Friday, April 06, 2007

The problem of good

If you fancy a (long-ish) witty and inventive read, Stephen Law reports on a debate between theologians on the planet Eth:

BOOBLEFRIP: What a bizarre suggestion. It’s obvious our creator is very clearly evil! Take a look around you! Witness the horrendous suffering he inflicts upon us. The floods. The ethquakes. Cancer. The vile, rotting stench of God’s creation is overwhelming!
GIZIMOTH: Yes, our creator may do some evil. But it’s not clear he’s all-evil, is it? It’s certainly not obvious that his wickedness is infinite, that his malice and cruelty know no bounds. You’re deliberately ignoring a famous argument against the existence of God – the problem of good.

From the characters’ names, I suspect that Stephen is a Douglas Adams fan. He also has a brain the size of a planet (which one, I’m not sure…) But seriously: if you only read one extraterrestrial dialogue satirising the theistic responses to the problem of evil this week, make it this one!

1 comment:

Alex said...

Hey Tom,
Good stuff! Thanks for the heads up. I decided to wade in (probably against my better judgement). But I just could not help point out the single largest problem with his thought experiment. Here's what I posted:

Hey Stephen,
here is my challenge to theists. If you consider belief in an evil God downright ridiculous, why on Earth do you suppose that the good God hypothesis is, at the very least, not unreasonable?

Just so you know I am coming at this from the Christian perspective. You are correct that I do feel the “all evil God” thought experiment ridiculous. I’m surprised that some one as distinguished as your self sees this as a tidy reversal on the theists arguments.

The all evil God experiment unravels for this very simple reason:

Evil is the perversion of an already extant good.

Anything you can think of that you would call evil is the perversion of something that in it’s unperverted state is good. A lie is the perversion of an already extant truth. Rape is the abuse of one of the best things this world has to offer: sex. The immoral use of physical pain is the perversion of our “good” natural warning reflex. Just ask a leper how great it is going through life without any sense of pain.

I am not convinced that your clever thought experiment (as entertaining as it was!) is nearly as problematic for the traditional stance that God is good. At the end of the day your “evil God” could not be God at all; for God is necessarily not subject to any standard. He would simply be the perversion of a extant standard of good. Evil is a parasite. It cannot exist in a vacuum. Therefore this evil God could not be God at all.

So if evil is the perversion of good, and good must exist before evil even has a chance to become a reality; it’s starting to sound like perhaps God is good after all.

At any rate, if he bites it should be pretty entertaining watching me get roasted by someone far beyond my caliber of philosophical deliberation!