Unprovable Provenance

While it is true that no living person has ever proved that God does not exist, nor has any living person ever proved that unicorns do not exist…

The original link that was here has been removed by the (other) author, orphaning my below assertions somewhat but not, perhaps, totally invalidating them.  Reflections on the act of anchoring a series of statements upon a logical non-entity is in any case very much the overall context within which this short essay is grounded.

The author referenced (as linked above) possesses an eloquence of short-form writing and intelligence of admirable agility; or perhaps it is just that the specific constellation of humanity, vocabulary and compositional method are such as to draw (and retain) my eye. Regardless, while I do not agree with her on every count of assertion across her G+ posts, I do strongly agree with such an overall well-framed humanism enough to informally (and indirectly – here) engage with it.

This particular statement captivated me, but not purely for the most obvious reasons of logic:

“In conclusion, it’s essential to note that no living person (…), has ever proved beyond all shadow of a doubt that God does not exist.”

As a general reflection – and as a matter of logical inevitability – while it is true that no living person has ever proved that God does not exist, nor has any living person ever proved that unicorns do not exist. The inability to prove the non-existence of a thing does not equivocate to the proof of the existence of that thing, nor of true and justified belief in that thing.

One might assert that there are different classes of unknowable things; that, in essence, God as a concept is not of the same order of entity as is a unicorn or any other fictional thing but I think that we might very rapidly find ourselves adrift and listless upon an ocean of aspiration upon which the acceptance of “existing non-existence” brings about the impossibility for any kind of knowledge at all. Admitting inconsistencies into logical arguments allows the proof of just about anything at all. Bertrand Russell once famously demonstrated himself to be the Pope as a response to the admission of logical inconsistencies into a system of belief, or truth.

I remain agnostic to Ultimate Truths as there always exists (within any such frameworks of sufficient sophistication as to be interesting or significant) further iterations and permutations of fact and recombinatory analysis.  If God were, for instance, the teleological end-point of hyper-advanced intelligence and technological civilisation, at an immeasurable extremity of intellect and influence (- consider a Kardashev Level 3+ civilisation as well on the way to that eschatological climax -) having cultivated the means and possessing the motivation to reach back across all of spacetime and produce the material circumstances from which the Cosmos itself might emerge in a Let There Be Energy kind of moment, then we should have a perfectly closed loop and seemingly impossible circumstance of the First Cause having Caused Itself.

Charles Stross introduces a similar concept of the technological uber-entity of the Eschaton in his excellent science fiction series beginning with the novel Singularity Sky.

Suggesting such plainly paradoxical circumstances might be even admitted into consideration is the point at which I expect to lose the attention of exactly half of the 5 people who will ever read this text. Of course, admitting any one (such) paradox into genuine consideration then unhinges Pandora’s Gucci bag of unending unintelligibility – unleashing endless tides of inconsistency and “anything goes” when in reality this does not appear to be either the world we find ourselves living in, nor representative of our phenomenal and lived experience of it.  Bound as we are by evolutionary and biological circumstances to brains and experiences of particular kinds, it may be that we are quite literally unable to see past our own noses and that we possess biases and experiences which predestine ourselves to think purely in linear and rational manners which may at some deep level or indefinable way restrict our ability to explain or understand the actual complexities and curlicues of the Cosmos within which we find ourselves.

A materially, rationally and logically explicable Universe (and all those who sail in her) need not necessarily be other than a superficially sensible system of structure and physical manifestation which is actually and fundamentally paradoxical at some deeper (or if you prefer – overarching) layer and for this reason logically inconsistent.  It is possible, if existentially worrying, that all of the order and regularity of our experience and as extrapolated through physical theory may just be that part of reality and existence which is explicable (to our limited cognitive mechanisms) and that our merry little cosmic spacetime journey is capped on both ends (or at least one monopolar end) with a mischievous paradox.

We certainly should not, in as much as we have actual lives to live and real existential worlds of our experience to navigate, cast off entirely from a familiar shore of causality, rationality and relative existential certainty. I suspect that the many signifiers within mathematics and logic as to the plausible existence of implausible entities (i.e. the existence of paradox and inconsistency) suggests that we do, as the originally referenced author suggests, hedge our bets somewhat in agnostic forbearance. God may just be a member of the order of entities that is unprovable but, unlike Unicorns, it’s availability on the scale of probability may be just ever so slightly lifted above and away from the impossible.

Faith is always placed in something.  It is very much a matter of whether or not you choose to rest your beliefs upon what can be demonstrated as opposed to what can not; proof by presence or by absence.  Ultimate questions are not, although many have tried, necessarily even answerable as although we do like to believe in our unlimited capacity to render truth from between these warm little ears of ours – we are all actually very limited, very contingent and very much a work-in-progress.

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