the topic:EVALUATE THE RISKS/REWARDS OF COMMITTING “INTELLECTUAL SUICIDE”, AS TALKED ABOUT IN CLASS 8 REGARDING THE ARGUMENT FROM RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE, AND THE LIMITED UNDERSTANDING DEFENSE.for more information about this topic, guideline and grading rubric see attached files.1. Your essays must have a thesis, a position you are arguing for. It can
NOT be simply informational.
2. These are not research papers, but philosophical reflections. You are
NOT doing any outside research, but using your critical thinking skills to
reflect on the readings and the topic.
3. I am not a stickler for formatting (e.g MLA, APA). I just want concise,
clear writing, free of mechanical errors. One inch margins, font size 11
or 12, double spaced.
4. If you reference an idea or quote a passage from one of the texts in the
class, be sure to include a page number. There is no need for a full citation.
5. Title your essay, and don’t title it something silly like, First Essay.
6. Your essay should be no shorter than one page, no longer than 2
pages.
7. Be sure to consider at least one opposing argument or view to your
thesis. You will not be graded on the position you take, but on the quality of
your argument.
8. Get right to the point. Assume your classmates are the audience you
are writing for and have read our texts. Avoid fluff, avoid cliches.
9. Proofread. I strongly encourage you to have friends read a draft and
offer suggestions.
10. Do not plagiarize. All papers will be subjected to Turnitin to see if
anything you wrote is ANYWHERE on the internet. Plagiarism will
result in a failing grade for the paper.
1. WRITING MECHANICS (GRAMMAR, SPELLING, PUNCTUATION,
SENTENCE FRAGMENTS, RUN-ONS, TYPOS, WORD CHOICE,
ETC.) 40 PTS
2. ORGANIZATION (CONCISE OPENING WITH CLEARLY STATED
THESIS, GOOD PARAGRAPH CONSTRUCTION, EFFICIENT USE OF
SPACE, SOLID CONCLUSION, ETC.) 20 PTS
3. ARGUMENTATIVE RIGOR (CLARITY OF ARGUMENT, RELEVANCE
AND FAIR CONSIDERATION OF COUNTERARGUMENT) 20 PTS
4. GRASP OF MATERIAL AND EVIDENCE OF YOUR OWN THINKING.
20 PTS
Argument #3: The Teleological argument, or the
argument from Design (Derives the existence of God
from the apparent design or purpose in the Universe)
• Teleology: The explanation of something in
terms of its ultimate function or purpose. (as
opposed to what caused it).
• Key idea: A close examination of the structure of
the natural world shows that it must have been
designed (with a purpose).
• Most famous version penned by English
Clergyman, William Paley (1743-1805).
Paley’s version of the Argument from
Design (an argument by analogy)
P1: The universe resembles a watch.
P2: Every watch has a designer.
C: The universe must also have a designer, namely, God.
From today’s reading: “Every indication of contrivance,
every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch
exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side
of nature, of being greater and more, and that in a degree
with exceeds all computation.” —Paley
Evaluating the argument from Design
—part 1: Not a very good design

Again, the most it gets you may not be very satisfying for a theist.
The designer(s) need have few if any of the properties associated
with God—e.g. omniscience, omnibenevolent, omnipotent. Need
not care about humans. Need not still be around.

Doesn’t seem to be such a great design, at least not for human
flourishing. Think of all the natural disasters and diseases that
beset us. Think of how the body declines in old age, think of
mental illness, of senility, of the mistakes we make… Doesn’t
look like the world was designed for US.
When asked what his study of living things revealed about God, the
biologist G. B. S. Haldane remarked, “An inordinate fondness for
beetles.”
Evaluating the argument from Design
—part 2: Not a very good analogy

An argument from analogy is only as strong as the analogy on which it’s based.
Does the universe really resemble a complex machine, or it is more closely
analogous to, say, a living organism?
Big Bang was like squeezing a puff ball, releasing matter (spores).
The matter congeals into stars (cells), that transform (digest) the matter inside of
them and eject (excrete) it by means of solar winds or stellar explosions.
Stars are organized into galaxies (organs), and these galaxies are organized into
galactic clusters (bodies).
But living organisms come about via reproduction, and don’t need a designer like a
machine does. So saying the universe or planet earth is more like a living organism
does not point to needing a designer or creator.
Evaluating the argument from Design—
part 3: A better explanation for the
apparent design
• The argument from design can also be thought of as “an
inference to the best explanation” argument. The existence
of God provides the best explanation of the apparent design
of the universe.
• But evolution seems to many to offer an even better
explanation of the apparent design, at least of living
organisms. Of course it looks to us like the world was made
just so for us to survive, because we are what has adapted
and survived. Just ask any extinct species how well the
universe was designed for it.
• Evolution offers a naturalistic (non-supernatural) explanation.
Hence it’s “simpler”, or more consistent with science.
Trying to have your cake and eat it
too: Evolution plus Intelligent Design?
But maybe God designed evolution? That hypothesis does
no explanatory work. Evolution by itself can account for all
the features of life. Leads us to the explanatory principle
called Occum’s razor (named after14th century logician
and Franciscan friar, William of Ockham): when presented
with competing answers to a problem, select the one that
makes the fewest assumptions. All else being equal, do not
posit more entities than necessary to explain something.
The “Anthropic Principle” version
of the Argument from Design
Anthropic principle, or The fine-tuned Universe Theory:
Evolution can’t account for the conditions necessary for evolution
to occur in the first place. “The conditions that allow life in the
Universe can occur only when certain universal dimensionless
physical constants lie within a very narrow range, so that if any of
several fundamental constants were only slightly different, the
Universe would be unlikely to be conducive to the establishment
and development of matter, astronomical structures, elemental
diversity, or life as it is understood.” (Wikipedia)
Evaluating the Anthropic Principle
version of the argument from Design

Essentially a probability argument. Not a logical proof, but “an
inference to the best explanation” argument. The universe’s
forces were designed to lead to life. That it would just happen to
be this way seems so improbable as to be an unreasonable
assumption. (Well, how does the jackpot lottery winner with
1/500 million odds feel? It’s a miracle! But it wasn’t.)
Argument #4: Pascal’s Wager—if reason can’t
decide, where does the smart money go?

Blaise Pascal (17th c. French mathematician): As far as reason goes, we
can’t prove or disprove God’s existence. Both are equally likely. So belief in
God is no more rationally justified than unbelief.

But it is pragmatically justified, once one sees what’s at stake. In other
words, believing in God may benefit you more than not believing in God.

The Wager: If you bet God exists, and he does, you win eternal
salvation. If he doesn’t exist, you lose very little (maybe a little fun on
earth). If you bet against God’s existence, and you are right, you gain
little. But if you are wrong, you risk an eternity of hell, or at least lost
opportunity.
Pascal: “Let us weigh up the gain and the loss involved in calling heads that
God exists. Let us assess the two cases: if you win, you win everything, if you
lose, you lose nothing. Do not hesitate then; wager that he exists.”
Evaluating Pascal’s Wager

The wager works only if you assume by the lights of reason,
God’s existence is a toss up.

The wager only works assuming a certain conception of God.
What if God doesn’t care if people believe in him? Maybe he
randomly chooses who gets eternal life. Maybe he punishes
those who believe in him for purely selfish reasons. Maybe he
punishes gamblers. Maybe he rewards those who stay true to
their best thinking, and don’t believe things without evidence.

Is it true to human psychology? Can you will yourself to
believe in something you don’t believe there is good evidence
for?
Argument #5: The argument
from miracles
P1: Miracles (supernatural events) happen.
P2: Supernatural events must be caused by supernatural
forces.
C: Call that supernatural force, God.
YOUR TURN: EVALUATE.
Argument #6: The argument from
religious experience

Key idea: Many people claim to have had religious
experiences. Just as sense experience can give us
knowledge of the natural world, some claim that religious
experience can give us knowledge of the supernatural
world.
P1: People have experiences that seem to be of God.
P2: The best explanation of (at least some of) these
experiences is that they are of God.
C: Therefore religious experiences justifies belief in God.
Evaluating the argument
from religious experience

Is it possible that instead of forcing us to believe in Him by
making his existence so obvious we have no choice in the
matter, God lets us “discover” the Truth of Him, and this
requires an openness to the possibility of (having a) religious
experience? It’s up to you how you interpret it.

P2 is where the trouble lies. We don’t have to deny you had a
powerful experience, to question whether the experience is
caused by a supernatural being. Maybe it was a hallucination.
Maybe you were under the influence of something. Maybe
you have mental health issues. How can we know?
(Analogous to the appearance/reality gap, only without
widespread shared experience to confirm your interpretation)
Argument #5: The argument
from miracles
P1: Miracles (supernatural events) happen.
P2: Supernatural events must be caused by supernatural
forces.
C: Call that supernatural force, God.
YOUR TURN: EVALUATE.
Argument #6: The argument
from religious experience
Argument #6: The argument from
religious experience

Key idea: Many people claim to have had religious
experiences. Just as sense experience can give us
knowledge of the natural world, some claim that religious
experience can give us knowledge of the supernatural
world.
P1: People have experiences that seem to be of God.
P2: The best explanation of (at least some of) these
experiences is that they are of God.
C: Therefore religious experiences justifies belief in God.
Evaluating the argument
from religious experience

(In support of the argument) Is it possible that instead of forcing
us to believe in Him by making his existence so obvious we have
no choice in the matter, God let’s us “discover” the Truth of Him,
and this requires an openness to the possibility of (having a)
religious experience? It’s up to you how you interpret it.

(Criticizing the argument) P2 is where the trouble lies. We don’t
have to deny you had a powerful experience, to question
whether the experience is caused by a supernatural being.
Maybe it was a hallucination. Maybe you were under the
influence of something. Maybe you have mental health issues.
How can we know? (Analogous to the appearance/reality gap,
only without widespread shared experience to confirm your
interpretation)
Counting religious
experience as evidence
• No independent proof. (Recall
the parking lot
thought experiment of the 2nd coming).
• Imagine someone from a religious tradition you
don’t believe in arguing for the truth of her
religion based solely on her 1st person religious
experiences. Opting out of the reasoning game
(and request for independent evidence) gives
you nothing left to discuss. The risks of
“intellectual suicide.”
Today’s main topic, Theodicy
• Theodicy: the vindication of divine goodness
and providence in view of the existence of evil.
When Bad Things happen to Good
People—Defining the problem of evil

While all suffering may appear bad on the surface, not all
suffering is unjustified. Some suffering can serve a greater
good, or help to avoid greater suffering, for example,
chemotherapy.

But a lot of evil does not seem to serve any greater good,
or make the world a better place: genocide, plagues,
famine, earthquakes, floods, diseases, car accidents,
murder, assault, torture, animal suffering, mental illness,
dementia, the holocaust…

The problem: Why would an all-powerful, all-loving
God create a world with so much evil in it?
Formal statement of the Problem
P1: If the creator of the universe were an all-powerful, all-knowing,
all-good God, there would be no unnecessary evil in the world.
P2: There is unnecessary evil in the world.
C: Therefore, there is no 3-O God (omniscient, omnibenevolent,
omnipotent)
Hidden premises behind P1: An omniscient God would know how
to create the best of all possible worlds. An omnipotent God
would have the power to. An omni-benevolent God would want to.
Basic intuition: If you were such a being, would you have
created THIS world?
Formal statement of the
Problem, #2
P1: A 3-O God would create the best of all
possible worlds (BPW).
P2: This is NOT the BPW.
C: There is no 3-O God.
Defense #1: Conceding the
argument—the finite God defense
If the argument is sound, it still does NOT prove there is no
Supreme Being that created the world. The most the
argument proves is that there is not a 3-O God. Could still
be a 2-O God, in any combo (or some other kind of Gods or
gods that created us).
—omnipotent and omniscient (but didn’t want to)
—omnipotent and omnibenevolent (just didn’t know how to)
—omniscient and omnibenevolent (but lacked the power to)
Finite God defense is not acceptable to
most monotheistic (one God) believers
John Baillie, former co-president of the World Council of
Churches:
“…I should say that the only grounds I know for believing in
God would show Him omnipotent or not at all; and I should
feel also that if some ground did appear for believing in the
existence somewhere within reality of a being of loving
purpose but finite power, I should not be moved to worship
but only admiration—I should applaud but I should not
kneel. Nothing less than the Infinite can really slake the
soul’s thirst.”
Thought experiment: Could you “worship” a less than 3O God, or gods? Why or why not?
Defense #2: The Knowledge
Defense
Ivan, in Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov: “Do you
understand why this infamy must be and is permitted?
Without it, I am told, man could not have existed on Earth,
for he could not have known good and evil.”
Assumes two things:
1) Knowledge of evil is good or necessary for the BPW (best
of all possible worlds).
2) Such knowledge can not be acquired without direct
experience of evil.
Challenging the knowledge
defense
• Challenging assumption 1: Why is knowledge
of evil a good or even necessary thing? Why
not just not have a world without any evil?
And if the BPW must necessarily contain evil,
why wouldn’t a 3-O God just make it innate
knowledge we’re born with?
• Challenging assumption 2: Even if you have to
experience evil to learn or understand what it
is, how much suffering does it take?
Defense #3: The Free-will
defense
The Free-will defense

The BPW is one where humans have free will. (Otherwise
there would be no right or wrong actions, no good or bad
people. Our entire lives would be scripted and we could
never do other than what we do.)

Free will requires real choices, and people with genuine
free will sometimes choose the morally wrong choice.
That is the price we pay for having free will.

There can be evil in a world that a 3-O God created,
because it is better to have free will and evil than no
free will and no evil.
Challenging the Free will
Defense

The most this defense does is account for the evil caused
by the free choices of people (commonly referred to as
“moral evil”). What about all the evil and suffering not in
humans’ control, what we suffer at the hands of nature
(commonly referred to as “natural evil”).

Couldn’t God create beings who have free will yet always
choose good? Is that logically impossible?

If it is impossible, why not create beings who chose good
more often, or at least refrain from the most heinous
crimes? Wouldn’t it be a better world if God occasionally
intervened and stopped the Hitlers?
Challenging the free-will defense, part 2

If God created the natural world, and all of the laws of nature
that govern it, then isn’t he directly responsible for the
natural disasters and diseases that humans suffer due to
nature?

Response: Satan (and his minions) are responsible for
natural evil, not God.

Reply: But couldn’t an all-powerful God prevent Satan from
doing evil, and wouldn’t an all-good God want to?
Defense #4: The Greater
Good defense
• Suffering builds character, can lead to growth
(improve the human race). Gives us the
opportunity to do good in the world, to engage in
lives of altruism. Making the world a better place
gives us meaning and fulfillment. What would we
do with ourselves if there were no evils to fight
against?
• This is how we acquire virtues such as courage,
empathy, endurance, stoicism…(Referred to in
your textbook as “The Soul-Building Defense”)
Challenging the Greater Good
defense
• Suffering just as often leads to destroyed lives, to
bitterness, resentment, cynicism, hopelessness.
Seems the greater good is often not served.
• How much suffering does it take to achieve these
ends?
• Suffering is one thing, the literal destruction of lives
another. Do I need to die for you to build character?
• Why couldn’t God have hard wired us with built in
virtues? Wouldn’t that be at least as good a world?
Defense #5: The Afterlife
Defense, and it’s challenge
• The Defense: A finite time on earth with a
certain amount suffering ends up being nothing
compared to an eternity of bliss.
• The Challenge: If a 3-O God would create the
BTW, then surely a world where children didn’t
die painfully, where people weren’t tortured,
etc, before they went to heaven would be at
least a slightly better world than this one.
Defense #6: The limited
understanding Defense
Who are we, with our limited understanding
of God’s plan, to judge why an all-powerful,
all-good being would allow so much
suffering and evil? Why think we can
understand why it is this way. Trust that God,
in His infinite mercy and wisdom, has a plan
for each of us that DOES make this the
BPW.
Challenging the Limited Understanding
Defense—Intellectual Suicide Again

Once you opt out of the reasoning game, you have no
defense against a totally different conception of God. Once
again, It’s what Max calls, intellectual suicide. If you
accept on blind faith that all the evil in the world must be for
the best, because otherwise it’s not compatible with a 3-O
God, you have nothing left to say (in terms of reason) to the
person who claims all the evil in the world proves God is
mischievous, or not so powerful, or just doesn’t care. If we
can’t understand the workings of God, and must
suspend judgment based on our reason, then it’s just as
likely God is against us as for us (or there is no God). If
you chose faith (I believe there is a 3-O God even though
the evil makes it look otherwise), then you might as well
have faith in a bad God, or no God at all.
Challenging the Limited
Understanding Defense

Voltaire, from his Philosophical Dictionary under the heading, “The
Impious” (1764): The silly fanatic repeats to me, after others, that it is
not for us to judge what is reasonable and just in the great Being, that
His reason is not like our reason, that His justice is not like our justice.
Eh! how, you mad demonic, do you want me to judge justice and
reason otherwise than by the notions I have of them? Do you want me
to walk otherwise than with my feet, and to speak otherwise than with
my mouth?

There is a naturalistic explanation for evil, a “simpler” theory.
Sentient beings evolved (here and elsewhere)—end of story. Natural
selection doesn’t rule out natural or moral “evil”. In a naturalistic
conception of the universe, there is nothing to explain. Yup, bad things
happen to good people.
An Indian alternative cosmology: Karma
(Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism)—a
better defense against the problem of evil?

The doctrine of KARMA: We have all lived multiple times
before, and the conditions of our current life are a result of
the actions and free choices we made in our previous lives.
We reap what we sow. The apparent arbitrariness, injustice
and inequality of the human lot (as the result of both natural
and moral evils) is actually just the working out of karma. In
the end, we ARE responsible for the situation we are born in
to this lifetime.

Thought probe (p. 493): Does the law of Karma along with
the doctrine of reincarnation provide a better solution to the
problem of evil and inequality than those offered by the
Christian tradition? Why or why not?

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