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radical_logic
Reply with quote  #1 
I'm finding that many on here are simply not understanding Law's Evil-God-Challenge, so I will attempt explain it.

The Evil-God-Challenge is introduced mainly as a response to responses to the PoE. The PoE contends that an all-good God can be rejected on the basis of observational evidence, but responses to PoE deny this (for various reasons). Let's call those responses Skeptical Moves. By employing various Skeptical Moves, the following inductive inference, it is claimed, is unjustified:

1) There are many instances of apparent gratuitous suffering.

2) Therefore, gratuitous suffering exists (and gratuitous suffering is incompatible with an all-good God).

This is where the EGC comes in. The challenge is for the theist to explain why belief in an all-good God is significantly more reasonable than belief in an all-evil God. One possibility is to reject EG on the basis of observational evidence. So the argument may be:

1)' There are many instances of apparent gratuitous joy.

2)' Therefore, gratuitous joy exists (and gratuitous joy is incompatible with an all-evil God).

However, the problem here is that the inferential relation between 1)' and 2)' and 1) and 2) are symmetrical: if the former inference is justified, so is the latter (above). Moreover, if the latter (above) inference is unjustified, via the various Skeptical Moves, then so is the former - because similar Skeptical Moves can be employed to block the inference from 1)' to 2)'. The upshot is that the theist, when dealing with the EGC, can't reject EG on the basis of observational evidence, because then he would have to concede the PoE.

WLC recognized this problem during the debate, and refused to reject EG on the basis of observational evidence. But how can he explain why belief in Good-God is significantly more rational than belief in Evil-God? Craig's only move was to rely on his moral argument, which was spectacularly unsuccessful.

In summary then:

1) Either EG can be rationally rejected on the basis of observational evidence or not.

2) If EG can be rationally rejected on the basis of observational evidence, then GG can also be rejected on the basis of observational evidence (and hence the PoE succeeds).

3) If EG cannot be rationally rejected on the basis of observational evidence, then if it is to be rejected, it must be rejected on some other basis.

The first route — rejecting EG on the basis of observational evidence — comes at the cost of conceding the PoE. The second — rejecting EG on some other basis — comes at the cost of adopting untenable a priori arguments in order to do so (e.g. moral argument).


Arthur42
Reply with quote  #2 
From what I've read, the Christians on this site have completely failed to convince me that they 1) understand the argument, let alone 2) have an actual response to it.  I'm really curious to see if anyone might step up and offer something that works.
Freecube
Reply with quote  #3 
I'll offer a response to this argument once I'm not so slammed with school--which should be after next Wednesday. I'm interested to see harvey, Maxeo, or depthcharge's thoughts on this, though (and yours, too, Arthur).
aengs115
Reply with quote  #4 
Well here come a extremely short response. In order to actually speak about evil there must be a standard of good from which evil can be said to have departed from. That is the concept of an ECG is incoherent as it assumes there is some kind of good from which the ECG has departed from, but that standard would be a gcg (good creator god).

Secondly as I pointed out earlier if you argue God from the definition of him being a maximally great being and follows through with such an argument that in itself would refute the possibility of an ECG. Plantinga's modal argument for God would be an example of such an argument.
depthcharge623
Reply with quote  #5 
radical,

I agree with aengs second point, but not the first.  I would assume (though this is no more than that, since I have not seen the debate) that Law defines good in terms of evil as opposed to the other way around.  You see, Christians define evil as a deviation from what is good; Law most likely defines good as a deviation from an evil standard.  Thus God could be evil in the sense that it is His nature, and good is a deviation from the nature (you see, it is the reverse of what we would say).  Is this correct?

However, aengs also makes a good second point.  Arguments based on evil, good, morality, etc cannot be taken in isolation.  The Christian could also argue to a good god from indirect evidence such as that of the Resurrection.  He could also deduce the existence of God using something like the ontological argument, modified ontological argument, etc.  The point is, there is more than one way to skin a cat, and the EGC only focuses on one.  

Summary:  if the EVC claims (and I think correctly so) that direct observational evidence makes it just as probable than an evil god exists as a good god, then we can still use other sorts of evidence and arguments to come to the conclusion of a good god.  This topic need not be taken in isolation.
radical_logic
Reply with quote  #6 
Quote:
Originally Posted by aengs115
Well here come a extremely short response. In order to actually speak about evil there must be a standard of good from which evil can be said to have departed from. That is the concept of an ECG is incoherent as it assumes there is some kind of good from which the ECG has departed from, but that standard would be a gcg (good creator god).


First, it's not clear that the standard of goodness can't come an EG. Why not?

Second, the EGC can run without the concept of "evil,"  as WLC admitted. An EG could simply be a being who seeks to maximize the amount of gratuitous suffering in the world. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by aengs115

Secondly as I pointed out earlier if you argue God from the definition of him being a maximally great being and follows through with such an argument that in itself would refute the possibility of an ECG. Plantinga's modal argument for God would be an example of such an argument.


Except there is a problem with proving the premises of the ontological argument.
depthcharge623
Reply with quote  #7 
Radical,

I believe we cross-posted so I wanted to make sure you saw my post.  Also I wanted to respond to this:

Quote:
Except there is a problem with proving the premises of the ontological argument. 

This supports my point that the arguments for and against a good (or evil) god must be cumulative.  In order to maintain the EGC you must, as you have begun to do, also show that other arguments fail to support the idea of a good god more than an evil one.  The evil god is only as probable as the good god based on direct observational evidence.  When we look at other arguments, we will see that either one must be more probable than the other.

This brings us back to square one: the theist must defend his pocketfull of arguments for a good god, while the atheist must show that they are all mistaken or wrong, revealing that the EGC is simply pointless because it does not further the argument.

radical_logic
Reply with quote  #8 
Quote:
Originally Posted by depthcharge623


This brings us back to square one: the theist must defend his pocketfull of arguments for a good god, while the atheist must show that they are all mistaken or wrong, revealing that the EGC is simply pointless because it does not further the argument.


I don't see how you can draw this conclusion from the EGC. The majority of theistic arguments, even if sound, do not rule out EG, since they do not purport to establish God's moral character. This means EG must be ruled out on the basis of arguments that do purport to establish God's moral character, namely, the moral argument and ontological arguments (which, IMO, do not succeed). Hence, the EGC advances the debate by focusing attention on these latter arguments.
radical_logic
Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by depthcharge623
radical,

I agree with aengs second point, but not the first.  I would assume (though this is no more than that, since I have not seen the debate) that Law defines good in terms of evil as opposed to the other way around.  You see, Christians define evil as a deviation from what is good; Law most likely defines good as a deviation from an evil standard.  Thus God could be evil in the sense that it is His nature, and good is a deviation from the nature (you see, it is the reverse of what we would say).  Is this correct?


I'm not sure. I think Law would merely say that the concept of "evil" isn't necessary for his argument to work, since "evil" can be replaced with "gratuitous suffering." Christians would still want to reject as absurd the idea of an EG who seeks to maximize gratuitous suffering.


Quote:
Originally Posted by depthcharge623

However, aengs also makes a good second point.  Arguments based on evil, good, morality, etc cannot be taken in isolation.  The Christian could also argue to a good god from indirect evidence such as that of the Resurrection.


The problem is that the conclusion of the Resurrection argument -- Jesus was raised from the dead -- is completely compatible with EG.

Quote:
Originally Posted by depthcharge623

 He could also deduce the existence of God using something like the ontological argument, modified ontological argument, etc.  The point is, there is more than one way to skin a cat, and the EGC only focuses on one.  


But it is widely recognized that ontological arguments have very limited dialectical force, since they are so controversial.  If I were a theist, I would not be comfortable resting my rejection of EG solely on ontological arguments. 
chuckg1982
Reply with quote  #10 

It is more reasonable because the Bible unambiguously states that God is not evil (see James 1:13), and there is historical evidence that the Bible is accurate.  The historical evidence for Jesus is part of Craig's cumulative case.


Now, you could respond--someone on this discussion board actually did--by saying that, given the appropriate hermeneutical prestidigitation, the Bible can in some roundabout way be read as supporting the existence of an Evil God.  Of course, if we suddenly adopt an (unrealistic) standard of 100% absolute certainty, then we reach an impasse; but if, as you say, the debate pertains to what's more reasonable, then the evidence is stronger for a God that's good--even if one (who's no doubt among the Paul McCartney conspiracy theorists) wishes to play hermeneutical games.


The Problem of Evil is inconsequential here, because to refute it, all you have to do is show that it is possible to reconcile the existence of God with our experience of evil.  Even if it was true that God might be evil--better yet, even if, by coincidence, God didn't actually exist--the Problem of Evil would still be resolved.

radical_logic
Reply with quote  #11 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chuckg1982

It is more reasonable because the Bible unambiguously says that God is not evil (see James 1:13), and there is historical evidence that the Bible is accurate.  The historical evidence for Jesus is part of Craig's cumulative case.


Tell me: what does the resurrection-argument show, if successful? Does it show merely that Jesus was raised supernaturally from the dead? Or does it show that Jesus was raised supernaturally from the dead by an all-good being?


Presumably, in order to the resurrection-argument to rule out EG, it would have to show the latter claim, but it doesn't do that at all.

chuckg1982
Reply with quote  #12 
Quote:
Originally Posted by radical_logic
Quote:
Originally Posted by chuckg1982

It is more reasonable because the Bible unambiguously says that God is not evil (see James 1:13), and there is historical evidence that the Bible is accurate.  The historical evidence for Jesus is part of Craig's cumulative case.


Tell me: what does the resurrection-argument show, if successful? Does it show merely that Jesus was raised supernaturally from the dead? Or does it show that Jesus was raised supernaturally from the dead by an all-good being?


Presumably, in order to the resurrection-argument to rule out EG, it would have to show the latter claim, but it doesn't do that at all.


No, it shows that Jesus was God in the flesh, thereby vindicating the entire Bible--which says that God is good.
Jared
Reply with quote  #13 
Quote:
Originally Posted by radical_logic
I'm finding that many on here are simply not understanding Law's Evil-God-Challenge, so I will attempt explain it.


Or we understand it perfectly well and find it unpersuasive (if not self-contradictory).

Quote:
The Evil-God-Challenge is introduced mainly as a response to responses to the PoE. The PoE contends that an all-good God can be rejected on the basis of observational evidence, but responses to PoE deny this (for various reasons). Let's call those responses Skeptical Moves.


Precisely. The counterobjection fails because, as Craig noted, a parallel problem of goodness would not successfully refute the existence of an "Evil God." The noseeum objection works in both cases.

Quote:
By employing various Skeptical Moves, the following inductive inference, it is claimed, is unjustified:

1) There are many instances of apparent gratuitous suffering.

2) Therefore, gratuitous suffering exists (and gratuitous suffering is incompatible with an all-good God).


You're missing a premise, so the syllogism is invalid. Yes, there are many instances of apparently gratuitous suffering. I find it a bit hypocritical when atheists criticize theistic arguments such as the kalam for appealing too much to our "common sense," yet forsake all epistemic humility when presenting the problem of evil. Maybe consider the highly plausible notion that we aren't in a position to know the Mind of God if he exists.

Quote:
This is where the EGC comes in. The challenge is for the theist to explain why belief in an all-good God is significantly more reasonable than belief in an all-evil God.


Goodness is intensionally defined as the way things ought to be. Contrariwise evil is parasitic on goodness as the way things ought not to be. If God intends the world to be a certain way or follow a predestined course, then any deviation from that purpose is necessarily evil. So, even if God were sadistic and desired the world to be a hostile and unpleasant environment, it would nevertheless be morally good for us on such a theological system to strive to realize our potential for agony. If by "evil," however, you simply mean a psychological disposition to inflict pain and destruction, then say malevolent instead so you do not smuggle in any moral presumptions with normative baggage.

Quote:
One possibility is to reject EG on the basis of observational evidence. So the argument may be:

1)' There are many instances of apparent gratuitous joy.

2)' Therefore, gratuitous joy exists (and gratuitous joy is incompatible with an all-evil God).

However, the problem here is that the inferential relation between 1)' and 2)' and 1) and 2) are symmetrical: if the former inference is justified, so is the latter (above). Moreover, if the latter (above) inference is unjustified, via the various Skeptical Moves, then so is the former - because similar Skeptical Moves can be employed to block the inference from 1)' to 2)'. The upshot is that the theist, when dealing with the EGC, can't reject EG on the basis of observational evidence, because then he would have to concede the PoE.


A valid syllogism consists of at least two premises and a conclusion that follows from them by logical necessity. I'm not even sure what you're even driving at here. Just as Judeo-Christian theists do not infer that God is benevolent by observing pleasant qualities in nature, neither would we attempt to refute the proposition that God is malevolent by appealing to said qualities.

Quote:
WLC recognized this problem during the debate, and refused to reject EG on the basis of observational evidence. But how can he explain why belief in Good-God is significantly more rational than belief in Evil-God? Craig's only move was to rely on his moral argument, which was spectacularly unsuccessful.


Ah, well, this is a separate question. "How does one know that God is benevolent rather than malevolent if we cannot gather this information from observing nature?" The answer, I believe, is God's own self-disclosure and his record of faithfulness to his people. This is what God tells the children of Israel to consider when he asks them to trust him (e.g., "I am YHWH your God who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.").

Quote:
In summary then:

1) Either EG can be rationally rejected on the basis of observational evidence or not.


True, but it cannot because the noseeum objection is a two-edged sword.

Quote:
2) If EG can be rationally rejected on the basis of observational evidence, then GG can also be rejected on the basis of observational evidence (and hence the PoE succeeds).


Also true, but the antecedent is false. Law, however, mistakenly went this route in the debate.

Quote:
3) If EG cannot be rationally rejected on the basis of observational evidence, then if it is to be rejected, it must be rejected on some other basis.


Tah dah.

Quote:
The first route — rejecting EG on the basis of observational evidence — comes at the cost of conceding the PoE. The second — rejecting EG on some other basis — comes at the cost of adopting untenable a priori arguments in order to do so (e.g. moral argument).


I'm not the biggest fan of Craig's particular formulation of the moral argument because strictly speaking I don't believe in objective moral values, but substitute "universally binding moral duties" for "objective moral values" and you'll have to demonstrate why the argument is unsound from your perspective.
aengs115
Reply with quote  #14 
Quote:
Originally Posted by depthcharge623
radical,

I agree with aengs second point, but not the first.  I would assume (though this is no more than that, since I have not seen the debate) that Law defines good in terms of evil as opposed to the other way around.  You see, Christians define evil as a deviation from what is good; Law most likely defines good as a deviation from an evil standard.  Thus God could be evil in the sense that it is His nature, and good is a deviation from the nature (you see, it is the reverse of what we would say).  Is this correct?

However, aengs also makes a good second point.  Arguments based on evil, good, morality, etc cannot be taken in isolation.  The Christian could also argue to a good god from indirect evidence such as that of the Resurrection.  He could also deduce the existence of God using something like the ontological argument, modified ontological argument, etc.  The point is, there is more than one way to skin a cat, and the EGC only focuses on one.  

Summary:  if the EVC claims (and I think correctly so) that direct observational evidence makes it just as probable than an evil god exists as a good god, then we can still use other sorts of evidence and arguments to come to the conclusion of a good god.  This topic need not be taken in isolation.

I came to think about your objection to my first point after posting my self, the whole point of this "Evil God argument" is to turn the moral argument around right? So instead of God being the "good", he would be the "bad"? So what comes first the bad or the good? Is it like the hen and the egg (that was a joke)?  I am not ready to drop my line of thought right away even if I feel I may have problems to defend it but that would mean I need to to some more thinking.

So if thinking out loud: Good could exist without the reference to evil, but evil can't exist without a reference to some standard of good. That is something can be good without standing in some comparative relationship with some evil. But something evil can't be evil without standing in a comparative relationship to  something good.Therefore it does not make sense of speaking about a being, being evil in of it's own nature cause what would that look like? What would that be? If there is no good standard which you can depart from this being's evil nature is simply his nature, with no value attached to it. First when you have a standard from which this being can differentiate you may start speaking about his nature being evil or bad in some way.

Some kind of an example: Love would be good even if there was no such thing as hate, but hate in itself is not good or bad it is simply hate. But when compared to love hate is considered evil. 

I know this may seem a bit confused, or even in worst case even circular but as I said I am thinking out loud and perhaps my conclusion will be that this line of thinking is fallacious. Depth, any chance of me getting some help clearing out what I am trying to say? 

In a sense this entire idea of a evil God boils down to the question if God even "could" be evil. Is it even metaphysically possible for such a being to exist. If and if not is it possible to know whether God is good or evil?
radical_logic
Reply with quote  #15 
Jared,

So you reject EG on some basis other than observational evidence. What is that basis?

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