A Red-winged Blackbird

My daughter is a freshman philosophy student who is currently writing her second-ever essay in philosophy.  The topic is Descartes Meditations.  We have been discussing the deceptive god and evil genius skeptical arguments for the past week.  

So, my disagreement with Stephen Law about the relevance (or irrelevance) of the Kalam cosmological argument to the evil god hypothesis coincides nicely with philosophical discussions going on in my own household.  One question at issue is whether the Kalam argument, if sound, provides significant support for the evil god hypothesis.  

A key premise in Stephen Law’s reasoning appears to be this:

1.  Belief in an evil god is absurd (i.e. very unreasonable).

If the Kalam argument (if sound) would provide significant support for the evil god hypothesis, then it seems to me that the Kalam argument is relevant to evaluating this premise in Stephen Law’s reasoning.

Like Descartes, I have found many of my past opinions to be in error, so I wish to subject my present opinion about the Kalam argument’s relevance to the evil god hypothesis to rigorous examination to see whether it holds up and should be retained, or is cast into doubt by further examination and thus should be set aside as false or dubious.

In defense of my current opinion, I will present an analogy, and then see whether others can find any critical errors or problems with the analogy.

A missionary discovered a tribe of nomads in an isolated desert region.  The missionary befriended the nomadic people and in a matter of a few months was able to learn their spoken language.  One evening the missionary told a story to his nomadic friends about an event from his childhood.  A red-winged blackbird had landed on a branch near the bedroom window of the young boy (who would one day be a missionary), and the bird awoke the boy with noises that sounded very much like a person saying the words “Rise and shine!”  There was no word for “wings” or “bird” in the language of the nomads, so the missionary spoke instead of a “small black animal that could fly” and that had red markings on its “arms”.

The nomads were incredulous.  They had never seen a bird and did not believe that a small black animal could fly.  In their view, the claim that such an animal existed was absurd, and they concluded that the story of the missionary was nothing but a tall tale.

A month later, the missionary left the desert and returned to his home back in the USA.  One day after taking a walk around his neighborhood, the missionary noticed an injured bird in his driveway.  He picked up the bird, brought it into his home and over the next few weeks nursed the blackbird back to health.  When the blackbird had recovered, the missionary kept the bird as a pet in a birdcage.

Several months passed and then the missionary packed his bags and traveled back to the nomadic tribe in the isolated desert, taking his pet blackbird along with him.   In the morning after rejoining the nomads, the missionary produced his pet blackbird and showed it to an audience of his nomadic friends.  They were amazed at seeing a bird for the first time, but remained skeptical about the claim  that the small black animal could fly.  So, in an effort to persuade his skeptical friends, the missionary opened the birdcage and let the blackbird fly about the nomadic camp.  The nomads were astonished at this sight, and they were finally persuaded to accept the claim that there existed a small black animal that could fly.

Upon hearing the change of mind of his nomadic friends, the missionary then asked them whether they now believed his story about the red-winged blackbird waking him up as a boy by
making sounds much like the words “Rise and shine!”.   But not a single nomad was willing to accept his story.  

Although they now agreed that there existed such things as blackbirds, or small black animals that could fly, they steadfastly rejected the missionary’s claim that he had seen and heard a red-winged blackbird.  Since the missionary had only given them evidence of the existence of a blackbird, and had not given them any evidence of the existence of a blackbird with red markings on its wings, they continued to view the missionary’s belief in the existence of a red-winged blackbird to be absurd, and they persisted in viewing his story as nothing but a tall tale.
This analogy can be interpreted in a couple of different ways.

Interpretation One
1. red-winged blackbird = an evil god
2. pet blackbird = a god who is not evil
3. showing the pet  blackbird = presenting the Kalam argument
4. missionary = a believer in the evil god hypothesis
5. nomads = skeptics who take a view similar to Stephen Law 

Interpretation Two
1. red-winged blackbird = God (i.e. a perfectly morally good god)
2. pet blackbird = a god who is not evil
3. showing the pet blackbird = presenting the Kalam argument
4. missionary = William Craig
5. nomads = skeptics who take a view similar to Stephen Law

Unapologetic Review - Part 5: The Meaning of "Faith"
Geisler's Five Ways: The Goodness of the Creator
Unapologetic Review - Part 6: Faith as Irrational Trust
Consciousness and souls
About Bradley Bowen