Saturday, November 12, 2011

Feser's criticsm of the "Evil God Challenge"

Edward Feser thinks he has shown my evil God challenge doesn't apply to his god. I explained why he was mistaken ages ago, promised him a further response to his response but then never got round to it. Hence he posed this.

Well, I have now explained in the comments section in some detail why Edward is just mistaken (see comments on 11th and 12th nov 2011). I will post something here as his confusion is a quite common (even more common now, thanks to Edward).

46 comments:

rad said...

"The question remains, why would a wholly good creative force (whether or not morally good - e.g. obviously he is not a free agent if what he does follows inexorably and necessarily from his nature, such that he cannot do otherwise) produce hundreds of millions of years of animals suffering, kill about a half of millions of children agonizingly before their fifth birthday before even making himself known to us, etc."

Thats an easy question. Assuming that an wholly good creative force is responsible for all the suffering, it follows by assumption that the suffering leads to greater good.

Sidenote: In the classical view, to be free means to act in accordance with your nature, without outer force or constraint. In this sense God is the most free being.

"And why, incidentally, would such a being be worship-worthy?"

Worship or praise is an outward expression of an interior acknowledgement of the superiority or excellence of a being. Since God, as classically conceived, is supreme existence, he must be also worthy of worship.

"But perhaps you will want to say, "Ah but 'good' as applied to god means something rather different. God's 'goodness' is in fact entirely compatible with, say, his torturing toddlers to death with red hot pokers for no justifying good reason." Right."

It is compatible, and it is even necessary so, as St. Augustine argued (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1402.htm). Since every other being than God has just participated or derived existence, it follows that it is not pure existence or goodness, and therefore is afflicted by some evil or other. You are complaining in effect, why not everything other than God can be God.

"But notice in any case that the same can also be said about the evilness of evil god, notice ("Evil god's evilness is of a special sort compatible with him creating love laughter and rainbows for no justifying bad reason.")"

The reasons why there has to be evil, and why it is compatible with God, cannot be flipped to reconcile the existence of good with the existence of a contradiction in terms (evil god), given the relevant background metaphysics.

Stephen Law said...

Hi Rad

""The question remains, why would a wholly good creative force (whether or not morally good - e.g. obviously he is not a free agent if what he does follows inexorably and necessarily from his nature, such that he cannot do otherwise) produce hundreds of millions of years of animals suffering, kill about a half of millions of children agonizingly before their fifth birthday before even making himself known to us, etc."

Thats an easy question. Assuming that an wholly good creative force is responsible for all the suffering, it follows by assumption that the suffering leads to greater good."

Brilliant! Problem solved! I'm becoming a Christian...

rad said...

Then frame your question in a way that makes it hard to answer. If you assume that a wholy good creative force is responsible for the suffering, then the answer follows logically.

Anonymous said...

Stephen,

he is not "Fesser", he´s Feser.

Stephen Law said...

Damn. My apologies to Edward. Feser.

Patrick said...

"Thats an easy question. Assuming that an wholly good creative force is responsible for all the suffering, it follows by assumption that the suffering leads to greater good."

This doesn't work. The original criticism was that A was incompatible with B, or that A was unlikely to be compatible with B. It isn't enough to just say that by hypothesis A and B are compatible. It was the reasonableness of the hypothesis that was being questioned.

Additionally, when dealing with a wholly good omnipotent creator being, there are only two ways to justify that being doing something facially incompatible with goodness (call it X to save me space later), without ruining the hypothesis. You can argue that it was logically necessary for the being to do X, or you could argue that X was required by the being's nature.

Logical necessity is an awfully high hurdle. I'm not sure its surmountable.

Justification by reference to the being's nature is a seemingly easier challenge, but you have to be careful not to conflict with the claim that the being is wholly good by giving the being a non-wholly-good aspect to its nature. Additionally, as this apologetic technique is used more and more often, you will be more and more vulnerable to the accusation that your theology is ad hoc.

Additionally, both of these apologetic techniques are limited by Christianity's renunciation of pagan world views. In the pagan world views, the gods live in a pre-existing cosmos with rules that existed before the gods and rules with which they gods themselves must contend. In the Christian tradition, everything except God was created by God. This means that when making arguments about logical necessity, there are no necessary facts with which to ground that logical necessity other than those attributes of God alleged to be necessary, and those things which necessarily stem from those necessary attributes. This limits the tools available for arguments from logical necessity, by limiting the premises available in said arguments.

rad said...

"This doesn't work. The original criticism was that A was incompatible with B, or that A was unlikely to be compatible with B. It isn't enough to just say that by hypothesis A and B are compatible. It was the reasonableness of the hypothesis that was being questioned."

The question was: "The question remains, why would a wholly good creative force [...] produce hundreds of millions of years of animals suffering, kill about a half of millions of children agonizingly before their fifth birthday before even making himself known to us, etc"

I translated it as hypothetical question, thus: given God, why evil? The answer follows from the hypothesis.

Paul said...

Hi again Dr Law. In continuing to try and understand your argument I hope you don't mind me asking further questions. I'd like to see where the EGC takes me. So far...

1) I have stated (on Dr Feser's blog) that I believe in the God of classical theism etc and I asked whether I needed to jettison that belief to run the EGC.
2) You said...

"No. Retain that belief. But consider whether you would rule out an evil creator (whether or not you call it a god) on empirical grounds..."

My answer to that is 'I don't think I could'. What now?

Thanks in advance.

Stephen Law said...

When you say, Paul, "I don't think IO could" do you mean that your view is, there's really no evidence against an evil god presented by what you see, or, there is, but it falls short of being absolutely conclusive?

Paul said...

Thank you for your reply, Dr Law.

Just to make sure I'm answering the right question (cause I get easily confused!) I want to stick to your wording from the post I initially responded to, because that seemed to make sense to me - as I understood it.

So, I mean that I don't think I could rule out an evil creator on empirical grounds. I don't (I think!) mean any more or less than that at this stage. Your two options appear - to me at least - to be asking slightly different questions.

Does that help?

Adzcliff said...

"Thats an easy question. Assuming that an wholly good creative force is responsible for all the suffering, it follows by assumption that the suffering leads to greater good."

I admit to being a bit of an amateur on all of this, but isn't this a classic example of question-begging??

...and doesn't it play spectacularly into Stephen's Evil God challenge:

"Thats an easy question. Assuming that an wholly [evil] creative force is responsible for all the [goodness], it follows by assumption that the [goodness] leads to greater [sufferring]."

I'm thinking for instance elicit drug use, unprotected sex, junk-food diets, alcoholism, smoking, carnivorism...

Any good??

Adzcliff

rad said...

""Thats an easy question. Assuming that an wholly [evil] creative force is responsible for all the [goodness], it follows by assumption that the [goodness] leads to greater [sufferring].""

Agree. Although I would say: an wholly evil destructive force.

But this does neither prove nor disprove that there is such a force. It is just a consequence of the assumption.

rad said...

The problem with an wholly evil all-destructive force is, that it is self-destructive. Thats not a problem with God, who is wholly good all-creative.

Adzcliff said...

Thanks for that Rad.

I'm not sure that the Evil God thought-experiment requires us to inter-change everything, just notions of good and evil. I think the Evil God is considered the creator of the universe?

"But this does neither prove nor disprove that there is such a force. It is just a consequence of the assumption."

Which is a variant on question-begging isn't it?

Ta.

Adzcliff

rad said...

"Which is a variant on question-begging isn't it?"

I dont think that it is question-begging if someone asks you a hypothetical question, and you give him an answer by drawing a consequence from the hypothesis. Its logic.

"I'm not sure that the Evil God thought-experiment requires us to inter-change everything, just notions of good and evil. I think the Evil God is considered the creator of the universe?"

An evil god is a contradiction in terms, given the classical metaphysical background. The thought experiment does not work against classical theism, because it makes no sense to give a theodicy of a contradiction in terms. The argument works, if it works at all, at best against neo-theism or personalistic theism.

Stephen Law said...

"So, I mean that I don't think I could rule out an evil creator on empirical grounds. I don't (I think!) mean any more or less than that at this stage. Your two options appear - to me at least - to be asking slightly different questions.

Does that help?"

Not really, as not only do I not know know what you mean by that, neither do you.

InvincibleIronyMan said...

Oh, the courtiers reply again. I'd like to say I was shocked. Or, more specifically, it's that "God" who neatly steps out of the way every time he's cornered by a serious argument which questions his existence.

Firstly, it seems to escape the theologians attention that when God achieves such dizzy heights of philosophical abstraction he becomes something that cannot be proved by trivialities such as mere evidence, but in the absence of evidence the theologian cannot explain why we should accept the existence of such a God instead of going along with the null hypothesis (or an admission of "I don't know" would do), as we would normally do in such a situation.

Secondly, I am at a loss to think why anyone should take any argument seriously from someone who thinks that it's okay to assume a-priori the thing that they are trying to prove. It's such a basic error, I find it hard to understand how one can become a professor of philosophy while holding to a such a viewpoint. Except that it seems that as soon as the word "God" is invoked, it, for some reason which escapes me, becomes okay.

Thirdly, I'm sure this rarified intellectual version of God suits professors like Feser and Haught very well, but is he seriously trying to claim that the version of God that the average believer believes in has anything to do with the writings of Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, Maimonides, Averroes, Avicenna and Aquinas? I must say it doesn't seem very likely to me. As far as I can tell most of them haven't even read the Bible.

Fourthly, if we accept the "serious theologian's" version of God, where does that leave the God of the Bible? It seems to me that there are some significant differences between Feser and Haught's God and the one described in both the old and new testaments. Oh, let me guess, it's "mysterious".

Adzcliff said...

Thanks Rad.

"I dont think that it is question-begging if someone asks you a hypothetical question, and you give him an answer by drawing a consequence from the hypothesis. Its logic."

Here's the Wiki definition:

"Begging the question (or petitio principii, "assuming the initial point") is a type of logical fallacy in which the proposition to be proven is assumed implicitly or explicitly in the premise."

Adzcliff said...

...and here is what you said:

"Thats an easy question. Assuming that an wholly good creative force is responsible for all the suffering, it follows by assumption that the suffering leads to greater good."

funnyatheists said...

Hi Prof Law,

I have read your original article and I don't find your particular definition of "good" and "evil" and you show no evidence of understanding the the classical theistic notion or position of good and evil.

Good luck testing either of those hypotheses as well as trying to claim the challenge is actually relevant to classical theism.

Anonymous said...

Atheists often state their position as: having no justifiable reason to believe that god exists. The natural question we have of theists is what reason/evidence do you have to support your belief in this (all-powerful, timeless, spaceless, personal and all-good) entity. When we hear the theist's reasons we find them unconvincing. In particular the believer seems to use a double standard to justify their preferred version of "god" over the "god" of other religions or sects. John Loftus has suggested the outsider test to overcome these biases but most believers find it hard to see past special pleading on behalf of their god.

I see Dr. Law's evil creator challenge as an effective way of getting believers to take the outsider test in a more honest way. Any reason or argument for their god that can be flipped seems to lose its force; it no longer seems as believable since it supports a conclusion they hold false. Arguments that can not be flipped must still be weighed against the evidential problem of evil.

The evil creator challenge works because the reasons most believers have for sustaining their belief in an all-good god can be flipped and the esoteric word games of the "professional" believer seem weak compared to the very real evil in this world.

Paul said...

Well, that's slightly unfair I think! I went with your original wording because when you asked it in that way, I thought I understood it. If we could stay with that I'd appreciate it because I don't want to misunderstand you.

Ok, trying to clarify it a little more - when I said 'I don't think I could' - I meant that I don't think I could see how it would be possible to rule out an evil God using empirical evidence.

Is that better?

Anonymous said...

Professor Law,

The problem with this evil god challenge with respect to classical theism seems to be this: the classical theists claim to have demonstrations that there actually exists Being Itself, or Actus Pura. From there divine perfection follows. So if these demonstrations are sound, then your "challenge" is just irrelevant; we already have demonstrated that there exists (a good) God. What you have to do, then, is to drop your evil god challenge and argue against The Five Ways.

I think that the "Untenured" guy from Feser´s blog put it very well. I´ll copy/paste his comment below in the case you have missed it.


"Stephen Law is committing a very basic mistake and refuses to acknowledge it. He is treating metaphysical demonstrations as if they were empirically defeasible arguments which could be overturned by empirical evidence even after they have been certified as sound. I am sorry, but this is flat out confused.

If I have a sound argument which establishes that some proposition is true with the force of metaphysical necessity, then no empirical evidence can show otherwise. I don't have to weigh the evidence provided by my sound argument against any amount of potentially disconfirming empirical evidence. Indeed, If the argument is sound, then necessarily its conclusion is true and there is no such thing as even potentially disconfirming empirical evidence.

Thus, once I have constructed a sound argument that Fermat's theorem is true, or that the primes are infinite in number, or that God is pure act, no amount of empirical evidence is going to overturn these propositions.

Thus, it is not as if someone could come along and say "Ah! Yes, Godel may indeed have a sound argument that any formal system with the expressive power of arithmetic cannot be both complete and consistent, but might some empirical discovery show that he was wrong after all?" Nobody would take that question seriously even for a second, and yet Law is asking us to do something analogous with his "Evil God" challenge . . .

But Law himself says:


My point is that even if it could be shown that an evil god is an impossibility (and that does seem to be your strategy, after all), we might still ask, 'But supposing it wasn't an impossibility...'

That is like saying 'Yes, you have a sound argument that the primes are infinite. But suppose it isn't sound, we might still ask whether our experience makes it more reasonable to believe in an infinite number of primes than a finite number....'

Like Ed, I thought this might have been a typo, because the underlying point is so manifestly confused. But it isn't, because he keeps doubling-down on it. He really seems to think that a sound metaphysical demonstration could be defeated by empirical evidence.

That is just a basic failure to understand the kinds of arguments that the Classical Theist is deploying.

Trust me: This one is over. At this point Law is like Monty Python's black knight, de-limbed and squirting blood everywhere while insisting it 'tis but a flesh wound.
"

rad said...

Adzcliff,

""Begging the question (or petitio principii, "assuming the initial point") is a type of logical fallacy in which the proposition to be proven is assumed implicitly or explicitly in the premise." "

The wiki-definition is worthless (as many wiki-definitions). The whole of mathematics is implicitly assumed in the axioms. Now tell me that that mean value theorem is question begging, because it is implicit in the axioms.

BenYachov said...

@Prof Law

>The issue of moral goodness is irrelevant. God does not even need be a moral agent in order for the evidential problem of evil to be a problem.

Sorry no but as Brian Davies proves if God is not a moral agent then the problem of Evil is a non-problem. It's like debating wither or not Tennis players should be able to run the mile in under 10 minutes. Well being a tennis players isn't the sort of thing that requires running the mile well but in playing tennis well.

The Problem of Evil assumes a morally good God who is obligated to give us the best possible world. Theodicy then comes in to play to explain how God can be morally justified in allowing certain evil in order to bring about some type of Good which is not possible without tolerating certain evil.

The evidentialist argument of evil is Rowe's excellent response to Plantinga's Free Will Defense & Theodicy in general but it is clearly a non-starter to any view of God's Goodness that excludes Him from being a moral agent.

It's like saying Plato's Form of the Good is not really Good because it didn't stop the holocaust.

God has no moral requirements to us and can't coherently be thought of having any as such in the Classical Theistic Sense.

>The question remains, why would a wholly good creative force (whether or not morally good - e.g...hundreds of millions of years of animals suffering...suffering children etc.....

Sorry Prof Law but after having read Davies I can't take this response seriously since it equivocates really badly. It still assumes the existence of a morally good God who has obligations to us. It equates Goodness with moral goodness.

So it is a non answer. It's sticking your fingers in your ears and pretending all Theism is Theistic Personalism.

God is not coherently moral or immoral. God is purely actual and thus Good and God could only be evil in that He fails to exist.

BenYachov said...

@Prof Law

You Evil God argument is great against Swinburne's Theistic Personalist so called "deity". But any traditional consistent Thomist is by necessity a strong atheist in regards to the existence of Swinburne's "god".

Why is this so hard for you to understand?

You have to refute the God we believe in not the one you wished we believed in.

BenYachov said...

@Prof Law

As the Agnostic Theist and Thomistic Expert & critic Anthony Kenny said "Morality presupposes a moral community, and a moral community must be of beings with a common language, roughly equal power, and roughly similar needs, desires and interests. God can no more be part of a moral community with them than he can be part of a political community with them."


Aristotle said, we cannot attribute moral virtues to divinity: the praise would be vulgar. Equally, moral blame would be laughable.

This I copied from a blog post that no longer exists.

QUOTE"God As Morally Deficient
The point for now is just to indicate how different the classical theist’s conception of divine goodness is from that of the theistic personalist – and, for that matter, from the conception taken for granted by atheists who suggest that the existence of evil shows that God, if He exists, must in some way be morally deficient.

While God is not a Platonic Form, for the classical theist, to suggest that God is in some way morally deficient nevertheless makes about as much sense as suggesting that Plato’s Form of the Good might be morally deficient. The suggestion is unintelligible both because characterizing the God of classical theism as either virtuous or vicious is unintelligible, and because characterizing Him as deficient in any way is unintelligible. An atheist could intelligibly deny that such a God exists at all (just as he could intelligibly deny the existence of Platonic Forms), but to suggest that the God of classical theism might be morally deficient merely shows that such an atheist does not understand the view he is criticizing (just as an opponent of Platonism who suggested that the Form of the Good might be unloving or vicious would only show thereby that he doesn’t understand what sort of thing a Form is supposed to be)."END QUOTE

Classic Theism as defined by Philosopher Edward Feser

QUOTE"God is not an object or substance alongside other objects or substances in the world; rather, He is pure being or existence itself, utterly distinct from the world of time, space, and things, underlying and maintaining them in being at every moment, and apart from whose ongoing conserving action they would be instantly annihilated. The world is not an independent object in the sense of something that might carry on if God were to “go away”; it is more like the music produced by a musician, which exists only when he plays and vanishes the moment he stops. None of the concepts we apply to things in the world, including to ourselves, apply to God in anything but an analogous sense. Hence, for example, we may say that God is “personal” insofar as He is not less than a person, the way an animal is less than a person. But God is not literally “a person” in the sense of being one individual thing among others who reasons, chooses, has moral obligations, etc. Such concepts make no sense when literally applied to God."

Prof Law your Evil God thought experiment is a non-starter for a whole tradition of Theism you clearly from your flippant responses are totally unfamiliar with.

I respect your effort but it is an argument that only works against a specific type of Theism.

It's like presenting your devastating critique of Young Earth Creationism to a room filled with Old Earth Theistic Evolutionists.

**Yawn!**

I will cease posting and let Feser answer you. Thought I don't know what he can say to add to what his fanz have already said quite intelligently.

J. Hamlyn said...

I admire your persistence Stephen.

I’m an atheist but here’s my shot at trying to demolish the Evil God Conjecture:

God is neither good nor bad. The existence of suffering is god’s infinitely wise method of testing our faith. If the odds were stacked even slightly in favour of a good god there would be no room for doubt. An equilibrium of good and evil is therefore fundamentally necessary in order that we make a leap of faith.

Best

Jim

The Atheist Missionary said...

BenYachov wrote: I respect your effort but it is an argument that only works against a specific type of Theism.

Stephen, have you ever played whac-a-mole ?

BenYachov said...

@The Atheist Missionary

So what are you saying? All concepts of Theism & or religion are unequivocally alike?

So if Wes Morrison(a Tillichian Theist BTW) makes a philosophical case against the Kalam Cosmological Argument that somehow refutes Pantheism and or Panentheistic views of God since "it's all bloody the same! It's all faeries in a garden and flying spaghetti monsters"?

Seriously?

It's not wack a mole at all.

I am rational enough to admit that polemics against a monist reductionist materialist type of Atheism would have no force against a so called "Platonic Atheist" who happened to be a Property Dualist.

That is just being realistic in acknowledging there are many views in life and the demand for cookie cutter responses are unrealistic.

I never understood this low brow brand of Atheist Fundamentalism?

I could loose my faith in God tomorrow & yet I see no rational reason to adopt this narrow fundamentalism.

It's cheap.

The Atheist Missionary said...

So what are you saying? All concepts of Theism & or religion are unequivocally alike?

I can't disagree with that statement. One need look no further than Christian critiques of Mormonism and Muslim critiques of Christianity to understand that you can basically tar all theologies with the same brush.

However, I assure you that I do not consume low brow brands of beer.

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...

@Maryann

That is a simplified but accurate view of Goodness that appears to be compatible with the Thomistic/Aristotelian perspective.

Good call.

BenYachov said...

@Atehistmissionary
>I can't disagree with that statement. One need look no further than Christian critiques of Mormonism and Muslim critiques of Christianity to understand that you can basically tar all theologies with the same brush.

Any lazy minded individual can speak platitudes rather then make an effort to learn.
I have argued with Mormons and learned from experience they are not at all scandalized when you point out contradictions in their revelations since they start from a presupposition that God can change His Mind unlike classic Theists who believe in a God with an immutable Will.

Muslims when pressed can see parallels between their view the Koran is an Attribute of God because It's His Word & the Christian Logos concept. Thought it's not the same.

Thus more educated Muslims in my experience don't recklessly label Christians tri-Theists for believing the Trinity. Only uneducated unsophisticated peasants do.

Why you think Atheists should be like peasants and tar Theology rather then give an informed critique is silly to me.

Maybe you don't take it seriously which is fine. But nobody with an IQ larger then 3 will take you seriously.

Adzcliff said...

Hi Rad.

"The wiki-definition is worthless (as many wiki-definitions). The whole of mathematics is implicitly assumed in the axioms. Now tell me that that mean value theorem is question begging, because it is implicit in the axioms."

I'm not sure I know how to answer this. If you take away my definition of 'question-begging', then I'm not sure how we can continue the conversation? It might also be relevant that I went straight to Wiki to look up the 'Mean Value Theorem' (I'm less a mathematician than I am a very amateur philosopher), but then I realised this might be an entirely worthless explanation. Considering I have no way of knowing what you mean, I'm sort of stuck...

Paul said...

Dr Law, I realise you probably haven't had time to get back to the blog, but I wanted to recap so we can continue running the EGC because I do want to understand it as best as I can.

1) I have stated (on Dr Feser's blog) that I believe in the God of classical theism etc and I asked whether I needed to jettison that belief to run the EGC.
2) You said... "No. Retain that belief. But consider whether you would rule out an evil creator (whether or not you call it a god) on empirical grounds..."
3) My answer was (after consideration) "I don't think I could see how it would be possible to rule out an evil God using empirical evidence."

Where does the EGC take us from this point? Speak soon.

Paul said...

Correction:

If I'm being consistent with your wording, point 3) should probably read:

"I don't think I could see how it would be possible to rule out an evil creator on empirical grounds."

BenYachov said...

Dr. Feser has replied to Prof Law.

1http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/11/broken-law.html

It speaks for itself. The "Evil God" thought experiment at best dogs the God of Swinburne but it can't get off the ground against a Classical view of God.

It's like I said Prof Law's argument is like giving a devastating argument against Young Earth Creationism to a room filled with Old Earthers and Theistic Evolutionist and Thomists.

It's a non-starter.

I am confident that knowing what I know. If I stopped believing in any type of Theism tomorrow I would still say Prof Law's Evil God is a non-starter.

BenYachov said...

better link

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/11/broken-law.html

Eric said...

Professor Law, I posted the following on Professor Feser's site. I'm honestly trying to understand your position on the application of the EGC to classical theism (which Professor Feser defends), so if I've gotten anything wrong here, it's not a result of my intentionally trying to misrepresent your argument. As always, I'd appreciate any clarifciations you have time for!

I wonder if Professor Law is making this sort of claim: If we bracket the metaphysical arguments classical theists adduce to support their conclusions about God's existence and nature, and run the 'impossibility' argument from the evil god challenge (EGC), then we can see that a good god is ruled out on empirical grounds. But if a good god is ruled out on empirical grounds, then a good god is ruled out simpliciter (or, perhaps more reasonably, is more likely than not ruled out), for this is tantamount to conceding that the evidential POE is a success. Hence, Professor Law must think that the metaphysical demonstrations are simply overtaken by the empirical considerations that motivate the evidential POE.

(Why? I can only speculate, but I suspect that something along the following lines is at the back of it all: reasoning from empirical data is generally to be preferred to metaphysical reasoning, and when empirically derived conclusions conflict with conclusions reached via metaphysical argumentation, we should in general give precedence to the former and reject the latter. And this principle, or something like it, not only has the record of modern science supporting it, but it conforms to our common sense understanding of hard facts taking precedence over rational speculation. Now as I said, I don't know if this is behind Professor Law's argument, but it's the best I can do.)

Stephen Law said...

My response to feser is here...
http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2011/11/fumbling-feser.html

Stephen Law said...

Hi Eric not that's not it. The challenge is a challenge, not a proof. It just challenges theists to explain why a belief in a good god is reasonable given belief in an evil god is absurd, and, indeed, absurd on empirical grounds.

Feser may be able to meet the challenge (with Aquinas-style argument for a good god). But he cannot just say re the challenge that "it doesn't apply" to his God God because an evil God is impossible. See my latest post as it explains this in more detail.

Paul said...

Dr Law - "...given belief in an evil god is absurd, and, indeed, absurd on empirical grounds."

This is what I was hoping to get an answer to when I asked...

"...I don't think I could see how it would be possible to rule out an evil God on empirical grounds."

Please help me to understand this, as it seems central to the EGC.

PS I think someone else mentioned it elsewhere, but I too would like to hear your definitions of Good and Evil, as it may help us to better understand your arguments. :)

BenYachov said...

Of course Dr. Feser respond to Prof Law's non-answer.

http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=8954608646904080796&postID=563654022580990746

Prof I have said over and over if I deny any gods tomorrow I would still say your EGC only can be applied to a Theistic Personalist concept of God.

I don't actually have to believe a Classic Theistic God exists to see your EGC rationally don't apply to it. It's still a non-starter like a devastating critique of Young Earth Creationism to a room filled with Theistic Evolutionists or person's with Augustine's interpretation of Genesis One.

You are just going to have to live with it.

ogunitracy said...

"Dr Law, I realise you probably haven't had time to get back to the blog, but I wanted to recap so we can continue running the EGC because I do want to understand it as best as I can.

1) I have stated (on Dr Feser's blog) that I believe in the God of classical theism etc and I asked whether I needed to jettison that belief to run the EGC.
2) You said... "No. Retain that belief. But consider whether you would rule out an evil creator (whether or not you call it a god) on empirical grounds..."
3) My answer was (after consideration) "I don't think I could see how it would be possible to rule out an evil God using empirical evidence."

Where does the EGC take us from this point?"


Answer: nowhere

The point is, Law's challenge rests on the fact that an evil god can be ruled out empirically. When we ask how, he accuses us of being skeptical and just makes his point all over again. He does it again in his last post:

"Now, despite the above moves that might be made in defence of belief in an evil God, it remains pretty obvious that there’s just way, way too much good stuff in the world for this plausibly to be considered the creation of an evil God.

In fact, most of us (except e.g. the skeptical theists) will continue to consider the evil god hypothesis absurd on empirical grounds (whether or not also on other grounds), notwithstanding these rather ridiculous attempts at explaining all the good stuff away."

I'm tired. You must be too.

radp said...

Hey Stephen,

rad here. I have tried to formalise your argument from the paper. May you want to take a look:

http://radomir-pestow.blogspot.com/2011/11/evil-god-challenge.html