Adam and Eve and the Problem of Evil

This article explores one aspect of the relationship between the Problem of Evil and the Fall of Man. It is based on a reasoning scheme known as 'poisoning the well'. However, as with most reasoning schemes, its application determines whether it is a fallacy or not. Its intent is to weaken the Christian argument that we don't know enough about Gods intentions to say anything about Evil. I intend to show that we can't confidently say we know anything about God.

For the sake of this argument, I will stipulate the premise of Adam and Eve and the Fall of Man and the existence of God are true.

If Adam and Eve are related to the problem of evil then we have to accept the whole premise literally, the world is less than 10,000 years old, that evolution didn't occur and that the whole field of science is based on factors that are causing the sound principles of Logic and Inference to fail. That raises questions of uncertainty about the principles of Logic and Inference in general. If we accept the old earth creation then the world could be 4.5 billion years old, and we start getting into deciding which parts of the bible are metaphorical and which are not.

If we presume that humans have free will and choose to sin, then the introduction of personal bias is likely and
- The initial writers of the scripture should be suspect.
- Since we don't have the original text, the reproduction of the scripture should be suspect.
- any intepretations based on those scriptures should be suspect.

If we presume that humans cannot understand the mind of god, then those interpretations should be suspect.
- Teachings coming from someone who interprets the bible should be suspect.

Using this principle the phenomena of doctrinal differences between denominations becomes plausible. However, the principle that we can understand Gods word as it appears in the bible becomes implausible because our nature prevents us from interpreting the 'word' correctly. If we say that we receive guidance from the Holy Spirit, the nature of Human Beings prevents the Guidance from being accepted as it was given. Since the only information we have about the christian god comes from the bible and humans are not capable by nature to intrpret the word, then we cannot really trust what we should take to be metaphorical and what we shouldn't and we cannot confidently say we know anything about the Christian God.

14 comments:

Michael Ejercito said...

http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2006/06/04/the_silence_of_god/

The answer, though the pope didn't say so clearly, is that a world in which God always intervened to prevent cruelty and violence would be a world without freedom -- and life without freedom would be meaningless. God endows human beings with the power to choose between good and evil. Some choose to help their neighbor; others choose to hurt him. There were those in Nazi Europe who herded Jews into gas chambers. And there were those who risked their lives to hide Jews from the Gestapo.

The God ``who spoke on Sinai" was not addressing himself to angels or robots who could do no wrong even if they wanted to. He was speaking to real people with real choices to make, and real consequences that flow from those choices. Auschwitz wasn't God's fault. He didn't build the place. And only by changing those who did build it from free moral agents into puppets could he have stopped them from committing their horrific crimes.

It was not God who failed during the Holocaust or in the Gulag, or on 9/11, or in Bosnia. It is not God who fails when human beings do barbaric things to other human beings. Auschwitz is not what happens when the God who says ``Thou shalt not murder" and ``Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" is silent. It is what happens when men and women refuse to listen.

David B. Ellis said...

I am reminded by this argument of a science fiction novel by Damon Knight called A REASONABLE WORLD in which, due to the intervention of a benevolent alien species, any time anyone inflicts suffering on another living being (including animals) they experience the same pain the other does.

I highly recommend it to anyone interested in seeing the problem of evil explored from an unusual perspective.

Bnonn said...

John, if you are stipulating for the sake of argument that Genesis occurred as recorded, then you ought surely be stipulating similarly that the Bible is God's genuine revelation, being "breathed out by" him (2 Tim 3:16). Is your argument not trying to import premises from another worldview to create tension with the first, biblical premise? If so, then certainly it cannot offer any kind of internal critique of Christianity.

In addition, you said:

If Adam and Eve are related to the problem of evil then we have to accept the whole premise literally, the world is less than 10,000 years old, that evolution didn't occur and that the whole field of science is based on factors that are causing the sound principles of Logic and Inference to fail. That raises questions of uncertainty about the principles of Logic and Inference in general.

What exactly do you see as being the principles of reasoning in the scientific method, that they are sound? I put it to you that the scientific method is intrinsically and unavoidably reliant upon formally fallacious principles of reasoning, so we ought hardly be surprised when it is wrong. Furthermore, if the assumed principle of uniformity is false, then there is ample reason to re-evaluate our entire "understanding" of world history.

Regards,
Bnonn

John W. Loftus said...

bnonn, Lee wrote this post, not me. But may I suggest you get and read The Secret Origins of The Bible by Tim Callahan, which is linked on the right sidebar. See what you think of the reasonableness of believing in historical figures of Adam and Eve after reading through that fine book, okay?

Jospeh said...

Michael, what you seem to be saying in so many words is that God has taken a "hands off" position where human affairs are concerned, in order not to violate our free will. Funny, because when I read the Bible it seems that GOD'S will is the focus, not man's. So why should he respect the terrorists' choice to bomb the WTC? Or Hitler's choice to exterminate millions of Jews? Or the neighbor's choice to molest his children?

To add another layer of complexity to the subject, scriptural evidence weighs heavily in favor of God's involvement and intervention in human choices (both good and bad). He sent a great flood to wipe out evil, he confused the languages at Babel, he hardened Pharaoh's heart, he killed Ananias and Sapphira, he gave dreams and visions to help people avert disaster. Both the Old and New Testaments are chalk full of stories about a Deity who is interested in human choices, so much so that he often steps in to challenge them.

If that's true, then what really troubles me these days (as a Christian) is why God ISN'T stemming the flood of evil in our world. Why he lets innocent villagers in the third world perish because of a warlord's free will. Why he let billions of people suffer so that despots like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Hussein can pull off their sinister free-will plans. Why he allows children die of Aids in Africa because of the free choices of irresponsible adults.

Bnonn said...

My apologies, John. Permit me to redirect my original comment to Lee, then.

As regards the historicity of Adam and Eve, since it was assumed for the sake of argument my point still stands. We aren't debating the reasonableness of belief; as far as I can see, we are debating the internal consistency of Christianity, given belief.

Regards,
Bnonn

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Bnonn,
as far as I can tell, you haven't attempted to show how I am wrong.
But for the sake of argument, I'll play.

John, if you are stipulating for the sake of argument that Genesis occurred as recorded, then you ought surely be stipulating similarly that the Bible is God's genuine revelation, being "breathed out by" him (2 Tim 3:16). Is your argument not trying to import premises from another worldview to create tension with the first, biblical premise? If so, then certainly it cannot offer any kind of internal critique of Christianity.
Okay, I did stipulate that scripture is "breathed out", but how does that weaken the argument? Meaning that god can blow out scripture all day long but as long as it is going through imperfect agents like us, how can you trust it?
To me, in principle, it is a dumb thing to do, and I don't think it would be a good business model to emulate.

additionally, you said:

What exactly do you see as being the principles of reasoning in the scientific method, that they are sound?
It is logical inference based on observation and data gathered under strict protocol. The most famous example I can think of is the general theory of relativity which helps to bring you your television these days. The most practical example i can think of is any of the electronic devices or medicines you find at your local hospital.

- you observe a phenomena,
- you come up with an idea of how to explain it or how it works,
- you figure out a way to test if you are right or not,
- you do the test
- you see if it acts the way you predict
- you see if it fits with other aspects of the world
- you accept it if it does, you reject it if it doesn't and start over
- if you are right, then other teams try to reproduce your work and if they can, it strengthens it, if they can't then it weakens it.

Anyone that denies the success of the scientific method should get a tour of their local hospital, or go talk to a recovered cancer patient.

I put it to you that the scientific method is intrinsically and unavoidably reliant upon formally fallacious principles of reasoning, so we ought hardly be surprised when it is wrong.
Maybe you are talking about Affirming the consequent? Fallacious reasoning is a pattern of reasoning that when mis-applied, is invalid. A reasoning scheme properly applied is not a fallacy.
here's a silly example. An ad hominem "jeffery dahmer is a cannibal so I wouldn't let him watch my kids" or "Billy Graham is a cannibal so I wouldn't let him watch my kids". Which one is the fallacy?
- Appeal to consequences, "Don't put your hand it that fire, its going to get burned"
- Appeal to Pity, "We should give aid to poor countries because they are starving and people are dying of easily preventable diseases every day".

I'm sure you can think up more on your own if you try.

Furthermore, if the assumed principle of uniformity is false, then there is ample reason to re-evaluate our entire "understanding" of world history.
Why would you think the principle of uniformity is false?
World history gets re-evaluated periodically when something is found that challenges what is thought to be known. That is the beauty and strength of science. In contrast, Scripture is what it is, unchangeable, and dependent on 'reinterpretation' through the ages as circumstances change. There are no new revelations in the bible. There are no divine 'revisions' to fix problems. The older the world gets, the less relevant it becomes. God has retreated from the mountains, retreated from the clouds, retreated from space, and is now hiding in your brain. Once nano-technology gets mature, and neuroscientists can non-destructively monitor a working brain, we'll find that god has retreated from there and probably lives in a universe predicted by string theory or something.

So go bone up on your string theory, you're going to need it. ;-)

Bnonn said...

Hi Lee, my time is limited, so let me just reply to one of your questions:

Why would you think the principle of uniformity is false?

Why would you think it is true? That is, what reason do you have to believe it?

Also, it's interesting that you mention my brain, since it seems to me that the various arguments from reason soundly demonstrate the impossible hurdles that materialistic/naturalistic worldviews must overcome to be intelligible. Regardless of how well you understand the brain, there is an obvious divide between physical and mental events. No amount of correlation can bridge that divide since the two things are in different categories.

Regards,
Bnonn

Btsai said...

Bronn,

One of the best support for the principle of uniformity, also known as the Cosmological Principle, is that the cosmic microwave background has been observed to be isotropic to roughly one part in 100,000. In laymen's terms, no matter what direction we look at, the radiation has the same intensity. This is not what we would expect to see see if the universe is not uniform.

You don't think a naturalistic worldview can ever explain the relation between mind and matter? You do realize that you've just taken on the burden of proving a negative, don't you? Please give us your proof, then, of why a naturalistic explanation for the mind does not exist.

Btsai said...

Oops, the Cosmological Principle is similar to, but not identical to the Principle of Uniformity. But neither of them seem to have much to do with our understanding of world history. Bronn, please define what you're referring to as the principle of uniformity, and why you think it is fallacious?

Lee Randolph said...

BENNY!
I love it when you do that!
I am sooooooooo glad you've got my back!
You're like a guardian angel or something!
;-)

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Bnonn,
still skirting the article eh,
well, since no one is challenging it directly I'll keep playing. But be advised that I am trying to maintain some lightheartedness so please don't take it the wrong way.

Why would you think [the principle of uniformity] is true? That is, what reason do you have to believe it?
Uh, the consensus of experts? Nice dodge. I imagine you bending over backwards to avoid that like Neo in the matrix.

Also, it's interesting that you mention my brain, since it seems to me that the various arguments from reason soundly demonstrate the impossible hurdles that materialistic/naturalistic worldviews must overcome to be intelligible.
wow, nice rhetoric, would you mind backing that up with some reasons?

Regardless of how well you understand the brain, there is an obvious divide between physical and mental events. No amount of correlation can bridge that divide since the two things are in different categories.
yea, I had heard that but I was under the impression that it was being shown to be an incorrect description of the workings of the mind. Thanks for clearing that up. I got it from silly papers like this one. How did you learn about that? Are you a cognitive neuroscientist?

Btsai said...

Bnonn, sorry for mis-spelling your handle :( I really need to pay more attention. That's what I get for posting bleary-eyed in the wee hours of the morning...

Good morning Lee *wave*

David B. Ellis said...

Lets keep in mind that naturalism and materialism are not the same thing.

There are all manner of metaphysical systems other than materialism that are quite consistent with naturalism (neutral monism, for example, just to name one of many).