• Heaven, hell, and philosophical zombies

    In the recent google hangout with Counter Apologist and Reasonable Doubts’ Justin Schieber on the Evidential Problem of Evil, we were talking about the great argument against hell. I will set this argument out again, as I have done previously, before getting on to my main point. This is an argument brought up by Ray Bradley in a debate with William Lane Craig.

    Imagine a set of people, call that set A. These are all the people in this world – W1. These people are made up of people who will freely come to love God, and end up in heaven – call these Subset X, and those who reject God, and end up in hell – call these Subset Y. God knows this free decision in advance (ignore all of the issues with this).

    What Bradley says is why doesn’t God just forget about Y, and just make a world of only people in Subset X (Call it world W2). This means God would not be cruelly creating a whole (majority) set of people who will end up being eternally punished in hell. Him knowing of the hellish torment of Subset Y in advance begs the questions of how a loving God could produce those people anyway.

    So why does God simply not create people who he knows would freely love him in this world such as world W2, but only make them and no one else? This would produce a universalist world but one which is not straight-jacketed since God would know that in a world such as this, they would still freely choose him.

    Craig attempts to tackle this by saying a possible. He claims it COULD be that in this new world, that same subset might have different situations whereby they now wouldn’t freely love God. He claims that God might not feasibly be able to create this second world. In other words, W2 creates a different situation than W1 whereby, now, all of Subset X wouldn’t freely choose God. Rather weak defence for an omnipotent and omniscient God, no? So a few of this Subset X might not come to God in this new world W2. So don’t create these ones, but only the ones in X who would freely love God. It might end up being a small subset, but better that than a huge amount of people condemned to eternal torment.

    God, in all his infinite wisdom must be able to create a world where he knows that all the people in it would freely come to love him. He might know this from the world W2, but also from knowing the counterfactuals of worlds W1, W3 etc. He could surely contrive a world where all the people came to love him, and he could see that these same people would be the sort of people who would love him in other worlds too.

    So each time a group of free believers is taken out of a possible world and themselves put into a further world, supposedly now of exclusively freely loving believers, that new world provides a new context whereby at least one of them will not now freely love God. And this carries on and on until there is no such world permissible. Craig claims that it is unfeasible for God, though logically conceivable, that he can create a given world whereby all the agents freely love God.

    This sharply differentiates unfeasible from logically impossible.

    I am not sure this distinction holds or makes any sense, but I will talk about that in a further post. For this post I want to concentrate on something Justin Schieber mentioned in the hangout. Why is it that in any given world, and let’s say this one, that each person who does not freely love God and who will thereby go to hell, is not replaced by a philosophical zombie? Now this is really interesting. Justin is saying that Craig claims that there must be in every possible world a contingent scenario whereby at least one person rejects God, and this is , one could argue, necessary for creating the particular scenario whereby some others, reliant on that rejection, come to freely love God.

    Now, on most classic understandings of God, God knows all future counterfactuals such that he knows the outcomes of given freely made decisions. Which means that he knows who will reject him in advance, and yet creates them anyway. This is vitally important. God appears to be creating people such that they end up in hell, or whatever a Christian might take hell to be or mean. This does not seem to be all-loving unless these people in some way necessitate a greater good.

    However, this could be averted if God replaced all people who would freely reject God (whom he knows in advance) with philosophical zombies who act and appear like normal people, but who are different by virtue of their inability to feel things (ie qualia). As wiki defines P-zombies:

    philosophical zombie or p-zombie in the philosophy of mind and perception is a hypothetical being that is indistinguishable from a normal human being except in that it lacks conscious experiencequalia, or sentience.[1] When a zombie is poked with a sharp object, for example, it does not feel any pain though it behaves exactly as if it does feel pain (it may say “ouch” and recoil from the stimulus, or tell us that it is in intense pain).

    The notion of a philosophical zombie is used mainly in thought experiments intended to support arguments (often called “zombie arguments”) against forms of physicalism such as materialism,behaviorism and functionalism. Physicalism is the idea that all aspects of human nature can be explained by physical means: specifically, all aspects of human nature and perception can be explained from a neurobiological standpoint. Some philosophers, like David Chalmers, argue that since a zombie is defined as physiologically indistinguishable from human beings, even its logical possibility would be a sound refutation of physicalism.[2]

    However, physicalists like Daniel Dennett counter that Chalmers’s physiological zombies are logically incoherent and thus impossible.[3][4]

    This seems to be a brilliant retort to the argument, and one which I would like to see William Lane Craig refute. This invalidates any such Craigian defence of the claim that God is not all-loving because he knowingly creates people who will suffer an eternity in hell (given hell as a viable theology).

    Or does it? In the hangout, I came up with a retort to Justin’s point, but we moved on and were unable to explore it: I wondered whether God could already have done that and we would not know that most of the people on earth weren’t P-zombies fulfilling their destiny as catalysts for allowing true people to heaven. In thinking about it since then, I have realised that I know I am not a P-zombie and therefore this counter-point that Craig could make would be invalidated. That there is at least one P-zombie who will suffer eternally and that that knowledge was foreknown by God before creation.

    However, on further consideration, I think I could do Craig’s work here in offering a counterpoint. The previous point which I made that I am not a P-zombie can only work for me. I cannot convince anyone else of this, and any attempts to do so would look like a P-zombie acting like a human and trying to convince other humans that it was actually human, whilst really remaining a P-zombie with no qualia (from the other person’s point of view).

    Therefore, we get to a point where a Christian (who was surely going to go to heaven in freely loving God) could still claim that all people who freely reject God are actually P-zombies who act as if they are humans; and the ones who claim they really are humans are actually really still P-zombies.

    Thus the theist could still claim that God can create a world in which no real people suffered. Of course, this is possible, but maybe not plausible. Moreover, this line of argument does nothing for the idea that it really is unfeasible for the greatest being in conception to create a world in which all agents freely come to love him. This is a tough one for the theist to crack, as I hope to show in a future post.

    Category: God's CharacteristicsHeavenHellProblem of Evil


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce