I have been listening to the podcasts of Greg Perkin's Objectivism Seminar -- and it has really helped in understanding Objectivism. I'm done with metaphysics, so as an exercise, I wanted to refute the existence of God on metaphysical grounds.
Can a God exist? If not, can we say with full certainty that a God does not exist?
These are the most fundamental question to answer. To start with, can a God exist? We constantly hear the claim that God exists but just in any particular form -- like in the form of a rock or a man. He is everywhere and not limited by form. In other words, God exists but exists free of all restrictions of identity. If this is the claim, then one has to consider if it's tenable.
Ayn Rand observed some 50 years ago that to be is to be something. A thing cannot literally be and not be something – anything at the same time. It is senseless. It is impossible for any entity (including God) to exist without any features or properties. If an entity has to exist, it cannot shrug off the restrictions placed by identity like shape, color, form, properties, etc. In philosophic terms, existence is identity. This is not a mere “metaphysical assumption” but an observation so basic that anybody seeking to refute it should affirm it in his arguments. It is not merely that existence has identity -- as this implies that identity is some sort of a feature of existence but that existence is identity. Identity is not an attribute of existence which may be absent in some entities while being present in the others. To exist, an entity compulsorily has to be bound by identity.
Since we have established the fact that God has to have certain properties and that the notion of an entity without any identity doesn’t make sense – it can safely be concluded that the oft-claimed notion of an infinite, limitless God is impossible in this Universe.
If a God has to have some specific attributes and properties, then can He perform any miracles? Talking of a miracle, it’s important to understand what a miracle is. It’s not merely something we don’t understand. No, then even a magicians trick would qualify as a miracle. It has to be something more. It’s not merely something we don’t understand given our current understanding of things but has to have some sort of divine intervention which makes a thing act against its identity.
As Greg Perkins puts it in his excellent post, “Why the New Atheists Can't Even Beat D'Souza: Science vs. Miracles”
“Indeed, much of what we enjoy in our modern world would have been considered miraculous in previous times, from vaccines and medications, to cars, and the Internet and on and on. Yet none of these prove or even suggest a possibility that there is a God. No, a meaningful miracle is not merely something which would violate the laws of nature as we currently understand them, but something which would be a violation of any such law we could ever discover. That is, it would have to be a violation of lawfulness itself.”
I mean, can he literally transcend the identity of things and choose for them to act otherwise? In other words, can God bypass lawfulness itself?
Before we understand if a miracle is possible, it’s important to understand the notion of causality. Causality is best understood as – the expression of identity in action. For instance, a balloon filled with Helium rises when released. A wheel rolls because its circular in nature but a cube does not. Thus, we use wheels as tyres for our cars instead of using blocks of ice or books. The thing to note here is that an entity acts in accordance to its nature – and only in accordance with its nature. In other words, an entity cannot act contrary to its identity. It is this law that tells us that we can discover the depths of the earth as things act in accordance to its identity and this is where science plays its role by understanding the identities of entities. If things did not act in accordance to its nature’s, science would be utterly useless.
This is precisely why one has to choose between science and miracles. Science stands for causality —- things act according to their natures whereas miracles stand for contradicting identities – for a thing to be literally what it is not. Accepting the idea of science itself means rejecting the basis for miracles and to accept the basis for miracles means rejecting the basis for science.
God cannot exist if existence exists; if thing’s are what they are and act accordingly – then the possibility of an infinite being unrestricted by identity is fully wiped out.