August 19, 2010

GameFAQs: Proof for God Walkthroug

Okay so I stumbled upon this site while trying to look at at pharyngulated poll and found a 'test' that seems to double as a proof for God.

It's not really structured as a formal proof, it's structured more as an adventure story in which God exists only if you press all the buttons to show you believe what the author believes, which is a bit dishonest so (as you'll see) I had to lie just to see what the Logical structure of the argument looked like.

And now I'm going to share it with you. Woohoo!

Prologue: Absolute Truth

The proof/test starts out by asking what you believe. This is a structure that will continue throughout the argument but only this part sees you in an infinite loop unless you accept their opening premise. Your options are:

  1. Absolute truth exists
  2. Absolute truth does not exist
  3. I don't know if absolute truth exists
  4. I don't care if absolute truth exists
Clicking on (4) sends you away from the website completely, assuming if you don't care about absolute truth then you don't care to hear about proof for God. This is quite a big assumption, but as their entire argument rests on such concepts I guess the rest of the site with be meaningless for you anyway.

Clicking on (2) or (3) is the first infuriating moment in this whole shambolic layout formal argument. It sends you to a subset of questions thus:

Absolute Truth Does Not Exist:

  1. Absolutely True
  2. False
This forces you to accept absolute truths (or else it tells you to 'think about it' and sends you back to the beginning. Which is kind of fine in a way if you're talking about Logical absolutes (in which something is what it is and is not what it is not, etc). They are essentialy forcing you to accept that absolute truths do exist, but we'll see later they will change the scope as if you accepted that all truth is absolute.
So anyway, you're forced to accept absolute truth exists or you cannot continue.

Part 1 - Laws of Logic

We're now told we're entering the proper formal part of the argument, starting with Logical laws. it gives a very brief introduction to what Logic actually is before asking you if the 'laws of Logic' exist.

  1. The Laws of Logic Exist
  2. The Laws of Logic Don't Exist
Pay attention, because it's going to play fast and loose with the word 'law' for the rest of the argument. i'm a bit of a pedant so I wasn't quite happy with the term 'laws of Logic' so I chose (2) to see what would happen.

If you say you don't think these 'laws' exist it - in a roundabout way - defines the 'laws of Logic' as the tools we use to make decisions. I would argue we aren't limited to Logical reason to make all of our decision or people wouldn't make reckless or stupid decisions every single day. However, I will be flexible and say that yes, there 'exists' a system of reasoning called Logical by which we can make decisions. Let's see where this takes us.

Part 2 - Laws of Mathematics

Being a mathematician myself, I was prepared to be angered by this part but I had no problem with what they said. They basically described the system of mathematics and ask:

  1. The Laws of Mathematics Exist
  2. The Laws of Mathematics Don't Exist
I'll admit at this point, it's a bit worrying where they might go with the term 'exist'. Mathematics, as with logic exist in a transendental way that doesn't actually interact with the world. I would tend to use existence in a way that describes something that can interact with the world, but for now I'll see where the journey takes me.

Part 3 - Laws of Science

Right, now they are definitely starting to irk me. The laws of science are very different from the internal formal structure of a logical or mathematical law. The laws of science are descriptive models - they are often simplifications (to a degree) of reality used to make predictions about matter/energy/whatever. They can be changed and updated and (if inaccurate or limited) can be violated.

We're asked if they exist (as is becoming standard) and of course you can only continue if you accept that they do. This leads me to another bugbear: if you don't accept any of the premises, the wholething grinds to a halt and blames you, the reader, for not accepting them. This isn't how it works, especially if you can't back up your premises. If I don't accept your premise, you haven't done a good enough job at presenting it to me.

However, once again, I can be lenient and accept that yes there is a system of 'rules' in the universe that govern how its components behave and interacts and we can call them laws even if we don't know what they are, fully. I think that's probably what they meant even if they didn't do a good job of explaining it.

Part 4 - Absolute Moral Laws

This part reminds me of an old playground trick between 8-year-olds that goes thus:

Child 1: Are you a boy?
Child 2: Yes
Child 1: Are you 8?
Child 2: Yes
Child 1: Are you from England?
Child 2: Yes
Child 1: Are you a gay?
Child 2: Yes
Child 1: Ha ha!
Child 2: No, wait! Argh - fooled me again, fellow 8-year-old!

So here we go then with the sneak-attack from behind. Using Logic, science and maths as a springboard we now get to 'laws of morality'. never mind that we've gone from Intrinsic Laws to Descriptive Laws; they now want to throw Prescriptive Laws at us as if all of them are equivalent.

They define 'moral laws' as the rules that describe how humans "ought to behave". They don't really describe 'abosolute moral laws' but give examples, like rape and child molestation. To be clear: an abolute moral law is a prescription of a behaviour that is always right or wrong. In effect, with the example, they are saying "rape is always wrong".

Having said that, I don't subscribe to the idea of absolute morality so I chose "Absolute Moral Laws Do Not Exist". This leads me to a difficult follow-up page in which they basically ask "Come on! Come onnnnn!"

The argument is thus: using the example that molesting children for fun is always wrong, they are the following:

  1. Molesting children for fun is absolutely morally wrong
  2. Molesting children for fun is not absolutely morally wrong
This does make you stop. It's meant to. Here is the thing though (and you might have to bear with me as I might not be able to phrase it eloquently enough to not make me look like a massive paedophile sympathiser): we have created a society in which it is wrong to molest children. I live in this society and I would agree that I cannot think of a single case in which it is okay for an adult to molest children, for fun or otherwise. However, we did not necessarily have to construct such a society. Our behaviours, interpersonal interactions, development from youth to adult, etc. are all part of a long period of social evolution which has culminated in it being wrong to molest children.

Now, I'm not saying we arbitrarily picked out molesting children as bad. I'm saying it's a product of our nature as humans, in which we've also decide that bashing people over the head is wrong. Why is it wrong? Because we don't like being bashed over the head. Why is molesting children wrong? It's an abuse upon their bodies at an age in which they are not mentally mature enough to cope with (there are lots of reasons for why it's wrong, in reality. Take yout pick).

In theory though, we could have developed into a society when molestation is a completely normal, non-distressing experience and, say, touching someone's ear is an absolute atrocity (for whatever reason). You see examples in animals (in my haste, I have not provided examples) that different animals have woldly different reactions to the same stimuli.

To summarise the above bit on molestation, it is not an "absolutely" immoral act because it is not demonstrably homogenous across the universe. It is not necessarily immoral. I know I'm treading a fine line here, but hopefully you know what I mean.

Therefore this premise is flawed and probably the rest of the argument is therefore unsound. But I have to pretend absolute morality exists to continue.

Part 5 - Laws of Nature A

For some reason, we're next asked if the laws of science/maths/logic/morality are material or immaterial. Immaterial. Agreed?

Part 6 - Laws of Nature B & C

We're next asked if we agree that all of the laws are universal and unchanging. That is, are they consistent across all space and time. The example is "is 2 2=4 true across all of the universe, or just because you say it does?"

I'm sorry but again I'm going to have to disgree with the answer they want me to give (that they are universal). Sure, the equation is univeral and logic is universal and we can ignore morality because I've already aired my beef with that (is that a phrase?). But the laws of science? I don't think i can say with much certainty that the laws of science are true across all time and all space. We have yet to unify quantum theory with general relativity. There are strong indications that the laws of physics were completely different before the Planck time (the time of the Big Bang expansion). There are laws of science we just don't know; if we don't know enough about science how can we declare them to be universal? This is clearly a flawed premise.

But I'm going to have to accept it anyway. This might all work out in the end. Here comes God!

The Pre-Proof

Right so now we've got all our premises down. We know the conclusion is "God Exists" so this part is the meat of the argument; the part that's going to say "having accepted all that (dodgy) stuff about those laws we spoke of, God exists because..."

Unfortunately we get a massive bold assertion and a quote from the Bible. This is worse than the Transcendental Argument for God (TAG).

Bold Assertion: "Universal, immaterial, unchanging laws cannot be accounted for if the universe was random or only material in nature."

Um, why? It doesn't say. Instead it says,
"there are 2 types of people in this world, those who profess the truth of God's existence and those who suppress the truth of God's existence."
which is a massive false dichotomy. I was impressive so far that they managed not to do this when guiding you though the premises but not only have they falsely dichotomised the entire human population, they've begged the question at the same time. And then:
"The options of 'seeking' God, or not believing in God are unavailable."
Wait, what? Yes they are - I so totally have taken one of these options.

We then get the old chestnut from Romans in which it states that God's existence and nature being written in the heart of every man (such that there is no excuse for denying Him). And then it makes another massive leap that you can't understand the universe if God doesn't exist.

Conclusion Arrrgghhhh! Why does it spend so much time spoonfeeding you through the premises and then not bother connecting them to the conclusion? Even if I had accepted all the premises we still wouldn't have got through this. SO FRUSTRATING.