In this second part of my response to Geoffrey Berg’s “God Paradox’ the second premise of Berg’s argument is examined. As before, all material in italics is Berg’s, my response will be in regular font.
The Second Premise: All that remains is to establish reasons for the inevitable universality of some uncertainty, at least three of which are available but any one of which would be sufficient in itself to prove the point.
a) The past cannot predict with certainty the future: The future cannot be known with certainty. Even if something has occurred 5 or 805 or countless times there is no guarantee it will hold true the next time. Even if an entity has been correct in all its previous predictions that does not ensure the correctness of all or even any of its future predictions. The universe or part of it may change unaccountably. For instance it may suddenly change from being a predominantly rational place into being a predominantly irrational place.
Objection 8: Mr. Berg is implying that human modes of knowing reflect divine modes of knowing. It is true that we as humans cannot know about the future using inductive methods but to extend that claim to God seems suspect, a projection of human qualities onto a non-human entity. Equating human reason, and the limits thereof, with divine reason is at best unfounded, at worst a category mistake. Unless Berg can argue why we should accept this parity of reason between two wholly dissimilar entities we have no reason to accept this as being true of God.
Objection 9: If the argument presented by Berg were sound and we accepted the premises, the examples, and their logical implications as true, we would have to remain uncertain about whether or not the conclusion obtained. We would still reasonably be able to deny a conclusion that shows the non-existence of God by appealling to the same arguments Berg has given us. This state of affairs is red-flag for any philosophical argument.
For instance, Berg contends that the universe could go from being “a predominantly rational place into being a predominantly irrational place.” If we are uncertain about whether or not this is the case (based on Berg’s idea of uncertainty summed up in the maxim “everything must be fundamentally uncertain about its own relationship to its environment“), then it follows that the conclusion of any deductive logical proof (for logic to work we must presuppose that rationality prevails, of which we cannot be certain) must also be uncertain.
A further complication for Berg is that if the universe did change from being rational to irrational, and if logical impossibilities are only impossibile in a world that remains rational (for it makes no sense to say that the rules of reason apply in a universe that is irrational), and if God is a logical impossibility as Berg contends, then God’s existence is still possible in such a universe. To show that God was truly an impossible being, Berg would have to show that the universe (in its entirety, not just the part of the universe we inhabit) was still a place that could be understood. However, to do that one would have to use experience and the inductive method to show that reason still prevails, yet as Berg argues, inductive reasoning can never predict the future state of affairs with any certainty.
Even if he could show the universe is rational at this point in time it does not mean that it will be rational at any point in the future, no matter how small the increment of time. Ironically, this leads Berg into a paradoxical situation; to show God to be impossible one has to show that the universe is able to be understood using reason, yet this claim is undermined by an appeal to the same principles used to disprove God’s existence. At this point it seems in all likelihood that his argument is self-defeating.
b) A question of limited intelligence: If you are a person of limited intelligence it might be that because you have limited intelligence you cannot know that you are a person of limited intelligence and more obviously it is quite likely that you would not know how your intellect is limited. Thus it is perfectly possible for any entity to be limited in its insight and because it is limited in its insight not have the least idea that it is limited in its insight. Such can be the case with people or with ‘apparent gods’.
Even more important, nobody or no thing can know that it is not limited in its intellect (because if it were limited part of its limitation would quite likely be to fail to understand that it is limited!). So those that cannot ‘see’ any limitations to their intellect obviously cannot know for sure whether there are any limitations to their intellect.
Objection 10: While humans may not be aware of how we are limited (a statement that itself is not obviously true; most people have very real idea of how their understanding is limited) can we really make the claim for a being that is held by theistic definitions, the definitions against which Berg is ostensibly arguing, to be perfect in his understanding? This is another instance of warrantlessly transferring human weaknesses onto a wholly non-human entity.
c) Power is a more difficult concept than it seems: Following from a) above power may only be a temporary phenomenon in any entity’s hands. Following from b) above no entity that exercises seemingly limitless power can be certain of the extent of its true power.
Objection 11: These claims are predicated upon Berg’s ill-defined, controversial, implied definition of omniscience and his claim that God is a being necessarily in time, for if God is atemporal and eternal any essential quality that God possesses is also eternal and existing outside of time. This part of the argument is just a re-hashing of parts of the first premise and not really a new claim that supports the second premise as Berg wants us to believe. The objections made against these assumptions also apply here.
However apart from those two points how can any entity be certain that it is not somehow only wanting and doing those things which it has power to do and not wanting those things which it in fact has not got power to do?
Incidentally, how can any entity be sure it has free will? How can it tell the mechanism doesn’t work like this – something is going to happen and as a related part of that thing going to happen it (the candidate God) is also automatically made to want it to happen, and seeming to arrange its happening?
Berg’s argument begins to get very strange at this point, playing with the basic notions of temporality and causality.
Note: Underlying these reasons for universal uncertainty is the reality of the nature of knowledge and even power.
To claim that one understands the reality of knowledge, a topic on which tens of millions of words have been written over the last 2500 years with no definitive conclusion having yet been reached, is more than a little hubristic, and philosophically unsophisticated. Worse still, no arguments have been given to show his understanding of this complex and highly controversial area of philosophy.
Knowledge and power are not in themselves tangible, concrete qualities. Application of them may give concrete results but of themselves they can only ever be perceived by mental processes. That mental recognition results either from logic or experience.
An entity that is potentially God, being unique and absolute, cannot use experience in the same way as we, who are neither unique nor absolute, can to approximately fit circumstances. Anyhow experience only yields provisional knowledge as environments are all liable to fundamental change from time to time. Therefore rational means are the only reliable means to absolute knowledge even for an entity of God’s apparent power. How even any potential God can be absolutely certain of future developments and of its own ability to for ever know them is a critical logical flaw in monotheism.
In essence most knowledge is a fleeting abstraction which none can possibly be sure of grasping, least of all for ever. There is no route nor sure mechanism for anything to be certain of gaining and maintaining overall knowledge.
The last few lines as just a rehashing of claims that have already been made and adds nothing to the overall argument.
Mr. Berg’s argument is hardly irrefutable as claimed. In fact, the argument seems not only to be refutable, it is self-refuting; the premises when taken to the logical conclusion demand that one reject the conclusion.
Furthermore, Berg is conflating the concept of God with the entity itself. Even if Berg’s argument was successful the best it could show, in fact the best that any logical argument for the non-existence of God can show, is that our concept of God is incoherent. It does nothing to show that God qua God does not or cannot exist. At best, all any argument of this type can do is argue that it is not rational to believe in a God described by the incoherent concept.