Friday, October 27, 2006

Ed Babinski on the Argument from Evil

The whole defensive operation against the argument from evil is an attempt to who the limits of a philosophical argument and the difficulty it faces in proving the nonexistence of God. Whenever the people you don't like are making arguments, you love to point out our cognitive limitations. When we try to do it to the argument from evil, you object.

Atheists are attempting to prove that God does not exist using the argument from evil. So which is it Ed? Can atheists prove that the tri-omni God does not exist, or not? Does the argument from evil, a philosophical argument if there ever was one, really prove that God does not exist? If it does, then you must maintain that philosophy is not just one big IF, and that it really can prove a significant philosophical result. If, on the other hand, you maintain that the argument doesn't prove the non-existence of God, then you agree with me about the argument from evil. There's no middle ground Ed. It's yes or no. Please resist the temptation to elaborate.


Jason Pratt said...

His link actually worked? (When I bothered to look it up, it couldn't be found at DebunX. Weirdly, the local search engine had it listed as an abstract, but even _its_ link didn't work. I guess it's back now?)

And yeah, that was the main criticism I guessed I would have with it, too. {g}

Victor Reppert said...

No. His link, which he has posted on about 6 or 7 of my posts, does not work. But this one does.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Vic, you shouldn't have told him not to elaborate. Now his reply will be twice as long as it would have been otherwise (if he replies at all).

Jason Pratt said...

Ah! He moved it to his own blog. That explains it.

His total evasion of your question was classic, btw. All he had to do was answer whether he thought the AfE was capable of proving something in atheism's favor, or not.

(I guess actually agreeing with you on something would have been too much of a strain. {g} Interested parties can, in fact, read Ed's answer by following the link Victor gave above. He didn't resist the temptation to elaborate, fwiw.)

Victor Reppert said...

I've responded on his blog. If you agree with me, maybe you should say so over there.

Jason Pratt said...

I think you're doing pretty well already. {s!} (And I don't much like going to purely contentious sites to engage in fights. It would be different if I thought Ed was anything more than a provocateur making waves for the sake of making waves.)

Edwardtbabinski said...

Victor Reppert wrote at my blog...

I asked you [Ed] a yes or no question. Do you believe that the argument from evil proves that God does not exist. If you are consistent in maintaining that philosophy is all a game and proves nothing, then the answer has to be no.

Don't you see that the atheist is trying to disprove the existence of God by appealing to the argument from evil? I am asking you whether you think they succeed in doing so.

If I ask you whether or you think an argument proves something, you can answer "yes," "no," or I don't know. Given the fact that the terms in this discussion are clear, the choices are stark. Stop BSing and make a clear statement.


Dear Vic,

1) It's moot who is "BSing" whom. (See my original article and comments to Vic here.) Not being an atheist nor a classical theist, my point was that none of us appear to know all we need to know in order to construct convincing (purely philosophical) proofs of things like a "tri-omni God" of classical theism; or prove purely philosophically that we all shall live eternally; or prove what the afterlife will be like; or prove that we know for sure (or even that people believing in the same holy books agree) on all the things we must believe (or do) in order to ensure a positive eternity.

2) Concerning your second question, on "the argument from evil," it does not appear to be a matter of deying its validity or asserting it, because one does not even need to construct "philosophical proofs" in order to entertain basic questions concerning "why" the cosmos is the way it is. I personally hope there is more than just mortal life with its pains and then death. Having the brain/mind to be able to forsee my own eventual death, I simply don't find the prospect inviting. Neither am I a big fan of sickness, natural disasters, poverty, ignorance, nor the confusion and problems inherent in the very act of attempting to communicate with one another (across boundaries of language, place or culture), as well as across boundaries in communication that arise simply by virtue of not having read the same books, nor met the same people, all of which affect our beliefs.

Neither does it require philosophical "proofs" to express the desire for a life that does not end but continues to grow and flourish, or a desire not to have to struggle so greatly against ignorance, poverty, illness, and acts of nature that destroy, cripple or kill. (Moreover, if the ancient Hebrews, a religious people, could conceive and desire a mythical "Eden" in which people were fed without having to sweat over thorns and thistles, where there was no danger in giving birth, no animals with poisonous bites, no illness, and where everyone spoke the same language, then questions concerning why a physical cosmos more desirous than our own could not have been created "in the beginning," are not simply the result of atheistic doubts, but remain valid questions humanity has pondered for quite some time.)

3) A further word on the tri-omni God idea and all the assumptions that lay behind it. I don't begin my own search for truth with the notion of a tri-omni God, but simply with an admission of lack of knowldge. But concerning such a God one should note there are "open" theologians who cite the Bible to argue that God is not necessarily revealed as being tri-omni, but who consider that God might not know everything. If so that might make the problem of evil less of a problem.

The "free will" defense seems less convincing as a possible solution, because nature presumably got along without human "free will" for hundreds of millions of years, i.e., long before humanity showed up, God was perfecting the ways and means of nature, including carnivorism, diseases, natural disasters, along with the inevitability of death of every individual living thing. Moreover, the presumed attributes/definitions of a tri-omni God that combine "absolute freewill" with "absolute goodness" is a mind boggler. (Doesn't sound like any definition of "freewill" that human beings know about, since for us it is defined as involving a genuine choice between "good" and "evil." Neither has anyone proven that the "will" of human beings is "free" in a libertarian philosophical sense, but the tri-omni God philosophers have zipped past that unanswered question and already claim to be devising "proofs" regarding matters pertaining to things about "God's will." How imaginative of them!)

It also remains questionable just what the "good" is in various cases--because a theologian can simply pluck imaginatively from various dogmas, even competing dogmas about "God," and claim in each case that such dogmas illustrate what is "good" about God. For instance, God's commanding of the slaying of the Canaanite children has been interpreted by some theologians as "good" in the sense that God was sparing those children's souls from growing up, falling into sin and going to hell, by instead sending them to eternal bliss via the blessing of a bloody sword, and thus God's character as "love" was demonstrated. But Calvinists and other teachers of the classical Augustinian doctrine of "infant damnation," interpret the slaying of the Canaanite children as being "good" because God wished to demonstrate his character as "judge," including children, including sending them forthwith to eternal damnation. It's all "good" depending on one's interpretive theology!

Talk about theology being a wax nose!

I didn't even mention the third alternative according to the Catholic tradition of "limbo" for dead unbaptized children, which was viewed as "good" by Catholics for over a thousand years (though I read about "limbo" being abolished just this year at a recent church council, or close to being abolished?). Limbo kept the unbaptized infants at a distance from God's holiness, but not deserving of eternal hellfire.

So we've got three definitions of what was "good" about God commanding the killing of everything alive in cities that refused to submit and become Israelite slaves. And different Christians seem quite content to always come up with their own excuse (read, "guess") for why they believe such commands and actions were "good."

It's also "good" no doubt for a tri-omni God to ensure that a high percentage of the young of every species on earth provide food for viruses and bacteria--as they have for hundreds of millions of years right up to the present.

In short what I am saying is that I begin with features in the cosmos that we all know and can agree upon relatively well, and also begin with some "good" desires that many share, rather than seek to justify every last command and acitiviy of "God" as described in various "holy books." I also share many basic hopes and fears that both atheists and religionists share. So I think I am asking some plain questions.

I reiterate, we live in a cosmos that already has "good" and "evil" as well as plenty of grey areas inbetween. Philosophy (especially philosophy of religion) seems to want to take these notions that we have gained from living in this cosmos of mixed blessings and death of all living things, and strain out everything in this cosmos that we don't like, and try to begin with assumptions that are all "good" (again, depending on what definition of "good" you are using vis a vis "God"). But that means that "philosophy" (especially philosophy of religion) then has the unenviable task of explaining how everything began "perfect good," but led to the cosmos we all know where everything dies and even the things we desire most seem mixed blessings (including the hope of converting everyone else to our own view).

Victor Reppert said...

OK Let's go back to kindergarten. The argument from evil is proffered as a proof of the nonexistence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good being. The defender is trying to prove nothing except that the atheist has not proven atheism. A person can accept the argument from evil who does not accept the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good being, even if they believe in som other being that might be in some sense a deity.

You can believe that the existence of the world's evil is logically incompatible with theism, you can believe that it provides substantial and virtually overwhelming evidence against theism. You can believe that it provides some, but not overwhelming evidence against theism. or that it provides no evidence against theism. Which is it Ed? These options exhaust the alternatives, unless you actually think that evil provides evidence for theism. Where do you stand?

In the issue of the problem of evil, it's atheists like Loftus and Carr, and Flew and Mackie, and Rowe and Draper, who put the argument forward as a good or perhaps decisive reason to reject theism. Some of them go as far as to say that the argument from evil proves that all theists hold their beliefs irrationally. If they are right then a philosophical argument in a major topic in the philosophy of religion works, and works well. If you don't, then you accept the outcome of my project, which has always been to show that there is nothing overwhelming about the argument from evil.

You lose credibility every time you dodge this question and pour out pages and pages of anti-Christian diatribe while at the same time refusing to accept the idea that any argument in philosophy really works. Unless you make clear what conclusion you are driving at, I must conclude that your aminadversions on these matters are "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Or, to put it another way, BS.

Steven Carr said...

'In the issue of the problem of evil, it's atheists like Loftus and Carr, and Flew and Mackie, and Rowe and Draper, who put the argument forward as a good or perhaps decisive reason to reject theism.'

No I don't.

If God is not omnibenevolent, or weaker than Satan, then the problem of evil goes away.

Anonymous said...

Wrong! The problem of evil does NOT go away without an omni-God. It just has no solution. The atheist must acknowledge that the suffering of billions of people throughout history will not be vindicated, and we are stuck with the mess we seem ever more unlikely to extricate ourselves from. The problem of evil is still as big as ever, with the exception that, if you do deny God you also deny any hope that it can ever be solved.

Victor Reppert said...

Theism in this context means a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good. I think I indicated that belief in other supernatural beings is not affected by the AFE.

Edwardtbabinski said...

My reply is located here. I hope you will find after you've read my reply (along with considering what I wrote in previous ones, since I use different examples in each of them) that I have evaded none of your questions, and sought to express my views and opinions as clearly as possible. Though I will add that one reason I have sought to critique your views in particular and add my contents to your blog is that we have a long history together from before you began blogging and before I ever had a website, and we both have loved C. S. Lewis and the Inklings and Chesterton and chess as well. We are fellow gamesmen and debaters in that respect. Years ago you even sent me copies of your classroom lesson plans in which you examined various theistic arguments and asked my opinions, as well as chapters of your book before it was published. I still have those emails. And you are a kind person (though the strain of running an open blog consisting of philosophical arguments is bound to get to anyone), and also someone who recognizes a fair degree of inconclusiveness in philosophical and theological arguments, though not as often or as broadly as I myself do. I sense that perhaps you'd appreciate what I had to say more if I visited atheistic blogs rather than yours, and questioned their ability to prove things equally as much as I have yours. However, I don't feel compelled to deal with atheists as much as theists, especially those theists who believe in special written revelations from God, and promises of salvation for believers in those revelations and damnation for non-believers in those revelations. The questions that theism of a special revelatory type raises, along with philosophical questions in general, make the debate more interesting in my opinion.

Jason Pratt said...

Passing through on my way to business elsewhere, but...

{{I sense that perhaps you'd appreciate what I had to say more if I visited atheistic blogs rather than yours, and questioned their ability to prove things equally as much as I have yours.}}

Ed, you don’t even do that when you _do_ have opportunities. I’ve been privy to a significant amount of that email correspondence since-before-there-were-blogs, which correspondences included large amounts of writing by definite atheists, just as there are here on Victor’s journal--and never _once_ have I _ever_ seen you try to apply your standards against them when _they_ make claims. (On the contrary, you borrow their arguments and positively apply them whenever you think you can take a shot at Christian belief by doing so.)

I doubt Victor is any more impressed by your statement here, therefore, than I am. If you don’t “feel compelled” to deal with (i.e. stand against) atheists as much as theists, it isn’t from a lack of opportunity where we could see you doing it.

{{However, I don't feel compelled to deal with atheists as much as theists, especially those theists who believe in special written revelations from God, and promises of salvation for believers in those revelations and damnation for non-believers in those revelations.}}

This would look more impressive if you hadn’t begun your journal entry by recognizing Victor to be among non-exclusivists (thus _not_ the people you’re talking about here), and then deriding non-exclusivists for doing what they do in order to “justify the devilish amount of ignorance in the world.” (Right before you began yet another familiar attempt at, in essence, _justifying_ the devilish amount of ignorance in the world by trying to claim that philosophical inquiry cannot legitimately reach final answers about anything.)

So, you’re going to hang Victor as a goat or as a sheep, either way: if you can do it by implying (as you constantly do in regard to me as well, despite even more positive evidence that I am neither an exclusivist nor a gnostic) that he’s a gnostic exclusivist, then that’s what you’re going to do. If you’re ever grudgingly forced to admit that he’s a non-exclusivist, then you’ll paint him as going that route, not out of any charity on his part, much less because he thinks it actually makes better sense, but so that he can justify devilish amounts of ignorance.

That isn’t gamesmanship. That’s an agenda--and you’re willing to contradict yourself from moment to moment, if that’s what it takes, in order to prosecute it.

If a ‘gamesman’ camps in a tower where he constantly uses green team weapons and tactical support to snipe only at blue team members, no matter what it is the particular blue team members are doing, then frankly he has only himself to blame if blue team members snort at his claims, no matter how strenuous, to only be grey. People who cheer for anyone playing against the Tennessee Volunteers (but especially if the teams come from the Pac-10 conference), _have_ chosen a side.

And no one in their right mind is ever going to believe them if they protest otherwise.

Jason Pratt