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A Discourse on God
Evil exists in the absence of God - such is the argument of one student during a discourse between a professor and his class. The professor asked the class if it is true that God did create everything that exists. When one of the students said yes, the professor argued that if God created everything that exists, then God also created evil, therefore, God is evil. Another student, who the author of the discourse claims to be Albert Einstein, challenged the professor by attempting to prove that evil exists in the absence, but not because, of God. The student pointed out scientific facts that cold exists because of the absence of heat and that dark exists because of the absence of light to prove his idea that God did not create evil. On the contrary, evil exists in God’s absence. Understanding the arguments of the professor and of the student requires thoughtful analysis of the points through critical thinking. In the succeeding discussion, the discourse on God will be analyzed using concepts of logic and critical thinking. The analysis is expected to reveal strengths and weaknesses of the professor’s and student’s arguments and determine what factors make arguments valid and thus, stronger than of the other. In the discourse on God, the professor and the student both made logical arguments on some level, but also committed logical fallacies on a subject, which is difficult to rationalize in the first place.
The professor’s argument is an example of syllogistic logic, a type of reasoning, where an individual infers an argument based on two previous arguments. “Syllogisms are deductive arguments that involve drawing conclusions from two premises. All syllogisms comprise a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion” (Sternberg & Mio, 2009, p. 505). Therefore, in the professor’s argument, the major premise is that God created everything that exists. The minor premise is that, since God created everything that exists, God also created evil. Based on the two premises, the professor concluded that therefore, God is evil. The strength of the professor’s argument lies in the premise, because the two ideas – God created everything that exists, therefore, God must have also created evil – are complementary ideas that could have resulted to a strong conclusion. However, the professor’s conclusion is a fallacy, because it is an ambiguous presumption. Fallacies of ambiguity refer to errors in reasoning, “that occur because of an ambiguity in the premises or conclusion” (Bairan, 2005, p. 149). The weakness of the professor’s argument is the presumption that God did create everything that exists, because in fact, God did not create everything that exists. God created living things, and living things created other things that exist in this world (i.e. man-made objects or structures). Therefore, the idea that God created evil could be disproved by arguing that God did not create everything that exists. Furthermore, in an argument that relies strongly on personal belief, making arguments or assumptions about what God did create is expected to yield logical fallacies due to the influence of the bias.
Belief bias commonly influences syllogistic reasoning, which therefore, leads to errors in creating premises or conclusions. According to Evans (2007, p. 87), “realistic content can facilitate logical reasoning relative to artificial problem content; and… the existence of prior beliefs and attitudes can bias reasoning”. The professor was clearly trying to prove that God created evil, when the major premise that God created everything that exists in the Universe is a resultant premise based on the belief of another student. Before making the argument, the professor asked the class if God created everything that exists. One student answered yes, and the professor used the student’s belief in creating the major premise. Note that other students may not believe in God and thus, could have easily answered no, when the professor asked the class.
The student, who may or may not be Einstein, responded to the professor’s argument by relying on scientific facts to establish his conclusion that evil exists due to the absence of God. The strength of the student’s argument lies in the factual foundations of his conclusion. The scientific element of his argument made it interesting and compelling to drive the point. However, the student’s argument may also be a genetic fallacy. A genetic fallacy is a means of “evaluating a thing in terms of its earlier context while ignoring relevant changes that may have altered its character in the interim and then using that evaluation to support a conclusion in the present” (Damer, p. 99). The student’s argument is a genetic fallacy, because even if his two previous arguments – cold exists due to the absence of heat and darkness exists due to the absence of light – were true, the conclusion that evil exists due to the absence of God is not parallel to the two previous ideas. The point from the two previous arguments is lost in the conclusion, because the role of God in creating evil is not supported in the final argument. For instance, heat does change cold temperatures and the light illuminates the darkness, but the student and even all of us cannot rationally state the relation of God to evil. We cannot answer that God relates to evil, just as light relates to darkness and heat relates to cold.
It is difficult to argue, when it comes to religion in the first place, because there always will be belief biases. However, we can make strong arguments if we build a good premise first, on which we establish what we believe in before making arguments, so other people can attribute our conclusions based on what we believe in. Similarly, those who believe in different religions should also establish their beliefs first before making counterarguments, so both parties would know where each one is coming from. Building the premise and acknowledging the belief bias are important, when it comes to debating about God and religion.
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