Saturday, November 29, 2008

Star Trek and the Problem of Evil

A redated post.

Consider a Star Trek I once saw. There was a man, who in the show was named Flint, who was born several thousand years BC, whose body was able to regenerate whenever it was damaged, granting him an virtually endless life. What that meant was that, over and over again, he saw his companions and wives die. He ended up on a planet in outer space where he decided to build the perfect companion, an android named Rayna. Rayna could converse with him on any subject imaginable, could be physically affectionate, but there was one problem. Its "love" for Flint was fully and completely determined by Flint's programming, and therefore was deficient as love. So Flint brought the Enterprise and Captain Kirk to the planet so that he could be a rival for Rayna's affections. (Fans of Star Trek will recognize Captain Kirk as the Intergalactic Bill Clinton). Anyway, since Rayna was an android, Rayna couldn't choose freely, and so fell over and became deactivated.

If God is love, then isn't there something deficient about love that is fully and completely determined by the one who recevies the love? If this is the case, then there is a good reason why a loving God might choose to give us incompatiblist freedom, even if this freedom results in sin and perhaps even eternal separation from God for some persons. In order for the choice to love to be meaningful, the choice not to love must also be given.


Edwardtbabinski said...

Why speak about "eternal separation" as if change is no longer possible after some point? If there is "freewill" and if "freewill" is so vitally important, then why not retain freewill and that means retaining possibilities of change throughout eternity? Maybe people have their "up" and "down" periods throughout eternity? If you're looking at options purely philosophically then that remains an option, eternal oscillation with no point of "no return."

By the way, the Star Trek plot might owe something to Heinlein's Lazarus Long character who was featured in the novel, Time Enough For Love, and also in other Heinlein stories.

Edwardtbabinski said...

Please see, "Non-Exclusivism, Universalism, Evil, and, Philosophy As One Big 'IF'"

Steven Carr said...

Many people are happy with the love shown to them by their dogs.


And why does God issue commandments for people to love him freely?

Jim Jordan said...

And why does God issue commandments for people to love him freely?

You never tire of this "God is like a grumpy uncle" reasoning? God is at the heart of existence. We are analogous to the android, not Flint. That episode is an excellent illustration.
I always wondered how Star Trek could have been begun by an atheist but have so many Bible lessons in its plots. God must be, like, sovereign or something. :-)

Randy said...

Sorry, but this topic seems quite bizarre to me.
You appear to be trying to remove God’s possible culpability for the suffering that occurs in the world on the basis of a fantasy story in which a machine is incapable of loving a person.

And Flint is obviously supposed to represent God in this strange scenario. But he comes across as a pitiful figure. Perhaps even insane.

I don't think you are going to have much luck resovling the problem of evil with this sort of approach.

Victor Reppert said...

The point here is to emphasize the value of libertarian free will. One aspect of the problem of evil has to do with why God doesn't simple create everyone with compatibilist free will and then guarantee that everyone freely does what is right. Then we get the world of Mr. Rogers, and the drama we call earth history is neatly avoided.

The answer is seems to be that if God wants to love us and for us to love Him, God cannot assume sovereign control over our actions. If God does that, then something will invariably be missing from our love for Him, the possibility of not loving.

Does this solve the problem of evil? It is primarily aimed at moral evil, rather than natural evil. It is an attempt to motivate libertarian free will as component in a response to the problem of evil. It is an attempt to explain why God would give such a thing to us. That is the scope and context of this discussion.

normajean said...

But can't God create only libertarian free creatures he knows would freely choose to do good? Or is this world not feasible to create like Plantinga says?

normajean said...

Here is a comment I received from some anonymous writer regarding the soteriological problem of evil: If God has MK, he sees that there are surprising connections between the free actions of different people. Thus, it might be that God knows the following set of facts:

- A would freely go to heaven if God created both A and B
- A would freely go to hell if God created A without B
- B would freely go to hell if God created B without A

In this case, if God wants to create at least one of A and B, he is stuck--there is no way for him, given how people would freely choose (God cannot interfere with free will without that free will ceasing to be free)--to create both A and B while ensuring that both go to heaven. His best choice among A and B, if he is to ensure someone goes to heaven, is to create A and B. Now, in fact, God has more than just two possibilities for people. He has infinitely many. But there may be similar, just more complex interconnections, ensuring that if God wants substantially many people to freely go to heaven, some people freely go to hell as well.

Anonymous said...

What reason is there for a self-sufficient and fulfilled three-in-one God to have created anyone else to freely love him in the first place? That there is none demands an explanation for why this particular world with its moral mayhem was created in the first place, especially if God knew in advance this was the potential result of his choice to create.

And why would any loving person say, "love me or I'll punish you"?

Let's see, "love me or I'll punish you," yeah, that's what loving others means, right? This too makes no sense to me. And if it doesn't make sense when your God supposedly created me to make sense of things, then this gives me reason to doubt the stories written in the ancient texts of the past which tell me otherwise.


BTW as you have debated Calvinists on your side of the fence I am presently debating with Mythicists on my side. I'm finding the same fanatical reaction both on my blog and on others. Any help would be appreciated.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

I deny that love must be free to be meaningful, and affirm instead that Rayna's love was not genuine because, by definition, it was a simulation of love. A simulation of love is not love itself. Whether or not it was inexorably caused by processes beyond her control (ie her programming) is irrevelant, and so your analogy fails because it construes the wrong reason for her disfunction.

Genuine love can, of course, be inexorably caused. Surely even you, Victor, wouldn't go so far as to say that the Father, from eternity, freely chose to love the Son, and that there was a genuine possibility that he could not have; and that he still could choose to hate him instead. I don't even know what that would do to your theology. And, as a father myself, I know for a fact that I didn't freely choose my love for my daughter. Are you really willing to affirm that this necessary exemplar of love, and my contingent, analagous love, are not genuine? That would be quite a remarkable conclusion of this insipid argument.


Randy said...


I deny that love must be free to be meaningful, and affirm instead that Rayna's love was not genuine because, by definition, it was a simulation of love. A simulation of love is not love itself. Whether or not it was inexorably caused by processes beyond her control (ie her programming) is irrevelant, and so your analogy fails because it construes the wrong reason for her disfunction.

I think you are right on with your critique of the Star Trek analogy. The machine in that episode was simply simulating love. And simulated love is never the same as real love.

And pace Victor, having the capacity to love
does not depend on the metaphysical theory of libertarian free will. If it did we wouldn't be flooded with so many sad love songs in our pop music.

Victor Reppert said...

Well, in the case of the Son's love for the Father, the Son under the absolute sovereign control of the Father.

Where the person being loved is in complete control of the love directed toward himself or herself, it looks as if there is something lacking.

Bnonn, your point is, I take it, that since Rayna is an android, she lacks the inner qualia that ought to exist if the love is going to be real. Rayna is, in effect, a zombie, and therefore doesn't love. I have all sorts of sympathy with arguments like that. But I am not at all sure if the intuition pump is defused if we were to grant that Rayna a full range of romantic qualia to go along with her love-behavior. Sovereign control still creates a problem, at least it seems to me.

What would be interesting would be to look at the case of an effective love potion, which the Hasker passage appeals to. In the case of Voldemort's mother Merope, she cast a spell on Tom Riddle, Sr., causing him to love her, only to become frustrated by the fact that the love produced by the potion was compelled. So she stopped using the spell, and he dumped her.

The question I have is how compatibilist theories of freedom would handle this sort of an example. But maybe that should be a separate entry.