Tuesday, November 11, 2008


posted by Brit

Over on McCabism, Gordon casually proves the non-existence of God.

The philosophical conundrums in the comments remind me of my university days. I drove my housemate to the very verge of insanity with the question: "Are there more numbers than odd numbers?"

He refused to accept that the correct answer is "no" (it is correct), and drew diagrams and all sorts. We almost got to fisticuffs over it. Good times, good times.


  1. 'God' is a funny one. What almost everyone means by God or gods is the Christian God, who is, as we know, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient. The Christian God sort of blurs into a metaphysical force, so for all 'man is made in the image of God', He seems as non-human as gravity or magnetism or triangles. Throughout Christian theology & thought & art there is this interesting tension between approaching God as a pure, metaphysical force (as Dante presents him at the conclusion of Paradiso, as a geometrical shape), and as the creator who made Man in His image. i daresay books have been written on the subject, or will be.

    In contrast, a god like Thoth or Hermes or Odhinn - while wise & powerful & able to gad about on 8-legged horses or what have you - is much more a 'person', shall we say a bit more familiar, approachable. So it might be possible to use language & logic to 'prove' that God (big G) doesn't exist, because one is arguing about logical shapes in one's head, but such arguments don't apply to the old gods, who didn't presume to be omni-anything.

  2. Yep very casual

    "The opposite of every great idea is another great idea."

  3. Regarding the question of whether there are more numbers than odd numbers, as Bill Clinton might have said, it depends what you mean by 'more'.

    The set of odd numbers is a proper subset of the set of all numbers, which I guess, Brit, is what your housemate was getting at. However, as I'm sure you were getting at, the set of all integers has the same cardinality as the set of all odd integers. i.e., there is a one-to-one mapping from the set of all integers to the set of all odd integers.

    This sort of thing goes even further. If you take infinite 3-dimensional Euclidean space, you can define a one-to-one mapping from the whole space into the interior of a ball of unit radius at the origin. Infinite 3-dimensional Euclidean space contains the same number of points as the interior of a finite region therein.


  4. Oh no, don't re-open this old wound, Gordon - with your Euclidean 3-dimensional ball of confusion.

    My position was simply that you can't compare infinities, so the question was no more meaningful than "is this bottomless pit more bottomless than that bottomless pit?"

  5. we've struck God again? the bottom of the pit was nearer than I thought.

  6. "However, as I'm sure you were getting at, the set of all integers has the same cardinality as the set of all odd integers" - funniest line i've read today, though it is early yet. i mean to deploy that line in conversation throughout the week.

  7. "the set of all integers has the same cardinality as the set of all odd integers"

    Isn't that the title of an Atomic Kitten album?

  8. elberry, before you morph into an academic....

    Medicine, and law, and philosophy -
    You've worked your way through every school,
    Even, God help you, Theology,
    And sweated at it like a fool,
    Why labour at it any more?
    You're no wiser now than you were before.
    You're Master of Arts, and Doctor too,
    And for ten years all you've been able to do
    Is lead you're students a fearfull dance
    Through a maze of error and ignorance.
    And all this misery goes to show
    There's nothing we can ever know.
    Oh yes, you're brighter than all those relics, Professors and Doctors, scribblers and clerics;
    No doubts or scruples to trouble you,
    Defying hell, and the devil too.
    But there's no joy in self delusion;
    Your search for truth ends in confusion.
    Don't imagine your teaching will ever raise
    The minds of men our change their ways.
    And as for worldly wealth, you've none -
    What honour of glory have you won?
    A dog could stand this life no more.
    And so I've turned to magic lore;
    The spirit message of this art
    Some secret knowledge might impart.
    No longer shall I sweat to teach
    What always lay beyond my reach;
    I'll know what makes the world revolve,
    Its inner mysteries revolve,
    No more in empty words I'll deal -
    Creations wellsprings I'll reveal!

    Faust, having a bit of a chuckle chat with himself.

  9. Well... reminded me of my university days as well :) when I was preparing for exams like 642-812 and 642-901. It was real fun, the days, the preparation circle and the exam itself. What made it more fun was the success that lead me a step beyond to 70-291 exams.