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Ethics: Problem of Evil, Part 2

Video transcript

(intro music) Hi, my name is Greg Ganssle, and I'm a Senior Fellow[br]at the Rivendell Institute at Yale University. We're discussing the[br]philosophical problem of evil. So in the last lecture, we looked at the philosophical problem of evil and we said that atheists[br]want to deny premise one, that is, "God exists and is omniscient omnipotent, and wholly good", while theists want to investigate the additional premises more carefully. So let us check to see. Are these premises true? So let's look at premise three first: "There are no limits to what an omnipotent, omniscient being can do." Is this true? Well, let's think about it. You've probably heard this question: "Can God make a rock so big[br]that even He can't move it?" What about this: "Can God make a class so boring[br]that even He falls asleep?" These are the kinds of questions some people think are[br]going to be unanswerable. But they boil down to,[br]especially the rock question boils down to, "Can God[br]make contradictions true?" You see, a rock so big[br]that an all-powerful being cannot move it is a contradiction. So the question is, can God[br]make a contradiction true? So let's answer the question[br]"Yes" and let's answer the question "No" and see what happens. "Yes": If God can make contradictions true, then he can make a rock so[br]big that he cannot move it. But then, he can also move[br]it, because he can make the contradiction true that[br]he cannot move the rock and he also can move the rock. So this is not a problem. But what if God cannot do contradiction? Then we will have to say that God cannot make this kind of a rock. It's not something that,[br]as an all-powerful being, He can accomplish. Now traditionally, most[br]theologians and philosophers have understood God's power such that He cannot do contradictions. And it's very important for[br]the atheist to hold this view. Because the atheist[br]wants to have an argument that God does not exist, such[br]as John Mackie's argument. So suppose Mackie has[br]a successful argument: There's a contradiction in believing that God exists and that evil exists. The theist can simply[br]say, "Well, if God can do contradictions, he can make[br]that contradiction true. There is no contradiction that challenges the existence of God." So in order to have any[br]argument against the existence of God at all, we have to[br]assume that God's power does not extend to being able[br]to make contradictions true. So we are going to say that premise three as it stands is false. There are some limits to what[br]an all-powerful being can do. There are logical limits. God cannot draw a square circle. God cannot make a rock[br]so big He cannot move it. These are contradictions. So we need to rewrite premise three. We'll call it "Three*": There are no non-logical limits to what an omnipotent,[br]omniscient being can do. This has a chance of being true. So we've revised premise three;[br]let's look at premise four. Premise four: "A good being always eliminates evil as far as it can." This too turns out to be false. Often, a good parent[br]allows evil and suffering into her child's life even[br]if she could eliminate it. In our family, we had a very[br]strict rule that the children were not allowed to eat[br]candy before breakfast, and sometimes this caused distress. But we knew we had a good reason to allow this kind of suffering. It didn't make us bad parents. So we have to revise premise[br]four as well. Four*: A good being always eliminates[br]evil as far as it can unless it has a good reason to allow it. This has a chance of being true. So the theist says, "We need[br]to revise those two premises. Let's plug them back into our argument and see if we can still[br]get a contradiction." Premise one remains the same. Premise two remains the same. Evil exists. Premise three*. "There are no non-logical limits to what an omnipotent being can do." Premise four*. "A good being always eliminates[br]evil as far as it can, unless it has a good reason to allow it." >From these four, we can[br]go through the steps. Statement five is actually going to be statement five* now: God can eliminate all the evil that it's logically possible to[br]eliminate. Statement six becomes statement six*: God will eliminate all[br]the evil He can eliminate because He is good, unless He[br]has a good reason to allow it. >From statement five* and statement six*, we get statement seven*: God eliminates all the evil[br]He logically can eliminate, unless He has a good reason to allow it. Statement eight*: There[br]is evil and there is no evil, unless God has a good reason to allow it. And this is not a contradiction. So what the theists have recognized is that if it's possible that[br]God has a good reason to allow evil, there is no contradiction in claiming that God[br]exists, God is wholly good, all-powerful, all-knowing,[br]and yet evil exists. Could it be that God has a[br]good reason to allow evil, but we don't have to[br]know what His reasons are for any particular evil? There are some things that[br]have come up as suggestions for why God might allow some[br]of the evils we encounter. First, human freedom. Many philosophers believe[br]that if God allows us to be free in a significant[br]way, then He cannot determine that we always choose what's right. That would be a contradiction: a determined action that's free. Secondly, many people[br]think that the regularities in the universe require the possibility of natural evils such as[br]drownings and burnings. It's the very same properties[br]of water that make it biologically useful that make[br]it possible for us to drown. If we're going to have a regular[br]cause and effect universe, we need to have a stable world. These might be some of the reasons that God allows evil in the world. We don't know His particular reasons. So the charge of[br]contradiction is the charge that there is a contradiction[br]between the existence of God and the existence of evil. We've shown that there's[br]probably no contradiction. If God can have a reason to allow evil, then the argument has been answered. Of course, this leads to[br]the next problem of evil called "the evidential problem." But that's for another day. Subtitles by the Amara.org community