Thursday, February 27, 2014

On the absurdity of an atheist using the argument from evil

Gary Gutting interviews atheist Louise Antony in the New York Times [Arguments Against God]. Here's part of the interview ...
L.A.: Knowledge in the real world does not entail either certainty or infallibility. When I claim to know that there is no God, I mean that the question is settled to my satisfaction. I don’t have any doubts. I don’t say that I’m agnostic, because I disagree with those who say it’s not possible to know whether or not God exists. I think it’s possible to know. And I think the balance of evidence and argument has a definite tilt.

G.G.: What sort of evidence do you have in mind?

L.A.: I find the "argument from evil" overwhelming — that is, I think the probability that the world we experience was designed by an omnipotent and benevolent being is a zillion times lower than that it is the product of mindless natural laws acting on mindless matter. (There are minds in the universe, but they’re all finite and material.)
The argument from evil goes like this ...
  1. Assume that supernatural, omnipotent beings exist.
  2. Assume that they are kind and benevolent and they have the power and desire to create human societies that will be kind and good.
  3. Therefore, because evil is commonplace, one of the assumptions must be wrong.
An atheist is concerned about whether supernatural beings exist so why in the world would they pay any attention to the premises of this argument? If I were to accept the premise that supernatural omnipotent beings exist then the argument from evil simply leads to the conclusion that the supernatural beings are evil (like Satan) or they don't much care about us, like the Greek gods.

The argument from evil says nothing about whether gods exist or not. It only refers to particular kinds of gods and the only way an atheist should pay any attention to it at all is if they are willing to concede that some sort of gods must exist. Then, and only then, can they enter into a discussion about what kinds of gods exist. In that sense, the argument from evil is about as useful as the Courtier's Reply.

I wish atheists would stop discussing the argument from evil because all it does is show that some gods are possible while others are unlikely. I do not see why Louise Anthony finds the argument convincing because it's perfectly consistent with the existence of Satan.

It's also perfectly consistent the god of the Old Testament (see above). That god is exactly the sort of god that that would create a human society full of evil. Humans are behaving just like the god they worship. What's the problem?