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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptic > 24.2 > Is the Reality of Evil Good Evidence Against the Christian God?

Is the Reality of Evil Good Evidence Against the Christian God?

A Response to Michael Shermer’s Affirmative Answer

It was a pleasure to meet and dialogue with Dr. Shermer on the issue of God and evil. It is certainly an important topic for believers and skeptics alike. In this article I will respond to some of the debate that we engaged in as well as the written article Shermer has published in response to it. It might be pertinent if I lay out some agreements between us. First, we both agree that evil is not a thing in itself (I will provide a definition of evil later). Evil is not an entity or a noun, but an adjective that describes something. Second, we both believe that morality is something known rather intuitively, albeit for different reasons. Third, we both take morality to be objective. Now for the differences.

The topic of our discussion was “Is the Reality of Evil Good Evidence Against the Christian God.”

There is a lot to unpack here. For starters, it should be firmly grasped that discussions about God and evil are inherently philosophical in nature. This was one of my main points in the debate. But what do I mean by “philosophical”? Probably not what Shermer thought I meant. It seems that he equates philosophy in general with analytic philosophy in particular. The latter is basically the reduction of philosophical concepts to language (analyzing terms, their definitions, and their relationships to other words/ideas). Doubtless there are many philosophers who are analytic, especially in the U.S. However, this is not what philosophy has been traditionally and historically.

Traditionally, philosophy has been a rational investigation into such areas as the nature of being/existence (metaphysics), the nature of knowledge (epistemology), etc., and any number of sub-disciplines such as the philosophy of math, philosophy of science, or the philosophy of religion.

Philosophy asks questions about the nature of things. For example, what is the nature of reality/existence, knowledge, and truth? Do universals such as redness, humanness, and circularity exist in some way? Whereas science studies things in nature, philosophy of science asks about the nature of science and scientific knowledge, such as what counts as science? One position that has been popular in this regard says that something counts as scientific if it can be falsifiable. In Shermer’s article he brings up “Sagan’s Dragon.” I won’t retell that story here except to say that the dragon can’t be empirically falsified in any way and therefore is said not to exist. According to Shermer, Sagan’s point is that if something can’t be falsified it can’t count as knowledge.

Shermer cites Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World to illustrate the necessity of falsifiability in order to attain reliable knowledge.”

I do not disagree with this; however, I wouldn’t take “falsifiability” to be merely empirical in nature as something can be falsified rationally—i.e., it can be shown to be contradictory or internally inconsistent.

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THE EXISTENCE OF EVIL AND GOD COLUMNS The SkepDoc: Laser Therapy: Hope or Hype and Hokum?, by Harriet Hall, M.D. • The Gadfly: The Sisyphean Challenges of Skepticism or, Start by Disbelieving, by Carol Tavris ARTICLES Pterosaur Thunderbird: The Origin of a Fake Native American Legend with an Anti- Evolution Agenda • Conversations with My Dead Mother: Why We See Signs and Omens in Everyday Events • Is Cousin Marriage Dangerous? • Therapeutic Touch Redux Twenty Years After the “Emily Event”: Energy Therapies Live on Through Bad Science • What Can Science Learn from Religion? Steven Pinker on Religious Beliefs and Rituals • Becoming Fantastic: Why People Embellish Already Accomplished Lives with Incredible Tales of UFOs and Other Phenomena • 1984 in 2019: The New Privacy Threat from China’s Social Credit Surveillance System SPECIAL DEBATE SECTION Michael Shermer v. Brian Huffling: Is the Reality of Evil Good Evidence Against the Christian God? REVIEW Graham Hancock’s “America Before: The Key to Earth’s Lost Civilization” reviewed by Jason Colavito JUNIOR SKEPTIC The Colossal Case of the Cardiff Giant: One of America’s Greatest Hoaxes