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Skeptical theism states that if we cannot tell whether any of the evils in our world are gratuitous, then we cannot appeal to the existence of gratuitous evil to conclude that God does not exist. However, I can't help but think that we can. The rules of probability tell us that that individual probabilities can be quite low, but their disjunction can be very high. For instance, there may be only a small chance that you will be involved in an automobile accident on a given day, but if you drive every day, the chances are pretty good that you will be in one on some day in your lifetime. Similarly, even if the chance that a given instance of a trillion cases of suffering is gratuitous is quite low, the chance that one of that trillion is gratuitous can be can be very high, and it only takes one instance of gratuitous evil to rule out the existence of God. Coming from someone who is not a philosophy major, am I right in my criticism of skeptical theism or is it too naive?

The theism part of skeptical theism, at least if it's classical theism, must say that the probability that God allows suffering without having an adequate moral justification for allowing it is well-defined and zero, just as you suspect. But the skeptical part of skeptical theism, as I understand it, says that we can't properly assign any probability at all to the claim that a given case of suffering is in fact gratuitous (i.e., such that God, if God exists, has no adequate moral justification for allowing it). We can't, according to the skeptical part, because we can't presume to know the full range of justifications at God's disposal, if God exists. So we have to enter a "?" rather than a number (or range of numbers) into our calculation of the probability of the disjunction, which of course renders the calculation impossible. I don't mean to suggest that I accept the skeptical part of skeptical theism, but that's what it says, if I understand it correctly.

If God is the creator of the universe and all the living and non living things , Can he create or recreate himself ?

Because I think it's self-contradictory to say that God could literally create or re-create himself, I think believers in a Creator God must say this: God created all of the created things in the universe, but those things exclude God himself (and also Platonic abstract objects such as the laws of logic). For a bit more detail about why, you might look at my answer to Question 25260 .

Premise 1: If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist. Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do exist. Conclusion: Therefore, God exists. Can we accept the conclusion above as valid or even fact?

The argument itself is logically valid -- indeed, formally valid. It uses only modus tollens and the rule that "P" and "~ ~ P" are equivalent, both of which are valid rules of inference. However, I think the argument is unsound -- and therefore I think it fails to establish its conclusion -- because Premise 1 is false, at least if Premise 1 is meant as a strict conditional. (I think it's also false if it's meant as a material conditional, but that's more controversial.) For excellent discussion of Premise 1, I recommend this article and this collection of essays .

It sounds to me like the arguments about the existence of God are displaced from what the essence of the argument is "really" about. It seems pretty clear from the equations of quantum mechanics that there is a Deity. However, whether She takes any interest in human beings, let alone the quotidian details of our everyday lives, is another matter. That is where the argument "really" seems to be: if we posit that there is a Deity, what reasons do we have to believe that She cares about our everyday lives or intercedes in response to a prayer? It may well be that She is like a parent with grown children: "I took care of you and raised you to adulthood and gave you all the skills and abilities you need to take care of yourself on your own. Good luck!" Isn't that the basis of the argument in favor of free will? If we do have free will, then why would God respond to our prayers?

It seems pretty clear from the equations of quantum mechanics that there is a Deity. I must say: That's as striking a statement as I can recall reading in quite a while! I wonder if it's the view of most of those who do QM for a living. Indeed, aren't there aspects of QM (indeterminacy, randomness, the Measurement Problem, the difficulty of reconciling QM with General Relativity, etc.) that suggest that no Designer is responsible for QM? Anyway, you draw an analogy between the Deistic God and a parent of grown children. But parents of grown children don't take the totally hands-off attitude toward their children that Deism attributes to God. Not if they're decent parents. What decent parent would deliberately choose not to call for help if she saw her adult child clutch his chest and collapse on the pavement? The Deistic God is a puzzling figure: knowledgeable and powerful enough to create a universe of mind-boggling size and complexity but morally callous enough not to care if the universe She...

One classification of evil is natural evil, those evils that are explained by laws of nature, without need for a personal agent. But is it appropriate to call natural disasters evil? The usual connotation of evil is something that pertains to personal agents so that it seems to me that to classify natural disasters evil would seem misleading. If my argument is valid, why does "natural evil" become a common term in the discussion of the problem of evil?

My hunch is that the term "natural evil" arose from the older label "the problem of evil" as a way to divide the data into events caused by agents and events not caused by agents. I don't think the choice of terminology is significant. One can refer to the problem of evil as the "problem of suffering" and then distinguish suffering caused by agents from suffering not caused by agents. The background assumption in any case is that suffering -- unlike, say, breathing -- isn't morally neutral: all else being equal, suffering is something undesirable that any morally sensitive person tries to prevent or relieve. So I don't think that substituting "suffering" for "evil" makes a difference to the problem or its solution. From my perspective, the important point is that if an omniscient and omnipotent God exists, then any suffering that occurs anywhere, regardless of its cause, is suffering that God chooses to permit .

For years, scientists like Stephen Hawking have made claims, maintaining that the awesome, sophisticated creativity of the world around us can be interpreted solely by reference to physical laws such as gravity. But could Hawking's claim is be misguided? He asks us to choose between God and the laws of physics, as if they were necessarily in mutual conflict. But contrary to what Hawking claims, physical laws can never provide a complete explanation of the universe. Laws themselves do not create anything, they are merely a description of what happens under certain conditions. What Hawking appears to have done is to make a category mistake and to confuse law with agency. His call on us to choose between God and physics is a bit like someone demanding that we choose between aeronautical engineer Sir Frank Whittle and the laws of physics to explain the jet engine. The laws of physics can explain how the jet engine works, but someone had to build the thing, put in the fuel and start it up. The jet could not...

There's a lot going on in your question, and I doubt that my response will cover all of it. But I'll say, first, that it begs the question against Hawking to demand that he explain "the awesome, sophisticated creativity of the world" if by "creativity" you mean something beyond the everyday creativity acknowledged by both sides of the debate (such as the creativity of human agents). Hawking doesn't accept the assumption that (for example) the laws of physics are the result of someone's creativity. Second, Hawking would likely question your inference from the premise "All created things, such as the jet engine, require creators" to the conclusion "The laws of physics require a creator." The premise is true, but it doesn't imply the conclusion. Third, it's not clear from your description of Hawking's view that he alleges a conflict between theism and the laws of physics. Rather, if I understand your description, Hawking claims that theism isn't necessary to explain what we observe. Now, if...

If there is no god, why do people behave in a moral and ethical manner? One answer might be long-term self-interest: if you never tell a lie, for example, you will develop a favorable reputation among other people which will allow you to participate in all sorts of activities of which you would never be a part otherwise. Another answer might be "big picture" self-interest: people usually achieve more and have higher standards of living when they collaborate compared to when they compete: "competition" only works as a motivator when embedded in a broader collaborative structure first (i.e., if everyone plays by the rules, we aren't deliberately trying to injure a competitor because we don't want them trying to injure us and so we all place voluntary limits on our behaviors to promote a better outcome for all). While these answers are all well and good, there seems to be something missing: to be motivated SOLELY by self-interest, no matter how you dress it up, seems like a somewhat barren life. ...

If we are only molecules in motion and a few hundred thousand years from now, the world and history will vanish, then are our moral rules any more than the rules of a club? With all due respect to Prof. Marino, the antecedent of that question is tendentious. According to naturalism, I and a rock both consist of molecules in motion. But naturalism doesn't imply that there are no important differences -- including objectively important differences -- between me and the rock. Even though naturalism says that I consist of molecules in motion, it doesn't say that all agglomerations of molecules in motion are objectively the same: it doesn't say that I'm only molecules in motion, in the reductive sense of "only" implied by the antecedent. As to naturalism's prediction that humanity and its traces will one day be gone: Why must humanity or its traces go on forever in order for anything to be objectively right or wrong? I've never seen a good answer to that question. Several recent writers have...
You seem to be asking an empirical (psychological or sociological) question: Besides enlightened self-interest, what actually motivates atheists to behave morally? The best answer to that question will come from systematic empirical research. I don't know of any, but I wouldn't be surprised if you could find some on the web. As for what motivates particular atheists to behave morally, you might consult this collection edited by Louise M. Antony, one of the Panelists on this site. You wrote that the belief "that there is something greater than the self, of which we are a part ... seems to me only to make sense in a spiritual tradition" of the kind that atheists reject. In my reply to Question 5607 , I argued against treating the term "atheist" as implying a lack of regard for anything but gratifying one's own ego: the term simply doesn't have that implication. I see no reason why an atheist shouldn't believe that some things are worth a degree of self-sacrifice. Indeed, some philosophers...

There seems to be a popular form of virtual atheism where the person says: I don't believe in god, but I don't accept that 'everything is permitted.' And then they grin in an idiotic way. If 'everything is permitted' means exactly the same thing as there are no laws but man made laws, what can they mean? All laws are arbitrary unless they where given by some power from above, or if the very universe is 'good.' What else can they mean? If it is some kind of conditioned response or Freudian figure (which leads to the belief in goodness and guilt), that is ultimately based on meaningless phylogenetic antecedents. So if someone says that don't they just mean they don't like to admit morals are meaningless or radically arbitrary? Perhaps because they are confused.

You seem to be arguing for this claim: Atheism implies that everything is morally permissible. In the view of many philosophers, myself included, that claim is false. These philosophers argue that objective truths about moral right and wrong not only needn't be God-made (or man-made) but couldn't be God-made (or man-made). I recommend reading Wes Morriston, "God and the Ontological Foundation of Morality," and Erik J. Wielenberg, "In Defense of Non-Natural, Non-Theistic Moral Realism" . On the issue of whether all laws require a lawgiver, please see my response to Question 5619 .

Greetings. My four-year-old daughter asked why she could not "see" god. My response at the time was something like the following. God is one without a second and undifferentiated. For one to "see" something it is necessary to distinguish that object from others. God has no other from which it can be distinguished as separate and distinct. Abstract, yes, but at least I avoided using terms like "transcendant", etc. I wanted to give her a thoughtful answer even if hard to grasp. How did I do?

I confess I have trouble grasping the answer you gave. You wrote, "God has no other from which it can be distinguished as separate and distinct," which seems to imply that God isn't distinguishable from you or from anything else there is. Did you mean to give your daughter the impression that you and your left shoe are both indistinguishable from God? I presume not. Now, on some views God just is the whole of reality, but even on those views it seems that God would be distinct from any proper part of reality such as you or your left shoe. Why not say, instead, that according to various religious traditions God is a non-physical, spiritual being and therefore not the kind of being that we can expect to see or otherwise perceive with our physical senses?

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