The Logical Problem Of Evil Reformulated

132 comments:

TKD said...

I've read this argument by LaCroix before and it seems interesting, though it seems to rely on measuring 'goodness' in terms of a proportion between good and evil. In other words, 100% good is better than 99% good.

However, I don't think that the amount of good and evil needs to be looked at this way by the theist. It seems that if we were to quantify good and evil we could say something like this:

Before creation, there were 100 units of goodness and 0 units of evil. After creation, there are 150 units of good, and 50 units of evil.

Now clearly, there is more units of goodness post creation than before, but the proportion of good to evil is less than before.

Just my two cents.

stevec said...

Came here to say what TKD already said better than I would have.

Rob R said...

(some points not necessarily in logical order)

1. I don't see why there is any reason to conclude that creation was less good than God.

2. I agree that there is a problem with the idea that God knew that his creation would lead to evil. Thus I don't buy that God knew such a thing. But God knew in it's place the truth that some creatures might become evil and the might not become evil, and I agree with Alan Rhoda and Greg Boyd that such a truth contradicts the certainty that the world would become corrupt.

3. God did not have to create the world. It was a free act. He might not have done it. He did not need the world, but since when do choices have to be based solely on necessity?

4. The possibility for evil was a necessary feature of the kind of goodness that God wanted to create, that is creatures who would love God and love each other in a self determining deeply intimate way. Since self determinism for temporally finite creatures requires free will, evil was a necessary possibility (though definitely not a necessity). Since the degree with which God wanted us to love him and each other and him was a very intimate degree, great love comes with the risk of harm and suffering to God and ourselves. Part of what contribures to the nature of love as God intended it is responsibility. That responsibility is very real and very deep and entails calamity for those who abuse it. Without great risk, there is not great responsibility.

5. Besides eabling a deep and self determining love, free will also enables a qualities of consciousness and creativity that are not possible without free will. Also free will enables a quality of sovereignty which God desired for his creature that would look after creation.

God could have created us with all of these features without the use of free will. But they would not have been the same and they would not have been as deep. Also Humans would not have reflected God to the same depth and degree. Course one would object that if our free will entails the possibility for evil, why wouldn't God's? I think a reasonable claim is found in what I call a psychologically responsible view of freedom and responsibility. This view highlights that our moral character is formed by among other things, a free nature. But the more we choose rightly (or wrongly) the more our characters are formed and the less free we need to be for our morally responsible actions. When someone with a hardened character (or one with integrity) chooses an action, they may no longer be free with respect to that action, but they are responsible for those actions since they are based upon a character that they formed freely. There actions, even if they aren't libertarian free, they are self determined.

So God, who has existed from everlasting to everlasting has always acted morally (whatever that means, but it's not like mystery is an intrinsically bad thing in theism... (or any field of study for that matter)). His character has always been formed in a self determining way. This is not so with temporal creatures, thus their moral responsibility and their self determining love must involve libertarian freedom. (libertarian freedom for those who don't know is freedom that is incompatible with determinism and requires that more than one option is truely possible).

But not all of God's freedom needs to be this way because not all expressions of freedom are moral or involve issues of love vs. faithlessness.

Rob R said...

BTW, I wrote all that at the risk of not being able to explain or defend any of it more than I have for the next few days.

Scott said...

However, I don't think that the amount of good and evil needs to be looked at this way by the theist.

This seems to be a common approach by theists in general when presented with this sort of argument.

It seems that if we were to quantify good and evil we could say something like this:

Sure, you could do that. But it appears that your motivation for doing so isn't actually based on a anything we observe or even intuitively would conclude. Instead it seems designed solely to deflect the argument presented.

It's as if I get pulled over for driving on the wrong side to the road and get a ticket, so I decide that wrong side of the road is the right and vice versa. I present no reason for making such a change, other than to invalidate the ticket.

Scott said...

I don't see why there is any reason to conclude that creation was less good than God.

No reason at all? None?

This is clearly a red flag, as even if you strongly disagreed with the contents of the video, a reasonable response would be that there would be plenty of reasons to assume otherwise.

Based on this response, it's unclear how you might have a reasonable discussion on this matter.

Jim said...

1. I don't see why there is any reason to conclude that creation was less good than God.

A. God is ALL GOOD (Christian Definition)

B. Evil DOES EXIST in the known temporal, finite creation (Christian assertion--I assume Christians would accept this).

C. Evil is NOT GOOD (By definition?).

D. Therefore, Creation is necessarily LESS GOOD than God.

That was easy,

Jim

Aaron said...

I am the youtuber who made the video in question. Any ways I see major flaws with theists taking this argument:
"Before creation, there were 100 units of goodness and 0 units of evil. After creation, there are 150 units of good, and 50 units of evil."

First of I am not even sure you could say that good has a unit value, but ignoring that 2 of the problems I see with it are this:

1: It suggests that god is not perfectly good on his own, or that his good may be increased, this calls in to question his perfection.

2. It suggests that god is not all powerful. Since every time you add some good god achieves a greater good then before god will never be able to maximize the good, because you can always add 1 more good value; thus god cannot maximize the good, only increase it.

TKD said...

@Aaron

I share your misgivings about being able to quantify evil into units like that, but unless there is a strong reason to rule out such reasoning, the argument itself has a hole in it. That is, the argument, to be successful, must provide reasons against this kind of reasoning.

As far as your two points, let me address them below as I think an observant theist would answer:

1: It suggests that god is not perfectly good on his own, or that his good may be increased, this calls in to question his perfection.

I don’t think that the discretizing of evil yields this point at all. All that the theist needs is that God, as a perfect being, is a being which exists which contributes only units of goodness and is the being which does this in the maximal way which is metaphysically (broadly logically) possible.

2: It suggests that god is not all powerful. Since every time you add some good god achieves a greater good then before god will never be able to maximize the good, because you can always add 1 more good value; thus god cannot maximize the good, only increase it.

I don’t think that the theist needs to accept this point either. Remember, the theist typically only holds that God be able to bring about the actualizable worlds within the metaphysically possible worlds. The fact that God cannot maximize the good by actualizing a world with a maximum units of good (in terms of number) doesn’t necessarily work against his omnipotence unless it is within God’s power to actualize a world with a maximum number of units of good. Clearly there is no maximum number, so there is no maximum number of units of good and begging God to bring about such a state of affairs is to ask him to do something that is clearly not possible, much like creating a stone too heavy for him to lift.

Aaron said...

@ TKD I think you are right, my mistake.

Rob R said...

My plans may or may not be cancelled so I may or may not have some time.

but I have time for at least this.

Scott, According to Genesis, when God finished creation, it was very good. There was no flaw in creation. If you disagree there'd have to be reasons behind that.

Jim, same considerations. God didn't create an evil world. It became evil, and not by necessity, accept perhaps by statistical necessity, but that I would not commit to (and that possibility needs unpacking which I do not intend to do at the moment.

Jim said...

God didn't create an evil world. It became evil, and not by necessity, accept perhaps by statistical necessity,

It doesn't matter if God created a world that was good for 1 millisecond before evil was introduced or 500 years before evil was introduced.

If God is all-knowing, then he knew he was creating evil by creating a world that WOULD devolve to including an evil nature of some measure.

God is infinite (By Christian definition)

Creation (before the creation event) had "0" units of good and "0" units of evil.

After the creation (+ 1 millisecond or 500 years, it doesn't matter), there were X>0 units of good and Y>0 units of evil.

These are finite units which are necessarily less than the infinity of the supposed God, so creation HAS to be less good than God unless, of course, you look at in pantheistically (or panentheistically?) and say that everything IS God.

Where's my "Free Will" to never have existed in the first place so I don't have to risk all this hell business?

Well, I guess that's how I see it.

Regards,

Jim

Chuck O'Connor said...

TKD,

How do you justify the ratio of good to evil in your economic assessment of good vs. evil units?

When I look at the world I don't see your perception realized in any objective measure.

It's supposition on your part.

TKD said...

@Chuck

Hey Chuck!

If you'll read my previous comments, I stated that I do have some misgivings about looking at good and evil in terms of magnitude (as opposed to proportion). So I'm not really supposing this is actually true here; I’m just evaluating the weaknesses that I see in an argument presented.

My point is that this apparently reasonable option is open for the theist, and it shows a rather big hole in LaCroix's argument. If the hole in the argument could be filled by the person presenting the argument, as he has the burden of showing that such unit-type analyses are deficient, then I think that LaCroix's argument would be successful. But, as it stands, LaCroix's argument doesn't really show what it attempts to show, though it gets close. (If you think that you can defend the deficiency of unitary analyses of good/evil, then I would love to see it, as this would, in my view, complete LaCroix’s goal.)

Second, if there is concern about measurement of the magnitudes of good and evil, I would note that the particular size of the units don't really matter. If a meter were to be defined to be half of its current definition, this would not change the fact that there are things with quantities of length that can be objectively measured according to that definition and that if A is bigger than B in the previous definition, then A is still bigger than B in the second (and vice versa). The analogy is a bit weak, but I think you can see my point. If God were, under one definition, to have 100 units of goodness, and then under another definition only to have 5, then it wouldn't matter so much, as long as these measurements are of the same quantity.

Thanks!

Rob R said...

If God is all-knowing, then he knew he was creating evil by creating a world that WOULD devolve to including an evil nature of some measure.

No, if God is all-knowing and it wasn't true that the world would become evil then God would not know that. And I maintain that it wasn't true and there are no biblical reasons to think otherwise. Prove me wrong on that if you disagree.

I know this flies in the face of the typical view of the truth about the future and the knowledge entailed for an omniscient knower, but the typical view has been challenged and by many including myself to be horribly lacking and not reflective of what is implied by robust indeterminism and more so libertarian freedom. There is scholarship to back this up. ex: http://www.alanrhoda.net/papers/Fivefold%20Openness%20of%20the%20Future.pdf

Creation (before the creation event) had "0" units of good and "0" units of evil.

Whatever merit this approach has, it is not the one I am taking.


Where's my "Free Will" to never have existed in the first place so I don't have to risk all this hell business?

I don't see the relevance.

Scott said...

Rob,

If God had no knowledge of how creation would turn out, then it appears he was taking a very large risk, as creation could have been significantly more evil than good and even approached or reached 100% evil.

How could God have known this wouldn't occur?

It seems he'd have to either....

01. use is omnipotent ability and his omniscient knowledge to build "safety values" into creation to ensure some minimum margin of good would result .

02. intentionally make specific and omnipotent adjustments in creations goodness to keep above these minimums post-creation.

Otherwise, creation could have spun out of control and become completely corrupt and evil.

Scott said...

Scott, According to Genesis, when God finished creation, it was very good. There was no flaw in creation. If you disagree there'd have to be reasons behind that.

You're assuming that "very good" means absolutely and 100% good.

For example, I would say that strawberry ice cream is "very good" But pomegranate chocolate chip ice cream is much better, which i'd describe as "extremely good."

Furthermore, it seems that, by nature of being finite, it would be impossible for creation to be as good as God, as he is supposedly infinite in nature.

... and not by necessity, accept perhaps by statistical necessity,

If creation was just as good as God, this would imply it would be statistically necessary for God to become evil.

Chuck O'Connor said...

TKD,

You said, "(If you think that you can defend the deficiency of unitary analyses of good/evil, then I would love to see it, as this would, in my view, complete LaCroix’s goal.)"

Every five seconds a child on the planet dies of starvation.

Your estimation of good to evil ratio is academic and ignores reality. Theism is moot in the face of these realities.

Rob R said...

post 1 of 2


scott


If God had no knowledge of how creation would turn out, then it appears he was taking a very large risk, as creation could have been significantly more evil than good and even approached or reached 100% evil.

How could God have known this wouldn't occur?


Yes, God was taking risks. God didn't have to take these risks, but it was the only way to get the specific kind of creation with the sort of depth that God wanted. I've explained that more in my first post.

And could creation have turned out more evil than good? Yes, and perhaps it did, but God is not sitting Idly by and just letting it happen but he is active to redeem his world according to his wisdom and purposes.

It seems he'd have to either....

Well both of these are not exclusive and though I wouldn't put it exactly as you have, I'd affirm the essence of both. By God's actions and designs, he has made irredeemable possible futures for the world impossible.

You're assuming that "very good" means absolutely and 100% good.

It's a reasonable conclusion. There's no reason to think that anything that was created had a bad start at the absolute beginning or was necessarily heading there.

Furthermore, it seems that, by nature of being finite, it would be impossible for creation to be as good as God, as he is supposedly infinite in nature.


God made creation to reflect his glory in some key ways. But he didn't make a carbon copy of himself.

Now I said that creation was as good as God, and I think that is perhaps a reasonable claim, but if it is less good, it doesn't entail that it was in any way bad some how (which if I understand the problem described depends not on God simply creating something that was less good but also something that entailed evil). But I don't think creation was less good than God and I'm not convinced that infinitude effects that. A finite entity can have a goodness that is appropriate for finite things as infinite things have a goodness that is appropriate for them. That's not to say that they can't have the same kind of goodness in other ways. But different ways of being good can be different on a lateral level, not just up and down.

Rob R said...

post 2 of 2


If creation was just as good as God, this would imply it would be statistically necessary for God to become evil.

As I said "perhaps" what I described was of something that I think may have been the case, but I don't know that it was for sure.

But even if it this is the case, there is no reason for this to be true of God. I explained the ins and outs of this in my first post when speaking of self determinism and freedom. God has both self determining freedom in his moral goodness and libertarian freedom (in his creativity, soverignty, consciousness and so on). We have libertarian freedom when it comes to moral good that may develope into self determining freedom as character developes. And as temporally finite creatures, this is the way it must be if the necessity for our actions is to arise from within us (establishing self determinism) and not from without. Since God in temporally infinite, he has always acted consistently with his character and the necessity for his actions never arose from outside of himself.

To give you a better idea of what I was speaking of how could evil be statistically necessary? With every single human making free choices with evil a real viable possibility, it is only a matter of time til one chooses evil. Now why might this not be the case? As humans exibit the developement of self determinism, it is quite reasonable that groups of humans exibit this as a corporate entity, such that the character of humanity as a whole may have developed to the point where it'd be sociologically improbable, and eventually impossible for them to choose evil. Babies would have been born into such a virtuous society that had honed it's ability to instill good character that evil would not have been a thought for them. Of course they themselves would not have the full expression of what God intended for humanity, but no one does anyhow. God purposes for us is not that each human be a perfect expression without the rest of humanity. God'd intention for us is to be a family with each person having their own unique worth.

Rob R said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TKD said...

@Chuck

Hey Chuck,

I'm not sure exactly what you're trying to get at here. I'm only discussing measuring evil by magnitude instead of proportion, which shows a logical weakness in the argument. Not once did I say that I was trying to give a good estimate of the actual values of good and evil nor that I was trying to estimate their proportion. Further, I was not holding that such levels of good and evil could necessarily actually be determined, as we may simply not be in a good epistemic position here.

I, in fact, think that certain evidential arguments from evil, for which you provide good support in your comment, succeed quite well even if this particular logical argument from evil doesn't work as planned.

Rob R said...

Chuck (who I mistakenly called George, woopsie!)


Every five seconds a child on the planet dies of starvation...


...Theism is moot in the face of these realities.



Chuck, a world where a child dies every 5 seconds needs redemption and people need to be a part of it. Eschatological theism couldn't be more relevant to the realities of this world.

And atheism adds zero hope to the situation when there is no guarantee of an eschatological secular humanism.

And for each of those children who've died every 5 seconds, there is no answer that materialism can offer, only the irreparable tragedy of it. Seriously how do you intend to fix the death and injustice that has already happened? But Yahweh according to his wisdom has plans and has enacted plans for precisely these problems in this context for redemption in which we

Scott said...

It's a reasonable conclusion. There's no reason to think that anything that was created had a bad start at the absolute beginning or was necessarily heading there.

Had the snake not tempted Eve to eat the apple, man would have been without the knowledge of good and evil, yet still have free-will. God said Adam's actions prohibited him from eating of the tree of life and living forever like God. Is this what God had ultimately planned?

I'm asking because the "solution" to man's fall ultimately results in a lack of free-will. This is clearly not the same outcome had man not fallen.

In other words, it appears that creation requires evil at some point to bring about God's plan. Should this evil not arise, we'd have Plan A. But since it did, we'll have a different outcome, which is plan B?

Or perhaps plan B God's original plan in which evil was part of from the start, which is why he called it "very good". Is this not a "reasonable" conclusion?

Also Humans would not have reflected God to the same depth and degree.

As you mentioned, human beings are not clones of God. There is much that we do not share. Why should we share this, but not other traits? By creating anything but a clone of himself, does God create evil where none would have existed before? If he was incapable of creating clones, then should he have abstained from creation?

For example, earlier you suggested that goodness for God does not necessarily manifest itself in the same form as goodness for creation. However, here you're implying that goodness does require the same manifestation.

This view highlights that our moral character is formed by among other things, a free nature. But the more we choose rightly (or wrongly) the more our characters are formed and the less free we need to be for our morally responsible actions.

How do one week fetuses who die in the womb have any self determining freedom? They lack a nervous system in which to think or feel anything. And when they reach heaven they have no free-will, which leaves them lacking in the ways you describe.

This sees to indicate the entire claim that suffering or free-will is necessary to achieve God goal is a means to explain suffering which was created by finite human beings.

Scott said...

I wrote: It seems he'd have to either....

Rob Wrote: Well both of these are not exclusive and though I wouldn't put it exactly as you have, I'd affirm the essence of both. By God's actions and designs, he has made irredeemable possible futures for the world impossible.

If any human beings are to choose God, there must be some good which causes that choice. However, corruption could have ultimately caused every human being to have rejected God. Would this too be part of God's plan?

Rob R said...

post 1 of 2

Scott,


Is this what God had ultimately planned?

God said not to eat from the tree of good and evil and that was what he intended.

The first humans did not lack complete knowledge of good and evil, they had a prohibition (which was not evil, but an instruction on how not to be evil) and everything else they knew was good. It seems to me that since everything was good, then even the tree of good and evil was good. It functions very importantly in the narrative for a limited but significant portion of moral freedom, but that does not mean that there weren't other plans for that (whatever it was, whether it was literally a tree or not).


I'm asking because the "solution" to man's fall ultimately results in a lack of free-will. This is clearly not the same outcome had man not fallen.

I don't see how that follows. Whether man would fall or not, the landscape of free choices would be different for both outcomes, but it'd still be there.

In other words, it appears that creation requires evil at some point to bring about God's plan.

Let's be careful not to equivocate about God's plan. God's ultimate grand scheme is to have creatures who are in a loving relationship with him for ever. But in Christianity, we speak of God's redemptive plan. I don't believe that was a certainty from the beginning (unless of course sin was a statistical necessity as I described above). God's redemptive plan is only there in light of the fact that we have freely and temporarily thwarted God's original plan.

Why should we share this, but not other traits?

What we share with God is what is necessary for the kind of relationship that he wanted with us.

By creating anything but a clone of himself, does God create evil where none would have existed before?

God didn't create moral evil (there is one passage that speaks to the contrary and I think that we are right to identify that in retrospect as calamity, not moral evil). God created morally free responsible creatures who choose evil. The fact that they are free and responsible means that, logically speaking, the buck stops with them.

Rob R said...

post 2 of 2

However, here you're implying that goodness does require the same manifestation.

At the risk of not rereading what I wrote, I claimed (or intended to claim) both. Some essential qualities are shared. Some are not, and some unshared qualities have the potential to lead to shared ones.

How do one week fetuses who die in the womb have any self determining freedom? They lack a nervous system in which to think or feel anything. And when they reach heaven they have no free-will, which leaves them lacking in the ways you describe.

I think that I provided the answer to this when I was dealing with a different but similar topic above, regarding self determining social groups. The aborted infants perhaps would be raised in a heavenly realm where sociologically, they would be raised with a perfect moral characters. Would this aspect of them be self determined? No. They are missing something that we are not, but I pointed out that not all humans express all the features of humanity in general. What we have that results in moral responsibility makes us special and gives us a very important quality that aborted children (and children who die before becoming morally responsible) will not have, but who's to say that they won't have qualities that we do not posess that make them special to God in a different way?

If any human beings are to choose God, there must be some good which causes that choice. However, corruption could have ultimately caused every human being to have rejected God. Would this too be part of God's plan?

I'm not sure that I understand you, but I will say that as a protestant, I do believe that we have a depravity such that we cannot on our own choose good. But as an Arminian, I believe that God's grace counteracts that depravity such that it is possible for every responsible human to respond appropriately to God. There is nothing that causes us to choose one way or the other except our wills which are not caused by anything outside of us or prior to our moment of free choosing to go one way or the other. That is what is meant by libertarian freedom.

Reformed_Dogmatist said...

This whole discussion is very telling, I confess. For one thing, it shows how needful it is to have a website that is just plain Dogmatic Christianity without the babble of Arminians, and also how secular philosophers should do a little more study in theology before they make youtube videos on their supposed knowledge of it. One of the problems -and I hope people understand this- is that atheists and Christians come from different epistemological starting points. The atheists will look at Christianity and say what God *should* do if he existed, etc. instead of looking at the epistemological starting point of the Christian, viz. the Bible, to see what it teaches on the matter.

God did not create anything out of necessity; he did it for his own good pleasure.

God determines all things and no, man is not free from God's determination. Everything is rooted in God's righteousness and good pleasure. Evil in this world does not prove that God is evil since the evil did not proceed from God's nature, and such would need to be the case to make the notion of God an impossibility. Perhaps while the secularists are sharpening their knowledge of theology because they don't know what they are talking about, it would be good for them to take an elementary course in logic as well.

Really, to get a good idea of Christian theology, I would recommend the Westminster Confession of Faith as well as the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.

Johnny P said...

@ Rob R

"And for each of those children who've died every 5 seconds, there is no answer that materialism can offer, only the irreparable tragedy of it. Seriously how do you intend to fix the death and injustice that has already happened?"

materialism and atheism doesn't necessitate an answer. that is shifting the burden of proof. justice does not come into it, since it is just 'life'. however, if you admit there is an omnipotent god that can do something about it, therein lies your problem. you're back to the classic problem of evil issue.

atheists etc would look to get off their arses and do something about it in the here and now, because there isn't any redressing of the balance in heaven.

materialism and atheism don't ever profess to having the answer, so don't expect it of them.

Aaron said...

@TKD

After getting a good nights sleep and re-thinking all of this I have come to the conclusion that my original objections still stand.

Now it is quite possible that I am simply being dense here, so if that's the case I would like to know.

Here is what I have come up with:

Because using units to measure the greatest possible good can produce no greatest possible good, it is the theist who suggests that the rock god can’t lift is better then the rock god can lift.

Let me expand on this. The greatest possible good can be established with percentage with out becoming logically absurd. Only god obviously = 100% good, and thus the greatest possible good.

With good unit’s the greatest possible good can never be achieved, because of the infinity paradox. Even if we say that the greatest possible good is, as one theist said on my video comments, to “ allowing our world to exist, until it becomes so depraved it is no longer beneficial to exist.” But this is just changing the good unit to a plane of existence, then adding another plane of existence will make everything more good, and so on.

I feel that this answer is like the theist suggesting that the rock god cannot lift is greater then the rock that he can lift, because they are saying that the greatest possible good god can’t achieve is better then the greatest possible good he can achieve.

My position holds that there is not a rock so big that god cannot lift it.

As a note I will refer to greatest possible good as GPG from here on out.

Here are some syllogisms to help demonstrate my point.

1: God can establish the GPG, but God cannot do the logically impossible.
2.: If the greatest possible good is measured in units of goodness, then the greatest possible good is logically impossible, because of the infinity paradox.
3: Therefore God cannot establish the GPG by adding units of good.

Or

3: Therefore the GPG cannot be measured by units of good.

Now here is why I think we must use proportion to measure the GPG-

1: God can establish the GPG.
2: The GPG may either refer to proportion of good, or units of good.
3: Units of good can never create the GPG, because of the infinity paradox.
4: Therefore only proportion may refer to the GPG.

Now I may have made some errors here so please point any out you might see, but if these are good arguments then I *think* I have filled any holes in La Croix’s argument, and not asked god to do anything logically impossible.

Let me know.

Scott said...

Reformed wrote The atheists will look at Christianity and say what God *should* do if he existed, etc. instead of looking at the epistemological starting point of the Christian, viz. the Bible, to see what it teaches on the matter.

Reformed,

Why do Arminians and Calvinists have their own theologies, yet read the same Bible? It's because they've reached a different interpretations of God's nature from what they've read.

If God is all good, there are things we'd expect God not to do, correct? Yet, a God who would create beings with the intent to damn them to eternal torment in Hell would have a very different nature that a God who sent Jesus to save anyone and only separates those who reject him. Wouldn't you think?

However, should God exist, it's possible that neither theology is reasonable accurate regarding God's nature.

Nor do I, as a non-theist, I have a requirement to see the Christian God as defined by mainstream theologies as being coherent in each and every way.

How could God be perfect yet jealous? Why isn't a infinite being infinitely tolerant? These appear to be contradictions.

God did not create anything out of necessity; he did it for his own good pleasure.

We know that's the theological position, but the Bible also said God took pleasure from the smell of burnt offerings. Why would a non-materal being who does not eat find this pleasurable - because we do? Why do you think God would receive pleasure from creating things - because we do? These appear to be projections of human properties to God which do not necessarily follow.

Should you wish to make such an association regardless, I'd ask if interaction between human beings is necessary or merely pleasurable? Studies from various space programs will tell you that human beings are social animals that need interaction with other human beings. The psychological effects of space travel can be devastating. And we are driven to create things. it's part of our nature. So, should we be made in God's image, it seems one could reasonably project these needs onto God as well.

In other words, that God shares our nature in some areas but not others is an interpretation.

it would be good for them to take an elementary course in logic as well.

Christianity theology claims that Jesus was 100% man and 100% God. However, this is a violation of the law of non-contridiction. Nor is Jesus' divine nature clearly spelled out in the Bible. Instead it's an interpretation based on conflicting scriptures with questionable accuracy.

Rob R said...

JohnyP


materialism and atheism doesn't necessitate an answer. that is shifting the burden of proof.

I didn't shifting since I dealt with this issue on several grounds already in this thread.

And while our own burdens are not to be dodged, it nevertheless remains that if you are going to criticize a view or a person, there is the question of whether your own views can stand up to the criticism. Chuck said theism was moot in light of these criticisms. I actually highlighted that it was precisely this sort of thing that the message of Jesus was concerned with (by implication). Then I pointed out that if "mootness" is a problem then, atheistic materialism has it in spades on the grounds I discussed.

if you admit there is an omnipotent god that can do something about it, therein lies your problem. you're back to the classic problem of evil issue.

I admit God is omnipotent. And not only is he omnipotent, God HAS done something about the problem, IS doing something and WILL eradicate the problem in full in a wise manner that takes into account God's intentions for creation, and placing fallen man into a context of redemption.

atheists etc would look to get off their arses and do something about it in the here and now,

Like Christians do.

because there isn't any redressing of the balance in heaven.

Why's that?

Not that this criticism hit's it's mark against Christianity as Jesus has called us to assist God in bringing to birth God's kingdom on earth through acts of compassion to the needy, loving our enemies, and so on.

materialism and atheism don't ever profess to having the answer, so don't expect it of them.

I like this and I agree whole heartidly. There couldn't be a more truer indicator of their bankruptcy and fallacious foundation for authentic humanism.

Rob R said...

Scott,


Christianity theology claims that Jesus was 100% man and 100% God. However, this is a violation of the law of non-contridiction.

Whether it is contradictory or not completely depends on what one thinks it is that makes God essentially God and what makes man essentially man.

I would agree that much of what has been said even by the church on both accounts (moreso with God) has created the conflict. But it's not as if the church could not continue develop and refine her views.

Scott said...

God said not to eat from the tree of good and evil and that was what he intended.

The first humans did not lack complete knowledge of good and evil, they had a prohibition (which was not evil, but an instruction on how not to be evil) and everything else they knew was good.


Is a prohibition enough for a three year old? No, it's not. Nor do we punish three year olds like adults.

It functions very importantly in the narrative for a limited but significant portion of moral freedom, but that does not mean that there weren't other plans for that (whatever it was, whether it was literally a tree or not).

So, God could have changed his mind about eating from the tree later on?

I don't see how that follows. Whether man would fall or not, the landscape of free choices would be different for both outcomes, but it'd still be there.

Do you believe that people in heaven will have free-will?

What we share with God is what is necessary for the kind of relationship that he wanted with us.

It seems that you're attempting to tie what God want's with how God gets what he wants. This is essentially a blank check which you could use to define what God wants and how he wants it.

You might say that you only want hand-rolled Cuban cigars, which by their definition, requires that they be hand-rolled.

To use an example, I might say that I only want to win the Tour de France after having suffering from, but ultimately recovering from cancer. These things are not necessarily connected unless I explicitly define them that way.

The fact that they are free and responsible means that, logically speaking, the buck stops with them.

If God cannot create human beings with genuine self-determining free-will, then it's unclear how he can create human beings will genuine libertarian free-will. That he can seems to be an assertion on your part.

And if humans are responsible for their choices, it's unclear why God bears no responsibility for his choice to create something instead of nothing. Especially if doing so was the kind of risk you seem to think it was.

The aborted infants perhaps would be raised in a heavenly realm where sociologically, they would be raised with a perfect moral characters.

It's estimated that 25-50% of all conceptions spontaneously abort, which would be missing something we are not. Given the entire population so far, this isn't just a few exceptions, but billions of souls.

but who's to say that they won't have qualities that we do not posess that make them special to God in a different way?

Who's to say that they will? Absolutely any difference at all could be special to God, which means that nothing would be special or that God wouldn't need anything in particular to have his plan "completed."

... I do believe that we have a depravity such that we cannot on our own choose good. [...] There is nothing that causes us to choose one way or the other except our wills which are not caused by anything outside of us or prior to our moment of free choosing to go one way or the other.

Which is it?

Are you suggesting that God perched us in perfect 50 - 50 balance so we might decide one way or the other? But, In doing so, God influenced the outcome. He could have tipped the scales at 90 - 10 or 40 - 60 or 0 - 100.

Aaron said...

A theist proposed this syllogism of La Croix's argument. I think it's pretty good actually, tho it may need some minor improvement, what do you guys think?

1. God is the greatest possible good.
2. If God is the greatest possible good and he does not create, then there will only be the greatest possible good.
3. If God creates, then there would not be the greatest possible good.
4. Either God creates or God does not create.
5. Therefore, either there is the greatest possible good or there is not the greatest possible good.
6. If God exists, then he would choose the greatest possible good.
7. There is not the greatest possible good.
8. Therefore, God does not exist.

Scott said...

Whether it is contradictory or not completely depends on what one thinks it is that makes God essentially God and what makes man essentially man.

Rob, there must be something different between Man and God. Otherwise, they would be equivalent. This is the essence of the law of non-contridiction.

While you might claim there is overlap, you'd still end up with some ratio that was less than 100% for at least one of the pair.

Chuck O'Connor said...

TKD,

I misread the meaning of your posts. Sorry about that.

Rob R.

You wrote, "Chuck, a world where a child dies every 5 seconds needs redemption and people need to be a part of it. Eschatological theism couldn't be more relevant to the realities of this world."

I don't see where the biblical version of a god is relevant to this situation. Let's swap starvation for something science has already conquered, smallpox. God did nothing to cure that and will stand silent when science finds solutions to food and water scarcity.

Your wishful hoping does nothing to address the problem except keep you comfortable in the face of it. It doesn't look to try to solve it because your god will make everything right at the end times.

Your fairy-tale mentality allows for the recognition of the horror we all face and then its quick dismissal because god is in charge.

Your god has kept silent for quite some time and I reckon he will continue to stay mute.

Humans will solve the hunger problem and there is no need for the morally pretentious fairy-tales embraced by the self-righteous.

Joel said...

Good video and good question.

I think there are two separate problems being addressed here. First is why a perfect God created anything, and second, why did God create knowing there would be evil in the world. Both are interesting matters, but since the question is titled the logical problem of evil, let me toss a few thoughts out about the second one.

So the accusation is that God would not create a world W knowing that in the creation of W, evil would also exist.

To discuss the topic of God's knowledge, it's useful to define what we mean by omniscience. Traditionally omniscience has been conceived as follows: "For any entity X, X is omniscient if and only if X knows all true propositions and knows no false proposition."

The theist could pose that propositions about the results of free choices (and therefore the source of evil) are neither true nor false until the free choices are actualized. Thus God would not know these propositions at the point of creation. (Theories of this sort have been discussed since Aristotle and have many defendants). So there would be no incompatibility between God's omniscience and evil being created by free creatures.

But since i don't hold to the above theory, I would briefly state that the logical problem of evil has been nearly universally abandoned by contemporary analytic philosophers largely as a result of Alvin Plantinga's Free Will Defense (I refer readers/listeners to that work). If there is even the possibility that God exists and created free creatures who have the capacity for choosing/causing evil, then by the mere fact of the possibility, there is no logical contradiction between an all-good God creating the world and evil existing as a result of free choices.

Andre said...

Hi Joel,

I don't understand when you say "So there would be no incompatibility between God's omniscience and evil being created by free creatures." Are you saying he doesn't create evil? Maybe my problem is that I've always viewed God as the creator of everything that exists. Meaning, the evil that is "created by free creatures" is still God's creation. Or else, wouldn't you be saying that morality is created by free creatures, and not God? Or did I totally misunderstood?

Scott said...

3. If God creates, then there would not be the greatest possible good.

It would seem that God is already the greatest possible good. He does not change. Instead, we'd be adding both good and evil to the equation, where no evil existed before.

However, we could say that the greatest possible state of affairs would be for only the greatest possible good (God) to exist.

Clearly, this state of affairs is logical possible as it supposedly is the default state of affairs before God created anything.

If 60 - 70% humanity (non-Christans) ultimately end up suffering for eternity in Hell, the amount of suffering would haven risen from zero to a substantial amount as this suffering would never be reduced or eventually cease.

Joel said...

Hey Andre,

You raise a good question. I would agree with you in saying that God is the creator of everything (excepting himself, obviously).

So then, did God create evil? The response is that evil is not a positive entity: it is a corruption or privation of what is good. Evil, however, is still very real. For instance, cold is the privation of heat. Cold has no positive reality, but it still exists. Or imagine a hole in a rug. The hole has no positive reality, but it exists: it is the lack of rug.

In the same way, evil is the lack of good. It is the way things ought not to be.

With that in mind, theists maintain that God did not create evil since he created all positive reality. Human beings, on the other hand, are the cause (i should not have used the word "create" in the last post since it creates ambiguity) of evil in the sense that they cause a privation in the positive reality (good).

As for "morality being created by free creatures," this really depends on your meaning. Theists maintain that God is the source of the moral standard, but humans can freely choose to live up to or fall short of this standard. If by "morality being created" you mean that human beings are the source of moral evil, then yes I would agree.

Andre said...

Thanks for responding Joel, but I still don't get it. My understanding is that God is the creator of heat and cold, gave us the ability to created a rug and the possibility of a hole in a rug. See, we cannot do evil if what we call evil doesn't exist for us to do it. Therefore, God is also the source of moral evil.

Rob R said...

post 1 of 3

Scott,


Is a prohibition enough for a three year old? No, it's not. Nor do we punish three year olds like adults.

The first humans did not have a sin nature. Three your olds do, thus we have grounds to say that there was an important psychological difference.

So, God could have changed his mind about eating from the tree later on?

God change his mind? Yes, I think this is something that God does and scripture says as much.

But that's not what I had in mind at all. All I'm saying is that with the prohibition of the fruit of good and evil, had the first humans obeyed, things may have gone differently and other plans even regarding the tree of good and evil may have been in place. It is speculation, but not unfounded speculation.

Do you believe that people in heaven will have free-will?

I think people in heaven will have been morally self determined to different degrees. Those who had acted most virtuously and even sacrificially on earth will need the least quickening of the soul and the moralizing effect of God's presence. We also will no longer have the problem of our fallen nature which is a combination of the social realities in which we live and the sinful flesh where evil habits may even be hardwired neurologically (though not determinantly so such that a life of consistently choosing God cannot drastically change). (Note, physicality is not in and of itself sinful as it is a part of God's good design, but it plays a strong role in how our fallen state challenges us).

Of course I think there still very well may be other grounds for libertarian free will in heaven considering the non-moral reasons that I gave for free will.

It seems that you're attempting to tie what God want's with how God gets what he wants. This is essentially a blank check which you could use to define what God wants and how he wants it.

You might say that you only want hand-rolled Cuban cigars, which by their definition, requires that they be hand-rolled.


I suppose this might be an accurate assessment of what I am saying. I don't see the problem with it.

To use an example, I might say that I only want to win the Tour de France after having suffering from, but ultimately recovering from cancer. These things are not necessarily connected unless I explicitly define them that way.

What I've suggested is feasible on experiential grounds. Most people like the fact that their minds are free to contemplate thoughts from more than one angle, they like that creativity involves choices and we like to exercise an authority that involves discernment and choices and freedom brings a flavor to all of this. We also value moral acts that are not compelled for an immediate benefit and necessary compulsion, and the same goes for acts of love that also express freedom. And whether to love or not also entails freedom. So I can trust my experience or not, and if trusting my experience provides a solution to these problems, then it is nothing less than fitting.

Secondly, one of the qualities that freedom establishes, of self determinism, has the logical distinctions that I have been describing. Thus qualities that are linked to this also receive it's logical requirements.

Rob R said...

post 2 of 3


If God cannot create human beings with genuine self-determining free-will, then it's unclear how he can create human beings will genuine libertarian free-will. That he can seems to be an assertion on your part.


If I implied that God could not create humans with self determinism, it was accidental. God can create humans with self determinism, but the only way to do so with temporally finite creatures is to give them free will. Why is this so?

I hope this is clearer than what i have said, if I haven't said it. A self determined action is an action the necessity of which arises from within you and is not preceded by an previous necessitating factors from outside of you. Clearly, an everlasting being never needs libertarian free will to establish this since the necessitating factors have always been internal (though, again, i believe that God has libertarian free will on non-moral and choices regarding love within the trinity. God's did make at least one libertarian free choice to love us and that was in creation.). Not so with a temporally finite being. Any determination of what a being with a beginning will be like will be a non-self determined aspect. For creatures with a temporal beginning, they need libertarian freedom to establish that the necessity for their action or choice or self determined character trait did not arise externally.

And if humans are responsible for their choices, it's unclear why God bears no responsibility for his choice to create something instead of nothing. Especially if doing so was the kind of risk you seem to think it was.

I wouldn't claim that God bears no responsibility for taking the risks that he did. My claim is that God's risks were reasonable. But ultimately, this is not something that can be demonstrated objectively. If you insist that the risks from your your experiences was not worth it, this is your subjective preference. But the problem of evil has no teeth if it comes down to a subjective non-universal preference. Many Christians have suffered in the persecuted church throughout history and moreso today than ever in Islamic and tyrannical regimes. Furthermore, they have suffered the most unspeakable evils, and yet they would still affirm that risks were worth it (though granted, we have more theology than they do and may not think of the issue in those terms.

It's estimated that 25-50% of all conceptions spontaneously abort, which would be missing something we are not. Given the entire population so far, this isn't just a few exceptions, but billions of souls.

Is it that low? I had heard that it was much higher like 90 percent. But I confess I don't know that the individual begins at conception. I think it's possible and I'm open to that possibility, but I don't know for sure.


Who's to say that they will?

If you want to insist that we can't know one way or the other, then there just is no definite clear problem here. I'm fine with that.

Are you suggesting that God perched us in perfect 50 - 50 balance so we might decide one way or the other? But, In doing so, God influenced the outcome. He could have tipped the scales at 90 - 10 or 40 - 60 or 0 - 100.

The balance isn't just a matter of what God does but how we respond to God effects the balance for both ourselves and the people around us (we are responsible for each other after all as God intended)

Rob, there must be something different between Man and God. Otherwise, they would be equivalent. This is the essence of the law of non-contridiction.

Actually, this is not the essence of the law of non-contradiction. If you picked up a book on metaphysics, you'd see that this statement has to do with a whole world of issues that are relevent to but go beyond the law of non-contradition, but that's beside the point.

Rob R said...

post 3 of 3


Yes there are differences between divinity and humanity, but it remains that the differences need not be contradictory to the point that it is inconceivable that someone could have the essentials of both. I think for your objection to hold up, you'd have to insist that nothing can fit two categories perfectly even though there are entities that fit one category but not the other and other entities that fit the other category but not the first.







Chuck


I don't see where the biblical version of a god is relevant to this situation.

If I recall correctly, the last time we exchanged words, you admitted to having the same bad biblical interpretative skills as some very strange people.


Let's swap starvation for something science has already conquered, smallpox. God did nothing to cure that and will stand silent when science finds solutions to food and water scarcity.


From a strictly materialistic point of view there is no guarantee that science will make this solution. And even if they do, there is no gaurantee that the world will not suffer even greater tragedies from war to environmental damage or any other man made disasters. Furthermore, there is no reason to think that some cosmic (like a meteorite) or geological travestywill not wipe us out.

Secondly, people who might not have taken the benefits of medical science to the starving world without religious motivation are doing so and have an essential presence in parts of the suffering world. As scripture cites that God works through people, it is reasonable for me to conclude that God is working through people today. And scripture even claims that God works through unbelievers.

Finally, again, you don't have a solution for the travesties that have already happened for those who have starved to death, died of terrible tortuous diseases or were unjustly murdered. And this is not something that I will ever ignore in weighing these matters. You can ignore it, but your silence on this problem of evil loud. Jesus has solutions to all of these things, solutions that are at work in the past, today and will be completed in the future according to Yahweh's timing and soveriegnty.

It doesn't look to try to solve it because your god will make everything right at the end times.

I've already addressed this and this is demonstrably false. The solution is ongoing carried out by followers of Christ. The solution has not arrived in fullness, but it is at work in the world today as believers follow Jesus' teachings by responding to the world by compassion, opposing evil by loving their enemies, willingness to sacrifice and so on.

Scott said...

Joel,

There are different types of knowledge. You're referring to propositional knowledge of what will come to pass. However, there is also experiential knowledge, which comes by means of actually creating something.

For example, should God want physical beings that age and eventually die, he would use his omniscience and omnipotence to actually create beings in a way that will result in aging and eventual death. Should God not have the knowledge to design and implement this process, it's unclear how he could create beings with such features.

Human beings age by in large due to their biology. We know this because when we study children who prematurely age we find specific biological differences between children and adults that age at the current norm. Unfortunately, these differences are also part of a greater complex system and we haven't figured out how to change them without disrupting other behaviors, like shutting down cells that become cancerous. Should we gain a holistic understanding of the larger system, we could cause them to age at a normal rate.

However, should God be the designer of this system this would result in God defining the rate in which human beings age and die. It also gives God experiential knowledge about how we age. This is inescapable. Should God not set a rate for aging, then why should we expect aging to occur at all? Should God only design, but not implement this system, we wouldn't age either. And if God did not omnisciently and omnipotently do both, then there is no guarantee that this whole system wouldn't go haywire and end up doing something completely different than what God expected.

Of course, God could choose another means to bring about aging and death, however, this would require him to intentionally intervene and cause us to age at a uniform rate. Essentially, God would be slowly and explicitly killing each and every one of us.

When if comes to free-will, we can reach a similar conclusion. If God want's human beings that choose one way or another given a specific proposition, then he must know how to create a beings with that choose and have the ability to create beings with that choose. Otherwise, why would we choose anything at all? Of course, God could intentionally and explicitly intercede by causing us to choose at every quandary, but God would be ultimately choosing for us.

Again, should God have designed and endowed us with the system that causes us to choose, then he would have experiential knowledge about how this system works. This is inescapable. And unless he did so omnisciently and omnipotently there's no guarantee we would choose anything at all going forward.

Scott said...

Now, you might say that free-will is some kind of elemental force that has no designer. However, if initially only God existed then where did our free-will come from? Surely, our nature is not God's nature. Does somehow God clone specific parts of his nature and endow them to human beings? Does he have exact control what part is replicated? Or does God create our nature from nothing, using his nature as a guide?

Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth," Gen. 1:26

This indicates that God is creating us according to his likeliness. In no way does it indicate God is "cloning" only some parts of his nature during this process.

In creating our ability to choose, God would explicitly define and have experiential knowledge of such ability. And God would decide how it differs from his ability to choose in each and every way.

What factors does this system take into account when making choices? In what way are they processed? Should God not defined these aspects, then why would we take into account or process any factors at all, resulting in nonsensical choices based on who knows what?

Given this experiential knowledge God would, at a minimum have near 100% knowledge of how human beings will react in every situation. This is because, our reactions depend on some process that ultimately results in our choice. No process, no choice.

God only other option would be to intentionally and explicitly intercede by causing us to choose at every proposition, ultimately choosing for us.

Joel said...

Thanks for the thorough response, Scott. I can tell you've invested a significant amount of thought in this issue.

You are correct in claiming a distinction between different forms of knowledge. Yes, God's knowledge is defined in terms of propositional knowledge. However, the other kind of knowledge you mentioned, experiential knowledge, is defined by philosophers as being a sort of knowledge as in,

"i know what it's like to be human" or "I know what it's like to ride a bicycle."

God's omniscience has never been conceived in terms of this sort of knowledge, nor can it, for it would lead to absurd conclusions.

But, semantics set aside, your point about God knowing the procedure by which he created humans can be reduced to the statement that God knows all facts about human beings (their material composition, their desires and beliefs, and all the external influences upon them, etc.) These sorts of facts are propositional by nature, and thus God, being omniscient, would have to know them.

Now, the key to dismantling the so-called "logical problem of evil" is conceiving free-will in a libertarian sense and not in a compatibilist sense. By compatibilism I mean the belief that free-will and determinism (whether theological or physical) are compatible with each other. On compatibilism, roughly, there is only one (physically) possible way in which events unfold. The outcome of all events are determined by antecedent events which are all chained together by causal laws. If man is free in this compatibilist/determined sense, then yes, God must know/cause all relevant factors determining man's choice. (It is very arguable to maintain that free-will in this sense is really a misnomer)

Libertarianism, on the other hand, maintains that man is free in the sense that it is up to him to decide what choice will be made. It is the factor of personal agency that allows man to choose without being caused to choose. (although desires, beliefs may play a significant role in influencing a person, they do not determine the choice.)

A very rough definition for Libertarian freedom is:

For any entity x, x is free to choose between choices A and B just in case for x, it is physically possible to choose A and physically possible to choose B.

So, you correctly anticipate that this sort of agency is derived from being made in God's image. Theists hold that in the same way God is a person whose choices are not causally determined, human beings are created with agency. This does not mean that we are God's clones; neither does it imply we know exactly how God created--only that humans are not determined physically or theology but reflect freedom of the will.

Yes, God could know how humans would freely act in any given situation (a theory often called middle knowledge), but he is ultimately not the cause of the actions. Thus, the human being endowed with freedom is the ultimate cause of moral decisions (and corruption)--not God.

John W. Loftus said...

Joel, I see you think free will is some sort of answer and that you embrace libertarian freedom. That view has many problems including some of the things I wrote here. See what you think.

Wootah said...

It's a terrible argument. The very fact that God persisted in the endeavour knowing what would happen shows His Love for us.

It is vastly similar to when we have children knowing that they will grow old and die (if they are one of the lucky ones).

I don't see anything new in this restatement of the problem. Really given the premises the poster raised, it seems far more plausible to presume that God has a plan and that the outcome will be good. God tolerating this situation now reveals His love. Perhaps love trumps all and God would even tolerate this current worldy situation and an eternal hell existing, as opposed to doing away or not creating us, for love?

Walter said...

Wootah says-"Perhaps love trumps all and God would even tolerate this current worldy situation and an eternal hell existing, as opposed to doing away or not creating us, for love?"

So God is going to put most of his creation in an eternal hell to show us how much he loves us? Or maybe hell is just for those folks who don't return his conditional love?

Scott said...

Joel wrote: However, the other kind of knowledge you mentioned, experiential knowledge, is defined by philosophers as being a sort of knowledge as in,

"i know what it's like to be human" or "I know what it's like to ride a bicycle."


Essentially what I'm saying it that God knows both how to create beings that choose and what it's like to create human beings that choose. God knows how to create a universe that is uniform and what it's like to create a universe that is uniform.

God's omniscience has never been conceived in terms of this sort of knowledge, nor can it, for it would lead to absurd conclusions.

This knowledge would be a side-effect of both God's omniscience and omnipotence.

Libertarianism, on the other hand, maintains that man is free in the sense that it is up to him to decide what choice will be made. It is the factor of personal agency that allows man to choose without being caused to choose. (although desires, beliefs may play a significant role in influencing a person, they do not determine the choice.)

As John has mentioned, there are problems with this view. For example...

Let's use a road as an analogy for freedom. Should there be no alternate paths on a road for someone to take, they would be without options as to their destination. But if there is a fork in the road, they would be free to choose the right or the left path, etc.

However, should we put a car on this road with a rock on the accelerator and no one behind the wheel, you'd have alternate paths but no means by which to choose any of them. Without a driver, we'd have no reason to expect a choice would be made at all. Sure, the car might bump around until it ended up driving down the left fork, but was this a free-choice as defined by theism? No, it was not.

If we are temporal beings which God created to choose, then God not only gave us options but he omnisciently designed and omnipotently implemented the system we use to choose. Otherwise, why would we choose at all? He knows how it works because he built it. He knows what it will do because he designed it to do just that, instead of the infinite number of other things it could have done.

Yes, God could know how humans would freely act in any given situation (a theory often called middle knowledge), but he is ultimately not the cause of the actions. Thus, the human being endowed with freedom is the ultimate cause of moral decisions (and corruption)--not God.

Why is the universe uniform? Christianity claims God is the reason. But what does this imply? God knows how to bring about a universe that is uniform. But what does this imply?

God either used his omniscient knowledge and his omnipotent ability to create the universe in just such a way that it will remain uniform going forward or he sustains the universe's uniformity moment by moment. However, should God sustain the universes uniformity, it would only appear uniform. Instead, we see there are relationships between various constants. In other words, the universe appears to be in a kind of equilibrium that contributes to it's uniformity.

Surely God couldn't occasionally intervene and apply "course corrections" to the universe so it it would be uniform, because it this would require the universe to be non-unform at some point.

So, it appears that God created the universe in a way that ensures it will actually be uniform going forward.

If God is capable of designing and implementing something as complex as the universe, it seems clear that God have knowledge of the events that would occur and influence our choices going forward.

Joel said...

In my previous post, I proposed that libertarian free will, if true, is sufficient for debunking the "logical problem of evil." I recognize that there may be other versions of the POE and those require their own treatment.

I enjoyed reading your article John. It bears the marks of a well-read thinker. However, I found relatively little that attempted to show the incoherence of libertarian freedom (LF), per se. The article focused more on the question of why God would create LF.

You mention that it would have been better for God, knowing the possible horrendous outcomes of LF, to not create it in the first place. But, like you correctly anticipate, the answer is that the existence of LF is a necessary condition for the existence of genuine loving interaction between God and man.

1) The possibility for a genuine love for X by Y occurs only if there is a possible choice of denial or acceptance of X by Y.

2) There is a possible choice of denial or acceptance of X by Y only if Y possesses LF.

3) Thus, the possibility for a genuine love for X by Y occurs only if Y possesses LF.

This is only a more sophisticated way of expressing the fact that automata do not participate in loving relationships. Further, it is not only God himself who receives the "benefits" of LF, it is the creatures who are endowed with personhood and the capability of experiencing genuine interaction with the creator and with other humans--an interaction that would be absent or meaningless if they were mere automata.

You mention that "it does absolutely no good at all to have the free will and not also have the ability to exercise it." I believe this is a slight misunderstanding. To possess LF means that creatures have LF with respect to the actions which they do have the ability to exercise. So I may not have freedom to jump to the moon, but I do have freedom to do things like raise my hand, cast a vote, walk to the store, etc.

I think your most meritorious point in the article concerns why God would not let LF run forward but then truncate its results as soon as a free creature chooses evil. I do not pretend to have a thorough answer to this, but I believe the brunt of the argument can be diminished as follows. First, the ability for possessing free choices presupposes a constant environment in which the results of the actions can be predicted. My choosing to reach out and grab a sandwich presupposes my knowledge that the sandwich is able to be grabbed: it's not going to, say, fly off into the sky. However, if the sandwich were to fly off into the sky every time I reached for it, it would undermine my choice of freely reaching out for it. In the same way, if God were to suddenly intervene at the occurrence of every evil, then the predictability of the environment necessary for free choices would be undermined.

Well, you may ask why doesn't God diminish only the more heinous evils in the world? Truly, we'd all be thrilled if this were the case. However, Alvin Plantinga makes an interesting point here. For instance, suppose evils in the world existed which ranged from A-Z, Z being the most evil, and A being the least evil. If God were to eliminate X, Y, Z, then would humans rest content? No, we would then ask why God didn't eliminate U,V,W-- which would then be the most heinous evils. And this would extend to the point where there would be no evil actions left at all, and this would bring us back to the problem stated in the previous paragraph.

So, John, I'm not providing a point by point response to your article (for obvious reasons of length). But hopefully I've mentioned why I don't think the idea of LF has been undermined. I enjoy the discussion though. Any comments would be appreciated.

TKD said...

@Aaron

Sorry for being away for a few days, but I was occupied with other things. However, your response is a great one as it directly addressed the issue that I saw with the argument, which was the possibility of measuring good/evil in terms of magnitude rather than proportion.

I have yet to think of a plausible theistic response to your rebuttal and improvement to LaCroix's argument. I'll have to think a bit more to see if there is a plausible response here, though I don't see one. Great job!

Joel said...

Scott,

As I said, philosophers and theologians have never thought of God's omniscience in terms of experiential knowledge-- only propositional knowledge. God possesses some experiential knowledge (he knows what it's like to be God) but not all experiential knowledge.

Now, you're analogy of the car on the road is an adept one. You say "without a driver, we'd have no reason to expect a choice would be made at all." Yes, that is correct. The car is determined by its material constitution in conjunction with the laws of nature to run its course in one way. This is what is meant by determinism.

Human beings, on the other hand, though similar to the car in that we possess material composition and are subject to the laws of nature, have an element of agency within us that provides choice. We're not determined, like the driver-less car to run one way. We have the ability to choose (even if our range of choices is limited) our actions.

So, given, the element of agency derived from the image of God, it does not follow that "if God is capable of designing and implementing something as complex as the universe, it seems clear that God has knowledge of the events that would occur and influencing our choices going forward." Yes, God could know how and what we choose by virtue of his omniscience, but this says nothing about his determining our choices. Our choices are left up to us.

John W. Loftus said...

Joel, thanks for your insights. I appreciate intelligent Christians who wish to reasonably discuss these issues with me.

You said...If God were to eliminate X, Y, Z, then would humans rest content? No, we would then ask why God didn't eliminate U,V,W-- which would then be the most heinous evils. And this would extend to the point where there would be no evil actions left at all, and this would bring us back to the problem stated in the previous paragraph.

Two comments: 1) The force of the problem of evil depends on the quality and quantity of suffering in our world. By removing the most heinous of acts this would reduce the force of the problem of evil proportionately. Right now it has a great deal of force to it and is one of the atheists best arguments against theism, although it doesn't lead to atheism.

2) I want you to think of God as the ultimate kind of police here. If the police thought that by eliminating the most heinous crimes wouldn't do any good until they eliminated them all then they are operating on an all or nothing proposition. We all know that if you ask for all or nothing you get nothing. No action at all.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob you wrote,


"As scripture cites that God works through people, it is reasonable for me to conclude that God is working through people today. And scripture even claims that God works through unbelievers."

Isn't this special pleading? God exists because his believers do his work. But what about those who do good work and don't believe? They prove god exists too. I don't get this.

I don't think you get to take credit for the morality of humans exempt of god as evidence to a Christian god simply because your mythology says it is true.

That's essentially saying, god is real because scripture says he is real.

Additionally you ask my response to the suffering and dead and I can give you a simple answer. Grief colored by the stark reality of death's reality which motivates me to support policies and systems which will minimize this grief. I don't see how your answer of a magic happy land called heaven is a more noble response to this grief.

I will agree with you that Christian people are motivated to help the disadvantaged but if they are motivated to do this because they feel it is contingent upon their salvation I question its intrinsic goodness. Additionally, there are many doctors without borders and members of the peace corps who are doing the exact same work without any belief in a sky daddy.

But of course those good atheists, humanists, skeptics, and agnostics are really just covert Christians, right?

Aaron said...

@TKD
Thank you for your response, I was very curious what you would think of that. I am not sure how the theist can address this either, but I am not ruling out the possibility. I made a youtube video with that exact argument and after going back in forth over the infinity paradox, the theists have gone quiet for now.

One of them did promise a response video on why he disagrees, which I am very excited to see, so we'll see how that turns out.

Aaron said...

@Joel

I am unconvinced of Free will, and I generally believe it is a supernatural concept.

Now I may be misunderstanding free will, so if that is the case please demonstrate that.

The way I look at it is this, you can choose the things you do or like, but you cannot choose the reasons why you choose to do them or reasons that you like them.

We accept that people are made up of a combination of their environment and their biology.

We will often say, "That's just the way so and so is." Referring to their nature.

If the free will advocate wants to provide evidence for free will, they have to provide evidence that the individual can choose their nature, which I see no reason to believe.

I cannot choose that I like chocolate, am a heterosexual, hate hot weather, like classical music, and dislike stealing and violence. These things are all part of my nature, I didn't choose them, they are just what I am.

If I have preferences that will predetermine how I act in any given situation, and I would argue that all people do, then I am not making free choices; assuming I cannot chose the preference.

Every decision that has multiple outcomes will almost always have one outcome with a probability that approaches slightly less 1.

Now there may be rare events that occur were I am equally, or near enough, disposed towards either outcome, or multiple outcomes.

But if this is what free will is, then it's just having the ability to be random every once in a great while. And is says nothing about the individual if they are only acting randomly.

The illusion of free will exists, but I am not sure that you can demonstrate the actuality of it.

I'll ask you this, how would this world be any different if people where deterministic processes as opposed to free will agents?

godsfavoritecolor said...

To my finite and ignorant mind, this discussion of the nature of God (the Christian one) seems like so much babble. We are trapped in our finite brains, using an imprecise language trying to comprehend and define the infinite and unknowable. With that being said I will “rush in where, etc.” and throw out a few ideas.

If God is not omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, and all the other relevant omni-‘s you can think of then he is not God.

An omniscient god would be outside of time, so discussion of past, present or future (including tense) in relation to him is incoherent.

The idea of an omnipotent god is a logical contradiction, since this god could not create anything he could not control. That makes this definition incoherent.

If an omnipotent, omniscient god were also omnibenevolent then evil could not exist, unless evil were considered benevolent.

Therefore this God is humanly incomprehensible and incoherent and cannot exist within our human understanding and is therefore irrelevant to humanity.

The problem of evil then is a problem of incorrect definition of the bad things that happen in the extant universe.

This is just a quick outline. Pardon my ignorant interruption of this high level theological discussion.

Wootah said...

Joel:
- What value is the rest of creation compare to us? Deal with the fact that God loves you more than the whole universe.
- You and I both know that God puts no man in hell. No one unjustly goes there.
- Why do Atheists even worry about hell? How is it an argument for or against God's loving nature for an Atheist?
- What hell is, is where eternal beings that do not want to be with God reside. It's where they get to enjoy the fruits of their labour and views.

Wootah says-"Perhaps love trumps all and God would even tolerate this current worldy situation and an eternal hell existing, as opposed to doing away or not creating us, for love?"

Joel says-"So God is going to put most of his creation in an eternal hell to show us how much he loves us? Or maybe hell is just for those folks who don't return his conditional love?"

Joel said...

John,

Likewise, it is always intellectually stimulating to discuss issues rationally with truth-seeking atheists. Thanks for the response.

You will remember that in my previous post I discussed why it it would be impossible for God to eliminate all occurring evil actions without undermining a constant environment that would allow for free choices.

So then the question was why doesn't God simply eliminate the most heinous evils. Well, I think think the response I gave was adequate: if God eliminates X,Y,Z the problem of evil is not diminished: the now-most heinous evils still remain: U,V,W. We don't necessarily even know about X,Y,Z any longer; U,V,W are the most heinous evils.But if God eliminates those, then there are now the evils R,S,T. We can never get to the point where we arrive at "evils-acceptable-for-God-to-permit." It will always be a problem to ask WHY God permitted the most heinous evils to occur.

Thus, the line of reasoning goes as follows.

1. Freedom is possible only if a constant environment exists.

2. If God eliminates evil at every occurrence, then a constant environment does not exist.

3. God can eliminate the possibility of the most heinous evils only if God eliminates evil at every occurrence.

4. If God eliminates evil at every occurrence, then freedom is not possible. (contraposing 1, 2)

5. If God can eliminate the possibility for the most heinous evils then freedom is not possible. (3, 4)

6.If freedom is possible, then God cannot eliminate the possibility for the most-heinous evils. (contrapose 5)

Returning to a comment you made, yes, John, I agree with you that the POE is probably the most powerful argument against theism. And it is without wonder that atheists put much thought in to it. However, the topic of discussion was the logical version of the POE. And the logical version has been abandoned by most contemporary analytic philosophers. What is still discussed are evidential or probabilistic versions of POE, and this is, I assume, what you utilize in most of your discussions.

As for the analogy of the police, I would say that the concept of God in the POE is different since the police's combat against evil, does not eliminate the existence of a constant environment. For instance, people are still able to shoot each other in the absence of police vigilance, and they still recognize a constant connection between shots fired and people dying. If God were to vaporize every bullet before it hit someone, there would be no choice or predictability of that evil left. Bullets vaporizing would simply become a phenomenon of nature. Extend this to all other evils, and there would be no option of committing evil at all.

Joel said...

Aaron,

Thanks for the response. You correctly recognize that if determinism is true (as you defined it), then free will is an illusion. So, what is exactly free will, and do humans possess it?

Free will (in the libertarian sense) has roughly defined as follows:

For any entity x, x is free to choose between choices A and B just in case for x, it is physically possible to choose A and physically possible to choose B.

It is basically the view that humans have real choices available to them. Such a view of freedom is presupposed by many aspects of meaningful human experience. For instance, the reason it is meaningful to hold someone morally accountable for a crime is that the criminal had the real option of commiting the crime and chose to act immorally. In certain cases people are exempted from punishment if it can be shown they have mental defects or were manipulated-- in other words, if they were not able to chooose differently.

Further, if everything is determined, then all beliefs are also determined (including, say, the belief that determinism is false!). In such a case, rational discussions become a playful exchanging of words and nothing more. No one can REALLY choose to believe one thing or another.

In light of thesefacts, it seems reasonable to conclude that, although human beings are, in large part, determined, they still possess some degree of freedom which allows for the meaningfullness of moral accountability and beliefs.

As for your last question, it would certainly be different if people acted in coherence with their belief in determinism--> for then, there is no reason to bemoan the way things are. After all, it is the only way things could be.

hope this helps.

Andre said...

I really think the believer is looking at things backwards to arrive at these arguments. God exists, so whatever the circumstance, condition, and situations, no matter the sadness, plight, sorrows, and how much unanswered prayers, he has his reasons.

The believer must realize that with such a view, God can easily not require prayers since he has his reasons for trials and tribulations.

He can easily do no miracles or show any signs of his power for you to believe in him, since he has his reasons to do whatever he wants without getting your approval.

He can easily not communicate or reveal himself as you believe he did, since he has his reasons to be silent or hidden. (This includes Jesus coming to earth.)

Note that all this goes against what you already believe, but you would have to concede the possibility and probability if you can say he has his reasons for allowing evil.

The free will argument is obviously part of this backwards thinking used to construct arguments that can easily create rhetoric and false assumptions more than anything else.

Why is it that we talk about free will as something that was an option for God. I say this in the sense that because there is evil, we assume it exists as a result of God "choosing" to give us free will.

I don't have much time right now to continue on this thought and I haven't spend a lot of time on it, I'm just thinking as I go. Can someone give me some feedback on their thoughts about this. Thanks.

Rob R said...

Chuck,


Isn't this special pleading? God exists because his believers do his work. But what about those who do good work and don't believe? They prove god exists too. I don't get this.

The intention of my statement wasn't that I believe God exists because he is working through people. It's that the criticism that God is standing idle by doing nothing is not effective against the kind of God who works through people as people are indeed doing on many accounts what is by our description the Lord's work.

Grief colored by the stark reality of death's reality which motivates me to support policies and systems which will minimize this grief. I don't see how your answer of a magic happy land called heaven is a more noble response to this grief.

The problem of grief isn't grief. Grief isn't about itself. When you make grief about itself, you make the problem primarily about yourself. The problem is that those we loved and cared for had worthy existences such that it is tragic that they are no longer around. This is not something you have an answer for.

Sorrow testifies to the worth of persons and grief points to the problem. You can get rid of sorrow only by eliminating human worth.

As Philosopher Nicolaus Wolterstorff noted who lost his son to to a mountaineering accident, his hope in an afterlife did not reduce his pain. It shouldn't. As I stated, God's solution hasn't been fully implemented and as Paul says, the world still groans with birth pangs. But it is a solution none the less.

I will agree with you that Christian people are motivated to help the disadvantaged but if they are motivated to do this because they feel it is contingent upon their salvation I question its intrinsic goodness.

It doesn't bother me one bit that people should be motivated to contribute constructively to the church out of concern for their salvation, because if they persist, they may grow beyond this concern for themselves (though not completely out of this concern for themselves because recognizing the intrinsic worth of all peoples means recognizing it for yourself as well) and develop a deeper love for people and the tasks of compassion. Perhaps they will learn that following Jesus itself is the true salvation and not merely the escape from death which is only a part of it (but a big solution to a big problem none the less).

But of course those good atheists, humanists, skeptics, and agnostics are really just covert Christians, right?

For them to live a life of some kind of virtue may indicate that they are responding to the grace of God, but then again they may be rejecting a greater kind of grace in their lives.

Scott said...

Hello Joel,

As I said, philosophers and theologians have never thought of God's omniscience in terms of experiential knowledge-- only propositional knowledge. God possesses some experiential knowledge (he knows what it's like to be God) but not all experiential knowledge.

Perhaps I can elaborate.

Let's use an analogy of a bullet proof vest. I could be given instructions to build a bullet proof vest, but have no idea of the caliber of bullets it would withstand. I might not follow the instructions exactly as required to result in a vest that could actually withstand a bullet of the caliber it was rated to withstand.

But God, being omniscient and omnipotent, would have none of these limitations. God would know why the vest would withstand a particular caliber of bullet because he omnisciently designed the vest. And he would know the vest was assembled in exactly the right way to actually withstand the impact as he omnipotently assembled it himself. Had God not settled on a particular caliber rating to withstand or knew how to achieve this rating, the vest might not withstand any bullets at all. Therefore, God would know exactly how the vest would respond when impacted by any bullet of any caliber.

God does not know this because he had foreknowledge of the result of the impact after it occurred, but due to the fact that he omnisciently designed and omnipotently created the vest.

Now, you're analogy of the car on the road is an adept one..

My analogy was designed to illustrate the multi-factted nature of Libertarianism. Both the road, and driver represent facets of the whole. We could compare a normal car, which does not include a driver, with one of the vehicles in the DARPA Urban Challenge, which does have such a system.

We would have no reason to expect a normal car to choose any particular direction because it lacks a system to make navigation decisions. In fact, this lack of choice is by design, as cars are created with the intent of being driven by drivers. However, we do expect each of the DARPA challenge entrants to choose a particular direction. This is because, each team intentionally designed and implemented a system which scans the environment and pilots the vehicle though the course. No system. No direction choices.

However, if the urban environment of the challenge had no alternate paths, there would be no options for this system to choose from. It would not be free to choose any other path, since none exist. The outcome would have been essentially the same, regardless which car was on the track.

Scott said...

[Human beings] have an element of agency within us that provides choice. We're not determined,

What do you mean by "provides" choice? You seem to imply that God can affix or remove free-will like a label to anything.

This seems to be some form of special pleading, as you have not given a reason why we should expect this "agency" to actually result in a choice, rather than a near infinite number of other possible functions, if there is underlying process or system that causes a choice to be made.

Yes, God could know how and what we choose by virtue of his omniscience, but this says nothing about his determining our choices. Our choices are left up to us.

Let's return to my vest analogy. God want's a vest that, given the same caliber and range, will be unharmed by the impact of some bullets but not others. How is this possible? God could intervene at every shot to omnipotently vary the composition of the vest so it would become more or less resistant to impact, but in doing so he'd be explicitly deciding when damage would occur and when it would not. He could not could he "randomly" vary the composition as it might fall apart under it's own weight or turn into some kind of hazardous material.

God could intervene by applying some kind of force the bullet, or locally change the laws of physics to reduce or increase the impact, but he would need to do so omnisciently and omnipotently. Should God apply some "random" amount of force to the bullet, it might reverse course and head back in the direction it came from causing damage or death. Should God "randomly" make local changes to the laws of physics, he might create a black hole or cause some other space / time anomaly. God must determine exactly how much influence to apply and apply it exactly, which would result in a particular outcome.

In other words, God ends up defining the outcome regardless.

John W. Loftus said...

Joel said...You will remember that in my previous post I discussed why it it would be impossible for God to eliminate all occurring evil actions without undermining a constant environment that would allow for free choices.

Yes, and just like you did not comment on everything I wrote neither did I comment on everything you wrote. But since you asked this is still the same all or nothing approach. You’re asking me to think of what would happen if God removed all evil actions, which is that “all or nothing approach” again.

If freedom is possible only if a constant environment exists then what say you with regard to when God intervened in the lives of the Biblical characters? Did God not allow them their freedom? If his did, your argument is null and void. If he didn't, then what justifies taking away their freedom if freedom is such a great thing to have?

Right now I must get back to a project that’s due in a few days.

Cheers.

Scott said...

I wrote: You might say that you only want hand-rolled Cuban cigars, which by their definition, requires that they be hand-rolled.

Rob wrote" I suppose this might be an accurate assessment of what I am saying. I don't see the problem with it.

It's a slippery slope. For example, I could say love is not "genuine" unless someone is willing to die in the name of that love as a martyr. Therefore, God would be justified in creating people that persecute and kill these believers. Those who do not love God enough to die as martyrs will suffer eternal punishment, including those created to persecute and kill true believers.

What I've suggested is feasible on experiential grounds.

As could the example I offered. Unlike Calvinism, it explains why God would intentionally create beings knowing they would be damed.

Most people like the fact that their minds are free to contemplate thoughts from more than one angle, they like that creativity involves choices and we like to exercise an authority that involves discernment and choices and freedom brings a flavor to all of this.

First, this could be an enjoyable illusion. Second, in addition to humans, I'm sure there would be a near infinite number of possible beings that would also like these freedoms. Does this suggest that God should create each and every one of these possible beings them as well?

So I can trust my experience or not, and if trusting my experience provides a solution to these problems, then it is nothing less than fitting.

Again, would your experience not indicate that a love that was capable of enduring the threat of death be more "deep" than a love that did not?

For creatures with a temporal beginning, they need libertarian freedom to establish that the necessity for their action or choice or self determined character trait did not arise externally.

You seem to be implying that the libertarian freedom that God gives us must be genuine since it serves as the foundation for self-determined freedom in your theology. But this is not evident, as it could be that both merely appear to be genuine.

Again, you have given no reason to suggest why God could create genuine libertarian freedom but not genuine moral character without a incremental process. Instead you seem to imply that's how God "preferred it." it's a slippery slope.

As a temporal being, I would not have existed prior to God having created me. As such, I would have made no choice at all. God could have created me without libertarian freedom, so it's not a necessary aspect of existence. Instead, the fact that I make choices is an intentional result of something that God did. But why are these choices "genuinely" they free?.

John W. Loftus said...

Joel, a few more last things. The guy in the posted video was probably reading from what I wrote here, which I placed in my book. I did not defend La Croix's argument. I merely used it to say that these arguments are not dead. With regard to Plantinga, he cannot yet be done trying to defend it, either, see this.

You also said...As for the analogy of the police, I would say that the concept of God in the POE is different since the police's combat against evil, does not eliminate the existence of a constant environment.

All analogies break down but this is irrelevant to my analogy since it's clear you're still seeking an all or nothing approach. That's why apologists love to argue it. They love to argue that what they believe isn't impossible. Okay, I'll grant you that what you believe isn't impossible. Big deal. There are a great many beliefs that are not impossible but that says absolutely nothing about whether any of these beliefs are probable. This type of argumentation reminds me of Jim Carrey in the Movie "Dumb and Dumber." Remember the girl of his dreams said he had a million in one chance to get her and he smiled and said, "So you're saying I have a chance." Don't get to happy about the fact you have a chance to be right either.

Cheers.

Aaron said...

@Joel
Thank you for responding to my response. Let me respond to your points.

You say:
It is basically the view that humans have real choices available to them. Such a view of freedom is presupposed by many aspects of meaningful human experience. For instance, the reason it is meaningful to hold someone morally accountable for a crime is that the criminal had the real option of committing the crime and chose to act immorally. In certain cases people are exempted from punishment if it can be shown they have mental defects or were manipulated-- in other words, if they were not able to choose differently.

You are committing the fallacy of "the argument from consequences". Being an old school adherent to the free will libertarian philosophy, and for years, I used to say this all the time. It was basically my biggest stumbling block towards accepting determinism.

But, the fact that we don't like what the truth of something might lead to, doesn't make the argument any less true. I will expand on those potential consequences in a moment.

You say:
Further, if everything is determined, then all beliefs are also determined (including, say, the belief that determinism is false!). In such a case, rational discussions become a playful exchanging of words and nothing more. No one can REALLY choose to believe one thing or another.

Now I know why you say this, because I also used to say this, but it's a straw man argument, so also a fallacy.

If determinism is true, and I believe that nearly all sociological and scientific data collected over the last 200 years suggests that it must be true, then people could still be swayed by rational discussion. Assuming they are determined to be rational.

Even the most ardent libertarian will admit behind closed door that some people are simply irrational and there is nothing you can do to convince these people of that or make them change there ways.

A determinist would hold that only determinism can account for why rational discussion works when it does. A person that is determined to be rational and honest will almost always accept the most ration and honest solution. The cannot choose not too, they are compelled to be rational.

Now how can free will account for rational discussion? Why can't the free will agent just choose not to agree, regardless of their rational agreement?

Can you choose not to believe in the moon? I would say no, you are compelled by sufficient evidence to believe that the moon exists. Choice places no part in it.

Think of determinism as being a set of un-chosen characteristics that propel you in a certain direction.

Now this wouldn't say much for people we regard as immoral or irrational.

Let me ask you a question. I say knowing that you are nice honest guy who most likely doesn't do any terrible things.

Could you murder some one(not in self defense)? I am not asking if you are physically able, but if you could actually go through with it. The answer is obviously no.

But why? Is it because you ought not murder someone? I would suspect you would say yes.

Let me shift the example to me to avoid putting any words in your mouth.

Assuming I go through no life changing events, and there are no drastic changes in society, I can say with 100% confidence that I could never murder some one. Even if I really really wanted to, I simply could not commit the act. I couldn't rape a woman either.

The reasons I cannot do these things, is not because I ought not do them. The reason is because I am compelled not to. I didn't chose not to, and indeed I could never choose TO murder or rape.

Now think about this for your self, could you do these thing? If the answer is no, then I think you agree with me.

Compulsion is the very opposite of freedom. I am a slave to my moral compulsions, they determine me. This is why some people continue to act immorally and other continue to act morally and are consistently so.


I hope that better explained my view.

godsfavoritecolor said...

Just one simple answer from any apologist here. Is God omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent?

Aaron said...

@JohnLoftus

I am the guy that posted the video. What do you think of the defense I laid out a few posts above, of La Croix's argument?

John W. Loftus said...

Aaron, I liked what you said. I'm just not sure that LaCroix's argument as a logical one goes through. it probably doesn't as a logical one since a logical argument must leave no possible out for the believer. As you can see they have found one. Let's just welcome them to Jim Carrey's world in "Dumb and Dumber" though, since it still has a great deal of force.

Rob R said...

Post 1 of 2

Scott,

It's a slippery slope. For example, I could say love is not "genuine" unless someone is willing to die in the name of that love as a martyr.

yes, well slippery sloap arguments are not logically valid since we can exercise discernment.

You could say that. I don't know what it has to do with this discussion.


Therefore, God would be justified in creating people that persecute and kill these believers. Those who do not love God enough to die as martyrs will suffer eternal punishment, including those created to persecute and kill true believers.

You could go that far, by ignoring much else of what I believe. My beliefs, like anyone else's, hang together.


As could the example I offered. Unlike Calvinism, it explains why God would intentionally create beings knowing they would be damed.

It doesn't matter if your suggestion is feasible. The problem doesn't require me to rule out all possible truths that I don't agree with. It only requires that I show that the problem is itself not devastating to my beliefs.

Of course disagree that God could create reprobate souls created in his image. It is not compatible with his moral nature.

First, this could be an enjoyable illusion.

Sure it could. Our entire past could be an illusion. Reality could be an illusion. That doesn't keep me from carving out a reasonable picture in these matters and specifically, reasons as to why the problem of evil is not so much of a show stopper. Unless of course I'm an illusion too. But I'm just not going to worry about that.

Second, in addition to humans, I'm sure there would be a near infinite number of possible beings that would also like these freedoms. Does this suggest that God should create each and every one of these possible beings them as well?

Why would it? Of course I don't buy that there are distinct possible persons who don't exist. Your conscious personhood cannot be distinguished from your actuality. I note that you've been discussing these things with advocates of middle knowledge. I don't think their case is a good one.

Again, would your experience not indicate that a love that was capable of enduring the threat of death be more "deep" than a love that did not?

I don't know the relevance of your question. I think someone who had the libertarian free choice to persist in love beyond the threat of death could deepen their love in a way that others (of a fallen nature) could not. Again, what someone of a fallen nature though is not equivalent to someone of an unfallen psychological makeup, something that we don't see though this was the original state of man.

Rob R said...

post 2 of 2


You seem to be implying that the libertarian freedom that God gives us must be genuine since it serves as the foundation for self-determined freedom in your theology. But this is not evident, as it could be that both merely appear to be genuine.

It doesn't have to be undeniably evident. It just has to make sense in terms of solving what is believed by many to be an unsolvable problem. What I claimed is not absolutely evident and yet it coheres with our experiences. But I believe it isn't only sensable, it is the best option all things considered.

Again, you have given no reason to suggest why God could create genuine libertarian freedom but not genuine moral character without a incremental process.

I don't know what you are saying here. Perhaps you meant to say that I failed to show that why God couldn't create genuine moral character without libertarian freedom. I suppose I might agree with this. But such creatures, whatever moral character they could be said to have (as they'd make moral choices?) would not ultimately be morally responsible since the necessity for their actions doesn't stop with them. They don't have to have that, but responsibility adds a depth to the nature of love that wouldn't be there otherwise. It increases the love required of us for each other as taking responsibility is a manifestation of a kind of love.

As a temporal being, I would not have existed prior to God having created me. As such, I would have made no choice at all. God could have created me without libertarian freedom, so it's not a necessary aspect of existence. Instead, the fact that I make choices is an intentional result of something that God did. But why are these choices "genuinely" they free?.


Everything you say here is true but none of that is an obstacle to libertarian freedom. It's true that you are not free with regard to being free. That's not a problem. To make it one is to make libertarian freedom more than it is. libertarian freedom is just that aspect where you are capable of coming into situations where you truely may choose to act in a certain way and yet you truely may also choose to refrain from that act. It doesn't have to be true of you for all situations at all times for this definition to obtain.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob,

You said, "God is standing idle by doing nothing is not effective against the kind of God who works through people as people are indeed doing on many accounts what is by our description the Lord's work."

The belief that God works through people motivates the bigotry of Fred Phelps' ministry and the violence of Scott Roeder. This idea that because you think God motivates you to do something therefore it is moral is the cause of some of the worst behavior imaginable.

I have taken action this past year to help end the Darfur genocide, financially support and NGO that brings water to drought infested Kenya, and help feed the homeless of Chicago.

All of these actions were and are motivated by the grief I've experienced when realizing how the world is. None of them have anything to do with the bible or a Christian god.

Now, if you want to have your superstition take responsibility for my good behavior then I demand you also admit your superstition informs the bigotry of Phelps' "God hates fags" signs or the holiness Scott Roeder felt when he loaded his gun and then emptied it into Dr. Tiller.

Rob R said...

John,


That's why apologists love to argue it. They love to argue that what they believe isn't impossible. Okay, I'll grant you that what you believe isn't impossible. Big deal. There are a great many beliefs that are not impossible but that says absolutely nothing about whether any of these beliefs are probable. This type of argumentation reminds me of Jim Carrey in the Movie "Dumb and Dumber."

In this context, the point isn't directly to show what commends our faith, that shows that it is more than just a remote possibility. That's a different (albeit unrelated) issue. The point is to deflect a criticism.

course, Joel did fail to meantion that another problem with your analogy of the police is that you compared the police to God standing Idle by. God isn't standing Idle by but as at work using his power as he sees is wise.

Rob R said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob R said...

Chuck,

The belief that God works through people motivates the bigotry of Fred Phelps' ministry and the violence of Scott Roeder. This idea that because you think God motivates you to do something therefore it is moral is the cause of some of the worst behavior imaginable.

Well Fred phelps also believes that he is benefiting mankind, ergo by your logic, we could say that the belief that the betterment of mankind also has this association.

This by the way was a red herring. I didn't claim that because God motivates me to do something it is moral.

Course this again fails as a criticism in general since we have been prepared by Jesus explicit teaching that people would come claiming to be his agents and yet Jesus will judge them saying "away from me, I never new you".

Furthermore, that I believe God motivates me does not cause their behavior. You'll have to examine their beliefs, not mine. And considering we aren't carbon copies, it really doesn't amount to much that we have common ground since the common ground isn't the problem as I'm not out there doing the things that they are doing. You and I have common ground after all.

Of course if you think that they are truely and necessarily reflect badly on the teachings of Jesus and his disciples, that says more about your interpretive skills than it does Christianity.


All of these actions were and are motivated by the grief I've experienced when realizing how the world is. None of them have anything to do with the bible or a Christian god.

Not that you know of. God bless you anyway for it. He will be pleased at least by that. And know that many who would benefit from your kindness will see it as I do, as the providence of God working through people, God who is for many of them the chief source of their hope.

Now, if you want to have your superstition take responsibility for my good behavior then I demand you also admit your superstition informs the bigotry of Phelps' "God hates fags" signs or the holiness Scott Roeder felt when he loaded his gun and then emptied it into Dr. Tiller.

I don't see grounds for your demand. Guilt by association isn't the strongest of grounds.

Scott said...
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Scott said...

You could go that far, by ignoring much else of what I believe. My beliefs, like anyone else's, hang together.

Are you not ignoring the beliefs of billions of other people?

The problem doesn't require me to rule out all possible truths that I don't agree with. It only requires that I show that the problem is itself not devastating to my beliefs.

Rob, I'm trying to show you that your belief is such that it's self-affirming. Nor have you given us a reason to think your beliefs are true over anyone else's.

We note that by creating X God creates evil where none existed before. Christians say God want's X and requires Y to get it. When we note there are other ways that God could get X or that God supposedly created Z in final form without having to do anything else, you reply that God "wants" X by means of Y because only then is X "genuine". When I illustrate that billions of souls cannot receive X by means of Y, you say God might want that too.

Again, God might think any difference is special, but then nothing would be special.

You might as well just say anything that exists or occurs, exists or occurs because it's necessary for God to get what he wants. But, as I've illustrated, we could make up a multitude of scenarios that fit within those parameters and still explain what we observe.

Why this particular scenario?

Scott said...

I wrote: Again, you have given no reason to suggest why God could create genuine libertarian freedom but not genuine moral character without a incremental process.

Rob wrote: I don't know what you are saying here. Perhaps you meant to say that I failed to show that why God couldn't create genuine moral character without libertarian freedom.

You're suggesting that God could create beings which were capable of making genuinely free libertarian choices without requiring an incremental process. Why should we think this is the case?

Should God be capable of staring with nothing and instantly creating genuine libertarian freedom, why can't he start with nothing and instantly create up with genuine moral freedom?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob R,

You said, "Course this again fails as a criticism in general since we have been prepared by Jesus explicit teaching that people would come claiming to be his agents and yet Jesus will judge them saying "away from me, I never new you"."

And I am sure that Fred Phelps would use the exact same passage towards you if you chose to discourage his discrimination towards homosexuality.

You would both have scripture claims to stand on.

Just because you appreciate justice, kindness and love doesn't mean your emotions need be actualized in the person of Jesus.

And I know for a fact that my actions towards the needy over the past year were not motivated by a biblical god because I am a lucid person who was once a believer and no longer am. My morality stayed intact even though my superstitions didn't.

You might like to call my Phelps illustration a red herring but, to my mind it is a perfect example to the implausibility of your belief system.

Scott said...

I wrote: As could the example I offered. Unlike Calvinism, it explains why God would intentionally create beings knowing they would be damed.

Rob wrote: Of course disagree that God could create reprobate souls created in his image. It is not compatible with his moral nature.

So, you're saying I've gone too far?

This is exactly what I've done as well.

If God was perfectly God, I don't think God would create anything if creating introduced evil where none was before, because it would not be compatible with is moral nature.

Joel said...

Scott,

I believe that you and I are on the same page as far as God's knowledge goes. The experiential knowledge of which you speak can be reduced to propositional knowledge in my view. So there's no problem there.

Your car illustration serves to illustrate the deterministic point of view. The DARPA designers program their vehicles to scan the environment and calculate the most favorable course. But the vehicles do not possess "freedom" in any real sense because they are determined to act one certain way given a set of definite inputs (from the environment in conjunction with the system of the designers.) So i don't think we disagree here.

When I speak of an element of agency that provides choice, I simply mean that humans are not determined, given all environmental and material conditions, to act one certain way. Suppose I voted for Obama this past election. Was I determined by natural laws to vote for him? If the answer is yes, then it was physically impossible for me to vote for Mccain. However, it WAS physically possible for me to vote for Mccain (I weighed the options and chose not to). I may have been influenced one way or the other, but not determined. This is agency. In this sense, God has knowledge of the material conditions and external factors influencing human decisions, but the causal responsibility for choices is placed on the free agent.

Joel said...

Thanks for your time, John. I will let you get back to your project.

Just a few innocuous comments. I don't think the position I described can be said to be "all or nothing." I'd refer to it as "necessarily the possibility for some." The "problem" of evil will always persist as long as there is some evil around. Can the atheist describe a situation of "acceptable" evil where he can say "well, God has eliminated the worst evils, but the ones that remain are bearable enough." Can that line be drawn anywhere? It seem to me that the problem of heinous evil never ends unless there is no evil at all.

You make a good point about the bibilcal stories. In order to keep this short and avoid getting into theological/scriptural issues, I'd simply say that if passages of miracles are historical, all that would suggest is that divine intervention occurs non-constantly, or on occasion, in other words not sufficiently to disrupt the constancy (or virtual-constancy, if you will) of nature.

As far as your point about Dumb and Dumber, I agree with you that much much more needs to be said beyond what has been mentioned here to establish theism with any probability. But when you said theism is at least possibly-true, this is all that the theist is attempting to show against the "logical" problem of evil which purports to elicit contradictory notions between God and evil.

Thanks again for the discussion.

Joel said...

Excellent response, Aaron. Let me make a few comments.

I would not say that I am committing any fallacy of "argument from consequences." The argument can be stated as an argument with logical inference known as modus tollens. Without delineating premises,: If determinism is true, then there are no real free choices. But many aspects of human experience are meaningful only if free choices exist (such as moral accountability, beliefs, etc). These aspects of human experience are meaningful. From this, is follows logically that determinism cannot be true. So, there is no fallacy behind the reasoning.

You said, "If determinism is true, and I believe that nearly all sociological and scientific data collected over the last 200 years suggests that it must be true, then people could still be swayed by rational discussion. Assuming they are determined to be rational."

First off, it is impossible to derive a metaphysical theory such as determinism from scientific observations since science is itself a discipline which operates under the metaphysical assumption of determinism (in philosophy of science, large portions of material are dedicated to this idea)
Second, this is my question for you: You say that certain people are determined to be rational/irrational. How would you react to someone acted irrationally or immorally, by, say, killing your daughter or torturing small children? If they are determined to act this way, then how can you hold that person more morally responsible than you would for the fact that, say, he is 6' 1''?

You said "Can you choose not to believe in the moon? I would say no, you are compelled by sufficient evidence to believe that the moon exists. Choice places no part in it."

This is an interesting question. I would agree with you. We are compelled to believe in the existence of the moon. Here's a counter question, are you compelled to believe that a fork bends when you place it in a glass of water? Well, if you freely choose not to use other senses to disconfirm this theory, then it seems, we would be compelled to believe that. It's part of human freedom and responsibility to question assumptions and search for truth.

Can I murder some one (not in self defense)? I don't know how exactly to answer this question. COULD I actually go through with it? Well, yes I could, if I chose so. I believe that it is wrong to murder. But it is possible for me to choose to do what I know is wrong. This is the basis for moral culpability: a person knows something is wrong, but does it anyway.

So I would return to my question for you: How can you hold a person morally responsible for, say, killing a relative of yours, if they are biologically, intrinsically, and extrinsically determined to do so--- like a programmed robot, they had no real choice to the contrary.

Rob R said...

post 1 of 2

Scott,


Are you not ignoring the beliefs of billions of other people?


I don't see the relevance here.


Rob, I'm trying to show you that your belief is such that it's self-affirming. Nor have you given us a reason to think your beliefs are true over anyone else's.

The discussion is ultimately on the problem of evil and whether or not it is an effective criticism against Christian theism. As John Loftus has noted, it creates an internal problem for Christianity, so naturally I'm going to focus on possible theistic counter explanations that are affirmed or can be affirmed within Christianity.

We've discussed the epistemic merits of my beliefs on a more broad level in another place. As of my last check, I had the last word on that. It does not speak well of a discussion technique if it always comes down to the same issue. The issues are much richer than that.


We note that by creating X God creates evil where none existed before.

We, including me, didn't note that. Some Christians have bitten that bullet even here. I do not. I have denied it and I haven't been challenged on my denial of this that I recall.


When we note there are other ways that God could get X or that God supposedly created Z in final form without having to do anything else, you reply that God "wants" X by means of Y because only then is X "genuine". When I illustrate that billions of souls cannot receive X by means of Y, you say God might want that too.

This is a long discussion with many people and I grant that it's getting a little convoluted. You are confusing what I am saying with what others are saying. Honestly, I'm not reading all the posts here, mainly the ones addressed to me and a few others.

It is logically impossible for God to get self determined creatures who have a beginning without granting them libertarian freedom. I've explained this. If you don't understand what I've said on that or if you don't agree, I'd need interaction on precisely what i said regarding that.

I absolutely deny that every one of those billions of souls could not have responded to God's grace positively. I deny this to the point that I say that it was logically impossible for God to know which persons would respond positively to his grace because it was absolutely possible for each one of them to do so.


Again, God might think any difference is special, but then nothing would be special.

He might, but that's not dealing with the picture I present against the objections here, and thus it isn't relevant. It just seems that you want to push a slippery sloap argument here of the most fallacious kind. Then again, given what you said after the comment of yours immeadiately above if you are still not confusing my claims here for someone elses. it sounds like you are criticising the idea of a best possible world. Well I don't buy there there is such a thing as a best possible world. Perhaps that is not what you were thinking of, but it seems that the conversation is floating aways from the main concerns here.

You're suggesting that God could create beings which were capable of making genuinely free libertarian choices without requiring an incremental process. Why should we think this is the case.

I don't know what an incremental process is.

Rob R said...

post 2 of 2

Should God be capable of staring with nothing and instantly creating genuine libertarian freedom, why can't he start with nothing and instantly create up with genuine moral freedom?

What's the difference between genuine libertarian freedom and moral freedom? If I were to use the second term, I'd be placing it as a subset of libertarian freedom. And thus there is no reason to think that he can't do both because it's all part of the package.

Now going with something you said earlier, perhaps you meant to ask why God can't simply create us as morally perfect creatures who would simply never do wrong. But if this is just a rehash of that question, I'm just afraid that I don't see the need to repeat what I've already said.


Chuck


And I am sure that Fred Phelps would use the exact same passage towards you if you chose to discourage his discrimination towards homosexuality.

I'm sure he would and I'm not bothered as I'm aware that there needs to be a greater consideration of the scripture as a whole. And I know he does that and it remains that not all interpretations are equal. If you disagree with me, why stop at scripture and not apply this to science or even the interpretation of this discussion.


And I know for a fact that my actions towards the needy over the past year were not motivated by a biblical god because I am a lucid person who was once a believer and no longer am. My morality stayed intact even though my superstitions didn't.

So your morality that developed while you were a Christian still influences you. Sounds good to me.

Of course, regardless of how lucid you are, you're still a human with a subconscious, a conscience and intuitions some of which you may be aware, and others which you are not. There is plenty of room for God's grace to work behind the scenes even for an unbeliever who is lucid. And your grief that you spoke of is not something that you can purely manufacture when you think reason warrants it. The fact that you grieve over the evil of the world is a gift of God, because those who don't or barely have this experience are almost animals wearing human skin.


to my mind it is a perfect example to the implausibility of your belief system.


right, so because someone with whom I have very sharp important disagreements with even while we have some common ground reflects badly on my beliefs as a whole, when we don't share those beliefs as a whole. I don't know why this seems rational to you or at least why you'd think anyone would find this a convincing consideration.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob R,

I admire your tenacity but, your strategy is lacking. I find your arguments self-centered and rationalizing.

Thanks, your solidifying my choice for skepticism and agnosticism.

The arrogant presumptions of the holy really reveal themselves to be nothing more than self-centered ignorance.

I wish you well but really do consider you nothing more than Fred Phelps light.

Nice job in practicing the great commission buster.

Scott said...

Hello Joel,

The experiential knowledge of which you speak can be reduced to propositional knowledge in my view. So there's no problem there.

Propositional knowledge alone does not encompass what I'm referring to. For example...

A deck contains 52 cards. While the order of the cards can vary, the deck must consists of 52 cards in a particular order. Should this not be the case, then it would not be a deck of cards.

Now, if we take a card off the top of the deck and place it face up on the table, the resulting card will be determined by the order in which the cards exist in the deck. Should we take another card off the top, it too will be determined by the order of the cards in the deck. We can continue this process until all cards are face up on the table. The mere existence of the deck of cards in of itself defines the order in which they are dealt.

Based on this description alone, God would know the order in which the cards would be dealt because he has propositional knowledge of the order of the cards before they were dealt. However, God wouldn't have defined the order in which they were dealt.

But If we say God created that deck of cards, he'd have to decide the exact order of each card in the deck as part of the creation process. If God does not create a specific card in each of the possible 52 locations, it would be missing a card, which results in something other than a deck of cards. Nor can God "shuffle" the cards post-creation in a way that would cause him to have not explicitly defined the new order of the cards after creating them. This is inescapable due the way you yourself define God.

As such, by the act of creating this particular deck of cards, God defines the order in which they will be dealt. God knows the order not because he has foreknowledge of how the cards appeared on the table after they were dealt or because he has propositional knowledge of how the cards happened to have been arranged before they were dealt, but because he predetermined the order of the cards as part of the creation process. The cards in the deck actually appeared in that particular order because God omnipotently created them in exactly the order he intended.

Obviously, you and I need not be omniscient to know placing each of the 52 standard cards in a particular order results in a deck of cards. However, It's a safe bet that neither of us know how to create something as complex as a universe that is uniform.

Should God have actually brought our universe into existence in a way that results in it being truly uniform, he'd have to have knowledge of how to create universes that will actually be uniform. He'd also have to ensure the resulting universe he created ended up in exactly as he planned, otherwise, it wouldn't actually be uniform in reality.

A uniform universe would be the result of God's knowledge, ability and the exercise of that ability.

While we're not sure if the constants of our universe have always been uniform, it's estimated that it has remained uniform for nearly all of it's 13+ billion year existence. It's also estimated that human beings appeared during this time of uniformity, as did the earth before that (born out of the solar nebula 4.54 billion years ago) and our sun before that (a population 1 star formed by the death of at least one earlier star 4.57 billion years ago)

As such, our universe has been uniform for at least as long as any form of life has existed on our planet, if not billions of years. In fact, the uniformity of the universe is what caused our sun and the earth to form though the process of stellar evolution.

Again, If God is capable of designing and implementing something as complex as a universe that remains uniform over a span of billions of years, and that ultimately results in the formation of a sun and planet that can has just the right conditions support human life, it seems clear that God would have knowledge of the massive number of events that would occur and eventually shape our choices going forward.

Scott said...

Your car illustration serves to illustrate the deterministic point of view.

My illustration serves to show that libertarian freedom is not as simple as you project. The freedom to choose something is only one side of the equation. Not only must there be alternate possibilities but there must be a means to make self-determined actions. Both are required.

When I speak of an element of agency that provides choice, I simply mean that humans are not determined, given all environmental and material conditions, to act one certain way.

Yes, I realize that's how you define agency. But merely defining something a particular way does not mean that something must work that way in reality.

Should God not actually pre-determine how our decision making process works and actually create it the way he planed, it's unclear why we would have a decision making ability at all. This would be like God creating a deck of cards without defining the order in which the cards are arranged in the deck. it's impossible.

You can't stick a label on an empty box that says, "deck of cards" and actually have a deck of cards. You actually have to have 52 cards in a particular order. Yet, this appears to be what you're claiming God did with human beings when it comes to free will.

Was I determined by natural laws to vote for him? If the answer is yes, then it was physically impossible for me to vote for Mccain. However, it WAS physically possible for me to vote for Mccain (I weighed the options and chose not to). I may have been influenced one way or the other, but not determined.

Joel, if your decision to vote for Obama was determined by a series of billions of complex events and interactions, instead of some element of agency that "weighs the options", how could you tell the difference?

Rob R said...

chuck, I understand.

If you can't beat em, give up on dealing with what was said and attack em personally.

Rob R said...

chuck, something occured to me about our last exchange.

There isn't a doubt in my mind that I've demonstrated your fred phelps comparison to be one that has no rationality and of no worth and I have every reason given you last statement to believe that you understand that on some level.

You make it sound like I failed to make the case for Christianity to you (not my whole goal) but in reality, on this one small issue, I think you understand on some level that you are clining to what you know is untrue.

If I am right, then you are displaying the characteristics of one who is a hater of truth. That is a very bad place to be in.

Scott said...

Rob,

Your argument hinges on your belief that, when God created Adam and Eve out of of thin air in and in final form, they were just as "good" as God himself. Evil only entered into the world some time after. To say this is particular conclusion is strongly substantiated by what we observe is not in evidence.

Nor is it clear that your particular theological position is actually coherent in of itself. For example, would it be an accurate to say Adam was created as a morally imperfect being? You clearly state that, by their very definition, Adam and Eve had the ability to do something God could not. Yet, despite this difference, they were just as good as God.

As I've illustrated, you've given no sufficient reason to suggest that your theology is any more valid than any other possible theologies given how we interpret what we observe and even how we interpret the Bible.

To say that Man was initially good is the opposite side of the coin of your particular theology. We can reach a conclusion that people do "evil" things, via different route - even if we chose a supernatural means. Instead, you suggest evil was created via some form or reverse theological money laundering.

That you have not acknowledged that creation wasn't as perfect as God in no way means that creation must have been as perfect as God any more than a failure to acknowledged we sent men to the moon necessarily means that Apollo 11 mission must have been staged.

We can say the same thing about God's abilities, or lack there off. Conveniently, you clam God can instantaneously get exactly what he wants in some cases, but not others. You tie what God wants to the particular means that he gets what he wants and use that to justify his creation of anything at all. When I show you he can't always get what he want's the way he wants it, you suggest he might want that too - "who knows?"

When I show you that God could want the same thing by another means and use that as a justification, you say I've gone to far, because "God, by his very nature, wouldn't do that.", and complain that I'm ignoring your beleifs. When I do the same with your position, you say it's irrelevant.

I don't know what an incremental process is.

Then, apparently, I'm wasting my time, as we have no grounds to communicate on at all.

Scott said...

If it's not clear by now, I think they way we make choices is determined by prior events that shape our decision making process. This includes cultural evolution, biological evolution and even stellar evolution. However, I do not think we as individual are always the primary factors that actually that determine what these outcomes are.

For example, some one might live in a very small town where everyone shares the same views. They might not have a television, internet connection or any sort of connection to the outside world. Being raised in this environment would, in part, determine how they look at and interpret the world, which would determine how they make choices.

Should this person be involved in an accident that required being airlifted to a different city for advanced medical treatment, they might be exposed to a vast amount of information they had never experienced before. This would change they way they look at the world, which would change the way they make choices. In this case, their response to the physical event caused the need for medical attention, but that was without choice on their part, as their physical makeup gave no alternative option but to become injured. (You do not choose to become injured in an accident)

However, should one happen to be exposed to information about meditation, they might start practicing it and realize how much "chatter" going on in our thoughts during the day. They begin to step back and see how they "react" to different thoughts and events and realize they have options to react differently. They expand their knowledge about what their own mind is doing by learning new techniques of observation. For lack of a better word, we could call this the discovery of a contemplative science of the mind. This too changes the way we make choices. But, In this case, there were alternate outcomes (to take up meditation or not take up meditation), which was determined by the way they make decisions.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob,

You indulge in tautology that demands special pleading.

You believe you know me, my psychology and motivations based on your theology.

How is this at all different from the premise that Fred Phelps knows the collective psychology of our country based on his theology.

The basis of which you share.

You've hardened me to the observation that bible based Christians are morally self-righteous and operate from faulty presumption based on the confidence they have in their theology.

Rob R said...

post 1 of 4


Chuck,

You indulge in tautology that demands special pleading.

The first (and only one that I could find) instance of special pleading that you accused me of was based on a mistaken idea that I was concluding that God existed on a certain basis. I haven't argued for God's existence AT ALL in this thread. It's not necessary to the discussion which is about an internal problem to Christianity with the claim that the problem of evil fails. The problems of evil could all be answerable and that still wouldn't mean that God existed. It only would mean that one reason for believing that a moral omnipotent God didn't exist wasn't a solid one.

Granted, I've been willing to go various rabbit trails and I don't recall any of them requiring me to directly support God's existence.

You believe you know me, my psychology and motivations based on your theology.

I believe I know you as well as you've communicated yourself in our discussions. I'll grant that calling you a hater of truth was too strong. But I haven't said much about you apart from the comments you've made and I've focused on the logic of them. Other than that, I have made "psychological" claims only to demonstrate that your description of your motives didn't disprove any claims about God's involvement in your moral actions. Whether I am right or wrong wasn't as important in that instance as the fact that your claims did not form a valid counter example to my claims.


How is this at all different from the premise that Fred Phelps knows the collective psychology of our country based on his theology.

The basis of which you share.


You think the most problematic thing about fred phelps is that he has a view about the psychology of America? And you think this is comparable to your claim about my presumption on your psychology? I'll admit chuck, I don't know how to answer a problem that I just find incredibly stretched and poorly explained. You'll just have to blame me more for hardening you against Christianity.


You've hardened me

You are responsible in your choices in how you decided to respond to me.

the observation that bible based Christians are morally self-righteous

I never made my righteousness or lack of it the point of the discussion. You on the other hand wanted me to know that you've done good things (something that doesn't surprise me, that atheists are capable of acting decently, and something that I accounted for).

and operate from faulty presumption based on the confidence they have in their theology.

Have you demonstrated the proper lack of confidence in your atheology for me to emulate? Seems to me kind of absurd to represent any position in a discussion if you don't have confidence in it.

If you respond, i will not have time to get back to this til next week.






Scott,

Your argument hinges on your belief that, when God created Adam and Eve out of of thin air in and in final form, they were just as "good" as God himself. Evil only entered into the world some time after. To say this is particular conclusion is strongly substantiated by what we observe is not in evidence.


Scott, the evidence for this picture (scripture) is not the discussion. The discussion is whether this picture and other issues relevent to the problem of evil can withstand the problem of evil.

A discussion of the strengths of a view, whether they really are or are not strengths and a discussion of the criticisms of a view, whether they really are good or not are often different discussions.

Rob R said...

post 2 of 4


Nor is it clear that your particular theological position is actually coherent in of itself. For example, would it be an accurate to say Adam was created as a morally imperfect being? You clearly state that, by their very definition, Adam and Eve had the ability to do something God could not. Yet, despite this difference, they were just as good as God.

There are several reasons to think that this isn't incoherent. For one, I don't buy that Adam was morally imperfect because it was possible for him to do things that would make him morally flawed. He wasn't flawed to begin with. Perfection is not the lack of potential imperfections, it is at most, a lack of actual imperfections.

As I've illustrated, you've given no sufficient reason to suggest that your theology is any more valid than any other possible theologies given how we interpret what we observe and even how we interpret the Bible.

None of the posts of yours aimed at me discussed the bible. If I'm wrong, you can give me a link to the post obtainable from the link here:
http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2009/07/logical-problem-of-evil-reforumlated.html. The links to individual posts are found at the bottom of each post as a time stamp. (if you are in a different time zone than me or if one of us hasn't set their blogger time zone, which could be the case with me, then telling me the time of the post wouldn't help... escept the day would probably be correct).

But it's really not necessary for us to discuss the scriptures prior to discussing whether my theology is thwarts the problem of evil or not. We could discuss the merits or problems with the view with regard to the problem of evil and then we could discuss the merits or problems of a view with regard to scripture. Or we could discuss scripture first and then the problem of evil. There is no order in which we have to do it, but the post here is on the problem of evil.


To say that Man was initially good is the opposite side of the coin of your particular theology. We can reach a conclusion that people do "evil" things, via different route - even if we chose a supernatural means. Instead, you suggest evil was created via some form or reverse theological money laundering.


I don't know what you are saying here.


That you have not acknowledged that creation wasn't as perfect as God in no way means that creation must have been as perfect as God any more than a failure to acknowledged we sent men to the moon necessarily means that Apollo 11 mission must have been staged.

I don't think creation was perfect as God. I think creation was perfect in a way in which creations can be perfect.

I said that creation was as good as God.

And I'm well aware that nothing I claim about the way it was is necessarily true. Nevertheless, if what I claim doesn't have the problems of other claims, then that commends it epistemically on the grounds that it doesn't have those specific problems, since it is on the basis of those problems that someone might conclude that the other views are false.

You're saying that it doesn't matter if I can't deflect the criticism since my view could still be wrong anyway. In that case, you might as well tell John Loftus that it was pointless for him to post Aaron's video. But Loftus thought that this was a worthwhile discussion.

Rob R said...

post 3 of 4


Conveniently, you clam God can instantaneously get exactly what he wants in some cases, but not others.

Right, it's convenient to be able to argue one's position. That's not a weakness. And I can do so consistently. God perform any action that is logically possible for him to perform within his moral nature, but creating a creation with the special qualities that logically only libertarian free will enables without giving that creation libertarian free will is not logically possible. Creating a creation with a type of love that goes to great deep intimate levels and with the quality of love that is also enabled by granting a great degree of responsibility to that creation without the potential for suffering is not possible since intimacy involves vulnerability and responsibility increases with the potential for harm. The more sacred something is, the greater the travesty is of destroying it or harming it and people are very very sacred.

You tie what God wants to the particular means

If that's the nature of it as it often may be, so be it.

to justify his creation of anything at all.

No, I don't justify the creation of anything at all. One possible theological suggestion could never be justified, which is the creation of reprobate creatures created in the image of God.

When I show you he can't always get what he want's the way he wants it, you suggest he might want that too - "who knows?"


You never showed me that and I never claimed that God can get anything he wants. He can do anything that he wants (which is always within the scope of his moral nature) but he can't get absolutely anything he wants if he makes what he wants dependent upon libertarian creatures and he has done that.


When I show you that God could want the same thing by another means and use that as a justification, you say I've gone to far, because "God, by his very nature, wouldn't do that."

That's a reasonable consideration. Why shouldn't we consider whether the suggestion is consistent with God's nature?


and complain that I'm ignoring your beleifs.

If you're going to discuss the problem with what I believe, then it has to be about what I believe.

When I do the same with your position, you say it's irrelevant.

Well, a criticism's got to be relevant don't you think? And if you think I was wrong about some claim of irrelevence, then it's reasonable for me to expect you to be specific and explain why what you said was relevent to this discussion. And chances are, I may still disagree with you. That's one of the many risks that discussions entail.

Rob R said...

post 4 of 4


I said "I don't know what an incremental process is," to which you replied

Then, apparently, I'm wasting my time, as we have no grounds to communicate on at all.

Well, then I'm even more confused if your idea of an incremental process was the grounds for our communication.

Seems to me though that a better grounds for communication involves, amongst other things, a willingness to explain what you mean when someone says they don't know what you mean, even if that involves an "incremental process".




I don't know if your comment on free will was aimed at me or the crowd in general. Frankly I think the discussion is convoluted enough and whether or not we actually have freedom is not necessary for the discussion in the same way that that the existence of God is not necessary for this discussion.

Free will is very important to me and I have thought alot about it, but that doesn't mean I want to discuss it in the midst of every other discussion. But if you posted that post on your own blog I'd be more willing to respond to it there.

But I will say this much. Of course we are influenced and we have identified many influences and perhaps even some determinants of our behaviour, Nevertheless, science has not given us an absolute predicter of human behavior for all humans at all times nor a reason to extrapolate the basis of some successful behaviors to think it applies to all of our choices and behaviors. of course there are many instances in which we can say that we don't have free will and many instances that we don't choose to be in. It still isn't the case that we don't also still make free choices in other instances.

This though is my last post here til most likely some time next week anyway.

Joel said...

Scott,

After reading your perspicuous account of experiential knowledge, I still believe that we are arguing semantics on this point. I assume that you are claiming something along the lines of the following:

1) For any entity X, function F, and set of rules R, if God creates X to do F by R, then God must know R (he knows the rules by which he created X to do F.)

2) If God knows R, then he must know all the factors sufficient for X to do F.

So it follows that by creating, say, a human being to choose, he knows how humans will choose since he knows the set of rules by which they were designed to choose. (rules which he created)

And this knowledge is propositional. But again, I don't think this is the main point here.

The critical point lies with the notion of agency. As I said, according to the theist, human beings possesses agency or personhood. To say that a human possesses agency is to say that he possesses the ability to choose between physically possible alternatives for himself independently of external causes (such as biological make-up, desires, environmental pressures.) This is not to say that he can be influenced by external factors, but his decision is not determined by them.

Now, at the risk of incorrectly articulating your position, the problem you seem to have with this notion of agency is that God, as a result of creating humans with agency (if he did so create), you say, must know what factors agency takes into account to produce a choice. After all, God created humans with agency. But, this is where the misunderstanding lies. The very idea of agency implies that there is no set of sufficient factors the knowledge of which provides knowledge of the human's resulting choice.

So, that the important point is that God knows how humans are going to act by virtue of his middle knowledge and not by virtue of what you call "experiential" knowledge. God's middle knowledge implies that he knows how humans act logically posterior (though not chronologically posterior) to their actual choices.

So, I don't think the idea of libertarian freedom is internally incoherent. But do we have this sort of freedom? I would ask that you read the last post I addressed to Aaron (should be short) to see how you would answer the question "how can you hold someone morally responsible if they are determined, that is, if they do not possess libertarian freedom?"

Your last comment was how could I tell the difference if I was determined to choose for Obama or not. The simple answer is that, if determinism is true, many crucial aspects of human experience such as moral accountability are undermined (again which I discuss in my post to Aaron). Thus, it is inability to reconcile determinism with aspects of meaningful reality that establishes the criterion by which we can judge whether it's true or false.

Enjoying the discussion.

Joel said...

To clarify the last paragraph briefly, the factor by which we evaluate determinism isn't epistemological: it's metaphysical. In other words, if determinism were true, it may very well be that we would not be able to distinguish it from what we call "libertarian" free will. But this the question to be discussed is how does the very idea of determinism make sense at a metaphysical level.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob R,

You said, "your description of your motives didn't disprove any claims about God's involvement in your moral actions." This assertion is the type of arrogance I am talking about Rob. God doesn't govern my actions. Especially not the God you endorse. Now, your response to this has been, "As far as you know." That is arrogant Rob and can only be based on a tautology informed by special pleading. Your intuition informs you that an assessment of my motivations is in line with your interpretation of scripture yet, when a person rejects this premise based on their use of the same intuition you question its veracity. That my friend is special pleading. If you are free to interpret the source of your actions then so am I.

Communication is defined by sender, receiver, takeaway. You have been the sender of these messages, I have been the receiver and my takeaway is Christianity is self-centered emotionalism bordering on narcissism. This assessment hardens me to the truth-claims of its believers. If you want to exempt yourself from this dynamic that's fine but you are involving yourself in more selfish delusion and proving my point.

Also, if you are an evangelical this strategy seems to not be an effective means for fulfilling the great commission. It is an effective means for you to feel self-righteous within some sort of self-pitying righteousness but, it does not provide proof to any evangelical theology.

Scott said...

Hello Joel,

Now, at the risk of incorrectly articulating your position, the problem you seem to have with this notion of agency is that God, as a result of creating humans with agency (if he did so create), you say, must know what factors agency takes into account to produce a choice. After all, God created humans with agency. But, this is where the misunderstanding lies. The very idea of agency implies that there is no set of sufficient factors the knowledge of which provides knowledge of the human's resulting choice.

So, if I understand you correctly, since God intended human beings to make choices without a set of factors, therefore there must not be any factors?

Or perhaps you mean, in creating human beings, God decided that his creations were responsible due to the fact that God defines morality. Therefore he considers them morally responsible?

Perhaps I can illustrate my point further.

We have two beings. One makes choices that are free and another who's choses are determined. For the sake of simplicity, we'll assume that the number of alternate possibilities for these beings is very limited. They can choose between choose chocolate or vanilla ice cream.

Both the free and determined beings could choose vanilla. The outcome would be the same. But if you and I do not know which being was free which was determined, we would be at a loss to know which was which.

However, if there is actually some difference between these two choices, then God must have knowledge that allows him to discern between them beyond having foreknowledge of the choice that was made after the fact. In addition, if the free beings choice was truly free, he'd have to have knowledge beyond propositional knowledge of the beings right before choice was made.

To illustrate this, we'll add an interesting twist to the scenario. Let's say that God did NOT create these beings, but happened to come across them right before the choice was made. If there really were no factors that caused the free being to make a choice, then God would have no idea how the free being's choice was made. As far as he's concerned, it would be "magic". On the other hand, God could have knowledge of how the determined being's choice was made.

Furthermore, God would have no idea if the free being would choose anything at all. Nor would he be able to determine if it's actions were anything but random as it would appear to be a "black box" from his perspective.

So, if God were to come across these beings, not having created them, it seems unclear if God could determine if the free beings choices were free, random or determined by some unknown factor.

However, I don't think this is your position. You think there are factors that cause the free being to choose, and God defined those factors, but God has decided to classify this being as having agency and therefore responsible for it's choices.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

My little 2 cents in this as I have read the comments it seems that "freedom" in this forum takes the notion of having abundant or unlimited number of choices...

I don't believe that is the correct basis of freedom. The unencumbered ability to make a choice is freedom...so to me that's number one in understanding what's being debated here.

Secondly, the naturalist views this argument as nothing more than simply code or encoding of the individual. As many of these comments suggest that even if one "thinks" they're a free Christian etc. there is yet some encoding that God has placed there.

I believe these thoughts rise because naturalism relies on the "genetic code" because the 'code" is knowledge and that information determines whatever outcome etc...(I know I'm radically oversimplifying, cut me some slack)

With that said and knowing that the genome works no differently for Christians than it does for atheists, I would simply assert that Christian choices, though tained by the "encoding of sin" are truely free because they are truely an unfettered choice...

In this case unfettered meaning uncohearsed by sin, (aka: the world without god for this reference) even though it's (sin) present it's not the dominating factor.

Joel said...

Scott,

I believe you are very close to capturing my view (and I'm sure that any confusion is due to my inability to express ideas as cogently as I would like).

Perhaps this encapsulates the theist's view: God creates humans who are moral agents. That is, they have the capability to choose between right and wrong, good and evil. Now, what does it mean to be able to choose? Now, since you and I are both very nit-picky with words, we need to realize this question is philosophically loaded.

To speak in the simplest of terms, something that is determined is like a robot: it is programmed to act a certain way with certain inputs (from the programmer and the environment.) The robot itself cannot "choose" between two alternatives. It could not, say, truly choose between vanilla and chocolate icecream. Now, supposed, we had a very complex robot, so complex that it was programmed to take into account MANY factors concerning vanilla and chocolate icecream. Finally after taking all these factors into account, it selects chocolate. Now, could the robot have selected differently than it did? Well, obviously not, given THOSE conditions and the robot's programming, it doesn't matter how long and hard the robot processed environmental factors: it could never have chosen vanilla. Indeed, given the total set of circumstances, it was physically impossible for the robot to choose vanilla.

However, it is very difficult to see how such a robot could be a moral agent in any meaningful sense. For example, we hold thieves morally culpable because they had a choice to steal or not steal, and they chose to steal. A thief could have chosen differently, but he decided to do what was wrong. In other words, he made a morally negative decision. Moral justice is founded on the ability for people to choose. It wouldn't make sense to bring a robot to court and condemn it for committing a moral crime. It wouldn't make sense because the robot simply acted according to its inputs and had no choice to the contrary.

The important point is that if human beings are determined, then they are like very complex robots. Yes, there could be the "illusion" of choice, but humans would ultimately, like the robot in the court-example, be entirely determined.

Thus, unless we undermine the grounds of moral justice (that is to say, render moral justice meaningless), there must be an aspect of human beings which transcends the causal inputs and influences that nature has upon them. They must be free to choose at least in some non-deterministic sense. And this aspect of human beings theists call "agency." And it is the notion of agency which provides the foundation for ability to freely choose, and it is the ability to freely choose which establishes the basis for moral justice.

I hope this serves to clarify what is meant in the discussion. Now, I am going place some of the burden on you. Given determinism, how is that you provide a meaningful foundation for moral accountability? That is, if human beings are determined to act the way they do, how do we, say, hold a murderer morally accountable--after all, he couldn't have acted differently. So, how is that you provide a basis for moral justice within a deterministic view?

Andre said...

Hello Joel,

As to the burden you placed on Scott, I think a reasonable response can be heard here: http://www.pointofinquiry.org/tom_clark_scientific_naturalism_and_the_illusion_of_free_will/

The key issue for me here is "approximate" accountability. Yes, when one commits a crime, one should be punished based on 1) The freedom of the choice to go through with it, and 2) The level of the crime committed. But what remains at the root of our actions are the determined factors. We did not choose to or necessarily want to become the way we are. Given the circumstances, conditions, environment, and experience during one's lifetime, it can force the individual to react in many different ways.

We can understand this better when we will admit no matter the crime, one of the first thing we do is to wonder why the wrong doing or "evil" is committed. We ask ourselves and each other, "What could have caused the person to this?" I would like to think that nobody was born wanting to do the bad things they end up doing. We did not choose the mental or physical state we were/are born in.

Having this understanding, was one of the reasons that led me to reject the teachings of Christianity 9 years ago. It became clear to me (even if I didn't make the point I wanted to make here more clearer, or whether you just don't agree) that the God of the bible, the authors, and Jesus had no idea about human behavior as we do here in the 21st century.

Anyhow, what do I know. Hopefully you'll check the link and see what you think.

Andre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joel said...

Andre,

I enjoyed the audio clip you posted. The idea of compatibilism which Clark eloquently presents is a very well known topic in the philosophical literature. And great minds come down on each side of the issue. The humble opinion that I've developed as I've studied this issue is that if one is to retain a belief in determinism, one is forced to speciously reformulate our intuitive understanding of moral accountability and duty. And this conclusion can be reached, I hope, by anyone who perspicuously studies the issue with integrity.

Now, you state, "Yes, when one commits a crime, one should be punished based on 1) The freedom of the choice to go through with it, and 2) The level of the crime committed"

I agree. But what kind of "freedom of choice to go through with it" is there on determinism? Like I said in a previous post, if we are determined, we are simply like robots. Given certain input, we have only one physically possible course of action.

You state, "We can understand this better when we will admit no matter the crime, one of the first thing we do is to wonder why the wrong doing or "evil" is committed."

Absolutely, and this provides good reason for promulgating moral education, etc. However, simply eliminating certain conditions that could lead to crime doesn't itself address the issue of moral accountability. If determinism is true, we can attempt to eliminate the "seeds" of crime, but this implies nothing about the moral status of crime itself. In fact, truth is, why even prevent crime at all? Let nature run its natural course, after all, if determinism is true, it MUST run it's natural course.

At the risk of becoming too personal, I challenge you to respond to the following scenario. Suppose someone came into your house this evening and tortured and killed your children for fun. Has this person done anything morally wrong? if you are a determinist, attempting to answer this question positively with integrity is very difficult. If you believe in determinism, you are forced to conclude logically and inescapably that this man was no more morally culpable for killing children than a rock is morally culpable of dislodging from a cliff and hitting someone in the head. The man and the rock were both determined by causal laws to act in a single manner. Moral accountability loses meaning in a deterministic universe. And this is why, in all honesty, even if I were not a theist, I simply could not bring myself to believe in determinism.

Enjoying the discussion.

Andre said...

Hi Joel,

In the case I say something considered false by my fellow skeptics, I will say that I speak for myself, here, and in general for any comments I make on this blog. As John says, "I could be wrong about some things", I'm a seeker of truth, and am open to be shown where I'm wrong.

Now, as to your challenge, I guess I will have to admit that I am determined to think that the person was morally wrong for killing my children. Can I choose not to think that it was wrong? I do have the choice, but then what is it that makes me choose to accept that it is wrong?

I do realize that you chose to use the words "for fun". But what if I chose to take revenge in my own hands and kill him in return. Would not my actions be considered morally wrong, yet was I also not determined in my reaction?

Whether or not he chose to kill them for fun, my contention is, there is nothing that we do that is not determined. We cannot do anything that cannot be done, therefore it must be determined for us to do what we can do. So to kill "for fun", it still falls under determinism.

Now, I would have chosen to kill him in the name of payback, but both cases are examples of the compatibility with certain types of free will and determinism. And this is also where the "approximate" accountability of our actions come in. There is no need to think that "Moral accountability loses meaning in a deterministic universe." We still have to punish and put away people that will jeopardize the well being of other citizens, because they do play a part in committing the crime or wrong doing, unless mental issues are involved. If you still feel the urge to ask why, just ask yourself if that isn't also determined.

I would also like to add that since the object of this blog is Debunking Christianity, no matter what you or I conclude about this issue, I must point out then that there was no need for the God of the old and Jesus to react the way did towards us "human beings". Thus, such a God or gods are highly improbable. But I won't go too much into that as to not get too far off topic.

I agree the discussion has been enjoyable.

Scott said...

Hello Joel,

While I think we've made some progress, I'm still unclear as to how God decides what is an free agent and what is not. What would prevent God from pointing to anything that makes choices and declaring it a free agent?

Could God cause rocks to make free choices?

You seem to be saying that you know agency when you see it, which would be based on observing the resulting choices after they were made. Or perhaps free agents are free merely because we treat them as if they were free agents or because God supposedly will judge them as if they made free choices?

Many great apes share several behaviors with human beings. One example is that some apes would rather go hungry if receiving food directly resulting in causing another ape harm. In addition, some species of great apes recognize themeless in a mirror, while others do not.

Could God have decided these apes were morally free agents, but chose not to? If we start holding apes morally accountable would this somehow cause them to become free agents? Or is there something intrinsically different between apes and human beings we could point to that can qualify whether a choice was actually free or not?

To speak in the simplest of terms, something that is determined is like a robot: it is programmed to act a certain way with certain inputs (from the programmer and the environment.) The robot itself cannot "choose" between two alternatives.

If the robot did not choose between alternatives, then what did it do? What about a computer simulation that chooses between thousands of aircraft design variations to determine which would result in the least number of injuries or deaths given a wide range of crash scenarios?

Now, could the robot have selected differently than it did? Well, obviously not, given THOSE conditions and the robot's programming, it doesn't matter how long and hard the robot processed environmental factors: it could never have chosen vanilla. Indeed, given the total set of circumstances, it was physically impossible for the robot to choose vanilla.

Ok, so what if after considering all input, the factors in favor for chocolate and vanilla is equal? Given that the alternate possibilities are such that both are not an option, the robot uses a random function to select one or the other. To be more efficient, the robot cached the results going forward.

Was this a free choice? Would it not appear to be a free choice?

Scott said...

It wouldn't make sense to bring a robot to court and condemn it for committing a moral crime. It wouldn't make sense because the robot simply acted according to its inputs and had no choice to the contrary.

Robots are programmed by human beings. Human beings make mistakes. Should we suspect a robot's programming resulted in the death of human beings, we'd have a very good reason to determine if it was the cause of these deaths. Perhaps it had bad data? Perhaps it was programmed to think doing x would result in y instead of z. Even when it observed this was not the case, it might not have the ability to update it's map of outcomes to correct for the descrepency. Perhaps it assumed there were only two options in a particular situation instead of 50, either of which would result in causing harm. However, had the robot been aware of other options, a non-lethal action would have been taken.

A thief could have chosen differently, but he decided to do what was wrong. In other words, he made a morally negative decision.

If there was nothing that caused their decision to steal, then why did they choose anything at all? Surely, the thief's decision was due to a multitude of factors, including their perceived number of options given their current situation, their perceived happiness due to material gain, their perceived impact of their theft on others, etc. Otherwise, they'd be randomly choosing to steal.

Thus, unless we undermine the grounds of moral justice (that is to say, render moral justice meaningless), there must be an aspect of human beings which transcends the causal inputs and influences that nature has upon them.

Cosmic moral justice or a sense of what is fair, along with punishment and protection?

Given determinism, how is that you provide a meaningful foundation for moral accountability? That is, if human beings are determined to act the way they do, how do we, say, hold a murderer morally accountable--after all, he couldn't have acted differently.

What do you mean by accountable? What do we gain by saying someone is accountable?

If people are free to choose evil despite what they know, believe and experience, then what do we gain by holding people accountable?

Here, you seem to imply agency is having knowledge of what they should not do, but have the capacity to select that option regardless.

Scott said...

The humble opinion that I've developed as I've studied this issue is that if one is to retain a belief in determinism, one is forced to speciously reformulate our intuitive understanding of moral accountability and duty. And this conclusion can be reached, I hope, by anyone who perspicuously studies the issue with integrity

In no way did it I suggest that a reformulation of our understanding of moral accountability and duty would not be required. If I did, it was not intentional. Furthermore, having listened to the Point of Inquiry episode listed in Andre's comment, such a reformulation was presented by the guest: Tom Clark.

However, in using the word 'speciously' you seem to suggest that such a reformulation is wrong. On what grounds have you reached this conclusion?

In other words, Is determinism wrong because it requires a reformulation per-se, or because you happen to disagree with the particular reformulation presented?

But what kind of "freedom of choice to go through with it" is there on determinism? Like I said in a previous post, if we are determined, we are simply like robots. Given certain input, we have only one physically possible course of action.

You're suggesting that human beings cannot expand their knowledge or expand their maps of actions and their outcomes. What good would result in punishing someone for their actions if said punishment did not influence their future choices? To make us feel better?

In fact, truth is, why even prevent crime at all? Let nature run its natural course, after all, if determinism is true, it MUST run it's natural course.

Should determinism be true, then both the desire to commit and prevent crimes is determined. Should an overall reduction in crime occur, such a reduction would have been determined by our nature, along with other factors.

Instead, you seem to be creating a kind of dualism here where none is implied as a means to support your position where none is apparent.

If you believe in determinism, you are forced to conclude logically and inescapably that this man was no more morally culpable for killing children than a rock is morally culpable of dislodging from a cliff and hitting someone in the head.

If this same man were shot by a bullet, would he have a choice to be injured or not? No, he would not. Nor could the rock decide not to fall down on the man's head. However, in the case of killing someone, the man would have been the cause of their death as he had options in that situation, yet chose that specific action. The choice the man made was the determining factor in the outcome. Rocks cannot choose anything because they lack a system to make choices. Therefore, they cannot be the source of choices. Human beings can. Therefore, they can be culpable.

Now, my reaction to the man's actions would also be determined by who I am.

Moral accountability loses meaning in a deterministic universe. And this is why, in all honesty, even if I were not a theist, I simply could not bring myself to believe in determinism.

Cosmic moral accountability? Yes. Accountability as to causing suffering. No.

Again, you seem to think that a free agent is one that knows what is right, but is has the capacity to do otherwise.

Joel said...

Thanks for the response Andre.

I do believe that the response to the scenario I presented is consistent with determinism. I would make a few comments though. You say that your reaction to think that the murderer committed a morally negative action would be determined. But would you? Remember, our reactions to different situations are based on our understanding of the situation:

Suppose I am rock climbing and a rock dislodges from a cliff and hits me on the head. My reaction to THAT is not one of moral blame. My understanding of the universe's natural laws makes me realize the rock was determined to fall. In the same way, once our understanding fully realizes that the murderer had no more choice than the dislodged rock had, our reaction should be the same: we can be frustrated or angry, but we should not be morally outraged since both were ultimately determined to happen.

You say, "There is no need to think that "Moral accountability loses meaning in a deterministic universe." We still have to punish and put away people that will jeopardize the well being of other citizens..."

Yes punishment is needed. But punishment is a different issue than moral accountability. For instance, we could strive to prevent rocks from dislodging from cliffs by, say, tying nets over unstable areas of the cliff. This would work to prevent the natural tendency for the rocks to fall. But this does not mean that we've held these rocks moral accountable for their actions. In the same way, if humans are determined, then we could act to prevent their natural tendencies, but this would say nothing about the moral status of their actions.

The problems you bring up in the last paragraph are legitimate issues that certainly need to be addressed by theists, but, like you said, perhaps they can be discussed in another forum. Free will vs determinism is no small piece of cake. :)

Enjoying the discussion.

Joel said...

Scott,

I appreciate the thought you've put into the issue. I'm struggling to figure out where to start responding to your colossal aggregate of argument-chopping.

Perhaps to clarify a bit where we stand in the discussion, let me state my basic argument more analytically and see what points you've raised in the last responses.

1. If humans are completely determined, then there is only one physically possible outcome of their actions.
2. Humans are morally accountable for their actions only if there is not only one physically possible outcome for their actions.
3. Thus, If humans are determined completely, they are not morally accountable for their actions. (1 and contraposed 2)
4. But humans are morally accountable for their actions
5. Thus, humans are not completely determined. (3, 4 modus tollens)

So the argument follows logically, but are the premises (1,2,4 true)? (1) is part of the definition of what it means to be determined.

Against (1) you say, "You're suggesting that human beings cannot expand their knowledge or expand their maps of actions and their outcomes."

Yes, they can, but the point is that if they do, such an expansion is ITSELF determined. The decision to expand their knowledge is also determined, so that, given the total set of circumstances, the human is ultimately determined to act only one way.

When I use the example of the robot being held morally accountable for a crime, you state, "Robots are programmed by human beings. Human beings make mistakes... had the robot been aware [programmed to take into account] of other options, a non-lethal action would have been taken."

This remphasizes the previous point: On determinism, humans are like robots and any "being more aware" of options is itself a determined feature of humans. We simply cannot say, "well, if humans had thought more about the options, they could have made a better choice."

Against (2), you state, "However, in the case of killing someone, the man would have been the cause of their death as he had options in that situation, yet chose that specific action. The choice the man made was the determining factor in the outcome. Rocks cannot choose anything because they lack a system to make choices. Therefore, they cannot be the source of choices. Human beings can. Therefore, they can be culpable."

I believe the whole argument boils down to this issue here. On determinism, the man in the example HAD no choice in the matter. The environment, desires, beliefs, and his biological constitution determined his outcome. It was physically impossible for him, given his circumstances, to act any differently. And this is precisely my point, just as the rock lacked the ability to choose, so the human lacked the ability to choose, so neither of them are culpable on determinism.

Against (4) you ask "what do you mean by accountable?" Well, I simply mean that we consider a person's actions moral or immoral. Good or evil. If an action is immoral, the subject is morally culpable. And I think we agree on that.

So I don't think any adequate damage has been done to the argument itself. I could have overlooked any direct attack on the premises, so if I have, sorry, let me know, and I will respond to them. Important thing to be noticed is that if (1), (2), and (4) are true, the conclusion follows logically.

Joel said...

Scott continued,

Now, you raise many good questions about the nature of libertarian freedom itself, so let me address some at least:

You say, "I'm still unclear as to how God decides what is a free agent and what is not. Could cause a rock to make free choices?"

Technically speaking God's "causing" a "free" action is a contradiction, so no. God's deciding what is a free agent has to do with being created in God's image, that is, possessing personhood: a faculty, so to speak, by which we are not determined by our physical environment and allows us to "contra-causally" choose between alternatives.

In the example of the icecream-choosing robot, you ask "Ok, so what if after considering all input, the factors in favor for chocolate and vanilla is equal? Given that the alternate possibilities are such that both are not an option, the robot uses a random function to select one or the other."

In such a situation, the robot is not free because the function to select randomly is still a function: it is determined. It may "look" free, but on the real level, it is still determined.

You say, "you seem to imply agency is having knowledge of what they should not do, but have the capacity to select that option regardless."

Yes, I believe this matches up with our experience. For instance, (I confess), a long time ago I stole a small amount of money that had been left sitting on a desk. I had the knowledge that i should not steal. But my selfish desire to steal consumed me, and I stole anyway. I am morally culpable because I chose to go obey my desires and not do what was right.

You ask, "In other words, Is determinism wrong because it requires a reformulation per-se, or because you happen to disagree with the particular reformulation presented?"

The reformulation involves the determinists' attempt to retain the idea of moral accountability. To do so, they must put it in terms of the necessity for punishment. While I agree that punishment is necessary to prevent crime, it is also true that moral culpability and punishment are separate things. For instance, we could strive to prevent rocks from dislodging from cliffs by, say, tying nets over unstable areas of the cliff. This would work to prevent the natural tendency for the rocks to fall. But this does not mean that we've held these rocks moral accountable for their actions. In the same way, if humans are determined, then we could act to prevent their natural tendencies, but this would say nothing about the moral status of their choices.

Well, this post has become too long. Thanks for discussing!

Rob R said...

You said, "your description of your motives didn't disprove any claims about God's involvement in your moral actions." This assertion is the type of arrogance I am talking about Rob.

I thought arrogance had to do with what I thought about myself. My mistake!


God doesn't govern my actions.

right, you could be a total cretin and take all the credit. I never would claim to be a determinist. That God's grace enables us to do good does not mean that God's grace guarantees that we will do good.


That is arrogant Rob and can only be based on a tautology informed by special pleading. Your intuition informs you that an assessment of my motivations is in line with your interpretation of scripture yet, when a person rejects this premise based on their use of the same intuition you question its veracity.

I don't see what here makes my claim tautological. My claim could be wrong thus it isn't tautological. What you might be able to argue is that my claim is not falsifiable, but that doesn't make it tautological. And I'm not worried one bit that these specific beliefs are not falsifiable. If that was a problem, science itself would not be valid as it is founded upon many unfalsifiable assumptions. But it's not like nothing I believe is unfalsifiable. it just means that you can't fully evaluate my theology solely on these specific beliefs.


Your intuition informs you that an assessment of my motivations is in line with your interpretation of scripture yet, when a person rejects this premise based on their use of the same intuition you question its veracity.That my friend is special pleading.


Oh, that's what special pleading is? Well, it's a good thing that I didn't do that as you described. I'm not working from my intuition. My claims come from biblically based doctrines (whether they are correct in their biblical interpretation or not) about how man is dependent upon God to do good. Sorry, your intuitions don't clearly cancel out scripture says as your intuitions themselves could be wrong. I know I can't demonstrate that my doctrinal claims are not right, but that was never the point. The point was that your claims from intution don't prove my claims wrong and YOU were trying to do just that.

Course, it seems that you are are more guilty of what you accuse me of here since even if I was going purely on intuition, my goal was not to prove you wrong but to show that your criticism was not clearly effective. You on the other hand were attempting to use your intuition to prove what you thought was my intuition wrong.

This assessment hardens me to the truth-claims of its believers. If you want to exempt yourself from this dynamic that's fine but you are involving yourself in more selfish delusion and proving my point.

And I take away from this discussion that not only do you insult when you run out of valid criticisms and the ability to carry them forward, but you then resort to very bad attempts at manipulation.


it does not provide proof to any evangelical theology.

Chuck, I would never claim that I could prove evangelical theology and this discussion has never been about that. We've followed rabit trails from the problem of evil, but nevertheless, from the beginning of the discussion, it has been about demonstrating the problem of evil from another angle. As far as I can tell from what I understand and have articulated here, the criticism has not been succesful. Not because I think I've proven evangelical theology as you mistakenly have taken it, but because it is within the scope of orthodox theology (including evangelical theology) to deflect the criticism.

Scott said...

Joel,

You're summary appears to be incomplete and misleading in several ways.

1. If humans are completely determined, then there is only one physically possible outcome of their actions.

First, human beings change over time. For example, had you asked me If I believed in God ten years earlier, I would have said yes. Two years ago, I would have firmly said not a chance. Today, I'd say it's extremely unlikely that the Christian (or the Muslim or hindu) God to exist, and say that it's unlikely that a God of some other nature might exist.

Second, Yes, when you take into account "the whole" then everything would end up as one physically possible outcome. But individuals are not like factory robots that constantly respond the same way over and over again.

We learn new things. We can see the results of our actions. We age, become injured / get sick and get well. All of these things change who we are and how we react. Instead, you seem to think there is some part of us that is immune from this process, which is simply not evident.

2. Humans are morally accountable for their actions only if there is not only one physically possible outcome for their actions.

First, what do you mean by morally accountable? In a cosmic sense or that they are the causes that influence outcomes which have moral significance?

Second, this is clearly incomplete. Would you say children have more than one physical outcomes? Are children morally accountable for their actions? If a human being has no idea that taking action X will result in Z, which causes harm to person Y, you would not consider that person morally accountable.

Again, your definition, seems to hinge on the fact that moral agents know what is wrong, but are capable of choosing otherwise. This is no way excludes determinism.

3. Thus, If humans are determined completely, they are not morally accountable for their actions. (1 and contraposed 2)

They are accountable in areas of moral concern because they have alternate possibilities and a system to select from them.

4. But humans are morally accountable for their actions
5. Thus, humans are not completely determined. (3, 4 modus tollens)


Humans are cosmically morally accountable by who? God? This is clearly not evident.

Scott said...

Hello Joel

I wrote: You say, "I'm still unclear as to how God decides what is a free agent and what is not. Could cause a rock to make free choices?"

Joel wrote: Technically speaking God's "causing" a "free" action is a contradiction, so no. God's deciding what is a free agent has to do with being created in God's image, that is, possessing personhood: a faculty, so to speak, by which we are not determined by our physical environment and allows us to "contra-causally" choose between alternatives.

Theists claim God is what caused the universe, along with human beings, to come into existence out of nothing. Therefore, It's a contradiction to say a creator God did not cause human beings to make choices. This seems to be special pleading on your part.

Perhaps a summary on my part would be useful as well..

01. In the beginning, only God existed
02. Adam could not make choices as he did not yet exist.
03. God caused Adam to exist
04. Adam could make choices

Somewhere along the line, God was the cause of Adam's ability to make choices. Should God had not been the cause, then Adam would be missing the ability to choose anything as nothing else existed. If God only created 75% of Adam there would be 25% of him still missing, as Adam did not create himself out of nothing.

So, to rephrase my question...

01. Rocks exist, but they cannot make choices
02. God was the cause of Adam's ability to make choices when he did not exist.
03. Should God desire a rock make choices, could he give it the ability to make free choices?
04. If so, he would be the cause of the rock's ability to make choices, where it did not exist before.

This is what I mean when I ask "Could God could cause rocks to make free choices?"

We can ask a similar question about great apes as well.

01. In the beginning only God existed.
02. Great apes could not make choices of any kind since they did not exist
03. God caused great apes to exist
04. Great apes can make choices, but they cannot make "free" choices

Somewhere between steps 2 and 3, God must have left something out in the case of great apes, that he included in the case of human beings. As such God is the causal factor as to why we can make free choices, but great apes cannot.

Scott said...

Rob wrote: Well, then I'm even more confused if your idea of an incremental process was the grounds for our communication.

Rob,

For us to communicate, we must have - at a minimum - a basic shared understanding of concepts such as an incremental process.

Should this not be the case, it's unclear how we can communicate effectively.

Seems to me though that a better grounds for communication involves, amongst other things, a willingness to explain what you mean when someone says they don't know what you mean, even if that involves an "incremental process".

I think it's fairly clear as to what I'm referring to. Furthermore, you said...

I don't know what an incremental process is.

This is not asking for an explanation. It's admission of lack of understating of a fundamental concept.

So, out of charity, I'm going to reproduce a few relevant parts of my comments again.

I wrote: When we note there are other ways that God could get X or that God supposedly created Z in final form without having to do anything else, you reply that God "wants" X by means of Y because only then is X "genuine".

I wrote: You're suggesting that God could create beings which were capable of making genuinely free libertarian choices without requiring an incremental process. Why should we think this is the case?

Should God be capable of staring with nothing and instantly creating genuine libertarian freedom, why can't he start with nothing and instantly create up with genuine moral freedom?


I wrote: Again, you have given no reason to suggest why God could create genuine libertarian freedom but not genuine moral character without a incremental process. Instead you seem to imply that's how God "preferred it." it's a slippery slope.

Agin, I think it's relatively clear what I'm referring to here. Instead, your response appeared to be an a (failed) attempt to deflect the issue rather than a genuine question.

Scott said...

Joel,

I can summarize my point with the following question.

If we can make "free" choices, but apes cannot, our ability must be a mystery to God as he would have no idea why human beings choose at all. From God's perspective, it would be "magic."

Should God have not designed and created our faculty to make choices, it would not exist and choices would not be made. If God did not decide how this factually worked, in detail, then it's unclear why it would actually result in choices, instead of a causing near infinite number of other possible phenomenon.

Do you think God actually would view our ability as "magic?"

Rob R said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob R said...

I wrote: Again, you have given no reason to suggest why God could create genuine libertarian freedom but not genuine moral character without a incremental process. Instead you seem to imply that's how God "preferred it." it's a slippery slope.

I don't know that God couldn't create creatures with genuine moral character without libertarian freedom. but I've already explained that he couldn't have creatures with a specific kind of love, consciousness, creativity, and soverignty, that they could not have reflected the image of God in the same way to the same degree without libertarian freedom. And even if God could create creatures with genuine moral character without freedom (not that moral character was ever an end which I recognized for it's own value, rather it is derived from the kind of responsible intimate love God intended us to be capable of), it still wouldn't be the same kind of moral character, the kind that is self determined. Self determination for creatures with a beginning is logically impossible without libertarian freedom. Besides self determinism, novelty and multiplicity of options in all of these areas has an intrinsic worth, so our experience would seem to suggest. That our experience suggests this is an understatement. Words on a blog page cannot illustrate the vast richness of our experience of which freedom is an essential part. You may not value this aspect of your humanity, but that doesn't speak well for the experience of an atheist then. it's why ultimately, the problem of evil comes down to subjectivity. And once that happens, it looses it's teeth, and it surely doesn't have logical force.

The slippery slope argument (and I don't know what slipery sloap argument you are advancing here) is logically fallacious anyway.

I've already said some of this. But why wouldn't I say it? You haven't refuted it.

Scott said...

Rob,

I'll try this one more time...

For the sake of argument, I'm assuming that genuine contra-causal free will is possible based on your own definition. In fact, this is key point in my argument.

As such, I'm not saying that genuine moral character could exist without libertarian freedom (or vice versa) in some kind of meaningful way. This is NOT my argument. Instead, I'm questioning how these two things are brought about based on your own claims about God's abilities.

Supposedly, God is able to create genuine contra-causal free will. Out of nothing. No incremental process is needed to make choices that genuinely originate from the individual, instead of God. This happens instantaneously, as Adam & Eve were immediately responsible for their decisions.

But when it comes to genuine moral character, you claim God must use an incremental process. You seem to assume, because you observe human beings gaining character over time, this must be necessary for God plan to be achieved. However, given the above claim, this does not follow.

Surely, if God can instantly endow choices that genuinely originate from the individual, then it seems logical that he could give genuinely moral character that originates from the individual without an incremental process.

In fact you say this is what happens when a blastocyst (a small sphere of cells) is spontaneously expelled after conception. However, you claim God gives them a perfect moral character, as if this is his only option. Again, this does not follow and God is supposedly capable of endowing contra-causal free choice.

When pressed, you suggest that God "wants" us to gain a moral character via a incremental process. However, not just any incremental process, but a specific incremental process which is somehow tied to your interpretation of God's nature. You know he want's this particular means despite the fact that he's designed (or changed though intentional punishment) the human reproduction system in a way that results in billions of souls that cannot go thorough this incremental process due to spontaneous abortions.

But, as I've illustrated, this is a slippery slope. Even inside Christianity, there are radically different notions of God's nature, such as Calvinism. Furthermore, even given your definitions, it's clear we could have freedom and create moral character in a variety of settings which have significantly less or more or less suffering than we have now. When God punished Adam and Eve, he specifically influenced the amount of suffering we experience. If God has free will, then he could have picked some other level of suffering or even some completely different form of punishment. Yet he consciously and intentionally picked physical death, disease and suffering.

Scott said...

Words on a blog page cannot illustrate the vast richness of our experience of which freedom is an essential part. You may not value this aspect of your humanity, but that doesn't speak well for the experience of an atheist then.

First, this is NOT my argument. Second, you seem to be implying that we simply cannot have rich experiences without the kind of suffering and "evil" we observe. This is not evident. Will heaven be bland, limited and determined? Third, I'm free to value my experiences even if I think I'm determined. In fact, I think the only reason we make decisions at all is because we are determined. None of what I experience is diminished. This is you're position, not mine.

Andre provided an good summary which you can find here: Point of Inquiry: Naturalism and the illusion of free will

The slippery slope argument (and I don't know what slipery sloap argument you are advancing here) is logically fallacious anyway

Again, I could say God only wants people who's love is so deep that they die as martyrs. Therefore, he would be justified in creating some kind of force that persecutes and eventually kills people. Does this not speak to your intuitive experience of love? This is what I'm referring to.

Rob R said...

post 1 of 3

Scott,


For the sake of argument, I'm assuming that genuine contra-causal free will is possible based on your own definition. In fact, this is key point in my argument.


I don't believe in contra-causal free will. I believe libertarian freedom involves indeterministic causation where a cause may have several possible effects. Nothing happens without a cause. That doesn't mean that what was caused was the only thing that could've been caused.


This is NOT my argument. Instead, I'm questioning how these two things are brought about based on your own claims about God's abilities.

Scott, as with every metaphysical claim that has ever been made and ever will be made, by science or religion, mystery stands at the limits of our knowledge. I don't know how free will and responsibility are ultimately brought about any more than I know how to describe the color blue to a man born blind from birth. But I don't need to know that. All world views involve mystery. It doesn't make them incoherent. Of course, I find mystery is a poor excuse for incoherence. If you want to demonstrate an incoherence, that is a more significant problem.

Surely, if God can instantly endow choices that genuinely originate from the individual, then it seems logical that he could give genuinely moral character that originates from the individual without an incremental process.

Scott, I really don't know how it is that I haven't answered this question. But I do see some room for expansion though.

As before, I'll say I grant that possibility. As before, I'll point out that this moral character created instantly or deterministically isn't self determined, by definition. It may be a moral character, but it is not self determined. It'd be determined by God. Why? Because the necessity for the moral character arises from God's choices and actions, not ours hence it's not self determined. He can make the necessity arise from within us, but not in an ultimate sense as the necessity goes back in a deterministic chain back to him. Here's the consequence. The love we'd have for God would really be God's self love looped around through his creatures. That's not a bad thing, but again, there is something grand that is not accomplished in this that self determinism accomplishes.

God can endow within us libertarian free choice as long as those choices are not from him. I suppose he can endow within us moral character, as long as it is not the kind of moral character that is characterized by self determinism.

You know he want's this particular means despite the fact that he's designed (or changed though intentional punishment) the human reproduction system in a way that results in billions of souls that cannot go thorough this incremental process due to spontaneous abortions.

It actually is speculation that these souls do not get to be placed in a context of moral free choice. But again, even if they don't then they just will not have that aspect of self determinism that we will have. I don't see the problem with this. They are missing something good, but there are other ways in which creatures can be of value.

Rob R said...

post 2 of 3


Scott,


For the sake of argument, I'm assuming that genuine contra-causal free will is possible based on your own definition. In fact, this is key point in my argument.


I don't believe in contra-causal free will. I believe libertarian freedom involves indeterministic causation where a cause may have several possible effects. Nothing happens without a cause. That doesn't mean that what was caused was the only thing that could've been caused.


This is NOT my argument. Instead, I'm questioning how these two things are brought about based on your own claims about God's abilities.

Scott, as with every metaphysical claim that has ever been made and ever will be made, by science or religion, mystery stands at the limits of our knowledge. I don't know how free will and responsibility are ultimately brought about any more than I know how to describe the color blue to a man born blind from birth. But I don't need to know that. All world views involve mystery. It doesn't make them incoherent. Of course, I find mystery is a poor excuse for incoherence. If you want to demonstrate an incoherence, that is a more significant problem.

Surely, if God can instantly endow choices that genuinely originate from the individual, then it seems logical that he could give genuinely moral character that originates from the individual without an incremental process.

Scott, I really don't know how it is that I haven't answered this question. But I do see some room for expansion though.

As before, I'll say I grant that possibility. As before, I'll point out that this moral character created instantly or deterministically isn't self determined, by definition. It may be a moral character, but it is not self determined. It'd be determined by God. Why? Because the necessity for the moral character arises from God's choices and actions, not ours hence it's not self determined. He can make the necessity arise from within us, but not in an ultimate sense as the necessity goes back in a deterministic chain back to him. Here's the consequence. The love we'd have for God would really be God's self love looped around through his creatures. That's not a bad thing, but again, there is something grand that is not accomplished in this that self determinism accomplishes.

God can endow within us libertarian free choice as long as those choices are not from him. I suppose he can endow within us moral character, as long as it is not the kind of moral character that is characterized by self determinism.

You know he want's this particular means despite the fact that he's designed (or changed though intentional punishment) the human reproduction system in a way that results in billions of souls that cannot go thorough this incremental process due to spontaneous abortions.

It actually is speculation that these souls do not get to be placed in a context of moral free choice. But again, even if they don't then they just will not have that aspect of self determinism that we will have. I don't see the problem with this. They are missing something good, but there are other ways in which creatures can be of value.

Rob R said...

Will heaven be bland, limited and determined?

I could've sworn I've already answered this. Libertarian freedom isn't just for moral issues. There's creativity, consciousness and perhaps more. But of course, freedom isn't the thing that makes the difference between an incredible existence and a bland one. But it sure gives us a quality of an incredible existence that otherwise would not be possible.


Third, I'm free to value my experiences even if I think I'm determined.

Perhaps you are. If you are determinist, that doesn't mean that your actions and thoughts are determined. That means that you think your actions and thoughts are determined. But being a determinist does not demonstrate determinism is true.

In fact, I think the only reason we make decisions at all is because we are determined.

This is true regardless of whether determinism or indeterminism is true. Indeterminism after all is not the claim that EVERYTHING is undetermined. It is only the claim that some things are determined. And if we are free creatures, then it is determined that we will face situations in which there is no specific determined outcome.

Again, I could say God only wants people who's love is so deep that they die as martyrs. Therefore, he would be justified in creating some kind of force that persecutes and eventually kills people. Does this not speak to your intuitive experience of love? This is what I'm referring to.


Slippery slope arguments are logically fallacious because we can use discernment. And so the discernment here highlights that your original suggestion involved reprobate creatures. A good God wouldn't create reprobate creatures.

So what if they were just robots. The thing is, now we have God punishing innocent creatures in that scenario. The picture I paint is much better because it requires no evil, only the possibility. And of course, the possibility of evil is not evil in and of itself. If that was the case, then nothing would be good that we know of since anything can be twisted for evil's sake.

Scott said...

I don't believe in contra-causal free will. I believe libertarian freedom involves indeterministic causation where a cause may have several possible effects. Nothing happens without a cause. That doesn't mean that what was caused was the only thing that could've been caused.

Even libertarian freedom requires some aspect that is genuinely self-actualized, which you claim instantly came into existence.

I don't know how free will and responsibility are ultimately brought about any more than I know how to describe the color blue to a man born blind from birth.

The supernatural does not actually explain anything, let alone free will. Instead it merely attempts to account for things. This is a completely different problem, which I'm not arguing here.

As before, I'll point out that this moral character created instantly or deterministically isn't self determined, by definition. It may be a moral character, but it is not self determined.

And, by definition, things do not come into existence from nothing that are not caused. Did Adam come into existence through some other cause than God? You're presenting some form of special pleading in one way or the other.

He can make the necessity arise from within us, but not in an ultimate sense as the necessity goes back in a deterministic chain back to him. The love we'd have for God would really be God's self love looped around through his creatures.

Rob, you seem to be merely arguing on definitions. Yes, I'm aware of your position, but you have given a reason why we should suspect using this definition is warranted in this case but not another, given the particular claims of Christianity.

For example, if God an intelligent agent that created the universe, then it's unclear how he can escape having determined us.

Scott said...

That's not a bad thing, but again, there is something grand that is not accomplished in this that self determinism accomplishes.

But at what cost is it accomplished? Was this cost necessary? How do you define grand?

I don't see the problem with this. They are missing something good, but there are other ways in which creatures can be of value.

Rob, this makes your argument merely possible, instead of plausible. It's possible for God to conceder anything and everything valuable, in which case nothing has value. This does not a good argument make.

Slippery slope arguments are logically fallacious because we can use discernment.

Slippery slope arguments are valid when one fails to show their contingencies necessarily lead to their conclusion. I'll illustrated this in my latest comment..

"Even inside Christianity, there are radically different notions of God's nature, such as Calvinism. Furthermore, even given your definitions, it's clear we could have freedom and create moral character in a variety of settings which have significantly less or more or less suffering than we have now. When God punished Adam and Eve, he specifically influenced the amount of suffering we experience. If God has free will, then he could have picked some other level of suffering or even some completely different form of punishment. Yet he consciously and intentionally picked physical death, disease and suffering".

You haven't shown why your particular amount of suffering we see is necessary. Instead you appear to claim that's the way "God wanted it." That God wouldn't want something else is based on your particular interpretation of God's nature.

A good God wouldn't create reprobate creatures.

In case you didn't notice, I modified the scenario to illustrate how slippery this line of thinking can be.

Again, I could say God only wants people who's love is so deep that they die as martyrs. Therefore, he would be justified in creating some kind of force that persecutes and eventually kills people. Does this not speak to your intuitive experience of love?

Furthermore, one could just as easily say a good God wouldn't create if it could result in kind of suffering we see.