The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > Comments on Cecil's Columns/Staff Reports

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 08-04-2012, 12:51 AM
Legault Legault is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Is there a God? I'm still not sure, Cecil.

I may or may not be an atheist- still in the decision making process, as I have been for the past ten years- but I hold no prejudice when I say that the Great Cecil's column on the existence of God left me deeply wanting. Well, to be specific, it was the second column I had the most issue with, the first being a satisfactory (if admittedly oversimplified) primer to the introduction of the Theologica.

Allow me to ramble for a second. The basic problem arises when he attempts to posit things like "energy" and "11-dimension reality" as candidates for First Mover. This is, immediately and on its face, absurd. One of the more basic tenets of Scholastic ontology is the fact that while God chooses to constrain himself within a rational mode of being, understandable in large part by man (a largely idiosyncratic Catholic view), he is also transcendent of material reality (true of just about every Judeo-Christian faith, as well as Platonism and (to a degree) Aristotelianism); in other words, God doesn't create the universe from within the universe. Those scientific candidates offered up by Cecil do suffer this conclusion, and some material thing arising from itself is offensive to our rational sensibilities. (Yes, yes, this is the place where the where-did-god-come-from cliche flares up. Separate issue for a separate topic. Besides, I doubt most "rational" atheists would want to attribute divinity to mere existence a la Spinoza, which would be the required next step were this line of thinking invoked.)

I understand that Cecil's expertise is more science and less philosophy, but this is a rather basic oversight that any graduate-level student would immediately pick up on. Rather below Cecil's usual standards. Am I missing something here?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 08-04-2012, 03:21 AM
Indian Indian is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Link to Cecil's Column1 and Column2.

Last edited by Indian; 08-04-2012 at 03:22 AM.. Reason: Typo fixed.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 08-04-2012, 04:23 AM
gamerunknown gamerunknown is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Previous thread on the topic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
Besides, I doubt most "rational" atheists would want to attribute divinity to mere existence a la Spinoza...
I don't think any atheist would do so, since that'd make them pantheists.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 08-04-2012, 03:05 PM
Legault Legault is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by gamerunknown View Post
Previous thread on the topic.



I don't think any atheist would do so, since that'd make them pantheists.
You'd be surprised at how often this argument is made by atheists, who clearly aren't pantheists, without appreciating the implications. As an example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ag6fH8cU-MU

Then there's the fact that the word "atheist" has become a big tent term for all different kinds of things. Are you a soft atheist? A hard atheist? A deep skeptic? A pantheist? An antitheist? I've heard the term used in all of these ways and more at various times. Still, good clarification that I'll make note of; the point of that aside was to try not to derail the discussion from the main issue.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 08-04-2012, 03:11 PM
Procrustus Procrustus is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Pacific NW. ¥
Posts: 4,738
I tnink the consensus at the time those columns came out was that Cecil really wimped out when he simply could have said "there is no God."
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 08-04-2012, 03:29 PM
colonial colonial is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,709
Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault View Post
Allow me to ramble for a second. The basic problem arises when he attempts to posit things like "energy" and "11-dimension reality" as candidates for First Mover. This is, immediately and on its face, absurd.
If you do not accept that the Universe somehow created itself, or that it has always
existed uncreated then there is no default position other than God, is there?

And if there is a God IMO we should hope He is the impersonal One of Spinoza and
Einstein, because otherwise there is no coherent theodicy which can acquit Him of moral evil.

Last edited by colonial; 08-04-2012 at 03:30 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 08-04-2012, 03:41 PM
Legault Legault is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by Procrustus View Post
I tnink the consensus at the time those columns came out was that Cecil really wimped out when he simply could have said "there is no God."
I wouldn't disagree, but my problems are less "Cecil was soft-pedaling" and more "Cecil was making bad arguments."

Quote:
Originally Posted by colonial View Post
If you do not accept that the Universe somehow created itself, or that it has always
existed uncreated then there is no default position other than God, is there?

And if there is a God IMO we should hope He is the impersonal One of Spinoza and
Einstein, because otherwise there is no coherent theodicy which can acquit Him of moral evil.
1) That would be correct, yes. I'll grant that the existence of this "God" (the metaphysical-construct god of the philosophers) tells us nothing about his nature, but it does open the door up for a whole new series of questions. The focus now shifts from "Is there a God?" to "What is this God like?", which most theologians would tell you is a question answerable only through existential experience.

2) Well, the pantheistic approach means christening the universe and existence itself as holy, which most atheists don't really want to do. And regarding the theodicy question, I've found just the opposite to be true in my experience, i.e. that the problem of evil seems impossible to charge against God consistently. For two reasons:

-Absolute morality can come only from a transcendent creator. We may have moral intuitions about things, but it would seem exceedingly arrogant to me to prioritize our own moral judgments over those of a father God

-The "free will" approach answers the question in one quick stroke. Why is there evil in the world? Because man is fallen, and God continues to give men the gift of free will

If you have a problem with either point, I'd love to hear it.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 08-04-2012, 04:06 PM
colonial colonial is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,709
Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault View Post
Well, the pantheistic approach means christening the universe and existence itself as holy, which most atheists don't really want to do.
(1) If they accept Spinoza's God then they are not atheists.

(2) What does "holy" mean, and why is it necessarily an attribute
of a pantheistic universe? I do not think that was Einstein's take,
unless perhaps figuratively.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault View Post
And regarding the theodicy question, I've found just the opposite to be true in my experience, i.e. that the problem of evil seems impossible to charge against God consistently. For two reasons:

-Absolute morality can come only from a transcendent creator. We may have moral intuitions about things, but it would seem exceedingly arrogant to me to prioritize our own moral judgments over those of a father God
Father God has the corpses of several billion innocent people piled
on His doorstep, and I think that entitles us to doubt His moral stature.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault View Post
-The "free will" approach answers the question in one quick stroke. Why is there evil in the world? Because man is fallen, and God continues to give men the gift of free will
There is more than one way to answer this, but the surest is along
these lines: How does free will atone for suffering where will is not
a factor, say in the case of 100s million to billions of smallpox victims?



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault View Post
If you have a problem with either point, I'd love to hear it.
Gotcha.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 08-04-2012, 04:50 PM
Legault Legault is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by colonial View Post
(1) If they accept Spinoza's God then they are not atheists.

(2) What does "holy" mean, and why is it necessarily an attribute
of a pantheistic universe? I do not think that was Einstein's take,
unless perhaps figuratively.
1) See above. Unless otherwise stated, I'm using a "big tent" atheism (in large part because, as I've already argued, plenty of self-professed atheists buy into the Spinoza line of thinking when dealing with cosmological arguments, eg. Sagan).

2) It's "holy" in that it would have to transcend the rational laws which govern it. I'm not sure what Einstein's take here was, but I will say that many people, especially in analytic philosophy, feel satisfied in reducing the issue to "I don't like dealing with metaphysical questions." Which is disingenuous to say the least.

Quote:
Father God has the corpses of several billion innocent people piled
on His doorstep, and I think that entitles us to doubt His moral stature.
While I won't speak for you, I hear this from my more open atheist friends all the time, and it's really just regurgitated New Atheism. Here's a video starring Dawkins that can help demonstrate what I mean:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mu7AQ...eature=related

In the video, Dawkins responds to a perfectly legitimate point- the fact that absolute morality, i.e. morality with ontological status, cannot exist without a creator- by ignoring the point altogether and instead criticizing the moral commands of certain faiths. What this suggests is that we shouldn't worry about if there is a God or what he's trying to teach us; rather, we should wonder if we approve of his message. How comic!

It doesn't help his argument that he completely misconstrues the teachings of the Bible, but then that's characteristic of the four New Atheist figureheads.

Quote:
There is more than one way to answer this, but the surest is along
these lines: How does free will atone for suffering where will is not
a factor, say in the case of 100s million to billions of smallpox victims?
There's a simple solution here. As you rightly point out, the world is full of danger, disease, and countless other maladies which make existence painful and even deadly. And while there is great beauty in the world, those fundamentalists who want to understand "intelligent design" as the ridiculous idea that every pebble and scorpion and exploding star is in place to make human life as comfortable as possible are, it seems to me, delusional.

But our free will, says the Christian, means that where we don't have control over health of the body, we have control over health of the soul. This is an idea which goes all the way back to Socrates and the Gorgias, where he makes clear it's better to suffer injustice than do it. Why? Because spiritual health takes precedence over material health in the Platonic tradition. That's where free will comes into play.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 08-04-2012, 05:34 PM
janeslogin janeslogin is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
I think there are many gods. I differ from most in that I think the gods are usually worthless except for the people who create them and the disciples of the god creators. The gods are quite important to their creators and the disciples of the creators.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 08-05-2012, 10:48 AM
gamerunknown gamerunknown is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
-Absolute morality can come only from a transcendent creator. We may have moral intuitions about things, but it would seem exceedingly arrogant to me to prioritize our own moral judgments over those of a father God
Euthyphro's dilemma.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
-The "free will" approach answers the question in one quick stroke. Why is there evil in the world? Because man is fallen, and God continues to give men the gift of free will
Epicurus' trilemma.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 08-05-2012, 02:40 PM
colonial colonial is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,709
Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault View Post
1) See above.
See what above?



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault View Post
Unless otherwise stated, I'm using a "big tent" atheism (in large part because, as I've already argued, plenty of self-professed atheists buy into the Spinoza line of thinking when dealing with cosmological arguments, eg. Sagan).
If Einstein can live with Spinoza’s God then I guess I can too,
although it would be my second choice.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault View Post
2) It's "holy" in that it would have to transcend the rational laws which govern it. I'm not sure what Einstein's take here was, but I will say that many people, especially in analytic philosophy, feel satisfied in reducing the issue to "I don't like dealing with metaphysical questions." Which is disingenuous to say the least.
I am not sure if Einstein would accept a God who transcended
the Laws of Nature.

Key to Einstein's thinking from an atheist's point of view is that
God takes no part in the lives of human beings, does not judge
them after death, and is not even aware of their existence.



Quote:
Originally Posted by colonial
Father God has the corpses of several billion innocent people piled
on His doorstep, and I think that entitles us to doubt His moral stature.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault View Post
While I won't speak for you, I hear this from my more open atheist friends all the time, and it's really just regurgitated New Atheism.
I am not a proxy for your friends, or for Richard Dawkins,
whose work I am familiar with only slightly, by reputation.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault View Post
Here's a video starring Dawkins that can help demonstrate what I mean:
I am not going to watch any videos, so do not bother posting
them in your replies to me. Text links I will always at least glance at.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault View Post
...we shouldn't worry about if there is a God or what he's trying to teach us; rather, we should wonder if we approve of his message. How comic!
I do not see anything comical about disapproving of this clause
of the Second commandment:

I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault View Post
It doesn't help his argument that he completely misconstrues the teachings of the Bible, but then that's characteristic of the four New Atheist figureheads.
Go ahead and try to construe the passage above from the 2nd Commandment
in a manner which acquits God of prejudice against children not yet born.



Quote:
Originally Posted by colonial
There is more than one way to answer this, but the surest is along
these lines: How does free will atone for suffering where will is not
a factor, say in the case of 100s million to billions of smallpox victims?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault View Post
There's a simple solution here. As you rightly point out, the world is full of danger, disease, and countless other maladies which make existence painful and even deadly. And while there is great beauty in the world, those fundamentalists who want to understand "intelligent design" as the ridiculous idea that every pebble and scorpion and exploding star is in place to make human life as comfortable as possible are, it seems to me, delusional.
It is reasonable to expect a God Who has the power to design the universe
to do so in a manner most conducive to the comfort and safety of His children.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault View Post
But our free will, says the Christian, means that where we don't have control over health of the body, we have control over health of the soul. This is an idea which goes all the way back to Socrates and the Gorgias, where he makes clear it's better to suffer injustice than do it. Why? Because spiritual health takes precedence over material health in the Platonic tradition. That's where free will comes into play.
Here is your argument in syllogistic form:

Premise 1 Free will gives us control over the health of the soul
Premise 2 It is better to suffer injustice than to do it
Premise 3 Spiritual health takes precedence over material health
Conclusion Free will comes into play

The conclusion is contained in Premise 1, so that part of your argument is circular.

Premises 2-3 are disconnected from Premise 1 and from the conclusion.

Taking Premise 2 at face value God should therefore suffer the “injustice” of
contacting disease Himself rather than inflicting it upon us, and if He declines
to do so then the fact that a victim may not infect others does nothing to relieve
the victim of his own suffering.

Similarly vis a vis Premise 3, the precedence of spiritual health over material health
does not relieve the suffering of those with poor material health in the form of disease.

Finally, I was challenging you to demonstrate how free will atones for suffering,
so even if your conclusion was not illogical, it would be unresponsive, since
being "in play" and "atonement" are not synonymous.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 08-06-2012, 05:05 PM
Irishman Irishman is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault View Post
I may or may not be an atheist- still in the decision making process, as I have been for the past ten years-
You're not much of an atheist if this is as far as you've gotten. See below.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault View Post
2) Well, the pantheistic approach means christening the universe and existence itself as holy, which most atheists don't really want to do.
The word "holy" seems undefined.

Quote:
i.e. that the problem of evil seems impossible to charge against God consistently. For two reasons:

-Absolute morality can come only from a transcendent creator. We may have moral intuitions about things, but it would seem exceedingly arrogant to me to prioritize our own moral judgments over those of a father God
Let's break this down a bit. If absolute morality must come from God, then we petty humans must not be able to judge God. Ergo, there should be nothing that God instructs us that we can deem immoral. But there are plenty of examples from God's word itself (i.e. the Bible) that we humans can judge as immoral. An example is the incident where God commands Abraham to sacrifice his own son. Abraham's answer should be "It will be done," then throw old Isaac on the barby. But notice that Abraham's answer is to pray to God for a different answer. So Abraham questioned God's morality. And rightly so! Another example pointed out is the Second Commandment, where God declares that he will hold children and their children responsible for the actions of adults. There are places he states he will do this to 10 generations. We mere humans find this kind of tyranny wholly unfair and, thus, very unholy. And yet we must now justify it, because it's there in God's word.

The first runaround to this is to immediately declare that any instances of God doing something immoral is really either (a) a human misunderstanding of God's intent, or (b) meddling by Satan. These answers are dissatisfying. If God is trying to teach us a lesson, then he expects us to use our limited moral sense to make judgements. If our limited moral sense judges against him, then he has done a poor job with either his lessons or in giving us a moral sense. If the mistake is the meddling by Satan, well that's a pretty handy bit of showmanship. "How do we know it's moral? God did it. If God did something immoral, then God didn't really do that, that was Satan misleading us."

Of course, there's a back door around all this that does not require God. It's in your unexamined assumption. Who says that there is an absolute morality?

Quote:
-The "free will" approach answers the question in one quick stroke. Why is there evil in the world? Because man is fallen, and God continues to give men the gift of free will.
Free will is a complete fallacy. How could we have free will without the understanding of consequences necessary to make a fair decision? But God didn't give us that understanding, and punished us for taking it. Man "fell" by obtaining the ability to understand the value of free will. So what is the value of free will again, and why couldn't God have given us understanding of free will before he punished us for it?

And note that your argument hinges on very specific set of assumptions about the nature of God and humanity, i.e. Christianity.


Note: the topic of this thread is really more suited to Great Debates, even though spawned by Cecil's column. Reported for forum change.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 08-06-2012, 10:15 PM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
Right Hand of the Master
Moderator
 
Join Date: Feb 1999
Location: Chicago north suburb
Posts: 15,859
Quote:
Originally Posted by Irishman View Post
Note: the topic of this thread is really more suited to Great Debates, even though spawned by Cecil's column. Reported for forum change.
Noted. I agree, this is now a discussion beyond the scope of Cecil's column. However, there are lots of threads in Great Debates about theology, so I'm going to leave the thread here (at least for now) and see what happens.

Last edited by C K Dexter Haven; 08-06-2012 at 10:16 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 08-13-2012, 07:41 AM
Legault Legault is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Lot to cover here, so apologies in advance for the long post. If this requires a subforum shift, then by all means.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gamerunknown View Post
Euthyphro's dilemma.

[...]

Epicurus' trilemma.
To speak frankly, you don't seem to understand these ideas. Euthyphro's dilemma deals with the nature of the holy and whether or not it can exist independently of God's will, not with the relationship between human moral intuitions and divine moral edicts. And the trilemma is solved (at least by the proponents of this approach) through free will, not the other way around.

Quote:
Originally Posted by colonial View Post
Key to Einstein's thinking from an atheist's point of view is that
God takes no part in the lives of human beings, does not judge
them after death, and is not even aware of their existence.
Most of your post is extremely confusing to me (you seem to just be either repeating yourself, ignoring what I typed, refusing to look over evidence and links, or other such things), and this is a good example of what I mean. In no way does this address the point I was making. I'd appreciate it if you could read more carefully before responding next time, but I'll do my best to try and cover as much as I can make sense of here.

Quote:
I do not see anything comical about disapproving of this clause
of the Second commandment:

I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me
The second commandment is simply an extension of original sin, a core teaching of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Like most atheists I've talked to in the past, you seem content on drawing scripture out of context and sensationalizing the "evils" of the Bible without making substantive arguments. Which, in this case, would involve explaining why a meager human intellect has the authority to question the omniscient creator of the universe.

Quote:
Go ahead and try to construe the passage above from the 2nd Commandment
in a manner which acquits God of prejudice against children not yet born.
Original sin, i.e. that mankind's ancient predecessors chose, of their own free will, to flee from God and His presence, and that their offspring are, consequently, in a fallen state. This applies not just to "children," but all of mankind. This is where the New Testament comes in and all is forgiven, so I'm not sure what's so morally offensive about this.

Even if it was something much more difficult to justify, this is still a deflection from the central question I outlined above. Even if it's repulsive to us, why do our meager intuitions matter in light of transcendent divinity?

Quote:
It is reasonable to expect a God Who has the power to design the universe
to do so in a manner most conducive to the comfort and safety of His children.
Except that it isn't, and anyone at all familiar with... well, any Christian theology, really, would tell you that the natural world is not intended to be a paradise. It is fallen just as we are fallen. The material world isn't supposed to be a Garden of Eden.

Quote:
Here is your argument in syllogistic form:

Premise 1 Free will gives us control over the health of the soul
Premise 2 It is better to suffer injustice than to do it
Premise 3 Spiritual health takes precedence over material health
Conclusion Free will comes into play

The conclusion is contained in Premise 1, so that part of your argument is circular.

Premises 2-3 are disconnected from Premise 1 and from the conclusion.

Taking Premise 2 at face value God should therefore suffer the “injustice” of
contacting disease Himself rather than inflicting it upon us, and if He declines
to do so then the fact that a victim may not infect others does nothing to relieve
the victim of his own suffering.

Similarly vis a vis Premise 3, the precedence of spiritual health over material health
does not relieve the suffering of those with poor material health in the form of disease.

Finally, I was challenging you to demonstrate how free will atones for suffering,
so even if your conclusion was not illogical, it would be unresponsive, since
being "in play" and "atonement" are not synonymous.
Yet again, you are very confused, as my conclusion has nothing to do with "free will coming into play." Again, this point is symptomatic of a very hasty, poorly-planned response, and I find it rather amusing that you'd give me a freshman-level logical analysis of an argument I didn't even make.

To freshen your memory, your original point was that our free will cannot overcome the physical dangers of the natural world. This is true. It's also true, at least in Christian theology, that free will gives us control over our spiritual health, as we are free to make choices regarding moral action. And because spiritual health is most important, the maladies (or "evil," as you referred to it) of the material world, which we have minimal control over, are eclipsed by our ability to come closer to God and cleanse our spiritual side. [And it never hurts reminding that our natural state is, in Christianity, a product of "the fall." It's not as though the human condition was this way from the beginning.]



Quote:
Originally Posted by Irishman View Post
You're not much of an atheist if this is as far as you've gotten. See below.
I don't know what part of

I may or may not be an atheist- still in the decision making process, as I have been for the past ten years-

implies that I am some self-avowed atheist. Not sure what you were reading that gave you this impression.

Quote:
The word "holy" seems undefined.
We'll go with a loose definition for now; try something like "transcending the rational, causal nature of the physical world." In other words, the universe of Spinoza ultimately isn't rational or explainable through natural processes, but rather has a mystical quality and point of origin.

Quote:
Let's break this down a bit. If absolute morality must come from God, then we petty humans must not be able to judge God. Ergo, there should be nothing that God instructs us that we can deem immoral. But there are plenty of examples from God's word itself (i.e. the Bible) that we humans can judge as immoral.
As a matter of fact, no, the bolded part does not follow. If God is an omniscient and transcendent moral agent, and he provides us with a moral edict, then we are in no way justified in questioning his morality. Our intuitions may or may not agree with all such edicts, but that simply circles around to the question I posed above: namely, why should our petty human intuitions take precedent over transcendent divinity?

Quote:
An example is the incident where God commands Abraham to sacrifice his own son. Abraham's answer should be "It will be done," then throw old Isaac on the barby. But notice that Abraham's answer is to pray to God for a different answer. So Abraham questioned God's morality. And rightly so! Another example pointed out is the Second Commandment...
Neither of these are good examples (and both, unsurprisingly, are regurgitated New Atheist cliches; as a rule of thumb, most arguments made by NA figureheads are theologically vapid and philosophically bankrupt). I've already addressed the issue of the Second Commandment, and so much ink has been spilled over explaining the Abraham / Isaac dynamic that I wouldn't even know where to begin (Kierkegaard, perhaps?). For the time being, I'll start by pointing to the bolded and pose the same question again: that you're suggesting, without compelling reason, our feeble human intuitions should take precedent over God's will.

Quote:
If God is trying to teach us a lesson, then he expects us to use our limited moral sense to make judgements. If our limited moral sense judges against him, then he has done a poor job with either his lessons or in giving us a moral sense.
The more obvious answer, which you've apparently missed, is that we're simply not using our moral faculties correctly. It's also possible that because our moral faculties are so limited, only a small fraction of edicts will be fully comprehensible to us, the rest dimmed and vague.

Quote:
Who says that there is an absolute morality?
No one said this. To quote myself again, Absolute morality can come only from a transcendent creator. In other words, the presence of a higher power is a necessary condition for there to be absolute morality. This suggests nothing about the presence of such an absolute moral framework to the universe.

Quote:
Free will is a complete fallacy. How could we have free will without the understanding of consequences necessary to make a fair decision? But God didn't give us that understanding, and punished us for taking it. Man "fell" by obtaining the ability to understand the value of free will. So what is the value of free will again, and why couldn't God have given us understanding of free will before he punished us for it?
I'm not touching this one again, since it covers the same problematic "I don't like God and feel justified in condemning him" ground I've outlined in the last few paragraphs above, but I'll add a couple of things that relate to this specific argument. One, the story of Adam & Eve is an allegory, and a complex one at that. Two, this doesn't actually address free will itself, but rather the allegorical story behind man's fall. What you should instead be looking at are a few basic assumptions in Christian theology, namely that

a) mankind has fallen (whether or not you approve of the origin story is irrelevant), and
b) God has bestowed his creation with free will, which circumvents the problem of evil (which is what I was discussing in the first place).

Quote:
And note that your argument hinges on very specific set of assumptions about the nature of God and humanity, i.e. Christianity.
Obviously.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 08-13-2012, 08:02 AM
Czarcasm Czarcasm is offline
Charter Member
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Beervania
Posts: 38,827
Let me help you out here: If the vast majority of your arguments so far point towards the deficiencies of atheist thinking, then you're not an atheist.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 08-13-2012, 08:19 AM
Legault Legault is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
Let me help you out here: If the vast majority of your arguments so far point towards the deficiencies of atheist thinking, then you're not an atheist.
Can't believe I'm resorting to smileys, but really now,

People on this site are almost exclusively atheist, which means the arguments they're presenting fall on one side of the spectrum. The Cecil article in question, too, takes a (roundabout) atheist stance on things. So me responding to weak nontheistic objections to theism speaks less to my own beliefs and more to the common beliefs of the community. Not complicated.

And nowhere did I claim to be some staunch, self-avowed atheist; what part of [I'm] still in the decision making process, as I have been for the past ten years implies I've taken a side?
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 08-13-2012, 09:36 AM
gamerunknown gamerunknown is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
Euthyphro's dilemma deals with the nature of the holy and whether or not it can exist independently of God's will, not with the relationship between human moral intuitions and divine moral edicts. And the trilemma is solved (at least by the proponents of this approach) through free will, not the other way around.
Proposing free will doesn't resolve the trilemma, it merely circumnavigates it. Though you're right, I should have referred to the fundamental contradiction between omniscience and free will instead. If there is perfect certainty of the future, then our actions are preordained and our choices are illusory. If God only has knowledge of all possible future outcomes, then God has less predictive power than a weather station. Not to mention, there are two further issues: even in a materialistic worldview, there is the possibility that free will is illusory (Daniel Dennett certainly believes so). Then there's the issue of the afterlife as proposed by Christians: if there is free will and perfect bliss in heaven, then why are we punished with a Earthly existence with its fleeting glory? If there is perfect bliss but no free will, then why are we punished for obedience to God's scriptures on Earth?

I think you're just wrong with Euthyphro's dilemma. From its inception it was used to challenge the notion that morality exists in an independent sphere from human intuition and can be set by divine fiat. To rephrase it, can God declare rape good?
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 08-13-2012, 08:03 PM
Powers Powers is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: Rochester, NY, USA
Posts: 905
Quote:
Originally Posted by gamerunknown View Post
If there is perfect certainty of the future, then our actions are preordained and our choices are illusory.
I may regret this, but I have never found this argument persuasive.

Given that we're talking about a hypothetical being that created the universe, and given that time as we experience it is a property of that universe, it stands to reason that the hypothetical being would not -- indeed, cannot -- be subject to the normal rules of cause and effect as we understand them.

As a thought experiment, consider a being embedded in time as we are, but existing at a time after all other events in the universe have occurred. Posit that the being has perfect knowledge of every event that occurred in its past. Does the existence of this being and its perfect knowledge invalidate the concept of free will? I say no.

Consider, then, a supreme being, one that can see the entire dimension of time as easily as it can the other three dimensions, one that is not itself subject to the linearity of time. Does its ability to see all events that occur within the universe invalidate the choices that mortal inhabitants such as we have made? Again, I say no, because this situation seems no different to me than the one from the previous paragraph, as far as free will is concerned.

Both beings see the entirety of the timeline, and have perfect knowledge of every event on that timeline, without invalidating the free will of the people who chose those events.


Powers &8^]
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 08-14-2012, 05:31 AM
gamerunknown gamerunknown is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by Powers
Does the existence of this being and its perfect knowledge invalidate the concept of free will? I say no.
I disagree: if the actions we take in the future are as certain to an outside observer as the actions we take in the past are to us, then we have as much capacity to change the future course of our actions as we have to change actions we have taken in the past.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 08-14-2012, 11:26 AM
Irishman Irishman is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault View Post
Original sin, i.e. that mankind's ancient predecessors chose, of their own free will, to flee from God and His presence, and that their offspring are, consequently, in a fallen state.
But how could a moral decision made by non-morally aware beings be binding? The story itself says that Adam and Eve did not understand right and wrong - that was the "benefit" of the fruit they ate. They couldn't understand the consequences of the act they took, yet they are judged as if they could. And we, in turn, are judged, as if we could have stopped it.

Quote:
I don't know what part of

I may or may not be an atheist- still in the decision making process, as I have been for the past ten years-

implies that I am some self-avowed atheist. Not sure what you were reading that gave you this impression.
You said "I may or may not be an atheist" - that suggests that being an atheist is a possibility. I am merely pointing out that nothing else you have said leaves that possibility open. I'm simply answering the question for you with a "not".

Quote:
We'll go with a loose definition for now; try something like "transcending the rational, causal nature of the physical world." In other words, the universe of Spinoza ultimately isn't rational or explainable through natural processes, but rather has a mystical quality and point of origin.
Thank you for the answer.

Quote:
As a matter of fact, no, the bolded part does not follow.
You've missed the syllogism. The bolded part isn't a consequence of the prior arguments, it is a second argument. To formalize:

1. If absolute morality must come from God, then we petty humans must not be able to judge God.
2. We petty humans do judge God.
3. Absolute morality cannot come from God.

Quote:
If God is an omniscient and transcendent moral agent, and he provides us with a moral edict, then we are in no way justified in questioning his morality. Our intuitions may or may not agree with all such edicts, but that simply circles around to the question I posed above: namely, why should our petty human intuitions take precedent over transcendent divinity?
Basically what you are saying is that morality comes from God, therefore God defines what is moral. Therefore, God could tell us to sacrifice our firstborn or rape our mothers or kick kittens or whatever and that would be moral, because God told us to. That is certainly a position that can be taken, but it is not particularly comfortable.

Also, if it is only moral because it is God's will, then why should be praise God for being moral?


Quote:
For the time being, I'll start by pointing to the bolded and pose the same question again: that you're suggesting, without compelling reason, our feeble human intuitions should take precedent over God's will.
Well, from an atheist's perspective, I have a very compelling reason. My moral intuitions actually exist, whereas this God thing is a load of fiction. But that certainly doesn't fall within the confines of the argument.


Quote:
The more obvious answer, which you've apparently missed, is that we're simply not using our moral faculties correctly. It's also possible that because our moral faculties are so limited, only a small fraction of edicts will be fully comprehensible to us, the rest dimmed and vague.
We're stuck with the moral abilities we have. If morality is something with which we are supposed to reason, and thus be able to make informed and sensible judgements, then it must be based upon reason, not whimsy. Ergo, it must be, at least theoretically, explainable. "Because I said so" is the exact opposite of a rational basis. If God is the source of absolute morality, then our sense of morality becomes a hindrance to our actually being moral.


Quote:
No one said this. To quote myself again, Absolute morality can come only from a transcendent creator. In other words, the presence of a higher power is a necessary condition for there to be absolute morality. This suggests nothing about the presence of such an absolute moral framework to the universe.
Okay, fair enough.

Quote:
One, the story of Adam & Eve is an allegory, and a complex one at that. Two, this doesn't actually address free will itself, but rather the allegorical story behind man's fall. What you should instead be looking at are a few basic assumptions in Christian theology, namely that

a) mankind has fallen (whether or not you approve of the origin story is irrelevant),
I understand that is an assumption of Christian theology. However, there's no evidence that we are fallen. There's no evidence there was ever a perfection that we were removed from, by the will of our ancestors or otherwise. All we have to go on is this allegory. So either that allegory is there to tell us something, or it is useless. If it is there to tell us something, then we can look at what it tells us and evaluate it.


Quote:
b) God has bestowed his creation with free will, which circumvents the problem of evil (which is what I was discussing in the first place).
And yet it doesn't. It just replaces one inexplicable contradiction with another.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault View Post
People on this site are almost exclusively atheist,
That is a falsehood. Certainly, there is a large percentage of atheists here, but there are also a fair number of Christians, Jews, and a reasonable assortment of other believers. Call it an exaggeration.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 08-14-2012, 12:26 PM
PaterDeus PaterDeus is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
My take from Cecil's column(s) is that he is merely classifying existential causation of which is an undefined or unknown phenomena as "God". That's not to say this phenomena has any collective sentience, as he even admits that defining it as a "being" would be granting too much, but for the sake of argument (which was purpose of the columns and this thread to begin with) let's assume that it is indeed a being. One that we'll refer to as "God" to keep the same frame of reference as the topic at hand.

Now, for those who posit that this being must be responsible for the "evils" of this world, there are some basic assumptions that must be made for such a claim to be true. Mainly, that being must have limitless benevolence, omnipotence, AND omniscience to be truly accountable for all that occurs in this world, which include the aforementioned evils of disease, death, suffering, etc.

If such a being does not have ALL THREE of those attributes, then that being surely can not be responsible for all events as they transpire. In other words, said being must have limitless knowledge, power, and kindness for it to have "allowed" any evil things to occur.

If one does not believe such a being to have all three attributes, then that being can not responsible for our world's evil acts (relatively speaking). Such thinking may lead one to assume that the being has the power and kindness to prevent such acts, but not knowledge of all of them as they occur. Likewise, they may assume that the being has the knowledge and kindness, but not the power to prevent them, or conversely, it has the knowledge and power, but not kindness.

Being ignorant of the details of the many religions and commonly held beliefs of the world, I can not say whether most of those beliefs characterize all three to a being usually referred to as "God." Perhaps those who are more knowledgeable on the subject can elaborate.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 08-14-2012, 01:03 PM
colonial colonial is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,709
Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
Most of your post is extremely confusing to me
Then your reading skills need improvement. I suspect, though, that you understand
well enough you are getting the worst of this argument, and your claim to be confused
is evasive.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
(you seem to just be either repeating yourself,
Such as?



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
ignoring what I typed,
Such as?



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
refusing to look over evidence
Such as?



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
and links,
Your only link was a video. You know reading text takes a fraction of the time
that listening to it takes, right? I am not going to take the time to watch a video
of commentary, which, if it is worthwhile, must be available in writing.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
or other such things
Such as?



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
and this is a good example of what I mean. In no way does this address the point I was making. I'd appreciate it if you could read more carefully before responding next time, but I'll do my best to try and cover as much as I can make sense of here.
Here are both sides of that part of our dialogue, yours and mine:

(post9)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
...but I will say that many people, especially in analytic philosophy, feel satisfied in reducing the issue to "I don't like dealing with metaphysical questions." Which is disingenuous to say the least.
(post12)
Quote:
Originally Posted by colonial
Key to Einstein's thinking from an atheist's point of view is that
God takes no part in the lives of human beings, does not judge
them after death, and is not even aware of their existence.
It should not take too much effort to glean that “Key” = “most fundamental”
=”metaphysical”. Thus I was suggesting that Einstein and Spinoza’s metaphysical
view of an unthreatening God might be an attractive second choice to many atheists.
I could then have asked you to explain why you thought this metaphysical view
was deficient, but I expected you to do so without being cued, and I certainly did
not expect you to affect bafflement.



Quote:
Originally Posted by colonial
The second commandment is simply an extension of original sin, a core teaching of the Judaeo-Christian tradition.
Nonsense. There is a theological dichotomy between original sin and actual sin,
and the sins proscribed by the Ten commandments are actual ones.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
Like most atheists I've talked to in the past, you seem content on drawing scripture out of context
Oh, here we go with “context”— a word hardly ever used in debate, except by those
who are getting the worst of it, as an evasive tactic and a sort of defensive incantation.

Here is the full text of the Second Commandment:

"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments."

Go ahead and try to explain how reference to God’s prejudice against unborn children is taken out of context.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
and sensationalizing the "evils" of the Bible without making substantive arguments.
Observation that prejudice against unborn children is an evil requires no supporting argument.
It up to God’s advocates to explain why His prejudice is an exception, however...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
Which, in this case, would involve explaining why a meager human intellect has the authority to question the omniscient creator of the universe.
...however, there is no coherent explanation, so those apologists can only stipulate
that humans should not question God, thus closing off discussion.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
Original sin, i.e. that mankind's ancient predecessors chose, of their own free will, to flee from God and His presence, and that their offspring are, consequently, in a fallen state.
The correct way to express it is that original sin is sin imputed to all people by the
disobedience of Adam and Eve. It is not actual sin resulting from the behavior of a
descendant. The sin proscribed by the 2nd commandment is a specific actual sin,
namely Idolatry.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
This applies not just to "children," but all of mankind.
The “children” of the 2nd Commandment are not a figure of speech referring to all
mankind. They are two different categories of literal children: (1) the descendants
of idolaters and (2) the descendants of the faithful. The 2nd commandment informs
us that God treats these two categories of children differently.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
This is where the New Testament comes in and all is forgiven, so I'm not sure what's so morally offensive about this.
This reply raises all kinds of quesions.

Does the NT contradict the Second Commandment? How about the other Commandments?
Does salvation beckons to those who never obey any of them? Never mind idolaters,
are serial killers eligible for salvation?

And in a diffrent vein: how and why could a perfect God could change his mind?

And finally, regardless of the asnwers to any of the above, unless suffering is
a moral necessity it must be gratuitous.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
Even if it was something much more difficult to justify, this is still a deflection from the central question I outlined above. Even if it's repulsive to us, why do our meager intuitions matter in light of transcendent divinity?
Previously addressed.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
Except that it isn't, and anyone at all familiar with... well, any Christian theology, really, would tell you that the natural world is not intended to be a paradise. It is fallen just as we are fallen. The material world isn't supposed to be a Garden of Eden.
I reject the premise that the material world should not be a Garden of Eden.

However, my argument does not depend of the natural world being so; it depends on
the natural world being a source of torment. There would be plenty of challenges in
life without such torment.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
Yet again, you are very confused, as my conclusion has nothing to do with "free will coming into play." Again, this point is symptomatic of a very hasty, poorly-planned response, and I find it rather amusing that you'd give me a freshman-level logical analysis of an argument I didn't even make.
Excuse me, but the question I posed was: “How does free will atone for suffering
where will is not a factor, say in the case of 100s million to billions of smallpox victims?”
Your answer was a logically circular paragraph insisting that and concluding with:
“free will comes into play” with no explanation as to how this “play” constitutes
atonement for suffering.

And it occurs to me to point out that since children are not capable of exercising
adult free will, then another explanation must be provided for them.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
To freshen your memory, your original point was that our free will cannot overcome the physical dangers of the natural world.
No, my point was that free will cannot atone for the suffering caused by the natural
world where atone means to correct, to compensate, to make right, and suffering
is the sensation caused by physical and/or emotional injury.

Will and intellect can often “overcome” physical danger as in human endeavor ranging
from medical science to taking shelter during a storm. However, will and intellect
are still unable to overcome (i.e. cure) many diseases, and not everyone can find
a strong enough shelter during every storm.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
This is true. It's also true, at least in Christian theology, that free will gives us control over our spiritual health, as we are free to make choices regarding moral action. And because spiritual health is most important, the maladies (or "evil," as you referred to it) of the material world, which we have minimal control over, are eclipsed by our ability to come closer to God and cleanse our spiritual side.
Suffering is gratuitous unless necessary for the attainment of spiritual health, and it
does not matter if spiritual health is preeminent, or that spiritual health an outcome
of the exercise of free will.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault
[And it never hurts reminding that our natural state is, in Christianity, a product of "the fall." It's not as though the human condition was this way from the beginning.]
So 100s of millions of child smallpox victims are an appropriate response to “the fall”?
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 08-16-2012, 10:32 AM
Powers Powers is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: Rochester, NY, USA
Posts: 905
Quote:
Originally Posted by gamerunknown View Post
I disagree: if the actions we take in the future are as certain to an outside observer as the actions we take in the past are to us, then we have as much capacity to change the future course of our actions as we have to change actions we have taken in the past.
You are injecting cause and effect into a context where time has no meaning. We may no longer have the ability to change events that occurred in the past, but we did at the time. We had free will at that moment; the knowledge of that event (whether by ourselves or by an outside observer) does not invalidate that we had free will over that choice.


Powers &8^]
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 08-16-2012, 01:57 PM
John W. Kennedy John W. Kennedy is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Chatham, NJ, USA
Posts: 4,715
Ask a novelist whether his characters have free will.
__________________
John W. Kennedy
"The blind rulers of Logres
Nourished the land on a fallacy of rational virtue."
-- Charles Williams. Taliessin through Logres: Prelude
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 08-16-2012, 04:44 PM
Irishman Irishman is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Going back over this for some more, you repeatedly ask the question

Quote:
Why should our petty human intuitions take precedent over transcendent divinity?
Another problem with transcendent divinity defining morality is the method of transmission. If morality is only what that divinity declares, then we humans have no guide as to how to determine morality, except to refer to a list as recorded by somebody else in the past, who may or may not have got it all straight. We're not allowed to use our own moral sense, because you are explicitly telling us that it may be incomplete or inaccurate, and that the divinity knows better. But if that divinity does not express it directly to me in an unambiguous manner, I am relying on the method of transmission to be as accurate as the source. Ergo, whoever heard it in the first place, wrote it down, interpreted it, translated it, etc. Each step in the process is a chance for someone to mangle the original. And I have no acceptable way to evaluate most of those steps. I have to trust that there wasn't any errors in that process, ever. Internal inconsistencies, changes over time, conflicts between written instructions and moral teachings, etc are all things I must ignore, because my moral sense is more questionable than words on paper.

Quote:
One, the story of Adam & Eve is an allegory, and a complex one at that. Two, this doesn't actually address free will itself, but rather the allegorical story behind man's fall.
Attempting to be fair to you, I tried to reevaluate this. Let me try this differently. Let us assume that the story of Adam and Eve is a fiction intended to convey a sense of our place. We are left with some concepts and word choices that do not have a very good definition. In that context, what does it mean for humans to be "fallen"? What is "original sin", and why does it apply to us? It seems to me if you are going to discount the Genesis story as an allegory, then you are going to have to spend a lot more effort in justifying the underlying premise of Christianity that you are using as your assumptions.

Mankind and fallen? How? When? In what manner? What does that mean? The whole concept is gibberish.
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 08-16-2012, 11:47 PM
Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 9,537
Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault View Post
I may or may not be an atheist- still in the decision making process, as I have been for the past ten years- but I hold no prejudice when I say that the Great Cecil's column on the existence of God left me deeply wanting. Well, to be specific, it was the second column I had the most issue with, the first being a satisfactory (if admittedly oversimplified) primer to the introduction of the Theologica.

Allow me to ramble for a second. The basic problem arises when he attempts to posit things like "energy" and "11-dimension reality" as candidates for First Mover. This is, immediately and on its face, absurd. One of the more basic tenets of Scholastic ontology is ...
Greeting Legault and welcome to the Straight Dope!

I'm afraid I can't follow your argument. Here's my understanding:

1. Cecil sez that Thomas Aquinas, a noted theologian, posited a prime mover.

2. Cecil interprets the First Cause in a scientific, possibly contemporaneous context.

3. You say that theologians place God outside of time.

Cecil's God and the other One
But #3 is irrelevant. Cecil is just saying that a first cause exists, therefore God[C] exists. And that this proof establishes a very narrow version of God. Now you say, "God[2] chooses to constrain himself within a rational mode of being, understandable in large part by man... he is also transcendent of material reality". Fine. But what's the evidence that this second version of God exists? He may. But that's a separate argument about whether God[C] exists.


Personally I figure that if a logical proof of God[2] existed, we would have worked it out already. But I accept the existence of God[C] and am agnostic on God[2], pending a better understanding of consciousness and mathematical ontology.
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 08-17-2012, 03:27 AM
gamerunknown gamerunknown is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by Irishman
Mankind and fallen?
I always enjoy it when someone proposes the fall to resolve theodicy and in the same breath adopts the teleological argument...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Powers
You are injecting cause and effect into a context where time has no meaning.
I've had almost exactly the same argument before: God exists out of time, observing all time within an instant, so God has no effect on our own choices any more than our observations of our past violate or free will. John W. Kennedy hit on the rejoinder above, which is that God observes all temporal events as someone in our universe observes a storyboard: however apparent the choices to the characters on the storyboard, the panels never change.

It also brings to mind a tangential paradox to do with time being a property of the universe: if I wait an infinite amount of time to give you an apple, will you ever receive an apple? I forget the name of the paradox, if it has an official one.
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 08-17-2012, 08:35 AM
Learjeff Learjeff is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by gamerunknown View Post
It also brings to mind a tangential paradox to do with time being a property of the universe: if I wait an infinite amount of time to give you an apple, will you ever receive an apple? I forget the name of the paradox, if it has an official one.
I suspect that time has to be a property of the universe. But why is your paradox a paradox, and how does it illuminate the issue?

The simple answer to your question is, "At no time will you give me the apple." You stated the proposition in a form that isn't contradictory. If you had said "I wait an inifinite amount of time and then give you an apple," that would have been contradictory.

Not that infinite series of events can't happen! Zeno's paradox is the obvious example: the hare catches up with where the tortoise was, an infinite number of times, and THEN passes it. Even if space is continuous rather than quantized, this isn't impossible because the rate of events increases to infinity at the moment the hare catches up with the tortoise.

But is there a higher order of time, in which we could exist, where an infinity of time could elapse and THEN something happen? I think that wouldn't be "time" but would be something else, so the simple answer is the one I gave.
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 08-17-2012, 09:23 AM
Learjeff Learjeff is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by Legault View Post
But our free will, says the Christian, means that where we don't have control over health of the body, we have control over health of the soul. This is an idea which goes all the way back to Socrates and the Gorgias, where he makes clear it's better to suffer injustice than do it. Why? Because spiritual health takes precedence over material health in the Platonic tradition. That's where free will comes into play.
Aha, so the answer is, suffering isn't evil, and God gets a pass on all that suffering because it just isn't important. OK, thanks for clearing that up! ;-)

Note that the free-will argument also requires that we ignore the suffering of animals. Kant would buy that, but I don't.

Quote:
-Absolute morality can come only from a transcendent creator. We may have moral intuitions about things, but it would seem exceedingly arrogant to me to prioritize our own moral judgments over those of a father God
One might even argue, as Sartre does in "The Flies", that we are forced to choose our own moral code, even if there is a creator. Yes, we risk peril if our choice disagrees with that of the creator, but it's still our inescapable duty to choose. Your statement here is, "If the Creator posited a moral code, then it's absolute." But, what if we disagree? God wins by default? According to whom, God? What if the Creator were actually a rather nasty fellow who enjoyed sufferering? Are we forced to agree with Him?

BTW, note that our "moral sense" could be an artifact of evolution, and shouldn't be confused with "morality", which is a code we choose to live by, which may or may not agree with our moral sense. One's moral sense might lead one to believe it's OK to kill one's lover's lover, but one's morality might contradict that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John W. Kennedy
Ask a novelist whether his characters have free will.
They'll tell you that they have a mind of their own. Was that your point?

I think we should stipulate free will here, for the purposes of discussion. Even if it does exist, it doesn't provide Christianity with a get-out-of-jail-free card. IMHO, the free will question is even more complicated than the original one.
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 08-17-2012, 01:31 PM
John W. Kennedy John W. Kennedy is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Chatham, NJ, USA
Posts: 4,715
But there we are. What on Earth is the use of arguing that God’s foreknowledge is incompatible with human free will, when we know that human authors are in the same position here as God (si parva licet componere magnis)?
__________________
John W. Kennedy
"The blind rulers of Logres
Nourished the land on a fallacy of rational virtue."
-- Charles Williams. Taliessin through Logres: Prelude
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 08-17-2012, 03:54 PM
Irishman Irishman is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by Learjeff View Post
BTW, note that our "moral sense" could be an artifact of evolution, and shouldn't be confused with "morality", which is a code we choose to live by, which may or may not agree with our moral sense. One's moral sense might lead one to believe it's OK to kill one's lover's lover, but one's morality might contradict that.
Thank you for this observation and distinction. That is a useful insight.
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 08-17-2012, 07:05 PM
colonial colonial is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,709
(reply #25)
Quote:
Originally Posted by John W. Kennedy View Post
Ask a novelist whether his characters have free will.
(reply #31)
Quote:
Originally Posted by John W. Kennedy View Post
But there we are. What on Earth is the use of arguing that God’s foreknowledge is incompatible with human free will, when we know that human authors are in the same position here as God (si parva licet componere magnis) [viz: if one may compare small things with great (Virgil)]
Oh, this is a real lulu of an argument:

Premise God is to Shakespeare as Shakespeare is to The Duke of Gloucester.
Conclusion Therefore human beings possess free will.

Would you think it was funny if I suggested that the Duke of Gloucester might
in reply focus on a different aspect of the ways of God to man?:

As flies to wanton boys are we to God,
He kills us for His sport.

Seriously, though, Shakespeare dictated his characters’ every thought, word and
deed, so if, repeat if, the premise above is true then its consequence must be the
opposite of the conclusion above, namely, that human beings do not possess free will.

I am all in favor of free will, and I loathe determinism because of determinism’s
extinguishing effect on human initiative and human responsibility. I just don’t like
the idea of having to depend on obtaining free will from some entity who would seem
to me sure to embody the attributes of Gloucester’s wanton boys.

I mean, free will or no free will, what difference does it make if either way you are
going to get your wings yanked off?
Reply With Quote
  #34  
Old 08-17-2012, 08:21 PM
Learjeff Learjeff is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
I agree, Colonial.

I was a determinist (or nondeterminist, which is the same thing but allowing randomness) until about the time I read Hoffsteader's Goedel Escher and Bach, which talks about "strange loops", plus more thought experiments about AI. I think that it just might be possible to actually have free will despite a deterministic (or nondeterminsitic, but still mechanistic) implementation. I think it's one of those issues where we may be getting the wrong answer because we're asking the wrong question. But this is beside the topic, and I think that topic is still arguable even if free will is stipulated.

I don't really care whether I have free will or where I got it, I just prefer to live assuming that I have it. I also hope Glouster is wrong, despite the evidence. ;-)
Reply With Quote
  #35  
Old 08-18-2012, 03:57 AM
gamerunknown gamerunknown is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by Learjeff
The simple answer to your question is, "At no time will you give me the apple."
Sorry, the paradox refers to a created universe. I suppose I was a little vague.

As for the free will question, it negates the concept of an intercessory, effable God which can be deduced from their natural effects on the world and manumitted to in order to receive Earthly favours. Forgot to mention that. If God intercedes capriciously, we resort to the trilemma.
Reply With Quote
  #36  
Old 08-18-2012, 06:48 PM
John W. Kennedy John W. Kennedy is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Chatham, NJ, USA
Posts: 4,715
Quote:
Originally Posted by colonial View Post
(reply #25)


(reply #31)


Oh, this is a real lulu of an argument:

Premise God is to Shakespeare as Shakespeare is to The Duke of Gloucester.
Conclusion Therefore human beings possess free will.
That isn’t my argument. I say only that the foreknowledge of God and the free will of Man cannot be simply dismissed as obviously mutually exclusive; it’s not obvious at all.

Quote:
Would you think it was funny if I suggested that the Duke of Gloucester might
in reply focus on a different aspect of the ways of God to man?:

As flies to wanton boys are we to God,
He kills us for His sport.
That’s Earl of Gloucester, and the quotation is:

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods.
They kill us for their sport.


(I happen to have played the role in two separate productions.) King Lear is set in prehistoric, and therefore pre-Christian times, and, although Shakespeare rarely pays attention to questions of anachronism (a sensitivity that did not arise until the 18th century), he does generally remember the difference between Christians and pagans.

Quote:
Seriously, though, Shakespeare dictated his characters’ every thought, word and
deed,
Nice to know you are so expert in Shakespeare’s working methods.
__________________
John W. Kennedy
"The blind rulers of Logres
Nourished the land on a fallacy of rational virtue."
-- Charles Williams. Taliessin through Logres: Prelude
Reply With Quote
  #37  
Old 08-19-2012, 10:19 AM
colonial colonial is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,709
Quote:
Originally Posted by John W. Kennedy
That isn’t my argument. I say only that the foreknowledge of God and the free will of Man cannot be simply dismissed as obviously mutually exclusive; it’s not obvious at all.
Foreknowledge (as an attribute of determinism) and free will strike me intuitively
as mutually exclusive. However, I am aware of the fact that there is no consensus
on the issue, and I have not pored over the positions of the different philosophical
schools of thought.

I do not agree that analogy between God and dramatists is helpful to the so-called
compatibilist position, but it would probably be going over the thread hijack edge
to get into an involved discussion about that here.



Quote:
Originally Posted by John W. Kennedy
That’s Earl of Gloucester,
Thank you for the correction.



Quote:
Originally Posted by John W. Kennedy
and the quotation is:

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods.
They kill us for their sport.
I know what the quotation is. I altered it to reflect the monotheistic point of view
adopted in this thread.



Quote:
Originally Posted by John W. Kennedy
(I happen to have played the role in two separate productions.) King Lear is set in prehistoric, and therefore pre-Christian times, and, although Shakespeare rarely pays attention to questions of anachronism (a sensitivity that did not arise until the 18th century), he does generally remember the difference between Christians and pagans.
The passage unmistakably defames “the Gods”. Ever since I first read it I have wondered
if Shakespeare was employing anachronism to disguise feelings the same as mine.



Quote:
Originally Posted by colonial
Seriously, though, Shakespeare dictated his characters’ every thought, word and
deed,
Quote:
Originally Posted by John W. Kennedy
Nice to know you are so expert in Shakespeare’s working methods.
I am not sure what you mean by “working methods”, how they might contradict
my observation above, and how they support your analogy. All fiction is illusion
isn’t it? It seems to me just common sense that no author could possibly view his
creation as real in any sense approaching the flesh-and-blood reality of actual,
living human beings.
Reply With Quote
  #38  
Old 08-19-2012, 02:44 PM
John W. Kennedy John W. Kennedy is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Chatham, NJ, USA
Posts: 4,715
Quote:
Originally Posted by colonial View Post
The passage unmistakably defames “the Gods”. Ever since I first read it I have wondered
if Shakespeare was employing anachronism to disguise feelings the same as mine.
What anachronism? As I said before, the story of Lear is set in the 8th century BC, in pagan times. But even aside from that, here we are in, “As Milton said, ‘Evil, be thou my good,’” territory! The closest thing to a sequel to Lear that Shakespeare ever wrote is Cymbeline!

Quote:
I am not sure what you mean by “working methods”, how they might contradict
my observation above, and how they support your analogy. All fiction is illusion
isn’t it? It seems to me just common sense that no author could possibly view his
creation as real in any sense approaching the flesh-and-blood reality of actual,
living human beings.
And yet many real, practicing authors disagree.
__________________
John W. Kennedy
"The blind rulers of Logres
Nourished the land on a fallacy of rational virtue."
-- Charles Williams. Taliessin through Logres: Prelude
Reply With Quote
  #39  
Old 08-19-2012, 03:23 PM
colonial colonial is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,709
Quote:
Originally Posted by John W. Kennedy View Post
What anachronism? As I said before, the story of Lear is set in the 8th century BC, in pagan times. But even aside from that, here we are in, “As Milton said, ‘Evil, be thou my good,’” territory! The closest thing to a sequel to Lear that Shakespeare ever wrote is Cymbeline!
Shakespeare might be using Gloucester's choice of words (“the gods”), appropriate
for the play’s historical setting, as a substitute for what would the choice ("God") of
someone wishing to express the same feelings about the Christian deity of a later time.
That sounds like a form of anachronism to me. I would be happy to know it if there
is another, more appropriate literary term for what I mean.



Quote:
Originally Posted by John W. Kennedy View Post
And yet many real, practicing authors disagree.
Can you give me some examples with internet citations?
Reply With Quote
  #40  
Old 08-19-2012, 09:02 PM
Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 9,537
Quote:
Originally Posted by colonial View Post
Can you give me some examples with internet citations?
Try googling "characters take on a life of their own" if you're curious. Here's one link, but there are many.
“The poor novelist constructs his characters, he controls them and makes them speak. The true novelist listens to them and watches them function; he eavesdrops on them even before he knows them. It is only according to what he hears them say that he begins to understand who they are.”

-- André Gide
That's a quote from here: http://www.timothyhallinan.com/write...apter&partid=3
-----------

I've wondered about whether mathematicians create proofs or discover them. Neither option seems especially satisfying. And when you consider fractiles, which go on pretty much infinitely, the creation hypothesis seems impossible. But discovery implies that mathematics exists independently of the human mind. How can that be?
Reply With Quote
  #41  
Old 08-20-2012, 10:01 AM
Learjeff Learjeff is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Well, I wanted to avoid diving into free will, but that seems to be all that's left.

My reply was tongue-in-cheek. Characters do indeed seem to have minds of their own, according to novelists. But that's irrelevant once the novel is finished, or rather, once the author has made up his mind about it.

So the question becomes, for God, does reality unfold in time, like a novel, or is it "already written"? The author might say he didn't actually choose a given character's actions, that originally he'd intended something different, but the character simply wouldn't do it. That argues for free will on the part of the character, but we can't use that analogy for an unchanging God.

If God is omnicient and unchanging, then it seems to me that it has to be already written. That would seem to imply that there is no free will. It certainly did, to me.

But there's the dodge that we do have free will, but what we will choose is already known. Every time we set up the pieces and play the game, the outcome is the same. And yet we were able to freely choose.

I haven't made up my mind on free will, but I think that defendig it is by far the harder case.

Regarding an omnicient and unchanging God ... I really can't come up with anything that makes sense and is in any way meaningful. That doesn't mean it's impossible; I just have no idea what the words mean, when strung together like that.
Reply With Quote
  #42  
Old 08-20-2012, 10:24 AM
Learjeff Learjeff is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by Measure for Measure View Post
I've wondered about whether mathematicians create proofs or discover them. Neither option seems especially satisfying.
It's an age-old question, and you're in good company not being able to answer it.

Quote:
And when you consider fractiles, which go on pretty much infinitely, the creation hypothesis seems impossible. But discovery implies that mathematics exists independently of the human mind. How can that be?
I think I can come up with a sort of answer, though not a particularly satisfying one.

Consider the possibility that the axiomatic system is invented, but the consequences are discovered.

An alternative to this is that all possible axiomatic systems already "exist", and we discover them.

What's the difference between the two propositions? IMHO, there really is no significant difference. Axiomatic systems are ideas. Do ideas exist before they're thought of? Well, sort of ... yes and no.

Platonists say they exist. Existentialists disagree. Very different world views. Does essense precede existence, or vice versa? I definitely side with the latter, and believe that "essence" is invented more than discovered. Still, it's a sticky wicket. Bertrand Russell couldn't even decide whether all math was simply a list of tautologies.

Last edited by Learjeff; 08-20-2012 at 10:26 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #43  
Old 08-20-2012, 12:45 PM
colonial colonial is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,709
Quote:
Originally Posted by Measure for Measure
Try googling "characters take on a life of their own" if you're curious. Here's one link, but there are many.

“The poor novelist constructs his characters, he controls them and makes them speak. The true novelist listens to them and watches them function; he eavesdrops on them even before he knows them. It is only according to what he hears them say that he begins to understand who they are.”

-- André Gide
That's a quote from here: http://www.timothyhallinan.com/write...apter&partid=3
I did not realize that at least for Gide and Hallinan a fictional character seems
to be a virtual homunculus in the mind of the author, exercising something resembling
independent behavior, with a mind of its own, and a will of its own. So perhaps
I was putting it too strongly when I said: “Shakespeare dictated his characters’
every thought, word and deed”.

However, NB a fictional character is nevertheless still an illusion, lacking the real
flesh, blood, mind and will of a real human being. At least I think so. If any neuroscientist
or philosopher of the mind thinks otherwise I would sure like to know about it.

So illusion v reality is a monumental difference between fictional characters and human beings.

There is also a monumental difference between the capacity of a human author and
that of an omnipotent God. While an author may be unable to consciously direct the
behavior of his creation, no such restriction may be applied to God.

Given these monumental differences I remain unconvinced that the analogy human author:God
could lend support to a philosophical theory of compatibilism, any more than the analogy
atomic nucleus:Sun could lend support to a physical theory of gravitation.

Last edited by colonial; 08-20-2012 at 12:46 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #44  
Old 08-20-2012, 01:09 PM
Irishman Irishman is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by Measure for Measure View Post
I've wondered about whether mathematicians create proofs or discover them. Neither option seems especially satisfying. And when you consider fractiles, which go on pretty much infinitely, the creation hypothesis seems impossible. But discovery implies that mathematics exists independently of the human mind. How can that be?
It can be thought that the relationships exist and thus are discovered, but the language of expression must be created.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Learjeff View Post
But there's the dodge that we do have free will, but what we will choose is already known. Every time we set up the pieces and play the game, the outcome is the same. And yet we were able to freely choose.
There's the seeming paradox. How can the results be known if the choice hasn't been made? How can the choice be free if it has already been made?

One can try to argue that the paradox is the result of our perspective of linear time and that God isn't similarly constrained, but that just becomes an exercise in ungrounded philosophy.
Reply With Quote
  #45  
Old 08-22-2012, 07:10 PM
Powers Powers is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: Rochester, NY, USA
Posts: 905
Quote:
Originally Posted by Irishman View Post
One can try to argue that the paradox is the result of our perspective of linear time and that God isn't similarly constrained, but that just becomes an exercise in ungrounded philosophy.
Sadly, so it must remain, by my reckoning. If there is a God who created the universe, then God cannot possibly be constrained by time, which is a property of the universe.


Powers &8^]
Reply With Quote
  #46  
Old 08-23-2012, 01:25 PM
John W. Kennedy John W. Kennedy is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Chatham, NJ, USA
Posts: 4,715
Quote:
Originally Posted by Powers View Post
Sadly, so it must remain, by my reckoning. If there is a God who created the universe, then God cannot possibly be constrained by time, which is a property of the universe.
...which has been standard Catholic doctrine at least since Aquinas.
__________________
John W. Kennedy
"The blind rulers of Logres
Nourished the land on a fallacy of rational virtue."
-- Charles Williams. Taliessin through Logres: Prelude
Reply With Quote
  #47  
Old 08-23-2012, 03:22 PM
Learjeff Learjeff is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Bingo, and it doesn't really solve the argument either way. Fascinating to ponder, though.
Reply With Quote
  #48  
Old 08-23-2012, 06:51 PM
Powers Powers is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: Rochester, NY, USA
Posts: 905
Believe me, I'm no fan of admitting some things are unknowable. And I believe most definitions of "God" to be self-contradictory (and if not self-contradictory, then unworthy of the title).


Powers &8^]
Reply With Quote
  #49  
Old 08-23-2012, 08:38 PM
Learjeff Learjeff is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by colonial View Post
So illusion v reality is a monumental difference between fictional characters and human beings.
Right -- I doubt anyone here is arguing that fiction is an argument for free will. On the contrary, someone brought it up as an argument *against* free will, which is funny, because if you do ask almost any good novelist, they'll tell you their characters do have wills of their own, and refuse to be cowed into doing what the author wants to serve the plot.

So, it's just funny, not convincing.
Reply With Quote
  #50  
Old 08-23-2012, 08:43 PM
Learjeff Learjeff is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by Powers View Post
Believe me, I'm no fan of admitting some things are unknowable. And I believe most definitions of "God" to be self-contradictory (and if not self-contradictory, then unworthy of the title).
That's how it seems to me too. But I've been dead wrong on far simpler issues, so I try to have respect for those who feel otherwise.

I believe everyone should question their beliefs, but in the end, you have live your life with whatever result you come up with.

The thing that I find most annoying (and this is a weakness on my part, no doubt) is when others profess absolute certainty. I can understand *feeling* absolutely certain, but there's a big difference between feeling certain and being certain.

I feel pretty darn certain that I can't doubt my own existence without contradicting myself. Things get hazy when I try to go past that. ;-)
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 02:29 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright © 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.