Infinite Regress

Again, In Christopher HitchensGod Is Not great, Hitchens makes the valid point regarding infinite regress, or in other words, if God created the world, who created that God, and who created that God, and who created that God…into infinity.

In regard to justice in the bible, Hitchens writes: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and the killing of witches may seem brutish and stupid, but if only non-sinners have the right to punish, then how could an imperfect society ever determine how to prosecute offenders? We should all be hypocrites.

” And what authority did Jesus have to ‘forgive’?….”

By combining the two, Hitchens demonstrates the flaw in his own argument. The principle of forgiveness as an aspect of justice is dependent on the very fact that we cannot resolve an absolute authority to define, or divine, justice. None exists. For if we try to punish according to absolute standards, we enter the slippery slope of degrees of evil.

Assuming that somewhere along the continuum “god created God, who then created God, who then created…we would not need to define which God created the law, but the process by which law applied to us as we judged others. What gave Jesus the right to “forgive”? What gives any person the right to forgive?

The answer to that is simple enough: because we can’t point to a God, an absolute God, to which we can show a direct line of authority, we are equal before one another. The judgement we render on others can only be just when all other possible alternatives are exhausted.

Does such an idea demand the existence of a God? Not at all, but if such laws are based in the idea of an authority that transcends the laws of men, then human law can never in any sense be absolute.

If law could absolutely represent God, there would be no need for separation of church and state. The state would speak its own authority to punish. But since the state cannot speak for God, and the church cannot show its own direct authority as representative of God, then the law must assume the innocence of the accused until proven guilty by one whom he has harmed.

In Isaiah 54:17, we see exactly that principle, the right of the accused for any reason to have the full vindication of God until proven guilty by unbiased witnesses. Notice, not just one witness, but at least two, and more if possible(Deut.17:6, 19:15).

Consequently, the law that presumes innocence has no power to claim to represent the one true God as an authority. In fact, it cannot logically claim to represent God at all, except to assume that the accused has committed no crime, therefore acquittal is to be assumed unless directly proven otherwise.

How could Jesus “forgive”? Because he, like all of us, could not judge or condemn others in the absence of proof. That was law as understood in Isaiah. Is an infinite regress required for such concepts? Not at all. In fact, such a law would allow for infinite regress and the assumption that man is incapable of judging in place of God.

If man is incapable of judging in place of God, can laws of man, of themselves, condemn? In what sense could an “absolute” law of man claim power over an infinite regress of values in which God cannot be proven? The law would be arbitrary and unjust. Therefore, the accused could only be accused, not by the laws of man but the accuser who actually suffered harm.

In law, this is called the presumption of innocence. It is also recognized under the Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination. Under that law, therefore, Jesus was no more authorized to “forgive” sin than we ourselves, and in fact, forgiveness is the ideal whenever possible.

In fact, Jesus himself taught this directly in Matthew 5:25 and 18:15-18. He further emphasized “separation of church and state” by teaching that we should no longer practice an eye for an eye, but that we should “judge not, lest ye be judged(Matthew 7:1)”

Paul also taught settlement out of court, and added the principle of trial by a form of jury(1 Cor, 6), and further pointed out in Romans `12:19 that we should not practice an eye for an eye, but leave vengeance to God.

It was only AFTER Paul taught this precept that he then emphasized letting “every soul be subject to higher powers”. The “higher powers” did execute wrath. That was their job. It was their job because the servants of God could not do so for their own interests.

But the “higher powers” could not execute wrath in their own interest either. Their power of “wrath” was given ONLY after the people had tried other avenues of correction.

In fact, the “execution of wrath” was their only defined function, NOT the making of “moral” laws that forced people to recognize the needs of others by taxation.

“For this cause(execution of wrath) pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.”

It was in fact the power of the Pharisees to “shut up the kingdom of heaven(Luke 11:52)” to men that Jesus condemned as hypocritical. The right of reach individual to be presumed innocent was to be granted to all the people as a courtesy of law, so that the law itself could not condemn without the right of facing the accuser(Isaiah 50:8).

It is in this all important aspect of law that infinite regress is recognized and honored, and allows the individual the right to live in freedom without condemnation by the presumptions of other humans.


Occam And Church-Turing Thesis

Since I explored Occam’s Razor below, it may also be necessary to discuss something called the Church-Turing thesis in regard to the human mind and computers.

The Church-Turing thesis is named after Alonzo Church and Alan Turing, who arrived at the same general conclusions separately. Very roughly, it says this:

The human brain is nothing more than a computer, since it is subject to the laws of physics. If there is anything more than the laws of physics governing the brain, we have no evidence of it.
Therefore, mathematicians will someday be able to model the human brain so that a computer will be equal in every sense to the brain.

However, since we have no knowledge of anything outside of or “higher” than the brain, we would not be able to program or model any possible concept of that “higher” awareness. Everything that the brain is, as far as we know, will be the same as a computer.

Turing once proposed something called a Turing test, when he was playing with his idea of a universal Turing Machine, his mental creation that was the forerunner of a computer.

Turing proposed that if at some point in the future we could place a computer and a human behind a wall so that a questioner could not tell whether he was posing questions to a human or the computer, and the questions were printed out, given to the computer or person behind the wall, and a printed response was given back, then at some point, if the computer could respond to the questions so that the questioner could not tell the difference between human and computer, the computer would be, in every definable sense, the same as a human regarding knowledge and communication.

Let’s take this analogy and suppose we are asking the computer questions about God. Assuming the computer can respond exactly in a way the human can respond, then there would be no possible way for any human to determine any difference between a human “soul” and a computer “soul”.

You might say, “Oh, but God can tell the difference”. Yes, but God isn’t asking the questions. Humans beings are.

Based on that same example of the Turing Test, which religious organization or church actually does represent God? If all of them can give satisfactory answers, if all of them can show truths consistent with human knowledge about God, which one of them would actually be the true representatives of God?

Keep in mind, if you can make that definition, you can then take that same knowledge and program it into a computer, so that the true church of God can be completely computer generated. But if the true church of God can be computer generated, what, really, is the difference between the computer and God himself?

This would follow Occam’s razor, since it would reduce all possible answers to one system of thought, and that system can be reduced completely to a mechanical, finite, logical process.

Do you begin to smell a rat in the form of church and state? What is the state? A system of finite, logical, mechanical rules by which we organize human lives.
What is a religion? A system of logical, mechanical, finite rules by which we organize human lives.

And where do both systems come from? The human mind. They would therefore be “Attila and the Witch Doctor” as Ayn Rand calls them, or the “Beast and False Prophet” as the bible calls them.

If you belong to either system, in any definable form, it is a certainty you are not following the truth. How do I know that? Godel’s theorem. In any axiomatic formulation of number theory, there exists an infinity of undecidable propositions. That applies to laws as well as numbers. There exists no formal system of knowledge such that it leads to a complete, consistent definition of truth.

And thanks to Byker Bob, what is “God” telling you in regard to truth? Basically, there is only one possible conclusion: you are the final authority in the matter, you and you alone.

There is no government that can prove legitimate authority, and there is no religion to prove legitimate authority, and that’s exactly what both Jesus and Paul told us.


Occam’s Razor

In his book God is Not Great, Christoper Hitchens makes excellent arguments against God.

One of Hitchens‘ first arguments deals with Laplace, who, when asked where God stood in his cosmology, simply said there was no place for God, and in fact, no need. The simple fact is, if we attempt to explain the universe in terms of a creation of God, we must first demonstrate that there is or was actually a God to create it.

Hitchens then goes into the arguments known as Occam’s Razor, or Ockham’s razor, developed by one William of Ockham. Ockham developed what was recognized as a “principle of economy”, stated simply as “Do not multiply entities beyond necessity”.

If you watched the movie “Contact” the idea of Occam’s Razor was employed quite often. If two or more competing theories attempt to explain a theory of existence, the one that explains the most with the least effort and unnecessary detail will probably be the truth. (I quote from memory. I’m sure there are better explanations).

To quote from Hitchens‘ book, “Ockham stated that it cannot be strictly proved that god, if defined as a being who possesses the qualities of supremacy, perfection, uniqueness, and infinity, even exists at all….’It is difficult or impossible(wrote Ockham) to prove against the philosophers that there cannot be an infinite regress in causes of the same kind, of which one can exist without the other’. Thus the postulate of a designer or creator only raises the unanswerable question of who designed the designer or created the creator”.

Stated in a popular fashion by such people as physicist Paul Davies, “it’s turtles all the way down”. I hope you’re familiar with that story.

I like Hitchens‘ statement just a paragraph later: “If one must have faith in order to believe something, or believe in something, then the likelihood of that something having any truth or value is considerably diminished.”

So, if I tell you “there is a God”, the only possible “explanation” can come up with is that it was “revealed”.

Big problem: how does one prove a revelation? Only one way it can be done, and that is to prove it by some method that demonstrates beyond any doubt, by reason, logic, or physical demonstration. But that presents a further problem: if I can prove it by reason, logic, or demonstration of physical example, I don’t need a revelation! it would be a fact of existence!

Ockham, therefore, has left us with the realization that existence, and the reason we discover within existence, simply cannot rely on revelation, since the very process of explaining the revelation makes it unnecessary in the first place.

However, this leaves us right in the same position as I mentioned earlier: I will add a qualifying statement to it. If there is a God, any facts of evidence we present to demonstrate existence could not depend on unproven revelations, since the very proof of itself would be contained with no necessity for such a revelation. It would simple “follow” from the proofs inherent in the explanation.

So, if there is a God, it would stand to reason that such a God would either exist within the proofs stated by reason, or that “God” cannot exist within those proofs, leaving us with exactly the same statement made by the apostle Paul in Romans 8:7: the natural mind is enmity against God, and cannot be subject to “his” laws.

And that places us on a par with Occam’s razor, since the results achieved IF the mind is enmity against God, will produce no evidence of God, and further would produce no decision procedure by which we may demonstrate any relationship to God.

And that is precisely what Paul said in Romans 9:16-22. Further, if we try to apply definitions of “God” in any human sense, both Occam’s Razor and Romans 8:7 would lead logically to the same results: a multiplication of entities trying to define “God” outside the power of human reason.

But Ockham says that such multiplication of entities is unnecessary, and would prove absolutely nothing. Therefore, with both Paul’s statement and with Occam’s Razor, we are left with one unavoidable conclusion: there is no need to follow or believe in any religion that claims to represent God. That is just what Jesus said in Matthew 24:23.

Prove me wrong.