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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Omniscience and free-will : update

Recent discussions at orkut have prompted the following updated version of the omniscience and free will impasse in monotheistic theology:

Premise:
1. An omniscient being exists. [Omniscience, by definition means knowledge of all past, present and future.]
2. Free will exists. [Free will by definition is ability to exercise a choice at at least one point in time]
3. A choice is always exercised in the present (not in the past nor the future) and it is defined as a decision that leads to at least two different sets of consequences.

Argument:
From #1 we get that someone can “know” the future for every moment in time (that someone being the omniscient being)!

To be “known” the future of the world has to be unique at every point in time. {Or in other words the world is a determinable one! }

By #2 and #3, by definition of free will and of choice: The world had at least one point of ambiguity that is at least one point where the future is not uniquely known.

A contradiction!

One of the three premise must now be discarded. Premise #3 is a “justified” one as no choice can be exercised in the dead past or unborn future. Thus,

Conclusion: If an omniscient being exists no free will exists.

Note that the converse is also true: if free will exists, no omniscient being ever existed. Also note that this simple proof supersedes and confirms both proofs of the previous post if as a special case, when we think of the omniscient being as the creator. In that case no choice was ever exercised ever since the creator came into existence (or if we think that creator always existed and was not himself created by some meta creator then the elegant result: No choice was ever made!)

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Omniscience and free-will

I. An omniscient being cannot have free-will! To prove this, consider the following axioms and definitions:

1. Having free-will means, at the least, having a choice at one point in time.
2. A choice is always exercised in the present and if so desired, can always be changed at the last moment – at the moment of exercising it, no matter what the person with a choice had decided in the past.
3. Choices have consequences … taking a different choice usually leads to different consequences in the future.

Hypothesis: Omniscient God has free will.

By #1 God has a choice to be exercised by him. But being omniscient God also knows the future as it is going to happen.
By #3 we get that at any given moment God is bound by the known future to make choices that lead to it.
This means that god knows what choice he will exercise at any “choice making moment” beforehand and for all such moments, violating #2 and hence giving a contradiction.

Conclusion: The hypothesis is wrong.

The usual argument to evade this is that God probably doesn’t exist on a timeline (unlike its creations).

II.     We now come to an original argument recently made by an atheist on a discussion forum:

1. God gave men free-will because god wanted something interesting.
2. Men with free will, to be interesting to god, must have some unpredictable part, even for god.
3. If some part, some decisions of men are not known to men than god is not omniscient.

Conclusion: An omniscient god could not have granted free will to men.

III. Interpretation and inferences: While first proof effectively proves god (as championed by say, the Bible) doesn’t exist, this chain of thought is never pursued by theists. Theists have often struggled for years to reconcile their views with logic. Indeed many Christian sects have a rich apologetical history for spending generations on researching arguments to defend their particular theological assumptions to other sects! [Contrast this with many of today’s Christians that engage atheists in a debate and claim outright that they do not have any responsibility or any burden of proof when it is they who make the ontologically positive claim!] The Muslim theory of God is riddled with many more contradictions.

The second proof, a recent development, is independent of God’s timelessness. It shows that human free-will can not exist if God is omniscient from a fresh line of thought. It remains to be seen what its effects will be in the longer run.