Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Video: John Lennox on the problem of evil and suffering.

In this video, John Lennox points out that according to materialism the 9/11 terrorists, Stalin, or Hitler, cannot be blamed because they were, (paraphrasing Richard Dawkins below), "dancing to their DNA", so it is inconsistent to believe in materialism and then to criticize God or anything else on moral grounds. But materialists do recognize morality despite their philosophical views that good and evil do not exist. When materialists claim that there are scientific grounds or humanistic reasons for morality, it is just another example of materialist incoherence, another weird thing people believe. If you believe there is no good and no evil, but you believe some things are good and others are evil, then how can you trust your faculties of reason and believe anything?

Outline of the Lecture

  • There are two kinds of evil. Moral and natural.
  • There are two perspectives on the problem, the doctor trying to help, and the patient suffering. One must be sensitive to both perspectives.
  • Three worldviews: materialist, theist, pantheist.
  • If God exists why is there evil?
  • The suffering of others causes some people to believe there is no God.
  • Atheists claim to have solved the problem: according to materialism there is no good or evil, and the problem vanishes.
  • But materialists do recognize good and evil.
  • Atheism is not a solution it does nothing to alleviate suffering.
  • If there is objective morality there must be a God.
  • There is no objective morality without God.
  • Is belief in God part of the problem?
  • Jesus did not advocate religious violence and was acquitted by Pilate of stirring up violence.
  • Atheism doesn't solve suffering, it leaves you without hope.
  • Rather than a solution there is a way of looking at the problem.
  • God could have made a world without suffering.
  • But, if there was no suffering there would be no love because for love to be real people must have free will, and to have free will people must be free to do evil.
  • None of us is perfect, none of us would be in a perfect world.
  • Q&A

Quotes from the Video

David Hume paraphrasing Epicurus:
"Is he [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?"

Richard Dawkins

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won't find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.
- Out of Eden, page 133.

J. L. Mackie

If ... there are ... objective values, they make the existence of a god more probable than it would have been without them. Thus we have ... a defensible argument from morality to the existence of a god.

Richard Taylor

“The modern age, more or less repudiating the idea of a divine lawgiver, has nevertheless tried to retain the ideas of moral right and wrong, not noticing that, in casting God aside, they have also abolished the conditions of meaningfulness for moral right and wrong as well. Thus, even educated persons sometimes declare that such things as war, or abortion, or the violation of certain human rights, are morally wrong, and they imagine that they have said something true and significant. Educated people do not need to be told, however, that questions such as these have never been answered outside of religion. He concludes, Contemporary writers in ethics, who blithely discourse upon moral right and wrong and moral obligation without any reference to religion, are really just weaving intellectual webs from thin air; which amounts to saying that they discourse without meaning.”

Manfred Lutz via Simon Wenham

The problem with these types of argument is that, as Manfred Lutz points out, Freud can provide an equally compelling reason for why someone might believe as to why they might disbelieve. Yet, crucially, when it comes to discerning the all-important matter of which position is actually true, he cannot help us.(5) As this suggests, just because you want to believe in something does not mean that it is true.

Czeslaw Milosz

“A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death—the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders, we are not going to be judged.”

This quote is not from the video but it is on the same subject so I include it here:

Dennis Prager

To put this as clearly as possible: If there is no God who says, "Do not murder," murder is not wrong. Many people or societies may agree that it is wrong. But so what? Morality does not derive from the opinion of the masses. If it did, then apartheid was right; murdering Jews in Nazi Germany was right; the history of slavery throughout the world was right; and clitoridectomies and honor killings are right in various Muslims societies.

So, then, without God, why is murder wrong?

Is it, as Dawkins argues, because reason says so?

My reason says murder is wrong, just as Dawkins's reason does. But, again, so what? The pre-Christian Germanic tribes of Europe regarded the Church's teaching that murder was wrong as preposterous. They reasoned that killing innocent people was acceptable and normal because the strong should do whatever they wanted.

In addition, reason alone without God is pretty weak in leading to moral behavior. When self-interest and reason collide, reason usually loses. That's why we have the word "rationalize" -- to use reason to argue for what is wrong. ...

In that regard, let's go to the empirical argument.?

Years ago, I interviewed Pearl and Sam Oliner, two professors of sociology at California State University at Humboldt and the authors of one of the most highly-regarded works on altruism, The Altruistic Personality. The book was the product of the Oliners' lifetime of study of non-Jewish rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust.

The Oliners, it should be noted, are secular, not religious, Jews; they had no religious agenda.

I asked Samuel Oliner, "Knowing all you now know about who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, if you had to return as a Jew to Poland and you could knock on the door of only one person in the hope that they would rescue you, would you knock on the door of a Polish lawyer, a Polish doctor, a Polish artist or a Polish priest?"

Without hesitation, he said, "a Polish priest."


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