Not paranoid enough

My opinion on conspiracy theory is that the world is a much crazier place than we generally consider it to be and the tinfoil-hat wearers aren’t nearly imaginative enough:

Britain and France talked about a ‘union’ in the 1950s and even discussed the possibility of Elizabeth II becoming the French head of state.

Once-secret papers from the National Archives have yielded the discoveries. On September 10, 1956, French Prime Minister Guy Mollet came to London to discuss the possibility of a merger between the two countries with Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden.

A British Cabinet paper from that period reads: “When the French Prime Minister, Monsieur Mollet, was recently in London he raised with the Prime Minister the possibility of a union between the United Kingdom and France.”

While we’re concerned about Bush and company selling out America to the North American Union, the real truth probably involves the USA becoming a province of Saudi Arabia or something.

TIA – a little help

I’d appreciate it if ya’ll would do your best to tear this apart. Not the logic expressed by Dawkins and Owens, but mine. I’d particularly like to see what our resident atheists and agnostics can do to it. Don’t expect brilliance or polish here, this is just draft text straight out of OpenOffice. And never mind the footnotes….

In a chapter considering the arguments for God’s existence, Richard Dawkins muses upon what he considers to be a logical contradiction. He writes:

Incidentally, it has not escaped the notice of logicians that omniscience and omnipotence are mutually incompatible. If God is omniscient, he must already know how he is going to intervene to change the course of history using his omnipotence. But that means he can’t change his mind about his intervention, which means he is not omnipotent.1

As Dawkins surely knows, this is a silly and superficial argument, indeed, he follows it up with a little piece of doggerel by Karen Owens before promptly abandoning the line of reasoning. And while the argument appears to make sense at first glance, it’s merely a variation on the deeply philosophical question that troubles so many atheists,2 of whether God can create a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it.

The proble with this logic is that omniscience, or the quality of knowing everything, is the description of a capacity, it is not an action. Likewise, omnipotence, being all-powerful, is a similar description, which is why these nouns are most often used as an adjective modifying a noun, for example, an omniscient god is a god who possesses all knowledge. But capacity does not necessarily indicate full utilization and possession does not dictate use; for example, by this point it should be clear that an intelligent scientist is nevertheless perfectly capable of writing something that is not intelligent at all.

Lest you think that this distinction between capacity and action is somehow tantamount to avoiding the question, note that Dawkins himself refers to God “using his omnipotence” in constructing the supposed contradiction.

Now, as I write this, I am holding the book entitled “The God Delusion” in my hand. I bought it at the bookstore, it’s my personal copy, and therefore I possess all of the knowledge contained within it. But can I tell you the precise wording of the first sentence on the seventh page? No, not without making an effort to look at it.1

This is the difference between action and capacity, and the distinction is vital. Unless one clings to an overly pedantic definition of both omniscience and omnipotence, an inherent incompatibility simply doesn’t exist between the two concepts. Indeed, if knowledge truly is, as is often said, power, then logic dictates that all-knowledge is not only compatible with all-power, but the two seemingly distinct concepts are actually one and the same. Thus, there not only is no contradiction between God’s omniscience and omnipotence, there is not even the theoretical possibility of a contradiction.

Regardless, a God who stands outside of space and time and who possesses all knowledge as well as all power is not bound to make use of his full capacities, indeed, who is going to shake their finger at him for failing to live up to his potential? Only the likes of Dawkins and Owens, one presumes, as their ability to logically disprove God depends upon His abiding by their rigid definitions of His qualities.

Their argument can’t help but remind one of a scene from the novel Catch-22, in which Joseph Heller wrote of an aptly named atheist called Frau Scheisskopf.4 “’I don’t believe, ‘ she sobbed, bursting violently into tears. ‘But the God I don’t believe in is a good God, a just God, a merciful God. He’s not the mean and stupid God you make him out to be.'”

Furthermore, there is no theological significance whatsoever to a reduced form of omniscience and omnipotence that would satisfy even the most pedantic critical application of the logic. If one posits God possessing qualities of tantiscience and tantipotence5 equating to omniscience and omnipotence minus the amount of knowledge and power required to avoid conflicting with the logical incompatibility, one is still left with a God whose theoretical capabilities are sufficient to fulfill the various claims about His knowledge and power made in His Word. Morever, this logically acceptable tantiscient God would be completely indistinguishable from the omniscient one when viewed from the human perspective.

I don’t magically summon food from the mysterious bag of plenty. But my dog doesn’t know that. From his perspective, there’s no difference between my buying it at the store or my summoning it into material existence by the exertion of my divine will. Likewise, we are incapable of perceiving the difference between a god who knows everything and a god who knows just about everything. Dawkins, of course, knows that it is as pointless to logically consider the potential contradiction between two arbitrarily defined concepts as it is to argue over the score of the 1994 World Series; would that his acolytes understood as much themselves.

Discuss amongst yourselves

In da club

If you’d like to listen to my guest appearance on Saturday’s Northern Alliance show, with the Fraters Libertas, they’ve got a podcast up here.

Sadly, Sam Tzu was a no-show. Maybe next time….

UPDATE: The Power Liberal didn’t enjoy it so much:

Made the mistake of listening to NARN while we were out doing errands today, and got to hear Vox Day…. One of his commenters adds: “You know who else has been indoctrinated? African Americans. Why, they won’t even talk to you when you suggest that maybe it was a bad idea to end slavery.”

Amusingly enough, there is actually a legitimate case to be made for that based on this New Yorker article. As always, it merely depends upon what your metric happens to be:
Slavery was a cruel and inhuman system, but more so psychologically than physically: to get the most work from their slaves, planters fed and housed them nearly as well as free Northern farmers could feed and house themselves…. He went through more than ten thousand slave manifests—shipboard records kept by traders in the colonies—until he had the heights of some fifty thousand slaves; then he averaged them out by age and sex. The results were startling: adult slaves, Steckel found, were nearly as tall as free whites, and three to five inches taller than the average Africans of the time.

Obviously someone never heard Muhammed Ali’s famous quote about his feelings regarding his grandfather’s catching the slave ship.

One word song

I found this little discussion over whether I had coined the neologism “omniderigence” to be a little strange. I don’t mind my critics, I particularly appreciate those who force me to stay sharp and keep my logic on the straight and narrow.

But I don’t understand those who appear to harbor some distaste for giving credit where credit is due. Now, it’s entirely possible that someone else invented the concept and the word as well, if calculus can be invented in two different places by two different people on this planet – to say nothing of the likelihood of its discovery by alien civilizations – then something this obvious has surely been thought of by someone else too. Of course, it took me more than three decades to think about it, so it’s also possible that no one else has ever bothered.

This exchange was on a forum somewhere in the midst of a commonplace debate on a varient of the supposed omnipotence-omniscience incompatibility:

Omniderigent…lol, at least give Vox Day the credit.

Actually, Vox Day isn’t the only source of said word

If so, then “omniderigent” is simply formed by adding the prefix “omni-” to it. Vox Day can claim they made it up all they want, but that’s like me claiming I just made up the word “omniliterate”.

This is a strange way of viewing etymology, considering that Wikipedia regularly credits neologists with inventing very similar constructions such as “homosexual”. The relevant point isn’t that anyone could do it, but that someone did and that it is useful. It is quite likely that I am the only English speaker on the planet to have made use of Umberto Eco’s word, celodurismo, so it will not likely appear in a dictionary any time soon and therefore cannot be considered an English word. “Omniderigent” may not be a word yet, but if it provides a useful linguistic service for those interested in discussing divine matters, it will eventually become a word, if not, then it won’t.

I was quite surprised when I was searching for a way to describe those who believe that God has an all-encompassing plan that dictates how many pull-ups I will do when I quit typing this and go to the gym. (My guess is that He has three sets of ten in mind, but I shall be patient and wait to discover how this perfect workout will unfold.) But I couldn’t find anything useful, so I was forced to resort to messing around in Latin.

So, woo-hoo, that’s one for me. Next song!

The NYT on Foxman

Abe Foxman isn’t a very good propagandist:

The A.D.L., he says, doesn’t operate that way; it seeks balance, not suppression. Foxman told me that he believes he’s challenging his adversaries to a debate, not shouting them down. But, I asked, isn’t slinging the dread charge of anti-Semitism at people like Jimmy Carter and Tony Judt and Mearsheimer and Walt really a way of choking off debate? No, it isn’t, Foxman said. This was at our lunch; Foxman got so exercised that he began to choke on his gratin. I asked if it was really right to call Carter, the president who negotiated the Camp David accords, an anti-Semite.

“I didn’t call him an anti-Semite.”

“But you said he was bigoted. Isn’t that the same thing?”

“No. ‘Bigoted’ is you have preconceived notions about things.”

The argument that the Israel lobby constricted debate was itself bigoted, he said.

“But several Jewish officials I’ve talked to say just that.”

“They’re wrong.”

“Are they bigoted?”

Foxman didn’t want to go there. He said that he had never heard any serious person make that claim.

I don’t see why someone doesn’t debate Mr. Foxman, especially if he can’t even get interviewed by a sympathetic reporter without looking like a liar, and a bad one at that. I don’t know what the truth is with regards to what the article refers to as “the Israel Lobby”, as I pay no attention to the Washington insiders game and I don’t have an opinion on things I know nothing about.

What I do know, however, is that 13 percent of the Senate and 7 percent of the House of Representatives are from a group that represents only 2.2 percent of the U.S. population. Given that 93 percent of these 43 politicians belong to a party which believes that a lack of proportionality is proof of discrimination and shady conspiracies among the powerful, it would be bizarre for Mr. Foxman, or anyone else, to attempt to claim that Jews do not possess disproportionate influence in Washington.

It is, in my opinion, a very bad idea for any small minority to attempt to amass disproportionate political power to itself. One would certainly expect a certain amount of resistance if there were 65 Black Senators or an entirely Hispanic Senate, and yet that is precisely what a similar disproportionality in favor of those minorities would indicate. And it’s particularly problematic given that the President is being openly encouraged to go to war with Iran due to the threat Iran poses to Israel.

Is this bigoted or anti-Semitic? I don’t think so, any more than it is unfriendly to tell your friend that he’s had too much to drink when he’s about to drive home. The plentitude of Jews in the 110th Congress and in the commentariat is likely to weaken the ability of America to effectively assist Israel over any period of time that exceeds two years, given the likelihood of a powerful political backlash to such assistance should things go less than smoothly.

And let’s face it, it’s the Middle East. No matter what we do, things are bound to go pear-shaped.

UPDATE: As always in these days, any mention of Jews that is insufficiently laudatory in any way is immediately taken as potential evidence of anti-Semitism:

Well, not to defend the concept of democracy, or anything, but if 13 percent of the Senate is Jewish, then those 13 percent are a group that represents 13 percent of the U.S. population. That’s what representative democracy means.

Of course, I’m playing a semantic game – what Vox means by the word “represents” is somewhat different – he thinks that a Jewish senator somehow inherently represents “Jewish interests” (whatever that means).

Not to defend the concept of math and the American Constitution or anything, but if 13 percent of the Senate is Jewish, then those 13 percent are a group that represents whatever percentage of the population happens to live in the states which elected them. Which almost certainly isn’t 13 percent… see, just don’t even bother to get pedantic with me.

And it is irrelevant how these senators happen to vote on changes to FCC regulation or sheep raising subsidies, the question is if they happen to wield an inordinate amount of influence on US foreign policy and are doing so in a manner that is contrary to American interests. (Whatever that means….)

I am not saying that they are. I am saying that if they do and are seen to do so, they are almost certainly running the risk of hurting Jewish interests and causing significant problems for the Jewish people. Since I believe the Jewish people have suffered more than their fair share of misery and persecution over the centuries, I would like to see them avoid yet another round of it.

Martyball!

Yes, Virginia, coaching matters…. Heh, heh, heh.