Free Will and the Problem of Evil

chaospump
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Free Will and the Problem of Evil

Two of the thorniest issues for monotheistic thinkers down the centuries have been those of the apparent inconsistencies between, on the one hand, an omniscient and omnipotent god vs. "free will" and, on the other hand, between an omnipotent and omnibenevolent god vs the existence of evil.

If god made everything, and knew exactly how everything would turn out, and had the power to change any detail both before and after the creation, then free will is completely illusory, and we are all nothing more than puppets in god's show, staged for himself.

If god is all powerful and all good, then there should be no evil or suffering in the world.

Attempts to answer these have varied widely, but never succeeded in discharging the objections satisfactorily.

But we've all heard the most common modern answer repeated like a mindless mantra, over and over.

Someone - I'm not sure who was the first - decided that these two logical stumbling blocks to the monotheistic worldview could somehow be eliminated by turning them against each other, a feat of apologetic legerdemain that holds water like a sieve, but has nonetheless become the standard response monotheists to both issues.

In fact, neither of these is a satisfactory response to the other in any way.

Free will cannot be anything but an illusion if god had the knowledge and ability to change any detail of how his creation would turn out.

And if god could set it up so that some humans would exercise their free will to follow his commands, or believe his fairy tale, or whatever it is we're expected to do to stay on his good side, then why couldn't he set it up so that all would have the moral strength, or vision, or faith, or whatever qualities those who are acceptable in his sight have?

If those who accept him do so without any compromise of their free will, then all should be able to accept him without any such compromise, if god chose to set it up that way.

All of the faith and prayer in the world

All of your dumb show and circuses

You know it's a lie, it'll always be a lie

The invention of an animal who knows he's going to die

-Randy Newman


todangst
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chaospump wrote:   But

chaospump wrote:
 

But we've all heard the most common modern answer repeated like a mindless mantra, over and over. Someone - I'm not sure who was the first - decided that these two logical stumbling blocks to the monotheistic worldview could somehow be eliminated by turning them against each other, a feat of apologetic legerdemain that holds water like a sieve, but has nonetheless become the standard response monotheists to both issues.

Mainly because few theists are really interested in examining the response all that closely.... what they desire is an 'answer' and once they have one, the matter is closed.... literally.

 

Quote:
 

In fact, neither of these is a satisfactory response to the other in any way. Free will cannot be anything but an illusion if god had the knowledge and ability to change any detail of how his creation would turn out.

An omnipotent, omniscient creator must obviate free will, because this 'creator' has perfect responsibility for his creation. This is necessarily so, as this creator is perfectly responsible for every parameter of existence. Every parameter of existence must be contingent upon this creator's fiat. Whatever exists, exists contingent upon this creator.

 So it follows that the creator shapes both the character of the 'chooser' as well as all the options that 'chooser' can choose, meaning that the creator cannot avoid being fully responsible for every outcome. What's left to be within the responsibility of the chooser? Whatever a theist points to, whatever element of character or personality or temperament must itself be an existent which exists, precisely, exactly as it is, contingent upon this god's fiat. An existent that could be different, based on this god's fiat. An existent, which if differen, would lead to different outcomes.

 To say that the 'chooser' bears responsibility would imply that the chooser is able to step outside the parameters of existence and create a situation that supercedes the fiat of an omnipotent god. 

 Why do christians miss this point? Because christians seem to suppose that are given set of parameters of existence exist necessarily. They miss that it is a contradiction to suppose that there could could be both an omnipotent creator, and , at the same time, hold that our world must somehow still be precisely as it is. We can call this the Panglossian error.

But, we know from basic logic that every parameter of existence must be contingent upon an omnipotent, omniscient creator. And this logical necessity is what destroys the 'free will' theodicy...

 I discuss this in detail here:

http://www.rationalresponders.com/god_the_iron_worker

 

 

 

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

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chaospump
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todangst wrote: I

todangst wrote:

 I discuss this in detail here:

http://www.rationalresponders.com/god_the_iron_worker

An impressively thorough demolition, by my standards.

I see that none of the many theists who have trotted this chestnut out repeatedly on the boards have chosen to debate its validity there; wonder if any will do so here...

All of the faith and prayer in the world

All of your dumb show and circuses

You know it's a lie, it'll always be a lie

The invention of an animal who knows he's going to die

-Randy Newman


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If free will does not lead

If free will does not lead us to better moral decisions (true if it has nothing to do with our moral decisions), it is not a high good, and is irrelevant to the PoE.

God had no time to create time.


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  >>If god is all powerful

 

>>If god is all powerful and all good, then there should be no evil or suffering in the world.

You are absolutely correct. Consider the possibility that God did not create this world. Who says He did? The Bible? So what? I don't buy that myth.

There is evil and suffering in this world simply because God had nothing to do with it.

Good and evil are like light and darkness. Light is something - waves, photons, whatever. Darkness is not anything - it is the absense of light. Evil is nothing as well. Evil is the absense of good. In Reality, there is no good or evil. In Reality everything is the same.


chaospump
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Hogspanker wrote: >>If god

Hogspanker wrote:

>>If god is all powerful and all good, then there should be no evil or suffering in the world.

You are absolutely correct. Consider the possibility that God did not create this world. Who says He did? The Bible? So what? I don't buy that myth.

There is evil and suffering in this world simply because God had nothing to do with it.

Good and evil are like light and darkness. Light is something - waves, photons, whatever. Darkness is not anything - it is the absense of light. Evil is nothing as well. Evil is the absense of good. In Reality, there is no good or evil. In Reality everything is the same.

Not sure what your point is, here...

This is directed at those who seek to explain away the Problem of Evil by invoking Free Will, which is not possible in a world featuring an omnipotent and omniscient creator god. 

From the point of view of living entities, there certainly is suffering and pain and death.

Both evil and good only have meaning from that perspective. It's not that evil is the absence of good, but that each is defined in terms of the other.

All of the faith and prayer in the world

All of your dumb show and circuses

You know it's a lie, it'll always be a lie

The invention of an animal who knows he's going to die

-Randy Newman


YARN
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an omniscient and

an omniscient and omnipotent god vs. "free will"

1. I once met a Lutheran pastor who told me that belief in free will is a heresy. My Point: You don't have to hold out for free will to hold on to a conception of a Christian God. Free will (in terms of origination - libertarian/metaphysical freedom) is as suspect as belief in God. It is a philosophical as well as a theological problem. That theism cannot explain free will is a non-unique disadvantage. Atheists can't explain it either. Theists and atheists can join hands and denounce this superstitious belief or both blush when held to account for this common sense truth of existence (pick your poison)

2. The tension is only troubling if one holds out for a simple notion of the big "O's" -- If, for example, I am all-powerful, but elect not to use my power so that humans can exercise free will, there is still wiggle room for human action.


"an omnipotent and omnibenevolent god vs the existence of evil."

1. Again, the tension is only troubling if one holds out for a simple notion of the big "O's" -- Perhaps God is an instrumentalist and allows evil in the name of the greater good -- this being the best of all possible worlds. Perhaps God’s omnibenevolence is not adequately captured by a vision of Santa handing out candy bars and laptop computers.

2. If a genuinely transcendent moral plane has to exist for Good and Evil to make rational sense, one cannot rationally gripe about all of the evil of this world. This dilemma assumes that “Evil” simply exists. Theism’s “Good” and “Evil” are absolutist conceptions which depend on dubious metaphysical posits. One might as well speak of the problem of “flying spaghetti monsters.” If one assumes, however, that evil does exist in some deeply meaningful sense (i.e., murder really is bad for some universally binding reason), then why not add the conceit of a supreme being?

3. Timebandits “I think it has something to do with free will” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


chaospump
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YARN wrote: an omniscient

YARN wrote:

an omniscient and omnipotent god vs. "free will"

1. I once met a Lutheran pastor who told me that belief in free will is a heresy. My Point: You don't have to hold out for free will to hold on to a conception of a Christian God. Free will (in terms of origination - libertarian/metaphysical freedom) is as suspect as belief in God. It is a philosophical as well as a theological problem. That theism cannot explain free will is a non-unique disadvantage. Atheists can't explain it either. Theists and atheists can join hands and denounce this superstitious belief or both blush when held to account for this common sense truth of existence (pick your poison)

2. The tension is only troubling if one holds out for a simple notion of the big "O's" -- If, for example, I am all-powerful, but elect not to use my power so that humans can exercise free will, there is still wiggle room for human action.


"an omnipotent and omnibenevolent god vs the existence of evil."

1. Again, the tension is only troubling if one holds out for a simple notion of the big "O's" -- Perhaps God is an instrumentalist and allows evil in the name of the greater good -- this being the best of all possible worlds. Perhaps God’s omnibenevolence is not adequately captured by a vision of Santa handing out candy bars and laptop computers.

2. If a genuinely transcendent moral plane has to exist for Good and Evil to make rational sense, one cannot rationally gripe about all of the evil of this world. This dilemma assumes that “Evil” simply exists. Theism’s “Good” and “Evil” are absolutist conceptions which depend on dubious metaphysical posits. One might as well speak of the problem of “flying spaghetti monsters.” If one assumes, however, that evil does exist in some deeply meaningful sense (i.e., murder really is bad for some universally binding reason), then why not add the conceit of a supreme being?

3. Timebandits “I think it has something to do with free will” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You seem to have missed the point of this post.

 It is true that free will itself is highly philosophically problematic, but that is not the issue.

It is also true that the New Testament, as many Christian sects have recognized, explicitly contradicts the notion that human free will can meaningfully exist (at least in the all-important decision of whether or not to accept god), though of course apologeticists have their usual plate-spinning field day with this. This simply adds to the validity of my argument here.

You have proposed several versions of the possible resolution of the problem of Evil, which always amount to tearing down one leg of the triangular paradox.

These responses attempt to create wiggle room, but cannot do so with compromising either god's omnipotence, or omnibenevelonce, or declaring that all evil - in the sense of things that cause pain and suffering to human beings and other living creatures - is some sort of illusion, or offset by some higher good (the glory of god, or some such meaningless nonsense).

But what I am specifically objecting to here, and still waiting for any defense of from our friendly neighborhood theists, is the particular construct that has become the most consistently repeated Christian apologetic attempt to resolve the problem of evil by claiming that evil is all the fault of humans, and god needs to take no responsibility for it, despite being omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent, because he granted free will to humans.

I don't think you are trying to support this construct, and so your points while certainly interesting the context of a discussion of free will, are not really relevant to this thread.

 

All of the faith and prayer in the world

All of your dumb show and circuses

You know it's a lie, it'll always be a lie

The invention of an animal who knows he's going to die

-Randy Newman


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If you demand a logically

If you demand a logically impossible conception of God (i.e., do not allow for any nuance or sophistication in interpreting the big "O's&quotEye-wink, then you win by default. 

At the very least, I think that you should push the theist into giving a more sophisticated response and allow him/her to experiment with different ideas about God. You are not going to convert a true believer in one fell swoop, but you can encourage the thiest to be a more sophisticated cat - to engage in a theism that is more rational and less dogmatic. I think that is more valuable than defending a cardboard logical proof. If the theist yields a bad conception of God, then that is one less faulty conception of God to have to battle later on. 

Cheers,

YARN 

 P.S. I am a theist, but I have no illusions about converting you. 

 

 


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YARN wrote:If you demand

YARN wrote:

If you demand a logically impossible conception of God (i.e., do not allow for any nuance or sophistication in interpreting the big "O's&quotEye-wink, then you win by default. 

At the very least, I think that you should push the theist into giving a more sophisticated response and allow him/her to experiment with different ideas about God. You are not going to convert a true believer in one fell swoop, but you can encourage the thiest to be a more sophisticated cat - to engage in a theism that is more rational and less dogmatic. I think that is more valuable than defending a cardboard logical proof. If the theist yields a bad conception of God, then that is one less faulty conception of God to have to battle later on. 

Cheers,

YARN 

 P.S. I am a theist, but I have no illusions about converting you. 

Well, clearly we see this from very different perspectives.

It's not that I am trying to "demand" a logically impossible conception of god, it's that the Judaeo-Christian god concept is logically impossible.

It's not me that believes in a being characterizable by the "big o's" - those are simply the characteristics claimed for the Judaeo-Christian deity.

And they do carry with them logical impossibility, just as you suggest - it is one of the most common attempts to deny that impossibility that I am trying to address here, and it is one we have all seen and heard countless times from theists.

These theists who propound this view, I think, would generally not consider a view that modifies these cherished attributes as "more sophisticated," but as a sort of heresy.

I also don't think that modifying the generally accepted attributes that define the monotheistic god results in a more sophisticated god-concept - just a more vague and less meaningful one.

As it seems to me, any deistic concept is either logically impossible, or in direct contradiction of everything we understamnd about the universe, or both - unless it is too vaguely defined to discuss coherently, or else so removed from reality that it has no relevance to human affairs, like the god of Aristotle, or that of Spinoza.

If you think you have a concept of god that successfully avoids any of these objections, throw it out on the board and I'd be glad to discusss it - but it doesn't really belong in this particular thread.

Rather, this thread is a challenge to the many theists who have embraced and repeated the formula of claiming that free will is not only possible in the face of a (fully) omniscient and omnipotent god, but also that it somehow serves as an answer to the Problem of Evil.

All of the faith and prayer in the world

All of your dumb show and circuses

You know it's a lie, it'll always be a lie

The invention of an animal who knows he's going to die

-Randy Newman


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You are a real task master

You are a real task master about staying on point, but these side issues are important because we are discussing what it means to be "on topic" in this thread.

If being "on point" means defending a rather simplistic take on divine attributes, I concede your point, but the point is a little too easy to win.

If being "on point" means one can argue for a version of the divine attributes as being compatible with evil and freedom, then we cannot exclude a broadened sense of these terms as being non-topical. That is, my existing arguments would fit within the scope of your thread.

I am NOT inclined much toward trying to rationally prove the existence of God. Some people are, for example, StM will probably offer some arguments. At most, I would argue for the rational possibility. That is, I might attempt to offer plausibility arguments to explain how evil is compatible with the existence of God, but that is about it.

If you are interested in the problem of foreknowledge there is a pretty good book by John Marting Fisher called "God, Foreknowledge, and Freedom" (or something close to that title) which has some good stuff. It is an interesting problem even bracketing out the God part of the equation, because it addresses the difficulties involved in any sort of knowledge about the future.

 

 

 

 

 


chaospump
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YARN wrote:You are a real

YARN wrote:

You are a real task master about staying on point, but these side issues are important because we are discussing what it means to be "on topic" in this thread.

If being "on point" means defending a rather simplistic take on divine attributes, I concede your point, but the point is a little too easy to win.

If being "on point" means one can argue for a version of the divine attributes as being compatible with evil and freedom, then we cannot exclude a broadened sense of these terms as being non-topical. That is, my existing arguments would fit within the scope of your thread.

I am NOT inclined much toward trying to rationally prove the existence of God. Some people are, for example, StM will probably offer some arguments. At most, I would argue for the rational possibility. That is, I might attempt to offer plausibility arguments to explain how evil is compatible with the existence of God, but that is about it.

If you are interested in the problem of foreknowledge there is a pretty good book by John Marting Fisher called "God, Foreknowledge, and Freedom" (or something close to that title) which has some good stuff. It is an interesting problem even bracketing out the God part of the equation, because it addresses the difficulties involved in any sort of knowledge about the future.

The reason I keep trying to deflect the subject change is because the apologetic construction I'm objecting to is so very commonly used, on the boards and anywhere else theist/atheist discussions occur.

I'm wondering whether anyone who has used it or does regularly use it is willing to step up and debate its validity (clearly you do not fit in that category); and I don't want this thread to turn into a completely different discussion, which is what you seem to be trying to do.

Of course, just because people can make up words like omnipotent, omniscient or omnibenevolent does not mean that any such characteristics could truly exist.

In fact, I'd say they are nonsense words.

But this argument is directed at the people - mostly Christians, around here - who use the excuse that god gave us free will and we screwed up everything to try to explain away the apparent conflict between their god concept and the reality of suffering in the world - not to mention the eternal suffering to which their god supposedly sentences unbelievers.

It is because their god-concept includes these self-contradictory and logically impossible attributes that they find themselves proposing other logical absurdities to support the first set.

It would seem that you agree with me about this, and do not suppport the standard monotheistic attribution of the big o's, as you call them, to your concept of deity.

When I have time, I'd like to start or participate in a thread that attempts to define what attributes are required af a proposed entity in order to reasonably call it a god, particularly a monotheistic god.

But I'd prefer that this thread be a place where those who regularly trot out the apologetical chestnut I'm trying to address here might stand up and defend it.

If you think you have some concept of god that is not too vague to be discussed meaningfully, and not too attribute-free to be totally irrelevant to human existence even if its own existence were postulated, I think you should propose and support that god concept and defend it against the rebuttals that will surely come.

If your god concept is not supposed to be omnipotent and omnibenevolent, then it is not susceptible to the Problem of Evil objection.

If your god concept is not characterized as the omniscient and omnipotent creator of the universe, then it is not susceptible to the criiticism that it renders us all puppets in a hollow show.

So you have no need to attempt to use these two issues to cancel each other out, which is very specifically the dodge that I'm trying to focus on here.

But, since nobody seems inclined to defend the apologetic shell game maneuver, despite relying upon it consistently in debate, I guess your subject change doesn't really matter.

All of the faith and prayer in the world

All of your dumb show and circuses

You know it's a lie, it'll always be a lie

The invention of an animal who knows he's going to die

-Randy Newman


todangst
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Hogspanker wrote: Good and

Hogspanker wrote:

Good and evil are like light and darkness. Light is something - waves, photons, whatever. Darkness is not anything - it is the absense of light. Evil is nothing as well. Evil is the absense of good. 

So, if someone murders your mother, nothing happens? There's just an absence of good?  

 

A thorough refutation of this inane argument can be found here:

http://www.rationalresponders.com/debunking_an_urban_legend

 

 

 

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

Books on atheism.


todangst
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chaospump wrote: It's not

chaospump wrote:

It's not that I am trying to "demand" a logically impossible conception of god, it's that the Judaeo-Christian god concept is logically impossible.

 

It's not me that believes in a being characterizable by the "big o's" - those are simply the characteristics claimed for the Judaeo-Christian deity.

And they do carry with them logical impossibility, just as you suggest - it is one of the most common attempts to deny that impossibility that I am trying to address here, and it is one we have all seen and heard countless times from theists.

Bingo. All the atheist does is demand that the theist be logically consistent - that he 1) concede that the bible affirms that 'god' is omnipotent and omniscient and 2) concede to the ramifications that necessarily follow from these claims.

    I am continually amazed at the fact that theists expect that something defined only in negatives (omni traits) and held to be 'beyond nature"/'working' through miracles, ought to make sense in the first place! 

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

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Quote: So, if someone

Quote:
So, if someone murders your mother, nothing happens? There's just an absence of good? 

Well, you can say she's not really dead, she just lacks alive-ness. 

AImboden wrote:
I'm not going to PM my agreement just because one tucan has pms.


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Ophios wrote: Quote: So,

Ophios wrote:

Quote:
So, if someone murders your mother, nothing happens? There's just an absence of good?

Well, you can say she's not really dead, she just lacks alive-ness.

 

heheh... that's what I say in the link I provided above....  

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

Books on atheism.