A Primer on Sets
Sets play a crucial role in mathematics. Objects such as numbers, geometric shapes, formulas, and virtually anything else can be grouped together based on particular properties. For example, we can talk about the set of all even numbers, or the set of all polygons with five or more sides. Importantly, we can also talk about sets that contain other sets. For example, we can make a set that contains the set of all even numbers that are multiples of 10, and also contains the set of even numbers that are not multiples of 10. This set is not the same as the set that contains all even numbers, even though we can find every even number somewhere inside it.
We do not necessarily need to use mathematical objects to fill sets. Consider the following two statements:
1. Your apples are in that bag mixed in with the other apples.
2. Your apples are bagged up separately inside that bag of apples.
In both cases, your apples and everyone else's apples are in a bag. In the second case, however, we've added something. In the practical sense, we've added another bag to hold just your apples. In the more abstract sense, we've added information, that is, by separating out your apples, we've added "order”.
Consider the set containing All Experience. We'll call this set, X. Now consider the set containing all your experience. We'll call this set, y. Clearly y is a subset of X, that is, the sum of your experience is contained in the set of All Experience. This is true of everyone who's ever lived as well as everyone who'll ever live; all our unique individual experiences are subsets of the set of All Experience, X.
Now consider the following questions.
1) Why would an all-knowing God need to create a universe?
2) How can a perfect God create an imperfect universe?
3) How can a loving God allow so much suffering/evil?
1) Firstly, through Creation God is adding information to the whole, but not necessarily “learning” anything new, at least not in the sense of learning we understand. Our existence, then, is delimited experience, not “novel” experience. In the refined sense, these notions, “learning” and “novelty,” are very human constructs. It's bizarre to think that God needn't add any new experience to the totality of experience in order to create our universe. The creation of all our segregate realities might just be a matter of organizing infinity rather than adding to it.*
2,3) Consider that our experience of imperfection and suffering are all separate subsets of X. We note that all of these exist because of separation from the whole -- from being bagged up, as the apples. Whether or not personal experience is a subset of divine experience is immaterial, we are separate from divine experience. On another level, we are limited by context. Operating as a subset of total experience, we cannot see, or imagine how our perceptions or experiences of imperfection and suffering truly happen in the full context of X.
We note that this representation is particularly consistent with the themes of divine unity and earthly separation found in Christianity.**
* One might argue that the subset of Divine experience has been changed by the act of bagging up separately portions from the whole of experience. However, we may include in X the experience of every possible grouping of X.
** The concept of the Trinity; Paul's metaphor of the potter crafting pottery (a potter creates containers). --- I'd be interested in any reader comments on this (firstname.lastname@example.org)
© Dave Zes 2005