Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Me on Think Atheist Radio

I am on Think Atheist Radio. Podcast available here.  On bullshit, evil, God, etc....

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

How much evil does it take to coat the head of a pin?
Search me. I’m still working on the angels conundrum.
Notwithstanding that. At least creating a god (or an argument) in one’s own image, does mean one can make one that’s fully loaded.
Yet riddle me this: Do Alienists dispute the existence of aliens?
And would a general rule of said ideology be: If you’ve never met one, they don’t.

What’s the difference between an individual that has pleasant epiphanies and one that has unpleasant epiphanies? Is it that the former is deemed likely to bestow a blessing, and the latter a beating?

Why isn’t it obvious to them? Is that because you are attempting to overlay their rendition of reality with an equally erroneous one? Rather than playing along. Drawing their rendition out into actual reality. Until it snaps back, and slaps them across the face.

sam said...

Good interview. I suppose it's too obvious to mention, but the evil god challenge only works for monotheisms, doesn't it?

This universe could be the battleground between an all-good god (Ahura Mazda) & all-evil god (Ahriman), as in the ditheistic Zoroastrianism, & the observable goods & evils of the world are the products of this battle.

Or as with some forms of early 2nd CE gnostic christianity (with 33 gods). The Apocryphon of John & the Pistis Sophia told of a cosmic battle between the evil Yaldabaoth & the good Jesus.

Stephen Law said...

yes that's right Sam.

JB Johns said...

Dr Law, correct me if I'm mistaken, but your Evil God argument supposes that people reject the Evil God hypothesis because they have conducted (perhaps not explicitly, but on some level) a survey of the amount of good in the world and also the amount of evil, and have concluded on that basis that there is simply too much good for the Evil God hypothesis to be plausible. I.e. you suppose that there is some sort of reasoning process at work. But is this true? I suspect most people don't believe in an evil god because the idea has never occurred to them in the first place (just like a million other god hypotheses), and for those who have considered it, I suspect that they reject it primarily because of wishful thinking. After all, the idea of a supremely malevolent force in control of the universe, from whom there is no escape, is perhaps the most horrible thought imaginable, and people therefore tend to reject it (kind of the reverse of the wishful thinking which leads many people to believe in a Good God, because a supremely benevolent force is such an attractive idea).

I think the most that can be said is that there appears to us to be far too much good stuff in the world for there plausibly to be an Evil God. But as you yourself have said (I think in debate with William Craig), what appears to us to be the case is not necessarily the case (you gave the revolving earth example).

The absence of a logical argument (as opposed to what merely seems to us to be the case) in proceeding from the observation that there is a lot of good to the conclusion that there is no evil God, would seem to be a problem for your argument, wouldn’t it?

Stephen Law said...

Thanks for the comment.

My view is not that people have already thought through why the reject the EG - as you say, often they haven't. However, when asked to justify that rejection, they very often run the evidential problem of good.

(Note btw, that the EGC is not necessarily dealt with just because they happen to offer a different justification).

Your response is to go skeptical. There is not enough good to reasonably rule out the EG, as these people think. Rather, there just *seems* to be. But appearances are deceptive.

This move, as it stands, can then be used in defence of any theory (in fact looks like a variant of going nuclear - see my posts on going nuclear). You think x is counter-evidence, but it's not: it just *seems* to be.

Obviously, the onus is now on you to explain why it is not the counter-evidence people take it to be.

You need to explain why, though it really seems to be good evidence (e.g. much of it seems to be gratuitous good), this gives us no reason at all to think it is.

Of course you can run standard skeptical theist argument at this point, if you want....

I'll being doing a paper on the EGC and skeptical theism at some point.

Stephen Law said...

PS BTW in any case, the evil God Challenge would not be met by showing that there's no empirical evidence against either the good or evil god hypotheses (which you have not yet done, of course). You'd *still* need to show why the good god hypothesis was so very much more reasonable than the ridiculous evil god hypothesis.

Anonymous said...

appearances are deceptive.

Given that the true quantification of good and evil is somewhat problematical, perhaps we could call upon science to assist us in this. Is the difficulty that there are equal and opposing balanced forces at play, but we don’t appreciate it? Since we are dealing with an unobservable amount of Dark Evil.

JB Johns said...

Thanks for your reply, Stephen. Perhaps you are right that I am merely "playing the mystery card" to avoid an unpalatable conclusion - something I would not wish to do. But isn't playing the mystery card something that someone does in response to a good argument from the other side, when that person has no good rational response? In this case, however, there is no logical argument proceeding from there being a great deal of good stuff in the world to the conclusion that evil god doesn't exist. It is something that just appears to us to be the case (perhaps with very good justification - but then what is it?). Your challenge if successful would show only that believers are inconsistent or hypocritical when it comes to belief in a good god - which they may well be, probably due to wishful thinking, as I say. But when it comes to a strict matter of logic (or illogic), I don't see that your challenge has any bearing on the belief.

Stephen Law said...

Hi JB

You say "there is no logical argument proceeding from there being a great deal of good stuff in the world to the conclusion that evil god doesn't exist."

Actually, no argument or inference may be needed. I think Plantinga considers one of the most powerful version of the PofE to be that we can just directly, non-inferentially see that the world is not the creation of a good God. The same would apply to the problem of good. Perhaps the problem is we can just directly see that this world is not the sort of world and evil god would create. No inference is required.

But supposing an inference is required, and is also required to run the evidential problem of evil, there are obviously all sorts of argument son offer (focussing now on the problem of evil).

Here's an example.

1. A good God will not alloe gratuitous evil
2. There is gratuitous evil
3.Therefore there is no good God.

This is deductively valid. However, you may question premise 2. Maybe there isn't gratuitous evil, you may say. Maybe there just seems to be.

But then we can appeal to the sort of principle often used the theists in defence of taking religious experience at face value (incl Plantinga and Swinburne): that it's reasonable to take appearances at face value, unless there's some special reason to consider appearance deceptive.

At which point, the onus falls on the theist - i.e. you - to explain why appearances are likely to be unreliable in this case (regarding the existence of gratuitous suffering, I mean).

How's that for a "logical argument"?

terry randall said...

the ECG seems to assume there is no problem with using the word evil. But it's quite a subjective judgement. If Pol Pot killing millions of people is considered evil then you may want to lay this at the feet of man rather than an evil god. if you want to consider suffering as an evil then you'd have to consider suspending the laws of nature to avoid people hurting themselves. If you want to count ions of time where one animal eats another as evil then good god should have made a vedgetarian world ( ignoring sympathy for vedgies!). I think OT creation story it is so at the beginning. Lots of natural disasters could be avoided if people didn't live under Mt Vesuvius or on flood plains.
So how much evil there is around is to a great extent a perspective on the argument from design. Is the garden (world) full of beautiful flowers or ghastly stinging nettles?
The next point is that opposites are often very different from each other.( good/bad ) Light I know is emitted from the Sun and travels through empty space at 3 x 10 to the power of 8 m/s .That white light is made up of the spectrum colours which each have a different wavelength. light can be refracted and reflected and has many other properties. Darkness, its opposite, i seem to know nothing about. it isn't anything. its the absence of light.