the evidential problem of good

American Atheists reports that in a recent debate between popular Christian apologist William Lane Craig and philosopher Stephen Law.

Law presented an ingenious gambit known as ‘the evidential problem of good” raising two main concerns.

  1. If belief in an all-evil god is rendered irrational by the presence of joy and happiness in the world, why isn’t belief in an all-good god rendered irrational by the presence of egregious suffering in the world?
  2. If belief in an all-evil god is very unreasonable, why should belief in an all-good good be much more reasonable?

The usual apologetics explanation to this is god’s will being unknowable and when that fails, to resort to the free will excuse.

To which, I say, that if god’s will is unknowable, then how are apologetics and religious scholars and leader/experts able to say anything with any certainty, never mind apologizing for it to make it vaguely palatable or moot. Because unknowable means unknowable, not what’s written down in the so called sacred texts is known and anything outside of the limited historical era and geography covered by the text was just..something.

When people wrote about events that impacted the whole world, they are referring to their known world. Every human culture has lived along rivers and rivers flood – thus most cultures have flood myths.

The story of Noah’s arc is not a literal man who got animals from the whole earth as we know it, because there was no way to circumnavigate the world – you’d need a fleet of arcs to gather and hold all the animals and all the food.

The stories are not meant to be literal or historical and when viewed that way, they easily fall apart. Which is why apologetics was invented to have a buffer group so that the moderates could seem reasonable, which, compared to the fundies, they sort of are. Apologetics is to make moderates feel okay about believing in stories that their logic and reason tell them are plainly not true.

The reason I refer to free will being an excuse is because believers, even moderates, believe that all good can be traced back to god, but all bad is down to mankind’s conduct – especially rejecting their god.

The problem with this why would an all knowing god create a people who could deviate from what behaviours would be beneficial into behaviours that would doom humans if said god was good, all knowing and all powerful – what are our much smaller desires compared to that?

Any truly good deity couldn’t allow people to suffer so in life because of an accident of geographical birth nor in any eternal afterlife without regard to severity of trespass or the circumstances.

Good or evil or in between, supernatural entities simply have no place in a natural universe, for the laws of the universe have no mechanism to be suspended.

More than that, the generally low to poor caliber of so called supernatural miracles – disease remission, images appearing on grilled bread product or in rocks or in bark, diminish the very nature of what a miracle would be – something extraordinary that has no apparent explanation other than supernatural causes.

Which is the rub, the universe is as we would expect it to be, given what we have learned through the centuries of scientific observation and study.

We have been able to explain the complex systems at work on the earth from the molten core to the outer atmosphere, how planets and galaxies form, how the universe expands and how life changes over time.

We have a working theory about the origins of the universe and several ideas about how life may have started on earth and throughout the universe – and these unanswered questions will eventually be answered, given enough time and the continued advancement of technology.

The universe is a much bigger, wonderous and dramatic place than a small collection of texts that focus on a particular geographic area and time period thousands of years before human knowledge was as robust and accessible as it is now.

So the real problem of good and evil is not about some god’s character or preferences, but rather the good or evil character of humans; which will dominate the world.