So, on to Law’s opening statements. It’s probably better to get this from the horse’s mouth –http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2011/10/opening-speech-craig-debate.html. However, I will duly sum up. Law, much to his credit, claimed he was only interested in defending his position using only one argument, based on the Evidential Problem of Evil. That being, if God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent, then he is able, knows how and is loving enough to want to do something about all the evil in the world. Law went on to talk about some of this evil by pointing out the sheer quantity:
1) all the animal deaths resulting from carnivorousness from the beginning of animal history
2) all the human death, particularly the frequency of child death before the age of five – somewhere between 40% and 60%, historically, of all children born.
He ramped up the rhetoric, and you could actually hear a pin drop when he was describing how a Komodo dragon poisons and kills its buffalo prey over a week long period of agonising suffering, or when describing the suffering of parent and child as the child dies over a prolonged period of disease.
He presented the Logical Problem of Evil riposte – that God could have a reason. This is what I call (nicking a Loftus phrase) the Omniscience Escape Clause. This is the claim theists use to explain that evil and suffering COULD be part of God’s plan and serve a greater good. This is a logical possibility that cannot be disproven since who are we, as mere mortals, to know and question the infinite mind of God? However, logical possible is not evidential probable, plausible or true, necessarily.
Law, however, hadn’t turned up to discuss the oft cited problem of evil. He had his own Evil God thesis to expound. This thesis suggests that all the evil, and all the good, COULD be explained by a supremely malevolent God. The paradigm shift involved here is to switch all the theodicies theists use to defend God’s existence in light of evil 180 degrees to be used to defend a supremely malevolent God. This God would allow good as a necessary corollary of free will which he requires for people to freely do evil. As Law stated:
“Take, for example, explaining evil in terms of god’s mysterious ways. A defender of belief in an evil god can adopt the same ruse, putting the good we see around us down to evil god’s mysterious ways. After all, evil god is omnipotent and omniscient, so of course his evil plans are likely to be largely beyond our understanding! Just because certain goods appear to us to be quite gratuitous given the aims of an evil god gives us no reason to suppose that they really are gratuitous.
Don’t presume to know the mind of evil god!
Moreover, just as some Christians maintain that whatever horror we experience in this life will be more than compensated for in the next, those who believe in an evil god can maintain that whatever goods we experience in this life will be more than compensated for by the far deeper, unremitting horror of the next.
Clearly, despite these and various other ingenious manoeuvres that might be made in defence of belief in an evil god, it remains the case that there’s far, far too much good stuff in this world for it to be the creation of such an evil deity. We can still, on the basis of what we observe around us, reasonably conclude there’s unlikely to be an evil god.”
And this is how he employs the thesis. By accepting that on evidential grounds, and from intuition, we dismiss this theory out of hand, what then gives us the right to accept the ‘good God’ theory as probable? Both theories are equally logically valid, and use the same arguments to defend them in a kind of diametrically opposed symmetry.
Law did not entertain the idea of refuting the cosmological argument, since, as he declared later, it wasn’t relevant. He felt that it had no bearing on the moral character of God. Law admitted to arguing that Craig’s version of God does not exist. Although this might not have been the title of the debate (Does God Exist?), it may have been a wise tactic of Law allowing him to narrow the field of the debate considerably. By only presenting one argument, he was perhaps putting all his eggs in one basket. But by doing so, he was giving himself a more concentrated topic with which both speakers could more fully interact. This is quite rare in Craig’s previous debates, whose scopes are often far too wide to deal with adequately in such short a time and, as such, often contribute to Craig’s victories.
So Law laid down the gauntlet: “That’s the challenge I am setting Professor Craig tonight. To explain why belief in a good god is, on the basis of the available evidence and arguments, not just a bit more reasonable than belief in an evil god, but very significantly more reasonable.”
I will look at the rebuttals in my next post.