Draper on Pain and Pleasure: Part 3

This post is part of a series on Paul Draper’s classic version of the evidential argument from evil. In the previous entry, I summarized Draper’s first argument, which attempts to show that certain facts about the types, quantity, and distribution of pain and pleasure (P&P) are much more probable on the hypothesis of indifference (HI) than on theism (T), and so constitute strong evidence against T and for HI. In this entry, I summarize Draper’s discussion of theistic explanations for those facts.

I apologize for the size of the text in my graphics. If you find it hard to read, you should be able to see the graphics at “full size” by clicking on them one-at-a-time in your browser window.

1. “Theodicies” and Theistic Explanations for Facts about Good and Evil

As Draper observes, “Explaining some phenomenon in terms of a statement usually involves adding other statements to that statement.” The relevance to the problem of evil is obvious: people who offer a theistic explanation for facts about good and evil add to T (the proposition that God exists) some additional statement Tn (the proposition that God must allow certain evils in order to achieve some goal).In the philosophy of religion, such additional statements are called “theodicies.” In inductive logic, additional statements of this sort are generically called ‘auxiliary hypotheses.’ In Draper’s terminology, he refers to them as “expansions.”

expansion statement: “a statement h* is an ‘expansion’ of a statement h just in case h* is known to entail h. (Notice that h* can be an expansion of h even if it is logically equivalent to h.)”

With this in mind, consider’s the second part of Draper’s evidential argument from evil again.

A. O is known to be true.

B. T is not much more probable intrinsically than HI.

C. Pr(O/HI) >! Pr(O/T).

So, D. Other evidence held equal, T is probably false.

Draper argues that if a theodicy is to successfully defeat an argument from evil against theism, it must somehow undermine premise (C) by raising the value of Pr(O / T). In order to evaluate whether an expansion Tn of theism raises Pr(O / T) enough to defeat (C), Draper proposes that we use the “Weighted Average Principle” (WAP):

Pr(O / T) = Pr(O / Tn) x Pr(Tn / T) + Pr(O / ~Tn) x Pr(~Tn / T).

As Draper points out, this formula is an average because Pr(Tn / T) + Pr(~Tn / T) = 1. It is not a simple straight average, however, since those two values may not equal 1/2; that is why it is a weighted average. The higher Pr(Tn / T), the closer Pr(O / T) will be to Pr(O / Tn & T); similarly, the higher Pr(~Tn / T), the closer Pr(O / T) will be to Pr(O / T & ~Tn).

Draper states that the second part of his evidential argument from evil assumes that theodicies do not “significantly raise” Pr(O / T) and so the argument effectively treats Pr(O / T) as roughly equal with Pr(O / T & ~Tn). In order to show that this assumption is justified, he says he needs to show that Pr(O / Tn) is “not significantly greater” than Pr(O / T & ~Tn). As he puts it:

In other words, I would need to show that, independent of the observations and testimony O reports, we have little or no more reason on Tn than we have on theism ~Tn to believe that O is true.

In his 1989 article, Draper considers three theodicies:

T1: The Free Will Theodicy, version 1;

T2: The Free Will Theodicy, version 2; and

T3: The Human Ignorance Theodicy.

(Note that while the T1 – T3 notation is Draper’s, the titles of T1 – T3 are mine.)

Before we can discuss T1 and T2, we first need to define a key term:

freedom*: “An action is free* only if

(i) it is free in an incompatibilist sense–that is, in a sense incompatible with its being determined by antecedent conditions outside the agent’s control–and

(ii) if it is morally right, then at least one alternative action that is open in an incompatibilist sense to the agent is such that it would be morally wrong for the agent to perform that alternative action.”

Both T1 and T2 agree that God endows humans with freedom*. They offer contradictory explanations for the existence of pain, however. According to T1, “God permits pain in order to advance morality.” In contrast, T2 explains pain by adding to T a statement about how one of God’s goals is to “increase the responsibility humans have for their own well-being and the well-being of others and thereby increase the importance of the moral decisions humans make.”

Let’s turn to Draper’s objections to each of these expansions of T.

2. “Free Will and the Advancement of Morality”

Let T1 stand for the following expansion of T:

God exists, and one of his final ends is a favorable balance of freely* performed right actions over wrong actions.

Draper begins his response to T1 by making a very charitable concession to the theodicist. He grants, for the sake of argument, that Pr(T1 / T) is high. In order to defend (C) against T1, his strategy instead is to show that:

Pr(T1 / T) is not much greater than Pr(O / T & ~T1).

I interpret Draper’s 1989 article as offering two reasons to believe that.

First, Draper argues that T1 provides a reason we do not have on T & ~T1 to expect that “the world will contain both pain that influences humans to perfom morally right action and pain that is logically necessary for some of the right actions humans perform.” As Draper points out, “O reports the existence of pain of both these sorts,” so those predictions of T1 are confirmed.

But O also reports other facts which T1 predicts should not be true. O also reports both:

(a) that pain often influences humans to perform morally wrong actions; and

(b) that pain is logically necessary for many of the wrong actions humans perform.

Draper concludes that the combination of (a) & (b) is more surprising on the assumption that T1 is true than on the assumption that T is true and T1 is false.

Second, Draper argues that “the world does not contain a very impressive balance of right over wrong actions performed by humans and that this is due in part both to a variety of demoralizing conditions like illness, poverty, and ignorance, and to the absence of conditions that tend to promote morality.” He concludes, accordingly, that this (balance of right over wrong actions) is more surprising on the assumption that T1 is true than on the assumption that T is true and T1 is false.


3. “Free Will and Responsibility”

Let T2 stand for the following expansion of T:

T2: God exists, and one of His final ends is for humans to have the freedom* to make very important moral decisions.

Again, Draper assumes for the sake of argument that the antecedent probability of this theodicy is high, viz., Pr(T2 / T) is high. Again, his strategy is to show:

Pr(O / T2) is not >! Pr(O / T & ~T2)

Draper points out that, “assuming there is no better way,” T2 may provide us with a reason that we do not have on T & ~T2 to expect “the existence of pain for which humans are morally responsible.” But, he argues, Pr(O / T2) is not >! Pr(O / T & ~T2) since other facts O reports are even more surprising on T2 than they are on T & ~T2.

First, “Many humans are plainly not worthy of the freedom* to do serious evils.” On the assumption that T2 is true, however, we would predict that humans would only be given great responsibility when they are worthy of it.

Second, “Nor is the human race making any significant amount of moral progress.” If T2 were true, however, we would expect that humans would be “benefitted by having such responsibility.”

Third, there have been (and are) humans who had (or have) great responsibility, who have abused that responsibility, and did not have their responsibility decreased by God “until they are worthy of a second chance.” But if T2 were true, that is what we would expect.

Draper concludes, accordingly, that Pr(O / T2) is not significantly greater than Pr(O / T & ~T2).


4. The Human Ignorance Theodicy

Here is T3:

T3: God exists and has a vast amount of knowledge about good and evil and how they are related that humans do not have.

Unlike T1 and T2 where Draper granted for the sake of argument that they were antecedently very probable on T, Draper does not make such a concession for T3. It isn’t necessary. As Draper correctly states, Pr(T3 / T) = 1. This, in turn, entails that Pr(O / T) = Pr(O / T3).

But, as Draper argues, T3 fails to defeat O because

We have no more antecedent reason to expect that [God’s additional knowledge is such that he would permit any of the facts O reports to obtain], than to expect that God would have unknown reasons for preventing evil.

Observant readers will notice that the sentence just quoted just is an application of WAP to the idea that God has unknown reasons for his actions.

Furthermore, however much reason we might have on T3 to expect humans would be “unable to product a plausible theistic explanation” for the facts O reports, we have “even more reason” on  HI to expect this. Thus, T3 does not significantly raise the value of Pr(O / T).