Monday, November 7, 2011

Craig's website response re our debate

This response to my evil god challenge has recently appeared on William Lane Craig’s website, after our debate. It’s posted in full below. With my comments in bold. The post takes the form of Craig responding to a question emailed by a fan.

Question:

Dr. Craig this is a simple question in regards to your debate with Stephen Law.
Suppose someone hypothetically argued for an Evil God that exists. Could one use the "Problem of Good" as an objection, just as Non-Theists use the "Problem of Evil" against theism?

Would all the arguments such as Plantinga's Free Will Defense be flipped around, and actually work against the problem of good?

So far, it truly does appear that Evil is a privation of good, and the arguments used to counter the "Problem of Good" against an Evil God do not work very well as a refutation.

Cornell
USA


BTW notice Craig never responds re the comment on flipping Plantinga's free will defence (which applies only to the logical problem of evil, and not this one, as Craig knows) or re. the "privation" view of evil, which I don't think Craig subscribes to (it's more of a Catholic thing)? Craig just ignores those bits of the email.

Dr. Craig responds:

Cornell, I’m grateful for your question because I think it’s very easy to misunderstand Stephen Law’s “evil god” objection as a result of conflating distinct questions.

First, let’s begin with the cosmological and teleological arguments. If successful, these give us a Creator and Designer of the universe. Notice, however, that they do not tell us much or anything about the moral character of the Creator/Designer. In my popular talks, I sometimes put this point by saying that the Creator/Designer might be an absolute stinker, for all we know!

Quite.

That’s why, by the way, the widespread objection to Intelligent Design based on the cruelties of Nature is worthless. As I point out in my debate with Francisco Ayala, one might as well argue that a medieval torture rack does not need an intelligent designer because anyone who would make such a thing couldn’t be a very nice person.

Precisely because the cosmological and teleological arguments say little or nothing about the moral character of the Creator/Designer, they are immune to the atheist’s most important argument, the problem of evil and suffering. They are therefore powerful components of a cumulative case for theism. They cannot be ignored.

But that’s just what Stephen Law did in the debate. His response to these arguments, as you saw, is simply to say that even if successful, these arguments do not prove the existence of God, since in order to infer that the Creator/Designer is God, one has to prove that He is good. But for all we know from these arguments, the Creator/Designer could be evil. This is NOT, however, the “evil god” objection.

Actually, the evil god objection does apply here, as I clearly explained both during the debate and in the academic paper. These arguments provide no more support to belief in a good god than belief in an evil god. So, given belief in an evil god is absurd, why should we suppose belief in a good god more reasonable, not withstanding the cosmological and teleological arguments?

Law is merely noting the incompleteness of the theist’s case so far: we’ve got a Creator/Designer, but we’ve as yet no reason to think Him good and therefore God.

BTW Craig defines God as good. Hence, if I establish beyond reasonable doubt that there’s no good god, then I have established there’s no God, as Craig defines God. That was my aim. Of course you can retreat to a deist god if you like. But that's not Craig's god.

In the debate, Law made the remarkable claim that the cosmological and teleological arguments are not even part of a cumulative case for theism!

No that is simply not true. I said they make equally as cumulative a case for an evil god. As Craig actually just admitted above. So the challenge I put to Craig is to explain why, if belief in an evil god is absurd, notwithstanding the cosmological and teleological arguments, belief in a good god is not similarly absurd. That is the evil god challenge.

This is clearly wrong. The probability of God’s existence given the evidence for a Creator/Designer of the universe is obviously higher than without it. To borrow Tim McGrew’s illustration, suppose you’re expecting an afternoon visit from a friend in the military. That afternoon your wife tells you, “There’s a man coming up the walk.” Do you shrug this off with the comment, “Oh, well, it could be anybody!” She then says, “He’s wearing a uniform!” Should you respond, “Well, maybe it’s a policeman” and continue to go about your affairs? Of course not! The probability that your friend has arrived, though not certain by any means, is definitely higher given your wife’s testimony than it would have been without it. It is thus part of a cumulative case for the conclusion that your friend has arrived, and it would be folly to ignore it. Similarly, the probability that God exists is much higher given the evidence for a Creator/Designer than it is in the absence of such evidence.

Even if correct, this is as much evidence for an evil god as for a good god. So why think belief in a good god is more reasonable than belief in an evil god. That’s the evil god challenge. Craig has so far entirely failed to meet it. When is Craig going to get to the reasons for believing in a good god, I wonder... ah here it comes...sort of....

So what argument does the natural theologian give for thinking that the Creator/Designer is good? Here Law mistakenly seems to think that the theist arrives at the conclusion that the Creator/Designer is good by an inductive survey of the world’s events.

No. I don’t do that. I explained why in my first rebuttal. Craig is simply choosing to ignore what I said and continuing to attack a straw man.

Seeing all the goods in the world, the theist supposedly infers that the Creator/Designer is (perfectly) good.

Of course Christians don’t do that. Obviously. Craig is still attacking a straw man.

That assumption is simply incorrect.

Yes, it is. Good job I don’t make it.


As Michael Bergmann and Jeff Brower point out in their response to Law, “no traditional theists we know of have ever argued for God’s perfect goodness . . . by simply inferring it from the existence of some good in the world.”i They conclude that Law hasn’t “done anything to touch, much less undermine, traditional belief in the existence of a being which is at once all-powerful and all-good.

Yes, Bergmann and Brouwer got quite the wrong end of the stick re my evil God challenge. I am asking – what is the case for supposing there’s not just a creator, but a good one? Please explains why belief in a good god is reasonable, or not unreasonable, while belief in an evil god remains downright absurd? Craig has still not yet given us an answer... it doesn’t have to be an empirically-based case. Obviously.

If Law wants to mount a real attack on traditional theism, he will need at the very least to engage some of the actual support that has been given . . . for belief in God’s goodness, explaining why it fails, rather than completely ignoring it.”ii

Right. I asked Craig to give it...

What many natural theologians, including myself, do to justify belief in the perfect goodness of the Creator/Designer proved by the cosmological and teleological arguments is to offer various moral arguments for God. In so doing, one needn’t appeal to the good in the world at all; one can instead point to instances of objective moral evil.

Right. Finally we get to a supposed reason for supposing belief in a good god is significantly more reasonable than belief in an evil god, which even Craig admits is absurd. Notice that all of the preceding text was irrelevant so far as meeting the evil god challenge is concerned.

So, in our debate, I argued:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
2. Evil exists.
3. Therefore, objective moral values exist. (Some things are evil!)
4. Therefore, God exists.

Law takes almost no cognizance in his published work of such an argument for God as the foundation of objective moral values and duties. All I could find is the brief comment: “it remains possible that a cogent moral argument along the above lines might yet be constructed. I suspect that . . . this is the most promising line of attack [for theists to take].”iii I concur.

Like Professor Richard Swinburne (a far more widely and highly rated and pre-eminent philosopher than Craig) and several other Christian philosophers, I find Craig's moral argument, and indeed all moral arguments for the existence of God, utterly unconvincing. Hence I don't bother with them much

It’s worth noting that Law agrees with premiss (2) because he is a moral realist.

This is a little sneaky. I was very clear that I agree objective moral values exist up until I am shown reason to believe the first premise is true (which Craig never supplied). At that point, the rational thing for me to do, given overwhelming empirical evidence there’s no god (as Craig defines god), is to give up on moral realism. I explained all this not once but three times in the debate. In my second rebuttal, the QandA and in my summary too. Craig ignored what I said on the night and has here also just ignored what I said.

So in order to resist the force of this argument, he must deny (1).

No, as I just pointed out and pointed out three times in the debate, given the truth of the first premise and overwhelming evidence against the existence of a good god, the rational conclusion to draw is that there are no objective moral values. I might not like that conclusion very much. And it is counterintuitive. But, hey, sometimes we have to give up what seemed intuitively obvious, such as that the earth does not move, in the face of powerful evidence to the contrary.

Here's what I said about this in the debate. It's verbatim. Notice how Craig continues to ignore the point.

What of the second premise of Craig’s moral argument? Objective moral values exist.

This is undoubtedly a belief that just seems obviously true. But of course that doesn’t guarantee it is true.

Yes it seems like there are objective moral values. That isn’t a belief we should abandon easily. But it’s by no means irrefutable.

After all, we have a powerful impression that the Earth doesn’t move. It really, really doesn’t seem to move. But if we’re given powerful evidence that it does move, and it’s also explained why it nevertheless seems like it doesn’t, then the rational thing for us to believe is that our initial, highly convincing impression was wrong.

The moral is, even if Professor Craig could show his first premise is true, he can’t deal with the problem of evil by just digging in his heels and saying, “But look, it really, really seems to us as if there are objective moral values, so there must be a God.”

When placed next to the problem of evil, Craig’s argument does little to undermine the problem. Rather, it just combines with it to deliver the conclusion that there are no objective moral values.

That conclusion would be further reinforced by an evolutionary explanation of why it would still seem to us that there are objective moral values even if there aren’t.

Now I don’t doubt Professor Craig doesn’t want to believe there are no objective moral values. Hey, I don’t want to believe it. But this isn’t an exercise in wishful thinking.

So, even if its first premise were true, Craig’s moral argument still hardly offers much of a riposte to the evidential problem of evil.





But on this score, he has very little to offer by way of explanation of objective moral values and duties in an atheistic universe. Indeed, after presenting the old Euthyphro dilemma,...

Incidentally, I never presented the Euthyphro dilemma in the debate. Some wonder why. The answer is that Craig’s version of theism is immune to it (at least in it’s simplest form). Against Craig, I used different arguments, which Craig is now choosing to ignore (see above).

...he admits, “None of this is to deny that there is

a puzzle about the objectivity of morality—about how it is possible for things to be morally right or wrong independently of how we, or even God, might judge them to be.”iv

But he has no solution to this puzzle to offer.

This is all irrelevant. Craig needs to show his premises are true to make a case for a specifically good god. The onus is not on me to show the first premise is false. Hell, I could admit it’s true, and still Craig’s argument fails to produce much of a response to the evidential problem of evil, as I just pointed out. And pointed out three times in the debate. Note that, even if Craig can show his first premise is true, he faces a mountain of empirical evidence against the good god hypothesis. That mountain of evidence, when combined with the first premise, just delivers the conclusion there are no objective moral values.

But anyway, what is Craig’s argument for the truth of premise 1?


Then he notes the theistic solution: “suppose that ‘God’ refers, not to the creator of this yardstick, but to the yardstick itself . . . then to admit that there is an absolute standard of right and wrong is just to admit that God exists. . . .”v That’s absolutely right! So what’s his objection to the theistic solution? He says, “this is a very thin understanding of what ‘God’ means.”vi This objection is based on a confusion between semantics and ontology. The theist isn’t offering a definition of what the word “God” means. The theist is claiming that God, in all His fullness, is the paradigm of moral value.


Yes, but, as Craig says, this is just a claim, isn't it? Why suppose the yardstick is a god? What's the argument both that there's such a yardstick and it can only be the Judeo-Christian, Craig-type God? It's a huge leap from "There's an objective moral yardstick" to "The Judeo-Christian God exists." Even if the case for the yardstick could be made. What Christian's need to ask themselves, reading this, is, what is Craig's actual argument for his first premise?


God is the yardstick of moral value.

This is pure assertion.

By contrast Law more or less admits that the atheist has no explanation of the existence of the objective moral values and duties that we both apprehend.

I didn't and don't admit that. And I am still waiting for the argument that there can be no objective moral values if Craig's god does not exist. Where is it? And in any case, as I have just pointed out, to be effective, the evil god challenge does not require that the atheist provide an account of objective moral duties/values. The atheist can be a moral nihilist.


So far, the “evil god” objection has yet to appear on the scene. We have simply been discussing what grounds the theist might offer for thinking that God exists, i.e., that there is a perfectly good Creator/Designer of the universe.

What grounds? Craig just gave us an argument widely condemned even by some leading theists (e.g. Swinburne), and failed to support his premises, esp. premise (1). And, as I have pointed out, even if the first premise could be shown to be true, the argument is still almost entirely useless as a riposte to the evidential problem of evil.

It is at this juncture that Law raises the problem of evil. As we agreed in the debate, this problem can be stated in non-moral terms by substituting “suffering” for “evil.”

Yes, so I hope Craig will now stop insisting that he has a wonderful, knock-down refutation of the problem of evil. As he does here, for example... First year philosophers learn that this is a hopeless solution to the problem of evil, but Craig continues to repeat this stuff because he knows a lot of gullible, philosophically-unsophisticated theists will fall for it and go away thinking “Why, the problem of evil has been solved!”

The objection is that the suffering in the world provides, in Law’s words, “overwhelming evidence“ that God does not exist. For an all-powerful, all-good being, it is alleged, would not permit the suffering we observe in the world. Therefore, such a being probably does not exist.

Suppose that the theist responds, as I do, by saying that, for all we know, God may well have morally sufficient reasons for permitting the suffering in the world. We all know cases in which we permit suffering because we have morally sufficient reasons for doing so. What Law would have to prove...

I note that the weasel word “prove” crops up here. What does it mean? When Craig gets cornered, his opponents suddenly start having to “prove” things. All I am aiming to do is establish beyond reasonable doubt that Craig’s god does not exist.


The evidential problem of good is: there’s far too much good for it plausibly to put down as the price paid for some greater cosmic evil. Most of us can immediately recognize that this is true.

So, the evidential problem of evil is, similarly, that there’s such vast quantities of seemingly gratuitous evil over hundreds of millions of years that it’s just not plausible that it’s the price paid for some greater good. It's just not plausible that not even an ounce of it is really gratuitous. Is this a "proof"? It's a “proof” only in the sense that, in the absence of any good counter-argument, it gives us very good grounds for supposing there’s no good god (just as the evidential problem of good gives us very good grounds for supposing there’s no evil god).


...is that it’s improbable that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting the suffering in the world. But how could he possibly prove that?

I don’t have to prove it beyond pointing out we have very good grounds for supposing it’s true. Which we do. And certainly most of us see this when we consider the evil god hypothesis.


The point is, there’s clearly evidence sufficient to establish beyond reasonable doubt that there’s no evil god. But then why isn’t there evidence sufficient to establish beyond reasonable doubt there’s no good god? Craig has no answer, yet. Just a bit of sleight of hand with the word “proof”.

God’s justifying reasons might never appear in our lifetime or locale or even in this life. Suppose, for example, that God’s purpose for human life is not happiness in this life but the knowledge of God, which is an incommensurable good. It may be the case, for all we know, that only in a world suffused with natural and moral evil would the maximum number of people freely come to know God and find eternal life. Law would have to show there is a feasible world available to God in which there is a comparable knowledge of God and His salvation but with less suffering. That’s pure speculation.

No, it’s not. It’s a reasonable conclusion based on a mountain of evidence. Most of us know it’s not “pure speculation” to suppose the vast quantities of good we see around us constitute very good evidence there’s no evil god. We can see there’s way too much good for this world plausibly to be considered the creation of such an evil being. So why is it suddenly “pure speculation” to suppose that hundreds of millions of years of appalling suffering is good evidence there’s no god god? After all, as I pointed out in the debate and the paper, an evil god may have his cosmic reasons for allowing good now so that greater evils can be achieved (perhaps even in an afterlife), or whatever! Yet it’s pretty clear that just won’t wash, isn’t it?

It is at this point that the “evil god” objection finally comes to the fore.

No, in the debate, it came to the fore when I was discussing the cosmological and teleological arguments, but Craig has conveniently airbrushed that out as it makes it clearer still why those two arguments are entirely irrelevant so far as an assessment of whether or not I succeeded in establishing beyond reasonable doubt that Craig's god does not exist.

Law’s response to the above is to say that if such a response is tenable, then someone who believes in an evil god could also justifiably say that the goods in the world do not constitute refutation of the existence of such a deity because the evil god could similarly have reasons for permitting all the goods in the world, which Law just takes to be absurd.

A couple of comments: the “evil god” hypothesis is not suggesting that God could be evil. For, by definition, God is a being which is worthy of worship, and so no being which is evil could be God. That’s why Peter Millican, who independently formulated a similar argument, refers to the evil supreme being, not as “God,” but as “anti-God.”vii That is less misleading than Law’s terminology.

Sure, I don’t care what you call him. Though I note that plenty of evil beings have been called gods, historically. This is just semantics.

One can refer to this being as “god” only by using the lower case “g,” as I have done. The idea is that there is a Creator/Designer of the universe who is evil. You can see immediately why this argument, which properly belongs to concerns of theodicy, gets conflated with arguments for God’s goodness.

Big "G", small "g". Frankly. Who cares?

Arguments for god’s goodness? We haven’t had one yet. Except for a highly dodgy one with suspect premises which weren’t even argued for. A moral argument, which would, in any case, even with an established first premise, fail to offer much of a riposte to the evidential problem of evil.


Notice, too, that Law is not giving reasons to think that an evil god exists. On the contrary, it is essential to his argument that such a supposition is absurd.
The claim of the argument is that given the existence of an evil god, it is highly improbable that the goods in the world would exist (Pr (goods½evil god << 0.5)).
Well, that all of them would, yes. There might well still be some.
By the same token, given the existence of God, it is highly improbable that the suffering in the world would exist (Pr (suffering½God << 0.5)). So just as the goods in the world constitute overwhelming evidence against the existence of an evil god, the suffering in the world constitutes overwhelming evidence against the existence of God.

I suspect that Law thinks that theists will try to deny the symmetry between these two cases.

No, not necessarily. Some don't.

But that would be a mistake. The two situations strike me as symmetrical—I would just say that in neither case would we be justified in thinking that the probability is low. Just as a good Creator/Designer could have good reasons for permitting the suffering in the world, so an evil Creator/Designer could have malicious reasons for allowing the goods in the world, precisely for the reasons Law explains. My initial response, then, still holds: we’re just not in a position to make these kinds of probability judgements with any sort of confidence.

Craig has spotted just how much trouble he is in with the evil god challenge, and has decided to play a skeptical card. He insists we just can’t know, on the basis of what we see around us, that there’s no evil god. This could quite easily turn out to be the creation of an all-powerful, all-evil deity, given what we see around us.

Right. Well, I’ve run the evil god challenge many times in front of audiences, and I have often started by asking why an evil god is absurd, and I have on almost every occasion got a mass of nodding heads when I have suggested we can rule this god out on the basis of what we observe around us. Even when the audience is almost entirely Christian.

It’s only later, when the repercussions of this are realized for Christianity, that Christians suddenly get highly skeptical about what conclusions can be drawn on the basis of what we see around us. As Craig has here.

So now notice that, if he is to salvage his belief in the reasonableness of belief in a God god, he must do several things.

First, he must justify this very radical skepticism. It’s counter-intuitive. The onus is clearly on him to explain why we should suppose that it’s unreasonable to reject belief in an evil god on the basis of what we see around us. So what’s his justification?


In our debate Law seemed flat-footed in the face of this response. He takes it as just obvious that an evil god would not permit the goods we see in the world—look at the rainbows, look at the children, etc.!

Actually, almost everyone does find it obvious, until the consequences for theism are realized.

But this is no better than the atheist who takes it to be just obvious that the suffering in the world would not be permitted by God—look at the tsunamis, look at the Holocaust, etc. This sort of response is basically an appeal to emotions and fails to grapple with the fact that a Creator/Designer of the world could well have sufficient reasons for permitting what he does.

Appeal to emotions? Eh? We have an emotional response, yes. That does not make it irrational. Any more than the fact Craig has an emotional response to the thought that Jesus loves him makes that belief irrational. This is pure rhetoric from Craig.

“...the fact that a Creator/Designer of the world could well have sufficient reasons for permitting what he does.” So where is the argument to support this? Here it comes…

I was gratified that other theists—like Steve Wykstra, Dan Howard-Snyder, and Mike Rea—who have specialized in the problem of evil share my assessment.

Yes and plenty of theists who specialize on the problem don’t share Craig’s assessment. Craig is here slipping in an argument from authority. Which he himself condemns. And condemned in our debate, funnily enough, when I pointed out Richard Swinburne, one of the top two or three philosophers of religion in the world, and a Christian, find Craig’s argument utterly unonconvincing. “That’s an argument from authority!” complained Craig. The irony.


Wykstra, for example, wrote:

any being (good or evil) big enough to make the heavens and the earth gives a high conditional probability that we'd regularly be unable to discern that being's ultimate purposes for many events around us. So our actual . . . inability to do so isn't strong evidence that those purposes (or that being) isn't there. . . . Just as the inscrutable evil in the world doesn't give much evidence that there's no totally good creator, so the inscrutable good in the world doesn't give much evidence that there's no totally evil Creator.viii

The point is that once you posit the existence of an evil Creator/Designer of the cosmos, all bets are off.

Yes, of course, if there’s a good/evil cosmic being there will probably be quite a few events the good/evil reasons for which we cannot understand. But that obviously doesn't establish that NO amount of good or horror, no matter how much, will always fail to provide us with ANY SIGNIFICANT EVIDENCE AT ALL that there’s no good/evil god. Which is what Craig would need to show in order to immunize his God belief against empirical refutation. He hasn’t shown that.

And in fact most of us have the very powerful starting intuition that there is in fact more than enough good stuff in the world for us to be able reasonably to rule out an evil god. So why not a good god?


But look, let's suppose that Craig and the skeptical theists like Wykstra are right. Suppose Craig did actually manage to construct a good supporting argument for his intuitively implausible skepticism. How would that help him, so far as meeting the evil god challenge is concerned, i.e. in terms of showing that a good god is significantly more reasonable than the absurd evil god hypothesis is concerned?

It wouldn't. Given Craig accepts the evil god hypothesis is absurd, he still faces the challenge of having to raise the reasonableness of the good god hypothesis from a base of being level-pegging with the downright absurd evil god hypothesis all the way up to "pretty reasonable'. And all he has to do that, here, is his moral argument. Which, as presented above, is pretty useless. So even adopting Wykstra-style skeptical theism doesn't help Craig much so far as dealing with the evil god challenge is concerned.

Craig ends with a final note...


One final note: I talked earlier about reasons to think that the Creator/Designer of the universe is good.

Yes. We were given one highly contentious argument with a dubious first premise for which no supporting argument was given, and which, even if the first premise was true, would fail to offer any sort of significant riposte to the problem of evil.

Suppose we concede for the sake of argument that an evil Creator/Designer exists. Since this being is evil, that implies that he fails to discharge his moral obligations.

We don’t even have to say he’s evil, as Craig himself has almost conceded. We can just say – he likes suffering.

But where do those come from? How can this evil god have duties to perform which he is violating? Who forbids him to do the wrong things that he does?

This just assumes Craig has good moral argument for God. But we are still waiting to see what it is.

Immediately, we see that such an evil being cannot be supreme: there must be a being who is even higher than this evil god and is the source of the moral obligations which he chooses to flout, a being which is absolute goodness Himself. In other words, if Law’s evil god exists, then God exists.

Entirely question begging – as this assumes Craig has a good moral argument.

Overall assessment: Craig has no decent response to the evil God challenge. He tried (i) playing the skeptical card, insisting that empirical observation can give us no grounds for supposing there’s no good or evil god. This is (a) implausible, and (b) received no decent supporting argument. In addition, (c) even if Craig could establish that kind of skepticism, the onus would STILL be on him to show why belief in Craig’s good God is significantly more reasonable than (the absurd) belief in an evil God. And what was his argument…

It was a moral argument that: (a) is widely rejected, even by some leading Christian philosophers, (b) has dodgy first premise for which Craig has here failed to provide any supporting argument, and (c) even if the first premise could be established, fails to produce an argument that constitutes much of a riposte to the evidential problem of evil. When combined with the evidential problem of evil, the first premise merely delivers the conclusion that there are no objective moral values. Which is counter-intuitive. But hey, that’s doesn’t mean it’s not true. Sometimes reason leads us to abandon beliefs that really seemed to be true (e.g. the earth is stationary).

On the basis of the arguments presented here, it’s almost impossible to avoid the conclusion that Craig’s god belief has, indeed, been straightforwardly empirically refuted. He’s failed to deal with the argument against (he’s just played a counter-intuitive and unjustified skeptical card) and his argument for why belief in a good god is more reasonable than the absurd belief in an evil god was his moral argument – which has a dodgy and unargued-for first premise and which, even if the first premise could be shown to be true, still spectacularly fails to deal with the evidential problem of evil



William Lane Craig is a talented and highly skilled debater who travels the world doing his best to shore up the faith of Christians and provide them with ammunition against atheists and skeptics (such as “evil proves god” - a move that Craig himself conceded in the debate fails to deal with the problem of evil, but which I guarantee we’ll see trotted out again in future debates, because it’s good rhetoric).

Craig's an OK philosopher, though he likes to stick to his scripted answers rather than think on his feet, when he can get out of his depth if someone takes a line for which Craig has no script (which is why he is always weaker in QandA sessions - see e.g. the Shelley Kagan debate). Debating Craig is a little like talking to someone who is trying to sell you double-glazing down the phone. Almost any comeback from you is already anticipated, with a scripted response, and a response to your likely response. So he sounds very, very confident and polished. Spend 20 mins on the phone with the double glazing guy, and you'll find his script allows no other ultimate response than the one he wants - "Why yes, I'd like to buy double glazing".

It's a similar experience debating Craig. I spent a lot of time mapping his responses in advance, and little he said on the night was new. The thing about the evil god challenge is, it did pull him off his usual script a little bit - or at least made it look rather threadbare. Especially in the QandA. That Craig's got remarkably little in the way of response to the evil god challenge is apparent in the text above. There's very little argument - just assertion. As to who won - make up your own minds...

BTW I also think Craig’s a genuine guy, though some of his views (on atheists, the Canaanites, and hell) are not just nutty but really odious.

Still, while he may be a philosopher, the above is a remarkably weak response to the evil god challenge.

117 comments:

Paul Wright said...

“no traditional theists we know of have ever argued for God’s perfect goodness . . . by simply inferring it from the existence of some good in the world.”

I'm not sure about the "existence of some good in the world" part, but traditional theists have certainly claimed that you can infer things about God's character from the world. Here's St Paul, who I assume counts as a traditional theist: The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

(In the context, people are without excuse for their idolatry, but Paul does seem to think that God's moral character should be obvious when he writes that these people "know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death")

Is there a well motivated distinction between what can be known about God from the world and what cannot? Both St Paul's argument and Craig's resurrection argument suppose that it's OK to draw some conclusions about God's moral character from historical events.

Thomas said...

"Like Professor Richard Swinburne (a far more widely and highly rated and pre-eminent philosopher than Craig) and several other Christian philosophers, I find Craig's moral argument, and indeed all moral arguments for the existence of God, utterly unconvincing. Hence I don't bother with them much."

If something "a remerkably weak response", then this is it! In any case, what about Robert M. Adams? He defends the moral argument, and he is very highly respected. And even Swinburne defends a version of the moral argument - an argument from moral awareness - which he added in the 2nd edition of his The Existence of God. So citing Swinburne in support of your un-argued claim that all moral arguments are useless, isn´t going to work!

Your quips about the moral argument sound to me that you aren´t very aware of the relavant literature. There´s a book coming from two Christian philosophers who specialize in this subject, maybe you can check it out: Linville and Copan: The Moral Argument (Continuum, 2012).


"This is pure rhetoric from Craig."

Craig´s point was, if I understood him right, that your reasons for holding that the goodness in the world make anti-god very improbable, beg the question, since the only reason you find it so obvious that anti-god is absurd given the good, is that you think that God is absurd given the evil. But if the existence of God is not very improbable given evil (as theists think), then the existence of anti-god isn´t so improbable given good. To me it is you that haven´t argued for the claim the good makes anti-god very improbable. Your reasons for this are pure rhetoric, appeals to emotions, and question-begging.


"Craig's an OK philosopher . . . Still, while he may be a philosopher . . . "

Have you read Craig´s academic work about philosophy of time, for example? Because this sounds like you are familiar with man only via watching some youtube debates.

Stephen Law said...

"Like Professor Richard Swinburne (a far more widely and highly rated and pre-eminent philosopher than Craig) and several other Christian philosophers, I find Craig's moral argument, and indeed all moral arguments for the existence of God, utterly unconvincing. Hence I don't bother with them much."

If something "a remarkably weak response", then this is it!

Yes I agree. It's not actually my case. It's just a bit of giving Craig a taste of his own medicine. He uses such appeals to authority endlessly, as rhetorical devices. So if he can dish he, he should take it.

Also your response to my weak response is, ironically, an appeal to authority. Ironic.

Stephen Law said...

I have read tons of Craig's work, actually. It's OK. But he's no Plantinga or Swinburne. I don't think that assessment is particularly out of line with that of others in the field. But of course you don't have to agree...

Stephen Law said...

"Craig´s point was, if I understood him right, that your reasons for holding that the goodness in the world make anti-god very improbable, beg the question, since the only reason you find it so obvious that anti-god is absurd given the good, is that you think that God is absurd given the evil. But if the existence of God is not very improbable given evil (as theists think), then the existence of anti-god isn´t so improbable given good. To me it is you that haven´t argued for the claim the good makes anti-god very improbable. Your reasons for this are pure rhetoric, appeals to emotions, and question-begging."

Well, if that was Craig's point it was very weak as it's clear that the intuition that the good we observe constitutes powerful prima facie empirical evidence against an evil God is widespread.

In fact, I find even many theists have that intuition.

In fact quite a few theists have the similar intuition that the amount of suffering we see constitutes pretty good evidence against a good god, on the face if it. Which is why they consider the evidential problem of evil a problem.

Saying, "Oh, no! There's no evidence here AT ALL that there's no good/evil god!" said with respect to, e.g. hundreds of millions of years of agony, of animals forced to tear each other limb from limb to survive, of hundreds of thousands of years of 1/3 to a half of each generation of children killed slowly and painfully in their parents arms before they reached the age of five (long before the idea of your God even occurred to anyone), one of the most loopy defences of theism I've ever encountered. It kind of brings out the extraordinarily self-deluding nature of some forms of theism.

Yes, it's all for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds....

The Atheist Missionary said...

Super riposte - thanks.

I think your section near the end beginning with "Entirely question begging – as this assumes Craig has a good moral argument." should be in bold and not italics.

I think you have done Craig a great service. He can now succinctly answer the evil-god challenge as follows:

1. [He simply asserts that] Objective moral values cannot exist without the existence of the Judeo-Christian God.

2. The Judeo-Christian God is defined as good so he can't be evil (i.e. apply the law of noncontradiction and hope nobody notices the fallacy of the excluded middle)

3. [He simply asserts that] Objective moral values exist.

4. Therefore, the Judeo-Christian God exists and he must be good!

ciphergoth said...

Why can't a perfectly evil god serve as the basis for morality just as well as a perfectly good one? Surely if you define the opposite of good, you define good?

Thomas said...

So your argument for the claim that "the good we observe constitutes powerful prima facie empirical evidence against an evil God" is that it is a widespred intuition, and even many theists have it.

Well, many theists also doubt that, like Craig, Wykstra, Bergmann, and the like. The world we see around us is full of good - and it´s full of evil. So based only on the good and evil in the world, I think that one cannot rule out an evil nor a good God. I have this intuition, and many others have it too (this as strong an argument as yours).

So the theist needs some argument (maybe a moral argument) to show that the existence of a good God is probable. (Another alternative is of course Reformed Epistemology, but I´m ready to go with the evidentialist requirements.)


"In fact quite a few theists have the similar intuition that the amount of suffering we see constitutes pretty good evidence against a good god, on the face if it. Which is why they consider the evidential problem of evil a problem."

Yes, and I agree with that! I agree with Swinburne in that the evidential argument from evil is a pretty good C-inductive argument against the existence of (a good) God, but on a total evidence, God´s existence is still more probable than not.

Where I disagree with you, and where Craig disagrees with you, is that the evil god challenge constitutes a good arguement against theism.


"Saying, "Oh, no! There's no evidence here AT ALL that there's no good/evil god!" . . . It kind of brings out the extraordinarily self-deluding nature of some forms of theism."

Who has said anything like this? There is very much evil and suffering in the world, and also much good. This is why the problem of evil has baffled theists at least since the Old Testament times. Craig´s point just is that your evil god challenge isn´t successful. That´s all.


"Yes, it's all for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds...."

Few theists claim that this is the best of all possible worlds (Leibniz did of course, but he is an exception). God doesn´t have to create the best world - it may even be impossible. But this is another topic.


"I have read tons of Craig's work, actually. It's OK. But he's no Plantinga or Swinburne."

Ok, just checking. I actually agree with that. Although I think that Craig´s expertise in philosophy of time and in philosophical theology is top, top class.


Finally, just out of curiosity, were you aware that Swinburne defends a version of the moral argument?

Mike Gage said...

Stephen,

Could you elaborate why you don't think the Euthyphro dilemma is appropriate here? As I understand it, Divine Command Theory is precisely the sort of target that is hit by the dilemma.

I imagine Craig backs up one step to say that the commands are grounded in God's essential nature, thus, they cannot be arbitrary. This doesn't seem right to me, though. Why not just take the dilemma back one step further too? You could ask what makes God's essential nature good?

Isn't this a problem with any foundationalist attempt at morality? You'll eventually get to your foundation and you just have to be satisfied with calling that thing 'good'. But, of course, you can do this with a natural foundation too.

Adzcliff said...

Hi Stephen.

Interesting and very generous that you think of Craig as a genuine guy. From what I've seen, I can only conclude he's knowingly engaged in some sort of honourable deception. Whilst I don't doubt he's sincere in his religious instincts, that shouldn't excuse a man of his intellect and training resorting to blatant tactics and trickery to 'win' debates on the nature of reality - even if it does do someway to explaining it.

Well that's what I reckon...

Stephen Law said...

"The world we see around us is full of good - and it´s full of evil. So based only on the good and evil in the world, I think that one cannot rule out an evil nor a good God."

I fail to see why the "so" is warranted here. If Fred tortures small animals but gives to charity and loves his mother, surely I am justified in supposing he's neither all good, nor all-evil. The mere fact he exhibits both a great deal of good and evil behaviour does not mean we can't reasonably rule out both hypotheses: that he's all good and that he's all evil.

There can be more than enough of each to rule out both.

Ben Wallis said...

Prof. Law,

First of all, thanks very much for extending your debate into the blogosphere. I much prefer *written* disputes to oral. They are more thoughtful and reflective, and it's harder to hide behind rhetoric, which, as you note, is one of WLC's favorite (and in my opinion most successful) tactics.

Anyway, I'm very surprised by WLC's poor performance here. It's as if he does not *understand* the "level-pegging" nature of your objection. According to him, your argument relies on posing the problem of good for an evil god, when quite clearly this is not the case. In fact, it makes me wonder if perhaps I'm the one not understanding it. To borrow WLC's preference for syllogisms, as I understand your argument, it runs as follows:

(1) The existence of an evil God is quite absurd.
(2) The existence of a good God is no less absurd than the existence of an evil God.
(3) Therefore, the existence of a good God (or an evil God) is quite absurd.

Have I misunderstood something, or is this basically what you argue? If so, then since WLC presumably agrees with (1), then he must deny (2). But (2) is very easy for you to defend---all you need to do is point out that we have no reason to prefer the existence of a good God to an evil god, and then to resist (2) the apologist will have to find and produce such a reason. This of course is unlikely.

Recall WLC's "response" to this argument. He writes: "we’re just not in a position to make these kinds of probability judgements with any sort of confidence." Then he accuses you of being "flat-footed" in the face of this response.

Now, please correct me if I'm wrong, but this doesn't make a bit of sense as a response to the argument, unless by it he means to deny (1). But this would be disingenuous, since clearly he does not *really* deny (1). He could only ever deny it for the sake of argument. But all he gains by a for-the-sake-of-argument denial is a demonstration that your argument depends on (1). Fair enough. But since theists (including WLC) tend to accept (1), then your argument will apply. So WLC's strange "response" doesn't accomplish anything that I can see.

However, I do have a couple of brief criticisms for you, if you don't mind: I actually side with WLC that the problem of good is not a reason to suppose that the existence of an evil God is an absurdity. For instance, I don't know how eternal torture would work, but it might well be the sort of thing which requires some past experience of good. In fact it might even require continual periodic experience of good. I just have no way of deciding something like that, since it lies so far removed from what I know about the workings of the world.

Somewhat more seriously, though, even though theists tend to wed themselves to notions of maximality and perfection, I don't see why we couldn't posit a "mostly" good God, or alternatively a mostly evil God. So it's not like the only thing left to do after disproving maximally/perfectly good/evil gods is to disprove the deist God, as you suggested.

But WLC didn't raise any of these issues, and so you were under no obligation to respond to any of them. If you get some time, though, maybe you could do so now. If not, I totally understand... I know you're being hit from all sides by various comments and criticisms. You don't need mine on top of the already-high pile.

Anyway, thanks again for the entertaining blogging!

--Ben

Tim said...

Surely the fact that WLC essentially uses Euthyphro in his conclusion in order to dismiss the moral failings of evil-god, but doesn't think Euthyphro touches the moral obligations on his good-god, demonstrates that he actually doesn't see symmetry between the two hypothetical deities. Earlier he claims he accepts the symmetry, but then that conclusion proves he doesn't. His Freudian slip is showing from under his skirt.

Czar said...

Dr Law,

With respect, I think you're not dealing with his argument well. Correct me if I am wrong, but in your evil God challenge you attempt to show that everything the theist does to show that evil doesn't disprove good god can be adapted to support the evil god. Flip theodicies, if you will. But if the claim of the theist is that the evil in the world does not disprove good god for x y and z, and x' y' and z' show that bad god is not disproved *on the basis of the good in the world* does the debate not fall on x y and z again? I think its quite clear that the good in the world does not, in itself, disprove bad god. But what does, I suppose, is a moral argument or an ontological argument (where the privation view of evil would work).

I would also like to note that you can't just say "he is biting the bullet and it seems implausible." If this were true, Peter Singer's career would be in shambles.

Best,

Czar

Stephen Law said...

Dear Ben

Thanks v much for the feedback. I like your syllogism though I don;t say the two god hypotheses are *exactly* equally reasonable/unreasonable. So it might need finessing slightly. And yes actually I forgot the level pegging argument. It came under the "second" thing Craig had to do on the skeptical theism front, which I then forgot to include. I'll include it now...

Thomas said...

"I fail to see why the "so" is warranted here. If Fred tortures small animals but gives to charity and loves his mother, surely I am justified in supposing he's neither all good, nor all-evil. The mere fact he exhibits both a great deal of good and evil behaviour does not mean we can't reasonably rule out both hypotheses: that he's all good and that he's all evil."

But what if Fred doesn´t torture these animals himself, but allows his little brother to torture them. Then we could say that Fred is a very good guy, who just wants to teach something to his little brother by allowing him to use his freedom.

The point is that this is where the theodicies and defenses come in to play. I think that theistic theodicies and defenses actually work. They show that all the great evils in the world don´t make the existence of God very improbable. But if this is the case, then - as you have argued - the goods in the world don´t make the existence of anti-god very improbable, either. So, like Craig said, the two cases actually are symmetrical. The "Wykstra-Craigian" move to this evil god challenge, as I understand it, is to concede this and move on.

So an omnipotent and all-good being can allow a great deal of suffering (given that the theistic theodicies/defenses work); so too an omnipotent and evil being can allow a great deal of happiness. These cases are symmetrical.

Fergus Gallagher said...

"the "privation" view of evil, which I don't think Craig subscribes to "

In the debate with Millican, he suggested that he doesn't think zero exists ("zero cows"), so it would seem to be inconsistent to use the privation view of evil (evil = zero good) and then also claim that evil exists.

Edward Ockham said...

>> Debating Craig is a little like talking to someone who is trying to sell you double-glazing down the phone.

Or real estate, as I already pointed out here.

Monte said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Monte said...

As a theist, it does seem to me on first reflection that there is too much good in the world for anti-god to exist. BUT, after reading the literature on skeptical theism, this intuition of mine is severely undermined. That's not to say that I now take the existence of good to be of no evidence whatsoever for the non existence of anti-god; rather it means that it's far less powerful evidence than I first thought. Consequently, the evidential argument from evil is far less powerful evidence against God than Dr Law takes it to be. Furthermore, if we're relying on intuitions here, then I also have the the intuition that if God exists, then He is Good. Dr Law may not share this intuition, but so what?

ChristianJR4 said...

Stephen Law said:

"He uses such appeals to authority endlessly, as rhetorical devices. So if he can dish he, he should take it."

I'm sorry, but there's a massive difference between what Craig does in his debates and what you did in your debate with him with respect to authority. In Craig's case he gives his arguments and sub arguments and then uses authority to bolster some of the premises in his argument. In your debate with Craig, however, all you did was just use authority by itself to respond to the moral argument at one point. That's remarkably weak from a debating standpoint. That would be like Craig coming up to give his opening speech and saying "You should believe in the origin of the universe, the fine tuning etc because X, Y and Z said so" and then sitting down. No one would be impressed with that, and yet that's precisely what you did. All you said was "Swinburne and others disagree" and then moved on. Naturally Craig didn't think you offered much there.

And just to be clear, there's absolutely nothing wrong with using authority, but it needs to be supplemented with arguments or counter arguments in order for it to be useful.

Stephen Law said:

"Craig's an OK philosopher"

So are we downgrading now?

Recall you said this on April 28, 2010:

"Craig is certainly an exceptionally good debater, and also a fairly good philosopher"

I guess we'll see if Craig evolves into a bad philosopher by the time this whole "evil God vs good God" drama plays out.

Stephen Law said:

"I have read tons of Craig's work, actually. It's OK. But he's no Plantinga or Swinburne."

What exactly are you attempting to show by these statements? Craig's lack of credibility? You seem noticeably agitated by Craig's response to your evil God challenge, as if offended by it. In any case, insofar as Craig is a philosopher of Religion he is definitely up there. His Kalam Cosmological Argument still remains one of the most widely discussed contemporary arguments for theism in all of philosophy (and if you take Quentin Smith's survey at face value, then it would seem Craig's work on the KCA has attracted even more attention than anything put out from Plantinga or Swinburne). So, I would say Craig is a bit better than "Ok".

Mike said...

Dr. Law,
You seem to be a good judge of whose better than whom in philosophy. It seems obvious from your note that you don't think Craig is as good a philosopher than Plantinga or Swinburne. Where do you place yourself on this scale? Are you a better philospher than Craig? How about Plantinga or Swinburne? Or was this response just an ad hominem attack meant to sway your readers to your camp regarding this issue? Just curious.

Anonymous said...

Hello Dr. Law, I just want to clear up a perceived contradiction. In your previous blog post, you have mentioned that:
"I don't claim, or assume, that Christians base their judgement of what God is like on observation of the world."
And this sentiment is echoed at the beginning of your current blog post.

However, later on in your post you state:
"Well, I’ve run the evil god challenge many times in front of audiences, and I have often started by asking why an evil god is absurd, and I have on almost every occasion got a mass of nodding heads when I have suggested we can rule this god out on the basis of what we observe around us. Even when the audience is almost entirely Christian."

so it appears that you contradict yourself by both denying and then affirming that Christians base their judgement of what God is like on what (i.e. the good and evil) they observe around the world.

thanks

drdave said...

For those arguing the evil god is something new to the debate, Marcion was excommunicated around 144 CE for arguing the Hebrew god was an evil demiurge who created a failed world.

ogunitracy said...

Anonymous said,

so it appears that you contradict yourself by both denying and then affirming that Christians base their judgement of what God is like on what (i.e. the good and evil) they observe around the world.


Thank you. I think that's one of the points Law keeps missing. He says a and then not-a, contradicting himself and then when Feser or Craig suggests that he said a, he denies it.

Law, your argument does claim that theists arrive at the conclusion that God is good by surveying the world around them.


It’s a reasonable conclusion based on a mountain of evidence. Most of us know it’s not “pure speculation” to suppose the vast quantities of good we see around us constitute very good evidence there’s no evil god. We can see there’s way too much good for this world plausibly to be considered the creation of such an evil being. So why is it suddenly “pure speculation” to suppose that hundreds of millions of years of appalling suffering is good evidence there’s no god god? After all, as I pointed out in the debate and the paper, an evil god may have his cosmic reasons for allowing good now so that greater evils can be achieved (perhaps even in an afterlife), or whatever! Yet it’s pretty clear that just won’t wash, isn’t it?

That's you saying it right there. Please, read your own argument.

Also,

Even if correct, this is as much evidence for an evil god as for a good god. So why think belief in a good god is more reasonable than belief in an evil god? That’s the evil god challenge.

That's not an argument, that's a question and even if Craig can't answer it,that does not mean that the creator of the universe is not good and therefore not God. As Craig noted, you are simply noting that his argument is incomplete. In order to show that Craig's God does not exist, you have to provide some reason to think that the creator is not good, which you have not done. If Craig cannot provide evidence that He is good, that does not mean that He is not good or that He does not exist. You are simply saying that we do not know whether He is good or not.

Rufus said...

Dear Dr. Law,

I really enjoyed this debate. However, I have a question. You write here:

"Craig has spotted just how much trouble he is in with the evil god challenge, and has decided to play a skeptical card. He insists we just can’t know, on the basis of what we see around us, that there’s no evil god. This could quite easily turn out to be the creation of an all-powerful, all-evil deity, given what we see around us."

Craig typically responds to the logical and evidential problems of evil by "playing a skeptical card". It seems to me that he is merely being consistent in his skepticism. If we cannot know whether evil counts against the existence of a good God, then we cannot know whether goodness counts against the existence of an evil god. Your objection seems to be that Craig did not respond in the same way most Christians do when presented with your argument and so he was being somehow ad hoc in his skeptical claims. But, he did provide reasons for his skepticism and it is consistent with what he has written and said elsewhere. You also suggest that the onus is on the skeptic for giving reasons for his or her skepticism. This seems like an unreasonable shifting of the burden, at least to me. For instance, in the answer period, you said you did not know where the universe came from, so would not engage in any such speculations. Do you have an onus to justify your skepticism of big bang cosmology? I would say no. Rather, I would think it is Craig's job to convince you why the Big Bang cosmology is reliable. Nonetheless, he gave reasons for his skepticism, so I think he met this charge head on. This is why I thought Craig made a major point when he suggested that your "epistemic humility" towards the question of cosmic origins was inconsistent with your criticism of his skepticism towards the evil-god hypothesis. So as I understand it, you are putting forward a dilemma, either God and evil-God are both ruled out by the data, or neither are ruled out by the data. Craig's skepticism is to embrace one of the horns and say that neither is ruled out by the data. He then argues that there are other reasons to think God is good. That places a great deal of the debate on the moral argument, but don't think it is fair to say that Craig's skepticism was an illegitimate move.

Anonymous said...

I notice the in his argument Craig says that his moral argument gives the basis for concluding God is good.
His argument is:
If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
Objective moral values do exist.
Therefore, God exists.

How does one glean god is good from this I thought this was an argument for gods existence and struggle to see were the goodness of god pops out of this argument.

Please help me find gods goodness in this argument.

Stephen Law said...

Hi

Just to clear up the confusion. Christians obviously don't (usually) arrive at conclusions about what god is like on basis of observation. They don;t claim God is good on the basis of observation.

However, most will rule out certain God hypothesis on the basis of observation. For example, they will rule out an evil god on the basis of observation. That's my point.

Can't see any contradiction there!

Stephen Law said...

"And just to be clear, there's absolutely nothing wrong with using authority, but it needs to be supplemented with arguments or counter arguments in order for it to be useful."

I supplemented by point that Swinburne rejects the moral argument with two criticisms of it.

Craig supports the moral argument by quoting TRuse etc. And then giving one argument for it.

What's the difference?

"OK" and "fairly good" are interchangeable, I'd say."

As to why I am saying he is fairly good - it's because the Craig machine trades on misperception. That Craig is some sort of highly rated admired philosopher and also correct - and that's why he wins. That's not why he wins. I have debated Swinburne, a much better philosopher than Craig, and Swinburne was much easier to debate. I probably won that won debate easily. Despite Swinburne being a much more eminent philosopher than me.

Also, there's a widespread misperception that philosophers are pretty evenly divided on theism. They're not. Only 15% are even theists of some sort. Almost all think Craig's arguments are shot full of holes. Craig likes to appeal to authority, and quote big names, thereby creating the impression that the consensus is with him or at least evenly divided (See, even leading atheists endorse my moral argument!). I'm afraid that's all bullshit. But it reassures the punters that what he's saying has real credibility. Which is the real point of these tours.

Notice that when pressed by Brierley, Craig actually admitted at the end of the debate in the QandA that his repeated insistence during the debate that I had conceded there was a God by not going after the cosmological argument was just "debate tactics". He didn't actually believe it.

I would never give an argument I believed not to be good just to win a debate. Craig and I go into these debates with very different attitudes. I am interested in truth. He's interested in making believers of you, by any means necessary.

Stephen Law said...

Hi Monte you say:

"As a theist, it does seem to me on first reflection that there is too much good in the world for anti-god to exist. BUT, after reading the literature on skeptical theism, this intuition of mine is severely undermined. That's not to say that I now take the existence of good to be of no evidence whatsoever for the non existence of anti-god; rather it means that it's far less powerful evidence than I first thought. Consequently, the evidential argument from evil is far less powerful evidence against God than Dr Law takes it to be. Furthermore, if we're relying on intuitions here, then I also have the the intuition that if God exists, then He is Good. Dr Law may not share this intuition, but so what? "

Yes of course you can say that. But notice this will put you on par, rationally speaking, with someone who has a powerful intuition that the universe is the creation of an evil God (who, if they express this view fervently, is likely to be put on medication).

If that's your view, well then were in complete agreement.

Stephen Law said...

It's interesting that my suggesting Craig is just an OK philosopher has really upset quite a few Christians. It kind of confirms my suspicion that they place great weight on the thought that Craig is a major heavyweight whose arguments command enormous respect across the philosophical community. What I believe can't be silly, because look - these really heavyweight intellectual dudes believe it.

Well, quite a few intellectuals believe the universe is just 6k years old. This is just testament to the fact that religion has an extraordinary ability to get smart people to believe stupid things. While convincing themselves that they're the rational ones and everyone else is deluded.

It would be a big mistake to reassure yourself that your religious beliefs can't be silly because some intellectuals also hold them. It would be a bigger mistake if, in this case, you thought that Craig represented a very significant chunk of philosophical opinion.

Paul said...

<>

Dr Law,

So, just to clear up the confusion (to use your phrase), your challenge is a challenge to the assumption that things about God's nature (Good/Evil) can be concluded/ruled out with certainty from observation - is that right? Please tell me I've understood, as the conversation so far has ranged far and wide!

Stephen Law said...

Hi Paul

My claim is that, while Christians usually do not make claims about God's nature based on what they observe (for obvious reasons) [WHICH IS WHAT CRAIG ACCUSED ME OF SUPPOSING, WRONGLY], we can find grounds for ruling out certain God hypotheses beyond reasonable doubt on the basis of what we observe.

Surely this is pretty clear?

So, for example, we can reasonably rule out the hypothesis that there is a god who created the world just 6k years ago. We can reasonably rule out the hypothesis that the creator of the universe considers mice to be the most important creatures in the universe (it's clearly not a sufficiently mice-friendly and mice-centered enough universe for that to be remotely plausible). We can reasonably rule out the hypothesis that the world was created by an all-powerful, all-evil being.

However, even if, in order to salvage your particular theistic belief from empirical refutation, you reject this pretty unremarkable suggestion, you still have to explain why belief in a good god is so very much more reasonable than the absurd belief in an evil god.

PS I don't mention "certainty" That's another weasel word.

Stephen Law said...

In fact I have a further thought about the fact that some Christians will say "But my intuition is that we can't reasonably rule out an evil god on the basis of empirical evidence. Obviously not."

I was earlier accused of concluding we can rule out an evil god on the basis of good because I have already made up my mind we can rule out a good god on the basis of evil.

Well, that's not true. And in fact, the evidence suggests the *reverse* is true. Actually, most of us do initially recognise we can reasonably rule out the evil god on the basis of empirical evidence.

It's only when the problem this raises for Christan belief do the intuitions of some Christians about the evil god being empirically ruled out suddenly change.

This suggests that it's actually these Christians who are adjusting their intuitions re the evil god hypothesis to fit what they've already committed themselves to.

Their intuitions switch once it becomes clear to them how damaging to their theism their initial intuition is.

Thomas said...

Hello again, Dr Law.

"However, most will rule out certain God hypothesis on the basis of observation. For example, they will rule out an evil god on the basis of observation. That's my point."

And again, if Craig, Wykstra, Morriston and others are right, this is where this Challenge goes wrong. It is not legitimate to "rule out" an anti-god on the basis of observation. I still think that the only reason it seems to you so obvious that we should rule out an anti-god, is because you want your Challenge to work.

"Only 15% are even theists of some sort."

That´s not "only" since at the hayday of positivism there were hardly any. In any case, as Quentin Smith has pointed out, almost 90% of naturalists in philosophy have "an unjustified belief that naturalism is true and and an unjustified belief that theism (supernaturalism) is false". So most philosophers who are atheists are completely ignorant about philosophy of religion. Interestingly, among those who actually do specialise in philosophy of religion, about 70% are theists.

"Craig likes to appeal to authority, and quote big names, thereby creating the impression that the consensus is with him or at least evenly divided (See, even leading atheists endorse my moral argument!). I'm afraid that's all bullshit."

He quotes names to support a premiss in his argument. He has never said that "even leading atheists endorse my moral argument!". He points out that many atheists agree with his premiss 1 and many others with premiss 2. That´s completely legitimate. (While I´m at it, I should mention that I agree with you in that Craig´s version of the moral argument isn´t the best. A better way would be to formulate it as an inference to the best explanation, and argue that theism provides the best explanation as an ontological foundation for objective moral values/obligations.)

Thomas said...

"Notice that when pressed by Brierley, Craig actually admitted at the end of the debate in the QandA that his repeated insistence during the debate that I had conceded there was a God by not going after the cosmological argument was just "debate tactics". He didn't actually believe it."

Oh come on! Of course he insisted that since you really said nothing about the kalam - Craig´s main arguement - in the whole debate! And if you say nothing about an argument in a debate-context, you are granting it to the opposition. You even said in the Q&A that kalam is a "very weak" argument, you just didn´t bother to tell us why! Maybe Craig should have done the same: "Oh, this evil god thing is a very bad argument, I change my mind about where it goes wrong all the time, but it´s weak. I´m not going to tell you why it´s weak, though."

"It's interesting that my suggesting Craig is just an OK philosopher has really upset quite a few Christians. It kind of confirms my suspicion that they place great weight on the thought that Craig is a major heavyweight whose arguments command enormous respect across the philosophical community."

Among Christians who are in philosophy, everybody knows that arguments from natural theology do not get "enormous respect across the philosophical community". I think that this is because "across the philosophical community" most people are so ignorant of the relevant literature. Take the cosmological arguement. Most atheists outside phil.of religion think that this "everything has a cause" argument is awful. But atheists who do specialise in phil. of religion, take the arguement very seriously. Just look at William Rowe and Quentin Smith.

Stephen Law said...

"Oh come on!"

Come on yourself. Given I was arguing against Craig's god, all I had to do was show there's no good god. And in the context of the evil god challenge which was my argument on the night, the cosmological argument is irrelevant. so of course `I could ignore. wheres Craig could not ignore the evil god challenge.

These are just silly objections...

Stephen Law said...

"He quotes names to support a premiss in his argument. He has never said that "even leading atheists endorse my moral argument!". He points out that many atheists agree with his premiss 1 and many others with premiss 2."

He says Ruse and Russell etc are atheists who accept the conclusion of the moral argument - indeed, find the argument compelling.

I just did the same in reverse. Whilst also showing the moral argument is rubbish.

You've lost this one, I'm afraid.

Ben Wallis said...

Prof. Law,

But to be fair, their intuitions change not necessarily because they need to cling to theism, but rather in response to the issues raised as a result of discussing difficulties with theism. In fact, those intuitions also change for those on the other side of the fence such as myself. To put it in a different perspective, a god-believer might accuse atheists of being stubborn in their atheism by holding to an intuitive view which doesn't stand up to criticism.

The fact that it is intuitive doesn't, IMO, bode remotely for it being true, unless we have reason to trust our intuition in this regard. But I can't find any such reason. As I mentioned previously, it seems like the motivations and behaviors of an omnipotent, omniscient deity which must take into account the big picture (and I do mean BIG) are too far removed from our experience for us to judge them with any sort of confidence.

So I don't think you gain anything by saying that your view is initially intuitive, when that intuition disappears under scrutiny. Fortunately, I don't think you NEED to appeal to intuition. Your level-pegging argument only requires the modest claim that we don't have any reason to prefer a good God to an evil god, coupled with the typical theist belief that the existence of an evil god is absurd. (Of course, this is still not an argument against theism or in favor of atheism, but it can potentially work to shake theists from their complacency.)

--Ben

Stephen Law said...

PS when I said "accept the conclusion of the moral argument - indeed, find the argument compelling." that was muddled - I meant - find the backwards, reductio version of the argument compelling (to the conclusion that there are no moral facts).

The point is, Craig will happily quote authorities, preferably atheists, to support his claims and arguments, so he cannot complain if I do the same. You seem to be looking for some sort of loophole to excuse ("oh, but Craig quoted authorities on a premise, not an argument - that makes ALL the difference!"). Well, Swinburne rejects Craig's moral argument, and so obviously rejects the first premise, and I argued that Craig has indeed not given us any good reason to accept the first premise. So I both quoted and authority and supplied an argument.

Stephen Law said...

Hi Ben

I agree I don't NED the intuition to run the challenge. However you say: "The fact that it is intuitive doesn't, IMO, bode remotely for it being true, unless we have reason to trust our intuition in this regard. But I can't find any such reason."

Well, calling it an intuition is kind of to undervalue it, I think. (Is it merely an "intuition" that the evidence thus far strongly supports the conclusion that sun will rise tomorrow?)

But, in any case, Craig goes with intuition all the time, to support his premises (e.g. objective moral values exist) and thinks it fine to do so until someone can show the intuition is mistaken. Well, he failed to show the intuition re there being overwhelming evidence agsinst an evil god is mistaken. Hence he can't dismiss the intuition out of hand.

anonymous707 said...

Professor Law,
Do you think that the moral argument could also be flipped over? (i.e. shown to work as well for an evil god than for a good god) That might show that it does not give us any good reasons to think God(in Craig's conception) exists.
It seems just as likely (or unlikely) that evil has an objective basis in a transcendent being as that good does, and so this could just as well be an argument for evil god and doesn't show that God exists.
Some theists do say that evil doesn't really exist but is just the absence of good, but Craig(and many others) don't believe that, so it could work.
What do you think?

Thomas said...

"Given I was arguing against Craig's god, all I had to do was show there's no good god."

The topic of the debate was "Does God Exist?" Do you really think that whether an uncaused, immaterial, personal First Cause of the universe exists, is irrelevant to the question?

"Whilst also showing the moral argument is rubbish . . . and I argued that Craig has indeed not given us any good reason to accept the first premise."

Theists such as Robert Adams, C. Stephen Evans and Nicholas Wolterstorff have argued against many (not just one!) non-theistic attempts to ground morality or human rights. Maybe you should read them before calling an argument "rubbish".

PS. I´m sorry if my comments have been a bit heated. I have lots of respect for you; just disagree with some of your arguments!

The Atheist Missionary said...

Thomas asked: The topic of the debate was "Does God Exist?" Do you really think that whether an uncaused, immaterial, personal First Cause of the universe exists, is irrelevant to the question?

Yes, it's irrelevant unless and until Dr. Craig can show why it is more probable than not to believe that his supposed First Cause is omnibenevolent (i.e. an essential attribute of the Judeo-Christian god).

Let's call an ace an ace and a spade a spade. Prof. Law took aim with a single argument that left Dr. Craig flummoxed. This is surprising given that Prof. Law hasn't published that many papers on the philosophy of religion and the evil-god challenge
must be among his best known. Then, after the dust from the debate had settled, Dr. Craig had several weeks to consider his response and this is the best he can do?

[BTW, this is an excellent thread]

Stephen Law said...

"The topic of the debate was "Does God Exist?" Do you really think that whether an uncaused, immaterial, personal First Cause of the universe exists, is irrelevant to the question? "

No it's not. Craig has to show that. And then also show that it's good. As he defines God.

So all I had to do, to show the claim false, as Craig defines God, is to show that even if there is such a First Cause, it ain't God. Job done.

Ben Wallis said...

Prof. Law,

Sure, WLC is going to take intuition seriously, even when it concerns matters outside the domain of our experience---and this is a great mistake IMO. But are you just playing his game, so to speak, and challenging him to be consistent in standing by intuition with the problems of good/evil as he stands by it in his apologetic arguments ? Or do you genuinely agree with WLC (and hence disagree with me) that we should pay heed to intuition even outside the domain of our experience ?

--Ben

Stephen Law said...

"PS. I´m sorry if my comments have been a bit heated."

No worries Thomas. And apologies if I seem a bit curt as want to answer properly but struggling with a million other things simultaneously.

Ben Wallis said...

Prof. Law,

Oh, and also...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you presented:

(1) The problems of good/evil
(2) The evil god challenge

These are only aimed against maximally good and evil gods. They don't deal with "mostly" or "somewhat" good/evil gods. And of course, as you acknowledged, they don't cover deism either.

Now, I don't think that was a mistake on your part, exactly. It's totally fine if you just want to concentrate on WLC's god in the debate. But it WOULD be a mistake to say that (1) and (2) together shoot down everything but deism, which is what you seem to be suggesting.

--Ben

Stephen Law said...

anonymous707, a reverse moral argument is a possibility. but not sure it's going to look v persuasive. But by all means have a go.

One different moral argument (for at least a good and evil god) might be to argue that a true moral yardstick must have two ends. Hence God must embody both good and evil. The "privation" view of evil is one way of trying avoid that conclusion, of course. But I think Craig rejects it.

Brigadier said...

This is an incredibly wordy and nit-picky response.

Let's just cut to the chase: you claim that Craig's claim that the evil-God and the good-God hypothesis are on a par evidentially (symmetry) is false because most of the straw-polls you conducted (and your own intuitions) say that we find the evil-God counter-intuitive given the good we see in the world. So you conclude that a good God should be likewise be unlikely given the evil we see in the world.

But this seems very weak.

1) The Christians (and others) you straw-polled might just find it unintuitive because it is so alien to the way they are accustomed to think about the world.
2) But most importantly, the only reason they think that good is evidence against an evil-God is because they aren't familiar with the arguments Wykstra et al. give! Once you understand those you will realize why skepticism about greater goods/evils is appropriate.
Plenty of views are intuitive to the untrained mind, but revealed to be disastrously mistaken upon serious philosophical reflection.

Also, you seem to think that such skepticism about greater-goods/evils has to be argued for. But it follows simply from the realization of the cognitive distance between man and God.

Thomas said...

Dr. Law,

"So all I had to do, to show the claim false, as Craig defines God, is to show that even if there is such a First Cause, it ain't God. Job done."

So if the conclusion of the debate is that there exists a First Cause, which may or may not be good, then you call this a "job done" for the atheist side? That´s odd.

I get your point - First Cause doesn´t have to be God and this what Craig needs to show - but it still seems kind of disingenous for the atheist side to settle for the existence of a supernatural First Cause.

"No worries Thomas. And apologies if I seem a bit curt as want to answer properly but struggling with a million other things simultaneously."

No worries there, either!


The Atheist Missionary,

"Prof. Law took aim with a single argument that left Dr. Craig flummoxed. This is surprising given that Prof. Law hasn't published that many papers on the philosophy of religion and the evil-god challenge must be among his best known. Then, after the dust from the debate had settled, Dr. Craig had several weeks to consider his response and this is the best he can do?"

This is the response taken by other theists as well, such as Stephen Wykstra and Wes Morriston. And (although Dr. Law seems to think that this a terrible response) I think that it is actually a good response, as I have argued on this thread.

Stephen Law said...

"Let's just cut to the chase: you claim that Craig's claim that the evil-God and the good-God hypothesis are on a par evidentially (symmetry) is false because most of the straw-polls you conducted (and your own intuitions) say that we find the evil-God counter-intuitive given the good we see in the world. So you conclude that a good God should be likewise be unlikely given the evil we see in the world.

But this seems very weak."

Well no, as I am asking, more generally, why is a good god more reasonable than the absurd evil god. Skeptical theism provides no answer to that question, actually, does it? But OK let's focus on skeptical theism. And also on what Craig said, as that's what this post is about.

"1) The Christians (and others) you straw-polled might just find it unintuitive because it is so alien to the way they are accustomed to think about the world."

Maybe, maybe not. The point is it's a powerful intuition they tend to have.

"2) But most importantly, the only reason they think that good is evidence against an evil-God is because they aren't familiar with the arguments Wykstra et al. give!"

Well the Christians immediately realize this gives them a way out, potentially. Though by no means all of them, actually. But yes some then adjust their intuititons. But are they JUSTIFIED in doing so? That's the question. well, no not on the basis of what Craig says above.

"Once you understand those you will realize why skepticism about greater goods/evils is appropriate."

I do understand them. And it's not. Certainly Craig's argument above is not good enough.

"Plenty of views are intuitive to the untrained mind, but revealed to be disastrously mistaken upon serious philosophical reflection."

True, but you can't just drop them without adequate justification.

"Also, you seem to think that such skepticism about greater-goods/evils has to be argued for. But it follows simply from the realization of the cognitive distance between man and God."

No it doesn't follow, This is just a mantra that get's repeated by Christians to the point where it's just unquestioningly accepted. Justify it.

Also notice, by the way, that if it did follow, then the skepticism you're invoking to save your God belief from being empirically falsified would seem to be ridiculously endemic. It spreads to other beliefs. For example, it then follows we can't know God doesn't have good reasons for making it look like the world is older than 6k years even though it's not. So, show a little faith and stick to the scripture!

But in any case, as I say, remember that the evil god challenge is not answered by embracing this counter-intuitive and inadequately justified skepticism.

ogunitracy said...

Law said,

Just to clear up the confusion. Christians obviously don't (usually) arrive at conclusions about what god is like on basis of observation. They don;t claim God is good on the basis of observation.

However, most will rule out certain God hypothesis on the basis of observation. For example, they will rule out an evil god on the basis of observation. That's my point.

Can't see any contradiction there!


Please, do me a favor, go back and read that very carefully.
You say "Christians obviously don't (usually) arrive at conclusions about what god is like on basis of observation."

but

"most will rule out certain God hypothesis on the basis of observation. For example, they will rule out an evil god on the basis of observation."

That's the contradiction. Christians don't (usually) come to conclusions on what God is like by observation but they rule out the idea that he is evil by observation? Deciding that God is not evil by observation is the same as coming to a conclusion about His nature by observation. You are saying that Christians make decisions about God's nature by observation.

So, since you did not provide any reason to think that the first cause is evil (I believe you agreed that it is absurd and assuming Craig cannot show that He is good), we just have to conclude that there is a cause of the universe who may or may not be evil.

You didn't win the debate, Law. You didn't show that the first cause is not good. You merely said that we do not know if He is. That's not an argument.

Stephen Law said...

"You say "Christians obviously don't (usually) arrive at conclusions about what god is like on basis of observation."

but

"most will rule out certain God hypothesis on the basis of observation. For example, they will rule out an evil god on the basis of observation."

That's the contradiction."

Well, you could choose to interpret it in such a way that it creates a contradiction. E.g. Even drawing a conclusion about what god isn't involves drawing a conclusion about what he is. But that's obviously not what I meant. Obviously, especially given I was responding to Craig's claim that my view is Christian's think God is good etc. on the basis of observation. Which is untrue. And the charge I was responding to.

Nor do I think Christians do normally rule out the belief that God is evil on the basis of observation. I never said that either.

So nice try but no cigar. You continue...

"So, since you did not provide any reason to think that the first cause is evil (I believe you agreed that it is absurd and assuming Craig cannot show that He is good), we just have to conclude that there is a cause of the universe who may or may not be evil."

Eh? First you are, I think, just assuming we can't rule out an evil God empirically. Why else would you draw that conclusion? Got an argument for that counter-intuitive claim? Craig didn't. Second, the logic here is weird. I had to show that there IS an evil God? Why?

Paxalot said...

While I'm a rank amateur in these matters it strikes me as odd that intelligent people actually debate using archaic terms such as 'good' and 'evil'. They are entirely subjective terms especially when you consider all the life forms on this planet are all equal in their struggle to thrive and reproduce, almost always (plants excepted) at the expense of other life forms.

It seems a mistake for atheists to acknowledge either objective moral values or the good/evil paradigm. Of course, if I got my way, William Craig would have even fewer debate partners.

Debating Craig is like stepping into a time machine and trying to debate scholars sitting on the steps of the Alexandrian library. You'd have to use 'their' language because they could not conceive of anything else.

If Stephen's objective is to completely derail Craig's arguments by showing them to be absurd I think he has succeeded. Until we show the entire language of Craig's debates (objective good, evil, love or justice etc.) to be equally absurd people like Craig will flourish.

Mike Gage said...

Thomas,

I think we ought to offer some commentary around that 70% you cited. I've seen that number too, but I'm sure you're aware that it's complicated.

Most schools don't really specialize in Philosophy of Religion. Those that do are generally religious institutions, like Notre Dame. You also have a push by universities with a very specific aim to churn out Christian philosophers and apologists - I'm thinking of places like Biola and Liberty University. Finally, you also have a higher likelihood that someone drawn to philosophy of religion as a specialty will probably be a theist. It's a bit like specializing in New Testament Studies, which is dominated by Christians.

So, I have no reason to dispute what you say, but we shouldn't just assume it's simply because of the powerful arguments, and those who really study it are persuaded.

I also find Smith's comment a bit strange. Can you give a resource for some context? I'd like to think I am justified in thinking Hinduism is false based on my limited beliefs about it.

Brigadier said...

"Well no, as I am asking, more generally, why is a good god more reasonable than the absurd evil god."

Ah right, so you claim on the total evidence (not just the amount/nature of good and evil) a good god is more plausible that an evil God. This you justify by bare intuition?

I said: "Plenty of views are intuitive to the untrained mind, but revealed to be disastrously mistaken upon serious philosophical reflection."

You said: "True, but you can't just drop them without adequate justification."

Sure, but the point is that once you realize certain metaphysical/logical distinctions of which you were previously unaware, then you also realize that your intuitions, because insensitive to such distinctions, went astray. Your previous intuitions then cannot be used as justification for your beliefs.

I said:"Also, you seem to think that such skepticism about greater-goods/evils has to be argued for. But it follows simply from the realization of the cognitive distance between man and God."

You said: "It doesn't follow, This is just a mantra that get's repeated by Christians to the point where it's just unquestioningly accepted. Justify it."

God knows a lot more than I do; ergo, God knows a lot more about morality than I do; ergo, there are probably a lot more moral properties than I realize. But if that is true, I can't claim with confidence that none of these properties form the justifying goods for the many evils for which we cannot find apparent justification.

The same argument can be run for an evil-deity too.

"Also notice, by the way, that if it did follow, then the skepticism you're invoking to save your God belief from being empirically falsified would seem to be ridiculously endemic. It spreads to other beliefs. For example, it then follows we can't know God doesn't have good reasons for making it look like the world is older than 6k years even though it's not. So, show a little faith and stick to the scripture!"

I deny this follows because we can see that some things, such as lying, are intrinsically wrong, and will only be justified in very special cases, if at all, and that none of these cases will apply to God. Greater goods are relevant to extrinsic wrongs.

But I don't want to stray. Here is the dialectic as I see it.

You: An evil God is absurd! Why? Because of the good we see in the world. So a good God is also absurd on account of the evil in the world.

Craig: But an evil God isn't absurd on account of the good in the world! Haven't you read Wykstra? Skpetical theism cuts both ways, you know.

You: But me and lots of other people have an intuition that an evil-God is absurd on account of the good in the world. So, intuitively, skeptical theism (for a good or an evil God) is false.

Me: But those intuitions are irrelevant because they are the intuitions of the uninformed. Once you realize the significance of the probability that there are goods/evils beyond your ken, such intuitions will evaporate.

You:?

Thomas said...

Mike Gage,

"So, I have no reason to dispute what you say, but we shouldn't just assume it's simply because of the powerful arguments, and those who really study it are persuaded."

Of course, I totally agree. My main point was that "most philosophers" are not experts when it comes to the existence of God, and so the fact that "most philosophers" are atheists isn´t very impressive.

Quentin Smith -quote comes from his terrific article "The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism" (Philo 2001). http://www.philoonline.org/library/smith_4_2.htm

Mike Gage said...

Terrific. Thanks for the link; I'll definitely read it.

The Atheist Missionary said...

Great point Paxalot. I am also not formally trained in philosophy but find these discussions both fascinating and enlightening.

If evil is defined by an atheist as "unnecessary suffering", a theist will inevitably respond by suggesting that we can't tell whether the suffering has been intended to further a greater good (i.e. "it's all part of god's plan"). So how does a theist define what is objectively good/right and evil/wrong? Does anyone know whether Craig has written anything on this issue?

I would be interested to know whether Craig believes that evil exists in the animal kingdom or only in the form of the deliberate intentions of human actors. Does he consider natural disasters evil? Or only if they kill humans?

We are all dying of aging. Is cancer (or any other disease) evil? Is cancer (or any other disease) any more or less evil if it kills an infant than a centenarian?

Is telling a lie wrong? What if the lie is necessary to avoid hurting someone's feelings ... or to save someone's life?

As atheists, we can all conceive of human actions that we deem right/good (anonymous philanthropy, for example) and wrong/evil (throwing a baby under a bus, for example). In my opinion, we arrive at these determinations by a subjective combination of evolved instincts, learned behaviors and community imposed standards. I don't think that there is an objective right and wrong but I need to study what the experts (i.e. moral philosophers) say on this issue. However, getting back to the initial point of this post, how do theists define right and wrong? It's fine to say you rely on a divine command but that isn't going to be of much help if your deity isn't there to instruct you on a case by case basis in the real world.

Monte said...

Dr Law says: ''Yes of course you can say that. But notice this will put you on par, rationally speaking, with someone who has a powerful intuition that the universe is the creation of an evil God (who, if they express this view fervently, is likely to be put on medication).''

You think these two beliefs are rationally on par only because you don't share the intuition that if God exists, then He is Good. If you did share this intuition then you wouldn't think they were on par. I do have this intuition, so I don't find this objection to have any force.

Monte said...

And I'll add that my intuition is supported my moral arguments, whereas the belief that an all evil God exists isn't. So there is an asymmetry here (even if you think moral arguments are weak; if they have an force at all then there is an asymmetry)

Mike Gage said...

Monte, can you please provide the moral argument(s) that exclusively support the existence of a good God?

rad said...

Dr. Law,

I dont think that your argument is effective in a thomistic framework. The reasons why a thomist, or any adherent to classical theism, rejects an evil cannot be applied to reject the true God.

Take a look how St. Augustine argues against the evil God of the Manichaeans (first couple of chapters. One Chapter is two to three paragraphs short). Try to flip his arguments. Its not possible. Classical theism is immune against your evil god challenge.

rad said...

Here is the link to St. Augustines relevant work on the subject: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1402.htm

ogunitracy said...

Eh? First you are, I think, just assuming we can't rule out an evil God empirically. Why else would you draw that conclusion? Got an argument for that counter-intuitive claim? Craig didn't. Second, the logic here is weird. I had to show that there IS an evil God? Why?

No. I'm making no assumptions. I'm asking you to support your claim that an evil god can be ruled out empirically. That's your argument, remember? You suggest that an an evil god can be ruled out empirically and therefore, so can a good god and so far, your support is... well...

"most will rule out certain God hypothesis on the basis of observation. For example, they will rule out an evil god on the basis of observation."

No argument, you merely stated it. Help me out and support your argument, will you? What empirical evidence rules out an evil god? Does it not seem to you that you are merely assuming that the good in the world rules out an evil god because you already believe that the evil in the world rules out the Christian God?

Or are you assuming that Christians rule out an evil God based on observations?

ogunitracy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ogunitracy said...

Craig didn't. Second, the logic here is weird. I had to show that there IS an evil God?

Because the Christian God claims to be good, to rule out His existence, you need to show the first cause could not possibly be good. Even if Craig can't show that He is good, that is not evidence that He is not good.

If you don't follow the logic, just forget it. I'm merely pointing out that all your argument concludes is that we do not know the morality of the fist cause which is hardly a good case for you. It's a suggestion. Showing that the first cause could not possibly be good would show that the Christian God does not exist. That's a lot better than saying "if the existence of good rules out an evil god, then the existence of evil rules out a good god" which merely concludes that we do not know.

I'm not suggesting that anyone can support such a claim, just that it has more force than what you are currently attempting. Think about it and drop it if you like.

Monte said...

Mike, apart from Craig's argument from moral duties, there is the so called 'Perfectionist Argument' which is briefly summarised here: http://www.philosophyofreligion.info/theistic-proofs/the-moral-argument/the-perfectionist-moral-argument/

And there is the 'Kantian Argument' summarised here: http://www.philosophyofreligion.info/theistic-proofs/the-moral-argument/the-kantian-moral-argument/ I dont find this one very persuasive. I'd drop premises 1 and 2 and replace them with 'justice will be done' which I think is more intuitively true than premise 2. I think that there's a Thomist moral argument as well but I don't know much about Thomistic moral theory.

Seeing as we're also talking about asymmetry between belief in anti-god and God, there's also the argument from desire which purports to establish the existence of God. One version here: http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/2010/04/ontological-argument-from-desire.html

I dont regard any of these as 'knock down' arguments, but I do take them to have some force

Mike Gage said...

I'll check those out, Monte. Thanks. Can you clarify what Craig says about moral duties that leads to a good God? Is it something further than his normal presentation of the moral argument?

Eric said...

Professor Law, you wrote:

"My claim is that, while Christians usually do not make claims about God's nature based on what they observe (for obvious reasons) [WHICH IS WHAT CRAIG ACCUSED ME OF SUPPOSING, WRONGLY], we can find grounds for ruling out certain God hypotheses beyond reasonable doubt on the basis of what we observe....However, even if, in order to salvage your particular theistic belief from empirical refutation, you reject this pretty unremarkable suggestion, you still have to explain why belief in a good god is so very much more reasonable than the absurd belief in an evil god."

and

"Well no, as I am asking, more generally, why is a good god more reasonable than the absurd evil god."

What I'm having a hard time understanding is that it seems to me that the classical theist does precisely what you're asking him to do ("you still have to explain why belief in a good god is so very much more reasonable than the absurd belief in an evil god" and "I am asking, more generally, why is a good god more reasonable than the absurd evil god") -- i.e. explaining why the notion of an evil god is absurd, indeed impossible, while the notion of a good god is not -- yet you still insist, via your 'impossibility argument,' that your evil god challenge can be nonetheless run.

As I understand it, your impossibility argument requires the classical theist to bracket the metaphysical arguments that he thinks show that the notion of an evil god is incoherent and to focus instead on the empirical data alone (amounts of observable good and evil in the world). Is this accurate? If so, why can't the classical theist concede the evil god challenge *on those grounds* without in any way conceding any relevant ground re the evidential POE? That is, why can't he simply say, "Yes, you're right: If I ignore all the metaphysical arguments that support my conclusions about god's existence and nature, and focus only on the good and evil I observe in the world, the notion of a good god is just as, or almost as silly as the notion of a good god. Now, so what?"

It seems to me that the evil god challenge, run via the impossibility argument, fails to reach a substantive or even interesting conclusion at all, for the classical theist has a number of independent reasons for believing that god exists, that he has a certain nature, that he's necessarily good (as they understand the term), etc., and that you're then left right where you were before running the evil god challenge, viz. dealing with the specific arguments they adduce to support the existence and nature of god.

What am I missing?

L2Philosophy said...
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Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. Law, thank you for your responses.
I think the confusion stems from the assumption that the statement:
"Christians obviously don't (usually) arrive at conclusions about what god is like on basis of observation. They don;t claim God is good on the basis of observation."

is interpreted to mean that:
Christians therefore don't rule out an evil god on the basis of observation either.

Hence, are you saying that these two statements are not equivalent such that although the first statement may be true, namely that although christians rule in a good god based on other test/criteria apart from the good/evil seen in the world.

the second statement is false and christians do in fact rule out an evil god based on the amount of good observed in the world.

L2Philosophy said...
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L2Philosophy said...
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L2Philosophy said...

Dr. Law is beaten

He must come up with a reason on why Suicide cannot be the escape route to an Evil God inflicting suffering on his creation.

Suicide entails no suffering. So why is this world the way it is under an Evil God? Are you going to try and save yourself with the afterlife?

Free-Will disarms the logical problem of Evil, how exactly does it disarm the logical problem of Good? Having the free-will to commit suicide does NOT help your Evil God.

A maximally Evil being is logically impossible, because of the factor of Death. The Maximally Evil being cannot inflict enough suffering on moral agents that have the ability to simply kill themselves.

A Maximally Good being is the only plausible route.




Law states "Well, quite a few intellectuals believe the universe is just 6k years old."

Most Christian philosophers actually commit to an Old Earth. I got your point, but it seems as though you don't look as it if you are keeping up with the times, so I just wanted to make sure you are aware of that.

By the way all naturalist intellectuals think blueprints creat themselves, life came from non-life, consciousness from unconsciousness, reason from a reasonless process, value from valueless matter. These are grown men we are talking about Dr. Law.


Now Dr. Law do you realize that Richard Swinburne isn't exactly known for his moral argument. That isn't his speciality at all. Swinburne is an expert in Dualism, but not morality. You are just taking a Christian Philosopher in general and ignoring what the specialties of this Christian Philosopher are.

This is a dishonest tactic on your part. It's basically the same as taking a Biologist and having him comment on Cosmology as if it is the end all of importance.

If you want to be legit when talking about ethics and Christians go to the ones who SPECIALIZE in it.

John Hare
Robert M Adams
Phillip Quinn
Alister Mcintyre

This is basically ALL they do. Like Dr. Craig, Richard Swinburne is a "jack of all trades" with a speciality in Dualism.

So your appeal to authority isn't as credible as it COULD have been.

L2Philosophy said...

(edit)

Stephen Law once again it appears as though you can't handle defeat and instead of answering Dr. Craig you play "strawman" by pretending he doesn't understand what Dr. Craig is talking about.

Dr. Law I need an atheist to give a foundation of morality, and explain why "Evil" is not just a word people use when they disagree with something. What truly makes something "Evil"?


This is what I saw from Dr. Law in the debate with Craig.

"Ok I concede to everything, God exists, but since he doesn't do things the way I want he is Evil"

"Oh and Evil exists with a Lawgiver, because I say it does, Morality is NOT an illusion to help us survive (survive for what exactly) IT IS REAL"

Now as far as your cracks at Craig I'm going to retaliate and ask at how you are such a great philosopher, but can't sell books for squat. I'm not saying that book sales entail a great philosopher, but I'd like to know your critera.

Back to your book sales (since you like taking shots at WLC) Judging by your book sales on Amazon, you are a nobody trying to make money off being Anti-religious. Believing BS LOL...seriously how does a grown man write something like this?


Stephen Law two questions for you Mr. Positivist

Why aren't you a nihilist? It is philosophical consistent with your atheism? The Universe doesn't care if you live or die. Dr. Craig was basically pointing that out to you left and right in the debate, but your emotions got the best of you and you couldn't handle it. Remember "cognitive meaning" is irrelevant.

Pretending your life actually has value and meaning, doesn't escape the truth that you are just a bunch of chemicals on a small speck of dust called Earth. You start off your life of morality with the ultimate lie of pretending your life actually has purpose. Well to the Universe, or to all matter in existence you mean nothing.

2nd question, if you are a moral realist, which I'm starting to doubt, and I see you like to use the positivist statement of "empirical evidence". I'd like for you to answer this for me:

How does value come from Valueless Matter? What exactly is the secret ingredient that gives off morality? It seems to me that you go by the thought process of "out of valueless, value comes. How exactly does that work.

To your contradiction:

You state Craig concedes to stating Evil proves God,(which is true, you can't have objective morality without God, Morality is just an illusion so we can play pretend with believing we actually have purpose) well look exactly what you conceded too?

What gives you the get out of jail free card on conceding to the supernatural? You are doing the same thing you claim Dr. Craig is doing, by ditching your naturalism and asserting the KCA is legit.

Now I find your "Evil God to be just silly for these reasons"

Why in the world would you talk about an afterlife when speaking of an Evil God? How does maximal suffering work with that? Why not just have maximal suffering in an Earthly life?

I found out a way on why God (greatest conceivable being) cannot be Evil, because Evil does not fit with the Ontological Argument.

Suicide is the way out of suffering for a human being, therefore this maximally Evil being is pretty stupid, all you have left is the afterlife, but why an afterlife when he could make life tougher on Earth...

So again..Why would an Evil God even have an afterlife? Can you please show us some reasoning that makes sense on why a maximally Evil being would even HAVE an afterlife.

You definitely showed us why "Theology is important" though.

Anyways, Evil is relative unless there is a God. What you might think is Evil, might not be the same for someone living in Iran. Got it?

The Atheist Missionary said...

I've always been perplexed at the approach of Christian theology towards suicide. See Philippians 1:20-26. It's almost as if Paul was tempted to off himself so he could go meet his maker.

I understand the point of the evil-god challenge to show that the idea of an omnibenevolent god is just as absurd as an omnimalevolent one. How does the availability of suicide make it any more likely that a supposed creator is all good rather than all evil?

L2Philosophy said...

Your not getting it at all, I'm talking about why Good overcomes Evil out of necessity.

Concerning the ontological argument, God would have to be a maximally great being.

If a maximally great being, wants to be maximally evil, why give us the option of Suicide?

That limits suffering on this Earth?

And if you bring up the afterlife, then why wouldn't that God make us immortal to begin with?

None of this makes sense, therefore a maximally great being cannot exist if it has an Evil nature.

This is the defeater to Dr. Law's claim

Suicide is a way out of suffering, therefore why would an Evil God give us this option?

L2Philosophy said...

So what I'm saying is, suicide should not be a property given by an Evil God to his creation, they shouldn't have an easy escape route out of suffering.


Do you follow?

The Atheist Missionary said...

Yessir, I follow you. The good professor can speak for himself but I would counter your suicide objection the same way a theist responds when I ask them why their benevolent god allows babies to be raped. We can use the free will defence (i.e. evil-god must allow free will in order to maximize suffering on earth). Or we can use the "greater-evil" explanation (i.e. evil-god allows people to escape their earthly misery prematurely so as to make it all the worse on those left behind to grieve). We can rationalize evil-god permitting suicide by William Demsbki's suboptimal intelligent design argument (i.e. we should not expect the intelligent designer to come up with a perfect design given the limitations of what He had to work with). Of course, the answer to suicide could lie with the Fall. In the beginning, evil-god allowed mankind to live forever so he could torture them forever on earth. However, the positive benefits associated with eating from the tree of knowledge created "original virtue" and allowed mankind an escape eternal suffering through death - suicide became an available option to allow checking out sooner rather than later. So God had to send his only son down to be crucified so that everyone could be vicariously blamed for his death. Henceforth, evil-god could circumvent the death chasers by tormenting them eternally after they died. Once Jesus died to impugn us all for his death (and take away both our inherited original virtue and the goodness we performed throughout our lives), we could no longer cheat evil-god with death.

Theology is so bat sh*t crazy - all you need is a twisted imagination and inspiration from a cold Zywiec. Must go write a gospel ...

The Atheist Missionary said...

... and I still have the handy-dandy mystery card in my pocket.

The Atheist Missionary said...

Obviously, the Fall in the evil-god challenge should be described as the Rise. It makes perfect sense. Learning to tell right from wrong is a virtue, not a sin!

Matt said...

Dr. Law, I have a question.

Your "evil god" argument hangs on the assumption that, given the amount of empirical evidence for good in the world, it is absurd to believe there is an Evil God.

Surely this is the most outrageously daring leap from limited empirical observation to generalised conclusion ever attempted in the history of philosophy?

How and when are we supposed to have collected enough empirical data about the universe to conclude that belief in an Evil God is absurd?

Lets just do a quick exercise in empiricism:

There are 7 billion people on our planet.

Our star is one of 200 billion in our galaxy.

Our Galaxy is one of 125 billion that we know of.

It is not impossible, therefore, that there are anything up to the order of 7billion x 200 billion x 125 billion sentient entities in this universe.

And what if every single one of them, barring the mere comparative handful here on earth lived their lives in total unremitting agony and suffering?

Could we possibly say there was enough "empirical evidence of good" in such a universe to disprove "Evil God" if this were the case?

Certainly we can't empirically say it's not the case. How could one make such a knowledge claim empirically when we have observed less than 0.00000001% of the universe even through a telescope?

Let me stress, I don't think we should be playing the empiricism game at all, but if we are going to then I will have to be a good empiricist and insist that we simply do not have anything like a large enough sample-size in our observation to make any judgement.

I am just utterly at a loss to see how you can confidently assert empirically a generalisation about the nature of creator of the whole universe based on 0.00000001% of that universe. Yet, you seem ready to confidently assert that the notion of an "evil god" is absurd on empirical grounds?

I agree it's absurd - but not on empirical grounds. On Empirical grounds alone we would surely be committing the fallacy of hasty generalization on the almost the largest possible scale imaginable?

Anonymous said...

The Evil God challenge doesn't do squat to disproving the Christian God

If we concede to an Evil God that means the Christian God LIED about being all-loving

That does absolutely nothing to disproving the existence of the Christian God.

And the suicide claim basically defeats this argument.

Anonymous said...

Atheist missionary you aren't countering anything.

THis is a knock on the Evil God, not his subjects. The factor is Maximal Suffering, so one must ask yourself is this a world where an Evil God is really living up to his potential?

If an Evil God wanted maximal suffering there should be no reason to insert a capability of a human commiting Suicide.

In fact greater suffering would be achieved by a God who prohibited free-will so people CAN'T commit Suicide and are FORCED to suffer.

Therefore your red herring response that wasn't a rebuttal to that claim doesn't work.

This is not a possible world were maximal suffering exists, An Evil God could have created a world with more suffering. Suicide is the way out of suffering and should not be available to human beings.

Therefore Atheist Missionary's argument against suicide comes out weak.

So Law fails on 2 accounts

Suicide is a way out of suffering, if the whole world decides to commit suicide the Evil God has no more suffering. Therefore there is no reason why we should have free-will.

And even if we concede that the Christian God is Evil, it doesn't contradict anything to whether or not he exists. The Christian God could have just used his Evilness to lie about being all-loving and Stephen Law's claim ultimately goes no where.

This is actually a terrible challenge, an Evil is easily refuted on the fact that there can be a possible world that has more suffering then what we see today, to acheive this one must do away with the option of suicide, which is the escape route to suffering.

We shouldn't have this capability.

Anonymous said...

So this is the obvious defeater to Law's point on DISPROVING the Christian God

You haven't disproved anything, and are left back at square one.

It is plausible to assert that Evil God's lie, therefore the Christian God has the possibility of lying about all-loving, so there is no contradiction at all.

So an Evil God lied, that doesn't refute the fact about whether or not he exists.

So if that was your only motive in the debate, "Does God exist" it shows you obviously didn't win the debate. You didn't refute Craigs God and you lost the debate.

This is a knock-down refutation that even the lousy philosopher Richard Dawkins could spot, so let's see now if you can man-up about it.

As far as refuting the existence of the Christian God goes, this discussion is over.

Stephen Law said...

Thanks for all the comments. I can't now manage to respond to them all, and actually TAM has done so for me for some of them. I'll fpcus on just two. First Eric, who says:

"As I understand it, your impossibility argument requires the classical theist to bracket the metaphysical arguments that he thinks show that the notion of an evil god is incoherent and to focus instead on the empirical data alone (amounts of observable good and evil in the world). Is this accurate? If so, why can't the classical theist concede the evil god challenge *on those grounds* without in any way conceding any relevant ground re the evidential POE? That is, why can't he simply say, "Yes, you're right: If I ignore all the metaphysical arguments that support my conclusions about god's existence and nature, and focus only on the good and evil I observe in the world, the notion of a good god is just as, or almost as silly as the notion of a good god. Now, so what?""

So, on that basis alone, it's silly. Hoorah!

The fact that the evil god hypothesis is then ALSO ruled out conceptually (and this has not been established, and perhaps so as the good god) fails to address this point.

Now you are right that the theist thinks he or she has good grounds for supposing a good god is very significantly more reasonable than an evil god. But I have yet to see them. Which is one reason why I am an atheist.

The EGC is a challenge. Craig tried to meet it. And failed, pretty obviously.

I don't claim with absolutely certainty there isn't a good argument that succeeds in showing a good god is significantly more reasonable. I just haven't seen one yet. Several of the usual crowd actually fall foul of the ECG. In fact some, such as the arguments from miracles and religious experience, may actually support the evil god hypothesis more than the god god hypothesis, as I explain in my paper "The Evil God Challenge".

But the main point of the EGC is to prevent Christians lazily running their frankly, ineffectual and often pathetic theodicies and appeals to mystery in order to try to immunize what they believe against empirical refutation. It's a joke. And the EGC reveals that it's a joke.

Stephen Law said...

Hi Brigadier

The Evil God Challenge is supposed to be a challenge. The challenge is to explain why belief in a good god is significantly more reasonable than belief in an evil god. Craig tried to meet the challenge, but failed. I see you are coming close to admitting that he failed, as you are now attempting to bolster his arguments with additional arguments of your own.

Do your arguments succeed?

No.

I said earlier about intuitions generally that: "you can't just drop them without adequate justification."

You agreed, but said about our intuition that there’s more than enough empirical evidence to reasonable rule out an evil god:

“Sure, but the point is that once you realize certain metaphysical/logical distinctions of which you were previously unaware, then you also realize that your intuitions, because insensitive to such distinctions, went astray. Your previous intuitions then cannot be used as justification for your beliefs.”

But that there is reason to reject such intuitions is, as it stands, pure assertion! You need to justify your claim that this particular intuition is unreliable. And what is your justification? It’s this:

“God knows a lot more than I do; ergo, God knows a lot more about morality than I do; ergo, there are probably a lot more moral properties than I realize. But if that is true, I can't claim with confidence that none of these properties form the justifying goods for the many evils for which we cannot find apparent justification.”

This obviously won’t do as it stands. Suppose aliens of vastly greater intellectual and other powers visit earth. They kill and eat our kids. We watch as the parade with our with our kids’ heads stuck on poles, while sucking the marrow out of their bones. They makes us watch. We say: “Why, these aliens are terrible, evil things!” But someone says. “Ah, but they know a lot more than we do. Ergo they know a lot more about morality (especially the long term moral consequences of their actions) than we do. But then we cannot claim with confidence that there aren’t moral properties unknown to us but known to the aliens that form justifying good for the many evils they do for which we cannot find apparent justification.”

You will have to agree with that assessment, given the argument you just gave above. You must say, “Why yes, how silly of me – I now see my initial response was just an unreliable intuition resulting from my ignorance of certain metaphysical/logical distinctions. In fact, there’s no good empirical evidence that these aliens aren’t entirely caring, benevolent beings.” This would be a borderline insane response I’d suggest. And also bullshit.

Of course (I’m now doing your work for you), you might now try a different argument, perhaps one that stresses God’s *infinite* wisdom, which aliens, being finite beings, will lack. But why would introducing infinite wisdom transform your ludicrous argument into a good one? Why would the fact that God has infinite wisdom, if he exists, mean there’s no limit to the horror that can exist in the world without it being pretty good evidence there’s no such god? Argument please.

THE REST OF THIS COMMENT IS BELOW...

Stephen Law said...

COMMENT CONTINUES...


Remember, it’s not good enough to show, what is obviously true, that if there’s such a God, there will probably be some evils the justifying good for which will be unknown to us. You need to establish much more than that before you can justifiably sweep hundreds millions of years of horror - of animals that must tear each other limb from limb to survive, of millions of generations of children about a third to a half of which died slowly of disease or starvation before the age of five - under the carpet of “god’s mysterious ways”.

Incidentally, I also note that Craig’s cosmological argument relies on the claim that actual infinities are impossible. Which is why infinity doesn’t crop up in Craig’s characterization of God (so far as I can see). So this “infinite wisdom” move would appear to be blocked in any case.

Earlier I said:

"Also notice, by the way, that … the skepticism you're invoking to save your God belief from being empirically falsified would seem to be ridiculously endemic. It spreads to other beliefs. For example, it then follows we can't know God doesn't have good reasons for making it look like the world is older than 6k years even though it's not. So, show a little faith and stick to the scripture!"

You, Brigadier, have just replied to this: “I deny this follows because we can see that some things, such as lying, are intrinsically wrong, and will only be justified in very special cases, if at all, and that none of these cases will apply to God. Greater goods are relevant to extrinsic wrongs.”

You seem to be suggesting that God’s making a world that looked as it does, if it were 6k years old, would involve him lying. And God wouldn’t lie. I now reply: Who says God would be lying if he made a world that looked like it was 6k years old? Was he lying when he made a world that looks like it doesn’t move? No.

So, your counter-intuitive and inadequately justified skepticism regarding the possibility of us reasonably ruling out various god hypothesis on the basis of empirical evidence also has the further absurd consequence that you have no good empirical reason to reject Young Earth Creationism. Your belief that the empirical evidence undermines YEC is, it turns out, just an “unreliable intuition”! One that Wykstra et al have shown to mistaken. You should abandon that mere intuition!

I might also add that, if this implausible degree of skepticism is justified, then we are not in a position reasonably to conclude on the basis of observation that mice are not the thing that God most values. True, this may not seem like the kind of world a mice-valuing God would create (it’s not sufficiently mice-friendly or mice-centered). But, for all we know, God’s apparent utter disregard for the well-being of mice, and, indeed, apparent sadism towards them (cats etc.), is really no evidence at all that he doesn’t value mice above everything else.

This degree of skepticism would be a wholly implausible, ad hoc way of salvaging belief in a mice-centred God from empirical refutation. It’s a no less implausible and ad hoc way of salvaging your belief in a human-centered or good-centered God.

One last thing. You continue to ignore my point that, in any case, even if skeptical theism COULD be shown to be true, it goes NO WAY AT ALL towards showing why belief in a good god is very significantly more reasonable than the absurd belief in an evil god. So it goes NO WAY AT ALL towards answering the evil god challenge.

But in any case I note that we have now strayed way beyond the parameters of anything Craig said in the debate or above. Craig has clearly failed to meet the evil god challenge.

Stephen Law said...

PS I AM POSTING THAT LAST COMMENT AS AN ACTUAL POST AS IT WAS SO LONG...

The Atheist Missionary said...

Anonymous wrote:

Atheist missionary you aren't countering anything.

This is a knock on the Evil God, not his subjects. The factor is Maximal Suffering, so one must ask yourself is this a world where an Evil God is really living up to his potential?

If an Evil God wanted maximal suffering there should be no reason to insert a capability of a human commiting Suicide.

In fact greater suffering would be achieved by a God who prohibited free-will so people CAN'T commit Suicide and are FORCED to suffer.

Therefore your red herring response that wasn't a rebuttal to that claim doesn't work.

This is not a possible world were maximal suffering exists, An Evil God could have created a world with more suffering. Suicide is the way out of suffering and should not be available to human beings.

Therefore Atheist Missionary's argument against suicide comes out weak.


Anonymous, if your God is maximally good, you must ask yourself is this a world where a Good God is really living up to his potential?

If a Good God wanted maximal goodness there should be no reason to permit humans to commit suicide. In fact, greater goodness/happiness would be achieved by a God who prohibited free-will so people COULDN'T commit suicide and were FORCED to live out their natural lives.

A Good God could have created a world with less unnecessary suffering. An Evil God could have created a world with more suffering. Both propositions are equally ridiculous.

The question remains: what do theists rely on to say that the existence of a maximally good being is more likely than a maximally evil one? Also, how do theists determine what is objectively good/right and evil/wrong? (see questions posed in above comment dated November 8, 2011, 5:25 p.m.)

Paul Braterman said...

I know this may go against the grain for a philosopher, but:

The moral is: Don't waste time "debating" the likes of Craig. It only encourages them (they'll always think they've won) and gives them a platform

NormaJean said...

Law wrote: I was very clear that I agree objective moral values exist up until I am shown reason to believe the first premise is true (which Craig never supplied).

On YouTube you punish Atkins for attempting to ground objective moral values on naturalism. You _appear to_ affirm Craig’s first premise with the Is/Ought distinction. Have you changed your position on this?

NormaJean said...

[⇧]If my memory serves me, I mean.. Should I locate and share the link? It's been a while since I've listened, so I could be mistaken, obviously.

Stephen Law said...

Hi anon

I used the is/ought distinction to question Atkins claim that science can answer every question. Moral questions are certainly a problem, on the face of it.

However, it doesn't follow naturalism cannot accommodate objective morality (whatever that means exactly). Perhaps there are ought facts that are natural. And also remember that atheists don't even have to be naturalists (as I pointed out in the debate).

Nor does it follow that theism can underpin objective morality.

I've always said it's a philosophically tricky how to think about morality. That doesn't entail that if there's no god, then no objective facts (and if there is, there are).

Anonymous said...

I fully expected you to not take Craig seriously and be destroyed.

Instead you had tactics, and a well thought out argument, and I believe you embarrassed him.

I am now spending more time reading your blog, you have found yourself a new admirer.

Well Done.

Stephen Law said...

Well thanks, anonymous...

NormaJean said...

Thanks, Stephen.

You strategically (so it seems) use the language of "it/this/that doesn't follow" to interrupt the power of Craig’s argument as if his premises should lead to a conclusion that demonstrably follows. That’s a bit much, I think. The implication is that if ones premisses cannot be “proven” (whatever that’s supposed to look like) absolutely true, then there is no reason to believe them. But to my mind, it's prudent to affirm premises which are more reasonable then competing available premises, right? So when you and Craig draw lines beneath the is/ought paradigm and then when I contemplate the status of moral facts/duty/obligation in the absence of God (or something a lot like him), then I’m prepared to affirm Craig’s P1 (AND your hidden intuitions) because it seems strange viz. impossible to establish moral facts in the absence of God. I’m struggling to see that Craig failed to establish reason(s) for P1. He did.

Best

Stephen Law said...

"You strategically (so it seems) use the language of "it/this/that doesn't follow" to interrupt the power of Craig’s argument as if his premises should lead to a conclusion that demonstrably follows. That’s a bit much, I think. The implication is that if ones premisses cannot be “proven” (whatever that’s supposed to look like) absolutely true, then there is no reason to believe them."

The irony is that this is precisely what Craig does, of course. He says just such things. And also he uses the weasel world "prove", as you now, do. I don't.

"But to my mind, it's prudent to affirm premises which are more reasonable then competing available premises, right? So when you and Craig draw lines beneath the is/ought paradigm and then when I contemplate the status of moral facts/duty/obligation in the absence of God (or something a lot like him), then I’m prepared to affirm Craig’s P1 (AND your hidden intuitions) because it seems strange viz. impossible to establish moral facts in the absence of God. I’m struggling to see that Craig failed to establish reason(s) for P1. He did."

1. This is precisely the same form logic used wackos, conspiracy theorists and other nut jobs the world over. "I can't explain how humans could possibly have made these crop circles over night. Neither can you. Therefore aliens did it." "I can't explain how the Twin Towers would have come down like that if just hit by a plane. Neither can you. Therefore the Government did it with explosives." "I can't explain what makes flowers grow. Neither can you. Therefore the fairies did it."

2. I didn't bother producing an atheist friendly account of moral value, because I didn't need to and was under no obligation to, though there are ones I like. E.g. the one Shelley Kagan produced in his debate with Craig, which CRAIG FAILED TO REFUTE, and which I think may actually be true. It was certainly immune to Craig's criticisms. Craig floundered. In fact this is a debate Craig is widely supposed to have lost.

3. Craig doesn't use is/ought. He should because it's much better than his terrible arguments. Though still hardly good enough to establish P1.

4. Even if Craig could establish P1, it is not, as I point out, much help in dealing with the evidential problem of evil.

NormaJean said...

You wrote: 1. This is precisely the same form logic used wackos, conspiracy theorists and other nut jobs the world over. "I can't explain how humans could possibly have made these crop circles over night. Neither can you. Therefore aliens did it." "I can't explain how the Twin Towers would have come down like that if just hit by a plane. Neither can you. Therefore the Government did it with explosives." "I can't explain what makes flowers grow. Neither can you. Therefore the fairies did it."

Hi Stephen!

1) I’m not sure that anything interesting “follows” from this response. Ironic?

2) for example, “it doesn’t follow” that if wackos, conspiracy theorists, et al misuse epistemic reasoning principles that we should, therefore, abandon the principle of affirming premises which are more reasonable than their competing premises, right?

3) Is the alternative to affirm premises which are less reasonable then their competing available premises?

4) perhaps you’re suggesting that if we cannot establish the truth of a premise with a high degree of certainty that we should remain agnostic? But that’s silly since most, if not all things we know are not known infallibly.

5) and then there is this promissory note on naturalism, materialism, whatever which
purports to establish the existence of moral facts: the problem here is not that “I don’t know” how such an account is established. Rather, it’s hard, I mean, insuperably difficulty to imagine such an account could be established. It's been said that “physical facts do not logically entail moral facts, just as physical facts do not logically entail mental facts. Getting an “ought” from an “is” is just as impossible as getting an “about” from an “is”, and for much the same reason.” Viz. it doesn't matter how much physical information you give, it will always be logically possible for me to deny the existence of the mental state without logical contradiction. I'm pretty sure Craig briefly makes this point in his opening.

You realize this conceptual block when you point out to Atkins the difficulty for science to provide an account of certain features of consciousness.


By the way, I actually enjoy your talks! More, I think Craig’s last Q&A falls short in dealing with many of your claims. That’s big of me to say since I like Craig A LOT!

Stephen Law said...

Hi Norma Jean

I am not convinced there is a conceptual block. Sure, there's a prima facie obstacle for naturalistic accounts but I am by no means convinced it's unsuperable. For example, I think Shelley Kagan may be correct. And craig failed to refute Kagan's position. You have not even bothered to try!

Also, as I pointed out, who says atheists have to be naturalists (many aren't)? Who says Craigian-theism is the only viable non-naturalist account (it clearly isn't).

I'm also not convinced Craigian theism fares any better, in any case, so far as providing a foundation is concerned. Particularly not as I have shown theism to be very probably false (the version that matters here, at least).

But in any case I see no reason to accept that P1 is true, or even probably true.

You may say, it's at least more likely to be true than false but I'm not convinced of that, either. And the same goes for the majority of moral philosophers, who also reject P1. I do genuinely think P1's more likely to be false than true.

Also notice that, as I pointed out, even if P1 were true, that hardly helps Craig deal with the evidential problem of evil.

If a premise Pi is a bit more likely than premise pii, it doesn't follow we are justified in drawing conclusions from valid arguments based on Pi. Not if, say, there are very good independent reasons for rejecting the conclusion, and especially not if another premise is also suspect (e.g. is based on nothing more than intuition). Which is, precisely, the case here.

NormaJean said...

Thanks, Stephen!

Indeed, naturalism isn’t the only game in town. The competition, however, isn’t fundamentally different. Whichever non-theistic landscape you throw my way, the “stuff" reality would be comprised of is really all the same matter/material; whether that "matter" happens to be physical (i.e. physicalism) or mental (i.e. idealism). What this means is that in the final analysis there is only one layer/strata to reality AND I’m afraid that doesn’t change things significantly. Does Kagan think that layer supplies moral facts and duties?

I don’t know what Craigian-Theism is lol

Could you explain Kagan’s landscape? I’m not familiar with it.

You: I think Shelley Kagan may be correct. And craig failed to refute Kagan's position. You have not even bothered to try!

Me: If naturalism is true (or something much like it!) it doesn't matter how much actual world information Kagan gives, it will always be logically possible for me to deny the existence of his mental state without logical contradiction. Kagan can stack up as many physical facts as he wants to, and then he can add them all together. What he’ll find is more physical facts not moral duty!

Are you a drummer?

NormaJean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NormaJean said...

Stephen,

You said the majority of moral philosophers, reject P1.

Well, that's because the majority of philosophers, probably, are nihilists and don’t care :-I

I wrote: Kagan can stack up as many physical facts, or to be careful, actual world facts as he wants to, and then he can add them all together. What he’ll find is more physical facts (actual world facts) not moral duty!

That's pretty much obviously true, no?

Maryann Spikes said...

A falling short (sin), or privation (evil) [sin=evil], of the way things are supposed to be (the good), cannot exist unless there really is a way things are supposed to be. So--first exists the way things are supposed to be, without which a falling short (sin), or privation (evil), is impossible (again, sin=evil). That good--that 'way'--is God. God, because he is omnipotent, cannot fall short of himself, cannot be a privation of himself, cannot depart from the way things are supposed to be (himself). Such falling short, privation, departing--all of those things are weakness.

Steven Carr said...

CRAIG
How can this evil god have duties to perform which he is violating? Who forbids him to do the wrong things that he does?

CARR

Did Craig misrepresent you?

Why should he care?

You have to remember that Craig is clear that moral obligations come from his god. His response to Stephen Law's evil god challenge makes that plain.

Moral obligations do not and cannot come from people, in Craig's world.

You can tell Craig 'You didn't ought to do that' and it will make no difference to him. Your 'commands' impose no moral obligations on him whatever.

He literally has no moral obligations to comply with what you , as a human being, would like him to behave.

Who does Stephen Law think he is, asking Craig to stop misrepresenting him? Stephen Law is not qualified to give moral obligations to Craig. He is not God.

NormaJean said...

Sure. I think Craig made a few mistakes which was clear from his recent Q&A response. However, Law's presentation wasn't really that clear. I'm still not convinced I understand the driving point of his argument. Is this lack a clarity a debating strategy? For example, I know a lot of folks who keep their position vague enough so they're in a position to custom tailor responses to objections made against it. If your arg is ambiguous, you're in a position to say things like, "you're attacking a strawman." Ya feel me?

Tim said...

L2Philosophy said:
If a maximally great being, wants to be maximally evil, why give us the option of Suicide?

And Anonymous (presumably also L2Philosophy) said:
In fact greater suffering would be achieved by a God who prohibited free-will so people CAN'T commit Suicide and are FORCED to suffer.

Therefore your red herring response that wasn't a rebuttal to that claim doesn't work.




Let me see if I understand you. The availability of suicide demonstrates a benevolent god who values the free will of his creatures, since it allows them a get out from any unendurable suffering.

Is that it?

That is, a malevolent god would prevent suicide in order to maximize suffering.

Okay...

"And [the locusts] were told that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man. And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; and they will long to die and death flees from them."
(Revelation 9:4-6)

Larkus said...

Can Craig's moral argument simply be turned around?

1. If Anti-God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3. Therefore, Anti-God exists.

Julia Fernandes said...

Amusing to read people taking so much of pains to dissect the DNA of God.

God is so simple, He is good, He is love.

Why must it take such lengthy debates to understand God? We are not called to understand Him, we are called only to Love Him coz He loves us so much.

There is no such thing as Evil God. Evil can never be associated with God.

http://www.godlovesyou.page4.me/index.html

uchitrakar said...

It can be shown that a really free God can neither be good, nor can He be evil. God is really free if He can freely choose what to do: whether to create, or not to create. But if He is always bound to create for some reason or other, then He is not free. A person who does good only to his own self cannot be called good. Similarly if a good God cannot do any good to others, then neither can He be called good. So, in order to doing proper justice to His own good nature a good God will always be bound to create, and thus He will not be free.

Similarly it can be shown that an evil God can neither be free. This is because an evil God cannot do any evil to others if He refrains from creating others. So here also He is always bound to create for doing justice to His evil nature.

But for a God who is neither good nor evil there is no such binding that He will always have to create. Here He can freely decide whether He will create or not.

Thus a really free God is neither good nor evil. Like Hindu's Brahman He is beyond good and evil.

uchitrakar said...

Theists always claim that their God is all-powerful. But actually they pretend as if they are more powerful than their all-powerful God. That is why by labeling their God as all-good they dare to curtail God's own freedom, His freedom not to create.

Godss Cumm said...

Hey, how does the "free will" defense only apply to the Logical PoE, and not the Evidential PoE, Just Curious.

Joseph said...

I think that however much Craig may not flesh out his arguments, it is not to the detriment of the possible existence of God. There are plenty of other theists to defend the arguments.

But this article seems to be more like a One-upping on Laws part- and from the perspective of someone interested in actual arguments I am disappointed in both philosophers here, but mainly you Law.

You're argument that we all believe evil god is fatuous, and is entirely based on intuitions - Ironic (a word which you so condescendingly love to employ), considering you trash William's moral argument for being based on, insofar as he defends it, mass intuition.

This article is so childish to read - It is like Craig uses appeal to authority so you react -If he does it then why can't I? Craig appeals to mass intuition then you follow...but he does it so why can't I? Childish and tedious to read.

At the end of this most un-scholarly article you claim that he has to prove his moral argument to prove that evil god is not doing what evil god ought not to do - it isn't begging the question because it doesn't invoke the moral argument, rather it employs the definition of evil as failing to do what ought be done.

Which brings us back to the fact that your evil god is entirely self-contradictory in numerous ways - which the the burden of proof s on you to establish - that an all evil god as a possibly existing being and that there is a symmetry between theism and anti-theism (but names are meaningless to you right mr Law?).

Big G and little g are useful to distinguish between theistic God and polytheistic gods - Millican was right in his terminology moreso than you, which you admit to when you say "who cares?" - well I do, because it is important for your argument.

Yes, you did point out some deficiencies on Craig's part - he neither responded to the fact the design, cosmological arguments could also support the evil god (if it is even tenable, which you have not given good grounds to believe it is). Nor did Craig respond to evil as privation or flipping Plantinga's argument.

But I am not on a "philosophers" website to read smug one-upmanship, crude and pretentious patronizing and uppity nonsense.

The onus of proof is on you, Law, to establish the plausibility of the possible existence of your eg and its symmetry with classical theism.

Until then, you are a mere opinion-mongeror.

شركة تنظيف بالرياض said...

Can Craig's moral argument simply be turned around?

1. If Anti-God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3. Therefore, Anti-God exists.

شركة تنظيف بالرياض said...

Can Craig's moral argument simply be turned around?

1. If Anti-God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3. Therefore, Anti-God exists.