Debunking The Problem Of Evil
If you ever surfed through the literature of one of the most fundamental intellectual human inquiries,
which is the discussion of the existence of god,
You’ll quickly discover that one of the most common case that people put forward, against the existence of god,
or from another angle, make the case for atheism,
is through this idea called the Problem of Evil.
The Problem of Evil is really a simple problem to understand at the face of it,
where the main argument put forward by this position is:
How can there exists a benevolent god, an all-loving god, and then, at the same instance, exists suffering or cruelty in this world?
The second leap that’s taken after the first question, is that this examination as it stands, in and of itself, disproves the whole concept of god existing, since suffering is against benevolence & other attributes of god, according to the position,
and therefore, by extension, posits that atheism is true.
Now that we understand the issue, let’s further progress into a counter-position I would like to put forward,
which is that this idea of the problem of evil (and it conflicting with the existence of god) is not indeed a “problem”, once put under rigorous examination, for reasons I’ll explicate here.
I do think it’s the crucial for you (the reader) before reading this examination seriously, to know my positions, in order to assess and cross-examine my possible, argument-affecting biases,
and try to direct possible refutation and criticism, towards areas that I might be bias towards, which I might be blind to.
because I do think that this is one of those topics that every aspect of your life since childhood (like almost every other topic), will affect the conclusion. So I would like to state those relevant biases, as best & brief as I can.
However, I do want to note before mentioning anything,
that, in general, a bias doesn’t necessarily imply falsehood, it just directs the attention away from certain points, which is not necessarily always bad, as people portray it to be.
So with that being said,
my position when it comes to the existence of god is a positive one, where I do believe in the existence of god for so many:
The second possible area of bias I want to mention is that regarding suffering, which is what this problem of evil is really about, is that,
I haven’t, thankfully, had a severe calamity in life where I lost a health blessing like a leg or function of my body, which might also be an area of bias in undermining “suffering” others might endure,
but I’m completely aware of this possible area of bias when writing and thinking, so I’ll try to keep it in mind, to make the strongest case for my arguments.
So taking all the considerations I mentioned,
those confessed possible biases might give you a more clear mechanism to discern my arguments and push back, if they indeed have problems with them.
To flip things a bit, I want to also point out a possible bias the reader might have, which I noticed to be fairly common,
having been exposed both experientially and intellectually, to traditional/Eastern perspectives, and also western/progressive ideals, and gotten to appreciate the elements of truth in both
the bias I see sometimes from some thinkers who lean into western ideals, is dismissal (mostly subconsciously) towards, let’s say, conventional religions,
as “backwards”, immoral, unscientific, superstitious, without really engaging with the ideas on a deep philosophical level (if you felt uneasy when I said “scripture-laden reasons” above, you probably fall in some spectrum of this categorisation).
To correct myself, I wouldn’t really say it’s dismissal, strictly, but more precisely, it’s an enthusiasm and obligation to pose infinite questions, without the same enthusiasm to seek the answers for those questions,
and then coming to concrete conclusions without those answers, but only with those package of questions.
I just can’t stress how common this, sometimes subconscious, view.
And from the “traditional” side, the bias is not really dismissal, but really, just mere uninterest to even delve too much into the ideas of “western” ideals, philosophically, for some reason.
Not dismissal, but sheer uninterest, for some reason, which is a very interesting sociological consideration and comparison to make.
So I want to start the first argument by first clarifying the nature of suffering, briefly, and then moving on to the main argument.
So a lot of people assume when talking about suffering or when presenting the problem of evil, as if suffering is a monster that should be completely removed from the human condition,
but I am sure we can all sensibly agree that there is a lot of “suffering” we endure (perhaps even willful, a lot of the times), that ends up making our condition in life even more favorable (ex. the pain from exercise, pain of failure, etc…).
If you don’t really agree still, then try not doing anything that causes you any “suffering”, and see how quickly uninteresting your life will get, to say the least.
So, at the first instance, suffering isn’t really this absolute culprit that’s always unfavorable, but it has more to it to be laid out.
Now, this is really just a peripheral point to the argument.
So having established that this proposition is valid,
a problem of evil proponent could now come and say:
“Okay, we know that some suffering might be good/necessary to flourish, but can you cut to the chase, and talk about the suffering that we find unfavorable or unnecessary for humans, like, how about the children that die?, or wars that happen in the world?, That’s the type of unnecessary suffering that makes me question god.”
So what the proponent of the problem of evil doesn’t realize, is that, you can’t really have the “good” type of suffering (having already established that earlier), without the “bad”,
and I’ll explain exactly what I mean by that.
So The ability to change and/or try to combat all these outcomes we see as “unnecessary” or “unfavorable” or “bad”,
is the exact thing that gives rise to the things we appreciate about the human condition, and the “good” suffering.
If we thought they were “necessary”, or if those “unfavorable” sufferings didn’t exist in the first place (which is what the proponents of the problem posit to be the best outcome),
we wouldn’t have tried to remove it, and by extension, we wouldn’t have all these things we appreciate about our human condition and knowledge
(from acts of goodness, to science, to consciousness itself, even).
This exact conception that this “unnecessary suffering/thing” exists,
whether it’s children suffering, or a father struggling to get medications for his son, or people suffering in a warzone,
is what gives rise to our endeavours to asymptotically “remove” those “unnecessary” things, and branch our approach and consciousness towards many different places,
whether it’s knowledge or scientific knowledge creation, which gives us an “ability” to even move forward, and, by extension, gives rise to consciousness itself, which wouldn’t have emerged, otherwise, or any other way.
Imagine if we thought: ohh this suffering is “completely necessary/favorable”, or if it wasn’t there all together,
then we wouldn’t have the enthusiasm to even fix it, because it’s either “necessary”, or it’s not there,
and that, by extension, will make us lose, I would argue, all the privileges of being human, which includes all the examples I mentioned above (from the state of consciousness itself, to knowledge, as we know it).
So from this perspective, when we recollect our whole argument, really,
the distinction which I made, of “good” and “bad” suffering is fundamentally a fallacious dichotomy,
since, as we saw now in the more complete picture, they’re not really separable in any meaningful way,
because the “good” suffering, that makes up our reason/consciousness, and all the things we see around us, even possible, is fundamentally and necessarily motivated and derived from, “running” away from the “bad” suffering.
Humans fundamentally require a “cat” to run away from.
So the distinction, once we look back, with all the things we established, in its essence,
is really an imprecise one, since they’re both a basis for each other in a very deep way, which actually makes them two sides of the same coin, more precisely.
So the conclusion we can come to with this argument is that, the existence of suffering, in its whole package, as unfortunate as parts of it may seem,
really forms the basis for what makes humans humans,
which, after all, makes it a weak argument against the existence of god, in its essence.
I want to finally close on this argument, and clarify and emphasize that, I’m NOT arguing that suffering, is Good or favorable in its entirety, of course not, the whole point of us trying to remove it is that parts of it are unfavorable,
I’m just trying to bring more perspectives/dimensions into suffering and how it constitutes most if not all the things we appreciate, which by extension, weakens the argument of the problem of evil, against the existence of god.
(I want you to put in mind, as a side note before moving on from this argument, that this argument becomes much stronger and even more complete, when we prove the existence of god from first principles, which we will definitely delve into soon in another essay).
So we’ve dealt with the claim that deals with suffering as an absolute culprit, and we showed how it could be looked from multiple dimensions, rather than the uni-dimensional look which is that of the proponents of the problem.
With that being established, we can now turn our gaze into the issue of “evil”, rather than suffering, per se,
which you can think of as a slightly other aspect of the discussion.
So the proponent of the problem might come along again and ask:
“why is there ‘evil’ people, who maybe from suffering or anything else, project certain experiences and kill others, for example, or project harm to others?
This is also my issue with the existence of god.”
So the appropriate way to think about this question is to argue from free will.
It seems to me that the existence of free will & consciousness, by necessity, entails some kind of evil doing such as wars, by the “free willed” agents.
If evil doesn’t exist, then free will (we won’t delve into a definition here, but I’m sure an intuitive way to think about it will suffice), by necessity wouldn’t exist,
because free will is the ability to choose different logical outcomes regardless of what they’re,
and if we facilitate the possibility of the non-existence of evil (which is what some proponents of the problem of evil put forward),
then with that, vanishes the possibility of good or any state of “bliss” or even consciousness.
Rocks don’t have wars/evil doings because they don’t have free will, and they also don’t have “good-doing/good experiences”.
The absence of one side of the spectrum, entails the absence of the other side (good can’t simply exist without evil, it’s a logical necessity, if you truly think about it).
the proponent of the problem might come back and say,
“but your god is omniscient/omnipotent,
why can’t He remove the bad suffering and give us only the good, or why can’t He give us free will without evil?”
So we can dissect this counter-argument by being self-conscious,
which is what a lot of people really miss in most of their “logical” arguments.
(( I really don't like using jargon that some people might not understand, so here are a few words I’ll use below, that might sound “fancy”:
Anthropomorphism: is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities (i.e. god in this context).
Omniscience: Is the capacity for complete/full knowledge. ))
So for one thing there is a process of anthropomorphising omniscience/omnipotence, in this objection/counterargument,
and what I exactly mean by this is that,
the proponent is assuming, with finite knowledge that we possess as humans, that they know what should’ve been alternatively done (no “bad” suffering, etc.),
however, true omniscience and omnipotence, necessarily assumes that there things that the omnipotent/omniscient agent will do, that we’ll never wrap our heads around, otherwise we would be omniscient, ourselves, and lead ourselves to an untenable contradiction.
If omniscience is present (which is what the presenter of the counterargument interrogated about), we can’t simply say this or that solution is better, or this or that shouldn’t have existed,
because our knowledge is finite, and god’s knowledge since we assumed He is omniscient in this interrogation, is omniscient,
therefore, our hypothetical alternatives, assuming we established all of this, are by definition, not valid, since there’s disproportionate knowledge between us and the omniscient being, otherwise one would fall into a logically slippery contradiction.
Now, I do want to say that I wouldn’t have made this as a counterargument to the objection, had I haven’t established any of my above argumetns, but I do think, in light of everything we said, this counterargument to the objection seems to fall into place,
since we already tried to give satisfactory answers, first, instead of reverting to the onmiscience of God, as a first step (which is still valid logically, but some people might not find it satisfactory).
Another response I would put forward is that, a lot of people assume that omnipotence is the ability to make happen anything imaginable, like a squared circle in the real world, as an extreme example,
but illogical things are logically meaningless, like the squared circle (so as good without evil).
So omnipotence is applied to meaningful logical instantiations, NOT everything imaginable by the limited/fallible mind (take the example of people misunderstanding one example of omnipotence as an ability to taste logical ideas, or make a person be at two places at the same time, or see the taste of sweetness, those are meaningless expositions, as a lot of other things the human mind puts forward, which omnipotence doesn’t apply to).
Obviously, all of the above arguments are only from a logical & non-religious perspective.
Theistic people, who established the existence of god, logically, could also use the argument that complete justice for the suffered, will be served in other contexts (for the abrahamic religions, the afterlife, for example).
So an additional eschatological assumption/argument could be used by theistic people to bring about some counterarguments to some objections,
but I understand that a lot of people won’t really accept this argument in its entirety, but I thought It would be good to mention it as an additional point to take other perspectives.
From another theoological perspective, we can also call out another theological fallacy, and say that the the problem of evil, at the heart of it, assumes that god is only benevolent, while neglecting other attributes like Wisdom, etc., but once we incorporate those other attributes, our arguments even shape themselves more clearly.
So to recapitulate our discussion here, we could really establish that the problem of Evil as its put forward against the existence of God, sometimes, is really looked at from a one-dimensional point of view, and a superior, “I know the best alternatives”, position,
But once we established our Multi-dimensional lens when thinking through the problem,
The realization of this multi-dimensional lens really removes the fog when trying to understand this problem, and with that dissolves the seriousness of this problem, indeed.