Talk:Omniscience

From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Hi Edgerunner. Hope you're going to be writing RW-worthy stubs for those reds old buddy.  :-) --Bobbing for apples 11:48, 19 October 2007 (EDT)

The "Universal Set"/Uncertainty Principle or Mutually Exclusive Knowledge[edit]

I was reading this article, and the part about refuting omniscience by using the "Universal Set" threw me off. This argument seems to presume that knowledge is infinite and disregards the concept of omniscience when knowledge is finite (I'm not an expert on set theory though, so feel free to explain where my argument breaks down, if it does). I understand the idea that any finite set could possibly be a subset of any larger finite set, but the problem I see is that the inclusion of "all" in the definition of omniscience would seem to preclude that argument by indicating that there is no larger set; while it could be used to argue against claims of omniscience provided a comprehensive list of all knowledge posessed by the claimant can be shown to be missing knowledge, but the mere possibility of the knowledge posessed by the claimant being incomplete seems to me to be little better than an apologist stating "you might be wrong, therefore God." I think this is from a confusion between what is meant by omnipotent, meaning all-powerful, but also translating into having infinite power simply by virtue of what being all-powerful entails; as in, nothing can be more powerful (not even the laws of the universe), and the being is capable of any action they desire, even if it violates reality. This doesn't translate directly to the definition of omniscience, because there can easily be a finite amount of knowledge in the universe (provided that the universe is finite), and to be all-knowing is not the same as having infinite knowledge; if there is a limit to the knowledge that can exist, then one can theoretically know everything. Now, I agree that omnipotence is impossible, because it expressly allows for the violation of natural laws, but omniscience is trickier, as I pointed out; the argument from knowledge of the universal set only provides for the possibility that omniscience does not exist (it uses "could" and "can"), not a solid refutation. I think, better than the knowledge of the universal set argument, there should be a section refuting omniscience based on the Uncertainty Principle; there are certain pieces of knowledge that are mutually exclusive, and one cannot have knowledge of both without also posessing omnipotence, which then inexorably links omniscience to omnipotence, and thereby gives a stronger basis for refutation. Reverend Lucifer (talk) 01:13, 1 March 2013 (UTC)

Hmm, it makes sense, but it seems to be somewhat confusing to be applying quantum mechanical things like the Uncertainty Principle. Quantum physics does include knowledge in terms of probabilities instead of certainties. But omniscience can be taken to mean the knowledge of all that is possible to know. Thus god would only know probabilities, not certainties! That would mean that god can't predict stuff precisely and he has basically limited his own knowledge by creating quantum mechanics! Maybe I'm not making sense, but it's late at night for me and my undergraduate physics is rusty. :P
It's an interesting idea, though, and I'm tempted to add a section to the article explploring it. Anybody else have thoughts on this? Nullahnung (talk) 18:25, 20 July 2013 (UTC)

Repetitive writing[edit]

This article seems to have been jumbled together from multiple people who repeat each other's points.

The point that omniscience is as implausible as something quantifiable taken to infinites is repeated multiple times, even within the same section.

I suggest cutting down to something more compact. Nullahnung (talk) 18:10, 20 July 2013 (UTC)

Shaky section[edit]

The section on "The Implausibility of Knowledge of the Universal Set" seems shaky to me, starting with "recalling information one at a time": WTF is that even supposed to mean? After that, the first premise in the argument seems ill-formed and difficult to defend: WTF does "Knowledge is quantifiable." mean? Then comes an argument based on the assumption that all subsets are proper subsets (i.e. ignoring that a set may be a subset of itself, just not a proper one.)

If it were up to me, I would raze this section to emptiness. Does anyone care enough about this to hammer it into better shape? Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 19:04, 19 July 2014 (UTC)

I removed everything that looked like pretentious intellectual wankery complete with self-important capitalizations. Sweet Jesus, none of that made any real sense. Father Vivian O'Blivion talkModerator 20:23, 19 July 2014 (UTC)
Did you forget to save your edit? Nullahnung (talk) 20:55, 19 July 2014 (UTC)
Good eye. Father Vivian O'Blivion talkModerator 20:57, 19 July 2014 (UTC)

No easy contradiction?[edit]

The article states "So, unlike omnipotence, omniscience is not easily construed in such a way as to entail a contradiction." I have objections to this statement. I believe it is false. I've come across at least four reasonings resulting in a contradiction from omniscience. See the following.

1. Look at the statement (X): "An omniscient being can not know that this statement is true." A pretty bold statement, asserting to know what an omniscient being can NOT know. Let's see. If X is true, then indeed will an omniscient being not know that it is true. Hence, in fact, it is not omniscient, since it "misses" out on X. If X is not true, however, this means that an omniscient being CAN know X, but X is not true! So that means that this omniscient being can know something that is not true (namely X). In that case, the omniscient being is inconsistent (and could also "know" that 2 + 2 = 5). The reason for both contradictions is that the term "omniscient" in statement X is itself paradoxical! In other words, "omniscient" can not be the attribute of God if God is not to be inconsistent (or the concept of God is not to be inconsistent). A strange corollary is that a human can know that X is true (namely that God can't know it is true), but God can't. In other words, even though humans do not claim to be consistent, they can know things that God does not know.

2. God can not know the truth of the statement "I am human", which in fact I know is true for me. He can know that I am human, and he can know that I think that I am human (and I am right about it). But God can not know for himself "I am human". This statement will change its truth value for God and so its truth is something God can't know, because God isn't human. This is called the subjective standpoint. The use of the indexical "I" means something else for me than for God, and depending on who says it, it can be true or false. So, God can not know everything that is true, the way I know that it is true. Therefore, God is not omniscient.

3. The set of all truths T does not exist. Therefore, God can not know all truths, neither can anybody else. To prove this point, consider the powerset P(T) of T. This set does NOT itself contain truths. But take a truth t of T and consider for each set p of P(T) the statements "t in p" and "t not in p". The set {"t in p"| t in p, p in P(T)} union {"t not in p" | t not in p, p in P(T)} contains only truths and has the same cardinality as P(T), which has a bigger cardinality than T. Therefore, the claim that T contained "all truths" is not true. Apparently T is not definable as a set. But then it will be impossible to know "all truths" in any way since it can not be determined what "all truths" are.

Recently I realized that certain if not all truths rely on the context. Euclid's Parallel Postulate is not true for geometry on a ball. However, it is true in Euclidean geometry. In fact, it was long thought that any geometry not satisfying the Parallel Postulate could not be called consistent. Now we know that the geometry on a ball is very much consistent and useful. My point is that the "truth" of certain axioms (and its derived theorems) can not be judged purely from what they assert. They need to be placed in context. Therefore, if God is omniscient, then God knows also the context in which a certain statement is true and when not. But then it is possible for God to "know" contradictory statements (even 2+2 = 5 in the ring with 1 element) and NOT be inconsistent. It seems that being "omniscient" becomes an arbitrary statement, since all statements may be true in SOME context.

Also, since Goedel, we know that within every axiomatic system which is consistent and strong enough to express truths about itself, true statements exist which can not be proven within that system (through a sequence of logical steps). Each such statement G (true but unprovable) can be added to the original set of axioms without violating consistency. But what may sound more baffling, their negation (not G) can ALSO be added to the original set of axioms without violating consistency. In any case, such a statement seems to create a bifurcation of axiomatic systems: one in which G is true and one in which not G is true. In the system where G is true, not G is not true. In the system where not G is true, G is not true. But how would God decide whether G or not G is true? He can't, but certainly one or the other is true? Well, in fact, Goedel proved it isn't so. Hence, God does not know what we can't know either in this case.

4. If omniscience includes knowing the past, the present and the future, does it follow that free will is impossible? If not, does God have a free will? For instance, if God decides to do something (rather than "being omniscient"), will He then have the choice to change His mind? If He can not change His mind about what He is going to do, how does He have free will? But if He is free to change His mind about what He is going to do, then what He knows about the future can not be correct in all cases, and He is not omniscient. (In some versions of this argument, it is shown that God can not be both omniscient and omnipotent. Notice that here only the "free will" of God is put in question. Cuc (talk) 06:30, 22 July 2014 (UTC)

At this point I have to note that omniscience usually is taken to mean "knows all truths". You can't simply put it down with something like "But He cannot know that 2+2=5!" Nullahnung (talk) 19:36, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
I seem to recall from freshman philosophy that "knowledge" can only be applied to things that are true. One might believe that snakes have fur or that cats have tusks, but one cannot "know" those things. So there's no difference between "knows all truths" and "knows." Father Vivian O'Blivion talkModerator 19:41, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
(EC)In the same vein in the case of Goedel's incompleteness theorem you can't put down omniscience simply by saying "But He cannot know how to prove everything!" If God was omniscient in the popular meaning of the word, He simply knows what is true, He doesn't have to know how to prove it, since that is not a requirement for "knows all truths". Nullahnung (talk) 19:42, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
@Nullahnung. I'm not sure what you mean with your first statement that you can't put it down with something like "But He cannot know that 2+2 = 5!". I presume you mean that just because God can't know 2+2 = 5, because it's untrue(!), you can't say that God is not omniscient. So far, so good. However, my argument was that 2 + 2 = 5 CAN be true, namely in the group (or ring) of one element. To make this precise, let E be the element of this group. Define 1 := E and n := E + (n-1), just like you would expect. Then of course, n = 1 for all n. Also, n + m = E for all n and m. In particular 2 + 2 = 5. This means that God CAN (and should) know that 2 + 2 = 5, if He also knows the context in which it is true. But if that is so, I argued, omniscience becomes an arbitrary property of "knowing everything" (even "false" statements), because there are contexts in which statements like 2 + 2 = 5 are nevertheless true. (Hence God is allowed and required to know them.) Cuc (talk) 04:36, 25 July 2014 (UTC)
With "group of one element", do you mean the trivial group? How did you get to the step that n=1 for all n? It's not necessarily required from either 1:=E or n:=E+(n-1). And the steps after that don't seem to follow either. Furthermore, what does omnipotence have to do with this? Here's a simpler way to make 2+2=5 true, simply define 5 as being 4. Of course, that would require God to know this within the context. What is the problem with that? Nullahnung (talk) 12:04, 25 July 2014 (UTC)
@Nullahnung. Yes, I did mean the trivial group {E,+}. 1:=E means that 1 is defined as the unit element. 2:=E+1 means that 2 is defined as adding the unit element to 1, etc. Notice that since the group has only one element, all these numbers are equal to E, i.e., {1, 2, 3, 4, ... } = {E}. In particular 2+2 = 4 = 5, and 1 = 2 = 3 = n for all n, etc. - I wrote "omnipotence" instead of "omniscience", my bad (now changed). Your final example is of course also in order. I guess, it proves the same point that "truths" depend on their contexts. If definitions of the sort you propose are allowed (and why not?) then what we are reading here may actually stand for the first few chapters of Genesis (just redefine everything character for character). Therefore to "know all truthts" can not be simply a statement about statements, but is a statement about statements and their context. This seems to have been overlooked.Cuc (talk) 10:03, 4 August 2014 (UTC)
Well, we may have neglected to write that, but I think most people would take that as "goes without saying". Nullahnung (talk) 10:22, 4 August 2014 (UTC)
@Nullahnung. No, I do not think you merely "neglected to write that". Because it is in fact neglected, the sense in which God knows "all truths" becomes arbitrary. I gave several examples. The context is important when it come to truth. I have forgotten to mention that everything in existence relates to all other things, and is a causal vector in everything that happens and everything that exists. To know "all truths" implies that there is only one context, which is the context of all there is and all there is to know. However, it would be impossible for us to write out even one of such truths, as we do not claim to be omniscient (and we probably aren't). But for God to be omniscient, He would have to know what we mean when we write 2+2 = 4 and "know" that it is true, just as that He would have to know what we mean when we write 2+2=5 and "know" that that is also true. He couldn't know that, because in fact, it depends on the context. In a context where 4 does not equal 5, 2+2 = 4, but in a context where 4 equals 5, 2+2 = 5. But we did not give all the context of the statements 2+2=4 and 2+2=5, so how can we even expect that God knows that context? Isn't it fairer to say that we have no incling as to what kind of truth we are actually talking about, so that it is rather strange that we think we know what it means to be omniscient? How can we know what it means to be omniscient, if we aren't, considering what it means to know even one truth? That is another question, and may be related to the other arguments about the inconsistency of the concept of omniscience: we have not been able to define what it actually means yet. But if we can't define it, we can't answer the question whether it is one of God's attributes, can we? (And if we can't define it--consistently--then it's certainly not one of God's attributes, unless God or the idea of God is itself inconsistent.)Cuc (talk) 06:23, 5 August 2014 (UTC)
I think you've got it sideways. To know all truths simply implies that He knows all truths within all contexts. Nullahnung (talk) 09:46, 5 August 2014 (UTC)
@Nullahnung. What you think? If you are going to change the definition of omniscient, then that is a significant change of the discussion. It should then be included and we can start over. Originally omniscient meant "To know all truths," pure and simple. However, as we have discussed, the context matters. It seems you agree with that. Nevertheless, this has an impact of what we are actually calling truth. Cuc (talk) 06:21, 6 August 2014 (UTC)
@Nullahnung. About the statements G and not-G, it needs to be understood that BOTH are true within the context (as Goedel proved), however, the situation changes when one adds one or the other as an axiom to the system. It seems that since there is NO proof for either G or not-G, the contradiction "G and not-G" is also true, but unprovable (as it should be, because a consistent system can not prove untrue statements). However, if you add G to the axioms of the system, then not-G becomes false. The proof is as follows. The proof of G in that system is trivial (because it is an axiom), and the falsification of the negation follows from the Law of the Excluded Middle. Or in another form, reason as follows: suppose not-G, but G (axiom), therefore G AND not-G, contradiction. Hence not(not-G) from reductio ad absurdum. The original question still stands: Does God "know" G or does God "know" not-G when the original axioms are used? He should know one or the other, but Goedel proved that both are true. The point is that there is NO proof for this contradiction (conjunction of) G and not-G! Yet, it IS a contradiction if you claim to "know" this without proof. And if God knows both, God is inconsistent. As I pointed out, you can only add ONE of the statements to the original system and maintain consistency. Again, the "knowledge" about G and not-G depends on the context. But what does this mean for an omniscient being? A human does not have to claim this knowledge, but an omniscient being is presented with a dilemma, me thinks. Cuc (talk) 04:36, 25 July 2014 (UTC)
Taking both a statement and its contradiction to be true, which you seem to be doing, leads to the principle of explosion. If God understands that and all that entails, then God is not inconsistent. I don't see the problem. Nullahnung (talk) 12:04, 25 July 2014 (UTC)
@Nullahnung. I don't understand why it follows that if God understands the principle of explosion, and he believes contradictory statements, that it does not follow that He is inconsistent. If one of His beliefs is a conjunction of opposite statements, He may honestly say "I am omniscient", but it nevertheless is meaningless to anybody else who knows that God is inconsistent and could also say "I am not omniscient". My point is that in order to be omniscient and consistent, you can't believe statements that lead to the principle of explosion. If that is allowed for omniscience, then you and I are also omniscient . . . because everything we say is true at some time in some context and if anybody has a question we can always truthfully answer with yes or no (it does not matter, since the question's context can be changed to match the answer . . .) If you are allowed to be omniscient and inconsistent, then it is questionable what the word "omniscient" actually means. As was decided before, for most people it entails only knowing true statements, and it does not include contradictory/opposite statements (since then one or the other is not true). Cuc (talk) 10:03, 4 August 2014 (UTC)
There is a difference between "God believes" and "God knows". If God knows about the fact that contradictions lead to the principle of explosion then he would have to be extremely silly to also believe in those contradictions. Stated another way, he may know about contradictions without believing that they are true. So where's the problem? Nullahnung (talk) 10:22, 4 August 2014 (UTC)
@Nullahnung. I got the feeling we are talking in circles now. You say: "If God knows about the fact . . .", but I say that "God knows contradictory statements," i.e., His thinking exhibits the principle of explosion (He knows contradictory statements). I showed that these contradictory statements are G and not-G. Does God know them (rather than "about them")? If so, as He should, being omniscient, that means that He knows that both are true (!). And since G and not-G are opposites, God's thoughts exhibit the principle of explosion: whatever else follows, follows from this that God's thoughts are contradictory. That is the problem. Humans do not claim that the axiomatic system (in which G and not-G arise as true, yet unprovable) is inconsistent, because it isn't. And humans are not claiming that they are omiscient, so they do not have to decide on "knowing" G and/or not-G. But God does, because He is omniscient. He does not just know "about" G and not-G, He knows G and not-G, simply, because they are both true. Thus God exhibits knowing opposite statements, therefore He exhibts the principle of explosion within His thoughts. That is the problem. What God then "knows" is arbitrary, and "omniscience" does not mean what we want it to mean. Or "omniscience" itself is a contradictory concept (and God can not be omniscient for that reason). Or if God is omniscient, and omniscient is a contradictory concept, then God or the concept of God is contradictory. That is the problem.Cuc (talk) 06:23, 5 August 2014 (UTC)
Well no, I disagree that he has to know G and not-G because he has to accept that both are true. It would be extremely silly of him or any of us, for example, to accept that both "this pig can fly" and "this pig cannot fly" are true, given a pig. In conclusion, he only has to know one of them, G or not-G, to be true in any given context, because the other one certainly isn't true and anyone who says otherwise is extremely silly. That is all that omniscient really entails. Nullahnung (talk) 09:46, 5 August 2014 (UTC)
Well, you disagree that God has to know both G and not-G? That's a pity, because both are true within the context they arise. You therefore admitted that God is not omniscient. Let me explain. If God needs to choose among two opposite truths to stay consistent, that does not imply that the truths He has to choose between are not both true! In other words, if God is omniscient and you agree that He does not have to know G, then He does not know ALL truths. On the other hand, if you agree He does not have to know not-G, then again He does not know ALL truths. Either way, God is not omniscient, or if He knows both G and not-G (because both are true within their context), then He is inconsistent. Again, G and not-G are BOTH true. Lucky for us that the context in which they arise does not allow for a formal proof within that context for either of them. G states roughly that there is no formal proof for its validity using logical steps. not-G states that G DOES have a proof. Both statements can not be proven using logical steps. But this shows that G is true, because that is what it states. not-G states that G DOES have a proof. not-G is consistent with the axioms (since its negation can not be proven using logical steps), and therefore must be true as well. If we want to derive theorems about G and not-G, then we have to add either G or not-G to the axioms of system S in which they arise. As soon as we make this choice, the other statement will be false. However, in either enriched system (S+G or S+G') there exist statements G' and not-G', each having the same properties as G and not-G had in system S.Cuc (talk) 06:21, 6 August 2014 (UTC)
Accepting both a statement and its contradiction to be true in a given situation (given pig, deciding on whether or not it flies, for example) leads to the principle of explosion and is therefore extremely silly. By "God is omniscient" we don't mean omniscient in an extremely silly way. God does not need to know both a statement and its contradiction to be true in any context to be omniscient in the way most people mean it. Simply put, when given a pig, God does not need to accept both "it flies" and "it doesn't fly" to be true, He only needs to accept the one as truth that is actually the case. If he can do that consistently for every situation that is happening at any time, then we can call Him omniscient. Nullahnung (talk) 11:41, 6 August 2014 (UTC)

Fundamental definition problem[edit]

Omniscience implies that there is an entity that has it. Entities, by definition, exist in the universe. If, by any chance, they exist outside the universe, simply extend the definition of universe in size and dimensions until they fit in. A universe however is not discrete, every object/wave in the universe has properties which are infinitely continuous. This implies that for any entity to posses all knowledge (i.e. know all states of all objects), the entity has to have storage capacity to store all that knowledge, this implies that the entity can only exist as the universe itself (i.e. the universe is omniscient). All entities which are smaller than the universe do not have enough storage capacity to store the knowledge, and therefore cannot by omniscient. The most any entity other than the universe can aspire to is to store an abstract model of parts of the universe, and therefore they cannot be omniscient. BuGless (talk) 09:04, 16 August 2014 (UTC)

@BuGless. You have an interesting view, for which I feel sympathy. Your definition of omniscience is the knowledge of the states of all objects within the universe (which may include an omniscient entity). Some questions of grammar (definition): 1. Is there a difference between an object and an entity? 2. Can an entity consist of objects, or an object consist of entities?Cuc (talk) 10:19, 16 August 2014 (UTC)
Objects and entities exist at every zoom level and are, in essence, interchangable; objects consist of groups of smaller objects at almost every zoom level. The traditional view of an entity means that it needs to consist of a sufficiently complex arrangement of objects so that a typical human being gets the impression that it has a will of its own.BuGless (talk) 11:32, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
I sometimes joke that beads have a will of their own, but that I have the stronger will . . . :-) Just joking. But now that I consider this, would that make a bead an entity? If not, which other entities do we know to have a will of their own (besides human beings)? Cuc (talk) 07:46, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
3. You seem to suggest that objects can be waves. Do you mean the quantum wave function (an abstraction)?Cuc (talk) 10:19, 16 August 2014 (UTC)
Well, actually the other way around. I find it more likely that considering every object to be a wave is probably an abstraction/approximation which is closer to reality (requires less tricks to get it the model to agree with the observations) than clinging to the "tangible-objects" paradigm. And, yes, it implies a quantum-wave like model, but not limited to that (I'd suggest the traditional quantum particle-waves are too much a macro view of what is really going on, but that is a different discussion altogether).BuGless (talk) 11:32, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
Apart from these questions, I'd like to say the following. Part of the problem that we have, is to find a consistent definition of omniscience. For instance, the "objects" you mention, the objects about which the omniscient entity knows things, may not be well-defined, because QM has shown that they are in flux (either wave or particle); for instance as a particle, their position and speed can not both be known at any given moment (this turns into a problem for omniscience to be consistent), and as a wave, it interacts with all other particle/waves. Apart from the distinction between particle and wave, it seems you have a somewhat enhanced Newtonian view of the universe, suggesting that all these particle/waves can be known, but QM seems to contradict that.Cuc (talk) 10:19, 16 August 2014 (UTC)
I'd say for the sake of simplicity, ditch the particle view, it only complicates matters due to the limits of the model. With regard to QM and not knowing, I'd say that knowing the quantum function and all the probabilities involved *is* knowing. I.e. knowing the state of a particle-wave of a single electron means that you'd have to know how it interacts with *all* other particles in the universe. Omniscience in that respect is quite well defined.BuGless (talk) 11:32, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
You can not first ditch the particle view and then refer to "know how it interacts with *all* other particles in the universe". Another problem I see is that "a single electron" is actually a composite particle (I do not have a better word yet). It seems we do not know what the "fundamental" particles are from which all particles are built. As long as we do not know that, how can we--even conceptually--talk about "all possible interactions between 'particles'?" Then, assuming QM is correct, then knowing the quantum function may be classified under knowing, but not under omniscience. If an omniscient entity knows the quantum function, then it does not know the outcome of all events, although it knows the probability of all events. In that sense, an omniscient entity can not know what is actually going to happen in the future, does it? And if it doesn't know the future, how can it be called omniscient? Cuc (talk) 07:46, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
For the sake of argument, let's first assume that IF omniscience can NOT be defined consistently, then this will lead to a reductio ad absurdum from your first premise that it must be an attribute of some entity. Hence, there won't be any such entities that are omniscient.Cuc (talk) 10:19, 16 August 2014 (UTC)
Well, I'd disagree here, an entity *is* omniscient if it knows the state of all waves and all the interactions between all waves in the universe. There is only one entity which can encompass this, which is the universe itself (I'm repeating myself, I think).BuGless (talk) 11:32, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
I added "IF" in my assumption. This may clarify that I did not necessarily disagree. I needed to tackle this part to point out that it is essential to come to a consistent definition of omniscience before we can make your statement that "there is an entity that has it". But you would still have to give an argument why the consistency of omniscience proves that there is an entity that has it. (It reminds me of Anselms ontological argument.) However, see my previous note on the quantum functions. It seems that you here give a definition of omniscience, namely, knowing all quantum wave functions. If that is what it takes, OK, but it seems to be far removed from the current definitions of omniscience. Also, it is not at once evident how the fundamental-level knowledge about the quantum functions translates in the high-level of knowledge that we as humans understand to be knowledge or how it relates to "truth". I am interested to see how your ideas can help us to understand (human) "knowledge". For instance, if the universe is omniscient, how can we get the answer to our questions? Can we ask the universe something (this seems more feasible than to ask "God") and have it dish up the answers to the questions we have, because it is omniscient? If we know how or where the universe stores the information, we may be able to conduct experiments that access or interact with this knowledge and translates it back to answers. I wonder what it would answer to the question: "Does God exist?" But I foresee that the problem for us will be to formulate that question so that the universe would understand what we mean. We are back to defining what we mean with the terms (such as "God" and "exist") we use before we can ask an omniscient entity a question that it can answer . . . If we can not ask the question because we lack the necessary precision, we can not hope that the answer we get will be precise either. For our purposes, even if we could interact with an omniscient universe, we would never find out that it is, or would we? Cuc (talk) 07:46, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
So, we may hope that omniscience CAN be defined consistently, and the universe is the entity that is omniscient, then what is this universe but the sum-total of its constituents (the objects?). And if that is so, is this omniscience located, perhaps, in each object?Cuc (talk) 10:19, 16 August 2014 (UTC)
Each object, no. There is only one object that holds/knows it all, which is the universe itself. All other objects cannot contain information about all other objects.BuGless (talk) 11:32, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
I am not sure that I can agree with your assertions about what or how much information an object can contain (whether the universe or anything in it). I have no idea at this point what the information actually entails. The quantum functions and their superpositions are abstractions of the existing processes and interactions. How to separate the processes and interactions from the knowledge about them? Cuc (talk) 07:46, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
The problem with this assumption, that the universe is omniscient, is that it suggests that the universe as a whole is omniscient, while there is no separate entity from its constituents. Where is that omniscience then stored (you suggest that it is stored in its constituents, but I can not see how)? And if it is stored in its constituents (objects), then we have seen that these constituents are not well-defined. Again, omniscience seems to be ill-defined when the constituents of which the universe exists are not well-defined. Your thoughts?Cuc (talk) 10:19, 16 August 2014 (UTC)
I argued above that the constituents *are* well defined, so we'd have to agree on that first before any further discussion.BuGless (talk) 11:32, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
Fair enough. We can perhaps address the storage of information independently of the constituents they are stored in? I have no idea how the information can be "stored". Cuc (talk) 07:46, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
As an addition, I like to point out that https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omniscience#Definitions gives different definitions of omniscience and under "God created knowledge" three types of knowledge are mentioned (propositional knowledge, experiential knowledge, and procedural knowledge), of which it isn't clear that God could possibly have all three in all cases. For instance, I argue in one of my examples that what is here called "access to knowledge" does not equal "knowledge", e.g., knowing what I think and what I know is true, may not coincide which what God thinks and what God knows is true, even though He may have "access to" my knowledge and what I know is true. If there is something that I can know and is true, but which God can not know (or if God knows it, it turns out to be false), then this would preclude God's "full knowledge". Therefore, "having access to all knowledge" also does not coincide with "knowing all". Again, omniscience seems to be hard to define. If we exclude one type of knowledge from its definition, it seems to become arbitrary what omniscience really is. It seems therefore that your first sentence "Omniscience implies that there is an entity that has it" is also too hasty with respect to its reference to omniscience?Cuc (talk) 11:26, 17 August 2014 (UTC)

Possible contradiction with omniscience that needs fleshed out.[edit]

It would seem that an omniscient being would also have useless knowledge. For example, I am guessing that all of us know that 2 x 2 = 4, or that 6 x 7 = 42. However, we don't know that 761 x 847 = 644567. We could find out the answer by using a calculator or by solving it using some multiplication algorithm. (I used a calculator)

However, an omniscient being would know the answer to any mulitplication problem A x B even if A and B are millions of digits long. So, he would not need to know how to use a calculator or any multiplication algorithm. Yet, he would need to know multiplication algorithms in order to be called omniscient.

It would also seem that the number of things an omniscient being would need to know is infinite. The mere fact that he would have to know the answer to any multiplication problem A x B would imply that his knowledge is infinite because there are an infinite number of integers. If for example, he only knows 1 billion things, then he can't possibly know the answer to all multiplication problems A x B where A and B are both bigger than 31,622.

First, to your last point, an omniscient being, by definition, would have infinite knowledge. If it only knew 1 billion things, then it wouldn't be omniscient. To your first point, i'm not sure if the concepts of "usefullness" and need can be applied to an omniscient being. Would a being that has full knowledge of all existence have a use or need for anything at all? Petey Plane (talk) 17:14, 31 December 2016 (UTC)

The thing is, omniscience doesn't necessarily imply omnipotence. So, let's say tomorrow the ONLY thing that happens to me is that I become omniscient. Knowing things such as, "What is the best job for me that can earn me a decent living along with being happy? What is an energy supply that is virtually unlimited that humans can use?" and so forth, would still be useful things for me to know (that I currently don't know). However, knowing what you, Petey Plane, had for lunch on April 17, 1998, is probably not useful knowledge (either for me, or for you for that matter). So, some potential problems:

1) Would I have to sift through the infinite number of useless things I know (such as what Petey Plane had for lunch on April 17, 1998) to get to the useful stuff (such as a virtually infinite source of energy humans can use instead of fossil fuels)?

If my method of searching through the infinite number of things I know is finite (I only have 100 years to live) then can I really know everything? (If for example, it takes 200 years to search through everything I know to remember what the cure for AIDS is). What if a search routine that can select an infinite number of items and test which one is the item you want, is impossible?

2) What if the answer to a question involves something which is currently impossible? Such as, a better energy source for humans would be to collect energy from a certain kind of star. However, the closest such star is 100 light years away and we won't develop the technology to travel to that far until the 23rd century. — Unsigned, by: 60.249.13.127 / talk / contribs

Omniscience is itself paradoxical[edit]

...because how could you tell, even as an omniscient being, that you know everything there is to know? Again, how could you tell if you've missed something? Or if you're under the impression of a genius malignusWikipedia's W.svg? You couldn't; you would still need skepticism, even as an omniscient being. And needing skepticism is hardly omniscient. Reverend Black Percy (talk) 17:21, 31 December 2016 (UTC)

Wouldn't omniscience imply knowledge of one's own omniscience? Petey Plane (talk) 21:06, 31 December 2016 (UTC)
It would, yes — if you actually were omniscient. And how could you tell (even) if you were? Either you beg the question and appeal to circularity — "I know I'm omniscient because I'm omniscient, and thus I know that I'm omniscient, because..." — or you have to employ skepticism, and thus have to look to the outside world for confirmation of your own omniscience (and even then — how could you tell?). And having to do so is hardly omniscient, again. Reverend Black Percy (talk) 18:19, 2 January 2017 (UTC)
Ah, got you. Petey Plane (talk) 18:25, 2 January 2017 (UTC)
No problemo, champ! Th hug.gif Reverend Black Percy (talk) 18:32, 2 January 2017 (UTC)
Paradoxes...paradoxes everywhere...-D1@m0ndD15c1 (talk) 18:35, 2 January 2017 (UTC)
Just when dealing with hilarious concepts like the qualities of a purportedly friendly, invisible space wizard who — they tell me — pulled the moon and stars from out of a hat one day. Reverend Black Percy (talk) 18:39, 2 January 2017 (UTC)
Coffee spray.gif-D1@m0ndD15c1 (talk) 18:51, 2 January 2017 (UTC)

This is an old conversation, but I think this comment fits in here. Previous comments have pointed this out in a very round about way: infinite information retention requires infinite storage capacity. Given any technology T and any unit of finite information storage U, a constant amount of space S greater than some positive real number y will be required. As the number of units u tends to infinity, so must S. Thus our omniscient being, were it to have a scientific representation, would necessarily be infinite.Ariel31459 (talk) 14:56, 10 June 2018 (UTC)