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Evidential arguments from evil seek to show Rowe's version of the evidential argument has.
Table of contents
- John A. Keller
- Degenerate Evidence and Rowe’s New Evidential Argument from Evil
- Problem of evil
- "The evidential argument from evil in recent analytic philosophy" by Edward Ned Martin
This objection could be overcome if one could argue that it is unlikely that there are many unknown goodmaking properties. For if the number is small, then the probability of Q may still be high even if Q does not express a law, or a consequence of a law. Moreover, I am inclined to think that it may well be possible to argue that it is unlikely that there are many unknown, morally relevant properties.
But I also think that it is very likely that any attempt to establish this conclusion would involve some very controversial metaethical claims.
John A. Keller
As a consequence, I think that one is justified in concluding that such a line of argument is not especially promising. In his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion , Hume contended that it was not possible to arrive at the conclusion that the world had a perfectly good cause—or a perfectly evil one—starting out simply from a world that consists of a mixture of good and bad states of affairs:. But if this is right, and the hypothesis that the first cause or causes of the universe is neither good nor evil is more probable than the hypothesis that the first cause is perfectly good, then the probability of the latter must be less than one half.
Hume advanced, then, an evidential argument from evil that has a distinctly different logical form from that involved in direct inductive arguments, for the idea is to point to some proposition that is logically incompatible with theism, and then to argue that, given facts about undesirable states of affairs to be found in the world, that hypothesis is more probable than theism, and, therefore, that theism is more likely to be false than to be true. More than two centuries later, Paul Draper, inspired by Hume, set out and defended this type of indirect inductive argument in a very detailed way.
It then follows, provided that the initial probability of T is no greater than that of HI, that T is more likely to be false than to be true. By substitution in 1 , we have:. So far, this is simply a matter of probability theory. But now Draper introduces two substantive claims. The first is that the a priori probability of the hypothesis of indifference is not less than the a priori probability of theism, so that we have.
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So we have. Finally, Draper assumes as a substantive premise that the hypothesis of indifference is logically incompatible with theism:. There are various points at which one might respond to this argument. First, it might be argued that the assumption that the hypothesis of indifference is logically incompatible with theism is not obviously true.
For might it not be logically possible that there was an omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect being who created a neutral environment in which evolution could take place in a chancy way, and who afterwards did not intervene in any way? Draper supports it by arguing that whereas the hypothesis of theism involves some ontological commitment, the Hypothesis of Indifference does not.
But, on the other hand, the latter involves a completely universal generalization about the absence of any action upon the earth by any nonhuman persons, of either a benevolent or malevolent sort, and it is far from clear why the prior probability of this being so should be greater than the prior probability of theism. Nevertheless, the objection does bring out an important point, namely, that the argument as it stands says nothing at all about how much below 0. Fourthly, objections can be directed at the arguments that Draper offers in support of a third substantive premise—namely, that introduced at 6.
Some of the objections directed against this premise are less than impressive—and some seem very implausible indeed, as in the case, for example, of Peter van Inwagen, who has to appeal to quite an extraordinary claim about the conditions that one must satisfy in order to claim that a world is logically possible:. Nevertheless, given that the argument that Draper offers in support of the premise at 6 involves a number of detailed considerations, very careful scrutiny of those arguments would be needed before one could conclude that the premise is justified.
Finally, rather than attacking the argument itself, one might instead argue that, while it is sound, the conclusion is not really a significant one. For what matters is not whether there is some evidence relative to which it is unlikely that theism is true. What matters is whether theism is improbable relative to our total evidence. The question then is whether the appropriate revision of the first substantive premise is plausible.
That is, do we have good reason for thinking that the following statement is true:. A Draper-style argument is one type of indirect inductive argument from evil. It is important to notice, however, that in formulating an indirect inductive argument from evil, one need not proceed along the route that Draper chooses. If one explains the fact that the world contains an impressive mixture of desirable and undesirable states of affairs by the hypothesis that the creator of the world was an omnipotent, omniscient, and indifferent deity, then nothing more needs to be added.
By contrast, if one wants to explain the mixed state of the world by the hypothesis that the creator of the world was an omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect deity, one needs to postulate the existence of additional, morally significant properties that lie beyond our ken, and ones, moreover, that are so distributed that the mixed appearance does not correspond to what is really the case. A theistic explanation is, accordingly, less simple than an indifferent deity explanation, and therefore, provided that one can argue that the a priori probability of the latter hypothesis is not less than that of the former, one can appeal to the greater simplicity of the latter in order to conclude that it has a higher posterior probability than the theistic hypothesis.
It then follows, given that the two hypotheses are logically incompatible, that the probability of the theistic hypothesis must be less than one half. We have just considered the Bayesian-style argument offered by Paul Draper. Let us now turn to another. The latter argument has been vigorously criticized by Plantinga , but Rowe has remained confident that the new argument is sound.
Degenerate Evidence and Rowe’s New Evidential Argument from Evil
Secondly, the object of the argument as a whole is to start out from some probabilistic assumptions, and then to move deductively, using only axioms of probability theory, to the following two conclusions:. Thirdly, in order to establish the first conclusion, Rowe needs only the following three assumptions:. Fourthly, all three assumptions, interpreted as Rowe does, are surely eminently reasonable. As regards 2 , it certainly seems plausible, assuming that the existence of God is not logically necessary, that there is at least some non-zero probability that God does not exist, given our background knowledge.
But one can derive 2 , provided that one is willing to accept the not uncontroversial principle that only necessarily false propositions have a probability equal to zero.
This principle is very plausible if one accepts the idea of infinitesimals. If one does not, one may hold that some contingent propositions have a probability equal to zero. Similarly, 3 also seems plausible, and here too one can derive 3 provided that one is willing to accept the principle that only necessarily false propositions have a probability equal to zero. Given assumptions 1 , 2 , and 3 , how does the argument for the first conclusion go? In outline, one first uses 1 , 2 , and 3 to prove that.
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The key starting point is with the following theorem of probability theory Compare Draper, , :. This objection, however, is open to the following reply. The reason that I am justified in believing the proposition that either God does not exist or there is a pen in my pocket is that I am justified in believing that there is a pen in my pocket.
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The proposition that either God does not exist or there is a pen in my pocket therefore does not represent the total evidence that I have. In section 3. All of the steps in that argument were deductive, except for the following crucial inference:. Essentially, there are three ways in which one might attempt to defend this inference. One is by treating it as a case of instantial generalization. But as we saw in effect in section 3.
Problem of evil
A second approach is to view that inductive step as a matter of inference to the best explanation, and this is a more promising possibility. That approach would lead to an argument of the general form advanced by David Hume and Paul Draper, considered in section. There is, however, a third possibility, which is the focus of the present section. Underlying this approach are two general ideas: the first is that both induction via instantial generalization and inference to the best explanation abduction, the method of hypothesis, hypothetico-deductive method stand in need of justification; the second idea is that at the heart of such a justification will be the defense of an account of logical probability.
The fundamental idea, accordingly, is that the way to determine whether the inductive step that lies at the heart of the evidential argument from evil is sound is by bringing serious inductive logic—understood as a theory of logical probability—to bear upon the question.
"The evidential argument from evil in recent analytic philosophy" by Edward Ned Martin
What is the appropriate theory of logical probability? But if one holds, as Tooley and does, that governing laws are logically possible, then it is clear that the fundamental equiprobability assumption needs to be formulated in terms of governing laws of nature. At present, however, no detailed formulation of such an approach to logical probability is available. To establish that the inductive step in the version of the evidential argument from evil set out above is sound requires a rather technical argument in inductive logic.
But one can gain an intuitive understanding of the underlying idea in the following way. Suppose that there is a rightmaking property of which we have no knowledge. If an action of allowing a child to be brutally killed possessed that property, then it might not be wrong to allow that action, depending upon the weightiness of that unknown rightmaking property.
But the existence of unknown rightmaking properties is no more likely, a priori, than of unknown wrongmaking properties. Let us suppose, further, that these two properties are equally weighty, since, a priori, there is no reason for supposing that one is more significant than the other. One can then see that there are the following four possibilities:. The intuitive idea, then, is that if one has an action that, given only its known rightmaking and wrongmaking properties, is an action that it would be morally wrong to perform, then it is more likely than not it is also an action that it would be morally wrong to perform, given the totality of its morally significant properties, both known and unknown.
But what underlies this intuitive idea? The upshot is that given an action that would be morally wrong if judged only by its known morally significant properties, every possibility of a combination of unknown rightmaking and wrongmaking properties that would make that action morally right all things considered would be precisely counterbalanced by a combination of unknown rightmaking and wrongmaking properties that would make that action morally even more wrong, all things considered.