We Can Have Square Circles, Why Can’t We Have Self-Contradictory Gods?

When criticized for their claims’ lack of falsifiability, apologists often justify their (ab)use of pure reason by claiming that one only needs to find a logical contradiction in order to show that their claim is false. The normal examples trotted out are married bachelors and square circles. Both are fundamentally deceptive, but for different reasons.

Or, TLDR: How intellectually honest is contradiction as a falsification criteria, coming from someone who believes that a person lived who was completely human and completely divine, simultaneously?

The ideas of marriage and bachelorhood are rules in a societal game. Of course, under those rules, you cannot be both married and a bachelor. That’s no more remarkable than saying that, in chess, you can’t be a rook and a king at the same time. That just tells us about the logical consistency of the game-world, not anything about contradictions in general.  Further, and ironically, with the battle over marriage equality evolving, it’s currently possible to be married in one state and viewed as a bachelor in another: a married bachelor. Squares and circles are also rules in a language (which are, in a very real way, forms of games) which we use to model reality. In this case, the dialect of mathematics that focuses on geometry. Mathematics is a formal, objective language in which we can describe entities and their relationships. And in mathematics, the number of interior degrees in a figure is bound by an inflexible set of rules.

So math would seem to be a win for the apologists – math models the world, we see circles, we see triangles, we couldn’t have a shape that was mathematically described as both.  And that’s true. But it’s not true if a system is in superposition.  If you give me a neon sign that’s a blue square, and one that’s red circle, and I put a current into superposition such that it has a 50/50 chance to go through either neon sign? Well, then until someone collapses the wave, it exists as both a square and a circle, equally so for both, simultaneously.

Now, an apologist could revise their errors by saying that non-contradiction only applies post wave collapse phenomena, but that puts a huge caveat of  “only in certain circumstances”, into the “Law” of non-contradiction. Or an apologist might argue that it’s not a contradiction for something to be both itself and its mutually exclusive binary opposite, simultaneously. And they’d thereby abandon the concept of contradiction, itself, along with both falsification and verification.

The Law of Non-Contradiction, properly understood, only deals with constructs of pure logic. It holds absolute dominion over deductive proofs, where its use is required. And deduction does map amazingly well onto reality, as long as we haven’t made a mistake. But a proof must have both validity and soundness in order to be worth much. Without empirical verification, the LoNC is simply a statement that, well, thingz’s thingz, and they do stuff, and they don’t do stuff they don’t do, and they aint stuff that they aint. With empirical verification, we can actually discover if the premises we’re claiming are true, are. With empirical verification, we can define and model a system’s mechanics and dynamics and identify, with a very high degree of confidence, what things are and what they act like.

The whole point behind the apologist tactic, however, is to divert debate off onto this rabbit trail. The next gambit would be to claim that non-contradiction can’t be falsified, because if you show a situation in which it doesn’t apply, then you showed it contradicted the Law of Non-Contradiction. And therefore you haven’t actually falsified the LoNC, because you falsified it by showing that it contradicted with reality, and therefore you relied on contradiction as your falsification criteria. So if the LoNC is true, then it’s true. And if the LoNC is false, well then it’s still true. Of course.

But without recourse to objective evidence, we’re left with nothing more than mere claims about what can or cannot constitute something’s identity and/or behavior.

Humans are mortal. Deities are immortal. If someone was both fully human and fully a deity, they would be both fully immortal and fully mortal, which is a contradiction. Therefore, that story’s false. Right? Right?
Non-Contradiction, indeed.

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4 thoughts on “We Can Have Square Circles, Why Can’t We Have Self-Contradictory Gods?

  1. The other thing which apologists could do, as regards wave-function collapse, is to opt for a different interpretation of Quantum Mechanics– particularly one which does not involve wave-function collapse. I know that I’ve heard William Lane Craig say that he prefers a deterministic interpretation of QM, specifically mentioning the De Broglie-Bohm interpretation. While not a Christian, I actually prefer Watanabe’s Time Symmetric interpretation. And though I’m fairly sure most apologists would be loathe to adopt the Many Worlds interpretation, that also preserves the Law of Non-Contradiction.

    • Thanks much for the information. It never occurred to me that theists would opt for deterministic physics, seems to get in the way of ‘free will’. I tend to subscribe to the Copenhagen Interpretation. And, I’d argue, experimental results seem to strongly support the ontological validity of superposition of states.

      I’m also not terribly familiar with the TS interpretation. I thought that was simply a model under which there is both causality and retrocausality which, when integrated, inform point-events. How’s that connected to the EWG MWH? (Or is it connection to a revision of the MWH?)

      But again, thank you. That’s some information I wasn’t aware of and a wrinkle I hadn’t considered. Cheers!

      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/quantum-microphone/

      • Deterministic interpretations of QM only step on free-will if the apologist is also willing to admit that consciousness is a physical process. In my experience, most apologists tend to hold to the idea that the mind has a supernatural aspect which is separate, but connected, to the biological processes of the brain. With that caveat, WLC can prefer a deterministic interpretation without giving up on free-will.

        I’m absolutely happy to agree that superpositions of states are completely real. The interpretation of what that means is particularly interesting, though. Thanks for the article on the quantum microphone! I hadn’t seen that one yet.

        As for Time Symmetry with QM, it argues that the combination of causality and retrocausality informs the quantum state. Information about the retrocausality becomes, in effect, a hidden variable obfuscating our information about the quantum state.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-state_vector_formalism

        Thanks for your reply!

        • Ahhh…I forgot that some folks still claim that the mind is made of magic.

          And thanks much for commenting, this is the sort of stuff that keeps me awake at night. I just taught a lesson on QM to one of the AP physics classes at the school I teach at, and by the end, 1/2 of the kids said that they were more interested in science/physics than they were beforehand. I presented the implications of superposition of states as a big ol’ maybe, with Young’s Experiment with single photon interference as the empirical evidence.

          P.S. your blog seems pretty awesome and I’ll put in on ‘follow’ (once I figure out how the heck WordPress works).

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