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The Christian Delusion 9: The Darwinian Problem of Evil

01/11/2011

I like Loftus’ style. He writes in a very easy to understand way and really breaks it down. Here he makes an argument from animal suffering. I first heard of this argument form Peter Singer, and I found it emotionally unconvincing. I don’t feel the push of it. Loftus does a better job here.

Most explanations for evil only explain the suffering of humans. Free will, the fall, heaven- they only apply to God’s chosen. Animals suffer too though. Isn’t that weird? I think Loftus makes a convincing argument that this is an important philosophical problem. It’s not a logical, but an evidential argument, and Loftus shows that the ad hoc explanations are not worth adapting, unless you’ve already decided God is good and all powerful, which is really just begging the question. This sounds like a useful reference, and I’m not sure if I can find things wrong with argumentation. Man, it would be really hard to be a Christian after this, I think.

Kindle Notes:

Upon the supposition of Darwinian evolutionary biology, this suffering is natural. It’s what we should expect to find. But upon the supposition of Christian theism, this is not what we should expect to find (3021).

Christian philosopher Alvin C. Plantinga describes a theodicy as an attempt “to tell us why God permits evil.” This is a strong answer if satisfactory, for when the theodi- cist is done making her case there would be little left to explain. In contrast to a theodicy Plantinga argues for what he calls a defense. In a defense “the aim is not to say what God’s reason is, but at most what God’s reason might possibly be” (3055).

Note: Playing a game of burden of proof hot potato.

A defense merely suggests that something is possible. But that is too low to be accepted as any kind of standard at all (3059).

“must do more than show that the world’s evils are possibly justified; it must give plausible grounds for thinking that in fact they are justified” (3063).

Just look at this Biblical scholar squirm, retreat, and take an indefensible position because of the serious nature of the problem natural evil presents to his faith. It causes Rogerson to deny the geological and biological evidence for the age of the universe in order to maintain it (3124).

Note: Is this a good inductive case, that theists are more prone than atheists to deny the ridiculously obvious to maintain bellief? One could speculate that atheists do as well, bt theistic denial is an estabished fact.

According to Lewis, “living creatures were corrupted by an evil angelic being.” By “corrupted” Lewis means that the beasts were made to prey upon one another. Richard Swinburne, a philosopher and prolific apologist for Christianity, has likewise commented that human free will seems, “unable to account for the animal pain [that] existed before there were men,” so supposing the existence of “fallen angels” who have brought on these other evils, “may indeed be indispensable if the theist is to reconcile with the existence of God the existence of… animal pain” (3202).

It doesn’t matter whether the pain and sufferings of animals are due to Adam and Eve, or to Satan and his hosts. It’s the same problem moved back in time. A. Richard Kingston states this problem as well as anyone: “[If] God entrusted to fallible angelic beings such absolute control over creation that it was within their power to `brutalize’ the animal kingdom for all time, then he cannot be exonerated from all culpability for what allegedly happened (3218).

Wennberg agrees that to have a genuine theodicy utilizing a satanic angelic rebellion, it must answer an important question: “Why did God allow Satan to do it (3221)?

Animals and humans show a common ancestor, display similar behavior, and have physiological similarities. Because of these triple conditions, these shared characteristics, it is perfectly logical to believe that animals experience many of the same emotions as humans…. In fact, the onus should properly be on those people who try to deny that animals have such emotions. They must explain how, in one species, nerves act in one way and how they act completely differently in another (3259).

According to Singer, the interests of all sentient beings are worthy of equal consideration and respect depending on their capacities for thought (3314).

Note: Perhaps Singer could be called a “thoughtist,” unless he can come up with a rationale for dicriminating against the thoughless.

If heaven is meant to compensate or reward sentient creatures for their sufferings on earth, then this does not morally justify their sufferings. Otherwise anyone can torture any sentient creature, including another human being, and simply compensate them for their sufferings. Rewarding animals in a heaven made for them simply does not make their sufferings on earth morally justifiable (3322).

Would we really want scorpions, alligators, ticks, snakes, spiders, and skunks in heaven with us? Will all parasites be there? What rational criteria can distinguish between animals that will be in heaven from those that aren’t there (3328)?

Note: Under what conditions must the apologist answer questions like this? Are answers necessary to have successful theodicy/defense?

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