How We Know There Is No God

by Luke Muehlhauser on January 14, 2011 in General Atheism

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{ 89 comments… read them below or add one }

Steven R. January 14, 2011 at 9:29 am

But remember, this gives us Free Will, so people have get to choose whether or not (and how long) you should starve which does, unfortunately, have the side-effect of shortening your own ability to make your own choices and it does add undue suffering and pain to you. Oh well, can’t have it all your way–and no, God wont answer your prayer for food as that would undermine free will and cause everyone in the world to believe in God, which would supposedly lead to greater morality, happiness, etc. Wouldn’t want that, now would we?

~Theodicies summarized.

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Rob January 14, 2011 at 9:31 am

Just because we don’t know why God would sit idly by eating popcorn while children starve does not mean God does not have a good reason to do so. It must have something to do with fee will. Or demons.

Come on Luke. You’re totally not thinking. Everyone knows Plantinga solved the problem of evil. It’s common knowledge.

http://www.uncrediblehallq.net/2011/01/13/review-of-gary-guttings-what-philosophers-know-part-2/

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J. Quinton January 14, 2011 at 9:38 am

A more powerful picture would be god eating popcorn/drinking soda while he watches the billions of years of non-human suffering that went on before the arrival of humans 2 million years ago.

While god watching humans suffer is explained away by “free will” by most apologists, I have yet to see any explanation for why god would create a a couple billion years’ worth of suffering and death before humans arrived. It’s like god took a litter full of newborn cute fluffy puppies, nursed them for a while, and then threw them over a bridge into oncoming traffic.

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Tommykey January 14, 2011 at 9:46 am

I remember a scene from the movie Shadowlands, in which Anthony Hopkins portrays C.S. Lewis.

IIRC, in the scene he is addressing an audience in a church or lecture hall. He says something like “Suffering is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” In other words, if we are outraged by suffering, we are the ones who should get off our duffs and do something about it rather than passively asking why God doesn’t do something.

I once was a Catholic and am now (and have been for quite some time) an atheist. In trying to put myself into the shoes of a Christian, I would probably say that if God instills in us a sense of morality and justice, then in acting to alleviate suffering and injustice, we are in effect God’s instrument for combating suffering.

Mike Gantt or any of the other regular Christian commenters here can chime in and confirm whether or not I got it right.

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Patrick January 14, 2011 at 9:55 am

“Just because we don’t know why God would sit idly by eating popcorn while children starve does not mean God does not have a good reason to do so. It must have something to do with fee will. Or demons.”

Or popcorn.

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Charles January 14, 2011 at 10:32 am

The problem of genetic disease is even more troubling. I don’t know any theodicy that does even tries to explain this one.

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Rick M January 14, 2011 at 10:39 am

In trying to put myself into the shoes of a Christian, I would probably say that if God instills in us a sense of morality and justice, then in acting to alleviate suffering and injustice, we are in effect God’s instrument for combating suffering.

If Christians are going to use this reasoning then aren’t they arguing against Christian exclusivity? Humans, throughout history and with myriad religious beliefs or none, have combated suffering. Some non-human animals combat suffering. It seems that the drive to mitigate suffering exists whether or not the entity is capable of contemplating a deity.

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Chris Hallquist January 14, 2011 at 10:46 am

In other words, if we are outraged by suffering, we are the ones who should get off our duffs and do something about it rather than passively asking why God doesn’t do something.

I’m not asking why God doesn’t do something. I know that the reason he doesn’t is because he doesn’t exist.

And FYI, many atheists are trying to do something about the suffering in the world. I’m currently in school, living off savings, but back when I had an income I was making regular donations to Population Services International.

Inferring that there’s no God because of the suffering in the world is compatible with trying to do something about it. You’re just trying to avoid awkward questions by changing the subject.

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Steven R. January 14, 2011 at 11:05 am

I remember a scene from the movie Shadowlands, in which Anthony Hopkins portrays C.S. Lewis.IIRC, in the scene he is addressing an audience in a church or lecture hall. He says something like “Suffering is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” In other words, if we are outraged by suffering, we are the ones who should get off our duffs and do something about it rather than passively asking why God doesn’t do something.I once was a Catholic and am now (and have been for quite some time) an atheist. In trying to put myself into the shoes of a Christian, I would probably say that if God instills in us a sense of morality and justice, then in acting to alleviate suffering and injustice, we are in effect God’s instrument for combating suffering.Mike Gantt or any of the other regular Christian commenters here can chime in and confirm whether or not I got it right.  (Quote)

I never understood that theodicy. God allows people to suffer to let the world know that people can suffer? Simply put, if God used more efficient means to be benevolent, there’d be no need to rouse a deaf world. I mean really, if we’re going to justify God’s neglect by saying it creates opportunities for justice and good actions, why not praise people who kill others because they too created opportunities for justice and good actions (like saving someone from the killer, etc.)? By the way, if God is the one who is outraged by this (which he should if he is benevolent), why doesn’t HE get off his duffs? After all it IS his creation (assuming Christian beliefs). It’s like creating a dog and letting it starve to rouse compassion in your neighbor instead of “passively asking you” to feed him. It’s inane.

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Vlastimil Vohánka January 14, 2011 at 11:12 am

The picture is nice, in a sense. But it implicitly pictures God as a human — thus with the kind of reasons for non-action that humans have. When Ivan Karamazov asks his Christian brother, would you permit the slaughterhouse?, the brother may well reply “no, _I_ would not risk that.” But, the brother could add, “if, per impossibile, I was God, then maybe I would.” Further, the picture tends to depict God as having fun out of evil. In this sense, the picture misrepresents.

Further, the solidarity of the Incarnation is left out. … Oh yes, there is no good evidence for it. Quite _obviously_, right?

Anyway, Luke, I’ve thought your blog is not a locus pop philosophy, full of slippy misrepresentations. Should I change my opinion?

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Tommykey January 14, 2011 at 11:20 am

Christ Hallquist, you must suffer from reading comprehension issues. I am an atheist and I was merely stating what I would anticipate what would be a Christian response. I never said I agreed with it.

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Chris Hallquist January 14, 2011 at 11:35 am

Vlastimil,

What on Earth is your basis for alleging this post is guilty of “slippery misrepresentation”? Just that you don’t agree?

Your post sounds like just another data point supporting my belief that calls for “sophistication” in discussing philosophy and religion (your “pop philosophy” sneer) are usually just excuses for dismissing people the speak disagrees with.

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Chris Hallquist January 14, 2011 at 11:37 am

Tommy: Oops, my apologies. By I’d stand by my comment if you replace “You’re just trying…” with “This response is just trying…”

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drj January 14, 2011 at 11:41 am

A more powerful picture would be god eating popcorn/drinking soda while he watches the billions of years of non-human suffering that went on before the arrival of humans 2 million years ago.While god watching humans suffer is explained away by “free will” by most apologists, I have yet to see any explanation for why god would create a a couple billion years’ worth of suffering and death before humans arrived. It’s like god took a litter full of newborn cute fluffy puppies, nursed them for a while, and then threw them over a bridge into oncoming traffic.  

One stumbling block there is that young earthers (there are a lot of them) will tell you that billions of years of evolution is a ridiculous myth (oh, the irony), and/or view animal suffering as relatively unimportant (ugh). But human suffering is something they can’t really ignore so easily (I hope).

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Reginald Selkirk January 14, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Tommykey: … we are in effect God’s instrument for combating suffering.

What would God need with a starship? Why would Mr. Omnipotent need pitiful us to do his work?

Vlastimil Vohánka: The picture is nice, in a sense. But it implicitly pictures God as a human — thus with the kind of reasons for non-action that humans have.

Every believer pictures God as human – indeed as a person who wants just exactly what they want. If God is nothing like us (contrary to the Jewish/Christian scriptures), then how could we have any idea what He wants and why He acts, and how could you possibly assemble any argument for His existence?

Further, the picture tends to depict God as having fun out of evil. In this sense, the picture misrepresents.

Why is this representation of God more mistaken than any other? Do you know what God actually wants and why He does what He does, so that you can tell us our representation is the wrong one?

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Rob January 14, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Vlastimil Vohánka,

So God is mysterious? God’s ways are not our ways?

So, if I come upon a child being raped, should I intervene? According to you, I should not. As God clearly has some inscrutable reason for this child to suffer. Who am I to interfere with what God wants?

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Vlastimil Vohánka January 14, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Rob,

Read it again. I said _I should_. But maybe it is not the case that_ God_ should. I did not claim the reason is totally inscrutable. I like to guess at the soul-building kind reasons (cf. Irenaeus, Hick, C. S. L., Léon Bloy). I cannot specify in detail how these apply in every case of horrendous evil, for sure. I also admit evil seriously disconfirms theism. But it seems to me evil is evidentially swamped by the rest of the evidence (like http://www.lydiamcgrew.com/Resurrectionarticlesinglefile.pdf ).

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Vlastimil Vohánka January 14, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Chris,

I did not say it about _this post_ specifically. I could adduce other examples, but let’s leave it at that.

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Vlastimil Vohánka January 14, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Reginald,

I do not take God as a human. I know believers who do so neither. Ordinary believers often do. But quite probably less often than is imagined. Ordinary believers in physics have crude physical concepts, too; say about atoms. That does not exclude substantial parts of their beliefs are correct.

A propos, “person” does not entail “human”. Neither does “moral realist”.

I meant misrepresenting the _doctrine_ of standard philosophical Western theism. Think of Aquinas, for instance.

End of discussion, gentlemen. And thanks.

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Darren January 14, 2011 at 12:44 pm

If we were all good moral christian conservatives, then we could in no way help those poor starving people. Why . . . that’d be socialism! “You’re starving? You’re poor? Well, my god man, get up and get a job! What? They don’t have food, money, or jobs where you are? Well, don’t expect me to help you out, you lazy bum! And for godssake don’t come to my country!”

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Vlastimil Vohánka January 14, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Darren,

You’ve tempted me beyond my moral capacities for being silent.

So let my remark that to my knowledge, the Catholic Church is one of the most bodies in the help to the poor. (A propos, my wifey does a Ph.D. on world hunger and Peter Singer and worked for a couple of humanitarian organizations.) I guess it’s since the CC became liberal.

But forgive me this last comment. For now you can tear the CC up because of her teaching on condoms — which are so glaringly helpful in Africa (in opposition to the naive alternative strategies that some still dare to mention); as also all empirical surveys, which we all here have studied meticulously, unanimously suggest.

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Patrick January 14, 2011 at 2:08 pm

The irony is that the problem of evil is one that christian theology visits upon itself.

There’s this sort of one way ratchet in religion, where the right answer to all questions is GOD IS AWESOME FULL STOP! So is God really powerful? Or infinitely powerful? Well, its more awesome to be infinitely powerful than just really powerful, so infinitely is the right answer. Is God infinitely nice or just really nice? Obviously it has to be infinite, even though applying the concept of “infinity” to a non numerical concept is self evidently stupid. What do they possibly mean- that the whole of God’s niceness is mappable onto any subset? This continues… did God create everything, or are there preconditions with which he must deal? Obviously everything, because that’s more awesome. Does God know everything that possibly could be, or just most things? Obviously everything, because that’s more awesome.

Eventually you end up in a position where absolutely everything comes from God,. But… some things really suck, and that means God chose for them to suck unless its logically impossible that he could have done otherwise. So now to justify what theology hath wrought, theology must work overtime to make up obviously stupid arguments like soul building theodicies (ad hoc much?) or obviously contradictory arguments like free will theodicies (any christian apologetic that necessarily disproves Christ is dumb to the point of culpability) to fix their own overreaching.

I’d feel bad for them if this wasn’t their fault.

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Torgo January 14, 2011 at 3:17 pm

What’s the purple thing, with blue wings, behind God’s chair? Holy Spirit? Is it some clue to a deeper meaning in the picture?

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Rob January 14, 2011 at 3:26 pm

That’s a facepalming angel.

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Márcio January 14, 2011 at 3:33 pm

I believed that people in this website were weak atheists, not strong ones.

“I just don’t believe in God, i never said that He doesn’t exist.” Wasn’t it?

Come on Luke and friends. Weak or strong? You can’t be a strong atheists right? There are no arguments. So, just drop this kind of topic ok?

The “problem of evil” was beated already by Alvin Plantinga.

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Luke Muehlhauser January 14, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Marcio,

I disagree that Plantinga ‘beat’ the problem of evil. Very few philosophers think that.

In any case, I have plenty of reasons to disbelieve in God, if you want to listen. How about the problem of theistic explanation I’m always harping on?

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Steven R. January 14, 2011 at 4:02 pm

I think it’s also important to note that although the Problem of Evil leaves some room for Free Will Theodicy (not to say it’s very good. We can merely inquire why God didn’t make humans extremely predisposed to avoid evil, and, if that’s a violation of free will, we can point out that humans are already extremely predisposed to care about babies and mammals in general), the Theist has a near insurmountable challenge by changing the problem to that of pain. The reason for this is quite simple: pain is an inefficient way of telling your body something is wrong. Pain makes you panic, pain doesn’t make you act rationally, pain can even knock you unconscious, leaving you vulnerable in a troublesome situation, so on so forth. There are alternatives. Consider this quote from Catch-22:

about — a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a supreme being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatological mind of His when he robbed old people of their power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did He ever create pain?”

“Pain?” Lieutenant Schiesskopf’s wife pounced upon the word victoriously. “Pain is a useful symptom. Pain is a warning to us about bodily dangers.”

“And who created the dangers?” Yossarian demanded. He laughed caustically. “Oh, He was really being charitable to us when He gave us pain! Why couldn’t He have used a doorbell instead to notify us, or one of His celestial choirs?”

Or, indeed, God could have created us with a brain that can process dangers and provide not only the most reasonable thing to do in a situation of danger but also provide instructions on how to heal the wound or whatever. Furthermore, as Yossarian kindly points out to us, we may well question why there are sharp rocks lying about and other harmful objects (or, if you point out we may need them to cut this or that, why not making them only cut when it’s not human skin? Or if you feel that would violate free will, why not only cut human skin when it’s intended to?). There’s so much we can do with the Problem of (Physical) Pain that I find it the most effective. I’ve also been working on a way to add this to mental & emotional pain w/ anticipation of possible objections, but for now, I think this illustrates why Theism drastically fails. Indeed, God, with all that he created chose phlegm?

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Rob R January 14, 2011 at 4:59 pm

The picture of the old man is watching the suffering child is supposed to be God, yet he has more common with western theists and atheists from our armchair philosophizing. The God of scripture is a a God who suffers and knows this tragedy far more than even the child’s own mother as he suffers with for them, because of them and with them.

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Rob January 14, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Which scripture is that Rob R? Ever read The Book of Job? God tortures Job for the sake of a bet. The God of Christian scripture is a petty capricious jerk.

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Citizen Ghost January 14, 2011 at 5:53 pm

I don’t think that Plantinga has ever solved much of anything.

That said, I don’t think the problem of evil and suffering makes for good evidence that God doesn’t exist.

Quite simply, if it is true that this physical world doesn’t count for much – and if it’s true that all of our glory and all of our true potential remains to be realized in some eternal world to come, then all of the suffering that we see around us is fleeting and insignificant. It’s of no more import than having a hangnail.

The real problem is that there’s no good or convincing reason to think that such a view constitutes an accurate picture of reality.

C.G.

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Dgsinclair January 14, 2011 at 5:56 pm

This could also be titled “how we know that mankind is selfish and sinful

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Steven R. January 14, 2011 at 6:14 pm

I don’t think that Plantinga has ever solved much of anything.That said, I don’t think the problem of evil and suffering makes for good evidence that God doesn’t exist.
Quite simply, if it is true thatthisphysical world doesn’t count for much – and if it’s true that all of our glory and all of our true potential remains to be realized in some eternal world to come, then all of the suffering that we see around us is fleeting and insignificant.It’s of no more import than having a hangnail.The real problem is that there’s no good or convincing reason to think that such a view constitutes an accurate picture of reality.
C.G.  

Not only that, but I always found that theodicy contradictory. If this life doesn’t really matter, then what’s the problem in making it pleasurable and easy? If everything and any lesson learned here will be undermined and overshadowed by a glorious afterlife, why doesn’t God just lend a hand?

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Silver Bullet January 14, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Yawheh: “Those ribs look so real!”

(I think that’s Yawheh’s new Sony Bravia 3-D TV on display there.)

PS. Yawheh – if you’re reading, THOSE RIBS ARE REAL. ONE OF YOUR CHILD CREATIONS DIES OF STARVATION EVERY 5 SECONDS OR SO, ASSHOLE.

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Tommykey January 14, 2011 at 6:29 pm

What would God need with a starship? Why would Mr. Omnipotent need pitiful us to do his work?

Sigh. Another one.

Dude, I was just stating a possible Christian reply. I’m an atheist!

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dan January 14, 2011 at 6:34 pm

where is the post??? i just see the pic.

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Cafeeine January 14, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Tommykey: Whether you subscribe to the argument is not as important as all that. Its out there as a possible theistic response, and it can be criticized on its merits. (Of course one could say this is attacking a straw man version of it, as it was presented by an atheist, yourself, but I see it that the initial responses offer any potential theistic taker the opportunity to clarify his position further)

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Patrick January 14, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Plantinga didn’t beat anything.

If you take Plantinga as arguing that it may be logically impossible to create a world in which free will exists and in which free willed beings never choose evil, then you have three problems. First, this supposes that current levels of free will are more important than preventing evil, or else that free will is logically required to be binary and free will is more important than preventing evil. The first seems questionable morally (indeed, human justice systems are premised on its falsity), and the latter seems questionable empirically. Second, this fails to address the lack of divine intervention to mitigate or prevent evil. Third, you have the problem of needing to update your concept of heaven, because if a world with free will is genuinely incompatible with a lack of evil, then heaven must logically either contain evil or lack free will, and since its a premise of this argument that free will is more morally important than a lack of evil, heaven must contain evil.

If you take Plantinga as arguing that it may be logically impossible for God to intervene more in the world than he does right now then it is logically impossible for any act in the Bible in which God mitigates suffering to be true, unless similar acts are performed today. As divine intervention at Biblical levels does not appear to be ongoing, this falsifies Christianity.

I usually hear people arguing the second point under the name “free will defense,” but I’m not actually sure that Plantinga advances that one. Still, its out there, so its worth noting that its anti-Biblical.

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Steven R. January 14, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Plantinga didn’t beat anything.If you take Plantinga as arguing that it may be logically impossible to create a world in which free will exists and in which free willed beings never choose evil, then you have three problems.First, this supposes that current levels of free will are more important than preventing evil, or else that free will is logically required to be binary and free will is more important than preventing evil.The first seems questionable morally (indeed, human justice systems are premised on its falsity), and the latter seems questionable empirically.Second, this fails to address the lack of divine intervention to mitigate or prevent evil.Third, you have the problem of needing to update your concept of heaven, because if a world with free will is genuinely incompatible with a lack of evil, then heaven must logically either contain evil or lack free will, and since its a premise of this argument that free will is more morally important than a lack of evil, heaven must contain evil.If you take Plantinga as arguing that it may be logically impossible for God to intervene more in the world than he does right now then it is logically impossible for any act in the Bible in which God mitigates suffering to be true, unless similar acts are performed today.As divine intervention at Biblical levels does not appear to be ongoing, this falsifies Christianity.I usually hear people arguing the second point under the name “free will defense,” but I’m not actually sure that Plantinga advances that one.Still, its out there, so its worth noting that its anti-Biblical.  

Ah, finally someone else who recognizes that taking Free Will Theodicy to its extremes makes a God that floods the Earth to get rid of perversion incompatible with the Theodicy. I love your other points, by the way (the heaven point is always great to introduce to someone cocky that Free Will theodicy invalidates all objections based evil).

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DaVead January 15, 2011 at 12:07 am

This post inspires me to make a blog post entitled “How I Know Christianity Is True,” and put up or Thomas Blackshear’s “Forgiven” (http://tinyurl.com/38zdb33) or “The Pieta” by Michelangelo (http://tinyurl.com/yslr9b). That emotional appeal would be more effective, I think. The appeal of atheism is difficult to capture artistically without being sardonic or conveying something equally appealing to the theist, especially since atheism’s merely a “lack of belief” these days!

And Luke, how is the problem of theistic explanation a -reason- to disbelieve in God? (I take it that you mean withhold belief?) This seems to assume that theism is just an explanatory thesis, and this narrow view of contemporary theism seems much too Swinburneian to me. Alston, Plantinga, et al. remain quite unflinchingly unmoved by such suggestions, as would Craig or anyone else with deductive arguments for theism. Consider also that many theists accept that belief in God is properly basic and/or the probability of God on any body of evidence is 1 since god necessarily exists, thus explanatory problems are moot. The problem of theistic explanation, if it is a genuine problem, is just a call for some theists to do a bit more homework on how theistic explanations work for particular arguments. That’s really what any objection to any position or argument is these days. And if you think they’re not up to the task, you’re being silly. Dawes’s book hasn’t exactly been emphatically or threateningly received, as I’m sure you know.

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DaVead January 15, 2011 at 12:20 am

Also, Plantinga defeat of the logical problem of evil is as close to a defeat as is feasible in contemporary analytic philosophy. His free will defense received a majority of nods, and sent the problem of evil literature in an entirely new direction that has largely abandoned Mackie’s logical problem. It’s now an epistemological problem, not so much a metaphysical one. And even if Plantinga’s defense isn’t perfect, he showed how a successful response could be formally constructed. All that remains is tweaking, and further objections are just aimed at areas of vagueness or non-universally assented presuppositions. I don’t see any glaring holes.

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mopey January 15, 2011 at 12:52 am

(Re-)listen to CPBD episode #066 (w/ Andrew Chignell) for a good overview of The Evidential Problem of Evil.

Chignell discussed infant suffering, but I find some of the animal examples (such as Rowe’s famous “Bambi” example) just as compelling.

If you grant that lots of animals have nervous systems that allow them to experience pain, there is bound to be lots of suffering going on, even when it doesn’t take an hour to be drowned by a croc or something. It seems a bit much to chock this all up to human sin or evil demons. And if it is a design, it is one that is hard to admire. If only an all-knowing entity can appreciate the perfect beauty of this design, I’m so glad that I’m ignorant.

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Derrida January 15, 2011 at 1:38 am

But he’s right there in the picture…

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Rob January 15, 2011 at 4:33 am

With each new comment, DaVead provides evidence that transworld depravity is true.

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BenSix January 15, 2011 at 4:43 am

And if it is a design, it is one that is hard to admire…

Too right. I’ve never seen an explanation for why beings that aren’t moral agents are forced to endure such breathtaking agony. Not even a bad one. (Though, to be fair, that might be my own problem.)

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Rob January 15, 2011 at 6:45 am

Theists have no explanation for animal suffering. Hear the forlorn beaver story on SGU #279?
@21:50:

http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2010/09/ssw_20100918_1214.mp3

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Reginald Selkirk January 15, 2011 at 7:49 am

Dude, I was just stating a possible Christian reply. I’m an atheist!

Yo dude, I noticed that. Still, you listed the argument, whether you agree with it or not. The response is to the argument, not to you.

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Tommykey January 15, 2011 at 8:17 am

Of course, the only way we could establish a scenario whereby concerned humans alleviated all suffering and injustice in the world would be to in effect become like gods, having the entire human race under constant surveillance and the moment an active of injustice or suffering is seen on the monitor, “Justice League! Alert! A child is suffering from malnutrition in a village in the Eastern Congo!” And in they swoop in an instant with nutritious meals and vitamin supplements.

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DaVead January 15, 2011 at 8:56 am

Rob,

.. what? Why the asinine comments? So, what beliefs to you hold contrary to what I said? That it -isn’t- difficult to make an emotional appeal on behalf of a mere lack of belief? That the problem of theistic explanation by itself -is- a good reason to disbelieve in God? That non-explanatory models of theism -are- threatened by that problem? That professional theists -aren’t- up to the task of responding to it? That Dawes’s book -has- been received emphatically and/or threateningly? Or that the place of Plantinga’s free will defence in contemporary philosophy -isn’t- what I said it is? If so, why? To me, most of my claims seem religiously noncommittal.

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Luke Muehlhauser January 15, 2011 at 9:20 am

The post only contains the pic.

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Rob January 15, 2011 at 9:21 am

DaVead,

Chill brother. It’s a hyperbolic joke. Although I do find your fashionable nonsense to be just higher superstition. ;) Regardless, I do enjoy your comments, as you are the only one hereabout with that perspective. Scientism vs. Biblicism can get tiresome.

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PDH January 15, 2011 at 9:23 am

I’m not really bothered about the logical version of the argument from evil.

The evidential version is where the action is.

The theist’s task is, essentially, to argue that it is more probable than not that there was a good reason to let the holocaust happen. This cannot be done without appealing to moral principles that are entirely alien to Christianity and basic human compassion.

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BenSix January 15, 2011 at 9:26 am

The only realisable means for ending suffering would be extinction. One of the most important tasks for a secular philosophy is to explain why life destined for pain is even worth actualising.

Tommykey -

And don’t forget the animals! (Boy, I’d hate to be working the phones under this system.)

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Rob January 15, 2011 at 9:28 am

The theist’s task is, essentially, to argue that it is more probable than not that there was a good reason to let the holocaust happen. .  

And it get’s even worse. If the theist actually believes that, she is under no obligation to strive to end the holocaust or prevent another one.

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ildi January 15, 2011 at 9:30 am

Scientism vs. Biblicism can get tiresome.

Adding a little pomo to the chat stew is like adding flour… makes it nice and thick and opaque; add too much and it turns into a gluey mess.

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Rob January 15, 2011 at 9:37 am

Has anyone read this?

http://www.amazon.com/Better-Never-Have-Been-Existence/dp/0199296421

I admit I don’t have the balls to. I really like being alive, and don’t want to read a book that convinces me I ought not to feel that way. Which makes me wonder if I prefer an elaborate fantasy to reality, just like the Christians.

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BenSix January 15, 2011 at 9:44 am

Rob -

As far as I know (I haven’t read it either but for the less appealing reason that I’m hung-up on buying things over the internet) Benatar doesn’t quibble with the idea that life can be nice – in fact, it’s for that reason that he doesn’t feel that suicide need be a prudent thing – but claims that (a) there’s a high risk of it being bad, (b) there’s no risk of non-existence being bad and thus (c) we shouldn’t/have no right to bring things into existence. Plausible replies are (a) life’s so bad, (b) a life can be painful but still worthwhile and (c) but God wants us to so nyeh nyeh nyeh.

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Steven R. January 15, 2011 at 10:33 am

This post inspires me to make a blog post entitled “How I Know Christianity Is True,” and put up or Thomas Blackshear’s “Forgiven” (http://tinyurl.com/38zdb33) or “The Pieta” by Michelangelo (http://tinyurl.com/yslr9b).That emotional appeal would be more effective, I think.The appeal of atheism is difficult to capture artistically without being sardonic or conveying something equally appealing to the theist, especially since atheism’s merely a “lack of belief” these days!

Er…not sure what point you’re trying to make here, but yes, Atheism is more often than not “lack of belief”. This was recognized even in the 19th century by scholars giving lectures on Atheism.

And Luke, how is the problem of theistic explanation a -reason- to disbelieve in God? (I take it that you mean withhold belief?) This seems to assume that theism is just an explanatory thesis, and this narrow view of contemporary theism seems much too Swinburneian to me.

Well, why don’t you read the example Luke provided of about the man selling fertilizer? Or the way God leads to accomodationism, which makes many of the “emotional” appeals that you seem to love (based on your prior paragraph and the seeming rejection of rationality when applied to God) all the more dubious. It’s just that in the debate of Theism Vs. Atheism, if there is no good reason to believe in God, the Atheist “wins.” And, if God is a poor explanation of things, just like invisible pink unicorns controlling all the world’s events, then other explanations that lack God take precedence as some may be more likely to be true.

Alston, Plantinga, et al. remain quite unflinchingly unmoved by such suggestions, as would Craig or anyone else with deductive arguments for theism.

So what? How about what you believe and how that objection affects YOUR beliefs?

Consider also that many theists accept that belief in God is properly basic

Oh, you mean saying “I just KNOW it is” without any actual reason to make such a claim?

and/or the probability of God on any body of evidence is 1 since god necessarily exists, thus explanatory problems are moot.

Even granting the validity of such questionable logic, IF at least 1 god must “necessarily exist”, that still doesn’t mean that such a god is a good explanation of events and emotions humans feel and as such, this god is worthless when discussing the way our world works and is more the result of philosophy than anything else–sure, it may exist, but it matters not, unless you actually want to object to Luke’s arguments.

The problem of theistic explanation, if it is a genuine problem, is just a call for some theists to do a bit more homework on how theistic explanations work for particular arguments.That’s really what any objection to any position or argument is these days.And if you think they’re not up to the task, you’re being silly.Dawes’s book hasn’t exactly been emphatically or threateningly received, as I’m sure you know.  

…I’m not sure why it matters if Dawes’s book was met threateningly or emphatically when the argument he provides is presented to you.

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Conor Gilliland January 15, 2011 at 11:11 am

‘Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering’ by Eleonore Stump is the book you need to respond to if you want to be taken at all seriously regarding the problem of evil.

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Rob January 15, 2011 at 11:36 am

Yeah Luke. Unless you read a 600 page book published 2 months ago you have no business talking about the POE. Take this post down you ignorant cretin.

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BenSix January 15, 2011 at 11:48 am

You think that’s ignorant? Luke’s also failed to consider the arguments that I’ll present in my forthcoming book. The fool!

(In fairness, I guess one could say expressions of certitude are somewhat premature if there are decent arguments around and as yet unaddressed.)

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Steven R. January 15, 2011 at 11:56 am

Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering

Can you actually give us an overview of her arguments? The Amazon Summary of the book just says that she uses modern developments to explain human goodness…and then that she re-affirms Aquinas’s theodicy. Not very useful, as far as I can tell. Just preemptively, however, if I’m not mistaken, Aquinas said that God’s conception of love was higher than that of humans, but my main objection to this is that, in the face of so much evil which God can stop, we have no reason whatsoever to assume God’s innocence or resort to higher concepts of “love”. It’s really, to me, just a theodicy that doesn’t provide any insights and is akin to saying “2deep4u”, which, although making for fine rhetoric, is, really, terrible upon analysis.

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Conor Gilliland January 15, 2011 at 1:29 pm

No need for name calling boys and girls. The point is just to say that this is the defining text on the problem of evil for this generation and probably many to come. If you want to be taken seriously in the field of philosophy, you’ll have to respond to it. You may not be interested in being taken seriously in the field of philosophy. Perhaps you only want to vent in the blogosphere. In that case I’m not speaking to you.

Steven, as to a summary, I’m writing up a detailed paper now and can send it to you if you’re interested. For now, though, she takes an epistemological perspective in which there are certain kinds of knowledge – namely, knowledge of persons – that are accessible only through narrative – or what she calls 2nd person interactions. Basically, she makes the argument that there is knowledge of persons themselves that cannot be reduced to knowledge ‘that.’ You may be familiar with that line of thought from mind/body dualism arguments – she applies it to knowledge of persons. As far as God goes, she argues from a Thomistic perspective, he desires to be in loving relationships with all humans and that this requires interactions of the 2nd person narrative variety. Love entails two desires on Aquinas’ account – a desire for the good of the beloved and a desire for the beloved herself/a desire to be in union with the beloved. Stump argues that in the narratives of Job, Samson, and Mary of Bethany this union of love is powerfully achieved in, through, and in spite of the suffering present in each narrative.

She does not attempt to explain “away” suffering and evil. She repeatedly affirms that the horrendous nature of such suffering. And she is not presenting a theodicy but a defense. She is describing a putatively possible world in which a God of love exists and evil exists, and that the force of any argument from evil is blunted in that world. She does not claim that the possible world is the actual world, but then again she does not have to to ward off arguments from evil. She only needs to show that it is coherent for a loving God to exist in a world where evil exists.

Of course it will be easy to attack this summary, so don’t waste your energy. Read the book.

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Patrick January 15, 2011 at 1:48 pm

“She does not claim that the possible world is the actual world, but then again she does not have to to ward off arguments from evil. She only needs to show that it is coherent for a loving God to exist in a world where evil exists. ”

wut?

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Steven R. January 15, 2011 at 1:49 pm

No need for name calling boys and girls.The point is just to say that this is the defining text on the problem of evil for this generation and probably many to come.If you want to be taken seriously in the field of philosophy, you’ll have to respond to it.You may not be interested in being taken seriously in the field of philosophy.Perhaps you only want to vent in the blogosphere.In that case I’m not speaking to you.Steven, as to a summary, I’m writing up a detailed paper now and can send it to you if you’re interested.For now, though, she takes an epistemological perspective in which there are certain kinds of knowledge – namely, knowledge of persons – that are accessible only through narrative – or what she calls 2nd person interactions.Basically, she makes the argument that there is knowledge of persons themselves that cannot be reduced to knowledge ‘that.’You may be familiar with that line of thought from mind/body dualism arguments – she applies it to knowledge of persons.As far as God goes, she argues from a Thomistic perspective, he desires to be in loving relationships with all humans and that this requires interactions of the 2nd person narrative variety.Love entails two desires on Aquinas’ account – a desire for the good of the beloved and a desire for the beloved herself/a desire to be in union with the beloved. Stump argues that in the narratives of Job, Samson, and Mary of Bethany this union of love is powerfully achieved in, through, and in spite of the suffering present in each narrative.She does not attempt to explain “away” suffering and evil.She repeatedly affirms that the horrendous nature of such suffering.And she is not presenting a theodicy but a defense.She is describing a putatively possible world in which a God of love exists and evil exists, and that the force of any argument from evil is blunted in that world.She does not claim that the possible world is the actual world, but then again she does not have to to ward off arguments from evil.She only needs to show that it is coherent for a loving God to exist in a world where evil exists.
Of course it will be easy to attack this summary, so don’t waste your energy.Read the book.  

I’m afraid it sounds like the sort of book that requires some more sophisticated understanding of philosophy (as far as I’m concerned fro the moment, dualism is an outdated idea that feel in favor of cognitive science, which, for now, satisfies me since philosophers can’t even decide on whether or not I exist or the floor will vanish at any second just because) than what I posses (which is just knowing what each position is, and even then, just a rough understanding) because I haven’t studied philosophy yet. Still, if your summary is friendly to those of us not so well-schooled on all these philosophical things, I’d be more than happy to read it. Just e-mail it or whatever to d33p3stpurple@yahoo.com

Anyway, here’s the things that strike me:

1. Is the 2nd person interaction narrative compatible with the Christian God? After all, scripture claims that God knows you before you are born!
2. This one is probably from my general ignorance of philosophy, but isn’t her argument only coherent when we say that God cannot do anything to stop evil? Because to me, it seems that these interactions can happen without evil and hardships getting in the way, so if God can remove evil, and he is benevolent, then why doesn’t he do it? Sure, I see this defense working if God isn’t omnipotent, but this isn’t really compatible with Christianity.
3. Job and God were already in a loving relationship, so I’m not entirely sure her argument does work here (ofc, I haven’t read the book)…

Just my first few thoughts after reading it.

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DaVead January 15, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Rob,

Cool. But, I don’t know how to take the claim that I’ve offer fashionable nonsense, other than as either flat-out disagreement or that you don’t properly understand what I’m saying. That’s okay with me though. And, um, my perspective isn’t Biblicism. My perspective comes from me seeing a community here operating under some very stringent presuppositions, something like an assumed Scientism or hyper-realism, and I feel compelled to offer some relief as well as playing devil’s advocate (but I haven’t yet been disingenuous). It’s difficult for me to say though, because I hold all my properly philosophical or religious beliefs liminally.

Steven R.,

My point was just that if the cartoon featured above is conveying anything (aesthetically or phenomenologically, not propositionally), then it’s nothing that Christian symbols couldn’t convey more powerfully.

I have read Luke’s examples. All I meant was that the explanatory virtuelessness of theism is not a reason to believe theism is not true, especially when the theistic position is largely not offered as an explanatory hypothesis. So, I agree with you that if the problem of theistic explanation succeeds and if theism is an explanatory thesis, then atheism “wins” the theism vs. atheism debate.

What do I believe? In regards to theism, most of my beliefs are just conditionals that I think are true, but I don’t currently know yet how they are true. So, mostly: if A-type facts, then B-type theologically/atheologically relevant facts follow. Currently I’m attracted to non-naturalistic worldviews in which consciousness is fundamental. One way to interpret that might be that a conscious being is ultimate, and that might be theism. I don’t know.

And yes, properly basic claims are rationally made all the time without reasons. If you don’t agree I can only reference you to the last 30 years of epistemology and phenomenology. Whether theism is one such claim, I don’t know. I agree with you about your points about the irrelevance of a necessarily existing godish being. And, in regards to Dawes’s book, I think one way to evaluate the power of an argument is to see how much of a splash it makes amongst those it opposes. Maybe you disagree, that’s okay though.

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Luke Muehlhauser January 15, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Conor,

I doubt I’ll read the book. I’m interested in how the world probably is, not how it possibly could be.

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Rob January 15, 2011 at 4:02 pm

DaVead,

You offer a po-mo perspective, no? A book called Fashionable Nonsense criticizes po-mo; that’s all I meant. I know you are not a biblicist. That was my point.

“Liminally”? That certainly clears things up.

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DaVead January 15, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Rob,

If at all, then postmodern in broadest sense. I take hermeneutics, phenomenology, existentialism, and sane levels of deconstruction as much more meaningful exercises than analysis, reduction, debating exclusive Realisms, quantification, and etc. I accept a lot of analytic philosophy though; hence the liminality. Ahh, right, I remember reading about Fashionable Nonsense and some of the hoopla it started. The postmodern criticisms of that book are brilliant, by the way, lol.

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Conor Gilliland January 16, 2011 at 12:06 am

Conor,I doubt I’ll read the book. I’m interested in how the world probably is, not how it possibly could be.  

Luke,

Most of philosophy is countering charges of incoherence regarding one’s beliefs with a strong defense. This is not an argument for the existence of God, it is a defense against an attack. Most of philosophy is like a chess game. The argument from evil is a move that is supposed to put my king in check (or mate). A theodicy, or the less audacious defense, is a move that demonstrates why your move was no threat at all. Furthermore, the argument from evil doesn’t say anything about how the world probably “is,” it says something about how the world probably is not. I’m surprised you haven’t figured that out by now.

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Luke Muehlhauser January 16, 2011 at 1:31 am

Conor,

As I understand the term in this context, a “defense” tries to show why it’s possible that God exists despite the force of the argument from evil. So that’s why I said I’m interested in how the world probably is, not how it possibly could be. I’m more interested to read arguments by theists which attempt to show why God’s existence is probable, not merely possible. So, for example, Plantinga doesn’t interest me much. His two most widely regarded “accomplishments” were to show that (1) it’s possible for God and evil to co-exist, and (2) if Christianity is true, then it’s possible it could be warranted without evidence. Frankly, those are not very impressive career achievements, even if they succeeded (which I’m not sure they did, especially the second project).

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Dgsinclair January 16, 2011 at 6:06 am

Luke,

Plantinga’s value, however, is moving thrusts from a checkmate position (it’s impossible for the omnigod to exist w evil) to a check position (it’s improbable), no small feat, and a logical, if not practical step for theists.

And btw, my quip above about the idea that starving children equally proves man’s evil is not just trolling. Once, you asked why, if xians believe that ppl are going to hell, they don’t do more to evangelize. My answer is, for the same reason that atheists, who believe that this one precious life is all we have, aren’t doing much more to help this child than use him in a cartooned screed against God.

Reasons include selfishness, laziness, lack of love, lack of full conviction in their beliefs, the overwhelming scale of the problem, and blame shifting.

I mean, why did mankind allow this child to suffer? Just bc we are not omni does not excuse us, though you could argue that it is easier for an omni god to do something

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Dgsinclair January 16, 2011 at 6:08 am

Above, that’s ‘theists’ not ‘thrusts’, damned autocorrect

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PDH January 16, 2011 at 7:55 am

Dgsinclair,

Luke,Plantinga’s value, however, is moving thrusts from a checkmate position (it’s impossible for the omnigod to exist w evil) to a check position (it’s improbable), no small feat, and a logical, if not practical step for theists.And btw, my quip above about the idea that starving children equally proves man’s evil is not just trolling. Once, you asked why, if xians believe that ppl are going to hell, they don’t do more to evangelize. My answer is, for the same reason that atheists, who believe that this one precious life is all we have, aren’t doing much more to help this child than use him in a cartooned screed against God.Reasons include selfishness, laziness, lack of love, lack of full conviction in their beliefs, the overwhelming scale of the problem, and blame shifting. I mean, why did mankind allow this child to suffer? Just bc we are not omni does not excuse us, though you could argue that it is easier for an omni god to do something  

But it does show that we are not perfectly moral and the Christian God is supposed to be perfectly moral, therefore the Christian God probably does not exist. I agree that humans are not perfectly moral, either, which is why evidence of suffering is not evidence against our existence.

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Conor Gilliland January 16, 2011 at 8:38 am

Luke,

Those considerations are telling for what we are even up to when we argue philosophy. It reveals that calling one’s foundational (or ungiveupable) beliefs “true” is like calling one’s king in chess “true.” It doesn’t quite make sense. When one engages in philosophical dialogue, one has already chosen their king for very personal, and probably emotional, reasons. For example, Plantinga and others argue that there is a knowledge of persons that requires no justification. I do not need to prove that my roommate exists to say I know him. However, by knowing him, it follows ignobly that he exists. If knowledge of one particular person, say God, is as powerful as Christians claim, then it may be quite reasonable, rational, warranted, and so on for them to choose that position as their king. And unless a powerful enough argument is offered (a defeater) then the person goes on warranted in their belief. This is Plantinga’s project in God and Other Minds and the Warrant series.

However, I’m surprised you think that any other field of inquiry accomplishes more than this. You are no doubt aware from your study in the philosophy of science that trusting the deliverances of one’s cognitive/perceptual faculties for “knowledge” carries with it the same kind of justification as knowing other persons and believing in the existence of other persons, and for some – God.

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Luke Muehlhauser January 16, 2011 at 8:43 am

Conor,

No, I think science is far more reliable than individuals’ perceptions. As for inferring existence from “knowing” (personally), I guess that proves Allah exists. Well done. In any case, Plantinga’s Warrant project is demolished in my interview with Tyler Wunder.

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Rob January 16, 2011 at 8:46 am

Conor,

“It is entirely right, rational, reasonable, and proper to believe in [insert any stupid fucking thing you want] without any evidence or argument whatsoever.”

Plantinga had about the worst idea anybody ever had, and desperate Christians praise him for it. It’s pathetic.

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Steven R. January 16, 2011 at 10:23 am

Luke,Plantinga’s value, however, is moving thrusts from a checkmate position (it’s impossible for the omnigod to exist w evil) to a check position (it’s improbable), no small feat, and a logical, if not practical step for theists.And btw, my quip above about the idea that starving children equally proves man’s evil is not just trolling. Once, you asked why, if xians believe that ppl are going to hell, they don’t do more to evangelize. My answer is, for the same reason that atheists, who believe that this one precious life is all we have, aren’t doing much more to help this child than use him in a cartooned screed against God.Reasons include selfishness, laziness, lack of love, lack of full conviction in their beliefs, the overwhelming scale of the problem, and blame shifting. I mean, why did mankind allow this child to suffer? Just bc we are not omni does not excuse us, though you could argue that it is easier for an omni god to do something  

As has already been pointed out, the Free Will Defense works but at the expense of undermining or completely discarding Christian beliefs (how can Heaven exist without evil if God can’t create a world without evil?) and some questionable assumptions (that compatibilism always fails). It may work for the generic theistic God but certainly not for many Gods with a defined cannon, which, incidentally, complements what Luke said about Theistic explanations–they fail whenever a God has more clearly defined purposes or goals.

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Conor Gilliland January 16, 2011 at 11:37 am

Luke,

What more is science than an abstraction from individual disconnected (untrustworthy) perceptions? The whole idea is that I can observe something and that all the same conditions being equal, any other person can observe the same event. But that is no different from someone saying, I perceive (observe) a feeling of guilt and under the following circumstances I perceive forgiveness, and if you create the same conditions as I did, you can experience forgiveness too. Of course, maintaining the control in an experiment like that is more difficult, but that difficulty in our ability to control says nothing about the reality to which the experiences refer.

It also comes down to what is of value in any inquiry. It seems to me we could value above anything else being right or value above anything else love. As James Taylor says, “Love is the finest thing around.” It would be a terrible song if he said, “Being right is the finest thing around.” Truth, you may say, is as fine a thing as love – but they are actually not such different things. To what end are we interested in being right? If it’s for our own fame and glory among others, I think that’s a pitiful condition to be in. If it’s so that we may help others (and/or ourselves to some extent) live the excellent life, then that seems to be more significant. But what more is that than love (of self and other)? Science has no say in what you value most, what you value most determines the way in which you proceed with inquiry.

Lastly, I doubt Warrant has been demolished, and I doubly doubt I’ll listen to your interview – unless you were willing to do some sort of prisoner exchange for our mutual doubts as to engaging the others’ academic recommendations.

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Rob January 16, 2011 at 11:55 am

Luke,What more is science than an abstraction from individual disconnected (untrustworthy) perceptions?

. . . as you use the very fruits of science to claim it is nothing more than abstraction.

You are sawing off the very branch you are sitting on. Have you met DaVead?

You guys sit in the very lap of science, as it is the only way to reach its face to slap.

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Steven R. January 16, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Luke,What more is science than an abstraction from individual disconnected (untrustworthy) perceptions?

My first question to you would be how do you know our perceptions are untrustworthy? Anticipating your reply, you may respond that people who use hallucinogenics see things or something like that. But the real point is, how do you know that those hallucinations don’t really exist? Seems to me that you’re using some point of comparison to determine how trustworthy something is. I also note that whenever we have discovered that our initial perceptions were untrustworthy as it relates to the world we inhabit (whatever its nature may be) have been as a result of science or the scientific method, so this sort of objection just seems rather silly to me.

The whole idea is that I can observe something and that all the same conditions being equal, any other person can observe the same event.But that is no different from someone saying, I perceive (observe) a feeling of guilt and under the following circumstances I perceive forgiveness, and if you create the same conditions as I did, you can experience forgiveness too.Of course, maintaining the control in an experiment like that is more difficult, but that difficulty in our ability to control says nothing about the reality to which the experiences refer.

I don’t see the problem, but since we’re dealing with emotions, which are much more deeply controlled by brain structure and prior emotional experiences, I hardly think that any accurate/consistent scientific data can be had, since in this sense, humans vary much more than when it comes to things like sight.

I also see that it deals with the way we define existence, but here, I am one to say that it is impossible to linguistically define it. The reason for this, I think, is the same reason why the conscious part of your mind has no idea how the brain works as far as it concerns uncontrolled activities, like making your heartbeat. It’s because your mind or conscious self or whatever you chose to call it has no experience with it, even if it is affected by its activities. Similarly, simply because humans are affected by existence doesn’t necessarily mean that we have experience with reality (in the same sense that you have no experience with making your heart beat, rather clunky definitions perhaps, but I hope I conveyed my point). Because, as far as I can ascertain, language wishes to communicate experiences (say, your observation of a rock’s color), and the only way language can be interpreted by the person hearing the message is by applying what was said/defined within the context of their own experiences, and nobody has experienced existence, it is impossible to truly define. However, if language is indeed a way of conveying experiences, and languages have succeeded in establishing communication between people, then it isn’t really a big deal to deduce that people have pretty much the same experiences, or else all languages would fail and communication would be impossible due to radically different perceptions.

It also comes down to what is of value in any inquiry.

No doubt, but since we’re discussing the way the world probably is, being certain becomes our goal.

It seems to me we could value above anything else being right or value above anything else love.As James Taylor says, “Love is the finest thing around.”It would be a terrible song if he said, “Being right is the finest thing around.”

But for the purposes of establishing the parameters of what we experience, love isn’t very useful. That’s not to say it is of no importance, for, if it fulfills one of our needs, then I don’t see a problem with it unless it violates the needs of somebody else…but that’s digressing far enough.

Truth, you may say, is as fine a thing as love – but they are actually not such different things.To what end are we interested in being right?If it’s for our own fame and glory among others, I think that’s a pitiful condition to be in.

What if you value fame and glory more than love? At some point I think humans are forced to make what I call “irrational assumptions” out of necessity due to our own nature as established by evolutionary trends. Humans don’t begin life by spending their first 20 years determining whether or not methodological empiricism is correct or not, but rather, begin by assuming that it IS correct without much reason and move on from there, merely for the reason of survival. Similarly, we tend to assume that love is the best possible thing, because we are social animals. I don’t see a problem with either, for, if they both failed, then we wouldn’t even be able to contemplate the nature of existence or communicate our views with others (since it requires social interaction which is facilitated by notions of love, propriety, etc.). Ultimately, I think we flaw ourselves is insisting that EVERYTHING must be grounded upon pure reason and that everything must have an explanation, hence why we have things like Solipsism (skepticism taken to an absurd extreme) and God (trying to explain things like reason in the world, etc.) rather than just admitting to ourselves that not everything we do may be known with full certainty, etc.

If it’s so that we may help others (and/or ourselves to some extent) live the excellent life, then that seems to be more significant.But what more is that than love (of self and other)? Science has no say in what you value most, what you value most determines the way in which you proceed with inquiry.

Indeed, but science never sought to answer what the best method of inquiry was and I don’t think it should be taken that way either. What we can note is that science is an excellent form of inquiry when it comes to determining what sort of world we live in.

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Kyle Key January 16, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Conor: “…I doubly doubt I’ll listen to your interview – unless you were willing to do some sort of prisoner exchange for our mutual doubts as to engaging the others’ academic recommendations. ”
Haha, wow, an ultimatum. What hubris. No one cares whether you listen to or read the interview, especially when the deal is “purchase this $90, 600-page book or I won’t read your 30-page, free, dialogue.”

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DaVead January 16, 2011 at 3:07 pm

I love science, but I don’t see how it’s accomplishments can be used as a guide to select between different metaphysical or philosophical interpretations of science. And least of all can I see how any of its accomplishments gesture towards a realist interpretation. Read some preliminary Kant. It makes a lot more sense to me that the orderedness of the universe that we observe is resultant from our minds than that our minds are capable of understand things in-themselves, as opposed to how they are given to us, which is really all we have at the end of the day.

Also, Plantinga’s accomplishment in arguing that “If theism is true, than theistic belief is probably warranted,” is that metaphysics in a sense precedes epistemology. I don’t know how to deny that his goal was indeed accomplished (though it was a humble goal in the first place), which was to show that any “de jure” objection to Christianity presupposes a “de facto” objection. He wasn’t making an argument for theism at all, and thus wasn’t actually claiming that theism -is- warrant basic. You can see his project as gesturing that the real project for the non-believer is to attack Christianity’s truth, which should be a well-received notion by atheists, no?

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Conor Gilliland January 16, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Well put DaVead.

Kyle, the 90 dollars and days or even weeks it would take to read through Stump is a fair trade for the free dialogue on an amateur’s blog. Not taking a shot at Luke, just being honest.

Rob, just came across him for the first time. I think we’ll get along, thanks for the tip though. That my perceptions are not reliable is not a deliverance of science. In fact, it seems to me you are biting the hand of perception that feeds you. I’m saying that our cognitive faculties are mostly reliable (I was just helping you defeat yourself earlier), and if they weren’t the project of science would be tore up from the floor up.

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Zeb January 16, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Connor thanks for the recommendation, it is on my wishlist now. This blog has got me seriously contemplating a career change, and one ambition was to study enough philosophy to write a book with a title very much like that. But maybe people are already doing all the philosophy I would do, and I can just read and promote them while still selling vegetables for a living :). Any more suggestions? And will the Stump book be widely recognized by the philosophy, or is it just your opinion?

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Rob January 16, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Conor,

Mind you don’t trip while you backpedal. It’s always a joy to watch the Christian nuzzle up to the post-modernist. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, eh? Oh well, so much for Truth.

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DaVead January 16, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Some Kierkegaard for the Truthless road:

“The truth is an objective uncertainty held fast through personal appropriation with the most passionate inwardness. This is the highest truth there can be for an existing person. At the point where the road divides, objective knowledge is suspended, and one has only uncertainty, but this is precisely what intensifies the infinite passion of inwardness. Subjective truth is precisely the daring venture of choosing the objective uncertainty with the passion of the infinite.”

(link to the spiritual writings of Kierkegaard: http://www.plough.com/ebooks/pdfs/Provocations.pdf)

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mopey January 17, 2011 at 12:27 am

Conor Gilliland wrote:
The point is just to say that this is the defining text on the problem of evil for this generation and probably many to come. If you want to be taken seriously in the field of philosophy, you’ll have to respond to it.

Are there any others who also regard Stump’s book as the prospective seminal work on the problem of evil? The ink is barely dry and I’m unable to find any reviews of it or of any of Dr. Stump’s other work.

Using Amazon’s preview feature, I was able to read I sizable chuck. Nearly 8 chapters arguing for her methodology of examining biblical narratives.

Note that she only addresses suffering as experienced by mentally adequate adult humans. So, the hard problems of infants and non-human animals won’t be addressed. I suppose this might be necessary considering the anthropocentric nature of the narratives that are examined, and her proposed possibility for redemption;

Eleonore Stump wrote:
What does it take to redeem suffering – to defeat evil, as philosophers say? (Prologue, xviii)

I will argue that suffering can be redeemed for the sufferer in personal relationship, that heartbreak can be woven into joy through reciprocity of love. (Prologue, xix)

I will ask the librarian at my university to order the book and I will try to tackle it this semester. I don’t expect that it will be an easy read. Story-form narratives are often substantively murky and obscure. But I won’t know if this is the case here until I read it.

Conor Gilliland wrote:
I doubt Warrant has been demolished, and I doubly doubt I’ll listen to your interview

As far as I know, Plantinga hasn’t responded to the rigorous, through-going critiques of Beilby, Sennett, Mirza, or Wunder (see here).

I suppose your refusal to read the transcript of Luke’s interview with Wunder (or Wunder’s dissertation) makes some sort of sense, but I for one would really appreciate a Plantinga fan’s take on some of these critiques. It takes a lot of finesse to sift through Plantinga’s material, and they could have missed something that someone with a more charitable disposition to Plantinga could easily point out – even though Beilby and Sennett claim to be big fans of Plantinga, despite their criticisms.

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ILoveJesusChristTheLORD May 13, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Hello fellow human beings. I, too, have spent long hours pondering these questions. As one who loves science, technology, and engineering, and who knows the theoretical strengths of materials and powers of engines, I have often wondered: ” Why didn’t God make us out of stronger materials, like carbon fiber, and power us with super solar engines, instead of making us out of blood and flesh and protein and requiring us to eat food or starve?” As a born again Christian I have asked: “Why did God choose to use inefficient, weak, and fallen people like myself to spread His Word, when He could use powerful radiant angels, and write the Gospel in clouds, in all languages?” Ultimately, I realized: While I am free to question Him, He is Father, and, He knows best.

1 God created the world perfectly, between six and ten millenial or so, ago. Death, disease, and suffering (parasites etc, too) came with sin: When Adam and Eve betrayed God and sided with Satan, that is what caused the problems.

2 God knows things from His perspective (“My thoughts are higher than yours’”). He is infinite, and sees it ALL. Perhaps what we call inefficient from our finite perspective, for varied reasons we cannot see, is the best way to get HIS objective across. Example: I agree: *I* would make human flesh and bone from carbon fiber that never broke down, but, God wanted us to have blood because He knew Adam would sin, and, He knew He would have to send Jesus to die for us. So, if we never died or hurt or broke down, where would that leave His Redemption Plan?

3 I commend all of you here, atheists, Christians, and others, who go out and help people. I try to also. Instead of blaming God, let’s all take responsibility for ourselves, me first of all. God’s prime desire is not our immediate comfort and happiness, but, our eternal salvation, and, eternal joy, which is only found in Himself and a RELATIONSHIP with Him. Please feel free to respond, email me, and, see my site. :)

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Mavourneen October 24, 2011 at 8:42 am

What does Eleonore Stump think?

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