Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Evil God challenge - skeptical theist response

I just put this comment as a reply to a comment made on the preceding post. As it's so long, and contains some details that may be of interest to others, I am also posting it here...

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 reasonably 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, at this point, 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 they 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 that 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.

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 of millions of years of horror - e.g. 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 whom died slowly and agonizingly 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 - if I've understood him correctly.

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 looks as it does, if it is 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 looks like it's much older than it's actual 6k years? 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 apparent 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 were adopted, then we would not be in a position reasonably to conclude on the basis of observation that mice are not the thing that God values most. 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-centered God from empirical refutation. It’s no less an implausible, 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 toward 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.

40 comments:

Thrasymachus said...

I broadly agree with this. There seem to be two problems with sceptical Theism:

1) The scepticism goes too far, and leads to toxic consequences.

2) It is implausible by it's own lights.


Re. 1, we don't even need to talk about aliens. If sceptical theism is true, it seems we suffer from moral paralysis in our day to day ethical choices. Sure, it might *appear* that giving the beggar food as opposed to punching him in the face is the morally better option, but there are great goods beyond our ken and our moral appearances simply do not match up to what is actually good in any reliable way. After all, morally perfect God permits seemingly awful things like child death and holocausts and natural disasters, so obviously our moral faculties are woefully inadequate to work out whether food-giving or punching is better. (For more, see Sehon "Skeptical Theism leads to Moral Paralysis")

(You might say (and Bergmann does, I think), that I might be wrong for punching the beggar because I am violating my own moral judgements on the matter. But I don't think this will fly: because if this argument is true, then my moral judgements have no warrant - so why trust them. Besides, even if it was wrong *for me* to punch the beggar, that still doesn't mean it was *wrong* to punch the beggar. So even if you can condemn me, you're obliged to be agnostic about whether or not I did a good thing or not (albeit from bad motivations).)

Skeptical Theism really needs some way of getting 'selective toxicity' towards ePoE appearances as opposed to everyday moral appearances. But the attempts made for this seem to require something really tenuous and ad hoc. The best I can come up with is a sort of hermetic sphere morality where God ensures that in our sphere of influence our moral appearances are reliable, but they are wholly unreliable when dealing with the sort of choices between worlds God can actualize.

2) I think a more neglected problem is the idea of this morally obscure world to begin with. "God knows there are great goods beyond our ken", implies "there are great goods beyond our ken". And skeptical Theism seems to be obliged to make a far stronger claim "the goods beyond our ken are so much weightier than the goods within our ken, so much so that our moral appearances are unreliable". I simply don't see why we should believe this. Of course humans are fallible: we miss consequences, perhaps pick the wrong normative theory, etc., but paradigmatic examples of horrors and evil strike me as morally straightforward - so much so it strikes me that any argument that says we should doubt these appearances is vulnerable to Moorean-style reversal.

Stephen Law said...

Thanks Thrasymachus. Yes, that's true about the value outcomes of our actions. They become inscrutable on skeptical theism. Perhaps, in order to bring about the best value outcome, cosmically speaking, I should poke out the eyes of this small child. I've really no good reason to suppose my action won't have that effect.

However, a Christian can still, of course, say I shouldn't do it - am morally obligated not to do it - because God says so, or whatever.

Brigadier said...

Thanks for the long response. I'm sure you are a busy man.

You sound confident! But let's see how strong your reasons are.

You attempted to reduce my argument for skeptical theism to absurdity. The absurdity is supposed to be this:
"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."
If someone says ""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."

First off, (if I am a skpetical theist, and I'm not sure I want to be) I don;t think I want to say that there is no evidence that these aliens are evil, just very little.

But I think this response fails because you are insensitive to the distinction between the aliens bringing about intrinsic evils and the aliens being evil. I don't deny that what they do results in intrinsically bad things happening (deaths, etc), but it doesn't follow from this that the aliens did wrong.

Nor does it follow that we shouldn't resist the aliens. My bond with my children is sufficient for me to have a duty to resist any attempt to kill them absent strong reasons that their being killed is the best thing to happen. I suppose this is a virtue ethicist position. I don't ask 'Is what the aliens do probably right/going to result in good consequences?' I'm agnostic about that. Instead I ask 'what is the best way for me to respond to these aliens given my nature, character, affections and bonds as a human being?'

What is wrong with this position?

You also say:

"Why would that 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."

I don't read the skpetical theist as arguing for that, but for the conclusion that, for all we know, there’s no limit to the horror that can exist in the world without it being pretty good evidence there’s no God.

But even if there was a limit, you also have to claim that the evil is the actual world has crossed that limit, and I find it very hard to imagine ever being confident about that claim.

Your other point seems to depend on the theist's inability to present an account of lying such that the theist can't conclude that God would never do it. I suspect that such an account can be presented, but I'm not currently well read enough in the literature on lying/deceit to give you an informed response.

"I might also add that, if this implausible degree of skepticism were adopted, then we would not be in a position reasonably to conclude on the basis of observation that mice are not the thing that God values most."

I'm not sure about this because it seems intrinsically wrong to value mice above human beings, not extrinsically wrong. It seems like a fault of character, not of deed. But I am happy to accept what you say just so long as you are reading mice such that our knowledge of mice could be very incomplete (perhaps they, and only they, do possess some fabulous moral properties that delight the heart of God, sure).


Finally, you say "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."

Right, okay. I agree with this. So you claim that Craig has failed because you think the moral arg. and the arg. for the resurrection were weak. Again, I would disagree with you, but that is an argument for another time!

The Atheist Missionary said...

Brigadier wrote:

But even if there was a limit, you also have to claim that the evil is the actual world has crossed that limit, and I find it very hard to imagine ever being confident about that claim.

I commend a reading of Gitta Sereny's Into That Darkness: from Mercy Killing to Mass Murder (McGraw-Hill, 1974) which describes the Nazi extermination camps (primarily Sobibor) in Poland. One of the best books I have ever read.

Stephen Law said...

Brigadier you say: "But even if there was a limit, you also have to claim that the evil is the actual world has crossed that limit, and I find it very hard to imagine ever being confident about that claim."

But the onus is on you to show that our initial strong intuition that we can empirically rule out, beyond reasonable doubt, a good/evil/mice-orientated god is unreliable.

Pointing out that evils can be plausibly explained away as the price paid for unknown goods *up to a certain limit* fails to disarm the intuition as the intuition is, precisely, that the limit, whatever it is, has more than been reached.

And do you really, seriously draw the conclusion that, for all you know, those aliens parading around with our kids' heads on sticks may be kind and compassionate? When I said this was borderline insane, I wasn't kidding.

There is, it seems to me, something like a kind of insanity required to adopt this method of immunizing god beliefs against empirical refutation.

Are you not, not even for a moment, thinking to yourself "Er, hang on a minute.. maybe there is a significant threat to my theism here"?

aboutaboy said...

Have you seen this response by Paul Manata?

http://analytictheologye4c5.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/laws-evil-god-challenge/

Brigadier said...

Mr Law,

"Pointing out that evils can be plausibly explained away as the price paid for unknown goods *up to a certain limit* fails to disarm the intuition as the intuition is, precisely, that the limit, whatever it is, has more than been reached."

I don't have this intuition at all. I have the intuition that God has acted in ways that require good justification, but I have no intuition to the effect that such a justification will not be forthcoming. (ie. has gone beyond the limit – beyond the point where any reasonable justification is possible).

"And do you really, seriously draw the conclusion that, for all you know, those aliens parading around with our kids' heads on sticks may be kind and compassionate? When I said this was borderline insane, I wasn't kidding."

Again, this is ambiguous. Do you mean the deeds are kind and compassionate, or their characters? Or their motives? Or what? There's some serious moral philosophy to do here, which you aren't doing.

And it's easy to think of scenarios on which what the aliens do is fine. Perhaps they have come to kill us in order to trap our souls and transport them to an eternal paradise, or because they know another alien race is coming who want to torture us eternally and these are mercy-killings, etc.

(I note that if you interpret the parading as implicating that they take joy in their killing, then this would be evidence of bad character, and that they therefore were evil.)

"There is, it seems to me, something like a kind of insanity required to adopt this method of immunizing god beliefs against empirical refutation."

It's not about God, per se. It's about morality. There may be any from none to countless infinities of moral properties beyond my present conception. All this requires is moral objectivism, not theism. If I was an atheist I would think the same thing.

"Are you not, not even for a moment, thinking to yourself "Er, hang on a minute.. maybe there is a significant threat to my theism here"?"

I am aware of a vaguely defined threat, but, well, that is the problem: it is vaguely defined.

exapologist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marcus said...

This discussion strikes me as a bit bizarre. It seems clear to me that on any plausible construal of good and evil, there is overwhelming evidence that if God exists, God is not patently evil. Yes, the world is in many respects a terrible place, but it is also clearly in many respects a wonderful place. Maybe the world even has more evil in it than good and wonder (though I'm not sure). That wouldn't make God evil. It at most makes him not (nearly) as good as most throats would like. Am I missing something?

Marcus said...

Theists, not throats. Darn iphone

Anonymous said...

"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 - if I've understood him correctly."

Craig clarifies his understanding of infinite in his Q/A:
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7087

John Griffith said...

You are missing the point, Marcus. The question for you is why is the evidence overwhelmingly in favor of a good God rather than for an evil god?

Any reason you give has to not be vulnerable to being flipped in favor of an evil god. That's the challenge.

If you say there's too much good in the world for God to be evil, why not say there's too much evil in the world for God to be good? If you say, a good God has to allow some evil because some will abuse the gift of free will to do evil, why not say an evil God has to allow some good because some will abuse the gift of free will to do good?

If all of your evidences for a good god can stand as evidences for an evil god the challenge has done its work and you are not justified in concluding a good god exists, if you reject the idea that an evil god exists.

You should note also that Craig, and other theists who objected to Law's argument already agreed that Christians do not judge god's moral character by the goods and evils they observe in the world. The question then becomes on what basis do they arrive at god's goodness? Probably by just asserting it as a necessary property, i.e. god is by definition good and not evil, which begs the question against the evil god challenge.

Nick said...

As a neophyte I've really enjoyed reading this and the previous thread.

However all the way through I've been hung up on one thing and I hope that Stephen or perhaps one of the other commenters can point me in the right direction.

Craig stated:

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."


And part of Stephen's response was:

"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)"

I would question whether objective moral values do exist. My own uninformed opinion rather leans towards moral values being entirely subjective.

Judging from the way in which the matter has been spoken about I suspect that this question is dealt with in great detail elsewhere - if somebody could point me in the right direction I'd be very grateful - then at least I can get back to reading this thread without always questioning what seems to be a fundamental part of the argument.

John Griffith said...

Nick,

You can sift through the preceding threads on the Craig v Law debate, but I just don't recall whether this objectivity question was covered.

Craig assumes the objectivity of morals. His general move is to appeal to intuition; he'll say something like: we just know deep down inside that these things are objectively true, no one seriously denies the objectivity.

Don't get too focused on this minor detail but rather suspend your disbelief and focus on what the EGC does to standard theistic responses to why God must be good.

When Stephen says he agrees morals are objective right up until premiss 1 is shown to be true, he means that he can hold to the truth of premiss 2 because premise 1 doesn't hold water, and if it is shown to hold water then Stephen would conclude from the argument not that God exists, but that objective moral values don't exist, from which we would conclude God does not exist. Stephen can remain a moral realist and not concede the argument as long as premiss 1 is not demonstrated. Premiss 1 is rubbish of course - Craig has no argument to support it, just assertion. (Daniel Came addressed this last issue briefly in his first address at the Sheldonian Theatre lecture given by Craig. You can find that on youtube right now if you want to hear why Came thinks premiss 1 is demonstrably wrong.)

That's my interpretation in any case.

Stevo said...

Suppose an all evil God is impossible. Then the hypothesis that such a deity exists receives no evidential support whatsoever. However, (and therefore), bare-theism is evidence for a good God. That is, the probability of a good God is greater on bare-theism than it otherwise would be. Remember, bare-theism can't confirm an all evil God.

(Obviously work would need to be put into this)

But I think the general for a response to your challenge is clear.

John Griffith said...

Suppose a good God is impossible. Then the hypothesis that such a deity exists receives no evidential support whatsoever. However, (and therefore), bare-theism is evidence for an evil God. That is, the probability of an evil God is greater on bare-theism than it otherwise would be. Remember, bare-theism can't confirm an all good God.

Can still be flipped, which is the challenge. On what grounds do you find an evil god impossible but not a good god impossible. Special pleading?

Anonymous said...

Would the evil god challenge be clearer to the theist but as effective if it were called the evil creator challenge with its attributes limited to those Craig claims for his first two arguments (i.e. timeless, spaceless, very powerful, and personal)? The challenge remains to justify why the belief in the all good god is more reasonable than belief in the evil creator. By not claiming all the usual attributes, arguments around the compatability of these attributes with evil go away. The theist must still prove why any of the excluded attributes is both necessarily true in our world and more likely for good god than evil creator. The fact that the attribute is normally associated with god is not as far as I can tell an argument.

Reynold said...

It seems to me that all the evil god challenge does is just shoot down ONE particular (alleged) trait of the xian god.

Problem is, there are xians out there who don't care what god acts like. Some guys won't care that god sends babies to hell (not all xians believe this, but they're not very consistent considering that they all worship the same perfect being!)

Against those people, the "evil god" argument won't work, because whatever god does is by definition "good". Even if it'd be considered evil from our viewpoint.

Anonymous said...

Continued from prior post
Outside of their definition of god what evidence or argument does the theist offer to show the creator is all-knowing or omnipresent or in any way distinguishable from a timeless, spaceless, very powerful, personal evil creator? I am assuming the ontological argument, even at its best, fails to convince the skeptic that you can define something into existence.

Marcus said...

I'm still just not seeing it. Here's a simple thought experiment. Suppose you were an evil god - a truly evil one. Would you creat THIS world? Surely not. There are many, many worse worlds to choose from. This world has a lot of good in it - you would have to be terminally insensitive to the amount of good in this world to take the evil god hypothesis epistemically seriously. If
God exists he may be less than perfect, he may be subtle, but sorry, there's just too much good for him to be patently evil.

Anonymous said...

If you accept there is too much good for an all evil god and by the same logic too much evil for an all good god then Dr. Law has won his argument and the Christian god does not exist.

John Griffith said...

Yes, you're still just not seeing it, or, alternately, not wanting to accept it. Here's a simple thought experiment. Suppose you were a good god - a truly good one. Would you creat[e] THIS world? Surely not. There are many, many better worlds to choose from. This world has a lot of evil in it - you would have to be terminally insensitive to the amount of evil in this world to take the good god hypothesis epistemically seriously. If
God exists he may be less than perfect, he may be subtle, but sorry, there's just too much evil for him to be patently good.

I flipped your argument and it remains just as plausible an appeal. This is the EGC, and you can't escape it by appealing to the good in the world as a falsification of an evil god unless you can say why the evil in the world is not a falsification of a good god.

Anonymous said...

"If you accept there is too much good for an all evil god and by the same logic too much evil for an all good god then Dr. Law has won his argument and the Christian god does not exist."

Interesting approach, I wonder if you would want your doctor to practice medicine using such logic. Wow... you have a tumour. Well, it has some criteria that makes it potentially benign and some criteria that makes it potentially malignant. Well.. i guess the tumour doesn't really exist. Have a nice day.!!

Anonymous said...

"Well, it has some criteria that makes it potentially benign and some criteria that makes it potentially malignant. Well.. i guess the tumour doesn't really exist"

No. What is shown is that the tumor can not be benign and the tumor cannot be malignant. Other options (e.g. foreign object) are not ruled out.

 There may be something (e.g. deist type god) but it is not the Christian god which must by definition be all good.

Anonymous said...

"There may be something (e.g. deist type god)"
oh.. so then the admittance is that there is a god then. OK.. my mistake. I thought the "evil god challenge" was an argument that showed there was nothing.

Anonymous said...

Do not confuse "there could be something else" with "there is something else". 

The evil god challenge was used in the debate where Dr. Craig's god was at issue.  If you want to argue for some non-Christian god then the evil god challenge may or may not apply depending on the attributes claimed for that god. 

Anonymous said...

but the "evil god challenge" is based on the assumption that one can rule out god's attribute of being good or evil based on the amount of good and evil in the world.
craig says that he doesn't determine or rule out whether god is good or evil based on the amount of good and evil in the world but uses some other criteria. if law wants to defeat craig's god shouldn't he attack craig's "other criteria"? I mean law himself admits that christians at least "rule in" a good god using some other criteria.

Marcus said...

No - you're misconstruing me. I never suggested we have evidence that god us good. You're working with a false dilemma. I merely argued that our evidence does not support the EVIL god hypothesis. My own view is that our evidence supports a god in the middle - a non-Christian god that is neither very good nor very evil, but rather an imperfect being like the rest of us. My evidential argument against the EVIL god still stands, your false dilemma notwithstanding.

Marcus said...

As an aside, as a general matter it's not very good form to foist false dilemmas on people. Would a good god create this world? No. Would an evil one? No. Would an imperfect but sort of good sort of bad god create it? You betcha - and I'm happy believing in that god

wombat said...

Is the Evil God Challenge modifiable to cover any of the Christian Gods other supposed attributes? e.g the all-knowing bit?
Can we point to the stupidity in the world and say well this is evidence that God's a bit dim. I am thinking here of a sort of flip side of the argument from design. Plenty of examples are used to illustrate that various "design like" features of the world are sub-optimal in some way. The usual thrust of this is that there is no designer. What if we simply accept that there is, but He is not very skilled?

Stephen Law said...

Brigadier

I said: "And do you really, seriously draw the conclusion that, for all you know, those aliens parading around with our kids' heads on sticks may be kind and compassionate? When I said this was borderline insane, I wasn't kidding."

You say: Again, this is ambiguous. Do you mean the deeds are kind and compassionate, or their characters? Or their motives? Or what? There's some serious moral philosophy to do here, which you aren't doing."

Answer. Their characters. Obviously. What's actually going on here is that you are coming very close to being faced with the absurdity of what your are saying and are rather desperately trying to erect a smokescreen. Hmm. Well, it's all very complicated isn't it..."

No. It really isn't. Though you're trying to make it so,for obvious reasons.

You: "And it's easy to think of scenarios on which what the aliens do is fine. Perhaps they have come to kill us in order to trap our souls and transport them to an eternal paradise, or because they know another alien race is coming who want to torture us eternally and these are mercy-killings, etc."

My reply: Easy to think up, yes. Probable, no. Which is my point.

(I note that if you interpret the parading as implicating that they take joy in their killing, then this would be evidence of bad character""

I don't mean that. Though even if they did appear to take joy in it, there might be an unknown reason for that compatible with their actually being compassionate (by nature), on your ludicrous view.

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.

BenYachov said...

Proof Law,

For your criticism of Feser's statements on pages 161-165 to work you have to not define evil as privation and treat it as ontologically identical but opposite with good.

Which would be successful if that is the case in regards to good vs evil. But if evil is still privation then your argument still makes no sense. Since a evil god could not exist & also could not create.

Oh sir what would you do without the fallacy of equivocation and the undistributed middle?

Well at least you are trying.

Justicar said...

Dr. Law, I have taken the liberty of revising the public copy of your debate with Craig to improve the audio (normalizing you so that you're audible), filtering out some of the background noise and redacting the moderators opening remarks. Should you wish to have a copy with improved audio, I've posted it on my forums whereat you (or indeed anyone) may either listen to or download it as is relevant.

http://www.jetlagandgaming.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=22&p=52#p52

Stephen Law said...

That's great Justicar - thanks very much indeed. The sound was really awful, I know.

I will give a post on it.

philosopher145 said...

Hi professor Law, thanks for pointing me here. Interesting read.

In this post, you argue that people should be skeptical about the theodicities pertaining to the evidential problem of evil (re: 'good god') because "it’s not good enough to show [...] 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 of millions of years of horror [...] under the carpet of “god’s mysterious ways”."

I would simply note that this argument, though it may be successful, technically does not support your "evil god challenge", whether it be the "evil god challenge" that you defend in your paper, or the enhanced version that you seem to be defending on your blog. (See my comment on your post "Feser saga continues".)

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Josh Romero said...

"But in reality we have no experience of anyone liking badness just because it is bad. The nearest we can get to it is in cruelty. But in real life people are cruel for one of two reasons- either because they are sadists, that is, because they have a sexual perversion which makes cruelty a cause of sensual pleasure to them, or else for the sake of something they are going to get out of it- money, or power, or safety. But pleasure, money, power, and safety are all, as far as they go, good things. The badness consists in pursuing them by the wrong method, or in the wrong way, or too much. You can be good for the mere sake of goodness: you cannot be bad for the mere sake of badness... In other words, badness cannot succeed even in being bad in the same way in which goodness is good. Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled." - CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

In effect, the idea of an "all-evil" God is logically incoherent.

Stephen Law said...

Josh - wouldn't matter if there was an incoherence. There are various problems with this move but most damning is - even if there was a logical incoherence, if it is true nevertheless that we would reject the evil god anyway on empirical grounds even if there was no incoherence, then why do we not reject the good god hypothesis?

Stephen Law said...

Put it like this - a logical incoherence would merely push the evil God hypothesis even further down the scale of reasonableness. But it's very low anyway, just on empirical grounds. So why is the good god hypothesis any higher than that?