RD Blog Post 1 – Free Will

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I finally had the chance to listen to the debate and decided to contribute my 2 cents. I have not yet read other people’s comments so I’m sorry if I’m repeating anything.

First, as a theist, I found this debate just as frustrating to listen to as every other similar debate I’ve ever heard. Both presenters spoke past each other and I cannot say there was any significant contribution to the overall understanding of the issues. Instead of bouncing around from point to point, they would have done much better to choose one argument and dissect it into its essential elements and hopefully provide a little more insight into whether or not the argument is valid.

Re: The Evil God Argument

This argument can actually be flipped around like so:

– lets say for whatever reason we agree that a god who is partly good and partly bad is the most likely type of god to create a partly good and partly bad world.
– can we nonetheless conceive of a scenario wherein an evil god would create a partly good, partly evil world? Sure. A sadistic god might create a partly good world so that when evil happens it is perceived as that much more painful as it can now be contrasted with the good.
– but if we can conceive of a scenario where an evil god would create a partly good world, couldn’t there also be reasons why a good god would create a partly bad world?

Not sure if there is much value to this argument but neither did I see much value to the original argument.

Re: The Problem Of Evil

The atheist presenter made the claim that every attempt to resolve the problem of evil, including the Free Will defense has failed. I would have really liked to see him explain how exactly that defense has failed.

Instead he mentioned Plantiga, a contemporary, as if he is either the originator of that defense or the one who best articulates it when in fact the free will defense has been around for millennia and Plantiga’s version was only meant to have a limited application and was never intended to address the kinds of questions he is asking.  He then gave an example of how that defense fails by stating that if HE was in god’s shoes he would definitely have stopped the rapist from hurting the little girl regardless of whether that interfered with his free will or not. But that has nothing to do with how the Free Will defense was intended to work.

So I’m going to give a brief description of the free-will argument as it has been traditionally used in Christian theology and maybe someone here can explain to me what part of this is irrational or in what sense this defense fails. In order to do this in as short a space as possible I will ignore some of the variables that are normally addressed when making this point and focus instead on the core of the argument.

Let’s say we have 10 individuals that were created with free will. An immediate problem the creator is faced with is the possibility that one or more of these individuals will choose to exercise his/their free will in a way that harms or otherwise obstructs the freedom of the others.

So the first measure a creator might take is to set up a set of rules detailing the rights and obligations of each created individual.

The next step however would need to be an education process explaining exactly why these rules are of benefit to one and all, since simply legislating behavior only goes so far.

But now what if in spite of these measures, 5 of the 10 created beings decide that the creator is overreacting with his restrictions and choose to no longer adhere to them. What should the creator do in this situation?

The first option the creator has is to try to resolve the situation immediately and restore order. But, since reasoning with them has obviously already failed, he would probably need to resort to more forceful measures. And this could mean several things:

– some might actually become emboldened by these measures and refuse to turn back no matter what.
– others might give in but obey only out of fear of punishment leading to a miserable existence of unwilling servitude.
– there is a good chance that some time later even these will decide to go back and do it all over again.
– the other 5 who had previously remained obedient will likely begin to obey out of fear as well and might even start to side with the defiant.

The other option the creator has is to separate the disobedient from the other five and to then just let things play out for some time. This would allow them to experience the consequences of their own actions and to better understand why the rules were in place to begin with. Allowing things to go on will inevitably lead to suffering and, while the creator could intervene and prevent that suffering, doing so would defeat the purpose since the full effect of disobedience would never be fully understood.

In the end,

– it will become very clear to everyone which is the better way of life.
– the purpose of the rules and the intentions of the creator would be understood through experience.
– those who choose to turn back to the creator will now submit to his code of conduct willingly.
– if anyone chooses to persist in disobedience even still, they will no longer have the sympathy of the others.
– most importantly, this problem will not occur again a second time since everyone now understands why it is a bad idea.

So there’s quite a bit more to the Free Will Defense than just that the creator allows people to suffer because he doesn’t want to interfere with anyone’s free will.

Now I am fully aware that there are significant differences between my scenario and the situation our world is in. For example, the five year old girl did not choose to disobey so why does she have to suffer? But, while addressing those differences IS essential, it will not make the above response any more rational if it happens to be irrational as is. And, if the above response IS rational, at least we could all agree that there are situations where an omnipotent/omniscient/omnibenevolent god COULD rationally allow suffering to exist.



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