Counting the Ways

As we were saying about Aquinas’ Five Ways to prove the existence of God, before we were so rudely interrupted by the necessity of work, upon which our glamorous Nanook-like Minnesota existence is contingent. And speaking of necessary and contingent existence:

The God Project Dot Net HQ

Way #3: Everything we see is born, falls apart and dies. Even The God Project Dot Net will someday — once we have answered the Ultimate Question — stop. The most ardent cosmologist will tell you the Earth itself will grind to a halt, pick up its toolbox, and go. Turning probability theorist for a moment, Aquinas says: “If everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence.” With nothing, nothing happens.

I couldn’t help but notice Karen Armstrong’s recent “The Case for God” covers all our topics here at TGPDN with greater confidence. (It’s a very good book. Once you’re done here, you have our permission to pounce.) She says, with her usual combo of insight and elegance: “All the five ‘ways’ argue in one way or another that nothing can come from nothing.” (p144)

There are two parts to the Third Way, the first of which is this weird little probability equation which seems to say that, given an infinite amount of time, and a universe in which all things that exist sometimes don’t, you will have a moment when there is nothing. From which no-thing can come. Calling God.

Imagine a cosmic slot machine eventually rocking all zeroes. Even Armstrong ignores this part. It’s odd. The second part, from Avicenna (aka Ibn Sena), builds on the difference between “necessary” and “contingent” beings. All of us are “contingent” – we required another being (or two) to exist. But in our zero-slot universe, there must be some “necessary” being that does not require another being to exist. And even if this “necessary” being is caused by another “necessary” being, says Aquinas, “it is impossible to go on to infinity ….” There must be something whose being comes from itself, aka, God.

Way #4: Take these adjectives – good, true, noble, hot. No, it’s not a description of Angelina Jolie. These are the qualities Aquinas uses as examples of “things” that come in shades. They are more or less present as they are more or less close to the “maximum.” The sliding scale itself implies a maximum, as we call something “hotter” as it gets closer to perfect hotness. This perfect hotness everyone agrees is named Salma Hayek, I mean, God.

Way #5: Is the coolest, hottest Way of all – and the favorite of contemporary Evangelicals. It’s the so-called Argument from Design. Caliente filosofia, amigos!


10 responses to “Counting the Ways

  1. I have to think about 4. It is really difficult to refute.

  2. 4 really got in my head last night. It is a deceptively mean little proof. After all, it is not a terrible argument to say there has to be some point on the edge of the scale that equated with utter perfection and some spot that is utter, uhmmmmm, defection I guess.

    I have a few issues with the point, but my main one is that it calls into question the idea of an objective God. We know that Angeline Jolie is DAMN hot and that Selma Hayek is REALLY DAMN hot, but what is the actual difference between the two. It could also be argued that in a subjective sense that not everyone would order these two in the same way (I would be with you on the hotness scale as it relates to these two, by the way). If the scale is not subjective, then how come many people differ on where people fall on it. Some would argue Stalin was more evil than Hitler, some would argue Hitler was more evil then Stalin, how can one be clear about an objective answer to this question? If God falls within this scale, one could say that perfection differs for each person. If this is true, then God’s perfection is subject to the individual. I don’t think Aquinas would have wanted God placed in the realm of the subjective. How can you be all powerful and subject to the opinions of those you are significantly outrank?

    Aquinas is correct that the adjectives he used come in shades, but it is very difficult to argue that those shades are the same for everyone. What Plato saw as “the good” might well be the “slightly better than average” for me, but the “totally frickin’ amazing” for you. A linear scale with God on top and pure evil on bottom with many spaces in between probably looks good on paper, but doesn’t jibe with what I’ve seen of humans. Still, it’s difficult to totally refute the idea, because maybe there is this objective scale and we are simply deluded into thinking our opinions on the subject matter. Then, however, wouldn’t it be just as likely that Aquinas and Plato are just as deluded as we are and could not accurately tell us anything about objective truth and its shades. That puts us back at square one.

    Anyway, the mark of an interesting idea could probably be measured in how many minutes of sleep it costs a person. This one got me for a good 45 minutes last night, so I gotta give some love to Aquinas.

    In other news, I just got my hands on a copy of “House of Lies”. I’m a few chapters in and it made me laugh out loud several times on the elliptical machine at the YMCA . Really great stuff, but I am going to have to read the rest at home. Those people already think I’m weird enough.

  3. Correction: How can you be all powerful and subject to the opinions of those you significantly outrank? (typing with Sesame Street on in the background can be dangerous)

  4. Thanks for reading “House of Lies” Keith – it was a cynical howl of pain, but no pain no gain! I do appreciate it – it may be a TV show this fall (if all goes well) but my character has been utterly transformed into a much more loathsome, powerful individual. Better TV, I suppose. We’ll see.

    You got me thinking more about Way #4 – you’re definitely right about the difficulty of defining those terms. Aquinas was not a relativist – he didn’t start with people, always with God. So he’d say there definitely was an objective thing called “goodness” or “hotness” and people will differ in their subjective definitions, but that doesn’t matter. They are always more or less close to the real definition, which is the only one that matters. I could be persuaded he was right, but I’m still not sure this proves God. It might prove a universal tendency or something, but it doesn’t seem to prove the “maximum” term exists.

  5. I recommend “The Office” as background for typing

  6. I really hope the TV show gets going. It’s a really interesting concept and I’d get a kick out of seeing it. Loathsome seems to play well on TV. Do they have someone to play the Rainmaker yet? That could be a really fun character…on TV. I don’t know if I’d really want to spend a half hour at breakfast with him in real life.

  7. I hope so too – maybe they’ll reissue “House of Lies” as a tie in – I was always fond of that bad boy – we’ll see.

  8. Thanks Keith – this is really funny – had me rolling on the floor – I also enjoyed your musings on being a blogger – I have the same thoughts; I’ve also become a lot more involved in this crazy volunteer job than I thought I’d be

  9. Pingback: Can’t Be Coincidence | The God Project . Net

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