Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Laws and theodicy: Some steps in the dialectic

The following steps are quite standard in the problem of evil dialectics:

  1. Atheist: The world contains many instances of suffering, all of which could easily be averted if there were a God, simply by modifying the laws of nature. For instance, there could be a law of nature saying that knives turn to water before they penetrate hearts, etc.
  2. Theist: Such laws of nature would be unduly complex. For instance, they would have to specify exactly when knives turn to water, in what way (does the process happen all at once, starting at the tip, etc.), how close they need to be to the heart for the process to start, etc. Simplicity of law is intrinsically valuable—a world all of whose laws are as elegant as General Relativity is a world of great value, in its diversity reflecting God's infinity in its and in its simplicity God's unity.
  3. Atheist: Any value of such simplicity is far outweighed by the disvalue of suffering for persons.

At this point, we have a serious clash of intuitions and it may not be efficient for the theist to try to bridge it. Instead, the theist might try to argue that humans couldn't coexist with the more complex laws. I am inclined to think that that isn't the best answer.[note 1] Instead I want to consider the following dialectical moves:

  1. Theist: It is valuable for us to be able to figure out the laws, both for the sake of the understanding itself and to enable us to exercise more meaningful agency. But laws complex enough to stop every kind of suffering would be too complex for us to figure out.
  2. Atheist: But God could give us more powerful intellects.

It is at this dialectical point that I want to jump into the fray. Three moves are open to the theist. The first is that there is a value in having a range of beings in the world, ranging through completely mindless electrons, unconscious plants, barely conscious lower animals, moderately smart higher animals, moderately smart human beings, perhaps even smarter non-human persons somewhere else, and in any case a whole range of superhuman intelligences (angels). This great chain of being is of significant value. It is valuable that the chain not have significant gaps in it, as there would be if God refrained from creating agents—us—with intellects that are not all that impressive compared to what is higher up. (And, O how great the glory of God, God then became one of these lower agents, and raised another to be the queen of heaven.)

The second move is to note that there is something odd about complaining that God did not create in our place a smarter species. Whom did God wrong or behave less than perfectly lovingly towards by not creating a smarter species in our place? That smarter species? But you cannot wrong or behave less than perfectly lovingly towards someone who never exists. Or us? But I think our existence is overall worthwhile.

The third and most challenging move is to note that there is a value in having enmattered intellects which do a significant part—if the materialists are right (they're not), all—of their thinking by use of a physical organ (the brain), an organ whose morphology arose through natural physical processes of not too small probability. Now, a more complex set of laws given such conditions might require a more complex brain. But it could well be that the energy usage and evolution of such a more complex brain would require further complexification of the laws. I do not know that this is so, but neither do I know that this is not so, and I doubt that anyone is in a position to claim that it is not so. But the further complexification of the laws may require a further complexification of the brain. And so on. There might be a fixed point to this sequence—a brain that can understand the laws of nature that it is governed by. But we do not know that there is such a fixed point. It's fun and humbling to note how easily our thinking hits up against things that none of us know.

46 comments:

radical_logic said...

4. Theist: It is valuable for us to be able to figure out the laws, both for the sake of the understanding itself and to enable us to exercise more meaningful agency. But laws complex enough to stop every kind of suffering would be too complex for us to figure out.

5. Atheist: But God could give us more powerful intellects.

Option 1: There is value in having a range of beings in the world, ranging from completely mindless electrons to superintelligences, with no significant gaps between them.

Objection: Why couldn't there be a similar range of beings in the world where the laws are more complex? Suppose 1 = mindlessness, 100 = superintelligence, and 2-99 = everything in between. In our world, we have beings ranging from 1-100, but perhaps in the more complex world, the range of beings would be from 20-120. Why not?

Option 2: We shouldn't complain that God did not create us a smarter species. He did us no wrong in creating us as we are.

Objection: Irrelevant. The theist's claim is that if the laws were too complex, the we couldn't figure them out. If this is the argument, then it's completely appropriate to question the alleged entailment. For if the theist's claim is false, then he can't use it in his argument.

Option 3: I'm not sure I understand this move.

thomism said...

Here's another move: the theist can just concede the atheist's #1, and then prove God is all good (even omnibenevolent) since a.) all good is from him, and b.) all perfections pre-exist supereminently in him, and c.) God is somehow the end of every creature. Terrible, totally avoidable evils- that God was completely powerful enough to solve -happen AND God is omnibenevolent.

A, B, and C are the only arguments I see in the Fathers and the Scholastics for the omnibenevolence of God. They simply wouldn't see the Atheist's #1 as an objection to the existence of an omnibenevolent or all-good being.

James Chastek

Alexander R Pruss said...

r_l:

Maybe the range already goes infinitely in the upward direction? Anyway, there is probably a value in having mindless beings, and we don't want gaps between 1 and 20.

"The theist's claim is that if the laws were too complex, the we couldn't figure them out. If this is the argument, then it's completely appropriate to question the alleged entailment." - It seems quite relevant. For if the smarter beings wouldn't be us, then it's still true that God couldn't make us smart enough.

thomism:

Sure, but then you have to prove the existence of God through a deductive argument, or an inductive one so powerful that evil doesn't shake it. I think the existence of God can be proved deductively. But many people don't accept the arguments. Are they irrational in not doing so? I do not dispute that. But even if they are irrational, they need to be helped.

radical_logic said...

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Maybe the range already goes infinitely in the upward direction? Anyway, there is probably a value in having mindless beings, and we don't want gaps between 1 and 20.
------------

1. What's the value in having mindless beings?

2. Why couldn't mindless beings exist in a more complex universe?

3. Even if mindless beings can't exist in a more complex universe, why can't the *starting* value be from 20 onwards without any gaps? I'm saying: 20=1 in the more complex universe, and therefore there's no gap.

-----------
For if the smarter beings wouldn't be us, then it's still true that God couldn't make us smart enough.
-----------

Why couldn't the smarter beings be us? Suppose when you get to heaven, God increases your IQ by 1,000 points. Would you become someone numerically different?

radical_logic said...

Moreover, I think the claim that the laws would have been more complex in order for us to avoid evils is just plain false: God could have kept us in paradise, where no evils occur. Were the laws in paradise so complex that agents had to be geniuses to navigate around? If not, then there's no reason why the laws outside of paradise have to be so complex that agents have to be geniuses to navigate around.

radical_logic said...

"I think the existence of God can be proved deductively. But many people don't accept the arguments. Are they irrational in not doing so? I do not dispute that."

I'd like to see this argument made (perhaps you can do a post on it?) Are you saying no person in denying the argument could rationally withhold assent to its premises?

Crude said...

"Why couldn't the smarter beings be us? Suppose when you get to heaven, God increases your IQ by 1,000 points. Would you become someone numerically different?"

Changes that come in the future are different from changes that you're arguing should have come in the past. A Crude who at birth had an IQ of 1000 would absolutely have to be numerically different from 'me'. (In fact, I think it's a mistake to refer to such beings as 'Another Crude' at all, since it just causes confusion. The 'me' I am is the only 'me' I could have ever been.)

And it's a mistake to view any offspring of Adam and Eve as being punished besides. Adam and Eve started off in paradise, paradise was given to them with an explicit rule, the rule was broken, and paradise was removed from them. Paradise was never promised to their offspring, and was never owed to them (nor was it owed to Adam and Eve - it was a gift.) A&E's offspring enter a world in a 'new' way, with a different gift, and a different arrangement in place between themselves and God. That A&E's initial gift and arrangement was 'better' is of no concern.

radical_logic said...

"A Crude who at birth had an IQ of 1000 would absolutely have to be numerically different from 'me'."

Why? On the Christian view, you are not your brain, but your soul. Souls can inhabit brains with really high IQ points or brains with really low IQ points. If your soul inhabited the body with a very smart brain, why should this soul be different from the soul that inhabited the body with a not very smart brain?


"
And it's a mistake to view any offspring of Adam and Eve as being punished besides."

Instead of using the language of punishment, I use the language of "harsh consequences." God, on my view, imposed harsh consequences on the descendants of Adam and Eve for the mere fact that they sinned. This imposition needs to be explained/justified.

Two questions.

1. Suppose Jack was punished for committing a crime, and his punishment was imprisonment. If YOU were then imprisoned for the mere fact that Jack committed a crime, would this be a just or unjust action taken against you? Which is it?

2. Suppose God punished Jack for committing a crime, and his punishment was imprisonment. If God then imprisoned you for the mere fact that Jack committed a crime, would this be a just or unjust action taken against you? Which is it?

Crude said...

"Why? On the Christian view, you are not your brain, but your soul. Souls can inhabit brains with really high IQ points or brains with really low IQ points. If your soul inhabited the body with a very smart brain, why should this soul be different from the soul that inhabited the body with a not very smart brain?"

That's not correct. On the Catholic view (at least the thomistic view), 'I' am a unity of body and soul. My soul alone is not me. Even on other dualist views something comparable seems to be in play (I am constituted, at least in part, by my conditions and decisions), and I can even see the rationale failing in an idealist view.

So no, there's no way to change my past (and certainly not my past self) without eliminating me. Not 'changing' - eliminating.

"Instead of using the language of punishment, I use the language of "harsh consequences." God, on my view, imposed harsh consequences on the descendants of Adam and Eve for the mere fact that they sinned. This imposition needs to be explained/justified."

There's problems even with the 'harsh consequences' view.

Both inside and outside paradise, there are gifts and benefits in play. A&E's offspring receive different gifts, and a different plan than their parents. They were not 'owed' better by God - indeed, in both cases, gifts are being received. That the type of gift and plan the offspring get was a result of A&E's choices do not turn the gift and plan into 'harsh consequences'. Just 'consequences'.

Think of it this way. If A&E weren't instantiated in paradise, but instead the normal world and were being prepared for paradise - at which point they willfully violated a rule, the preparation ended, and they were left where they were - would your argument hold? It seems not, since their offspring are inhabiting the same 'place' A&E are. And since the offer is a gift(s) (rather than owed) God isn't unjust for changing said gift(s).

As for your questions - they don't seem comparable to what's being discussed here. Some problems.

You said 'harsh consequences', not 'punishment' - how is your example not punishment?

In your case, you are setting up a God whose mind you know - God isn't allowing my imprisonment for a purpose which will some day become clear, etc. You're saying you've read God's mind, you know His intent is to not only punish me, but to only do so for the actions of Jack and no other reason. That goes far beyond what you can rightly say even in the garden scenario.

radical_logic said...

"That's not correct. On the Catholic view (at least the thomistic view), 'I' am a unity of body and soul. My soul alone is not me."

Then how do you account for identity over time? Our bodies constantly change, and therefore, on your view, we can't last very long.

Consider: body (including brain) + soul at t1, and body + soul at t2. If the body changes at t2, then does CRUDE still exist at t2? How can the answer be 'yes' if the unity-relation is different? We can ask this question if your body (or brain) *drastically* changes at t2--suppose you become a super genius, or a mute. Would CRUDE still exist at t2?

Let me put it this way: Suppose at t1 CRUDE has an IQ of 125, and then at t2, the brain of that body acquired an IQ of 500. If CRUDE still exists at t2 with the new IQ, then why can't the body in the *other world* with an IQ of 500 be identical with the CRUDE in this world at t1?

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As for your questions - they don't seem comparable to what's being discussed here. Some problems.

You said 'harsh consequences', not 'punishment' - how is your example not punishment?
-------------

I don't see how the questions aren't comparable.

Case one: God imposes harsh consequences (i.e Jail time) on you for the mere fact that Jack committed a crime.

Case two: God imposes harsh consequences (i.e. sickness, old age, and/or death) on you for the mere fact that Adam and Eve committed a crime.

What's the difference?

Crude said...

RL,

"Then how do you account for identity over time? Our bodies constantly change, and therefore, on your view, we can't last very long. "

It's not my view (I didn't come up with it) but the aristotilean/thomistic view, or at least my understanding of it. The soul is the form of the body, and the soul persists even after death. But 'I' am not just a soul. 'I' am not just a body either. 'I' am the unity. Hence the need for resurrection.

And sure, if I in the future gain 500 IQ points, I could still be me. My body changes, and the soul accounts for that. But a different past is a different person, period. There's no way for it to be otherwise. Any more than the Eiffel Tower could have been the Statue of Liberty.

Could someone with similar traits as me have had an IQ of 500 at birth? Sure. It just wouldn't have been me. To give another example: Frank Sinatra isn't 'me, if I was born at a different time, to a different family, with different conditions and a different body.' He's just a different person.

"I don't see how the questions aren't comparable."

Because you're now stepping into the realm of reading God's mind, foe one thing. Before you were limiting yourself to the acts and consequences - God expelled Adam and Eve from the garden, and a consequence of that was their children grew up in new conditions (less immediately pleasant than the garden) and a new plan. The new conditions and plan was still a gift, there were still conditions in place, and they were owed neither those conditions nor the garden. It's a wash.

Your imprisonment example not only has my being imprisoned, but it's explicitly a punishment, it's chosen by God, and God is doing it for no other reason than because Jack committed a crime. It's no longer a passive consequence but an active punishment. You're stipulating the only reasons God could have for doing this. Big changes. How am I - or you - to know those reasons God has in mind? And if I don't know God's mind, I don't know whether what I'm experiencing is a punishment, or really, the complete rationale.

Again: God offered a new plan, and new gifts. He did not owe A&E the garden. He does not owe their descendants the garden. He also doesn't owe the descendants their new plan and new gifts. So there's no room for the descendants to cry 'Unjust!' at God here. He's in a unique position compared to any other agent.

radical_logic said...

World 1: Baby-Crude is born with an IQ of 50 at t1, then acquires an IQ of 500 1 second later at t2.

Is Baby-Crude identical to the baby who acquired an IQ of 500 1 second later? I assume you say 'yes.'

World 2: Baby-Crude* is born with an IQ of 500, and Baby-Crude* is identical in every way to Baby-Crude at t2.

Conclusion 1: Baby-Crude* is identical to Baby-Crude at t2.

Conclusion 2: Baby-Crude* is identical to Baby-Crude at birth.

How do you resist these conclusions?

-------------
Your imprisonment example not only has my being imprisoned, but it's explicitly a punishment, it's chosen by God, and God is doing it for no other reason than because Jack committed a crime.
----------------

True or false? God imposed harsh consequences on the descendants of Adam and Eve for the *mere fact* that they sinned.

Crude said...

"How do you resist these conclusions?"

On a number of grounds, but the easiest is: They aren't perfectly identical, because I can tell them apart. One of them is the baby who was born with an IQ of 50, and acquired an IQ of 500. The other one never had an IQ of 50 - they were born with an IQ of 500.

You may as well say, 'Create a perfect clone of Radical_Logic. They are totally identical. How do you prove they're not identical?' Easily. I point out that one is a clone, and the other is not. Pasts matter. Continuities matter.

"True or false? God imposed harsh consequences on the descendants of Adam and Eve for the *mere fact* that they sinned."

False on a number of grounds.

1) I don't know God's mind. For all I know God allowed A&E to have children outside the garden specifically because he wanted to offer them something, in particular new gifts and a new plan. In fact the evidence in favor of that view seems considerable. The 'mere fact' is not apparent - in fact it seems groundless.

2) Being denied the same gifts of A&E is not the same thing as an imposition of harsh consequences. Their offspring received life that obviously had its pleasures, a certain relationship with God and the world. Absolutely there were certain pains and responsibilities that went along with it. So what?

3) Imagine you conversing with Cain and Abel. 'God is unjust!' you say. 'If he were just, you two would have never have had the experiences you did or made the choices you made! You wouldn't exist!' Were I you, I'd expect funny looks. Or worse, if Cain got you alone.

Again, I'm not very big on the Eugenicist God Idea, who never allows the less-than-perfect to come into being. And your argument implies that, were God just, I and anyone I love never would have existed. It further implies that the best thing to do is render the world sterile (or, if it is possible to eradicate timelines and pasts utterly, to do that). Sorry, but a God who permits an imperfect world and allows people to become more perfect seems vastly more preferable.

radical_logic said...

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On a number of grounds, but the easiest is: They aren't perfectly identical, because I can tell them apart. One of them is the baby who was born with an IQ of 50, and acquired an IQ of 500. The other one never had an IQ of 50 - they were born with an IQ of 500.
-------------

Can there be *Baby-Crudes* in other worlds who at birth are numerically identical to Baby-Crude in W1 at birth? Yes or no?

If yes, then can there be *Baby-Crudes* in other worlds who at birth are numerically identical to Baby-Crude in W1 at birth, but possess different features than Baby-Crude at W1? Yes or no?

-----------
False on a number of grounds.
------------

I should have started with this question: Did God impose harsh consequences (i.e. sickness, old age, and/or death) on the descendants of Adam and Eve? Yes or no?

Crude said...

"Can there be *Baby-Crudes* in other worlds who at birth are numerically identical to Baby-Crude in W1 at birth? Yes or no?"

Nope. All you can get is increasing amounts of apparent similarity. At worst, it becomes difficult to tell the difference between one BC and another. And naturally, no, there cannot be BCs who are numerically identical but possess different features. Frank Sinatra is not 'Me, if I had all those features and his history.'

"I should have started with this question: Did God impose harsh consequences (i.e. sickness, old age, and/or death) on the descendants of Adam and Eve? Yes or no?"

Still no. Different consequences, different conditions, different gifts, sure. Harsh? On what grounds? They still had a relationship with God. They worked and toiled and married and unfortunately sinned and experienced joys and successes. Cain begged for mercy because he didn't want to die.

Did God allow A&E's offspring to be born into a world with different gifts (but still gifts) from A&E? Sure. Were the conditions different from the garden? Absolutely. Were there pains and sufferings as included in those conditions? Undeniably. But God gave them the package, the entirety - new gifts, new rules, etc. Again, not harsh consequences - a different plan. No injustice here.

radical_logic said...

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Nope. All you can get is increasing amounts of apparent similarity. At worst, it becomes difficult to tell the difference between one BC and another.
----------------

Really? So God couldn't have created YOU a bit differently than he actually did? Is this what you're saying?

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Still no.
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This answer is incorrect: consider infants who suffer harsh consequences--disease, starvation and a terrible death. Who or what brought about these consequences? If not God, then who?

Crude said...

"Really? So God couldn't have created YOU a bit differently than he actually did? Is this what you're saying?"

Someone tremendously like me, with all sorts of equalities of value and feature? Sure. Me exactly and specifically? No.

"This answer is incorrect: consider infants who suffer harsh consequences--disease, starvation and a terrible death. Who or what brought about these consequences? If not God, then who?"

The answer is correct. And it was brought about by the same God who can and will right all wrongs, and answer all injustices. Also the same God who died on the cross, so clearly He knows a thing or two about what life is like here.

Like I've said all along - it's a tremendous mistake to view these things where God is just a particularly powerful human. And it's also a mistake to try and border off one part of a total creation and experience and judge God based on it.

You may as well tell me, "Okay, ignore the part where Christ is resurrected. Now, let's talk about how unjust and horrible and inept it was for God to allow Himself to be persecuted and killed..." Well, no, because it's silly to try and section it off like that. Or to take it from the flipside, 'My client simply pulled the trigger of a pistol. Something our second amendment guarantees us the right to do, a liberty enjoyed by thousands of legitimate sportsmen every day. Now, when you put aside the fact that he was wearing a mask and aiming his gun at a bank teller at the time...'

radical_logic said...

1. Let me get this straight. If God had created the entity who formed in your mother's womb with one extra white blood cell than number that Crude actually had at the time, then Crude--you--would never have existed?

--------
The answer is correct. And it was brought about by the same God who can and will right all wrongs, and answer all injustices.
---------

2. I had said: consider infants who suffer harsh consequences--disease, starvation and a terrible death. Who or what brought about these consequences? If not God, then who?

Your answer, then, is that 'God' brought about those harsh consequences? Yes or no?

Chris Hoover said...

Dr. Pruss,

In your post you said, "you cannot wrong or behave less than perfectly lovingly towards someone who never exists."

I don't disagree with that, but it did make me think back to a quandary I came across a while back. If we believe population control is necessary for future generations (which obviously don't exist yet), and thus institutionalize condom use (or some other method of contraception), do we commit a sort of two-faced rule? We are valuing the rights of future (currently non-existent) beings and their rights in the first part, and then denying certain groups of people rights by implementing contraception.

You may not find this entertaining or relevant but I was curious what you thought.

Thanks

Crude said...

"1. Let me get this straight. If God had created the entity who formed in your mother's womb with one extra white blood cell than number that Crude actually had at the time, then Crude--you--would never have existed? "

I said a "me" with a different past or different conditions is not "me". It's something like me, but distinct. "Would never have existed"? Given the kind of oddness people can think up with quantum theory and multiple universes nowadays, I really have no idea. But even there, just as in this singular universe, what instantiates "me" is tremendously exacting. There's no "me who at 12 years old became a jet pilot". That's 'someone similar to me but different'.

"Your answer, then, is that 'God' brought about those harsh consequences? Yes or no?"

I've explained to you in detail why the answer is 'no', and why your question is invalid. Repeat the question, and I repeat 'no' and point above to why I explain it's invalid. If you can't get past that, well, we're at an impasse.

radical_logic said...

------------
I said a "me" with a different past or different conditions is not "me". It's something like me, but distinct. "Would never have existed"? Given the kind of oddness people can think up with quantum theory and multiple universes nowadays, I really have no idea. But even there, just as in this singular universe, what instantiates "me" is tremendously exacting. There's no "me who at 12 years old became a jet pilot". That's 'someone similar to me but different'.
--------------

Then how do you account for identity over time? What makes the succeeding entity at t2 the same entity--Crude--at t1?

Suppose Baby-Crude at t1 has an IQ of 50, then the succeeding entity 1 second later has an IQ of 500. What makes them one and the same person?


-----------
I've explained to you in detail why the answer is 'no',
------------

Now you're contradicting yourself. Before I asked who or what brought about the harsh consequences on the infants. You said: "it was brought about by the same God who can and will right all wrongs, and answer all injustices."

So were the harsh consequences brought about by God or were they not?

larryniven said...

I really have to start getting to these earlier, as it seems that radical_logic is jumping all over them quickly...

My fundamental problem with this series is that it weirdly assumes that the only way for God to do the knives-to-water thing would be to add stuff to the physics that we already have. What possible reason could there be for that being the case? Why, in fact, would God need to use any kind of normal physics at all? It would be far simpler - and I daresay fantastically obvious and easy for us to figure out - to miraculously turn knives into water, and that would have the added benefit of providing an extraordinarily clear indication of the supernatural for us skeptics.

Alexander R Pruss said...

LN:

There is a value in having a world which follows laws of nature in an orderly way, which develops in a significant sense "on its own".

Leibniz criticized Newton's idea that God miraculously fixes up planetary orbits from time to time, saying that a good designer makes something whose ordinary functioning does not require intervention. I think there is something to this idea.

larryniven said...

"Here's another move: the theist can just concede the atheist's #1, and then prove God is all good (even omnibenevolent) since a.) all good is from him, and b.) all perfections pre-exist supereminently in him, and c.) God is somehow the end of every creature. Terrible, totally avoidable evils- that God was completely powerful enough to solve -happen AND God is omnibenevolent."

Oh goodness, I didn't even see this. Thanks for brightening up my evening.

Care to answer why such a God wouldn't prevent the "totally avoidable" evils that it "was completely powerful [and, I assume, knowledgeable] enough to solve"?

larryniven said...

"There is a value in having a world which follows laws of nature in an orderly way, which develops in a significant sense "on its own"."

How does the world "develop"?? What does this even mean? Moreover, again, what makes you think that God couldn't have made a world that develops in this way? There's nothing about miracles that necessitates that they each come from a unique divine intention any more than there's anything about mass-produced objects that necessitates that they each come from a unique human intention. Why not just set up an automatic miracle-generating framework (or the pre-developed stages of one, whatever that would look like) and then let it work?

Crude said...

"Then how do you account for identity over time? What makes the succeeding entity at t2 the same entity--Crude--at t1?

Suppose Baby-Crude at t1 has an IQ of 50, then the succeeding entity 1 second later has an IQ of 500. What makes them one and the same person? "

Continuation of form and succession of bodily states combined with that form. The form is immaterial, but does not 'possess' the body. As I said, this is an Aristotilean and Thomistic view - I probably explain it imperfectly, but it's been the long-standing Catholic view of these things. If you really would like to read more about it, there are some good online resources - you'd probably want to start with a basic rundown of Aristotle's four causes and spread out from there.

"Now you're contradicting yourself. Before I asked who or what brought about the harsh consequences on the infants. You said: "it was brought about by the same God who can and will right all wrongs, and answer all injustices."

So were the harsh consequences brought about by God or were they not?"

I've done no such thing. I've explained why I reject your form of the question, and provided - amply - my view of what God is responsible for, and how the question must be considered. If your response is 'I already asked this question and you gave me the answer!', then you know what my answer is - along with what I stipulated.

As I said, if you're going to stick with that form of the question and won't accept the answer I gave, we're at an impasse. This is like asking me to consider the value crucifixion without reference to the resurrection, or the morality of shooting a gun with zero explanation of the conditions (what the gun is aimed at, etc.) If you can't make your case without a tact like this, there's no case for me to consider, and no dialogue to be had.

Alexander R Pruss said...

"Why not just set up an automatic miracle-generating framework (or the pre-developed stages of one, whatever that would look like) and then let it work?"

To make that work would complicate the world. There would, presumably, have to be laws governing how the framework works.

larryniven said...

"To make that work would complicate the world. There would, presumably, have to be laws governing how the framework works."

See, here you are again making the same assumption. You have no idea whether or not God could create a system of equal complexity that also turns knives into water - if for no other reason than you have no idea how complex the laws currently are! I don't either, of course, but I'm not the one trying to base my argument on what I don't know.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I think it's very plausible that such laws would need to be more complex. They'd have to specify exactly under what circumstances the event happens.

But in any case, all I need for the argument is the claim that the atheist doesn't know that such laws could be simple.

radical_logic said...

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Continuation of form and succession of bodily states combined with that form. The form is immaterial, but does not 'possess' the body.
------------

This doesn't tell me anything. Why is the form + bodily states at t2 numerically identical to the form + bodily states at t1?



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I've done no such thing. I've explained why I reject your form of the question, and provided - amply - my view of what God is responsible for, and how the question must be considered.
------------

No, you didn't. Again, I originally asked: who or what brought about the harsh consequences on the infants? You said: "it was brought about by the same God..."

In other words, the harsh consequences were brought about by God, How else am I suppose to interpret your statement, or was it a slip?

radical_logic said...

"I think it's very plausible that such laws would need to be more complex."

Would you agree that Paradise-laws are not more complex than the non-paradise laws? Or, at the very least, would you agree that if we humans were to live according to Paradise-laws, we wouldn't need to be geniuses to navigate around?

If yes, then the issue is this: Why is our world not governed by paradise-laws? This is the question the theist needs to answer

dvd said...

If the world was governed by "Paradise Laws" what would be the "internal" state of man? Can a man be in rebellion and remain without torment?

How "truthful" would the world be if the "truth" of what people are is never allowed to manifest?

Even if the world remained in paradise, does this mean that man won't question why God would not allow suffering to challenge certain notions and allow for greater good?

Alexander R Pruss said...

You know, I've never thought much about what the laws in paradise were like. That presents a really interesting challenge to this whole law of nature line of theodicy.

I guess it could be that they weren't all that different from the laws we in fact have. It's probably wouldn't be all that hard to set up quite a pretty delightful system on earth, under present laws, if everybody were in agreement about the things that matter and nobody ever did anything wrong. But a system of laws and initial conditions that would delightful under such an idealistic assumption might well not work in a setting where people disagree about important matters and do wrong.

So it is possible that paradisiac laws would make things worse for us, because the laws might have been carefully attuned to human behavior being morally perfect. Or it could be that paradisiac laws are just the same as our laws.

thomism said...

"Sure, but then you have to prove the existence of God through a deductive argument, or an inductive one so powerful that evil doesn't shake it."

Not so. All I have to show is that the atheist's claim is not contrary to an acceptable meaning of divine omnibenevolence. IMO, to be the first cause of every good, to be the end in some way of every creature, and to contain every possible good count as "omnibenevolent" or "infinitely good". What else would we call such a being? We can prove such a being exists later.

(I have to sign in on blogger by the name in front of my wordpress address, but my name is James Chastek.)

radical_logic said...

"So it is possible that paradisiac laws would make things worse for us, because the laws might have been carefully attuned to human behavior being morally perfect. Or it could be that paradisiac laws are just the same as our laws."

This sounds obviously false, or at least very implausible. Are people afflicted by earthquakes, dangerous hurricanes, diseases, birth-defects, etc in paradise? If so, then it wouldn't sound much like paradise. But If not, then are you saying we suffer from those afflictions in our world because we're not morally perfect? That is, is it our moral-imperfections that cause these events to happen?

If so, then this raises the question: why would God create a world in which we would experience evil as a result of our moral-imperfections?

Moreover, this explanation--that our moral-imperfections cause those dangerous events to occur--doesn't explain why innocents suffer.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Perhaps in paradise, they would have known how to build to withstand earthquakes and hurricanes, and how to cure disease.

It need not be the case that the evils we have are results of our moral evils. They might, instead, be results of different initial conditions that are appropriate for morally imperfect people to live with.

radical_logic said...

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Perhaps in paradise, they would have known how to build to withstand earthquakes and hurricanes, and how to cure disease.
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It takes time to build earthquake and hurricane defenses--enough time to get hit by them.

Moreover, we also know how to cure (some) diseases, but people can still suffer immensely despite the successful treatment.



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It need not be the case that the evils we have are results of our moral evils. They might, instead, be results of different initial conditions that are appropriate for morally imperfect people to live with.
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Are you saying, then, that it's the fact that we have morally imperfect characters that causes evils in our world?

If so, then the question arises: Why did God provide us with morally imperfect characters?

And another thing: if Adam and Even had morally perfect characters, it's hard to explain why they were not always perfect. It's like saying: God is perfectly good, but yet he can act badly.

Alexander R Pruss said...

One can lack moral imperfection, and yet be capable of sin.

radical_logic said...

But regarding your explanation, are you saying evils occur in this world--and not in paradise--because we have morally imperfect characters?

Alexander R Pruss said...

I don't know. I was offering that explanation as one of the options.

larryniven said...

"I think it's very plausible that such laws would need to be more complex. They'd have to specify exactly under what circumstances the event happens.

But in any case, all I need for the argument is the claim that the atheist doesn't know that such laws could be simple."

How can it be any more plausible for them to be complicated than simple? Or, on the ungrounded assumption that they must be complicated, why on earth would I think that the increase in complexity would not be outweighed by the decrease in evil? You have, after all, not provided any scale by which to equate those two things.

This is an area where we're operating with literally no knowledge, so any of these claims is going to be wholly speculative. And I also fail to see why the atheist is in a disadvantaged position here - in your initial dialogue, it's the theist who makes the first move towards ignorance:

"1 Atheist: The world contains many instances of suffering, all of which could easily be averted if there were a God, simply by modifying the laws of nature. For instance, there could be a law of nature saying that knives turn to water before they penetrate hearts, etc.
2 Theist: Such laws of nature would be unduly complex."

(You'll have to forgive me for losing your original formatting and adding some emphasis of my own.)

How does the theist justify that? You yourself have admitted that there's no possible way to know how complex the laws currently are, let alone how complex this kind of thing would require them to be.

James said...

RL: If so, then this raises the question: why would God create a world in which we would experience evil as a result of our moral-imperfections?I agree with Alex that it may not be that our evil is a consequence of our moral evils. But I don't find it at all implausible that God would want to create a world where we experience evil as a result of our moral imperfections. For experiencing the awful consequences of moral evil might then teach us something about the awful nature of sin against God, sin against an all-good being who, in love, sent his son to be the saviour of the world (see 1 John 4).

larryniven said...

"How "truthful" would the world be if the "truth" of what people are is never allowed to manifest?"

Gibberish much? Truthfulness is not a property of worlds, and I sincerely doubt that you have any good account of "the truth of what people are." If you can figure out how to say this in English, maybe we can include it in the conversation.

"Even if the world remained in paradise, does this mean that man won't question why God would not allow suffering to challenge certain notions and allow for greater good?"

Like what? First of all, what "certain notions," and why would challenging these be overall good? Second, what greater good is inherent in suffering? Third, why reduce this to a question of what "man would question"? Either we can evaluate the overall goodness of a world or not: don't try to confuse the issue by reducing it to our emotional reactions.

larryniven said...

Goodness, this is almost too easy:

"...experiencing the awful consequences of moral evil might then teach us something about the awful nature of sin against God."

Sure, and chopping off someone's hand "might then teach" that person "about the awful nature of" stealing something. But is this the best way to get people to understand why stealing is bad? I'm pretty sure it is not.

radical_logic said...

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But I don't find it at all implausible that God would want to create a world where we experience evil as a result of our moral imperfections.
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This is certainly implausible. On your view, God causes us to experience evil simply because we have an immoral disposition or character - something we were born with. In other words, we experience evil NOT because of what we do, but because of a certain character we were born with.

How is this any different from the harsh consequences many homosexuals suffer for the mere fact that they have a different sexual orientation?

enigMan said...

It is valuable for us to be able to figure out the lawsBut then why are the laws of physics so intractable? Relativity theory is one of the simplest bits of modern physics, and way beyond most of us. And the local approximations need massive computing power to tell us very much. And even then they can be wrong. We seem to figure out approximations to the laws, rather than the laws themselves. And we could do that if the laws themselves were much more complicated.

Furthermore, adding in an angel who ensures that all evil human intentions rebound on the would-be evil-doer would seem to be to add something relatively simple and predictable, especially for those of us who chose not to attempt to do evil, which would pretty soon be most of us were there such an angel.