Sunday, October 18, 2009

Do You Believe in Magic?

Is God just a cop out? Do we worship a "magical being up in the sky?" Are we hypocrites for saying the universe just "popping" into existence would be worse than magic when we worship an unseen God? I'm sure you're aware of the rhetorical nature of these questions, and I will explain why.

Magic is logically incoherent things happening for silly reasons. Examples would be a rabbit popping into a hat out of thin air at the behest of a magician. This is a natural impossibility within our universe, which is governed by laws. Since these things are naturally impossible, people must use sleight of hand to make it appear that things are happening that really are not. These things never actually occur. They are tricks!

Another form of 'magic' would be sorcery, the more satanic kind where people call on demons to cause naturally impossible phenomenon to happen. These things don't really fit in to my definition of magic here, since there could be supernatural forces at work for whom it is not impossible to act on the real world in strange ways.

If there is a God His actions also could not be classified as 'magical.' If there is a maximally powerful being it would be completely logically coherent and physically possible for that being to anything that is logically coherent. Creating the universe out of nothing and creating living beings would not be impossible for such a being. It would be completely logically feasible for this being to be able to perform these acts.

However, being coming from non-being and life coming from non-life is logically incoherent and physically impossible based on all the physical laws of this universe, like the law of biogenesis. It would be worse than magic to imagine these things happening uncaused and without purpose. That being the case, if there is no God, not only must the universe have existed for eternity, but life also would have had to exist from eternity. But this is unproven in at least two ways:

1) Because evidence shows otherwise. Big bang cosmology shows a beginning of the universe of which prior to that there was no time or matter.

2) Because an actual infinite number of events (which an infinite universe would contain) is impossible.

The concept of an actual infinite number of past events, which an infinite universe would consist of, leads to philosophically and mathematical absurdities. It is something that cannot exist in reality.

The best way to illustrate this is with some examples. For instance if we had an actual infinite number of objects, we could take some objects from this infinite number. Say we had an infinite number of balls labeled 1, 2, 3, 4, on to infinity. Then say we take all of the even numbered balls; 2, 4, 6, and so on to infinity. So in this case:

infinity - infinity = infinity,

because there are still an infinite number of odd balls. But, if we had the same infinite number of balls and removed all the balls after 3; which would be 4, 5, 6, and so on to infinity, we would have:

infinity - infinity = 3.

This is a logical absurdity. We subtract the same values and end with a different result. Also, if there had to be an infinite amount of time before right now, how did we ever reach "now!?" (Thanks to William Lane Craig (website here) for examples such as these in debates, lectures, and literature to show the logical absurdity of actual infinites).

Hilbert's hotel (click here) further displays the logical absurdity an infinite regress of events is impossible.

The famous mathematician of whom the hotel problem is named after, David Hilbert, said, "The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea."

God's actions cannot be considered as magic. God Himself likewise cannot be considered magic. He can be considered a necessary being. I don't think it's possible for there not to be a God based on the logical contradictions it presents.

2 comments:

John Doyle said...

The famous mathematician of whom the hotel problem is named after, David Hilbert, said, "The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea."

Christianity proposes two infinites: God, and life after death. Both are irrational.

bossmanham said...

John,

Christianity proposes two infinites: God, and life after death. Both are irrational.

When we speak of the infinity of God, we aren't using the word in the mathematical sense to refer to an infinite number of finite parts. God's infinity is qualitative, not quantitative. It refers to God's being metaphysically necessary, omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect, eternal, etc.

Eternal life is not an actual infinite, but a potential infinite. Our lives had a specific beginning at a specific point in time. From that time on, life, for the believer, is everlasting. It had a beginning but no end.