Thursday, March 6, 2008

'Teleological Atheism' and 'Arguments from Evil'

CHAPTERS 13 and 14

In Chapter Thirteen, Dr. Martin gives what he believes to be positive teleological evidence for the non-existence of God. In Chapter Fourteen, Martin offers what he believes is positive evidence for the non-existence of God based on an induction from the existence of evil. Because of the nature of these arguments, my agreements section will be very short and my criticisms will be quite extensive. Please believe me when I say that I made a strong effort to find more to agree with, but it just wasn't happening. One more thing to note, the argument from evil will basically carry over into the last three weeks of my critique of 'Atheism,' as Martin has devoted the last four chapters to assessing the popular theodicies argued by theists. Therefore, if my critique seems to be lacking some important points, don't worry. I am addressing the issues as they come. I am sure that all the relevant arguments that are needed to critique Martin will be utilized.

Summary of Martin's Claims

Martin begins Chapter Thirteen by reminding the readers that the teleological arguments for God's existence have all been shown to be unsound. I would like to remind my readers that I have demonstrated this to be false in my critique of Chapter Five. While Martin did a good job of critiquing most of the arguments, his argument against Paley did not sufficiently succeed. Normally, I would leave such a criticism to my critique section, but I wanted to point this out up front.

He proceeds to offer an argument by Salmon that he calls the 'Calculated Improbability of Design.' This argument basically asserts that since most of the things that we know of in the universe (planets, galaxies, atoms, and molecules) are not the result of intelligence, then it follows that it is more likely that there was not an intelligent designer. Martin offers an interlocutor for Salmon in Cartwright who says that Salmon begs the question in stating that planets, galaxies, atoms, and molecules are not the result of intelligence. In reply, Salmon appeals to scientific findings including thermodynamics and quantum mechanics as justification for such a premise. Martin agreed that Salmon did not beg the question and claims that, at worst, Salmon used unjustified premises. But since he supported these with science, the criticism doesn't work.

After this, Martin expands on the argument by stating that: given the nature of the universe and the supposed nature of God, we must reject that the two go together based on the non-relation of our experience to the claim. He offers many examples of such incompatibility. First, he appeals to The Argument from Embodiedness. This argument states that all created entities of our experience were created by beings with bodies, so we should infer that the universe, if created, would have been created by an embodied being. Martin claims that it does not beg the question and can be supported by scientific evidence. Next, he appeals to The Argument from Multiple Creators. This argument states that all large and complex entities that we know were created by a multitude, and thus infers that the universe would be no different, if created. Martin claims that the criticisms to this argument and the answers to them are similar to those above. Third, Martin offers The Argument from Apparent Fallibility. This argument states that there are mistakes and errors in the universe, and based on our experience, mistakes and errors in a creation always result from the fallibility of the creator. Thus we should infer that the universe, if created, was created by a fallible creator. As evidence for this claim, he points to functionless organs and genetic deficiencies. Fourth, Martin offers The Argument from Finiteness. This argument states that all created things that we know of were created by a finite power; therefore we should infer that the universe, if created, was also created by a finite power. He follows with the claim that the same objections can be raised and dismissed as in the previous arguments. Fifth, Martin offers The Argument from Pre-Existing Material. This argument states that all created things that we know were created out of pre-existing material; thus if the universe were created, we should infer that it was created out of preexisting material. Again, he claims that the same objections can be raised and dismissed as in the previous arguments. Finally, Martin offers his argument that the universe is not a created object. His argument can be stated as:

P-1: All created things have noticeable markings left from the machines that make them.
P-2: The universe does not have the markings necessary.
Conclusion: Therefore, the universe was not created.

In Chapter Fourteen, Martin presents his argument for atheism from the existence of evil. He begins by noting that the most popular deductive form of this argument (stated below) is unsuccessful:

P-1: If God is all powerful, He could prevent evil.
P-2: If God is all knowing, He would know how to prevent evil.
P-3: If God is all good, He would prevent evil.
P-4: But evil was not prevented.
Conclusion: Therefore, God cannot exist.

However, Martin believes that inductive arguments against God from evil are possible and offers two of them. First, he offers a direct inductive argument. This argument offers no refutations of theodicies but rather works simply from the fact of human and animal suffering. It can be stated as follows:

P-1: There exist evils that, if they had been prevented, the world would have been a better place.
P-2: An all good being would have prevented any preventable thing that would result in a worse world.
Conclusion: Therefore, such a being does not exist.

Next, Martin offers an indirect argument for the same purpose. This argument states that no theodicy has successfully given a sufficient moral reason for God to allow gratuitous evils. He will defend this assertion in the following chapters apparently, so here he just offers the implications. He offers and critiques one counterargument, namely that evil exists necessarily. He then states that Naturalism can answer the problem of evil by appealing to natural laws. Finally, Martin addresses some popular criticisms of these inductive-style arguments. In this section, Martin critiques Alvin Plantinga's and Bruce Reichenbach's criticisms of the Probabilistic Arguments from Evil.

Agreements and What I Have Learned

As I noted earlier, there was very little for me to agree with in these two chapters. But I will try to give a few things. First, I have learned from Dr. Martin to be very careful of which fallacy that you are attributing to an author. I think he was correct where he noted that some counterarguments were wrong in claiming that a claim begged the question and that a better criticism would be that he lacked sufficient warrant for a premise. He helped me to catch myself doing this. So thank you Dr. Martin. Second, I agree with Martin that the deductive argument from evil for atheism is unsound. Third, I agree with Martin that demonstrating that the world would have been a better place granted some change is a difficult task to say the least. However, he thinks that the difficulty is surmountable where I reject that it is short of being omniscient. Fourth, I think that Martin correctly notes that the indirect argument from evil would not cancel out any positive argument for God. Of course I disagree with his conclusion that there is no such argument, and have demonstrated that his criticisms of the traditional cosmological and teleological arguments fail. Fifth, I agree that the argument claiming that evil exists necessarily is indefensible. Finally, I will accept the rejections of Plantinga and Reichenbach since I reject the whole process of assigning arbitrary probabilities to Bayes Theorem expecting to get objective conclusions.


Chapter 13

First, regarding Salmon's argument, while he may not be 'begging the question,' he definitely is unjustified in holding the premises that planets, galaxies, atoms, and molecules are not the result of intelligence, that the order found in mechanical causation and biological generation is not the result of intelligence, and that disembodied intelligence has not produced order in our experience. His appeal to thermodynamics and quantum physics does not help. Thermodynamics demonstrates a need for the beginning of time, and thus space and matter if Einstein was correct. Quantum mechanics is highly speculative and remains unproven. Even if particles in quantum experiments seem to 'come into existence' spontaneously, there is no reason to suppose that they could do so if there were no 'vacuum' present. Thermodynamics has the epistemic authority until quantum mechanics can be better supported.

Regarding the expansion of the argument I will critique each point. First, the Argument from Embodiedness can be disproven if we can show that matter had a beginning, as we have with the laws of Thermodynamics, Einstein's Theory of Relativity, and the Cosmological Argument. Once these are proved, then a true experience of reality is an experience of an entity created by a disembodied being. Furthermore, there is nothing about being a created entity that requires being made by a being with a body. That the beings that we see make things have bodies is due to a limitation of their being, not due to necessity with regards to being in general. Second, the Argument from Multiple Creators is also disproven. Since time, space and matter had a beginning, there is no individuating principle that we know of by which multiple creators could even be possible. Therefore, our experience of reality actually supports a monotheistic view. Furthermore, there is nothing about being large and complex that demands multiple agents. The demand for multiple agents lies in the finitude of the creators. Third, the Argument from Apparent Fallibility fails since this critique presupposes omniscience. In order to recognize a flaw, you have to know what the creation would look like if it were ideal. But if they are rejecting the current one as real, then they would have to point to another one from their experience that was better. However, there is only one universe. Thus, the example would have to be a product of their mind. But in order for them to make such a judgment, they would have to know all factors involved in the universe so as to know that the thing that they considered to be a mistake really wasn't a good result of something else. Thus, they would be claiming omniscience. What is more, even if there were an imperfection, that fact would not prove that something was a mistake. The creator could have intended for something to be ontologically imperfect without any fault. So this argument as presented seems to be an utter failure. That being said, I think that the 'mistakes' offered are inconclusive anyway. Regarding functionless organs, at one time in the modern period, scientists thought that well over 100 organs (in humans) were vestigial. Today the number stands at six. And there is no reason to suppose that we will not find explanations for those someday. Regarding genetic deficiencies, the theistic account has an explanation for this. It is called sin. The creator did not create man deficient. Man inflicted it on himself. Fourth, the Argument from Finiteness fails as well. The first cause of the universe can not have any potential, since potential can only be put into (metaphysical, not physical) motion by act. Thus there is no power in the first cause that could be unactualized. Whatever is not true of this cause is not ever possible for it. Also, whatever power that it passes down must pre-exist in it. Therefore, there is no power known to man that is not owned by the first cause. Now, one may think that this means that the first cause could lie, cheat, etc. since these are powers. However, these are not powers but limitations in power. Fully actualized power to know things and relate to others necessarily leads to honesty and fairness. A deficiency leads to lies and cheating. Fifth, the Argument from Pre-Existing Material fails since it does not account for the actual evidence from our experience. We know, based on scientific and philosophical proof, that time, space, and matter began to exist. Thus there was no matter existing from which to form the universe. Finally, the argument that the universe was created assumes that the created markings are a necessary condition for being created. The fact that physical objects are used by finite creators is due to their finiteness (i.e. their physicality), not due to the objects having been created. An infinite non-corporeal being would not need such tools. And I have already pointed out that the evidence shows that such a being exists.

Chapter 14

First, regarding the direct inductive argument from evil, I would like to again point out that the author admits the difficulty in being able to know that premise one is true. We would say that it is not and that one would have to be omniscient to make such judgments. Therefore, any claim to this effect is presumptuous. Further, there seems to be no moral obligation on God to make sure that His creatures understand His ways. Neither does there seem to be a moral obligation on His part to create the best possible world. Even more, there does not seem to be any reason that He should not allow suffering. This whole argument is built on faulty presuppositions. Finally, for the Christian, this problem is addressed in the Book of Job. (A professor of mine had a profound insight by noticing that God's answer to Job was basically, 'You are being inconsistent. Why don't you question my motives where I bless you and the whole creation?')

Regarding the indirect inductive argument from evil, I will just remind you that Martin admits that a positive proof for God's existence cancels out this claim. Since I have defended such proofs, the argument is null.

Regarding the claim that naturalism can account for evil, I would like to note that Martin's argument is tantamount to taking our argument, 'God knows what He is doing and has an unknown (to us) reason for it,' and applying it to nature, 'Nature knows what it is doing and has an unknown (to us) reason for it.' His doing this demonstrates that the problem is not limited to the theist. In fact, the problem is greater for the atheist. How can the atheist even call something evil or deficient? Atheism does not have available to it a category for 'oughtness.' It only has a category for 'is-ness.' They only have room for descriptions, not prescriptions. C.S. Lewis was right in noting that arguing from evil presupposes an ultimate standard and prescriber of moral goodness.

No comments:

Post a Comment