Wednesday, January 30, 2013

All arguments can be outweighed

Prokop: Ultimately, I think that the arguments from design and from fine tuning are both only "convincing" to the convinced. They both convince me, but I am a believer without either of them.

VR: When you make statements like that, you have to be careful. Atheists, particularly of the New variety, are likely to say that theists don't follow evidence, rather, they are originally convinced of what they need to believe and find "evidence" that isn't really evidence to support a conclusion they are committed to emotionally. Atheists, on the other hand, look for REAL evidence which, of course, is not forthcoming.  You don't want to come anywhere near admitting that. It's like mentioning "faith" when talking to a Gnu. They will automatically assume you just put both of your hands in the air and surrendered.

Because we can't consider every piece of evidence at any one time, all arguments can be outweighed by other considerations. Not everyone is at the tipping point with respect to their beliefs on the God question, and so an argument might provide epistemic support for theism or atheism while at the same time fail to bring about an actual conversion.

I happen to think, for example, that the argument from evil, if properly defined and isolated, provides some epistemic support for atheism. What I have never understood is why this argument somehow transcends all other considerations in considering the question of God.

63 comments:

finney said...

I think the argument from evil and the argument from design cancel each other out.

B. Prokop said...

Victor,

I don't think you entirely understood what I meant (unless I in turn didn't understand you).

What I was saying was that a particular argument (say the argument from complexity) could easily convince me, not despite any evidence to the contrary, but rather because there is sufficient reason in favor of the argument, but not necessarily compelling evidence for everyone.

I was also stating that my Faith does not rest on any single piece of evidence or argument, but rather on the aggregate total of all the evidence and all the arguments together. Any one might not be a compelling reason to believe, but all of them combined constitute sufficient reason to confess Christianity.

B. Prokop said...

The argument from evil is an argument in favor of Christianity.

Christianity has an explanation for the existence of evil. Atheism cannot account for it. In a deterministic universe, everything should behave exactly as it's supposed to. I should have no more ability to commit evil than a rock has to fall upward.

Evil is a problem for the non-believer.

Victor Reppert said...

I did understand what you were saying. But I also know what it would sound like to atheists (and to Ilion, who said you were implying that everyone is intellectually dishonest.

im-skeptical said...

"Christianity has an explanation for the existence of evil. Atheism cannot account for it."

Gee, Bob, when I hear that kind of statement, it really makes me wonder whether it is worth taking the time to respond. But I'll give it a shot. Atheists don't have to account for the natural world being what it is. That's not a logical absurdity. Christians claim that a perfectly good and merciful and just God created the world and then filled it with all manner of bad stuff. You can rationalize it all you want, but it doesn't make sense to an unbiased observer - only to people who need a reason to believe it does.

Karl Grant said...

I'm Skeptical,

Quick question, do you believe that human nature is inherently good?

im-skeptical said...

What is your definition of "good"?

Karl Grant said...

Kind, just, let's go with that for now

im-skeptical said...

Inherently good by that definition - I suppose not. There are plenty of people who don't fit the bill. Also, history seems to be full of people who were not kind and just. Heck, just read the bible.

Karl Grant said...

Well, that's good to know since a lot of people who ask this little question about a good God and evil will also say they believe human nature is inherently good and somehow evil in the world is enough to disprove the existence of a good God but not the existence of a good human nature. Nice to know you are not one of them. Now what definition of good are you using in regards to God? And what do you mean by perfect?

im-skeptical said...

"Now what definition of good are you using in regards to God? And what do you mean by perfect? "

It's not me - that's what Christians claim. My contention is that if God made this world, than he doesn't seem to be kind or just. Or merciful. Or loving. Or any of the things we normally associate with goodness.

But maybe they are talking about goodness in the A-T sense, which as I understand it, is divine simplicity. But that makes even less sense. There's nothing divinely simple about this world. So why would he make it at all? Because he wants some company?

I'm sorry, no matter how hard I try, the logic just doesn't work out.

Karl Grant said...

I'm Skeptical,

My contention is that if God made this world, than he doesn't seem to be kind or just. Or merciful. Or loving. Or any of the things we normally associate with goodness.

Aren't you are assuming God cannot have morally sufficient reasons for permitting the world exist in its current state? That is an assumption that is not necessarily true. As long as it is possible that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting the world to exist in its current state, it follows that the concept of a good God and the current state of the world are logically consistent. Also aren't you assuming a universal standard of Kindness and Justice with that statement?

im-skeptical said...

Your "morally sufficient reasons" are nothing more than a lame attempt to rationalize the things that don't make sense. I might argue that there could be a world like ours where just one innocent creature could have suffered just a bit less as it was being eaten alive by its predator, and the moral outcome in the end wouldn't have fared any worse. And you can't tell me why all that suffering is so necessary, but just claim that it must be. Because otherwise your god wouldn't be good.

If you can describe an actual scenario that really requires all the bad stuff we see in this world in order to achieve the best outcome, you might have a case. But all I ever hear is "there must be a good reason for it". Well, there isn't. It's just rationalization

Karl Grant said...

I'm Skeptical,

Your "morally sufficient reasons" are nothing more than a lame attempt to rationalize the things that don't make sense.

And I think the people who bring up the problem of evil are really asking something like this: How could a good God disturb my comfort zone by confronting me with the existence of evil? I also have noticed that people who bring this topic up like to whine about evil and suffering, but they don't actually do anything to combat evil or alleviate suffering.

And you can't tell me why all that suffering is so necessary, but just claim that it must be. Because otherwise your god wouldn't be good.

Hmm, could it be that suffering is needed to achieve what Swinburne called high-order goods? Things like Courage (which requires the person be faced with adversity) and Compassion (which requires display of suffering that you empathize with) would not exist in a world without suffering. Maybe I could ask you how God would be able to display traits such as Justice and Mercy in a world without suffering? Also a world without suffering, a world without trials and tribulations, is a world that is stagnate; there is literally no challenges to overcome. What use would such a world have for technology and science, which only advance to the needs of society. If nobody ever got sick would there be any need for medicine or biology?

Or maybe I could argue that some evil may be punishment for sins of men? In fact, the Bible does argue that and give examples (Noah's flood for instance). Maybe I could invoke the free will defense? Maybe I could point out that there is a specific subbranch of theology, called theodicy, which is concerned with solely answering why evil and suffering exist (Google generated 831,000 results, happy reading).

ingx24 said...

Okay, say the argument from evil does work, and there isn't a God.

Why on EARTH does this somehow lead to a materialist philosophy of mind? People act like atheism automatically means that materialism is true and that there can be no afterlife, as if theism was the only thing "blocking" materialism and that atheism automatically means materialism. It seems like our society has set up a false dilemma: Either God exists, or everything is purely physical and mindless and there is no such thing as a soul or life after death. Why can't someone not believe in God but still believe that the mind is irreducible and might survive bodily death? Why does the existence or nonexistence of God make this any more or less likely?

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"But maybe they are talking about goodness in the A-T sense, which as I understand it, is divine simplicity. But that makes even less sense. There's nothing divinely simple about this world."

Oh brother...

No, goodness in the AT sense is not divine simplicity.

Divine simplicity is just the claim that God is not metaphysical composite, or he has no metaphysical parts or constituents. Being pure act, He is not a composite of act and potency; being existence itself, He is not a composite of essence and existence; that the distinction in God's attributes is, contrary to finite created creatures, a mere distinction of reason and not a real distinction, etc. and etc.

You are correct that there is nothing divinely simple in the world. What that has got to do with anything, is anybody's guess.

B. Prokop said...

"Gee, Bob, when I hear that kind of statement, it really makes me wonder whether it is worth taking the time to respond."

You do realize, I hope, that my four sentence posting was merely a bumper sticker summation of a long and well thought-out argument.

I was merely registering where I differ with Victor in his take on the Problem of Evil. I actually didn't expect it to take over the thread.

B. Prokop said...

By the way, what does "A-T sense" mean?

Karl Grant said...

ingx24,

You might be interested in knowing that there is a book out there called The Atheist Afterlife which does argue that atheism and belief in an afterlife are compatible.

grodrigues said...

@B. Prokop:

"By the way, what does "A-T sense" mean?"

Aristotelian-Thomist.

Walter said...

VR I happen to think, for example, that the argument from evil, if properly defined and isolated, provides some epistemic support for atheism.

It can also provide support for belief in a Creator who is somewhat indifferent to human affairs.

Prokop Evil is a problem for the non-believer.

I assume that you mean that evil is a problem for the non-believer in theism itself and not Christian theism in particular? Because I can assure you that non-Christian theists have their own ways of accounting for the existence of evil that don't necessarily include Falling from a state of perfection.

B. Prokop said...

"I assume that you mean that evil is a problem for the non-believer in theism itself and not Christian theism in particular?"

Walter,

You are correct. The atheist faces what appears to be an insuperable problem with the existence of evil. He can either, as Karl points out, posit that human beings are "inherently good" (and thus be at a loss to explain evil), or he can acknowledge that they are flawed (and thus run into the even greater problem of explaining how anything in a deterministic universe can be other than what it is supposed to be).

If the atheist then punts, and says that our flawed nature is an illusion, and that we are indeed behaving as expected, then he faces the still worse problem of having to abandon any pretense at objective morality. Because how can you condemn (or even criticize) a person for doing what he is compelled to do?

Continue the argument and it can get even worse than this. But believe you me, there's no way out for the atheist on this issue. It's a downward spiral all the way. To return to my "bumper sticker" summation, the Problem of Evil is a problem only to the atheist. I know where evil comes from. He has no coherent explanation.

Ilíon said...

What? No hat-tip?
==========
V.R.: "I happen to think, for example, that the argument from evil, if properly defined and isolated, provides some epistemic support for atheism."

But it doesn't; quite the opposite, in fact. So, your belief is incorrect and false.

What "the argument from evil" actually does is highlight -- as almost everything does -- the absurdity of atheism. For, in order even to make "the argument from evil", one must presuppose that some things are objectively good and other things objectively evil -- that is, even to make the argument in the first place, one must presuppose that atheism is false.

Now, if "the argument from evil" were a reductio ad absurdum of the proposition "God is", then it could indeed "provide[] some epistemic support for atheism"; but it isn't, so it can't. If "the argument from evil" were a reductio ad absurdum of the proposition "God is", then presupposing atheism to be false would be the way to go about it; but since it is not a reductio ad absurdum of the proposition "God is", the presupposition necessary even to frame the argument turns out to be a reductio ad absurdum of the proposition "God is not".

The proposition "God is" does not entail the proposition "there is nothing objectively evil".

However, the proposition "God is not" *does* entail the proposition "there is nothing objectively good or evil".

BenYachov said...

@im-skeptical

Let me help you out buddy with your definitions of goodness.

Goodness

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06636b.htm

Remember God is not a moral agent. God is metaphysically and ontologically good but not morally good in the unequivocal sense a human can be morally good.

Thank God!!!!

Classic Theism Rules! Theistic Personalism blows nasty chunks!

Peace!

In the Name of the God of Abraham and Aquinas!

BenYachov said...

Ah yes and there is no such thing as the Best of All Possible Worlds.

http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/boapw.html

God could have always made a better world then the present one. If He did He could have still made an even better one.

No possible world is so good it needs to be chosen to exist, and none are so bad that they should not be made to exist as long as they are a participation of the divine goodness.

im-skeptical said...

Too many comments to address adequately.

Karl - the higher order good you describe is in terms of man. Punishment for his sins, challenges to overcome, etc. So what does it matter if suffer a little less as they are being devoured?

ingx24 - Non-existence of God doesn't lead to a materialist philosophy of mind. Materialism does. If I believe in spirits but not gods, I might well be a dualist.

grodrigues - God is being. God is perfection. God is goodness. God is divinely simple. What does it have to do with creating a world that is the opposite of God's attributes? It's logically inconsistent. A perfect being would have no need to create this world. Any why shatter his divine simplicity with such complexity? It doesn't make sense.

Bob - Inherently good or flawed. A false dichotomy. People are what they are. I'm not trying to pass judgement on human nature. And regarding objective morals, I don't know of any that aren't dependent on circumstances, time, place, culture, etc.

Ben - Yes, I know. Not a moral agent. Not responsible for the world he created. Doesn't intervene in the affairs of man. What was that Jesus guy doing anyway?

im-skeptical said...

Karl -> if animals suffer a little less

B. Prokop said...

"People are what they are. I'm not trying to pass judgement on human nature. And regarding objective morals, I don't know of any that aren't dependent on circumstances, time, place, culture, etc."

Kudos to you for owning up to what so many atheists refuse to admit - that you do not believe in objective morality. "Not that there's anything wrong with that."

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"God is being. God is perfection. God is goodness. God is divinely simple. What does it have to do with creating a world that is the opposite of God's attributes? It's logically inconsistent."

No, it is not logically inconsistent. You are just throwing a bunch of words together without making sense, without knowing the precise senses in which they are used and then shout "inconsistent".

"A perfect being would have no need to create this world. Any why shatter his divine simplicity with such complexity? It doesn't make sense."

Indeed, creation is a gift; God does not need creation neither creation adds anything to him. Why you think that "shatters" divine simplicity is beyond me.

"Yes, I know. Not a moral agent. Not responsible for the world he created. Doesn't intervene in the affairs of man. What was that Jesus guy doing anyway?"

It is clear that you do not understand what Ben is saying; he said God is not a moral agent in a univocal sense, in the same sense we human beings are moral agents, because that sense is literally incoherent. It is as incoherent as saying that 2 is green or justice is fluffy.

Instead of going on tangents why don't you try to *understand* why exactly Ben is saying what he is saying, huh? There is a reason you for holding this. You may not be convinced by it, but pontificating in ignorance of these reasons is quite frankly, pretty stupid.

Karl Grant said...

I'm Skeptical,

the higher order good you describe is in terms of man. Punishment for his sins, challenges to overcome, etc. So what does it matter if suffer a little less as they are being devoured?

And here I thought we were discussing human suffering and evil. Like moving goal posts, do we? Well, I suppose I could start by saying that animals lack the necessary mental facilities to distinguish between good and evil. I suppose that I could point out that animals being devoured are serving a purpose, food for the predator. Or that these predators prevent the herbivores from overpopulating and depleting their own food sources. I could point to little facts like wolves typically target the old and sick in the prey herds and actually improve the overall health in the herd. In fact, anybody whoever cracked open a biology or zoology textbook can give you a half-dozen reason reasons for the existence of predators.

Or I could ask why, since you reject objective morality, I should be concerned with the plight of animals?


im-skeptical said...

Karl,

I'm not moving any goal posts. It's about gratuitous, unnecessary suffering. Why couldn't God make a world where creatures eat without making others suffer? What purpose does that serve? If you want to limit the discussion to human suffering and evil - there's plenty of that too. A young child in Africa gets some horrible disease and dies. To what avail? Punishment for sin? A moral lesson? Hardly.

"I should be concerned with the plight of animals?" No, I don't suppose you should. That's just the way your good god wants things to be. But you may ask why should I care? I care because it's in my nature.

B. Prokop said...

Animals suffer along with humans because the universe is broken... and we broke it - not the Creator. "For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." (Romans 8:22) This is old news. The new (and good) news is that that's not the end of the story. "Because creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into glorious liberty." (the previous verse)

Sorry to sound "preachy", but sometimes it's just the right thing to do. At any rate, the above is an accurate summation of my own position on this issue.

As is so often the case, C.C Lewis put it best (this is a website about Lewis, I believe?). "All [the pains and evils of this world], if rolled into one single experience and put into the scale against the least moment of joy that is felt by the least in Heaven would have no weight that could be registered at all." (from The Great Divorce, Chapter 13)

Papalinton said...

"Not everyone is at the tipping point with respect to their beliefs on the God question, and so an argument might provide epistemic support for theism or atheism while at the same time fail to bring about an actual conversion."

However, the arguments providing epistemic support for atheism is growing as we speak. What remains in the wash, following the exponentially burgeoning level and array of research and investigative discoveries into the nature of reality through the sciences, history, archeology, the humanities etc that demonstrate the god-concept superfluous to explanation, is an attitude; an attitude of denial of evidence, an attitude of disbelief despite the mounting proofs, and the verification and corroboration of those proofs. It is an attitude that defies logic, reason and rational thought. The god-concept is an illusion. Belief in a god is delusion.

Victor, you chose the Confederacy. The Confederacy lost. The Confederacy today is an illusion, despite the flags, meets, celebrations and swapping badges.

BenYachov said...

>Ben - Yes, I know. Not a moral agent.

Correct.

>Not responsible for the world he created.

Incorrect formulation, rather He has no obligations to us and given His Nature He can't coherently be concieved of as having obligations to us.

>Doesn't intervene in the affairs of man.

Equivocation error, As Brian Davies says God can't "intervene" in what He is already doing. God is always now causing the world to simply be and to unfold according to His Providence.

Can God foresee from all eternity im-skeptical will pray for no rain this Sunday, freely choose from all eternity to generously & without obligation grant that request and from all eternity order the world so that it doesn't rain this Sunday?

Sure! But this anthopomorphic wish granting Wizard mojo is wrong.

>What was that Jesus guy doing anyway?

Rather if God is the anthopomorphic thing you falsely imagine him to be then I'm sorry but that renders the whole Incarnation thingy redundant.

Jesus is the bridge between The Unknowable and the Known.

"and the Word was made flesh..etc".

Karl Grant said...

I'm Skeptical,

Why couldn't God make a world where creatures eat without making others suffer?

I could counter this by asking you how can animals exist in a physical world without pain which, in case you haven't figured out by now, is a defense mechanism and a necessary one at that (burn your hand in scalding water you know not to take a two hour bath in it). Or asking you what would animals eat if they didn't eat other lifeforms (either plants or other animals)? Maybe minerals, metals (Iron, it does the body good)? In fact, since you are going on about this I want you to provide me a blueprint for a world without pain and suffering (FYI, you won't need things like a central nervous system).

Or maybe I could point out that the traditional Christian theological view is that predation is a result of man's fall. Isaiah 24:2-6 directly states that the natural evil in the world derives the fact that the earth's peoples “disobey the laws,” “violate the statutes,” and “break the covenants.” Bob already mentioned Romans 8:19-22; which implies that the suffering we find in the natural world is part of the “groaning of creation” and it cries out for redemption from the crippling effects of Adam’s sin.

A young child in Africa gets some horrible disease and dies. To what avail? Punishment for sin? A moral lesson? Hardly.

No, that is more man's own fault for not providing adequate medical services or taking adequate precautionary measures.

But you may ask why should I care? I care because it's in my nature.

Good, now what have you actually done to combat evil and alleviate suffering? Since you brought that African scenario up let me ask you what have you done to prevent a scenario like you described above? Have you ever A) joined to the Peace Corps or the Red Cross and built a medical clinic down there, delivered medical supplies or provided vaccination services? B) Contributed in medical research to eliminate said disease? C) Lobbied for development aid to such countries or studied and practiced economics to ensure African countries have the money for a proper healthcare system? Or do you D) Whine about it on internet forums?

B. Prokop said...

Ouch!

BenYachov said...

Animals are not persons, animals are not conscious as human beings are conscious, animals have no spiritual intellective immortal souls.

Animals are material entities only and as such their "suffering" is no more significant then comets striking the surface of Jupiter. Their "suffering" is just matter damaging matter.

Wither God exists or not there is no logical, scientific or compelling philosophical reason for me to believe animals "suffer"
as I suffer.

So even if god where some gay* theistic personalist moral agent "deity" He cannot be morally condemned for creating animal suffering since it's not the suffering of persons.

*a per usual by gay I don't mean homosexual. I would never smear gay people by comparing them to a Theistic personalist deity. Rather gay as in it's 2013 and still no FALLOUT 4!

Rowe's fawn is a meaningless argument. Replace the stupid fawn with a 3 year old human child then we will talk problem of evil.

ingx24 said...

Animals are not persons, animals are not conscious as human beings are conscious, animals have no spiritual intellective immortal souls.

Animals are material entities only and as such their "suffering" is no more significant then comets striking the surface of Jupiter. Their "suffering" is just matter damaging matter.


And this, friends, is why I reject Thomism despite its somewhat significant intellectual appeal. The idea that humans have immaterial "rational souls" while animals do not and are purely material strikes me as absolutely and obviously false. The difference between animals and humans is one of degree and not of kind (considerations of whether humans are made in God's image aside). Anyone who claims that animals have no capacity to reason or to suffer has either never had a pet or is suffering from an extreme ideological bias.

im-skeptical said...

"the universe is broken... and we broke it" - So for hundred of millions of years, countless animals suffered - and it's our fault.

"God is always now causing the world to simply be and to unfold according to His Providence." - and that includes having a "son" who teaches us how to behave and saves us from our badness that God has given us. Seems it would have been easier to not require that we need saving in the first place.

"but pontificating in ignorance of these reasons is quite frankly, pretty stupid." - So how do I shed my ignorance? By accepting what doesn't make sense? Yes. it makes sense to you, but only if you abandon reason. The whole idea of a guy who is the son of, and/or one and the same as an impersonal, divinely simple being in three parts, who is eternal, but dies, in order to alleviate me of my original sin, which was given to me by my creator long before I was ever born - yeah, it all makes perfect sense - unless I think about it.

BenYachov said...

>the universe is broken... and we broke it" - So for hundred of millions of years, countless animals suffered - and it's our fault.

Of course Augustine doesn't agree with Bob. St Basil maybe but not Augustine.

Prey animals hunted before the fall of man.

>saves us from our badness that God has given us.

I'm with Augustine. Human suffering comes from the fall. Animals don't "suffer" they are not conscious persons.

There is nobody too suffer.

>God is always now causing the world to simply be and to unfold according to His Providence." - and that includes having a "son" who teaches us how to behave and saves us from our badness that God has given us. Seems it would have been easier to not require that we need saving in the first place.

Lovely characture not even close to accurate formulation.

Thus meaningless polemic.

BenYachov said...

>Anyone who claims that animals have no capacity to reason or to suffer has either never had a pet or is suffering from an extreme ideological bias.

I've had a pet I was very fond of (Angel the Fuzzy Cat) & I still think this way.

You have got the anthropomorphic fallacy big time.

ingx24 said...

The "anthropomorphism" thing has never been convincing to me. If you can deny that animals have minds by saying we're "anthropomorphizing" them, why can't we say the same thing about other people? Isn't this just the problem of other minds applied to animals? Shouldn't we go with our intuition that animals have minds unless given compelling evidence to the contrary?

Karl Grant said...

I'm Skeptical,

If you have trouble with the thought that something simple could exist in three separate states and be eternal you must have some real trouble accepting the existence of water. It's chemically simple, hydrogen-dioxide; it exists as a liquid, solid and gas (sometimes in the same room); and it never disappears.

B. Prokop said...

This is one of the things Ben and I have disagreed over in the past, and it looks like neither of us has changed his mind. I believe that animals are conscious beings capable of suffering.

I also believe (quite strongly) that causes can have effects both forwards and backwards in time.

And thirdly, I believe we're all in this together. And by "we", I mean all of creation. We see today (just look around) that the actions of human beings can have adverse effects on the animal world. So it's no great leap (once you posit paragraph 2) to say that what man does can affect animals in the past as well.

And yes, the suffering of animals is very real, and is a very great objective evil. But along with the rest of creation, the ending of that story will be very good indeed.

Syllabus said...

Bob:

One problem I see with that reverse causality thesis is that it seems ad hoc. And, being a weak empiricist, I'm somewhat suspicious of a causal proposition that is virtually indistinguishable from the absence of said causal proposition.

B. Prokop said...

The problem with all these pseudonyms that people use on this website, is that I can never keep straight who's who. I can't remember whether "syllabus" is a Christian or an atheist! Why don't people just use their real names? I ought to start keeping a cheat sheet.

That said, omnichronological causality makes perfect sense in the context of Christian doctrine - a case in point being the Redemption itself. Christ's sacrifice is efficacious for someone living in 200 BC, for example.

grodrigues said...

@ingx24:

"Anyone who claims that animals have no capacity to reason or to suffer has either never had a pet or is suffering from an extreme ideological bias."

Anmals have no capacity for reason; they "suffer", but their suffering is devoid of the spiritual and intellective qualities human suffering has, precisely because animals are not rational beings. I put the word "suffer" on quotes because I do not make the least idea what it is for say, a dog or a cat, to suffer; for all I know, it may just be a case of antropomorphic fallacy at work.

nota bene: this does not give humans the right to treat animals cruelly. Animals do not have "rights", but as stewards of this planet, we do have a certain amount of obligations towards them.

That animals are not rational beings is a rather obvious empirical observation, having nothing to do with Thomism per se. By any chance have you seen animals doing mathematics? Erecting a culture? Have the capability of forming abstract concepts or grasping universals? Do you have *any* reason whatsoever to suppose they are capable of such?

That animals do not have immortal souls is a consequence of they not being rational beings. If tomorrow we found animals on Mars that exhibited all the signs of human rationality we would have to conclude that they too had immortal souls.

@im-skeptical:

"So how do I shed my ignorance? By accepting what doesn't make sense? Yes. it makes sense to you, but only if you abandon reason."

Whatever. Forget I talked to you.

B. Prokop said...

grodigues,

Are you so certain that animals lack immortal souls? I'm not saying they do, but passages like "Bless the Lord you whales and all creatures that move in the waters, all birds of the air, all beasts and cattle, sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever" (Daniel 3:57-59, my emphasis) cause me to wonder. How are they to praise and exalt Him forever if they last only for a time?

grodrigues said...

@B. Prokop:

Yes.

I will skip the Biblical exegesis part and direct you to:

http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/do-animals-have-souls-like-human-beings

The article references Mortimer Adler which I heartily endorse.

ingx24 said...

I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to end this conversation here. I don't know how to respond to dogmatism. Thank you for reminding me why I am not a Catholic.

BenYachov said...

Bob the belief that animals didn't suffer till the fall of man was held by many eastern Fathers & I believe St Basil. I hold with St. Augustine and the west on these matters.

Only God and the Saints themselves know which of us is right.

The Pope hasn't formally settled the matter so believe what you like.

As to animals having immortal souls.....

If you give an immortal soul to an animal it's no longer an animal. It's a human being. Yeh it may furry and might look and act like a Disney character or MARTH SPEAKS.

But it would be human metaphysically.

Cheers.

BenYachov said...

>nota bene: this does not give humans the right to treat animals cruelly. Animals do not have "rights", but as stewards of this planet, we do have a certain amount of obligations towards them.

Amen to that! Preach it Brother!!

Unnecessary cruelty to animals is irrational therefore mortally sinful.

Yeh Animals don't have an afterlife but if you torture one for some sick fun and die unrepentant the animals suffering(such as it is) will end with it's death.

Your suffering won't end! So don't torture animals for fun or you might go to Hell. Along with the child molesters and jerks who talk out loud at the theater!*

*Bonus geek points if you can guess what fictional clergymen I stole that quote from and what TV show.

BenYachov said...

>I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to end this conversation here. I don't know how to respond to dogmatism. Thank you for reminding me why I am not a Catholic.

Beware! He who points the accusatory finger of dogmatism has three fingers pointed back at himself!!!!

(With good reason I should think...just saying)

Victor Reppert said...

Is that your argument, Papalinton? We are winning?

That is not an argument. If the Nazis had won WWII, would the Holocaust have been morally justified?

"But that would be putting the clock back," gasped the governor. "Have you no idea of progress, of development?"
"I have seen them both in an egg," said Caspian. "We call it 'Going Bad' in Narnia...."

C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

B. Prokop said...

Quoting myself: "I'm not saying they do"

Just wonderin' here. Why does possession of an immortal soul make something human? Ben says it would. Blue sky speculation here, but if we were to someday encounter intelligent aliens, would we then have to insist they couldn't have souls because they weren't human?

Steve Lovell said...

In case anyone cares, one of my old professors, the firmly atheistic Peter Carruthers (something of a big name in philosophy of mind), used to assert that except among humans and perhaps the higher primates, there was no such thing as conscious suffering (or conscious anything else). He may still be asserting that ... I haven't kept up with the field.

Another atheist instructor of mine (Deryck Beyleveld) used to object to utilitarianism on the grounds that pains (and pleasures) were not "additive" quantities, and that therefore weighing these "sums" doesn't make sense.

I'm not sure either of them realised that what they were saying didn't sit well with continuing to use certain formulations of the Argument from Evil.

BenYachov said...

>Just wonderin' here. Why does possession of an immortal soul make something human? Ben says it would. Blue sky speculation here, but if we were to someday encounter intelligent aliens, would we then have to insist they couldn't have souls because they weren't human?

Your thinking of being human in terms of strick biology =species homo sapians sapian.

I'm thinking of it in terms of metaphysics.

If we encountered intelligent aliens even if they had 100 tentacles & a dozen eyes they would metaphysically be human.

Thus made in the divine image.

B. Prokop said...

Gotcha, Ben. Thanks.

I seem to recall C.S. Lewis speculating somewhere (but I can't remember where) about meeting up with non-intelligent aliens who nevertheless were "ensouled", and alternatively with hyperintelligent aliens who were spiritually indistinguishable from rocks.

Victor, do you recall such a passage in Lewis, or am I mis-remembering?

Side note: We seem to come across that very situation among humans. A person born with an IQ of zero nevertheless possesses an immortal soul. And I personally have encountered at least one highly intelligent person who appeared (at least to me) to be completely spiritually dead. Even Dante speculated that there could be people whose souls have departed their bodies prior to death. (Inferno, Canto XXXIII, lines 118-158)

Ilíon said...

"Just wonderin' here. Why does possession of an immortal soul make something human? Ben says it would. Blue sky speculation here, but if we were to someday encounter intelligent aliens, would we then have to insist they couldn't have souls because they weren't human?"

Some people, most people, in fact (and Son of Confusion is a good example of this sort, in much the same way that he's a good example of confusion concerning most topics) do not, or will not, understand that 'person' and 'human' are not synonyms. Thus, while a human is a person, a person is not necessarily a human. People who do not (or will not) understand this distinction are bound to then make errors of reasoning, starting with 'category errors', when they attempt to reason about "immortal souls" ... and 'persons'.

It is not the "possession" of "immortal souls" that makes us humans -- we don't possess "immortal souls"; rather, if one insists upon thinking in terms of "immortal souls", then one must say that we are "immortal souls". In similar wise, we do not have "free wills", we are "free wills".

We have hands, for instance. We might lose or be deprived of our hands, and yet we would still exist, we would still be ourselves. In contrast, to speak of a person "losing" his "immortal soul" or his "free will" is to speak of that person ceasing to exist -- the terms "immortal soul" and "free will" are just different ways of referring to the self, the person; any distinctions between the meanings of these and similarly used terms is one of emphasis.

If there are "intelligent aliens" out there, they are persons, they are rational beings -- they are not persons because they are intelligent, but rather they are intelligent because they are persons.

The term 'intelligence' refers to the speed (and accuracy) with which a person, a rational being, can perceive and grasp the logical relationships between various known propositions and thus learn new propositions. The idiot is no less a person than the genius; he's just generally slower at learning and reasoning; whereas the 'idiot savant' tends to outshine even the genius in some narrowly proscribed area of rational endeavor.

B. Prokop said...

Ya Know, I finally figured out who Ilion reminds me of - he's Bucky the cat in the comic strip "Get Fuzzy"!!! A perfect match!

Ilíon said...

What I can't figure out is whether Prokop is more Lenin/Mussolini or more Stalin/Hitler.

B. Prokop said...

I just remembered. I had made a New Year's resolution to not go negative on this website, and here I've broken it. I therefore apologize to Bucky the cat. He never deserved to be compared to Ilion!

By the way, I would prefer Admiral Nishimura/Marshal Chuikov.

BenYachov said...

@Ilion

Sorry buddy I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome I am.