Where Stephen Law goes wrong with his evil god argument
The Atheist Missionary asked me to respond to Stephen Law’s evil god argument. His challenge came with an extended quote from Law. I’ve quoted the most important parts below:
“Most people will happily conclude there’s no evil god purely on the basis of the evidential problem of good (whether or not there are other reasons to reject the evil god hypothesis). So why isn’t the problem of evil similarly fatal to belief in a good god?
“Now Craig, quite amazingly, actually chose to play that sceptical card on the night, endorsing the (highly counter-intuitive and, by him on the night, pretty much unjustified) claim that observation of the the world can give us no grounds at all for supposing there’s no evil god (or good god).
“But note that that STILL doesn’t help Craig at all, so far as explaining why it’s more reasonable to believe in a good god rather than an evil god (the latter belief being absurd).
“The point is this: whether or not Craig plays the sceptical card, he’s still left having to explain why belief in his good god is very significantly more reasonable than the obviously absurd belief that there’s an evil god.”
I think Law is simply mistaken in his assumption that the Christian theist is committed to the view that the world provides evidence for the existence of a maximally good god over a maximally evil one.
Imagine for a moment that you are a detective called to a hotel room to the scene of a death. There you find an apparently distraught husband who tells you his wife slipped off the balcony and plunged ten stories to her untimely demise. A close study of the scene provides a range of evidence which could be reconciled with two different scenarios:
Scenario 1: The husband was a loving, caring spouse who witnessed his wife slip and fall and is now truly distraught over the loss.
Scenario 2: The husband was a conniving, uncaring spouse who pushed his wife and is now feigning sadness over the loss.
Life is full of situations like this where the evidence available to us is ambiguous. So the fact is that if you are to come to a conclusion on whether the husband was in fact a great spouse or a horrible one, it will not be based simply on the evidence available in the room.
So what will it be based on?
Consider the dead woman’s sister. She enters the room and immediately confirms scenario 2. She doesn’t affirm scenario 2 because of the ambiguous evidence available in the room however. Rather, she affirms it based on beliefs she brings to the room including the beliefs that her sister’s husband wanted a divorce, told her he’d kill her, and took out a fat life insurance policy on her a week before.
Law’s problem is that he treats reasoning about God as being limited to the ambiguous evidence in the hotel room. But the fact is that people bring a range of beliefs to the “hotel room” of life and interpret the evidence in light of those beliefs, whether those beliefs include “A good God exists” or “An evil god exists” or “No god exists.”
**Please note, today and tomorrow (Oct. 20-21) I’m speaking at a conference so my responses may be delayed.