Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Paradox of Perfection - The Dilemma of Degrees of Perfection


Using Degrees of Perfection as a yard stick to prove the existence of God leads to the problem of the  Paradox of Perfection. This paradox has three parts. Part one is how the imperfect can only see the perfect imperfectly. Imperfect beings, in other words, are too imperfect to ever know, recognize, or even accurately judge something as completely perfect.  The second part begs the question, why would such a "perfect" God create such an incredibly "imperfect world,"? And the last part is how 'perfect perfection' necessarily implies the existence of its evil twin, 'perfect imperfection.' This second part illustrates how "perfection," ironically enough, sometimes breeds imperfection. And the last point demonstrates how the argument does not prove the existence of one god, but proves there is either no God or at least two gods or more.

 To understand how imperfect beings see the perfect imperfectly, we need look no further than the examples of the Parthenon and Christ himself.
The Parthenon is an imperfect perfection, so to speak. It is aesthetically perfect by being mathematically imperfect. According to contemporary scholars, it was built to "appear" perfect by being built to accommodate for the imperfection of human perception. As a result, there are few right angles in the entire structure. Instead,  it was built with gentle curves to give it the appearance of being straight.  The builders used imperfection, in other words, to create the optical illusion of "perfection."  If the builders had built the structure using perfectly straight angles, on the other hand, the building itself would "appear" curved and would thus appear to us as "imperfect." In this way, the perfect and the imperfect are often mere interpretive differences, and the latter is often used as the means for conveying the former.  To imperfect beings, using the imperfect to give the "illusion" of perfection is more real, and thus more "perfect" than perfection itself. Also, choosing one type of perfection usually requires sacrificing other perfections.  Mathematical perfections are different from aesthetic perfections, which may be different from functional perfections. Greece was aware of these distinctions and often had to choose one over the others.

 Christ, on the other hand, was supposedly "human perfection." As such, he might be said to be the embodiment of the three kinds of perfection just mentioned. But the people ultimately crucified Christ, which illustrates either how we don't recognize perfection when we see it, or worse, that when we see it we want to destroy it. Hence the "perfection" of Christ only agitated the "imperfections" of others to put Christ to death. In fact, if God had simply made people "perfect" to begin with, there would've been no one around to redeem our predictable disobedience in the Garden of Eden by viciously slaughtering Christ. Christianity, in other words, is not a story of how humanity aspires to perfection, but how humanity aspires to destroy perfection in ever more horrific ways. From Adam and Eve in the perfect Garden of Eden, to Noah and the flood, to Christ himself, the Bible is one repeating theme of an imperfect humanity rejecting and then destroying the "perfections" given to them (although how a garden of Eden can be called "perfect" with a lethal snake and poison apple tree thrown into the middle of it is beyond me).

Besides, what sort of a "perfect" God creates such a woefully imperfect world? Even without sin, there's still earth quakes, disease, hurricanes, tsunamis, famine, drought, aging, and all the rest. And if "sin" is to blame for how imperfect our world is, than why put a poison apple tree in the middle of a garden of infantile humans? That's worse than giving a box of razor blades to a baby and arguing the baby has free will to kill himself. Seriously, who comes up with this stuff!?

Lastly, the argument from DOP, even if we accept all its assumptions and difficulties, asks us to believe that it proves there is a God. But this is untrue. Instead, if the "degrees of perfection" are real, it does not prove the existence of "a" God, it proves the existence of at least two Gods, or more. Or worse, if it does prove one God, than that God is both perfectly perfect and perfectly imperfect. A single such God, however, would negate his own existence and demonstrate that the DOP only proves there is no God.  

How does the DOP argument prove the existence of two gods? By moving us in one direction toward the "perfect perfection" it defines as God and moving in the opposite direction toward "perfect imperfection" that would be equal to, and thus also definable as, God. In short, the DOP moves from perfect perfection to perfect imperfection, as symmetrically as numbers moving in both positive and negative directions.  

Christians may argue that this "perfect imperfection" is Lucifer, but there’s a big problem with that answer. Lucifer, so the story goes, was a fallen angel, which is supposedly something far less than a God. A perfect imperfection, however, is equal in its imperfection to God in his perfection. Otherwise we would be saying that, by God throwing Lucifer out of Heaven, he increased Lucifer's power and made Lucifer's imperfections equal to God's perfections. This is like "firing" a guy who asks for a raise by promoting him to the position of CEO to your biggest rival.

Nor is not enough to say, as some Christians might, that "perfect imperfection" simply does not exist, and that is why it is so "imperfect," or they would be admitting the devil is not real but God is. But then why would there be evil in the world?  Also, if a perfect perfection that is real is more perfect than one that is not, then a perfect imperfection that is real is also more imperfect than one that is not. Otherwise, we would be saying that imperfection is simply degrees of nonexistence, with perfect imperfection being total nonexistence (whatever that would mean).

 Again, to conclude, it is in this way that the DOP either disproves the existence of God, or it proves the existence of two gods, or it produces an infinite number of Gods, for every perfection and imperfection possible. Hence, the argument from "degrees of perfection" is far less proof of monotheism that it is proof of either atheism or polytheism.   How perfect.

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