Morriston on the evil god hypothesis
Earlier this week Walter forwarded the link to a 2004 article by Wes Morriston which nicely summarizes the problem with Stephen Law’s evil god argument. Before we get to that however, let’s recap the argument.
Law argued against the existence of God (or what we can call “good god”) by pointing out that the believer in a maximally evil god could reconcile his belief with the amount of goodness in the world by reversing all the standard strategies employed by the good god theodicist to explain the amount of evil in the world. I agree that the proponent of an evil god can indeed to this. Where the disagreement enters is with what Law thinks flows from this fact. Law then goes on to ask why we reject the existence of an evil god. He claims that we do so because the amount of good cannot plausibly be reconciled with an evil god. If we accept this then we should likewise agree that the amount of evil cannot plausibly be reconciled with a good god.
But is that really what follows from the fact that evil god theodicies are possible? I don’t think so and neither does Wes Morriston apparently. He summarizes his article as follows:
“on the ground marked out by skeptical theists, it seems that we cannot justify any confident judgment about God’s moral character by appealing to the mixture of good and evil that we find in the world. Demonists cannot prove their case by appealing to evil. Theists cannot prove theirs by appealing to goodness. And neither camp can prove that its opponent is mistaken by appealing to the mixture. The issue simply cannot be settled on straightforward empirical grounds.” (Morriston, “The Evidential Argument from Goodness,” Southern Journal of Philosophy, 42 (2004), 99.)
And that was the point I made last week in “Where Stephen Law goes wrong with his evil god argument.” In the illustration I pointed out that the evidence available at a death scene may underdetermine whether the death was murder or not. But this doesn’t mean people cannot draw conclusions about whether the death was a murder or not. It just means that they cannot do so limited only to the evidence of the crime scene. Likewise, the mixture of evil/good in the world may be consistent with both an evil god and a good god. But that simply means that this too underdetermines the facts. You cannot arrive at a belief about whether either deity exists based solely on a survey of that evidence.
And that means that the existence of evil god theodicies is of no concern to the Christian theist. It simply means that both Christian theists and evil god devotees can develop theodicies to remove potential defeaters to their respective belief systems.