Arguments from Inability

I often hear people assume that a proposition is false or worth rejecting because some aspect of it might be difficult to explain. This seems fallacious. For any given proposition X with aspect Y, our inability to explain Y doesn’t justify the conclusion of ~X.

Question #1: Compassion & Suffering

Are empathy and compassion logically possible without experiencing suffering?

In honor of twimfanboy’s obsession with the “firmly cemented goalposts” thing, I’m looking for—and trying to encourage in general—direct, “yes” or “no” answers to questions. This is how you cement firm goalposts, fanboy! Sure, many questions don’t have only yes or only no answers. I get that. Explanations and caveats are welcomed, just prefix them with a “yes” or “no” whenever possible.

To demonstrate my own willingness in abiding by this principle, I say no, neither is logically possible without experiencing suffering.

The PZ Myers Memorial Debate, Round One: And The Winner Is…

You can download the four letters that comprise Round One as a single PDF file, here [131KB]. If you don’t want to download it, simply copy the URL and paste it into your address bar. Or go check it out at VoxWorld. Be forewarned: Dominic’s piece is a bit sloppy grammatically, making comprehension a challenging at times. Vox, on the other hand, is at least articulate enough that intelligibility is not an issue.

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The Evidential Problem Of Evil

An evidential POE argument from Peter Hurford of Greatplay.net:

1. Needless suffering, by definition, is any suffering that doesn’t exist because of a higher good.

2. Needless suffering, by definition, could be eliminated with no consequences.

3. Any all-good entity desires to eliminate all needless suffering.

4. Any all-knowing entity would know of all needless suffering, if any needless suffering exists.

5. Any all-powerful entity would be capable of eliminating all needless suffering.

6. Our world contains needless suffering.

7. Therefore from 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, and 6, an all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing entity cannot exist.

8. God, as described by the major religions is all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing.

9. Therefore from 7 and 8, God as described by the major religions does not exist.

I recently said that all the POE arguments I’ve heard reduce to arguments from incredulity, and this argument is no different. Inability to conceive of a higher good is the only thing grounding the claim that any given instance of suffering is needless. 6 is a naked assertion sustained only by incredulity. That alone invalidates the argument in my opinion, but I can make a stronger case.

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The POE Drama Continues: Can It Get More Naïve?

Along the lines of what we’ve been talking about, I’d like to highlight a selection from the blogosphere that I think is typical of the atheist position. To a commenter who challenged the Muehlhauserian use of emotional imagery to score rhetorical points in the POE, an atheist blogger who’s name is not worth repeating recently wrote,

The problem with your logic is that you fail to acknowledge the assumed premise. In this case, the assumed premise is that God is good. No. Better than good. He’s perfect. He is goodness exemplified. He is omni-benevolent. He is who all goodness tries to emulate. A good god insures that there is only goodness in the world. etc. etc. blather blather, etc. IOW, with a benevolent god there should be no evil.

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The Problem Of Evil: Where I’m At Today

While I’ll still gladly engage anybody on the issue, these days, I’m leaning towards the conclusion that the atheist’s problem of evil arguments are fatally flawed. In the end, all variants I’ve encountered reduce to incredulity: reasoning from premises derived at via conceptual analysis and intuition, the atheist disbelieves that a morally sufficient reason can exist: “There’s no way a good God would allow this much evil in the world.” That’s it. I’ve not seen a single POE argument that doesn’t reduce thus, and I’ll leave it to you to decide whether disbelief is sufficient to warrant skepticism in this regard. I say no. I mean, people said the same thing about QM and all sorts of other stuff: “There’s no way light can act as both particle and wave!” “There’s no way an airplane can fly!” “There’s no way man will walk on the moon!” Etc. This is why I like what they attribute to Archimedes: with a long enough lever, one could move the Earth.

Is anybody aware of a POE argument that doesn’t reduce thus?

I Am 100% Certain That Phil Stilwell Promotes Irrationality

(Formerly: Does Phil Stilwell Promote Irrationality?)

P1 Any source that promotes binary and absolute belief/disbelief for human epistemic agents is promoting irrationality [Phil Stilwell, bold mine]

P2 Phil Stilwell promotes binary and absolute disbelief for human epistemic agents: “If you argue that the square triangle in your pocket is made of gold, and produce genuine gold flakes as evidence, we still know with absolute certainty that you do not have a golden square triangle in your pocket.” [Phil Stilwell, bold mine]

C Phil Stilwell promotes irrationality

It seems to me his only out would be to argue that the proposition, “you do not have a golden square triangle in your pocket” is tautological. Of course, this assumes Phil merely forgot to add the qualifier “in a non-tautological proposition” to P1 [which is really P5 as delineated here].

What sayest thou?

Phil’s Failure: Responding To Faith’s Failure, 2.0

So, right about here, atheist agnostic blogger Phil Stilwell popped up and claimed that “Christianity refutes Christianity,” offering, among others, the following argument:

P1 Jesus considered those who believe with less confirmatory evidence more blessed that those who believed with more evidence. (John 20:19-31)

P2 Falsehoods are more likely to have less confirmatory evidence at their disposal than have truths.

P3 Those who believe with less confirmatory evidence are more likely to believe falsehoods.

C Jesus considered those who are more likely to believe falsehoods more blessed. (P1 – P3)

My initial response was that P2 is mere assertion. Phil asked me to state what I believe about evidence and justification, and I answered. I later explained that even if I accept P2 for the sake of argument, Phil’s syllogism remains unsound on account of P1. In between his insults, Phil kept asking me to repeat myself, which I did here, here, here, and here. Now, Phil’s offered a new argument, and I’d like to address it separately from Faith’s Failure 1.0, which–I believe–we are still discussing.

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