The debate between Christian neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty at Theology Unleashed was “Does God Exist?”. But that entails covering many topics.
Egnor argues, as transcribed below, for the widely held traditional view that evil has no creative power of its own but is simply the absence of good:
Arjuna [podcast host]: Question for both. If indeed God is indirectly or even directly responsible for evil/harm — that, if nothing else, he allowed man to mess up — best guess as to why from your perspective.
Michael Egnor: So why does God allow evil?
Matt Dillahunty: It’s easy for me. He didn’t, but go ahead. [01:45:30]
Michael Egnor: The Thomistic understanding of evil is that it’s an absence of good. It’s not a thing that exist independently in itself. It’s a deficit of goodness. God’s creation necessarily fall short of goodness because if he created something perfectly good, He would just be creating himself. So all of creation necessarily has some evil in it because it’s not perfect. It’s not God. I believe that God allows evil to accomplish good through it. [01:46:00]News, “11. Is evil in the world simply the absence of good?” at Mind Matters News (October 11, 2021)
That good can be difficult to see, but of course, we have a very small horizon that we’re able to see. But I believe that evil is allowed, in part, to allow free human agency — to allow us to act in the image of God in the sense of being active agents with free will and that God allows natural evil as a way of challenging us, as a way of giving us burdens to bear, which builds character. It’s a tough thing. I’m not saying I like it, but I think that is a reasonable explanation for the existence of evil along with God’s existence. [01:47:00]
Note: Evil as the privation (absence) of good is a traditional philosophical position: “In the neo-Platonic tradition, from Plato, through Plotinus, and from there integrated into mainstream Christian and Islamic theology, good is the only true reality, and evil is just the absence of good, just as darkness is the absence of light, and cold is the absence of heat.” – Stack Exchange
Egnor and Dillahunty also clashed over whether a cause can be outside of time.
Takehome: Many traditional philosophers have held that evil is the absence of good in the same way that darkness is the absence of light. It has no independent existence.
The debate to date:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Egnor argues that there is an objective moral law against such acts; Dillahunty argues, no, it is all just human judgment.
- Does morality really exist? If so, does it come from God? Matt Dillahunty now challenges Michael Egnor: There is no way to know whether a moral doctrine represents any reality apart from belief. Michael Egnor insists that a moral law exists independently of varying opinions. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, that has always been the traditional view worldwide.
- Michael Egnor explains why Matt Dillahunty is not an atheist. Not really, anyway, Egnor insists, because he keeps invoking a moral standard that can’t exist if materialist atheism is true. Egnor: I’ve encountered few people who demand as much fairness for themselves as atheists. They don’t live like atheists. They live like theists.
10: Christian Egnor and atheist Dillahunty now take questions… For example, “ What is Mr. Egnor’s best evidence of any god that would make me believe?” Key questions turned on whether abstractions like “right” or wrong “wrong” represent realities. It’s the perennial realism vs. nominalism question again.
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.
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.
Atheist Claims about logical fallacies often just mean: Shut Up! In the recent debate, Matt Dillahunty accuses theists of “the fallacy of the argument from personal incredulity” because we examine his claims and find them incredible. What atheists fear most is having to explain themselves, and the invocation of fictitious “fallacies” is one of their favorite ways to evade scrutiny.
Theists vs. atheists: Which group has the burden of proof? Because Dillahunty refuses to debate me again, I’ll address his claim that atheists have no burden of proof in the debate over God’s existence in this post. Both atheists and theists make positive statements about the nature of the universe. If atheists shun the ensuing burden of proof, it should count against them.