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Theism and Explanation 5: Potential Theistic Explanations


5.1 Theological Skepticism
5.2 The Rationality Principle
5.3 The Optimality Condition
5.4 Arguments Against Optimality
5.5 The Consequences of Skepticism

Dawes argues against the in principle objection to theism.

Genius quote in response to reconciling evil, God’s goodness, and God’s omnipotence:

It is not enough to reconcile the three propositions which Dembski lists, in the sense of showing they do not give rise to a contradiction. It is not sufficient to show that affirming the existence of God is compatible with recognizing the existence of evil. In the present context– that of offering explanations that posit the existence of such a God– the theist must show that the world with all its suffering is precisely what we would expect an omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect being to create. He must show that this world is what we “would, beforehand, expect from a very powerful, wise, and benevolent Deity” (97).


Best chapter so far. Dawes is arguing that the God hypothesis does not explain everything. In fact, it is constrained by the Rationality Principle, and the Optimality Condition. He defends both arguments. What is so interesting is to the extent that his constraints fail, theism weakens as an explanation.

Dawes argues that for theism to be a potential explanation of something, we need to be able to infer desires and likely actions from a God. Only then can we say that some surprising feature of the world is likely, given theism. But, if we are not able to “guess the mind of God” as many theists propose (especially in defense against the problem of evil), then the God hypothesis ceases to constrain our expectations in any way, and thus ceases to be able to explain anything! Love it. Beautiful.

What is also important is that we need to show that God’s attributes would lead to the world we expect before¬†observing this world itself. Now that’s hard to imagine, and maybe some theists would say that yes, given God’s attributes, they would deduce this world, but it seems unlikely. If you ask a theist if he would change the world if he could, he probably would say yes, and suggest some changes. But if he does, he is presuming to know better than God. He presumes to think that yes, a better world could exist. This world is not optimal by any stretch of the imagination.

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