god & the system

On the opposition to the idea that God could transcend our ‘system’ and still act within it, consider (again) the Flatland analogy…

Flatland seems to be itself one complete system – though nobody has ever seen the ‘edge’ of Flatland, of course.  Some have put forward the silly talk that there is a ‘3rd dimension’, which is totally unlike Flatland, but that can still interact with it – or ‘intersect’ as they confusingly say… (Just a bunch of bafflegab, really)

These people have talked about events such as ‘spheres’ passing ‘through’ Flatland (Whatever a ‘sphere’ is made of! And whatever ‘through’ means! Gosh, they have a way of playing with words, don’t they!?).  Anyone can tell, however, that it’s nothing more than a point that appears, grows to a circle and then shrinks to a point and then disappears.  It has a perfectly Flat explanation, which makes these ancient old tales about ‘spheres’ completely outmoded, archaic and replaced.  Nonsense.

What’s more, the idea of a ‘third dimension’ is illogical when the Flat System theory is applied correctly.  You see, anything that has any influence on Flatland must obviously be a part of the Flat System.

22 thoughts on “god & the system”

  1. Except that it turns out flatland was not a complete system despite the perceptions of its citizens so the conceptual boundaries of flatland according to them were arbitrary and false. Current understanding and reality are not necessarily synonymous.

  2. yes, and a view that has God as ultimate transcendent reality, initiating, sustaining and able to act within our world/system makes total sense. We just shouldn’t have ever said ‘nope’ there’s nothing other than (insert boundary-making statement here).

  3. We *can* say “There exists nothing other than things that exist”. If you believe that God exists then you *must* also say that God belongs to the collection of things-that-exist. Anything else is incoherent.

  4. Reference to previous conversation where you (incoherently) insist that God does not belong to a superset of all-real-things or all-things-that-exist (i.e. ‘everything’ or ‘all things’) at the same time as claiming that God is real and exists.

  5. Thanks for the reference, Damian, saves me from repeating my view, which although stretches grammar (you’d think an ultimate truth would), seems perfectly rational. All it requires is a distinction – a duality between this kind of stuff with its particular kind of essence/ontos – and an other kind of stuff with another kind of essence/ontos. Wording like ‘more than real’ or ‘more than existing’ may be frustrating, but anyone who’s seen the matrix (or knows the difference between a square and cube) should be able to find it satisfactorily comprehensible – even beautiful.

  6. Like I say, if you cannot agree with the statement “There exists nothing other than things that exist” then you are being incoherent. And I suspect deliberately so in an attempt to make your beliefs immune from examination.

  7. Lots of things are beyond ‘examination’, even on the ‘potentially examinable’ side of the ‘examinable-in-principle/un-examinable-in-principle distinction – but who said ‘examinability’ was a test for truth?

  8. Dale, no one has said examinability is a test for truth. But when I see a charlatan perform a trick where they intentionally don’t allow me to look behind the curtain I get a strong sense of deceit lurking. What I’m accusing you of doing is forcing your beliefs into incoherency (i.e. by disagreeing that “There exists nothing other than things that exist”) because in doing so we are left with no way in which to further question or examine your claims. However, most clear-thinking people will notice that claiming the existence of an entity who doesn’t belong in the superset of all-things-that-exist makes no sense at all and should be aware that all other claims that stem from this incoherent premise are equally weak.

    I don’t doubt for a minute that you genuinely believe this to be true and are trying to express in good faith what it is you believe. This doesn’t stop it from being incoherent however.

  9. Thanks Damian,
    I can tell you’re trying very hard to be patient, and it is much appreciated and exemplary!

    Truth, I reckon, is often very strange and unintuitive to us – it perhaps transcends the logical/illogical divide? Multiverse theory is something I find dripping with incoherence – I find contradictory word-use in nearly every sentence I read. But I’m prepared to at least imagine other universes ‘outside’ our own, and that another universe could have (somehow!?) caused ours. In the same way as it is often said that cosmological constants might be wildly different in ‘other universes’, the suggestion that God has a wildly different kind of essence/ontology is analogous to this. We may struggle to find words that communicate what happened ‘before’ the Big Bang, or ‘where’ other universes exist, but we know what we mean when we talk about those things. In the same way, a God who is the source of all existing, real things (so ‘full’ of ‘existence’ and ‘reality’ – or so Existing and so Real – that it can be freely ‘given’ away) is equally compelling to me as a parallel universe.
    Hope that helps?

  10. Sorry, but it really doesn’t. If you define the ‘universe’ as all that there is and you find that it’s bigger than you thought it was, it is incoherent to then say that there was something all along that was ‘outside’ all that there is. It just means that we limited our initial definition of ‘universe’ too much and used false boundaries. Seriously, how can you even think it reasonable to disagree with the statement, “There exists nothing other than things that exist”?

  11. So I take it you also find ‘multiverse’ language incoherent? Hence your implicit suggestion to do away with ‘multiverse’ language and merely speak of a less-limited definition of ‘universe’?? (correct me if I’ve mis-represented you)

    First of all, I don’t define the universe as ‘all that there is’, so finding more of the universe simply means finding more of the universe to me – which I find incredible, majestic, beautiful and not a little humbling.

    I suppose the conceptual problem with the statement “There exists nothing other than things that exist” is that ‘things that exist’ is not a defined set. The other thing – which you’ll hate, but again Truth should surprise us like this – is that the statement assumes a kind of one-dimensional ontology – that there is only one kind/variety of existence, and one kind of thing-ness. This is where I think we need to be open to the logical/illogical –> true possibility of a distinction between mere ‘existence’ and ‘Existence’ – we can’t know that there is no such thing as ‘Existence’ merely from our (limited) knowledge of ‘existence’ (as we know it). Indeed, many insist that our ‘existence’ demands some kind of ‘Existence’ as a final/ultimate cause, etc., etc.

  12. Yes, I find ‘multiverse’ incoherent if the original definition of ‘universe’ was all that exists, has existed and will exist (all-that-exists for short). I think that to define a word as all-that-exists and then to say that it is a subset of other things that exist is incoherent and a misuse of original meanings.

    But people have done this with the terms ‘universe’ and ‘multiverse’ so I find it useful simply to use the word/s ‘all-that-exists’. Fair enough, words change over time. If we use a word that contains its own definition we are less prone to misunderstandings.

    This means that ‘all-that-exists’ *is* a defined set. It’s a set of all things that exist. It is completely self-explanatory. Unless you want to define a special non-existent (read, non-observable, non-examinable) kind of existence for your non-existent, non-observable, non-examinable God. Which is totally incoherent. Words wrapped in nonsense like the proverbial square circle.

    I’m sorry but I can’t find a gentler way to couch it; it’s incoherent nonsense in the truest form of the words. It’s no wonder that once you have accepted this as a premise you are completely open to the concept of talking donkeys, virgin births, angels, demons and physical resurrections. How could you be expected to critically examine these truth claims once you have swallowed the concept of the existence of a God who does not belong to the set of all things that exist?

  13. This means that ‘all-that-exists’ *is* a defined set. It’s a set of all things that exist. It is completely self-explanatory.

    Yes, and it is limited to one kind of ‘thing’ and one kind of ‘existence’. This ontological open-ness is key.

    Unless you want to define a special non-existent (read, non-observable, non-examinable) kind of existence for your non-existent, non-observable, non-examinable God. Which is totally incoherent.

    Again, I’d say ‘more-existent’, and would again want to say that you’re assuming one kind of observation/examination. In once sense, God if manifestly observable/examinable. You observe the creator by what has been created. Creation exists. Surely you don’t think God would be the sort of things we could literally ‘look at’?

    Words wrapped in nonsense like the proverbial square circle.

    Actually a cylinder (a 3D object) is both a square and circle, when viewed from certain perspectives. It’s a circle! No, it’s a square! Hey, guys, maybe it’s both?

    And on being open to virgin births, resurrections, etc. – one really has no way to rule them out. You can’t simply say miracles aren’t possible because things don’t work that way. ‘Mircale’ has no meaning apart from a concept of ‘the way things normally go’.

  14. Well Dale, it looks like we’ve reached that point again. I think you are living in a fantasy world but the disconnect is so large that I can find no definition of reality we might have in common. At least perhaps others reading this will see the incoherency so it’s not a total waste of effort I guess. Look after yourself fella.

  15. Fair enough, Damian, I think you’re needlessly discarding a whole other (i.e. 3D) dimension merely based on the ones we see (i.e. 2D). Let’s do another coffee sometime?

  16. @Damian

    We *can* say “There exists nothing other than things that exist”. If you believe that God exists then you *must* also say that God belongs to the collection of things-that-exist. Anything else is incoherent.

    This is an excellent and succinct way of phrasing what seems to be our shared point of view!

    @Dale

    yes, and a view that has God as ultimate transcendent reality, initiating, sustaining and able to act within our world/system makes total sense.

    It makes almost no sense at all to me.

    We just shouldn’t have ever said ‘nope’ there’s nothing other than (insert boundary-making statement here).

    Who did that? The only people I see trying to force things into a boundary is theists who need the boundary there such that god can be outside it. No-one else needs it?

  17. Ian,
    What the theist is doing (this is key) is not creating an arbitrary boundary so that god can be outside it, but is rather making a distinction between a) the essence/nature of finite/temporal things and b) the essence/nature of infinite/atemporal things.

    This isn’t really about science. Current scientific evidence (and conceivably all the scientific evidence we’ll ever have) does not and cannot rule in or out the reality of an ontologically distinct (not to mention causally prior) entity. It’s about a philosophical view of ‘the world’. It’s about a theistic picture and a naturalist picture.

    I’m not sure, Ian, if you are like Ken and others who recoil at being ‘labeled’ a ‘naturalist’ – Rinny Westra, ex presbyterian minister, both took part in a discussion recently and I appreciated his honesty in unhesitantly taking on the label ‘materialist’.

    But indeed, there are three options that come to mind for ontology, and they wholly depend on one’s philosophical commitments.

    1) the world is illusory (solipsism)
    2) the world (nature) is all there is (naturalism)
    3) the world is contingent upon a creating, sustaining creator (theism)

    2 & 3 would be utterly irrelevant to the scientific project (and 1 would likely be indifferent?). They both (2 & 3) admit of the existence of (at least) ‘nature’, and thus are ‘pro’ nature and ‘pro’ the investigation, categorisation and understanding of it.

    The difficulty of 2 is cosmogenesis – how did nature originate (to which the most common claim is simply to deny that nature had/needed an origin – closely followed by an insistence of agnosticism concerning cosmogenesis)?

    The difficulty of 3 is that (though the orign of nature is sufficiently explained in terms of an ontologically distinct creator) it leaves open all manner of theistic options to choose from (to which the reasonable response is, ‘so what, that is what comparative religion and theology is for – the point here is that theism is tenable!).

    I don’t know if you accept or reject the ‘naturalist’ label, but it seems to me that your position is either a) naturalism, which doggedly insists that there is only one ontological category, or b) some other view, which apparently also insists that there is only one ontological category.

  18. And all I am saying is that option 3 is just a subset of possibilities within option 2.

    As for the naturalist/materialist labels, I see both as empty words since I’d see god as natural and material should it exist. I an an exist-ist (for lack of a better word) – I think whatever can be shown to exist probably exists. I also believe that labels of arbitrary groups of things (like a human or a tree or a city or whatever) are labels of convenience, not labels of reality.

  19. Ian, you are insisting on there being only one kind of ‘thing’/ontos/essence, or only one way of existing. Never is this clearer than when you say God would be ‘natural’ and ‘material’ if God exists. Just sayin.

  20. “Only one way of existing”

    If there are two (or more) ways of things existing then that is fine by me – I still remain an exist-ist :)

    Also I think you see natural or materialistic points of view exclude god because that position is defined first and then god is compared to that to see if it fits. I see it the other way: natural/materialism is (to me) the set of all things that exist in all ways that things can be said to exist so it is defined last, not first.

  21. you say “natural/material-ism is the set of all things that exist in all ways that things can be said to exist”. Indeed it is. And this goes waaaaaaaaaay beyond anything we could ever know. It is a philosophical presupposition. And again, all of this has not a hint of anything to do with scientific observation and hard data.

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