bookmark_borderCraig’s Dismissive Attitude Towards Arguments from Evil

On Twitter, user @BissetteHunter tweeted this fifteen second video clip of William Lane Craig discussing arguments from evil:


In the case the link doesn’t work, here is the transcript:

“Therefore, this problem of evil, I think, though emotionally powerful–I grant it is emotionally powerful–philosophically it is very difficult to  run any kind of successful argument against God based on the evil and suffering in the world.

Commenting on this clip, user @ChristourLord1 tweeted the following:


There are several points I want to make regarding the statements from both Craig and @ChristourLord1.
(1) Craig’s statement is pure bluster. Consider: what does it mean for an argument–any argument–to be successful?
(a) Coerciveness. Well, one standard might be coerciveness. One might say that an argument is coercive if anyone who understands the argument believes the conclusion to be true. While a coercive argument would indeed seem to qualify as a “successful” argument, the standard of coercion seems much too high; we need a more modest standard.
(b) Soundness. Another standard might be soundness. A deductive argument is valid if the conclusion necessarily follows from the premises; a sound argument is a valid argument in which all of the premises are true. While soundness might be sufficient to render an argument “successful,” it is hardly necessary. There are many inductive argument patterns regarded as successful, but which are invalid. So soundness cannot be the only way for an argument to achieve “success.”
(c) Strength. Another standard might be strength. An inductive argument is strong if the premises are true and the premises make it probable (but not certain) that the conclusion is true. Inductively strong arguments are successful.
I don’t claim the above three standards constitute an exhaustive list; there may very well be other standards of argument “success” besides those I’ve listed here. But even if that is the case, it would still be true that soundness is a sufficient condition for a successful deductive argument and strength is a sufficient condition for a successful inductive argument.
But are any arguments from evil or suffering successful in either sense?
Consider Paul Draper’s evidential argument from pain and pleasure.
(1) E is known to be true, i.e., Pr(E) is close to 1.
(2) T is not intrinsically much more probable than N, i.e., Pr(|T|) is not much greater than Pr(|N|).
(3) E is much more probable on the assumption that naturalism is true than on the assumption that theism is true, i.e., Pr(EN & B) >> Pr(E | T & B).
(4) Other evidence held equal, T is probably false, i.e., Pr(T | B & E) < 0.5.
Although classified as an “evidential” argument (for reasons which are not important here), Draper’s argument is a deductive argument and thus should be assessed using the soundness standard described above. So… is Draper’s argument sound? It is clearly valid: (4) follows from (1), (2), and (3) based on the pattern of probability relations specified by Bayes’s theorem. And, contrary to Craig’s attempts to suggest otherwise, the premises are true. It follows that Draper’s argument is sound, which, in turn, entails that it is a “successful” argument in that sense.
(2) References to ‘the problem of evil’ obscure the fact that there is a robust family of arguments against theism based on known facts about evil, suffering, and imperfection. In my experience, when theistic apologists refer to ‘the problem of evil,’ they almost always proceed to divide the problem into (at least) two types: the so-called “emotional” or “pastoral” problem of evil and the “intellectual problem of evil,” which is a kind of umbrella category for all philosophical arguments against theism based on evil and suffering. @ChristourLord1, however, takes this tendency to the next level. He denies that there is an intellectual problem of evil at all. He accomplishes this amazing philosophical feat–why didn’t any theistic philosopher in the last 4000 years think of it?–by collapsing ‘the intellectual problem of evil’ into ‘the emotional problem of evil.’ Here, again, is the tweet:


What @ChristourLord1 claims is not only nonsense, but dismissive nonsense. It is one thing to claim, as Craig incorrectly does, that there is no successful argument from evil and suffering against God. It is entirely another thing to claim, as @ChristourLord1 does, that there are no “intellectual” arguments from evil and suffering against God. In order to get the point across to ignorant theists like @ChristourLord1, I am half-tempted to propose that atheists stop dignifying theistic arguments as “arguments” and instead refer to them as “problems” and specifically as “emotional problems.” For example: instead of the “moral argument,” we have the “emotional problem of morality without God.” We then declare, by fiat, that there is no intellectual problem of morality without God, only an emotional problem, and it is dishonest to pretend otherwise.
When theists understand why that is is a ludicrous reason to dismiss moral arguments for theism, they will understand why it is equally ludicrous to dismiss arguments against theism from evil, suffering, and imperfection as mere “emotional problems.”

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 5: More Reasons for Skepticism about God

WHERE WE ARE
Should we view homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus?  In Part 1 of this series I outlined a dozen reasons to doubt this viewpoint.  Here is the first reason:

1. God does NOT exist, so no prophet and no book contains truth or wisdom from God. 

In Part 4 of this series I presented some of my reasons for skepticism about the existence of God.
In this current post, I will present more of my reasons for skepticism about the existence of God.
 
MORE REASONS FOR SKEPTICISM ABOUT THE EXISTENCE OF GOD  
G. The serious problems with one of the best cases ever made for God (by Richard Swinburne) support skepticism about the existence of God.
[Excerpts from my posts on Swinburne’s case for God:]
But when we come to the third argument, TASO (Teleological Argument from Spatial Order), the factual claim is not at all obviously true:

(e3) There exists a complex physical universe which is governed by simple natural laws, and in which the structure of the natural laws and of the initial conditions are such that they make the evolution of human bodies in that universe probable.

People are not born with modern scientific knowledge about plants, animals, chemistry, genetics, geology, etc.  We have to be educated over a period of many years, and even then, many (most?) people in the USA don’t learn enough scientific information and concepts to be in a position to know that human bodies evolved.  Certainly, many educated Christians in the USA have doubts about the claim that human bodies evolved in this universe.
Second, assuming it to be a fact that human bodies evolved in this universe, this still does NOT imply that the structure of the universe (the initial conditions at the time of the Big Bang plus the specific laws of nature in this universe) made this outcome PROBABLE.  For all we know, the evolution of human bodies might have been an extremely improbable event.  Many events that have occurred are improbable events.  The fact that event X actually occurred does NOT show that the universe was so structured that it was probable that X would occur.
[…]
Clearly, (e3) is NOT something that is “known by those who dispute about” the existence of God.  I doubt that anyone knows (e3) to be true, but even if there are a few such people, they are a tiny portion of the large population of those who “dispute about” the existence of God.   Therefore, premise (2) is FALSE.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/01/27/problems-taso-part-1/

Richard Swinburne

So, in order to KNOW that (e3) is true, one must be aware of a great deal of information, and that information includes facts that support some of the most powerful objections to belief in God: the many and pervasive problems of evil.  But then when one evaluates the probability of the hypothesis that God exists in relation to (e3), one cannot rationally and reasonably set aside and ignore the many and pervasive problems of evil.  So, in order to rationally evaluate the probability of the claim “God exists” in relation to (e3), one must take into consideration not just the meaning and implications of (e3), but also the large collection of facts and data that allow one to KNOW that (e3) is in fact true.
If one takes into account most or all of the various and pervasive problems of evil in evaluating the strength of TASO, then it is unclear and very doubtful that all of this additional information increases the probability that God exists.  Given most or all of the various and pervasive problems of evil, that information might very well outweigh whatever positive support the hypothesis of theism gets from the fact that the universe is structured in a way that makes the evolution of human bodies probable.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/02/05/problems-taso-part-2-favorite-objection/
H. Evolution provides a good reason for skepticism about the existence of God.
Evolution has at least two connections to the problems of evil.  First, in order to know that animal species evolved and that humans evolved from primates, one needs to learn a good deal of information about geology, paleontology, biology, chemistry, and anthropology.  This body of concepts, facts, and theories contains information about evils that have occurred and that continue to occur.  Thus, knowledge of evolution includes knowledge about evils.  That creates a serious problem for Swinburne’s Teleological Argument from Spatial Order (as I have pointed out above).
Second, evolution itself constitutes a significant problem of evil.  There is more than one example of evil in this world, and different evils have different characteristics making it difficult for there to be a one-size-fits-all-solution or response to all of the various kinds of evils that occur.
For example, there is a traditional distinction made between moral evil and natural evil.  Moral evil is evil that is constituted by or caused by the choices of human beings.  The traditional “solution” to moral evil is to point to free will, and assert that God allows moral evil to exist in order to give human beings the great good of having free will.  But natural evil cannot be explained this way (not plausibly), because natural evil is NOT the result of the choices of human beings.
Natural evil, such as death and suffering from a flood or earthquake, could be explained as the result of the free will of demons or of the devil, but such explanations are no longer plausible, given the advance of science, which allows us to understand the physical causes of earthquakes and floods and other natural examples of natural evil, and which also gives us good reason to disbelieve in the existence of demons, ghosts, angels, and the devil.
There are different kinds of evil, so different examples of evil can constitute different problems of evil, problems that have their own unique characteristics, and which may not be explainable by a single idea about how and why God fails to prevent or eliminate evil.
It is VERY UNLIKELY that God would structure the universe in such a way that human bodies would probably evolve (naturally, apart from any divine intervention).
God is, on Swinburne’s own definition, an eternally omnipotent person, and an eternally omniscient person (with omniscience being limited in relation to knowledge of the future, because God’s free will and human free will make it logically impossible to know every detail of the future).  Since God is omnipotent and omniscient, God would be able to create all existing plants, animals, and human beings in the blink of an eye, along the lines of the Genesis creation myth.
It is very implausible to suppose that God would use the long, random, and uncertain process of evolution to produce plants, animals, and human bodies when God could have instantly created billions of earth-like planets all filled to the brim with thousands of kinds of plants, and animals, and creatures with human-like bodies.
Furthermore, God is also supposed to be a perfectly morally good person, and all of the pain, disease, suffering, and death involved in a billion years of the evolutionary struggle for survival could have been avoided by God creating all of the desired plants, animals, and human-like creatures in an instant.  God, if God exists, had a very powerful moral reason to prefer instantaneous creation of living creatures over the slow, random, uncertain, and suffering-filled natural process of evolution.
There seems to be no strong reason for God to prefer the natural process of evolution over instantaneous creation of all living creatures, including the creation of human bodies, and there is an obvious powerful moral reason for God to prefer instantaneous creation over the natural process of evolution.
Since it is very unlikely that God would choose to create human beings by means of the process of evolution, and since human beings came into existence by means of the process of evolution,  this gives us a good reason to believe that there is no God.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/01/27/problems-taso-part-1/
I. Skepticism about the two initial phases of Classical Apologetics (because of our ignorance of the plans and purposes of God) supports skepticism about the existence of God.
Some of my criticisms of Richard Swinburne’s case for God can be applied more broadly to any case for God (or to most cases for God).  In Classical Apologetics, there are three main phases:
(1) prove that God exists,
(2) use miracles to prove that Jesus or the Bible (or some religious authority like the Catholic Church) is inspired and authorized to provide messages from God,
(3) use the teachings of Jesus (or the Bible or the Catholic church) to support the truth of the rest of the Christian worldview.
In Part 3 of this series (see the section: “H. Skepticism about Miracles and Revelation casts doubt on Western theistic religions”) I argued that the second phase of Classical Apologetics is doomed to failure, because we don’t know any details about the plans and purposes of God.
However, most arguments for God involve assumptions about the plans and purposes of God.  That is explicitly the case with Swinburne’s case for God, but I have examined the arguments for God in Kreeft’s case for God, and discovered that they too are based on assumptions about the plans and purposes of God.
To the extent that we are ignorant about the plans and purposes of God, most arguments for the existence of God are doomed to failure.  This gives us a good reason to be skeptical about the existence of God.
Richard Swinburne recognized this important aspect of arguments for God, but he failed to show that we have sufficient knowledge of the plans and purposes of God to make his case work.  Other Christian apologists, like Peter Kreeft and Norman Geisler are oblivious to the fact that their arguments depend on such assumptions, so they have not even  attempted to argue for these assumptions required to make their cases for God work.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/12/01/the-logic-of-miracles/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/12/16/the-logic-of-miracles-part-2-showing-that-god-exists/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/12/19/the-logic-of-miracles-part-3-kreefts-first-ten-arguments/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/12/20/the-logic-of-miracles-part-4-kreefts-last-ten-arguments/
J. The problems of evil support skepticism about the existence of God.
I have previously mentioned some of the natural evils associated with evolution: injuries, diseases, mutations, famines, hunger, starvation, predation, pain, suffering, and death.  Just in learning enough scientific information to know that animals and human beings are the products of the process of evolution requires learning about the occurrence of such natural evils.
Furthermore, as I argue above, evolution is itself one example of a major natural evil, and all by itself constitutes a good reason to believe that there is no God.
Setting aside the fact that animals and humans came into existence as the result of evolution, there are natural evils that are powerful evidence against the existence of God whether evolution is true or not:  injuries, diseases, mutations, famines, hunger, starvation, predation, pain, suffering, and death.  These natural evils clearly exist and can be observed today.
The primary explanation that Christians have traditionally provided for such natural evils is that they are the results of the “Fall”, they were caused by human beings sinning, by human disobedience to God.  Everything was “Good” and wonderful, then Adam and Eve (the first human beings) sinned against God, and this corrupted all of nature.
This explanation, however, is clearly and obviously FALSE.  Predation existed long before human beings came into existence.  Injuries, diseases, famines and starvation existed long before human beings came into existence.  Pain, suffering, and death existed long before human beings came into existence.  Sentient animals existed on Earth long before human beings arrived on this planet.
Even if human beings were not the product of the process of evolution, even if human beings came about because a creator god instantly produced human beings out of nothing, or out of a lump of clay, it would still be a fact that humans have only existed on Earth for about a million years, and that sentient animals have existed on the Earth for hundreds of millions of years, and that sentient animals have been experiencing injuries, diseases, famines, predation, hunger, pain, suffering, and death for hundreds of millions of years.
In other words, injuries, diseases, famines, predation, hunger, pain, suffering, and death appear to be built into nature.  If the natural world of planet Earth was designed and brought into existence by a creator god, then that creator either designed the natural world to include injuries, diseases, famines, predation, hunger, pain, suffering, and death, or else these are unintended errors and flaws in the work of this creator god.  In either case, the creator god cannot be the God of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, such a creator god cannot be an all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly morally good person.
Thus, the existence of natural evils provide us with good reason to believe that God does not exist.  If there is a creator god, that god is a finite and imperfect person.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/02/05/problems-taso-part-2-favorite-objection/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/08/16/a-simple-and-obvious-explanation/
There are other problems of evil that should also be considered:

  • The suffering of innocent children.
  • Great suffering or evil that is not required in order to produce or make possible a greater good.
  • The large number of instances of evil and suffering that don’t appear to be required in order to produce or make possible a greater good (making it probable that some evil and suffering are NOT required to produce or make possible a greater good).
  • The evil of the eternal suffering of those people who are condemned to hell.
  • The evil of the sorrow of those in heaven about the eternal suffering of loved ones in hell (or the alternative evil of the rejoicing of those in heaven about the eternal suffering of loved ones in hell).

K. Contradictions between the divine attributes support skepticism about the existence of God.
God is immutable AND God is a perfectly morally good person?

If God is immutable, then God is not a person.

If God is not a person, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

THEREFORE:

If God is immutable, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

God is outside of time AND God is a perfectly morally good person?

If God is outside of time, then God is immutable.

If God is immutable, then God is not a person.

If God is not a person, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

THEREFORE:

If God is outside of time, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

God is impassible AND God is a perfectly morally good person?

If God is impassible, then God does not love human beings.

If God does not love human beings, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

THEREFORE:

If God is impassible, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

God is bodiless AND God is a perfectly morally good person?

If God is bodiless, then God cannot be identified as a person.

If God cannot be identified as a person, then God is not a person.

If God is not a person, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

THEREFORE:

If God is bodiless, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

God is omniscient AND God is a perfectly morally good person?

If God is omniscient, then God knows every choice that God will ever make.

If God knows every choice that God will ever make, then God does not have free will.

If God does not have free will, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

THEREFORE:

If God is omniscient, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

I realize that ALL of the above arguments are controversial.  I don’t expect to PROVE that the concept of God is incoherent by just presenting these brief summary arguments.  I am merely indicating the sorts of arguments that I would be likely to use in an attempt to show that the concept of God is incoherent.
Actually, my preference is to toss out the “divine attributes” that seem to most clearly contradict the divine attribute of being a “perfectly morally good person”.  I would toss out “immutable”, “outside of time”, and “impassible” without a second thought.  Those seem to me to be inessential, less important, less central than other traditional divine attributes, like “omniscience” and “omnipotence” and being “bodiless”.  Obviously,  I think that the attribute of “perfectly morally good person” is central to the traditional concept of God.
One important objection to all of the above arguments is the Thomist view that “God is not a person.”  However, I find the Thomist concept of God to be absurd, so this objection doesn’t carry much weight for me.
I think the bottom line for me is that I could never bring myself to view being that was NOT a person as something that was worthy of worship and adoration.  Those are things that only make sense relative to a being who is a person.  Also, a being that is not a person could NOT be “perfectly morally good”, and again I could never bring myself to view a being that was NOT “perfectly morally good” as something that was worthy of worship and adoration.
It is possible that this is just my own peculiar personal bias, but if it is a bias, I strongly suspect it is one that I share with hundreds of millions of Christian believers.  I don’t think believers in the pews would have much interest in the “God” of the Thomists.  This point, by the way, is a perfect segue into my final reason for skepticism about God.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/10/11/cases-for-god/

David Hume by Allan Ramsay, 1766 and Sigmund Freud by Max Halberstadt, c. 1921
David Hume and Sigmund Freud

L. Hume’s and Freud’s objections to theism provide good reason for skepticism about the existence of God.
Sigmund Freud had a few different ideas about the psychological basis of religion, especially Western theistic religion.  One idea is that humans commonly fear the awesome dangerous forces of nature, and that this fear is an important part of our thinking and our feelings.  Another idea is that when we are babies we look up to our parents as our source of food, life, comfort, and safety.  Our parents are like our gods when we are infants.
When we become children, we learn that our parents are imperfect and vulnerable, and that all humans are subject to the awesome dangerous forces of nature.  Thus, about the time we learn that our parents are not actually gods, we learn that we are in great need of protection, in need of a god-like parent in the sky who can protect us from the dangerous forces of nature.  Belief in a very powerful, very wise, and caring parent-in-the-sky becomes appealing to human beings at an early age.  So, belief in God, can be viewed as a result of WISHFUL THINKING.  We DESIRE to have a powerful, wise, and caring parent-in-the-sky, and so we make ourselves BELIEVE that there is such a being or person.
Freud’s view of the psychological basis for belief in God provides some reason for skepticism about the existence of God, because it suggests that this belief is based in WISHFUL THINKING.  However, Freud’s view also can be related to, and work together with, a skeptical view about belief in God promoted by David Hume.
David Hume was skeptical about the existence of God in part because he saw that there was a logical tension in the very idea of God.  On the one hand, Christians, and other religious believers in God, want God to be transcendent.  God must be more than a human being, and even more than just a “superman”.  God must be the absolute best and highest being that we can imagine.  Anselm talks about God as “the being than which none greater can be conceived”.  Theology that takes this idea of Anselm’s seriously, is called “Perfect Being” theology.
On the other hand, Christians, and other religious believers in God, want God to be immanent.  God cannot be so different from us that we cannot relate to God.  I think probably the most powerful motivation for viewing Jesus as being the “divine Son of God” and “God Incarnate” is that Jesus was a human being with a physical body, a human being who walked and talked and ate food, and drank, and swam in the sea of Galilee.  Christians, and other religious believers in God, want a God with whom they can talk, a God that they can view as being a friend or a parent.
But as Hume repeatedly points out, we cannot have our cake and eat it too.  If God is an absolutely infinite and absolutely perfect being, and God has infinite power and infinite knowledge, then God cannot also be just an ordinary human being who we can view as a friend or parent.  We cannot have a meaningful conversation with an absolutely infinite and absolutely perfect being.
So, the bottom line for me is this.  Freud and Hume together give us good reason to view the idea of God as the product of human desires, and this not only raises the suspicion that God is the product of WISHFUL THINKING, but also that because we desire logically contradictory things,  it is impossible for God to actually exist.
What we desire in God are a combination of attributes that it is not possible for one being to possess.  We cannot have our cake and eat it too, no matter how much we DESIRE this outcome.  We cannot have a God who is both transcendent and immanent, no matter how strongly we desire that such a being exist.

bookmark_borderDraft: William Lane Craig on the Evidential Argument from Evolution

This is a draft article I’ve been working on. Any feedback would be appreciated.


Abstract: Paul Draper defends what may be called an “evidential argument from evolution” against theism, viz., an argument which purports to show that evolution constitutes strong evidence against theism. In response to this argument, William Lane Craig argues that Draper’s argument depends upon three “dubious” probability estimates. I examine one by one Craig’s objections to these estimates and show how they miss the mark.


Introduction

The idea that evolution is somehow a threat to “religion” is nothing new. Ever since the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, there have been allegations of a “war” between “science” and “religion,” with evolution arguably constituting one of the war’s front lines. For most of this “war’s” history, the philosophical “fighting” has focused on questions of logical compatibility, such as whether evolution is compatible with Christian theism (specifically, with a literal interpretation of the Biblical book of Genesis) or, more broadly, whether it is even compatible with “mere” or “generic” theism; no one had bothered to make a serious effort to consider, apart from questions of logical compatibility, whether the truth of evolution might constitute evidence against theism even if it is consistent with it. This changed in 1997. Philosopher of religion Paul Draper, well-known for writing what is widely considered one of the best versions of the argument from evil (1996), developed what may be called the “evidential argument from evolution.” It takes the following form:

(1) Evolution is antecedently much more probable on the assumption that naturalism is true than on the assumption that theism is true.
(2) The statement that pain and pleasure systematically connected to reproductive success is antecedently much more probable on the assumption that evolutionary naturalism is true than on the assumption that evolutionary theism is true.
(3) Therefore, evolution conjoined with this statement about pain and pleasure is antecedently very much more probable on the assumption that naturalism is true than on the assumption that theism is true. (From 1 and 2)
(4) Naturalism is at least as plausible as theism.
(5) Therefore, other evidence held equal, naturalism is very much more probable than theism. (From 3 and 4)
(6) Naturalism entails that theism is false.
(7) Therefore, other evidence held equal, it is highly probable that theism is false. (From 5 and 6) (Draper 1997)

Strictly speaking, the argument is both an evidential argument from evolution and an evidential argument from evil: (1) appeals to the fact of evolution, whereas (2) appeals to facts about pain and pleasure (a type of so-called “natural evil”).
The argument includes several propositions in the relevant background knowledge:

B1: Pain and pleasure, if they exist, have intrinsic moral value.
B2: A physical universe—which operates according to natural laws, is intelligible, and which supports the possibility of intelligent life—exists.
B3: Living things, including sentient beings, exist on Earth. These sentient beings include, but are not limited to, human beings.
B4: Some (Earthly) sentient beings are not moral agents but are biologically very similar to (Earthly) embodied moral agents.
B5: Humans are goal-directed organic systems, composed of parts that systematically contribute to the biological goals of these systems.

So the argument can be restated as follows:

(1) Pr(E| N & B) >! Pr(E | T & B).
(2) Pr(P | E & N & B) >! Pr(P | E & T & B).
(3) Pr(E & P | N & B) >!! Pr(E & P | T & B). (From 1 and 2)
(4) Pr(|T|) =< Pr(|N|).
(5) Pr(N | E & P & B) >!! Pr(T | E & P & B). (From 3 and 4)
(6) Naturalism entails that theism is false.
(7) Therefore, Pr(T | E & P & B) <!! 1/2. (From 5 and 6)

In the twenty years since it was published, the evidential argument from evolution has attracted the attention of several philosophers, including William Lane Craig (2003, pp. 548-550), Alvin Plantinga (2011), and Daniel Howard-Snyder (2017). In this paper I want to critically assess Craig’s objections. Now if Craig claimed no more with respect to the evidential argument from evolution than the truism that “one man’s modus ponens is another man’s modus tollens,” namely, that one’s degree of belief in the falsity of an argument’s conclusion can exceed one’s degree of belief in an argument’s key premise (Craig 2003, p. 549), then the defender of the evidential argument from evolution would have no dispute with Craig, pointing out that the argument’s “other evidence held equal” clause preempts Craig’s punting to theistic arguments. Fortunately for discussion’s sake, Craig’s appraisal of the evidential argument from evolution is mostly independent of his appeal to theistic arguments.  According to Craig, “Draper’s argument hinges on three probability estimates which seem dubious in light of our discussion” (Craig 2003, p. 549). In this response, I hope to show that the argument is, in fact, considerably stronger than Craig acknowledges.

Part 1: Craig’s Objections in His Written Work

First Objection: The Argument for Pr(|T|) =< Pr(|N|)

Craig’s first objection is that Draper (1997) assumes that theism and naturalism have equal prior probabilities. In Craig’s (2003, p. 549) words, Draper assumes that

naturalism and theism are equally probable with respect to our general background knowledge (Pr (N) = Pr (T)), which we have seen reason to dispute (recall chaps. 23-24).

As an objection to Draper 1997, however, this is simply misguided.
(i) First, Craig has confused prior probability with intrinsic probability. The former is a measure of the probability of a hypothesis conditional upon the relevant, extrinsic background information, whereas the latter is the probability of a hypothesis determined solely by intrinsic factors related to the content of a hypothesis, e.g., its scope and modesty. Allow me to introduce some mathematical symbols to make this clear:
Let Pr(|X|) =df. the intrinsic probability of X
Let Pr(X | B) =df. the prior probability of X conditional upon background information B
So Craig’s objection assumes that Draper’s argument either contains (or implies) a premise which says:

(4′) Pr(T| B) = Pr(N | B).

But this is false. The actual premise in Draper’s argument is:

(4) Naturalism is at least as plausible as theism, i.e., Pr(|T|) =< Pr(|N|).

Even if Craig were correct that theism had a higher prior probability than naturalism, this would be irrelevant to (4), which states that theism is not intrinsically more probable than naturalism. So far as I am aware, Craig has never interacted with any of Draper’s work on intrinsic probability. (write a lot more here)
(ii) Even if Draper’s argument had claimed that theism and naturalism contained equal prior probabilities, Craig’s selection of background propositions—i.e., the propositions which constitute the relevant background knowledge—is biased. Again, Craig (2003, p. 49) writes:

naturalism and theism are equally probable with respect to our general background knowledge (Pr (N) = Pr (T)), which we have seen reason to dispute (recall chaps. 23-24).]

What, precisely, were the reasons offered in chapters 23 and 24? The cosmological, teleological, axiological, and ontological arguments. Here I think Craig has not expressed himself very well. What could it mean to say that a set of arguments constitutes “our general background knowledge”? I am not even sure what that means. One option would be to include the conclusions of those arguments in our background knowledge:

B6. A maximally great being exists, i.e., a maximally great being exists in every possible world including the actual world. (Craig 2003, p. 496)
B7. The universe has a cause. (Craig 2003, p. 468)
B8. The explanation of the existence of the universe is God. (Craig 2003, p. 466)
B9. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to design. (Craig 2003, p. 484)
B10. God exists. (Craig 2003, p. 495)

That can’t be right because several of those conclusions (B6, B8, and B10) either explicitly state or imply that God exists. It’s illegitimate to include, in the background knowledge of a Bayesian argument, a proposition which entails the truth or falsity of the rival explanatory hypotheses under consideration. But three of these conclusions (B6, B8, and B10) either state or imply God’s existence, which renders them unsuitable for inclusion in the relevant background knowledge of an evidential argument about God’s existence. Furthermore, B6, if true, would entail that God’s existence is metaphysically necessary. It would be very odd, I think, to include “God’s existence is metaphysically necessary” in the background knowledge of any evidential argument against God’s existence. If God’s existence were metaphysically necessary, then we wouldn’t say that fact ought to be included in an evidential argument against God’s existence. Rather, we would say that all evidential arguments against God’s existence are fundamentally misguided, since there is no possible world in which God does not exist.
Another option would be to include in our background knowledge the key evidence to be explained in each of those arguments.

B6′. It is rational to believe that it is possible that a maximally great being exists. (From Plantinga’s ontological argument)[1]
B7′. The universe began to exist. (From the kalam cosmological argument)[2]
B8′. The universe has an explanation for its existence. (From the Leibnizian cosmological argument)[3]
B9′. The universe is life-permitting. (From Craig’s teleological argument)[4]
B10′. Objective moral values exist. (From the axiological argument)[5]

This second option–focusing on the evidence to be explained–seems to be the most favorable to Craig’s goal of boosting the prior probability of theism over naturalism.
The second option fails, however, because it violates the inductive Rule of Total Evidence. Why does it violate the Rule of Total Evidence? Because it considers only some propositions (those which Craig believes to be favorable to theism) while ignoring other propositions (those favorable to naturalism). For example:

B11. It is rational to believe that it is impossible that a maximally great being exists.[6]
B12. The physical exists. (From the evidential argument from physicality)[7]
B13. It is rational to believe that it is impossible for a timeless being to create anything.
B14. So much of our universe is intelligible without appeal to supernatural agency. (From the evidential argument from the history of science)[8]
B15. Conscious states in general are dependent upon the physical brain. (From the evidential argument from mind-brain dependence)[9]
B16. The world contains an abundance of tragedy and relatively little triumph. (From the evidential argument from triumph and tragedy)[10]

To sum up: Craig’s first objection mistakenly treats intrinsic probability as synonymous with prior probability. Furthermore, even if premise (4) had appealed to prior probability, Craig would still have failed to show that theism enjoys a higher prior probability than naturalism.

Second Objection: The Argument for Pr(P | E & N & B) >! Pr(P | E & T & B)

Craig’s second objection appeals to what I call the “skeptical theism defense” (Lowder 2016). Craig (2003, p. 549) writes:

Second, he believes that the probability of the distribution of pain/pleasure in the world is greater on naturalism and evolution than it is on theism and evolution (Pr (P/E&N) > Pr(P/E&T)). But we have seen reason to question whether we are in an epistemic position to make justifiably this sort of probability judgement.

What reason is that?

What makes the probability [that God has no morally sufficient reasons for permitting the evils that occur] here so difficult to assess is that we are not in a good epistemic position to make these kinds of probability judgments with any sort of confidence. As finite persons, we are limited in space and time, in intelligence and insight. But the transcendent and sovereign God sees the end of history from its beginning and providentially orders history so that his purposes are ultimately achieved through human free decisions. In order to achieve his ends God may well have to put up with certain evils along the way. Evils that appear pointless or unnecessary to us within our limited framework may be seen to have been justly permitted within God’s wider framework. (Craig 2003, p. 543)

By interacting solely with Draper 1997, it appears that Craig missed the fact that Draper 1996 (p. ##) already answered this objection. To sum up: it’s possible that God has unknown reasons for allowing evil. But it’s also possible—and antecedently just as likely—that God has unknown reasons for preventing evil. So the possibilities of unknown reasons for allowing evil and unknown reasons for preventing evil “cancel out.” We’re right back where we started, namely, working with what we do know: P. In fact, this is pretty much the point of using epistemic probabilities. If we had perfect, complete information, then we wouldn’t need to use probabilities at all. So human ignorance is not a good objection to comparing Pr(P | E & N & B) to Pr(P | E & T & B).
Furthermore, as numerous philosophers (nontheists and theists alike) have pointed out, logically consistent natural theologians cannot appeal to the limitations of human cognitive abilities to defeat evidential arguments from evil (Draper 1996b, p. 188). Allow me to explain. If human cognitive limitations really did prevent us from assessing whether God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil, including facts about pain and pleasure, then Craig can kiss goodbye all of his arguments from natural theology for God’s existence. Consistent skeptical theists should also insist that human cognitive limitations prevent us from assessing:

  1. the antecedent probability of our universe beginning to exist on theism, i.e., Pr(beginning | theism);
  2. the antecedent probability of so-called cosmological ‘fine-tuning’ on theism, i.e., Pr(‘tuning’ | theism); and
  3. the antecedent probability of the Resurrection on theism, i.e., Pr(Resurrection | theism).

This is why logically consistent natural theologians, like Oxford University philosopher Richard Swinburne, don’t rely upon skeptical theism. Instead, they attempt to provide theodicies—explanations for why God, if He exists, would allow facts about the kinds, amounts, and distribution of evil in the world to obtain (Draper 2010, p. 18).
Finally, Craig is completely silent on Draper’s supporting arguments for believing that Pr(P | E  & N & B) !> Pr(P | E & T & B). As I read him, Draper gives three such arguments. First, our background knowledge includes the fact many other parts of organic systems are systematically connected to reproductive success. Second, Draper points out that evolutionary naturalistic Darwinism (E & N & D) provides an antecedent reason for believing that pain and pleasure, like anything else produced by natural selection, will be systematically connected to reproductive success, which is what P states. In fact, evolutionary naturalism (E&N) entails nothing that would provide an antecedent reason for doubting that pain and pleasure will resemble other parts of organic systems by being systematically connected to reproductive success. Third, given E&T, however, P would be true only if the biological goal of reproductive success and some unknown justifying moral goal happened to coincide in such a way that each could be simultaneously satisfied. That’s a really big coincidence that E & N & D doesn’t need.
Thus, on the assumption that E&N is true, it would be extremely surprising if pain and pleasure appeared to be anything but morally random, whereas on the assumption that theism is true, a discernible moral pattern would be less surprising. Draper concludes, accordingly, that (2) is true and Pr(P & E & N & B) >! Pr(P | E & T & B).

Third Objection: The Argument for Pr(E| N & B) >! Pr(E | T & B)

Craig’s third objection seeks to undercut (1) by appealing to the (alleged) improbability of life on naturalism. In his (2003, p. 549) words:

Finally, he argues that the probability of evolution on naturalism is greater than the probability of evolution on theism (Pr(E/N) > Pr(E/T)). For if naturalism is true, evolution is the only game in town; but if theism is true, God had more alternatives. But this assessment is confused. What Draper’s argument supports is the assessment that evolution is more probable relative to naturalism and the existence of biological organisms than to theism and the existence of biological organisms (Pr(E/N&B) > Pr(E/T&B)). But we have seen from our discussion of the teleological argument (chapter 23) that the existence of biological organisms (and, hence, their evolution) is virtually impossible relative to naturalism alone and that we should therefore expect a lifeless world given naturalism, which cannot be said of theism. Without his three crucial probability estimates Draper’s evidential argument from evil founders.

As an objection to (1), however, this objection is multiply flawed.
(i) I think Craig is being uncharitable to Draper. In Draper’s writings, he does not explicitly refer to background knowledge in his probabilistic notation; thus, “Pr(E / N)” can be charitably restated in its more explicit form as, “Pr(E / N &  B),” where “B” represents the relevant background information. Indeed, this is precisely how I have presented Draper’s argument in this article. The key point here is that, in Draper’s original article, “probability of evolution on naturalism” means “probability of evolution on naturalism and our background information” and “probability of evolution on theism” means “probability of evolution on theism and our background information.”
(ii) What about the possibility of biological organisms on naturalism alone? Here Craig attempts to change the subject by appealing to the teleological argument. Let’s grant, but only for the sake of argument, that the probability of a life-permitting world on theism is greater than the probability of a life-permitting world on naturalism, i.e., Pr(life-permitting world | T) > Pr(life-permitting world | N). That fact, if it is a fact, is not of obvious relevance to the evidential argument from evolution. For the evidential argument from evolution compares the antecedent probability of evolution on naturalism and on theism, i.e., Pr(E | N & B) > Pr(E| T & B). Craig seems to think that if he can show that if a life-permitting world is extremely improbable on naturalism, it somehow follows that (1) is false. In other words, Craig seems to move from:

The probability of a life-permitting world on naturalism is extremely low, i.e., Pr(life-permitting world | N) << 0.5.

to:

It is false that the probability of evolution on naturalism (and background information) is greater than the probability of evolution on theism (and background information), i.e., it is false that Pr(E | N & B) > Pr(E| T & B).

The problem, however, is that this does not follow. For the sake of argument, it may be the case that the fact that our universe is life-permitting is more probable on theism than on naturalism, but, given that our universe is life-permitting, the fact that all living things are the gradually modified descendants of earlier living things is evidence favoring naturalism over theism. Indeed, this is precisely Draper’s (2001) position!
 
 

References

Craig, William Lane (2003). “The External Problem of Evil,” in J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (pp. 548-550). Downers Grove: InterVarsity.
Draper, Paul (1996). “Pain and Pleasure: An Evidential Problem for Theists.” Noûs, 23 (3): 331-350. Reprinted in Daniel Howard-Snyder (Ed.), The Evidential Argument from Evil (pp. 12-29). Indianapolis, IA: Indiana University Press.
Draper, Paul (1997) “Evolution and the Problem of Evil” in Louis Pojman (Ed.), Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology (pp. 219-230). 3rd ed., Belmont: Wadsworth.
Draper, Paul (2001). “Seeking But Not Believing: Confessions of a Practicing Agnostic” in Daniel Howard-Snyder and Paul Moser (Eds.), Divine Hiddenness: New Essays (pp. 197-214). New York: Oxford University Press.
Draper, Paul (2010). “God and Evil: A Philosophical Inquiry” (October 1, 2010). Talk presented at the University of Notre Dame Ninth Annual Plantinga Lecture, Notre Dame, Indiana. <https://philreligion.nd.edu/assets/44795/1011lecture.pdf>
Howard-Snyder, Daniel (2017). “The Evolutionary Argument for Atheism” in John-Christopher Keller (Ed.), Being, Freedom, and Method: Themes from Van Inwagen (pp. 241-62). New York: Oxford University Press.
Lowder, Jeffery Jay (1998). “Summary and Assessment of the Craig-Draper Debate on the Existence of God (1998).” The Secular Outpost blog. <https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/02/20/summary-and-assessment-of-the-craig-draper-debate-on-the-existence-of-god-1998/>, site accessed December 20, 2016.
Lowder, Jeffery Jay (2016). “In Defense of an Evidential Argument from Evil: A Reply to William Lane Craig.” The Secular Web. <https://infidels.org/library/modern/jeff_lowder/pain-and-pleasure.html>, site accessed September 1, 2019.
Oppy, Graham (2016). TBD
Plantinga, Alvin (2011). Where The Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, & Naturalism. New York: Oxford University Press.
Notes
[1] I think the truth of B6′ is far from obvious. Indeed, as Graham Oppy (2016, p. TBD) points out, “opponents of the argument are bound to challenge the acceptability” of B6. He continues, “And, of course, they do. Let’s just run the argument in reverse.” Oppy then runs the argument as follows:

There is no entity which possesses maximal greatness.
(Hence) There is no possible world in which there is an entity which possesses maximal greatness.

Oppy concludes: “Plainly enough, if you do not already accept the claim that there is an entity which possesses maximal greatness, then you won’t agree that the first of these arguments is more acceptable than the second. So, as a proof of the existence of a being which possesses maximal greatness, Plantinga’s argument seems to be a non-starter.”
[2] Even if we assume, but only for the sake of argument, that B7′ is more probable on theism than on naturalism, this argument commits the fallacy of understated evidence. Given that the universe began to exist, the fact that it began to exist with time, not in time, is more probable on naturalism than on theism.
[3] Even if we grant that the universe has an explanation of its existence, it doesn’t follow that the explanation is God. Other possible explanations include: (i) an infinite regress of contingent universes; and (ii) our universe’s factual necessity. If our universe is factually necessary, then its existence would be partially explained by its own nature (which is uncaused, beginningless, and independent / free-standing) and partially explained by virtue of other things that happen to exist (i.e., nothing around it has what it takes to knock the universe out of existence). I owe this objection to Felipe Leon.
[4] Even if we assume, but only for the sake of argument, that B9′ is more probable on theism than on naturalism, this argument commits the fallacy of understated evidence. Given that the universe is life-permitting, the fact that so much of it is hostile to life is more probable on naturalism than on theism. Furthermore, given that the universe is life-permitting, the fact that life is the result of evolution is much more probable on naturalism than on theism.
[5] B10′ is not more probable on theism than on naturalism. Theism assumes, not explains, the existence of objective moral value.
[6] TBD
[7] TBD
[8] TBD
[9] TBD
[10] TBD

bookmark_borderIs It Time to Rename the ‘Problem of Evil’ / ‘Argument from Evil’?

I’m starting to wonder if the so-called ‘problem of evil’ / ‘argument from evil’ needs a name change. Consider the following list of known facts about ‘evil’ which have been used as the explanandum for various evidential arguments from evil:

  • biological role of pain and pleasure
  • empathy and apathy (neurological basis of moral handicaps)
  • flourishing and languishing of sentient beings
  • virtue and vice (self-centeredness and limited altruism of human beings)
  • autonomy (having control over one’s destiny) and heteronomy (lacking such control)
  • triumph and tragedy
  • moral progress and the lack of moral prophets
  • the (alleged) failure of theodicy

Putting aside the bogus objection that atheism entails there is no such thing as objective evil, it seems to me that the word “evil” has a connotation of “moral evil.” But most of the items on the list are not instances of moral evil. Grouping all of these arguments together, under the umbrella category of “problem of evil” (or “argument from evil”), isn’t exactly a model of philosophical clarity.
Suppose you agree with me so far. The question then becomes: what we should we do about it? For starters, I’m not sure all of these arguments should be grouped together under a single category. It seems there are multiple categories:

  • argument from (moral) evil, i.e., the morally bad/wrong actions of moral agents: empathy and apathy, virtue and vice
  • so-called arguments from ‘natural evil’ could be recategorized as follows:
    • arguments from imperfection / poor design / dysteleology (pain and pleasure, empathy and apathy, flourishing and languishing; we could also add the arguments from scale, hostility of the universe to life)
    • arguments from suffering (pain and pleasure, triumph and tragedy)
    • arguments from incomplete knowledge (moral progress and the lack of moral prophets, Schellenberg’s ‘free will offense’, failure of theodicy)
    • I am not sure how to categorize or subcategorize this argument: autonomy and heteronomy

Anyways, these are just my thoughts. What do you think?

bookmark_borderWhen Are Appeals to Human Ignorance a Legitimate Defeater of an Evidential Argument?

(A1) Evidential arguments from ‘evil’ say: known facts about the types, quantity, and distribution of good and evil are much more probable on naturalism than on theism.
(O1) Critics of evidential arguments from evil say: we don’t know that. We have far too limited an understanding of the interconnectedness of things to make such a judgment with confidence. On the assumption that theism is true (and there exists a morally perfect and omniscient being), there could easily be reasons, way beyond our understanding, why such a being would allow the facts about good and evil to obtain.
(A2) Evidential arguments from cosmic ‘fine-tuning’ say: the life permitting conditions of our universe are much more probable on theism than on naturalism.
(O2) Critics of such arguments say: we don’t know that. We have far too limited an understanding of the early universe, the total mass-energy of the universe, quantum gravity, etc. to make such judgments with confidence. (Cosmology is a very young discipline and there is much we still don’t know. For example, 95.1% of the total mass-energy of the universe is mysterious, composed of either ‘dark energy’ (68.3%) or ‘dark matter’ (26.8%).) On the assumption that naturalism, a/k/a source physicalism, is true (and there was no one around at the earliest stages of the universe’s history to make physical observations), there could easily be mechanistic explanations, way beyond our understanding, why our universe is life-permitting.
I’ve never understood why most proponents of (A2) seem to think (O1) is a good defeater of (A1) while not simultaneously thinking (O2) is a good defeater of (A2).

bookmark_borderThe Logic of Miracles – Part 6: The Problem of Evil

THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

The problem of evil is concerned with whether the existence of evil (or of particular kinds or amounts of evil) is logically incompatible with the existence of God or provides significant evidence against the existence of God.  The “logical” problem of evil focuses on whether evil (or particular kinds or amounts of evil) is logically incompatible with the existence of God.  The “evidential” problem of evil focuses on whether evil (or particular kinds or amounts of evil) provides significant evidence against the existence of God.
G. God exists.
E. Evil exists.
There are four logical possibilities concerning the above two claims:

 
 
 
 
 
 
Christianity asserts that both (G) and (E) are true.
The logical problem of evil arises because God, according to traditional Christian theology, traditional Jewish theology, and traditional Islamic theology, is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), and perfectly morally good.
One way to avoid the logical problem of evil is to opt for a finite and imperfect god, a god who is less than omnipotent, and/or less than omniscient, and/or less than perfectly morally good.  If you believe in an imperfect god, then evil is not a problem, at least evil does not rule out the possibility of a finite and imperfect god.  But such a god seems unworthy of worship, devotion, and unquestioning obedience, so traditional Christian theology, traditional Jewish theology, and traditional Islamic theology hold the view that God is a perfect being who possesses the divine attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, and perfect moral goodness.
Some philosophers and apologists put forward a DEFENSE of the goodness of God, which is an attempt to show that the existence of God is logically compatible with the existence of evil (or a particular kind or amount of evil).  A DEFENSE is thus an attempted reply to the logical problem of evil.
Other philosophers and apologists put forward a THEODICY, which is an attempt to show that the existence of evil (or a particular kind or amount of evil) fails to provide significant or powerful evidence against the existence of God, so that belief in the existence of God is still reasonable and justified even in view of the existence of evil (or of a particular kind or amount of evil).
In this and future posts, I will be considering various THEODICIES to see if any of them are plausible without making use of assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God.  I strongly suspect than any THEODICY must make use of such assumptions in order to have any hope of being a plausible THEODICY.

THE AUGUSTINIAN THEODICY

The main traditional Christian THEODICY comes from Augustine, and was used and developed further by Aquinas.
One element of this traditional THEODICY is that evil is a “privation”.  The idea is that everything that exists is basically good, and that there are no evil things, per se.  Evil exists, but not as a kind of thing.  Rather evil is a disorder, disfunction, imperfection, perversion, or brokenness of something that is basically good.
A bucket with a hole in it, is a disfunctional and imperfect bucket, because the hole causes water (and other liquids) to leak out of the bucket, making the bucket imperfect and less functional than it would be if it had no hole.  Buckets are good things, but buckets with holes in them are imperfect and less than fully functional.
The idea that evil is a privation allows for the possibility that God created everything, and that everything was good; there was no evil created by God.  But this idea of evil as a privation does NOT get God off the hook for the existence of evil.
Suppose that you buy a new car, and the new car works perfectly for one week.  But then your one-week old car starts sputtering, hesitating, backfiring, spewing smoke out the tailpipe, and refuses to go over ten miles an hour.  You make it two blocks and then there is a loud bang, the engine dies, and it refuses to start up again.  You have the car towed to the dealership.  Why?  Because it is a brand new car.  The fact that it worked perfectly for one week is of no great credit to the designer and manufacturer of the car.  The fact that it broke down after only one week reflects poorly on the designer and/or manufacturer of the car.
Similarly, even if the universe and everything in it worked perfectly for a few years or a few centuries, if the universe broke down and became disfunctional, disordered, and corrupted, then that would reflect poorly on the person who designed and/or made the universe (if the universe was designed and made).  So, if the creator made a universe which was subject to breaking, to becoming disordered, disfunctional, and imperfect, then the creator can be blamed for having made a faulty universe, even if the universe and everything in it worked perfectly for a few years or a few centuries.
If there was a perfect designer and creator of the universe, then we would expect the universe to not only work perfectly for a few years or a few centuries, rather, we would expect the universe to continue to work perfectly forever.  But according to the Bible and to Augustine, the universe became corrupted and disfunctional very soon after it was created.
Thus, the idea that evil is a privation does NOT let God or the CREATOR of the universe off the hook for the evil that exists in the universe.  A perfect CREATOR should be able to design and make a universe that runs perfectly for more than a few years or a few centuries.  A perfect CREATOR should be able to design and make a universe that runs perfectly forever, a universe that never breaks down, never becomes disfunctional or disordered, that never becomes flawed or imperfect.
But wait a minute.  What if a person buys a brand new car, but then horribly abuses and misuses that car?  What if someone takes a brand new car and drives it into a lake or into an ocean?  What if someone drives a brand new car off of a cliff?  or drives a new car at 100 miles per hour and then steers the car into a solid concrete wall?  What if someone takes a brand new car and fills the interior of the car with wet concrete? or fills the gas tank with sulfuric acid?
Such a car would probably become disfunctional, disordered, and imperfect in a matter of days or hours.  That would NOT be the fault of the people who designed the car, nor would it be the fault of the people who manufactured the car.  Taking the broken and disfunctional car back to the dealer would be unreasonable, because the blame for the disfunction and disorder of the car would be squarely on the person who severely abused and misused the car.
This scenario of abuse and misuse of a new car is similar to the appeal to Free Will by Augustine and Aquinas to explain evil and to justify the perfect goodness of the CREATOR of the universe.  The creator made the universe and everything in it perfectly good, without any disfunction, disorder, or imperfection.  But human beings through bad choices abused and misused things and each other, causing disfunction, disorder, and imperfection to come into existence.  There was no evil when God finished making the universe, but human beings corrupted a perfectly good universe and the things in it, causing disfunction, disorder, and imperfection.  God made the universe, but human beings broke the universe by making bad choices.  God did not create evil; humans created evil.
However, this explanation of evil still does NOT let the CREATOR of the universe off the hook.  There is an important disanalogy between the scenario of the owner of a new car abusing the car and the scenario of human beings making bad choices resulting in evil in the universe.  The designers and makers of the new car did not design and make the human being who purchased the new car, so they are not responsible for the bad choices of the owner of the new car.  But the creator of the universe is ALSO the creator of the human beings who make the bad choices that (allegedly) caused evil to come into existence.
The CREATOR designed and produced human beings, so the bad choices of human beings are, at least indirectly, the result of the actions of the CREATOR.  This is particularly the case if the CREATOR happens to be omniscient, because then the CREATOR must have KNOWN in advance that human beings would make bad choices, and thus cause the universe to become disfunctional, disordered, and broken. The CREATOR would have known that these creatures would bring about the existence of evil.  Thus, in deciding to make human beings, the CREATOR determined that evil would come into existence.
There is more, of course, to say in defense of Augustine’s THEODICY.  The value of Free Will, it is thought, outweighs the disvalue of the evils that the CREATOR knew human beings would bring into existence, so one could argue that the CREATOR was morally justified in making human beings with Free Will even knowing all of the various horrible evils that would result from this.
But there is a different and huge problem with Augustine’s THEODICY that makes it implausible.  Evil existed BEFORE human beings existed.  Pain, suffering, injury, disease, violence and death did NOT begin after human beings came into existence.  These evils existed for millions of years before any human being walked the face of planet Earth.  So, the bad choices of human beings cannot be the cause of those evils that existed for millions of years before human beings existed.  The universe was badly broken long before human beings came along.
Furthermore, there is no evidence that there was ever a golden age on the Earth when there was no pain, suffering, injury, disease and death.  Although there was a time when there was no injury, disease, and death, that was a time when there was NOTHING that was alive.  There was also a time when there was no pain and no suffering, but that was a time before there were sentient animals.  As soon as there were living things, there was injury, disease, and death.  As soon as there were sentient animals, there was pain and suffering.  There was no golden age when there were living things but no death.  There was no golden age when there were sentient animals but no pain or suffering.  The Augustinian THEODICY is based upon an empirically FALSE description of the natural history of the planet Earth.
In the next post, I will discuss the question of whether the Augustinian THEODICY involves some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God (or of the CREATOR of the universe).

bookmark_borderOpening Statement from My Debate with Frank Turek

Although I’ve recently been too busy to spend any time writing original content for this blog, I’ve decided to post my opening statement from my 2016 debate with Frank Turek. Enjoy!


Introduction

Good evening! I’d like to thank Craig Freerksen for organizing this debate. I’d also like to thank Dr. Turek for agreeing to participate. Finally, I’d like to thank all veterans, including my opponent, for defending the right to have a debate like this. Now, speaking of our country, I thought I’d borrow a slogan from the presidential campaign. I’m not selling any hats, but I’m here to “make atheism great again.”

Definitions

In this debate, we’ve been asked to assess what best explains reality: naturalism or theism? Before we can answer that question, we need to have some idea of what we’re talking about, so let me begin by defining some terms.
First, by “naturalism,” I mean the view that the physical exists and, if the mental exists, the physical explains why the mental exists.[1] If naturalism is true, then there are no purely mental beings which can exist apart from a physical body and so there is no God or any person or being much like God.
Second, by “supernaturalism,” I mean the view that the mental exists and, if the physical exists, the mental explains why anything physical exists.[2] If supernaturalism is true, then there is no purely physical matter which can exist without some sort of ultimate mental creator.
Third, “personal supernaturalism” is a type of supernaturalism; it adds on the claims that one or more personal mental entities exist and, if a physical world exists, it or they produced the physical world for a purpose.[3]
Fourth, “theism” is a type of personal supernaturalism; it adds on the claim that there is just one mental entity, God, who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and morally perfect.[4]
Finally, fifth, “otherism” is a catch-all category. It says that both naturalism and supernaturalism are false.[5]
Now the question before us in tonight’s debate is this. What best explains reality: theism or naturalism?
In support of a naturalistic answer to that question, I’m going to defend three basic contentions:
(1) The best explanation is the explanation with the overall greatest balance of intrinsic probability and accuracy;
(2) Naturalism is an intrinsically more probable explanation than theism; and
(3) Naturalism is a more accurate explanation than theism.

First Contention

Let’s look, then, at my first basic contention: the best explanation is the explanation with the overall greatest balance of intrinsic probability and accuracy.
By “intrinsic probability” of a hypothesis, I mean the probability independent of the evidence we have for or against it. The intrinsic probability of a hypothesis is determined entirely by its modesty and coherence.[6]
By “accuracy” of a hypothesis, I mean the degree to which a hypothesis’s predictions correspond to reality. We measure accuracy by looking at “evidence.”
By “evidence” I mean something which makes something else more probable than it would have been otherwise. Let me give you an example.[7] Imagine you have two jars of red and blue jellybeans. In the first jar, 90% of the jellybeans are blue and the rest are red. In the second jar, 90% of the jellybeans are red and the rest are blue.
Now imagine you are handed a jelly bean from one of the jars, but you don’t know which jar it came from. If it’s a blue bean, that’s evidence it came from the first jar, not the second. The blue bean doesn’t disprove that it came from the second jar because the second jar also has blue beans, but it’s more likely that it came from the first because there are more blue jellybeans in the first than in the second. Similarly, if it’s a red bean, that’s evidence it came from the second jar. The red bean doesn’t disprove that it came from from the first jar because the first jar also has red beans, but it’s more likely that it came from the second because it has many more red beans.
Mathematicians have a formula called Bayes’ Theorem, which can be used to specify the relationship between intrinsic probability, accuracy, and the overall or final probability of a hypothesis. It follows from Bayes’ Theorem that a hypothesis is probably true, just in case it has a greater overall balance of intrinsic probability and explanatory power than do its alternatives collectively.

Second Contention

Let’s look, then, at my second basic contention: naturalism is an intrinsically more probable explanation than theism.
Intrinsic probability is determined by modesty, coherence, and nothing else. By “modesty,” I mean a measure of how much the hypothesis asserts.[8] The more a hypothesis claims, the more ways there are for it to be false and so, before we start looking at evidence, the less likely it is to be true.
By “coherence,” I mean a measure of how well the parts of a hypothesis fit together.[9] If the different parts count against each other, the hypothesis is less coherent and less likely to be true.
Now consider naturalism and supernaturalism. They are symmetrical claims: naturalism claims that the physical explains the mental, while supernaturalism claims that the mental explains the physical. Both claims are equally modest and equally coherent. Before examining the evidence, both positions are equally likely to be true.[10]
With these definitions in mind, then, I can now defend my second contention. Theism is a type of supernaturalism but could be false even if supernaturalism is true. Furthermore, theism is less modest than either supernaturalism or naturalism. Therefore, before we look at evidence, it is less likely to be true than supernaturalism or naturalism.[11] But that entails that naturalism is intrinsically more probable than theism.

Third Contention

Finally, let’s move onto my third contention: naturalism is a more accurate explanation than theism for many facts.
I’d like to present seven lines of evidence that are red jellybeans, i.e., things more probable on naturalism than on theism.[12]

Physical Matter

(1) Naturalism is the best explanation for the fact that physical reality exists.[13]
If naturalism is true, then physical reality must exist. That’s just part of what naturalism means.
If theism is true, however, things look quite different. The existence of physical reality doesn’t disprove theism; if God exists, God could have created physical space, matter, and energy as part of a plan to create a universe for human beings. But God could have also chosen to create other minds without physical bodies, such as angels. Or God could have chosen to create nothing at all. In other words, God’s existence doesn’t require a physical reality.
So because the physical has to exist on naturalism but does not have to exist on theism, it follows that the existence of physical reality is evidence favoring naturalism over theism.

Success of Science

(2) Naturalism is the best explanation for the fact that science has been so successful without the supernatural.[14]
Imagine a library that contains textbooks for all of the sciences—such as physics, chemistry, and biology—and summarizes current scientific knowledge. The percentage of such knowledge which makes no appeal to the supernatural is extremely high.
Of course, one hears about specific scientific questions which (allegedly) do not have a plausible naturalistic explanation, such as cosmological fine-tuning, the origin of life, and consciousness. But, even if that is or were true, the history of science contains numerous examples of naturalistic explanations replacing supernatural ones and no examples of the reverse. Indeed, naturalistic explanations have been so successful that even most theists concede that supernatural explanations are, in general, unlikely to be true.
Such explanatory success is just what we would expect on naturalism–which entails that all supernatural explanations are false–than it is on theism.[15] And that’s my second line of evidence against theism.

Biological Evolution

(3) Naturalism is the best explanation for the fact that complex life  evolved from simple life.[16]
I’m going to list five scientific facts which support biological evolution. Since Dr. Turek likes acronyms, I’m going to give you the evidence in an acronym, BONES.

  • B is for biogeography;
  • O is for vestigial organs;
  • N is for natural selection;
  • E is for embryology; and
  • S is for stratified fossil record.

Let’s look very briefly at each of these.

Biogeography

First, the evidence indicates that the habitats of plants and animals are distributed in a puzzling way. For example, why are there no land-based mammals on any island more than 300 miles away from the mainland? As University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne puts it, “The biogeographic evidence for evolution is now so powerful that I have never seen a creationist book, article, or lecture that has tried to refute it.”[17]

Vestigial Organs

Secondly, a variety of animals have organs which display traits that would be unnecessary if the organs had been designed from scratch, but would have been useful to an ancestor.

Natural Selection

Thirdly, when the genetic differences between living things provides an advantage, things with that advantage tend to be more successful at survival and reproduction than things without that advantage. This is the essence of the process Darwin called natural selection.

Embryology

Fourthly, as Coyne points out, the evidence indicates that all vertebrate embryos begin development in the same way, looking like embryonic fish, but as they progress, they often go through strange contortions before reaching their final form.[18]

Stratified Fossil Record

Fifthly, the available fossil evidence indicates that as one goes from the oldest to the youngest layers of the fossil record, the layers show gradual change from simple to more complex life forms.
Taken together, the BONES evidence is much more probable on biological evolution (which says that complex life evolved from simple life through trans-generational genetic change)[19] than it is on special creationism (which says that God created all life virtually simultaneously).[20]
If either naturalism or supernaturalism is true, life could exist or not exist. If naturalism is true and life exists, evolution pretty much has to be true. But if theism is true, God didn’t have to use evolution. Furthermore, since theism says that at least one mind existed before any physical matter, it gives a reason to expect that any other minds are fundamentally nonphysical. But that, in turn, leads us to predict conscious life was created independently of nonconscious life, contrary to what evolution claims.[21] So theism predicts that evolution is false.
Thus, the scientific fact of evolution is more likely on naturalism than on theism, and so that’s my third line of evidence against theism.

Pain and Pleasure

(4) Naturalism is the best explanation for the biological role (and moral randomness) of pain and pleasure.[22]
I’m going to give three lines of evidence.
First, moral agents experiencing biologically useful pain and pleasure.
Suppose you are a teenager sleeping in a hotel that has caught on fire. The hotel is old and doesn’t have smoke alarms. The fire gets closer and closer to you until you are actually in pain from the smoke and the intense heat. Your pain wakes you up in time for you to escape; you survive and start a family in your twenties. Your pain in this case was biologically useful because it contributed to your survival. This is just what we would expect on naturalism (and human beings are the products of evolution by natural selection).
Second, moral patients experiencing biologically useful pain and pleasure.
Most human beings are moral agents, people who can be held responsible for their actions and their consequences. But some human beings, such as young children and humans with certain mental disabilities, as well as non-human sentient animals, such as primates and dolphins, are moral patients: sentient beings who can be harmed from their own point of view, but are not responsible for their actions.
On naturalism, we would expect that (biological) sentient beings, including moral patients, would experience pain and pleasure because moral patients are biologically similar to moral agents. On theism, however, we would predict that moral patients do not suffer the same kind of pain as moral agents because such pain plays no known moral role in the lives of the moral patients who experience it.
Third, sentient beings experiencing gratuitous pain and pleasure.
Consider, for example, an animal trapped in a forest fire, suffering horrific pain as it slowly burned to death. On the one hand, this kind of pain is biologically appropriate: it is biologically useful that animals in general feel pain when they come in contact with fire. But, on the other hand, this specific instance of pain was not biologically useful because it did not contribute to the biological goals of survival or reproduction.
On naturalism, this is just what we would expect.  If naturalism is true, all animals are the byproducts of unguided evolution by natural selection, which is both indifferent to suffering and incapable of preventing it.
But if theism is true, God could “fine tune” animals so that they only experience physical pain and pleasure when it was morally necessary. So theism leads us to expect that pain and pleasure are fundamentally moral phenomena, which just happens to be connected to the biological goals of survival and reproduction. That’s a huge coincidence that naturalism doesn’t need.
So this evidence is very much more probable on naturalism than on theism.

Mind-Brain Dependence

(5) Naturalism is the best explanation for the fact that human minds are dependent upon the physical brain.[23]
Philosopher Paul Draper of Purdue University puts it this way: “Consciousness and personality are highly dependent on the brain. Nothing mental happens without something physical happening.”[24] Now Michael Tooley, a philosopher at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has stated five lines of evidence in support of this claim.[25]

  • When an individual’s brain is directly stimulated and put into a certain physical state, this causes the person to have a corresponding experience.
  • Certain injuries to the brain make it impossible for a person to have any mental states at all.
  • Other injuries to the brain destroy various mental capacities. Which capacity is destroyed is tied directly to the particular region of the brain that was damaged.
  • When we examine the mental capacities of animals, they become more complex as their brains become more complex.
  • Within any given species, the development of mental capacities is correlated with the development of neurons in the brain.

Take together, this evidence is much more probable on physicalism, which says that the mind is made only of physical matter, than it is on dualism, which says says that the mind is made of two substances (the physical and the mental). if God exists, God is not in any sense dependent on physical arrangements of matter. So theism entails the existence of at least one unembodied mind. Furthermore, if God wanted to create other minds, he didn’t need them dependent on physical brains.
So the dependence of human minds on brains is evidence against the existence of any being who is supposed to have an unembodied mind, including God. Therefore, the physical nature of minds is evidence favoring naturalism over theism.

Empathy and Apathy

(6) Naturalism is the best explanation for the neurological basis of empathy and apathy, including some moral handicaps.[26]
In many cases, our ability to choose do morally good actions depends upon our having properly functioning emotional capacities, especially empathy, i.e., our ability to identify what someone else is thinking or feeling and to respond to their thoughts and feelings with an appropriate emotion.[27]
We now know, thanks to the relatively new discipline of neuroscience, that certain brain abnormalities cause people to experience less or even no empathy.[28] According to Simon Baron-Cohen of Cambridge University, “There is a consensus in neuroscience that at least ten interconnected brain regions are involved in empathy.”[29] These regions are shown on the slide.
For example, violent psychopaths may know in some abstract sense that their behavior is morally wrong, but utterly lack empathy.[30]
While theism is compatible with a neurological basis for moral handicaps, the fact that at least some moral handicaps can be explained neurologically is much more probable on naturalism than on theism. If theism is true, then that means both 

(a) God creates some human beings with moral handicaps that are not the result of the freely chosen actions of any human being;

and

(b) These moral handicaps make it more likely that they will harm others.

What moral justification would God have for allowing both (a) and (b) to obtain? This seems utterly surprising and completely random from a theistic, moral point of view, but precisely what we would expect on naturalism (and blind nature is indifferent to the moral consequences of brain abnormalities).[31]

Nonresistant Nonbelief

(7) Naturalism is the best explanation for nonresistant nonbelief (in God).[32]
Imagine you’re growing up in an orphanage and I told you I had met a man who claims to be your father and who really wants a relationship with you. Days, weeks, even months go by but you never actually meet your father. You never get a card, letter, phone call. In fact, the only evidence that your father is alive is my claim that he exists. Why haven’t you heard from him? Perhaps your father is ashamed for abandoning you. Or maybe he’s a prisoner of war and his captors won’t even let him write you. Although you hope your father is alive and wants to meet you, you remain skeptical.
Just as you do not believe your father is alive and wants to meet you, there are people who do not believe that God exists.[33] But notice that, whatever reasons we might invent to explain your earthly father’s absence do not explain their heavenly father’s absence.
At least some of the people who deny God’s existence are “nonresistant” nonbelievers. As philosopher John Schellenberg explains, their nonbelief is “not in any way the result of their own emotional or behavioral opposition towards God or relationship with God or any of the apparent implications of such a relationship.”[34] Such nonbelievers are open to having a relationship with God—in fact, they may even want it—but are unable to have such a relationship. But why, if God exists, does that happen?
On naturalism, blind nature doesn’t care whether anyone believes in God and so the fact of nonresistant nonbelievers is hardly surprising. On theism, however, this fact is very surprising. On theism, we would expect a perfectly loving God to always make a meaningful relationship available to those He loves.

Conclusion

So, in sum, we’ve seen seven lines of evidence that naturalism is true. I also happen to think there is some evidence for theism, but that it is outweighed by the evidence for naturalism.[35] In my other speeches, I will explain why I think this as I respond to Dr. Turek’s arguments.[36]

Notes

[1] I owe this definition to Paul Draper.
[2] I owe this definition to Paul Draper.
[3] This definition is similar to, but not identical with, one offered by Paul Draper.
[4] I owe this definition to Paul Draper.
[5] I owe this definition to Paul Draper.
[6] I owe this to Paul Draper.
[7] I owe this jelly bean analogy to Paul Draper. Draper’s full analogy also includes an equal number of yellow jelly beans in both jars, where yellow signifies something that is equally likely to have come from either jar and hence is not evidence that it came from either jar. I have omitted the yellow jelly beans solely in the interest of time.
[8] I owe this definition to Paul Draper.
[9] I owe this definition to Paul Draper.
[10] Paul Draper, “God and the Burden of Proof,” Secular Outpost (July 21, 2014), https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2014/07/21/new-by-paul-draper-god-and-the-burden-of-proof/
[11] Paul Draper, “More Pain and Pleasure: A Reply to Otte” in Christian Faith and the Problem of Evil (ed. Peter van Inwagen, Eerdmans, 2004), 41-54 at 49.
[12] Let N stand for naturalism, T for theism, and F for any of these facts. Using the symbol “Pr(F | H)” to stand for the epistemic probability that F is true conditional upon H, then the claim that some fact is evidence favoring naturalism over theism should be understood as the claim that Pr(F | N) > Pr(F | T).
[13] Jeffery Jay Lowder, “Potential Objections to Swinburne’s Cosmological Argument,” The Secular Outpost (March 17, 2014), https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2014/03/17/potential-objections-to-swinburnes-cosmological-argument/. Note that here I am using the word “matter” as a way to provide a concrete example of something “physical.”
[14] See Keith M. Parsons, Science, Confirmation, and the Theistic Hypothesis (Ph.D. Dissertation, Kingston, Ontario, Canada: Queen’s University, 1986), 46; Paul Draper, “Evolution and the Problem of Evil” in Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology (3rd ed., ed. Louis Pojman, Wadsworth, 1997), 223-24; and idem, “God, Science, and Naturalism” Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion (ed. William Wainwright, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 272-303; and Barbara Forrest, “Methodological Naturalism and Philosophical Naturalism: Clarifying the Connection” Philo 3 (2000): 7-29.
[15] Draper 2004.
[16] See Paul Draper, “Evolution and the Problem of Evil” in Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology (3rd ed., ed. Louis Pojman, Wadsworth, 1997), 219-230; cf. Louis P. Pojman, Philosophy of Religion (Mayfield, 2001), chapter 6.
[17] Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution is True (New York: Penguin, 2009), 88.
[18] Coyne 2009, 56.
[19] Draper 1997, 221.
[20] I’m using “virtually simultaneously” as a shorthand way of accounting for the seven literal days described in Genesis 1, in order to contrast that chronology with the sort of geological timescales needed for evolution.
[21] Draper 1997, 224.
[22] Paul Draper, “Pain and Pleasure: An Evidential Problem for Theists.” Nous 23 (June, 1989), 331-350.
[23] Jeffery Jay Lowder, “The Evidential Argument from Physical Minds,” The Secular Outpost (https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2012/06/13/the-evidential-argument-from-physical-minds-apm/), June 13, 2012.
[24] Paul Draper, “Opening Statement” in William Lane Craig and Paul Draper, Does God Exist? (videotape, West Point, NY, 1996).
[25] Michael Tooley, “Dr. Tooley’s Opening Arguments”  in William Lane Craig and Michael Tooley, The Craig-Tooley Debate: Does God Exist? (http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/craig-tooley2.html), 1994, spotted 25 Jan 99.
[26] Jeffery Jay Lowder, “The Evidential Argument from Physical Minds,” The Secular Outpost (https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2012/06/13/the-evidential-argument-from-physical-minds-apm/), June 13, 2012.
[27] Simon Baron-Cohen, The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty (New York: Basic Books, 2012), 16.
[28] Baron-Cohen 2012, 39.
[29] Baron-Cohen 2012, 28.
[30] As Baron-Cohen points out, the neurological basis for moral handicaps challenges traditional views about moral responsibility. “If zero degrees of empathy is really a form of neurological disability, to what extent can such an individual who commits a crime be held responsible for what they have done? This gets tangled up with the free will debate, for if zero degrees of empathy leaves an individual to some extent “blind” to the impact of their actions on others’ feelings, then surely they deserve our sympathy rather than punishment.” See Baron-Cohen 2012, 160.
[31] Some theists have pointed out that moral evil, such as fallen angels or demons choosing to do evil, might explain so-called “natural evils.” This argument makes the inverse point: certain natural evils explain at least some moral evil.
[32] J.L. Schellenberg, Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993); idem, 2007.
[33] This sentence, of course, assumes that at least some (if not most) professions of atheism are genuine. Those familiar with intra-Christian debates on apologetic methodologies will notice that I have just ruled out the claim of some (or all?) presuppositionalists, namely, that there are no atheists and instead there are only professed atheists. I agree with  John Schellenberg: “it would take something like willful blindness to fail to affirm that not all nonbelief is the product of willful blindness (even if some of it is).” See J.L. Schellenberg, “What Divine Hiddenness Reveals, or How Weak Theistic Evidence is Strong Atheistic Proof” God or Blind Nature? Philosophers Debate the Evidence (http://infidels.org/library/modern/john_schellenberg/hidden.html), 2008.
[34] Schellenberg 2008.
[35] It follows from a Bayesian approach to evidence sketched in my first contention that there can be “true evidence” for a false proposition. Consider, for example, people convicted on the basis of eyewitness testimony for crimes they didn’t commit, only to be exonerated years or decades later by DNA evidence. The eyewitness testimony was some evidence for a false proposition (“The defendant is guilty”), but it was greatly outweighed by the DNA evidence against that false proposition. The fact that there can be true evidence for false propositions should serve as a “warning flag” to anyone who wants to claim that there is absolutely no evidence for naturalism (or theism). “There is no evidence for naturalism (or theism)” does not follow from “Naturalism (or theism) is false” or even “I believe naturalism (or theism) is false.”
[36] I am grateful to Paul Draper, John Danaher, Robert Greg Cavin, and Eddie Tabash for helpful comments on a previous version of this speech.

bookmark_borderA Simple and Obvious Explanation

Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Scandal: 7 Excerpts From the Grand Jury Report

A nearly 900-page report investigating abuse in six dioceses over a period of 70 years documents more than 300 abusive priests.

=============================
How can God allow priests and bishops to sexually abuse thousands of children for decades, and allow them to work at covering up this abuse for decades? How can God allow so many corrupt and evil church leaders to exist, leaders who supposedly guide faithful Christians on matters of character, virtues, and morality?
There is a very simple and obvious answer to this question:

There is no God.

NOBODY is guiding the Catholic Church from heaven. The Catholic Church is a human institution governed by morally flawed human beings and by some evil human beings.
IF there is no God, then it is no surprise that the Catholic Church and other religious institutions are sometimes among the worst promoters of evil and immorality in the world. IF there is no God, then it is no surprise that thousands of children have been sexually abused by morally corrupt Catholic priests for decades, and that their horrible crimes have been covered up by morally corrupt bishops for decades.
There is no need to be puzzled or perplexed by these facts, they make perfect sense if you simply accept the assumption that there is no God, that there is no Father in heaven who is watching over us, protecting us. We are on our own. We must protect ourselves from morally corrupt and evil people.
The Catholic Church will not protect you or your children from harm, and God will not protect you or your children from the Catholic Church. If you want protection from harm and evil, then don’t turn to the Catholic Church, and don’t pray to God; that is just a waste of your limited time and energy. If you want protection from harm and from evil people, YOU have to protect yourself and your children, because there is no “heavenly Father” watching over you or those you love.

bookmark_borderRichard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, and a Special Version of the Problem of Soteriological Evil

Unless you’ve been in a cave, you’ve heard by now the news that Stephen Hawking died. Richard Dawkins recently tweeted about an alleged Christian, going by the pseudonym positiva.tea, who described Hawking’s suffering in Hell.


I can’t find the original tweet Dawkins is quoting, so I don’t know if it’s authentic. I also make no claims about how representative (or unrepresentative) positiva.tea’s beliefs are of “Christians” as a whole. Nevertheless, there’s a special version of problem of evil here: certain versions of theism say that nonbelievers like Hawking experience suffering in this life and no compensation in the next. Indeed, some versions of theism say that nonbelievers (like Hawking) will not only be compensated in the afterlife for suffering in this life, but they will be punished for eternity. On the assumption that God exists, what moral justification would God have for allowing such uncompensated suffering in this life and unending punishment in the next?
Related Reading:
In Defense of an Evidential Argument from Evil: A Reply to William Lane Craig” (2017) by yours truly — see especially section 3.3.2.3.

bookmark_borderProblems With TASO – Part 2: My Favorite Objection

TASO
The third inductive argument in Swinburne’s case for God is TASO (the Teleological Argument from Spatial Order):
Teleological Argument from Spatial Order

(e3) There exists a complex physical universe which is governed by simple natural laws, and in which the structure of the natural laws and of the initial conditions are such that they make the evolution of human bodies in that universe probable.

THEREFORE:

(g) God exists.

TASO is presented and defended by Swinburne in Chapter 8 (“Teleological Arguments”) of his book The Existence of God (hereafter: EOG), 2nd edition.
 
ARGUMENT FOR THE CORRECTNESS OF TASO
Here is Swinburne’s reasoning in support of the correctness of TASO as the third inductive argument in his case:
Critical Argument for the Correctness of TASO

1. An argument X is a correct C-inductive argument IF AND ONLY IF: (a) the premises of X are known to be true by those who dispute about the conclusion of X,  AND (b) the premises of X make the conclusion of X more likely or more probable than it would otherwise be.

2. The premises of the argument TASO are known to be true by those who dispute about the conclusion of TASO.

3. The premises of the argument TASO make the conclusion of TASO more likely or more probable than it would otherwise be.

THEREFORE:

4. The argument TASO is a correct C-inductive argument.

 
EVALUATION OF THE CRITICAL ARGUMENT SO FAR
The critical argument supporting TASO is deductively VALID.  It has the following valid deductive form:

1. P  IF AND ONLY IF: A AND B.

2. A

3. B

THEREFORE:

4. P

In Part 1 I raised an objection against premise (2) arguing that (2) is FALSE, and I raised an objection against premise (3), arguing that Swinburne’s argument for (3) was based on a false premise, thus leaving premise (3) in doubt.  So, the critical argument  for the correctness of TASO is UNSOUND and based on a dubious premise.
However, there is another objection, my favorite objection, which should also be considered, and which will put the nail in the coffin of the critical argument for TASO and which, I believe, will also throw a monkey wrench into Swinburne’s entire case for God.  My favorite objection, is an objection that challenges premise (1) of the critical argument for TASO.
 
OBJECTION TO PREMISE (1)
Premise (1) of Swinburne’s critical argument for TASO presents necessary and sufficient conditions for concluding that an argument is a “correct C-inductive argument”:
1. An argument X is a correct C-inductive argument IF AND ONLY IF: (a) the premises of X are known to be true by those who dispute about the conclusion of X,  AND (b) the premises of X make the conclusion of X more likely or more probable than it would otherwise be.
In my objection to premise (2), I pointed out that it is difficult to KNOW that human bodies are the product of evolution, and that it is even more difficult (if not impossible) to KNOW that this universe was structured in such a way that made the evolution of human bodies in this universe probable.  In order to KNOW that the factual premise of TASO, namely (e3), is true, one must be aware of a great deal of scientific facts and information.
My primary objection to premise (1) is that in order to KNOW the premise of TASO to be true, one must know a good deal of information about a variety of subjects, and that information includes most or all of what is considered to be the problem of evil.  More precisely, in order to KNOW that human bodies are the product of evolution, one must be aware of a good deal of scientific and historical information that includes most or all of the various problems of evil, including information about pain, injury, disease, suffering, death, predators, fear, fight-or-flight response, poisonous plants and animals, sexual reproduction, respiration, digestion, asphyxiation, mutation, natural disasters, famines, starvation, floods, drowning, earthquakes, forest fires, violent storms, snow and ice, freezing to death, the struggle for survival, survival of the fittest, nature “red in tooth and claw”, etc., etc.
So, in order to KNOW that (e3) is true, one must be aware of a great deal of information, and that information includes facts that support some of the most powerful objections to belief in God: the many and pervasive problems of evil.  But then when one evaluates the probability of the hypothesis that God exists in relation to (e3), one cannot rationally and reasonably set aside and ignore the many and pervasive problems of evil.  So, in order to rationally evaluate the probability of the claim “God exists” in relation to (e3), one must take into consideration not just the meaning and implications of (e3), but also the large collection of facts and data that allow one to KNOW that (e3) is in fact true.
If one takes into account most or all of the various and pervasive problems of evil in evaluating the strength of TASO, then it is unclear and very doubtful that all of this additional information increases the probability that God exists.  Given most or all of the various and pervasive problems of evil, that information might very well outweigh whatever positive support the hypothesis of theism gets from the fact that the universe is structured in a way that makes the evolution of human bodies probable.  Thus, in excluding from consideration all of the information that is used to determine (e3) to be true, one excludes a great deal of relevant evidence, which was already used in evaluation of the truth of (e3).  This is illogical and unreasonable, and therefore, the necessary condition (b) in premise (1) must be rejected:
… (b) the premises of X make the conclusion of X more likely or more probable than it would otherwise be.
The problem is that in order to KNOW a claim to be true sometimes requires that one be aware of a great deal of information about various subjects, but this information that supports KNOWLEDGE of the truth of a claim is different from the meaning and implications of the claim in question.  Condition (b) limits us to considering ONLY the meaning and implications of the premise(s) of an argument in evaluating the strength of the inference in the argument.  There is no consideration of the knowledge and information required in order to KNOW the truth of the premises.  So, condition (b) excludes consideration of relevant information that needs to be considered to arrive at a reasonable and rational evaluation of the strength of an inductive argument’s conclusion.
In limiting the scope of information to be used in judging the inference of an argument strictly to the PREMISES of that argument, one may exclude a great deal of information that is relevant to determining the probability of the conclusion of the argument, information that is already possessed by the person who is evaluating the argument, and that has already been used  by that person in the evaluation of the truth (or falsehood) of the premises of that very argument.
It is irrational and illogical to allow the person who evaluates an argument to use a large collection of data to evaluate the truth of a premise, and then to insist that the person disregard all of that data (even if it is clearly relevant) in determining the strength of the inference of that argument.  It is clearly unreasonable to allow a large body of information to be used in one part of evaluation of an argument (evaluating the truth of a premise) and to disallow any of that information to be used in another part of evaluation of the same argument (evaluating the strength of the inference).
 
A MONKEY WRENCH IN THE GEARS OF SWINBURNE’S CASE
There are at least two different ways in which this objection to premise (1) of the critical argument for the correctness of TASO negatively impacts Swinburne’s entire case.
First, whenever Swinburne claims that one of his inductive arguments is a “correct C-inductive” argument, he is relying on the analysis of “correct C-inductive” arguments that is stated in premise (1).  Since my objection is that this analysis is FALSE or INCORRECT, that means that there is a FALSE or INCORRECT premise in every critical argument that Swinburne gives (or implies) about his favored inductive arguments for the existence of God.
Second, Swinburne’s general approach or strategy in building his case for God is based on slowly adding one piece of information at a time, and slowly increasing the probability of the existence of God, with each added bit of evidence.  But this strategy completely falls apart with TASO, the third argument in his case (Swinburne ends up using nine significant inductive arguments in his case), because in order to KNOW the premise of TASO to be true, one must know or be aware of a great deal of scientific and historical information, including information that provides powerful evidence AGAINST the existence of God (e.g. the various and pervasive problems of evil).  TASO opens the floodgates of information, and thus washes away the careful bit-by-bit addition of information that Swinburne intended as his basic epistemological strategy in building his case.
For example, Swinburne does not consider the problem of evil until after positively evaluating six inductive arguments for the existence of God.  But it is illogical for the problem of evil to be considered that late in the progression of adding six different pieces of evidence one at a time, because the problem of evil (or problems of evil) must be taken into account when evaluating TASO, the third argument in his case.  The information that constitutes the various problems of evil is information that one must be aware of and use in order to KNOW that the premise of TASO is true, so the problems of evil arise unavoidably when we try to evaluate the third argument in Swinburne’s case.