Both Mung and KeithS have asked me to weigh in on the question of whether the existence of evil counts as a good argument against Christianity, as KeithS has maintained in a recent post, so I shall oblige.
It is important to understand that the problem of evil is not an argument against the existence of God or gods, but against what KeithS calls the Christian God (actually, the God of classical theism), Who is supposed to be omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent. KeithS succinctly formulates the problem as follows:
Let’s say I claim that an omniGod named Frank exists — omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent. Suppose I also claim that Frank regards seahorses as the absolute height of evil. The world contains a lot of seahorses, and Frank, being omnipotent, has the power to wipe them off the face of the earth. Why doesn’t he? Why does he countenance a world full of seahorses?
KeithS emphasizes that it is not enough for the Christian to show that God is on balance benevolent. Rather, the Christian needs to defend the claim that God is omnibenevolent:
The Christian claim is that God is omnibenevolent — as benevolent as it is logically possible to be. Finding that the items on the “good” side of the ledger outweigh those on the “bad” side — if that were the case — would not establish God’s omnibenevolence at all.
Finally, KeithS provides his own take on the problem of evil:
The problem of evil remains as much of a problem as ever for Christians. Yet there are obvious solutions to the problem that fit the evidence and are perfectly reasonable: a) accept that God doesn’t exist, or b) accept that God isn’t omnipotent, or c) accept that God isn’t perfectly benevolent. Despite the availability of these obvious solutions, most Christians will choose to cling to a view of God that has long since been falsified.
He even suggests how he would resolve the problem if he were a theist (emphasis mine – VJT):
Suppose God hates evil and suffering but is too weak to defeat them, at least at the moment. Then any such instances can be explained by God’s weakness.
It addresses the problem of evil without sacrificing theism. I’m amazed that more theists don’t seize on this sort of resolution. They’re too greedy in their theology, too reluctant to give up the omnis.
I think KeithS is onto something here. In fact, I’d like to ditch the conventional Christian views of God’s omniscience, omnipotence and omnibenevolence. It’s time for an overhaul.
Why a God Who constantly watches His creatures cannot be omniscient
First, the conventional notion of God’s omniscience needs to be jettisoned. As I argued in an earlier post on the problem of evil, the problem of evil depends on the assumption that God’s knowledge of our choices (and of Adam and Eve’s choices) is logically prior to those choices. In that post, I upheld the contrary view (defended in our own time by C.S. Lewis), that God is like a watcher on a high hill: He timelessly knows everything that we choose to do, but His knowledge is logically subsequent to the choices we make, which means that He doesn’t know what we will do “before” He decides to make us. I have to acknowledge, however, that this is very much a minority view among the Christian Fathers and/or Doctors of the Church, and I can only think of two who argued for this view: namely, the somewhat heterodox theologian Origen (185-254 A.D.) and possibly, the Christian philosopher Boethius (c. 480- c. 524 A.D. – although his own personal views on the subject remain in dispute, as he elsewhere seems to reject the “watcher on the hill” analogy which he develops in Book V, Prose 6 of his Consolation of Philosophy, in which he declares that God “sees all things in an eternal present just as humans see things in a non-eternal present.”) Whether they be predestinationists or Molinists, the vast majority of Christian theologians who are orthodox – and I’m not counting “open theists” here – maintain that God’s knowledge of our choices is logically prior to those choices. I haven’t taken a straw poll of lay Christian believers, but judging from Christians I’m acquainted with, the “watcher on the hill” view of God remains a popular way of reconciling His foreknowledge with human free will, to this day. I believe the common folk are wiser than the theologians here.
Why are theologians so reluctant to accept the Boethian solution? In a nutshell, because they see it as detracting from God’s sovereignty, as it makes Him dependent on His creatures for information about what is going on in the world. God has to (timelessly) observe us in order to know what we are getting up to. I have to say I don’t see the problem here, provided that God freely and timelessly chooses to rely on His creatures for His knowledge of what they do. If He wants to impose that limitation on Himself, who are we to stop Him?
But if God’s knowledge of our choices is (timelessly) obtained from observing those choices, then we can no longer say that God knows exactly what I would do in every possible situation. On the Boethian account, God does not possess counterfactual knowledge: He knows everything I do, but not everything I would do, in all possible situations. Why not? For one thing, in many situations, there simply is no fact of the matter as to what I would do. What would I do if I won $10,000,000? I don’t know, and neither does God. Nor is this a bad thing: after all, if God knows exactly what I would do in every possible situation, then it makes no sense to say that in a given situation, I could have acted otherwise. (That, by the way, is why I find Molinism utterly nonsensical.)
And what about mathematics? Does God know the answer to every possible mathematical problem? I would argue that He doesn’t, as there are many branches of mathematics where the “rules of the game” are determined by the mathematicians theorizing in that area. In a different world, we would have had different mathematicians, and different branches of mathematics, with different rules. I see no reason to suppose that God knows all possible choices that could be made by all possible (as well as actual) persons.
The upshot of all this is that while God knows everything there is to know about His creatures, He is not omniscient. There are many counterfactuals that He doesn’t know, and there are many possibilities that He never contemplates, either. All we can say is that God knows everything about what we do (past, present and future), and that we can keep no secrets from Him.
Why God is a lot less powerful than many Christians think
Second, the traditional notion of God’s omnipotence needs to be discarded. On the classical view defended by St. Thomas Aquinas, God can do anything which it is logically possible for Him to do, as God. In recent years, however, the classical view has come under fire, from the Reformed theologian Alvin Plantinga, who refuted it using the humorous counter-example of a being whose nature allows him to do nothing but scratch his ear (which he does, making him omnipotent) in his book, God and other minds (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1967), and also from the Catholic philosopher Peter Geach, who sharply criticized the traditional view in an influential article titled “Omnipotence” (Philosophy 48 (1973): 7-20 – see here for a discussion). In his article, Geach argued that God is not omnipotent but almighty: since He maintains the world in existence, He has power over all things, but He does not have the power to do all things.
What relevance does this have to the problem of evil? On the traditional view of God’s omnipotence, God could have preserved each of us from sin throughout our earthly lives, without violating our free will, as he did with Jesus and (according to Catholics and Orthodox) the Virgin Mary: we would still have possessed full libertarian freedom when choosing between alternative goods, but not when choosing between good and evil. And there are many Protestants who believe that individuals who are “born again” are infallibly elected by God, so that even if they sin, their final salvation is Divinely guaranteed. Why, one might ask, didn’t God make us all like that? The Catechism of the Catholic Church attempts to resolve the problem by appealing to the “greater good” of the Incarnation and Redemption – a response which I find unsatisfactory, since (as Blessed John Duns Scotus argued) there was nothing to stop God from becoming incarnate even if Adam had never sinned.
For normal human beings, their personal identity is determined by their parentage, and by the gametes from which their bodies were created. (I would not be “me” if I had had a different mother or father, or if I had been conceived from a different sperm or egg.) But what if God’s act of specially electing a saint to glory also determines that individual’s personal identity? In that case, there is no way that God could have refrained from electing that saint without making him or her a different person. And if I am not elected in this fashion, but possess the power to choose between being saved and being damned, then I cannot coherently wish to have been predestined for eternal life without wishing myself to be a different person. It follows from this that while God could have made a world of human beings who were all preserved from sin, or who were all infallibly elected, not even God could make a world in which each of us is preserved from sin or infallibly elected. In that case, God is significantly less powerful than Christian theologians like to imagine.
In recent years, New Atheists have argued that the designs we find in living things are inept, and that if a Creator existed, He could have done a much better job of making these creatures. Creationists and Intelligent Design advocates reply that living things are subject to numerous design constraints, and that just because we can imagine a more elegant design does not mean that it is possible to create such a design. Picturability does not imply possibility. Recent scientific discoveries regarding the vertebrate eye (see here and here) have done much to vindicate this line of argument. (The same goes for the laryngeal nerve in the neck of the giraffe.) We are a long way here from the traditional view that God can make anything, as long as no logical contradiction is involved. Physical and nomological constraints (relating to the structure of matter, and the laws of Nature which obtain in our cosmos) also need to be taken into account.
An additional reason for rejecting the traditional notion of omnipotence is that it commits one to maintaining that God can bring about states of affairs which are not properly described. When someone claims, for instance, that God could make a horse capable of flying, like the mythical Pegasus, what, exactly, are we supposed to conceive of God doing here? And how would Pegasus fly, anyway? Are we supposed to imagine God working a miracle, by raising a horse in the air? But in that case, shouldn’t we really say that the horse is not flying (by its own natural power), but rather that God is holding it up? Or are we meant to imagine an alternative world, where the laws of Nature are changed so as to allow horses to fly – in which case, should we call the creature in this alternate world a horse, or should we rather call it a shmorse? Or are we to suppose that God could come up with a physical design for a horse that would enable it to fly, even with the laws of Nature that hold in this world? But in that case, how do we know that such a design exists? There is not the slightest evidence for such a design, and aerodynamic considerations suggest that the enterprise of attaching natural wings that would allow an animal with the dimensions of a horse to fly, would be altogether unworkable.
Goodbye to omnibenevolence
Finally, the concept of God’s omnibenevolence needs to be tossed out, lock, stock and barrel. Theologians have always maintained, of course, that God could have made a world that was better than the one He did, simply by adding a few extra bells and whistles. There is no “best possible world,” as the philosopher Leibniz falsely imagined. But that does not prevent God from making a world which is free from all natural and moral evil – which raises the obvious question of why an omnibenevolent Deity would create such a world as ours. One traditional answer, given by St. Augustine in his Enchiridion, Chapter III, is that God allows evil for the sake of a “greater good”: “For the Omnipotent God, whom even the heathen acknowledge as the Supreme Power over all, would not allow any evil in his works, unless in his omnipotence and goodness, as the Supreme Good, he is able to bring forth good out of evil.” I think its time to candidly acknowledge, as Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart has already done, that this kind of talk simply won’t wash:
Being infinitely sufficient in Himself, God had no need of a passage through sin and death to manifest His glory in His creatures or to join them perfectly to Himself. This is why it is misleading (however soothing it may be) to say that the drama of fall and redemption will make the final state of things more glorious than it might otherwise have been. No less metaphysically incoherent – though immeasurably more vile – is the suggestion that God requires suffering and death to reveal certain of his attributes (capricious cruelty, perhaps? morbid indifference? a twisted sense of humor?). It is precisely sin, suffering, and death that blind us to God’s true nature…
I do not believe we Christians are obliged – or even allowed – to look upon the devastation visited upon the coasts of the Indian Ocean and to console ourselves with vacuous cant about the mysterious course taken by God’s goodness in this world, or to assure others that some ultimate meaning or purpose resides in so much misery.
But as KeithS has pointed out, there are problems with Hart’s own resolution of the problem of evil:
So in Hart’s bizarre world, we have a God who supposedly hates evil and suffering, yet chooses to permit them — and somehow this is all okay because it’s only temporary. Good will triumph in the end.
KeithS suggested that the problem of evil would be soluble if Christians simply acknowledged that God isn’t omnipotent or perfectly benevolent, but noted that Christians continue to “cling to a view of God that has long since been falsified.”
So I’d like to make a proposal of my own. In the first place, I’d like to propose that God is benevolent only in relation to the persons whom He decides to create. “Prior to” His act of creation, God is not benevolent at all. Thus when deciding what kind of world to create, God makes no attempt to choose the best one, or even a perfect one (i.e. one free from evil). Only after having chosen a particular world (for reasons best known to Himself) can we speak of God as being benevolent to His creatures.
In the second place, I’d like to propose that God’s benevolence to His sentient and sapient creatures is not unrestricted. After all, He allows His own creatures to be tortured to death, on occasion. Nevertheless, God is perfectly capable of setting limits to the amount of pain we have to put up with (thankfully, none of us has to suffer one million years of torture), of healing whatever wounds (physical and psychic) His tortured creatures have endured, and of bestowing the gift of immortality upon His sentient and sapient creatures (provided that they do not spurn it). Thus according to the picture I am sketching, God is ultimately benevolent, but not omnibenevolent. On this side of eternity, God’s benevolence is quite modest – but we can at least console ourselves with the thought that life could be much, much more painful than it is.
Finally, I’d like to point out that Christians have never referred to God in their prayers as omnibenevolent, but rather as all-loving. God loves each and every one of us with a steadfast, unshakable love which is greater than any of us can possibly imagine. The only kind of love we can compare to God’s love, in its steadfastness, is parental love. And most importantly, what God loves is we ourselves, and not our feelings. Thus God has no interest in maximizing the level of euphoria in the world – whether it be the aggregate level or the average level – because God’s parental commitment is to us, and not our states of mind. Being a loving Father, God naturally wants what is ultimately best for us, but He does not necessarily want us to enjoy a pain-free journey to our ultimate destination.
These proposals of mine have significant implications for the problem of evil. On the Judeo-Christian view, each and every human person is a being of infinite and irreplaceable value, loved by God. Two infinities cannot be meaningfully added to yield a greater infinity; hence a world with more people would not be a “better” world. What’s more, even wicked people are beings of infinite and irreplaceable value; hence a world with kinder people would not be a “better” world, but merely a world where people existed in a better state. Thus I would suggest that one reason why God tolerates evil acts (such as acts of rape or murder) is that there are some individuals in our world who would never have come into existence, were it not for these evil acts having been performed. The same logic can be applied to natural disasters: think of a man and a woman, living in neighboring towns, who both lose their families in a terrible earthquake, but are brought together in the aftermath of the quake, and who decide to get married, settle down and raise a family of their own. Such occurrences are by no means uncommon. Since the creation of any human being is good in an unqualified sense, God may decide to tolerate natural or moral evils, if doing so enables individuals to come into existence who would not have done so otherwise. Please note that I’m not saying He must, but merely that He may.
Fair enough; nevertheless, the skeptic might urge, the world is still a pretty awful place, and arguably much worse than it needs to be. Most natural and moral evils don’t result in the creation of new sentient or sapient beings, after all. There seems to be a lot of gratuitous evil in the world. Why is this so?
The Fall – and why it is needed to explain the mess we’re in
Traditionally, Christians have appealed to the doctrine of the Fall of our first parents at the dawn of human history, in order to explain why God allows these senseless evils to continue. John Henry Newman eloquently argued for this doctrine in his Apologia pro Vita Sua (Longmans, Green & Co., London, revised edition, 1865, chapter 5, pp. 242-243):
I can only answer, that either there is no Creator, or this living society of men is in a true sense discarded from His presence. Did I see a boy of good make and mind, with the tokens on him of a refined nature, cast upon the world without provision, unable to say whence he came, his birthplace or his family connexions, I should conclude that there was some mystery connected with his history, and that he was one, of whom, from one cause or other, his parents were ashamed. Thus only should I be able to account for the contrast between the promise and the condition of his being. And so I argue about the world;— if there be a God, since there is a God, the human race is implicated in some terrible aboriginal calamity. It is out of joint with the purposes of its Creator. This is a fact, a fact as true as the fact of its existence; and thus the doctrine of what is theologically called original sin becomes to me almost as certain as that the world exists, and as the existence of God.
In their recent book, Adam and the Genome, geneticist Dennis Venema and New Testament scholar Scott McKnight have marshaled an impressive array of converging scientific evidence, indicating that the human population has probably never fallen below 10,000 individuals. That certain puts paid to literalistic interpretations of the Fall, but as Denis Alexander has described in his book, Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?, one can still defend some notion of a Fall at the dawn of human history. Here’s how he outlines one possible approach to the Fall (although it’s not his favorite):
In the first type of approach (which has many variants), some people in Africa, following the emergence of anatomically modern humanity, became aware of God’s existence, power and calling upon their lives and responded to their new-found knowledge of him in love and obedience, in authentic relationship with God. However, they subsequently turned their back on the light that they had received and went their own way, leading to human autonomy and a broken relationship with God (“sin”). The emphasis in this type of speculation is on historical process – relationships built and broken over many generations.
My own belief is that God bestowed upon our first parents the responsibility for deciding the scope of Divine providence in ordinary human affairs. In their pride, our first parents chose personal autonomy, knowing that it would entail death and suffering for the entire human race: basically, they told God to butt out of everyday human affairs, leaving Him free to intervene only for very special reasons. To skeptics who would object that God should never have given such enormous responsibilities to our first parents in the first place, I would suggest that it is simply impossible for God to make intelligent beings without offering them an allotted sphere or domain in which they can legitimately exercise their freedom: that is what makes them who they are. As the first parents of the human race, our first parents had to have the responsibility for deciding whether they wanted the human race to be protected by God’s Providence or whether to reject God and go it alone.
As a Christian, I believe that God is just and merciful. I do not believe that it was unjust of God to test the human race at the beginning of human history; but I will acknowledge that in order to make sense of the terrible consequences of that fateful test, we need to maintain a view of history which sounds very strange to modern ears – instead of a gradual ascent to human self-awareness, as we might suppose, there was a First Contact between human creatures and their Creator. We need to envisage this as a cosmic, Miltonian drama, with our first parents as larger-than-life characters who enjoyed an intimacy and familiarity with God which we can only dream of, and who were given the enormous responsibility of custodianship over the lives of their future descendants. It may seem incomprehensible to us that they would give up their relationship with a God Who could satisfy all their needs, in favor of a death-and-violence ridden world like ours, but what they gained (in their own eyes) was the freedom to live as they chose. This, then, is why we’re in the mess we’re in. How long it will continue, I have no idea.
For those readers who would like a theological explanation of animal suffering, I would recommend Jon Garvey’s excellent online book, God’s Good Earth.
The problem of evil: A summary
We have seen that in order to make sense of the evil in the world, we need to abandon the notion of an omniscient God Who knows all counterfactuals and all possibilities, and Who knows what we do without needing to be informed by us. Rather, we should simply say that God (timelessly) knows everything we do, by constantly watching us. We also need to abandon the notion of an omnipotent God Who can do anything that’s logically possible. It turns out that there are a number of constraints which God is subject to, which prevent Him from creating any old world that we can imagine, and that prevent Him from having created us in a perfect world where no-one ever sinned. Furthermore, we need to abandon the notion that God is omnibenevolent. Christians have never worshiped an omnibenevolent Deity. Rather, the God they worship is a Parent Who loves us personally, and Who will never stop loving us. Such a God may however be willing to allow His creatures to be subjected to a great degree of suffering in the short term. He can only be called “benevolent” from a long-term perspective, insofar as He has prepared us for eternity with Him.
Finally, the sheer pervasiveness of the suffering in this world points to what Newman referred to as “some terrible aboriginal calamity” at the dawn of humanity, in which the entire human race paid the price for the proud decision made by our first parents to isolate themselves from God’s benevolent protection, for the sake of pursuing what they perceived as independence and freedom. God did not know that they would make that choice, but He gave them the power to decide the fate of the human race, and to “turn off the lights” in our world until God started turning them back on again, culminating in His Revelation of Himself to us 2,000 years ago in a manger in Bethlehem.
To sum up: the Christian view of history is capable of being cogently defended, provided Christians are willing to remove the theological barnacles that have attached themselves to its system of belief, and abandon the “three omnis,” in favor of a more intimate but less extravagant notion of God.
Mung was joking.
He can only be called “benevolent” from a long-term perspective, insofar as He has prepared us for eternity with Him.
Wow, you’ve made such great sense of the Book of Job.
Peter van Inwagen asks an interesting question. “To what extent is it possible to revise the traditional list of divine attributes without thereby replacing the concept of God with another concept?”
Given the broad sweep of your OP I think that’s a relevant question to ask. Care to give it a shot?
There’s an irony regarding the “loving” warnings Vincent is getting from his Christian brethren. If God is actually omnibenevolent, as the orthodox would have it, then Vincent has nothing to worry about, and neither do the rest of us.
No perfectly loving, omnibenevolent God would sentence a person to eternal torment unless that person desired it and indicated their continuing assent.
Eternal torment and omnibenevolence don’t go together.
I tackled a similar question here:
God and Identity
I think God was omnipissedoff.
So I’m enslaved to this god for eternity? There’s no hope for freedom?
Is God omniscient or not ? Pretty basic question isn’t it ?
I would have thought after 2000 years it might have been settled. Perhaps the Xtians just need a little more time.
Just another reason I’m totally underwhelmed by ‘theology’.
Yeah, theodicy is easy if you throw out the “loving” part. “Vessels of wrath prepared for destruction”? Not so loving.
As I noted in the other thread, you’re a believer, not a thinker.
What about Heaven?
Evil is a necessary consequence of our evolution towards freedom. In the natural world animals cannot be said to be evil, only humans have the capacity for evil. Because we have knowledge of good and evil we have been given the freedom of personal choice. And more often than not if we have to make a choice between acting selflessly and acting selfishly, we choose the latter. But this is not entirely our own fault. Self consciousness is a fairly recent feature of our evolution and most of us are not yet mature enough to handle it.
Materialism is a necessary stage we must go through. We have to become isolated so that our re-connection with the spiritual world (which is true reality) is a free act on our part. Christ’s sacrifice enables us to halt our descent into selfishness and isolation and to begin the ascent back to the spiritual reality.
All other religions stem from the teachings of their founders. Christianity is different. It is founded on a deed. This deed meant that people could experience Christ and take their strength from Him as Paul did following his encounter on the road to Damascus.
This is the true Christianity.
Straw man- just cuz keiths can say it doesn’t make it so.
That’s a very good question. I think the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle is that God bound Himself by a promise during the Fall of our first parents, and that He promised not to intervene in Nature in a manner which they objected to. God cannot break a promise, and my guess is that our first parents found the idea of a Cosmic Nanny suffocating, so they asked God to stop intervening supernaturally to protect them and their descendants from ordinary natural hazards, such as earthquakes, lightning, volcanoes and so on. They also asked God not to protect them from each other’s acts. Hence God is unable to stop acts of rape and fires that burn children to death. (There may however be certain kinds of interventions that God is still capable of, because they were not foreseen by our first parents, which means that they are still open to God.) This is just a guess on my part, but it’s the best I can come up with. If anyone has a better idea, I’d love to hear it.
Personally I’m inclined to favor the idea of an afterlife for sentient animals (by which I mean mammals and birds), and I believe they have a rudimentary sense of self. Although the cruelty of nature is vastly exaggerated, as Garvey argues in chapter nine of his book, nevertheless, there are a few animals that suffer pains akin to torture. Also, the creation of a sentient creature strikes me as being in vain if that creature is destined to be annihilated forever.
Garvey himself does not discuss animal immortality in his book. I don’t think he sees a need for it, although he may be willing to allow it for the higher mammals.
Wow. Lots here to ‘dissect’ but let’s start with the elephant in the room: so, literal Genesis, then?
Why would a wise God make such a foolish promise?
Fair question. Actually, I already have, back in 2014. See here:
Do Christians worship many gods?
Warning: it’s long, but very comprehensive. It discusses no less than sixteen specific theological issues with regard to the nature of God. I see from the readers’ comments that you’ve commented on the piece. You asked me a question about Divine simplicity and the distinction between essence and existence. I answered that the notion of a real distinction between essence and existence is not Catholic dogma, and that for many Scholastics, the distinction is logical rather than real. In any case, the doctrine of Divine simplicity does not state that only God is simple.
You also asked me about the doctrine that God is being itself. Actually, this idea, while taught by many Fathers and philosophers, has never been defined by the Church. I personally think the notion of “being itself” is so much gobbledegook. God is the Being upon Whom everything else depends – where this dependency is of the same sort as the dependence of the characters in a book on their author (the difference being that God’s characters can talk back to their Author and even defy Him, because He has endowed them with that capacity).
Finally, we can say that God is a Mind Whose nature is to know and love perfectly, and it is a necessary truth about God that His Mind [God the Father] is in dialogue with its idea of itself [God the Son] and its love of itself [God the Holy Spirit]. I’ll have more to say about this in a future post.
Re the traditional list of Divine attributes: I think we need to retain the beliefs that God is one, God is simple in His essence (but not His operations), that He is almighty (i.e. He maintains the world in being and has power over all things), that He knows everything that we think, say and do, that He loves us steadfastly and irrevocably, and desires eternal life for us, that He is incorporeal, that He is timeless, eternal and indestructible, that He is incapable of suffering (but, in my opinion, capable of having subjective feelings), that He conserves everything in being, and that He is triune. That should be enough.
How would a theist go about demonstrating to a “skeptic” such as you that God is in fact omniscient? What objective empirical evidence would support their claim?
I believe what the creeds state: namely, the Apostles’ Creed (c.200-300 A.D.), the Nicene Creed (325/381 A.D.) and the Athanasian Creed (c.500 A.D.). I hope that’s good enough.
Not all the Church fathers interpret Romans as you do. You might like to see what Origen wrote in De principiis Book III, paragraphs 6-22, here, and what St. John Chrysostom wrote here:
The passage is not intended as a theodicy, but as an exhortation to believers to humbly submit to the will of God.
As to why cephalopods don’t have eyes wired like vertebrates, it’s because they don’t have the same requirements in their underwater environment (where differences between night and day are less important), as Erez Ribak, Researcher in Physics, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, explains:
Also, there is nothing contrary to intelligence in endowing ancestral organisms (such as the Ur-bilaterian with the original simple eye) with a handy toolkit of genes which can be modified by evolutionary processes to perform a variety of different functions, as the situation demands.
As to why cephalopods don’t have eyes wired like vertebrates, it’s because they don’t have the same requirements in their underwater environment (where differences between night and day are less important), as Erez Ribak, Researcher in Physics, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, explains:
Oh come on, that doesn’t explain it at all, because then the question becomes, “Why don’t vertebrates that live in deep (dark) water then have eyes like cephalopods do?” Or, again, why don’t cephalopods living in shallow light water have vertebrate eyes? You can’t act as if there isn’t a large amount of overlap between vertebrate environments/lifestyles and cephalopod environments/lifestyles.
Again, it gets back to the fact that we don’t have a designer choosing underlying structure according to need, but evolution inheriting underlying structure according to ancestry.
Well, no, of course not, if you’re willing to go for a “design process” that has never been observed with an entity or entities that act quite unlike any known designer that has ever been seen. Real science looks for likely differentiation of effect from the effects of competing hypothesis, while apologetics and pseudosciences try to come up with reasons why their “hypothesis” causes what you’d expect from the disliked hypothesis.
In effect, you’re really just throwing two excuses at the fact that things look like they would if they evolved sans intelligent guidance, one being that cephalopods and vertebrates have different needs (some do, some don’t), and that anyway the Designer could have frontloaded everything anyway. You didn’t take the car without permission, but it’s the other guy’s fault that the accident occurred anyhow.
Classic excuse-making, and not simply following the evidence where it leads. You’re saving the “cause” that you like, not making reasonable inferences from effect to cause, because the latter couldn’t get you to your “cause.”
He would just have to give me the password. That’s all. No miracles. No grandstanding stunts. Just give me the password. The theist would know what it is, if an omniscient God tells him.
Heaven is good. 🙂
Expanding on that, what I mean is, for someone who believes in an afterlife, that this life is a mere precursor to ultimate reality and everlasting bliss, death can’t come too soon. It’s merely a gateway.
keiths is under the impression that if a dog does what a dog will do that the dog is capable of an evil act. Or perhaps he thinks that the act is evil because God does not step in to prevent it.
Where would evolutionary arguments be if they had to argue without recourse to “but why would God do it that way” reasoning?
Are you asserting that Adam and Eve literally existed?
It’s also very convenient that your god allows parents to make decisions binding on their descendants forever and henceforth provides no evidence for its existence. It seems to me that a loving god would make that offer to each person individually, once they had the capacity to understand the consequences. I suspect a number of rape victims would have taken it up on its offer.
In fact, this would be a good example of a proof of a god’s existence. If believers could choose to be immune to natural and moral evils, that would be compelling evidence of something powerful at work.
So Vincent has shown one way a Christian might responds to keiths, with his “evidential argument.” Challenge the premise about God.
Another approach, which is the one I took, is to challenge the failure of the argument to include reasons for belief in God in calculating the likelihood of God’s existence.
But why on earth would the theist even have that response available, if, as keiths claimed, the evidential argument already takes into account evidence for the existence of God?
The answer is simple, and that is that keiths was wrong. But will he admit it?
That’s the other premise of the argument:
Nothing there about taking into account positive evidence for the existence of God.
As the IEP article explains:
So another bit of “loving advice” for Vincent, see if you can get keiths to actually state his argument.
No, that’s not at all what he’s saying. Yesterday I spent some time skimming through three days worth of comments and I noted you failing to directly address keiths’ arguments repeatedly. If you really think you can refute him, let’s see you do it. Right now it looks like you’re just squirming and dissembling.
If there is Heaven, the eaten baby just skipped this vale of tears to the ultimate bliss and reality.
If one wants to guarantee their childrens’ salvation it seems the best course of action is to kill them before they reach the age of accountability.
See, Mung, that’s how you address keiths’ argument!
Not an especially pleasant portal to Paradise.
Reductio ad absurdum would suggest kill those fertilized eggs and avoid the interim altogether. Straight to heaven cutting out the middle man.
Link to the argument that keiths put forth and I’ll show you where I answered it. For the evidential argument see the IEP article. We have something we can compare with what keiths wrote to see if he was in fact presenting the evidential argument.
Because I constantly told him he wasn’t. But I could be wrong. Unlike keiths.
Further, I posted actual quotes about the evidential argument and demonstrated that my response to the evidential argument was the same as that offered by others, including Plantinga and Feinberg.
That’s unwarranted. But if it’s the best you can do it’s the best you can do. 🙂
By mocking it. ok, sure, I can do that!
keiths, I mock your argument (whatever it may be).
Oh, great. Now Mung is crapping all over Vincent’s thread, too?
That doesn’t follow. There is a difference between a dog killing a baby and the parents killing a baby. If you don’t understand that then I am glad that you aren’t a judge
Patrick has made an allegation about me in this thread. I don’t see why I’m not allowed to defend myself against his allegation in this thread.
Do you have a reason, keiths, why I should not be allowed to do so?
Poor Mung actually thinks it matters whether the dog is guilty of an evil act.
Run along and play with Frankie, Mung. The grown-ups will call you when it’s time for dinner.
There’s no mention of taking into account the probabilities given evidence for the existence of God. The argument considers only the evil.
Nice try, keiths, but I said nothing about the dog’s guilt or lack of guilt. So, straw man.
He also can’t tell the difference between a) the IEP’s ceteris paribus analysis of the evidential argument and b) its actual deployment against the existence of an omniGod.
The former asks the question “all else being equal, does the prevalence of evil and suffering in the world decrease the probability of an omniGod’s existence, and by how much?” Unrelated positive evidence for the omniGod’s existence is excluded in order to satisfy the ceteris paribus condition. Intelligent people do this sort of thing all the time. Perhaps Mung never has.
When actually deploying the argument against the existence of an omniGod, the proponents don’t exclude the positive evidence (if any). They are not Mung stupid, after all.
Now if the evidential argument already includes consideration of evidence for the existence of God, it would not need to be accompanied by refutation of the traditional proofs, as those would already have been taken into account.
But the fact of the matter is that the evidential argument does not take into account evidence for the existence of God.
As stated by the IEP;
So keiths was wrong. And he admits when he is wrong.
Yes, and even the parent can get off scot-free by simply repenting for the murders.
Christianity creates some perverse incentives.
Here’s one place he refers to it (I don’t have time to scroll back through the entire thread):
“Is there really not a single Christian out there who can explain why your God allowed that dog to eat the head of a living baby?
Is there really not a single Christian out there who can explain why an uncle who allowed a dog to eat his baby niece’s head would be condemned, but a supposed God who does the same thing is praised?”
I have not seen you directly answer those questions or directly address the argument underlying them. You’ve either got to admit that your god isn’t omnibenevolent or you’ve got to come up with a better explanation for these kinds of horrific events than you have so far.
Mung doesn’t have an explanation.
You are showing everyone that you are too dim — and dishonest — for this discussion.
Run along. Frankie is waiting for you with his watermelon and his ticks.
Everyone seems to have noticed this flaw, except for keiths.
Apparently you skimmed the comments the same way keiths skimmed the IEP article. And I think we also have to take into account the sense of value you place on my comments. Perhaps it’s affected your judgment and objectivity.
First, I directly answered his question. I’ll find the link for you later.
Second, his own explanation was ludicrous. Which I also pointed out.
Third, I don’t have to try to offer an explanation for every single instance he comes up with. This was also explained and defended in that thread. The nature of the argument doesn’t require it, as anyone actually doing any reading on the evidential argument can see.
Fourth, I tried and tried to get him to post the underlying argument. If you have a link to where he posted it please share it. I’m sure Vincent would like to see it and that keiths would like to see him address it.
Because I don’t find “Is there really not a single Christian out there who can explain why your God allowed that dog to eat the head of a living baby?” or “Is there really not a single Christian out there who can explain why an uncle who allowed a dog to eat his baby niece’s head would be condemned, but a supposed God who does the same thing is praised?” to be arguments.
It seems to me that you’re arguing against the position you wish keiths had taken rather than what he actually said.