Draper on Pain and Pleasure: Part 4

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 refutation of three theodicies which might be used as an objection to the claim that HI explains the facts about the biological role of pain and pleasure much better than T does. In this post, I’m going to review the final section of Draper’s classic 1989 article on the evidential argument from evil.

1. Darwin’s Argument from Evil

In the final section of his paper, Draper sets up an analogy between Darwin’s evidential argument against special creationism and Draper’s evidential argument against theism. It is worth quoting Draper’s remarks about Darwin’s argument in full.

“Darwin argued that his theory of the evolution of species by means of natural selection explains numerous facts (e.g., the geographical distribution of species and the existence of atrophied organs in animals) much better than the alternative hypothesis that each species of plant and animal was independently created by God. (Let us call this latter hypothesis “special creationism.”) Darwin’s results were significant partly because special creationists at Darwin’s time did not have nor were they able to obtain evidence favoring special creationism over evolution theory that outweighed or at least offset Darwin’s evidence favoring evolution theory over special creationism. For this reason, many theists, while continuing to believe in creationism, which is consistent with Darwin’s theory, rejected special creationism. And those theists who were familiar with Darwin’s arguments and yet remained special creationists did so at a cost: their belief in special creationism was no longer an epistemically rational one.”

Draper says that the significance of his evidential argument from evil is to be determined in an analogous way, viz., it depends upon whether theists have evidence favoring T over HI, evidence which could offset his evidence O favoring HI over T. (N.B. Draper points out this evidence could be propositional evidence, non-propositional evidence, or both.) If a theist confronted with his argument lacks and cannot find such offsetting evidence, Draper argues, the theist “cannot rationally continue to believe that theism is true.”

2. Prospects for Theistic Offsetting Evidence

Draper then offers four reasons for doubting the theist will be able to find such offsetting evidence. It is interesting to compare those reasons (offered in 1989) with the positions Draper has adopted later in his career.

(1) In his 1989 paper, Draper claims that it is “doubtful that it could be shown that HI is ad hoc or that T is intrinsically more probable than HI.” It is noteworthy that, long after his 1989 paper, Draper finally started developing his new theory of epistemic probability. When that theory of epistemic probability is applied to HI and T, it yields the result that the intrinsic probability of HI is significantly greater than T.

(2) Next, Draper argued in 1989 that “Traditional and contemporary arguments for theism are far from compelling.” Since 1989, Draper has gone on record as stating that several facts are evidence favoring T over naturalism (which entails HI). Indeed, he even published a paper arguing that the argument from moral agency is “in the same league” as his evidential argument from evil. But Draper also usefully identified a new fallacy of inductive reasoning he calls the “fallacy of understated evidence.” According to Draper, many (most?) evidential arguments for theism, including his own argument from moral agency, commit the fallacy of understated evidence.

(3) Draper’s third reason (in 1989) for thinking that the theist’s search for offsetting evidence will be difficult is this.

Many traditional and contemporary arguments for theism … may not solve the theist’s position even if they are sound and recognized by the theist to be so. For they at most purport to show that an omnipotent and omniscient being exists–not that the being is morally perfect.”

This point seems (to this writer) as true in 2014 as it was in 1989.

(4) Finally, Draper argues (in 1989) that religious experience doesn’t solve the problem identified in (3): “Religious experience is ambiguous with respect to the moral attributes of the creator.” Furthermore, he notes that theistic justification derived from theistic experiences is offset by atheistic justification derived from “experiences of indifference.” Not only is this yet another example of the fallacy of understated evidence, but Draper wrote an article in 1992 on the evidential value of religious experience. In that article, Draper concluded that three specific facts about religious experience favor atheism over T.