The third talk at the CFI ‘Science vs. Religion’ event was a discussion by the philosopher and head of CFI London Stephen Law on ‘the empirical evidence against God’.
From the title of the talk I was expecting a whistle stop tour through topics such as abiogenesis, evolution and some of the scientific theories of the origin of the universe however none of these subjects were touched and, in actual fact, I didn’t really note any ’empirical evidence’ being discussed. Instead, what Stephen Law presented in his talk, seemed to me to be more a philosophical argument against the monotheistic concept of God. I realise it is a distinct possibility that the philosophical definition of empirical means something entirely different than from what I understand, however, my definition of empirical is something like ‘evidence that can be scientifically identified and tested’ and in this regard Law’s talk was somewhat lacking.
With that said the philosophical argument he did present was quite interesting and entertaining and from my perspective it seemed to be quite well argued. The central thesis of the argument was that you could replace a ‘Good God’ with an ‘Evil God’ in the most common arguments used to defend a Good God’s existence and they work just as well in reverse, suggesting that they are not particularly compelling arguments as they can be used to defend the existence of any type of God, even seemingly absurd ones like ‘Evil God’.
Looking at how he constructed his argument in a bit more detail; he first was clear to identify that the God concept he was dealing with was the one found amongst the major monotheistic religious traditions i.e. an omnipotent, omniscient and maximally good God (this is thus the God I mean from here on out when I refer to God).
With that clarified he then set about examining the common arguments for this God’s existence and was quick to point out that the most popular arguments (such as the cosmological argument) are actually only arguments for a creator and say nothing about the moral character or the views of the creator. I think the examples he supplied were rather limited but then he did have a lot to fit in to an hour and his criticism is in my experience quite valid. As I’ve often noticed that it is somewhat taken for granted by religious apologists that if they can produce a compelling argument for a divine creator that it must obviously be their chosen deity who is responsible… which doesn’t actually follow.
Anyhow, after discussing a few other examples he then went on to discuss some of the compelling arguments against the typical monotheistic God and, in particular, he focused on the issue of the existence of evil in the world which he argued was somewhat incongruent with a good God who is all powerful and all knowing and hates suffering and pain. Pointing out that the sheer quantity of evil including millions of years of mass extinctions of animals, the astronomical amount of suffering that humans have endured throughout history via genocides, wars, holocausts etc. etc. and the existence of horrifically painful and debilitating disease was something an all powerful God who was also maximally good might have sought to avoid when he was setting up the universe.
From these two points he summarised that since the arguments for the existence of God are pretty feeble and there is strong evidence against God’s existence could one, in fact, say “it’s pretty obvious there’s no God”? The answer he supplied was that it’s not so simple, as there are defences which contend that the arguments against God (such as the problem of the existence of evil) can be explained away without requiring a change in God’s character. These defences are called ‘theodicies‘ and Law set out some of the most popular ones which are frequently invoked against the problem of the existence of evil and a Good God namely:
- Free Will– Humans have the free will to do good or bad. God could have made us all puppets who couldn’t do evil but that would have removed the value from doing good acts. The existence of evil is thus necessary for good acts to have real value.
- Character Building– The existence of evil and suffering enables us to appreciate goodness and happiness or to put it in the words of Mickey from Rocky ‘no pain, no gain’.
- Appeal to Mystery– God’s plan is so complex and beyond are capability to understand that we simply cannot understand why evil is necessary but it must be so.
Law acknowledged that these were only three out of hundreds and possibly thousands of theodicies but he again highlighted that these examples were very common and went on to state that the argument he was about to present against them also applied to almost every theodicy he was aware of. His argument, as mentioned above, boiled down to the fact that if the same defences worked for a nonsensical deity then they weren’t particularly compelling defences.
This was when Evil God made his appearence. Law explained that he was postulating the existence of an Evil God who shared all the characteristics of the monotheistic God except for the rather significant provision, that instead of being maximally good, he was maximally evil. He then returned to the arguments he had laid out for Good God noting that the popular arguments for a creator god fit Evil God just as much as Good God and then he went on to discuss the evidence against Evil God namely the issue of the existence of Good! Pointing out that there has been thousands of years of self sacrifice, caring and altrusim among humans in all societies and that many animals have been displaying for millenia deep unconditional love for their offspring.
The theodicies that explain this:
- Free Will– Evil God hates love and compassion and all that and he could have made people suffer for all eternity. However, without the choice to do evil there would be no real value in people doing it as they have no choice. As a result evil God invented free choice because although it let’s good into the world it also enables people to truly perform pure evil.
- Soul Destruction– In contrast to character building Evil God included happiness and goodness so that people could truly appreciate it when they experience evil and suffering. This is also why he allows certain people to be succesfull and happy which makes much more people jealous and unhappy (plus succesful and beautiful people are also often unhappy themselves!). Beautiful inspiring scenery also provides the potential for even more suffering when such things are destroyed.
- Appeal to Mystery- Evil God’s plan is beyond our comprehension. Love may seem like a strange addition to an Evil God’s creation for example but consider the suffering that love creates with jealousy, divorce, unexpected deaths etc. etc. Everything is all just part of his evil plan that we mere mortals cannot fathom.
After laying these points out Law also remarked that another possible ‘trump card’ theodicy for Evil God was that surely the most evil thing that Evil God could do would be to trick people into believing he was actually a Good God and get them to worhsip him and then make the final reveal after they died and he sent them to hell. Thus, effectively making any evidence for a Good God become further evidence for Evil God!
Law’s talk overall was somewhat lighthearted yet he was presenting an argument he regarded as valid and I have to admit despite finding it initially uncompelling I’ve found it hard to come up with ny argument that would make Evil God any less well supported than Good God. If anyone has any suggestions please drop them in the comment section or better yet leave the comment AND email Stephen Law and see what he says, his e-mail is email@example.com.
Hmm, evil God versus a Good God. Seems to me that the author and the ones who listen to his drivel haven’t read the Bible and if they have read the Bible it is obviously over their head.
Would an Evil God give his only son as a sacrifice for mankind?? Just my opinion but anyone who doesn’t believe in the existance of God just really isn’t that smart.
Can’t say I agree. Lots of smart people don’t believe in God. Also, I think you’re somewhat missing the point of his arguments by citing stories from the bible.
Am i missing someting here? As the only argument for God, which is the design theory, is a self-defeating one because it is destroyed by evolution , what does it matter if we try to make an argument for a good god or an evil god? Whether we define him as good or evil is irrelevant because there is no way that he can exist. Also, on another tack, the Abrahamic God is only ‘good’ by the moral standards of the period in which he was conceived. By our own moral standards, where for example we think twice about even hanging war criminals due to moral reservations, anyone who condemned people to an eternity of hellfire for a any crime would be considered evil anyway.
I would like to ask Joseph why must evolution have to prove that there is no God as it is only the mechanism in which life evolved and not how it originated?
k well i also have a question, what if god wanted evelution or the big bang theory to happen, what if that was his plan, im sorry but you cannot disprove god, and, people get to hell for doing certain crimes, but the thing with these crimes, they all have to do with siding with the devil also known as satan, and if u havent read the bible, he is the one god is fighting to make us safe im sorry but when people try to disprove god it doesnt really make me mad, but upset, because u havent acsepted god into your life yet and i hope you do.
Damian why even bother with the comment? A poorly spelt largely incoherent rant in a comment section is unlikely to persuade anyone to believe or disbelieve so what’s the motivation?
“Would an Evil God give his only son as a sacrifice for mankind?? Just my opinion but anyone who doesn’t believe in the existance of God just really isn’t that smart.”
Quoted for irony.
Think about it, gypsyman. How do you even know that Evil God even DID that? In fact, what if he just sacrificed his son for the pleasure of watching him suffer, and NO one is saved?
Also, did you not read the article above? It mentions that the greatest evil an Evil God could do is to convince people that he was good (perhaps by “sacrificing his son”), so that when they die he can laugh at their disappointment when they find out they were LIED to and he is truly evil… just before he sends them to eternal torment.
To be blunt, someone who doesn’t have the reasoning skills to think about what I just posted to you shouldn’t be saying other people aren’t “smart.”
Proof That There Is A God
Proof that God has not kept Himself hidden
A, Properties of a Whole Thing
If at the beginning there was something at all, and if that something was the whole thing, then it can be shown that by logical necessity that something will have to be spaceless, timeless, changeless, deathless. This is by virtue of that something being the whole thing. Something is the whole thing means there cannot be anything at all outside of that something; neither space, nor time, nor matter, nor anything else. It is the alpha and omega of existence. But, if it is the whole thing, then it must have to be spaceless, timeless, changeless, deathless. Otherwise it will be merely a part of a bigger whole thing. Now let us denote this something by a big X. Now, can this X be in any space? No, it cannot be. If it is, then where is that space itself located? It must have to be in another world outside of X. But by definition there cannot be anything outside of X. Therefore X cannot be in any space. Again, can this X have any space? No, it cannot have. If we say that it can have, then we will again be in a logical contradiction. Because if X can have any space, then that space must have to be outside of it. Therefore when we consider X as a whole, then we will have to say that neither can it be in any space, nor can it have any space. In every respect it will be spaceless. For something to have space it must already have to be in some space. Even a prisoner has some space, although this space is confined within the four walls of his prison cell. But the whole thing, if it is really the whole thing, cannot have any space. If it can have, then it no longer remains the whole thing. It will be self-contradictory for a whole thing to have any space. Similarly it can be shown that this X can neither be in time, nor have any time. For a whole thing there cannot be any ‘before’, any ‘after’. For it there can be only an eternal ‘present’. It will be in a timeless state. If the whole thing is in time, then it is already placed in a world where there is a past, a present, and a future, and therefore it is no longer the whole thing. Now, if X as a whole is spaceless, timeless, then that X as a whole will also be changeless. There might always be some changes going on inside X, but when the question comes as to whether X itself is changing as a whole, then we are in a dilemma. How will we measure that change? In which time-scale shall we have to put that X in order for us to be able to measure that change? That time-scale must necessarily have to be outside of X. But there cannot be any such time-scale. So it is better not to say anything about its change as a whole. For the same reason X as a whole can never cease to be. It cannot die, because death is also a change. Therefore we see that if X is the first thing and the whole thing, then X will have the properties of spacelessness, timelessness, changelessness, deathlessness by virtue of its being the whole thing. It is a logical necessity. Now, this X may be anything; it may be light, it may be sound, or it may be any other thing. Whatever it may be, it will have the above four properties of X. Now, if we find that there is nothing in this universe that possesses the above four properties of X, then we can safely conclude that at the beginning there was nothing at all, and that therefore scientists are absolutely correct in asserting that the entire universe has simply originated out of nothing. But if we find that there is at least one thing in the universe that possesses these properties, then we will be forced to conclude that that thing was the first thing, and that therefore scientists are wrong in their assertion that at the beginning there was nothing. This is only because a thing can have the above four properties by virtue of its being the first thing and by virtue of this first thing being the whole thing, and not for any other reason. Scientists have shown that in this universe light, and light only, is having the above four properties. They have shown that for light time, as well as distance, become unreal. I have already shown elsewhere that a timeless world is a deathless, changeless world. For light even infinite distance becomes zero, and therefore volume of an infinite space also becomes zero. So the only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that at the beginning there was light, and that therefore scientists are wrong in asserting that at the beginning there was nothing.
Another very strong reason can be given in support of our belief that at the beginning there was light. The whole thing will have another very crucial and important property: immobility. Whole thing as a whole thing cannot move at all, because it has nowhere to go. Movement means going from one place to another place, movement means changing of position with respect to something else. But if the whole thing is really the whole thing, then there cannot be anything else other than the whole thing. Therefore if the whole thing moves at all, then with respect to which other thing is it changing its position? And therefore it cannot have any movement, it is immobile. Now, if light is the whole thing, then light will also have this property of immobility. Now let us suppose that the whole thing occupies an infinite space, and that light is the whole thing. As light is the whole thing, and as space is also infinite here, then within this infinite space light can have the property of immobility if, and only if, for light even the infinite distance is reduced to zero. Scientists have shown that this is just the case. From special theory of relativity we come to know that for light even infinite distance becomes zero, and that therefore it cannot have any movement, because it has nowhere to go. It simply becomes immobile. This gives us another reason to believe that at the beginning there was light, and that therefore scientists are wrong in asserting that at the beginning there was nothing.
I know very well that an objection will be raised here, and that it will be a very severe objection. I also know what will be the content of that objection: can a whole thing beget another whole thing? I have said that at the beginning there was light, and that light was the whole thing. Again I am saying that the created light is also the whole thing, that is why it has all the properties of the whole thing. So the whole matter comes to this: a whole thing has given birth to another whole thing, which is logically impossible. If the first thing is the whole thing, then there cannot be a second whole thing, but within the whole thing there can be many other created things, none of which will be a whole thing. So the created light can in no way be a whole thing, it is logically impossible. But is it logically impossible for the created light to have all the properties of the whole thing? So what I intend to say here is this: created light is not the original light, but created light has been given all the properties of the original light, so that through the created light we can have a glimpse of the original light. If the created light was not having all these properties, then who would have believed that in this universe it is quite possible to be spaceless, timeless, changeless, deathless? If nobody believes in Scriptures, and if no one has any faith in personal revelation or mystical experience, and if no one wants to depend on any kind of authority here, and if no one even tries to know Him through meditation, then how can the presence of God be made known to man, if not through a created thing only? So, not through Vedas, nor through Bible, nor through Koran, nor through any other religious books, but through light and light only, God has revealed himself to man. That is why we find in created light all the most essential properties of God: spacelessness, timelessness, changelessness, deathlessness.
Footnote: If the universe is treated as one whole unit, then it can be said to be spaceless, timeless. I first got this idea from an article by Dr. Lee Smolin read in the internet. Rest things I have developed. This is as an acknowledgement.
I think we need no further proof for the existence of God. That light has all the five properties of the whole thing is sufficient. I will have to explain.
Scientists are trying to establish that our universe has started from nothing. We want to contradict it by saying that it has started from something. When we are saying that at the beginning there was something, we are saying that there was something. We are not saying that there was some other thing also other than that something. Therefore when we are saying that at the beginning there was something, we are saying that at the beginning there was a whole thing. Therefore we are contradicting the statement that our universe has started from nothing by the statement that our universe has started from a whole thing.
I have already shown that a whole thing will have the properties of spacelessness, timelessness, changelessness, deathlessness, immobility (STCDI). This is by logical necessity alone. It is logically contradictory to say that a whole thing can have space. Let us suppose that the whole thing is having space. Then the so-called whole thing along with the space that it is having will constitute the real whole thing. If my arguments that I have offered so far to show that the whole thing will always have the above five properties by virtue of its being the whole thing are sound, and if they cannot be faulted from any angle, then I can make the following statements:
1. In this universe only a whole thing can have the properties of STCDI by logical necessity alone.
2. If the universe has started from nothing, then nothing in this universe will have the properties of STCDI.
3. If the universe has started from a whole thing, then also nothing other than the initial whole thing will have the properties of STCDI. This is only because a whole thing cannot beget another whole thing.
4. But in this universe we find that light, in spite of its not being a whole thing, is still having the properties of STCDI.
5. This can only happen if, and only if, the initial whole thing itself has purposefully given its own properties to light, in order to make its presence known to us through light.
6. But for that the initial whole thing must have to have consciousness.
7. So, from above we can come to the following conclusion: the fact that light, in spite of its not being a whole thing, still possesses the properties of STCDI, is itself a sufficient proof for the fact that the universe has started from a conscious whole thing, and that this conscious whole thing is none other than God.
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