Flatlanders and the Proofs for the Existence of God
I read this a while ago and knew that I had to share it with the world. It comes from a summary of Edwin Abbot’s 1884 Flatland by Michael Shermer where he tells the story of how a square, living in ‘Flatland’ – a 2-dimensional world – meets a circle who has some very strange ideas.
The circle tells him that there are actually other dimensions… another reality where shapes have 3 dimensions rather than 2. This makes no sense to the square… and eventually the circle (Sphere) unceremoniously grabs the square and pulls him into his own 3-dimensional world. Where the square is now a cube.
The cube then asks if there is another dimension… a place where everything has 4-dimensions rather than three. This reasoning is met with indignation by the Sphere. How ridiculous is a world where there are 4 dimensions?
Shermer continues, taking the story to its conclusion with the proofs for the existence of God:
“Like the Cube’s impudent challenge to use the Sphere’s own analogies to argue for yet a higher dimension [4-dimensions], the proofs of God can themselves be used to consider the possibility of another being still higher, ad infinitum. Like the two dimensional Flatlanders who could not grasp the nature of three-dimensionality despite ironclad logic and reasoning, God’s existence or nonexistence cannot possibly be understood in human terms. What cannot be understood, cannot be proved. What is unprovable is insoluble.”
Shermer, Michael. 1999. How we Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science. New York: W.H. Freeman, p. 15