The Problem of Evil is an invalid argument
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|Updated:||2 years ago||Status:||Post Voting Period|
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Resolved: The Problem of Evil is an invalid argument
Problem of Evil, otherwise known as the Riddle of Epicurus-- this will be defined as the following:
“If God is willing to prevent evil, but is not able to
Then He is not omnipotent.
If He is able, but not willing
Then He is malevolent.
If He is both able and willing
Then whence cometh evil.
If He is neither able nor willing
Then why call Him God?” (1)
God -- The God we'll be discussing is Tri-Omni, so omnibenevolent (all-good), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipotent (all-powerful), as well as the first cause. Essentially, our debate will involve the Christian God.
Exists -- have objective reality (2)
Framework and Burdens
Pro and I have both acknowledged that the question of whether God exists has no truth value. Neither of us can categorcially prove whether God does or doesn't exist. However, we will be evaluating the merits of this argument with respect to the God as defined above in order to come to a concusion based on a preponderance of evidence. Thus, the person who best proves their case, on balance, will be the winner of this debate. Note that we are not making any assumptions walking into this debate, and thus both debaters will be require to elucidate their cases and cite their sources.
Round 1 is not for acceptance. Pro will begin his arguments in the first round and post "pass" in Round 3. Any deviation from this rule will merit a forfeit unless the debaters come to a compromise.
(2) Google define "exists"
1st point only give one possibility and reject the rest. God might be willing but it doesn't mean that he cannot do it. We have to consider that he won't do it yet.
"If He is able, but not willing
Then He is malevolent."
Once again, the logic doesn't follow. God was not willing to help Job at that given instant because he was teaching him something through pain and suffering. When Satan challenged Job's integrity, God said "very well, here you go.." Sometimes, even parents allow their children to suffer in order to teach them and help them improve as individuals.
Notice that at the end of Job's trial, God gives him back twice as many blessings than he had before. This implies that:
1) God has a will to overcome evil
2) God uses evil so that good can be accomplished and once that happens, he mercifully removes evil.
3) His removal of evil from Job demonstrates that he is still all power, all knowing, and all good
With that in mind, there is no contradiction in God's character
I am going to offer my own case, and then rebut Pro's in the next round.
Prelude and Thought Experiment
Consider the following scenario: you’re in a hospital, witnessing a tragic event unfold before your eyes: a baby has been born, and despite several interventions by medical professions, he isn’t breathing. You hear that he doesn’t have much time left and will surely die. The family is heartbroken, and would give anything to save their beloved son.
Now, consider that you are the only person who can save this child. You alone have the power and the means to save him. Effectively, you are playing the role of God. The family is begging you to intervene. Note that you are infinitely powerful and intervening will not in any way inconvenience or harm you, and you are also infinitly knowledgeable, so you know that saving this innocent life would in no way upset the “natural order.” Moreover, this is an innocent child without the capacity to make decisions. He hasn’t had the chance to do wrong, so this isn’t a matter of “interfering with free will.”
Would you save him?
The answer for most is an unequivocal “yes.” If you had such power, why wouldn’t you save this innocent life? Life has intrinsic value, the child has done nothing wrong because he hasn’t had a chance to do wrong, and only you are able to save him. As a person with such power, do you not possess a moral obligation to intervene?
Let’s say that you decide, for whatever reason, not to intervene. You’re able to, but don’t. Why didn’t you? What could possibly be your justification? Do you not care for the suffering of this innocent infant, or of his family? If you didn’t intervene but could, wouldn’t we rightfully call you “evil?”
Now, let’s take a different turn: what if you wanted to intervene, but didn’t? The reason you didn’t was that you weren’t able to. In such a case, you may well be all-good, but surely we couldn’t call you omnipotent; if you were omnipotent, you would have the power to intervene.
To syllogize this argument:
P1) If gratuitous suffering exists, then the Tri-Omni God does not.
Note that, as Pro and I have agreed to and as is stated in the opening rules, neither of us are making categorical statements with espect to God's existence; that is, the fact that the Tri-Omni God doesn’t possess truth value will not be a valid objection the Problem of Evil. Rather, our concern is in evaluating the merits of this argument. If the argument, on balance, stands by the end of this debate, I have won.
Defense of P2
P2 seems relatively uncontroversial, but nevertheless I’ll evidence it.
Let’s point to quite possibly the most troubling example I’ve come across. Phil Carroll, in summarizing the results of a recent Lancet Series, notes the following:
“Each year, 5.5 million babies enter and leave the world without being recorded, and one in three newborns—over 45 million babies—do not have a birth certificate by their first birthday. Babies who are stillborn, born too early, or who die soon after birth are least likely to be registered, even in high-income countries” (1).
I don’t believe my opponent will contest that gratuitous suffering exists, so I’m going to take this time to move on to my defense of P1.
Defense of P1
That’s a startling amount of infant deaths per annum. If there were something we as humans were able to do in order to mollify this, surely we would act. We have, for instance, private charities and foundations which try to donate to impoverished families or channel vaccines to countries high rates of preventable diseases. Intrinsic to humans is a nurturing desire: we don’t want people to suffer. In fact, we can identify and empathize with others, and this is intrinsic to our neurology, as we know from the discovery of mirror neurons (2). The crux of mirror neurons is that we can identify intentionality in other minded creatures by way of observing goal-directed actions: for instance, if someone lifts a cup, we identify with it based on our experience of having lifted a cup. The same goes for suffering. Humans have, as part of their material nature, a capacity for empathy.
Now, bearing in mind that people are generally compassionate and well-meaning, how could a God which is omnibenevolent -- which should be the very standard of morality -- not feel the same way? How could an omnibenevolent God stand by idly while innocent people suffer and die completely preventable deaths, particularly preventable by virtue of the fact that he, and only he, could intervene. If he doesn’t intervene but can, how can we call him omnibenevolent? If he doesn’t intervene because he can’t, can we truly call him omnipotent?
Another relatively uncontroversial point that most people wouldn’t contest -- I trust that this argument will go unrefuted -- is that we all would, in response to the scenario I delineated in the prelude to this debate, intervene. Nevertheless, I’m now going to introduce several arguments as to why there is a categorical moral imperative to intervene such that, if one can intervene but doesn’t (especially knowing that one only is able to intervene), we must only look at the person as evil. Of course, if one wants to but can't, he isn't omnipotent, once again.
F.L.O., or “Future Like Ours”
This was a popular argument created by Don Marquis against abortion (3). It’s particularly applicable in this case because not only does it establish a basis for a categorical right to life, but it is in fact in line with the Christian view on abortion (4). The crux of the argument is that a premature death is categorically wrong because it deprives someone of their future experiences.
To syllogize it:
P1) It is categorically wrong to deprive a person of a meaningful future.
Again, if we establish that a premature death is categorically wrong, then we are left with one conclusion: if a God created the universe, he created it such that disgraceful acts of violence could occur, but doesn't intervene to rectify them. Why would gratuitous suffering even EXIST in a world created by an omnibenevolent God? We are left with one logical conclusion:
P1) There is evil in the world
If this syllogism holds, this debate is over.
Utilitarianism, essentially, involves the notion of the “great good for the greatest number,” emphasizing the maximization of utility and the minimization of suffering (5).
In the case of a Tri-Omni God, we have an interesting case. Unlike in a discipline such as economics where we consider what is utilitarian by weighing costs and benefits -- you learn in Econ 101 that economic efficiency is a condition such that one person cannot be better off without another person being worse off, which leads us to make qualitative distinctions to assess the relative value of propositions -- we are not weighing costs and benefits. As I noted in the prelude, if God is omnipotent, there is no cost to his intervention. God intervening to stop the deaths of millions of babies would ONLY increase happiness and reduce suffering: there are no trade-offs.
A common argument against utilitarianism is that it places far too much of an emphasis on consequentialism: for instance, you could commit (x) action expecting (y) outcome when in fact (y) outcome is morally undesirable, but end up with (z) outcome which is morally desirable. However, this case is utterly irrelevant in the case of am omniscient Tri-Omni God: he would know the future and know that (x) action would result in (z) outcome.
First, to quickly elucidate deontology:
“The theory of deontology states we are morally obligated to act in accordance with a certain set of principles and rules regardless of outcome” (6).
The case made by Immanuel Kant is that what matters when considering the morality of an action is not its results, but its intention. This is because humans are rational beings and thus we are to act with respect to a series of duties grounded in nature, acknowledging that we must pursue some actions objectively -- that is, act in such a way that our action could be accepted as a universal maxim. You could consider this simply the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would want others to do unto you.”
A famous line by Kant which also further my cases is as follows:
“Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end but always at the same time as an end” (6).
The point is that actions should be an ends in themselves, rather than a means to an end. Instead of using people as a means to some end, we should act with respect to a moral duty that factors in the categorical imperative that people are intrinsically valuable and doing harm to another person is thus categorically wrong.
I’m now going to cross-reference the aforementioned syllogism: unless Pro can refute Kant’s philosophy, provided that he accepts that gratuitous suffering does in fact exist, or account for why God would allow this to occur, he cannot win this debate.
Truth_seeker forfeited this round.
Pro has forfeited. I’d like to remind him and our audience that, per our agreement, he will be unable to post arguments in the next round.
My opponent begins by stating that he will use the Book of Job for the crux of his case. Note, however, that this is non-topical. Let’s review the rules I specified in the opening round and to which Con agreed:
“Pro and I have both acknowledged that the question of whether God exists has no truth value. Neither of us can categorcially prove whether God does or doesn't exist. However, we will be evaluating the merits of this argument with respect to the God as defined above in order to come to a concusion based on a preponderance of evidence. Thus, the person who best proves their case, on balance, will be the winner of this debate. Note that we are not making any assumptions walking into this debate, and thus both debaters will be require to elucidate their cases and cite their sources.” (7)
First, to accept the Book of Job as prima facie evidence of God, we would need evidence that the Bible is in fact the word of God, or at least divinely inspired. However, the question of whether God exists possesses no truth value, so the Bible is nothing more than an unsourced anecdote. We have already agreed to this stipulation. Moreover, we have no reason to take the Bible as prima facie truth as to the workings of God, especially given the fact that the Bible was translated and re-translated several times, contains a plethora of inconsistencies and factually incorrect information (e.g., two conflicting creation stories, telling of an “omnibenevolent” God who committed mass genocide, stating that the Earth is 6,000 years old when we know from modern science that it’s about 4.5 billion years old, etc.). Moreover, the Bible was written over a span of 40 years with over 1500 authors (7). Using the Bible to justify God would amount to nothing more than circular logic, when the crux our discussion is not a debate on the contents of a holy book, but on the philosophical question of the Tri-Omni God. Note that I stated in my opening round that we were to source our arguments without making any prior assumptions. We did not walk into this debate assuming that God exists; the argument, in fact, attempts to refute God. Pro cannot say, “God exists because he did (x).” The conclusion is effectively the justification, so we must discard this circular, non-topical argument.
Pro asserts that there is a logical inconsistency in the first plank of the Riddle of Epicurus, which poses that if God is willing, but not able, he is not omnipotent. There is absolutely no consistency with this whatsoever. If you are omnipotent, you are all-powerful; you are able to do anything. Note that this plank presupposes willingness -- we’re considering alternate scenarios, obviously, within the framework of this argument -- stating that if God is willing (contrary to the Job example, of course, which is still non-topical, but I’m going to respond to it nevertheless) but unable then he isn’t all-powerful. That is obviously a sound statement, because being limited or incapacitated means, simply by definition, that you are not all powerful.
Pro then points out, in the example of Job, that God wasn’t willing to help Job, but could. Note that this is the second plank of the Epicurean Paradox: that God is able to intervene, but not willing. It followed from this that the action was not omnibenevolent. Pro argues that, because God was teaching Job through pain and suffering, the action wasn’t immoral. However, this is a ludicrous argument. As I pointed out earlier, and as Pro has not contested, there is a categorical moral wrong not only in allowing evil to occur when you are the only person to halt it, but also in actually committing atrocities yourself. This is a violation of F.L.O., deontology, and utilitarianism. It is the epitome of Kant’s remarks that we shouldn’t use people as a means to an end. God used Job as a means to an end -- to make a bet with Satan. Looking beyond the fact that an omnipotent God shouldn’t need to make a bet with the devil to prove his own power, this does not in any way justify the harm he inflicted upon Job or the suffering he incurred: the loss of his livestock, his children, etc. That was a categorical moral wrong. What did his children do to deserve being violently slaughtered, all for the sake of an irrelevant bet? How in the world is God justified morally in killing people? The fact that he gave Job back twice of what he once had is utterly irrelevant, as it attempts to stipulate that the end justifies the means; this is, of course, not the case at all. God could have doubled Job’s livestock et al. WITHOUT taking the lives of his family. Again, why must they suffer?
Moreover, what did Job did to incur God’s wraith? What did he do to deserve such suffering? By all accounts, he was a good, decent, succesful, faithful man. In the beginning of the story, God was bragging about how wonderful Job was. Why in the world would he need to "test" Job's faith? Furthermore, how is that test morally justifiable? Pro's argument makes utterly no sense, and because he hasn't responded to the moral arguments I posted in my last round, there is virtually no way for him to justify those actions. My points stands that there is not only evil in the world, but that God himself has created it and inflicted it -- Pro himself ADMITS that God used evil as a means to a end. Why is it justified for God to inflict evil, but not a person? Isn't God supposed to be the standard bearer of morality? How can an action be morally right for God, and morally wrong for a human?
Pro then points out that parents "allow their children to suffer in order to reach them a lesson and help them improve as individuals." Indeed they do, and how in the world is this morally justifiable? Simply because you think you may gain from something does not mean that you may use persons as a means to an end and completely disregard the fundamental duty you have to act in accordance with another person's moral worth. Moreover, you could achieve the same outcome -- I'm not a fan of appeals to consequentialism, but I can even refute Pro's argument with a simple appeal to one -- WITHOUT inducing suffering on your children. Again, there is absolutely no moral justification for imposing suffering on another person. Per Kant, if you wouldn't want an action to be accepted as a universl maxim -- that is, to be accepted as objectively moral or immoral -- you simply should know, per rationality, to not carry it out.
Pro then points to God giving back to Job -- which I've already commented on -- and comes to three conclusions. I will rebut each separately.
Pro claims that God has a "will to overcome evil." How is this possible when it is his own evil that he is overcoming? How can you overcome your own evil that you willingly induced on other people? Again, how in the world is it "overcoming" evil if Job and his family, not God, were made to suffer by virtue of a ridiculous bet that virtually no human would accept as morally correct?
Pro claims that God uses evil so that good can be accomplished. By admitting that God "uses evil," this debate is over. If God uses evil, he simply cannot be omnibenevolent, and thus the resolution falls. But, again, why must God use evil as a means to an end? He can accomplish evil by doing the exact opposite or, better yet in the case of Job, absolutely nothing. He could have done absolutely nothing, refused to sign on to a ridiculous bet, and allowed Job and his family to continuing living as they did.
How is it merciful to "remove evil," especially when he didn't in fact "remove it," but merely acted post hoc in a feeble attempt to effectively say, "mea culpa" for imposing so much gratuitous suffering? How is it merciful when he himself is responsible for the suffering? The same thing happened after the flood, actually. In the Bible, God promised Noah that he would never again try to kill off all the humans -- effectively a "mea culpa." If God does wrong and admits that he does wrong, he cannot possibly be omnibenvolent.
Pro asserts that the "removal of evil from Job demonstrates that he is still at power, all knowing, and all good." I have explained extensively why this isn't the case, and this is nothing more than an assertion from Pro that he has failed to back up. I have explained extensively why the end doesn't justify the means and why God's actions were gratuitous, unjustified, and quite frankly evil.
There isn't anything left to say. I have refuted all of my opponent's arguments and mine remain untouched. He isn't able to post in the next round, per our agreement.
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