Saturday, March 27, 2010

A god who can do anything is nothing

From Massimo Pigliucci, biologist and philosopher:

[Can God make a mountain so heavy he can't move it?] If you answer “yes,” it looks like god can do something that he cannot undo, which means that he is not, after all, omnipotent. If you respond “no” then you are immediately acknowledging a limit to what god can do, so again it turns out that he is not omnipotent. Try getting out of it, you’ll either laugh all the way to your logic class (if you are an atheist) or get a really bad headache (if you are a theist). (The funniest variation of the paradox is due to that immortal philosopher, Homer Simpson: “Could Jesus microwave a burrito so hot that he himself could not eat it?”)

It would seem, then, that an omnipotent god is a logical impossibility. Since logical impossibilities are stronger than physical and contingent impossibilities, it follows that there cannot be such a thing as an omnipotent god. Oops. So the next time someone says something as inane as “anything is possible,” ask them about the paradox of omnipotence: you will kill two birds with one stone, showing both that not anything is possible and that the most common type of god worshiped nowadays is a contradiction in terms. Then go out for a drink to congratulate yourself on a job well done.

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