Saturday, December 20, 2008
4:17 Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker? 4:18 Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly: 4:19 How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth? 4:20 They are destroyed from morning to evening: they perish for ever without any regarding it. (from the Book of Job)
The LPOE has been known for centuries. The Book of Job presents the issue in some form; greek and roman scribes alluded to it. Voltaire, pal of Franklin and Hume had some awareness of the issue , as that great surreal graphic novel Candide reveals. (Jefferson kept a bust of Voltaire, Marquis de Arouet in his Monticello study his entire life). Dr. Pangloss, V's parody of that brilliant mystic-windbag Leibniz, insists this is the best of all possible worlds, even in the face of wars, earthquakes and tidal waves killing untold thousands.
Most modern theologians--Dr. Panglosses are still around--would probably uphold Leibniz's rather optimistic view, and claim that, even apres-Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and the Bush Administration, their God chose the best of possible worlds (how do they know, without knowing of other worlds??), and at the same time grant that God does allow evil (another problematic normative concept). He does not intervene to stop the suffering of the innocent, say, when by definition He could; and obviously history affords a monumental amount of evidence showing the suffering of innocent (or mostly innocent), via pain, poverty, natural disasters, disease, collateral damage in wars, etc. ("Free will" does not offer the theologian an escape in the above cases).
In short, God's putative Justice, Perfection and Omnipotence are not consistent, or evident or provable in any normal sense of proof, i.e. via axiom, or observation (here is a brief synopsis of the logical problem of evil). The inconsistency of the premises suggests that JHVH (assuming He exists for sake of irritating the pious) is either Omnipotent, but not Just (or "perfect" really), OR he is not Omnipotent (and then not really God), or simply does not exist.
So, God either won't prevent undue suffering, though He could--which seems to suggest an amoral KingGod, sort of a Tamerlane on high---or He can't (which denies his omnipotence, or perhaps suggest a manicheanism, or polydeism, or other oddities), OR since that all seems rather preposterous, we can safely claim He does not exist. However ancient and obscure manicheanism seems, a battle between opposing forces seems a rather more plausible religious model (even somewhat evolutionary) when considering the absurd implications of a monotheist Being. Given a century of brutal wars, genocide, political oppression of all sorts, the conclusion of the LPOE seems rather a fortiori (as do Voltaire's points).
There are other anti-theological tactics of course--such as the Darwinian tactic. Darwin and Lyell did not merely advance biological science: they established the fallibility of the dogma of Old Testament (and all theological texts purporting to account for natural history). Radiocarbon dating disproved the rabbinical and xtian accounts of creation (ie 4000 bc, etc.), and confirmed Darwinian accounts of a very old world, and of common descent with modifications (problems there are with naive Darwinism--McDarwinism--as evidenced by TH Huxley's simplifications. For that matter Darwin himself waffled on the religious question, and at times appears to have agreed with the 'teleological' argument).
The LPOE does something quite different than Darwinism does: the LPOE shows the inconsistencies of the theologians' own assumptions via a fairly obvious set of premises. The correct conclusions drawn from LPOE will not likely phase many biblethumpers, or koranthumpers, most of whom have no problem upholding the code of Credo que Absurdum:theists are generally great romantics. That our elected officials also uphold the Credo q.A. (ie asking fundies to offer invocations and benedictions), however, should concern all Non-Churchians.
Posted by J at 6:22 AM
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