422-good and #287422-evil, or some other thing entirely that does not mach any actual species (but her own, if that counts as a species), or any other being.
 
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braces_for_impact

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And yet, cobbling together the simplistic notions one may glean by reading between the lines of some posts in this forum, a staggeringly childish image of God emerges as some bearded wizard breathing life into clay figures He then sends on their merry way only to hand out a few rules here and there.

Well to be fair, in it's original form in antiquity, it was childishly simple and naive. It is only with hindsight from an advanced place in time that allows anyone to to attempt to make something more complex of it. No offense, but in regards to the rest of your post, it seems like one giant non-sequitur. (Although interesting).
 

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The problem of suffering doesn't only apply to omnimax conceptions of god, either.

All it requires is that the person saying "god exists" claims that:

God is powerful enough to stop suffering while still achieving his plan
God is smart enough to know who is suffering and where, at any given time, and
God is benevolent enough to want to minimize the amount of unnecessary suffering endured by other beings.

Even that much-less-omni god is logically whisked out of the possibility of existence every time I stub my toe.
 

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TeryWeb said:
It remains to address the question of the value of p(omnipotent) which may be deduced from two observations:

a) To prove a being's omnipotence requires recording the full spectrum of its capabilities, which is impossible to a finite observer just as is partial success as any bounded experiment cannot distinguish between an omnipotent being and a sufficiently potent one. So even if God were to humour the scientific community and subject Himself to all manner of tests, not one would bring us an inch closer to prove His identity or the breadth of His power.
Well, unless no matter what the evidence H may be, the probability P(OB/H)=0, then evidence might raise the probability (OB is the hypothesis that there is an omnipotent, omniscient being, and OOB the probability that there is an omnipotent, omniscient one).

However, an omnipotent, omniscient being could create omniscient beings who would know that she is omnipotent.

TeryWeb said:
The smart atheist might try to interject that this would be proof that there is at least one thing beyond His power, but the argument has no merit since it could merely indicative of a deliberate choice in the design of logical thought. Indeed most religious traditions predict an expanding of the self permitting sure knowledge of God's existence in the afterlife. This is also why the opening post does not in fact amount to skeptical theism: there is no way to deduce any information about an omnipotent being lest He chose otherwise.
I do not know what you mean by “atheist”, or why you think that that would be smart, but I will just point out that the prior that there is an agent who can, say, make and destroy galaxies is very low. The P(OB) is much lower.


TeryWeb said:
b) Conversely no experiment can ever be construed to lessen the likelihood of there in fact existing an omnipotent being.
That is very similar to skeptical theism, in the sense that you're saying no experiment lessens or increases the likelihood (meaning the probability, in this context) that there is an omnipotent being.

If so, then P(OB)=P(OB/H), for any evidence H, which means that we are stuck with the prior. And the prior is astronomically low, as I said – giving it 1 in a million would be absurdly high -, so that defeats omnipotence-theism (and hence, omnimax theism) right away.

TeryWeb said:
Contrast this to how we exclude with high levels of certainty the existence of all manner of mythical creatures by making statements like "if Bigfoot existed he would by now have been caught on camera with high probability". Such arguments fail completely when applied to an omnipotent being e.g. in the example above God could at any moment decide to simply not emit any light or command it to bend around the camera lens.
Well, actually, we can tell what an omnipotent being would not do, or would do, to some extent, if we're talking about an omnipotent being with certain value system, like a maximally good, or maximally evil, or maximally something else. That's how arguments from evil work. But assuming that they do not (which is pretty much what skeptical theism says, but regardless), then the argument I'm giving succeeds anyway.


TeryWeb said:
This also includes any problem of evil type of arguments, for whatever horror we may point at to doubt the possibility of a benevolent omnipotent God is never even tentatively conclusive evidence since we cannot fathom its role in the Divine Plan whose realisation is by definition the Supreme Good not just to God but to everyone for it is objective. Which God would be cruel: the one who makes a child grow armless or the one who spares him that suffering only for it to realise at the end of times that it is precisely the stone missing in the edifice of perfection that would be his and all of mankind's ultimate joy?
But it's irrational to believe that suffering horribly is what a person needs for perfection or whatever – not to mention that it's not okay to cause terrible suffering on a person to make them happy later, but that aside.
Else, going by your consequentialist reasoning, there would seem to be no good reason to try to help children suffering horribly – for example -, since we would have no means of assessing whether that horrible suffering is more likely to help them or not.

TeryWeb said:
It follows that no evidence can be gathered, not now or ever, to either infirm or confirm the existence of an omnipotent (benevolent) being and in reason of this everlasting exact symmetry p(omnipotent) = 1/2.
4. You are not assigning probability in a rational manner, but in any case, if the probability were ½, then it would be irrational to be an omnipotence-theist, since you ought not to assign more than ½. Then, my argument above shows that the probability of an omnimax being would be close to zero, even if the probability of an omnipotent one were ½.

5. Let's consider the event EV1: “The Earth is less than 15000 years old, and so are the galaxies, etc., and it was all created with the appearance that it has, with fossils, stars and all, by a being with sufficient power to make it look to us in any way she wants, and with reasons unknown to us to make it look that way”, and the following event EV2: “The Earth is less than 15000 years old”
Now, there is no empirical evidence for or again EV1, so by your proposed assignment, P(EV1/H)=1/2, for any evidence H. But P(EV2/H) is no less than P(EV1/H). so P(EV2/H) ≥ ½.

If that conclusion is not enough to persuade you that your proposed method of assigning probabilities (i. e., assigning ½ whenever no experiment can support the hypothesis or its negation) is not rational, one can actually show that it's contradictory, as follows:

EV3: “There are more than 10000000000000000 people, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities”.
EV4: “There are between 0 and 100000 people but no more, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities”.
EV5: “There are between 100001 and 10000000000000000 people but no more or fewer, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities.”

Going by the ½ assignment, and considering the hypotheses are pairwise disjoint, we get a contradiction, namely that the probability of the union of those 3 events is greater than 1.
 

TeryWeb

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A species-specific (or perhaps specific to non-empty sets of species, if the universe is big enough) value system does not entail subjectivity of statements tied to it (such as “Alice is a morally good person”, or “A situation in which some aliens have conquered the Earth and hunt humans for fun is a bad situation”), like a species-specific visual system does not entail subjectivity of statements tied to it.
For example, if Bob says he didn't run a red light – the light was green, he claims -, and then Alice says that the light was red, there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether the light was red. Of course, there may be a species, say, species#2, such that the two lights are the same #2-color, but that's irrelevant, and does not make the statements subjective.

TeryWeb said:
As it happens they are irrelevant: if good and evil exist in any meaningful way they are determined by exercising one's intellect with an omnipotent God being of course infinitely better placed than anyone to obtain the right answer. As for anyone else the measure of how right they are is the level of overlap with the omnipotent answer which can lie anywhere between 0 and 1.
That's not true. Different agents generally value different things. An omnipotent, omniscient being may not maximally value good or evil, but #287422-good and #287422-evil, or some other thing entirely that does not mach any actual species (but her own, if that counts as a species), or any other being.
I think you are dabbling in a relativist confusion here, albeit to your defence one that spans at least a few light-years.

Ethics is meant to provide the answer to the question: "How should one act?" Since at any one time any individual or group of individuals can only take one course of equation there is either one answer to that question or none according to an axiomatically constructed set of rules that may well they all kinds of input into account, including the species of each individual involved but is nevertheless absolute. Now an omnipotent being has one particular ability thats ets him apart from any other, namely that to know whether the axioms are true or more conversely create them so.
 

PyramidHead

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Ethics is meant to provide the answer to the question: "How should one act?" Since at any one time any individual or group of individuals can only take one course of equation there is either one answer to that question or none according to an axiomatically constructed set of rules that may well they all kinds of input into account, including the species of each individual involved but is nevertheless absolute.

The conclusion does not follow from your premise.

Since at any one time, I can only choose one flavor of ice cream at restaurant, there must be an absolute right answer to which flavor I should choose.
Since at any one time, I can only vote for one American Idol contestant to win, there must be an absolute right answer to who I should vote for.
Since at any one time, I can only set my thermostat to one temperature, there must be an absolute right answer to what temperature I set.

All of these inferences are absurd for the same reason yours is.

Now an omnipotent being has one particular ability thats ets him apart from any other, namely that to know whether the axioms are true or more conversely create them so.

Irrelevant, because whether an omnipotent being has access to a different set of morals, the experience of beings who lack that access will still contain suffering. Therefore, a god that is omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-benevolent cannot exist in a universe where suffering exists. A god that has a different set of morals than we do may exist, but not one that is benevolent by our moral standards. That's all the problem of suffering says. And rightly so: if god is real, then all signs indicate this entity has a VERY different idea of what is right and wrong than his creations.
 

Angra Mainyu

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TeryWeb said:
I think you are dabbling in a relativist confusion here, albeit to your defence one that spans at least a few light-years.
That depends on what you call “relativism”. But regardless, as the color example illustrates, the fact that other agents may have different value systems and/or rule systems (or a combination of those, however morality is best described) would not make moral statements non-objective.

Would you say that what I'm suggesting is color relativism?
If so, then color relativism is true, but there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether, say, the traffic light was red, those are matters of fact, not matters of opinion, etc.; then, the same seems to be true of systems of norms, valuation functions, etc.
If not, then neither I am suggesting moral relativism.

That aside, are you making an implicit claim about exobiology, encompassing the entire universe?

TeryWeb said:
Ethics is meant to provide the answer to the question: "How should one act?"
Moral “should” is not all there is to ethics, nor is it the only “should” in town.
For example, there are examples like “Alice is a morally good person”, or “What Bob did was morally praiseworthy”, which are not about what we or some other being morally should do.
Also, there are other “shoulds”, like a “should” of practical rationality.

TeryWeb said:
Since at any one time any individual or group of individuals can only take one course of equation there is either one answer to that question or none according to an axiomatically constructed set of rules that may well they all kinds of input into account, including the species of each individual involved but is nevertheless absolute.
Apart from other issues, there are different “oughts” - i.e., “ought” does not mean the same in all contexts.

1. Consider, for example, David Copp's climbers (password is “copp”): plausibly, they morally ought to X, but they rationally ought to ¬X, from the perspective of means-to-ends rationality. Those situations may or may not be possible for humans (probably they are), but they're possible, unless moral concepts are such that such agents would not be moral agents at all, in which case there is nothing that they morally ought to do, but they still rationally ought to ¬X.

2. Let's say that intelligent aliens (species#2) evolved on another planet, and they have a language, but they do not have a word that means “morally good”. They have a word that means something else, which they commonly use in evaluative contexts, and say things like “A is a #2-morally good agent”, but the mental properties that they're tracking when using their language is different from the ones we are tracking. Similarly, they have something akin more or less to moral obligations in the way they talk or feels to them normally, but associated with different entities (they would not make judgments about human behavior, for example), and different behavior (different from out concepts).
Suppose that, as they use the words, it's not a #2-morally bad situation if some of the members of their species hunt humans for sport, and they do not have a #2-moral obligation not to hunt humans for sport. And if A promised B, C and D to round up and deliver some humans for their bloody entertainment, A may have a #2-moral obligation to do so.

In any case, it would not be irrational on their part to hunt humans for sport – not generally, anyway, and not just because it's an instance of hunting humans for sport.

Some of their philosophers might make an argument and conclude that an omnipotent being, if it exists, is #2-morally perfect. But they would be mistaken, just as human philosophers would be mistaken if they concluded that omnipotence entails moral perfection.

What would you make about aliens such as those?
Would you say they have moral obligations, or that they're not moral agents at all, but #2-moral agents?

Now, other aliens might not even be social agents, and may not even have anything even vaguely resembling morality, even if they're very smart, make starships, etc. What would you make about aliens like that? Do you think they would have moral obligations?

Or are you implying that there are no aliens like that, and that all advanced aliens ended up having morality?

Regardless, what reason do you have to think that an omnipotent being would respond to any reasons that we may call moral justifications, rather than act upon reasons that may be appealing to these aliens?
My point that for all we know, an omnipotent, omniscient being who is perfectly rational (means-to-end rationality) may well have ends that are completely alien to us, rather than bringing about perfection, moral goodness, or anything like that in his creations. Given the vastness of mindspace so to speak - given how many possibilities; infinitely many, actually -, then if the probability of each depends on how complex the hypothesis is, there are zillions no more complex than the hypothesis that he's morally perfect, so the priors would be 1 in zillions; if it does not and they all have the same prior, then it's zero for each (since there are infinitely many of them), or if you go with hyperreals, maybe a non-zero infinitessimal.

In any case, it seems the prior is no more than one in zillions. If you have another method of assessing priors, please explain it (granted, you already provided one in the context of assessing the probability of an omnipotent being, but that turned out to be contradictory, as I explained earlier).

TeryWeb said:
Now an omnipotent being has one particular ability thats ets him apart from any other, namely that to know whether the axioms are true or more conversely create them so.
No, he doesn't create “axioms” - if by that you mean moral truths, or obligations. Else, what do you mean? Could you provide an example of an axiom?
Whether he knows moral truths is not specified by saying he is omnipotent, unless you define “omnipotent” in some way that entails so.

But I have a question: are you saying that he should do whatever he invents as “axioms”?
If so, then again, an omnipotent being may be inclined to act as members of species#2 more than like humans, or more like some other species, or none at all unless he counts as a species.
 
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TeryWeb

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Well, unless no matter what the evidence H may be, the probability P(OB/H)=0, then evidence might raise the probability (OB is the hypothesis that there is an omnipotent, omniscient being, and OOB the probability that there is an omnipotent, omniscient one).
The confusion here stems from the implicit assumption that at least some experiments would yield evidence in support of the thesis that the being under analysis is indeed omnipotent. This is clearly not the case as a limited observer is simply not capable of recording the full spectrum of omnipotence that would constitute the only possible kind of evidence that one is not in fact dealing with a lesser if also very powerful being. If one believes that Jesus indeed turned water into wine all that proves is that he is capable of that particular feat and possibly related ones if one can fathom that the process involved is extendable. It certainly does not prove that He is omnipotent.
However, an omnipotent, omniscient being could create omniscient beings who would know that she is omnipotent.
That is immaterial since we are interested in the level of certainty of tentative knowledge available to ordinary humans in a normal setting. It has already been alluded to that divine intervention by an omnipotent God could trivially grant certain knowledge of His nature even to beings otherwise incapable of it, as is predicted by most religious traditions for the afterlife.
I do not know what you mean by “atheist”, or why you think that that would be smart, but I will just point out that the prior that there is an agent who can, say, make and destroy galaxies is very low. The P(OB) is much lower.
An atheist in common parlance is someone who does not believe in God, and as far as public debate these days is concerned comes in an obnoxious variety self-assured of his or her actually rather mediocre argument. The smart atheist is the one who produces arguments deserving of at least a commending nod.
As for your second point, in asserting that the prior probability for being able to destroy a galaxy is very low you are falling prey to the well-known fallacy referred to as begging the question: this statement contains a slew of implicit assumptions about the limitations trust upon probable physical phenomena and unsurprisingly finds extraordinary feats to be hence very unlikely. It is however silly in the extreme to expect the very laws of physics to be binding in the discussion at hand let alone the aforementioned assumptions.
That is very similar to skeptical theism, in the sense that you're saying no experiment lessens or increases the likelihood (meaning the probability, in this context) that there is an omnipotent being.
And that would be the end of the story if logical deduction was the only rational tool available to us, but the possible remains to take a leap of faith in favour of either equally likely possibilities. Note that the assertion of reality of the the very world outside of our mental experience i.e. the rejection of solipsism is just one such leap of faith based on the very same odds.
If so, then P(OB)=P(OB/H), for any evidence H, which means that we are stuck with the prior. And the prior is astronomically low, as I said – giving it 1 in a million would be absurdly high -, so that defeats omnipotence-theism (and hence, omnimax theism) right away.
Again that's just begging the question (see above).
Well, actually, we can tell what an omnipotent being would not do, or would do, to some extent, if we're talking about an omnipotent being with certain value system, like a maximally good, or maximally evil, or maximally something else. That's how arguments from evil work. But assuming that they do not (which is pretty much what skeptical theism says, but regardless), then the argument I'm giving succeeds anyway.
What you are saying is that certain actions are incompatible with a given moral code (or other system of value). In other words that engaging in them would create a blemish impossible to delete. But how can anything be im-possible to the omni-potent? Clearly an omnipotent being cannot be pinned down by such reasoning due to the boundlessness of His options. That this is highly counter-intuitive is a short-coming of this our finite mind and the reason for the undeserved credit given to problem of evil type arguments.
But it's irrational to believe that suffering horribly is what a person needs for perfection or whatever – not to mention that it's not okay to cause terrible suffering on a person to make them happy later, but that aside.
see above - There is no justification for your statement bar a lack of imagination, quite a startling one at that, since even without invoking omnipotence we are all aware of people who insist they wouldn't wish away a certain period of suffering in their lives, no matter how painful, because they value how it made them grow as individuals.
Else, going by your consequentialist reasoning, there would seem to be no good reason to try to help children suffering horribly – for example -, since we would have no means of assessing whether that horrible suffering is more likely to help them or not.
No, as our natural inclination to lessen suffering and the actions resulting thereof would of course be part of any Divine Plan themselves. Providing God is benevolent he would judge our lives according to fair standards, which would include not penalising us for acting sincerely according to our consciences.
You are not assigning probability in a rational manner
Unless you re-define "rational" as meaning "necessarily excluding those things you are setting out to disprove" you will have a hard time justifying that accusation.
if the probability were ½, then it would be irrational to be an omnipotence-theist, since you ought not to assign more than ½.
As already pointed out that is only true if one limits oneself to logical deduction. However the existence or not of an omnipotent, benevolent God or not is the cornerstone of the distinction between objective ethics and nihilism. To limit oneself to agnosticism in the face of impending moral choices very much hinging on this distinction is simply impossible for inaction itself represents a course of action and as such it is irrational to try to convince oneself this is at all an option. Also as already pointed out it would never occur to anyone to label as irrational the unproven belief in the validity of rejecting solipsism although much less is at stake there.
5. Let's consider the event EV1: "The Earth is less than 15000 years old, and so are the galaxies, etc., and it was all created with the appearance that it has, with fossils, stars and all, by a being with sufficient power to make it look to us in any way she wants, and with reasons unknown to us to make it look that way", and the following event EV2: "The Earth is less than 15000 years old"
Now, there is no empirical evidence for or again EV1, so by your proposed assignment, P(EV1/H)=1/2, for any evidence H. But P(EV2/H) is no less than P(EV1/H). so P(EV2/H) ≥ ½.
The error here lies in assuming that adding new layers of complexity to a given set-up lessens its probability, an assumption which is again false. If one assumes an omnipotent being set-up to create the perfect illusion of an billion-years old universe the result maybe be as complex as required for such a being by definition does not labour under any restriction.

As an aside science involves many implicit leaps of faith such as the belief in the possibility of induction and that the universe follows rules which may be discovered. If there is an omnipotent God then one is to hope He would be kind and make the real answer readily available to science rather than engage in the aforementioned illusionism. Be that as it may it's actually irrelevant: whether physics studies the real time evolution of the universe or that which may be deduced form data is neither here nor there for practical purposes and probably even more philosophical ones. Einstein famously answered when asked what would happen if experiments proved his formulas wrong: "I would be sorry for the Dear Lord, because my equations are right."
If that conclusion is not enough to persuade you that your proposed method of assigning probabilities (i. e., assigning ½ whenever no experiment can support the hypothesis or its negation) is not rational, one can actually show that it's contradictory, as follows:

EV3: "There are more than 10000000000000000 people, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities".
EV4: "There are between 0 and 100000 people but no more, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities".
EV5: "There are between 100001 and 10000000000000000 people but no more or fewer, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities."

Going by the ½ assignment, and considering the hypotheses are pairwise disjoint, we get a contradiction, namely that the probability of the union of those 3 events is greater than 1.
Except in this case there are three symmetric propositions not two hence p=1/3 for each one and the probabilities sum to 1 as required.

QED
 

Angra Mainyu

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TeryWeb said:
The confusion here stems from the implicit assumption that at least some experiments would yield evidence in support of the thesis that the being under analysis is indeed omnipotent. This is clearly not the case as a limited observer is simply not capable of recording the full spectrum of omnipotence that would constitute the only possible kind of evidence that one is not in fact dealing with a lesser if also very powerful being. If one believes that Jesus indeed turned water into wine all that proves is that he is capable of that particular feat and possibly related ones if one can fathom that the process involved is extendable. It certainly does not prove that He is omnipotent.
I don't know why you seem limit evidence to experiments. I guess it depends on how you construe those words. But let's say they're construed broadly enough, for the sake of the argument.
Even then, there is no such confusion. I didn't claim that the probability was not stuck at 0.
But still, I didn't explain why it would have to be stuck at 0, not at some other value (and I was assuming no hyperreals, else I would have added a non-zero infinitesimal); the idea is the infinite number of claims involved, while not independent, appear to be no less complex than any other claim that one can come up with.

There is no need to argue for that in that context, though. If “0” is replaced by “0 or some x << 1”, that works as well. So, I'm willing to limit the claim to:

Well, unless no matter what the evidence H may be, the probability P(OB/H)=x<<1, then evidence might raise the probability (OB is the hypothesis that there is an omnipotent, omniscient being, and OOB the probability that there is an omnipotent, omniscient one).

TeryWeb said:
That is immaterial since we are interested in the level of certainty of tentative knowledge available to ordinary humans in a normal setting.
Okay, ordinary humans in a normal setting. Then, it's still P(OB/H)=x<<1 (one may argue 0, but no need to).

TeryWeb said:
It has already been alluded to that divine intervention by an omnipotent God could trivially grant certain knowledge of His nature even to beings otherwise incapable of it, as is predicted by most religious traditions for the afterlife.
Okay, so an afterlife does not count as “normal”. I can go with that.

TeryWeb said:
An atheist in common parlance is someone who does not believe in God, and as far as public debate these days is concerned comes in an obnoxious variety self-assured of his or her actually rather mediocre argument.
What do you mean by “God”?
The point is that the words “atheist” and “God” are used in very different ways by different people in common parlance, usually without realizing that, and talking past each other. For example, in this context, we're talking about an omnimax being. But I've seen people tell me things along the lines that atheism is irrational because the atheist has no good reason to believe that no gods exist, regardless of whether she has good reason to believe that there is no omnimax being.

If by “God” you mean an omnimax being, then I'm an atheist. But that does not encompass other definitions.
TeryWeb said:
As for your second point, in asserting that the prior probability for being able to destroy a galaxy is very low you are falling prey to the well-known fallacy referred to as begging the question: this statement contains a slew of implicit assumptions about the limitations trust upon probable physical phenomena and unsurprisingly finds extraordinary feats to be hence very unlikely. It is however silly in the extreme to expect the very laws of physics to be binding in the discussion at hand let alone the aforementioned assumptions.
No, this is not begging the question. It's making an assessment about prior probabilities.
After considering the evidence, I suppose you could argue that maybe there is some creator of a simulation. But before looking at anything, if someone just comes up with the claim that there is an entity capable of that, it would seem very low – at least, as long as probability can be properly assessed in the first place, at least as an approximation (like “probable”, or “improbable”. But you're apparently assuming it can – you claim it's one for all those things but the omnipotent one -, so I may assume so in this context.

As for the bindingness of the laws of physics, what do you mean by “laws of physics”? If they're laws (rather than local approximations), how could they have exceptions?
Regardless, you're mistaken about what I'm doing.

TeryWeb said:
And that would be the end of the story if logical deduction was the only rational tool available to us, but the possible remains to take a leap of faith in favour of either equally likely possibilities.
Actually, that's not psychologically possible for me – not deliberately. I'm not sure how it would be for you, but plenty of people claim they choose what to believe.

In any case, probabilities are epistemic probabilities in this context, not frequencies or some other stuff.

Granting that the choice you suggest is psychologically doable, it would be irrational to make it. If the proper probabilistic assignment is p, choosing to give it q > p is an instance of epistemic irrationality – because, well, the proper probabilistic assignment is p.

TeryWeb said:
Note that the assertion of reality of the the very world outside of our mental experience i.e. the rejection of solipsism is just one such leap of faith based on the very same odds.
No, that's not a leap of faith.
In the sense in which you used “faith” before, faith entailed a jump beyond the proper probabilistic assignment. Now, the probability that solipsism is true is ridiculously low, on a proper assignment.
If it were epistemically proper to give solipsism ½ (or whatever you're suggesting it is), then would be it. We should not assign it any less.
TeryWeb said:
Again that's just begging the question (see above).
Again, that's not (see above).


TeryWeb said:
Angra Mainyu said:
Well, actually, we can tell what an omnipotent being would not do, or would do, to some extent, if we're talking about an omnipotent being with certain value system, like a maximally good, or maximally evil, or maximally something else. That's how arguments from evil work. But assuming that they do not (which is pretty much what skeptical theism says, but regardless), then the argument I'm giving succeeds anyway.
What you are saying is that certain actions are incompatible with a given moral code (or other system of value). In other words that engaging in them would create a blemish impossible to delete. But how can anything be im-possible to the omni-potent? Clearly an omnipotent being cannot be pinned down by such reasoning due to the boundlessness of His options. That this is highly counter-intuitive is a short-coming of this our finite mind and the reason for the undeserved credit given to problem of evil type arguments.
10. No, I'm saying what I said.
11. In any case, it's impossible for an omnipotent being to be morally perfect and also torture human beings purely for pleasure. So, as you can see, some things are impossible even for an omnipotent being.
Of course, I'm assuming for the sake of the argument that you have a coherent concept of omnipotence. That may well not be the case, but having an incoherent concept wouldn't help your case of course.
12. As I explained, even if we were to grant this claim for the sake of the argument, my other argument would work: the omnipotent being might be maximally evil as well, or neither maximally good nor maximally evil, but maximally interested in some other stuff he, she or it values.


TeryWeb said:
see above - There is no justification for your statement bar a lack of imagination, quite a startling one at that, since even without invoking omnipotence we are all aware of people who insist they wouldn't wish away a certain period of suffering in their lives, no matter how painful, because they value how it made them grow as individuals.
My statement is justified. Yours is not. Else, for that matter, we would have no good reason for, say, preventing serial rapists from raping people for fun. After all, that might help them in the future, right? And maybe the serial rapist is actually a morally good being, following orders from an omnimax being, in order to bring about some greater good beyond our ken in the future.

But clearly, that's not the case. The proper probabilistic assignment to the event that the serial rapist who seems to rape people for fun is actually a good agent following commands from an omnimax being to bring in order to bring about some greater good beyond our ken in the future, is that it's ridiculously improbable. So much so, that it's beyond a reasonable doubt that that's not the case.

With your argumentation, it would not be beyond a reasonable doubt: we would just lack imagination.

Regardless, as I have been explaining, granting for the sake of the argument that you're correct about the evidence – which is not true -, then one should conclude that an omnimax being does not exist, on account of the ridiculously low prior – which we would be stuck with.

TeryWeb said:
No, as our natural inclination to lessen suffering and the actions resulting thereof would of course be part of any Divine Plan themselves.
Now you're being inconsistent, since: you criticize me because I make an assessment about what an omnimax being would do or wouldn't do based on my moral sense – a very reasonable thing to do -. while you're trying implicitly to do just that by assessing that “No, as our natural inclination to lessen suffering and the actions resulting thereof would of course be part of any Divine Plan themselves. Providing God is benevolent he would judge our lives according to fair standards, which would include not penalising us for acting sincerely according to our consciences.”

So:

13: You're mistaken. An omnimax being would not create anything remotely like our universe. I make that conclusion sincerely following my conscience, my sense of right and wrong.
14. You're being inconsistent. You're attempting (though mistakenly) to assess the morality of his behavior. With your criterion, maybe a greater good is achievable by means of letting the rapist go on, or letting people die horribly because of a virus, etc.
15. Your assessment about whether God would punish us for behaving in that way misses the point. My point was not about whether God would punish us or not. My point was there would seem to be no good reason to try to help children suffering horribly – for example -, since we would have no means of assessing whether that horrible suffering is more likely to help them or not. Maybe it would help them, and then – by the reasoning you're defending – our conscience under that assumption no longer tells us to help.


TeryWeb said:
Unless you re-define "rational" as meaning "necessarily excluding those things you are setting out to disprove" you will have a hard time justifying that accusation.
I already showed it's true, beyond any reasonable doubt. Granted, you have not realized that, and very probably never will, very probably because of your commitment to your metaphysical beliefs, perhaps also because of the contentious nature of on-line debates (i. e., you instinctively defend your position), and perhaps for some other reason as well. But there is nothing I can do about it.

TeryWeb said:
As already pointed out that is only true if one limits oneself to logical deduction.
16. No, you already claimed that the probability was ½. You were not talking about “logical deduction”. In fact, logical deduction does not allow you to assign ½, or anything else for that matter. You need priors, and deduction only does not give you priors.

17. With your new criterion, if one “limits oneself to logical deduction”, one assigns probability in a contradictory manner – since you proposed a contradictory method. That's absurd.

18. In any event, you incurred further contradictions in the post I'm now replying to (see below).

TeryWeb said:
However the existence or not of an omnipotent, benevolent God or not is the cornerstone of the distinction between objective ethics and nihilism.
That's a claim you repeat, without providing any good reason to think so. It's common for theists to do that.

I challenge you to back up your claim, either in this thread, or in the thread about objective morality, or better yet – given the relevance of the subject to many debates in philosophy of religion -, by starting a new thread entitled “the existence or not of an omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being is the cornerstone of the distinction between objective ethics and nihilism”, or a similar formulation (if you leave aside “omniscient”, you will be challenged on that, diverting the debate; if you say “omnibenevolvent” instead of “morally perfect”, the same will probably happen, so I suggest you formulate in a way that avoids that if you're wiling to defend your claim without going on tangents, but your choice of course)
TeryWeb said:
To limit oneself to agnosticism in the face of impending moral choices very much hinging on this distinction is simply impossible for inaction itself represents a course of action and as such it is irrational to try to convince oneself this is at all an option.
I'm not trying to convince myself of anything. You're not being consistent, or rational, as I have been explaining.
TeryWeb said:
Also as already pointed out it would never occur to anyone to label as irrational the unproven belief in the validity of rejecting solipsism although much less is at stake there.
Of course, the probability of solipsism is no greater than the probability that I don't know whether you were alive yesterday, which is ridiculously low.

TeryWeb said:
me said:
5. Let's consider the event EV1: "The Earth is less than 15000 years old, and so are the galaxies, etc., and it was all created with the appearance that it has, with fossils, stars and all, by a being with sufficient power to make it look to us in any way she wants, and with reasons unknown to us to make it look that way", and the following event EV2: "The Earth is less than 15000 years old"
Now, there is no empirical evidence for or again EV1, so by your proposed assignment, P(EV1/H)=1/2, for any evidence H. But P(EV2/H) is no less than P(EV1/H). so P(EV2/H) ≥ ½.
The error here lies in assuming that adding new layers of complexity to a given set-up lessens its probability, an assumption which is again false. If one assumes an omnipotent being set-up to create the perfect illusion of an billion-years old universe the result maybe be as complex as required for such a being by definition does not labour under any restriction.
There is no error on my part. I was pointing out some of the consequences of your method of assigning probabilities.

TeryWeb said:
me said:
If that conclusion is not enough to persuade you that your proposed method of assigning probabilities (i. e., assigning ½ whenever no experiment can support the hypothesis or its negation) is not rational, one can actually show that it's contradictory, as follows:

EV3: "There are more than 10000000000000000 people, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities".
EV4: "There are between 0 and 100000 people but no more, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities".
EV5: "There are between 100001 and 10000000000000000 people but no more or fewer, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities."

Going by the ½ assignment, and considering the hypotheses are pairwise disjoint, we get a contradiction, namely that the probability of the union of those 3 events is greater than 1.
Except in this case there are three symmetric propositions not two hence p=1/3 for each one and the probabilities sum to 1 as required.
You continue to incur contradiction.
Let us consider another event:

EV3: "There are more than 10000000000000000 people, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities".
EV6: It is not the case that there are more than 10000000000000000 people, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities"

Now, there are two “symmetric propositions”, so the probability of each is ½ by your proposed method of assigning probability.
But as it turns out, the probability of each EV3 is 1/3 by your proposed method of assigning probability. Hence, 1/2=1/3. Contradiction.

Now, you can say that EV3 and EV6 are not entirely symmetrical, that the symmetry is only between EV3, EV4, and EV5, but that would be patently improper. Why would 3-way exhaustive options be “entirely symmetrical” but 2-way exhaustive options would not be?

Regardless, even going by the “only 3-way” assumption of symmetry – already absurd -, one can derive a contradiction from your way of assigning probability. I will prove that below; so, let us recap:

TeryWeb said:
me said:
If that conclusion is not enough to persuade you that your proposed method of assigning probabilities (i. e., assigning ½ whenever no experiment can support the hypothesis or its negation) is not rational, one can actually show that it's contradictory, as follows:

EV3: "There are more than 10000000000000000 people, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities".
EV4: "There are between 0 and 100000 people but no more, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities".
EV5: "There are between 100001 and 10000000000000000 people but no more or fewer, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities."

Going by the ½ assignment, and considering the hypotheses are pairwise disjoint, we get a contradiction, namely that the probability of the union of those 3 events is greater than 1.
Except in this case there are three symmetric propositions not two hence p=1/3 for each one and the probabilities sum to 1 as required.
Okay, so let's consider an alternative:

EV7: "There are more than 10000000000000000 people, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities".
EV8: "There are between 0 and 200000 people but no more, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities".
EV9: "There are between 200001 and 10000000000000000 people but no more or fewer, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities.​
Now, by symmetry, and by your own reasoning, p=1/3 for each. In particular, P(EV8)=1/3.

Let's consider now:

EV10: “There are between 100001 and 200000 people but not more, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities”.

Now, given that P(EV10)+P(EV4)=P(EV8) (the events are disjoint), it follows that P(EV10)=0.

Now, let us consider:

EV10: “There are between 100001 and 200000 people but not more, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities”.
EV4: “There are between 0 and 100000 people but no more, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities".
EV11: "There are more than 200000 people, in all realms beyond our observational capabilities".

By your assignment, then by symmetry, P(EV10)=1/3. But as I proved above, your assignment implies that P(EV10)=0, so 1/3=0. Contradiction.
 

Cheerful Charlie

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Reading through older topics I noticed that many here, predominantly the atheists but also some of the more religious-minded individuals, entertain a most naive picture of what an omnipotent God actually would be like.


......
So: The preceding is illuminating when considering the so-called Problem of Evil as it becomes rather obvious that the notion that an omnipotent benevolent God could never allow evil and suffering might well hinge on a lack of imagination in failing to appreciate that both might be rather different beasts in the context of a Divine Plan spanning both space and time in its entirety...

Again. Super-omnipotence. If God creates the laws and rules, the logic of the Universe, God can trivially eliminate all moral evil. We don't live in such a Universe. Either your God is not existent, not as defined, good with all sub-goodnesses or is not truly omnipotent.
We then are forced to conclude naturalism is the true state of existence and limits any possible hypothetical God. And we don't need to posit a God to explain existence.

Plus God has other problems making God's existence logically unlikely. Omnigenesis for example.

God then is a failed hypothesis, logically incoherent. There is a big issue with the definition of omnipotence. Then naturalism becomes logically, the default logical nature of reality. Again, you are playing on an old theme, divine morality is mysterious and abstract. But sub-goodnesses, Gods compassion, mercy, justness et al means you cannot play that card without counter argument. The problem of evil remains an issue. If God plans a world where John is evil and damned and Jane is good and save, arbitrarily, God is not just, compassionate nor fair. See Romans 8 and 9, God the great potter. The elect and non-elect. All of this cannot be whiffled away with high sounding rhetoric.
 

Cheerful Charlie

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Basically, all of this depends on just what you mean by omnipotent. Is omnipotence open ended, (Descartes, William of Okham, Duns Scotus) or not (Francisco Suarez)? Either concept one chooses creates problems for the concept of God.
 

Angra Mainyu

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Clarification and correction.

TeryWeb,

Of course, if the prior P(OB) is zero, then P(OB/H) = 0 for any H, unless perhaps P(H) = 0 too, but there seems to be no way of establishing that that H happened in the first place if P(H) = 0, so if one starts with zero, one is stuck with zero. That is fine with me, but after further recalling, it seems to me that's not what I had in mind when I said that unless you're stuck with zero, some H may raise the probability.

Rather, it seems to me I was after all probably assessing that, if one is to properly give it a non-zero prior to that event for whatever reason, then some events with non-zero probability can raise it – clearly, since it has non-zero probability itself -, and given its omnipotence and in particular its power to make entities who know it's omnipotent, it seemed plausible that if the event is already getting something more than zero, it would be able to bring up some evidence. But you insist on getting stuck with the prior, so that's fine with me too, let's say that one is stuck with the prior on the issue of whether there is an omnipotent being – not on omnimax being, though, unless the prior is zero.

I realize your persistence in his claims and arguments – especially your metaethical claims, as well as generally your insistence in your claims that my arguments are confused - got to me, and as a result I made a couple of mistakes, which I've now corrected. My bad.

However, the fact remains that your assignment of probabilities is contradictory, your metaethical claims unsupported, your ways of assessing how an omnimax being would behave, inconsistent and quite offensive – accusing others of confusion because we assess how an omnimax being would behave, when you're trying to do the same, only improperly and without realizing you're doing it - , and generally your arguments have been blown to smithereens. Would you please read the exchange carefully, realize that I'm correct, and recognize it or at least not persist? It takes time to reply and debunk essentially the same mistakes a zillion times.
 

Cheerful Charlie

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A few thoughts on this thread. This really isn't about omnipotence, but its about the nature of God and Perfect God theology. If God is of necessity is a perfect being, God is then necessarily perfectly good, that is impeccable. The real problem is how to reconcile God's perfection and moral perfect with the existence of evil, moral and natural evil. It naturally follows if God is perfectly good, and creates all and is omnipotent, there should be far less evil than we observe. Anselm of Bec wrote that some thing are good, some more good and thus something must be supremely good, that is God. This idea later became one of Aquinas' 5 ways, proof of God.

How then do we reconcile all of this? Luther and Calvin and others gave up trying, because it is impossible. They simply stated God is incomprehensible. Logic and reason are abandoned. The Arminian/Catholic way is to pretend its a matter of free will of mortals, and to misread the Bible, Calvin and Luther and others have called them on that.

Omnigenesis scuttles that also. We can have no free will if God creates all and is omniscient. Luther in his Bondage of the Will demonstrates the Bible leaves no possible free will, Calvin agrees.

Not much of this is new. Except (as far as I know) maybe omnigenesis as I have formulated it. But perfect being theology isn't new, nor are the problems that claim raises. Its an old issue theologians have wrestled with to find an answer for centuries.

The great potter who makes some elect and some reprobate at random does not seem to me to be a perfect being and perfectly good, morally impeccable. YMMV. Stay focused.
 

rizdek

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I agree with you.

I wouldn't have called out atheists HERE at this website, because of all groups, most seem to have shed NOT just their belief that a god exists but even beliefs of what a god might even be. That, I think, is a useful outcome of atheism. I not only don't think there is a god, but I can't even imagine what a god might be like except, it seems, it must somehow be able to create things and has some sort of personality. Even that is uncertain. But if it doesn't have personhood, make decisions and create anything, why call it a god? Certainly there is nothing contradictory in a god who doesn't care about humans. Why should it? IMHO, it is sheer hubris for atheist and theist alike to imagine the only kind of god would be one interested in the goings on of humans.

But that aside, it seems to me that it is the theist, particularly the Christian theist, who so often demonstrates to me that they have absolutely NO concept of what true omnipotence might be. The problem of evil comes to mind. There are theodicies coming out the ying yang. But ALL of them depend on a God having to concede one thing to get another thing. Sorry, but that simply does not have to happen. If it does, we're just talking about a person here who doesn't as you say, control everything. If an omnipotent god wants freewill without suffering, he can have freewill without suffering. It is NOT a logical contradiction, it is a concession that this world with this exact amount of evil was necessary and exactly what an omnipotent god wanted. Referencing the trolley dilemma, there IS a person at the controls who is operating the train and your forced decision of whether to allow the deaths of 5 as opposed to the death of 1 is an arbitrary test of YOUR ability make decisions that an omnipotent god already knows you're going to make.

I can't demonstrate or prove that a world created differently would be better, but I contend that a god who is omnipotent (and omniscient to boot) would be able to do it if it wanted to.


"And we don't need to posit a God to explain existence. "

Exactly, put simply, positing a god solves nothing and in fact increases exponentially the difficulty in explaining anything. Even if there is a god, its existence explains nothing. It still doesn't tell us HOW matter/energy was created. Like the old example, if someone asks the question "how do you tie shoe laces." The answer, "my mother ties my shoe laces" is not useful or astute. It still doesn't tell us HOW to tie shoe laces.

Neither does positing the existence of a god answer any question of WHY. It does not tell use why things are the way they are. Even if a god decided to do it this way, we don't know why he decided to do it this way. Saying "things are this way because a god wanted them this way" does not answer why in any useful sense. More importantly it still doesn't answer the big question of WHY there is something rather than nothing. By positing a god one has created something else for which the question "why" can be asked. Not only do we not know why there is a physical universe instead of another kind of universes. But now we also don't know WHY there is a god instead of no god.
 
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