Thursday, October 27, 2011

Back! Does the Evil God Hypothesis Pose a Problem for Theists?

Hi all. Life has slowed down a little bit so I thought I'd try to dip my toes back into the apologetics blogosphere.

Dr. William Lane Craig, as all of my readers will know, has been touring Great Britain on his Reasonable Faith tour, debating some of the foremost atheist philosophers in British academia (thank goodness Dick Dawk made himself look so silly, because he'd have been such a poor opponent one wonders if it would have tarnished the whole tour). I've listened to two of the debates, the one against Stephen Law and the one against Peter Millican. In both debates the issue of the Evil or Anti-god came up. I actually went to Dr. Law's blog to comment on how silly I find that proposed analogy to be. Here is what I said regarding that and his overall performance in the debate:

If you were just arguing against Dr. Craig's God, Dr. Law, then why would you bring up the evil god hypothesis? This is one of the worst attempts at sophism that is out there in religious philosophy. How can you consider said evil god to be analogous at all to the Christian God at all, who is the greatest conceivable being? I can conceive of a being greater than the evil one, namely a good one. Further, since most theists posit God's nature as the basis of morality, such that acting against His nature would be to act in an evil way, then you're just relabeling what would then properly be called "good" as "evil." It does nothing to defeat the God hypothesis.

If you can handle some criticism, then to sum up my thoughts on your arguments: they were spectacularly bad. The evil god hypothesis doesn't prove anything, and is a practice in incoherence. You call some of the most scrutinized and well thought out arguments for God "weak," which is silly since if they were so weak you should have been able to argue against them pretty easily. Yet you don't really argue against any of them, Dr. Law. However, you did do much better at preparing for the debate than most atheists. You still stank up the joint.

FYI, if it's not clear it's part of the definition of God to be perfectly good, so arguing against an evil very powerful being is arguing something, but not against God.

34 comments:

kilo papa said...
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John said...

Glad you're back! I had quite a bit of an exchange with some atheists at Stephen's blog.

It seems odd to me that a lot of them believe the whole evil-god argument can be turned on the resurrection; That the resurrection could have been the work of an evil god "intent on causing humans pain, frustration and empty hope" !

When faced with a resurrection event, they believe someone who is agnostic of God's moral character is just as reasonable to believe in an evil god then the actual God the resurrected individual was revealing!? How odd is that!?

bossmanham said...

John, good to hear from you.

Frankly, I've been wondering if atheists can even read lately, what with one of them cursing here on the comment board when I specifically say to keep it clean, another couldn't understand what I was saying regarding God's providence, etc.

And in the case you bring up, that is extremely odd. If it were possible to have an imperfect perfect being, why would said evil being bring anyone back to life. In fact, goodness seems to me to be a prerequisite to bring anyone into being in the first place. But whatever. Let them use terrible arguments.

kilo papa said...
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bossmanham said...

I'm going to repost what kilo papa said edited just as an example of what the gnu atheists have devolved into.

And then Jesus said, "Die for your sins!!? What kind of Stone Age donkey **** is that!!? Die for your own ******* sins!!!"

"Praise me, praise me, praise my holy ******* name!! Amen."

Yes ladies and gentlemen, the gnu atheists are so darn rational and reasonable. How could anyone disagree with them?

Seth said...

*facepalm* after reading kilo papa's comments.

Glad you're back. I agree with John; the resurrection seals the deal for Christianity. If it didn't happen, then we're the most to be pitied, but if it did happen then Christianity is what's it all cracked up to be. An evil god argument does not in any way undermine the argument for the resurrection. The evil god argument was weak anyway.

William Birch said...

This is a belated response, but I'm glad you're back!!!

I read your comment on Law's site. Nice. I like the direction you're taking. You'll be a good source for me regarding philosophy and apologetics.

Ozymandias said...

Well, congratulations mr.question begging!
If you already defined god as the greatest concevable being with good as a ''great making property'', then you have excluded a priori the evil god hypothesis.
The question is: Why SHOULD we define god as the greatest concevable being? Why is the evil god out of the question? Because you DEFINED IT that way? Well, if thats the case, i can substantiate the evil god hypothesis better than the ''good'' god hypothesis, namely,i can present ACTUAL EVIDENCE (the unnecessary evil in the world and the indifference of nature to our existence).
So this becomes a conceptual analisys task, what is the best definition for god?

bossmanham said...

Ozymandis,

If you already defined god as the greatest concevable being with good as a ''great making property'', then you have excluded a priori the evil god hypothesis.

Doesn't matter what word you attatch a definition to. The concept of something entails certain things be true about it. The concept of a triangle is a three sided polygon whose angles add up to 180 degrees. That concept exists and we just happened to attach a certain word to it.

The concept of a being which no greater can be conceived exists. You sit there and think about it and certain things must be true about such a being. This entails nothing about whether it exists or not.

Yes, you could attach a different definition to the word god, as Dr. Law wants to do, with a completely different concept. But in doing that, Dr. Law has gone off on a tangent; a completely irrelevant red herring. We're speaking of a being which no greater can be conceived. Dr. Law is speaking of something completely different that actually has nothing to do with whether the being we're speaking of exists or not.

So Dr. Law wants to consider a square and call it a triangle. That's sophistry.

John said...

"Why is the evil god out of the question? Because you DEFINED IT that way?"

-- If you accept that God can be the only ground for objective morality, then God must be good insofar as our moral obligations are grounded in Him.

If we had immoral obligations, then Stephen's evil-god might make sense.

kilo papa said...
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John said...

@ Kilo papa

When God made you, he must've put in some extra dumb juice.

If I were an atheist, I'd be embarrassed by you. Having people like you is bad for the whole "bright" bit.

Ozymandias said...

John,
''If you accept that God can be the only ground for objective morality, then God must be good insofar as our moral obligations are grounded in Him.''

If god is the only ground for ethics, then it doesn't matter what he really is. Wheter if he is what WE call good, or what WE call bad, is ultimately irrelevant, because as the good is DEFINED in terms of god's nature, he is going to be the good whatsoever, even if he is what we call bad. The problem is that,that is individual subjectvism.

Bossmanham,

It surely isn't contradictory to postulate a evil god(if goodness is necessarily a great making property) as it is contradictory to postulate that the sum of the intern angles of a triangle in a euclidean space is not 180°. So, it follows that the''property'' of being the greatest conceveble being is not intrinsic to the definition of god. I could argue that if the evil god turned out to be the best explanation for x, for example, that our definiton of god as the greatest conceveble being was misplaced. So, it ultimately boils down to this: What good reason is there to define god as the greatest conceveble being, and to exclude a priori the possibility of a evil god?

Ozymandias said...

If you are going to just wave off your hands and say that god cannot be evil because you arbitrarily defined him as the greatest conceveble being, then, my friend, i'm afraid that you've begged the question.

bossmanham said...

Ozymandis,

So, it follows that the''property'' of being the greatest conceveble being is not intrinsic to the definition of god

...it is if that's the very being you're speaking about.

I could argue that if the evil god turned out to be the best explanation for x, for example, that our definiton of god as the greatest conceveble being was misplaced.

Then you'll be speaking of a completely different thing. Present that evidence if you've got it.

What good reason is there to define god as the greatest conceveble being, and to exclude a priori the possibility of a evil god?

Because that is the God that was up for debate. A very powerful evil being wasn't. You gotta have your definitions straight when you start to debate. But there are many good reasons to believe in God as traditionally defined, and they outdo any reason one would have to believe in an evil powerful being.

If you are going to just wave off your hands and say that god cannot be evil because you arbitrarily defined him as the greatest conceveble being, then, my friend, i'm afraid that you've begged the question.

But reasons were given. None were given to believe in said evil powerful being.

Here's another reason: Two omnipotent beings could not exist simultaneously. The arguments Craig gave, along with the ontological argument, establish the reason to believe in the existence of God as traditionally defined. Ergo, evil powerful being is still incoherent.

Another reason: the moral argument establishes an all good God, as it would take said God to define evil in the first place. Evil is the privation of good. Good is what allows us to know what evil is.

bossmanham said...

And, I simply have no reason to redefine terms. Just like I have no reason to call a three sided polygon a square, I have no reason to redefine god.

Simply, the concept of an evil god is incoherent on multiple levels.

Ozymandias said...

-''Because that is the God that was up for debate. A very powerful evil being wasn't.''

The topic of the debate was ''Does god exist?''... It said nothing about him being evil or good...

A ''evil'' god is compatible
with both the ontological and the moral argument. This is extremely abstract and complicated, so hold'on: As you said yourself, good is defined in terms of what god is. If he were what WE call evil, then he would still be the ''good'', because the good is what god is, according to the moral argument. So, An evil god would be impossible in that sense, But he could be what we call ''evil'', even thought that in that possible world he would be the ''good'', as there is no independent definition of what the good really is.
So, he could be malevolent, and sadic, in a manner to infuse the world with as much suffering as there is, but divine command theory
would make us call him good.
And that is the dscussion here, is god what WE call evil, or what WE call good? (even thought that both for the moral and the ontological argument he would be good).

bossmanham said...

The topic of the debate was ''Does god exist?''... It said nothing about him being evil or good...

Yes, and the traditional concept of God is what was assumed. Otherwise, they were talking about different things. You do understand the idea of defining terms, right? Law brought up an irrelevant tangent into the debate. A red herring. And you're defending a logical fallacy.

bossmanham said...

To address the other nonsense, part of how we know there is a moral realm is that we have a moral sense that is at least most of the time reliable (similar to our sense of sight or touch). We know there is evil because we can sense evil. So if the good is actually the opposite of what we sense, then our terms are incorrect. Of course this does nothing to question the existence of God. It's just something interesting to think about regarding DCT. Good job at doing....nothing...

Ozymandias said...

''To address the other nonsense, part of how we know there is a moral realm is that we have a moral sense that is at least most of the time reliable (similar to our sense of sight or touch). We know there is evil because we can sense evil.''

Sure. And chinese communists back in cold war had their own moral intuitions. Are you saying that your moral intuitions are better than theirs? Well, not if god is a totalitarism fan. Well, for an advice, try to understand the others point before classifying then as ''nonsense''.


''So if the good is actually the opposite of what we sense, then our terms are incorrect.''

Wait a minute, are you admmiting that there is a possibility that our moral intuitions are unreliable then? Answer me this then: If god were a sadist, then would sadism be ok?

''Of course this does nothing to question the existence of God.''

I have to agree with you on this point, OBVIOUSLY. The(our) discussion was about the possibility of god being evil, and instead of properly replying to my objection you prefered to dismissed as ''nonsense''. So, how about answering me apropriatedly this time?

bossmanham said...

Sure. And chinese communists back in cold war had their own moral intuitions. Are you saying that your moral intuitions are better than theirs?

Yep, just like my eyesight is better than my grandmother's.

Wait a minute, are you admmiting that there is a possibility that our moral intuitions are unreliable then?

Uh, some of them are, yes. Just like some of our physical intuitions are.

If god were a sadist, then would sadism be ok?

That's pretty much a meaningless question. It's assuming the definition of morality could define evil as good, which is the core problem of this whole nonsense.

The(our) discussion was about the possibility of god being evil, and instead of properly replying to my objection you prefered to dismissed as ''nonsense''.

Yes, becasue it's logically incoherent. Sorry I just am not about logical incoherencies.

kilo papa said...
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bossmanham said...

I'm wondering if kilo could prove any more what a pathetic useless idiot he is. I don't suppose so.

John said...

@Ozymandias

"If god is the only ground for ethics, then it doesn't matter what he really is. Wheter if he is what WE call good, or what WE call bad, is ultimately irrelevant, because as the good is DEFINED in terms of god's nature, he is going to be the good whatsoever, even if he is what we call bad. The problem is that,that is individual subjectvism."


-- This is Euthyphro's Dilemma all over again. Craig has already answered this. If good is God's nature, then it's neither arbitrarily dependent on God's whim, nor is it independent of Him.

Again, I believe Craig's moral argument can only hold water *if* you believe that it's only God who can ground objective morality. For all I know, you'd rather be a subjectivist.

But if morality is objective, then we have moral obligations. Those obligations can't be grounded on an evil god for obvious reasons.

Another reason for believing God is good is the resurrection. If Jesus did in fact resurrect, then that would validate his claims about the God he was revealing.

The classical theistic approach to good and evil --evil being a privation of good-- is yet another reason to believe God is good. In this view, evil is ontologically posterior to good. So God cannot be evil.

In any case, even if Stephen's argument were valid --which it isn't for reasons already given-- all it will show is that we cannot ascertain the moral character of God through empirical observations. Nobody is arguing otherwise. We don't ascertain the moral character of God through empirical observations.

Stephen lost. Obviously.

Ozymandias said...

John,
Sorry, but this attempt to avoid the problems with Euthyphro has been shown pretty conclusively to fail. The argument can simply be restructured in terms of God's nature, as such: "Is God's nature the way it is because it is good or is God's nature good simply because it is God's nature?" in which case the theist is right back where he started. Those who advocate for a definition of God that is "the greatest conceivable being" with goodness being a "great-making" characteristic are forced to admit the former, lest fall into circularity. If you admit the latter, then once again you don't have a standard of *morality* in the sense that most people talk about morality, falling under individual subjectvism. Apparently, neither you and bossmanham unterstood my objection.

bossmanham said...

Sorry, but this attempt to avoid the problems with Euthyphro has been shown pretty conclusively to fail.

No it hasn't. God is what He is by necessity. It's definitional. You can't ask why God is good if it's a necessary property of His existence. That's displayed in the silly question asked. You don't ask, is a tirangle three sided because it's a triangle, or is it a triangle because it's three sided." How silly.

Seth said...

Mind if I knock around some ideas with you guys?

If God and goodness are the very same thing, then the statement "God is good" means nothing more than "God is God," a useless tautology.

When we say God is good, we are giving additional information unlike saying a bachelor is an unmarried male; so the definition of good is not "in accord with the nature and character of God." We now have a proper definition of God. God is not the very definition of goodness, rather goodness is an essential characteristic of God; no tautology.

Well, we still have another problem: what is "good"? Borrowing an illustration from the bible, Abraham pleaded God to deal justly with Sodom and Gomorrah. How did Abraham know what justice was? The 10 commandments had not been handed down. We know goodness not by prior definition or by some decree of God, but through moral intuition. Abraham didn't need God to define justice (divine command). He knew it directly. His moral knowledge was built in.(I heard Greg Koukl explain it this way before)

The theist and atheist alike understand moral terms and recognize morality. However, we need God to make sense of what we recognize. This is another argument all together, but without God, moral terms are useless and moral intuitions are absurd.

Goodness is not above God or willed by Him. Goodness is grounded in His character. Moral notions are not arbitrary and given to caprice. They are fixed and absolute, grounded in God's immutable nature.

No outside definition of piety is necessary because morality is known directly through the faculty of moral intuition. If our moral intuitions are intact (if we're not morally handicapped) we immediately recognize what is wrong and what is right.

This doesn't mean Christianity is true, only that it's is not handicapped by Plato's challenge to Euthyphro.

Even still someone might ask something like, "If God were to command spouse abuse, would we be obligated to abuse our spouses?" I think this question (after refuting the supposed dilemma) is like asking, "If there were a square circle, would its area be the square of one of its sides?" I heard a philosopher use that once, so I can't take credit for the question. However, the question has no answer because what it supposes is logically impossible.

If my short answer doesn't quench the thirst, perhaps this answer I saved from a discussion forum will do the job. The work is done by Ed Fesser.

"“Given the doctrine of the convertibility of the transcendentals, on which being is convertible with goodness, that which is Pure Actuality or Being Itself must ipso facto be Goodness Itself. Given the conception of evil as a privation – that is, as a failure to realize some potentiality – that which is Pure Actuality and therefore in no way potential cannot intelligibly be said to be in any way evil. Given the principle of proportionate causality, whatever good is in the world in a limited way must be in its cause in an eminent way, shorn of any of the imperfections that follow upon being a composite of act and potency. Since God is Pure Actuality, he cannot intelligibly be said either to have or to lack moral virtues or vices of the sort we exhibit when we succeed or fail to realize our various potentials. And so on. All of this is claimed to be a matter of metaphysical demonstration rather than probabilistic empirical theorizing, and the underlying metaphysical ideas form a complex interlocking network that is (as anyone familiar with Platonism or Aristotelianism realizes) motivated independently of the problem of evil or the question of God’s existence.”

Read more: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/10/laws-evil-god-challenge.html

John said...

Thanks Seth.

I agree with everything you just said. And, Feser is my favorite philosopher. I've read his refutation of Stephen's evil-god challenge, and I think it's the best response so far.

I also think Craig gave a good response. But, it's dependent on his opponent accepting the idea of objective morality --something Stephen weaselly turned his back on after realizing the logical bind he'll be putting himself in.

Seth said...

I like Fesser's argument too, but I hardly ever use it (to be honest, I'm not sure I have used it in conversation) because it's so abstract and I think most yawn and roll their eyes when reading or listening to it. Obviously, that doesn't make it false. Those who are inclined to abstract arguments will take it seriously and think about it. Mostly, I try to use practical arguments myself and then point the person to the "higher-end" arguments for further reading.

I also think Craig gave a good response. But, it's dependent on his opponent accepting the idea of objective morality --something Stephen weaselly turned his back on after realizing the logical bind he'll be putting himself in.

You're correct.

What's interesting is if person A (call him Bob?) doesn't hold to objective morality, then he can't have an objective definition of good. Bob would have to hold to objective morality, otherwise his definition of morality is like a preference of one candy-bar over another (or one vegetable over another if you don't eat sweets). If morality is preference, then Bob cannot have a problem with so-called evil actions because those actions are subjective and not binding on all individuals.

I might be stretching the thought too far, but if Bob doesn't hold to objective morality, then the evil god hypothesis would be meaningless right?

John said...

"I might be stretching the thought too far, but if Bob doesn't hold to objective morality, then the evil god hypothesis would be meaningless right?"

--Absolutely. I can imagine Sam Harris types though retorting with the tired, old and utterly useless 'well-being' canard.

Unknown said...

I just stumbled on this blog, and I have a question: why, on your view, should one believe that God exists, in the first place?

bossmanham said...

Actually that's discussed quite frequently here.

Here is a list of twenty arguments, briefly defended, that support the proposition that God exists; for starters.

Lloyd said...

Interesting post. I noticed that you have been getting comments from "TruthOverfaith". This person, whoever he/she is, has also invaded my blog with comments that reflect their hatred towards my Holy God and also my Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.

I have replied to their email several times attempting to correct their sinful behavior, but this does no good. My prayers go out to this lost and hurting soul.

I really enjoy reading your post and comments. Keep up the faith. God's blessings, Lloyd

Lloyd said...

I just dropped in to thank you for being a follower of my blog. I want to personally let you know how much I enjoy reading the posts on your blog. Have a blessed Thanksgiving Day with your family. God bless, Lloyd