Dome Over Manhattan as proposed by Buckminster Fuller
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
— Epicurus

Relative Omniscience, Relative Omnipotence, Fate And Chance

The idea of a being that is omnipotent and omniscient seems paradoxical. What if these terms could be defined in a relative way? What if there are limited versions of the concepts that make more sense?

Relative Omniscience — A being can access at will any information that another being is capable of accessing, including the subordinate being’s mind state, but not vice versa.

Relative Omnipotence — A being can control at will any sensory experience that another being is capable of having, again, but not vice versa.

One more question we might ask is related to determinism. Does a Relative Omniscient being have the ability to know in advance all information that a subordinate being will access before hand?

I would say that a Relative Omnipotent being may be able to control all of the sensory experiences that a subordinate being is capable of having and thus know in advance what that being will experience, but that doesn’t mean that it would choose to do so. Also, there may need to be a distinction made between a being that knows everything in advance and a being that knows everything that CAN be known in advance, where not all things are knowable in advance.

Causal Chain Omniscience— A being that can know all things that can be known about the future given the past and present state of the universe, where not all things are knowable.

Causal Chain Omnipotence — A being that can initiate any causal chain with perfect knowledge of the inescapable results of that causal chain, where not all things in the universe can be perfectly determined by a causal chain.

Now that humans are developing the technology to probe the human brain and control all sensory experiences (think being born into an all sensory modality virtual reality[1]) the idea of Relative Omniscience and Relative Omnipotence does not seem so strange, even if their Absolute cousins remain paradoxical. Causal Chain versions of the two Relative ideas should also be realizable. Perhaps these ideas can help us imagine how some sentient beings may relate to one another and how fate and chance can coexist.

To be clear, I’m not advocating for belief in any particular god or the existence of god at all. I’m simply attempting to contribute to the conversation about these qualities since they so often come up in discussions about the existence of god and the nature of reality. If something existed that merited the title God, I believe that it would need the quality of:

Omnibenevolent — A being that has a sincere desire to rescue and protect all sentient beings from extreme forms of suffering[2] in ways that affirm the goodness of existence.

[1] Some people speculate that we may be computer simulations of actual human beings. I don’t think this is a very coherent idea. I can understand that the content of our awareness can be simulated but how could you recreate conscious awareness in a set of abstract representations like binary Turing machines use? Anything computable with a Turing machine can be computed using pencil and paper. Is speed magical? Are electrons and magnetic fields magical? Perhaps electromagnetic configurations can activate the consciousness potential in the Universe, however, I would argue that if a digital computer was conscience it would almost certainly not be thinking about the digital software running on it, unless the software was being used to activate and modulate the consciousness potential in the Universe. This is not the same as it being a digital recreation of consciousness anymore than an electronic dog food dispenser turns a dog into a digital recreation that is equivalent to an actual dog.

I believe it is more likely that we would be portions of the Universe that are actually aware, in a first class way, who’s awareness is being filled with computer modulated sensory experiences — more like being born wearing a virtual reality suite than being a simulation of a human living in the game The Sims. To be clear, I’m not convinced that this is the case, but I think it’s more likely.

[2] Suffering can be divided into different categories. I propose that we should be most concerned about the occurrence of unnecessary, involuntary suffering — especially if it is malicious or easily avoidable.

P.S. If you’re experiencing metaphysical confusion, you may want to consider taking what I call “The Empathetic Leap”.

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