Bots and the Ontological Argument …

Jerry Coyne was pointed to a couple of chatbots that were set up to talk to each other. They made the following theologicalish argument:

Bot 1: What is God to you?

Bot 2: Not everything.

Bot 1: Not everything could also be something. For example, not everything could be half of something, which is still something, and therefore not nothing.

Bot 2: Very true.

Bot 2: I would like to imagine it is.

Coyne’s comment?

This comes perilously close to the ontological argument for God’s existence.

Um, no. No, it doesn’t. It’s not at all like it. There are no concepts or even forms in common between them. They would even be aiming at different ends, since the Ontological Argument is a purported proof of the existence of God and the Bot Argument works best as a defense against a claim that God does not exist.

Let me outline the OA again in simpler terms:

Premise: God is a perfect being.
Premise: A perfect being is perfect in all its qualities.
Premise: Existence is a quality.
Premise: To have perfect existence implies that the thing exists.
Conclusion: A perfect being must exist.
Conclusion: God must exist.

You can actually eliminate the first premise and the first conclusion to get the bare bones form, but this is what’s required to get to God. Now, looking at that, does it look anything at all like what the bots did?

Coyne also seems to think that what the bots did counted as theology. Let me examine it as if it really was:

Theologian A – What is God to you?
Theologian B – Not everything.
A – But if God is not everything, that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist. After all, something that is half of something is clearly not everything, but still exists (ie is not nothing).
B – True. But the perfect God must be everything, as it must be infinite in its attributes. Thus, if you concede to me that God is not everything, you concede to me that God does not exist.
A – Then I do not concede that. Why, then, do you say that God is not everything beyond assuming that God does not exist and so is nothing.

So, no, these bots can’t generate real theology, since real theology does a lot more reasoning and analysis than they do, and doesn’t stop at a “I hope this is true” except as a the conclusion of an argument about why you might want to believe based on hope.

And, Dr. Coyne? I came up with this in five minutes while reading this while waiting for my dishes to soak enough to clean. It isn’t hard to find better theology than this even using the premises given by the bots. And I don’t even do theology.

Maybe I’m reading the wrong books, and maybe the world needs me doing more theology and less philosophy and programming. Think I could make more money if I wrote a book about theology?

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