The best of all possible worlds offense
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25-06-2015, 06:05 AM
The best of all possible worlds offense
I'm sure we've all heard the best of all possible worlds defense. The gist of it is that while things might look bad, and we'd wonder why a good god would allow it, perhaps God only has so much control over the universe, and this setup nets the greatest possible good.

Now, it's presuppositional as hell, and that's where it's greatest weakness lies. Once you're willing to go down that road, you can really start presupposing anything under these assumptions. The apologetic can be neatly turned against the apologist.

So, the apologist starts by assuming that things like horrible childhood illnesses are here because they are part of the greatest possible good. I'd say that sounds preposterous and that I can't possibly see how the world gets worse by removing them. The closest thing to a sane defense is for the apologist to say that the plan is so big and grand, that I can't possibly see it all, and I lack the foresight and judgment of Almighty God. Fair enough (well, not really). Lets try another scenario:

Can the apologist prove that the best possible good isn't attained by God sometimes lying to his people? Of course not. The idea is as nonfalsifiable as is the idea that God would never lie. I'll posit that we can't really understand what's "good for us", and God lies when it helps things. Their best defense would basically be to say "Nuh uh! That's not the god I believe in!", because that's all they've really got at this point: a preconceived notion of God and some nonfalsifiable defenses to prop up that god.

As long as we're willing to go that far, I could posit that the "greatest possible good" isn't really "good" in any sense that we'd use the word; it's just the exact outcome God wants. Again, can the apologist prove that childhood diseases aren't an ends unto themselves? Maybe that's exactly what he wants. It's not part of some puzzle to make the world a "better" place in some cryptic fashion; God just likes watching people suffer. Again, you'll be written off because this isn't the god that they want to picture. You only employ nonfalsifiable apologetics to uphold what you want, not what you don't.

In short, I think this illustrates how much this stock apologetic relies on circular reasoning (assume the god you want, then prove it by assuming it!) and special pleading (but don't prove gods you don't like by assuming). It's yet another tool to make the believer feel better while offering nothing of substance to a skeptic.
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25-06-2015, 07:26 AM
RE: The best of all possible worlds offense
(25-06-2015 06:05 AM)RobbyPants Wrote:  I'm sure we've all heard the best of all possible worlds defense. The gist of it is that while things might look bad, and we'd wonder why a good god would allow it, perhaps God only has so much control over the universe, and this setup nets the greatest possible good.

Now, it's presuppositional as hell, and that's where it's greatest weakness lies. Once you're willing to go down that road, you can really start presupposing anything under these assumptions. The apologetic can be neatly turned against the apologist.

So, the apologist starts by assuming that things like horrible childhood illnesses are here because they are part of the greatest possible good. I'd say that sounds preposterous and that I can't possibly see how the world gets worse by removing them. The closest thing to a sane defense is for the apologist to say that the plan is so big and grand, that I can't possibly see it all, and I lack the foresight and judgment of Almighty God. Fair enough (well, not really). Lets try another scenario:

Can the apologist prove that the best possible good isn't attained by God sometimes lying to his people? Of course not. The idea is as nonfalsifiable as is the idea that God would never lie. I'll posit that we can't really understand what's "good for us", and God lies when it helps things. Their best defense would basically be to say "Nuh uh! That's not the god I believe in!", because that's all they've really got at this point: a preconceived notion of God and some nonfalsifiable defenses to prop up that god.

As long as we're willing to go that far, I could posit that the "greatest possible good" isn't really "good" in any sense that we'd use the word; it's just the exact outcome God wants. Again, can the apologist prove that childhood diseases aren't an ends unto themselves? Maybe that's exactly what he wants. It's not part of some puzzle to make the world a "better" place in some cryptic fashion; God just likes watching people suffer. Again, you'll be written off because this isn't the god that they want to picture. You only employ nonfalsifiable apologetics to uphold what you want, not what you don't.

In short, I think this illustrates how much this stock apologetic relies on circular reasoning (assume the god you want, then prove it by assuming it!) and special pleading (but don't prove gods you don't like by assuming). It's yet another tool to make the believer feel better while offering nothing of substance to a skeptic.

Yeah, it's pretty weak sauce apologetics, maybe another way of rebutting it would be -is this the best your god can do? Would a 10% reduction in cancer be better? If not, how can you explain that current cancer levels are optimally just? Should we try to stop cancer research because it would detract from god's optimally just world?

Gods derive their power from post-hoc rationalizations. -The Inquisition

Using the supernatural to explain events in your life is a failure of the intellect to comprehend the world around you. -The Inquisition
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25-06-2015, 07:42 AM
RE: The best of all possible worlds offense
(25-06-2015 07:26 AM)TheInquisition Wrote:  Would a 10% reduction in cancer be better? If not, how can you explain that current cancer levels are optimally just? Should we try to stop cancer research because it would detract from god's optimally just world?

Yeah, that touches on "God's will" apologetics, too, which get pretty crazy. The whole point of "God's will" is to make people feel better about bad things; it's really not intended to make us stop trying, despite it being a pretty obvious logical conclusion.

"Why are you researching cures for cancer? Are you saying you know more than God!?"
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25-06-2015, 07:53 AM (This post was last modified: 25-06-2015 07:56 AM by TheInquisition.)
RE: The best of all possible worlds offense
(25-06-2015 07:42 AM)RobbyPants Wrote:  
(25-06-2015 07:26 AM)TheInquisition Wrote:  Would a 10% reduction in cancer be better? If not, how can you explain that current cancer levels are optimally just? Should we try to stop cancer research because it would detract from god's optimally just world?

Yeah, that touches on "God's will" apologetics, too, which get pretty crazy. The whole point of "God's will" is to make people feel better about bad things; it's really not intended to make us stop trying, despite it being a pretty obvious logical conclusion.

"Why are you researching cures for cancer? Are you saying you know more than God!?"

That reminds me of someone that was a teacher at the private Christian school I attended as a kid, in the 80's, saying that we would never find a cure for cancer because cancer was a result of demonic forces at work.

It just reminded me of the super kray-kray environment I used to be in.

It didn't take a whole lot of understanding to realize how wrong that person was and how bizarre the little Christian bubble I used to live in was.

Gods derive their power from post-hoc rationalizations. -The Inquisition

Using the supernatural to explain events in your life is a failure of the intellect to comprehend the world around you. -The Inquisition
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25-06-2015, 07:59 AM
RE: The best of all possible worlds offense
(25-06-2015 07:53 AM)TheInquisition Wrote:  That reminds me of someone that was a teacher at the private Christian school I attended as a kid, in the 80's, saying that we would never find a cure for cancer because cancer was a result of demonic forces at work.

It just reminded me of the super kray-kray environment I used to be in.

It didn't take a whole lot of understanding to realize how wrong that person was and how bizarre the little Christian bubble I lived in was.

"Stop trying, kids. Things suck for a reason."

I mean, once you go down that road of crazy, it seems you should chastise charities that feed the homeless or kids in impoverished nations. Also, why the fuck do we have hospitals, police, or fire services? All bad things fall under two categories:
  • Acts of God: What? You think you're going to impede God's will? How cute.
  • Acts of Man: What? You think you have the right to impede man's God-given free will?

Trying to fix the world makes a lot more sense once you stop assuming some wizard has his hands in literally all the pieces.
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25-06-2015, 12:03 PM
RE: The best of all possible worlds offense
I don't buy it.

God created smallpox. It killed millions of people, it wiped out entire peoples. It nearly depopulated an entire ducking continent. God did nothing. People had to step in and forcibly vaccinate everyone.

If you want to argue that God created the best possible world I call bull because it is a fact that the world is a better and happier place WITHOUT FUCKING SMALLPOX.
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26-06-2015, 01:32 AM
RE: The best of all possible worlds offense
I'd imagine this is where you get "mysterious ways" or "all part of God's plan".

I think the most infuriating phrase similar is "we can't know the mind of God", but they regularly imply speaking with God through prayer or whatever, or knowing what God wants when they're trying to get someone to do things that are actually there plan.
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26-06-2015, 05:38 AM
RE: The best of all possible worlds offense
(25-06-2015 12:03 PM)natachan Wrote:  I don't buy it.

God created smallpox. It killed millions of people, it wiped out entire peoples. It nearly depopulated an entire ducking continent. God did nothing. People had to step in and forcibly vaccinate everyone.

If you want to argue that God created the best possible world I call bull because it is a fact that the world is a better and happier place WITHOUT FUCKING SMALLPOX.

In this specific case, the apologist would probably say something like "Look at how we came together because of this!" and assume that all of the death and suffering was somehow worth it. On the off chance that they can't spin a believable positive out of a negative, they'll just do what Fodder said and bust out a [mysterious ways] explanation.

The problem with the approach is it's exceptionally circular and presuppositional. These types of apologetics exist to keep adherents in the fold, not to draw new members in.
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