Arguing About Evil: Plantinga’s Free Will Defense

by Luke Muehlhauser on October 25, 2009 in Alvin Plantinga,Free Will,Problem of Evil

Part 4 of my series Arguing About Evil.

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Last post: Mackie argued that the existence of evil and the existence of an all-good, all-powerful God are logically incompatible. But for this to be so, there must not be even a possible morally justifying reason for God to permit evil.

This post: Plantinga’s Free Will Defense argues that it is possible that God, though omnipotent, could not have actualized a world of free beings who never commit evil. In fact, it is possible that our world contains the optimal balance of good and evil.

For Mackie’s logical argument from evil to work, it must be the case that:

(5) There is no morally justifying reason for God to permit evil he could prevent.

If this is even possibly false, then God and evil are not logically incompatible (using Mackie’s argument, anyway). Plantinga claims to have shown that (5) is indeed possibly false, in what he calls the Free Will Defense:

The heart of the Free Will Defense is the claim that it is possible that God could not have created a universe containing moral good… without creating one that also contained moral evil. And if so, then it is possible that God has a good reason for creating a world containing evil.1

Plantinga argues, then, that the following is at least possible:

God is omnipotent, and it was not within His power to create a world containing moral good but no moral evil.2

The story goes like this:

A world containing creatures who are [free to make moral choices] (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all. Now God can create free creatures, but He can’t cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren’t significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, He must create creatures capable of moral evil…3

But surely it is logically possible to only do what is right even if one is free to do wrong. In other words: Surely there is a possible world containing free creatures who always freely choose to do what is right. There is no logical contradiction there. And since God is omnipotent, he could have created any possible world. So the Free Will Defense fails, because God could have created a universe with free will but no evil.

Hold on a minute, Plantinga says. Was it within God’s power to create any possible world he pleased?

First, Plantinga calls for a distinction between creating and actualizing:

We speak of God as creating the world; yet… what we say is false. For a thing is created only if there is a time before which it does not exist; and this is patently false… of any state of affairs. What God has created are the heavens and the earth and all that they contain; he nas not created himself, or numbers, propositions, properties, or states of affairs: these have no beginnings. We can say, however, that God actualizes states of affairs; his creative activity results in their being or becoming actual. God has created Socrates, but actualized the state of affairs consisting in [Socrates'] existence.”4

So, is the atheist correct to claim that God, because he is omnipotent, could have actualized any possible world he pleased?

Curley, the bribe, and transworld depravity

Consider a situation S in which Curley is free to take or refuse a bribe.5 God wants Curley to freely refuse the bribe, but can God get what he wants? It depends on which of the following is true:

(t) If S were to obtain [be actualized, be made real], then Curley would take the bribe.

or

(r) If S were to obtain, then Curley would not take the bribe.

Note that one of these must be true.

If (6) is true and God actualizes S, then Curley will take the bribe and God won’t get what he wants. If (7) is true and God actualizes S, then Curley won’t take the bribe and God will get what he wants.

Now jump forward in time just a bit. Let Wt be a possible world in which S is true and Curley freely takes the bribe. And let Wr be a possible world in which S is true and Curley freely refuses the bribe. But if (t) is true, then God can’t actualize Wr. And if (r) is true, God can’t actualize Wt. Since either (t) or (r) must be true, it follows that there is at least one world (Wt or Wr) that God can’t actualize, even though he is omnipotent.

And it might be possible, Plantinga says, that the same is true for every possible person in every possible world. It might be the case that, in short, every free creature God can create would perform at least one wrong action. That is, maybe every possible creature suffers from “transworld depravity.” No matter how God set things up, they would commit at least one act of moral evil (if they were truly free).

Objections

young_plantingaBut, says the atheist, even if this is possible, it only explains a world in which there is some evil, not so much evil as we see in this world. In fact, it is easy to give examples of how God could have made a less evil world without ending human freedom. For example, he could have tweaked Hitler’s genes such that he still could have freely chosen the life of a fascist warmonger, but he would have been much more likely to freely choose the life of a peaceful gardener. Nevertheless, Plantinga insists, it’s logically possible that for some reason the world in which Hitler was a gardener was not actualizable for God.

But then, what of natural evil? An earthquake causes much evil, but is not the result of human freedom. Plantinga replies that it’s possible that morally free invisible spirits – demons, for example – are responsible for all natural evils.

Now this is all quite fantastic. Absurd, even. Most theists probably think this is absurd. At this point, arguing with Plantinga begins to feel like arguing with a dining room table.

At the risk of exhausting our sighing muscles, let’s try one more objection. Even if God and evil aren’t logically incompatible because it is logically possible that God cannot actualize any world in which free creatures commit no evil, doesn’t the sheer abundance of evil in the world at least make God’s existence improbable?

No, says Plantinga, for he knows of no evidence against the proposition that:

(f) God is omniscient, omnipotent, and morally perfect; God has created the world; all evil in the world is [the result of free actions by created creatures]; and there is no possible world God could have created that contains a better balance of [moral good and evil].6

Plantinga concludes:

The Free Will Defense… shows that the existence of God is compatible, both logically and probabilistically, with the existence of evil; thus it solves the main philosophical problem of evil.7

Welcome to the logic of Plantinga.

Some see the Free Will Defense as a hallmark of apologetic desperation. Others see it as a triumphant defense against the problem of evil.

Obviously, there have been many objections to the Free Will Defense in the philosophical literature, and we will look at them next.

  1. God, Freedom, and Evil, page 31. For a more thorough discussion, see chapter 9 of The Nature of Necessity. []
  2. Ibid, page 45. []
  3. Ibid, page 30. []
  4. The Nature of Necessity, page 169. []
  5. Thanks to Wes Morriston for his succinct summary, which I’m paraphrasing. []
  6. God, Freedom, and Evil, page 63. []
  7. Ibid, page 64. []

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{ 75 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin October 25, 2009 at 7:08 am

Plantinga’s argument, and others like it, always lead me to a related question: Given the evil that results from creating creatures with free will, even if it is unavoidable in producing good, why does God create the world and free agents at all? If God is wholly perfect, complete, good, etc., there seems no reason, logical or moral, for Him to create the world and free agents. Creating free agents, presumably doesn’t make the whole of existence better, but rather diminishes it insofar as it introduces some evil. So what possible justification can there be for God creating the world with free agents who do evil?

Our buddy William Lane Craig claims that God creates us and the world for our benefit, not his. Creation is an act of love toward us humans. But this makes no sense. How can I be benefited or harmed if I don’t exist? How can God or anyone show me love if there’s no me there to begin with? Conversely, God wouldn’t have deprived me of something had he failed to create me. This is similar to the argument against abortion that goes something like, “How would you like it if your mother had aborted you?” Well, I wouldn’t like it, dislike it, or have any other feelings about it. I wouldn’t exist to be affected by it at all. It’s a meaningless question.

Finally, any thoughts on how Plantinga has addressed, or might address, the Heaven problem? Assuming those in Heaven have free will, but do no evil (which I imagine at least some conceptions of Heaven claim, or ought to if they want to be consistent with other Christian claims), does this not contradict his claim that God could not actualize a world in which freedom exists without evil? Or, if such a Heaven is possible, why not create it straight away, without creating this world first?

In a debate, Craig once claimed that this latter suggestion was logically possible, but not feasible, but I never understood the distinction, and maybe he didn’t either.

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Steven Carr October 25, 2009 at 7:59 am

Can this imaginary god create almsot identical twins?

Twins who behave almost identically apart from on one or two occasions?

Can this imaginary god create a near twin of Curley who behaves almost identically to Curley except on the occasion that Curley is offered a 1000 dollar bribe , the near twin refuses while the other twin Curley accepts?

Such a twin need not even have an angelic disposition. It could be the case that if both twins were offered a million dollar bribe, both would accept.

I imagine Plantinga would explain that if twins exist, all bribes in all actualisable worlds would be such to successfully tempt both twins…..

The moral? No twins can ever be elected to public office, because we have Plantinga’s word for it that all twins can be bribed.

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Steven Carr October 25, 2009 at 8:08 am

‘Consider a situation S in which Curley is free to take or refuse a bribe.’

Does this situation S contain an all-knowing being who knows that Curley will refuse the bribe?

If not then there is no God.

And if there is then Curley will refuse the bribe.

So presumably Plantinga has sneaked in to S the fact that his God knows that Curley will accept the bribe.

So how did God actualise the world where there existed an omniscient being who knows Curley will accept the bribe, *before* Curley made his free choice?

I;m sure Plantinga and Craig will answer this point by pointing out that determinism works backwards.

The choices of people are NOT determined by the circumstances existing when they choose.

If people make a free choice, their choices determine the circumstances existing when they chose.

If Curley chooses to refuse the bribe, this choice determined that a god existed who knew Curley would refuse the bribe, before Curley made his choice.

If Curley chooses to accept the bribe, this choice determined that a god existed who knew Curley would accept the bribe, before Curley made his choice.

And both situations were IDENTICAL before Curley made his choice, as Plantinga always says these 2 situations are absolutely identical, even though one of them contains a god who knows Curley will refuse a bribe, and the other contains a god who knows Curley will accept a bribe.

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Steven Carr October 25, 2009 at 8:16 am

LUKE
If (6) is true and God actualizes S….

CARR
Just to reemphasise that GOD actualised S, the state of affairs existing when Curley made his choice, and that this state of affairs necessarily contains an all-knowing being who knows what way Curley will choose.

LUKE
Wt be a possible world in which S is true and Curley freely takes the bribe. And let Wr be a possible world in which S is true and Curley freely refuses the bribe…..

CARR
Just to reemphasize, S is true and Curley freely takes the bribe. And S is true and Curley freely refuses the bribe.

Yet S contains an all-knowing being who A) Knows that Cureky will freely take the bribe and B) also knows Curley will freely refuse the bribe.

So Plantinga’s argument contains a logical contradiction – a being who knows that both A and not-A are true.

So bye bye to Plantinga’s defense to the logical problem of free will as it contains a logical contradiction in its ‘reasoning’

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thimscool October 25, 2009 at 8:26 am

God is not omnipotent. God is arbitrarily powerful… powerful enough to get the job done.

Nor is he omniscient. He doesn’t care what every atom does at every moment. But he is arbitrarily knowledgeable, capable of knowing what is necessary for him to get the job done.

So evil exists because the universe is good enough for God… but not perfect. If you want perfect, then you have to wait for God to finish the job. Creation is still unfolding. You speak as if it were done in a moment. It has taken 15 billion years so far… and we’re far from done.

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thimscool October 25, 2009 at 8:39 am

doesn’t the sheer abundance of evil in the world at least make God’s existence improbable?

Indeed, all of existence is improbable, so why should God’s existence be regarded as probable? Yet here we are, clawing our way into the future…

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Reginald Selkirk October 25, 2009 at 9:00 am

I’m glad to see you’re back to dealing with Plantinga and Craig instead of V.D.

In fact, it is possible that our world contains the optimal balance of good and evil.

Optimized for what?

The heart of the Free Will Defense is the claim that it is possible that God could not have created a universe containing moral good… without creating one that also contained moral evil.

Who makes these rules that God must follow?

A world containing creatures who are [free to make moral choices] (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all.

How could the possibility of making free choices possibly be more valuable than being consistently good? The first would only bring some transitory feeling of satisfaction to the chooser, while the latter would result in an infinite time in paradise. It’s hard to beat infinite when balancing equations.

Plantinga replies that it’s possible that morally free invisible spirits – demons, for example – are responsible for all natural evils.

C’mon, SRSLY? Evil spirits? You’re making this up, right? One of the finest philosophical minds of our time couldn’t have come out with this. Any God who would rely on Plantinga’s tortured logic-chopping to convince me, rather than providing numerous ‘burning bush’ quality verifiable miracles, is not worthy of my worship.

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Reginald Selkirk October 25, 2009 at 9:08 am

thimscool: God is not omnipotent. God is arbitrarily powerful… powerful enough to get the job done.

Since evil exists in abundance, apparently he is not getting the job done.

thimscool: Indeed, all of existence is improbable, so why should God’s existence be regarded as probable?

Please show the equations and values by which you calculated that “all of existence is improbable.” Otherwise, I will assume that you are asserting mathematics without a license.

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Roman October 25, 2009 at 9:20 am

Hi Reginald Selkirk,

I think that when Plantinga mentions the “morally free invisible spirits – demons, for example” he isn’t trying to say that they are the ACTUAL explanation for natural evil. Of course that would be a very bad explanation.

Instead, I think, he is saying that there is a POSSIBLE WORLD in which “morally free invisible spirits” are responsible for the same kinds of natural evils that we witness in our world.

I believe, though I could be wrong, that he is raising this possibility to argue against the logical problem of evil, and not the evidential problem of evil. Against the logical problem of evil it may be a pretty good answer because it shows that there is a logically possible world where natural evil exists and God exists – a world where natural evil is the result of these demon things exercising their free will.

Against the evidential problem of evil it looks like a terrible argument. But I don’t think that Plantinga intends it to be an argument against the evidential problem of evil.

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ayer October 25, 2009 at 9:38 am

lukeprog: “But, says the atheist, even if this is possible, it only explains a world in which there is some evil, not so much evil as we see in this world. In fact, it is easy to give examples of how God could have made a less evil world without ending human freedom.”

Interesting attempt to elide the import of Plantinga’s argument. Recall that it is the atheist who claimed that the logical problem of evil rendered the concept of God incoherent and thus disproved. The reaction of the atheist should not be “but, even if this is possible” but “wow, you’re right, and my airtight disproof of God has just been blown out of the water.”

And then the assertion that it is “easy to give examples of how God could have made a less evil world without ending human freedom”, which is breathtaking in its arrogance. As Greg Boyd has pointed out (see http://www.gregboyd.org/essays/essays-bible/the-point-of-the-book-of-job/

Boyd: “Put in simplest terms, it has recently been demonstrated [through chaos theory] that the slightest variation in a sufficiently complex process at one point may cause remarkable variations in that process at another point…To exhaustively explain why a hurricane (or any weather pattern for that matter) occurs when and where it does, therefore, we’d have to know every detail about the past history of the earth – including every flap of every butterfly wing that ever existed! We of course cannot ever approximate this kind of knowledge, which is why weather forecasting will always involve a significant degree of guesswork.

By analogy, this insight may be applied to free decisions. Because love requires choice, humans and angels have the power to affect others for better or worse. Indeed, every decision we make affects other agents in some measure…The long-term effects of our decisions are never obvious, however. They are like ripples created by a rock thrown into a pond. They endure long after the initial splash, and they interact with other ripples (consequences of other decisions) in ways we could never have anticipated. And in certain circumstances, they may have a “butterfly effect.” They may be the decisive variable that produces significant changes in the pond.”

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Steven Carr October 25, 2009 at 10:10 am

SO Plantinga’s argument could work in some universe, even if it is not true in ours? Fantastic defense!

And, of course,Plantinga’s arguments contain huge internal contradictions, as I already showed.

ROMAN
Against the logical problem of evil it may be a pretty good answer because it shows that there is a logically possible world where natural evil exists and God exists

CARR
*A* logically possible world?

But surely this is Plantinga we are talking about – the one who claims that his God is a necessary being and exists in ALL logically possible worlds, regardless of how much natural evil it contains.

So this ALL logically possible worlds shrinks to just A logically possible world?

SO Plantinga’s defense to the logical problem of evil trashes the existence of God – a necessary being that is supposed to exist in ALL logically possible worlds, not just one or two.

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Steven Carr October 25, 2009 at 10:13 am

AYER
And then the assertion that it is “easy to give examples of how God could have made a less evil world without ending human freedom”, which is breathtaking in its arrogance.

CARR
SO it is breathtaking arrogant to claim that a God can create a world without smallpox, even if humans can?

It is breathtakingly arrogant to claim that God can rescue a child from a burning house, as the child burns alive, screaming to God to help it?

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Jer October 25, 2009 at 10:34 am

Plantinga’s argument is just another redefinition of God to not be the God that Christians profess to believe in. Almost all apologetics is an exercise in one of the following:

1) Redefining omnipotent to not mean “all-powerful”
2) Redefining omniscient to not mean “all-knowing”
3) Redefining omnibenevolent to not mean “all-loving” – (or just outright denying that God is omnibenevolent at all)

As soon as a limit is placed on God’s power (like saying “God cannot do X” then he’s no longer the Christian God that most Christians worship. Punt. The argument is over and now we’re talking about some theoretical God of philosophers and not something that people actually believe in.

This is why when theists insist that arguments like Plantinga’s are good and discredit atheist’s objections, I wonder if they actually understand what the arguments they’re reading say. These arguments neccesarily THROW the God they believe in AWAY from first premises and postulate a God that is limited in power or in knowledge or in love right from the VERY START. They aren’t arguments for the existence of the Christian God at all – they’re arguments for possible gods that people could believe in that don’t have the logical problems that the Christian God carries around with it. Gods that philsophers who can’t get around the paradoxes can postulate so they can feel better going to mass on Sundays or something.

(Plantinga’s argument isn’t very convincing anyway because it requires you to believe in evil spirits causing natural disasters. That just isn’t convincing at all.)

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Roman October 25, 2009 at 10:47 am

Hi Steven Carr,

You are right, Plantinga thinks that all possible worlds contain God.

I am not sure what you think the problem with this is and how it relates to his free will defense.

One thing you MIGHT mean is that his belief seems to lead to the consequence that what we take to be possible worlds where gratuitous evil exists but God does not, are not, in fact possible worlds.

Maybe you think that this is a bad consequence for Plantinga because you think there are such possible worlds. I agree that it is a bit peculiar. But it deals with pretty heavy metaphysical territory (possible worlds) which I do not feel like I can evaluate quickly and easily. Maybe you can.

Or maybe you think there is a different problem with his belief that God exists in all possible worlds. Maybe you think there is some conflict between saying that 1) God exists in all possible worlds and 2) There is a possible world where both God and natural evil exist. However it seems to me that these two are compatible claims.

Maybe you could clarify what you think the problem is?

Thanks.

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Roman October 25, 2009 at 10:53 am

Hi Jer,

You said:

“Plantinga’s argument isn’t very convincing anyway because it requires you to believe in evil spirits causing natural disasters. That just isn’t convincing at all.”

Actually I think maybe you misunderstand Plantinga’s argument. Of course maybe you do understand it, in which case I’m sorry.

It does NOT require you to believe that evil spirits ACTUALLY cause natural disasters. It does NOT require you to believe that.

It DOES require you to believe that there is a possible world in which evil spirits cause natural disasters.

And there is a pretty big difference between the two.

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Kevin October 25, 2009 at 11:03 am

Ayer,

I don’t see what this comment has to do with your overall point: “Because love requires choice, humans and angels . . .” Care to explain?

And depending on your definition of love, I don’t see how love requires choice. Are you saying love is a choice, or that choice must exist in order for love to exist? If the former, then this contradicts the empirical evidence that emotions, including love, are not deliberately chosen, but are often, if not always, spontaneous. We might make choices that counteract or intensify emotions, but I don’t see that we simply will them into existence.

If you mean the latter–that free choice is a necessary condition of love–again, this needs explaining. Perhaps you mean that love is a way of acting, a way of treating others. But this is not all love is, since having any concern whatsoever for others must stem from some sort of feeling of love for them.

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John H October 25, 2009 at 11:05 am

I started a comment here that turned into a post at my place.

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thimscool October 25, 2009 at 11:21 am

Reginald Selkirk: Since evil exists in abundance, apparently he is not getting the job done.

Well, I can see that you are not very patient. Let’s wait another billion years and see what happens. Or did you think, like a primitive myth maker, that God could just go “click” and make heaven on earth in a moment? Evolution takes time.

Reginald Selkirk: Please show the equations and values by which you calculated that “all of existence is improbable.” Otherwise, I will assume that you are asserting mathematics without a license.

LOL! I didn’t know that WP had an equation editor. If so, could you show your own math for computing the improbability of God’s existence?

As for me, I’ll just cite this Wiki which notes that there is no consensus on the matter, but gives links to various discussions of calculating the probability of our existence as humans.

My own feeling, not founded on any calculations but rather just intuition, is that for any reason that life here should exist, there are an infinite number of reasons that it could be snuffed out. But I have faith that will not happen.

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Steven Carr October 25, 2009 at 1:28 pm

ROMAN
It DOES require you to believe that there is a possible world in which evil spirits cause natural disasters.

CARR
And there is a possible planet on which Plantinga’s arguments are convincing.

Which planet do you spend most of your time on?

I can argue that I am all-good. If I am seen to do bad things, I simply claim there is a possible planet in which I am forced to do bad things by demons…..

I see my arguments crushing Plantinga’s reasoning have not been addressed.

Not only could any alleged god create near identical twins enabling it to create any being who would choose to do good, but Plantinga’s claim that God can actualise teh circumstances in which people choose omits (deliberately) all mention of the fact that people choose in circumstances where Plantinga claims there is an omniscient being who knows how people will choose.

Therefore if this alleged god actualises circumstances in which a person freely chooses good, then that person will freely choose good.

Unless Chrsitians want to start arguing that their imaginary god’s knowledge of the future prevents people choosing freely……

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Steven Carr October 25, 2009 at 1:31 pm

SOrry, that should have read ‘Therefore if this alleged god actualises circumstances in which this god knows a person freely chooses good, then that person will freely choose good.’

But I’m sure Plantinga would just claim that a person’s choices determine what circumstances existed when they made their choice. Determinism in reverse…..

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Steven Carr October 25, 2009 at 2:05 pm

GEISLER
That doesn’t make Him [God] responsible for evil. He created the fact of freedom; we perform the acts of freedom. He made evil possible; men made evil actual.

CARR
Translation.

Our imaginary god could have chosen to create a world in which all people freely chose good.

Instead our imaginary god chose to create the world in which people did not choose good.

Unless this god created the world not knowing what kind of world he was creating?

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John H October 25, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Steven Carr

How do you create a world in which EVERYONE freely chooses God?

One of my favorite metaphors is this regard is this: you are a parent and live in a world where medicine has developed a “unconditional love” vaccine that can only be administered within the first 2 minutes after the umbilical cord has been cut.

So – as a parent you have a choice. You can have your child injected at birth and be guaranteed that, for life, your child will obey and love you unconditionally. No disobedience, no arguments. You are simply always right to your child

Or not. Your child may disobey. Your child may at times rail against you and hate. However, the child will love you by choice.

Which do you choose? Even if you know your child will choose to hate you?

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Sharkey October 25, 2009 at 3:08 pm

thimscool:

calculating the probability of our existence as humans.

That’s an easy calculation. We’re here, so the probability is 1.0.

I think you meant to say, “calculating the probability of our existence as humans, given the fundamental constraints on the universe’s assumed parameters and re-running the universe forward”. Which leads to the discussions in that very Wiki link concerning the hubris of assuming that hydrogen-, oxygen- and carbon-based humans are the only form of life worthy of existence (let alone assuming the particular molecular structures are special), that the set of creation parameters are known, that the universe was even “created” in the sense you imply, etc.

My own feeling, not founded on any calculations but rather just intuition, is that for any reason that life here should exist, there are an infinite number of reasons that it could be snuffed out.

I agree and disagree. It’s true, the vast majority of the universe is openly hostile to life as we know it, but the universe _is_ vast. Even with our limited technology, we have discovered over 400 exoplanets in our local galactic region. Just think, we haven’t even begun hearing about Kepler’s mission results!

My intuition is that life is just really unlikely, instead of ridiculously improbable.

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ayer October 25, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Carr: “Our imaginary god could have chosen to create a world in which all people freely chose good.”

That’s nonsensical and oxymoronic.

Carr: “Instead our imaginary god chose to create the world in which people did not choose good.”

Are you saying you wished you existed in a world where you freely chose to worship God? On the contrary, you give the impression you are glad you have rejected him and will freely choose to go to that existence in the afterlife where “the door is locked from the inside”, as C.S. Lewis says.

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mikespeir October 25, 2009 at 3:38 pm

Could God have created a world where there was no evil to choose?

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thimscool October 25, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Touché, Sharkey; although one big meteorite later and the probability could go down to zero, eh. (And what is the probability of that?) In any case, you understood my meaning, I see.

It strikes me that the wiki article is a bit generous to the naysayers that think the universe is not so fragile, though. While I think that exobiology is a fascinating topic, and I think that investigating how chemistry and nuclear physics would be altered by different values of the coupling constants, the elephant in the room remains well over a hundred orders of magnitude larger than any of those effects.

As for the way that I think that God creates the universe, I have not really touched on that here, except to note that the process is ongoing and far from complete.

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Sharkey October 25, 2009 at 5:26 pm

thimscool, re Cosmological constant: If you want to hitch your theism to the current limitations of the Standard Model of particle physics, be my guest. I don’t claim to understand the fundamentals of supersymmetric string theory or loop quantum gravity (my category theory is quite limited), but I have my doubts that lambda = goddidit is the equation that everyone has been missing.

If the LHC experiments support one of the other, fine-tuning-not-required cosmological models, will you give up theism?

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Leviathan October 25, 2009 at 5:39 pm

lol @ free will.

neuroscience much?

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lukeprog October 25, 2009 at 6:03 pm

Leviathan,

lol @ loling @ free will.

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Roman October 25, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Hi Steven Carr,

Thanks for your response.

Let me try to make it clearer what I am saying.

The LOGICAL problem of evil, as I understand it, is the claim that the existence of God and evil are logically contradictory. That is the logical problem of evil. It is one of the arguments against God’s existence. I am NOT talking about the evidential problem of evil.

Sometimes it is hard to understand claims about what’s logically contradictory or logically possible, so it can be useful to translate talk about logical possibility to talk about possible worlds. The logical problem of evil, translated into possible world talk, is the claim that:

There is no possible world in which both God and evil exist.

I am focusing on whether Plantinga has given a good response to THIS argument with regard to NATURAL evil. So I am only making a very particular claim. The logical problem of evil with regard to natural evil can be translated as the claim that:

1) There is no possible world in which both God and natural evil exist.

This is in essence what the logical problem of evil says if we apply it to natural evil: That the existence of God and natural evil are logically incompatible.

Okay.

So hopefully it is now clearer which point I am addressing. If we understand Plantinga’s claim that there is a possible world in which demons are responsible for natural evil as a response to 1), then it is actually a good response. Why is it a good response?

It is a good response because it gives a counterexample to the general claim that 1) makes. It says that there is in fact a possible world in which both God and natural evil exist (namely the one where evil demons are responsible for natural evil). Therefore it is not true that there is no possible world where both God and natural evil exist. Therefore it is not true that the existence of God and natural evil are contradictory.

So in my opinion Plantinga’s argument is good as a response to this very particular version of the problem of evil. Of course, this is a very bad version of the problem of evil. But to be fair to Plantinga this is seemingly what Mackie was arguing, so it’s fair enough that Plantinga pointed out what he thought was wrong with it.

You said:
“I see my arguments crushing Plantinga’s reasoning have not been addressed.”

You are right, I am not addressing your argument with regard to the nearly identical twins.

I think I did address your argument that there is a problem with Plantinga claiming that God exists in all possible worlds. It seems to me that you did not respond to this, which is fine of course.

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thimscool October 25, 2009 at 8:05 pm

Sharkey, the quick answer to your question is: No, because that is not what convinced me that there is a God. Recognizing the apparent fine-tuning problem is only an attempt to grapple with my belief in light of what I already understand about physics and its limitations. I am rationalizing what I otherwise know is true…

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Hylomorphic October 25, 2009 at 9:24 pm

Am I missing something in Plantinga’s argument? It looks to me like the only reasonable conclusion one can draw from the argument is that God can only actualize one world at a time.

Suppose that situation S is in a world more indeterministic than ours (to provide an equivalent of free will for the example) in which either (t) S –> zebras will be black and white or ( r) S —> zebras will be pink and green–and God wants zebras to be pink and green.

Either they will be black and white, or they will be pink and green. Either the earth supports life, or it didn’t. Only one can be true at a time. God can instantiate either one or the other–and if he instantiates the one, the other didn’t happen. So what?

It’s certainly true that if (t) is true, then Wr cannot obtain, and vice versa. But that is only problematic to the atheist criticism if God could not choose a world in which ( r) rather than (t).

But it seems to me that the argument “God could have created world of free creatures in which people simply didn’t sin” implicitly depends on assuming God can choose a world in which ( r) rather than (t).

The conclusion I have to draw is that the argument is either trivial or circular.

Am I missing something? Or is there something left out from Luke’s presentation which would get around this problem?

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Leviathan October 25, 2009 at 10:17 pm

ayer sez: “On the contrary, you give the impression you are glad you have rejected him and will freely choose to go to that existence in the afterlife where “the door is locked from the inside”, as C.S. Lewis says.”

“freely choose,” eh?

Would he really fry for a lie?

apologetics ftw!

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Taranu October 25, 2009 at 11:01 pm

I was just wondering, can the same way of thinking as Plantinga employs be used against theistic ontological arguments?

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Steven Carr October 25, 2009 at 11:38 pm

JOHN H
How do you create a world in which EVERYONE freely chooses God?

CARR
SO God is trashed once more by Christians, who deny that their (imaginary) god can do anything.

And, of course, Roman still has to show that God and evil exist in every logically possible world containing evil, which is what Plantinga claims.

Nor has he shown that Plantinga’s claim is true.

Nor does showing that evil and God can exist in a DIFFERENT world to ours give any reason at all to think that God and evil both exist in our world.

I see Roman still cannot come up with a logically valid argument why I personally am not all good. If I do bad things, I simply Alvinise this and say there is a possible world in which I am forced to do bad things by demons.

And then I deny that demons exist :-)

AYER
Carr: “Our imaginary god could have chosen to create a world in which all people freely chose good.”

That’s nonsensical and oxymoronic

CARR
I guess Christians spout nonsense when they claim their God really has created beings with free will that always choose good.

This alleged Heaven is supposed to be populated by beings with free will who choose good.

And yet Ayer claims such a thing is nonsensical and oxymoronic.

I emailed Plantinga and asked him :-

CARR
Are the angels Gabriel and Michael creatures with free will who have never chosen evil, unlike the angel Lucifer, a creature with free will who did chose evil?

PLANTINGA
That’s the way I’ think of it. cheers, –Al Plantinga

CARR
But Ayer claims the idea of beings with free will that never choose evil is ‘nonsensical’ and ‘oxymoronic’.

Guess that shuts up Plantinga, slapped down in a burst of friendly fire.

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Derrida October 26, 2009 at 12:02 am

Libertarian free will (Which is the kind of free will Plantinga needs for his Defense) doesn’t really make much sense.

If my free choices are not determined by anything, including the character of my personality, then how can they be said to be my choices? I might as well decide how to live my life by throwing a die. Why is that kind of free will more valuable than not being raped?

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Dace October 26, 2009 at 12:49 am

Regarding Carr and Roman’s posts: Is the following is an acceptable refutation of the problem of evil?

“There is some possible world W, such that W contains an all-powerful, knowing and benevolent God, and contains no evil.”

It solves the problem, doesn’t it? We’ve managed to find a world whose contents are consistent with God. But of course it isn’t a solution, for the possible world which we need to describe is one which may plausibly be the actual world. I want to suggest that Plantinga’s speculation about evil spirits causing natural disasters is deficient in the same way – it is only if we can take the possible world seriously as one we might actually occupy that it will count as a solution to the the problem of natural evil.
Still, I have to concede that Plantinga is, in a technical sense, right. Even though it is tacitly assumed by anyone with common sense that the possible world offered should fit with what we take ourselves to know about the actual world, the usual formulation of logical problem of evil does not exclude his solution. I suggest, then, that we simply add the premise “Evil spirits are not responsible for natural disasters in the actual world” to our argument, a premise which Plantinga himself accepts, which allows the argument to retain its deductive form.
Quite obviously, we can do this for any similarly absurd but possible solutions Plantinga offers – all we need to do is add more premises blocking his implausible solutions. And, these solutions being implausible, he should agree to take their negation as false in a deductive argument presented to him. This leaves him with no choice but to take a stand – to deny that one of these additional premises are true, and to commit to an absurd solution being true at the actual world.
In postscript, I have to say I’m surprised that others buy into the idea that the logical problem of evil is defeated whereas the evidential one isn’t. As the method above shows, one can always enter premises blocking counterexamples in order to preserve the logical necessity of an argument. And in the same way, one can drop this sort of premise and qualify the others that are left so that they are probable rather than definite. Logical and probabilistic permutations therefore succeed or fail together.

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Dace October 26, 2009 at 1:34 am

If I can indulge in another post… something that’s always bugged me about the free-will defense are that there seem to be two different kinds of free-will in play. On the one hand, we have contra-causal free-will, which seems necessary to absolve God of responsibility for the evils perpetrated by humankind (and animalkind, too?). But on the other hand, theists are only in this mess in the first place because they understand God as being all-good, and infer from that that God must have chosen the best of his options in actualizing the world. Yet if God is beholden to his all-good nature, and has free-will, then it must be the case that free-will is compatible with a determinate nature – so, at least in God’s case, we have compatibilist free-will.
I think this sets up a dilemma. Either (a) God has compatibilist free-will, in which case he can instantiate beings who also have compatibilist free-will, which can therefore mimic himself in always choosing the good; or (b) God does not have compatibilist free-will, in which case he does not have a determinate omnibenevolent nature, and he is not the God of traditional Christianity.
There’s probably more to be said for (b). One reason to think it follows from an anti-compatibilist free-will that he lacks a determinate nature is that it really only makes sense to ascribe a nature to a person if the nature would explain the persons actions. But if free-will is contra-causal, then no standing nature can explain or predict an agent’s actions, precisely because nothing causes the decision which leads to the action. The inference from God’s goodness to his good actions would then be invalid, and then it seems the very role which a nature is supposed to fill is denied. And then it looks as though natures (or characters) were nonsensical, and that therefore they cannot be meaningfully ascribed to God.

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Roman October 26, 2009 at 2:46 am

Hi Steven Carr,

With regard to your comments which mention me:

You said:
“And, of course, Roman still has to show that God and evil exist in every logically possible world containing evil, which is what Plantinga claims.”

I don’t really fancy showing this. I don’t know the arguments for thinking that God is a necessary being. If they’re good then Plantinga might have a case. Importantly, if Plantinga is wrong about God’s being necessary, that doesn’t mean that he is wrong about the free will defense.

Your next comment:
“I see Roman still cannot come up with a logically valid argument why I personally am not all good. If I do bad things, I simply Alvinise this and say there is a possible world in which I am forced to do bad things by demons.”

Okay here is what I THINK you are saying. I might be wrong about this.

The logical problem of evil argues that God does not exist because:
1) God and evil are logically incompatible.
2) Evil exists
C) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

It seems you make an analogous argument like this:
1) Steven Carr being good and Steven Carr performing bad actions are logically incompatible.
2) Steven Carr performs bad actions.
C) Therefore Steven Carr is not good.

And you think that if the free will defense works against the problem of evil, it should also work against your analogous argument. But you think that the free will defense does not work against your analogous argument and therefore also doesn’t work against the logical problem of evil.

Well here is where I disagree because I think the free will defense CAN be used against your analogous argument.

By showing that there is a possible world where Steven Carr is both good and he performs bad actions, you would show that 1) of your analogous argument is false. Such a possible world would be one in which you are a good person but you are made to do bad things by demons.

The existence of this possible world demonstrates that premise 1) of your analogous argument is false.

Okay, that’s all for now.

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Jake de Backer October 26, 2009 at 3:04 am

The most salient characteristic of the problem of evil so far as I can tell, is that thing on Plantinga’s face. And assuming I’ve read his argument correctly, it would be a simple exercise of free will to shave it off.

J.

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ayer October 26, 2009 at 4:27 am

Carr: “This alleged Heaven is supposed to be populated by beings with free will who choose good.”

They are perfectly free to leave heaven if they so choose; and I’m sure if you ended up there, you would go screaming for the exit to that other place where the door is locked from the inside.

Carr: “It is breathtakingly arrogant to claim that God can rescue a child from a burning house, as the child burns alive, screaming to God to help it?”

Hmm, not sure why this is supposed to be a selling point for atheism, since on Christianity the child is ultimately transported to eternal bliss, but on atheism the child ceases to exist, the universe dies a heat death, and it makes no ultimate difference whether the child ever lived. Also, if atheism is true, why is a child’s death any more “evil” than an insect dying from bug spray? The child’s life, on atheism, had no more purpose than that of an insect. It’s all just the survival of the fittest, right? Nothing “good” or “evil” about it.

But aside from that, when you have attained complete knowledge of the past history and future effects of every event that has ever taken place in the cosmos, get back to us. At that point it will not be “breathtakingly arrogant” for you to play God by tweaking the world to ensure the “appropriate” amount of suffering.

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Silas October 26, 2009 at 4:33 am

One’s choices MUST be determined. If you disagree, please show an example of when this isn’t true.

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Reginald Selkirk October 26, 2009 at 5:20 am

Reginald Selkirk: Please show the equations and values by which you calculated that “all of existence is improbable.” Otherwise, I will assume that you are asserting mathematics without a license.

thimscool: As for me, I’ll just cite this Wiki which notes that there is no consensus on the matter, but gives links to various discussions of calculating the probability of our existence as humans.

Note that “all of existence is improbable” is rather ambiguous, I guessed you meant something like the probability that there is something rather than nothing. Maybe that’s not quite what you meant, but switching to “probability of our existence as humans” seems too far a stretch. That would seem to imply that the human race is an essential part of existence, which is profoundly egocentric.

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Reginald Selkirk October 26, 2009 at 5:27 am

thimscool: Well, I can see that you are not very patient. Let’s wait another billion years and see what happens. Or did you think, like a primitive myth maker, that God could just go “click” and make heaven on earth in a moment? Evolution takes time.

It’s good to see that you accept evolution, although it is not clear as to why or how evolution would reduce evil.

Also, I thought the whole “omnipotence” thing implied that God (if He existed) could indeed go “click” and make heaven and earth in a moment. I thought the position of theistic evolutionists was not that God was restrained to work through evolution, but that He chose to do so. Alas, omnipotence ain’t what it used to be.

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drj October 26, 2009 at 6:55 am

Hmm, not sure why this is supposed to be a selling point for atheism, since on Christianity the child is ultimately transported to eternal bliss, but on atheism the child ceases to exist, the universe dies a heat death, and it makes no ultimate difference whether the child ever lived. Also, if atheism is true, why is a child’s death any more “evil” than an insect dying from bug spray? The child’s life, on atheism, had no more purpose than that of an insect. It’s all just the survival of the fittest, right? Nothing “good” or “evil” about it.

God is changless, so ultimately, no outcome for any situation can hinder, nor improve his well-being. Whether the child lives or dies is ultimately meaningless to God under theism.

God cannot be thwarted – no matter the outcome of the child in the fire, God’s plan will be fulfilled. Again, the child is meaningless in the cosmic scale on theism.

I don’t think theism can do it better here.

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Todd White October 26, 2009 at 6:58 am

Even though I believe in God, I share the concern of atheists on this issue. The problem of evil is vexing. And more importantly – to paraphrase you, Luke – the problem is not just the mere existence of evil, but the vast amount of it. “Why so much, God?”

Where do I stand on this issue? Well, I’m tempted to say that even while God’s ways are mysterious, “We should have faith in God, because we know through Reason that God is worthy of that faith.” However, I’m sure many people would find that unfulfilling, and I don’t blame them. So I’ll try again…

We should be open to the possibility that God is not perfect, and more importantly, we should be open to the possibility that God WANTS us to acknowledge his imperfection.

When he’s made mistakes, he wants us to join him in an act of co-creation to fix it. And when he’s made gross mistakes – serious moral errors – then he invites us to do what we do for any worthy human being in that situation: Forgive Him!

Yes, forgive God! Seriously.

I realize that’s a speculative, controversial idea, and I’m certainly open-minded to better alternatives. But atheism, in my opinion, is NOT one of those better alternatives. Why? Because it is false.

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John H October 26, 2009 at 7:51 am

Steven Carr:

Just curious: Are you going to give your child the injection or not?

Incidentally, we will probably continue to help you knock down your conception of omnipotence.

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Reginald Selkirk October 26, 2009 at 10:54 am

ayer: Also, if atheism is true, why is a child’s death any more “evil” than an insect dying from bug spray? The child’s life, on atheism, had no more purpose than that of an insect.

So it is “purpose” that gives value to the life of a human child? That must mean that someone who rejects the “purpose” imposed on them by Sky Daddy has lost all value to their life, and their death is no more “evil” than an insect dying from bug spray. Come to think of it, that lines up pretty well with what the Bible says about the treatment of unbelievers. Your religion is immoral.

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Derrida October 26, 2009 at 1:06 pm

On atheism, life might not have teleological purpose (But then again, neither does God’s, as He wasn’t created), but it does have axiological purpose. The purpose of the child’s life is to live a fulfilling life and contribute to the fulfillment of other people’s lives. Bugs can’t have fulfilling lives or contribute in any meaningful way to the lives of others. Hence the child’s life is more purposeful than the insect’s.

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thimscool October 26, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Reginald Selkirk: I thought the position of theistic evolutionists was not that God was restrained to work through evolution, but that He chose to do so. Alas, omnipotence ain’t what it used to be.

I don’t believe in omnipotence. Infinity does not exist. From our puny human perspective God may appear omnipotent, but I suspect that God is not only restrained to work through evolution, but indeed he would not come to exist if not for evolution, and so we would all be sunk.

The fact that he can influence the current time (or earlier times) is only indicative of his mastery of time in some distant future epoch. If he is not careful while making edits, he will write himself out of existence, which would be bad (but impossible because we wouldn’t be here). So yes, he is constrained… not only by evolution, but also by the need for evil. What else can good push off of, to propel us into a better future? Struggle makes the news; natural selection makes the changes… although unnatural selection is becoming the dominant force now.

Note that “all of existence is improbable” is rather ambiguous, I guessed you meant something like the probability that there is something rather than nothing. Maybe that’s not quite what you meant, but switching to “probability of our existence as humans” seems too far a stretch. That would seem to imply that the human race is an essential part of existence, which is profoundly egocentric.

Yes that is true. We could all be snuffed out by a local supernova, and some folks in the Andromeda galaxy will get to evolve into the supreme being that collapses the wave function after 16 Billion years of evolving in the cosmos. I could certainly be entirely wrong about all of this. I accept that I may have simply been hallucinating when I had my experience, or perhaps I am misremembering it due to some sort of brain fart. I seem OK otherwise (and since then), but what do I know? I’m no neuropathologist. And even if I were, the neuropathologists of the 22nd century think the current lot are pedants. In any case, I think we’re the ones living on that thin tendril of probability that makes it all possible, measurable.

I can’t convince you because you will not trust my subjective experience… that’s OK with me. I don’t buy into the typical theist approach, so I’m not worried that you or I are going to spend an eternity suffering. On the other hand, you can’t stop God when he needs you and neither can I. Free will is subject to a veto. I can be compelled to follow another path, as can we all.

What you can resist, is evil. And it helps. It helps that the birds and mammals give a shit about their specific offspring, and that they (especially the latter) organize in groups and specialize their behaviors. It helps that they have some sort of evolved code that closely resembles the golden rule, just like their lust for survival and procreation resembles the second commandment, to love God with all their hearts.

You are living in a precious time, Reginald. Many species are dying. Or species is in the midst of drastic ‘unnatural’ changes. The world shakes under our feet. We are struggling to expand past our world onto other planets. Much is at stake. Do you imagine the future is a secular humanist utopia, ruled by reason? Or more clawing, grappling, struggling at new levels of desperation and capability? Where will it stop? What would you call the beings 1M years hence, that span galaxies, fold space, create worlds? Gods? Or do you think that we’ll never get there?

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g October 26, 2009 at 3:39 pm

John H: I would not give my child such an injection, for a very simple reason: Treating me as perfect and infallible and so forth would be really, really stupid, and I do not want my child to be really, really stupid.

You might notice that this reason doesn’t apply to the god you believe in.

Oh, and if for some reason it turned out that if my child chose not to love me then she would suffer eternal damnation, and that she was quite likely to choose not to love me if I didn’t give her the injection, then giving it to her would be the lesser of the available evils. (This scenario is of course ridiculous, but for some reason Christians tend not to find it ridiculous when the person who allegedly can’t avoid such a choice is the omnipotent omniscient omnieverythingelse creator of the universe.)

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Sharkey October 26, 2009 at 4:07 pm

thimscool: I wouldn’t take my theological advice from the novels of Dan Simmons nor Charles Stross; both are good speculative fiction writers, but I’m sure neither intended for their fictional universes to be considered future histories.

You again conflate the results our limited theoretical physics with God, albeit a time-traveling evolved one. If the LHC collider adds supporting evidence that time travel is definitely impossible, will you still be a Teilhardian theist?

You stated it earlier: you are rationalizing your belief in something you wish to be true, regardless of the logic or the evidence against it.

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thimscool October 26, 2009 at 4:44 pm

What logic and evidence against it?

And what makes you think I wish it to be true? I never asked for this.

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thimscool October 26, 2009 at 4:46 pm

I’m afraid I’ve never read anything by those authors, though they’ve been recommended to me before in a similar context. I’m a bit behind on my reading pile…

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Sharkey October 26, 2009 at 5:05 pm

thimscool:

What logic and evidence against it?
…(earlier)
The fact that he [God] can influence the current time (or earlier times) is only indicative of his mastery of time in some distant future epoch. If he is not careful while making edits, he will write himself out of existence, which would be bad (but impossible because we wouldn’t be here). So yes, he is constrained… not only by evolution, but also by the need for evil.

There is no evidence for time-travel (at least how you describe it), no consistent logic for “needed” evil, no logical necessity for a über-powerful time-cop to explain the current universe.

What was the subjective experience that now forces you to transform the gaps in our scientific explanations into a kind-hearted SkyNet?

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thimscool October 26, 2009 at 5:49 pm

There is no evidence for time-travel (at least how you describe it)

I’m sorry Sharkey, I thought you were going to present evidence… not the lack of evidence. A century ago there was no evidence for travel to the moon. So what? Don’t cower in your current science (subject to change tomorrow) shell like some RD.net commenter… I thought this was a philosophical blog. Use your imagination a little.

Again… hit me up with the evidence you claimed to have, not the evidence I lack.

no consistent logic for “needed” evil
Oh dear, I guess I needed to spell that out a bit more, eh? Death needs time for what it kills to grow in, for Ah Pook’s sweet sake. And God need evil for those whom he loves to resist. Learning to share, comparative advantage, trust but verify. In the land of milk and honey everyone is fat and happy, and nobody ventures to other star systems.

So… it is logic you want, Sharkey? If God evolved from pond scum, how did he get there without cracking some heads? Let’s hear Sharkey’s version of evolution with no implied evil…

no logical necessity for a über-powerful time-cop to explain the current universe

Again with the logic, Sharkey. Where is the imagination? Where is the evidence against my belief that you mentioned?

I should not hold your feet to the fire; you just meant that I don’t have any evidence (except for my subjective experience), not that you have any evidence I’m wrong. It’s all great science fiction but we all know that the real world is boring and trite, right? Even if there are any Kardashev Level III civilizations now (or ever), they won’t be able to travel backwards in time! That would be too exciting!

Well, of course they could travel backwards in time according to our current understanding of general relativity, but only back to the time that they created the time machine… Uh… assuming that they don’t find any natural worm holes that survived since the beginning of the universe. But hey, what are the odds of that happening? Pretty small if you are certain that the universe is necessarily boring.

Hell, even if they could travel back in time, why would they possibly care about their history and the path of their evolution? They’d be too busy porking each other’s mothers and betting on the lottery to waste any time on anything as petty as studying or enhancing their time line. We are talking about our fucked up descendants here, remember…

What was the subjective experience that now forces you to transform the gaps in our scientific explanations into a kind-hearted SkyNet?

A benevolent SkyNet? Ha. To answer your question, I spoke with God. But that does not force me to seek the god of the gaps. I’m just trying to process the experience based on what I already understand… to put it in context.

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Robert Gressis October 26, 2009 at 6:18 pm

Hi Luke,

You should read Plantinga’s “Supralapsarianism, or O Felix Culpa”, which is something of a sequel to his free will defense. Here it is:

http://philosophy.nd.edu/people/all/profiles/plantinga-alvin/documents/Supralapsarianism.pdf

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Sharkey October 26, 2009 at 6:21 pm

thimscool:

A century ago there was no evidence for travel to the moon.

Turns out you are wrong, but just barely: 1903, “The Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Devices” by Tsiolkovsky.

The evidence against time travel is relativity, a scientific theory backed by observations and empirical results. It helps that it is reasonable to understand; the weirdness is just a straightforward result after accepting the speed of light is invariant.

Let’s hear Sharkey’s version of evolution with no implied evil…

I haven’t assumed evolution proceeds by “evil”, implied or otherwise. Why do you assume evolution implies “evil”? Actually, skip this, the interesting bit is…

To answer your question, I spoke with God.

Ah. Now we get down to it. Considering this is a philosophical blog, let’s take it logically: explain how the most parsimonious logical explanation of “I spoke with God and physics is weird” entails a hyper-spatial super-entity from the future interfering constructively with our evolution to create itself then telepathically speaking with you, versus auditory hallucinations with a boring universe. Remember, William of Ockham is watching.

(Somewhat tangentially, I definitely recommend you check out Charles Stross, especially given this conversation. The “Eschaton” series in particular deals with this very scenario. I don’t deny the appeal of the idea, I just think it’s a fiction not reality.)

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John H October 26, 2009 at 6:46 pm

I was talking about you and your child – would you create someone who had not choice but to love you.

The only question I am addressing is whether creating moral creatures with free will choice to do good or bad makes sense.

However, would you interfere with your child’s right to live a life free to choose even if you knew something horrible would result from that freedom?

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thimscool October 26, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Turns out you are wrong, but just barely: 1903, “The Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Devices” by Tsiolkovsky.

The evidence against time travel is relativity, a scientific theory backed by observations and empirical results. It helps that it is reasonable to understand; the weirdness is just a straightforward result after accepting the speed of light is invariant.

Sharkey, if you are going to promote theory as evidence, you should take care to note that time travel, in either direction, is a well established consequence of relativity theory. Check yo-self b4 u wreck yo-self!

I haven’t assumed evolution proceeds by “evil”, implied or otherwise. Why do you assume evolution implies “evil”?

Evolution implies survival of the fittest, often by violence towards the less fit, or by deceit, by theft, by adultery… by any means necessary. It is also true that altruism, collaboration, love, and respect have evolved… at least with regards to one’s own tribe. But that does not take away the lowest common denominator… As Dawkins put it, “Darwinian beliefs make for a bad society.”

Considering this is a philosophical blog, let’s take it logically: explain how the most parsimonious logical explanation of “I spoke with God and physics is weird” entails a hyper-spatial super-entity from the future interfering constructively with our evolution to create itself then telepathically speaking with you, versus auditory hallucinations with a boring universe.

Hahahahahah! It is pretty crazy, isn’t it? First of all, I have hallucinated before under tightly controlled circumstances (pffft!), so I have some idea of what an auditory hallucination feels like, and this was not one of those. Secondly I hold my own intellect in some esteem, and though I have met a handful of people that I recognized were thinking quite a bit quicker and more comprehensively than myself, none of them were a fart in the wind compared to this tornado. If the “voice’ was constructed by my own mind, then I should really seek to eliminate my dominant conscious voice because it is drowning out a far more powerful thinker.

Sharkey, assume for a moment that you can take what I just said at face value, and that you were the one to experience this phenomenon. Assume that you are utterly convinced that the voice was from outside your consciousness, but in your head, and was concerned with adjusting your course in life, for a purpose that was plainly spelled out in terms that you could understand (but are parochial compared to the big picture philosophical issues we’re discussing). Under those circumstances, knowing what you know and being in possession of your natural skepticism, would you not attempt to reconstruct your world view to grapple with this new reality?

Or would you just say, “I must be nuts!” and move on? Well that’s what I did… twice. But it reoccurred. I told myself that my mind is just playing tricks on me to make me feel special, needed, useful. But thats a little over the top. I’m not suffering from an inferiority complex or lack of love and attention. My kids make it clear to me that I am special, needed, and useful every day. I don’t need this shit, I really don’t. So, mock the sci-fi if you want, but you would probably be thinking the same things if you had the experience I did.

Why me, and not you? First of all, you’re not dead yet, so how do you know that it won’t be you. Secondly, I asked to talk to God. And I listened carefully for an answer… with sincerity. I doubt you have done that. But even if you have, your circumstance may not currently merit the attention. And by that I mean no disrespect, believe me, because the attention I got was not due to merit, per se. Many of the items that affect the most consequential events are seemingly irrelevant and inconsequential. But I do think that the voice is available to almost anyone at some point in their life, because we are all connected to the future in some way.

Dismiss it if you like, Sharkey. Go in peace, and good luck to you. I won’t cry for you because I’m not convinced you’re hell-bound no matter what someone says the bible says.

Or try it, and see if you meet him. If you do, tell him I say hello, and “this really isn’t easy, dude”.

~~~

You know, reading over it, I see that it is not an explanation of why my expressed views are the parsimonious ontology. I can do that, if you like, and if you are willing to assume for the sake of discussion that I actually did talk to god. Are you interested?

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Sharkey October 26, 2009 at 8:04 pm

thimscool:

would you not attempt to reconstruct your world view to grapple with this new reality?

I can’t comment, not having had a comparable event, but my reading and studying has lead me to the idea that the human brain is a patchwork of not-entirely consistent software components and not to be automatically trusted; of course, if my patchwork breaks down, who knows where that idea will go…

though I have met a handful of people that I recognized were thinking quite a bit quicker and more comprehensively than myself, none of them were a fart in the wind compared to this tornado.

I’m intrigued by what you mean by “tornado”. Next time you talk, could you ask it if P == NP? It’ll know what I mean, and a true answer will have huge ramifications.

I can do that, if you like, and if you are willing to assume for the sake of discussion that I actually did talk to god.

Bring it. I will grant your assumption that you had non-verbal communication with an intelligence external to your mind.

But! You need to provide me _my_ explanation as well (i.e., explain how it could have been an auditory hallucination or another non-supernatural explanation). Consider it a due-process requirement. We can dissect, compare and contrast.

Oh, just fyi: time-travel via relativity isn’t as easy as the TV shows have made it seem. “Time travel” in the forward direction (I assume you mean time dilation) is a result of an invariant speed of light with no privileged frame of reference for observers. “Time travel” into the past requires incredible amounts of energy in a form that may not exist, or solutions to Einstein’s field equations that may not be physically defensible. Again, I’ll wait for the LHC results before assuming traversable wormholes.

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lukeprog October 26, 2009 at 9:12 pm

Robert,

Thanks. I will be doing many posts on Plantinga’s free will defense: there’s just no way to cover it briefly.

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g October 27, 2009 at 12:44 am

John H: Since so far as I can see the only person who’s replied to you since your previous comment is me, I assume it’s me you’re addressing now. But I don’t see how what you wrote makes any sense as a response to what I wrote. In particular, (1) I understand that you’re talking about “you and your child”, and I answered the question with that assumption, and (2) your last paragraph asks a question I’d already answered in my last paragraph.

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thimscool October 27, 2009 at 5:51 am

Sharkey, I got interrupted by a wakeful child… sorry about that.

I did speak with God again and he said that P != NP, but if you want a proof you’ll need to talk to him yourself. He’s been waiting patiently for you…

I’ll try to return to this discussion in a while, but for now I’ve got to go fight the gators so I can drain the swamp.

I won’t be going into the details of my conversation in a public forum, but rather wanted to discuss what I could conclude from the experience… and how that leads to my speculations about how things are. So I don’t know if I can provide what you ask for.

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Sharkey October 27, 2009 at 6:08 am

thimscool: No worries, real life is more important than obscure internet discussions.

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ayer October 27, 2009 at 6:27 am

g: “Oh, and if for some reason it turned out that if my child chose not to love me then she would suffer eternal damnation, and that she was quite likely to choose not to love me if I didn’t give her the injection, then giving it to her would be the lesser of the available evils.”

If “eternal damnation” simply means that she freely chose to separate herself from you for all eternity because she despised you, then forcing her to be in your presence by giving her the injection would not be the lesser of two evils.

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g October 27, 2009 at 11:09 am

ayer, the great majority of people who according to many versions of Christianity should be expected to spend eternity in torment are not people who “freely chose to separate themselves from God because they despised him” but people who never saw good reason to believe in his existence, or who were brought up to believe in other gods, or who looked carefully at the evidence and decided he isn’t there.

I am aware that those same versions of Christianity often encourage their adherents to think that everyone else knows deep down that they’re right and their god is real, and just rejects it because it’s inconvenient or humbling or something; but so far as I can see that’s entirely false.

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ayer October 27, 2009 at 7:21 pm

g: “according to many versions of Christianity”

Then your quarrel is with those “versions” of Christianity, not with the “mere Christianity” embraced by C.S. Lewis, me and (I believe from reading his blog) John H. As Lewis says, the door to hell is locked from the inside.

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Steven Carr October 28, 2009 at 12:30 am

PLANTINGA
We speak of God as creating the world; yet… what we say is false. For a thing is created only if there is a time before which it does not exist; and this is patently false… of any state of affairs.

CARR
I love to see Christians trashing Craig’s Kalaam argument, which Plantinga calls ‘patently false’

LUKE
It might be the case that, in short, every free creature
God can create would perform at least one wrong action.

CARR
It might be the case that pigs can fly, but they don’t.

According to Plantinga himself this alleged god really has created beings with free will that have never performed one wrong action – the angels in Heaven.

How can something possibly be true when it is Christian dogma that it is definitely false?

It is possibly true that the Tampa Buccs won the Superbowl last year?

Most football fans say it is not even possible true that the Buccs won the Superbowl, becasue they did not even make the Superbowl.

But they are not top-notch Christian apologists who will explain that there is a logically possible world in which Tampa won the Superbowl, so it *is* possible that they did win the Superbowl last season, even though in this world they did not play in the Superbowl.

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g October 28, 2009 at 4:12 am

ayer, I have different objections to different versions of Christianity. I mentioned hell simply because it provides more or less the only situation in which I think the inject-your-child decision might make sense. (Oh, and because it happens to be the belief of the great majority of Christians, historically at least.)

If it is not your belief that great numbers of people will end up in hell without making any deliberate decision that they would rather be there than in heaven, then indeed I do not have that particular quarrel with your particular version of Christianity.

(Incidentally, I think you have misunderstood what C S Lewis meant by “mere Christianity”. His own beliefs were not confined to the “mere” subset he chose to expound in his book of that name. As for hell, he certainly seems to have believed in hell; he was very sensibly cautious about saying who would end up in it.)

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Lee A. P. October 28, 2009 at 7:09 pm

“As Lewis says, the door to hell is locked from the inside.”

ayer, so at any time one can seek to open the door? Ok then. No problem with your worldview. If your supernatural, bannally retarded beliefs wind up being true and your God winds up being ultimate love, I will THEN decide to open the door.

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Summa December 7, 2009 at 12:34 am

“However, would you interfere with your child’s right to live a life free to choose even if you knew something horrible would result from that freedom? ”

Yep, especially when I knew full well my child would be onto eternity after this life.

As for the rest of the stuff in this thread, how you gonna talk about God without talking about LOVE? Unbelievable.

As for the idea there is so much EVIL in the world, says who? How do you know? Stats say there is NOT. Stats say 90+ percent people in the world are GOOD. You all just watch the news too much. This world and the majority of the people in it are GOOD, no matter how much that chaps atheism’s arse.

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Panda January 9, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Summa:
how you gonna talk about God without talking about LOVE? Unbelievable.As for the idea there is so much EVIL in the world, says who? How do you know? Stats say there is NOT. Stats say 90+ percent people in the world are GOOD. You all just watch the news too much. This world and the majority of the people in it are GOOD, no matter how much that chaps atheism’s arse.  

The argument from evil doesn’t depend on the relative proportion of good to evil. No one is denying that good things happen, but the argument from evil contains the premise that evil things do which is why this is what the discussion centres on.

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wissam October 20, 2010 at 11:47 am

I am confused a bit here.

If S is a sufficient condition for p, then necessarily, if S then r.

You can also say, r v t [but ~(r & t)], so necessarily, if S then ~t.

Why can’t we add: God–>S. Given N(S–>~t), then it follows that ~t.

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jojo jacob February 4, 2011 at 8:53 am

Bradley demolished the Free-will Defense.

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