The Instigator
Freeman
Pro (for)
Winning
25 Points
The Contender
Chrysippus
Con (against)
Losing
10 Points

The evidential argument from evil is valid.

Do you like this debate?NoYes+4
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Vote Here
Pro Tied Con
Who did you agree with before the debate?
Who did you agree with after the debate?
Who had better conduct?
Who had better spelling and grammar?
Who made more convincing arguments?
Who used the most reliable sources?
Reasons for your voting decision
1,000 Characters Remaining
The voting period for this debate does not end.
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/13/2010 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,642 times Debate No: 13639
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (13)
Votes (8)

 

Freeman

Pro

The presence of gratuitous natural evils makes the existence of a theistic God (i.e., an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God) highly improbable. For starters, it seems pertinent to point out that this argument should not be confused with the logical version of the argument from evil. Although the existence of vast amounts of natural evil may be logically compatible with God's existence, they are, nonetheless, capable of lowering the probability of God's existence. This assertion is supported by the proposition that the suffering resultant from animal predation and natural selection is much better explained by naturalism than theism. In other words, the indifference of the natural world is much better reconciled with heinous evils than any theistic hypothesis could ever hope to be. To borrow a phrase from the philosophy of science, naturalism can be viewed in this context as the proper "inference to the best explanation". [1] When this argument is properly understood, it helps illustrate the fundamental superiority of the purely scientific worldview to its counterfeits.

=============> The Case Against God: Naturalism, Evil, And The Disconfirmation of Theism <============

C1: Naturalism is far more plausible than theism.

The predictive power of metaphysical naturalism to account for natural evils makes atheism objectively more likely to be true than theism. Consider, for instance, the clumsiness with which evolution has assembled all living organisms. The development of life on Earth was engineered by natural selection – a mechanism that has left 99.9 percent of all of the species that have ever lived on Earth extinct. [2] Moreover, biological evolution is also a process that does not (and cannot) distinguish between the survival of conscious organisms and mindless viruses. As such, viruses and numerous deadly pathogens have often run roughshod over the desires and goals of sentient creatures. In the 20th century alone, smallpox killed over 500,000,000 people, many of them children. [3] Likewise, the struggle for survival in nature guarantees that most animals (human and nonhuman) will suffer horribly as they get outcompeted for resources and die from lack of sustenance or from being eaten. Aut vincere aut mori (Either conquer or die) - such is the dictum guiding nature's mindless directive to life. In a very real way, evolution is advanced by the grinding of teeth upon bone. As a result of this, nature has guaranteed that many animals, including humans, will never be able to flourish and often die in great agony.

Given the existence of natural evils and their dependence on physical laws, it becomes possible to assemble a logical syllogism to demonstrate the truth of the key points outlined so far. The American philosopher Paul Draper, who teaches at Purdue University, has made such an argument. Unlike many past arguments from evil, his particular argument relies on an inductive move to arrive at the conclusion. And he bases his argument on the following evidence statement:

E: For a variety of biological and ecological reasons, organisms compete for survival, with some having an advantage in the struggle for survival over others; as a result, many organisms, including many sentient beings, never flourish because they die before maturity, many others barely survive but languish for most or all of their lives, and those that reach maturity and flourish for much of their lives usually languish in old age; in the case of human beings and some nonhuman animals as well, languishing often involves intense or prolonged suffering.

P1: We know that E is true.
P2: Naturalism has much more predictive power with respect to E than theism does (i.e., E's truth is antecedently many times more probable given naturalism than it is given theism).
P3: Naturalism is more plausible than theism (i.e., naturalism is more probable than theism independent of all evidence).
C: So, other evidence held equal, theism is very probably false. (Draper [4])

Of course, some theists will still be skeptical of the proposition that naturalism really does have more predictive power in accounting for natural evils than theism does. However, as Draper has indicated, there are good reasons to be surprised by natural evils like smallpox epidemics given the truth of theism that are not present under a naturalistic hypothesis. Moreover, there are very good reasons to expect that natural evils will occur if naturalism is true, which are not present given theism. To set the groundwork, almost all sentient creatures can flourish, which is a necessary component of achieving the good life; and if a theistic God existed, he, in his moral perfection, could not possibly care more about the well-being of his creation in order to let them flourish. And given God's complete power and knowledge, he could also not possibly be in a better position to ensure that sentient beings achieve the good life. As such, vast amounts of natural evil that prevent many animals from flourishing is implausible under theism. Conversely, natural evils are very much to be expected under naturalism. Evolution, which is guided by natural selection, predicts that many animals will languish and die in the struggle for survival. Without supernatural intervention, gratuitous amounts of suffering are guaranteed, making natural evils many times more probable under naturalism than theism.

Furthermore, the second premise of Draper's argument is very well supported for another reason. Naturalism is a simpler hypothesis than theism by its very nature, and it also has a comparable scope to theism (and likely a much smaller scope than theism). Simply put, theism's a priori commitment to the necessary existence of highly specific supernatural entities like God makes it more likely to be erroneous than naturalism, which posits no such entities. And for the purpose of this argument, it is of primary importance to indicate that simple explanations are inherently more plausible than complex explanations. The Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne puts it this way, "[All] other things being equal—the simplest hypothesis proposed as an explanation of phenomena is more likely to be the true one than is any other available hypothesis, ... its predictions are more likely to be true than those of any other available hypothesis, and ... it is an ultimate a priori epistemic principle that simplicity is evidence for truth." [5] Thus, all things being equal, naturalism is a much better and more parsimonious hypothesis than theism.

::Conclusion::

In summary, the paucity of evidence for theism and the strong evidential grounds for atheism make the God hypothesis completely untenable. As was demonstrated earlier, naturalism has more predictive power than theism in accounting for evils that can be found in nature. Consequently, the occurrence of natural evil makes it reasonable to seriously doubt the existence of God. There are simply so many natural evils in the world that it is only reasonable to recognize that naturalism is a far more parsimonious and logical explanation than theism in accounting for them. Therefore, on balance, the weight of the evidence leans heavily in favor of the proposition that God doesn't exist.

Sources:
1. W.H. Newton-Smith (ed) A Companion to the Philosophy of Science (Blackwell, 2000) pp. 184-193. http://tinyurl.com...

2. Newman, Mark, and Bruce Roberts. "Mass Extinction." Cornell Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics. 20 May 1994. Web. 12 Nov. 2010. http://tinyurl.com...

3. Harris, Sam. Letter to a Christian Nation. New York: Knopf (2006) p. 54

4. Draper, Paul. "Great Debate Footer." Secular Web: Atheism, Agnosticism, Naturalism, Skepticism and Secularism. 2007. Web. 12 Nov. 2010. http://tinyurl.com...

5. Swinburne, R. Simplicity as Evidence for Truth, Milwaukee: Marquette University Press. (1997) p. 1
Chrysippus

Con

First off, my thanks to Freeman for crafting this debate; I've been looking forward to debating this with him since shortly after joining this website, and his opening round certainly does not disappoint. I am quite pleased to have him as my opponent.

I am defending a "theistic God"; no specific religion was mentioned, and the point is not to defend one religion or another, but essentially to defend the concept of theism against that of atheism in light of the existence of evil. Keeping this in mind, I plan on using arguments from many branches of theism.

Again, because part of the whole point of theism is the concept of a "Creator," I will be using mainly arguments that assume a God created the universe. I have no intention of making this into an evolution vs. creation debate - much too far outside our scope; as atheism demands evolution, so most forms of theism demand special creation. I will try to make the point of view my arguments come from clear.

-----------

Does suffering from natural causes make the existence of a theistic God improbable?

My opponent and I agree on two points:

P1. E is true. Living things suffer and die. Sentient or unconscious; young or old; virus or man; every living thing dies, quite often accompanied by suffering.

And:

All other things being equal, the simplest explanation is the most plausible.

From the existence of suffering, then, we are left to decide the plausibility of a God who knows that suffering exists, is capable of stopping the suffering, and is morally perfect.

---Rebuttal of P2---

"... if a theistic God existed, he, in his moral perfection, could not possibly care more about the well-being of his creation in order to let them flourish. And given God's complete power and knowledge, he could also not possibly be in a better position to ensure that sentient beings achieve the good life. As such, vast amounts of natural evil that prevent many animals from flourishing is implausible under theism."

It's not that simple, though. E does not contradict the claims of theism, unless my opponent has invented a "generic theism" for me to defend; in fact, "theism" encompasses many, many different explanations for E:

1. God is "morally perfect," but is also the definition of "moral perfection:"
-to be moral, one must act like God; God acts like God is supposed to act; God can do no wrong; etc.

In this case, a God who is demonstrably indifferent to animal and human suffering can be morally perfect, as He defines moral perfection by His actions. Not a very satisfying solution, as it IS self-referential, but if it's His house, it's His rules.

-

2. God is morally perfect, and He does care about suffering, but there exists an equal and opposite force of evil that prevents Him from alleviating all suffering.

Welcome to Dualism. There are two forces, omnipotent, omniscient, and polar opposites morally. We are assured that the good God will do His utmost to prevent suffering, but this comfort is balanced by the fact the evil Devil is doing HIS best to create as much suffering as possible. Not only is suffering explained by this method, it is guaranteed virtually forever.

This is a variant of Theism, notably seen in Zoroastrianism and certain forms of Gnostic Christianity; it is not used by mainstream Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.

-

3. Physical things are naturally evil; God is morally perfect and cannot by his very nature deal with them without becoming impure. He entrusts the running of the world to a far-removed set of overseers to alleviate the suffering without being directly involved.

This is the basic premise of Gnostic Christianity, boiled down almost past recognition. Far too long of an explanation to fit into these three rounds, but I will not be defending this position; I'm just referencing it here as one of the many alternate ways different theistic beliefs answer this question.

-

4. Suffering exists, God cares and would like to prevent it, but He has sufficient reason to allow it to continue to exist.

-Or, alternately: Suffering exists, but it's our fault. God will use the suffering we caused to further His ends, and at the right time will end all natural suffering.

The difference between these two is that the first argues that this is the best of all possible worlds; and the other that this is the best possible world, given our choices. Depending on the theologian, one or the other is assumed by traditional forms of Christianity and Judaism.

--

Here I have provided five different theistic frameworks in which E is prevalent without being contradictory in any way to an omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect God. Under any one of these five theistic cosmologies, E is to be expected. Naturalism has no better capability in predicting the existence of E than theism.

I confidently expect the 4th and 5th to be challenged by my opponent; "best of all possible worlds" is quite a statement, after all. These were the framework on which I originally planned to make my defense in this debate; more relevant lines of reasoning appeared after a careful reading of his R1, however. If he chooses to object to them, I can defend these two in more detail next round. It should not be necessary though; there are five different forms of theism here; and any one of them allows for the same amount of E as naturalism.

---Rebuttal of P3---

"Naturalism is more plausible than theism (i.e., naturalism is more probable than theism independent of all evidence)."
and
"Naturalism is a simpler hypothesis than theism by its very nature"

My opponent does not seem to think this requires any explanation. He restates his assertion without any real elaboration ("Simply put, theism's a priori commitment..." etc.), but all we are left with is that he considers naturalism a simpler explanation than theism.

This is odd, as one of the selling points of the theistic religions is their simplicity. In order to explain the order of the universe, the existence of life, the complexity of everything we observe, etc ad infinitum, the theist needs to make only one assumption: God.

Contrast this to a partial list of the assumptions needed by naturalism to explain our suffering (and forgive me for the caricatures; the character limit impends):

-An unbelievably massive timeless singularity spontaneously exploded.

-The energy released formed atomic particles that spontaneously coalesced into stable elements. These by-products of chance consistently obey universal rules of behaviour.

-These elemental particles, while flying away from each other at incredible speeds, managed to clump together into increasingly larger groups, eventually forming stars, which grouped into galaxies, which grouped into superclusters.

-Life spontaneously began out of non-living matter. All the information contained in the first DNA strands came about because a couple amino acids got lucky.

-That life, through a fantastic series of freak mutations, continues to add information to that DNA until finally we arise, the Frankensteins of the animal kingdom.

-Somehow, somewhere along the line, those random conglomerations of proteins, water, and carbon developed a quality we call consciousness. This allows us to suffer.

As I said, the purpose of this debate is not over HOW things got here. Evolution may very well be true; that's not the point. The point is that there are many assumptions that evolutionists must make in order to have their theory match reality.

In that regard, then, P3 is incorrect. The simpler explanation is that some supernatural being is the cause, rather than a complex series of random events.

--Conclusion--

As I have shown, theism is not "highly improbable"; as theism explains the presence of E equally well as naturalism, and theism is the simpler explanation, theism is actually the -more- probable explanation.

I thank my opponent, and
Debate Round No. 1
Freeman

Pro

Allow me to begin by thanking my opponent for his time and thorough argument. It would seem as though there are still many things we disagree on. While attempting to discredit the second premise of my argument, he has raised five separate assertions which aim to demonstrate theism's ability to predict natural evils. I have done my best to understand these five arguments, and I will respond to them in the order that they were presented in the previous round. After that, I will tackle his claim that theism is a simpler hypothesis than naturalism. Alright, let's see if we can make some more headway.

C1: Naturalism is far more plausible than theism.

1: God is "morally perfect," but is also the definition of "moral perfection."

My opponent's assertion that whatever God does is moral is tautological. Not only this, it is entirely vapid and devoid of any real content. Perhaps I can illustrate this point with an imaginary dialogue between myself and Chrysippus in which he attempts to explain what moral perfection is to me.

Freeman: What is moral perfection?
Chrysippus: God is morally perfect.
Freeman: Ok, what does it mean to be morally perfect?
Chrysippus: To be morally perfect is to have the moral characteristics of God.
Freeman: Why does being morally perfect mean having the moral characteristics of God?
Chrysippus: Because God is morally perfect by definition.
Freeman: I think you might be arguing in a circle.
Chrysippus: Perhaps.

Under my opponent's circular concept of "moral perfection," God is entirely free to torture all conscious beings to the point of madness for no particular reason and still be "morally perfect" by definition. As such, this is not a rational way to deal with the argument from evil because the definition my opponent provides for moral perfection is tautological and self-serving.

2: There exists an equal and opposite force of evil that prevents God from alleviating all suffering.

The claim that there is an "equal and opposite force" to God cannot possibly be valid. God, by definition, has no equals; he is all powerful. In other words, the so called "God" that my opponent has described in this section is made of nothing but straw. It is not the God of theism (i.e., an omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent God). So, even if my opponent's theological considerations on this point were completely valid, they would do absolutely nothing to undermine the truth of the second premise of my argument because the "God" he is defending isn't actually a theistic God.

3: God is morally perfect and cannot deal with physical things without becoming impure.

To speak about God becoming "impure" by his contact with physical things is to speak in a manner that is not logically coherent. An omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent God cannot become corrupted or made "impure" by anything. It's not logically possible for a perfect and all powerful God to become "impure" anymore than it is logically possible for a circle to keep its shape and become a square. The properties at hand exclude each other by their very nature. Consequently, this argument defeats itself by being logically incoherent.

4: God has a morally sufficient reason to allow natural evils.

It is not enough to claim that God might have morally sufficient reasons for allowing natural evils without specifying what those reasons are. Anything that doesn't defy logic is logically possible. Elvis could possibly be alive at this very moment swiveling his hips on the dark side of the moon. However, we have no good reasons to think that this is true. And we do have good reasons to suppose that it isn't true. As it so happens, his death in 1977 has proven to be a rather daunting obstacle for such a feat. Because I am using an evidential argument from evil, which involves the use of induction from known information, my opponent must provide some plausible reason why God would allow such a gratuitous amount of natural evils. Up until this point, he has not attempted to give any sort of solution to this issue.

Furthermore, the claim that we live in the best of all possible worlds is truly amazing, given the realities of the world around us. Consider, for example, some of the ecological factors that drive evolution and that cause humans and animals to suffer. Tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, flash floods, viral outbreaks, wild fires, famines and fatal diseases regularly contribute to the deaths of tens of millions of people each year. [1] For the moment, it is sufficient to realize that all of this suffering is much more likely to occur given naturalism than it is given theism because there are no good reasons to suppose that God would allow so much suffering; and as I've shown before, there are good reasons not to expect this under theism. Therefore, theism is very likely to be false with respect to the current state of the evidence.

5: Suffering exists, but it's our fault.

Even if I were to grant the rather dubious theological assertions my opponent is assuming, his claim that humans have caused the existence of suffering would still be without merit. Humans could not possibly have caused suffering and natural evils to enter into the world because suffering and natural evils predate the existence of the human species. [2] The only possible way for my opponent to escape this particular criticism would be to argue for the truth of young Earth creationism. Needless to say, I would find that particular maneuver to be quite amusing.

6: (P3) Naturalism is more probable than theism independent of all evidence.

My opponent claims that theism is a simpler hypothesis than naturalism because it makes less assumptions. However, this claim is completely false. Theism posits two different realms of causation, the natural and the supernatural realm. Naturalism only posits one realm of causation, the natural realm. Paul Draper summarizes this point quite well when he writes that, "On the one hand, theism postulates that one sort of entity--a perfect God--is the ultimate cause of other entities of a fundamentally different sort--natural entities. Naturalism, on the other hand, attributes one kind of ontological uniformity to the world: all entities that affect the natural world are themselves natural. Since naturalism attributes greater uniformity to reality than theism, it is simpler than theism in the crucial sense of the word." [3] Further, everything in science works under a purely naturalistic framework. If my opponent wants to misrepresent or deny well established mainstream science in physics or biology, he has a burden to demonstrate the truth of his claims.

::Conclusion::

Though I do admire my opponent's valiant attempt to uphold his side of the argument, I cannot help but conclude that the reasons he has given for rejecting the argument from evil are not satisfactory. Four of the five arguments he has used to try and discredit the second premise of my argument are logically incoherent. Similarly, his other assertion that God has sufficient reasons for allowing natural evils has not yet been properly supported. Moreover, his attempt to show that theism is a simpler hypothesis than naturalism is clearly reliant on a fundamentally distorted understanding of science and ontological simplicity. It goes without saying, this is a very precarious basis from which to assert that the evidential argument from evil is invalid.

Sources:
1. Tyson, Neil DeGrasse. "Stupid Design." YouTube. 1 Dec. 2006. Web. 16 Nov. 2010.

2. Gibbons, A. "Human Evolution (2 of 2)." Evolution 101. University of California Berkeley, 2003. Web. 16 Nov. 2010. http://tinyurl.com...

3. Draper, Paul. "Natural Selection and the Problem of Evil." Secular Web: Atheism, Agnosticism, Naturalism, Skepticism and Secularism. 2007. Web. 15 Nov. 2010. http://tinyurl.com...
Chrysippus

Con

Theism is not a naturalistic explanation for the universe; and my opponent cannot treat it as if it were. The "fundamentally distorted understanding of science" is in fact exactly what we must expect from the totally different set of starting premises supplied by theism, contrasted to those supplied by atheism.

In an atheistic universe, the idea of supernatural creation is untenable. It goes against everything, against the most basic principles of science. How could it not? It requires a God, which contradicts atheism; everything else is peripheral.

In a theistic universe, the most basic principles of science are the rules God set. An omnipotent God could undoubtedly create the universe in whatever way He wanted; and the inability of physical science to deduce a supernatural God can be attributed to the limitations of science, bound by experiment, natural observation, and man's ability to comprehend.

I have no burden to contradict any science my opponent adds to this debate supposedly as evidence. This debate is not about proving one side or the other, it is about probabilities; is one side more probable than the other based solely on its ability to predict the known amount of E? As such, one side holds to evolution, and the other to creation; each system requires its own paradigm to work properly, and I insist on that being respected in this debate.

No matter how ludicrous my opponent may find the claims of YEC, he cannot dismiss them as false for the purposes of this debate. We are not here to discuss the relative merits of the two systems, nor even the merits of atheism vs. theism. We are here to debate the resolution: "The presence of E makes the existence of a theistic God highly improbable."

I gave five systems of theistic thought, none of them original with me. Each one explains the abundance of E as consistent with the nature of God, and each one explains the presence of E at least as well as the naturalistic view. On that count, then, the two are equally probable.

My opponent also introduced the idea that naturalism is more plausible than theism. His statement:
"Theism posits two different realms of causation, the natural and the supernatural realm. Naturalism only posits one realm of causation, the natural realm."

Were that correct, my opponent might be able to claim a slight advantage in plausibility. It would not fulfill the resolution, for which he must show theism as highly improbable based on these two criteria.

However, theism does not demand two separate realms of causation. The natural ream is seen as a subset of the supernatural, not a separate entity. God is the upholder of the universe, keeping things going, providing the stability; the "natural laws" we observe is His power active in the universe making all things run consistently. All power derives from Him, the Uncaused Cause and First Mover.

Naturalism, without a First Mover, must either assume an infinite past chain of natural causation, or a timeless uncaused singularity. Neither one is consistent with the currently observed natural laws of causality.

On this count, then, both atheism and theism are equal. Neither one can explain how there can be an uncaused cause; both assert that there must be. Both claim only one realm of causation. Both have reasons to expect E to exist in the quantities we see.

And my opponent can go on saying that "there is no good reason for God to allow" E to exist; I have shown five ways in which God could exist without getting rid of E. My opponent need not be satisfied with God's supposed reasons of allowing it; the point is that God and E are not mutually contradictory, and the presence of E does not shed doubt on the existence of God.

If my opponent would like to address himself to showing that theism is actually inconsistent with the existence of E, rather than calling them "logically incoherent," he will have my attention.

Though it is not strictly necessary, as I'm not trying to prove these views, I will briefly defend each of the theistic positions in order:

1.
I pointed out the circular nature of this argument. Pro is absolutely correct, this definition allows God to do anything He wants. He caused all the suffering that there ever has been, and He was perfectly within His rights to do so. His creation He made for His own purposes; if your purpose is to die painfully, you don't even have the right to complain under this argument.

It is philosophically unsatisfying, but it does allow E; much in the same way cynicism is unsatisfying, but does predict human behavior accurately. Think of this approach as jaded, cynical theism.

2.
Dualism is a form of theism; my opponent is wrong. It does satisfy the description given, which does not limit God to being the only omnipotent being extant. Dualism has two, equally omnipotent. Sort of a cosmic version of mutually assured destruction.

3.
My opponent offers his opinion. It has been noted. However, he offers no objection with substance to this view. He does not have the authority to say that God can create and sustain a corrupt world while remaining incorrupt; in fact, his argument against 1 suggests he feels otherwise. He cannot have it both ways.

4.
I do not have to specify what those reasons are; the view claims that HE has them, and that is enough. Again, for the umpteenth time, there is no reason for either of us to prove our view. My burden is to show that theism is not incompatible with E; that E does not significantly reduce the probability of God's existence. If God has reasons to allow E that are not incompatible with his perfection, then E can and will exist without in any way contradicting God's existence.

I could speculate about the substance of those reasons, but I see no point, at least in this debate. The difference between my temporal and His eternal viewpoints should be sufficient to make whatever reasons He may have completely incomprehensible to me. And the resolution will not be affected by my imagination in this area.

At least from God's viewpoint, though, we are fairly safe in assuming that this is the best of all possible worlds.

Our choices may have limited that selection for Him, though, meaning that the perfection He created was ruined; and suffering introduced by our actions. He did not create suffering and death, but He allows it as the consequences of our collective choices for a time.

Which gives us option 5.

In rich irony, my opponent objects to this version first as "theologically dubious" and then as inconsistent with evolution. Yes, it IS inconsistent with evolution. This is the traditional viewpoint of the three main theistic religions, after all; all of which posit a supernatural creation.

My opponent is to be excused if he chooses to consider this approach "theologically dubious." Few theologians are that bold; when four thousand years of Jewish tradition and two thousand years of Christian apologetics demand this interpretation, those that teach otherwise risk being labeled heretics. There are departures from this teaching, especially in recent times as modern Christianity attempts to fit itself into an atheistic paradigm (theistic evolution doesn't hold this view, for instance); but this is still the traditional view.

In short, my opponent has no reason to doubt this views ability to predict E.

---- Conclusion-----

E exists. Both atheism and the various views of theism predict the levels of E we observe equally well; and there is no significant difference in complexity between the two worldviews. On neither count, then, can the existence of a theistic God be described as "highly improbable."

The resolution is negated.

I have enjoyed this debate, and I look forward to my opponent's last round.
Debate Round No. 2
Freeman

Pro

I would like to open this round by thanking my interlocutor for his philosophical tenacity. Believe me, it is appreciated. As this debate draws to a close, it's a good time to reflect on the important issues being raised so far. In this round, I'm going to defend each of my accusations that my opponent's five arguments lack merit. It seems clear that none of them are successful in showing that theism predicts natural evils well. From here, I will continue to argue that naturalism is a simpler hypothesis than theism. With that out of the way, let's get right to the basis of the arguments.

C1: Naturalism is far more plausible than theism.

1: God is "morally perfect," but is also the definition of "moral perfection."

In his last round, my opponent appears to remain unfazed by his knowledge that his conception of moral perfection is circular. I find this to be very surprising for at least one reason. Valid arguments must have true premises that are also made sensible by coherent definitions. Consider the following argument. Barack Obama is morally perfect. What does it mean to be "morally perfect?" To be morally perfect is to have the moral characteristics of Barack Obama. These definitions could apply to anyone and anything because they are circular. Consequently, my opponent's argument is illogical because the definition of moral perfection he is using is literally meaningless.

2: There exists an equal and opposite force of evil that prevents God from alleviating all suffering.

Once again, it is not possible for there to be two opposing forces that are both omnipotent. I've tried to demonstrate this earlier, but allow me to make this point once more. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy puts it this way, "[C]ould there be two coexistent omnipotent agents, Dick and Jane? If this were even possible, then possibly, at some time, t, Dick, while retaining his omnipotence, attempts to move a feather, and at t, Jane, while retaining her omnipotence, attempts to keep that feather motionless. Intuitively, in this case, neither Dick nor Jane would affect the feather as to its motion or rest. Thus, in this case, at t, Dick would be powerless to move the feather, and at t, Jane would be powerless to keep the feather motionless! But it is absurd to suppose that an omnipotent agent could lack the power to move a feather or the power to keep it motionless. Therefore, neither Dick nor Jane is omnipotent." [1] In short, the notion that there can be two opposing omnipotent beings is logically impossible.

3: God is morally perfect and cannot deal with physical things without becoming impure.

The central claims that I've made in my previous round on this issue are not a matter of my opinion, they are a matter of logic. The "God" my opponent has described in his first round that cannot touch physical things without becoming impure could not be omnipotent. An omnipotent God could interact with anything without becoming impure. To assert otherwise is to assert the illogical proposition that God's own creation has power over him and his nature. God cannot be all powerful and yet be at the mercy of the very things he creates. Accordingly, a corruptable "God" that can be made impure by interacting with material things cannot be maximally powerful.

4: God has a morally sufficient reason to allow natural evils.

It would appear as though my opponent has missed the point of my original argument. At best, he has merely reiterated what I have already conceded in my opening round: namely, that E does not logically make the existence of God impossible. But we aren't debating a version of the logical argument from evil, are we? God could have sufficient reasons for allowing smallpox to kill 500,000,000 people in the 20th century. The issue here is whether or not it is likely that God has sufficient reasons to allow these sorts of evils. If my opponent wants to show why God would likely allow E, he must give some sort of reason to justify this.

Moreover, my opponent's claim that God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing natural evils has still not been supported. He has neither shown that this view is true or that it is likely to be true. He does, however, make the following claim, "[F]rom God's viewpoint, though, we are fairly safe in assuming that this is the best of all possible worlds." Honestly, what does my opponent mean by this? By itself, this appears to be a complete non sequitur. The claim that God could have incomprehensible reasons for allowing evil is irrelevant. Inductive arguments are based on known information. This is why Draper's argument is framed with the clause "other evidence held equal". Naturalism, on one hand, explains the occurrence of E superbly. A theistic hypothesis, however, raises numerous questions and difficulties in explaining E, which are not present under naturalism. For these reasons, naturalism is still far more plausible than theism when all moral considerations are held equal.

5: Suffering exists, but it's our fault.

If my opponent thinks that I am going to uncritically accept his unsupported claims about young Earth creationism, then he is deeply mistaken. Claiming that humans are responsible for suffering and natural evils is like claiming that Britney Spears conspired to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. We know that this couldn't have happened because she wasn't even alive at any point during the life of President Lincoln. Likewise, no human beings were around when suffering and natural evils entered into the world. In order for my opponent's argument to even get off the ground, he has to smuggle in completely unscientific premises about human history. And since his premises about human history are demonstrably false, his argument collapses alongside his claims.

6: (P3) Naturalism is more probable than theism independent of all evidence.

While attempting to show that theism is not more complex than naturalism, my opponent claims that, "The natural realm is ... a subset of the supernatural." This claim is specious. Under theism, two fundamentally distinct and separate types of things exist. There are natural objects made of atoms, and there are also supernatural objects (e.g., God) that are not made of atoms. Naturalism is therefore more unified in its ontology than theism because it states that only nature exists, thereby making it a simpler hypothesis.

On a side note, my opponent claims that naturalism cannot explain the origins of the universe. However, this view is both premature and unsupported. The world renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has postulated that under "M-theory" the existence of gravity assures that "the universe can and will create itself from nothing." [2] Of course, these views are not yet proven; they are still being worked out. My point is that a natural hypothesis cannot be ruled out as an explanation for the origin of the universe.

::Conclusion::

In the end, my opponent's case crumbles on several very weak points. All five of the arguments he has clamed invalidate the second premise of my argument have been shown to be completely unjustified. As such, naturalism is still far better at predicting E than theism. Moreover, the notion that theism is a simpler hypothesis than naturalism is equally unmeritorious. Naturalism, unlike theism, has a unified ontology that posits only one domain of existence, the natural domain. For these reasons, naturalism is far more plausible than theism. Therefore, other things held equal, theism is very likely to be false.

Sources:
1. Hoffman, Joshua, and Gary Rosenkrantz. "Omnipotence (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University, 2006. Web. 19 Nov. 2010. http://tinyurl.com...

2. Greene, Richard A. "Stephen Hawking: God Didn't Create Universe" Featured Articles From CNN. CNN, 02 Sept. 2010. Web. 19 Nov. 2010. http://tinyurl.com...
Chrysippus

Con

Thank you, Freeman, for a sturdy debate. It's been quite a pleasure.

I will try my best not to introduce any new arguments in this round, of course; a quick summing up and last words to the audience, and it's over. A little counterpoint, to ward off your last round, but nothing really new here.

In order, then.

1.
The self-referential definition is not a problem in this case. As I pointed out already, if God created the universe, He has every right to set the rules. Those rules cite His nature as the standard for moral behaviour, and cannot limit Him.

2.
The quote my opponent uses here is somewhat misleading; the relevant portion:
"But it is absurd to suppose that an omnipotent agent could lack the power to move a feather or the power to keep it motionless."

Imagine, then, two almighty beings struggling over a feather. One attempts to move it, the other to hold it still. It is obvious that, without the interference of the other God, either one could affect the feather with infinite ease. They could do the same were it a galaxy or a universe that they chose to affect; infinitely powerful beings are infinitely powerful.

But can an infinitely powerful being overpower another infinitely powerful being, strength matched against strength? Obviously not. Infinity minus infinity is zero; equal and opposite forces cancel each other out. The difficulty is not in moving the feather; the difficulty is moving the God sitting on it.

My opponent's argument here is empty.

3.
Without bringing in new arguments to support this one, I cannot answer my opponent's objection. I reluctantly concede this point.

4.
My opponent seems to have missed the point of this view.

5.
I will say this only one more time. I ask the voters to listen closely.

____Theism is not naturalism!___

We are not debating the merits of any competing theory of origins, we are debating whether the existence of E makes theism improbable.

Theism posits a Creator. A God who created everything. That is part and parcel with theism. We are not debating some straw-theism that my opponent chooses to make up to suit his arguments, one where evolution is true despite the existence of a God. I do not, and will not, cater my arguments to my opponent's assumption that evolution is true regardless of the system. Theism does not allow for evolution, and my opponent -presumably- wishes me to defend theism.

This debate is not over whether creation is true. My arguments are over the reasonableness of God; it is absurd to insist that I argue for a reasonable God while denying the necessary conclusion: If a God who created the universe exists, then He _created_the_universe. IF he didn't create the universe, why on earth would the existence of E have any effect on His probability?

Sadly, because he insisted on enforcing absurd restrictions on my arguments, my opponent has still not given any reason at all why this view does not reasonably allow both God and E to exist.

----------

What was the point of bringing up those views in the first place? My opponent had claimed that an infinite, all powerful, morally perfect God was completely implausible because suffering (E) exists. I have given and defended four views of theistic religions on that point, any one of which gives an adequate explanation of how a perfect God could allow suffering to continue.

If even one of these views would logically allow God to exist while the world suffers, my opponent's argument fails. Naturalism and theism would be equal in their ability to predict the existence of E.

I conclude that four out of these five views do, in fact, give a perfectly plausible explanation for E's existence.

---------

Finally, the point about simplicity. My opponent tries to misconstrue my statement about causes into saying that only naturalism cannot explain its origins. I said that neither one of the two systems can explain something existing uncaused; the two systems being equal in that respect.

He throws in some wild speculation by a famous name; this is to be ignored as pointless. No matter what the naturalist scientists claim started the universe, they cannot explain why that first cause existed.

Again, my opponent states that theism requires two realms: one of atoms, and one not. At this point, it's his statement against mine, as I have already pointed out that there is only one realm, one chain of causality; the physical is merely a subset of the spiritual ream. Atoms are irrelevant to this discussion; the point is, as naturalism has only one chain of causality (evolution did it), so too theism has only one chain of causality (God did it).

The two systems are, in that respect, equally simple.

------Conclusion-------

Four plausible explanations exist and are traditionally used by theistic religions for the existence of E under a perfect God.

Naturalism holds no advantage of simplicity over theism.

As God's existence is not made at all implausible by the existence of E, and theism is not inherently a more complex explanation than naturalism, the resolution is negated.

I thank my opponent for a challenging and enjoyable debate, and hope to have the chance to cross minds with him again.

C.
Debate Round No. 3
13 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by J.Kenyon 6 years ago
J.Kenyon
@M93

Freeman probably should have phrased the resolution "The evidential argument from evil is *sound*." It's clearly deductively valid; the question of whether or not it succeeds is a matter of supporting the premises. I evaluated the debate within this framework since if I had judged based on a literal interpretation of the resolution it would have (a) disregarded the clear intent of the framer, (b) disregarded all of the arguments made on both sides, and (c) gone to Freeman *by default* insofar as it is not possible to challenge the structural validity of the argument.

In general, you're one of the better voters on the site, but in this case, I think you're letting your personal views cloud your judgment.
Posted by m93samman 6 years ago
m93samman
RFD:

S&G- tied

Conduct- Con. Pro sidetracked the debate into disproving the likelihood of theism's validity; this entangles the debate in a realm it should not have gotten in. In the theistic (Con) world, the debate asked, whether theism was false or not, if theism could predict E. It could, and Pro did not address this; only theism's validity, which was irrelevant and detracted from the debate.

Arguments- Con. Essentially, for the same reason as above; it would cause me to flow the arguments to the next round(s), because Pro's arguments were off-flow.

Sources- Tied. Pro provides in round sources, Con provides sources that refer us to different theistic studies. I don't have a problem with either.
Posted by Atheism 6 years ago
Atheism
Well, the general RFD is there, and I don't really think another is necessary, though I did give sources because I thought that sources, if valid, are relevant to ALL debates.
Posted by J.Kenyon 6 years ago
J.Kenyon
RFD:

S/G: Tied
CONDUCT: I was tempted to give this to Pro because Con decided to take a rather odd approach of dumping a series of ridiculous and irrelevant possible scenarios on him, but this doesn't actually violate any rules, so I left it tied.

ARGUMENTS:
1-3 were ridiculous and Pro did a good job of pointing this out.

The only legitimate points to consider were 4 and 5. In 4, Con either completely misunderstood that the argument was inductive rather than deductive, or was intentionally attacking a strawman.

In 5, he correctly pointed out that they were arguing from different epistemic vewpoints, yet failed to demonstrate *why* evolution is incompatible with theism, or even why on theism one ought to prefer YEC over evolution. More importantly, he failed to show how humans today could be responsible for Adam and Eve's sin, as Pro pointed out in the Abe Lincoln example.

6 wasn't really relevant, so I disregarded it.

SOURCES: Pro had more, but sources generally aren't needed in this sort of debate, so TIE.
Posted by Chrysippus 6 years ago
Chrysippus
Submitted, and done. Good debate, Freeman!

To anyone who votes on this:
Please do us the courtesy of giving a reason for your vote. I don't want votebombers, and neither does he. If you just agree with my side, or his, don't vote; only vote if you are judging our performance and arguments.

I'd rather honestly lose, then win on a bunch of mindless votes.
Posted by Freeman 6 years ago
Freeman
Tick Tock...
Posted by J.Kenyon 6 years ago
J.Kenyon
@Chrysippus
Gnostic Christianity =/= Christianity. It's more like bad fan fiction.

And Jim, you're so deep in the closet you're finding Christmas presents.
Posted by Chrysippus 6 years ago
Chrysippus
@ J.Kenyon: You know, I expected someone to say something like this, no matter how I framed it.

If you read more carefully, though, you would have seen that I did focus on defending the "Abrahamic God." To my knowledge, there are only four religions that claim a God the meets the requirements of the resolution: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism. Three out of the four are "Abrahamic." Four out of the five theistic frameworks I provided are "Abrahamic."

The point is not, "is the Christian God highly improbable because of E?" The point is, "is a theistic God improbable because of E?" The first follows if the second is true. It's a wider scope, more on the philosophy of religion than on defending any particular religion.
Posted by JimProfit 6 years ago
JimProfit
>>Guy defending objectivie good and evil wants to end don't ask/don't tell.

DOHOHOHOHO!!! That's a slap on the knee...
Posted by J.Kenyon 6 years ago
J.Kenyon
Meh, I expected you to focus more on a defense of the Abrahamic God.
8 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Vote Placed by Amveller 5 years ago
Amveller
FreemanChrysippusTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:70 
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
FreemanChrysippusTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:50 
Vote Placed by m93samman 6 years ago
m93samman
FreemanChrysippusTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:04 
Vote Placed by chengste 6 years ago
chengste
FreemanChrysippusTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Vote Placed by Atheism 6 years ago
Atheism
FreemanChrysippusTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:50 
Vote Placed by gavin.ogden 6 years ago
gavin.ogden
FreemanChrysippusTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:50 
Vote Placed by Sojourner 6 years ago
Sojourner
FreemanChrysippusTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Vote Placed by J.Kenyon 6 years ago
J.Kenyon
FreemanChrysippusTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30