Reply to rational Pantheism.

Published on 25 August 2022 at 12:35

After a semi-viral tweet in which I asserted that that all god concepts I have encountered are are either Logically impossible, Incoherent, or demonstrably false. An organization that goes by "Rational Pantheism" linked me to their blog, and "proof of their god concept", challenging me to show how their concept falls into one of my three mentioned categories. This is my reply to them. 

Normally, I would not have spent energy responding to a claim of pantheism, but the folks over at Rational Pantheism claims they can not only prove that Pantheism is true, but must be true. I am not a humble person, but the hubris of their message took even me aback. So, I decided the first entry to my blog would be responding to them point by point. 


The opening header of their argument is as follows:

                     "In rational pantheism, God is synonymous with the Universe. So, the Universe is a supreme being. Can such a notion be proven? Yes it can. To accept the reality of God’s existence you simply need to understand a simple logical argument."

A few things to point out right in their opening. They redefine the classical philosophical concept of god, into the universe. That is the basics of Pantheism, however it conflates two terms that are rarely used in the same way, and sense that RP is using them here. God and the universe are never used interchangeably outside of pantheistic discussions. They then assert that it can be proven, by understanding (not even accepting, just understanding) a simple logical argument. If this is the case, they have created the greatest philosophical proposition in human history. While not inherently being tied to one of my three categories, I reject their definition of god outright, thus their conflation is meaningless to me. However, perhaps the rest of their blog will change my mind, let's explore together.  

The beginning of their argument has a few things that need to be addressed. On the surface level it seems like a remedial synopsis of some underlying scientific ideas, however it has some hidden assumptions and ideas that need to be unpacked.  

                     "From biology we understand that thinking humans are collections of individual living entities called cells and that these cells are composed of molecules. From chemistry we know that molecules are composed of atoms. From physics we understand that atoms are composed of subatomic particles which ultimately are composed of elementary particles. Elementary particles are simply packets of energy. Energy packets are just energy enclosed within a field. The Universe itself is composed only of energy."


The hidden assumption mentioned above, is the idea that the universe is composed of ONLY energy. One would need to have a complete theory of quantum gravity, that unifies general and special relativity with quantum mechanics to assert that! At best it is a bald assertion without justification. At worst it is a disingenuous pretense to knowledge that they almost certainly do not have. Let us also not forget that Laurence Krauss demonstrated that the total net energy of the universe equals zero, this entails that they have a lot of work to do to be able to instantiate their assertion. There assertion is simply unsubstantiated in context of our current understanding of quantum mechanics.  Next they are grooming an idea that is an equivocation fallacy, they erroneously equivocates beings, and objects withing the universe, with the universe itself. The first part here does not explicitly make the fallacy, but rather lays the ground work so that when they do explicitly make the fallacy it goes unnoticed. 

There next paragraph is where the fun really starts, and the equivocation is explicitly stated. 


                "Everything that a human does can be traced down to interactions of these energy fields. Nothing we do can be caused by anything else unless you believe in the existence of magical paranormal forces. So, the only logical conclusion is that human mental states result from the interactions of energy packets or energy. The Universe itself is one massive system of interacting energy and therefore must also have some kind of mental life, however primitive. Thus the God of pantheism is an established fact"

They commit the equivocation fallacy twice in the same paragraph, which is kind of impressive. They do so hiding behind semantical tricks. The electrical and neurological synapsis that create brain activity (along with the consciousness, and thinking by proxy) simply are vastly different interactions than other things in the universe. The energy interactions that cause the near-infinite gravitational pull of black-holes are far different that the the electric movement of chemicals across a field of grey matter. the second time they do this, is to once again conflate or equivocate things in the universe, with the universe itself.  The assertion that the universe is just one massive system of interacting energy, is patently wrong, and lacking of understanding. Our presentation of the universe, contains all known interactions, it is not part of the interaction itself. The universe does not work, work is instead done withing the universe. You do not interact with the universe, you interact with other things within the universe. Their objection here might be to say that you can interact with the world (planet Earth) without being outside of the world (planet Earth). However, they would commit the fallacy a third time if they did so. A planet in the universe is not equivalent to the universe itself. Moreover, you can demonstrate interaction with a ball of rocks and water. We will wait for their demonstration of interacting with the universe itself. Sorry to break it to you RP, but the god of pantheism has not been established as fact.

The only objection they could possible give here, is that the universe itself expands, and that would seem to defeat my assertion of the universe itself not doing work. However, that would assume that there is something the universe is expanding into, rather than our perception of space being filled with pre-existing material where there was not material first. They also do not account for the implications of asserting that their god is the universe itself. The biggest implication of this, is that their god is going to die, and had a beginning. There will be a time in the distant future, that there is no more energy interaction in the universe, brought on by particle decay, and universal expansion, the heat death of the universe. The other part of these strange implications is that their god had a beginning. Our local universe had a beginning. If the universe is god, and the universe had a beginning. It then logically and inescapably follows that their god had a beginning. If that is the case (and it necessarily is), they are stuck with one of the most basic philosophical issues that any god of this sort faces. What created their god? They cannot say that their god created itself, because that is logically incoherent. They cannot appeal to any other creator deity, as that would be logically impossible on their view. They also cannot posit that it always existed, as that is demonstrably false. The only appeal they can make is to assert that it is whatever is outside of the universe (mayhaps any possible multiverse) is their god. Doing so has it's own philosophical issues, not the least of which would be having to abandon their current definitions of pantheism, and god. 

My job is done, I have proven my point made in that original tweet. However, I want to go over the rest of their post. 


                "It’s important to understand that interacting energy wouldn’t cause a mental state to magically arise out of nowhere"

Agreed, moving on. 

               "Energy itself must have the simplest possible default mental state"

Yeah, that is just straight up absurd. Moreover it is an assertion that has zero support or justification. Why must it? because you say so? mental states cannot magically arise, but they can magically just be present in energy...

                "It would be wrong to assume that only energy packet interaction results in mental states. Any sort of energy interaction should also produce mental states" holes are mental states? Supernova are mental states? They want us to accept without justification that literally everything that exists has a mental state I am sorry, but this is incoherent nonsense. 

The summery of their argument is below. I added the premises ("P") numbers myself for easier reference. Below their summarization, is replies to points, these are labeled as OP#

  • P1 Humans are composed of elementary particles or fields of energy.
  • P2 Human mental states result from these particle interactions.
  • P3 Every complex physical property results from the shaping of simpler forms of that property in a system’s interacting subsystems.
  • P4 It would involve special pleading to claim that mentality works dramatically differently from physicality.
  • P5 It is therefore irrational to assume that a property like mentality would magically arise from nowhere when energy interacts.
  • P6 Therefore energy has simple mentality.
  • P7 Energy interactions shape this mental state making it more complex.
  • P8 The more and sophisticated the interactions, the more complex the states.
  • P9 The Universe is composed only of interacting energy.
  • P10 Therefore the Universe must have some kind of mental life.
  • C: Ergo God

OP1 - it is much more nuanced and complex that that, but close enough I guess. 

OP2 - Yes, within a physical system known as the brain, energy interactions themselves without a brain do not cause a mental state. 

OP4 Unrelated to anything else they have posited here. Mentality arises from physicality, I.E. the brain, so they do work differently then how quantum energy particles interact. 

OP5 It would also be irrational to assert that energy has a mental state. Mental states require a brain. 

OP6 Simply an unfounded, unsupported and absurd assertion. 

OP 6 is the biggest issue with their argument. It is absurd, incoherent and illogical nonsense. 


In summery, I understand where they are coming from. They want to support the idea of a god, without turning to the traditional magical proclamations that classical and modern theism often must reference. However, along the way they make several unfounded assertions, commit to baseless assumptions, and commit to several logical fallacies. The problem with their idea that mental states do not magically arise from non mental states must make the ontological commitment that everything has mental states, moreover they ontologically commit themselves to energy not only having, but somehow being mental states in and of themselves. This is incoherent nonsense not supported by any science, or philosophy. Nothing in philosophy of the mind agrees with their assertions here, because of the established fact that it is an incoherent nightmare of ontological commitment. Moreover, Neuroscience tells us how energy and electric synapsis inside the physical brain creates mental states. Nothing in the neurosciences posits, points to, or even slightly indicates that the energy itself is a mental state, or has a mental state. They have not only not proven their god to exist, they have indeed shown their concept to fall into one of my three categories of why I do not believe every other concept of god I have encountered. 


Link to their Original post here:

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