Sterba A Good God

Is a Good God Logically Possible? | James Sterba

January 23, 2020

James Sterba is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, USA. His book, Is a Good God Logically Possible? deals with the Argument from Evil and whether a God who is all good and all powerful is logically compatible in a world where moral and natural evil exists.

Sterba sits down with Underdown to discuss the arguments for and against the existence of God, how Sterba’s history as a member of a religious order and later Professor of Philosophy led him to write his book, and the finer points of the argument.

What was that great music you heard?

“Cold” by Pictures of the Floating World / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

“Idle Ways” by Blue Dot Sessions / CC BY-NC 4.0

Hello, everybody, welcome to another edition of Point of Inquiry, I’m your host, Jim Underdown. 

God, all powerful, all knowing, all good. Is it possible? 

Professor James Thurber from Notre Dame University would say, no, no, it’s not it’s not logically possible for God to be all powerful and all good. 

Those two are incompatible. 

He’s written a book called Is a Good God Logically Possible. And he answers that question. And I just gave the answer. It’s no. But you should still listen to this episode and have him explain why that is the case. By the way, our teaser of this idea will be coming out and free inquiry early in 2020. So you can get a little taste of that by reading Free Inquiry magazine, one of the publications of the Center for Inquiry. 

There is a lot of interesting philosophical questions. And is a good guide logically possible with Professor James Thurber? I hope you enjoy it. 

Welcome to another edition of Point of Inquiry, I’m Jim Underdown your host, and I’m here with James Stirbois from All the Way and Notre Dame, Indiana. Welcome to the program. 

I’m happy to be here. 

Are you actually a Notre Dame right now or Dame the university sets. 

It has its own hostile number. 

So today we’re going to be talking about the arguments for and against the existence of God and your particular take about that. But I want to find out a little bit about you yourself. Where are you from originally? 

I grew up in Baltimore, got involved in religious order in when I was 14. Well, which one? It was high school. I just my first year at high school in Baltimore, a town hall college, high school, Christian Brothers ran it and I was impressed. So they were taking junior novices in those days. They don’t do that anymore. And so I joined and lots of people joined and I stayed in the order until just before final vowels and left at twenty six and then started right by a working philosophy. 

Are you at liberty to discuss why you changed your mind at the 11th hour? 

Did not. It was a slow, gradual process. I enjoyed being in Europe. What happened basically is I saw myself. What if I stayed? The order had to be a high school teacher and I was actually. You had majored in English literature. I got as much philosophy as I could when I was really a major in English literature. So I was teaching English courses. I was also teaching legend courses. I was a Catholic at that time. And when I left, I was still Catholic. So what the idea was, I had a choice there. I give it a try. I taught for three years in high school. I realized I could do it, but that was not the best way of using my skills. And I really needed to go on with philosophy degree when they couldn’t free me up. There were people were leaving it. So at such a high rate at that time, there was no way they’re going to free me up to do A, B, C program. And so I thought, well, this is it. I’ve given a try. I need to get into college education. I was happy with what they did for me and I. And I finally gave me a good try to try to be a high school teacher just once it made out for me. 

And so then you kept pursuing your education? 

Yeah, I was. I was teaching at a high school in Pittsburgh at the time. And I then just moved over to University Pittsburgh, which had a very good flossy department. It still does. It’s kind of unusual. Phosphors or little one usual. What could happen is you could have a really good philosophy department in a school. It’s not very good the way you do it. Good. You can be philosophers on the cheap. And what with Pittsburgh did was they really bought Yale’s philosophy department and brought it over. And then they became a well-known philosophy. And they were they kept the funding to have a really good department at the University of Pittsburgh. And I sort of benefit from all that. 

So you got did you get your pitch day from there? 

Yes, I did, yes. And the movie West Notre Dame. And I thought I would never say I didn’t. I just wanted to be in a bigger city. And I thought I’d never stay here. What? Marius, me and my flight. My partner is a philosopher. We eventually she got do so she was teaching in University Utah at the time when we first met. And then we eventually she eventually was able to come here and join the army. 

And it’s hard to get to philosophy positions in any institution. And so this is turned out to be home for us. 

So at what point does your Catholicism start to go into shaky ground? 

Well, so, I mean, I really didn’t. I was working in foster religion and I wasn’t going to come of evil and go all those years for most of my career here. I was doing moral and political philosophy. And I was then applying it to questions like affirmative action and environmental justice, sexual harassment and basically into stoicism. 

There is this view that faith and reason do not conflict. So I thought I was a philosopher. I was the expert on a reason, reason alone. And so when I was doing all those all those topics was coming up with reasonable solutions, which typically frequently went against the hierarchy of the hierarchy about this other view of the laity. But the view of the hierarchy. And so that was all fine. Problem came when I finally didn’t know what else to do. And I had this idea of bringing ethics and political philosophy to bear on the problem of evil. So I went to the Templeton Foundation. And if you know something about the Templeton Foundation, the John Jones or John Templeton had this vision that religion was moribund and science was progressive. And so we had this idea, you bring religion and science together and then help religion out. So I said, look, I. I know something about the science of ethics. And and then this lost religion, particularly the problem of evil. And I think there’s untapped resources and ethics that are relevant to the problem of evil. Are you interested? 

And they they were they were they gave me money to run a couple of conferences, take a year off. And that started me on working on the problem of evil. When I eventually came up with was that an argument that was all good, all powerful. God is logically incompatible with me on the world. 

OK. And that brings me to a couple of quick questions before we get to Dave Bennett. When you talk about God, what are you picturing? 

I’m dealing with the typical traditional theist view of God is all good and all powerful. Absolutely good and absolutely powerful and all. No, I would add any imperfect God. In fact, the upshot of my argument is that given the evil in the world, an imperfect God would have to be really weak or really immoral. Right. And so the idea of a less than perfect, less than all powerful God doesn’t really have any grip on those shedding light on anybody. 

So this God, your your that you’re basing your arguments on is the God of the Abrahamic religions. Joseph. 

Yes. As the philosophers conceived of it, when you go back to the Bible, sometimes looks like us not so powerful or not so all knowing. But, you know, when the philosophers finally got working on, the theologians got working on it. He was all good and all powerful. 

And that’s the sort of been the current central view of God in the in the Abrahamic religions. 

Well, guys that are really the only one more talking about in a way, because the way I think about it. 

OK. And now when your book out also because. And some of the. 

Well, we think in the biblical tradition, a lot of the gods that they had or the God they had in mind was really based on sort of original ideas of God and that maybe they weren’t even particularly monotheistic back then. 

I think that’s right. I think you can see that. I mean, this whole idea of don’t have false skies before me in one of the one of the commandments. What was the idea? There were false gods around and you don’t know your God. I’m the only one you worship with. So they were sneaking that there were other gods. 

At least we aren’t. It was more of a hierarchy for them than when we saw this. 

This is our God and hopefully he is you’ll be able to do for us more than that any other guy could do for other people. So, I mean, it’s you will how you will deal with us when we could come up against another people who have their own gods. 

OK. So then and now when you’re talking about evil, are you talking about a like a typical definition most people would understand to be evil? What do you mean by evil? 

But I’m focusing on part of what we say. I’m thinking about moral evil. This is the evil that human beings do and are not true thinking about all the evil of particular action. I’m only worrying about the external consequences. This is the part of the of the evil action that I think God gets in trouble about, because one of the. Because the external consequences, for example, look, a person is going to kill someone who gets a gun. 

He pulls the trigger. A bullet comes out, the external the bull’s eye, an electoral consequence. There is the bullet heading toward the victim. If that were stopped. That’s the kind of part of the EU action I’m worrying about. Why doesn’t God stop those external consequences? I’m not too worried. Which worried about the internal market. 

I what was the point, since I don’t want God to necessarily interfere with internal acts. I want him to interfere. If he were God, he would be interfering with those external acts just the way a police force, Wiesman might be interfering with the external acts if they could if they could stop him or you or I would stop external acts from happening to prevent injury to innocent people. 

Right. Now, when you say the internal act reminds me of George Carlin used to do a bit about you talk about grievous consent of the will. I think and Catholicism was what he was talking about, the way he said it to us. If you wake up in the morning and say to yourself, I’m going to go rob somebody, save your cab fare, you’re already dead and you’re guilty. 

You’ve sinned already. 

Yeah, I’m not worrying about that. You will see, the whole issue is as we wait. The way I’m thinking about it is the way I at this is the political philosophy angle. What would a just political state do? You’re probably familiar with the movie Minority Report. So, OK, so what was happening there was through the clairvoyants. They beat the force with was no, not new when an act, an evil act of horror. And I was going to have some kind of murder, something horrendous, and then they would get there and they would stop the act. And that was that was the design. Of course, the whole thing fell apart because the people behind this thing were evil. These men are the creators of it. And so and then it was all dropped. But if if if you really had ideally just state or if you’re talking about God is he’s not going to be corrupt in this problem with respect to this, he will be able to prevent those external acts, letting people have all that they could have, bad intentions, bad thoughts. Let that happen. Why worry about the external whack is that’s the act. It comes down on innocent people and that’s the act. We had a state, just state where all these powers of like the in the artery thought we would want the state to stop those external acts and we would be better off if if the state south does that. So that’s that’s the port. That’s where. Because here’s here’s another part of this. You. There’s the issue about free will. And for the there’s two main views about free will. One is a determinist view. And one is an indeterminism now flusters religion, theistic philosophy. Regin don’t like determinism. Why? Because they’re free. Axton are determined by what came before them and what ultimately came before them in the end is God. And then God would become implicated in a deterministic process to the free act. And particularly it was an evil free act. He would be completely implicated in that. Right. Oh, that’s why most of these Klosters religion off for the indeterminacy, they see some kind of causal break. 

There is there’s that those kinds of thoughts, knowledge comes to us and then considerations. And then there is a kind of before we there’s a kind of there’s a indeterminism all those things that precede the act don’t cause the. And it’s it’s something in there that it’s a real causal great. And because there’s a real causal great, God is not implicated. So what I do is, OK, I give the what the of the class religion there indeterminacy you. I think it determines view is a better story about freedom. I’ll let them have their indeterminacy. So there is there is a kind of internal causal rate in the interact and God doesn’t it isn’t a complete cause of that. We are somehow. And now what happens though is that internal ACX causes an external and after the thing gets outside of us, it has caused it’s a causal chain and that’s what we’re God and us could stop. We could stop that external act. And that’s where the immorality comes in. We should do it when we could and God should do it when he could, because he has a much more ability to do these kind of things that he’s not doing. 

Isn’t there another argument against the end determinant and determinist act in that if God is the God we’re talking about as also all knowing, isn’t he? 

Yeah, there is this problem about does he know what’s going to happen, what we’re going to do? And does that mean that we’re not free to do it? I think that’s I mean, that’s certainly more of a problem on the determinist you it’s still there on the indeterminacy. You some some theologians say that you philosophers to that you don’t know that it’s there’s. Called open seas, which sort of God doesn’t know exactly what’s going to happen. 

Let’s see. That means he doesn’t know what’s internal. We’re going to make what he does know what’s going to happen when it gets outside us and starts to impinge on others. He knows that we are limited knowledge of that. And that’s where the immorality comes in. And that’s where a just state would come in and stop those external acts. Just state was probably not going to worry so much about our internal actions. They’re worried about what comes down the pike after we do these have these bad intentions. 

Yeah, but that’s that’s a bogus loophole for the all knowing God. He can’t be all knowing if he doesn’t. If you can’t predict the entire future of everything with perfect accuracy, then he really isn’t all knowing. 

Well, you see the all knowing. You only have to know what could be known. And if this is possible to know this, then God is still mine, even though he doesn’t know it would still be. 

You knows everything that could be known in advance. Little wordplay there you do that, you know? Yeah, in some sense, someone might try it on my argument that I say, oh well God, if if if there’s all this evil in the world, it must be that that maybe God is not prevented. And what if he can’t logically cannot prevent? 

Then you say, well, well, then he’s still all powerful. We just can’t logically prevent it. There is. It turns out that God would be happy, more or less powerful than we are because we can prevent lots of evil. And now God is stuck in a logical possibility where we’re only stuck in a causal one. And he’s he’s so much less powerful. But that’s that’s impossible. God. The God in the traditional God can’t be less powerful than we are. 

What I’ve always thought about, too, because we have these freewill discussions with people and I mean, God designed us. 

And if you’re if you’re creating something or part of the whole freewill issue is that if he created us in such a way that we would do these evil things, which, by the way, and major Christian religions would then subject us to the possibility of everlasting torment. Why even include that in the equation in the first place? Wouldn’t it be better to create something that you would then not have, you know, some obligation to burn in hell for the rest of time? 

Well, yes. There is this idea why, if we do, we do all this evil. Why didn’t God is great. Some other kinds of beings that wouldn’t do all this evil and then there wouldn’t be there wouldn’t be a need to punish anybody if it really were worthy. And so then there was this idea of what constrains God’s creation. And this goes back to the discussion of wideness where he says, well, this is the best possible world. So this is his answer. While he couldn’t do anything else than great this work, because this is the best world. But that never seemed very plausible. You always seem that God could make things better. Certainly better than our world. And here’s here’s the way I come at this. I think God has an enormous amount of freedom to work. He would have enormous amount of freedom. With respect to creation, he could create worlds with beings that were less intelligent and thus more intelligent. It wouldn’t matter. And and maybe the less intelligent beings would end up doing more evil then than we do. OK. But the problem I see is it’s not just like parents. You bring children into the world. I mean, you can imagine you could even OEM’s. There’s hypothetical visit. A woman knows that parents know that they’re going to bring if they have intercourse at a certain point because a woman’s taking certain medications. The child will be defective in certain way. And if she if they wait, they lo get a child who is not defective in that way. OK. I think in some sense. Got caught because they got like this. Well, he could make the effective less less perfect in some sense, Charles B. But then what he has to do is he has to take care of that child so that that child can have a good life. 

And if the child has some tendencies, he has to sort of contain those tendencies. So it doesn’t cause consequences for others. Right. So it’s it’s in some sense, I’m giving God freedom to create all sorts of different worlds. But then there yes, he has this caretaker role after he creates and that determines whether he’s doing a good job or not, because there’s no I don’t see how you’re going to say he should create the best list. Well, it doesn’t have any meaning. That’s possible. There’s all sorts of worlds that will be have certain good things and certain bad things. And and you just bring those into existence and then you take care of them afterwards. 

That’s the key. Taking care of all where God fails. If there were a God, he would be failing. 

Right. What if you’re taking care of your imperfect being would not include creating hell for people to suffer for their imperfect ness. 

This whole project initially had a chapter about solving the problem of hell. This is what I wanted. Marilyn Adams, I doubt. But she was a great religion. Thought of the Bible. Tell us the most serious problem. It’s rare for Christians. How do you resolve this? And I was trying to figure out what kind of afterlife. Could possibly be justified. If God were all good and all powerful, just just. And I would have to be. You couldn’t have I just wouldn’t be there. And I was trying to vision what that was at night. And I had a whole chapter that did this. It was kind of playing the game as a theist. Well, what if you were trying this is how is such a terrible moral problem? What kind of afterlife would be a justified afterlife for God? Power. And I used to have that chapter. I had a chapter like that and another chapter about how you could solve the problem of Darwin’s natural problem of evil. And I had those two chapters in the beginning of the manuscript. 

And then I then I took the atheist turd from there on the wall here. You know, here’s some good things I could say for theism. This is kind of a preliminary defensive theism. But then here comes the arguments that undercut theism completely. I put that to reviewers and it just totally confused. I couldn’t have I saying something good for theism and then later saying something against. I then had to cut those two chapters out. They actually published separate papers and just make this book all against this. 

Yeah. I mean, I have Catholic friends who look at me going on out of the closet, atheist, and say, because I would always ask them, you know, how how do you reconcile? You know, I’m a decent person. How do you reconcile the fact that your religion says Christianity? Most of them say I will end up in hell even if I live a virtuous life. And they kind of say the Catholics, especially now, don’t worry about it. 

You’re you’re you’re going to be you’re you’re going to have a don’t worry about. 

No, I think that’s actually possible under Catholicism. I mean, there used to be this idea of salvation, no salvation outside the church. I was actually a Catholic. 

You met some earlier times, but I gave that up. Now, you could be. I think the way to think about it is from a Catholic perspective is if you’re this better Catholic perspective is if you’re doing your best and you’re open to Islam at your try or and you’re trying to be morally good, then yes, you you could you could pass the test in the afterlife. 

That would be what else could anybody. It’s me. It’s just not some kind of voodoo here that you kind of, you know, sign saying I’m a I’m a Catholic and then I get to heaven. You have to be following your lights. And that’s to be really honest. And if you’re really honest and you don’t end up thinking you’re becoming Catholic or being useful, that should count pharmacy as a point of view. 

Yeah, but that’s what models will be, it marvels me. 

It’s actually a good aspect of Catholicism, but there is a lot of Bible passages that the evangelicals are fond of quoting that you have to completely ignore or dance around to kind of you know. 

I know. That’s right. You’re right. There are passages that look like you don’t believe in me. You’re going to hell. No, I don’t believe I do. We were always puzzled. Why? Believe me, it’s because Catholics will say it’s not just Levens believe it action, but it is crucial. I mean, you see, the belief is you can’t make yourself believe. 

You know, Pascal’s wager is completely bogus in the eyes of all us atheists. You can’t disregard all the evidence and conclusions you’ve come to. 

That’s right. That’s right. No, I think they are. At least matters, at least solely matters, that can’t be the grounds. Again, this is kind of a moral standard. They make it based on something people don’t really have control. Are is is is an oral arrangement and is this is. But he wouldn’t be doing it. 

One of the things you talk about in the book is the appalling principal. Can you explain a little bit what that is for people who don’t know? 

Well, he is one of the things I was I found that when I started working in foster religion is that there was so many things in ethics that people in classic religion didn’t take up. And I I was wondering why, because we saw on the particularly this Pawling principle never to equal that could come of it. It’s it’s a reference to Paul’s epistle to the Romans. And it’s it’s made its way through traditional thinking, moral thinking and politically Catholic thinking. And and it’s it’s sort of very strongly in traditional Catholic traditional religious views about morality today. But what was happening was that the flusters of religion weren’t thinking about things like that at all. What they were thinking about were they were thinking kind of like you, too. It’s not in the traditional religious views. You tell terrorists. Terrorism is a horrible thing, is it? 

You’re just trying to maximize you tool. That’s a that’s sort of a bad way to think about things. You should be thinking about not doing evil and you should be worrying about your intention. I’m sort of puzzled why the philosophers in religion were thinking like utilitarians when traditional religious people are thinking I utilitarians. 

And so what I began to do is I said, let’s try to apply this non utilitarian perspective, at least initially. This level, we will look good, may come of it to the problem of evil and see what we come up. And when I read my conferences here at Notre Dame, I was in the proposal to bring these kind of issues to bear on and on, wasn’t it? And the people I bought with, they were top notch people from your religion, but they didn’t tend to want to do this. So it was a battle to get them to talk about how the polling principle applies to the policy. I really kind of forced it on them and see what they would say. And I was helping me think through the whole thing. And after a veto, after the conferences, I kept thinking about it and I came down to some not the polling principle stated so generally, but some more specific requirements of the Pawley principle that was actually there. Still, things don’t do able to good may come of it, but they are actually versions of it that would be acceptable both to consequentialist Anani consequences, both to utilitarians and non utilitarian. I think that was kind of crucial to find some sort of don’t do evil principles that both consequentialist and non consequentialist would accept and then say, well, look, God is not abiding by this. And that’s a problem. 

When you talk about the of the trolley dilemma or you see the polling principle is part of the doctrine of double effect and the doctrine doubles back. Does that there’s there can be two effects of our actions. One is intended and wanted to foresee. And you’d be looking at a trolley case here, the trolley case you’re at a switch on the trolley is going down a track. It’s going to go by people that are rope to the track. If you turn the trolley down another track, there’s only one person there. So what what happens is you say, OK, I’ll turn the trolley down toward the one person and what am I doing? I’m saving the five people. That’s my action. What am I for seat? I foresee that I’m going to kill the one, though. 

I intend to save the five. That’s the intended part. We’re seeing that I will kill the one. Now, the problem with this, this works fine for us. And we might think that’s important that this distinction, I think, between intended to proceed distinction is morally relevant thing. The problem is it doesn’t work. Forgot why. Imagine. Got it to switch. What is? Well, he could turn the switch toward the fire. I mean, torching one and then. 

And that will save the fire. But he could also reach out there and save the one. He’s never stuck. You could never stop in allowing evil to happen. We sometimes are stuck if we’re trying to do some good. We realize, well, now something even happened. God could always at that level, external action stop the evil of all bad actions. 

Right. He could make the trolley disappear. He could make a turn into a Nerf ball. He could do anything. 

There is no that’s that’s why this distinction, the distinction between intended for seeing consequences doesn’t work for God. Because what happens is things that he doesn’t. He he simply permits. He still intense things that we permit. Sometimes we do because it’s a foreseen consequence of our act and not something we. 

And we don’t have as many options as he does. 

We don’t have the ability to stop all evil consequences of actions where sometimes we can save lives. People here, if we don’t try to save one person there, that we get stuck in those in any situation like that, God could save more. And then you say, why doesn’t he? Well, what? It certainly would be better. And then you say, well, is it? Maybe he doesn’t have the power. Well, wait a minute. We just are closely unable to prevent these both consequences. You’re going to tell me God is logically incapable of doing what we’re only causally capable of doing. That they could do it all good. Oh, powerful God. 

I think of all this stuff when I read about these discussions are having the programmers who are trying to programing program the decision processes of self-driving cars go through exactly this, where they have to tell the car, you know, do you somebody slams on their brake and it’s icy or whatever. Do you rear around the car in front of you or you go onto the sidewalk? What what what do you tell the car to do in these? You’re sort of making these moral decisions for. 

Right. I had a stent in he sucks the military seas, right? He actually dissertation on autonomous weapons. And we had a really interesting discussion the other day, because there is a parallel somewhat between making autonomous weapons in God’s green. And one of the responsibilities there. 

Yes, sure. You. You see, so I’m moving around in the nighttime and they probably shouldn’t be out there. Do you shoot it to you? Well, what happens? 

Yeah. Yeah. So he I had thought about the analog to God’s creating the whole problem of evil issue, but I said. We talked. It was kind of it is it’s a little different because what happens in the end is that what the proposal is, that if you’re going to have these autonomous weapons, you better have some really human oversight on them that they’re going to you’re not going to really let them be fully autonomous or you now you’ve got you got yourself into a moral problem. Your you’re your make your make your then you’re really responsible. If you let them be fully autonomous and you’re not watching over them in some way that you could prevent them, if something goes awry then that you are responsible for. Actually it’s somewhat analogous to God though. I’m saying, look, God creates us. But, you know, we start to do some RNC on someone else. I should get in there and stop that. And then he doesn’t. So then he’s real responsible. Why? He should not have let us the that the time is right. Just about state will not want its citizens to be free to commit murders. If he could stop the external murders, it would do so. And we would that would be a great state, right? 

Well, yeah. I mean, that’s a it’s a common refrain among atheists to catch people in that very dilemma about their belief in God to say, OK, you have a neighbor who knows. That or you know, that your neighbor is planning a mass murder and you have the power to stop that neighbor from committing this mass murder. Do you do it? Most people would say, of course I would. But that’s exactly the position God is in. 

Right. Right. I also on. I deal with there’s a question about, well, yeah, if God did this all the time. Would we not then try to prevent evils ourselves? And that does create a bit of a problem because we would want people to try to prevent e-mails themselves. And so I kind of work through a scenario, few scenarios in the book where I imagine that first we we were trying to prevent some evil and we weren’t sick, very successful. And then it was then something happened and the evil was present. And then the second time we think it will be, but I don’t think we don’t contest the got in there. And so the second time we see another evil we could prevent. And then we think, oh, well, God’s going to do it, so I won’t do anything. And then what happens? This is this would be wow. I think you could play out. Is God doesn’t totally prevent that evil, but not right away. We could have maybe prevented the evil right away and everything would have been very, very nice. But God kind of does it. I imagine a boy that’s on this street corner and on and right. Close twin boy and and somebody is reaching for coming out from a car to a doctor. And we we could do something. But this is the act where we think we’ve got to do something so we don’t do anything. What happens? The boy gets abducted to the car and the car drives off. And then we hear in the news later that there was a car that was stopped because it had a broken tail light and they found this boy in the back, a little little upset, but not to harm. They got him out. And so that would be the way God would be preventing evil consequences if we don’t do what we could do, which is prevent. We could have kept the boy from even having any of that trauma. 

We eat wheat because we could pull him away from the car and everything would have been fine, but we didn’t do that. So you could imagine God sort of behind this as a preventative last resort. You know, we don’t do things where we could prevent government somehow step in. 

But it won’t be quite as good as it could have been if we had done it ourselves or someone would make the argument that, you know, by giving the kid a little bit of trauma, you’ve taught him a lesson and he’ll learn the next time. 

You couldn’t you couldn’t do that. I was imagining it. It was something that we we were responsible for because we could have avoided it. And and so on. So that was that was why we should. Next time when we have options like this, even if we think God is kind of behind it all and we’ll do something, we should do all we can. 

So you are individual perspectives would be quite different if we lived in a world where we regularly experienced supernatural intervention and one being. 

Now, just to be is a world where we are really just powerful state. 

That was able to prevent crime from happening. And we would be if we feel so secure. We note we know it would not abuse his power. 

It would be nice if we could get a relax a little bit. 

We didn’t have to lock our doors, maybe, you know, consecrates. 

So your conclusions are about. 

About God and is his inherent morality. 

In a nutshell, basically the problem is that God would have had to prevent evil consequences in the world. What we see all around this is the significant aspect. Instead, sometimes the horrendous evil consequences in actions. We try to prevent these consequences if we’re good people, but we are frequently causally unable to do so on would not be causing our table. And presumably, if he were God, he wouldn’t be logically unable to do so. But clearly, he’s not done it. Now, then becomes two possibilities. Either he’s not done it because he’s basically an evil God. That’s not a helpful result or he’s not done it because he’s not very powerful. But that’s and maybe even less powerful business, because, you know, if we just had a little bit more causal power, we could prevent a lot of these evil consequences, which we’re just causally limited. And so brutally, God isn’t caused with it at all. So what’s going on here? It can’t be that an all powerful God is terrible with the nonintervention of equal the world. 

One other thought. Do you even address the idea that this earth that we live on is often quite hostile to our happiness and our ability to stay alive? Earthquakes. 

There is America is becoming more hostile with global warming, for sure. 

Right. So, I mean, the original earth with its inherent dangers, earthquakes, typhoons, tornadoes, pestilence, you name it. That’s part of the natural world. All designed by God is also quite dangerous to be around. He didn’t have to make it that way. 

I focused initially on on the moral evil. But then I draw an analog for naturally, because when you think about natural evil, we do try to prevent naturally, sometimes naturally particularly, that’s coming down on on other humans, but also naturally evil. That’s coming down on other living things. We we we we would prevent the evil if we only could. So that’s then that becomes if there is this all good or powerful agent, you would have the same obligations. And and so he would be preventing natural evil as well. I should say one thing. This what’s really fairly unique about my argument against God is that most of the tradition has accepted since about the 70s that the argument against God is simply a probabilistic. And maybe argument for God is simply probables. That there is the possibility of showing that God is logically incompatible with evil in the world. But that is my heart. So what you have? I have two groups of people that are unhappy with my results here. And one group of people is are the atheist, of course, that. So I’ve got an argument for atheists. But then there’s this whole other group of atheists who thought you could only have a probabilistic argument. And I’m claiming, no, I haven’t. I can show God is logically incompatible with evil. And the other thing about this is I’ve come up with this argument. Someone pokes a hole in it. I’ll give up on my atheist. So I think Yarkas is really powerful. I think it’s unique in the in the ether as the joinder here because it’s arguing that God is logically compatible with the evil world. But if somebody finds something wrong with it. 

And that’s where I’m trying to do hearings for it. In fact, in your ear area there in Los Angeles, we talked a little bit about, you know, we may Craig, and try to get get something going on, a build something now may be happening if we all. Here’s how it happened. So my my book is going to have an awesome beach critique session from the Society for Philosophy. Religion is calling its meeting in San Diego. It’s everywhere. So I had the idea of I could go to Los Angeles some week before my talk. In my discussion, my book at the meeting is Diego. And then either the Bay Crake at Beulah or present presented paper, if any. My view would be all hopefully with Craig in the audience raises questions and it looks like they’re interested in this because the whole probably four is I mean, I told you was was money, which is a small sum of money, but they didn’t have it. They work. I said it could be done. I said, well, there’s no money. No, I just have to get a drink ticket back and forth from Los Angeles to San Diego. And so it sounds like their interest. 

Well, I would love to hear their response to your arguments. 

It sounds like I’m I’m like, look, I think I mentioned Dinesh D’Souza is debating me on this. 

And in Michigan next next year, I got another debate going on in in north nearby Charlotte, North Carolina, at an institute there. 

And and so, yeah, so and then this debate is the author of his critique session at the Society Forced Religion. There’s some really powerful people. There’s actually one atheist there on the group. Michael, truly. But again, he’s the problem was they got so big, it’s not going to be happy with my piece. 

He’s going to try it. No, it’s not. You don’t have a logical argument. And so we’re going to be we’re gonna be Badali. And then there’s these two pretty well-known things. We’re going to go try to shoot down the argument. So they may do it. I don’t know. I really wanted to be tested out. I tried my best to get it hurt anywhere I could. And I’m still doing that. 

Well, it’s the mark of a true intellect to be able to be open to changing your mind if the evidence Swazi or the argument swayed you one way or another. 

Please do keep us posted on your movements. The people in the CFI world are interested in your advances in your work, and we wish you the best. The book is Is A Good God Logically Possible by Professor James Sterba. Thanks so much for being on the program. Thank you. 

Thank you for listening. Point of Inquiry is a production of the Center for Inquiry TFI is he five 11 C three charitable nonprofit organization whose vision is a world in which evidence, science and compassion rather than superstition, pseudoscience or prejudice guide public policy? Do you care about science and skepticism? Then please do share this episode to help spread the word about Puli and the topics we discussed today. You can visit us at point of inquiry at OAG. There you can listen to all of these past Pouye episodes dating back to 2005 and support the show and to IFIs nonprofit advocacy work by clicking on the support button on the site. Please also remember to subscribe or available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and your favorite podcast app of choice. While there, please be sure to leave us a review as every review we receive means a ton. Thanks for listening and talk to you again in two weeks. 

Jim Underdown

Jim Underdown

Jim Underdown is executive director of Center for Inquiry–Los Angeles, and the founder of the Independent Investigations Group.