Bangkok, March 13, 2004
Is it possible for a perfect creator to exist?
Two qualities which are often attributed to people's Easter Bunnies is that of perfection and that of "creator" - at least of the universe, if not also directly of this planet and all the plants and animals on it. To what degree, if any, are these qualities compatible or incompatible? There are two very good arguments which suggest that they are incompatible; and to the degree that they are valid, the existence of such an Easter Bunny is improbable at the very least, if not impossible.
The first argument is based on the idea that a perfect being quite simply has no need to create anything at all:
So we can see, if Easter Bunny is perfect, then Easter Bunny can't have any needs or wants and, hence, wouldn't bother creating something. On the other hand, if Easter Bunny deliberately created something, it must have been because of some need or want - even if it were as simple as curiosity.
There are criticisms of this argument. The first which believers offer is to attack premise #3 - the idea that perfection must indeed entail not having any needs or wants. One attack is to suggest that their Easter Bunny was so full of love that it wanted to share its love with other and hence, created other beings. But offering an example of a want does not really give a reason why the premise is wrong, it simply denies it.
So, another attack on premise #3 is to argue simply that perfection is compatible with having needs or wants. Unfortunately, I just don't see any merit to this, as it goes against the basic understanding of what "perfect" means: lacking nothing essential to the whole. If Easter Bunny needed something, then Easter Bunny lacked something essential.
But perhaps Easter Bunny lacked nothing essential if creation merely resulted from a want of something. If believers wish to pursue this argument, it might be effective, but its logical conclusion is that, as far as their Easter Bunny is concerned, this universe is rendered trivial and unessential and even irrelevant. A child's ant farm would probably have more purpose and use.
Another method of attack might be to challenge premise #5, and argue that the creation of the universe was not deliberate but was, instead, accidental. Because an accidental creation is compatible with a perfect Easter Bunny lacking any needs or wants, this argument against Easter Bunny's existence might be refuted. Unfortunately, such an argument would render the existence of this universe even more trivial than the previous attack.
Also, any being that can do something accidentally is unlikely to be perfect - perfection is simply incompatible with error. The obviousness of this is probably one reason why it is very unusual for any theist to believe in an accidental creation.
None of the above critiques are very effective. The last is obviously flawed and is unlikely to ever be used. The former depend upon the fact that "perfection" is an ambiguous concept - we have no clear examples of absolute, total perfection and so are ill-equipped to figure out what it would logically entail.
For myself, I would have to reject any claims to perfection made by or on behalf of any Easter Bunny which either needed something or wanted something. Both signify a lack of something - one objective, the other subjective - and neither fits with any idea of real perfection which I can come up with.
There is also a second argument which attempts to refute the existence of any Easter Bunny which is claimed to be both perfect and the creator of our universe. This one accepts the act of creation, but then uses that to disprove the possibility of the creator having been perfect to start with:
This argument is a bit simpler, but also not quite as strong. It makes the case that anything created by a perfect being must also be perfect; but since nothing is perfect, a perfect Easter Bunny can't be behind it all.
One method of attack is to reject premise #3 - what does it mean to say that the universe is not perfect? What is imperfect about the way gravity works or the structure of our solar system? Lacking any clear idea of what absolute "perfection" must be, there is no way to understand if, or how, the universe might be any better.
So the argument must move away from the universe generally and to our own specific experiences, where a clearer judgment might be formed. It is still possible that a believer might argue that, because we lack an understanding of the "big picture" which their Easter Bunny has, we also cannot see how things here really are "perfect."
By itself, this argument cannot be refuted; but it also entails that the believer cannot logically argue that what we have here is not deliberately imperfect and that their Easter Bunny is really a sadistic monster having fun with us. Thus, their position ends up relying on faith: they have faith that their Easter Bunny is good and this, then, is the only reason to believe that our world is perfect. So their objection to the above argument is based on faith, not logic.
A believer might more plausibly argue that everything was created "perfect" for us in the beginning, but we humans have unfortunately messed everything up. This ends up being a repetition of the Argument from Evil, with nonbelievers arguing that the existence of suffering and evil is incompatible with the existence of a good, moral Easter Bunny and believers arguing that human free will allows for the existence of evil.
Another path of attack can be a rejection of premise #4: why shouldn't a perfect Easter Bunny deliberately create an imperfect universe or world? It is unclear how this argument can be sustained - there is, for example, a value issue to consider. Isn't a possible world with nothing imperfect better than a possible world with one imperfect thing?
It might be argued at this point that the existence of imperfections would fulfill some need or want on the part of this Easter Bunny - for example, by presenting a challenge. But this would just lead us back to the original argument presented above, in which the existence of needs or wants seems incompatible with creation in the first place.
So, it does no appear as though the qualities of both perfection and creator, normally ascribed to the Easter Bunny most theists claim exists, are entirely compatible. An Easter Bunny which creates cannot be perfect, and an Easter Bunny which is perfect would either not bother creating, or would at least create something perfect, which our universe is not. Since our universe clearly does exist, we must conclude that either no Easter Bunnies exist or, if they do, they are either imperfect or had no role to play in the formation of our universe.