by Edward T. Babinski
Victor Reppert said…
OK Letʼs go back to kindergarten. The argument from evil is proffered as a proof of the nonexistence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good being. The defender is trying to prove nothing except that the atheist has not proven atheism. A person can accept the argument from evil who does not accept the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good being, even if they believe in some other being that might be in some sense a deity.
You can believe that the existence of the worldʼs evil is logically incompatible with theism, you can believe that it provides substantial and virtually overwhelming evidence against theism. You can believe that it provides some, but not overwhelming evidence against theism. or that it provides no evidence against theism. Which is it Ed? These options exhaust the alternatives, unless you actually think that evil provides evidence for theism. Where do you stand?
In the issue of the problem of evil, itʼs atheists like Loftus and Carr, and Flew and Mackie, and Rowe and Draper, who put the argument forward as a good or perhaps decisive reason to reject theism. Some of them go as far as to say that the argument from evil proves that all theists hold their beliefs irrationally. If they are right then a philosophical argument in a major topic in the philosophy of religion works, and works well. If you donʼt, then you accept the outcome of my project, which has always been to show that there is nothing overwhelming about the argument from evil.
You lose credibility every time you dodge this question and pour out pages and pages of anti-Christian diatribe while at the same time refusing to accept the idea that any argument in philosophy really works. Unless you make clear what conclusion you are driving at, I must conclude that your animadversions on these matters are “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Or, to put it another way, BS.
Victor Reppert recently left me a comment at his blog that began with an invitation for me to return to kindergarten, and concluded that my replies were full of “sound and fury,” and my questions “signified nothing.” My reply appears below.
Since you wish to take me back to kindergarten, then letʼs do so. No evasions, letʼs begin from scratch.
Tell me all that you know about God, all that youʼve seen of God, touched of God, heard of God, tasted of God; and then tell me all that you know about the world you see and taste and touch and hear, the people you see everyday, and the cosmos where you see all things die.
The “God” knowledge appears relatively more “hidden” to me than the knowledge I have of the cosmos we all live in together.
I am not saying that the problem of evil has ceased being problematical any more than I am saying it is impossible for anything other than nature to exist. Iʼm simply telling you what I know with some degree of certainty compared with beliefs that I am less sure about.
I have also pointed out what I consider to be flaws in philosophizing about the Big Questions. Anyone may philosophize all they wish, and argue for whatever “God” or “force” they believe exists or doesnʼt.
However the more I read such arguments, the less convincing I find them. “Words” themselves do not appear to provide absolutely accurate descriptions of the realities they are supposed to parallel. “Words” are stuck having to describe things that can also be understood as lying along spectrums of change. Words and concepts appear to be distilled from experiences within this cosmos where words/concepts and their opposites co-exist, or intermingle along spectrums of change. Neither am I of the opinion that verbal analogies constitute proof. Poetry yes. Proof no. I suspect the human mind of also being flexible enough to come up with counter analogies and counter arguments aplenty concerning all the BIG questions.
So I have simply come to trust direct experience a bit more than idealized philosophical arguments purporting to explain the answers to all the Big Questions. I also have grown more patient, not less, with living life day to day, and with the experimental process on both a personal level and in terms of humanityʼs groping toward greater knowledge. I choose patience even to the point of admitting I will very probably grow old and die with the same questions we have discussed, being debated still among philosophers.
Let me put it this way, I donʼt even know nor can I prove in a strictly philosophical fashion whether or not death ends “me” permanently, or, whether I or bits of me might survive after I die in a “ghostly” fashion, or, whether bits of me might not merge or join with others or bits of others that have died to form something new that begins again in a cosmos like ours or continues in some another dimension, or, whether I or bits of me might not “come back” in a reincarnate fashion, or, whether bits of me might survive after death for a long time and THEN even those bits die eventually, or, whether I have an immortal individual “soul” that can never die, or, perhaps I will die and an exact duplicate of me will be CREATED with the exact same knowledge and memories I had right up to the instant of my death (I donʼt know whether or not such a thing could be done by beings of super-intelligence from the future or past or parallel cosmoses, or by a demi-god or infinite Being who kept a copy of me in their “memory” and so could recreate me in some other place time or cosmos even if the “me” that lives here “dies”). Christian philosophers of mind also canʼt agree on the later two options, an immortal soul, or recreation after death by God. Some of them even use the Bible to argue that human beings donʼt “have” souls, they “are” souls. So, they agree the mind could be a function of the brain and the summation of experiences and knowledge each brain takes in as it grows and develops and becomes enculturated. Purely philosophically speaking, any or all of the above options might be true. Itʼs even possible philosophically speaking to argue that what we call “consciousness” does not include our particular memories and knowledge and lives which might accrue and gather round “consciousness” and interact with it, so “consciousness” might be something that is more basic even to the cosmos itself, malleable and universal rather than individual. (Note, Iʼm not saying I view all options as equally appealing.)
There certainly are many weird things Iʼve read about when it comes to consciousness, including mystical experiences, and weird visions people claim to have experienced which vary depending on oneʼs culture. Though unfortunately, most people whose heart stop during surgery, or for long periods, and they are revived, recall nothing. And most sleep during the night is unconscious, dreamless. And thereʼs questions that result from split-brain experiments, and thereʼs cognitive science that is teaching us some of the many ways we each are influenced by items around us, or by others, unconsciously, and thereʼs pheromonal influences as well (scents we canʼt even consciously smell that affect us). Recently I read about how certain bacteria might be affecting peopleʼs brain/minds. Other experiment indicate that the brain/mind is an excuse generator, even a belief generator (as indicated in some-split brain experiments).
It also seems to me that humanity is young as an intellectual species. Heck weʼre still stuck on the cradle planet.
So tell me Vic, what do you really know? How much do you think you know about “God the universe and everything?” What percentage of that knowledge consists of philosophical conundrums that have remained unresolved for millennia? While just how much more do you interact with and know about the cosmos in which you live, move and have your being, and in which everything dies? I think youʼd have to agree with me that you know more about the latter than the former.
P.S., By the way, your recent post about the Deityʼs “right to choose” as a possible reply to “evil,” appears like youʼre thrashing blindly about for answers nearly as much as I am. I donʼt know how you can continue to believe you are building up “proofs” when you sink back in that post to relying on total mystery and faith in whatever “God does,” which is close to relying on the mystery of “whatever will be will be.” Are you honestly considering no longer even asking WHY “God” might “choose” the things “God” chooses, or what the definition of “good” is? Is it simply whatever God chooses? Whatever exists? Again, mystery. Didnʼt Aquinas and Barth also sink back into total mystery in the end and admit all of their philosophizing wasnʼt quite the point, or didnʼt provide the ultimate proofs theyʼd hoped to present?
I know youʼre not a fundamentalist Vic, and you DO admit uncertainties. I simply admit more than you do. By the way, thereʼs a book about kindergarten that I enjoyed reading once, titled, Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.
- Edward T. Babinski