Friday, March 04, 2011

The evidential argument from evil

On the basis of these results it can be seen that Rowe’s argument has a strongly resilient character, successfully withstanding many of the objections raised against it. Much more, of course, can be said both in support of and against Rowe’s case for atheism. Although it might therefore be premature to declare any one side to the debate victorious, it can be concluded that, at the very least, Rowe’s evidential argument is not as easy to refute as is often presumed.- Nick Trakakis

17 comments:

Ana said...

The IEP is such a great resource. Love it!

Patrick said...

Can the existence of gratuitous evil, at least with respect to moral evil, not simply put down to the idea that God values man’s free will so high that He would permit gratuitous evil?

BenYachov said...

I'm with Brian Daves. I reject the idea of God as a (human)moral agent in the first place.

To say God is "perfectly moral" makes about as much sense as saying "God has perfect muscle tone".

Or it's like saying "Why didn't Plato's FORM OF THE GOOD stop the holocaust if it's really good?".

God's Goodness is in He is Being Itself and as Aquinas taught us Being and Goodness are interchangeable.

Thus Rowe's arguments are kind of meaningless from a Thomistic perspective. Don't even get me started on the Fawn thingy.

BenYachov said...

This is all I have to say I'm still mourning my Mother-in-Law who passed away this past Sunday.

Crude said...

My condolences, thoughts and prayers Ben. Just wanted to say that.

unkleE said...

I don't think the EAE can be "refuted", I think we have to agree that the existence of such evil in the world makes the existence of God less probable - e.g. in a Bayesian analysis. The ultimate question (IMO) is, is this score "against" God enough to overcome the positive scores for God from e.g. the Cosmological argument - for, just as one would more likely expect evil in a God-less world than in a God-created world, so one would expect no universe if there was no God, but might well expect a universe if there is a God.

I think the God arguments triumph for two reasons:

(1) There are more of them and they are more persuasive (to me).

(2) They are more fundamental - i.e. they explain more fundamental things, like the universe, ethics, rationality, etc. On the other hand, the problem of evil requires there to already be a universe and beings capable of suffering, and true ethics saying that this situation is truly evil - all things which God explains better than no-God.

So I think it is futile trying to refute the argument from evil, but it only has force if we consider it on its own, in isolation from other issues.

Walter said...

How about the option that there is a God who is not perfectly good, or one that simply did the best "he" could and this world is the result of that effort. Maybe God is the most powerful being in the universe, but he is not omnipotent? He just seems omnipotent from a lowly human perspective.

Shackleman said...

Perhaps evil is a logically necessary consequence of a "real" creation. There can be no such thing as "evil" in a zombie universe.

I believe the problem of evil is a real problem for theists. It's one reason why I'm a Christian and not some other flavor of theism. To me, Jesus is the answer to the problem of evil.

GREV said...

Stated by Walter:

Walter said...
How about the option that there is a God who is not perfectly good, or one that simply did the best "he" could and this world is the result of that effort. Maybe God is the most powerful being in the universe, but he is not omnipotent? He just seems omnipotent from a lowly human perspective.

March 05, 2011 5:49 AM

Good questions and points. I love the comment on the lowly human perspective.

GREV said...

Walter -- Feel free to email and chat.

Jason Pratt said...

If I had more time and energy this afternoon, I'd be curious to see how Rowe's version compares to the deductive contra-postive anti-theistic argument from suffering I developed a while back. It sounds rather similar.

(Hopeful condolences on your loss, Ben, btw.)

JRP

unkleE said...

"Maybe God is the most powerful being in the universe, but he is not omnipotent?"

I can't recall where the Bible actually says that God is omnipotent. I can think of places where that is implied - e.g. questions like: "Is there anything God cannot do?". I think it is inferred, and it is what I believe, but I'm not sure that christianity would be avery different if he wasn't omnipotent. For a start, we already qualify our belief in omnipotence by excluding logically silly or impossible things - like can God make a stone so big he can't lift it, make a 4-sided triangle, sin, etc? I'm not sure that this is crucial at all. Just speculating .....

Crude said...

I don't think God has ever been called all-powerful in Christianity simply on the basis of 'look what he did before my own eyes, only an omnipotent being could do that'. It's usually communicated to me as either the result of philosophical/metaphysical inquiry, or sourced from tradition and teaching.

I will say that the question of 'God, but not perfectly good or perfectly powerful' does introduce some speculations I think few want to face. That so many people, theist and not, seem to think the possibilities are 'Perfectly good God, or absolutely no God/god(s) at all' always baffled me.

Ana said...

Walter,

- I think there's an already existing candidiate for (part of) what you describe: open theism

- Open theists maintain that God is omniscient, in that he knows all there is to know (all reality and all possibilities ), but he does not know future actualities (what will actually happen). In other words, he does not (fully) know the future.

God could have fully known the future -- if he created a universe in which he determined all events that were to take place. But, to allow for libertarian free will, he created a universe in which the future is not fully knowable. (and this is how they maintain that his omniscience is not compromised, because they maintain that God knows all reality, but that future events are not presently reality, hence, God does not know the future but is yet omniscient.)

So, while God can knows all evil acts that may possibly occur, he does not know which will actually occur. But he can act in restrospect (in the sense that, once a particular evil actually occurs, he can take a course of action to address it).

- For the record, I myself am not an Open Theist, but when I read your comment, Open Theism immediately came to my mind.

Walter said...

For the record, I myself am not an Open Theist, but when I read your comment, Open Theism immediately came to my mind.

Open theism deals with God not being perfectly omniscient. I was positing the possibility of deity who is not all-powerful. A less-than-omnipotent god may have created as best he could. A less-than-omnipotent deity might explain why God did not immediately destroy Satan and the fallen angels when they rebelled--perhaps because he was not able to. An omnipotent God could have snuffed out the devil and his ilk as soon as they rebelled, yet he didn't. This seems to mean that either he could not, or he chose to let Satan infect humanity with evil. If it is the latter, then it means that God engineered the Fall of Man (like some Calvinists believe), which would lead one to believe that God is not perfectly good.

Jason Pratt said...

Walter,

Or it might mean God loves those rebel children, too, no less than he loves me despite my sin.

It happens (providentially perhaps {g}) that it was time for me to post up the relevant chapter of my book this Friday over at the Cadre Journal. It isn't about rebel angels, but the same principles for why God doesn't just nip me out of existence or rewire me when I do evil, would apply to rebel angels as much as to me.

It certainly isn't because God lacks the power to make me (merely) 'behave right'!

JRP

Patrick said...

From the omnipotence paradox (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnipotence_paradox) one can see that an all-powerful being is a logical impossibility. One consequence of this paradox is that omnipotence and omnibenevolence are incompatible concepts, as an all-powerful being would also have to be able to decide to be no longer perfectly good.

Another flaw of the argument from evil is the idea that God has but two characteristics. But there are others as well, which might be of relevance with respect to this argument, e.g. the idea that God is perfectly just. God may have reasons to allow suffering because of being perfectly just.

A good example of the suggestion that God’s being perfectly just might justify suffering is Jesus’ work of redemption. If God was only perfectly good and all-powerful (whatever you mean by it), then Jesus’ suffering was unnecessary, as God could have forgiven all men their sins out of sheer love and generosity. But being perfectly just, God has to punish sins, either by punishing the sinners or by punishing Jesus on their behalf.

Finally, the Bible doesn’t attribute omnipotence to God, as it says there are things that God cannot do. E.g. according to 2 Timothy 2,13 God “cannot disown himself” (NIV).