Thursday, May 24, 2018

The invisible security guard

Imagine you are a woman who is told your apartment [is] protected by an invisible security guard. An intruder breaks into your apartment and rapes you. The guard is nowhere to be found. You ask the landlord, "Where as your security guard? Either he doesn't exist or is weak or evil or incompetent."

One of your neighbors studies 'invisible scrutiny guard apologetics'. He overhears your conversation. He says, "But if a-guardism is true, there is no security guard. You can't consistently argue against the guard's existence without presupposing his existence."

If you understood why his answer to you completely misses the point, you'll understand why it misses the point for theists to claim that the atheistic argument from evil presupposes theism".

i) This is a hobbyhorse of Jeff Lowder. His point is that an atheist can deploy the argument from evil even if the atheist denies moral realism. In that case, the argument from evil will take the form of an internal critique. Showing that theism or Christianity in particular is inconsistent on its own grounds.

ii) That's technically true, but there's the question of why a moral nihilist cares about the problem of evil. If there are no epistemic duties, why is it important to disprove Christianity?

iii) In addition, an atheist who deploys the argument from evil assumes a burden of proof. Since he's raising the objection, he shoulders a burden of proof to make an argument. Moreover, he needs to take standard Christian theodicies into consideration, and show how those are wanting. It's up to him to make the first move. It's not incumbent on the Christian to recycle standard Christian theodicies. Since those are already on the table, an atheist needs to build that into his initial formulation.

In fairness, that doesn't mean a Christian apologist has no corresponding burden of proof. But an atheist can't shift the burden of proof onto the Christian by simply exclaiming, "How can an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent God permit evil!" Atheists are often lazy in that regard.

iv) The parallel is ill-conceived. If you posit that the apartment is protected by an invisible security guard, then that's his sole job, so if the tenant is attacked, then on the face of it "either he doesn't exist or is weak or evil or incompetent." But the comparison breaks down since protecting humans from harm is not God's only job. Unlike the security guard, God may have a number of priorities. So the analogy is vitiated by disanalogies.

v) And even on its own terms, maybe the security guard was sick that day. Maybe his car broke down. Maybe the landlord failed to get a temporary substitute. Or maybe the security guard had a family crisis which took precedence over his day job. Invisibility doesn't make him omniscient, omnipotent, or omnipresent. So that's a very poor example to illustrate the point.

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