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Rebutting the “God is Simple” Argument

In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins said, “God, or any intelligent, decision-making calculating agent, is complex, which is another way of saying improbable.”

Is God simple or complex?

Philosopher Alvin Plantinga argues that he is not complex:

According to much classical theology (Thomas Aquinas, for example) God is simple, and simple in a very strong sense.… So first, according to classical theology, God is simple, not complex.

Seriously? We’re consulting a 13th century scholar to understand modern cosmology? Modern science takes us to the Big Bang, and we need Thomas Aquinas to figure out the remaining riddles?

Here’s philosopher William Lane Craig’s input:

As a mind without a body, God is amazingly simple. Being immaterial, He has no physical parts. Therefore to postulate a pure Mind as the explanation of fine-tuning is the height of simplicity!

So anything that isn’t physical is simple? Sure—something that isn’t physical is maximally simple physically because it doesn’t exist physically. It has no gears or cams or levers. But that doesn’t help us with immaterial things, whatever they are. I don’t know what it means to be an immaterial mind, so I have no way of evaluating its complexity. Incredibly, neither apologist gives any evidence of the claim that God is simple. They seem to have no way of evaluating its complexity either and propose we just take their word for it.

Of course, science has shown that complex can come from simple. For example, we see this in the formation of snowflakes, in erosion, in weather, in chaos, or in evolution. From a handful of natural rules comes complexity—no intelligence required.

But we’re talking about something quite different—an intelligent creator. And in every creative instance we know of (the creation of a car, the creation of a bee hive, the creation of a bird’s nest), the creator is more complex than the creation. Plantinga’s God would be the most stupendous counterexample to the axiom that, in the case of designed things, simple comes from complex, and yet we’re supposed to take this claim on faith.

A resolution to the problem

But there’s a way to cut through all this. Is God as simple as Plantinga or Craig imagine? Then demonstrate this. Make us one. Humanity can make complex things like a microprocessor, the worldwide telephone system, and a 747, so making this “amazingly simple” thing shouldn’t be hard. Or, if we don’t have the materials, they can at least give us the blueprints.

But, of course, they will fail in this challenge and must admit that they have no clue how to build a god. In that case, how can they critique the simplicity of such a being? Now that their argument that God is simple has evaporated, we’re back where we started, and Dawkins’ argument stands: a complex God is improbable.

Why are we asked to pray after a disaster?
Hasn’t god made it clear that he doesn’t give a f**k?
— Frankie Boyle

(This is a modified version of a post originally published 1/2/12.)

Photo credit: Wikimedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Y. A. Warren

    The manifestations of The Sacred are all around us. I believe these manifestations make up the totality of the universe. Only a fool and a liar pretends to be able to explain the complexity of all the universe or of all of The Sacred.

    • Brian Pansky

      what are you responding to?

      and are you going to provide anything to support your claim that there is a sacred and it has manifestations all around us?

      • badgerchild

        He redefines “the totality of the universe” as That
        Which Is Sacred, which rules out the supernatural by definition,
        because the supernatural is anything that does not belong to the natural
        universe. And it’s fools and liars who attempt to explain the complexity of all
        the universe and all of the Sacred by ascribing those things to the
        creative power of gods. Gods are a foolish lie. That’s kind of the whole
        point.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I agree.

        • badgerchild

          My father held much the same view, though he used different words and referred to “Spinoza’s God”. He was also a Presbyterian church elder, but that was kind of his cultural camouflage and I never quite understood it, lol. When I told him I identified as an atheist, he told me I was “stupid”. Not for being an atheist, evidently, but for saying so.

        • Y. A. Warren

          There are many who say a creed every Sunday, who admit they don’t believe the words. I believe this is hypocrisy, and I spend much of my time alone because of my inability to live behind “Christian” or other “camouflage”.

        • badgerchild

          I know. My father was an immigrant and he believed that it was disrespectful of his new country to refuse to participate in the local customs, and irresponsible of him to raise his kids differently from other kids in the community. His belief that he needed to create a decent life for the family was more important than anything for him. I think that was fine, but he shouldn’t have raised us with beliefs he thought were wrong.

        • Y. A. Warren

          How sweet and how sad, at the same time.

          America has always existed whit an unwritten commandment, “Thou shalt assimilate.” This worked for white immigrants who could “pass” for Anglo-Saxons with enough costume and make-up, but never for the blacks we imported. This importation changed everything about how Americans become one “tribe.”

          I live in the New Orleans area, a true gumbo of humanity, where all are welcome to add a little extra spice and flavor to the human “soup.” I have tried living other places, but the voodoo spirituality, officially called Roman Catholicism, and the great variety of flavors of people, idioms, and beliefs keeps me from ever feeling bored.

          This could be heaven on earth if we could get rid of those who want to kill themselves and others, both mentally and physically.

      • Y. A. Warren

        Unadulterated nature, including innocent animal (including human) babies.

        • Brian Pansky

          ya, that’s just from natural laws and stuff, like gravity, for instance. do you just define “the sacred” as the natural mindless laws of physics?

        • Y. A. Warren

          Now that you mention it, I guess I do believe that science is closer to explaining The sacred than are all the religions on earth.

        • Brian Pansky

          it seem s all you have brought here are assertions and an inability/unwillingness to directly engage with questions posed to you.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I accept that there is much in the universe that I will never fully understand. I define The Sacred as all that produces awe in me, possibly because I can’t completely understand it. The first smile of my child comes to mind…

        • GubbaBumpkin

          It’s laughing at you.

        • Y. A. Warren

          Okay.

        • guest

          I agree, puppies and kittens are cute.

    • Michael W Busch

      You are quite transparently changing the definition of “god” from a Christian one to a pantheist one, so what you have said is irrelevant here.

      It is also entirely unsupported: you have presented no evidence that there is anything inherently sacred about anything. The reality is that the concept of things being sacred is a human invention, and exists only in human brains and in the various systems we use to transfer ideas between each other.

      • Y. A. Warren

        Actually my views are more in keeping with panentheism than with pantheism, except that I don’t call the energy that I refer to as “The Sacred” as a god; therefore it is not any form of theism.

        There is proof of different brain function when one is in a state of heightened awareness. This state is what I refer to as “awe”. What puts me into this state, I refer to as “The Sacred” because of the way it alters my brain chemistry and I feel more connected with the greater universe.

        I am not arguing for my terms being universally accepted. I am simply attempting to get away from describing all that we don’t comprehend as “god”.

        • Michael W Busch

          What puts me into this state, I refer to as “The Sacred” because of the way it alters my brain chemistry and I feel more connected with the greater universe.

          External things that help your mind put itself into an altered state of consciousness are not by themselves “sacred”. Both the altered state of consciousness and the triggers to it are simply emergent properties of your brain. Your “sacred” is entirely subjective. And it is also a complete misuse of the word as compared to the usual meaning.

          Also:

          There is no mystic “energy” of any kind – despite what all of the different forms of woo that get filed under esotericism and vitalism falsely assert. Energy is a quantifiable, measurable, physical entity. It is in no way mystical or sacred. It just is.

          And since this all is irrelevant to this thread, I am done.

        • Y. A. Warren

          Bye!

      • badgerchild

        “Spinoza’s God” is not unlike what Y. A. Warren posted about, actually, though Spinoza was more rigorous and his language was free of the 20th-century mystical overtones that seem to be unnecessarily derailing most commenters in this subthread. Just wanted to point that out.

        Typically the word “sacred” or “spiritual” has been used to mean the opposite of the word “secular”. But, the words “sacred” and “spiritual” have gained new meanings through being used as an analogy. Now, it is quite consistent to say, for example, that a secular person, that is a person without any religion, can have a form of spirituality. Atheists can legitimately meditate, have rituals, engage in mindfulness practices, feel awe, and perform altruistic acts for which they feel morally satisfied. It’s just as consistent to say that atheists can consider things sacred to them. This is why we have atheist “movements”, because we enshrine things like logic, reason, science, and human rights as, essentially, sacred things in our lives, and engage together in practices designed to increase our understanding of them.

        A religious person once said to me, “You have a God, too. It’s just that your God is reality”. I considered this. The best thing I could think of saying in return was “Sure, and your God isn’t reality”.

        • Michael W Busch

          You keep using the word “sacred”. I do not think it means what you think it means.

        • badgerchild

          I made the point that it means several things. If you do not agree with all of those meanings, I suggest you take it up with the language, not with me.

    • RichardSRussell

      The Universe is all around us. Our senses tell us so. How you get from there to “a manifestation of The Sacred” (which you capitalize for some unknown reason) is “justified” only by your phrase “I believe”. Well, ducky for you, but why should anyone else be convinced in the utter absence of any further explanation? (Hint: No, your word alone does not suffice.)

    • Sven2547

      Only a fool and a liar pretends to be able to explain the complexity of all the universe

      That is HILARIOUS coming from the guy who just said

      The manifestations of The Sacred are all around us. I believe these manifestations make up the totality of the universe.

      • Y. A. Warren

        The difference is that i don’t pretend to know the answers; i simply say what I believe and why i believe what i do.

        • Pofarmer

          You beleive what you do because you are ignorant of the answers.

  • Highlander

    Humanity has made a god, it’s that unpleasant character in that book, you know, the one that commands people to do terrible things and then says “just kidding”, claims he loves people then sends them to infinite punishment for finite crimes, drowned all but 8 people because he f…ed up so badly that he needed to start all over again (even though he’s all knowing and all powerful so he should have been able to get it right the first time if he’d cared to do so and fixed it without killing anything if he’d wanted to) and created people with a flaw in them so bad that he the only way he could forgive them for it was to impregnate one of them with himself, so they could torture and murder him.

  • Msironen

    I just don’t see what the “God is simple” argument gets them. I mean, we can accept that simple things can generate complexity. If they insist God is simple, they’re basically arguing for Azathoth. Anything else they tack on to it, it becomes less and less simple.

    • Itarion

      Iä! Iä! Cthulhu Fhtagn!

  • smrnda

    “As a mind without a body, God is amazingly simple. Being immaterial, He
    has no physical parts. Therefore to postulate a pure Mind as the
    explanation of fine-tuning is the height of simplicity!”

    A mind without a body? How on earth does that happen? An engine that ran on sunlight sounds simple *UNTIL* you have to implement it. Even simple ideas can be hard to actually implement. I can ‘postulate’ (make up out of my ass) any number of things that I think are simple. A mind-reading program would be simpler than having to mess with I/O devices in some ways, but that doesn’t mean it exists.

    Craig seems to be using the technique that anything he can think up can be used as a plausible explanation – if he was writing a F & SF novel, go ahead, but he’s expecting to be taken seriously about the real world, and speculation *isn’t* evidence.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      If we assume Christianity first, then Craig’s speculation can help shore that up. But no open-minded truth seeker does that.

  • GCBill

    By “simple,” I assume they mean existing without any parts whatsoever. You only get that conclusion by following Aristotelian metaphysics (specifically, his conclusion that all change requires act and potential). God, as the unmoved mover, is “pure act” and possesses no potentiality, so change and complexity are not even possible *in principle* for God.

    I wager that such a God, even if possible, cannot be the Biblical God. A being without parts or the potential to change cannot become human like Jesus supposedly did, for humans possess parts (which also, implicitly, necessitate the potential to change). I think it’s strange how Christians tend to think Aristotle would be on their side, because in his metaphysics, “human” and “divine” are necessarily mutually-exclusive categories.

    • Carol

      Aha! you just put your finger on the fundamental error of Scholastic theology.
      I’m very impressed. Many, perhaps even most, theologians in the Latin/Western Church have missed that essential insight.

      • duke_of_omnium

        They fudge that part by saying that the changeability is part of Jesus’ human nature, so the divinity remains “simple”.

        Mind you, the idea of a trinity being simpler than, say, a unitarian god is downright laughable, but then again, we’re dealing with Christians here.

        • Carol

          Most Western Christians are Unitarian, not Trinitarian regardless of whether they recite the Nicene Creed in their liturgical celebrations or not.
          Although my Trinitarian beliefs do distinguish me from Unitarian Christians, they do not alienate me from them. I agree with the 16th century Unitarian clergyman, Francis David, that we don’t have to think alike to love alike.

          “Unfortunately, many Christians do not appreciate the gift of the revelation of the Trinity. Christian laymen often
          seem to engage in the many ritual gestures devoted to the Trinity with little understanding of the centrality of the Trinity to the faith. Clergy in the West are famous for being befuddled when it comes to preaching the sermon on Trinity Sunday. Indeed, the prominent twentieth-century Catholic theologian Karl Rahner could lament the absence of the Trinity in the intellectual and devotional life of the modern Church. Although recent history demonstrates a new found interest in the Trinity, it still seem that most Christians do not recognize or have somehow forgotten that the doctrine of the Trinity contains* the “pearl of
          great price” the ne plus ultra of metaphysical wisdom.

          *I say ‘contains’ rather than ‘is’ because I wish to distinguish between mere notional knowledge and genuine sapiential knowledge of the Trinity. Sapiential comes from sapience, ‘taste’ as in ‘Taste and see the Lord is good’
          (Psalm 34:8). Sapiential knowledge is transformative.”
          –Timothy A Mahoney

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          “most Christians do not recognize or have somehow forgotten that the doctrine of the Trinity contains* the “pearl of great price” the ne plus ultra of metaphysical wisdom.”

          I’m afraid your authority here has confused bullshit for great wisdom. The Trinity is nonsense. Any discussion usually ends in a wistful look in the eyes and something like, “Ah, yes, it is a mystery. I’ll have to ask God about that when I get to heaven.”

          Why imagine that the puzzle will be resolved in the future? Let’s go where the evidence leads right now: it’s a nonsensical claim.

        • Carol

          We are both entitled to our own opinions. Neither of us is entitled to have the other take our opinion seriously.
          Sometimes we just have to agree to disagree and, hopefully, to do it agreeably.

        • MNb

          Does this apply to 2 + 2 = 5 as well? Because I don’t see any fundamental difference with Father + Son + Holy Spirit = 1.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Yes, that part about being supernatural but also being natural (just when they want to or all the time or never?) is tricky. Some apologists use this to their advantage and argue that science could never find evidence of God, but of course then they’ve defined God as never putting a toe into our reality, which (as you note) makes the Jesus thing, as well as all the miracles a problem.

  • kraut2

    God is simple

    How do they know?

  • Carol

    There is a difference between “simple” and “simplistic.”

    The closest we get to an ontological Revelation of God is “God is Love.”

    In our contemporary Western culture with its doctrinaire materialism we tend to confuse “attraction” with Love. Love cannot be exhaustively or even satisfactorily defined, but we all “know it when we see it” in action! There is a self-sacrificial [kenotic] “essence” intrinsic to loving acts that is absent from the self-interested moralism of civic virtue.

    Love is “disinterested”–devoid of self-interest, but not dispassionate. I think that is one of the fundamental differences between the Judeo/Christian and the Buddhist spiritual Traditions.

    Emotional detachment is one way to control our individualistic predatory self-interest and disordered desires, but it may leave us apathetic when we are faced with the challenges of personal or institutionalized evil. It may even lead to self-destructive behavior as happened when Buddhist monks self-immolated themselves in protest to institutionalized social injustice. It isn’t really an authentic “martyrdom” when the sacrifice is self-inflicted, it is a pathological “martyr complex.”

    Although it is not possible to formulate a “simple” definition of God, human spirituality, while not simple either, is a little more accessible to the human mind:

    http://spiritualprogressives.org/newsite/

    What is Spiritual?

    Here’s what is spiritual: Ethics, aesthetics, love, compassion, creativity, music, altruism, generosity, forgiveness, spontaneity, emergent phenomena, consciousness itself, and any other aspect of reality not subject to empirical verification or measurement.

    Many scientists are also spiritual: they understand that the scientific method is appropriate for describing regularities in the natural world, but not for understanding all of reality. Those aspects of reality that cannot be reduced to publicly observable and verifiable behavior we call spiritual.

    What Is A Spiritual Progressive? (Hint: You don’t have to believe in God or Be
    Part of a Religion).

    YOU are a spiritual progressive if you endorse the New Bottom Line: Institutions, corporations, government policies, legislation, our political system, our health care system, our educational system, our legal system, and even our personal behavior should be judged “efficient,” “productive” and/or “rational” not only to the extent that they maximize money, power, or fame (the OLD Bottom Line) but also to the extent that they maximize or help produce, sustain or enhance our abilities to be loving and kind, generous and caring for others, ethically and ecologically
    sensitive in our behavior, able to see others as embodiments of the sacred (or
    as deserving to be treated as ends and not as means to our own ends), and
    increasingly able to transcend the tendency to look at the physical world merely in utilitarian terms (how can we use it for human purposes) so that we can respond with awe, wonder, and radical amazement at the grandeur and mystery of all that is. You don’t have to believe in God, deny science, or be part of a religion to be a spiritual progressive. Spiritual progressives use the New Bottom Line to assess the value of our economic, political, and social arrangements and seek to do tikkun (heal and transform the world), using tactics and strategies which themselves manifest that new bottom line (e.g. non-violence and non-violent communication). Or to put it in a short sound byte: we support The Caring
    Society—Caring for Each Other and Caring for the Earth.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      “God is love”? What does that mean? Is it just supposed to make one feel good for no actual reason? And does one need evidence for this claim? Is this equivalence in the dictionary?

      Your New Bottom Line sounds like the Bhutanese approach to Gross National Happiness.

      • Carol

        When love is practiced it may make us feel good, but it can also make us feel sad when it demands sacrifice that is experienced as an immediate loss.

        Feelings aside, love is not mere sentimentality. It does more than generate feelings of joy or sadness–it changes the whole dynamic of our communal lives.

        You seem to be obsessed with factual evidence. Facts only tell us what IS, they cannot tell us what CAN BE. We need facts or we will become perfectionistic romantic idealists instead of pragmatic visionaries. But “facts alone” will always keep us stuck in the “status quo.” “Facts alone” can rob us of our eschatological hope for a better world.

        In challenging times like these doctrinaire positivism often leaves those among us who are pessimistic by nature bitter and cynical whether they are people of faith or not.

        That is why many Christians have retreated to the relative security of the ecclesiastical sub-culture, where the self-interested moralism of reciprocal altruism and the civic virtues are still practiced, to point accusing fingers at a secular society destabilized by greed and a compulsive pursuit of wealth and pleasure often at the expense of others, rather than witness to their faith by living not only the civic virtues but also the theological virtues of faith, hope and love.

        I sincerely believe that if more Christians had been as concerned with what goes on in America’s boardrooms as they are with what goes on in America’s bedrooms our economic crisis would have been much less severe, perhaps even avoided.

        “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. The materialism of affluent Christian countries appears to contradict the claims of Jesus Christ that says it’s not possible to worship both Mammon and God at the same time.” –Mahatma Gandhi

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You seem to be obsessed with factual evidence.

          In this domain, where evidence is typically lacking, yes indeed. “Obsessed” is the right word.

          Facts only tell us what IS, they can not tell us what CAN BE.

          Let’s focus on what is first. With a solid grounding in that and with some confidence that we’re not deluding ourselves, we can best move forward.

          As for what can be, science (which is quite evidence based) has delivered very nicely on the promise of what can be.

          facts alone will always keep us stuck in the “status quo.”

          Again: science.

          Are you suggesting that discarding the facts or dismissing the evidence can be the best course in some cases? In going down this path, I can imagine someone with a terminal disease who’s going to put the best face on the small time remaining. Bravo to that person, but that’s not discarding the facts.

          But perhaps you’re thinking of something else.

          secular society destabilized by greed and a compulsive pursuit of pleasure rather that witness to their faith by living not only the civic virtues but also the theological virtues of faith, hope and love.

          Are those are only two options? Let me propose another: we’re not deluded by wishful thinking but are still delighted by life and eager to make society better for all.

          if more Christians had been as concerned with what goes on in America’s boardrooms as they are with what goes on in America’s bedrooms

          That would be nice!

        • Carol

          I believe that there are two errors we can make regarding the “facts” [assuming that we haven't made the initial mistake of misinterpreting the "facts"]–dismissing the facts [denial] and absolutizing the facts [it is what it is and as it is so shall it always be].
          Your third option is founded on hope, which is based, not on “facts”, but on faith in the potential for positive change.

          It is an intuitive, not a theological, faith, that, tragically, is not supported by the factual realities at this time of critical socioeconomic/political transitional change for the majority of our fellow global citizens.

        • guest

          Faith in the potential for positive change can easily be grounded on facts. You only need to look at the facts of history, to see the many positive changes that have already happened.

        • MNb

          Positive change has happened in the past, so BobS has much more than just faith. More important in this context: BobS never denied the potential for negative change. Neither do I. After all science has also enabled the Holocaust and the nuclear bomb.
          The third option is the only realistic one, ie founded on what our reality is. Science gives us the obligation to deal with it – for better or for worse. In both cases religion is out of the picture.

    • smrnda

      I think you are over-estimating the confusion of ‘attraction’ with ‘love’ that is prevalent in contemporary society. Most people can tell the difference which is why people don’t necessarily pair up for life with someone they have sex with and the delaying of marriage. It seems conservative Christian youth group leaders are the only ones confusing ‘attraction’ and ‘love’ in that they’re advocating early marriages instead of young people just exploring attraction – they’re almost suggesting that a marriage based on attraction (to avoid having premarital sex) is going to do just as well as one based on love.

      What you advocate sounds like you could just call it pragmatism. I think most people would be on board since most people don’t benefit from a power-domination type society. The only worry I’d say is that dressing stuff up with ‘spiritual’ sounding language might make things less clear, since spiritual words tends to be kind of vague.

      • Carol

        You are certainly correct about most Christian youth group leaders not recognizing the radical sociological changes that transition from relatively simple agrarian society to a complex technological age presents.

        People are able to acquire the skill set needed to provide economically for a family in agricultural society. The family [usually extended rather than nuclear] not the office or the manufacturing plant, is the foundation for an agricultural economy. Children are economic assets who are apprenticed to the family “business” and given productive roles as they become able to perform tasks that contribute to the economic success of the family. This is the “traditional family”, not the wage slave father and the stay-at-home mother and the economic liability children who will probably move out to establish their own nuclear family as soon as they acquire the financial means to do so through a vocational school or an institute of higher learning.
        It is not gay marriage that is a serious threat to the institution of marriage, but our mercantilist (Wall St/public corporation) capitalist system. Middle class Main Street entrepreneurship (family businesses) not only are more flexible and creative than the “privatized bureaucracies of the large publically owned corporations, they strengthen rather than weaken the socioeconomic familial bonds.

        Another problem is people mature sexually before they are have acquired the skill set needed to financially support a family. That is why the social practice of “friends with benefits” or “fucking buddies” that you mention has evolved.

        The problem with that is that masculine and feminine sexuality are very different. Human sexuality is both procreative and unitive. For the male the procreative function is primary and ends with ejaculation. For the female the unitive function is primary and does not end until the child is not only conceived, but nurtured until s/he has reached adult independence.

        That really requires an heroic effort on the part of both parents in our complex technologically sophisticated society which requires a lot of money to live responsibly since specialization has made us interdependent.* So “friends with benefits” works for most males and alpha dominant females a lot better than it does for most females and beta-dominant males.

        If our Government would stop enacting laws and implementing mercantilist policies that redistribute wealth upward and encourage greed, advantaging Wall Street over Main Street (the Republicans) or socialist policies that redistribute wealth downward and encourage sloth, enabling rather than empowering the poor (the Democrats), we might rebuild rather than continue to destroy the middle class where productivity and civic virtue are most likely to reside.

        This ain’t our great-grandma’s world. It ain’t even our mama’s world! We are just going to have to trial and error our way into a more humane way of life together.

        The moral challenge of our day is to put a human face on our technology.–Bernard Haering, C.Ss.R., Redemptorist Moral Theologian

        “Today the awakened individual has to struggle between those who long for the past Divine connection and those who think that the sense-bound Ego is all there is. Those who long for the past want to bring us back to The Garden of Eden because it seems so filled with Love and Unity. These people have no sense of the living, evolving spirit and do not realize the important differences between spiritually going forward and backward.
        In contrast, those who think that the sense-perception world is all there is are very happy with all of the marvels of the modern world and its glorious technology. They do not realize where this creativity comes from and what morality has to do with science. To these people love does not have the great importance that it deserves.” ~Andrew Flaxman, Director

        *We are in an age that assumes the narrowing trends of specialization to be logical, natural, and desirable. Consequently, society expects all earnestly responsible communication to be crisply brief. Advancing science has now discovered that all the known cases of biological extinction have been caused by overspecialization, whose concentration of only selected genes sacrifices general adaptability. Thus the specialist’s brief for pinpointing brevity is dubious. In the meantime, humanity has been deprived of comprehensive understanding. Specialization has bred feelings of isolation, futility, and confusion in individuals. It has also resulted in the individual’s leaving responsibility for thinking and social action to others. Specialization breeds biases that ultimately aggregate as international and ideological discord, which in turn leads to war.”~R. Buckminster Fuller

    • guest

      “Ethics, aesthetics, love, compassion, creativity, music, altruism,
      generosity, forgiveness, spontaneity, emergent phenomena, consciousness
      itself, and any other aspect of reality not subject to empirical
      verification or measurement.” All of these things can be empirically verified and measured. Human behavior is also something that can be studied. Look to psychology and you will see that studies have already been done on all these things, and will continue to be done. As for the whole ‘God is love’ thing, it doesn’t actually explain anything, nor does it solve the problem of whether god is simple or not. How did love create the physical universe? What are the mechanics of that? All the beings that I know who are capable of love (humans and arguablely other animals that are social or exhibit parental care) are very complex organisms, much more complex than rocks or stars. The behavior called love requires some ability to recognise loved ones in a way that’s stable over time, to work out what their needs are and how you can provide them. If you don’t think love is complicated, try programming it into a robot.

      • Carol

        I do not agree that those things can be empirically verified. They are certainly *realities*, but they cannot be physically measured which is a fundamental criterion for empirical testing. These are all subjects addressed by the “soft” social sciences which rely on statistical evidence, not the “hard” empirical sciences which rely on physical evidence. They are not objective realities, but the derivative subjective affects of external objective causes. “Beauty [aesthetics] is in the eye of the beholder.”

  • Kodie

    I don’t really understand this at all.

    What I mean is, I do think god is “simple”. It’s a catch-all explanation, it just is. There is no further exploration or complexity about it. I don’t understand “mind without a body” making that case. God is the simple explanation for people who can’t comprehend complexity nor try to. Where it’s harder for them to understand how things could just be, how life could be animated, how a vast universe could just occur, it is simple to make up an anthropomorphic cause…. even though they may have the idea that making all this would have to be quite the project, it is simple for such a being to just snap it into existence. Easier to think this way for some people than to think the oceans filled themselves with fish – a body with no mind.

    As I’ve also said before, it’s not a real answer.

  • trj

    I have to agree with the apologists using this argument. God, being made up, is incredibly simple and easily explained.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      If you have a low standard for evidence, I guess so. When you try to mix modern physics (infinities and singularities, Big Bang, quantum events, etc.) into the ideas from 1st-century Jews that it becomes a mess.

      • trj

        Hm, I’m thinking you may have missed what I was actually saying: that an imaginary god is simple.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I think I got it. I wasn’t saying that you specifically have a low standard for evidence. That was a nonspecific reference.

  • guest

    “Being immaterial, He has no physical parts.”
    This just translates as ‘God is magic’ to me.
    No-one ever bothers to explain how an immaterial being with no physical parts can even interact with the physical world, never mind create it. If God spoke the world into being, how does that work if he has no vocal cords and no tongue? How did sound even travel in the void before the Earth was made? What does it mean for an immaterial being to speak?
    I don’t expect an explanation. Science has to explain every little detail instantly or else fundamentalists will reject it, but ask how god did it and you’re told to shut up and live with the mystery.

  • The Pope

    I agree with William Lane Craig that God is immaterial, especially when it comes to discussions of ethics and morality, or when science is trying to find explanations for things.

    (im·ma·te·ri·al adj.

    1. Of no importance or relevance; inconsequential or irrelevant.)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Nice.

      I don’t usually agree with His Holiness, but let’s celebrate that rare confluence.

  • MNb

    When I read “god is simple” I always want to know first what simple means and how the apologist measures it. I can think of entropy, but god being immaterial that doesn’t apply. GCB underneath mentioned Aristoteles, but his metaphysics of act and potential has no empirical basis, to say it friendly. So I assume it refers to William Ockham and his desire to use as few assumptions as possible for any theory. Then I can’t imagine how “there is a god” is simpler than “there is no god”, whether for science of for metaphysics.
    What’s more, Plantinga and co never make clear what point they actually try to make. Let me grant him that “god is simple”, whatever that means. So what? Does it make god more probable or something? In this line of thinking Plantinga, if he wants to be consistent (not likely, he being a christian philosopher of religion) should argue that Newtonian physics is superior to General Relativity.
    Obviously Plantinga and Craig never think about nice little products as a Global Positioning System. It never ceases to amaze me how easily they take the scientific results for granted. Again and again I read how belief is about wondering – then why for a change not wonder about all the features that can make modern life so easy?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      When I read “god is simple” I always want to know first what simple means and how the apologist measures it.

      I think Wm. Lane Craig handwaves about it having zero mechanical parts. He’s good at avoiding the real issue when it’s uncomfortable.

      In this line of thinking Plantinga, if he wants to be co nsistent (not likely, he being a christian philosopher of religion) should argue that Newtonian physics is superior to General Relativity.

      Nice.

  • Blaine

    It’s very easy to “make” an immaterial god, that actually posses power to shape our own actions. You just have to delude yourself, and allow this conceptual god to influence how you interpret the world.

    In the same way that the power of money is attributed to it by humanity’s collective agreement of it’s value, the power of God exists as a concept that actually shapes the world we live in.

    Because God IS simple, he can be created by man, and has been thousands of times throughout human history.

  • UWIR

    I have the feeling that this is a case of Sophisticated Theology™ coming up with new definitions for common words, and people like Plantinga will simply dismiss you as “ignorant” for not knowing their special definitions. Arguing about whether some vague, undefined word applies to God is not particularly productive.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      This sounds a bit like the Courtier’s Reply (the Emperor’s tailor said, “Don’t bother me with your ignorant blather until you’ve actually studied invisible cloth. I can recommend many books.”)

  • Sarah

    “But there’s a way to cut through all this. Is God as simple as
    Plantinga or Craig imagine? Then demonstrate this. Make us one. Humanity
    can make complex things like a microprocessor, the worldwide telephone
    system, and a 747, so making this “amazingly simple” thing shouldn’t be
    hard. Or, if we don’t have the materials, they can at least give us the
    blueprints.

    But, of course, they will fail in this challenge and must admit that
    they have no clue how to build a god. In that case, how can they
    critique the simplicity of such a being? Now that their argument that
    God is simple has evaporated, we’re back where we started, and Dawkins’
    argument stands: a complex God is improbable.”

    That’s the dumbest fucking argument I’ve ever read. Is God Simple? Well if you can’t design or build him then he definitely can’t be. … … Do you even logic?

    If you can’t build something then … it doesn’t exist… Really? Are you even trying?

    If you can’t build a simple microprocessor then there isn’t… for example… a single Equation of Everything. Because… um… well no good reason… I’ve just decided to rule things out based on some sort of principle of Ignorance.

    Seriously. Try harder.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      No need to try harder. The argument is complete as it stands.

      Do you have absolutely no idea how to build/make something? If so, then you’re in no position to judge whether it’s simple or not.


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