Glenn Peoples and Stephen Law to Discuss the “Evil God” challenge on Unbelievable Radio

Next week it will be my pleasure to have my third discussion on the Unbelievable radio show with host Justin Brierley. My partner in conversation will be Stephen Law, who teaches philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London.

Although the only public comments I have made about Stephen at this blog have been for the sake of disagreeing with him, the fact is that I like reading what he has to say – however mistaken I might think he is. Yes he has creativity and style, something lacked by plenty of  academics, but unlike other vocal critics of religion like P Z Meyers, Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris, Stephen Law usually knows what he’s talking about as far as philosophy goes (I say usually because it does seem to me that philosophy of religion is not his strength, and this is the subject area of his “Evil-God Challenge.”). Law’s “Evil-God Challenge” should be read by anyone who wants to philosophically defend the Christian faith. That being said, the central point of the article, that theistic arguments are just as compatible with a malevolent deity as they are with the God of Christianity, is false. I think first year students in philosophy of religion who want to defend the Christian faith should – before being allowed to progress to the second year – be able to explain why the evil God challenge fails. If they’re not sure how they would do it, they should make sure they listen to the discussion on Unbelievable!

Glenn Peoples

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137 thoughts on “Glenn Peoples and Stephen Law to Discuss the “Evil God” challenge on Unbelievable Radio

  1. Cool! Can’t wait to hear it. Hopefully the increased exposure will help you land an academic job.

    Did you happen to see William Lane Craig’s response on his “Question of the Week” (#238)where someone asked him a follow-up to the “Evil God Hypothesis” which came up in his Stephen Law debate?

  2. Hi,

    I’m pleased that you’ll be debating Law on this subject and am looking forward to what you have to say regarding EGC. I would recommend checking out Law’s interaction with Feser and Rauser at their respective blogs as well as aforementioned post-debate comments from both Craig and Law.

  3. Well Matt sure stole your thunder there Glenn. I bet he’s right though. Nobody would have wanted to interview you unless he recommended you. It must be a bumpy ride on those coat tails of his! Ah well, at least you know someone famous!

  4. Awesome! Very excited for you!

    (Ask him lots of questions and make sure he answers them — hopefully you might even be able to persuade him!)

  5. One obvious question for me, coming off his debate with Craig, was – why does he reject the evil God hypothesis?

    (He seemed to assume that it was patently obvious that a Christian would *dismiss* the evil God hypothesis because of the good in the world; but to me that didn’t follow – particularly as he would then defend the evil God hypothesis *despite* the good in the world (eg trying to maximise the evil etc)).

  6. Looking forward to it, Glenn.

    As Oliver has said, checking out Law’s interactions with Feser and Rauser at their blogs would be worthwhile, I think.

    Congratulations!

  7. Actually Richardo, I told Justin that Glenn was writing on the evil god issue and had researched it. I also suggested that Tim Mcgrew was the person to talk to about Miracles. Glenn did not ride my coat tales anymore than Tim Mcgrew does if Justin talks to him.

    Glenn would probably do the same thing if he was asked about a topic he knew I was writing on and he was not.

  8. Ricardo… I assume you weren’t looking for an intelligent response with an obvious trolling attempt like that.

    Yeah Matt, in his last email to me about it Justin B said that you had told him that I was writing something about it. Thanks 🙂

    In reply to the many recommendations of things to read in this thread – thanks! I agree that Feser’s comments are very insightful on this, basically showing that Law has done what many have done, and commented on a religious outlook without really being adequately familiar with it. I will comment briefly on that in our discussion.

    However, it’s my view – and I’ll make a point of this – that a rebuttal is strongest where it concedes as much as possible and yet still manages to overthrow the argument. I will be arguing that even if 1) All the classical arguments for theism offer equal support for an Evil God and a Good God, 2) Stephen law could, somehow, come up with an as-yet unexplained way of overcoming the response that highlights the classical notion of badness as privation and of God as the greatest good by virtue of being the greatest being, the Evil-God challenge can still be put to rest via a moral argument for theism, and that Law’s attempts to defuse that argument are seriously inadequate.

  9. Actually I suspect that you don’t even need a moral argument for theism all you need is the claim that theism can explain the nature of moral obligations better than an evil God can. So all you need is the idea that divine command meta-ethics are robust and rather plausible. But of course a moral argument for theism makes the case a lot stronger.

  10. Yeah, I don’t have to show that Christian theism is the true explanation of morality, I just have to argue that Evil-god is an implausible explanation (as I shall), or just not as good as Christianity.

    The point about the moral argument is that Law thinks theistic arguments are just as compatible with an evil God as with a good God. The moral argument, I will argue, is not.

  11. Well, we’ve just finished recording now.

    Time certainly flies when you’ve got things to say! I know that both Stephen and I had other comments we would like to have made, but given the constraints of time I think we both got our main points across fairly clearly. It went really well!

    But as for material that couldn’t be included – I had some things to say about the way that Stephen’s paper/argument really doesn’t connect as a polemic against a classical view of God, greatness, being and goodness, but there just wasn’t anywhere to slot those comments. Similarly, the brief comments I had on historical apologetics and how Stephen addresses these in his article I just had to leave out. But as for what I did get to say, I was happy with how the conversation went.

    Probably the most memorable moment for me was when – after I had sketched a very simple moral argument for a good God, Stephen kept saying that the first premise (as he described it – unless there were a God there couldn’t be any moral facts) was “dodgy,” so I asked him why he didn’t just respond to that premise and show why it’s wrong. His reply, to my amazement, was that he didn’t have to. Many philosophers didn’t accept it! He did point out during the discussion, however, that he wasn’t employing an argument from authority or consensus. So that can’t have been what was going on.

    Keep an eye on the Unbelievable podcast for this episode to come out, and I’ll also give a shout out when it’s available. I hope you enjoy it!

  12. Hi Glenn

    Glad you enjoyed out exchange. So did I!

    Re your last comment re. the “dodgy” first premise of the moral argument, my point was that even if to was true, you *still* had no decent response to the evidential problem of evil. Hence I didn’t have to waste my time showing it was dodgy.

    As to my pointing out the vast majority of philosophers reject that premise – including even some leading Christian ones, such as Richard Swinburne – my point was that it’s a premise that’s going to require some pretty damn good support. Listeners should not go with the impression it’s widely accepted. Craig, for example, is very good at generating the misleading impression that the premise is widely accepted even by many atheist philosophers (however, you were not attempting to create such an impression). However, as I said, even if that premise were true you still had no decent response to the evidential problem of evil as I formulated it, for the reasons I gave in the show.

    Hope it’s at least now clear what my point was. Though I’m sure you won’t agree!

    best

    Stephen

  13. >But as for material that couldn’t be included – I had some things to say about the way that Stephen’s paper/argument really doesn’t connect as a polemic against a classical view of God, greatness, being and goodness, but there just wasn’t anywhere to slot those comments.

    Something Dr. Feser & those of us who are his Fanboz tried to point out in vain. Prof Law seems closed to the idea his EGC doesn’t apply across the spectrum of Theism.

    To a Thomist the EGC is like giving your devastating refutation of Young Earth Creationism to a room filled with convinced Theistic Evolutionists.

    The EGC is the ultimate non-starter for the Thomist and other Classical Theists. It might give the Theistic Personalist God of Swimburne headaches but I am a strong Atheist in regards to the existence of any being that resembles Swimburne’s “god”. But I believe in the God of the Bible, of Augustine, Aquinas, the Catholic church and I am content.

    (No offense to Swimburne but I can’t accept his view of God. God save him thought & Prof Law and you too Glen)

    God Bless.

  14. Stephen – I’m not shocked to find us not agreeing. 🙂 Fortunately, you’re a person who it’s actually enjoyable to disagree with. My admiration for your style and clarity wasn’t being feigned in the least.

    Of course whether or not the moral argument is a good counter to the problem of evil depends crucially on just how dodgy that premise is, hence it’s important that it’s not just called dodgy, but shown to be so.

    What’s more – and I took this to be our starting point – We had already agreed (just for argument’s sake) that the Christian theist does indeed have a theodicy for the problem of evil, and the evil-God worshipper does indeed have a theodicy for the problem of good, and hence were evenly matched. So we had agreed that the so-called “mountain” of evidence that you still wanted to appeal to had been addressed.

    If you wanted to show that no in fact they don’t have a decent theodicy after all, then you’d need to go back, retract our agreement for argument’s sake, and show that the traditional theodicies are all ineffective. It may have simply been due to a lack of time, but that certainly didn’t happen in the discussion, and would take a bit of work.

    So it certainly does matter that no argument was even suggested for why the main premise of the moral argument should be viewed as “dodgy” = other than an appeal to the fact that quite a few philosophers don’t believe it.

  15. Glenn you just said: “What’s more – and I took this to be our starting point – We had already agreed (just for argument’s sake) that the Christian theist does indeed have a theodicy for the problem of evil, and the evil-God worshipper does indeed have a theodicy for the problem of good, and hence were evenly matched.”

    That was indeed an agreed starting point. But, in the very next sentence, you then conclude:

    “So we had agreed that the so-called “mountain” of evidence that you still wanted to appeal to had been addressed.”

    No, we didn’t agree that at all.

    Read what you said above carefully. I did indeed agree that the good and evil god hypotheses were evenly matched before we considered the moral argument. Was I then conceding that the “mountain” of evidence against each hypothesis had been addressed? No. Obviously not.

    One of the main points of the EGC, made pretty clearly in every version I’ve published, is that we consider the EG hypothesis to be pretty conclusively empirically falsified by the vast quantities of good we see around us, notwithstanding the mirror theodicies then offered as attempts to explain that evidence away. Appeals to an afterlife, a vale of soul-destruction, free-will, etc. are typically shrugged off as hopelessly ad hoc and indeed rather comical attempts to explain away all the good stuff. People generally recognize that such moves are nowhere near good enough to deal with the problem of good, which remains devastating.

    In “The Evil God Challenge” I bring this out with a scales analogy on page 7:

    QUOTE“Now most of us, theists included, consider the evil-god hypothesis highly unreasonable. We suppose that there is little of any substance to place on the left-hand side of the scale, and that, when the boulder that is the problem of good is added, the scale lurches violently to the right, notwithstanding the effects of any reverse-theodicy helium balloons we might then try to attach. Yet adherents of the good-god hypothesis typically suppose the good-god scale far more evenly balanced. To believe in a good god, they think, is not like believing in fairies, Santa or, indeed, an evil god. When this scale is properly loaded and the pointer observed, they say, we find it points to ‘not unreasonable’ or even ‘quite reasonable’.

    In short, those who embrace the good-god hypothesis typically reject the symmetry thesis. The challenge I am presenting to those who believe in the god of classical monotheism, then, is to explain why, if belief in an evil god is highly unreasonable, should we consider belief in a good god significantly more reasonable?

    We might call this the evil-god challenge.”END OF QUOTE

    In short, it turns out that you have just assumed that the theodicies are effective in BOTH cases, when one of the main points of the evil god challenge is that they’re NOT effective in the evil god case. The evil god hypothesis remains absurd on the basis of the available empirical evidence, notwithstanding consideration of the reverse theodicies. The reverse theodices are, as they stand, pretty hopeless at rescuing the evil god hypothesis from empirical absurdity.

    Of course, you may say that the theodicies do work well in both cases, raising both hypotheses to the status of “not unreasonable”, say. But this flies in the face of the thought that the evil god challenge is absurd on the basis of the empirical evidence notwithstanding the reverse theodicies. Moreoever, it leaves it mysterious why the evil god challenge should indeed be considered downright absurd. Given what you’ve said thus far, it isn’t absurd! It’s just not as well supported as the good god hypothesis (assuming your moral argument is good).

    But then, supposing the evil god hypothesis is indeed absurd on the basis of the empirical evidence, notwithstanding the reverse theodicies, it follows that your moral argument is useless, for the reason I explained. It’s useless whether or not the premise that if there’s no god there are no moral facts is true. Hence I did not need to refute that premise.

  16. What I claimed that we agreed to – for arguments sake, is:

    “What’s more – and I took this to be our starting point – We had already agreed (just for argument’s sake) that the Christian theist does indeed have a theodicy for the problem of evil, and the evil-God worshipper does indeed have a theodicy for the problem of good, and hence were evenly matched.”

    At no point was there a suggestion from you that really, they have no good theodicy at all. And At no point – as far as I can tell – have you formulated the argument that it’s obviously absurd for the evil-God believer to use a reverse theodicy. If they have working theodicies and they’re evenly matched, then what we have is the state of affairs where the problem of evil or the reverse problem of God are even since they are both subject to the same response, the mountain of evidence on each side is addressed, and we’re left to move on and consider other types of argument. Now personally, I think the theodicies aren’t evenly matched, just because I think good is more apparent and pervasive than evil. I do not agree that the evidence favours an evil God as much as a good God. But I set that aside. For argument’s sake I conceded the symmetry.

    You’re really just banking on the fact that of course I will think that the evil-god theodicy for the problem of evil is absurd. But this is precisely what I didn’t say. Again, for arguments sake, I conceded the symmetry, and granted that they both had a working theodicy.

    Perhaps this is a point where your argument could be extended and strengthened. You would really need to explain some reasons why a Christian theist should reject the Evil-god theodicy as just absurd and not to be taken seriously. Only if that could be done would I have to re-think whether or not I should just concede the symmetry there. But of course, at this point you would run the risk of providing reasons for favouring Christian theodicies over evil-god theodicies.

    Of course, you may say that the theodicies do work well in both cases, raising both hypotheses to the status of “not unreasonable”, say. But this flies in the face of the thought that the evil god challenge is absurd on the basis of the empirical evidence notwithstanding the reverse theodicies. Moreoever, it leaves it mysterious why the evil god challenge should indeed be considered downright absurd. Given what you’ve said thus far, it isn’t absurd! It’s just not as well supported as the good god hypothesis (assuming your moral argument is good).

    Exactly! Well actually, this is largely true. I think there’s a level where one hypothesis becomes so much more plausible than another that it would be “absurd” to endorse the less well supported hypothesis, but in principle what you say here is precisely why I say you can’t keep appealing to the so-called “mountain” of empirical evidence. I never suggested (at least, not in our discussion) that I agreed that the evil-god theodicy was absurd, or that the problem of good rendered the Evil-God theory absurd. I stated that if we were to grant that the support for a good or an evil God based on the empirical evidence was evenly matched, then actually the problems of good and evil do not show either view to be absurd, because of the theodicies.

    This is where the moral argument comes into play, asking whether or not there might be other reasons to consider that God is good. Historical apologetics comes into play here too, but we didn’t get into that. So forget the “mountain” of evidence. We have moved past that, granted that classical theists and evil God theists have their ways of addressing the problem of evil or good and setting the mountain aside, and started asking what other arguments might be relevant.

    Besides, as I sought to make clear in my last comment, even if were lived in a different world where I did grant that the Evil God theodicy is ridiculous and the thesis absurd, and conceded that there’s a lot of evidence against both – that certainly doesn’t make the crucial premise in a moral argument worthless. After all, if the moral argument is as plausible as I think it is, then this would actually give us grounds for thinking that really there must be an explanation for the mountain of evidence from suffering after all. So it’s a premise that can’t simply be written off as “dodgy” or ignored.

  17. Don’t know whether this is of interest but I had a further thought so far as explaining what I’m getting at. Suppose purely for the sake of argument that it could be established that if there’s no evil god, then there are no moral facts. Would it then be reasonable to believe in an evil god?

    Surely not.

    Why not? Because the evil God hypothesis, considered independently of the claim: if there’s no evil god then there are no moral facts, is clearly downright absurd. It’s absurd on empirical grounds (notwithstanding the reverse theodicies). So establishing the truth of that claim would not establish that belief in an evil god is reasonable after all. Rather it would make it reasonable for us to abandon our belief in moral facts – a belief which in any case already looks somewhat suspect because there’s a plausible evolutionary explanation for why we would hold this belief even if it were false.

    Ditto the good god hypothesis. This is why your moral argument, even with an established first premise (and, as I say, the consensus is it’s a very dodgy premise), is inadequate as a response to the evidential problem of evil. It might raise the probability of a good god with respect to an evil god a little bit. But of course that’s not nearly good enough!

  18. Suppose purely for the sake of argument that it could be established that if there’s no evil god, then there are no moral facts. Would it then be reasonable to believe in an evil god?

    Well that’s actually not a mirror image of the argument I used, Stephen. What I said is that if there’s no God at all, there are no moral facts. That this God is good rather than malevolent is something inferred from what we discover those facts to be like.

    (Actually that’s not all true – there are other serious arguments that God cannot fail to be good, a la the arguments of classical theism that Feser brought to your attention. But here I’ve set those aside for the sake of saying that even if you’re let off that hook, your argument would falter for other reasons.)

    At some point I’d be interested in seeing some arguments for why the premise should be considered “dodgy.” It’s definitely not a matter of consensus, since as far as I can tell the majority of theistic philosophers do accept it, but admittedly only a handful of atheist philosophers do. So consensus isn’t what we have. But of course more importantly, I’d like to see the argument. That’s always going to be the sticking point, I think.

    Just imagine if I had called the Evil-God challenge merely “dodgy,” and noted that the majority of philosophers don’t embrace it!

  19. Ah right. You really do want to take that route. You want to say that there’s no good evidence against an evil god provided by observation of the world around us. For what evidence there might *appear* to be against the thought that the world has sch an all-evil, all-powerful creator (and pretty much everyone starts of acknowledging that there *appears* to be a very great deal) is successfully neutralized by the suggestion that there’s an after life of unremitting horror, that this may be a vale of soul-destruction, that evil god gave us free will to allow for moral evils which then outweigh the goods, etc?

    So there really is no good empirical evidence against an evil god!

    Nor presumably, is there good empirical evidence against any kind of god hypothesis as it’s always possible to cook up various explanations for whatever evidence we might seem to have against the god hypothesis in question by appealing to afterlives, god’s mysterious ways, etc. etc.

  20. Glenn, what I’m interested in, and what I think Stephen pressed WLC for in their debate, is a reason to accept the first premise of the moral argument. The problem I have with the moral argument is that in seems like all the hard philosophical work is in demonstrating the truth of the first premise. But it’s this hard work which is either skipped, or not clearly laid out. What I’d like to see is a premise-by-premise argument for the truth of the first premise. What does such an argument look like?

  21. I’ll be interested to hear this dialogue between the two of you. Judging by Stephen’s paper, his debate with Craig, and what I’ve seen in the comment section here, Stephen seems to be pretty much on target (IMO). Glenn has said some interesting things here. For example:

    “What I said is that if there’s no God at all, there are no moral facts. That this God is good rather than malevolent is something inferred from what we discover those facts to be like.”

    This is rather peculiar. It’s not clear to me what Glenn’s concept of God is, but it apparently doesn’t include the traditional attribute of perfect goodness (or even just goodness!). Now, I don’t have much of a quarrel with that, since I think we’re free to define our terms how we want in the context of these debates/conversations. But what’s interesting is that Glenn takes himself to have a moral argument for the existence of God (understood broadly, in a morally neutral sense). I’ll be very interested to see this argument.

  22. Has anybody here seen Shutter Island? I found it fairly disappointing, but there’s an interesting speech toward the end, delivered by good ol’ Ted Levine. He goes on about how God loves violence, and how obvious this is based on the evidence available to the keen observer. Of course, he also seems to think that violence is a good thing. I’m throwing this out there as an example of a real hurdle I have in getting Dr. Law’s argument. In the case of Levine’s character, he believes that God loves things that most of us would consider morally bothersome. This is not because he thinks God is evil, however, but because he thinks that everybody else doesn’t really get what a good thing violence is (and he seems to just value violence as an end). Levine’s character believes that God is supremely good, and that he has made the world a violent place out of that goodness, not that God is evil and that people who want to be good are on the wrong side of things or something like that. It just seems natural to give ‘goodness’ some ontological privilege over evil, even if one is very confused as to what good is. I don’t see how an evil god can be construed as anything other than a sort of lesser being, which may just as well be responsible for all the things around us but is otherwise absurd. Why does the theist need to be bothered? I understand we’re not meant to take an evil god as actually being a possibility, but then where is the challenge? That is, if we reject the symmetry thesis, why should we be bothered? Or, perhaps better, why think that there should be symmetry between the case against an evil god (which is essentially a demi-god or some similar being) and God (who would be the ground of being, or understood as having existence on a different order)? It just comes off like a case of arguing against apples by appealing to oranges to me.

  23. Landon: “It’s not clear to me what Glenn’s concept of God is, but it apparently doesn’t include the traditional attribute of perfect goodness (or even just goodness!).”

    Why would you say that? What you quoted me as saying is that at least one of the ways we know that God is good (there I go – God is good) is by reflecting on the moral facts, which are reflections of God’s character.

    How could I say this if I didn’t think God is good?

  24. Glenn,

    I have no doubt that you think God is good. Certainly you do. But there’s a difference between merely attributing that property to God and building it into the concept of God. For example, (supposing God exists) we can say that he has certain contingent properties–e.g. the property of being the creator of Glenn Peoples. But it’s not part of the concept of God that he is the creator of Glenn Peoples. If it were part of the concept of God, it would seem to be an essential property that he has. But God presumably exists in worlds in which he refrains from creating you, and therefore lacks the property of being your creator.

    Now, what you seem to say in the passage I quoted was that you have a moral argument for the existence of God–but not necessarily a good God. The additional considerations of what the moral facts are like help to tip us off that the God that exists happens to be good. But this suggests to me that you’re willing to say that if the moral facts had been different, the argument you provide would still prove that God exists, even though he wouldn’t be a good God. If I’ve got you right about this, then it seems to me that you’re willing to countenance the possibility that God needn’t be a good being. But traditional theists will generally say things like the following: If any being is morally imperfect, then it (by definition) cannot be God. In other words, moral perfection is one of the divine attributes built into the concept of God, such that if that property is not instantiated, then God does not exist. Craig, for example, would say this.

    So my point was just that your claim seems to be incompatible with the way theists generally understand the concept of God. As I said, I have no quarrel with this way of talking; it was just interesting to see you make that claim. But perhaps I’ve misinterpreted your statement? In that case, I’d wonder what you meant when you wrote:

    “What I said is that if there’s no God at all, there are no moral facts. That this God is good rather than malevolent is something inferred from what we discover those facts to be like.”

  25. Landon: Saying that the moral facts show God to be good does not entail that things could have been such that the moral facts show God to be bad. I see no way of getting from one to the other. True enough, saying that the nature of the moral facts tell us that God is good is not the same as saying that things could not be otherwise. But neither does it deny this.

    In fact, saying that we can infer God’s goodness from the nature of the moral facts is perfectly compatible with the view that God is the exemplar of all goodness, who gives goodness to all other things that are good. After all, the nature of many causes may be inferred by studying their effects (and that’s what I am proposing when I talk about inferring God’s goodness from the nature of the moral facts).

    Obviously in a radio discussion – which to be fair to me – you haven’t heard – much has to be left out. I made a point of saying that I was conceding much merely for the sake of argument. For example the classical concept of badness as non-being and the greatest being as thereby perfectly good (this is the aspect of God as necessarily good that you refer to) – I skipped past that issue entirely. I will say something about it in the podcast episode.

  26. I’m interested in Law’s claim that most theistic philosophers don’t accept the first premise of the moral argument.

    First, Swinburne in his earlier edition of the existence of God rejected moral arguments, but in the preface of his latter edition said he had considerable more sympathy for them and now defends a version from moral knowledge.

    Second, as I note in my forthcoming article. Tooley Plantinga and the Deontological Argument from evil. ( forthcoming in Philosophia Christi) In fact quite a few contemporary theistic philosophers claim that moral obligations depend on God. Those who have defended it include, Robert Adams, John Hare, William Alston, William Lane Craig, Stephen C Evans, Philip Quinn, Edward Wierenga, Janine Marie Idziak, William Wainwright, William Mann, Thomas Carson and more recently Alvin Plantinga, David Baggett, and Jerry Wall’s. These people are not obscure, marginal representatives of theism; these names include some of the leading defenders of theism in the literature today. Moreover, people like Nicholas Wolterstorff, Mark Linville and Loius Pojman have offered arguments that certain features of morality other than obligations depend on God.

    So I am not sure Law’s can dismiss this by appealing to Swinburne.

  27. Matt – in the radio discussion Law did grant that the people who he had in mind who didn’t accept the moral argument were actually atheists. Swinburne was the one theist he cited.

    Little wonder – atheists don’t grant any of the arguments for theism to be sound!

  28. Speaking of Swinburne, I would be very interested to hear you do a podcast comparing and contrasting your view on the moral argument to Swinburne’s! I would have thought that the moral argument was one of the best one’s we theist’s had going, but Swinburne disagrees obviously! I think this needs some attention Glenn 🙂

  29. Interesting exchange (between Stephen and Glenn) and I can’t wait to hear the show.

    Let me see if I can boil this down to its basics: Glenn agrees with Craig that there is no way that we can discern from observations in this world as to whether god is all-evil, all-good or somewhere in between. Glenn relies on the existence of objective moral facts as the only perceptual evidence of the existence of his all loving god, aside from direct revelation. In addition, he relies on scripture, faith and the fact that he defines his god as all-loving. Have I missed anything?

  30. TAM – well, the moral argument was the only argument used in this discussion. As I mentioned – in a framework like a short radio talk obviously we can’t say everything we might like to. Also due to limitations of time I explicitly conceded certain claims just for the sake of argument. For example I just conceded the evenness of the problem of good and the problem of evil. The fact is that I don’t think the issue is symmetrical at all, but I was willing to treat it as such so that we could move on to the moral argument. I was also willing to forgo discussion of the fact that Law’s argument rides roughshod over the classical conception of God, goodness, badness, greatness and being (I mentioned this earlier). I also noted that for the sake of the short discussion I stayed away from historical apologetics altogether. It’s common in discussions where time is limited to simply not discuss issues – even though they are important – for the sake of being able to say a bit more about others.

    I can only assume, therefore, that it is merely for rhetorical purposes that you say I rely only on the moral argument. No – I only used the moral argument in this discussion, and I think it’s a significant argument that certainly does the job (which is why I was happy to use it), but it’s not the only relevant argument. It’s also relevant that Stephen was unable to actually come up with any line of rebuttal to the argument, assuming instead that all the theodicies for the problem of evil must be faulty (without ever saying why), and blowing off the moral argument as merely unpopular.

    Also – I can’t tell where you got the idea of me “defining” God as all loving, because I never said anything about that. That’s not part of the definition of God. I think God is good and loving, but the matter of defining God that way has not been mentioned by me.

    So yeah, you missed something. 🙂

  31. I can’t tell where you got the idea of me “defining” God as all loving …

    Well, to begin with, my understanding is that Law was taking aim at omnibenevolence because that is traditionally seen as an essential attribute of the Christian god. Do you take issue with that attribute? I can certainly see why anyone who accepts a Calvinist notion of a god who creates reprobates who are preordained for eternal hellfire might take a pass on omnibenevolence.

    I read your “A New Euthyphro” as essentially defining goodness as god. You accept the proposition that: “an action is right if God commands it, and an action is wrong if God forbids it” (that’s what you wrote in the article). This is synonymous with “rightness is whatever God commands” and “rightness is defined by God”. Correct?

  32. I read your “A New Euthyphro” as essentially defining goodness as god. You accept the proposition that: “an action is right if God commands it, and an action is wrong if God forbids it” (that’s what you wrote in the article). This is synonymous with “rightness is whatever God commands” and “rightness is defined by God”. Correct?

    No, it’s not synonymous, and further I didn’t define goodness anywhere in that article, let alone defining it as God.

    It’s not synonymous because “an action is right if God commands it” is compatible with a range of different relationships between rightness and God: That rightness means being commanded by God; that the property of rightness is identical with the property of being commanded by God; that the state of being right is caused by being commanded by God; that being right is constituted by being commanded by God – you get the idea.

    What’s more, “right” doesn’t mean “loving,” so that connection seems to have popped out from nowhere as well. Remember that the comment of yours that I queried was where you had seen me define God as all loving (not as good), so it seems like a bunch of ideas are being mixed together here.

    But more to the point (this was the point of my previous comment, and I don’t want it to be lost beneath the above confusion of concepts), I trust that you do see that there were actually quite a few lines of reasoning that you missed in your previous comment, and my position is not nearly as dependent on things like “faith” as you suggested (and I have no idea what you mean by that, but I suspect the term was meant to conjure up caricatures of believers as not particularly rational). There are several cogent lines of reasoning that address the evil-god challenge, and the moral argument is one such line.

  33. Glenn,

    I’m sorry, but I still don’t understand. Stephen suggested a hypothetical scenario:

    “Suppose purely for the sake of argument that it could be established that if there’s no evil god, then there are no moral facts. Would it then be reasonable to believe in an evil god?”

    Your response to Stephen was to claim the following:

    “Well that’s actually not a mirror image of the argument I used, Stephen. What I said is that if there’s no God at all, there are no moral facts. That this God is good rather than malevolent is something inferred from what we discover those facts to be like.”

    Now, what would it take for Stephen’s hypothetical to be “a mirror image” of your argument? It seems that the mirror image of Stephen’s argument is this:

    “If there’s no maximally good God, then there are no moral facts.”

    (Note two things: (i) The rest of the argument is implicit, and (ii) I say “maximally good” because, I take it, Stephen meant to be talking about the Evil God from his paper, which is defined as maximally evil.)

    Now, since you claim that Stephen’s hypothetical was not a mirror image of your argument, evidently you don’t defend the premise that I just described. So whatever argument you do present must be different than that. Once again, here’s your response to Stephen so we can see the difference between the “mirror image” and your actual argument:

    “[I]f there’s no God at all, there are no moral facts. That this God is good rather than malevolent is something inferred from what we discover those facts to be like.”

    According to traditional theism, since God is by definition maximally good, we should interpret your first sentence as the following:

    “If there’s no (maximally good) God, there are no moral facts.”

    The reason we interpret it like this is because it’s just built into the concept of God that he is maximally good. (In that case, we can simply drop the “maximally good” because it’s already implicit. I’m including it for emphasis.) But now, if we interpret your argument like this, then it is a mirror image of Stephen’s hypothetical after all.

    Since you claim your argument wasn’t a mirror image, we have to understand your argument differently than we would if we were working in the framework of traditional theism. And you do tell us the difference in the very next sentence: “That this God is good rather than malevolent is something inferred from what we discover those facts to be like.”

    In other words, the goodness of the being (rather than malevolence) is not being built into the premise you’re using. You suggest that if there is no God “at all” (in general? broadly construed?), then there are no moral facts. You suggest that it is a separate question whether the being is good or malevolent. But then, clearly, you’re understanding the concept of God more broadly than traditional theism. This is because, evidently, you are not building maximal goodness into the concept.

    Nothing you have said in response to me clears up this confusion. I’d still like to know, if you maintain that I’m misunderstanding your view, what exactly you meant when you wrote that response to Stephen. The straightforward interpretation of what you wrote is what I have suggested.

  34. Matthew,

    The fact that Swinburne defends a version of the moral argument does not detract from the further fact that he takes the conditional premise of Craig’s moral argument (i.e. “If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist”) to be false. He is on record saying so. Stephen is therefore entirely correct to cite Swinburne as a Christian philosopher who sides against this version of the moral argument.

    As you note, a number of theistic philosophers do agree that moral obligations depend on God. So Stephen would be incorrect (evidently) to claim that, say, very few theistic philosophers would take that view. I’m not sure if Stephen did make such a claim. But even if he did, he doesn’t need to. All he needs to do is maintain that it is a controversial premise (as evidenced not only by the fact that one of the greatest Christian philosophers of the past fifty years rejects it, but also by the fact that it is widely rejected among philosophers more generally), and that the burden is on the theist to defend the premise of the argument. Citing the philosophers who disagree with the premise serves to emphasize the fact that Craig, Peoples, etc. have a burden of proof here. The premise is not going to be taken for granted.

    This is all Stephen needs to claim. If Glenn presents a strong case for the controversial conditional premise, great! Let’s see it.

  35. “According to traditional theism, since God is by definition maximally good, we should interpret your first sentence as the following:”

    This is where you go wrong. As I said, I was choosing to simply overlook (i.e. to concede for argument’s sake) the classical conceptions of goodness, greatness and being, thus forgoing what might be seen as the easy victory of saying that my position is true by definition. So you should interpret me as saying no more or less than what I actually did say: If there’s no God at all, then there are no moral facts.

    True – if you change this claim into a different claim, then you could change it into a mirror image of Stephen’s. But that’s not really important. The point is, without just saying from the start that we already know that God is good (since the whole discussion was about how we might infer that God is good and not nasty), that there could be moral facts at all – so say I – points to a creator and the nature of those facts gives us a way of knowing what the creator is like.

    Ergo the moral argument does not provide symmetrical support for a good god and an evil God.

    Now, if you’re expecting a discussion which consists of me providing a detailed defence of a moral argument, then your expectations won’t be met by this radio discussion. As I said on the show, what I offered as a very small part of this discussion was just a very brief thumbnail sketch of the moral argument – Just as I am sure Stephen will admit without hesitation that he never offered a substantial argument from evil, just a very short summary of what that argument is like.

    But nobody – I sincerely hope – would reject either of those arguments just because in this discussion they were only presented in summary form. However, Landon, I did do a somewhat more substantial presentation on the moral argument back in Episodes 9 and 10 of the podcast.

    Hopefully the confusion is, at very least, lessening for you. If not, well I think I’ll just disagree with you about the implications of my comments. That’s allowed. 🙂

  36. Maybe I’m naive but why is the intrinsic difference between good and evil not a viable argument? Good and evil are not just synergistic opposites. At its essence the good creates and the evil destroys.

    The gods of myth are more human than god and their goals are petty and self-centered. The goal of the machine god of the Matrix is perpetuation. The omnipotent good and just God of the Bible uses anthropomorphism to relate to time-bound humanity. But evil god must be anthropomorphic in order for his endless reign of pain and suffering to make sense.

    For evil god the only meaning behind the good is to simply contrast evil in order to increase fear and suffering with an end to perpetuate more fear and suffering. What purpose does evil god have for lessening humanity’s suffering in this life for the promise of everlasting suffering in the afterlife?

    It can be logically and rationally theorized that for finite humanity transitioning to the infinite some kind of process is necessary. But progressively learning the true meaning of suffering so that one can achieve a suffering perfection in order to fulfill the amusement of evil god is just non-sense. An illustration of the absurdity of evil god is a short story by outspoken atheist author Harlan Ellison, “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream.”

    The evil god proposition is a semantic trick. And even though the purpose behind it is to demonstrate the absurdity of the arguments for good, to simply re-word all the arguments for good with evil doesn’t work.

    Logically evil god must be some sort of sadomasochistic suffering demigod. For if evil god was the embodiment of evil than nothing would exist, for the ultimate goal of evil at the period of the uncreated state is already achieved!

  37. Glenn,

    You wrote: “I was choosing to simply overlook (i.e. to concede for argument’s sake) the classical conceptions of goodness, greatness and being, thus forgoing what might be seen as the easy victory of saying that my position is true by definition. So you should interpret me as saying no more or less than what I actually did say: If there’s no God at all, then there are no moral facts.”

    The problem is, I don’t know what you mean when you say that! In particular, I don’t know what you mean when you say “If there’s no God at all, then there are no moral facts.” To narrow down the source of the confusion, I don’t know what you mean by “God.” To take the view of traditional theism is to hold that God is essentially maximally good. If by “God” you don’t mean to be talking about the being posited by traditional theism, that’s fine, but that’s precisely what I originally claimed was curious about your statement.

    You wrote: “The point is, without just saying from the start that we already know that God is good (since the whole discussion was about how we might infer that God is good and not nasty), that there could be moral facts at all – so say I – points to a creator and the nature of those facts gives us a way of knowing what the creator is like.”

    This language once again confirms what I’ve been suspecting all along–that, for you at least, maximal goodness isn’t built into the concept of God. You might have another look at the Craig-Law debate, because as I recall one of the first points that Craig raised in his rebuttal was that it was incoherent to speak of God as being evil–since God is, by definition, maximally good. I take it that this is the view commonly accepted among theistic philosophers. Of course, that mere definition doesn’t settle the substantive metaphysical question of whether or not there’s an omnipotent, omniscient, maximally evil being (what Stephen calls “Evil God,” and others call “Anti-God” or “God*” or whatever). This was the question you and Stephen were debating, I take it. You were trying to show that it’s more reasonable to believe that there’s an omnipotent, omniscient, maximally good being than there is to believe that there’s an omnipotent, omniscient, maximally evil being. And the reason the former is more reasonable is because of the nature of moral facts.

    Craig, Plantinga, Swinburne, etc. would, I think, deny that the being under question (Stephen’s “Evil God”) would, even if it existed, be properly called “God.” You, apparently, would not deny that, because evidently it’s an open question for you whether God is good or evil. (I mean “open question” not in the sense that you haven’t made up your mind, but in the sense that it’s something up for debate–and the assessment of empirical evidence could lead us one way or the other.)

    You can of course just disagree with me about the implications of your comments, but I think the evidence is beginning to mount at this point, given that even this comment of yours indicates what I’ve been saying all along.

    Lastly, I’m very much interested in seeing a formal presentation of this moral argument if you ever put one together. I might check out your podcast at some point, but presumably you’ve got plans to work it into a paper or something eventually? (Or has this already been done? I know that Craig’s moral argument, bad as it may be, is not the same as yours.) Part of what makes me interested in your moral argument is that I can’t see how you can possibly substantiate the conditional premise, especially given your peculiarly non-traditional concept of God. I’m thinking, nevertheless, that one of the same problems that plagues Craig’s argument is going to apply equally well to yours. But I’ll withhold judgment on all that until I see what you’ve got to say.

  38. Hey Glenn,
    Have you seen Stephen’s response to the EAAN in the latest edition of Analysis? It’s available on his blog. He proposes to get around it by supposing that there are “conceptual constraints” which make true beliefs more valuable to evolutionary progress. I’m still not sure that the “conceptual constraints” get you beyond more functional to more likely to be true, but it’s an interesting response to the EAAN. Do you have any thoughts on it (or are you planning a post in the future)?

  39. Hi G K E – I hadn’t seen that. But it’s ironic that Stephen should criticise the EAAN, given that in our discussion he appeals directly to the sort of scepticism about our belief forming structures that Plantinga’s argument is driven by. In my next blog entry I’ll comment briefly on why I think Plantinga and Law are (probably) wrong, for the same reason.

  40. “The problem is, I don’t know what you mean when you say that!”

    Sorry Landon.

    “This language once again confirms what I’ve been suspecting all along–that, for you at least, maximal goodness isn’t built into the concept of God.”

    You shouldn’t think that. Remember that I said I was choosing to simpl;y skip over and concede the whole issue of whether or not maximal greatness and hence goodness is part of what it means to be God. Recall that in my last reply to you I tried to explain that I did this – at least partly – to avoid that charge that I was seeking an easy victory by just saying “Of course God’s not bad, because God means perfectly good!”

    Given that I told you explicitly that I was just conceding this for argument’s sake, I’m a little bothered by the fact that you now seem to think that you’ve discovered that you were right all along in thinking that I don’t actually think that maximal greatness implies perfect goodness (i.e. that goodness is part of God’s very nature as God). I tried – I told you this was only a concession for argument’s sake. If you really won’t take me at my word on this, then I don’t know what else I should or could say to you. But I can’t fathom why you don’t believe me.

  41. It may be true that the arguments of natural theology for God’s existence can be flipped to permit an evil God. However, the historical arguments cannot, in my opinion. I will consider them in three parts: 1) the OT’s record of future prophecies regarding the life and mission of the Messiah, 2) the person of Jesus, and 3) the future fulfillment of the remaining prophecies after Jesus returns.

    1) The OT has many specific references to characteristics the Messiah must have, which make it coincidental in the extreme for them all to be fulfilled in any one person. For example, he would be of the tribe of Judah, a prophet like Moses to whom the people must give an account, a king, of the line of David, born in Bethlehem, born of a virgin, born a precise number of years Persian decree to rebuild Jerusalem, that he would die for the sins of the people, that he would live in Galilee and in Nazareth, that he would die by crucifixion, on Passover, that he would inaugurate a new covenant of the spirit, that he would be a light to the nations, and many others – some say around 300. Now, granted, taken individually, it’s difficult to say in every case that they must refer to Jesus. However, in many cases he is the only possible candidate, and their cumulative weight to a discerning mind is, I believe, overwhelming. One might even compare the odds of any person fulfilling even the major ones as rivaling the improbabilities of the fine-tuning of the constants of physics to permit intelligent life, or the accidental arrangement of atoms to form DNA. The nature of the person described by the Old Testament prophecies is unquestionably good, not evil. The people of Israel looked forward to his coming – they did not dread it. He was a savior, redeemer, liberator. There is no set of prophecies anywhere else in history that I know of that relate to an evil one who will come, and which have been fulfilled to the same extent in a living person, as the prophecies of Jesus the Messiah.

    2). Jesus life was unquestionably good. He gave sight to the blind, caused the lame to walk, freed those who were demon-possessed, fed the hungry, calmed the storms, raised Lazarus from the dead, and taught people the meaning of life and how to be in right relationship to God and others. Although he had done nothing wrong, he willingly suffered a criminal’s death to make a way for all of mankind to be reconciled to God, when they were helpless to do so on their own. He validated all his actions and teachings when God raised him from the dead to inhabit a new, immortal body. There is no counterpart to this in the evil God hypothesis.

    3) The future events to take place when Jesus returns. Due to Jesus’ impeccable credentials, as the one who fulfilled detailed prophecies recorded 400 – 1200 years before his birth; and given his record of accomplishing so much good and not any evil during his life, then it’s quite reasonable, even compelling, to believe that he will fulfill the remaining prophecies about the Messiah in the Bible. And, you guessed it – those prophecies are about him doing good, not evil. He will bring the Jewish people back to their own land to dwell in safety, to recognize him as their Messiah, and to believe in him. He will defeat all the genocidal and oppressive dictators of the world, and all those who do evil, bringing about world peace under his rule. He will recreate the natural order – the lion will lay down by the lamb, the child will play by the viper’s den, and no creature will hurt or destroy another creature. He will raise up the dead and judge them in righteousness, righting all the wrongs that were done under the old order. He will give eternal life and rewards to those who loved him, and banish those who hated or dismissed him.

    Once these things have all taken place, all of the atheist objections will be revealed as erroneous, short-sighted, and misguided, whether they relate to God’s existence, the truth of Christianity, or the problem of evil. Once this happens, no one will believe the evil God hypothesis.

  42. Ari – I think you’re quite right that historical apologetics (setting the details of those arguments aside) certainly warrants attention in making a case that God is good and not bad/evil/malicious.

    In my next podcast episode I will be saying some things about the evil god challenge, and historical arguments for Christianity will certainly get a mention.

  43. Landon

    As you note, a number of theistic philosophers do agree that moral obligations depend on God. So Stephen would be incorrect (evidently) to claim that, say, very few theistic philosophers would take that view. I’m not sure if Stephen did make such a claim.

    Stephen said “Take, for example, the Christian philosopher Professor Richard Swinburne of Oxford University. Swinburne says, “I cannot see any force in an argument to the existence of God from the existence of morality.”

    So Professor Craig is putting up against a mountain of evidence against what he believes an argument that even one of the world’s leading Christian philosophers finds utterly unconvincing.”
    Here he gives the impression that the case for Craig’s conditional is so bad that even leading Christian thinkers reject it. In fact many of the most important leading Christian thinkers accept it. Moreover Swinburne rejects it because he departs from the standard position that God exists necessarily and instead believes Gods existence is contingent. So Swinburne is in fact not representative here.

    But even if he did, he doesn’t need to. All he needs to do is maintain that it is a controversial premise (as evidenced not only by the fact that one of the greatest Christian philosophers of the past fifty years rejects it, but also by the fact that it is widely rejected among philosophers more generally), and that the burden is on the theist to defend the premise of the argument.

    This seems to me a bad argument, it assumes that if a premise is controversial then the burden of proof is on the person who makes it. This creates an obvious problem. Take the claim

    1. Moral obligations can exist independently of God.

    This is also a controversial claim, many theists and also many error theoriest also many non cognitivists reject it. So by your reasoning those who affirm it have a burden of proof.

    Similarly just as one can cite Swinburne one of the greatest Christian philosophers of the last 50 years one can also cite Mackie one of the greatest athiest philosophers of the last 50 years as rejecting 1. So this argument cuts both ways.

    Moreover, if the burden of proof is on the person who makes a controversial claim skepticism about pretty much every substantive philosophical claim looms, because to be justified in believing them you would have to appeal to premises which are not controversial and hence accepted by every one
    No position is supported by arguments of this level of proof.

    Citing the philosophers who disagree with the premise serves to emphasize the fact that Craig, Peoples, etc. have a burden of proof here. The premise is not going to be taken for granted.

    See above, Craig can also cite philosophers who disagree with 1 above which would mean the burden of proof is on you to show 1 is true.

    This is all Stephen needs to claim. If Glenn presents a strong case for the controversial conditional premise, great! Let’s see it.

    Great, now take the claim

    2. A divine command theory is false

    I can cite philosophers who disagree with this claim, so its controversial hence you cannot take it for granted. All I need to claim then is that this view is controversial and now you need to present a strong case for this premise, lets see it.

    Moreover your case must be based on premises which are not in anyway controversial otherwise I can simply point out they are controversial meaning the burden of proof is on you to show it.

    So by parity of argument I can make Craig’s conditional the default one.

  44. Matt,

    You did not quote Law as saying that very few theistic philosophers take Craig’s view. What he said was that even Richard Swinburne, arguably the greatest Christian philosopher of the past fifty years (in competition with Plantinga) rejects Craig’s argument. I was leaving it an open question whether Law said elsewhere that most theistic philosophers side with Swinburne. Note also that there’s a difference between theistic philosophers rejecting the conditional statement, and theistic philosophers rejecting Craig’s case for the conditional statement. For all I know, it may be the case that most Christian philosophers would accept the conditional statement, but reject Craig’s case for it. But your point is well-taken that Swinburne’s motivation for rejecting the conditional derives from a view he holds which is widely rejected among other Christian philosophers.

    Everything else you say in your comment is unfortunately seriously misguided, I’m afraid. I claimed that the theist who is putting forward the moral argument for the existence of God has the burden of proof regarding the controversial conditional premise (“If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist”). This is made ever more apparent by the fact that Swinburne (a great Christian philosopher) rejects the premise, along with a great number of other contemporary philosophers.

    Your response is to claim that this commits us to the following (allegedly problematic) principle: “if a premise is controversial then the burden of proof is on the person who makes it.” (I would have worded the principle a bit differently: “…is on the person who puts forward the argument with that premise.”)

    Now I’m having a hard time figuring out precisely why this is supposed to be a problematic principle. It seems straightforwardly obvious to me that, in a debate, if my opponent puts forward an argument for the existence of God, he or she has the burden of supporting the premises of that argument. I would have thought this was wholly uncontroversial. It has nothing to do with the burden of proof being unfairly put on the theist’s shoulders. It has everything to do with the burden of proof being put on the shoulders of the person who is making the argument. So, if the atheist puts forward an argument for the non-existence of God, it’s not the theist’s burden to show that the premises are false; rather, it’s the atheist’s burden to show that the premises are true.

    (If you disagree with that, then I want to debate the existence of God with you. I’ll put forward seventy five arguments for the non-existence of God, and leave it up to you to show that each argument has at least one false premise!)

    Now, here’s why you think the principle is a bad one. You write:

    “Take the claim

    1. Moral obligations can exist independently of God.

    This is also a controversial claim, many theists and also many error theoriest also many non cognitivists reject it. So by your reasoning those who affirm it have a burden of proof.”

    Yes indeed! I don’t see anything wrong with that. If I put forward an argument in a debate with that as one of my premises, then I think I do have the burden of supporting that statement. This is made more apparent by the fact that Mackie (a great philosopher) rejects that statement, as do a number of other good philosophers. The premise shouldn’t just be taken for granted. Again, I don’t see what the problem is here.

    You write: “Moreover, if the burden of proof is on the person who makes a controversial claim skepticism about pretty much every substantive philosophical claim looms, because to be justified in believing them you would have to appeal to premises which are not controversial and hence accepted by every one. No position is supported by arguments of this level of proof.

    Here the worry seems to be that if people have the burden of supporting the premises of their arguments, then skepticism will result. But what exactly are our alternatives? It seems that either people have the burden of supporting the premises of their own arguments, or they don’t. If they do, then the point of my previous comment seems correct. (And it’s not clear to me why we should think that skepticism would result. We can discuss that further if you like.) If they don’t, then arguing for one’s own position on a philosophical topic becomes too easy–one merely has to develop a logically valid (or strong) argument. Tell me, out of all of the peer-reviewed philosophy you’ve ever read, how often is there an indication that one doesn’t have the burden of supporting the premises of their own arguments?

    You write: “Craig can also cite philosophers who disagree with 1 above which would mean the burden of proof is on you to show 1 is true.”

    Yes, if that’s a premise in one of my arguments, then you’re certainly correct! But I have no burden of proof on the matter if my arguments don’t hang on (1) being true. Suppose I’m debating Craig, and (1) is never even on the table until his rebuttal. In his rebuttal he offers (1) up for consideration, cites some philosophers who disagree with it, and then says: “Now I think the burden of proof is on Landon to show that (1) is true.” How should I respond to such a charge? Why should I feel at all obliged to support (1), if none of my arguments rely on (1)? Since I have no need for (1), Craig cannot pin this burden of proof on me.

    (If you think he can do this in the way just suggested, then I’d like to debate you. I’ll randomly state seventy five different controversial philosophical theses, and then cite some philosophers who take a stand on each of them, and then declare that you have the burden of proving those philosophers wrong.)

    As for the end of your comment, you simply do precisely what Craig did in my thought experiment above. You take the controversial philosophical claim that Divine Command Theory is false, and declare that I have the burden of proving that claim true. The disanalogy here should be obvious at this point: I haven’t offered any arguments with (2) as a premise. If I had, then I’ll grant that I’d have a burden of proof here.

    It seems to me that you’re greatly confused here. It really looks like you’re taking the position that the person making an argument in a debate doesn’t have a burden of supporting the premises of said argument. If that’s the case, I’ll start drafting up my seventy five arguments for atheism 🙂

  45. Landon – the problem is that Law offered the claim that the crucial premise here is controversial (i.e. some philosophers don’t believe it) as the only real response when some considerations were offered in favour of accepting it.

    This suggests the view that claims should be denied just if they are controversial – which does indeed entail that you should deny that atheism is true (and that a divine command theory is false). Surely this applies whether you’re in a debate or not.

  46. Glenn,
    I’ve listened to that section of the show a couple times and I’m not sure the argument is “this premise is controversial, therefore don’t accept it.” I think it’s more as part of an evidential argument from authority:

    1. Most philosophers (in the broad sense) reject moral arguments – evidence is the Phil Papers survey he cited
    2. Some Christian philosophers of the highest caliber also reject the crucial premise – evidence is Swinburne
    3. Therefore, we should at least hold the argument to a high degree of skepticality as the argument does not have strong support from the academy.

    The problem are that the Phil Papers survey was highly weighted toward philosophers who might not even be aware of any of the moral arguments. The largest fields surveyed were philosophy of mind and philosophies of science. Of those surveyed who are in the right field (i.e. philosophy of religion) and specialize in such arguments, nearly 80% accept or lean toward accepting theism. How many of those find moral arguments persuasive? No idea, as there hasn’t been such a survey done.

    But even if the points are weakened by analysing the data further, it only lowers the evidence in support of the claims, but doesn’t negate that it’s just an argument from authority. Stephen said that it was not, but never made clear why it is not.

  47. G K E – OK fair enough, “don’t believe it” is too strong. But it’s meant to have evidential significance that X number of people don’t believe that argument, and that significance is supposed to count against considerations in favour of the moral argument. So yes, your final comments are spot on, it really does seem like a fallacious argument from silence.

    Stephen, I’ve just listened to the podcast, and that is certainly what you said on the day: The number of philosophers who don’t accept the key premise of the moral argument counts as a reason to doubt it. You even granted in the closing minutes that you suppose it is a sort of argument from authority. It just doesn’t strike me as anything more than a fallacious appeal to authority in response to an argument.

  48. Glenn,

    I didn’t get the impression that Stephen was making that argument (and indeed he has now chimed in here to point out that you’re misrepresenting what he said). To argue that X is false because X is controversial surely is a poor argument, as even Stephen would admit.

    What Stephen said was that it’s a controversial philosophical claim that requires a good defense. It’s not just controversial among philosophers in general, it’s also controversial among Christian philosophers (as evidenced by Swinburne). Admittedly, it would be nice to come up with some other examples as well, to really drive the point home.

    So Stephen isn’t using the fact that it’s controversial as grounds to think it’s false. He’s using the fact that it’s controversial as grounds to emphasize that Craig has to offer a good defense of it.

    Now, your other complaint is that this was Stephen’s “only real response when some considerations were offered in favour of accepting it.” In other words, the idea here is supposed to be that Craig has upheld his burden of proof here. He did offer some considerations in favor of the premise, and the only thing Stephen said in response was that Craig has a burden of proof because it’s a controversial claim.

    If that’s your complaint, it’s misguided on a couple of accounts. First, I recall that Stephen did say some other things in response to Craig in the debate (and what he said was spot-on from what I remember). Additionally, it’s not clear what considerations Craig offered in favor of accepting the premise. I would contend that he didn’t offer any good considerations in favor of the premise, and that if you go back and listen closely you’ll be hard-pressed to find any decent argument. It’s not just that he didn’t offer any good considerations in favor of the premise in the debate, it’s the same in his written work. Have a look at his defense of the moral argument in Reasonable Faith, and let me know how Craig supports that premise. Here’s my prediction of what you’ll find: good rhetoric, fallacies, rhetorical questions, and shirking the burden of proof. (That was the conclusion I came to a couple of years ago when I wrote a paper on Craig’s moral argument.) If you want to contest that, though, feel free to explain Craig’s considerations in favor of the premise.

  49. Glenn,

    I didn’t see this before I posted my comment:

    Stephen, I’ve just listened to the podcast, and that is certainly what you said on the day: The number of philosophers who don’t accept the key premise of the moral argument counts as a reason to doubt it. You even granted in the closing minutes that you suppose it is a sort of argument from authority. It just doesn’t strike me as anything more than a fallacious appeal to authority in response to an argument.

    I have to say that I haven’t listened to the podcast, so what I said above doesn’t apply to your debate, it applies to Stephen’s debate with Craig. Nevertheless, the fact that so many good philosophers reject the premise is a reason to doubt it, if by “doubt” we mean something like “remain skeptical or agnostic in the absence of good evidence.” If, on the other hand, Stephen meant to imply that we should think the premise is false on those grounds, then it’s admittedly a poor argument. I’ll let him clarify things himself, but I suspect he meant by “doubt” something more like “remain skeptical…”

  50. My point about the majority of philosophers rejecting the first premise, including even some leading christian ones, was to emphasise that the premise cannot just be assumed and is, indeed, highly controversial – indeed is generally considered very dubious indeed (contrary to what many Christians assume). However, I did not then conclude that the moral argument based on it must be no good. Obviously. I was making a different point.

    But as you’re now conversing with me again, what about my earlier comment, in which I tried to state what your view is re the problem of evil. Is the following accurate…?

    [quoting myself] “Ah right. You really do want to take that route. You want to say that there’s no good evidence against an evil god provided by observation of the world around us. For what evidence there might *appear* to be against the thought that the world has sch an all-evil, all-powerful creator (and pretty much everyone starts off acknowledging that there *appears* to be a very great deal) is successfully neutralized by the suggestion that there’s an after life of unremitting horror, that this may be a vale of soul-destruction, that evil god gave us free will to allow for moral evils which then outweigh the goods, etc?

    So there really is no good empirical evidence against an evil god!

    Nor presumably, can there be good empirical evidence against any kind of [all-powerful] god hypothesis as it’s always possible to cook up various explanations for whatever evidence we might seem to have against the god hypothesis in question by appealing to afterlives, god’s mysterious ways, etc. etc.”[end of quote]

    In short, your view is that we cannot legitimately draw conclusions about the character of an all-powerful god on the basis of empirical observation (i.e. you embrace “skeptical theism”)?

  51. Landon: “I have to say that I haven’t listened to the podcast”

    Then you definitely don’t know what argument Stephen was making in that podcast and it makes no sense to try to correct my understanding of what he said. Have you read Stephen’s article “The Evil-God Challenge”?

    But I would say that it’s pretty dubious to call a claim controversial among Christian philosophers because Richard Swinburne doesn’t accept it (which is what you said). I may as well say that rejecting the crucial premise is “controversial” among atheists on the grounds that Nietzsche and Mackie accept it, which means that you should have a reason to doubt that we should deny this premise! The reality is that the overwhelming majority of Christian philosophers do accept the premise in question. it would have been misleading of Stephen to say otherwise.

    Now, it’s true that atheist philosophers don’t accept the moral argument for theism. But they’re atheists. They ultimately do not accept any argument for theism.

    But at the end of it all – and you may call me crazy for thinking this – I think that offering arguments is better than offering a head count.

  52. Stephen – Skeptical theism isn’t the view that we can’t show what God’s character is like by appealing to empirical evidence. Skeptical theism – as I understand it – is the view that we may simply not know why God allows X (where X is some thing in the world that people appeal to in order to undermine God’s character), but that this doesn’t mean there’s no reason for a good God to allow it. In other words, sceptical theism is the recognition that the burden of proof belongs to those who claim that there couldn’t be any good reason for a good God to allow X. A burden of proof, I’m sure you’ll agree, that you don’t attempt to meet in the evil God challenge.

  53. Glenn,

    You write: “Then you definitely don’t know what argument Stephen was making in that podcast”

    I already said as much! In my conversation with Matt I was talking about what Stephen said in his debate with Craig. You then replied to me, and I replied to you. None of that had anything to do with your debate with Stephen. I merely offered the second comment to clarify that I was indeed focusing on the Craig debate, not on your debate. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

    You write: “it makes no sense to try to correct my understanding of what he said. Have you read Stephen’s article “The Evil-God Challenge”?”

    I didn’t try to correct your understanding of what Stephen said. I offered two interpretations of what he might have meant given your comment. On one interpretation, he was making a good point; on the other, he was making a poor argument. I said I’d let him clarify things himself. The reason I said this was because I hadn’t listened to the podcast, so I wasn’t in a position to know precisely how his comments were phrased. So your impatience here is utterly bizarre, given that I explicitly refrained from making a judgment on the matter because I hadn’t listened to the podcast (which I also explicitly mentioned).

    Maybe you’re taking issue with the fact that I said: “I suspect he meant by “doubt” something more like “remain skeptical…”” But I can’t find any fault with this statement, even if I haven’t listened to the podcast. (I merely registered my suspicion that Stephen wasn’t making the bad argument you attributed to him, since: (i) there’s an alternative interpretation available, and (ii) he’s not an idiot.)

    To answer your question, yes I’ve read his paper.

    You write: But I would say that it’s pretty dubious to call a claim controversial among Christian philosophers because Richard Swinburne doesn’t accept it (which is what you said). I may as well say that rejecting the crucial premise is “controversial” among atheists on the grounds that Nietzsche and Mackie accept it, which means that you should have a reason to doubt that we should deny this premise! The reality is that the overwhelming majority of Christian philosophers do accept the premise in question. it would have been misleading of Stephen to say otherwise.

    This is an interesting comment. I suggested that the fact that Swinburne rejects the premise is evidence that it’s controversial among Christian philosophers. You dispute this, apparently on the grounds that ‘one dissenting philosopher does not a controversy make!’ But I didn’t say that the fact that Swinburne rejects the premise entails that it’s controversial, I said that it’s evidence for thinking that it’s controversial. I don’t know the head count of Christian philosophers who accept the premise vs. those who reject it. But the fact that one of the greatest Christian philosophers of the past several decades rejects the premise renders more probable the claim that the premise is controversial among Christian philosophers.

    In any case, I did say that it would be nice to add to that list to drive the point home. Now, you say that the overwhelming majority of Christian philosophers accept the premise, and I’m wondering what your grounds are for that assertion. (Surely it’s not just coming from the list Matt offered earlier.)

    By the way, the fact that Mackie and others have thought the premise was true wouldn’t make “rejecting the premise” controversial even among atheists, unless by “rejecting” you mean “declaring that it’s false.” In that case, indeed, rejecting the premise would be controversial. But if by “rejecting” you mean something broader (e.g. not accepting as true), then that wouldn’t be made controversial just by the fact that Mackie and others have taken a stand on it. And I take it that all the atheist needs is this broader sense of “rejecting.” Thus, in a debate I don’t have to support the view that your premise is false, I just have to support the view that we shouldn’t believe it’s true (by, e.g., undermining the reasons you’ve offered on its behalf).

    You write: “But at the end of it all – and you may call me crazy for thinking this – I think that offering arguments is better than offering a head count.”

    Sure! Now, what exactly was Craig’s argument/support for the premise? You said that some considerations in favor the premise were offered, and I’d be interested in finding out what those were.

  54. “But I didn’t say that the fact that Swinburne rejects the premise entails that it’s controversial, I said that it’s evidence for thinking that it’s controversial”

    Well it’s either controversial or it’s not, Landon. Does Swinburne’s rejection of the claim tell us anything about whether or not it’s controversial? I say no. it cannot do so if in fact the vast majority of Christian philosophers accept the premise. That one does not is just evidence… well, that one does not!. You appear to say yes, it does tell us something about whether or not it’s controversial. So what does it tell us, Landon?

    “Now, what exactly was Craig’s argument/support for the premise? You said that some considerations in favor the premise were offered, and I’d be interested in finding out what those were.”

    Well, *I* offered some, and throughout this thread I have simply noted that Stephen brushed them off with an appeal to authority/numbers (a flawed appeal, I allege – both because of the actual numbers involved and because of the fallacy involved). But turning tot he debate with bill Craig, yes, Craig did offer some too though, and I think it’s disingenuous to just say that he didn’t – even if you don’t accept the reasons he offered. It would be even more disingenuous to then ask *me* to quote Craig’s comments for you when you yourself have listened to the debate.

    You can carry on like that – in which case I’ll likely just ignore it – or you can cut the nonsense and explain what it was about the considerations that Craig offered that you find fault with. But just saying that he offered none is not part of any discussion I’m interested in having.

  55. Landon
    My point is the significance of Swinburne’s rejection of the premise is of little significance when you consider that numerous equally competent Christian philosophers claim the opposite and his reasons are drawn from premises which are widely rejected by Thiests.

    Yes indeed! I don’t see anything wrong with that. If I put forward an argument in a debate with that as one of my premises, then I think I do have the burden of supporting that statement. This is made more apparent by the fact that Mackie (a great philosopher) rejects that statement, as do a number of other good philosophers. The premise shouldn’t just be taken for granted. Again, I don’t see what the problem is here.

    Here is the problem suppose Craig raises the conditional in a debate. As soon as someone in the debate claim you reject this conditional now you have to offer an argument for your rejection, because you are making a controversail claim in a debate and Craig can claim the burden is on you to do so. Moreover every premise you give for this argument he can do the same thing with and so on untill you come up with a knockdown argument from premises no philosopher denies.

    (If you disagree with that, then I want to debate the existence of God with you. I’ll put forward seventy five arguments for the non-existence of God, and leave it up to you to show that each argument has at least one false premise!)

    That does not follow, the fact I reject the claim that the burden of proof is on him who makes a claim rejected by some philosophers does not entail that I therefore think one can make any claim at all and not share a burden of proof for it. This is a false dichotomy.
    If you reject this claim then I’ll demand you prove every statement you make on this blog thread and every premise you use in these proofs, and every premise in these further proofs, until you can come up with an argument that appeals only to claims no philosopher rejects.

    Here the worry seems to be that if people have the burden of supporting the premises of their arguments, then skepticism will result. But what exactly are our alternatives? It seems that either people have the burden of supporting the premises of their own arguments, or they don’t. If they do, then the point of my previous comment seems correct.

    This assumes that unless one adopts your particular stance on the burden of proof, one can assert any premise they like and not defend it. That does not follow, all that follows is that it means that some other understanding of the burden of proof is correct.

    (And it’s not clear to me why we should think that skepticism would result. We can discuss that further if you like.) .

    Its the standard epistemic regress argument, if I defend a premise with an argument I must appeal to other premises, either you have to defend these premises with further argument or you don’t. If you don’t then the burden of proof is not on him who proposes a premise in a debate. If you do then the process is repeated ad infinitium until one gets to premises that are not controversial in the sense that it is not rejected by some significant philosopher. I suggest to you that no thesis of substance in philosophy can be supported by an argument whose premises consist soley of platitudes that no philosopher rejects.

    If they don’t, then arguing for one’s own position on a philosophical topic becomes too easy–one merely has to develop a logically valid (or strong) argument. Tell me, out of all of the peer-reviewed philosophy you’ve ever read, how often is there an indication that one doesn’t have the burden of supporting the premises of their own arguments?

    Actually I addressed this, I would contend that every argument in the literature at some point will appeal to a premise that is rejected by some philosophers. The stance you propose in fact seems to implictly assume some kind of foundationalism whereby only assertions which are uncontroversial and accepted by all philosophers can be taken for granted. I think most modern philosophy does not assume or accept this kind of foundationalism.

  56. Glenn,

    Regarding the Swinburne thing, I said that the fact that Swinburne rejects the premise is evidence that it’s controversial among Christian philosophers. That is to say, we’re considering the claim:

    (C) The premise “If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist” is controversial among Christian philosophers.

    By claiming that Swinburne’s rejection of the conditional statement is evidence for (C), I’m claiming that it raises the probability of (C) being true. This leaves open the possibility that other evidence effectively renders (C) false. For example, you claim that the vast majority of Christian philosophers side with you and Craig against Swinburne. Let’s suppose it’s nearly unanimous. This would, I think, effectively show (C) to be false. But you’ve yet to provide the evidence that Christian philosophers are nearly unanimous in siding with you and Craig on this issue. I asked you in my last comment what your grounds were for making that claim, and you seem to have ignored that part of my comment.

    You write: “Well, *I* offered some, and throughout this thread I have simply noted that Stephen brushed them off with an appeal to authority/numbers (a flawed appeal, I allege – both because of the actual numbers involved and because of the fallacy involved).”

    Well, as I said I haven’t listened to your debate with Stephen so I wouldn’t know about that. But this particular thread of back-and-forth comments between you and I began while we were discussing Stephen’s debate with Craig, and you claimed in that context that some considerations in favor of the premise were offered. I assumed you were referring to the debate with Craig. So I’m going to focus on that, since that’s what I’ve been talking about. When I have time someday I’ll listen to your debate.

    You write: “But turning tot he debate with bill Craig, yes, Craig did offer some too though, and I think it’s disingenuous to just say that he didn’t – even if you don’t accept the reasons he offered. It would be even more disingenuous to then ask *me* to quote Craig’s comments for you when you yourself have listened to the debate.”

    Glenn, you can rest assured that I have listened to what Craig has to say with his moral argument. I’ve carefully pored over his (apparently) longest discussion of the argument in Reasonable Faith (3rd Ed.), and it’s just not clear to me what the considerations in favor of that premise are supposed to be. As I said, there’s a lot of nice rhetoric, and there’s some fallacies (including the very fallacies you’re complaining about with Stephen!), and there’s some rhetorical questions, and there’s some shirking of the burden of proof. And that’s pretty much it. So if you think that Stephen needs to say more in order to neutralize Craig’s defense of the premise, here’s what he needs to say: Craig’s case is a nicely packaged combination of rhetoric, fallacies, rhetorical questions, and shirking the burden of proof.

    In other words, Craig’s case doesn’t actually support the premise. And given that Craig’s got a burden of proof here (I contend, though I’m surprised to find that Matt thinks that those who make arguments don’t have the burden of supporting their own premises!), Stephen’s points all seem to be in line.

    You write: “You can carry on like that – in which case I’ll likely just ignore it – or you can cut the nonsense and explain what it was about the considerations that Craig offered that you find fault with. But just saying that he offered none is not part of any discussion I’m interested in having.”

    Here, let me give you a taste of what I’m talking about from Craig’s defense of the premise in Reasonable Faith:

    “Consider, then, moral values. If theism is false, why think that human beings have objective moral value? After all, on the naturalistic view, there’s nothing special about human beings. They’re just accidental byproducts of nature which have evolved relatively recently on an infinitesimal speck of dust called the planet Earth, lost somewhere in a hostile and mindless universe, and which are doomed to perish individually and collectively in a relatively short time. Richard Dawkins’ assessment of human worth may be depressing, but why, on atheism, is he mistaken when he says, “There is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference…. We are machines for propagating DNA. It is every living object’s sole reason for being”?” (p. 173-4)

    Now, what considerations has Craig offered here? (Note that he has another page about objective moral values in the book, so I’m not including it all right here. But let’s focus on what he’s offered in this paragraph.)

    Well, he’s got some nice rhetoric in there about the naturalistic perspective on the universe. We’re just animals on a rock in this big, pointless universe. Okay, and what can we infer from that? If we’re inferring from this that there is no objective morality, then Craig is working with this sort of premise:

    (P) If we’re just animals on a rock…etc., then there are no objective moral values.

    Fascinating claim. And we should believe that…why? Craig never says. Okay, so maybe the rhetoric about the naturalistic perspective isn’t meant to support the controversial premise of his moral argument. What else has he offered?

    Well, he asks rhetorical questions. He asks: Why think there would be objective moral values given naturalism? We should pause and ponder this. Good question. Well worth thinking about. But does the rhetorical question lend any support for the claim that, say, naturalism entails that there are no objective moral values? I don’t see how. Instead, it looks to me like Craig is simply shirking the burden of proof. (I don’t have to show that my premise is true, you tell me why it’s false!)

    Oh, and the Dawkins quote is excellent. If you think that Stephen’s appeal to Richard Swinburne is fallacious, I’d like to see your response to Craig! Why is Dawkins wrong he he says this about objective morality? Oh gee, that really is good evidence in favor of Craig’s claim that objective morality depends on the existence of God: Richard Dawkins says there’s no good and evil, and Craig has now asked us why Dawkins is wrong.

    Well, count me unimpressed. As I said, when I looked at this in detail a couple of years ago for a paper, I found that Craig’s argument was almost entirely like this. I’m now toying with the idea of folding that material into a section of another paper that I have in the works (sort of).

    Anyway, the reason I was prodding you to go back and look at Craig’s justification for the premise was not because I was too lazy to do it myself. I wanted to see whether you’d notice that it’s extremely problematic. I think Stephen is correct to point out that Craig has the burden of proof here, and that he has failed to uphold it. In fact, I’ve been saying so for years.

  57. Matt,

    I was just typing a good comment in reply, but the computer messed up and I lost it. I don’t have the time or motivation to re-do it right now. I’ll get back to you.

    In the meantime, I wonder if you’d answer this rather straightforward question: In a debate about the existence of God, when Craig offers his moral argument, does Craig have a burden of proof regarding the conditional statement “If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist”? That is, does Craig need to offer considerations in favor of thinking that the premise is true? And assuming that Craig doesn’t offer any decent reasons to think the premise is true, has he really offered any reason to believe in the existence of God on the basis of the moral argument?

  58. Hi Glenn

    I’m aware of what skeptical theism is, and also what its consequences are. Let’s think this through…

    You maintain that, whatever we observe of the world, e.g. in terms of apparently gratuitous good/evil, we can’t know that there isn’t some entirely adequate evil/good justifying reason for it.

    But then whatever we observe, this could, for all we know, be the best of all worlds created by an all-powerful, all-good god, or the worst of all worlds created by an all-powerful, all-evil god. We just can’t know, on the basis of observation, what the ultimate value of the world, or its creator, is.

    Hence the evidential problem of evil (and good) is neutralized. Right?

    Or wrong?

  59. “we can’t know that there isn’t some entirely adequate evil/good justifying reason for it.”

    Stephen, that’s not what I said (as far as I can recall). I noted that theists have actually offered theodicies – I said this a few times. So if we’re thinking this through, that’s the point where we say “OK, so unless Stephen has offered good arguments that all the theodicies fail, there’s no need to wonder whether or not there might be other unknown reasons that God has.” As you know, you didn’t offer any such arguments.

    I mean sure there might be unknown reasons (I certainly have time for sceptical theism just because I think there are great reasons to think that theism is true), but at this point I have no reason to think that there’s no merit in existing theodicies.

    So I say wrong. The problem of evil isn’t neutralised by an appeal to the fact that there might be a great reason that God has that we just can’t know. In fact that appeal isn’t even intended to neutralise the problem. That appeal is intended by those who make it to point out that critics can’t show that there couldn’t be a good reason for God to allow X.

  60. Landon, it’s good to see you now acknowledging that Craig (even unsuccessfully, in your view) offered some considerations in favour of his view. But as for your selection and treatment: Come off it. Your summary of Craig’s comments is worse than caricature.

    “If we’re just animals on a rock…etc., then there are no objective moral values.”

    You can do a lot better than this, and probably would if you had any interest in being charitable to the target of your criticisms. You’re certainly capable of seeing that Craig here is zooming in on one particular aspect of moral value: Whether or not human beings have moral value. His point is that on naturalism we are accidental – not intended for any purpose and hence any purpose we find for ourselves is not about objective value but subjective value.

    Craig’s argument beyond this tiny snippet is that if theism is true (not just any theism, of course, but theism of certain kinds), then there is a basis for objective moral values and duties, but if naturalism is true, there’s no such basis. What was particularly troubling about your quotation from Craig is that you quoted where he stated his position, and then stopped – not mentioning for the benefit of other readers that in the paragraphs that immediately follow he offers reasons for thinking that his position is true. You stopped quoting when Craig stated his position on page 174, line 2. But from line 3 through to page 179, about halfway down the page, he actually defends that position in light of what a number of atheist philosophers have said about the position. After that, he then sums up what he has argued for: “In short, on an atheistic, naturalistic worldview, there just seems to be no basis for affirming the existence of objective moral values and duties.” It troubles me that you quoted Craig this way.

    Or if you had wanted an extended treatment of this one issue from Craig, a natural choice might have been his debate with Richard Taylor: “Is The Basis Of Morality Natural Or Supernatural?” http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/craig-taylor0.html

    It just looks to me like you’re putting in minimal effort, ignoring the arguments that Craig used, saying they aren’t there and putting the onus on other people to reiterate them for you. Sorry, I actually have things to do. I’ve previously offered my own podcast on the moral argument, and Craig has offered a moral argument as well. As far as I’m concerned, they are there to be criticised any time you feel like it.

    And I couldn’t believe your attempted parallel between Bill quoting Dawkins and Stephen citing Richard Swinburne. Bill quoted Dawkins because he agreed with his assessment of the consequences of naturalism (he quotes Nietzsche, Mackie, Ruse and others to this effect as well). But he never pretended that these voices represent the norm of what atheists think, or even that this is what most of them think. Law quoted Swinburne in the attempt to show that Swinburne’s lonely voice among Christian philosophers somehow makes the view of the others controversial among Christian philosophers!

  61. I have presented the evidential argument from evil as a challenge to theism.

    Your response to this challenge, in effect, is to say, “Oh, the evidential problem of evil is dealt with by the theodicies” (though which theodicies you have in mind, exactly, is unclear at this point – except that you don’t mean to appeal to god’s mysterious ways or facts-beyond-our-ken).

    You then make a positive case for your all-good god using your moral argument.

    And, if I have understood you correctly, you maintain your theodicies (whichever ones they are exactly) are able fully to deal with the problem of evil – that’s to say, they can adequately account for all the horror we see around us (such as God’s choosing a process of producing us [evolution by (among other things) natural selection] that requires ghastly, horrific death on a literally unimaginable scale over hundreds of millions of years before we show up, followed by ghastly, horrific death of e.g. something like half of all children under the age of five over millions of generations of humans before Jesus shows up – without resorting to God’s mysterious ways and/or any justifying facts lying beyond-our-ken?

    If that’s your view, I must say I admire your chutzpah – I don’t think I have ever come across a theist that holds it. But is it your view?

  62. The following theodicy, called “Theodicy from divine justice”, may adequately account for all the horror we see around us, at least with respect to human suffering:

    – God’s perfect justice prevents Him from relieving people with unforgiven sins from their sufferings (see Isaiah 59,1-2).
    – Unlike God Christians are not perfectly just. Therefore, unlike God, they are in a position to help people with unforgiven sins. By doing this they may make those among them who haven’t yet accepted God’s salvation receptive of it (Matthew 5,16, 1 Peter 2,11-12, and 3,1-2), which in turn frees these persons from suffering in the afterlife.
    – The greater God’s beneficial power due to His love, the greater God’s destructive power due to His justice (see Matthew 13,27-29). Striving to prevent as much suffering as possible God can only interfere to such a degree that the beneficial effect of the interference is not neutralized by the destructive effect of it.
    – Someone who dies before he or she reaches the age of accountability, i.e. before he or she can distinguish between good and evil (see Genesis 2,16-17, Deuteronomy 1,39, and Isaiah 7,16) faces no punishment in the afterlife, as he or she would not have been able to commit sins. So, God may not be inclined to prevent such a person’s death.
    – A person’s suffering in this life may have a redeeming effect (Luke 16,25) and consequently contribute to a decrease of the respective person’s suffering in the afterlife; the amount of suffering in this life is so to speak subtracted from the amount of suffering in the afterlife. So, God may not be inclined to relieve this person’s suffering.
    – A person’s suffering in this life may make the person receptive of God’s salvation (Luke 15,11-21), which in turn frees this person from suffering in the afterlife.
    – There are degrees of punishment in the afterlife depending on one’s moral behaviour (Matthew 16,27, 2 Corinthians 5,10), one’s knowledge of God’s will (Matthew 11,20-24, Luke 12,47-48), and, as mentioned before, one’s amount of suffering in this life (Luke 16,25).
    – Those people who suffer more in this life than they deserve due to their way of life are compensated for it by receiving rewards in Heaven.

  63. Glenn,

    You write: “Your summary of Craig’s comments is worse than caricature.”

    There’s no need to caricature Craig’s treatment of the moral argument.

    In the next paragraph he claims that humanists are unjustified in holding their position because they “continue to treat human beings as morally special in contrast to other species.”

    In the following paragraph he claims that, for naturalists, “moral values are just by-products of socio-biological evolution,” and he quotes Michael Ruse who claims to be speaking for “the modern evolutionist,” when he declares that there are no objective moral values. (QED!)

    Lastly, he wonders what basis there is for thinking that the “herd morality” that has evolved is objective. He accuses humanists of speciesism. And he asserts that “if theism is false, it is hard to see what basis remains for the affirmation of objective moral values and in particular of the special value of human beings.”

    That’s the entirety of his defense of the claim that “if God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.” He then has one paragraph in which he defends his claim that “if God does not exist, then objective moral duties do not exist.” And what he does in that one paragraph is merely: (i) note that on atheism humans are just animals, and animals don’t have moral duties to one another, and (ii) quote Richard Taylor (evidently as an appeal to authority) who claims that there cannot be moral obligations without God. The very next paragraph presupposes that the conditional claim has been proven, and Craig goes on to talk about other things.

    So what did he offer in support of the claim that “if God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist”? He offered the rhetorical questions I mentioned earlier, he offered the nice rhetoric about the naturalistic perspective of the universe (we’re just an animal species on a small planet lost in a mindless universe–by the way, my summary of this as “we’re just animals on a rock…etc.” was not meant to be caricature, but merely a quick and easy way to summarize Craig’s rhetoric, so your complaint there is irrelevant), he offered a quote from Richard Dawkins and asked us “why is Dawkins wrong?”, he offered the claim that there is nothing special about human beings given naturalism because we’re just evolved animals (quoting Michael Ruse who is evidently supposed to be speaking for the atheist when he says that there is no objective morality), and then he wonders how our herd morality could be objective given naturalism.

    That is no caricature. Anybody with access to the book can look at pages 173-175 to see that this is what he says in defense of the conditional statement. (He does go on for a few pages after that to attempt to shoot down some possible ways an atheist might try to show that the conditional statement is false–by appealing to, e.g., Platonism. Needless to say, Craig’s interaction with the vast literature in metaethics is minimal there. But this isn’t, as far as I can tell, a positive case for thinking that “if God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.” Rather, he’s rebutting alternative foundations for objective moral values. Unless he wants to claim that the options surveyed are exhaustive, I can’t see how his treatment of things in those few pages would lead us to conclude that objective moral values depend on God.)

    And what did he offer in support of the claim that “if God does not exist, objective moral duties do not exist”? He offered one paragraph, which was mostly just quoting Richard Taylor’s say so.

    If you want to say that rhetorical questions, rhetoric, appeals to authority, etc. are considerations in favor of the conditional statement, albeit perhaps unconvincing ones, fine. Craig does offer considerations in favor of the conditional statement. I mean, he did quote Richard Dawkins and Michael Ruse who claimed that there’s no good and evil, and no objective morality, respectively! Surely that ought to count for something.

    I dunno, I sort of wonder why Craig has never bothered to try and publish his defense of the moral argument in a peer-reviewed philosophy journal (even just one of the phil. religion journals).

    You write: “His point is that on naturalism we are accidental – not intended for any purpose and hence any purpose we find for ourselves is not about objective value but subjective value.”

    Yes, on naturalism we weren’t intentionally put here for a specific purpose. We came about accidentally. Therefore… pain and suffering are not objectively bad?

    You write: “Sorry, I actually have things to do. I’ve previously offered my own podcast on the moral argument, and Craig has offered a moral argument as well. As far as I’m concerned, they are there to be criticised any time you fell like it.”

    When I get around to working this material into a section of my paper, I’ll listen to your podcast. As a graduate student, especially at the end of the semester, I can’t justify spending the time to listen to it now. Nor can I really justify spending the time to have this conversation, so my participation may drop off before long, at least until I’ve done all my grading and written all my papers.

    You write: “Bill quoted Dawkins because he agreed with his assessment of the consequences of naturalism (he quotes Nietzsche, Mackie, Ruse and others to this effect as well). But he never pretended that these voices represent the norm of what atheists think, or even that this is what most of them think. Law quoted Swinburne in the attempt to show that Swinburne’s lonely voice among Christian philosophers somehow makes the view of the others controversial among Christian philosophers!”

    Okay, so he quoted Dawkins’ opinion because he agrees with Dawkins’ opinion. I take it you’re willing to grant that this does not help support his conditional statement? He quotes Michael Ruse’s opinion because he agrees that, given naturalism, what Michael Ruse says really would be the case. You’re willing to grant that this doesn’t support his conditional statement either, right? Because in that case he’s just quoting people who have the same opinion he does. That doesn’t support the premise, does it? (If you say it does, then quoting Swinburne’s opinion not only supports remaining skeptical about the premise, but it supports believing that the premise is false. And you don’t want to say that.)

    So the difference between Stephen quoting Swinburne and Craig quoting Dawkins and Ruse is that Craig was doing it innocently–just quoting them to show that he holds the same opinion they do, not to help show that the premise is true. Whereas Stephen quoting Swinburne is really bad, because he was trying to show that this is a controversial premise that requires argument. Or, to put it your way, he was trying to show that this premise is controversial among Christian philosophers (when it’s really not, because as you’ve continually asserted, the vast majority of Christian philosophers disagree with Swinburne–I’m still waiting to see the grounds for this claim). But going back to Matt’s quote of Stephen from the debate, all he actually says is that it’s rejected by one of the world’s leading Christian philosophers. Was he wrong?

    (Or maybe he claimed that it’s controversial among Christian philosophers in your podcast…)

  64. I think that the differance is that Craig was citing Dawkins’ statement with approval as supportive of the premise, not simply because Dawkins said it, but because of what Dawkins said (the point Dawkins was making, if it was a cogent point, provides support for the soundness of the premise). Dr. Law’s quoting of Swinburne was to demonstrate that the premise was not widely accepted, but Law failed to provide even Swinburne’s reasons for not accepting it (Swineburne is a Platonist, correct?), or, as far as I remember, his own reasons for rejecting that premise (he didn’t, say, provide much reason to think that it was wrong in itself, or problematic, just that it was controversial.). That’s actually a big difference.

  65. Landon, you’re not investing any intellectual effort at all in considering what Craig says. Suit yourself, but you have no grounds for complaint when people don’t go out of your way to re-present arguments to you. I realise you’re a grad student and so this time-consuming business of genuinely looking at what a person says even when you disagree with them might not be something you’re interested in, in the case of Bill’s argument. But it’s irritating to see you claiming he really offered no arguments. That’s simply an intellectual turnoff to me.

    As for the business of quoting people, obviously there’s nothing wrong with simply quoting someone you agree with. In Craig’s case, he did in in the context of offering the same types of considerations that those authors themselves gave.

    In Stephen’s case, the quoting was done in the absence of any argument on Stephen’s part, and in the name of claiming that there was some sort of consensus. I see that as night and day, but see it as you wish.

  66. Stephen, what I noted is that you observed the existence of a variety of theocidies in regard tot he problem of evil, and then just proceeded as though we can all rest assured that they don’t do the job. Well that’s hardly good enough, is it? I have no reason to think that all existing theodicies fail.

    You also now seem to be saying that somewhere (not sure where or when) I’ve said that “[my] theodicies (whichever ones they are exactly) are able fully to deal with the problem of evil”

    But I just didn’t say this. here’s what I really said in this thread:

    I mean sure there might be unknown reasons (I certainly have time for sceptical theism just because I think there are great reasons to think that theism is true), but at this point I have no reason to think that there’s no merit in existing theodicies.

    There’s a difference between thinking for certain that the existing theodicies leave nothing to wonder about (something I never said, but which you now attribute to me), and thinking that they have merit (which I did say). But surely rejecting theodicies because in spite of their merit they might not be a complete explanation strikes me as a bit like rejecting science because there are still some things we don’t know!

  67. Landon
    Actually what you show is the Craig summarised arguments some of them interesting and important.
    He summarised for example the argument, made by Peter Singer and Nicholas Wolterstorff that in the absence of God, there is no basis for considering humans special. Thats not mere rhetoric its an important argument, it may be unsound but thats not the same as saying its rhetoric.
    He summarised the argument proposed by people like Ruse, Sharon Street, and Mark Linville, that naturalism and evolution conjoined provide a reason for thinking our moral beliefs do not reliably track objectively true principles, again thats an argument not mere rhetoric.
    Third, he cites an argument from Richard Taylor which is based on the idea that moral obligations would not exist outside of a social relationship where one person makes demands on another. Others like Robert Adams have offered a similar argument. Thats three arguments.
    He also on occasion cites the argument suggested by Hare, Layman and going back to Sigwick that without God, moral obligations would not have rational authority. Due to the fact that prudential reasons and moral reasons can come apart and there is no apparent meta reason to prefer one over the other.
    He also has on occasion raised the queerness argument.
    So it seems to me Craig does offer arguments. He does so in summary rhetorical form, I don’t always think his elaboration is clear. but he does offer them.

  68. Matt,

    Thanks for the comment. Peter Singer’s argument is not that atheism entails that “there is no basis for considering humans special.” He claims that there’s nothing about the species, per se, which is morally special. But individual humans beings, for example, can be “special” in the sense that their lives are more valuable than other non-human animals. Singer would agree, then, that my life is more valuable than the life of a cow. He would do so because he recognizes that my cognitive capacities are much greater than that of a cow, in the relevant respects.

    Craig doesn’t mention Singer by name, but he does mention “speciesism.” He accuses secular humanists of “speciesism,” since he thinks there’s no morally relevant difference (given atheism) between members of the human species and members of other species. But this is really crude, and not the kind of reasoning Singer would endorse. If a secular humanist is claiming that all humans, no matter what defects they may have, are morally more valuable than any non-human animal, then Singer’s reasoning would work to undermine that view. (And it does an excellent job at undermining such a view, in my opinion.) But Singer’s line of reasoning doesn’t show that there are no morally relevant differences to be had among members of different species. That’s something Singer explicitly rejects in his work.

    Moreover, you might wonder about this line of argument: How do we know that “if God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist”? Because secular humanism is an intellectually bankrupt position, undermined by its speciesism. Really, so if secular humanism is shown to be false, does that entail that there are no objective moral values in the absence of God?

    I’m familiar with the Ruse, and know where to find the Linville, but do you have a citation for Sharon Street? It could be helpful when I work on this more. In any case, the fact that naturalism and evolution provide a defeater for our moral beliefs (and/or intuitions) does not show that objective moral values do not exist, which is Craig’s claim. His claim is not: “If God does not exist, then we should be moral skeptics.” His claim is: “If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.” By offering a defeater for our moral beliefs, he has at best given us a reason to be moral skeptics, not moral nihilists or anti-realists.

    As for the last argument, I do recall Craig saying that. Do you remember where he said it?

    (Citing the arguments of Hare and Layman is a different matter, since it’s a different argument. I was focusing on Craig’s case for the premise of his own moral argument.)

  69. Hi Glenn, I’m sticking this up on my blog, where I’ll be pursuing the discussion henceforth, as this thread is way too long…

    Let me explain how things look from my end.

    I give you what appears to be overwhelming empirical evidence against the existence of your particular God.

    You appear to respond, in effect, by saying: (i) but we have all sorts of explanations for all the evil (theodicies), which I think are quite good explanations (ii) even if they are not that good, they can be supplemented by sceptical theism which I don’t rule out, so (iii) the onus is on you to show all these theodicies collectively fail and that sceptical theism is untenable, before you can say that you have provided good evidence against the existence of my God.

    But the thing about the theodicies, Genn, is that they are what Popper calls ad hoc. They lead to now new tests. Or, if they do, but the further test fails, there’s always another gerrymandered explanation for the failure that can be cooked up. Similarly, appeals to God’s mysterious ways and facts-beyond-our-ken are ad hoc. There’s no way empirically to test the claim that such facts-beyond-our-ken is indeed the correct explanation for why there’s so much evil.

    Much the same intellectual strategy that you are employing to defend theism is also employed by Young Earth Creationists (YEC), conspiracy theorists, Erich von Daniken histories and countless other wackos to convince themselves and their followers that what they believe cannot be so silly after all.

    For, of course, if I present a series of evidence-based arguments against YEC, it’s proponents can say, “Ah, but we have some, we think, quite good explanations of the order of the fossil record, for light from distant stars, etc. – hundreds of such explanations in fact” (explanations cooked up at the Institute for Creation Research and other multi-million dollar funded “research” institutions), and (ii) in any case, God might have his mysterious reasons for arranging the fossils, etc. like that, so (iii) the onus is on you to show all these YEC-type explanations collectively fail and that such appeals to God’s mysterious reasons is untenable, before you can say that the facts to which you point provide good evidence against YEC.

    Of course, when we then try to show the failings of the YEC explanations offered, the proponent of YEC can always gerrymander up yet more explanations, and then even more, thereby continuing to make their theory “fit” the evidence. They thus render their theory empirically unfalsifiable (this is the strategy I call “But it Fits!” in my book Believing Bullshit).

    But that is, indeed, all bullshit, isn’t it? The fact is, YEC IS pretty straightforwardly falsified by the available empirical evidence, notwithstanding the possibility of endlessly explaining that evidence away by ad hoc means and/or appeals to mystery. Most of us can see that straightaway (those of us whose minds have not been captured by YEC, that is). The endless ad hoc-ery and mystery-mongering is just a smokescreen.

    The onus is clearly not on us to refute all the explanations on offer by the YECs. In fact that’s an impossible task given the ad hoc character of their explanations and the fact they’re prepared to keep constructing them ad nauseum. It’s entirely reasonable for us to insist that the available empirical evidence DOES indeed very effectively undermine YEC, and that it does so precisely because the YECs’ method of explaining it away is so hopelessly ad hoc.

    This is why, before we are presented with any argument FOR classical theism or YEC that might be furnished to save or support the theory, it’s entirely reasonable to conclude, on the basis of the kind of observational evidence outlined, that classical theism/YEC is false.

  70. Thanks for your graciously expressed thoughts Stephen.

    I think the three comments I’d make are:

    1) I’m not even close to being persuaded that the plausibility of theodicies is anything like the plausibility of explanations for why we should believe in a young universe.

    2) Theodicies don’t strike me as ad hoc. Things like the free will defence or the soul building defence (etc) are generalisable. E.g. the might be stated something like “For any perfectly good and all powerful being, it would still be conceivable that they allow X provided it has some outcome that is compatible with their good character, such as Y.” Ad hoc explanations are really one-off explanations of a sort that are just made up to explain one very specific situation by appealing to principles that are of no use otherwise. So it’s not ad hoc at all.

    Here’s a refresher on Popper where ad hoc explanations are described just as I have described them. They are explanations that have absolutely no reason for existence other than to save a theory from failure, and there are otherwise no considerations that would lend any support to them. So the Christian has no good reasons to consider theodicies ad hoc, since they are compatible with other things they believe, and if their broader beliefs about God are true (broader beliefs that the Christian thinks there are reasons to accept) then the theodicies are motivated by those broader beliefs. If you have in mind another sense in which an explanation can be ad hoc, I’d question why it matters.

    3) Even if things were different and theodicies were ad hoc, they are intended as explanations for why a person might do or allow something that you didn’t expect them to. If anything is allowed to be ad hoc, surely it’s something about why so-and-so might do something. If you rejected the explanation because it was ad hoc, you’d be effectively stacking the deck against any explanation in terms of a person’s intentions, which would be unfair in this case, to put it mildly. But this is moot, since theodicies aren’t ad hoc in any important sense anyway.

    PS: Your comment went into the moderation queue because it contained the word BS. I have my filters set pretty strictly for profanity to keep certain elements out.

  71. Hi Glenn

    my quick response to your three comments.

    1) I’m not even close to being persuaded that the plausibility of theodicies is anything like the plausibility of explanations for why we should believe in a young universe.

    Me: What you’re persuaded of is irrelevant.

    2) Theodicies don’t strike me as ad hoc. Things like the free will defence or the soul building defence (etc) are generalisable. E.g. the might be stated something like “For any perfectly good and all powerful being, it would still be conceivable that they allow X provided it has some outcome that is compatible with their good character, such as Y.” Ad hoc explanations are really one-off explanations of a sort that are just made up to explain one very specific situation by appealing to principles that are of no use otherwise. So it’s not ad hoc at all.

    That’s not what ad hoc means, Glenn. Ad hoc explanations lead to no new tests. The theodicies are ad hoc, by Popper’s definition (he coined the phrase). Look it up. Or, when the theodicies are not ad hoc, and the further test is failed, they are salvaged by yet another defensive manouevre, just as in the case of YEC, thereby rendering the theory unfalsifiable (ar an appeal to mystery, of course). Nutters who believe dogs are spies are the planet Venus, etc. employ the exact same strategy.

    3) Even if things were different and theodicies were ad hoc, they are intended as explanations for why a person might do or allow something that you didn’t expect them to. If anything is allowed to be ad hoc, surely it’s something about why so-and-so might do something. If you rejected the explanation because it was ad hoc, you’d be effectively stacking the deck against any explanation in terms of a person’s intentions, which would be unfair in this case, to put it mildly. But this is moot, since theodicies aren’t ad hoc in any important sense anyway.

    ME: The theodicies are ad hoc. They lead to no new tests (either that, or further explaining away is done ad nauseum to deal with further explanatory failures, or their supplemented by appeals to mystery). This is not like when someone does something out of character and we say, ah, but they probably had this reason for doing it. Often, we can test our hypothesis. So the suggestion is not ad hoc at all. And the occasional ad hoc explanation for anomolies is in any case acceptable (even Popper thought so). However, when there’s considerable evidence against a theory and it’s all dealt with by ad hoc means (and/or appeals to mystery), then that counter-evidence is NOT neutralized.

    You’re strategy is, in short, very much like a wife who, when presented with a husband who very often acts in seemingly cruel and vicious way, beating her and her children, maintains he is nevertheless entirely noble and virtuous. She simply explains all the bad stuff away in a manner that is entirely ad hoc (or, when her excuses and explanations for his behaviour clearly fail, just constructs yet more explanations ad nauseum, and/or appeals to his having mysterious unknown reasons).

    Such a wife is being irrational if she insists there’s no prima facie good evidence that her husband is NOT entirely noble and good. She’s deluded. You seem, to me, are a similar case.

    Now of course, the wife might insist she has these other very good reasons for thinking her husband really is noble after all. Perhaps she has. But, as things stand, her husband’s horrific behaviour really is excellent evidence that he’s not entirely noble and good, notwithstanding the wife’s endless supply of untestable excuses and explanations.

    That’s right, I am suggesting you’re deluded, Glenn. Not very gracious of me, but it’s what I think. Clearly, when we are both so very confident of the reasonableness of our respective, but mutually exclusive, positions, one of us very probably is pretty deluded. The above considerations suggest it’s you.

  72. “Me: What you’re persuaded of is irrelevant.”

    Stephen, why exactly am I supposed to be bothered by the fact that you think there’s a good comparison between young earth creationism and theodicies? Surely your opinion on the strength of the comparison is… irrelevant?

    As for getting drawn into an argument about what “ad hoc” means (where I’m pretty sure I’m right – look it up), your real objection seems to be that we can’t test whether or not our suggested reason is God’s real reason. And it’s true that we probably can’t. This seems pretty unimportant to me, as long as the suggested reasons are consistent with the character of a good God. If you think a wife can come up with an account of why a husband who really loves her would beat her up, go right ahead.

    It strikes me that the kinds of objections you’re raising now amount to more than the recycled “invisible gardner” objection from new Essays in Philosophical Theology in 1955. Effectively you’ve got to say that even though the existing theodicies may do the trick, they can’t be (empirically?) falsified and hence we have to assume that they aren’t the answer!

    Well you’re welcome to assume that, but if a person who believes in a good God also believes that the various theodicies may well do the trick (or at least most of the trick), you’ll understand, I’m sure, why they aren’t terribly bothered by your reluctance to think the theodicies are any good.

    I’m pleased to have helped you focus your thoughts, Stephen, and I too have enjoyed our discussions very much. But you’re wrong. 😉

  73. Hi Glenn. Sorry but having said I’d stop commenting, I’ll make one last comment as you do appear to be seriously on the ropes at this point and I can’t resist taking advantage…

    I wouldn’t go to answers.com for full and accurate philosophical definitions. An ad hoc hypothesis is one introduced to immunize a theory against refutation but which cannot be tested independently. So for example, when Aristoteleans claimed the heavenly bodies are perfectly spherical, but Galileo observed mountains on the moon through his telescope, one Aristotelean tried to save his theory by saying that there was an invisible substance on the moon that filled the valleys to the tops of the mountains, thus making the moon spherical after all. That suggestion was classically ad hoc because there was no way in which the immunizing hypothesis could (at that time) be independently tested. Some ad hoc hypothesis are permissible. But salvaging a theory almost entirely by ad hoc means is not. Yet that is what YECs do, and nutters do too.

    Here’s the crux. You say: “your real objection seems to be that we can’t test whether or not our suggested reason is God’s real reason. And it’s true that we probably can’t. This seems pretty unimportant to me, as long as the suggested reasons are consistent with the character of a good God. If you think a wife can come up with an account of why a husband who really loves her would beat her up, go right ahead.”

    Of course a wife can do that. Women do it all the time. Deluded women. But in those cases, their explanations very often are NOT ad hoc – we can test whether e.g. the husband really is suffering from a medical condition, really is justifiably punishing her, or whatever it is she suggests, etc.

    Whereas the explanations offered by YECs, and the free will character-building theodicies, etc. either aren’t testable explanations, or else are testable and fail the test (e.g. the distribution of suffering obviously doesn’t make sense if it’s for character-building purposes, plus people’s characters are more often than not destroyed by it). If the latter, then further explanations or appeals to mystery are gerrymandered, like so: “Er, well this suffering is for character-building purposes, only in, er, a manner we don’t fully understand” (untestable!).

    Testability is key. If a theory is defended endlessly by its proponents against seemingly powerful counter-evidence by such explanations none of which can be tested, then the evidence DOES still constitute strong (if not indefeasible) evidence against what they believe.

    That is precisely the situation in which you’re in re the problem of evil. I think you should reflect on that before you say “Problem of evil – no problem! The theodicies (perhaps plus a sprinkling of mystery) take care of it.”

    Of course the reason most people, even many theists (not you), accept that the evil god hypothesis is not salvaged from refutation by all the good we observe by the reverse theodicies is that they do recognize, even if only intuitively, that the reverse theodicies are indeed theory-immunizing devices that are ultimately entirely ad hoc and untestable.

  74. Glenn,

    For the record, I just wanted to point out that I recall writing a response to your last comment to me, but I no longer see it posted in this thread. I don’t know if you lost it when the servers were down, or for some other reason. I won’t bother re-typing it from memory now that it’s gone though. I just thought I’d point that out.

  75. Landon, when the server needed to be rebooted nothing was lost – and I certainly haven’t intervened – so if it’s not there now I’d say it never was.

  76. Stephen, there’s nothing as powerful as wishful thinking, which may explain why you see me as “on the ropes.” That gave me a chuckle. Given that you appear to have offered simply no reply – none at all – to the argument that God is good via the moral argument and your only apparent belief that you have a better argument seems to lie in your hope that there’s a relevant sense in which you can call theodicies “ad hoc,” this seems like wishful thinking of the highest order!

    But now that you’ve effectively confirmed my suspicions about what you’re saying, I daresay there’s little more I need to add. You think theodicies are probably wrong because we don’t know for certain that in fact they have identitifed God’s real reasons for allowing X. You could, of course, had made a much more convincing case by arguing that the theodicies were – like the rationalisations of a beaten wife – implausible. But then, that would require coming up with a good argument, and just as in the case of you brushing off the moral argument, putting in the time to construct good arguments at the crucial junctures isn’t really a feature of the evil-God challenge.

    If that’s the gravity of your argument, I’m comforted. 🙂

  77. So… what started out in a journal as a confident, supposedly new and interesting challenge, styled “the evil god challenge,” has now been whittled away in this thread to Stephen, having retreated to a dark corner, reproducing the old problem of evil and putting all his eggs in that basket. There was no interesting new challenge at all. Thanks for clarifying that for us Glenn, and for basically having Stephen demonstrate it!

  78. >An ad hoc hypothesis is one introduced to immunize a theory against refutation.

    Yes and because Prof Law can’t or won’t define what he means by “Evil” or “Good” then he can change it’s sense from one minute to another to immunize his theory against refutation.

    The hypocrisy here galls me the most.

    If Prof Law would swallow his Pride and admitted his EGC only can be applied to an Anthropomorphic Personalist Deity who is composite and a moral agent (plus defining Good and Evil as ontologically equivalent but opposite things) then I believe it would be a credible response(not foolproof obviously) to the Theodicies of Swimburne and Plantinga.

    But it would still be a non-starter challenge to the Classical view of God.

    But Law has deluded himself into believing this is an all purpose argument that can apply to any God-concept with any backround philosophy. He hasn’t made the case he hasn’t even come close. I guess it’s very intoxicating convincing yourself you have the silver bullet to kill the werewolf of superstition.

    But it seems to me to be delusional. I am so convinced if I stopped believing in any type of God tomorrow my opinion in the limited nature of the EGC would not change.

  79. Glenn,

    Strange. I guess something went wrong when I clicked “send comment.” Well, here goes again (and I still need to eventually find time to respond to Matt’s comment–it’s hard to get the motivation to type up another comment when you’ve lost one due to computer error).

    You write: “Landon, you’re not investing any intellectual effort at all in considering what Craig says.”

    Ouch! (You might consider the possibility that you’re investing a bit too much creative effort in trying to find good supporting considerations for the premise in Reasonable Faith.)

    You write: “I realise you’re a grad student and so this time-consuming business of genuinely looking at what a person says even when you disagree with them might not be something you’re interested in, in the case of Bill’s argument.”

    You’re starting to get a bit condescending here, Glenn. Doing philosophy is indeed time-consuming, but (contrary to what you may think) I’ve probably invested a bit too much time into following Craig’s philosophical work. If you think I haven’t read Craig’s defense of the moral argument carefully enough, that’s fine. One can always claim that a critic hasn’t paid sufficient attention to the details, hasn’t been charitable, or hasn’t “invested any intellectual effort” into understanding the view he or she is criticizing.

    You write: “But it’s irritating to see you claiming he really offered no arguments. That’s simply an intellectual turnoff to me.”

    I guess it depends on what you mean by “argument.” I didn’t claim, for example, that Craig doesn’t say anything with the intention of supporting the premise. He clearly says some stuff. What I said was (quoting my comment from Dec. 15 at 4:15 am–your time, I guess?):

    “Additionally, it’s not clear what considerations Craig offered in favor of accepting the premise. I would contend that he didn’t offer any good considerations in favor of the premise, and that if you go back and listen closely you’ll be hard-pressed to find any decent argument. It’s not just that he didn’t offer any good considerations in favor of the premise in the debate, it’s the same in his written work. Have a look at his defense of the moral argument in Reasonable Faith, and let me know how Craig supports that premise. Here’s my prediction of what you’ll find: good rhetoric, fallacies, rhetorical questions, and shirking the burden of proof.”

    It’s not clear to me, when I read Reasonable Faith or listen to Craig talk about this argument, precisely what it is that’s supposed to be showing that “if God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.” From what he says, some of it looks like rhetoric, some looks like he’s trying to quote an authority, some looks like he’s trying to put the burden on his opponent to prove the premise wrong. But I’ve said quite a bit about why this is problematic already.

    If you mean to suggest that Craig has offered carefully formulated arguments in favor of the premise, I’d like a citation. If, on the other hand, you’re saying that Craig has offered arguments informally–e.g., he states some things and draws the conclusion that the premise is true, then yes he does offer that sort of thing. He says, for example, that on naturalism we’re just animals living on a miniscule planet in a vast cosmos, and he asks why we should think on such a picture that there are objective moral values. And he concludes that, given atheism, there can be no objective moral values. (Oh, he says all that other stuff too–e.g., why is Dawkins wrong when he says this? Secular humanism is guilty of speciesism. Michael Ruse says that morality isn’t objective. It’s hard to see what grounds there are for thinking that our “herd morality” is objective. He says those sorts of things, yes.) Surely he does say stuff; this I would not deny.

    You write: “As for the business of quoting people, obviously there’s nothing wrong with simply quoting someone you agree with. In Craig’s case, he did in in the context of offering the same types of considerations that those authors themselves gave.”

    Here’s the problem with that. When he quotes Dawkins, he doesn’t give Dawkins’ reasons for thinking that there are no objective moral values. Instead, he just quotes Dawkins’ opinion–there is no good and evil. He quotes Dawkins and asks his readers: “Why is Dawkins wrong?” (As if to put the burden of proof on those who don’t accept the premise.)

    When he quotes Ruse, he can’t actually agree with Ruse’s reasoning. Ruse’s passage reads like a textbook case of the genetic fallacy, as even Craig admits elsewhere. So Craig can’t be trying to saddle Ruse’s reasoning on the rest of atheists. It’s not as if Craig can say: “Look, although I disagree with Ruse here, if I were an atheist I would think that his reasoning is good.” No, if Ruse is committing a fallacy (as Craig thinks), then Craig cannot be endorsing his reasoning.

    As for Taylor, you’re right. The first quote of Taylor suggests a style of argument Craig likes. (One to which Shelly Kagan gave the obvious answer during their debate, at the beginning of the Q&A.) The second quote just quotes Taylor’s opinion that objective moral duties depend on God.

    Regarding Stephen’s quoting of Swinburne, I’m still interested in finding out how you know that the vast majority of Christian philosophers accept the premise. You’ve made that claim more than once, and I think I’ve asked you for your justification more than once also. (If it’s just your own subjective appraisal, that’s fine. It’s just that you spoke on the issue with such authority that I assumed that you were aware of a survey or something.)

  80. I guess it depends on what you mean by “argument.” I didn’t claim, for example, that Craig doesn’t say anything with the intention of supporting the premise.

    Landon, you started this by asking – apparently being genuine – “it’s not clear what considerations Craig offered in favor of accepting the premise.”

    This was surely rhetorical overstatement, as you went on to admit that actually you did see some (attempts at) arguments offered by Craig, but you thought them fallacious.

    However, what you quoted was just Craig’s summary of his position, and not really his arguments for them. You quoted (loosely) that summary again in your last comment. Yet when I pointed this out to you, it struck me that the way you then sought to summarise the pages that followed was horribly unsympathetic – tot he point that it seems the only way I could defend Craig against your allegation in any way that would satisfy you would be to just reproduce Craig’s words from that whole section here!

    It really did strike me that you were not willing to give Craig a fair hearing at all. This is further suggested to me by your allegation that Craig makes an argument by quoting Dawkins and then saying “why is Dawkins wrong,” moving the burden of proof. In fact he quotes Dawkins in the context of Craig himself giving reasons to accept that Dawkins’ outlook follows from naturalism – but again, you’re just saying that he gave no reasons! That’s frustrating to say the least. Clearly his argument are presented in summary form (indeed, Reasonable Faith is the place where he gives the shortest treatment of the moral argument, unlike his debate with Taylor), but there are there nonetheless.

    I’m worried now (well not actually worried, but suspicious) that when you hear my discussion with Stephen you’ll conclude that since my presentation of the moral argument was just an outline, you’ll claim that I presented no argument at all!

    I blogged last night on what reasons exist for accepting the conditional premise of the moral argument (if there is no God then there are no moral facts). Hopefully you’ll be prepared to grant that it contains… well… something! Maybe you’ll find more there than you found in Bill Craig’s work on why that premise should be granted.

  81. Hi Glenn

    I have given a fuller response below (and on my blog) than one I gave earlier which deals with your misunderstanding of what Popper and I means by ad hoc, and why your suggestions regarding excusable ad-hoc-ness fail.

    BEGINS:

    My quick response to your three comments.

    First, here’s what an ad hoc hypothesis actually is (as Popper and I use the term). It’s a hypothesis introduced to save a theory from refutation, a hypothesis that is not independently testable.

    Illustration. The Aristotelean cosmology said the heavenly bodies are perfectly spherical. Galileo observed mountains on the moon through his telescope. One Aristotelean attempted to save his theory by insisting there was an invisible substance on the moon that covered the mountains, making it perfectly spherical. This theory-saving hypothesis was ad hoc because (at the time) it was untestable.

    Not all theory-saving hypotheses are ad hoc. Newton’s theory of universal gravitation predicated a smooth orbit for Uranus. Uranus was observed to have a wobbly orbit. To save Newton’s theory, scientists introduced the hypothesis that there was a further planet tugging Uranus out of orbit. This new hypothesis was not ad hoc as it led to new tests – astronomers looked at where the mystery planet would have to be, and found it – that’s how Neptune was discovered.

    Even when individual theory-saving hypotheses are not individually ad hoc, they can be collectively rendered ad hoc if the defender of the theory is prepared endlessly to cook up new hypotheses to save the theory. Or appeals to mystery, of course, which are also, in effect, ad hoc. This is the strategy I call “But it Fits!” in the book Believing B.S.

    Now to Glenn’s response. He says…

    GLENN: 1) I’m not even close to being persuaded that the plausibility of theodicies is anything like the plausibility of explanations for why we should believe in a young universe.

    ME: What you’re persuaded of is irrelevant. I have explained why your method of dealing with counter-evidence is essentially the same as that of YECs.

    GLENN: 2) Theodicies don’t strike me as ad hoc. Things like the free will defence or the soul building defence (etc) are generalisable. E.g. the might be stated something like “For any perfectly good and all powerful being, it would still be conceivable that they allow X provided it has some outcome that is compatible with their good character, such as Y.” Ad hoc explanations are really one-off explanations of a sort that are just made up to explain one very specific situation by appealing to principles that are of no use otherwise. So it’s not ad hoc at all.

    ME: That’s not what ad hoc means, Glenn. Ad hoc explanations lead to no new tests. The theodicies are ad hoc, by Popper’s definition (he coined the phrase). Look it up. Or, when the theodicies are not ad hoc, and the further test is failed, they are salvaged by yet another defensive manouevre, just as in the case of YEC, thereby rendering the theory unfalsifiable (or an appeal to mystery, of course). Nutters who believe dogs are spies from the planet Venus, etc. employ the exact same strategy.

    Ad hoc hoc defences CAN be generalizable. For example, to defend my theory that the Earth is ruled by alien lizards, I can deal with an apparent counter-evidence by saying: “Ah, but that evidence was of course planted there by the alien lizards to fool us.” That’s a great general, blanket immunizing strategy. it’s not one off.

    GLENN: 3) Even if things were different and theodicies were ad hoc, they are intended as explanations for why a person might do or allow something that you didn’t expect them to. If anything is allowed to be ad hoc, surely it’s something about why so-and-so might do something. If you rejected the explanation because it was ad hoc, you’d be effectively stacking the deck against any explanation in terms of a person’s intentions, which would be unfair in this case, to put it mildly. But this is moot, since theodicies aren’t ad hoc in any important sense anyway.

    ME: The theodicies are indeed ad hoc in Popper’s sense. They lead to no new tests (either that, or further explaining away is done ad nauseum to deal with further explanatory failures, or they’re supplemented by appeals to mystery). This is NOT like when someone does something out of character and we say, ah, but they probably had this reason for doing it. Often, we can test our hypothesis. So the suggestion is not ad hoc at all. And the occasional ad hoc explanation for anomolies is in any case acceptable (even Popper thought so). However, when there’s considerable evidence against a theory and it’s all dealt with by ad hoc means (and/or appeals to mystery), then that counter-evidence is NOT neutralized.

    You’re strategy is, in short, very much like a wife who, when presented with a husband who very often acts in seemingly cruel and vicious way, beating her and her children, maintains he is nevertheless entirely noble and virtuous. She simply explains all the bad stuff away in a manner that is entirely ad hoc (or, when her excuses and explanations for his behaviour clearly fail, just constructs yet more explanations ad nauseum, and/or appeals to his having mysterious unknown reasons).

    You, Glenn, say: “If you rejected the explanation because it was ad hoc, you’d be effectively stacking the deck against any explanation in terms of a person’s intentions”. This is just false, based on your misunderstanding of what ad hoc means, as I and Popper use the term. Explanations in terms of people’s intentions usually aren’t ad hoc, as it’s usually possible to test the explanation. E.g. We believe Tom is kind and non-violent. We discover he has killed someone with a knife. We postulate that he killed in self-defence. That it was a case of self-defence is something that might well be established. It’s not ad hoc. But even if it were, it would acceptable if it’s a one off example. What’s not acceptable is to rely almost entirely on ad hoc means to save your theory from refutation. That’s what you are doing, Glenn.

    To return to the beaten wife – the wife is being irrational if she insists there’s no prima facie good evidence that her husband is NOT entirely noble and good. She’s deluded. You seem, to me, are a similar case.

    Now of course, the wife might insist she has these other very good reasons for thinking her husband really is noble after all. Perhaps she has. But, as things stand, her husband’s horrific behaviour really is excellent evidence that he’s not entirely noble and good, notwithstanding the wife’s endless supply of untestable excuses and explanations.

    That’s right, I am suggesting you’re deluded, Glenn. Not very gracious of me, but it’s what I think. Clearly, when we are both so very confident of the reasonableness of our respective, but mutually exclusive, positions, one of us very probably is pretty deluded. The above considerations suggest it’s you.

  82. PS Landon’s unpacking of Craig’s arguments for his first premise of his moral argument seem to me to be admirably full, clear and, so far as I can see, entirely accurate. Landon’s clearly spent some time reading Craig very carefully. Look forward to reading whatever comes out of your research, Landon….

    Glenn may have something more substantial to offer – I haven’t looked yet.

    Of course, I wasn’t really interested in exposing all the flaws in Glenn’s moral argument – nor did I need to expose its flaws, as the moral argument is rendered more or less useless if Glenn does not first succeed in neutralizing the evidential problem of evil, which he hasn’t (because Glenn’s method of dealing with it is almost entirely ad hoc).

    At this point, Glenn’s position looks no more rational than that of a Young Earth Creationist.

  83. >First, here’s what an ad hoc hypothesis actually is (as Popper and I use the term). It’s a hypothesis introduced to save a theory from refutation, a hypothesis that is not independently testable.

    Such as not specifically defining “Good” or “Evil” except to claim you are using pre-theoretical, intuitive, notions of “good and evil” to run you EGC.

    Since this allows you to keep the definitions ambiguous you can use the fallacy of equivocation at will to deflect any objection.

    How are you Sir not delusional in thinking anybody here will let you off the hook for this obvious Ad Hoc piece of sophistry?

  84. Glenn,

    You write: “Yet when I pointed this out to you, it struck me that the way you then sought to summarise the pages that followed was horribly unsympathetic – tot he point that it seems the only way I could defend Craig against your allegation in any way that would satisfy you would be to just reproduce Craig’s words from that whole section here!”

    No, quoting the entire section of Craig’s book here in the comments of your blog would be unnecessary, and it would not “satisfy me” either. I had the book with me when I quoted the first paragraph of Craig’s defense of the premise (what you call his “summary”). I also had the book with me when I went on to summarize each subsequent paragraph. Merely quoting back at me the paragraphs I had just read wouldn’t have had much effect, all on its own. The simple fact is that Craig doesn’t offer any formal arguments for the premise (i.e. arguments with clearly stated premises which validly lead to the conclusion that the premise is true). If he’s got arguments, they’re a lot more informal than that, and the perceptive reader has to formalize them him or herself. What I did was briefly mention the basic content of each paragraph. If I missed something important, feel free to point that out. (This would not require quoting the full two pages.) But merely claiming that I’m misrepresenting and distorting Craig’s work isn’t getting us anywhere. If I’m missing something, I’d like to know what in particular I’m missing, and I can assure you it would probably be due to negligence on my part. I’m not intentionally lying about the contents of Craig’s book here.

    You wrote: “This is further suggested to me by your allegation that Craig makes an argument by quoting Dawkins and then saying “why is Dawkins wrong,” moving the burden of proof. In fact he quotes Dawkins in the context of Craig himself giving reasons to accept that Dawkins’ outlook follows from naturalism – but again, you’re just saying that he gave no reasons!”

    First, I did acknowledge Craig’s rhetoric about naturalism leading to the subjectivity of values. I quoted it, and then I mentioned it. Craig claims that, given naturalism, “there’s nothing special about human beings.” (Is this supposed to be uncontroversial, by the way?) He says that we’re doomed to perish in this hostile universe in a relatively short time. And so, he asks, why think human beings have objective moral values if there is no God? Why is Richard Dawkins mistaken when he says there’s no good and evil? And I’m wondering: Why do Craig and Peoples think the quick little assertions about the naturalistic perspective constitute a decent argument for the premise?

    So when I was offering an assessment of the paragraph, I mentioned the rhetorical question at the beginning–pointing out that a rhetorical question such as that does not prove the premise, and in fact it seems to just be a maneuver to shift the burden of proof. I mentioned the rhetoric, though perhaps you think it’s the reader’s responsibility to develop an argument for Craig here, fueled by those considerations. And I mentioned the Dawkins quote–again pointing out that this isn’t sufficient to make his case. It’s not as if I just claimed: Look, all Craig does is quote Dawkins’ opinion.

    Secondly, it’s interesting to note that in the paragraph I quoted, barring the introduction sentence “Consider, then, moral values,” Craig’s paragraph is: (1) A rhetorical question, followed by (2) The assertion that, given atheism, there’s nothing special about human beings, and (3) The assertion that, given naturalism, we’re just evolved animals on a small planet in a big mindless universe, destined to die in the relatively near future, then followed by (4) Another rhetorical question (“why is Dawkins mistaken…”). That paragraph, at least, doesn’t offer much.

    Now, you seem to want to say this is just Craig’s summary, not his actual argument. And in that case, his argument must come in the next page, because after that he moves on to defending his assertion that without God there are no objective moral duties. But I’ve already summarized (unfairly, you claim) what Craig says in that next page. And it’s not looking all that good from where I’m sitting.

    You write: “Clearly his argument are presented in summary form (indeed, Reasonable Faith is the place where he gives the shortest treatment of the moral argument, unlike his debate with Taylor), but there are there nonetheless.”

    Really? In terms of his written work, I thought Reasonable Faith is the place where he actually offers the longest treatment of the moral argument. (Perhaps with the exception of his response in the book Is Goodness Without God Good Enough?) The frustrating thing is that Craig has defended this argument in his books and in debates, but hasn’t bothered to defend it under peer-review as far as I can tell. So I’ve got to be content with his treatment in Reasonable Faith, along with any additional considerations offered in those debates. As I said, I’ll have another look at the Taylor debate.

    I’ll have a look at your new blog post when I have some time. Perhaps it will contain more straightforward argument than Reasonable Faith.

    By the way, am I to understand that when you claimed that the vast majority of Christian philosophers accept the premise, you were just offering your general impression? I take it that, given that you’ve been ignoring my request pretty consistently for a while now, you’re implicitly acknowledging that you don’t have any easily verifiable means of checking out your claim?

  85. Stephen,

    Thanks for the vote of confidence! It may be a while before I get the paper into a presentable form, given my other current commitments. I’ve got a paper on the kalam cosmological argument that needs a final, or close-to-final, revision. And I’ve got some papers to write for classes, since I’m a grad student. The paper I have in mind where I’d assess Craig’s moral argument is a larger project that will require a bit of time. But I’d be willing to send you any of that if you’re interested in having a look, assuming I can figure out how to contact you.

  86. Stephen, good heavens…. To say that a specific piece of evidence was planted by aliens to fool us is not generalisable. if there is some weird esoteric sense in which you think it is, it is certainly not in the sense that “A perfectly good being could allow things like X if doing so is a means to some good end” is generalisable. You comparison is just silly.

    Sure, there’s emotive impact in claiming that my position is like a beaten wife who defends her husband, but the comparison exists only for rhetorical purposes. Saying “my fallible husband who has his fair share of vices and who personally engages in beating me must surely have a good reason” is not at all like saying “if an all knowing and good being allows X then there must be a good reason for his doing so.”

    In the end, you simply *assume* that all theodicies are wrong (because if they weren’t then an evil God believer could do that do, and your argument banks heavily on us not allowing evil-God believers to do that, so they must be wrong), you don’t offer a word to rebut them, you label them ad hoc and make unfavourable comparisons, and this is all somehow supposed to breathe new life into the problem of evil? This is really what the evil God challenge has come down to. You had all of your eggs in the basket of “Well, evil-god theodicies are just absurd!” But once anyone actually probes this, it all falls apart. In granting that they aren’t absurd (remember, once we’ve foregone – for your sake – the argument that God’s greatness and goodness go hand in hand), the evil God challenge crumbles. And for that matter – should anyone successfully argue (as Ed Feser has pointed out) that theodicies just can’t be flipped like that, the evil God challenge crumbles. We do all tend to love our intellectual children, but this one just doesn’t get very far, Stephen.

  87. “By the way, am I to understand that when you claimed that the vast majority of Christian philosophers accept the premise, you were just offering your general impression?”

    Landon, what I mean is that the overwhelming majority of Christian philosophers who have, to my knowledge, ever said anything in writing about the moral argument have endorsed the premise in question. Swinburne is the exception.

    If you’re trying to catch me admitting that I haven’t actually surveyed every Christian who is a philosopher, then you got me.

  88. Glenn,

    I think you are playing a sematics game.

    1)If there’s no God, there are no objective moral values.
    2)There are objective moral values
    3)Therefore there is a God.

    Are you saying that your premises (1&2)and more plausible than their negations or they are abosolutely true? It seems to me that you imply the first one. Then let us do some basic math. Consider two extreme situations. You premises are 49 percent true or they are 99 percent true. I am considering only integers for the sake of calculation. What is the mathematicl probability of the conclusion being true? Since you cannot establish that your premises are 100 percent true, the concluiong being 100 percent true is a mathematical and logical impossiblity and Dr. Law is jusified in doubting your premises.

  89. Glenn,

    I think you are playing a sematics game.

    1)If there’s no God, there are no objective moral values.
    2)There are objective moral values
    3)Therefore there is a God.

    Are you saying that your premises (1&2)and more plausible than their negations or they are abosolutely true? It seems to me that you imply the first one. Then let us do some basic math. Consider two extreme situations. You premises are 49 percent true or they are 99 percent true. I am considering only integers for the sake of calculation. What is the mathematicl probability of the conclusion being true? Since you cannot establish that your premises are 100 percent true, the concluiong being 100 percent true is a mathematical and logical impossiblity and Dr. Law is jusified in doubting your premises.

  90. Glenn you say:

    {{{QUOTING: Stephen, good heavens…. To say that a specific piece of evidence was planted by aliens to fool us is not generalisable. if there is some weird esoteric sense in which you think it is, it is certainly not in the sense that “A perfectly good being could allow things like X if doing so is a means to some good end” is generalisable. You comparison is just silly.}}}

    Of course it’s generalizable. One can employ a general rule like this – “whenever a piece of evidence X presents itself against the hypothesis that aliens rule the world, explain X by saying the aliens planted it there to fool us.”

    Or say this: “Aliens rulers can and will plant things like X if by doing so they can create the impression they don’t rule the world.”

    In what sense, then, is explaining counter-evidence by saying the aliens put it there to fools us not generalizable, or only generalizable in some “weird, esoteric sense”? (Moreover, I have already pointed out that being generalizable has in any case got nothing to do with ad hoc-ness, as Popper and I use the term.)

    At this point, I’ve explained exactly why your approach to counter-evidence is essentially like that of YECs, aliens-rule-the-world conspiracy theorists, and various other nutcases. I have pointed out that it’s ultimately entirely ad hoc. I’ve explained clearly what ad hoc means, and have even illustrated many times using both theodicies and other examples. I have explained why almost entirely ad hoc defences of theories against powerful counter-evidence fail (if that’s not clear, I’ll happily explain further – basically, once we say such defences work, every theory, no matter how nuts, turns out to have no good evidence against it).

    So how, then, does your response to the problem of evil avoid the charge that, like the responses of YEC’s, aliens-rule-the-world nutters, etc. to counter-evidence, boil down almost entirely to ad-hoc-ery and mystery-mongering?

  91. Stephen, that is not a “generalisation” of the sort I am proposing since it works in reverse. I was talking about generalisations about what sorts of thing are compatible with our pre-existing understanding of perfectly good loving beings.

    You’re talking about “generalisations” (so-called) where nothing needs to be explained in terms of pre-set parameters. Your lizard explanations truly are ad hoc.

    So I understand that you’ve stated multiple times that it’s ad hoc, and stated multiple times that on this basis theodicies are like YEC science. None of that’s true and the comparison doesn’t work, however. In fact what you have in the end is an unchallengeable argument. If anyone poses a reason why God might indeed allow X, since you can’t tell if that really is the reason, you call it ad hoc. A fine argument: To complain that there’s no reason why God would allow X, with a rule that says you can’t offer a reason for why a being like God would allow a thing like X! All this from someone who complains that theodicies are unfalsifiable!

  92. I’ve done three things: Read Stephen’s article “The Evil God Challenge,” listened to the discussion with Justin, Glenn and Stephen, and read (most of) the comments in this discussion thread. Here’s the way I think things unfolded:

    Stephen: The traditional arguments for theism don’t specify that God is good.

    Glenn: OK, let’s grant that for argument’s sake.

    Stephen: Now you could object to the view that God is good by using the evidential problem of evil. There are mountains and mountains and mountains and mountains of empirical evidence against a good, God, namely, suffering and bad stuff like that. But classical theists have theodicies, like free will, soul making and so on. And so they “take the sting” out of the problem of evil [to use Stephen’s words in the interview].

    Glenn: Agreed.

    Stephen: But if you’re happy with this, suppose we object to the evil-god believer by pointing out that there’s a lot of good in the world. There’s a mountain of empirical evidence against evil-god, namely, all the good stuff in the world. But now the evil-god believer can use all the same theodicies in reverse! The free will theodicy, the “soul destroying” theodicy, and so on.

    Glenn: OK, just for argument’s sake let’s grant that the evil-god believer can also do this.

    Stephen: But clearly the evil-god hypothesis is absurd anyway. And since you would still say that about the evil-god hypothesis, why don’t you also say it about the good God? And that’s the evil God challenge.

    Glenn: Well, if we concede for argument’s sake that the evil-god believe can also take the sting out using theodicies, then we can’t, on the basis of the problem of good, say that the evil-god hypothesis is absurd. If we do say that, we’ll have to say it for other reasons.

    Glenn: Now that’s out of the way, the moral argument gives us good grounds to suppose that God is good. If God is required in order for there to be moral facts (and here’s a sketch of an argument for that), then the nature of those moral facts tells us about what God is like, and he’s clearly good rather than malevolent.

    Stephen: Well, that’s a controversial argument because a lot of philosophers reject the moral argument. Even this Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne.

    Glenn: Well can you give a good reason to reject the outline of an argument I gave?

    Stephen: I don’t need to, because it’s controversial. And remember, there’s that mountain of empirical evidence against a good God.

    Glenn: Well, our discussion was premised on the fact that both types of theism has theodicies for the evidential problems of good and evil.

    Stephen…. Well yes but now I want to run a new argument: Those theodicies don’t work! They’re ad hoc! The unvarnished problem of evil can carry my whole case.

    End of summary.

    If I have read this correctly, Stephen has beaten a retreat. When both parties (Glenn and Stephen) allowed the theodicies to remain in place, Stephen had no answer whatsoever for the moral argument. The only way he can avoid it (and I say “avoid,” rather than answer it) is to go back and renegotiate the theodicies. In short, the evil God challenge brings nothing new to the discussion table at all and does not move any debate forward.

  93. As a follow up to Glenn’s comment (which appeared while I was typing, apparently), I want to ask Stephen: Since you reject the existing theodicies, if God had any reason for allowing suffering that you would accept, what sort of reason would it have to be?

    I’m just trying to see how meaningful your concern over so-called “ad hoc” theodicies is.

    Thanks in advance.

  94. Lovely Stalinesque rewriting of history Sandra! I never said I don;t need to dreal with the moral argument because it’s controversial. Go and check.

    Glenn did indeed insist the theodicies worked (perhaps supplemented by mystery-mongering – which I didn’t grasp during the radio show as he didn’t make it clear and because it is so counter-intuitive (no ones taken that line with EGC before). However, once it became clear that that was indeed what Glenn was suggesting, I just bolstered the intuition that the theodicies are hopeless with an argument – an argument Glenn has subsequently failed to deal with.

    The overall argumentative architecture is this. I present powerful evidence against the classical theism. Glenn insists it’s not powerful evidence (despite the fact even many theists think it is). I then bolster the intuition that it is powerful evidence with an argument (Glenn’s theodicies etc. are all ad hoc, and once we allow ad hoc explanations, every nutty belief turns out to face no counter-evidence). Glenn’s clearly out of his depth at this point, tries to deal with the charge of ad hocness with an opaque and irrelevant point about generalizations. If the evidential problem of evil is very powerful evidence against theism, then the moral argument, even with an established first premise, is pretty useless. Classical theism remains, frankly, silly.

    I have in addition now raised one very obvious, well-known and devastating problem with the moral argument (on Glenn’s newer thread) which Glenn has basically responded to by saying he doesn’t have time to deal with it….

    But I needn’t have bothered as, given the problem of evil is indeed overwhelming empirical evidence against Glenn’s god (and it is), the right conclusion to draw if the first premise of the moral argument is true (which it ain’t) is that there are no objective moral values. Which was only ever an intuition in the first place, and moreover, an intuition which evolutionary theory suggest we would have even if it was not true.

    Overall, Glenn explains away counter evidence by ad hoc means and mystery mongering, and supports his theory by saying “But explain *this* then – see my hypothesized x must have done it” (where an inability to explain so-and-so certainly doesn’t establish x did it). This is exactly how YECs, aliens-rule-the-world, aliens-built-the-pyramids theorists think (substitute “god” or “aliens” for “X”).

    Take a step back and try to take a cool, impartial look at the overall rational architecture of your belief system. You might be surprised.

  95. Glenn you say:

    “Stephen, that is not a “generalisation” of the sort I am proposing since it works in reverse. I was talking about generalisations about what sorts of thing are compatible with our pre-existing understanding of perfectly good loving beings.”

    Ah, so my alien-rulers-planted-the-evidence generalization IS a generalization! But now you move the goalposts again. My generalization re alien rulers planting evidence is not a generalization “about what sorts of thing are compatible with our pre-existing understanding of [evil alien rulers].”

    But it is! My pre-existing understanding of evil alien rulers is indeed that they will try to disguise their existence and true intentions, and thus I conclude that they probably will plant evidence to dupe us. That evil alien rulers will plant such evidence is not just compatible with my prior understanding of their nature – it’s made probable by it.

    So explain to me again – why are you not deluded?

  96. Stephen, calling explanations ad hoc isn’t an argument. I think this question is important, and since you didn’t answer it, here goes again. I think the answer may be telling:

    “Since you reject the existing theodicies, if God had any reason for allowing suffering that you would accept, what sort of reason would it have to be?”

    I want to see if your rejections of theodicies is actually meaningful, and I think your answer to this question may help to tell us this.

    Otherwise, all we’ve got is you ignoring the moral argument, saying in effect that any theodicy should be rejected from the outset, and then wondering why your argument isn’t getting traction!

  97. Glenn you say “A fine argument: To complain that there’s no reason why God would allow X, with a rule that says you can’t offer a reason for why a being like God would allow a thing like X!”

    Me: eh? Of course you can offer a reason why a being like God would allow X. Go right ahead. I similarly offered a reason why evil aliens rulers will plant counter-evidence. Yet my explanation of that counter-evidence remains ad hoc.

    Fact is, while wearing my “evil-aliens-rule-the-world” hat, I remain a nutcase. There is overwhelming evidence aliens don’t rule the world. Despite the fact that, by means of ad-hoc-ery and mystery-mongering, I can endlessly “save” my theory.

  98. Stephen, your answer, I think, shows why Sandra’s question matters – because I really do think you’re setting up an “unchallengeable” argument, much like the unfalsifiable ones you complain about. It’s bed time for me, but I’ll check back to see if you answer it.

  99. Sandra you ask:

    “Since you reject the existing theodicies, if God had any reason for allowing suffering that you would accept, what sort of reason would it have to be?”

    I can’t imagine, off the top of my head, what would be God’s good and entirely adequate reason for unleashing hundreds of millions of years of unimaginable horror before we humans even showed up.

    But I don’t rule out a priori the possibility of there being such a reason. But in any case, you are missing the point. Merely coming up with reasons for the seeming counter-evidence doesn’t salvage the theory if the reasons are entirely ad hoc. So for example, I CAN come up with a reason why evil alien rulers would indeed plant counter-evidence. That doesn’t mean there isn’t good evidence against my theory. I remain deeply irrational. Because my reason is ad hoc.

    So now a question for you, Sandra: can you now tell me what would constitute a form of evil in the world that would constitute pretty good evidence against the existence of your God?

  100. When I think of a purely “ad hoc” rationalisation, I think of one that would be entirely unmotivated other than to step in at a given moment out of the blue and save a theory from defeat. This is the definition that Glenn linked to.

    But theodicies – unlike rationalizations of a wife-beating husband, are not like this. Instead they are introduced because there are already reasons to think that God is good. Glen refers to the moral argument, but we might also think of historical apologetics, as well as a classical consideration of maximal greatness, being, evil (being nonbeing) and the like. If these considerations didn’t exist (or if we, like Stephen, just ignore these issues and continually refuse to address them), then maybe theodicies might look ad hoc. But once we acknowledge these as motivators for our background belief that God is good, theodicies aren’t ad hoc – or at any rate if there’s some sense in which Stephen can call them such, the complaint becomes trivial – and they definitely aren’t like rationalisations of young earth belief or the violent husband. Instead they are motivated by pre-existing plausible reasons to think that God is good, and they show that the problem of evil can’t overturn those arguments unless the proponent of the argument from evil is willing to shoulder the burden of proof and argue that a good god couldn’t have these (or any plausible) reasons for allowing suffering. And if there’s one uniting theme in Stephen’s approach, it’s a steadfast unwillingness to actually argue for the assumptions he relies on (or to argue against Glen’s argument for divine goodness!). Of course, if a person turns to the problem of evidential evil presupposing that there’s no existing reason to think that God is good, they might be tempted to assume that every explanation is a rationalisation without warrant.

    I’m looking forward to the next podcast!

  101. “But I don’t rule out a priori the possibility of there being such a reason.”

    Stephen, I’m not missing the point here, and I think another chink in your argument is being levered open into a gaping wound. You say you don’t rule out a priori that there could be such a reason argument, but it seems perfectly clear to me that any such reason will be an explanation after the fact that tries to describe a scenario where a perfectly good God’s character is compatible with allowing a lot of suffering. And yet this is exactly the kind of explanation you brush off as ad hoc.

    I really don’t think you have a position that’s open to critique, Stephen, and it is not I who am missing the point. You are, because you reject other views, calling them unfalisifiable, while you yourself have an argument that will not admit of falisfiablity. In your response to me you basically admit that any explanation would be ad hoc. Even a true explanation!

    As for your question: “can you now tell me what would constitute a form of evil in the world that would constitute pretty good evidence against the existence of your God?”

    Well whether it’s my God or not, you are now succumbing to the criticism that you brushed off in the interview as “irritating.” You are assuming that Christians look at the amount of evil in the world and use it to determine what God is like. Your routine of “no, no, I’m only saying that they should use the evidence to rule out some types of God” will not do, as Glenn explained in the interview. When you appeal to the evidence and show it to the Christian, you’re expecting them to grant on the basis of that evidence that God is at least somewhere between God and evil, or else evil.

  102. Stephen, I have to say – I think your line of argument is in a fairly unenviable position. In effect, you’ve got to insist that even explanations that are compatible with all the facts and are true will be discarded by your method of labelling explanations as ad hoc, basically ensuring that no explanation at all will get through your filter, and then you will claim the victory of an unassailable argument!

    At least the moral argument (like the classical argument about goodness and greatness, along with historical apologetics) has the philosophical strength of being open to question.

  103. >In effect, you’ve got to insist that even explanations that are compatible with all the facts and are true will be discarded by your method of labelling explanations as ad hoc, basically ensuring that no explanation at all will get through your filter, and then you will claim the victory of an unassailable argument!

    In essence Prof Law’s response is itself Ad Hoc by it’s own standards. He’s the one postulating an invisible shell of smooth material around celestial bodies to maintain the fiction they are perfect spheres according to the theories of the ancients.

    In psychology we call it projection.

  104. Glenn you say: “you’ve got to insist that even explanations that are compatible with all the facts an are true will be discarded by your method of labelling explanations as ad hoc, basically ensuring that no explanation at all will get through your filter,”

    Of course true explanations can quite rightly and justifiably be rejected. Happens all the time.

    “No explanations at all will get through your filter.” Not sure what this means. Non ad hoc explanations of counter-evidence are fine. Even the occasional ad hoc explanation is acceptable. The only thing I am ruling out is a theory defended against seemingly very powerful counter-evidence more or less entirely by ad-hoc means (plus mystery-mongering). I’m saying, very sensibly, that that does NOT neutralize the counter-evidence! This must, by now, be blindingly obvious to you.

    Moreover, you haven’t shown your explanations are true, at this point (considering just the evidential problem of evil prior to considerations favouring theism). You are just assuming they are, at this point!

    But the key point, Glenn, is, once explaining away all counter-evidence by more or less entirely ad hoc means (plus mystery mongering) is allowed – and that IS your strategy, as you seem finally to have realized – EVERY NUTTY THEORY BECOMES ENTIRELY IMMUNE TO COUNTER ARGUMENT. Indeed, this is the preferred method of dealing with counter-evidence by nutcases the world over.

    I can now quite reasonably believe the world is ruled by evil, shape-shifting alien lizards. A wife can quite reasonably believe the husband who beats her and her children is wholly noble and good. Any counter-evidence can quite reasonably be endlessly explained away by ad hoc means (supplemented, if required, by mystery-mongering). Our absurd beliefs will be just as reasonable as yours. And yours as reasonable as ours.

    Sandra. Thank you, at least, for admitting that your method of dealing with counter-evidence is entirely ad hoc. And for pointing out that (i) my real view is not what I say it is, and (ii) is wrong.

  105. Glenn you say: “At least the moral argument (like the classical argument about goodness and greatness, along with historical apologetics) have the philosophical strength of being open to question.”

    I maintain that a theory defended against seemingly powerful counter-evidence by more or less entirely ad hoc means (plus mystery mongering) does not succeed in neutralizing that counter-evidence.

    I have also given an argument in support for this principle – that if we do not accept it, then any theory no matter how nuts, can justifiably be defended in the same way – with absurd consequences.

    My thesis and the supporting argument are obviously potentially open to challenge (whether or not a good challenge). So I am not sure what you are insisting is not “open to question”.

    You seem to be attacking a straw man.

  106. “I maintain that a theory defended against seemingly powerful counter-evidence by more or less entirely ad hoc means (plus mystery mongering) does not succeed in neutralizing that counter-evidence.”

    Well let’s recall – the moral argument isn’t a defence against the problem of evil. It’s a counter argument, so the above is a bit muddled.

    But what I see is someone setting aside all considerations in favour of a good God (i.e. ignoring them) and assessing responses to the “evidence” as though no such considerations existed.

    And it’s perfectly clear what I think is not open to challenge: Your rejection of every possible theodicy. You simply aren’t allowing this rock solid conviction of yours to hear any challenge. After all, every possible theodicy is given after the fact and will be dismissed by you as ad hoc. There’s a major asymmetry there: All of the considerations in favour of a good God are transparent and subject to critique and modification. The rejection of every imaginable theodicy is not.

  107. Glenn: “Well what I see is someone setting aside all considerations in favour of a good God (i.e. ignoring them) and assessing responses to the “evidence” as though no such considerations existed.”

    Ah but now you’ve forgotten what the issue is, conveniently. The issue is, does the evidential problem of good constitute powerful evidence against classical theism, sufficient to justify our rejecting it, PRIOR to our considering arguments that might be given in support of classical theism (such as your moral argument)?

    YOU said that theodicies, by themselves, pretty much neutralized the evidential problem of evil, without even considering e.g. the moral argument. In fact, maintaining this was pivotal to your strategy of dealing with the EGC.

    Well now we have seen that they don’t neutralize the evidential problem of evil. At all.

    Your final remark is blather. I don’t have to go through every last frigging creationist explanation for counter evidence in order to justifiably dismiss their entire strategy. Some of their moves are ad hoc. Some are not. The ones that are not lead to explanatory failures, which are then dealt with by further explanations and/or appeals to mystery. Ad nauseum.

    In fact several of the theodices ARE very easy to find fault with. Not all are immediately ad hoc. I could list several glaring problems now with some of the major ones, if you like. But you won’t then say, “Oh, OK these theodicies are pretty inadequate, then” (which many more intellectual honest theists do). You’ll just cook up more explanations and/or appeals to mystery. One way or another, you’ll find a way to make your preferred theodicies (whatever they are – we don;t even know yet!) “work”.

    Either the theodicies fail, or else they are salvaged by ad-hocery and mystery mongering.

    We can go through the whole laborious process if you really want. I’ve done it a million times. It’ll be just like a conversation with a young earth creationist. Who is deluded.

    I bet you now say, “Ah but you haven’t gone through every single last one and show it is false and/or ad hoc.”

    Yeh, that’s what creationists and nutters say. Fact is, it’s an impossible task, because the game of constructing yet more explanations to deal with explanatory failure can continue ad infinitum. Does that mean creationism hasn’t been shown to be empirically absurd? No.

    But if you want to play the game, the onus is on you to start the ball rolling. I have given you seemingly powerful evidence against classical theism. So now state exactly which theodicies deal with that evidence. Explain them clearly, please – show exactly how they work, individually or collectively, to neutralize the problem of evil. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly you end up resorting to ad hocery and mystery.

  108. PS it’s interesting that Sandra knows in advance, that there can be no good empirical counter-evidence against her God. How does she know this? Because, of course, she knows, in advance, that every bit of evidence can be explained away ad nauseum. In the style of a YEC or nutcase.

    What about you Glenn? Do you know in advance that there can be no observed evil such that it constitutes good evidence against the existence of your God? If not, what would be an example of an observed evil that would genuinely threaten classical theism (given that none of the evils I have pointed to do)?

  109. It’s not clear that the evidential problem of evil is itself not ad hoc, by the standards being thrown around here. Once it is put forward, if a theodicy softens the force of the argument, then some other criteria for determining what counts as gratuitous or unjustifiable can be drummed up (and then isn’t that ad hoc?). At best this sounds like the pot calling the kettle black, but I’m inclined to think that it just shows that we don’t have the epistemic resources to actually mount a successful evidential or probabilistic argument from evil. In this case, one doesn’t need a ton of theodicies, they just need other good reasons/arguments for believing in God as classically conceived. That is to say, no one needs to have their reason bothered by the evidential problem of evil (although I don’t think a person wouldn’t be very human if it didn’t bother them emotionally or existentially -or existentielly, rather- but that is a different matter).

  110. >PS it’s interesting that Sandra knows in advance, that there can be no good empirical counter-evidence against her God. How does she know this? Because, of course, she knows, in advance, that every bit of evidence can be explained away ad nauseum. In the style of a YEC or nutcase.

    Or an Atheist nutcase whoAd Hoc equates ignoring arguments with answering them.

    Not to mention the Ad Hoc assumption that an alleged God’s moral character can be show based on a correlation between the amount of “good” vs “evil” in the world with “good” & “evil” being defined Ad Hoc in a “pre-theoretical” manner instead of according to a definitive metaphysical description based on an establish moral philosophical tradition.

    Prof Law at this point I am convinced your EGC is pure Bull****.

    It has no meaningful content or value. That obtains regardless of the existence or non-existence of any “gods”.

  111. What the F*** is an “Evil” God anyway?

    Stephen Law can’t tell us since the definitions of “Good” & “Evil” are pre-theoretical, thus “Good” and “evil” are subjective preferences.

    Hitler see’s the Judeo-Christian God as “evil” because He won’t let him kill Jews with impunity.

    Ayn Rand might see God as “evil” because He commands Charity and Rand see charity as a bad thing.

    If God doesn’t exist this is the most bull**** piece of sophistry I have ever saw.

  112. BTW I think I should point out.

    I as a Classical Theist & a militant anti-Theistic Personalist Catholic Christian and amateur Thomist.

    I reject all Theodicies on principle. I believe Theodicy is only for “gods” who are conceived of as Moral Agents unequivocally compared to human moral agents. The Theodicy is used to justify why an all-powerful, good, divine moral agent, would allow any evil to exist in any world he created.

    God is not a moral agent. His goodness can’t coherently be conceived of in terms of moral agency.

    Any refutation of any Theodicy is to me about as significant as Prof Law delivering a devastating polemic against YEC to a room filled with Theistic Evolutionists.

    Non-starters.

    But that having been said his attacks on Theodicy here on this blog have been some of the worst bits of confused sophistry I’ve ever read.

  113. “PS it’s interesting that Sandra knows in advance, that there can be no good empirical counter-evidence against her God. How does she know this? Because, of course, she knows, in advance, that every bit of evidence can be explained away ad nauseum. In the style of a YEC or nutcase.”

    No, it strikes me that Sandra’s observation – which I share, is grounded in your method of deciding that things are ad hoc and dismissing them. If any after-the-fact claim about the compatibility of a good God with suffering is ad hoc and dismissed (and this is exactly what you do), then there’s no need to even talk about it. You know in advance that there’s no viable theodicy. When you say that nobody can offer good reasons, it’s because you’ve got filters set up so that any good reasons – in fact any reasons, will be categorised, boxed, shelved and ignored.

    You can just decide to look at the problem of evil PRIOR to considering arguments that God is good, but this strikes me as self serving. I do it the other way around: Are there reasons to think God is Good? Yes. Are there challenges to this? Yes, the problem of evil. You seem to say: Are there reasons to think God is good? NO. And there is the problem of suffering with no background belief that God is good.

    You can throw in emotive terms about “mongering” if you like, but I think it’s quite clear that the challenge you’re presenting isn’t a genuine one as it does not admit of critique. And just as you said “Oh I don’t need to answer the moral argument,” you now say that you just don’t need to explain why some theodicies fail (actually you need to show that all of them fail – in principle).

    “Explain them clearly, please – show exactly how they work, individually or collectively, to neutralize the problem of evil.”

    No. Part of the benefit of there being such a thing as history is that the wheel doesn’t have to continually be reinvented. If you’re not even aware of the theodicies, then you’re in the wrong territory when you write about it. If you’ve got new interesting challenges to them, then one day it’d be helpful to see them. if you don’t, I’m happy to just leave your comments about the problem of evil alone. You can either interact with the theodicies or you can’t. But dismissing them all in principle is just an escape from having to do any philosophical work.

    I will say, however – that although I find your defences of the EGC fairly poor, this interaction has greatly helped the current writing project. We’ve probably had more discussion here than anyone would have if I had just sent you the article and asked for some comment! I will remember to thank you for your comments, but continue to think the ECG very weak. It just doesn’t do any of the heavy lifting needed.

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