The Problem of Natural Evil Is Still a Problem

Published: 2021-06-29 07:07:34
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Category: Philosophy

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The Problem of Natural Evil is Still a Problem
Evil in the world might be divided into two kinds: moral evil and natural evil. Moral evils are things like stealing and killing - things that are caused by people, and natural evils are earthquakes, tsunamis - anything not caused by people. The problem of natural evil is often appealed to in arguments against the existence of God. Of course, different religions have different definitions of God or gods, but most major religions such as Islam and Christianity believe in the standard monotheistic conception of God: God is an all-good, all-powerful and all-knowing being.
The argument from evil is the following: If an all-good God exists, then God would try to eliminate natural evil, and if God is all-powerful, then God can eliminate all natural evil. Yet there is natural evil. Therefore, standard monotheistic God does not exist. This argument attempts to show a strong logical contradiction between an all-good God and a not-all-good world. John Hick, a religious philosopher, challenges the existence of a contradiction, and insists that a world with natural evils is indeed a better world since we can learn things like generosity, morality, forgiveness or braveness. This line of argument is called the soul-making defense. Nonetheless, I will argue that his soul-making defense of theism is not enough to eliminate the problem of natural evil: A world with natural evil might be better than one without, but not all-good in that there is an unfair "system" of soul making opportunities, and not good because of unnecessary suffering for other living things.


Hick's Soul-Making Defense
Hick claims that natural evil can enable people to learn virtues such as generosity, forgiveness and morality. Hick calls the learning of these virtues "soul-making". In other words, while people face natural evil such as earthquakes and cancer or see others suffering from those evils, they can grow spirituality by learning virtues. Therefore, the world with natural evils might be better than a merely hedonistic paradise which has no natural evils. So, an all-powerful, all-good God purposely designed this "better" world with natural evil, and thus the problem of natural evil is, in fact, not a problem.

To simply put his argument,
P1) People can "make souls" only if the world contains natural evil
P2) a world where people make souls is better than one where they cannot

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