• Heaven, hell, and philosophical zombies

    In the recent google hangout with Counter Apologist and Reasonable Doubts’ Justin Schieber on the Evidential Problem of Evil, we were talking about the great argument against hell. I will set this argument out again, as I have done previously, before getting on to my main point. This is an argument brought up by Ray Bradley in a debate with William Lane Craig.

    Imagine a set of people, call that set A. These are all the people in this world – W1. These people are made up of people who will freely come to love God, and end up in heaven – call these Subset X, and those who reject God, and end up in hell – call these Subset Y. God knows this free decision in advance (ignore all of the issues with this).

    What Bradley says is why doesn’t God just forget about Y, and just make a world of only people in Subset X (Call it world W2). This means God would not be cruelly creating a whole (majority) set of people who will end up being eternally punished in hell. Him knowing of the hellish torment of Subset Y in advance begs the questions of how a loving God could produce those people anyway.

    So why does God simply not create people who he knows would freely love him in this world such as world W2, but only make them and no one else? This would produce a universalist world but one which is not straight-jacketed since God would know that in a world such as this, they would still freely choose him.

    Craig attempts to tackle this by saying a possible. He claims it COULD be that in this new world, that same subset might have different situations whereby they now wouldn’t freely love God. He claims that God might not feasibly be able to create this second world. In other words, W2 creates a different situation than W1 whereby, now, all of Subset X wouldn’t freely choose God. Rather weak defence for an omnipotent and omniscient God, no? So a few of this Subset X might not come to God in this new world W2. So don’t create these ones, but only the ones in X who would freely love God. It might end up being a small subset, but better that than a huge amount of people condemned to eternal torment.

    God, in all his infinite wisdom must be able to create a world where he knows that all the people in it would freely come to love him. He might know this from the world W2, but also from knowing the counterfactuals of worlds W1, W3 etc. He could surely contrive a world where all the people came to love him, and he could see that these same people would be the sort of people who would love him in other worlds too.

    So each time a group of free believers is taken out of a possible world and themselves put into a further world, supposedly now of exclusively freely loving believers, that new world provides a new context whereby at least one of them will not now freely love God. And this carries on and on until there is no such world permissible. Craig claims that it is unfeasible for God, though logically conceivable, that he can create a given world whereby all the agents freely love God.

    This sharply differentiates unfeasible from logically impossible.

    I am not sure this distinction holds or makes any sense, but I will talk about that in a further post. For this post I want to concentrate on something Justin Schieber mentioned in the hangout. Why is it that in any given world, and let’s say this one, that each person who does not freely love God and who will thereby go to hell, is not replaced by a philosophical zombie? Now this is really interesting. Justin is saying that Craig claims that there must be in every possible world a contingent scenario whereby at least one person rejects God, and this is , one could argue, necessary for creating the particular scenario whereby some others, reliant on that rejection, come to freely love God.

    Now, on most classic understandings of God, God knows all future counterfactuals such that he knows the outcomes of given freely made decisions. Which means that he knows who will reject him in advance, and yet creates them anyway. This is vitally important. God appears to be creating people such that they end up in hell, or whatever a Christian might take hell to be or mean. This does not seem to be all-loving unless these people in some way necessitate a greater good.

    However, this could be averted if God replaced all people who would freely reject God (whom he knows in advance) with philosophical zombies who act and appear like normal people, but who are different by virtue of their inability to feel things (ie qualia). As wiki defines P-zombies:

    philosophical zombie or p-zombie in the philosophy of mind and perception is a hypothetical being that is indistinguishable from a normal human being except in that it lacks conscious experiencequalia, or sentience.[1] When a zombie is poked with a sharp object, for example, it does not feel any pain though it behaves exactly as if it does feel pain (it may say “ouch” and recoil from the stimulus, or tell us that it is in intense pain).

    The notion of a philosophical zombie is used mainly in thought experiments intended to support arguments (often called “zombie arguments”) against forms of physicalism such as materialism,behaviorism and functionalism. Physicalism is the idea that all aspects of human nature can be explained by physical means: specifically, all aspects of human nature and perception can be explained from a neurobiological standpoint. Some philosophers, like David Chalmers, argue that since a zombie is defined as physiologically indistinguishable from human beings, even its logical possibility would be a sound refutation of physicalism.[2]

    However, physicalists like Daniel Dennett counter that Chalmers’s physiological zombies are logically incoherent and thus impossible.[3][4]

    This seems to be a brilliant retort to the argument, and one which I would like to see William Lane Craig refute. This invalidates any such Craigian defence of the claim that God is not all-loving because he knowingly creates people who will suffer an eternity in hell (given hell as a viable theology).

    Or does it? In the hangout, I came up with a retort to Justin’s point, but we moved on and were unable to explore it: I wondered whether God could already have done that and we would not know that most of the people on earth weren’t P-zombies fulfilling their destiny as catalysts for allowing true people to heaven. In thinking about it since then, I have realised that I know I am not a P-zombie and therefore this counter-point that Craig could make would be invalidated. That there is at least one P-zombie who will suffer eternally and that that knowledge was foreknown by God before creation.

    However, on further consideration, I think I could do Craig’s work here in offering a counterpoint. The previous point which I made that I am not a P-zombie can only work for me. I cannot convince anyone else of this, and any attempts to do so would look like a P-zombie acting like a human and trying to convince other humans that it was actually human, whilst really remaining a P-zombie with no qualia (from the other person’s point of view).

    Therefore, we get to a point where a Christian (who was surely going to go to heaven in freely loving God) could still claim that all people who freely reject God are actually P-zombies who act as if they are humans; and the ones who claim they really are humans are actually really still P-zombies.

    Thus the theist could still claim that God can create a world in which no real people suffered. Of course, this is possible, but maybe not plausible. Moreover, this line of argument does nothing for the idea that it really is unfeasible for the greatest being in conception to create a world in which all agents freely come to love him. This is a tough one for the theist to crack, as I hope to show in a future post.

    Category: God's CharacteristicsHeavenHellProblem of Evil

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    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

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    • Steven Carr

      Craig’s hypothetical god, being a god is omnipotent.

      That means that , Craig’s hypothetical god could create a film of a world where all the agents freely love him. God could do that just to show people what such a world would look like.

      This is logically possible.

      After all , I can create a cartoon where Tom loves Jerry. We all know that in real life Tom hates Jerry and freely tries to catch him, but it is logically possible that there could be a world where Tom love Jerry and I could create a cartoon version of that world.

      Of course, God, being God can create really realistic films, much better than Toy Story 2.

      This film would naturally be in 3-D with very high definition.

      In fact, God being omnipotent could create a film where all the characters were made out of matter and had genuine thoughts and feelings corresponding to what a real person would feel.

      In fact, God’s film of this logically possible world where everybody loves him would be so realistic (God is very good at this technical stuff, much better than Pixar), that it would be impossible to distinguish God’s film from reality.

      So why can’t Craig’s hypothetical god create a reality that is just like the film, when everybody agrees that any all-powerful god can create a film that is just like reality?

      • That’s a really interesting thought experiment!

        • Steven Carr

          Don’t forget that Craig’s philosophy is just a smokescreen to try to rationalise his beliefs.

          In Craig’s world, Muslims are going to Hell.

          Muslims may say they freely love God. They might worship God. They might even use the same arguments Craig uses to defend the existence of God.

          But Craig thinks they are going to Hell.

          Is freely loving a God who created the universe enough to get you to Heaven in the eyes of Craig?

          No, you have to sign up for the whole Christian package.

          So why waste time debating one of Craig’s diversions about ‘Why can’t God create a world where everybody freely loves him?’

          Why does Craig’s loving god send non-believers to Hell anyway? What’s wrong with not loving somebody who allows babies to be torn from their mother’s arms by wild dogs?

          Why is it a crime not to freely love somebody?

      • labreuer

        It would be a world that only looks like agents have free will. >:-] Or worse, the idea of ‘free will’ would be unrecognizable, kind of like the color ‘red’ in a world that is entirely red. What would be the smallest amount of ‘exposure’ to the idea that there is evil? Perhaps the choice to eat of a given tree, or not—where any and all other choices are A-OK. :-p

      • consumedbyfire13

        God could do that, but where there’s a fork in the road is when you think of what Jesus said. He said that there is nothing *secret that would not be made manifest. If what you speak of was made known (by Jesus Christ) then it could be a possibility but since (as far as I know) there hasn’t been a Christian that has said “God told me that the wicked are philosophical zombies” and that it is not in the Bible then it’s not possible. Interesting concept though.

    • Steven Carr

      It is interesting that people like Craig despise multiverse theories.

      And then they tell you what their god can and can’t do in alternative universes which they claim don’t exist.

      How does Craig know what people in alternative universes would do?

      These people literally do not exist.

      They are fictional people.

      How can his god be constrained by what a fictional person would freely choose?

    • im-skeptical

      There’s another aspect of this that I find interesting. God doesn’t instantiate the W2 scenario (according to Craig) because that would change the outcome of W1. So in the W1 scenario, by Craig’s reckoning, people go to heaven because they freely chose to love God, but those same people would have rejected God under different circumstances, and God must be well aware of this.

    • I’ve always thought that god could simply just make it so that all the sperms cells that would fertilize eggs that would result in non-Christians would never get to fertilize the eggs or would never be created in the first place. So only sperm cells that would result in Christians being born would be created, and this wouldn’t violate anyone’s free will. Since a man makes ~100 million sperm cells per ejaculation, I’m sure at least one of those sperms cells would result in a person freely choosing Christianity no matter where it’s born.

      • I think there is simply nothing that can be done by the Christian who believes that God foreknowingly creates people to suffer eternally in hell. Just nothing. It causes the orthodox God hypothesis to fail miserably.

        • Oh I agree, It’s an utterly bankrupt explanation.

        • consumedbyfire13

          As a Christian, I agree with this statement. I posted a message at the top of the comment section of this page.

      • consumedbyfire13

        Some people don’t want to live for all eternity, therefore a life here on earth is what God has granted them. Oh wait, do you think that hell is a place of eternal torment, if so, then watch “hellfire exposed” on YouTube. Hell is a grave. The wicked will cease to exist forever.

    • Guest

      Hi Johnathan. I understand that you aren’t a Christian and am not trying to change your beliefs. This was a very interesting post. I actually was hoping you were going to go somewhere else with it though. I’d like to clear one thing up: comparing all the scriptures that speak of the fate of the wicked and fitting them together, the wicked will die and cease to exist forever. They do not have consciousness.

      I found your article by Googling “are the people in hell philosophical zombies?” just to see what I’d find.

      I believe the people in hell are zombies – I don’t know about philosophical though – as according to Ecclesiastes 9 they “know nothing and there is no knowledge, work, or wisdom there”. For me, this paints a picture of someone who is unconscious, dead.

      Biblically, the wicked can’t be philosophical zombies because Jesus said that there is nothing secret that will not be revealed. Since I haven’t heard any Christian come out and say that “God told me that the wicked are philosophical zombies” then I would say the unsaved are not p-zombies.

      Going back to the topic of hell, many people will say that that can’t be true because of the story of the rich man and Lazarus. After studying that story, studying other teachings of Jesus, and listening to a few lectures on the story, I have concluded that it is a parable and not a true story, thus it should not be an image as to the fate of the wicked.

    • consumedbyfire13

      Hi Johnathan. I understand that you aren’t a Christian and am not trying to change your beliefs. This was a very interesting post. I actually was hoping you were going to go somewhere else with this. I’d like to clear one thing up: comparing all the scriptures that speak of the fate of the wicked and fitting them together, the wicked will die and cease to exist forever. They do not have consciousness.

      I found your article by Googling “are the people in *hell philosophical zombies?” just to see what I’d find.

      I believe the people in hell are zombies – I don’t know about philosophical though – as according to Ecclesiastes 9 they “know nothing and there is no knowledge, work, or wisdom there”. For me, this paints a picture of someone who is unconscious, dead.

      Biblically, the wicked can’t be philosophical zombies because Jesus said that there is nothing secret that will not be revealed. Since I haven’t heard any Christian come out and say that “God told me that the wicked are philosophical zombies” then I would say the unsaved are not p-zombies.

      Going back to the topic of hell, many people will say that that can’t be true because of the story of the rich man and Lazarus. After studying that story, studying other teachings of Jesus, and listening to a few lectures on the story, I have concluded that it is a parable and not a true story, thus it should not be an image as to the fate of the wicked.

      • Hi there, and thanks for your comment.

        I think there are some big problems for your thesis, and here is for why!

        1) Basically, if you make hell full of p-zombies, then there is no punishment value for hell. They cannot feel the punishment and consequences of their earthly behaviour in any meaningful way.

        2) If they are p-zombies, then you could argue that they are just performing a function for normal humans. But since normal people cannot access them in heaven and witness them being there, then they need not actually be there. In other words, it is a hell synonymous with not existing. In other words, there would actually be no point in actually creating that type of hell, though you could claim it existed without creating it in reality (for its deterrance value, for example).

        • consumedbyfire13

          “Basically, if you make hell full of p-zombies, then there is no punishment value for hell. They cannot feel the punishment and consequences of their earthly behaviour in any meaningful way.” I have implied that the people in hell are zombies, not p-zombies. A bunch of philosophical zombies in hell who are only programmed to appear to be in pain does seem like a major problem.

          I don’t think punishment has to be something that is consciously suffered. The capital punishment that is enforced by the court of law is death. The people are never to be a part of the world in anything again, that is the “horror” behind the punishment.

          Yes, I believe in annhilationalism, and much scriptures strongly support this doctrine. In which case the punishment is being cut off by all things under the sun, ceasing to exist forever.

          God’s first warning as to the fate of sin was that Adam and Eve would lose life. By my readings, God has no interest in giving conscious punishment after death. All spoken judgment in the Bible is during a person’s life time. The punishments that God gives are expressed in a way that show that they are severe in nature to Him. God is proportional in His choosing of punishments by saying “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” among several other passages states that God is fair and rational in choosing each person’s punishment. It wouldn’t make sense to have proportional punishment to a person to each individual here on earth, but only to cast them all into an endless state of conscious suffering.

          Several times in Jeremiah the ‘final blow’ (so to speak) that God makes is death. This can be seen here: “I will make her princes and her wise men drunk, Her governors, her prefects and her mighty men, That they may sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake up,” Declares the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts.” Jeremiah 51:57. What does this sound like to you? Does this leave room for some esoteric meaning behind sleep where someone is going to suddenly wake up into torment for all eternity. If so, why doesn’t God just say it? If I go to a judge and ask him the punishment of transporting two kilograms of cocaine (without a license) across state he will give me a clear, plain, and complete explanation as for the punishment. We can only expect that (if we are assuming the god of the Bible is a real god) God would operate similarly. Just some things think about. Pressing on…

          I actually wasn’t originally trying to create a thesis. I was trying to enlighten you on the idea of annihilationism and how it could (I believe) address some of the problems you’ve ran into regarding the reason behind the wicked’s existence and the morality issue behind it which is (admittedly) huge when an all knowing God would knowingly create someone who would be an unbeliever only to cast them into eternal conscious torment for a finite crime.

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