PHIL 101 The Argument from Cosmological Fine-Tuning

Anonymous
timer Asked: Feb 24th, 2019
account_balance_wallet $15

Question Description

1. Complete the readings:

a. Roger White's "The Argument from Cosmological Fine-Tuning"

b. J. L. Mackie's "Evil and Omnipotence"

2. Answer the reading questions attached



When you are finished with 1-2, upload answers to the reading questions to Canvas before the deadline. (If you would, please upload them in pdf or jpeg format if you are using a Mac.)

The Argument from Cosmological Fine-Tuning A high security combination lock is wired up to nuclear warheads that threaten to destroy the whole world. The bombs will be detonated unless several dials are set to a very precise configuration of values. Miraculously it turns out that the dials are delicately set within the tiny range that deactivates the bombs. Had they differed ever so slightly from their actual positions all life would be gone. Is this just a lucky accident, or might they have been adjusted that way on purpose? The fanciful story is in certain respects analogous to the view presented by many contemporary physical cosmologists. We are told that our universe is “fine-tuned for life”. What is meant is roughly the following. For life to have any chance of evolving the universe must meet certain conditions. It turns out that these conditions are extremely stringent. Had the values of various physical constants differed ever so slightly from their actual values the universe would not have been hospitable to life. It is said that these crucial constants could easily have taken different values. If we were to witness another big bang create a new universe it would almost certainly be a rather boring one. It might collapse within seconds, or contain nothing but hydrogen, or nothing but black holes. There is only the tiniest chance that the crucial particle masses and force strengths would take the precise values required for life to emerge. While there is room for controversy over the details, the picture sketched here is widely endorsed by experts in the field. Our question is what philosophical implications this might have. To say that our universe is “fine-tuned” in this sense is not to imply that there is a FineTuner, an intelligent agent who had a hand in setting the values of the physical constants. It is just to say that these constants happen to fall in the narrow range required for life to exist. However, that our universe meets the stringent conditions for life has been taken as the basis for contemporary version of the Argument from Design. There are many ways that such an argument can be developed in detail. I will consider just one way, which focuses on explanation. Here is an outline of the argument. Fine-Tuning Argument (FTA) 1 1. If a fact E that we observe stands in need of explanation, hypothesis H provides a satisfactory explanation of E and one that is better than any alternative explanation available, then E provides significant evidential support for H. 2. That our universe is hospitable to life stands in need of explanation. 3. That God adjusted the constants in order to allow for life to develop provides a satisfactory explanation for why our universe is life-permitting. 4. There is no comparably satisfying explanation of this fact available. 5. Therefore, that our universe is life-permitting provides significant evidential support for theism. First, a couple of general points about this argument. The conclusion of this argument is not that there is a God, or even that all things considered it is most reasonable to believe that there is. The argument seeks only to establish an evidential connection between certain observed facts and theism. This makes the conclusion somewhat modest while far from trivial. Any assessment of theism will have to consider various considerations for and against. The FTA just focuses on one such consideration. Second, the FTA as presented here concerns the existence of God. Often discussions of cosmic fine-tuning focus on the more modest design hypothesis: that some kind of intelligent agent or agents influenced the values of the constants. (Theism is a specific version of the design hypothesis). It can make sense to frame the issue this way as the attributes of God according to traditional theism go well beyond what is required to explain the fine-tuning facts. Nevertheless, our focus here is on an argument for the existence of God, and insofar as the data support the existence of a designer they will also support the existence of God, even if much more is involved in an assessment of theism. Let’s consider the premises in turn. Premise 1 states a general principle of evidential support, a version of what is called Inference to the Best Explanation. The idea is a familiar one. Among the myriad facts that a detective is faced with some stand out and compel her to ask “Why?” The plausibility of her case hinges on how well her hypothesis can explain these various clues. Similarly, we can’t see electrons the way we do tables and chairs and we weren’t around to observe the origin of species. Why then should we believe in electrons or evolutionary theory? Because they provide the most satisfying explanation of certain striking facts that we do observe. 2 There is a distinction being appealed to here between facts that stand in need of explanation and those that don’t. Some situations rightly compel us to ask why things are like so. We are compelled because we think there surely is some answer. For others an appropriate response may be “that’s just the way things are.” Suppose I spill some soapy water and it splatters in some arbitrary shape on the floor. It need not have landed in the very shape that it did. There are indefinitely many possible puddle shapes that might have been formed. But the fact that it landed in this very pattern does not strike us as in special need of explanation. The water had to land in some way and this is just one of many ways it could have landed. While it is possible that there is more to discover here, nothing about the shape of the puddle compels us to seek further answers. It is a different matter when the soapy water is blown through a wire ring. Now a thin film of liquid forms a perfect sphere. Even without any understanding of chemistry and physics we are compelled to ask why it formed in this way. We have no doubt that there is some deeper explanation for why this occurred than that it just turned out that way. It is scarcely credible to be told, “well, it had to be in some shape and on this occasion it happened to form a perfect sphere.” It needn’t redound to the credit of a hypothesis that it can explain some fact that didn’t strike us as needing explanation in the first place. We find some scrabble letters scattered on the table reading “ANOW AWNVIUUEPOBN VNJSKNVJKEWN AJKFN”. Might some undiscovered law of physics determine that they be arranged thus? More plausibly, might someone have arranged them to form a coded message? Perhaps. But their configuration gives us little reason to believe any such hypothesis as their arrangement doesn’t require much of an explanation in the first place. Finding the letters “OH THAT THIS TOO, TOO SOLID FLESH WOULD MELT, THAW AND RESOLVE ITSELF INTO A DEW” is a different matter. It is incredible to suppose that the pieces happen to be arranged in this manner for no reason. Of course in this case the obvious explanation is that someone arranged them in order to spell a line from Hamlet. To the extent that this gives a satisfying explanation we have reason to suppose that it is true. The last point to note concerning the principle is that the degree of support that a hypothesis enjoys depends on how it compares with alternative explanations. The papers on my desk are not where I left them. Why? They could hardly move around by themselves. Perhaps an intruder was rifling through my stuff. This might well explain it, although it leaves us with the question of how he managed get into a locked room on the 9th floor when 3 there are no signs of forced entry. I notice the window is slightly ajar. A simpler explanation might be that a gust of wind blew the papers out of place. Only insofar as this provides a satisfying explanation is the case for an intruder diminished. I notice further that my financial documents are all left in one pile. The intruder hypothesis may explain this in way that the wind cannot. And this might make it the more plausible hypothesis despite its other difficulties. Does the fact that the universe is suitable for life stand in need of explanation as Premise 2 asserts? It is not easy to say in general how we assess whether something needs explanation. In most cases it is just obvious. We don’t need to apply some theory to see that spherical soap bubbles and meaningful strings of scrabble pieces require explanation. Rightly or wrongly, the cosmic fine-tuning strikes many scientists and philosophers the same way (including many with no sympathy for theism or any design hypothesis). If the fine-tuning does not strike you this way then this version of the FTA may have little appeal for you. While there isn’t space here for a detailed argument that the fine-tuning does call for an explanation, we can make some suggestive points. First, without some further explanation the fine-tuning of our universe is thought to be extremely improbable. If we were to witness a new big bang we should firmly expect it not to produce anything like a universe with stable stars and planets and enough of the right elements for life. But while this is part of what makes something call for an explanation it can’t be the whole story. It is highly unlikely that by tossing a handful of scrabble letters on the table we will see the sequence “ANOW AWNVIUUEPOBN VNJSKNVJKEWN AJKFN” since there are trillions of possible sequences of that length. But this hardly calls for an explanation. Typically those facts that do call for explanation involve some further significant feature that makes them stand out among the alternative possibilities. The spherical soap bubble is a simple geometrical figure; most possible shapes of water are irregular splatters. The line from Hamlet is meaningful; most such sequences are gibberish. Perhaps what makes a universe with life stand out is that it is valuable, morally and aesthetically. Most of the possible outcomes of a big-bang are pretty bleak, just vast lifeless space with a some simple atoms floating about. That against all odds we have the vast panoply of living creatures we find here can seem extraordinary. Before turning to consider possible explanations of fine-tuning let’s briefly consider a common suggestion as to why we shouldn’t find it remarkable in the first place. It is sometimes said that we shouldn’t be surprised that we find the constants to be fine-tuned for 4 life since if they weren’t we wouldn’t be here to observe them. Since we couldn’t observe the constants taking other than life-permitting values, there is nothing puzzling about the fact that we find them to be so. The following story illustrates what is unsatisfying about this response. You are standing before a firing squad with fifty rifles aimed in your direction. To your astonishment as the guns blast each bullet flies closely by you leaving you unharmed. Why did all the bullets miss? Was it just an accident? Surely this cries out for explanation if anything does. It cannot help to be told, “Well if they hadn’t all missed you wouldn’t be alive to see it.” This is true but does nothing to remove the mystery of how the bullets all managed to miss you. Whatever appeal this suggestion has seems to rest on the confusion of thinking that our observations of the fine-tuned constants are somehow inevitable, and hence not in need of any further explanation. It was not inevitable that we would observe the constants to be fine-tuned. What was inevitable was just that if we were to observe the constants at all, we would find them to be fine-tuned for life. But there was a slim chance that we or any one else would be around to observe anything at all. That we are here to observe our good fortune remains as puzzling as ever. If the fine-tuning facts do require explanation, can theism provide a satisfactory explanation, as Premise 3 claims? Let’s begin by considering the positive case before addressing some objections. We explain phenomena by appeal to the actions of rational agents all the time. Why do the scrabble letters spell a line from Hamlet? Why were the dials set to the very combination that disabled the nuclear warheads? Why are the financial documents on my desk sitting in one pile? In each case the answer is that an agent brought matters about on purpose. Many such explanations are utterly compelling, as good as any explanation of anything. Of course in each of the last three cases it is a familiar human agent that we have in mind. While everyone must grant that there are overwhelmingly plausible explanations that appeal to human agency, numerous objections have been raised to explanations invoking divine agency. We will briefly look at just two of these. First, there is thought to be something suspiciously too easy about invoking acts of God to explain some puzzling phenomena. An omnipotent being can bring about anything. So no matter what we find we could in principle just point to it and say “God did that.” This invokes the suspicion that such appeals are in some sense empty. The worry is sometimes expressed in the slogan “Whatever can explain anything explains nothing.” 5 But now of course humans are capable of arranging scrabble letters in any possible sequence, dials in any configuration, and papers in any order. No matter how we found the scrabble letters we could in principle say, “Someone put them like that.” This observation does nothing at all to diminish the force of the explanation when the letters form meaningful sentences. The grain of truth behind the emptiness complaint might be illustrated by the following story. We read that some stranger Jane Smith just won the lottery. “Aha,” I say. “What are the odds of that given the millions that bought tickets? I’ll bet the lottery was rigged in her favor. That would explain why she won out of all those players.” One way to see what is silly about my conspiracy theorizing is note that if Bob Brown, or Suzie Jones had won instead I could just as well have invoked a similar explanation to account for their good fortune. But what goes wrong here is not just that I could propose such an explanation no matter how the lottery turned out. The problem is that such an explanation is no more or less compelling in the case of Jane Smith’s winning than any other. Her having won no more stands in need of explanation than any other possible outcome would. And this can only show that it does not require an explanation at all. For it can hardly be that no matter how the lottery turned out we would have reason to suppose that it was rigged. The crucial point is that there is nothing about Jane Smith that I’m aware of that makes her having won rather than someone else especially striking. Someone had to win and it could just as well have been Smith as anyone else. It would be a different matter if she had won the last three lotteries, or if she had just taken senior position at the lottery commission. The charge of explanatory emptiness may carry some force if the observed features of the universe are no more in need of explanation that any other possible features, and if we were no less inclined to invoke divine design regardless of how the universe was. But the possible outcomes of a big bang do not equally call for an explanation. If instead of a universe suitable for life the big bang had yielded nothing but a bland lifeless cosmic soup it would not strike us as in urgent need of explanation. Here it is significant that the existence of living creatures has value in a way that other possible outcomes do not. It not unlikely that a benevolent, rational being would prefer a universe hospitable to living creatures over say one containing nothing but thinly dispersed hydrogen atoms. Note that for the explanation to be compelling it is not necessary that on the basis of theism one could predict that the universe will be suitable for life, let alone that there will be creatures much like us. Supposing that a human agent is arranging some scrabble letters hardly allows me to predict 6 that they will spell “OH THAT THIS TOO, TOO SOLID FLESH WOULD MELT, THAW AND RESOLVE ITSELF INTO A DEW.” There are billions of possible sentences that an agent might produce. We can’t even be so sure that the letters will form a meaningful string. She might just shuffle them about in meaningless ways that strike her fancy. Nevertheless, arranging the letters in a meaningful way is a plausible purpose that an agent might have. And that is enough to make a far more satisfying explanation than supposing that they fell in this order by accident. Similarly if the creation of life is a plausible purpose that a rational agent might have, then theism may provide a satisfactory explanation of the fine-tuning of the constants, one that is far more satisfying than supposing that it just happened by accident. A second objection notes that when we invoke human agency to explain things we understand quite well how such a being functions. Humans have brains, a nervous system, muscles, and limbs. We understand how such a being can manipulate scrabble pieces or fiddle with dials. We haven’t the faintest grip on how a being like God can “set” the physical constants to within some range of values. To invoke God, the objection goes, is just to introduce a mystery and not to make any explanatory progress. We can first note that explanatory force of our appeal to human agents does not crucially depend on our understanding of human physiology. Long before we had the faintest clue as to how our brains and bodies work we could understand that human agents were responsible for various phenomena we observed. A short conversation with someone is enough to make it abundantly clear that there is a thinking agent behind the sounds coming out of her mouth. This is just by far the most satisfying explanation of my observations even if I have no idea whether brains even exist let alone how they work or how mental activity is related to a physical body, or anything of the sort. To further evaluate the force of the current objection it is useful to consider a hypothetical case. David Hume imagined there being a voice booming from the sky for everyone in the world to hear. We can elaborate the story and suppose that we also see the clouds shuffle about to create messages in all the languages on earth. The voice provides us with all sorts of extraordinary information which we can verify to be correct. It gives us a detailed explanation of a cure for cancer. It makes amazingly precise predictions about the future events such as the exact time and location of every raindrop over the next week. We are able to converse with the mystery voice and at it appears to reveal knowledge and intelligence orders of magnitude beyond what any human 7 could have. Now I hardly have a better grasp of how an agent might do all of this than I do of how an agent might “fine-tune” the constants to permit life. But this would do little to blunt my conviction that somehow, some kind of agent vastly more powerful and intelligent than any human is behind the voice from the sky. I can perfectly well understand why we hear voices in the sky (some kind of extraordinary agent is speaking) without much understanding of how this is achieved. I can similarly understand why the universe is lifepermitting (God, or some extraordinary agent made it so) without much of a grasp of how this could be done. Even if theism can provide a satisfying explanation for the fine-tuning facts, the force of the argument will be diminished to the extent that there are plausible rivals. The argument is perhaps most vulnerable at premise 4 which claims that there is no comparably satisfying explanation available. What might an alternative explanation look like? The most interesting proposal is that our universe is just one of very many universes, one part of a large ‘multiverse’. The constants on which life depends may vary randomly among the universes. Given a large enough number of universes, it is to be expected that at least one such universe will meet the conditions for life. To illustrate, suppose we take a handful of scrabble pieces and drop them on the table. The letters form a string of gibberish. We try it again. Another (different) string of gibberish. We try it again. We repeat the process trillions of trillions of times until eventually we find a line from Hamlet. Amazing? Hardly. This sort of thing is bound to happen sometime if you repeat the process enough times. Similarly, the supposition that there have been many random “attempts” at a fine-tuned universe would appear to give a satisfying account of what would otherwise seem extraordinary. Should we suppose that there are multiple universes? Some argue that the observed finetuning of the universe itself provides evidence for the existence of a multiverse, just as others see it as evidence of divine design. There is reason to be dubious of this inference. Suppose we tossed the scrabble letters and they spelled out a line from Hamlet on the first try. Does our observation give us reason to suppose that these pieces have been tossed on the table many times before by others, or that there are millions of people out there similarly tossing scrabble letters? Surely not. Even if such a multi-toss hypothesis were plausible to begin with, the surprising outcome that we have observed does nothing to support the hypothesis further. The crucial point here is that while the occurrence of multiple tosses 8 makes it likely that the scrabble letters will land in a meaningful sequence on some occasion, it is no more likely that we will find such a sequence on the one toss that we observe. Similarly with the universes. That there are other universes out there makes it no more likely that we will find the one universe that we observed to be fine-tuned. Putting the matter in terms of explanation, the answer to the question “Why is the universe that we observe finetuned?” is not “Because there are lots of other universes.” Even if they are out there, these universes have no bearing on what goes on in the universe that we see. So arguably our observations of a fine-tuned universe provide no evidence for the existence of other universes. There could, however, be independent theoretical grounds to believe in a multiverse. Cosmologists are divided on whether there are such grounds. And even proponents of the multiverse admit that the matter is highly speculative. Still, it is worth considering how the FTA fares in the event that we do have reason to believe that in a multiverse, independently of the fine-tuning data. In this case it does seem that the FTA is undermined. However, I would suggest that it is not Premise 4 that is threatened in this case but Premise 2. The existence of a multiverse does not explain but rather removes the need to explain the fine-tuning of our universe. Once we suppose there are many universes it is to be expected that at least one of these will be fine-tuned just by chance. The question of why it is that this one, the one that we inhabit is fine-tuned loses its urgency. Like Jane Smith’s winning the lottery, our universe could just as easily be a lucky one as any other, and there is special nothing about our particular universe that makes it stand out in special need of explanation. I have hardly scratched the surface of the possible defenses, rebuttals, and replies concerning the premises of this argument, not to mention the other ways we might frame the whole issue. But I hope to have conveyed some of the intuitive force of the puzzle about fine-tuning as an argument for theism. The argument, I would suggest, carries considerable force, although the verdict may ultimately depend on the credibility of the multiverse hypothesis. 9
Evil and Omnipotence J. L. Mackie Mind, New Series, Vol. 64, No. 254. (Apr., 1955), pp. 200-212. Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0026-4423%28195504%292%3A64%3A254%3C200%3AEAO%3E2.0.CO%3B2-2 Mind is currently published by Oxford University Press. Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/about/terms.html. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/journals/oup.html. Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. The JSTOR Archive is a trusted digital repository providing for long-term preservation and access to leading academic journals and scholarly literature from around the world. The Archive is supported by libraries, scholarly societies, publishers, and foundations. It is an initiative of JSTOR, a not-for-profit organization with a mission to help the scholarly community take advantage of advances in technology. For more information regarding JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. http://www.jstor.org Tue Jan 1 22:29:37 2008 1V.-EVIL AND OMNIPOTENCE THE traditional arguments for the existence of God have been fairly thoroughly criticised by philosophers. But the theologian can, if he wishes, accept this criticism. He can admit that no rational proof of God's existence is possible. And he can still retain all that is essential to his position, by holding that God's existence is known in some other, non-rational way. I think, however, that a more telling criticism can be made by way of the traditional problem of evil. Here it can be shown, not that religious beliefs lack rational support, but that they are positively irrational, that the several parts of the essential theological doctrine are inconsistent with one another, so that the theologian can maintain his position as a whole only by a much more extreme rejection of reason than in the former case. He must now be prepared to believe, not merely what cannot be proved, but what can be disproved from other beliefs that he also holds. The problem of evil, in the sense in which I shall be using the phrase, is a problem only for someone who believes that there is a God who is both omnipotent and wholly good. And it is a logical problem, the problem of clarifying and reconciling a number of beliefs : it is not a scientific problem that might be solved by further observations, or a practical problem that might be solved by a decision or an action. These points are obvious ; I mention them only because they are sometimes ignored by theologians, who sometimes parry a statement of the problem with such remarks as "Well, can you solve the problem yourself ? " or " This is a mystery which may be revealed to us later " or " Evil is something to be faced and overcome, not to be merely discussed ". In its simplest form the problem is this : God is omnipotent ; God is wholly good ; and yet evil exists. There seems to be some contradiction between these three propositions, so that if any two of them were true the third would be false. But at the same time all three are essential parts of most theological positions : the theologian, it seems, at once must adhere and cannot consistently adhere to all three. (The problem does not arise only for theists, but I shall discuss it in the form in which it presents itself for ordinary theism.) However, the contradiction does not arise immediately ; to show it we need some additional premises, or perhaps some 200 EVIL AND OMNIPOTENCE 201 quasi-logical rules connecting the terms ' good ', ' evil ', and ' omnipotent '. These additional principles are that good is opposed to evil, in such a way that a good thing always eliminates evil as far as it can, and that there are no limits to what an omnipotent thing can do. From these it follows that a good omnipotent thing eliminates evil completely, and then the propositions that a good omnipotent thing exists, and that evil exists, are incompatible. A. Adequate Solutions Now once the problem is fully stated it is clear that it can be solved, in the sense that the problem will not arise if one gives up at least one of the propositions that constitute it. If you are prepared to say that God is not wholly good, or not quite omnipotent, or that evil does not exist, or that good is not opposed to the kind of evil that exists, or that there are limits to what an omnipotent thing can do, then the problem of evil will not arise for you. There are, then, quite a number of adequate solutions of the problem of evil, and some of these have been adopted, or almost adopted, by various thinkers. For example, a few have been prepared to deny God's omnipotence, and rather more have been prepared to keep the term 'omnipotence' but severely to restrict its meaning, recording quite a number of things that an omnipotent being cannot do. Some have said that evil is an illusion, perhaps because they held that the whole world of temporal, changing things is an illusion, and that what we call evil belongs only to this world, or perhaps because they held that although temporal things are much as we see them, those that we call evil are not really evil. Some have said that what we call evil is merely the privation of good, that evil in a positive sense, evil that would really be opposed to good, does not exist. Many have agreed with Pope that disorder is harmony not understood, and that partial evil is universal good. Whether any of these views is true is, of course, another question. But each of them gives an adequate solution of the problem of evil in the sense that if you accept it this problem does not arise for you, though you may, of course, have other problems to face. But often enough these adequate solutions are only almost adopted. The thinkers who restrict God's power, but keep the term ' omnipotence ', may reasonably be suspected of thinking, in other contexts, that his power is really unlimited. Those 202 J. L. MACKIE : who say that evil is an illusion may also be thinking, inconsistently, that this illusion is itself an evil. Those who say that " evil " is merely privation of good may also be thinking, inconsistently, that privation of good is an evil. (The fallacy here is akin to some forms of the "naturalistic fallacy " in ethics, where some think, for example, that " good " is just what contributes to evolutionarypprogress, and that evolutionary progress is itself good.) If Pope meant what he said in the first line of his couplet, that " disorder " is only harmony not understood, the " partial evil " of the second line must, for consistency, mean " that which, taken in isolation, falsely appears to be evil ", but it would more naturally mean ('that which, in isolatioa, really is evil ". The second line, in fact, hesitates between two views, that " partial evil " isn't really evil, since only the universal quality is real, and that " partial evil " is really an evil, but only a little one. In addition, therefore, to adequate solutions, we must recognise unsatisfactory inconsistent solutions, in which there is only a half-hearted 'or temporary rejection of one of the propositions which together constitute the problem. In these, one of the constituent propositions is explicitly rejected, but it is covertly re-asserted or assumed elsewhere in the system. B. Fallacious Solutions Besides these half-hearted solutions, which explicitly reject but implicitly assert one of the constituent propositions, there are definitely fallacious solutions which explicitly maintain all the constituent propositions, but implicitly reject at least one of them in the course of the argument that explains away the problem of evil. There are, in fact, many so-called solutions which purport to remove the contradiction without abandoning any of its constituent propositions. These must be fallacious, as we can see from the very statement of the problem, but it is not so easy to see in each case precisely where the fallacy lies. I suggest that in all cases the fallacy has the general form suggested above : in order to solve the problem one (or perhaps more) of its constituent propositions is given up, but in such a way that it appears to have been retained, and can therefore be asserted without qualification jn other contexts. Sometimes there is a further complication : the supposed solution moves to and fro between, say, two of the constituent propositions, a t one point asserting the first of these but covertly abandoning the second, EVIL AND OMNIPOTENCE 203 at another point asserting the second but covertly abandoning the &st. These fallacious solutions often turn upon some equivocation with the words ' good ' and ' evil ', or upon some vagueness about the way in which good and evil are opposed to one another, or about how much is meant by ' omnipotence '. I propose to examine some of these so-called solutions, and to exhibit their fallacies in detail. Incidentally, I shall .also be considering whether an adequate solution could be reached by a minor modification of one or more of the constituent propositions, which would, however, still satisfy all the essential requirements of ordinary theism. 1. " Good cannot exist without evil " or '' Evil is necessary as a counterpart to good." It is sometimes suggested that evil is necessary as a counterpart to good, that if there were no evil there could be no good either, and that this solves the problem of evil. It is true that it points to an answer to the question "Why should there be evil ? " But it does so only by qualifying some of the propositions that constitute the problem. First, it sets a limit to what God can do, saying that God cannot create good without simultaneously creating evil, and this means either that God is not omnipotent or that there are some limits to what an omnipotent thing can do. It may be replied that these limits are always presupposed, that omnipotence has never meant the power to do what is logically impossible, and on the present view the existence of good without evil would be a logical impossibility. This interpretation of omnipotence may, indeed, be accepted as a modiiication of our original account which does not reject anything that is essential to theism, and I shall in general assume it in the subsequent discussion. It is, perhaps, the most common theistic view, but I think that some theists a t least have maintained that God. can do what is logically impossible. Many theists, at any rate, have held that logic itself is created or laid down by God, that logic is the way in which God arbitrarily chooses to think. (This is, of course, parallel to the etbical view that morally right actions are those which God arbitrarily chooses to command, and the two views encounter similar difficulties.) And this account of logic is clearly inconsistent with the view that God is bound by logical necessities-unless it is possible for an omnipotent being to bind himself, an issue which we shall consider later, when we come to the Paradox of Omnipotence. This solution of the problem 204 J. L. MACKIE : of evil cannot, therefore, be consistently adopted along with the view that logic is itself created by God. But, secondly, this solution denies that evil is opposed to good in our original sense. If good and evil are counterparts, a good thing will not " eliminate evil as far as it can ". Indeed, this view suggests that good and evil are not strictly qualities of things at all. Perhaps the suggestion is that good and evil are related in much the same way as great and small. Certainly, when the term ' great ' is used relatively as a condensation of ' greater than so-and-so ', and ' small ' is used correspondingly, greatness and smallness are counterparts and cannot exist without each other. But in this sense greatness is not a quality, not an intrinsic feature of anything ; and it would be absurd to think of a movement in favour of greatness and against smallness in this sense. Such a movement would be selfdefeating, since relative greatness can.be promoted only by a simultaneous promotion of relative smallness. I feel sure that no theists would be content to regard God's goodness as analogous to this-as if what he supports were not the good but the better, and as if he had the paradoxical aim that all things should be better than other things. This point is obscured by the fact that ' great ' and ' small ' seem to have an absolute as well as a relative sense. I cannot discuss here whether there is absolute magnitude or not, but if there is, there could be an absolute sense for ' great ', it could mean of at least a certain size, and it would make sense to speak of all things getting bigger, of a universe that was expanding all over, and therefore it would make sense to speak of promoting greatness. But in this sense great and small are not logically necessary counterparts : either quality could exist without the other. There would be no logical impossibility in everything's being small or in everything's being great. Neither in the absolute nor in the relative sense, then, of ' great ' and ' small ' do these terms provide an analogy of the sort that would be needed to support this solution of the problem of evil. In neither case are greatness and smallness both necessary counterparts and mutually opposed forces or possible objects for support and attack. It may be replied that good and evil are necessary counterparts in the same way as any quality and its logical opposite : redness can occur, it is suggested, only if non-redness also occurs. But unless evil is merely the privation of good, they are not logical opposites, and some further argument would be needed to show that they are counterparts in the same way as genuine EVIL AND OMNIPOTENCE 205 logical opposites. Let us assume that this could be given. There is still doubt of the correctness of the metaphysical principle that a quality must have a real opposite : I suggest that it is not really impossible that everything should be, say, red, that the truth is merely that if everything were red we should not notice redness, and so we should have no word ' red ' ; we observe and give names,to qualities only if they have real opposites. If so, the principle that a term must have an opposite would belong only to our language or to our thought, and would not be an ontological principle, and, correspondingly, the rule that good cannot exist without evil would not state a logical necessity of a sort that God would just have to put up with. God might have made everything good, though we should not have noticed it if he had. But, finally, even if we concede that this i s an ontological principle, it will provide a solution for the problem of evil only if one is prepared to say, " Evil exists, but only just enough evil to serve as the counterpart of good ". I doubt whether any theist will accept this. After all, the ontological requirement that non-redness should occur would be satisfied even if all the universe, except for a minute speck, were red, and, if there were a corresponding requirement for evil as a counterpart to good, a minute dose of evil would presumably do. But theists are not usually willing to say, in all contexts, that all the evil that occurs is a minute and necessary dose. 2. " Evil is necessary as a means to good." It is sometimes suggested that evil is necessary for good not as a counterpart but as a means. In its simple form this has little plausibility as a solution of the problem of evil, since it obviously implies a severe restriction of God's power. It would be a causal law that you cannot have a certain end without a certain means, so that if God has to introduce evil as a means to good, he must be subject to at least some causal laws. This certainly conflicts with what a theist normally means by omnipctence, This view of God as limited by causal laws also conflicts with the view that causal laws are themselves made by God, which is more widely held than the corresponding view about the laws of logic. This conflict would, indeed, be resolved if it were possible for an omnipotent being to bind himself, and this possibility has still .to be considered. Unless a favourable answer can be given to this question, the suggestion that evil is necessary as a means to good solves the problem of evil only by denying one of its constituent propositions, .either that God is omnipotent or that ' omnipotent ' means what it says. 3. " The universe is better with some evil in it than it could be if there were no evil." Much more important is a solution which a t first seems to be a mere variant of the previous one, that evil may contribute to the goodness of a whole in which it is found, so that the universe as a whole is better as it is, with some evil in it, than it would be if th'ere were no evil. This solution mav be developed in either of two ways. It may be supported by an aesthetic analogy, by the fact that contrasts heighten beauty, that in a musical work, for example, there may occur discords which somehow add to the beauty of the work as a whole. Alternatively, it may be worked out in connexion with the notion of progress, that the best possible organisation of the universe will not be static, but progressive, that the gradual overcoming of evil by good is really a h e r thing than would be the eternal unchallenged supremacy of good. In either case, this solution usually starts from the assumption that the evil whose existence gives rise to the problem of evil is primarily what is called physycal evil, that is i o say, pain. I n Hume's rather half-hearted presentation of the problem of evil, the evils that he stresses are pain and disease. and those who reply to him argue that the existence of pain and disease makes possible the existence of sympathy, benevolence, heroism, and the gradually successful struggle of doctors and reformers to overcome these evils. In fact, theists often seize the opportunity to accuse those who stress the problem of evil of taking a low, materialistic view of good and evil, equating these with pleasure and pain, and of ignoring the more spiritual goods which can arise in the struggle against evils. But let us see exactly what is being done here. Let us call pain and misery ' .first order evil ' or ' evil (1) '. What contrasts with this, namely, pleasure and happiness, will be called ' first order good ' or ' good (1)'. Distinct from this is ' second order good ' or 'good (2) ' which somehow emerges in a complex situation in which evil (1) is a necessary component-logically, not merely causally, necessary. (Exactly how it emerges does not matter : in the crudest version of this solution good (2) is simply the heightening of happiness by the contrast with misery, in other versions it includes sympathy with suffering, heroism in facing danger, and the gradual decrease of first order evil and increase of first order good.) It is also being assumed thnt I EVIL AND OMNIPOTENCE 207 second order good is more important than first order good or evil, in particular that it more than outweighs the first order evil it involves. Now this is a particularly subtle attempt to solve the problem of evil. It defends God's goodness and omnipotence on the ground that (on a sufficiently long view) this is the best of all logically possible worlds, because it includes the important second order goods, and yet it admits that real evils, namely first order evils, exist. But does it still hold that good and evil are opposed ? Not, clearly, in the sense that we set out originally : good does not tend to eliminate evil in general. Instead, we have a modified, a more complex pattern. First order good (e.g. happiness) contrasts with first order evil (e.g. misery) : these two are opposed in a fairly mechanical way ; some second order goods (e.g. benevolence) try to maximise first order good and rninimise first order evil ; but God's goodness is not this, it is rather the will to maximise second order good. We might, therefore, call God's goodness an example of a third order goodness, or good (3). While this account is different from our original one, it might well be held to be an improvement on it, to give a more accurate description of the way in which good is opposed to evil, and to be consistent with the essential theist position. There might, however, be several objections to this solution. First, some might argue that such qualities as benevolenceand a fortiori the third order goodness which promotes benevolence-have a merely derivative value, that they are not higher sorts of good, but merely means to good (I), that is, to happiness, so that it would be absurd for God to keep misery in existence in order to make possible the virtues of benevolence, heroism, etc. The theist who adopts the present solution must, of course, deny this, but he can do so with some plausibility, so I should not press this objection. Secondly, it follows from this solution that God is not in our sense benevolent or sympathetic : he is not concerned to minimise evil (I), but only to promote good (2) ; and this might be a disturbing conclusion for some theists. But, thirdly, the fatal objection is this. Our analysis shows clearly the possibility of the existence of a second order evil, an evil (2) contrasting with good (2) as evil (1) contrasts with good (1). This would include malevolence, cruelty, callousness, cowardice, and states in which good (1) is decreasing and evil (1) increasing. And just as good (2) is held to be the important kind of good, the kind that God is concerned to promote, so evil (2) will, by analogy, be the important kind of evil, the kind 208 J. L. MACKIE : which God, if he were wholly good and omnipotent, would eliminate. And yet evil (2) plainly exists, and indeed most theists (in other contexts) stress its existence more than that of evil (1). We should, therefore, state the problem of evil in terms of second order evil, and against this form of the problem the present solution is useless. An attempt might be madg to use this solution again, at a higher level, to explain the occurrence of evil (2) : indeed the next main solution that we shall examine does just this, with the help of some new notions. X7ithout any fresh notions, such a solution would have little plausibility : for example, we could hardly say that the really important good was a good (3), such as the increase of benevolence in proportion to cruelty, which logically required for its occurrence the occurrence of some second order evil. But even if evil (2) could be explained in this way, it is fairly clear that there would be third order evils contrasting with this third order good : and we should be well on the way to an infinite regress, where the solution of a problem of evil, stated in terms of evil (n), indicated the existence of an evil (n l),and a further problem to be solved. + 4. " Evil is due to human freewill." Perhaps the most important proposed solution of the problem of evil is that evil is not to be ascribed to God at all, but to the independent actions of human beings, supposed to have been endowed by God with freedom of the will. This solution may be combined with the preceding one : first order evil (e.9. pain) may be justified as a logically necessary component in second order good (e.g. sympathy) while second order evil (e.9. cruelty) is not justi$ed, but is so ascribed to human beings that God cannot be held responsible for it. This combination evades my third criticism of the preceding solution. The freewill solution also involves the preceding solution a t a higher level. To explain why a wholly good God gave men freewill although it would lead to some important evils, it must, be argued that it is better on the whole that men should act freely, and sometimes err, than that they should be innocent automata, acting rightly in a wholly determined way. Freedom, that is to say, is now treated as a third order good, and as being more valuable than second order goods (such as sympathy and heroism) would be if they were deterministically produced, and it is being assumed that second order evils, such as cruelty, are logically necessary accompaniments of freedom, just as pain is a logically necessary pre-condition of sympathy. EVIL AND OMNIPOTENCE 209 I think that this solution is unsatisfactory primarily because of the incoherence of the notion of freedom of the will : but I cannot discuss this topic adequately here, although some of my criticisms will touch upon it. First I should query the assumption that second order evils are logically necessary accompaniments of freedom. I should ask this : if God has made men such that in their free choices they sometimes prefer what is good and sometimes what is evil, why could he not have made men such that they always freely choose the good ? If there is no logical impossibility in a man's freely choosing the good on one, or on several, occasions, there cannot be a logical impossibility in his freely choosing the good on every occasion. God was not, then, faced with a choice between making innocent automata and making beings who, in acting freely, would sometimes go wrong : there was open to him the obviously better possibility of malcing beings who would act freely but always go right. Clearly, his failure to avail himself of this possibility is inconsistent with his being both omnipotent and wholly good. If it is replied that this objection is absurd, that the making of some wrong choices is logically necessary for freedom, it would seem that ' freedom ' must here mean complete randomness or indeterminacy, including randomness with regard to the alternatives good and evil, in other words that men's choices and consequent actions can be "free " only if they are not determined by their characters. Only on this assumption can God escape the responsibility for men's actions ; for if he made them as they are, but did not determine their wrong choices, this can only be because the wrong choices are not determined by men as they are. But then if freedom is randomness, how can it be a characteristic of will ? And, still more, how can it be the most important good '1 What value or merit would there be in free choices if these were random actions which were not determined by the nature of the agent ? I conclude that to make this solution plausible two different senses of 'freedom' must be confused, one sense which will justify the view that freedom is a third order good, more valuable than other goods would be without it, and another sense, sheer randomness, to prevent us from ascribing to God a decision to make men such that they sometimes go wrong when he might have made them such that they would always freely go right. This criticism is sufficient to dispose of this solution. But besides this there is a fundamental difficulty in the notion of an omnipotent God creating men with free will, for if men's wills 14 210 J. L. MACKIE : are really free this must mean that even .God cannot control them, that is, that God is no longer omnipotent. It may be objected that God's gift of freedom to men does not mean that he cannot control their wills, but that he always refrains from controlling their wills. But why, we may ask, should God refrain from controlling evil wills ? Whv should he not leave men free to will righ;ly, but interven; when he sees them beginning to will wrongly ? ' If God could do this, but does not, and if he is wholly good, the only explanation could be that even a wrong free act of will is not really evil, that its freedom is a value which outweighs its wrongness, so that there would be a loss of value if God took away the wrongness and the freedom together. But this is utterly opposed to what theists say about sin in other contexts. The present solution of the problem of evil, then, can be maintained only in the form that God has made men so free that he cannot control their wills. This leads us to what I call the Paradox of Omnipotence : can an omnipotent being make things which he cannit subsequently control ? Or, what is practically equivalent to this, can an omni~otentbeing" make rules which then bind himself ? (These are practically equivalent because any such rules could be regarded as setting certain things beyond his control, and vice versa.) The second of these formulations is relevant to the suggestions that we have already met, that an omnipotent God creates the rules of logic or causal laws, and is then bound by them. It is clear that this is a paradox : the questions cannot 'be answered satisfactorily either in the affirmative or in the negative. If we answer "Yes ", it follows that if God actually makes things which he cannot control, or makes rules which bind himself. he is not omni~otentonce he has made them : there are then things which ce cannot do. But if we answer " No ", we are immediately asserting that there are things which he cannot do, that is to say that he is already not omnipotent. It Lannot be replied that the question which sets this paradox is not a proper question. It would make perfectly good sense to say that a human mechanic has made a machine which he cannot control: if there is any difficulty about the question it lies in the notion of omnipotence itself. This, incidentally, shows that although we have approached this paradox from thexfree will theory, it is equally a problem for a theological determinist. No one thinks that machines have free will, yet they may well be beyond the control of their EVIL AND OMNIPOTENCE 211 makers. The determinist might reply that anyone who makes anything determines its ways of acting, and so determines its subsequent behaviour : even the human mechanic does this by his choice of materials and structure for his machine, though he does not know all about either of these : the mechanic thus determines, though he may not foresee, his machine's actions. And since God is omniscient, and since his creation of things is total, he both determines and foresees the ways in which his creatures will act. We may grant this, but it is beside the point. The question is not whether God originally determined the future actions of his creatures, but whether he can subsequently control their actions, or whether he was able in his original creation to put things beyond his subsequent control. Even on determinist principles the answers " Yes " and " No " are equally irreconcilable with God's omnipotence. Before suggesting a solution of this paradox, I would point out that there is a parallel Paradox of Sovereignty. Can a legal sovereign make a law restricting its own future legislative power ? For example, could the British parliament make a law forbidding any future parliament to socialise banking, and also forbidding the future repeal of this law itself? Or could the British parliament, which was legally sovereign in Australia in, say, 1899, pass a valid law, or series of laws, which made it no longer sovereign in 1933 ? Again, neither the affirmative nor the negative answer is really satisfactory. If we were to answer " Yes ", we should be admitting the validity of a law which, if it were actually made, would mean that parliament was no longer sovereign. If we were to answer "No ", we should be admitting that there is a law, not logically absurd, which parliament cannot validly make, that is, that parliament is not now a legal sovereign. This paradox can be solved in the following way. We should distinguish between first order laws, that is laws governing the actions of individuals and bodies other than the legislature, and second order laws, that is laws about laws, laws governing the actions of the legislature itself. Correspondingly, we should distinguish two orders of sovereignty, first order sovereignty (sovereignty (I)) which is unlimited authority to make first order laws, and second order sovereignty (sovereignty (2)) which is unlimited authority to make second order laws. If we say that parliament is sovereign we might mean that any parliament a t any time has sovereignty (I), or me might mean that garliament has both sovereignty (1) and sovereignty (2) at present, but we cannot without contradiction mean both that the present parliament has sovereignty (2) and 212 J. L. MACKIE : EVIL AND OMNIPOTENCE that every parliament at every time has sovereignty (I), for if the present parliament has sovereignty (2) it may use it to take away the sovereignty (1) of later parliaments. What the paradox shows is that we cannot ascribe t,o any continuing institution legal sovereignty in an inclusive sense. The analogy between omnipotence and sovereignty shows that the paradox of omnipotence can be solved in a similar way. We must distinguish between first order omnipotence (omnipotence (I)), that is unlimited power to act, and second order omnipotence (omnipotence (2)), that is unlimited power to determine what powers to act things shall have. Then we could consistently say that God all the time has omnipotence (I), but if so no beings at any time have powers to act independently of God. Or we could sav that God a t one time had omniuotence (2), and used it to aslign independent powers to act to certain things, so that God thereafter did not have omnipotence (I). But what the paradox shows is that we cannot consistelltly ascribe to any continuing being omnipotence in an inclusive sense. An alternative solution of this paradox would be simply to deny that God is a continuing being, that any times can be assigned to his actions a t all. But on this assumption (which also has difficulties of its own) no meaning can be given to the assertion that God made men with wills so free that he could not control them. The paradox of omnipotence can be avoided by putting God outside time, but the freewill solution of the problem of evil cannot be saved in this way, and equally it remains impossible to hold that an omnipotent God binds himself by causal or logical laws. Conclusion Of the proposed solutions of the problem of evil which we have examined, none has stood up to criticism. There may be other solutions which require examination, but this study strongly suggests that there is no valid solution of the problem which does not modify at least one of the constituent propositions in a way which would seriously affect the essential core of the theistic position. Quite apart from the problem of evil, the paradox of omnipotence has shown t,hat God's omnipotence must in any case be restricted in one way or another, that unqualified omnipotence cannot be ascribed to any being that continues through time. And if God and his actions are not in time, can omnipotence, or power of any sort, be meaningfully ascribed to him ? University of Xydns y
Keith Hess PHIL 101 College of Southern Nevada Reading Questions: Roger White, “The Argument from Cosmological Fine-Tuning,” Mackie, “Evil and Omnipotence” White: 1. How does White define the fine-tuning of the universe? 2. Explain the principle White calls Inference to the Best Explanation. 3. Explain the fine-tuning argument. 4. Why is the fine-tuning of the universe in need of an explanation? Mackie: 1. What “telling criticism” does Mackie want to make of theism by way of the traditional problem of evil? That is, what does he think he can show about religious beliefs based on the problem of evil? 2. Mackie’s problem of evil is a problem for the person who holds to a particular conception of God. What conception of God is that? (Hint: what two features is this God supposed to have?) 3. What is the problem in its simplest form? 4. What additional premises or “quasi-logical rules” does Mackie suggest to show that a contradiction arises from belief in God? 5. What are the adequate solutions to the problem of evil that Mackie identifies? What are the fallacious solutions?

Tutor Answer

Perfectsolutions
School: University of Maryland

Was nice working with you. I’ll be around to help you if you need me. Don’t forget to invite me for future questions ✌

Surname 1

Student’s Name

Professor’s Name

Course

Date

The Fine Tuning of the Universe

The term fine-tuning is used by the Whites to characterize keen dependences of
properties or facts on the values of some parameters. The whites have identified technological
devices as paradigmatic ...

flag Report DMCA
Review

Anonymous
Tutor went the extra mile to help me with this essay. Citations were a bit shaky but I appreciated how well he handled APA styles and how ok he was to change them even though I didnt specify. Got a B+ which is believable and acceptable.

Similar Questions
Hot Questions
Related Tags
Study Guides

Brown University





1271 Tutors

California Institute of Technology




2131 Tutors

Carnegie Mellon University




982 Tutors

Columbia University





1256 Tutors

Dartmouth University





2113 Tutors

Emory University





2279 Tutors

Harvard University





599 Tutors

Massachusetts Institute of Technology



2319 Tutors

New York University





1645 Tutors

Notre Dam University





1911 Tutors

Oklahoma University





2122 Tutors

Pennsylvania State University





932 Tutors

Princeton University





1211 Tutors

Stanford University





983 Tutors

University of California





1282 Tutors

Oxford University





123 Tutors

Yale University





2325 Tutors