Sunday, October 5, 2014

Here’s Why the Problem of Evil is a Religious Argument

Not Just Philosophical

Election season is upon us and we hope for clarity in the debates to come. Too often campaign strategies involve ambiguity, avoiding difficult questions and political calculation. But sometimes the candidates’ positions on the issues, and their point of disagreement, are clear for all to see. I would rather have such clarity, even if I disagree on some of the issues. As with politics, the origins debate also sometimes lacks clarity. I don’t have a problem with disagreement, but I hope people understand what they are disagreeing on. A good example is the problem of evil. It is often at the heart of disagreements in the origins debate, and because it deals with ultimate issues it offers a clear distinction between positions. There’s just one problem: many people do not understand it, including those who use it.

Consider evolutionist Jerry Coyne. Coyne uses the POE, but doesn’t understand it (see here, here, here and here, for example).  The POE, and variations of it such as the problem of dysteleology, are based on the premise that if God is all-good, all-powerful and all-knowing, then there would be no evil (or no dysteleology, which, in practice is simply a catch-all term for anything that we don’t think God would have created). Evil and dysteleology exist, so therefore there is a problem. Ever since antiquity the problem has been solved by distancing God from creation. From the Gnostics and Epicureans to the Darwinists, the solution is that the world arose on its own. From the randomly swerving atoms of the Epicureans to the random mutations of the Darwinists, God is not responsible for this world because intermediate causes were to blame.

Now there are multiple problems with this reasoning, but here I’ll focus on just one: although Coyne claims arguments from dysteleology and imperfections are merely scientific, they are not. They are religious.

I’m not saying that religious arguments are, by definition, bad things. I’m just saying they shouldn’t be confused with science. PZ Myers made such an argument from the pages of the Los Angeles Times, and then, like Coyne, claimed it was not a religious argument.

In fact this is a running argument in the evolution literature. Make arguments that entail claims about God, and then claim there is no religion.

Sorry but arguments that entail assumptions about God are religious.

Evolutionists make three different arguments attempting to refute this obvious fact. Let’s look at each one.

First, evolutionists say the POE is simply a philosophical observation. There is no religious premise involved. In other words, given that God is all-good, all-powerful and all-knowing, it then is a necessary consequence that there would be no evil (or dysteleology, imperfections, etc.). God simply wouldn’t allow it, period. That just follows from simple logic.

The problem with this argument is that it is just false. There is no nice way to put it. And when I say it is false, I am not making a religious claim. Now we’re talking about a philosophical observation. Given the premise that God is all-good, all-powerful and all-knowing, it then is not a necessary consequence that there would be no evil.

The only way to arrive at that conclusion is to add another, unspoken, premise. And, yes, it must be a religious premise. You see Coyne is the one who brought religion into the discussion. And he is the one who is in denial about it. And he is the one who points the finger at the other guy for doing what he did.

Second, evolutionists say they are merely testing the creationist model. They aren’t making any religious claims, but merely evaluating those who do. But if that were the case their argument would do nothing for evolution. All they would have proved is that some creationist somewhere has a failed model.

In fact Coyne never cites creationists. For instance, one of Coyne’s myriad examples of dysteleology is lanugo, a fine, downy coat of hair humans have in an embryonic stage. According to Coyne this makes no sense and “can be explained only as a remnant of our primate ancestry.” [Why Evolution is True, 80]

Coyne gives no reference to creationists, but even if there was a creationist who said God would never create lanugo in human embryos, it would not mean that lanugo could only be explained with evolution. Such metaphysical certainty requires a strong underlying premise. Lanugo could not have been intended or created by the Creator, period. Not according to some creationist. Only religion can provide such certainty. The claim that Coyne, Myer and the rest are merely testing the creationist model is a canard.

Third, it is sometimes said that evolutionists such as Coyne and Myers are atheists. It is as though, qua atheists, they can make whatever religious claims they like without it counting as religion.

Evolution relies on religious premises—it is a religious theory. I don’t mind disagreement, religious or otherwise. But let’s understand what the disagreement is.

43 comments:

  1. Cornelius Hunter: I’m not saying that religious arguments are, by definition, bad things. I’m just saying they shouldn’t be confused with science. PZ Myers made such an argument from the pages of the Los Angeles Times, and then, like Coyne, claimed it was not a religious argument.

    Huh?

    Myers: "Allen requests that we atheists take religious belief seriously. We do"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Huh?

      Myers:
      We go right to the central issue of whether there is a god or not. We're pretty certain that if there were an all-powerful being pulling the strings and shaping history for the benefit of human beings, the universe would look rather different than it does.

      Delete
    2. Joe G,

      Myers: "We go right to the central issue of whether there is a god or not. We're pretty certain that if there were an all-powerful being pulling the strings and shaping history for the benefit of human beings, the universe would look rather different than it does."

      But Joe, don't you know that is a scientific utterance, not a metaphysical comment? If scientists have determined the universe would look different if there were an all-powerful being, it simply must be the result of extensive research and experimentation. They would never make such a comment otherwise. It would damage their carefully preserved objectivity towards the subject.

      Delete
    3. Nic,
      But Joe, don't you know that is a scientific utterance, not a metaphysical comment?


      Of course it is metaphysical, he does not claim otherwise. It is his belief ,not science.Just as your belief what kind of God would is not science.

      If scientists have determined the universe would look different if there were an all-powerful being, it simply must be the result of extensive research and experimentation.

      You're fighting a straw man, just because a scientist believes that chocolate is the best flavor it does not mean science has concluded scientifically that chocolate is superior.

      They would never make such a comment otherwise. It would damage their carefully preserved objectivity towards the subject.

      Science has different criteria for what constitutes evidence than personal opinion. Perhaps the issue is your personal opinion does not allow you to see that.

      Delete
  2. Coyne says, “can be explained only as a remnant of our primate ancestry.”

    I find it tedious to listen to people like Coyne making absolute statements about features on creatures. It would be one thing if his comment was introduced as a possibility but he says 'only'. At that point, he elevates his knowledge to that of an omniscient. Yawn, and his opinion is summarily discarded to the wastebasket.
    Thanks to the internet we can all find scientists with a modicum of humility to learn from. No reason to waist precious time listening to that guy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Since one of the features of what constitutes the scientific method is tentativeness, I think we can safely conclude that the countless dogmatic Darwinian declarations we consistently encounter, esp from Darwinian atheists and internet trolls, are not part of science.

      Delete
    2. In science "fact" can only mean "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent." I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms. — Stephen J Gould

      Delete
    3. can be explained only as a remnant of our primate ancestry.”

      What are the present other " explanations " ? Since both the presence or the absence of lanugo could be attributed to the whims of a designer is that an explanation? Or scientifically vacuous explanation?

      Delete
    4. In science "fact" can only mean "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent." I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms. — Stephen J Gould

      Universal common descent is out, then.

      Delete
    5. V: "can be explained only as a remnant of our primate ancestry.”

      What are the present other " explanations " ?

      J: There is NO explanation. That an extinct species of primate had a feature doesn't imply that extant an extant primate species would have it. To just call the extinct species an ancestor is NOT to explain that relation NATURALLY. It's to posit an INEXPLICABLE history. Learn deduction.

      Delete
    6. CH: The only way to arrive at that conclusion is to add another, unspoken, premise.

      J: I think they're saying their original premise just MEANS that God wouldn't risk the possibility of evil, not that it's a deductive implication. But this would mean that humans (if they are free) are evil for not decreasing future evil by destroying all sentient life on earth. If humans aren't free, on the other hand, there is no conceivable criteria by which one could distinguish warranted belief from unwarranted belief, rendering a demarcation criteria for scientific hypotheses impossible. This latter is the current state of affairs. Nothing good can come of it; only more "might makes right."

      Delete
  3. Third, it is sometimes said that evolutionists such as Coyne and Myers are atheists. It is as though, qua atheists, they can make whatever religious claims they like without it counting as religion.

    Please explain how a critique of religion, say Buddhism, from a secular point of view, becomes religion.

    Looks like a category error.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a religious claim. Please read the OP again.

      Delete
    2. I've read it again.

      I see no warrant in the OP that all secular criticism of religious beliefs is automatically belief in a heretical religion, which is what I think you mean.

      Only in a closed system. as in 13th Century Christian Europe, would that be the case.

      Delete
    3. Cornelius Hunter It is a religious claim.

      A religious claim is not the same as a religious belief. The former does not necessarily entail the latter.

      I can comment on the problem of evil as it pertains to the Christian faith with out myself being a Christian or belonging to any other faith.

      Darwin was able to include rebuttals to religious arguments that he anticipated would be raised against his theory without Origins being in any way a religious text or his theory being in any way equivalent to a religion.

      This is equivocation on the meaning of "religious".

      Delete
    4. In other words, given that God is all-good, all-powerful and all-knowing, it then is a necessary consequence that there would be no evil (or dysteleology, imperfections, etc.). God simply wouldn’t allow it, period. That just follows from simple logic.

      Not exactly, the question is why would a Good God create evil in His design? There are at least two conclusions, God is not all good or evil exists without being created by God.

      In other words creationism has a potential contradiction with its proposed designer and theory

      The only way to arrive at that conclusion is to add another, unspoken, premise.

      Which is?

      And, yes, it must be a religious premise.

      With your definition of religious, what isn't

      You see Coyne is the one who brought religion into the discussion.

      In other words creationism is only a religious belief, it should be ignored by science.

      And he is the one who is in denial about it. And he is the one who points the finger at the other guy for doing what he did.

      I love irony, it is so ironic.

      Delete
    5. vel:
      Not exactly, the question is why would a Good God create evil in His design?

      Who says that He did that? Why couldn't it be that evil crept in due to the Fall?

      BTW evolutionism is a religious belief...

      Delete
    6. Ian:
      I can comment on the problem of evil as it pertains to the Christian faith with out myself being a Christian or belonging to any other faith.

      The comment will be theological in nature.

      Darwin was able to include rebuttals to religious arguments that he anticipated would be raised against his theory without Origins being in any way a religious text or his theory being in any way equivalent to a religion.

      Darwin argued against a strawman, that of the fixity of species.

      Delete
    7. Joe,
      Who says that He did that? Why couldn't it be that evil crept in due to the Fall?


      Yes, " evil exists without being created by God" however this contradicts the claim that nothing can exist without God.

      BTW evolutionism is a religious belief...

      Only to those who believe that God is the primary causation of all things except evil which created itself.

      Delete
    8. vel:
      Yes, " evil exists without being created by God" however this contradicts the claim that nothing can exist without God.

      How? Evil couldn't exist without the universe God created.

      And evolutionism is a religious belief because its claims cannot be tested and rely solely on faith.

      Delete
  4. I can understand evolutionists/atheists making these arguments. Being an evolutionist means that you are on the low end of the intelligence pole in the scientific community. One good example of this is when they argue that improbable events happen all the time, therefore random forces can create the extreme complexity in nature. This is just wrong scientifically. The expected number of occurrences of an event with probability 1/n is = n. Therefore, if the probability of a whale transforming into a cow is 1/10exp(200) (just a guess), then it will take more random occurrences than the history of the universe. I'm not a scientist and I can understand this math. Evolutionists are scientists and they don't get this simple math. Their religion corrupts their science of statistics, like it does in biology. However, this is nothing new. Evolutionists have inferior minds. We have always know that. That's life. Who says that they have to have a rational outlook on life.

    What I don't get is theologians kowtowing to these stupid evolutionists. They bend over backwards to accommodate them. I guess that they don't have even the intellectual ability of an evolutionist, and are only interested in their own academic survival. If they had any back bone they would be agreeing with you. But the theologians that are even brave enough to discuss evolution that I know don't even understand that the arguments you mention are religious. If a scientists says it is not religious then a theologian never objects. Very sad. That is what has brought us to this state of corruption in science. No theologian has the fortitude to call out Darwin and his followers. That is why you are left to pick up the ball with the incredibly good work your are doing. This negligence in the field of theology is very disheartening.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Peter,
      I can understand evolutionists/atheists making these arguments. Being an evolutionist means that you are on the low end of the intelligence pole in the scientific community


      Which is it, atheists or evolutionists? Dr Hunter claims that everyone who accepts methodological naturalism as an assumption is an evolutionist or a follower of Aristotle,that would include most working scientists. Your first claim seems false.

      One good example of this is when they argue that improbable events happen all the time, therefore random forces can create the extreme complexity in nature.

      The Grand Canyon is certainly extremely complex, but in biology natural selection is not random. It is thought to be a sort of ratcheting force/ mechanism

      I'm not a scientist and I can understand this math. Evolutionists are scientists and they don't get this simple math.

      Unless you know how exactly a not cow became whale computing the probability is conjecture not math. Perhaps scientists know enough math to know that.

      Their religion corrupts their science of statistics, like it does in biology.

      Expert on statistics?

      However, this is nothing new. Evolutionists have inferior minds.

      Don't believe in IQ either I see.

      We have always know that.

      Then evidence is unnecessary, if you can know something without it

      That's life. Who says that they have to have a rational outlook on life.

      You seem to be doing OK without one.

      Delete
    2. vel:
      The Grand Canyon is certainly extremely complex, but in biology natural selection is not random. It is thought to be a sort of ratcheting force/ mechanism

      LoL! Natural selection is non-random only because not all individuals in a population have the same probability of being eliminated. IOW NS is non-random in a meaningless way. Also it isn't a ratchet, it isn't a force and it can barely be considered a mechanism.

      And after all these years there still isn't any evidence for Darwin's claims about natural selection.

      Delete
    3. Both. Biology is usually seen as less prestigious than chemistry or physics. Atheists are a small minority that can't understand what 90 percent can.

      Please show me one random force that has created a living being. That is what we are taking about, not a simple geological structure. Sorry to say with this argument you seem to be consistent with point one.

      Scientists do estimates all the time. My point is still valid.

      Point one again.

      Theism is consistent with the scientific facts. We don't need to invent an infinite number of universes to support our world view.

      Delete
    4. Joe:
      LoL! Natural selection is non-random only because not all individuals in a population have the same probability of being eliminated.


      Correct, a comet hitting the Earth affected some patterns of genes more than others. Non random

      IOW NS is non-random in a meaningless way.

      Just as eliminating certain numbers from a roulette wheel is meaningless to the outcome of the roll?

      Also it isn't a ratchet, it isn't a force and it can barely be considered a mechanism.

      So you concede it is a mechanism

      Delete
    5. vel:
      Just as eliminating certain numbers from a roulette wheel is meaningless to the outcome of the roll?

      If you can only eliminate numbers that are not on the wheel, then what?

      As for natural selection being a mechanism, well it is the result of three processes and it is one way a population can change, so yes, it could be considered a mechanism of sorts. However all evidence says it conserves rather than creates.

      Delete
    6. Peter,
      "
      can understand evolutionists/atheists making these arguments. Being an evolutionist means that you are on the low end of the intelligence pole in the scientific community"

      Both. Biology is usually seen as less prestigious than chemistry or physics

      By physicists and chemists?

      Atheists are a small minority that can't understand what 90 percent can.

      Is religious belief positively correlated with scientific intelligence? Or intelligence in general?

      Please show me one random force that has created a living being. That is what we are taking about, not a simple geological structure.

      You said extreme complexity, the Grand Canyon is hardly a simple geological structure.

      Perhaps you misunderstood despite being in the majority, one random mechanism did not create a human being.

      Sorry to say with this argument you seem to be consistent with point one

      Since I am neither an atheist or biologist, I hardly see how it applies.

      Scientists do estimates all the time. My point is still valid.

      Estimates are only as valid as the assumptions that they are based on, the more evidence for the assumption the higher the confidence level.

      Your asumption requires a initial genetic starting point of the not cow and an assumption, contrary to the proposed mechanism of evolution,of a simplistic random mechanism.

      The results would only prove that a mechanism that nobody proposes would not be sufficent if your assumption of the initial conditions are correct. The result remain a conjecture.

      Theism is consistent with the scientific facts.

      Some theism is, young earth creationism certainly isn't

      We don't need to invent an infinite number of universes to support our world view.

      No, you just need the existence of a particular being to support your worldview.

      Delete
  5. The alleged "problem of evil" only exists in the minds of ignorant atheists. People are responsible for their actions yet atheists blame God. Only ignorant cry-babies would do that.

    Then there is the Fall from Grace in Genesis. To Judaism, Christianity and Islam that explains evil. Also if this was a perfect world how could we be judged? What would we be driven to learn?

    So the bottom line is the problem of evil is how one deals with it. The existence of evil definitely doesn't do anything to the existence of God. Again only whiny cry-babies try to make that connection.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Joe,
    The alleged "problem of evil" only exists in the minds of ignorant atheists.


    No Joe it doesn't, as you prove by this:
    People are responsible for their actions
    why are you offering a reason for the existence of evil?


    Then there is the Fall from Grace in Genesis. To Judaism, Christianity and Islam that explains evil. Also if this was a perfect world how could we be judged?


    Another answer to the question of why evil exists.for you It seems that your God needs evil to exist because without it He cannot judge.


    So the bottom line is the problem of evil is how one deals with it. The existence of evil definitely doesn't do anything to the existence of God.


    So now you admit there is a problem with evil, it is just you have an answer. No Joe, the problem of evil is not a proof that God doesn't exist,it is what can we say about God if He does exist. If nothing then the good in life logically cannot be attributed to God as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. vel- I wasn't answering why evil exists. The problem is how to deal with evil. It is not that it exists, as atheists want us to believe,


      No Joe, the problem of evil is not a proof that God doesn't exist,it is what can we say about God if He does exist.

      It says whatever your little mind wants it to say and nothing more.

      Delete
  7. "No Joe, the problem of evil is not a proof that God doesn't exist,it is what can we say about God if He does exist."

    We can say that God preferred that the creatures who bear his image have free will, rather than being mindless robots who do what they're programmed to do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is certainly the standard justification, so evil created itself. Does it then follow that good created itself as well?

      Delete
    2. Evil didn't create itself.

      Excellent. Who or what created EVIL?

      Delete
    3. Alethinon We can say that God preferred that the creatures who bear his image have free will, rather than being mindless robots who do what they're programmed to do.

      Which might work except for the inconvenient fact that an all-knowing God, whose omniscience includes knowledge of the future, rather precludes the possibility of free will. If the future is already set then how can there be free will. Whatever we choose it was already destined to happen.

      Delete
    4. "We can say that God preferred that the creatures who bear his image have free will, rather than being mindless robots who do what they're programmed to do."

      Alethinon, I wonder why some think evil is created by an all loving God? The answer seems simple and profound. God made a universe with the potential for evil. I like the way Ravi Zacharias explains evil. Lose paraphrase, Evil is denial of purpose.

      Delete
    5. evil is the absence of Good, not the other way around.

      people forget that.

      Is the desert evil because it is so difficult to find water there?

      Are lions evil because they will eat you on sight?

      Intelligence says that we can find water in the desert; that we can enough water to make the trek successfully.

      We can outsmart lions and tame them.

      we can educate troubled minds that we know instinctively will stray into evil behavior.

      but the common thread is our inability or unwillingness to do the work required to fill the world with good in order evil to evaporate.

      So yes, God has taught that it is the pursuit of goodness that eliminates the 'problem of evil'.

      God would rather love intelligent, self-conscious beings than hoard over automatons.

      IANS, God doesn't create evil, he allows it to hopefully get it to our skulls that eteral existance is about the pursuit of Goodness.

      If you want it, its there. But its not free. It takes self-sacrifice, self-control.

      Yeah, we are all called to sainthood.

      thats why hell is a bit crowded these days.

      sainthood's a bitch.


      Delete
    6. Steve,
      evil is the absence of Good, not the other way around.


      Why not?


      Is the desert evil because it is so difficult to find water there?


      If it is evil then God created evil, so no. But since the abscence of evil is not quality of Good,it seems that we must conclude that the desert is evil since it has the quality of the abscence of Good.

      Delete
  8. Marcus,
    . God made a universe with the potential for evil.


    So god caused evil to happen,

    I like the way Ravi Zacharias explains evil. Lose paraphrase, Evil is denial of purpose.

    So evil created itself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No Vel, I'm not talking about your little god.

      Delete
    2. 1 God created all that exists for a purpose, disagree?
      2 evil exists, disagree?
      3 God created evil for a purpose, show an alternative please, I would be interested how your God transcends logic

      Delete
    3. No Vel, I'm not talking about your little god.

      Marcus' god is bigger than your little god, infidel!

      Convert or die.

      Delete
    4. God created a universe where evil could be chosen over good. He set the standard of what is good. I'm not ready to say God created evil though. I think that was the prerogative of man and the angels because evil is an action. But thanks for illuminating an idea I have not thought deeply about Vel.(that is, where did evil come from?) If God does not do actions that are evil then the other two don't follow.

      Delete