The crazy train keeps a-rollin’

PZ, bless his heart, posted a bunch of the angry e-mails that Bill Donohue’s clueless masses sent his way following Crackergate. I haven’t been able to read through all of them (bring a sandwich and find a comfortable chair if you plan to), but one of them got me thinking.

Well, actually, lots of them got me thinking. Most of the thoughts were “these people are utterly clueless if they think [PZ would hesitate to insult tenets of Islam and Judaism / Insulting the Eucharist is a “hate crime” / PZ is somehow using University time or resources to blog / PZ is a math professor]” and “these people have no idea what precipitated this post.” Also, “[any God who could be threatened in cracker form / any God who would get his followers so worked up over a snack food] is clearly sillier than either the “body mutilation” or “wear these clothes” gods.”

But, back to the point, one post got me thinking about something specific:

I know you are smarter than most people and probably even God himself, if you even believe in God.

Besides the obvious (hey, check the blog header or the big red A in the sidebar for Dr. Myers’ belief-in-God status), this got me wondering about being “smarter than God.”

See, my first inclination (and a couple of commenters in the original thread said it as well) would be to say that I’m smarter than God. After all, I don’t believe that God exists, and obviously I’d be smarter than something that doesn’t exist.

But then I thought, if someone asked me “do you think you’re smarter than Batman?” I’d probably say no. And yet, my position on the existence of Batman is exactly the same as my position on the existence of God.

Which brings me to the realization that while I don’t think God or Batman exist, the fictional characters of Batman and God absolutely do exist. And those fictional characters have defined traits–in these cases, exceptional intelligence.

So, how do you respond to such a question? Do you answer in terms of reality, and declare yourself smarter than everything that doesn’t exist? Or do you answer in terms of character traits, and respond that the fictional character possesses the greater intellect?

I guess the best response is the one that clarifies the answer. “Obviously, I’d consider myself smarter than any nonexistent person, but as the character is defined, I think he’s probably more intelligent.” Or something.

And now I’m going to spend the next day or so running over these weird “one hand clapping” questions in the back of my mind–“Am I taller than Superman? Am I more muscular than the Hulk? Am I as observant as Hercule Poirot?”

10 Responses to The crazy train keeps a-rollin’

  1. quantumberry says:

    Doubting Tom could so kick Superman’s a$$!Seriously, you should just say, “No, I am not smarter than Batman,” as Batman’s only existence is as a fictional character, so you are clearly comparing yourself to that.However, if you and your audience might have a disagreement about the non-fictional existence of Batman, then you might want to say, “Obviously, I’d consider myself smarter than any nonexistent person, but as the character is defined, I think he’s probably more intelligent,” just to avoid being misrepresented.

  2. Flavin says:

    Let’s say you can match yourself up with fictional characters; I’m game for it. I don’t think you can define “intelligence” in the context of an all-knowing character. Intelligence isn’t just about knowledge, sure. It’s about abstract reasoning, thinking, problem solving, etc. But for a character with unlimited knowledge, reason isn’t necessary. He doesn’t have to solve problems because he knows the answers. So how could one rate his intelligence? I say it cannot be done!

  3. You can, however, say your morals are greater than the moral traits that characterize the fictional Christian God.How dare I, one might say? Well, I highly doubt a blogger would send two she-bears to kill 42 children.

  4. Akusai says:

    I’m with quantumberry; just compare yourself to their supposed fictional characteristics. I think it would come off as pretentious and nitpicky to say “Of course I’m smarter than Batman because Batman doesn’t exist.” That’s not the question they’ve asked you, and your answer would be annoying, to say the least, unless it was drizzled liberally with irony and you then went on to discuss “Well, but if he did exist…”I highly doubt anyone, barring a three-year old, who asks that question honestly believes Batman exists anyway, so why not just cut to the chase and answer the question, eliding the technicality because it is assumed anyway?

  5. Wikinite says:

    I think that the point is that the person who asked “do you think you are smarter than God” thinks God does exist. It’s clever in a sophist’s kind of way. By answering without explicitly challenging this notion the God believer will likely assume that his position of ‘God exisits’ has been implicitly accepted.The difference between comparing yourself to Batman versus God is that everyone accepts that Batman is a fictional character.

  6. Flavin says:

    What about my conjecture on the impossibility of defining God’s intelligence, thus rendering the question moot?

  7. Dikkii says:

    I wasn’t going to comment on this, but before comparing yourself to Batman, think about this – if he’s so smart, how come he wears his underpants outside his trousers?And then there’s God. Seriously, just the fiasco with the apple tree in Genesis should give you an idea of how much of an ignorant moron He was. Perhaps best to avoid this one as well.

  8. Bronze Dog says:

    Never really thought about the whole thing that way, but I think we can all emphatically agree that Batman is smarter than God.

  9. Wikinite says:

    I wasn’t going to comment on this, but before comparing yourself to Batman, think about this – if he’s so smart, how come he wears his underpants outside his trousers?He does it to save on laundry bills.

  10. Wikinite says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: