Three New Objections to the Fine-Tuning Argument for Theism

First objectionNothing can create concrete objects ex nihilo. So the posterior probability of the fine-tuning of the universe of concrete objects on the hypothesis that the god of classical theism both (i) designed it and (ii) ultimately created it ex nihilo is nil. But according to classical theism, for any world containing concrete objects, God ultimately created the concrete objects in W ex nihilo. Therefore, classical theism entails that God ultimately creates ex nihilo any world containing concrete objects he designs. Therefore, the posterior probability of fine-tuning on the hypothesis of classical theism is nil.

Second objection: The evidence for fine-tuning confirms both demiurgism and panentheism over theism, and in this way is good evidence against theism. This is because the intuitive and empirical evidence against creation ex nihilo creates a strong drag on theism’s prior probability not suffered by demiurgism and panentheism, and so they lap the former in terms of posterior probability. A fortiori, the posterior probability of the inclusive disjunction of demiurgism and panentheism is considerably higher than that of theism given the evidence of fine-tuning.

Third objectionThere are final causes in God's nature that are ontologically prior to his intelligent agency. For example, God's intellect and will work together to perform various functions, such as designing and creating things.  God's life is also meaningful and purposeful according to classical theism. On classical theism, therefore, final causes are built into God's nature without a prior cause. But if that's right, then classical theism entails the existence of final causes at the metaphysical ground floor that God cannot create. And if that's right, then theism entails that non-conscious teleology is a more fundamental feature of reality than teleology caused by intelligence. And if that's right, then we'd expect base-level teleology in the universe that's not caused by God on the hypothesis of theism. Therefore, absent a further reason for thinking cosmic fine-tuning isn't expected unless caused by a divine fine-tuner, cosmic fine-tuning doesn't confirm theism vis-a-vis naturalism.

New Paper on the Problem(s) of Divine Manipulation for Christian Theism

Aku, Visala. "The Problems of Divine Manipulation", Neue Zeitschrift für Systematische Theologie und Religionsphilosophie 65:2 (July 2023).

Abstract: Many Christian theologians believe in the existence of cases of divine hardening and divine election, where God either actively contributes to human evil or preordains it. God seems to act like a manipulator, who first covertly incites or determines people’s evil actions and then condemns those actions and punishes the wrongdoers. I raise three questions regarding such cases: (1) how can humans be responsible for wrongdoings that are determined by God via either direct involvement or predestination; (2) is God justified in using covert manipulation to achieve his goals; (3) how can God judge human evil, if God predestines them or actively incites humans to commit evils? The article outlines two cases of supposed divine manipulation, discusses the general nature of manipulation and then examines each question outlined above. The argument is that the problems surrounding divine manipulation present significant challenges to especially those Christian theists that subscribe to divine determinism.



Structural Evil

Rough draft: First pass.

Consider the following two lists of evils:
List A
1. The suffering and death of a fawn caused by a forest fire due to a relatively rare natural event.
2. The death of an explorer by a volcano in a remote and unoccupied region.
3. The suffering caused by an extremely rare birth defect.
4. A death from being hit by a relatively small meteor fragment.

List B
5. The suffering caused by the mechanisms of pleasure and pain to condition the behavior of sentient creatures.
6. Suffering caused by predation.
7. The suffering caused by innate mechanisms in the cognitive architecture of humans that naturally and reliably cause out-group hostility and genocide.
8. The suffering caused by sickness and death due to microbes in many natural bodies of water.
The traditional distinction between moral and natural evil treats all instances of evil on both lists as roughly the same, viz., as just a bunch of instances of natural evil. This is bad. For intuitively, the evils on List B are relevantly different from those on List A, and in a way that is significant. In particular, natural evils on List A seem like one-offs in the normal course of things, while those on List B are a constitutive part of the normal course of things. To put it in terms of a popular idiom: List-A evils are bugs in the system of nature, while List-B evils are features. I therefore propose that we mark the distinction between the two types of evil with some labels. Call evils of the sort on List B structural evils, and call evils List A non-structural evils.

As a first approximation, structural evils are characterized by at least the following three features:
1. They are a species of natural evil.
2. They are caused by structural features of the universe or a specific portion thereof.
3. If left to run their course, such features either (a) reliably produce suffering/harm in human or non-human creatures or (b) significantly raise the probability of suffering/harm.
The structural/non-structural evil distinction holds out the promise of an advance in the problem of evil debate. For discussion of the problem of evil not infrequently focuses on  non-structural  evils. But these can seem like one-off evils, in which case one might naturally infer that they are foreseen but unintended evils in a universe that generally runs in a way that supports the well-being of its creatures. By contrast, it's intuitive that structural evils are such that, if God exists, then they are foreseen and intended, thereby eliciting a natural presumption of depraved indifference or actual malice. As such, they seem to be a much more formidable category of evil to account for on the hypothesis of theism. 

Alter's New Book Defending Russellian Monism

Torin Alter's new book, The Matter of Consciousness: From the Knowledge Argument to Russellian Monism (Oxford University Press, 2023) is now out. For an overview, listen to this nice podcast interview with Alter (by Carrie Figdor) on New Books in Philosophy.

What God Would Have Known...

 ...is the title of J.L. Schellenberg's forthcoming book , which offers a large number of novel arguments against Christian theism. I...