In this post over at HuffPo, Rabbi Adam Jacobs serves up one of the standard replies to the problem of evil. After recounting a harrowing story of having to subject his 16 month old son to a difficult medical procedure, he writes:

I have found this story to be helpful for explaining to people the nature of suffering. In truth, our ability to perceive what is happening around us is extremely limited; as Thomas Edison once said, “We do not know one millionth of one percent about anything.” With such limited and flawed faculties, how can we rightly expect to have any more perspective about the nature of that which is occurring to us than a 1-year-old child does about the necessity of a surgical procedure? We cannot.

This view is known as skeptical theism. In Among the Creationists I use the example of taking my cat to the vet to illustrate the same idea. My cat is incapable in principle of understanding why I inflict such misery on her. But I do it anyway, because my understanding of her situation is far greater than her own.

Alas, this response to the problem of evil is very unpersuasive. It is not so much a resolution to the problem as it is an admission that we have no decent reply. It is based on the dubious idea that our understanding of our own situation is so poor and confused that what we perceive as horrible suffering is actually in some way for the good.

Granting this as an acceptable reply, how can we then ever have a sensible conversation about morality? If we see so dimly and understand so poorly, then why should we trust our moral intuitions about anything? If horrors like the holocaust, or a tsunami that kills hundreds of thousands of people, find their justifications in obscure realities known only to God, then why should we believe we understand anything at all about what is right and wrong?

The problem of evil is the most obvious and serious challenge to belief in God, which is why religious scholars have devoted so much effort to defusing it. Their failure has been so complete that a desperation move like skeptical theism has become very popular. As theologian John Haught put it in an impressively candid moment in his book God After Darwin:

There is, I think, no easy answer to the problem of suffering. It is an open sore that theology can never pretend to heal. Inevitably, all theodicies fail.

If only all theological writing were so clear and blunt! Haught, of course, is completely correct.

The problem, though, is that theologians routinely do pretend that they have healed it, and that brings me to the title of this post. The specific arguments they make, such as the free will defense or an appeal to our redemption in the next life, just flat don’t work. Worse, they make religious folks just seem foolish and callous.

Looking at it from a religious perspective, a far better, and more honest, response is to forthrightly admit it as a genuine, unsolved problem, but to argue that it is not enough to shake their faith. Scientists do not abandon a successful theory over a few small anomalies in the data, they could argue, and their belief in God is similar. For them, there are so many aspects of the world and of their experience of it that is rendered comprehensible by believing in God that one anomaly in the data, seemingly gratuitous evil and suffering in this case, is not enough for them to abandon their belief. It is not as though atheists have snappy answers to every existential question. We are stuck with a healthy dollop of mystery regardless of our worldview.

Obviously that won’t convince an atheist like me. But it’s an honest reply that does not trivialize the problem.

Whenever I read high-brow essays on the problem of evil, I am always reminded of an old Saturday Night Live. Joe Montegna plays a guest on a radio call-in show. He is trying to attract tourists to New York City, despite the high crime rate and other problems. At one point he says something like:

You have to remember, for every one person who is brutally beaten and robbed, three people visit the Museum of Modern Art!

It’s no worse a reply than what the theologians trot out.

Comments

  1. #1 Paul King
    August 1, 2012

    I think that there is a bigger problem with the answer. If you had an equally-good alternative to taking your cat to the vet that would involve less suffering for your cat you’d take it.

    The skeptical theist must therefore assume that there is no equally-good alternative which would involve less suffering available to God. But God is supposed to be infinitely powerful, so this assumption is highly questionable.

    It seems to me then, that all the skeptical theist can say is that the argument falls short of an absolute logical proof..

  2. #2 MNb
    August 1, 2012

    Basically this is what Kierkegaard wrote almost 200 years ago, so theologians haven’t really made any progress since then. As for me, already at the age of 13 I rejected christianity because of the theodicy, even if I didn’t know yet what that meant back then.
    At the other hand in my experience – I live in a religious community – the common believer indeed has an attitude of “it is not enough to shake their faith”, ie they believe despite. Indeed I have concluded that that is the only honest way to believe. I can’t share it, but I can respect it.
    For the sake of clarity: in the remote, religious village I live about everybody knows that I’m an atheist and nobody has a problem with it.

  3. #3 FTFKDad
    August 1, 2012

    Perhaps the Rabbi’s explanation would make sense if everyone was treated similarly – if we all were inflicted with misery and suffering. All (ok, most) children are “inflcted” with the misery and suffering of vaccination shots when they are babies, because we want to give the same protection and benefits to all of them. So if misery and suffering can be justified for some, why not for everyone?

  4. #4 Wow
    August 1, 2012

    Because we aren’t god, buckthetrend

  5. #5 eric
    August 1, 2012

    FTFK, I make a similar argument: the only ‘necessary’ suffering is the amount suffered by the least-suffering person on the planet. As long as there is one person who lives a long healthy life without serious want or need, who doesn’t experience an untimely loss of loved ones, etc… then there is absolutely no reason all of us couldn’t have that life. Its clearly possible. Nor is ‘we only see dimly’ work as defense, because we see THAT solution to the problem of suffering just fine.

    We are not, IOW, ignorantly asking our owner why we must be taken to the vet. We are very reasonably asking why we must be taken to the vet every single day when that cat over there goes in once per year.

  6. #6 Ian Kemmish
    August 1, 2012

    The old Testament is full of people who get punished for presuming to decide what’s good or what’s not, and other people who get rewarded for doing what they’re told without question.

    The Fall is the obvious example of the first. For the second, Jacob was a psychopath who raped women, mutilated his enemies, reneged on treaties and even tortured his own brother, yet look how richly he was rewarded.

    It’s not an aesthetically pleasing answer if you’re not a member of the Abrahamic faith, but then, it’s not meant to be….

  7. #7 couchloc
    August 1, 2012

    Jason,

    It would be interesting to here a response to your thesis from someone who works in the area. Why don’t you go ask Dr. Mark Piper in the Philosophy Department over there to write a guest post on skeptical theism (which he’s written on). It would make for an interesting discussion, since this issue has long been discussed by philosophers. I think there are other problems with skeptical theism than the issue of morality you mention.

    http://www.jmu.edu/philrel/phil/piper.html

  8. #8 Wow
    August 1, 2012

    Surely the only reasonable reply to the problem of evil is to say “Go away, evil!”?

  9. #9 eric
    August 1, 2012

    I think we just had a classic example of unnecessary evil show up on this site at 10:56 am.

    Or maybe I am just not smart enough to see how spam advertising is secretly enriching all our lives. Can we find a theologian out there who will defend it?

  10. #10 James Sweet
    August 1, 2012

    I think you are right, but I think the reason this answer is unpopular is because this seems such a crucial data point. The Problem of Evil is a “rabbits in the pre-Cambrian” caliber problem for theistic explanations of the universe.

    To extend the analogy to potential problems with evolution, it is one thing if we find, let’s say, some apparent evidence from molecular biology which seems to suggest time scales that are all wrong for a particular lineage. We say, “This can’t be right… but there is so much other supporting data, it must just be that some of our supporting assumptions here are wrong.” It’s another thing entirely if paleontologists were consistently finding anatomically-modern rabbit fossils in pre-Cambrian rocks. That cannot be so easily hand-waved, and if it were true, ought to cause us to seriously question the entire theory.

    So it is with the Problem of Evil, in particular natural evil. It is one thing to, say, point out an apparent contradiction in God’s commandments to humans. It is another entirely to hand-wave a supposedly loving omnipotent god allowing a tsunami to kill hundreds of thousands of people.

  11. #11 Raging Bee
    August 1, 2012

    With such limited and flawed faculties, how can we rightly expect to have any more perspective about the nature of that which is occurring to us than a 1-year-old child does about the necessity of a surgical procedure? We cannot.

    WHAT A PATRONIZING HYPOCRITICAL ASSHOLE! This isn’t an argument or insight, it’s nothing but “Sky-Daddy knows best, don’t ever question Sky-Daddy, no one is ever allowed to question the status quo, so shut up!”

    Seriously, in all fairness I have to ask whether this BS is really the most intelligent and honest description of the probelm of evil that’s available. Is there no one better you can quote?

  12. #12 J. Quinton
    August 1, 2012

    The problem is that no theologian takes ST seriously. As in, none of them put it into practice. A true ST practitioner should be paralyzed with indecision if he saw someone attempting to rape his wife, or seeing a child getting attacked by wild dogs. What if those events are for some “greater good”? With our limited faculties, how can we know that having your wife get raped might actually lead to the cure for cancer? No, like any normal person, they would spring into action to prevent such horrible fates.

  13. #13 Wow
    August 1, 2012

    As far as I’m concerned, the only way God can be reconciled with the universe as it is is if that God doesn’t give us anything other than consequences.

  14. #14 Raging Bee
    August 1, 2012

    The problem of evil is the most obvious and serious challenge to belief in God…

    It’s only a challenge to the kind of lilywhite, sterile, childlike ideas of God as a purely benevolent sky-parent who makes everything perfect for everyone who asks nicely. Not all gods are like that — if you worshipped Odin, for example, none of this would be a problem because it’s understood that Odin was never described as a kiss-the-boo-boo-better kind of sky-daddy.

    No, the most serious challenge is, and has always been, that there’s never any proof that any gods really exist in any form other than scare-stories to serve the interests of bigots, loonies and con-artists. If any of our gods were to prove their existence, the “problem of evil” would be nothing more than a grumpy whinge.

  15. #15 Raging Bee
    August 1, 2012

    Here’s my answer to all this: the Creator-God (if he exists more or less as we tend to imagine him) cares for humans in much the same way as we care for a less-intelligent endangered animal species. We allow the weakest animals to die so that the strongest survive to make the species stronger; we allow the males to fight over mates so the strongest can reproduce; and we allow them to fend for themselves so they won’t lose the ability to do so. All of this means individuals suffer so the species is enhanced.

    Of course, the problem with that explanation is that it makes God and his moties comprehensible to humans; and that’s something the authoritarian obscurantists and crap-artists can never abide. Which is, I suppose, why they fall back on such utter nonsense and bulldada as we see here — better to keep everything a Big Mystery so no one will even be able to ask a coherent question. What sort of cult-leader can handle a God who makes sense?

  16. #16 eric
    August 1, 2012

    the Creator-God (if he exists more or less as we tend to imagine him) cares for humans in much the same way as we care for a less-intelligent endangered animal species.

    Now that you mention it, He does occasionally cull the herd.

  17. #17 RBH
    pandasthumb.org
    August 1, 2012

    Jason wrote Looking at it from a religious perspective, a far better, and more honest, response is to forthrightly admit it as a genuine, unsolved problem, but to argue that it is not enough to shake their faith. Scientists do not abandon a successful theory over a few small anomalies in the data, they could argue, and their belief in God is similar.

    Except that the existence of evil, and the redemption that Christians claim Jesus brought, is absolutely central to Christian theology. Without evil in the form of original sin, Christianity is eviscerated, irrelevant. In other words, the empirical existence of evil is far from a small anomaly for Christian theology. The problem of the existence of evil for Christian theologians is on the close order of importance as the equivalence of matter and energy is for physics.

  18. #18 Jason Rosenhouse
    Harrisonburg, VA
    August 1, 2012

    RBH —

    That’s a good point, but I don’t think it really affects my argument. I am suggesting that a Christian could reasonably say, “For reasons we don’t understand, it is a necessary part of God’s plan that moral and natural evil be an integral part of the created order. It is very puzzling, but it’s not for us to understand all the details of God’s plan. What we do know is that He has made it possible for us to achieve redemption in the next life, and that is what is important for us to understand.”

    This would be a considerably improvement over standard arguments that, say, moral evil is the price we must pay for free will, and natural evil is the price we must pay to have functioning, comprehensible, natural world to inhabit. Those are the sorts of arguments I am describing as wholly ineffective.

    Also, my position is different from skeptical theism in that the latter says not simply that we don’t know why God allows evil, but that we should not even expect to understand such a thing, on account of our limited, finite perspective being comparable to that one a 1-year old child.

  19. #19 John D
    http://philosophicaldisquisitions.blogspot.com
    August 1, 2012

    The suggestion you offer is, as I read it, one of the central theses of Graham Oppy’s (an atheist) book Arguing About Gods. Indeed, he argues that the believer can adopt this strategy in response to any number of atheological arguments, including the problem of evil. It also appears to be the preferred strategy of Nick Trakakis, who has written possibly the best defence of the evidential argument from evil but, last time I heard, remained a tentative theist. I don’t think he mentions it in his book, but he did on an interview on Luke Muelhauser’s now defunct podcast Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot.

    I know it’s not really your main point, but it might be worth noting that some theists have offered recent critiques of the parent (or cat!) analogy that is used to support sceptical theism. I discuss this at length at the following link if anyone’s interested:

    http://philosophicaldisquisitions.blogspot.ie/2012/06/dougherty-on-parent-analogy-and.html

  20. #20 RBH
    pandasthumb.org
    August 1, 2012

    Speaking of the problem of evil, see this atheist’s comment (scroll down to the first comment) on a pastor’s ruminations on Aurora. The intro:

    Dear Christians:

    God here. I thought I would take the time to personally explain my absence in the Aurora shootings. While I was at it, I thought I would also explain my absence during every murder, massacre and crime that has ever taken place in World history, and in every war, in every famine, drought and flood.

  21. #21 MNb
    August 1, 2012

    “This would be a considerable improvement over standard arguments”
    If a believer would use this “improved” argument when arguing that the Earth is only 6000 years old (“we don’t understand why it looks like the Earth is so much older”), would you call it “a considerable improvement”? If no, then why do you when applied to the “god and evil” problem?
    Smells way too much like a double standard to me.

  22. #22 Raging Bee
    Here
    August 1, 2012

    Without evil in the form of original sin, Christianity is eviscerated, irrelevant.

    Maybe — but Christians have a huge range of interpretations of what “Original Sin” means.

  23. #23 eric
    August 1, 2012

    I am suggesting that a Christian could reasonably say, “For reasons we don’t understand, it is a necessary part of God’s plan that moral and natural evil be an integral part of the created order.

    Its still no good because we can still compare the suffering of individuals, and ask why some suffer far more than others.

    Clearly, the theologically necessary amount of suffering can’t be more than the least amount suffered by any one human. Otherwise we get the nonsequitur of some humans suffering less than the metaphysically required amount!

  24. #24 Jim Harrison
    August 1, 2012

    None of this would present any problems for a pagan or a (very) old Jew. God may have created heaven and earth and mankind to boot but that doesn’t mean that he’s a good guy or doesn’t get ticked off at us for reasons that would be petty in a human being.

    It’s pretty hard to believe that there is an immaterial person who is pulling the strings behind the scene; but that’s nothing to the implausibility of the idea that human beings are so special, so cosmically important that looking after them is a defining characteristic of the God almighty. With enough grog in me, I guess I can understand the appeal of the theism of Christianity; but there isn’t enough booze in the cosmos to make sense of the humanism of Christianity, the sheer vanity inherent in the concept of the incarnation.

  25. #25 gary walker
    reno, nv
    August 2, 2012

    Wasn’t eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil what got adam and eve “kicked” out of the garden according to christian “mythology”? Reason will never overcome the opposing dilemmas inherent in existence. Once you have awareness and have “woken” up to the realization of the situation inherent in “creation” it is too late to …uh… put the genie back in the bottle. Reason can find solutions… but the nature of life morphs these solutions into different problems.

  26. #26 gary walker
    reno, nv
    August 2, 2012

    … furthermore… the world is “fallen”…i.e. not perfect. So how do christian, theists and evolutionists “fix it”? At any rate, their fixes are temporary dams on a longstanding dilemma… throw their hands up in dismay, appeal to a higher power, use their reason to fix the problems. We in our “reasonable” nature strive towards a reasoned solution that effects only marginal success…(i.e. imperfection still exists.) and then blame the other “nonbelievers for impeding our progress” (nonbelievers in the ultimate scientific method as well as believers in the …er…more theistic approach). the “problem” will still exist. lol

  27. #27 Scarlet A
    Copenhagen, DK
    August 2, 2012

    I can respect skeptical theism in some forms, certainly in the form that John Haught presents it – “I don’t know why there’s evil, but I choose to believe (blindly) that it exists for a good reason, even if I am unable to understand it”. The parent analogy does, however, bother me. It plays on the fact that we DO know that the medical procedure is a necessary evil, and that a loving caretaker would never unnecessarily harm a child. But to be completely true to skeptical theism you need to truely put yourself in the shoes of the the child – you have no idea whether you are being subjected to a painful – but lifesaving – procedure, or whether you are being subjected to the whims of a cruel, sadistic and needless evil, like, say, ritual genital mutilation. By using the image of the parent we are lending credence to the view of God as a benevolent caretaker, even though we really have no idea whether or not He is just a sadistic monster that enjoys watching children suffer.

  28. #28 Wow
    August 2, 2012

    I don’t, Scarlet.

    The really basic definition of faith is “I believe there is a God”. That’s all. Being nice? Not on the list. Having a plan? Not on the list. Omniescent? Not on the list.

    I could accept someone who says that the presence of evil has nothing to do with their faith in the existence of a god.

    But that really turns into a deist. And they are very thin on the ground, if only because the active theists still count them as “religious” when baiting atheists and pretending that the atheist is a minor minority.

  29. #29 Truth to Power
    August 2, 2012

    There is suffering because we live in a fallen world.
    http://www.wakingfromslumber.com/2010/02/painful-delusion.html

    Atheism must confront far more than a “healthy dollop” of mystery. Non-believers are the ones with great faith.
    http://www.wakingfromslumber.com/2012/07/feeding-idols.html

  30. #30 Wow
    August 2, 2012

    “Atheism must confront far more than a “healthy dollop” of mystery.”

    Well, yes. Because they don’t let a fake answer do in stead of a real answer.

  31. #31 eric
    August 2, 2012

    The parent analogy does, however, bother me.

    It should bother any parent, or anyone who has had experience with sick children. One of the things loving parents do is try and relieve the kids’ stress by hugging them, being close to them, and trying to explain why they are doing the paniful thing they are doing. Does that sound like God?

    A 5-year-old may not really understand why he needs to go to the hospital, but if his parents are at all loving, they have sat him down, looked him in the eye, and tried to explain it to him. So if some theologian is going to analogize adult humans to 5-year-olds, its fair to ask why our analogous parent hasn’t tried, in person to explain the necessity of suffering to us.

  32. #32 Verbose Stoic
    August 2, 2012

    One of the issues with the “Problem of Evil” that’s in full force here is that we’ve shifted the debate and ended up with an underlying assumption that is not safe, but which the problem relies on. The original question was indeed about how a good God could allow there to be Evil, and it was unquestionnable that evil — particularly, in the form of evil people — existed, and so we had a genuine serious problem. However, philosophical progress showed that there wasn’t actually a THING evil, but that evil was more a description, and so that if there does not really exist a thing called “evil” then what we had were, say, immoral people. And then free will explains why God might have to allow there to be people who choose to do immoral things and have those things have consequences. With that not being a particularly strong argument anymore, the argument has shifted to a “Problem of Suffering” argument, where it is assumed that allowing suffering that God could prevent is immoral and/or evil, rebuilding the “Problem of Evil”.

    The problem is that philosophically this is a very unsafe move. Only hedonist philosophical systems tie allowing or even causing suffering that tightly to morality. Kantians reject this strongly, and the Stoics don’t consider suffering to have any relevance to moral decisions. So we have a number of potentially correct moral systems that reject that very move.

    Even inside hedonism, about the only moral view that can carry the weight of this problem is Utilitarianism, but that moral code judges the rightness of an action across all possible consequences. Since God clearly knows more about the infinite consequences of these sorts of actions than we do — being omniscient by definition — then His judgement of the outcomes is just so much more informed, and so He would be in position to know if allowing that suffering would cause more utility than if it was not allowed. So then under the principles of Utilitarianism it’s hard to determine if this is really immoral or not, and taking almost either side becomes “a matter of faith”. If you think God exists and has those properties, then you really ought to believe that the utility works out and if you don’t you probably won’t.

    Add in that an omniscient God would indeed know what the right moral code is whereas we are still arguing over it, and we get even more issues. It’s useful to think about how strong the “Problem of Suffering” looks if we think that God is a Utilitarian, or a Stoic, or a Kantian, or an Aristotlean, or an Objectivist, or any number of other moral systems that might turn out to be the right one.

    This does not mean that the “Problem of Suffering” is not actually a problem. It just means that we need to do a lot of work in other areas before we can see if it is actually a problem.

    As for this:

    Granting this as an acceptable reply, how can we then ever have a sensible conversation about morality? If we see so dimly and understand so poorly, then why should we trust our moral intuitions about anything? If horrors like the holocaust, or a tsunami that kills hundreds of thousands of people, find their justifications in obscure realities known only to God, then why should we believe we understand anything at all about what is right and wrong?

    Under almost any moral system, one cannot be judged on the basis of knowledge that they do not have and cannot have. For the Utilitarian case here, that God knows more about the overall outcome does not mean that we have to act differently, since we don’t have that knowledge. It’s only if you hold a very strict consequentialist view that says that it’s only the outcomes that matter no matter whether or not you could be expected to know or have any real control over those outcomes that this becomes a problem, and that sort of absurdity is why I reject that form of consquentialism and am an intentionalist.

  33. #33 Wow
    August 2, 2012

    “However, philosophical progress showed that there wasn’t actually a THING evil”

    There is no need for there to be a THING evil.

    Evil exists just like honesty, love, sorrow and anger.

  34. #34 Dan L.
    August 2, 2012

    The problem is that philosophically this is a very unsafe move. Only hedonist philosophical systems tie allowing or even causing suffering that tightly to morality. Kantians reject this strongly, and the Stoics don’t consider suffering to have any relevance to moral decisions. So we have a number of potentially correct moral systems that reject that very move.

    Ignoring the psychological and neurological research that suggest that morality has nothing to do with “moral systems”, I think you’re still missing something here.

    “Suffering” is not directly tied to morality under atheism because much suffering is caused by natural forces, not by moral agents. But under theism, all natural forces are under the direct supervision of a moral agent.

    It’s only if you hold a very strict consequentialist view that says that it’s only the outcomes that matter no matter whether or not you could be expected to know or have any real control over those outcomes that this becomes a problem, and that sort of absurdity is why I reject that form of consquentialism and am an intentionalist.

    Another way to say that is “we should all behave morally as though God does not exist.”

  35. #35 random commenter
    August 2, 2012

    If God is ALL-GOOD, then he is the ONE and ONLY ROLEMODEL which you should follow. Which means, if he doesn’t intervene when ppl do terrible things, then neither shall we. Otherwise, if intervening is GOOD, then God can’t possibly be ALL-GOOD if he doesn’t intervene.

  36. #36 Dan L.
    August 2, 2012

    Only hedonist philosophical systems tie allowing or even causing suffering that tightly to morality.

    Wait, I just realized how bizarre VS’s argument actually is.

    VS, is punching someone in the face for no reason immoral? Why or why not?

  37. #37 Verbose Stoic
    http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com
    August 2, 2012

    Dan L.,

    Ignoring the psychological and neurological research that suggest that morality has nothing to do with “moral systems”, I think you’re still missing something here.

    For the “Problem of Evil”, we need the philosophical usage of morality, meaning what is indeed the right and proper and normative set of moral standards, if such exist. What people THINK is moral does not, in fact, mean that that just IS what is moral, and the problem relies on us, in fact, having the right morality so that we can indeed say that a good being would not allow suffering.

    “Suffering” is not directly tied to morality under atheism because much suffering is caused by natural forces, not by moral agents. But under theism, all natural forces are under the direct supervision of a moral agent.

    This is covered by the commonly accepted fact that only moral agents can be evaluated for morality. The argument is that God is indeed a moral agent and so can be held accountable for his intentional actions, which would include NOT intervening in cases where He could stop suffering or even contriving to bring it about directly, thus indeed turning it into that sort of situation. As I said, if you do not believe that God exists yes there isn’t even a question for you — as you don’t think there’s any intentional action involved here — but recall that the “Problem of Evil” is quite often cited by atheists as, well, a problem for theists. For that to be the case, they must accept for the sake of argument the moral agency of God — ie that if God exists then God is a moral agent — and also must base moral judgement at least in part on the suffering caused or not prevented. Otherwise, the argument won’t even get off the ground.

    Another way to say that is “we should all behave morally as though God does not exist.”

    That seems to have absolutely nothing to do with what I said. Care to go over why you think that’s a good translation of what I said?

  38. #38 random commenter
    August 2, 2012

    Not sure how clear that came out…

    My point is that whatever an all-good being does, must be good. Therfor if a child is starving to death and that being does nothing. Then doing nothing must be good.

  39. #39 Verbose Stoic
    August 2, 2012

    Dan L.,

    Wait, I just realized how bizarre VS’s argument actually is.

    VS, is punching someone in the face for no reason immoral? Why or why not?

    Well, let me turn it around on you: do you think it the case that the only possible reason to consider it immoral is that it hurts them, and so that if they didn’t feel any pain or even receive any damage that it would then become moral?

    My whole argument is that it isn’t clear that using “it causes suffering” as an absolute or even critical measure for moral goodness or badness is the right one. Under an Egoistic view, for example, it probably wouldn’t be immoral unless it didn’t serve your interests, which might be “for no reason”. In fact, stipulating “for no reason” basically eliminates all possible moral systems, since they still insist you have reasons for doing what you do. Again, though, the key is that it being immoral because it causes suffering isn’t the only game in town, but the “Problem of Suffering” RELIES on it being the only game in town. For the most part, anyway.

  40. #40 Blaine
    August 2, 2012

    Of course, if you’re not a theist, there is no ‘problem of evil’.

    But you said: “It is not as though atheists have snappy answers to every existential question. We are stuck with a healthy dollop of mystery regardless of our worldview.”

    What are these mysteries? Sounds like you’re a crypto-theist yourself. Just because humans can ask silly questions about why they woke up and found themselves in a world does not mean there are any answers. There are no snappy answers because there are no answers. As my old math professor used to say, there are no dumb questions, but there are dummies who ask questions.

  41. #41 Wow
    August 2, 2012

    “Then doing nothing must be good.”

    And since leaving a child to starve is not good, we know that such a being who does that is not good. Therefore no such all-good being exists.

    Which is the problem of evil in a nutshell.

  42. #42 Verbose Stoic
    August 2, 2012

    random commenter,

    If God is ALL-GOOD, then he is the ONE and ONLY ROLEMODEL which you should follow. Which means, if he doesn’t intervene when ppl do terrible things, then neither shall we. Otherwise, if intervening is GOOD, then God can’t possibly be ALL-GOOD if he doesn’t intervene.

    This is only if you take the strong stance that circumstances don’t matter in determining what is or isn’t moral, which is absolutely absurd. The impact of it being an obligation for God versus being an obligation for us is completely different, and so it may well be the case that God doesn’t have obligations we do and that we have obligations He doesn’t. For example, I’m obligated to go into work and finish my bugs, but my father isn’t.

    In this case, we can see that the consequences of an omnipotent being stopping suffering when He could would mean that there could be no suffering or, in fact, choice to cause it, while for us that isn’t really a risk. If there is value to having ANY suffering, God would have an obligation to NOT intervene except in very specific cases, while we would have an obligation to intervene whenever we could.

  43. #43 Dan L.
    August 2, 2012

    For the “Problem of Evil”, we need the philosophical usage of morality, meaning what is indeed the right and proper and normative set of moral standards, if such exist.

    But I don’t believe that morality is a “right and proper and normative set of moral standards” in the first place. I’m saying you have the nature of morality all wrong. “Assuming a duck is a turtle…” OK, but a duck isn’t a turtle. That’s irrelevant, since I said “ignoring the fact that…”

    That seems to have absolutely nothing to do with what I said. Care to go over why you think that’s a good translation of what I said?

    Sure. It’s really simple actually. Given that the moral consequences of any action from God’s point of view are far beyond our ken, and given that we cannot be held accountable for our relative ignorance, we should simply try to ignore the difference between what we feel is right in the moment and what God may hypothetically know about the situation. We shouldn’t second-guess our moral sense. We can’t know that Biblical morality is really given by God (if we’re truly being skeptical) so we should ignore the Bible too where it disagrees with our moral sense. If there’s no way to know the mind of God then there’s no way to know the mind of God.

    Well, let me turn it around on you:

    You mean “let me ignore the direct and simple question you asked me?” OK, but don’t expect your opinion to be taken seriously afterwards.

    do you think it the case that the only possible reason to consider it immoral is that it hurts them, and so that if they didn’t feel any pain or even receive any damage that it would then become moral?

    Yes. For similar reasons, there are no moral consequences to twiddling my thumbs or skipping stones on the surface of a lake.

    My whole argument is that it isn’t clear that using “it causes suffering” as an absolute or even critical measure for moral goodness or badness is the right one. Under an Egoistic view, for example, it probably wouldn’t be immoral unless it didn’t serve your interests, which might be “for no reason”.

    Under an egoistic view, anything I want to do serves my interests, so if I want to punch someone in the face it would be “moral.” But this is really pushing the limits of what we could possibly mean by “morality.” Going by usage, morality means exactly “not doing exactly what you want to do at all times”, so I reject the assertion that Egoism is a moral system in the first place.

    In fact, stipulating “for no reason” basically eliminates all possible moral systems, since they still insist you have reasons for doing what you do.

    Simply false. As I noted before there’s any number of things I can do without moral consequences whether or not I have a reason for doing them. But if you’re having so much trouble with this that you still can’t answer my simple question, here’s the reformulated question: “Is it immoral to punch someone in the face simply because you want to?” Why or why not?”

    Again, though, the key is that it being immoral because it causes suffering isn’t the only game in town, but the “Problem of Suffering” RELIES on it being the only game in town.

    Give specific examples of these other games. That’s why I asked this question in the first place.

  44. #44 Dan L.
    August 2, 2012

    @Blaine:

    What are these mysteries?

    Hard problem of consciousness. Quantum gravity. Free will. Other minds. Correct interpretation of quantum theory. Cause of the Big Bang. Abiogenesis. Evolution/development of language. Development of civilization.

    That’s just a few, give me a couple minutes and I’ll think of more.

  45. #45 Wow
    August 2, 2012

    There isn’t a question that science cannot answer that religuon can.

    The obverse is not true, however.

  46. #46 Dan L.
    August 2, 2012

    @Wow:

    Yes, I agree that no religion has any sort of methodology or cognitive apparatus for addressing these sorts of questions in any rigorous way. Well, actually some Buddhist practices could probably help with some of the mysteries surrounding mind, but those practices are found in atheistic forms of Buddhism as well.

  47. #47 Verbose Stoic
    August 2, 2012

    Dan L.,

    But I don’t believe that morality is a “right and proper and normative set of moral standards” in the first place. I’m saying you have the nature of morality all wrong. “Assuming a duck is a turtle…” OK, but a duck isn’t a turtle. That’s irrelevant, since I said “ignoring the fact that…”

    And what I was saying is that appealing to the psychological and neurological to try to establish that is only tying it to what people THINK morality is, not what it REALLY is. You might be right ,but citing psychology, neurology and evolution says absolutely nothing about whether you are right. So we really should put that “evidence” aside because it isn’t relevant to the argument.

    Note that if you’re right the Problem of Evil dies because there are no normative standards that we could hold God to, and so it would boil down to “Is this a God you could like?”. Which interests me not at all.

    Given that the moral consequences of any action from God’s point of view are far beyond our ken, and given that we cannot be held accountable for our relative ignorance, we should simply try to ignore the difference between what we feel is right in the moment and what God may hypothetically know about the situation. We shouldn’t second-guess our moral sense. We can’t know that Biblical morality is really given by God (if we’re truly being skeptical) so we should ignore the Bible too where it disagrees with our moral sense. If there’s no way to know the mind of God then there’s no way to know the mind of God.

    Except that my whole point was about simply judging it based on the CONSEQUENCES, which we might not be fully able to analyze. Thus, an analysis of the simple, bare facts. That does not mean that our “moral sense” and “what we feel” is right is what we really should do, nor that we shouldn’t base our morality on what we genuinely believe God wants us to do. You ran right over a number of very controversial arguments in your translation, none of which were actually what I argued.

    You mean “let me ignore the direct and simple question you asked me?”

    No, I mean “Let me not point out the insanity of you asking the person who claims that we don’t know what the one right moral answer is here which is what makes the Problem of Suffering problematic to answer a question as if we DID know what the one right normative mroal answer is and move on to something that might actually be productive.”

    Yes. For similar reasons, there are no moral consequences to twiddling my thumbs or skipping stones on the surface of a lake.

    I didn’t ask about what you think is RIGHT. I asked about what you think might be POSSIBLE. All of the moral systems I mentioned earlier can allow for there to be things that have no moral value REGARDLESS of the fact that they don’t consider suffering to be the determinant of what is and isn’t moral.

    Under an egoistic view, anything I want to do serves my interests, so if I want to punch someone in the face it would be “moral.” But this is really pushing the limits of what we could possibly mean by “morality.” Going by usage, morality means exactly “not doing exactly what you want to do at all times”, so I reject the assertion that Egoism is a moral system in the first place.

    Again, you conflate what you think is the RIGHT moral system with what is required for a moral system to, well, count as a moral system. Egoism counts because there is nothing inherent to being a moral system that says that it has to limit your desires. Most people just don’t like it much. Moreover, you can move from Egoism to an Enlightened Egoism that does limit you acting on all your wants in order to get more benefits to yourself later, as I pointed out when raising it as an example.

    Simply false. As I noted before there’s any number of things I can do without moral consequences whether or not I have a reason for doing them.

    The problem is that intentionalist views will, in fact, judge morality based on your reasons for doing it, not based on what actually happens. So if you were skipping stones across the lake because you wanted to destroy the world and thought you could do it by killing fish one at a time, that would still be immoral even if you had no chance of actually achieving that reason. Returning to suffering, you exclude that not because it is simply a situation where whether or not you cause suffering is irrelevant, but because you believe that it causes no suffering. Thus, your reasons are that it, at least, does not cause suffering. Now, you can argue that if it causes no suffering that means that has no moral value, but even Utilitarians don’t buy that, so you’d have a conflict there; they’d say that your reasons are the right ones — maximize utility — and this one does, in some small sense.

    But if you’re having so much trouble with this that you still can’t answer my simple question, here’s the reformulated question: “Is it immoral to punch someone in the face simply because you want to?” Why or why not?”

    Your question is not simple, as I said earlier, because it forces me to presume or pick one system and evaluate it in that one because the other systems may come to different answers, and will certainly do so for dfiferent reasons. This is what I explicitly denied I could do, and thus is what causes problems for the Problem of Suffering. How in the world can you expect me to answer a question as if my entire basis for my comment was false and then call the question simple or my refusal to answer it a dodge?

    Give specific examples of these other games. That’s why I asked this question in the first place.

    Then you clearly missed at least this in my first comment:

    … and the Stoics don’t consider suffering to have any relevance to moral decisions.

    Why don’t they count as an example? If they would find it immoral — and they probably would — it would be because it violates a virtue, not because it causes suffering. In the case of your specific question, it would probably be because your desire was irrational.

  48. #48 Dan L.
    August 2, 2012

    @VS:

    I’m ignoring your unnecessarily long post because you are simply ignoring the very direct, simple question I put to you.

  49. #49 Dan L.
    August 2, 2012

    @VS:

    Incidentally, this is exactly why you are frustrating to argue with. You ALWAYS insist on defining the terms of engagement. You ALWAYS insist on determining the meanings of the terms used in discussion. You cannot ever compromise, meet halfway, or even admit when you are wrong. I’ve shown you were wrong and arguing baselessly before and you responded by saying essentially “Well, you should admit you were wrong because you were arguing with me.”

  50. #50 Verbose Stoic
    August 2, 2012

    Dan L.,

    And if you read that post, you’d see why, again, your question is not simple and not actually valid. And I make no apologies for refusing to try to defend or argue for positions that I don’t hold and never argued for. I fail to see any proper meaning of “compromise” that would force me to do that, and that’s what I see you as doing. If, perhaps, you could indeed read what I say and see WHY I’m saying what I’m saying you might be able to understand why I’m not doing those things you claim I ought to be doing. Again, if you have shown me to be wrong and baseless and I disagree that you have shown that, how do you justify ignoring my actual reasons for that and just declaring that I don’t want to admit I am wrong? As you know, I never simply say “No, I’m not wrong”, but give lots of reasons for that. The frustrating thing about arguing with you and so many others is that the reasons are ignored in favour of declaring victory and/or frustration.

  51. #51 Dan L.
    August 2, 2012

    And if you read that post, you’d see why, again, your question is not simple and not actually valid

    Sure. Keep telling yourself that.

    You never actually engage with arguments. You just dodge them. All the time. I’m going to stop pretending you’re even worth arguing with.

  52. #52 Dan L.
    August 2, 2012

    Again, if you have shown me to be wrong and baseless and I disagree that you have shown that, how do you justify ignoring my actual reasons for that and just declaring that I don’t want to admit I am wrong? As you know, I never simply say “No, I’m not wrong”, but give lots of reasons for that.

    Dan: “This is what Sober is saying.”
    VS: “No, Sober is not saying that. He is saying blah blah blah.”
    Dan: “Here are direct quotes from Sober’s paper demonstrating that Sober is saying what I said he said, not what you said he said.”
    VS: “Oh, well I didn’t actually read Sober’s paper. I just assumed what he was arguing and ran with that. But YOU should admit you were wrong about blah blah blah.”

    Paraphrased, of course, but it was a telling exchange.

  53. #53 Verbose Stoic
    August 2, 2012

    Dan L.,

    Let me give you the benefit of the doubt and translate your “simple question” into one that’s actually simply and answerable:

    “Give me one example of an alternative moral system that would consider something either moral or immoral that if it was based on suffering it wouldn’t.”

    And it turns out that I can. I can invoke, for example, Kant’s case of the murderer and not lying to them. Clearly, if you are considering suffering taking an action that directly leads the murderer to kill someone would cause suffering and so would be morally wrong, but Kant disagrees because he bases it on universalizability, not suffering.

    I can also invoke, for the Stoics, a case where you are asked by someone to steal $20 for them or else they will brutally torture and kill 20 people. There’s almost no chance that stealing that $20 will cause more suffering than what that person will do, so under the suffering model you ought to steal for them. The Stoics, however, would argue the opposite because they reject that totalling the amount of suffering matters for morality and hold at any rate that you are only responsible for your own immoral actions, not those of others.

    So, if this is what you wanted, then here’s your answer. The problem with the specific example is that few of the systems I’m looking at addressed that case, and so it’s harder to outline the precise reasons in those cases. Give me an open-ended challenge works better.

  54. #54 Verbose Stoic
    August 2, 2012

    Dan L.,

    Dan: “This is what Sober is saying.”
    VS: “No, Sober is not saying that. He is saying blah blah blah.”
    Dan: “Here are direct quotes from Sober’s paper demonstrating that Sober is saying what I said he said, not what you said he said.”
    VS: “Oh, well I didn’t actually read Sober’s paper. I just assumed what he was arguing and ran with that. But YOU should admit you were wrong about blah blah blah.”

    Paraphrased, of course, but it was a telling exchange.

    Especially since in your paraphrase I DID admit I was wrong, and basically wanted to move on in the discussion. And, if I recall correctly, part of that was my claim that even with the quotes you still weren’t interpreting Sober safely in another place, which would mean that in that case from my perspective YOU weren’t willing to admit that you were wrong, or at least that you could be. Funny, isn’t it?

  55. #55 Dan L.
    August 2, 2012

    Especially since in your paraphrase I DID admit I was wrong, and basically wanted to move on in the discussion.

    “I didn’t read the paper but…” would have been the appropriate way to begin the conversation. Finally admitting that you hadn’t done the bare minimum to qualify your opinion for inclusion in the discussion doesn’t constitute an admission that you were wrong.

    In fact, I kind of see it as an admission you’re an arrogant jerk who doesn’t need to abide by the usual niceties of intellectual honesty.

    Funny, isn’t it?

    Not the word I’d use. “Boring,” maybe. “Tedious.” Arguing with you always is.

  56. #56 Verbose Stoic
    August 2, 2012

    Dan L.,

    So, if I read the quotes on a post and get involved in an informal discussion, and you drag something out of the middle of the paper to support your case, and I concede it by noting that I didn’t read it in detail and, if I recall correctly, pointed out that the reason I didn’t was because I didn’t know where it was, and then when someone pointed out where it was went and did read it to carry on the discussion, that makes me “an arrogant jerk who doesn’t need to abide by the usual niceties of intellectual honesty”?

    And you say this in a thread where you ignored entire comments of mine because it didn’t say what you wanted it to say?

    And let me point out that you were the one who replied to me here. If you really think so little of me, why did you bother commenting at all, only to later write me off when, again, I didn’t find your question a fair one?

  57. #57 Dan L.
    August 2, 2012

    And you say this in a thread where you ignored entire comments of mine because it didn’t say what you wanted it to say?

    I ignored one entire comment of yours because it didn’t address the question I had asked you. I think that’s actually completely fair. Especially given your MO of derailing discussions like these into irrelevancies that you and only you happen to find interesting (e.g. the Sober discussion). I didn’t want to give you the chance to derail and split hairs as you so often do.

    If you had responded how you had at 2:08 (hopefully excluding the unnecessary and condescending “benefit of the doubt” bit) then maybe we could have actually had a discussion about morality. At this point I’ve decided it’s not worth it.

  58. #58 JeromeS
    August 2, 2012

    Verbose Stoic,

    My whole argument is that it isn’t clear that using “it causes suffering” as an absolute or even critical measure for moral goodness or badness is the right one.

    Seriously? So you think we shouldn’t condemn torture, rape, beating etc., on the grounds that “it isn’t clear” that causing suffering is wrong.

    The sheer nonsense of the positions you talk yourself into here never ceases to amaze me.

  59. #59 Michael Fugate
    August 2, 2012

    I would suggest more stoicism and less verbosity. I read your thesis on why the mind is not reducible to the brain (with which I still disagree) and would suggest a review of Strunk and White before writing anything else.

  60. #60 Verbose Stoic
    August 3, 2012

    JeromeS,

    Seriously? So you think we shouldn’t condemn torture, rape, beating etc., on the grounds that “it isn’t clear” that causing suffering is wrong.

    Um, where did I say anything like that? My argument is that it isn’t clear that we should condemn torture, rape, or beating simply on the basis that they cause suffering. We have myriad other options. We can argue, for example, that even in the case where we are trying torture to get information about the bomb that will destroy a city we should not because we are not allowed to treat even the terrorist as a means to an end and not in as an end in themselves (Kant). Or because it isn’t honourable and we are only responsible for our own actions and not theirs (the Stoics). And so on.

    It’s only if you believe that the only possible way to judge the things we think immoral immoral is using the suffering model that your argument makes any sense whatsoever, and it’s that precise presumption that I’m arguing against.

  61. #61 Verbose Stoic
    August 3, 2012

    JeromeS,

    Let me take your rape example and show you the problems that a suffering model can have.

    Take two rape victims. One of them has been harassed and even raped so much in her life that she has come to expect it, and so in this specific case feels little to no mental suffering from the rape. The other was a virgin and tied her identity quite strongly to that, and so is incredibly devastated by it. There is no difference in any of the physical suffering suffered in the rapes, so only the mental suffering is different. Under the “suffering” model, the rape in the first case is less immoral than the second case, because there’s less suffering in the first case than in the second overall. And under some forms of Utiltiarianism, if the “happiness” of the rapist is high enough the first case might not even be considered immoral (Mill, however, tries to work around exactly that sort of problem).

    Meanwhile, taking Kant, it can easily be argued that rape is the epitome of treating someone merely as a means and not as an end in themselves, and so both cases are equally immoral, and in fact are, for Kant, the epitome of immorality. Murder’s about the only one that I can think of, off-hand, that’s worse than rape. For the Stoics, it would be easy to find virtues that they held that rape would violate, and any vicious act — in this sense, acting out of vice — is equally immoral to any other, and so again both cases would be equally immoral.

    So, despite your assertions that somehow I was arguing for not condemning these sorts of cases, it looks like a suffering model can have the problems you believed you could avoid using it that the models I actually favour would not.

  62. #62 eric
    August 3, 2012

    VS:

    Your question is not simple, as I said earlier, because it forces me to presume or pick one system and evaluate it in that one because the other systems may come to different answers, and will certainly do so for dfiferent reasons. This is what I explicitly denied I could do, and thus is what causes problems for the Problem of Suffering.

    …and in another post:

    It’s only if you believe that the only possible way to judge the things we think immoral immoral is using the suffering model that your argument makes any sense whatsoever, and it’s that precise presumption that I’m arguing against.

    I think what you are saying is: the problem of suffering only arises for moral or theological systems that make suffering an issue. Pick a different moral or theological system, and the problem of suffering disappears.

    Is that correct?

    I would tend to agree with that. For example, atheists have little problem explaining why volcanos and earthquakes kill innocent people, even if some tri-omni christians might. The second group sees natural evil as a problem while the other doesn’t because of the different theological assumptions they start with.

    However, I think this answer is not sufficient, because Jason is explicitly talking about groups who admit they have a theodicy problem, are not willing to change their theological assumptions to fix it, and are searching for answers consistent with those assumptions. Jasons point is: for that group, no good answers exist.

    Your response here is somewhat similar to your past responses on similar subjects: yes, you are right, if we consider alternative conceptions of God we can resolve many theological questions in Christianity. Such answers, however, are going to be rejected by the majority of the people posing those quesitons because they don’t want to alter their conception of God, they want to find answers that maintain it.

  63. #63 Verbose Stoic
    August 3, 2012

    eric,

    I answered this one already:

    For the “Problem of Evil”, we need the philosophical usage of morality, meaning what is indeed the right and proper and normative set of moral standards, if such exist. What people THINK is moral does not, in fact, mean that that just IS what is moral, and the problem relies on us, in fact, having the right morality so that we can indeed say that a good being would not allow suffering.

    Essentially, I see this as being analogous to a case where someone insists that you’ll fall off the end of the Earth if you try to sail around it because it’s flat. We need to settle what shape the Earth really is, and so some of these conceptions that do include it could just be plain wrong. For any theological view that doesn’t say that what is moral is just what God says is moral, that’s a valid counter. And for those that do say that, then they don’t have a problem with the Problem of Evil in any form.

  64. #64 Verbose Stoic
    August 3, 2012

    Such answers, however, are going to be rejected by the majority of the people posing those quesitons because they don’t want to alter their conception of God, they want to find answers that maintain it.

    Oh, and additionally, I am making a philosophical argument here about what is the case, and so don’t really care about whether or not anyone likes just, just as scientists don’t care whether anyone likes the fact that we evolved over time from primates.

  65. #65 eric
    August 3, 2012

    We need to settle what shape the Earth really is, and so some of these conceptions that do include it could just be plain wrong.

    Your analogy is decent, but misses an important point. We are fairly certain there is an earth, so arguments about its shape make sense to have. We have no evidence and no certainty that there even is a God, so arguments about his/her/its/their properties are completely speculative.

    Also, doesn’t your logic apply to your own field? You imply that we should resolve properties before tackling theodicy. Okay, same argument then: shouldn’t we resolve existence before tackling properties? I do not see how you can defend spending a lot of your own time discussing the poperties of God without having evidence he even exists, yet complain about other people spending their time on theodicy without resolving God’s properties. Both you and they are doing the same thing.

  66. #66 Verbose Stoic
    August 3, 2012

    eric,

    I think the point you’re missing is that I’m considering arguments, especially here. So, people have raised this specific problem as a problem for, at least, some sorts of gods. I’m pointing out, here, that the problem as a whole depends on being able to judge what’s really moral, as you cannot legitimately say that just because there is suffering that that makes it immoral. So, saying that this is a problem that has to be resolved is indeed like saying that simply can’t sail around the world, in the sense that it’s based on a premise that is clearly unsafe.

    As for the rest of it, it’s the same sort of thing. My argument is that you can’t settle whether or not God exists or even what is or isn’t evidence for God without deciding what you think that God thing is. Again, it’s about the specific argument, not a general principle. So, again, I’m simply saying that the arguments that are being made rely on assuming something that is debatable and not known to be true, and that you have to settle that before we can settle if the argument really works or not.

  67. #67 eric
    August 3, 2012

    I’m simply saying that the arguments that are being made rely on assuming something that is debatable and not known to be true, and that you have to settle that before we can settle if the argument really works or not.

    Jason, is, as far as I can tell, taking other people’s assumptions about God and morality and seeing where those assumptions lead. Its a form of reductio. Your oft-repeated point is that your assumptions (or perhaps more generally another set of assumptions) do not fall prey to this reductio. Or put another way: Jason’s reductio only applies to a limited set of Gods and moralities.

    Which is true, but since those sets are the ones he wants to discuss on his blog, and are also the sets held by his target audience, its not a very relevant response. You aren’tproviding a counter-argument so much as you are asking to shift the focus of the discussion onto a set of gods/moralities more interesting to you.

  68. #68 Blaine
    August 3, 2012

    @Dan L
    “Hard problem of consciousness. Quantum gravity. Free will. Other minds. Correct interpretation of quantum theory. Cause of the Big Bang. Abiogenesis. Evolution/development of language. Development of civilization.

    That’s just a few, give me a couple minutes and I’ll think of more.”

    These are scientific questions, not ‘mysteries of existence’. Some have already been clearly explained. Having a differing ‘world-view’ is relevant only to the extend that it impedes one’s acceptance of the provided answers. Conservapedia is a prime example.

  69. #69 Wow
    August 3, 2012

    Eric, another way to phrase VS’s rhetoric is: “Look over there! Squirrels!”.

  70. #70 eric
    August 3, 2012

    I think of it more like this:

    Jason: stock car racing is boring because…
    VS: that’s a gross fallacy! Horse racing is not boring!

  71. #71 Verbose Stoic
    August 3, 2012

    eric,

    What I’m actually arguing is that those assumptions that are doing all the work here aren’t necessarily true, and if that’s the case then this argument fails. So we need to establish if those assumptions are true, or else the actual reasonable reply to the Problem of Evil turns out to be “You, and a number of others, are simply wrong about what it means to be good or moral”.

    Thus, your response strikes me essentially as saying that you don’t care if the argument is actually right as long as those religious people you’re arguing with THINK it’s right. And that, I think, is indefensible.

  72. #72 Verbose Stoic
    August 3, 2012

    eric,

    But it’s more like:

    Jason: Stock car racing is boring because it never runs in the rain.
    VS: Um, it does run in the rain.
    eric: Well, stock car fans claim that they don’t run in the rain, and we’re just addressing what they claim, and so from that it’s boring.
    VS: But … they actually DO run in the rain!
    eric: Well, those are the assumptions that Jason wants to use on his blog, not the ones that you find interesting, and so you’re just trying to shift the debate to the assumptions you find interesting.
    VS: Forgive me for thinking that the actual facts are both relevant and interesting to a discussion.

  73. #73 eric
    August 3, 2012

    What I’m actually arguing is that those assumptions that are doing all the work here aren’t necessarily true, and if that’s the case then this argument fails.

    We know that. You keep saying it over and over again. There is no need to repeat it; we get it. You are welcome to start blog discussions about other sets of assumptions.

    So we need to establish if those assumptions are true

    Ok, you go out and establish which moral assumptions about suffering are true. When you complete that, we will stop poking holes in the theologies that have it wrong.

    Until then, let’s have a moratorium on constantly restating the caveat that we don’t know them to be true. Agreed. You’re right. We also don’t know that your assumptions are true, either, so this argument provides absolutely no reason to shift the topic of conversation from Jason’s preferred set to VS’ preferred set. So, stop trying to do that.

    Look, we agree with you that anyone who thinks stock car races can’t run in the rain is being an idiot. But there are a lot of them, and they vote on science education based on that belief, so it is worth out time to disabuse them of their fallacies. You seem to take the position that since you already know their position is wrong, there is no reason to address it any more, and you’d like to address a problem less idiotic. Good for you! Go to it on your blog site.

  74. #74 eric
    August 3, 2012

    Ack, blockquote fail. The first and third paragraphs are VS’. The rest are mine. Sorry about that.

  75. #75 Verbose Stoic
    August 3, 2012

    eric,

    The problem is that as far as I can tell the fallacy you are trying to disabuse them of is that there might actually exist a God. Again, the people you are arguing with are not aware of the underlying issues or often, in fact, of what their own morality commits them to. For example, since the Catholic Church is based on Aristotlean natural law — which doesn’t base that on suffering — and is I think influenced by Stoicism — which doesn’t base that on suffering — and, in fact, in its discussions over abortion, birth control and a host of other issues clearly does not base its morality on suffering, it would be incorrect to say that that assumption is part of Catholic theology. And I suspect that if I went through in detail those of other Christian denominations as well as Judaism and Islam I’d find an awful lot of them that don’t either. So, a lot of the people that you are talking about at least ought not take the position you claim they do. Thus, to make the point you baffle them by appealing to emotional reactions and moral intuitions … and then argue that anyone trying to point out that baffling is just shifting the debate. Which is, in fact, wrong.

    BTW, since this is Jason’s site I will take the discussions elsewhere when he tells me to, not because you tell me to.

  76. #76 JeromeS
    August 3, 2012

    VS,
    My argument is that it isn’t clear that we should condemn torture, rape, or beating simply on the basis that they cause suffering. We have myriad other options. We can argue, for example, that even in the case where we are trying torture to get information about the bomb that will destroy a city

    I didn’t say anything about bombs destroying cities. The issue here is the morality of acts that cause suffering. If you do not believe that it is immoral to cause suffering without some clear justification for the suffering, why don’t you believe that? If you claim that there is some clear justification for the suffering caused by diseases and natural disasters, what is that justification? If there is no such justification, and the diseases and disasters were created by God, why shouldn’t God be blamed for the suffering they cause?

  77. #77 JeromeS
    August 3, 2012

    And then free will explains why God might have to allow there to be people who choose to do immoral things and have those things have consequences.

    No it doesn’t. Simply invoking “free will” does not answer the Problem of Evil at all, even just for “chosen” evil rather than “natural” evil.

    First, why didn’t God make us such that we have free will but always choose good?

    If your answer is that beings with free will necessarily sometimes choose evil, why should we believe that?

    Even if you could make a convincing case that beings with free will necessarily sometimes choose evil, why didn’t God make us such that we choose evil less often than we actually do?

    Also, if beings with free will necessarily sometimes choose evil, then either God doesn’t have free will (he’s just an automaton), or God sometimes chooses evil.

    Also, if beings with free will necessarily sometimes choose evil, then either there is evil in Heaven, or people who go to Heaven (or, rather, their “immortal soul”) lose their free will and become automatons.

  78. #78 Wow
    August 3, 2012

    Well, windy stodge, stop whining like a wimp when people don’t answer you pointless diatribes.

  79. #79 JeromeS
    August 3, 2012

    VS,

    For any theological view that doesn’t say that what is moral is just what God says is moral, that’s a valid counter. And for those that do say that, then they don’t have a problem with the Problem of Evil in any form.

    Of course they do. Their “solution” is simply to deny that there is evil in the first place, by claiming that whatever God does is good, no matter how evil it may seem to us. Why should we accept this claim? If God’s acts appear to be evil, why shouldn’t we believe that they *are* evil?

  80. #80 eric
    August 3, 2012

    So, a lot of the people that you are talking about at least ought not take the position you claim they do.

    Whether they oughtn’t or not, they do. And something like 90% of adult US Catholics use birth control, so its pretty clear that the US laity regularly ignores a lot of Rome’s official proclamations about doctrine.

    Thus, to make the point you baffle them by appealing to emotional reactions and moral intuitions … and then argue that anyone trying to point out that baffling is just shifting the debate. Which is, in fact, wrong.</blockquote.

    Here, I'm going to appeal to the expert, Jason. :) He's been to creationist conferences. He'l talked to the fundamentalists he's addressing, face to face. He even wrote a book about it. He didn't try to baffle them or provoke an emotional response, he listened to what they had to say in their own environments. So, unless you have evidence to the contrary, I reject your hypothesis that these beliefs resflect being baffled by an outsider's questions or a mere emotional reactions. I think you are pulling that idea out of nowhere to try and salvage your position, and I don't think you have any actual, on-the-ground experience to support it the way Jason has experience to support the opposite position.

  81. #81 Dan L.
    August 3, 2012

    These are scientific questions, not ‘mysteries of existence’. Some have already been clearly explained.

    First of all, which ones have been clearly explained? I’m asking this because I suspect your answer will be unintentionally hilarious. None of those things has been adequately explained. That’s why I used them as examples.

    As far as whether they constitute “mysteries of existence”, I believe they do and you’ve given me no reason to think otherwise.

    I’m using “mystery” in the second sense mentioned here:
    mystery. The applicability to all the problems mentioned to the concept of “existence” should be fairly obvious.

  82. #82 Dan L.
    August 3, 2012

    Here’s the problem with VS:

    And what I was saying is that appealing to the psychological and neurological to try to establish that is only tying it to what people THINK morality is, not what it REALLY is. You might be right ,but citing psychology, neurology and evolution says absolutely nothing about whether you are right. So we really should put that “evidence” aside because it isn’t relevant to the argument.

    “Morality” is, of course, a word in the English language. Words are human constructions. Their meanings are determined exactly by what users of the language think they mean. If we’re analyzing the meaning of the word “morality” we absolutely need to cite psychology, neuroscience, evolution, and linguistics because that’s how the game is played.

    VS doesn’t like that game. He doesn’t want to talk about “morality” as it exists and is understood in the real world. He wants to redefine morality to mean morality*, his own idea of some abstract, disembodied code of conduct that, despite the fact that this code is clearly not obvious, we are all somehow obligated to abide.

    “Morality”, by contrast, refers to the systems by which human beings — real human beings in the real world — decide how they should behave, especially towards other human beings. VS doesn’t care how morality actually works. He thinks, contrary to all evidence, that REAL morality (morality*) is an unobservable, unknown, and unknowable set of propositions written in the aether.

    And it’s unacceptable for anyone to use the clear English-language meaning of the word “morality”. We must all adhere to VS’s terminology because he is super special and super smart and he’s going to tell us all exactly how the universe works.

    Or we can acknowledge that we don’t know if this abstract, unknowable code of conduct actually exists or how it could be normative even if it did; we can also acknowledge that since human beings already have systems for determining how they ought to behave and since they already call these systems “morality”, VS isn’t actually talking about morality but something completely orthogonal to morality.

  83. #83 Michael Fugate
    August 3, 2012

    Exactly, how can science (including social science) be irrelevant to answering these questions about morality and mind?

  84. #84 Dan L.
    August 3, 2012

    Exactly, how can science (including social science) be irrelevant to answering these questions about morality and mind?

    To be fair, I never said it was. I simply said they were mysteries that confront anyone with a naturalistic worldview. My own worldview is naturalistic and I do that if these mysteries can be solved it will be science that does it.

  85. #85 Dan L.
    August 3, 2012

    I do *think* that if these mysteries can be solved it will be science that does it.

  86. #86 Michael Fugate
    August 3, 2012

    No, I didn’t mean that for you, but for VS. He ignores science when it interferes with his hypotheses about how the world works.

  87. #87 Dan L.
    August 3, 2012

    I think VS is just operating from such a fundamentally different set of premises and terminology than we are that when you say “morality” and “mind” you’re actually talking about something completely different from what VS means by those words.

    According to VS’s view of morality as he’s outlined it above, for example, we currently don’t even know that such a thing as morality exists at all; furthermore, if it does exist, it has nothing to do with neuroscience, psychology, evolution, anthropology, or linguistics. As a result, morality also can’t have anything to do with pain, suffering, intent (despite what VS tries to tell you, intent is an aspect of psychology), emotion, the nature of interpersonal relationships, or really any aspect of human nature at all. According to VS, human nature as we understand it has nothing whatsoever to do with morality and vice versa. If you can reason yourself into that sort of headspace then you may be able to have a worthwhile discussion with the guy.

    And all his abstract theories of morality apparently have nothing to say about why people don’t go around punching each other in the face all the time. I think that’s strange…you’d think a theory of morality should be able to account for such a thing.

  88. #88 Wow
    August 3, 2012

    VS is just talking to hear the sound of his own voice snd to feel important.

    Attention getting.

    Nothing more.

  89. #89 Blaine
    August 4, 2012

    There is no mystery involved in knowing that we are the end product of entropy exporting auto-catalytic processes. Evolutionary game theory explains morality quite well. We don’t need to resort to spooks and ghosts and non-existent Platonic realms as Max Stirner pointed out.

  90. #90 Roman Dawes
    www.the-problem-of-evil.com
    August 4, 2012

    God allows people to suffer and die because we’re better off than not living as mortals. Living as mortals means being allowed to suffer mortal consequences.

    The reason our mortality is so important is because nurturing and protecting life defines living like nothing else. So, bad things don’t necessarily have to happen to bring about good or serve a “divine plan.” But the threat of bad things happening motivates nearly all the good in life.

    Life and living simply cannot be perfect, so the imperfections don’t serve as proof that there’s no good God. Otherwise, I defy anyone to even imagine a world that is both perfectly safe and healthy, and in which people are motivated to the nurturing and protective behavior that forms permanent cultures, civil society and so much else that defines living as a human.

    On the last point, I’d like you to relinquish the theoretical “Epicurean trilemma” and its very poor and over-simplified rendering of “good and evil,” and actually describe a perfect world – and not just a beautiful portrait. There’s nothing to do in a portrait, and certainly not for a lifetime.

    In our world, our mortality animates and structures virtually all of living. What does so in a perfect world like one atheists believe that God should have created? What do we do on Thursdays? If we could have all the children we wanted and didn’t have to raise them (no need for caregiving, and the parents thank God), how or why would we form even the most primitive human cultures? Would that world actually be a perfect world, even a better world or merely different (and probably lesser)?

  91. #91 MNb
    August 4, 2012

    @Eric: “if we consider alternative conceptions of God we can resolve many theological questions in Christianity.”
    Sure. A pastafarian and a worshipper of the Ancient Greek gods has no problems with evil tand the theodicy.

    @Verbose Stoic: “a good being would not allow suffering.”
    I don’t know about you, but I, trying to be a good being as I do, always try to prevent suffering. Alas I am not omnipotent neither omnigood neither omnipresent neither omniknowing, so I fail more often than not.

    “on being able to judge what’s really moral”
    That’s true for the believer as well as for the atheist, so essentially you are arguing that god’s morals are of human origin.

    “My argument is that you can’t settle whether or not God exists or even what is or isn’t evidence for God without deciding what you think that God thing is.”
    Correct. That’s why this moral argument begins with the tri-omni god. Thát one leads to a contradiction.

    “those assumptions that are doing all the work here aren’t necessarily true”
    Well, yes. If you assume that your god is/gods are not tri-omni, like the Ancient Greek ones, the whole argument doesn’t apply. Still thát’s the solution no theologian ever has accepted.

    “that there might actually exist a God”
    No. A specific kind of god, namely the one worshipped by millions of jews, christians and moslims in all its varieties, as long it’s tri-omni.
    But if it isn’t I see no point in worshipping it.

    @JeromeS: “Simply invoking “free will” does not answer the Problem of Evil”
    Absolutely not. See the Abrahamistic heaven – souls there are usually supposed to have free will and still invariably choose good (thanks, Bart Ehrman).

    @Roman Dawes: “we’re better off than not living as mortals”
    Why? I have been not living for millions of years and did not feel worse off at all. Did you? Remarkable, to have such feelings while not being conceived yet.,

  92. #92 MNb
    August 4, 2012

    In fact I can think of various situations in which I am better off not living. Two examples:
    1) Taken in a Vietnamese cell, where a drop of water fall on my skull every ten seconds;
    2) After hearing the news that my daughter of 13 has been gang raped by 10 men and left to die a painful death in the middle of nowhere – and no clue who those 10 are.

    Let me put it in concrete terms. A tri-omni god would have made Josef Fritzl die from a heart-failure after one or two weeks and not made his daughter suffer for 20 years of something. No violation of natural laws necessary, no problem with free will whatsoever. Instead we got this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritzl_case

    All that abstract talk about assumptions is nice and clever, but any tri-omni god who allows suffering like that sucks major balls. And any god who couldn’t prevent it for whatever reason is not worth worshipping.

  93. #93 Anonymous
    August 4, 2012

    I have a situation that i believe is a good example of the “problem of suffering and evil”. Before I share, I would like to begin to say that it saddens me that so many people have settled for skeptical theism.

    Anyway, my uncle died. He recently died in a horrible accident involving only himself and the gravel truck in which he was driving. He over-corrected when a small car blindly cut him off trying to merge with the highway (not a no-stop-required merging lane) and obviously oblivious to the enormous truck speeding towards them. In one horrid, fluid motion, the trucks gas tank was ruptured and it was turned on its side. Just before the flames ignited in, what would appear to be, God’s spitefull suspense of a moment, gas spilled all over my uncle. Looking at it through my Christian point of view, along with my family’s and his friend’s point of view, this man, for all we know, was not a Christian. Sadly, I believe that my uncle has not stopped burning from the time that he burned to death in his truck till this moment in the pits of hell and probably will not stop for eternity.

    “How could God DO SUCH A THING?!” I asked myself angrily. If God knew that he was already doomed to hell, why couldn’t at least give him a peacefull death, just to be a little sympathetic to this man? However, in my brash, foolish fit of rage I questioned God when I should have realized how He truly works.

    Problems such as pain, suffering, and death are not some torcher towards an individual because, as the Good Book says, “All things work together for good…”. These situations, no matter how painful, can be used to make people like me who witness these things realize how precious and short life is and just how close we are to either eternity in Heaven or eternity in hell.

    I also realized something about the debate between pre-destination and chance (whether God chooses who are going where in the afterlife, and whether he has no clue and just rolls the dice and watches what happens). Honestly, it’s both. Even though God knows the future, that doesn’t mean, he picks and chooses who he wants to go to Heaven, and just because he gives us free choice to decide EXACTLY what we want with our lives, doesn’t mean he doesn’t know who is and who isn’t going to Heaven. God makes us, delivers us with natural abilities particular to each and every individual, and lets us live in this world full of sorrows, temptations, sin, and naturally sinfull human instincts to test all of us to see which of us trully love Him for what His Son did for us: dying on the cross at Calvary as a sacrifice so that all who want to go to Heaven may do so if they accept Him as savior, have FAITH and quit their sinfull ways.

    The problem with suffering is not that God is so mean that he does these things to us, but that he is merciful enough to not do worse by throwing us all into hell for sinning. We should not even focus on such things. The Holy Bible says, “Whatsoever things are good and true… think on these things…”. (Obviously most of the horrible suffering in today’s society is definitly not healthy to dwell upon.) We should do all that we can to prevent such pain, while also thanking God for giving us a way to Heaven.

    We also have no right to complain. The Son of God who died for us went through the most pain and suffering anyone has ever gone through (Starvation, Scourging [beatings with a thick, Roman whip with intertwined glass, nails, and bone], death by suffocation on a traditional Roman cross, verbal lies and persecution from the Jewish court, and a disgusting traiter named Judas who led an angry, blood-thirsty mob to Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.)

    In conclusion, good can come out of bad things. Maybe a touching story can change someone’s heart, or a tragedy can truly get the attention of everyone who hears and make them realize how close death really is to us all. I’m okay with my uncle’s death, now. Maybe the unsaved family members we share will realize how much they need Jesus and believe in Him before it is everlasting too late. Even if they don’t, they still had the chance, and if they didn’t, then they REALLY don’t have an excuse to say to God on judgement day when He asks them why they were not saved.

    Of course, God could willfully keep suffering from occuring but, then who would really stand out as those devoted to Him? We would all always be happy and Earth would become Heaven and we would not be justly tested and punished/rewarded for how we lived through such trials, and the whole idea of do-wrong=get-punished goes out of wack and nothing God has set in place would work cohesively. Yep, suffering is our own fault for ever sinning in the first place when God blessed Adam with a garden full of fruit and pretty flowers, a world without violence, and a more than likely BEAUTIFUL wife (no doubt the most beatiful of all women EVER). Included in all of that blessing was only one rule that he just had to break.

  94. #94 eric
    August 5, 2012

    Roman:

    The reason our mortality is so important is because nurturing and protecting life defines living like nothing else.

    Do you believe infants who die go to heaven, hell, or somewhere else?

    If they go to heaven, then the lessons we learn in life cannot be necessary for a fulfilling afterlife, and any more than a minute amount of suffering is unnecessary. If they go to hell, then God sends innocent children to hell.

    Either way, the “suffering is necessary for the afterlife” schtick fails.

  95. #95 JeromeS
    August 5, 2012

    Roman Dawes,

    The reason our mortality is so important is because nurturing and protecting life defines living like nothing else.

    It’s hard to make sense of this statement. Why is it important to “define life like nothing else?” (whatever that’s supposed to mean). Why doesn’t God just create us as immortal souls in Heaven, instead of putting us through mortal life first?

    bad things don’t necessarily have to happen to bring about good or serve a “divine plan.” But the threat of bad things happening motivates nearly all the good in life.

    But we are constantly trying to reduce or eliminate the threat of bad things happening. We spend enormous resources on preventing and alleviating suffering and harm. If you think these threats are a good thing, because they “motivate nearly all the good in life,” why aren’t you opposing efforts to reduce them? And how exactly do they “motivate nearly all the good in life?” Why didn’t God design us such that we are simply born with this motivation as part of our nature, like our desires to eat or have sex?

    Life and living simply cannot be perfect, so the imperfections don’t serve as proof that there’s no good God.

    Why can’t “life and living” be perfect? If God is omnipotent, why couldn’t he have created “perfect life and living?” You keep making grand assertions for which you offer no argument and that seem to contradict other parts of Christian theology, such as God’s omnipotence.

    Otherwise, I defy anyone to even imagine a world that is both perfectly safe and healthy,

    Christians already claim there is such a world. They call it Heaven. In Heaven, supposedly, there is no pain, no suffering, no fear, no evil. It is a perfect place or state of being, the Kingdom of God. So why doesn’t God just put us in Heaven in the first place?

  96. #96 Anonymous
    August 5, 2012

    The age of accountability is the moment when a person begins to be responsible for their actions. It is when they have recieved the knowledge of right and wrong. If an infant dies before this time, it is placed in Heaven because it knew no wrong. The whole reason why people get saved is because they Have done wrong and need Jesus to vouch for them to get into Heaven because God hates sin and doesn’t allow it in His Home. Babies do not sin before they die, therefore they are already permitted.

    As i said, suffering is not necessary, but only punishment, and good does come out of it. However, preventing something bad from happening (which, I’m sure, God doesn’t mind) does not void some chance good that good have come out of the bad. In other words, without bad, there is good. With bad, something good happens later intitially reverting the situation back to its original state of good or making the overall situation better. When the situation is good, and someones prevents a bad, He/she is keeping the situation the same but still GOOD.

    Furthermore, God put us on miserable Earth to test each and every one of us to see which ones stick with Him and which don’t. If God just looked ahead and placed everyone in their afterlife home, then we, as dumb humans, wouldn’t be would not understand why we were in Heaven or hell. Even if God did tell us why we were all placed in our different afterlifes, we would more than likely complain and say that it is not fair because we wish we could make the choices ourselves.

    It seems to me that God, being omniscient, already thought of this possibility and decided to test us and let us make our own decisions.

  97. #97 oldleftie
    NoVa
    August 5, 2012

    The problem with your analysis is, like that of most atheists, that you purposely distort the definition of evil in order to justify your own inability to see beyond your biology to a higher truth. The only evil is sadistic infliction of unnecessary pain upon an unconsenting subject. That it exists in this short segment of what the faithful believe is a far greater life is as satisfactory an answer as any rational person needs. No one is telling you to believe it. If you want to live your life without hope for a further life, that’s your choice. As long as you live by the Golden Rule, you are above reproach no matter what you believe happens when your biological processes stop. But you do not live by the Golden Rule, because you scream bloody murder every time someone criticizes your atheism. So you are wrong no matter there is a Greater Life or not.
    Think about it….

  98. #98 Joe
    Fort Worth, TX
    August 5, 2012

    I had to stop reading when examples of the Holocaust and the Japanese tsunami were used. The Holocaust was a human act and could be defined as evil, BUT the tsunami was the result of a geological event. That has nothing to do with evil.

  99. #99 JeromeS
    August 5, 2012

    Furthermore, God put us on miserable Earth to test each and every one of us to see which ones stick with Him and which don’t.

    Why does God need to “test” us? What is the value of this test? Who does it benefit? Why doesn’t God just create us as immortal souls in Heaven?

    If God just looked ahead and placed everyone in their afterlife home, then we, as dumb humans, wouldn’t be would not understand why we were in Heaven or hell.

    But why does anyone need to be in Hell? What’s the point of it? Why can’t everyone be in Heaven?

    You’re just not addressing the fundamental question of why God needed to create Hell, sin, suffering, judgement, etc. in the first place.

  100. #100 MNb
    August 5, 2012

    @Anonymous: “These situations, no matter how painful, can be used to make people like me who witness these things realize how precious and short life is”
    Ah, so Elisabeth Fritzl had to be raped two, three times a week for more than 20 years in her basement to make religious bystanders like you (I’m hopeless anyway, so I presumably didn’t need it) realize something.
    Your god is a pervert.

    @Oldleftie: “But you do not live by the Golden Rule, because you scream bloody murder every time someone criticizes your atheism.”
    Eh no. I never have screamed bloody murder if my atheism was criticized. At the other hand I don’t mind if a believer screams bloody murder if someone criticizes his/her silly superstitions. Now that’s one hell of a strawman you pulled off.

  101. #101 Anonymous
    August 5, 2012

    Mnb,

    It was awful what happened to this girl. I never said that God LIKED it when people do wrong. All I said was that good could come out of bad situations. God definitely did not approve of what happened to her. The bad situations do not ALWAYS have a good outcome. I was leaning more towards the instances of tragedies, not sinful actions (apologies for not clearifying earlier). No doubt the guilty party in this case will split hell wide open.

    JeromeS,
    God DIDN’T create sin. Sin isn’t a material thing, but merely a catagory (opposite of righteous in one definition) or idea. God created hell before he created us and not initially for us. I’ll recap:

    God, in the time frame of probably infinitely before the six literal days of creation, created a full Heaven of angels and beauty and a formless Earth. In Heaven, all different angels had certain jobs. Particularly, Lucifer’s (angelic name before being cast out of Heaven) job was second in command and leader of praise and worship. What you must understand is that angels also have free will. Being as close to God as he was, Lucifer recognized how nice it was to be God. He tried to sit on God’s throne (metaphorically) and God kicked him ou along with one third of Heaven’s angels that rebelled with him. Angels are VERY powerful beings. In the Bible, it explains how one angel slaughtered an army of 400,000+ men alone. Lucifer was probably the most powerful of the angels and was probably very popular among the angels. He must have been pretty powerful to convince so many others to back him up in a rebellion against God. Despite this, Lucifer and his followers’ power didn’t come close to God’s.
    When God threw him out, He banished him to Earth and created hell JUST FOR THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS as punishment.

    Lucifer, now Satan, was more than just a little angry. He wanted revenge, so after God finished creating his new “very good” creation, he decided that he was going to never rest until he completely ruined it. He tempted Eve and lied to her to get her to sin just as he had. After Adam and Eve both sinned, God cursed them and doomed all life to death so that humans also had to die. When humans die, they have a particular afterlife home of either Heaven or hell.

  102. #102 Anonymous
    August 5, 2012

    Lucifer’s pride and rebellion was the first free-will decision against God which is sin.

  103. #103 JeromeS
    August 5, 2012

    Anonymous,

    God DIDN’T create sin. Sin isn’t a material thing, but merely a catagory (opposite of righteous in one definition) or idea.

    Sorry, but this just contradicts other parts of Christian theology. If God is sinless and there is no sin in Heaven, why does there have to be sin at all? Why didn’t God create us and the world such that it is without sin? Or, why doesn’t God just create us as immortal souls in Heaven, where there is no sin, rather than putting us through mortal life first?

    You mention free will, but that doesn’t resolve the problem, either. Why doesn’t God create us such that we have free will, but always choose good? If your answer is that it is impossible for a being to have free will and always choose good, then either there is sin in Heaven (because beings in Heaven sometimes choose evil), or there is no free will in Heaven.

  104. #104 Anonymous
    August 5, 2012

    1. The only reason God allowed in his creation for sin to happen is because sin is what he tests us with to know which few of us truly love Him. If we love Him, we do what His Word says, understand and appreciate what Jesus did, TRY to stop sinning completely and get to go to Heaven. Those who don’t love Him or appreciate Jesus will sin despite what God says and go to hell. He didn’t in the beginning make sin and goodness. He made free will. Both angels and us choose what we do with it.

    The reason why can’t get into Heaven is because we have sinned. It isn’t completely impossible to not sin your entire life on Earth, it is just REALLY HARD. In Heaven, everyone has already realized how good God really is and accept it. Therefore there is no longer need to sin. (We sin because we are 1. influenced by evil spirits (Satan and his demons) 2. always wanting to fulfill our fleshly desires.) You are able to sin in Heaven, but no one does because no one wants to. Their fleshly desires are outmatched by their desire to love God and they cannot be influenced by evil spirits.

    2. If God had created no fleshly desires gave all humans only desire to do good (haulting the chain reaction down through time of sin and death.) and everyone went to heaven when they died, then the vast majority of the people in Heaven would only be dead people, not people that truly love Him.

    People suggest that we were created because God was lonely. This is false. When God made the stars, His omnipotence was shown. When He made the angels, His Omniscience was shown. When He kicked Lucifer and his angels out, His holiness and distaste for sin was shown. He created us because all of his attributes were shown throughout his handywork but one… His grace and mercy. If He had not created us, He wouldn’t have been able to send Jesus to die for us and allow us into Heaven which is the greatest act of mercy.

    In conclusion, if someone would happen to sin in Heaven, as dumb as that would be, they (obviously) would be kicked out and damned to hell. On Earth, it is near impossible to not sin, although it could be done theoretically. In Heaven it is almost the opposite. No one sins (although it could happen theoretically) because no one wants to. Lucifer only wanted to because he was arrogant and prideful and wanted to be God. If we were loved so much that God would send Jesus to die for us to go to Heaven, why would we want to sin if God doesn’t like it. If God didn’t like cheese, I wouldn’t eat cheese or even get near it. If God sacrificed that much for me, and I’m a true friend, why shouldn’t I sacrifice for Him too?

  105. #105 JeromeS
    August 5, 2012

    The only reason God allowed in his creation for sin to happen is because sin is what he tests us with to know which few of us truly love Him.

    Why does God need to “test” us? What is the point of this test? Who does it benefit? Why doesn’t God just create us as immortal souls in Heaven?

    The reason why can’t get into Heaven is because we have sinned.

    But why doesn’t God just let us into heaven whether we have sinned or not?

    You are able to sin in Heaven, but no one does because no one wants to.

    Then why doesn’t God create us such that no one wants to sin during their mortal lives, either? Then there wouldn’t be any sin. He’s omnipotent, remember?

    You keep evading the fundamental question. Why does there HAVE to be sin? Why didn’t God create the world such that there isn’t any sin? You can’t claim it’s because of free will, because you just said that beings in Heaven have free will but choose not to sin. So it’s possible for there to be free will and no sin. So why didn’t God create the world that way?

  106. #106 Kevin
    August 5, 2012

    The problem of evil is the most obvious and serious challenge to belief in God”

    The goodness of God is a separate question from that of His existence.

    Worse, they make religious folks just seem foolish and callous.

    How about the following solution to the problem of suffering, plastered on the side of a London bus:
    “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

    Top drawer stuff, evolutionists!

  107. #107 Gary
    USA
    August 6, 2012

    The natural world is indifferent to human suffering. For evil to exist requires intent. To find evil one must look to people with malevolent intent. I have know a few who got their pleasure from the misfortune of others. They were evil.

  108. #108 Wow
    August 6, 2012

    Kevin, the goodness of god is inseperable from the existence of god as christians know it.

    Nobody has said any different.

  109. #109 Patrick
    August 6, 2012

    In a paper entitled “Evil and Skeptical Theism” (http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ryan_stringer/skeptical-theism.html) in the chapter “(2) Other Problematic Consequences of Skeptical Theism” Ryan Stringer argues against an objection concerning sceptical theism, according to which it undermines man’s obligation to prevent evil.

  110. #110 Raging Bee
    The Real World
    August 6, 2012

    Thank you, nameless one, for showing the blind, stupid, smug childish vindictiveness that lurks so close under the veneer of Christian love…

    Just before the flames ignited in, what would appear to be, God’s spitefull suspense of a moment, gas spilled all over my uncle. Looking at it through my Christian point of view, along with my family’s and his friend’s point of view, this man, for all we know, was not a Christian. Sadly, I believe that my uncle has not stopped burning from the time that he burned to death in his truck till this moment in the pits of hell and probably will not stop for eternity.

    The only “spiteful vengeance” I see here is YOURS, not God’s. How hateful to you have to be to think that one of your own kin — or ANYONE for that matter — would burn in Hell for all eternity? Why would you harbor such a hateful unhinged belief with no evidence to support it?

    “How could God DO SUCH A THING?!” I asked myself angrily. If God knew that he was already doomed to hell, why couldn’t at least give him a peacefull death, just to be a little sympathetic to this man? However, in my brash, foolish fit of rage I questioned God when I should have realized how He truly works.

    You think it’s “foolish” to question a belief that’s both mindlessly vindictive and unsupported by evidence?

    Problems such as pain, suffering, and death are not some torcher towards an individual because, as the Good Book says, “All things work together for good…”. These situations, no matter how painful, can be used to make people like me who witness these things realize how precious and short life is and just how close we are to either eternity in Heaven or eternity in hell.

    To learn important lessons from the suffering of others is one thing; to think that the Creator of the Universe would cause such suffering solely for your edification is nothing but solipsistic paranoid delusion. And if your belief didn’t have Jesus’ name attached to it, you probably would have been referred to a psychiatrist a long time ago.

    Oh, and that’s the worst misspelling of the word “torture” I’ve ever seen. How old are you?

    Even though God knows the future, that doesn’t mean, he picks and chooses who he wants to go to Heaven…

    So he has all the power and knowledge, but none of the responsibility? Your God sounds like an abusive, possibly alcoholic parent, who does nothing but punish his kids for his own mistakes and failings.

    We also have no right to complain. The Son of God who died for us went through the most pain and suffering anyone has ever gone through (Starvation, Scourging [beatings with a thick, Roman whip with intertwined glass, nails, and bone], death by suffocation on a traditional Roman cross, verbal lies and persecution from the Jewish court, and a disgusting traiter named Judas who led an angry, blood-thirsty mob to Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.)

    You’re using Jesus’ suffering just to tell other people to shut up? That says a lot about your character and maturity.

    Second, I’m sure there are HUGE numbers of innocent people who suffer a lot more than Jesus did, for longer periods of time, with no hope of resurrection or healing. Do they have a right to complain?

    And third, your fetishization of Jesus’ bodily torment is downright perverted and creepy. He appears to have moved on from that, and so should you. Do you really think Jesus wants anyone to obsess over his bodily torment? Why don’t you just go whole-hog and tell us how what the cricifixion did to his digestive processes?

    Of course, God could willfully keep suffering from occuring but, then who would really stand out as those devoted to Him?

    So you need other people’s suffering to make you and your Christian identity-badge feel special? Your infantile self-centeredness is noted.

  111. #111 MNb
    August 6, 2012

    @Anonymous: “God definitely did not approve of what happened to her.”
    Fine. What exactly did he do about it, being tri-omni and all? He did not making daddy Joseph die from a heart-attack within say a week, sending him to hell straightforwardly. Why not?
    Btw, daddy Joseph still lives. If I understand the crucifixion of Jesus correctly he only has to ask forgiveness sincerely and convert just before he dies and he will go to heaven.
    Enjoy his company after his death, I’d say.
    That are the questions you prefer to neglect, probably because they are unanswerable. My conclusion you already know.

    @Kevin: “The goodness of God is a separate question from that of His existence.”
    If that were true many christians would convert to pastafarianism on very short term. The Flying Spaghetti Monster has no problem with evil. The christian god has.

    @Raging Bee: “So he has all the power and knowledge, but none of the responsibility?”
    That’s what about all theodicies imply, including the attempts above.

  112. #112 eric
    August 6, 2012

    Anonymous:

    Lucifer’s pride and rebellion was the first free-will decision against God which is sin.

    Yep. That’s one of my favorite bits of Christian lore, because it directly undermines the standard Christian defense of why God is hidden. “To preserve our free will!” they say. “We couldn’t really choose to have faith in God if we had proof he existed!” they say. Bzzzzzzt. Christianity’s own stories about Satan say otherwise.

  113. #113 eric
    August 6, 2012

    Gary:

    The natural world is indifferent to human suffering. For evil to exist requires intent.

    Even if it doesn’t count as evil, its fair to ask why a good God would create a world which causes humans so much unnecessary suffering. God could’ve created for us a world that didn’t cause its inhabitants suffering. He didn’t. That’s a theodicy problem.

  114. #114 Patrick
    August 6, 2012

    Raging Bee: „It’s only a challenge to the kind of lilywhite, sterile, childlike ideas of God as a purely benevolent sky-parent who makes everything perfect for everyone who asks nicely. Not all gods are like that — if you worshipped Odin, for example, none of this would be a problem because it’s understood that Odin was never described as a kiss-the-boo-boo-better kind of sky-daddy.“

    Wow: „The really basic definition of faith is “I believe there is a God”. That’s all. Being nice? Not on the list. Having a plan? Not on the list. Omniescent? Not on the list.
    I could accept someone who says that the presence of evil has nothing to do with their faith in the existence of a god.

    But that really turns into a deist.“

    eric: „Your response here is somewhat similar to your past responses on similar subjects: yes, you are right, if we consider alternative conceptions of God we can resolve many theological questions in Christianity. Such answers, however, are going to be rejected by the majority of the people posing those quesitons because they don’t want to alter their conception of God, they want to find answers that maintain it.“

    MNb: „If you assume that your god is/gods are not tri-omni, like the Ancient Greek ones, the whole argument doesn’t apply.“

    Kevin: „The goodness of God is a separate question from that of His existence.“

    The argument from evil is at best an argument against the existence of God as conceived of in the Judeo-Christian tradition, but not an argument for atheism. However, an atheist might object that if God existed then He would have to be all-powerful and morally perfect. But by stating this he would indirectly argue that the Judeo-Christian concept of God represents the most reasonable version of theism. But then he can no longer argue that one could just as well believe in Zeus or in any other pagan god as in the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

  115. #115 Patrick
    August 6, 2012

    JeromeS: „Simply invoking “free will” does not answer the Problem of Evil at all, even just for “chosen” evil rather than “natural” evil.

    First, why didn’t God make us such that we have free will but always choose good?

    If your answer is that beings with free will necessarily sometimes choose evil, why should we believe that?“

    As can be seen from the following link it is widely accepted among philosophers of religion that the free will defense is successful, so you argue against the scholarly consensus here:

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/evil-log/

  116. #116 Wow
    August 6, 2012

    And what’s the point of free will if the punishment for doing so is eternal torment?

    Patrick: “But by stating this he would indirectly argue that the Judeo-Christian concept of God represents the most reasonable version of theism”

    Nope. He’s arguing from the point of view of 99% (OK, made up figure, but it’s a vasty majority) of what the people who are talking about “God” mean when THEY say “God”.

    Because the judeo-christian god is the most pushy by far, because most of the western world is largely of that faith and that especially in the USA, when the legislators talk about “faith” or “Religion” or “alternatives”, they ONLY mean Christian ones.

    See the state that legislated aid for faith schools and were fine when christian schools partook of this largesse, but they’re frantically backpedalling now that a muslim faith school is getting a handout under the same legislation.

  117. #117 Patrick
    August 6, 2012

    JeromeS: „Also, if beings with free will necessarily sometimes choose evil, then either there is evil in Heaven, or people who go to Heaven (or, rather, their “immortal soul”) lose their free will and become automatons.

    [...]

    So why doesn’t God just put us in Heaven in the first place?

    [...]

    Then why doesn’t God create us such that no one wants to sin during their mortal lives, either?“

    From the fate of sinning angels as described in 2 Peter 2,4 one can see that if one was able to be without sin, but nevertheless chose sin, one’s fate would be sealed. So the fact that we are imperfect and not able to be completely without sin may be the price we have to pay that we can sin and nevertheless repent and come to God again and again. So, it may be good that God created us as imperfect beings.

    According to Ezekiel 11,19-20, John 8,34-36, Romans 8,29, 2 Corinthians 5,17, and Galatians 5,16-18 God indeed provided us with the possibility to attain a state in which we are able to live without sin here on Earth, at least to some degree (1 John 1,8). It the power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to be in such a state. But one must be willing to strive after this state (Romans 6,11-14, 12,2, 13,13-14, Galatians 5,16-18, Ephesians 4,17-24). God will give the Holy Spirit to anyone asking Him (Luke 11,13). We may even expect that one day the vast majority of humankind will be in such a state here on Earth (Isaiah 2,1-5, 11,1-10).

  118. #118 Wow
    August 6, 2012

    Of course, that might be a load of hokum, Patrick. A whitewash with words that merely say “Oh, it’s all fine because a book that says so says so”.

  119. #119 eric
    August 6, 2012

    Anonymous:

    The age of accountability is the moment when a person begins to be responsible for their actions. It is when they have recieved the knowledge of right and wrong. If an infant dies before this time, it is placed in Heaven because it knew no wrong…

    …God put us on miserable Earth to test each and every one of us to see which ones stick with Him and which don’t. If God just looked ahead and placed everyone in their afterlife home, then we, as dumb humans, wouldn’t be would not understand why we were in Heaven or hell. Even if God did tell us why we were all placed in our different afterlifes, we would more than likely complain and say that it is not fair because we wish we could make the choices ourselves.

    Don’t you see how the first quoted paragraph and the second one are contradictory? If we begin with the first paragraph as our baseline assumption (babies go to heaven) then obviously its not a problem to place people in heaven without having them suffer.

    Or we can begin with your second paragraph as our baseline assumption, in which case we must conclude there are a lot of people in heaven complaining right now, because they died as children.

  120. #120 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    My comment is too big. i would love to continue this arguement, but i cant without your email addresses. Please post them: wow, jerome, patrick, eric, raging bee, mnb, gary, kevin

  121. #121 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    BTW do you really believe that the babies are complaining? think about it.

  122. #122 eric
    August 6, 2012

    Anonymous,
    Write it in MSWord (or another editor), then copy and paste it into multiple messages. Send them at about 10 minutes each, Jason has a filter preventing multiple, rapid posts.

    BTW do you really believe that the babies are complaining? think about it.

    Hey, YOU were the person who said that people who haven’t experienced pain would be complaining in heaven. I’m just pointing out that there’s a subset of people who you agree go to heaven, that didn’t experience pain while here on earth.

    …Unless you are saying that these infants never mature in heaven. They never grow, or learn, or develop, so obviously they wouldn’t complain. Is that what you are saying?

  123. #123 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    I apologize for not clarifying. I did not mean that the people in Heaven would be complaining because they wouldn’t be. I mean, i wouldn’t. The people in hell would claim they could have went to heaven if they made different choices. THAT is what God saw when he looked at his options

    another thing is on the blog “Another round on Science/religion compatibility” I tried that and it eventually stopped posting my messages all together. Ill just post it here in sections and id appreciate it if you would read it when i post it

  124. #124 Raging Bee
    Here
    August 6, 2012

    No, nameless one, I’m not giving you my email address. You made your lame infantile arguments here, so you can bloody well continue them here (if you can). If your comment is too big to post (which I doubt, given the masses of deranged nonsense I’ve seen posted here), just break it up into smaller comments.

  125. #125 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    Okay… Well these geology books based on evolution falsely prove that the Earth is millions of years old through several different assessments of different things. I will be following up with more comments on different subjects later.
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT COMMENT

  126. #126 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    1. Carbon Dating:
    Before I go into detail on how it works, I shall remind you about the atom. The number of protons in an atom is particular to that kind of atom, while one kind of atom can have different variations of the number of neutrons called isotopes. For example, Carbon has six protons and always will, but the number of neutrons can vary. The most stable Carbon is one with 12 neutrons. Some isotopes are unstable. These unstable isotopes are radioactive and change into another element or isotope through radioactive decay. Since isotopes (particularly a Carbon with 14 neutrons that decays to a Carbon of 12 neutrons) decay at a measurable rate, scientists try to use it like a clock to tell how old a fossil is.
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  127. #127 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    There are two ways of applying radiometric dating. One is through living things (using the radioactive decay of Carbon-14), and the other is for dating rocks for the age of the Earth (using Uranium, Potassium, etc…).
    A. Carbon-14 Dating
    Carbon-14 is claimed to be a reliable dating method for determining the age of fossils up to 50,000 and 60,000 years. If this claim is true, the biblical account of a young (6000 yrs.) is in question. However, let us examine their methods: I. Is the explanation of the data derived from empirical, observational science, or an interpretation of past events (historical science)? II. Are there any assumptions involved in the dating method? III. Are the dates provided by Carbon dating consistent with what we observe? IV. Do all scientists accept the Carbon dating method as reliable and accurate?
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  128. #128 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    All radiometric dating methods use scientific procedures in the present to interpret what has happened in the past. The procedures used are not necessarily in question. The interpretation of past events is in question. The secular (evolutionary) worldview interprets the universe and world to be billions of years old. The Bible claims 6000 years at the OLDEST. Which worldview does TRUE science support?
    The use of Carbon dating is often misunderstood. Carbon-14 is mostly used to date organic material. It cannot be used to date rocks. However, it can potentially be used to put time constraints on some inorganic material such as diamonds. Because of the rapid decay of Carbon-14, it can only give dates in the thousands-of-years range.
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  129. #129 Patrick
    August 6, 2012

    Wow: „Of course, that might be a load of hokum, Patrick. A whitewash with words that merely say “Oh, it’s all fine because a book that says so says so”.“

    With respect to the problem of evil the arguments in favour of theism don’t have to be plausible for an atheist, they just have to be logically possible or plausible given theism.

  130. #130 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    There are three different naturally occurring varieties (isotopes) of Carbon. Carbon-14 is used because it is unstable, whereas others are stable (they will not change form over time). Radioactive means that Carbon-14 will decay (emit radiation) over time and become a different element. During this process (called “Beta decay”) a neutron in the Carbon-14 atom will be converted into a proton and an electron. By losing one neutron and gaining one proton, Carbon-14 becomes Nitrogen-14.
    If Carbon-14 is constantly decaying, will the Earth eventually run out of it? No, it is constantly being added to the atmosphere. Cosmic rays from outer space, which contain high levels of energy, bombard the Earth’s upper atmosphere constantly. These cosmic rays collide with atoms in the atmosphere and can cause them to come apart. Neutrons that come from these fragmented atoms collide with Nitrogen-14 atoms and convert them into Carbon-14 atoms
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  131. #131 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    Once Carbon-14 is produced, it combines with Oxygen in the atmosphere to form Carbon dioxide. Because Carbon dioxide gets incorporated into plants, all living things should have the same ratio of Carbon-14 and Carbon-12 in them as them as in the air we breathe
    Once a living thing dies, the dating process begins. As long as an organism is alive it will continue to take in Carbon-14. However, when it dies, it will stop. Since Carbon-14 is radioactive, the amount of Carbon-14 in a dead organism gets less and less over time. Therefore, part of the dating process involves measuring the amount of Carbon-14 that remains after some has decayed. Scientists now use a device called an Accelerator Mass Spectrometer (AMS) to determine the ratio of Carbon-14 to Carbon-12, which increases the assumed accuracy to about 80,000 years. In order to actually do the dating other things need to be known. Two such things include the following questions: I. How fast does Carbon-14 decay? II. What was the starting amount of Carbon-14 in the creature when it died?
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  132. #132 eric
    August 6, 2012

    Anonymous:

    I apologize for not clarifying. I did not mean that the people in Heaven would be complaining because they wouldn’t be. I mean, i wouldn’t

    Then the argument you made on Aug 5, 10:21 AM fails and there is no reason we need to suffer or live in a suffering world before being put in a heavenly one.

    Re: your last two posts. You do not need to explain how carbon dating works. We know. Just tell us your issue with it. Better yet, go to TalkOrigins, look up your issue, and if you can’t find how its already been addressed, THEN bring it up here.
    Also keep in mind that geologists don’t use Carbon dating to date the earth or rocks or other really old stuff. They typically use longer-lived isotopes; U, Th, K, and their daughters.

  133. #133 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    The decay rate of radioactive elements is described in terms of half-life. The half-life of an atom is the amount of time it takes for half of the atoms in a sample to decay. The half-life of Carbon-14 is 5,730 years. For example, a jar starting full of Carbon-14 atoms at time zero will contain half Carbon-14 atoms and half nitrogen-14 atoms at the end of 5,730 years (one half-life). At the end of 11,460 years (two half-lives) the jar will contain one-quarter Carbon-14 atoms and three-quarter Nitrogen-14 atoms.
    The only part left to determine is the starting amount of Carbon-14 in a fossil. If scientists know the original amount of Carbon-14 in a creature when it died, they can measure the current amount and then calculate how many half-lives have passed. Since no one was there to measure the amount of Carbon-14 when the creature died, scientists need to find methods to determine how much Carbon-14 has decayed.
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  134. #134 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    To do this, scientists use the main isotope of Carbon (Carbon-12). Because it is stable, it will remain constant. However the amount of Carbon-14 will decrease after the creature dies. All living things take in carbon from eating and breathing. Therefore, the ratio of Carbon-14 to Carbon-12 in living creatures will be the same as in the atmosphere. This ratio turns out to be about one Carbon-14 atom for every 1 trillion Carbon-12 atoms. Scientists can use this ratio to help determine the starting amount of Carbon-14.
    When an organism dies, this ratio will begin to change. The amount of Carbon-12 will remain constant, but the amount of Carbon-14 will become less and less. The smaller the ratio, the longer the organism has been dead.
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  135. #135 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    A critical ASSUMPTION used in Carbon-14 dating has to do with this ratio. It is assumed that the ratio of Carbon-14 to Carbon-12 in the atmosphere has always been the same as it is today. IF this assumption is true, than the AMS Carbon-14 dating is valid up to 80,000 years. Beyond this number, the instrument that scientists use would not be able to detect enough remaining Carbon-14 to be useful in age estimates. This is a critical ASSUMPTION in the dating process. If the assumption is not true, then the method will give incorrect dates. What could cause this ratio to change? If the production rate of Carbon-14 in the atmosphere is not equal to the removal rate (mostly through decay), this ratio would change. In other words, the amount of Carbono-14 to Carbon-12 is not a constant, which would make knowing the starting amount of Carbon-14 in a specimen difficult or impossible to accurately determine.
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  136. #136 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    Dr. Willard Libby, founder of the Carbon-14 dating method, assumed this ratio to be constant. His reasoning was based on a belief n evolution, which assumes the Earth must be billions of years old. ASSUMPTIONS in the scientific community are extremely important. If the starting assumption is false, all the calculations based on that assumption might be correct but still give a wrong conclusion. In Dr. Libby’s original work, he noted that the atmosphere did not appear to be in equilibrium. This was a troubling idea for him since he believed the world was billions of years old and enough time had passed to achieve equilibrium. Dr. Libby’s calculations showed that if the Earth started with no Carbon-14 in the atmosphere, it would take up to 30,000 years to achieve equilibrium. HIS FINDINGS THAT EARTH IS NOT IN EQUILIBRIUM AND WOULD NEED TO ACHIEVE EQUILIBRIUM AT 30,000 YEARS, FURTHER CONTRADICTS HIS OWN WORK, THE EARTH’S AGE, AND EVOLUTION ALL AT ONCE. HIS WOK WAS ONLY CONCLUSIVE THAT THE EARTH HAD TO BE YOUNGER THAN 30,000 YEARS BECAUSE EQUILIBRIUM HAS NOT BEEN ACHIEVED.
    I WILL CONTNUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  137. #137 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    Dr. Libby chose to ignore this HUGE fact and base his work on a false assumption which attributed to experimental error. However the discrepancy has turned out to be very real. The ratio of Carbon-14 to Carbon-12 is not constant.
    Other factors can affect the production rate of Carbon-14 in the atmosphere. The Earth has a magnetic field around it which helps protect us from harmful radiation from outer space. This magnetic field is decaying. The stronger the field is around the Earth, the fewer the number of cosmic rays that are able to reach the atmosphere. This would result in a smaller production of Carbon-14 in the atmosphere in Earth’s past.
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  138. #138 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    “The cause for the long term variation of the Carbon-14 level is not known. The variation is certainly partially the result of a change in the cosmic ray production rate of radiocarbon. The cosmic-ray flux, and hence the production rate of Carbon-14, is a function not only of the solar activity but also of the magnetic dipole moment of the Earth.
    – M. Stuiver and H. Suess, “On the Relationship between Radiocarbon Dates and True Sample Ages”, “Radiocarbon” vol. 8, 1966
    “Though complex, the history o the Earth’s magnetic field agrees with Barnes’ basic hypothesis that the field has always freely decayed… The field has always been losing energy despite its variations, SO IT CANNOT BE MORE THAN 10,000 YEARS OLD.”
    – D.R. Humphreys, “The Mystery of Earth’s Magnetic Field, ICR “Impact” #292, Feb. 1, 1989, http://www.icr.org/article/292

    “Earth’s magnetic field is fading. Today it is about 10 percent weaker than it was when German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss started keeping tabs on it in 1845…”
    – J. Roach, “National Geographic News”, Sept. 9, 2004
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  139. #139 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    If the production rate of Carbon-14 in the atmosphere was less in the past, dates given using Carbon-14 method would incorrectly assume that more Carbon-14 had decayed out of a specimen than what has actually occurred. This would result in giving older dates than the true age.
    What role might the Genesis flood have played in the amount of Carbon? The Flood would have buried large amounts of Carbon from living organisms to form today’s fossil fuels. The amount of fossil fuels indicates there must have been a vastly larger quantity of vegetation in existence prior to the Flood than exists today. This means that the biosphere just prior to the Flood might have had 500 times more carbon in living organisms than today. This would further dilute the amount of Cabon-14 and cause the Carbon-14 to Carbon-12 ratio to be much smaller than today.
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  140. #140 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    “If that were the case, and this Carbon-14 were distributed uniformly throughout the biosphere, and the total amount of biosphere C were, for example, 500 times more that of today’s world, resulting Carbon-14 to Carbon-12 ratio would be one five hundredths (1/500) of today’s level.”
    – J.R. Baumgardner, “C-14 Evidence for a Recent Global Flood and a Young Earth”, in L. Vardiman, A.A. Snelling, and E.F. Chaffin (Eds.), “Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth: Results of a Young-Earth Creationist Research Initiative”, Institute for Creation Research, Santee, California, and Creation Research Society, Chino Valley, Arizona, 2005

    When the Flood is taken into account, along with the decay of the magnetic field, it is reasonable to believe that the assumption of equilibrium is a false assumption. Because of this false assumption, any age estimates using Carbon-14 dating on organic material that dates from prior to the Flood will give much older dates than the true ages. Pre-Flood organic materials would be dated perhaps ten times the true age.
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  141. #141 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    In 1997 an eight-year research project was started to investigate the age of the Earth. The group was called the RATE group (Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth). The team of scientists included:
    -Larry Vardiman, PhD Atmospheric Science
    -Russell Humphreys, PhD Physics
    -Eugene Chaffin, PhD Physics
    -Donald DeYoung, PhD Physics
    -John Baumgardner, PhD Geophysics
    -Steven Austin, PhD Geology
    -Andrew Snelling, PhD Geology
    -Steven Boyd, PhD Hebraic and Cognate Studies
    The objective was to gather data commonly ignored or censored by evolutionary standards of dating. The scientists reviewed the assumptions and procedures used in estimating the ages of rocks and fossils. The results of the Carbon-14 dating demonstrated serious problems for long geologic ages. For example, a series of fossilized wood samples that conventionally have been dated according to their hos strata to be from Tertiary to Permian (40-250 million years old) all yielding significant, detectable levels of Carbon-14 that would conventionally equate to only 30,000-45,000 years for the original trees. Similarly, a survey of the conventional radiocarbon journals resulted in more than forty examples of supposedly ancient organic materials, including lime stones that contained Carbon-14.
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  142. #142 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    Samples were then taken from ten different coal layers that, according to evolutionists, represent different time periods in the geologic column (Cenozoic, Mesozoic, and Paleozoic). The RATE group obtained these ten coal samples from the U.S. Department of Energy Coal Sample Bank, from samples collected from major coalfields across the United States. The chosen coal samples, which dated millions to hundreds of millions of years old based on standard evolution time estimates, all contained measurable amounts of Carbon-14. In all cases, careful precautions were taken to eliminate any possibility of contamination from other sources. Samples in all three “time-periods” displayed significant amounts of Carbon-14. THIS IS A SIGNIFICANT DISCOVERY. SINCE THE HALF-LIFE FOR CARBON-12 IS PARTICULARLY SHORT (5,730 YEARS) THERE SHOULD BE NO DETECTIBLE CARBON-14’S LEFT AFTER ABOUT 100,000 YEARS. THE AVERAGE CARBON-14 WAS APPROXIMATELY 50,000 YEARS. HOWEVER, USSING A MORE REALISTIC, PRE-FLOOD CARBON-14 TO CARBON-12 RATIO REDUCES THAT AGE TO ABOUT 5,000 YEARS.
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  143. #143 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    These results indicate that the entire fossil-bearing geologic column is much less than 100,000 years old-and even much younger. This confirms the Bible and challenges the evolutionary idea of long geologic ages.
    Another noteworthy observation from RATE group was the amount of Carbon-14 found in diamonds. Secular scientists have estimated the ages of diamonds to be millions to billions of years old using other radiometric dating methods. These methods are also based on questionable assumptions and I will discuss this type of radiometric dating later. Because of their hardness, diamonds are extremely resistant to contamination through chemical exchange. Since diamonds are considered to be so old by evolutionary standards, finding any Carbon-14 in them would be strong support for a recent creation.
    The RATE group analyzed twelve diamond samples for possible Carbon-14 content. Similar to the coal results, all twelve diamonds samples contained detectable, but lower levels of Carbon-14. These findings are powerful evidence that coal and diamonds cannot be millions or billions of years old that evolutionists claim. Indeed, these RATE findings of detectable Carbon-14 in diamonds have been confirmed independently by R.E. Taylor and J. Southon on the “Use of Natural Diamonds to Monitor Carbon-14 AMS Instrument Backgrounds” in “Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physical Research B 259:282-287, 2007. Carbon-14 found in fossils at all layers of the geologic column, in coal and diamonds, is evidence which confirms the biblical timescale of thousands of years and not billions.
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  144. #144 Raging Bee
    Here
    August 6, 2012

    The minute Anonymous claimed his comment was too big to post, I figured it would be nothing but an unstructured mass of crap, using overwhelming quantity to compensate for piss-poor quality. And sure enough, the basic fallacies of Anon’s theology become obvious very early on:

    The secular (evolutionary) worldview interprets the universe and world to be billions of years old. The Bible claims 6000 years at the OLDEST. Which worldview does TRUE science support?

    First, “The secular (evolutionary) worldview” isn’t just a “worldview,” it’s a set of theories supported by centuries of observation and reasoning. “TRUE science” is “The secular (evolutionary) worldview.” The Bible is just one book, and the age of the Universe isn’t even its primary subject.

    And second, does the Bible really claim an age for the Universe? Please show us exactly where the Bible offers any solid numbers here. If you can’t even do that, then there’s no point in bothering with the rest of your turgid threadjack about carbon-dating — which has nothing at all to do with the original subject of this post anyway!

    The fact that Anon is repasting such a huge amount of young-Earth-creationist rubbish — when this post wasn’t about creationism to begin with — pretty clearly shows he/she is unable to engage honestly with us on the subject of his earlier comments.

    Also, I notice Anon keeps on using the word ASSUMPTION, always in caps, as if it’s a magic word that will win all of his arguments for him if he chants it loud enough. Seriously, boy, do you really think we haven’t heard — and debunked — the old “presuppositional bias” argument before?

    Or do you even understand the content you’re posting? The fact that you’re pasting such a huge mass of stuff about a completely different subject from what you were originally talking about, strongly implies you really don’t understand any of it, you’re just taking whatever looks sciencey and throwing it feverishly about without even bothering to read it.

  145. #145 Raging Bee
    August 6, 2012

    Good Gods, I just read Anon’s comment about “information” in the post next door. If this God-botherer is spouting Dembski’s crap about “information,” then it’s a pretty sure bet he’s as lame at theology as he is at science.

    BTW, nameless one, Dembski’s drivel is part of “intelligent design,” not young-Earth creationism. If you want to be taken seriously here, the first thing you’ll have to do is decide which form of creationism you’re defending.

  146. #146 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    2. Radiometric dating
    The presupposition of long ages is an icon and foundational to the evolutionary model. Nearly every textbook and media journal teaches that the Earth is billions of years old. The primary dating method scientists use for determining the age of the Earth is radioisotope dating. Proponents of evolution publicize radioisotope dating as a reliable and consistent method for obtaining absolute ages of rocks and the age of the Earth. This apparent consistency in textbooks and the media has convinced many Christians to accept an old Earth (supposedly 4.6 billion years old.
    Radioisotope dating (also referred to as radiometric dating) is the process of estimating the ages of rocks from the decay of radioactive elements in them. There are certain kinds of atoms in nature that are unstable and spontaneously change. For example, uranium will radioactively decay through a series of steps until it becomes the stable element Lead. Likewise, Potassium decays into the element Argon. The original element is referred to as the parent element (in these cases uranium and potassium), and the end result is called the daughter element (lead and argon).
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  147. #147 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    Raging bee:
    I now i changed the subject, but I did so because the other blog i was commenting on would not let me comment further.
    Anyways…
    The straightforward reading of Scripture reveals that the days of creation were literal days and that the Earth is just 6000 years old. These appear to be fundamental conflict between the Bible and the reported ages given by radioisotope dating. Since God is the Creator of all things and His Word is true, the true age of the Earth must agree with His Word. However, rather than accept the biblical account of creation, many Christians have accepted the radioisotope dates of billions of years and attempted to fit long ages into the Bible. The implications of doing this are profound and affect many parts of the Bible.
    Radioisotope dating is commonly used to date igneous rocks. These are rocks which form when hot, molten material cools and solidifies. Types of igneous rocks include granite and basalt. Sedimentary rocks, which contain most of the world’s fossils, are not commonly used in radioisotope dating. These types of rocks are comprised of particles from many preexisting rocks which were transported (mostly by water) and redepositted somewhere else. Types of sedimentary rocks include sandstone, shale, and limestone.

  148. #148 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    The radioisotope dating clock starts when a rock cools. During the molten state it is assumed that the intense heat will force any gaseous daughter elements like Argon to escape. Once the rock cools it is assumed that no more atoms can escape and any daughter element found in a rock will be the result of radioactive decay. The dating process then requires measuring how much daughter element is in a rock sample and knowing the decay rate.
    Uranium-238 is an isotope of Uranium that will radioactively decay first into Thorium-234, and then into Lead-206 (alpha decay). In this case, the atomic mass changes. Atomic mass is the heaviness of an atom when compared to Hydrogen, which is assigned the value of one.
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUEMENT IN THE NEXT POST

  149. #149 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    Scientists use observational science to measure the amount of a daughter element within a rock sample and to determine the present observable decay rate of the parent element. Dating methods must also rely on another kind of science called historical science, which cannot be observed. Determining the conditions present when a rock first formed can only be studied through historical science. Determining how the first environment might have affected a rock also falls under historical science. Neither condition is directly observable. Since radioisotope dating uses both types of science, we can’t directly measure the age of something. We can use scientific techniques in the present, combined with assumptions about historical events, to estimate age. Therefore, there are several assumptions that must be made in radioisotope dating. Three critical assumptions can affect the results during radioisotope dating:
    A. The initial conditions of the rock sample are accurately known
    B. The amount of parent or daughter elements in a sample has not already been altered by processes other than radioactive decay.
    C. The half-life of the parent isotope has remained constant since the rock was formed
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  150. #150 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    Radioisotope dating can be better understood using an illustration with an hourglass. If we walk into a room and observe and hourglass with sand at the top and sand at the bottom, we could calculate how much time has elapsed since the hourglass was turned over. By estimating how fast the sand is falling and measuring the amount of sand at the bottom we could calculate how much time has elapsed since the hourglass turned over. All of our calculations could be correct, but the result could be wrong. This is because we failed to take into account some critical assumptions.
    I. Was there any sand at the bottom when the hourglass was first turned over (initial condition)?
    II. Has any sand been added or taken out of the hourglass (unlike the open-system nature of the rock, this is not possible for a sealed hourglass)
    III. Has the sand been falling at a constant rate?
    Since we did not observe the initial conditions when the hourglass time started, we must make assumptions. All three of these assumptions can affect our time calculations. If scientists fail to consider each of these three critical assumptions, then radioisotope dating can give incorrect ages.
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  151. #151 Raging Bee
    August 6, 2012

    I now i changed the subject, but I did so because the other blog i was commenting on would not let me comment further.

    That’s not an excuse. You promised to continue your arguments with certain persons you named, including myself; and IIRC none of us were arguing about creationism or carbon dating.

    The straightforward reading of Scripture reveals that the days of creation were literal days and that the Earth is just 6000 years old.

    Define “straightforward.” There are plenty of Christians, who show more wisdom than you have so far, whose “straightforward reading of Scripture” tells them that the Bible often uses words in a very non-literal fashion — and is, in fact, full of stories that are clearly expected to be read as metaphors or analogies, not literal retellings of specific events.. Isn’t there a reference to “corners” of the Earth in there somewhere? Oh yea, here it is, Isiah 11:12:

    And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

    So tell us, does your “straightforward reading of Scripture” reveal the the Earth is flat and has corners?

  152. #152 JeromeS
    August 6, 2012

    patrick,
    From the fate of sinning angels as described in 2 Peter 2,4 one can see that if one was able to be without sin, but nevertheless chose sin, one’s fate would be sealed. So the fact that we are imperfect and not able to be completely without sin may be the price we have to pay that we can sin and nevertheless repent and come to God again and again. So, it may be good that God created us as imperfect beings.

    This simply does not answer the question. Given the premises that God is omnipotent and God hates sin, why didn’t he create us such that we never choose sin?

  153. #153 JeromeS
    August 6, 2012

    patrick,

    As can be seen from the following link it is widely accepted among philosophers of religion that the free will defense is successful, so you argue against the scholarly consensus here

    To the contary, your citation concludes: “some important challenges to the Free Will Defense remain unanswered.”

  154. #154 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    I promise to finish the other argument after this one.

  155. #155 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    Actually, i will adress your questions first.
    1. “Doesn’t the Bible talk in metaphors? So what makes you think it means six literal days?
    Funny you should ask, because, not only does the Bible talk in metaphors, but the Bible reference you made was one (I will discuss this later in the comment).
    It is a good exercise to read Genesis 1 and try to put aside outside influences that may cause you to have a predetermined idea of what the word “day” may mean. Just let the words of the passage speak to you.
    Taking Genesis 1 in this way, at face value, without doubt it says that God created the univers, the Earth, the sun, moon and stars, plants and animals, and the first two people within six ordinary days. Bein really honest, you would have to admit that you could never get the idea of millions of years from reading this passage.
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  156. #156 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    The majority of Cristians in the western world, however, do not insist that these days of creation were ordinary days, and many of them teach that they were “ages”. But what does the Bible tell us about the meaning of the translated word “day” in Genisis 1? A word can have more than one meaning, depending on the context. For instance the English word “day” can have 14 different meanings. For example, consider the following sentence: “Back in my grandfather’s day, it took 12 days to drive across the country during the day.”
    Here the first occurence of “day”, means “time” in a general sense. The second “day”, where a number is used, it refers to an ordinary day, and the third refers to the daylight portion of the 24-hour period. The point is that words can have more than one meaning, depending on the context.

  157. #157 MNb
    August 6, 2012

    @Wow 12:29 “He’s arguing from the point of view of 99% ….. of what the people who are talking about “God” mean when THEY say “God”.”
    Actually it’s possibly a minority in Europe. That’s why evolution isn’t really an issue. Most believers in Suriname, where I live, probably believe in the Kierkegaardian way. When confronted with arguments and/or science they just shrug. The nice thing about that attitude is that they don’t make a fuzz about my atheism either.
    There are some fundies, but they are quite impopular. And mind you, about all world religions are represented here.

    @Patrick 12:35 “So the fact that we …..” This doesn’t hold up or you’ll have to maintain that souls in heaven will sin now and then as well. You’re neglecting this essential part of JeromeS’ argument.

    @Anon. 4:24 “The people in hell would claim they could have went to heaven if they made different choices.”
    A tri-omni god would not need to put souls in hell – he would have prevented those souls from sinning by not creating them. What’s more, as an atheist I am perfectly willing to give up my existence – right now or even before my birth – to allow deserving believers like you to skip the vale of tears called Earth and go directly to heaven. The whole shenanigan, if it lasts 6 000 or 14,7 billion years, is completely superfluous from the point of view of a tri-omni god. Create souls who don’t sin, or only now and then but obeyingly repent, who deserve to go to heaven and send them there straight away. Don’t create those annoying atheists etc. who ask nasty questions all the time. You are heartily welcome to it.
    But I won’t hold my breath.

  158. #158 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    To understan the meaning of “day” in Genesis 1, we need o determine how the Hebrew word for “day”, “yom”, is used in the context of Scripture. Consider the following.
    – A typical concordance will illustrate “yom” can have a range of meanings: a period of light as contrasted to night, a 24-hour period, time, a specific point of time, or a year (NEVER MILLIONS OF YEARS OR “AGES”)
    -A classic, well-respected Hebrew-English lexicon (F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, “A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1951) has seven headings and many subheadings for the meaning of “yom”- but it defines the creation days of Genesis 1 as ordinary days under the heading “day as defined by evening and morning.”
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  159. #159 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    - A number and the phrase “evening and morning” are used with each of the six days of creation.
    – Outside Genesis 1, “yom” is used with a number 359 times, and each time it means an ordinary day. Why should Genesis be an exception?
    -Outside Genesis 1, “yom” is used with the word “evening” or “morning” 23 times. “Evening” and “Morning” appear in association, but without “yom”, 38 times. All 61 times the text refers to an ordinary day. Why would Genisis 1 be the exception?
    -In Genesis 1:5, “yom” occurs in context with the word “night”. Outside of Genesis 1, “night” is used 53 times, and each time it means an ordinary day. Why should Genesis 1 be the exception? Even the word “light” used with the word “yom” in the same passage determines the meaning as ordinary day.
    -The plural of “yom”, WHICH DOES NOT APPEAR IN GENESIS 1, can be used to communicate a longer time period, such as “in those days”. Adding a number here would be nonsensical. Clearly, in Exodus 20:11, where a number is used with the plural of “yom”, it unambiguously refers to six Earth-rotation days.
    – There are words in Biblical Hebrew (such as “olam” or “qedem”) that are very suitable for communicating long periods of time, or indefinite time, but none of these words are used in Genesis 1. Alternatively, The days or years could have been compared with grains of sand if long periods were meant.
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  160. #160 MNb
    August 6, 2012

    @Anon 4:33 “falsely prove that the Earth is millions of years old”
    So you’re a literalist. Then please explain to me the value of pi as given in 1 Kings 7:23 and 2 Chro 4:2. Note: according to the margin errors as used in physics – and that’s what we’re talking about – 30 divided by 10 equals 3,0 (two significant numbers) and your god obviously knew that already back then, so the rounding down argument is invalid.

    “Since God is the Creator of all things and His Word is true”
    Ah yes, all math books have to be rewritten. Pi = 3,0. The creator of all things said so.

    Then explain me about the sloth. It lives in Suriname; it’s a very cute animal that walks about 150 meter an hour on the ground. As far as I know it can’t swim and can’t survive outside the tropical forests. How do you imagine the sloth ever reached Noach’s boat in time?
    Until then I won’t give a Surinamese dime for your pseudoscientific insights.

  161. #161 MNb
    August 6, 2012

    Like this one:

    “The radioisotope dating clock starts when a rock cools.”
    Wrong. The radioisotope dating clock works backwardly and starts the moment the radiometrist begins measuring. It begins with the ratio of say radioactive Uranium left in the sample compared to the non-radioactive Lead. If that ratio is 1:1 we know the age of the sample equals the half-life. It’s a logarithmical function.
    What’s more, radiometrists always do a double check, ie they don’t only accept the outcomes provided by measuring Uranium, but use other radioactive elements as well. Guess what? Almost always the results match. So your objections are nonsensical.

    “not only does the Bible talk in metaphors”
    Oh wait. Then we don’t have to accept the 6 000 years crap, the first chapters of Genesis and the flood thing. Just metaphors.

    @Raging Bee 6:12 “pretty clearly shows he/she is unable to engage honestly”
    Are you surprised?

  162. #162 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    Dr. James Barr (Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford University) who himself does not believe Genesis is true, nonetheless admitted as far as the language of Genesis is concerned that:
    “So far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Gen. 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story (c) Noah’s flood was understood to be worldwide and extinguish all human an animal life except for those in the ark.”
    -J. Barr, personal letter to David Watson, April 23, 1984

    In like manner, nineteenth century Professor Marcus Dods, New College, Edinburgh, said:
    “If, for example, the word “day” in these chapters does not mean a period of twenty-four hours, the interpretation of Scripture is hopeless.”
    -M. Dods, “Expositor’s Bible, T & T Clark, Edinburgh, 1888, as cited by D. Kelly, “Creation and Change, Christian Focus Publications, Fearn, Scotland, 1997
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  163. #163 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    Mnb, i will get to Noah’s ark later. Wait your turn.

    2. Age of the Universe
    -Evolutionists=Earth-4.5 billion years/universe-14 billion years
    -Creationists=Earth and universe are both (not each) 6000 years old.

    Simply put, the Young-Earth worldview came from the Bible. Of course, It doesn’t say explicitely anywhere everything is is “6000” years old. Good thing it doesn’t; otherwise it would be out of date that following year (obviously). But we wouldn’t expect an all-knowing God to make that kind of mistake.
    God gave us something much better. In essence, He gave us a “birth certificate”. For example, using a personal birth certificate, a person can calculate how old he is at any point. It is similar with the Earth. Genesis 1 says that the Earth was created on the first day of creation. From there, we can begin to calculate the age of the Earth.
    I WILL CONTINUE MY ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  164. #164 Anonymous
    August 6, 2012

    Let’s do a rough calculation to show how this works. The age of the Earth can be estimated by taking the first five days of creation, then following the geneologies from Adam to Abraham (the Bible includes their ages) in Genesis 5 and 11, then adding in the time from Abraham to today. Adam was created on day 6, so there were five days before him. If we add up the dates from Adaom to Abraham, we get roughly 2000 years, using the Masoretic Hebrew text of Genesis 5 and 11, Whether Christian or secular, most scholars would agree that Abraham lived about 2000 B.C. (4000 years ago).
    A simple calculation is: 5 days+2000 years+4000 years=6000 years.

    3. Isaiah 11:12
    Truly it is a metaphor, but obviously that doesn’t mean that the whole Bible is metaphors. It is reffering to the global population map. When an atlas is looked into, one would find at least one two-page, flat map of the Earth as if someone had taken off the crust of a spinning globe and put it to paper. It would appear to have four corners including: N. America, S. America, Australia, and Eastern Asia. Isaiah is forseeing, through God’s grace of knowledge bestowed upon him, the Roman empire when most of the civilized world is together under one government. The phrase “all roads lead to Rome” was no exaggeration. God was telling us that He would make sure the majority of the population of the Earth new about this strange Son of Nazureth dying on a Roman cross for “claiming” to be God’s Son who was also was the one to crucify instead of being let go (as passover tradition went) from custody instead of the thieving, murderous, rapist that everyone supposedly hated more than anyone in that day. Those who were not under the Roman empire at least got word of this Jesus of Nazureth. THAT is what God (through Isaiah) ment when he said “gather together… from the four corners of the Earth”.
    I WILL CONTINUE MY OTHER ARGUMENT IN MY NEXT POST

  165. #165 Darth Dog
    USA
    August 6, 2012

    @Anon “God was telling us that He would make sure the majority of the population of the Earth new about this strange Son of Nazureth dying on a Roman cross”

    By estimates that I have seen, the populations of both China and India at that time were greater than the population of Europe. Don’t forget about the rest of Asia, Africa and the Americas. No, God did not arrange for the majority of the world’s population to know about Christ through the Roman Empire.

  166. #166 Raging Bee
    August 7, 2012

    Here the first occurence of “day”, means “time” in a general sense. The second “day”, where a number is used, it refers to an ordinary day, and the third refers to the daylight portion of the 24-hour period. The point is that words can have more than one meaning, depending on the context.

    First you assert that Genesis says the world was created in six LITERAL days; then you backtrack and admit that the word “day” has different meanings. You’ve just admitted that the six-literal-days creation timeline is NOT six twenty-four-hour days; and if even one of those “days” is not a literal 24-hour day, then the Bible can no longer be said to claim an exact age for the Earth.

    Your entire young-Earth-creation story fails, and miserably so.

  167. #167 Wow
    August 7, 2012

    Mnb 9:14

    It may not be more than 50% in europe, but the majority are christian, taught christianity most at school, and have mostly christian histories. Holy Roman Empire, remember.

    Most of the rest are either Muslim or Jewish. Both still in the Abrahamic Judeo-christian mold of what “God” means.

  168. #168 Wow
    August 7, 2012

    Anonidiot, carbon dating shows that we have societies and modern humans bach to 15-30,000 years.

    Disproving the 6000 year fantasy of the bibble.

  169. #169 Patrick
    August 7, 2012

    JeromeS: „To the contary, your citation concludes: “some important challenges to the Free Will Defense remain unanswered.”“

    As for the question whether or not there is free will in heaven 2 Peter 2,4 seems to suggest that there IS free will there and that free-willed agents dwelling there, namely some angels, decided to act against God’s will. But by behaving like this, obviously their fate was sealed. They had no excuse for it, as they were fully aware who God is and were also able to be without sin. At the same time they couldn’t know what it means to be excluded from God’s presence. We humans, however, are in a different situation. We are not fully aware who God is and not able to be without sin and therefore have an excuse when we decide to act against God’s will, which means that our fate is not sealed when we behave that way and we can repent and come back to God time and again. Moreover, unlike the angels, humans know what is like to live without God and therefore, despite having free will, they would nevertheless never sin in heaven.

    With respect to the question whether or not God has free will it first has to be established in what way exactly man is free. In my view the freedom God supplies us with is not the freedom to act morally or immorally, as we are unable to live without sin (Romans 7,14-19). It’s the freedom to turn to God and as a consequence to receive the power to withstand sinful desires (Galatians 5,16-18). If freedom is seen this way it becomes clear why God cannot have the freedom we have, as He simply is unable to turn to Himself or fail to do so.

  170. #170 Wow
    August 7, 2012

    Why “obviously”?

    Why give things free will then “obviously” treat them to eternal torment for it?

    When a mugger demands your wallet, there is no theft, since you gave it up of your own free will! He’ll just punish you if you don’t freely choose the actions he wants you to take.

  171. #171 Patrick
    August 7, 2012

    Wow: „Why give things free will then “obviously” treat them to eternal torment for it?

    When a mugger demands your wallet, there is no theft, since you gave it up of your own free will! He’ll just punish you if you don’t freely choose the actions he wants you to take.“

    One might argue that the angels didn’t know how terrible the consequences of their behaviour would be for themselves. Moreover, in this life the idea that immoral behaviour has to have unpleasant consequences for the perpetrator is widely accepted, even among atheists. So what’s wrong with assuming that this also applies to the afterlife?

  172. #172 MNb
    August 7, 2012

    @Wow 4:15 “the Abrahamic Judeo-christian mold of what “God” means.”
    There is not one AJC mold of what god means.
    Anon. means something completely different than the majority of European christians.
    RCC accepted evolution theory back in the 50’s, you know. There are some crealoonies, but they are generally laughed away – at least in my home country The Netherlands. Heck, we even have a vicar/theologian who calls himself an atheist – god doesn’t exist, god happens. Caused something of a scandal, but was not banned from PKN, the Dutch protestant church.

    @Anona 10:51 “Truly it is a metaphor, but obviously that doesn’t mean that the whole Bible is metaphors.”
    Obviously it means that all parts you prefer to take literally can be very well metaphors. Ie you are cherrypicking.
    And your nonsense about radiometry is still nonsense.

  173. #173 MNb
    August 7, 2012

    @Patrick: “unpleasant consequences”
    Unpleasant consequences means that heaven is not perfectly good.

    @Anon: nice to see how you neglect the problem of evil and refuse to answer my question why your god didn’t give Joseph Fritzl a heart attack within two weeks.
    Also remember that if you manage (but you won’t) to prove astronomy, biology and geology wrong that doesn’t mean your god did it. No false dichotomies today for ya.
    Before you continue with your arguments you might want to google on “Observed Speciation”. The oldest one (as far as I know) is from my compatriot Hugo de Vries, more than 100 years ago.

  174. #174 Raging Bee
    August 7, 2012

    Anonidiot, carbon dating shows that we have societies and modern humans bach to 15-30,000 years.

    Reminds me of an Onion headline: “Primitive Humans Watch In Awe As God Creates Earth”

  175. #175 Wow
    August 7, 2012

    “@Wow 4:15 “the Abrahamic Judeo-christian mold of what “God” means.”
    There is not one AJC mold of what god means.”

    Not to “sophisticated theists”. But then again “Monkey” means, to most people, chimps and so forth, even though biologists know that those are “apes”.

    God without any qualifiers does NOT mean any of the following:

    1) Mayan gods
    2) Australian Aborigine gods
    3) African gods
    3) Nordic gods
    4) Deist god urge
    5) Pantheistic god
    6) Bhuddist ancestor spirits
    7) Amerindian gods
    8) Voodoo gods
    9) Gods in avowed fantasy settings (e.g. Eru in Middle Earth)

    But WILL be accepted to mean the christian god.

  176. #176 Wow
    August 7, 2012

    “One might argue that the angels didn’t know how terrible the consequences of their behaviour would be for themselves”

    Then why didn’t God warn them?

    Is he a sadist?

  177. #177 Raging Bee
    August 7, 2012

    Wow: Notice how the smiley-face appeared on the same line as “Voodoo Gods?” I take that as a sign.

    And BTW, it’s “Voudoun,” not “Voodoo.” The former is the real African Diaspora religion (one of many), the latter is Hollywood BS.

  178. #178 Wow
    August 7, 2012

    Aye, but again, like “monkey chimps”, people will understand.

    And it’s the idiot markup that the “artistic designers” wanted. There’s absolutely no need for a list of items that go beyond “7)”, and EVERYONE wants a nice smiley. They’re patented, which PROVES they’re good!

  179. #179 eric
    August 7, 2012

    Hmmm, here’s a very terse reply to Anonymous’ very long tests:
    -We don’t need the C-14/C-12 ratio to be perfectly stable, we just need it to be reasonably stable and to know what it is. Instability increases the error bars, but a measurement of 50,000 years +/- 5,000 years is just as damning for YECism as a measurement of exactly 50,000 years.

    -The RATE samples were contaminated. As I suggested, you should look this up on TalkOrigins.

    -Your U series arguments are just speculation that some unknown process – which you won’t even give us an hypothesis about – interefered with decay rates or initial ratios. Your argument basically amounts to saying: we can’t be absolutely, philosophically certain about this data, therefore, throw it out. That’s ridiculous. Its also hypocritcal, since you don’t demand absolute philosophical certainty in your normal life or in the scientific data you do accept.

    -Lastly, if you’ve cut and pasted your material from another web page (which I suspect you did), you should really cite it.

  180. #180 Darth Dog
    USA
    August 7, 2012

    It can’t all be cut and pasted. Way too many spelling mistakes..

  181. #181 Raging Bee
    August 7, 2012

    He probably got it from a hack not much smarter than himself, and didn’t have the skill to edit it before pasting it far and wide. Seriously, do you really expect decent editing from someone who wrote “torcher?”

  182. #182 Iain Walker
    Cambridge, UK
    August 7, 2012

    Verbose Stoic (August 2, 11:37 am):

    The problem is that philosophically this is a very unsafe move.

    Not so unsafe, because the problem is typically stated in terms of the incompatibility of the existence of suffering with God’s alleged omnipotence, omniscience and omnibenevolence. Omnibenevolence isn’t quite the same trait as moral goodness, but it’s a lot harder to come up with alternative characterisations of benevolence such that it involves an indifference to suffering. So the fact that some moral systems don’t make a big deal of suffering doesn’t really impact on the argument as is.

  183. #183 MNb
    August 7, 2012

    @Wow 7:19 “But WILL be accepted to mean the christian god”
    Which christian god?

  184. #184 Wow
    August 7, 2012

    You’re not going to see this, are you.

    Tell me, if I were to say “dinosaur”, you’d think of several things off Jurassic park. Even if the image handed to you were one of a Pterosaur or Pterodactyl or Icthyosaur.

    So in answer to: “Which christian god?”

    All of them.

  185. #185 Rilke's Granddaughter
    Windward Islands
    August 7, 2012

    Indeed, anon is cutting and pasting everything from various creationist sites, such as Answers in Genesis. The only thing I loathe more than a creationist is a creationist who is too pig ignorant and uneducated as to be able to make his own arguments. That’s why he’s not responding to questions: he can’t.

  186. #186 Raging Bee
    August 7, 2012

    Thanks for confirming my original prediction. That would, of course, also explain why Anon seems to have vanished from here.

  187. #187 Patrick
    August 7, 2012

    In my view a basic flaw in the argument from evil is that it does not take into account God’s perfect justice. In the following I’m presenting a theodicy, called “Theodicy from divine justice”, based on this divine property:

    (1) God’s perfect justice prevents Him from relieving people with unforgiven sins from their sufferings (see Isaiah 59,1-2).
    (2) Unlike God Christians are not perfectly just. Therefore, unlike God, they are in a position to help people with unforgiven sins. By doing this they may make those among them who haven’t yet accepted God’s salvation receptive of it (Matthew 5,16, 1 Peter 2,11-12, and 3,1-2), which in turn frees these persons from suffering in the afterlife.
    (3) The greater God’s beneficial power due to His love, the greater God’s destructive power due to His justice (see Matthew 13,27-29). Striving to prevent as much suffering as possible God can only interfere to such a degree that the beneficial effect of the interference is not neutralized by the destructive effect of it.
    (4) Someone who dies before he or she reaches the age of accountability, i.e. before he or she can distinguish between good and evil (see Genesis 2,16-17, Deuteronomy 1,39, and Isaiah 7,16) faces no punishment in the afterlife, as he or she would not have been able to commit sins. So, God may not be inclined to prevent such a person’s death.
    (5) A person’s suffering in this life may have a redeeming effect (Luke 16,25) and consequently contribute to a decrease of the respective person’s suffering in the afterlife; the amount of suffering in this life is so to speak subtracted from the amount of suffering in the afterlife. So, God may not be inclined to relieve this person’s suffering.
    (6) A person’s suffering in this life may make the person receptive of God’s salvation (Luke 15,11-21), which in turn frees this person from suffering in the afterlife.
    (7) There are degrees of punishment in the afterlife depending on one’s moral behaviour (Matthew 16,27, 2 Corinthians 5,10), one’s knowledge of God’s will (Matthew 11,20-24, Luke 12,47-48), and, as mentioned before, one’s amount of suffering in this life (Luke 16,25).
    (8) Those people who suffer more in this life than they deserve due to their way of life are compensated for it by receiving rewards in Heaven.
    (9) As for animal suffering, animals will be compensated for it on the “new earth” mentioned in Isaiah 65,17-25, 2 Peter 3,13 and Revelation 21,1.

  188. #188 Raging Bee
    August 7, 2012

    (4) Someone who dies before he or she reaches the age of accountability, i.e. before he or she can distinguish between good and evil (see Genesis 2,16-17, Deuteronomy 1,39, and Isaiah 7,16) faces no punishment in the afterlife, as he or she would not have been able to commit sins. So, God may not be inclined to prevent such a person’s death.

    So it’s okay to let a child die before he reaches adulthood, simply because that gets him out of going to Hell? That’s a pretty fucked up idea of “perfect justice.”

    (5) A person’s suffering in this life may have a redeeming effect (Luke 16,25) and consequently contribute to a decrease of the respective person’s suffering in the afterlife…

    Why does anyone have to suffer AT ALL in the afterlife? If God is omnipotent, he could have chosen not to create Hell in the first place. Why did he?

    According to all the Abrahamic faiths, God is omnipotent and omniscient, and created everything — including Hell — according to his choice, with no other power constraining his options. If people suffer in Hell, for whatever reason, it’s because God chose to arrange his Universe that way. From where I’m standing, your concept of “divine justice” looks like a pretty sadistic load of crap.

  189. #189 JeromeS
    August 7, 2012

    Patrick,

    As for the question whether or not there is free will in heaven 2 Peter 2,4 seems to suggest that there IS free will there and that free-willed agents dwelling there, namely some angels, decided to act against God’s will. But by behaving like this, obviously their fate was sealed. They had no excuse for it, as they were fully aware who God is and were also able to be without sin. At the same time they couldn’t know what it means to be excluded from God’s presence. We humans, however, are in a different situation. We are not fully aware who God is and not able to be without sin and therefore have an excuse when we decide to act against God’s will, which means that our fate is not sealed when we behave that way and we can repent and come back to God time and again. Moreover, unlike the angels, humans know what is like to live without God and therefore, despite having free will, they would nevertheless never sin in heaven.

    You wrote all those words, but you still haven’t addressed the question. If, as you claim, it is possible to have free will and never choose to sin, why didn’t God make us such that we never choose to sin in our mortal lives? Then there would be no sin, no one would need to be forgiven for their sins, and God would have no reason to send anyone to hell. It would be a win-win for everyone. So why didn’t God create the world in that way?

    God’s perfect justice prevents Him from relieving people with unforgiven sins from their sufferings

    But if God is the source of justice, then “perfect justice” is whatever he says it is. So why doesn’t God define perfect justice such that no one suffers? What’s the POINT of having a world with any kind of suffering at all? What good does it do? Who does it benefit?

    A person’s suffering in this life may have a redeeming effect and consequently contribute to a decrease of the respective person’s suffering in the afterlife

    Then why don’t you oppose efforts to reduce suffering in this life? We devote an enormous amount of effort and resources to preventing or reducing suffering. If you seriously believe that the suffering in this life is good because it reduces suffering in the afterlife, why don’t you oppose efforts to reduce suffering in this life?

    You’re obviously just copying and pasting Christian apologetics you found online or in a book, without really thinking about whether it makes sense. Here’s an idea: Try THINKING FOR YOURSELF about these issues instead of just mindlessly regurgitating prepackaged talking points.

  190. #190 Wow
    August 8, 2012

    Patrick is OK with *someone else’s* suffering. It’s their own suffering they’ll do anything to alleviate.

    Many probably enjoy the idea of “those bastards” being in eternal torment.

    You’ll not find many theists on their deathbed lokking happy at the prospect of going to heaven either.

  191. #191 Patrick
    August 8, 2012

    JeromeS: “You’re obviously just copying and pasting Christian apologetics you found online or in a book, without really thinking about whether it makes sense. Here’s an idea: Try THINKING FOR YOURSELF about these issues instead of just mindlessly regurgitating prepackaged talking points.”

    If you put “Theodicy from divine justice” or the German equivalent “Theodizee aus der göttlichen Gerechtigkeit” in a web search engine you’ll see that this theodicy is always connected to my name. If I had taken this argument from someone else I would mention his or her name.

  192. #192 Patrick
    August 8, 2012

    Raging Bee: “So it’s okay to let a child die before he reaches adulthood, simply because that gets him out of going to Hell? That’s a pretty fucked up idea of “perfect justice.””

    In my view a Christian is supposed to prevent an innocent person’s death if it is in his or her power to do so. But even if look at the matter from a purely utilitarian point of view, it may not advisable to let the child die, as he or she may later lead many people to Christ. So, failing to save his or her life may increase the overall amount of suffering.

    Raging Bee: “Why does anyone have to suffer AT ALL in the afterlife? If God is omnipotent, he could have chosen not to create Hell in the first place. Why did he?

    According to all the Abrahamic faiths, God is omnipotent and omniscient, and created everything — including Hell — according to his choice, with no other power constraining his options. If people suffer in Hell, for whatever reason, it’s because God chose to arrange his Universe that way. From where I’m standing, your concept of “divine justice” looks like a pretty sadistic load of crap.“

    In my view if God doesn’t punish injustice He can’t be regarded as being perfectly just, and painless punishment is an oxymoron.

  193. #193 Wow
    August 8, 2012

    Patrick, did you know that a working definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome?

    How many times will you use “the book that says this is so says that this is so” before you realise that that’s nothing anywhere near proof.

    All it really proves is you have no thought of your own.

  194. #194 Patrick
    August 8, 2012

    Wow

    The aim of a theodicy is NOT to prove God’s existence but to refute an argument against God’s existence. So, your objection that my arguments don’t prove anything is irrelevant. With respect to answers to the argument from evil it is entirely legitimate to refer to Biblical texts, especially if it is supposed to be an argument against Christianity.

  195. #195 Patrick
    August 8, 2012

    JeromeS: “You wrote all those words, but you still haven’t addressed the question. If, as you claim, it is possible to have free will and never choose to sin, why didn’t God make us such that we never choose to sin in our mortal lives?”

    First, according to Alvin Plantinga’s free will defense not even God can guarantee that we never would abuse the free will He gave us. Second, according to Galatians 5,16-18 God made us such that we can only overcome sinful desires if we are in a close relationship with Him, and so our inability to overcome sinful desires on our own may serve to draw us to God. Such inablility may, third, furthermore serve to keep us from self-righteousness and pride (see Ephesians 2,8-9). Fourth, it may be that first having to go through this “vale of tears” and having to prove one’s worth in the adverse circumstances of this life is the only way to make sure that no one in heaven would abuse his or her free will to act against God’s will, as according to 2 Peter 2,4 some angels did.

    JeromeS: “But if God is the source of justice, then “perfect justice” is whatever he says it is. So why doesn’t God define perfect justice such that no one suffers?”

    Perfect justice is part of God’s nature and not an arbitrary definition.

    JeromeS: “What’s the POINT of having a world with any kind of suffering at all? What good does it do? Who does it benefit?”

    That’s what theodicies are supposed to explain.

    JeromeS: “Then why don’t you oppose efforts to reduce suffering in this life? We devote an enormous amount of effort and resources to preventing or reducing suffering. If you seriously believe that the suffering in this life is good because it reduces suffering in the afterlife, why don’t you oppose efforts to reduce suffering in this life?”

    Point (2) of my theodicy may answer your questions. Reducing suffering in this life may be more effective in reducing suffering in the afterlife than failing to do so. Apart from this Christians are supposed to reduce people’s sufferings (see Job 31,16-23, Isaiah 58,6-7, Matthew 25,34-40, or Luke 10,25-37).

  196. #196 eric
    August 8, 2012

    Patrick:

    (1) God’s perfect justice prevents Him from relieving people with unforgiven sins from their sufferings (see Isaiah 59,1-2).

    When a criminal gets cancer, we treat it. Because part of being just is recognizing the difference between a punishment meted out in response to a crime and a punishment randomly experienced as part of life, due to little or no action of the victim. A God who ignores the latter isn’t being just, he’s being callous.

    I also think your responses to the problem of dying children have a very head-I-win-tails-you-lose character. When they die, that’s consistent with God’s perfect justic because they didn’t ‘suffer’ life. When they are saved, that’s consistent with God’s perfect justice because they were saved from death.

    Tell me – what outcome for a dying, innocent child wouldn’t be consistent with God’s perfect justice?

  197. #197 Iain Walker
    August 8, 2012

    Patrick (9:09 am):

    First, according to Alvin Plantinga’s free will defense not even God can guarantee that we never would abuse the free will He gave us.

    Plantinga’s free will defense is based on the somewhat controversial notion of libertarian free will, so that’s not exactly a compelling response. But even if one allows this, it still seems entirely plausible that God could have set things up so that we would be less likely to abuse it – a stronger sense of empathy, perhaps, or a tendency to be more rational in our moral deliberations. Even if one believes in libertarian free will, it’s nevertheless fairly obvious that there are many contingent influences acting on us that inhibit our effective exercise of it, and that a significant subset of those influences increase the likelihood of our choosing to do wrong. So it’s not an either-or situation – it seems that God could have set up a universe in which we have free will, but are nevertheless less likely to choose to do wrong than is actually the case.

  198. #198 Wow
    August 8, 2012

    “it still seems entirely plausible that God could have set things up so that we would be less likely to abuse it”

    Given he set the whole scheme up, it’s not only plausible but necessary unless you posit a god who’s a complete bastard.

  199. #199 Iain Walker
    August 8, 2012

    Patrick (5:38 am):

    In my view if God doesn’t punish injustice He can’t be regarded as being perfectly just, and painless punishment is an oxymoron.

    Hmm. That depends very much on how one defines “painless”. A prison sentence need not involve any physical distress at all – the “pain” of deprivation of liberty is psychological and social. The “pain” of a fine is financial. One of the hallmarks of a civilised society is that infliction of actual pain is not used as punishment, and even the degree of psychological distress that is permitted is limited. And given that Hell is traditionally envisaged as a place of unrelieved torment, Raging Bee’s point re “divine justice” = sadism would seem to stand.

  200. #200 Wow
    August 8, 2012

    Though many in the USA seem to find some malicious glee at the words: PMITA prison.

    Not very christian of them, mind.

  201. #201 Raging Bee
    August 8, 2012

    Perfect justice is part of God’s nature and not an arbitrary definition.

    If you have absolutely no reliable information about God’s nature, and are only pulling unsupported assertions out of your ass, then yes, it is arbitrary AT BEST, and pure brown air at worst.

  202. #202 Raging Bee
    August 8, 2012

    In my view if God doesn’t punish injustice He can’t be regarded as being perfectly just, and painless punishment is an oxymoron.

    In your view, is it an “injustice” if someone fails to believe in a God who leave no proof of his existence, and plenty of good reasons to doubt the words of his followers?

    Also, in your view, is it just to punish nonbelievers — or anyone else for that matter — with eternal relentless torture?

  203. #203 Patrick
    August 8, 2012

    eric: “When a criminal gets cancer, we treat it. Because part of being just is recognizing the difference between a punishment meted out in response to a crime and a punishment randomly experienced as part of life, due to little or no action of the victim. A God who ignores the latter isn’t being just, he’s being callous.“

    Your analogy doesn’t apply here, as in the human justice system illness is not regarded as something that contributes to a punishment for a crime. A criminal who has cancer doesn’t get a milder prison sentence due to his illness.

    As according to point (5) of the theodicy outlined above a decrease of suffering in this life results in an increase of suffering in the afterlife, God wouldn’t do the sinner any favour if He relieved him from his suffering. Moreover, if a sinner received supernatural help from God, he certainly would interpret such help as an approval of his way of life and thus be encouraged to go on with it. But a perfectly just God certainly would never do anything that encouraged people to go on sinning.

    eric: “I also think your responses to the problem of dying children have a very head-I-win-tails-you-lose character. When they die, that’s consistent with God’s perfect justic because they didn’t ‘suffer’ life. When they are saved, that’s consistent with God’s perfect justice because they were saved from death.

    Tell me – what outcome for a dying, innocent child wouldn’t be consistent with God’s perfect justice?“

    Theodicies that have a head-I-win-tails-you-lose character or are unfalsifiable or are unverifiable are successful theodicies. Again, one doesn’t formulate a theodicy in order to prove anything, but just to show that the amount of suffering in this world doesn’t make God’s existence impossible or improbable.

  204. #204 Patrick
    August 8, 2012

    Iain Walker: “But even if one allows this, it still seems entirely plausible that God could have set things up so that we would be less likely to abuse it – a stronger sense of empathy, perhaps, or a tendency to be more rational in our moral deliberations.”

    You are certainly right that God could have provided us with better traits of character. But as I pointed out before by the example of the angels mentioned in 2 Peter 2,4, the better one’s trait of character the more severe the punishment if one nevertheless acts immorally.

    Iain Walker: “Even if one believes in libertarian free will, it’s nevertheless fairly obvious that there are many contingent influences acting on us that inhibit our effective exercise of it, and that a significant subset of those influences increase the likelihood of our choosing to do wrong. So it’s not an either-or situation – it seems that God could have set up a universe in which we have free will, but are nevertheless less likely to choose to do wrong than is actually the case.”

    It may be that God allows for mitigating circumstances and consequently adverse circumstances result in a lesser degree of punishment. Moreover, looking at mankind in general we humans are not just victims of circumstances but also create circumstances by our acts.

    Iain Walker: “Hmm. That depends very much on how one defines “painless”. A prison sentence need not involve any physical distress at all – the “pain” of deprivation of liberty is psychological and social. The “pain” of a fine is financial. One of the hallmarks of a civilised society is that infliction of actual pain is not used as punishment, and even the degree of psychological distress that is permitted is limited.”

    I understand “pain” in the broadest sense.

    Iain Walker: “And given that Hell is traditionally envisaged as a place of unrelieved torment, Raging Bee’s point re “divine justice” = sadism would seem to stand.”

    If one cannot identify objective criteria for an appropriate amount of suffering serving as a punishment, I don’t see how one can arrive at the conclusion that the punishment in Hell is too severe.

  205. #205 MNb
    August 8, 2012

    @Wow 2:20 “So in answer to: “Which christian god?”

    All of them.”
    Thanks. That means we need qualifiers for them now and then and that was my point. Btw when it comes to the problem of evil we don’t, as Raging Bee remarked at 6:50.
    Btw I never have seen nor read Jurassic Park. Indeed, though, if we want to gain sufficient knowledge about them we have to ask: which dinosaur?

    @Patrick 6:08 “at it does not take into account God’s perfect justice”
    Please explain me the perfect justice of your god in the case of Elisabeth Fritzl. I don’t see it.

    @JeromeS 11:15 “why didn’t God make us such that we never choose to sin in our mortal lives?”
    Which, as I can’t help remark every time this is brought up, is the case in Abrahamistic heaven. God did it already; it’s what the believers expect after dying.

  206. #206 MNb
    August 8, 2012

    @Patrick 5:38 “even if look at the matter from a purely utilitarian point of view, it may not advisable to let the child die, as he or she may later lead many people to Christ.”
    Non-sequitur. Those many people might be very well better off without that christ.

    “In my view if God doesn’t punish injustice”
    The sacrifice Jesus made means that someone who had committed unjustice – like Joseph Fritzl – avoids punishment just by “being lead to Christ”. That was the whole point of the crucifixion. Admit you’re a sinner, accept Jesus as your Saviour, and voila, all your sins (ie committed unjustices) are forgiven. Die a few seconds later and voila, you’ll go to heaven. At the age of 14 I already understood how this sucks.

    “not even God can guarantee that we never would abuse the free will He gave us.”
    Then he is not omnipotent. That’s allright with me, but Plantinga should convert to Pastafarianism if he thinks so.
    And what about heaven according to Plantinga? Can his god guarantee there that we would never abuse our free will? Then heaven is imperfect as well and doesn’t make sense.

    “I understand “pain” in the broadest sense.”
    Ah. Joseph Fritzl’s pain, understood as a couple of minutes of feeling guilt and regret, makes up for his more than 20 years abuse of his daughter. Yeah, perfect justice.

  207. #207 MNb
    August 8, 2012

    Finally the aim of formulating the Problem of Evil is not to disprove all gods, but to point out an unsolvable logical contradiction that follows from a mult-omni god. Plato (his Eutyphro dilemma) and Epicurus belong to the first ones who realized this.
    The Problem of Evil says nothing about The Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Greek Olympian gods, because they are flawed themselves. The islam has solved the problem partly because moslims have to make up for their wrong-doings during their lifetime, or they won’t go to heaven. They don’t accept original sin either. In this respect, but not in several others, I prefer islam to christianity.
    It’s typical that christian apologists never apply their sophisticated and abstract arguments to extreme but concrete cases like Joseph and Elisabeth Fritzl. Anon. above didn’t get any further than “yeah, yeah, awful indeed”.

  208. #208 JeromeS
    August 8, 2012

    Patrick,

    First, according to Alvin Plantinga’s free will defense not even God can guarantee that we never would abuse the free will He gave us.

    Now you’re contradicting yourself. You just wrote, “despite having free will, [humans] would nevertheless never sin in heaven.” So is it possible to create a being with free will who never chooses sin, or isn’t it? If it is possible, why didn’t God create us in that way? If it isn’t possible, then either there is no free will in Heaven or there is sin in Heaven, meaning that Heaven cannot be the perfect place Christianity claims it is. In Heaven, we’re either sinners or robots.

    Perfect justice is part of God’s nature and not an arbitrary definition.

    Then where did God’s nature come from? If God’s nature is not arbitrary, what rule or principle was used to define “perfect justice” to involve suffering, rather than not to involve suffering, and where did that rule come from?

    That’s what theodicies are supposed to explain.

    No kidding. So what are you answers? What’s the POINT of having a world with any kind of suffering at all? What good does it do? Who does it benefit?”

    Point (2) of my theodicy may answer your questions. Reducing suffering in this life may be more effective in reducing suffering in the afterlife than failing to do so.

    But you just argued that “a person’s suffering in this life may have a redeeming effect and consequently contribute to a decrease of the respective person’s suffering in the afterlife.” That’s an argument AGAINST reducing suffering in this life. But now you’re making an argument FOR reducing suffering in this life. The two arguments you’re making support contradictory actions. One says we should let people suffer, and the other says we should reduce their suffering.

  209. #209 Patrick
    August 9, 2012

    MNb: “Please explain me the perfect justice of your god in the case of Elisabeth Fritzl. I don’t see it.”

    With respect to Elisabeth Fritzl’s suffering according to my theodicy God’s perfect justice has the consequence that it results for her either in a lesser degree of punishment or a higher amount of rewards in the afterlife.

    MNb: “Non-sequitur. Those many people might be very well better off without that christ.”

    According to Christianity one is better off WITH Christ than WITHOUT Him.

    MNb: “The sacrifice Jesus made means that someone who had committed unjustice – like Joseph Fritzl – avoids punishment just by “being lead to Christ”. That was the whole point of the crucifixion. Admit you’re a sinner, accept Jesus as your Saviour, and voila, all your sins (ie committed unjustices) are forgiven. Die a few seconds later and voila, you’ll go to heaven. At the age of 14 I already understood how this sucks.”

    I don’t see the problem. Who is wronged? The only one who could complain would be Jesus, as He had to suffer for the injustice, but as He bore the punishment for people’s sins on the cross voluntarily one cannot say that He was wronged.

    “And what about heaven according to Plantinga? Can his god guarantee there that we would never abuse our free will? Then heaven is imperfect as well and doesn’t make sense.”

    I’ve already dealt with the question whether or not there is free will in heaven and whether or not those dwelling there would abuse it.

    MNb: “Ah. Joseph Fritzl’s pain, understood as a couple of minutes of feeling guilt and regret, makes up for his more than 20 years abuse of his daughter. Yeah, perfect justice.”

    It would not be Joseph Fritzl’s pain that would make up for his sins but Jesus Christ’s.

    MNb: “Finally the aim of formulating the Problem of Evil is not to disprove all gods, but to point out an unsolvable logical contradiction that follows from a mult-omni god. Plato (his Eutyphro dilemma) and Epicurus belong to the first ones who realized this.”

    As for the Euthyphro dilemma the following link is very informative:

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/10/god-obligation-and-euthyphro-dilemma.html

  210. #210 Wow
    August 9, 2012

    MNb

    When anyone talks about god, 90% of the theists listening will think of the xtian one, even though they may not be of that religion. Because we’re talking in english and that means european-usian norm and that means christianity.

    And none of the multitudinous sects of xtianity will note their different god in discussion about its existence, nor discount the numbers of followers of these different gods when making an argument ad populum.

    So stop letting them reap the benefit of one.sided god unification.

  211. #211 Wow
    August 9, 2012

    Patrick, until you manage an argument or reason that isn’t just “because this book says so”, you are wasting time and putting every fence-sitter off the idea that religion is where smart people go.

  212. #212 MNb
    August 9, 2012

    @Wow 5:20: “And none of the multitudinous sects of xtianity will note their different god in discussion about its existence”
    No, but they should. It’s something I don’t let them get away with. They are quick to remark that the god you and I don’t believe in isn’t the god they believe in either. And then you (or I) are the one who is guilty of a hasty generalization. That’s a satisfaction I don’t grant them, not even temporarily.

    “So stop letting them reap the benefit of one.sided god unification.”
    Exactly what I try to say to you.
    Note for instance that good old Patrick believes in some mixture. His god is loving enough to want every soul saved, but sends it first through the vale of tears called life (which is not that loving, if you ask me) and if a sould doesn’t pass the test he put up himself it will go to hell (so his love ends here and is replaced by revenge). Note that this soul during its physical life can do as much good as he/she wants, it doesn’t count. That’s what Patrick calls perfect justice.
    All in all a confused, psychologically disturbed chap, that god of Patrick.

  213. #213 MNb
    August 9, 2012

    Btw, as catholics couldn’t stand the idea of a god that is temporarily loving, but (as soon as the soul ends up in hell) eternally wrathful, they invented the limbo. Sort of second chance, so to say. Ah, the twists and turns of human fantasy.
    At the other hand there is predestination. According to Calvin the catholic god apparently was way too loving. As a result of his influence the USA are not the only country with a bible belt.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bible_Belt_(Netherlands)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reformed_Political_Party

    English Wikipedia has one point wrong: this party is not Calvinist, it is orthodox-Calvinist. You’ll find some guys there that can compete in nastiness with everything America can bring up. Only as recent as 2006 women were allowed to become member; they are still not allowed to run for candidacy.

  214. #214 Wow
    August 9, 2012

    IIRC, limbo was needed to explain why you prayed for someone after death.

    Either you got into heaven, in which case there’s no need to pray they get there, or they’re in hell, and it’s too late now.

    So limbo allowed there to be a cooling off perid whete you couldgive lots of money to the church to pray for the souls to be allowed into heaven.

  215. #215 Wow
    August 9, 2012

    Mnb, until thet start saying which god they mean when they say “god”, I’ll keep doing the work for them and say it’s always about the xtian one.

  216. #216 eric
    August 9, 2012

    Patrick:

    As according to point (5) of the theodicy outlined above a decrease of suffering in this life results in an increase of suffering in the afterlife, God wouldn’t do the sinner any favour if He relieved him from his suffering.

    So, those who do not suffer much in this life suffer greatly in the next? What about those who die as infants? To have them suffer greatly in the afterlife doesn’t seem just at all, let alone perfectly just.

    Theodicies that have a head-I-win-tails-you-lose character or are unfalsifiable or are unverifiable are successful theodicies. Again, one doesn’t formulate a theodicy in order to prove anything, but just to show that the amount of suffering in this world doesn’t make God’s existence impossible or improbable.

    I would expect this comment from someone like Jason, not a theology-supporter. You do realize that most intelligent, educated people see unfalsifiabliity and unverifiability in an idea as a sign of failure, not as a sign of success?

  217. #217 Raging Bee
    August 9, 2012

    …according to my theodicy God’s perfect justice…

    YOUR theodicy? As in, something no more objective than your emotions or musical tastes?

    The aim of a theodicy is NOT to prove God’s existence but to refute an argument against God’s existence.

    Your theodicy does neither. All we’re getting from you is lame rationalizations, blatant evasions, willful ignorance of questions we’ve raised, and feats of goalpost-moving that might win you a tin medal if it was an Olympic event.

    None of us is saying the “problem of evil” disproves God’s existence; we’re just saying it shows how broken, pathetic and unhinged religious morality can be. And all your disgusting sophistry has done is reinforce that point, not refute it.

    Besides, if “a theodicy” (why is there more than one? Is it like a diet plan?) does not prove God’s existence, then it hasn’t refuted the strongest argument against God’s existence.

    If one cannot identify objective criteria for an appropriate amount of suffering serving as a punishment, I don’t see how one can arrive at the conclusion that the punishment in Hell is too severe.

    Imagining ETERNAL and UNENDING torment, and considering it part of “God’s perfect justice,” is stupid, sadistic and inexcusable, whether or not anyone else has come up with criteria acceptable to you. Here’s an objective criterion for you: evil acts committed in this life are finite and have an end, therefore they should not have infinite and unending punishment. Now that you have the “objective criteria” you said no one had, you no longer have any excuse to think eternal torment in Hell is in any way excusable.

  218. #218 Iain Walker
    August 9, 2012

    Patrick (August 8, 6:49 pm):

    You are certainly right that God could have provided us with better traits of character. But as I pointed out before by the example of the angels mentioned in 2 Peter 2,4, the better one’s trait of character the more severe the punishment if one nevertheless acts immorally.

    These aren’t traits of character – they are cognitive abilities. And your response is irrelevant to my point, which is that even if we allow for libertarian free will (however the hell that is supposed to work), it is still possible for God to create a world in which the conditions for the misuse of free will are reduced, so that there is, overall, less suffering brought about by human wrong-doing (and consequently less suffering “needs” to be inflicted as punishment). It’s a world which would have less suffering overall, and your God apparently chose not to make it even though he/she/it could. In any case, why should “better” character traits deserve more severe punishment when one choses wrongly? That implies that if a selfish but socially adroit sociopath and a normally altruistic and virtuous person who nevertheless succumbs to temptation both manage to commit the same amount of sin, the virtuous person will get punished more. That’s a pretty perverse notion of justice.

    It may be that God allows for mitigating circumstances and consequently adverse circumstances result in a lesser degree of punishment.

    Which doesn’t address the issue that if the universe were set up so that we were less likely to choose to do wrong, we would inflict less suffering ourselves in the first place, and less punitive suffering would be required to balance the books. This is a problem with your entire theodicy – it’s completely ad hoc, predicated on the notion that God fixes things in the afterlife according to some notion of moral balance. But this ignores a more fundamental question, which is why should God set things up like this in the first place so that there is a moral balance that needs to be restored. If, as you claim in Point (8) of your theodicy, people who suffer more than they “deserve” in this life are compensated by rewards in the afterlife, then this itself is a symptom of a flawed system. Your theodicy depicts God as a moral crisis manager, while skirting over the fact that he/she/it was the one who set up a system unnecessarily prone to moral crises to begin with.

    If one cannot identify objective criteria for an appropriate amount of suffering serving as a punishment, I don’t see how one can arrive at the conclusion that the punishment in Hell is too severe.

    Which cuts both ways – one also cannot arrive at the conclusion that the punishment in hell is just and proportionate. Frankly, you would be better off simply dropping the notion of hell as eternal torment, and stipulating that whatever punishment there is in the afterlife (which you could leave unspecified), it is always just and proportional. That way you don’t have to make excuses for infinitely prolonged torture. Also, if there are no objective standards for matching severity of punishment to a person’s wrongdoing, then the notion of “perfect justice” is meaningless, because no system of retributive justice can be judged more or less perfect than any other.

  219. #219 Raging Bee
    August 9, 2012

    Also, if there are no objective standards for matching severity of punishment to a person’s wrongdoing, then the notion of “perfect justice” is meaningless…

    Yeah, it’s amazing how quickly, and how often, these religious sophists go from subjectivity to objectivity and back again just to keep their bulldada sounding credible from one minute to the next.

  220. #220 Wow
    August 9, 2012

    “Frankly, you would be better off simply dropping the notion of hell as eternal torment, and stipulating that whatever punishment there is in the afterlife (which you could leave unspecified), it is always just and proportional. That way you don’t have to make excuses for infinitely prolonged torture”

    However, this would not allow him the ability to safely indulge in his snuff fantasies.

    Therefore it’s a non-starter.

  221. #221 Raging Bee
    August 9, 2012

    The aim of a theodicy is NOT to prove God’s existence but to refute an argument against God’s existence.

    In other words, the aim of a theodicy is to argue without proof.

    Frankly, you would be better off simply dropping the notion of hell as eternal torment, and stipulating that whatever punishment there is in the afterlife (which you could leave unspecified), it is always just and proportional.

    I’ve always gone with reincarnation: the gods put us in this life to learn certain lessons, and we can’t move on to the next stage until we’ve learned them; therefore if you don’t learn what you need to learn in one lifetime, you just repeat the process until you do learn it. It’s more fair, less wasteful (What’s the point of creating a soul, if all it does is get tortured forever?), you don’t need to make any special hand-waving exceptions for those who die too young, and it doesn’t muddy-up our obligation to do the right thing for our neighbors while we’re here. Problem solved!

  222. #222 Raging Bee
    August 9, 2012

    The only one who could complain would be Jesus, as He had to suffer for the injustice, but as He bore the punishment for people’s sins on the cross voluntarily one cannot say that He was wronged.

    So I guess Judas gets all charges against him dropped, just like a rapist who can claim his victim didn’t really resist him all that much.

    Excuse me while I state the obvious: if you’re punished for soneone else’s evil deeds, then you are wronged, whether or not you resisted arrest.

    I cannot believe what a blatantly fucked up concept of justice these Christian mind-wankers have.

  223. #223 Iain Walker
    August 9, 2012

    Patrick (August 7, 6:08 pm):

    (1) God’s perfect justice prevents Him from relieving people with unforgiven sins from [sic] their sufferings

    Going back to the original statement of your theodicy, your very first assertion is itself problematic.

    Firstly, it’s incomplete, because what it doesn’t say is what happens to people with forgiven sins. Do they get “relieved from” their sufferings? Or does the forgiveness of their sins get them off the hook?

    Secondly, forgiven by whom? Forgiven by the person they have wronged? But that means that punishment becomes a matter of luck – a major sin against a generous and forgiving person attracts less punishment than a minor sin against a more vindictive individual. Forgiven by God? But that means that God’s “perfect justice” becomes a matter of punishing those he’s decided not to forgive, which sound very much like God punishing whoever he feels like punishing. You’d need an account of how God’s forgiveness is non-arbitrary (and in itself just) in order to avoid such a conclusion. So what are the criteria for determining which sins get forgiven and which get punished?

  224. #224 eric
    August 9, 2012

    Raging Bee:

    I’ve always gone with reincarnation… It’s more fair, less wasteful (What’s the point of creating a soul, if all it does is get tortured forever?)

    I know everyone bags on CS Lewis, but in The Great Divorce he posited the idea that everyone who goes to hell can leave, go to heaven, and be accepted (assuming you want to be; not all do). You get a do-over with complete information.

    Like reincarnation, that seems a lot more just and a lot less wasteful. But also like reincarnation, to standard Christian theology, its heresy.

  225. #225 Dan L.
    August 9, 2012

    With respect to the problem of evil the arguments in favour of theism don’t have to be plausible for an atheist, they just have to be logically possible or plausible given theism.

    That would make sense if you were only trying to prop up your own shaky, tottering faith in an imaginary being.

    An intellectually honest and philosophically rigorous argument for the existence of God requires a little more. In other words, a real argument for God’s existence should be plausible to atheists.

  226. #226 Dan L.
    August 9, 2012

    @Blaine:

    There is no mystery involved in knowing that we are the end product of entropy exporting auto-catalytic processes. Evolutionary game theory explains morality quite well. We don’t need to resort to spooks and ghosts and non-existent Platonic realms as Max Stirner pointed out.

    I never said we needed spooks and ghosts and non-existent Platonic realms. I described many open, difficult, and possibly unanswerable questions in science as mysteries with respect to a naturalistic worldview. You’ve completely failed to demonstrate otherwise.

    Incidentally, can you explain to me how the first sentence of the quoted bit is different from “God did it” as an explanation? I’m not seeing any difference except that instead of the word “God” you’ve used the phrase “entropy exporting auto-catalytic processes.” You seem like the kind of skeptic Robert Anton Wilson liked to laugh at.

  227. #227 Patrick
    August 9, 2012

    Iain Walker: “These aren’t traits of character – they are cognitive abilities.”

    The idea is that angels are in a better position to be without sin than we humans, so I’m indeed talking here about traits of character.

    Iain Walker: “And your response is irrelevant to my point, which is that even if we allow for libertarian free will (however the hell that is supposed to work), it is still possible for God to create a world in which the conditions for the misuse of free will are reduced, so that there is, overall, less suffering brought about by human wrong-doing (and consequently less suffering “needs” to be inflicted as punishment). It’s a world which would have less suffering overall, and your God apparently chose not to make it even though he/she/it could.”

    Of course, God could have created a world in which the conditions for the misuse of free will are reduced. However, He could also have created a world with conditions that would make it easier to do evil. Looking at the former possibility, to what extent should the conditions for the misuse of free will be reduced? Would you be satisfied before it is virtually impossible to do evil? The following quote by C. S. Lewis shows that your idea, taken to its logical conclusion, would result in the loss of free will:

    “We can, perhaps, conceive of a world in which God corrected the results of this abuse of free will by His creatures at every moment: so that a wooden beam became soft as grass when it was used as a weapon, and the air refused to obey me if I attempted to set up in it the sound waves that carry lies or insults. But such a world would be one in which wrong actions were impossible, and in which, therefore, freedom of the will would be void; nay, if the principle were carried out to its logical conclusion, evil thoughts would be impossible, for the cerebral matter which we use in thinking would refuse its task when we attempted to frame them.”

    (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_evil)

    Iain Walker: “In any case, why should “better” character traits deserve more severe punishment when one choses wrongly? That implies that if a selfish but socially adroit sociopath and a normally altruistic and virtuous person who nevertheless succumbs to temptation both manage to commit the same amount of sin, the virtuous person will get punished more. That’s a pretty perverse notion of justice.”

    In my view it is legitimate that the virtous person will get punished more. After all, it is easier for such a person to withstand the temptation to do evil.

    Iain Walker: “Which cuts both ways – one also cannot arrive at the conclusion that the punishment in hell is just and proportionate.”

    Again, with respect to answers to the argument from evil the theist doesn’t have to be able to prove what he is suggesting.

    Iain Walker: “Frankly, you would be better off simply dropping the notion of hell as eternal torment, and stipulating that whatever punishment there is in the afterlife (which you could leave unspecified), it is always just and proportional. That way you don’t have to make excuses for infinitely prolonged torture.”

    I agree with you. The issue of hell is a matter apart.

    Iain Walker: “Also, if there are no objective standards for matching severity of punishment to a person’s wrongdoing, then the notion of “perfect justice” is meaningless, because no system of retributive justice can be judged more or less perfect than any other.”

    I’m not saying that there are no such objective standards but that we humans are not in a position to know them.

  228. #228 Raging Bee
    August 9, 2012

    I’m not saying that there are no such objective standards but that we humans are not in a position to know them.

    I gave you one objective, and knowble, criterion, and you totally ignored it. That just proves (again) how willfully ignorant and dishonest you are.

  229. #229 Raging Bee
    August 9, 2012

    I know everyone bags on CS Lewis, but in The Great Divorce he posited the idea that everyone who goes to hell can leave, go to heaven, and be accepted (assuming you want to be; not all do). You get a do-over with complete information.

    Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle did an update on Dante’s Inferno, where any soul in Hell could take a secret short-cut to Purgatory (and thence, in time, to Heaven), if only he/she could find the courage to get out of where he/she had originally been placed, and make his/her way all the way down to the center, then climb down Satan’s leg to the secret tunnel. (And if God decided you weren’t ready yet, something would happen to push you off course.)

  230. #230 MNb
    August 9, 2012

    @Wow: “and say it’s always about the xtian one.”
    In which case you haven’t done the work for them, because there is no THE christian god. There are quite a few of them.
    But we begin to run in circles now, which means that I have nothing new to add.
    Thanks for exchanging views. They might differ a lot less than it seems.

    @Iain Walker: “Which doesn’t address the issue”
    That’s as so often Patrick’s strategy – put up so much smoke that he doesn’t have to answer the question how to reconcile evil with a multi-omni god. In fact is slowly shifting the goal-posts. I pick one point: even if hell were not eternal the problem of evil wouldn’t have been solved. Elisabeth Fritzl’s suffering would not have become one bit less and Patrick’s god still did not do anything to prevent it or to lessen it .
    It happened coincidentally that I asked a Dutch moslim the same question yesterday. He was honest enough to admit he didn’t have an answer. Patrick isn’t.

    @Dan L: “There is no mystery involved in knowing that we are the end product of entropy exporting auto-catalytic processes.”

    “Incidentally, can you explain to me how the first sentence of the quoted bit is different from “God did it” as an explanation?”

    “God did it” introduces an assumption that’s not testable.

    @Patrick: “Would you be satisfied before it is virtually impossible to do evil?”
    I would have found it very remarkable to say the least if consistently happened things like these:
    1) Joseph Fritzl getting a heart attack within say a week;
    2) The ovens of ánd Auschwitz-Birkenau ánd Majdanek ánd Sobibor ánd Treblinka malfunctioning over and over again;
    3) The victims of the Asian tsunami’s getting warned by nightmares in time to seek refuge.
    The longer the list and the longer the timespan the more convincing.
    Note than a multi-omni god doesn’t have to violate any scientific law to accomplish this; he can actively use them.
    Also note that you deliberately refuse to get concrete and instead prefer to keep the debate abstract. I strongly suspect it is because if you do get concrete the absurdity of your arguments would be exposed very fast. On an abstract level they have at least the scent of plausibility.

  231. #231 MNb
    August 9, 2012

    And Patrick, I almost forgot, christians expect to go to a realm where it actually is impossible to do evil. That realm is called heaven. Not that the question has been asked a thousand times before, but why not send all deserving souls (not me, mind you) directly to heaven and skip the whole shenanigan before? God is suddenly a bit impotent, perhaps? Not so all-knowing?

  232. #232 Wow
    August 9, 2012

    Aye, I’m not doing the work for them.

    I do not wish to.

    When they stop just saying “gos”, KNOWING that 99% of listeners who are christian “knows” it’s their god, yet when cornered on this, insist on some unbeleived version to “avoid” being wrong, I’ll stop saying explicitly what they want left implicot: they’re talking about the threeonmi xtian god of the new testament literalist.

    When they start saying WHICH god they’re talking about, then different sects will disallow the proposition as not the “true” god.

    Then their insistence on some form of popularity vote being “proof” of religion will die off.

    What, precisely, are YOU hoping to achieve here? An easier time for the xtian weasel? Or perpetuate the myth that “God” is believed by 85% of Americans?

  233. #233 Patrick
    August 9, 2012

    JeromeS: “Now you’re contradicting yourself. You just wrote, “despite having free will, [humans] would nevertheless never sin in heaven.” So is it possible to create a being with free will who never chooses sin, or isn’t it? If it is possible, why didn’t God create us in that way? If it isn’t possible, then either there is no free will in Heaven or there is sin in Heaven, meaning that Heaven cannot be the perfect place Christianity claims it is. In Heaven, we’re either sinners or robots.”

    Let me put it that way: It is only possible for God to create beings who have free will but who nevertheless never would sin in heaven if these beings know what it means to live without God or proved their worth in the adverse circumstances in this life. It’s certainly reasonable to think that if someone is able to withstand temptations under the adverse circumstances in this life and clings to righteousness, he is able to behave like this all the more under the ideal circumstances in heaven.

    JeromeS: “Then where did God’s nature come from?”

    It didn’t come from anywhere. It has always been with God.

    JeromeS: “If God’s nature is not arbitrary, what rule or principle was used to define “perfect justice” to involve suffering, rather than not to involve suffering, and where did that rule come from?”

    What would be the alternative to suffering? Should God let injustice go unpunished?

    JeromeS: “But you just argued that “a person’s suffering in this life may have a redeeming effect and consequently contribute to a decrease of the respective person’s suffering in the afterlife.” That’s an argument AGAINST reducing suffering in this life. But now you’re making an argument FOR reducing suffering in this life. The two arguments you’re making support contradictory actions. One says we should let people suffer, and the other says we should reduce their suffering.”

    The idea is that the sufferer benefits anyway, no matter whether or not his suffering in this life is reduced, but that he benefits more in the former case than in the latter.

  234. #234 JeromeS
    August 9, 2012

    Patrick,

    Let me put it that way: It is only possible for God to create beings who have free will but who nevertheless never would sin in heaven if these beings know what it means to live without God or proved their worth in the adverse circumstances in this life. It’s certainly reasonable to think that if someone is able to withstand temptations under the adverse circumstances in this life and clings to righteousness, he is able to behave like this all the more under the ideal circumstances in heaven.

    Then I ask yet again, if it is possible for God to create beings that have free will but never choose sin, why didn’t God create mortal humans in that way? Then there would be no sin, and no reason to forgive or punish people for sin.

    It didn’t come from anywhere. It has always been with God.

    But you claimed his nature is not “arbitrary.” If God’s nature is not arbitrary, what rule or principle was used to define “perfect justice” to involve suffering, rather than not to involve suffering, and where did that rule come from? You can’t say “God just decided to define it that way” without giving a reason for that decision, because then it would simply be an arbitrary choice.

    What would be the alternative to suffering?

    No suffering, obviously. Why didn’t God create the world with no suffering? And don’t say that suffering is inevitable if there is free will, because you just claimed above that it’s possible for God to create beings that have free will but never choose sin.

    Should God let injustice go unpunished?

    Yes. What’s the benefit of punishing injustice? Why not just forgive everyone unconditionally and let everyone into Heaven? But the more fundamental question, which you keep refusing to address, is why God created things such that there is any such thing as “injustice” at all. If God had created the world such that no one ever sins, then there wouldn’t be any injustice.

    The idea is that the sufferer benefits anyway, no matter whether or not his suffering in this life is reduced, but that he benefits more in the former case than in the latter.

    This statement simply does not address the contradiction in your position I described. First, you made an argument AGAINST reducing suffering in this life (namely, that “a person’s suffering in this life may have a redeeming effect and consequently contribute to a decrease of the respective person’s suffering in the afterlife”). Then you made an argument FOR reducing suffering in this life (namely, that “reducing suffering in this life may be more effective in reducing suffering in the afterlife than failing to do so”). Your arguments support contradictory actions. One says we should let people suffer, and the other says we should reduce their suffering. So what are we to do?

  235. #235 JeromeS
    August 9, 2012

    eric,

    I know everyone bags on CS Lewis, but in The Great Divorce he posited the idea that everyone who goes to hell can leave, go to heaven, and be accepted (assuming you want to be; not all do). You get a do-over with complete information. Like reincarnation, that seems a lot more just and a lot less wasteful. But also like reincarnation, to standard Christian theology, its heresy.

    Yes. It’s not just heretical; it completely upends the orthodox Christian teaching of Hell as punishment that God imposes sinners. There’s a great mural at the back of the Sistine Chapel depicting sinners being pulled down into Hell by Satan’s minions. If people choose whether to go to Heaven or Hell, and the people in Hell are there only because they genuinely prefer it to Heaven, not because God forced it on them as punishment for their sins, then Hell cannot be a place of punishment or suffering compared to Heaven.

  236. #236 Wow
    August 10, 2012

    ther like the discussion on the rich man’s deathbed in Blackadder II, eric.

  237. #237 Iain Walker
    August 10, 2012

    Patrick (August 9, 4:17 pm):

    The idea is that angels are in a better position to be without sin than we humans, so I’m indeed talking here about traits of character.

    Then the question of angels and sin is a red herring, and irrelevant to my point which did concern cognitive abilities, not traits of character. God could have set things up so that we were better at putting ourselves in other people’s shoes, better at identifying with their feelings, better at reasoning about moral decisions, less prone to cognitive bias in moral decision-making, etc etc. I.e., less subject to the internal factors which adversely affect our ability to choose to do the right thing.

    The following quote by C. S. Lewis shows that your idea, taken to its logical conclusion, would result in the loss of free will:

    Again, you fail to grasp the point, since Lewis’s scenario concerns the prevention of the consequences of wrong acts. I’m talking about the conditions that give rise to wrong decisions – God could have set things up so that all the various factors that lead to wrong decisions (including cognitive bias, environmental factors, and yes, even traits of character) were statistically less likely to lead us to misuse our free will and make morally wrong choices.

    In my view it is legitimate that the virtous person will get punished more. After all, it is easier for such a person to withstand the temptation to do evil.

    Why should that be the case? Being virtuous doesn’t necessarily make it easier to resist temptation – it just means that they want to resist it. Being virtuous and being strong-willed are not the same trait. So it is entirely possible that a virtuous person may try to avoid temptation, yet fail often enough that they end up sinning just as much as a sociopath who doesn’t try at all, but is still smart and lucky enough to navigate society without causing any more damage than the virtuous person. Yet it is the virtuous person who deserves the greater punishment? Good intentions and trying to do the right thing are actually counted as exacerbating factors if you fail? I stand by the accusation of moral perversity.

    (Continued in subsequent post for reasons of length)

  238. #238 Iain Walker
    August 10, 2012

    Patrick (August 9, 4:17 pm, reply continued):

    Again, with respect to answers to the argument from evil the theist doesn’t have to be able to prove what he is suggesting.

    No, but it still has to be plausible. A system in which crimes that are finite in duration and scope are punished by eternal torment is not plausibly just, in any normal sense of the term “just”.

    I agree with you. The issue of hell is a matter apart.

    That’s not what I said. The issue of hell is not a separate issue – it is directly relevant to any theodicy that relies on “balancing” the scales of retributive justice in the afterlife. What I said was that your theodicy would be less problematic if you dropped (i.e., abandoned or repudiated) the entire doctrine of hell as a place of eternal torment. If you have done that, then well and good. But that’s not the same as treating it as a separate issue.

    I’m not saying that there are no such objective standards but that we humans are not in a position to know them.

    Reframing it as an epistemic issue doesn’t get you off the hook, because all this means is that while “perfect justice” may nevertheless refer to an objective state of affairs, we don’t know that that state of affairs is, and so we don’t know what “perfect justice” actually refers to. “Perfect justice” is still an expression which lacks any clear content for the purposes of our discourse. So when you talk of God’s “perfect justice”, it tells us nothing useful about God, because we don’t know what standard is being invoked.

    Also, and rather amusingly, you’re falling back on the very excuse that Jason was discussing in his OP. It seems that even your theodicy can’t resist the temptations of skeptical theism.

  239. #239 Raging Bee
    August 10, 2012

    Funny thing about Christian apologists like Patrick: no matter how much sophistry and diversionary word-salad they churn out, there’s always one sentence that pops out from the whole mass of crap and shows a bright flash of their true underlying motivations. In the case of Patrick’s most recent comment, it’s this sentence:

    What would be the alternative to suffering? Should God let injustice go unpunished?

    So there we have it: beneath all the idiocy/theodicy lurks a childish authoritarian with the most simple black-and-white view of reality, where the only choices he understands are the punishing authoritative sky-daddy he learned from his parents, or a frightening chaos where no injustice is punished at all. As we’ve already seen, Patrick’s moral universe is so fragile, and so ruled by infantile fear, that no questioning of his core beliefs can even be squarely acknowledged, let alone answered.

  240. #240 Patrick
    August 10, 2012

    MNb: “His god is loving enough to want every soul saved, but sends it first through the vale of tears called life (which is not that loving, if you ask me) and if a sould doesn’t pass the test he put up himself it will go to hell (so his love ends here and is replaced by revenge).

    […]

    And Patrick, I almost forgot, christians expect to go to a realm where it actually is impossible to do evil. That realm is called heaven. Not that the question has been asked a thousand times before, but why not send all deserving souls (not me, mind you) directly to heaven and skip the whole shenanigan before? God is suddenly a bit impotent, perhaps? Not so all-knowing?”

    In my view God’s omniscience implies that God knows what a person will do but not what a person would do in a hypothetical situation, as the latter would mean that the respective person’s acts would be determined by the circumstances and consequently he or she would not have free will. So, God cannot know how a person would behave if he or she lived on Earth and, based on such knowledge, put this person directly into heaven.

    MNb: “That’s as so often Patrick’s strategy – put up so much smoke that he doesn’t have to answer the question how to reconcile evil with a multi-omni god. In fact is slowly shifting the goal-posts. I pick one point: even if hell were not eternal the problem of evil wouldn’t have been solved. Elisabeth Fritzl’s suffering would not have become one bit less and Patrick’s god still did not do anything to prevent it or to lessen it .”

    Assuming that Elisabeth Fritzl is not a Christian if according to point (5) of the theodicy her suffering in this life is subtracted from her suffering in the afterlife the overall amount of suffering is exactly the same no matter whether or not she had experienced the suffering.

    MNb: “I would have found it very remarkable to say the least if consistently happened things like these:

    1) Joseph Fritzl getting a heart attack within say a week;

    2) The ovens of ánd Auschwitz-Birkenau ánd Majdanek ánd Sobibor ánd Treblinka malfunctioning over and over again;

    3) The victims of the Asian tsunami’s getting warned by nightmares in time to seek refuge.

    The longer the list and the longer the timespan the more convincing.

    Note than a multi-omni god doesn’t have to violate any scientific law to accomplish this; he can actively use them.
Also note that you deliberately refuse to get concrete and instead prefer to keep the debate abstract. I strongly suspect it is because if you do get concrete the absurdity of your arguments would be exposed very fast. On an abstract level they have at least the scent of plausibility.”

    But one can always ask why God should have prevented these events and not others as well. Couldn’t one even argue that it would be unfair if from God to prevent the Holocaust, but not other mass killings, to prevent Joseph Fritzl’s crime but not those committed by others, or to warn the potential victims of the Asian tsunami, but not those of other natural disasters? If one says that God should indeed prevent all other instants of suffering and death then one would end up exactly in the situation Lewis describes in the quote mentioned above.

  241. #241 Patrick
    August 10, 2012

    eric: “So, those who do not suffer much in this life suffer greatly in the next?”

    This is not necessarily the case. It’s only if they have sinned gravely and haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

    eric: “What about those who die as infants? To have them suffer greatly in the afterlife doesn’t seem just at all, let alone perfectly just.”

    According to point (4) of my theodicy infants don’t suffer in the afterlife.

  242. #242 Patrick
    August 10, 2012

    Raging Bee: “Excuse me while I state the obvious: if you’re punished for soneone else’s evil deeds, then you are wronged, whether or not you resisted arrest.”

    Earlier I pointed out that God may have good reasons to create us as beings that are not able to live entirely without sin. But God, being perfectly just, cannot have a relationship with sinners. So He had to create a possibility for men to attain the righteousness needed for a relationship with God, and Jesus Christ’s substitutionary atonement on the cross made such a relationship possible.

    Raging Bee: “I gave you one objective, and knowble, criterion, and you totally ignored it. That just proves (again) how willfully ignorant and dishonest you are.”

    Iain Walker: “A system in which crimes that are finite in duration and scope are punished by eternal torment is not plausibly just, in any normal sense of the term “just”.“

    To me this seems to be a very strange criterion. Shooting a person dead is a crime that may last a few seconds, but the punishment for this crime lasts years. So, obviously the duration of a crime doesn’t have to be proportional to the duration of its punishment.

  243. #243 Patrick
    August 10, 2012

    Iain Walker: “Firstly, it’s incomplete, because what it doesn’t say is what happens to people with forgiven sins. Do they get “relieved from” their sufferings? Or does the forgiveness of their sins get them off the hook?”

    They do not necessarily get relieved from their sufferings but the chance that this might happen is higher than for people with unforgiven sins. One of the reasons that could prevent God from relieving them from their sufferings could be that He wants them to teach a lesson (see 2 Corinthians 12,7-9). Another reason could be found in point (3) of my theodicy.

    Iain Walker: “Secondly, forgiven by whom? Forgiven by the person they have wronged? But that means that punishment becomes a matter of luck – a major sin against a generous and forgiving person attracts less punishment than a minor sin against a more vindictive individual.”

    It’s GOD’S forgiveness that is relevant here.

    Iain Walker: “Forgiven by God? But that means that God’s “perfect justice” becomes a matter of punishing those he’s decided not to forgive, which sound very much like God punishing whoever he feels like punishing. You’d need an account of how God’s forgiveness is non-arbitrary (and in itself just) in order to avoid such a conclusion. So what are the criteria for determining which sins get forgiven and which get punished?”

    In my view God forgives all those people who repent and accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.

  244. #244 Patrick
    August 10, 2012

    Dan L.: “That would make sense if you were only trying to prop up your own shaky, tottering faith in an imaginary being.
    An intellectually honest and philosophically rigorous argument for the existence of God requires a little more. In other words, a real argument for God’s existence should be plausible to atheists.”

    Maybe I should have expressed myself more clearly and instead of “plausible for an atheist” have written “plausible given atheism”.

  245. #245 Iain Walker
    August 10, 2012

    Patrick (August 9, 6:56 pm):

    It is only possible for God to create beings who have free will but who nevertheless never would sin in heaven if these beings know what it means to live without God or proved their worth in the adverse circumstances in this life.

    Why is it only possible under these conditions? Also, all you’re proposing is that the population of heaven passes through a kind of moral filter that reduces the likelihood that they will sin further. So while you might be able to argue that people would sin less often and less egregiously in heaven, this falls a long way short of supporting your claim that humans would never sin in heaven.

    On which note, you’ve already asserted that children dying before the age of accountability don’t suffer in the afterlife. Do they get into heaven, or just some form of limbo? Because if they get into heaven, then child mortality rates in the past (and even now in some parts of the world) will ensure that a substantial proportion of heaven’s population will never have gone through this moral filter which you think guarantees that they won’t sin any more. So what guarantee is there that they won’t sin in heaven?

    It’s certainly reasonable to think that if someone is able to withstand temptations under the adverse circumstances in this life and clings to righteousness, he is able to behave like this all the more under the ideal circumstances in heaven.

    Which is to admit that adverse circumstances make it harder to chose to do the right thing (libertarian free will or not). In which case, why not create a world without those adverse circumstances (or at the very least with those circumstances reduced)?

    What would be the alternative to suffering?

    Rehabilitation and restitution to those wronged need not involve suffering.

  246. #246 Wow
    August 10, 2012

    “It is only possible for God to create beings who have…”

    Why? He’s supposed to be omnipotent and the creator of everything (even the rules under which he operates).

    Unless you’re saying that the rules that say what he can and cannot do predate him.

  247. #247 Iain Walker
    August 10, 2012

    Patrick (August 10, 11:08 am):

    To me this seems to be a very strange criterion. Shooting a person dead is a crime that may last a few seconds, but the punishment for this crime lasts years. So, obviously the duration of a crime doesn’t have to be proportional to the duration of its punishment.

    Nice try, but (yet again) evades the real issue. The punishment is still finite. That’s the distinction – between limited and unlimited punishment for a limited offense.

    (11:25 am)

    One of the reasons that could prevent God from relieving them from their sufferings could be that He wants them to teach a lesson

    A lesson that God is too incompetent to teach without inflicting suffering? And why should the value of the lesson outweigh the suffering inflicted?

    Another reason could be found in point (3) of my theodicy. [(3) The greater God’s beneficial power due to His love, the greater God’s destructive power due to His justice ... Striving to prevent as much suffering as possible God can only interfere to such a degree that the beneficial effect of the interference is not neutralized by the destructive effect of it.]

    I was going to comment on Point (3), to the effect that it makes no sense. There is no obvious reason for God’s beneficial power to vary in direct proportion to his destructive power, and no obvious reason why his “justice” has to manifest itself destructively. And you’re somehow conflating this with beneficial and destructive consequences of an act of intervention. So really, I’ve got no idea what you’re trying to say with point (3).

    It’s GOD’S forgiveness that is relevant here. … In my view God forgives all those people who repent and accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.

    So in other words, a necessary condition of being forgiven and being let off (or getting a reduced sentence) is that one adopts a subservient and ideologically conformist attitude towards the Powers That Be. This is the way “justice” works in totalitarian regimes – i.e., it’s not justice at all.

  248. #248 MNb
    August 10, 2012

    @Wow: August 9, 5:40 pm

    “What, precisely, are YOU hoping to achieve here?”
    As I wrote before, I don’t grant them even the temporary satisfaction of answering “hey, that god you don’t believe in, know what? I don’t believe in it either.”
    Fundies are easy to tackle; see Anon above. Sooner (usually) or later (unusually) they begin to produce total crap.
    Those liberals who show up with “God is Love” – in Europe many of them reject hell – receive another approach from me: “what you say here is meaningless”.
    The most extreme of them is my compatriot Klaas Hendrikse, who wrote a book called “believing a god that doesn’t exist, manifesto of an atheist minister”. Summary: god doesn’t exist, god happens.
    Do you think hé will be impressed by the two contradictory creation stories of Genesis?
    Finally there are the Kierkegaardian ones. They just shrug and answer “still I have faith”. The only suitable answer for them is “I don’t”.

  249. #249 Patrick
    August 10, 2012

    JeromeS: “Then I ask yet again, if it is possible for God to create beings that have free will but never choose sin, why didn’t God create mortal humans in that way? Then there would be no sin, and no reason to forgive or punish people for sin.”

    In my view beings, whether they are humans or angels, are only able to be without sin, if they are in a close and untroubled relationship with God (see Galatians 5,16-18). But if one is in such a relationship but nevertheless acts against God’s will one’s fate is sealed (see 2 Peter 2,4), whereas if the respective relationship is not as close and untroubled as possible there is an excuse if one acts against God’s will, and consequently one can sin and nevertheless repent and come back to God time and again. So, in order to protect us God keeps Himself at a certain distance from us, and consequently in this life we are not able to live completely without sin. This may by the way also be a reason for what is called divine hiddenness. It may be that only by arranging things this way the highest possible number of beings will eventually be in heaven.

    JeromeS: “But you claimed his nature is not “arbitrary.” If God’s nature is not arbitrary, what rule or principle was used to define “perfect justice” to involve suffering, rather than not to involve suffering, and where did that rule come from? You can’t say “God just decided to define it that way” without giving a reason for that decision, because then it would simply be an arbitrary choice.”

    If God has always been perfectly just, He can’t have at a certain point (arbitrarily) defined justice in one way or another. As for your question I can’t and don’t have to answer it. Again, with respect to the argument from evil the theist doesn’t have to prove what he is suggesting, it just has to be logically possible or plausible given theism.

    JeromeS: “Yes. What’s the benefit of punishing injustice? Why not just forgive everyone unconditionally and let everyone into Heaven?”

    Should God forgive unconditionally people like Hitler or Stalin and let them into heaven?

    JeromeS: “But the more fundamental question, which you keep refusing to address, is why God created things such that there is any such thing as “injustice” at all. If God had created the world such that no one ever sins, then there wouldn’t be any injustice.”

    If one is not in a loving relationship with God, the source of perfect justice, one is in a state of injustice. So by enabling beings, whether they are humans or angels, to have free will and consequently to refuse to be in a loving relationship with Himself God had to put up with the occurrence of injustice.

    JeromeS: “First, you made an argument AGAINST reducing suffering in this life (namely, that “a person’s suffering in this life may have a redeeming effect and consequently contribute to a decrease of the respective person’s suffering in the afterlife”).”

    I’ve never suggested that from this point the conclusion has to be drawn that one shouldn’t try to reduce a person’s suffering.

    JeromeS: “Your arguments support contradictory actions. One says we should let people suffer, and the other says we should reduce their suffering. So what are we to do?“

    I’ve already said that we should help people, as this is likely to result in a larger decrease of overall suffering than if we didn’t help them.

  250. #250 Wow
    August 10, 2012

    MNb, I don’t do that either.

    I say “that god you’re talking about doesn’t exist” and if they say something slong the lines of “oh, a deist god isn’t disproven by science”, let them know that nobody believes they were talking about a deist god, but the xtian one.

    Where are you getting the idea I’m saying “that god you don’t believe in doesn’t exist” or anything like it?

  251. #251 Wow
    August 10, 2012

    Patrick, why does god not help them? He’s supposed to love us.

  252. #252 Dan L.
    August 10, 2012

    @Mnb:

    @Dan L: “There is no mystery involved in knowing that we are the end product of entropy exporting auto-catalytic processes.”

    “Incidentally, can you explain to me how the first sentence of the quoted bit is different from “God did it” as an explanation?”

    “God did it” introduces an assumption that’s not testable

    That’s only true if you assume it’s true. There’s many possible interpretations of the word “God” in which God’s participation in the universe is absolutely testable.

    But how do we test whether we are exclusively the product of “entropy exporting catalytic processes”?

  253. #253 Dan L.
    August 10, 2012

    @Patrick:

    Sounds like you are clinging desperately to the just world fallacy. Bad stuff happens to good people. Bad people get away with stuff. Deal with it.

  254. #254 Wow
    August 10, 2012

    Well, dan, if god could do something testable, he hasn’t so far.

    Therefore his nonexistence is entirely justufied in being asserted.

  255. #255 Iain Walker
    August 10, 2012

    Patrick (August 10, 12:42 pm):

    If God has always been perfectly just, He can’t have at a certain point (arbitrarily) defined justice in one way or another.

    Bear in mind that God’s standard of justice may still be arbitrary even if he doesn’t explicitly formulate it himself. For it to be arbitrary is to say that it could have been otherwise, and there is no good reason why it should not have been otherwise. Appealing to God’s nature doesn’t avoid this, because one can easily conceive of God’s nature being different (or, if you like, there having been a different God with a different nature).

    But if one is in such a relationship but nevertheless acts against God’s will one’s fate is sealed (see 2 Peter 2,4), whereas if the respective relationship is not as close and untroubled as possible there is an excuse if one acts against God’s will, and consequently one can sin and nevertheless repent and come back to God time and again.

    Now this is arbitrary, because there is no obvious reason why an omnipotent being cannot choose to forgive sins committed in a closer relationship, especially when accompanied by repentance.

  256. #256 Dan L.
    August 10, 2012

    @Wow:

    I’m a hard-line atheist materialist. That is not news to me.

    Blaine claimed there are no mysteries involved with a naturalistic worldview. I listed several. Blaine responded that they are not mysteries, they are all explained by the fact that we are “the products of entropy exporting autocatalytic processes.”

    I am now demonstrating that this phrase is a meaningless thought stopper, not a solution to any of those mysteries. In the same exact way that the word “God” is a meaningless thought stopper, not a solution to any of those mysteries.

    I repeat, I am a hard-line materialist atheist. You do not need to present me with arguments against God’s existence. It will be a waste of time.

  257. #257 JeromeS
    August 10, 2012

    Patrick,

    In my view beings, whether they are humans or angels, are only able to be without sin, if they are in a close and untroubled relationship with God

    Then you’re denying that God is omnipotent. You’re asserting an arbitrary limitation on his power to create sinless beings.

    As for your question I can’t and don’t have to answer it.

    Of course you have to answer it. You asserted that God’s “perfect justice” is not arbitrary. That means there must be some reason why it is the way it is. Otherwise, it could be the opposite of what it is and still be “perfect justice.” So what is the reason why it is the way it is?

    Should God forgive unconditionally people like Hitler or Stalin and let them into heaven?

    Yes. Why not?

    I’ve never suggested that from this point the conclusion has to be drawn that one shouldn’t try to reduce a person’s suffering.

    Yes you have. You wrote: “a person’s suffering in this life may have a redeeming effect and consequently contribute to a decrease of the respective person’s suffering in the afterlife.” That’s a direct quote. If suffering in this life is redeeming and causes less suffering in the afterlife, that’s an argument AGAINST reducing suffering in this life. Because by reducing suffering in this life you are preventing the “redeeming effect” and are causing greater suffering in the afterlife. That contradicts the claim you’re now making that we should reduce suffering in this life.

  258. #258 Dan L.
    August 10, 2012

    Of course you have to answer it. You asserted that God’s “perfect justice” is not arbitrary. That means there must be some reason why it is the way it is. Otherwise, it could be the opposite of what it is and still be “perfect justice.” So what is the reason why it is the way it is?

    That’s an excellent point. Is justice defined by what God says justice is? Or is justice externally defined and God is constrained to abide by this definition?

    In the first case, “omnibenevolence” is meaningless; God does exactly what He wants and calls it benevolence. In the second case, God is not omnipotent. Perhaps there is a third way that I am not seeing. Any ideas, Patrick?

  259. #259 Patrick
    August 10, 2012

    Iain Walker: “God could have set things up so that we were better at putting ourselves in other people’s shoes, better at identifying with their feelings, better at reasoning about moral decisions, less prone to cognitive bias in moral decision-making, etc etc.“

    Being able to be better at putting himself in other people’s shoes, to be better at identifying with their feelings, to be better at reasoning about moral decisions, to be less prone to cognitive bias in moral decision-making, etc. etc. may also enable a person to inflict suffering on people more efficiently. I once heard that people with a high degree of “emotional intelligence” don’t have to be nice people.

    Iain Walker: “Again, you fail to grasp the point, since Lewis’s scenario concerns the prevention of the consequences of wrong acts. I’m talking about the conditions that give rise to wrong decisions – God could have set things up so that all the various factors that lead to wrong decisions (including cognitive bias, environmental factors, and yes, even traits of character) were statistically less likely to lead us to misuse our free will and make morally wrong choices.“

    Adverse conditions may help to reveal our true character and thus to rob us from illusions about ourselves, or may drive us closer to God, or may help to build our character (see Romans 5,3-5).

    Iain Walker: “Being virtuous doesn’t necessarily make it easier to resist temptation – it just means that they want to resist it.“

    What I am thinking of is a person for whom it is rather easy to live a fairly moral life as opposed to a person for whom this is very difficult. Let’s compare as an example a kleptomaniac with a person who has not this disorder. It is certainly easier for the latter to withstand the temptation to steal, and so it is certainly appropriate if he is punished more severely for theft than the kleptomaniac.

    Iain Walker: “Reframing it as an epistemic issue doesn’t get you off the hook, because all this means is that while “perfect justice” may nevertheless refer to an objective state of affairs, we don’t know that that state of affairs is, and so we don’t know what “perfect justice” actually refers to. “Perfect justice” is still an expression which lacks any clear content for the purposes of our discourse. So when you talk of God’s “perfect justice”, it tells us nothing useful about God, because we don’t know what standard is being invoked.“

    I’m not saying that we are not in a position to know what perfect justice is but that we are not in a position to know what the appropriate punishment for specific immoral acts is. To give you an example, it is widely if not universally acknowledged that murder is an immoral act that deserves to be punished, but what amount of punishment it requires is far from being certain.

    Iain Walker: “Also, and rather amusingly, you’re falling back on the very excuse that Jason was discussing in his OP. It seems that even your theodicy can’t resist the temptations of skeptical theism.“

    It is widely accepted that the term “sceptical theism” refers to the idea that we are not in a position to know whether or not God has a sufficient reason to allow specific instances of evil and to nothing else.

  260. #260 Dan L.
    August 10, 2012

    God is telling me that Patrick will continue to ignore Jerome’s question because actually confronting it would further weaken Patrick’s already shaky faith.

  261. #261 Wow
    August 10, 2012

    Dan,’I think you are a bit behind in biology. Living organisms arenow broadly defined in biology as “autocatalytic entities”. And, since work requires an increase in entropy, which allows the reduction in the local (i.e. within the person of the living being) decrease in entropy by increasing ecternal entropy even more, life is an entropy exporting autocatalysing entity.

    These are real words with definite and specific meaning.

    And you are incorrect in your assertion about Blaine’s contribution.

  262. #262 Patrick
    August 10, 2012

    Iain Walker: “Also, all you’re proposing is that the population of heaven passes through a kind of moral filter that reduces the likelihood that they will sin further. So while you might be able to argue that people would sin less often and less egregiously in heaven, this falls a long way short of supporting your claim that humans would never sin in heaven.”

    Being in a close and perfectly untroubled relationship with God they are in a position to be without sin. Moreover, why should they sin, what would they gain from sinning?

    Iain Walker: “On which note, you’ve already asserted that children dying before the age of accountability don’t suffer in the afterlife. Do they get into heaven, or just some form of limbo? Because if they get into heaven, then child mortality rates in the past (and even now in some parts of the world) will ensure that a substantial proportion of heaven’s population will never have gone through this moral filter which you think guarantees that they won’t sin any more. So what guarantee is there that they won’t sin in heaven?”

    They have not gone through this moral filter, but they know what it is like to be without God, what I suggested as another motivation not to sin in heaven.

    Iain Walker: “Which is to admit that adverse circumstances make it harder to chose to do the right thing (libertarian free will or not). In which case, why not create a world without those adverse circumstances (or at the very least with those circumstances reduced)?”

    But it may only be under these adverse circumstances that a person’s real character is revealed. Moreover, as I pointed out before, a certain sin committed under adverse circumstances may be punished less severely than the same sin committed under more favourable circumstances.

    Iain Walker: “Rehabilitation and restitution to those wronged need not involve suffering.”

    Rehabilitation, which includes a deep feeling of remorse, is also a kind of suffering (in the broadest sense).

  263. #263 Patrick
    August 10, 2012

    Wow: “He’s supposed to be omnipotent and the creator of everything (even the rules under which he operates).”

    Jerome S: “Then you’re denying that God is omnipotent. You’re asserting an arbitrary limitation on his power to create sinless beings.”

    As for God’s omnipotence, this concept can entail the following three propositions:

    (1) There are no physical limits for God.
    (2) There are no logical limits for God.
    (3) There are no moral limits for God.

    In my view only (1) applies to the God of Christian theism. Those Biblical passages that in one way or another express the idea that God can do anything, such as Genesis 18,10-14 or Luke 1,26-28, clearly point to (1). But there are also passages that express the idea that there are things that God cannot do (see 2 Timothy 2,13, or Hebrews 6,18), and they point to (3). As for (2), it is widely accepted among philosophers that it doesn’t apply to God.

  264. #264 Patrick
    August 10, 2012

    Iain Walker: “Nice try, but (yet again) evades the real issue. The punishment is still finite. That’s the distinction – between limited and unlimited punishment for a limited offense.“

    With respect to my theodicy the duration of the punishment in the afterlife is irrelevant. There are Christian theologians who hold a view called Universalism, according to which punishment in the afterlife is finite, and my theodicy also works on this assumption.

    Iain Walker: “A lesson that God is too incompetent to teach without inflicting suffering?“

    In my view there are lessons that can only be learnt by experience.

    Iain Walker: “And why should the value of the lesson outweigh the suffering inflicted?“

    Why shouldn’t it?

    Iain Walker: “I was going to comment on Point (3), to the effect that it makes no sense. There is no obvious reason for God’s beneficial power to vary in direct proportion to his destructive power, and no obvious reason why his “justice” has to manifest itself destructively. And you’re somehow conflating this with beneficial and destructive consequences of an act of intervention. So really, I’ve got no idea what you’re trying to say with point (3).“

    Point (3) is based on the concept of divine simplicity. Philosopher Edward Feser explains this concept as follows:

    “The doctrine of divine simplicity holds that God is in no way composed of parts. … There is also no distinction within God between any of the divine attributes: … Talking or conceiving of God, God’s essence, God’s existence, God’s power, God’s goodness, and so forth are really all just different ways of talking or conceiving of one and the very same thing. Though we distinguish between them in thought, there is no distinction at all between them in reality.”

    (source: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/11/william-lane-craig-on-divine-simplicity.html)

    This point of the theodicy shows that God’s power, God’s love and God’s justice are indistinguishable. The following analogy may help to show what I mean. Thinking about the power of electricity we can use it to accomplish amazing things. One of these accomplishments is the running of railway trains at a high speed over long distances. But in order to accomplish this the electric tension must be very high, indeed so high that it is exceedingly dangerous for humans, so that they must be protected from it. With only a low electric tension you cannot achieve that much, maybe make a pocket lamp shine, but dealing with it isn’t a dangerous matter. In the same way one may assume that the greater God’s beneficial power is the greater is God’s destructive power.

    Iain Walker: “So in other words, a necessary condition of being forgiven and being let off (or getting a reduced sentence) is that one adopts a subservient and ideologically conformist attitude towards the Powers That Be. This is the way “justice” works in totalitarian regimes – i.e., it’s not justice at all.“

    If one accepts the legal system and the state authority of one’s country that doesn’t mean that one adopts a subservient and ideologically conformist attitude towards the Powers That Be, and the loyalty towards one’s country may be comparable to that towards Jesus Christ.

  265. #265 MNb
    August 10, 2012

    @Wow: “Where are you getting the idea I’m saying “that god you don’t believe in doesn’t exist””
    Where are you getting the idea that I’m getting that idea?
    It’s a reply of christians, especially liberal ones. You might get it one day or another. Or not.

    @Dan L: “There’s many possible interpretations of the word “God” in which God’s participation in the universe is absolutely testable.”
    Teach me. And what’s more: please, please give me positive test results.
    Until then I am with Wow 1:15.

    “But how do we test whether we are exclusively ….?”
    This is not how science works, my friend. How do you test whether you fall exclusively downward when you jump from a bridge? I’m dying to know.
    Where is William Ockham? I need his razor right now. You are willing to accept unnecessary assumptions.
    No, science doesn’t prove there is no god. Science doesn’t need it. Neither do I. For anything.
    If you want to harness science to the carriage of your god the burden of proof is on you, not on me.

    “Bad stuff happens to good people. Bad people get away with stuff. Deal with it.”
    Well, yes. That’s why I’m an atheist.

    @Patrick: “Should God forgive unconditionally people like Hitler or Stalin and let them into heaven?”
    That’s what christians like you say, not me. OK, they have to repent a bit and put their souls in the hands of god’s son, but that’s about it. Never mind their victims.

    Interesting you say there are moral limits for your god. Then you allow me to say that your god is a sucker, given the several genocides (including rape and slaughtering babies) he ordered. Nah, I’ll remain an atheist. Your sucker is not worth worshipping. Or you must explicitly reject those parts of the Bible of course, then I’ll look a bit further.
    Another reason he is a sucker is that he didn’t give Josef Fritzl a heartattack (no physical limits, you wrote) after two weeks of raping his daughter etc.

    “one can always ask why God should have prevented these events and not others as well.”
    Of course. If it happened that the victims of those other events in a significant majority have bad records that’s even more convincing.
    Neither is the case, as far as I know. There is no intervention based on laws of science in significant amounts; the victims are “picked” at random in the case of natural disasters like earthquakes; the good guys and dolls equally often fall victim as the bad ones. Hence any theodicy fails.
    Your counterargument is basically nothing more than “it’s not a valid question”. As such it falls flat on its face.

  266. #266 MNb
    August 10, 2012

    @Dan: in addition, how do you test that planes exclusively fly by means of mechanical engineering? Their engines might contain some little demons to keep them going. How do you test that babies exclusively are born the way biology describes? If you don’t look for a second there might be a stork involved. I even have some statistics for you to back that up, which is more than you can say about your god.

  267. #267 JeromeS
    August 10, 2012

    Patrick,

    In my view only (1) applies to the God of Christian theism.

    But you haven’t explained how “logical” or “moral” limits prevent God from creating us such that we have free will but never choose sin. Your claim was that God can’t do this because “beings … are only able to be without sin, if they are in a close and untroubled relationship with God.” So what limitation of logic or morality prevents God from creating mortal beings that “are in a close and untroubled relationship” with him?

    I think it’s quite obvious by now that you have never thought your theology through in a systematic way. That’s why you have to keep making up ad hoc assumptions and conditions to try and maintain a coherent position.

  268. #268 Mezz
    August 11, 2012

    The only reasonable reply to the problem of evil is to rail against it. I don’t pretend to understand your intellectual discussions about evil. What I do know is that nobody believes in evil any more. Evil is always being excused or justified or analysed (excuse me) to death. If you could leave God out of it for a minute then you have got to admit that history is littered with evil people and you only need to turn on the television or read a newspaper to realise that we are no better and no better off today than our ancestors were. So, do please stop intellectualising it and do something.

  269. #269 Patrick
    August 11, 2012

    Wow: “Patrick, why does god not help them? He’s supposed to love us.”

    Points (1), (3), (4), and (5) of my theodicy may explain why God sometimes doesn’t help people.

  270. #270 Patrick
    August 11, 2012

    Dan L.: “Bad stuff happens to good people. Bad people get away with stuff. Deal with it.”

    My theodicy is entirely compatible with what you are saying.

    Dan L.: “That’s an excellent point. Is justice defined by what God says justice is? Or is justice externally defined and God is constrained to abide by this definition?

    In the first case, “omnibenevolence” is meaningless; God does exactly what He wants and calls it benevolence. In the second case, God is not omnipotent. Perhaps there is a third way that I am not seeing. Any ideas, Patrick?”

    You are referring here to the Euthyphro dilemma, about which I wrote in my comment from August 9, 5:00 am. The link I pointed to there may provide answers to your questions.

  271. #271 Patrick
    August 11, 2012

    Iain Walker: “Bear in mind that God’s standard of justice may still be arbitrary even if he doesn’t explicitly formulate it himself. For it to be arbitrary is to say that it could have been otherwise, and there is no good reason why it should not have been otherwise. Appealing to God’s nature doesn’t avoid this, because one can easily conceive of God’s nature being different (or, if you like, there having been a different God with a different nature).”

    The aim of a theodicy is to give reasons for the view that the suffering in this world does not make the existence of a God with specific properties impossible or improbable. It does not have to explain why God has these properties and not other ones.

    Iain Walker: “Now this is arbitrary, because there is no obvious reason why an omnipotent being cannot choose to forgive sins committed in a closer relationship, especially when accompanied by repentance.”

    The idea is that if one knows exactly what God is like and as a consequence of such knowledge is able to be without sin, but nevertheless chooses to sin, such behaviour amounts to an ultimate rejection of God.

  272. #272 Wow
    August 11, 2012

    Mnb, i’m getting the idea you have that idea from your message 12:39 on the 10th.

    Now, are you going to answer MY question, or are you going to continue being an annoying little fuckwit?

  273. #273 Patrick
    August 11, 2012

    JeromeS: “You’re asserting an arbitrary limitation on his power to create sinless beings.

    […]

    But you haven’t explained how “logical” or “moral” limits prevent God from creating us such that we have free will but never choose sin. Your claim was that God can’t do this because “beings … are only able to be without sin, if they are in a close and untroubled relationship with God.” So what limitation of logic or morality prevents God from creating mortal beings that “are in a close and untroubled relationship” with him?”

    The limitation of logic is the fact that not even God can force beings to be in a close and untroubled relationship with Him, as such a relationship is based on love, and love cannot be forced.

    JeromeS: “Of course you have to answer it. You asserted that God’s “perfect justice” is not arbitrary. That means there must be some reason why it is the way it is. Otherwise, it could be the opposite of what it is and still be “perfect justice.” So what is the reason why it is the way it is?”

    As I pointed out to Iain Walker, the aim of a theodicy is not to explain why God’s properties are as they are said to be.

    JeromeS: “If suffering in this life is redeeming and causes less suffering in the afterlife, that’s an argument AGAINST reducing suffering in this life. Because by reducing suffering in this life you are preventing the “redeeming effect” and are causing greater suffering in the afterlife. That contradicts the claim you’re now making that we should reduce suffering in this life.”

    The redeeming effect caused by accepting Jesus as one’s Lord and Saviour may exceed the redeeming effect by suffering in this life by a large degree, and from Matthew 5,16, 1 Peter 2,11-12, and 3,1-2 one can draw the conclusion that the good deeds performed by Christians may make people receptive of the idea that they should accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.

  274. #274 Wow
    August 11, 2012

    MNb, I get that idea that you have that idea from your statement:

    “I don’t grant them even the temporary satisfaction of answering “hey, that god you don’t believe in, know what? I don’t believe in it either.””

    Now, was that as pointless as you appear to be or are you going to explain why you said that and then ANSWER MY FRAKING QUESTION? Or are you as pointless as that statement apparently was?

  275. #275 Verbose Stoic
    August 11, 2012

    Iain Walker,

    Not so unsafe, because the problem is typically stated in terms of the incompatibility of the existence of suffering with God’s alleged omnipotence, omniscience and omnibenevolence. Omnibenevolence isn’t quite the same trait as moral goodness, but it’s a lot harder to come up with alternative characterisations of benevolence such that it involves an indifference to suffering. So the fact that some moral systems don’t make a big deal of suffering doesn’t really impact on the argument as is.

    So, then, what does omnibenevolence mean? It can’t mean NEVER allowing suffering, because that would clash with justice. Even under Utilitarianism you can allow suffering if it provides a greater outcome in the end. So, we can clearly say that omnibenevolence does not and cannot require God to do something that is not moral in order to prevent suffering. Thus, we can’t interpret omnibenevolence as ultimate kindness since sometimes being too kind would be immoral. And if we look at this a bit deeper, we can see that for the most part why omnibenevolence is important to theists is that it tracks to “all-Good” not “all-Kind”. Good originally referred to a sort of thing, but philosophy has shown that that’s not a very good way to look at Good. So, basically, we know that omnibenevolent is supposed to track Good, and Good is basically a moral Good. Thus, if God always does what is morally Good, then that would seem to fulfill the omnibenevolence criteria … and then we can ask what it means to be morally Good. If the Stoics and Kantians are right, then it isn’t tracked by how much suffering it causes.

    Do note that you seem to have mixed up — perfectly understandably — the meaning of “indifferent” here. For the Stoics, it’s a technical term that doesn’t mean that you don’t CARE about suffering, but that it doesn’t play any role in determining the moral Good. The way you use it here looks more like saying that God simply doesn’t care at all, which is not what I mean or think.

    eric,

    I would expect this comment from someone like Jason, not a theology-supporter. You do realize that most intelligent, educated people see unfalsifiabliity and unverifiability in an idea as a sign of failure, not as a sign of success?

    This is a prime example of scientism. The so-called natural sciences care, but philosophy doesn’t (as it actually prefers truisms to things that you have to verify empirically), mathematics doesn’t, and even history is unconcerned if it comes across something that it simply cannot verify in any real way. Since theology is more philosophical than scientific, it cares less about falisifiability and verification than science does.

  276. #276 Wow
    August 11, 2012

    Patrick, your theidocy points DO NOT answer my question becayse they are YET AGAIN a “It is so because it is so”. Admit it: you haven’t got a single independent thought in your entire empty mind.

    Whindy Milliner: “So, then, what does omnibenevolence mean? It can’t mean NEVER allowing suffering”

    It can’t EVER mean “Manufacture suffering”. So with the omnipotence, NO FORM of omnibenevolence leads to a creator who created a world where he has manufactured suffering. And being omniescent he would know that.

  277. #277 Patrick
    August 11, 2012

    MNb: “Another reason he is a sucker is that he didn’t give Josef Fritzl a heartattack (no physical limits, you wrote) after two weeks of raping his daughter etc.”

    Points (1), (3), (4), and (5) of my theodicy may explain why God didn’t intervene of Josef Fritzl’s daughter’s behalf. Moreover, if Josef Fritzl had been killed by means of supernatural intervention he wouldn’t have had any opportunity to repent anymore, so this may be another reason why God was not inclined to act this way.

    MNb: “Of course. If it happened that the victims of those other events in a significant majority have bad records that’s even more convincing.
Neither is the case, as far as I know. There is no intervention based on laws of science in significant amounts; the victims are “picked” at random in the case of natural disasters like earthquakes; the good guys and dolls equally often fall victim as the bad ones. Hence any theodicy fails.”

    Looking at my theodicy there is no reason why victims of natural disasters shouldn’t be affected by such events at random.

  278. #278 Wow
    August 11, 2012

    (1) Rubbish because it avoids the question, merely asserts it is so.

    (2) Asserts humans are better than God.

    (3) Is evidence of God’s narcissism and psychopathy

    (4) Insists that abortion is the best thing you can do to a child

    (5) Uses “may” but you ignore the “probably doesn’t”.

    (6) Ditto.

    (7) But since we don’t know god’s will, we are being summarily punished for no reason.

    (8) Assertion not even supported by your bibble.

    (9) Since heaven is eternal, torturing animals to death is the best thing you can do for them.

  279. #279 Verbose Stoic
    August 11, 2012

    Dan L.,

    “Morality” is, of course, a word in the English language. Words are human constructions. Their meanings are determined exactly by what users of the language think they mean. If we’re analyzing the meaning of the word “morality” we absolutely need to cite psychology, neuroscience, evolution, and linguistics because that’s how the game is played.

    “Planet” is, of course, a word in the English language. Words are human constructions. Their meanings are determined exactly by what users of the language think they mean. If we’re analyzing the meaning of the word “planet” we absolutely need to cite psychology, neuroscience, evolution, and linguistics because that’s how the game is played. So, if people think that Pluto is a planet, details like its size and other qualities that have led astromomers to say that it isn’t a planet are irrelevant, or at least no more relevant than the psychological and linguistic data of what the average person on the street thinks it means to be a planet.

    I’d imagine that you would consider this an utterly ridiculous statement. Yet, from my view, you are saying exactly that about morality, dismissing what the field that studies morality the most and is the expert in it if any field can be said to be the expert — moral philosophy — and insisting that the everyday understanding is what we should take. This, to me, is absurd.

    VS doesn’t like that game. He doesn’t want to talk about “morality” as it exists and is understood in the real world. He wants to redefine morality to mean morality*, his own idea of some abstract, disembodied code of conduct that, despite the fact that this code is clearly not obvious, we are all somehow obligated to abide.

    No, I want to talk about morality as it is talked about in the field that studies it, which is moral philosophy. Meaning, at least, that it has to be normative, which means that we have to watch for naturalistic fallacies and the argument that you cannot get an ought from an is. And your insistence that somehow some sort of psychological and evolutionary data PROVED something about what morality is seemed to me to violate that, and you never bothered to actually argue for why your data proved what you claimed it did.

    “Morality”, by contrast, refers to the systems by which human beings — real human beings in the real world — decide how they should behave, especially towards other human beings. VS doesn’t care how morality actually works. He thinks, contrary to all evidence, that REAL morality (morality*) is an unobservable, unknown, and unknowable set of propositions written in the aether.

    The problem is that there are multiple systems that humans use to determine how to behave, even towards others. We have legal systems, political systems, and so on. What, then, SINGLES OUT moral systems from these? When is a law immoral? Well, we need to work out what it means to be moral or legal or political, which is what moral philosophy is working on. And we cannot simply declare that what people think is moral really IS what’s moral or else we run into ridiculous ideas like saying that slavery was moral when people thought it was and is now immoral because they don’t. Now, in moral philosophy that sort of idea IS in play … but it needs to be justified. Philosophers who hold it do indeed try to justify it. Guess what part you aren’t doing in your rant here?

    And it’s unacceptable for anyone to use the clear English-language meaning of the word “morality”. We must all adhere to VS’s terminology because he is super special and super smart and he’s going to tell us all exactly how the universe works.

    It’s unacceptable to use a folk term and understanding to address a philosophical argument which the Problem of Evil is. You need to use the terminology of the field that is expert in it. Why do you find that problematic? Would you say that if someone is talking about evolution that the common misconceptions of it should trump what biologists actually hold about evolution?

    Or we can acknowledge that we don’t know if this abstract, unknowable code of conduct actually exists or how it could be normative even if it did; we can also acknowledge that since human beings already have systems for determining how they ought to behave and since they already call these systems “morality”, VS isn’t actually talking about morality but something completely orthogonal to morality.

    And since those systems have actually quite often advocated things that people find morally repugnant AND are filled with inconsistencies, what we should accept is that just because a bunch of people THINK something is moral that in no way means it is, and so we need a systematic approach to deciding what morality really means. And, oh look, that’s what moral philosophy is for. You’d think, then, we could respect what it has discovered instead of insisting that the folk theory is right no matter what the expert field says. Again, no one would accept this argument for anything scientific, so why does it hold for moral philosophy? Noting that if we think that morality is not normative or is relativistic moral philosophy will find that out too.

    According to VS’s view of morality as he’s outlined it above, for example, we currently don’t even know that such a thing as morality exists at all; furthermore, if it does exist, it has nothing to do with neuroscience, psychology, evolution, anthropology, or linguistics. As a result, morality also can’t have anything to do with pain, suffering, intent (despite what VS tries to tell you, intent is an aspect of psychology), emotion, the nature of interpersonal relationships, or really any aspect of human nature at all. According to VS, human nature as we understand it has nothing whatsoever to do with morality and vice versa. If you can reason yourself into that sort of headspace then you may be able to have a worthwhile discussion with the guy.

    Well, let me give you the benefit of the doubt here that your objection is based on this misinterpretation of my position, and answer this.

    I don’t, and have never claimed, that determining what the right thing to do in a particular instance can’t depend at all on psychological states. After all, I consider Utilitarianism and all hedonistc theories to be live options — that I consider wrong — and that’s all they do. As you point out, intentions could as that as well. My point, though, was that the general principles by which you determine what it is moral or immoral in specific cases are not JUSTIFIED by appealing to what people THINK is moral or what they have evolved to believe moral. You need to make a move to justify that. Yes, you can indeed say that we should do what we like or what our evolution-guided moral intuitions tell us, but you need a reason as to why those are, in fact, properly moral. Or else you’ll hit Stoics and Kantians who deny that and you’ll have nothing to argue in favour of your position.

    Essentially, we can divide things up into two categories: morality and ethics. Ethics would be how we determine what is or isn’t moral in specific cases, following from the general principles derived from morality. Morality cannot be justified descriptively; ought does not follow from is in that case; what people think is moral does not in any way prove a morality correct. Ethics, however, has to play on what is, and so psychology is relevant and since the normativity is provided by the moral principles it can indeed be descriptive, if that’s what morality says should happen. Your objection here seems to be to my discussions of ethics, whereas my is/ought distinction comments were about morality.

    And, to give you the benefit of the doubt even further, I recently had an epiphany and worked out what I think is the right moral code. You can check it out at my blog and take it up with me there if you think you might be interested.

  280. #280 MNb
    August 11, 2012

    @Patrick: “if Josef Fritzl had been killed by means of supernatural intervention he wouldn’t have had any opportunity to repent anymore”
    In the first place I am not asking for supernatural intervention, but for natural intervention. There is nothing supernatural with a heart attack.
    In the second place an all-knowing god would know if Joseph Fritzl would repent or not. So you just have confirmed that your god is not.
    In the third place you use very bad morals. Yeah, Joseph Fritzl having the opportunity to repent all that time compensates more than enough for 20 years of suffering by his daughter. Exactly this is why I call your god a sucker, not worth worshipping.

    “Looking at my theodicy there is no reason why victims of natural disasters shouldn’t be affected by such events at random.”
    Then your god doesn’t apply perfect justice, something you claimed above.

    This only in addition to Wow at 7:09, which I totally subscribe.

  281. #281 Iain Walker
    August 11, 2012

    Patrick (August 10, 2:43 pm):

    I once heard that people with a high degree of “emotional intelligence” don’t have to be nice people.

    Emotional intelligence is not the same as empathy (either cognitive or affective), but we’ll let that slide. The question is not whether these cognitive abilities ensure that people make better moral judgements, only whether they increase the likelihood of this. And since people who are deficient in empathy are less likely to consider the effects of their actions on others, and people who are poor at moral reasoning are more likely to commit moral errors, it is reasonable to suggest that the reduction of these deficiencies will tend to reduce wrongdoing overall, by removing a source of bias towards wrongdoing. The argument is that God could have created a world in which these deficiencies were reduced compared to this world, and that such a world would contain proportionately less suffering. Consequently, the free will defence does not account for the actual amount of suffering in the world, because the amount could be less without affecting our free will.

    Adverse conditions may help to reveal our true character and thus to rob us from illusions about ourselves, or may drive us closer to God, or may help to build our character

    And why should these be sufficient to outweigh the suffering involved, when there are other ways of doing all these things? There are many challenges and forms of adversity the overcoming of which does not involve suffering. And frankly, the suggestion that God is willing to use suffering as a means to drive people closer to him/her/it does not reflect well on his/her/its moral character. It’s the hallmark of a manipulative sadist, not an exemplar of “perfect justice”.

    What I am thinking of is a person for whom it is rather easy to live a fairly moral life as opposed to a person for whom this is very difficult.

    Hmm. You seem to like doing this – take a scenario which someone else has put to you as a problem, and then posit a different scenario with a different emphasis and pronounce it unproblematic. Feel free to address my actual point at any time.

    I’m not saying that we are not in a position to know what perfect justice is but that we are not in a position to know what the appropriate punishment for specific immoral acts is.

    But knowing what the appropriate response to a particular act (or kind of act committed under particular cicumstances) is an essential part of being able to distinguish different systems of punishment as being more or less just. Without that knowledge, we have no basis for saying what “perfect justice” might consist of.

  282. #282 Wow
    August 11, 2012

    “If we’re analyzing the meaning of the word “planet” we absolutely need to cite psychology,”

    No, you don’t.

    Now, taking that on board, do you want to change your impeneterable wall of blather to something different?

  283. #283 Patrick
    August 11, 2012

    MNb: “Interesting you say there are moral limits for your god. Then you allow me to say that your god is a sucker, given the several genocides (including rape and slaughtering babies) he ordered.”

    Does God anywhere in the Bible order rape? As for genocides, you seem to refer to the Conquest of Canaan. In my view genocide is an inappropriate term here, as the events in recent history named with it are quite different from the events described in the Bible. Whereas the victims of the former were defenseless minorities, this was not the case with respect to the Canaanites (Numbers 13, Deuteronomy 4,37-38). Moreover, as one can see from Rahab (Joshua 2) or the Gibeonites (Joshua 9) it was possible for Canaanites to avoid being killed by the Israelites. As for the former, in Joshua 2,8-13 Rahab, a Canaanite woman, says: “I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts sank and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and so on earth below. Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death.” (NIV)

    From this one can see that the Canaanites were not unsuspecting victims, but that they were aware of God’s power and in addition to this they felt a supernatural fear. Wouldn’t it have been reasonable for them to follow Rahab’s example and acknowledge the God and to follow His commands? Can’t one regard the failure to do so as being immoral?

    Actually, from a Biblical point of view as sinners we all deserve death (Romans 6,23). According to Numbers 14,11-12 Israel itself only narrowly escaped its destruction by God due to its sinful behaviour.

    Another important difference between what we nowadays mean by “genocide” and the events described in connection with the Conquest of Canaan is the fact that whether or not one had to die depended on one’s behaviour, not on one’s affiliation to a specific nation. As a matter of fact, if the Israelites acted like the Canaanites, they would be treated the same way as the latter (Leviticus 18,24-30, 20,22-23). In fact, there are accounts about large numbers of Israelites dying because of their sins: at one time around 3’000 (Exodus 32,25-29), at another time even 24’000 (Numbers 25,1-9). Had it not been for Moses’ intercession, the whole nation of Israel would have been exterminated (Numbers 14,11-23). On the other hand, as can be seen from the example of Rahab mentioned above, if Canaanites repented and turned towards God they would be spared.

  284. #284 Wow
    August 11, 2012

    “Does God anywhere in the Bible order rape?”

    Yup. At least twice.

    “As for genocides, you seem to refer to the Conquest of Canaan. In my view genocide is an inappropriate term here”

    Because it’s God genociding and you can’t defend it.

    “Whereas the victims of the former were defenseless minorities, this was not the case with respect to the Canaanites”

    So Joshua smote all the country … he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel commanded.–Joshua 10:40

    “From this one can see that the Canaanites were not unsuspecting victims”

    The victims of genocide usually aren’t.

    “Actually, from a Biblical point of view as sinners we all deserve death”

    As mortals, we are due our death. Nobody has ever gotten out of living alive.

    “Israel itself only narrowly escaped its destruction by God due to its sinful behaviour.”

    What? Did Israel float?

    And what, exatly, is just and benevolent about such violent reactions? Given you’ve been asked why God didn’t make us unable to sin, how the HELL does that make a damned bit of difference?

    “if Canaanites repented and turned towards God they would be spared.”

    And if you agree to let the mugger take your wallet, you will be spared. So I guess that there is no such crime, huh?

  285. #285 Wow
    August 11, 2012

    Exodus 7:4 But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.

    Lovely guy. Actively participates in someone not believing in him or his prophet just so he can smack his bitch up.

  286. #286 Patrick
    August 11, 2012

    Iain Walker: “The question is not whether these cognitive abilities ensure that people make better moral judgements, only whether they increase the likelihood of this. And since people who are deficient in empathy are less likely to consider the effects of their actions on others, and people who are poor at moral reasoning are more likely to commit moral errors, it is reasonable to suggest that the reduction of these deficiencies will tend to reduce wrongdoing overall, by removing a source of bias towards wrongdoing. The argument is that God could have created a world in which these deficiencies were reduced compared to this world, and that such a world would contain proportionately less suffering.”

    According to Ezekiel 11,19-20, John 8,34-36, Romans 8,29, 2 Corinthians 5,17, and Galatians 5,16-18 God provided us with the possibility to become morally better people. It’s by the power of the Holy Spirit that this happens. But one must be willing to strive after such a moral improvement (Romans 6,11-14, 12,2, 13,13-14, Galatians 5,16-18, Ephesians 4,17-24). God will give the Holy Spirit to anyone asking Him (Luke 11,13). We may even expect that one day the vast majority of humankind will have morally improved in this way here on Earth (see Isaiah 2,1-5, 11,1-10).

    Iain Walker: “And why should these be sufficient to outweigh the suffering involved, when there are other ways of doing all these things?”

    Whether or not there are really other ways of doing all these things is far from clear. As for the question whether or not the lessons outweigh the suffering involved, for the apostle Paul this obviously was the case (2 Corinthians 12,8-10).

    Iain Walker: “There are many challenges and forms of adversity the overcoming of which does not involve suffering.”

    In my view challenges and forms of adversity always include some kind of suffering in the broadest sense.

    Iain Walker: “And frankly, the suggestion that God is willing to use suffering as a means to drive people closer to him/her/it does not reflect well on his/her/its moral character. It’s the hallmark of a manipulative sadist, not an exemplar of “perfect justice”.”

    Looking at Hebrews 12,4-11 the Bible obviously has a different view.

    Iain Walker: “Hmm. You seem to like doing this – take a scenario which someone else has put to you as a problem, and then posit a different scenario with a different emphasis and pronounce it unproblematic. Feel free to address my actual point at any time.”

    You misrepresent my procedure. You obviously misunderstood my point and in response to this I made it clear what I really meant.

    Iain Walker: “But knowing what the appropriate response to a particular act (or kind of act committed under particular cicumstances) is an essential part of being able to distinguish different systems of punishment as being more or less just. Without that knowledge, we have no basis for saying what “perfect justice” might consist of.”

    Again, whether or not we know what perfect justice consists of is irrelevant in this respect. That God’s judgements are appropriate is simply ASSUMED.

  287. #287 Patrick
    August 11, 2012

    Wow: “Yup. At least twice.”

    Where?

  288. #288 JeromeS
    August 11, 2012

    Patrick,

    The limitation of logic is the fact that not even God can force beings to be in a close and untroubled relationship with Him, as such a relationship is based on love, and love cannot be forced.

    You’re contradicting yourself again. You previously wrote: “Humans know what is like to live without God and therefore, despite having free will, they would nevertheless never sin in heaven.” So humans don’t have to be “forced” to love God in order to be sinless. All they need is this “knowledge” of what it is like to live without God. Then they will never choose sin. So which is it? Humans would need to be “forced” to love God in order to never choose sin, or humans only need “knowledge” in order to never choose sin? If humans only need knowledge in order to never choose sin, why doesn’t God give them this knowledge?

    The redeeming effect caused by accepting Jesus as one’s Lord and Saviour may exceed the redeeming effect by suffering in this life by a large degree, and from Matthew 5,16, 1 Peter 2,11-12, and 3,1-2 one can draw the conclusion that the good deeds performed by Christians may make people receptive of the idea that they should accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.

    Again, you are simply not addressing the contradiction in your arguments that I described. You wrote that suffering in this life “may” have benefits in the afterlife. That’s a reason AGAINST reducing suffering in this life. But you also wrote that reducing suffering in this life “may” have benefits in the afterlife. That’s a reason FOR reducing suffering in this life. So what should we do? Reduce suffering in this life or not reduce suffering in this life? According to you, both alternatives “may” have benefits in the afterlife, so which one should we choose, and why?

  289. #289 JeromeS
    August 11, 2012

    Patrick,

    You are referring here to the Euthyphro dilemma, about which I wrote in my comment from August 9, 5:00 am. The link I pointed to there may provide answers to your questions.

    I read Feser’s discussion of Euthyphro that you link to and it doesn’t resolve the dilemma any more than you have. Feser writes that God could never command us to torture babies for fun because torturing babies for fun can never be good. And that torturing babies for fun can never be good because it is not “in accordance with reason.” This means that reason must be independent of God. Otherwise, God could define reason in such a way that torturing babies for fun is in accordance with reason. If reason is independent of God, where does it come from? Why could reason not be defined in such a way that torturing babies for fun is in accordance with reason? This has nothing to do with how humans may feel about torturing babies for fun. The issue here is the ultimate source of morality.

  290. #290 MNb
    August 11, 2012

    @Iain Walker 10:56: “Consequently, the free will defence does not account for the actual amount of suffering in the world, because the amount could be less without affecting our free will.”
    In fact, if many believers take their own belief seriously, they have to admit that a world is possible in which man has free will and invariably chooses to do good, so that there is no suffering. That world is called heaven.

    @Patrick 12:15: See Wow once again.
    http://www.evilbible.com/Rape.htm

    Have fun. I don’t need the comments to see that this is a disgusting read.

    @JeromeS: I am amazed. The Catholic Feser comes pretty close here to Craig’s Divine Command Theory – ie committing atrocities is allright as long as you think your god has whispered the order in your ear (like happened in the OT). So Feser combines Craig’s immorality with the denial that his god is the ultimate source. That’s quite an achievement.

  291. #291 Patrick
    August 11, 2012

    MNb

    In none of the texts mentioned in the link does God order rape. As for this issue the following link is very informative:

    http://www.mandm.org.nz/2009/07/sunday-study-does-the-bible-teach-that-a-rape-victim-has-to-marry-her-rapist.html

  292. #292 Patrick
    August 11, 2012

    JeromeS: “If humans only need knowledge in order to never choose sin, why doesn’t God give them this knowledge?”

    God indeed wants humans to have this knowledge (1 Timothy 2,3-4), and passages such as Isaiah 2,1-5 or 11,1-10 seem to suggest that such knowledge will be common and the vast majority of humankind will voluntarily live according to God’s will. But the spread of this knowledge is hindered by Satan (Matthew 13,19, 13,24-30, 13,36-43, 2 Corinthians 4,4, Revelation 20,1-3) and by unjust men (Matthew 23,13, Romans 1,18).

    JeromeS: “Again, you are simply not addressing the contradiction in your arguments that I described. You wrote that suffering in this life “may” have benefits in the afterlife. That’s a reason AGAINST reducing suffering in this life. But you also wrote that reducing suffering in this life “may” have benefits in the afterlife. That’s a reason FOR reducing suffering in this life. So what should we do? Reduce suffering in this life or not reduce suffering in this life? According to you, both alternatives “may” have benefits in the afterlife, so which one should we choose, and why?”

    I’ve already explained to you that the sufferer benefits from his suffering, but that he and others benefit even more when he receives help that results in a decrease of suffering.

  293. #293 JeromeS
    August 11, 2012

    Patrick,

    According to Ezekiel 11,19-20, John 8,34-36, Romans 8,29, 2 Corinthians 5,17, and Galatians 5,16-18 God provided us with the possibility to become morally better people

    The question here is why God doesn’t create us such that we are morally better people in the first place. Why doesn’t he create us such that more of us choose good more often than we actually do? Why doesn’t God create us such that we’re more like the most virtuous people (for example, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, or whoever you think is particularly virtuous) and less like the most wicked people (Hitler, Stalin, etc.)? Then there would be less evil.

  294. #294 JeromeS
    August 11, 2012

    Patrick,

    God indeed wants humans to have this knowledge (1 Timothy 2,3-4), and passages such as Isaiah 2,1-5 or 11,1-10 seem to suggest that such knowledge will be common and the vast majority of humankind will voluntarily live according to God’s will. But the spread of this knowledge is hindered by Satan (Matthew 13,19, 13,24-30, 13,36-43, 2 Corinthians 4,4, Revelation 20,1-3) and by unjust men (Matthew 23,13, Romans 1,18).

    Now you’re imposing arbitrary limits on God’s power again. If God can give this knowledge to humans in Heaven, why can’t he also give it to mortal humans? Conversely, if “Satan” and “unjust men” have the power to “hinder” the spread of this knowledge to mortal humans, why don’t they also have the power to hinder the spread of it to humans in Heaven?

    You are simply making up ad hoc assumptions as you go along in order to try and get all your statements to fit together into a coherent position. Why are these assumptions justified?

    I’ve already explained to you that the sufferer benefits from his suffering, but that he and others benefit even more when he receives help that results in a decrease of suffering

    No, you didn’t say that. You said only that the benefit of one “may” exceed the benefit of the other, which is no help at all in deciding how we should act.

    If you’re now taking the position that reducing the suffering of mortal humans always produces more benefit than not reducing their suffering, that just raises the question of why God didn’t create the world such that it had that reduced amount of suffering in the first place. If eliminating the suffering caused by smallpox was a good thing, why did God create smallpox in the first place? Why didn’t he create the world without smallpox so that no one ever had to suffer because of smallpox?

    This is all goes back to the question of why there has to be any evil at all. Why didn’t God set things up so that there is no evil, period? And even if, for some reason, there has to be some amount of evil, why does there have to be as much evil as there is? Why didn’t God create the world such that there is less evil than there actually is?

  295. #295 Wow
    August 11, 2012

    Patrick 2:26 pm
    Where?

    38:8 And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.

    (note Leviticus 20:21 “And if a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.” on that subject, though)

    And twice in Numbers 31:

    31:9 And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods.

    then later:

    31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
    31:18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

  296. #296 Wow
    August 11, 2012

    For someone whose only “argument” has been “it’s written so in this book”, you don’t know that book very well, Patrick.

  297. #297 MNb
    August 12, 2012

    I rather think that Patrick is addicted to his rosy glasses, Wow. In addition again: Numberw 31:7 reads
    “”They attacked Midian just as the LORD had commanded Moses…..”
    and given what follows I have a hunch that those virgins were not kept alive to nurse them.
    It’s also remarkable that Patrick suddenly omits the argument that we have to read stuff like that in its historical context. Well, the historical context of Antiquity teaches us this was the usual procedure after conquering the territory of another tribe. They all did it, the Persians, the Greeks, later the Romans. As the stories were meant as justification and legislation (they are not historical) the only reasonable conclusion is that the authors had the same in mind. The new twist is the approval of their god, whom they had invented just before.
    Read it literally, read it metaphorically – the passage is disgusting, not because we are better people than they, but because humanity also has made some progress in ethics.
    Thus, if we want to learn from the Bible, cherry picking is mandatory. Everybody does it these days, including the most extreme fundie. The difference is that we atheists can freely admit it, because we recognize that there is no god behind the book.

  298. #298 Patrick
    August 13, 2012

    MNb: “In fact, if many believers take their own belief seriously, they have to admit that a world is possible in which man has free will and invariably chooses to do good, so that there is no suffering. That world is called heaven.”

    I’ve already gone into the question whether or not there is free will in heaven. I’ve pointed out that God indeed created free-willed being that He put immediately into heaven, namely the angels. However, according to 2 Peter 2,4 some of them nevertheless failed. After that God created free-willed beings, namely humans, that are not put immediately to heaven. Now from this one can formulate another argument in this respect: Assuming that God’s omniscience doesn’t imply that God knows what free-willed being would do in a hypothetical situation, God is justified in letting both scenarios happen.

  299. #299 Patrick
    August 13, 2012

    JeromeS: “The question here is why God doesn’t create us such that we are morally better people in the first place.”

    God created us such that we can only attain the highest possible degree of morality if we are in close relationship with Him (see Romans 8,5-9, Galatians 5,16-18), and according to Christianity being in a close relationship with God is what we are created for.

    JeromeS: “Why doesn’t he create us such that more of us choose good more often than we actually do? Why doesn’t God create us such that we’re more like the most virtuous people (for example, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, or whoever you think is particularly virtuous) less like the most wicked people (Hitler, Stalin, etc.)?”

    As can be seen from Luke 18,9-14, the easier it is for a person to live a morally good life the more likely it is that the person is self-righteous and looks down on other people.

    JeromeS: “Then there would be less evil.

    […]

    And even if, for some reason, there has to be some amount of evil, why does there have to be as much evil as there is? Why didn’t God create the world such that there is less evil than there actually is?”

    First, you may be right there would be less evil. But again, to what extent should there be less evil? Would not every amount of less evil one would suggest be arbitrary? Would you be satisfied before there is no evil at all? Second, with less evil there would also be fewer instances of evil that could, according to point (5) of my theodicy, have a redeeming effect. On the other hand, the more people there are who have the Holy Spirit the less evil there is (see Romans 8,5-9, Galatians 5,16-18), but at the same time the less evil is necessary that could serve to have a redeeming effect.

    JeromeS: “Now you’re imposing arbitrary limits on God’s power again. If God can give this knowledge to humans in Heaven, why can’t he also give it to mortal humans? Conversely, if “Satan” and “unjust men” have the power to “hinder” the spread of this knowledge to mortal humans, why don’t they also have the power to hinder the spread of it to humans in Heaven?”

    In Heaven people have a close and untroubled relationship with God and Satan and unjust men are excluded from there. Moreover, even here on Earth Satan and unjust men can only temporarily hinder the spread of this knowledge.

    JeromeS: “You are simply making up ad hoc assumptions as you go along in order to try and get all your statements to fit together into a coherent position. Why are these assumptions justified?”

    My arguments are not ad hoc assumptions, as they are rooted in Scripture. But even if they were ad hoc assumptions, in a theodicy such arguments are legitimate. After all, for a theodicy to be successful it doesn’t have to be proven true, it just has to be logically possible or plausible given theism.

    JeromeS: “No, you didn’t say that. You said only that the benefit of one “may” exceed the benefit of the other, which is no help at all in deciding how we should act.”

    I only used the word “may” to make plain that I don’t know whether or not this is true. But with respect to a theodicy one doesn’t have to know if it is true, it just has to be possible or plausible given theism. So one can drop “may”.

    JeromeS: “If you’re now taking the position that reducing the suffering of mortal humans always produces more benefit than not reducing their suffering, that just raises the question of why God didn’t create the world such that it had that reduced amount of suffering in the first place.”

    Strictly speaking, looking at point (2) of my theodicy it’s not reducing suffering as such that produces more benefits than not reducing suffering but if it’s done by Christians.

    JeromeS: “This is all goes back to the question of why there has to be any evil at all. Why didn’t God set things up so that there is no evil, period?”

    It’s because of free will.

  300. #300 Dan L.
    August 13, 2012

    @Wow:

    Dan,’I think you are a bit behind in biology.

    I understand “autocatalytic” and “entropy” just fine. That has no bearing on whether the phrase “autocatalytic entropy exporting process” actually solves or resolves any of the philosophical problems mentioned. It doesn’t. It’s a thought-stopper. Not to mention the fact that there are non-biological entropy-exporting autocatalytic processes, so the meaning isn’t really as specific as you say. Quite comparable to “God” actually.

    @Mnb:

    Teach me. And what’s more: please, please give me positive test results.
    Until then I am with Wow 1:15.

    @Dan: in addition, how do you test that planes exclusively fly by means of mechanical engineering? Their engines might contain some little demons to keep them going. How do you test that babies exclusively are born the way biology describes? If you don’t look for a second there might be a stork involved. I even have some statistics for you to back that up, which is more than you can say about your god.

    Umm, I don’t believe in God. I am an atheist. Your knee seems to be jerking; you should have someone look at that. In the mean time you could try reading what I’ve actually written instead of just arguing against the voices in your head.

  301. #301 Wow
    August 13, 2012

    Dan, that’s not what you’d said about the phrase.

    You had called it meaningless.

    Are you undoing that statement in a one-sided retcon?

  302. #302 Dan L.
    August 13, 2012

    @Patrick:

    I don’t find Feser’s resolution of the Euthyphro dilemma the least bit satisfying. It seems to me a lot of question-begging intended to justify a pre-determined conclusion, not a principled philosophical analysis. That’s the problem with relying on apologists to do your philosophy for you. They can’t and won’t do it honestly.

    @VS:

    I’d imagine that you would consider this an utterly ridiculous statement.

    Only because it isn’t strictly comparable with the argument you’re trying (but failing) to mirror. In the case of “planet,” you’re right that we have to consult neuroscience, linguistics, etc to determine the meaning. Once we do that, we find that the intension of the word “planet” is (roughly) “major satellites of a star.” To make this a useful scientific definition, it needs to be more precise — hence the reclassification of Pluto, mentioned by you. But all the stuff you’re trying to harp on happens after we’ve fixed a relatively unambiguous meaning to the word “planet.” Not so for “morality.” I don’t think anyone has a good catch-all definition of “morality” but it’s clear to me that its intension has to do with how human beings behave in the real world. Sorry.

    No, I want to talk about morality as it is talked about in the field that studies it, which is moral philosophy.

    There’s your problem. Moral philosophy doesn’t actually deal with morality, it deals with abstract symbol systems like the one you’re talking about. As far as data goes, try this survey of relevant neuroscientific data suggesting that morality is not rational in the first place, suggesting that abstract symbol systems cannot possibly constitute “morality” in any real sense. Note that Haidt’s conclusions are entirely consistent with what Nietzsche and other critics of moral philosophy have argued at great length without the benefit of any neuroscientific data.

    The problem is that there are multiple systems that humans use to determine how to behave, even towards others. We have legal systems, political systems, and so on. What, then, SINGLES OUT moral systems from these?

    “Legal” and “political” fortunately have intensions that are clearly distinct from “moral”. “Legal” has to do with laws — laws, like your vaunted morality*, are abstract symbol systems and they’re intended for a specific purpose — maintaining order within a political system. “Political” is likewise hard to confuse with “morality.” It refers to the interactions between people charged with governing a population.

    And we cannot simply declare that what people think is moral really IS what’s moral or else we run into ridiculous ideas like saying that slavery was moral when people thought it was and is now immoral because they don’t. Now, in moral philosophy that sort of idea IS in play … but it needs to be justified. Philosophers who hold it do indeed try to justify it. Guess what part you aren’t doing in your rant here?

    Fortunately for me, I didn’t say any such thing. I’m talking about analyzing how the word “morality” is used to determine its intension. You’re the one who’s not justifying your conclusion — that morality (I say morality*) is really an abstract symbol system that would only contingently have anything to do with human emotion or suffering.

    It’s unacceptable to use a folk term and understanding to address a philosophical argument which the Problem of Evil is.

    But that’s not what I’m doing.

    You need to use the terminology of the field that is expert in it. Why do you find that problematic?

    Because any dispassionate, reasoned look at the evidence will demonstrate that moral philosophers have been talking out of their asses for the last 2500 years. Now that we’re able to look under the hood and see how emotion actually affects behavior and how the forebrain modulates behavior, how injuries to the forebrain seem to completely or nearly-so remove moral restraint from the afflicted, we suddenly see that the “experts” are naked. We have new experts. They’re called “neuroscientists” and “behavioral psychologists.” They’ve done much more useful work on morality in the last two decades than moral philosophers have done in the last two millenia.

    You’d think, then, we could respect what it has discovered instead of insisting that the folk theory is right no matter what the expert field says.

    Name one thing moral philosophy has discovered that is widely held to be true — not just within the field of moral philosophy.

    And, to give you the benefit of the doubt even further, I recently had an epiphany and worked out what I think is the right moral code. You can check it out at my blog and take it up with me there if you think you might be interested.

    No thanks. I get more than my fill of your nonsense right here.

    The main problem seems to me that you’re assuming there is, somewhere floating out in the aether, a One True Morality. You keep harping on the fact that we need to able to find one answer when two different people or groups disagree on what is moral. Why? This seems to me like a very strong unjustified assumption — and it seems to contradict what we know about morality which is that people never seem to agree about it.

  303. #303 Dan L.
    August 13, 2012

    Dan, that’s not what you’d said about the phrase.

    You had called it meaningless.

    Are you undoing that statement in a one-sided retcon?

    I just explained why it was meaningless, but if it makes you feel better you can pretend you won something. You can even have a gold star.

  304. #304 Dan L.
    August 13, 2012

    Sorry, Wow, that was unnecessarily snarky.

    Here’s why I think “autocatalytic entropy-exporting process” is meaningless: it simultaneously describes stellar fusion, black hole formation and evaporation, naturally-occurring Uranium fission, ozone formation, biological life, and many, many more phenomena. I find the difficult part is finding processes that are not autocatalytic entropy-exporting processes.

    Actually, I’m not sure biological life is properly described as “autocatalytic” since the last I checked maintaining my body required quite a few inputs. I do export entropy, but the amazing part is how slowly I do so. “Entropy exporting” is about the least significant aspect of biological life. The interesting part is how little entropy it exports compared to just about any other phenomenon.

    That’s about as much as I have to say about that useless little phrase. It’s meaningless in the same sense that the word “thing” is meaningless — it could describe anything. Can you name a process that “autocatalytic entropy-exporting” doesn’t describe at least as well as it does biological life?

  305. #305 MNb
    August 13, 2012

    @Wow: “Now, are you going to answer MY question, or are you going to continue being an annoying little fuckwit?”
    If you insist, I’m going to continue being an annoying little fuckwit, just because I enjoy it.
    You’re guilty of

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_many_questions

    I didn’t get any such idea as you implied. And I think I had made that sufficiently clear already. But just in case (and because of being an annoying little fuckwit):

    “hey, that god you don’t believe in, know what? I don’t believe in it either.”

    is what christians may say if you keep on talking about THE christian god.. Here I must admit that I don’t exactly foster the idea that you are one. Ain’t that a revelation?
    And yeah, the world will stop turning if I don’t answer YOUR FREAKING question to your COMPLETE satisfaction. So in the best interest of mankind and everything else I hope I have succeeded. If not, continuing to be an annoying little fuckwit is a small price to pay [/sarcasm].

    @Dan: “I find the difficult part ….”
    If you are consistent you think gravity also meaningless. It’s very difficult to find examples where objects fall upward iso downward.
    Also you think relativity meaningless. It’s very difficult to find an object that travels faster than the speed of light.

    “There’s many possible interpretations of the word “God” in which God’s participation in the universe is absolutely testable.”
    Also a ghost in my mind? That’s what you wrote when I asked for such a test – preferably with positive results, which doesn’t necessarily imply that that result should be “there is a god”. A test that’s set up to disprove a god and succeeds as such gives also a positive result.
    You write that you are a hardcore materialist. Fine, so am I. Any testable definition of god implies that that god is part of our material universe – and thus not supernatural. Well, as a hardcore materialist I prefer to call a non-supernatural god gravity, relativity, evolution, mass-psychosis or whatever suitable.
    So the only possibly meaningful interpretation of the word god is imo, as a hardcore materialist, one that’s not testable and as such superfluous for our understanding and knowledge.

  306. #306 Dan L.
    August 13, 2012

    If you are consistent you think gravity also meaningless. It’s very difficult to find examples where objects fall upward iso downward.
    Also you think relativity meaningless. It’s very difficult to find an object that travels faster than the speed of light.

    This is a non-sequitir, buddy. Nothing I said implies that gravity should work backwards or that anything should move faster than the speed of light.

    Also a ghost in my mind? That’s what you wrote when I asked for such a test – preferably with positive results, which doesn’t necessarily imply that that result should be “there is a god”.

    I’m fairly certain I wrote no such thing. Please be specific.

    Any testable definition of god implies that that god is part of our material universe – and thus not supernatural. Well, as a hardcore materialist I prefer to call a non-supernatural god gravity, relativity, evolution, mass-psychosis or whatever suitable.

    Great, semantics of naturalism. That’s exactly what I want to get into right now. (That was sarcasm.) Look, YOU’RE the one who butted into my back-and-forth with Blaine without understanding what was actually under discussion. Clearly you’re very confused since you continued to believe I was a theist despite saying nothing that would imply I am a theist and a whole lot of stuff that implied otherwise.

    I gotta say, I’m not particularly excited about discussing anything with you given your performance so far.

    As for your last little gambit, it’s pure Humpty Dumpty. There’s no a priori reason there couldn’t be a naturalistic God. It is a contingent fact that naturalism is atheistic. There could have been (but wasn’t) evidence of an active, personal God at work in the universe. If there had been we wouldn’t even be having a stupid conversation about whether such a thing is possible.

    Defining God out of existence the way you’ve done is, in my mind, every bit as cheap as the Kalaam argument (defining God into existence).

  307. #307 Dan L.
    August 13, 2012

    @Mnb:

    Let’s take a step back. I provided a list of what I called “mysteries” associated with a naturalistic worldview. Blaine seemed to think that all of these “mysteries” had been solved simply by nothing that we are “products of an entropy-exporting autocatalytic process” or something like that.

    Explain to me how that resolves any of the “mysteries” — or ‘unsolved problems” if you prefer. If you can’t then I think we can put that argument to bed.

  308. #308 Anonymous
    August 13, 2012

    “Explain to me how that resolves any of the “mysteries” ”

    Given one of the mysteries was “the mystery of life”, and Blaine gave the solution of “what is life”, that resolves one of the mysteries.

  309. #309 Wow
    August 13, 2012

    ““hey, that god you don’t believe in, know what? I don’t believe in it either.”

    is what christians may say if you keep on talking about THE christian god..”

    No they don’t. Not ONCE has any tried that “gambit”.

    fwit you remain.

  310. #310 Dan L.
    August 13, 2012

    Given one of the mysteries was “the mystery of life”, and Blaine gave the solution of “what is life”, that resolves one of the mysteries.

    1. “What is life” was not one of the mysteries. (That’s already been solved.)
    2. “Autocatalytic entropy exporting process” is an incredibly poor definition of life for reasons already stated, so it doesn’t even solve a problem that has already been solved.

    What a spectacularly stupid response.

  311. #311 JeromeS
    August 13, 2012

    Patrick,

    You’re now just going in circles, repeating what you originally said that prompted my questions instead of addressing those questions. I’ll try to recap for you. I’ll start with the two most basic questions relating to your position on evil.

    On the question of why there has to be any evil at all:

    You said there has to be evil because of “free will.” But you also said that in Heaven there is free will but humans never choose evil. So I asked you why God didn’t create the mortal world such that humans have free will but never choose evil. You answered that this is because “Satan” and “unjust men” “hinder” the spread of certain “knowledge” that mortal humans would need to never choose evil. I responded that this claim is an arbitrary restriction on God’s power. If God is omnipotent, why can’t he give this knowledge to mortal men anyway, despite the presence of Satan and unjust men? You didn’t answer this question but instead responded by saying that Satan and unjust men are “excluded” from Heaven. That just raises the additional question of why God doesn’t also exclude them from the mortal world. So you still have not explained where there has to be any evil at all.

    On the question of why there has to be as much evil as there is:

    Even if you had explained why there has to be any evil at all, a related question is why there has to be as much evil as there is. Why didn’t God create the world with less evil? Why didn’t God create the world such that humans choose evil less often? You haven’t answered this question either. You said that with less evil there would be a smaller “redeeming effect.” But any good arising from this “redeeming effect” cannot outweigh the evil that makes the “redeeming effect” possible, otherwise a world with more evil would be more good than a world with less evil, which is a contradiction. So, again, why didn’t God create the world such that it has less evil?

  312. #312 Wow
    August 13, 2012

    “I just explained why it was meaningless”

    No, you said it wasn’t because it was meaningless. you said instead:

    “That has no bearing on whether the phrase “autocatalytic entropy exporting process” actually solves or resolves any of the philosophical problems mentioned.”

    You called the phrase IN AND OF ITSELF meaningless. Attributed that they were merely words with no meaning.

    You insist you answered why his answers were meaningless, but Blaine said why your questions were useless:

    “These are scientific questions, not ‘mysteries of existence’. Some have already been clearly explained.”

    Here for you are other answers:

    Consciousness: the emergent property of a sufficiently complex sensory input computer.

    Free Will: Well, first of all, as said all along, either it exists or it doesn’t, but you have to explain what phenomena you think would change in either case before you can see if it exists. You know, all that hypothesis testing requires a FALSIFIABLE result that allows you to discern between theories.

    Quantum gravity: What problem? We have a model of gravity that doesn’t fit. This has happened many times before. It isn’t a mystery that it is happening again.

    Other minds: What mystery is supposed to be here? Are you saying that it’s a mystery that there s anyone but you here?

    Correct interpretation of quantum theory: This isn’t a mystery either. It’s a query. “How should you interpret quantum theory”, but it’s fairly sorted. It WAS a mystery because of the methodology of the Copenhagen interpretation which Schrodinger’s Cat was to demonstrate the fallacy. QM is to be applied as a MODEL to quantum level events. NOT to classical events.

    In much the same way as you don’t work out how a cat lives by working out the biochemical processes by which a cat lives, but by asking someone who studies animals as the entity.

    Cause of the Big Bang: The only mystery is why people keep asking for a cause of it. We’ve never HAD a real genuine nothing, so maybe something is an inevitable consequence of having any amount of nothing.

    May also be a definitional problem. I.e. “What’s the difference between a duck’s legs” mystery.

    Abiogenesis: Only has to happen once. Over a billion years on a planet the size of our earth, it’s liable to happen any number of ways. Again, the only mystery is why people want to ask how it has happened and ignore any of the myriad ways it COULD have happened, preferring instead to call it a mystery (insert god).

    Evolution/development of language: Nope, behavioural science alrady has this and teaching apes sign language gives proof of the theories. Another emergent property.

    Development of civilization: No mystery here either.

  313. #313 Wow
    August 13, 2012

    “1. “What is life” was not one of the mysteries. (That’s already been solved.)”

    And your other mysteries are either not mysteries or solved.

  314. #314 Dan L.
    August 13, 2012

    @Wow:

    You called the phrase IN AND OF ITSELF meaningless. Attributed that they were merely words with no meaning.

    It is, and I’ve explained why. You haven’t said anything to make me change my mind.

    As far as your answers to these serious philosophical problems, they just make you look like a theist’s caricature of a logical positivist. Congratulations on making atheists look bad.

  315. #315 Wow
    August 13, 2012

    “2. “Autocatalytic entropy exporting process” is an incredibly poor definition of life for reasons already stated”

    Really? What better one do you have?

    Particularly ignorant answers from you.

  316. #316 Dan L.
    August 13, 2012

    @Wow:

    Try a definition of “life” that excludes clearly non-living things. Unless you think the star Sol is a living thing.

  317. #317 Wow
    August 13, 2012

    The sun isn’t autocatalytic, dumbass.

    Do you know what the word means?

    You insist you explained why, but your “mysteries” aren’t mysteries, except in so far as it’s a mystery why you thought they were.

  318. #318 Wow
    August 13, 2012

    “I didn’t get any such idea as you implied.” You keep saying this, you keep not saying how anyone should know this.

  319. #319 Dan L.
    August 13, 2012

    Consciousness: the emergent property of a sufficiently complex sensory input computer.

    The brain qualifies as a computer under what definition of “computer”? Will ANY “sufficiently complex sensory input computer” be conscious or only particular kinds? What’s the difference between a “sensory input” and any other kind of “input”? And the hard problem: why aren’t we zombies?

    Free Will: Well, first of all, as said all along, either it exists or it doesn’t, but you have to explain what phenomena you think would change in either case before you can see if it exists. You know, all that hypothesis testing requires a FALSIFIABLE result that allows you to discern between theories.

    Why does it feel like we have free will whether or not it’s actually real? Why does everyone have the intuition of free will? Why do the vast majority of human beings insist on the truth of that intuition in spite of serious philosophical and evidential challenges?

    Quantum gravity: What problem? We have a model of gravity that doesn’t fit. This has happened many times before. It isn’t a mystery that it is happening again.

    Actually, the problems are much more serious than you’re letting on. Our theory of gravity is inconsistent with our theory of matter, but gravity is hypothetically caused by matter. There seems to be three times as much gravity as there should be given the amount of matter accounted for. That gravity is dwarfed by a recently discovered type of anti-gravity that suffuses the universe. There are no attempts at quantum theories of gravity that predict dark matter and dark energy, and the current quantum theories of gravity are pretty shaky anyway. You can insist that none of this is any kind of problem but it sure sounds like a problem to me.

    Other minds: What mystery is supposed to be here? Are you saying that it’s a mystery that there s anyone but you here?

    How can we be sure other people have minds? We can’t. We can only suppose they do. Unless you believe in psychic powers, and I’m guessing that you don’t.

    Correct interpretation of quantum theory: This isn’t a mystery either. It’s a query. “How should you interpret quantum theory”, but it’s fairly sorted.

    LOL, that’s like the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. A query without an answer is a mystery — or if you really have a problem with the word “mystery” than it’s an unsolved problem. It’s nowhere near sorted, by the way. Copenhagen’s no good (shut up and calculate is unsatisfying), Many-worlds is no good (everything is true at once — sorry, that’s exactly why I reject “God” as an explanation for anything). Are there any others?

    Cause of the Big Bang: The only mystery is why people keep asking for a cause of it. We’ve never HAD a real genuine nothing, so maybe something is an inevitable consequence of having any amount of nothing.

    “Maybe,” huh? Sure sounds like you’ve solved THAT mystery. (If it were true, your interpretation would be fine as a solution to the mystery. But it’s a “maybe” so it doesn’t work.)

    Abiogenesis: Only has to happen once. Over a billion years on a planet the size of our earth, it’s liable to happen any number of ways. Again, the only mystery is why people want to ask how it has happened and ignore any of the myriad ways it COULD have happened, preferring instead to call it a mystery (insert god).

    Ah, but how did it actually happen? What was the impetus? What were the necessary preconditions (if any)? Did it start with metabolism happening free-floating in water until some little bit of goo got caught up in a lipid bilayer? Or did the bilayer come first? Was the first replicator really RNA-based, or perhaps there was some kind of proto-RNA? This all sounds like some kind of mystery.

    Evolution/development of language: Nope, behavioural science alrady has this and teaching apes sign language gives proof of the theories. Another emergent property.

    Umm, you should look more closely at the studies of apes and sign language. They can associate words with sensory patterns just like dogs can, but they can’t learn grammar which means they can’t really learn language. Evolution of language is VERY poorly understood for very good reasons. It is a mystery. There are some tantalizing clues. (It is also a scientific problem. I see no contradiction between “mystery” and “scientific problem.”)

    Development of civilization: No mystery here either.

    There is. Why? Why where it started? Why when it started? Did it really start in Mesopotamia or is it just that artifacts preserved well in that climate? How much do other early Mediterranean civilizations owe to the Sumerians, i.e. did the Greeks independently invent civilization or did they import it?

  320. #320 Dan L.
    August 13, 2012

    The sun isn’t autocatalytic, dumbass.

    Do you know what the word means?

    I thought it meant “self-causing” since that IS the etymology, but it appears it’s used to mean something pickier.

    OK, it’s an autocatalytic reaction. As far as I can tell, we’re using the word “autocatalytic” to describe what we already knew life was (a self-sustaining chemical reaction). How is this supposed to be even remotely profound or informative?

  321. #321 Dan L.
    August 13, 2012

    @Wow:

    You seem to be misinterpreting me pretty badly. I described a list of unsolved philosophical/scientific problems (I don’t think there is a clear demarcation between the two) as “mysteries.” My impression is that you’re really having trouble with the word “mystery.” Relax. Don’t worry about it. It’s just another word for “unsolved problem.”

    Also, it doesn’t mean that these problems are unsolveable or that they can’t be solved by science at some point. I think most of the problems are soluble in principle, and those that are solved I believe will be solved using science.

    You really seem to me to be arguing for the sake of arguing at this point. Relax. I’m simply pointing out there’s stuff we still don’t know and that shouldn’t be any problem whatsoever for anyone with a scientific worldview.

  322. #322 Wow
    August 13, 2012

    ” I described a list of unsolved philosophical/scientific problems”

    Except that you know that time solves mysteries as with, say, the existence of life. Used to be a mystery, but you accept it is solved.

    Most aren’t philosophical problems either.

    Any “mysteries” carries a far different freighting.

    “Also, it doesn’t mean that these problems are unsolveable or that they can’t be solved by science at some point.”

    You seem to have missed: SEVERAL HAVE BEEN SOLVED.

    Get it that time?

    Several others are fallacies.

    Here, again, is an example of a “mystery” similar to some you proposed:

    What is the difference between a duck’s legs?

    Go on, tell me that that is a mystery.

  323. #323 Wow
    August 13, 2012

    “Do you know what the word means?

    I thought it meant “self-causing””

    Nope, it means “makes more of itself”. Prions aren’t quite included since they make changes of others to itself.

    That’s what catalysing means.

    Autocatalysing requires it makes more of itself, not more of another.

    And, in any case, how would your understanding of the word cause the sun to be autocatalytic anyway???

    “Abiogenesis: …

    Ah, but how did it actually happen? ”

    Yup, this is why we think you’re a godbotherer. Why on earth did you quote

    “the only mystery is why people want to ask how it has happened and ignore any of the myriad ways it COULD have happened”

    Then still ask that question?

    It’s EXACTLY what godbotherers do.

  324. #324 Dan L.
    August 13, 2012

    Except that you know that time solves mysteries as with, say, the existence of life. Used to be a mystery, but you accept it is solved.

    Quite right.

    Most aren’t philosophical problems either.

    Again, I don’t believe there is a clear demarcation between philosophical problems and scientific problems. The historical pattern is that philosophical problems are normalized to scientific problems as the problems are clarified.

    Any “mysteries” carries a far different freighting.

    That’s entirely on you. I was very clear about what I meant by “mystery.” I repeated it several times. You’re the one who decided to fly off the handle without bothering to read what I was saying.

    You seem to have missed: SEVERAL HAVE BEEN SOLVED.

    None of the ones I’ve mentioned have been solved as I pointed out in a previous post. Your “solutions” are laughable.

    Several others are fallacies.

    If you could successfully point out the fallacy that would be an acceptable solution to the mystery. But you didn’t. You threw out a “maybe” on one of them.

  325. #325 Wow
    August 13, 2012

    “I’m honestly curious how abiogenesis might have happened”

    If you were honestly curious, then I’m honestly unconvinced of this because of how you happen to still be asking that question when HOW IT MIGHT HAVE HAPPENED has been answered.

  326. #326 Dan L.
    August 13, 2012

    Yup, this is why we think you’re a godbotherer. Why on earth did you quote

    “the only mystery is why people want to ask how it has happened and ignore any of the myriad ways it COULD have happened”

    Then still ask that question?

    It’s EXACTLY what godbotherers do.

    I don’t care what godbotherers do. Not doing what godbotherers do would require paying attention to what they do and then expend effort not doing that. You’re free, of course, to expend as much effort as you want enforcing ideological purity on yourself. I feel no such compulsion.

    I’m honestly curious how abiogenesis might have happened. Yes, I don’t doubt that there are many ways that it could have happened. But that doesn’t make how it actually happened any less of a mystery. Again, you seem to be arguing for the sake of arguing.

  327. #327 Wow
    August 13, 2012

    “I don’t care what godbotherers do.”

    I’m not saying you should be.

    But you’ve now been told why despite protestations to the contrary, you’re being thought of as a GodBot.

  328. #328 Dan L.
    August 13, 2012

    @Wow:

    But you’ve now been told why despite protestations to the contrary, you’re being thought of as a GodBot.

    No, you assumed I was a “GodBot” because you wanted to yell and scream and curse. You argue viscerally instead of rationally, and for the sake of arguing rather than to clarify or make the arguments more precise.

    Jumping to the conclusion that I’m a “GodBot” because I made the perfectly valid point that we really don’t understand abiogenesis that well is simply not rational. It doesn’t follow logically so I have to look for some other motivation. Which is easy to find by looking at any comment thread here on EB and seeing how much vertical space you use screaming at people.

  329. #329 Dan L.
    August 13, 2012

    If you were honestly curious, then I’m honestly unconvinced of this because of how you happen to still be asking that question when HOW IT MIGHT HAVE HAPPENED has been answered.

    Is this a deliberate misinterpretation or are you just desperate for negative attention? (I think I know the solution to this “mystery” already.)

  330. #330 Patrick
    August 13, 2012

    JeromeS: “If God is omnipotent, why can’t he give this knowledge to mortal men anyway, despite the presence of Satan and unjust men?“

    Looking at the Book of Romans in the New Testament it can be argued that God HAS provided humankind with such knowledge.

    First, according to Romans 1,18-23 man is aware of God and His properties. In the following book (which I haven’t read) it is argued that ethnographic studies haven shown that there is a universal knowledge of God:

    Don Richardson, Eternity in Their Hearts: Startling Evidence of Belief in the One True God in Hundreds of Cultures Throughout the World, Ventura 1981.

    Further evidence in favour of such a view is provided by the following book, in which it is argued that man has an innate inclination to believe in God or gods:

    Justin L. Barrett, Born Believers: The Science of Children’s Religious Belief, New York et al. 2012.

    A summary of the content of this book can be found in the following link:

    http://www.tothesource.org/5_2_2012/5_2_2012.htm

    Second, Romans 2,14-16 suggests that there is a universal knowledge concerning morality. Again, like the aforementioned vieew this view is reinforced by modern research, as can be seen from the following link:

    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2006/01/10/2003288343/1

    Third, in Romans 7,14-25 it is pointed out that although we know what we ought to do, we often find ourselves incapable of living up to our moral principles. From Romans 7,21-25 one can draw the conclusion that this makes people receptive of God’s salvation.

    JeromeS: “You didn’t answer this question but instead responded by saying that Satan and unjust men are “excluded” from Heaven. That just raises the additional question of why God doesn’t also exclude them from the mortal world. So you still have not explained where there has to be any evil at all.”

    An answer to this question may be found in Jesus’ Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13,24-30, 13,36-45).

  331. #331 JeromeS
    August 13, 2012

    Patrick,

    Looking at the Book of Romans in the New Testament it can be argued that God HAS provided humankind with such knowledge.

    But according to you, if God had done that we would never choose sin. You asserted that the reason humans in Heaven never choose sin is that they “know what [it] is like to live without God and therefore, despite having free will, they would nevertheless never sin in heaven.” If it is this knowledge of “what it is like to live without God” that keeps them from choosing sin, then mortal humans, who do sometimes choose sin, cannot possess that knowledge.

    Although I expect you’ll now add yet another new assumption to try and fix this conflict. Which highlights yet another problem with your theology. It has now become so complicated from all the assumptions, qualifications, conditions, etc. you need to keep adding to resolve conflicts between your various statements that you can no longer remember all the pieces. So you keep creating new conflicts when you add an assumption to try and resolve a prior conflict.

    An answer to this question may be found in Jesus’ Parable of the Weeds

    Then what is that answer? Explain clearly what you think it is. Telling me to read scripture is a waste of time, since I don’t know how you are interpreting it.

    There are also other major problems I have described with your position that you have simply not addressed. For example, my criticism of Edward Feser’s supposed solution to the Euthyphro dilemma.

  332. #332 Wow
    August 13, 2012

    “Telling me to read scripture is a waste of time,”

    Since patrick himself doesn’t apparently read it either. Probably goes off to AIG and searches for a passage.

  333. #333 Wow
    August 13, 2012

    “Is this a deliberate misinterpretation”

    That’s what I’d like to know.

    You\ve been ANSWERED how it might have happened.

    Then you replied with “How did it ACTUALLY happen?”

    Then insist immediately that you’re only looking for how it MIGHT have happened.

    Are you being deliberately idiotic here, or are you just pissed?

  334. #334 Wow
    August 13, 2012

    “No, you assumed I was a “GodBot” ”

    WRONG!!!!!

    You won’t read this, even while quoting it, but here it is:

    “Yup, this is why we think you’re a godbotherer.”

    We’re not merely assuming it, we have EVIDENCE to support it.

  335. #335 Wow
    August 13, 2012

    :Jumping to the conclusion that I’m a “GodBot” because I made the perfectly valid point that we really don’t understand abiogenesis that well is simply not rational.”

    1) It’s not a perfectly valid point when you maintain that, and I quote:

    “I’m honestly curious how abiogenesis might have happened”

    It might have happened any number of ways. You’ve been told them. But you STILL whine about how you need to know how it might have happened?

    2) It’s not just that that makes you look like, to any sane rational being, a godbotherer.

  336. #336 Jason Rosenhouse
    August 13, 2012

    Okay folks, enough is enough. I think everyone’s had a chance to make their points.

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