Paul Draper’s Argument from Evil (part 3)

by Luke Muehlhauser on June 12, 2010 in Guest Post,Problem of Evil

Now that looks painful.

Now that looks painful.

Guest blogger John D of Philosophical Disquisitions summarizes contemporary articles in philosophy of religion in plain talk so that you can be up to speed on the God debate as it ensues at the highest levels of thought. Visit John’s blog for more helpful summaries of contemporary philosophical works.

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In this series, I am looking at Paul Draper’s article “Pleasure and Pain: An Evidential Problem for Theists”. In it, Draper argues that certain observations (O) we have made concerning the biological utility of pain and pleasure are more surprising (i.e. less likely) on the hypothesis of theism (T) than they are on the hypothesis of indifference (HI).

In the previous entry, I gave a summary of Draper’s basic argument to this effect. One thing that was noticeably deficient about that basic argument was its failure to engage with the serious theistic attempts to explain why pain might exist; that is, with theodicies.

Draper corrects that deficit in the second half of his article. This entry tries to summarise his efforts.

Theodicies and Theism

If you recall, Draper’s argument can be stated in simple probabilistic terms:

Pr (O|T) < Pr (O|HI)

In this form, T is defined in fairly bland terms as being the claim that there exists an omniscient, omnipotent and morally perfect creator. A theodicy tries to expand and refine T so that it includes claims about the moral reasons God has for allowing pain. Such expansions will be labeled “Tn”.

Draper considers three potential theodical expansions of T. Two of them have to do with free will, while the third is a variety of skeptical theism. His strategy is to show that these expansions do not raise the likelihood of O enough to defeat his original argument. Stated more formally, he tries to show:

Pr (O|Tn) is not > Pr (O|T & ~ Tn)

Let us see how well he fares in this task.

Free Will and Moral Advancement

Probably the most popular theodicies appeal to the moral value of a strong variety of free will, which we term freedom*. An act can be said to be free* if it originates in the will of the agent, if this will is not determined by antecedent conditions, and if it is a choice between genuinely open possible worlds, at least one of which would be morally wrong.

That last condition is a bit of an academic mouthful. It might make more sense if we consider an example. Imagine you are walking to work one morning and it just so happens that you come across a man whose leg has been trapped under a collapsed wall. He is crying out for help. You deliberate for a moment, aware that you are running late, but relent and help the man.

Since one of the possible worlds open to you when you were making your decision was morally wrong, and assuming your choice was not determined by other factors, your actions can be considered to be free*.

The point made by many theists is that freedom* is intrinsically valuable: that choices that are made freely* are better than those that are not. Such theists are then quick to point out that it would have been impossible for God to create a world with freedom* without there being at least some choices that led to morally evil outcomes: God cannot force us to choose good acts without undermining freedom*.

Draper says that’s all fine and dandy, but it doesn’t account for the existence of pain, which was what his argument was about. A further expansion is required.

Theists duly oblige by suggesting that pain is God’s way of achieving the right balance of good acts over bad. How so? Well it’s the divine carrot-and-stick method: pain provides the gentle nudge in the direction of the good that humans need without being inconsistent with freedom*.

That gives us the following expansion of T:

T1: God exists and one of His final ends is a favorable balance of freely* performed right actions over wrong actions. This requires the existence of pain.

What do we make of this expansion? There are some conceptual and theological difficulties with the idea of freedom*, but Draper ignores them. He grants that Pr (T1|Theism) is high.

But granting this, T1 does not raise the probability of T enough to defeat the original argument. The problem is twofold. First, pain does not only influence humans to perform morally good actions, it also influences us to perform morally bad actions. Second, it would not seem that an impressive balance of good over evil is being achieved by this policy.

Both of these facts are more surprising if we accept T1, not less.

Free Will and Moral Responsibility

The second possible advantage of free will has to do with its ability to increase the importance of our moral decision-making. A moral decision is one upon which the presence or absence of something of great value depends. An example might be a decision which could either bring about or help to avoid great suffering.

By not interfering in such decisions, God increases our control over how valuable the world is. This gives us the following expansion of theism:

T2: God exists, and one of His final ends is for humans to have the freedom* to make very important moral decisions.

Draper assumes that this is conceptually and theologically coherent. And he accepts that it might account for the pain that results from moral decision-making. But what about the pain that is not attributable to moral decision-making?

Here, we run into a rather remarkable proposal from Richard Swinburne.

Swinburne argues that this non-moral pain is necessary if humans are to have genuine freedom* over serious moral matters. He reasons that if God told us directly which decisions to make, it would compromise our freedom* to bring about great suffering. This is because if God revealed his existence in such an obvious manner, people would feel obliged to do as he says.

So he has to do it in an indirect manner. Which means we must learn how serious our decisions are through personal experience or observation. And since we cannot learn everything from personal experience, the observation of non-moral pain is the only way.

Draper identifies three problems with Swinburne’s argument:

  1. It does not explain the need for pain of which we have no knowledge.
  2. It does not account for the sheer volume and magnitude of non-moral pain.
  3. Several theists (e.g. Eleanore Stump) have argued that God could let us know how our decisions lead to great suffering, without letting us know of his existence. For example, Stump proposes that God could send us vivid, message-laden dreams that do not compel us to believe in his existence.

Draper goes further and says that there are several observations we have made that are more surprising on T2 than they would be on a non-specific form of theism.

He points out that God is often analogised with a good parent. Indeed, this is usually done to prop-up a theodicy. But as Draper argues, a good parent would allow us to gradually grow into an awareness of our responsibility. For example, they would only allow us to drive the car when they thought we were able to appreciate the significance of it.

God does not appear to have done the same. Think about it: would a good parent really give a virulent, racist, blood-mythicist like Hitler the responsibility to make decisions of such extreme moral weight? Would he or she really give the him the keys to the gas chambers?

On the whole then, T2 cannot undermine Draper’s original argument.

The “Infinite Intellect” Defence

The final theodical crack of the whip is the appeal to God’s omniscience. The claim here is that God allows pain to exist for reasons that are inaccessible and inscrutable to human beings.

T3: God exists and has a vast amount of knowledge about good and evil and how they are related that humans do not have.

We can take it that T3 is obviously true since part of T’s definition was omniscience. So this means that the Pr (O|T3) = Pr (O|T).

And therein lies the rub. For while it might be true that God has a reason for O, we have no antecedent reason to expect O to obtain. And furthermore, the hypothesis of indifference (HI) already accounts for O.

So again this theodicy does not undermine the original argument: HI is still more probable than T.

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Conclusion

In this entry we have seen how three popular theodicies do nothing to restore our confidence in T. In the final entry, we will see whether there are any other escape routes for the theist.

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill Maher June 12, 2010 at 7:47 am

John D is a beast. I love his blog and how he tackles the most interesting content in philosophy.

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Charles June 12, 2010 at 9:28 am

John,

Does Draper address the devil theodicy? That is one most fundamentalists alive today adhere to.

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John D June 12, 2010 at 11:29 am

No. At least, not in this article.

I’m not sure that the devil theodicy is widely-discussed in the philosophy of religion. Maybe someone wiser than I knows the answer to that.

One thing I would say is that Draper’s argument is intended to show that the available evidence gives more support to the hypothesis of an indifferent universe than it does to the hypothesis of a universe under the control of an intentional agent (be that agent good or evil).

Now, Draper only focuses on the good god hypothesis in this article, but I have a feeling that his argument could be strengthened if the hypothesis of indifference was also compared with arguments for an evil god. As in the following articles:

http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/wes/demonism.pdf

http://journals.cambridge.org/download.php?file=%2FRES%2FS0034412509990369a.pdf&code=948c08161a1d8644d298f403f4d38dc7

Those arguments are supposed to show that the arguments for an evil god are just as good as (or “parallel” to) the arguments for a good god. I would be inclined to say that they cancel each other out and so we end up with Draper’s hypothesis of indifference.

I feel like that could be a pretty powerful argument for atheism if it was formulated with some precision and sophistication.

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John D June 12, 2010 at 11:40 am

There is an ambiguity in that previous comment.

The linked articles only discuss the evil god hypothesis and do not compare it with the hypothesis of indifference.

While I’m busy typing, I may as well underline that point. Stephen Law’s article (second link) employs what I think is a rather weak argumentative strategy. He develops the evil-god argument quite well, but then ends up saying something like “Well, these arguments are clearly ridiculous so the same can be said for the good-god hypothesis!”

I think he would have been better off making the “indifference is more likely”-argument. It strikes me that it would have been more compelling than the “these are silly arguments”-line.

BTW

“Bill Maher” (or Greg),

Thanks for the kind words.

Over and out,
JD

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Paul Wright June 12, 2010 at 12:52 pm

[Law] develops the evil-god argument quite well, but then ends up saying something like “Well, these arguments are clearly ridiculous so the same can be said for the good-god hypothesis!”

I thought Law’s goal was to put the theist in a bind: the theist clearly doesn’t accept Law’s evil-god theodicy, but the question is then why they don’t, given that they presumably accept some sort of good-god theodicy, and that the arguments are so similar.

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Bill Maher June 12, 2010 at 1:35 pm

No problem John. Hopefully we will be colleagues one day.

:)

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ShaneSteinhauser June 12, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Ah the problem of pain. There’s so much squirming around that issue by theists. None of their theodicies work, and even if they did work, they would only be mere speculation.

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TaiChi June 12, 2010 at 6:28 pm

“By not interfering in such decisions, God increases our control over how valuable the world is. “ ~ JohnD

A bit OT, but this struck me as a leap in logic. Why should our control over the value of the world be something important? Granted, a world in which freedom* is significantly employed may be better than a world where it is not, but this is easily accomplished by having the significantly free God making every single decision. So, what the theist really needs here is an argument that distributed freedom* is especially good, and I don’t see how it can be made.

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noen June 12, 2010 at 6:53 pm

John D – Is that who posted this? It’s a little unclear to me.

I am skimming the Draper pdf as I comment and noting several problems right off the bat.

First, there is a confusion of pain with evil and suffering.

By “pain” I mean physical or mental suffering of any sort

This is already pretty bad as pain and suffering are two different things. I can be in pain and yet not be suffering and I can suffer without being in pain. To add to the confusion Draper equates pain with evil and quite frankly I don’t see how either pain or suffering are evil. But there is more:

By “theism” I mean the following statement:
There exists an omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect person who created the Universe.

So I guess we are confining ourselves to the God of the Fundamentalists then. Not all theists, including Christian theists, believe in that god.

the most common way of stating the problem of evil is to ask a why-question like “if God exists, then why is there so much evil in the world?”

What is evil? We have already seen that Draper failed to distinguish pain from suffering. Here he fails to tell us what he means by evil. The word evil is a very common word akin to love and like love, evil seems to have as many definitions as there are people.

But notice that pain and pleasure are in one respect strikingly dissimilar to other parts of organic systems: they have intrinsic moral value. Pain is intrinsically bad, and pleasure is intrinsically good.

No they aren’t. Pain and pleasure are morally neutral. They are neither here nor there. Pain can certainly be a moral good in your life. It tells you when you are doing something that is potentially harmful so that you may stop and choose to do something else.

This Draper fellow seems to be a very sloppy thinker to me. There are a lot of assumptions that sort of drive him to the conclusions that he wants to reach.

(those are my reactions, more to follow)

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noen June 12, 2010 at 7:21 pm

For your edification.

Why Lord? Haiti and the God-Question

For in Jesus, so we confess, God was manifest, not metaphysically above the fray, but in the flesh, in our condition (1 Tim. 3:16). In him, pain and suffering are taken up into God’s identity. Our economy of pain is received into the divine economy of life. [...] In the person of Jesus, these realities have been decisively dealt with and, indeed, dealt with not by a god who is above the fray but by one who is named Immanuel, God with Us, one who walks in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

I have to wonder if this is the first time that some here have encountered the concept of a god who is not the typical fundamentalist authoritarian ruler. One who is “above the fray” Surprise! Not everyone thinks like that.

By coming at the issue of God and suffering, which this Haiti crisis compels us to do, from the vantage point of the God not above our pain but the God known in and who is identified from our pain [...] we address suffering from Jesus Christ. And to approach suffering from him is to approach those who suffer, not as those merely needing our charity (which positions us above them), nor as those who trigger our intellectual and aesthetic capacities to glean the beautiful from the tragic (which also positions us as masters, above the fray), but as those who witness God to us, the God who is the Neighbor—the one and only Neighbor—who has come to us. [...] The script is Christologically flipped: they are the missionaries to us. To neglect them, to position ourselves above the fray and thus above them, to not work to change the social conditions that make natural disaster worse—these are all signs of the refusal of salvation.

And here is a second concept that I would guess not all are familiar with. That of the figure of the Neighbor. I especially like that we should “approach those who suffer, not as those merely needing our charity” but rather as “those who witness God to us”

I suspect this is pretty new to most. But then you’re all busy thinkin’ them thar deep thoughts “on the God debate as it ensues at the highest levels of thought”

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Charles June 12, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Noen,

It isn’t that we are unfamiliar with such conceptions of God. It’s that we just don’t care.

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noen June 12, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Charles
It’s that we just don’t care.

Liar. If you didn’t care you wouldn’t spend so much energy debating. You sound to me like an alcoholic trying to convince me he can’t stand the taste of alcohol. ;)

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Charles June 12, 2010 at 9:44 pm

No, Noen. I really don’t care about sub-omni gods, because these kinds of gods, if they exist, aren’t worthy of my worship, and because outside of the internet, I don’t know a single person who believes in them.

As to the other claim, I guess you hadn’t noticed. I don’t spend much time in the comments these days.

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ShaneSteinhauser June 13, 2010 at 1:58 am

@Neon

You disagree that pain and suffering are one in the same. However the dictionary disagrees with you.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pain

But then agian I disagree on the dictionary’s definition of atheism. But I can show that by the definition of the prefix a and the definition of theism. Definitions which are in the dictionary.

Anyway would you like to go into deeper explaination on why pain is not suffering?

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Zeb June 13, 2010 at 3:45 am

Thanks for bringing that up noen, all good points. That pain does not equal suffering is correct, but that doesn’t much affect the argument. However, that suffering does not equal evil is a criticism that I have often thought but not yet put forward. I would like to see someone making the argument from evil address that. The third point, divine humility, is the most important. For Christians it should be a trait we emphasize way before the tri-omni traits. And it is central to my own theodicy – God, faced with the problem of human suffering, had the option to deliver us from it or to join us in it and suffer with us. The latter seems to me the more loving choice.

Are you saying saying there are Christians who believe God does not have omnipotence, or just that believe he doesn’t weild power like an authoritarian ruler? I’d be interested in references to the former.

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noen June 13, 2010 at 7:01 am

ShaneSteinhauser
Anyway would you like to go into deeper explaination on why pain is not suffering?

Well to begin with pain can be pleasurable. There exist quite a few people who consent to others inflicting pain on them because they enjoy the pleasure of pain. Pain is just a sensation, just the stimulation of nerve endings. We are not machines who have a hard wired pain/stimulus response.

Pain can also be neutral. Years ago I cut myself and needed a couple of stitches. In the ER the doc told me the anesthetic shot would probably hurt as much as the stitches themselves. So I ok’d skipping it and watched as he stitched up the injury.

It was painful but I didn’t suffer because I chose not to suffer. Suffering is one’s reaction to pain. If you choose to react differently then you don’t suffer. You just… set the pain aside in your mind and don’t pay it much attention. This is a technique that they teach people in pain management clinics. You distract yourself and think of something else.

Your model of how humans work is wrong. You think that we are machines programmed to respond in deterministic ways to input stimuli. While it’s true that if you are cut you will experience pain, your response after that is up to you. You are free.

Are you saying saying there are Christians who believe God does not have omnipotence, or just that believe he doesn’t weild power like an authoritarian ruler?

This isn’t really my thing, the latter I would guess. All I did was to search google using terms I thought would yield a more liberal theologian. Most such theologians are very influenced by critical theory. The usual suspects like Derrida, Habermas, Badiou and especially Zizek and Lacan.

Internet geek atheists like Luke here think that the intellectual world consists of just them and the people they know and creationists and the people they know. It’s a small little box but it is the world to them.

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Ryan M June 13, 2010 at 10:50 am

Noen, do you actually think its a problem that Draper argues against a creator God that is both omnipotent and morally perfect, and not other conceptions of deities?

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Atheist.pig June 13, 2010 at 1:01 pm

It was painful but I didn’t suffer because I chose not to suffer. Suffering is one’s reaction to pain. If you choose to react differently then you don’t suffer. You just… set the pain aside in your mind and don’t pay it much attention. This is a technique that they teach people in pain management clinics. You distract yourself and think of something else.

Your model of how humans work is wrong. You think that we are machines programmed to respond in deterministic ways to input stimuli. While it’s true that if you are cut you will experience pain, your response after that is up to you. You are free.

I wonder if the oncologists know about this, I’m sure their chronically ill cancer patients who are going through hell with excruciating pain could use this technique instead of getting pumped with morphine.

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ShaneSteinhauser June 13, 2010 at 3:15 pm

@Neon

Perhaps the people who claim pain is pleasurable have mixed up nerve endings? Or perhaps there is a pleasurable sensation that comes along with the painful ones. Kind of like how people endure the pain of going to work every day in order to recieve the greater pleasure of having money to spend. Anyway when I hear people say pain is pleasurable I think what they really mean is that the pain is accompanied by a greater overriding pleasure (such as endorphines kicking in).

The pain of the needle was still negative was it not? I think your stiches example confuses the meanings of the words neutral and pointlesness.

I disagree that suffering is one’s reaction to pain. I think a lot of pain management people use nonsensical ideas in order to promote the placebo effect in their patients.

So anyway I disagree with your examples but thanks for the input. I look forward to your response. :D

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TaiChi June 13, 2010 at 3:21 pm

God, faced with the problem of human suffering, had the option to deliver us from it or to join us in it and suffer with us. The latter seems to me the more loving choice.” ~ Zeb

I find this extraordinary. Zeb, can you give any other examples where one should refrain from alleviating the suffering of a person, just so one can continue to suffer with them?

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Ryan M June 13, 2010 at 3:41 pm

I find this extraordinary. Zeb, can you give any other examples where one should refrain from alleviating the suffering of a person, just so one can continue to suffer with them? – TaiChi

I too wonder about this. Personally, I would prefer someone alleviate my suffering rather than suffer with me. I do not know how more suffering can alleviate the suffering of anyone, it seems extremely odd.

Would Zeb prefer a firefighter burn with him, rather than save him from a fire when its both possible and practical for the firefighter to perform a rescue?

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al friedlander June 13, 2010 at 5:40 pm

“I find this extraordinary. Zeb, can you give any other examples where one should refrain from alleviating the suffering of a person, just so one can continue to suffer with them?”

While I too would massively prefer that God just reverse human suffering, I think I can understand Zeb’s train of thought. I believe that he might agree that a good example would be a father who disciplines his son.

For example, the son does something morally wrong. The father knows, that he must punish the son, despite the fact that he loves him, and will be hurt emotionally for spanking his little boy. However, instead of revoking the punishment (which would do more harm in the long run, perhaps), the father chooses to suffer (with the child) for the betterment of all.

Note that I am not endorsing this point of view; just that I can understand where he’s coming from/what he’s trying to say (I think).

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TaiChi June 13, 2010 at 7:56 pm

I believe that he might agree that a good example would be a father who disciplines his son.” ~ al friedlander

That makes a certain sort of sense – it’s the soul-building theodicy. But that doesn’t seem to be what Zeb’s saying – he’s offering shared suffering as the good for which evil must exist, not the effects of the suffering on character… I think.

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Zeb June 13, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Thanks for your intellectual charity al, but I was thinking of something quite different from a father’s “This will hurt me more than it will hurt you.” Did anyone else hear the recent This American Life about Haiti? There were several stories in it about the pitfalls of benevolently patronizing aid, including one about an American doctor who stepped down from running a medical center to become a regular doctor there, even though he knew it would lead to more sickness and death in the short run. He believed that the Hatians needed to step up and run the thing for themselves. That works as a metaphor for my overall theodicy: the person with power and resources to stop suffering enters into the same condition as the suffering people. He chooses to work and suffer side by side with them, providing them a role in bringing about the better world he intended as well as their own salvation, and necessitating their cooperation with each other (and him) to reach those goals. So there are three parts to my theodicy: 1. Divine humility and compassion is demonstrated by joining humanity in its suffering. 2. Humanity is offered (perhaps thrust into) a role as co-creator of the perfect world. We are given the chance to participate in God’s creative act. 3. God’s creatures are forced to know and love each other on the path to happiness. Simply having a bilateral relationship with God as the source of all happiness is not an option.

Now, maybe unlike the American doctor in Haiti, God could accept the role of benevolent dictator and instantly wipe away all suffering and somehow let us learn solidarity and cooperation and whatever else in a world of infinite pleasure. But accepting that role as benevolent dictator would deprive us of the full realization of God’s love for us. TaiChi asked for “any other examples where one should refrain from alleviating the suffering of a person, just so one can continue to suffer with them?” I can think of only one possible, as the doctor example doesn’t fit the “just so” criteria. In the Abrahamic faiths, the highest form of the God-human relationship is lover-beloved, or “betrothed.” I can well imagine that if a very wealthy and powerful man fell in love with very poor and outcast woman, the greater demonstration of love would not be to use his wealth and power to lift her out of her circumstance right off the bat, but to join her there and take on her lowly station (at least until they’d married, when they could return to his wealth as equals rather than as benefactor and dependent). This metaphor is problematic, but not untraditional, and better than the king/subject, master/servant, or even parent/child metaphors more commonly used for the relationship God seeks with man. So I agree that God could demonstrate the greatness of his power and his benevolence but wiping out suffering. But I’m not sure he could demonstrate the greatness of his love for us without joining us in our suffering. And I think it is to our benefit that we have been called to participate in God’s creation and forced to join together in that.

I know this is no proof that God is right to not end suffering. If he asked me, I would tell God to end all suffering right now, bit his will be done. These are just the reasons I can imagine why ot light be better for him not to end all suffering immediately.

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Ex Hypothesi June 14, 2010 at 12:20 am

John D.:

“In this entry we have seen how three popular theodicies do nothing to restore our confidence in T. In the final entry, we will see whether there are any other escape routes for the theist.”

Precis on Plantinga’s “On Being Evidentially Challenged” please.

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noen June 14, 2010 at 11:43 am

Ryan M
Noen, do you actually think its a problem that Draper argues against a creator God that is both omnipotent and morally perfect, and not other conceptions of deities?

Yeah, I think this is a general problem in the atheist/theist debate. There is a very narrow and dogmatic view of who or what god is supposed to be on the part of both participants. Did you know that in the Native American language of Mi’kmaq God is a verb?

Honestly, I see the atheist/theist debate as a sectarian dispute between rival priestly clans. That’s how you look to me.

Atheist Pig
I wonder if the oncologists know about this, I’m sure their chronically ill cancer patients who are going through hell with excruciating pain could use this technique instead of getting pumped with morphine.

Oncologists are very familiar with pain management and routinely prescribe it to their non-terminal patients. Been to an ER lately? You’re in for surprise hun. For patients with intractable pain you can’t just pump ‘em up with meds. It doesn’t work. You’ve got to teach them ways of managing their pain.

But that implies something other than the simplistic stimulus/response model for pain that is the basis of the Draper argument.

Ryan M
I too wonder about this. Personally, I would prefer someone alleviate my suffering rather than suffer with me. I do not know how more suffering can alleviate the suffering of anyone, it seems extremely odd.

Yes, that is how children feel. They think that others should take care of them. Their god is a magical daddy who removes all pain and suffering. Adults know better.

Would Zeb prefer a firefighter burn with him, rather than save him from a fire when its both possible and practical for the firefighter to perform a rescue?

Would you coddle your child and never allow them to experience a pricked finger, to discover that stoves burn and hearts can be broken? What an irresponsible parent you’d be!

Oh and… what Zeb said. That was pretty good.

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al friedlander June 14, 2010 at 1:35 pm

“Would you coddle your child and never allow them to experience a pricked finger, to discover that stoves burn and hearts can be broken? What an irresponsible parent you’d be!”

“Adults know better”

Just my opinion, but I don’t think that’s very fair (although you may be exaggerating for intended comical effect). In this world, there are many examples of truly saddening/absolutely disgusting forms of torment.

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Atheist.pig June 14, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Oncologists are very familiar with pain management and routinely prescribe it to their non-terminal patients. Been to an ER lately? You’re in for surprise hun. For patients with intractable pain you can’t just pump ‘em up with meds. It doesn’t work. You’ve got to teach them ways of managing their pain.

Yes noen I’ve gotten a bit of experience lately with terminally ill cancer sufferers. Plus thats why I said “chronically ill” cancer patients, not non-terminal. As they have described the pain to me I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. No doubt certain levels of pain can be managed with therapies but your being way too simplistic again. Pain alone can kill people and very often does.
V.S Ramachandran’s superb talk on certain conditions shows the stimulus/response model for pain in a fantastic way. All some people need to do is trick the brain with visual input.

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Ryan M June 14, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Yes, that is how children feel. They think that others should take care of them. Their god is a magical daddy who removes all pain and suffering. Adults know better.

Would you coddle your child and never allow them to experience a pricked finger, to discover that stoves burn and hearts can be broken? What an irresponsible parent you’d be! – Noen

First, I think it is foolish to say adults know better than to attempt to alleviate ones pain when its both possible and practical. But if you think adults know better, then I assume you think no adult in any circumstance should help someone avoid something that is quiet painful, such as being burned to death, or being eaten by an animal. Would you prefer a park ranger let a bear kill you, or would you prefer the ranger shoots the bear? To me, your stance makes it seem as if the ranger should let you die, as hes an adult and knows he should let you figure your own way out.

Second, in the situation of a person trapped in a burning building, the person has no practical way of escaping. The only option outside of rescue is death. In the situation of a burning stove element, the child will not die, rather he/she will learn a valuable lesson. But in the fire situation, the person will die unless the firefighter saves them which the firefighter can do. But as I thought, Zeb would prefer the firefighter burn to death by the persons side, and you think the person should simply die, while the firefighter goes out for cocktails or something.

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Ryan M June 14, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Honestly, I see the atheist/theist debate as a sectarian dispute between rival priestly clans. That’s how you look to me. – Noen

Okay thats fine. Do you think a theist/atheist should avoid formulating arguments against a single conception of a deity? Also, who is ‘You’? I would think you mean the general posting population of this site, and not myself, as Ive made possibly 4 posts in total.

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TaiChi June 14, 2010 at 5:35 pm

He chooses to work and suffer side by side with them, providing them a role in bringing about the better world he intended as well as their own salvation, and necessitating their cooperation with each other (and him) to reach those goals. ” ~ Zeb

I tend to think the doctor is doing something for his own benefit here – he’s making a martyr of himself, and sees himself as better, more pious and caring, for doing it. That’s not to say he doesn’t deserve our admiration, just that he’s not doing as much good as he could be. But an omnibenevolent being would do as much good as possible.

But accepting that role as benevolent dictator would deprive us of the full realization of God’s love for us. ” ~ Zeb

How so? I fail to see the connection. Still, whatever it is, it seems possible that God should implant this knowledge in us directly, so that suffering is not necessary to come by it.

I can well imagine that if a very wealthy and powerful man fell in love with very poor and outcast woman, the greater demonstration of love would not be to use his wealth and power to lift her out of her circumstance right off the bat, but to join her there and take on her lowly station (at least until they’d married, when they could return to his wealth as equals rather than as benefactor and dependent). ” ~ Zeb

Again, I have to disagree with the moral you draw from this. If there is virtue in this story, then it lies in the fact that the wealthy man adopts the life of his future bride in order to understand her better. But God doesn’t need to do this with us, for he is omniscient, and knows our suffering without having to collude in the circumstances of it. Besides, this sort of story only makes sense if you first assume that people are in such straits and ask what God would do about it, not if ask whether God would allow such destitution in the first place (he wouldn’t).

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noen June 14, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Atheist Pig
V.S Ramachandran’s superb talk on certain conditions shows the stimulus/response model for pain in a fantastic way. All some people need to do is trick the brain with visual input.

Yes, the mirror treatment for phantom limb pain. But the Draper argument seems to me, maybe I’m wrong but… it seems to me to rely on a deterministic model of pain as stimulus –> response. Such a model cannot explain phantom limb pain. There is no limb! There is no stimulus! The brain has a false belief! If that is true then pain just can’t be a simple matter of an electrical signal traveling up the nerves to your brain that triggers a hard wired response.

The brain has beliefs about the body!

The mirror treatment consists in convincing the brain that it’s current belief about the state of the body is wrong.

The argument from evil assumes that we are passive spectators with no ability to effect how we react to external events. I am suggesting that we are active participants who can choose how we respond to the world. There are things we can change and things we can’t and wisdom, of course, is being able to know the difference.

People suffer when they believe they cannot affect their world and that they are merely leaves blown about by forces beyond their control. People minimize or end their suffering when they choose to take control of their lives to the extent it is possible.

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noen June 14, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Ryan M
To me, your stance makes it seem as if the ranger should let you die, as hes an adult and knows he should let you figure your own way out.

Well, I’m arguing for a position that I don’t fully believe but I think that is good practice. You should try it sometime. So.. I would say it’s just analogy… but… as I understand it… this theological position rejects the concept of God as “The Big Other”. So all that omni stuff just gets swept away. There are more radical theologians that that. You should check out the Death of God theology sometime.

TaiChi
But God doesn’t need to do this with us, for he is omniscient

Maybe he isn’t. Maybe God isn’t a he or a she or an it who resides “outside space and time”. Maybe god isn’t Super-duper Man who can swoop in and fix your boo-boos. Maybe god is found in the relationships between things. Maybe god is a verb. Maybe god is a state of supervenience above the physical/social world.

The Big Other is dead. Your insistence that your opponents must believe in it is just your way of keeping the big other alive.

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lukeprog June 14, 2010 at 6:36 pm

noen,

TaiChi is responding to a popular notion of God, not insisting that people believe in it. To say that God maybe is a verb and so on is just to change the subject.

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