Monday, July 31, 2006

Volker Dittman's argument from evil

At 8:04 PM, Francois Tremblay said…

Here is an argument by Volker Dittman:

1. There is evil/suffering.
2. A god is morally righteous/omnibenevolent.
3. Either:
1. A god can create a universe without evil/suffering.
2. There is an explanation for all evil/suffering. (With a theodicy.)
3. There is no explanation for some evil/suffering.
4. If 3a. or 3c. is true, then there is no god. This point represents the usual Problems of Evil.
5. If 3b. is true, then all evil/suffering is justified.
6. If 3b. is true, then all human evil is justified. (from 5)
7. If all our actions can be justified, then there is no more morality. We can rationalize the worst crimes.
8. If 3b. is true, then there is no morality. (from 6 and 7)

Of course this just presupposes what a free will defender will deny, that if it is wrong for me to do act X, then it is wrong for God to allow me to do act X. The freedom of my choice is supposed to be a good, which would be lost if God were to determine my action in such a way as to keep me from doing that act, even though the act itself would be sinful.


Anonymous said...

Will you have free will in heaven? And will you sin? If not, then God could have created a scenario here on earth in which free will and sin were not mutually dependent.

Mike Darus said...

I agree in principle with Anonymous. From my point of view, it is easier to explain the presence of evil in this world than to explain its absence in heaven.

I do not think that affirming 3A is conclusive for the nonexistence of God. God could have been able to create a world without evil but chose to include it. This does not necessarily disqualify God from being good (there seems to be an assumption that the definition of omnibenevolence is agreed upon or obvious.)

Mike Darus said...

Another problem with 3A is in 4a there is an implicit change in terms from "a god CAN create..." to "a god MUST create...".

There is also a definate problem with 5. It assumes that if God's actions can be justified, all actions are justified. This assumes that God and man are subject to the same code of conduct. It also assumes that the explanation is not a good reason that makes God's action right, but merely an excuse that can be used universally to all ethical issues.

Anonymous said...

Do you really have free will if you are behaving out of fear of punishment or hope of reward?

How do you reconcile the concept of free will with the doctrine that you must accept God's will?

Victor Reppert said...

I think Sennett has a paper on that question. People in heaven are living on the basis of the free choices they have made; freedom of will in the libertarian sense does not seem necessary for genuine love so long as the love is being given based on a free choice that has been made.

steve said...

Somewhat off topic, you may or may not be aware of this critique:

I'm on your side in this issue.

exbeliever said...

Yea, I'm starting to feel way overlooked here :-(

I wrote an extensive comment on the problems of evil that got passed over (a corrected version is here) and a post on one of your arguments from reason that has been plugged by John Loftus, Steve Hays, an unidentified theist called "the discomfiter," and myself in three of your comment sections.

The lack of response is giving me a complex ;-). I keep wondering if my arguments are just so bad that they are being ignored.

Victor Reppert said...

Not at all. I am planning to respond. But I was just going one by one through the comments, especially looking for numbered-premise arguments, but also responding to other comments. In the meantime, if some people on my side of the issue have a few things to say that would be nice.

exbeliever said...

Whew! At least it wasn't just me.

Anonymous said...

First, my trouble with the refutation presented in this post. It seems to assume that free will is a greater good than a total lack of suffering, and from that, seems to state a god would be helpless to prevent suffering caused by free will in the name of supporting the greater good. But that would mean God wasn't omnipotent, which is a contradiction in terms.

If God were truly omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, he would break the rules of logic and grant people both free will and a universe without suffering. If God were both omnipotent and omnibenevolent, we could have our cake and eat it, too.

I agree with the spirit of Dittman's argument, if not the letter or all of the implications. The eternal problem with strong atheistic arguments like this one is that it ignores the fact that if a god were omnipotent, he could do anything, including making His existence seem completely nonsensical to us human beings. It ignores the vast scope of omnipotence.

Another, more technical problem with the argument is that it doesn't seem to explicitly purport to disprove the possibility of the existence of God. It only seems to suggest that this universe couldn't have a system of morality if God existed, because nothing could be wrong. Now that does seem to contradict God's supposed omnipotent and omnibenevolent nature, but the argument never states that.

Again, however, the argument makes a mistake in assuming there could be NO system of morality if God existed. There could indeed be a system of morality, but it would have to disclude any judgements about suffering*. The argument sidesteps this by turning "evil/suffering", an ambiguous term, into "evil", a morally certain one, between 5 and 6. Which commits a logical fallacy in begging the question+, which is just the sort of naughty thing I don't want this argument doing.

* Which would keep God from doing something, creating yet another omnipotence problem. But let's not get into that.

+ Namely, "How does human suffering equate with evil?"

Bryan K said...

My simple response would be that 7 presumes that God would allow one to commit acts of atrocities in such a way that God could not compensate His duty(create the best world possible). It may very well be that upon this decision you would be hit by a truck there by preserving the overall fabric of "the best possible world" while at the same time creating sympathy for your loss and through that loss a family comes together and go on to unite the world in happiness.