20 August 2009

God Doesn't Have a Purpose!

Re. the possibility that an omnipotent God could have a purpose, perhaps the following would be of some interest. The quotations are from an exchange I had, first in response to “jd” and then to “hackenslash”, at the Richard Dawkins Forum.

jd: It would still be perfectly within the abilities of an omnipotent creator to cover up his tracks.

zoro: No it wouldn't, would it? To do so, he'd need to have a purpose, but an omnipotent anything couldn't have a purpose, since that would mean he had an unfulfilled desire, i.e., that he wasn't omnipotent.

hackenslash: Zoro: This is gold. Excellent argument, excellently explained.

zoro: Well, thank you, but of course it's not mine; it's a very old argument; I don't know who deserves credit for it. Sorry.

hackenslash: Who cares? It's a good argument. What's the point of omnipotence if everything is the way you want it, and if it isn't, how can you be omnipotent? Solid stuff.

zoro: Come to think of it, it probably can be traced back to Aristotle. It's why he concluded that God would necessarily spend eternity just contemplating his navel – or in his words [Metaphysics (viz., "Beyond Physics" = "Beyond Nature" = "Supernatural"), Part 9]:

"The nature of the divine thought involves certain problems; for while thought is held to be the most divine of things observed by us, the question how it must be situated in order to have that character involves difficulties. For if it [God] thinks of nothing, what is there here of dignity? It is just like one who sleeps. And if it [God] thinks, but this depends on something else, then (since that which is its substance is not the act of thinking, but a potency) it cannot be the best substance; for it is through thinking that its value belongs to it. Further, whether its substance is the faculty of thought or the act of thinking, what does it [God] think of? Either of itself or of something else; and if of something else, either of the same thing always or of something different. Does it matter, then, or not, whether it [God] thinks of the good or of any chance thing? Are there not some things about which it is incredible that it [God] should think? Evidently, then, it [God] thinks of that which is most divine and precious, and it [God] does not change; for change would be change for the worse, and this would be already a movement. First, then, if 'thought' is not the act of thinking but a potency, it would be reasonable to suppose that the continuity of its thinking is wearisome to it. Secondly, there would evidently be something else more precious than thought, viz. that which is thought of. For both thinking and the act of thought will belong even to one who thinks of the worst thing in the world, so that if this ought to be avoided (and it ought, for there are even some things which it is better not to see than to see), the act of thinking cannot be the best of things. Therefore it must be of itself that the divine thought thinks (since it is the most excellent of things), and its thinking is a thinking on thinking."

For obvious reasons, Jewish, Christian Muslim, Mormon… clerics didn't and don't like Aristotle's god: they accepted his idea that God was "the prime mover" (I guess that none of them had ever experienced a soap bubble bursting!), but they couldn't accept his idea that God would necessarily spend eternity contemplating his own navel. It's hard to run a con game with that tag line! And so now, as one of a terrible number of atrocious examples, we have the con artist Rick Warren fleecing people out of more than $100 million (and Obama had him deliver his woo at the Inauguration!), peddling the proposition: The omnipotent God has a purpose for your life. Duh. Would that Muslim maniacs would give it a thought.