Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Major Complications w/ the Problem of Evil

  1. Nov 13, 2004 #1
    What are some of the most common questions or conflicts one has when discussing the Problem of Evil?

    What is the major or most common question a sceptic asks?

    What is the most common response from a theist or a defender of a Divine power?

    It is common to discuss the Problem of Evil and end up with a conclusion that if faith does not exist, the problem of evil is indeed a valid problem (an a proof for the non-existance of God). Contrary, if faith does exist, this problem is not really a problem afterall. What are the most common arguments for the non-existance and existance of faith ?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 13, 2004 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    One simple argument goes:
    If the gods are all good then they hate evil.
    If they are all powerful they can eliminate evil.
    If they are all knowing then they are aware of evil.

    So if there were gods with these qualities, then there wouldn't be any evil.
    But there is.
  4. Nov 13, 2004 #3
    Then what is the most common response from a theist or a defender of a Divine power?
  5. Nov 13, 2004 #4
    Theist Arguments
    St. Augistines Freewill defense to the problem of evil:
    http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ124.HTM [Broken]

    Another argument is that the reason why there is evil in this world is because things have gone wrong due to bad human choices. Disobedance to God has brought consequences in the form of broken relationships between god and humanity and between humanity and the world. Originally god intended the world to be perfect but it has become spoilt(Adam and eve among other things) and is less than God intended it to be. Thus, although the world haf the kind of disorder and evil that leads one away from belief in a omniscient morally perfect god one could still hold the view that God created the world.

    Athist Argument
    An another argument that god doesn't exist:

    If God exists, then God is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect.
    If God is omnipotent, then God has the power to eliminate all evil.
    If God is omniscient, then God knows when evil exists.
    If God is morally perfect, then God has the desire to eliminate all evil.
    Evil exists.
    If evil exists and God exists, then either God doesn't have the power to eliminate all evil, or doesn't know when evil exists, or doesn't have the desire to eliminate all evil.
    Therefore, God doesn't exist.

    Theist response:
    A totally good god will prevent all the evil that he can unless he has a morally sufficient reason for permitting its existence.
    An omniscient, omnipotent God can prevent all evil.
    Evil exists.
    Therefore, God has a morally sufficient reason for permitting the existence of evil

    Personally I think the thesit response is a weak one but whatever.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  6. Nov 14, 2004 #5

    Les Sleeth

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    There is another kind of explanation besides those based on religious dogma or logical refutations. There is a history of those who've emphasized turning inward as the avenue for knowing God. To them, God was an experience, not a belief or something for which one relies on faith alone. In Religious Studies, the area that covers those who practiced the inward way is referred to as Mysticism (an unfortunate term, which does not necessarily mean anything magical or supernatural).

    A common explanation of evil one reads from inner practitioners is that it results from ignorance. To understand that, one first has to understand what the inner practice entails. Turning inward produces an experience where consciousness is "brightened." A person can get so good at that that consciousness stays bright, which some have called enlightenment. In deep experiences of this brightness, some practitioners feel they have joined an infinite ocean of light, and I believe this is the source of the idea that God is light.

    Anyway, as consciousness is brightened by this experience, it beomes kinder, more loving, less selfish, happier, and even smarter. So it is "knowledge" of that light which has produced goodness. You can guess that the explanation of "ignorance" as the source of evil means ignorance of the light. Another part of the explanation is that God has created the human being to develop individual consciousnesses, and it is natural to the process of development that everyone is at different stages of awareness of light. Evil is just part of the struggle for light to emerge in the evolution of consciousness.

    I've contemplated evil along those lines myself, and wondered if our relatively recent step up from pure animal consciousness isn't a factor. Looking back at some of the Roman concepts of "fun" in gladitorial games, etc., that seemed very animalistic to me. When I see a bunch of lions start eating an animal they've just brought down, but who is still alive, it is horrifying to me, yet they don't seem to notice that animal's pain. I don't think lions are evil, they are just ignorant of anything but what they want. They lack the refinement and sensitivity a developed human consciousness can acquire. So maybe part of what produces what we call "evil" is a kind of darkness our animal nature can still assert over us.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2004
  7. Nov 15, 2004 #6
    Interesting approach Les Sleeth. Although it seems you are almost saying "Knowledge is virtue." (Socrates i think?), which is false. Humans are the combination of free will as well as an intellect. Therefore, although we may know something is evil or harmful, we may still do it. Now of course, you probably know this, and you are suggesting that it is in fact human's "animal side" which is forcing us to do this evils as a result of instinct. Although it seems far too inhumane to equate humans and animals.
  8. Nov 15, 2004 #7
    One small or yet large overlooking factor in these arguments; (GOD gave man the gift of FREEWILL). To choose his/her own path thru life whether that choice be Good or Evil hints Eve persueding Adam too eat from the "Tree of Knowledge".
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  9. Nov 15, 2004 #8

    Les Sleeth

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Not quite.

    Imagine this. What if we are consciousness, that is our nature. We weren't created by biology, but have been pulled from some place of general consciousness into this creation by biology. Biology separates and distinquishes us from that general place and "individuates us." How does this happen?

    Because we were made part of biology, we evolved with it over billions of years. By far, most of that evolution was as mindless animals. Now for a mere few heartbeats on the scale of evolution,we find ourselves with an intellect, and a much higher level of consciousness than we are used to. Our species' collective memory still retains some of its animalistic memory, and that manifests currently as what we call "evil."

    Look ahead 2000 years and give evolution a chance. Maybe we will outdistance that animalistic past and move more fully into our consciousness nature. Evil will no longer exist, only conscious evolution.

    However, since we are still here in the animal world, sometimes we have to act like one to survive, like when we went after Afganistan. If we didn't, they'd eat us alive. That's why I like the movie "Wolf" with Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer. :devil:
  10. Nov 15, 2004 #9
    I see what you mean now.

    Would you then, be a follower of atheism, or a theist who does not believe in a free-will giving God?
  11. Nov 15, 2004 #10
    I don't think humans will ever evolve to a point where there will be no evil actions. Right now IMO most of the capitalistic countries are the most succesfull and this capitalism leads to a more ruthless "win at all costs" kind of mentallity, and that is what it may take to sucecced sometimes. So evolving in this model makes it hard to stop betralal and other evil actions. Also if evil is caused by ignorance I don't think we will ever evolve to not make mistakes or have lapses in judgement and that sort of thing.
  12. Nov 15, 2004 #11

    Les Sleeth

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I don't think I know enough to say I have settled for anything. I'm just open to ideas that make sense and jive with my and others' experience. Right now I think it is easier to explain all the things we find in the universe if some sort of consciousness evolved first, and then assisted in creation's development.
  13. Nov 15, 2004 #12

    Les Sleeth

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    True. But I think there's ordinary ignorance and dark ignorance.

    Have you ever see the Disney movie "The Little Mermaid"? (My wife made me watch it, honest!) The evil sea witch allows creatures to sell their souls, and then afterwards they belong to her as shriveled up phantasms of what they used to be. I don't think ignorance that is innocent and well-intentioned is evil; it is ignorance stemming from such dark pursuits that they lead to the shriveled, depraved condition.
  14. Nov 15, 2004 #13


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    I can't rise to the elegance of the posts above. I will merely add that in my own informal debates with Believers, we get to the point where they feel forced to say that somehow, some way there must be net good in a six-year-old human child getting leukemia and eventually dieing from it--either that, or somehow the child deserved to suffer because the first pair of humans screwed up.

    And then I move the discussion to the animal kingdom, and again they are forced to take one of two routes (their choice): either there must be net good in a doe dieing in a forest fire and its fawns subsequently starving to death and we just aren't smart enough to see why that is good, or else it must be that nonhuman animals only give the appearance of suffering pain, but in reality they do not suffer.
  15. Nov 15, 2004 #14
    I think there is a difference between not having net good and evil. A child dieing of lukemia certianly is not good but i think its just more bad luck then it being evil. I don't think every situation has to has some net good either. Alot of things in life just down right suck. Just ask a Nihilist
  16. Nov 15, 2004 #15


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    My personal moral philosophy is that of negative utilitarianism. The absence of pain is the only real good.
  17. Nov 16, 2004 #16

    Les Sleeth

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    What about numbness?
  18. Nov 19, 2004 #17
    Aerofunk, if there is a God and He tolerates a child dying from leucemia, will you say "bad luck"??? No, you will say that said "God" is Evil personification.
  19. Nov 19, 2004 #18
    A pretty smart man once said, "Knowledge is virtue". That pretty smart man was wrong. We may know what is wrong, yet continue to do it. We all know murder is wrong, yet people still do it. It is called free will.


    After thinking about this whole Problem for a couple of days. I have come down to a conclusion.

    The Problem of Evil raises several vital questions regarding the existence of a universal Deity. Unlike other Cosmologic and Empirical Arguments attempting to disprove the validity of an omnipotent, omniscient, and ultimately benevolent power, the Problem of Evil Argument uses human vulnerability to evil as the basis for its proof. Animals and humans alike are fearful of evil (or injury as a result of evil). Therefore, this argument asks the question, ‘Why does God allow evil to continue in a seemingly sadistic way?’; or in other words, ‘An all-knowing God would know evil exists, and all-good God would not want it to occur; and an all-powerful God would prevent it from occurring’.

    The most common confusion regarding this argument is the uncertainty of the meaning of good, evil, and free will. Without the understanding of these terms, the Problem of Evil cannot be even approached, since all human attributes are misunderstood. Good is quite simply put, God. Although the statement itself seems to have degenerated to a cliché, its significance should not be ignored. Evil is the lack of good, or the ‘lack of God’. This is where the Christian definition of God seems to be quite weak. Evil is not actually the “absence of God”, but rather the lack of moral choice or virtue. One can not say “absence of God” since God is partial in all that has resulted because of him. Free will is human choice. Humanity has been given will as a gift, not as a right. However, this gift has been abused and has produced what we call ‘evil’.

    The question ‘Why does God allow evil to continue in a seemingly sadistic way?’ can now be answered in a much clearer way. Since we have explained that evil is a source of human abuse of free will, we can no longer say that God is the complete source of evil. Evil is our actions reflecting on other people or things.

    However, the most important question remains, ‘Why does God allow evil?’ God allows evil because he gave us the gift of the freedom of choice; without this free will, we would be automata.

    1But why couldn’t God create human beings into robots without free will – who instead merely believed that they have free will? 2 Why couldn’t the world be fully good, with no existence of evil? 3 And what about natural evil – there is no free choice causing that particular evil?

    Firstly, if God created human beings as automata – with no free will – and mislead them into only believing they had free will, he would be a completely dishonest being. Thus, to deny his creation of choice is similar to forcing us into believing in him. If humans were deprived of free will, we would have no need for a mind, morality, conscience, and our own natural law. Therefore, with no human free will, the universe seems to be completely disordered and unbalanced. The same response follows for the second question.

    As for the third question, natural evil is a result of the continuing state of flux in the physical anatomy of the Earth. Change is what keeps the Earth developing – or rather disintegrating. Of course, the question, ‘Why did God create this world of flux which poses such a threat to human life?’ arises. The answer to this question varies. Some state that natural evil is a punishment for our immoral actions. Thus, God is our teacher who allows us to learn from our mistakes and often punishes us via earthquakes, volcanoes, and so on. Although this seems terribly insincere and sadistic, it is important to differentiate the insignificance of our life on Earth and our life in heaven. Also, if we had no doubt of this mystical deity’s existence, we would be appreciative of natural evil – possibly seeing it as a gift or an “answer” to our moral disputes.

    Natural evil is one of the primary causes of Christian conversion to atheism (or other beliefs or philosophies). The above response to the problem of natural evil is insufficient, since it raises several further questions. Yet it is vital to our human understanding of God to trust him. If we realize God’s nature, we would be almost inevitably inclined to trust him. We should not look at an unanswered question as a sign of weakness, but instead as a sign of mystery. Who is to say that a mysterious being is not existent? Could it not be highly possible that God does exist even though he remains a mystery? If God was not a mystery, would we really have need for faith or hope? Imagine a world of pure empirical science, without uncertainty and faith. Would we really be humans then?
  20. Nov 19, 2004 #19
    So, when I see a child tortured by a mortal disease, instead of thinking "There is not God", I must think: "The ways of the Lord are mysterious". Ok.
  21. Nov 19, 2004 #20
    I'm glad you understand.

    Another thing -- what makes you think mortal diseases are God's work? God created nature and he let all of his nature freedom (in an awkward sense). How nature deforms itself (e.g. diseases) is not his will.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 19, 2004
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook