Dice, Teapots and Spaghetti Monsters
If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone argue against the existence of God using some crackpot analogy, I wouldn’t need to write blogs any more. While I’m sure there are dozens more out there, there are three that I’ve heard repeatedly from various sources. Many of the attributes (and problems) with these analogies are consistent among the lot, though some may have some more unique issues.
One such analogy was presented during a public access, call-in television show in the Austin, TX area called The Atheist Experience. Hosted by a former seminary student turned atheist and co-hosted by other various atheists who, in their own rights, I get the impression are quite intelligent and skilled thinkers, one co-host brought up an analogy of “invisible, transcendent dice.”
First, let me lay out the analogy as it was presented. It started out with three glass jars. One jar contained a number of dice. The other two jars were empty. Those two were described as having “non-existent dice” and “invisible transcendent dice” respectively. The point was about how one cannot discern the difference between the non-existent dice and the transcendent dice.
Of course, there was a big show, shaking both of the jars trying to hear something and other such mockery. What I thought was really entertaining was when they started applying attributes of God to these “dice.” Already, the analogy begins to break down.
We are talking about dice. Dice don’t have knowledge. They don’t have emotions. They don’t give commands. They don’t “act.” They don’t think. They don’t “do” anything apart from being acted upon.
There are other areas where the analogy broke down as well. For example, as the host was asked to determine which jar had the non-existent dice and which had the transcendent dice, he was to simply come to this conclusion by looking at the jars. This is certainly a very poor illustration that just doesn’t translate into the existence of God.
For example, with God, we have documented testimony from eyewitnesses to miraculous events. In the case of the dice, they have no consciousness, therefore there is no way for them to engage with the physical world. But, let’s assume for a moment that they could. And let’s further assume that they would. (Yes, I understand this is extremely unstable ground upon which to build any kind of case…but then, that’s kind of the point.)
So, if these dice can and did interact with someone and, in some way, reveal themselves to that person, we then would have a great deal more to go on than simply looking at the two jars in order to ascertain which jar they were in (yet another things we’re granting…that “transcendent” dice would be constrained by a physical object, which sort of makes them a contradiction in themselves). We would have a witness.
Now, I’m sure there would be all sorts of questions one might have for this witness in order to identify the level of credibility we would give to them. If this witness were to show adequate reason to find their testimony to be credible, then we could say with a certain degree of conviction which dice contained the transcendent dice. Without any other evidence, we have to follow what evidence we have to where it leads.
What if there were other kinds of evidence? If these dice have been granted the ability to interact and reveal themselves, then they would presumably be conscious and, perhaps, have a certain amount of power to reveal themselves in a physical world. Therefore, this power would be able to be demonstrated. So, if the dice were to perform miracles, to which there were eye-witnesses, we would also have that evidence.
I could go on and on, but it seems intuitively obvious to me that this analogy pretty much proves nothing more than that transcendent objects cannot be detected with the naked eye. Well, that’s not a very helpful conclusion for or against God’s existence. It gets us no closer to either side of that issue.
Next week, I’ll cover the other two analogies I had in mind…the Celestial Teapot and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. For the most part, I have many similar objections to both of those, but there are some differences.
In what other areas does this dice analogy break down?
Grace, love and peace.