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COVID-19 and the Problem of Evil

As Covid-19 spreads around the planet, religious people everywhere will be asking themselves the same question. If the universe is supervised by a loving God, why are such horrible things allowed to happen? After all, if God is all-powerful, He could stop a pandemic; and if He is all-good, He would surely want to. Our unease is only intensified as places of worship worldwide are shut down. The religious suddenly find themselves unable to seek God in the way they believe He has commanded them to—and at precisely the time they need Him the most.

The Problem of Evil and Higher Order Goods

Theologians and philosophers offer different solutions to this age-old puzzle. The most plausible solution has been refined over the centuries but remains essentially the same: God allows human suffering because it brings about, “higher order goods.” To give one representative example: Only if someone eventually loses his possessions in a fire does someone else have an opportunity to feel compassion and make personal sacrifices to provide for him. Suffering, in other words, provides us with opportunities to manifest various virtues and these virtues are more valuable than the uninterrupted ease, security and comfort that would prevail in a world without suffering. With this idea in mind, consider three higher order goods which the Covid-19 pandemic has made widely available.

COVID-19 and Higher Order Goods

Opportunities to Manifest Virtue

Anyone who has been reading the news lately will be aware that the pandemic has brought out the best and the worst in humanity. There are stories of people offering to do grocery runs for those most at risk, and stories of people price gouging others on toilet paper and hand sanitiser [1]. As intimately interconnected creatures with both moral awareness and free will, we are continually faced with choices that have moral consequences for others—choices to make the lives of others better or worse. And every choice we make not only affects others but helps to shape our own moral character [2].

It is a great good in itself that we should have this power of “moral self-determination”—even if we fail to exercise it for the good. To appreciate this point, it is helpful to consider the distinction between innocence and virtue. Innocence is a mere ignorance of evil; virtue requires that one has faced a significant choice between good and evil and freely chosen the good. And while innocence is good, virtue is better. Plausibly, then, a world filled with suffering in which everyone has opportunities to manifest virtue is better than a world without suffering in which no one has such opportunities. And this holds even if some of us fail to manifest virtue and instead manifest vice [3].

I think it is clear that the Covid-19 pandemic has made available many more opportunities for us to shape our moral character. The next time you browse the news, look for stories of compassion, self-sacrifice, heroism, forbearance, generosity, patience and faith—as well as stories of selfishness, indifference, cowardice, impatience and greed. This is the human soul under increased pressure to exercise its God-given faculty of moral self-determination. God does not allow us to live out our lives in a sort of moral slumber. Nor does God force us to be who He wants us to be [4]. Rather, God pays a deep respect to our personhood by continuously offering us the choice. And natural evils—earthquakes, accidents, pandemics, and so on—are the medium in which this faculty operates.

A Sharpened Awareness of Our Interconnectedness

While the precise details are still unclear, it seems probable that somewhere in Wuhan late last year a single individual contracted a novel coronavirus that would later be dubbed Covid-19. Today, the virus is spreading almost everywhere in the world and, before this is over, each country may be counting its dead in the thousands and the global economy will be on its knees.

It is interesting to reflect that this worldwide catastrophe may have begun with a few microscopic droplets of human spittle passed from patient one to patients two and three; and then from patients two and three to patients four to nine—and so on until the virus had achieved global reach. In this way, the pandemic has reminded us of our profound interconnectedness as a species; of our shared biology and vulnerability; our shared desire for self-preservation and wellbeing, and that which threatens it for all of us.

This, too, produces a higher order good: The good of having it forcefully pressed home that our wellbeing as individuals ultimately depends on the wellbeing of our fellow human beings. The threat posed by Covid-19 is therefore similar to the threat posed by the destruction of our common habitat. It is logical: Anything that threatens the ability of the human species to flourish threatens the ability of the human individual to flourish. For this reason, global threats are morally corrective: They help to correct the unfortunate human tendency to division, exclusion and conflict along national, cultural and individual lines—uniting us as a species in our fight against a common enemy and inspiring us to work towards a common good.

A Call to Spirituality

An innate habit of asking Big Questions about the meaning of life sets human beings apart as a species—it is what makes us special. But for many of us this habit remains undeveloped. Perhaps we despair of finding answers and so try to distract ourselves with superficialities—with celebrity gossip, material goods, and social media. This is what Soren Kierkegaard believed. “The philistine,” he said, “tranquillises himself with the trivial.” But in tranquillising himself, the philistine also pays a heavy price—he ignores the sacred mystery of the universe [5].

The question arises: Does suffering and death force human beings to think more deeply about the meaning of life? Reason and experience suggest that the answer is yes. Pleasure and comfort are good and our world, of course, contains generous amounts of both. But a life that offered nothing else would make many of us complacent, hedonistic, idle and shallow. The Covid-19 pandemic has shocked and frightened the world. For many, that shock and fear will force them to raise their consciousness to a higher plane—to confront questions about the ultimate meaning and purpose of their existence and so to exercise their most unique and most human faculty.

Conclusion

We must remember, finally, that God is the consummation and source of all knowledge, beauty, rationality and love lying at the heart of Ultimate Reality. An eternal love relationship with God is therefore the greatest conceivable good available to us—the highest of all the higher order goods. An event which turns our mind to God is an event that may bring about our eternal wellbeing. And in this light it is no more difficult to understand why God would allow temporary suffering than it is to understand why a parent would allow a doctor to stab their child with a needle—knowing that, after the pain and tears have subsided, the child will enjoy lifelong immunity to a dangerous pathogen.

Postscript

In closing, I need to emphasize this strongly. My heart breaks every time I read the news these days and I pray this pandemic will soon be over. Nothing I have written is meant to downplay the terrible burden of death and suffering the pandemic has placed upon the world. Nor am I suggesting that the pandemic is in some way “good.” Nor am I suggesting that God caused the pandemic. Theologians sometimes speak of God’s “perfect will” and His “permissive will”—the things He directly causes and the things He permits by sustaining in existence the processes that cause them. The pandemic surely belongs to the latter. But what I am suggesting is that the pandemic does not prove the nonexistence or indifference of God. My concern has been to show that God may have good reason for allowing widespread, but temporary, human suffering.

Ben Mines was born in Wellington, graduated from college in Auckland, and then spent almost two decades living in South Korea. Until the age of 35, he was what Andrew Klavan called a “practicing atheist”: He did not know if there was a God but lived his life on the assumption that there was not. However, in 2015 he began to study the philosophical arguments for the existence of God and the historical argument for the Resurrection of Jesus. Ultimately, he was persuaded by both. The existence of God is a subject of the profoundest imaginable importance. He is therefore committed to discussing it with others. In 2017, he finished his book “Through a Glass, Darkly” which sets out the rational grounds for Christian theism; later that same year, he began to write for Thinking Matters.


  1.  Other stories include as-yet-uninfected millionaires trying to buy ventilators for themselves; a 7 year old boy using his savings to buy coronavirus care packages for seniors; students ignoring health officials and partying in the streets; and four people offering themselves as a test subjects for a vaccine—without any animal trials. There are, of course, many, many more.
  2. These changes are accumulative and lasting. As Oxford professor of philosophy Richard Swinburne notes, humans are so made that when we choose to do good, it becomes slightly easier to choose to do good again at the next opportunity; and when we choose to do evil, it becomes slightly easier to choose to do evil again at the next opportunity. In this way, over time, we are able to freely change the desires that influence us and form either a good or a bad character. Emerson put the point more pithily when he said, “Sew a thought, reap an action; sew an action, reap a habit; sew a habit, reap a character; sew a character, reap an eternal destiny.”
  3. It is tempting to think that God could give us moral freedom of choice and prevent wrongdoing. But it makes no difference to my moral character whether I A) give my coat to a shivering foreigner or B) invite him into my house for hot soup if these are my only possible choices. Without the possibility of wrongdoing—ignoring the foreigner, or robbing him, or whatever—my choice is morally insignificant.
  4. In a like case, it is good that parents should give one child the significant responsibility of looking after his or her younger siblings even if this entails a risk. A world in which children are taught responsibility by their parents—even though this sometimes results in harm—is better than a world in which parents never give their children responsibility and, as a result, the risk of harm is removed.
  5.  Kierkegaard’s fine phrase is quoted and discussed by Ernst Becker in The Denial of Death.

Intelligent Design Scholar-Historian Dr. Thomas Woodward in Tauranga in December

Dr. Tom Woodward
Intelligent Design scholar Dr. Thomas Woodward (Wikipedia) will be visiting Tauranga for a few days in the second week of December 2012.

Qualifications

Dr. Woodward is Research Professor at Trinity College of Florida in Tampa Bay, where he has taught for 23 years. He has spoken on the topic of evolution, Intelligent Design and the existence of God at over 80 colleges and universities in 25 countries. His campus presentations include a lecture series at Princeton University and Dartmouth College, and an Intelligent Design seminar at Cambridge University (UK) hosted by Ranald Macauley, son-in-law of L’Abri founder Francis Schaeffer.

A graduate of Princeton University (in History), he received a Th.M. from Dallas Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Communication from the University of South Florida. His doctoral specialty was in the “Rhetoric of Science,” and his research focus has been the history of the scientific controversy over Intelligent Design and neo-Darwinism.

Dr. Woodward is the author of Darwinism Under the Microscope (co-edited with Dr. James Gills) and two other books which trace the debate between Darwinism and Intelligent Design. The first, Doubts about Darwin (Baker 2003), won a national book award from Christianity Today. His second book on the “design controversy” is Darwin Strikes Back: Defending the Science of Intelligent Design.  His latest book, also coauthored with Dr. James Gills, is The Mysterious Epigenome: What Lies Beyond DNA (2012).

CS Lewis Society

Tom Woodward is also the founder and director of the C. S. Lewis Society, which hosts lectures, conferences and debates on university campuses and in heavily secular countries.

Radio debate

You can listen here to his friendly debate / discussion with Peter Hearty on the Unbelievableradio program from the UK.

Well known USA Intelligent Design advocate Tom Woodward takes on the National Secular Society’s science representative Pete Hearty.  Does the new evidence in biological science point towards an ultimate creator?  Other guests also join the fray…

 

New Zealand Events

Dr Woodward will be delivering the following four presentations in Tauranga while visiting New Zealand:

1. Does God Exist?  Old Questions and New Ideas

This talk explores the theism/atheism debate from both philosophy and science.  The explosion of the “New Atheism” is traced, and major responses are touched on.  Special attention is given to the recent discoveries in the origin of the universe and the origin of life.
WHAT: A special Thinking Matters event – live presentation followed by Q&A
WHEN: Friday 7th December
TIME: 7:30pm – 9:30pm
WHERE: Bethlehem Community Church, 183 Moffat Rd, Bethlehem, Tauranga

2. Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design: What’s the Fuss All About?

This is an overview of the last 30 years of controversy over origins, especially as the ID movement roared to life in the late 1980s and began spreading after Behe’s book “Darwin’s Black Box” was published in 1996.  Recent developments in the period 2000-2012 are covered.
WHAT: A special Thinking Matters event – live presentation followed by Q&A
WHEN: Saturday 8th December
TIME: 7:30pm – 9:30pm
WHERE: Bethlehem Community Church, 183 Moffat Rd, Bethlehem, Tauranga

3. Passionate Apologetics: Five Keys to Confident Sharing the Truth of Christ

Apologetics has a primary key:  the “Foundation of Scripture” that is the main engine/fuel of presenting Christ.  Building on top of this “concrete slab” of scripture are four strong pillars: Science (Evidence of Design), History (Evidence of Biblical Reality), Philosophy (Clear, Logical Thinking), and Transformation (Changed Lives of Christ’s Disciples).  Through these five keys, we can have confidence when explaining and defending the truth of Christ.
WHAT: Lifezone Sunday morning service
WHEN: Sunday 9th December
TIME: 10:00am – 11:30am
WHERE: Lifezone Church, 19 Amber Crescent, Judea, Tauranga

4. C.S. Lewis: Pointer to God and Christ

Non-Christians, even atheists, have a high opinion of C. S. Lewis as a scholar and writer.  Yet few know about his transformation into one of the greatest modern apostles of Christ.  We quickly trace his conversion to Christ from atheism, and shows four ways that Lewis presented Christ – and the truth of God and salvation – to a skeptical world.
WHAT: Bethlehem Baptist Sunday night service
WHEN: Sunday 9th December
TIME: 6:30pm – 8:30pm
WHERE: Bethlehem Baptist Church, 90 Bethlehem Rd, Tauranga

ALL EVENTS ARE FREE OF CHARGE.

 

Online Videos

Dr. Woodward and Dr. James P. Gills M.D. on The Mysterious Epigenome. What lies beyond DNA.

Dr. Woodward interviews Princeton Chemistry Professor Dr. Andrew Bocarsly

Richard Dawkins for Prime Minister

I hear the best politicians these days are the ones who can unashamedly equivocate on the meaning of “is”, or tell the filthiest lies with a straight face and a slick smile.

On the assumption that there’s a shortage of such people in the world, I think it’s imperative we begin the Dawkins for Prime Minister Campaign immediately.

I was tipped off by an editorial in The Guardian yesterday, where Dawkins gives the final word on why he refuses to debate William Lane Craig. It’s a masterful piece of political spin-doctoring. “Don’t feel embarrassed if you’ve never heard of William Lane Craig,” he begins. “He parades himself as a philosopher, but none of the professors of philosophy whom I consulted had heard his name either. Perhaps he is a “theologian”.”

Now, just last night I was watching Stephen Fry’s Planet Word, where he talks about the masterful way Goebbels used language to make the industrial-scale elimination of the Jews seem a perfectly reasonable thing. In fairness, Dawkins is no Goebbels, but he would have made a good propagandist.

Notice how he deftly frames his entire piece with aspersions on Craig’s credentials. From the alleged ignorance among his philosopher friends of Craig’s name, to the scare quotes around “theologian”.

Of course, if Dawkins’s audience were savvy enough to check for themselves, as hopefully at least some of them are, a simple Google search would show what utter garbage this is. Here’s how Wikipedia, hardly a sympathetic source, introduces Craig:

…an American analytic philosopher, philosophical theologian, and Christian apologist. He is known for his work on the philosophy of time and the philosophy of religion, specifically the existence of God and the defense of Christian theism. He has made major contributions to the philosophy of religion and his defense of the Kalam cosmological argument is the most widely discussed argument for the existence of God in contemporary Western philosophy. He has authored or edited over 30 books including The Kalam Cosmological Argument (1979), Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology… [etc]

What should we conclude from the fact that Dawkins’s professors of philosophy haven’t even heard of Craig?

Either that these fellows are quacks, or—more likely—that even in an underpopulated field like philosophy the chances of knowing a fraction of the professionals in your discipline is pretty small. For example, I have a three-pronged profession: copywriting, marketing, and web design. Those combine into a fourth profession called conversion-rate optimization. Do you think I’ve heard of even one tenth of the most successful copywriters, marketers, web designers, and CRO experts? I seriously doubt it.

For some years now, Craig has been increasingly importunate in his efforts to cajole, harass or defame me into a debate with him. I have consistently refused, in the spirit, if not the letter, of a famous retort by the then president of the Royal Society: “That would look great on your CV, not so good on mine”.

What Dawkins means to say is that ever since Craig destroyed the sophomoric arguments in the The God Delusion he has wanted to advance the discussion with Dawkins, and hopefully reveal to all his slavering fanboys how little substance there is to his position. Craig doesn’t want people believing lies—more than can be said for Dawkins, given the rank disingenuousness of his editorial.

Dawkins of course has consistently balked at debating Craig, presumably because he doesn’t want it to be publicly revealed that his arguments haven’t the slightest ability to stand up to rigorous analysis. It wouldn’t look good on his CV.

Craig’s latest stalking foray has taken the form of a string of increasingly hectoring challenges to confront him in Oxford this October. I took pleasure in refusing again, which threw him and his followers into a frenzy of blogging, tweeting and YouTubed accusations of cowardice.

One of the greatest “refutations” you can employ is simply to state the facts with a sarcastic slant that implies only an imbecile would accept them. But the accusations of cowardice are perfectly accurate. Dawkins is a coward in the same way he is a bully. He enjoys notoriety and taking shots at Christianity in a medium where he’s got all the control. He can feel like a big man publishing best-selling books aimed at people with even less schooling in critical thinking than he has. But like any bully, if you confront him and threaten him with a bloody nose, he’s quick to disappear.

Dawkins reminds me of Draco Malfoy after Hermione socked him in the kisser in The Prisoner of Azkaban. “Not a word to anyone, understood? I’m gonna get that jumped-up mudblood, mark my words!” he rants to his friends as they beat a sniveling retreat. Yeah right Malfoy.

I turn down hundreds of more worthy invitations every year, I have publicly engaged an archbishop of York, two archbishops of Canterbury, many bishops and the chief rabbi, and I’m looking forward to my imminent, doubtless civilised encounter with the present archbishop of Canterbury.

Strange—aren’t these people “theologians” with scare quotes? So why are they more worthy than Craig? Could it be because they’ve got less credentials than him? Because they haven’t already published work that obliterates Dawkins’s arguments against God? I guess it’s probably something like that.

After some more accusations of self-promotion, which ring about as hollow as a pot beating on a black kettle, Dawkins turns to Craig’s “dark side”.

You might say that such a call to genocide could never have come from a good and loving God. Any decent bishop, priest, vicar or rabbi would agree. But listen to Craig. He begins by arguing that the Canaanites were debauched and sinful and therefore deserved to be slaughtered.

He then quotes Craig’s defense of God’s actions toward the Canaanite children, concluding: “Do not plead that I have taken these revolting words out of context. What context could possibly justify them?”

Well, not to state the obvious, but an evolutionary context justifies them pretty well. Surely Dawkins can’t have forgotten writing about how “a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make[s] nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not.” Surely he can’t have forgotten that “any crime, however heinous, is in principle to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused’s physiology, heredity and environment.”

If a truly scientific view of the world makes nonsense of blame and responsibility, then certainly there’s no sense in which genocide, or the defense of genocide, is unjustified. There’s no moral dimension to it whatsoever. So why is Dawkins borrowing moral norms he inherited from Christianity to judge Craig, instead of taking the rational approach and admitting there’s no reason whatsoever to condemn genocide, given what he believes?

Well, I suppose it’s because that wouldn’t make for a very good smear campaign.

Would you shake hands with a man who could write stuff like that? Would you share a platform with him? I wouldn’t, and I won’t.

This seems oddly forced coming from the man who looks forward to the day when religion is only tolerated behind bars at zoos. But then, it’s all a giant smokescreen anyway; a diversionary tactic. Dawkins needs to use sleight of hand to direct his audience’s attention toward Craig’s character assassination, so they won’t notice how Craig has already assassinated Dawkins’s arguments—and would do so again given half a chance.

Dawkins is clearly cut out to be a master politician. Let’s get him out of the intellectual sphere and put him where he belongs. Dawkins for Prime Minister!

Update: James Anderson and Oxford historian Tim Stanley have also weighed in with their comments. Anderson is typically incisive, concluding that “In the end, all Dawkins has really told us is that he won’t debate Craig because he finds Craig’s views personally offensive. It’s not that Craig’s views are unethical… It’s just that Dawkins…is disgusted — and that’s all there is to it. Even if that were the real reason for his refusal to debate Craig, it would hardly be a compelling one.”

Common Misconceptions About the Cosmological Argument

Edward Feser:

1. The argument does NOT rest on the premise that “Everything has a cause.”
2. “What caused God?” is not a serious objection to the argument.
3. “Why assume that the universe had a beginning?” is not a serious objection to the argument.
4. “No one has given any reason to think that the First Cause is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, etc.” is not a serious objection to the argument.
5. “The argument doesn’t prove that Christianity is true” is not a serious objection to the argument.
6. “Science has shown such-and-such” is not a serious objection to (most versions of) the argument.
7. The argument is not a “God of the gaps” argument.
8. Hume and Kant did not have the last word on the argument.  Neither has anyone else.
9. What “most philosophers” think about the argument is irrelevant.

Read the full post here.

[HT: Wintery Knight]

Krauss on Craig: “disingenuous distortions, simplifications, and outright lies”

A couple of days ago, Lawrence Krauss released a statement on his recent debate with William Lane Craig over whether there is evidence for God. (If you haven’t watched it, ctrl-click here to view it on YouTube.)

His statement was posted on Pharyngula, the blog of infamous self-styled “godless liberal” PZ Myers, and was also circulated on Richard Dawkins’ forum (the self-styled “clear-thinking oasis”).

Let me make a couple o’ comments on it:

Firstly

It’s clear that the thing I found most embarrassing about Krauss’ part of the debate—his complete lack of understanding of the contingency argument—has in no sense changed.

This argument is about why is there something instead of nothing; it isn’t an argument about causes, as he characterizes it (apparently confusing it with the Kalam Cosmological Argument), but an argument about explanations or reasons. It invokes the Principle of Sufficient Reason: that everything that exists must have a sufficient reason for its existence. Obviously, most of the things we know exist could just as easily not exist; in which case, why do they exist? But we can also see that some things, like the laws of logic, must exist—they exist necessarily. God in the latter category; the universe is in the former. There is nothing about its nature that says it must exist, or that it must exist exactly as it does. This is really not disputed, to my knowledge, among either scientists or philosophers. In fact, the science seems to indicate that the universe could have existed in so many other different ways that we literally cannot conceive of the number. But in that case, we are back to asking why does it exist, and why does it exist as it does? Krauss has no answer.

Read more

James Anderson on the Transcendental Argument

For those who are interested in the merits of the transcendental argument for the existence of God (also known as TAG), James Anderson has posted an interesting article “No Dilemma for the Proponent of the Transcendental Argument: A Response to David Reiter” on his site. The essay, which will appear in the summer issue of Philosophia Christi, is a response to Reiter’s claim that the transcendental argument is either insufficient or superfluous.

God, Absence of Evidence, and the Atheist’s Teapot

Brian Garvey, a lecturer in the philosophy of mind and psychology at Lancaster University, has written an article exploring Russell’s famous celestial teapot. The article, Absence of Evidence, Evidence of Absence, and the Atheist’s Teapot, appears in in the latest volume of Ars Disputandi, a philosophy of religion journal hosted by Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Here’s the abstract:

Atheists often admit that there is no positive evidence for atheism. Many argue that there is nonetheless a prima facie argument, which I will refer to as the ‘teapot argument’. They liken agnosticism to remaining neutral on the existence of a teapot in outer space. The present paper argues that this analogy fails, for the person who denies such a teapot can agree with the person who affirms it regarding every other feature of the world, which is not the case with the atheist vis-a-vis the theist. The atheist is committed to there being an alternative explanation of why the universe exists and is the way it is. Moreover, the analogy relies on assumptions about the prior plausibility of atheism. Hence, the teapot argument fails.

And a quote:

“There is, I want to argue, a significant di fference between denying the existence of a teapot orbiting the sun, and denying the existence of God. When two people disagree over whether or not there is a teapot orbiting the sun, they are disagreeing over whether the world includes that particular item or not. For all that that particular disagreement implies, the two people agree about every other feature of the world: the tea-ist believes in a world that is exactly the same as the one the a-tea-ist believes in, with the single difference that it contains one item that the a-tea-ist’s world doesn’t contain. Since, as I have argued in the previous section, the only thing that could count as evidence for the teapot orbiting the sun is that someone has seen it, it is in one way analogous to a situation where one person says: ‘there’s a postbox at the end of the high street’ and the other person says ‘no there isn’t, go and have a look’, and the first person goes and looks and doesn’t see one. If that person is reasonable, that will be the end of the argument. The two situations are not quite analogous, however, in that no-one has gone and looked to see whether there is a teapot in outer space. But the situations are disanalogous in a second way too, and a way which helps to illuminate why, in the absence of evidence, it is reasonable to conclude that there is no such teapot. That is, that there is nothing manifestly far-fetched in the idea of there being a postbox at the end of the high street. In the absence of seeing one (leaving aside the possibility of more indirect evidence, such as seeing a map of where all the postboxes are at the GPO) one is hardly being unreasonable if one doesn’t come down on one side or the other. And this difference between the postbox and the teapot tells us something about why it is unreasonable to suspend judgement regarding the teapot, even though we have not only failed to see one, but failed to carry out anything remotely approaching an exhaustive search. Because of its manifest far-fetchedness, or what amounts to the same thing, because it’s reasonable in the absence of prior evidence on the specific hypothesis to estimate that it’s highly unlikely, we can say that, when it comes to teapots orbiting the sun, absence of evidence is evidence of absence. The atheist’s argument attempts to gain persuasiveness by ignoring this issue of prior plausibility. It is true that we cannot (at present) conclusively prove that there’s no teapot in outer space in the way that we could conclusively prove that there’s no postbox on the end of the street by going there and looking. But part of the reason why, despite not being able to do this, it is still reasonable to conclude that there isn’t, is that prior to any investigation the hypothesis is manifestly far-fetched. In the postbox case it is not, and thus we can see that absence of evidence, as far as rendering it reasonable to deny something’s existence goes, has different force depending on the case in hand. Unless the existence of God is taken to be also manifestly far-fetched, the argument to the effect that if we don’t suspend judgement regarding the teapot then we shouldn’t suspend it regarding God, doesn’t get off the ground.”

Read the whole thing on the Ars Disputandi website.

(Source: Z)

God, the Cosmos, and Necessary Existence

Dawkins has complained that if theists are allowed to posit the necessary existence of God, then he ought to be allowed to posit necessary existence of the cosmos. There are two problems with this. First, theists do not begin with some arbitrary concept, x and then add on necessary existence. Their reasoning, rather, is that necessary existence is part of the existence of God. If someone were to report, “Oh, God existed at noon today and then perished at 2:00 PM,” we would normally think the person is joking. The concept of God simply is the concept of a being that cannot be vulnerable to nonexistence. Second, there does not appear to be anything in the cosmos or about the cosmos that involves necessary existence. The fact that science must observe the world in order to explain it is evidence that world could have been different. The concept of the cosmos is contingent; various scientific theories explaining the way that the world works may have conditional necessity (a quark must have a certain electric charge, given the prevailing laws of physics), but nothing in or about the cosmos is essentially necessarily existent, nor are the laws of physics themselves necessary. There are current laws of the conservation of energy, but none of them provides any reason to think that energy itself necessarily exists. The mere endurance of some force or event over time, even if it is without beginning, does not itself constitute necessary existence.

Charles Taliaferro and Elsa J. Marty “The Coherence of Theism” in Contending with Christianity’s Critics (B&H Academic 2009), page 188.

7 Reasons God Exists and 3 Reasons It Makes A Difference

Dr. William Lane Craig, Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, presents the case for the existence of God as well as what makes the existence of God significant to all of life.

[vimeo 21523776]

This talk was given at Florida State University in 2009.