Saturday, February 25, 2012

Moving Secularism Forward Conference


I am speaking in Florida next week (and also Washington - see below). Go here for details of the conference. I'm highly flattered by my ridiculously prominent billing...

Speakers include

Stephen Law | Ophelia Benson | Daniel C. Dennett | Jessica Ahlquist | Pz Myers | Sikivu Hutchinson | Russell Blackford | Elisabeth Cornwell | Steven K. Green | George Hrab | Sir Harold Kroto | Rita Swan | and more!

Here is what I am doing in Washington:

Voices of Reason - Stephen Law: The Evil God Challenge

Starts
Monday, March 5th 2012 at 7:00 pm
Ends
Monday, March 5th 2012 at 9:00 pm
Location
Busboys and Poets 14th & V - Langston Room, 2021 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 (U St / Cardozo Metro)

The Evil God Challenge is perhaps the most powerful argument against the existence of the Judeo-Christian God yet developed. Stephen Law will present a version that he published in the journal Religious Studies in 2010, and has since developed further. If you want a single, simple, devastating challenge to present to theists, one for which they probably won't have a prepared answer, the Evil God Challenge is a leading contender. It's a version of the old problems of evil - but with a novel and entertaining twist!

Register here

Dr Stephen Law is Senior lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London, editor of THINK, a journal of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, and author of many philosophy books, including The Philosophy Gym (St Martins Press), A Very Short Introduction to Humanism (Oxford University Press) and Believing Bullshit: How Not To Get Sucked Into An Intellectual Black Hole (Prometheus). He is also the author of the children's book Really Really Big Questions (Kingfisher). Stephen is Provost of CFI UK.

The talk will be followed by a Q & A. Free and open to the public.

Registration required to guarantee admission. Support our programming by becoming a Friend of the Center today!

41 comments:

Thomas Larsen said...

"The Evil God Challenge is perhaps the most powerful argument against the existence of the Judeo-Christian God yet developed."

Perhaps I have misunderstood the evil-god challenge, but I'm pretty certain it's not an argument against anything: if successful, it's simply a defeater for arguments for the existence of the Judeo-Christian God.

Stephen Law said...

Why do you say that Thomas?

James Urban said...

Dr. Law I enjoy your brilliant insight, work & hair style-despite my disagreement.. not with your hair but with your views.

Your argument rests on the assumption that “theists typically dismiss the evil-god hypothesis out of hand because of the problem of good,” & so must likewise dismiss the God hypothesis because of evil.

I think at most your argument shows that both evil & good in the world have no claim on any god’s ontology. Thus you would show that theistic appeals to good in the world is irrelevant to the truth of theism (I agree, and that’s not what the Moral argument’s claim is either: rather it’s that a moral standard implies a moral standardizer—God).

James Urban said...

In principle: If evil god exists…
-Do the goods in the world really go against evil god’s existence?
--You take this sort of notion to be absurd, as would I
--For evil god could have reasons for permitting all the goods in the world, just like God for permitting the evils
--Then am I left to affirm an evil-god, just like I am with God?

In Fact: Evil-god isn’t really like God
-How is the term “evil-god” not misleading?
--Peter Millican refers to the evil-god as “anti-God” for the reason that God is thought as maximally great
--Absolute goodness being one of the maximally great attributes
--I guess then we can use evil god only with the lower case “g”
--Your argument then concerns only a theodicy, not the existence of God’s goodness

James Urban said...

In Fact: There’s no reason to think evil-god exists
-Do you offer reasons to think that an evil god exists?
--It seems essential to your argument that such a supposition is absurd
--Evil-god challenge claims that given his existence, then (Pr [goodsevil god << 0.5])
--But, given the existence of God, then (Pr [sufferingGod << 0.5])
——But in neither case are we justified in thinking Pr is low:
——For our epistemic position doesn’t permit confidence either way

At best your evil god challenge get us to agnosticism about any god based on moral happenings
-Can you show that evil god has sufficient reasons for permitting evil without an appeal to emotions?
-- Once you posit the existence of an evil designer of the cosmos, all Pr bets are off
--For any deity (good or evil) gives low conditional Pr of our ability to discern its purposes
--Just as the evil in the world doesn't give much evidence that there's no totally good creator,
----so the good in the world doesn't give much evidence that there's no totally evil Creator

James Urban said...

What does your argument say about the Moral argument?
--Evil god would require a moral standard to violate in order to be evil
--Many take this moral standard to be God, the one forbidding the evil in the first place
--This also implies that evil god cannot be maximally great, thus cannot be God
----For there must be a moral source which evil god chooses to defy, a being which is absolute goodness Himself
--Thus if evil god exists, then God exists

James Urban said...

^ Sorry for the Q's but those are the only 5 I have concerning the evil god challenge.
If you answer them I guess you will have convinced me; and if you convince me, then I respectfully thank you for the time you spend with your fans!

Thomas Larsen said...

Stephen, I've been meaning to write something up about the EGC for a while. Would you agree that the following is an accurate representation of the challenge?

(1) Pr(Antigod|total evidence) >= Pr(God|total evidence)
(2) It is unreasonable to believe in Antigod.
(3) Therefore, for consistency's sake, it is unreasonable to believe in God.

BenYachov said...

>The Evil God Challenge is perhaps the most powerful argument against the existence of the Judeo-Christian God yet developed.

Rather it has the potential to be a powerful argument against a Theistic Personalist view of God that conceives of the Divine as a being alongside other beings and as a moral agent.

It is still impotent against a Classic View of God.

Like trying to argue against Pantheism by refuting Cosmological Arguments. The Ultimate non-starter.

Your attempts to argue otherwise consist of keeping terms vague so that you can shift your ground whenever necessary.

By your own admission you don't even have an objective consistent definition of good or evil in the EGA. You use "pretheoretical concepts of good and evil," which of course are vague by definition.

I could with ease see myself denying any concept of God is correct. But my opinion on the EGA would not change.

BenYachov said...

addition:

My opinion being it's(i.e. EGA) a worthless piece of shit on the level of Young Earth Creationists who argue the second Law of Thermal dynamics "refutes" evolution.

Stephen Law said...

Thanks - can I suggest you send that into Religious Studies? I'm sure they'll be v interested in your penetrating analysis!

BenYachov said...

>Thanks - can I suggest you send that into Religious Studies? I'm sure they'll be v interested in your penetrating analysis!

I have noticed the only critics of the EGA you have actively engaged are those who uncritically accept your unstated premises.

The rest you ignore with snark. It's clearly hard for you to give up your delusion you have found the Omini-Silver bullet against all Theism.

BTW I would not consider Theistic Personalists to be historic Judeo-Christian Theism in the narrow sense.

Rather they are post enlightenment.

I could accept the EGC is the most powerful argument against the existence of the Post enlightenment view imposed on the Judeo-Christian God.

But it is still limited and still a non-starter to the Classic View on every level.

Live with it.

BenYachov said...

On another post Prof Law wrote:

>Richard D's dislike of philosophy was apparent again, as was Peter Atkins's, so I was for a while fighting for philosophy alongside Richard Swinburne against Richard Dawkins.

BTW. Whatever I think of your lame EGA for this act alone you I feel major major major respect for you.

Kudos!

Anti-Philosophy Atheism is just Young Earth Creationism for Infidels. It's not an intelligent form of non-belief. By definition it is anti-intellectual.

Good on you man.

Thomas Larsen said...

Stephen, is the summary of the EGC I suggested above accurate? I want to critique the actual argument, not some caricature of it. But certainly I got the aforementioned impression from reading your paper on the EGC...

Stephen Law said...

Not quite Thomas as I allow good god might be a bit more reasonable. But a bit more reasonable than evil God is still highly unreasonable.

Also, that's a v simplified structure, obviously, which misses all sorts of stuff out. But let's see where you go with it...

JB Johns said...

The Evil God challenge: the gift that never stops giving.

Tell me, you must have heard some good rejoinders to the argument by now? I can't imagine that intellects of the like of Plantinga, Swinburne et al, would not have a good response to make?

Stephen Law said...

not seen Swinburne or Plantinga discuss it...

BenYachov said...

>not seen Swinburne or Plantinga discuss it

Probably because after loosing your debate with Feser they don't feel like shooting at a moving target?

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

The argument simply has no objective content or meaning. No objective or consistent definition of either good or evil.

When pressed you devolved it into a rehash of the classic argument from evil.

It has the potential to be a good argument if you hold the following metaphysical commitments and assumptions.

1)Evil is metaphysically equivalent and opposite of good(sans it being negation or privation).

2)God is known via empirical investigation sans metaphysical demonstration.

3)God is a being alongside other beings subject to a moral code that exists above him sans God not a moral agent and is being isitself.

It's a good argument against Swinburne's or Plantinga;s Theisitic Personalist God.

But a shitty non-argument against the God of Aquinas's Augustine's, Maimonides etc.....

Those are simply the brute facts.

Stephen Law said...

Well, for a "shitty argument", it seems really to bothering you, Ben.

Michael Fugate said...

Why the Feser love-fest? Feser?, seriously? Why would anyone want to return to the 13th c. and oppressed by a Catholic theocracy? I will take my 21st c secular democracy, with all of its faults, any day of the week.

BenYachov said...

Prof Law writes:
>Well, for a "shitty argument", it seems really to bothering you, Ben.

I reply: Not at all I just enjoy tweaking your noise over it.

Michael Fugate writes:
>Why the Feser love-fest? Feser?, seriously? Why would anyone want to return to the 13th c. and oppressed by a Catholic theocracy? I will take my 21st c secular democracy, with all of its faults, any day of the week.

I reply: Wow! Who knew Atheists liked reading Chick Comics & other conspiracy theory flakeyness?

You take the following video literally don't you Mike?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWBJg_TS-Wo

I must warn you I own a similar string of Rosary bead as that Nun.

Fear me & Fear Feser! Fear Thomistic Philosophy! It's all about the politics not the metaphysics!!!!

Pffffbwahahahaha!

Hezekiah Ahaz said...

Stephen,

I'm really curious about this "evil" God.

In a Godless universe how can something possibly be evil.

How do you know what evil even is?


Thanks Professor.

Michael Fugate said...

Just like Feser, there is no substance to your comments. It is all apologetics - if this argument doesn't make your believe, try this one, and this one, and this one. Aquinas' conception of god is no better or worse than the fishmonger's who sold him fish for fast days.

BenYachov said...

Whatever you say Mike.

You are simply brilliant.

Hezekiah Ahaz said...

Michael,

Are you talking to me?

This will be fun.

Yea, mike I noticed that your comment says nothing either.

Should be interesting what Proff law has to say.

Stephen Law said...

Hezekiah

Ah yes, that old chestnut. Craig tried it in our debate. He also uses it apologetically very regularly. I pointed out the objection fails. He accepted that in our debate (he clearly knew it failed already).

Your homework assignment is to figure out why this is, indeed, a useless objection.

A follow up assignment, if you are interested, is to explain why, if the objection is clearly and obviously flawed, apologists keep on using it with the faithful. Is it because they just want True Believers by any means, including the use of bad, but persuasive, argument?

BenYachov said...

But in your debate with Craig did you use a "pretheoretical concepts of good and evil" & did you inform him of this?

Oops!

Or is that only when you redefine your term when talking to Thomists & Classic Theists?

Hezekiah Ahaz said...

Professor law said: "Ah yes, that old chestnut. Craig tried it in our debate. He also uses it apologetically very regularly. I pointed out the objection fails. He accepted that in our debate (he clearly knew it failed already)."

Well, we're not talking about craig.

But if you would like to reproduce your answer here, I really would appreciate it.


Professor law said: "Your homework assignment is to figure out why this is, indeed, a useless objection."


HW done. You are exactly right it is useless to go around talking about an evil god.


Professor law said: "A follow up assignment, if you are interested, is to explain why, if the objection is clearly and obviously flawed, apologists keep on using it with the faithful. Is it because they just want True Believers by any means, including the use of bad, but persuasive, argument?"


Actually, it's quite useful. The point is in an atheist universe evil and good are meaningless.

That's why I asked:

According to your worldview what does evil and good even mean?

BenYachov said...

>According to your worldview what does evil and good even mean?

Even if Prof Law personally didn't believe it had any meaning I would settle at least for an objective technical definition of Good and Evil so I can objectively evaluated his concept of a so called "evil god".

He claims he is using "pretheoretical concepts of good and evil," for his argument.

Which keeps the terms "good" & "evil" so vague that you can shift your ground whenever necessary.

Prof Law's argument is at best an excellent polemic against a specific post-enlightenment concept of Neo-theism.

But it is pure bullshit sophistry when employed against a classic view.

I would think this even if I denied any and all belief in God or gods.

BenYachov said...

Even if Hezekiah Ahaz is wrong and you can have an objective view of good & evil in a godless universe Prof Law argument still doesn't contain any objective definitions.

Just vague ill defined "pretheoretical concepts" of good and evil.

Pointless.

Michael Fugate said...

Ben, I am brilliant - thanks for noticing.
When you have no answer, you just sidestep and dismiss - it is easy, its cheap, but it means nothing. I am sure it makes you feel superior.
Here is Feser's argument in a nutshell - I am right and if you don't agree, then you haven't understood my argument. I will know when you understand my argument when you agree it is right.
Metaphysics aside, Feser is very political as is the Catholic church - current issues involving birth control, assisted dying, homosexuality, etc. The idea that anyone can determine a single purpose for an act or an object is extraordinarily facile. The only purpose of sex is procreation? - so birth control should not be used? Seriously? This counts as scholarship? The problem is the complete ignorance of biology and yes evolutionary history that surrounds Feser and many religious philosophers.
And despite you accusations, I am not a conspiracy theorist - why would I need to be - when religions are lobbying governments to deny equal rights to gays and women? It is in the news every day. Why don't you trust people to make their own decisions about when, how and with whom they have sex?

BenYachov said...

Michael Fugate,

Discussing politics bores me & thus so do you.

Stop trying to deflect what a crappy argument the EGC is with all this tangent political nonsense.

Now naturally I can't goad Prof Law into arguing the obvious flaws of his EGC with me if he doesn't want too.

But you by that same token can't make me argue politics with you either.

So boring.

Ryan M said...

Ben,

I'm amazed at the quality of Feser's posts and how they compare to the commenters who use the word "Shitty" and "Bullshit" fairly regularly. It surprises me that you can follow Feser for years and not at all learn anything from his posting style. You just come off as angry and antagonistic.

If you think Law's argument does not affect classical theism, then just say "Technically Law's argument does not affect classical theism since by definition God and the good are identical given the classic view. The classical view does not allow for an evil God in the same way it does not allow for a God that is not omnipotent. But against the non classical view, this argument might have some force."

As you can see, I didn't use the word bullshit, shit, or make any rhetorical comments that are so common for you and the other wave of Christian commenters who have learned the basics of philosophy, but never taken a philosophy class.

And regarding the existence of morality in concerns with the POE: To refute a worldview you do not need to presuppose that it's claims are true. When the atheist uses the POE, (s)he he making the claim that; "T entails M. If T and M, then W would be P. W is not P. ~T" That's how it works. You just attempt to show that a given set of entailed facts by a worldview is either self inconsistent or if true would be inconsistent with the actual world. I think you can probably understand that even if morality is meaningless given atheism, so long as the atheist claims that morality is meaningful given theism and that theism entails the world would be P, but the world by the theist's definition is not P, then the atheist can say that theism is false without assuming morality is true.

If you think there is issues with this account, give me a response and I'll try to see if either I made an error or not.

BenYachov said...

@Ryan M,

You are a hypocrite. Law uses the term "bullshit" & even Feser has as well against views they finds incredulous.

Plus your own blog according to your profile is called "Rhetorical Bullshit".

Hypocrite much or Jackass?

BenYachov said...

@Ryan M

>If you think there is issues with this account, give me a response and I'll try to see if either I made an error or not.

I can't take anybody Theist, or Atheist, who attacks me by saying "As you can see, I didn't use the word bullshit, shit, or make any rhetorical comments that are so common for you....etc" seriously whose own blog is called "Rhetorical Bullshit".

If you want to have a civilized discussion with me I can be very nice.

If you just want to dick around I am not interested.

Ryan M said...

Ben,

Let's see here. I made the point that your responses to people are uncivil due to language. You respond by point out that one of the words you use to respond to people is what a blog of my friend's is named after. Well, that is irrelevant. I would not be a hypocrite unless I (Like you) consistently insult others, and use the words "Shit" and "Bullshit" to describe other's positions and beliefs on a consistent basis. But I don't do that. So I cannot possibly be a hypocrite in this situation. But it doesn't matter because you basically implicity commit the tu quque fallacy. You wouldn't be not wrong or not uncivil in certain responses by pointing out that your detractors do the same. That doesn't logically follow. Also, I agree that sometimes bullshit is warranted. For example I find most eastern philosophy views to be downright bullshit (i.e. Mereological nihilistic monism).

Try to respond to people as Feser would when responding to the Mcgrew's. I think you are justifiably annoyed at "Gnu-atheists". But remember, not everyone is going to pull a Loftus on you.

BenYachov said...

@Ryan M

Your profile says:

My blogs

* Rhetorical Bullshit
* The-Brian-Fellne...

The excuse "It's not my blog it's my friend's" doesn't cut it with me. The Blog has the name "Ryan M" on it.

Go look up the meaning of the term Chutzpah.

Look at it from my perspective. It's like being berated for supporting gay rights by a guy whose profile links to websites involving "Hot Girl on Girl action".

If you want to say "You are overly hostile and obnoxious" & leave it at that then fine.

But I can do without your inconsistent bullshit and rationalizations for it.

You should know I don't suffer fools gladly.

That is not how I am wired.

Ryan M said...

Ben,

It says it's my blog because I created it. That's how blogger works. I created it for a friend when he was in his what you would call "Gnu" stage. Hes out of it now, but the blog still exists.

But that's irrelevant. You say I am involved in some inconsistent "Bullshit", yet you cannot show how I am inconsistent. It is a necessary condition that for S to be hypocritical in condemning some act P, that S must either commit or sometimes condone P. But me making a blog with bullshit in the title is not the same as you calling others bullshit, or their views bullshit. In fact I don't see how you can think they are remotely the same. I guess you and I use different versions of Leibniz's law.

Anyways, these conversations are almost always stupid. They drag on too long. I'd rather talk about whether or not atheists need to believe in objective morality to use the POE. I'm not interested in being like Linton so I'm not going to oppose you for the sake of being a contrarian.

BenYachov said...

@Ryan M

You started this stupid irrelevant argument. But if it bores you then the feeling is mutual.

Let me be clear. If I choose to be fierce and aggressive toward Gnus in certain circumstances in my prudent judgement that is my choice.

You sir are not my Father or my Father Confessor. So keep your corrections to yourself & if you do feel the need to boast how you don't use terms like shit or bullshit at least have the basic intelligence to either shut down or rename that blog of yours.
Because I am still not buying it.

That is all.

djindra said...

BenYachov,

As usual, Ed, your attempt to pull a trump card called "Classic View of God" is bogus. Your classical view suffers the same difficulties.

L.W. Dickel said...

Is Ben Yachov yiddish for "jackass with a small penis"?