bookmark_borderPlantinga Calls This A Good Argument for God’s Existence?

The title of my post might come across as snarky, so I want to begin my making it clear that is not my intent. In fact, I want to go on record as saying I have great respect for Plantinga’s skill as a philosopher. Among other things, I think he succeeded in his attempt to refute Mackie’s version of the argument from evil.
Perhaps because I have to come hold Plantinga’s work to such a high standard, I continue to be surprised whenever I read Plantinga’s version of the so-called argument from beauty. In his famous lecture, “Two Dozen or So Theistic Arguments,” Alvin Plantinga sketches what he calls the “Mozart Argument.”

On a naturalistic anthropology, our alleged grasp and appreciation of (alleged) beauty is to be explained in terms of evolution: somehow arose in the course of evolution, and something about its early manifestations had survival value. But miserable and disgusting cacophony (heavy metal rock?) could as well have been what we took to be beautiful. On the theistic view, God recognizes beauty; indeed, it is deeply involved in his very nature. To grasp the beauty of a Mozart’s D Minor piano concerto is to grasp something that is objectively there; it is to appreciate what is objectively worthy of appreciation.

Plantinga doesn’t say how he rates the strength of the individual arguments; it’s possible that he views this argument as providing just a teeny-tiny bit of evidence that is just barely more probable on theism than on naturalism. Of course, it’s also possible that he views this argument as a “killer refutation” of a naturalism. Or, perhaps more likely, maybe he views it somewhere in between.
Let’s evaluate this argument the same way Plantinga evaluates arguments from evil against theism. How do we do that? By trying to clarify the claim the argument makes about the relationship between the evidence to be explained (in this case, objective beauty) and the rival explanatory hypotheses (e.g., theism and naturalism). Nothing in the passage above suggests that Plantinga claims that objective beauty is logically inconsistent with naturalism. Rather, Plantinga seems to be suggesting that objective beauty is less probable on naturalism than on theism.
I’m going to attempt to “steel man” Plantinga’s argument. The most charitable interpretation of Plantinga is that he’s offering the following argument:
(1) Objective beauty exists.
(2) Naturalism is not intrinsically much more probable than theism. [See Plantinga’s argument L]
(3) The existence of objective beauty is more probable on theism than on naturalism, i.e., Pr(beauty|theism) > Pr(beauty|naturalism).
(4) Therefore, everything else held equal, naturalism is probably false, i.e., Pr(naturalism) < 1/2.
I find this argument unconvincing; indeed, I find it so unconvincing I confess I find it hard to understand why Plantinga would endorse it.
First, I think the truth of (1) is far from certain. It’s far from obvious to me that such a thing as objective beauty exists; I don’t even have the intuition that it exists. And Plantinga offers no reason to think that it does. If it doesn’t exist, then there is nothing to explain and this argument cannot even get off the ground.
Second, I think (2) is false. Purdue University philosopher Paul Draper has convinced me that intrinsic probability is determined by modesty, coherence, and nothing else. Again, the only thing I could find in Plantinga’s lecture is a reference to Swinburne’s work on intrinsic probability. Swinburne argues that simplicity determines intrinsic probability. To be sure, there is a correlation between modesty, coherence, and simplicity. But correlation is as far as it goes. And if Draper is correct that intrinsic probability is determined by modesty and coherence, then naturalism is intrinsically much more probable than theism for the simple fact that naturalism (a/k/a “source physicalism”) is much more modest than theism, just as supernaturalism (a/k/a “source idealism”) is much more modest than theism.
Third, let’s assume, but only for the sake of argument, that (1) is true. There really is such a thing as “objective beauty.” What might be the metaphysical or ontological grounding for it? One option is Platonism, i.e., abstract objects. In other words, facts about objective beauty would be nothing more or less than necessary truths about beauty. And since Draperian naturalism (or “source physicalism”) says nothing about whether abstract objects exist, this metaphysical grounding is available not just to theists, but also to naturalists. And Plantinga offers no reason to reject this naturalistic explanation.
Instead, Plantinga considers an evolutionary explanation. Perhaps, he suggests,

our alleged grasp and appreciation of (alleged) beauty is to be explained in terms of evolution: [it] somehow arose in the course of evolution.

But this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison. Plantinga isn’t comparing a naturalistic explanation of objective beauty to a theistic explanation of objective beauty. On the naturalistic side of the equation, he’s not considering the explanatory power of naturalism to account for objective beauty; rather, he’s considering the explanatory power of naturalism conjoined with an auxiliary hypothesis (about evolution) to account for our grasp and appreciation of alleged beauty. Similarly, on the theistic side of the equation, he’s not considering the explanatory power of theism to account for objective beauty; rather, he’s considering the explanatory power of theism conjoined with an auxiliary hypothesis (about God’s nature) to account for … what, precisely? Our grasp and appreciation of real, not just merely alleged, beauty? God’s causation of objectively beautiful features of the natural world? Something else? Plantinga never says.
The problem isn’t that he invokes auxiliary hypotheses; the problem is that doing so raises a whole bunch of questions which Plantinga doesn’t even ask, much less answer. For example, what’s the antecedent probability of his proffered evolutionary explanation, conditional upon the truth of naturalism? Likewise, what’s the antecedent probability of his auxiliary hypothesis to theism, that facts about objective beauty are somehow related to God’s nature, conditional upon the truth of theism? (And how does that compare to an alternative auxiliary hypothesis about theism, namely, that facts about objectively beauty are grounded in an autonomous realm of abstract objects?) Since Plantinga doesn’t answer these questions, his defense of his Mozart argument is far from complete.
Fourth, let’s assume, but only for the sake of argument, that premise (3) is true. The fact, if it is (were?) a fact, that objective beauty exists hardly exhausts what we (would?) know about “beauty.” As Draper points out, while the universe is saturated with visual beauty, it is not saturated with auditory, tactile, or other sensory beauty. Given that beauty “exists” at all, facts about the kinds and distribution of beauty favor naturalism over theism. So, once the evidence about beauty is fully stated, it’s far from obvious that it favors theism over naturalism.
In fairness to Plantinga, I want to remind readers that Plantinga was merely sketching his Mozart argument in the context of a speech about two dozen or so arguments; he wasn’t trying to give a sustained or even a precise defense of the argument. Nevertheless, I think the above objections pose significant obstacles to such an argument. Even when the argument is steel manned, as I have tried to do here, I cannot see how the argument can overcome these objections.

bookmark_borderQuibbling over Semantics While Missing the Point

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m a linguistic relativist. I don’t think words have objective meanings. I think the meaning of words is relative to time and place. So when I encounter someone who is adamant about defining a word in a different way than I do, I just shrug my shoulders. I’m much more interested in the concepts represented by certain labels than the labels themselves.
I recently discovered (or re-discovered) an exchange on this site in which a Christian apologist responds to my critique of William Lane Craig’s moral argument for God’s existence. Responding to a comment from reader “Andy,” who had promoted my critique, Timothy Stratton begins his critique by denying that I am a naturalist.
You said, “The biggest exponent of the moral argument is of course William Lane Craig. I’ll recommend to everyone again to view Jeffery Jay Lowder’s takedown of Craig’s version of the argument…”

Do you really think JJL’s argument is a good one, Andy? This is anything but a “takedown.” For starters, his title is “Naturalism, Theism, and Moral Ontology,” but he sure does not defend naturalism; in fact, he argues against naturalism!

Let’s see. I started one of the first atheist websites on the Internet, a website devoted to promoting metaphysical naturalism on the Internet. I claim to be a naturalist and, in that critique, I claim to be defending naturalism against an argument for God’s existence based on moral ontology. So why would Stratton deny that I am a naturalist? He continues:

He is anything but a naturalist as he states that there are many immaterial abstract objects that ontologically exist without beginning! He specifically references the laws of nature (which are not nature themselves), mathematical laws, and the laws of logic.

So, according to Stratton, I’m not a naturalist because I’m open to the existence of abstract objects.
This is a very uncharitable way of responding to critique, so allow me to explain why. Like many things, the word “naturalism” means different things to different people. For some people it refers to epistemology (i.e., “methodological naturalism”) while for others it refers to ontology (i.e., “metaphysical naturalism”). Furthermore, even within the domain of ontology, there is no consensus among philosophers regarding what it means. Some people define “metaphysical naturalism” in a way that is synonymous with materialism, i.e., nature is all there is. Other people (including yours truly), however, define “metaphysical naturalism” in a much more modest way that makes no claims for or against the existence of abstract objects. In light of the many legitimate definitions of “metaphysical naturalism” among professional philosophers, it is simply uncharitable for Stratton to act as if I am using an idiosyncratic definition of “naturalism.”  If an author or speaker uses one of many legitimate definitions of a word that is probably polysemous, the charitable thing to do is engage the author or speaker on his or her own terms.
I don’t really care whether my worldview is called “naturalism,” “weak naturalism,” “atheistic moral Platonism,” or “shnaturalism.” I’m interested in the concepts or ideas represented by the label. So, with that in mind, let’s try to put my critique in context. William Lane Craig defends an argument for God’s existence from moral ontology; my presentation is a critique of Craig’s argument. Regardless of the label we assign to my worldview, it is still the case that an “atheist” (in Craig’s sense of “atheist”) can consistently believe in “objective moral values and duties” (in Craig’s sense of “objective moral values of duties”). Furthermore, it is still the case that Craig’s supporting arguments are completely unsuccessful. Nothing Stratton has written refutes anything in that presentation.
Instead, Stratton basically tries to change the subject and present an argument from abstract objects for theism. He writes:

Now, I think a strong argument can be made that the best explanation of all of these immaterial abstract and eternal things is the eternal existence of God (I have written on this topic on my website).

Craig’s moral argument is based upon the claim that ontologically objective moral values and duties are logically inconsistent with God’s nonexistence. Even if it were the case that God is the best explanation for abstract objects, this wouldn’t vindicate Craig’s argument from moral ontology to God’s existence since that argument makes a much stronger claim. But in fact I think apologists are going to have a very hard time defending the kind of argument Stratton describes. In my experience, when defending such arguments, Christian apologists play fast and loose with the definition of theism and, indeed, equivocate. Sometimes “theism” means theism and sometimes “theism” means theism conjoined with one or more auxiliary hypotheses, such as the doctrine of divine aseity (which denies that abstract objects exist a se). It may be the case that Christians have excellent theological reasons for believing that doctrine; I am not making any claims about that. But mere theism does not entail divine aseity. The existence of fully autonomous abstracta is logically consistent with ‘mere theism.’
The upshot is this: theists can appeal to an auxiliary hypothesis, such as a sectarian doctrine about divine aseity, in order to explain abstract objects. But this gain in “explanatory power” is offset by a loss in “intrinsic probability,” and the best explanation is the hypothesis which has the greatest overall balance of intrinsic probability and explanatory power. So it is far from obvious that theism (conjoined with an auxiliary hypothesis about divine aseity) is the best explanation. In fact, it is far from obvious that abstract objects, if they exist, even need an explanation. But that’s a topic for another day.

Be that as it may, why can all of these supernatural (other than nature) immaterial abstract things exist, but a supernatural immaterial concrete “Thing” cannot exist?

Again Stratton tries to summarize my views and, again, he does so in a very uncharitable way. Nowhere in my critique (or anywhere else) have I claimed that the supernatural “cannot” exist, so it is odd that Stratton would try to saddle me with such a strong claim. In fact, my actual position denies that claim: I believe that theism is possible, but improbable. As anyone who is familiar with my writings knows, my preferred style of argumentation is inductive; I defend arguments which try to show that theism is improbable, not impossible.

How ad hoc to posit all of these supernatural entities to avoid an argument deductively proving a supernatural immaterial Thinking Thing exists.

The phrase “all of these supernatural entities” is key, for it emphasizes the key confusion in Stratton’s commentary. Unlike Stratton, I don’t believe that abstract objects are “supernatural” by definition. The key difference between supernatural beings and abstract objects is this: supernatural beings can stand in causal relations, while abstract objects cannot. Because supernatural beings can stand in causal relations, this make it at least possible to devise empirical ‘tests’ for their existence in a way that cannot be done for abstract objects. Those ‘tests’ provide reasons to doubt the existence of supernatural beings, but they don’t provide reasons to doubt the existence of abstract objects. So, contrary to Stratton, there is nothing “ad hoc” about it.

This atheist is willing to posit an *infinite* amount of supernatural things, but is determined to avoid a supernatural thing if it is an immaterial thinking thing (a mind).

Again, notice the uncharitable comment. I’m not sure why Stratton tries to saddle me with the claim that an “infinite” number of abstract objects exist, but it really doesn’t matter one way or the other. What matters is whether the existence of abstract objects provides a reason to think that God exists. For the reasons given above, I don’t think ‘mere theism’ does that. And the parting shot about psychological motivations (“determined to avoid a supernatural thing”) is just that, an irrelevant parting shot, not an argument.
If this is the best that WLC’s defenders can do in defense of his moral argument, then I think his critics (including some theists!) are quite justified in regarding his argument as unsuccessful.

bookmark_borderHere’s One Way to Resist Naturalistic Arguments: Lack Belief that Matter Exists!

A Christian apologist writing under the pseudonym ‘InvestigativeApologetics’ stated the usual objection to atheism, namely, that it’s impossible to prove or give evidence for the non-existence of God.

The fact is that atheists who yell that “there is no evidence for God (or Christianity)” are protesting too much, so to speak, and they are, in fact, projecting the weakness of atheism onto theism. For truth be told, it is atheism, at least when in its wide and positive sense, that is the view for which there is no evidence or argumentation that could establish its position. (LINK)

I responded as follows:

Yawn. InvestigativeApologetics seems completely oblivious about the ways to establish the truth of atheism. 

LINKS: herehere

InvestigativeApologetics then doubled down on his original claim, but with a very novel justification.

Yawn all you like. I am intimately familiar both with those two links and with the various Evidential Arguments that you present at the Secular Outpost. In fact, funny enough, it was your arguments that inspired me to look into this matter and come to the conclusion that I did concerning the un-evidenced nature of atheism (when viewed broadly and positively).

Now, obviously, I cannot show this conclusion in this particular comment (although further comments may follow) and I am simultaneously–at this point in my life–beyond caring whether people are swayed by my points or not (for convincing a flesh-and-blood person is not the same as having a convincing argument). However, let me just make a few quick points:

1) First, I am not saying that we must prove that a god does not exist with certainty in order to be rational to believe that a god(s) does not exist. Rather, I am saying that the atheist cannot even show that it is more probable than not that a god does not exist…at least not without begging the question in a substantial number of ways that the theist or skeptic need not grant.

2) For example, consider all the evidential arguments that you present on the Secular Outpost in light of the Likelihood Principle (that a data/observation counts as evidence for Hypothesis 1 over Hypothesis 2 if the data/observation is more likely or expected on Hypothesis 1 than on Hypothesis 2):

The Evidential Argument from Scale (AS) – Given the kind of being described in my first comment, no specific scale of the universe would count as evidence against its existence, and all “scale types” would be equally expected on both naturalism and that form of theism. Thus, no evidential support for naturalism (and I know that you don’t fully or strongly endorse the argument from scale, but I wished to present it anyway). 

b. The Evidential Argument from the History of Science (AHS) – This argument was ripped apart in a past discussion that I remember (with Crude and CL and others, I believe…I’m sure you will disagree, but that is not surprising given that philosophy is a discipline of disagreement), and it has (at my last count) at least 10 flaws, but its worst flaw is that it assumes both that there is such a thing as “matter” and that there is such a thing as a “naturalistic” cause (or explanation), but neither of these need be accepted by the theist or skeptic, either of whom could be an immaterialist (or a-matterist) and/or an occasionalist (where God is the only true cause). So your argument rests on an assumption that need not be conceded, and hence, the argument is flawed from the start. It is also circular given that you need to deal with the objection from the occasionalist, but to do that, you cannot assume a natural cause, which is what the occasionalist denies; you would either have to disprove occasionalism or disprove the existence of any god through other means, but this, in turn, makes your argument redundant. So the argument is either redundant or begs the question. Not a good state for an argument to be in. Furthermore, even if the existence of “naturalistic” explanations was conceded, it would still be the case that if a deist non-interventionist god existed, we would expect all explanations to be naturalistic even on this type of deism, and so again, there is no evidential value in favor of naturalism or deism with this argument as naturalistic explanations would be equally likely on both worldviews.

1. InvestigativeApologetics’ comments about the AHS are confused. Theism,’ as I have defined it, is the ‘core‘ explanatory hypothesis. Sectarian doctrines like occasionalism and non-interventionism are auxiliary hypotheses, viz., theism does not entail occasionalism or non-interventionism but is compatible with both. They are at, at best, uncertain. The probability calculus specifies how we should deal with uncertain auxiliary hypotheses in a way that conforms with the pattern of probability relations specified by Bayes’ Theorem. I explain this here. What IA needs to do is provide an antecedent reason on theism for expecting that either or both of these auxiliary hypotheses are significantly more likely than their denials. Otherwise, the logically correct conclusion is to dismiss these objections as ad hoc, “just so” stories invented solely to avoid the conclusions of the arguments. “Both worldviews” might have roughly equal explanatory power, but naturalism would trump deism by virtue of having a greater intrinsic probability.
2. More important, a careful reading of my arguments will reveal that my arguments need not presuppose that material objects exist.  Supernaturalism (or “source idealism”) can be defined in a way that is neutral between dualism and idealism.  (The hypothesis that the original causes of any material objects that exist are immaterial does not entail that material objects exist.)  Similarly, naturalism or “source physicalism” can be defined in a way that is neutral between dualism and materialism.  Notice too, that even if my particular definition of supernaturalism implies the existence of material objects, that is compatible with “identity idealism”, which is far more plausible than eliminative idealism, just as identity materialism is far more plausible than eliminative materialism.  (Berkeley was an identity idealist, for example.  He believed that physical objects exist, but thought they were collections of ideas.) (I owe this point to Paul Draper.)

c. The Evidential Argument from Biological Evolution (ABE) / The Evidential Argument from Physical Minds (APM) / The Evidential Argument from Evil: The Biological Role of Pain and Pleasure (AE: APP) / The Evidential Argument from Evil: The Flourishing and Languishing of Sentient Beings (AE: AFL) / The Evidential Argument from Evil: The Self-Centeredness and Limited Altruism of Human Beings (AE: AVV) – See Point (a) – Again, none of these arguments hold any evidentiary weight against a non-interventionist god and so do not support naturalism over such a deism given that all these facts would be equally likely on naturalism or deism.

Now, to be precise, my “arguments for naturalism” are really arguments against theism, though in some sense they are of course both.

Now, you could, of course, try to claim that aspects of prior probability or modesty/coherence (from Paul Draper’s ‘Burden of Proof’ Argument, which I know you support) might make atheistic-naturalism more rational or more likely than some type of theism. But again, there are numerous problems with such maneuvers. First, prior probabilities are notoriously difficult to establish objectively, and I, on that basis alone, I would be suspicious of any argument, by an atheist, which just happens to show that atheism (or atheistic-naturalism) has a higher prior probability than theism.

IA knows very well that suspicion is not an argument. And notice that IA gives no reason to doubt that intrinsic probabilities should be determined solely by scope and coherence. Furthermore, he neglects to mention that Draper’s theory of intrinsic probability does result in the conclusion that naturalism and supernaturalism have equal intrinsic probabilities. Once that fact is taken into consideration, it becomes clear that Draper’s theory is not biased against supernaturalism. The fact that theism has a smaller intrinsic probability than supernaturalism follows directly from the definitions of supernaturalism and theism. Theism entails supernaturalism but supernaturalism does not entail theism. So the probability of theism cannot be any greater than the probability of supernaturalism but could be less. This is basic, non-controversial set theory.

Second, in all your arguments (and your priors) you begin with the assumption that materialism—in the sense of metaphysical matter actually existing—is true, but I do not concede this assumption (being an a-matterist and thus lacking a belief in the existence of matter) and so this must be proven before any one of your arguments gets off the ground and before you can even set the prior probabilities that you want. Third, modesty and coherence does not favor naturalism, but rather a type of Berkelian immaterialism, for it is that view that makes the least assumptions about reality (only thinking things exist, which we cannot deny, and is thus the most modest) while remaining coherent (and it is arguable that atheistic-naturalism even is coherent), so Draper does not help you much.

Addressed above.

Fourth, even if we grant the existence of matter, given the fact that a “material god” could exist, and given that a good case could be made that the prior probability of a “material god” existing is either just as good or better than the prior probability of straight atheistic-naturalism (for consciousness, language, life, would have a higher probability of existing given the existence of a material god than given just straight atheistic-naturalism), then, once again, your arguments run into trouble.

What is a “material god”? The word “material” tells us that such a being is composed of matter. The word “god,” I gather, is supposed to tell us that such a being has supernatural powers or abilities. The hypothesis that such a being exists is a very specific version of supernaturalism and so, like theism, has a smaller intrinsic probability than supernaturalism and naturalism. (The more a hypothesis claims, the more ways there are for that hypothesis to be false and so the lower the intrinsic probability.) So-called ‘theistic evidences’ — such as consciousness, language, life, and so forth — determine the explanatory power of the ‘material god’ hypothesis, not its intrinsic probability. Furthermore, notice that IA lists only alleged theistic evidences. It seems rather one-sided to estimate the probability of a material god existing by considering only theistic evidences, while ignoring naturalistic evidences (such as pain and suffering, evolution, nonresistant nonbelief, mind-brain dependence, and so forth). Once the evidence is fully stated, it’s doubtful that IA’s “material God” exists.

Now, I am certain that you might scoff at certain proposals that I have put forward (for example, immaterialism or occasionalism) as being not worthy of consideration. And that’s fine. But my point is this: I do not need to concede to the very assumptions which are latent in so many of the arguments that you put forward, and the moment I do not concede to those assumptions, not only do your arguments lose nearly all their force (if not all), but you actually have the burden to prove the things that you are asserting. And demonstrating such things (such as the actual existence of matter, for example) is a very difficult task to say the least. Furthermore, until and unless you do demonstrate the existence of these things you just essentially assumed, I could readily contend that you hold to them with little more than blind faith. And so these are just some of the brief reasons why, when atheistic arguments are thoroughly deconstructed, and when we realize the various underlying assumptions that they make—assumptions which we need not grant—and when we also understand that the atheist is literally denying the existence of all reasonably possible gods, which could and would include a god such as a non-interventionist one, then we can begin to understand why the atheistic position, when viewed broadly and positively, lacks any evidence for its claim. 

I’m not sure about “scoffing,” but I will say this. If the best response a person has to my arguments is to doubt or deny the existence of matter, then I’m feeling pretty good about the arguments. This must be how Christians feel when atheists use certain far-fetched objections.(“If this is the lengths they have to go to in order to deny the argument, then let them have it.”)

bookmark_borderDraper on Pain and Pleasure: Part 3

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

I apologize for the size of the text in my graphics. If you find it hard to read, you should be able to see the graphics at “full size” by clicking on them one-at-a-time in your browser window.
1. “Theodicies” and Theistic Explanations for Facts about Good and Evil
As Draper observes, “Explaining some phenomenon in terms of a statement usually involves adding other statements to that statement.” The relevance to the problem of evil is obvious: people who offer a theistic explanation for facts about good and evil add to T (the proposition that God exists) some additional statement Tn (the proposition that God must allow certain evils in order to achieve some goal).In the philosophy of religion, such additional statements are called “theodicies.” In inductive logic, additional statements of this sort are generically called ‘auxiliary hypotheses.’ In Draper’s terminology, he refers to them as “expansions.”

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

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

A. O is known to be true.
B. T is not much more probable intrinsically than HI.
C. Pr(O/HI) >! Pr(O/T).
So, D. Other evidence held equal, T is probably false.

Draper argues that if a theodicy is to successfully defeat an argument from evil against theism, it must somehow undermine premise (C) by raising the value of Pr(O / T). In order to evaluate whether an expansion Tn of theism raises Pr(O / T) enough to defeat (C), Draper proposes that we use the “Weighted Average Principle” (WAP):
Pr(O / T) = Pr(O / Tn) x Pr(Tn / T) + Pr(O / ~Tn) x Pr(~Tn / T).
As Draper points out, this formula is an average because Pr(Tn / T) + Pr(~Tn / T) = 1. It is not a simple straight average, however, since those two values may not equal 1/2; that is why it is a weighted average. The higher Pr(Tn / T), the closer Pr(O / T) will be to Pr(O / Tn & T); similarly, the higher Pr(~Tn / T), the closer Pr(O / T) will be to Pr(O / T & ~Tn).
Draper states that the second part of his evidential argument from evil assumes that theodicies do not “significantly raise” Pr(O / T) and so the argument effectively treats Pr(O / T) as roughly equal with Pr(O / T & ~Tn). In order to show that this assumption is justified, he says he needs to show that Pr(O / Tn) is “not significantly greater” than Pr(O / T & ~Tn). As he puts it:

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

In his 1989 article, Draper considers three theodicies:
T1: The Free Will Theodicy, version 1;
T2: The Free Will Theodicy, version 2; and
T3: The Human Ignorance Theodicy.
(Note that while the T1 – T3 notation is Draper’s, the titles of T1 – T3 are mine.)
Before we can discuss T1 and T2, we first need to define a key term:

freedom*: “An action is free* only if
(i) it is free in an incompatibilist sense–that is, in a sense incompatible with its being determined by antecedent conditions outside the agent’s control–and
(ii) if it is morally right, then at least one alternative action that is open in an incompatibilist sense to the agent is such that it would be morally wrong for the agent to perform that alternative action.”

Both T1 and T2 agree that God endows humans with freedom*. They offer contradictory explanations for the existence of pain, however. According to T1, “God permits pain in order to advance morality.” In contrast, T2 explains pain by adding to T a statement about how one of God’s goals is to “increase the responsibility humans have for their own well-being and the well-being of others and thereby increase the importance of the moral decisions humans make.”
Let’s turn to Draper’s objections to each of these expansions of T.
2. “Free Will and the Advancement of Morality”
Let T1 stand for the following expansion of T:

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

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

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

I interpret Draper’s 1989 article as offering two reasons to believe that.
First, Draper argues that T1 provides a reason we do not have on T & ~T1 to expect that “the world will contain both pain that influences humans to perfom morally right action and pain that is logically necessary for some of the right actions humans perform.” As Draper points out, “O reports the existence of pain of both these sorts,” so those predictions of T1 are confirmed.
But O also reports other facts which T1 predicts should not be true. O also reports both:
(a) that pain often influences humans to perform morally wrong actions; and
(b) that pain is logically necessary for many of the wrong actions humans perform.
Draper concludes that the combination of (a) & (b) is more surprising on the assumption that T1 is true than on the assumption that T is true and T1 is false.
Second, Draper argues that “the world does not contain a very impressive balance of right over wrong actions performed by humans and that this is due in part both to a variety of demoralizing conditions like illness, poverty, and ignorance, and to the absence of conditions that tend to promote morality.” He concludes, accordingly, that this (balance of right over wrong actions) is more surprising on the assumption that T1 is true than on the assumption that T is true and T1 is false.
3. “Free Will and Responsibility”
Let T2 stand for the following expansion of T:

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

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

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

Draper points out that, “assuming there is no better way,” T2 may provide us with a reason that we do not have on T & ~T2 to expect “the existence of pain for which humans are morally responsible.” But, he argues, Pr(O / T2) is not >! Pr(O / T & ~T2) since other facts O reports are even more surprising on T2 than they are on T & ~T2.
First, “Many humans are plainly not worthy of the freedom* to do serious evils.” On the assumption that T2 is true, however, we would predict that humans would only be given great responsibility when they are worthy of it.
Second, “Nor is the human race making any significant amount of moral progress.” If T2 were true, however, we would expect that humans would be “benefitted by having such responsibility.”
Third, there have been (and are) humans who had (or have) great responsibility, who have abused that responsibility, and did not have their responsibility decreased by God “until they are worthy of a second chance.” But if T2 were true, that is what we would expect.
Draper concludes, accordingly, that Pr(O / T2) is not significantly greater than Pr(O / T & ~T2).
4. The Human Ignorance Theodicy
Here is T3:

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

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

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

Observant readers will notice that the sentence just quoted just is an application of WAP to the idea that God has unknown reasons for his actions.
Furthermore, however much reason we might have on T3 to expect humans would be “unable to product a plausible theistic explanation” for the facts O reports, we have “even more reason” on  HI to expect this. Thus, T3 does not significantly raise the value of Pr(O / T).

bookmark_borderLink: Darwin’s Argument from Evil by Paul Draper

Draper’s chapter was published in Yujin Nagasawa (ed.), Scientific Approaches to the Philosophy of Religion. Palgrave Macmillan. 49 (2012). It’s available online for free courtesy of Google Books.