bookmark_borderLowder-Vandergriff Debate on God’s Existence Now Out!


I’m pleased to announce that my debate on God’s existence with Mr. Kevin Vandergriff is now out! Here are the options for accessing the debate.

Topic and Format
The topic and format for our debate was as follows.
Topic: Naturalism vs. Christian Theism: Where Does the Evidence Point?
Format: 
Mr. Lowder’s Opening Statement: 20 minutes
Mr. Vandergriff’s Opening Statement: 20 minutes
Mr. Lowder’s First Rebuttal: 15 minutes
Mr. Vandergriff’s First Rebuttal: 15 minutes
Mr. Lowder’s Second Rebuttal: 10 minutes
Mr. Vandergriff’s Second Rebuttal: 10 minutes
Mr. Lowder’s Closing Statement: 5 minutes
Mr. Vandergriff’s Closing Statement: 5 minutes
This debate was not a live debate but was instead recorded over a series of many weeks. Once I recorded my initial opening statement, each speech was due within a week of the previous one being available to the other debater. Once all of the speeches were complete, the crew at Reasonable Doubts merged all of the files together into a single file for the podcast. As an added bonus, both Vandergriff and I provided PowerPoint slides for each and every speech, which should make it that much easier to follow the debate.
Summary of Mr. Lowder’s Case for Naturalism:
First Contention. Naturalism is a much simpler explanation than Christian theism (where simplicity is defined in terms of modesty and coherence).
Second Contention. Naturalism is a more accurate explanation than Christian theism.
2.1. Physical Matter
2.2. Intelligibility of Universe without Appeal to Supernatural Agency
2.3. Cosmic Hostility
2.4. Biological Evolution
2.5. Biological Role of Pain and Pleasure
2.6. Flourishing and Languishing
2.7. Triumph and Tragedy
2.8. Mind-Brain Dependence
2.9. Types and Distribution of Moral Agents
2.10. Limitations on Human Freedom
2.11. Nonresistant Nonbelief
2.12. Ethical Disagreement
Note: some of these lines of evidence were not mentioned until after Mr. Lowder’s opening statement, specifically, 2.2, 2.9, 2.10, 2.12, and 2.14.
Summary of Mr. Vandergriff’s Case for Christian Theism:
First Contention: Naturalism is not significantly more simple than Christian theism.
Second Contention: Even if naturalism is significantly more simple than Christian theism, it doesn’t matter because God exists necessarily.
2.1. Origin of the Universe
2.2. Why There is Something Physical Rather than Nothing
Third Contention: Christian theism is a more accurate explanation than naturalism.
3.1. Discoverability of the Universe
3.2. Applicability of Mathematics
3.3. Evolution
3.4. Formational Economy of the Universe
3.5. Self-Aware Beings
3.6. Embodied Moral Agents plus Fine-Tuning
3.7. The Connection between Moral Beliefs and Necessary Moral Truths
3.8. The Connection between Necessary Moral Truths and Flourishing
3.9. Worthwhileness of Life
3.10. Resurrection of Jesus
Note: some of these lines of evidence were not mentioned until after Mr. Vandergriff’s opening statement, specifically, 3.3 and 3.4.
Related Topics Discussed in This Debate
1. The differences between metaphysical naturalism and the “hypothesis of indifference”
2. The Anti-Creation Ex Nihilo Argument
3. Neo-Aristotelian Ethical Naturalism, namely, Larry Arnhart’s version as defended in his book, Darwinian Natural Right
4. The Bayesian Interpretation of “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence” (ECREE) and the Bayesian Anti-Resurrection Argument
5. Physical cosmology, including the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin (BGV) Theorem and quantum indeterminacy
6. God’s relationship with time
7. Animal pain
Major Selling Points and Drawbacks for this Debate
I think this debate is fairly unusual, if not unique, for theism and atheism debates for a number of reasons.
Selling Points

  • I think both debaters were pretty evenly matched in terms of speaking ability or, at the very least, the delayed audio format gives that appearance. (That is, in fact, a major point of the delayed audio format.)
  • Both debaters treated their opponents with respect. Anyone who was watched or listened to a number of these debates knows that this does not always happen, which is unfortunate.
  • Both debaters approach the question, “Does God exist?”, as an empirical question. This means that, for the most part (but not entirely), they avoided a priori, deductive arguments and instead gave evidential arguments. (Thomistic scholars like Ed Feser and other critics of “theistic personalism” won’t be happy.) Furthermore, they both adopt a Bayesian approach to evidence.
  • The naturalist debater actually attempted to present a positive case for metaphysical naturalism. Mr. Lowder provided nine (9) lines of evidence for naturalism in his opening statement, and five additional lines of (understated) evidence in later speeches.
  • As mentioned above, the theist debater actually attempted to provide theistic explanations for (alleged) naturalistic facts, rather than appeal to so-called “skeptical theism.” In other words, the theist actually attempted to defend a theodicy.
  • In fact, for the most part, I think both sides defended their position using arguments and objections which are representative of the best scholarship on both sides. I think both debaters avoided the typical blunders we see from both sides in these debates. (Mr. Lowder in particular is proud of the fact that he pretty much ignored every piece of the horrible debating advice offered by the late Victor Stenger.) For example, both debaters avoided making positive arguments which many, if not most, philosophers of religion would say have been discredited: the naturalist debater did not use the Lack of Evidence Argument (LEA) for atheism and the theist debater didn’t defend an ontological version of the moral argument (which claims that God is required as the ontological foundation for moral values and duties). Along the same lines, both debaters avoided using some more of the dubious objections to their opponent’s arguments: the naturalist debater didn’t respond to alleged cosmic ‘fine-tuning’ by appealing to the multiverse hypothesis and did not respond to the Resurrection argument using simplistic arguments for Jesus mythicism. The theist debater did not respond to the argument from biological evolution by denying the fact of common ancestry and he did not respond to various arguments from evil by appealing to so-called “skeptical theism.”[1]

Drawbacks
On the other hand, I think this debate has one, maybe two, major drawbacks.
First, Vandergriff and I discuss a large number of arguments. If you didn’t like the number of arguments in my opening statement for my debate with Phil Fernandes, then you’re probably going to be very unhappy with the number of arguments in this debate. (I think the grand total by the end of the debater was somewhere around 23-25.) I don’t think this ever would have worked in a live debate but, given the unique “audio swap” format, we mutually decided beforehand to debate more, rather than less, arguments on each side. I hope that the PowerPoint slides will make the debate comprehensible.
Second, both debaters spoke faster towards the end of the debate and our speaking rates probably pushed the limits of what is reasonable. For people who listen only to the audio (as opposed to watching the YouTube version), this will make it hard to follow.
Vandergriff Did Not Cheat
Several people on the web noticed that Vandergriff used audio editing software to artificially speed up his speaking rate and to edit out the natural pauses in at least some of his speeches, in order to cram more content into his speeches. Based on that, they have accused Vandergriff of cheating.
I can see why listeners might reach that conclusion, but Vandergriff did not cheat and I want those accusations to stop.  Not only did he not cheat, but  I fully believe that Vandergriff neither had any intention to cheat nor did he believe at any point that he was doing so. Why? The rules for the debate did not impose a limit on the words per minute (WPM) ratio for each speech. They definitely did not prohibit the use of audio editing software. I have no doubt that Vandergriff chose to speaker at a higher WPM ratio because of his collegiate debate background, where it absolutely the norm for debaters to exceed 300 WPM in their speeches. (This convention is the primary reason I decided against participating in undergraduate debate, despite my university debate team’s attempt to recruit me.)
The problem, in my opinion, is that there is a huge disconnect between the way competitive debaters do debates and the way the general public thinks about debates. I believe that speaking faster than 190 WPM is a huge turn off for the general public, whether for a podcast or in a live debate. Even if Vandergriff had not edited the audio file and instead chose to speak (naturally) as fast as possible, I predict that many listeners still would have complained about the fast delivery. I can see how the use of audio editing software might lead people to think Kevin had cheated, but that conclusion is mistaken. He did not.
Operating from a collegiate debate perspective, Vandergriff opted to increase his WPM ratio as needed in order to address every single in the point in every single speech. Some people call that the “Gish Gallop” approach but, as anyone with high school or college debating experience can confirm, that’s the way they do it in that style of debating.
In contrast, my approach was to speak at a more comfortable pace (< 190 WPM). Of course, that meant I could not include as much content into my speeches as Vandergriff included in his. Instead of simply “dropping” arguments, however, my strategy was to “group” various arguments together in a way so that one objection could apply to many of his arguments at the same time. If our debate were judged by collegiate debate judges using collegiate rules, it’s quite possible they may have voted for Vandergriff as the winner. Since this wasn’t a collegiate debate, however, and since I did respond to all of his points at least indirectly (through grouping), I don’t care how a collegiate debate judge might vote. My courtroom was the court of public opinion and my intended “judge” was the judgment of the general public.
The real risk is that, once transcripts of the debate are made available, they may give Vandergriff an unfair advantage insofar as it will be much easier for readers to understand a written transcript of his speed talking than it is for listeners to understand an audio recording of his speed talking. I think that we can manage risk that by putting some sort of note at the beginning of the transcript which explicitly addresses the WPM issue.
Lessons Learned
In my opinion, this debate is a “lesson learned” for all parties involved. If I could go back in time, I would have proposed the following:
(1) No cap on the number of arguments because I think the only way to truly test both worldviews in a debate is to actually debate this large number of arguments.
(2) A modified time limit structure, such as 25 minute openings, 20 minute first and second rebuttals, and 15 minute closings. These longer speeches would provide both debaters more time to address the points raised by their opponents.
(3) A strict cap on the maximum allowed WPM, which I would probably set at 190.
(4) The use of audio editing software to manipulate WPM would be allowed, but rendered irrelevant by rules 2 and 3.
Vandergriff and I have already talked about the possibility of having a re-match in the future using the above proposal or something similar. I think I can speak for both of us when I say that we both hope this re-match happens. For my part, I greatly appreciate his informed, thoughtful, and novel approach and think it deserves a fair hearing by everyone interested in pursuing a deeper understanding of these topics.
We’d love to know your reaction to this debate; please feel free to leave your reviews of the debate and/or debate the arguments yourself in the combox!
 
Notes
[1] I recognize that several of the claims in this paragraph will be controversial. For example, some theists deny the truth of common ancestry. Even more important, in my opinion, is the fact some theistic philosophers believe that God is required as the ontological foundation for morality and that skeptical theism is a good response to arguments from evil. I obviously disagree, but I’m not going to attempt to defend my perspective in this blog post.

bookmark_borderOne Problem with Swinburne’s Case for God – Part 2

In a previous post I pointed out three different problems related to the third argument in Richard Swinburne’s systematic case for the existence of God.  The third argument is the final argument of his arguments from the nature of the universe.  It is his Teleological Argument from Spatial Order (hereafter: TASO):
(e3) There is a complex physical universe that is governed by simple natural laws and the values of the constants of the laws and of the variables of the universe’s initial conditions make it probable that human bodies will evolve in that universe.
Therefore:
(g) God exists.
The first problem is that the premise might well be false.  The fact that human bodies did evolve several billions of years after the Big Bang, does NOT imply that this event was probable or likely.  In fact, it seems rather improbable that HUMAN bodies would evolve just the way that they did.  However, Swinburne does not really mean “human bodies” literally here.  He means any sort of body that would be suitable for a ‘humanly free agent’, so that leaves open a wide variety of possibilities in addition to the kind of human bodies that actually exist.  Nevertheless, it is not clear to me that it was probable that bodies suitable for ‘humanly free agents’ would evolve in our universe;  the evolution of such bodies could be a lucky accident.
The second problem is that it seems IMPROBABLE that God would use the slow and (literally) painful process of evolution to bring about animals and human bodies, when God could have designed and created millions or billions of animals and humans in the blink of an eye.  God had no need to use the natural biological process of evolution, and no need to build such a process into the fabric of the universe.    Most importantly, instantaneous creation would have bypassed hundreds of millions of years of animals suffering and dying from disease and parasites and predation and injury.  A huge amount of animal suffering was involved in the natural process of evolution, so a perfectly morally good person clearly would NOT have used evolution to produce human bodies when there was a much better solution ready at hand.  So, it seems clear to me that contrary to Swinburne’s view, (e3) does not provide evidence in support of the existence of God, even assuming (e3) to be true; rather it provides evidence AGAINST the existence of God.
The third problem is the most serious, because it affects his whole systematic case for the existence of God. Unlike the premises of his first two arguments for God, the premise of TASO requires a great deal of background knowledge.  In order to know that (e3) is true, one must first know, at least, that the theory of evolution is the correct theory of human origins.
In order to know that the theory of evolution is true, one must know a significant number of scientific concepts, facts, and theories from a variety of scientific disciplines (chemistry, biology, physics, geology, paleontology, anthropology, and astronomy) plus one must have some awareness of philosophy of science and the history of science.  For all practical intents and purposes, Swinburne has sucked in most of modern scientific knowledge (at least at the level of high school biology, chemistry, etc.) into the background knowledge of TASO and thus into the background knowledge in all the remaining arguments in his case for God.
One big problem is that knowledge of evolution clearly involves knowledge of the problem of evil, at least knowledge of the problem of natural evil.  In order to know that evolution has occurred one must be aware of the fact of natural death, predation, disease, accidental injury, and natural disasters.  Thus, in order to evaluate the success or failure of TASO, one must deal with the problem of evil, at least with the problem of natural evil.
One option Swinburne has would be to simply dump TASO, to completely remove it from his sequence of arguments, and move on to the first argument in the next phase of arguments (that are based on human life).  That is probably his best option.  But if Swinburne insisted on retaining TASO as the third argument in his sequence of arguments for God, then he would have to deal with the problem of natural evil as part of the evaluation of TASO.
On the face of it, the problem of natural evil sinks TASO; that is to say, if we add (e3) and the required background knowledge to the previous information from his first two arguments, then TASO would REDUCE rather than increase the probability that God exists.  In order to avoid TASO reducing the probability of God, Swinburne would have to engage his theodicy for explaining natural evil, and he would have to do so as a part of his evaluation of TASO.
Swinburne explains natural evil or justifies the perfect goodness of God in view of natural evil by making a few basic points:

  • Natural death provides a limitation on the amount of suffering that one animal or human must endure.
  • The vulnerability of animals and humans to being killed provides many opportunities for humans to make significant choices between good and evil.
  • The existence of evil desires (that cannot be helped) in humans makes it possible for humans to have freedom of choice between good and evil.
  • The frequent occurrence of suffering and need that results from accidents, diseases, and natural dangers and disasters provides humans with opportunities to help and comfort animals and humans.
  • The frequent occurrence of suffering and need that results from accidents, diseases, and natural dangers and disasters provides humans with opportunities to investigate and learn about nature (or to choose lazy indifference and ignorance) and with choices in the use of such knowledge either to cause more suffering and need or to help reduce suffering and need or to simply not make use of the knowledge.

It appears to me that in explaining or justifying natural evil, Swinburne focuses in on human beings, and especially on the fact that human beings have freedom to make significant choices for good or evil.  In other words, in order to justify God in the face of natural evil, Swinburne must now pull the problem of moral evil into the picture.  That means, that in order to evaluate TASO and to avoid the conclusion that TASO actually REDUCES the probability that God exists, Swinburne must deal with the whole problem of evil, both natural evil and moral evil.
Furthermore, in order to deal with the problem of moral evil, Swinburne must assume that humans have conscious awareness and moral awareness.  But the next two arguments in Swinburne’s sequence of arguments are based on the premises that humans have conscious awareness and moral awareness.  Thus, in order to evaluate TASO, Swinburne must incorporate not only his response to the problem of evil (which was supposed to be argument number seven in his sequence) but also he must incorporate his argument from consciousness and his argument from moral awareness.  That means that at least three other arguments in his carefully constructed sequence of arguments must be dealt with all at once and summed up all together, in order to evaluate the success or failure of TASO.
Some of the points justifying natural evil (listed above) come from Swinburne’s argument from Providence, so it is hard to see how he could avoid pulling in that argument as well.  Thus, it appears that four out of five of Swinburne’s arguments from the nature of human life must be dealt with in order to evaluate TASO.
This makes a complete mess of his careful sequence of arguments, and destroys the logical neatness of his whole strategy, which is to add facts one at a time, and to analyze the impact of those facts one at a time.  But TASO requires that most of his remaining arguments must be examined all at once, or evaluated all together and not as separate bits of evidence added one bit at a time.
If I am correct in this analysis, then I think Swinburne really has no other option but to toss out TASO completely, and he must simply jump from his second argument from the nature of the universe to his first argument from the nature of human life (the argument from consciousness).  Otherwise, he is forced to abandon his basic strategy of adding facts one at a time, and to evaluate the significance of these facts one at at time.
 

bookmark_borderThe Evidential Argument from Moral Agency Revisited: A Reply to Jerry Coyne

1. Introduction
Biologist Jerry Coyne recently blogged about an argument I’ve called the “evidential argument from moral agency” (EMA). The argument was formulated by (then-agnostic, now-atheist) Paul Draper in an article in the American Philosophical Quarterly. (See here for a free copy.) I’ve blogged about the argument twice: see here and here.  It appears that Coyne has only seen the first blog post, which he says he finds easier to read than Draper’s essay, but since he doesn’t actually provide his readers with a link, it’s hard to know for sure which blog post(s) of mine he’s read.
Following the standard jargon in the philosophy of religion for arguments from evil, I called the argument from moral agency an “evidential” argument because the argument does not claim that moral agency is logically incompatible with metaphysical naturalism. Rather, the argument claims that embodied moral agency is evidence against metaphysical naturalism and for theism.
It’s important to remember that the EMA is NOT, as some commenters on Coyne’s site seem to think, a moral argument for God’s existence. In other words, the EMA doesn’t claim, “Morality exists, therefore (probably) God exists.” In fact, the EMA is perfectly compatible with the fact that morality does not (ontologically) depend on God.(To avoid any doubt, I think morality does not ontologically depend on God.) Rather, the focus of the EMA is on moral agency, i.e., the ability to make moral choices and to be morally responsible for those choices.
In my initial blog post about this argument, I wrote, “I’m inclined to believe this is the strongest argument–by far–for theism I have ever read.” At the risk of stating the obvious, when I wrote, “this is the strongest argument for theism,” I was not claiming that theism is probably true or even that embodied moral agency is evidence favoring theism over naturalism. Instead, I made a relatively  modest claim: in my opinion, the EMA is the strongest argument for theism.
2. The State of the Philosophy of Religion
Jerry Coyne’s critique includes both objections to the argument and some very harsh criticisms of the philosophy of religion.I will very briefly address the latter and then address the former in depth.
Since Coyne is a professional biologist, not a philosopher, he is not an expert on philosophy. Like any other non-philosopher, he has the right to state his opinion regarding the quality of argumentation in philosophy as a whole or a sub-disciple of philosophy, such as the philosophy of religion. But his opinions do not carry the weight of an expert, so it would be fallacious to make the following argument from authority: Jerry Coyne thinks the philosophy of religion is dead; therefore, it’s dead. While some arguments from authority can be logically incorrect, this one is not. Non-philosophers do not have philosophical expertise, so the opinion of non-philosophers, including Coyne, provides no evidence at all for the claim that the philosophy of religion is dead. In other words, there is no logically correct argument from authority for the claim that the PoR is dead when the “authorities” are actually non-authorities. The philosophy of religion may or may not be dead as a discipline, but, if it is, that is for philosophers to determine, not non-philosophers.
If this seems harsh, consider the following words written by philosopher Doug Krueger, in another context, about the sort of expertise required to be competent as a potential debate opponent of William Lane Craig.

Moreover, as Mark Smith, an atheist with college debating experience, points out, if Craig is concerned about the academic credentials of his oral debating opponents, he should also be just as concerned about their speaking skills. According to Smith, “To be good at debating one needs years of training and practice. Would anyone hire a chemistry professor to build a house?” Or as Krueger asks, “What biologist would put a concert pianist up on stage to defend evolution? What mathematician would give an English teacher the job of lecturing on the four color map problem? Of course, there are experts in more than one field, and I’m sure that some English teachers would do a better job than some math teachers, but wouldn’t the math field be a more likely area to get experts in that area? Wouldn’t philosophy be a more likely field from which to recruit people to speak on philosophical issues, such as god’s existence?”

Krueger was pointing out some rather obvious flaws in Craig’s choices of debate opponents, but his comments apply equally to the absurdity of Coyne’s dismissal of the philosophy of religion.
In my opinion, Coyne is partially wrong: the philosophy of religion is not “dead,” but it is in serious condition, if not on life support. This can be shown by counting the number of philosophy departments at secular colleges and universities which have faculty lines for philosophy of religion. (They are very rare.) Why is this? I think that one contributing factor to this state of affairs is the blatant partisanship which is very much the norm in the philosophy of religion. Many philosophers of religion, including both atheists and theists, function as natural theologians (if theists) or natural atheologians (if atheists). In other words, they act as if their job description says, “If you’re a theist, defend theism; if you’re an atheist, defend atheism.” It’s rare for philosophers of religion to engage in genuine inquiry and to spend equal amounts of time defending theism and defending atheism. But, if a philosopher of religion is going to act like a philosopher, not an apologist, they should be engaging in inquiry.[1]
It is for this reason that Coyne’s dismissal of the philosophy of religion, based on Draper’s article, is most unfortunate. Draper’s article on the problem of evil and moral agency is one of the most non-partisan articles in the philosophy of religion I have read in a long time. Moreover, not only is not partisan, it advances the discussion in very interesting ways. First, it shows that the arguments from evil and moral agency are parallel problems for theism and for naturalism. Second, he provides a very interesting analysis of the “multiple universes” objection against (many) arguments from evil, an objection which had received very little attention prior to his article. Indeed, he convincingly shows that the multiverse hypothesis fails as an objection to the EMA, whereas it succeeds as an objection to some versions of arguments from evil (for atheism). Third, he shows how the fine-tuning data can be used to support a theistic argument in a way which avoids one of the major problems with traditional fine-tuning arguments. Coyne, however, seems oblivious to these virtues of Draper’s paper and, instead, dismisses without argument part of Draper’s argumentation as ‘mental masturbation.’ This is simply embarrassing for Coyne. Or at least it should be!
3. The Evidential Argument from Moral Agency Revisited
Following Draper, let’s define a “moral agent” as “a being that has moral duties to others and that is, at least in some cases, morally praiseworthy or blameworthy for succeeding or failing to perform those duties.” If we abbreviate “much greater than” as “>!”, “there exist embodied moral agents” as E, “theism” as T, and “metaphysical naturalism” as N, then the argument as formulated by Draper can be summarized as follows.
(1) E is known to be true.
(2) Pr(E | T) >! Pr(E | N).
(3) N is not intrinsically much more probable than T.
(4) Other evidence held equal, Pr(T) > Pr(N).
Note that this is precisely the formulation I provided in my two previous blog posts on this argument.
In light of the fact that both Draper and I explicitly state the argument’s logical form, it’s surprising, not to mention disappointing, to find Coyne misrepresenting the argument and so tearing down a straw man of his own creation. Compare the above, actual form of the argument with Coyne’s version.

1. There are moral agents in the world, i.e., us. By “moral agents,” Draper means that humans have a code of morality and can freely make moral choices.
2. A naturalistic theory of our origins is less likely to explain our status as moral agents than is the existence of God, who made us moral agents.
3. Moral agency requires moral responsibility.
4. To be morally responsible, one must have libertarian free will, that is, at any time one must be able to choose between moral actions and immoral or neutral ones.
5. Such libertarian free will is much more likely to exist under theism than under naturalism.
6. Therefore, moral agency is a strong argument for God.

A quick comparison of the two arguments should make it obvious that they are not identical. Draper’s argument has four premises, whereas Coyne’s argument has six. Draper’s argument is formally valid, whereas Coyne’s argument is not. Furthermore, in addition to misrepresenting the argument, Coyne also misrepresents the definition of “moral agent.” In short, Coyne’s summary is a blatant straw man.
3.1. The Definition of “Moral Agent”
Let’s start with the definition of “moral agent.” Coyne defines a “moral agent” as a “human who has a code of morality and can freely make moral choices.” A careful reading of Draper’s article (and my blog posts), however, should make it obvious that that is not what Draper had in mind. Again, Draper explicitly defined a “moral agent” as a “a being that has moral duties to others and that is, at least in some cases, morally praiseworthy or blameworthy for succeeding or failing to perform those duties.” Draper’s definition makes no reference to human beings nor does it say anything about whether humans “have a code of morality.”
When Draper writes that moral agents “have moral duties to others,” he is not talking about whether they “have a code of morality.” I’m quite sure that Draper is very familiar with — and accepts — evolutionary explanations for morality, viz., explanations for empathy, altruism, reciprocity, rules, etc. Rather, Draper is talking about moral duties which are objective in the sense that they are independent of human opinion. This distinction matters because it could be the case that humans evolved to “have a code of morality,” but that code of morality is nothing but the subjective opinions of human beings.
Like other non-philosopher biologists, Coyne has totally confused the distinction between moral ontology (the nature of moral properties, such as whether they are objective or subjective), moral epistemology (how moral claims and beliefs can be known and justified), and moral psychology (the nature and source of moral beliefs and moral emotions).  Biology and related fields like evolutionary psychology can (and do) inform moral epistemology and psychology, but it’s a category mistake to confuse (and conflate) them with moral ontology. This is important because Draper’s reference to “moral duties” is an implied reference to moral ontology.
3.2. Coyne’s Assessment of Draper’s Premises
(1) There are embodied moral agents, i.e., E is known to be true.
As we’ve seen, Coyne uses a different definition of “moral agent” than Draper. So when Coyne writes, “Yes, people have a moral code and consider themselves moral agents,” it doesn’t follow that Coyne agrees that there exist embodied moral agents. In fact, Coyne denies (1). He writes, ”

I don’t believe in moral responsibility because, as Draper notes correctly (and contra Dennett and others), I think that true moral responsibility requires libertarian free will.

Coyne goes on to state his belief that “We don’t have libertarian free will.” Thus, Coyne denies there exist beings who are morally responsible for their actions. This entails that Coyne denies that (1) is true.
(2) Embodied moral agents are much more probable on the assumption that theism is true than on the assumption that naturalism is true, i.e., Pr(E | T) >! Pr(E | N).
As I read him, Draper offers three reasons in support of (2).
(2.1) First, moral agents, including embodied moral agents, have a distinctive dignity or worth. The dignity or worth of moral agents does not raise the probability of their existence if naturalism is true (and hence blind nature has neither the ability nor the desire to select for the evolution of beings with such dignity or worth). If theism is true, however, then such considerations are relevant to the probability of moral agents (since God has both the ability and desire to create such beings).
(2.2) Second, moral agency requires responsibility, which in turn requires moral libertarian free will (LFW). LFW is more likely on theism than on naturalism. (i) Moral responsibility is likely on theism. (ii) LFW requires mental substances. Mental substances are much less likely on naturalism than on theism.
As Draper notes, given that there are moral agents, the fact that they are embodied is more probable on naturalism on theism. He states that they are not much more probable, however, and so the fact that they are embodied does not offset or outweigh the evidence of moral agency for theism.
(2.3) Draper argues that the fine-tuning data “greatly strengthen[s]” the evidence of moral agency for theism because, he says, the fine-tuning data shows that “moral agency is extremely improbable given naturalism.” The argument seems to go like this. Moral agency does not entail life; if moral agency is true, there may or may not be life. Likewise, life does not entail moral agency; if life exists, moral agents may or may not exist. If naturalism is true, however, moral agency “almost certainly depends on the existence of living beings. Thus, moral agency is extremely unlikely given naturalism.” If theism is true, however, moral agency does not require embodied moral agents. (If theism is true, moral agents could exist in the form of unembodied beings, such as angels, demons, spirits, ghosts, and the like.) Not only are there more ways for there to be moral agents if theism is true, but, as Draper argues, theism gives us antecedent reason to expect that God would create moral agents.
What does Coyne have to say about the above reasons?
Regarding (2.1), so far as I can tell, Coyne offers no response.
Turning to (2.2), Coyne seems to agree. He writes, “If we had it [LFW], it would indeed be a kind of miracle, defying the laws of physics, and therefore would require a metaphysical explanation.” As we saw earlier, Coyne denies that we have LFW. But that says nothing about the antecedent probability of LFW on theism and on naturalism.
As for (2.3), Coyne offers no response. Coyne writes, “Draper and Lowder drag the “fine tuning” argument into this issue, but it’s not necessary.” But this comment seems to reveal a misunderstanding of the argument, as if the fine-tuning data were completely irrelevant to the EMA. “Fine-tuning” isn’t “necessary” in order to defend the EMA, but, Draper claims, it “greatly strengthens” the EMA. Thus, a correct response to Draper would be a denial that the fine-tuning does what Draper says it does. But Coyne contradicts himself. He writes:

… at any rate, even if you accept fine-tuning as an argument for God, it doesn’t do anything except make the ‘existence of moral agents’ claim … even less likely under naturalism.

In other words, Coyne admits that (2.3) is correct. Coyne agrees that Draper’s appeal to the fine-tuning data, if correct, performs the exact role in the EMA which Draper says it does.
Coyne also denies that fine-tuning data is extremely improbable on naturalism. He writes “Draper’s paper was written before physicists had provided a number of possible naturalistic solutions to the fine-tuning argument (see here or here, for instance).” The first link is to an audio interview of physicist Sean Carroll. Carroll notes there are four possible responses to the fine-tuning data: (1) design; (2) necessity; (3) chance (what Carroll calls a “brute fact”); or (4) there’s a selection effect. If I understand him correctly, Carroll defends (4). The second link is to a blog post by fellow Patheos blogger Bob Siedensticker which summarizes Carroll’s five objections to William Lane Craig’s fine-tuning argument. Space limitations prevent me from discussing Carroll’s five objections, so instead I’ll simply state my opinion that Carroll’s first two objections are much stronger than the last three.
(3) Prior to investigation, naturalism is not much more likely to be true than theism, i.e., N is not intrinsically much more probable than T.
Coyne denies (3). He writes:

But to me the argument falls down like a deck of cards, for its train of logic is weak. For one thing, it presumes that theism has at least a reasonable probability; that is, that there’s enough independent evidence for God that we can somehow put it into Bayesian probability statements with an appreciable value.

As an objection to (3), this is multiply flawed. First, Coyne confuses the distinction between prior probability and explanatory power. Having independent evidence for God is relevant to explanatory power, but not to prior probability.The fact, if it is a fact, that there is no independent evidence for God (i.e., evidence independent of the evidence of moral agency) says nothing about the intrinsic probability of theism. Furthermore, by itself, the lack of evidence tells us nothing about the hypothesis’s final probability. A hypothesis can be so highly probable prior to investigation that, even after investigating and finding no evidence, the hypothesis can still have a high final probability. (Note: I’m using the word “hypothesis” here to simply mean a proposition that is uncertain.)
Second, Coyne is wrong to claim that, prior to investigation, theism has a negligible probability. In the case of ultimate metaphysical hypotheses like theism and naturalism, we begin by equating “prior probability” with “intrinsic probability.” The intrinsic probability of a hypothesis is its probability independent of the evidence for or against it. Intrinsic probability is determined by two factors: (a) modesty; and (b) coherence. “Modesty” is a measure of how much a hypothesis asserts. The more a hypothesis asserts, the more ways there are for the hypothesis to be false; whereas the less a hypothesis asserts, the fewer ways there are for it to be true. “Coherence” measures the degree to which the logical implications of a hypothesis fit together. If the implications fit together well, the hypothesis is more coherent; if they count against each other the hypothesis is less coherent.[2]
Naturalism says that the physical world explains the existence (or apparent existence) of the mental world. Supernaturalism says that the mental world explains the existence (or apparent existence) of the physical world. Notice the symmetry here: so defined, naturalism and supernaturalism are equally modest and equally coherent.
Theism is a version of supernaturalism. Theism says everything that supernaturalism says, but adds on several additional claims: (a) that the non-physical mental entity which explains the natural world is a person; (b), that person created the world for a purpose; and (c) that person is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. Because theism entails supernaturalism but could be false even if supernaturalism is true, then, prior to examining the evidence, theism is less likely to be true than supernaturalism (and hence naturalism). In other words, the intrinsic probability of theism is less than the intrinsic probability of supernaturalism. Since the intrinsic probabilities of supernaturalism and naturalism are equal, it follows that theism is also less intrinsically probable than naturalism.
While the above analysis shows that theism is less intrinsically probably than naturalism, it does not support the claim, implicit in Coyne’s remarks, that the intrinsic probability of theism is negligible, i.e., that it’s virtually impossible for there to be enough evidence to overcome this improbability.
(4) Other evidence held equal, theism is more probable than naturalism, i.e., Pr(T) > Pr(N).
So far as I can tell, Coyne says nothing which challenges the inference of (4) from (1)-(3).
3.3. Lowder’s Assessment of Draper’s Premises
I now want to comment on Draper’s one-by-one to provide my latest thinking about his argument.
(1) There are embodied moral agents, i.e., E is known to be true.
As noted above, Draper builds moral responsibility into the definition of moral agent. I agree with Coyne and Draper that moral responsibility does seem to require moral freedom. Unlike Draper and Coyne, however, I’m undecided about whether we have LFW. Therefore, I’m equally undecided about whether we are moral agent’s in Draper’s sense.
(2) Embodied moral agents are much more probable on the assumption that theism is true than on the assumption that naturalism is true, i.e., Pr(E | T) >! Pr(E | N).
I am inclined to agree with Draper, on the basis of (2.1). I am undecided about (2.2) and (2.3).
(3) Prior to investigation, naturalism is not much more likely to be true than theism, i.e., N is not intrinsically much more probable than T.
For the reasons given above (i.e., scope and modesty), I now believe (3) is false. It is undeniable that, as the terms are defined above, naturalism is both more modest and more coherent than theism. But that entails that, prior to investigation, naturalism is more likely to be true than theism. In fact, I think Draper may (?) now reject (3).
(4) Other evidence held equal, theism is more probable than naturalism, i.e., Pr(T) > Pr(N).
I think (4) deductively follows from (1)-(3), but since I reject (3) and am undecided about (1), I cannot accept (4) on the basis of (1)-(3).
4. Related Evidence
There are two related pieces of evidence worth mentioning.
1. Even if there are embodied moral agents (in Draper’s sense), the fact that they exist hardly exhausts what we know about them. We also knows facts about the variety and frequency of conditions which severely limit our freedom. These facts are more likely on the assumption that naturalism is true than on the assumption that theism is true. It’s not obvious that the evidence of moral agency for theism outweighs the evidence of moral agency limitations against theism.[3]
2. Likewise, if the life-permitting conditions of our universe are somehow supposed to be evidence favoring theism over naturalism, then the hostility of the universe to life is evidence favoring naturalism over theism.
5. Concluding Thoughts
In summary, I still think the EMA is the best argument for theism I have seen. It is, without a doubt, a massive improvement over cosmic ‘fine-tuning’ arguments for God. Nevertheless, I’m undecided about LFW, so I’m unable to grant that moral agency (in Draper’s sense) is a genuine item of evidence. If LFW and moral agency exist, then I’m inclined to agree with Draper that they are more probable on theism than on naturalism. But since naturalism is intrinsically more probable than theism, it’s far from obvious that the likelihood of moral agency on theism, by itself, outweighs theism’s intrinsic improbability. In other words, it’s far from obvious that moral agency make God’s existence more probable than not.[4]
Notes
[1] This point was inspired by an unpublished paper by Paul Draper.
[2] Paul Draper, “Theism, Naturalism, and the Burden of Proof,” unpublished paper.
[3] Paul Draper, “Cumulative Cases,” in Charles Talioferro, Paul Draper, Philip L. Quinn, Blackwell Companion to the Philosophy of Religion (John Wiley and Sons: 2010), 414-24 at 421.
[4] I’m grateful to Paul Draper for helpful comments on an earlier version of this essay.
ETA (7-Jul-14): Inserted footnote 2, which was missing from the original draft of this essay.

bookmark_borderSpeaking in Seattle on Saturday

imageI will be reprising my recent talk to the Central London Humanists, “Evidence About God: What Apologists Don’t Want You to Know,” but this time my audience will be the Creation Association of Puget Sound (CAPS).

When: Saturday, May 11, 2013, 7:00PM

Where: Avondale Bible Church, 17010 Avondale Road Northeast, Woodinville, WA

Here is information from the organizer:

Refreshments and meetup discussions at 7:00, talk at 7:30, hosted by Avondale Bible Church. This meeting is organized for Christians to politely hear from the Skeptic community and respond at the end during the Q & A – but this is not a debate. The Creation Association of Puget Sound is returning the favor of Seattle Skeptics, who have provided forums for Creationists and Intelligent Design proponents to speak at their gatherings with Q & A by skeptics. Similarly Skeptics are encouraged to come observe, but not to participate in the Q & A. This meeting will open with scripture and Creation & I.D. announcements.

To RSVP, you may sign up on Meetup.com, where it has been cross-promoted by Seattle Atheists.

bookmark_borderRichard Swinburne’s newest book: Mind, Brain, and Free Will

This book will be published May 15, 2013. Here is the book’s description on Amazon:

Mind, Brain, and Free Will presents a powerful new case for substance dualism (the idea that humans consist of two parts–body and soul) and for libertarian free will (that humans have some freedom to choose between alternatives, independently of the causes which influence them). Richard Swinburne argues that answers to questions about mind, body, and free will depend crucially on the answers to more general philosophical questions. He begins by analyzing the criteria for one event being the same as another, one substance being the same as another, and a state of affairs being metaphysically possible; and then goes on to analyze the criteria for a belief about these issues being justified. Pure mental events (including conscious events) are distinct from physical events and interact with them. Swinburne claims that no result from neuroscience or any other science could show that interaction does not take place; and illustrates this claim by showing that recent scientific work (such as Libet’s experiments) has no tendency whatever to show that our intentions do not cause brain events. He goes on to argue for agent causation, and claims that–to speak precisely–it is we, and not our intentions, that cause our brain events. It is metaphysically possible that each of us could acquire a new brain or continue to exist without a brain; and so we are essentially souls. Brain events and conscious events are so different from each other that it would not be possible to establish a scientific theory which would predict what each of us would do in situations of moral conflict. Hence given a crucial epistemological principle (the Principle of Credulity) we should believe that things are as they seem to be: that we make choices independently of the causes which influence us. According to Swinburne’s lucid and ambitious account, it follows that we are morally responsible for our actions.

LINK to Amazon

bookmark_borderThe Evidential Argument from Moral Agency (AMA) Revisited

I want to revisit Paul Draper’s very interesting argument from moral agency against metaphysical naturalism.[1]

Informal Statement of the Argument

We know that moral agents exist. If we ignore for a moment the evidence for moral agents–i.e., independent of the evidence for moral agents–we have much more reason on theism than on naturalism to expect the existence of moral agents.

Let us start by considering metaphysical naturalism. If naturalism is true, then it is extremely improbable that there exist such things as unembodied minds like souls, spirits, ghosts, etc. Thus, in a naturalistic world, the existence of moral agency virtually requires the existence of living beings. Therefore, on the assumption that naturalism is true, we would expect that any world without (physical) life would also be a world without any moral agents.

Now consider theism. On the assumption that theism is true, we have several reasons to expect moral agency, reasons we do not have on the assumption that naturalism is true. First, moral agents, by definition, have moral value. That fact is irrelevant to the probability of their existence on naturalism, but it is relevant to the probability of moral agents on theism, which posits a personal God who is, among other things, perfectly morally good.

Second, moral agency requires moral responsibility, which in n turn requires libertarian free will. We have much reason to expect libertarian free will on the assumption that theism is true than on the assumption that naturalism is true.

Third, thanks to recent discoveries in physical cosmology, we now know that our universe is incredibly well “fine-tuned” for life. By itself, the fine-tuning data shows that the prior probability of life given naturalism is extremely low. But when we combine the fine-tuning data with the facts of moral agency, the argument becomes much stronger: embodied moral agency is extremely improbable on the assumption that naturalism is true.

Formal Statement of the Argument

Abbreviations:

>!: much greater than
E: there exist embodied moral agents
T: theism: the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect person (God) who created the universe.
N: metaphysical naturalism: the hypothesis that the universe is a closed system, which means that nothing that is not part of the natural world affects it.

Argument Formulated:

(1) E is known to be true.
(2) Pr(E | T) >! Pr(E | N).
(3) N is not intrinsically much more probable than T.
(4) Other evidence held equal, Pr(T) > Pr(N).

Objects to the Argument from Moral Agency (AMA)

I’m  going to consider various objections to AMA’s premises, in a roundabout order.



Objections to (2)

Objection: Theism is not needed to explain the data about moral agency, including fine-tuning. This is because the hypothesis that there exist multiple or even infinite universes explains the data as good or better than theism. Since the physical laws in each of these universes are random, there is bound to be at least one, if not many, life-permitting universe. We just happen to live in (one of the very few) life-permitting universes.

Reply:  At first glance, the multiverse hypothesis (M) seems irrelevant to the argument from moral agency, since (2) compares the antecedent probability of E on T to the antecedent probability of E on N, not N conjoined with an auxiliary hypothesis about the multiverse. So how could M be relevant to (2)?

Those of you who have read my other recent postings can probably predict what I’m going to write next. Using the probability calculus, we can measure the effect that an auxiliary hypothesis like M has on Pr(E/N). In order to assess the evidential significance of an auxiliary hypothesis like M, we would simply need to consider a weighted average, as follows:

Pr(E/N) = Pr(M/N) x Pr(E/M&N;) + Pr(~M/N) x Pr(E/~M&N;)

This formula is an average because Pr(M/N) + Pr(~M/N) = 1. It is not a simple straight average, however, since those two values may not equal 1/2.

The weighted average formula above gives us some insight into what would need to be the case in order for M to be a good defeater for the argument from moral agency. I assume we all agree that the second half of the right-hand side of that equation, Pr(~M/N) x Pr(E/~M&N;), is not going to be useful for deriving a high value for Pr(E/N). (Otherwise, there would be no need to introduce M in the first place!)

So we’re stuck with the first half of the right-hand side: Pr(M/N) x Pr(E/M&N;). In order for M to be a good defeater of the FTA, then, Pr(M/N) x Pr(E/M&N;) needs to be high, the higher the better. The problem, however, is that we have little or no reason to believe that Pr(M/N) is high, i.e., we have little or no reason on naturalism (alone) to expect multiple universes. If Pr(M/N) is not high, then there is no reason to believe that Pr(E/N), as a weighted average of Pr(M/N) and Pr(~M/N), is high. So, unless there is independent evidence for M–i.e., evidence that is independent of the evidence for E–it appears that using M as a defeater against the argument from moral agency fails.

Furthermore, not only can we calculate the impact of M on Pr(E/N) as a weighted average, we can also calculate the impact of M on Pr(E/T) also as a weighted average.

Pr(E/T) = Pr(M/T) x Pr(E/M&T;) + Pr(~M/T) x Pr(E/~M&T;)

In order to have a true “apples-to-apples” comparison, we would need to compare both Pr(E/N) and Pr(E/T) as weighted averages. On the assumption that theism is true, it is far from obvious that God would create only this universe.[1] This is significant because the higher the value of Pr(M/T), the closer the value Pr(E/T) will be to Pr(E/M&T;). Since we are ultimately interested in the ratio of Pr(E/T) to Pr(E/N), it seems far from obvious that M significantly decreases that ratio. (In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the “apples-to-apples” comparison ultimately strengthened the argument by increasing the ratio of Pr(E/T) to Pr(E/N), but I don’t need to show that in order to refute the objection based on M.)

Objections to (3)

Objection: (3) is false. N is intrinsically much more probable than T. N only asserts that supernatural beings do not exist, while T asserts that a very specific kind of supernatural being exists. Thus, N asserts much less than the proposition that nothing at all exists, while T says much more than the proposition that something exists. Thus, N is intrinsically much more probable than the proposition that nothing exists, while T is intrinsically much less probable than the proposition that something exists.[1]

Reply: I find this objection very persuasive. I am tempted to conclude that this objection is also decisive, but theories of intrinsic probability are extremely controversial. On the other hand, theories of intrinsic probability are extremely controversial. And I know of no non-question-begging reason to believe that (3) is true. Even without a decisive or conclusive argument for the conclusion that N is intrinsically much more probable than T, this objection does constitute a solid reason for doubting (3).

Objections to (1)

Objection: This argument depends upon the assumption that we have libertarian free will, which is dubious. Only 16% of professional philosoph
ers believe we have libertarian free will; the rest are either compatibilists or determinists.

Reply: I have called the argument from moral agency the “best argument for theism” without calling it a “good argument.” Part of the reason why is that I am undecided between libertarianism and compatibilism. If libertarianism is false, then so be it. But what interests me about the argument from moral agency is how it directly solves one of the major defects of what I call ‘standard’ fine-tuning arguments.

Standard fine-tuning arguments just assume that God would want to create embodied moral agents, but fail to provide a reason why we should believe that. In contrast, the argument from moral agency directly deals with that problem. It provides a plausible explanation for why, if theism is true, we should expect moral agents. This does not show that the existence of embodied moral agents is more probable than not on the assumption that theism is true. What it does show, however, is this. Given that moral agents of any kind (i.e., embodied or otherwise) is antecedently much more probable on theism than on naturalism, the fact that there are embodied moral agents is much more probable on theism than on naturalism. (Again, please review what I wrote earlier about the ratio of Pr(E/T) to Pr(E/N).) That is the inference that I find particularly interesting (and persuasive).

Back to the objection: I think the objection correctly points out that the argument from moral agency seems to have the concept of libertarian free will built into the definition of “moral agent.” If that is so, then we can’t use our knowledge of our own existence, by itself, as evidence for (1). We also need evidence that we possess libertarian free will. In my opinion, this is probably the strongest objection to the argument. (This assessment could obviously change in response to a robust defense of libertarian freedom.)

Objections to (4)

Objection: The fact that embodied moral agents exist hardly exhausts what we know about moral agents. We also know facts about the variety and frequency of conditions that severely limit our freedom, facts which are antecedently more probable on N than on T.[2] Thus, one can’t conclude that T is true, solely on the basis of moral agency, without committing the fallacy of understated evidence.


Reply: AMA, by itself, doesn’t commit the fallacy of understated evidence, since its conclusion is merely that moral agency provides prima facie evidence favoring T over N, not ultima facie evidence. I consider it an open whether the fully stated evidence regarding moral agency–in other words, whether the general fact of moral agency combined with the more specific facts about the variety and frequency of conditions that severely limit our freedom–favors T or N.

Conclusions and Prospects

If I were to rank the objections from strongest to weakest, I would rank the objection to (1) as the strongest objection, followed by the objections to (3), (2), and (4), respectively. Suppose, however, someone presented a robust, even overwhelming, defense of libertarian freedom and hence of (1). Where would that leave this argument?

I strongly suspect that, once there is some reasonably well-accepted theory of intrinsic probability, it will support the claim that naturalism is antecedently much more probable than theism. Assume, for the sake of argument, that prediction is correct and premise (3) is false. While the argument from moral agency, as it stands, would be unsound, we would still be left with the argument’s premise (2), which, in my opinion, is powerful. How then could a philosopher build an explanatory argument for theism, based upon moral agency, that is also inductively correct? In my opinion, the most promising option would be to construct a cumulative case utilizing multiple, independent lines of evidence, since the cumulative effect of multiple, independent lines of evidences can be enough to overcome even an extremely low prior probability.

Notes

[1] Paul Draper, “Terrestrial Suffering and Cosmic Fine-Tuning: Parallel Problems for Theism and Naturalism.”  American Philosophical Quarterly 41 (2004): 311-321.


[2] Paul Draper, “Cumulative Cases,” in Charles Talioferro, Paul Draper, Philip L. Quinn, Blackwell Companion to the Philosophy of Religion (John Wiley and Sons: 2010), 414-24 at 421.

bookmark_borderThe Best Argument for God’s Existence: The Argument from Moral Agency

Continuing my theme of summarizing arguments about God’s existence inspired by the writings of Paul Draper, this time I have chosen to summarize an argument for God’s existence, the “argument from moral agency.” Draper’s full argument may be found in his paper “Cosmic Fine-Tuning and Terrestrial Suffering: Parallel Problems for Naturalism and Theism.” (The link will take you to JSTOR, where the paper sits behind a ‘paywall,’ so if you don’t have JSTOR access you won’t be able to read the paper.)

I’ve thought about this argument often since I first read Draper’s paper many years ago. I’m inclined to believe this is the strongest argument–by far–for theism I have ever read. It is surprising that so many theists continue to press boilerplate fine-tuning arguments when the argument from moral agency is so vastly superior (or, at least, so it seems to me). It is equally surprising that the argument has not garnered the critical attention of atheist philosophers.

Abbreviations:

>!: much greater than
E: there exist embodied moral agents
T: theism
N: naturalism

Argument Formulated:

(1) E is known to be true.
(2) Pr(E | T) >! Pr(E | N).
(3) N is not intrinsically much more probable than T.
(4) Other evidence held equal, Pr(T) > Pr(N).

Draper’s Defense of (2)

“I do not contend that the existence of moral agents is certain on theism; for example, a morally perfect God might, for all we know, create only moral patients rather than moral agents or create only moral agents that are not embodied. Nevertheless, there are reasons on theism that we do not have on naturalism to expect the existence of moral agents. For example, the fact that such beings have a distinctive sort of dignity or worth does not raise the probability of their existing on the assumption that naturalism is true, but does raise the probability of their existing on theism. In addition, moral agency requires moral responsibility, which in turn (pace Harry Frankfurt) requires libertarian free will, and libertarian free will is for a variety of reasons much more likely on theism than on naturalism.4 Of course, given that there are moral agents, the fact that they are embodied is more probable on naturalism than on theism, but not much more probable. So there is an interesting argument from moral agency in support of theism quite apart from any ‘fine tuning data.’

“The fine tuning data, however, greatly strengthen this argument, because they show that moral agency is extremely improbable on naturalism. (It is only because of this strengthening that the argument from moral agency can compete in the same league as the argument from evil.) The argument for this is fairly convincing, though unfortunately it requires relying on the claims physicists make about the fine tuning data. According to this data, only a small proportion of the range of possible values that certain ‘cosmic constants’ could have had would be life permitting, and only a small proportion of the possible initial conditions that could have obtained in our world would be life-permitting. Thus, the antecedent probability of life given naturalism is extremely low. But in a naturalistic world, moral agency almost certainly depends on the existence of living beings. Thus, moral agency is extremely unlikely given naturalism.”

In later sections of the paper, Draper considers the multiverse objection to both his argument from moral agency and the argument from evil. In a brilliant move, Draper argues that the multiverse objection is a much stronger objection to arguments from evil than it is to the argument from from moral agency.

I don’t have an opinion on whether the multiverse objection to arguments from evil succeeds, but I am inclined to agree with Draper that the multiverse objection to the argument from moral agency (and to fine-tuning arguments in general) are failures.

On the other hand, I think premise (3) is false: I think N is intrinsically much more probable than T. (Indeed, I’m not sure, but I think Draper himself may also now share this view.) But I am not sure how to weigh the prior IMprobability of theism against theism’s explanatory power with respect to moral agency.

Also, it’s worth mentioning, in the spirit of Draper’s “Fallacy of Understated Evidence,” that Draper, in a later paper, argued a more specific fact about moral agency favors naturalism over theism: the variety and frequency of conditions that severely limit our freedom.