Saturday, September 06, 2008

Kake, and the existence of Flo

Given that many people still seem to come to this Korner of the Blogosphere in search of cake, I thought that it was about time that I had a cake themed-post.

In light of the ongoing debate about the existence of God (see the previous two posts), I want you to imagine that you've popped round to visit me for tea and that I've served a cake. Let us also suppose that I say that I have a friend called Flo, whom you've never met, and that she made said cake.

The cake happens to be very nice and you ask me for the recipe, which I don't have. As would be perfectly reasonable, you might start to speculate about the cake's ingredients or how it was made. It would be a little bizarre, however, if you suddenly questioned whether or not I really did have a friend called Flo based on the discovery that apricot jam had been used to stick the icing on. Even the existence of self-raising flour doesn't invalidate the possibility of the cake being made by a friend called Flo.

You might question it if I said that "Flo tells me that it was a quick and easy cake which could be made in the microwave in seven minutes" but it would be an illogical step to jump straight to the conclusion that I don't really have a friend called Flo after all.

Perhaps more importantly, if you asked me why I was serving such a nice cake, you probably wouldn't expect me to respond simply by giving you the recipe. If you asked "why did Flo make the cake for you?" it would be something of a non-sequiter if I said "she used self-raising flour".

Food for thought, if you'll excuse the terrible pun.


dave said...

You are studying for a Masters in Maths I believe. This is drivel.

Chris said...

How polite!

It made me laugh, and it made me think. It strikes me as rather profound, in fact. Refutations need to be slightly more rigorous than sneering "drivel" like some drunken 18th century Lord. You could at least show the same good humour!

Anonymous said...

You are right it would be a little bizarre to doubt if you had a friend called Flo, unless we had grounds to believe you were a liar, since it is high natural for people to have friends.

On the other hand the belief in god requires a leap of faith that isn't required for Flo, as you yourself would be providing reasonable ground to believe in the existence of Flo. In any case it is highly unlikely to matter to me whether it was your friend Doris or Flo who gave you the recipe, all that I will really take away with me is that you have a friend with a nice recipe.

If you are trying to draw parallels with this story and the previous debate, you should read "Religion Explained" by Pascal Boyer as that provides a much more structured framework for this type of discussion.


Anonymous said...

The following two lines were missing from the start of the last post:

I assume that you are not trying to draw parallels with this story and the existence non existence of god JP?

There is nothing here that requires belief in the super natural.

JP said...

I can see that I ought to start getting through my reading list a bit faster so that I actually get around to reading some of the books suggested in this last couple of posts.

Anyway, in the absence of further reading at this point, let me expand on what I was trying to say.

I wasn't trying to prove the existence of God through the medium of cake based banter. I was however highlighting the absurdity of basing a decision on the existence (or not) of God on the fact that there are perfectly plausible scientific theories on how we got here. Such theories don't rule out God, but more importantly they don't paint (or indeed seek to paint) the whole picture.

Whether or not you believe in Evolution for example is largely irrelevant, because although it might give a basis for the "how" of existence it doesn't answer the "why".

Anonymous said...


Are you suggesting that belief in god tackles the "why"?

Does that not just raise the next question why god? Who made god? After all, if you think that the design of the known universe needs a creator (i.e. it could not just be), presumably the same applies to god too.

I agree the "why" is always going to be the crux of the problem, but I don't see how belief in god addresses this in anyway.




JP said...

Yes, I am suggesting that belief in God tackles the "why".

However, this is perhaps where one would need to start placing conditions on the concept of 'god'. At one level, it's a broad concept and so perhaps a slightly sharper definition of 'god' might be helpful. Personally, I believe that the Christian God provides a satisfactory solution to some of the issues raised.

I do think that your question about "why God?" is a fair one, and I'm going to come straight out and say that I have no answer for that. But I am also going to say that I'm not too phased by that, for several reasons.

Firstly, you could ask the question "why?" at every stage ad infinitum and never be satisfied that you've got the whole picture. You have to draw the line somewhere.

Some would draw the line at understanding how we got here, and I'm not going to mock them for that. Personally I wouldn't be satisfied with stopping there - I like to think about such questions as "do I have a purpose?" and "what happens when I die?" and don't believe that the answer is "no" and "nothing" respectively.

In light of the fact that you can never successfully tackle every "why?" I guess that ultimately I have just sought answers to some aspects of the bigger question. "Do I actually have a purpose?" is one of those, and for me the Christian God gives me a satisfactory answer. Ditto with the concept of life after death.

Secondly, I don't believe that God can ever be fully understood, and I think that's crucial to the whole concept of 'god'. One of the descriptions of the Christian God is centres around "being beyond all understanding." That doesn't mean that we can't grasp some aspects of God, and I believe that it is possible to know God, but I think by definition 'god' is something we can never get fully get to grips with.