PDA

View Full Version : Origin of God and Boulder Question.


Jim B.
11-18-2009, 06:03 PM
Could God create a boulder so big even He couldn't lift it?

I've so far heard this question in a couple of places. (No answer was ever given though.) And my question, I guess, is two-fold: where did the theological thought puzzle originate? Who first said it? And what, if indeed any, is the correct answer to the puzzle?

Thank you in advance to all who reply:)

begbert2
11-18-2009, 06:13 PM
Dunno when it was made, but the correct answer is "Your god doesn't exist, nyah nyah!" It's a logical disproof of the existence of omnipotent gods, and succinctly shows that as appealing as the idea of unlimited power might be, you run into Juggernaut/Blob problems as soon as you allow the god's unlimited powers to influence each other's results.

Indistinguishable
11-18-2009, 06:18 PM
Well, for some value of "omnipotent/unlimited power". I wouldn't find it a particularly compelling demonstration of anything beyond what's already demonstrated by "Could God make 2 + 2 = 5? Of course not!". Though perhaps what's already demonstrated by that is well-worth demonstrating.

panache45
11-18-2009, 06:20 PM
Well, if you insist on framing the question within the context of theism, one answer is to suppose that the universe consisted of one huge solid boulder, constantly expandind and creating new boulder-space. Then there'd be no additional space to lift the boulder into . . . making the question irrational.

But of course begbert2's answer is more accurate.

begbert2
11-18-2009, 06:27 PM
Well, for some value of "omnipotent/unlimited power". I wouldn't find it a particularly compelling demonstration of anything beyond what's already demonstrated by "Could God make 2 + 2 = 5? Of course not!". Though perhaps what's already demonstrated by that is well-worth demonstrating.Right, but both "lifting a boulder" and "making a boulder too heavy to lift" are actions that one would specifically expect any diety worth their salt to be able to do. And taken separately, there is no problem with either ability. It's only when you set them against one another that there's a problem.

Malacandra
11-18-2009, 06:48 PM
Perhaps we should not consider omnipotence as infinity, since by analogy with mathematics, multiplying both sides of the equation by infinity, or dividing zero by zero, is seldom useful. On the other hand, just as with the theory of limits, you can consider what happens as x -> inf or dy/dx -> 0/0, with no silly results; and similarly, potence doesn't have to equal infinity for a deity worth his salt to create the universe ex nihilo or bring the dead back to life - it only has to attain an arbitrarily large value.

I prefer to think of "omnipotence" as "unlimited capacity for doing the very difficult", not "the ability to do self-contradictory things". God can't (in this universe, at any rate) tell you the last digit of p - but He can quote it to more digits than any arbitrarily high number you require.

Captain Amazing
11-18-2009, 06:52 PM
I don't know who first asked the question, but the usual answer is something like Thomas Aquinas's answer to a similar question. Aquinas said that God was omnipotent in that God could do everything that was possible to do. But, the idea of a unliftable thing that could be lifted, for instance, or the making a square circle, which I think was Aquinas's example, is a logical impossibility. It's inherently contradictory and a nonsensical term.

begbert2
11-18-2009, 06:57 PM
I don't know who first asked the question, but the usual answer is something like Thomas Aquinas's answer to a similar question. Aquinas said that God was omnipotent in that God could do everything that was possible to do. But, the idea of a unliftable thing that could be lifted, for instance, or the making a square circle, which I think was Aquinas's example, is a logical impossibility. It's inherently contradictory and a nonsensical term.A square circle is impossible by definition, and a "boulder too heavy to lift" actually makes an assertion about the lifter, which I suppose is sort of cheating. But it's not too hard to find other ways to turn God's omnipotence on itself. Like:

Can god make an unbreakable rope? They're a common concept in fiction...

Can god destroy himself?

Can god make it so that he never existed?

CalMeacham
11-18-2009, 11:37 PM
My standard reply is to ask another question:


Can God make a Babe so Hot He can't pick her up?



...for which I am going express to Hell.

Der Trihs
11-18-2009, 11:46 PM
Can God make a Babe so Hot He can't pick her up?Sure. Everyone knows the ladies like the bad boys; the hot chicks all hang out with Satan. Which helps explain why God is all grumpy and goes around smiting things.

...for which I am going express to Hell. Where all the previously mentioned hot girls are; it's win-win for you!

Captain Amazing
11-18-2009, 11:54 PM
But it's not too hard to find other ways to turn God's omnipotence on itself. Like:

Can god make an unbreakable rope? They're a common concept in fiction...

Can god destroy himself?

Can god make it so that he never existed?

Well, again, Aquinas would say, "omnipotent" doesn't mean "able to do impossible things". If you agree with Aquinas that existence is a necessary property of God, then God can't terminate his existence. The unbreakable rope is the same sort of thing as the unliftable boulder.

Snowboarder Bo
11-18-2009, 11:59 PM
Sure. Everyone knows the ladies like the bad boys; the hot chicks all hang out with Satan. Which helps explain why God is all grumpy and goes around smiting things.

Where all the previously mentioned hot girls are; it's win-win for you!

I think Hell's got all the good bands, anyway.

Half Man Half Wit
11-19-2009, 05:33 AM
I prefer to think of "omnipotence" as "unlimited capacity for doing the very difficult", not "the ability to do self-contradictory things". God can't (in this universe, at any rate) tell you the last digit of p - but He can quote it to more digits than any arbitrarily high number you require.
But what if 'the things it's possible to do' coincides with 'the things physically possible', i.e. if doing something that transgresses the laws of physics is self-contradictory? That wouldn't be a very impressive god, since all of his actions could be replicated using some sufficiently advanced technology.

Seems to me that if you admit logical limitations to god's power, you also must admit the possibility that he's exactly as limited as we are (or perhaps, some alien race with hyperadvanced technology is) -- but that doesn't seem to be a god many people want to believe in.

Whack-a-Mole
11-19-2009, 11:13 AM
I see no logical problems with the question.

God creates a universe with various laws applied to that universe. There is nothing particularly magical about the laws which govern the universe we live in. Scientists in fact are trying to decide why these laws and not some other laws as there is no particular reason other laws could not have been chosen.

So, God must abide by the laws of the universe he created when within that universe. So, no four-cornered circles for instance.

Now, can God make a rock so heavy that god cannot lift it? Sure. Why not? God merely makes a rock that is unmovable in this universe within the bounds of the laws that govern this universe. So, does this mean God is not omnipotent because God cannot move the rock? Nope. God can change the rules that govern our universe thus making the rock movable. Now it is a movable rock because the laws which made it unmovable no longer apply.

Half Man Half Wit
11-19-2009, 12:11 PM
So, God must abide by the laws of the universe he created when within that universe. So, no four-cornered circles for instance.

[...]

God can change the rules that govern our universe thus making the rock movable.
If he can change the rules of the game, is it then strictly speaking a boulder he cannot lift? If he can make it so that he can, doesn't that mean that in toto, he can?

Whack-a-Mole
11-19-2009, 12:16 PM
If he can change the rules of the game, is it then strictly speaking a boulder he cannot lift? If he can make it so that he can, doesn't that mean that in toto, he can?

Well exactly...

We have to avoid a logical impossibility. A force that cannot be stopped meets an object that cannot be moved. I would say it is logically impossible.

So, God makes something that cannot be moved...even by god. As long as the laws of the universe remain in place God cannot move it because to make it unmovable God used the laws of that universe. But it is God right? How can that be? Well, God can move it if God changes the rules...which presumably God can do. So, God changes the parameters which govern the universe making an unmovable boulder and now it can be moved. It can't in one, it can in the other. God can switch between the two but logically it is impossible to have both exist simultaneously in the same universe.

Half Man Half Wit
11-19-2009, 12:37 PM
God can switch between the two but logically it is impossible to have both exist simultaneously in the same universe.
But that's not the question, at least not as I see it -- if god can change the laws of the universe, he is not fundamentally subject to them, right? So, that the boulder is not movable according to the laws of the universe (even by god) has no bearing on god's actual capabilities, since he supersedes these laws. But then, there's no meaning to saying that he can't lift the boulder, since, by exercising one of his faculties -- changing the laws of the universe -- he can. Then, the boulder never was a boulder that can't be lifted by god -- it was merely a boulder that can't be lifted by god without god changing the laws of the universe; i.e. his inability to lift the boulder is contingent on not using all of his powers.

Similarly, flexing my biceps is one of my faculties, and it might well be that I am unable to lift a boulder without exercising it; but that doesn't mean that I can't lift that boulder, since I might well be able to when I do flex my biceps.

Whack-a-Mole
11-19-2009, 12:42 PM
But that's not the question, at least not as I see it -- if god can change the laws of the universe, he is not fundamentally subject to them, right?

Yes and no. God is subject to the laws as they exist at that moment. But God can change the laws. As long as the law says the boulder is not movable then God cannot move it. If God wants to move it God must change the law which presumably God can do.

Imagine you are the Emperor and it is illegal for you to kill someone. As long as the law is in place you are subject to it. But, being Emperor, you can change the law at a whim so you change it and now you can go kill someone without any recourse against you.

Not a great analogy I admit but hopefully you see what I am driving at.

Ludovic
11-19-2009, 01:02 PM
God can make a boulder so heavy he can't lift it...and then lift it.

So therefore, God is Chuck Norris.

picker
11-19-2009, 01:06 PM
I always heard it as 'Could God make a microwave burrito so hot that even he couldn't eat it?'

I'm not sure, to tell you the truth.

kayaker
11-19-2009, 01:15 PM
I think Hell's got all the good bands, anyway.

Yep. In heaven it's pretty much Karen Carpenter 24/7.;)

kanicbird
11-19-2009, 01:16 PM
I'm going to take a WAG at it, yes God could and does often - through God living in and through man. God gives people great power including that of God Himself, and Jesus has said: Matthew 21:21
Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done
and
Matthew 19:26
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Which IMHO is the Spirit of God living in man, and the power He gives us.
It is possible every time a person ponders this question God creates such a boulder just for that person, and that person must overcome it with God living through them to display His glory and increase the faith of the believer.

Half Man Half Wit
11-19-2009, 01:22 PM
Not a great analogy I admit but hopefully you see what I am driving at.
I see what you're driving at; I'm just not sure I can accept it as a resolution of the paradox (which might be more of a question of taste than anything) -- to me, if there is a way for a being to accomplish something, then that being can do that something. So, if there is a way for god to change the laws of the universe in order to lift the boulder, then he can lift the boulder (and has therefore not succeeded in creating a boulder he cannot lift); if the emperor can change the laws such as to be able to kill somebody with impunity, then he can kill somebody with impunity.

Or, let's push this back one level -- can god create a universe so immutable that he can't change its laws? Can god create a stone such that there is absolutely no way for him to enable himself to lift it?

Just as an aside, I'm not sure how much value the paradox as an argument has in and of itself -- seems to me that it can easily be resolved by asserting that one cannot simultaneously hold that there is an omnipotent being and that there are immovable stones; if there is omnipotence, the phrase 'an immovable stone' is meaningless, since by definition, an omnipotent being can do anything, including lifting a stone of any given size. As such, the problem assumes inconsistent premises -- that there can both be an omnipotent being and a stone not movable by that being. But if both premises are simultaneously valid, then I think the paradox is a genuine one.

Thudlow Boink
11-19-2009, 01:42 PM
And what, if indeed any, is the correct answer to the puzzle?One way to look at it, is that the question is really asking, "Could God suspend the laws of logic?" "Could God make P and not-P be simultaneously true?"

And you could ask essentially the same question without dragging God into it: is it in any sense possible for the laws of logic to be other than what they are?

Little Nemo
11-19-2009, 02:31 PM
God creates a universe with various laws applied to that universe. There is nothing particularly magical about the laws which govern the universe we live in. Scientists in fact are trying to decide why these laws and not some other laws as there is no particular reason other laws could not have been chosen.

So, God must abide by the laws of the universe he created when within that universe. So, no four-cornered circles for instance.

Now, can God make a rock so heavy that god cannot lift it? Sure. Why not? God merely makes a rock that is unmovable in this universe within the bounds of the laws that govern this universe. So, does this mean God is not omnipotent because God cannot move the rock? Nope. God can change the rules that govern our universe thus making the rock movable. Now it is a movable rock because the laws which made it unmovable no longer apply.That's the way I see it. Lifting an unliftable boulder is logically impossible in our universe. But God wrote the rules of the Universe. Presumedly if he wanted to, he could change the rules and create a Universe where lifting an unliftable boulder is not a paradox. We can't envision this, just like we can't envision a tesseract, because we're part of this universe and are bound by its rules.

Ludovic
11-19-2009, 02:32 PM
And you could ask essentially the same question without dragging God into it: is it in any sense possible for the laws of logic to be other than what they are?

Yes: there could be universes where different laws of logic are better than ours at explaining the workings of the universe. Which isn't to say that the concepts would still not "Exist" inasmuch as our laws of logic can be said to "exist", it's just that they would not be as applicable as other ones.

Contrapuntal
11-19-2009, 02:41 PM
God could just make the unliftable boulder, clone himself, and they could lift the boulder together. There's lots of stuff I can't lift by myself, but can lift easily with some help. I can even make stuff that I can't lift, but together with my twin it's no prob, dude.

Jeez, that was an easy one.

begbert2
11-19-2009, 02:44 PM
Just as an aside, I'm not sure how much value the paradox as an argument has in and of itself -- seems to me that it can easily be resolved by asserting that one cannot simultaneously hold that there is an omnipotent being and that there are immovable stones; if there is omnipotence, the phrase 'an immovable stone' is meaningless, since by definition, an omnipotent being can do anything, including lifting a stone of any given size. As such, the problem assumes inconsistent premises -- that there can both be an omnipotent being and a stone not movable by that being. But if both premises are simultaneously valid, then I think the paradox is a genuine one.Right - the boulder argument is actually one of the weaker arguments to demonstrate that an omni-god is self-contradictory, because you can simply say "The existence of God renders all boulders by definition liftable, because he's just that muscular." (My favorite personal anti-omni argument the the POE, with the omnipotence/freewill paradox tacked on to kill the common excuse.)

A more interesting question along the boulder argument's lines is, could God make an exact duplicate of himself, with all the same properties and powers and abilities? Unlike the unliftable boulder, you can't say that god's existence makes gods impossible by defintion - at least not without the argument becoming a fiat disproof of God, which the atheists probably wouldn't mind.

And once you have God2 around, of course, the question is which of God and God2 would win at thumb-wrestling?


(On preview, I find the similar detail in this post and the prior one interesting.)

Blut Aus Nord
11-19-2009, 06:42 PM
I know the answer to how God could create a boulder that he cannot not lift.

Step 1: God creates a boulder of any weight, shape or size.
Step 2: God declares that He shall not lift the boulder under any circumstances.

He has thus created a boulder which He both can and cannot lift, depending on how He bends His own word. God you sly devil you.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must go make aeroplane noises while darting around the living room.

begbert2
11-19-2009, 06:47 PM
I know the answer to how God could create a boulder that he cannot not lift.

Step 1: God creates a boulder of any weight, shape or size.
Step 2: God declares that He shall not lift the boulder under any circumstances.

He has thus created a boulder which He both can and cannot lift, depending on how He bends His own word. God you sly devil you.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must go make aeroplane noises while darting around the living room.I refuse to accept that "won't" and "can't" are synonyms, on principle. A god that can lift the rock but says he won't lift the rock, is either unable to break his word/change his mind, or not. If he can reverse his declaration, he can lift the rock; if not, he can't. Period.

Can, or can not. There is no Maybe.

(And, "cannot not"?)

Chronos
11-19-2009, 07:11 PM
My personal favorite answer is "He can, but He chooses not to". If God ever did make that boulder, then there would be something that He can't do. But since He hasn't made that boulder, it doesn't exist, and therefore there is still no task which God cannot perform.

A more interesting question along the boulder argument's lines is, could God make an exact duplicate of himself, with all the same properties and powers and abilities? Unlike the unliftable boulder, you can't say that god's existence makes gods impossible by defintion - at least not without the argument becoming a fiat disproof of God, which the atheists probably wouldn't mind.Still a logical impossibility, I think, because if God and God-Prime are truly exactly alike, then they constitute a single Entity, not two. If they had different colors, say, then one could refer to the green God and the blue God. Or if they had different sizes, then one could refer to the big God and the little God. Or if different ages, the old God and the young God. But if they're identical in all respects, then you're just left with God and God.

BigT
11-19-2009, 07:25 PM
My personal favorite answer is "He can, but He chooses not to". If God ever did make that boulder, then there would be something that He can't do. But since He hasn't made that boulder, it doesn't exist, and therefore there is still no task which God cannot perform.

That's my favorite answer to the paradox. Still, I tend to believe it's more of a case of "God can do anything, including violating our human laws of logic."

Still a logical impossibility, I think, because if God and God-Prime are truly exactly alike, then they constitute a single Entity, not two. If they had different colors, say, then one could refer to the green God and the blue God. Or if they had different sizes, then one could refer to the big God and the little God. Or if different ages, the old God and the young God. But if they're identical in all respects, then you're just left with God and God.[/quote]

Sounds similar to some versions of the concept of the Trinity.

begbert2
11-19-2009, 07:27 PM
My personal favorite answer is "He can, but He chooses not to". If God ever did make that boulder, then there would be something that He can't do. But since He hasn't made that boulder, it doesn't exist, and therefore there is still no task which God cannot perform.So your god isn't omnipotent, because it is theoretically possible for a boulder to exist that your god cannot lift, meaning that there is something he can't do.

I can't eat a chocolate donut the size of the statue of liberty. The fact that no such donut exists is irrelevent to my capability to eat it; the mere facts that it could exist and that if it did I would be unable to eat it mean that I am not omniomnivorous, regardless of whether such a donut ever came to exist or not.

Still a logical impossibility, I think, because if God and God-Prime are truly exactly alike, then they constitute a single Entity, not two. If they had different colors, say, then one could refer to the green God and the blue God. Or if they had different sizes, then one could refer to the big God and the little God. Or if different ages, the old God and the young God. But if they're identical in all respects, then you're just left with God and God.This makes no sense - identical things don't shloop together on contact, not outside of bad sci-fi anyway. Just because you can't tell them apart doesn't mean they're the same thing, any more than two otherwise identical X-boxes fresh off the assembly line shloop together due to their similarity.



ETA: Some versions of the concept of the Trinity don't make any sense either. And the laws of logic are invulnerable to everything, since they are made up and true by definition in their made-up universe. If you change that you've just made up an additional new different logic; you haven't removed the original version or made it untrue in its own context.

monavis
11-20-2009, 07:57 AM
I see no logical problems with the question.

God creates a universe with various laws applied to that universe. There is nothing particularly magical about the laws which govern the universe we live in. Scientists in fact are trying to decide why these laws and not some other laws as there is no particular reason other laws could not have been chosen.

So, God must abide by the laws of the universe he created when within that universe. So, no four-cornered circles for instance.

Now, can God make a rock so heavy that god cannot lift it? Sure. Why not? God merely makes a rock that is unmovable in this universe within the bounds of the laws that govern this universe. So, does this mean God is not omnipotent because God cannot move the rock? Nope. God can change the rules that govern our universe thus making the rock movable. Now it is a movable rock because the laws which made it unmovable no longer apply.

Could the rock be so big that it even pushed God out of existence?

begbert2
11-20-2009, 02:17 PM
Could the rock be so big that it even pushed God out of existence?Naw, God is omnipresent, so he can co-exist overlapping other matter without complications. That's why his existence doesn't infere with that of God2 - unlike normal objects where two of them have to be in different places, God's copy can not only be exactly like him in every way, but also be in exactly the same place - and yet, still be distinct.

Švejk
11-20-2009, 02:20 PM
Homer Simpson asked whether God could microwave a burrito so hot that he himself would not be able to touch it. So it's either him or Aquinas, whoever came first :D

Vorpal Blade
11-20-2009, 02:59 PM
Homer Simpson asked whether God could microwave a burrito so hot that he himself would not be able to touch it. So it's either him or Aquinas, whoever came first :D

Goddammit! Answer the fucking question! How many fairies can dance on the end of a pin?

Blaster Master
11-20-2009, 03:00 PM
I refuse to accept that "won't" and "can't" are synonyms, on principle. A god that can lift the rock but says he won't lift the rock, is either unable to break his word/change his mind, or not. If he can reverse his declaration, he can lift the rock; if not, he can't. Period.

Can, or can not. There is no Maybe.

(And, "cannot not"?)

There's a fundamental disconnect here. Part of the general belief structure that goes along with an omnipotent God is also omniscience, and omnipresence; in fact, I would argue that those properties naturally follow from omnipotence because, well, if you're all powerful and you can't use that power to learn everything, you're not really all powerful, are you? Similar with the concept of omnipresence is that we exist in space time, and thus God is not only everywhere, but everywhen (if that's even a word) as well.

So really, the concept of "reversing" his declaration doesn't make sense. If something is simultaneously at every moment, then he must, from our temporal perspective, always be the same (and this is also a general belief of God). As such, for him to "reverse" a declaration would be for him to simultaneously be something and it's mutually exclusive opposite at the same time.


Also, I think the pi example was a good image for why these sorts of questions don't do anything to prove or disprove the existence of God; they're pitting two mutually exclusive properties an asking if God can make them the same. With the boulder question you're essentially asking if God can make something infinite finite, just like with pi. The answer to the question has nothing to do with the nature of God because, if the answer is yes, your question now doesn't make any sense. Can God make black white? Can God make 1=0?

I suppose one could say that, sure, God can rewrite the natural laws so that, theoeretically he could make these nonsensical answers the same, but then they wouldn't be nonsensical anymore and, instead, what we see now would be nonsensical in that universe.

Švejk
11-20-2009, 03:00 PM
Goddammit! Answer the fucking question! How many fairies can dance on the end of a pin?

42, of course. Geez... :rolleyes:

begbert2
11-20-2009, 04:56 PM
There's a fundamental disconnect here. Part of the general belief structure that goes along with an omnipotent God is also omniscience, and omnipresence; in fact, I would argue that those properties naturally follow from omnipotence because, well, if you're all powerful and you can't use that power to learn everything, you're not really all powerful, are you? Similar with the concept of omnipresence is that we exist in space time, and thus God is not only everywhere, but everywhen (if that's even a word) as well.

So really, the concept of "reversing" his declaration doesn't make sense. If something is simultaneously at every moment, then he must, from our temporal perspective, always be the same (and this is also a general belief of God). As such, for him to "reverse" a declaration would be for him to simultaneously be something and it's mutually exclusive opposite at the same time.Nah, I don't think this holds. Reasoning follows:

Action requires time to be passing, by definition, because action requires change, and change requires having two times which have different states ("before" and "after"). So, a God that does not experience time is not omnipotent because he can't do anything. At all. He's not omnipotent, he's nonmnipotent - competely powerless to act, think, emote - anything.

Does that mean that God can't be outside of time? Actually, no. It means that he can't be outside of all time, but he can be outside of our time.

Take, for example, the fine movie "Super Mario Brothers". The movie has a running time, and as you play the movie through, events happen as that time passes, and the characters in the movie react to the passing of that time. We viewers, on the other hand, are outside of the time on the video tape. We can move freely within it, observing any part in any order, or if we have enough screens for every frame in the movie we can observe the entire movie at once.

Now, suppose, we are editing this movie. If so inclined, we can choose to cut out Luigi, and CGI Jar-Jar Binks in his place. (I leave it as an exercise to the reader whether this would improve the movie.) If we do this, to the characters in the movie, Jar-Jar has always been there. Unless we keep Luigi in the first part, and then swap him out in the latter part of the movie - in that case they would observe a change within their linear view of the timeline. From outside the timeline as an editor, we have complete control of the movie at all points within it -to the characters of the movie we are literally omnipotent - like unto gods in every way. However, from outside the movie, there was a point when Luigi was in the movie, even if in the movie's timeline he was competely removed. This is because for the editing to occur at all, it and the editor have to have a timeline of their own to do the editing within.

So, what does this say about to the god disproof? Well, the first thing it says to me is that if God's outside of time, we don't have libertarian free will - all our decisions exist in the latter part of the tape long before we get there. But that's not germaine to this god-disproof. :) The first relevent thing is that if God's outside of time, it's utterly unimpressive that god can do things in our universe - we might be nothing more than a flimstrip to him. To be meaningfully omnipotent, he needs to be omnipotent in the universe he inhabits. But in a way that's not germaine to the discussion either, since being omnipotent to us might be enough for some folks. (In which case, I am literally a God, because I write fiction. Very very bad fiction, but I still write it, and have absolute power over all within!)

What is relevent to what you've posted is that regardless of what it looks like to us from within the timeline, a "timeless" god who is not completely impotent can indeed change his mind. We just wouldn't know about it unless he decided to make it evident to us. Like, He could create a boulder marked "unliftable" appear at minute 20 of the Mario movie, and have it sit there for the duration of the movie unmoved. But it's not really unliftable, because he could go back and change its properties to be liftable - and in fact he could make it so that, to us, it had never been unliftable, because he could change its properties back at the moment in the movie timeline that it appeared.

Of course, even if God did label the boulder "God cannot lift this", the label would have been meaningless from the start, because he could go back and change it. Things get only slightly more interesting when you realize that to interact with the characters in the timeline at all so that we would know about God, he would have to write himself into the story. A Mary Sue, if you will. And in that case, God could decide that the in-story God couldn't lift this boulder that the outside-story God put in it, and write the events in the story accordingly. Though this is still an arbirary limitation, because the actual God outside the story is really choosing to not have his in-story avatar be able to lift the rock. If he ever changes his mind, up the rock goes. (And since it's a Mary Sue, you know it's only a matter of time.)

Also, I think the pi example was a good image for why these sorts of questions don't do anything to prove or disprove the existence of God; they're pitting two mutually exclusive properties an asking if God can make them the same. With the boulder question you're essentially asking if God can make something infinite finite, just like with pi. The answer to the question has nothing to do with the nature of God because, if the answer is yes, your question now doesn't make any sense. Can God make black white? Can God make 1=0?

I suppose one could say that, sure, God can rewrite the natural laws so that, theoeretically he could make these nonsensical answers the same, but then they wouldn't be nonsensical anymore and, instead, what we see now would be nonsensical in that universe.Arguments that God can't do logically impossible things aren't interesting unless the person's God is claimed to be able to do logically impossible things. (And even then they're still uninteresting because those situations just mean that the person making the claims fails to comprehend what it means to be logically impossible.) Boulder-type arguments are interesting when they are able to show that the things the god should be able to, he can't all do. Typically this would be done by two separate things he is claimed to be able to do, which separately are quite reasonable and expected, but when taken together cause a problem.

Like, say, having perfect foreknowledge and having or granting free will. ;)

Lightsaber
11-20-2009, 05:41 PM
Eh, this sets up a logical contradiction. Contradictions can't actually exist.

To get around it you simply define omnipotence as being able to do everything that is logically possible. Most arguments along these lines are invalid.

begbert2
11-20-2009, 05:45 PM
Eh, this sets up a logical contradiction. Contradictions can't actually exist.

To get around it you simply define omnipotence as being able to do everything that is logically possible. Most arguments along these lines are invalid.Unless you then manage to show that some fundamental tenet of their belief system is logically impossible - at that point, let the games begin! :)

fuzzypickles
11-20-2009, 06:32 PM
The question itself is total bullshit. It's similar to the paradox of "the irresistible force striking the immovable object" -- the question presumes a force/object which is absolute. However, we live in a Universe where no such absolutes exist. (Think of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, the Wave/Particle Duality of Energy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave/particle_duality), etc.)

As for the follow-up question (can God make 2+2=5) -- of course he can! Even people can do that, we don't need God! Just redefine the rules of mathematics so 2+2 resolves to 5, not 4. Like language, mathematics is merely a description -- it's as simple as changing "I want a Big Mac" to "Yo quiero Taco Bell!"

And besides, why would God make a rock so impossibly big? That's hardly an efficient way to strike fear into your believers...

Take, for example, the fine movie "Super Mario Brothers".
Heh...best laugh I've had all week, thanks. :cool:

begbert2
11-20-2009, 06:43 PM
The question itself is total bullshit. It's similar to the paradox of "the irresistible force striking the immovable object" -- the question presumes a force/object which is absolute. However, we live in a Universe where no such absolutes exist. (Think of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, the Wave/Particle Duality of Energy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave/particle_duality), etc.)An omnipotent God is defined as being absolute, though, so if absolutes are out, then so is God. So you're just asserting the same thing the boulder argument attempts to prove by contradiction.

As for the follow-up question (can God make 2+2=5) -- of course he can! Even people can do that, we don't need God! Just redefine the rules of mathematics so 2+2 resolves to 5, not 4. Like language, mathematics is merely a description -- it's as simple as changing "I want a Big Mac" to "Yo quiero Taco Bell!"No - when we say that God can't make 2+2=5, we're not talking about the symbols, we're talking about the concepts. The concept of "2" is the same whether you write "2" or "two" or "dos". The same goes for the concepts of 5, addition, and equality. The assertion here is that because the concepts are rigidly defined, God can't change the fact that the rigid definitions have equally rigid derivable consequences. Which is, of course, the case - because the moment you change the definitions you are talking about a different problem entirely, which isn't the same as changing the answer to the first problem.

Of course, as has been noted, the fact that God can't do the logically impossible isn't all that interesting - most theists are willing to surrender that ground as soon as they can understand the argument against it.

And besides, why would God make a rock so impossibly big? That's hardly an efficient way to strike fear into your believers...If we have to start answering why God does the crazy things he does, we'll be here all day.


Heh...best laugh I've had all week, thanks. :cool::D

Indistinguishable
11-20-2009, 07:09 PM
Arguments that God can't do logically impossible things aren't interesting unless the person's God is claimed to be able to do logically impossible things. (And even then they're still uninteresting because those situations just mean that the person making the claims fails to comprehend what it means to be logically impossible.) Boulder-type arguments are interesting when they are able to show that the things the god should be able to, he can't all do. Typically this would be done by two separate things he is claimed to be able to do, which separately are quite reasonable and expected, but when taken together cause a problem.
But again, we can illustrate the same dynamic without dragging in alethic questions (the tricky "can" modality). For example, two separate things God is presumably claimed to be able to do, which separately are quite reasonable and expected, but when taken together cause a problem: making my year of death even, and making my year of death odd. Either one is presumably within his abilities, but he cannot possibly do both.

begbert2
11-20-2009, 07:23 PM
But again, we can illustrate the same dynamic without dragging in alethic questions (the tricky "can" modality). For example, two separate things God is presumably claimed to be able to do, which separately are quite reasonable and expected, but when taken together cause a problem: making my year of death even, and making my year of death odd. Either one is presumably within his abilities, but he cannot possibly do both.Hmm.

If you keep this up, I may be forced to admit you have a point.

It may be best to stick with proofs revolving around things God supposedly does or has done, and/or attributes which make claims about what God would do (like omnibenevolence or perfect honesty), and leave boulder-style arugments by the side of the road. Well, unless we're dealing with stubborn theists who insist that their god can do the logically impossible - I'm sure you'll agree that those folk are fair game.

There is no God
11-20-2009, 08:10 PM
It's actually a moot question, for reasons that are (or should be) obvious.

Chronos
11-20-2009, 09:37 PM
Incidentally, you've got to be careful about the logical impossibilities thing. One example that often comes up in discussions of this sort is "Can God create a triangle with three right angles", for instance. But as it happens, Man can make a triangle with three right angles: For instance, put one vertex at the North Pole, and the other two on the Equator at 0 and 90 degrees longitude. Before you declare anything logically impossible, you want to make absolutely certain that you have a solid grasp of the logic involved.

Horatio Hellpop
11-20-2009, 10:08 PM
I've so far heard this question in a couple of places. (No answer was ever given though.) And my question, I guess, is two-fold: where did the theological thought puzzle originate? Who first said it? And what, if indeed any, is the correct answer to the puzzle?

Thank you in advance to all who reply:)

The oldest cite I know of--I haven't read enough Aquinas to know if or how he phrased it--was from George Carlin's "I Used to Be Irish Catholic" routine. Not saying he originated it, just that that's where I first encountered it.

Half Man Half Wit
11-21-2009, 04:51 AM
Eh, this sets up a logical contradiction. Contradictions can't actually exist.
Well, if backed into a corner, you can always declare yourself a dialetheist and accept the existence of true contradictions. This brings its own problems with it (for instance, if P is a dialetheia, this means that both P and not-P are true; however, could, conceivably, the proposition 'P is a dialetheia' be itself a dialetheia?), but you can always hope that by the time your opponent notices, you'll have made for the hills successfully.

Whack-a-Mole
11-21-2009, 10:25 AM
Nah, I don't think this holds. Reasoning follows:

Action requires time to be passing, by definition, because action requires change, and change requires having two times which have different states ("before" and "after"). So, a God that does not experience time is not omnipotent because he can't do anything. At all. He's not omnipotent, he's nonmnipotent - competely powerless to act, think, emote - anything.

Does that mean that God can't be outside of time? Actually, no. It means that he can't be outside of all time, but he can be outside of our time.


Err...be careful invoking time and cause and effect.

Assuming we could make a spaceship fast enough it is quite possible for us to have two people disagree on the order of events. About what came "before" and what came "after". We'd both be right is the weird thing though.

Anyway, if you and I can disagree on the order of events, and both be correct, I can only assume God can deal with the same thing.

Half Man Half Wit
11-22-2009, 06:23 AM
Err...be careful invoking time and cause and effect.

Assuming we could make a spaceship fast enough it is quite possible for us to have two people disagree on the order of events. About what came "before" and what came "after". We'd both be right is the weird thing though.

Anyway, if you and I can disagree on the order of events, and both be correct, I can only assume God can deal with the same thing.
Well, causal structure is always preserved, though, so if there's a way event A could have had any influence on event B (i.e. B did not occur until light from A had had time enough to reach it), all observers will agree on their sequence.

And disagreeing on the sequence of things not causally related is not actually a contradiction, though at first it might seem so: You might say that, because for an observer O the proposition P = 'A and B occurred simultaneously' is true, and for a relatively moving observer O' not-P is true, there is a genuine contradiction -- but in this case, both O and O' would be making the mistake of believing their reference frame to be absolute, and neither gives in fact a complete description of reality; which would, respectively, be: 'in the reference frame of O, A and B occurred simultaneously' and 'in the reference frame of O', A and B did not occur simultaneously', which both say exactly the same thing.

marshmallow
11-22-2009, 12:22 PM
It's similar to the paradox of "the irresistible force striking the immovable object" ...

This one bothers me because the solution seems so simple to me. The irresistible force goes right through the immovable object and continues on its merry way. But people always look at me funny when I say that.

PBear42
11-23-2009, 01:12 AM
I hope this isn't a hijack, but I have a few questions. Where did the idea of an omnimax God come from? I'm speaking of the Judeo-Christian tradition. A claim of eternal existence we get from several verses, but whence the rest? Is it in the Bible or something scholastic theologians made up in the Middle Ages? IOW, if we could establish that omnimax is incoherent (of which I'm not persuaded), what follows? Does Christianity and/or thesism suddenly collapse like a house of cards whacked with a wiffle bat?

BTW, I'm an atheist, so these aren't burning questions for me. I've just never understood the point of the debate.

PBear42
11-23-2009, 01:20 AM
Oops, missed the edit window. Should read, "Does Christianity and/or theism suddenly collapse like a house of cards whacked with a wiffle bat?"

Claude Remains
11-23-2009, 02:44 AM
Could GOD create a boulder so big that even he could'nt lift it?

MU

begbert2
11-23-2009, 01:25 PM
Err...be careful invoking time and cause and effect.

Assuming we could make a spaceship fast enough it is quite possible for us to have two people disagree on the order of events. About what came "before" and what came "after". We'd both be right is the weird thing though.

Anyway, if you and I can disagree on the order of events, and both be correct, I can only assume God can deal with the same thing.Where in the section you quoted (or anywhere else in that post, for that matter) did I mention cause or effect? What I pointed out was that change requires time - because without the ability to have differing states at T and T', no change can occur. From this we can conclude that any God that ever does anything at all must necessarily be experiencing a passage of time.