Dr. William H. Jefferys on the Loftus/Wood Debate

Dr. Jeffery's, Harlan J. Smith Centennial Professor of Astronomy, Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin wrote me this:

I listened to your debate with David Wood today. Very interesting.

A twist on the Argument from Evil that seems to be implicit in what you said but was not stated explicitly is the following, which I think undermines David's case and the rationalizations he gave.

Take a counterfactual hypothetical: Suppose that we observed that the world did *not* contain gratuitous evil (tsunamis killing thousands, leukemia, etc.). Would the theist conclude that this evidence *favored* the existence of the 3-omni God? (I certainly would, and I think that most people would.) If he would, (and we'd have to see if David would say that it does) then the observation of the world we actually do have undermines the existence of the 3-omni God quite trivially. For if we have any hypotheses A and B, where A and B are mutually exclusive and exhaustive hypotheses, and possible evidence X and not-X, then if observing evidence X supports A against B, then observing evidence not-X necessarily supports B against A. This is straightforward in either Bayesian or likelihood analysis.

I've used this approach in other contexts. See my review of the book, The Privileged Planet by Gonzales and Richards.

A small point: One should not let people like Wood get away with trying to deflect the argument from evil by claiming that atheists can't state a principle for recognizing evil. After all, the burden of proof is on them, and they claim to have a way of recognizing evil. By their own definitions, the world contains evil...even Wood would not claim that the holocaust, for example, was not a monstrous evil. They are then hoist by their own petard, since the logical inconsistency is purely on their side. The atheist doesn't have to justify anything, just point out that it is the theist's position that is logically inconsistent.

Regards, Bill
Homepage

5 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

Anyone wanting a copy of the debate DVD see here. There is also one selling on ebay.

David Wood said...

I've begun my response to Weisberger's review:

Reply to Weisberger

I'll probably write a short response to Jeffrys when I'm finished. His first criticism is quite interesting and worthy of careful consideration. His second claim simpy misses the point.

I've noticed something interesting, however. Both atheist reviewers (Weisberger and Jeffrys) seem to imply that John's arguments didn't work. That is, Jeffrys's response was "It would have been good to bring X up, and you shouldn't have let him get away with Y." Weisberger, apart from outlining your arguments, responded by showing what she would have said in response to my claims. That is, at no point does either reviewer say "David said so and so, but John proved that wrong when he said such and such." Instead, both reviewers try to explain to readers what John should have said. This is interesting, because apart from Jeffrys's first point, nothing either reviewer said affects my case at all.

David Wood said...

P.S.

Isn't one of your guys over there a technical genius? See if he knows how to post our debate on You Tube. Then people can both watch the debate and read the reviews.

D said...

John,

The program you need is free and available for download here -- DVD Decrypter:
link

Or:
link

A guide is available here:
link
Or:
link

What you will do is:

1) rip the files from the DVD onto your hard drive (they will be "video object files" , in .vob format)
2) convert them to a file format that is supported by either Google Video or YouTube: (.mpg, .wmv, .avi)
link
link
3) Then you will upload them: (probably using Google Video)
link
link

You will almost certainly have to use GV instead of YouTube because of the size issue. YouTube doesn't allow over 100MB or over 10min, so you'd have to chop your video files into sections for YouTube.

If you don't have high bandwidth, don't bother even trying this, as you will use the desktop uploader for Google Video and it will take hours even with a cable modem.

There are many different choices for video editing software out there. A decent free one is SUPER (any of the 4 links below):
link
link
link
link

If you already have Nero or ATI Catalyst or any other similar product, just use it to convert the .vob files into .mpg or .avi or whatever. If you're using MS Vista as your OS, it includes a free Movie Maker software that will publish a .vob into a .wmv file.

Sorry, but I really don't have the time to do all this. It takes at least a full day. If you need more help, go to BestBuy and ask questions; pretend that you've already bought a PC from there or that you are thinking about it -- they don't work on commission and they're almost always friendly and helpful.

Best,
D

John W. Loftus said...

Okay, here goes......