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7. Dillahunty Asks 2nd Oldest Question: If God Exists, Why Evil?

In the debate between Christian neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty, the question of raping a baby was bound to arise.

In the “Does God exist?” debate between theist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty (September 17, 2021), we have at last got round to the Problem of Evil.

Readers may recall that the debate opened with Egnor explaining why, as former atheist, he became a theist. Then Dillahunty explained why, as a former theist, he became an atheist. Michael Egnor then made his opening argument, offering ten proofs for the existence of God. Matt Dillahunty responded in his own opening argument that the propositions were all unfalsifiable. When, in Section 4, it was Egnor’s turn to rebut Dillahunty, Dillahunty was not easily able to recall Aquinas’s First Way (the first logical argument for the existence of God). Then, turning to the origin of the universe, Egnor challenged Dillahunty on the fact, accepted in science, that our universe began in a singularity (where Einstein’s equations break down). He accused Dillahunty of using science as “a crutch” for his atheism.

But now Dillahunty asks the Big One, seriously, if there is a God, why is there evil?

A partial transcript and notes follow, along with links to previous segments. This portion begins at 01:14:00:

Matt Dillahunty: I’m currently leaning towards everything has always existed in some form or another and that what we’re seeing is change. What caused the Big Bang? I don’t know. What caused the laws of nature? I don’t think anything caused them. I think they are just extant properties of the universe that we inhabit.

Why is there evil? Now, this is fun because evil is a label that we put on things. While I would agree with, at least in part, what Dr. Egnor said earlier, that most of us generally look at the world and say, ah, that’s good, that’s evil. But that’s because we are incredibly lazy and don’t have a good understanding of how and why we make these distinctions. Generally speaking, moral evaluations are done by comparing the consequences of an action with respect to a goal, and in some cases, we address the intent of an action. Like, if I intentionally stomp on your foot versus accidentally stomp on your foot, those two are evaluated differently.

There’s evil because there’s human beings. It’s evil because there are those of us here who are going to evaluate whether or not a situation is consistent with a model. We don’t all have the same model. Hopefully we have really, really close [01:15:30] to the same model. What we’ve done over the years is adopted this and had conversations and discussions. We’ve even in some cases tried to legislate, although we don’t simply legislate morality.

But why is there evil? There’s evil because people like to label things and we’ve chosen to label some things as good and some things as evil when what we’re talking about is, does this benefit us in some way, or does this harm us in some way? [01:15:00]

Michael Egnor: The question about evil, I think is a profound question and atheists do a remarkable tap dance around it. It’s a sight to behold. The real question is, are there things that are morally wrong objectively or is everything just a matter of opinion? That’s the real question. If there are things that are objectively morally wrong that obviously points to the existence of a divine intellect, because if it’s objectively morally wrong, it means that it’s morally wrong independent of human opinions. God is the only other opinion on tap in this debate. If there is an objective moral law, that’s out there, that we are subject to, in a sense, that’s a strong argument for the existence of a divine intellect. The question is, is there an objective moral law, or is it all just opinion? [01:16:30]

Ten Commandments, historic church column ornate detail

Matt Dillahunty: I am fine with being able to make objective assessments, but I’m not aware of any model where anyone could demonstrate that there is an objective moral law that is universal.

Michael Egnor: I’m not asking whether you think people could demonstrate it. I’m asking, do you believe that it exists? [01:17:00]

Matt Dillahunty: No. I don’t believe in things that people can’t demonstrate exist.

Michael Egnor: You don’t believe that raping a baby is objectively, morally wrong. You think it’s just a matter of opinion?

Matt Dillahunty: I’m on record, for many years now, of advocating for situational morality, situational ethics, and rejecting the notion that because a culture says so that means that it’s so. I define morality as the well-being of thinking creatures. It’s not a complete definition, it’s what I think we’ve been working towards. I think anybody who’s talking about morality is probably talking about well-being of thinking creatures and humans in particular quite often. Once you decide, hey, we’re talking about the well-being of humans, now there are physical facts within the universe that are non-subjective that determine whether or not something is in our best interest or not, like chopping off someone’s head is not good for them. It’s an objective physical fact that chopping off someone’s head is in conflict with those things that are good for them. [01:18:00]

The only objection remaining is someone could say, there’s no reason why anybody has to care about well-being. and on that grounds, yeah. You don’t have to care about well-being, just like you don’t have to care about being healthy. Health isn’t particularly well-defined either, like physical health. We’re learning more and more about it, but it’s not like there’s some objective, true standard of health. Instead, there are a model of, we would like to be healthier, and we learn facts about the universe, and so we get healthier.

Michael Egnor: I had pointed out earlier that raising the question of objective morality stimulates atheists to do an incredible tap dance. [01:19:00]

Michael Egnor: Matt, I’m asking you a simple question. Is it objectively wrong…

Matt Dillahunty: No.

Michael Egnor: Is it objectively wrong to rape a baby, or is it just a matter of opinion?

Matt Dillahunty: It’s objectively wrong if the foundation of your morality holds that it would be objectively assessed as wrong.

Michael Egnor: No, no, no, no. Is it objectively wrong? Or is it just a matter of opinion? And if it is objectively wrong, what mind does that moral principle come from? [01:19:30]

Matt Dillahunty: This gets down to, how do you define morality? If you define it as well-being, once you’ve defined morality, then you can say, is this moral? If you’re just going to say right or wrong, then I need to know what standard we’re going to be using for right or wrong. If we’re going to use mine, which is…

Michael Egnor

Michael Egnor: I didn’t ask you any of that, man. I said, is it objectively wrong to rape babies? Yes or no, Matt. It’s a one word answer. Yes or no. [01:20:00]

Matt Dillahunty: No.

Michael Egnor: It’s not objectively wrong to rape babies?

Matt Dillahunty: Well, I don’t know what…

Michael Egnor: You’re that rare honest atheist.

Matt Dillahunty: No, no, no. I’m not a rare, honest atheist. I’m the guy that has given you an answer, that you mentioned is gibberish, which other people have understood well enough. That is, if we say we’re going to ask, is this in our best interest or not, then there can be an objective assessment made in the same way that is it objectively bad to cut off someone’s head? Well, generally speaking, yes, it’s bad for them. If we’re just going to look at it as, hey, is it objectively bad to steal things? Yes. Is it objectively bad to rape? Yes. Provided, we have agreed on a foundation. Otherwise, if my foundation is different from yours, then it doesn’t matter what others say. But you have a problem in the sense that the only thing you can do is claim there is some external objective, absolute standard that is God. And you can’t point to a single thing that we can identify as what that is or why we should care about it. [01:21:00]

Michael Egnor: All right. The tap dance continues.

Matt Dillahunty: No, no, no. That was not a tap dance. That was a counter to your position. [01:21:17]

Michael Egnor: Right. The existence of objective morality outside of human opinion…

Matt Dillahunty: It doesn’t exist.

Michael Egnor: Obviously points… So it doesn’t exist.

Matt Dillahunty: It does not exist as a thing by itself. That doesn’t mean you cannot make objective assessments with regard to a goal. [01:21:30]

Michael Egnor: No, if you’re making them and it doesn’t exist by itself, it’s a subjective assessment. There’s a difference between subjective and objective.

Matt Dillahunty: Well, all right. You can make an objective assessment of an action with respect to a goal. The rules in…

Michael Egnor: That’s not morality.

Matt Dillahunty: You can say it’s not morality all day long. I’m saying that my morality is based on well-being because that’s something I can point to and something I can talk to people about and we can agree. What is your morality based on? [01:22:00]

Michael Egnor: My morality is based on God.

Matt Dillahunty: How do you know what God’s moral opinion is on anything?

Michael Egnor: He’s put it in me.

Matt Dillahunty: He’s put it in you. How is that not subjective? Because first of all…

Michael Egnor: It’s written in my heart, as you would know from your own Christian experience.

Matt Dillahunty: I don’t care if it’s written in your heart. So you’re sitting here saying, God wrote it on your heart. Well, that’s really cool for you. Doesn’t help anybody else, and there’s no way for you to demonstrate to anyone, including yourself that God wrote it on your heart. So you have… [01:22:30]

Michael Egnor: He wrote it on your heart too, Matt. That’s why you don’t rape babies.

Matt Dillahunty: No, no sir. No, sir. He did not, because you and I don’t agree on morality. We largely agree because we’re largely similar, but we don’t agree on every aspect of morality. There’s no evidence that a God wrote anything on my heart or has made any sort of declaration about morality. How can you demonstrate the truth of that?

Michael Egnor: We’ll do a little thought question here. If there were a world where every one of the seven billion people on the face of the earth, believed that it was okay to rape babies, would that mean that it was in fact okay to rape babies? [01:23:00]

Matt Dillahunty: No.

Matt Dillahunty

Michael Egnor: No, okay. Where would the opinion that it is not okay to rape babies come from, if every human being on the face of the earth thought it was okay?

Matt Dillahunty: It’s not an opinion. What you’re talking about is moral relativism, which I am on record of rejecting for many, many, many, many, many years.

[part of the tape became inaudible, apparently for technical reasons]

Matt Dillahunty: I’m asking one question, which is incredibly important, which is you are convinced that God has written his moral code on your heart. I am not convinced that God has written his moral code on your heart or anyone else’s. You’re convinced that God’s written his moral card on both of our hearts. How can we know? How can you demonstrate that God has written his moral code on his heart, and what is God’s position on cloning? And how can you demonstrate? [01:24:30]

Michael Egnor: The way I know that God has written his moral code in my heart is because I, like every other human being on the face of the earth, now feels a moral code impressing on me. [01:25:00]

Matt Dillahunty: I don’t.

Firefighter Trainer teamwork of Firefighters training, fireman

Michael Egnor: There’s a moral code. It is a moral code that is not always convenient for me. There are many, many things I do that I would be a lot better off in a practical sense, if I didn’t follow that moral code. That’s true of all of us. There are people, many people who’ve given their lives, who have sacrificed their lives for a moral code. There are people who act against their self-interests constantly to meet a moral code. That’s the evidence. [01:25:30]

Matt Dillahunty: That is not evidence that God wrote a moral code on your heart. I’m sorry, but if you’re going to construct a logical argument for something, the conclusion should be entailed in the premises, and your conclusion that God wrote something, a moral code on your heart, is not in any of the premises that you just offered, not one.

Michael Egnor: Okay. If I sacrifice my life to save someone else, I jump in front of somebody to take a bullet for them, because I want to protect that person, and I think that’s the morally right thing to do… I can’t think of a more obvious example of living your life and giving your life in service to an objective moral code that does you no good. There is no personal benefit to countless moral acts that people do, but they do it because they think it’s right, because it was written on their heart. [01:26:30]

We all have that feeling, Matt.

Matt Dillahunty: No, we don’t necessarily all have that feeling. I will point out that you just engaged in an Argument for Personal Incredulity Fallacy, the second you said I can’t think of any other reason to do this. And I can demonstrate that there are justifications for perceived altruism that as I mentioned during my opening statement, that altruism is something that we can demonstrate. You’re making an appeal to altruism now, but we can also demonstrate fake altruism.[01:27:00]

Note:Argument from incredulity, also known as personal incredulity fallacy, is a logical fallacy in which someone concludes that something must not be true (or false) since they cannot believe or imagine it being true (or false).” Fallacy in Logic


Next: Does morality really exist? Does it really come from God?


The debate to date:

  1. Debate: Former atheist neurosurgeon vs. former Christian activist. At Theology Unleashed, each gets a chance to state his case and interrogate the other. In a lively debate at Theology Unleashed, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and broadcaster Matt Dillahunty clash over the existence of God.
  2. A neurosurgeon’s ten proofs for the existence of God. First, how did a medic, formerly an atheist, who cuts open people’s brains for a living, come to be sure there is irrefutable proof for God? In a lively debate at Theology Unleashed, Michael Egnor and Matt Dillahunty clash over “Does God exist?” Egnor starts off.
  3. Atheist Dillahunty spots fallacies in Christian Egnor’s views. “My position is that it’s unacceptable to believe something if the available evidence does not support it.” Dillahunty: We can’t conclusively disprove an unfalsifiable proposition. And that is what most “God” definitions, at least as far as I can tell, are.
  4. Egnor now tries to find out what Dillahunty actually knows… About philosophical arguments for the existence of God, as he begins a rebuttal. Atheist Dillahunty appears unable to recall the philosophical arguments for God’s existence, which poses a challenge for Egnor in rebutting him.
  5. Egnor, Dillahunty dispute the basic causes behind the universe. In a peppery exchange, Egnor argues that proofs of God’s existence follow the same logical structure as proofs in science. If the universe begins in a singularity (where Einstein’s equations break down), what lies behind it? Egnor challenges Dillahunty on that.
  6. Is Matt Dillahunty using science as a crutch for his atheism? That’s neurosurgeon Michael Egnor’s accusation in this third part of the debate, which features a continued discussion of singularities, where conventional “laws of nature” break down.
    If the “supernatural” means “outside of conventional nature,” Michael Egnor argues, science routinely accepts it, based on evidence.

You may also wish to read:

Science can and does point to God’s existence. Michael Egnor: Natural science is not at all methodologically naturalist — it routinely points to causes outside of nature. If we are to understand natural effects, we must be open to all kinds of causes, including causes that transcend nature.

and

The Divine Hiddenness argument against God’s existence = nonsense. God in Himself is immeasurably greater than we are, and He transcends all human knowledge. A God with whom we do not struggle — who is not in some substantial and painful way hidden to us — is not God but is a mere figment of our imagination.


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7. Dillahunty Asks 2nd Oldest Question: If God Exists, Why Evil?