0

Suppose a person comes up to you and says he can predict who will win the lottery for the next seven days. For the purposes of this example, let us suppose that cheating is impossible. Of course, in actuality, this can never be determined, but the point of my question is more about reasoning in general so let us assume that we could somehow know that he couldn’t have cheated through any physically known means.

Now, suppose he guesses who wins for the next seven days. He then claims that God, an All Powerful Being, guided him to do so. Let’s say the chance of him getting it right each time is 1 in 8 million. This results in a stupendously low number of probability of getting 7 straight lotteries correct.

Given that cheating is impossible, we are left with only three options: a) chance or b) his proposed god or c) some sort of other unknown natural or supernatural process.

Now, a) of course has a very low probability. However, given that things in the universe are for the most part deterministic atleast on the macro scale, one could argue that if it occurred by chance, the “real probability” of him guessing 7 straight lotteries is the probability of whatever initial conditions. Given those initial conditions, the lottery wins occurring AND them being predicted by chance correctly were necessary.

Now, every series of initial conditions has further preceding conditions. We can keep backtracking these initial conditions all the way to the early universe or whatever first cause there is.

Is it true then that the question now becomes what is more likely: a universe or first cause with the right initial conditions that would eventually result in him guessing 7 lotteries VS. an All powerful all knowing god always existing who wanted him to predict 7 lotteries? If so, can one then use Occam’s razor to rule out God given that the former is arguably simpler?

Can this be generalized to always rule out God no matter how improbable a certain meaningful event is? No matter how improbable an event is, it seems more probable than god given the above reasoning. An eternal simple first cause or universe that results in that improbable event seems to always be simpler than god given that the latter is crazily complex. If god can just happen to always exist, the former seems to more easily do so as well.

8
  • 1
    You may wish to check the actual Occam in context
    – Rushi
    Aug 23, 2023 at 16:53
  • His beliefs are irrelevant to the razor. I think arguably, god must be more complex than any other eternal entity imaginable Aug 23, 2023 at 16:55
  • It's funny how his beliefS (plural) are irrelevant. But one of them you cite as authoritative 🤣
    – Rushi
    Aug 23, 2023 at 17:23
  • I didn’t say his beliefs are irrelevant. I said how they’re irrelevant to the razor. Aug 23, 2023 at 17:24
  • 1
    Does this answer your question? How could Occam's razor possibly be used metaphysically? Aug 24, 2023 at 8:28

1 Answer 1

2

The premise that God is the most complex being is in error. William of Ockham was a Franciscan Scholastic, and believed, just as all Scholastics and neo-Scholastics do, that God is supremely simple. By simple here is meant Aristotelian simplicity, and that kind of simplicity is what Ockham has in mind in his famous razor (which isn't really his razor, but just his own principle later explained by someone else using a razor as an example).

If you want to understand what classical theists like William believed about God's simplicity, Saint Thomas Aquinas devotes a whole question to it in his Summa Theologiae (it's actually just the third question in). St. Thomas makes use of Aristotlian metaphysical categories in his explanation of God's simplicity.

Rather than use a logical proof, as Aquinas does, William simply asserts that he knows by faith all theological truths. That would include the knowledge that God is supremely metaphysically simple.

Ockham's razor could possibly be used to convince a theist who believes God is infinitely complex that God cannot exist (assuming he actually buys into the razor's premise), but it could never convince a classical theist, or probably any theist who actually knows what he's talking about.

Furthermore, to the first part of the question, the classical theist at least would never attempt to prove God exists from the fact that improbable events occur. If you'd like to see a classical theist prove God's existence, back up one question in the Summa and read Aquinas' second question, on the existence of God.

4
  • Since the concept of God is not standardized, it is impossible to say what it really is or really is not. Aug 24, 2023 at 5:36
  • @DanielAsimov the concept of God is well-defined within scholasticism and classical theism. God is whatever that thing is which satisfies the metaphysical needs proposed in Aquinas' famous Five Ways. Ockham was still working in this system, at least to some degree, when he developed his principle.
    – jaredad7
    Aug 24, 2023 at 12:42
  • I see no mention of Aquinas or scholasticism in the original question. But in any case, is it clear that such a thing is uniquely defined, rather than allowing for many possibilities? Aug 24, 2023 at 13:37
  • @DanielAsimov William of Ockham was a scholastic. Therefore, discussion of Ockham's principle appropriately includes reference to scholasticism. Aquinas is very helpful in explicating scholasticism. If you want a clear definition, secondary disagreements may arise, but all scholastics would agree that the Prime Mover of Aristotle is the same Being, that this Being is metaphysically simple according to Aristotelian categories, and that this Being is the first efficient cause of all other being, directly or indirectly. As well, the Being in question is rational, possessing intellect and will.
    – jaredad7
    Aug 24, 2023 at 13:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .