Eight minutes. A lot of ground to cover in eight minutes. Let’s return just a minute to the question of whether one belief excludes another. My point was that if you have certain theistic belief, a well-fleshed out, alright, a detailed theistic belief, what you are saying is everyone who believes in something different than your God is in the grip of some kind of error. Moreover, one attempts to explain those beliefs in terms of psychological factors, cultural factors, indeed, familiar sorts of explanations. I think the same principle ought to be held for theistic belief in, say, the Christian tradition, or any other tradition. Alright. If you are going to be consistent, you ought to say that, just as other people are mistaken, right, to appeal to these fanciful Gods and the explanation of what happens, right, presumably one is equally in the grip of an equally bad illusion, so to speak, in believing in any particular supernatural being, at least so far as we have been able to tell, or as far as from what we have heard tonight.
Return for a moment then to the problem of evil, which I regrettably dropped, mistakenly. The question is to the following: Is the existence of evil as we know it consistent with the existence of an all-powerful, all omniscient deity? Notice that the question here is not whether the existence of some evil or other is consistent with the existence of God, but rather..but whether the question of the existence of as much evil as we see about us is consistent with the existence of an all-knowing, benevolent God. One claim is made that, “Well, free will is in some sense a compensation for evil.” If we distinguish between evils done by humans, call them human evils, and evils done by the force of nature, call them natural evils, at the very best one could show that the amount of free will in the world, right, is sufficient compensation for a certain amount of human evil. It would have nothing to do with things like earthquakes and brain tumors. But is that remotely plausible? What, after all, is the rate of exchange between free actions and evil? Is it not intrinsically plausible that, for example, restraining the free will of Hitler on one or two occasions — turning him into a florist in 1917 rather than a politician — would have prevented a tremendous amount of evil? And, I think the intuitive answer is "Yes." The question remains then, why would a God who knew what was going to happen permit such horrific evils to happen? And the answer is there is some mysterious good about free will which intrinsically compensates for any amount of evil done by it. I find that absurdly implausible. But, move back to the question of natural evils. Consider the Kobe earthquake, consider your average brain tumor, or anything else done by the laws of nature. The claim here is that somehow or other, in a way that we can’t understand, these evils are compensated. Our good God is in some way or other, right, providing us a certain amount of "soul-building" evil out there, so that we may come to know Him. That seems, quite frankly, ridiculous. It makes God into some kind of a Sadist, right, who will whip His creatures just so they know how good they have it. Alright, strikes me as very, very strange. Alright.
Moving on to now to the question about origins and the Principle of Conservatism. Again, I reiterate, the Principle of Conservatism will say, "Don’t rely on explanations in terms of unusual or unfamiliar, alright, explanatory principles when there are reasonable explanations available." Naturalistic Big Bang cosmological models do provide explanations back to the Big Bang singularity. There is no, I don’t believe there is any question about..no issue between us there. The question is: Do we need an explanation of the singularity? I claim at that point of the Big Bang, when the entire mass of the universe is compressed to a point, all bets literally are off. Alright. You could introduce anything you like as an explanation. You take the Christian God. You could take the Islamic God. You could take Barney the Dinosaur. It is all the same. Literally speaking, there is no rational basis for any conclusion about what is out there. Fine, if you want to call it your God, that is perfectly reasonable, I suppose, except that it opens the door to anything else. The Principle of Conservatism will simply say we have naturalistic explanations leading back to the Big Bang singularity. What happened after that? You are on your own. Alright. I, at this point, see no reason to believe that theism provides anything like an explanation. Consider, for example, that God is supposed to be non-spatial. God is supposed to stand outside of time. But, God is somehow, somehow supposed to, account for the existence of space and time. What we know about causation, alright, looking at the world, the familiar world as we know and love it, we see relations among events. One event causing another. Alright. These events are subject to laws of nature. What we don’t see is something non-physical causing something physical. Alright. That strikes me as an extremely mysterious, unbelievable principle. I prefer to be an atheist who has no theory about where or what the origin of the universe is rather than rashly, boldly make some hypothesis about what it might have been. I claim that is entirely consistent both with the Principle of Conservatism and with the principle that ought to…one belief’s ought to be in accordance to the evidence.
Return again then to the question about whether or not the relatively low probability of the universe is going to provide us…probability of a life-favoring universe, will show something about design. Again, it is important to recognize that although authorities like John Leslie are quoted here, the fact of the matter is that there are inflationary models of the Big Bang that are capable of providing a relatively larger probability of life…of non- hostile…life-permitting universe forms. Alright. Universes that are not hostile to…not hostile to the existence of life. Now, the question is as follows: Given that we are here, the constraint that is placed upon our theorizing is the so-called weak anthropic principle. Any theory of where the world came from has to make it possible for there to be theories of theorizers. Does hypothesizing or introducing the postulate of the existence of God in any way make the world more rational? I claim, no. But, I do claim that at this point all we can say is that somehow, alright, the world has come into being, perhaps from a Big Bang singularity, but perhaps it is always been there. Perhaps we are living literally in Stephen Hawking’s universe which has a finite past, there is a finite collection events between here and the Big Bang, but there is nothing outside of the Big Bang and nothing at all to bring this into being. It is perfectly consistent model, consistent with the weak anthropic principle, and also it could be used to be to show that, in fact, the relatively..the relative probability of a life permitting universe is sufficiently large and it oughtn’t to be a shock.
Finally, we get to the question of whether God is in fact comprehensible. I claim God, by the very traditions, to be incomprehensible, Dr. Craig says "No." Here I think we have just a flat out disagreement. As I read the standard theology, God is suppose to be something that can’t be understood. Dr. Craig claims to be a…to be able to understand God. I leave it to you. I find the very notion of an infinitely powerful, supremely powerful God completely incoherent, alright, but I leave that to you.
Finally, we get to the question of moral values. Do moral values require a God? And, here I think, we…I have to go back to the question of what is going to make a moral value objective? I claim that objectivity is a matter of something being independent of the condition of the observer. It is an objective fact, alright, about…physical law, for example, is typically a matter of objective fact. Alright. We do not need a God to provide objective physical facts, I don’t believe. There certainly doesn’t seem any reason to think that God somehow is necessary to provide the objective fact that 1 gram of water, I’m sorry, 1 cc of water weighs 1 gram. What is needed then is an explanation or some account of why the existence of God and God’s commands are supposed to make us…give us some sort of objective grounding for our moral theory. Is it the case, for example, that God approves of certain moral tenets because they are good or are they good because God approves them…approves of them? It strikes me that there is no way of making sense of that either way. I am out of time.
Dr. Jesseph’s statements in the Jesseph-Craig Debate are copyright © 1996 by Doug Jesseph. All rights reserved.
The electronic version is copyright © 1997 by Internet Infidels with the written permission of Doug Jesseph. All rights reserved.