I'm going to comment on a post by apostate Jeff Lowder. It's a mock dialogue between an atheist and Christian on the argument from evil, interspersed with Jeff's running commentary. Let's cut the dead wood and sample the core argument:
Natty: Let’s take the hypothesis of indifference (HI), which says that nothing in our universe is the result of good or evil supernatural beings acting from outside our universe. Either there are no supernatural beings or, if they do exist, they are indifferent to our suffering.
Christi: Why does HI explain facts about evil and suffering much better than theism does?
Natty: To be precise, HI doesn’t predict facts about evil and suffering, in part because HI doesn’t even predict the existence of conscious or sentient beings capable of suffering. But HI also doesn’t predict the non-existence of evil and suffering. That’s just the kind of hypothesis HI is.
In contrast, theism predicts the non-existence of at least certain kinds of evil and suffering. So you could say that HI ‘negative explains’ facts about those kinds of evil and suffering much better than theism, in the sense that theism predicts the non-existence of those facts whereas HI makes no such prediction at all.
Christi: I’m not so sure I would agree with you about what you call “facts about those kinds of evil and suffering,” but let’s ignore that for now. Your argument presupposes that evil and suffering are, well, evil. But you’re a naturalist. How can you call anything “evil”? And if you can’t call anything “evil,” then how could facts about evil and suffering be any evidence against God’s existence?
Natty: By itself, naturalism doesn’t say that certain things like rape, murder, and theft are evil. (Notice also, however, that it doesn’t say that those things are good.) That’s just not what naturalism is about. All naturalism says is that there are no supernatural beings.
Natty: True, but the relevant issue is not whether a universal consensus exists, but (1) whether naturalists can consistently believe in objective moral good and evil, and (2) whether the answer to (1) even matters. I do believe there is objective moral good and evil and I think that’s consistent with my naturalism. It’s hard to see how a belief about morality could be inconsistent with another belief (naturalism) which says nothing about morality. But let that pass. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that naturalism entails there is no objective moral good and evil. Even then, you haven’t given a good reason to reject the argument from evil, since that argument compares theism and HI, not theism and naturalism. But to be charitable, let’s pretend that HI says there is no objective moral good or evil. (It doesn’t say that, but let’s pretend it does.)
Natty: The argument from evil attempts to show that some fact about ‘evil’ (whether it be literal evil or some non-normative concept like pain or suffering) somehow undermines a theistic worldview. We’re assuming, for the sake of argument, that HI entails there is no objective moral good and evil (“nihilism”). How, then, is that supposed to affect the argument?
Natty: Agreed. But this isn’t relevant to evidential arguments from evil, since such arguments don’t require that “bad stuff” be bad in an objective moral sense. All such arguments require is that “bad stuff” happens, which it does. The upshot, then, is that even if HI did entail nihilism, that would do nothing to undermine evidential arguments from evil.
When an atheist constructs a mock dialogue between an atheist and a Christian, there's not much suspense concerning which side will win the argument. I wasn't holding my breath. Even so, Jeff's argument is a conspicuous failure:
i) A key premise of the argument is that "theism predicts the nonexistence of at least certain kinds of evil and suffering."
a) To begin with, mere theism doesn't predict for the nonexistence of evil. In principle, mere theism is consistent with a malevolent god. So Jeff is tacitly defining "theism" to include divine benevolence.
Jeff has an odd habit of using generic "theism" when he really means Christian theism, or something analogous.
b) But even with that caveat, notice that he simply asserts that "theism predicts the nonexistence of at least certain kinds of evil and suffering." He offers no supporting argument for that claim, even though it's a key premise of the argument.
c) In addition, the claim is vitiated by equivocation. On his own definition, his argument must show that the world contains the kinds of evil whose nonexistence theism (alleged) predicts. The fact (if it is a fact) that the world contains evil is insufficient to prove his point, for his claim is more specific. It is not enough for the world to contain evil; rather, it must contain "certain kinds of evil and suffering" whose nonexistence theism (allegedly) predicts. So he needs a supporting argument to show that the world contains the pertinent kinds of evil. Not just any kind of evil (or evils) will do.
So his argument fails on two counts:
d) He fails to show that theism predicts for the nonexistence of certain kinds of evils
e) Even assuming (d), he fails to show that the world contains the kinds of evils in question.
ii) In addition, he says evidential arguments from evil don’t require that “bad stuff” be bad in an objective moral sense. All such arguments require is that “bad stuff” happens, which it does.
That, however, is yet another assertion in search of an argument. He is, in effect, claiming that theism predicts the nonexistence of "bad stuff" that isn't bad in an objective moral sense. But what reason is there to accept that claim?
iii) Then he says "All naturalism says is that there are no supernatural beings…It’s hard to see how a belief about morality could be inconsistent with another belief (naturalism) which says nothing about morality."
At the risk of stating the obvious, the question is whether God's nonexistence has implications for moral realism. In fact, many prominent secular philosophers admit that atheism leads to moral relativism, nihilism, or fictionalism.
To claim that naturalism says nothing about morality is intellectually nearsighted. A proposition which explicitly negates one thing may implicitly negate another.
iv) Finally, he says nihilism is irrelevant to the argument from evil.
That's a typical blindspot on the part of atheists. They treat moral and existential nihilism as a throwaway concession. "Let's grant that atheism entails nihilism. But that doesn't undermine the argument from evil. So having granted the nihilistic implications of atheism, let's get back to the business of constructing Bayesian arguments from evil.
Atheists like Jeff act as if nihilism is a red herring. But that misses the point. Atheism generates a dilemma: it's a losing proposition if false, but it's a losing proposition if true.
Suppose I'm 25. I go to the doctor complaining of back pain. He runs some tests and schedules me to return in a seek. We then have the following conversation:
Physician: Well, Steve, I have good news and bad news. Which would you like to hear first?
Steve: I guess the good news.
Physician: On average, men your age have another 50 years ahead of you. Statistically, you have a high likelihood of living past 70.
Steve: That's great, Doc! So what's the bad news.
Physician: You have lymphatic cancer, so you will be dead in six months.
Now, the fact that this patient has lymphatic cancer doesn't invalidate the actuarial charts. It does, however, moot their relevance for him.
To take another comparison, consider the film On the Beach. In that movie, life in the northern hemisphere was annihilated by thermonuclear strikes and counterstrikes between Russia and the US. But the Aussies temporarily survived, because their country didn't take a direct hit.
However, they are doomed, for radioactive fallout will overtake Australia is about 5 months. The question, then, is what do you do with your remaining time when you know you soon will be dead? Does that make life more meaningful or less meaningful? Does civil order break down? Or do people continue going to work because they have nothing better to do with their time, and that structures their lives?
Jeff is like one of the doomed Aussies. He's a global warming activist. He won't let the impending demise of the human race deflect attention away from the cause. That's a distraction.
You see, the imminent extinction the human race does nothing to falsify the evidence for global warming. Therefore, Jeff cycles to work every day to finalize his 10-year plan to counteract global warming. If you hope to have world to leave our kids and grandkids, you need to get ahead of this environmental crisis.
Likewise, he waters the lawn every day when he returns home. Trims the shrubs and pulls the dandelions.
Now, in a sense his position is strictly logical. The evidence for global warming is logically independent of evidence that the human race will cease to exist in 5 months.
However, the fate of the human race has a direct bearing on the relevance of his project. By the same token, why continue watering grass when the arrival of radioactive dust-clouds will permanently deaden the flora?
Atheists like Jeff suffer from such tunnel vision. If atheism entails moral and existential nihilism, then that's a lost cause–even if it were true.
The point is not that nihilism necessarily falsifies the argument from evil. You might be able to rehabilitate an internal argument from evil, assuming nihilism is true.
But even if it's not logically germane, it is existentially germane. If, according to atheism, human life has no objective value, then why keep smashing your car into that blind alley? Why hit the wall, reverse, then hit it again and again?
Would it not be more reasonable to say it's a position that disqualifies itself, and pursue the prospects of an alternative which, if true, is more promising? Why give atheism any further consideration once you realize it leads to moral and existential nihilism?
Apostates like Jeff have this lingering sense of duty. He's like a civil engineer who keeps the traffic lights operational after the city was abandoned decades ago. The streets are deserted, but the traffic lights still work. Most atheists suffer from terminal silliness. The value of their efforts is mooted by their conclusion. If they were reasonable, they'd begin with their conclusion, then give up, or explore something worthwhile instead.