Dr. William H. Jefferys on the Loftus/Wood Debate

Dr. Jeffery's, Harlan J. Smith Centennial Professor of Astronomy, Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin wrote me this:

I listened to your debate with David Wood today. Very interesting.

A twist on the Argument from Evil that seems to be implicit in what you said but was not stated explicitly is the following, which I think undermines David's case and the rationalizations he gave.

Take a counterfactual hypothetical: Suppose that we observed that the world did *not* contain gratuitous evil (tsunamis killing thousands, leukemia, etc.). Would the theist conclude that this evidence *favored* the existence of the 3-omni God? (I certainly would, and I think that most people would.) If he would, (and we'd have to see if David would say that it does) then the observation of the world we actually do have undermines the existence of the 3-omni God quite trivially. For if we have any hypotheses A and B, where A and B are mutually exclusive and exhaustive hypotheses, and possible evidence X and not-X, then if observing evidence X supports A against B, then observing evidence not-X necessarily supports B against A. This is straightforward in either Bayesian or likelihood analysis.

I've used this approach in other contexts. See my review of the book, The Privileged Planet by Gonzales and Richards.

A small point: One should not let people like Wood get away with trying to deflect the argument from evil by claiming that atheists can't state a principle for recognizing evil. After all, the burden of proof is on them, and they claim to have a way of recognizing evil. By their own definitions, the world contains evil...even Wood would not claim that the holocaust, for example, was not a monstrous evil. They are then hoist by their own petard, since the logical inconsistency is purely on their side. The atheist doesn't have to justify anything, just point out that it is the theist's position that is logically inconsistent.

Regards, Bill