The Instigator
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7 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

The Problem of Evil (PoE)

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/16/2011 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,524 times Debate No: 19005
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
Votes (2)





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

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

Note on evil: The term "evil" is being used here as merely a placeholder for certain things which God would seek to prevent. As long as we agree that suffering, for example, exists and is something which God would wish to prevent ceteris paribus, then the argument is relevant even if moral nihilism were true, and evil (in the moral sense), doesn't exist.I ask that if Con challenge this definition, he shows how this would be relevant in defeating the problem.

The WSA Evidential problem of evil (1)

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

(P2) There is evil in the world.

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

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

Defending P1

Put simply, P1 states that in order for evil to be morally permissible, the evil in question cannot be avoided, and the reason for permitting it outweighs preventing the evil. Such an example would be in the case of tooth decay. If painful drilling were the only way to prevent lots of future suffering, then it would be sufficient to meet P1, as it minimises evil in the most efficient way possible. Given that God is a being who is aware of all evil, has the power to prevent it, and would want to limit it as much as possible, it follows that only evils which are described by P1 would exist. As Christian philosopher Daniel Howard Snyder remarks,

"on the face of it, the idea that God may well permit gratuitous evil is absurd. After all, if God can get what He wants without permitting some particular horror (or anything comparably bad), why on earth would He permit it?"(2)

Thus, P1 holds that if God exists, gratuitous evils (as defined by P1) do not.

Defending P2

If P1 is virtually undeniable, P2 is even more so. Remember, given the definition of evil, it is merely sufficient to provide examples of things which meet the criteria I provided above. This criteria does not have to define evil as such, but merely provide examples of circumstances which (all else being equal), God would prevent. I think we all can agree that pain, suffering, disability and death are good candidates for circumstances that need a morally sufficient reason to be permitted. All P2 is concerned with is do these things exist. The fact is that there are many things which cause suffering, pain, disability and death. There is torture, rape, murder, and a host of natural evil, from floods to droughts. All of these may provide some greater good (this is for P3 to determine later), but in and of themselves, clearly all of us would seek to avoid them, because of their very nature. P2, I suspect is relatively uncontroversial - these things exist, and do so in abundance. The conflict will be whether or not these evils are gratuitous, which is the remit of P3.

Defending P3

P3 states that it is reasonable to believe some evils in the world are not logically necessary for an adequately compensating good. In short, there exists gratuitous evil. An all powerful being is able to prevent the evils that occur, and an all good being is obviously willing, so the question becomes, is there always justification for the evils in the world? The answer, I think, is quite clearly, no. Before I begin to outline the justification for P3, I want to use 2 particularly horrendous examples of suffering on a massive scale:

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

Another example given by Rowe is that of animal suffering:

"Suppose in some distant forest lightning strikes a dead tree, resulting in a forest fire. In the fire a fawn is trapped, horribly burned and lies in terrible agony for several days before death relieves its suffering. So far as we can see, the fawn's intense suffering is pointless." (4)

What reasons do we have to believe these evils are actually gratuitous? The first is what we might call the prima facie case, and this is not a belief we should give up lightly. From absolutely everything we know of the first case, there was nothing to suggest that from the length, extent or even the very existence of the suffering of these babies that this was anything other than gratuitous. A baby destined to die suffered days of seemingly unnecessary, excruciating pain, with helpless relatives helplessly looking on in many cases. Given the fact that no hint of any reason at all seems evident to allow these babies to suffer, it is reasonable to conclude on this basis from the appearance of gratuitous evils, to the fact of gratuitous evils. As critic Stephen Wykstra reasons,

“For if an instance of suffering appears not to have a point, that is a reason for thinking it has no point.” (5)

Secondly, it is difficult even to conceive of some examples being morally permissible. In the case of the Rowe’s fawn, there seems to be no conceivable reason to allow the extent of the suffering, nor any benefit which could even come from it. As Rowe points out,

“In light of our experience and knowledge, of the variety and scale of human and animal suffering in our world, the idea that none of this suffering could have been prevented by an omnipotent being without thereby losing some greater good or permitting an evil at least as bad seems an extraordinary, absurd idea, quite beyond our belief." (6)

The difficulty even to conceive of a plausible, morally sufficient reason to permit some evils also supports P3. Thirdly, we have cases of divine silence. In many cases of suffering, often there seems to be no comfort given to those who experience horrendous evils. To use perhaps the most striking example:

"the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, — Listen and do not hear — the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak ... I want you to pray for me — that I let Him have [a] free hand." (7)

Thus, the divine silence in light of evils gives an additional reason to think these evils are really gratuitous. Lastly, the attempts to deny that there gratuitous evils run into a host of problems, which I will show in my defence of P3 in the next round.Given this, it seems all 3 premises are justified, and with this, the conclusion necessarily follows.


In order to refute the argument, Con must present both a plausible and coherent account of why the argument is unsuccessful. I invite him to make his case, closing with the words of the prominent Christian scholar N.T.Wright:

"If you think you have solved the problem of evil, lie down. It will pass." (8)


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


In order to adequately judge the actions of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being, you would need all of those qualities as well. In other words, a being like this may know something you do not or can not know, and it might be something that is relevant to his overall judgment. So it could easily be the case that the God we are speaking of IS actually providing adequately compensating goods, perhaps in an afterlife, or perhaps something that you are not aware of.

Also, requiring God to abide by the rules of logic is a mistake. Logic is a language based on human perception, something that is limited. If God existed, he wouldn't be following those same rules, so what is "logically necessary" is irrelevant when speaking of something greater than ourselves.
Debate Round No. 1



My thanks to Con for accepting this debate, although I have to say that his response doesn’t quite measure up to what I was hoping. In virtue of the fact that Con has left so little to engage with, I’m going to bolster the case for believing that gratuitous evils (as I define them) exist, and then will respond to Con’s case against P3.

Defending and reinforcing P3

At present, I have given 4 reasons to think P3 is true:

1. The prima facie case for the existence of gratuitous evils
2. Rowe’s Non-conceiveium case for the existence of gratuitous evils
3. Divine silence
4. That there is no reason to think that these evils can be explained.

Con hasn’t really engaged with any of these points at all. Rather, he hopes that by giving his short response to P3, he can undercut it without having to reply to these 4 justifications. Another reason I want to add could perhaps best be termed epistemic consistency. In essence, this simply means applying the same or similar standards to the PoE as we do to normal beliefs, and only to take seriously beliefs which are at least plausible. Sinnott-Armstrong explains the absurdity of abandoning this standard,

“Would it benefit my family in the long-run if I were to burn down our house tonight? Possibly. Does that possibility make it reasonable to believe that we would benefit? No. Why not? Because we do know one thing: Burning down my house would cause serious problems in my family in the short term. Those known costs set up a presumption or burden of proof that needs to be overcome before contrary beliefs can be reasonable.” (1)

The same is true of evil. Given the massive short-term cost it causes, and (as well as we can judge), it’s seeming ability to lead to long-term costs, the standard we follow must be consistent with our daily lives. Otherwise, as Sinnott-Armstrong quips, theists would be agnostic towards burning down their houses! The point is this: unless we genuinely adopt such scepticism with regard to decisions we make in our lives and beliefs, then we (if we are to be consistent) have to act on the information we have in respect to gratuitous evils. The only information we have in the debate thus far compels us to believe that they exist, and thus affirm P3.

Con's Sceptical theist (ST) response to P3

Given my last point, I think it’s pretty clear that already Con’s objection is shaky. His first point is basically just a sceptical theist response, holding that we need something like omniscience to judge whether gratuitous evils exist. Firstly, notice that all we have here is a retreat to the possible, which gives us no grounds whatsoever to doubt for a moment the evidential case for P3, save the mystery card. Of course I agree that all evil may have a morally sufficient reason, but given that we have now 4 relevant lines of evidence to counter this, it is no help to hold epistemic scepticism, and the absurdities this would entail. Secondly, I anticipated this response in my justification of P3. At least 4 of my justificatory remarks for P3 attempt to bridge the gap between the appearance of gratuitous evils, and the fact of gratuitous evils, and Con just ignores this. Thirdly, what this view amounts to is that NO amount of evil could make it even slightly less probable that God exists, regardless of if everyone in the world suffered horrendously from birth to death. Surely, if our beliefs are to reflect the world, then this seemingly open-ended commitment to evil on any scale with a belief in God diminishes the concept of God, and makes him as unfalsifiable as Flew’s invisible gardener. Fourthly, if one is consistent, ST leads to unpalatable and absurd conclusions. As my 5 point intimates, epistemic scepticism would either be totally selective or all consuming. As Stephen Law points out:

“if this implausible degree of skepticism were adopted, then we would not be in a position reasonably to conclude on the basis of observation that mice are not the thing that God values most. True, this may not seem like the kind of world a mice-valuing God would create (it’s not sufficiently mice-friendly or mice-centered). But, for all we know, God’s apparent utter disregard for the well-being of mice, and, indeed, apparent sadism towards them (cats etc.), is really no evidence at all that he doesn’t value mice above everything else.

This degree of skepticism would be a wholly implausible, ad hoc way of salvaging belief in a mice-centered God from empirical refutation. It’s no less an implausible, ad hoc way of salvaging your belief in a human-centered or good-centered God.” (2)

ST also leads to devastating consequences, such as moral paralysis, because any moral choices we make rely on inductive judgement. Perhaps saving the fawn in my example from this dreadful suffering, or the children from dying painfully would create a ripple effect which would lead to far greater suffering. Indeed, they must do. According to Con, we just don’t know, and in fact, we would be best to do nothing if we come across such a circumstance. As Scott Sehon notes,

"the result is that, if I were to take sceptical theism seriously, I should be morally paralysed." (3)

Thus, we lead ourselves into sceptical mire of indecision and absurdity that we can't escape. This contrived scepticism would also make belief in God on the basis of arguments like the first cause or design equally problematic. How could we really tell that that God would fine-tune a universe, given our lack of omniscience?

To summarise, Con's position not only spectacularly fails on its own merit, but the consequences one is lead to seems like a huge price to pay.

Denying logic

His second response is to say that God doesn’t abide by rules of logic. I suppose I could term this the illogical response. Of course, this is self-refuting. Denying the law of non-contradiction, for example, requires that the law holds in the first place. Notice that even Con in his short reply makes use of the law of identity and non-contradiction when describing God. He is omniscient, for example. Can God be all-knowing and not all-knowing? Of course not. Can He simultaneously exist, and not exist? No. Even most theists recognise that God must be logically coherent. Bill Craig remarks,

“God can make all things, but in one sense to make a squared circle, or a married bachelor is not a thing. There is no such thing. Those are just logically contradictory combinations of words.” (4)

But it’s not even relevant to the PoE. Indeed, if God were able to transcend reality boundaries, then there should be no evil in the world. It is God’s coherence that enables the theist to hold that evils may be morally justified in the first place!


There are a load of points which I could introduce or develop, but I think I'll stop here. It's clear that Con is either unwilling or unable to rigorously engage with the debate at hand. In order to try and refute P3, he simultaneously denies logic and employs extreme scepticism. Quite obviously, this won't do.


1. God? Debate between a Christian and an Atheist, William lane Craig and Walter Sinnott Armstrong, 2004, Oxford University Press, P142
3. P12


I tend to keep my arguments as brief as possible. So I want to apologize to you for bringing a rapier to what he expected to be a sledgehammer battle. But,in accordance with your requests, I will make an attempt to be more complete.

First off, if you expect anyone to agree with the "note on evil" that you provided at the beginning of your first round
argument (as well as in your support for P2), then you are setting a trap for any contender that would want to
challenge you. You define evil as suffering, pain, etc. and then in your note on evil, you add to this definition
that suffering, pain, etc. is something which God would wish to prevent. You expect your opponent to simply agree
with the premise that God's characteristics would require him prevent all of those things we consider evil, which is
exactly what any opponent of yours would be arguing against should he disagree with P1 (which I do). It's question
begging, so even though your argument may depend on this, I'm choosing to ignore it for the sake of having this fun
sledgehammer battle. For this purpose, I have changed the definition of evil by simply shaving off the question
begging part, and leaving it at suffering, pain, etc.

Also note that I have not addressed the divine silence argument, because I am not exactly sure how it supports the idea of 'gratuitous evil'. I am not dodging the argument, but you don't really explain the connection. It seems to me that
it's more of an argument that directly refutes the non-existence of a God rather than supports the idea of
'gratuitous evil'. Because I want to address things with your intended meaning, I'm leaving it alone for now because
I'm not sure what your intended meaning is. Explain it in the next round so that I can incorporate it into my

I disagree with the first premise because omniscence requires knowing things that we do not and can not know. So it is
completely plausible that if there is a God that he is acting on knowledge we can never know, including a greater good.
You concede this point. "I agree that all evil may have a morally sufficient reason..."

However, that is inconsistent with your conclusion. If all evil may have a morally sufficient reason in the end, then your conclusion doesn't hold up because an omnibenevolent being can exist as well. For this to not be the case, the good that resulted from the evil would have to be apparent or evident at some point between life and death.

So, yes, this doesn't deal with what is evident to us, but the things we are aware of are not the only things that happen
to us that could be considered good, nor is what we are aware of ever sufficient for explaining an infinite being,
nor is what we are aware of sufficient for explaining all of reality.

You object to this by saying that this epistemic skepticism (although I prefer 'epistemic agnosticism') is of no help
to us. This is fallacious. An argument does not have to favor or help us to be accurate.

You also object to this by saying that I did not address your support for the third premise in your original
argument. As I said before, I apologize for bringing the rapier. I thought my purpose was to bring your argument
down, not annihilate every part of it. The fact of the matter is that the entire argument breaks down with this one

If what seems to be the case to us is sufficient for understanding a possible metaphysical and/or infinite being, morally or otherwise, then the word 'metaphysical' has lost all of its meaning and our minds have become capable of understanding an infinite being. The Prima Facie argument is false.

The non-conceivium argument makes the same mistake. These two arguments are two sides of the same coin, with the prima facie argument saying that what we can perceive is sufficient support, and the nonconceivium saying that what we cannot perceive or imagine or conceive is also support. Both of these arguments appeal directly to human
perception as legitimate faculties for not only understanding a reality that is independent of what we are capable of
understanding, but also, and more relevant to this discussion, a proposed metaphysical entity that is supposed to be
beyond our comprehension by definition.

Besides that, the non-conceivium argument commits appeal to ignorance fallacy. The fact that we cannot think of a
reason for or against something is not legitimate support for anything.

You object to my rebuttal by saying that this objection amounts to saying that no amount of evil would make God
less probable, and that we could suffer from birth until death and God could still be possible. I respond to this
with a resounding "Yeah. So what?" We COULD suffer from birth until death, and omnibenevolence could still exist if
that omnibenevolence existed metaphysically, and our compensating good happened after death, or in some spiritual

You and Flew are correct. It's unfalsifiable. I'll add that it is untestable. But to restrict ALL of reality to what
our limited minds can test and perceive is a mistake. This is why I stated that we would have to actually be
omniscient in order to understand not only an omniscient being, but reality as a whole. I will explain more later.

You have made the argument that this level of agnosticism towards the metaphysical and conceptual (good and evil)
leads to indecision, which it does not. I do not have to be certain of anything in order to act. My perceptions,
memory of past perceptions, and other brain functions allow me to make judgments about my immediate environment, and I may act on those judgments. In no way is it necessary for me to be absolutely certain at any moment about anything.

And besides, whether or not my agnosticism leads to indecision is irrelevant, because it very well could and it still
wouldn't do a thing to disprove the agnosticism itself.

Your response to my argument that God is not limited by the rules of logic, you miss the point entirely by saying
that it's illogical and self-refuting. Yes, it is. It's self-refuting in my mind,too. But that's because I am a human
limited by my nature. God does not have these problems. The Bill Craig quote doesn't accurately address the issue
because a square is a term for a shape that humans percieve and conceptualize with limited faculties, and the
contradiction of saying round square is contradictory because we have defined the parameters of a square with our
perception, and defined the parameters of a circle with our perception, and they are contradictory. These finite
concepts are produced from finite minds and might not even apply to an infinite being. In other words, god doesn't
see squares and circles like we do, he exists and perceives in an entirely different way.

This is actually relevant to the problem of evil you have provided because, regardless of validity and soundness, it
is still an attempt at a logical argument addressing the nature of an infinite being. Should your argument be
completely valid and sound according to every human on earth, it still would not be enough.

In summary, you have not sufficiently explained how my agnosticism fails to break down your argument. You have only appealed to what humans typically want to believe and attacked it as "extreme". You have misunderstood my argument concerning logic itself, and mislabeled it as irrelevant even though it is.

Furthermore, you labeled my argument as skeptical theism, and it is nothing of the sort. This is not an argument for the existence of God. This is an argument that we cannot know and that God is still possible. As a side note, I am far from being a theist, and I do think belief in God or anything metaphysical is completely unnecessary.
Debate Round No. 2



Before I address Con’s specific points, I feel I have to say something about the PoE more generally. The PoE is a problem for theists who hold a particular conception of God. It is this (and only this) the problem can or does address, as like anything else, it is only applicable within a certain context. The main points here are these: firstly, in order to faithfully engage with the argument, Con must do so within the context it is applied. Holding that God for example, is completely “unfalsifiable” and “untestable” betrays the essence of the problem, for such a God is not (nor could be) the target of the PoE, and neither could a limited being, or an evil being be amenable to the PoE, so much of Con’s post is strictly irrelevant to the debate, when he diverts from the theistic conception of God. Secondly, the PoE challenges the theist to cohere one’s thoughts, with respect to God. Denying, for example, that we can conceive of God in any way whatsoever clearly robs us of the target of the PoE, but it does so at the cost of leaving us with no idea of the being of worship, for example. Any solution to the PoE must surely rescue, rather than annihilate God, for all intents and purposes. Despite this, I will try to deal with all the relevant points Con makes with respect to the problem.

Note on evil - Here, Con accuses me of fixing P1 into the definition of evil. Not so. I simply suggested that suffering, for example, would provide just as big a problem to the theist who thinks that God would wish to prevent it, all else being equal, whether or not it is evil (in a moral sense).

Defending P1

Here I gave 2 reasons to think P1 was true: initial plausibility and conceptual analysis. Indeed, I pointed out that it seems necessarily true. Con objects, but does so by reference to ST. This is simply irrelevant. Even if we cannot affirm the existence of gratuitous evils, it is still possible to reason that God would prevent such things, and Con tacitly acknowledges this by trying to account for gratuitous evils. Secondly, Con notes that my admission that evils may have a morally sufficient reason is inconsistent with my conclusion. This is because P3 establishes (or hopes to) that gratuitous evils exist, while the theological premise (P1) does indeed seem to be true regardless of P3, and my “admission” is merely to clarify that both premises are somewhat independent. Lastly, this controversy is wholly contrived, as Con conveniently ends my quote before it qualifies that we do indeed have “4 relevant lines of evidence to counter” the position that evils are morally permissible.

Defending P3

Before I return to defending my 4 positive reasons for affirming P3, we should note that this is a cumulative, mutually reinforcing case for P3. Secondly, that it is enough for the purposes of the argument to show rational justification for P3, as is necessarily the case with an evidential argument.

Prima facie case - Here, I defended the view that we are rational to believe that evils are gratuitous, at least initially, purely on the basis of everything we know of a particular case of evil, just as I can trust that my perception of events and circumstances provide me with rational justification generally. Con responds that my lack of omniscience prevents me from ascertaining that gratuitous evils exist, but such a response seems question-begging, as well as being slightly irrelevant. It just doesn’t follow that limited knowledge necessitates complete scepticism here, rather than cautious affirmation of P3. Again, all the problems of ST erode this point, but even notwithstanding, is it really feasible to conclude that I’m not rational to believe that e is gratuitous from everything I know? Absent some very good reason to doubt my assessment of the seeming gratuity of these evils, one is certainly justified to affirm P3, particularly if all the evidence points in the same direction. Let’s see if it does.

Non-conceiveium - Here, I argued that in conjunction with the appearance of gratuitous evils, we are also seemingly unable to reconcile, even conceptually, certain evils with any necessity, or fail to see how any compensation could even plausibly occur (much less hold that these evils be logically necessary for an adequately compensatory good). Con responds that this is an argument from ignorance, but this is clearly not the case for several reasons. Firstly, the reasons are from everything we know about the evils in the 2 examples given, rather than appealing to unknown unknowns (which, ironically, is exactly what ST does). Secondly, I noted that the horrendous short-term costs of these evils gives a massive presumption of gratuity in practical terms, while the long-term effects are also plausibly predictable in perpetuating suffering, as evil really does seem to beget evil (violence escalation, nonbelief), particularly when this evil appears gratuitous.

Divine Silence - Again, all things being equal, it is certainly surprising on theism that we often don't even have a hint of the necessity of dreadful evils in the world, even in the most general terms, and this supports the view that these evils really are gratuitous.

Epistemic consistency - This is the view that we cannot contrive a standard of reasonable belief which is selectively sceptical to the PoE. Here, Con seems to hold 2 contradictory views. First, he says that we should be extremely sceptical of affirming P3, in accordance with ST. Secondly, he slips,

“In no way is it necessary for me to be absolutely certain at any moment about anything.”


“I do not have to be certain of anything in order to act.”

Clearly, his position is purely selective, and as I argued, given innumerable contingencies in acting morally, for example, he would (if he were consistent) be agnostic about all moral choices, but dismisses this absurdity by realising omniscience to be irrelevant. I agree. But why not be consistent and apply this to P3?

Lastly, even if it were true that ST somewhat contained P3, it still is easy to salvage it from such a response, using Draper’s hypothesis of indifference. Put simply, given the scale, nature and seeming gratuity of evils in the world, a world indifferent to the suffering of sentient beings is certainly more probable, given what we know, and this would again affirm P3.


Con denies holding to ST, but we can see from the definition provided, he clearly does hold this position.

Here, I noted the dreadful implications of ST. Firstly, I noted that holding such a position makes God vacuous, with respect to the scale and pervasive nature of evils in the world. Con accepts this, concluding that God is thus unfalsifiable, but this is clearly far removed from a theistic conception of God, and thus irrelevant. Secondly, ST begs the question. While long-term unknowns may somehow compensate for evil in some magical way, the belief that this is so is purely speculative, and probably wrong as evil facilitates more evil. Thirdly, the absurdities ST causes are evident, and as I showed above, the scepticism Con shows is wholly selective and contrived. In our lives, we have to make important moral decisions on things without complete information, but this doesn't remotely imply that the we cannot assess at all, for example, the work of missionaries as being more conducive to alleviating suffering than dropping nuclear bombs would be, and it certainly doesn't make it irrational to hold to this without omniscience, despite the fact that we (strictly speaking) cannot rule out the absurd belief that a nuclear holocaust might produce less suffering in the long-run.


Here Con maintains that limiting God to logical constraints betrays the true nature of God. Con himself notes that his own position is “self-refuting”, but claims that such is the nature of God. If denying logic is self-refuting, then it holds in all possible worlds, and one can't even be agnostic without identifying God as God.


kwaynn forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3



Given that Con forfeited the last round, there isn’t much for me to do, except summarise the debate, and extend on a few points which have been left relatively short. First, let’s return to the argument:

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

(P2) There is lots of evil in the world.

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

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

General points

In my last round, I introduced 2 general criticisms of Con’s approach:

Context - The PoE is necessarily applied in a certain context, and in order to diffuse the problem, Con would use a conception of God which was irrelevant to the target of the PoE.

Coherence - Again, Con has to tackle the PoE and emerge with a theistic conception of God. Not only did God quickly become unfalsifiable and immune from logic, but at one point, Con even intimated wholesale epistemological scepticism to defeat the problem of evil, a scepticism, which as we seen in the last round, was purely contrived and artificially limited to the PoE.

Defending P1

Here I gave 2 defences of P1 with use to an analogy: initial plausibility and conceptual analysis. Con gave 2 criticisms of P1, one with reference to ST, which I argued was simply irrelevant because whether evils are ultimately gratuitous (the position I hold), or merely apparently gratuitous (Con’s position), this is the remit for P3. All P1 states (simply put) is that if God exists, gratuitous evils do not exist, and this seems not only eminently plausible, but necessarily true. His second criticism was that my admission of the possibility of morally sufficient reasons for evils contradicted my conclusion, but here we can see Con purposefully distorts what I said,

“Of course I agree that all evil may have a morally sufficient reason, but given that we have now 4 relevant lines of evidence to counter this, it is no help to hold epistemic scepticism, and the absurdities this would entail.”

Once we see the full quote, we can see that this is a phantom controversy concocted by Con, who stopped the quote short of saying that we do have reason to affirm P3, which is of course consistent with the conclusion.

Given this, it seems we have absolutely no reason to doubt P1, and 2 reasons to affirm it.

Defending P2

As my definition of evil suggested, all P2 does is to affirm that there are such things as suffering, pain, disability and death, which obviously do occur in our world, and I used several examples of things which do so. Con wisely choose not to dispute that these things exist, so P2 likewise must be affirmed.

Defending P3

Here is definitely where the essence of Con’s criticisms were directed at. I gave 4 main reasons to affirm P3:

Prima facie case - We can ( at the very least) cautiously affirm P3 on the basis of appearance. When we see an evil, and know of no benefit at all, then surely we are rational to initially suppose that this evil is gratuitous. All Con used here was ST, but I pointed out both the problems of holding to ST, as well as the fact that it doesn’t seem to warrant wholesale, stubborn agnosticism, rather than cautious affirmation of P3, especially when we have a cumulative case for thinking P3 is true, in addition to appearance. Con failed to respond.

Nonconceiveium - Here, I pointed out that our lack of ability to even conceive how evils are logically necessary or how any good can come from particular evils gives us another reason to accept P3. Con’s only response to this was that it argued from ignorance, which I noted wasn’t the case, because, for one thing, we are arguing from what is known. I also pointed out the known short-term consequences of evil provides a massive presumption to overcome, if these evils are to explained as morally permissible, but yet again we have been given no reason to suppose this is true.

Divine Silence - This point has not been responded to by Con. It notes the lack of comforting from above while sentient beings experience the most horrendous evils. With not even a hint of necessity of the evils, even in the most general sense, again give us reason to think that seemingly gratuitous evils really are gratuitous.

Epistemic consistency - Here I pointed to Con’s blatant disregard for everyday standards of rational belief by showing how while he would employ scepticism on the PoE, areas (such as morality) which were as hard to fathom nevertheless were given a strong answer by Con, and I argued here that if Con wishes to be consistent, he should either retreat and adopt moral paralysis, or admit that his standard is purely contrived to this argument. As the quotes from him show, this double-standard he adopts gives us reason to think that if apply our standards consistently, we should affirm P3.

I think it patently clear that none of these have been adequately dealt with by Con, and on this basis, we can affirm P3, and thus the argument.


Again, I gave 3 criticisms of ST, as well as showing that Con was indeed using ST as a response. Besides, ST as pertaining to my support for P3 has been largely dealt with above. Unless and until Con can show that ST (or his use of it) does not lead to total irrelevance with respect to the PoE, does not beg the question and does not lead to absurdities, again we have no reason to regard this as anything other than a bad response to a particularly vexing problem.


Here, Con tries to say that God logic can only refer to that which is finite, but as I pointed out, logical truths are true by necessity. Also, as Wittgenstein puts it:

“a nothing will serve just as well as a something about which nothing could be said.” (1)


After being given ample reason to accept the argument, and showing that the refutations of it fail, both in and of themselves, as well as the additional problems they create, it follows that one is certainly rational to accept the PoE is a viable argument.


(1) Wittgenstein, Ludwig, Philosophical investigations, trans G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell, 1953. P102.


kwaynn forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by Thrasymachus 7 years ago
This open for anyone?
Posted by unitedandy 7 years ago
Yeah> It's actually the same pres. I used for the debate against you, and for some reason, it went crazy and I had to sift through it.
Posted by Illegalcombatant 7 years ago
Forgot to use rich text dandy ? :)
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Hardcore.Pwnography 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Better arguments, forfeit. Con doesn't engage in a lot of clashes.
Vote Placed by wierdman 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: c