The Instigator
Pro (for)
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The Contender
Con (against)
3 Points

The Problem of Evil does not Disprove a Benevolent God

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/5/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,926 times Debate No: 76243
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (26)
Votes (1)




Expanded Resolution

I will argue that the Argument from Evil does not render it logically impossible for a benevolent God to exist in our world, in which evil is obviously observed.

Burden of Proof

The BoP shall rest on myself (Pro), and I shall have to demonstrate how a benevolent God can logically co-exist with the evil that is observed in our world. In order for my opponent (Con) to win, my arguments must be refuted.

The Problem of Evil [1]

1. If God exists, then God is omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent*.

2. If God is omnipotent, then God has the power to eliminate all evil.

3. If God is omniscient, then God knows when evil exists.

4. If God is benevolent*, then God has the desire to eliminate all evil.

5. Evil exists.

6. If evil exists and God exists, then either God doesn’t have the power to eliminate all evil, or doesn’t know when evil exists, or doesn’t have the desire to eliminate all evil.

7. Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

*Note: I have replaced the original term, "morally perfect", with "benevolent", since I believe that the former concept is incoherent. This should have no impact on this debate.


God : The omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent (loving and protective), transcendental creator of our universe and reality. For the purposes of this debate, the listed traits shall be considered coherent.

Evil : This definition can be left loose, and can be "profoundly immoral and malevolent" [2] or it can pertain to Epicurean Evil [3] (which is essentially any degree of physical or mental suffering), or any other suitable definition so long as the proposed definition has some backing.

Debate Structure

Round #1 shall be for acceptance only. The remainder of the debate shall not be committed to any specific structure.


[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy -
[2] Oxford Dictionary -
[3] Wikipedia -


Thanks to Chaosism for instigating this debate. Judging by our recent conversation, this is going to be great :)
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for accepting this debate. As for my argument:

P1 : Evil is subject to personal judgment and is a comparative concept.
P2 : There exists a possibility of least Non-Evil by which Evil is judged.
P3 : The definition of Evil is based upon real, perceivable possibilities.
C1 : One's perception of Evil is dependent upon one's perception of possible reality.
C2 : If possibilities exist, then Evil necessarily exists.

P4 : The Creator of the reality is omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent.
P5 : An omniscient Creator perceives all possibilities, even those excluded in reality.
P6 : A benevolent Creator can create a reality that excludes Evil possibilities based on P5.
C3 : By C2, a non-omniscient observer in reality can only compare perceivably real possibilities.
C4 : By C1 and C3, Evil will always exist in any reality, even if created by a benevolent Creator.

P1 - The notion that two individuals can have differing moral values indicates that there is at least a significant (if not total) degree of personal judgment involved. The concept of evil relies on comparison to exist; if there exists but one subject in existence with nothing to which to compare it, it can neither be evil nor good. Consider the following example:

Person A has a cold, and Person B does not. If both persons are aware of the objective conditions of having a cold and not having a cold, then both can value having a cold as bad, since it instigates human suffering in comparison to not having a cold. Likewise, they can both value not having a cold as good in relation to having a cold.

Now, say Person C is completely oblivious to the existence of colds. Although he has the objective condition of not having a cold, he is not aware of the possibility of having a cold or not having a cold and, therefore, cannot value his objective state because there is no means of comparison.

Alternatively, say Person D is afflicted with a perpetual cold and isn't aware that it is possible to not have a cold. Likewise, he is unaware of the possibility of not having a cold and, therefore, has nothing to compare it to and cannot assign a value.

P2 - Not all things are Evil, and since Evil is subject to valuation (evident in that a subject can be more evil than another), there exists a subject that is of the least Non-Evil. It is by a point of comparison to this subject that one determines if another subject is evil, and I shall refer to this as the "Moral Fulcrum". A common basis of comparison is the instigation of physical pain, where no pain is the Moral Fulcrum.

P3 - We can only compare a subject to other subjects that are perceived as possible in reality which, in turn, determines the judgment of good and evil/bad. This can be illustrated by the following example:

Imagine a hungry puppy standing beside its bowl. You are given two options and *only* two options:
(A) feed him half the food he needs, or (B) feed him the full amount of food he needs.
Option (A) should be quite obviously the evil/bad choice of the two.

Now, consider if these are two *only* two options:
(A) feed him half the food he needs, or (B) do not feed him.
Given that these are the only possibilities, (A) should now appear as the good choice, which demonstrates that the exact same action can be good or bad when contrasted with differing sets of alternate, real possibilities. We do not compare this option in situation #2 to fully feeding the puppy, since that is not a real possibility.

P4 - As per the definition required by the Problem of Evil, these traits are assumed.

P5 - The Creator of reality exists externally to reality, and being omniscient, is aware of all possibilities whether they are real or not. The Creator's Moral Fulcrum is based on omniscient perception. See diagram (A) below.

P6 - An omnipotent Creator of reality fully decides what is and is not possible within it. Such a being could exclude all that which is Evil according to this Creator's Moral Fulcrum. See diagram (B) below.

C3 - Obviously, a being that is confined to a finite reality is only aware of the real possibilities that exist within that reality, and is unaware of the infinite possibilities that were excluded by the Creator. See diagram (C) below.

The following diagram represents a simplified linear scale of the valuation of evil.

In conclusion, due to the nature of comparison of the concept of evil, a being will always perceive evil as long as different possibilities exist. So, even if a God created a reality that excluded all evil (according to his unlimited perception), those being that are limited to that reality will still perceive evil (according to their limited perception).


In this debate I will be arguing in favor of the problem of evil against the existence of God or to be more concise, I will be arguing that our worlds vast amount of suffering (evil) is incompatible with the existence of a loving and protective God, as defined by Pro.
Since the onus is on Chaosism, it will be sufficient for me to refute his argument.

Sub-Argument 1
P1 : Evil is subject to personal judgment and is a comparative concept.
P2 : There exists a possibility of least Non-Evil by which Evil is judged.
P3 : The definition of Evil is based upon real, perceivable possibilities.
C1 : One's perception of Evil is dependent upon one's perception of possible reality.
C2 : If possibilities exist, then Evil necessarily exists.

Premise 1:
It is quite true that people's moral standards vary. I however consider myself a moral nihilist/ error theorist, therefore I use the PoE to not pertain morality at all. Not even theists are sure what the correct meaning of 'Evil' is supposed to be(1), but, since 'Evil' is, for the sake of this debate, (in part) defined as 'any degree of physical or mental suffering', there is not much vagueness here.
For me it is a simple issue of incompatibility between the existence of vast amounts of suffering (something that can be objectively assessed and is independent of any moral theory) and the meaning of God's attributes, specifically 'loving' and 'protective'.
To have any meaning at all these terms must in some way reflect the meaning they have when attributed to fellow humans. It can be purely descriptive, not evaluative, to call someone 'loving' or 'protective'. 'protective' for example means something along the lines of "doing what is possible to prevent (physical) harm". Whether or not this would result in morally good or bad actions is irrelevant, this is our descriptive usage of the term 'protective'.
As for loving, a mother can love her child and Hitler most certainly loved his country, these are just descriptions of feelings evoking according behavior, not value judgements.
Therefore, I can completely bypass Pro's justification for subjectivity, since I do not focus on human judgements, but semantic content instead.

It might be true that suffering, when evaluated by humans, is to some extend comparative, as my opponent demonstrated with his cold example, but we are talking about a loving, protective, omnipotent and omniscient deity. It would of course recognize her condition and since it is a loving and caring being, it would try to improve her condition.
Moreover, the great majority of suffering, like that of the children dying of malaria everyday, is fully recognized by the affected ones.
Perhaps God would allow for kinds of suffering like the persisting. unrecognized cold, but the starvation of countless innocent children is nothing a God, who has a strong feeling of attraction towards humans (loving) and is giving his best to prevent their suffering (protective), would allow for.
Therefore, I reject the first premise as Evil (suffering) is objective and its comparative element negligible, since it would only defend God against unrecognized conditions, which somehow represent the norm, not the outstanding, gratuitous suffering of our world.
It does not explain why this amount of suffering ok for God, but not say a world where 500 less children die of starvation every day.

Premise 2:
My opponent talks about "least Non-Evil" which seems to be equivalent to "most Evil", since it is just a double negative. Because of this I am perhaps misinterpreting what Pro is saying here.
It makes prima facie no sense to talk about the "most Evil" to be the Moral Fulcrum and the Moral Fulcrum to be the absence of pain (meaning that the 'most Evil' would be a world without pain?).
Therefore, I think "least Evil" was what my opponent intended here.
Understood like this I can agree with my opponent on this premise, as long as 'possibility' is understood as a modal notion (I'll come back to this later) in the sense of "There is at least one possible world containing no suffering by which the amount of suffering in the actual world is judged".

Premise 3:
I think what my opponent is getting at is that the judging of something to be evil is based upon natural possibilities.

Natural possibility -- What is possible within the bounds of the laws of nature

First of all, I insist that suffering is an objective state of affairs. A God as defined for this debate would not be constraint by the meager means available to mortals. If the dog suffers from only receiving half the food it needs, then its suffering is still an objective state of affairs, even if, for a human, feeding nothing to it would be the only alternative.
There is no reason to think that God would be limited to only those options presented by my opponent.
There is no reason why we should only consider natural possibilities either, we are talking about a supernatural, omnipotent being after all.

Concerning Conclusions 1 & 2:
There is no way for my opponent to reach any of the conclusions, for his premises do not seem to support what he is trying to infer.
He states that as long as there are possibilities to which one could compare her current situation, evil will always exist. However all of his examples revolve around possible circumstances of which none reflects the possible circumstance of 'least Evil' described in P2.
If he can bring forth an example of a world fitting this idea of 'least Evil', yet which, through the conceivability of different realities, would nevertheless contain suffering, then his first sub-argument would have some ground.
Essentially, what he would have to do is to prove the logical inconsistency of a world without suffering.

Sub-Argument 2
P4 : The Creator of the reality is omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent.
P5 : An omniscient Creator perceives all possibilities, even those excluded in reality.
P6 : A benevolent Creator can create a reality that excludes Evil possibilities based on P5.
C3 : By C2, a non-omniscient observer in reality can only compare perceivable real possibilities.
C4 : By C1 and C3, Evil will always exist in any reality, even if created by a benevolent Creator.

Premise 5:
P5 could be restated as "An omniscient Creator perceives all possible worlds". Other than that, I agree.

Premise 6:
It is not clear what "Evil possibilities" are.
Supposedly this originates from my opponents use of 'possibility' in a non-modal way. I would happily agree to a premise stating "A benevolent Creator can create a world lacking any evil (suffering)", but then it's not clear at all how the premise supports the argument. In hindsight this, too, applies to the interpretation of 'possible' as natural possibility.
For once, because if God is in fact able to create a world entirely without any suffering, as P6 states, then why should God not be able to create a world entirely without any suffering, as C4 concludes?
Here my opponent attempts to solve this issue by postulating that, being internal to reality, humans will always perceive evil (from Sub-Argument 1 and his diagram). However all other conceivable worlds would necessarily contain as much suffering (none) or more than the least-Evil-world, due to the simple definition of least-Evil-world, i.e., a world without any suffering.
Therefore a being in such a world would perceive it as the best of all possible worlds and it is either the case that this perception of other worlds would somehow resemble a form of evil in itself, then the world in question would not actually be a world containing no suffering, or it is not the case that God can create such a suffering-free world, which would refute P6 and render the argument unsound.
Either way, the premise fails to support my opponents position.

The inferences to C3 and C4 are contested above.
Therefore, I rest my case.

Debate Round No. 2


Sub-Argument 1

Premise 1:
Firstly, "loving" and "protective" are not necessarily truly perceived by the recipient. Parents subject their child to an inoculation in which the child faces a needle prick. Although the child may believe his parents are cruel for allowing this harm, the parents are certainly acting in a protective and loving manner. In this respect, we may simply not be able to rationalize why God permits suffering to exist. I can speculate that such a being would be concerned about protecting and loving our eternal existence (soul) rather than our temporal form.

Con: "Therefore, I can completely bypass Pro's justification for subjectivity, since I do not focus on human judgements, but semantic content instead."

The semantic content ("relating to meaning in language or logic." [1]) is rooted in human judgment. The meaning of these descriptive words are based on the observation and assessment of objective actions, but these terms are still subjective. People can disagree on the application of these terms. The term "loving" has a generally universal meaning, but it is still subjectively assigned. If it is still argued that these terms are not subjective, I ask that this be demonstrated.

Secondly, I will certainly agree that the pain and suffering that we observe in this world is terrible, but it is not possible for me to demonstrate how cancer can be not perceived as evil. My perception is, like everyone's, confined to natural reality. We cannot perceive that which is not within our natural world or from a perspective outside of our natural world, but that does not mean that we cannot recognize this without understanding it.

To illustrate this, some butterflies have a duplicate gene allowing them to visually discern ultraviolet colors [2], and are believed to be possess pentachromatic vision [3] while we (humans) possess trichromatic vision. It is *impossible* for us to visualize or imagine seeing with pentachromatic vision, as we lack the capacity to imagine that which we cannot perceive. However, we can conceptually understand that it exists.

We can properly imagine a limitation to our perception, but not an expansion of it. We can better understand this unimaginable concept by making a comparison between our vision and a lesser capacity such as dichromacy. Essentially, trichromacy relates to dichromacy as pentachromacy relates to trichromacy. Using this means of comparison, I can demonstrate that a limitation of perception exists by creating an example of a more limited reality and then comparing it to ours.
On that note, I shall present a hypothetical example.

You and three other people exist in a world that is devoid of all that you view as evil or suffering. You are to purchase gifts for these three people who await you at a party. You have the following options based on your budget and availability of gifts at the store:

(A) Purchase 3 mediocre gifts.
(B) Purchase 2 good gifts and 1 lame gift.
(C) Purchase 1 outstanding gift which is given to one person.

Remember that these the only possibilities in the scenario. Options (B) and (C) will inevitable cause mental distress in the people that receive a lame gift or no gift due to the obvious unfairness. This may seem trivial to us, but this is because we compare this to what is possible in our natural world. If you were confined to this scenario (one of the three people) you have no perception of our natural world in which to make a comparison. Since there is no such thing as pain or anything bad (by our judgment), the people in this scenario will view this unfairness as evil and as suffering because it is the maximum negative in these terms.

Overall, this example contains, by the standards of our world, only positive actions (giving a gift) and nothing is taken away and no harm is brought to anyone. Yet, the possibility of negativity is clearly present within this world.

Thirdly, Con: "It does not explain why this amount of suffering ok for God, but not say a world where 500 less children die of starvation every day."

This argument is subject to Reductio Ad Absrdum. If 500 less children were spared in another world, that reduction is not perceivable within that world because they cannot compare to the "original" world. This means that this basic statement can be said again for that world, and again in all subsequent worlds.

Premise 2:
I apologize for the confusion, but I did deliberately choose the term, "least non-evil". An equivalent statement would be, "least non-negative", which is not exactly the same as "least positive". If this is placed into a numeric context, the former term captures zero while the latter does not, because zero is neither positive nor negative. My intention of this term was to capture the "zero" (neutral) point. This point represents something like experiencing neither physical pain nor pleasure. I hope this is clearer.

Premise 3:
I thank my opponent for presenting the proper terminology; Natural Possibility should suffice.

Although Con insists that suffering is an objective state of affairs, I must disagree. The conditions by which the word "suffering" is defined are objective (i.e. pain). The word itself is a subjective term used to express the degree of hardship or pain that a subject is undergoing. Pain is somewhat measureable (they have a 0-10 pain scale in medical facilities), whereas "suffering" is not. This can be demonstrated in that, two observers can discern that a subject is experiencing distress, but they can disagree on whether they consider it suffering or not.

This label's definition is dependent on the existence of the objective states that we have deemed negative. These objective states must exist as natural possibilities in order to support the existence of the definition. For instance, if it was possible to cause direct and apparent harm to another's soul, then the definition of suffering would be molded to account for that objective state. If this were a natural possibility, it would certainly qualify as suffering, but this is not a perceived natural possibility. Inversely, if physical pain did not exist, then we would have no concept of that objective state on which to base the definition of suffering.

This establishes that the definition of suffering (or Evil) is molded to suit natural possibility.

Regarding the example, it merely demonstrates perception that is subject to limitations. We are under the limitations of natural possibility, so our perception of the example is loosely resembles God's perception verses our limitations.

Sub-Argument 2

Premise 5:
"An omniscient Creator perceives all possible worlds"
I think this is acceptable. Please forgive my unfamiliarity with the proper terminology.

Premise 6:
"A benevolent Creator can create a world lacking any evil (suffering)"
Accepted. This premise intends that the Creator can create a world that lacks evil (suffering) according *His* judgment and omniscience, which is reflected in my Diagram (B) in R2. This simple notion is the entirety of this premise, and since I agree with Con's rewording, this premise stands.

Conclusions C3/C4:
The existence of evil/suffering is dependent on perception, so the definition/meaning/use of those terms is entirely dependent on the natural world. Even those beings within a least-evil world (according to the Creator's perspective) will contain evil/suffering to those within that world. A being that exists within a world has no perception of other worlds. Since a being cannot make comparisons to other words, all comparisons must be made between natural possibilities. Thus, no world can be perceived as a world without evil from within it. These regards Sub-Argument 1.


[1] Oxford Dictionary -
[2] ScienceDaily -
[3] Wikipedia: Pentachromacy -


Since I got really hooked on this debate, I felt like changing my profile picture back to something appropriate. J.L. Mackie, the father of the modern problem of evil.

Sub-Argument 1

Premise 1:
My opponent starts out by drawing an analogy between parents having their child "harmed" with a needle for a greater good (like vaccination) and God letting humans suffer for a greater good. He hints towards a soul-making theodicy (1).
God is not restricted to such profane means, we are talking about an omnipotent being after all and if being omnipotent means anything at all, it means to have the power over causality (2). There is no need for him to harm mankind with a needle before it can be vaccinated.

Afterwards my opponent argues that 'loving' and 'protective' are suspect to subjective human judgements. He demands a demonstration to the contrary, which I will of course provide.
It is not the case that humans can judge God to be loving or not, for God is love. It is God's nature to be loving. Everyone who came to know God would identify love with him.
Therefore, every tiny interaction between God and us would make us feel his strong affection.

Next, he argues that it is impossible for us humans, confined to our perception of reality, to properly imagine an "expansion of our perception", as he calls it. To visualize this he draws an analogy to our inability to imagine the pentachronic vision of butterflies.
The problem with this analogy is that we do not actually have to try imagining such an expansion, since a suffering-free world is, if anything, a world where we would have less things to perceive, not more. I for once find it quite easy to imagine a world without any suffering.
His intention might again be to say God has some reason to allow for suffering we are simply not able to understand.
However, as I said earlier, God is omnipotent and therefore not restricted to causality at all.

Afterwards he draws an analogy to a gift store.
And I can happily accept this as compatible with God's love, without it undermining the problem of evil.
Even if God has the need to make his creation endure life in a mortal coil where occasionally they get frustrated by, say, gift-shopping, it does not explain a vast array of other kinds of evil:

God created carnivores and he made humans in a way such that eventually they found dead animals rather tasty.

The suffering non-human animals outweighs that of humans by far. Certainly I don't have to remind the reader that 99% of all species that ever roamed the earth are now extinct (3).
What kind of loving God creates beings who need to kill others and feed on the flesh of their corpses?
None I say.
Even if there is a very good reason for why humans have to receive lame gifts which cause them mental distress, there is absolutely no reason to create murderous animals in the first place.

Lastly he argues that improvements, like less starving children, would not be perceivable in the respective world, because of the inability to compare it to the original world.
But I fail to see why this should be the case. We humans have always come with stories and nowadays movies bursting of hornets, like The Human Centipede (4) or the Alien franchise (5).
Now imagine living in a world abundant of mad scientists transforming innocent people into centipedes. You might ask yourself whether this cruelty is really necessary and another one might respond like Pro did, stating that you could not compare such an "improved world" to the original, since you would not be able to perceive of the evil you were spared. I doubt you would be anything close to convinced.
I am at least able to have a rudimentary idea of what living in such a world would be like, just as I have an idea of what living in a world with 500 less children starving everyday would be like.
Therefore I reject my opponents defence.

Premise 2:
I thank Pro for clarifying his terminology.
However now I am left wondering what his justification for this premise is. In round 2 he merely explained the Moral Fulcrum, he did not justify the existence of such neutral subject. I am not sure what would classify as such. An enlightened Buddhist perhaps? Moreover it makes me further question the logical structure of his syllogism:

P1 : Evil is subject to personal judgment and is a comparative concept.
-> Ax (Ex > (Px & Cx))
For all x, if x is Evil, then x is subject to personal judgment and x is a comparative concept.

P2 : There exists a possibility of least Non-Evil by which Evil is judged.
Ey Ax (Ex & Nyx & Jy)
There exists a y and for all x, x is Evil & y is in a neutral state of x & y is the basis of judgement.

P3 : The definition of Evil is based upon real, perceivable possibilities.
Ax (Ex > Rx)
For all x, if x is Evil, then x is judged based upon real, perceivable possibilities.

C1 : One's perception of Evil is dependent upon one's perception of possible reality.
Ax (Ex > Rx & Px)
For all x, x is Evil implies that x is judged based upon real, perceivable possibilities and x is subject to personal judgment.

C2 : If possibilities exist, then Evil necessarily exists.
Ez ((Rz & Pz) > Ew (Ew))
There exists a z such that if z is judged based upon real, perceivable possibilities and z is subject to personal judgment, then there exists a w such that w is evil.

It is inexplicable how my opponent arrives logically at this conclusion. You can't get a "there exists" from a "for all" like Pro attempts here with Ax (Px & Rx) and Ex (Px & Rx).

Premise 3:
Here Pro insists that judging someone to be suffering is subjective. Perhaps that is true but it's also irrelevant, since it's only God's judgement that counts. Of course God would recognize the gratuitous agony of ebola victims, no human judgement required. Human observers are of course subject to bias and lack of information, but that does in no way change that fact that suffering is a objective state of affairs

I don't see a reason to limit the definition to exclude possible harm to the soul. If harming the souls results in some form of pain, then I fail to see why we should not label that suffering, too.
It is quite true that if there was no pain then we would not have a concept of it, but it's not at all clear how this is supposed to undermine the PoE. In a world without pain, yes, we would not be able to formulate the PoE, but after all we currently live in a world full of suffering.

The concerns my opponent raises about perception are addressed under premise 1.

Sub-Argument 2

Premise 6
Pro accept the rephrased premise and states "I agree with Con's rewording, this premise stands". But my concerns about the support this premise gives to his position were unaddressed.
He refers to his diagram from the previous round and states that "the Creator can create a world that lacks evil (suffering) according *His* judgment and omniscience".
God is omniscient, therefore he is not subject to misinformation about the objective states of affairs describing the suffering of human and non-human animals. Since he is loving and omnipotent there is no reason for why he should not intervene. At least until Pro presents one.

Conclusions C3/C4
Although I don't think Pro demonstrated the incoherence of a suffering free world, the PoE does not actually depend on the entire absence of suffering. I think it is quite possible for God create a heaven on earth with literally no suffering. My opponent contests this, but every time he does so he is viewing it from a very anthropocentric perspective. He never considers the possibility of us being created as immaterial souls in heaven, forever happy and pure.
Moreover I lined out under premise 1 how (if the scenario above should in fact prove to be impossible) the existence of some suffering is entirely compatible with the existence of God. In a world where the only evil we experience is that of, say, lame presents, a soul-making theodicy would work perfectly fine, but evidentially we do not live in such a world.


Debate Round No. 3


Premise 1:
Firstly, Con responds to my vaccination example as a "greater good" and states, "God is not restricted to such profane means", to which I agree. My point was that one does not necessarily recognize what one is being protected from. This falls precisely into my "cold" analogy from R2, Premise 1, which Con did not appear to contest (Con's objections were not about the validity of the analogy). For example, one is not able to appreciate not having Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva, or "Stone Man Syndrome" [1] without being aware of it. This is a rare disorder in which muscle tissue and connective tissue are gradually replaced by bone. Some possess this, but if all beings are protected from something, there is no way to recognize it.

Furthermore, Con states that "God is love", to which I agree. However, as per the same analogy, it must be possible to not experience God's love in order to recognize it and to appreciate it as good. If God were to create us as unthinking beings that experienced a perpetual, pleasurable sensation, that would perfectly qualify God as a protective and loving being. However, as unthinking beings, we couldn't appreciate that state.

To demonstrate the incoherency of a world without evil, consider this analogy where this world is a poker game. The best possible "goodness" would be receiving a Royal Flush (odds 649,739:1) [2]. Now, if one is only ever dealt this hand and doesn't know otherwise, it cannot be appreciated. Now, say that one is permitted any hand, but cannot possibly lose. Since one is unaware of the possibility of losing, these hands cannot be appreciated at all since a win will occur no matter what. It is only when the possibility of losing in present that these hands can be appreciated, and if losing is experienced, it greatly increases the appreciation of winning at the cost of some suffering (losing). Further, if it is more likely that one will lose, then this further increases the appreciation of receiving a good hand. A Royal Flush is now completely awesome! This analogy is applicable to the presence evil and the recognition of good.

Con states that he finds it easy to imagine a world without suffering, which I believe. However, the world that Con is conceptualizing is still being compared to *his* perception of natural possibilities of *his* world, which hinges on a definition of suffering that pertains to the negative objective states that are possible in *his* world. For those being that exist *within* that conceptual world, they cannot be aware of that which is not possible and thus, mold their definition of suffering to accommodate *their* natural possibilities. Now, God views our world in the same way that Con views his conceptual world in that, although Con does not perceive evil, those in that world do!

This is precisely what Con does in his response to the Gift Store analogy; he contrasts it with his own perception of natural possibilities. Con then refers to the presence of carnivore and suffering of animals. I personally agree that this suffering is horrible, but again, such perceived evil must exist in order to appreciate that which is not, and since we can only make comparisons to natural possibilities, we *cannot* perceive this as not evil, though a being with a greater perception can.

Later, Con questions my defense in regards to his "starving children" statement, stating that we would be able to compare our world to other possibilities such as those in stories. I argue that this is absurd in that, we do not actually make comparisons to *abstractions of reality*, as we do not perceive them as natural possibilities. Con states that he doubts one would be convinced by this defense, but that is because we are limited to the natural possibilities of our world. Say that you have a long board and designate one end good and the other end evil, and that you shave off a small bit of the "evil" end and ship it to another person. Can that person be aware of that which was removed? No, even though he could imagine it. In fact he can shave off another bit and pass it on. The subsequent people are equivalent to people in subsequent worlds with slightly less evil. The evil end will cease to exist only when the board is completely gone, thus destroying the good end as well.

Premise 2:
A neutral point (Moral Fulcrum) is established as a threshold point between good and bad, and is dependent on what possibilities are available. For instance, if passing a homeless man, kicking him would be evil and giving him aid would be good, while enacting no action would be neutral. This point must exist within the realm of possibility. For instance, on a scale between 1 and 10, the neutral point between high and low would be about 5 or 6. If the scale is changed to say, between 8 and 10, the neutral point would necessarily be changed or else high and low are incoherent; and nine would become the new neutral point. High cannot exist without low and good cannot exist without evil.

I apologize to Con for my current inability to analyze his logical assessment. I will re-clarify the first half of my argument.

P1: The designation of the "evil" description to a subject requires contrast with another subject. Each being makes its own judgment, be it God or us.

P2: Clarified above.

P3: Each being's definition for "evil" is based on natural possibilities. People in different worlds have difference definitions for evil, including God who perceives all worlds.

C1: Each being perceives evil in its own world based on what it perceives as possible. We only perceive our world whereas God perceives all worlds.

C2: All beings that have possibilities to compare will perceive evil.

Premise 3:
I agree with Con in that it is God's judgment that counts. Yes, "God would recognize the gratuitous agony of Ebola victims, and no human judgment is required". However, by using the words he did, Con is exercising human judgment. God would have created this world with unlimited perception, and can make comparison to that which we cannot.

Con states that he doesn't see a reason to limit the definition of "suffering" to exclude harm to one's soul, but this misses the point. Our definitions are necessarily based on our perception of natural possibilities. The PoE can exist in *any* world. If a world consisted only of everyone receiving either 1 dollar or nothing on a random basis, then those with no dollar can formulate a PoE based on *their* definition of suffering which is based on *their* natural possibilities, which would be the unfairness.

Premise 6:
God could have created a world in which excludes evil by *His* omniscient perception. The world we exist within is *our* basis for judgment; our terms and concepts are founded in this world even if there is no evil by God's perception. Thus, our perception of evil cannot possibly fully align with God's. This is defended more under Premise 1.

Conclusions C3/C4:
The incoherence of a suffering-free world is defended under Premise 1. I present analogies that are anthropocentric because that is what we, as humans, can relate better to. We cannot truly know what animals are experiencing beyond their biological expressions, to which we are tuned to via empathy; we have to imagine what they are experiencing. I am not trying to deny that they are suffering, just that we cannot know with certainty what they perceive, so I am sticking to the human perspective. Con's other points here are address under Premise 1.

[1] Generics Home Reference -
[2] Wikipedia: Poker Probability -

I extend my gratitude to Con for engaging in this debate with me.


Sub-Argument 1

Premise 1
Pro begins by pointing out that we might not recognize when we are helped. However this is covered in in my passage about omnipotence: no need for means to reach ends entails no need for actual processes of protecting to reach some state of safety.

He continues to talk about the importance of recognizing how good you have it, but I fail to see how this is defeating my position, because it implies a very narrow view on human well-being.
Consider today's transhumanists. People like David Pearce who advocate the abolition of suffering and breaking of our evolutionary chains (1). To them it is merely a technicality before we achieve long lasting "super happiness".

Next, he argues "it must be possible to not experience God's love in order to recognize it and to appreciate it as good". However to say God could not make his presence ever-appreciable is to question his omnipotence, the coherence of which was assumed for this debate.
Sadly, the follow-up is a strawman. I never said anything about "unthinking beings". This confusion might originate from my use of the term 'soul' and I think my opponent has a unfortunate interpretation of it. I use 'soul' in the Cartesian sense of "that what thinks" or more broadly "that what has experiences".

Pro's poker analogy falls prey to my argument from omnipotence as well.

He then brings up the definition of 'suffering' being molded to natural possibilities, but I now I would quite simply question why we should have a definition or rather a concept of suffering at all? It seems to me like my point about the possible world where the soul-making theodicy works was left unaddressed.

My opponent misunderstands the point I was making about carnivores. The fact that the suffering they cause would be unacceptable for God is peripheral, my main contention, perception of suffering aside, is that a loving God would not create creatures who need to feast on the rest of his creation in the first place. As such my point stands.

Pro argues we don't compare our situation to fictions, for we cannot perceive then as natural possibilities.
First of all I contest the idea that we do not make such comparisons, a moment of shudder or joy has probably been experienced by most people who have at some point thought about how life would be if they lived in a fictional world. Secondly it is not at all clear what perception of natural possibilities have to do with this.

Lastly, he draws an analogy to demonstrate how ridding the world off the evil would also rid it off the good.
I think this analogy is misguided, since suffering and well-being can be (at least for humans) described in terms of brain activity and neurotransmitters. A lack of (or rather inability to produce) pain inducing ones does not by any means necessitate a lack of well-being instantiating ones.

Premise 2
Pro further clarifies the term Moral Fulcrum and visualizes this by comparing it to a "Good/Badness scale" from one to ten. But my position is not really concerned with morality at all. To me suffering is quite simply a sentient being's mental state of unhappiness, unwell-being or pain. A definition that is quite applicable to beings in most conceivable worlds. Perhaps we should ha been clearer on what we mean by 'suffering' in the beginning.
Although my opponent's reassessed argument's validity is still questionable, it's clarity is vastly improved.
I still don't think it's convincing. Since the rest of the argument is contested elsewhere in this rebuttal, I will only focus on one point that was not as obvious before:
It equivocates 'a being'.
It may seem as if this refers to a being like us, living in our world. His defences of P1 and P3 are based upon human-like perception of the world, giving it some intuitive appeal. However since it is expressed as a generalization and for his argument to work this covers very unfamiliar beings as well. Such as the souls I was talking about earlier.

Premise 3
Here Pro essentially implies Leibniz's best of all possible worlds-theodicy(2): "God would have created this world with unlimited perception, and can make comparison to that which we cannot"
But it is hard to see how this is sufficient justification. To put it in Russell's words:
"Do you think that if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the KKK or the Fascists?"(3)

Sub-Argument 2

Premise 6
Here my opponent argues that evil exists only in man's limited perception, but not God's. However this raises the question as to why such a God would let all of his creation in the dark, without any apparent reason to allow for the gratuitous suffering of this world. After all, this would constitute a huge relief of suffering.

See Premise 1.

Thanks again for Chaosism for this great debate. It was one of the most fun ones I had so far, since I implicitly had to argue from two perspectives at ones: first, a theist who defends his God against several charges of subjective evaluation and second, an atheist who defends the PoE.
This gave the debate a unique flavor and I wish Chaosism all the good for the voting period.

(3) Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not A Christian, 1927
Debate Round No. 4
26 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Fkkize 3 years ago
Same here.
Regarding awareness of pain: I guess an omnipotent being could make you be aware of how good you have it without it being any kind of suffering to you. Btw. I don't think omnipotence is incoherent in anyway.
Posted by Kozu 3 years ago
Sure thing, feel free to pm me again about it.
Posted by Chaosism 3 years ago
I'm going to work on formulating my argument in a more logical manner, thanks to your and Fkkize's guidance. Thank you, guys.
Posted by Chaosism 3 years ago
I don't contest that the objective state of "non-pain" would exist. However, without pain, we have no *awareness* of pain, thus, cannot recognize the existence of this or the opposite objective state. The definition of the terms "suffering" is founded on *known* objective states, such as pain, that we find the most undesirable. Without the knowledge of pain, the definition of suffering *cannot* pertain to pain. Since other undesirable objective states are known, then the definition of suffering will be based on those *known* states, instead. In essence, our very *meaning* of the concept of suffering is molded to the world.
Posted by Kozu 3 years ago
As far as logic goes, look at it this way.

We can assume god has a reason to allow this suffering.
We can assume god isn't real which is why there's suffering

I say the prior has no logical reason.
Posted by Kozu 3 years ago

I feel this "we can't know good without bad" problem can be answered by what Fkkize was saying when he talks about neurotransmitters.
"A lack of (or rather inability to produce) pain inducing ones does not by any means necessitate a lack of well-being instantiating ones."
Being that suffering is an objective state of affairs, a lack of suffering doesn't constitute a lack of well-being.

Just because I never suffer, doesn't mean I don't experience well-being.
Posted by Chaosism 3 years ago
@ Kozu

I wasn't trying to argue that "because we don't know...", but rather, I was trying to argue that it's illogical to *assume* that there is no protective God in our world because *any* world will have the perception of non-protection from suffering, as I tried to illustrate with more than one analogy, such as the board (R4,P1) and the dollar (R4,P3). Why are these analogies invalid?
Posted by Kozu 3 years ago

We know (or assume for this debate) that god is loving and protective, therefore we know he wouldn't act to the contrary. So you can't really claim we don't know what he thinks, you could only claim you don't know *why* one of his actions is benevolent, but you're still assuming he's benevolent by using your definition in R1. So, because we know god is benevolent, you *must* answer this why, Simply saying you don't know why and therefore your assertion is true, is an argument from incredulity.
Posted by Chaosism 3 years ago
@ Kozu
"Your real problem the whole debate was arguing from a human perspective."

From what perspective would you want me to argue? From God's? The point of my argument is that we cannot expect to understand God's omniscient perspective. The line below claims to *know* what God would think, and my response was that this is impossible.

"Of course God would recognize the gratuitous agony of ebola victims, no human judgement required."

(Please don't read any bitterness in my comments. I know it's easy to get unintended impressions like that in text, but I assure you there is none, here.)
Posted by Chaosism 3 years ago
@ Kozu

"I think Fkkize made a good point too about not needing to be pricked in the first place, being omnipotent, god could just magically put it in us. Kind of wanted you to respond to that."

I thought I did respond to the comments on the analogy at the beginning of R4 with "My point was that one does not necessarily recognize what one is being protected from" and "Some possess this [disease], but if all beings are protected from something, there is no way to recognize it".

Unless you are referring to the omnipotence part. In the beginning, I didn't think that the definition of omnipotence would impact the debate, but since it was portrayed to be able to bypass logic, I can only say that in retrospect, I guess I should have defined it.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Kozu 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments