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Does the Omnipotency of God contradict with our Free Will?

  1. Nov 18, 2004 #1
    there is a classic argument against the existence of God (an omnipotent being who has given men/women Free Will). It argues that if God exists, we cannot have Free Will. It goes like this:

    Since God is omnipotent, God should know our future. It follows that we cannot deviate from God's prediction of the future. And so we do not have Free Will.

    For example, it might look like you have free will of choosing between omelette and sausage for your breakfast tomorrow. In fact, you do not. If God knows that you will choose omelette for your breakfast tomorrow. You will not choose sausage, choosing sausage will show that God is not omnipotent.

    However, our world is indeterministic in nature. Quantum Mechanics show that that each particle state is a superposition of various possible eigenstates. This allows the coexistence of Omnipotency and Free Will.

    God knows your state vector and its evolution exactly. God knows what is the probability that you will choose omelette and what is the proability that you will choose sausage. And your action of choosing one of them the next day does not prove God is wrong. It is merely a collapse of your wave-function. You have Free Will. You can make a choice between omelette and sausage. God is omnipotent. God knows everything as far as your breakfast is concerned.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 18, 2004 #2
    If God exists and if he/she/it is omnipotent surely he can create and bestow free will as that is within the realm of omnipotence.

    The "fact" that God knows all that was, is and will be does not mean that it is predetermined or that we, with free will, are forced or limited to doing what is ordained as if we were puppets performing a set routine. It is rather that God already knows what we will do, choose, of our own free will.

    It is really a matter of our concept of time. To us time is sequential and of one direction only in that cause always precedes effect. To God there is no time, there is only the one infinite all encompassing moment. There is no past, present or future. What was, is and will always be. What is, was and always will be. What will be, always was and is. It is like we watch a movies one frame after another as the film runs through the projector where as God can see the entire movie at once by looking at the entire reel at the same moment. This changes nothing; but, is simply another way of viewing reality that is beyond us living here on earth.
  4. Nov 18, 2004 #3
    The original argument is flawless without introducing the quantum concept.

    Claiming that "God already knows what we will do, choose, of our own free will", is very contradictory.

    The "movie argument" you gave is good enough to show it. The actors must follow the script, musnt' they? They do not have Free Will.
  5. Nov 18, 2004 #4
    The fault is in assuming God to exist in time as we do. Think about this. I know exactly what my friend did yesterday (assuming I was watching my friend), does this mean that my friend had no choice in his actions since i know what he did? Of course not, anyone would agree that that is ridiculous. Well since God does not exist in time, he can see all of time the same way we see the past. We say he can see the "future", but existing outside of time, there is no future, he simply sees everything all at once. So from his point of view it's not a matter of him knowing what we WILL eat for breakfast, because it's already hapenned, it's a matter of him knowing what we DID eat for breakfast (I recognize that using future and past tenses doesn't make sense here, but that is simply a fault in our language, as our language deals with things in time). So does God knowing what choice we already made change the fact the WE made the choice and therefore take away our free will? Of course not, it is as ridiculous as the example of my friend if you really think about it.
  6. Nov 18, 2004 #5
    Dimensional argument.

    Good one, a bit metaphysical.

    But I don't like the idea that it adds an extra property to God, that God uses different time axis. Can this be justified?

    Assume that it is true. God indeed uses different time axis. Let us try to analyze this situation. Look at the following diagram:




    'A' is a blind ant moving along a string, so basically its movement is 1-dimensional.
    'A' can choose moving to the left end or to the right end to escape to freedom. To ant 'A', it has a Free Will.

    We are here, in 3-dimensional space, we can see that there are spiders near both ends of the string, represented by S's.

    We know that ant is doomed for sure.

    The ant can't see it, because it is 1-dimensional. So the ant THINKS THAT it has Free Will. I repeat, it THINKS THAT it has Free Will, or rather, it is MADE TO THINK THAT it has Free Will.

    Objectively speaking, the ant does not have Free Will, because I agree that, you agree that, it doesn't matter whether the ant itself agree.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2004
  7. Nov 18, 2004 #6
    I agree completely with most of what you say. The only thing that I take exception to is that you say "God is outside of time." This is looking at sequential, one way time as absolute. Einstein showed that time in this objective universe is relative not absolute so it is not too much of a stretch to think of our experience of sequential time as an illusion as is the universe being physical only . The reality is that there is no sequential time but only the one eternal moment in reality.

    Where does the past go when we are through experiencing is as the present?

    Where does the future come from before we experience it as the present?

    Does east cease to exist when we move west? Why then would the past cease to exit or the future suddenly come to be? How could we make even scientific predictions if the future does not yet exist? How could we begin a cause, already knowing the effect if the future did not yet exist?

    God is of and in time as he is of and in the universe just as time and the universe is of and in God. They, we, it and God are inseparable as there is only one. Just as there is only one there is only one time - NOW, the eternal moment.

    kakarukeys, consider the movie argument a bit further. Suppose that the reel of film was a movie of a news event or a sports game or improvised bit were the subjects/actor are not following a set script but are making it up or playing it out as it happens. Are they still puppets just because it was recorded on film?
  8. Nov 18, 2004 #7
    Alright first I will deal with the ant example. First of all the idea of God having a different time axis. It is not a matter of him having a different time axis, it is a matter of him not being limited by time. He exists both in and out of time (if indeed He does exist). I will show you why this must be so.
    At the beginning of the thread we were talking about the compatibility of free will with an omnipotent God. Omnipotent means all powerful. All powerful means it cannot be lacking any power otherwise it would not be ALL powerful. Now let me add a little sidenote here because we have to be careful. Clearly an all powerful being cannot have the power to be not all powerful, because that would contradict it's very nature. So a better way to put it is an all powerful being must not lack any power which is not inconsistent with its very nature. That being said, it is obvious the power of existing both in and out of time is not inconsistent with the nature of an all powerful being, therefore an all powerful being must possess this power and hence must exist in and out of time. Put differently, if an all powerful being were limited by time, than it would certainly not be all powerful. So if we are talking about an omnipotent being it has to exist both in and out of time (assuming it does exist). If we're assuming it doesn't exist, than this whole thread is pointless.
    Now for the ant example. Saying that the ant does not have free will because it is doomed either way is equivalent to saying we don't have free will because we are going to die eventually. I am not free to make the choice to never die. Or equivalently I am not free to chose to jump to the moon right now, or to make this computer I am typing on dissapear this very moment. So if you agree with this ant argument, than you must agree that we don't have free will REGARDLESS of wether or not there even is a God, so this whole thread would be pointless. So I will assume that you don't agree with this. Basically in the ants case, he still has the choice to move left or move right (or stay still for that matter) so he has free will. The fact that he is going to die either way is completely irelevant to wether or not he has free will. Free will does not mean the ability to chose to be free, it simply means the ability to chose between those choices which are available to us. We live in a physical world so it is clear that our options are limited, but this doesnt mean we don't have free will (or if you think it does than this thread is pointless). So as I said before I'll assume you agree with me.

    Now to the next post, I have already dealt with the issue of why an omnipotent God HAS to exist both in and out of time. The same argument applies to the universe. If we are talking about an omnipotent being, than it cannot be limited by space (the universe has a certain extension in space, wether or not it is relative it is still an extension), so this omnipotent God cannot, by definition, exist only in the universe, as you have said. I think we're saying basically the same thing Royce. God sees the single "eternal moment" of everything, and so the future and past have no less existence than the present, to God they all exist simultaneously. We say that he sees the choices we WILL make, therefore we don't have free will, but in reality he sees the choices we ALREADY HAVE made, or are eternally making in that single eternal moment, so there is not inconsistency with free will.

    In the case of the reel of film... Your argument kakarukeys is that in the movie analogy, there is no free will because the actors are forced to follow the script. You've made the error of taking something linked the object used for analogy (the script attached with the film reel) and using its properties as the basis for your argument. An anology only implies that it is "like" something. If the analogy were the same in every way, than it would not be an analogy, you would simply be talking about the samething. So there is no basis in an argument which takes a property of the relationship between a script and a movie reel, and applies that same property to the analogy. But just for the sake of entertaining the idea, in the analogy of God seeing the whole reel you argued that the "actors" (us) don't have free will because we are following a script. What you fail to realize is that it is us who have written the script by the choices we make (ie the choices WE say we'll make in the future, but that from God's perspective we have already made, or are eternally making, whichever way you want to say it for lack of proper words for speaking outside of time). So it still isn't inconcistent with free will.
    Sorry for the really long post, but I felt it was necessary to go in depth on these ideas. Any thoughts?
  9. Nov 18, 2004 #8
    Eddo, we are saying the same thing. The reason I take exception to the term "outside of time" is that to some that implies that God is "the Great Outsider." That he is the external creator of the universe which to some is an oxymoron as the universe is all that is and nothing can be or exist outside of the universe. Others feel that being the outsider means that God is not part of or concerned with the universe. These arguments have at one time or another been thrown at me here at PF's.
    If you were to qualify the statement as being outside of time as we know it or experience it or outside as in beyond sequential time then it would be more accurate and acceptable to me at least. It is a minor point, I agree; but, it does give others a point of contention and here at the PF's one cannot afford to give an opponent any opening at all. If you do not already know this then you soon will especially in any religious or metaphysical topic.
  10. Nov 18, 2004 #9
    Thanks for the advice, I'm relatively new to these forums, been reading them for a while but just started posting recently. So for anyone reading my previous post, by outside of time I meant outside of time as we know it, or outside of sequential time, so these would have been better ways to put it as Royce pointed out.
  11. Nov 18, 2004 #10
    The ant example I constructed is to investigate the scenario of God vs Man

    Both of you have pointed out that God can see every point of the time axis (or 'had seen' whichever is more precise). Whereas for Man, we can only see point by point, as the time progresses.

    Unfortunately, we do not have two time axes. So in the ant example, I use two spatial axes to mimic the scenario.

    The ant which is blind is able to perceive only one point in its axis, that is where it lies. Whereas for us, we can see every point in its axes.

    I did not mean that the ant, being unable to avoid death, or being unable to do whatever the ant wishes, does not have Free Will.

    I meant the two choices given to the ant, 'left' or 'right', are the same choice, i.e. no Free Will. We observed that one choice is no different from the other, that is because we have known its doom, the spiders at both ends. But the ant itself sees that it has Free Will, because it does not see the Spiders.

    Do you find it contradictory? Two observers have different conclusions.

    You may eat omelette or you may eat sausage. You called it 'two choices'.

    You may eat omelette or you may eat omelette. Do you call it 'two choices'?

    You may eat X or you may eat X. (X is the object that God had observed that you will eat, be it omelette or sausage). Do you call it 'two choices'?

    You may find yourself having Free Will like the ant does. But this Free Will is limited to you only, it's not acknowledged by all observers.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2004
  12. Nov 18, 2004 #11
    I think you're missing the point. Just because God observed me eating X does not mean that X was my only choice. Similarly just because I ate cereal for breakfast this morning does not mean that cereal was my only choice. I clearly still had the choice of everything else in my fridge. God knowing what i chose to eat tomorrow doesn't change the fact that i chose it. God seeing what choice I make out of many options does not imply that all other choices are not options, so even from God's point of view I still have free will. Even in the ants case, the ant has free will (assuming ants have free will in general) from both its perspective AND from my perspective, for I can clearly see that the and has the choice to move either left, or right, or to not move at all, or to move a bit to the left, than right, than left again. Or even if it only has a choice to move left, it still has the choice of WHEN it moves left. The fact that there are spiders both ways is completely irelevant. That has to do with the consequences of the ants choices. Just because the consequences of a certain set of choices are all the same doesn't mean that the choices are all the same, so there is still free will.
  13. Nov 19, 2004 #12
    >Just because God observed me eating X does not mean that X was my only choice

    You think this is true, because 'you see' that you have Free Will (like the ant does).

    Fortunately for us, God rarely appears before man and tells the man everything that God had observed about the man's future. If God really does so, the man will finally realize that he does not have Free Will actually.

    God told Peter that Peter would deny Him 3 times. The ending of the story is Peter indeed denied Him 3 times. Tragic?

    >Even in the ants case, the ant has free will (assuming ants have free will in general)
    >from both its perspective AND from my perspective, for I can clearly see that the
    >and has the choice to move either left, or right, or to not move at all, or to move a
    >bit to the left, than right, than left again. Or even if it only has a choice to move
    >left, it still has the choice of WHEN it moves left.

    I agree. This happens because I observe nothing unusual in the middle region of the string. Restricted in this region, my observation is the same with the ant's observation, that the ant has Free Will.

    >Just because the consequences of a certain set of choices are all the same doesn't
    >mean that the choices are all the same, so there is still free will.

    This is just a way to classify choices. There are countless way to eat an omelette, depending on the various motions of your hands and mouth. I just classify them into one "choice of eating an omelette". Since I have observed EVERY POINT of the ant's axis, I concluded that the ant has only one choice.
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