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#734 Draper’s Anti-Theistic Argument

May 31, 2021

Hey Dr. Craig, thank you for all your work in apologetics. You've played a huge role in helping me maintain my faith. I'm convinced that both the evidential and logical problem of evil doesn't work but Paul Draper has put forward a stronger formulation of the argument. Here's how it goes:

1. Naturalism is much simpler than theism.
2. With respect to the data of good and evil, naturalism is much more accurate than theism.
3. With respect to other data, any overall advantage in accuracy that theism has over naturalism is relatively small.
4. Any other epistemic advantage that theism has over naturalism is relatively small. Therefore,
5. Theism is very probably false.

I find this argument to be stronger because it seems to get around skeptical theism. Though I don't think this argument disproves the existence of God it does a better job at agruing against an all-good God. What are your thoughts on this argument?



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Dr. craig’s response


I’m not familiar with Draper’s defense of this argument, A. J., so let me simply suggest some possible ways that one might respond to it. I suppose the point of the argument is that naturalism has two things going for it over theism: greater simplicity and a better account of the distribution of goods and evils in the world, while any advantage theism enjoys in its account of the world or epistemically is small. As such the argument does not establish (5) because it says nothing about the relative weighting of these factors. Greater simplicity is of much less importance compared to explanatory power and scope, for example, which must, I assume, be comprised under “accuracy.” So the advantages of (3) and (4), even as stated, could outweigh the advantages of (1) and (2).

In any case, it seems to me that every premiss of the argument is dubious.

The first premiss (1) has an air of plausibility because we tend think that naturalism posits the natural world, whereas theism posits the natural world + God and is therefore more complex. That impression is misleading. For naturalism is not the claim that the natural world exists. What naturalism holds is that only the natural world exists. To restrict reality in such a fashion is a bold hypothesis which may turn out not to be a simpler hypothesis than the claim that God exists. 

As for (2), this is where so-called sceptical theism (I hate that label) is relevant to the argument. I agree with thinkers like William Alston that we are simply not in a position to make with any confidence probability judgments to the effect that God lacks morally sufficient reasons for the evils in the world. In particular it seems to me that it is not at all improbable that only in a world with a distribution of goods and evils like the actual world the optimal number of persons would come freely to know God and find salvation, which is an incommensurable good that justifies permission of such evils.

As for (3), anybody who is familiar with my work knows that I think that theism is vastly more adequate explanatorily with regard to such things as the existence of a contingent universe, the beginning of the universe, the fine tuning of the universe for embodied conscious agents, the applicability of mathematics to physical phenomena, the objectivity of moral values and duties, and the historical facts about Jesus of Nazareth. So I think Christian theism offers a far more accurate account of the world than naturalism.

Finally, as for (4), I agree with Alvin Plantinga that belief in God and the great truths of the Gospel, grounded in the testimony of the Holy Spirit, is properly basic with respect to justification and warrant. Therefore, theism enjoys a considerable epistemic advantage over naturalism.

In short, Draper’s claims make such sweeping assertions that they are easily challenged.

- William Lane Craig