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For example, even minor changes to the nuclear weak force would not have allowed for stars, nor would stars have endured if the ratio of electromagnetism to gravity had been much different. John Leslie observes:. Alterations by less than one part in a billion to the expansion speed early in the Big Bang would have led to runaway expansion, everything quickly becoming so dilute that no stars could have formed, or else to gravitational collapse inside under a second.

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Leslie For a collection of articles covering both sides of the debate and both biological and cosmological design arguments, see Manson A more sustained objection against virtually all versions of the teleological argument takes issue with the assumption that the cosmos is good or that it is the sort of thing that would be brought about by an intelligent, completely benevolent being. This leads us directly to the next central concern of the philosophy of God. If there is a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, and completely good, why is there evil?

The problem of evil is the most widely considered objection to theism in both Western and Eastern philosophy. The deductive problem is currently less commonly debated because many but not all philosophers acknowledge that a thoroughly good being might allow or inflict some harm under certain morally compelling conditions such as causing a child pain when removing a splinter.

More intense debate concerns the likelihood or even possibility that there is a completely good God given the vast amount of evil in the cosmos. Such evidential arguments from evil may be deductive or inductive arguments but they include some attempt to show that some known fact about evil bears a negative evidence relation to theism e. Consider how often those who suffer are innocent.


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Why should there be so much gratuitous, apparently pointless evil? In the face of the problem of evil, some philosophers and theologians deny that God is all-powerful and all-knowing. John Stuart Mill took this line, and panentheist theologians today also question the traditional treatments of Divine power. Another response is to think of God as being very different from a moral agent.

Brian Davies and others have contended that what it means for God to be good is different from what it means for an agent to be morally good Davies A different, more substantial strategy is to deny the existence of evil, but it is difficult to reconcile traditional monotheism with moral skepticism. Also, insofar as we believe there to be a God worthy of worship and a fitting object of human love, the appeal to moral skepticism will carry little weight.

Searing pain and endless suffering seem altogether real even if they are analyzed as being philosophically parasitic on something valuable. The three great monotheistic, Abrahamic traditions, with their ample insistence on the reality of evil, offer little reason to try to defuse the problem of evil by this route.

Indeed, classical Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are so committed to the existence of evil that a reason to reject evil would be a reason to reject these religious traditions. What would be the point of the Judaic teaching about the Exodus God liberating the people of Israel from slavery , or the Christian teaching about the incarnation Christ revealing God as love and releasing a Divine power that will, in the end, conquer death , or the Islamic teaching of Mohammed the holy prophet of Allah, whom is all-just and all-merciful if slavery, hate, death, and injustice did not exist?

If in ethics you hold that there should be no preventable suffering for any reason, regardless of the cause or consequence, then the problem of evil will conflict with your acceptance of traditional theism. Debate has largely centered on the legitimacy of adopting some middle position: a theory of values that would preserve a clear assessment of the profound evil in the cosmos as well as some understanding of how this might be compatible with the existence of an all powerful, completely good Creator.

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Could there be reasons why God would permit cosmic ills? If we do not know what those reasons might be, are we in a position to conclude that there are none or that there could not be any? For example, if you do not believe there is free will, then you will not be moved by any appeal to the positive value of free will and its role in bringing about good as offsetting its role in bringing about evil. Theistic responses to the problem of evil distinguish between a defense and a theodicy.

A defense seeks to establish that rational belief that God exists is still possible when the defense is employed against the logical version of the problem of evil and that the existence of evil does not make it improbable that God exists when used against the probabilistic version.

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Some have adopted the defense strategy while arguing that we are in a position to have rational belief in the existence of evil and in a completely good God who hates this evil, even though we may be unable to see how these two beliefs are compatible. A theodicy is more ambitious and is typically part of a broader project, arguing that it is reasonable to believe that God exists on the basis of the good as well as the evident evil of the cosmos.

In a theodicy, the project is not to account for each and every evil, but to provide an overarching framework within which to understand at least roughly how the evil that occurs is part of some overall good—for instance, the overcoming of evil is itself a great good.

In practice, a defense and a theodicy often appeal to similar factors, the first and foremost being what many call the Greater Good Defense. In the Greater Good Defense, it is contended that evil can be understood as either a necessary accompaniment to bringing about greater goods or an integral part of these goods. For this good to be realized, it is argued, there must be the bona fide possibility of persons harming each other.

The free will defense is sometimes used narrowly only to cover evil that occurs as a result, direct or indirect, of human action.


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  • But it has been speculatively extended by those proposing a defense rather than a theodicy to cover other evils which might be brought about by supernatural agents other than God. According to the Greater Good case, evil provides an opportunity to realize great values, such as the virtues of courage and the pursuit of justice. Reichenbach , Tennant , Swinburne , and van Inwagen have also underscored the good of a stable world of natural laws in which animals and humans learn about the cosmos and develop autonomously, independent of the certainty that God exists.

    Some atheists accord value to the good of living in a world without God, and these views have been used by theists to back up the claim that God might have had reason to create a cosmos in which Divine existence is not overwhelmingly obvious to us. Further, there may even be some good to acting virtuously even if circumstances guarantee a tragic outcome.

    John Hick [] so argued and has developed what he construes to be an Irenaean approach to the problem of evil named after St. Irenaeus of the second century. On this approach, it is deemed good that humanity develops the life of virtue gradually, evolving to a life of grace, maturity, and love.

    This contrasts with a theodicy associated with St. Augustine, according to which God made us perfect and then allowed us to fall into perdition, only to be redeemed later by Christ. Hick thinks the Augustinian model fails whereas the Irenaean one is credible. Some have based an argument from the problem of evil on the charge that this is not the best possible world. If there were a supreme, maximally excellent God, surely God would bring about the best possible creation.

    Because this is not the best possible creation, there is no supreme, maximally excellent God. Following Adams , many now reply that the whole notion of a best possible world, like the highest possible number, is incoherent. For any world that can be imagined with such and such happiness, goodness, virtue and so on, a higher one can be imagined.

    If the notion of a best possible world is incoherent, would this count against belief that there could be a supreme, maximally excellent being? It has been argued on the contrary that Divine excellences admit of upper limits or maxima that are not quantifiable in a serial fashion for example, Divine omnipotence involves being able to do anything logically or metaphysically possible, but does not require actually doing the greatest number of acts or a series of acts of which there can be no more.

    Those concerned with the problem of evil clash over the question of how one assesses the likelihood of Divine existence. Someone who reports seeing no point to the existence of evil or no justification for God to allow it seems to imply that if there were a point they would see it. Note the difference between seeing no point and not seeing a point. In the cosmic case, is it clear that if there were a reason justifying the existence of evil, we would see it?

    Defenders like William Hasker and Stephen Wykstra reply that these cases are not decisive counter-examples to the claim that there is a good God. These philosophers hold that we can recognize evil and grasp our duty to do all in our power to prevent or alleviate it. But we should not take our failure to see what reason God might have for allowing evil to count as grounds for thinking that there is no reason.

    This later move has led to a position commonly called skeptical theism. Overall, it needs to be noted that from the alleged fact that we would be unlikely to see a reason for God to allow some evil if there were one, it only follows that our failure to see such a reason is not strong evidence against theism.

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    For an interesting practical application of the traditional problem of evil to the topic of the ethics of procreation, see Marsh It has been argued that if one does believe that the world is not good, then that can provide a prima facie reason against procreation. Why should one bring children into a world that is not good? The treatment of the problem of evil has also extended to important reflection on the suffering of non-human animals see S.

    Clark , , ; Murray ; Meister Problems raised by evil and suffering are multifarious and are being addressed by contemporary philosophers across the religious and non-religious spectrums. See, for example, The History of Evil edited by Meister and Taliaferro, in six volumes with over contributors from virtually all religious and secular points of view, and the recent The Cambridge Companion to the Problem of Evil edited by Meister and Moser Some portraits of an afterlife seem to have little bearing on our response to the magnitude of evil here and now.

    Does it help to understand why God allows evil if all victims will receive happiness later? But it is difficult to treat the possibility of an afterlife as entirely irrelevant. Is death the annihilation of persons or an event involving a transfiguration to a higher state? If you do not think that it matters whether persons continue to exist after death, then such speculation is of little consequence. But suppose that the afterlife is understood as being morally intertwined with this life, with opportunity for moral and spiritual reformation, transfiguration of the wicked, rejuvenation and occasions for new life, perhaps even reconciliation and communion between oppressors seeking forgiveness and their victims.

    Then these considerations might help to defend against arguments based on the existence of evil. Insofar as one cannot rule out the possibility of an afterlife morally tied to our life, one cannot rule out the possibility that God brings some good out of cosmic ills. The most recent work on the afterlife in philosophy of religion has focused on the compatibility of an individual afterlife with some forms of physicalism. Arguably, a dualist treatment of human persons is more promising.

    If you are not metaphysically identical with your body, then perhaps the annihilation of your body is not the annihilation of you.

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    Today, a range of philosophers have argued that even if physicalism is true, an afterlife is still possible Peter van Inwagen, Lynne Baker, Trenton Merricks, Kevin Corcoran. The import of this work for the problem of evil is that the possible redemptive value of an afterlife should not be ruled out without argument if one assumes physicalism to be true. For an extraordinary, rich resource on the relevant literature, see The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology , edited by J.

    Walls, Perhaps the justification most widely offered for religious belief concerns the occurrence of religious experience or the cumulative weight of testimony of those claiming to have had religious experiences. Does such testimony provide evidence that God exists? That it is not or that its evidential force is trivial is argued by Michael Martin, J. In an effort to stimulate further investigation, consider the following sketch of some of the moves and countermoves in the debate.

    Objection: Religious experience cannot be experience of God for perceptual experience is only sensory and if God is non-physical, God cannot be sensed. Reply: The thesis that perceptual experience is only sensory can be challenged. Objection: Testimony to have experienced God is only testimony that one thinks one has experienced God; it is only testimony of a conviction, not evidence. Reply: The literature on religious experience testifies to the existence of experience of some Divine being on the basis of which the subject comes to think the experience is of God.

    If read charitably, the testimony is not testimony to a conviction, but to experiences that form the grounds for the conviction. See Bagger for a vigorous articulation of this objection, and note the reply by Kai-man Kwam Objection: Because religious experience is unique, how could one ever determine whether it is reliable? We simply lack the ability to examine the object of religious experience in order to test whether the reported experiences are indeed reliable.