Monday, April 12, 2010

What would satisfy the arguer from evil?

Here is another tool for theodicy.

If the distribution of evil found in this world renders the existence of God improbable, there had better be some other world w* whose distribution of evil doesn't render the existence of God improbable. What is w* like? There are two options.

Option 1: w* is basically a variant on our universe, but improved by having fewer evils. For instance, maybe w* has 50% fewer murders, 75% fewer wars, etc. However, the problem with this option is that it is very difficult to draw the line between such a variant and our world so as to say that the w* is significantly more probable on theism but our world is not. For the admission that some such variant of our world would not render theism implies that the kinds of evils we have in our world are ones that God has reason to permit, perhaps for the kinds of reasons that theodicists have given, such as that various evils make various virtues possible. But then to claim that our world is improbable would require some sort of an argument as to just how much murder, war, etc. is needed for the requisite goods. And here the theist can reasonably make a skeptical move by pointing out that we have no way of estimating the right amounts.

Option 2: w* is radically different from our world, and does not contain the kinds of evil that our world does. For instance, maybe w* contains no beings capable of suffering or wrongdoing, but only mathematicians who feel varying degrees of elation at theorems they have proved. But now we have a diversity move available. Consider a world w** which contains both the sorts of beings that w* has as well as the kinds of beings, with the kinds of evils, that our world has. Such a world has a greater diversity of goods and virtues than w* does, and hence is better than w*. Therefore, at least prima facie, some such world is more likely to be created by God than w* is. Moreover, we do not have evidence against the claim that our world is such—for instance, for aught that we know, our world could be a multiverse that contains an island universe full of mathematicians incapable of suffering or wrongdoing. Now, one might worry that in such a world, there would still be fewer murders, fewer wars, etc. than in our world. But if that's the worry, then we're back to the considerations of Option 1.

4 comments:

enigMan said...

I don't see the 'prima facie' move (that world w** is more likely to be made by God than w*), because w** contains evils that w* does not. For that move to work, the extra goods in w** would have to outweigh those evils, and if that was obvious then the arguer from evil would be satisfied anyway?

Alexander R Pruss said...

That move requires a step I omitted: that some world with the kinds of beings and evils that ours has is on balance good enough.

enigMan said...

So then I would wonder why the distribution of evil would render the existence of God improbable...

Sam Calvin said...

My issue with the problem of evil is that if the propositions "God exists" and "God does not exist" have a modal status of necessary (per the modal ontological argument) then the existence or nonexistence of God is circumstance invariant. If God does not exist, there must be something about God that prohibits Him from existing in any possible world. What, then, do contingent states of affairs such as evils have to do with the situation?