Saturday, May 10, 2008

Damned if you do, and damned if you don't

Why do many people feel that everlasting punishment is unjust?

1.One factor may be social conditioning. In modern penology, there’s a correlation between crime and time. The convict is sentenced to serve a certain amount of time behind bars. He receives a shorter sentence for a lesser offense, or a longer sentence for a graver offense.

But this is a modern development. And it has nothing to do with the retributive theory of punishment. Rather, it’s predicated on the remedial theory of punishment. Rehabilitating the offender by sending him to a “penitentiary” or “reformatory” or “corrections facility.”

On the face of it, there’s no intrinsic correlation between time and crime. The original idea was to give the offender enough time to think over his crimes, experience remorse, and mend his ways.

But the assignment of different intervals of incarceration for different types of crime is quite artificial.

2.Apropos (1), modern penology also metes out a harsher or more lenient sentence depending on whether the convict is remorseful. Why do we draw that distinction? Did, say, the Code of Hammurabi care about whether an offender was remorseful or not? Or is this another modern development?

I suspect it reflects a residual Christian outlook. In Christian theology, we do distinguish between penitent and impenitent sinners.

However, contrition is not, of itself, a mitigating factor. In Christian theology, a sinner is forgiven, not merely because he is contrite, but because he is redeemed. It assumes the principle of penal substitution, which is a form of (vicarious) retributive punishment.

I suspect that both (1) & (2) reflect a secularized theory of redemption. They were influenced by Christian theology, but have lost sight of its necessary underpinnings.

3.I think opponents of hell also operate with the unquestioned assumption that the duration of hell is, of itself, punitive. That part of what makes a punishment punitive is the duration of the punishment.

It’s possible that this is true. If, for example, you were to punish someone by torturing him, then it’s worse to be in agony for a longer period of time.

BTW, I’m not saying that torture is an appropriate form of punishment. I’m just using this to illustrate the intuition that the duration of punishment is, itself, a punitive exercise.

4.But we might also question this assumption. After all, any punishment is going to take place in time. So the temporal aspect may just be a necessary, but incidental, mode of punishment.

On the face of it, there’s no intrinsic relationship between time and peccancy. Mere passage of time doesn’t make you any less culpable.

It may be that hell is everlasting precisely because peccancy is a timeless property. Once you do something wrong, that will always be true. It will not be any less true 10 years from now, or a 100, or a 1000.

Since the lapse of time is irrelevant to your guilt, it’s irrelevant to your just deserts. You never cease to be guilty.

In Christian theology, what absolves a sinner of guilt is not the passage of time, but atonement. And a sinner cannot atone for his sin. So unless a sinner is redeemed, he remains in his state of sin.

5.Human beings trivialize wrongdoing because we couldn’t survive unless we cut each other some slack. So it’s easy to forget that once wrong, always wrong. If I ever did something wrong, that never goes away.

Of course, some people are wracked with guilt. It crushes them.

But like a field medic who becomes inured to the sight of pain and suffering, many of us have become inured to our own wrongdoing. It’s a defense mechanism. That’s the only way an unbeliever can get through the day.

This makes it difficult for a sinner to appreciate the justice of hell.

6.Finally, the opponent of hell may have it backwards. Everlasting punishment might actually be less than the damned deserve. For even though the punishment is unending, it’s not a punishment which the damned experience all at once. The perception of time is incremental. I can only suffer so much at one time because I can only process so much at one time. So my punishment is meted out small doses.

Time is a limit. Time is linear. And the experience of time is successive. Hence, temporal punishment is always limited, even if it never comes to an end. For the intensity of the punishment is spread out over time. Diluted by time.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Frankfurt-Examples and Moral Responsibility

When Reppert gives links for arguments I give links for counter-arguments.

Robert Allen discusses criticisms of Frankfurt counter-examples: "Below, I respond to four recent attempts to show that "Frankfurt cases," as examples structurally identical to Frankfurt’s have come to be known, fail of their purpose. In the first, I expose a misconception of what it is to be disadvantaged. My challenge to the second stems from its reliance upon the notion of "moral luck." The third, while conceding that Frankfurt cases do falsify PAP in regards to "complex" actions like casting a ballot, argues that they can not be used to do the same vis-a`-vis "simple" mental acts such as taking a decision. By appealing to the connection between assessments of character and judgments of moral responsibility, I intend to show that this dichotomy does not hold. I close with a discussion of a libertarian alternative to PAP."

Libertarian Robert Kane agrees that Frankfurt cases show that one can be morally responsible for a particular action even though he couldn't have done otherwise just as long as he was libertarian free in forming is character in the past. Robert Allen responds: "The consensus among free will theorists is that an agent can will freely to * without presently being able to form another volition. Frankfurt cases have helped to secure this agreement. It is still an open question, however, whether someone could be willing freely to * if there was nothing that she could have done to keep from forming that volition, her character having been determined."

John Martin Fischer on Frankfurt-Examples and Moral Responsibility: Fischer's a leading expert in this field.

Christian mourning

“I was also intrigued by Georges Rey's paper ‘Meta-atheism: Religious Avowal as Self-Deception.’ Many of us skeptics have had occasion to wonder if some of the religious people we encounter really believe in what they insist they do. We get further suspicious when some of their behavior seems to fit badly with their beliefs: why, for example, all the devastation and mourning if a loved one really has gone on to a wonderful afterlife?”

The social and theological naïveté of this objection is downright comical.

1.To begin with, orthodox Christians don’t assume that every loved who dies is heavenbound. Not every loved one is a Christian when he dies. So the expectation is that we will not be reunited with all our loved ones in the hereafter.

We may, of course, be pleasantly surprised by what we find. But that’s not something we can count on. There’s no presumption that if I’m a Christian, then all my loved ones have a ticket to heaven.

It reflects a self-reinforcing ignorance on the part of Edis and Rey that they operate with such a faulty knowledge of the faith they’re so quick to criticize.

2. Then there’s the absurd equation between belief and feeling. I wonder if it’s coincidental that both men are scientists by training. Is that why they’re so out of touch with ordinary human psychology?

We have no direct control over how we feel. Suppose two friends love the same woman. That is going to put a strain on the friendship.

Suppose she chooses to marry Jim instead of John. Logically, John should be happy for Jim. After all, Jim is John’s best friend. He should be glad that Jim got to marry the love of his life. It should make John happy to see his best friend so happy.

That’s all very gallant, very noble. Be a good sport. May the best man win!

And it’s also utterly and totally unrealistic. John is going to resent the fact that Jim married the woman John wanted to marry. He will be envious. Jealous. Maybe bitter.

John knows that it’s wrong for him to feel this way. Jim didn’t cheat him out of this woman. She chose Jim over John. What was Jim supposed to do? Refuse her?

Yet John can’t help feeling that his best friend betrayed him. Stole her away from him. He knows that isn’t true. But his head can’t silence his heart.

3. Suppose I do expect to be reunited with my loved ones in heaven? Is it irrational for me to grieve?

Take a poor family in Ireland. Their only son decides to emigrate to America to make a better life for himself and his parents. When he’s made enough money, he’ll send for them.

Does this mean that the parents shouldn’t grieve when they wave good-bye as they watch his ship leave port? After all, he’s going to a better place. The land of opportunity. After all, they hope to see him again.

But of course they’ll mourn the separation. And while they expect to be reunited with their son in the new world, they don’t know when that will be—which makes the separation all the more painful to endure.

Christianity & Libertarianism

I propose three brief arguments against the conjunction of some fairly basic, historic, and (mainly) uncontroversial Christian doctrines with libertarian free will. Some of the cash value of these arguments can be applied to the current debate both Hays and I have been engaged in with Victor Reppert. Given his statements on freedom and moral responsibility, some highly problematic propositions follow. Propositions Reppert wouldn’t, apparently, want to jettison.

I’ll quote some claims Reppert has advanced or agreed with in the context of our debate.

“By libertarian freedom is meant freedom such that the agent who makes a choice is really able, under exactly the same circumstances, to chose something different from the thing that is in fact chosen [...,] this means that there is nothing whatever that predetermines which choice will be made, until the creature is actually placed in the situation and makes that decision” (Hasker, Debates in Philosophy of Religion, ibid, 219, emphasis original).

“Determinism: For every event which happens, there are previous events and circumstances which are its sufficient conditions or causes, so that, given those previous events and circumstances, it is impossible that the event should not occur” (Reppert quoting Hasker).

“if determinism is true everyone's actions are the inevitable result of causes outside the agent's control, and that if this is so, it is unjust to treat agents as if they were responsible for those actions in the final analysis” (Reppert).

“In the cases given [cases whether someone is morally responsible], isn't it the case that you could have chosen otherwise” (Reppert)
I also assume that because of his endorsement of Hasker’s definition of “determinism” Reppert would endorse Plantinga’s definition of “significant freedom.” Significant freedom involves the agent being free to perform or refrain from an action because no antecedent conditions and/or causal laws determine what the agent will do.”

I will also assume that Reppert’s claims about moral responsibility do not just attach to blameworthy actions but praiseworthy actions as well. Just like someone cannot be blamed for doing what they were determined to do, they could not be praised, either. So, “moral responsibility” should be read in this wide sense.

Pretty clearly, then, Reppert holds to libertarian freedom such that “nothing whatever that predetermines which choice will be made,” and this kind of freedom is required “to treat agents as if they were responsible for those actions,” because to be held morally responsible for your actions it is “the case that you could have chosen otherwise.”

With these reasonable assumptions in mind, I’ll now offer three critiques.

I. God’s Freedom

Almost all Christians have agreed that God is perfectly good. When the question is posed to Christians as to if God could command that, say, rape is good, the response is that he could not because that would be contrary to his nature. When asked if God could sin, the answer is that he could not because he is necessarily good. The Bible even indicates that it is “impossible” for God to lie (Heb. 618). The Bible tells us that God is love (I John 4:8, 16). Universalists have stressed this so much (even minimizing other attributes) that God cannot not love anyone.

Christians have agreed with premises that have been used to make up an Ontological Argument (even if they disagree with the argument as a whole). For example, many Christians agree that:

[1] A being has maximal greatness in a given world only if it has maximal excellence in every world.

[2] A being has maximal excellence in a given world only if it has omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfections in that world.

(Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil, p. 108).

Victor has objected to the Calvinist’s God on “moral grounds.” Such that a being who did the things we say God did (and does), could not be good. And, since God is necessarily good, he could not do those things. If he did, he would not be God but he would be an “Omnipotent Fiend.”

Reppert has written,

“God, by definition, is a being who is omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly good. A being who predestines people for everlasting punishment doesn't meet the third requirement, and therefore isn't God.”
Pretty clearly, a long standing and accepted view of traditional theism is that “it is impossible for God, in virtue of his nature, to sin. But this means that his nature determines that in moral matters he has only one option; he must always choose the good” (Feinberg, No One Like Him, p.730).

The problem that arises should be self-evident by now. How does God bear moral responsibility? That is, how is he a subject of ascribing blame or praise? Indeed, since God cannot do otherwise that good in moral matters, then he cannot be morally responsible in the broad sense where praise can be given to him for his actions. Furthermore, since his nature determines his actions, then he does not have libertarian freedom (at the very least when it comes to matters of morality). If we knew what the good choice was in any given situation, we could, without fail, predict what God was going to do, every time. Would Victor call a human who did what he could not but help to do, good? Can we predict, without fail, the choices of an agent who had libertarian freedom? If something determined that I helped old ladies cross the street, Victor would not call me good. Would not see me as a subject worthy of praise (or blame if I did something wrong).

Thus Victor’s infatuation with libertarian freedom has severe implications for holding to a God who is essentially good, who’s nature makes it impossible for him to sin or be the actor who commits evil.

But all of this is absurd. Christians, like Victor, all agree that God is worthy of praise. That we can praise his good acts. Call him morally good. That when he doesn’t lie he’s not like a robot, but a free agent. That when he sends his son to die for people, he’s not acting as a robot, or a puppet. He is acting good, and can be praised for that action. This implies that a human can be held morally responsible, a subject of ascriptions of praise or blame, even if he could not do otherwise. If not, why the ad hoc move when it comes to God?

Victor has claimed that if a belief interfered with his strong belief that God is good, or that God deserves praise from the heavenly choir, he would drop that belief. He would be ready to drop the belief in the inerrancy of Scripture, even. Therefore, he should, to be internally consistent, drop his belief in the necessity of libertarian freedom for free will or for moral responsibility.

II. Jesus’ Morally Exemplarily Life

This argument is fairly simple. Much of the leg work was done above. It is the predominate view that Jesus was impeccable. This means that Jesus was unable to sin. Jesus deserves all praise and honor (Rev. 5:13). He is to be commended for withstanding Satan’s temptation (Matt. 4:1-11; Heb, 2:18, 4:15). Jesus was truly human. As human as you or I (but without the taint of, or ability to, sin). Clearly, then, given the above constraints on morally responsibility and freedom, Jesus was not a morally responsible agent (or free, at least with respect to moral actions). He is not a fitting subject for praise or blame. But this is absurd. So if Jesus, a true human, can be held morally responsible for his actions (his perfect righteousness, law-keeping, role as the second Adam), even though he couldn’t do otherwise, then so can we. Thus there is not a problem of accepting moral responsibility and denying PAP within the Christian worldview. Indeed, it looks as if that constraint may be false given the truth of some basic and fairly uncontroversial historic Christian teaching.

III. The Perfection of the Saints in Heaven

It is standard fair to say that Christians will be unable to sin in heaven. That there is not a possibility of a second fall, as it were. We will never choose evil. This is certain. Out of two options, a good one A and an evil one B, choosing B will be impossible. There is no alternative possibility. No chance a sinful choice can be instantiated in the new heavens and earth.

Given the above, it is fairly obvious what follows. Since we are morally responsible subjects in heaven, and we may properly be commended for our righteous behavior, and we will not be able to sin, and we will be free, Reppert’s necessary and sufficient conditions for what counts as freedom and moral responsibility do not fit within the Christian worldview.

Time & crime

victor reppert said...

“Second, you mentioned a murderous child molester and you ask if I think it deserves an infinite punishment. The answer is no, it deserves great punishment surely (assuming he's responsible for his actions) but a punishment of infinite duration? That makes no sense. A repentant child molester deserves punishment but not one of infinite duration. An unrepentant molester is compounding his offenses.”

i) I see that Reppert chose to duck my question. I didn’t ask him if I he thought this crime merited infinite punishment. I already know what his answer is. Indeed, my question presupposes his opposition to everlasting retributive punishment.

Rather, I asked him to spell out his alternative. So, he answers a question I didn’t ask while ducking the question I did ask.

Reppert thinks that his moral intuitions are sufficiently reliable to say that a punishment of “infinite” duration makes no sense.

In that event, his moral intuitions should be sufficiently reliable enough to say what would be a suitable punishment. What kind of punishment? For what duration?

To say “it deserves great punishment” is a copout. Unless his moral intuition is reliable enough to come up with a specific alternative, then why is his moral intuition reliable enough to rule out the opposing thesis?

ii) In addition, as I’ve already pointed out, Reppert is setting up a false antithesis between “finite” and “infinite.”

a) Unending duration is a potential infinite, not an actual infinite. Put another way, unending duration is an actual finite at any point along the temporal continuum.

There’s an unfortunate pattern to the way Reppert argues for his position. He will make a sloppy statement. When you correct him, he will repeat the same sloppy statement. It’s as if he made up his mind about everything at the age of 25.

b) Perhaps a B-theorist would argue that time constitutes an actual infinite. But that move won’t work for a libertarian. If time is a given totality, then the future is determinate rather than indeterminate. A libertarian is logically committed to the A-theory of time.

c) More to the point, as I also mentioned, even if the duration of hell were an actual infinite, the damned don’t experience an actual infinite. They only experience time in finite units.

iii) What makes Reppert think there’s any inherent relation between guilt and the duration of the punishment? Does a murderous child molester become incrementally less peccant with the passage of time?

Does peccancy have a temporal decay rate? If you live long enough, do you gradually pass from a state of guilt to a state of innocence?

Is the murderous child molester 100% peccant at the time he commits the crime, 50% peccant 5 years later, 25% peccant 10 years later, &c?

iv) Why does Reppert think it makes any difference whether the murderous child molester is penitent or impenitent? Is this another one of his moral intuitions?

Frankfurt counterexamples

Victor Reppert: “I must say I don't understand the fuss about Frankfurt's counterexamples…Look, don't these examples all founder on a failure to distinguish between choosing freely and carrying out the choice effectively.”

Far from failing to draw that distinction, it seems to me that these examples are designed to reinforce that distinction.

“In the cases given, isn't it the case that you could have chosen otherwise. You have what is ex hypothesi a libertarian free choice. Of course, if you had chosen otherwise, unbeknownst to you, you would have been prevented from carrying out the choice. But the choice was free.”

Why is it morally significant to have the ability to carry out a choice that you chose to bypass in favor of another choice?

A king offers a suitor an apparent choice between two daughters: the blond and the redhead. Unbeknownst to the suitor, the king has no intention of allowing his blond daughter to marry the suitor.

But, as it turns out, the suitor is only interested in the redhead. So, in that case, what does it matter if the suitor was never able to execute the alternative?

That would only be morally significant if he chose to marry the blond, but was unable to carry out his wish.

How does it impose a morally significant infringement on my freedom of choice if, unbeknownst to me, I’d be prevented from acting on a choice I never chose to act on?

“It is in the last analysis unfair to punish (or reward) someone for the inevitable results of past causes.”

That’s a rather sweeping statement. Suppose I get drunk. I then drive home. On the way home I hit a pedestrian at a crosswalk.

Is it unfair if I’m punished for manslaughter or vehicular homicide? My intoxication inevitably impaired my driving skills. But am I not responsible for getting drunk and driving drunk?

Will Reppert say the accident was not inevitable? So what? The accident doesn’t have to be inevitable for me to be culpable. I’m culpable because I took an unnecessary risk.

Will Reppert say that driving drunk is not an inevitable result of getting drunk? But in my inebriated condition, I lack the judgment to refrain from driving drunk.

“But there is a degree of punishment each crime deserves. But no crime ever deserves an infinite penalty. On a retributive view of hell, at least according to most Calvinist theology I have run across, sin, all sin, even the sin of our federal head Adam, deserves an infinite amount of punishment.”

I’ve already responded to this objection. When Reppert raises an objection, one or more of his opponents respond, and he exhumes the same objection the next time around as if nothing was said by way of reply, that reflects poorly on his quest for the truth.

If Reppert is going to say that eternal punishment disproportionate to the sin, then it’s incumbent on him to state what, exactly, would constitute a proportionate penalty. It won’t do to keep speaking in the abstract.

Let’s say a pedophile kidnaps a five-year-old girl from the playground. Over the next two months, he rapes her, sodomizes her and tortures her before he finally buries her alive.

According to Reppert, what punishment does the pedophile deserve? What kind of punishment? For what duration? If Reppert were God, what would he do to the pedophile?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Pity party

john w. loftus said...

“Some of the most mean spirited people on the web toward us apostates are Calvinists.”

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this is true, why does Loftus care how people treat him? Remember, Loftus is a moral relativist. So he can’t very well say that we’re wronging him if we’re mean to him.

Like every other unbeliever, Loftus is living a lie. He pretends that atheism is a liberating experience. He’s no longer hobbled by the shackles of the Christian faith. Yet Loftus doesn’t live by his creed.

It isn’t quite correct for Van Til to say that unbelievers are living off of the borrowed capital of Christian theism. It isn’t borrowed—it’s stolen.

Loftus continues to think that everyone should be nice to him even though his worldview commits him to moral nihilism. He’s a fake and a fraud.

“Because I am a reprobate and going to hell, then with their God they feel justified in treating me just like their God does, and I find that utterly repulsive.”

Well, there is a certain logic in treating people the way God treats them. Should a Christian treat people better than God treats them?

That said, the way I deal with Loftus has nothing specific to do with my Calvinism. Rather, it’s dictated by two other considerations:

i) I treat Loftus like an enemy of the faith because he has made himself an enemy of the faith. Loftus is like a suicide bomber who whines about how the Marines treat him like an enemy combatant. Well, if you strap on a shaheed belt, you may have that effect on other people.

If Loftus weren’t such a militant, outspoken atheist, I’d handle him differently. But when he attacks the Christian faith, I reserve the right to counterattack.

ii) He’s a dishonest opponent. He raises an objection to the Christian faith. I (and others) answer him on his own grounds. His response is to repeat himself. Recycle the same refuted objections.

If he offered respectable objections, his objections would be treated with respect. When his objections are disreputable, they richly merit my disrespect.

“Their theology not only creates atheists, as Clark Pinnock wrote, but it also motivates me like no other 'respectable' theology to debunk the Christian faith.”

Loftus keeps trotting out this silly complaint. How would Calvinism create an atheist? Calvinism is not the only theological option on the table. What about Lutheranism or Arminianism or Catholicism or Orthodoxy, &c.?

Logically, the only reason that Calvinism would create an atheist is if a man perceives that Calvinism presents the most candid and consistent interpretation of the Bible, and the very clarity of Calvinism leaves the him bereft of any theological fallback position.

Why would Loftus find that objectionable? Does he think that people should be Christians under false pretenses? That they should be kept from facing the Bible squarely and thinking through the implications of their theology?

Why wouldn’t Loftus appreciate the fact that Calvinism cuts through all of the confusions and evasions and narrows down the range of alternatives to a stark choice between atheism and Reformed theism?

Doesn’t Loftus want to bring the issue to a head? Push the fence-riders off their perch, forcing them to come down on one side or the other?

I’m reminded of John Derbyshire, the cradle Anglican, who lost his nominal faith in middle age when, for the first time in his life, he sat down and actually read through the Thirty-Nine Articles:

“My Christianity was of the watery, behavioral Anglican variety…I was once hanging around in the National Review offices talking to an editor (since departed) who was also an Anglican, though an American one — which is to say, an Episcopalian. We got to talking about the Thirty-Nine Articles that define Anglican faith. Did she actually know any of the articles, I asked? No, she confessed, she didn’t. I admitted that I didn’t either. We looked them up on the Internet. There we were, two intelligent and well-educated Anglicans, a fiftysomething guy and a thirtysomething lady, gazing curiously at the articles of the faith we had professed all our lives.”

“Working in America, and especially exchanging e-mails for several years with National Review readers, I lost my Anglican innocence. Take a fish out of water, it dies; take an Englishman out of Anglican England, his faith takes a blow. It doesn’t necessarily die — I know plenty of cases where it didn’t — but people of really feeble faith, like mine, need every possible support, and emigration knocks one prop away. In America, at any rate for most conservatives (taking my Episcopalian colleague as an exception), you are actually supposed to think about your faith, and even, for heaven’s sake, read about it!”

Birds of a feather

“I will call no being good who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creatures; and if such a creature can sentence me to hell for not so calling him, to hell I will go.”

—John Stuart Mill

“Is it necessary that Heaven should borrow its light from the glare of Hell? Infinite punishment is infinite cruelty, endless injustice, immortal meanness. To worship an eternal jailer hardens, debases, and pollutes even the vilest soul. While there is one sad and breaking heart in the universe, no good being can be perfectly happy.”

—Robert Ingersoll

“The God of Hell should be held in loathing, contempt and scorn. A God who threatens eternal pain should be hated, not loved — cursed, not worshiped. A heaven presided over by such a God must be below the lowest hell. I want no part in any heaven in which the saved, the ransomed and redeemed will drown with shouts of joy the cries and sobs of hell — in which happiness will forget misery, where the tears of the lost only increase laughter and double bliss.”

—Robert Ingersoll

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

—Richard Dawkins

“The God of Calvinism scares me; I'm not sure how to distinguish him from the devil. If you've come under the influence of Calvinism, think about its ramifications for the character of God. God is great but also good.”

—Roger Olson

“Now, let's suppose that a thorough study of Scripture reveals to me that Calvinism is in fact true, that is, the being in charge of the universe is indeed a Calvinistic God who has predestined some to eternal life and some to everlasting punishment. The Omnipotent One does exist, and God is a reprobator. At first, as I discover this, I ask myself if I might be mistaken in thinking that this reprobating deity would not be good. However, depressingly for me, my intuitions don't budge. It seems true all right that the Omnipotent One has predestined some to heaven and some to hell, but I find that I can't worship Him. I remain convinced that the creature can say to the creator ‘Why hast thou made me thus.’ Given the fact that I have now agreed that Calvinism has the facts right, how do you now persuade me that this is right. Yes, I am headed for a showdown with the Almighty in which I stick my finger in the Almighty's face and tell him that I won't worship him since I can't see him as good. Prudentially, I ought to change my mind. But if the world were ruled by an Omnipotent Fiend, then these same considerations would still be present.”

—Victor Reppert

“The ‘god’ of calvinism is a gruesome and sadistic person, and he is not the God revealed in scripture. They say that we become like the God that we worship, Hays illustrates this quite well: he is just as nasty and ornery as the ‘god’ he wants to believe exists.”


“God is not vindictive and does not practice sadism. The lurid portrayals of hellfire in the Christian tradition contradict God’s identity, according to the gospel.”

—Clark Pinnock

“There is a powerful moral revulsion against the traditional doctrine of the nature of hell. Everlasting torture is intolerable from a moral point of view because it pictures God acting like a bloodthirsty monster who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for his enemies whom he does not even allow to die. How can one love a God like that?”

—Clark Pinnock

Arminianism and the Problem of Evil

(I actually think Arminianism has many problems of evil. This post is meant to take one of their objections to Calvinism and apply it to them. Show their constant use of self-excepting arguments. I have listed some problems they have in other posts of mine.)

Acts 2:22-23; Acts 4:27-28

"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. . . Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen."

Most Arminians admit that God decreed the death of Jesus.

But not any ole death would do. If Jesus died falling off of a roof top, how would that save mankind?

No, he had to be intentionally put to death by humans. Slain like a lamb. A lamb slain before the foundation of the world, at that!

He furthermore had to be innocent.

So, what do we call the intentional putting to "death" of an innocent man by the hands of other men?

We call that murder.

So, if God decreed Jesus' death, he decreed his murder.

Murder is evil.

If you decree a murder, you decree an evil.

Therefore, God decreed evil.

Here's one Arminian, who we know is a hardcore, orthodox Arminian. We know it from his time commenting here. He goes by the name "Robert." Here's a portion of a conversation that took place at Reppert's blog:

Mike: "Biblical revelation identifies that God decreed the . . . death of Jesus Christ . . ."

Robert: "I would agree with [that]"

Me: Since Jesus was innocent, his death would be murder. Murder is evil. So, Robert just admitted that God decrees evil acts!

But we have been told by Reppert that: If S decrees an evil act E, then S is morally blameworthy with respect to E.

Perhaps an Arminian will respond: "No, Jesus' death was not guaranteed. People could have invoked their 'freedom' and not murdered him at all."

So God's plan of salvation could have been foiled? "And I would have gotten away with it, if it wasn't for you meddling kids!"

Jesus could have come down and had no one kill him. What then? Retire in some villa on the Mediterranean?

I mean, God promised Adam and Eve that he would provide a savior. That he would provide man a way back.

If he couldn't guarantee the murder, why make the promise?

Is it immoral to make promises you might not be able to keep?

Or was the promise conditional? "I'll save you as long as you don't mess it up."

So, if God didn't decree the death of Jesus, i.e., make it certain, then we have absurd results - like Jesus retiring on the Mediterranean; or, Jesus running up to people saying, "Guys, hear me out, you just have to kill me. You have to. See, I'm really the God-man. I came down here to save you people, so you have to murder me. That's how the plan works, see. If you don't, I can't save you. So, please, please, murder me!"

Or we have God making promises he couldn't keep. (Or, perhaps Reppert will make his, "Well then I'll just deny inerrancy," move.)

So, God decreed Jesus' death.

That death was by murder.

God decreed murder.

Murder is evil.

God decreed evil.

The Arminian might say, "But God had a good reason for it. That makes it okay."

But that's what us Calvinists say.

The Arminian might respond, "But tell me the good reason for every single thing God does."

Which means: "If I don't know the good reason, there isn't a good reason."

But that's "just plain ludicrous."

Or, the height of autonomous man's arrogance: "If I can't see or fathom or understand how God could turn E for some good, then there isn't a good."

But that's "just plain ludicrous."

As Bergmann and Howard-Snyder comment:

[An] aspect of [this] inference should make us wary. ...[I]t takes 'the insights attainable by finite, fallible human beings as an adequate indication of what is available in the way of reasons to an omniscient, omnipotent being." But this is like supposing that when you're confronted with the activity or productions of a master in a field in which you have little expertise, it is reasonable for you to draw inferences about the quality of her work just because you 'don't get it.' You've taken a year of high school physics. You're faced with some theory about quantum phenomena, and you can't make heads or tales of it. Certainly it is unreasonable for you to assume that more likely than not you'd be able to make sense of it" (Bergman & Snyder, Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion, p. 18-19).

But, I go further. Their analogies were between creatures and not between creatures and a sui generis Creator who has infinite wisdom and has positively revealed to us that this very issue belongs to the secret council of God!

I also employ Victor Reppert's words: "All I want to say is that the possibilities that occur to us humans from our own limited perspective probably do not exhaust all of God's options."

And C.S. Lewis' words: "Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. So let us leave behind all these boys' philosophies--these over simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simple either."

And the Apostle Paul: "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 'Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?'"

Or God through Isaiah: "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD."

Or Moses: "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law."

Theological determinism


“Is there something wrong with the definition here?”

I didn’t bother to take issue with Hasker’s definition. I could quibble with his definition, but it wasn’t necessary to do so.

The key element in his definition is the impossibility of nonoccurrence. But that’s ambiguous. I played along with his definition, but I constructed a counterexample.

“Any way you slice it the king guaranteed the outcome.”

Guaranteed which outcome? By locking one of the two doors, the Emperor guaranteed the nonoccurrence of one possible outcome. But that, of itself, doesn’t guarantee the occurrence of the other possible outcome.

“Whether the prince and princess were ignorant of the fact or not is just irrelevant.”

That depends. If the suitor knew which door was locked, then he wouldn’t even consider choosing that door. It wouldn’t even figure in his deliberations.

Conversely, if he was never going to choose that door, then the fact that this apparent alternative was never a live option is morally irrelevant to his ultimate choice.

“The king provided a sufficient cause.”

The Emperor didn’t provide a sufficient cause. It isn’t inevitable that the suitor would have chosen the door concealing the princess.

He might have chosen the door concealing the tiger. If he had, he would have been unsuccessful in opening the door. But the fact that it was impossible for him to exercise that option doesn’t mean he had to choose the other door instead. This is why Hasker’s definition is fatally ambiguous.

The actual alternatives come down to:

i) Choose the door concealing the princess.

Since that door is unlocked, that’s a live option. If he made that choice, the princess would be waiting for him on the other side.

ii) Choose the door concealing the tiger.

Since that door is locked, it’s impossible for the suitor to open the door, although he could try the doorknob.

The failure of (ii) doesn’t commit him to (i).

“The result was overdetermined in this case, however.”

Overdetermined in the sense that it was impossible for him to choose the tiger over the princess, even if he had opted for that alternative.

But he was never going to make that choice anyway. So the fact that, unbeknownst to him, he could not have done otherwise even if he wanted to is morally irrelevant.

“Was the sin of Adam overdetermined, or the sin of Satan??”

Right now I’m confining my discussion to Hasker’s definition.

“Overdetermined” is ambiguous. I’ve given an example of negative Overdetermination.

The locked door prevented him from opening the door had he attempted to do so.

But that doesn’t positively determine or positively overdetermine him to choose the alternative.

In my illustration, the decisive factor was the suitor’s choice. The Emperor didn’t make the suitor choose the door concealing the princess. Although the Emperor deprived the suitor of genuine freedom of opportunity, his attempt to rig the outcome had no affect on the outcome since the suitor was never going to choose otherwise. The ability to do otherwise would only be relevant if you were going to choose otherwise.

“If you provide the sufficient conditions for something, you provide a determining cause… Supplying a sufficient cause for something is to guarantee its occurrence.”

True, but the fallacy in Reppert’s analysis is to equate the absence of a possible alternative with a sufficient condition.

“In your system, if there is a decree, there is a sin. If there is no decree there is no sin. It's theological determinism pure and simple.”

True, but there are different means of modeling the way in which the determinate outcome is effected or instantiated.

Let’s compare and contrast two similar, but somewhat different scenarios. Take possible worlds:

The Cincinnati Kid I.

The Cincinnati Kid II.

In CK-I, the Man and the Kid stage a poker match. The Kid arranges with Shooter to stack the deck.

There’s a sense in which the dealer determines the outcome by stacking the deck.

In CK-II, the Man and the Kid stage a poker match. Unlike CK-I, the Kid doesn’t arrange with Shooter to stack the deck.

Yet, as luck would have it, the cards have the same sequence. Hence, the outcome is the identical—even though the deck was randomly shuffled.

If God instantiates CK-I, there’s a sense in which he causes that outcome to obtain. And if he instantiates CK-II, there’s a sense in which he also causes that outcome to obtain.

In each case, he causes the outcome by causing the possible world in which the outcome occurs to exist. In each case, the outcome is identical, although the means of achieving the outcome vary. In each case, the players make choices, although they don’t choose which possible world will become the actual world. In each case, the players are secondary agents, while God is the primary agent. God is not the sole agent. God is not the Kid, the Man, the Shooter, or Lady Fingers.

“If Calvinism is true the God causes sins.”

Reppert indulges in a bait-and-switch scam, whereby he oscillates between a cause and a sufficient condition.

“Go ahead and believe it if you want to, well, to avoid begging the question, if God predestines you to do so, or because you think that Bible teaches it. Just don't tell me that God is not the cause of sin. On a counterfactual analysis of causation, God's decrees cause sins. It's that simple.”

It’s that simple if, like Reppert, you operate at the level of a simpleton.

What about a counterfactual theory of causation? I assume Reppert has something like the following in mind:

If A hadn’t happened, then B wouldn’t happen.

Let’s plug this into a concrete example:

If Abraham hadn’t slept with Sarah, Isaac wouldn’t exist.

Does this mean that Abraham caused Isaac to exist? Well, he’s a necessary factor in the existence of Isaac. But he’s not the sole cause of Isaac’s existence, is he?

Is Abraham a sufficient factor in the existence of Isaac? Or did Sarah make a necessary contribution to the conception, gestation, and birth of Isaac?

In Calvinism, the decree is a necessary condition for whatever occurs. But it’s not a sufficient condition. Creation, providence, and miracle supply other necessary conditions.

“Of course, how you get around James 1:13 may be difficult if you admit these conclusions, which seem to me to be clearly right.”

Pity you didn’t bother to exegete your prooftext. Speaking for myself, I’d draw two exegetical distinctions:

i) The same Greek word can either mean outward trials or inward temptations. Which meaning is intended depends on the context.

ii) Apropos (i), James is referring, in context, to the trials facing believers (1:2ff.)—not unbelievers.

iii) Apropos (i)-(ii), God doesn’t induce a believer to commit sin, although God often exposes a believer to various adversities.

In context, James is not making a general statement about the way in which God deals with unbelievers. He isn’t writing to, for, or about believers and unbelievers alike in this section.

Victor Reppert vs. C.S. Lewis

Reppert: Thirdly, while I do understand hell as a possible outcome so long as people continue to disobey and God, out of respect for their freedom, refuses to forcibly convert them, I do not understand hell as deserved retributive punishment for all sin. That is, I understand a "natural consequences" view of hell but not eternal retribution per se. Source

Lewis: We demand of a cure not whether it is just but whether it succeeds. Thus when we cease to consider what the criminal deserves and consider only what will cure him or deter others, we have tacitly removed him from the sphere of justice altogether; instead of a person, a subject of rights, we now have a mere object, a patient, a 'case'. (C.S. Lewis The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment, in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed. Walter Hooper, 1970, 288).)

Retributive punishment: The retributive notion of punishment in general is that (a) as a foundational matter of justice, criminals deserve punishment, and (b) punishment should be equal to the harm done. Source

But Bill Hasker Said So

Victor Reppert wrote:

Here is Hasker's definition of determinism:

Determinism: For every event which happens, there are previous events and circumstances which are its sufficient conditions or causes, so that, given those previous events and circumstances, it is impossible that the event should not occur.

Is there something wrong with this definition? After all, Bill Hasker is one of those nasty open theists, who clearly can't be trusted. But the upshot of this definition would be that the decrees of God cause people to do what they do. You cannot have a deterministic world in which God decrees X and not-X occurs. Saying "God's decree doesn't cause people to sin" is just plain ludicrous.
One problem is that Reppert wants to use this to implicate God as doing something immoral. He wants to say that if some human “caused” someone to rape a woman for fun, then that human would be in violation of some moral law. Since some rapists do rape women for fun, and since God “caused” it, then God is immoral.

Furthermore, the decree is the plan. The decree renders the thing certain. Decrees refer to certainty. Providence refers to causality. Those are the means by which the decrees come to pass.

Furthermore, whatever inferences Reppert wants to draw from Calvinism, it can’t be that if God decrees, predetermines, makes certain, etc., any evil event whatever E, then God is morally blameworthy with respect to E:

Acts 2:22-23; Acts 4:27-28

"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. . . Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.

Reppert's formula would implicate God in murder. Make him guilty of murder. Like a man who hires a hitman to kill his wife, thus causing the man to do evil, God "hires" thugs to murder his son, makes sure they'll do it, and it was even premeditated. Thus Reppert's view of God, if the Bible is to be believed, is immoral. The only way out for Reppert is: (a) drop his formula, (b) drop his belief in the inerrancy of these passages, (c) drop his belief in God.

Indeed, Open Theist Clark Pinnock admits that Judas’ betrayal was predetermined. It wasn’t a case of libertarian free will. So was God morally blameworthy for what Judas did?

See, Reppert doesn’t want to debate the text. He doesn’t want to go there. He even goes so far as to declare that he’ll call the Bible errant before giving up his libertarian freedom. “Os Guinness notes that Western Societies ‘have reached the state of pluralization where choice is not just a state of affairs, it is a state of mind. Choice has become a value in itself, even a priority. To be modern is to be addicted to choice and change. Change becomes the very essence of life.’ Personal choice becomes the urgency, or what sociologist Peter Berger called the ‘heretical imperative.’ In such a context, theology undergoes rapid and repeated transformations driven by cultural currents” (Albert Mohler, Hell Under Fire, Zondervan, 2004, 36).

This is Pepsi theology (“the Pepsi choice“). What our generation considers a good man is that standard by which God is judged, not vice versa. Reppert even says, quoting Mill, that what he means when he says ‘God is good’ is the same thing he means when he says ‘Bert is good.’ Today, Bert doesn’t believe in retributive punishment. John did yesterday. Yesterday my God was good. Today he’s bad. Maybe He’ll be good again. Yesterday John believed a good man was discriminate in his most passionate love. Today, Bert says a man should be indiscriminate. He even goes to swinging parties. And, don’t judge him. Good men don’t judge. Yesterday my God was loving, today he’s not.

Another problem is that Reppert runs to an Open Theist to define our position. No need to interact with the likes of Calvin, Turretin, Bavinck, Hodge, Warfield, Vos, Shedd, Dabney, etc. Reppert “intuits” that we’re wrong, so why read the works of Calvinists? Below I’ll quote some Calvinists.

First, God governs all events. He does so mostly positively, but negatively in some cases, namely evil. Wills all of them that are. So the governing is what can be called the “causing.” Not the decree. But there are different ways of governing. Positive and negative. Negative governing is better referred to as “willingly permitted” as opposed to “caused.” But terms like this get problematic as soon as we try to apply them to God, a sui generis being, anyway:

“But is not anyone who is willing for an evil action to occur the cause of that action, or at least an accessorily, and so himself evil? I wish to present two alternative arguments for thinking not. But first, before we look at these arguments, it is necessary to get clearer about the meaning of willing permission” (Paul Helm, Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion, p.233)

God positively governs acts which are not evil, …he governs all other acts, evil acts, by permitting them, since he cannot positively govern them. However if such permission is to be consistent with the absence of risk, then it has to be a particular kind of permission of particular actions; the willing permission governs particular action tokens. So one may make sense of the idea of divine permission in a way that is compatible with risk-free-ness if one is prepared to maintain that there are types of actions which God can prevent but which nevertheless he cannot cause, even though he may be willing for them to occur. Then God can only control an evil action by willingly permitting it, by deciding not to prevent it; and the evil action occurs because it is caused by the natures and circumstances of those who perpetrate it; but not by God” (ibid, 233).

“The nature of such permission is well expressed by Augustine:

‘In a way unspeakably strange and wonderful, even what is done in opposition to His will does not defeat His will. For it would not be done if he did not permit it (and of course his permission is not unwilling but willing); nor would a Good being permit evil to be done only that in his omnipotence He can turn evil into good.’

So for X willingly to permit action A is at least for this: for A to be the action of someone other than X; for X to foreknow the occurrence of A and to have been able to prevent A; and for A not to be against X's overall plan. So on this conception God foreknows everything, and unconditionally governs everything, but does not causally determine everything in the sense that he is the efficient cause of everything. Nevertheless, nothing happens that God is unwilling should happen” (ibid, 234)

“But it may still be insisted - somewhat implausibly, it seems to me - that if God willingly permits X, then God is the cause of X. So let us now consider a number of arguments against the claim that if God willingly permit’s the occurrence of an action, then he is the cause of that action” (ibod, 234).

First, the claim that an appeal to divine willing I the sense defined is a case of divine determinism. It is tempting, but I believe crude and misleading, to assimilate the working of such permission into intramundane models of causation, and particularly to general physical determinism. Such willing permission has this in common with determinism: that what is physically determined and what is willingly permitted will each, in virtue of the determinism and the occurrence of what is willingly permitted, come to pass. However, willingly to permit and action is not to cause that action; it is to provide necessary, but not sufficient , causal condition for the action. Whereas physical determinism has a string tendency to be reductionist and has difficulty in finding a place for a range of objects having their own causal powers, the divine willing permission is most certainly not reductionist in this sense” (ibid, 234).

“One way of expressing this difference might be as follows. While it seems clear that intramundane causation is transitive, that if (where A, B, and C are events) A causes B, and B causes C. then A causes C, there is no necessary transivity in the case of any causal aspects or features of the divine willing permission, if there are any (there are some causal features if wicked people are upheld and conserved in being by God). It is not necessarily the case that of God governs by willingly permitting some event B, and B causes C, then God causes C; rather, God may will by permitting that B causes C and so willingly permit C. God’s willing permission is thus not a straightforward case of causation…” (ibid, 235)

So those who hold that God governs whatever comes to pass may nevertheless make a distinction, within the overall government, between what God causes and what he permits. William Hasker says that the central idea of Calvinism is quite simple: ‘everything that happens, with no exceptions, is efficaciously determined by God in accordance with his eternal decrees.’ … To say that everything is risk-freely governed by God is not to say that everything is efficaciously determined by God” (ibid, 235).

“So it is possible that God risk-freely governs whatever comes to pass, and plausible (if God is omnipotent and omniscient) to suppose that he does so. If for any event E, E occurs, then God risk-freely governs E either by bringing it about or being willing for it to occur. Whatever occurs, occurs because God risk-freely governs it in this sense; whatever is true in virtue of what occurs is true because God so governs it. So to say that all events are risk-freely governed by God, while it entails that all events are intended by God, is not equivalent to asserting that, for any event E, if E occurs, then God has caused it” (ibid, 236)

“[God] may willingly permit evil - that is, actualize that possible world in which he foreknows that Jones will do a particular evil act. This is an instance of particular permission; God permits particular acts, as distinct from giving general permission, as when a teacher permit’s a class to write an essay on any topic they choose. And God may do so willingly, not because he is willing for the evil act to occur per se, but because he ordains some wider good of which that acts is a necessary part. The willing permission of evil may in many cases be like the willingness of a parent to allow one of her children to undergo some extremely painful, but necessary, course of treatment (say the removal of a vital organ) to ensure the survival of another of her children by transplanting the removed organ into that child. And God may willingly permit such a particular action, for some further good, though of course without any of the feelings of psychological pressure or tension that accompany such human permittings” (ibid 236).

“Those events which God permits he does so in furtherance of some wider consideration with respect to which they are a logically necessary condition” (ibid, 236).

“In talking about God, and particularly about God’s relation to the world, we are talking about a situation which is unparalleled. We have no direct experience of such a relation, but only relations between created things. Our language about God’s causal powers must be qualified, therefore. Thus it is misleading to assimilate the working of the divine decree as understood by a no-risk position to ordinary instances of causation. We need always bear in mind the words of Nicolas Malenbranche, “God is a mind, or spirit, He thinks, He wills; but let us not humanise Him - He does not think or will as we do” (ibid, 240).

“To undermine the point further, both Hasker and I have taken it for granted that divine foreknowledge is incompatible with indeterministic human freedom. It follows from this that if God infallibly knows the future, then no free act is indeterministic. But it does not follow from this, without further argument, that such divine foreknowledge is the cause of the action foreknown. Failing a convincing argument of this kind, we might say that foreknowledge ensures the occurrence of the action in question without causing it” (ibid, 240).

“So words like ‘cause’ or ‘decree’ or ‘permit,’ when used of God the uncreated cause, ate used in rather different ways, with rather different logical implications, from those in which are ordinary notions of cause are used” (idid, 240).

“It needs to be emphasized that to suppose that divine causation must be analogically related to ordinary causation between events is a perfectly general point about divine causation, and is not a case of special pleading on behalf of a no-risk position. For all theists, including Hasker, are faced with the problem of characterizing in a philosophically adequate manner the unparalleled causal feats of God’s creation of the universe ex nihilo, and of his conserving his creation in existence by upholding what he has created. It is hard to see that these are cases of ordinary causation, even supposing that we understand what ordinary causation is” (ibid, 241).

Notice Hasker makes use of the idea that all things are efficaciously caused. But says Dr. Green,

“It ought, however, to be carefully noted here, that all who soundly hold this doctrine maintain that there is a difference always to be kept up between what have been denominated the efficacious decrees and the permissive decrees of God. His efficacious decrees relate to whatever is morally good; his permissive decrees to whatever is morally evil. In other words, his immediate agency, according to his decree, is concerned in whatever is morally good, —his immediate agency is never concerned in what is morally evil. Evil he permits to take place, and efficaciously, over rules it for good,-for the promotion of his glory” ( Lectures On The Shorter Catechism, Vol. I, pp. 180-181.).

So, Reppert has some idea that since God decrees an event, and thus renders the event certain, God is morally blameworthy for that event.

My quotes from Helm clarify certain notions, so he needs to get more precise.

My quotes from Scripture disprove his notion, and so he can give up infallibility.

There’s nothing like an “argument” against Calvinism in Reppert’s posts. We’re simply treated to a series of posts which show an ignorance of Calvinist theology, employ self-excepting fallacies, and laud question-begging position, e.g., libertarian free will, PAP, etc.

As I’ve always said: Yes, if libertarian free will is assumed true, PAP is assumed true, Arminian exegesis is assumed true, then Calvinism has problems.

But that’s hardly an interesting argument, is it?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Lady or the Tiger?

Defining causes and determinism: Does God cause sin?

Here is Hasker's definition of determinism:

Determinism: For every event which happens, there are previous events and circumstances which are its sufficient conditions or causes, so that, given those previous events and circumstances, it is impossible that the event should not occur.

Is there something wrong with this definition? After all, Bill Hasker is one of those nasty open theists, who clearly can't be trusted. But the upshot of this definition would be that the decrees of God cause people to do what they do. You cannot have a deterministic world in which God decrees X and not-X occurs. Saying "God's decree doesn't cause people to sin" is just plain ludicrous.

Once upon a time, the Emperor of Siam established a trial by ordeal for the hand of his daughter. Behind one door was the princess. Behind another door was a tiger. Unbeknownst to the suitor, the door concealing the tiger was locked.

The suitor happened to choose the door concealing the princess. And the prince and princess lived happily ever after.

Under the circumstances, it was impossible for the suitor to choose the tiger. Hence, saying the Emperor didn’t cause the suitor to choose the princess is just plain ludicrous.

Modus Ponens & Apathy

Modus Ponens and Incompatibilism

The argument for incompatibilism is really very simple.

1) I am not responsible for the eternal decrees of God (or the laws of nature and the condition of the universe at the big bang).
2) I am not responsible for the fact that, given the decrees of God, I sinned at 2 PM yesterday.
3) Therefore, I am not responsible for the fact that I sinned at 2 PM yesterday.

Or formally:

Not Responsible for A
Not Responsible for If A then B.
Therefore, Not Responsible for B.

How can I be responsible for that which is the modus ponens consequence of that for which I am not responsible.

Modus Ponens and Apathy

The argument for moral indifference is really very simple.

1) I am not responsible for five-year old boy next door (or the laws of nature and the condition of the universe at the big bang). After all, I didn’t beget him. He’s not my son.
2) I am not responsible for the fact that a reckless driver came hurtling through our neighborhood while the five-year old was playing in the middle of the street. I’m not the driver. It’s not my car.
3) Therefore, I am not responsible for the fact that the boy was run over even though I saw it coming and could have rescued him at the last minute.

Or formally:

Not Responsible for A
Not Responsible for If A then B.
Therefore, Not Responsible for B.

How can I be responsible for that which is the modus ponens consequence of that for which I am not responsible.

The Old Serpent

Genesis 3:1-5

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.

He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" 2And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" 4 But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. 5For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

Revelation 12:7-9

7Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world— he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

John 13:26-27

26Jesus answered, "It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it." So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly."

“I still did not know precisely when and why Beccah had become possessed. I knew that around age six she had developed an abnormal attraction to a book of woodcuts that told one version of the pact with the devil story,” M. Scott Peck, Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist’s Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption (Free Press 2005), 214-15.

“The extraordinary amount of restraint required was one of the less remarkable features of the exorcism. The most remarkable was the change in the appearance of Beccah’s face and body. Except during break times and a few other occasions when Satan would seemingly be replaced by Beccah, she did not appear to be a human being at all. To everyone present, her entire face became like that of a snake. I would have expected it to be the usual kind of poisonous snake with a triangular head, but that was not the case. The head and face of this snake were remarkably round. The only exception to this roundness was its nostrils, which had a distinct snub-nosed look. Most remarkable of all were the eyes. They had become hooded, ibid. 173.

“During another appointment, again for but a minute, Beccah’s face appeared to be that of a very dry, thick-skinned, lizardlike creature—possibly an iguana. Definitely a reptile but nothing like a snake,” ibid. 225.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Clicking Into Place

I know I said my next post would be on statistics that seem to make sense but are really irrational, and I am halfway through that post. But, due to Bush's brainwashing me with NSA satellites or something, get this post instead.

I’m sure you’ve probably heard the phrase, “It just clicked into place.” Last night (or rather, very early this morning) I experienced that. Literally. Like it was an actual audible “click” sound as a realized something regarding the prime numbers in the “factor field” that I’ve developed in Excel.

To give some background, I’ve been conversing with someone via e-mail after my post the other day that included my reference to the factor field. This person has looked over my spreadsheet and given some comments, and last night I responded to him. Which meant that in the process I was looking over the sheet a great deal and doing lots of mathematical conversions and the like.

Anyway, I went to bed after I sent the e-mail. And at about 12:30 in the morning, I suddenly shot up in bed because I heard the “click” as something slid into place in my brain. Yeah, I did the whole caricature thing of having the light dawn on me :-)

Of course the only problem is that there’s like maybe a dozen people on Earth who would care about my realization, and I don’t know any of them personally. But I figure why not post it into the Internet anyway? So I will.

First, I should note that with the factor field, I’ve mentioned the “spike” that occurs spaced out every 6 digits. Because of this, I wanted to see what prime numbers would look like in base-6 format (using only 0-5 for your digits, just as binary uses only 1 and 0). Last night, I compiled a short list of some of the primes and e-mailed them to the person I’ve been corresponding with, so here's the list of primes from 2 - 101 with their corresponding base-6 conversion:

2 = 2
3 = 3
5 = 5
7 = 11
11 = 15
13 = 21
17 = 25
19 = 31
23 = 35
29 = 45
31 = 51
37 = 101
41 = 105
43 = 111
47 = 115
53 = 125
59 = 135
61 = 141
67 = 151
71 = 155
73 = 201
79 = 211
83 = 215
89 = 225
97 = 241
101 = 245

And just for fun, converting the last 10 primes on the Excel sheet gives us this:

65413 = 1222501
65419 = 1222511
65423 = 1222515
65437 = 1222541
65447 = 1222555
65449 = 1223001
65479 = 1223051
65497 = 1223121
65519 = 1223155
65521 = 1223201

So as you can see, all the prime numbers after 2 & 3 end in either 1 or 5 in base-6.

Now because my hypothesis (which I lack the mathematical skills to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt) is that all prime numbers end in 1 or 5 in base-6, as I was trying to fall asleep I thought: “At what point do the prime numbers interfere with the 6-spike?” That is, at what point on the number series do prime numbers fall either 1 above or 1 below the spike (1 above the spike corresponds to a number ending in 5, one below corresponds to a number ending in 1).

Obviously 2 and 3 are ruled out from the get-go, because 2 x 3 creates the 6-spike. So I started with 5. And here’s what I got:

In this graphic, the blue lines are the 6-spike. The red cells are those that occur either 1 above or 1 below the 6-spike. The black cells are the other cells that do not fall either one above or one below the 6-spike.

I left the factors in the cells too. As a result, trace the 5-line down and you see that the first time it falls 1 above or 1 below the 6-spike (1 above in this case) is at 5 x 1. The next time it falls 1 above or 1 below the 6-spike (1 below in this case) is at 5 x 5. The next time (1 above) is at 5 x 7. Then again (1 below) at 5 x 11. Finally, it comes 1 above at 5 x 13.

Now look at the 7 line. 7 does the exact same thing but with the above/below polarity switched! The first time it appears is 1 below at 7 x 1. Then at 1 above at 7 x 5, etc. We see the same thing with the 11 and 13 lines. Thus we have:

N = multiple of 6.

N - 1 goes in an above/below sequence.

N + 1 goes in a below/above sequence.

And the real kicker…the N +/- 1 is itself the number that the factors are based on! Thus, take a factor of 6. Subtract 1. It is now 1 below a factor of 6. Multiply by 5 (i.e. 6 - 1) and you will be 1 above a factor of 6. Multiply by 7 (i.e. 6 + 1) and you will be 1 below a factor of 6. Multiply by 11 (i.e. [2 x 6] – 1) and you will be one above a factor of 6. Multiply by 13 (i.e. [2 x 6] + 1) and you will be one below a factor of 6.

Let’s give an example. 24 is a factor of 6.

24 – 1 = 23. 23 x 5 = 115. 115 – 1 = 114. 114 = 6 x 19.

24 + 1 = 25. 25 x 5 = 125. 125 + 1 = 126. 126 = 6 x 21.

24 – 1 = 23. 23 x 7 = 161. 161 +1 = 162. 162 = 6 x 27.

24 + 1 = 25. 25 x 7 = 175. 175 – 1 = 174. 174 = 6 x 29.

24 + (2 x 6) – 1 = 35. 35 x 5 = 175. 175 – 1 = 174. 174 = 6 x 29.

24 + (2 x 6) + 1 = 37. 37 x 5 = 185. 185 + 1 = 186. 186 = 6 x 31.

24 + (2 x 6) – 1 = 35. 35 x 7 = 245. 245 + 1 = 246. 246 = 6 x 41.

24 + (2 x 6) + 1 = 37. 37 x 7 = 259. 259 – 1 = 258. 258 = 6 x 43.

So, to generalize it further, let us define an N class number as a positive number that is divisible evenly by 6.

1. (Nx - 1) x (Ny - 1) = X. X – 1 is an N class number.
2. (Nx + 1) x (Ny - 1) = X. X + 1 is an N class number.
3. (Nx - 1) x (Ny + 1) = X. X + 1 is an N class number.
4. (Nx + 1) x (Ny +1) = X. X – 1 is an N class number.

To test this, let Nx = 36 and Ny = 12.

1. (36 – 1) x (12 – 1) = 35 x 11 = 385. Subtract 1 and 384 = 6 x 64.
2. (36 + 1) x (12 -1) = 37 x 11 = 407. Add 1 and 408 = 6 x 68.
3. (36 – 1) x (12 +1) = 35 x 13 = 455. Add 1 and 456 = 6 x 76.
4. (36 + 1) x (12 + 1) = 37 x 13 = 481. Subtract 1 and 480 = 6 x 80.

But we can further generalize this by creating a new class, which I will call the P class. The P class is defined as any number that is N +/- 1. So take any N class, add or subtract one from it, and that is a P class number. From the above, we therefore know that any P class multiplied by another P class number yields another P class number. It comes in the following format.

Let us define Pdown as a N – 1 class number and Pup as an N + 1 number.

1. Pdown x Pdown = Pdown.
2. Pup x Pdown = Pup.
3. Pdown x Pup = Pup.
4. Pup x Pup = Pdown.

Now my theory is that all prime numbers are P class numbers, but not all P class numbers are prime numbers. After all, since a P class x a P class yields a P class, then we have proof that P classes can exist with factors. But here’s my theory on that: the only P class numbers that are not primes are those P classes that are created by multiplying other P class variables.

In other words, when thinking about primes, one need not worry about anything other than P class integers.

Let me explain by showing the first few primes again. After 2 and 3 (which create the 6-spike in the first place) we have 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19. Each of these shows both sides of the 6-spike.

The first “break” occurs after 23, because 25 has factors. But what are the factors of 25? Only 5 x 5. And 5 is a prime number. In fact, 5 is the smallest prime number that comes into play (again, because 2 and 3 are working to create the 6-spike so they are irrelevant here). In fact, if we multiply the smallest relevant primes, we get:

5 x 5 = 25.
5 x 7 = 35
7 x 7 = 49
5 x 11 = 55
5 x 13 = 65
7 x 11 = 77
5 x 17 = 85
7 x 13 = 91
5 x 19 = 95

And these results are all the numbers that are missing from the 6-spike as primes.

In any case, I think it’s safe to say that we can define a prime number as any P class number that is not divisible by any other P class number. And I also think that P class number that are divisible by any numbers at all are only divisible by other P class numbers. Therefore, we need not worry about any other numbers when testing for primes.

Now I'm sure there's probably something theologically relevant here, but since I was up until about 3:30 this morning working on this...I'll let Steve figure out the application for you :-P

Monday, May 05, 2008

Does Reppert weep crocodile tears?

Back to Reppert:

“I think you are making a mistake. You assume that if I accept Hasker's argument for incompatibilism of free will and determinism, that I must accept his arguments against the compatibility of foreknowledge and freedom.”

How is that a mistake?

“I'm pretty sympathetic to open theism myself. It's hardly a reductio in my book.”

So it’s not a mistake after all. Reppert is tacitly admitting a tension between God’s knowledge of the future and man’s libertarian freedom. And he’s relieving the tension by denying God’s knowledge of the future.

“Calvinism attributes to God actions which in any parallel human context would be considered wrong by anyone.”

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this is true, why wouldn’t it apply with equal force to open theism? In open theism, God puts his creatures at risk. He doesn’t know the outcome. So he’s putting them in harm’s way—“ which in any parallel human context would be considered wrong by anyone.”

““But the ‘illustration’ could have been accomplished in any number of less harmful ways.”

But open theism subscribes to a high-risk version of providence. Isn’t that more harmful that a low-risk version of providence?

“Calvinism has the consequence that, for those whose loved ones are lost, God intended forever to frustrate the prayers of those who earnestly desire the salvation of their nearest and dearest.”

And open theism has the consequence that, for those whose loved ones are lost, God cannot answer our prayers to save them since God can’t save anyone against his will.

“The Calvinists at Triablogue had some debate with me over waterboarding a few months back. But since they knew I wasn't a Calvinist, they avoided using their best argument. They could say ‘Look, we know these terror suspects are Muslims, which means they're probably vessels of wrath headed for the fire anyway. If we can get some information out of them, why not give them a little foretaste of the future?’"

As a Calvinist, I don’t feel the need to win at any cost, by any means necessary. That’s because I can leave the outcome to God.

If, however, I were an open theist, then life would be far more insecure. Far riskier. In that event, I’d be utterly ruthless in dealing with the enemy. Since, as I open theist, I couldn’t count on God to save my bacon, I’d be left to my own devices. Survival of the fittest. Every man for himself. Do unto others before they do unto you. An open theist would be Jack Bauer on steroids.

“I won’t call God a liar. I will call God a provider of incomplete information.”

Why would an open theist hesitate to call God a liar? A God who doesn’t know the future can’t keep his promises. If he can’t keep them, then he’s a liar to make them in the first place.

Reppert also quotes some choice statements by John Wesley, such as:

“You represent him as mocking his helpless creatures, by offering what he never intends to give.”

Several problems, but I’ll confine myself to two:

i) Wesley was an Evangelical Arminian. As such, he believed in divine foreknowledge. Indeed, Arminian election is conditional election, contingent on foreseen faith.

But since, according to Arminian theology, everyone doesn’t exercise saving faith, then Wesley must represent God as offering what he never intends to give in the case of unbelievers. So Wesley’s God is weeping crocodile tears.

ii) In open theism, God doesn’t know the future. He doesn’t know what free agents will do.

Yet a promise is future-oriented. God’s promise to preserve believers is a case in point (Rom 8).

So open theism has to cast God in the role of issuing a string of broken promises. God is offering what he never intends to give, since the result is beyond his control.

Hence, according to Wesley’s reasoning, the God of Arminian theology, as well as open theism, is “a mere hypocrite, dissembler, and gross deceiver, full of deceit and void of common sincerity.”

So Reppert’s “God”—whichever god, gods, godling, godlet, goddess, demigod, or wood nymph that may be, since Reppert seems to have a pantheon of major and minor deities to suit every apologetic contingency—weeps crocodile tears over the fate of the lost.

Indeed, since Reppert is a fan of neotheistic hermeneutics, there’s no reason for him not to go all the way with the Mormons in their polytheistic reading of Scripture.

The Great Link

It’s difficult to pin Reppert down. That’s because Reppert isn’t from these here parts. If you take the Gamma Quadrant exit, then take the next left at the Omarion Nebula, you will arrive at Reppert’s home world.

It’s easy to be taken in at first since Reppert can assume humanoid form. But because he’s a shapeshifter, he keeps morphing into something else. A universalist on Mondays; an Arminian on Tuesdays, an open theist on Wednesdays, a fallibilist on Thursdays, an errantist on Fridays, a kumquat on Saturdays, and liquid protoplasm on Sundays.

Manata and I are currently working on a quantum stasis field to see if we can keep Reppert frozen in one physical state for just long enough to respond to him.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Three Prisoners Problem

One thing that can be both a blessing and a curse about my nature is that I am often able to find ways to keep myself awake almost all night long. It doesn’t matter how tired I am when I try to go to bed, if I think of something that gets my mind going then I’d much rather continue to think on it than sleep. This happened to me the other day as I was thinking of a few statistical quirks regarding Natural Selection, random mutations, and the like.

Unfortunately, I’m not yet able to write the blog post that I wanted to write, because while I know exactly what I’m talking about, it lacks sufficient groundwork for many other readers to be able to follow along! Since I am an apologist at heart (one who would love to preside over the complete destruction of ideological Darwinism, mind you) I do wish to expand on my thoughts and present them to others, so this leaves me with the necessary task of providing some starting groundwork before I get to the main point. And besides, although it’s tangential to my ultimate point, some of this stuff is just plain kewl :-)

In any case, since a great deal of what I will be focusing on in future posts will deal with statistical analysis, I thought it might be beneficial to give a quick overview of The Three Prisoners Problem in order to A) melt your brain if you’ve never heard of it and B) show how statistics can be logical and yet make no sense at first glance (mostly due to a wrong perspective).

The Three Prisoners Problem was originally mentioned by Martin Gardner in his “Mathematical Games” column in the October, 1959 edition of Scientific American, but under the Monty Hall guise (its mathematical equivalent) it has gathered more infamy, especially after Marilyn vos Savant’s article in Parade magazine in 1990. If this doesn’t make sense to you at first glance, you can take comfort in the fact that it has fooled Nobel laureates, professional mathematicians, and Mensa members countless times. Here I will give my own version of the problem.

There are three prisoners in the king’s dungeon: Adam, Bill, and Charlie. The Warden arrives at each cell and says, “The King has decided that two of you shall go free tomorrow.” At this, there is great rejoicing. But the Warden continues: “However, one of you will be executed.”

“Who will it be?” they all ask in turn.

The Warden responds: “The King has told me who will be executed, but he has also forbidden me telling you who will live and who will die.”

Each of the prisoners accepts this answer except for Charlie. Charlie is a shrewd character and because he knows the Warden is scrupulously honest, he asks: “I know you said that you cannot tell me who will be executed or who will be set free, and therefore you cannot tell me my fate. But will you instead give me one name of one of the other prisoners who will be set free?”

The Warden thinks about this for a moment. “Why would you want to know that?” he ponders. “If I don’t give you a name, you know that you have a 1/3 chance of being executed and a 2/3 chance of going free. If I tell you a name, then you will only have a 1/2 chance of going free! It is better for you if you do not know a name.”

“In that case,” Charlie responds, “why not tell me?”

The Warden relents and says, “Adam will go free tomorrow.”

At this, Charlie sits back and smiles because the Warden has inadvertently told him that it is twice as likely that Bill will be executed as it is that he will be executed…

The reason this is a “problem” is because for most of us we reason the way that the Warden did. Surely telling Charlie that Adam will go free has actually reduced Charlie’s odds of survival, hasn’t it? It used to be 2/3 because it could have been Adam, Bill, or Charlie who would be killed and 2 of them would have lived. But now it’s either Bill or Charlie who will be killed and only one of them would live, and that’s a 1/2 chance, isn’t it?

There are two ways to look at this. First, let’s look at the mathematical rule involved: fractional statistics must together add up to 1.

When the prisoners are first given information, there is a 1/3 chance for each of them that they will be killed. Thus, we have the odds of death being:

Adam = 1/3
Bill = 1/3
Charlie = 1/3

Now when Charlie asks which of the first two prisoners will go free, since the Warden is honest, he tells him that Adam is one who will go free. But this gives no new information to Charlie about whether or not Charlie will die. Charlie’s odds of being killed remain 1/3. However, Adam’s odds of being killed are reduced to 0. He will survive.

If Charlie has a 1/3 shot of dying and Adam has a 0 shot of dying, then because statistics must balance to 1 (it is a certainty that someone will die), this means that Bill’s odds of dying must be 2/3. As a result, Bill is twice as likely to be executed as Charlie.

Of course, this still doesn’t seem right at all! After all, how can telling Charlie that Adam will go free affect Bill’s odds of survival but not affect Charlie’s original odds of survival?

The second way of explaining this helps to flesh it out a bit better. As we stated, when the problem begins, each prisoner has a 1/3 chance of being killed. Therefore, there are three possible options. Let us examine these three options and what the Warden must respond under each option.

Option 1: Adam is killed. If Adam is the one to be executed, then when Charlie asks for the name of one of the two prisoners who will live, the Warden must respond “Bill.” If he says Adam lives, then he has lied (and we’ve stipulated that the Warden is honest). Conclusion: Charlie lives; the prisoner not named dies.

Option 2: Bill is killed. Like the above, the Warden’s choice is restricted to one answer. The Warden can only say that “Adam” will live. Conclusion: Charlie lives; the prisoner not named dies.

Option 3: Charlie is killed. Here is the only instance where the Warden has freedom. Since Charlie will be killed, then he can name either Adam or Bill. Conclusion: Charlie dies; the prisoner not named lives.

As we see in the above, Charlie’s chances of being killed remain 1/3 because only under option 3 does he die. Further, 2/3 of the time the Warden is forced to name a specific prisoner because the one not named is the one who will die. Therefore, 2/3 of the time the prisoner not named is the prisoner who will be executed.

This is also easier to see if we use bigger numbers. Suppose that there are instead 1,000 prisoners and all but one of them will be set free while the remaining prisoner is executed. Under these circumstances, the Warden reveals 998 prisoners who will be set free, leaving only Charlie and prisoner number 473 behind. Which is more likely, that the Warden was forced to leave prisoner number 473 as an option or that Charlie is going to be killed and prisoner 473 was a random selection? Obviously, there is only a 1/1000 chance that prisoner 473 was a random selection, but there is a 999/1000 chance that prisoner 473 was the forced choice. So in this case, the reason it is counterintuitive has more to do with the fact that we do not realize the Warden is excluding all but one prisoner from his answer. If there were 1,000 prisoners total and Charlie asked for the list of 998 of them that would go free, the Warden would immediately spot this error.

Note, however, that even under the circumstance that Charlie only asked for the name of one prisoner out of the 1000 who would go free, that would decrease the odds of all the other unnamed prisoners surviving, although in this instance the amount the odds change would be negligible. Charlie would remain with a 1/1000 chance of dying, while the 998 unnamed prisoners would have just over a 1.001/1000 chance of dying and the one named one would have a no (0) chance of dying. This equates to 998 prisoners splitting a 999/1000 odds, so you still end up with 1/1000 + 999/1000 + 0 = 1. (1.001 x 998 rounds to 999.)

As I mentioned at the top of this post, this is mathematically equivalent to the Monty Hall Problem. That can be demonstrated while keeping with the prisoner motif in the following manner. Suppose that instead of the Warden talking to the prisoners, the King summons the Warden to his throne room. The King, who enjoys tormenting the Warden, says:

“Warden, I am going to execute two prisoners tomorrow, but I am going to free one of them. I have written his name down and locked it in this chest beside me along with one thousand gold pieces. If you can guess who will go free, you can have all the gold in the chest. If you do not guess who goes free, you will have to join the prisoners being executed!”

The Warden realizes he has a 1/3 chance of gaining riches and a 2/3 chance of dying. Nevertheless, the King has given him no option. So he says, “I pick Adam to live.”

The King smiles and says, “Let us make this more interesting. Before you open the chest and see the name, I will tell you that Charlie is going to die. Now, do you still want to choose Adam to live, or do you want to switch your choice to Bill?”

At this point, what should the Warden decide?

Again, mathematically this is equivalent to the Three Prisoners Problem above. Therefore, we know that when the Warden picked Adam to live, he had a 1/3 chance of being right. The King has now informed the Warden that Charlie will die: therefore, Charlie has a 0 chance of living. Once again, because the numbers have to add up to 1, this means that Bill now has a 2/3 chance of living and Adam only has a 1/3 chance of living. Therefore, the Warden should switch his choice.

And to demonstrate this in the similar manner as above, look at the three options of what would happen after the Warden picks Adam but before the King (who already know who will die) responds:

Option 1: Adam lives. In this case, the King can name either Bill or Charlie as dying. Therefore, the Warden should not switch his choice because whomever the King does not name of the other two prisoners will die.

Option 2: Bill lives. In this case, the King MUST name Charlie as dying. The Warden should change his pick to the prisoner not mentioned (Bill).

Option 3: Charlie lives. In this case, the King MUST name Bill as dying. The Warden should change his pick to the prisoner not mentioned (Charlie).

Again we see that 2/3 of the time, the Warden should change his selection.

So here we see that sometimes statistics can be perfectly logical and rational, yet the result is so counterintuitive that they feel wrong. In my next post, I’ll give an example of the opposite: when statistics are irrational and yet seem to make sense. After that, I will look at a few examples statistics in action with Darwinism.

Disillusioned with Dis

And here the Marquis de Sade was so looking forward to hell. Like any good French Catholic, he knew his way around Dante’s Inferno. The Purgatorio wasn’t his cup of tea, and the Paradiso was even worse, but he knew the Inferno like the back of his hand. His dog-eared copy was coming apart at the spine.

He once had a talk with a softhearted priest who couldn’t bear the thought that hell was an everlasting torture chamber, but for de Sade, that was the main attraction.

He’d dabbled with torture back on earth, but the authorities tended to frown on that sort of thing—except when they nabbed an occasional Huguenot.

When he got to hell he was hoping to pick up a few new techniques from the Aztecs, swap trade secrets with Torquemada—that sort of thing. Bonding with the locals.

But, much to his dismay, the Almighty assigned him to a book club. The club was run by some little old ladies. All of them were sentenced to hell because they engaged in the morally questionable practice of seasoning their husbands’ supper with a dash of arsenic, as part of a life-insurance scheme; but other than that they were charming in a sweet, grandmotherly sort of way.

So the bottomless pit proved to be anticlimactic after pitching his expectations so high. A real disappointment. Why, it was enough to make a man downright cynical.

As de Sade soon found out, he had been assigned to the book club because the old dears were busily studying the French novel, and he was there to give them tips on pronunciation or tricky idioms.

Mind you, they hadn’t gotten very far. They started with Madame Bovary, and after a thousand years or so they still hadn’t moved beyond the first chapter.

The club originally had a very ambitious itinerary. After reading Flaubert, they would work their way through Balzac, de Beauvoir, Camus, Colette, Proust, Hugo, Dumas, and so one and so forth.

But then they hit a little snag. You see, all of them had been a bit senile when they died, and they kept forgetting what they read.

So everyday they’d assemble at 1:00 sharp—with their cream tea, toasted scones, and watercress sandwiches—to talk over the first chapter of Madame Bovary.

In case some of you are wondering how a man who died before Flaubert was born suddenly found himself in a book club devoted to the Nineteenth Century French novel, time moves differently in hell. It isn’t so relentlessly linear. And Tophet Standard Time isn’t synchronized with any terrestrial time zone.

Einstein once tried to explain it as a variation on the twin paradox, but Gödel disagreed—suggesting that it had more to do with time travel.

De Sade was soon bored out of his gourd. He tried to boycott the proceedings by remaining in bed. But, at 1:00 sharp, he found himself magically transported to the club—shaved, bathed, and dressed for the occasion.

He also tried to torment the old dears, but aside from the fact that there’s only so much you can do with a butter knife, his weapon also had the disconcerting habit of passing right through their wraith-like figures without leaving a scratch.

And while his violent behavior might be disruptive, they forgot about it by the next day. And there was always a next day, just like the day before.

He complained to the prison guard, an ill-tempered demon by the name of Graffiacane. Was there some way of transferring to lower circle of hell where he’d get to see a bit more action?

Although not the most amiable demon you ever met, Graffiacane was sympathetic to his captive’s frustration. Like any normal, well-adjusted hellspawn, Graffiacane had a healthy appetite for wanton mayhem.

He’d only been demoted to this dead-end job after making an off-hand comment about Satan’s poor pedicure. Unfortunately for him, the Foul Fiend was known to hold a grudge. Definitely not the forgiving type.

It would, of course, be necessary for de Sade to fill out the official paperwork. But he’d have to be patient. The pandemonic bureaucracy was nearly as inefficient as the European Union. Too many sulfurous, midlevel managers who spent every meeting haggling over the schedule for the next meeting.

For the time being, de Sade would have to cope with the fusty fact that hell was a tremendous letdown.