Monday, October 02, 2006

Replies to comments on the problem of evil

Just keeping score: there's been 23 comments, many by defenders of the argument from evil, and 0 numbered-premise arguments. Do I have to get out William Rowe and Keith Parsons and Paul Draper and try to supply some of these myself?

VR: "OK, could you formulate these claims in a numbered-premise argument? "

Anon: Um, no. I'm not really interested in formulating a logical problem of evil argument. It is always possible to justify any amount of evil using a logical format. Pretty much speaking from the gut here.
VR (new): So you argument is an emotional, and not a logical argument, and you admit this?? Wow!

VR: "First we have to know what is meant by lifting a finger. On what grounds do we deny that God isn't doing plenty to keep things from being a whole lot worse than they are now?"

Anon: It all depends on what kind of God we are talking about here. If God is all-powerful and all-good, it is hard to understand why things are not much, much better than they are now. I.E., this world does not seem to me to be the type that an omnipowerful, omniscient, and omnibenevolent one would create.

VR: Here's where the numbered-premise argument would help. Are you contending that an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent being would make the best of all possible worlds? If that's what you're saying, then you've got to contend with the arguments of Alvin Plantinga and Robert Merrihew Adams, who say that this is a false premise.

Anon: When discussing this with Christian theists I often have the sense that there is a lack of imagination regarding the degree or amount of suffering that is taking place on earth every moment.

VR: And you think the authors of Scripture didn't know about how much suffering there was in the world? Just for starters, anaesthesia was centuries away from being invented. Do you think that Apostles, who founded Christianity, were naive about the amount of suffering? If you believe that, the Brooklyn Bridge is for sale for ten grand.

Carr: It is nice to know that there no guarentees of a suffering-free existence in Heaven.

Or at the least, such guarantees should be treated by Victor with the same scepticism that he would treat a guarantee by God that he will not create any further pathogens along the lines of HIV.


VR: What God has promised to those who have submitted their wills completely to God should not be used as a benchmark for what we should expect God to allow a rebellious human race to endure. Can we have done with this canard?

Carr: What would Jesus do if he saw cruelty and suffering and starvation and drought?
And then equate Jesus with God.


VR: I'm glad Carr is asking what Jesus would do. Maybe we can get him a leather bracelet to help him to remember that question at all times. Jesus alleviated suffering in accordance with his mission on earth. He didn't alleviate all the suffering he saw, surely.

Loftus: Vic, you ask, "Where do we draw the line?" That's like asking "which whisker is the one, such that when it's plucked, no longer leaves a beard?" It's perfectly reasonable to say what abeard it without that level of specification. So this line drawing argument does not apply to this particular world. This particular world has senseless suffering in it, and this is the world we're looking at to determine if a good God exists...not some other one.

VR: You *know* that the suffering is senseless? What you know is that it looks senseless to you, and maybe to me. And have you proved that a perfectly good God would eliminate all senseless suffering? Have you even read Adams' "Must God Create the Best?"

Anon, quoting me: "If it becomes obvious that God is relieving suffering in the world on a massive scale, doesn't human nature suggest that we will just let God get on with the business of relieving suffering and attend to other things? "

And this would be a bad thing, how?


VR: Because according to Christianity, this earth and everything in it, including all the human suffering we find there, lasts only a few centuries, while human character lasts forever. Something that alleviates our suffering at the cost of harming our character is not a bargain if Christians are right.

Refuting the argument from evil should not be this easy. I wonder what is going wrong.

22 comments:

Steven Carr said...

Victor thinks that because Jesus left children starve to death, it is moral to let children starve to death, and that it is sheer folly to say that children starving to death is 'senseless'.

And Victor is adamant that a perfectly good God would not lift a finger to save a child from starvation.

Because nobody can logically prove that a perfectly good God would listen to a child's cries of distress and help.

As though feeding a starving child was a matter of numbered propositions, and not emotions.

There is no 'ought' from an 'is'.

Nobody can 'prove' that you *ought* to feed a starving child, from the mere fact that there *is* a starving child.

Which makes Victor's retreat into 'You can't *prove* God ought to stir himself' rather irrelevant.

Steven Carr said...

'Carr: It is nice to know that there no guarentees of a suffering-free existence in Heaven.

Or at the least, such guarantees should be treated by Victor with the same scepticism that he would treat a guarantee by God that he will not create any further pathogens along the lines of HIV.

VR: What God has promised to those who have submitted their wills completely to God should not be used as a benchmark for what we should expect God to allow a rebellious human race to endure'

CARR (now)
So God creates new pathogens like HIV and Ebola (and the pathogen behind Legionnaire's disease). because rebellious humans have to endure such behaviour by God?

How does Victor tell the difference between God and Satan?

Anonymous said...

Carr, talk sense please.

JD Walters said...

"Carr, talk sense please."

That's a long wait for a train that don't come.

John W. Loftus said...

You *know* that the suffering is senseless? What you know is that it looks senseless to you, and maybe to me.

Okay, Okay. "Senseless" is a conclusion I draw based on theistic beliefs, even if theists don't accept my conclusion. So let's try "intense" or "inscrutable" suffering. Why is there so much of it?

And have you proved that a perfectly good God would eliminate all senseless suffering?

No. Is that what you're asking me to do?

Have you even read Adams' "Must God Create the Best?"

Yes, when it was first published.

I'm sure you have read this though.

Edward T. Babinski said...

FOUR POINTS CONCERNING THE PROBLEM OF EVIL AND CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY

Vic, Since you prize syllogistic communication see especially "Point 2)" for some syllogistic sets of sentences.

Point 1) Theistic philosophers who discuss the problem of pain/evil without acquainting themselves with specific cases in detail from nature are like Kant who apparently avoided the museum of art that he walked past each day on his way to write a book on the "philosophy of art/aesthetics." (A philosophy professor even shared with me that Kant boasted something to the effect that it wasn't even necessary to look at art in order to write his treatise).

Unlike Kant I prefer to begin all investigations, philosophical or otherwise, by pondering specific instances. And since the topic is suffering please see the collection of instances found HERE. The effect of reading and pondering those examples is a bit different from reading a philosophical treatise on "suffering" that spends the majority of its time juggling-stretching-and-playing with huge generalizations such as "good," "evil," "pain," "suffering," "God," "perfection," "omnipotence," and "freewill," etc.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Point 2) Has any philosopher yet explained (except via verbal alchemy) how something can start out perfectly good and yet evil can come out of it? If God is defined as the perfectly good and only source of everything, then whence comes evil? Endless ages of verbal alchemy attached to this question explain nothing, the question remains.

Note that if God is perfectly good and has freewill then a freewilled being can exist in a state of perfect goodness. But if God has freewill then wouldn't it be possible for God Himself to commit evil, or become evil? (Or do Christian apologists employ a different definition of "freewill" when it comes to "God?") Conversely, if God does not have freewill then doesn't that imply that freewill is not necessarily of ultimate value and that humanity has something even God lacks?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Point 3) Is there something, ANYTHING, that a Christian apologist--using yourself as an example--might consider to be "unjustifiable suffering?"

For instance, what types of horrendous suffering (or chronic forms of soul-grinding suffering, or physically or psychologically crippling forms of suffering, even mentally maddening forms of suffering) have NOT happened to someone somewhere on this planet, or may not happen say, to someone throughout eternity? And is not ALL of that suffering "justifiable" according to Christian apologists? Judaism claims that even the righteous suffer like Job. While Christianity claims that an infinite eternal and guiltless Being (AKA Jesus-God) has "suffered" and even spent time in "hell," though everyone still continues to suffer here on earth, including for the past two thousand years since that Being suffered. So there does not appear to be any form of suffering that's not justifiable to the Christian apologist, is there, including Jews suffering in concentration camps simply for being Jewish in some way--and then they die in such a camp and may will awaken on judgment day to find their new bodies (and old souls) in eternal hell, right? (For centuries both devout Calvinists and Catholics even spoke about seeing the damned suffer for eternity and not only finding the eternal suffering of the damned something justifiable, but also something worth REJOICING over.) I ask again, is there any form of suffering that a Christian apologist might consdier to be "unjustifiable suffering?"

And why must people believe that the only way God can "accept" a person is if that person believes God has wrath (or a need to punish), and cannot simply forgive, nor punch a super pillow till His wrath abates, nor calmly instruct with minimal pain, and give people more than one chance, but instead God must take the sum total of His wrath out on the most unworthy recipient, a wholly guiltless individual, who also happens to be Himself? Why is such a belief necessary? And why do Christian creeds insist on the necessity of such a belief, when it obviously does not appeal to all, nor even make sense to all? All people don't even find the same stories (whether they involve "God" or not) as equally appealing or believable.

At present about a third of the world is nominally speaking, "Christian." No doubt the Bible is constantly being published and republished, even Uber-published if I may coin the phrase, and passed out round the world, making it the "world's biggest best seller," though a more truthful accolade might be the "world's most handed out book," or the "world's most common gift book," or the "most commonly suggested book that Christian men and women and pastors tell others that they should or must get a copy of and read."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Point 4) I wonder whether Christian apologists have ever come to grips in a truly convincing fashion with the ways their God is portrayed (either in reality or metaphorically) in the book that they claim "reveals" the truth of their beliefs to humanity? For instance does the DEVIL threaten to cast people body and soul into hell? No. That type of suffering is God's design. Does the Devil get portrayed as wiping out every breathing thing on the planet except some ark survivors? Nope. That's God again. Does the Devil command the destruction of everything that breathes in certain cities? Does the Devil send plagues, famines, poisonous snakes, and opposing armies to teach people lessons like the God of the Bible is portrayed as doing? Does the Devil strike husband and wife both dead if they lie about giving all of their earthly possessions to the church? (Acts?)

Have Christian philosophers really dealt with questions like those above and below, or do they tend to flee them till they reach a nice quiet corner of huge generalizations resembling nothing so much as pious platitudes? But think for just a moment longer about this...

God is portrayed as acting thusly toward the "apple of His eye," the "children of Israel": The God of Israel tried to kill Moses (and failed); struck dead two sons of Aaron; commanded “brother to kill brother” leading to the deaths of 3,000 Israelites (right after He gave them the commandment, “Do not kill”); opened up the earth and buried alive “wives, sons and little children;” sent a fire that consumed 148 Levite princes; cursed his people to wander in the desert for forty years and eat 40,000 meals of quail and “manna” (talk about a monotonously torturous diet--and when they complained about it, God killed 3,000 Israelites with a plague); had a man put to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath; denied Moses and Aaron entrance into the “promised land” because Moses struck a rock twice with his staff instead of talking to the rock; delivered to his people a “promised land” that was parched, bordered by desert, and a corridor for passing conquering armies; sent fiery serpents among Israel, killing many; wanted to kill every Israelite and start over with Moses and his family (but Moses talked God out of that plan); drove the first king of Israel to suicide; killed someone who tried to steady a teetering ark of the covenant; murdered king David’s innocent child; sent plagues and famines upon his people that killed men, women and children; ordered the execution of 42 children of the king of Judah; “smote all Israel” killing half a million men of Israel in a civil war between Israel and Judah; “delivered into the hand of the king of Israel” 120,000 Judeans massacred in one day along with 200,000 Jewish women and children; gave Satan the power to kill Job’s children and servants (in order to win a bet); let the Babylonians conquer the holy city of Jerusalem, and then the Greek forces of Alexander the Great, followed by the Romans; and finally left the Jews homeless and persecuted by Christians and Moslems for nearly 2000 years. Furthermore, the large number of laws in the Hebrew Bible concerning the treatment of lepers and those with sores demonstrates that the Israelites were far from being blessed with unparalleled good health. And archeological evidence indicates that in ancient Israel the infant mortality rate was as high as fifty percent.

Edward T. Babinski [See the Bible for all of the cases mentioned above, except for the archeological evidence concerning ancient Israel’s infant mortality rate. For the latter see, Drorah O’Donnell Setel, “Abortion,” The Oxford Guide to Ideas & Issues of the Bible, ed. by Bruce Metzger and Michael D. Coogan (Oxford University Press, 2001)]

Edward T. Babinski said...

ED ANSWERS VIC on the "CHARACTER" QUESTION

VR: Because according to Christianity, this earth and everything in it, including all the human suffering we find there, lasts only a few centuries, while human character lasts forever. Something that alleviates our suffering at the cost of harming our character is not a bargain if Christians are right.

ED: "Forever" is a long time in which to change the character of freewilled beings, if that is what you suppose God's main concern is. But based on various Bible passages it seems to me like God's main concern is not "character development" so much as retribution, wrath, holy jealousy, casting people into lakes of fire, locking people out of wedding parties who arrive late, warning people about the God who can cast both body and soul into hell.

Some Christians, C. S. Lewis included, argue that hell is a “loving provision,” a place where non-Christian souls are safe from the pain they would feel if they were exposed to God’s presence. Such an argument fails to convince because Christianity teaches Jesus was God, and Jesus mingled with “sinners and wine-bibbers” in Judea and Galilee, as well as preached to “souls in hell.” God can even put His “presence” in communion wafers (if Catholics and Lutherans are right) without it burning the tongues of sinners (unless the person happens to have a strong allergic reaction to wheat).

Those Christians willing to question the notion of a firey retributive hell lit by God’s jealousy and anger and who favor instead a “lighter” less “tortuous” version of “eternal punishment” (perhaps being cast into a lake of sour jello instead of a lake of fire), should take their questioning to the NEXT level and ask why “hell” needs to be any worse than this world? We have pain and sickness here, we suffer here, but there is also room for healing, growth and education. (Indeed, what better teachers could there be than God and time, especially if God is most concerned about the development of one’s character thoughout eternity rather than being concerned about vengeance wrath and retribution?)

As for those who argue that eternal hell should be viewed as “God’s great compliment,” I say, if hell is such a great “compliment,” what does God do when he wants to “insult” someone? (Maybe I should simply respond, "Then please take your gleefully and playfully worded defense of hell with you to hell? There, have I complimented you enough?")

Lastly, why do you assume that this world is the best place in which to develop character? We start out ignorant babes, picking up the ignorance and prejudices of those who raise us. Then once our hormones kick in during adolescence we're tossed on a sea of emotions. And "communication" itself is a difficult art that can cause the utmost confusion, pain and suffering, or lead to it. While simple stupidity cripples some people, cities, nations, etc. Throughout life we also have to concentrate on basic needs first and foremost, from food and clothing and shelter to basic education to hopefully advanced education (which much of the world lacks), and even then there's little time left for most people on earth to compare and contrast religions, philosophies, wise teachers and sayings, or even to self-examine themselves and what they truly do believe, or to retrace and study the courses of their own journeys of thought that can lead to new ideas and beliefs. Certain people also suffer so much in life either psychologically or physically that it doesn't always build character but can dismantle it, and/or scramble a person's brain/mind. Even a mere deficiency in a vitamin or mineral can scramble a person's brain/mind, and/or hinder their ability to think clearly. A tiny lesion in the brain or pressure from a benign tumor can also change a person's behavior. It turned one happily married man into a porn addict and molester of his own daughter, and then once the tumor was removed, he was fine.

All I have to say is this...

Given headaches, backaches, toothaches, strains, scrapes, breaks, cuts, rashes, burns, bruises, PMS, fatigue, hunger, odors, molds, colds, yeast, parasites, viruses, cancers, genetic defects, blindness, deafness, paralysis, mental illness, ugliness, ignorance, miscommunications, embarrassments, unrequited love, dashed hopes, boredom, hard labor, repetitious labor, accidents, old age, senility, fires, floods, earthquakes, typhoons, tornadoes, hurricanes and volcanoes, I can not see how anyone, after they are dead, deserves “eternal punishment” as well.

Clayton said...

I've got the numbers:
(1) There has been at least one event e in the history of the world such that anyone who could have prevented e would be morally required to do so.
(2) God never fails to fulfill a moral requirement.
(3) If God existed, e wouldn't have occurred.
(C) God doesn't exist.

Logically, it seems good to me. Let 'e' be the gang rape and butchering of a helpless woman in Darfur. Or, substitute some other event if you like.

Such an event is one God would be morally required to prevent and yet it happened.

Pre-emptive strike against the hidden goods response:
(a) If there were such hidden goods that would show that all things considered it would be wrongful to intervene on her behalf, God created us as utter moral imbeciles. Such a claim seems flatly inconsistent with the idea that God created us as morally responsible agents.
(b) If God created a world in which her enduring such an event is a necessary part of bringing about some e' that is the hidden good, intuitively, it sounds as if God is using a person as a mere means to an end. Very un-Kantian.
(c) To say that God should have let this happen to her or endorse a theory knowing this is an implication of such a theory seems to low a lack of respect for our fellow persons.

Anonymous said...

Hooray! Someone (Clayton) talks sense on this thread at last!

Victor Reppert said...

Loftus: And have you proved that a perfectly good God would eliminate all senseless suffering?

No. Is that what you're asking me to do?

VR: It's your argument. I expect you to defend its premises.

Anonymous said...

"Let 'e' be the gang rape and butchering of a helpless woman in Darfur."

Oh, but Clayton, don't you know that God is using her suffering along with the suffering of billions of other people and animals in order to build character in us?

"So you argument is an emotional, and not a logical argument, and you admit this?? Wow!"

Yes I do. But then I think that all moral claims ultimately are emotional and not logical.
Unfortunately, your logical defense of this omnibenevolent and omnipotent being makes Him seem to be an immoral beast to me.

Don Jr. said...

Clayton,

I do not think your (1) is true. First of all, what type of event must E be? Your argument is not entirely clear since you claim that E-type events exist but you do not explain what classifies as an E-type event (though you do give one example; but that is not an explanation). And this is where I think the argument rests on emotional appeal rather than reason. (You do say that E-type events are events such that anyone who could prevent them is morally required to do so; but then you must explain what type of events you think people are morally required to prevent. If I am able to, am I morally required to prevent lying?)

Secondly, the God that premise (1) seems to entail would be theologically objectionable. God cannot himself sin. But, I would say, He is not required to prevent all other sins. That would make Him the equivalent of a father who followed his children around stopping them in their tracks if they were about to do anything wrong. Or is the father only morally required to prevent the children's "horrendous" wrongs? Is the suggestion that God is morally required to prevent rape but not morally required to prevent lying? While that idea seems intuitively reasonable, when I examine it I can find no rational basis for it (but rather only an emotional one) that prevents it from being entirely arbitrary.

Your (a) of your pre-emptive strike is incorrect. "Hidden goods" don't put our moral awareness into question but rather our omniscience. If one feels she has been wronged by another (maybe she was pushed) but doesn't know that the other had a good reason, a "hidden good," for his or her action (maybe she was pushed out the way of an oncoming car), then that is a comment on her lack of knowledge, not on her lack of moral awareness.

Your (b) is unclear, at least to me, on its use of necessary. If it means logically necessary, then that's not the case. If it means necessary in the sense that world-E, which contains event-E, necessarily contains event-E since otherwise it would not be world-E, then that's trivial. That would be like saying I am necessarily me. Moreover, no one claims that God creates persons whose purpose is to endure suffering.

Your (c) is emotional not rational, and it's not true. Who says that God should let women be raped? The position, in brief, is that God has allowed man free will and for good reason, and that He will not vanquish it by compulsion.

JD Walters said...

Nice work, Don. After reading all this I have to agree with Vic that the problem of evil gains its force mostly through an unspoken agreement that yes, it is a big problem for theism. But people don't seem to be able to agree exactly what it is they want God to do, like squealing toddlers who can't make themselves understood as to what they actually want.

Let's get every single person in the world to agree upon an exact series of steps that God should carry out to 'solve' the problem of evil, down to the smallest molecular adjustment, the most detailed description of changes in physical law, the most rigorous definition of evil that God should be obliged to prevent or compensate for, come up with a way to still build moral character, allow for free will and evolution in nature, that's not self-serving or dependent upon each person's individual whim, but actually and factually has each and every person's best interests (not just what they think are their best interests) in mind, as well as those of every other living creature on the planet, and then I will concede that maybe the problem of evil is a problem.

Anonymous said...

JD, I don't have to be an auto mechanic to know that my car is broken.
I may be arguing merely from emotion here, but there seems to something wrong with a logic that demands that the solution to the problem be presented before the problem can be recognized as a problem.
In any case there are a number of solutions to the problem of evil that don't require an omniscient human. Atheism being one of them.

Anonymous said...

"The position, in brief, is that God has allowed man free will and for good reason, and that He will not vanquish it by compulsion."

So this God thinks it is morally good for a person to be able to choose to rape another person?
I wouldn't be caught dead worshiping such an imagined being.

Clayton said...

Don Jr.,

Let me see if I can address your concerns.

First, I don't quite understand your response to my (1). I've not specified the conditions necessary for there being an E event. Asking me to do so is a distraction though. I believe pornography is no myth and believe it is quite impossible to state the necessary conditions for x's being pornographic. What I have given you is a description of an event such that I'm certain anyone had a duty to prevent and if you're uncertain whether God should intervene to force us to tell the truth, that's fine. There seems to be a world of difference between my knowingly asserting a falsehood and a group gang raping a woman and hacking her to death with machetes in front of her children. God has allowed such attrocities to happen thousands of times in the past few years. If we ever got our hands on a person who could have prevented such a thing but didn't, we'd have a hard time preventing a mob from lynching him.

Now, I never said that because (1) is true, God must prevent every sin. All I said is that there is a single event that has happened that it wasn't right for God to allow. There's a HUGE difference between my (1) and the remark that God must prevent any sin from occurring. Again, it seems you're remarks distract us from evaluating (1).

I take it that you think the reason my argument fails is that you can knowingly say:

(*) God was right to allow that woman to be gang raped and butchered.

I say that that's false and not for epistemic reasons. Now, you say that I'm making an appeal to emotion. It may well stir the emotions. Here's a question that I think is significant. I think you cannot be a decent person and believe (*). Any decent person should find that claim quite beyond belief. You would think that if theism were true, God would not put us in a position whereby the claims we are rationally compelled to endorse insofar as we believe in God's existence make us less than morally decent people. That is a second sort of argument and one that is distinct from my first numbered one.

John W. Loftus said...

VR: It's your argument. I expect you to defend its premises.

I can and I will. But what's the standard of proof required by you here? I can't prove much of anything, and neither can you.

I think the existence of inscrutable suffering is an empirical refutation of theism, if God has the same moral obligations he expects from us. If he doesn't, then what rational sense does it make to say "God is good"? We might as well say God is yuerfgstarewfbvs. It means nothing to us. And if that's the case, as far as we know God is an evil being, if he exists.

Grano1 said...

This exchange is mostly over my head so I won't enter it, other than to ask if anyone here, on either side, has read David B. Hart's "The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?" I certainly won't claim he defintively answers the questions posed here, but he seems to put forth a view that's different from the standard theodicy, or at least point towards one. He specifically looks at Ivan Karamazov's argument against God based on the suffering of children. If you're familiar with him at all, you'll know he is no lightweight, especially if you've read (or attempted to read) his "Beauty of the Infinite."

Victor Reppert said...

Loftus writes: I think the existence of inscrutable suffering is an empirical refutation of theism, if God has the same moral obligations he expects from us. If he doesn't, then what rational sense does it make to say "God is good"? We might as well say God is yuerfgstarewfbvs. It means nothing to us. And if that's the case, as far as we know God is an evil being, if he exists.

VR: This is a false dilemma. God may have broadly similar obligations that humans have, but at the same time be in a different situation with respect to his knowledge of the consequences of what he does. If I am a doctor and a sick child is brought to me, I have an obligation to do what I can to get her better. However, if I had the knowledge of God, I might be in a position to conclude that I am morally obligated to let her die, because the consequences of making her well would be that her grandson would grow up to start a nuclear war and incinerate the human race. The ordinary human doctor and the doctor with God-like knowledge would be working from the same moral standard, but the doctor with the God-like knowledge would perform an act that looked bad but really saved the human race from incineration.

John W. Loftus said...

VR:The ordinary human doctor and the doctor with God-like knowledge would be working from the same moral standard, but the doctor with the God-like knowledge would perform an act that looked bad but really saved the human race from incineration.

Very well put, Vic. I understand this objection. What do you say to what William P. Alston argued: “a perfectly good God would not wholly sacrifice the welfare of one of his intelligent creatures simply in order to achieve a good for others, or for himself. This would be incompatible with his concern for the welfare of each of his creatures.”

Let's say you were the doctor with God-like knowledge and shared our same moral standards. Don't you still have a duty to save that sick child regardless of what her grandson will do? What did this child do wrong?

Presumably along with God-like knowledge you would also be around for the birth of this evil-to-be grandson. That would be the time to act, no?

Besides, why didn't God do the thing you suggest when it came to Hitler or Stalin or Bundy or Dahlmer? If you say he may have done this with other evil people, we simply have no way to know it. All we know is that he didn't do this with them,
which in turn gives the skeptic more ammunition in his case against God.

If God wants us to believe then why doesn't he help you make your case? I don't envy you here. Surely God would lessen the amount of evil in the world, if for no other reason, to help your apologetical task easier. ;-)

Don Jr. said...

Clayton,

Your pornography-is-no-myth reply seems to miss since I never claimed moral responsibility was a myth. Also, you never gave a "description of an event." You gave an example, and I admitted as much. But that does little good to clarify exactly what you mean by an event of type-E.

I don't think my remarks "distract us from evaluating (1)." I think my remarks are an evaluation of (1). Is it your position, or the position conveyed by your argument, that God is morally responsible to prevent gang rapes but not morally responsible to prevent lying? Which in essence says, "God is morally responsible to prevent atrocious wrongdoings but not morally responsible to prevent all wrongdoings." This ambiguity is why I am (distractingly) asking for an explanation on what classifies as a type-E event: is it atrocious wrongdoings or all wrongdoings?

(Clayton, the above is what I have to say in evaluating your argument. All that follows is either an aside or merely for clarification.)

I think you ought to be very, very specific if you are to say that a certain belief disqualifies someone as a "decent person." Nobody should fling around accusations like that without being specific. If by (*) you simply mean any individual who accepts that God has reasons for permitting evil, then I strenuously object to your referring to those persons as not decent. If by (*) you mean someone who thinks the woman, because she was raped, must have deserved to be raped, then I would lean toward agreeing. But not many people hold to the second interpretation, and definitely no one I have seen commenting on this blog does, which makes it irrelevant to bring it up.

I didn't mean to suggest that your entire argument was an appeal to emotion or that it was unfounded. I said that I thought (1) to be based on emotion. The entire argument is perfectly logical though, since it's a logically valid argument. I'm merely objecting to the truth of (1). You will also notice, however, that the argument vacillates on its subject. The first premise is a comment on "anyone" while the rest of the argument is a comment on "God." Now I do not think God is "above" morality such that what He does is good simply because He does it, but the argument suggests, it seems, that what is the case for the non-omniscient is the case for the omniscient, which I don't think is true. For example, using a scenario Victor has used before, a primitive man, knowing the little he knows about pointy metal objects, might, if he were able, be morally required to prevent another from stabbing his son with one. But had he known that the pointy metal object was not a sword meant to kill but a syringe meant to heal (didn't mean to rhyme that), then things would be different. So knowledge has relevance here. (Victor's '11:42 AM' post explains this better.) In short, the objection is that you cannot rightfully include an omniscient being (or even a being simply more knowledgeable than you) in your judgment since you lack all his or her knowledge. So, for example, the girl who got pushed in my earlier post was incorrect in her condemnation of the stranger that pushed her simply because she lacked knowledge.

Lastly, I admitted that your (1) seemed to be intuitively reasonable but that upon examination it seemed (if type-E events are atrocious wrongdoings and not all wrongdoings) to be arbitrary. I still admit this, but, to be clear, I do not mean to deny the intuitive (and correct) principle upon which it is based—that we ought to help our neighbor. What I mean to deny is that it is unimportant that we are not in the same epistemic boat as God, that God is morally required to prevent all wrongdoings from occurring, and that there is nothing more important to God than our suffering. As cliche as it might sound, there is something, I think, infinitely more important to God than this, that is, than our suffering—namely, our souls.

Jason said...

(Note: thought I was going to be out of state this week; looks like next week instead, maybe.)


Well! Always a popular topic.

I'm surprised it took so long for anyone in Victor's audience to try a numbered argument. I was preparing to give some examples myself, but I see Clayton has (finally) beaten me to it.

With an eye, then, toward fairly incorporating and enumerating arguments so far, in a deductive and summary fashion, I present the following: ('P'remise, 'O'bservation, 'C'onclusion)

P1. God exists.

P2. God has the power to prevent suffering in any given case from occurring.

P3. Morality necessarily involves prevention of suffering in any given case from occurring.

P4. God will always behave morally.

O1. At least one situation of suffering has occurred.

C1. At least one of set P1 through O1 above is false.

P5. Christianity requires all of set P1 through O1 above to be true.

C2. Christianity is false. (from C1, P5)


P6. It is impossible that Agent G can be acting morally to allow a suffering S1 to happen, if Agent H would be acting immorally to allow S1 to happen.

C3. At least one of set {P1, P2, P4, O1, P6} is false.

P7. Christianity requires all of set {P1, P2, P4, O1, P6} to be true.

C4. Christianity is false. (from C3, P7)


P6a. (same as P6, but substitute 'enact a suffering S1' for 'allow a suffering S1 to happen')

P8. (may be an Observation instead) God has enacted a suffering that would be immoral for Agent H to enact.

C5. At least one of set (P1, P2, P4, P6a, P8) is false.

P9. Christianity requires all of set {P1, P2, P4, P6a, P8) to be true.

C6. Christianity is false.


I could keep coming up with variations of this for a while, but I think this covers, in summary of principle, the arguments (numbered and otherwise) being proposed, tacitly or explicitly, against Christianity in this particular commentary thread so far (not counting off-topic spam).


Fair representation of the AfE variants present so far?

Jason Pratt