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GRWelsh

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DEBATE: Problem of Gratuitous Suffering
« on: June 24, 2014, 07:35:06 am »
Hello everyone, Brett Lunn and I have agreed to have a debate on a version of the Problem of Evil.  I will be arguing in favor of the soundness of the Problem of Gratuitous Suffering, and Brett will be arguing against.  Please refrain from posting in this thread.  We’ve decided to do the debate without a moderator, and we’ve agreed to the following terms:

Opening Statement: GR - 2000 words maximum
Opening Response: Brett - within 7 days - 2000 words max
GR's 2nd Post: within 7 days - 2000 words max
Brett's 2nd Post: within 7 days - 2000 words max
GR's 3rd Post: within 7 days - 2000 words max
Brett's 3rd Post: within 7 days - 2000 words max
GR's 4th Post: within 7 days - 2000 words max
Brett's 4th Post/Final Words: within 7 days - 2000 words max

Our word count can be based on a simple "copy and paste" of text into a Microsoft Word document and using the Word Count Tool.  End notes for any citations do not count against word length limits.  "Within 7 days" means within 7 days of the opponent's most recent post.  I’ll consider it to be obvious if either of us doesn’t live up to these terms, since it is a publically posted debate with timestamps [NOTE: Brett and I have agreed that there can be some flexibility with the terms if either of us asks the other for exceptions to be made; for example, Brett asked me if it was okay for his 1st response to exceed the 7 day limit, and I agreed to this].  During the debate, I’m going to refrain from reading any “peanut gallery” discussion threads about this debate.  But after the debate is over, we can have a Q & A thread if there is interest.  Now, for my Opening Statement...
« Last Edit: June 30, 2014, 11:07:00 am by GRWelsh »
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Re: DEBATE: Problem of Gratuitous Suffering
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2014, 07:36:42 am »
I’d like to thank Brett for participating in this debate.  I’d also like to thank William Lane Craig (hereafter WLC) and the staff at Reasonable Faith.org for providing us with this forum.  My intent is not to vindictively attack anyone’s faith.  Rather, I engage in such discussions because I am interested in thinking deeply on the philosophical questions in life.  Let’s begin:

THE PROBLEM OF GRATUITOUS SUFFERING

1.  If an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God exists, then gratuitous suffering does not.
2.  Gratuitous suffering exists.
3.  Therefore, an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God does not exist.

The argument has a logically valid form of modus tollens.  Therefore, to avoid the conclusion that it is also sound, one must reject at least one of the premises.

DEFINITIONS:

-   Omnipotence means the power to do anything logically possible.
-   Omniscience means knowing anything that is logically possible to know.
-   Omnibenevolence means being morally good as it is possible to be in all situations, and/or having the best moral character one can possibly have.
-   Gratuitous suffering means suffering which isn't necessary for, or justified by, some greater good, or which isn’t necessary to prevent a worse or equal harm.

According to the word origin and history of the word ‘gratuitous’ from dictionary.reference.com: 1656, "freely bestowed," from L. gratuitus "free, spontaneous, voluntary," from gratia "favor." Sense of "uncalled for, done without good reason" is first recorded 1691.  It is this last sense that I looking for – something that is done for no good reason, or that is pointless.

In general, for the remainder of this debate, when I refer to God, I mean the God of classical theism with the three omni-properties above, also considered by most Christians to be the God of the Bible. 

SUPPORT FOR THE PREMISES:

“If an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God exists, then gratuitous suffering does not.”

My first premise is the claim that God, as defined, is incompatible with the existence of gratuitous suffering.  My main support for this premise is to point out the evident impossibility of the contrary.  As Stephen Wykstra put it, denying the incompatibility “is tantamount to saying that God could allow some intense suffering either because he enjoys the sight of occasional suffering for its own sake, or because he is indifferent to it.  It is hard to see how such a being could be meaningfully praised as a good God, worthy of our worship, our obedience, and – not least – our trust.  I take this to be a basic conceptual truth deserving assent by theists and nontheists” [1].  Gratuitous suffering cannot, by definition, ever be justified as necessary to bring about some greater good.  So, a theodicy – a justification of why God allows suffering -- cannot be applied to it.  Consider the incoherency of a statement such as: “a given moral evil may be gratuitous even though God is justified in permitting that evil for the sake of preserving human freedom.”  So, something to watch out for when this premise is being objected to is equivocation, or the altering of definitions.

“Gratuitous suffering exists.”

My second premise is a factual claim, because it is a claim about something that is asserted to be true about the world.  How can I be warranted in making such a claim?  WLC writes, when evaluating this particular argument structure: “The key move in the atheist’s argument, then, will be his inference from apparently gratuitous suffering to genuinely gratuitous suffering” [2].  I think I agree.  I’d like to offer the following line of reasoning:

We evidently all believe at least some gratuitous suffering exists, since we make distinctions between suffering that is gratuitous and suffering is that not.  For example, if a child is being dragged into a room to be cut up with knives, it is relevant to know whether the people with the knives are surgeons trying to save his life or simply cruel torturers.  In the first case, you wouldn't try to prevent the child from being taken into that room, but in the second case you would.  We make these sorts of judgments, about which forms of suffering we'll endure or allow, and which we will try to prevent, based on our assessments of which forms of suffering are gratuitous or not. But theists will often raise the question of how we can get from ‘apparently exists’ to ‘exists’ – and sometimes they will raise the objection there just isn’t any way we know this with certainty.  But, we don’t need to know with absolute certainty that something exists in order to be justified in saying we know something exists -- otherwise we’d ‘know’ very little.  So, by itself this objection isn’t strong enough to defeat the premise.  Next, one might raise the objection that we simply aren’t in a position to know the probability that gratuitous suffering exists.  But, again, we don’t need to be able to calculate exact probability in order to find something more probable than not -- otherwise we’d be paralyzed with indecision nearly all of the time. And, clearly, we aren’t.  Frequently, we reason from particulars to positive or negative existentials, and we consider this reasonable to do, in the absence of defeaters.  We don’t often have the luxury of believing in things supported by logically valid arguments in which the premises are known to be true with certainty.  Very little of our reasoning concludes with “X exists” or “X is true,” but rather is more often “it is reasonable to conclude X exists, or that X is true,” while still admitting it might be possible for that conclusion to be later rendered false by additional information.

Here, I’d like to point out that theists who object this premise by claiming we lack sufficient grounds to make the leap from “apparently gratuitous suffering exists” to “gratuitous suffering exists” are being inconsistent if they don’t apply this same rigor to their own arguments.  For example, in the Moral Argument, many theists argue that we do have sufficient epistemological warrant to make the leap from “apparently objective moral values exist” to “objective moral values exist.”  And nearly everybody makes this move when it comes to the external world.  WLC writes: “Everybody admits that the world is filled with apparently gratuitous suffering.  We are often unable to see any reason for why harm befalls us.  But that doesn’t imply that these apparently gratuitous evils really are gratuitious.”[2]  Contrast that with an answer he gave on why we should believe objective moral values exist:
Quote
“There are very few matters in life about which we can be certain. All that matters is that, after thoughtfully reflecting on the question of moral values and weighing the alternatives, we come to the conclusion that, yes, objective moral values probably do exist.
What you’re really asking, I think, is, “Why should I think that objective moral values exist rather than that evolution has made me believe in the illusion that there are objective moral values?” And the answer to that question is, “Because I clearly apprehend objective moral values and have no good reason to deny what I clearly perceive.”
This is the same answer we give to the sceptic who says, “How do you know you’re not just a body lying in the Matrix and that all that you see and experience is an illusory, virtual reality?” We have no way to get outside our five senses and prove that they’re veridical. Rather I clearly apprehend a world of people and trees and houses about me, and I have no good reason to doubt what I clearly perceive. Sure, it’s possible that I’m a body in the Matrix. But possibilities come cheap. The mere possibility provides no warrant for denying what I clearly grasp.” [3]

I and many others have arrived at a very similar conclusion about the existence of gratuitous suffering: namely, that it exists and we clearly grasp we’d be better off without it!  There is, apparently, an awful lot of gratuitous suffering in the world, suffering that seems to be pointless, and better off prevented.  And that is the reason for the creation of charities, orphanages, hospices, animal hospitals, and countless other human endeavors that have been created to try to prevent or alleviate suffering.  Why should we stop believing that all of this suffering is gratuitous, i.e., better off avoided or removed because there is apparently no good reason for it?  What reasons are given?  All we get in response are theodicies, which really amount to no more than theological hypotheses.  For theists don’t really know the answer, they are just speculating on what they think the answer could be. By themselves, such hypotheses aren’t enough to be defeaters of what is apparently true and obvious about the world.

Theists who claim that the evidence in favor of God’s existence outweighs the apparently gratuitous suffering in the world in a way that is sufficient to deny this premise should reflect on the following points.  The Cosmological Argument doesn’t conclude with God exists, but only that the universe has a beginning or that that a first cause exists, and then an inference is made to this being God; but the argument itself doesn’t conclude that such a thing must be good, much less omnibenevolent.  Likewise, the Fine-Tuning Argument concludes a designer, and again makes an inference that this is God, but also again, the conclusion doesn’t necessitate that such a being must be omnibenevolent.  The Moral Argument is a sort of parallel to the Problem of Gratuitous Suffering, in that it attempts to argue from “objective morality apparently exists” to “objective morality exists” often by asking challenging questions and use of analogies.  And even it doesn’t conclude with an omnibenevolent God, merely that God is the basis for objective morality.  So, the theist should not be overconfident in such an easy conclusion as: “the cumulative case for God, with its various arguments, is sufficient to outweigh the inference that gratuitous suffering exists, and therefore the Problem of Gratuitous Suffering fails.”  It doesn’t matter if you have more arguments on your scale than I do if the arguments you are citing aren’t all relevant to the discussion because they don’t establish God with all three omni-properties.

Finally, I’d like to point out that it seems impossible to live consistently with the belief that no suffering is better off avoided.  Believing that no gratuitous suffering exists would lead to a sort of fatalism – the only suffering that God would allow to be instantiated in the world would be necessary and justified for some greater good.  Therefore, it wouldn’t matter if one tried to prevent any given instance of suffering, or not.  It’s an untenable position.  If all of the evidence, based on how one behaves, indicates that one believes at least some gratuitous suffering exists – then how can one deny it?

So, to sum up my points:

S1. Gratuitous suffering apparently exists.
S2. We don’t need to know with absolute certainty that something exists in order to be justified in saying we know something exists -- otherwise we’d ‘know’ very little. 
S3. We don’t need to be able to calculate exact probability in order to find something more probable than not -- otherwise we’d be paralyzed with indecision nearly all of the time.
S4. We frequently reason from particulars to positive or negative existentials, and it is reasonable to do so in the absence of a defeater.
S5. The inference used for the Moral Argument is very similar to that used here, so it is inconsistent for a theist who advocates the use of that inference in that argument, to reject it in this one.
S6. Many arguments for God do not conclude with a God that has all three omni-properties, including, most crucially, omnibenevolence.
S7. It seems impossible to live consistently with the belief that no suffering is gratuitous.
S8. In the absence of a defeater, we therefore ought to conclude that at least some gratuitous suffering exists.

[1] “The Humean Obstacle to Evidential Arguments from Suffering: On Avoiding the Evils of ‘Appearance’,” International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion 16 (1984): 75-77, Stephen Wykstra.
[2] God? A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist (2004), Oxford University Press, William Lane Craig, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong.
[3] “Our Grasp of Objective Moral Values,” Q&A #36, William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith website: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/our-grasp-of-objective-moral-values
« Last Edit: June 25, 2014, 08:05:48 am by GRWelsh »
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Re: DEBATE: Problem of Gratuitous Suffering
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2014, 07:53:56 pm »
I also would like to thank WLC, the RF forum moderators, readers, and GR for this opportunity. The point of this debate isn’t to salvage a belief that this argument is sound nor is it to simply maintain a belief in the existence of God. What we are searching for here is the truth of the matter. If the evidential argument is sound, I hope I would accept it; if the evidential argument is unsound, we should reject it. One note before moving on, the footnotes are not important to my argument as they are primarily citations.[1] Thus, feel free to ignore them.

Now let me outline my approach before diving in. First, I will go through GR’s post and make some responses. In so doing, I will call attention to what is a de jure objection. This objection basically says that the person has no grounds to believe some position and so they should not do so. After that, I will provide a number of objections that are a mix of a de facto and de jure objections. The de facto objections are objections to the fact of the matter, not merely one’s epistemic status. I will level a number of objections and the reason for doing this is because I think they are all sound; I am not simply presenting objections just to have objections. Now I would ask that you will join me on this adventure.

GR’s Post
The argument is valid and so we can move on to the definitions and defense of the premises.

The first thing to note is his definition of omnipotence. Sadly, GR does not expand on what he means by his definition and so I must pursue two different interpretations. If omnipotence is the power to do anything logically possible, then, strictly speaking, God can create a married bachelor. So if GR is arguing against a God that exemplifies the properties as he defines them, then I do not believe that God exists anyway (and neither should you, but not due to this argument). Maybe he means it is the power to do anything metaphysically possible, but not exemplifying Godhood is metaphysically possible (as great as you are, you still don’t exemplify the property of Godhood). However, God clearly cannot do that and that doesn’t mean He isn’t omnipotent. Thus, if GR wants to stick with that definition of omnipotence, I’ll be fine with that and simply observe that this argument isn’t against any philosophically robust view of God.

I would also nitpick the other definitions, but they are good enough to move on.

With regards to his defense of (1), he simply quotes Wykstra’s incredulity and expresses the same incredulity. But incredulity clearly isn’t a defense of the premise. Now, he seems to indicate that (1) is analytically true (that is, true by definition). However, he didn’t show this. Moreover, going the route of analyticity runs into other problems like Quine’s attack.[2] Hence, if he wants to go that route, he should at least show us how analytic truths survive the onslaught that Quine sparked and how that works itself out with regards to his defense of (1). Here I will be a good sport and cite the most prominent book that argues in favor of the analytic/synthetic distinction by taking note of all of the major objections and progressions in philosophy of language.[3]

If he has some argument for (1) that is neither incredulity nor a mere claim of analyticity, then I would enjoy hearing it. Hence, GR has a de jure objection against him here as he has given no reason for believing (1).

With regards to (2), he seems to be forwarding an argument like the following:[4]

(2.1) If there is no gratuitous suffering, then we should not prevent suffering.
(2.2) We should prevent suffering.
(2) Therefore, there is gratuitous suffering.

Depending on how critical I am at the moment, I would question both (2.1) and (2.2) just so that he could bear the burden, but I will be nice here and only look at (2.1). The first thing to note is that he gives no defense of (2.1) and so he has a de jure objection against him there. Second, let’s provide a de facto objection. Suppose that there is some sin S. Now, God could prevent S by overriding my will and so I wouldn’t commit S even though I wouldn’t be free in my choice. However, if God is committed to preventing S, then He is committed to preventing tons of other sins such that there would be no real laws of nature. Nonetheless, laws of nature and regularity are clearly a good thing and so He doesn’t prevent S. Thus, S is not gratuitous. However, I should clearly not sin in that situation. Hence, even though it is true that if I do sin, then it is not gratuitous, it’s also true that I should not sin (prevent suffering). Thus, (2.1) is false.

He then goes on to talk about the moral argument, Moorean shifts, and fatalism. None of those are important in my mind and do not forward his argument and so they will be ignored. If I missed anything important, GR, feel free to point it out.

Objections
Now let me move on to objections to the argument.

The first thing to note is that GR said this is one of the arguments that he would tell God if God asked why he was not a believer. I am sure that many feel the same way. Hence, the argument must be very strong. However, if this argument is actually open to trivial refutation, then what should we conclude? I cannot answer this question, but I suggest some introspection on the issue.

With that out of the way, let's be more specific.

(O.1) If God exists, it seems that there is some good G that is greater than any evil E. Or, at least, that fact is inscrutable. However, GR’s argument is now open to trivial refutation. For take any E and combine it with G to form a conjunctive state of affairs. Given that, E in the conjunctive state of affairs is outweighed by G, yet that conjunctive state of affairs cannot be obtained without permitting E.[5] Now, the argument can be patched rather easily (hence why it’s a trivial objection), but what are we to make of an argument that seems so strong and yet is trivially false? This is, therefore, a de facto objection to (2).

(O.2) I would next like to take an example from Inwagen showing that God’s existence is compatible with gratuitous suffering.[6] Suppose that some great good requires that some suffering greater than S0 occurs. Now, for any suffering that occurs, that suffering is gratuitous for a smaller amount of suffering could have been permitted. Nonetheless, that suffering is still justified due to the great good that requires the suffering. Hence, this is a de facto objection to (1).

(O.3) Rowe’s inference (that GR also posits) from not seeing any justifier for some suffering to that suffering not have a justifier has been a termed a “noseeum argument.”[7] Namely, I don’t see any and so there aren’t any. This is clearly a problematic argument on its own. Suppose I am standing on top of a skyscraper and do not see any bugs in the garden that is on the street. Is it reasonable for me to conclude that there are, therefore, no bugs in the garden? Clearly not. This leads to something like the following:

“H is entitled to infer “There is no x“ from “So far as I can tell, there is no x” only if:
It is reasonable for H to believe that if there were an x, it is likely that she would perceive (or find, grasp, comprehend, conceive) it.”[8]

Given that, the argument needs a separate premise and so part of the justification for (2) (the noseeum argument) is unsupported as is. This is a de jure objection to (2).

(O.4) Do we have a representative sample of the types of goods and evils there are? That is, are the goods we know about representative of all the goods there possibly are? This seems rather unlikely for we are very limited creature. Thus, something like the following three principles seem correct:

“ST1: We have no good reason for thinking that the possible goods we know of are representative of the possible goods there are.
ST2: We have no good reason for thinking that the possible evils we know of are representative of the possible evils there are.
ST3: We have no good reason for thinking that the entailment relations we know of between possible goods and the permission of possible evils are representative of the entailment relations there are between possible goods and the permission of possible evils.”[9]

However, those jointly entail that the noseeum argument is false. Thus, the main justification for (2) (as GR even stated) is unsound. This is another de jure objection to (2).

(O.5) Theories have anomalies. Anomalies are apparent counterexamples to some theory. Thus, following a Kuhnian line that is well accepted, we can agree with Pruss and Dougherty that the problem of evil is a problem of anomaly.[10] Given that, an apparent example of gratuitous suffering should not actually worry us for it is an anomaly. Instead, what needs to be shown is that the amount of apparent examples of gratuitous suffering exceeds that of what we would expect given the theory at hand (in this case, the existence of God). This, again, cuts off the noseeum argument and is, therefore, a de jure objection to (2).

(O.6) Lastly, we can talk about ethical theories that this argument depends upon. The argument must depend on objective morality of else it is obviously false for people have different subjective moral principles and God cannot do contradictory things and so (1) is false.[11] But what theory of objective morality is GR putting forward? If it is divine command theory, then we should follow the line endorsed by Rowe and Oppy in doing a Moorean shift so that the noseeum argument is cut off.[12] So a person holding to subjective morality cannot use this argument to justify their atheism nor should a divine command theorist (if only as a conditional, thus making it compatible with atheism) be worried by this argument.

Hence, what objective moral theory is GR forwarding (if he is doing so at all)? If he cannot give one that is not divine command theory, then his argument falls apart. If he attempts to give one, then objections both to the theory itself and offshoots (say, consequentialism) will apply. This truly is a Scylla and Charybdis situation for GR.

Conclusion
GR’s argument is thus left with multiple de jure objections to both premises. With regards to (1), he simply expresses incredulity and seems to say it is analytic but doesn’t show how. With regards to (2), he seems to forward the argument I outlined about, but leaves a premise without support. Moreover, his noseeum argument has a de jure objection against it due to (O.1), (O.3), (O.4), and (O.5).

Moreover, de facto objections have been given to both premises. With regards to (1), we looked at Inwagen’s counterexample.

On top of that, (O.6) is an objection to the argument as a whole and so it works against both premises as is.

Simply put, there is a reason why Rowe himself has moved away from the argument as formulated here[13] and Tooley even says that Rowe’s reformulation, which is supposed to be weaker, is unsound![14] The argument is fraught with problems from left to right. Let us be honest with ourselves and give up this argument once and for all.

-------

[1] Please forgive any errors of citation, as that is not my strong suit.
[2] “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”, The Philosophical Review 60 (1951): 20-43, W.V.O. Quine.
[3] Gillian Russell, Truth in Virtue of Meaning: a Defense of the Analytic/synthetic Distinction, Reprint ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).
[4] He doesn’t make his reasoning explicit and so this is not meant to be a strawman.
[5] “The Problem of Evil and Some Varities of Atheism”, American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 4 (Oct. 1979): 336fn2, William L. Rowe
[6] Peter van Inwagen, The Problem of Evil (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
[7] “Rowe’s Noseeum Arguments from Evil” by Stephen John Wykstra in Daniel Howard-Snyder, ed., The Evidential Argument from Evil (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008).
[8] Originally formulated by Wykstra in  “The Humean Obstacle to Evidential Arguments from Suffering: On Avoiding the Evils of ‘Appearance’,” International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion 16 (1984): 75-77, Stephen John Wykstra; reformulation taken from The Evidential Problem of Evil, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Nice Trakakis: http://www.iep.utm.edu/evil-evi/#SH3a.
[9] “Skeptical Theism and Rowe’s New Evidential Argument from Evil”, Noûs 35:2 (2001): 278-296, Michael Bergmann.
[10] See the well developed paper by Dougherty and Pruss: “Evil and the Problem of Anomaly” by Trent Dougherty and Alexander R. Pruss in Jonathan L. Kvanvig, ed., Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion: Volume 5 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
[11] Nick Trakakis, The God Beyond Belief: in Defence of William Rowe's Evidential Argument from Evil (Dordrecht: Springer, 2007), 30.
[12] Ibid.
[13] “The Evidential Argument from Evil: A Second Look” by William L. Rowe in Daniel Howard-Snyder, ed., The Evidential Argument from Evil (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008).
[14] Alvin Plantinga and Michael Tooley, Knowledge of God (Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008).
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Re: DEBATE: Problem of Gratuitous Suffering
« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2014, 11:30:25 am »
I will reply to Brett’s comments mostly in the order he presented them, but grouped first by those which deal with premise (1) and second by those which deal with premise (2).  In the interests of greater clarity, I recommend we continue to follow that structure for the rest of the debate.

In regards to my definition of omnipotence, the reason I defined it as the power to do anything logically possible is that I agree with theists who reject arguments that assert since God cannot do things like make a square circle or a married bachelor that should count against God’s existence or Him being defined as omnipotent.  So, my definitions are an attempt to represent the God of classical theism fairly.  If you ask people to define God’s omni-properties, you will get a variety of replies: some will assert God can anything including the logically impossible; others will say God can do only the logically possible; and still others will give more nuanced views, and say that there are things logically possible but which God can still not do, because they are metaphysically impossible.  I’m not necessarily opposed to such further refinements.  But for now, I just want to be clear that I made my definitions the way I did in an attempt to be fair, not to argue against a view of God that is neither commonly held, nor, as Brett puts it, philosophically robust.

SUPPORT FOR THE FIRST PREMISE

Brett says that for (1), I simply quote Wykstra’s incredulity and express the same incredulity – which would be more along the lines of just saying, “I can’t believe they’re incompatible, therefore they aren’t.”  But what I actually said was that my main support for (1) is the evident impossibility of the contrary.  The reason I didn’t elaborate further is because many theists don’t object to the first premise, but focus almost exclusively on the second.  If Brett wants a formal argument in support of (1), then I offer the following:

1.1.   Omnipotence includes the power to prevent all gratuitous suffering.
1.2.   Omniscience includes the knowledge of all gratuitous suffering.
1.3.   Omnibenevolence includes the will to prevent all gratuitous suffering.
1.   If an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God exists, then gratuitous suffering does not.

Why should we think omnipotence includes the power to prevent all gratuitous suffering?  Because if God is also defined as the creator of the universe, and that act of creation was done freely, the simplest example here is that He could have refrained from creating the universe and therefore prevented all suffering.  Also, Christians believe there is a mode of existence – Heaven – in which no suffering occurs.  Why should we think omniscience includes the knowledge of all gratuitous suffering?  Because God’s omniscience is presumed to include the ability to know the mental and emotional states of all of His created beings at all times.  And why think omnibenevolence includes the will to prevent all gratuitous suffering?  Because our understanding of moral goodness is, by definition, incompatible with cruelty or indifference to suffering that is pointless and not required for some greater good.

Brett cited the following objection to (1):

(O.2) Van Inwagen argues that God’s existence is compatible with gratuitous suffering, if some greater good requires suffering so long as it is any amount of suffering greater than zero, i.e., no suffering.  Why does van Inwagen think this works?  Because for any amount of suffering God permits in order to bring about this particular greater good, there is a lesser amount of suffering He could have permitted, and therefore any difference between this lower amount and the actual amount is gratuitous suffering.  This is an interesting objection.  Let’s consider some responses to it.  First, I question whether we should accept this as even possible.  What is an example of a greater good that requires any amount of suffering, as long it is some suffering – no matter how minor?  Second, there is an important sense that even if this sort of instance of suffering is possible, it is not gratuitous – after all, the suffering permitted (any amount of S > 0) is the suffering required to bring about a greater good (any amount of S > 0).  Third, my main argument does not define non-gratuitous suffering as “the least amount of suffering required to bring about a greater good” but merely that non-gratuitous suffering is that which is required for, or justified by, a greater good that it brings about (even if it is still reasonable to assume that a benevolent God would make it the least amount, whenever it is possible for there to be an actual least amount).  Fourth, if I modify my argument, per my comments listed in response to (O.1.), below, to only include intense suffering, then van Inwagen’s objection doesn’t apply.  Suffering that can be infinitely reduced to a point so near to zero would hardly be called suffering at all, and wouldn’t be considered intense suffering.

"Please," God says, "Don't bring up the hangnail, again."

SUPPORT FOR THE SECOND PREMISE

Brett laid out an argument that I didn’t make, and attacked the new argument.  He says in his notes that “this is not meant to be a strawman,” and while I believe Brett is not intentionally misrepresenting my position, I’m not going to spend time defending an argument I didn’t make.

If I'm going to restate my earlier comments into a formal argument, it should look rather like this:

2.1. If we believed there was no gratuitous suffering, then we would not try to prevent suffering.
2.2. We do try to prevent suffering.
2.3. Therefore, we believe gratuitous suffering exists.

This doesn’t quite get us to “Gratuitous suffering exists.”  But as I pointed out earlier, if we believe a premise, it is contradictory to object to it at the same time.

(O.1.) In response to this objection, consider this statement to be part of my main argument: “God would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering He could, unless He could not do so without thereby leaving things worse off than they otherwise would be.”  That seems to address the ‘minor infelicity’ as it has been referred to.[1]

(O.3) The counterexample Brett cites doesn’t actually work, because, remember, I specifically added the qualification that this sort of ‘noseeum argument’ is reasonable only when it doesn’t have a defeater.  If I don’t see any bugs on the street from the top of a skyscraper, I am not justified in concluding there are no bugs, because I have an obvious defeater: knowledge of the limitations of my own vision.  To be fair, there can be counterexamples showing a noseeum argument rendering a false conclusion when we aren’t aware of a defeater but there turns out to be a defeater in actuality.  However, even in those cases, it doesn’t mean we need to dispense with making use of noseeum arguments altogether – or even that it is possible to do so.

(O.4.)  These sort of ‘sceptical theist’ responses, as I pointed out earlier, not only undermine the theist’s justification for believing objective moral values exist, but also any sort of confidence we might have in asserting there is more good in the world than evil (the basis for O.1.).  If it is unlikely that “the goods we know of are representative of all the goods there possibly are,” then how can we know there is more good in the world than evil? If we can’t, then does (O.1.) have to be retracted so that one can advance (O.4.)? [2]

(O.5.) I have little to say about an objection that admits the Problem of Gratuitous Suffering is a counterexample to the theory of God’s existence, other than: I agree – it is an anomaly!  This is like me pointing out that there’s a hole in your ship, and you replying, “Tut, it’s nothing to worry about – it’s just one hole!”  But your lack of worry isn’t a defeater for my argument.

(O.6.) I am not advancing a specific moral theory, but only that some version of objective morality is part of the background beliefs of most, if not all, Christian theists.  I am not assuming much beyond that objective morality means something like, “moral values exist independently of what any human thinks of them” and also moral terms like ‘good’ mean something more than simply “that which is consistent with the commands (or nature) of God.”  So, when theists describe goodness as: being well-intentioned to others; valuing other persons as ends in themselves, and not as a means to an end; kind; compassionate; etc. I am trying to use the concept consistently with that usage.

[1]  “Is Theism Compatible with Gratuitous Evil?” (April 1999), American Philosophical Quarterly, Volume 36, Number 2, Daniel and Frances Howard-Snyder (see p. 117).

[2] “Sceptical Theism and Evidential Arguments from Evil” (December 2003), Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 81, No. 4, pp. 496-516, Michael J. Almeida and Graham Oppy.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2014, 07:09:52 pm by GRWelsh »
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Re: DEBATE: Problem of Gratuitous Suffering
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2014, 08:12:06 pm »
I will again move through GR’s post in an orderly fashion.

First, I believe GR’s intentions behind his definition of omnipotence were fair, but my point stands nonetheless. He also does not offer another definition of omnipotence, so this could play itself out in his argument later on.

Looking at his argument for (1), it is wanting. First, his argument has missing premises and so it doesn’t follow as is. Given that, the conclusion should not be accepted due to the argument. Moreover, his defense of (1.1) is wanting. He seems to think that because God can prevent all suffering (say, not creating), that means He can prevent all gratuitous suffering given He creates. But how does that follow exactly?

Lastly, notice that even if GR presents a valid argument with all of the necessary premises in favor of (1), the van Inwagen objection, (O.2), would defeat that argument.

Looking at his response to (O.2), it is also found wanting. Let me move through his objections by responding point by point. As to his first objection, a person pursuing the van Inwagen line need not show that it is possible for the defense to work. If the possibility of the example is inscrutable, then that is enough to undercut (1) and thus the argument. Hence, he must show the impossibility of the van Inwagen objection in order for his argument to go through. As to his second objection, he seems to misunderstand van Inwagen’s point. For if God permits S(1) as the amount of suffering to accomplish the great good, then God could have permitted S(.5) and thus the difference is gratuitous. This can be reiterated for any S(x) chosen. Hence, there would be gratuitous suffering and it would be compatible with God’s existence. His second objection, therefore, misunderstands what the van Inwagen objection is saying. His third objection seems to have no bearing on (O.2) to me as I was specifically working from his definition. As to his fourth response, this isn’t an objection but an acceptance of the counterexample and a possible fix.

However, there are problems with his proposal. First, it is ad hoc. Why is non-intense gratuitous suffering compatible with God’s existence but intense gratuitous suffering is not? Second, he does not even define what he means by “intense suffering.” Does this mean it is equal to or above a certain number of suffering units? Now, he might respond by saying that asking for a definition is not needed, but the proper response to that is, “welcome to analytic philosophy.” If he doesn’t want clarity in arguments, then philosophy is the wrong place for him. Third, we can always tailor a van Inwagen objection to meet whatever definition he gives and so this line will not work.

GR moves on to formulate an argument for (2). Let me give a counterexample to his (2.1): I believe there is no gratuitous suffering but I also try to prevent suffering. Thus, (2.1) is false. The reason why is that (2.1) is a psychological fact and my own psychology shows it to be wrong (note that similar considerations are given by non-theists in order to support the reasonable nonbelief premise in the argument from divine hiddenness). Moreover, the counterexample I provided to my own formulation of his argument also applies here. Given that he did not comment on that counterexample, that is another reason why (2.1) is false. Thus, this argument is shown to be unsound. Hence, it cannot be used to warrant belief in (2) of his argument.

With regards to (O.1), isn’t it odd that GR thought his original formulation was so solid and yet it was open to an easy counterexample? Shouldn’t that tell us something? Maybe that should bring about a moment of reflection instead of simply moving on. Just a thought.

His response to (O.3) is interesting. Notice that he says our defeater for no bugs in the garden is “knowledge of the limitations of my own vision.” But by that standard the defeater for the noseeum argument he utilizes is knowledge of the limitations of my own knowledge. Unless GR believes he is in a position to not have any significant ignorance about the topic, his noseeum inference is left wanting. So does he believe he is in such a position? If so, how does he justify such a view?

Moreover, his own criteria for the noseeum inference seems incorrect. Suppose there is a person on the top of the skyscraper and he has no knowledge about the limitations of his own vision. Further suppose that the garden on the street does not have any bugs. If we are to take GR’s suggestion, then that person would have knowledge that the garden on the street does not have any bugs. However, he clearly doesn’t have knowledge! Thus, GR’s criteria is found wanting. Moreover, the criteria given in (O.3) is very similar to the safety theory of knowledge, a popular account of warrant supported by prominent philosophers like Sosa and Williamson. Hence, GR’s own account doesn’t work and the criterion in (O.3) is similar to a prominent view in epistemology. Given those two facts, the criteria used in (O.3) should be adopted. Given the adoption of the criterion in (O.3), his argument has a missing premise and thus fails.

On (O.4), I’m afraid that I fail to find an argument here; they merely seem to be a list of assertions. As to undermining objective morality, I fail to see how they would do anything of the sort. Just because we recognize that we do not have any good reason to think our views about good, evil, and the relations are representative, doesn’t mean objective morality is ruled out. Moreover, no reason is given why those theses would rule out there being more good in the world than evil. The theist can always run an argument from God’s omnibenevolence that there is more good in the world than evil. Thus, if anybody faces these worries, it’s the person who is not a theist. All the more reason to become a theist, then. Here I would like to ask GR to start listing out how his arguments are supposed to work. I have had to piece together arguments he is supposed to be making multiple times now and I do not want to misrepresent him. Thus, I think it is best if he starts forwarding arguments for conclusions he wants by putting them in a premise/conclusion form. Thank you in advance.

His response to (O.5) merely shows that he does not understand it. The whole point of (O.5) is to say that anomalies are not necessarily counterexamples. Thus, his equation of the two means he does not understand (O.5). In fact, the whole point of (O.5) is that anomalies are only apparent counterexamples to a theory. In fact, all of this was present in my explanation of the objection. Thus, since anomalies about the relevant types of suffering are to be expected, they can only disconfirm theism if you show that the amount of anomalies significantly exceeds expectations. His caricature of (O.5) reflects rather poorly on him that he would think two prominent philosophers of religion would display the type of thinking he presents and get published by Oxford in the process. Please, GR (and I mean this sincerely), make sure you understand an argument before you attempt to caricature it. For in caricaturing it you not only misrepresent the argument, but you also cast aspersions upon the credentials and critical thinking skills of Drs. Dougherty and Pruss. We are better than that.

Finally, he has no strong response to (O.6). He says he is not advancing a moral theory. However, I have already pointed out that the argument is incompatible with subjective morality and Divine command theory. Hence, he needs to give us some sort of objective moral theory for the argument to run. If he does not, then the solution to his argument is merely to embrace Divine command theory. That is a solution I would be happy to take. Therefore, for his argument to work he must give us some objective moral theory that is not Divine command theory. Until he does that, the argument is without any weight as an argument against God. In fact, it simply becomes an argument for Divine command theory.

Conclusion
So let’s recap so far. His definition of omnipotence was shown to be false and it isn’t repaired. Next, he presents an argument that has missing premises and thus it is unclear how it is supposed to work. Moving on, he presents a non sequitur in his defense of one of the premises in that argument. He then goes on to misunderstand the van Inwagen objection. Moreover, his solution is ad hoc, undefined, and also open to a similar counterexample.

After that, he gives an argument that is counterexampled by my own life and the lives of many theists (again, note how this mirrors the support in the argument from divine hiddenness). In the process, he failed to interact with a counterexample to an argument that I summarized for him that also acts as a counterexample to his own formulation. Moving on, he breezes by the fact that the argument he would present to God is shown to be false. Instead of realizing that such a fact should give us pause, he just moves on.

His response to (O.3) is found wanting in that his own response to my analogy similarly applies to his noseeum inference. Moreover, his criterion is shown to be false and the criterion in (O.3) is supported. His noseeum argument is thus left with missing and unsupported premises. His response to (O.4) does not seem to contain an argument and any conclusion he tries to draw is shown compatible with the theses.

With regards to (O.5), he not only misunderstands what the objection is saying, he goes on to caricature it and thus implicitly tarnish the reputation of the authors. Finally, he has no objective moral theory to give as a response to (O.6) and so his argument is turned into an argument for Divine command theory.

So his original argument is left with the following status. Neither premise has been supported by a valid (let alone sound) argument that does not have missing premises. Moreover, all of the objections to his argument that were supposed to do work going forward are left standing.

Let me end by sharing some personal reflections. I remember first reading about the evidential argument from evil in Draper’s paper. While I thought his paper was well written, well thought out, and everything else, I wasn’t convinced by it. However, I thought, “Now here is an argument against theism that might be sound.” I went on to read some of the other versions (like Rowe’s) along with responses and responses to responses. I continued to think that the evidential argument from evil was probably the strongest atheological argument, but I thought it ultimately failed.

However, in the process of doing more thinking on the argument, reading more papers, and preparing a response against the argument for this debate, I eventually came to the conclusion that the evidential argument wasn’t strong at all. In fact, I now think it is a rather weak argument. This isn’t a conclusion I was predisposed to nor one I was hoping I would believe, I just realized that I found myself believing it one night when I was engaged in introspection. Now, to be honest, GR’s own formulation and defense is weaker than the philosophers (and this is fine as it is what we should expect). Hence, I can only reiterate what I have said before: let us be earnest truth seekers and give up this argument. The argument is found without defense and the salient objections have either not been understood properly and/or responded to accordingly. What conclusion can we draw except that this argument is left dead in the water?
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Re: DEBATE: Problem of Gratuitous Suffering
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2014, 04:13:56 pm »
In his most recent response Brett says my definition of omnipotence was shown to be false and isn’t repaired.  But when?  In his 1st Response, Brett said “if GR wants to stick with that definition of omnipotence, I’ll be fine with that and simply observe that this argument isn’t against any philosophically robust view of God” – but I didn’t see any claim of falsification.  And he made the puzzling comment that “If omnipotence is the power to do anything logically possible, then, strictly speaking, God can create a married bachelor.”  But a married bachelor is one of the most commonly used examples for describing the logically impossible.  I suspect I’m not the only one puzzled by this statement, so I’ll be glad if Brett can expand on it.

SUPPORT FOR PREMISE ONE

Brett says my argument for (1) is missing premises.  I’m not sure what he wants – perhaps for it to be even more explicit?  With an additional premise like this: “1.4.  An omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God would have the power, knowledge needed, and will to prevent all gratuitous suffering”?  He also writes that my defense of 1.1 is wanting, because I seem to think that because God can prevent all suffering by not creating, that means God can prevent all gratuitous suffering given He creates. But I didn’t say that.  My support for 1.1 was making two separate points, and not claiming that one followed from the other.  Considering 1.1. by itself – it certainly is true that God can prevent all gratuitous suffering merely by not creating. Next, if we are considering whether we think it possible that God is powerful enough to prevent all gratuitous suffering given that he creates, we need to consider background beliefs Christians have, such as Heaven, a mode of existence God creates in which suffering doesn’t exist. Finally, I would add that since there’s nothing logically contradictory about the idea of a world without gratuitous suffering then we should accept it as logically possible and therefore within the bounds of something God is able to do.

Brett claims that even if I present a valid argument with all of the necessary premises in favor of (1), the van Inwagen objection (O.2) would defeat that argument.  However, keep in mind that the van Inwagen objection, while interesting, is merely raising a possibility.  As WLC said, “possibilities come cheap.”  The possibility of one of my premises being wrong doesn’t make it wrong. 

Brett says a person pursuing the van Inwagen line need not show that it is possible for the defense to work.  I disagree.  I think anyone advancing this objection needs to argue in favor of it being possible, at the very least.  And really they ought to be arguing that it is plausible, or that such a situation actually exists, if they want to defeat (1).  Otherwise, all the van Inwagen objection is doing is claiming that it is possible that there could be a situation in which it is impossible for God to permit a least amount of suffering in order to bring about some greater good.  But isn’t it also possible God could just instantiate a world where these oddball situations – even if they are possible -- never came up?

Brett accuses me of not understanding van Inwagen’s objection, but I paraphrased it in my own words specifically to avoid that criticism.  That demonstrates my understanding of the objection.  My 2nd and 3rd responses are questioning whether we should consider such an example gratuitous suffering, as I have defined it, so I think they are relevant comments.  For my fourth response, Brett claims my modification is ad hoc, but I would reply that this modification was done in response to a different objection, not this one, and was something I should have included in the Opening Statement but omitted due to an oversight, and also the phrase “intense suffering” has been a standard feature of such evidential arguments for a long time.[1]  So it wasn’t just added to try to counter the van Inwagen objection.  However, I agree that even with such a modification made to my argument, the van Inwagen objection can be tailored to apply to my modified argument (“some intense suffering as long as it is greater than no intense suffering” for example).  Therefore, I’m not going to waste time trying to define exactly how ‘intense suffering’ differs from mere ‘suffering.’

SUPPORT FOR PREMISE TWO

Brett tries to deny premise 2.1 by saying he believes there is no gratuitous suffering but he also tries to prevent suffering and the justification for this denial is because it is a “psychological fact.”  On the surface this seems like a strong objection, because after all, who would know Brett’s inner psychological state better than Brett?  However, I’d like to know what reasoning or argument he used to arrive at this belief.  If it has something to do with thinking gratuitous suffering is incompatible with God, then wouldn’t that be inconsistent with his making use of (O.2.)?  Regardless of what reason he gives, consider one of my earlier points: “It seems impossible to live consistently with the belief that no suffering is gratuitous.”  How can you believe that all suffering is required to bring about a greater good, and also that you should try to prevent some suffering?  Brett might try to say that he has pro tanto moral duties that motivate him to try to prevent certain instances of  suffering.[2]  But that wouldn’t cover all instances.  Even for those it does, it is the equivalent of saying “I ought not to prevent S” (because it is required to bring about a greater good) and “I ought to prevent S” (because it is my moral duty) at the same time  Also, if no suffering is gratuitous, then the only suffering God allows to be instantiated in the world is that which is required for some greater good, and so it doesn’t even matter if one tries to prevent it or not.  It’s “all good.”  So, it is a terribly confused and self-contradictory position.

Let’s look at an earlier counterexample Brett provided in his 1st Response.  He argued “if God is committed to preventing S, then He is committed to preventing tons of other sins such that there would be no real laws of nature.”  But that simply doesn’t follow.  God’s intervention, even with high frequency, can coexist with the laws of nature.  For example, for all of the people who willingly choose not to commit S, God doesn’t have to intervene and can just let the laws of nature play out on their own.  Second, even if it were true that a high frequency of God intervening effectively negated the laws of nature, it is not at all clear that having regular laws of nature that aren’t frequently being interfered with by God is a greater good which justifies all of the suffering that exists.  Third, many Christians do believe in an intercessory God who answers prayers, performs miracles and so on, so if these acts don’t negate the laws of nature, then why should we think further intervention to prevent some sin S would?  Brett’s counterexample thus has multiple problems.

Moving to the discussion of (O.3), Brett brought up the situation of the person on top of the skyscraper who can’t see bugs on the street, and doesn’t know the limitations of his own vision, but (also) just happens to be correct in concluding there aren’t any bugs on the street.  Brett says,“He clearly doesn’t have knowledge!”  But I never claimed he would have knowledge in such a case.  What I said in my Opening Statement was: we frequently reason from particulars to positive or negative existentials, and it is reasonable to do so in the absence of a defeater.  My point wasn’t that conclusions of such methods of inductive reasoning deserve to be called ‘knowledge,’ only that if we didn’t make use of such methods to arrive at conclusions we assess as being more probable than their negations, we’d be paralyzed with uncertainty far more than we actually are.  Brett says, “unless GR believes he is in a position to not have any significant ignorance about the topic, his noseeum inference is left wanting.”  We can have some ignorance about this topic, but I would argue it is not significant enough to make us refrain from distinguishing between gratuitous and non-gratuitous suffering.  I would cite as evidence human behavior: as human beings, we are constantly evaluating and assessing, trying to judge whether some instances of suffering are required for some greater good and whether some aren’t.  If we didn’t have at least some confidence in making this distinction, we’d be paralyzed with indecision.  Should we all conclude that there is no suffering in the world that is just pointless and/or better off avoided, due to us having ‘significant ignorance’ on the topic? No, I don’t think that is rational – or even possible – to do.

For (O.4.), Brett asks for a formal argument, and I’m glad to provide one taken from the article I cited by Almeida and Oppy.  They write: “Our moral practice – our ordinary moral behavior – shows that we do think it unlikely there are goods beyond our ken which would justify us in not preventing [some evil] E; so there is plainly room for serious doubt about the suggestion that considerations like ST1-ST3 are sufficient to establish that it is not unlikely that there are goods beyond our ken which would justify a perfect being in not preventing E… Suppose that we try to give a rational reconstruction of the moral reasoning that we undertake when we reach the decision to intervene in the case in which we can easily prevent [E]…

A.1. There is pro tanto reason for me to intervene to prevent E. (Indeed I have a pro tanto duty to intervene to prevent E.) (Premise)
A.2. I have found no pro tanto reason for me not to intervene to prevent E. (Premise)
A.3. (Hence) There is no pro tanto reason for me not to intervene to prevent E. (From A.2.)
A.4. (Hence) I have all things considered reason to intervene to prevent E. (From A.1., A.3.)

They further write: “Our reasoning from pro tanto reasons to all things considered reasons always relies upon a ‘noseeum’ inference… If skeptical theism is sufficient to block ‘noseeum’ inferences about values, then we lose our ability to reason to all things considered conclusions about what to do” (pp. 506-507).  “If ST1-ST3 do justify us in accepting the skeptical conclusion then – for the reasons given earlier – there is a massive impediment to our reasoning to the conclusion that we ought to try to prevent E” (p. 509).[3]

Brett claims I don’t understand (O.5), but I would ask when and under what circumstances theists would consider apparent counterexamples to be actual counterexamples?  Also, this objection states “what needs to be shown is that the amount of apparent examples of gratuitous suffering exceeds that of what we would expect given the theory at hand” – but what is that amount?  To me, this just looks like theists setting the bar ambiguously high enough to always remain out of reach.  What if I do the same?  What if I say, for example, that any objection my opponent doesn’t think I’ve sufficiently dealt with is just an apparent counterexample to my argument, which is to be expected, and nothing to worry about?  Evidently, I understand (O.5) well enough to appropriate it for my own use.

(O.6.) Providing a detailed objective moral theory is beyond the scope of this debate.  What I wrote earlier was sufficient to establish I’m not talking about Divine Command theory: “I am not assuming much beyond that objective morality means something like, “moral values exist independently of what any human thinks of them” and also moral terms like ‘good’ mean something more than simply “that which is in consistent with the commands (or nature) of God.”  I emphasize ‘something more.’

[1] At least as far back as Rowe’s 1979 article, cited above by Brett.
[2] Pro tanto reasons or duties are those which may be later overruled by others more pressing.
[3] Same Almeida and Oppy article I cited earlier.  For more detail on their response to Bergmann’s ST1-ST3 argument, see the article.
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Re: DEBATE: Problem of Gratuitous Suffering
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2014, 07:10:51 am »
Let me reiterate my two counterexamples to his definition of omnipotence. First, a married bachelor is not, strictly speaking, logically impossible because there is no contradiction as is. One needs further premises, but then we are talking about metaphysical possibility. Thus, I gave the further example of it being metaphysically possible to not exemplify the property of Godhood. However, God cannot not exemplify the property of Godhood. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean God isn’t omnipotent, it simply means GR’s definition is faulty.

As to (1.1) in his argument, he thinks Christian beliefs in heaven shows that God can create and not have gratuitous suffering. However, we can differentiate between moral and perfect freedom. Moral freedom is the ability to choose between a morally good and morally wrong action; perfect freedom is a freedom to choose between morally good actions, but with a perfect directedness at the good of the sort that God and the saints in heaven are said to enjoy. We have moral freedom though. Thus, his argument for (1.1) equivocates. He next says that since we cannot find something logically contradictory, we should believe it is within God’s power, but van Inwagen’s example, (O.2), doesn’t seem to have a contradiction and it would disprove (1.1). Thus, this argument doesn’t work either. Hence, his argument for (1) is still faulty.

Now, as to van Inwagen’s example, (O.2), being a possibility, the whole point is that if (O.2) is true, then God and gratuitous evil are compatible. If they are compatible, GR’s argument fails. Thus, the truth of (O.2) is tremendously important. Hence, simply brushing it aside with an out of context Craig quote that is talking about a different sort of possibility is wrongheaded.

His next point about showing the possibility of (O.2) simply doesn’t interact with my point at all. If the truth of (O.2) shows that God’s existence is compatible with gratuitous evil and the truth of (O.2) is inscrutable, then the truth about the incompatibility of God’s existence and gratuitous evil, his (1), is inscrutable. That is, we don’t have any idea whatsoever whether his (1) is true, so his argument fails. Hence, he must show that (O.2) is somehow impossible in order for his argument to go through.

Now, as to my responses to his objections to (O.2), we have seen that he doesn’t interact with my objection to his first objection. As to my answer to his second objection, he doesn’t interact with that either. As to his third objection, I pointed out that I was using his definition of gratuitous suffering and so his third objection has no validity. Lastly, I’m glad he agrees that the route of intense suffering is unfruitful and so he drops this point. Thus, (O.2) still stands as an objection to his argument.

As to my objection to (2.1), he asks for my reasoning. However, I need not have any reasoning behind my belief that there is no gratuitous suffering and my actions to prevent suffering. Indeed, to falsify (2.1) all one needs to do is have that belief and take that action. Now, GR might think my victory came cheap, but that just shows that his own argument is faulty.

He then goes on to say that this position is “terribly confused and self-contradictory.” However, that doesn’t mean his (2.1) isn’t false. Hence, even if it were “terribly confused and self-contradictory,” his (2.1) would still be false and so his argument for (2) would be unsound. Moreover, no argument is found for his assertion and so it need not bother us.

As to my earlier counterexample regarding God’s intervention and the laws of nature, he simply asserts that they are compatible. Now, he might say that I assert they are incompatible, but I can take a different route. I’ll simply point out that we can take such a view to be inscrutable and thus the truth of his argument for (2) would be inscrutable (if it were not already shown to be unsound!) and so his argument for (2) fails. Thus, once again, he must show that the incompatibility of the two is impossible. As to his second objection, I find that predictability is extremely important for human function. Could you imagine living and having no probability assessment whatsoever on whether the sun will rise or an atom bomb won’t pop into existence due to a quantum fluctuation? Moreover, keeping the integrity of the laws need not justify “all of the suffering that exists,” so that’s simply a strawman. As to his third objection, he thinks that because God sometimes works miracles and we still have laws, that means God can always perform miracles and we would still have laws. However, that’s obviously confused. Thus, all of his objections to this counterexample fail. However, (2.1) is false anyway as I showed with regards to my own belief and action. On top of all of that, he has yet to argue for (2.1) and so it is unsupported and false.

Now, I counterexampled his criterion with regards to (O.3) and his response is to agree that the person wouldn’t have knowledge. However, that means that his criterion is not sufficient for knowledge. Thus, since he applies that criterion to infer that there is gratuitous suffering, then that means he doesn’t have sufficient warrant for knowledge about gratuitous suffering. But if that’s the case, then he has a de jure objection against his belief in gratuitous suffering. Hence, his own proposal undercuts his argument!

With regards to his views about whether we have significant ignorance on the topic, GR apparently believes that we have good reason to think we have a representative view of goods, evils, and the relations between them. But how does he justify that? Apparently it is because we are not paralyzed with indecision. However, (i) he needs to first argue that if his view about not having significant ignorance were true then we would be paralyzed and (ii) he needs to show how our mere action somehow leads to warrant on that topic. Given that he has done neither, he has yet to show that he doesn’t have significant ignorance on the topic and so he has yet to show that he can utilize the noseeum argument. Thus, the noseeum argument for (2) is still a failure.

On top of that, he has still failed to show that his argument is compatible with (O.3) and so (O.3) stands as an objection to his argument. Thus, given a belief of the criterion in (O.3), which is nearly identical to a widely regarded view of warrant and seems obvious enough, his argument is incomplete and thus unsuccessful.

With regards to his response to (O.4), I’m appreciative he provided an argument. However, let us first notice that he has dropped his arguments that the theses undercut objective morality and there being more good in the world. Instead, he now argues that the theses undermine our moral practice. But, the following principle must be undermined in order to show that:

“For all I know, there is some all-things-considered reason (presently unknown or at least unappreciated by me) for me to permit E; but still, I know that I ought to prevent E.”[1]

And that principle certainly seems sensible for even Almeida and Oppy admit that we often do not know the long-range consequences of our actions. And so he must rule out that principle in order to be successful.

On top of that, the theist who holds to Divine command theory clearly has certain obligations to fulfill given a belief that God has commanded certain actions. Given that, their moral practice is not undermined for the theses come together to form a coherent whole with the Divine commands. Hence, if anybody needs to be worried about the skeptical theses, it is only the non-theist or the theist who doesn’t hold to a Divine command theory. Thus, GR gives us another reason to become a theist and hold to Divine command theory! 

Lastly, why does GR think that the undermining of our moral practice is sufficient to show that the theses in (O.4) are false? Is this not an argument from consequences? Now, I can see why a theist might think that would be good reason to show the falsity of (O.4) (if the objection were successful) since God created us as moral creatures, but how does GR, a non-theist, justify such a stance? For the theist, it is not an argument from consequences because they have good reason to believe we should uphold moral practice, but it seems like the non-theist is committed to his objection being an argument from consequences. Hence, if we think that the success of the objection to (O.4) (which has not been shown) is sufficient to undermine the theses in (O.4), then that is yet another reason to become a theist. For under theism one is warranted in believing such a thing, but it’s hard to see how that’s true under non-theism.

Therefore, (O.4) still stands as an objection and his argument is incomplete. Moreover, even if one did think the success of the argument would be sufficient to undermine (O.4), that would simply give one good reason to be a theist as opposed to a non-theist.

As to (O.5), how one makes the jump from apparent counterexamples to actual counterexamples is exactly in showing that the number of apparent counterexamples exceeds that of what we would expect given the theory, theism. Now, he asks what the amount is, but he is the one who must show the amount we would expect and that the number of apparent counterexamples exceeds that number. Nonetheless, Dougherty and Pruss do give a sketch, “Over a period of fifty years, with a population at its current level, we can expect of the order of a trillion instances of serious suffering. It seems quite plausible that given theism the expected error rate in evaluations whether an evil is justified or not will be no less than one percent…With a trillion cases of serious suffering, that would give us ten billion cases of apparently unjustified serious suffering over fifty years…”[2] Notice that Dougherty and Pruss are only speaking about serious suffering. Hence, the number for all suffering would theoretically be orders of magnitude higher.

Now, GR thinks that fulfilling this is a hard task and so he doesn’t like it. However, that says nothing of the truth and validity of the objection. I have laid out the reason for believing (O.5), I have shown how it undermines his argument, and I have shown him how he can overcome it. Thus, the fact that it is too hard for him to fulfill the necessary requirements is not a problem for me or the objection, but a problem for his argument! Moreover, as a brief aside, his own appropriation of the objection merely shows that he still doesn’t understand it. Again, the fact that he keeps trying to comment and undermine it without understanding it is rather appalling. Hence, (O.5) still stands as an objection to his argument and it seems like GR even concedes that it cannot be overcome.

His response to (O.6) is not to give an objective moral theory. Instead, he merely “assumes” that there is something out there that is not Divine command theory. That means his argument is incomplete since he has failed to support such a view. Thus, his argument fails due to (O.6) too and merely becomes an argument in favor of theism and Divine command theory. Hence, once again, we see that GR’s argument turns out to be an argument in favor of theism.

Conclusion
We have seen that his arguments for each premise have failed. Moreover, he has yet to refute a single objection. In fact, many of his arguments turn out to be arguments for theism. It is for these reasons that Rowe now rejects the argument GR presents. Maybe we should follow Rowe on that point.

-----
[1] “In Defense of Skeptical Theism: a Reply to Almeida and Oppy”, The Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83(2):241-251 (2005), Michael Bergmann and Michael Rea. For a more thorough takedown of the article by Almeida and Oppy, see the article.
[2] “Evil and the Problem of Anomaly” by Trent Dougherty and Alexander R. Pruss in Jonathan L. Kvanvig, ed., Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion: Volume 5 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
I told her all about how we been livin' a lie
And that they love to see us all go to prison or die
Like, "Baby, look at how they show us on the TV screen"
But all she ever want me to do is unzip her jeans

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GRWelsh

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Re: DEBATE: Problem of Gratuitous Suffering
« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2014, 07:27:06 pm »
Unfortunately, Brett’s most recent post doesn’t help to clarify what he is talking about.  As far as I know, a married bachelor is logically impossible since the definitions of the terms are mutually exclusive.  And his counterexample that “God cannot fail to exemplify godhood” also misses mark if it simply means God cannot be God and not-God at the same time – again, that’s just another logical impossibility.  So I don’t see how these alleged counterexamples falsify my definition of omnipotence.[1] 

SUPPORT FOR PREMISE ONE

In response to my reference to Heaven, Brett describes a difference between moral and perfect freedom and accuses me of equivocating – but I didn’t even bring up creaturely freedom in that context.  So it is not clear what Brett is accusing me of equivocating about.  I was merely pointing out that it is a background belief of most Christians that God is able to create a mode of existence that lacks suffering.[2]

Brett paraphrases my point that since we cannot find something logically contradictory we should therefore believe it is within God’s power (which I agree is true) but then asserts that the van Inwagen example in (O.2), since it doesn’t seem to have a contradiction, “would disprove (1.1).”  But as I pointed out earlier, speculating on a possibility which is not logically contradictory isn’t sufficient to disprove (1.1), because it is also not logically contradictory for God to simply create worlds in which none of these situations exist.  Even if the possibility of creating worlds with none of these (O.2.) situations is inscrutable, we have to give God’s omnipotence the benefit of the doubt and consider it possible.

In Brett’s 3rd post, he claims I didn't interact with some of his responses.  He may not be satisfied with my comments, but it isn’t true that I didn’t interact with them.  Here is a summary of Brett’s points:

(i): a person pursuing the van Inwagen line need not show that it is possible for the defense to work. If the possibility of the example is inscrutable, then that is enough to undercut (1).
(ii): Claimed I misunderstood and again summarized the van Inwagen example.
(iii): Claimed my third objection had no bearing since Brett was specifically working from my definition.

And here is a summary of my interactions with them:

(i): Anyone advancing (O.2) needs to argue in favor of it being possible, at the very least, and really ought to be arguing that it is plausible or actually exists if they want to defeat (1).
(ii) and (iii): I addressed the accusation of not understanding, and defended the relevance of my earlier objections because they were questioning of whether we should consider whether the van Inwagen example truly is gratuitious.  If S > 0 is the suffering required to bring about a greater good, and S > 0 occurs to bring about this greater good, which justifies that suffering, it is not gratuitous, since it is required to being about the greater good.  Whatever the amount of suffering chosen by God is, it is not gratuitous, because it isn’t pointless and done for “no good reason” – it is being done for a good reason and is therefore justified.

SUPPORT FOR PREMISE TWO

Brett says he need not have any reasoning behind his belief that there is no gratuitous suffering.  I must point out that Brett has several times requested that I provide formal arguments, which I have done my best to comply with – but when I ask him to provide argumentation in support of his own belief, it gets side-stepped.  Also, I do think it is relevant to determine the reasoning or argument Brett has for his belief, in order to judge if it is rational and also if it is consistent with the use of other objections being advanced.  Brett says that even if his belief is “terribly confused and self-contradictory” (as I put it earlier), that doesn’t mean (2.1) is false.  But, one of the main indicators that something is wrong with a belief is if it is contradictory with other beliefs, or behavior that reveals what one’s true beliefs might be.

Brett says I have “yet to argue for (2.1) and so it is unsupported and false.”  But that isn’t true – I’ve provided numerous supporting points for (2.1.) which I will list, again: (a) it is evidently impossible to live consistently with the belief that no gratuitous suffering exists, judging by the behavior and actions of people; (b) even if pro tanto moral duties are invoked as motivating factors in some cases, that doesn’t cover all cases (consider for example taking a drug to remove one’s headache – there are many cases like this where are there no pressing moral duty one can cite as a motivating factor); (c) it is contradictory to believe all suffering is required to bring about some greater good, but also believe that one should try to prevent (at least some) suffering; and (d) If one believes that no suffering is gratuitous, it removes all motivation to try to prevent any suffering.

In Brett’s earlier counterexample, he asserted God’s frequent intervention and the laws of nature are incompatible and I provided three objections to that, to which Brett responded.  First, he said he will now take a different route from his earlier assertion that God’s intervention is incompatible with the laws of nature, changing it to be inscrutable instead.  But to this, I would merely point out that if it isn’t shown to be logically impossible for God’s frequent intervention to be compatible with the laws of nature, there is no reason to think that they aren’t.  In regards to the second objection, Brett said that he finds predictability extremely important for human function, and I agree, but this isn’t relevant here.  Brett asks us to imagine living in a world without any probability assessment on whether the sun will rise or an atom bomb won’t pop into existence due to a quantum fluctuation – but what does any of this have to do with God acting to prevent some sin S?  What is the argument that gets us from God frequently intervening to prevent sin S to these examples?  There isn’t one.  Is Heaven presumed to have these random sunrises and atom bombs popping into existence simply because it has no sin or pain or death?  Also, Brett seems to have misunderstood my point about it not being clear that having regular laws of nature that aren’t frequently being interfered with by God is a greater good which justifies all of the suffering that exists.  What if God prevents all instances of sin S, and all of the attendant suffering that would result from it, and that world is qualitatively better than the world in which He takes a more “hands off” approach because He doesn’t want to negate some laws of nature?  It is not at all clear the latter world would be better – that was my point.  Third, I did not say that because God sometimes works miracles and we still have laws that means God can always perform miracles and we would still have laws.  Some ‘further intervention’ isn’t the same as ‘always.’  We were talking about God preventing all instances of some sin S, and it doesn’t necessarily follow from this that God will ‘always’ be interfering.  I provided the example of God not having to intervene in cases where people willingly choose not to commit sin S.  To add to that, God might create a world in which people are just naturally less predisposed to commit sin S, making His intervention less frequent.  The bottom line here, though, is that Brett has provided no argument showing why God’s frequent intervention to prevent some sin S necessarily negates the laws of nature.

For (O.3.), I have not claimed that making use of the noseeum inference leads to knowledge – only that it is reasonable to believe something when it is apparently true and we don’t have a defeater for it.  So, I’m not undercutting my own argument – I’ve been consistent.  Brett says (i) I need to first argue that if my view about not having significant ignorance were true then we would be paralyzed and (ii) I need to show how our mere action somehow leads to warrant on the topic.  For (i) I would simply point out that there can be, and even are, situations where we are paralyzed by indecision because we aren’t sure what to do.  But, we don’t have this indecisive paralysis about making judgments about all instances of suffering – just as we do not about all moral judgments.  For (ii), I did not claim action leads to warrant, but rather that our actions and behavior are evidence that we are not paralyzed by indecision and therefore we don’t regard this to be an area of significant ignorance any more than say, making moral decisions about what to do.[3] 

For (O.4.), the principle Brett cites isn’t the response Bergmann/Rea provided to the Almeida/Oppy argument I gave above; their response was to say that even if it was a bad argument, they could reformulate a new argument that doesn’t make use of the noseeum inference in order to get to the conclusion.  However, Almeida and Oppy deny the reformulated argument works and it still would need an extra premise to get from “having no reason to think that” to “it is improbable” outweighing pro tanto reasons to permit E exist.  And they say, “the important question is whether there is inconsistency in the claim that one knows (or reasonably believes) that one has an obligation to prevent E even though one is not prepared to assign any probability to the claim that there is some unknown outweighing reason that one permit E.” [4]  Brett asks why I think that the undermining of our moral practice is sufficient to show that the theses in (O.4) are false.   But that is misunderstanding the point, which is if one accepts ST1-ST3 and considers that to undermine justification that gratuitous suffering exists, it also is sufficient to undermine our ordinary moral practices – and therefore, one should be hesitant in accepting ST1-ST3 for it is a sword that cuts both ways.  Brett asks if Almeida and Oppy's argument that I cited is an argument from consequences – no it isn’t, as they took care to explain.[5]

As to (O.5.), Brett writes “GR thinks this is a hard task and so he doesn’t like it.”  But why would anyone not like being told they need to provide in excess of ten billion cases of apparently unjustified serious suffering within a fifty year time span in order to overcome an objection to an argument?  But wait – since we aren’t just talking about ‘serious’ suffering, it would, as Brett says, “theoretically be orders of magnitude higher”!  So, I still haven’t been given a number.  And Dougherty and Pruss even say about their own estimates: “Without serious statistics – and this back-of-the-envelope sketch is no substitute for them – it is difficult to argue that we are seeing more cases than we would expect.” [6] So, what conclusion should have I have about (O.5.) other than that it is using a questionable methodology to give me an ambiguously monumental task?

For (O.6.), all I will add is that I try to stay consistent with how most Christians, and people in general, make use of the word ‘good’ as a moral descriptor, and I assume that when a Christian says something like "God is good" that phrase has some coherent, non-circular content, i.e., I’m not assuming divine command theory.

In conclusion: if we don’t short-change His omni-properties, it is reasonable to believe that God as defined is incompatible with gratuitous suffering.  And we should each recognize that our behavior reflects a common belief that at least some gratuitous suffering exists. If we believe the premises, we can’t deny them at the same time; therefore we should accept the argument as sound.

[1] I’d like to give Brett the benefit of the doubt and assume there is more to his reasoning, here, but he hasn’t provided any citation that I can reference, and so I haven’t been able to get further clarification.  Perhaps it is something that can be brought up in Q & A after the debate.
[2] There is Biblical support as well: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Revelation 21:4, KJV.
[3] “The Problem of Evil: Skeptical Theism leads to Moral Paralysis,” Scott Sehon, Department of Philosophy, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME 04011-8484, article located at http://www.bowdoin.edu/faculty/s/ssehon/pdf/sehon-skeptical-theism.pdf.
[4] “Evidential Arguments from Evil and Skeptical Theism,” Philo, Vol. 8, No. 2, Fall/Winter 2005, pp. 84-94, Michael Almeida and Graham Oppy.  This article responds to the criticisms of Bergmann and Rea 2005, cited by Brett above.  The Bergmann/Rea ‘reformulation’ argument that Almeida/Oppy critique is:

1a. There is (strong) pro tanto reason to prevent E.
2a. We have found no pro tanto reason to permit E.
3a. There is no reason to think (and, indeed good reason to doubt) that any investigation that we could possibly conduct before having to make a decision about whether to prevent E would turn up evidence pointing to even a weak pro tanto reason to permit E.
4a. (Therefore) We ought to prevent E.

They deny 1a-3a supports 4a, without an additional premise such as:

3.1a. It is improbable that there exists an outweighing pro tanto reason to permit E.

[5] From Almeida and Oppy 2003 article, pp. 510-511, footnote 21: “… some readers may be tempted to suppose that our overall argument relies on the unjustified meta-ethical assumption that some version of consequentialism is correct.  This supposition would be a mistake.  As we noted earlier, our argument does not require us to suppose that the values of courses of action open to us are decided merely by the values of those actions.  We think it plausible that consequences are at least sometimes morally relevant considerations; but nothing in our argument requires us to assume even this much.”
[6] “Evil and the Problem of Anomaly” by Trent Dougherty and Alexander R. Pruss in Jonathan L. Kvanvig, ed., Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion: Volume 5 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
« Last Edit: July 21, 2014, 07:36:36 pm by GRWelsh »
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Language-Gamer

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Re: DEBATE: Problem of Gratuitous Suffering
« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2014, 10:58:40 pm »
Let’s move through GR’s post one last time together.

I’m sad to see that GR doesn’t interact with my objections. Is it possible to not exemplify the property of Godhood? Yes, you and I both exemplify that property. Can God not exemplify that property? Clearly not. Thus, God cannot do all things that are logically and/or metaphysically possible. But that’s not a problem for omnipotence, but for GR’s definition.[1]

With regards to his support from belief in heaven, the point was that the two are not analogous due to the different types of freedom and so this support doesn’t work. So (1.1) remains unsupported. This means this argument is worthless as an argument for (1). Hence, (1) has no support given to it.

With regards to the van Inwagen’s counterexample, (O.2), being inscrutable, he doesn’t interact with my point at all. If the truth of some proposition, p1, is dependent upon whether another proposition is true, p2, then if p2 is inscrutable then p1 is inscrutable. The reasoning is obvious and that’s because if we cannot tell whether p1 is true without first knowing whether p2 is true and we have no idea whether p2 is true, then we have no idea whether p1 is true. Thus, he needed to show that (O.2) is metaphysically impossible in order for (1) to be true. Since he hasn’t done that, (1) has an undercutting defeater and so it should be given up.

With regards to his response to my point (i), I was saying that he didn’t interact with my point about inscrutability. In fact, he still hasn’t done that except by simply saying “that’s not true.” However, that means he hasn’t shown where my reasoning is wrong.

On (ii) and (iii), he apparently still misunderstands (O.2). For the great good, some suffering greater than S(0) is necessary. However, for any suffering permitted (S(1), let’s say), there is a lower amount that could have been permitted (S(.5), let’s say). The difference is gratuitous and thus disproves (1) of GR’s argument. In order for (1) to be true, (O.2) must shown to be impossible. This is well known in the literature, even in an article GR has cited![2] Therefore, GR has failed to show that (O.2) is metaphysically impossible nor has he provided a decent objection. Hence, (O.2) stands as an objection to (1) and thus his argument fails. Here I could end my response and the debate would be over because his argument already fails. However, let’s keep going.

Now, on my not revealing the reasoning behind my belief that there is no gratuitous suffering and we should prevent suffering, the reason why this isn’t relevant and it isn’t hypocritical for me to ask him for arguments and not provide reasoning is simply because that is the way GR set up his premise. If he doesn’t like that response, then that’s the fault with his premise, not my response. So (2.1) is still false and GR has failed to interact with my points once again.

GR has said that he has supported (2.1), but how do his listed supports work? He provides no reasoning and so we shouldn’t accept them. Moreover, it isn’t clear to me how any of his points could even be used to formulate an argument for (2.1). The reason why is because (2.1) is, once again, a claim about psychology. So (2.1) remains both false and unsupported.

With regards to my counterexample to (2.1) given God’s intervention and the laws of nature, let’s look at his responses. As to his response to my first point, we once again see that he fails to interact with my point. Multiple times now I have explained why something being inscrutable would be a defeater and he hasn’t refuted or interacted with my point at all. Instead, he simply says it’s not. Assuming GR isn’t following the Goebbels strategy, continually restating himself doesn’t make it true. Given that, my first point remains uncontested. On my second point, he apparently fails to understand what I am saying. My point is that if we do not have laws of nature, then there is no predictability. Predictability is extremely important for human function (which GR agrees with), so laws of nature are extremely important for human function. Given that, having laws of nature are a great good. Hence, he failed to interact with my second point. On my third point, I was simply trying to give an argument for GR since he failed to provide one. He has still failed to provide one and so his third point fails. As to my not providing an argument that frequent intervention leads to no laws, I pointed out that we can take this to be inscrutable and GR’s argument still fails. He didn’t interact with this point and so my point about inscrutability stands. So this counterexample remains against GR’s (2.1). Thus, (2.1) is doubly false and unsupported. Hence, (2) remains unsupported based upon this argument.

With regards to (O.3), I pointed out that if his criterion doesn’t lead to knowledge then he has a de jure objection against him and so he should give up the belief. He doesn’t interact with this point. I then asked him to fulfill requirements to support his argument by showing that if we did have significant ignorance, then we would be paralyzed. But how is his support for (i) supposed to work. He doesn’t provide any argument I can discover and so he doesn’t support his contention. Thus, GR’s argument fails once more. As to (ii), I’m glad he doesn’t think action leads to warrant and so this doesn’t support his argument either. Thus, his argument fails because it is unsupported once again. Hence, his criterion fails to support his argument for it has a de jure objection against it, (O.3) has failed to be refuted, and (O.3) stands as an objection to his argument.

On (O.4), my point in citing that principle was to show that given the principle then the theses in (O.4) are compatible with moral practice. Hence, if he is to show that they are incompatible then he must disprove the principle. Does he undermine this principle? No, he doesn’t respond to it. Instead, he responds to a different line that I didn’t bring up. Given that he hasn’t undermined the principle, he has failed to show that the theses in (O.4) are incompatible with our moral practice. Given that, his objection to (O.4) fails. With regards to moral practice being sufficient to show (O.4) false, he seems to say that if his argument were successful (and we have seen that it isn’t), then (O.4) would also undermine moral practice. But then the obvious question is this: why does that matter to GR? The only way it could matter is if moral practice could undermine (O.4). With regards to it being an argument from consequences, he doesn’t respond to the point but sends me elsewhere. Moreover, the quote he provides doesn’t even respond to my point because I was talking about the fallacy of an argument from consequences and they were talking about consequentialism. Hence, the challenge to his objection to (O.4) being an argument from consequences still stands. Thus, his response to (O.4) both fails and seems to be a fallacy of an argument from consequences. Therefore, (O.4) still stands.

With regards to (O.5), he seems to agree that he doesn’t like it because it is a hard task. However, once again, that isn’t a problem with (O.5), but with his argument. Moreover, he has failed to interact with the reasoning behind (O.5) and so the fact that it is hard for him to fulfill isn’t an objection. On top of that, the fact that I haven’t given him a number (even though I did give him a sketch) isn’t an objection to (O.5), but it just means that his task is that much harder since he must come up with a number using good statistics. So he has failed to interact with (O.5) and so this objection remains against the argument.

On (O.6), he has still failed to provide an objective moral theory. Instead, he just continues to assume there is one out there that isn’t divine command theory. Hence, his argument merely becomes an argument for divine command theory and thus theism. I will take the tables turning like that any day.

Conclusion
So where do we stand at the end of this debate? Let me summarize.

With regards to his (1), we have seen that it is both unsupported and it has an objection, (O.2), against it. It is unsupported because he has failed to give support to his argument for it. Moreover, (O.2) remains as an objection because he has failed to show it is impossible and he has not given a coherent objection to it that actually understands what (O.2) is saying. Again, we can stop here and the debate is over because his argument fails.

With regards to his (2), we have seen that his argument for (2), (2.1)-(2.3), fails because (2.1) is doubly false and unsupported. It is false due to my own life (and the lives of many theists) and because of the counterexample based upon the laws of nature I provided. It is unsupported because he has failed to give an argument for (2.1) because he decided to simply list assertions instead. Thus, (2) is not supported by this argument and the argument fails anyway.

He then tries to support (2) by the noseeum argument. However, we have seen that his own criterion leaves him with a de jure objection and so (2) should not be believed based upon that criterion. On top of that, my criterion in (O.3) remains as he has failed to argue against it because he fails to formulate any sort of coherent argument. Thus, (O.3) stands as an objection to the noseeum argument and so (2) remains unsupported.

Likewise, (O.4) stands as an objection to the noseeum argument. We have seen that his argument against (O.4) is dependent upon the principle I listed being false. However, he didn’t even attempt to show that the principle is false and so his argument against (O.4) fails. Not only does it fail, but it seems to be an argument from consequences. Given that he thinks this is a viable counterargument to (O.4), I showed that this is only a viable counterargument given theism and thus turned this argument into an argument for theism. He did not respond to this point. Hence, (O.4) stands against the noseeum argument and so (2) is unsupported once again.

As to (O.5), he fails to interact with the reasoning given behind the objection and so it remains without objection. On top of that, he agrees that he cannot overcome (O.5). Thus, (O.5) stands as an objection against his noseeum support of (2). Thus, his noseeum argument for (2), his only hope left for supporting (2), is shown to have three objections against it.

Lastly, as to (O.6), he fails to give an objective moral theory which is a necessary component to his argument. Instead, he merely assumes one. But that means his argument has a necessary component that is unsupported and so it fails. That entails that his argument becomes an argument for divine command theory and thus theism. Once again, we see that the tables have turned.

So both of his premises remain unsupported and they both have objections against them. He even agrees that one of the objections is insurmountable. Is it any wonder then that even Rowe himself has given up this argument? Is it a surprise that Tooley thinks this argument fails? Of course not because it fails miserably and obviously so. The dust was kicked up in the air but it has settled now and we see where the argument lies, in broken pieces on the ground. Let us be truth seekers and recognize that this argument fails, and it does so quite spectacularly.

-----
[1] I do not reiterate the married bachelor point here in order to cut to the chase. However, I would be happy to field questions on the topic.
[2] “Is Theism Compatible with Gratuitous Evil?” (April 1999), American Philosophical Quarterly, Volume 36, Number 2, Daniel and Frances Howard-Snyder.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2014, 11:05:18 pm by Brett Lunn »
I told her all about how we been livin' a lie
And that they love to see us all go to prison or die
Like, "Baby, look at how they show us on the TV screen"
But all she ever want me to do is unzip her jeans