Friday, December 16, 2011

Glenn Peoples on the Evil God Challenge

I have been having an exchange with Glenn Peoples on his blog about the Evil God Challenge. Glenn thinks the problem of evil (and reverse problem of good) is neutralized by the theodicies (and reverse theodicies). Hence there's no reason provided by the vast quantities of evil/good we observe to conclude that belief in a good or evil god is unreasonable. So all Glenn has to do to show that belief in a good god is quite reasonable is, he thinks, to come up with e.g. a fairly good moral argument for the existence of God. So here's my latest comment...

Let me explain how things look from my end.

I give you what appears to be overwhelming empirical evidence against the existence of your particular God - the evidential problem of evil (e.g. hundreds of millions of years of horror before humans show up, a million plus generations of children around half of which are killed through disease and/or starvation before they reach the age of 5 before Jesus shows up, etc. etc.)

You appear to respond, in effect, by saying: (i) but we theists have all sorts of explanations for all this evil (theodicies), which I think are quite good explanations (ii) even if they are not that good, they can be supplemented by sceptical theism which I don’t rule out, so (iii) the onus is on you to show all these theodicies collectively fail and that sceptical theism is untenable, before you can say that you have provided good evidence against the existence of my God.

But the thing about the theodicies, Glenn, is that they are what Popper calls ad hoc. They lead to now new tests. Or, if they do, but the further test fails, there’s always another gerrymandered explanation for the failure that can be cooked up. Similarly, appeals to God’s mysterious ways and facts-beyond-our-ken are ad hoc. There’s no way empirically to test the claim that such facts-beyond-our-ken is indeed the correct explanation for why there’s so much evil.

Much the same intellectual strategy that you are employing to defend theism is also employed by Young Earth Creationists (YEC), conspiracy theorists, Erich von Daniken style alternative historians (aliens built the pyramids) and countless other wackos to convince themselves and their followers that what they believe cannot be so silly after all.

For of course, if I present a series of evidence-based arguments against YEC, its proponents can say, “Ah, but we have some, we think, quite good explanations of the order of the fossil record, for light from distant stars, etc. - hundreds of such explanations in fact” (explanations cooked up at the Institute for Creation Research and other multi-million dollar funded “research” institutions), and (ii) in any case, God might have his mysterious reasons for arranging the fossils, etc. like that, so (iii) the onus is on you to show all these YEC-type explanations collectively fail and that such appeals to God’s mysterious reasons is untenable, before you can say that the facts to which you point provide good evidence against YEC.

Of course, when we then try to show the failings of the YEC explanations offered, the proponent of YEC can always gerrymander up yet more explanations, and then even more, thereby continuing to make their theory “fit” the evidence. They thus render their theory empirically unfalsifiable (this is the strategy I call “But it Fits!” in my book Believing Bullshit).

But that is, indeed, all bullshit, isn’t it? The fact is, YEC IS pretty straightforwardly falsified by the available empirical evidence, notwithstanding the possibility of endlessly explaining that evidence away by ad hoc means and/or appeals to mystery. Most of us can see that straightaway (those of us whose minds have not been captured by YEC, that is). The endless ad hoc-ery and mystery-mongering is just a smokescreen.

The onus is clearly not on us to refute all the explanations on offer by the YECs. In fact that’s an impossible task given the ad hoc character of their explanations and the fact they're prepared to keep constructing them ad nauseum. It’s entirely reasonable for us to insist that the available empirical evidence DOES indeed very effectively undermine YEC, and that it does so precisely because the YECs’ method of explaining it away is so hopelessly ad hoc.

This is why, before we are presented with any argument FOR classical theism or YEC that might be furnished to save or support the theory, it is indeed entirely reasonable to conclude, on the basis of the kind of observational evidence outlined, that classical theism/YEC is false.

POSTSCRIPT. Glenn has responded with three points, to which I've responded. Here's the points with my responses...
PPS 18th Dec. I have now expanded the explanations below because they were too sketchy.

Hi Glenn

my quick response to your three comments.

First, here's what an ad hoc hypothesis actually is (as Popper and I use the term). It's a hypothesis introduced to save a theory from refutation, a hypothesis that is not independently testable.

Illustration. The Aristotelean cosmology said the heavenly bodies are perfectly spherical. Galileo observed mountains on the moon through his telescope. One Aristotelean attempted to save his theory by insisting there was an invisible substance on the moon that covered the mountains, making it perfectly spherical. This theory-saving hypothesis was ad hoc because (at the time) it was untestable.

Not all theory-saving hypotheses are ad hoc. Newton's theory of universal gravitation predicted a smooth orbit for Uranus. Uranus was observed to have a wobbly orbit. To save Newton's theory, scientists introduced the hypothesis that there was a further planet tugging Uranus out of orbit. This new hypothesis was not ad hoc as it led to new tests - astronomers looked at where the mystery planet would have to be, and found it - that's how Neptune was discovered.

Even when individual theory saving hypotheses are not individually ad hoc, they can be collectively rendered ad hoc if the defender of the theory is prepared endlessly to cook up new hypotheses to save the theory. Or appeals to mystery, of course, which are also, in effect, ad hoc. This is the strategy I call "But it Fits!" in the book Believing Bullshit.

Now to Glenn's response. He says...

GLENN: 1) I’m not even close to being persuaded that the plausibility of theodicies is anything like the plausibility of explanations for why we should believe in a young universe.

ME: What you’re persuaded of is irrelevant. I have pointed out why your method of dealing with the problem of evil is essentially similar to that employed by Young Earth Creationists to deal with counter-evidence.

GLENN: 2) Theodicies don’t strike me as ad hoc. Things like the free will defence or the soul building defence (etc) are generalisable. E.g. the might be stated something like “For any perfectly good and all powerful being, it would still be conceivable that they allow X provided it has some outcome that is compatible with their good character, such as Y.” Ad hoc explanations are really one-off explanations of a sort that are just made up to explain one very specific situation by appealing to principles that are of no use otherwise. So it’s not ad hoc at all.

ME: That’s not what ad hoc means, Glenn. Ad hoc explanations lead to no new tests. The theodicies are ad hoc, by Popper’s definition (he coined the phrase). Look it up. Or, when the theodicies are not ad hoc, and the further test is failed, they are salvaged by yet another defensive manouevre, just as in the case of YEC, thereby rendering the theory unfalsifiable (or an appeal to mystery, of course). Nutters who believe dogs are spies from the planet Venus, etc. employ the exact same strategy.

Ad hoc hoc defences CAN be generalizable. For example, to defend my theory that the Earth is ruled by alien lizards, I can deal with an apparent counter-evidence by saying: "Ah, but that evidence was of course planted there by the alien lizards to fool us." That's a great general, blanket immunizing strategy. it's not one off.

GLENN: 3) Even if things were different and theodicies were ad hoc, they are intended as explanations for why a person might do or allow something that you didn’t expect them to. If anything is allowed to be ad hoc, surely it’s something about why so-and-so might do something. If you rejected the explanation because it was ad hoc, you’d be effectively stacking the deck against any explanation in terms of a person’s intentions, which would be unfair in this case, to put it mildly. But this is moot, since theodicies aren’t ad hoc in any important sense anyway.

ME: The theodicies are indeed ad hoc in Popper's sense. They lead to no new tests (either that, or further explaining away is done ad nauseum to deal with further explanatory failures, or they're supplemented by appeals to mystery). This is NOT like when someone does something out of character and we say, ah, but they probably had this reason for doing it. Often, we can test our hypothesis. So the suggestion is not ad hoc at all. And the occasional ad hoc explanation for anomolies is in any case acceptable (even Popper thought so). However, when there’s considerable evidence against a theory and it’s all dealt with by ad hoc means (and/or appeals to mystery), then that counter-evidence is NOT neutralized.

You’re strategy is, in short, very much like a wife who, when presented with a husband who very often acts in seemingly cruel and vicious way, beating her and her children, maintains he is nevertheless entirely noble and virtuous. She simply explains all the bad stuff away in a manner that is entirely ad hoc (or, when her excuses and explanations for his behaviour clearly fail, just constructs yet more explanations ad nauseum, and/or appeals to his having mysterious unknown reasons).

You, Glenn, say: "If you rejected the explanation because it was ad hoc, you’d be effectively stacking the deck against any explanation in terms of a person’s intentions". This is just false. You have misunderstood what "ad hoc" actually means, as I and Popper use the term. Explanations in terms of people's intentions usually aren't ad hoc, as it's usually possible to test the explanation. E.g. We believe Tom is kind and non-violent. We discover he has killed someone with a knife. We postulate that he killed in self-defence. That it was a case of self-defence is something that can be investigated and indeed potentially shown to be false. It's not ad hoc. But even if it were, it would acceptable if it's a one off example. What's not acceptable is to rely almost entirely on ad hoc means to save your theory from refutation. That's what you are doing, Glenn.

To return to the beaten wife - the wife is being irrational if she insists there’s no prima facie good evidence that her husband is NOT entirely noble and good. She’s deluded. You seem, to me, are a similar case.

Now of course, the wife might insist she has these other very good reasons for thinking her husband really is noble after all. Perhaps she has. But, as things stand, her husband’s horrific behaviour really is excellent evidence that he’s not entirely noble and good, notwithstanding the wife’s endless supply of untestable excuses and explanations.

That’s right, I am suggesting you’re deluded, Glenn. Not very gracious of me, but it’s what I think. Clearly, when we are both so very confident of the reasonableness of our respective, but mutually exclusive, positions, one of us very probably is pretty deluded. The above considerations suggest it’s you.

PPPS. That this is the fundamental problem with the theodicies (and skeptical theism, actually), a problem that the EGC brings out at an intuitive level, is something I'm writing up as an academic paper.

Postscript 20 Dec. Glenn has responded again. Here's my (slightly edited) reply (quoting him):


Glenn you say: "you've got to insist that even explanations that are compatible with all the facts an are true will be discarded by your method of labelling explanations as ad hoc, basically ensuring that no explanation at all will get through your filter,"

Of course true explanations can quite rightly and justifiably be rejected. Happens all the time. But in any case you haven't shown your explanations are true, at this point (considering just the evidential problem of evil prior to considerations favouring theism). You are just assuming they are, at this point!

"No explanations at all will get through your filter." Not sure what this means. Non ad hoc explanations of counter-evidence are fine. Even the occasional ad hoc explanation is acceptable. The only thing I am ruling out is a theory defended against seemingly very powerful counter-evidence more or less entirely by ad-hoc means (plus mystery-mongering). I'm saying, very sensibly, that that does NOT neutralize the counter-evidence! This must, by now, be blindingly obvious to you.

But the key point, Glenn, is, once explaining away all counter-evidence by more or less entirely ad hoc means (plus mystery mongering) is allowed - and that IS your strategy, as you seem finally to have realized - EVERY NUTTY THEORY BECOMES ENTIRELY IMMUNE TO COUNTER EVIDENCE. Indeed, this is the preferred method of dealing with counter-evidence by nutcases the world over.

I can now quite reasonably believe the world is ruled by evil, shape-shifting alien lizards. A wife can quite reasonably believe the husband who beats her and her children is wholly noble and good. Any counter-evidence can quite reasonably be endlessly explained away by ad hoc means (supplemented, if required, by mystery-mongering). Our absurd beliefs will be just as reasonable as yours. And yours as reasonable as ours.

83 comments:

Mike said...

For those interested, I think John D's blog covered some really strong arguments against skeptical theism and the double standard it presents here: http://philosophicaldisquisitions.blogspot.com/2010/09/end-of-skeptical-theism-index.html

I particularly like the arguments by Maitzen and Wielenberg (follow the links on the site).

BenYachov said...

To be fair Prof Law your EGC is itself ambiguous shit. It contains no objective clear definition of evil. It ignores virtually every historical philosophical definition of evil. It is itself ad hoc and subjective and can change itself from moment to moment.

There is no empirical evidence you even understand the meaning of the terms "Classical Theism" vs "theistic personalism" vs "process theism" vs a hole in your head.

If I stopped believing in God tomorrow I can guarantee I would regard your EGC as YEC for non-believers.

PS Plus the concept of a "non-starter" seems to be lost on you sir.

NormaJean said...

Stephen, you're an interesting guy, but Glenn clearly got the better hand in your exchange(s).

Question: On naturalism or something much like it, what do concepts like "good" and "evil" even mean?

Thomas Larsen said...

Just to twist this around...

Stephen, there's overwhelming empirical evidence for the existence of my particular God—like the evidential problem of good (for example, pervasive beauty throughout the cosmos, elegant ecosystems, embodied moral agents, millions of years of life, intelligence, and joy, and so on).

You appear to respond, in effect, by saying: (i) we atheists have all sorts of explanations for all this good (blind chance, evolution, many universes), which I think are quite good explanations; (ii) even if they are not that good, they can be supplemented by sceptical naturalism—"We may not have a naturalistic explanation yet, but surely there is one"—which I don’t rule out; so (iii) the onus is on you to show all these explanations collectively fail and that naturalism is untenable before you can say that you have provided good evidence for your God.

(Sorry, but I couldn't resist. Now to see the hole I've dug myself into...)

David Span said...

BenYachov

So you don't like subjective arguments? Well you've just written off arguments for theism like Aquinas's.

And again you carry on about "classical theism" -- but if you are talking about Aquinas's "god" then you are still stuck with personification. Because that is how it is described.

And as Aquinas describes his "god" as love, omnipotent and omniscient it is still made incoherent by the problem of evil, and hence just as challenged by Evil God.

You might want to show evidence that Aquinas's "god" has any basis in reality, other than simply being make-believe.

Steven Carr said...

LARSEN
there's overwhelming empirical evidence for the existence of my particular God

CARR
No there isn't, especially as Christians claim this world is not the one their god designed, which was supposed to work on different principles before the Fall.

You simply have fallen victim to the human tendency to personify things. People did it millenia before you were born and will do so after you have died.

I guess the existence of Nature is overwhelming evidence for Mother Nature.

Every year brings more time, which is obviously more empirical evidence for the existence of Old Father Time.

As for the Grim Reaper, who can doubt his existence?

Humans evolved to see agency in nature. There is an excellent book about why religion is natural and science is hard.

People are just not geared up to accept that stuff just happens without somebody making it happen.

BenYachov said...

David Span

Your ignorant rants against Aquinas read like a YEC with a 3rd grader's knowledge of biology and a handful of pamphlets from the ICR blathering against Evolution.

>So you don't like subjective arguments? Well you've just written off arguments for theism like Aquinas's.

Learn to read the President's English. I said "[EGA] contains no objective clear definition of evil." and of course it doesn't. Aristotle and Aquinas have objective definitions of Good vs Evil. Maybe they are wrong but they are clearly defined terms unlike Prof Law's ambiguous bullshit.

>And again you carry on about "classical theism" -- but if you are talking about Aquinas's "god" then you are still stuck with personification. Because that is how it is described.

God is described using analogous language not unequivocal. You are interpreting the description of God here in unequivocal terms. Clearly concepts like "Unequivocal", "Equivocal" and "analogous" are simply to big for your 3rd grade reading comprehension skills and education.

>And as Aquinas describes his "god" as love,

Love is defined in reference to God as "to will the Good for something" it is not an emotion. God has no emotions.

You can't give up the fallacy of equivocation now can you?

>omnipotent and omniscient it is still made incoherent by the problem of evil, and hence just as challenged by Evil God.

Only in reference to a God who is a moral agent with the moral obligation to intervene. A God who is not a moral agent may be ontologically good but not morally good. A God who is ontologically good may serve as the ground of moral goodness without being a moral agent.

>You might want to show evidence that Aquinas's "god" has any basis in reality, other than simply being make-believe.

As opposed to you make-believing you actually read Aquinas when it is clear you haven't? Have you read Sir Anthony Kennedy? He is an ex-Priest Agnostic critic of Aquinas and Philosopher. He would laugh at your dumb ass claim Aquinas believed in an anthopomorphic god. You are such a clueless Gnu you can't even read a credible critic of Aquinas(ywho could give you a credible set of arguments against him) but you choose to rely on hacks who have never read him and equate him with "Theistic Peronsalist" views of God?

Epic fail!

I won't be responding to you anymore till you get off your lazy arse & do the required reading.

Bye!

David Span said...

NormaJean

You ask what the concepts like "good" and "evil" even mean under naturalism?

These are human concepts that relate to our innate moral sense of "right" and "wrong". It makes sense in the context of the naturalistic evolution of human morality.

As Massimo Pigliucci eloquently discussed (on his blog Rationally Speaking) about a scientific understanding of the origin of morality:

“Evolutionary biologists have explored, both empirically and mathematically, the foundations of animal (not just human) morality...it depends on two fundamental causes: kin selection and reciprocal altruism...[And] as Sober & Wilson and de Waal have convincingly shown, these two elements provide the necessary building blocks for a naturalistic understanding of morality.”

Thomas Larsen said...

Out come the straw men! Ready your pitchforks!

David Span said...

BenYachov

I must admit to feel somewhat satisfied to see you sink into ad hominem attacks, instead of attempting to address the issues.

My comments on Aquinas come directly from his writings.

If, as you imply, you understand the “President’s English”, then why do you miss the point of my reply to your criticism of a using a subjective description? If as you say you don’t like subjectivity (which you claim about Dr Law) then you can’t like Aquinas’s definition of a god, as it is not grounded in objectivity or reality. Just like someone making a claim about fairies. It may be internally consistent, but how is it based on reality? Aquinas’s concept fails to be even internally cosnsitent, ala the problem of evil.

So the definition of this make-believe god is based on analogies with humans but really meaning something completely different? So it’s love but it’s not love? So it’s X but it’s not X? That sinks into incoherence. You can’t change meanings at a whim. (Remember, what you’re referring to was the basis of Aquinas’s theodicy – trying to establishing a loving god.)

And yet you are the one claiming that Dr Law is being subjective!

Whether Aquinas “believed” in an anthropomorphic god is irrelevant -– that is how it is described, personified. It is even a “he”, and of course it had a son -– both anthropomorphic giveaways. So you have him contradicting himself, and his concept becomes incoherent. Aquinas cannot personify it to suit, then hide behind an unsupported supernatural claim (or even mystery) when it suits.

You can hide in Aquinas’s contradictions and make-believe if you want.

It is quite revealing of your approach that when asked to show how Aquinas’s god is grounded in reality all you come back with are ad hominem attacks.

It doesn’t do anything for your credibility, nor show an ounce of civility.

Most disappointing.

Stephen Law said...

reposted with corrected spelling!

Thomas - I like your twist. Twisting arguments is one of my favourite things in philosophy, as you've probably noticed.

However, I think we can deal with alleged symmetry. Here's a first, quick off the cuff thought...

First, much of that supposed evidence for god is merely evidence for a cosmic intelligence or designer, or whatever, not the JC god.

But in any case, yours is an argument FOR the existence of a being (an entirely good god) based on observation, not an arg AGAINST. It's a supposed confirmation, not a falsification.

Pointing to lots of good stuff doesn't much support the claim there's an entirely good god. Especially not if there's also lots of bad stuff. Then it doesn't support it at all. On the other hand, pointing to lots of bad stuff does very strongly support the conclusion there's no entirely good god, whether or not there's lots of good stuff too.

Analogy: The fact that ted gives his kids and wife presents and hugs and does voluntary work does not yet give us very much reason to suppose he's ENTIRELY noble and wonderful. The fact that he murders prostitutes at night immediately gives excellent grounds for supposing he ain't.

BenYachov said...

David Span,

Now you have gone from a YEC mentality to that of a petulant 5 year old.

Over at Feser's blog dguller a young Atheist spitfire who unlike you has actually read Aquinas(& as memory serves has corrected you in the past of some of your ignorant blather regarding the great theologian) is making some interesting arguments and criticisms of Aquinas' doctrine of analogy.

I don't agree with him but I find him a comforting read in that it nice to know there are Atheists out there who actually care about rational argument, make the effort to be informed & don't confuse such noble intellectual pursuits with mindless uneducated nay-saying ridicule and retoric worthy of the Classic Sir John Cleese argument sketch.

David it would take little effort for your to read Sir Anthony Kennedy & make at least one credible argument against Aquinas' philosophy but clearly I see now it is too far above your limited cognitive level.

Sadly David you are the sort of Atheist who is only suited to reading THE GOD DELUSION and not go beyond it.

Your abilities cap at polemics of YEC types of Christian Fundamentalism but to expect a sophisticated critique of religion from you is clearly unrealistic.

So take my obvious correct advice and stick with the popular and the vulgar. Anything more then that is simply getting ideas above your station.

Now we can't have that can we?

The Atheist Missionary said...

This exchange is priceless:

Peoples: ... if a person who believes in a good God also believes that the various theodicies may well do the trick (or at least most of the trick), you’ll understand, I’m sure, why they aren’t terribly bothered by your reluctance to think the theodicies are any good

Law: Testability is key. If a theory is defended endlessly by its proponents against seemingly powerful counter-evidence by such explanations none of which can be tested, then the evidence DOES still constitute strong (if not indefeasible) evidence against what they believe.

Glenn, your move ....

Michael Young said...

It seems to me that Stephen’s Evil God challenge is routinely misunderstood in its fundamentals by theists, and I suspect that Stephen puts the Evil God challenge in a particular way that, perversely, encourages theists to the kind of misunderstanding that leads to frustrating exchanges like the present. As I see it, the core of the challenge is to ask the theist a simple question: what independent, non-question-begging reason does anyone have to think that God is all-good? Or, even, to prefer the hypothesis of an all-good God to an all-evil God (a hypothesis which we would typically reject out-of-hand)? In typical presentations of this challenge, Stephen includes some discussion of particular evils by way of making the challenge seem vivid; but many theists apparently take this as the attempt to provide an independent reason to deny the existence of an all-good God, a la the logical problem of evil. Stephen then perversely encourages this misunderstanding of his argument by discussing theodicies and reverse theodicies, as if he (Stephen) expects that the theist would naturally want to appeal to theodicies as just the sort of independent reason for God’s goodness which he is challenging them to provide in the first place. This strikes me as a bit weird; theodicies are well-suited as a response to the logical problem of evil conceived in a certain way (namely, not as a challenge, but as a demonstration of God’s impossibility), but they are unnatural responses to the core challenge Stephen is pressing unless his challenge has been misunderstood as something else. That is: why should any theistic philosopher, from his own perspective, suppose for even a second that by offering a theodicy and showing a) the possibility of God’s co-existence with evil he gives or shows b) an independent, non-question-begging reason to think that God is all-good?

Anyway, this is my diagnoses of what has gone wrong in the dialectic. The reverse theodicies are interesting, but the discussion of the reverse theodicies in this context wrongly implies that theodicies might anyway be the sorts of things that could in any case provide materials for a theistic answer to the core challenge. They aren’t that sort of thing at all, and one shouldn’t need reverse theodicies to see that point clearly.

Hope all of this is clearer than mud.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just want to say that I've been enjoying your exchanges with Glenn very much. I must say it is somewhat amusing to see him struggle with the challenge so thoroughly. That being said, I'm not surprised that the egc is causing him so much trouble. However, it is disturbing that he doesn't understand the term ad hoc. This seems, to me, to be an elementary term, a bit like the term proposition. I do wonder if his difficulty with the challenge is actually routed in the fact that he doesn't understand the basic elements of the challenge. If this is the case then the exchange might be a waste of time. In any case, keep up the good work!

Cheers!

NormaJean said...

DavidSpan,

But if "good" and "evil" (evil being privation) represent an objective reality, then the explanation of that reality is, probably, the explanation Glenn provided which deflates Law. believe it or not.

Regards,

N

Thomas Larsen said...

Stephen, that reminds me of a certain criticism of your evil-god defeater that I developed a little while ago. For your evil-god defeater to work, the concept of an evil god must be coherent (or so it seems to me); and that's what I find questionable. I think, at least, that the intrinsic probability of an evil god is much lower than the intrinsic probability of a good God.

(If evil is the privation of good, in the same way that a shadow is the privation of light, then the whole notion of an evil god would fall apart. But that's not what I want to focus on.)

I was thinking about Star Wars (I am, unashamedly, a fan), and it occurred to me: the Emperor doesn't think of himself as evil. This got me thinking. For, in fact, few people think of themselves as evil; and, when they consciously do evil, they seem to do so with the aim of achieving some good: justice, peace, pleasure, satisfaction, or some other good thing.

Consider: Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and so on had millions murdered because they genuinely thought it would make the world a better place, or because they thought it was the right and just thing to do, or because it gave them pleasure. In other words—and this is the key—although they performed horrific, evil acts or ordered them to be performed, they had aims that were, in some measure, good. Even the "Satan," according to the Christian view, acts out of a desire for justice, pleasure, and satisfaction.

So, here's my argument against the concept of an evil god:

(1) Any conscious action is motivated ultimately by good aims, intentions, or motives.
(2) If a being possesses good aims, intentions, or motives, that being is not wholly evil.
(3) If an evil god exists, he has consciously acted.
(4) But, if an evil god exists and has consciously acted, he cannot be wholly evil.
(5) The concept of a god who is both evil and good in some measure is intrinsically improbable.

Regarding the last premise: in programming we have the 0–1–∞ rule (basically, "Don't use arbitrary constants"). We're faced with the difficulty of explaining why an evil god would also possess a certain arbitrary measure of good in his aims and intentions. A good God, of course, can simply be wholly good; He's not 1.283% evil, or anything like that.

Hmm, what a mess... Do you see my general point?

Angra Mainyu said...

A suggestion:

There is no symmetry, if one considers - as an alternative to God - an omnipotent creator of all other beings (let's call it "Guk"), who doesn't give one iota about moral goodness or evilness.

Maybe - for instance - Guk created the universe because he enjoys humans and other finite beings physical beings because he enjoys watching them struggle.
In other words, he wants to have enjoyment - that's its goal -, and he enjoys the show.

Also, Guk can make the universe and those beings non-deterministic because he finds it more entertaining if he does not know for sure what's going to happen.

However, Guk does not care whether good or bad people come on top; he's having fun either way.

Of course, alternatively, one may just posit Guk as an omnipotent creator who doesn't care about moral goodness or evilness, as an alternative to God, and consider entertainment as just one potential motivation - but without specifying that it's that motivation what prompted him to create the universe.

In any case, that avoids the evidential problem of good completely - since moral goodness is not problematic for Guk -, but the theist still needs to handle the evidential problem of evil.

Thomas Larsen said...

Angra, doesn't that hypothesis succumb to the kind of ad-hocness that Stephen was critical of in his original post?

Debunkey Monkey said...

I can't be the only atheist who think it's kind of cute when theists try to defend their god. It's like someone trying to convince you their imaginary friend is real. It's like, "daw..."

The fact that there probably isn't a god seems about as obvious as the fact that there's probably not a pink elephant in my garage. Maybe atheists should try to teach theists how to separate reality from fantasy instead of explain basic empirical verification.

Debunkey Monkey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Debunkey Monkey said...

Thomas, the thing about atheism is that you don't have to explain anything. In fact you can declare most things as unexplainable and still have a rock-solid case for atheism.

The only question that needs asking is, "Is there empirical and falsifiable evidence for the existence of god?" If the answer is no, then it doesn't matter what you can or cannot explain. "Goddidit" is considered ridiculous and a thought-stopper as an answer to a current unknown.

PS: The answer really is no.

wombat said...

@Thomas Larsen "Any conscious action is motivated ultimately by good aims, intentions, or motives."

(1) Do you not need to distance this, in some way, from the agent doing the action though? i.e. the aims are not usually held to be good if they only are of benefit to the person doing them. Maybe Pol Pot et al thought that the world would be better for them or their favoured group but never as far as I am aware that it would be better for the millions on the receiving end. They did not even make the attempt to minimise suffering for the victims. This is not the same as people who do things for the right reason but make poor decisions e.g. applying a fatally incorrect medical treatment through ignorance. It is not sufficient to say that e.g "Hitler thought he was improving the world by getting rid of the Jews", one has to be able to add. "... and he strove to do this with as little suffering as he believed possible". Unless this can be said it would seem likley that the "good intentions" are simply a rationalisation of a hateful motive,

(2) What about the inverse "Any action is motivated by self interest and is therefore never wholly good"?

Angra Mainyu said...

@Thomas Larsen

Premise 1) in your argument appears to be somewhat similar to Swinburne's claims in his argument from perfect freedom and omniscience to moral perfection.

I at least say it's unfounded, but moreover, I would argue it appears to be false.

For instance, it seems psychopaths may carry out conscious actions that are not ultimately motivated by morally good aims.
http://scan.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2010/01/06/scan.nsp051.full

In other words, they know that they're evil, but do not care.

Alternatively, we can consider aliens in different scenarios:

For example, let's say that, on another planet, some aliens design a smarter organism that ends up overtaking their whole planet, and becomes nearly their entire biosphere.

This being - let's call it "Gut" - sends probes to other planetary systems, and studies a number of species, including humans.

So, Gut  takes some humans to its planet for further study, and comes to know that humans tend to describe it as "gray, blue and red".

It also concludes that those are judgments based on the normal human visual system, and that, given the light conditions, the judgments are very likely true, since the system tends to be reliable.

So, Gut  learns he's (very probably) gray, blue, and red - though Gut  can't experience the perceptual sensation of seeing those colors: its way of perceiving the world around it is different and vastly more complex than that of humans.

By studying humans, and due to its knowledge of biology in general, Gut  also reckons that basic human intuitions are usually reliable.

Also, due to its studies of human psychology, Gut  finds out that humans tend to make judgments and say behaviors are "morally good", "morally evil", etc. - in different languages, but in the same context -, and that those judgments appear to be based on human basic intuitions.

Gut  also learns that all of the humans he studies - abducting them, sometimes subjecting them to horrible experiments, in the end always killing them - consistently state that it - i.e., Gut - is morally evil and/or that its actions are evil, etc.

So, Gut  comes to the conclusion that the judgments are probably true, so that it probably is evil.

However, that does not motivate it to stop any more than learning it's gray, blue and red does - i.e., that does not motivate Gut at all.

It also comes to realize that some the actions it performs on the humans motivate the judgment.
Gut  continues studying them and it then tests kind of torments, and also rewards, etc., puts humans into a variety of complex situations, etc., in order to study what moral judgments its human guinea pigs will make - and it continues studying them.
Eventually, Gut has satisfied its curiosity with regard to humans, and it kills the subjects of its study that are still alive.
Also, it reckons that, if humans are left alone, in millions of years they or their successors might advance enough to be a serious nuisance.
So, it designs some biological weapons, and sends robots to attack the Earth.
The biological weapons kill nearly all of the human population, and then the robots launch a more traditional assault against the survivors to finish the extermination - and succeed, wiping out the human species.
The fact that Gut  has learned that its actions are probably evil, however, fails to motivate it in the least to stop them. It does not care about moral evil, or good.
Clearly, Gut  does have reasons for acting - studying those other species entertains it.
Moreover, Gut  does not have any reasons whatsoever for refraining from acting as it does.
Someone might object that Gut can't really grasp the meaning of moral terms.
But the point is that Gut does not care about the standards humans care about - whatever those are -, except to the extent that it's curious about humans and want to know more about them. Gut cares about its own entertainment.

Angra Mainyu said...

Thomas,

I don't see why the hypothesis that there is an omnipotent, omniscient creator who does not care about morality one iota would be any more ad-hoc than one who wants to do evil, or a morally perfect one.

Why do you think that that is the case?

Of course, I'm not suggesting that there is any good reason at all to believe in my alternative hypothesis. but I don't think that that is different in the case of either God or Stephen's Evil God.

But maybe this can be seen better from a different perspective.

If the hypothesis that there is an omnipotent, omniscient creator is unwarranted - i.e., if we ought to reject it -, then we ought to reject theism, and we're through.

If not, then we may consider the hypothesis that there is an omnipotent, omniscient creator, and some sub-hypothesis, such as:

a) The creator is morally perfect.

b) The creator cares most about doing evil - maximally evil, if you like.

c) The creator does not care about moral goodness or evilness one iota.

d) Other.

A question for the theist is: why would a) be more probable, given our evidence, than b), c), or d), or even more than the disjunction ( b) or c) or d))?

Thomas Larsen said...

"Wombat":

Regarding (1): a sadist might take pleasure in inflicting as much pain on his victims as possible before their deaths. I'm quite open to the possibility that people like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and so on did have a sadist side to them. Obviously the act of inflicting pain on another person for one's own pleasure is deeply evil; but the aim of obtaining pleasure is, I think, a good one.

Regarding (2): there doesn't seem to be anything intrinsically wrong with acting out of self-interest.

Thomas Larsen said...

Debunkey Monkey:

"Thomas, the thing about atheism is that you don't have to explain anything. In fact you can declare most things as unexplainable and still have a rock-solid case for atheism."

Young-earth creationists say pretty much the same thing. If you don't have to explain anything much, you can get away with pretty much any explanation or worldview!

"The only question that needs asking is, 'Is there empirical and falsifiable evidence for the existence of god?' If the answer is no, then it doesn't matter what you can or cannot explain. 'Goddidit' is considered ridiculous and a thought-stopper as an answer to a current unknown."

No, the question that needs to be asked is, "Is there evidence for the existence of God?" I don't know why you think that the evidence for God must be empirical and falsifiable. What reasons do you have for those qualifications? Perhaps the believer holds that God exists, is trustworthy, and so on because she has experiences which she finds compelling evidence for God: why should she not believe in God on the basis of those experiences?

Do you think that we can work our way up to God as the conclusion of a philosophical argument, or the result of a scientific inference, or the outcome of a syllogism? It seems to me that there's something rather arrogant and presumptuous about this: "We are independent, unshaped, objective knowers," says the sceptic, "and I am in a position to judge whether or not God exists." Well, you're not an independent, unshaped, objective knower. Sorry.

And "God did it" is a perfectly reasonable thing to claim in certain cases, given that an event may have multiple explanations. (A bottle of water is on my desk because various physical laws ensure that plastic molecules hold together in a certain shape, are attracted in the direction of the desk by the force of Earth's gravity, and constrict the movement of water molecules inside the bottle; a bottle of water is on my desk because I tend to get thirsty.)

Thomas Larsen said...

Angra Mainyu:

Right. So I think the instrinsic probability of a morally indifferent god (if that's not a contradiction in terms) is roughly the same as the intrinsic probability of a good God; and the intrinsic probability of an evil god is substantially less than either of these, for the reasons given above. The theist, then, may appeal to revelation (both special and general), personal experience, and so on to support her claim that God is not morally indifferent.

Angra Mainyu said...

Thomas,

Regarding Wombat's point and the issue of pleasure, it seems to me that aim of obtaining pleasure may be a good one in the sense that it's good for the person acting.

However, it does not appear to be a morally good one.

It's not that it's a morally evil goal; rather, on its own, the goal is morally neutral.

For instance, it seems clear that a non-moral agent, say a lion, may have a goal of obtaining pleasure - say, he's chasing a lioness in order to have sex with her.

But the lion's goal is not morally good, or morally bad. It's not morally anything.

Regarding the intrinsic probability - i.e., prior probability - of a morally evil omnipotent being (that does not appear to be a contradiction in terms), assuming there is such thing as an intrinsic probability of any arbitrary metaphysical hypothesis (I'm not sure, but leaving that aside), I'm not sure for what reasons you think that it's less probable than a morally good one, since in both cases, you're specifying certain behavior (i.e., acting in accordance to morality, or acting against morality), so I don't see any particular advantage of one over the other, in terms of scope or simplicity.

Are you saying that a morally evil omnipotent being is somehow a more complex hypothesis than a morally good one?

Side note: In any case, I would argue using pairwise disjoint hypotheses that the intrinsic probability of a good omnipotent being is no greater than 1/n, for any n. But that would take some arguing, and the thread is not about that, so I'll leave it at that.

Unknown said...

Delusional people do not get better simply because you confront their delusion.

Unknown said...

Delusional people do not get better simply because you confront their delusion.

Google having a fit today?

David Span said...

Norma Jean

How is "good" and "evil" objective reality? It's based on subjective human morality. They are terms we define.

Paul Wright said...

Angra Mainyu writes For example, let's say that, on another planet, some aliens design a smarter organism that ends up overtaking their whole planet, and becomes nearly their entire biosphere.

Have you by any chance come across the Pebblesorters and what happens when they build a superintelligence? I'm not sure that there's any reason why the Pebblesorters or their construction cannot be conscious. Thomas's (1) appears to rely on the idea that there are universally compelling arguments.

David Span said...

BenYachov

Thank you for continuing with your ad hominem attacks. It is again very satisfying to see you in such a lather.

Who said anything about "love" being emotion? The Aristotle/Aquinas reference is more about benevolence.

Now Aquinas defines love as willing the good, the good as what a thing strives for, and evil as the absence of good.

Now part of the human good cannot be both striving to live and striving to die (as a knife can't both be good when it can cut and when it can't). Hence childhood cancers and mass deaths in tsunamis serve the same empirical purpose for the problem of evil when it is applied to Aquinas's god concept.

The problem of evil establishes the incoherence of Aquinas's concept of god just as much as when it was first used to show the incoherence of the god of classical theism.

(Even if the god concept is not anthropomorphic, it doesn't save it from the incoherenece.)

That's why Aquinas's god is a non-starter. It's self-contradictory.

But please, come back with more ad hominem attacks.

BenYachov said...

@David Span,

Still haven't read a credible academic critic of Aquinas like Sir Anthony Kennedy I see?

Still spouting ignorant blather about Aquinas who you clearly haven't read, learned anything about and haven't quoted once(even out of context)?

Would it kill ya to learn something authentic about His thought then offer a rational response rather then faking it like you have been doing?

Really would it kill ya?

I gave you the name of Aquinas' strongest philosophical critic and you can't even take the assist?

Clearly you can't get past amature level of THE GOD DELUSION.

Sad and unconvincing.

BenYachov said...

@Span
>Who said anything about "love" being emotion? The Aristotle/Aquinas reference is more about benevolence.

Your the one who dogmatically and ignorantly claimed Aquinas believed in an Anthropomorphic God & you cited Aquinas saying God is love as an example.

For humans love in an emotion.

>Now Aquinas defines love as willing the good, the good as what a thing strives for, and evil as the absence of good.

You now know that because I informed you & dguller informed you.

Pretending that is what you originally meant is very disingenuous.

Not only are you not making any effort to learn even a basic knowledge of Aquinas but you can't even talk to me honestly.

What is the point of you?

BenYachov said...

I know this is pointless since Span will not say anything intelligent in response to me here.

He will ignore what I wrote since it would require some learning to respond.

But maybe other will benefit.

>Hence childhood cancers and mass deaths in tsunamis serve the same empirical purpose for the problem of evil when it is applied to Aquinas's god concept.

You are equivocating between the mystery of evil(why does God create any possible world that contains/allows evil) vs the problem of evil(i.e. why would a perfectly morally good God, a God who is a perfect moral agent, allow any evil?).

God as understood Classically cannot coherently be conceived of as being a moral agent.

>The problem of evil establishes the incoherence of Aquinas's concept of god just as much as when it was first used to show the incoherence of the god of classical theism.

How so? A good moral agent is obligated to stop any evil it encounters.

God is not a moral agent thus he has no such obligation. God is ontologically good but not coherently conceived of as morally good.

I don't see how God's ontological goodness is in conflict with Him creating a world that allows evil?

I doubt you understand the difference between Ontological goodness vs moral goodness vs a hole in your head.

You can't get beyond THE GOD DELUSION in your level of analysis.

BenYachov said...

Even Sir Anthony Kennedy knows Aquinas doesn't conceive of God as a moral agent and quotes Aristotle to that effect in his own writings.

Kennedy tries to take apart Aquinas' Aristotelian metaphysical assumptions.

You won't see him making Span lame arguments equivocating between moral vs ontological goodness since that won't work.

Steven Carr said...

BEN
How so? A good moral agent is obligated to stop any evil it encounters.

God is not a moral agent thus he has no such obligation. God is ontologically good but not coherently conceived of as morally good.


CARR
I see Ben has resorted to the old tactic of posting total gibberish and defying people to refute a senseless stream of nonsense.

Perhaps Ben can come back when he learns to string words together meaningfully, the way an adult would.

BenYachov said...

Steve Carr,

Would it kill you to actually argue a position/point rather then response with blind ridicule?

wombat said...

@Ben

I am curious - How does the "Ontologically Good God" model account for the ordinary sort of good (happiness, joy, etc) and moral good (justice, compassion) or are these viewed as simply a human thing and not of any real import in cosmic terms and therefore a non-issue?

BenYachov said...

@wombat
>How does the "Ontologically Good God" model account for the ordinary sort of good...

The same way the Ground of All Being accounts for things having Being.

God in the classic sens is the metaphysical basis and ground of all goodness that good things possess.

Plus you should look up Aquinas' Philosophy of Universals.

Hope that helps and thank you for asking an intelligent, serious & very good question.

BenYachov said...

Correction:

Look up the philosophy of Transcendentals of Aquinas.

Sorry about that.

BenYachov said...

Enjoy wombat.

Goodness
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06636b.htm

Peace.

Angra Mainyu said...

@Paul Wright

I wasn't familiar with that particular example; I'll take a look.

As for the idea of universally compelling reasons, I think the claim that many theists make is that there are reasons that would be compelling to any being that makes no epistemic mistake and has enough information, and moreover, that morality provides such reasons.

For instance, in "The Existence of God", Richard Swinburne argues that moral perfection follows from omniscience and perfect freedom, and seems to be under the impression that a perfectly rational being will always do what's morally good.

He does not seem to take into consideration that a rational being might not care at all about morality; even social beings might have a very different set of standards.

Whether an entity like that and/or some of his actions could be properly called "morally bad", or rather, it wouldn't be a moral agent at all (i.e., it would not be morally anything) is debatable, but it's clear that it wouldn't be morally good, even though it could be very rational (and, hypothetically, perfectly rational too).

Shameless self-promotional side note: In my blog, I wrote a reply to Swinburne's "The Existence of God" (from which I took the example I used here, with some minor modifications), and where I make a somewhat more detailed analysis of the issue.

Paul Wright said...

@Angra Mainyu: yeah, it's not clear to be that Yuk or the Pebblesorters are irrational. They just have completely alien goals. Perhaps Swinburne would want to define "rational" as including "feeling compelled by moral facts", but this seems like cheating. A better response, if it were possible, would be to show that such alien minds can't think, as some of the commenters speculate on the posts I linked to. That's pretty hard though.

@Ben: God in the classic sens is the metaphysical basis and ground of all goodness that good things possess.

So I looked up the Stanford Encyclopedia article on the problem of universals and your linked Catholic Encyclopedia article, had a look for Aquinas, and I'm still not sure what, if anything, this statement might mean. It's my experience that claims that something "grounds" something seem intuitively meaningful (since they provide a mental image of a tree grounded in the earth, say), but are generally lacking in explanatory virtues. What does it mean to say "grounds" in this case?

I think you might mean that Aquinas thought, contra Plato, that universals aren't Forms but ideas in the mind of God. But I think this started as an argument over whether an Evil God was incoherent, and I don't see why granting this statement about universals would lead to that conclusion.

Earlier you seemed to say that goodness as it applies to God means something different to goodness applied to humans. But Law's argument is interested in goodness as it applies to humans, I think: I may invent a concept of "godgood" which entails "a being that permits the Holocaust, Lisbon Earthquake, etc. etc.", but it's certainly not clear that I should worship something which is perfectly godgood, rather than perfectly good in the human sense. Such a being does not "ground" human goodness in the sense of exemplifying it, for example (another meaning which I suppose you might have had for "ground").

It's also not clear to me what a "godgood" being has to do with the Christian God (see Matthew 5, especially v48), yet I think you are some sort of Christian, no?

Your continued insistence that people read the right books is what Suber calls logical rudeness inasmuch as it enables you to avoid criticism by identifying some fault with the critic rather than with his argument. I hope we won't see any more of that sort of thing.

Angra Mainyu said...

@Paul Wright

Swinburne is committed to the (or a) usual meaning of "rational", but in any case, defining "rational" in that sense wouldn't make a difference, since the definition of the words does not say anything about what is actually possible.

In particular, one can still posit an omnipotent being that is not at all influenced by moral facts.
If that is called "irrational", that's a label, but it would not prevent that being from being omnipotent, since - assuming "omnipotent" is coherent -; in other words, the being in question would not be hampered when trying to achieve any of its goals just because it does not have any inclinations to, say, refrain from making other beings just for the fun of watching them compete, struggle, etc., regardless of whether they suffer, how much, etc.

Moreover, if they insist on the meaning of "morally good" that is posited by Swinburne, then the result would be different (though it's less plausible): such a being would then count as morally good, but in that case, our moral intuitions would be 100% useless when it comes to predicting the behavior of any morally good being with a completely alien mind (I analyzed this alternative in more detail in my blog), so that would be just as serious a problem for theism.

P.S: thank you for the previous links. I hadn't read that blog before, but now I've been reading a number of other posts by Yudkowsky, and it's really good stuff.

BenYachov said...

@Paul Wight
>So I looked up the Stanford Encyclopedia article on the problem of universals and your linked Catholic Encyclopedia article,

I meant the transcendentals & I corrected myself in the next post. Just in case you didn't notice.(see post December 19, 2011 9:25 PM). Sorry you missed that part and went off on a wild goose chase, my bad.

>I'm still not sure what, if anything, this statement might mean.

I was referring too Aquinas' teaching see SUMMA CONTRA GENTILES BOOK I CH 40

http://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles1.htm#40

I was trying to answer wombat's simple question "How does the "Ontologically Good God" model account for the ordinary sort of good etc." with a simple answer. If he wanted to get into something more deep I would have accommodated him the best I could.

>Earlier you seemed to say that goodness as it applies to God means something different to goodness applied to humans.

Rather I made reference to Aquinas and Aristotle's definitions plus I added the Catholic Encyclopedia to give a working understanding of Goodness & what a philosophical description of it might look like. Law's definition or lack there of is empty of content & therefore meaningless as a challenge.

>But Law's argument is interested in goodness as it applies to humans.

With respect Law definition of goodness shifts more than a man in Parliament.

>I think: I may invent a concept of "godgood" which entails "a being that permits the Holocaust, Lisbon Earthquake, etc. etc."

You can make up whatever rules you like Ad Hoc or you can start bottom up or Top down using philosophy like Aquinas, Plato, Aristotle or Kant. But if you don't give me a working definition of "Evil" then it's not a challenge to my concept of God now is it? A good God who forbids stealing might be seen as "evil" by a dedicated thief who sees nothing wrong with his crimes but it renders the whole challenge trivial.

How is an EGC where evil is defined subjectively any sort of challenge at all? It simply isn't.
At best it's trivial.

>It's also not clear to me what a "godgood" being has to do with the Christian God (see Matthew 5, especially v48), yet I think you are some sort of Christian, no?

What kind of "Christian God" are you talking about? Baptist? Methodist? Eastern Orthodox, or what? I am a (Roman) Catholic Christian. If you wish to give me your private interpretation of Matt 5 that is lovely but a non-starter. If you do not want to discuss with me how we Catholics understand that verse and define Goodness then we have no common ground for any sort of meaningful exchange.

>Your continued insistence that people read the right books is what Suber calls logical rudeness...

So you really wouldn't mind if I launched into a tirade against let us say Evolution or Darwin but refused to learn anything about evolution except what I might garner from the CREATION INSTITUTE? So if you challenged me to read some credible books explaining and defending evolution(some by people who believe in God) I could just blow you off by saying "Logical rudeness! You are not dealing with my awesome unanswerable Creationist arguments!"?

Would you buy such bullshit? I wouldn't. But that is me. In a like manner before you criticize Thomism I insist you learn something about it. Otherwise you sound no different to me than the YEC fanatic.

>enables you to avoid criticism by identifying some fault with the critic rather than with his argument.

But the critic is at fault from arguing from a position of ignorance. If it seems to me to be willful ignorance then I owe that silly person nothing but ridicule.

Peace.

Thomas Larsen said...

Angra:

Hmm. Maybe my argument implies (or requires) a form of moral platonism, whereby things like pleasure and satisfaction are implied by the existence of any kind of god despite that god's attitude towards morality, which would be a bit dodgy—I don't know what Stephen's views are, by the way, but if he accepts moral platonism then his argument might run up against difficulties.

I need to think about this some more.

Thomas Larsen said...

Stephen, how do you define/ground evil?

Angra Mainyu said...

Thomas,

The word "evil" does not seem to require any intensional definition.

For instance, we would not normally ask for a definition of "blue", "intelligent", "interesting", "ill", "tasty", "round", "cause", "irrational", "was", "exists", etc., unless someone is learning to speak English, in which case a way of providing a definition would be to point at things that are, say, blue, until the other person gets it - i.e., an extensional definition.

Trying to provide an intensional definition that approaches usage is usually very difficult, and in any case, you wouldn't be able to capture the full intention.

You might use synonyms, though, so "evil" can mean (depending on context) "immoral", or "very immoral", but it seems to me that you cannot match the meaning without using moral terms - then again, the same would happen with other words too; for instance, try to define "blue" without using color terms.

If Stephen were to attempt to answer your question, he would have already conceded too much; but he does not have to.

By the way, do you have a definition of "evil"?

I'm not saying you should have one, by the way. I'm just curious.

As for "grounding", I think that the questions here should be: .

a) What does that mean?

b) Do you ground blue (or blueness), intelligent, interesting, irrational, tasty, round, evil, etc.?

Angra Mainyu said...

Regarding Platonism, I think that that's confused, and Stephen shouldn't accept that.

However, that does not appear to be problematic.

It looks to me that your arguments are based on William Lane Craig's metaethical argument for theism.

While I haven't found any on-line article that I fully agree with, I would recommend one reply by Christian philosopher Wes Morriston, which in my assessment is sufficient to show that the argument fails (I disagree with some of what he says, but I agree with most of his counterpoints - even if I would add a couple more)

You can find the paper in the following page:

http://spot.colorado.edu/~morristo/selected-papers.html

Stephen Law said...

Thomas - I use evil pretheoretically, focus entirely on natural evil, and could rephrase the entire challenge in terms of suffering instead. However, any notion of evil on which gratuitous suffering comes out as an evil will work fine. Including theistic accounts. Even Thomist privation accounts, in fact (contrary to what Fesser at el think). It matters not.

However if gratuitous suffering ain't an evil, is something your God will permit, then the EGC doesn't apply.

David Span said...

BenYachov appeals to “the mystery of evil” – but that is just a special pleading fallacy. He follows Dr Laws “Believing Bullshit” perfectly.
The problem of evil was originally addressed at the classical god of theism, probably by Epicurus but possibly some other philosopher. It addressed the concept of an omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omniscient god - the same as Aquinas’s concept.

BenYachov is unable to see that it still applies with Aquinas’s definition of good/evil in terms of what things strive for. It doesn’t need to appeal to morality or anthropomorphism (even though the definition of the god concept is still very much a moral agent and anthropomorphic). So his responses are red herrings. (BenYachov fails to even notice my sarcasm about love and emotion. Even if Aquinas is using Aristotle’s agape version, held by his god and humans alike, it is still an emotion and anthrompomorphic.)

Childhood cancers and mass deaths in tsunamis contradict what humans strive for, therefore they are evil, and the god concept cannot be omnibenevolent. Feed in the evidence and the god concept comes out as nonsense.

BenYachov makes the lame claim (to use his own words) that a god would not be subject to its own moral edicts. But that contradicts the moral edict; contradicts its omnibenevolence; and contradicts this god concept as worthy of respect, worship, or love (in any sense of the word). So by definition Aquinas moves further into incoherence.

Maybe if BenYachov produced evidence that this particular god concept actually existed, things could be discussed more concretely instead of just addressing an incoherent idea.

So it's fine for BenYachov to refer to the god delusion - because that's what Aquinas's and BenYachov's god concept is - incoherent and hence a delusion.
Which just makes BenYachov's and Aquinas's effort sad and unconvincing (again to use BenYachov's phrase).

BenYachov said...

>Even Thomist privation accounts, in fact (contrary to what Fesser at el think). It matters not.

I reply: Steven Laaw's claim here is delusional. The EGC can no more apply to a Classical Thomistic view then refuting any Cosmological Argument for the existence of God can be used to question Pantheism or a rebuttal of YEC can be use to undermine a Theistic Evolutionist approach.

These are simply brute facts Steven is trying to wish away rather then except the limitations of his argument.

>However if gratuitous suffering ain't an evil, is something your God will permit, then the EGC doesn't apply.

Steven Laaw equivocates here yet again.

Nature itself allows gratuitous suffering does that make nature evil? No, nature is not a moral agent so it would be absurd to call nature evil.

For God to be evil He would have to be a moral agent who fails to live up to a moral standard to which he owes allegiance or He would have to be a being alongside other beings who has a defect in his nature.

But in either case from a Thomistic perspective he wouldn't in fact be God. You can call Zeus a god but from the Thomistic perspective even if Zeus really existed he could not philosophically be concieved of as God since he is not Purely Actual.

For the EGC to be meaningful to a Thomist Steven Laaw would have to postulate we live in an Evil Reality or that Reality is Evil.

So Reality contains evil(i.e. privations) so does that make Reality evil for allowing evil to exist? Can you say that coherently?

>However if gratuitous suffering ain't an evil, is something your God will permit, then the EGC doesn't apply.

Here Steven Laaw equivocates between natural vs moral evil. God is only "evil" in this context if he is a moral agent who by definition has an obligation to prevent all evil including natural evil.

Dr. Feser & others have tried to explain this to him over & over but he is clearly deluded himself into believing he has found the all purpose omni-polemic against all forms of Theism and philosophical models of morality.

It doesn't even pass the laugh test much less the logic test.

If I stopped believing in any type of God tomorrow my opinion here would not change.

BenYachov said...

@David Span

>BenYachov appeals to “the mystery of evil” –

Stop making shit up. Anyone who reads plain English can see I was clearly made a distinction between the "mystery of evil"(i.e Why does evil exist) vs "the problem of evil"(i.e. why would an all good all omnipotent god allow evil etc).

I made no appeal to “the mystery of evil” for argument.

Fail.

David Spain it's clear you are not even trying to make a serious argument. Your reading comprehension skills suck as badly as the EGC does when applied to Classic Theism.

You can't get past your Dawkins level of "Religious People are Deluded & Stupid therefore I can make any deluded & or stupid argument I want and be taken seriously" meme.

No you can't.

BenYachov said...

If I might point out a contradiction between Steven Laaw and his follower David Span.

Span writes about the EGC "It doesn’t need to appeal to morality or anthropomorphism (even though the definition of the god concept is still very much a moral agent and anthropomorphic)."

(The above statement contradicts itself but I will ignore it for now)

Laaw OTOH writes:
"However if gratuitous suffering ain't an evil, is something your God will permit, then the EGC doesn't apply.

Clearly Laaw is describing moral evil here. Since God is evil for allowing gratuitous suffering. But that would only make sense if God where a moral agent with a moral obligation to prevent any suffering.

So who is correct about the EGC here?

Let face it the EGC only makes sense if one conceives of God being a moral agent and if one hold to a view that good and evil are metaphysically equivalent but opposite things.

It can't apply to any God that is not a moral agent or to the privation view. The case can't be made anymore then the case can be made that 2+2=5.

Sorry.

BenYachov said...

@Prof Law

(I'm dropping the name distorting for now)

Your problem seems to me to be you hold the delusion that you have created the all purpose one size fits all omni-polemic against Theism with your EGC.

Both experience and reason tell me this is intrinsically foolish.

I've seen YEC's hold a similar delusion in regards to Atheism. Such as assuming all Atheists are philosophical materialists and monists and kneejerk advancing polemics against that view toward every wag on the internet who identifies himself as an Atheist.

Well over at Victor Ruppert's blog there is a fellow who is a self-described Platonic Atheist & Property dualist for whom such polemics are non-starters.

I am very skeptical there is such a thing as a one size fits all apologetic or polemic.

Do you really believe because you might be ultimately right(i.e there is no God or there is no rational reason to believe in any gods etc whatever) that you might be wrong in the short term?

Because from where I am sitting I see no reason why your EGC should have any meaning to a Thomist/Classic Theist.

BenYachov said...

Correction:

edit:Do you really believe because you might be ultimately right(i.e there is no God or there is no rational reason to believe in any gods etc whatever) that you might be not wrong in the short term?

Thomas Larsen said...

Stephen:

"I use evil pretheoretically, focus entirely on natural evil, and could rephrase the entire challenge in terms of suffering instead. However, any notion of evil on which gratuitous suffering comes out as an evil will work fine. Including theistic accounts. Even Thomist privation accounts, in fact (contrary to what Fesser at el think). It matters not."

I think the Evil-God Challenge would work better if you phrased it as the Character-of-God Challenge. Concede that God is, as the theist holds, the highest good, and then challenge the nature of that good. As I've written before:

"But Law could phrase his defeater differently. 'Perhaps God is good,' he could say, 'very good; but He might not be good in the sense that you and I normally think of good. Suppose that moral facts are grounded in God’s nature, and that the universe derives its purpose and origin from Him; and, finally, suppose that God is a trickser and a torturer—for your arguments to God from morality, and the origin of the universe, and the resurrection of Jesus do not preclude that possibility. Clearly, you do not think that God is a trickser or a torturer: so, for consistency's sake, you should not consider Him honest and loving, either. At best, then, you should be agnostic about God’s character—but you should probably not even think that He exists at all.'"

And I'm not sure you can jump so easily from moral to natural evil. Most (all?) theistic traditions would contend that there are powerful unembodied beings—with conscious intentions, purposes, free wills, the ability to interact with the world to a certain degree, and so on—apart from and under God, and that some of these beings have rebelled against God and quite possibly affected the natural world in adverse ways. And so the (orthodox Christian) theist could make the claim that there really is no distinction between moral and natural evil: natural evil is actually moral evil, caused ultimately by the free choices of unembodied beings apart from God.

"However if gratuitous suffering ain't an evil, is something your God will permit, then the EGC doesn't apply."

Well, the potential for gratuitous suffering is not necessarily evil: it is good for creatures to be free (at least within certain parameters), but that freedom can be abused to create gratuitous evils. I don't think the theist has to come up with some greater good to justify the Holocaust per se, for instance; if anything, she has to come up with an explanation for why God would permit creatures to have the level of freedom required to bring about horrors like the Holocaust.

David Span said...

If BenYachov could read properly, he would see that writing:

“Span writes about the EGC "It doesn’t need to appeal to morality or anthropomorphism…”

is nonsense. I was clearly writing about a simple application of the problem of evil to the god of classical theism using the terms without needing to have them refer to morality.

Instead, BenYachov sinks into a sea of red herrings (and his usual ad hominem attacks).

I also wonder how the phrase “doesn’t need to appeal to X” has to equate to “can’t appeal to X”?

Indeed, the problem of evil is a serious argument, and shows (as it always has) that the god of classical theism is an incoherent concept.

BenYachov said...

@David Span,

>If BenYachov could read properly, he would see that writing:

>“Span writes about the EGC "It doesn’t need to appeal to morality or anthropomorphism…”

Wow you can't even remember your own writing? That's some piss poor reading comprehension skill there guy.

BTW I quoted you directly.

So basically you don't really mean what you say?

You OTOH did not quote me directly when you falsely claimed "BenYachov appeals to “the mystery of evil”.

Who are you trying to fool guy?

Really who? Give it a rest.

BenYachov said...

>I also wonder how the phrase “doesn’t need to appeal to X” has to equate to “can’t appeal to X”?

You claimed EGC doesn't need to appeal to morality yet Law's example clearly appealed to morality.


"However if gratuitous suffering ain't an evil, is something your God will permit,.

Thus God is evil for permitting gratuitous suffering. That only makes sense if God is somehow obligated to not permit suffering. Which of course is an appeal to morality.

It's not hard.

David Span said...

BenYachov

If you actually read the post you would see it refers to the problem of evil - with no mention of EGC. Where does it mention EGC.

As shown, there doesn't need to be appeal to morality (a response to your claim that morality isn't relevant). The concept of the classical god of theism is incoherent via POE simply based on the terms used.

You're still stuck in a sea of red herrings.

BenYachov said...

>If you actually read the post you would see it refers to the problem of evil - with no mention of EGC. Where does it mention EGC.

So now we are not taking about the EGC? That has only been the whole subject of this whole thread!

David Span I realize it's Christmas. I realize in Great Britain even Atheists partake of the festivities if only with a secular intent to be well festive.

Tis the Season and all.

You it seems have had quite enough Egg Nog IMHO.

Sober up! There is a good fellow.

BenYachov said...

David Span,

Go read Sir Anthony Kennedy! Do it! You will actually get a working knowledge of Aquinas that would make me take you seriously & you would get some good philosophical critiques of Aquinas you could use for polemics that would actually convince or challenge a Thomist.

Kennedy is an Agnostic who is famous for critiquing the 5 ways and his stuff is way better then the worthless shit you read in Dawkins on the 5 ways.

Would it really kill ya?

David Span said...

BenYachov

When you swim in a sea of red herrings and ad hominem attacks, you can't expect to be taken seriously.

But it is appropriate that you keep raising the god delusion. Fits you perfectly.

BenYachov said...

Whatever.

Thomas Larsen said...

^ Wow.

wombat said...

@BenYachov

Did you mean this chap?

Anthony Kenny

No wonder no-one reads him if they've got the wrong name!

BenYachov said...

Thanks Wombat for the assist.

Sorry about that but it's an American thing. I somehow think of President Kennedy when I think of Sir Antony Kenny.

Merry Christmas.

Paul Wright said...

William Lane Craig writes that The theist is quite ready to say that we have a clear understanding of moral vocabulary like “good,” “evil,” right,” and so on, without reference to God. Thus, it is informative to learn that “God is essentially good.”. (I think Craig uses "informative" to contrast with "tautologous"). He goes on to say that his moral argument is about what he calls moral ontology (rather than moral semantics), that is, questions like "what kind of things are moral facts? where do they come from?".

Given this, it's odd that various theists object that Law hasn't defined evil, since according to Craig we share a moral vocabulary (note that this is true on a variety of theistic and a-theistic meta-ethical positions, though maybe not on non-cognitivism, I guess). Previously Angra Mainyu said that we would not normally ask for a definition of "blue", "intelligent", "interesting", "ill", "tasty", "round", "cause", "irrational", "was", "exists", etc., unless someone is learning to speak English, in which case a way of providing a definition would be to point at things that are, say, blue, until the other person gets it - i.e., an extensional definition. Elsewhere Yudkowsky says that human beings were using numbers a long time before they invented Peano Arithmetic. When Law said he uses I pre-theoretical definition of evil, I suppose this is what he means, and I don't see how this negatively affects his argument applied to the claim that God is good as goodness is commonly understood. I'm still trying to tease out what goodness means to the Thomist, but it isn't what is commonly understood.

Paul Wright said...

@BenYachov: From what you have said to other people in this discussion, it seems that you think that something is good to the extent that it is perfect, and that God is perfect and hence good, but that God is not a moral agent, so God is not morally good (or morally bad either). For the Thomist, an argument against the moral goodness of God misses the point, because a Thomist does not make the claim that God is morally good. Rather, God is good in the sense that we say a sharp pair of scissors is a good pair of scissors and a blunt pair is a bad pair. Is this a fair summary?

If I grant this view of goodness apart from moral goodness, it seems fair to say that I have no motivation to worship such a god, were I to be convinced that it existed. This god is rather like Angra Mainyu's Guk or the artificial intelligence constructed by the Pebblesorters, which will eventually convert all matter in the universe into heaps containing a prime number of pebbles. Both of these beings are intelligent, but neither of these are moral agents. I think they may well be good in your sense: if the Pebble AI accomplishes its only desire as fast as possible, clearly it was maximally good at converting everything into prime-numbered heaps of pebbles. But there's nothing admirable about that, from my point of view: I'm using my atoms, and would prefer them not to be converted into pebbles. If your God exists he does what he does for his own, alien, purposes which apparently have nothing to do with human moral considerations.

Aquinas writes or is translated somewhat impenetrably, but as far as I can tell, he thinks God somehow participates in every good (I went back to the Latin and assume "comprehends" is to be read as "includes" rather than "understands"). In what sense does God "include" or "ground" moral goodness, for example, without himself being morally good? Does he also include the "goodness" of the Pebblesorters, maximal efficiency in making prime numbered heaps of pebbles (though he does not make heaps himself)?

I bet most Catholics haven't studied Aquinas and think God is morally good. If the official RC line is that God is Guk, then it's probably good that they haven't: why trouble oneself to worship such a being? To sum up, Law's argument does have purchase against popular Christian belief (including Catholics), and your God is an alien.

Gaius Sempronius Gracchus said...

You get a lot of comments, S.

Anyway, I meant to ask whether in your exchange you point out anywhere that there most certainly is not anything like universal agreement among philosophers of religion that all of the better known moves in defense of the classical theist position (God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibeneficent) are compelling.

The free will defense is not accepted by everyone, for example, on either side.

Some Christians, for example, find it inconsistent with a proper appreciation of God's position as the unique creator and sustainer of all contingent beings and unique decider of all contingent truths, though these amount to additional attributes of God outside the three taken to define the problem for classical theism.

And some atheists while seeing no incompatibility between human freedom and divine control of human action take libertarian free will to be an impossible fantasy.

Too, many are those, again on both sides, who think Plantinga’s ideas of middle knowledge and counterfactuals of freedom incoherent.

Just wondering.

BenYachov said...

@Paul Wright
>Is this a fair summary?

That is a rough & mostly accurate summery though Brian Davies said we should say just because God is not a moral agent God is not in some way like what a morally good person is like.

>If I grant this view of goodness apart from moral goodness, it seems fair to say that I have no motivation to worship such a god, were I to be convinced that it existed.

It seems to me you have no motivation to worship any sort of God so I don't get your objection? God is not a moral agent who owes us anything but we are moral agents and thus owe him for granting us the goodness of existence, at minimum. Still I don't see how one can't be in awe of a Transendental Mystery & not feel reverent to it?

As one responder(called Platonistikon) to a reviewer of Brian Davies book REALITY OF GOD AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL wrote"I, for one, have much more reverence and gratitude for a God who owes me nothing but creates and sustains the whole magnificent universe than I do for a super-powerful divine mind who owes me justice but fails to give it to me. No doubt people differ in their sense of what is worthy of worship, but so long as we're just talking about our `preferences,' I'm happy to admit that I prefer an Incomprehensible Transcendent Source of All Being to a morally inept spiritual oaf."

>This god is rather like Angra Mainyu's Guk or the artificial intelligence...

The "god" you discribe above is clearly a being alongside other beings not Being-Itself so it is nothing like the God of Aquinas. Not even close. I'm afraid I am a strong Atheist in regards to the existence of any Theistic Personalist type of God, FSM or Pink Unicorn. Your analogy is apples and oranges I'm afraid.

>Aquinas writes or is translated somewhat impenetrably, but as far as I can tell, he thinks God somehow participates in every good (I went back to the Latin and assume "comprehends" is to be read as "includes" rather than "understands"). In what sense does God "include" or "ground" moral goodness, for example, without himself being morally good?

We might analogously say God is the Ground of every Perfection including the perfection of perfect muscle tone. But does it follow God therefore has perfect muscle tone? Well in order for God to have perfect muscle tone he would have to have at minimum muscles. But part of God's perfection is the fact He is Purely Actual as well as Absolutely Simple in substance without parts or passions. If God had muscles he would contain potency thus He would not be purely actual and He would be composite not simple thus not perfect. Something on fire can impart being on fire to other objects but a powerful Laser can do the same without the laser itself being on fire. God can be Good & the Ground, the basis of all goodness in morality without himself being a moral agent.

Thought Goodness is not a property of God's nature but it is His nature.

BenYachov said...

@Paul Wright
>I bet most Catholics haven't studied Aquinas and think God is morally good.

In my experience most people who have read THE GOD DELUSION haven't studied Evolution and think there is some property in life itself that causes it to change over time. Thanks to Saturday morning cartoons your average non-biology major thinks if you fire an Evolution Ray at at a person they will either turn into a monkey or a big brained superhuman. The concept of how the natural selection mechanism blindly moves the process along "unguided" is lost on them. People are ignorant of sophisticated views of Science, philosophy and religion. If popular Catholic religion died tomorow and most Catholics held the sophisticated view actually officially taught by the Church I would have no complains. Just as I am sure Richard Dawkins wouldn't complain if people revieved a sophisticated notion of science vs popular misconceptions put forth in fiction and TV.

>If the official RC line is that God is Guk,

God is not a being alongside other beings but Being Itself. Guk is a being alongside other beings therefore nothing like the God of Classic Theism. Sorry no.

>To sum up, Law's argument does have purchase against popular Christian belief (including Catholics),

Popular belief is wrong just as popular beliefs regarding science are wrong. Law is not presenting his argument as a polemic against popular superstition but as a pan-polemic against Theism in general.

He has dogmatically resisted all of Feser's claims regarding the limited nature of the EGC and insists on is universality across the Theistic spectrum.

It seems to me you are agreeing with Feser & me regarding the fact the EGC doesn't apply to Aquinas' God. If I understood you correctly that is at least progress.

>and your God is an alien.

How so? Is the God of Aristotle an Alien? Is the God of Aristotle a being alongside other beings like an Alien would be? No it is not. So you have a bit of a way to go in understanding Aquinas & Aristotle. But you did way better then David Span so for that I give kudos.

If you can get a hold of anything by Brian Davies that explains the difference between Theistic Personalism vs Classic Theism you wouldn't compare a Classic view of God to an Alien since that would be a category mistake.

Something to shoot for. Merry Christmas & have a good new year my friend.

jules said...

Here's an interesting point of view from a computer scientist who thinks that it may be a good idea that ID is being taught at more and more high schools in the USA. Quote:

"A lot of scientists, and other Yankees, think this is a disaster for education in America -- yet another step backward as the rest of the world overtakes us in math and science. I think they're wrong. I think Intelligent Design is the best thing to happen to high school education since corporal punishment (later abolished by some of the same groups that are fighting Intelligent Design).

Adding Intelligent Design to a high school Biology class has one drawback and several advantages. The drawback is that the class spends time studying an idea that is useless as a scientific explanation of the world. But the advantages show that this is time well spent.

The first advantage is that teachers will be forced to explain, and students might come to understand, what science is. Most high school science classes spend too much time on the products of science -- a litany of so-called facts -- and not enough time on the process -- the mechanisms that create knowledge and the idea that we are usually better off believing things that are true.

If students' experience in "science class" is reading a big book and believing what it says because the authority figure at the front of the room says so, it shouldn't be surprising if they think science is just another religion. In that format, it is."

http://allendowney.com/essays/intelligent_design.html

sam g said...

i'm not often on glenns side, but i'm struggling a little bit with this one.

when asking why there is suffering in a world created by a benevolent and omnipotent god, all christians are saying is 'maybe he has a reason, maybe he knows something we don't'.

so even if it's true that christians are hiding behind this ad hoc argument because it suits them too, isn't it an ad hominem consequential fallacy to point that out? as frustrating as this might be, showing how and why it suits glenn to make this point isn't relevant to it's validity, and i don't see how he can be pinned down on this one.

absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence, so just because no one has found the loch ness monster doesn't mean it doesn't exist. i think dawkins used a celestial tea cup example and acknowledged there's not way he can show that there isn't a tea cup orbiting the sun, or fairies dancing down the bottom of the garden.

if it was true that god created the earth to appear like it was old and that life had evolved, then that is exactly how it would appear. i think it's ridiculous, but don't have any good grounds on which to argue.

can someone point me in the right direction here?

Angra Mainyu said...

sam g,

Let's that a man is on trial for murder, and there is plenty of evidence: there is motive, there is a video of the shooting, three witnesses, fingerprints on the murder weapon, and so on.

However, the defense attorney claims that the defendant has not been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, because - for instance - he might have been framed by an immensely powerful being acting for mysterious reasons - the being in question is powerful enough to beat any kind of attempt at discovering him.

I think it's clear that the defense attorney has failed to create a reasonable doubt.

Of course, there is no way of showing that he is the murderer beyond any logically consistent doubt - even unreasonable ones -, but the point is that it's enough to show things beyond a reasonable doubt.

You do have good grounds to say that the Earth is over 10000 years old. There is plenty of findings favoring that hypothesis over reasonable alternatives. You can't dispel unreasonable doubts, but that's almost never the case, and maybe never.

If someone claims that perhaps God exists, but he has some mysterious reason, for that matter someone could claim that the defendant is not guilty - some entity (maybe God) framed him for mysterious reasons.

Of course, a theist might say that in the case of God, the "mysterious reasons" objection works; however, that has to be argued for. Just claiming "mysterious reasons" is not nearly enough.

Paul Wright said...

sam g writes: even if it's true that christians are hiding behind this ad hoc argument because it suits them too, isn't it an ad hominem consequential fallacy to point that out?

I think the "because it suits them" is logical rudeness. But calling these theodicies ad hoc is a criticism of the arguments themselves, namely that they do no work other than insulating a treasured hypothesis from disproval.

absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence

That's a popular saying, but not true using Bayesian evidence. I think the quote at the bottom of that piece is relevant: Your strength as a rationalist is your ability to be more confused by fiction than by reality; if you are equally good at explaining any outcome you have zero knowledge(my emphasis). The strength of a model is not what it can explain, but what it can't, for only prohibitions constrain anticipation. If you don't notice when your model makes the evidence unlikely, you might as well have no model, and also you might as well have no evidence; no brain and no eyes.

I think the emphasised part explains further what the objection to ad hoc-ery should be: you have made it so you can explain everything. A more specific theory which predicts what actually happens and doesn't happen will always be confirmed over yours (and will probably be more likely a priori on the grounds of complexity if you keep adding on bits to avoid falsification).

Less techinically, I think it's also fair to say that it's inconsistent (special pleading, as the philopshers call it) to reject other ad hoc beliefs and try to hold on to these theodicies: unless the Christian can show otherwise, there's no reason why the atheist shouldn't reject both the idea that Nessie is hiding under a very big rock and that God has some mysterious reasons for allowing suffering.

Paul Wright said...

BenYachov writes:
It seems to me you have no motivation to worship any sort of God so I don't get your objection?

Assuming you mean I don't have a motivation because I'm an atheist, you missed out the "were I to be convinced that he exists" part...

God is not a moral agent who owes us anything but we are moral agents and thus owe him for granting us the goodness of existence, at minimum. Still I don't see how one can't be in awe of a Transendental Mystery & not feel reverent to it?

If Law's evil creator existed, I would not feel any urge to admire or worship it merely because it had created me. Nor do I admire or worship things merely because they are mysterious: "To worship a phenomenon because it seems so wonderfully mysterious, is to worship your own ignorance" (from Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions).

The "god" you discribe above is clearly a being alongside other beings not Being-Itself so it is nothing like the God of Aquinas. Not even close

I have no idea what Being-Itself might be, and I reject your apparently belief that adding capital letters to nouns makes them more viable as explanations for anything. Also, I'm not sure why this is relevant: your god appears to be like Guk or the Pebblesorter AI morally, whether or not Guk is also The Maxmimally Capitalised Being. That is, such a god is morally alien.

I admit that the possibility of God being morally alien or morally indifferent is not addressed by Law's argument, but I'm not sure why you think it makes Thomist Christinity more attractive, even granting that your god existed: this god sounds like something H.P. Lovecraft might have come up with.

We might analogously say God is the Ground of every Perfection including the perfection of perfect muscle tone.

We might, but we still don't actually seem to know what that means.

Something on fire can impart being on fire to other objects but a powerful Laser can do the same without the laser itself being on fire. God can be Good & the Ground, the basis of all goodness in morality without himself being a moral agent.

OK, so to "ground" something in this instance is just to create something. Law's Evil God certainly grounds goodness in this sense: he makes people moral agents so that they can freely chose evil.

Goodness is not a property of God's nature but it is His nature

Again, I'm assuming you're meaning something other than moral goodness here. In that case, this statement also doesn't seem to mean very much.

In general, to respond to Law's argument that we have no reason to think that God is good by handily redefining what "good" means is just equivocation. It's clear that Law means morally good as ordinarily understood (an understanding William Lane Craig is happy to admit that atheists have).

In fact, I think even though ThomistGod/Guk/PebbleSorter AIs are not moral agents, there's a sense in which we can call them evil by moral standards. We recognise that they do not have moral duties (that is, we recognise that there's no sense in which they "should have known better"), but if their alien goals happen to mean that they cause us great suffering, for example, we might still call them evil as the term is commonly understood. So I think there's a sense in which the Thomist God falls into the Evil category.

Anonymous said...

The "Problem of Good" does not have to be addressed by a person who doubts the existence of a wholly good God. It would have to be addressed by a person who believes in a wholly evil God. Consider the following two conversations:

A: The creator of this universe is wholly good.
B: Then why do bad things happen?

or

A: The creator of this universe is wholly bad.
B: Then why do good things happen?

In either case, A must respond to B's question, because it challenges A's assertion (at least seems to). In the second case, A (who believes in an evil God) must respond to the Problem of Good.

Now contrast these with the following conversation.

A: The creator of this universe is wholly good.
B: I don't agree.
A: Then why do good things happen?

Clearly this is about as ridiculous as:

A: This rain will never stop.
B: I don't agree.
A: Well, why is it raining now?

In each case, A is trying to deduce an total statement from a partial observation. In the former, A is also (conveniently) overlooking evidence that might not support his case.

Claire said...

Authentic Theodicy?