From guest blogger, Andrew.
I have been thinking about the statuses of the objects in our analyses as adjustable variables with multiple settings.
Example: The meaning of omniscience has multiple settings. 1. Knowing all facts about all times. 2. Knowing all facts about the present and past. Free will has multiple settings. 1. It exists. 2. It does not exist. God X being omniscient has multiple settings. 1. He is. 2. He is not. If I take Pike’s position that it is impossible for all of the variables to have setting 1, and I do take this position, then in some cases having the settings of two of these variables allows you to find the setting of the third. Here are three such cases.
1. If your starting points that you assume, or that you are not willing to compromise on, are: God X is omniscient (setting 1) and Free will exists (setting 1), then you can solve for the definition of omniscience needed to make your first two assumptions true, which will have to be “knowing all facts about the present and past” (setting 2).
2. If you start with the assumptions that God X is omniscient (setting 1) and omniscience means knowing all facts about all times (setting 1), then you can solve for the setting of free will needed to make your first two assumptions true, which will have to be “Free will does not exist” (setting 2).
3. If you start with the assumptions that omniscience means knowing all facts about all times (setting 1) and Free will exists (setting 1), then you can solve for the setting of whether or not God X is omniscient needed to make your first two assumptions true, which will have to be “God X is not omniscient (setting 2).
The question is, what is the solid ground? Which two variables do you take for granted to find the right setting of the third? Deciding which variables we are confident in a setting for, and can use to derive the setting of the other variable, is something we might use outside information for. Many theists would say that their doctrines teach that all three variables have setting 1. Pike’s point is that that is impossible and that these theists have to change the setting of one of the variables to be logically consistent.
Personally I feel confident in the settings for two of the variables: free will and the meaning of omniscience. I think that free will does not exist because of physical determinism, and therefore set the free will variable to setting 2 (the “does not exist” setting. To get a setting for the meaning of omniscience variable, we could look to a dictionary. Finding that dictionary.com defines omniscient as: having complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; perceiving all things, we might conclude that if a being is omniscient, then it does know all facts about all times, even facts about the future, with the following reasoning: If its knowledge is unlimited, then its knowledge is not limited to facts about a certain period of time. Or from the description “perceiving all things”, we might conclude that omniscient beings perceive things in the future. So with the dictionary as my source, I get a setting for the meaning of omniscience variable (setting 1, Knowing all facts about all times).
So I have my settings for two variables: free will does not exist and omniscience includes the ability to know all facts about all times. But unlike in the cases I mentioned earlier, these settings for these variables do not allow me to determine the setting for the third variable. Some god could be omniscient and it would be compatible with the settings I have or he could not be omniscient and it would also be compatible with my settings. So it looks like in addition to not knowing whether there are any gods, I also don’t know whether, if there are, they are omniscient.