Tag Archives: errata

Wrapping up on God – Final Notes and Errata on “An Atheist’s Flowchart”

Over the last six philosophy posts (my “Atheist’s Flowchart” series) I’ve wandered through a pretty thorough exploration of the arguments underlying my personal atheism. Now that they’ve had some time to settle, I’ve gone back and re-read them and noticed all sorts of random stuff that was confusing or I just forgot or whatever. This post is going to be a scattershot collection of random notes, clarifications, and errata for that series.

Here we go:

In The Many Faces of God, I wrote “[from] the whole pantheons found in many versions of Hinduism, to the more pantheistic view favoured by Spinoza and Einstein”, which in hindsight is kind of confusing. I blame the English language. A pantheon (apart from the specific temple in Rome) is a collection of many distinct gods. A pantheistic view, confusingly, does not involve a pantheon but is in fact (quoting Wikipedia): “the belief that all reality is identical with divinity, or that everything composes an all-encompassing, immanent god”. Beliefs that actually involve a pantheon are called polytheistic instead.

The first piece of my argument, in two parts, ended up being long and fairly convoluted and still didn’t do a great job of explaining the core idea. One of the things that I failed to explain was this key phrase from the Less Wrong page on Occam’s Razor: “just because we all know what it means doesn’t mean the concept is simple”. I gestured confusingly in the direction of the claim that “god is a super-complicated concept” but I suspect that, unless you’re already well-versed in formal information theory, I wasn’t very convincing. Allow me to gesture some more.

Science explains nearly everything we can observe in a beautiful system of interlocking formulas that, while scary and complex to a layman, are still simple enough to be run on a computer. God cannot be run on any computer I know of. Many gods are, by definition, ineffable – complex beyond any possible human understanding. Even those that are hypothetical effable [is this a word?] are not currently effed [this one definitely isn’t] in nearly the same way we understand gravity, or chemical reactions, or the human heart.

In the third part of my argument, I mentioned briefly without explanation that none of the common logical arguments for god derive from my core axioms. It would have been helpful if I’d given some examples. I did not, because I am lazy. I am still lazy, and after poking around for a while cannot find a good example of something that I can work through in a reasonable amount of space.

If anybody wants to construct a formal logical argument from my nine axioms to the existence of god, please send it to me and I promise I will give it an entire post all to itself.

At the end of my fourth part, I linked to a t-shirt design which has already been removed from the internet. It was a snippet of this comic from Dresden Codak, specifically the panel in the third row with the text “I will do science to it”. It’s not really related to anything, but Dresden Codak is well worth reading.

In my fifth part I actually made a mistake and made a weak version of the argument I was aiming for. The better version, in brief:

  1. Science explains why people believe in god.
  2. You believe in science, even if you think you don’t.
  3. If god’s existence was the reason that people believed in god, that would contradict #1.

Therefore either god doesn’t exist at all, or the fact that millions of people believe is a coincidence of mind-boggling proportions which defies Occam’s Razor.