Posts Tagged ‘GRRM’

No god is perfect

I am an all-powerful being.

I write stories.  And in the worlds that I create, I am all powerful.  I can make planets, galaxies, universes unending.  I can bring forth, instantly, civilizations of staggering complexity.  I can create people as detailed as you like…fully-realized beings with thoughts as rich and varied as I can imagine.

I can destroy, too: I can, with a word, annihilate the world.  I can sweep away the minds of trillions of sentient beings, without so much as a moment’s hesitation.  To the worlds I create, I am a god.

Of course, in this world, I am flawed.  I can’t even fix a toaster.

Now, suppose there is a god that created this universe.  Suppose he is all-powerful, to us: suppose he can create or destroy with limitless power.  That does not mean he is all-powerful in the universe that he inhabits.

The logic is like this:

  1. Either a god exists wholly within the known, natural universe, or he does not.
  2. If he does, then he’s a natural being and bound by the laws of our universe. He’s therefore not all-powerful, since he cannot violate conservation of momentum, or the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, or what have you.
  3. If he does not exist wholly within the known, natural universe, then he’s supernatural.
  4. A supernatural god inhabits a higher-level universe than our own.
  5. A supernatural god may very well be all powerful with respect to a lower-level world or universe, in the way that I am all-powerful with respect to a novel I write.
  6. Be that as it may, there’s no reason or justification to think that such a god is all-powerful in the world-level in which he resides.

Another analogy may help.  It is known that Conway’s game of Life is Turing complete.  Therefore, given a sufficiently large Life grid (running on a sufficiently large computer) and given a sufficiently long time, sentience would most assuredly evolve in such a game.  But, even if it didn’t, given enough time and patience we could (existing, as we do, “outside” this Life universe) create Life structures that can think.  For example, we could “just” program all the pixels in our Life grid with ones and zeroes in such a way that the Life structures were isomorphic to our own brains, perhaps.  (Hey, I didn’t say it would be easy.)  Does that mean we’re smart?  Perhaps.  Does that make us perfect?  Fuck no.

To say that a god is all-powerful just because he is all-powerful to us makes as much sense as saying that Shakespeare is all-powerful because he’s all-powerful to Hamlet.  Hey Hamlet: your god ain’t a loving god, you don’t have free will, and god doesn’t have your back.

That “undiscovered country” is just the bargain bin at Barnes and Nobles.

I’m tired of people ascribing properties to higher-level supernatural beings of which, by definition, nothing can be known.  There’s no conceivable way that Hamlet could know anything at all about Shakespeare.  Similarly, even if there were a god or gods existing outside of our universe, there’s no way we could know anything about them.  At all.  Maybe some supreme benevolent being exists, sure.  Or maybe there’s instead an omnimalevolent creator.  Or maybe there’s just some lobster-eating sadist who kills people with tiny forks.  Who knows?

You certainly don’t.




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Consider this map of Middle Earth:

middle earth

There’s a scale there, on the left, and the source is none other than J. R. R. Tolkien himself, so we can trust the source.  You can verify for yourself, but I reckon Bilbo’s journey to Esgaroth (and then the Lonely Mountain) to be something like 880 miles, and an equal amount on the way back.  This leads to my first discovery…

Bilbo’s journey was like walking from St. Louis to Washington, D.C., and back again.

By car, it should have taken 12 hours and 40 minutes to get to Smaug’s hoard, and an equal amount of time to return (assuming Bilbo had access to No Doz).  Basically, Bilbo had a long Thanksgiving drive.

What about Frodo’s longer journey to pitch the One Ring into some lava?  As the eagle flies, the Shire to Mt. Doom is about 1100 miles, which leads to…

Frodo’s journey (as the eagle flies) was like walking from Baltimore to Miami.

Of course Frodo’s actual journey was a tad more circuitous.  Breaking the journey into legs (Shire to Rivendell, Rivendell to Moria, etc.) I get that it was more like 1450 miles, or…

Frodo’s actual journey was like walking from Little Rock, AR to Boston.

By car, assuming that Frodo drives at a reasonable pace and makes only a few stops, it would take 21.5 hours  for Frodo to get to Mordor and chuck the ring-thingy into that volcano.  (Of course Sam might take a shift driving, and Gollum might be willing to run into the occasional 7-11 to buy snacks.)  Frodo’s deus ex machina trip out of Mordor by eagle is a little like getting an unexpected trip back home via helicopter.

There are other games you can play with the map, to give yourself a sense of scale.  The Shire is about 21,000 square miles, leading to…

The Shire is about the size of West Virginia.

Insert your own joke here.


Bubba Baggins

Then you find that Mordor (which is suspiciously square in shape!) is about 118,000 square miles, or…

Mordor is about the same size and shape as New Mexico.

This cannot be mere coincidence.  Aren’t their climates similar?  Isn’t the Trinity nuclear test site analogous to Mt. Doom?  Doesn’t New Mexico have George R. R. Martin, who looks very similar to the Mouth of Sauron?


Please don’t ask us about the Winds of Winter!

I’ll end my speculations on this note.  “Middle Earth” is an anagram for “Milder Death”, which explains why…well…it explains nothing.  Never mind.

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