The Problem of Evil: Just Who Is Responsible?

I recently discussed the problem of evil, which is a popular topic of debate between theists and atheists. For those unfamiliar, the general notion is that if God exists, why is there evil or suffering in the world? Surely God could have created a world without evil, because He is all-powerful and all-loving. The fact that evil exists suggests either that God is not all-powerful or He is not all-loving, and would therefore cease to be God. The atheist then concludes that because there is evil, God almost certainly does not exist.

I’ve posted on this elsewhere, but to me it seems theists often jump to free will and the permission of evil to accomplish a greater good. While this is definitely a component of the theist’s defense, it appears to me that we often miss the initial step: who is responsible for evil?

As a theist, to me it seems like we need to clarify this responsibility before we can discuss further. If an atheist poses to you the problem of evil, the first question ought to be this: “Can evil exist without man?” That is to say, if man did not exist, would there still be evil?

In reply, the atheist can really only go two ways. The initial implied assumption here is that the atheist is a naturalist, and as such believes that nature is amoral and indifferent. Nature doesn’t care about the plight of man, and so it applies no value to man. Since evil is a moral value judgment, and nature has no values, nature is amoral and incapable of evil on its own.

So the atheist can say either of the following:

1) Yes, evil can exist without man, or
2) No, evil cannot exist without man.

If the answer is the first option, then the atheist is stipulating to the existence of the supernatural realm, and the entire framework of the atheist’s worldview is shattered. Why is this true? Because the only realms that could exist are the natural and the supernatural, by definition. If nature is amoral and man doesn’t exist, then the only way a moral value judgment like evil could exist in such a situation is within the supernatural realm. So the atheist has just admitted their own worldview is irrational!

Realistically, this means the only option for the atheist is #2, where the existence of evil is predicated on the existence of man. However, this also poses a problem for the atheist, as we are then able to construct a logical argument based on the premises laid out from the atheist’s worldview:

1) If evil exists, then someone or something is responsible for evil. (P1)
2) If man does not exist, then evil does not exist. (P2)
3) Nature on its own is amoral. (P3)
4) Evil exists. (P4, denying the consequent)
5) Therefore, someone or something is responsible for evil. (C1 –> P1, P4)
6) Also therefore, man exists. (C2 –> P2, P4)
7) Nature existed before man existed. (P5) [This is the naturalist’s assumption based on the theory of evolution.]
8) Therefore, there was a time before man where evil did not exist. (C3 –> P2, P3, C2, P5)
9) But evil exists now. (P6)
10) Therefore, the someone or something responsible for evil didn’t exist before man, but exists now. (C1, C3, P6)

Based on these ten steps, the only reasonable conclusion is that man is responsible for the evil we see in this world. So the atheist is really assuming that the problem of evil begins with man, unless he relinquishes his entire worldview and commits to supernaturalism.

So the issue then becomes the following: couldn’t God have created a world where man didn’t exist? I suppose it’s logically possible, but we as humans are in no position to make any assumptions about such a world where we didn’t exist–namely, that it would be a world that is better than the one we are currently experiencing. Surely it wouldn’t be better for us, because we wouldn’t exist. So we have no basis on which to judge God based on the existence of evil.

Without even discussing free will, any theist can make a reasonable assertion that the problem of evil is a poor and invalid objection to the probability of God’s existence. If you are faced with such a task, don’t worry! You have the answers!

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105 responses to this post.

  1. I believe this argument commits the fallacy cum hoc ergo propter hoc, or correlation does not imply causation. Simply because you argument leads to the belief that evil’s existence and humanity’s existence began at the same time does not necessarily mean that humanity caused evil.

    Also, even if man caused evil, this does not remove God from the responsibility of evil, for who was it that created man? Well, in a theist’s theory, God did. Why did God not make man without evil? If you say he cannot, then he is not omnipotent. If you say he did not know that evil would come to exist, then he is not omniscient. If you say he had to, this makes it so he is neither omnipotent or omnibenevolent.

    These are a few of the things I bring up in regards to the problem of evil whenever it is brought up. I do not understand how an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent being could exist when evil pervades the world.

    Reply

    • Spock,

      I think your points are valid ones. These issues you discuss are the secondary level of the discussion, where free will and the permission and limitation of evil in order to bring about a greater good are relevant. I was only discussing this initial step that people seem to leap over in debating the problem of evil.

      The responsibility of evil, if it is man’s, does absolve God from this, because it means that God existed before evil existed, meaning that God cannot possibly be considered evil. As to why God created man with the ability to do evil, the free will defense and greater good defense are the reasonable explanations here, for we can’t possibly know how a world without the capacity to do evil would be a better world than the one we’re experiencing.

      Evil pervades the world because man is corrupt. An omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent Being does exist that would love for us to avoid corruption. But He is not going to violate free will to do it, because “forced freedom” is illogical, and God is also a logical Being. So in short, evil exists because God loves man, but man does not always love God.

      Reply

      • It’s a bit harder for me to debate from here due to the fact that I believe in soft determinism rather than free will. I do believe that this still puts his omnipotence into question. Without removing the choice from man to commit an immoral or evil act, God could still prevent any evil or negative consequences from harming any innocent victims. Why does he let man hurt not only others who are corrupt, but also those who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time? This is something that doesn’t make any sense to me.

      • Spock,

        A belief in soft determinism would make it more difficult to argue, but classical theism (of which the existence of God is the positive claim) does typically assert free will as part of man’s nature, so it is reasonable to discuss it as a point.

        To your examples, I think the first one still is an example of forced freedom, in that God wouldn’t actually allow us the freedom to do whatever we want. For instance, a man could make the choice to steal, but how is God to stop that from happening? And it would then mean by the same standard that if we chose to do good God should also prevent the rewards of the choice, because the most important piece on such a view would be the choice, not the result. But we clearly still like the rewards of our good behavior, so to only intervene on one and not the other would be logically inconsistent, which is not a piece of God’s nature.

        To the second point, again, this is the greater good defense. For starters, to say that man should be able to hurt only the corrupt is a subjective view, for on classical theism all men are corrupt, and so any man should be able to hurt any other man under such a pretense. But if we believe there are innocents, then the greater good defense makes sense, because we are only able to see the effects of our limited scope (aka our lifespan), so how are we to know that such an evil act on an innocent doesn’t actually bring about greater good than if the evil event didn’t happen. Sort of a “Back to the Future” type idea, but our knowledge in such a case is limited, therefore we don’t have any good justification to believe that this, in fact, doesn’t make sense in the scope of eternity, which is where God’s scope lies. In short, it doesn’t make sense because we are finite, and we are not God. I hope that helps.

  2. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 14, 2012 at 3:29 AM

    Man is responsible for evils such as war, genocide, murder, rape, etc. I don’t think that such things as malaria, earthquakes, famine, etc. can be classified as evil in a Godless universe. Those things are unfortunate, but they cannot be classed as evil because there is no intent behind them, no malice – they are simply things beyond our control.

    However, if God does exist as the all powerful creator of the universe, then we arrive at a problem because these things no longer have no intent behind them. God (from the creationist/intelligent design perspective at least) created malaria, AIDS, E. coli, etc. One has to ask with what intentions these were created? Bacteria and viruses make sense in evolution because they exist simply for the purposes of propagating themselves, unfortunately causing suffering along the way. However if someone created these things with intent, one can only conclude that this intent was similar to the intentions a human has when they design instruments of torture.

    Even if God did not create these things, then there is still a problem because God is supposedly a moral being, who cares about the suffering of people, and is also supposedly all powerful. Now, I’m a moral being, and I care about the suffering of others, however I am unfortunately not omnipotent. If I was then I would put an end to viruses and infectious diseases, I would make sure that earthquakes didn’t ravage cities and kill children etc. So one also has to wonder what the intentions are of a being who just allows suffering to happen. Even if there is a purpose to it, it’s still not right to allow it to continue without assuring us as to what the purpose is. A loving parent will tell a child why they need an injection, they won’t just give it to them and watch coldly as they cry their eyes out.

    There is much evil that is solely the responsibility of man, and a lot of suffering and death which is beyond our control, however with God that suffering and death which is beyond our control suddenly becomes within the control of a being who supposedly cares about us. Diseases suddenly become created with intent etc. This is the difference between theism and atheism, an atheist will say ‘sure disease, famine and disaster are bad, but there’s no force behind it, the best we can do is try to combat it’ whereas a theist will have to explain why the supposedly omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omnibeneficient creator of the universe allows these things to happen.

    If you’re out walking by the cliff and a rock falls on your head and injures you, sure its a bad thing to happen, but its not evil, however if someone throws the rock with the express intention of harming you it does become an act of evil. The atheist universe is one in which some rocks do fall on people by accident, however in the theist universe no rock falls by accident, there is always someone there who either threw it or could have stopped it from falling. This is the heart of the problem of evil.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 14, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    “But if we believe there are innocents, then the greater good defense makes sense, because we are only able to see the effects of our limited scope (aka our lifespan), so how are we to know that such an evil act on an innocent doesn’t actually bring about greater good than if the evil event didn’t happen. Sort of a “Back to the Future” type idea, but our knowledge in such a case is limited, therefore we don’t have any good justification to believe that this, in fact, doesn’t make sense in the scope of eternity, which is where God’s scope lies.”

    This ‘greater good’ argument is a complete moral failure. William Lane Craig has said:

    “The premise that pointless suffering exists, or gratuitous evil exists is extremely controversial. We are simply no in the position to make these kinds of inductive probability judgements”

    He clearly has no idea of what the implications are in such a line of reasoning. It can be used to justify any kind of immoral act imaginable. If gratuitous evil and pointless suffering do not exist then all ‘evil’ and ‘suffering’ are being used to fulfil God’s plan – and God’s plan is ultimately good in the end.

    This can be used for me to justify all kinds of evil. If none of us are in the position to judge whether or not some evil act will lead to the greater good in future. This means that if gratuitous evil and pointless suffering do not exist, all evil is in fact ultimately good. So if I were to torture all the children in an entire village to death you are not in a position to say that this was not for the greater good. So nobody has any means of implicating anyone else for evil. This is exactly the problem that theists accuse atheists of having, but really with these kinds of apologetics, it’s the other way around.

    Reply

    • I think you’re missing the point here. The problem of evil only becomes a problem if you pre-suppose God’s existence. As an atheist, you’re unwilling to do that, so by admitting evil exists in the world, you are admitting man’s full responsibility for such an evil. That absolves God of all responsibility even if He exists, because you’ve already given the admission that man is responsible for evil. You can’t put a condition on it: “Man is responsible for evil unless God exists, then God is responsible for evil.” That’s absurdity.

      What you are asking is for God to be responsible for intervening to not permit evil. And that’s where the forced freedom illogical idea takes shape. You’re asking God to be illogical in regards to you, which is something He can’t do.

      Finally your example of torturing children is rather shortsighted. You’re saying that I can’t say it’s not for the greater good. That’s true. But the difference is that YOU are committing the evil act. God doesn’t commit evil acts, for as we’ve shown, God is not responsible for evil. Therefore, you can be judged according to your actions. Because God supersedes our limited scope, we have no real justification for judging God on anything. So it’s a false dilemma, because in one instance, the one responsible for evil can be judged; in contrast, your view of such apologetics lacks a being responsible for the evil.

      So unless you’re willing to pre-suppose God, which would make you a supernaturalist and shatter your atheism, the problem is yours, not God’s, friend.

      Reply

  4. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 14, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    “I think you’re missing the point here. The problem of evil only becomes a problem if you pre-suppose God’s existence. As an atheist, you’re unwilling to do that, so by admitting evil exists in the world, you are admitting man’s full responsibility for such an evil. That absolves God of all responsibility even if He exists, because you’ve already given the admission that man is responsible for evil. You can’t put a condition on it: “Man is responsible for evil unless God exists, then God is responsible for evil.” That’s absurdity.”

    Well if you read my post I attributed evil to man. I said that there are some acts that on atheism are just unfortunate accidents of nature, and cannot be implicated as evil because there is no intent behind them. However once you posit the existence of an all powerful being who created malaria with intentions, who allows famine to continue without intervention etc. This means that such things which in an atheist universe have no moral implications because they’re just blind unfortunate natural occurrences, come to rest upon the decisions of a moral being.

    If there is a person alone in a room and the wardrobe just happens to collapse on them injuring them this is an unfortunate accident, but has no moral implications that can be attributed to any being, just as disease, famine and disaster have none in the atheistic universe. However on theism, you’re positing a moral being who was in the room and either caused the wardrobe to fall (as in God creating malaria), or failed to prevent it from happening when it was perfectly possible to do so (as in famine etc.). The existence of that person in the room who either caused the accident or allowed it to happen unnecessarily changes the situation to one in which the event does have moral implications and those lie firmly with the one who was responsible or did nothing to stop it.

    I conceded that in the atheistic and the theistic universe man is responsible for evil such as war, rape, murder etc. However on theism suffering such as disease, famine, and disaster etc. have moral implications when the existence of God is posited.

    “What you are asking is for God to be responsible for intervening to not permit evil. And that’s where the forced freedom illogical idea takes shape. You’re asking God to be illogical in regards to you, which is something He can’t do.”

    I’m not talking about evil that is acted out as the consequence of man’s free will. If you read my response I made that clear from the start. War, rape, murder etc, are actions of man’s own will and I did not say that God is necessarily needed to intervene in those things. However, did God have a choice when he created Malaria? Is God unable to intervene to stop famine (perhaps he could send down Manna like he did in the Bible?)? I’m not saying that God could limit the free will of individuals, I’m saying that surely he could do something to prevent the suffering that is not caused by man’s free actions?

    “Finally your example of torturing children is rather shortsighted. You’re saying that I can’t say it’s not for the greater good. That’s true. But the difference is that YOU are committing the evil act. God doesn’t commit evil acts, for as we’ve shown, God is not responsible for evil. Therefore, you can be judged according to your actions. Because God supersedes our limited scope, we have no real justification for judging God on anything. So it’s a false dilemma, because in one instance, the one responsible for evil can be judged; in contrast, your view of such apologetics lacks a being responsible for the evil.”

    Yes, but if no gratuitous evil exists (that is no ‘Uncalled for; lacking good reason; unwarranted’ evil) then my evil act by definition is called for, with good reason and warranted in God’s plan. So I have divine justification for doing anything I want…

    But before we continue of that can you answer these statements with true or false:

    1. God might have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil, as part of ‘the greater good’
    2. Gratuitous suffering and evil do not exist
    3. God has a plan for all of us which is ultimately good

    Reply

    • You can’t have it both ways though. You can’t say nature is amoral unless God exists, in which case He is responsible for nature and gives it moral value. If nature is amoral, then it is amoral regardless of whether or not God exists. Otherwise, you can make the same case for man, and say that man is amoral because God does not exist. But we know that not to be the case. Man is moral whether or not God exists, because we all believe in moral values. Nature is the same way. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. It’s a false dilemma.

      You also say that God should prevent suffering that is not caused by man’s free actions. But if man is responsible for evil, then suffering is a result of man, and so there is no suffering that is not caused by man’s free actions. If you believe malaria and famine are evil, then according to your view man is responsible for malaria and famine and their “evilness.” Therefore you are in no position to judge God as to this evil, and we’re back to forced freedom.

      Finally, there is no divine justification for your evil, because God specifically calls us not to do evil. While He might be able to use your evil for good, and even permit your evil so that a greater good can be done, it doesn’t give you justification to do evil, because the theistic God is by definition the perfect good, and so can’t do evil and even hates it. So any evil is done against God, not justified by Him. Again, to think that there is divine justification to do evil because God ultimately wants to see the greater good done is another false dilemma. The conclusion just doesn’t follow from the premise in such an argument.

      Reply

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 20, 2012 at 10:27 AM

        You seem to misunderstand my argument.

        Firstly forget about all the evil that man is responsible for via their own free will. This is not what I’m talking about.

        This argument focuses around things for which man is not responsible, but still cause great amounts of suffering. Natural disasters, plagues, pestilence, famine etc.

        Now if we imagine a universe in which there are no god(s), those things listed in the previous paragraph are not evil. Why? Because evil is dependant upon the actions and decisions of morally conscious entities.

        Now if we imagine a universe in which there are one or more omnipotent and omnibenevolent god(s), those things then become evil. Why? Because they become dependant upon the actions and decisions of a morally conscious entity.

        If god is omnibenevolent then it follows logically that god cares about the suffering of human beings. It also follows logically that god would desire to prevent suffering in human beings.

        If god is omnipotent then it follows logically that god is perfectly capable of preventing, and protecting human beings from natural disasters, plagues, pestilence, famine etc.

        However, not only does god not prevent suffering and protect human beings from it, he is also the architect of various engines of suffering. God is supposed to have designed bacteria and viruses that can kill millions. God has supposedly created our solar system with enormous meteors and asteroids that could kill most life on the planet (and have done in the past). God created the world in such a way that tectonic forces could destroy cities, crushing innocent children in rubble. God is able to control the environment in certain places in order to avoid famine and drought, but he doesn’t. This is not consistent with an omnibenevolent god. As the famous argument goes, either God is evil, or he is impotent.

        If God was using the actions of Ghengis Khan, or any other violent leader throughout history for the greater good, then logically you have to say that this violence was ultimately good. Either that or it wasn’t for the greater good.

        This raises a couple of questions that I’d appreciate if you could answer.

        1. If God is omnibenevolent and omnipotent then why can’t he achieve the greater good without using any humans to commit evil?

        2. If God is using the evil actions of humans to achieve the greater good then how can he possibly do so without impeding their supposed free will?

      • You’re still missing the point. Let me attempt to clarify:

        You said initially that evil wouldn’t exist without man; therefore, man is responsible for evil.
        But as an atheist who believes in evolution, you believe that nature pre-dates man (i.e. there was a time where the earth existed without man on it).
        You also said if God exists, then He’s responsible for the “evils” in nature.
        But if God exists, then evil existed before man existed.
        But you said that’s not possible.

        That means that only one of 2 conclusions is possible:
        1) God is not responsible for any evil, including natural “evils.”
        2) Evil pre-dates man, contradicting your initial statement. But since nature on its own is amoral, this means that the supernatural realm exists in order for evil to exist. Therefore, God exists.

        Do you see how your view of the problem of evil is irrational? If you stick to the arguments, you see that your viewpoint is logically contradictory. So before I can answer any of your follow-up questions, I need to know which conclusion above you’re committing to, because everything you’ve said means one of the two must be true.

  5. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 20, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    “You said initially that evil wouldn’t exist without man; therefore, man is responsible for evil.”

    Let me clarify, evil would not exist without morally conscious entities.

    Is God a morally conscious entity or not?

    “But as an atheist who believes in evolution, you believe that nature pre-dates man (i.e. there was a time where the earth existed without man on it).
    You also said if God exists, then He’s responsible for the “evils” in nature.
    But if God exists, then evil existed before man existed.
    But you said that’s not possible.”

    But you’re clearly missing out the distinction between an atheist and a theist universe, which is a distinction I made from the start. Your rebuttal is assuming that the same principles apply to both whereas I clearly stated that this is not the case.

    In the atheist universe (a universe without God) the suffering caused by nature is not evil because it is not controlled by the actions and decisions of a morally conscious being.

    In the theist universe (a universe in which an all-powerful God exists) the suffering cause by nature is evil because it is controlled by the actions and decisions of a morally conscious being.

    Your rebuttal is ignoring the distinction that I made between the two. You’re taking the description of the atheist universe (that natural suffering is not evil, and that evil doesn’t exist without morally conscious entities) and trying to use it to rebut my description of the theist universe. The two are distinct which is why I’ve been making it clear.

    “That means that only one of 2 conclusions is possible:
    1) God is not responsible for any evil, including natural “evils.”
    2) Evil pre-dates man, contradicting your initial statement. But since nature on its own is amoral, this means that the supernatural realm exists in order for evil to exist. Therefore, God exists.”

    As I said you’re ignoring the clear distinctions I made. Evil pre-dates man in the theist universe, but it doesn’t in the atheist universe. Why? Because evil is defined by the existence of morally conscious entities. In the atheist universe morally conscious entities only arrived with the evolution of man (as far as we know), however in the theist universe a morally conscious entity has always existed, and therefore evil (or at least the awareness of what it is) has always existed.

    This morally conscious entity sits back and does nothing while 3000 innocent African children die each day of malaria. Now in the atheist universe there is no moral agent who is responsible for causing malaria, therefore it is not evil. However in the theist universe there is a morally conscious agent who created it. Ergo something which on atheism has no moral implications because it has nothing to do with a morally conscious decision, does have moral implications in the theist universe necessarily because of the existence of God.

    Let me explain why your rebuttal doesn’t work with an analogy. Imagine two scenarios. 1. A group of older kids are severely beating a younger child who is screaming out for help, but there is no one around to help. 2. A group of older kids are severely beating a younger child who is screaming out for help, and there is an adult standing there, watching and doing nothing. Now you’re rebuttal is like saying ‘because no one was there to help in scenario 1 (which is analogous to, say malaria in the atheist universe), the person watching in scenario 2 (which is analogous to malaria in the theist universe) is not morally responsible for just standing there and doing nothing’ – I’m sure you can see the flaw in that reasoning. The flaw you’ve made is essentially the same; you fail to recognise the distinction I made between 2 different scenarios.

    Now answer my questions please.

    Reply

    • Um, no. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t say nature is evil if God exists, yet not evil if He doesn’t. Either malaria is evil or it is not. It’s not an if/then proposition.

      We started from your atheistic framework and arrived at the conclusion that man is responsible for evil and nature is amoral. You can’t simply thrust the responsibility on God then when assuming His existence. That’s like saying I am responsible for making sure I study and pass an upcoming exam, but if I have a tutor suddenly it’s the tutor’s responsibility to make sure I study and pass. That’s absurd. I am still responsible for my own actions and whether or not I study enough to pass. The tutor bears no responsibility, because he/she is not taking the exam. They can guide and provide help and instruction, but they are not responsible for those actions.

      Your dilemma is false. I can’t answer your questions predicated on a false dilemma. Sorry.

      Reply

  6. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 21, 2012 at 11:01 AM

    “Um, no. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t say nature is evil if God exists, yet not evil if He doesn’t. Either malaria is evil or it is not. It’s not an if/then proposition.”

    I can quite easily say that. In a universe without God malaria has nothing to do with the actions and decisions of a morally conscious entity. In the theistic universe God designed malaria, malaria causes suffering and death on a grand scale. What do we call someone that intentionally designs something that causes suffering and death?

    Your rebuttal is rather pathetic I’m afraid to say. If a rock falls accidentally on someone’s head it is not evil because it was not caused by the actions of a morally conscious entity, however if a rock is thrown at someone’s head it is an act of evil because it is caused by the actions of a morally conscious entity. You cannot rebut this by saying either rocks hitting people on the head is evil or it’s not. The two scenarios are different to a significant degree.

    If you cannot understand that there would be significant differences between an universe with an all-powerful deity and one without then we’re done. You’re insistence that that which applies in one case must necessarily apply in another is flawed for reasons I’ve made clear several times. Now get on with addressing the bulk of my argument or concede that you have nothing in defence of it. Stop trying to dance around the issue with your transparently fallacious rebuttal.

    And while you’re at it answer me this:

    “1. If God is omnibenevolent and omnipotent then why can’t he achieve the greater good without using any humans to commit evil?

    2. If God is using the evil actions of humans to achieve the greater good then how can he possibly do so without impeding their supposed free will?”

    Your ignoring these questions and hiding behind a weak rebuttal, one can only assume that there is something that is making you not want to answer me. Well I’m not going to let you off the hook, these questions have to be addressed considering some of the points that you raised in this discussion.

    Now stop playing dodge and lets get to the heart of this discussion.

    Reply

    • The heart of the issue is the initial assumptions. You’re playing at step two without answering step one. You’re also predicating this on a world that says God designed things like malaria that are evil. The theistic worldview is that the world God created initially was one where no evil existed and with no capacity for disease or death. So your initial assumption is a false one, and given that it is the basis of the entire rest of your argument, I see no reason for arguing the drill-down points from a false assumption.

      As I asked you initially, can evil exist without man? You’ve backtracked on your answer, but the question remains the same. On your atheistic worldview, does evil exist without man or not? Stop shifting the burden of proof.

      Reply

  7. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 21, 2012 at 1:57 PM

    Where then did malaria come from?

    Also even if God did not create malaria the situation is still the same; God does nothing while 3000 African children die from it every day when it is perfectly possible for him to stop it. These actions are not consistent with a being that is all powerful and all loving. Having the power to stop suffering and deciding to do nothing is of moral significance. Either God is all powerful, but doesn’t care enough to stop people from suffering and dying from malaria – in which case he is evil, or God wants to stop people suffering and dying from malaria but can’t – in which case he is impotent.

    Answer me this:

    1. Does God care about humans suffering from malaria?
    2. Can God prevent this if he wants to?
    3. If so, why doesn’t he?
    4. If so, then how could you say that God cares about people suffering from malaria?

    As an aside it is also demonstrably false that death did not exist when humans first appeared. Do you drive a car? The reason that works is because of creatures that died millions of years before there were any humans…

    I didn’t back track, my answer was consistent with my atheist views. In my opinion evil is dependent upon the existence of morally conscious entities, and I see no good reason to believe that there were any morally conscious entities prior to the arrival of humans – and my statement was consistent with this. In my view man is the only morally conscious entity that we know of, therefore I can use man synonymously with the term ‘morally conscious entity’. However, on theism a morally conscious entity is claimed to have existed for all time and this makes the situation rather different.

    I thought I’d do a quick recap of the questions I’ve asked of you which you have avoided:

    “But before we continue of that can you answer these statements with true or false:

    1. God might have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil, as part of ‘the greater good’
    2. Gratuitous suffering and evil do not exist
    3. God has a plan for all of us which is ultimately good”

    “1. If God is omnibenevolent and omnipotent then why can’t he achieve the greater good without using any humans to commit evil?

    2. If God is using the evil actions of humans to achieve the greater good then how can he possibly do so without impeding their supposed free will?”

    “Is God a morally conscious entity or not?”

    You’ve been avoiding questions throughout this entire discussion, and you haven’t touched upon the actual content of any of what I’ve said. Offer something more, or give up, but don’t avoid discussing the heart of the issues I’ve raised like you’ve been doing for this entire discussion so far. If you don’t answer these questions and address my arguments properly in your next post, I am going to assume that you have nothing substantial to offer as a rebuttal, and that you are simply avoiding awkward questions. Give me some answers or we’re done here.

    Reply

    • Notice what you’re doing. You’re shifting the burden of proof. The initial question was: is man responsible for evil? This is a simple yes or no question. You can’t get out of answering it by trying to say God is responsible for malaria.

      I have no problem answering your questions if you’ll stipulate to a definitive answer on that initial question. Otherwise there’s no point.

      Reply

  8. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 21, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    I’m pretty sure I was clear on that earlier. Evil is defined by the existence of morally aware entities, this includes men and gods, and any other beings that might exist with moral awareness.

    If you can act with moral awareness and intent then you are capable of evil, and if you are capable of evil and you act upon this then you can also be responsible for it this included men and gods, and any other beings that might exist with moral awareness…

    Reply

    • So…is that a yes or a no?

      Reply

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 21, 2012 at 3:34 PM

        Well you’re asking a leading question because you say ‘is man responsible for evil?’ which implies that the option is either man is responsible for evil or no one is.

        The answer is yes, but man is not solely responsible for evil, other entities may also exist in the universe that are also responsible for evil.

        I had to clarify because I know you’ll misconstrue my answer otherwise.

      • So man is responsible for evil unless other entities exist? If those other entities exist, how do we separate which evils man is responsible for and which evils such entities are responsible for? Surely if the other entities pre-dated man, and those entities did evil, then man has absolutely no responsibility for evil, because it’s basically a response function for man to these entities.

        So God would not only be responsible for natural evils, but also all of the evils of man. Is that the position you wish to adhere yourself to?

  9. While this is an interesting debate, there seems to be a lot of talking in circles. Since you are choosing the argument of free will to address the problem of evil, it seems easiest to point out the contradiction of humans having free will but God remaining omniscient. If God is omniscient then he already knows all actions that will be taken by a person. Say, I have the choice between an apple and an orange. From your view, God would know which I would pick. But how, then, is that free will? If the answer is already known then there was really no choice to begin with. This is fine for me as a determinist but it runs contradictory to free will theory.

    This also brings into question the existence and quality of Heaven. Now, in the Christian faith, heaven is supposed to be a perfect place with no pain, fear, or other such evils. Now, to create this, wouldn’t God have to control the happenings that go on there and therefore remove free will from anyone allowed entrance? You could say only good people are allowed into heaven but, even disregarding the fact that anyone who asks forgiveness and believes in God isn’t necessarily a good person but qualifies for entry into heaven, good people make mistakes too. So, to make heaven perfect, God would have to remove the free will of those who enter which, according to you, is immoral. This strips God of his omnibenevolence.

    To finish off, I’ll leave good ol’ Euthyphro dilemma: Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?

    Reply

    • Three points, so three responses:

      1) On omniscience, there is a different between knowing something and acting on that knowledge. Omniscience and free will are not incompatible.

      2) No theist would argue free will extends to the supernatural realm. That would mean we have the capacity to do evil in heaven. Free will is a part of the natural state. So this argument doesn’t really work.

      3) Euthyphro’s dilemma is a false one because it’s missing the truthful third option: God neither conforms to nor invents the moral order. Rather His very nature is the standard for value. Morality is grounded in the immutable character of God, who is perfectly good. His commands are not whims, but rooted in His holiness.

      Reply

  10. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 23, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    “So man is responsible for evil unless other entities exist? If those other entities exist, how do we separate which evils man is responsible for and which evils such entities are responsible for? Surely if the other entities pre-dated man, and those entities did evil, then man has absolutely no responsibility for evil, because it’s basically a response function for man to these entities.”

    We separate them the same way in which we separate the evils done by different individuals.

    Why do you have it in your head that only one thing can be responsible for evil? An entity capable of moral awareness and able to cause harm and suffering to others without remorse can come in more than one form. Gods or humans, or extra terrestrials. Why can’t you understand this, it is pretty simple really. Dogs are capable of biting, so are bears and many other animals, biting isn’t exclusive to one species is it – so why should it be so that only one type of entity can be responsible for evil?

    “So God would not only be responsible for natural evils, but also all of the evils of man. Is that the position you wish to adhere yourself to?”

    I already granted that man kind was responsible for their own evils, whilst God was responsible for natural evils. See my latest blog post if you want to understand where I am coming from more.

    See what I did, I answered your questions without dodging them. Can you do the same for me please? I’ve been waiting for quite some time. The fact that my last comment went missing is leading me to severely question whether you’re willing to answer my questions at all, could you at least have the integrity to admit that? Stop dodging them.

    Reply

    • I’m talking about the existence of evil. It had to originate somewhere. I’m simply asking for who originated it. Did it start with man, or with something else before man? It can’t be that hard to select an answer. Your pooh-poohing around it now because when you gave a direct answer initially (evil does not exist without man), you were forced into the logical conclusion that the problem of evil goes away.

      Your last comment didn’t get posted because you were simply being rude. I respond to reasoned objections, not rants and unreasonably claimed victories.

      I’ll answer your questions when you give me a definitive yes or no answer to the original question: can evil exist without man?

      Reply

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 23, 2012 at 12:57 PM

        Yes it can. I already answered that.

        Now for my questions please.

        Thank you

      • If evil can exist without man, then that means it must exist in the supernatural realm. Therefore, God exists. No need to answer your questions.

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 23, 2012 at 1:35 PM

        No.

        There could have been extra terrestrial life forms that were capable of evil a long time before there were humans. Just because it could exist without man doesn’t mean it is necessarily supernatural.

      • So you’re asserting that aliens exist as a defense for evil?

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 23, 2012 at 2:45 PM

        I didn’t assert that they do exist, I’m stating that if morally conscious agents evolved on another planet prior to there being any humans that would be an example of evil existing before man in a non-supernatural realm.

        I’m not going to answer any more of your questions until you answer mine. Enough is enough, stop avoiding my questions.

      • Then I guess we have nothing more to discuss. You haven’t committed to anything yet except that evil can exist without man. Now you’re touting alien possibilities. Are you saying that if aliens exist evil pre-dates man, and if they don’t exist, evil doesn’t pre-date man? Because then that would mean aliens are responsible for evil.

        I think your argument is getting more confusing. Perhaps it would be best to drop this line of discussion.

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 23, 2012 at 3:09 PM

        I’m saying it can pre-date man. That it is possible. I didn’t say it did.

        Can you just admit that you don’t want to answer my questions then? I’ve answered yours, now you answer mine or at least have the honesty to admit that you don’t want to.

      • That sounds like the post-hoc probability logic you accused both me and William Lane Craig of. Are you willing to take back your claim on THAT argument now?

        The thing is, I don’t need to answer your questions until we’ve established where the evidence leads on your argument. Additionally, I don’t need to answer your questions because you already did in your own blog post.

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 23, 2012 at 4:08 PM

        Perhaps you could explain exactly what evil is?

        Because to me it is a mode of behaviour that can be acted out by beings with the sufficient awareness. This means that it doesn’t apply solely to one type of entity, all entities that have the sufficient prerequisites are able to commit evil. Thus if you are able to commit evil and you do so then you are responsible for evil.

        Its not some mystical force that pervades the cosmos, its dependent upon a moral agent capable of acting with intent to maliciously harm others. If none of these are around then there is no evil.

      • Evil is that which does not conform to the perfect standard of the good, which is grounded in God and His attributes.

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 23, 2012 at 5:06 PM

        That’s not really defining it. You might as well have said ‘evil is the opposite of good, which is what it is’. So let me rephrase it a little bit; what is it about a particular action that makes it evil?

      • It’s an action that does not follow what Jesus claimed to be the greatest commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and Love your neighbor as yourself.

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 24, 2012 at 8:05 AM

        So not loving God is evil?

        I’d posit that loving your neighbour more than you love yourself isn’t possible, but that’s not too relevant.

        What I want to know is why does God command these things? Does he command that you should love your neighbour because that is what he arbitrarily decides you should do, or does he command that because that’s just the way things are (in other word’s he is the messenger of a truth that exists outside of himself).

        Either way God seems to command the opposite an awful lot throughout the Bible. The slaughter of the Amalekites for example; doesn’t this go against those commandments you listed? If so doesn’t that mean that evil is just arbitrarily decided by God and has no real foundation other than what he commands?

        If God is referring to a truth that is separate from himself then why do we need him to know good from evil?

      • No, it’s not “not loving” God. You’re talking about a specific action. If in the course of the action it goes directly against either loving God or loving your neighbor as (not more than necessarily) yourself, then I would say there’s a good chance that action is evil. Keep in mind we’re discussing moral choices here, not something like going to the bathroom.

        God commands these things because they flow out of His essence. God is perfectly good, and so He asks to do things that are in accordance with His nature, because He can and will only do things in accordance with His nature. It’s not arbitrary, nor is it external.

        I think when you bring up things like slaughtering the Amalekites, you’re going outside the scope of the argument. You’re confusing God’s goodness with God’s nature of justice. The two are not equal.

  11. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 24, 2012 at 9:20 AM

    I don’t think it is outside the scope of the argument at all. You fob the slaughter of the Amalekites off as being to do with justice rather than goodness. So presumably you think that the following is just:

    “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”
    – 1 Sam 15:3

    Now whatever the people of Amalek did, how can you say that killing their infants and sucklings is in any way justice? Would you think it just if a judge sentenced you for something that your father did? I think this flies in the face of justice, and is actually an example of evil.

    In order for this not to be relevant to the discussion you have to explain to me how killing babies and children for the crimes of their parents is justice rather than evil. I’m all ears…

    Reply

    • So you believe evil then to be any action that appears unjust? Is that the definition of evil you’re going with? Because that’s how the concept of justice and the concept of evil can be linked. I just want to make sure that the definition of evil I just stated is the one you want to go with.

      Reply

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 26, 2012 at 3:48 PM

        Well I’m saying that killing babies is evil, you’re saying that is not to do with God’s goodness, its to do with God’s justice.

        Do you agree that slaughtering babies and children is evil?

      • Not necessarily. Are you? Does that mean you believe some things are objectively wrong?

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 27, 2012 at 7:59 AM

        I find it extremely difficult to conceive of a circumstance in which it is permissible to kill babies and children. Certainly there seems to be no permissible circumstance surrounding the slaughter of the Amalekites, it is outright genocide.

        Would you kindly explain why the killing of the ‘sucklings and infants’ in the passage I quoted is justified, and not simply an act of merciless genocide/infanticide.

      • Well certainly the Bible doesn’t explain what the Amalekites were doing before this point, because it is from the perspective of the Israelites. So who knows what they might have been doing to incur God’s wrath. Probably only God. So can we really make a value judgment about the perspective of God based on our limited data?

        The second question is this: if you believe that such a situation is objectively wrong, on what basis do you have such a belief? What is the foundation for this being objectively wrong? How do we determine what is right and what is wrong on your worldview?

  12. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 27, 2012 at 9:17 AM

    I posit that there is no crime, nothing I can imagine someone doing that would justify slaughtering their children. Yes the Nazis killed millions, but that would absolutely not have justified going and killing innocent infant Germans as retribution, it doesn’t take a moral philosopher to know that a child should never be punished for the actions of their parents no matter what they might be. So I’ll ask you again, how do you claim that the slaughter of those children was anything other than a moral atrocity?

    I didn’t say it was objectively wrong I say I could not conceive of a scenario in which killing children for the crimes of their parents was permissible or just. I believe that an action should be judged on the unnecessary harm and suffering that it causes as a consequence. Causing harm and suffering without due reason, is wrong in my opinion. I see no reason to think that slaughtering children is anything other than causing unnecessary harm and suffering. Anyway you’re dodging my point. You claimed that the slaughter of the Amalekites was to do with justice, now I’m asking you to put forth a reasonable argument as to how, or in what kind of situation it would be just to slaughter children for the crimes of their parents.

    Reply

    • “Causing harm and suffering without due reason, is wrong in my opinion.”

      And why does your opinion matter more than anyone else’s?

      “I’m asking you to put forth a reasonable argument as to how, or in what kind of situation it would be just to slaughter children for the crimes of their parents.”

      I’m not the one making the claim that it is right or wrong, so I don’t really see the need to do this. It’s on you to show why it is objectively wrong. If it’s just because you “can’t think of an instance,” then perhaps the answer is that your knowledge is limited based on the whole scope of knowledge both available and unavailable. Regardless, it’s still your opinion. But I don’t need to put forth an objection by giving my own positive claim. Not going to go there.

      Reply

  13. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 27, 2012 at 10:53 AM

    “I’m not the one making the claim that it is right or wrong, so I don’t really see the need to do this. It’s on you to show why it is objectively wrong. If it’s just because you “can’t think of an instance,” then perhaps the answer is that your knowledge is limited based on the whole scope of knowledge both available and unavailable. Regardless, it’s still your opinion. But I don’t need to put forth an objection by giving my own positive claim. Not going to go there.”

    Yes you did make the claim. When I mentioned the slaughter of the Amalekites you told me that I was confusing God’s goodness with God’s justice – which unless I am mistaken implies that you view the slaughter of the Amalekites as an act of justice. Now, ‘just’ as an adjective means “Based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair: “a just society”.” so you are claiming that the slaughter of the Amalekites is based on what is morally right and fair, in other words you think that the slaughter of innocent babies and children was right and fair. That is very much making a claim. Now can you please explain to me how this could be so?

    Here it is in case you forgot:

    “I think when you bring up things like slaughtering the Amalekites, you’re going outside the scope of the argument. You’re confusing God’s goodness with God’s nature of justice. The two are not equal.”

    Now here you are explicitly claiming that rather than having something to do with God’s goodness, it has something to do with God’s justice, now all I was asking is for you to substantiate your claim that it is just to slaughter innocent babies and children. Because although it was not explicitly stated your statement above implies that you view the slaughter of the Amalekites as an act of justice. Now please, will you explain how killing sucklings and infants is justice, because I fail to see how that can be so given what justice means…

    Reply

    • I’m not claiming that the slaughter of the Amalekites is based on what is morally right and fair; I’m claiming that there’s no way for us to make that kind of a judgment when we’re not within the same scope as God. To make such a claim would be to insert my own opinion into morality, making morality subjective to each individual. So what I’m claiming is that we have no real way of knowing what the purpose is behind God asking the Israelites to kill the Amalekites.

      Any attempt to do so would be inserting your own opinion on what is right and fair and calling it the standard for rightness and fairness. Is this the position you wish to take?

      Reply

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 27, 2012 at 11:38 AM

        Okay so you’re saying that God is the measure for all that is right and fair?

        Does this mean that God’s actions are always in accordance with that which is right and fair?

      • Yes to the first question.

        No to the second question. What is right and fair is always in accordance with God.

      • “So what I’m claiming is that we have no real way of knowing what the purpose is behind God asking the Israelites to kill the Amalekites.” ~ sabepashubbo

        The reason is plainly stated in 1 Samuel 15, verse 2:

        This is what the LORD Almighty says: “I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.”

        God is honoring a centuries-old vow made to Moses after a battle between Joshua and the Amalekites. As cited in Exodus 17, verses 14-16:

        14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.”

        15 Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. 16 He said, “Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the LORD, the LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”

        In other words…

        It’s not about justice — it’s about exacting vengeance due to festering grievances harbored from a bygone era.

        Forget about the moral implications. Does this sound like the actions one would expect to be taken by a sane and rational being?

      • Actually, Ron. It sounds exactly like justice to me. Vengeance might be your interpretation of the passage, but the plain meaning of the text in that instance is retribution, which is what we commonly call justice. But even if it’s vengeance, how is that inconsistent with God’s nature of justice due to sin?

  14. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 27, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    Okay so firstly that means contrary to what you said you are making the positive claim that the slaughter of the Amalekites was right and fair.

    Does that also mean that that which is good is always in accordance with God?

    This leaves things in a strange position, because in the case of the Amalekites you’re claiming that it was right and fair because it was in accordance with God, yes? But presumably killing children and babies is not always right and fair? So doesn’t that mean that it is not objectively wrong (contrary to what you might claim) to slaughter children? To be objectively wrong it would mean that there is no context, no situation in which it is permissible to slaughter children. So really this would mean that right and wrong are just as arbitrary and subjective morals (albeit down to the whims of God rather than of humans) as you accuse atheists of having.

    Also if I were to kill a whole load of children, and I claim to know that I was acting according to God’s will, you cannot say for certain whether or not what I did was wrong because for all you know God did actually tell me to do it, in which case it would have been right and fair…

    Reply

    • If you want to make it a moral judgment, then I would have to say yes it was fair for the Amalekites. They deserved death for their sins. The Bible makes this clear that the penalty for all sins is death. I would have to group the Amalekites into the bunch that has sinned, so the punishment was fair.

      How is that different from the case you gave above? I guess we have to ask what the greatest commandment is, and whether the Israelites were in obedience to that and whether your situation is also obedient to that. Seems to me like when you put it that light you can see how the two are different.

      Now because one is grounded in God and the other is not, we can see how we can make judgments that are not arbitrary, but rather binding in nature. As a result, I can still commit to objective moral values, because I have a foundation that does not change.

      However, in your final paragraph, the case you give, you are absolutely correct. I can’t know with certainty that what you did was wrong. I can make a value judgment based on my opinion, but in all honesty I can’t actually tell you that God didn’t speak to you and that what you did was objectively wrong. But the parallel to the Israelites means that you might be able to condemn the Israelites as the perpetrators of the act based on your opinion, but not God. If you try to blame God, then your case is void because we’re not comparing apples to apples.

      Reply

  15. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 27, 2012 at 1:28 PM

    Would you include sucklings and infants among the sinners deserving of death? I find it hard to see how a small child or a baby would be rightfully condemned as a sinner.

    Firstly you admitted with regards to the second scenario that you’d have no way of knowing whether it was in accordance with God’s will, well you could extend the same to anything, God might have told someone to kill children and explicitly also told them not to tell anyone else that he had said so. So you cannot say for certain that one is grounded in God and the other is not. Also its simply not an objective value if you can say that something is wrong except in the extenuating circumstance that God tells me to do it. If something is objectively wrong there are no extenuating circumstances, that is what objectively wrong means, it means something is wrong in any context and any situation, under any circumstances. So you can’t claim that killing children is objectively wrong, but okay if God commands it – because that would mean it is not objectively wrong it is subjectively wrong under certain circumstances but not under others.

    If ‘thou shall not kill’ is an objectively binding statement it means thou shall not kill, ever. Not thou shall not kill unless I give the go ahead, that would make it cease to be objective and make it a subjective and arbitrary statement.

    So which is it. Do objective morals exist, or are there situations in which ‘thou shall not kill’ is not an objectively binding statement?

    Reply

    • We’ve discussed the “thou shalt not kill” issue before, remember? Look at the Moral Argument post; I don’t need to rehash it here.

      On that matter, what we’re really getting into here is an issue of objective morality, which also belong in the Moral Argument post. We’ve done that dance too, so perhaps it’s best left to either continue it there, or just drop it altogether. I don’t think you’ve made any really good arguments here, but really just attempted to shift the burden of proof.

      If you want to believe the God of the Bible is evil, that’s your right. But it’s also only your opinion. Please understand that.

      Reply

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 27, 2012 at 2:08 PM

        As I said in my other comment; opinions can be right or wrong, you haven’t done anything to show that my opinion is wrong you’ve just said that its an opinion. That doesn’t invalidate everything I’ve said. Especially not since it is your opinion that God exists, and I’d be willing to bet that you wouldn’t accept ‘its just your opinion that God exists’ as a refutation to his existence. You have to offer an explanation as to why that opinion is false – which as far as I can tell you’ve avoided tenaciously.

        Lest we forget there have been several questions I raised that you failed to answer. You haven’t addressed the fact that the ‘greater good’ argument provides many issues and contradictions, you have now shied away from discussing the inconsistencies between some of the claims you’ve made and your insistence upon having objective moral standards. And all you’ve offered in return (aside from avoiding questions) is a continual assertion that what I’m saying is my opinion as though that invalidates everything…

      • I really don’t think you’ve shown any inconsistencies either in an objective moral standard or the “greater good” argument. I’ve addressed the moral argument, and all I’ve really seen as a result is that you also believe in objective morality. So it comes down the best foundation with which to ground our objective morality, and my post on the Moral Argument makes the case that God is the best explanation. Your worldview is refuted in there, by the way.

        As far as the opinion thing goes, I think I’ve given several good reasons to believe your opinion could be false–namely, that you are judging God based on your own perspective and experiences. That’s simply not a good measuring stick by which to judge things, because your exposure to both God and to the world are limited in that regard. Every objection you’ve made has been borne out of a limited scope, so one rebuttal has been sufficient to answer all of your objections. I don’t need to waste my time going down other paths.

  16. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on February 28, 2012 at 10:26 AM

    Well you never addressed my questions with regards to the greater good argument:

    “But before we continue of that can you answer these statements with true or false:

    1. God might have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil, as part of ‘the greater good’
    2. Gratuitous suffering and evil do not exist
    3. God has a plan for all of us which is ultimately good”

    “1. If God is omnibenevolent and omnipotent then why can’t he achieve the greater good without using any humans to commit evil?

    2. If God is using the evil actions of humans to achieve the greater good then how can he possibly do so without impeding their supposed free will?”

    The nature of your argument that my, and presumably all humans scope with regards to good/evil is severely limited by the fact that we do not have the same knowledge and wisdom as God leaves us all utterly blind with regards to morality. If God allows evil to happen for the greater good then you have no means by which to judge anything as being evil because for all you know it might actually have been good. This is the exact position that theists often accuse atheists of being in. Your apologetics mean that you cannot truly distinguish between right and wrong because you have no way of knowing whether those things were part of a plan for the greater good. So if my opinion on morality is useless because we cannot know the mind of God, then yours must be too. And thus we end up lost with no real way of understanding what is right or wrong due to our limited scope.

    Reply

    • Ok we’re just going around in circles now. I think I’m going to stop for the sake of my sanity. Agree to disagree.

      Reply

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 1, 2012 at 7:06 AM

        You claim to be going around in circles, but that is only because of your refusal to address the questions I’ve made and the points I’ve raised in any detail. If you were to address them rather than avoiding them then the discussion would get somewhere, it’s not I who is pushing things around in circles it’s you.

      • I’m pretty sure 1) your pushing on me a burden of proof that is not mine in this instance, and 2) I’ve somewhat answered your questions already. Pursuing this line of reasoning is a waste of time for both of us.

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 1, 2012 at 12:08 PM

        I’m not asking you to prove anything, I’m asking that you address some points I made. Not everything has to do with fulfilling a burden of proof or shifting it, I was simply asking you to explain some difficulties that I believe arise from your position, not necessarily to prove your position correct.

        I don’t believe you have addressed the issues I raised with regards to the ‘greater good’ in any meaningful sense.

      • Fine. In regards to your true/false questions:

        1. True. He might have reasons.
        2. Can’t be sure. Could be true or false.
        3. Could be misleading. God’s overall plan for the world was/is ultimately good, yes.

  17. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 1, 2012 at 2:34 PM

    Okay, so 1 and 3 would be linked if both are true I suppose?

    God’s sufficient reasons for allowing evil are because they constitute part of his plan for the greater good?

    The problem I see with this is that, as I mentioned before the uncertainty on 2 and the possibility of 3, this leads you to a position in which you cannot judge whether or not something is evil. Because if all evil is permitted as part of a plan which is ultimately good then the inescapable conclusion is that all evil is ultimately good. Even if not all evil is ultimately good, its not possible for you to judge which evil is allowed for ultimately good ends and which isn’t.

    If its the case that all evil is allowed to persist for the greater good, then all evil automatically has justification, because one can always say ‘God allows all evil for the greater good, so by committing this act of evil I am in actual fact contributing to the greater good.’

    So at best you’re left in a position without being able to judge whether or not something is evil, at worst you can use it to justify anything.

    How would you respond to this?

    Reply

    • “The problem I see with this is that, as I mentioned before the uncertainty on 2 and the possibility of 3, this leads you to a position in which you cannot judge whether or not something is evil.”

      Sure you can. If the intent of the act was sinful in nature, then it is evil in nature. Just like 1 Samuel says, “Man looks at outward appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Perhaps your confusion comes from a mis-understanding of what constitutes evil.

      Reply

  18. The biggest problem here is that when people talk about the “problem of evil” as a subject the content is always better described as the “problem with suffering”.

    Now, if you take the word suffering and run with the argument you come up against some very obvious problems in running down you’re argument.

    The biggest of which are:
    * Suffering is a property of consciousness. The entire discussion is about IF God exists when why does He allow this.
    * Consciousness appears in man and in greater areas of nature.
    * When you say suffering, instead of evil, you get rid of the need for “intent”. Suddenly natural events like tsunamis and starvation and parasites and long droughts and hurricanes that kill thousands–often in deep suffering–become part of the discussion. In this discussion, if you assume God you assume intent–either the intent to cause this suffering or the intent to be passive to the suffering despite the capacity to stop it.

    So it is on the theists’ world view that naturally caused suffering has an intent and therefore an evil. Why has God allows that?

    ======================

    Notice, first, that if there is not God then nature-caused suffering is not evil. It is indeed amoral. It is only if there is a God that has either the capacity to cause or to stop events like tsunamis and drought and flooding does this nature-caused suffering become evil.

    Notice, second, that is it God–as either the actor or the empowered person that makes no action–that is evil.

    Reply

    • What you’re doing here is committing the taxicab fallacy. Natural evils can’t be caused if there is any creative agency, but then amoral if there is no creative agency. You can’t just jump out of the cab when it suits your purpose. Either things like earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. are evil or they aren’t. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. And that’s the problem with such a position. If you can’t commit to a position as to whether something is evil or not, you can’t possibly render any sort of judgment based on that thing. It’s fallacious reasoning.

      Reply

      • It’s not the taxi-cab fallacy. I was very explicit about this: evil is intentionally causing suffering.
        That definition applies regardless of anything. If it happens without intent it is not of moral consideration, if it happens with intent it is of moral consideration.
        The grey area is “clumsiness”, like manslaughter, or death by dangerous driving both being preventable but not intentional.
        The difference is intent. An earthquake is an amoral cause of suffering, an intentionally caused earthquake is an evil.

      • I disagree with your statement that you’re not committing the taxicab fallacy, but whatever.

        Why is an intentionally-caused earthquake an evil? What’s the ontological basis for you considering something evil?

      • Intentionally caused suffering.
        If the earthquake effects no one then it is not evil.
        If the earthquake is simply natural and there is no known way of stopping it then it is not evil.
        But if it is intentionally (or passively allowed by something that could stop it) then it is evil (intentionally caused suffering).

        If you want an empirical reason then (a) I don’t know why you’ve reduced my worldview to empiricism and (b) fMRI scanners can give a detailed read-out of a brain state and neuroscience can approximately translate that into suffering for you.

      • Let me just make sure I’m hearing you right. The standard for something being evil is if it intentionally causes suffering? If it intentionally causes suffering (or passively permits it), then it is evil?

      • It has to cause pretty deep suffering. Tickling someone isn’t exactly evils. I’m not sure how deep a suffering they would have to cause.

        But give or take severity, yes.

      • But then how do you measure “pretty deep suffering”? That sounds like it can be based on opinion, doesn’t it?

      • Well, I told you the depth of suffering can be measured. So, no.

      • Well how is it measured?

      • fMRI scanners, CT scanners. Suffering is basically a brain state leading to an experience. We can measure the brain state.

      • And at what level of suffering that is measured do we consider it to be “pretty deep suffering”? That’s what you suggested is required to consider something evil.

      • Oh, draw an arbitrary line somewhere. I’m really not interested with you knit picking over details when there is a concept I’m presenting that you’ve chosen to ignore.

      • The concept that you’re presenting is that “pretty deep suffering” is evil. The ontology of such a view is fair game, and is essential for belief in such a concept. If you can’t provide a definitive answer, why should anyone believe you? It’s completely fair for me to ask you how you distinguish one level of suffering from another in terms of good and evil. Please provide an answer, or I’ll consider yours a dead argument.

      • If “good and evil” is your dichotomy then anything that moves a persons wellbeing down (regardless of it’s starting point) is a moral evil.

        The reason for our confusion was that I thought you were talking on a scale: Great, good, neutral, bad, evil (the lines there would be arbitrary). As long as we are talking in dichotomies–Good or evil–then I can be very clear. Moral evils are the things that lower wellbeing.

        Is that any clearer?

      • Perhaps. This raises two specific instances that I want your opinion on:

        1) An earthquake lowers wellbeing. On your worldview, there is no God to cause this. So who causes this moral evil?

        2) Killing someone in self-defense lowers their wellbeing. So self-defense is morally evil. Do you agree? If not, how do you reconcile this with your stance on good vs. evil?

      • 1) No one causes it. I specifically used the word “intentionally”. I’m more flummoxed by your idea that God did cause it and that’s okay.

        2) Self-defence does not lower net wellbeing. In a case with an attacker and a victim it is allowing the attacker to continue that lowers net wellbeing.
        This situation is a case where the word “net” is very important. Although killing an attacker does lower the attacker’s wellbeing (and removes potential highs in wellbeing later), the victim’s wellbeing is safeguarded, and the victim’s family’s wellbeing is heightened (by relief, by pride, by sense of justice, by having been protected). So on the whole wellbeing has gone up, not down. It’s not evil.
        If the attacker is unprovoked–e.g. committing armed robbery in your home–or behaving disproportionately–e.g. has come to kill you for cutting him up on the drive home–then it is also likely that the victim, in killing the attacker, has prevented later unprovoked attacks that would have lowered wellbeing.
        If self-defence is disproportionate–e.g. stabbing some one to death for throwing a snowball at you–then it is evil: no one gets a sense of pride, or relief, or justice knowing that a snowball attacker has been killed. No one is significantly protected.

        In another comment I sent you a link to a post called “playing in the moral landscape” (amongst other posts). That is my recommended reading for this topic.

      • 1) Ok, so does it mean the earthquake is still evil then on your worldview?

        2) And how are we to know the “net wellbeing” is increased by killing the attacker without omniscience? What if had the attacker not been killed, he would have seen the error of his ways, opened up a homeless shelter and saved thousands of lives? This is only applicable because you opened the door by suggesting future evils would be prevented, so future goods would also be prevented. So who is to say that the self-defense act doesn’t actually lower wellbeing? Do you see why this fails?

      • No, an earthquake is not evil. An earthquake is not sentient. It causes suffering, it would be better if they didn’t happen, but they’re not evil. They are not of moral consideration.

        As for the attacker, you do have a point. But on weighing this up you start with the things you can be confident of. You can be confident that killing an attacker protects you. Depending on the context you can also be confident that it protects your family. That is not just heightening the wellbeing of you and your family, it is also safeguarding against the lowering of the wellbeing of your family.

        You cannot -know- that the guy attacking you for no good reason won’t become the perfect gentleman and open up a homeless shelter if only you knock him out instead of killing him, but it seems like a long shot to be making big moral judgements on.

        I find it odd that you think, on balance, it is better to treat the attacker like his next course of action, after attacking a person, could just as easily be to volunteer at a soup kitchen as it is to beat or kill any witnesses of the assault he’s just committed.
        It’s not impossible, but it’s not equally likely.

        Whether or not murder is justified is about the risks involved. That is why I included the snow ball attacker in my answer. Someone that throws snowballs at people might still become someone who opens up homeless shelters. The snowball attacker is not lowering people’s wellbeing enough for murder to be the correct course of action.

        If you take issues with the judgement calls made beyond the immediate future, then fine, drop them. If you think it is fair to assume that any attacker or rapist or paedophile is as likely to become the next Marie Curie or Gandi as they are to re-offend then judgements about the future are impossible to make.

        But suddenly killing the attacker is more clearly justified, not less.

      • 1) Ok, so if an earthquake is not evil, then in order to not commit the taxicab fallacy you are unable to say that if God exists that He causes evil if an earthquake happens. So this is not an example of God causing evils. Do you have any other examples?

        2) So whether or not it is justified depends on whose interpretation? And whose confidence? Yours? Sounds like morality is based on your opinion at this point. Sorry, but I just can’t buy into that.

      • 1) If God exists then earthquakes are evil because they are the result of sentience. If God does not exist then earthquakes are not the result of sentience and are not evil.
        This is not the taxicab fallacy. Sentience that lowers wellbeing is evil, events that are not the result of sentience are not evil.

        2) You’re being intentionally obtuse. These are empirical facts.

      • 1) It’s either the taxicab fallacy or special pleading, because you’re taking one event and changing the standards to suit your interests. In fact, it’s probably both. Definitely the taxicab fallacy, because it’s evil if God exists, but if God doesn’t exist then you jump off the wagon and say, “Wait, it’s amoral now!” Can’t have it both ways, friend.

        2) It’s not empirical, because there’s no independent objective foundation for your determination of morality. I can think of lots of scenarios on this worldview that would be questionable. What if someone disagrees with your interpretation of “lowers wellbeing”? Are they simply wrong? That makes it your opinion that determines right and wrong. I’m not being intentionally obtuse. I’m taking your position and calling it what it is.

      • 1) You are the first person I have ever met that cannot distinguish between the morality of intentional actions and unintentional actions.

        2) Wellbeing can be objectively measured by fMRI scanners.

        Fin.

      • 1) Unfortunately, you are not the first person to commit such an obvious logical fallacy regarding natural events.

        2) Taking this argument to ad absurdio reductum, I could measure the pain in my finger from jamming it in a door and be considered evil for causing myself pain, intentionally or not. Completely ineffective moral standard.

        I agree. This is over.

  19. Along a different line of argument:
    Can rape exist without a victim? No?
    Then the victim of rape is responsible for rape.

    This is your argument.

    Reply

    • Not quite. The argument is more like this:

      A rape takes place.
      If a rapist exists, then he is morally responsible for the rape.
      But wait! If the rapist doesn’t exist, then the rape has no moral consequence.

      This is your argument.

      Do you see how ludicrous your analogy is? Completely dis-similar.

      Reply

      • Let me just re-read your post to make sure I haven’t missed something important…


        Nope, what you’ve written definitely means that anyone who necessarily has to exist for something to happen is responsible for the fact that it happened…
        So you are saying that a victim of a crime is also responsible for the crime.
        After all, how can a murder take place without a victim? Without victims violent crimes can’t happen. Therefore, victims are responsible for the crimes committed against them…
        That is your argument.
        More over, you can’t rebut what I have written here without simultaneously dismantling this post.

      • Do you even realize how ludicrous you are being? For starters, we’re discussing origins of evil. In your argument, you must pre-suppose evil exists. Otherwise, even rape would be considered amoral. So the two are not the same. Stop being disingenuous.

      • Maybe in your post you haven’t articulated yourself quite as well as you’d hoped to. However, based on what you have written, I am correct.
        There must be a conscious actor and conscious receiver of an action for it to have moral considerations. Therefore it is entirely true to say, by the argument you have presented, that a recipient of an action is as responsible as the actor. Because unless there are both, there is no moral consideration.

        To illustrate that this is true, is there any moral consideration in raping a rock, or soil, or a tree? Of course not, there is no conscious receiver.

        That’s not even my argument, that’s yours.

        This is why -if- God exists He is morally accountable for natural phenomena (like earthquakes and volcanoes) that affect other people, yet -if-God does not exist then they are amoral events.

      • I’m not talking about any specific crimes, so you misunderstand completely. We’re talking about the nature of evil here. And if evil exists, there must be a perpetrator. There doesn’t have to be a victim for there to be evil. Take evil thoughts for example. There is no victim of evil thoughts, but it makes them no less evil. Charles Manson hasn’t killed anybody since he entered prison, but it is his thoughts of killing again that are going to keep him away from possible parole. Attempted murder, attempted assault, etc. would also fall into this line of thinking. So your logic doesn’t make any sense, given what I’ve argued here, because evil can clearly exist without a victim. And that’s why I never made any kind of a claim to that in my blog post. Thanks for putting words in my mouth, but I’ll go ahead and remove them and put them back where they belong–on your keyboard.

        Regarding natural phenomena, what you’re making my claim out to be is absurd for a couple of reasons. First of all, if you’re trying to use “my logic” (which I’ve shown not to be my logic at all, but yours), then you need a victim in order for anything to have moral considerations. This is how you pin natural phenomena as evils from God, since God causes victims in things like earthquakes. But what about the earthquakes that occur thousands of feet below the surface of oceans. Those occur all the time and have no victims. Or what about the volcano that erupts and spews hot ash but doesn’t harm a living thing? Under your theory those wouldn’t be evil. So where do we draw the line on which natural phenomena are evil and which ones aren’t?

        If the answer is that it’s evil if it has a victim, then if God doesn’t exist, an earthquake that kills people is still considered evil, even without a perpetrator, so it clearly can’t be that. I don’t really know what you’re left to argue at this point, but to me this clearly shows that natural phenomena can’t be considered evil on such a pretense, and so can’t be pinned on God anyway.

        Does this make sense? I can’t see how you can argue against this line of reasoning unless you’re just unwilling to accept where the facts lead.

      • I don’t believe you’re as thick as your letting on: let me write this out again.

        With God: natural phenomena as caused by a conscious intent. If they cause suffering then they are evil. If they cause no suffering then they are not evil. This is no different from me swinging my arms to catch a ball, or me swinging my arm to intentionally hit someone.

        Without God: natural phenomena is unconscious and has no intent. This cannot be evil regardless of the amount of suffering caused.

        This is what I am trying to say about your argument. Although I’d change to “consciousness”, and not humans, as the pre-requisite for evil, the point is that consciousness is needed at both ends of an action for the interaction to be evil.

        As for “evil thoughts”, the thoughts aren’t evil, they are about evil things. Charles Manson remains a danger because of his intentions to do evil, not because his thoughts are evil (which they are not, they are of evil things).

      • I don’t think I’m the thick one. I’ve already stated several times why “causing suffering” is an insufficient standard for evil. Self-defense causes suffering; hitting a home run causes suffering. You don’t consider these actions evil, so if something causes suffering, this is not the reason it is considered evil. Evil goes beyond that, which is why your argument continues to fail.

        And I can’t believe I have to say this over and over, but this is absolutely the taxicab fallacy. A natural event happens, whether God exists or not. You can’t contribute evil to it only in a specific set of circumstances; this is the taxicab fallacy, or at worst special pleading. Can’t go there. It’s a bad argument.

      • It’s not the taxi-cab fallacy. Let me spell this out: it is a contingency argument. If an act is caused by a conscious being and it in turn causes suffering it is evil.
        So if God causes Earthquakes and earthquakes cause suffering then God is evil.

        However, if an act has no conscious actor then regardless of the suffer it is not evil. So an unconscious earthquake is not evil, and neither is the cause (plate tectonics).

        Explain to me, as if you’ve actually read my reply in your first language, how that argument is the taxi-cab fallacy as opposed to a contingent description.

        As for sporting events, sports increase wellbeing. Do you really think that if sports made most people sad that market forces would allow sports to be televised (as opposed to being a multi-billion $/£ industry)?

        As for self-defence, we’ve discussed that in more detail. I explained that dropped well being in one person simply ignores the larger picture of everyone’s well being.

        I’ve read though all your replies again today (and I asked a few friends to look over them too) and we all conclude that you don’t address my points properly. So I implore you to read this reply once or twice more before authoring your response.

        At the least, I wonder if you could copy these comments into a new post on the issue or implore your readers to look through these comments and give you their feedback. I think it may be enlightening for you…

      • This is your argument: “This earthquake causes suffering and is engineered by God, so it is evil. That volcano erupted and caused suffering, so it is evil. This tsunami happened and people died, so it is evil. But wait! If God doesn’t exist, let me jump out of the “this is evil” cab and into the “no moral consideration” cab for the exact same events that previously happened!” That, my friend, is classic taxicab fallacy. Contingency is not an answer to such a fallacy, because if that was true we could make pretty much any assumptions we wanted (i.e. “God created me, my wife, my daughter and everyone in the United States. But, even though He exists, He didn’t create you. You are a by-product of evolution. You have no inherent value; only my group of people do. Only my creation is contingent on Him, so being the same species as human beings we can have different origins, and it’s completely reasonable and acceptable to believe this.” You would never buy this argument, but it’s perfectly valid on your position.) Now let me explain how it’s also special pleading.

        The argument also includes this line of reasoning: “If one earthquake happens and causes suffering, it is evil. But if the same earthquake were to happen and not cause suffering, it is not evil.” This is creating favorable events and excluding unfavorable ones to strengthen your position. But it’s the exact same earthquake! An event can only be evil or not evil. It can’t be evil “if” and not evil “if.” There is only one moral consideration to be drawn from one moral event, on objective morality (which it is apparent you agree with). Your position, framed as one of contingency, is really masking a special pleading logical fallacy.

        And I’m tired of you twisting my words. I’m not talking about sporting events at large; I’m talking about the act of hitting a home run. It causes suffering, therefore it’s evil. If you say the greater result is good on the whole, then you have no basis to judge natural events, because you have no idea what the end result may look like 50 or 100 or 500 years as a result. So you have no good-faith basis to call anything evil at that point, because the greater good might eventually override it. The Holocaust can’t be judged as evil on such a line of thought, to give an example. You either have to take each event as it is framed in that moment, or not at all. I’ll let you choose, because you can’t have it both ways.

        Now, I’ve read over your comment and replied thoroughly, so I’d appreciate it if you would not talk down to me anymore. If that’s going to continue, I’d rather not pursue this line of discussion. I’ve already tried to stop it once, because I think you are clearly wrong but un-convinceable. I don’t think it’s worth either of our time anymore, but if you feel the need to come back time and again and respond, I’ll post your comments and rebut as long as you’re respectful when you do so. Thanks.

      • “Exact same events”? What part of an unconscious unintentional earthquake is identical to a consciously caused and intentional earthquake?
        The fact that you can argue like changing all the variables–whether or not there are victims, whether or not its intentional–still leaves you with the same event is dishonest.
        Nothing about your ‘I’m created by God but you’re evolved’ analogy as anything to do with anything. It’s definitely not valid in the context of my position either. But let me try and run with that as well…
        If God made you with complete foreknowledge then God is responsible for your actions. Whether or not you are also responsible for your actions depends on your philosophy regarding whether or not a person can have free will if they exist within God’s perfect foreknowledge.
        If God created you without having foreknowledge and you are therefore DEFINITELY your own free moral agent then you are the conscious actor and you are responsible for your actions.
        If you evolved then you are the free moral agent.
        I’m not sure that was difficult.

        Again, it is not the same earthquake. Intent changes everything. The fact that intent changes everything is my entire point, and you are ignoring it.
        Jumping up and down is not evil, unless it is jumping up and down on someone’s face! Abruptly moving your arm forward is not evil, unless the abrupt movement is the intentional (and successful) act of punching someone in the face. An act is evil if it fulfils certain criteria (I have laid them out as an act that is intentional, caused by a conscious being and causes suffering. You haven’t particularly contested those criteria). It is exactly contingent (as in, it is an “if” statement).
        Context specific answers are not necessarily subjective. Questions like “what medicine should I take?” have entirely context specific answers, but are objective.

        The fact that I “don’t know what the end result may look like 50 or 100 or 500 years” from now is simply an in-practice complication. It most certainly is not a valid in-principle contention.

        I’d love an example of when I have twisted your words. Maybe if you could tell me that I could better understand where our misunderstanding has been. I say that because I have not intentionally twisted your words at all, so if I appear to have done that it must have been a mis-communication.

        11 million people, 9 million of which were Jewish, died in the Holocaust and it was a step in WWII where a further (high-end estimate) 78 million people died. It has left a legacy of political and racial tension that still exists today. How on Earth could you, on the measure of ‘suffering caused’, even begin to argue that it was not evil?

        The Asian tsunami killed 250,000 people and displaced millions. Thousands upon thousands of people have lost family members, millions have lost their homes.

        Famine, starvation and disease kill a handful of people every second, in pain and suffering.

        By what stretch of the imagination are these not evil?

        Lastly, to call my argument either a taxi-cab fallacy or a case of special pleading is not to have paid attention to the criteria of evil, and my resultant contingent dichotomy. If it’s intentional and causes suffering then it is evil. If it is unintentional it is amoral and therefore cannot be evil, regardless of suffering caused. I have now had 4 philosophy graduates look over our conversation and only 1 had even attempted to explain how you’ve made the confusion (oddly, the religious 1 of my 4 philosophy graduate friends).

      • “Exact same events”? What part of an unconscious unintentional earthquake is identical to a consciously caused and intentional earthquake?

        The earthquake in Japan last year is the same earthquake whether God exists or not. You’re trying to attribute moral responsibility contingent on some specified option, but an amorality if said option is not available. Ergo, taxicab fallacy.

        Nothing about your ‘I’m created by God but you’re evolved’ analogy as anything to do with anything. It’s definitely not valid in the context of my position either.

        If contingency is an acceptable defense for the taxicab fallacy, then my analogy is completely valid (which is why neither is true). But let me try to understand your perspective; if God exists there is no free will, but if God doesn’t exist there is free will? Isn’t that completely contradictory to determinism, which is necessary for biological evolution?

        The fact that I “don’t know what the end result may look like 50 or 100 or 500 years” from now is simply an in-practice complication. It most certainly is not a valid in-principle contention.

        If the principle is “greater good,” then it is most definitely a valid contention. Unless you put limits on the time frame for “greater good,” but this would ultimately derail your position.

        By what stretch of the imagination are these not evil?

        By the stretch of imagination that God doesn’t exist, according to your position. And I agree; it is a stretch. You’re actually just helping my position, so thanks.

        If it’s intentional and causes suffering then it is evil.

        Already proven this is flawed logic. Why do you keep coming back to this?

      • Here’s my sincere one. Our argument is about the existence of a consciousness that intentionally causes something. So an earthquake on a theistic worldview (with God) cannot be the same as an earthquake on a naturalistic worldview (without God). The reason that they cannot be the same is that on one world view they are caused with intent and on the other they are caused without intent.
        Intent is the only important variable using my criteria for evil (which you have agreed, thus far, to continue this conversation without contesting).
        Therefore it is not true that “The earthquake in Japan last year is the same earthquake whether God exists or not”. On the former it is caused with intent, on the latter it is not. THAT IS THE IMPORTANT DIFFERENCE.
        You’re not even acting like it’s a trivial difference, you are acting like it is no difference. That is dishonest.

        I’m trying to attribute moral responsibility contingent on WHETHER OR NOT A CONSCIOUS BEING IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ACTION. Nothing else. I can’t tell if you haven’t understood, or just don’t care, and are indeed happy to tell me what my argument should be for your rebuttal.
        Stop saying “taxi cab fallacy”. In fact, do what I did and get people actually trained in philosophy to look at this argument and give you feedback. I’m not defending my use of a taxi-cab fallacy by saying “it’s contingent”; I am offering a contingent dichotomy that simply isn’t a taxi-cab fallacy. I am running both ends of the dichotomy to their ends, look:
        If there is a God then could either caused, or could have stopped, any given earthquake. Therefore, there is a consciousness responsible for that action. Therefore its consequences are of moral consideration.
        If there is not a God (and neither does the technology exist to either start or stop an earthquake) then NO consciousness is responsible for any given earthquake. Therefore there is NO consciousness responsible for the action. Therefore its consequences are NOT of moral consideration.

        Both scenarios, followed through to their end. No taxi-cab fallacy.

        I didn’t say that there is no free will with God, I said I’d leave the philosophy of that question to you. Apparently you’ve made up your mind, no freewill. That means God is wholly responsible for everything you do (because you weren’t free to do otherwise). I did, if you care to read the comment again, say that God’s complete and perfect foreknowledge would make him responsible, and IF you still have freewill then you also would be responsible. Read it again, just in case you’ve missed a point.
        I also didn’t say that there is free will with God. I said that without God the buck of responsibility stops with the conscious actor.
        I’m not familiar with the idea that determinism is necessary for biological evolution, but it’s not necessary to my argument so long that we are conscious. So I don’t see your point.

        My failing to know something that is still, in principle, knowable is not a failure. Is it a practical issue that in principle isn’t there. The changes in wellbeing are ‘true’ regardless of whether or not I know them. Regardless even of whether or not I can know them. So it remains objective. My definition of morality is built out of objectively knowable (even if, perhaps, unknown) things. That is objective. The fact that you can’t see otherwise is stunning to me.

        You have not, incidentally, proven that “intentional and causes suffering then it is evil” is “flawed logic”. In fact, you haven’t made 1 valid criticism of the principle.

        With or without God the Holocaust was evil. By what stretch of the imagination is the Holocaust not evil? For what reason would the evil of that action be contingent on God?

        As for the Asian tsunami and “Famine, starvation and disease”, with God, by what stretch of the imagination are they not evil?

      • Ok look. I still completely disagree with you, but we’re just going around in circles and getting nowhere. I fully believe that your contingency argument opens the door to a whole lot of absurdity, as does your contention that “intentional and causes suffering, then it is evil.” Your greater good argument is still lacking, in my opinion. But I’m not going to beat my head against the wall and then ask you to do the same. Let’s agree to disagree.

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