Monday, 10 July 2017

The Logic of Theological Zombies

Sometimes, rather than accepting an argument in words, an apologist will demand that an argument be presented as a series of premises and conclusions.  So here is the formal argument for theological zombies (and a little beyond):

P1 – Everything a maximally excellent being (MEB) wants is a thoroughly good thing (TGT)

P2 – The saving of a soul is a TGT

P3 – The MEB wants to save more than a single soul

P4 – That which is thoroughly good cannot saturate

C1 – Therefore, the MEB must want an infinite (or maximal) number of saved souls (from P1, P2, P3 and P4)

P5 – If the MEB wants an infinite (or maximal) number of saved souls it can achieve that by means of theological zombies

P6 – With the option of theological zombies, it not necessary that the MEB send any soul to hell

P7 – To be a maximally excellent being it must be impossible for there to be a superior being

P8 – If the notional MEB were to send any soul to hell, when it is possible to not send any souls to hell, then there would be a possible superior being to the notional MEB (meaning that the notional MEB is not an actual MEB)

C2 – No souls are sent to hell by the MEB (from C1, P5, P6, P7 and P8)

P9 – If the MEB will not, and cannot, send any souls to hell, then Jesus (as, or as a representative of, the MEB) was lying about hell (from C3)

P10 – A being that lies and lets its representatives lie is a lesser being than one that is always truthful and does not let its representatives lie

C3 – Therefore, there is no MEB associated with Jesus (from C2, P10, P11 and P7)


Support and clarification for various premises and explanations for conclusions are as follows:

P1 – if the MEB wants anything that is less than a TGT then it is not omnibeneficient and not thoroughly good in itself (which would defeat the moral argument)

P2 – this could be argued from at least two perspectives.  Firstly, unnecessary damnation for anyone is not a thoroughly good thing.  Secondly, there are claims that the MEB wants humans to enter into a personal relationship with it, which saves the soul and must be a thoroughly good thing (along with the consequential saving of the soul).  Note that “soul” here could just mean “individual”, the precise mechanism of individuation post death is immaterial to the argument

P3 – the MEB apparently wants not only more than one saved soul but also more than one of each type, since that limited requirement could have been satisfied by just saving Adam and Eve.  The need to procreate and fill the planet with billions of people would indicate that the MEB wants many saved souls

P4 – that is to say that there is no value of N such that N is the optimum number of TGTs, because if N+1 TGTs is less good than N TGTs, then the TGT is not thoroughly good, because it can be bad under certain circumstances.  In other words, if you can say there is too much of a good thing, then that good thing is not a thoroughly good thing

C1 – infinite seems better when it comes to thoroughly good things since, as per P4, they cannot saturate, so for every value N, N+1 TGTs is better than N TGTs.  Perhaps there could be a "maximal number" of saved souls that is finite, but this eats away at both the omnipotence of the MEB and the thorough goodness of saving souls

P7 – seems quite self-evident to me

P8 – that is to say that given that theological zombies are not impossible there is a way to avoid sending any soul to hell (noting that there is no commitment from the MEB that all experiences of humans must be both authentic and veridical – the non-veridical experiences of someone in a universe which is otherwise inhabited by theological zombies are still authentic experiences in that they are identical to the experiences they would have had in interactions with real others, they have the benefit of being authentic without necessitating the condemning of any of those others to hell)

C2 – otherwise it would not be maximally excellent

P9 – the Jesus character mentions hell a few times, admittedly mostly in relation to parables, for example the Parable of the Net (Matt 13:49-50): “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  One might argue that this is just a parable, but earlier in the chapter, another parable, the Parable of the Weeds, was explained (Matt 13:41-42): “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.  They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  There’s little space for misinterpretation there.

P10 – if there are two paths to the same objective and the only consequential difference is that one involves a lie and the other doesn’t, then the honest path is the better of the two

C3 – an MEB would not lie or permit lies on its behalf and it would not send souls to hell.  Therefore, there is a dilemma with respect to the Jesus character’s pronouncements on hell.  Either these pronouncements are factual and the supposed MEB sends souls to hell (and therefore it cannot be an MEB) or these pronouncements are false and the Jesus character is lying about it (and therefore Jesus cannot be representing an MEB)


I listed the ways that theists might try to avoid the difficulties that follow consideration of theological zombies in WLC – A Hole:

Reject maximal excellence (although WLC argues that a less than maximally excellent being is not god)

Reject the arguments of WLC and people like him (a very good start on the road to reason and intellectual freedom)

Appeal to ignorance (the standard fall-back option)

Argue that the theological zombie is logically impossible (this would have to be a valid argument, of course, otherwise it's just another appeal to ignorance hidden behind a veil of rhetoric and hand-waving - of the sort that I'd expect WLC to embark upon)

I think here there is another issue that one might need to keep in mind given the argument above.  If the MEB did use theological zombies to ensure that no created soul would be unsaved, then it would not necessarily need to send an actual avatar to Earth to speak on its behalf.  A madman who thinks that he is the earthly representative of the MEB would do, or a group of people with runaway imagination who create a fictional character who thinks he is the earthly representative of the MEB (or even knows it, given that he is fictional).  That is to say, the apparent lies of Jesus would only be lies if Jesus were divine or divinely inspired.  If they are the ravings of a madman or the words put into the mouth of a fictional character, then the MEB is neither lying nor allowing its representatives to lie.

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