Evolution and the Problem of Evil

My last post has provoked a few replies. Especially the part about the problem of evil.

In my review of the new book by Giberson and Collins I was critical of their treatment of the problem. Michael Ruse, always classy, opens his response thusly:

Given that they are both committed Christians, as well as totally convinced that modern science is essentially right and good, the book is intended to defend Christianity against the critics who argue that science and religion are incompatible. Expectedly, it has got all of the junior New Atheists jumping with joyous ire, and all over the blogs are stern condemnations: “this is not a good book” “the authors’s [sic] frequently murky prose”; “I was struck by just how unserious they are on this issue.” You get the idea.

Those quotes come from my review, but I suppose it was asking too much that Ruse actually mention me by name. Apparently describing a pro-religion book as not good, or protesting that its prose is murky, is now a level of rhetoric vitriolic enough to get you dismissed as a New Atheist, if only a junior one. Of course, Ruse might have quoted the context surrounding those criticisms, since I rather clearly expressed regret that I found the book so inadequate and recommended a better book defending the same basic ideas. But that basic nod to fairness would have required conceding that I wasn’t just writing an angry screed.

Ruse’s criticism is especially rich considering that he next writes, “I am not about to defend Giberson and Collins…,” and after a paragraph complaining about some of the rhetoric directed at Collins, especially from Sam Harris, he continues, “In fact, my suspicion is that some of the Giberson-Collins arguments simply don’t work.” He singles out their argument that humans are the inevitable end product of evolution, which I only mentioned in passing, and argues, quite correctly, that their argument isn’t very good.

Evidently, then, Ruse also was not impressed by the book.

At any rate, my description of Giberson and Collins as “unserious” centered around their badly inadequate treatment of the problem of evil. I felt they had failed to consider some obvious counterpoints to their argument, as I explained at length. Ruse simply ignored what I wrote, and offers instead his own argument (different from the one offered by Giberson and Collins, incidentally):

Where I do want to defend Giberson and Collins is over the problem of evil. Let me say that I am not sure that the problem of evil — how could a loving, all powerful God allow evil — can be solved. I am with the chap in the Brothers Karamazov who said that even if everything is good in the end, the cost is not worth it. My salvation, Mother Teresa’s salvation, is not worth the agony of Anne Frank and her sister in Bergen-Belsen. It just isn’t. But I am not sure that biology, Darwinian evolutionary biology, exacerbates it.

After quoting Darwin, who plainly did think that the general awfulness of nature militated against a belief in God, and after writing a bit about free will Ruse continues:

In the case of physical evil, the dreadful earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan, the traditional Christian answer, for all that Voltaire parodied it, is that of Leibniz — working by law results in good things and bad things, but overall the good outweighs the bad. God is constrained in what He does and in total He does the very best possible. Now of course there are questions about whether God had to create through law, although if He had not done so, it would be a very different world (and not arguably better) than the one we have now. For a start, He would have had to eliminate the thousands of pieces of evidence of evolution, or He would be a deceiver along the lines that Philip Gosse rather foolishly welcomed in the nineteenth century (on the grounds that God was testing our faith).

I’m afraid I don’t see how this makes any sense at all. Imagine the state of the universe at some moment shortly after evolution has produced modern human beings. God, presumably, could have created the world supernaturally in a state that was identical in every morally relevant way. That world would contain free human beings embedded within a natural world adequate for their needs. Had He done so we would have been spared the millions of years of evolutionary bloodsport that has horrified everyone who has ever considered it. That universe would differ from ours only in that it would lack that awful history, which seems to me a clear improvement over the world we have. There would be no evidence of evolution to erase because evolution would never have occurred.

Furthermore, the whole idea of “creating through law” needs to be clarified. Whatever you think God did, it seems clear that He did certain things supernaturally and allowed certain other things to unfold by natural law. The only question is the balance He employed. In Ruse’s version God’s moment of supernatural intervention ended with the Big Bang. My version simply has God fast-forwarding the tape and letting natural laws take over from a later stage. What theological purpose was served by Ruse’s scenario that would not be served by mine?

I would note, incidentally, that for most of Christian history people thought that humans were created supernaturally and instantaneously, without noticing, apparently, that such a notion was theologically problematic. Ruse, writing a short blog post, can be forgiven for not exploring these details. But if you would care to read his two books on this subject you will find that he provides scarcely more detail in either one of them.

Ruse continues:

But supposing that God did (and had to) create through law, then Richard Dawkins of all people offers a piece of candy to the Christian. Dawkins argues that the only physical way to get organic adaptation — the design-like nature of living beings — is through natural selection, that very painful mechanism that worried Darwin! Other mechanisms are either false (such as Lamarckism, the inheritance of acquired characteristics) or inadequate (such as saltationism, change by sudden jumps). In other words, although Darwinism does not speak to all cases of physical evil — the earthquakes — it does speak to the physical evil that it itself is supposed to bring on. It is Darwinism with suffering, or nothing.

Dawkins, of course, only argued that the alternatives to natural selection that had been proposed over the years were not adequate to the task of producing complex adaptations. He certainly was not discoursing on what sets of natural laws could exist in any logically possible world. To make his case Ruse must argue that it is logically impossible to have a system of natural laws that is, in even the slightest way, more benign that Darwinian natural selection. I can’t imagine how he will make that argument, but certainly Dawkins is very little help to him.

We’re on difficult ground here, since none of us has any experience in designing life-sustaining universes. But hypothesizing that God was logically required to employ Darwinism as His creative mechanism for achieving some worthy good, without further argument, is not at all a solution to the problem of evil. It is simply something you must take as axiomatic if traditional Christian faith is to survive what we have learned about natural history. If you can persuade yourself that it is true then go in peace. Just don’t be surprised that so many take the alternate route of thinking that traditional faith must be seriously adjusted, if not abandoned altogether, upon encountering the modern understanding of natural history.

As it happens, Ruse is not the only one writing about the problem of evil. Josh Rosenau takes a stab at it:

This idea of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent god is pretty common, but the more I consider those three properties, the harder it is to see how anything could be all of those at once. And for the problem of evil to be a problem, it’s really important that we assume an omnibenevolent deity.

Consider: Stating than an omnipotent, omniscient deity is also omnibenevolent essentially restricts what that deity can do: it can’t do evil. Which creates several problems. First, it’s a restriction on what the deity can do, so now the deity isn’t omnipotent. Evil actions are like kryptonite for Superman or the color yellow for (Golden Age) Green Lantern. A god who isn’t completely omnipotent has far fewer problems with the problem of evil.

Really, Josh? You’re going there? You’re going to argue that there is a fundamental contradiction among the traditional attributes of God? Keep up like this and people will start thinking you’re a New Atheist.

Theologians have been at this long enough to have come up with ways of finessing the various apparent contradictions in the traditional attributes. Usually you end up in endless semantical disputes about what these words actually mean. Personally I have never understood how to reconcile God’s perfect foreknowledge with human free will. (The problem is that if God knows ahead of time that I will choose X over Y, and if it is logically impossible that God could be wrong, then it is logically impossible for me to choose Y when the situation arises. Then in what sense do I have a free choice?) I know that theologians have their answers to this, but I frankly don’t care enough to wade through the relevant literature. That is why I tend to avoid these sorts of arguments.

But I do think it is incorrect to claim that the problem of evil does not present itself unless we assume an omnibenevolent deity. Such an assumption only seems necessary if you are putting forth the logical problem of evil (that there is a logical contradiction entailed by the statements, “God exists” and “Evil exists”). The inductive argument (that evil is strong evidence against God) can get by with something less. God is often said to be perfectly just, for example, which is not the same thing as perfectly good but which would certainly make us wonder about what justice is exemplified by letting animals suffer simply as links in an evolutionary chain. We could also point to the sheer profligacy of evil and suffering in natural history and argue that any God presiding over this is not only not perfectly good, but is actually downright sinister. Recall David Hull’s famous statement:

Whatever the God implied by evolutionary theory and the data of natural
history may be like, He is not the Protestant God of waste not, want not.
He is also not a loving God who cares about His productions. He is not
even the awful God portrayed in the book of Job. The God of the
Galapagos is careless, wasteful, indifferent, almost diabolical. He is
certainly not the sort of God to whom anyone would be inclined to pray.

I would think that a theist might be willing to sacrifice omnibenevolence while not thinking he has thereby defused Hull’s observation.

John Wilkins has also weighed in. He writes:

How theists resolve this is to me beside the point; that they must is not. Evil exists, so if you believe in a “tri-omni” deity (omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent), you had better find a reconciliation. I happen to think, as a matter of logic, there is none.

That sounds like he is endorsing the logical problem of evil, which is interesting, since that position is not very popular these days among philosophers of religion. Nowadays it is usually the inductive argument that philosophers defend, quite successfully in my view. The logical argument is generally thought to be overly ambitious.

More to the point, though, is this:

But now consider whether or not Darwinian evolution is incompatible with that kind of theism (there are many others that are not vulnerable to the PoE, in which gods are not one of the tri-omni kind), any more than anything else. For example, if we accept that the universe is not deterministic, and has some irreducible randomness in it, as modern physics appears to claim, then why is Darwinian evolution any more problematic than physics? If we accept the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, is God any more able to know the world than we are? And so forth. All of modern science presents a challenge to tri-omni deities. Hence, weather, subatomic physics, and even logic itself present limitations upon the tri-omni deity. Darwin is at best a local sideshow exemplifying this on the crust of one planet of the universe — essentially Darwinian evolution is almost none of the problem for theism, as it applies to a domain less than 1 part in 1.3 to the power of 41 of the universe, by my calculations.

Surely, though, this overlooks something. One traditional response to the problem of evil in Christendom has been that evil and suffering are the result of human sin. None of it was part of God’s good creation. I would think that one could understand the laws of physics perfectly without realizing that natural history has a long and bloody history that long predates the appearance of humanity. Such a person could reasonably think he has an adequate answer to the problem of evil, but this answer could not survive the acceptance of evolution.

That is what evolution contributes to the problem. It tells us that any proposed solution based entirely on human needs is not adequate. You can’t discount natural evil as the result of human sin, because natural evil long predates human sin. You can’t argue that natural evil is necessary for “soul-making” (as John Hick has argued) because natural evil long predates creatures with souls. You can’t argue that natural evil is necessary for humans to obtain moral knowledge (as Richard Swinburne has argued) because natural evil long predates the existence of moral agents. You might be able to tweak these arguments to account for evolution, but the fact that tweaking is necessary shows that evolution adds something to the problem.

There are other aspects of John’s argument that I find puzzling. One could easily argue that a lack of causal determinism, or things like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, are necessary for humans to have free will. I don’t know if that’s correct, but it’s certainly possible. The randomness of physics might then be necessary to provide for some human need, but I don’t see how that helps you account for the awfulness of the evolutionary process. You could have a universe with our laws of physics but where humans were created directly, and not by a long process. That universe does not have the same problem of evil that our universe has.

There is certainly a large literature devoted to devising specifically evolutionary theodicies, or, from the other side, arguing that no such theodicy is possible. If I am confused about what evolution contributes to the problem then at least I am in good company. In the end, though, it is just ncredible to me that people argue that the revelation that God created through a process of singular cruelty and awfulness contributes nothing at all to our understanding of the problem of evil.

Comments

  1. #1 Len W
    March 17, 2011

    Michael Ruse has been campaigning for a Templeton Prize years. He is rarely worthy of any attention.

  2. #2 James Sweet
    March 17, 2011

    If Ruse had attributed those comments to you, it would have ruined the whole dramatic effect he was trying to create. By having three separate quotes and mentioning “Junior New Atheists” (plural) (and insulting, I might add) he implies that there was a pile of scorn heaped on this book from several JNAs (heh). The truth is you were the only one masochistic enough to read it ;)

  3. #3 eric
    March 17, 2011

    But hypothesizing that God was logically required to employ Darwinism as His creative mechanism for achieving some worthy good, without further argument, is not at all a solution to the problem of evil.

    The ‘logical necessity’ argument also doesn’t wash for natural evil. Its pretty hard to argue that the earth must, by logical necessity be tectonically active during the mere 10k-year period of human habitation. Not only does this run afoul of modern earth physics, there’s a planetoid right overhead which is not tectonically active. So we know from firsthand experience that there’s nothing logically necessary about earthquakes or volcanos.

    But I do think it is incorrect to claim that the problem of evil does not present itself unless we assume an omnibenevolent deity.

    In total agreement here. Humans are fairly limited in our capacities (compared to the normal descriptions of God/gods). But we have no problem passing judgement on each other for our evil acts and failings. It would seem strange to withold judgement on a more capable being merely because that being is not at the very tip top of the scale.

    You can’t discount natural evil as the result of human sin, because natural evil long predates human sin.

    Heh, creationist William Dembski thinks he’s solved this one. He claims that Adam’s sin retroactively changed the world. As near as I can tell, Dembski is invoking a form of ‘backwards-propagating sin’ to justify why the world looks as bad as it does. Its “Dr. Who meets the Omphalos monster.” :)

  4. #4 James Sweet
    March 17, 2011

    For a start, He would have had to eliminate the thousands of pieces of evidence of evolution, or He would be a deceiver along the lines that Philip Gosse rather foolishly welcomed in the nineteenth century (on the grounds that God was testing our faith)

    This is just bizarre… how would it be a problem to “eliminate the thousands of pieces of evidence of evolution” if in this hypothetical universe evolution via natural selection didn’t take place at all??

    I must be parsing this wrong, because it seems to me the argument Ruse is making here is roughly: “God couldn’t have made a world that wasn’t cruel and terrible, because if you look around you you will see the world we live in is cruel and terrible.” Uh, what? The whole point is that if there were an omnipotent omnibenevolent god, She didn’t have to do it this way! He’s basically observing that hypothetical universe B would be lacking in evidence to prove that it was our actual universe A. Which seems to be not only not a problem, but plainly fucking obvious, doesn’t it?

    I am struck by just how unserious Ruse is on this issue.

  5. #5 James Sweet
    March 17, 2011

    You mentioned the distinction between the Logical vs. Evidential Problem of Evil right about the time I was thinking about it. Nice :)

    IMO it’s not so much that the Logical Problem of Evil is “overly ambitious”, but rather that one is always on shaky footing when one attempts to make purely logical deductions about the real world unsupported by empirical data. It’s just too easy for hidden assumptions to slip in, ruining what appeared to be a bulletproof argument. I feel like in 1850, for example, one could have made a pretty convincing argument that things like relativity and quantum mechanics could not be possible because they would be self-contradictory. The hidden assumptions were just too, well, hidden, and it took some stunning empirical observations to stimulate people to re-examine those assumptions and come up with the truth.

    It’s even worse with the Logical Problem of Evil, because the ill-defined terms mean the whole thing is all hidden assumptions from start to finish. And in any case, as you say, and as I easily realized around the time I was like 15 (which, I have to say, makes me really question the wisdom of some of these philosophers and theologians…), all you have to do is subtract one of the “omnis”, e.g. saying God is not truly omniscient, just really powerful, and the whole Logical problem falls apart.

    The Evidential problem is damning, though. One can make some reasonable (though I must say, I think, ultimately flawed) arguments that suffering is necessary for some aspect of god’s alleged plan or something, but when you try to apply those arguments to the truly heinous acts of natural evil, it becomes downright insulting. I am reminded of (I heard, I didn’t read it myself) Francis Collins saying in his book that God allowed his daughter to be raped to teach him forgiveness. WTF?!? What happened to these people’s sense of proportion??? Surely, we do learn something from the trials and tribulations of life, but what do we learn when tens of thousands of people are suddenly swept away by a tsunami? That life’s a bitch? Surely, no lesson could justify the human cost of such an event.

    Attempts to resolve the Logical Problem of Evil are, IMO, pretty weak to begin with, but they have some wiggle room because of definitional difficulties. If you take those same arguments and put them in the context of the Evidential problem, however, you find yourself spitting on the grave of countless slaughtered billions, find yourself cheering on eons of immeasurable suffering. The Logical problem will leave you running in circles; the Evidential problem drives a fatal stake through God’s black heart.

  6. #6 Jason Rosenhouse
    March 17, 2011

    eric –

    Heh, creationist William Dembski thinks he’s solved this one. He claims that Adam’s sin retroactively changed the world. As near as I can tell, Dembski is invoking a form of ‘backwards-propagating sin’ to justify why the world looks as bad as it does. Its “Dr. Who meets the Omphalos monster.” :)

    I thought of Dembski as I was writing that, but one can only address so much in a single blog post. As it happens, a while back I did a post specifically about Dembski’s theodicy. That was when he had presented his ideas in a paper, but had not yet published his book on the subject.

  7. #7 Uncle Bob
    March 17, 2011

    I pointed out how Ruse was being uncivil in a comment the first day it was posted, and it was removed by moderators. I guess pointing out when people are being uncivil is too uncivil for Hufpo. :P

  8. #8 Daniel Lafave
    March 17, 2011

    Well, surely animal suffering is the result of animal sin. Sponges are just promiscuously releasing sperm into the ocean, fertilizing hundreds of other sponges . Sponge marriage should be between a sponge man and sponge woman. Let’s not even speak of asexual reproduction, which is the abomination of Onanism. Beyond that, but sponges haven’t accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. So, obviously they need to be punished. So, no problem of evil. QED.

  9. #9 SLC
    March 17, 2011

    Re eric @ #3

    Since Prof. Dumbski is now a young earth creationist, he doesn’t have to worry about such things anymore.

  10. #10 Spartan
    March 17, 2011

    The problem is that if God knows ahead of time that I will choose X over Y, and if it is logically impossible that God could be wrong, then it is logically impossible for me to choose Y when the situation arises. Then in what sense do I have a free choice?

    I certainly see what you’re getting at here. Would you agree that this isn’t just a God issue, this is an issue if anyone had 100% accurate precognition? If I can predict 100% accurately what the next lottery drawing will be, does that make the drawing non-random by the same logic? But it is random as long as I don’t use my precognition to know the numbers ahead of time? That seems odd.

    It doesn’t necessarily seem that knowing what choice you will make before it happens removes your free will; if you made a different choice then the choice that God knew you were going to make changes. God especially complicates the issue; it’s not that he knows ‘ahead’ of time, it’s that he knows ‘outside’ of time. Knowing ‘ahead’ of time presumes that in 10000 BC God knew you were going to write this post today; the problem to me is that I don’t know if God was ever in 10000 BC anymore than he is in any other time, or all times simultaneously, or in no time at all.

  11. #11 AL
    March 17, 2011

    The problem is that if God knows ahead of time that I will choose X over Y, and if it is logically impossible that God could be wrong, then it is logically impossible for me to choose Y when the situation arises. Then in what sense do I have a free choice?

    I think this assumes something about the nature of choice that may not be true. Does a choice have to have a component of uncertainty or randomness to it? Can a choice be 100% certain and immutable? If I’m given a “choice” at the restaurant among broccoli cheddar, chicken noodle, or lentil soup, I will choose broccoli cheddar 100% of the time without fail (and if you knew me well, you could predict this), but does this or does this not mean that I had a choice?

  12. #12 One Brow
    March 17, 2011

    Personally I have never understood how to reconcile God’s perfect foreknowledge with human free will. (The problem is that if God knows ahead of time that I will choose X over Y, and if it is logically impossible that God could be wrong, then it is logically impossible for me to choose Y when the situation arises. Then in what sense do I have a free choice?)

    This is only an issue if the putative God in question is constrained by time in the same manner we are (although the one in the Bible does seem so constrained). If the putative god is not constrained by time, they can know the outcome of your choice by witnessing that choice when you make it, possibly by seeing all history unfold at what is, for the putative god, effectively a single burst.

  13. #13 Michael Kremer
    March 17, 2011

    Jason,

    When you say that if God just brought into being the universe as it existed just after modern humans came on the scene — let’s say, oh, 50,000 years ago — then “There would be no evidence of evolution to erase because evolution would never have occurred,” I think you’re just wrong.

    There would have been all the evolution that has occurred since modern humans came on the scene, anyway — including both human and non-human evolution. And all of that would have included much shedding of blood and other forms of death. And 50,000 years of blood and death is nothing to be sneezed at.

    The point is that if God creates US or beings remotely like US, in a world like OURS, he is creating a world and a set of creatures that are set up for evolution to occur. In this sense some evolution is an inevitable consequence of creating US. So if things had happened exactly as a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 would have it, we now know that evolution would have been the result.

    As to “the millions of years of evolutionary bloodsport that has horrified everyone who has ever considered it,” I am actually not at all clear here: are you really “horrified” by the facts of evolution? Do you think it would have been better if evolution had not occurred?

    In the passage Ruse quotes from Darwin there is no mention of evolution, actually, just certain facts about certain species: cats might have played with mice, and Ichneumonidae might have fed within the living bodies of caterpillars, even had they been the products of special creation. (Actually I would say more strongly they WOULD have done these things, even had they been products of special creation.) And, in a way, this supports Ruse’s argument — for if God had created these beings through a direct act of intelligent design, we might find something wrong in that which wouldn’t be there if he instead merely tolerated these creatures as the inevitable by-products of an evolutionary process we might take a different view.

    Let’s take something much simpler: a wolf pack brings down a moose, let’s say, and they eat it up. Are you horrified by that? Is everyone who has ever considered it, horrified? I don’t think Jack London was horrified, though he certainly considered this sort of thing. It is possible to see beauty in it. Many have. Consider works of art portraying the predator bringing down its prey.

  14. #14 James Sweet
    March 17, 2011

    Michael Kremer: There’s only beauty in it because it was natural, it occurred out of nothing. It’s absolutely awe-inspiring that a process like natural selection, with no help from any supernatural omnipotent deity, could generate something as elegant as a predator in chase, for example.

    But if it was built by a holy engineer, then She’s kind of a sick fuck. Surely the suffering of the moose, in your example, is not beautiful — right? It’s especially not beautiful if it was deliberately caused.

    The point is that if God creates US or beings remotely like US, in a world like OURS

    See, this is the same circular argument that Ruse used. You are basically saying that if God created “a world like OURS” then it would necessarily be like our world — and that therefore, what, God was forced to create “a world like OURS”? Not buyin’ it.

    The pencil in front of me is blue. If I said, “Gee, I really should have bought a red pencil,” would you tell me, “But really that’s impossible, because if you bought a pencil that was the same color as that one, it pretty much has to be blue.” WTF?!

  15. #15 G Felis
    March 17, 2011

    The Leibniz-ian “best of all possible worlds” argument is a non-starter for Christians because they claim to believe in heaven — which is by definition a better world than this one. The problem here is more basic: There is no reason to take any religious claim seriously, and every reason to think that all such claims consist in nothing more than self-aggrandizing, wish-fulfilling fantasies. Giberson & Collins are fools engaging in foolishness, and Ruse is a fool for insisting that religious foolishness must always be treated with the utmost respect and deference.

  16. #16 Lenoxuss
    March 17, 2011

    Personally I have never understood how to reconcile God’s perfect foreknowledge with human free will.

    My answer would be that if free will exists (which I happen to find extremely unlikely), then its effects are by definition unknowable, even to an omniscient entity. In other words, “knowing exactly what a free being will do” is like “making a stone so heavy God can’t lift it” — they’re both logically impossible, so the inability to do it no more a handicap of God than the inability to cause 1+2=5.

    The assertion that God would be “outside of time” is reasonable too. To look at it another way, we in 2011 know precisely what major historical figures did in the past. Does that mean they didn’t have free will? Not by itself, no.

    On other grounds, I don’t think the standard model of free will holds up, but if accepted, it doesn’t create such a big problem for God. (Although arguably, there’s a contradiction between God being “outside of time” and actually interfering in history. If we could time-travel and change past events, then we wouldn’t retain our currently perfect knowledge of people’s free actions, because they could go differently. Huh.)

    In general, I’m willing to throw theists the bone of re-interpreting their ideas in logically consistent form, for example, to assume that “all powerful” means “maximally powerful given other constraints”. Another example: the Trinity is total nonsense, but if there were somehow proven to exist three distinct super-advanced organisms, otherwise identical to the Trinity’s members in every detectable way, (eg, one of them actually beamed its own alien-spores to a woman named Mary, etc), I’d be willing to consider Christianity true.

    Meanwhile, all that stuff about “working through law” indicates a lack of imagination and a strange “attachment” to the particulars of our world. Gravitation is a law in our universe, but it’s not inherently “more lawful” than some other principle. Unless, of course, cosmology reaches a point where the laws can be shown to derive directly from mathematics, although if that’s the case, it deprives theism of the Kalaam cosmological argument (which depends on the assumption that God is needed to fine-tune the constants).

    John Wilkins (quoted in original post):

    essentially Darwinian evolution is almost none of the problem for theism, as it applies to a domain less than 1 part in 1.3 to the power of 41 of the universe, by my calculations.

    Is he actually making an argument based on the physical size of the Earth? Even if the problem of evil could be ameliorated by showing evil to be “proportionately” small (and I don’t think that’s valid), thre relevant proportion would be “out of total sentient experience”, not the proportion of matter in the universe.

    On top of that, we have every reason to believe that the evolutionary process of death and suffering has happened and is happening on a number of other planets as we speak, although that’s not necessarily the case, of course.

    #3 eric:

    “Dr. Who meets the Omphalos monster.”

    Now I want to see that! Although in a way that’s not terribly far off from the events of the last season…

  17. #17 Michael Kremer
    March 17, 2011

    @James Sweet

    I was not making a “circular argument.”

    Jason posited that God could have created a universe “identical in every morally relevant way” to “the state of the universe at some moment shortly after evolution has produced modern human beings”. I take it that in this world human beings — and the other animals around them — would reproduce, that their reproduction would be much like ours, that it would be subject to mutation, that there would be finite resources such that if the population were to grow eventually there would be competition for those resources, etc etc. As Darwin taught us, under those conditions evolution is likely to happen. Where is this argument circular?

    I didn’t make any claim about what God was forced to make, I did make a claim about a particular possibility that Jason introduced, not me.

  18. #18 John Wilkins
    March 17, 2011

    Yes, I do accept and advance the logical problem of evil, because this is a logical puzzle. Set up a deity that is unbounded in properties and offer a single, finite, counterinstance of boundedness, and you have a modus tollens. Either you have to abandon at least one of the generalisations of power, knowledge and goodness – that is, you have to restrict God’s power, knowledge or goodness – or you must insist that no such entity could exist consistent with the existence of evil, or you must deny that evil exists.

    You can deny that evil exists by denying the reality of this world (the Maya option). This is coherent in some ways, but not to an orthodox theist who thinks God created a real world. So that option is blocked. You can deny God is fully good (he’s malicious, contrary to Einstein’s dictum). Also blocked by orthodoxy (but not a problem for limited theisms like Mormonism or Hellenistic religions). You can deny that he is able to do anything he chooses – I accept that choices outside of his nature are excluded without denying omnipotence, and that he is constrained by logical cpherence, although a dialethic deity is conceivable if dialethism is. This is blocked also. And you can deny that he can know everything, and therefore could not have foreseen the implications of his act or found a Plan that lacked all suboptimality. This is blocked also, but I think we have reasons to think complete foreknowledge is incoherent due to quantum uncertainty.

    I think the sole conclusion is that such a deity as is described in Aquinas’ Summa, part I, does not exist. Of course, other kinds of deities (like, e.g., Whitehead’s process deity or Mormonism’s local deities) may still exist.

    As to the problem of determinism – I am saying that the randomness of biology is merely a special case of the randomness of the universe. [Incidentally, I do not think free will is about determinism, but that's another matter.] Natural selection and natural evil are problematic, but even moreso are the features of the universe that permit them to exist at all. Theists ought to worry that the universe looks like the kind of place made by a God that could not control everything, and surely this is more worrying than some suffering on one planet’s surface? This is the Creator of All we are talking about!

    It’s a matter of scope and scale. Modern physics is incompatible with the Aristotelian qualities of the supreme deity. Darwin is a problem, but as you note, a problem that does not depend upon Darwin, but on evil in nature, which we already knew. Nor am I suggesting that Darwin doesn’t add something to the mix, although the struggle for existence long predates evolutionary thinking. It is simply this: if what worries you about Darwin is the lack of planning, think of a single case of physical indeterminacy and you have a much worse problem. There is a challenge to theodicy in a single electron shell.

  19. #19 J.J.Brown
    March 17, 2011

    The whole good evil thing is human centered rather than God centered I think. From the scientific point of view, things exist, then we label them as we try to understand what they mean to us and our loved ones. Even in the creation myth, everything just “was” until man was expelled from the garden with the “knowledge of good and evil”.

  20. #20 Charles Sullivan
    March 17, 2011

    Should we start calling you Jason Junior now?

  21. #21 Jason Rosenhouse
    March 18, 2011

    John Wilkins –

    Natural selection and natural evil are problematic, but even moreso are the features of the universe that permit them to exist at all. Theists ought to worry that the universe looks like the kind of place made by a God that could not control everything, and surely this is more worrying than some suffering on one planet’s surface? This is the Creator of All we are talking about!

    I think this is where we disagree. As I discussed in the post, it is quite plausible that the indeterminacy in the laws of physics is necessary to achieve greater goods like human free will, but that does not help you explain why it was necessary to create humans through a lengthy and brutal evolutionary process. We could have an alternate universe with precisely the same laws of physics but with a very different, and more benign, natural history. Consequently, coming to terms with the laws of physics does not entail that you have made your peace with evolution.

    The problem for theism is not so much evil and suffering in the abstract, because it is easy to think of reasons why some amount of both is necessary to achieve greater goods. The issue is gratuitous evil and suffering, instances that seem entirely unnecessary for any greater good. I am suggesting that our lengthy evolutionary history, in which countless organisms were born, suffered their entire miserable lives, and then died just to serve as some means to an evolutionary end, provides us with numerous candidates for instances of gratuitous suffering. That’s what I think evolution adds to the problem of evil. Moreover, it tells us that theodicies centered entirely around human needs are flatly inadequate. That is a reality pre-nineteenth century theodicists did not have to deal with.

    I certainly agree that the problem of evil was already very grave even before evolution. But I do think evolution contributes something nontrivial to the problem.

    Yes, I do accept and advance the logical problem of evil, because this is a logical puzzle. Set up a deity that is unbounded in properties and offer a single, finite, counterinstance of boundedness, and you have a modus tollens. Either you have to abandon at least one of the generalisations of power, knowledge and goodness – that is, you have to restrict God’s power, knowledge or goodness – or you must insist that no such entity could exist consistent with the existence of evil, or you must deny that evil exists.

    I also disagree with this. It’s not a purely logical puzzle. There certainly is no obvious contradiction between “God exists” and “Evil exists.” To obtain a contradiction you need an extra premise, something like, “There is no morally sufficient reason for God to allow evil to exist.” The truth of that premise is not something that can be established by logic alone. I think you can make a strong argument that the sheer profligacy of evil and suffering makes it very very difficult to concoct a morally sufficient justification, but I don’t see how you show that such a justification is a logical impossibility.

  22. #22 Reginald Selkirk
    March 18, 2011

    God is constrained in what He does… Now of course there are questions about whether God had to create through law

    Who writes these laws which God must follow?

  23. #23 Reginald Selkirk
    March 18, 2011

    This idea of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent god is pretty common, but the more I consider those three properties, the harder it is to see how anything could be all of those at once…

    Rosenau skipped a step there. It appears from his subsequent comments that reconciling the three “omni-” properties with each other is not his real problem, it is reconciling those three with other factors, such as the existence of evil.

  24. #24 Jesse Parrish
    March 18, 2011

    Jason Rosenhouse,

    First, as far as I’m aware, theologians and academic apologists usually admit restrictions on omnipotence and omniscience. For example, I think it’s generally accepted that God, if existent, can not have certain forms of knowledge, e.g. experiential knowledge of sin. So omniscience is generally restricted to propositional knowledge.

    Similarly, omnipotence is tacitly taken to mean `ability to do all logically possible things consistent with God’s other properties’. So God, being a disembodied mind outside of space and time, can not ride a bike, will himself to be less powerful, etc.

    For perfect goodness, this also has a special sense. I think the strongest objection here is that which can be applied against the form of moral realism required by treating `goodness’ as both linear and a predicate. We can switch, as you’ve done, to omnibenevolence, which is a descriptive term and therefore subjects a God to being in logical contradiction with the state of the universe: omnibenevolence is meaningless so long as the evidential problem of evil applies. (Hence why I disagree with you @21.) Instead, a different standard of necessary goods, like free will, must be supposed which God’s moral perfection requires him to fulfill. (Note that not only do we have an implicit stance on the Euthyphro dilemma here, namely that `goodness’ is a standard external to God, but that this standard is also linear and capable of being made a factual predicate. Outside of theistic philosophy, I doubt such a meta-ethic is accepted by philosophers.)

    I suppose it possible that one may treat `omnibenevolence’ as a statement describing God’s intentions, but we still have a contradiction: If God by an independent standard of moral perfection necessarily allows suffering against his intentions, God’s mind is in contradiction with moral perfection. Ergo God is not morally perfect. So it’s a more subtle contradiction, but a contradiction nevertheless.

    That is what evolution contributes to the problem. It tells us that any proposed solution based entirely on human needs is not adequate. You can’t discount natural evil as the result of human sin, because natural evil long predates human sin. You can’t argue that natural evil is necessary for “soul-making” (as John Hick has argued) because natural evil long predates creatures with souls. You can’t argue that natural evil is necessary for humans to obtain moral knowledge (as Richard Swinburne has argued) because natural evil long predates the existence of moral agents. You might be able to tweak these arguments to account for evolution, but the fact that tweaking is necessary shows that evolution adds something to the problem.

    Evolution’s central problem for traditional theism is with its application to religious theology: the dismantling of traditional arguments – especially the design forms – and the destruction of sacred traditions it entails. I think any discussion which treats `falsification of non-specific theism’ as the main issue is rather beside the point. (Without further specification, the theism discussed above makes no observable difference to the universe, especially when we accept talk of mysterious ways. Evolution does not contradict this theism because nothing empirical can.)

    But yes, evolution is important for the problem of evil – and many other problems – for specific religions, if not theism in the previously mentioned form generally. But that’s what makes it important.

  25. #25 Jesse Parrish
    March 18, 2011

    Now, about this `creating through law’ nonsense:

    This requires some difficult ideas about the nature of laws. The only `laws’ which evidential considerations support are descriptive: they are highly evidenced propositions of regularity. Behaviors are not `things’ which are created: they are the activities of existing things. For God to `create through law’ means that God is a constant manager. But if we agree that the universe contains behaviors which are sinful…

    Well. This won’t do.

    So laws – one can treat this term in the broadest sense – must in some way be things-in-themselves which God can cease to manage. The conceptual difficulties here are worrisome in their own right – I try to think of how an omnipotent God can be meaningfully `inactive’ on logical possibilities – but let’s allow it for now. The problem of evil as modified by the scientific history of the universe makes it necessary that God create through evolution to fulfill the requirements of moral perfection. Further, God cannot by the previous be the `Constant Manager’ version. We have:

    1.God necessarily is consistent with an independent standard of moral perfection;
    2.This moral perfection makes necessary the creation of natural laws as things-in-themselves;
    3.These natural laws introduce suffering.

    There is an important feature about the conjunction of (1) and (2): namely, it makes natural laws moral entities in themselves, no God required. (Read: `Perfect morality + Universe’ implies `Universe with laws L’.) This is natural law morality writ extreme: natural laws are necessary parts of perfect morality; perfect morality and (ontological) natural laws generally imply one another. Suffering is made necessary by moral perfection, but moral perfection is also necessarily inclusive of suffering. This specific tenet of an ethic within this already-difficult meta-ethic is tough to accept. The violation of intuitions here is tremendous. (This also has consequences for those who believe in a divine-inspiration ethic.)

    It must also be pointed out that God is not freed by indeterminism on the point of suffering here: if he has introduced suffering to fulfill other goods, the suffering was determined. No reductionism of the universe to these laws is required to make this argument. To accept this is to accept suffering as being as much a part of a universe as product of moral perfection as anything else. Suffering is as much a part of moral perfection as free will. This theodicy fails generally because this argument can be generalized: it erases moral distinctions entirely, contradicting its own meta-ethic. (3) can be replaced with anything that exists and has ever existed.

  26. Jason, per Lamberth’s teleonomic argument,since the [scientific] evidence rules out teleology -wanted outcomes in for teleonomy- no wanted outcomes, no divine intent appears, and such intent would not only violate the Ockham but also contradict science rather than complement it. Theistic evolution is just another oxymoron, full of sound and fury, signifying obscurantism!
    Erst Mayr introduced teleonomy into biology elsewhere and dismissed teleology in ” What Evolution Is.”
    Contrary to our magnificent friend Dr. Scott, this is a scientific as well as a philosophical point rather than as she states a philosophical one alone, because scientists find no directed evolution whatsoever! Only by that begged question of faith can people find directed evolution.
    Per Lamberth’s argument from pareidolia, as scientists are investigating people’s use of pareidolia, people see intent and design when only teleonomy and patterns exist just as people see Marian apparitions.
    So, we have two scientifically-based arguments to dismiss theistic evolution.
    This lack of intent also applies to all arguments from intent such as Primary Cause, Grand Miracle Monger and so forth such that He has no referents as such and thus cannot possibly exist!
    The atelic argument is that theists beg that question of intent- wanted outcomes.
    And as He has incoherent, contradictory attributes, again He cannot possibly exist!
    http://ignosticmorgan'sblog.wordpress.com
    http://ignosticmorgan'sblog.blogspot.com
    http://carneades.blogspot.co
    I’ve many other blogs! Ah, sweet retirement!

  27. #27 Jesse Parrish
    March 18, 2011

    More tersely: Moral perfection necessitating a certain state of the universe makes that entire state necessary for moral perfection. If the non-existence of free will amounts to a contradiction with moral perfection, so too does the non-existence of suffering.

    It’s gibberish to say that suffering is some unfortunate by-product. God, if morally perfect, must will suffering as much as he wills free will or whatever other morally valuable item: unambiguously. (I note also that our assumptions here make free will another difficulty, but I’m willing to let it be as a placeholder for now.)

  28. #28 eric
    March 18, 2011

    Jess Parrish: We can switch, as you’ve done, to omnibenevolence, which is a descriptive term and therefore subjects a God to being in logical contradiction with the state of the universe: omnibenevolence is meaningless so long as the evidential problem of evil applies. (Hence why I disagree with you @21.) Instead, a different standard of necessary goods, like free will, must be supposed which God’s moral perfection requires him to fulfill.

    Isn’t this begging the question? You are taking an observation about the world and inferring from it what God must be like. To wit – He can’t be omnibenevolent given what we know, so He must be supposed to be about necessary goods.

    Now, there’s nothing wrong with that inference on its own. However, once you make it, you can’t then claim to have an argument for why the world is consistent with God’s nature, because that would be circular. You already assumed consistency as a premise.

  29. #29 Jesse Parrish
    March 18, 2011

    Eric,

    I wasn’t argument for why the world is consistent with God’s nature, only that God’s nature must be consistent with (his extent of involvement with) the world. I’m not attempting to argue for God’s existence. Rather, I’m attempting to limit the types of God which could exist based on evidential considerations, including evolutionary theory.

    The point I’m making – I am an atheist, by the way – is that yes, most believed forms of theism are not salvageable after the problem of evil, even if we limit ourselves to the logical version.

  30. #30 jkhkh
    March 20, 2011

    In order to put an end to the constantly arising question of “Evil” that baffles scientists, while fighting for the validity of the theory of evolution, they should probably resort to exclusively scientific methods in explaining “Evil”.

    When I take the scientific perspective, I presume that “Evil”, per se, as an entity does not exist, and this notion shouldn’t even circulate among the members of the scientific community. “Evil”, in scientific terms, should be just an abstract concept that SYMBOLIZES the impetus for committing crimes or their causes.

    Since there is no definite universal agreement on exactly which actions should be considered harmful and which should be qualified as benevolent, each person has a slightly different personal version of morality. Needless to say, each person’s tolerance level of other people’s actions is slightly different.

    Religious people believe that evil is created by Satan because the consequences of harmful actions cause such a tremendous devastation that the produced effects create an illusion as if some stronger external force pushes people to commit those harmful actions or “sins”, and it’s really hard to fight or impossible to resist.

    There are several reasons as to why people commit crimes:

    1. The acts they perpetuate seem absolutely normal to them. They might be either ignorant of the laws in the territory they are in, or the actions they commit seem wrong to the people, who experience them, for whatever reason.

    2. A person might be aware of the laws in a particular territory, but is forced to break them because they need to survive and have no other choice. In this case, it’s a matter of life and death.

    3. A person commits a crime because they are motivated by profit, and high living standards, therefore they break laws whenever possible in order to gain more profit. In this situation, the desire and hunger compulsions are the motivation behind these crimes.

    4. People commit crime because it brings them gratification. They view harming people as a form of entertainment. These type of crimes are driven by constant pleasure seeking….

    There are many other actions, each with its own reason behind it, and the religious icon Satan is just a SYMBOLIC representation of the facilitator, who provides the impetus for committing harmful and devastating actions.

    Scientifically speaking, the impetus is created within each person, when either an external or internal stimulus, or both, are present.

    Some people are prone to taking symbolism literally, and believe that it’s real and actually exists in a physical or some other form. It’s possible that their brain is formed differently, and that’s the only way they can perceive the reality, unless they really wish to switch to the scientific worldview.

    One should also keep in mind that the transition from one worldview to another, when somebody firmly adheres to one specific worldview, can be very traumatic. A great example is when scientifically minded people become religious.

  31. #31 dhgfkjh
    March 20, 2011

    Evil is an illusion created by the powerful effects produced as a result of a harmful and damaging action. It may be criminalised or not. Harmful actions may cause emotional and physical pain, which add to and exacerbate the illusion of evil.

    When a person stops causing harm, the illusion of evil associated with and attached to this person, vanishes.

    Furthermore, evil needs to be defined in terms of what actions should be considered harmful, and that create the illusion of the existence of evil.

    Sometimes, the same act can be viewed differently when performed in different circumstances, and the illusion of evil for the same act varies dramatically.

    Here is an example:

    Murder

    Situation 1.
    A man abducts a child and kills her.

    Situation 2.
    A woman has been physically and emotionally abused by her spouse. In order to prevent further abuse, she murders her spouse.

    I hope you see the difference.

  32. #32 Lenoxuss
    March 20, 2011

    The question of “What is evil?” is perfectly legitimate. However, it always comes coupled with the question “What is good?” Since most theists assert that God is good, they cannot answer the problem of evil by calling morality of one sort another subjective. In other words, you can’t say “We can’t judge God” if you also call God good, because that’s judging him too.

  33. #33 iweuruie
    March 20, 2011

    How do religious people answer the question of cruelty?
    Religious people are unbelievably cruel themselves, whether they realize it or not.

    Many religious laws and principles aim at making people “better”, but in order to achieve that, they have to literally brutalize themselves.

  34. #34 eriruo
    March 20, 2011

    “Dawkins, of course, only argued that the alternatives to natural selection that had been proposed over the years were not adequate to the task of producing complex adaptations.”

    Natural selection does not need alternatives. It’s one of the mechanisms that drives evolution.

    However, I do not understand why the theory of the “inheritance of the acquired characteristics”, as an additional mechanism, was discredited and excluded from the theory of evolution.

    If you take into account the current scientific discovery on alcoholism, scientists claim that alcoholism is a disease that can be inherited by an offspring and passed onto the next generation.

    How is this not an inheritance of an acquired characteritic?

    In order to be able to pass this disease onto an offspring, one should become an alcoholic first. Alcoholism must effect the DNA first, in order to cause a mutation to produce the inherited alcoholism disease, which gene will be inherited by the offspring. If the offspring starts consuming alcohol, they will be at the risk of developing alcoholism due to this inherited gene.

    I do not see how the mechanism of inheriting acquired characterictics cannot work together with the other mechanisms, such as random mutation, for instance, that drive evolution. Inheritance of the acquired characteristics is a mechanism which makes DNA mutate, which means that the environmental conditions exposed an organism to a certain stimulus that triggered the production of the mutation.

    Why does it always have to be one-sided? Organisms are effected by all factors, both internal and external.

    Another example is the inheritance of the predisposition towards musical intelligence and talents. A musical talent needs to be developed first in order to be passed on to the next generation.

  35. #35 flkgglk
    March 20, 2011

    “However, I do not understand why the theory of the “inheritance of the acquired characteristics”, as an additional mechanism, was discredited and excluded from the theory of evolution.”

    Considering the fact that certain factors in the environment can cause a genetic mutation, for instance, radiation that also produces visible physiological changes in an organism, by the same principle, any factor can cause a genetic mutation. That’s partly why each person’s abilities are different.

    Another great example of how mechanism of the inheritance of acquired characteristics works is the racial variation among humans.

    Based on the theory that asserts that modern humans emerged in Africa, and spread to other continents, it would be logical to conclude that the triggers in the environmental conditions, such as too little sunshine, snow, cold tempreture, sand winds, diet and so on, caused mutations in their DNA that were inherited through consequent generations to produce physical characteristics that define racial differentiation.

    If random mutation was the only mechanism that led to such differentiation, then early modern humans living in Africa could’ve evolved into modern Europeans and Asians on the territory of Africa, without ever leaving it. However, there is a correlation between environmental conditions and physical characteristics.

    If an organism is put under extremly high environmental and survival pressure, saltationism can occur to produce a mutation to create a new biological feature(s) or species.

    Just because the theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics and saltationism were developed more than a couple of centuries ago, it does not mean that they do not hold water. One of the reasons why they were discredited is because of the human tendency to substitute and replace existing theories with something new and different, especially, if it works to someone’s advantage.

  36. #36 flkgglk
    March 20, 2011

    “However, I do not understand why the theory of the “inheritance of the acquired characteristics”, as an additional mechanism, was discredited and excluded from the theory of evolution.”

    Considering the fact that certain factors in the environment can cause a genetic mutation, for instance, radiation that also produces visible physiological changes in an organism, by the same principle, any factor can cause a genetic mutation. That’s partly why each person’s abilities are different.

    Another great example of how mechanism of the inheritance of acquired characteristics works is the racial variation among humans.

    Based on the theory that asserts that modern humans emerged in Africa, and spread to other continents, it would be logical to conclude that the triggers in the environmental conditions, such as too little sunshine, snow, cold tempreture, sand winds, diet and so on, caused mutations in their DNA that were inherited through consequent generations to produce physical characteristics that define racial differentiation.

    If random mutation was the only mechanism that led to such differentiation, then early modern humans living in Africa could’ve evolved into modern Europeans and Asians on the territory of Africa, without ever leaving it. However, there is a correlation between environmental conditions and physical characteristics.

    If an organism is put under extremly high environmental and survival pressure, saltationism can occur to produce a mutation to create a new biological feature(s) or species.

    Just because the theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics and saltationism were developed more than a couple of centuries ago, it does not mean that they do not hold water. One of the reasons why they were discredited is because of the human tendency to substitute and replace existing theories with something new and different, especially, if it works to someone’s advantage.

  37. #37 Aj
    March 21, 2011

    The Golden Age Green Lantern’s ring’s weakness was wood, not the colour yellow. It was the Silver Age Green Lantern rings (through to the modern era) which couldn’t effect yellow objects.

    Comics aren’t like this theology bollocks – you don’t get to just make it up as you go along.

  38. #38 Juno Walker
    March 23, 2011

    @ Jason -

    I think Dembski has it wrong from the start:

    “…in short, we will fail to recognize the enormity of Christ’s suffering on the Cross to redeem us.”

    But, according to the Bible, Jesus IS God. Do theists really fail to understand this? If Jesus is God, then Jesus possesses everything God possesses – omniscience being the big one. So Jesus not only knew beforehand all the suffering He would go through, He knew that he would come out of it alright. And not only “alright”, but at the Right Hand of God the Father!

    Imagine a human being with this type of knowledge; let’s say you, Jason, knows beforehand that you will be persecuted and killed; what’s more, let’s say that you know that you will survive this. And what’s even MORE, you will not only survive it, you will be GLORIFIED for it!

    What I’m getting at is that this remarkable event Christians call Christ’s supreme “sacrifice”, the likes of which has never been encountered before in human history, or in the future of human history, or even in the entire history of the ENTIRE UNIVERSE, is a SHAM.

    There was never a possibility that Jesus could have succumbed to temptation and sinned – he’s God, he’s literally without sin. That’s the whole point of the vicarious sacrifice.

    There was never a possibility that Jesus wouldn’t have made it through the ordeal. There was never a possibility that Jesus would have been “stuck” in Hell during his three-day sojourn to the underworld. It’s a sham!

    Now, if the gospel writers would have portrayed Jesus as permanently giving up his divine privileges, permanently giving up his God-hood, and spending eternity in Hell – now THAT would have been a proper sacrifice for the sins of humanity. THAT would have had real meaning.

    Otherwise it’s just a sham. And Dembski’s argument is rendered senseless.

    Best,
    Juno

  39. #39 glhkj
    March 24, 2011

    @38

    “…in short, we will fail to recognize the enormity of Christ’s suffering on the Cross to redeem us.”

    But, according to the Bible, Jesus IS God. Do theists really fail to understand this? If Jesus is God, then Jesus possesses everything God possesses – omniscience being the big one. So Jesus not only knew beforehand all the suffering He would go through, He knew that he would come out of it alright. And not only “alright”, but at the Right Hand of God the Father!”
    …………………………..

    What Christians fail to realize is that killing God, for whatever reason, doesn’t make any sense at all.
    Why would people want to kill the creator, who created them?

    Furthermore, the way in which Jesus/God was killed – extremely cruel, brutal and saddistic, makes people look like a bunch of sick psychopathic murderers. It doesn’t make sense for humanity to commit a murder in order to become sinless.

    God is not supposed to suffer. Neither do people. People suffer because of other people. People create conditions for other people that make them suffer.

    I view Christ’s crucifixion as a test for humanity. People clearly demonstrated, what they are all about by killing God. If people can easily kill God, they will not stop at anything. People will kill anyone and commit any atrocity.

    If Christ’s story is true, then I simply hate him for “casting pearls before swine” by allowing swine to trample him into dirt.(That’s supposed to be his own metaphoric expression).

  40. #40 glhkj
    March 24, 2011

    @38

    “Imagine a human being with this type of knowledge; let’s say you, Jason, knows beforehand that you will be persecuted and killed; what’s more, let’s say that you know that you will survive this.”

    You don’t need to be God in order to predict such an outcome of Christ’s life and actions. It’s possible that he was simply paranoid about people trying to kill him because of the havoc he wreaked on the Roman Empire.

    One also has to take into account the fact that his story was modified and exagerated to produce the story most people are familiar with these days.

    Another thing is that there are so many different ways to look at his life. Christians chose to view his crucifixion as justification for the sins of humanity, which, to me, means that God must be killed by his own creations in order to take aways the sins of his own creations, and that’s the vision and perspective they impose on people.

    However, taking into account the intricacies of human nature, such as selfishness and desire to benefit only themselves, one can also interpret this perspective on part of Christians as mere justification of their unnecessary and wrongful murder of God.

    The only reason why I would want to kill God is not to take away the sins of his created scumbacks, but for creating those scumbacks, who have ruined my life. However, if God truely exists, then I would rather have him alive, then those who want to murder him.

  41. #41 hljkl
    March 24, 2011

    When Christians say that Christ died for OUR sins, who do they mean by US. Who is We, considering that people are so brutal to one another, and often times, don’t even want certain people to be around them.

  42. #42 mvnb
    March 24, 2011

    “When Christians say that Christ died for OUR sins, who do they mean by US. Who is We, considering that people are so brutal to one another, and often times, don’t even want certain people to be around them.”

    If the only way for humanity to unite is in the murder of God, then this type of humanity can go to hell, for all I know. But then again, who would want to be united with humanity!?

  43. #43 qytwre
    March 24, 2011

    What’s really amazing is that God, provided there is such a thing, could create such atrocity as humans. Jesus taught that “A good tree bears good fruit”, and you would think that an intelligent, kind and loving creator would “bear good fruit” as well, however, it does not seem to be the case. How hypocritical!

  44. #44 tay
    March 24, 2011

    “If the only way for humanity to unite is in the murder of God, then this type of humanity can go to hell, for all I know. But then again, who would want to be united with humanity!?”

    Right after killing God, people started killing everybody else, and committing the most heinous crimes and atrocities against one another. So what’s the whole point of morality, especially, if it’s taught by God, who people later kill with outmost disrespect, and then go and kill you too.

    How are you supposed to protect yourself from God’s creations? The creations, who can also easily kill God, who is supposed to protect you?

  45. #45 fdjkg
    March 24, 2011

    What if you are absolutely convinced that you were not created by God? Could that automatically disqualify you from being his “child”?

  46. #46 lkjlkj
    March 24, 2011

    What if you are absolutely convinced that you were not created by God? Could that automatically disqualify you from being his “child”?

    Every time I compare myself to other people, I start asking myself – how could God create them the way they are, and me the way I am. There is no way I and them were created by the same creator.

  47. #47 tiy
    March 24, 2011

    @37

    “Comics aren’t like this theology bollocks – you don’t get to just make it up as you go along.”

    But everything is made up. All the stuff that you’ve learned and that was dug into your head through constant repetition and the power of pursuasion is just someone’s else’s realization or opinion.

    By ridiculing the ideas that differ from the ideas you already have in your head, you merely defend the ideas of the people, who put them into your head first.

  48. #48 sghd
    March 24, 2011

    “Furthermore, the way in which Jesus/God was killed – extremely cruel, brutal and saddistic, makes people look like a bunch of sick psychopathic murderers.

    It doesn’t make sense for humanity to commit a murder in order to become sinless.”

    Even if it does make sense to Christians to brutally slaughter their own loving God, then what do you do with the cruelty aspect of this. How would you justify and explain it? Isn’t cruelty a sin in itself?

  49. #49 eorit
    March 25, 2011

    Another thing in Christianity that sounds absolutely bizare is the entire concept of Hell.

    The punishment for sin through eternal damnation in hell by far outweighs the severity of sin. But then again, sin is permitted, if you accept Jesus, and keep repenting after each time you commit it, meaning, according to Christians, you are going to heaven no matter what type of sin you commit.

    In some versions of Christianity, hell is portrayed as a place, where people are literally being subjected to never-ending fire or torture. Other versions suggest that there is a possibility of escaping hell through accepting Christ as your “savior”, who was ironically killed by the people, who are going to heaven for simply rejoicing in his death that vindicated their sins. Wow!

    Now, if you actually manage to escape hell, how does the torture that you experienced there, would have effected you? Is it supposed to have purified your soul? Torture to purify? But there is a lot of it is here on earth.

    This is what’s really bizare – why did God create humans in a way that only brutal torture can make them better? Isn’t that quite sick?

  50. #50 eorit
    March 25, 2011

    Another thing in Christianity that sounds absolutely bizare is the entire concept of Hell.

    The punishment for sin through eternal damnation in hell by far outweighs the severity of sin. But then again, sin is permitted, if you accept Jesus, and keep repenting after each time you commit it, meaning, according to Christians, you are going to heaven no matter what type of sin you commit.

    In some versions of Christianity, hell is portrayed as a place, where people are literally being subjected to never-ending fire or torture. Other versions suggest that there is a possibility of escaping hell through accepting Christ as your “savior”, who was ironically killed by the people, who are going to heaven for simply rejoicing in his death that vindicated their sins. Wow!

    Now, if you actually manage to escape hell, how does the torture that you experienced there, would have effected you? Is it supposed to have purified your soul? Torture to purify? But there is a lot of it is here on earth.

    This is what’s really bizare – why would God create humans in a way that only brutal torture can make them better? Isn’t that quite sick?

  51. #51 orjin krem
    March 25, 2011

    Furthermore, the way in which Jesus/God was killed – extremely cruel, brutal and saddistic, makes people look like a bunch of sick psychopathic murderers.

    It doesn’t make sense for humanity to commit a murder in order to become sinless.”

    Even if it does make sense to Christians to brutally slaughter their own loving God, then what do you do with the cruelty aspect of this. How would you justify and explain it? Isn’t cruelty a sin in itself?

  52. #52 oieur
    March 25, 2011

    “Even if it does make sense to Christians to brutally slaughter their own loving God, then what do you do with the cruelty aspect of this. How would you justify and explain it? Isn’t cruelty a sin in itself?”

    You just become as cruel as everybody else, and do to them exactly what they do to you. Be as cruel and saddistic as everybody else! They’ll actually start respecting you. This is not the kind of world, where you should expect kindness. This planet does not operate by these kind of principles. People here do not understand the language they do not speak. It’s all about torturing and brutalizing. Sorry, you should’ve thought twice, before being born.

  53. #53 vcxvc
    March 25, 2011

    “You just become as cruel as everybody else, and do to them exactly what they do to you. Be as cruel and saddistic as everybody else! They’ll actually start respecting you. This is not the kind of world, where you should expect kindness. This planet does not operate by these kind of principles. People here do not understand the language they do not speak. It’s all about torturing and brutalizing. Sorry, you should’ve thought twice, before being born.”

    People may get more technologically, economically and physically advanced, however, cruelty never goes away. It’s always been there and will be. People are designed to be cruel, either through evolution or something else. And it’s absolutely impossible to change. If there was God, he would literally have to redesign them, and make them easier to tolerate and be around. Cruelty is not a very pleasant aspect of human nature. It’s quite disturbing. But there is nothing you can do about it.

    People like being cruel because that’s what they are and it’s natural for them. You just have to leave them alone, and wait till you pass onto another world, if there is one, where people are designed or evolved differently, and where cruelty does not exist.

  54. #54 Lenar
    March 25, 2011

    “People like being cruel because that’s what they are and it’s natural for them. You just have to leave them alone, and wait till you pass onto another world, if there is one, where people are designed or evolved differently, and where cruelty does not exist.”

    Another problem is that if you try to stay away from people because you don’t want to undergo their cruel treatment, they start making you feel even worse about yourself by calling you a phychopath or something else that kind of forces you to be around them again in order to be able to survive. That’s why, sometimes, you just get stuck in the loop of cruelty.

    People, who have high tolerance towards cruelty are actually pretty lucky. Normally, people are so accustomed and immune to it because they are used to it. In some cases, they even like it. However, if you reach your cruelty tolerance threshhold, it becomes extremely difficult to be around people because they are constantly exhibiting emotional and mental cruelty by saying things that are intended to put you down and make you feel miserable about yourself, the things that would normally not bother you to the same extent. Not to mention, they judge everything you say and do, and then label you. And that’s disturbing as well.

    It’s hard to like cruelty and like being cruel. However, there is no other way. If people are constantly cruel towards you, and you are not, you’ll simply crack and kill yourself.

  55. #55 Tuw
    March 25, 2011

    People are willing to tolerate cruelty because of their values. Sometimes, men, for instance, are more likely to tolerate a cruel but very good-looking woman, than a nice and kind but unattractive woman, because good looks are more important to them. Plus, cruelty, in the case of good-looking women, complements their good looks and makes them even more attractive, in the eyes of those men.

    Some men get baffled, if a woman is nice and kind to them, and they actually find it boring and unsexy.

    It’s the same situation with some women versus cruel and super attractive men.

    And this is the mental and psychological makeup of humans, where cruelty is deeply interwoven in their existence, including competition for survival and reproductive success. All you can do is live with it, and learn how to tolerate it.

  56. #56 xcmn
    March 25, 2011

    If you study psycholody, you’ll see that human psychological makeup is extremely atrocious and disgusting. It actually provides more evidence to support evolution vs creationism, unless the creator is a complete shithead or a disturbed psychopath.

  57. #57 jkhhj
    March 25, 2011

    If I had as much money as all those good-looking celebrities, I would be just as good-looking as they are or even more so. But I don’t need either of that. There is no one out there to look good or bend over backwards for.
    I find their efforts laughable.

  58. #58 sdkj
    March 26, 2011

    “Dawkins, of course, only argued that the alternatives to natural selection that had been proposed over the years were not adequate to the task of producing complex adaptations.”

    I do not understand why evolutionists do not give enough credence to the mechanism of necessity and the mechanism of internal drive or, other words, simply wanting to evolve, as part of what drives evolution. Or is it too upsetting to a lot of people?

    For instance, if a certain organ is not used that means it’s no longer needed, and therefore gets atrophied, as in the case with amblyopsidae (cave fish without eyes). If this fish descended from ancestors that had eyes, then that can explain how the mechanism of necessity works to eliminate unnecessary features. By the same token, it can work reversely to produce the necessary or, perhaps, even desired features.

    Also, by simply wanting to evolve, a species, humans, for instance, can evolve certain abilities that humans never had before. When humans split from the common ancestor, they obviously did not have many of the abilities that modern humans currently possess, or, at least, to the same degree of excellence and accomplishment.

    Also, using the example of how prehistoric reptiles evolved adaptations that allowed them to take to the skies, one may conclude that either the environmental pressure or wanting to evolve or both can produce complex adaptations.

  59. #59 lkjlkj
    March 26, 2011

    What’s really puzzling about the whole concept of creationism is that the Creator, who is supposed to be absolutely perfect in every single way, could create humans so imperfectly. In the case of animals, it’s kind of conceivable because they do look, move, eat and perform other functions to a relatively high degree of perfection. However, they do destroy other species in order to feed on, and that doesn’t make sense.

    When it comes to humans, the concept of creationism becomes a joke. First of all, why doesn’t the creator become known to each and every person? Second of all, is the creator responsible for why humans are not only different intellectually, physically and psychologically, but they are being constantly rated against one another?

    One would think that a perfectly intelligent, talented, creative and capable entity as God would create perfectly designed humans. Rating people against one another causes a tremendous emotional, mental and physical devastation in some cases, and even, in the past, led to elimination. What is the creator’s problem?

    If his idea of perfection is diversity, where everyone is equally perfect in every single way despite differences, then why don’t his creations perceive perfection in the same kind of way? Why do humans always rate humans against one another when it comes to looks, skills, talents, abilities, intelligence level, financial level, physical strength, health and everything else to determine who’s better and who’s worse? If rating is part of God’s creation, then he’s not at all loving. He’s absolutely cruel, considering that rating brings a lot of pain to people.

  60. #60 ggfgf
    April 1, 2011

    A great loving and perfect Creator is supposed to create something great, and not monstrous.

    “A good tree bears good fruit.”

    Religion is useless when it comes to morality, therefore, it serves absolutely no purpose in creating livable environment and make people sin less. It’s all designed to make the believer feel better about themselves. If religion allows sin followed by repentence, then that would explain why religious people keep committing sin, and living on this planet is becoming more and more impossible. Add amoral atheists to that, who take advantage of the belief in God’s non-existence, and no enternal damnation – then pretty soon, you won’t be able to go outside ever.

  61. #61 iuyiy
    April 1, 2011

    If there was a religion or some world outlook that could help in making people less dangerous and harmful, by using the type of scare tactic that could scare people well enough to prevent crime, other than jail and execution, that would be something I would surely try to convince people in believing. For my own good. If, for instance, the punishment for sin was eternal damnation in hell, where repentence is irrelevant, and if you could convince people of the existence of such punishment for sin through presenting convicing evidence from real God, then, perhaps, it could somehow curb the monstrous human nature from manifesting itself in destructive and damaging ways.

    However, it’s really sad that humans only respond to scare tactics, and not kindness, in order to stop themselves from causing harm. If God’s behind creationism, then it is truely terrible that that’s the way he created and programmed his creations.

    Jesus, whoever he was, tried to use the kindness tactic to fight “evil”, but, unfortunately, did not get the same kind of response from humans. Not only that, they viewed his crucifixion as something great. When you compare Jesus to people, it’s really hard to believe that he was actually the one, who created them. I don’t understand how anyone would want to take the responsibility for such creation.

  62. #62 sailor1031
    April 10, 2011

    Referring to the problem of evil, yet again, this isn’t necessarily a problem for a god, or a satan. Humans are quite evil enough without outside agency. As for natural disasters it’s possible that a god gave humans brains with enough intelligence to choose not to live in areas plagued by earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruption, mudslides, bushfires etc etc….
    Seems to me though that, rather than go through all these fantastic mental gyrations of philosophy and theology, of creating a vision of some god and then explaining at length why it is correct or not, it’s time to apply Occam’s razor. What’s the simplest explanation that fits the known facts? There is no such god. See? Simple!

  63. #63 Mark Fournier
    April 10, 2011

    What struck me as odd about the original article is that Ruse does not seem aware of Aquinas` claim that God must be perfectly free. If He is limited by anything, than that thing would be greater than God, and nothing can be greater than God. So God can only be limited by a law that He chooses to create, and the nature of that law would be entirely of His own design and freely chosen, which, again, makes everything God`s fault. If there is a law which constrains God, God is not a necessary cause but an extraneous entity, and you might as well drop Him. Ruse`s argument is one of the worst arguments for theodicy I`ve ever seen.

  64. #64 David Kennedy
    September 1, 2011

    I would say the problem is you are all putting forth a helluva lot of conjecture about what a god can and can’t do.

    I understand that’s the nature of philosophy.. and how us humans sort these things out (or at least try), but it all hinges on apparent ‘difficulties’ that WE have with the view of god. We are placing restrictions on this being.. or saying with our small minds, like we so often do, “If I were God I wouldn’t do X, cause it doesn’t make sense to me.”

    God wouldn’t have these hangups that we ascribe to him..

    It would be necessary to see the full picture to judge what ‘benevolence’ really is. You cannot observe a small segment of a movie, for example, and determine whether one action a character makes is ‘good’ or ‘evil’. Not only are omnipotence and ‘omnibenevolence’ not contradictory – they can only exist in one duality. I cannot be a truly just judge without knowing every single bit of the story, and just one small bit of evidence that was overlooked could change the verdict. You cannot make truly ‘good’ choices without knowing all possible outcomes.

    But back to the original point. This page is full of “God would not allow evil.. cause I can’t reconcile it” or “God would not make people imperfect.. if he’s perfect” or “God would not allow pain in the world if he’s all loving”..

    Though it’s perfectly fine to speculate – it’s ridiculously egotistical to think you would know.

    And as for the view that a world which contains evil and a life filled with pain would not be worth everlasting happiness – really? Even an idiot knows this is not true.. I know the idiot’s know this.. because I’ve read their shirts, they say “Pain is temporary, Pride is forever”.

    It’s a simple enough equation. A tiny segment of time full of abysmal treatment – leading to infinite happiness. I think it’s clearly worth it, and so would you if you weren’t simply being difficult.

    But once again, back to the question of whether evil and pain proves god is not all loving.. because after all, if he’s all powerful he could have avoided that. How do you know a life with no pain is better? How do you know a life without these things is somehow superior? The guys with those shirts I spoke of that say “pain is temporary, pride is forever”, I imagine they would understand that if working out was painless and took no effort, something would be lost, something major. Though I’m sure you would all have a difficult time with this, I have no difficulty seeing this as the best of all possible worlds – for this stage of the game. The next one is even better.. but you wouldn’t want to miss out on this one, the one where pain exists, and go straight to endless nirvana. It would be like just choosing to be musclebound and being so, it would have no pride, no accomplishment.

    And as far as those who experience horrible lives with no pleasure in them at all, there’s no way to know if they are not compensated in a way that balances out the pain of the blink of an eye that our lives are.

  65. #65 David Kennedy
    September 1, 2011

    Wanted to also say..

    Ever notice how evolution shows the tremendous number of offshoots in the lineage of man?

    And we’re all that remain.. what a coincidence! In the great battle of survival of the fittest.. and with the near endless variety of species that have survived on this earth.. only one man-like variety made it. Funny how we were all so similar.. only slight differences really, even with similar brain sizes for the time. Matter of fact, completely identical minus the one morphological change that separated that one line from the next. But yet, only one remains. We have a wide variety of birds.. they made it. We have a wide variety of apes even… they made it. But, unfortunately, only one line of humans. It’s amazing and boggles the mind the sheer chances of it all!

    Or.. maybe it’s more logical to realize – there’s always only been one line of humans – us.

    Guess it depends on what you are willing to believe.

  66. #66 Wow
    September 1, 2011

    “We have a wide variety of apes even… they made it. But, unfortunately, only one line of humans.”

    Humans ARE apes.

    And ones particularly UNSUITED to living in trees.

    I guess it depends on whether you think you’re special. In your case, “special needs”.

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