The Instigator
Ryft
Pro (for)
Losing
7 Points
The Contender
TheSkeptic
Con (against)
Winning
44 Points

The 'Problem of Evil' never succeeds (Attempt 1), Pt. 2

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/4/2010 Category: Religion
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 8,258 times Debate No: 11294
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (98)
Votes (13)

 

Ryft

Pro

INTRODUCTION

This is "Part 2" of a debate I am having with TheSkeptic regarding the Problem of Evil (PoE) as an argument for the non-existence of God. If you have not already done so, please see "Part 1" of this debate first before following and voting on "Part 2" (for it contains the agreed-upon definitions and parameters of the debate). [1] This debate in both parts is considered the first attempt at defeating my resolution because my opponent is still TheSkeptic. The next attempt will not be engaged until this chapter is concluded to the satisfaction of its participants. Toward that end, "Part 2" is going to allow the maximum number of rounds because, as discovered in "Part 1," three rounds is insufficient for our needs. Again, my resolution is, "There are literally no versions of the Problem of Evil argument that succeed at proving the non-existence of God."

THE ARGUMENT

In the first of these debates, my opponent chose to use "gratuitous evil" to defeat my resolution, defending that such an argument indeed does succeed at proving that God doesn't exist, but probabilistically—in other words, his non-existence is more probable than the alternative. And in this debate my opponent proposed an internal critique, which simply means that he intended to make his case using Christianity's own terms, so terms such as 'God' and 'evil', etc., are as defined biblically.

Stated as a modus tollens, his argument amounted to:

(1) If an omnipotent, omniscient, and all-good God exists, then gratuitous evil probably does not exist.
(2) Gratuitous evil probably exists.
(3) Therefore, an omnipotent, omniscient, and all-good God probably does not exist.

With respect to the first premise, he described gratuitous evil as being "incompatible" with the biblical God. Regarding the second premise, he described gratuitous evil as any evil that is "unwarranted or unjustified" or "pointless."

THE ANALYSIS

There are two problems with his argument, regarding each of the premises. First, it is incorrect to characterize gratuitous evil as being "incompatible" with God, insofar as that understates the matter tremendously. Given that the God at issue in this debate is defined as omnipotent, omniscient, and all-good, the existence of gratuitous evil is not a matter of probability—because its probability is zero! In other words, 'gratuitous evil' and 'God' are mutually exclusive entities, in the same way that an Immovable Object and an Irresistible Force are. Either gratuitous evil exists or God exists; it is logically impossible—by the very definition of the terms involved—for both to exist.

In order for any evils to be gratuitous, God must lack one of the given attributes; he has insufficient power, or he is unaware, or he is inattentive, or he is indifferent, etc. But to assert such a God is to build a straw man, which is invalid so he cannot do this. Ergo, his first premise fails because it defies the agreed-upon definitions of the debate.

Second, it is therefore question-begging for him to assert that gratuitous evils probably exist, never mind how he intended to support that particular premise (which cannot be done validly at any rate). Consider the following exposition:

(GE = gratuitous evil; BG = biblical God)

(4) If GE has a probability greater than zero, then GE is logically possible.
(5) GE has a probability greater than zero.
(6) Therefore, GE is logically possible.

Here (4) is uncontroversial, since it follows necessarily or by definition, but (5) and (6) prove the question-begging fallacy being committed by his argument:

(7) If BG exists, then GE is not logically possible.
(8) GE is logically possible.
(9) Therefore, BG does not exist.

Here (7) follows by definition of the terms, and (8) is a restatement from (6). However, (8) shows us clearly why his argument commits the question-begging fallacy. For him to assert gratuitous evil as logically possible (cf. (5) above and (2) earlier) is for him to assert the existence of God as logically impossible. But doing so WITHIN A PREMISE of an argument intended to prove the non-existence of God is to render the whole argument invalid by having implicitly begged the very question! As a result, his argument has rendered itself invalid by reason of a logical fallacy.

There is also the matter of any evils being gratuitous in the first place. If we construct the argument for it as a modus ponens, it might look like this:

(E = some evil)

(10) If E is without warrant or purpose, then E is gratuitous.
(11) E is without warrant or purpose.
(12) Therefore, E is gratuitous.

Of course (10) is true by definition, so the issue centers on (11). How did he support the truth of (11)? By pointing to the lack of evidence for its alternative. But it commits the argument from ignorance for him to assert that (11) is "true until proven otherwise" so he cannot do that. Yes, there are cases when the presumption of truth (or falsehood) is a valid move; but it is an INVALID move if doing so would end up begging the question, as it does with respect to his argument (such that the existence of gratuitous evil is said to count against the existence of God). It is for this reason that (11) is disqualified from the presumption of truth. So then he must PROVE that (11) is true, rather than presume its truth until proven otherwise. And good luck doing that validly.

I should also point out another slight problem in his argument. Toward supporting (11) and its probability, he said that "even after careful inspection of an example in which evil has occurred, there would be no good reason to believe that God would have an adequate reason to allow [it]." The problem is that his being unable to believe that God has a justification or purpose for some evil is not the issue, but whether or not God does in fact have one—or for his case, that God does not have one. But rationally speaking, being unable to imagine or conceive of something does not constitute as evidence for or against anything. Such is an argument from personal incredulity, which is a fallacy.

CONCLUSION

As a PoE argument proving the non-existence of God, it seems that the ‘gratuitous evil' version cannot avoid rendering itself invalid by reason of logical fallacy. And when we consider the definitions of the terms involved, we discover that this argument turns out to be a logical version of PoE arguments, which not only infuses it with tremendous potential strength but also tightly controls the rules for defending it—or, on the other hand, makes it very easy to defeat. With a mental toolbox equipped to understand and recognize errors in reasoning (fallacies), we discover that no arguments attempting to prove the non-existence of God are valid, including the Problem of Evil versions.

REFERENCES

1. The 'Problem of Evil' never succeeds: Attempt 1 (http://www.debate.org...)
TheSkeptic

Con

I thank Ryft for challenging me to the same topic again, albeit with more rounds and another debate as a background to work upon. I appreciate his philosophical tenacity so I hope this debate becomes quite fruitful. He has accurately outlined the purpose of having a "Part 2" concerning our conversation about the problem of evil - subsequently, all definitions and agreements should be transferred to here as well. As should be obvious, the conclusion of our first debate has prioritized a discussion of gratuitous evil.

My opponent presents two criticisms of my argument: he criticizes my argument to actually be a logical version and he also believes my support of gratuitous evil existing being logically fallacious by how I argue for it's existence. Let's examine each attack and expose the flaws in such a case.

====================
Criticism #1: My AE is actually a logical version, not evidential
====================

My opponent's defense of such a claim manifests in one simple fact: is gratuitous evils exist then they are logically incompatible with God, since by definition his nature would prevent such evils existing. And I absolutely agree. The problem is that he isn't accurately representing my thesis. It doesn't rely on the logical possibility of gratuitous evil existing, for I can also admit that evil can be compatible with God's existence as well. Instead, to borrow from the source[1] I used in our last debate, the evidential version of AE makes an INDUCTIVE INFERENCE. Let me paste a passage from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy on this subject:

"In evidential arguments, however, the evidence only probabilifies its conclusion, rather than conclusively verifying it. The probabilistic nature of such arguments manifests itself in the form of a premise to the effect that "It is probably the case that some instance (or type, or amount, or pattern) of evil E is gratuitous." This probability judgment usually rests on the claim that, even after careful reflection, we can see no good reason for God's permission of E. The inference from this claim to the judgment that there exists gratuitous evil is inductive in nature, and it is this inductive step that sets the evidential argument apart from the logical argument."

There is no reliance on GE being logically possible, even if it's mere existence is incompatible with God's existence. You seem to take great concern with such a fact so let me direct you to another analogy to demonstrate the flaw in your reasoning:

P1. In hypothesis H1, the existence of pyramids are attributed to concealed alien effort.
P2. The case of humans being the actual creators of the pyramids is probably true.
.: H1 is probably not true.

As you can clearly see, if humans who are the actual creators of the pyramids exist then this is LOGICALLY INCOMPATIBLE with aliens who are purported to have actually created the pyramids. Either it was by human effort or alien effort (obviously the formulation of this argument rejects a combined effort by the definitions supplied). However, do we see a problem here as we do in my argument? Of course not, since we realize this is simply another probabilistic argument and not a logical one. And given this enlightenment, your proposal that my argument is begging the question crumbles under the fact that I do not rely on the reasoning you have portrayed.

====================
Criticism #2: I have not shown GE to likely to exist
====================

First and foremost, my AE is a direct inductive version of the evidential version most famously penned and supported by William Rowe (one of the philosophers credited with reviving philosophy of theology in analytical philosophy). And since we are focusing on the existence of GE, we must look at this as a factual premise. The purpose of such an argument is to revert the question of God's existence as a 50-50 probability, absent of any other arguments (since those are treated in different debates). Given this isolation, the presence of GE would be treated as evidence against God's existence and thus lowering the likeliness of his existence. My opponent, however, proposes that I am committing the argument from ignorance by claiming that I can't think of any good reason as to why he would do it. Indeed, in some ways this would be committing the fallacy but my opponent has done what many others have unfortunately done -- abuse a fallacy. Most fallacies have instances in which they do NOT apply, and this is one of them.

To restate my opponent again, he claims that the inference from P (we know of no good reason to excuse proposed instance of GE) to Q (therefore, there is no good moral reason for these evils to exist alongside with God) is fallacious. He is attacking this supposed noseeum inference, where one "claims in P that, so far as we can see, no goods justify God's permission of E1 and E2, and from this [one] infers that no goods whatever justify God's permission of these evils[1]."

Many theists such as Plantinga, Wykstra, Alston, and many other theologians have attacked the AE as such. They take the distinction between God's infinite wisdom and the limited human epistemology to explain away such an inference. For example, simply because a 1-month year old baby can't see why a parent punishes it doesn't meant he parent has no good reason to (for it's likely to reprimand bad behavior). This is seemingly a strong critique pointing out the fault of such an inference.

The problem is that there is a distinct disanalogy that Rowe himself points out: "Being finite beings we can't expect to know all the goods God would know, any more than an amateur at chess should expect to know all the reasons for a particular move that Kasparov makes in a game. But, unlike Kasparov who in a chess match has a good reason not to tell us how a particular move fits into his plan to win the game, God, if he exists, isn't playing chess with our lives. In fact, since understanding the goods for the sake of which he permits terrible evils to befall us would itself enable us to better bear our suffering, God has a strong reason to help us understand those goods and how they require his permission of the terrible evils that befall us."

In fact, even if the mother does punish the baby would she not have a moral obligation to attempt to comfort the baby? It's hardly productive for a loving relationship, one we are supposed to have with God, if the reasons for evils existing are kept hidden from us. Not only is this so, but a similar critique can be leveled against the skeptical thesis that by this standard of reasoning "we are [also] justified in supposing that there are probably no morally justifying reasons beyond our ken for God to make the world appear much older than it is[2]", among other things.

====================
Conclusion
====================

My opponent's entire argument is defused under the realization that my argument truly isn't an evidential version of the AE. I take inspiration from William Rowe's very influential paper to support the thesis that there is no legitimate explanation of such evils in conjunction with God's existence. It can be summarized from the following inference from P to Q. The instances prescribed by "E1" and "E2" can be read at the Internet of Encyclopedia link I gave since they are much too long to paste here. The idea is the same though - these are proposed as instances of GE.

(P) No good state of affairs we know of is such that an omnipotent, omniscient being's obtaining it would morally justify that being's permitting E1 or E2. Therefore,
(Q) It is likely that no good state of affairs is such that an omnipotent, omniscient being's obtaining it would morally justify that being in permitting E1 or E2.

---References---
1. http://www.iep.utm.edu...
2. http://www.infidels.org...
Debate Round No. 1
Ryft

Pro

INTRODUCTION

I am glad that Skeptic shared my desire to go deeper into this debate with five additional rounds, because in 'Part 1' of our engagement the first two rounds were taken up with introducing the nature of the debate and what our arguments were going to be, leaving only one round for the real meat of the issue—and that was simply inadequate. I want my opponent to have as much room as needed to make his case against my criticisms of it. So I extend my appreciation to Skeptic, for both his convictions and diligence.

PROBABILITY ASSUMES POSSIBILITY

The primary defeater of my opponent's argument is that it begs the question and is therefore invalid. This is the central issue our readers must evaluate, personal friendships and biases notwithstanding. That it commits this error is proved by the fact that it affirms the non-existence of God within one of its premises; and it is invalid for a premise to assume, directly or indirectly, the very thing the conclusion is intended to demonstrate. So did his argument assume the very thing to be proved?

Yes. As I have said more than once—and my opponent has agreed every time—the entities 'gratuitous evil' and 'God' are by definition mutually exclusive. It is a logical contradiction to affirm the truth of both; the existence one precludes necessarily the existence of the other. The importance of this cannot be ignored, nor the fact that my opponent has agreed every time. Given an irresistible force, an immovable object cannot exist; likewise, given the God of the Bible (as his argument does), gratuitous evil cannot exist—by definition or necessarily. So the claim that his argument reverts the question of God's existence to a 50/50 probability is patently false; when he affirms that an immovable object is probable, he thereby affirms that an irresistable force is impossible (zero probability).

Yet Skeptic claims that my analysis misrepresented his argument because it is not relying on gratuitous evil (GE) being a logical possibility. That claim is an extraordinary mistake. As we can observe, and he has made abundantly clear, his entire argument relies on GE having some degree of probability. I repeat: his entire PoE argument rests on GE being probable. But as demonstrated clearly in my analysis in Round 1, when X is logically impossible that means its probability is zero! So for him to say that "there is no reliance on GE being logically possible" is frankly mistaken.

For this reason I am formally requesting that my opponent interact directly with my analysis as presented:

(4) If GE has a probability greater than zero, then GE is logically possible. (definition)
(5) GE has a probability greater than zero. (premise; taken from (2) of his modus tollens)
(6) Therefore, GE is logically possible. (from 4 and 5)
(7) If BG exists, then GE is not logically possible. (definition)
(8) GE is logically possible. (from 6)
(9) Therefore, BG does not exist. (from 7 and 8)

As I said, (8) shows us clearly why his argument commits the question-begging fallacy. By asserting GE as a logical possibility he is necessarily asserting BG as a logical impossibility. But doing so WITHIN A PREMISE of an argument intended to prove the non-existence of BG (see (2) of his modus tollens) is to render the whole argument invalid by begging the very question.

(Note: First, while I appreciate the work of Rowe, Alston, Wielenberg, Morriston, etc., their analyses of PoE arguments do not take into account the unique criticism I present here. They discuss "beyond our ken" considerations and theodicies, whereas my criticism targets an issue antecedent to such subjects; e.g., nowhere in his works does Rowe even consider my argument. It would be pointless to simply reenact the debate between Rowe and Alston, for example, since that would simply ignore the criticism I am actually presenting. Second, if Skeptic wants to predicate his argument on a God who loves all mankind indiscriminately, he must prepare for an exegetical contest, as I strongly dispute that the Bible reveals God that way. Yet the God of the Bible is assumed in this debate. God sets his affections on his children, whereas to the accursed he says, "I never knew you.")
TheSkeptic

Con

I appreciate my opponent's response, and will also abide by his wish to avoid discussion of Rowe's argument. It is somewhat surprising that he will simply focus on his sole criticism of my argument's form, but nonetheless if he is compelled to believe it is strong enough then so be it. Subsequently, my rebuttal won't be too long given the fact that there isn't much to write again - I'll try to be as clear as possible in a different manner. He claims that my argument "affirms the non-existence of God within one of its premises," which if correct I do agree to be fallacious reasoning. However, what reason do we have to believe I committed such a deed?

To abide by your wishes, upon examining step 5 of your analysis, your crucial error is in your glossing over the concept "gratuitous evil". The primary goal of my argument is to demonstrate that there are some evils which are PROBABLY gratuitous. If you have trouble conceiving of this type of objection then again, let me direct you to my intuitive analogy again, which I hope you respond to:

P1. In hypothesis H1, the existence of pyramids are attributed to concealed alien effort.
P2. The case of humans being the actual creators of the pyramids is probably true.
.: H1 is probably not true.

By definition, the existence of aliens who would create pyramids on Earth is LOGICALLY INCOMPATIBLE with the existence of human beings who would create pyramids on Earth since this argument assumes only one race can create the pyramids. Either the aliens did it or humans did. However, this argument (and indeed countless other ones) has no problem being fallacious since it's arguing for the probable existence of such humans EVEN THOUGH they are logically possible. Take an even easier example: is it not possible for Hitler to have ruled the world even though the current state of affairs is not so? There is no reason to believe that these both can't be logical possibilities - just simply not in the same modal world at the same time in the same way.

My argument is not making the bold claim that evil and Got are logically incompatible. Rather, I'm making the more modest claim that the evidence of evil, or at least certain evils, counts as evidence against God's existence. I attempt to move from the step that there can gratuitous evil to the claim that gratuitous evil exists in this world (if paired with the Christian god) thus generating internal evidence against his supposed existence.
Debate Round No. 2
Ryft

Pro

INTRODUCTION

As we are reaching the half-way mark in this debate it might be helpful to remind ourselves of what the central issue is and what has been uncovered so far regarding it. The resolution I am arguing for is that no versions of the PoE argument succeed at proving the non-existence of God as believed under biblical Christian theism. My opponent, TheSkeptic, accepted the challenge of providing a PoE argument that does precisely that, having chosen to argue that the probability of gratuitous evil proves the improbability of God. We have agreed on the nature and character of the God at issue, what gratuitous evil means, and that the two are mutually exclusive. Having presented his argument in a clear and understandable way, its success or failure turns on the issue of probability.

Because Skeptic has not given me any indication that he accepts the important relationship between probability and possibility that I'm arguing from—especially since he charges me with "glossing over" the probability of gratuitous evil—I shall assume that there might be some people following this debate who do not see the relationship. Given that my criticism draws heavily from that relationship, it is vitally important for me to make it clear, relevant, and thereby acceptable.

To say that X is probable is to say that X is more likely to be the case than not (derived from the Latin 'probabilis', "likely"). [1] However, the probability of X is grounded upon its being possible. To say that X is possible is to say that X is capable of being the case (from the Latin 'potent', "to be able"). [2] So let me flesh out what this looks like for us. If X is POSSIBLE, then the chances of it being the case are greater than 0 percent (able to be). If X is PROBABLE, then the chances of it being the case are greater than 50 percent (likely to be). This is why probability is grounded upon possibility. If X is impossible, then its probability is zero—that is, not probable at all. [3]

This is the basis supporting what (4) asserts: "If GE has a probability greater than zero, then GE is logically possible." My opponent's argument involves a far stronger premise, by positing that GE has a probability greater than 50 percent; i.e., more likely than not, and so inclines the mind to belief. [4] But in order for its probability to be greater than 50 percent, its probability must be greater than 0 percent. This is self-evident. To put the matter in the language I've been using all along, in order for GE to be probable it must first be possible. Since the success or failure of his argument turns on the issue of probability, a critical analysis of its possibility is not only relevant but fundamental. Hence, I am confronting his argument by attacking the very legs upon which it stands.

THE ANALYSIS

As I have argued—and Skeptic has now agreed in the preceding round—the matter of whether or not his argument begs the question centers on what (5) is asserting ("GE has a probability greater than zero"). If the assertion in this premise implies the non-existence of God, then his argument is question-begging since the non-existence of God is supposed to be proved (i.e., it is invalid to assume, directly or indirectly, the very thing supposed to be proved). Skeptic finds it "surprising" that I center my focus on applying the rules of inference to his argument, but it shouldn't be surprising; to demonstrate that his argument is invalid is to uphold the debate resolution: there are literally no versions of the PoE argument that succeed at proving the non-existence of God.

Despite his subtle attack on my cognitive abilities ("If you have trouble conceiving of this type of objection"), my responses throughout this debate have shown that I understand very well what it means to describe some evils as 'probably' gratuitous, which I've now made especially clear above. But as I have shown consistently, asserting that gratuitous evil is probable assumes that gratuitous evil is possible! I've now described in very clear terms how this is so, as indicated also in (4) of my Round 1 and Round 2. It follows self-evidently, and Skeptic has rightly never contested it.

And it is perfectly acceptable to assume that GE is possible. In countless cases it would be totally appropriate—but NOT in an argument whose target is BG! Why does an exception arise at that point? Because, and let the reader understand this clearly, GE and BG are logically contradictory, such that affirming one intrinsically denies the other (by definition of the very terms). A person can raise an argument that seeks to prove the non-existence of BG, but in such arguments he cannot include a premise that intrinsically denies the existence of BG. Doing so inappropriately begs the question.

My opponent claims that his argument attempts "to move from the step that there can be gratuitous evil" to the claim that it probably exists. However, it is absolutely imperative for readers to recognize that such a step does not exist anywhere in his argument. That claim is false. At no point in my opponent's argument do we find a step that shows "there can be gratuitous evil." His argument simply assumes that point, which is how it commits the fallacy. He cannot simply presuppose that GE is possible and skip ahead to its degree of probability. He must back up and actually move through the step he neglected to move through, showing how gratuitous evil is even possible vis-�-vis the biblical God; i.e., he must confront (7) in my analysis. Then, and only then, could he move on to address its degree of probability.

(Note: I have been ignoring his "pyramid" argument because (i) that is not our argument in this debate and (ii) he was only using it to demonstrate how probability arguments work, which I clearly understand already.)

REFERENCES

1. "probable." Random House Dictionary, 2010. [http://dictionary.reference.com...]

2. "possible." Random House Dictionary, 2010. [http://dictionary.reference.com...]

3. "probability." Garth Kemerling, Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names [http://www.philosophypages.com...]

4. See definition (2) of "probable" at Random House Dictionary. [http://dictionary.reference.com...]
TheSkeptic

Con

It seems that we are stuck on one crucial impasse. I am willing to wager that a large part of this disagreement is founded in my opponent's misunderstanding of several things I have said. This, coupled with his constant refusal to address any supposed dis-analogies in my example, serves to demonstrate his criticism to be incredibly weak.

Let it be made clear that I do agree with the obvious premise that for X to probably exist it must be possible to exist - what I meant by the claim that the idea of possibility is not an issue is that I would argue the claim "GE is possible" to be almost trivially true, or at least to the point of no controversy. Of course, my opponent contends this but as my example (and later explanation in this round) demonstrates, he commits quite the simple error in believing the two are logically incompatible in any relevant sense. In fact, this simple stalemate won't necessitate too long of a round on my part if I can successfully defeat it -- therefore, my efforts will be dedicated to doing exactly that.

====================
Disagreement about the relevance of possibility
====================

"And it is perfectly acceptable to assume that GE is possible. In countless cases it would be totally appropriate—but NOT in an argument whose target is BG! Why does an exception arise at that point? Because, and let the reader understand this clearly, GE and BG are logically contradictory, such that affirming one intrinsically denies the other (by definition of the very terms)."
----> Such a criticism would only be valid if I was positing both GE and BG to exist in the same world; however, given the common semantical command of modal[1][2] concepts, we can easily circumvent this (the references are light and simply for introduction - I don't need any heavy literature to prove my point here). A possible world refers to "a semantic device formalizing the notion of what the world might have been like. A statement is necessarily true if and only if it is true in every possible world[3]."

What's the relevance you say? Well in my argument, when I posit GE and BG I posit them as contingent propositions which are propositions that are in some possible worlds and false in others. This is simple to understand; GE can be true in some and false in others, alongside with BG. To posit both these as possible is in no way a contradiction UNLESS they were to both exist in the actual world; such a statement is indeed contradictory. Of course, this is what my arguments works on! I begin with the step that either GE or BG contingently exist, then attempt to show that GE probably exists in the actual world THUS RULING OUT BG.

"(Note: I have been ignoring his "pyramid" argument because (i) that is not our argument in this debate and (ii) he was only using it to demonstrate how probability arguments work, which I clearly understand already.)"
----> My pyramid analogy wasn't simply to show how probability arguments (in fact to fully demonstrate a probability argument I would need to explain inferences, and touch upon the problem of induction) but rather demonstrate that you can have two logically incompatible statements and YET consider them as premises in an argument. This is seen to be justified if we simply view them beforehand in different modal worlds, and then come to the conclusion as to which one contingently exists in our world. If you find this to be irrelevant then do please go into detail where the dis-analogy is, as I have inspected your argument in detail alongside with your wishes.

---References---
1. http://en.wikipedia.org...
2. http://plato.stanford.edu...
3. http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
Debate Round No. 3
Ryft

Pro

INTRODUCTION

I rather appreciate the conviction my opponent displays with regard to his PoE argument, as it makes for an invigorating philosophical exploration, but to think that I have misunderstood anything he has said is an idea that is contradicted by a wealth of evidence. I actually have understood what he has said (for he has expressed himself with refreshing clarity), which can be seen by the fact that I've been using what he has said as the very defeater of his argument; i.e., it defeats itself by being invalid, which I show by analyzing the very reasoning he provides. By saying that my criticism is weak because it's based on a misunderstanding, my opponent implies that my criticism has attacked a kind of straw man. But where is the evidence that I have made straw of his argument? He does not tell us. Moreover, I suggest that the evidence points to the contrary.

THE ANALYSIS

Although my opponent agrees with me that probability (if greater than zero) assumes possibility, it's a backdoor tactic for him to suggest that the simple possibility of gratuitous evil (GE) is a trivial point. There is nothing trivial about it, in this debate. If that is the very thing by which his argument renders itself invalid (by begging the question), then it's not trivial but central. It would be irresponsible for him to ignore dismissively the very thing that cripples his argument—and disappointing, yet obvious, to those who want to see his argument succeed.

In the last round, my opponent said he was going to demonstrate a "simple error" in my criticism, by showing that GE and the biblical God are not mutually exclusive in every single case; i.e., that there can be a relevant case in which they're not. If he is right, then my entire criticism collapses upon itself. Given the importance of such a defeat, he devoted his entire last round to this counter-argument. And he is right to stress its importance that way, because there is no other means by which to defeat my criticism. This is the last assault available. So, does it succeed?

Of course not, and for two significant reasons.

First, even if we grant him this point, his PoE argument is still question-begging! Let me repeat that: his counter-argument fails to salvage his PoE from my criticism. Possible worlds notwithstanding, if any premise of his argument assumes God as non-existent (not actual), then his argument is viciously circular because the non-existence of God is the very thing to be proved. In this debate, my opponent resolved to argue that the probability of gratuitous evil proves the improbability of God—but his argument fails if the probability of gratuitous evil is zero, which it must be if God is actual. In order for gratuitous evil to have any probability greater than zero in the actual world, God cannot have occupancy in the actual world. But that cannot be assumed if it's the very thing to be proved.

Second, the fact that my criticism still stands even if we grant him the point he was making, it must be understood that we actually can't grant him it. The other and perhaps more important reason why his counter-argument fails is because it's constructed out of straw; he compounds his fallacies rather than relieving himself of any, by describing a God different from that of biblical Christianity. He states very clearly that he is positing GE and BG as contingent states of affairs, as true "in some possible worlds and false in others." However, the God at center of this debate is the one revealed in the Scripture as self-existent, unchanging, eternal, pure actuality, etc., the attributes which define necessary being. What this means for my opponent is that if his PoE argument targets some deity other than "God as revealed in Christian scripture canon ... and possessing all the commonly recognized attributes thereof," [1] then he will have failed to defeat my resolution and I win the debate.

His argument professes to prove that BG is probably non-existent (i.e., probably not the case in the actual world). If his argument succeeds, it would mean that God is not necessary being (viz. by failing to occupy this world, he does not occupy all possible worlds), that gratuitous evil is probable and that my resolution is defeated. But as my criticism relentlessly points out, he cannot assume, directly or indirectly, the very thing he intends to prove. Viciously circular reasoning is neither valid nor compelling.

REFERENCES

1. Taken from the definitions laid down in Part 1 [http://www.debate.org...], where I described the God at center of this debate. When I said there are literally no versions of the PoE argument that succeed at proving the non-existence of God, I meant the God of Christianity as revealed in Scripture. Throughout this debate I have been clear about that.
TheSkeptic

Con

As noted countless times before, this entire debate centers on one point: whether the possibility of both GE (gratuitous evil) and BG (Biblical god) are logically incompatible in the relevant sense. I've accused my opponent of misunderstanding my argument while he has professed to have accurately understood it by demonstrating a logical fallacy in my argument. My process won't be any different - I am adamant in my proposal that such an argument is not fallacious for a very simple reason.

====================
Response to opponent's two reasons
====================

"In this debate, my opponent resolved to argue that the probability of gratuitous evil proves the improbability of God—but his argument fails if the probability of gratuitous evil is zero, which it must be if God is actual. In order for gratuitous evil to have any probability greater than zero in the actual world, God cannot have occupancy in the actual world. But that cannot be assumed if it's the very thing to be proved."

----> If GE is merely possible, then there it has no probability greater or less than zero. There is no problem in assuming GE is possible, which you profusely contend, given that it is to be on an even 50/50 scale (thus being merely possible). My burden, then, is to move from this possibility to a probability.

Further, an absurd consequence of your argument is that a wide variety of other arguments are seemingly discarded as well. If I am attempting to show Q doesn't exist in virtue of P's existence, then you would claim that my proposal of P being possible is begging the question. AGAIN, refer to my pyramid analogy which you have yet to respond to. Even if you believe it to evade the problem at hand, at the very least you should address it to demonstrate why this is so. Begging the question as a criticism only works if what I assume is my conclusion - assuming GE is possible (premise) does not negate BG's existence (conclusion), and yet we can see it to be false. You're actually claiming that I can't even assume something possible can deny God's existence.

"The other and perhaps more important reason why his counter-argument fails is because it's constructed out of straw; he compounds his fallacies rather than relieving himself of any, by describing a God different from that of biblical Christianity."

----> You completely misunderstand me when I claim that God and GE's existence are contingent. In other words, they aren't necessary propositions found in every possible world. It's obvious that GE won't exist in every possible world, and it's also obvious that God need not exist in every world...unless you want to argue he is an ultimately necessary being, which would be quite a novel attempt.

====================
Conclusion
====================

Your sole criticism this entire debate contends that positing GE as a possibility denies God's existence - preposterous. If we were to follow your reasoning then many, if not all, forms of arguments fail by the same reasoning. You would damn us to not being able to assume the possibility of a negating proposition in response to any claim. Is it wrong to argue for the nonexistence of fairies without assuming there is a possible world in which fairies don't exist? Is it wrong to argue for the nonexistence of Zeus without assuming there is a possibility that lightening is a natural event?

If not, then why is it wrong to argue for the nonexistence of the Biblical God by first assuming the possibility that gratuitous evil exists?
Debate Round No. 4
Ryft

Pro

========== INTRODUCTION ==========

And so here we are, the final and concluding round in this debate between myself and Skeptic. Taking my cue from certain remarks made in the Comments section, I shall do everything I can to not only state plainly and clearly what the arguments have been but also to identify the principal issues of each. And I shall do this by exploring how the arguments have played out, indicating the logical sequence of each step that was made.

========== THE DEBATE RESOLUTION ==========

Against my debate resolution, Skeptic claimed to have an argument from evil that can and does successfully prove the non-existence of God. Let that be the first thing our readers understand clearly. At no time has this debate been about unbelief being reasonable, for even if it were that would not prove the non-existence of God. So the central question the reader MUST keep in mind is, "Has Skeptic provided an argument that defeats the resolution?" Has he successfully demonstrated the non-existence of God?

========== THE ARGUMENT: STEP 1 ==========

There are two things Skeptic made clear from the start: that the existence of Gratuitous Evil would be the centerpiece of his argument, and that his argument would turn on the issue of probability. In other words, if the existence of Gratuitous Evil is probable, then the existence of God is improbable. (We shall remember that evil is 'gratuitous' when it is purposeless or unwarranted, and that God is defined biblically.) So our debate launched from his premise that Gratuitous Evil probably exists, a premise I hit the brakes on. If Gratuitous Evil is supposed to prove the non-existence of God, and it definitely would, then its probability must be proved.

Skeptic countered this objection by saying that we have no good reason to believe certain evils are warranted or have a purpose, citing Rowe and his examples. But it commits the argument from ignorance, I responded, for him to infer from a lack of evidence for purpose or warrant that certain evils are gratuitous. [1] He disagreed, claiming that his premise qualifies for the presumption of truth; i.e., that it's reasonable to suppose certain evils as gratuitous in the absence of evidence to the contrary. I acknowledged that there are cases where the presumption of truth is a valid move, but it is clearly an INVALID move if doing so would end up begging the question.

========== THE ARGUMENT: STEP 2 ==========

And so that was recognized as the fundamental issue upon which the entire debate hinged: Would that presumption of truth end up begging the very question? If so, then he would be denied that presumption and forced to prove that there is no purpose or warrant for some evils. As I have demonstrated from scholarly sources, a person commits the question-begging fallacy when the truth of the conclusion must be assumed in order for one of the premises to be true. [2] So must the non-existence of God be assumed in order for any evils to be gratuitous?

Clearly. Given the definition of God [3] and the definition of gratuitous evils, the two are necessarily mutually exclusive. Just like one must first assume the non-existence of an Irresistible Force in order to assert that an Immovable Object is possible, so one must first assume the non-existence of God in order to assert that Gratuitous Evil is possible. And Skeptic has rightly conceded this point—as he must, since it is true by definition. It is logically impossible for the two to have occupancy the same world.

========== THE ARGUMENT: STEP 3 ==========

As with his earlier attempt at circumventing the argument from ignorance, so here too he tried to lay claim to an exception, calling upon possible-world semantics to illustrate that he was not positing them as possible within the same domain (thereby averting the logical contradiction, and thus the need to assume the non-existence of God). But this exception, too, fails him because the question-begging fallacy is still present; if a premise of his argument assumes the non-existence of God in the actual world, then his argument is viciously circular because the non-existence of God in the actual world is the very thing to be proved.

The reader simply must keep this in mind. In order for Gratuitous Evil to have a probability greater than zero in the actual world, Skeptic needs to remove the existence of God from the actual world—which no premise can assume if it's the very thing the conclusion is supposed to prove! And possible worlds notwithstanding, it's the actual world being considered; i.e., his argument succeeds in defeating my resolution only if Gratuitous Evil exists in the actual world. (If it doesn't, then he has no argument.)

To clarify the argument for the reader in light of his possible-world semantics:

(1') If an omnipotent, omniscient, and all-good God exists (in the actual world), then gratuitous evil probably does not exist (in the actual world).

(2') Gratuitous evil probably exists (in the actual world).

(3') Therefore, an omnipotent, omniscient, and all-good God probably does not exist (in the actual world).

Remember, the debate resolution is that there are literally no versions of the Problem of Evil argument that succeed at proving the non-existence of God—and "non-existence" is a term with reference to the actual world; i.e., to say that God is possible but not actual is to say that he is non-existent (which his argument had to prove, not assume). Skeptic can invoke possible-world semantics if he likes, but it's the actual world his argument was supposed to target.

And his argument had to address God as defined in the Bible, for that's what this debate was about. In other words, for him to posit that God need not exist in every possible world is for him to build a straw man, since the God of the Bible is necessary being. Fairies and Zeus and pyramid-building aliens are not posited as necessary beings, so there is nothing inappropriate about assuming there is a possible world in which they don't exist. And God as necessary being is NOT something I have to argue; the God of the Bible is the very entity in question and has been all along (recall the agreed definitions).

========== CONCLUSION ==========

Since applying the presumption of truth to (2) would end up begging the very question, he is denied that presumption and must therefore prove that Gratuitous Evil (purposeless or unwarranted) has a probability greater than zero in the actual world. And since this cannot be done with any valid argument (only invalid ones, like the argument from ignorance variety), my debate resolution stands undefeated.

========== REFERENCES ==========

1. Gary N. Curtis, Ph.D. "Appeal to Ignorance." FallacyFiles.org. (http://www.fallacyfiles.org...); "Argument from ignorance." Wikipedia. (http://en.wikipedia.org...).

2. Douglas N. Walton, Ph.D. "The Essential Ingredients of the Fallacy of Begging the Question." Fallacies: Classical and Contemporary Readings. H. Hanson and R. Pinto, eds. Penn State Press, 1995. pp. 229-239; Robert Carroll, Ph.D. "Begging the question." The Skeptic's Dictionary. (http://www.skepdic.com...); Gary N. Curtis, Ph.D. "Begging the Question." FallacyFiles.org. (http://www.fallacyfiles.org...).

3. God is defined in this debate and Skeptic's argument as omnipotent, omniscient, and infinitely good.
TheSkeptic

Con

I thank Ryft for this debate - despite never getting into the meat of my argument that I would usually debate about, it's novel to see a new criticism presented. In his last round he has explained in excruciating helpful detail about the progression of our debate. It was dead on on with everything...except one point.

Needless to say, I'll leave no extended commentary on every section before "Argument:Section 3". He has accurately depicted what my intended argument was, it's effect, and how he replies to it. Our main point of disagreement that has been running along for the past couple rounds is at the point of whether my argument begs the question. At this point, it would seem that I'll be overkilling this point about possible worlds, and what not. I noticed, however, that there is something helpful to demonstrate further the nature of my argument.

====================
Begging the question?
====================

My opponent claims the following:

"But this exception, too, fails him because the question-begging fallacy is still present; if a premise of his argument assumes the non-existence of God in the actual world, then his argument is viciously circular because the non-existence of God in the actual world is the very thing to be proved."

This is an inaccurate depiction of my argument. When we posit the possibility of GE, we do so IN A POSSIBLE WORLD, NOT THE ACTUAL WORLD. To say that "X is possible in the actual world" is redundant, since possible means "exists in at least one world". This world can be the actual world or it isn't, figuring out if it IS the actual world is the job of the probability aspect of my argument (i.e. showing GE's existence to be probable). So when I claim both GE and BG are possible, this translates to me claiming both GE and BG exist in at least one world - ones that are obviously distinct.

Further, you give a misrepresentation of how we would conceive of possibility. To assume something is possible is not to belive it has a probability greater than zero, rather it's to assume such a scale of probability EVEN EXISTS. If we were to actually draw a scale of how probable something is to exist, then:

The negatives would demonstrate less likelihood.
The positives would demonstrate more likelihood.
The zero would demonstrate a purely agnostic position; aka neither more or less.

====================
God is an absolutely necessary being?
====================

On numerous occasions my opponent has claimed that God is a being that is necessary in every possible world, and he claims that such a thing is provided by his definition.

The problem is that if that this is pretty much THE ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD. He is claiming that God is an absolutely necessary being given his definition -- obviously I contend this but we aren't focusing on the ontological argument, are we? Further, the very idea of an absolutely necessary being is challenged by Kant. He remarks that while it is necessary that triangles have three side, it is a conditioned necessity that triangles exist. In other words, "a triangle has three angles" yields only the conditioned necessity that, if a triangle exists, then necessarily three angles exist. So to claim anything is an absolutely necessary being is quite suspect.

Ironically, my opponent commits circular reasoning right here.

====================
Conclusion
====================

There isn't much left to say. Simply put, my opponent's argument crumbles on two very weak points. He makes a simple error about possible world semantics, and inadvertently declares the truth of the ontological argument without even arguing for it.
Debate Round No. 5
98 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by SukiWater 7 years ago
SukiWater
This debate was very, very confusing.
Posted by popculturepooka 7 years ago
popculturepooka
."..has not repented for original sin so won't go to heaven (to my knowledge),"

...no. Culpability is generally factored in.
Posted by TheSkeptic 7 years ago
TheSkeptic
My point is this Ryft:

If P is the theory that supports the existence of fairies, and Q is the theory that opposes the existence of fairies (both theories are on probabilistic grounds), then using your reasoning we can't demonstrate any proposed entity to have an unlikelihood to exist, which is quite absurd. I will have to posit the possibility of P being true and Q being true otherwise there is no point in weighing the evidence.

I think this is what you're confused on: if we were to wonder whether triangles can have 4 sides, then the project is defeated before even lifting off. This is because a triangle by definition, thus logically necessity, can't have 3 sides. However, when we ask whether GE or BG exists, we apply this question to the ACTUAL WORLD, not another concept (such as a triangle).

It's like coming across a puzzle piece which can only fit one other piece - either GE or BG. The job is then to figure which one fits
Posted by ToastOfDestiny 7 years ago
ToastOfDestiny
@ Ryft

Which is what I was getting at with (4) - there may be (and nearly definitely is) an explanation for at least one of these evils. Given their sheer multitude, it is nearly impossible that all of them are unexplained. But by the same token, given their sheer multitude, it is nearly impossible that all of them are unexplained.

If I draw out a random number sequence of digits from 1-9, and this sequence goes on infinitely, I will eventually have every finite configuration of digits possible. By the same note, with a large number of evils, I will eventually have one Gratuitous Evil.

Further, I agree that evils such as babies being born into lives of suffering and dying without pleasure constitute gratuitous evils. The baby gains absolutely no good from such a life, has not repented for original sin so won't go to heaven (to my knowledge), and its ordeal causes emotional pain to its parents/guardians/doctors, if any are applicable.
Posted by TheSkeptic 7 years ago
TheSkeptic
Um, a small flying being with a striking similarity to modern day humans? Hell, let's just add that they are physically composed of most of the same things as humans except for a few things (such as wings).

In other words, there's nothing logically problematic about their existence - it's a contingent matter of fact. Therefore, we can't really prove their nonexistence but rather demonstrate the unlikeliness of their existence. How would you do so?
Posted by Ryft 7 years ago
Ryft
Skeptic - I did answer your question: "depends on their ontology." Without any description of their ontology, no demonstration of their likelihood can be mounted. There is no content to interact with.

(Heading off to bed. Back tomorrow evening.)
Posted by TheSkeptic 7 years ago
TheSkeptic
So you've showed me how they can be shown to likely exist, shown to certainly not exist, and shown how their existence can be of an agnostic virtue. True, but you have yet to answer my question - how would you demonstrate their existence to be unlikely?
Posted by Ryft 7 years ago
Ryft
ToastOfDestiny - Moreover, his argument was modus tollens ...

(1) If BG, then not GE.
(2) GE.
(3) Therefore, not BG.

... but (2) begs the question since GE and BG are mutually exclusive entities. If they were not mutually exclusive, then (2) could be granted the presumption of truth. But since they are, (2) must be proved true, not presumed true.
Posted by Ryft 7 years ago
Ryft
Skeptic - Whether or not the existence of fairies can be disproven depends on their ontology. If they are said to exist with this nature in that location, simple observation would suffice. If they possess contradicting properties, logic wipes them out. Beyond this, their existence cannot be disproven and one takes an agnostic position on the matter. (This is a very fast and loose answer, obviously.)

"The truth-tracking method of effective philosophic inquiry would lead us to believe a proposition when the evidence available to us justifies our believing it, to reject a proposition when our evidence disconfirms it, and to suspend judgment about it when our evidence neither confirms nor disconfirms it." (David Lund, 'Making Sense of It All: An Introduction to Philosophical Inquiry').
Posted by Ryft 7 years ago
Ryft
ToastOfDestiny - The problem in your expansion lies at (3). That certain evils have no explained warrant or purpose was the very thing needing to be proved. One can prove that no explanation is KNOWN, but that does not prove there ARE NO explanations; epistemological arguments do not prove ontological conclusions (category error).
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Reasons for voting decision: "Since applying the presumption of truth to (2) would end up begging the very question, he is denied that presumption and must therefore prove that Gratuitous Evil (purposeless or unwarranted) has a probability greater than zero in the actual world. And since this cannot be done with any valid argument (only invalid ones, like the argument from ignorance variety), my debate resolution stands undefeated."- well preseted
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