A comment over at Philly’s blog, You Made Me Say It, got me thinking. Now, thinking is not one of my better attributes (just ask CL and Gideon) but like Lewis Black, I have a hard time swallowing nonsense, because “I have thoughts“, and they get in the way of the usual religious swill swallowing. So there I am, thinking about his post, and some of the comments, and the question arises about god being outside time, space and logic. And it got me thinking more. What does that mean, god is outside time, space and logic?
Exactly where IS he?
Let’s take the first concept, time. How can anything be outside time? Time is just a way of measuring the passage of, well, time. I know that sounds circular, but I can’t think of a better way to put it. To say god is outside time, is similar to the contention that he’s outside, say, linear measurements. For example, if he’s standing next to you, he’d be, what? Five foot eleven? Six-two? Ten feet tall? Whatever he is, he’s a definite height. His fingers are a definite length, his head a definite circumference, and his penis…well, we won’t go there. Measurements are ways of comparing one physical attribute to another (men do it with their… oh, wait, I already did that joke) so that we can define it spatially relative to another. It’s a great way of understanding concepts like height, weight, distance, etc. by comparing objects and distances to others that are actually known by the observer. It’s how we humans categorize and simplify knowledge.
Similarly, time is a measurement of activity and existence relative to other activities and existences, so we can compare them, and better place them in our storage banks of knowledge. For example, the Super Bowl was six months ago. Six months is the measure of the passage of time between when the Super Bowl was actually played, and this moment. But six months is just a mental construct, a useful tool for us to understand that time frame. It doesn’t exist other than in our brains, and as a measurement, it’s only useful relative to other measurements.
So how can god be outside that? We construct and measure the passage of time, and our measures of time – seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, etc – are based on the physical aspects of our particular solar system. The units of measurement elsewhere in the universe could and would be different. However time is measured, either god is somewhere in reference to it, or he’s not. Of course, my position is that gods don’t exist, so perhaps theists and atheists are in agreement here. If god is nowhere (in a temporal sense) in relation to everything else, he’s simply nowhere, i.e. he doesn’t exist.
I can’t get my head around the theist concept of someone or something being outside time. Does god flit around from the past to the future and back to the present? How does he do that when the past is over and the future hasn’t happened yet? If he can, then in some sense, the past is not really past, because at least he can go there now, in the present. Same with the future. It destroys the definition of those terms to say he’s outside time, because “past”, “present” and “future” are again, mental constructs and concepts of time, something humans created to understand the passage of time.
Space. The final frontier. What is space? Here are two definitions, from among many, that fit the discussion:
- The infinite extension of the three-dimensional region in which all matter exists.
- The expanse in which the solar system, stars, and galaxies exist; the universe.
To some extent, and for my purposes, they really define the same thing. The entire area where all matter exists is the same thing as the universe. Essentially, where everything is. Let’s use that as our definition of space. Now, if god is outside of where everything is, again, to some extent, theists and atheists are in agreement. If he isn’t where everything is, then, for all intents and purposes, he isn’t anywhere, i.e. he doesn’t exist. Space is not, by my definition, like a closed room, with god outside the room, knocking on the door so he can come in. Space is everything. If he’s outside of space, then there is an area out there that can be defined, and if it can be defined, it’s part of everything. If it’s part of everything, then god’s not outside, he’s inside. He can’t logically be outside everything and exist at the same time, which takes us to concept number 3.
Logic. This is another one I can’t get my head around, because logic is what my head does. It’s hard to be illogical about logic, but this argument does a good job of it. Logic is the mental process of reasoning, by abstraction and analysis, the form of propositions, such as “does god exist”. It is a rigorous, well defined body of rules and processes we use to test the truth of propositions. It’s how we arrive at conclusions relative to those propositions, and it is a process that we use because it works. It’s part and parcel of the scientific method, which would not be such a good tool for discovering truth unless it embodied logic.
To say that god is outside logic is to say that he is illogical , i.e. not logical. Of course, an atheist’s primary response when confronted with the god question is to show that the concept of god is illogical, so again, it would seem that theists and atheists agree. If god created logic (to the extent that something like a mental process can be “created”) and logic is used to derive truth, why would god be outside that same process, when it comes to proving the truth about the existence of god? Wouldn’t he have created logic so that it clearly and simply leads us to him, rather than away from him?
The entire argument that god is outside of human reality is just another admission, albeit unacknowledged by theists, that god doesn’t really exist, and the only way they can justify the sheer lack of evidence for him is to claim that he is outside of everything we know. It’s something that can’t be tested or proven, but it does allow them to hang on to that gossamer thread of possibility without ever having to let go.
Yea, right. Quit fuckin’ with me, Rudy.