Evil and the Existence of God

In a recent series on his site, the atheist Jerry Coyne attempts to argue against the existence of God by citing the absurdity of believing in Him in light of the great evils that occur in the world. He cites rather weak arguments made by believing non-theologians have made as evidence that somehow this argument has the power to defeat the existence of God.

This seems to be a regular theme with Coyne. Michael Hawkins quotes him on his site in his ‘Thought of the day’ post as saying:

“Are we really such a weak and cowardly race that we must concoct these silly rationalizations to avoid admitting the obvious: there doesn’t seem to be a God, or at least one who is loving and powerful? Can’t we admit that bad things are simply bad things and not some manifestation of a tortured and incomprehensible divine calculus? When will our species grow up?”

Both points beg the question; one can see this when the argument is laid out as a logically:

1. Evil exists
2. If God existed, He wouldn’t allow evil to exist
3. God does not exist.

Obviously the first assumption is based on some moral system – a system which delineates certain human actions and behaviors as ‘evil’ (or ‘bad things’ as Coyne alls them). I would say this in and of itself defeats the atheist argument before it begins, for if atheism is true, there is no necessarily ‘evil’ behavior, only the behavior that is. One can see this by looking the animal kingdom. For example, chimpanzees, claimed by evolutionists to be our closest living relatives, are known to cannibalize chimpanzee infants, even within their own group . As well, male dolphins, often cited as very intelligent mammals, are known to aggressively coerce female dolphins to mate ; indeed male dolphins will often attempt to mate with non-dolphins species.

All these behaviors amongst humans are considered to be ‘evil’ – even by atheists. And yet, when we consider them amongst other species, we don’t consider them to be evil; why is that? To be considered evil, something must be contrary to an objective idea of ‘good’ – that is a standard by which our actions can be measured. Amongst animals there seems to be no objective measure of this sort; they record no laws, they do no delineate between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ societies, they do not hold up individuals as models of good behavior to emulate. Indeed, there seems to means at all by which there behavior is measured other than it allows them to survive and reproduce.

So when an atheist claims ‘evil exists’ he or she is making a tacit admission that a standard of proper human behavior exists. In other words, that there is a set of behaviors to which we ‘should’ conform. If no such standard exists, then of course the claim that ‘evil’ exists is absurd – we simply behave as we behave, and any claims that our behavior are wrong are mere opinions or illusions. In short, evil can’t exist, and the atheist’s first statement fails, as would the rest of the argument.

Indeed, there is some irony in Coyne’s lamenting question, “ When will our species grow up?” in that it assumes there is some place we ‘should be’, a way that we ‘should’ act, a set of goals that should be achieved that are aren’t at all evident from a wholly naturalistic perspective. Indeed, historically societies that have been intentionally made devoid of a belief in God are invariably are less free, less prosperous, and more deadly than almost any others, and so Coyne’s proscription for maturity seems misled.

Of course, if we believe that evil does actually exist, it has other implications – namely that an objective behavior exists, and we have fallen short of that standard in behaving contrary to it. So the very claim that evil exists is an argument for an objective, external standard of behavior, which of course a theist (or more particularly a Christian) would see as deriving from God. Indeed, Christians call the internal monitor of this behavior our conscience, which all men have, though few (conceivably none) obey.

I will try at a later time to deal with why God allows evil to exist, but I just wanted to point out that atheists lose this argument from the first statement of it.

Advertisements

29 Responses to Evil and the Existence of God

  1. Atheism isn’t a belief, moral, or philosophical system; it offers no method of how to think. Thus, it is highly compatible with many philosophies (in fact, any philosophy which is not dependent upon a god). In essence, you’ve dismissed innumerable ways philosophers have defined good and evil by simply assuming that your god trumps all.

    Incidentally, your argument obviously only works if your god is all-powerful, as I’m sure you know. And, of course, being all-powerful also makes him all-responsible, i.e., evil is his fault. But wait! He’s suppose to be benevolent! Talk about a self-defeating position, huh?

  2. jackhudson says:

    Atheism isn’t a belief, moral, or philosophical system; it offers no method of how to think. Thus, it is highly compatible with many philosophies (in fact, any philosophy which is not dependent upon a god). In essence, you’ve dismissed innumerable ways philosophers have defined good and evil by simply assuming that your god trumps all.

    Incidentally, your argument obviously only works if your god is all-powerful, as I’m sure you know. And, of course, being all-powerful also makes him all-responsible, i.e., evil is his fault. But wait! He’s suppose to be benevolent! Talk about a self-defeating position, huh?

    Wow – you didn’t address a single issue I wrote about. I didn’t claim atheism was a belief, I merely showed how Coyne’s argument failed from the outset; and it still fails no matter what my argument for the existence of God is – so you didn’t address the issues in the article above, and they constitute a legitimate criticism of Coyne’s logic. Try again.

  3. I’m pointing out that you need to address individual philosophies in order to make your argument. Dismissing atheist morality is moot because that assumes atheism is a moral system. It is not.

  4. Antonio Manetti says:

    Coyne is not trying to disprove the existence of God. What he’s attacking is a theodicy which defends the existence of a *benevolent* God through the fatuous assertion that evil and suffering are good for us in some perverse way.

  5. jackhudson says:

    Coyne is not trying to disprove the existence of God. What he’s attacking is a theodicy which defends the existence of a *benevolent* God through the fatuous assertion that evil and suffering are good for us in some perverse way.

    Of course he’s trying to disprove there is a God; why else would he conclude that “there doesn’t seem to be a God” if that wasn’t the intention of his argument?

    But even if he were merely attacking the benevolence of God, it still fails because he is making a tacit acknowledgement that we are aware of ‘evil’, which means there is an objective external standard for evil, and a counterpart to evil – which doesn’t exist from a naturalistic perspective.

  6. jackhudson says:

    I’m pointing out that you need to address individual philosophies in order to make your argument. Dismissing atheist morality is moot because that assumes atheism is a moral system. It is not.

    No, I only need to address Coyne’s argument to show it to be flawed, and I did exactly that.

  7. His argument is about a theodicy – a term in the title of his post. You didn’t address that in the least. In fact, you’ve actually gone so far as to deny that Coyne wasn’t posting about what he clearly says he was posting about. As a creationist, you quote-mine one sentence about there not seeming to be a (benevolent) God. If you continued, you would have read this.

    Can’t we admit that bad things are simply bad things and not some manifestation of a tortured and incomprehensible divine calculus?

    The “tortured and incomprehensible divine calculus” is the theodicy arguments put forth, the very thing he told everyone from the outset was his topic. His main example is applying Collins’ immature arguments to the Holocaust: the excuse for a so-called benevolent God being seemingly evil is that he wants us to have free will. Coyne points out that there are a number of ways we could maintain free will without the existence of evil.

    So Coyne’s overarching point is that these silly theodicy arguments do not comport with reality. A benevolent God is one which, by definition, is not evil. Yet, a God which allows evil while being all-powerful is at fault for that evil (and knowingly). It’s obvious and straight-forward.

    No, I only need to address Coyne’s argument to show it to be flawed, and I did exactly that.

    His argument is that a just and merciful God should not allow evil. Since you have a definition of evil which you believe is objective, the fact that you think Coyne’s definition fails is immaterial. That is, if evil is as you define it, then Coyne only needs to demonstrate that your particular god is responsible for that evil (as defined by the theist) and thus is not benevolent (and thus not as you described him).

  8. jackhudson says:

    His argument is about a theodicy – a term in the title of his post. You didn’t address that in the least. In fact, you’ve actually gone so far as to deny that Coyne wasn’t posting about what he clearly says he was posting about. As a creationist, you quote-mine one sentence about there not seeming to be a (benevolent) God. If you continued, you would have read this.

    It doesn’t matter what the ‘title’ of his post was; his logic and his arguments were that the existence of evil diminishes the likelihood of the existence of God. I have shown that to be nonsense and you have no response other than to dissemble.

    The “tortured and incomprehensible divine calculus” is the theodicy arguments put forth, the very thing he told everyone from the outset was his topic. His main example is applying Collins’ immature arguments to the Holocaust: the excuse for a so-called benevolent God being seemingly evil is that he wants us to have free will. Coyne points out that there are a number of ways we could maintain free will without the existence of evil.

    The problem is Coyne gives us no basis by which we can evaluate what is and is not evil; one can’t make an argument about how evil an event was (like the holocaust) unless you have a standard by which to call it evil. Obviously the Nazi’s didn’t consider the holocaust to be evil – because they had a different standard by which they measured morality.

    As a Christian I consider the holocaust to be evil because I have a basis to do so – Coyne offers no basis by which we can distinguish one standard from another, and thus when his argument begins acknowledging the existence of ‘evil, it is specious. His argument has no foundation in reality, or at least not the reality he advances. A claim that a “benevolent God being seemingly evil” is a statement about good and evil, a measure neither Coyne nor yourself have positioned yourself to make.

    So Coyne’s overarching point is that these silly theodicy arguments do not comport with reality. A benevolent God is one which, by definition, is not evil. Yet, a God which allows evil while being all-powerful is at fault for that evil (and knowingly). It’s obvious and straight-forward.

    You keep using the word ‘evil’; by which standard are you and Coyne measuring ‘evil’? A holocaust survivor’s? A Nazi’s? What standard differentiates these views? It must be objective and external, and naturalism has no basis for this.

    His argument is that a just and merciful God should not allow evil. Since you have a definition of evil which you believe is objective, the fact that you think Coyne’s definition fails is immaterial. That is, if evil is as you define it, then Coyne only needs to demonstrate that your particular god is responsible for that evil (as defined by the theist) and thus is not benevolent (and thus not as you described him).

    Again, ‘just’ and ‘merciful’ by whose measure – yours? Coyne’s? My definition of evil is irrelevant in this case because obviously it differs from yours. Until you can proffer an objective measure, your argument fails.

  9. “Just and merciful” by your (childish) standards. Evil as defined by you would include the Holocaust. God, being all-powerful, is ultimately responsible for that event. Thus, God may very well exist, but he is *not* benevolent. And again, the benevolence of God is the topic, not his existence. Honestly, are you familiar with theodicy at all?

  10. jackhudson says:

    “Just and merciful” by your (childish) standards. Evil as defined by you would include the Holocaust. God, being all-powerful, is ultimately responsible for that event. Thus, God may very well exist, but he is *not* benevolent. And again, the benevolence of God is the topic, not his existence. Honestly, are you familiar with theodicy at all?

    I am completely familiar with theodicy, which is why I know Coyne can’t use it as he does in his arguement. And his argument isn’t helped using the statements of Collins, who is no theologian, as a strawman to take down.

    Again, anytime the atheist concedes the existence of evil he has lost. Indeed, a theist doesn’t even need a theodistic arguement; once it’s agreed evil exists as an objective consideration (which is neccesary to discuss whether God ‘allows’ it) – the existence of God is established – after that it’s more a matter of considering what sort of God He is, and obviously that is neither your, nor Coyne’s perview.

    Atheists should stick to fake science, they look silly when they meander into philosophy and theology.

  11. I am completely familiar with theodicy, which is why I know Coyne can’t use it as he does in his arguement.

    If he adopts your definition of good and evil, then you must actually bother to address the rest of the argument. He doesn’t actually use such a definition, but as far as arguing for a benevolent God is concerned, he could. That is, you’ve defined evil as X. Okay. If God is responsible for X, he is not benevolent. He may still exist. But he is not as seen on TV.

    And his argument isn’t helped using the statements of Collins, who is no theologian, as a strawman to take down.

    He’s arguing against this one specific person’s version of the argument. If you bother to read his current front page, you’ll see two more posts on the topic (one of which Coyne argues is specifically a science argument).

    …once it’s agreed evil exists as an objective consideration (which is neccesary to discuss whether God ‘allows’ it) – the existence of God is established

    Your argument is that the only way anyone can even agree evil exists is if God exists in the first place. That is, objective evil exists because God exists. Now you’re trying to argue that God exists because objective evil exists. The most amazing thing about this circular reasoning is that I recently witnessed a theistic friend make the same obvious blunder. I’m willing to bet neither one of you will see it.

    after that it’s more a matter of considering what sort of God He is, and obviously that is neither your, nor Coyne’s perview.

    …so you aren’t familiar with theodicy?

    The very thing being discussed is why God allows evil, “evil” being defined by God (or at least those who purport to know the ‘mind’ of God). Theodicy fails because it requires so many tortured logical contortions.

  12. jackhudson says:

    If he adopts your definition of good and evil, then you must actually bother to address the rest of the argument. He doesn’t actually use such a definition, but as far as arguing for a benevolent God is concerned, he could. That is, you’ve defined evil as X. Okay. If God is responsible for X, he is not benevolent. He may still exist. But he is not as seen on TV.

    Except for the fact that X as portrayed in this strawman isn’t my definition of X, but an atheist’s caricature of it; yet another reason Coyne’s argument is specious.

    He’s arguing against this one specific person’s version of the argument. If you bother to read his current front page, you’ll see two more posts on the topic (one of which Coyne argues is specifically a science argument).

    Well yes, as I said he picked a weak argument by a non-theologian and proclaimed victory. So what?

    Your argument is that the only way anyone can even agree evil exists is if God exists in the first place. That is, objective evil exists because God exists. Now you’re trying to argue that God exists because objective evil exists. The most amazing thing about this circular reasoning is that I recently witnessed a theistic friend make the same obvious blunder. I’m willing to bet neither one of you will see it.

    No, actually I said ‘ once it’s agreed evil exists’ – for aspiring English majors, once in this sentence indicates ‘the point at which’ – in other words, if it is true that ‘objective evil only exists if God exists, then once it is agreed evil exists, the existence of God is established.’ Logic can be hard for some.

    …so you aren’t familiar with theodicy?

    The very thing being discussed is why God allows evil, “evil” being defined by God (or at least those who purport to know the ‘mind’ of God). Theodicy fails because it requires so many tortured logical contortions.

    And such a discussion really isn’t the purview of atheists who don’t think evil exists to begin with. It would be like a Christian debating the finer point of Sharia law.

  13. Except for the fact that X as portrayed in this strawman isn’t my definition of X, but an atheist’s caricature of it; yet another reason Coyne’s argument is specious.

    Am I going out on a limb by saying you believe the Holocaust was evil? Okay, so let’s make that X.

    “If God is responsible for [the Holocaust], he is not benevolent. He may still exist. But he is not as seen on TV.”

    There ya go. You define the Holocaust as evil, I’m sure. If God is benevolent, why did he allow it to happen?

    Well yes, as I said he picked a weak argument by a non-theologian and proclaimed victory. So what?

    …uh, I’m not sure how else to direct you to his front page. Do you want a link? He attacks theodicy from different angles and from its general base: a benevolent God cannot be reconciled with evil. If you want, you can actually go ahead and make an argument otherwise.

    No, actually I said ‘ once it’s agreed evil exists’ – for aspiring English majors, once in this sentence indicates ‘the point at which’ – in other words, if it is true that ‘objective evil only exists if God exists, then once it is agreed evil exists, the existence of God is established.’ Logic can be hard for some.

    You cannot begin to agree – at any point – that God evil exists without first agreeing that God exists. I am currently at this same point with the aforementioned friend. Please explain how you know that objective evil exists. The fact that you “agree” it exists doesn’t say anything of how you know it exists. (I can save you some time – you ‘know’ it exists because you ‘know’ God exists. But please continue.)

    And such a discussion really isn’t the purview of atheists who don’t think evil exists to begin with. It would be like a Christian debating the finer point of Sharia law.

    Non-responsive.

  14. The third response should begin as follows.

    “You cannot begin to agree – at any point – that evil exists without first agreeing that God exists.”

  15. munty13 says:

    Hi. I enjoyed your post. I think you’re right. I think that there’s no such thing as good or evil in nature… there just IS.

    Who exactly defines what is good and what is evil? Nazi propagandists once declared that the entire Jewish race was evil, and had to be exterminated.

    If one was seeking an act of God’s benevolence in the Holocaust, then one perhaps should look to the benevolence shown to those camp-guards who prospered after the war.

  16. jackhudson says:

    Hi. I enjoyed your post. I think you’re right. I think that there’s no such thing as good or evil in nature… there just IS.

    Thanks Munty, I quite agree that in a purely naturalistic view, ideas of good and evil are illusory.

    Who exactly defines what is good and what is evil? Nazi propagandists once declared that the entire Jewish race was evil, and had to be exterminated.

    If one was seeking an act of God’s benevolence in the Holocaust, then one perhaps should look to the benevolence shown to those camp-guards who prospered after the war.

    Or perhaps one could look to those who held to a notion and image of God who drove their actions; people like Corrie Ten Boom and the entire town of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, who at great risk to themselves and their loved ones saved thousands of Jewish lives.

    There are tremendous historical lessons there, a great basis for humanity to consider what prevents great evils from occurring. Perhaps in his quest to see our species ‘mature’, Coyne could start with these people – he certainly won’t find it in naturalism.

  17. I’m still especially interested to know how you know objective evil exists without the first presupposition of God’s existence.

  18. Tom says:

    You’ve raised many good points Michael that are being mostly ignored.

    It doesn’t seem to be a hard concept to grasp that an atheist can use the language of theists (good and evil) to show that their definition of a benevolent God is incompatible with the world as we observe it.

    I also liked your point about the circular reasoning of objective evil exists because God exists/God exists because objective evil exists. I’ll have to remember that one.

    I wish the religious, in any discussion of the problem of evil/suffering, would always have in their mind the fact that several million children under the age of five die every year from supposedly God created nasties like malaria and measles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_mortality). This is the kind of suffering that needs to be engaged with seriously, but the discussion is usually steered towards humans doing bad things to humans and “free will”.

  19. jackhudson says:

    You’ve raised many good points Michael that are being mostly ignored.

    I never understood why when someone doesn’t like answers given, they think points are being ignored? I addressed all Michael’s points.

    It doesn’t seem to be a hard concept to grasp that an atheist can use the language of theists (good and evil) to show that their definition of a benevolent God is incompatible with the world as we observe it.

    Well, an atheist uses that language, because an atheist must use that language; relying solely on naturalism provides no basis for discussing good and evil at all, and so atheists derive what little they can contribute to such discussions by standing on a foundation they didn’t build.

    I also liked your point about the circular reasoning of objective evil exists because God exists/God exists because objective evil exists. I’ll have to remember that one.

    It wasn’t circular at all, except in the caricature of it.

    I wish the religious, in any discussion of the problem of evil/suffering, would always have in their mind the fact that several million children under the age of five die every year from supposedly God created nasties like malaria and measles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_mortality). This is the kind of suffering that needs to be engaged with seriously, but the discussion is usually steered towards humans doing bad things to humans and “free will”.

    And I wish the irreligious would see how their statements about such events are inherently contradictory.

    The fact that you consider what you consider a natural event to be ‘evil’ implies a sense that the human experience should be otherwise, and that we recognize that our current experience is a deviation from an original design. Christian’s know why this is, but naturalism offers no answers.

  20. larryniven says:

    Are you familiar with the Socratic method? Atheists don’t need to prove that morality exists without God in order to demonstrate that Christianity is self-contradictory.

  21. I still explicitly want to hear how you know that evil objectively exists without first invoking God.

  22. jackhudson says:

    Are you familiar with the Socratic method? Atheists don’t need to prove that morality exists without God in order to demonstrate that Christianity is self-contradictory.

    Not only familiar with the Socratic method (a favorite method of my Constitutional law professor) but also capable of reading.

    When Coyne enjoins us to simply “admit that bad things are simply bad things and not some manifestation of a tortured and incomprehensible divine calculus”, he is arguing that a common standard of evil simply ‘exists’ quite apart from Christianity, he has no basis from naturalism to state this, and this has nothing to do with Christianity being self-contradictory.

  23. jackhudson says:

    I still explicitly want to hear how you know that evil objectively exists without first invoking God.

    I am not making any claim that morality exists apart from the existence of God; why would I?

  24. he is arguing that a common standard of evil simply ‘exists’

    He’s saying there need be no apologetics (excuses) for bad things (or good things, for that matter).

    I am not making any claim that morality exists apart from the existence of God; why would I?

    You said,

    if it is true that ‘objective evil only exists if God exists, then once it is agreed evil exists, the existence of God is established.’

    How do you know it is true that objective evil exists?

  25. jackhudson says:

    He’s saying there need be no apologetics (excuses) for bad things (or good things, for that matter).

    Actually, in a sense I would agree with that; I think the very fact that humans uniquely recognize evil is itself an apologetic for the existence of God.

    You said,

    if it is true that ‘objective evil only exists if God exists, then once it is agreed evil exists, the existence of God is established.’

    How do you know it is true that objective evil exists?

    History, Revelation, personal experience, all give us plenty of evidence that evil exists; and the fact that there is consistency in these various evidences strengthens that belief. But my point is that even the claim evil exists (whether or not one can prove it)only makes sense in a paradigm that includes the existence of God.

  26. History, Revelation, personal experience, all give us plenty of evidence that evil exists; and the fact that there is consistency in these various evidences strengthens that belief.

    It sounds like you’re invoking Biblical revelation by capitalizing the word, which would be a clear invocation of God. That error aside, you’ve just admitted that you have methods by which you can ascertain whether or not something is evil without using God. Your two non-circular methods are available to virtually any philosophical or belief system.

    But my point is that even the claim evil exists (whether or not one can prove it)only makes sense in a paradigm that includes the existence of God.

    Your argument does not support this point. You’ve already argued for external sources which do not necessitate God for determining what is objective evil. So if you can decide that objective evil exists without God, then you are saying that you have made sense of what that means, ahem, without God. But if God is necessary to make sense of it all, then you haven’t really said what is objective evil.

    Unless God explicitly tells you what is evil, you have no objective idea within your belief structure for making such a determination. And if you can make that determination, then you don’t need God since you’ve already said ‘X is objectively evil’ without invoking this so-called objective standard.

  27. jackhudson says:

    It sounds like you’re invoking Biblical revelation by capitalizing the word, which would be a clear invocation of God. That error aside, you’ve just admitted that you have methods by which you can ascertain whether or not something is evil without using God. Your two non-circular methods are available to virtually any philosophical or belief system.

    Invoking Revelation, or God isn’t an ‘error’ except to an atheist.

    And my point has always been that morals exist objectively – of course there are other ways of ascertaining them.

    Your argument does not support this point. You’ve already argued for external sources which do not necessitate God for determining what is objective evil. So if you can decide that objective evil exists without God, then you are saying that you have made sense of what that means, ahem, without God. But if God is necessary to make sense of it all, then you haven’t really said what is objective evil.

    I think you are confusing detecting the existence of morals, and understanding what that existence means.

    For example, the existence of a written language on a stone tablet is objectively verifiable by different means; but once the nature of the markings on a stone tablet is verified as ‘writing’, then the existence of a person or persons is logically understood. Thus we could say, “If it is agreed that the markings on the stone are a written language, then the existence of an author is established”.

    Coyne, and yourself, are basically making an argument that the writing exists, but the writing itself contradicts the existence of an author. That’s nonsense. Even if the writing says “No one wrote this” it still establishes the existence of an author.

    In the same way, the existence of ‘morals’ particularly as Coyne discusses them (that we just, “admit that bad things are simply bad things”) is nonsensical by itself. The fact that we agree that ‘bad things’ exist, establishes that a universal idea of good and evil exists – and this simply can’t be a product of naturalism.

    Unless God explicitly tells you what is evil, you have no objective idea within your belief structure for making such a determination. And if you can make that determination, then you don’t need God since you’ve already said ‘X is objectively evil’ without invoking this so-called objective standard.

    Actually, not true. Christians believe in a conscience, and that through the conscience even unbelievers understand some notion of right and wrong. However, we also believe the conscience of man is corrupted, and that the only reliable way to know what is certainly good is to have it revealed to us by the source and author of what is good.

    This explains (in a way naturalism never can) why we simultaneously understand what is good, and yet fail to do even what we understand to be good. It explains why we feel shame, regret, and why we hold up certain individuals as ideals of behavior. No other organism on earth does this, and it serves no particular evolutionary purpose.

    I prefer the Christian explanation because it is intellectually satisfying in this regard, not to mention offers hope to do real good.

  28. Invoking Revelation, or God isn’t an ‘error’ except to an atheist.

    The task put to you was to show how you know something is objectively evil without first invoking God. It is then an error to invoke him in your explanation.

    And my point has always been that morals exist objectively – of course there are other ways of ascertaining them.

    Then you’ve undermined your position that naturalism offers no way by which to determine objective evil (or good). You’re using natural methods to make your determinations – the very thing you say naturalists cannot do!

    For example, the existence of a written language on a stone tablet is objectively verifiable by different means; but once the nature of the markings on a stone tablet is verified as ‘writing’, then the existence of a person or persons is logically understood. Thus we could say, “If it is agreed that the markings on the stone are a written language, then the existence of an author is established”.

    You need to establish or assume the existence of language before you can say anything of writing. Just the same, you must establish or assume the existence of God before you can say anything of morality (within your belief structure).

    Coyne, and yourself, are basically making an argument that the writing exists, but the writing itself contradicts the existence of an author.

    There are two points being made here. The one less relevant to this subset of the discussion is close to the one you mention. However, no one is arguing that the existence of evil contradicts the existence of an author. The argument is that it contradicts the existence of a specific author. The second point (which I am making; Coyne doesn’t address it) is that objective evil must first assume an objective standard.

    The fact that we agree that ‘bad things’ exist, establishes that a universal idea of good and evil exists – and this simply can’t be a product of naturalism.

    “Bad things” can essentially be read as “things which are considered negative to the well-being of human life”. He isn’t arguing for any sort of objective standard but instead saying that what happens happens without or with little regard to humanity. (“Without” applies to natural disasters. “With little” applies to human acts.)

    Christians believe in a conscience, and that through the conscience even unbelievers understand some notion of right and wrong.

    Is this conscience instilled by God? If so, then you are still using God in your argument to establish what is objectively evil. Interestingly, however, you’ve also argued that non-believers have a basis by which to naturally determine good and evil. They need to appeal to a supernatural force because they have the purely naturalistic force of their conscience.

    However, we also believe the conscience of man is corrupted, and that the only reliable way to know what is certainly good is to have it revealed to us by the source and author of what is good.

    Okay, so the conscience gives guidelines, but is ultimately subjective. This means you cannot use it to determine objective good or evil.

    You then argue that you can only reliably know what is good through God’s revelations. This means that if God does not reveal the moral good or evil of something to you, then you have no idea – except through your subjective, unreliable conscience (and maybe experience, history, etc, all of which are subjective) – whether or not that something is moral or not. Is capitalism immoral? Communism? There’s no method by which to determine that since your source and author are silent on the issue.

    It explains why we feel shame, regret, and why we hold up certain individuals as ideals of behavior. No other organism on earth does this, and it serves no particular evolutionary purpose.

    You are making positive statements, not normative ones. Shame and regret could very well have evolutionary purpose (whether directly or incidentally). You want to argue their moral value and that is a separate sort of claim.

  29. Two corrections.

    1. In my fifth response, “without” can also apply to human acts.

    2. In my sixth response there is the line, “They need to appeal to a supernatural force because they have the purely naturalistic force of their conscience.” It should read “They need NOT appeal to a supernatural force because they have the purely naturalistic force of their conscience.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: