Is This Evil Theodicy

 

In its most common form, attempts to answer the question why a good God permits the manifestation of evil. Theodicy addresses the evidential problem of evil by attempting “to make the existence of an All-knowingAll-powerful and All-good or omnibenevolent God consistent with the existence of evil” or suffering in the world. Unlike a defence, which tries to demonstrate that God’s existence is logically possible in the light of evil, a theodicy provides a framework which claims to make God’s existence probable. The German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz coined the term “theodicy” in 1710 in his work Théodicée, though various responses to the problem of evil had been previously proposed. The British philosopher John Hick traced the history of moral theodicy in his 1966 work, Evil and the God of Love, identifying three major traditions:

  1. the Plotinian theodicy, named after Plotinus
  2. the Augustinian theodicy, which Hick based on the writings of Augustine of Hippo
  3. the Irenaean theodicy, which Hick developed, based on the thinking of St. Irenaeus

Other philosophers have suggested that theodicy is a modern discipline because deities in the ancient world were often imperfect.

German philosopher Max Weber (1864-1920) saw theodicy as a social problem, based on the human need to explain puzzling aspects of the world. Sociologist Peter L. Berger (1929- ) argued that religion arose out of a need for social order, and an “implicit theodicy of all social order” developed to sustain it. Following the Holocaust, a number of Jewish theologians developed a new response to the problem of evil, sometimes called anti-theodicy, which maintains that God cannot be meaningfully justified. As an alternative to theodicy, a defence has been proposed by the American philosopher Alvin Plantinga (1932- ), which is limited to showing the logical possibility of God’s existence. Plantinga’s version of the free-will defence argued that the coexistence of God and evil is not logically impossible, and that free will further explains the existence of evil without threatening the existence of God.

Image of Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz
Evil looking portrait of Leibniz – who coined the term ‘Theodicy’.
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The Starry Messenger

Galileo

The Galileo affair was a sequence of events, beginning around 1610, culminating with the trial and condemnation of Galileo Galilei by the Roman Catholic Inquisition in 1616 and 1633 for his support of heliocentrism.

In 1610, Galileo published his Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger), describing the surprising observations that he had made with the new telescope, namely the phases of Venus and the Galilean moons of Jupiter. With these observations he promoted the heliocentric theory of Nicolaus Copernicus (published in De revolutionibus orbium coelestium in 1543). Galileo’s initial discoveries were met with opposition within the Catholic Church, and in 1616 the Inquisition declared heliocentrism to be formally heretical. Heliocentric books were banned and Galileo was ordered to refrain from holding, teaching or defending heliocentric ideas.

Galileo went on to propose a theory of tides in 1616, and of comets in 1619; he argued that the tides were evidence for the motion of the Earth. In 1632 Galileo, now an old man, published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, which implicitly defended heliocentrism, and was immensely popular. Responding to mounting controversy over theology, astronomy and philosophy, the Roman Inquisition tried Galileo in 1633 and found him “gravely suspect of heresy“, sentencing him to indefinite imprisonment. Galileo was kept under house arrest until his death in 1642.

Galileo began his telescopic observations in the later part of 1609, and by March 1610 was able to publish a small book, The Starry Messenger (Sidereus Nuncius), relating some discoveries that had not been dreamed of in the philosophy of the time: mountains on the Moon, lesser moons in orbit around Jupiter, and the resolution of what had been thought to be very cloudy masses in the sky (nebulae) into collections of stars too faint to see individually without a telescope. Other observations followed, including the phases of Venus and the existence of sunspots.

Galileo’s contributions caused difficulties for theologians and natural philosophers of the time, as they contradicted scientific and philosophical ideas based on those of Aristotle and Ptolemy and closely associated with the Catholic Church (despite their being pagans). In particular, Galileo’s observations of the phases of Venus, which showed it to circle the sun, and the observation of moons orbiting Jupiter, contradicted the geocentric model of Ptolemy and supported the Copernican model advanced by Galileo.

Jesuit astronomers, experts both in Church teachings, science, and in natural philosophy, were at first skeptical and hostile to the new ideas; however, within a year or two the availability of good telescopes enabled them to repeat the observations. In 1611, Galileo visited the Collegium Romanum in Rome, where the Jesuit astronomers by that time had repeated his observations. Christoph Grienberger, one of the Jesuit scholars on the faculty, sympathized with Galileo’s theories, but was asked to defend the Aristotelian viewpoint by Claudio Acquaviva, the Father General of the Jesuits. Not all of Galileo’s claims were completely accepted: Christopher Clavius, the most distinguished astronomer of his age, never was reconciled to the idea of mountains on the Moon, and outside the collegium many still disputed the reality of the observations. In a letter to Kepler of August 1610, Galileo complained that some of the philosophers who opposed his discoveries had refused even to look through a telescope:

My dear Kepler, I wish that we might laugh at the remarkable stupidity of the common herd. What do you have to say about the principal philosophers of this academy who are filled with the stubbornness of an asp and do not want to look at either the planets, the moon or the telescope, even though I have freely and deliberately offered them the opportunity a thousand times? Truly, just as the asp stops its ears, so do these philosophers shut their eyes to the light of truth.

Geocentrists who did verify and accept Galileo’s findings had an alternative to Ptolemy’s model in an alternative geocentric (or “geo-heliocentric”) model proposed some decades earlier by Tycho Brahe—a model, in which, for example, Venus circled the sun.

Galileo became involved in a dispute over priority in the discovery of sunspots with Christoph Scheiner, a Jesuit. This became a bitter lifelong feud. Neither of them, however, was the first to recognise sunspots—the Chinese had already been familiar with them for centuries.

At this time, Galileo also engaged in a dispute over the reasons that objects float or sink in water, siding with Archimedes against Aristotle. The debate was unfriendly, and Galileo’s blunt and sometimes sarcastic style, though not extraordinary in academic debates of the time, made him enemies. During this controversy one of Galileo’s friends, the painter, Lodovico Cardi da Cigoli, informed him that a group of malicious opponents, which Cigoli subsequently referred to derisively as “the Pigeon league,” was plotting to cause him trouble over the motion of the earth, or anything else that would serve the purpose. According to Cigoli, one of the plotters had asked a priest to denounce Galileo’s views from the pulpit, but the latter had refused. Nevertheless, three years later another priest, Tommaso Caccini, did in fact do precisely that.

Intelligent Design

Intell I.D.

Intelligent design (ID) is the pseudoscientific view that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.” Educators, philosophers, and the scientific community have demonstrated that ID is a religious argument, a form of creationism which lacks empirical support and offers no tenable hypotheses. Proponents argue that it is “an evidence-based scientific theory about life’s origins” that challenges the methodological naturalism inherent in modern science, while conceding that they have yet to produce a scientific theory. The leading proponents of ID are associated with the Discovery Institute, a politically conservative think tank based in the United States. Although they state that ID is not creationism and deliberately avoid assigning a personality to the designer, many of these proponents express belief that the designer is the Christian deity.

ID presents negative arguments against evolutionary explanations, and its positive argument is an analogy between natural systems and human artifacts, a version of the theological argument from design for the existence of God. Both irreducible complexity and specified complexity present detailed negative assertions that certain features (biological and informational, respectively) are too complex to be the result of natural processes. Proponents then conclude by analogy that these features are evidence of design. Detailed scientific examination has rebutted the claims that evolutionary explanations are inadequate, and this premise of intelligent design—that evidence against evolution constitutes evidence for design—has been criticized as a false dichotomy.

Though the phrase “intelligent design” had featured previously in theological discussions of the design argument, the first publication of the term intelligent design in its present use as an alternative term for creationism was in Of Pandas and People, a 1989 textbook intended for high school biology classes. The term was substituted into drafts of the book after the 1987 United States Supreme Court‘s Edwards v. Aguillard decision, which barred the teaching of creation science in public schools on constitutional grounds. From the mid-1990s, the intelligent design movement (IDM), supported by the Discovery Institute, advocated inclusion of intelligent design in public school biology curricula. This led to the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial in which U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design is not science, that it “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents,” and that the school district’s promotion of it therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

 

Time perspective

Cosmic Look-Back Time

The time in the past at which the light we now receive from a distant object was emitted is called the look-back time. When astronomers discuss events in distant objects, they take for granted that the actual event occurred earlier because of light travel time.

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stone cast coley

It is similar to finding a series of photographs of a child in a 300 year-old time capsule. We could see how the child was developing 300 years ago, even though he/she would no longer be alive.

 

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Coley – Creationism

 

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The Bums Rush?

 

Creationism

Creationism is the religious belief that life, the Earth, and the universe are the creation of a supernatural being.

 

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Coley – Creationism

Creationism is the belief that the Universe and living organisms originate “from specific acts of divine creation.”

For young Earth creationists, this includes a literalistic reading of the Book of Genesis and the rejection of evolution. As science developed during the 18th century and forward, various views aimed at reconciling the Abrahamic and Genesis creation narratives with science developed in Western societies.

 

 

Those holding that species had been created separately (such as Philip Gosse in 1857) were generally called “advocates of creation” but were also called “creationists,” as in private correspondence between Charles Darwin and his friends.

As the creation–evolution controversy developed over time, the term “anti-evolutionists” became common.

In 1929 in the United States, the term “creationism” first became associated with Christian fundamentalists, specifically with their rejection of human evolution and belief in a young Earth—although this usage was contested by other groups, such as old Earth creationists and evolutionary creationists, who hold different concepts of creation, such as the acceptance of the age of the Earth and biological evolution as understood by the scientific community.

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 American Scientific Affiliation

Today, the American Scientific Affiliation, a prominent religious organisation in the US, recognizes that there are different opinions among creationists on the method of creation, while acknowledging unity on the Abrahamic belief that God “created the universe.” Since the 1920s, literalist creationism in America has contested scientific theories, such as that of evolution, which derive from natural observations of the Universe and life.

Literalist creationists believe that evolution cannot adequately account for the history, diversity, and complexity of life on Earth. Fundamentalist creationists of the Christian faith usually base their belief on a literal reading of the Genesis creation narrative.

Other religions have different deity-led creation myths, while different members of individual faiths vary in their acceptance of scientific findings.

When scientific research produces empirical evidence and theoretical conclusions which contradict a literalist creationist interpretation of scripture, young Earth creationists often reject the conclusions of the research or its underlying scientific theories or its methodology.

This tendency has led to political and theological controversy. Two disciplines have been labelled “pseudoscience” by scientists.

image of Casting the First
Casting the First

The most notable disputes concern the evolution of living organisms, the idea of common descent, the geological history of the Earth, the formation of the solar system and the origin of the universe.

Theistic evolution, also known as evolutionary creationism, reconciles theistic religious beliefs with scientific findings on the age of the Earth and the process of evolution. It includes a range of beliefs, including views described as evolutionary creationism and some forms of old Earth creationism, all of which embrace the findings of modern science and uphold classical religious teachings about God and creation.

 

 

 

Philosophical Issues

Existence of God – Part 9 million to One

In Classical theism, God is characterized as the metaphysically ultimate being (the first, timeless, absolutely simple, and sovereign being, who is devoid of any anthropomorphic qualities), in distinction to other conceptions such as Theistic Personalism, Open Theism, and Process Theism.

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Despite extensive writing on the nature of God, these classical theists did not believe that God could be defined.

They believed that it would contradict the transcendent nature of God for mere humans to define him. Robert Barron explains by analogy that it seems impossible for a two-dimensional object to conceive of three-dimensional humans.

 

By contrast, much of Eastern religious thought (chiefly pantheism) posits God as a force contained in every imaginable phenomenon. For example, Baruch Spinoza and his followers use the term God in a particular philosophical sense to mean the essential substance/principles of nature.

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Saturn Cast the First Stone

In modern Western societies, the concept of God typically entails a monotheistic, supreme, ultimate, and personal being, as found in the Islamic, Christian and Hebrew traditions. In monotheisms outside the Abrahamic traditions, the existence of God is discussed in similar terms.

In the Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism, reality is ultimately seen as a single, qualityless, changeless nirguna Brahman. Advaitin philosophy introduces the concept of saguna Brahman or Ishvara as a way of talking about Brahman to people. Ishvara, in turn, is ascribed such qualities as omniscience, omnipotence, and benevolence.

 

 

Atheism: Definitions and distinctions

Writers disagree how best to define and classify atheism, contesting what supernatural entities it applies to, whether it is an assertion in its own right or merely the absence of one, and whether it requires a conscious, explicit rejection. Atheism has been regarded as compatible with agnosticism, and has also been contrasted with it. A variety of categories have been used to distinguish the different forms of atheism.

Range

Some of the ambiguity and controversy involved in defining atheism arises from difficulty in reaching a consensus for the definitions of words like deity and god. The plurality of wildly different conceptions of God and deities leads to differing ideas regarding atheism’s applicability. The ancient Romans accused Christians of being atheists for not worshiping the pagan deities. Gradually, this view fell into disfavor as theism came to be understood as encompassing belief in any divinity.

With respect to the range of phenomena being rejected, atheism may counter anything from the existence of a deity, to the existence of any spiritual, supernatural, or transcendental concepts, such as those of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Taoism.

Implicit vs. explicit

Definitions of atheism also vary in the degree of consideration a person must put to the idea of gods to be considered an atheist. Atheism has sometimes been defined to include the simple absence of belief that any deities exist. This broad definition would include newborns and other people who have not been exposed to theistic ideas. As far back as 1772, Baron d’Holbach said that “All children are born Atheists; they have no idea of God.” Similarly, George H. Smith (1979) suggested that: “The man who is unacquainted with theism is an atheist because he does not believe in a god.

This category would also include the child with the conceptual capacity to grasp the issues involved, but who is still unaware of those issues. The fact that this child does not believe in god qualifies him as an atheist.” Smith coined the term implicit atheism to refer to “the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it” and explicit atheism to refer to the more common definition of conscious disbelief. Ernest Nagel contradicts Smith’s definition of atheism as merely “absence of theism”, acknowledging only explicit atheism as true “atheism”.

Positive vs. negative

Philosophers such as Antony Flew and Michael Martin have contrasted positive (strong/hard) atheism with negative (weak/soft) atheism. Positive atheism is the explicit affirmation that gods do not exist. Negative atheism includes all other forms of non-theism. According to this categorization, anyone who is not a theist is either a negative or a positive atheist. The terms weak and strong are relatively recent, while the terms negative and positive atheism are of older origin, having been used (in slightly different ways) in the philosophical literature and in Catholic apologetics. Under this demarcation of atheism, most agnostics qualify as negative atheists.

While Martin, for example, asserts that agnosticism entails negative atheism, many agnostics see their view as distinct from atheism, which they may consider no more justified than theism or requiring an equal conviction. The assertion of unattainability of knowledge for or against the existence of gods is sometimes seen as indication that atheism requires a leap of faith.

Common atheist responses to this argument include that unproven religious propositions deserve as much disbelief as all other unproven propositions, and that the unprovability of a god’s existence does not imply equal probability of either possibility. Scottish philosopher J. J. C. Smart even argues that “sometimes a person who is really an atheist may describe herself, even passionately, as an agnostic because of unreasonable generalised philosophical skepticism which would preclude us from saying that we know anything whatever, except perhaps the truths of mathematics and formal logic.” Consequently, some atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins prefer distinguishing theist, agnostic and atheist positions along a spectrum of theistic probability—the likelihood that each assigns to the statement “God exists”.

Definition as impossible or impermanent

Before the 18th century, the existence of God was so universally accepted in the western world that even the possibility of true atheism was questioned. This is called theistic innatism—the notion that all people believe in God from birth; within this view was the connotation that atheists are simply in denial.

There is also a position claiming that atheists are quick to believe in God in times of crisis, that atheists make deathbed conversions, or that “there are no atheists in foxholes“. There have however been examples to the contrary, among them examples of literal “atheists in foxholes”.

Some atheists have doubted the very need for the term “atheism”. In his book Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris wrote:

In fact, “atheism” is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist“. We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.