The Ultimate 747 in the Junkyard

From: Chris Cogan (
Date: Thu Jan 27 2000 - 21:25:36 EST

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    Suppose you happened to enter a junkyard and noticed a Boeing 747 sitting
    there, in perfect condition. You ask the proprietor, "Where did the 747 come

    The proprietor says, "Come from? Oh, it didn't come at all. It's *always*
    been here. Even before the beginning of the known Universe, that 747
    existed. It has been around for an infinite past, just in that condition,
    too. Ain't she a beauty?"

    Question: Would you believe his assertion that the 747 has *always* existed?

    Okay then. Suppose that, instead of a 747 in the junkyard, someone said he
    saw *God* sitting there (figuratively speaking). There He was, perfect in
    every way, infinitely intelligent, infinitely knowledgeable, never having
    begun to exist, and never to suffer the slings and arrows of entropy - and
    vastly, *infinitely* - more complex than a mere 747.

    Would you believe *this*? Would you refuse to believe that a mere 747 could
    always have existed, without ever having been created, without ever having
    grown, and yet be willing to believe that a personal *God* could exist in
    the same way?

    Oddly, many people *do* believe in just such a God. But, these same people
    would normally reject the possibility of a mere 747 in a junkyard having
    existed for an infinite past. *That*, they would not believe, even though,
    logically, it is *much* less preposterous than the infinite past existence
    of an *undesigned*, uncreated infinite, all powerful, all-knowing being.

    Why this discrepancy? Why would people who reject such existence for a mere
    747 be willing to accept it for God? Why would people who are willing to
    believe in such an existence of God *not* be willing also to believe in the
    infinite past existence of a mere 747?

    It doesn't make any sense, intellectually. By any sane or semi-sane
    standards of knowledge and belief, the infinite past existence of a 747 is
    *infinitely* more plausible than the infinite past (and present) existence
    of God. The existence of such a being as God is *radically* more
    preposterous than the existence of an infinitely old 747. For one thing, we
    know that 747's actually *can* exist. We may even have flown on one. We know
    that they are physically possible. Further, a 747 is infinitely less
    complex than God would have to be (just to store an infinite supply of
    knowledge, if for no other reason).

    If we were to accept one or the other as having an infinite past existence,
    we would do vastly better by betting on the 747 than on God (I don't say
    we'd do *well* in either case, since *even* the infinite-past 747 is
    probably nearly infinitely improbable). The 747 is relatively simple. God
    is enormously too sophisticated to be a basic existing thing. The 747 is not
    even perfect, by most standards (sorry, Boeing), but God *is* supposed to be
    perfect - *absolutely* perfect, perfect in a way such that it is not even
    *theoretically* possible for something to be "more perfect" than God. Thus,
    though the infinite past existence of a 747 is monstrously improbable, it is
    still *much* more probable than the existence of God.

    No, it makes no sense intellectually to accept God and yet reject the
    existence of the 747.

    But, it *does* make sense *psychologically*. People are inculcated with God
    and related ideas almost from the moment they can speak (or even before, if
    the parents take the infant to church, etc.). The existence of God, though
    at least as illogical as the existence of the Easter Bunny, is nevertheless
    part of the cultural "fabric" of Western civilization. The idea of God
    permeates our culture. The idea of an infinitely-existing 747 does not (and,
    if it did, if it had the same cultural background as does the idea of God,
    you can bet that *it* would be psychologically just as believable to most
    people as is the existence of God).

    And, in *general*, we are taught from childhood onward that invisible and
    immaterial things can have damn near *any* set of attributes you could name
    and somehow associate with them. In this realm Platonism and its derivatives
    hold sway. If we can form some vague, woozy idea of such a being, we are
    prepared, culturally, to believe in the existence of it.

    In contrast, we place severe *limits* on our ideas about what can exist as
    part of the empirical world. We know better than to accept an infinitely-old
    747 because 747's are real-world things that we can and do have some
    knowledge of. Bizarrely, however, if something is *so* wacky, *so* woozy,
    *so* unfounded that we can make very little sense of it at all, we
    effectively put no limits on what we will find acceptable to believe about

    This is hardly rational, but its deeply embedded in today's world culture
    (and most of it's subcultures), so that's what most people are most willing
    to believe.

    "But, 747's are man-made," someone may object.

    Yes, but so is the idea of God, as far as we can tell, and there's no
    *actual* God at all, as far as we can tell. At least 747's are *real*.

    "But, 747's must be created by a designer," someone may say.

    Yes, but, for the *same* reasons and many more, *God* must also be created
    by a designer, so positing God's existence merely requires a designer *far*
    more than does the 747. That is, positing God means that we must posit a
    God-designer. But God, by definition, *can't* have a designer. But one is
    nevertheless logically required for God even more-so than for a 747. But
    there can't be one. But their *must* be one. But their *can't* be one.

    If there can be such highly structured and sophisticated infinitely existing
    things as God without designers, then surely such a trivial thing as a 747
    could always have existed without being designed.

    Do you agree?

    --Chris C

    Now is the time for all good people to come to.

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