The Instigator
unitedandy
Pro (for)
Winning
13 Points
The Contender
Illegalcombatant
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

The Problem of Evil (PoE)

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Post Voting Period
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after 3 votes the winner is...
unitedandy
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/15/2011 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,460 times Debate No: 17923
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (16)
Votes (3)

 

unitedandy

Pro

Definitions

God - An omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent personal being who created the universe and is concerned with the well being of His creatures.

Evil (minimalist account) - (At least) anything which causes suffering, pain, disability and death.

(Note: Even though the notion of evil as an extensive and controversial one, it is merely to avoid controversy and semantics that I restrict myself to this definition of evil.)

Introduction

The Problem of Evil (PoE) is widely regarded as the biggest challenge to belief in a God of the kind described above. In this debate, my role is to present a version of this argument, and to defend it against Con's objections. The type of PoE I will present is the evidential form, which states that while evils themselves are not necessarily logically incompatible with God, the existence of gratuitous evils present what most recognise as a very powerful argument against the existence of God:


The WSA Evidential problem of evil (1)

(P1) If there were an all-powerful and all-good God, then there would not be any evil in the world unless that evil is logically necessary for an adequately compensating good.

(P2) There is evil in the world.

(P3) Some of the evil that exists is not logically necessary for any adequately compensating good.

(C) Therefore, there is no God who is all powerful and all good.


Defending P1

P1 states that in order for an evil to be reconciled with God, it has to be "logically necessary for an adequately compensating good." This means that the evil cannot be avoided, and that the reason for permitting outweighs preventing the evil. For example, those with tooth decay have reason to permit an evil (painful drilling) if this is the only way to relieve them of a greater evil. Such an evil would be compatible with the conditions of P1, iff this relieved the pain in the most efficient way possible. Likewise, goods like free-will are said to be so valuable that God has a morally sufficient reason to permit them, even in the face of horrendous evils. So what reasons do we have for believing P1 to be true. As Christian philosopher Daniel Howard Snyder remarks,

"on the face of it, the idea that God may well permit gratuitous evil is absurd. After all, if God can get what He wants without permitting some particular horror (or anything comparably bad), why on earth would He permit it?"

Almost all Christians and atheists agree on this point, because not only is the attributes of God seemingly logically inconsistent with the existence of gratuitous evil by its very definition, but the denial of P1 leads to massive problems elsewhere.


Defending P2

If P1 is virtually undeniable, P2 is even more so. The fact is that there are many things which cause suffering, pain, disability and death. Indeed, there are many things which cause all 4. In short, there is lots of evil in the world. There is torture, there is rape, murder, and a host of natural evil, from floods to droughts. However, in my defence of P2 it is merely sufficient to establish that these things exist.

I'll say very little else of P1 and P2, because I don't seriously expect Con to deny either that gratuitous evils are incompatible with an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent being, nor do I expect Con to deny that evil exists in our world - that much is obvious. Rather, the objector to the PoE most commonly aims to direct fire at P3, that there are actually existing evils which are not logically necessary for an adequately compensating good, and it is to this which I know turn.



Defending P3

P3 states that some evils in the world are not logically necessary for an adequately compensating good - they are gratuitous (in the sense that I am using the term). An all powerful being is able to prevent the evils that occur, and an all good being is obviously willing, so the question becomes, is there always justification for the evils in the world, in the ways described above? The answer, I think, is quite clearly, no. Consider the examples of mass murders, torture, rape and other unimaginable cruelties in Indonesia, under Suharto, in Pinochet's Chile, in Stalin's Russia, Pol-Pot's Cambodia, or in Nazi Germany, and many, many more. What possible reason could there be for this horrendous evil? What compensation can there be for such barbarism? The short-term costs of such evil are so frighteningly high, so intuitively horrific and so apparently unnecessary that to attempt to justify it would is a tremendously difficult and, I suspect, an insurmountable task. Yet there is more.

In conjunction with moral evils, there are natural evils, one of which is described in the following example:

"Many babies each year are born with Down's syndrome. Most of these babies, with normal paediatric care, will grow up healthy. A significant number, however, have intestinal obstructions that will kill them if they do not receive an operation. Without the operation, dehydration and infection will cause these babies to wither and die over a period of hours and days. Today this operation is relatively simple, but not long ago these babies could not be saved . . . This baby (one born in the past with this) suffers for days, then dies." (3) (Sinnott Armstrong,2004, P84)

Now given the examples above, does it remain rational to affirm that these evils are logically necessary for an adequately compensating good? Well, it certainly is hugely problematic to even suggest scenarios which would plausibly deal with the with suffering and death of a child in such a circumstance as above. We know (beyond reasonable doubt) that this child suffers. We know that if God exists, then this suffering must be necessary for an adequately compensating good (as P1 states). Yet what is also abundantly clear is that the prolonged suffering and inevitable death of this child and thousands like them brings absolutely no conceivable benefit whatsoever, let alone that the compensatory for this evil AND that this in turn be logically necessary. As Rowe points out:

"In light of our experience and knowledge, of the variety and scale of human and animal suffering in our world, the idea that none of this suffering could have been prevented by an omnipotent being without thereby losing some greater good or permitting an evil at least as bad seems an extraordinary, absurd idea, quite beyond our belief." (4) (Rowe, 1979, P4).


Now, of course, the PoE, being as old as it is, has attracted all sorts of solutions to try and puncture its intuitive, emotional and intellectual grounding, but the all the solutions I have heard thus far fail on so many different levels, but I'll let Con present the reasons he finds persuasive and we can discuss it further.

Conclusion

In order to refute the argument, Con must deny at least 1 of the 3 premises, assuming he accepts that the argument is logically valid. In order to do, he must present both a plausible and coherent account of why the argument is unsuccessful. I invite him to make his case, closing with the words of the prominent Christian scholar N.T.Wright:

"If you think you have solved the problem of evil, lie down. It will pass." (5)

Sources

1,3. God? Debate between a Christian and an Atheist, William lane Craig and Walter Sinnott Armstrong, 2004, Oxford University Press, p84.
2. Howard-Snyder, Daniel, and Frances Howard-Snyder. 1999. "Is Theism Compatible with Gratuitous Evil?" American Philosophical Quarterly 36: 115-29.
4. Rowe, William, The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism, American Philosophical Quarterly 16: 335-41.
5. http://commonsenseatheism.com...;(debate can be found here).
Illegalcombatant

Con

I thank Unitedandy for creating this debate, as they did so as a result of a previous request of mine to debate the problem of evil. So I guess I'll get straight into it.

Suffering,Evil and the is/ought problem

Pro conflates suffering,pain,disability,death with evil but these are entirely different things. Suffering, death, pain etc are all descriptive statements but to say something is "evil" is to make a moral statement. Also it is implied that suffering, death, pain etc ought not to happen and thus are "evil" if they do. But how does Pro bridge the gap between descriptive statements and moral statements ?

This brings us to the is/ought problem which says..."In meta-ethics, the is-ought problem was articulated by David Hume (Scottish philosopher and historian, 1711–1776), who noted that many writers make claims about what ought to be on the basis of statements about what is. However, Hume found that there seems to be a significant difference between descriptive statements (about what is) and prescriptive or normative statements (about what ought to be), and it is not obvious how we can get from making descriptive statements to prescriptive." [1]

So once again, how does Pro bridge the gap between suffering,pain,death exists (the descriptive statements) to suffering,pain,death should not exist (the ought/prescriptive statement) ?

Now maybe Pro could reply that suffering is unpleasant, suffering is agony, and so forth, but these are just tautologies and don't tell us one way or another if suffering ought or ought not to be and thus the existence of evil has not been established.

With no way to bridge the gap between what "is" and what "ought to be" it can't be said that evil exists, or that gratuitous evil exists, as this is the same as saying that there are things that "ought" not to be. As such both premise 2 & 3 of pros argument are false.

You need good to have evil

In order for evil to exist, then good has to exist, as evil is some how either in contradiction or opposition to the good. But what reason do we have to believe that good exists in the first place ? The argument is as follows...

1) Evil can only exist if Good exists
2) Good does not exist
3) Therefore Evil does not exist.

It has not been established what good is, therefore you can't have something in contradiction or opposition to it, thus you can't have "evil". So once again premise 2 & 3 of pros argument are false.

I look forward to Pros reply.

Sources

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 1
unitedandy

Pro

Introduction

Given the nature of Con’s response, I will try to affirm 2 key contentions in this debate:

1. Con’s objections to the PoE do not survive serious scrutiny and
2. Even if they did, Con’s objections are, in large part, irrelevant to the argument at hand.

Ironically, and such is the seriousness of the charge of 2, that even if Con’s objections are literally unrefutable, they still fail miserably, and as such I will mainly focus on substantiating that these objections are irrelevant.

The first thing to do is to remind ourselves quickly what the PoE seeks to establish:

“In the philosophy of religion, the problem of evil is the question of how to explain evil if there exists a deity that is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient”. (1)

Irrelevance of Con’s objections

Self-Refuting Critique

Importantly, the PoE requires not only the assumption of God’s existence, but of a very particular type of God (one who is, among other things, omnibenevolent), as specified by my definition of God in R1. Now let’s take Con’s second argument for a second, which is intimately related with the first to show how inept of a response this is, as he makes it crystal clear for us with the following:

1) Evil can only exist if Good exists
2) Good does not exist
3) Therefore Evil does not exist.

Immediately noticeable here is that given the definition of God, Con objections to the PoE while assuming that God does not exist! Consider this, using Con’s own reasoning:

1) If God exists, he is omnibenevolent (i.e. He is all good)
2) Good does not exist
3) God does not exist

Now given that 1 above is a necessary precondition for the PoE in any context one wants to talk about it, it has to apply, so this premise is simply cast-iron. 2 is Con’s own premise, so this can hardly be doubted, and the conclusion which follows necessarily is that God himself does not exist! Now, in trying to refute an argument, it is always possible to take a position which avoids the clutches of the argument. The relevant way to judge an argument is in the context it is applied. If Con wants to deny that God exists to deny the problem of evil, he is quite at liberty to do so, but the argument necessarily starts with the assumption that God exists. If one wants to beg the question, and assume God non-existent, then the PoE, rather than being undercut or refuted is simply irrelevant, given the starting point of Con. Likewise, if God is defined as being anything other than the traditional omni-being, then there is no problem of evil. As Sinnott-Armstrong points out,

“That is the only kind of God we are arguing about here. So my argument shows that there are no Gods of the disputed kind.” (2)

Indeed, my definition of God and P1 of the argument painstakingly state that this is the only framework one can talk of a problem of evil. If Con wants to argue that the PoE does not work in another environment, with different preconceived notions of God, I would agree, but this objection is simply irrelevant, given the context the PoE is discussed in, as mentioned frequently above and in my last post.

A continually existing problem

The second argument again concedes wholeheartedly the points raised by Con, and is similar in nature to the first, except that it strengthens his position a little. Let’s say that there is absolutely no reason to suppose moral realism is true, and that “evils” do not exist. The PoE, ironically, would still be a problem. This is because it would be a conceptual problem for God, in the same way that the supposed contradictions of God’s nature (an example of which would be perfect being vs. Creator being) would still be. No atheist who uses a character-conflict against the existence of God believes omnipotence is a reality, otherwise their position would be self-refuting. Likewise, whether evils exist or not, as long as theists assume they do (which they have to), then there will always be a problem of evil. To emphatically demonstrate this point, one only need point out that Hume himself repudiates this:


“In respect of the first view, that there is no real evil, Hume takes the view that it is plainly contrary to human experience . . . insist(ing) on the reality of evil and the doubts that this casts on any claim that the beauty, harmony and order of this world provides us with clear evidence that an infinitely powerful and good being created and governs it.” (3)

In conclusion, there is no conflict with the atheist denying moral values actually exist and simultaneously using the PoE. As it happens, I don't deny moral values exist, but even if I did, it would certainly still be feasible to use the PoE, even if this means conceding significant ground in the direction of the argument (which may very well be the case).


Moral marginality

Lastly, the scope of the PoE is to be as receptive as possible to varying moral views. As such, the contentious issues of morality are left as much as possible. By using cases where these contentions are largely bypassed, the scope of ethics becomes even more marginal, as it is almost universally accepted that irrespective of why it so, babies suffering horribly for days on end and dying for no reason is, ceteris paribus, wholly undesirable to all parties, and one would assume, God. Furthermore, the placeholder “evil” can be designated as umbrella term for all the things God would stop prima facie, and thus even if (gratuitous) suffering, for example, did not have a moral dimension to it, one could affirm that God would prevent it if He exists, (gratuitous) suffering exists, thus God does not. The argument again emerges, albeit slightly differently, but substantively identical to the PoE.


The problems with Is-Ought

As for the Is-Ought problem itself, I have 2 quick objections (none of which really matter if the above is affirmed). Firstly, an "ought" can explicitly demand an "is", when a goal is specified. So with respect to God, given omnibenevolence, God ought to minimise evils in the world, if suffering is something which all reasonable people want to avoid, all things being equal. Also, a related point to this is while it is true that morality may indeed assume a goal in mind, justifications for almost everything does as well:


“No system of thought can be derived out of thin air. They all have to be based on axioms that can, in principle, be rejected. But if that's a strike against objective morality, it's also a strike against philosophy, science, mathematics, and every other branch of human inquiry as well. Just as the hypothetical evildoer can say, "Why should I care about human happiness or well-being?", the hypothetical creationist or homeopath or astrologer can say, "Why should I care about falsifiability, repeatability or empirical evidence?" (4)

To be sure, there is always a condition on certain actions, in order to achieve a given result. But it just seems like special pleading here to mark morality out as particularly dogged by this problem.

Conclusion

Given that Con’s objections have been shown to be irrelevant, as well as destructive to his entire case, coupled with doubts about even the veracity of these objections themselves, I contend that evil is a problem for theism, which is, after all, what the PoE is all about. Given that Con's response is so inadequate that it undermines the use of the PoE by disqualifying the target of the PoE from the beginning (God), the consequence for the theist is perhaps even more damaging. Imagine for a second a theist using a response to the PoE which eliminates God! This response cures a headache for traditional theism by use of the guillotine, and thus cannot be considered a viable solution to the PoE, which is the measurement by which any case against the PoE must be analysed.

Sources

1. http://en.wikipedia.org...
2. God? (ibid, P98)
3. http://plato.stanford.edu...
4. http://www.daylightatheism.org...


Illegalcombatant

Con

I thank Pro for their reply.

Clarifications

I would like to point out, it is not my burden to prove that God exists, but rather as Pro invites me to do, to challenge and object and try and refute their argument, and to see if Pro can answer & defend against those objections.

The Problem of Evil vs Evil proves God does not exist

As Pro points out, the problem of evil merely questions how to explain the existence of evil with an already assumption that God exists.

Clearly Pro has gone beyond the questioning of evil to presenting an argument that God does not exist because evil exists (more specifically gratuitous evil). As such I think it would add clarity that Pros argument is not within the scope of the problem of evil but rather an argument that seeks to prove that God does not exist, based on the existence of gratuitous evil.

This MUST be the case for pros argument to even get off the ground, why you ask ? cause as Pro mentions the POE already assumes that God exists. As Pro says..."Importantly, the PoE requires not only the assumption of God's existence, but of a very particular type of God (one who is, among other things, omnibenevolent), as specified by my definition of God in R1." If we already assume that God exists consider the following argument...

1) Assume an all-powerful and all-good God exists, then there would not be any evil in the world unless that evil is logically necessary for an adequately compensating good.
2) Evil exists (Pros argument)
3) Therefore any evil that exists must have an adequately compensating good. (From p1)
4) Therefore gratuitous evil does not exist

So it does Pro no good to make the same assumption that the POE does, that being God exists, cause once you make that assumption the existence of gratuitous evil becomes a logical impossibility, thus refuting premise 3) of pros original argument.

You need good to have evil

1) Evil can only exist if Good exists
2) Good does not exist
3) Therefore Evil does not exist.

Now I was interested in how Pro was going to respond to this argument, as premise 1 is a given and pro clearly needs evil to exist for their argument to work. Therefore I thought that Pro would go after premise 2). So I was quite surprised when pro offered no challenge to premise 2 but rather provided a counter argument that agrees with premise 2 that says...

1) If God exists, he is omnibenevolent (i.e. He is all good)
2) Good does not exist
3) God does not exist

Once again, good does not exist according to this argument therefore evil does not exist, so once again pros premise 2 & 3 of their original argument is false.

Pro responds..."Immediately noticeable here is that given the definition of God, Con objections to the PoE while assuming that God does not exist! "

Oh ok, lets allow for the existence of God then.

1) If God exists then good exists
2) Evil exists (pros argument)
3) Evil can only exist if good exists
4) Good exists
5) Therefore God exists

This contradicts Pros original argument that concludes God does not exist.

Evil is a problem for who exactly ?

Pro towards the end remarks..."I contend that evil is a problem for theism, which is, after all, what the PoE is all about."

Its a problem, buts its a problem for the atheist too. Why ? cause the atheist who wants to use some kind of evil as a proof against the existence of God, needs to find the good some where else from which they can derive evil from. Since they can't find the good in the God they are claiming doesn't exist, where does the athiest get this good from ? Pro never tells us, Pro is quite clear on the existence of evil, but isn't so clear on the existence of the good.

I look forward to Pros reply.
Debate Round No. 2
unitedandy

Pro


Introduction

The first thing I feel I should point out is that the counters I have given to Con’s objections to the PoE have been largely accepted. It is now the case that the objections that Con holds to the PoE is no longer the Is-Ought problem, and he has changed his second argument beyond recognition. What we are left with therefore is a new objection, a significantly modified objection and a question of burden of proof, none of which were presented in the last round.

I will attempt to show in this post that none of these new objections work, and that the PoE is undaunted by the myriad of responses Con throws at it.

PoE vs Evil

Con’s new objection basically takes one sentence which I made, and tries to use it to show that if we have to assume that God exists, then any evil in the world will necessarily have a morally sufficient reason and thus gratuitous evils cannot exist. Indeed, he argues that on the basis of defending my argument, I have essentially relegated P3 as a “logical impossibility”.

The problem here is simple. The assumption that God exists is not, and never has been, a permanent one for me to hold. Rather, and as P1 explicitly stated since its inception in the first post, it is an assumption which serves explicitly as a hypothesis. It's a bit pedantic, but a hypothesis is:

"Something taken to be true for the purpose of argument or investigation; an assumption." (1)

Let’s just be clear about P1 here, and to repost it as it was written:

P1 - If there were an all-powerful and all-good God, then there would not be any evil in the world unless that evil is logically necessary for an adequately compensating good.

Is P1 a hypothesis, given the definition above, or an assumption which rules out the existence of gratuitous evils, as Con implies? The word “if” is a dead giveaway here. The advocate of the PoE assumes God for the sake of argument, then derives what one would expect to find (or in this case, not find) in the world, if He exists. This is the way all hypotheses work, and IF these hypotheses are consistent with what one would expect to find, then it is possible that the hypotheses themselves have explanatory power. The PoE concludes that given the existence of gratuitous evils, God cannot explain this, so does not exist as defined. So while Con may hold that God is an unshakable assumption, the PoE (with the explicitly conditional “if” in P1) holds this assumption tentatively - as a hypothesis. As such, when the evidence that evils really are gratuitous outweigh the reasons for thinking a God of the relevant kind exist, then it this which we affirm. I have give apt justification of P3 in R1, and Con has yet to respond to any of these points, so we can conclude that until Con shows otherwise, the evidence for P3 is far stronger than its negation. The argument stands.

Secondly, notice here that Con explicitly changes P1 in order to make his argument here. Instead of copying P1, he replaces the word “if” with “assume that”, changing it subtly enough for his point to be applicable to the new argument. Thus, not only is he wrong, but he is essentially straw-manning the syllogism initially presented, by changing the content of the premise in order to defeat it.

A final point to make here is that Con essentially begs the question by blankly asserting that all evils are justified because God exists. One has to be willing to evaluate evil, and whether it is gratuitous or not on the basis of the what it appears like to us. Assuming from the start that these evils must be accounted for in some way is to refuse to engage with the problem at all. It is a non-answer.


You need good to have evil

For this argument, Con acknowledges that he explicitly denied the existence of God in his last post, while trying to show that the PoE was not a problem. He tries to rectify this by changing the argument. Now, there were lots of problems to this argument in the first place, but given the self-refuting nature of it, I felt the need to only tear it down once. Now Con gives us a slightly different argument to contend with:

1) If God exists then good exists
2) Evil exists (pros argument)
3) Evil can only exist if good exists
4) Good exists
5) Therefore God exists

The first and most obvious point to make is the contrived nature of this response. Con initially asserted that “Good does not exist”, to show that evils do not exist. Now he says that both exist! Not only that but the point Con was making before was this:

"It has not been established what good is, therefore you can't have something in contradiction or opposition to it, thus you can't have "evil"."

Now he affirms both good and evil, so the whole denial of evil is now rejected by Con himself, and most of what he has written against the PoE is dismissed at a stroke by his own pen (or keyboard)!

The point that Con is making now is to say that we need a contrast between good and evil, and that by having good, evil is necessary in the world. Notice that the PoE presented does not affirm that evils themselves pose a problem for God, but as Con earlier noted, it is

“based on the existence of gratuitous evils”

His argument does not address gratuitous evils (P3), affirms that evils exist (P2) and actually serve as an example to reinforce P1. Given this, the argument reformulated is again at best irrelevant to the debate.

Evil is a problem for who?

Lastly, Con asserts that I have to explain the existence of good, given that evils exist. Firstly, this is only true if I share Con’s assumption that good and evil are necessary contrasts of each other. I don’t. I could perfectly conceive a world which has solely either good (heaven) or evil (hell), or a being that is omnibenevolent (which again shows Con’s latest objection to the PoE as being antithetical to the existence of God). Secondly, my moral marginality argument applies here. Even if I couldn’t show that goods or evils exist, all I have to demonstrate is things that an all good, all powerful God would want to eliminate if He existed do in fact occur (gratuitous suffering), therefore the PoE still stands. Thirdly, it seems to me fairly easy to find examples of situations where there are goods even if one measures them differently (in terms of maximising utility, virtue, or acting as a perfectly just being would), because of the agreement across all these positions of the right thing to do. Such a case may just be the prevention of suffering and dying babies, as P3 states.

Preventing suffering babies from harm would seem to be a good on a wide variety of moral epistemic positions that we are perhaps left to wonder whether this would be classed as a good, even if the parties involved all disagree on the reason for classifying it as such.


Conclusion and Summary


I think it is important to note that after 5 different responses, and very little interaction with the justification for each of the premises of my argument, Con has yet to seriously challenge the PoE. His position on moral realism has changed, his Is-ought argument has been shelved, and his last gasp is to attempt semantic games and attempts to shift the burden of proof desperately fail. Now that he himself affirms P2 after previously denying it, the only contentious issue is whether gratuitous evils exist. Given the complete neglect of my justification for affirming this, Con has one round left to argue that P3 is false or unsupported, and I invite him to make his case.


Sources

(1) http://www.thefreedictionary.com...








Illegalcombatant

Con

I thank Pro for their reply.

Burden of Proof

Maybe its a mis-read on my part but its possible that Pro is implying that I am some how shifting the burden ? In the last round I made the point that I am not required to prove that God exists but rather trying to refute Pros argument, as Pro said at the start..."In this debate, my role is to present a version of this argument, and to defend it against Con's objections."

You need good to have evil

Me claiming that good does not exist was to make a point, the point being Pro needs evil to exist and therefore needs good to exist. C.S Lewis points out this implied distinction where he writes..."My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? - Mere Christianity [1]

Now Pro provides an argument based on the assumption that good does not exist, that says...

1) If God exists, he is omnibenevolent (i.e. He is all good)
2) Good does not exist
3) God does not exist

Now maybe this is a sound argument that proves that God does not exist, but this is not a problem on my side for this debate as this argument does not depend on the existence of evil to prove that God does not exist. At best this could be called an argument that God does not exist due to the absence of good existing.

It is Pros argument that needs evil and therefore good to exist, not mine.

The Problem of Evil vs Evil proves God does not exist

Pro says..."Con’s new objection basically takes one sentence which I made, and tries to use it to show that if we have to assume that God exists,"

I did not claim such a thing, I am not claiming that some one MUST assume that God exists, but rather if you work on that assumption its a LOGICAL IMPOSSIBLITY that gratuitous evil exists and therefore no amount of evidence or probability arguments can change that once you grant that assumption.

What this means is that you need to work on the assumption that God doesn't exist to even consider that gratuitous might exist.

As I said before....

1) Assume an all-powerful and all-good God exists, then there would not be any evil in the world unless that evil is logically necessary for an adequately compensating good.
2) Evil exists (Pros argument)
3) Therefore any evil that exists must have an adequately compensating good. (From p1)
4) Therefore gratuitous evil does not exist

Based on this assumption premise 3) of Pros argument is false, and thus the argument is unsound.

The alternative, God does not exist

Now what if that God assumption in premise 1 is false ?, well that would mean that God does NOT exist. Consider the following argument.

1) Assume an all-powerful and all-good God does NOT exist
2) Evil exists (Pros argument)
3) Therefore gratuitous evil could exist
4) Gratuitous evil does exist (Pros argument)

If God exists as Pro says..."If God exists, he is omnibenevolent (i.e. He is all good)" then there is a foundation that good exists. This is not to say that God is good in the sense of conforming to some outside moral standard but rather that God is the moral standard and everything that does not conform to that standard is thus "evil".

So Pro must be getting the "good" from some where else in order for their argument based on evil to work, but where does Pro get it ? Pro says..."Lastly, Con asserts that I have to explain the existence of good, given that evils exist. Firstly, this is only true if I share Con’s assumption that good and evil are necessary contrasts of each other."

Of course they are necessary contrasts of each other, Pros argument depends on evil existing as something different from an existing good. If good and evil can be the same thing, then I can merely point out that premise 2 of Pros argument also says that good exists, and that premise 3 of Pros argument really says gratuitous good exists.

Pro says..."Preventing suffering babies from harm would seem to be a good on a wide variety of moral epistemic positions that we are perhaps left to wonder whether this would be classed as a good, even if the parties involved all disagree on the reason for classifying it as such."

It may be the case that there are different ways to know the good, but that isn't the issue, its not a question of knowledge of the good, but rather its the question of if the good even exists in the first place.

So once again, absent God, where is Pro getting the existence of the good from ? Richard Dawkins I think understands the problem of trying to claim that evil exists and therefore good exists absent God where he writes..."In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference." [2]

We don't seem to have a foundation from Pro of the existence of the good absent God thus as I said before...

1) If God exists then good exists
2) Evil exists (pros argument)
3) Evil can only exist if good exists
4) Good exists
5) Therefore God exists

In Conclusion

If God exists, we have both a basis for the existence of the good and therefore evil can exist, but it would be logically impossible for gratuitous evil to exist.

Therefore premise 3) of pros argument is false.

If God does not exist, we have no basis for the existence of the good, thus evil can't exist nor can gratuitous evil exist.

Therefore premise 2 & 3 of pros argument is false.

I look forward to Pro's reply

Sources

[1] http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org...
[2] http://en.wikiquote.org...
Debate Round No. 3
unitedandy

Pro

Introduction

I must confess that I feel puzzled by Con’s last response. Not only did he change a number of positions he holds yet again, but he presents his arguments completely clean of the criticisms I gave in the previous round. In my last round therefore, I will seek to show that Con has simply failed to address any of my criticisms of his position adequately, and as the justification for my own argument is yet to be addressed by Con, by defeating his counter-arguments, I will be able to affirm the resolution.

You need to have good to have evil

The first recurring problem is context. Con says that he does not need good (and therefore God) to exist, in order to defeat the problem of evil. But who is he kidding? Like ANY single statement, the PoE requires context to be considered, and the context of the PoE is that when one considers the world in light of the existence of gratuitous evils, a God of the type defined in R1 does not exist. To try and defeat the argument by denying that God exists is to rip the argument painfully from its context and claim some sort of shallow victory. When I ask whether fire extinguishers work, I don’t mean do they deliver pizza on Fridays, but whether they are successful in putting out fires, and this is the circumstance with which one considers their success. Likewise, the PoE addresses the proposition that God exists by pointing out something which would not be accounted for if He did (gratuitous evils).

Moreover, the PoE still remains a problem even if God (and good or evil) do not exist, in the same way that there are conceptual problems with a 3-sided square, even though it doesn’t exist, or colourless green even if there is no such thing. So conceding Con’s entire argument here makes little difference to the resolution. But Con fails to address any of the points from my last round regarding this argument, so I’ll simply repeat them (some of them for the third time):

1. Contrivance - Con thinks he is able to dodge a bullet by making his position malleable, but the problem with this is he ends up denying good (R1), then affirming good (R2), then denying it again (R3). Such an inconsistent and self-preserving tactic simply looks designed to save the argument by any means necessary, and the utility this response has for the theist (who would have to deny, affirm and then deny God) is nil, and is more damaging than the PoE could ever hope to be, as it is a self-refuting position.

2. In my last post, I gave reasons to deny that in order to have good there has to be evil. Con’s only response to this is to say that evil and good must contrast each other because the PoE “depends on evil existing as something different from an existing good.” While this only deals with a tiny part of my overall point, even then it butchers it. I am not saying that good and evil are the same, rather that there is no logical incompatibility of good existing without evil, and if God exists, an all-good being would be the embodiment of that. As I said before, if Heaven or Hell exist as traditionally conceived, they would also testify to my point. I don’t think of evil as an absence of good, but even if it were, this response still could not fly, as it would be the absence which would cause the problem. However, even if Con showed beyond doubt that evil requires good, as I stated in my last post, and which Con ignored:

“. . . my moral marginality argument applies here. Even if I couldn’t show that goods or evils exist, all I have to demonstrate is things that an all good, all powerful God would want to eliminate if He existed do in fact occur (gratuitous suffering), therefore the PoE still stands.”

Like I said before, this argument is so inept that it kills off the God hypothesis before the PoE even gets to the scene. The key aspect to any argument which seeks to critique a belief system is how these beliefs emerge when answering the criticism. It is always possible to avoid any critique but in the case of any strong argument, such avoidance will be severe, and nothing is as drastically destructive as a self-refuting response, which Con provides here.

PoE vs evil

I previously charged this argument with straw-manning. Rather than denying the charge, Con repeats his argument. Notice the key difference in the first premise as stated by Con and myself:

Con’s restatement of my argument

“1) Assume an all-powerful and all-good God exists, then there would not be any evil in the world unless that evil is logically necessary for an adequately compensating good. “

My argument presented throughout:

If there were an all-powerful and all-good God, then there would not be . . . “

By doing this, Con presents my P1 as self-contradictory with P3, but can only do so by substantively changing the first premise. I corrected him about this in my last post yet he continues to mischaracterise my argument, which is not only bad conduct, but a further sign that he refuses to engage with what I said.

The remaining criticisms of Con’s argument are simply ignored from my last post, so I’ll just quickly list them:

1. Hypothesis (extension of point above) - God is used for a hypothesis for the world we see, and given that we have to conclude that given the gratuitous evils which do exist (the justification for which has never been challenged by Con), we can affirm the conclusion (God does not).

2. Begging the question - Dismissing that gratuitous evils exist by having God as a necessary, foundational assumption is Con’s approach here, which is to argue in a circle. In contrast, the PoE explains what to expect to find IF God exists, and given that gratuitous evils exist (point justified in R1), God does not.

I apologise to the readers if I repeat myself here, but it seems to me the only way to deal with Con, who is yet to engage with any of these points.

The problem of Good

Con’s last argument has number of points which I have addressed already, both in this post and before (good and evil as a contrast, my as yet untouched moral marginality response, etc). There is however one aspect I perhaps should address. Even if I were to concede that I had to provide an ontological basis for good (which I have argued against with the points I have made throughout), I gave a reason for thinking that good exists. Taking the example of preventing babies from suffering, I pointed out that many moral theories see this as a good, even if for different reasons (for the utilitarian it prevents pain, for the consequentialist not acting would be horrendous, etc.) Con responds that I confuse moral knowledge with ontology, but the point was that however one defends the existence of morality (be it through pain and pleasure or whatever), the PoE caters to moral realists as much as possible. As for those who deny moral realism, I presented a counter to Con’s argument that he does not dispute that shows the denial of the existence of good denies god, and together with my context point, and that of moral marginality, this argument seems dead as well. Lastly, I think it again somewhat contrived of Con to expect me to present an argument, defend it, answer counter-arguments and present a substantive case for moral realism, while he barely responds to much at all, resorts to straw-men, and has refused to deal directly with the justification for any of the premises.

As for the quote from Dawkins, he knows as much about moral ontology as he does about philosophy in general - the middle of a doughnut.

Conclusion and summary

I have answered pretty much every point Con has made, and see little, if anything, left to rebut. The only real criticism (Is-ought problem) was dropped in R1, and Con failed to address my argument directly, relying on dubious and ever-changing, contrived counter arguments to do so. Quite simply, not only does the argument I presented stand, but next to Con's denialist, contrived, self-refuting mess of an objection, it emerges looking far better than the alternative Con gives us, even for the theist.
Illegalcombatant

Con

I thank Pro for their reply. Seeing its the last round I shall not be providing any new material, and will only be going over some previous points.

You need good to have evil

Pro says..."While this only deals with a tiny part of my overall point, even then it butchers it. I am not saying that good and evil are the same, rather that there is no logical incompatibility of good existing without evil, and if God exists, an all-good being would be the embodiment of that."

I never argued that good can't exist without evil, what I have clearly argued is that evil NEEDS good to exist. I also never argued that evil is the absence of good, but rather that when something is in contradiction or opposition to the good its "evil".

I think we have both good reason and it stands unrefuted that evil needs good to exist. And Pro needs evil to exist and therefore needs good to exist in order for their argument to work.

The Problem of Good

Pro says..."Even if I were to concede that I had to provide an ontological basis for good (which I have argued against with the points I have made throughout), I gave a reason for thinking that good exists."

Well I would say yes, you do have to have an ontological basis for the good, since your argument depends on real evil existing and therefore needs a real good to exist.

Pro says..."Taking the example of preventing babies from suffering, I pointed out that many moral theories see this as a good, even if for different reasons (for the utilitarian it prevents pain, for the consequentialist not acting would be horrendous, etc.) Con responds that I confuse moral knowledge with ontology,"

We could talk about having knowledge of invisible unicorns but no one would take this seriously cause we don't really believe they exist in the first place. Like wise Pros granting that we can have knowledge of the good implies that there is a real actual good to know about in the first place.

As I said before, If God exists, we have the good actually existing as God himself. I will leave it up to the voters to decide if Pro was able to provide an argument that shows that an actual good exists absent God or if Pro merely conflates the existence of the good with the knowledge of the good. As such I still press my argument that says....

1) If God exists then good exists
2) Evil exists (pros argument)
3) Evil can only exist if good exists (logically necessary)
4) Good exists (From p2 + p3)
5) Therefore God exists (from p1 + p4)

Pros Hypothesis

Pro hypothesis says..."If there were an all-powerful and all-good God, then there would not be any evil in the world unless that evil is logically necessary for an adequately compensating good."

I hardly think I have strawed man Pros hypothesis here, remember its says IF God exists. That's a pretty big IF. This leaves the door open to two options....

1) God does exist or
2) God does not exist

I have gone into detail considering both propositions as true, hence my "assumptions". I looked at Pros argument both with the assumption that God does exist and also with the assumption that God does not exist. One of these assumptions is correct. As such I reject the charge where Pro says..."Dismissing that gratuitous evils exist by having God as a necessary, foundational assumption is Con’s approach here, which is to argue in a circle."

Pro is being a bit mis-leading here, I am not rejecting gratuitous evils just because of a previous assumption that God exists. What I am arguing for is that gratuitous evils doesn't exist whether God exists or doesn't exist. As such Premise 3) of Pros argument in both cases in false.

As I concluded in the last round

If God exists, we have both a basis for the existence of the good and therefore evil can exist, but it would be logically impossible for gratuitous evil to exist.

Therefore premise 3) of pros argument is false.

If God does not exist, we have no basis for the existence of the good, thus evil can't exist nor can gratuitous evil exist.

Therefore premise 2 & 3 of pros argument is false.

And once again this is where I shall be leaving it.

Closing remarks

I had asked Unitedandy to give me a debate on his POE argument and they were gracious enough to grant me that request and I thank them for it.

Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 4
16 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by unitedandy 5 years ago
unitedandy
Sure thing, as long as the voting time and the character limit and rounds are adequate, I'd be happy to get the debate going as soon as you're ready.
Posted by Rednerrus 5 years ago
Rednerrus
untedandy,
Ok I will set it up soon, forgive me if my format is not as formal as yours. I will try to make it as concise as I can but it wont be in the same format as you 2 used in this debate.

Also I guess we can debate PoE separately after TAG. And you can start that one.
I will set up the challenge as soon as I can.
Posted by unitedandy 5 years ago
unitedandy
Cool, just set up the challenge. I probably won't be able to respond to the PoE point directly (depending of word count), but I can easily message you or whatever if you want to know what my response would be, or even set up a separate debate for it after the TAG debate. It's up to you.
Posted by Rednerrus 5 years ago
Rednerrus
Ok, we can do that.. but i will touch on the PoE as part of my argument to show that the Christian worldview is completely internally coherent.
Posted by unitedandy 5 years ago
unitedandy
If you're referring to TAG, then, TBH, I'd rather just debate that. I've tried to use the PoE in a debate with other arguments, but it takes over the debate every time.
Posted by Rednerrus 5 years ago
Rednerrus
Unitedandy,

We can make it interesting and have a 2 in 1 debate. I can also claim that you can't even make any logical arguments without the existence of a Christian God.
Posted by unitedandy 5 years ago
unitedandy
Rednerrus,

I think, in maybe 80% of my debates, the PoE has been defended by me at some point, with 2 recent debates centered entirely on the PoE itself. So yeah, naturally, I'm tiring of debating it, but I'll be happy to defend it. Just give me a week or so, and I'll set up the challenge. I'll be returning to the slightly different formulation of it, but it's still the same argument.

As for the argument's conclusion not following the premises, I can only hope that you're not relying on this to argue against the PoE. I can certainly show this to be false, but I'll let you advance that thought in the debate. As for the premises, P3 is definitely the most contentious, but if you want to challenge P1 as well, you're more than welcome to do so.
Posted by Rednerrus 5 years ago
Rednerrus
To unitedandy and illegalcombatant,

I didn't finish reading the whole debate, only the first round. But unitedandy used the PoE AGAINST the existence of God, and I just wanted to pointed out that the PoE is not a problem at all.

I do agree with illegalcombantant when you he says that evil is contingent on good, and ultimately God. But I thought you coudlve just pointed out the errors of pro's premises.

Premise 1 and 3 are both arbitrary and presumptuous. This is the logical fallacy of the PoE. No one can substantiate those claims, unless you're on God's level.
The conclusion was a leap and does not exclusively follow the premises.
Like I said, PoE is basically "God wouldnt do that, because I wouldnt, therefore God doesnt exist"

Im interested in debating you unitedandy. I know it would be your 3rd time on this subject, but I would like to know what your responses are against the "sufficient moral reason" defense.
Posted by Illegalcombatant 5 years ago
Illegalcombatant
To Red...Pro already conceded at the start that the existence of evil and the existence of God is not an explicit contradiction, as such it was unnecessary to bring up God having sufficient moral reason to refute to logical problem of evil.

To Itsallover..says..." The main goal of this debate was for illegalcombatant to answer this (1st argument of round 2 in Italics): "

No it wasn't, Pro already conceded from the start there is no explicit contradiction between the existence of evil and the existence of God, as Pro says (in round 1)..."The type of PoE I will present is the evidential form, which states that while evils themselves are not necessarily logically incompatible with God,"

What Pro said was..."In order to refute the argument, Con must deny at least 1 of the 3 premises,"

I went after premise 3 of pros argument, arguing that if God exists then gratuitous evil doesn't exist, and if God doesn't exist then evil and therefore gratuitous evil doesn't exist.
Posted by unitedandy 5 years ago
unitedandy
Rednerrus,

Of course, the morally sufficient reason response is pretty standard, and variants of it are definitely the most convincing to me, of all the various responses one gives. I still think that there are problems with it, and that I can show that these responses don't work, but there's nothing arbitrary about these evaluations, and I don't think it's particularly arrogant to speculate on what God would do, if He exists as defined, and I think you'll find theists are in the exact same boat of speculation as well, not just about evil, but aout creation, morality, and so forth.

Furthermore, you're not really dealing the debate, rather with the PoE itself. If you think your response to the PoE works, then fine, but Con used a different approach, and you can't judge an argument based on criticisms it never had to answer in the debate. I certainly have answered this objection numerous times before in previous debates, but it's not really relevant here.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 5 years ago
RoyLatham
unitedandyIllegalcombatantTied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: The argument from evil is classically defined with "evil" meaning "bad things," and Pro correctly gave the definition. It only refutes an O3 god. I think con went off track using the wrong definition of "evil." In any case, I couldn't follow Con's logic.
Vote Placed by Itsallovernow 5 years ago
Itsallovernow
unitedandyIllegalcombatantTied
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: See Comments Section. I so wanted Con to win this with 1 simple statement.
Vote Placed by OMGJustinBieber 5 years ago
OMGJustinBieber
unitedandyIllegalcombatantTied
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: Con struggled to get his footing in this argument. Pro would have been better handled by a religious theist than an atheistic moral nihilist arguing well outside the bounds of the syllogism for much of the debate.