Monday, May 25, 2015

Thoughts on the Problem of Evil

Note:  This work is reproduced from my post in a discussion thread here

I've never really felt like the Problem of Evil explicitly disproves god. Merely that it's one of many observations of the world which serves to make "god" a less plausible explanation of how we came to be. So I'll cede the point that a valid argument could be made wherein it's possible for a deity with the omnis to exist while it allows purposeless suffering or "suffering whose purpose is beyond our mortal comprehension" to persist.

sschlichter's logical argument starts with the supposition that a god exists and it has the traditional three omni's. I reject that starting premise and instead consider the likelihood of a god existing or not existing based on the things I can directly observe. One of those things I can observe is that people are permitted to suffer and die with no apparent purpose. While it's possible that there could be a purpose, it's rather presumptuous to claim that such a higher purpose must exist.

At the original poster's request, I'll address the philosophical solution proposed by Alvin Plantinga, repeated here for convenience:

  1. A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all. 
  2. Now God can create free creatures, but He can't cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren't significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely. 
  3. To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, He must create creatures capable of moral evil; and He can't give these creatures the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so.
  4. As it turned out, sadly enough, some of the free creatures God created went wrong in the exercise of their freedom; this is the source of moral evil. 
  5. The fact that free creatures sometimes go wrong, however, counts neither against God's omnipotence nor against His goodness; for He could have forestalled the occurrence of moral evil only by removing the possibility of moral good.
Free will analogy meme
It makes the false dichotomy of absolute free will or absolute slavery in [2 and 3]. It's apparent from the threat / reward system developed in Christian doctrine that we are in fact not given complete free will. In the same way that a mugger might hold a gun to our head and demand our wallet, "god" threatens hell and demands love and respect. We are "free" to reject god in the same way the mugging victim is free to refuse to give his mugger his wallet. Removing this false "free-will" dichotomy, it becomes clear that god could easily prevent child rape simply by inflicting mortal wound on the attacker once he has chosen to commit the crime. Judgement can be had, the rapist had free will, and the child needn't suffer. 

As for other issues with Plantinga's argument (as presented here), that "He must create creatures capable of moral evil" does not follow (non-sequitur) from the preceding discussion. Finally, this whole argument turns a blind eye to issues like drought, famine, disease, earthquakes, miscarriage, tsunamis, and all manner of other natural disasters which cause extensive human and animal suffering yet have no discernable connection to "free-will".

So to conclude, I find the argument wholly unconvincing, but even if it were convincing, the mere possibility that a god could be forced to allow evil in order to grant free will  doesn't make it so. It's still tremendously unlikely.

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