Saturday, February 17, 2007

Some Introductory Thoughts on Animal Suffering

Sometime in the next day or two, I will present some theodicies that take animal suffering into account. Before I do, however, there are a few issues that must be addressed, since theodicies must proceed on clear thinking rather than on sloppy thinking.

First, we must clear up a bit of pessimism (of the John Loftus sort), and recognize the goodness of a world with animals. Or, at the very least, we should recognize that many theists are convinced that there is a great deal of good in the world. Thus, atheists should recognize that any argument that denies the value of certain things in our world will not be persuasive to theists. With this in mind, consider three different worlds:

(1) A world with no animals.

(2) A world with animals who experience (intense) pain.

(3) A world with animals who do not experience (intense) pain.

The atheist is claiming that world (3) is better than world (2), and that, since (3) is better, God should have created world (3) instead of world (2). I am not going to question whether this is the case. I will gladly take up the atheist challenge by agreeing that, all things being equal, a world without animal suffering is better than a world with animal suffering. Theodicies, then, must show that all things are not equal, i.e. that there are reasons for God to allow suffering. The problem I wish to address here is that there is a tendency among certain vocal atheists (e.g. John Loftus, Reginald Finley, etc.) to say that world (1) is also better than world (2). That is, if animals are going to suffer, it would be better if animals didn’t exist at all. Thus, if God knew that animals were going to suffer, he shouldn’t have created them in the first place.

Here I can only appeal to what we already know from experience. We know that a world with animals is better than a world without animals. When a species is going extinct, we try to protect the species, because on some level we recognize that the world just won’t be as good without that species. We all understand that it is good to have cats and dogs, that a house, like the world, is somehow better with animals. Some philosophers have argued that any being is better than any non-being, a view which has even been used to reject Leibniz’ “best of all possible worlds.” Some (Augustine, for instance) would argue that our world cannot be the best possible world, for all God would need to do to make the world better would be to add a single ant to the universe. The universe would be better, because even an ant is good.

The point here is that if an atheist sees no inherent good in the existence of animals, or in the world, or in humanity, or in anything else, neither the Argument from Evil nor responses to the argument will get very far. Indeed, I think that the sort of pessimism that denies the goodness of the world is part of the reason a person becomes an atheist. If he doesn’t see anything good about the world, he has nothing to be thankful for. And if he has nothing to be thankful for, he will have no gratitude towards God.

Second, the atheist claims that animals don’t deserve a world with suffering, since they didn’t participate in any Fall and are therefore innocent. While I agree that animals are innocent of moral evil, and that they don’t deserve a world with suffering, I must point out that animals do not deserve a world of bliss either. In other words, the atheist mode of thinking seems to be this: “All sentient beings deserve a world of bliss, unless they do something bad.” (Of course, atheists such as John Loftus think that even bad people should get a world of bliss, but that’s beside the point here.) But how do atheists arrive at this view? It certainly isn’t self-evident. Perhaps the atheist will say, “I’m not claiming that animals deserve a world of bliss; I’m simply saying that that’s what an all-good being would give them.” But this isn’t self-evident either. One could argue that an all-good, all-powerful, all-just being will give people what they deserve, but this hardly suggests that such a being will give as much pleasure as possible, or that this being will prevent as much suffering as possible.

Third, if Christianity is true, animals are far less significant than human beings, both in this world and in the next. As the only truly free beings in our world, we have the ability to alter the course of the physical world by our wills. That is, the natural world proceeds according to natural laws. The only thing that can interfere with business as usual is something outside the chain of natural causes—in our case, the human will. Moreover, we are eternal, created in the image of God, and what we do in this life has an effect on eternity. I’m pointing this out because some atheists seem to be more concerned about animals than about humans (as I was when I was an atheist).

Fourth, let’s not forget that, in any world with complex creatures, lots of things are connected to lots of other things. Humans find it difficult to understand this, but it’s easiest to see in ecosystems. In the 19th century, a rich genius decided to bring some rabbits to Australia, so he could hunt them. What could be more harmless than a few rabbits? Well, the rabbits practically destroyed the ecosystem of an entire continent, and the outback continues to suffer today. They’ve had to introduce strains of rabbit viruses into nature to help control the rabbit population. The principle is the same in other areas. For instance, suppose we had the power to alter the gravitational constant, and suppose we found some reason for doing so (e.g. perhaps we find that changing the gravitational constant will balance the effects of global warming). So we effect the change, and find out that the universe is worsened, if not uninhabitable.

The point here is that most of the suggestions made by atheists (who long to tell us what a better world would look like), if followed through to certain obvious results, would end in disaster. Normally, the disaster can be noticed quite easily. However, even in instances where the change seems entirely plausible, we should keep in mind that we don’t see all of the connections involved. An atheist who proposes a change as small as the flapping of a butterfly’s wings may, for all we know, be offering us a hurricane somewhere else. As Peter van Inwagen has said, “Our own universe provides the only model we have for the formidable task of designing a world.”

Finally, we need to be realistic. Many of the changes recommended by atheists would result in a “Looney Toons” world, where Elmer Fudd shoots Daffy in the face, Daffy’s bill spins around his head several times, and yet Daffy emerges unscathed (except for the fact that his bill is backwards). If atheists would like to make a case that this sort of world is better than our world, I’d be happy to consider the argument. But there usually isn’t an argument. Instead, the atheist offers a long series of questions, such as “Why doesn’t God make it so that a coyote falling off a cliff is okay when he gets up? Why not? Huh?!” I have no doubts that God could create such a world. My problem is with the idea that this sort of world would be better on the whole than our world. Hence, let’s try not to be silly (as when Loftus argues that God should have given us wings and gills, and as when Richard Carrier says that God should put force fields around churches, make Bibles glow in the dark, and turn all guns into flowers).

83 comments:

Stunney said...

David Wood,

I'd be interested to have your view as to whether whatever is referred to as the Fall effected any kind of change with respect to the animal world compared to what that world would have 'experienced' had there been no Fall.

Good post, btw.

Stunney said...

And yes, we don't automatically equate good parenting with being a pleasure-maximizer for one's offpring.

David B. Ellis said...


While I agree that animals are innocent of moral evil, and that they don’t deserve a world with suffering, I must point out that animals do not deserve a world of bliss either. In other words, the atheist mode of thinking seems to be this: “All sentient beings deserve a world of bliss, unless they do something bad.”


David, I really wish you would stop just making things up. The POE does not claim every living thing deserves a world of bliss. No atheist posting here claims that. That is not a claim I have EVER heard from any atheist. There might be a few atheists somewherewho do claim that (you can find just about anyone who believes just about anything if you look hard enough) but they would certainly not be the norm as you are claiming.

It would be nice if you addressed the problems we actually raise rather than inventing positions for us that hardly any atheist takes.

David B. Ellis said...

In point 4 (concerning ecology) you seem to be basically claiming that it might be impossible to significantly reduce suffering without disasterous results.

You're backing yourself into a corner where you are forced to take the absurd Leibnizean position that we live in the best of all possible worlds (in regard to suffering at least).

Thats simply too blatantly absurd to be taken seriously.

And, by the way, contradicted by many views of the Fall since death and suffering are said by many christians to have entered the world at the Fall.

So please answer the question you skipped:

Was the condition of animals the same or different prior to the Fall?

If different, then the claim that alterations which lessen suffering would have disasterous results is shown to be false within your own belief system.

If the same, then you are left with the absurd concept of this being the best of all possible worlds (in which case I recommend a strong dose of Candide).

David Wood said...

David, I really wish you would stop just making things up. The POE does not claim every living thing deserves a world of bliss.

Ellis,

Call it whatever you like. What would you call a world without pain and which has only pleasure? I didn't say "infinite pleasure" or anything like that. If a world has only pleasure and no pain, I'd call it a world of bliss. For the thousandth time, let's review.

(1) God is wholly good.
(2) The atheist holds that goodness has to do with the distribution of pain/pleasure.
(3) Hence, for the atheist, God should not allow pain.
(4) But, if God is wholly good, and being good has to do with pain/pleasure, than a wholly good being would give nothing but pleasure.
(5) Hence, if God exists, he would give us a world of bliss.

How is the atheist not demanding a world of bliss? If you're not demanding such a world, please tell me about the world you're demanding.

In point 4 (concerning ecology) you seem to be basically claiming that it might be impossible to significantly reduce suffering without disasterous results.

For someone who complains so frequently that everyone who says anything at all about his comments is misrepresenting him, you sure have a knack for misrepresentation.

What was the point I was making? That things are connected, and that if you're going to propose some change, you had better make sure that this change isn't going to cause problems somewhere else. That's it. That was the whole point. It was a word of precaution before we actually move on to theodicies. I said it because as soon as anyone starts talking about POE, atheists start calling for forcefields, gills, wings, superpowers, etc. All of these things have consequences, but atheists rarely ever think of these consequences. Just because you happen to be one of those atheists doesn't mean you should misrepresent what I said.

John W. Loftus said...

William Rowe claims that God must indeed create the best possible world, contrary to Robert Adams, and in defense of Leibniz, in his book, Can God Be Free? (Oxford, 2006).

As far as the disasterous consequences of introducing rabbits to a foreign land, and our attempts to save animals from extinction goes, the notion that our ecosystem is very important to us as humans has no effect upon a omnipotent God who can do perpetual miracles. You will have to argue that it is best that God doesn't do anything about animal suffering, regardless of the consequences to our ecosystem.

I liked your post though, even though you continue to misrepresent what I want, as Ellis has pointed out. Not bad, but not convincing.

David B. Ellis said...


I said it because as soon as anyone starts talking about POE, atheists start calling for forcefields, gills, wings, superpowers, etc. All of these things have consequences, but atheists rarely ever think of these consequences.


It cannot plausibly be said that there could not be changes which would not have any significant outweighing negative consequences---starting with simple things like simple bits of information God could have provided which would have drastically reduced suffering. In this category we have things like telling people about the simple washing and sterilization steps that can be taken to greatly reduce infection or, if he wanted to reduce suffering even more, inform us of the truth of Germ Theory as a source of disease. Imagine how much that would have done for humanity had a deity bothered to put that information into their divinely inspired scriptures.

Or to take a step further, a deity could have created a plant with highly effective pain relieving effects and which is ubiquitous throughout the planet. This would have greatly reduced the suffering experienced throughout history. To claim that an omnipotent and omniscient being couldnt have accomplished this without significant negative impacts strains credibility.

Or, lets take the extreme, the creation of living beings impervious to physical harm and which do not require food for sustenance, which do not age, or grow old or die. Also well within the capability of a God but unlikely to have any significant negative consequences.

Can you tell me anything that might result from that would even be bad....much less worse than a world of animal eat animal predation.

mrieder said...
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mrieder said...
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David Wood said...

Loftus said:

William Rowe claims that God must indeed create the best possible world, contrary to Robert Adams, and in defense of Leibniz, in his book, Can God Be Free? (Oxford, 2006).

Really? Most philosophers hold that a best possible world is an incoherent concept. If Rowe maintains that God must create a best possible world, he's certainly out of step with other thinkers in this area.

You missed the point about the connections. The ecosystem example was simply that--an example. I wasn't claiming anything about what God could or could not do in an ecosystem. It was simply an example to show that things are connected in ways that we often cannot see. Thus, we should be careful when suggesting changes, as we should be careful when we think it would be cool to introduce a new species into Australia.

I liked your post though, even though you continue to misrepresent what I want, as Ellis has pointed out. Not bad, but not convincing.

Nice try, John. Ellis can get away with it if he says he isn't demanding a world of bliss, but I know what you're demanding. And everyone who's read your book, or listened to our debates, or followed your posts, knows exactly what God, according to you, should do.

David Wood said...

Ellis said:

It cannot plausibly be said that there could not be changes which would not have any significant outweighing negative consequences---starting with simple things like simple bits of information God could have provided which would have drastically reduced suffering.

Right now, I'm wishing that God had created you with the ability to understand a point. I'm not going to finish reading your comment.

Again, what was my point there? I was talking about things like forcefields, gills, etc., which atheists (including you) love to throw into the argument from evil. Many of these suggestions have obviously bad consequences, and should therefore be thrown out immediately. At no point did I say or imply that God can't do anything to reduce pain in our world without destroying the universe or something. It's not in there. I never said anything like that. I was making a point about silly suggestions, and I was arguing that we need to be sure our suggestions are reasonable. That's it.

I'll say it again: For someone who constantly complains that everyone is misrepresenting his position (you've even got Loftus doing it now), you sure treat misrepresentation like it's an Olympic sport.

mrieder said...

**for clarification, this is a milder version of a comment I made earlier.**

David Ellis,

You wrote:


Or, lets take the extreme, the creation of living beings impervious to physical harm and which do not require food for sustenance, which do not age, or grow old or die. Also well within the capability of a God but unlikely to have any significant negative consequences.

Can you tell me anything that might result from that would even be bad....much less worse than a world of animal eat animal predation.

It seems as though you did not even have the discussion with Stunney regarding other realities.

The problem of making a human which cannot be harmed and needs no food, and which does not grow old or does not die is that it is incompatible with our current reality. In short, you have not shown that this is possible. You have claimed it is possible, but have not backed it up with any facts.

To answer your question, I will say that due to the law of entropy, systems which are to remain in a lower state of disorder must continually take in energy. Closed systems tend toward disorder. If humans were a closed system as you seem to have proposed, then we would quickly become disorderly in accordance with the laws of this universe. Fortunately we have the ability to take in energy in the form of chemical bonds in the food we eat. Our body releases this energy and converts it to other types of energy which counteracts the tendency of our bodies to become disorderly. Without eating, we would die.

So, the burden is on you to propose a system in which entropy does not apply to humans anymore.

So the negative consequence of making a human that does not have to eat is that some of the fundamental laws that govern reality must be overthrown and changed somehow. You obviously think it is possible, but you have not shown how it is possible.

Cheers,

M.R.

Stunney said...

If God had authoritatively provided beneficial scientific information for us on a plate, we'd probably have been much more mentally lazy as a breed, and much less free in our relationship to God.

So instead God put all the scientific information we needed in nature itself, and gave us the intelligence and freedom to figure it out as intellectually and morally autonomous beings.

We also know that many non-scientific cultures managed to reproduce themselves for millenia without modern medicine before White Scientific Man came along and killed, enslaved, and generally messed them up.

So given our fallen-ness, it's not clear that handing us scientific knowledge on a plate would have been a good thing, since we'd have probably used it to create weapons of mass destruction much sooner than we did.

We also know that all kinds of illnesses result from modern scientific ways of living. Imagine the air pollution and global warming and stresses caused by industrialization which we now see all around us had been going on for the last 3,000 years. We'd probably now be on the verge of extinction. If God had given us Germ Theory in scripture, we'd probably have used it to develop biological weapons and wiped each other out.

It seems that Ellis and Loftus want a dumbed down pain-free world in which Jesus had revealed, not the Kingdom of heaven, but penicillin.

They want a lesser, material heaven, and they want it for everyone on a plate, regardless of the sinfulness and folly of human agency. But what they want is, in fact, profoundly incoherent.

David B. Ellis said...


Many of these suggestions have obviously bad consequences, and should therefore be thrown out immediately. At no point did I say or imply that God can't do anything to reduce pain in our world without destroying the universe or something.


Nor did I claim that you did--maybe its you having trouble comprehending a point. You WHERE saying that the consequences if these changes were made would be worse than the conditions without them---otherwise, of course, the issue would have no relevence to the POE.

David B. Ellis said...


The problem of making a human which cannot be harmed and needs no food, and which does not grow old or does not die is that it is incompatible with our current reality. In short, you have not shown that this is possible. You have claimed it is possible, but have not backed it up with any facts.


Excuse me, but we're talking about an omnipotent being here. He could create nutritional matter within the stomachs of every living being as needed.

Its amazing how all of you want to keep putting a straightjacket on your God vastly limiting his powers(only, of course, when discussing the POE).


So, the burden is on you to propose a system in which entropy does not apply to humans anymore.


Entropy is still in place. Nutritional matter is manufactured by God in the living beings stomach whenever needed. If he can create a cosmos out of nothing I don't think this would present an insurmountable obstacle.

David B. Ellis said...


If God had authoritatively provided beneficial scientific information for us on a plate, we'd probably have been much more mentally lazy as a breed, and much less free in our relationship to God.


So telling us to wash wounds, put alcohol on them and keep them covered with clean bandages would mentally hobble the human race. Or a hint that the reason this is necessary is because there are living things too small to see with the naked eye would make us mentally lazy?

Rubbish. If anything it would have inspired lines of research for inquisitive minds to expand our knowledge.

David B. Ellis said...

Oh, and let me point out a blatant inconsistency:

you claim:


If God had authoritatively provided beneficial scientific information for us on a plate, we'd probably have been much more mentally lazy as a breed


AND:


If God had given us Germ Theory in scripture, we'd probably have used it to develop biological weapons and wiped each other out.


Which is it? We would have been made mentally lazy or we would have been prodded into vigorous lines of scientific research putting us way in advance of where we currently are in knowledge of the biological sciences.

You can't have it both ways.

Stunney said...

Nutritional matter is manufactured by God in the living beings stomach whenever needed

Using what energy source, and using what physical mechanism?

You see, if we're talking about a physical world at all, we can't confine ourselves to describing desirable outcomes. We must be able to describe the physical processes by which such outcomes are produced in general in that world, calculate the consequences of those processes for other outcomes, and do so systematically for the whole world. Otherwise we're not imagining a physical system at all.

Or are you saying that God should not have made the law of energy conservation a law? If so, then you are in fact imagining something that is at odds with our very concept of 'physical'.

Let's say we don't need to eat but have nutrients produced in our stomach as needed. If we never experienced hunger, what impact would this have on our ecosystem, and on human culture? Would we cease to cooperate, or rather would we ever have begun to? Would we form stable families? Would children simply be abandoned as soon as born, knowing that they wouldn't hunger?

So many questions suggest themselves, and so few answers are clearly seen or provided in your imaginary scenarios.

Stunney said...

You can't have it both ways.

Yes I can. Some folk would have been mentally lazier, and some folk would have developed biological weapons a long time ago.

mrieder said...

David Ellis,

There is a value used by cosmologists that relates to the amount of matter in the universe. If it exceeds a certain amount, the universe will collapse on itself. Like the other aspects of the universe, the amount of matter present has an effect. If God begins to change the amount of matter in the universe, it has consequences. Again, your solution is not workable with reality.

Besides, if God starts doing these things, then he will be violating the 1st law of thermodynamics.

The point is that perhaps he could do these things, but then our reality would be a "looney tunes" reality like David Wood said. Science would be impossible because things would just keep changing.

Also, I do not think that it is proper to say that God created everything out of nothing. That does not make sense. I think that God had to use something to create our reality. Perhaps it takes some of his energy to do so.

Again, you have invented a concept of God that fits right into your concept of the POE. You refuse to think of God any other way because that may lead to a solution to the POE.

M.R.

mrieder said...

Strike the "Science would be impossible.....changing" sentence. I decided that it does not logically follow.

M.R.

John W. Loftus said...

Well David, you are correct that I see no reason why God couldn't have created us in a blissful existence in heaven to begin with. But when I concede for the purpose of argument the existence of a fleshly world with fleshly creatures, I don't expect a bliss at all. I just expect better from God.

steve said...

I'd really like to join in this discussion, but I've afraid I can't debate animal suffering on an empty stomach. Give me a chance to munch some fried chicken or a juicy steak before I'm ready to evaluate the respective merits of the opposing positions.

steve said...

David B. Ellis said...

"It cannot plausibly be said that there could not be changes which would not have any significant outweighing negative consequences---starting with simple things like simple bits of information God could have provided which would have drastically reduced suffering."

Fine. We're waiting for you to showcase a detailed working model of just what such a world would look like. When can we expect you to present the first installment?

steve said...

David Wood said...

"Most philosophers hold that a best possible world is an incoherent concept. If Rowe maintains that God must create a best possible world, he's certainly out of step with other thinkers in this area."

To pick up on David's point—aside from Adams, the late Peter Geach is another critic of the Leibnizian assumption.

steve said...
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steve said...

David B. Ellis said...

"Can you tell me anything that might result from that would even be bad....much less worse than a world of animal eat animal predation."

Ellis is apparently assuming that predation is evil. What is his secular argument for this value judgment?

steve said...

BTW, I don't think David Wood is making sweeping claims about what God can or cannot do. Just the opposite—I think he's demanding hard evidence to back up these breezy claims about how to improve the world we have.

It's one thing to *say* that you could improve the world, quite another thing to *show* it. Why is the onus on David Wood to disprove a claim in the absence of any supporting evidence for the claim?

steve said...

steve said...
David B. Ellis said...

"Excuse me, but we're talking about an omnipotent being here. He could create nutritional matter within the stomachs of every living being as needed. Its amazing how all of you want to keep putting a straightjacket on your God vastly limiting his powers(only, of course, when discussing the POE)."

That's very creative suggestion. Are you equally impressed by the theory of Philip Henry Gosse that God planted instant fossils in the geological record?

And while we're at it, maybe God used angelic helicopters to transport animals to and from the ark. I mean, who is Ellis to put a straightjacket on God?

If you're going to appeal to an unrestricted definition of divine omnipotence to attack Christian theism, then a Christian can appeal to the same expansive definition to defend Christian theism. After all, we are talking about an omnipotent God here, right?

David B. Ellis said...


There is a value used by cosmologists that relates to the amount of matter in the universe. If it exceeds a certain amount, the universe will collapse on itself. Like the other aspects of the universe, the amount of matter present has an effect. If God begins to change the amount of matter in the universe, it has consequences. Again, your solution is not workable with reality.


LOL

You're really grasping at straws here. The amount of matter involved is miniscule. It wouldn't make the universe collapse on itself or have any other discernable cosmological effect. Ask any astronomer (or person with a modicum of scientific literacy for that matter).



Besides, if God starts doing these things, then he will be violating the 1st law of thermodynamics.



No kidding. He can turn water to wine. Walk on water. Raise the dead. Multiply loaves and fishes......but cant violate the 1st law of thermodynamics (despite having originally created the universe FROM NOTHING).


The point is that perhaps he could do these things, but then our reality would be a "looney tunes" reality like David Wood said. Science would be impossible because things would just keep changing.


All science needs to investigate a matter is that something occur in a regular manner. If God put into effect a perpetual miracle of this sort the parameters of its observable effects would be just as susceptible to scientific scrutiny as anything else.

But I see you realized that later:


Strike the "Science would be impossible.....changing" sentence. I decided that it does not logically follow.

David B. Ellis said...


Fine. We're waiting for you to showcase a detailed working model of just what such a world would look like.


We're living in just such a "working model". We now have a knowledge of the place of germs in causing diseases and take measures to deal with it. No one (rational) can claim we were better off during the century upon century when people didnt know enough to take simple steps to prevent infections.

David B. Ellis said...


Ellis is apparently assuming that predation is evil. What is his secular argument for this value judgment?


By bad and evil I mean simply "causes extreme suffering". Its not a moral judgement.....which should be quite obvious since animals aren't moral agents.

But I'm more than capable of arguing my metaethical position just as effectively (at least) as you are. Different discussion ....but if you want to tackle it we can divert to that topic.

I consider Ideal Observer Theory the best metaethical theory yet proposed.

State what theory you subscribe to (whether Divine Command Theory, or whatever else you may prefer) and we can discuss their relative merits.

David Wood said...

Loftus said:

Well David, you are correct that I see no reason why God couldn't have created us in a blissful existence in heaven to begin with. But when I concede for the purpose of argument the existence of a fleshly world with fleshly creatures, I don't expect a bliss at all. I just expect better from God.

John, you should at least have the decency to adhere to your position. Again, I've been arguing with you since October, and you are arguing for quite a bit more than "something better." "Something better" is entirely relative. For instance, imagine a world in which there were five more murders than we have in our own world. Since God did not give us that world, he has given us "something better."

Let's face it. Your position goes something like this:

(1) God shouldn't have created anything.

(2) But if he did create something, it would be a world of pleasure, with no free creatures.

(3) But if he did create free creatures, he should give these creatures a world of pleasure, even if they all rebel.

(1) is not a world of bliss, while (2) and (3) are. This is your position, John. If your position has changed, then say that you've changed your mind. But don't come here acting like you haven't argued these things.

steve said...

David B. Ellis said...

"We're living in just such a 'working model'. We now have a knowledge of the place of germs in causing diseases and take measures to deal with it. No one (rational) can claim we were better off during the century upon century when people didnt know enough to take simple steps to prevent infections."

That's no alternative to a theistic world, for medical advances are part of the world God has made. Medical science is a result of divine providence.

steve said...

David B. Ellis said...

"By bad and evil I mean simply "causes extreme suffering". Its not a moral judgement.....which should be quite obvious since animals aren't moral agents."

If you're not rendering a moral judgment, then you're not proposing a moral improvement in the status quo. What then becomes of your objection to animal suffering? How would that constitute a moral objection to the existence of God? And, if not, how is that an argument from evil?

"I consider Ideal Observer Theory the best metaethical theory yet proposed."

That's unfortunate for you given the way it's come under attack by fellow unbelievers like Jeff Lowder and Austin Cline.

http://atheism.about.com/od/bookreviews/fr/AtheismMorality.htm

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jeff_lowder/martin_review.shtml

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jeff_lowder/martin-reply.shtml

"State what theory you subscribe to (whether Divine Command Theory, or whatever else you may prefer) and we can discuss their relative merits."

Been there, done that.

Stunney said...

Just watched a clip on National Geographic channel which included a bit about a young woman whose leg was bitten off at the hip by a shark.

All she could remember was a hearing a 'pop'. She mentioned nothing about pain, which I found interesting.

Stunney said...

We now have a knowledge of the place of germs in causing diseases and take measures to deal with it. No one (rational) can claim we were better off during the century upon century when people didnt know enough to take simple steps to prevent infections."

If our knowledge enables biological warfare on a mass scale, killing 88% of the human population in the next 150 years, would it be irrational to say that our ignorance of germ science was a preferable state of affairs?

Stunney said...

The amount of matter involved is miniscule. It wouldn't make the universe collapse on itself or have any other discernable cosmological effect.

I recently read The Road to Reality bt Roger Penrose. One thing that caught my attention is Penrose's calculation of, as he puts it, how extraordinarily special the Big Bang was. The conditions of the Big Bang were, he calculates, precise to (now get this!) one part in 10 to the 10th power raised to the 123rd power with respect to something called the 'phase-space volume'. This number is 1 followed by trillions upon trillions of zeros. It's an unimaginably vast number. And this specialness really exercizes Penrose.

At any rate, the initial condition of the universe was really, really, truly, unimaginably, unbelievably precise.

Stunney said...

Medical science is a result of divine providence.

And not just medical science. Science in general presupposes a) the rationality of human thinking, and b) the rational intelligibility of physical reality.

It's not at all clear how either could reasonably be expected on an atheistic worldview.

Indeed, just formulating the POE as an anti-theistic argument presupposes norms of rational thought, which again fits ill with such a worldview.

Rich said...

in fairness to Loftus and Ellis, doesn't God propose a place free from pain and suffering and a place where our exsistance IS eternal. This is what I thought was proposed as heaven or our state of postlife exsistance. I also believe that to have free acting beings that choose right always, which would be necessary for such a desired exsistance, we need to come to an understanding of just exactly what pain, suffering, and consequences of bad choices are to realize why we need to make right choices. Even a world without physical suffering is not without phycological suffering. So we would still,in your world of no one dying, need to make choices that don't inflict physco suffering on others, otherwise it wouldn't really be devoid of suffering.
There also is a church that claims to have a revelation from God about our health. It says to eat lots of fruits and vegetables and meat sparingly, not to consume harmful substances, its quite a bit longer but it did come about long before science realized how harmful smoking and chewing tobacco were, or our food pyramid was developed and seems, to me, to fit quite nicely with science findings about our health.

John W. Loftus said...

David said: (3) But if he did create free creatures, he should give these creatures a world of pleasure, even if they all rebel.

Okay, either 1) you're claiming I said this, or 2) you're claiming this is what my position leads to. Which is it? Both 1 and 2 are wrong.

Remember I'm talking about an omnibenelovent God, and what we should expect from him.

Besides, my life has been trouble-free; no broken bones, always had food and clothes, friends, enough money, and I'm not butt ugly.

But life has been a struggle for me in many ways. I like my life. It has enough struggles to make me strong and enough pleasure to make me happy. Now it's true I think an omnibenelovent God could do better, but why didn't he make life for everyone at least like he purportedly made it for me?

Remember this, I'm always talking about intense suffering. That's my focus, and that's the point of my challenges. Why is there so much intense suffering for so many (other) people around the world?

John W. Loftus said...

One more thing, I'm arguing that God should not let them rebel, so with non-rebellious creatures why shouldn't he have created a blissful existence for them?

David B. Ellis said...


That's no alternative to a theistic world, for medical advances are part of the world God has made. Medical science is a result of divine providence.


The topic ISN'T an alternative to a theistic world (obviously---since the alternative I mention assumes a theistic world). Its whether there are things a benevolent God could have done to reduce extreme suffering that WOULDN'T interfere with any of the higher values or higher goals Wood mentions.

And, remember, we aren't just talking about science---just simple first aid tips. Keep wounds clean. Put alcohol on them prior to applying clean bandages.

We went THOUSANDS OF YEARS without knowing those things. The number of victims of gangrene who could have been saved had a few simple first aid tips been added to the bible is boundless.

Can you tell me this would interfere with a higher purpose? If so, what purpose? What plan? Be specific. If you require a complete working model of any alterations in biology or physics (silly as that is when God can work miracles) it is only fair that you offer a complete working model of how it would interfere with some higher purpose.

David B. Ellis said...


If our knowledge enables biological warfare on a mass scale, killing 88% of the human population in the next 150 years, would it be irrational to say that our ignorance of germ science was a preferable state of affairs?


Setting aside the assumption you are making that we would wipe out most of the species with biological weapons and that, presumably, we'd be better off without science altogether if it's inevitably going to lead to self-destruction---We would not be required to even be given the germ theory to have saved countless lives---just the simple first aid tips mentioned.

Would knowing to clean wounds, apply alchol and replace the bandages with clean ones regularly have sent the ancient world on the course to self-destruction?

David B. Ellis said...


And not just medical science. Science in general presupposes a) the rationality of human thinking, and b) the rational intelligibility of physical reality.

It's not at all clear how either could reasonably be expected on an atheistic worldview.


TAG?

LOL

Now I know youre getting desperate.

Can you give ONE reason to think they would be unexpected if naturalism is true?

David B. Ellis said...


in fairness to Loftus and Ellis, doesn't God propose a place free from pain and suffering and a place where our exsistance IS eternal. This is what I thought was proposed as heaven or our state of postlife exsistance. I also believe that to have free acting beings that choose right always, which would be necessary for such a desired exsistance, we need to come to an understanding of just exactly what pain, suffering, and consequences of bad choices are to realize why we need to make right choices. Even a world without physical suffering is not without phycological suffering.


Rich, remember, the issue we are raising is "why doesn't God do things that would greatly lesssen suffering" NOT "why isn't the world perfect". Even so simple a thing as the first aid tips I mentioned would have vastly reduced suffering.

So, why not?

mrieder said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mrieder said...

David Ellis,

You wrote,


LOL

You're really grasping at straws here. The amount of matter involved is miniscule. It wouldn't make the universe collapse on itself or have any other discernable cosmological effect. Ask any astronomer (or person with a modicum of scientific literacy for that matter).

Your disrespectful demeanor does you no credit. I wonder why you address me in such a scornful manner. Is my value in your eyes so small that it is morally acceptable for you to demean me publicly?

Regarding the content of your response:

You are making the same mistake here that people opposed to evolution make. They say "how could little mutations make such a complex human?"

The answer is that it required a great deal of time for these mutations to amount to anything. So it is with your scenario of creating food in our stomachs. Things would be fine for hundreds, thousands, millions, maybe even billions of years, but over time, the little bits of matter would add up to large bits of matter and change the constant.

Furthermore, you are assuming that earth is the only planet with life in the universe. This is rather narrow-minded as well.

On the surface the solution seems good but once one really thinks about what you are saying, one can see that it is not feasible on a large scale.

Cheers,

M.R.

Rich said...

I realize that D Ellis, I was just pointing out that within christian belief is that of a world, or exsistance free of suffering. So that is a possibility within God's power. Does that make better sense?

"Even so simple a thing as the first aid tips I mentioned would have vastly reduced suffering.

So, why not?"

I'm not so sure that his intent with our world was to vastly reduce suffering. I don't like to see the suffering any more than you do. It bothers me just as bad and I wish there could be less, I'll be frank(well maybe I'll stay Rich).
I just accept that this is the world we are given and it is my responsability to do all I can to lessen other peoples, and my own, suffering. I feel the responsability to help feed the hungry, cloth and shelter the poor, not torment animals, ect. I have said before that a big difference between you and I is that I look forward to a life free of suffering after this one, you look at this as the only life you'll have and naturally don't want to suffer or see others suffer. The POE in this sense isn't really a big problem for me because I look past this life to something better. This life, as it is, is necessay for an exsistance free of suffering to be possible.

David B. Ellis said...

How many billions of years would it take for such effect to be noticeable. Try using your imagination a bit. Even if such effects did eventually mount God could simply cause an equal amount of unnecessary matter to disappear. Or, for that matter, he wouldnt even have to creat NEW matter. He could simply draw upon atoms of matter already existing and combine them into nutritious forms. The actual CREATION of new matter would be unnecessary.

But thanks for your objections, they clearly demonstrate the desperate measures theistic apologists need to take to defend their position.

David B. Ellis said...

the above was in response to MR's comment. I neglected to quote him(or her).

David Wood said...

John,

You said:

Okay, either 1) you're claiming I said this, or 2) you're claiming this is what my position leads to. Which is it? Both 1 and 2 are wrong.

Both 1 and 2 are right, and you know it. If we're going to continue to discuss these things, we at least need to be honest. You're saying that all you've ever demanded is a world that's free of intense evil. I agree that you've argued this, but this definitely isn't all that you've argued. You're starting to remind me of Richard Carrier, who makes an argument, and as soon as people start pointing out what he said, he changes his position and pretends he never said it. (In Richard's case, he argues for some odd interpretation of each word in his original claim, to show that he really meant something else.)

Here's what I see from you, John. Let's say you make seven arguments --A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. As soon as I start pointing out problems with (A), you say, "But I was granting (A) for the sake of argument. I'm really arguing (D)." Then, when I start responding to (D), you bring up (A) again. If I attack (A), (B), and (C), you claim that you were only arguing (G), and that I'm misrepresenting your position by pointing out other arguments. This is awful, John.

So you're not demanding a heavenly existence? To quote you on one occasion:

DW:(3) John objects: "But if God is good, he would still give us a perfect world."

If he could’ve done this as an omnipotent being, then yes he should’ve done do [sic]. I have argued that God could’ve created us with imperishable bodies in a heavenly world in the first place.


So you're arguing for a heavenly existence, but you're not arguing for a heavenly existence. Do you think consistency is important at all?

What I'm seeing here is something I see quite a bit from the atheist camp. It goes something like this: "We will attack and criticize God, and if we have to be illogical, we will be illogical. If we have to pretend that we never said things that we obviously said, we'll do it. We just don't care. All is fair in war against God."

David Wood said...

Ellis,

In my post, I said that we must proceed without being silly. "Looney Toons" is out, but you're still rooting for the Coyote.

difangle said...

"And, remember, we aren't just talking about science---just simple first aid tips. Keep wounds clean. Put alcohol on them prior to applying clean bandages.

We went THOUSANDS OF YEARS without knowing those things. The number of victims of gangrene who could have been saved had a few simple first aid tips been added to the bible is boundless."

"Rich, remember, the issue we are raising is "why doesn't God do things that would greatly lesssen suffering" NOT "why isn't the world perfect". Even so simple a thing as the first aid tips I mentioned would have vastly reduced suffering."

The Scriptures do speak of healing with plants and cleanliness. They bathed a lot during times of sickness, they used wine, oil,honey, and herbs/food for healing wounds and other ailments.
I don't know of any cases in Scriptures where someone died of gangrene. Besides, there are people who still get gangrene today.

David B. Ellis said...


Ellis,

In my post, I said that we must proceed without being silly. "Looney Toons" is out, but you're still rooting for the Coyote.



When dealing with the concept of a being who has the ability to work miracles we are not obligated to limit ourselves only to what could be achieved naturalistically.

But if you want an example which is less "wild" (at least by your standards) then lets take an example of something that appears in christian scripture---miraculous healing.

Imagine God granted the power to heal at will to one person in each thousand. Healing is a type of miracle christians already believe in. Can you give a valid reason why this would interfere with free will, virtue, morality or any other "higher" value than compassion for the suffering of others.

I note you still have yet to give any substantive objection to any previous example either. Labelling them "looney tunes" isn't a subject for rational argumentation.

David B. Ellis said...

I meant substitute rather than subject in the above last sentence.

David Wood said...

Ellis,

I've noticed that you almost never give an argument. You simply ask questions. In this respect, you remind me of Loftus.

Take your most recent claim. You ask why God doesn't grant miraculous healing powers to one person out of every thousand. Remember when I said that you're demanding a miraculous world, and you denied it?

But that's beside the point. There's no argument here. To make it into an argument, we'd have to say something like this:

Premise One: If God does not grant miraculous powers to one out of every thousand persons, then God does not exist.
Premise Two: God does not grant miraculous powers to one out of every thousand persons.
Conclusion: Therefore, God does not exist.

At least that would be an argument. But I think you'd have a bit of difficulty proving your first premise. Until you do, you're just asking questions. And theists can do this too. "Where did the bacterial flagellum come from? Where did life come from? Where did the universe come from?" And so on, and so on.

Point: There's a big difference between questions and arguments.

David B. Ellis said...

We have already heard a formal statement of the POE (more than one actually).

You have responded to it with the claim (not argument) that it would interfere with the achievement of "higher" goals and values for God to do anything which might minimize suffering.

I found this implausible and so have given an example (granting a small percentage of humans the ability to heal miraculously) which seems in no way to interfere with any of the three higher values you mentioned (free will, morality, and virtue).

I responded to a bare claim (NOT an argument) with a question.

Am I to take it that you are unable to answer that question?

If so, no problem, you are left in the usual position of the christian on this issue:

"I don't know what the morally valid reason for God allowing such extensive suffering is but I have faith there is one."

If you have a theodicy which covers the example I gave then I'd be glad to hear it.

But to say I have to respond to a bare claim with a formal argument....well, then you're holding me to a standard you haven't bothered to hold yourself to.

mrieder said...

Hello David Ellis,

If God is omnipotent in the sense that you seem to be positing, then I suppose he can, by diving fiat, declare that suffering is 'good' and that you are 'wrong'.

M.R.

John W. Loftus said...

David, I think you either have a problem understanding me, or you willfully refuse to understand me. A third option is that I haven't been clear in what I'm saying. But I am not moving the goalposts. I am not moving from one topic to the next when shown wrong. And I have definitely ptoposed an argument against the existence of your God from the evidence of intense suffering in this world.

I asked you once on my blog to state my argument, just so I could see you actually understood it, and you failed. I will take the time to find what was actually said, if you deny this. Do you want to try again?

I'm not so concerned about you failing to understand me. I'm concerned that if you don't understand me you will not make a contribution in the philosophy of religion when you write your dissertation, and to be honest I'm rooting for you to do so. The reason I'm rooting for you is because I can say I helped you. But unless you understand my argument you will not make a contribution to the discussion, and I won't be known as the one who helped you.

Even if you do I can't see for a minute how it will change my opinion of the issue.

So please, what exactly is my argument? It is indeed an argument, you know.

Stunney said...

Now I know youre getting desperate.

I'm not desperate. So your claim that you know I am is false.

Can you give ONE reason to think they would be unexpected if naturalism is true?

A reason to think that p isn't a naturalistic entity.

David B. Ellis said...


If God is omnipotent in the sense that you seem to be positing, then I suppose he can, by diving fiat, declare that suffering is 'good' and that you are 'wrong'.



I define omnipotence as the ability to perform any act which is logically possible.

In other words, God could raise a person from the dead, turn water to wine, or cause nutritious food to fall from the sky (all things the bible claims God HAS done). But he couldn't make 2+2=5 or make extreme suffering an intrinsic good (since both involve internally contradictory statements--logical contradictions).

If you're saying God is not omnipotent in this sense and does not have the power to alleviate suffering then the POE does not apply to your version of God and we can both go on our merry way.

Stunney said...

Imagine God granted the power to heal at will to one person in each thousand.

Perhaps God does.

Let's suppose 0.1 percent of the human population always wants to be healthy and always wants to heal rapidly when they get injured or sick. (I'm sure it's more than 0.1 percent, of course.) And suppose that 0.1 percent enjoys generally good health and only ever have very short illnesses and very quickly healing injuries. (And then, while being in good health, they suddenly die. But I presume you didn't have immortality-at-will in mind.)

How do we know this (or something statistically like it) isn't the case already, and willed to be so by God?

David Wood said...

David, I think you either have a problem understanding me, or you willfully refuse to understand me.

I didn't deny that you have an argument based on intense suffering. I simply said that this isn't the only argument you make. You complain that God created anything, and that he created beings with free will, and that he didn't limit our free will, and that he allows intense suffering, etc.

In the course of your series of arguments, you have often said that God should have created only a heavenly world. I pointed this out--i.e. I said that you demand a heavenly world. Then you said that you never claimed any such thing.

So I correctly pointed out that you have indeed demanded a perfect world. Now you're saying again that you haven't argued this. Am I missing something about the quotation I used from your comments?

John, if you want to "help me," as you claim, you would do quite well to stand by your arguments, instead of denying things that you've said. This would save me the time I spend on proving you wrong, which could have been prevented if you hadn't denied something you've repeatedly said.

Rich said...

Also the ability to heal is only half the battle, as far as this miracle goes the afflictd must also believe they can be healed, exercise faith in Gods ability to heal them. Toanswer your question of if this could be the case I don't see why not. I can't see values being interfered with. But that doesn't mean there aren't any.

Stunney said...

But he couldn't make 2+2=5 or make extreme suffering an intrinsic good (since both involve internally contradictory statements--logical contradictions).

What about 'an electron that understands quantum mechanics'?

I'm just wondering if you think there are any necessary truths regarding relations between the physical and the mental.

mrieder said...

David Ellis,

Ok. I agree. With your definition of omnipotence. I also think that a strong point of the POE and an alternative universe is the fact that most religions to propose a "heaven" of some sort. This seems to indicate that a place of bliss is possible for God to create.

I suppose that an answer to that would be that this universe is necessary for that universe to be logically possible. I do not have many specifics to back up the idea, but I have a few, if you are interested.

I also realized that my little "alter the mass of the universe" problem was impossible because our sun will supernova way before any serious change in mass occurs. Looks like you were right!

Have a nice day,

M.R.

David B. Ellis said...


Imagine God granted the power to heal at will to one person in each thousand.

Perhaps God does.

Let's suppose 0.1 percent of the human population always wants to be healthy and always wants to heal rapidly when they get injured or sick. (I'm sure it's more than 0.1 percent, of course.) And suppose that 0.1 percent enjoys generally good health and only ever have very short illnesses and very quickly healing injuries. (And then, while being in good health, they suddenly die. But I presume you didn't have immortality-at-will in mind.)

How do we know this (or something statistically like it) isn't the case already, and willed to be so by God?



You apparently aren't understanding my comment. I was not talking about healing one person in a thousand. I'm talking about one person in a thousand being granted the miraculous ability to heal others with a touch.

David B. Ellis said...


What about 'an electron that understands quantum mechanics'?

I'm just wondering if you think there are any necessary truths regarding relations between the physical and the mental.


The concept of an electron being imbued with a soul would be no logical contradiction.....not that I think its particularly relevent.

David B. Ellis said...


I suppose that an answer to that would be that this universe is necessary for that universe to be logically possible.


Something is logically possible if it does not involve an internal contradiction. There is nothing internally contradictory in the concept that only heaven was created and not earth.

Stunney said...

The concept of an electron being imbued with a soul would be no logical contradiction.....not that I think its particularly relevent.

That's not what I asked. I didn't ask if an electron-plus-a-soul that understands quantum mechanics was something God could make.

And it's highly relevant.

John W. Loftus said...

Okay, then David. Back to what you said earlier, then.

David said: (3) But if he (God)did create free creatures, he should give these creatures a world of pleasure, even if they all rebel.

This is not reflective of my opinion. You know that don't you?

My argument is progressive. Look at the DVD again. I argued for A, but even if not, then at least B, but if not, then surely C, and if not, then D.

To criticize my D position by arguing I am inconsistent about it because of my A position lacks an understanding that I was pointing out. For in my D position I am conceding for the sake of argument the existence of this fleshly world. To then argue that in this fleshly world I want a world of bliss because I had previously argued for this with position A, fails to take into consideration that when I'm arguing for position D, I have already conceded that a world of bliss isn't possible given the fact of fleshly creatures.

In other words, you cannot use my statements about position D to critique my position on A.

Position A, by the way, is that God creates us all as obedient free creatures in a heavenly bliss, and I think that is the best that an omnibenelovent God should do.

steve said...

David B. Ellis said...

"I define omnipotence as the ability to perform any act which is logically possible."

That definition is fine up to a point. However, we're not talking about possibilities, per se, but *possible worlds*. Not isolated possibilities, but a *set* of possibilities which comprise a possible world. Not all possibilities are *compossible."

In addition, to successfully deploy the argument from evil, you must:

mount (a) an argument to the show that God ought to create the best possible world, which would also involve (b) a separate argument to show that there is a best possible world, along with (c) an argument to show that this world is not the best possible world.

David Wood said...

John said:

David said: (3) But if he (God)did create free creatures, he should give these creatures a world of pleasure, even if they all rebel.

This is not reflective of my opinion. You know that don't you?


But you did say once or twice that, because God is omnibenevolent, what he gives should not depend on us, but on his benevolence. Thus, God should give nothing but good (which, according to you, means pleasure).

Other than that, we're in agreement as to what your position is. And I wasn't using one argument to refute another. I was saying that you demand a heavenly world (if any world at all), and you do.

John W. Loftus said...

David, I never equated the term "good" with "bliss" in this fleshly world.

David Wood said...

John Loftus said:

David, I never equated the term "good" with "bliss" in this fleshly world.

Right. You said that God shouldn't have created this fleshly world. Instead, he should have created a world of bliss. So, like it or not, you demanded a world of bliss. That's all I said. And you did say that God's goodness means that he should only give good (which for you involves pleasure) even to criminals. Now quit taking up space in the comments section over this pointless bickering.

It's interesting, however, that you're now backing away from these earlier claims. Perhaps there's hope for you yet! Perhaps you're becoming more reasonable. So let me get this straight. Now you're saying: (1) God could create a world with suffering, as long as the suffering isn't intense; and (2) If creatures rebel, God is under no obligation to give them a pleasurable world.

Man, if you grant these two claims, you've come a long way in just a few months. That's progress!

John W. Loftus said...

It's interesting, however, that you're now backing away from these earlier claims.

I am?

I argued that God should stop criminals dead in their tracks in this fleshly world, remember?

You should be a lawyer.

John W. Loftus said...

And I've always maintained that if I concede the existence of a fleshly world there will be some pain involved (although I may not stated it). I actually was going to say something to that effect in my opening statement but it got squeezed out because of other things I wanted to say more.

Go study law, you're good at twisting the facts. ;-)

David B. Ellis said...


The concept of an electron being imbued with a soul would be no logical contradiction.....not that I think its particularly relevent.

That's not what I asked. I didn't ask if an electron-plus-a-soul that understands quantum mechanics was something God could make.

And it's highly relevant.



You asked if god could make an electron that understand QM. There is nothing logically contradictory in the concept of an electon with consciousness and intelligence (which would be the perequisites for understanding QM).

So, yes, by the definition of omnipotent as being able to do anything logically possible God could do that.

David B. Ellis said...

He could not, however, create an electron that understood QM but didn't have consciousness or intelligence since that understanding without either of those qualities is an internally contradictory concept.

Assuming of course, omnipotent is defined as being able to do anything logically possible. If anyone here finds fault with that definition and uses it in another sense then they are free to propose it for discussion. It is important, though, that the concept on omnipotence be made clear since any discussion of the POE hinges in large part on that idea.

David Wood said...

You should be a lawyer.

Either (1) you're sticking by your earlier claims (in which case they are still part of your position, if not part of a particular argument), or (2) you're not sticking by your earlier claims.

If (1), then it's completely valid to say that these things are part of your position. If (2), then it's completely valid to point out that your position has changed.

So, I might make a good lawyer after all (prosecuting attorney), not because I twist facts, but because I stick to the facts.

Anything you say can and will be used against you on my blog.

Stunney said...

If anyone here finds fault with that definition and uses it in another sense then they are free to propose it for discussion. It is important, though, that the concept on omnipotence be made clear since any discussion of the POE hinges in large part on that idea.

I don't think it's the concept of omnipotence that's the main issue, per se.

It's that we don't have perfect knowledge of what is, and what isn't, logically (or metaphysically) possible when it comes to mental states in relation to physical entities.

Can a piece of glass be in love? My intuition says no, and says, hence God cannot make a lovesick piece of glass.

My intuition also says that it might well be impossible for any physical things to be conscious unless they're endowed with brains like those of humans or animals, and it might well be impossible for such brains to exist unless the laws of nature are as they are in our world.

Electrons can't understand quantum mechanics, and pieces of glass can't be in love because they don't have brains. I think that's plausibly a necessary truth. And if so, it's possibly because it's also a necessary truth that all brainless matter can't, and only living brain matter can, possess mental states. And it's possible that living brain matter cannot exist unless the physical laws of our universe obtain.

If non-brain matter can be conscious, then this is a) something that no-one has ever shown, and b) far from obvious.

Similarly, if living brain matter can exist with different physical laws in place, then this is a) something that no-one has ever shown, and b) far from obvious.

Given that we really don't know what is the case about this modal landscape, appeals to omnipotence by the POE proponent are beside the point.

Stunney said...

I earlier wrote:

And if so, it's possibly because it's also a necessary truth that all brainless matter can't, and only living brain matter can, possess mental states.

That is intended to be read as, 'in the domain of material being'. It's not intended to be read as excluding the possibility of mental states being possessed in a realm of immaterial being.