A specific instance of the problem of evil

This is The Skeptical Zone, so it’s only fitting that we turn our attention to topics other than ID from time to time.

The Richard Mourdock brouhaha provides a good opportunity for this. Mourdock, the Republican Senate candidate from the state of Indiana, is currently in the spotlight on my side of the Atlantic for a statement he made on Wednesday during a debate with his Democratic opponent:

You know, this is that issue that every candidate for federal or even state office faces. And I, too, certainly stand for life. I know there are some who disagree and I respect their point of view but I believe that life believes at conception. The only exception I have for – to have an abortion is in that case for the life of the mother. I just – I struggle with it myself for a long time but I came to realize that life is that gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that it is something that God intended to happen. [emphasis mine]

Mourdock’s comment has created a political firestorm, and debate is raging about what he meant by it, exactly. Did he mean that God intended for the rape to happen, or merely that God intended for the pregnancy to happen once the rape had been committed? While Mourdock’s intended meaning is an interesting question, I’d like to concentrate instead on the scenario he mentions and what it says about the God that Mourdock believes in.

Mourdock is a non-denominational evangelical Christian. As such, he presumably believes in a God who is omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly good. How do Mourdock and other theists who share that belief reconcile their God with the fact that rapes happen? An omnipotent God could intervene to prevent rapes from happening, but he does not. Why not? He could also presumably have created a universe in which rapes don’t happen, but he did not. Why not?

One common Christian response is that free will is very important to God. If God intervened to prevent bad things like rapes from happening, according to this argument, then he would be denying us our free will. Similarly, if he created a universe in which rape never happened, it would require turning us into robots who were incapable of doing bad things, also denying us our free will.

Setting aside the issue of whether free will exists, this argument has always seemed bogus to me. Suppose that tomorrow I decide to blow up the entire earth. Does the mere fact that I’m incapable of carrying out my plan mean that my free will has been denied? I don’t think so. If it did, it would mean that God is constantly denying our free will, because there are always things that we want to do but can’t. If that’s permissible, then why isn’t it okay for God to prevent us from raping?

And what if I were capable of blowing up the earth, but God intervened at the last moment to prevent me from succeeding? Would that constitute a denial of my free will? Among humans, intent is enough to convict (cf the recent case of a man who thought he was detonating a bomb at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York). Why isn’t free intent good enough for God? Why does he insist on allowing us to go through with our evil acts?

Comments are welcome, particularly from theists who believe in an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good God.

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82 thoughts on “A specific instance of the problem of evil

  1. Seversky,

    Going back to free will, it seems to me that the problem for Christians is that the existence of an omniscient God would render it impossible. An omniscient God is one who knows all that exists to be known. If the future exists to be known then such a God must know it. Conversely, if such a God knew the future then it would already exist in order to be known, it would be pre-ordained and we would have no free will in the matter.

    There are a lot of problems with the concept of libertarian free will, but I don’t think that is one of them. The causality clearly runs one way: you make a free decision in 2012, and your free decision causes God, back at the beginning of time, to know exactly what you are going to do in 2012. It’s a weird, backwards-in-time causality, but I think it is nevertheless coherent. God’s knowledge is not forcing your decision; it’s your decision that is forcing God’s knowledge.

    Consider two gods, one omniscient (the O god) and one not-so-omniscient (the NSO god). The O god thinks “Seversky is going to scratch his(?) nose while reading this sentence.” The NSO god thinks “No, Seversky will cough instead”. Turns out that the O god is right — you scratch your nose. But the O god’s thought didn’t cause your behavior any more than the NSO god’s thought did. The O god’s thought is the result of your behavior, not the cause of it.

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  2. keiths: ” The O god’s thought is the result of your behavior, not the cause of it.”

    I think if O god had kept that thought to himself you would have a point, but for those that follow scripture, Jesus’s death was a prophecy from O god, and therefore was going to happen regardless of what anyone did to try and prevent it.

    So the problem is, if Pilate wanted to let Jesus “off the hook” he wouldn’t have been successful.

    “o god” informs people with his prophecies, that any action they believe they are free to take, will not affect a specific future event.

    That’s a terrible thing to have to accept, and yet the Bible tries to make people think just that.

     

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  3. Toronto:

    “o god” informs people with his prophecies, that any action they believe they are free to take, will not affect a specific future event.

    Or that their actions will actually bring about the outcome they are trying to avoid, as in the “Appointment in Samarra”:

    (Death Speaks:)
    There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning? That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.

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  4. hotshoe and keiths,

    Thanks for providing the additional details.  I have am nearly speechless. If I were less compassionate, I would opine that Mung would benefit from being on the receiving end of such an act, but not even morally reprehensible misanthropes deserve that.
     

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  5. Mung:

    Most Christians hold beliefs in addition to those three. You haven’t even tried to consider how those additional beliefs affect your argument.

    Sure I have. I considered two common Christian beliefs that purport to solve the problem of evil:

    1. The belief that God values free will, that a world with free will is better than a world without it, and that allowing evil is the price that must be paid for such a world.

    2. The belief that suffering and evil are God’s way of teaching us important lessons such as humility and compassion.

    I’ve shown why both of these defenses fail to resolve the problem. Mung, do you have a rational explanation of why your God allows evil and suffering?

    But in addition to [atheists] being affected by the problem of evil,

    Atheists don’t believe in a deity at all, much less an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good deity. The problem of evil is not a problem for them — only for theists.

    …atheists are faced with a far worse problems. And this is why your ‘argument’ can’t be taken seriously.

    Even if atheism were absolutely, incontrovertibly wrong, how would that rescue you from the problem of evil? As I already explained:

    The ‘problem of evil’ is a problem for anyone who
    1) believes that God exists [i.e. thinks that atheists are wrong];
    2) believes that he is omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good; and
    3) believes that evil things happen in the world.

    If you hold those three beliefs, then the problem of evil exists for you. (Whether you deal with it or choose instead to bury your head in the sand is another matter entirely.) Philosophers and theologians, including Christian philosophers and theologians, have long recognized the problem. They’ve been wrestling with it for centuries. If you think they’re wrong for treating it as a problem, then tell us why.

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  6. Mung:

    Why? Because keiths can’t/won’t define rape?

    My earlier response still holds:

    I also didn’t give a definition of ‘God’, ‘evil’, ‘tsunami’, or ‘the’. Yet Joe, Robert and everyone here at TSZ managed to understand the argument. Stop pretending that you don’t, Mung.

    Mung:

    And he seems oblivious to the possibility that someone might think that God could be the cause of evil.

    Not only am I aware of that possibility, I can even quote scripture in support of it (my Christian background comes in handy sometimes). Is that your position? If you believe that God is the cause of evil, do you also believe that God is perfectly good? If so, how do you reconcile the two?

    He’s an intellectual lightweight, and all you “skeptics” over there at TSZ don’t deserve the name of skeptic.

    Interesting that you haven’t been able to rebut my “lightweight” arguments. Show us how easy it is, Mung.

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  7. Keiths: Suppose idea X is justified. 

    First, how do you justify an idea’s justification? One can always “object” that the idea by which you justify X isn’t justified, ad nauseum. ID Proponents do this when they say OOL is “foundational issue”. They are appealing to the idea that, unless we can justify Darwinism, then Darwinism does not represent progress. Second, justificationism is impossible as it results in an infinite regress. Theists claim they’ve “solved” the problem, but they’ve merely pushed it into an inexplicable realm. 

    It’s as if they’ve merely pushed the food around on their plate and claimed they’ve ate it. But it’s still there staring them in the face. This is what we should be pointing out to them. 

    What we want is to devise criticisms that are specifically designed to differentiate between specific, completing conjectured ideas. This is because we want to find the errors that exists in some theories, but not others. That’s how we make progress. However, the criticism that “Idea X isn’t justified” does not represent that sort of opportunity as it can be applied to any idea.

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  8. Keiths: It doesn’t, but that’s beside my point, which is that the following are two separate arguments:

    1. The reason God makes us suffer is to teach us humility and compassion.

    2. The reason God makes us suffer is beyond our ability to comprehend.

    Again, [1] is a bad explanation. Why?

    Who is taught when person X suffers? Is it X, someone else or everyone? What degree humility and compassion can a person reach that they would no longer need to be taught further suffering? What degree of suffering is necessary to teach us humility and compassion? Is it prescribed for each person? Do we exceed this amount of suffering? If so, what causes this additional suffering?

    In other words, it’s unclear if [1] actually solves the problem that it supposedly claims to solve. For example, unless theists assume all suffering comes from or is allowed by God and that it is specifically prescribed for each and every one of us to the degree we need, then there is suffering in the world that God didn’t prescribe. Why does God need to get involved if we already suffer, which teaches humility and compassion regardless? If there is no un-prescribed suffering, how can we know exactly who needed suffering in the degree that they received so we can falsify the idea? 

    IOW, adding God to the mix doesn’t actually allow us to make progress on the issue of suffering. Rather, it merely pushes the problem into some inexplicable realm. This is because God doesn’t play a hard to vary, functional role in an individuals suffering.

    The role that God and suffering plays can be easily varied without effecting the outcome. Not to mention that it’s not unclear why God couldn’t teach us humility and compassion in some other way. 

    This makes it a bad explanation. New observations could always be reinterpreted to mean that person X suffering taught person Y humility and compassion, etc. 

    For example, we cannot teach ourselves to be more humble and compassionate to avoid suffering because a quota that we must reach to avoid suffering is not defined. Apparently, such a quote does exist, but God hasn’t told us for some good reason, such as we could never comprehend it as finite beings. 

    So, when the most humble and compassionate couple you know is killed in a car accident the day before they were to be married, there could have been some really good reason, such as had they not suffered then countless others who knew them would not have been taught the humility and compassion they had achieved, etc. 

    As such, theists are implicitly claiming we must throw up our hands and simply accept that there is a good reason for suffering and we cannot make progress on the issue, because it is beyond human reasoning an problem solving. 

    Meditation on compassion and humility is useless because it’s unclear how much you would need to do to avoid suffering. Or, you could be made to suffer to teach someone else humility and compassion, etc. We cannot make any progress and it doesn’t actually solve the problem at hand. 

    Furthermore, it conflicts with our best, current explanation for the universal growth of knowledge, which includes moral knowledge. If morality does not represent ideas about the effects our actions have on current state of living things, then what is it? How does it grow?

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  9. Keiths: Suppose idea X is justified. 

    First, how do you justify an idea’s justification? One can always “object” that the idea by which you justify X isn’t justified, ad nauseum. ID Proponents do this when they say OOL is “foundational issue”. They are appealing to the idea that, unless we can justify Darwinism, then Darwinism does not represent progress. Second, justificationism is impossible as it results in an infinite regress. Theists claim they’ve “solved” the problem, but they’ve merely pushed it into an inexplicable realm. 

    It’s as if they’ve merely pushed the food around on their plate and claimed they’ve ate it. But it’s still there staring them in the face. This is what we should be pointing out to them. 

    What we want is to devise criticisms that are specifically designed to differentiate between specific, completing, conjectured ideas. This is because we want to find the errors that exists in some theories, but not others. That’s how we make progress. However, the criticism that “Idea X isn’t justified” does not represent that sort of opportunity as it can be applied to any idea.

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  10. Keiths: It doesn’t, but that’s beside my point, which is that the following are two separate arguments:

    1. The reason God makes us suffer is to teach us humility and compassion.

    2. The reason God makes us suffer is beyond our ability to comprehend.

    Again, [1] is a bad explanation. Why?

    Who is taught when person X suffers? Is it X, someone else or everyone? What degree humility and compassion can a person reach that they would no longer need to be taught further suffering? What degree of suffering is necessary to teach us humility and compassion? Is it prescribed for each person? Do we exceed this amount of suffering? If so, what causes this additional suffering?

    In other words, it’s unclear if [1] actually solves the problem that it supposedly claims to solve. For example, unless theists assume all suffering comes from or is allowed by God and that it is specifically prescribed for each and every one of us to the degree we need, then there is suffering in the world that God didn’t prescribe. Why does God need to get involved if we already suffer, which teaches humility and compassion regardless? If there is no un-prescribed suffering, how can we know exactly who needed suffering in the degree that they received so we can falsify the idea? 

    IOW, adding God to the mix doesn’t actually allow us to make progress on the issue of suffering. Rather, it merely pushes the problem into some inexplicable realm. This is because God doesn’t play a hard to vary, functional role in an individuals suffering.

    The role that God and suffering plays can be easily varied without effecting the outcome. Not to mention that it’s not unclear why God couldn’t teach us humility and compassion in some other way. 

    This makes it a bad explanation. New observations could always be reinterpreted to mean that person X suffering taught person Y humility and compassion, etc. 

    For example, we cannot teach ourselves to be more humble and compassionate to avoid suffering because a quota that we must reach to avoid suffering is not defined. Apparently, such a quote does exist, but God hasn’t told us for some good reason, such as we could never comprehend it as finite beings. 

    So, when the most humble and compassionate couple you know is killed in a car accident the day before they were to be married, there could have been some really good reason, such as had they not suffered then countless others who knew them would not have been taught the humility and compassion they had achieved, etc. 

    As such, theists are implicitly claiming we must throw up our hands and simply accept that there is a good reason for suffering and we cannot make progress on the issue, because it is beyond human reasoning an problem solving. 

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  11. tbh, I find it easier to make a moral argument that rape is always evil than that murder is always evil.

    Evil is implicit in the definition of “rape”, while it is not implicit in the definition of murder.

    It is logically possible to murder with the consent of the murdered.  It is logically impossible to rape with the consent of the raped.

    That’s before we even consider the issue of suffering.

     

    Although oddly enough, I think Mourdock’s point can be made to make some kind of theological sense, if you start from the assumption that personhood is from God (and implanted in the embryo at some point between conception and birth, which IIRC is what the catholic church teaches).  If you accept that, and it’s at the heart of the theological objection to abortion, then the person is a gift from God, and intended by God to be a person, even if the rape was not. 

    The reason the whole thing unravels is the reason the theology of abortion unravels anyway – on the issue of separating who a person is from what a person is (the mind/body question, I guess).  So while I think Mourdock was politically stupid, and walked blindfolded into appearing to sanctify rape, I suspect he was simply expressing his (probably unquestioned) assumption that minds are not merely bodies, and souls are not merely the property of a couple of interacting gametes.

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  12. Mung holds a pre-enlightenment, authoritative conception of human knowledge. It’s really that simple. 

    This applies to both moral knowledge and the knowledge of how to build adaptations in biological organisms. 

    Any theory of an organism’s improvement raises the following question: how is the knowledge of how to make that improvement created? Was it already present in some form at the beginning? A theory that it was represents creationism. Did it just happen? If so, the theory represents spontaneous generation – such an example is found in Lamarckism, which assumed we still see simple creatures (such as mice) today because a continuous stream of simple creatures is being spontaneously generated.

    However, both of these represent fundamental errors. Knowledge must first be conjectured and then tested. This is what Darwin’s theory presented from the start. Genetic variation, in the form of conjecture, occurs independent of the problem to be solved. Then natural selection discards the variations that are less capable of causing themselves to be present in future generations.

    Specifically, the fundamental flaw in creationism (and its variants) is the same fundamental flaw in pre-enlightenment, authoritative conceptions of human knowledge: its account of how the knowledge in adaptations could be created is either missing, supernatural or illogical.

    In some cases, it’s the very same theory, in that specific types of knowledge, such as cosmology or moral knowledge, was dictated to early humans by supernatural beings. In other cases, parochial aspects of society, such as the rule of monarchs in governments or the existence of God, are protected by taboos or taken so uncritically for granted that they are not recognized as ideas. 

    I suspect that Mung would not deny that he holds such a conception of human knowledge, even if asked directly. KF didn’t deny it, nor did Upright Biped, despite being asked repeatedly and directly. 

    And what happens if we take that idea seriously?

    If someone thought the knowledge of how to build the biosphere could only come from some ultimate authoritative source, would it come as a surprise they would conclude the biosphere cannot be explained without a designer? And if Darwinism were true, would, they not then conclude there could be no knowledge, including that of morality? Everything would simply be meaningless and random and astronomically unlikely, which is a commonly argued strawman of evolutionary theory. Finally, since everything is not random and meaningless, would they not conclude Darwinism must be false?

    We can ask the same question regarding human morality. Any theory of improvement in human morality raises the following question: how is the knowledge of how to make that improvement created?

    It is part of the same universal explanation for the growth of knowledge. We conjecture moral ideas, then discard errors. Moral knowledge is objective in the same sense that all knowledge is objective. It represents ideas about how our actions will impact existing living things. As with all ideas, moral ideas contain errors. The question isn’t if they contain errors but where and to what degree. And they improve because we criticize them and discard errors when we discover them.

    To say we cannot make progress about moral behavior because we lack an authoritative source of moral knowledge is the same sort of objection regarding evolution in the absence of a positively proven theory of the OOL, if such a thing were possible. 

    Furthermore, moral problems exist today that did not exist in the past. So, morality can be objective without being fixed. Again, like all other knowledge, we cannot predict how the growth of knowledge will effect the future. This includes morality. It has and will change.     

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  13. keiths:

    It doesn’t, but that’s beside my point, which is that the following are two separate arguments:

    1. The reason God makes us suffer is to teach us humility and compassion.

    2. The reason God makes us suffer is beyond our ability to comprehend.

    critical rationalist:

    Again, [1] is a bad explanation.

    They’re both bad explanations. My point, for the third time, is that #1 and #2 are separate arguments.

    First, how do you justify an idea’s justification? One can always “object” that the idea by which you justify X isn’t justified, ad nauseum.

    Unreasonable people can do lots of things. Reasonable people don’t usually get into the “is it justified that it’s justified that it’s justified…” regress.

    I can get almost any reasonable person to agree that gold exists, for example, without endless demands for justifications of justifications.

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  14. Keiths: It doesn’t, but that’s beside my point, which is that the following are two separate arguments:

    1. The reason God makes us suffer is to teach us humility and compassion.

    2. The reason God makes us suffer is beyond our ability to comprehend.

    CR: Again, [1] is a bad explanation. [expounds on *why* it’s a bad explanation]

    Keiths: They’re both bad explanations. My point, for the third time, is that #1 and #2 are separate arguments.

    [1] is a bad explanation because, in the form presented, it requires the acceptance of [2]

    Again, it’s unclear why God wanting to teach use humility and suffering must *necessarily* result in our suffering. Nor does [1] actually solve the problem at hand. It’s “possible” that person X might suffer so person Y “learns” humility and compassion. As such, [2] is implied in [1] because there is no hard to vary explanation as to how suffering actually translates into learning humility and suffering and vice versa. In the absence, we must accept [2]. 

    Now, if we could use [1] to actually solve a problem, then [1] would be separate from [2]. But, as I’ve pointed out, you cannot. As such, we can distill it down to [2]

    What’s key here is that [1] cannot be used to make progress regarding suffering. The details of how suffering actually translates into learning humility and suffering is beyond human reasoning and problem solving. As such, it’s a bad explanation. 

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  15. Does [1] actually represent knowledge, in that it helps us actually solve a problem. If not, what else does it represent other than [2]?

    If no progress is actually made, all [1] does is push the problem into some inexplicable realm, which is essentially [2].

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  16. Does [1] actually represent knowledge, in that it helps us actually solve a problem. If not, what else does it represent other than [2]?

    If no progress is actually made, all [1] does is push the problem into some inexplicable realm, which is essentially [2]. 

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  17. Keiths: Suppose idea X is justified. 

    CR: First, how do you justify an idea’s justification? One can always “object” that the idea by which you justify X isn’t justified, ad nauseum.

    Keiths: Unreasonable people can do lots of things. Reasonable people don’t usually get into the “is it justified that it’s justified that it’s justified…” regress.

    That’s the problem. If they did, they would realize justification is impossible.

    My point is that neither “idea X is justified” or the criticism that “idea is not justified” is *not* reasonable. This is because justificationism is impossible in the light of rational criticism. 

    From the following essay

    3. Responses to the dilemma of the infinite regress versus dogmatism

    In the light of the dilemma of the infinite regress versus dogmatism, we can discern three attitudes towards positions: relativism, “true belief” and critical rationalism [Note 3]

    Relativists tend to be disappointed justificationists who realise that positive justification cannot be achieved. From this premise they proceed to the conclusion that all positions are pretty much the same and none can really claim to be better than any other. There is no such thing as the truth, no way to get nearer to the truth and there is no such thing as a rational position.

    True believers embrace justificationism. They insist that some positions are better than others though they accept that there is no logical way to establish a positive justification for an belief. They accept that we make our choice regardless of reason: “Here I stand!”. Most forms of rationalism up to date have, at rock bottom, shared this attitude with the irrationalists and other dogmatists because they share the theory of justificationism.

    According to the critical rationalists, the exponents of critical preference, no position can be positively justified but it is quite likely that one (or more) will turn out to be better than others in the light of critical discussion and tests. This type of rationality holds all its positions and propositions open to criticism and a standard objection to this stance is that it is empty; just holding our positions open to criticism provides no guidance as to what position we should adopt in any particular situation. This criticism misses its mark for two reasons. First, critical rationalism is not a position. It is not directed at solving the kind of problems that are solved by fixing on a position. It is concerned with the way that such positions are adopted, criticised, defended and relinquished.  Second, Bartley did provide guidance on adopting positions; we may adopt the position that to this moment has stood up to criticism most effectively. Of course this is no help for people who seek stronger reasons for belief, but that is a problem for them, and it does not undermine the logic of critical preference.

     

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  18. Mung has apparently given up on trying to defend his God, but vjtorley addresses one aspect of the problem of evil in his latest post at UD (which clocks in at an amazing, record-setting 20,350 words):

    One big advantage of the Boethian account over is that it acquits God of all responsibility for the damnation of any human being. If some people are damned because of the choices they have made, then God only knows this after the fact, logically speaking (not temporally, as God is outside time). All He does is reluctantly acquiesce in the decisions that wicked people make at the end of their lives, to eternally separate ourselves from him. God doesn’t force Himself on people; if people want to be left alone, then in the end, He’ll grant them their wish.

    I don’t see why vjtorley thinks this solves the problem. Here’s the key sentence:

    If some people are damned because of the choices they have made, then God only knows this after the fact, logically speaking (not temporally, as God is outside time).

    If God only knows this after the fact, logically speaking, then he doesn’t know it beforehand, logically speaking. If so, then God is not omniscient, logically speaking. Is vjtorley willing to concede that?

    If not, then the problem of evil remains. God knows that certain people will be damned before he creates them, logically speaking. He could prevent this by choosing not to create them, yet he forges ahead. He is thus responsible for their damnation.

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  19. vjtorley addresses one aspect of the problem of evil in his latest post at UD (which clocks in at an amazing, record-setting 20,350 words):

    As if anyone on the planet wants to read 20000+ words of dear Torley’s precious apologetics. What a conceited notion he must have of his own importance! And if I were Libby Anne, I’d be furious at Torley for his taking my mere existence as a feminist/atheist blogger as a point for his tedious rant about how “atheist is dumb because she doesn’t know how science is supposed to work”. What’s his excuse for being so personal and invasive towards Libby Anne? The fact that she’s a female on the internet? That’s asshole behavior on his part, no matter what he might claim is his intent.

    Whatever Torley has to say about the problem of evil cannot possibly be worth listening to – because of who it comes from.  Yes, that is an absolutely-textbook example of argument ad hominem.  Too bad for him that he’s done so much (20000 words!!) to deserve it.  

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  20. As if anyone on the planet wants to read 20000+ words of dear Torley’s precious apologetics.

    I skimmed through it. I did not have the patience to read the whole thing.

    And if I were Libby Anne, I’d be furious at Torley for his taking my mere existence as a feminist/atheist blogger as a point for his tedious rant about how “atheist is dumb because she doesn’t know how science is supposed to work”.

    I have a different take on that. Libby Anne is very influential, at least in the blogosphere. My take is that vjtorley is probably trying to undermine that. He is wasting his time. Libby Anne is not claiming to be a scientist. Her readers won’t care whether she is off on a technical detail. And many of her readers do have enough of a background in science to be able to see that vjtorley is presenting apologetics as if it were science (and bad science at that).

    In a way, this is a plus for Libby Anne. It shows that she is distressing the people that she wants to distress. And maybe she just got some free publicity from this.

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  21. In a way, this is a plus for Libby Anne. It shows that she is distressing the people that she wants to distress. And maybe she just got some free publicity from this.

    Yes, Libby Anne has been on fire lately. I wish her all the best.

    Her recent piece on how she “lost faith in the pro-life movement” definitely disturbed some of the forced-birthers. I’m pretty sure that piece came to Torley’s attention and that’s why he felt the need to try to smack her down. Gotta put the intelligent articulate woman back in her place – barefoot and pregnant metaphorically at least, and literally as well, if possible. She proved her true worth by following up with others on abortion/birth control which carefully respond to the evangelical objections to it.

    If I could point to one example of a force for good in the world, Libby Anne would be the one.

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  22. That’s proof that christians worship a psycho tyrant.  That is, if an existent being behaves the way their god is described as behaving in their own bible, we civilized humans have no trouble identifying that entity as a criminal psychopath, and confining it to prison or a locked ward is the sensible response to try to protect ourselves and our families from its depredations.  But, strangely, christians continue to trust the psycho: Yes, Lord, yes Lord, thy will be done … 
    Ask the christian: if you heard god command you to sacrifice your child, would you do it? It’s amazing and sickening how many will admit “Yes, if god told me to”.  
    Those people are not safe for normal people to be around. 
    So much for “objective” morality.  Murder is always wrong.  Unless god tells you to.  Then it’s suddenly moral to murder.  Right.  
     

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  23. Barry Arrington has a new post up at UD on the problem of evil. To his credit, he admits that neither he nor any other theist has a satisfactory solution. However, he then waves his arms and declares:

    The solution to the problem of evil is one of those things we see “through a glass darkly,” and we are not conceding defeat when we admit our solutions are tentative and our understanding far from complete.

    Barry,

    The problem of evil remains a problem only if you insist that God exists, that he is omnipotent, and that he is perfectly good. There is a simple and obvious solution: Admit that at least one of those things is not true. Either God isn’t perfectly good, or he isn’t omnipotent, or both; or even more likely, he doesn’t exist at all.

    Why not “follow the evidence where it leads,” to borrow a phrase?

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  24. Barry’s problem of evil post ends with a rationalization of evil from David Bentley Hart:

    And while we know that the victory over evil and death has been won, we know also that it is a victory yet to come, and that creation therefore, as Paul says, groans in expectation of the glory that will one day be revealed. Until then, the world remains a place of struggle between light and darkness, truth and falsehood, life and death; and, in such a world, our portion is charity. As for comfort, when we seek it, I can imagine none greater than the happy knowledge that when I see the death of a child I do not see the face of God, but the face of His enemy.

    If the victory has already been won, why does God permit suffering and evil to continue? Why does God permit “his enemy” to run rampant? An omnipotent, perfectly good God would put a stop to these things immediately.

    Hart’s rationalization doesn’t work.

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  25. It didn’t take long for people to start offering “explanations” of why God allowed Friday’s massacre of innocent children in Newtown, Connecticut.

    Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, says it happened because “we’ve systematically removed God from our schools”. He commented:

    When people say “Why did God let it happen?”, you know, God wasn’t armed, he didn’t go to the school. God will be there, in the form of a lot of people, with hugs and with therapy and a whole lot of ways in which I think he will be involved in the aftermath. Maybe we ought to let him in on the front end and we wouldn’t have to call him to show up when it’s all said and done at the back end.

    I see. So God won’t intervene to prevent a mass killing of innocent children, but he will intervene by sending people to dispense hugs and therapy to the grieving parents afterward. What a great guy.

    Imagine the outrage if we found out in the coming days that there was a person — an acquaintance of the shooter, say — who knew of the shooter’s plans, knew the threat was serious, and yet did nothing to prevent the tragedy, even though he could have intervened at no risk to himself. We’d be justifiably appalled at this person’s moral failing.

    Now suppose this person defends himself by saying “Hey, I wasn’t armed. I didn’t go to the school.” No one would find that defense convincing, yet that is exactly the defense that Huckabee is offering on God’s behalf.

    Huckabee’s God knew exactly what was going to happen — he’s omniscient, after all — yet he did nothing to prevent it, despite the fact that he could have easily done so, at absolutely no risk to himself. Why didn’t he cause the gun to jam? Why didn’t he make the shooter violently ill, so that he couldn’t carry out the murders? Why didn’t he deflect the bullets so that no one was injured or killed? Perhaps he was feeling lazy that day. Not his fault, though — Huckabee reminds us that “God wasn’t armed, he didn’t go to the school.”

    Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association offers another idiotic defense of God:

    You know the question’s gonna come up, “Where was God? I thought God cared about the little children, God protected the little children. Where was God when all this went down?” Here’s the bottom line. God is not gonna go where he’s not wanted… We have spent 50 years telling God to get lost… We’ve kicked God out of our public school system. And I think God would say to us, “Hey, I’ll be glad to protect your children, but you gotta invite me back into your world first. I’m not gonna go where I’m not wanted. I am a gentleman.”

    Yes, and we all know that a gentleman would never intervene to protect innocent children. Instead he would spitefully allow them to die because the little brats had the gall to be born in the United States, where the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the separation of church and state. The Supreme Court did it, therefore the children deserved to die.

    Right, Mr. Fischer?

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  26. Unlike Huckabee and Fischer, Fred Phelps and the lovely people of the Westboro Baptist Church have no problem assigning the responsibility for the massacre to God. They are proclaiming that “God sent the shooter,” and they plan to picket the Sandy Hook school and “sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgement.”

    They are odious people, but they are right about one thing: if God is omniscient and omnipotent, as they believe, then he is fully complicit in the massacre. An omniscient God would know that the shooter was going to act. An omnipotent God would be able to stop the shooter from acting.

    If God exists, and if he is omniscient and omnipotent, then we can be sure that if something happens, it is because God chose for it to happen.

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  27. I would cheerfully wait in line for days for a chance to spit on Huckabee.  He embodies everything that is most odious about the bankrupt religiosity of modern America.  

    I suppose there may be the tiniest of silver linings to Huckabee and Fischer’s  garbage.  Some decent people who are reminded by H&F of the banal evil of that god may finally begin to question whether they should remain within the church that worships that god,

    Their exodus can’t happen soon enough for me.

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