Tuesday, October 15, 2013

God's Nature

Last week, on the Atheist Experience, a generic presuppositionalist called into the show, taking the usual tracks of trying to shift the burden of proof, black swan fallacies, arguments from ignorance, etc. You know, the sum total of logical fallacies that become the incarnation of Presuppositionalism.

Lynnea's approach started off awkward, but she stuck to her guns, and I thought it ended up working out well - causing the presuppositionalist to ask her to "prove it", when she took the same kind of position he took - a position, incidentally, which ironically starts with assuming itself as true without any reason or evidence.

Presuppositionalism is nothing but smoke and mirrors.

The bit in particular, however, that I'd like to discuss, is when the caller says "God can do anything that's consistent with his nature".

What is this "God's nature" thing that he's talking about? The show doesn't dive into that, but it's not the only place that concept pops up. They think it's a solution to the Euthyphro Dilemma, for instance.

In short, there's two basic possibilities for God's relationship to morality:
  1. God sets what's moral, and therefore, it's arbitrary, and if he changes his mind on say - murder, being wrong, murder will be okay because that's what God says. This isn't morality - it's obedience.
  2. Morality comes from some other source, other than God, and he's just relaying it to us... in which case, we could just cut out the middleman (God).
In either case, God is not the solution to the question of morality.

Apologists attempt to solve this dilemma by pointing out that it's a false dilemma - there's a third option - it's "God's nature", and he wouldn't act contrary to that nature.

What does that mean? As far as I can tell, it boils down to "that's just the way he is, and that's that".

Courtesy: Colbert Report
Let's look at something else, such as a bear. What is the "nature" of a bear? They hunt other animals for food, rummage for food at campsites, go fishing, and generally wreak havoc across America.

They didn't gain this nature out of a vacuum. It's a combination of their upbringing, environment and evolutionary heritage. Basically, it's determined by external forces.

Again, they're claiming that God is restricted by his own nature. Are there two things here? Is God's nature more powerful than God? They're not speaking of "God's nature" as in a normal set of behaviors that can have outliers. No, that caller said essentially that he can't do anything that's not "of his nature". It's a restriction.

I'm willing to bet the caller misspoke. Most often, the apologist would say - not that God can't establish that murder is good... he just won't. He's not like that.

That's the argument that must be; keep in mind that God is supposed to be the Alpha and the Omega. By definition, he's the beginning (and end) of everything. Nothing can restrict him, without violating that definition. Nothing can determine this nature, for the same reason. God's nature cannot be explained by any sort of "it's that way because..." since, instantaneously, that rule is violated - something external to God is dictating or determining what he can or can't do, or what he should or shouldn't do.

If nothing can establish or determine God's nature, what does that make it?

That's right: arbitrary... which makes it a failure just the same as #1 above for solving the moral conundrum.
ar·bi·trar·yˈärbiˌtrerē/Submit adjective
1.based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.
If nothing is dictating/determining it, it's not based on any reason or system. It could be anything. Why is it God's nature that murder is wrong, instead of good? Was it random... or did something else dictate it? One may object saying that it's not technically a choice or personal whim (because it's his nature), but that objection doesn't solve the core problem the word is attempting to describe, for lack of a better term.

Saying that "it's God's nature", whether we're talking about "omnipotence", morality or the source of logic, ultimately fails for the same cop-out unintelligible band-aid they attempt to slap on the problem.

Bottom line? The "God's nature" argument doesn't defeat Euthyphro's Dilemma. We just have to recursively apply it to that explanation as well, where it fizzles into nothing.

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