October 7, 2009

Answering “Who Cares” #2: Natural Evil

Posted in Answering "Who Cares", Answering Apologists, Atheism tagged , , , , at 3:24 pm by Andrew

While I was at trial, “Who Cares” left a number of comments across the blog that I’ll touch on. This is #2 in the Answering “Who Cares?” series.

In the comment section of my third argument for the Summary Case for Atheism (“The Heavens Do Not Declare the Glory of God”), our friend “Who Cares” has tried to respond to some of the arguments there.

About the natural evil, you should know about free will, fruit of knowledge, etc.. You’ll argue with points on how stupid the concept of “why did he give us free will if he knew we were going to do this and blah blah blah, and fruit of knowledge wwhHhaaat?” First, against the chance you might retalliate on that, on Free Will, even though God know what we’ll do, doesn’t change the fact that I chose to do it on my own accord. I add this part, because it’s an arguement that people had about Free Will, that Free Will, if it was created, is it really free will anymore? And it is, because even though it was created, even though the things we’re going to do are already known, they are still decisions we made ourselves. You say that’s backwards talk? Look at the point on if we didn’t have free will, if we didn’t have free will, we’d never have done anything. Or maybe you think otherwise, you think we’d still do things, but we’d be brainwashed. We we’re tricked into thinking we’re not brainwashed, but we are! What kind of BS is that? If God intentionally brainwashed you to think like that, he’s not doing a good job himself of brainwashing us is he! But, he gave us a free will, which allows you to be an atheist. To reject, him.

I think you completely misunderstand. The “free will defense” is an answer — not a good one, mind you, but an answer — to the question of why God permits human evil. Even on face, it does not begin to explain why God permits thousands of little babies to die every year of “crib death,” which is a fancy way of saying, “for completely unknown reasons.”

Your theodicy has to explain why God passes those babies by on the other side without stopping to help; without redirecting that tsunami just slightly, without insuring that the tornado doesn’t touch down in the orphanage or NICU ward, without flipping over a child at night and putting the tiniest breath back into his lungs. So far, I can’t come up with a good reason for why God, if he existed, wouldn’t at least do those bare minimum things. Since he doesn’t, I think it’s reasonable to doubt that he exists at all.

So why does God send out Tsunamis and mass murder? Have you ever thought what you yourselves, have been doing to cause these occurences?

No, I haven’t, because I haven’t done anything to cause them.

First off, you should know natural disasters like Earthquakes and Tsunamis, are(is? I dunno) the Earth’s way of recooperating itself. We know that the Earth is made of plates, and over time they get weak and stuff could seep through them, earthquakes are the moving of plate tetonics to renew the old plates.

No, that’s not right at all. But even if it were, it’s silly: God is God; he can do anything. Surely he could make a planet where tsunamis aren’t deadly, or, at minimum, where they’re naturally inclined not to strike at major population centers.

It’s our view of it, when it kills people who live in those areas, that we think it’s evil. It’s not.

If you don’t think that the death of hundreds of thousands of people is evil, then I think we have very little in common.

Tsunamis? In some cases, floods kill because ignorant people made unstable dams to prevent them in the first place, or they themselves where causing blockage and inevitabley created a flood. But Tsunamis? Why would he send it to kill people? Here’s another question. Why let anyone die? Try to image a perfect world? You see what I’m seeing? Brainwashed people who are immortal. God obviously choose not to make life like that, so we should be glad about our free will again.

I think you’ve forgotten that I’m the atheist here. I’m the one who believes that there’s no such thing as immortality; you’re the Christian, and you believe in eternal life! For the record, though: I agree with you that the concept of eternal life is exceedingly silly.

My argument is simply that when we look at the natural world around us, we see things that are either the work of a profoundly evil being who delights at the suffering of innocents, or (more likely), the results of an indifferent world in which we humans have to scrape out our existence and fight to survive. Neither of those is compatible with the assertions of Christianity.

eah, and so you want to blame natural occurences on God? Good for you, sad thing is, I bet you’re going to blame God for letting you age. Gonna blame him for not getting that car. Pssh. You don’t think Free Will applies to Babies or Tsunamis? It’s called death. Heck, even before we ate the Fruit of Knowledge, we still had death. The fruit of knowledge casted us away from God spritiually, but I don’t think you wanna hear this stuff right now.

We’re solidly into incoherent territory now, but to the extent that there’s an argument here, my response is that the concept of original sin is not something you can simply assert as true and expect others to accept.

The Problem of Natural Evil is a serious one. I haven’t seen a good answer to it, but if anyone has, I’d love to hear it.

2 Comments »

  1. Spearmint said,

    Well, I think you could put in a fairly solid Leibntz argument for tsunamis- for life to exist on Earth we need a magnetic field to shield us from solar radiation, for a magnetic field we need a rotating molten core, a rotating molten core inevitably results in plate tectonics, plate tectonics inevitably result in earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. Ergo the best of all possible worlds must still have earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. This assumes some limits on God’s powers of intervention, obviously, since by rights he ought to miraculously part the tsunami, but it’s not a totally unreasonable answer to the question.

    The utility of cystic fibrosis, on the other hand, defies ready explanation.

  2. I have a good answer to the problem of evil (natural or otherwise) – the many worlds theory. If you really take god’s omnipotence seriously, he can make many worlds, not just one. If he’s good, then he will make all worlds that are worth it, that are overall better off existing than not existing. This world may not be perfect, but I believe it is very reasonable to assume, and I do believe, that this world is still good – it is still better to have this world than not. Hence, god must create this world.

    Now the problem is that god can, it seems, *change* this world for the better. There are, after all, better possible worlds. So why doesn’t he? A somewhat-plausible solution to this is Leibniz’s Identity of Indiscernibles. Since god already created all good worlds, he created the world where that baby does get saved. He cannot change this world into that one, since that world already exists – changing this world would be the same as not creating it in the first place (i.e. creating only the world where the baby gets saved), but that would be less good since this world is good and thus worth making. All god can do is create all possible worlds, he cannot change what is possible (that’s the meaning of omnipotence).

    I think this theodicy is valid, and indeed I fail to see how a theist can defend the claim that god is omnipotent yet he cannot, and would not, create multiple worlds. However, it implies some very strange things regarding human freedom, action, and necessity. I have no problem with that, since I believe in the multiple worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, but most people – and especially most theists – would.

    I am, by the way, an atheist. I just think this provides a good defense that preserves god’s goodness. Of course, one can always maintain that god is not good, and this is a reasonable escape as well, or that god’s power is balanced by that of an evil god (Zoroastrianism), or so on.


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