In a debate1 with physicist Victor Stenger, the Christian philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig decided to go out on a limb and add the Ontological Argument for God’s existence to his usual arsenal2. This argument3 was originally put forth by St Anselm of Canterbury, and argues for the existence of a Maximally Great Being, starting only with the assumption that such a being is logically possible.
Stenger amusingly countered that if the logic was valid, then the argument could be tweaked to prove the existence of a Maximally Great Pizza. Craig objected, saying “A pizza can be eaten, and therefore can fail to exist, and therefore cannot be metaphysically necessary.” In a hilariously titled video4, Eating Victor Stenger’s Ontological Pizza, Craig argued that “the idea of a metaphysically necessary pizza is just a logically incoherent idea,” again relying on the observation that “a pizza is something that can be eaten, and digested.”
Well, I just don’t think Craig has thought hard enough about this pizza! I contend that the Maximally Great Pizza has the property that when it is eaten, it is instantly resurrected, ready to be eaten again!5 After all, if you conceive of a pizza, then a pizza with this Resurrection Property would be at least as great as the one that exists in your imagination; therefore, a Maximally Great Pizza must have this property!6
Of course, this idea of parodying Anselm’s Ontological Argument is not new. Gaunilo of Marmoutiers famously argued7 for the existence of a Maximally Great Island. In the same video, Craig responds to Gaunilo’s objection by saying that “an island cannot be maximally great because there aren’t really any objective great-making properties of islands. What you might think is a great island would be one that’s loaded with the top resort hotels and lots of things to do, but for me, maybe a maximally great island would be one that is a desert island where I can be alone and secluded from civilisation, so that what makes for a great island is very subjective, and dependent upon a person’s personal interests and tastes.” The problem for Craig, however, is that if this contention adequately refutes the concept of a Maximally Great Island,8 then it works equally well as a refutation of the concept of a Maximally Great Being. What you might think is a great being would be one that forgives anyone all their sins, regardless of whether they believe it exists, but for me, maybe a maximally great being would be one that “does not leave the guilty unpunished, [but] punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation” (Numbers 14:18).
Now I don’t know about you, but all this thinking is making me hungry……. Who wants some Pizza?!
- Victor Stenger vs William Lane Craig. Live debate: Does God Exist?
- The Cosmological Argument, the Fine Tuning Argument, the Moral Argument, appeal to the Historicity of Jesus’ Resurrection, appeal to the Witness of the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, Craig decided to leave out the Fine Tuning Argument in this debate, a pity, since Stenger is an expert in this area.
- See the wikipedia entry on the Ontological Argument.
- Video: Eating Victor Stenger’s Ontological Pizza.
- I also contend that the Maximally Great Pizza has one slice of every flavour imaginable, and regenerates lost slices the instant one is removed. It never goes cold, and is never more than a metre away from a never-ending jug of beer.
- And Craig should have thought of this! After all, in I Kings 17, the Bible records the curious story of the Never-Ending Jar of Flour and Never-Ending Jug of Oil. (I know, I know – it only lasted until the rain came.)
- See the wikipedia entry on Gaunilo’s objection to the Ontological Argument.
- As it happens, I don’t think Craig’s contention is adequate. Whether or not two people agree that a certain property is a great-making property of an island has no bearing on whether that property is indeed an objective great-making property of an island.