Showing posts with label problem of evil. Show all posts
Showing posts with label problem of evil. Show all posts

The Amount of Horrific Suffering Makes The Existence of God Improbable

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Recently I participated in an online debate on an omni-god and suffering. My Catholic opponent mostly quoted from the Bible and Church fathers. Like so many others he had a strategy of nitpicking and using up my time in the cross-examination. Here are my opening and closing statements.

My 10 minute Opening Statement:

Believers will argue that not even a god could create a world without some minimal level of suffering in it. But what about the amount of horrific suffering that exists? That’s my focus.

Here’s the problem: If a god exists who is all-knowing, all-powerful and perfectly good, then the amount of horrific suffering in our world needs an explanation. Either this god isn’t smart enough to eliminate it, or isn’t powerful enough to eliminate it, or doesn’t care enough to eliminate it. The reason is that an all-knowing god would know how to eliminate it, an all-powerful god has the power to eliminate it, and a perfectly good god would want to eliminate it.

For the sake of argument what if such a god exists?

Yahweh and the Problem of Evil--Why Yahweh is an Egotistical, Evil, Sadistic, Masochistic God

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Yahweh is said by Christians to have certain attributes such as being all-good, all-knowing and all-powerful, but the attributes of the god Yahweh, as depicted in the Bible, present a god that is not only supposedly loving--but also angry, jealous, vengeful, and just plain evil. According to Christians, Yahweh is an all-powerful, all good, all knowing god--which is inconsistent with a world of suffering--and this is known as the Problem of Evil. The dilemma for Christians is that if Yahweh is all powerful and all knowing, he could accomplish any of his tasks without the need for suffering--or he would not be all powerful and all knowing. If he was all good, he would want to create a world without any pain and suffering, since it would be within his power and knowledge to do so. But clearly we have pain and suffering. Therefore, Yahweh is not all knowing, all good, or all powerful.

Loftus vs. Wood Debate on the Problem of Evil

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Click on the play button below to see Part 1, which will introduce you to the participants. Then you can watch the debate on evil we had at the Old Dominion University, in Norfolk, VA, on October 7th 2006.

What is the Scope and Definition of Evil?

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Over in the "In a world without God...why does evil exist?" article, Brad Haggard said Lee, make that post into an article so we can discuss it without having to scroll down 80 comments", so I did. Enjoy.

What is evil?
What can be evil?
Is something produced as evil?
Does it become evil?
When does something become evil?
What qualifies as evil?
Can time and/or evironment change a thing to or from something other than evil?
Is needless or pointless suffering evil?

What is the Scope and Definition of Evil?

Is that scope and definition objective?

Does the scope and definition depend on a context?

Who decides?
If God, then how does that knowledge get to us if he's going to remain silent?

If a thing has scope and definition then it can probably be measured, quantified and or evaluated, assessed and compared.

Can we do that with evil?

is it evil to stick a needle in a baby?

Is it evil to kill someone?
To kill a spider?
Is it evil to kill for sport?
Why or why not?

Why does something qualify as evil?

Can evil be useful? If its useful and leads to greater good, is it really evil?
Can good come from an evil proposition?

Can any of the components of something good be evil?

Is an act evil if the intent is not evil?

If a bear kills a human, is it evil?
Or is it just Chance?

It seems to me, evil is in the eye of the beholder.

now I'm standing by for the shower of mischaracterizations, strawmen and equivocation.

Thank Sully!

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By now everyone has heard about the plane crash in the Hudson River. The "miraculous" landing was facilitated by a human being prepared for the split second decisions he had to make by a lifetime of EXPERIENCE, DATA GATHERING, DATA ANALYSIS and SOLUTION PROVIDING. PRAISE SULLY! HALLELUJAH FOR IDQ! Can I get A "HUMAN"?

Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, III
Sullenberger is president and CEO of Safety Reliability Methods Inc., which is a company he founded that provides
* Analysis/Assessment
* Risk Evaluation
* Strategic Vision/Mission
* Executive/Leadership Enhancement
* Targeted Training Development and Implementation
* Team Coaching
* Transition to High Reliability Organization
consulting services to business, government, aviation and health care.

He has three degrees and forty years experience combined as a commercial and military fighter pilot.
News Excerpt from CNN about Sully
US Airways captain the 'consummate pilot', CNN

The pilot speaks internationally on airline safety, and collaborates with the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management at the University of California-Berkeley, whose researchers look for ways to avoid air disasters.

Sullenberger was primed to help passengers aboard the Airbus A320 survive the crisis, said Karlene Roberts, a university professor who co-directs the center.

Education: U.S. Air Force Academy, B.S.; Purdue University, M.S.; Northern Colorado University, M.A.

He was an instructor and Air Line Pilots Association safety chairman, accident investigator and national technical committee member, according to a biography on the Web site of his company.

He participated in several U.S. Air Force and National Transportation Safety Board accident investigations, and worked with NASA scientists on a paper on error and aviation, according to his resume.


In industries such as Aviation, Safety and Health care Information and Data Quality are fundamental. Data Gathering is audited for its accuracy and information is treated as a product.

To illustrate the point here is what the US National Transportation and Safety Board have to say about Information and Data Quality
National Transportation Safety Board information quality standards
Quality - information should incorporate utility, objectivity, accuracy, and integrity.

* Utility - information should be useful for its intended audience.
* Objectivity - information products should be unbiased.
* Accuracy - factual information must be accurate, clear, concise, and complete.
* Integrity - information released to the public should be secure from tampering, modification, or destruction.

So the next time you put your safety in the hands of a professional, you better hope its an educated human that places a high degree of importance in Information and Data Quality principles.

In the last few days I've seen several people who had nothing to do with the decisions made in that cockpit thanking God for their safety, and thanking God that Sully was the right man at the right time, but Sully didn't spend his life preparing for those minutes in Church. He did it by a lifetime of working hard and using his head.

And if God had anything to do with it, then he interfered with normal human activities and interfered with the free will of numerous people. If the claim is that God did it for his Glory, then where was he? All I saw was bunch of Humans doing what Humans do best, helping each other in times of trouble, and many hard working, highly skilled, professionals doing a great job, doing what they had prepared for.

No God Required.
Crisis? Just call educated, data driven humans.

Thank Sully!
Thank the flight crew!
Thank the boat crews!
Thank safety training!
Thank IDQ!
Give the credit where the credit is due.

Mechanism Behind Mind-body Connection Discovered

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"The study reveals how stress makes people more susceptible to illness." Science Daily Article.
This is a datum to support my assertion that the hypothesis that the "Problem of Evil/Suffering is a Test" is demonstrably false.

Every cell contains a tiny clock called a telomere, which shortens each time the cell divides. Short telomeres are linked to a range of human diseases, including HIV, osteoporosis, heart disease and aging. Previous studies show that an enzyme within the cell, called telomerase, keeps immune cells young by preserving their telomere length and ability to continue dividing.
...
UCLA scientists found that the stress hormone cortisol suppresses immune cells' ability to activate their telomerase.
...
The study reveals how stress makes people more susceptible to illness.


If the problem of Evil/Suffering is a test then it is a test that degrades the performance of the participant resulting in a negative feedback loop where the participants ability to cope is degraded as the test proceeds. If we are to be judged on our ability to cope with hardships, and our ability to cope with hardships is demonstrably decreased over time under the influence, and no two people have the same hardships, then there can be no consistent standard to judge by. This is not consistent with sound testing methods.

If the participant can only think and make decisions with the biological material they have at hand, namely their brain, and their brain is susceptible to degradation as is the rest of the body, then the problem of Evil/Suffering as a test is not as much a test of spirit as it is a test of biological integrity.

If however the spirit is a separate entity and is not susceptible to degradation, then while this may be a hypothesis, it is not consistent with any known observations and is only supported by anecdote and writings, some of which are of unknown origin. However, the degradation of spirit during hardship over time has been observed so much that it has become an expected outcome of hardship. Notable exceptions to this outcome are not limited to Christians and should not be used as a datum to support the Christian view of "The problem of Evil/Suffering as a test". Therefore it is a dubious hypothesis, if it can be considered a hypothesis at all.

Reasonable Doubt About the Problem of Evil/Needless Suffering As A Test

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This article builds on the argument that the Problem of Evil/Needless suffering is caused by the process of Creation initiated in the article Resolved! God Caused The Problem Of Evil/Needless Suffering. (I should point out that "the process of creation" is a euphemism I am using for "Chance". With or without a God, Stuff Happens.) Its conclusion is that if the Problem of Evil is a Test, then there should be no biological bases for handling stress or decision making, it should all be a mysterious function of the soul and there should be no biological price to pay for it.

The problem of evil/needless suffering causes harmful stress. People are poorly 'designed' to handle stress and it negatively affects their decision making in some cases creating a negative feedback loop of decisions and consequences. People have varying degrees of stress tolerance. I have seen some people come unglued for what I consider to be nothing. I know people with Bi-Polar disorder and I spend quite a bit of time every week calming a person that has panic attacks because he/she dreads going to work. Two people in my family committed suicide, and a third was believed to be suicidal and they were all three Christians. Why would Christians commit suicide? If Christianity is true, it doesn't follow. But don't take my word that situations cause harmful stress in people, at the bottom of the article there are some lists I got from the Mayo Clinic.

The PoE causes harm to the subject of the test and can actually break them. If the PoE were actually a test, this variable should be controlled for. We should be more robust or equally robust in handling stress.

God won't give us anything we can't handle? It makes sense, and that's what I was always told. God is a strong tower. If someone can't handle it, its their fault, not praying hard enough, not living right, not waiting long enough, not humble enough, not patient enough, whatever excuse in the world could be thought up to put the blame on the person. The fact is that God won't give us more than we can handle because he doesn't have anything to do with it. He's not there. Christians get more than they can handle all the time. Sometimes with tragic consequences.

I think I stopped believing in God on Sept. 11, 2001 when I heard the newscasters say "we have reports that people are jumping out the windows of the towers, presumably to avoid being burned alive". If I had been on the towers on Sep. 11, instead of watching it on TV, and looked out the window and felt the fire behind me and had to make a decision of how I wanted to die, pain for a second or pain for some minutes, I probably would have lost my faith then too. If not before I jumped, then probably on the way down as I realized that I really was going to hit the ground and that the last most important prayer in my life was not going to be answered. I would have prayed that if I can't float down like a feather, then at least take me before I hit. Would I have gone to hell for losing my faith? Or maybe from committing suicide? Would the last act of my life have been a sin? Am I going to go to hell now because I empathized so much with those people that I don't believe that God could have anything to do with any of it or because this situation doesn't support my belief that the God of the Bible would not allow someone to be put in this situation? What would Jesus do? What did Jesus do? What was Jesus thinking?

My "Belief Balance" tipped the other way that day.

I hear it from Christians all the time "Why this and Why that?" "This must be some type of punishment." etc. A key concept in punishment is rehabilitation and without that aspect punishment doesn't make sense. If punishment without rehabilitation is the goal then it is more like revenge. If there can be no rehabilitation then the offender should be removed from society, and at that point, logically, it doesn't matter if they live in a prison or a luxury hotel. There is no evidence of a principle of rehabilitation in the doctrine of Hell, just retribution.

If the problem of Evil is a test, why is it so inequitable? Why do some people get born in impoverished unstable countries to struggle their whole life and others a born relatively affluent and hardly have much to complain about? It just doesn't make sense. It seems to be more a result of chance. Why are some people more able to handle stress than others? Why does stress break some people and it doesn't break others? Why are there biological bases of stress tolerance rather than a function of this mystical soul we are supposed to have and be punished or rewarded with. It seems to be more a result of chance. If the Problem of Evil is a Test, then there should be no biological bases for handling stress, it should all be a mysterious function of the soul.

When we feel stress we feel uncomfortable. We naturally want to feel better. I assert that all of our motivations are initiated from a desire to feel good rather than anything spiritual or moral. The 'spirituality' and 'morality' are the self-justifications that follow to help us maintain that feeling.

Some symptoms of stress and effects on our bodies are as follows. These lists were taken from The Mayo Clinic Website but it left some things out such as schizophrenia and multiple-personality disorder.

On your body
* Headache
* Chest pain
* Pounding heart
* High blood pressure
* Shortness of breath
* Muscle aches
* Back pain
* Clenched jaws
* Tooth grinding
* Stomach upset
* Constipation
* Diarrhea
* Increased sweating
* Tiredness
* Sleep problems
* Weight gain or loss
* Sex problems
* Skin breakouts

On your thoughts and feelings
* Anxiety
* Restlessness
* Worrying
* Irritability
* Depression
* Sadness
* Anger
* Mood swings
* Job dissatisfaction
* Feeling insecure
* Confusion
* Burnout
* Forgetfulness
* Resentment
* Guilt
* Inability to concentrate
* Seeing only the negatives

On your behavior
* Overeating
* Undereating
* Angry outbursts
* Drug abuse
* Excessive drinking
* Increased smoking
* Social withdrawal
* Crying spells
* Relationship conflicts
* Decreased productivity
* Blaming others

Natural Disasters As Part Of The Problem Of Evil

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(Resolved! God Caused The Problem of Evil/Needless Suffering.) This article briefly discusses Natural Disasters as Part Of The Problem Of Evil. I argue that the problem of Evil was caused by God and his process of Creation. While I suspect that almost no one will dispute that natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcano's, tsunami's, hurricanes, tornado's and such are caused by natural seismological and meteorological processes, I claim that if there is a God, the way he made the earth guarantees that they will happen.

Some argue that Natural Disasters are not Disasters unless they affect people. I think Bambi and Peter Singer would disagree with this definition, but it works for this article. The intersection in this to the problem of Evil is that mankind is supposed to have brought the PoE on himself by disobeying god in the early days of its interaction with him. I avoid saying Adam and Eve because I think most people accept that there were people on the earth before 6000 - 10000 years ago. If natural disasters affect people and cause suffering and is used by clergy as an example of Gods Judgment and punishment on humanity, then it doesn't seem to follow from the fact that it happened before humans were humans, Adam and Eve or not. And if one argues that Natural Disasters happen anyway but sometimes are directed by God, then I call into the question the moral principles of group punishment especially when some of the punished are undergoing treatments to keep them alive in hospitals, toddlers and babies. Maybe some of you don't know this but a group of doctors in a hospital are under suspicion of 'hastening nature' because a disproportionate number of their terminally ill patients died within a couple of hours during hurricane Katrina.

I suppose one could say that God knew that mankind would disobey God so he made the earth this way as a result of foreknowledge, but then I have to wonder why make man in a way that would guarantee that he would 'malfunction' and need to be kicked around by the environment. If god was omniscient, and he knew everything ahead of time, including what choices we would make throughout our life and who the saved would be, then we only have the appearance of free will. But that debate is not the point of this article or necessary as a premise.

So if God created the world he created in such a way that it is constantly changing, and these changes seem to be necessary for it to work properly. These changes affect one another sometimes to a frightening degree causing the events that HUMANS PERCEIVE as disasters and "Gods Judgment". These events are a result of and necessary for the ecology of the earth. They have nothing to do with Mankind. Mankind just happens to live in its path. They happened before mankind showed up, and will happen after he is gone, and in fact may cause mankind's extinction.

God As Accessory To Child Abduction

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Many people are gathered this season participating in the Christmas Holiday. They share the story of Jesus born in the manger, being held and cuddled by his mother and adored by all his visitors, angels and animals. Children act out the story in churches. Some say that christmas is for the children. These are the children that we see. But every season, there are children that we don't see. Children that are missing. Children that have disappeared and we can only hope that nothing bad has happened to them. Lets say that Tom saw a child being abducted but has decided not to get involved. Is Tom culpable of being an Accessory to the Crime? Is there any obligation in principle for Tom to report this Crime? Tom is an accessory to the Crime. There is at least a legal principle for him to report the crime. Now lets change one word in our scenario and see what happens.

Lets say that God saw a child being abducted but has decided not to get involved. Is God culpable of being an Accessory to the Crime? Is there any obligation in principle for God to report this Crime? God is an accessory to the Crime. There is at least a legal principle for him to report the crime.

Wikipedia - Accessory

In some jurisdictions, an accessory is distinguished from an accomplice, who normally is present at the crime and participates in some way. An accessory must generally have knowledge that a crime is being, or will be committed. A person with such knowledge may become an accessory by helping or encouraging the criminal in some way, or simply by failing to report the crime to proper authority. The assistance to the criminal may be of any type, including emotional or financial assistance as well as physical assistance or concealment.

Here is a link to Child Find of America

When they went missing, God was there in his omniscience, omnipotence, omni-benevolence and his "perfect" Justice. Christians can lay down piles of Rhetoric about God valuing Freewill so much that the he won't interfere with the criminals act, but since this is the case, then he values the criminals freewill more and the subsequent act of the criminal more than the freewill of the victim or the safety of the victim, whom in the context of this article are children.

God Violates the very sound principle of reporting a crime when one has knowledge of it. God is Guilty as accessory to crimes associated with missing children.

So as you are looking at baby Jesus laying in the manger and basking in the joy that your children bring you as they sing, play and open their christmas presents in wide-eyed wonder, think about those children that have had their freewill violated and are missing today. Pray God brings them back home tonight, then lets see how many come back home tonight.

Yet Another Unpleasant Truth

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Note: “Mrs. Jane Ortega” and “Michael Ortega” mentioned below are real people whom I have come to know and been corresponding—only their names have been changed to protect their identities. And, uh…well, the letter pretty much explains the rest…


“Dear Mrs. Ortega,

I hope this email finds you doing well. Being that we have been acquainted with each other for some time now, and being that we have had the opportunity to look at the academic side of the problem of evil, I wanted to offer a finishing piece to “drive home,” as it were, what has been discussed.

Please understand that the things I will mention are not intended to be insulting or hurtful, but are to make clear to you that you have not taken to heart what we are debating. The problem of evil is an emotional argument, as well as a logical argument, and that is why the best Christian apologists in the world keep coming back to reconsider it. When one seeks to avoid the logical force of the problem, they are confronted with the emotional discomfort created by it, and this makes them reconsider the logical force of it once again. This is always the situation when people say the problem of evil “doesn’t affect” (your words) them. Like a sleeping pill, the problem hasn’t affected you because you haven’t digested it yet!

As you know, I met your son Michael at the bus station. That put me in touch with you, which, of course, I deem a good thing. But the unfortunate circumstance of your son is not a good thing. It is a terrible thing.

Each time I see him I think to myself how hard it must have been for you to raise a kid like that, and for forty-two years straight, be reminded of the fact that he will never be a normal man, that he will never pay his own bills, and that his brain will never stop requiring a handful of special pills everyday just to keep him out of trouble with the law. He will never get married and bring you grandchildren. He will never hold down a normal job or live in so much as a budget-sized apartment by himself. He will never host a thanksgiving dinner for the family, will never tend to his share of the chores, or even clean his own clothes. I deeply feel for you, and although, right about now you’re probably preparing to tell me how much of a joy and a gift from God you consider your son to be, even with all the heartache that raising a severely bi-polar/schizophrenic can be, I’m here to tell you no less forcefully that you don’t deserve it.

You don’t deserve any of this. You are a good woman, a wonderful person, and you deserved to get a son who would carry on your legacy, who would take care of you in your older years. But you don’t have that. Instead, your son has given you a bruised lip and broken furniture on more than one occasion. Your son consumed Palmolive dish soap and thumbtacks as a means to end his life earlier this year. Someone clueless enough to try and kill himself in a manner such as this is worthy of the utmost pity. That alone is a fountain of sadness. Your son has been arrested a great many times, and each time, could not make a single coherent statement in his defense. These are monumentally sad facts that I know you are aware of, but there is a reason for why I am reminding you of them—and I think you know that reason.

I want to tell you what your boy said to me the other day. I was standing guard in the bus terminal as usual when he approached me and immediately began to carry on about how cruel you were to him as a child, throwing him in snake pits and whipping him with thorns from rose bushes. As he stood in my face, twitching madly, I gently moved him out of my personal space and began for the fourth time this week to assure him that you did none of those things to him, that it was all in his mind. Failing to get through to him, I tried to convince him that even if he still feels that way about you that he should try and just move on with his life, and not go around telling complete strangers about it and having them come to me and ask to have him removed from the facility because he won’t leave them alone.

I could tell by looking into his distant eyes that he comprehended not a word I said. He went right on accusing you and the government of poisoning him with bitter herbs and by putting deadly sound waves in the Rod Stewart songs he likes to listen to. It’s so sad to see him walking around like that, in a never-clearing fog of paranoia and disorientation. I had to ask him to leave the station again a few days ago (but I think I already told you that the other day).

I know you love him and try to hug him before he goes to pushing you back away from him at your weekly monitored meetings. In tears, you assure him you love him, but it does no good. You do love him, and you always will, and no one’s saying you shouldn’t, but I’ve seen how you break down every time you are around him. It crushes you to see him in such pain and not be able to do anything about it or get close to him. That must hurt in a way that only a mother can know. He’s such a handsome man too—if only he had a normal mind.

Frankly, if your son is a gift from God, then God doesn’t think much of you at all. If such a higher power exists, he hates you or else couldn’t care less about you; there’s simply no other way of putting it. Now I don’t find it sound to believe that a deity hates you or loves you. You deserve so much better, but unfortunately, there is no God who will do you better.

For the last four or five conversations, we have been discussing the problem of evil, and in that time, you have acquitted your God of all charges of cruelty and evil. I would ask that you keep deliberating on this, and when you are ready, look your son in the eyes the next time you see him and ask yourself: “Do I really and truly deserve this?” What does your heart of hearts tell you? The only way the problem of evil can be ignored is when the problem is someone else’s, but when the problem becomes your own, it is impossible to ignore.

You are a very strong person, Jane, so strong that you have been able to take in stride and accept what would be too much for some people. Maybe you will one day be strong enough to accept yet another unpleasant truth.

Best regards,

(JH)”






Reasonable Doubt about the Problem of Evil

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I challenge the whole premise of the problem of evil on the grounds that is not consistent with gods character as described in the bible. (surprise)[irony]
Personally I think this effectively refutes the Problem of Evil as a test and the assertion that it creates a greater good.
- god is all powerful,
- god is all knowing,
- god is perfectly good,
- god is perfectly merciful,
- god doesn't like to see us suffer
- the problem of evil creates a greater good

So a solution that is consistent will all the premises is that god would have breathed people into existence as they would have turned out as if they had suffered through the 'test'.

To say that it is more important to actually do the work and suffer when the same result could be achieved in another way which avoids needless suffering is logically inconsistent with several premises:
- god is all powerful
- god is perfectly good
- god is perfectly merciful
- the problem of evil creates a greater good

If god were not all powerful, then the problem of evil as a test might make sense as an argument from ignorance, but even then the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.

To say that we are ignorant of gods motives means that the bible does not accurately describe god and we can't really know anything about him with certainty. Since the bible is the only authoritative descriptive evidence for god, then nothing else about god can be learned. That is to say that any conclusion about god is uncertain and nothing further can be learned. This is anoalogous to saying "I conclude this, but I am not sure, and I don't know how to know, but I deny evidence to the contrary".

Obviously my solution negates the need to create the universe, the world and us, therefore the problem of evil is refuted by our existence.

Evil and Evolution Debate:Draper v. Plantinga

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This is a debate hosted by the Secular Web between two important philosophers that you shouldn't miss. I will be reading through it in the coming days. Here's Draper's introduction. You can click on the Table of Contents or proceed to the debate itself from there.

A Good God Doesn't Exist

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My wife and I visited Reno, Nevada, recently, along with Donner Memorial State Park, which marks the campsite of many members of the Donner Party. The Donner Party got stranded one winter in the mountains due to heavy snowfall. This is a picture of the rock that was used as a western wall and fireplace for the Murphy Cabin. It was really interesting standing there where many people died, and where some people ate the flesh of others just to stay alive. What a horrific winter it must have been.

It's also interesting to read Patrick Breen's diary. Here's an entry from it on December 31, 1846: "Last of the year. May we, with God's help, spend the coming year better than the past, which we purpose to do if Almighty God will deliver us from our present dreadful situation, which is our prayer if the will of God sees it fitting for us. Amen." Another entry January 19, 1847: "Clear & pleasant. Thawing a little in the sun. Wind S.W. Peggy & Edward sick last night by eating some meat that Dolan threw his tobacco on; pretty well to day (praise God for his blessings)."

Of the 81 people trapped in the mountains, 36 died and 45 survived. Since most of these people were Christians I wonder why God didn't answer their prayers, or answered so very little of what they needed. I cannot envision a good mother not doing so, can you?

Cognitive Dissonance and the Problem of Evil

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This article is a summary of a portion of an interview with Social Psychologist Carol Tavris on Point of Inquiry, the Podcast of the Center for Skeptical Inquiry. She and Social Psychologist Elliot Aronson are the authors of a book on Cognitive Dissonance called Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs and how it affects us in everyday life. It covers the manifestation of Cognitive Dissonance in prosecuting attorneys, law enforcement officials, politicians, smokers etc. In the interview she was asked if Cognitive Dissonance is manifested in religious belief and this article summarizes her response.

In the beginning of the interview she talks about characteristics of Cognitive Dissonance and how it manifests itself in Attorneys that have discovered they have wrongly prosecuted someone, law enforcement officials that are trained to believe the person being questioned is just as good as guilty thereby justifying whatever means necessary to elicit a confession, and politicians that support policy that is shown over time to be wrong but will not change their position. She uses the resulting situation of the Iraq War and the position of the Bush Administration as an example of a manifestation of Cognitive Dissonance.

Q: There are religious people that don't demand proof for their beliefs, is this a way of relieving their cognitive dissonance?

A: The more important a particular belief is to us the more strongly we will ignore or reject evidence suggesting we are wrong. Religion is central to what gives many people meaning and purpose in life. This type of belief will be defended at all costs. Examples of dis-confirming evidence creating Cognitive Dissonance are Evolution, the Holocaust and disasters.
Most religious people are not threatened by evolution. They find a way to fit it into their beliefs, but some cannot fit it into their beliefs and they will go to great lengths to try to refute the dis-confirming evidence.
How do Jews deal with the Holocaust? The Jews believe they are the chosen people, and god is looking after them. How could a good loving god have permitted genocide? Students of Cognitive Dissonance Theory would predict that people would become more religious and their faith would be strengthened. What most people do is not lose their faith in God but reduce the dissonance by saying God is responsible for the Good in the world, human beings are responsible for the Evil or God is testing faith. The Christian response to the question of how Jesus could permit enormous suffering to happen is to believe that it is to test faith. Anything that is not consonant with a belief in God is reinterpreted to make it consonant. For example after a terrible disaster the survivors will say something like "god was looking after me" but discounting the fact that God was not looking out for other people that died.

Another interesting interview related to cognitive dissonance is from the radio show "All in the Mind". They interviewed Phillip Zambardo, the lead researcher involved with the Stanford Prison Experiment. The experiment had to be canceled because it got out of control. The participants started self-justifying doing terrible things to each other and it had to be stopped. He was the expert witness for the defendants in the Abu Ghraib trial, explaining how situational factors can make good people do bad things using cognitive dissonance to self-justify their actions. He talks about it in his book The Lucifer Effect.

It made me think about slavery, the crusades, Old Testament atrocities and Craigs defense of killing pregnant mothers with a sword. (thanks Steven Carr!)

REFERENCES
Point of Inquiry podcast with Carol Tavris interview.

Science Friday podcast interview with Elliot Aronson

Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs

Wikipedia on Cognitive Dissonance

All in the Mind

Stanford Prison Experiment

The Lucifer Effect


Anencepahlic Babies and the Problem of Evil

72 comments

This article is to narrow down the Problem of Evil to one type of situation that I have not seen Christians provide a rationale for. Maybe I missed it because I wasn't reading carefully enough. In any case here is the chance for Christians to resolve this once and for all, to provide something they can proudly point to on this blog as an unequivocal victory.

P1. God is Omnipresent, Omniscient, Omnipotent
P2. God is Good.
P3. God permits suffering because it creates a greater good
C. There should be no suffering that does not add value to the greater good.

Anencephaly is a lethal birth defect characterized by the absence of all or part of the skull and scalp and malformation of the brain. (answers.com)
Anencephaly from Wikipedia.

As far as I can tell, the couples that have had anencephalic babies were average people. Some of them appear to be persons of faith. They exercised their free will and they wanted to have children. The woman did nothing intentionally or inadvertently that would have caused this. The babies were carried to term and they typically live up to three to five days before they die. While it is true that there is no perceptible suffering on the babies part, there is suffering on the part of the parents and family. What value to the greater good could this possibly add? And if it is for "soul building", then why doesn't something similar happen to everyone? For most people I think it can be said that having a baby is a joyous time.

This webring is a tribute and place where people who have had this happen to them support each other.
Anencephalic Angels I provided the text of the first page as an appendix to this article.

As far as I can tell the only defense is to Appeal to Ignorance/Appeal to Mystery. It can be argued that we don't have enough information to say anything about Gods goodness. It can even be argued that God defines goodness, and our definition is flawed. But be careful when you do that because you are establishing a principle that can be used to show that it is impossible to know anything about God with any certainty. If the problem of Evil is the fault of Man, and started in the Garden of Eden by disobeying god, or if the story of A & E is metaphor for mans natural condition, then mans tendency to disobey God makes it impossible to know anything about God with any certainty.

If
P1. man caused his own fall through the exercise of freewill and disobeyed God,
P2. And as a result or initial condition man is prone to sin,
P3. And God wrote the bible through man,
P4. And The bible scriptures are the only accepted authority about God
P5. And Man is prone to mis-interpret the bible as evidenced by the multitude of theological disagreements,
P6. And There is no standard except Jesus by which to measure proper knowledge of God,
P7. And Because we only know anything about Jesus anecdotally and not from the source,

C. there is no way to know if the information in the Bible is accurate therefore no one can know anything with any certainty about God.

It appears to me that God has a problem with infinity. If God had boundaries, then it seems to me that most of the Atheistic arguments against God would go away.
I don't think the ancients thought it through very well. That is a characteristic of folklore.

If you say that God is not completely good, or God is not omnipotent then the problem of Evil/Suffering goes away or if Jesus had sat down and spent a month writing, then I suppose he could have explained it away.

And if this too easy to explain, heres another one
Police, shooting at snake, kill 5-year-old boy, officials say

APPENDIX

Here is a list of the First page of Links on the Anencephalic Angels web ring.

In Memory of Adam
In memory of our angel, Adam, who we lost due to anencephaly.

Matthew's Memorial
This site was made in memory of my sweet baby boy, Matthew, who was stillborn due to anencephaly.

Jessica's Journey
My Jessica's story, information about anencephaly, support groups, memorial links, and inspirational stories are all found within the pages of Jessica's Journey.

Nathan's Story
This is the story of our precious little boy, Nathan ,who lived for 25hrs and 2 minutes before returning to heaven.

MY ANGEL ARIEL
Memorial to my baby lost to anencephaly and a tribute to her sister lost to miscarriage at 12 weeks.

My Angel Lily Faith
Memorial to my baby born with anenchephaly after years of intertility & IVF treatment.

Memorial to Mary Elizabeth Karg
A short story with pictures about the happenings leading up to the birth of Mary Elizabeth, about her short life, and about saying goodbye.

IN Loving Memory of Annalise
The story of the my daughther Annalise from her diagnosis till eventual death.

Anouk's memorial
A memorial to my anencephalic daughter Anouk.

Michaela's Hope
A site created in memory of our daughter, Michaela Hope.

Calebs Memorial
A memorial site for our angel Caleb whom we lost to Anencephaly in March of 1999.

Faith Lynn
This site is dedicated to my daughter, Faith Lynn, who was born and died on 8-21-02 due to complications from anencephaly.

Heaven's Lullaby
A place where mommys, daddys, and families can find comfort and support after the loss of their baby.

Ryan and Jesse Angel Babies
This is a educational memorial dedicated to my angels Jesse who had anencephaly and Ryan had congential diaphragmatic hernia.

Anencephaly - Angel Meert's Memorial Site
This is a memorial site dedicated to our baby boy that we lost to Anencephaly on 7th October 1995.

Gabriel Aaron Meehan our child in heaven
Gabriel Aaron Meehan was born on April 15, 2003 to his loving parents Ben and Kelly, and to his adoring big brother and sister Zach and Emmarie.

Jasmine Faith, Our Treasure in Heaven
The story of my daughter, who passed away shortly after birth due to anencephaly.

My Angel Daniel
This is a website in memory of my sweet boy who i lost to Anencephaly in Jan 1992.

Our Precious daughter 'Angel'
Memorial to our baby lost to anencephaly on January 12th 2002.

Amanda Marie
In loving memory of my daughter, Amanda, who was born still because of anencephaly.




God and the Problem of Evil, Again.

30 comments

Jennifer responded again to this post of mine, which originated out of a challenge to Christians to put up or shut up...literally. Jennifer wrote:

It seems that this is hinging on God making sure we don't hurt each other by intervening in some way before the act is carried out....Let's say someone is going to kidnap a child. At what point does God stop them? Let's say this kidnapper had a bad childhood. (I'm using a real life example.) His brother sexually assaulted him many times, which means it probably happened to his brother, which means it probably happened to the person who did it to his brother etc...So on the day this man is driving around on the lookout for someone to take, he sees who he wants and runs out of gas. (God's intervetion) What does he do next? Are you saying that if he runs out of gas enough times he will eventually give up? If I follow this idea all the way to it's end, it seems that God would have to start with babies. But then what if the parents are just evil people? He should stop them from having children? It seems like what you are really saying is that God should just make us right to begin with so nothing will go wrong.
Okay, this is worth responding to. Good questions and good point. Thank you. Since she may be speaking the thoughts of others, let me respond below:

There are three prior possibilities that you must first deal with before we should consider your questions. 1) I have argued here that God did not have a reason for creating anything at all, but even if he did so anyway, then 2) he could've and should've created a heavenly world with heavenly beings in the first place (I reject any notion that a being in the direct unmediated presence of an all powerful and perfectly loving God would ever under any circumstances rebel). And I also argue that 3) given the intense suffering in this world (both with animals and human beings) and the suffering of billions of people forever in hell, that God should not have given these creatures free will in the first place. It was an immoral decision of God’s by any standards we have to judge whether a good God exists or not, which are the same moral standards that Christians themselves use to judge the morality of any act. To those who want to maintain that free will is an overweighing good, I argue that free will is not such a good thing. Besides, we do not have abstract freedom anyway, able to do whatever we want to do. We are limited by our age, gender, physical strength and stamina, looks, finances, social status, era we live in, and where we live. Since this is so, further limiting our free choices when we already have limited freedom anyway is not a problem, especially when we see the Biblical God doing just that in several cases (Pharaoh’s hardened heart, planting thoughts (or dreams) into someone’s head (Paul’s visions), making a person insane (Nebuchadnezzar), and/or simply killing them (Herod, Uzzah, Ananias & Sapphira).

Hence the questions and points that you make are nonsensical until you first deal with these three prior possibilities.

If however, for no good reason at all (especially for no good moral reason) God created a fleshly world with free creatures in it, then and only then are we faced with the difficulties you point out, but they are not difficulties at all, especially for God. Let me explain.

Yes, there are generational moral deficiencies passed down through the ages. I simply say nip this in the bud at the very first person in the generational line to screw up. If Adam & Eve existed, start with them, and I’ve already argued this case here.

If a man is about to start a generational chain of molesters, stop him from molesting his first victim. It’s that simple. If he’s religious, try by planting thoughts into his head at an early age. Keep him from those experiences which will cause him to desire this, if possible. Start young in his life, and early as needed. I see no difficulty for this with an omniscient God who is reading his thoughts as he thinks them. If he continues to rebel, and I simply see no reason he would if God monitors his thought life and redirects it, then give him a heart attack the day he decides to do it. What exactly is the problem here, since as the author of life you will claim he can take it away? And this could be repeated for any heinous moral act down through the centuries. If you want to maintain we need some problems to challenge us, then God need not stop all “sinful” acts, only the most heinous ones. If you want to claim that for all you know he does stop many of them, there is no evidence that he does, and the number of sicko’s out there left to wreak havoc upon us means he doesn’t do enough.

Podcast of Stephen Law Discussing The Problem of Evil

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Since John turned me on to the Problem of Evil and Stephen Law, I have stumbled onto an interview with him, David Edmunds and Nigel Warburton discussing it. Stephen takes the problem of evil and turns it around and explores it as the Problem of Good to illustrate its shortcomings. I highly recommend it for everyone.
The picture is of an apologist bending over backwards to dodge some arguments in our recent debates here on DC of the Problem of Evil.

Here are several options for acquiring it.
- The MP3
- Philosophy bites on Learnoutloud.com
- Philosophy Bites Blog

Why Didn't God Create Us in Heaven in the First Place?

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I argue that God could've created us in a perfect existence in the first place...in heaven. Christians must counter-argue that God could not have done so, given the amount of suffering that resulted from his decision to create us in a fleshly world here on earth. Let me explain with the problem of free will, as I've done before. If there isn't free will in heaven for the "saints" when they die, then why did God need to test us with it on earth, since without it in heaven we'd all obey God anyway? If there is no free will in heaven for the "saints" when they die, then why did God purportedly grant free will to Satan in heaven from which he purportedly rebelled? If free will is so valuable, then why would God reward the "saints" in heaven by taking it away from them, but punish "sinners" in hell by letting them (us) keep it and rebel forever? If, however, there is free will in heaven for the "saints" when they die, then there would also be the possibility of another rebellion in heaven in the future. Besides, would someone please explain to me why anyone in the direct unmediated presence of God would ever attempt to rebel against an omnipotent Being who loves them with a perfect love? Anyone who would even think of rebelling would have to be pure evil itself, and dumber than a box of rocks. But since I don't believe any person can ever be pure evil or that dumb, I claim it's extremely implausible to believe any person did attempt to do this, or that anyone with free will in heaven would ever try.
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Edited for Calvinists. If there is no libertarian free will at all then what is the point of creating human beings at all? If God did not create us with free will, then Calvinistic theology must justify why our particular world brings God more glory than a different world where he decrees from eternity that his creatures all perfectly obey him. If humans do not have free will, then there can be no rational justification for the suffering that we experience in this world. Such a God as that is only worthy of our disgust, since our world could so easily have been different if he merely pulled our strings to do good and not evil and made us feel as if we were freely choosing what we do.

The Problem of Evil and Suffering Revisited

29 comments

As of now, I believe that the problem of evil and suffering is one of the chief arguments against Christianity in addition to arguments from biblical errancy, atheological arguments, and the problem of supernatural claims needing supernatural evidence. In my opinion wasn't always this. The problem of evil and suffering wasn't always the biggest problem I have had for being a Christian. I think that the reason why this is so is because most Christians seem to paint this argument as a sheer emotional argument, not an intellectual argument. That is, they like to point to human conceptions of fairness, dignity, or perceptions of what ought to be and not what is. I think that this is the reason that the argument from pain and suffering never led me to ask whether Christianity was true, intellectually, but did kill any faith I had in any god of love. Christians believe that the existence of God is more or less factually-based, and so any argument from pain and suffering can only be, at root, an emotional argument based on selfish and limited human ideals of the way that the world ought to work. I guess this is the reason I never struggled with the argument of how Christianity could be true. Yet, my deep clinical depression never led me to consider that pain and suffering could be a logical or evidential argument against God because I was convinced that Christianity was true intellectually. Instead of seeing the evidence of pain and suffering as evidence for the nonexistence of God, I took pain and suffering, particularly my own, as evidence that God had something personally against me.

The Problem of Evil and Suffering

What led me to finally start questioning a lot of the arguments in favor of Christianity was biblical errancy. This is because the Christian perception of pain and suffering as purely an emotional argument controlled my thinking, even for a few years after I left the faith. It wasn't until I read the chapter on pain and suffering by Loftus that I finally began to see that the argument from evil and suffering could and did have a logical structure to it. If I became convinced that pain and suffering had a logical structure to it, I might have left the faith sooner. Another thing that I noticed is that some Christians don't even seem really bothered by suffering and evil in this world. When people bring up suffering and evil, these Christians, never really having experienced much of the pain and suffering in this world firsthand, tend to get self-righteous and judgmental regarding nonbelievers or skeptics and even accuse them of selfishness. When we offer suffering and evil as a reason to disbelieve that any god exists, we are often greeted with an arrogant judgmentalism, ironically accusing us of arrogance in thinking we could selfishly design a world much better than any god could. Other Christians are, in fact, acutely aware of evil and suffering and when they go to explain it, it almost seems like they're apologizing on behalf of God and trying to rationalize away his behavior. They seem aware of the problem of pain evil and suffering and actually concede that it has strong force and try to give a very gentle explanation, probably aware that the problem is a genuine one.

Indeed, it is genuine and powerful. I was foolish enough to not consider that it had a strong logical basis to it for a number of years and I am glad that I finally saw through my shortsightedness and embraced the argument as powerful as it is. I recall reading about the famed agnostic Charles Templeton, a former minister and good buddy of Billy Graham, finally had his faith destroyed by the problem of suffering. He saw a mother cradling her dead child, looking up to heaven, as if expecting an answer from the Almighty, when all that was needed was rain for the child to survive. I still am not entirely sure why this problem never impacted me as much as it has numerous other people. I am not entirely sure why I never really delved into it deeply enough prior to reading Loftus' chapter on the subject. But I now consider it to be a very devastating argument, one, like the starlight problem, that has never been solved by Christian theologians successfully. I look forward to reading Michael Martin's treatment of it in greater detail whereas, beforehand, I was never really impressed by it, my thinking still held hostage by prior fundamentalist assumptions.

Indeed, I noticed something interesting. It seems to me that the more conservative and fundamentalist one is in terms of theology, the less impact the argument has on them. I think I have been noticing that the more extremist of fundamentalists are the Christians who accuse people really bothered or affected by the argument as being selfish to complain about it, arrogant enough to demand an answer from God, and thinking that they can design a better universe where the problem doesn't exist. Worst of all, they are usually the ones who usually accuse people of bringing up evil and suffering as having ulterior motives of selfishly wanting to live a life of sin. In contrast to these classical fundamentalists, the more moderate Evangelicals actually seem acutely aware of the problem and seem almost to apologize for the problem in their explanations. They realize that it is a very serious problem, that people have been very affected and hurt by the problem, and that it poses a tremendous threat to the Christian faith. What is more is that they feel the need to cobble an explanation together which seems to be a tactic admission on their part that there is no real answer because God hasn't explicitly revealed it and the best they can do is take educated guesses at the motives for God's decisions.

My answer to the problem of pain and suffering when I was a fundamentalist was quite simplistic in nature. I would say that mankind hurt God when man sinned and so God allows the problem of pain and suffering to let mankind know just how hurt he feels. I used to liken it to a teenager who went out partying and stayed out very late, worrying her poor mother. So finally the mother decided to teach her teenager a lesson by staying out late one time, worrying the teenager. I once told this to a college instructor. "When the mother comes home late at night, the teenager protests, complaining about how worried she was about her mother, to which her mother replies 'Now you know how I feel'," I told him something like this (I am paraphrasing for a lack of exact wording). To which he responded "Oh! So you think God does this to teach us a lesson?" to which I affirmed my opinion. I simply left it at that although I came to believe that some evil and suffering is actually a necessary evil, a means to bring about good sometimes. If God didn't allow a woman to be sexually assaulted, I reasoned, we wouldn't be inspired to create laws to punish it. If God didn't allow pain in our lives, we wouldn't be grateful for the blessings. When pain and discomfort came growth and healing. I now realize that these explanations are silly and simplistic, not to mention cruel and inconsiderate but such is the nature of Christian apologetics.

Christians waste much time and ink on trying to solve and answer this problem but it is a problem that has gone on unsuccessfully answered. The problem seems unsolvable and I am pleased that a few Christians are intellectually honest enough to admit it. Some Christians will continue to try and solve the problem with the best of intentions while the arrogant of classical fundamentalists will keep acting as though there is no real problem and that it's all in the heathen's depraved imagination. Fine, call me a heathen, but the problem is real and it's the chief reason I could never be a Christian, whether again or for the first time! My other arguments follow from the argument from evil and suffering.

Matthew


The Problem of Goodness and Hume's Hypothesis of Indifference.

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David Hume offered us four choices about the moral nature of "the first causes of the universe." Either they are 1) perfectly good, 2) perfectly evil, 3) they are opposites and have both goodness and malice, or 4) they have neither goodness nor malice. Paul Draper calls the last choice the Hypothesis of Indifference, or HI.

Hume (through Philo) argues for HI in these words: "Mixed phenomena can never prove the two former unmixed principles. And the uniformity and steadiness of general laws seem to oppose the third. The fourth, therefore, seems by far more probable." [Dialogues, part XI].

When it comes to the opposite claims that "the first causes of the universe" are either, 1) perfectly good or 2) perfectly evil, it seems implausible to accept either of these extremes given the fact that we see both goodness and suffering in our world. This is what Hume calls "mixed phenomena," in that we see both goodness and malice in our world.

Those who argue that these causes are "perfectly good" have to explain why there is so much evil in this world, known as the problem of evil. Those who argue that these causes are "perfectly evil" have to explain why there is so much goodness in this world, known as the problem of goodness.

Let's consider the problem of goodness for Hume's second choice, placed in the context of a Supreme Being.

Why is there goodness, we might ask, in a world created by a malicious being? The answers provided would be the same ones that theists who believe in a perfectly good God use to explain the problem of evil, such as: 1) Goodness is the result of truly free actions. 2) Goodness is necessary for evil to exist. 3) Rather than this world being a place for “soul making,” it is designed for “soul breaking.” 4) Any good in the world will produce greater evils. 4) We may not know why this malicious Supreme Being allows goodness, but he knows what he’s doing.

But since the same arguments produce two opposite and contradictory conclusions, both conclusions are implausible…they cancel each other out.

To see this argued in greater depth, Stephen Law, the editor of Think, the Royal Institute of Philosophy Journal, has a dialogue called The God of Eth, which I recommend. He defends his argument from a further objection here, but I highly recommend you read his response to Richard Swinburne's objections here.