A Very Unscientific Survey of Some Popular Responses to the Problem of Evil

I recently defended Paul Draper’s evidential argument from evil (specifically, facts about pain and pleasure) against William Lane Craig’s popular objections. (LINK) I decided to browse his website discussion forum devoted to the problem of evil. I was struck by some of the responses used by the people posting there (who should not be confused with Craig himself). Putting aside the posts which tear down strawman versions of the argument from evil, versions not defended by any atheist philosopher to my knowledge, here’s a sampling:

  • All arguments from evil fail because one version of the argument from evil fail.
  • Evidential arguments from evil, including (or perhaps I should say “especially”) Draper’s, are not strong because they contain a ceteris paribus clause in their conclusion. But the theist has many arguments for theism which outweigh the evidential argument from evil.
  • It’s possible that God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing “evils” (broadly defined to including pain and suffering) to occur, even if I have no idea what those reasons are. Therefore, “evil” isn’t any evidence against God’s existence.
  • “Evil” presupposes objective morality, which in turn presupposes theism. So arguments from evil are self-defeating or self-refuting.

While predictable, the one-sidedness of these approaches are notable. I’ll comment on just the first of these.

Consider the family of arguments for God’s existence known as cosmological arguments. Imagine an atheist arguing, “All cosmological arguments fail because one cosmological argument fails. The ‘logical version’ of the kalam cosmological argument, which claims that the universe’s having a beginning is logically inconsistent with atheism, fails. Therefore, for that reason, the universe’s having a beginning cannot be evidence for God’s existence. ” As soon as a theist understands why that objection to the kalam cosmological argument fails, they will understand why dismissing evidential arguments from evil in a parallel fashion also fail.