Saturday, February 10, 2007

Why is there something instead of nothing?

john w. loftus said...

"I don't see any reason for God to create anything...anything at all."

Loftus has leveled this objection to David Wood's position. And he also brought it up in his book, Why I Rejected Christianity:

"Why did God create us rather than not create us at all?...This God needed nothing, and they must stress here that God needed NOTHING, otherwise there are problems with the Christian understanding of God needing anything. So why did God create us? Why ruin this prefect existence he previously had?...Why do this at all, if life was already perfect for him" (85-86).

As I've pointed out before, the problem with this objection is that the goodness of the world doesn't add to the goodness of God, since God is not the world. And, by the same token, the badness of the world doesn't subtract from the goodness of God since, once again, God is not the world, or vice versa.

The world does not affect God. It doesn't ruin *his* perfect existence. Life doesn't cease to be perfect *for God* if there is evil in the world.

At the same time, the creation of the world does bring good to some of God's creatures. It is good *for them.*

It is not good for all of them. But those who lose out, justly suffer, and they suffer for a greater good.

One of Loftus' tactics, when his objections have been answered, is to ignore the answers and dust off the same objections in a different forum. Like a crooked businessman who, once he acquires a bad reputation, moves to a new town, Loftus recycles the same discredited objections by finding a new audience, hoping that his reputation won't precede him.

Now, one of the problems with trying to address this objection is that the question is equivocal. By asking what *reason* God may have had, this could either mean:

1. What was God's motive or rationale for creating the world?

Or:

2. What was God's justification or warrant for creating the world?

Loftus seems to be asking #1, but he's really asking #2.

He's trading on #2, and tacitly reading that back onto #1.

That is to say, the unspoken assumption behind his question is that the existence of the world needs to be justified. That there's some antecedent presumption against it.

Not what reason did God have to make the world, but what right did he have?

This ties into the argument from evil, as Loftus's views it. He acts as if making the world were an injustice against its creatures. They were wronged by merely existing.

That would make some sense if he were asking about the existence of a fallen world. But he is conflating two different questions:

1. What reason did God have for making *any* world?

And:

2. What reason did God have for making a *fallen* world?

Now, his objection to #1 is, as we have seen, muddle-headed.

The only antecedent presumption against #1 would be his argument about the creation of *any* world somehow subtracting for the optimal state of God's solitary existence.

But if that object is muddle-headed, then there is no presumption to overcome. No need to *justify* the existence of creation qua creation.

The only direction in which one could find such a negative presumption would be in the creation of a fallen world.

However, the mere existence of evil is insufficient to launch the argument from evil. What is needed, among other things, is the identification of *gratuitous* evil.

And there are only two possible grounds for establishing the existence of gratuitous evil:

1. An external argument from evil, predicated on the unbeliever's value-system;

Or:

2. An internal argument from evil, predicated on the believer's value-system.

A necessary condition to meet in the case #1 is a version of moral realism consistent with secularism.

Another necessary condition to meet the case of #1 is the existence of beings who are capable of suffering pain or injustice.

Conversely, a necessary condition to meet the case of #2 is to show that certain evils are gratuitous in the light of Christian theology *as a whole.*

Loftus has consistently failed on both counts.

He thinks that he can generate a logical dilemma by simply abutting three premises: (i) God is good; (ii) God is sovereign; (iii) there is evil.

But that is a grossly simplistic syllogism because it leaves out of account many other premises in Christian theology which relieve the logical and evidential problem of evil, internally considered.

Loftus generates an artificial dilemma by artificially isolating and limiting the relevant premises to just three in all.

But such an arbitrarily restrictive version of the internal argument from evil is a straw man argument.

13 comments:

  1. Your analysis is both disingenuous and invalid. You read into Loftus' statement an equivocal nature that is not there so that you don't have to deal with the objection he did raise. I strongly doubt Loftus would contend that your god did not have a right to create its creations. He did not raise this issue. Why not deal with the question he did raise? Other statements you made simply make both you and your god indifferent to the evil that exists in the world. That tells me all I need to know about you and your hideous worldview. Thanks!

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  2. Xhadiar said:
    Your analysis is both disingenuous and invalid. You read into Loftus' statement an equivocal nature that is not there so that you don't have to deal with the objection he did raise. I strongly doubt Loftus would contend that your god did not have a right to create its creations. He did not raise this issue.

    ****************

    He raised this very issue, both in his book, and in David Wood's combox. It would behoove you to acquaint yourself with the record before you weigh in.

    "Why not deal with the question he did raise?"

    Which I did.

    "Other statements you made simply make both you and your god indifferent to the evil that exists in the world."

    I wasn't attempting to present a theodicy, but merely to address Loftus' argument on his own grounds.

    "That tells me all I need to know about you and your hideous worldview. Thanks!"

    Your inability to follow an argument tells me all I need to know about you and your irrational worldview. Thanks!

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  3. Steve's right. This is one of Loftus's most common objections. He insists that God, if He exists, would not create anything, since this would imply that God needed something, and therefore was not perfect.

    Hence, since there is something rather than nothing, the Christian must hold that God *gulp* created something. And Loftus thinks that this is absurd.

    Of course, I think that this is one of the worst arguments ever offered by anyone, and a sign of complete, utter pessimism.

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  4. Nothing you wrote answers the question, no matter how you phrase it. But the question is augmented because of the supposed "fallen" nature of this world and the suffering in it as the result.

    Would you be a good person if you knowingly created a world on the back of just one tortured child, especially if you didn't need to do so? Answer me and don't lie.

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  5. "Answer me and don't lie."

    I have never met a Christian who does not lie for his religious beliefs. And I've known a lot of Christians over the years. It is all lies. Neither Steve Hays nor David Wood are capable of resisting their need to lie for their religion, and their religion would not be able to survive without it.

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  6. John W. Loftus said:

    "Nothing you wrote answers the question, no matter how you phrase it."

    Notice that this is a denial rather than a disproof. Loftus is unable to actually identify any defect in my presentation, so he has to fall back on a question-begging denial in lieu of a counterargument.

    "Would you be a good person if you knowingly created a world on the back of just one tortured child, especially if you didn't need to do so? Answer me and don't lie."

    Two problems:

    1.His question implicitly assumes the existence of gratuitous evil ("if you didn't need to do so?").

    I've argued for the nonexistence of gratuitous evil.

    2. Loftus has admitted that in his atheistic outlook, nothing is intrinsically good or evil. So, if, ex hypothesi, he is right, then there are no good or bad persons. And so, if he is right, torturing children isn't intrinsically evil.

    Loftus is the liar. On the one hand, there's the Loftus who retains his intuitive belief in good and evil. On the other hand, there's the self-consciously atheistic version of Loftus who denies moral absolutes. He alternates between one or the other depending on the audience and the pragmatic exigencies of his argument.

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  7. Neither Steve Hays nor David Wood are capable of resisting their need to lie for their religion, and their religion would not be able to survive without it.

    Profound words coming from a man who hides behind a cloak of anonymity.

    "Men in masks cannot be trusted." ~Fezzik

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  8. Would you be a good person if you knowingly created a world on the back of just one tortured child, especially if you didn't need to do so? Answer me and don't lie.

    The "if you didn't need to" phrase is about God. You believe he didn't need to create anything. if he exists I don't see why he did. And my question is about whether YOU would do so based upon what YOU believe.

    So, answer the question, and do not lie.

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  9. John W. Loftus said...

    "The 'if you didn't need to' phrase is about God."

    Yes, I understand that. I never said otherwise.

    "You believe he didn't need to create anything."

    True.

    "if he exists I don't see why he did."

    Because God is generous. He made certain creatures to share in his beatitude.

    "And my question is about whether YOU would do so based upon what YOU believe."

    Based on what I believe, yes. The question answers itself. I'm a Christian. I accept the goodness of God's plan. I don't have a better plan.

    "So, answer the question, and do not lie."

    Done.

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  10. JL: "So, answer the question, and do not lie."

    SH: "Done."

    Anonymous: Steve, he said "don't lie."

    We all know that you're a liar. You really believe God didn't have a good reason for the evil he allows. You really believe God is evil and unjust. But then you tell everyone that you believe otherwise. How can you look at yourself in the mirror? You make us who are interested in the truth, and nothing but the truth, sick.

    Atheists are the best. We are honest. Even though there's no reason for us not to lie, we still don't lie. That makes us better than theists.

    You see, John wasn't lying when he said he would rather be a dog in his wife's house than a human in God's world. That was the truth. John, like any atheist, is brutally honest.

    Steve, wouldn't you rather share a food and water bowl with John than be a human in God's world? Wouldn't you rather clean your anus with your tongue? John would. Be honest now.

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  11. Jeez, Steve, I think you missed the boat on this one.

    A perfect being would not "want" anything, for to want implies a need; a lack of something. And a being with a need is not perfect.

    Why does a perfect being "want" anything? Why does a perfect being "desire" anything unless there is some imperfection that they want to correct?

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  12. Aaron wrote:
    ---
    A perfect being would not "want" anything, for to want implies a need; a lack of something.
    ---

    I understand why you would say that, but I'm not sure it actually follows. Of course, it depends largely on how we define "want" and "need" here. I'll speak generally for now (which means that the following will be necessarily imprecise since I don't know what exact definitons you are using).

    We actually do often want things that we don't need. For instance, I may want to watch the latest movie at the theater; but it's hardly something I need to do. Even if one argues that I "need" some kind of entertainment in my life, that doesn't mean I need the movie theater specifically. It's simply one possibility out of a myriad number of possibilites.

    Thus, the desire for something does not imply the one who desires needs that thing.

    In a similar manner, God may desire to glorify Himself. He can do so in a myriad number of ways. He decided to do so at least in one (and who's to say He didn't in other ways too?): that is, by loving some of those who hate Him to the point that He dies for them while likewise illustrating His justice in others.

    God didn't need to create people, even to accomplish this. He did so of His own Will for His own purposes. None of this requires us to assume God is lacking in any sense, for He could have refrained from doing this, or He could have done things completely differently than He did.

    I think ultimately you are trying to create too much tension between God's simplicity and His freedom. The Bible doesn't hold to this tension, however. Furthermore, you more than likely have the Hellenistic conception of "perfection" in mind, not the Biblical concept of perfection.

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  13. hostus twinkius2/14/2007 12:54 AM

    "You make us who are interested in the truth, and nothing but the truth, sick."

    You know, this is the funniest thing I've read all day.

    Atheists are the best! A-T-H-E-I-S-T, gooOOOOOOO Atheists!

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