Sunday, January 17, 2010

Truth, Existence Claims and God Talk: Part I

In two earlier blog installments, I examined the limits of truth and whether it can be absolutely defined. I showed that because of Godel’s Incompleteness theorems in conjunction with Scott Soames subsumed truth capacities (in “L-statements”) that no absolute truth statements can be made.

For example, in Soames’ case, if one writes the L(1) statement and claims truth:

“The Moon has 500 craters”

One will only be accurate to that initial truth statement level. If, however, one uses instruments of higher resolution (say much more powerful telescopes, or better yet Moon mapping satellites) one will have to change the statement. Thus, no truth statement given can be complete at the level formulated. There will always be a higher, more complex truth statement that trumps it. In the examples I used in my blog entries, I referenced the statements for a particular solar flare.

These difficulties are compounded when one makes metaphysical, as opposed to physical, claims. For example, the statement claim:

Human existence doesn’t end at death”

Is a metaphysical statement. A key attribute is that adding MORE levels to the statement (analogous to more details for lunar craters or for solar flares) doesn’t make it MORE true. For example, if I write:

“Human existence doesn’t end at death – but leads to Heaven or Hell”

That is not MORE true than the original statement. It has more words, but those words don’t enhance the innate substance or make it more valid. I could actually add thousands more words and they wouldn’t add one scintilla more truth to the original. The reason is that metaphysical claims, unlike physical ones, don’t disclose more reality because the initial claim has never been proven.

For a solar flare, I can add more details of the event because each new detail can be validated. For example, if I say the flare occurred at heliographic longitude and latitude such and such, I can verify that position using a high resolution solar graticule placed over the Sun’s disk as a transparent template (marked off in heliographic coordinates) so the location can be noted and confirmed. I can’t do anything similar for the claim that “human existence doesn’t end at death”.

Thus, while physical claims-truth statements are supported by DATA, the metaphysical ones can only be accepted on belief. (Or, the next thing to it, because some textual authority - say like a bible- said so. However, this commits the logical fallacy of appeal to authority )

Now, a peculiar element of all existence claims is that any such claim can always be proven if one example were given, but can never be disproven no matter how many examples are given – because most existence claims are more metaphysical than physical and require the would-be “disprover” to be able to go or be anywhere and look everywhere.

For example, consider the existence claim:

“There are two inch high fairies which are green, and speak both Greek and English and give out money for lost teeth”

This statement is impossible to disprove, but that impossibility doesn’t mean it is a true statement. The reason is that like all metaphysical statements, it can’t be developed or added to such that any additions will render it more true. The original statement exhausts whatever possibilities there are and none can enhance it. Also, even if a skeptic went all about the universe searching for such fairies, and looked in every nook and cranny, doubtless running out of time, there is no way he could disprove it.

Now, ironically, the claim-statement can be proven – if ONE example of the entity were to be produced. Thus, the claimant only needs to produce one two inch fairy, green in color, that speaks English and Greek and has the ability to give out money for lost teeth. This one step would remove the need to endlessly argue – which as I implied- would be an exercise in futility.

We are therefore led to a generalization concerning all metaphysical statements:

Any given metaphysical claim can be proven if an example it describes can be shown

What this shows is clearly that the onus must always be on the metaphysical claimant to exhibit his entity precisely and fully, because the most exhaustive physical search or inquiry can never disprove its existence, by virtue of the claim's nature and subjectivity. Similarly, this goes for the God-claimant to show his God exists unambiuously (not merely from indirect evidence "creation" or "order" etc.). The error of most God claimants is to demand the atheist disprove it exists, which is logically impossible because it would require the atheist to exhaust all conceivable L(1), L(2)....L(n) or higher inferred statements (on derived existences about it) .....probably taking more than 5 trillion years!

The atheist can no more do that than the tooth fairy skeptic can for the two-inch tall fairy that speaks Greek and English and exchanges money for teeth. The God claimant, however, could resolve the issue insantly by the simple expedient of trotting out his God for us to see hocus pocus, or excuses, or rationalizations. At the very least, even if the God claimant can't "trot out" his deity, he needs to provide the atheist with the necessary and sufficient conditions for it to exist.

Next: Part II: Why ultimate attributes can't work to describe a "Supreme Being"

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