Monday, November 21, 2016

Hinman's Incoherency Problem


Joe Hinman has just published another example of his muddled theistic thinking.  The article, called Do God's Omniscience ,Omnipotance, and free will Contradict? purports to answer the problem often posed by atheists of how God's omni qualities can co-exist without contradiction.  The problem, as he states it, is this:
God is asserted to be all good, all loving, all knowing, all powerful, in possession of free will and having imparted free will to human beings as well as being eternal and uncaused as well as outside of space and time while acting in a time sequence of events within space and time.  Sorry, one simply cannot make rational sense to reconcile all these asserted properties. They contradict each other in various ways making the whole package incoherent by it's own theistic definitions. (highlight in original)
Joe castigates atheists for their shallow thinking on this subject.  But he fails to answer that question, and in the process, reveals his own shallow thinking.

First off, I'm not sure that this statement of the problem accurately reflects the way most atheists would state it.  I've seen it many times, but the phrase "in possession of free will and having imparted free will to human beings as well as being eternal and uncaused as well as outside of space and time while acting in a time sequence of events within space and time" appears to be a superfluous addition.  The logical conundrum is usually identified as contradictions that arise from the co-existence of the first three omni qualities: all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful.  Notice the highlighting that Joe placed on his statement of the problem.  He didn't include all-loving, and in fact his entire discussion completely ignores that quality, while focusing more on the quality of free will.

So immediately, we can see that Joe has failed to address the most common version of the coherency problem posed by atheists.  If we consider those first three omni qualities of God, we could grant any two of them, but then the third creates contradictions.  For example, if God is all-knowing and all-powerful, he can create the world as we see it, but that world contains much needless suffering, which belies the all-loving quality.  It would be logically possible to create an alternate world without suffering *, and an all-powerful being would not be constrained from doing that, but an all-loving being wouldn't create this world.  Or we might assume that God is all-loving and all-knowing, so he understands the problem of suffering, and doesn't want his creatures to suffer needlessly, but he can't resolve the problem if he is not all-powerful.  No matter how you look at it, in light of the world in which we find ourselves, there are logical inconsistencies between those three omni qualities.  But Joe completely fails to address this in his article.

So then, what does Joe discuss?  He starts out by discussing the problem of free will when God is all-knowing.  That's another issue that is independent of the logical incoherency of the three omni qualities I mentioned above, but it's still worth addressing.  He makes the point that knowing something is not the same as controlling it.  Good point.  I don't think that is the claim made by atheists.  Joe explains to us stupid atheists that knowing the future is like seeing it all laid out at once, as if everything is an accomplished fact.  OK, fine.  I think that's the only reasonable way to look at it.  If the entire history and future of the world was a book, and I know the entire contents of the book, that doesn't imply that I cause the events described in the book.  That makes perfect sense, and I don't dispute it.  But what Joe conveniently ignores is that if I am the author of the book, then I DO dictate what happens in it.

Joe glosses over the whole problem that the all-powerful creator of the world, who knows everything there is to know about what will happen in his creation, must have some role in the course of events.  After all, he could just as well create a different world where some undesired event doesn't occur.  Joe pretends that God just thinks the world into existence, but doesn't control it.
I accept the premise "to be is to be perceived." God is the observer that collapses the wave function and causes the universe to be by beholding it. God is observing a thought that he has set up to run on it own. He's not making it happen or thinking every event at a microscopic level.
But this is an equivocation.  The creator is not a passive observer.  God, as an act of free will, intentionally creates the world, and if you believe what Christians say, it's all for a purpose.  And he knows exactly what he's doing.  This is not a case of God letting his thoughts wander aimlessly and having a passive vision of whatever world happens to cross his mind.  This world is God's willful creation.  He is the author of the book, and he knowingly and purposefully decides what the book says.  Take, for example, the idea that God guides evolution to produce his intended outcome, which is what many Christians believe.  How would this be possible if God is not in control of what happens?  It's absurd to think that this all-knowing, all-powerful God, who intentionally creates all things simultaneously, past, present, and future, is just passively watching the world unfold.

At this point, Joe speaks about what it means to be omnipotent, and and it sounds as if he is defending the notion that that the outcome is beyond God's control.  He again castigates stupid atheists for not understanding the concept that God can't do what is logically impossible.
God does not have to make rocks he can't lift. That is a childish trap set for eight[h] grade apologetic hobbyists in Sunday school classes.
I must say once again that I don't have a problem with that.  Nor does any thinking atheist.  But that's not the issue.  There is no logical problem with God creating an alternative world.  What Joe seems to be saying (although it's unclear) is that it's logically impossible for God to create the world and control what happens in it.  But if you think about it, it is logically impossible for God to be the all-knowing, purposeful creator - author of the book of the world that contains past, present and future - and NOT be in control of what happens in the book.  If God is not the author, then it's not his purposeful creation.  This is the incoherency of Joe's muddled thinking.

To sum up, Joe thinks he is taking stupid atheists to school - laying to rest our unsophisticated atheistic notions of the logical incoherency of the omni-God.  But he only exposes his own incoherent thinking.  And I would expect no better from him.








* Christians usually argue that it might be the case that God can't reduce suffering without changing the intended outcome, but that is certainly not a logical necessity.  At best it's a possibility, and a remote one at that.  I can easily imagine an alternate world where some creature in the remote depths of the ocean is spared from suffering, and yet people still face all the same moral choices in their lives.  God should be able to do a little better than that.



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26 comments:

  1. Hinman's proposition is an Argument from Fatuity. It never ceases to amaze me the degree of nonsensicality permeating every theological metric engaged by religious loonies to argue their case. The level of dissembling that underscores their process of post-hoc rationalising is simply staggering. And the great tragedy here is not only do they have no idea let alone understand what they propose is bunkum but that they believe it. It is a form of socially-derived schizophrenia that has been culturally normalised in Western society for which the community is now paying a heavy price for its soft-handed accommodationism. Not unlike homeopathy, religious belief must equally be subject to due diligence and engaged with great caution.

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    1. Joe seems to think that his logic is superior to that of the mere mortal. But when you examine it, it's full of holes, and any honest theist would admit this. Joe says he's refuting the claim that the omni properties of God are contradictory, but nowhere in the structure of his argument does he actually address that question. Instead, he chides atheists for supposedly not understanding what it means to know the future or to have omnipotence. None of that answers the question. But he thinks he has won the argument. This is just the kind of thinking that enables religious belief.

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    2. I think Anselm got it right; God is that nonsense for which there can be no greater.

      Duke University's Prof Robert G Brown, philosopher, quantum physicist, writer, has an interesting take on god's existence HERE.

      Homeopathic Hinman has little to contribute going forward other than as a comedic foil to serious discourse.

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    3. Good article. I'm going to look at more of his site.

      "God is that nonsense for which there can be no greater." - That's great. I might repeat that some time.

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    4. Knock yourself out, skep. I claim non-pecuniary copyright only. :o)

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  2. the problem is you are goth idiots, you not concerned with the logic of the argument i ws making you just want ay :"I have other ideas that you didn't talk about so we win,l:"you are not answering my argument, you're pouting a spin, neither of you understand the baisc issues, The reason I didn't include all loving is because the argument i was answering didn't include it. It was written in answer to a specific guy.

    "Joe glosses over the whole problem that the all-powerful creator of the world, who knows everything there is to know about what will happen in his creation, must have some role in the course of events. After all, he could just as well create a different world where some undesired event doesn't occur. Joe pretends that God just thinks the world into existence, but doesn't control it."

    I answered that in saying that God does not know events before they happen, As so often is the case you have no grap of the centrality ofr the issue with which I deal.

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    1. The reason I didn't include all loving is because the argument i was answering didn't include it.
      - Joe, the words "all loving" are right there in the original argument that you said you were answering.

      I answered that in saying that God does not know events before they happen, As so often is the case you have no grap of the centrality ofr the issue with which I deal.
      - Now you are contradicting yourself. You explained that God is outside of time. For him, there is no "before they happen", because he sees it all at once. It get it. This makes sense to me, but now I wonder if it makes sense to you. I think you are just repeating what you heard somewhere, but you don't understand it.

      You don't understand the logical implications of your own argument. It is contradictory to say both (1) that God is outside of time and sees past, present, and future as if everything is an accomplished fact, and also to say (2) that God does not know events before they happen.

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  3. Joe, how does an 'all-knowing" god "not know events before they happen"?
    The trouble with your proposition is that it is all you have, just an argument; no facts, no evidence, no proofs of anything remotely indicative of the existence of a god, of any stripe. The 'centrality of the issue with which you deal' is that you base your argument on histrionic nonsense, incoherently defend that nonsense, and derive a nonsense outcome. As Anselm noted: God is that nonsense for which none greater can be conceived.

    Sorry Skep I beat you to the first iteration.

    As Prof David Eller, renowned anthropologist who has spent decades researching religions and religious practices in various societies around the world,

    "Religion is neither all good or all bad. It is all human - and therefore diverse, ambiguous, and contradictory."

    More pertinently, to the discussion with

    "If there is an Intelligent Designer [God], scientists only have to revise their science books. If there is no Intelligent Designer [God], Christians have to throw out their Christian book. Science could live with a Designer, Christianity would die without one. That is why Christianity fights so hard for what it claims is a scientific idea."

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    1. If science can live with a designer, then why did scientists try to conduct an experiment in 1953 to try to show that life can form spontaneously by accident?

      Science Against Evolution: In the Primeval Soup

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    2. Btfsplk

      "If science can live with a designer, then why did scientists try to conduct an experiment in 1953 to try to show that life can form spontaneously by accident?"

      Hilarious.
      It was an "investigation" and was not intended to produce life.

      Why is it the religious can't discuss science without resorting to straw man misrepresentations?

      BTW, fool:

      {"....the scientists who unearthed the old samples ran them through modern analysis techniques, which are a bit more sensitive than the tools they had in the 1950s. In 1953, Miller reported the recovery of five amino acids from his experiment. The reanalysis found twenty two amino acids and five amines in the vials. He was more successful than he knew!...."}

      http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/10/16/old-scientists-never-clean-out/

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    3. 1. Here is this comment on the Pharyngula link:

      Kel: I saw this on New Scientist this morning, it’s great news. One step closer unlocking a potential mechanism for naturalistic origins.

      Maybe it isn't the be-all end-all, but it seems to me that the experiment is trying to move in the direction of finding a naturalistic origin of life. So, no strawman.

      2. Someone else had something to say about amino acids (in the comments):

      Evolution By Design: Advanced Life is Very Rare

      Joel: More specifically, on point (1) on TalkOrigins, I would say that indeed biochemistry is not chance, and indeed it can produce more complex products sometimes. However, there is vast complexity difference between an amino acid and a cell. We know that biochemistry can produce some kinds of amino acids, but we do not know that biochemistry can produce cells. Just because amino acids can form naturally does not prove that cells can form naturally, any more than the fact that a snowflake can form naturally proves that a complex ice sculpture with writing on it can form naturally. Cells require incredibly complex instructions to operate, amino acids do not. Cells reproduce, amino acids do not.

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    4. It is moronic to assume, as creationists do, that the first life form was a full-blown cell, as we see it today after billions of years of evolution. What scientists are trying to demonstrate is a pathway from a replicant (probably some variant of RNA) to a primitive contained system that absorbs energy from outside in order to replicate.

      Bottom line: keeping God in the picture invariably makes the odds of scientific discovery highly unlikely.

      Please see my comments on your brand of "science" here.

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    5. Btfsplk

      "... it seems to me that the experiment is trying to move in the direction of finding a naturalistic origin of life. So, no strawman. "

      {"...then why did scientists try to conduct an experiment in 1953 to try to show that life can form spontaneously by accident?"}

      See what you did there, Btfsplk?
      That is called "moving the goal posts".


      "2. Someone else had something to say about amino acids (in the comments):

      Evolution By Design: Advanced Life is Very Rare

      Joel: More specifically, on point (1) on TalkOrigins, I would say that indeed biochemistry is not chance, and indeed it can produce more complex products sometimes. However, there is vast complexity difference between an amino acid and a cell. We know that biochemistry can produce some kinds of amino acids, but we do not know that biochemistry can produce cells. Just because amino acids can form naturally does not prove that cells can form naturally, any more than the fact that a snowflake can form naturally proves that a complex ice sculpture with writing on it can form naturally. Cells require incredibly complex instructions to operate, amino acids do not. Cells reproduce, amino acids do not.."

      Same old straw man argument.
      No competent biologist thinks the first replicating cell was as complex as a modern cell, which, after all is the product of several billion years of evolution. Or do you and your authority imagine there was no differential survival and no evolution during the 2 billion years that life on earth was uni-cellular?

      Educate yourself and stop relying on anonymous "authorities" simply because they reinforce your prejudices:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqPGOhXoprU

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJ5jh33OiOA&t=330s

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfq5-i8xoIU

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    6. I watched a little bit of those videos, but they were too long. Then, I remembered that I heard the name Jack Szostak before:

      Science20: Calculating the Odds That Life Could Begin by Chance

      Here are a few excerpts from this article:

      Now I will recall a classic experiment by David Bartel and Jack Szostak, published in Science in 1993. Their goal was to see if a completely random system of molecules could undergo selection in such a way that defined species of molecules emerged with specific properties. They began by synthesizing many trillions of different RNA molecules about 300 nucleotides long, but the nucleotides were all random nucleotide sequences.

      The results were amazing. After only 4 rounds of selection and amplification they began to see an increase in catalytic activity, and after 10 rounds the rate was 7 million times faster than the uncatalyzed rate. It was even possible to watch the RNA evolve. Nucleic acids can be separated and visualized by a technique called gel electrophoresis. The mixture is put in at the top of a gel held between two glass plates and a voltage is applied. Small molecules travel fastest through the gel, and larger molecules move more slowly, so they are separated.

      The author thought that the Bartel and Szostak experiment refuted the argument that the odds are stacked against origin of life by chance. However, in the comments, Leslie wasn't impressed:

      Apart from the unimaginable odds against the first simple cell randomly “gathering” and then precisely “ordering & assembling” its many complex parts, there remains the key “scientific” issues of:
      (i) how the cell hardware could manufacture the DNA software; and (ii) how random non-purposeful, non-intelligent atoms “write and store” complex “information” in the DNA/RNA; and (iii) how “life” came from either the hardware or the software of the cell. I am respectfully suggesting that if we wish to ignore these issues and dress them up in scientific terms it seem to me that we have entered the realm of science fantasy where “anything” can then happen.


      In addition, someone else had a critique of this article:

      Attempted Refutation of the Difficulty of Producing First Life

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    7. Btfsplk

      Yea, your first link is pretty strong evidence against your contentions.

      No, this anonymous "Leslie" has no clue about what he/she is blabbering.

      The cell "hardware" would be the genetic information/primitive replicating molecule. It would "manufacture" by replicating with variations-Darwinian process.

      There is nothing "written" in RNA/DNA. It is not a "code" in the normal everyday use of the word "code" since there is no symbolic representation.

      There is no distinction between living molecules and non-living molecules except their state of organization.
      No "magic' is necessary-it'as all chemistry and physics.

      And that concluding argumentum ad ignorantium is truly precious.

      As to the "refutation" by the anonymous "Stan":

      "....These experiments in no manner comes close to refuting the necessity of assembling a working cell which already contains the proper prescriptive semantic information which describes (a) the cell's semipermeable membrane, (b) the multi-featured mechanism for reproduction by mitosis, (c) the necessary DNA, and RNA polymerases and associated transcription molecules, and (d) the necessary proteins for the life processes of the cell - including metabolism, energy acquisition and waste elimination, (e) the necessary amino acids for creating the proteins and polymerases. Further, all of this MUST be present in the first cell, if the cell is to be "alive" in the sense of metabolically sound and functioal, properly enclosed, accurately mitotic reproductive, and thus qualify to be the ancestor of all life on earth.
      ...."

      All of those objections-and I do mean ALL-have been answered by Szostak and his team at Harvard.

      Too bad you don't have the attention span to intake the info.

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    8. Merrill,

      I have been engaging with Stan, who JB quoted, over many years, so I can give you a little more context, should you be interested... Basically, there are 2 simple things that explain everything he writes about when it comes to Abiogenesis and Evolution.

      1) Stan believes that "Life" is something that has some essence, which cannot be explained by natural phenomena alone.

      2) Stan believes that cells are akin to literal factories, which never make mistakes, and thus cannot possibly evolve.

      Because of these 2 firmly held ideas, and a conspiracy-ish mentality that labels any evolutionary science as Atheist-driven, Stan combines his objections to Evolution and Abiogenesis into 1 big giant impossibility, which always finds grounding in these 2 ideas. Basically, he doesn't care about the fact that these are 2 related yet independent fields of research. What matters is that Life, with a big L, is a mystery that nobody can truly understand via scientific research. Mutations, for instance, are neither neutral nor beneficial and are always caused by external influences, and thus eliminated by the incredible cell machinery. Changes happen only 'within' a genome and thus show variations using pre-existing set of characteristics. Novelty cannot possibly arise under such framework.

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  4. Here are a few quotes to support this summary. Stan said on the linked thread:

    " I positively believe
    a) that no one knows or ever will know the answers;
    b) the pretense of having objective knowledge where it is functionally impossible to have objective knowledge is pure fraud;
    c) Evolution is fraud;
    d) Evolution is weaponized fraud;
    e) Evolution has caused many deaths, just as Nietzsche forcast;
    f) the deadening of the modern mind to the use of fables, fantasy, and raw opinion as models for developing immutable and unquestionable stories which have no basis in objective fact is a consequence of the rush to iconize evolution and Darwin by the Atheist Leftist Progressives of the late 19th and early 20th century. It is directly involved in the rise of Marxist fables and stories, and the consequences of that are well known.
    "

    "Why would anyone believe that all cells are faulty? The very idea is absurd. [...]And that is why the Darwinian Theory of Evolution is false. The micro-evolutionary theory of Darwin cannot be true. The genome must be changed – mutated – for the very idea of evolution to even make sense at the narrative level, much less at the molecular level. That was the obvious reason for the generation of the “MODERN SYNTHESIS”, some 70 years ago. And now even that is challenged internally with the EXTENDED SYNTHESIS”, because it is obvious that even random mutation cannot produce novelty."

    Other examples:
    "Reductio Ad Absurdum:
    1. First life randomly assembled itself.

    2. First life was not a complete cell.

    3. First life was flawed. (not a perfect set of complementary, necessary and sufficient functions; not at all like modern prokaryote life).

    4. First life produced erroneous offspring, because the process was flawed and not perfect. (How an imperfect, incomplete/flawed process could actually produce offspring is ignored as an issue at this point).

    5. Yet subsequent generations flourished because: evolution=mutation/selection/gradualism. (circular: use of hypothesis to prove the hypothesis). I.e., some subsequent generations contained individuals that mutated into perfect cells, containing all the functions necessary and sufficient for life (finally) including metabolic, energy acquisition and conversion, properly double coded DNA, DNA testing and DNA repair, timed DNA splitting machinery including temporary scaffolding from centomere, cell splitting containing a DNA half in each daughter cell, completing the bilateral DNA in the daughter cell before compacting the DNA into gene form, and repeat - for billions of years.

    An original cell which contained partial functions, and/or incomplete replication processes, and/or faulty processes which produced faulty products, thus was defective - not perfect, containing all the necessary and sufficient elements for life and procreation - still maintained life, replicated, and produced subsequent cells which functioned properly because they somehow developed the necessary proper functions, albeit late in the process of propagation of early life.

    Conclusion: the idea of imperfect (faulty: without all necessary and sufficient elements for life and procreation) First Life is absurd, at nearly every necessary step.

    Therefore, all the necessary and sufficient elements required for life, replication, and double coded DNA absolutely must have existed and functioned properly in First Life.
    "

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    1. These guys (Stan, Pogge, et al) have the arrogance to declare that they know how it all works, but the scientists who actually study and work with this stuff don't know what they're talking about. They are all for science as long as it agrees with their religious beliefs, but then when the science diverges from those beliefs, they pretend it's all some kind of hoax or conspiracy by atheists. This would all be a hilarious joke, if not for the fact that they want they want to teach this crap to children.

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    2. Yep, and Stan for instance even quotes evolutionary scientists who completely disagree with him, regarding the basic facts of evolution, in order to quote mine details he *thinks* support his views. He is completely deaf to their assessment of the big picture and facts such as speciation, common ancestry, the Cambrian explosion, etc...

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  5. "Joe, how does an 'all-knowing" god "not know events before they happen"?"

    Joe's response to that is that "How does God know P before P occurs?" is a mistaken question. As Joe says, God is outside of time, so asking a question like the above is a mistake.

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    1. I think that's a matter of perspective. It is true that for someone outside of time, there is no "before" and there is no "after". But from our perspective, there is a "before" and "after", and God knows what we have done and what we will do in each and every moment of time. Joe is just playing a game, pretending that God only sees the outcome when it's all said and done, and that's why he isn't in control (according to Joe). But that's wrong. God creates the outcome, he doesn't sit idly by and watch it happen. And for each moment of our time - past, present, and future - he knows exactly what the outcome will be.

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  6. According to Joe's own religion, Christianity, God did have foreknowledge. At least if I remember some of the bible correctly then Jesus had foreknowledge. So even if we grant that God doesn't necessarily have foreknowledge if bare theism is true, it still appears God has foreknowledge, and hence we cannot change our futures, if Christianity is true.

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    1. I have always thought that when people were inventing all their notions about God, and how wonderful he is, and all the super powers he has, they didn't think it through. After all, most of these ideas pre-date any kind of sophisticated science and philosophy. Now they are stuck trying to defend all these notions, no matter how much they contradict empirical observation, and how logically incoherent they are.

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    2. I think that's exactly right. Plenty of theists are still defending Biblical genocide and forcing victim of rape to marry their rapist. They wouldn't need to defend the absurd if they realized that their religion were clearly created without much thought, something clearly not expected if they were divinely inspired/directed.

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  7. I have always seen the whole idea of whether we have true free will, or the capacity to influence our future, or a moot point anyway. In other words, it makes no difference whether God has complete/partial/no foreknowledge, as God could, in theory, alter what is going on at any moment for any reason. Here's what I mean:

    Scenario 1 - God has foreknowledge
    Whatever happens is already known to God, and the outcome is already whatever God wants it to be.

    Scenario 2 - God does not have foreknowledge
    Whatever happens is not already known to God, and the outcome is not what God wants it to be, yet. But God sees everything that is going on and can cause stuff to happen so that the outcome is whatever God wants it to be.

    Hence, in both cases, the outcome is whatever God wants it to be, and we thus have no real control of our future. Regardless of what we choose to do, God can always either intervene, or have already intervened. It makes no difference.

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    1. The whole notion of teleology is consistent with that. Everything is directed toward some purpose. People like to think that they can act independently, but in the long run, it all turns out the way God intended all along.

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