The Instigator
Freeman
Pro (for)
Losing
29 Points
The Contender
InquireTruth
Con (against)
Winning
39 Points

The Argument from Evil Makes the Existence of the God of Christianity Unlikely

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/12/2011 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 9,431 times Debate No: 14083
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (88)
Votes (15)

 

Freeman

Pro

The problem of evil has been a central issue in the philosophy of religion and a major argument against theism for thousands of years. It has even been alluded to in the Bible itself in the book of Job.[1] In the story, Job, a seemingly upright man, undergoes tremendous suffering for no apparent reason and wrestles with his faith as a result. The Qur'an contains the same story, although Job is much more acquiescent and subdued in that version.[2] In classical literature, Fyodor Dostoyevsky explores this problem in his literary masterpiece The Brothers Karamazov. At one instance in the book, Ivan Karamazov expresses how the events of this world appear to be antithetical to any notion of justice when he declares that, "... it is not God I do not accept, but the world he has created."[3] Ivan was not alone in his sentiments. Many people have often been thoroughly troubled while attempting to reconcile their belief in God with the prevalence of heinous evils.

Original defenders of the argument from evil (henceforth referred to as AE) included intellectual titans like Epicurus. In essence, Epicurus postulated that if God exists, he would destroy all evil, and since there is clearly evil in the world, God cannot exist.[4] J.L. Mackie followed suit in the 20th century and argued for an a priori version of AE.[5] In the modern era, however, these sorts of logical formulations of AE are almost universally recognized as being inadequate by academic philosophers. God and evil don't exclude each other by their very nature. For example, as the analytic philosopher William Lane Craig is often quick to point out, God could have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil.[6] And though the logical problem of evil still has a few defenders, most philosophers concern themselves with the evidential problem of evil. Accordingly, it is this version of the argument which I will be defending in the course of this debate.

Why I Am Not A Christian: Gratuitous Suffering, Divine Indifference and the Disconfirmation of Theism

C1: The evidential argument from evil is valid.

The evidential problem of evil is more or less identical to its logical counterpart. It is only less ambitious by using probability to arrive at the conclusion. For instance, the claim that gratuitous suffering probably exists is an a posteriori proposition, not an a priori one. Though many different versions of the argument exist, it is common for them to rely on some concept of gratuitous suffering. In particular, the philosopher Nicholas Tattersall has created a common formulation of the argument that relies in part on this very concept.[7] It is fairly simple and utilizes only two premises before reaching its conclusion.

P1: Gratuitous suffering and pointless premature deaths probably occur.
P2: Gratuitous suffering and pointless premature deaths are incompatible with the God of theism (omnipotent, omniscient, all-good).
C: Therefore, the God of theism probably does not exist. (from 1 and 2)

In terms of the argument's structure, it is clearly valid. It has been formulated according to the logical rule of inference known as modus ponens. If the first and second premise are both true, then it follows logically and inescapably that God probably does not exist. The conclusion of the argument, therefore, cannot be denied without contradiction if both premises are true.[8] For starters, the second premise is obviously true. Gratuitous suffering and pointless premature deaths cannot occur if God is indeed all loving and all merciful. If God exists, all evils must be morally justified and cannot therefore be gratuitous. So, the entire basis of the argument hinges on whether or not the truth of the first premise is more plausible than its negation. This acknowledgement, then, provides for a good transition to a more detailed defense of the first premise.

C2: Gratuitous suffering and pointless premature deaths probably occur.

There are good reasons to suppose that gratuitous suffering and pointless premature deaths probably occur and there are no comparably good reasons to suppose that they do not occur. Examples of gratuitous suffering and pointless premature deaths may include tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, flash floods, viral outbreaks, wild fires, famines and fatal diseases which regularly contribute to the deaths of tens of millions of people each year. To be specific, smallpox has been estimated to have killed over 500,000,000 people in the 20th century alone, many of them children.[9] Similarly, over 99.9 percent of all of the species that have ever lived on Earth have gone extinct due to various ecological factors.[10] None of these facts are even remotely explicable under theism; they appear quite plainly to be gratuitous beyond imagination. To borrow a phrase from the philosophy of science, atheism can be viewed in this context as the proper "inference to the best explanation."[11] Independent of all evidence, gratuitous evils make atheism more plausible than theism.

Furthermore, William Rowe, who is one of the modern godfathers of AE, has described a situation he dubbed E1 which would apparently be gratuitous. In E1: (the case of Bambi) a forest fire traps a dear, horribly burns the deer and then causes the deer tremendous suffering before it dies in agony several days later.[12] Bruce Russell introduced another seemingly gratuitous evil that involved the death of a small girl. The second situation E2: (the case of Sue) is based on a real event that happened in Flint, Michigan in which a five-year-old girl was beaten, raped and strangled to death on New Year's Day in 1986.[13] Of course, one could give examples such as these ad infinitum. It is thus unlikely that all of them are entirely justified given their seemingly evident gratuitous nature. For these reasons, it is rational to suppose that at least some instances of suffering and death are gratuitous.

C3: The objections to the argument from evil are without merit.

As a matter of fact, the inadequacy of the attempts to typically resolve the problem of evil has not just been recognized by atheists, but also by some of the leading defenders of theism. Alvin Plantinga, a Christian philosopher from the University of Notre Dame, has concluded that "...many of the attempts to explain why God permits evil -- theodicies as we might call them -- seem to me shallow, tepid and ultimately frivolous."[14] Peter van Inwagen has even admitted of AE, "Examination shows there is no known way of answering this case, and there is good reason to think that no way of answering it will be forthcoming."[15] Indeed, it is virtually inconceivable how God could have morally sufficient reasons for allowing so much evil to exist in the world. To circumvent this problem, many theists have occasionally tried to use other arguments to prove that God exists in order to eliminate the possibility that gratuitous evils exist. Richard Swinburne of Oxford university has even argued for the conclusion that theism does not need a theodicy.[16] Now, I have no idea what arguments for God, theodicies or defenses my opponent may think are valid. So, instead of attacking straw men, I'll have to be content to remain quite until he makes his own views clear.

| Conclusion |

All other evidence held equal, it seems highly plausible that at least some instances of suffering and death in the world are gratuitous because there are no known good reasons which could justify their existence. While there are many different attempts to justify the existence of vast amounts of seemingly gratuitous evil, none of them stack up very well against sufficiently strong counterarguments. As such, there are good reasons to suppose that AE is a valid and powerful argument against theism. Its conclusion should therefore be accepted. God probably doesn't exist.

Sources: http://tinyurl.com...
InquireTruth

Con

Introduction

I have always been intrigued with variations of the alleged "problem of evil." This probably has do with my awareness that it's actually the nonexistence of evil that would prove Christianity false not its existence - gratuitous or otherwise. Of course, my sentiments on the matter are neither unique nor rare -- as anyone versed in Christian theology is abundantly aware of the varied and various shortcomings of arguments from evil. My criticisms of the argument in question are twofold and can be summarized as questions: (1) What are we asked to assume and is it reasonable? And (2) is this true given Christian theology?

What are we asked to assume?

The proposition in question is valid and will not be disputed. In this area I will discuss why I believe we have very good reasons for doubting the soundness of the first premise, "Gratuitous suffering and pointless premature deaths probably occur."

This variation of the evidential argument of evil is clearly reminiscent of the work of renowned philosopher and professor, William Rowe. I mostly know this because I am familiar with the work of Daniel Howard-Snyder (and his refutations of Rowe's various arguments) and will subsequently be relying upon his work.

  • Reasonabes

The inference inherent in P1 can fall into 1 of 3 different categories. The first category contains reasonable inferences like, after checking my fridge, saying, "it seems to me that there is no milk in my fridge, therefore there probably is no milk" Or as Snyder suggests, " suppose that, on viewing a chess match between two novices, Kasparov says to himself, 'So far as I can tell, there is no way for John to get out of check,' and then infers that there is no way." Kasparov would be using the same evidential line of thinking to arrive at this conclusion. We will call these types of inferences, Reasonables.

So then, is the saying "it seems to me that gratuitous evil exists, therefore it probably exists" fall into this category of inference? Let us look at the next before deciding.

  • Nonreasonables

There are similar inferences that can be made using this same framework that seem far less compelling. For instance, imagine I am sitting in my house and, looking out my kitchen window at a garden about twenty yards yonder, say to myself, "it seems to me that there is no slug in that garden." Would it be reasonable for me to thereafter infer that there is no slug in the garden? Or consider this example. Imagine I am listening to two seasoned brain surgeons discussing the particulars of a very specific neurological diagnosis. With their brobdingnagian medical vernacular, I may say, "it seems to me that what their saying makes no sense." Could I reasonably infer, then, that what they are saying actually makes no sense?

I think we are justified in categorizing these sorts of inferences as, Nonreasonables -- inasmuch as we have very good reasons for thinking they are probably false. I actually believe that P1 probably falls into this category, but my reasons are theological and will be addressed later. Instead, I will argue why P1 most likely falls into the forthcoming third category.

  • Doubtables


Snyder characterizes this category using the following question: How likely is it that extra-terrestrials would contact us if they existed? The only fair and legitimate answer, it seems, is "I don't know." We have no way to quantify such a probability. First, how do we know they would be intelligent enough or even have the means to contact us. Moreover, how do we know that they would even care? So far as I can see, we must rightfully admit that we are in the dark on this matter. Therefore, we have very good reasons to be skeptical of anyone who makes the brash assumption that extraterrestrials, if existent, would try and contact us.

From my vantage point, it seems that Freeman will have to convince us that the inference made in P1 is more like the inferences in the Reasonables category and not like those in the Nonreasonables or Doubtables category. But here is why I think we have legitimate epistemological and philosophical reasons for believing that the inference in P1 falls into the last category.


To state that gratuitous evil exists is to say that there is such thing as evil that, if prevented, would not cause any greater evil or prevent any greater good from transpiring - that is, an evil completely absent of a morally sufficient reason. In order to conclude that such evil is probable, it must be concluded that "the insights attainable by finite, fallible human beings [is] as an adequate indication of what is available in the way of reasons to an omniscient, omnipotent being." Snyder suggests that it "is like supposing that when I am confronted with the activity or productions of a master in a field in which I have little expertise, it is reasonable for me to draw inferences about the quality of her work just because I 'don’t get it.'"

What good reasons do we have for believing that if such morally sufficient reasons existed we would likely discern them? To the contrary, we have good reasons for doubting our ability to conclude that since 'we don't see 'em, they ain't there.'

The Progress of Knowledge


We are continually making discoveries about previously unknown parts of reality. With the great progress in virtually all fields of science and other studies, we have good reasons for believing that there are goods (and evils) yet to be discovered. We have made moral discoveries even within the last centuries. So far as I can see, anyone who makes the inference that gratuitous evil probably exists is not sufficiently skeptical and is, in fact, being quite unreasonable.

The Theological Oversight


Another problem with this argument is that it assumes Christianity false from the onset. If Christianity is true, we actually have very good reasons for believing that gratuitous evil exists. Anyone who has read C.S. Lewis' Space Odyssey or is sufficiently aware of basic Christian doctrine knows that God is not the reigning power over this world. In fact, Christian scripture teaches that it is the Omni-malevolent Satan who is the "god" or "prince" of this world. Christian doctrine teaches that even an omnipotent God is a weak God, inasmuch as liberty prevents forced action.

So how can one legitimately claim that gratuitous evil proves that Christianity is likely false? It is like using accurate predictions as evidence against the person who made them. More clearly, like saying, "look at all these things this person got right, can't you see that they are wrong?" It is simply poor reasoning.

Conclusion

In Freeman's forthcoming round, he will have to show us why we are to toss aside skepticism and assume that, given our fallible and obviously finite observation of reality, we still would likely discern the morally sufficient reasons of an omnipotent and omniscient God if they existed. It seems to me that, given our limitations, we are far more reasonable in concluding that we simply do not know. Moreover, Freeman must tell us why it is reasonable to ignore Christian Theology when considering its relationship to evil.

Sources:

http://faculty.wwu.edu...

Debate Round No. 1
Freeman

Pro

Allow me to begin by thanking my opponent for setting time aside to have this debate with me. It is my hope that people find this dialogue to be informative and intellectually stimulating, even if they profoundly disagree with the views that I will be defending shortly. The argument InquireTruth presents in his opening round is fairly straightforward. Simply put, he maintains that humans are not in any sort of a position to say that gratuitous suffering and pointless premature deaths probably occur. I think he has done this dialogue a tremendous service by outlining relevant issues in epistemology. So, I will try to proceed where he left off. Among other things, it is my position that (P1) is a reasonable inference.

C1: The evidential argument from evil is valid.

Thankfully, my opponent agrees that my argument is valid. Consequently, no further arguments are necessary here.

C2: Gratuitous suffering and pointless premature deaths probably occur.

In his opening round, my opponent cites the work of Daniel Howard-Snyder in order to argue against the problem of evil. For those that may be unaware, the position Snyder relies on is known as "skeptical theism." This philosophical position maintains that it is not reasonable for humans to conclude that they would know what morally sufficient reasons a God would have for allowing evil to exist in the world. As such, someone like Snyder would maintain that the logical inference made in (P1) cannot reasonably be established by humans.

The thrust of my opponent's argument goes something like this. Human beings, possessing only limited cognitive abilities and a finite, fallible understanding of the world, have no reason to suspect they would understand the reasoning of an omniscient, omnipotent being. Like Synder, other philosophers such as Stephen Wykstra and William Alston have defended a similar viewpoint. In particular, Alston has maintained that "the extent to which God can envisage reasons for permitting a given state of affairs exceeds our ability to do so by at least as much as Einstein's ability to discern the reason for a physical theory exceeds the ability of one ignorant of physics."[1] Additionally, he has defended a second line of analogy that involves the game of chess. Essentially, Alston argues that we should no more expect to know whether God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil than a chess novice would be able to understand why a chess grand master makes a particular move in a chess game.[2]

Despite the apparent plausibility of these sorts of analogies, they all suffer from a fatal flaw. It is perfectly reasonable to expect that a loving God would want to comfort his creation and let them know that their tremendous suffering is for a good purpose. William Rowe makes this point exceedingly well when he writes the following: "Being finite beings we can't expect to know all the goods God would know, any more than an amateur at chess should expect to know all the reasons for a particular move that Kasparov makes in a game. But, unlike Kasparov who in a chess match has a good reason not to tell us how a particular move fits into his plan to win the game, God, if he exists, isn't playing chess with our lives. In fact, since understanding the goods for the sake of which he permits terrible evils to befall us would itself enable us to better bear our suffering, God has a strong reason to help us understand those goods and how they require his permission of the terrible evils that befall us."[3] Rowe's conclusion here seems overwhelmingly plausible given God's desire to care for us.

In keeping with this line of reasoning that Rowe Defends, I feel inclined to create my own analogy to help make this point clearer. Imagine, for example, you had to perform an emergency appendectomy on someone in order to save their life. If you were doing this, you wouldn't just tie the person down to a table and proceed to cut them open without explaining to them what's going on. A loving person would reassure the patient in this instance that their suffering will be for the greater good and that they are being cared for. For these reasons, it is rational to suppose that if God had morally sufficient reasons to allow so much seemingly gratuitous suffering and death in the world, we would know about them.

C3: The objections to the argument from evil are without merit.

It would seem as though my opponent, albeit implicitly, takes a shot at the plausibility of (P2). Indeed, he seems to suggest at one point that the argument I presented is question begging. Now, despite what he has suggested, I don't deny that Christian theology predicts that there will be evils in the world. What I am arguing is that "gratuitous" (i.e., unjustified) suffering and pointless deaths are incompatible with Christianity. To quote myself from my opening round, "Gratuitous suffering and pointless premature deaths cannot occur if God is indeed all loving and all merciful. If God exists, all evils must be morally justified and cannot therefore be gratuitous." So, unless my opponent believes that unjustified evils are compatible with theism, I think this point being raised about Christian theology is not really relevant.

My opponent makes another point in his opening round about the 'progress of knowledge.' As I will address further in (C4), I think the sort of radical skepticism my opponent relies on in this objection simply isn't warranted. For example, it's true to say that there is much that we don't know about biology. Nevertheless, what are the odds that one day we will discover that DNA is not the basis of genetic inheritance? As the neuroscientist and author Sam Harris amusingly quips, they are practically zero.[4] If given all available evidence, some evils appear to be clearly gratuitous, then there is hardly any reason to suppose that we will one day discover that they have a moral justification.

C4: Skeptical theism violates good theories in epistemology.

Skeptical theism violates some of our most basic, plausible and promising theories in epistemology. In particular, the principle of credulity states that, all other things being equal, things are the way they appear.[5] Sure, it is possible that God might have morally sufficient reasons for allowing the Holocaust and tsunamis that kill tens of thousands of children. It is also possible that my opponent and I are living in the Matrix. However, there are simply no good reasons to think that either of these scenarios are true. If many evils appear to be clearly gratuitous, then my opponent isn't on any kind of solid epistemic ground to say that we can't know that these evils aren't gratuitous. Accordingly, it is reasonable to suppose that this argument, (C4), explodes my opponent's main case.

| Conclusion |

In summary, I don't think we've seen any good reasons why we should doubt that some instances of suffering and death are gratuitous. As Rowe points out, there are good reasons why we should expect to know about God's morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil if he existed. Likewise, the skeptical theism that my challenger relies on runs contrary to very plausible principles in epistemology. Given this state of affairs, it is still perfectly reasonable to conclude that God probably doesn't exist.

Sources:
1. Alston, William P. 1996. "Some (Temporarily) Final Thoughts on the Evidential Arguments from Evil," in Daniel Howard-Snyder (ed.), The Evidential Argument from Evil. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, pp.311-32.

2. Howard-Snyder, Daniel. The Evidential Argument from Evil. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1996. p. 319

3. Rowe, William L. 2001b. "Reply to Howard-Snyder and Bergmann," in Rowe (ed.), God and the Problem of Evil, pp.155-58.

4. Harris, Sam. The End of Faith Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005. P. 76.

5. http://www.iep.utm.edu...
InquireTruth

Con

**C2: Gratuitous suffering and pointless premature deaths probably occur.**

In order to defend the inference made in P1, Freeman has suggested that we have good reasons for believing that God would inform us as to why certain acts of suffering are warranted. The reason Rowe gives is that it would, "itself enable us to better bear our suffering." Freeman goes so far as to suggest that Rowe's conclusion here is "overwhelmingly plausible given God's desire to care for us." Does this seem plausible? So far as I can see, this does not seem even remotely plausible given both reason and the Christian theology it's said to undermine. Let's examine this in more depth.

I think any rational person would admit that we have very good reasons for believing an omnipotent and omniscient God would probably know of both goods and evils not known to humankind. This is clearly seen in our continual discovery of goods and evils and the wide and varied disagreement over these moral categories.

The observation of our own finiteness and cognitive shortcomings coalesced with our acknowledgement of God's omni-excellence gives us very good reasons for believing God's mind and reasons are completely foreign to us - inasmuch as we have no good reasons for knowing what he would and would not do. Ironically, Christian theology teaches as much. In Isaiah 55:8-9 we read the word of God: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

So to say that God would let us know of these goods because he cares about us is neither fundamentally nor relevantly different than the assertion: Extraterrestrials, if they existed, would want to let us know of their existence. We have no reliable way to even assess this claim given all that we do not know. Let me put it this way:

P1: We have good reasons for believing that God's mind and reasons are completely unknown to us

P2: That God would want or have to inform his creatures about the reasons for suffering is a belief about God's mind and reasons.

C: Therefore, that God would want or have to inform his creatures about the reasons for suffering is completely unknown to us (from p1 and p2)

Freeman can presuppose Christianity false and deny the relevant theological reasons for believing our access to God's reasons is far too limited. But that would still leave him to contend that a literally all-knowing entity with power beyond anything imaginable probably does not have reasons that we cannot detect.

**C3: The objections to the argument from evil are without merit.**

"Now, despite what he has suggested, I don't deny that Christian theology predicts that there will be evils in the world. What I am arguing is that "gratuitous" (i.e., unjustified) suffering and pointless deaths are incompatible with Christianity. "

Perhaps it was not clear in my round. I know precisely what Freeman was saying in his round, I am contending that his second premise is not sound - insofar as gratuitous (pointless, unjustified) deaths are compatible with an omni-excellent God. Christian theology teaches that human beings are not the only free entities. In fact, Satan possesses freedom and is also known as the prince of this world. It stands to reason that, with such a malevolent force prowling our fertile planet, that at least some evils so caused would not result in greater good or prevent greater evil. In essence, Christian theology already predicts the sort of evil that we observe. How can one use accurate predictions, then, as evidence against the predictor? It seems that in order to call said evil incompatible with Christianity is to presuppose Christianity false from the beginning.

But there are others grounds for denying this premise too. For instance, the claim that gratuitous evil and God are incompatible makes a very particular assumption. For instance, most philosophers admit that there are instances where intense suffering is necessary in order for greater goods to be produced. Now the incompatibility statement essentially admits that there is a certain minimum amount of intense suffering that must take place. That is, if the fawn laying injured in the forest was not an evil necessary to produce a greater good, God would prevent it and not let anything similarly as bad take it place. However, if it WAS necessary, God would need this event of evil (or something exactly similar) in order to produce some greater good. But what if there is no minimum amount of intense suffering needed to produce certain goods? Howard-Snyder, in summarizing Peter van Inwagen, says, " To suppose that there is such a minimum amount is like supposing that, if God's purposes required an impressively tall prophet to appear at a certain place and time, there is a minimum height such a prophet must have and if he were the least bit shorter God's purposes would not be served; it is like supposing that if the state's purposes required a fine to deter illegal parking, there is a minimum dollar-and-cents figure that would suffice, and if the fine were one cent less, it would not be a significant deterrent. Of course, if there is no minimum height, no minimum fine, and no minimum amount of intense suffering, it is absolutely impossible for God or the state to permit or produce it, and so it is absurd to insist that either should do so." [1]

The implications are that Gratuitous evil and God are ONLY incompatible if there is some sort minimum amount of intense suffering that can be permitted. Therefore, any claim that God and gratuitous evil are incompatible requires firm and principled reasons for why said minimum amount exists.

**C4: Skeptical theism violates good theories in epistemology.**

"Skeptical theism violates some of our most basic, plausible and promising theories in epistemology. In particular, the principle of credulity states that, all other things being equal, things are the way they appear.[5]"

I am not a skeptical theist and consequently do not find myself particularly affected by this criticism. Moreover, the principle of credulity is not some firm principle in epistemology, in fact, it is primarily used in the philosophy of religion and was first presented to us by Richard Swinburne (a Christian philosopher) as a useful principle for showing the reliability of religious experience... So I am having trouble seeing the power in this alleged critique. Furthermore, this blatantly misses my point! We can certainly say that since I am experiencing suffering, what I am experiencing is probably suffering. However, to call this suffering gratuitous is not something that one can experience, per se, as this is a metaphysical attachment to a physical experience. As such, this metaphysical inference is one made without sufficient knowledge. For example, personA can briefly meet personB and thereafter conclude that they exist. However, if personA preceded to suggest that personB was evil (based on a brief "hello" encounter), they would be making a metaphysical claim about personB's ontology, a claim that simply cannot be established given the limited information provided by that single experience. Similarly, our experience of suffering is not sufficient in establishing it as gratuitous as this would require access to a mind far and above our own. The only reasonable route is one that admits that, since the information to establish what is gratuitous is not available to us, we have no good reasons for inferring either way.

Source: http://faculty.wwu.edu...
Debate Round No. 2
Freeman

Pro

As this debate draws to a close, I think it's important that we briefly try to reflect on the current state of the arguments. Even if I were to grant my opponent's claims about the enigmatic nature of God's mind, this proposition wouldn't falsify the argument I have presented. At best, it simply leaves us with the claim that God might have morally sufficient reasons that we don't know about for allowing evils; however, as the philosopher Paul Draper has pointed out, it is also possible (and no less plausible) that God has morally sufficient reasons unknown to us for needing to prevent much of the evil that exists in the world.[1] If anything, these two propositions cancel each other out and allow us to make reasonable inferences about evil based on the current state of the evidence. In any case, it's still reasonable to believe that we should expect to know about many of God's reasons for allowing certain instances of evil.

C1: The evidential argument from evil is valid.

Once again, the structural validity of the argument is not being called into question.

C2: Gratuitous suffering and pointless premature deaths probably occur.

For a second time, my opponent has used an analogy with extraterrestrials in order to show why God's mind would be mysterious to us. This analogy completely misses the point of the argument I have outlined. Extraterrestrials, if they existed, don't have the properties that God is alleged to have (e.g., omniscience, omnipotence and omnibenevolence). Extraterrestrials, if they existed, aren't trying to form an eternal love relationship with humans. To say that my opponent is comparing apples to oranges doesn't quite encapsulate the prodigious gulf between the two entities he is asking us to compare.

Later on, InquireTruth has argued for the following premise: "P1: We have good reasons for believing that God's mind and reasons are completely unknown to us." In order for P1 to be falsified, I do not have to prove that all of God's mind and reasons for acting in a particular way would be known to humans. Rather, I only have to demonstrate that at least some of God's reasons for acting in a particular way should be evident to us. If you will recall, I have previously argued that we should expect to know about God's morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil because this would help us better bear our suffering. I think it is quite telling that my opponent doesn't directly challenge this claim or the analogy I use to help affirm its truth. He merely reiterates the same key points that he has already brought up in his first round.

InquireTruth goes on to quote a passage from the book of Isaiah in order to argue that we should expect God's mind to be mysterious to us. Of course, he is free to add any theological assumptions to this debate that he wants by quoting scripture; however, quoting scripture cannot settle this issue. Remember, the argument from evil seeks to point out an inconsistency within the Christian worldview. As such, we cannot simply take every Christian teaching to be perfectly valid without first examining if it is logically compatible with the rest of Christian theology.

The claim that God's mind is unknown to us, as was alluded to in Isaiah, isn't really compatible with his supposed omnibenevolence. The knowledge of God's morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil would have helped the victims of the Holocaust better bear their suffering before they died. Moreover, those that survived the Holocaust often abandoned their faith in God altogether as a result of their experience. Because God has a compelling reason to help us better bear our suffering, we should expect to know about his morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil, since knowing those reasons will often help people better cope with their troubles.

C3: The objections to the argument from evil are without merit.

God, if he exists, is more powerful than Satan. My opponent's previous assertions about Satan doesn't resolve the issue or show that (P2) is false, it only pushes the problem further back. If actions like the Holocaust and tsunamis can be partially (or fully) attributed to the workings of Satan, then what are God's morally sufficient reasons for allowing Satan to exist and to cause so much evil in the world? Evils that Satan commits in this context are not "gratuitous;" rather, if Christianity is true, they are justified to the extent that God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing Satan to exist and to have free will. In essence, my opponent has presupposed the validity of the "free will defense" to the problem of evil on behalf of Satan without even arguing for it. This defense, even if it were valid, does not negate (P2), and it doesn't address why we should expect to be ignorant of God's morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil in any case.

My opponent has raised a rather interesting argument by claiming that there may be no limit to the amount of suffering that God would allow in order to produce certain goods. I think this assumption leads to an absurd conclusion. If there is no minimum amount of suffering necessary for God to produce certain unspecified goods, then it logically follows that allowing the worst possible suffering for all conscious creatures is compatible with achieving these unspecified goods.

Furthermore, it seems reasonable to believe that there is a limit to the amount of suffering that God can allow in the world. It is quite clear that the analogy Peter van Inwagen presents is completely bogus. If God needed to send "an impressively tall prophet" to Earth, then God would not be at liberty to send a midget. If everyone on Earth was 6 feet tall, then God couldn't send someone 3 feet tall. The prophet would have to be, at a minimum, taller than 6 feet, since "tall" is a relative concept. Likewise, a one cent fine for illegal parking wouldn't be a sufficient deterrent to prevent illegal parking. Clearly, a minimum fine exists, even if the exact amount (or range of amounts) that fine might be is ambiguous. The fact that these cases are ambiguous doesn't prove that they don't have answers (or a range of answers).

C4: Skeptical theism violates good theories in epistemology.

My opponent is defending skeptical theism, so there is no need for us to argue over this point. He just wasn't completely aware of what the term meant in the context I was using it. The principle of credulity, as articulated by Swinburne, is often applied to evaluate religious experience; however, it can be applied in other areas.

Moreover, my opponent has confused the issue. The principle of credulity, when used in this context, does not entail that we can know some evils are gratuitous by "experiencing" this in some inward personal way. Rather, it maintains that, given all available evidence, the world is the way it appears.[2] So, if all evidence makes some evils appear to be gratuitous, then it is reasonable to infer that they are gratuitous.

| Conclusion |

In the end, the main point of my opponent's case is that God's mind is completely unknown to us. By itself, this doesn't show why the argument I presented is invalid. Moreover, I think we have seen good reasons for supposing that some instances of suffering are gratuitous. God's desire to care for humans gives him a strong reason to inform us of his reasons for allowing certain evils, because this would help people better bear their suffering. The fact that we don't know of any morally sufficient reasons why God would allow many evils, then, gives us good grounds to suppose that they aren't justified. On balance, it is therefore likely that God does not exist.

Sources:
1. http://tinyurl.com...
2. http://tinyurl.com...
InquireTruth

Con

Introdcution:


In Freeman's opening words about the current state of the debate, he suggested that my argument would not falsify the proposition. But remember, any proposition made that is unknowable ought to be rejected just as if it were false - inasmuch as it is an assertion based wholly on ignorance. He goes on to say that since we can make an equal hypothesis that God might have morally sufficient reasons for needing to prevent as much evil as he possibly could, this somehow cancels the hypothesis that God may have morally sufficient reasons for allowing it. This is sophistry and not substantive argument. ALL the supposed evidence in favor of the resolution make assumptions based on unknowable premises - that is the point.


Let's remember:


1. Christian Theology teaches that God's ways and reasons are unknown to us and, in fact, transcend our comprehension. Plain reason dictates that an omni-excellent God would mostly likely know of reasons for allowing suffering that are not aware to us (remember the reason given in my round one: progress of knowledge).


2. Even if we could know that gratuitous evil exists, Christianity predicts it.


3. Even if we could know that gratuitous evil exists, it remains to be proven that a minimum amount of allowable evil exists. If no minimum amount exists, then we cannot expect God to manifest the logically impossible.



So let's break down the current state of the debate in syllogism:


P1: God's ways and reasons are unknown given Christian theology and plain reason.

P2: The way in which God cares for us is a product of God's ways and reasons.

C: The way in which God cares for us is unknown (From P1 and P2).


So what can we make of Freeman's assertion that, if God cares for us, he would inform us as to why we are suffering as we do? It seems it is a statement without force.


Also:


X1: It cannot be known if we would likely discern God's reasons for action (Christianity teaches that we cannot and plain reason dictates its improbability).

X2: The assertion that gratuitous evil likely exists is an inference based upon God's reasons for action.

C: The assertion that gratuitous evil likely exists cannot be known (from X1 and X2).



C2: Gratuitous suffering and pointless premature deaths probably occur.


The aforementioned syllogisms have not taken any serious flack. In this section of the debate, Freeman suggests that he does not need to know all of God's reasons in order to make a reasonable assertion about them. For instance, "we should expect to know about God's morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil because this would help us better bear our suffering. I think it is quite telling that my opponent doesn't directly challenge this claim or the analogy I use to help affirm its truth."


One wonders, why is it that Freeman thinks he does not need to known God's reasons when considering the matter of better bearing our suffering? First, it assumes that (1) God cares about us better handling our physical suffering, (2) that it would serve God's purposes just the same and (3) that we could understand even if he somehow decided to whisper this knowledge to us. So far as I can tell, all three of these assumptions stem from God's reasons and are thus wholly contingent upon what my opponent has considered irrelevant to know. As for the analogy, perhaps the source of my opponent's confusion is that he thinks a physician and God are comparable in the first place - you cannot compare a person whose reasons and ways are all known with one whose are wholly other and unknown.


"Of course, he is free to add any theological assumptions to this debate that he wants by quoting scripture; however, quoting scripture cannot settle this issue. Remember, the argument from evil seeks to point out an inconsistency within the Christian worldview."


See, but that is what is so ironic! There is no inconsistency being shown in the Christian worldview. When was the inconsistency shown? Was there some sort of contradiction that Freeman neglected to mention or articulate? This debate is about the existence of the Christian God and therefore must directly confront the theology regarding the Christian understanding of God.


"The knowledge of God's morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil would have helped the victims of the Holocaust better bear their suffering before they died."


HOW does my opponent known this? How is he quantifying what is better? Is the metric he is using contingent upon his subjective biases and limited cognitive understanding? What is better is a product of God's mind and is thus not known (see the aforementioned syllogisms).



C3: The objections to the argument from evil are without merit.


"God, if he exists, is more powerful than Satan. My opponent's previous assertions about Satan doesn't resolve the issue or show that (P2) is false, it only pushes the problem further back."


Well, wait a minute... is it true that my argument does not show that (P2) is false? What does (P2) say exactly?: "Gratuitous suffering and pointless premature deaths are incompatible with the God of theism."


If we take Christian theology seriously and Satan is the reigning force on earth, one would thus expect there to be pointless and premature deaths. But isn't that exactly what (P2) says we should not see given Christian theism? So the argument as to whether or not it pushes the problem further back is irrelevant to whether or not it resolved the problem in (P2).


So (P2), given Christian theology, is false. THE NEW PREMISE that my opponent wishes to show as inconsistent, is the following P2': Satan as a reigning force over the earth is incompatible with Christian Theism. But isn't this an entirely different premise? What Freeman is really asking for is an explanation for an explanation. Moreover, Freeman assumes that if God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing Satan to be a free entity over earth, than all the suffering caused by Satan is not pointless or unwarranted. Does that seem like a non-sequitur to you? Purpose for liberty does not mean there is a purpose for everything done with its freedom.


In response to Peter Van Inwagen, Freeman suggests that, "The fact that these cases are ambiguous doesn't prove that they don't have answers (or a range of answers)." The point being missed here is that it is precisely because it is ambiguous that the person making an affirmative claim based on its actual existence must first prove its actual existence. No minimum standard of evil does not mean that any amount will do, just as no minimum amount of illegal parking fine means any amount will do. What it means is that any amount will be essentially arbitrary (meaning there will be gratuitous excess either way) because a small change in either direction will not in any way causally change the outcome. What this means is that gratuitous evil can exist if there is no such thing as a minimum amount of evil.



Conclusion:


In this debate I have not only given good reasons for doubting our ability to discern gratuitous evil, I have also given good reasons for its compatibility with Christian theism if it just so happens to exist. So far as I can tell, the argument has been negated on both fronts, where (P1) cannot be known and (P2) is false on Christian theism and unknown by virtue of an unknown yet necessary stipulation (minimum amount). I would like to thank Freeman for this awesome debate - never has such an unworthy cause had such a worthy defender.

Debate Round No. 3
88 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by InquireTruth 6 years ago
InquireTruth
Then you aren't actually confronting Christianity and are therefore not proving it unlikely.
Posted by Freeman 6 years ago
Freeman
"So far as I can see, your reformulated syllogism that omits Christian theology actually presupposes (2) in order to negate (1)."

I think you've mistaken my intentions. I didn't attempt to make a reductio ad absurdum argument, though it wouldn't be difficult for me to construct one. I'm trying to follow skeptical theism to it's logical conclusions by accepting (P1).
Posted by InquireTruth 6 years ago
InquireTruth
"You can't even arrive at Christian theology without making some assumptions about God's mind "

If I may, the problem I see with this is that it presupposes Christianity false from the beginning (while also granting certain Christian assumptions). We certainly have no reason for believing that God is omni-excellent by plain reason (save for perhaps ontological arguments). The point is to show that Christianity is inherently contradictory. From my vantage point, Christianity makes these two relevant claims: (1) God's ways and reasons are completely inaccessible absent revelation. (2) God is omni-excellent.

So far as I can see, your reformulated syllogism that omits Christian theology actually presupposes (2) in order to negate (1).
Posted by Freeman 6 years ago
Freeman
RFD: (Part 1)

Having conceded the main argument of the debate, I think I've found something seriously wrong with skeptical theism.

P1: God's ways and reasons are unknown given Christian theology and plain reason.
P2: The way in which God cares for us is a product of God's ways and reasons.
C: The way in which God cares for us is unknown (From P1 and P2).

You can't even arrive at Christian theology without making some assumptions about God's mind (e.g, God wants to reveal himself to humans through prophets and revelation). So, at best, we are left with the following.

P1: God's ways and reasons are unknown given plain reason.
P2: The way in which God cares for us is a product of God's ways and reasons.
C: The way in which God cares for us is unknown (From P1 and P2).

If this argument is valid, then so is this argument.

P1: God's ways and reasons are unknown given plain reason.
P2: The way in which God reveals himself is a product of God's ways and reasons.
C: The way in which God reveals himself is unknown (From P1 and P2).

You could make a similar argument about every single fine point in Christian theology. Thus, it would seem as though skeptical theism, if it is valid, destroys Christianity along with the argument from evil. One of the two has to budge, it doesn't seem as though they can both be right.
Posted by Freeman 6 years ago
Freeman
RFD: (Part 2)

Alas, here I am, writing my own RFD against myself.

C2: Gratuitous suffering and pointless premature deaths probably occur.

I find the claims of skeptical theism to be slightly persuasive. I give the argument to my opponent. At least in this debate, I don't feel as though my response was as satisfactory as it should have been. However, I can see some glaring problems with skeptical theism that I will point out just for fun. This debate has opened my eyes a little bit wider.

C3: The objections to the argument from evil are without merit.

Two different points were raised.

1) Satan exists; he is omni-malevolent and has free will. Therefore, the evils he commits are gratuitous. How is there a logical connection between point (A) and conclusion (B)? I don't think there is one, and the bridge that was supposed to connect these two was never manufactured. If someone wants to argue that God and gratuitous evils are compatible, they have a lot of work ahead of them.

I said that the evils Satan committed in this context were justified insofar as God was justified in allowing Satan to exist and to have free will. My point was dismissed as a non-sequitur. But I don't see why this is so. See above reasons.

2) I said that a minimum fine and height clearly exist (for reasons that I gave), even if we can't figure out exactly what they are. I don't see a flaw in my logic. If we know a minimum fine exists, it doesn't matter that the exact answer is ambiguous. If you're doing a math problem and you know that the answer is between 30-40, you still know that a minimum answer exists. Even if it were more ambiguous, that wouldn't make a difference.

C4: Skeptical theism violates good theories in epistemology.

In the end, this argument was dropped by Con.
Posted by GeoLaureate8 6 years ago
GeoLaureate8
Epistemological evil occurs when a human being makes an effort to know as much as possible and make the best informed decision according to his abilities, and yet a negative outcome still results from his decision.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 6 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
"I have no idea what that means. I know what each word in the sentence means, but when they're put together like that...."

If God is divine why is it not so more obvious in his works, why do we know it as evil.
Posted by Freeman 6 years ago
Freeman
"it'd be more accurate to call it the problem of epistemological evil."

I have no idea what that means. I know what each word in the sentence means, but when they're put together like that....
Posted by GeoLaureate8 6 years ago
GeoLaureate8
Actually, it's not really a syllogistic argument, it'd be more accurate to call it the problem of epistemological evil.
Posted by Freeman 6 years ago
Freeman
"the Argument from Epistemological Evil"

I've never heard of that argument, and I doubt it has ever appeared in any serious philosophical discussions on the problem of evil. If I ever came across it, I would go out of my way to invalidate it so that people would stop going around spreading bad arguments across the internet.
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