Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Title text: A God who holds the world record for eating the most skateboards is greater than a God who does not hold that record.
|| This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: First draft. Could use some attention from someone better-versed in theology and/or philosophy.|
Ontology is the study of being, reality, and existence. Ontological arguments for the existence of God are those that seek to prove that God exists using only premises about the nature of existence and logical deductions from them. This is in contrast to arguments that are based on observations of the world. Megan's statement in the comic is a reference to what is considered the first ontological argument, that of 11th Century philosopher Anselm of Canterbury. His argument starts by defining God as a "being than which no greater can be conceived". Another step in the argument is that you can conceive of such a being even if you don't believe it exists. Another step is the statement that a being of which one can conceive and which exists is certainly greater than a being of which one can conceive and which does not exist.
The comic makes fun of Anselm's ontological argument by extending to absurdity the claim that a being who exists is greater than one who does not exist, therefore God must exist. A God who can disprove the ontological argument must be greater than one who cannot disprove the ontological argument, therefore the ontological argument proves the existence of a God that disproves it.
The title text carries the absurdity a step further into the truly absurd.
Richard Dawkins, in his book "The God Delusion" takes a similar approach in a parody of Anselm's ontological argument that proves that God does not exist. In Dawkins' version, God's greatness is demonstrated by his creation of the world. A being that overcomes the great handicap of not existing and goes on to create the world is obviously greater than a being that exists who creates the world. Therefore, God, who by definition is a "being than which no greater can be conceived" must not exist.
Not all ontological arguments for the existence of God rely on the notion that a God that exists is greater than one that does not exist. One example is the many-world argument of William Lane Craig. The Wikipedia article on Ontological argument lists a number of different arguments including that of Anselm of Canterbury and that of William Lane Craig.
- [Megan and Cueball are walking side-by-side]
- Megan: ...But wouldn't a God who could find a flaw in the ontological argument be even greater?
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