Letter to David Suzuki
November 6, 1994
Well, it's been an age since I received your postcard turning down our offer of honourary membership in our Atheist Society, and I've finally decided to respond.
To jog your memory, you said "I believe that my position is based on an act of faith, just as a theist's is. I don't believe you can prove or disprove the existence of God."
Your statement indicates to me that your belief (that you can't prove or disprove the existence of God) is not merely a belief, as one would believe, say, in evolution for example, but is in fact something you hold to be a certainty.
One "believes" in evolution until such time as the evidence favours another understanding. But your belief that you can't prove or disprove the existence of God is something you hold to be an absolute truth, impervious to anything.
You claim to know with certainty that all knowledge is uncertain, but are seemingly blind to the obvious meaninglessness of this notion.
You should know there are two kinds of knowledge. Firstly there is scientific knowledge, which is any knowledge based on observation and measurement, and is obviously an uncertain knowledge. Then there is philosophic or purely reasoned knowledge, which has nothing to do with observation and measurement, but is based on definitions, and provides certain knowledge.
Our modern, feminine, age of philistines has completely ignored the certainty of philosophic knowledge and has thus turned its back on the most essential and beautiful knowledge of all.
My knowledge of the nonexistence of God is certain. To repeat what I explained to you on a previous occasion, I can say with absolute certainty that God does not exist, based on what God and existence are commonly defined to be. God is defined to be all-powerful and infinite . . . but existence is finite and limited. So, to say that God exists is to say "the infinite is finite" which I reject as absurd, just as I reject the nonsensical or mad notion of a "black white". Thus do I know with certainty that God does not exist.
You may object that many people do not share my narrow definitions of "God" and "existence" and therefore my argument is of little or no value. So let me promptly put this objection to rest.
Let's look at alternative definitions to an all-powerful, infinite God. Notably, any alternative to an infinite God must be a finite God. Well, we could define God to be "a very powerful being" or even "the most powerful being". Such a God would be firmly in the domain of uncertain scientific knowledge, and would be infinitely removed (literally) from the traditional God who is supposed to be infinite and all-powerful. He would be only a shabbily hypothesized powerful alien of questionable morals.
That's why people prefer the infinite God to the finite one, and shows why my assumption that God is commonly defined as "all- powerful and infinite" is valid. For good reason I have excluded the possible alternative definitions of God that I would call "completely mad" (as opposed to just mad), such as defining God to be my pet budgie, or to be anything that I can't possibly think of. That leaves my assumption about the common definition of existence. Is it valid? Am I barking at the wind?
Then let's ask if there are possible alternative definitions of existence - at least, ones that aren't overly mad. I have said that existence is finite and limited. This is because something is said to exist if it relates to something else (like an observer). So, if something appears to us (in whatever way) we say it exists. Any alternative definition of existence would have to define things as existing that don't appear to us in any way at all (whether through our senses, intellect, or imagination). This is overly mad.
Ah, then what about Nature you ask? If Nature is defined to be "everything" (a sensible definition), then does it exist or not? Nature is by definition infinite (not limited) so it cannot relate to anything and therefore doesn't fit my definition of existence. So am I saying that Nature doesn't exist and am therefore a raving lunatic? No, Nature neither exists nor does it not exist. The distinction "existence/nonexistence" is inappropriate when applied to the infinite, which is beyond distinctions.
So I am not a raving lunatic, and my proof of the nonexistence of God based on the common definitions of both God and existence is perfectly valid. This is very significant.
There is more than faith, David Suzuki!
P.S. This would have to be a "patronizing letter".