Friday, February 11, 2011

Negating the Negations: Smith’s Logically Impossible God Argument

In his book “Atheism: The Case Against God” which was Published in 1980 George H. Smith attempts to prove that God is logically impossible. His main argument can be formulated as follows:

Premise 1 -- The universe and every entity behave in accord with natural law ("uniformity of nature").

Premise 2 -- Natural law is determined by the limited nature of existence.

Premise 3 -- Existence is limited in that every entity has a specific nature, determinate (finite) characteristics, that determine the capacities of that entity.

Premise 4 -- Whatever does not have finite characteristics does not exist.

Premise 5 -- A supernatural being does not have finite characteristics

Therefore -- A supernatural being does not exist.*

Premise three is fallacious because it begs the question that all entities are finite. Entities that exist in the physical world such as the universe, the sun, humans and animals do have finite characteristics because they are composed of parts that can break down. The sun and the universe are subject to the second law of thermal dynamics and so will eventually be extinguished. You and I are subject to the breakdown of our organs and the mutation of our DNA. However, by definition God is an eternal, spiritual being that is not composed of parts and is not subject to finite characteristics. As a spiritual being God is outside of the limits of natural law which he created.

I might also add that premises three and four suggest that abstract objects like numbers, truth and love don’t exist because they are not composed of parts and are not finite.

Another interesting issue with this argument is that the first four premises conflict with the usual atheist argument that the universe has always existed. Atheists try to get out of the cosmological argument that God formed the universe by saying that it has always existed and therefore was not caused. However premise four of this argument says that whatever does not have finite characteristics does not exist, so if the universe is infinite then it doesn’t exist! That’s clearly not the case so either this argument is flawed or the universe had an origin.

So, we can see that there are many problems with this argument, but the main issue is that it makes the question begging assumption that infinite, spiritual being such as God can’t exist. As I’ve demonstrated here and here an infinite, spiritual God is quite plausible.

* I am grateful to Douglas M. Jones III of Atheism Sucks! for formulating Mr. Smith’s argument.

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