Philosopher Stephen Wykstra accuses William Rowe of committing a "no-seeum fallacy" in the latter's evidential argument from evil against the existence of God. "No-seeums" are tiny bugs that bite and draw blood, but are nearly invisible to the eye. But just because you can't see them does not mean they are not there.
Wykstra thinks Rowe's argument in support of Rowe's first premise is this:
1. As far as we can tell there is no point to the fawn's suffering.
(That premise is true. But a no-seeum fallacy is committed when Rowe, on the basis of 1, concludes:)
2. Therefore, there is not point to the fawn's suffering.
Wykstra says that, unless the CORNEA Principle is met, 2 does not logically follow from 1.
CORNEA, or “the Condition Of ReasoNable Epistemic Access,” provides a general necessary condition for one being entitled to assert that it appears to be the case that p.
Wykstra states the condition as follows: On the basis of cognized situation s, human H is entitled to claim ‘It appears that p’ only if it is reasonable for H to believe that, given her cognitive faculties and the use she has made of them, if p were not the case, s would likely be different that is in some way discernable by her.'
3. As far as I can see President Obama is not in the room with me.
4. Therefore, President Obama is not in the room with me.
Here 4 follows from 3, since CORNEA is met. If the President were in my office room I would be able to see him; i.e., I would have epistemic access to that particular state of affairs.
But consider this.
5. (The nurse says) As far as I can see there are no germs on this hypodermic needle.
6. Therefore, there are no germs on this hypodermic needle.
In this instance our irresponsible nurse cannot derive 6 from 5, the reason being that CORNEA has not been met. Even if there was a germ on the needle the nurse would not be able to see it. So no judgment can be made.
Wyckstra critiques Rowe's reasoning as invalid; viz., the conclusion does not follow from the premise.
Wyckstra says one can only reason from 1 to 2 if CORNEA is satisfied.
The sort of reasoning that may follow from Wykstra’s work and CORNEA may look something like this.
1. God’s wisdom and knowledge is considerably greater than that of humans.
2. If (1), then it is likely that the evil generated by cases of intense suffering that appear to be gratuitous are outweighed by some greater good.
NOTE: Wyckstra is assuming that, really, there is no gratuitous evil.
3. If it is likely that the evil generated by cases of intense suffering that appear to be gratuitous are outweighed by some greater good, then it is likely that we would not have epistemic access to the reason for such suffering given our significantly limited cognitive perspective relative to God.
4. If it is likely that we would not have epistemic access to the reason for such suffering given our significantly limited cognitive perspective relative to God, then it is not likely that there exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.
5. Therefore, it is not likely that there exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.
Rowe must deny premise (1) of this argument. But he can’t. If theism is true, then (1) is true.
Rowe must be able to claim that he can grasp that which is beyond our mental capacity as persons with a limited cognitive perspective. So his argument fails, according to the defender of this argument.
NOTE: Precisely because we are talking about an all-knowing God, we should expect to not be able to see the reasons behind most, if not all, instances of intense suffering.
Wykstra also appeals to an analogy between the epistemic gap between an infant and their parent, and the vastly greater epistemic gap between humans and an all-knowing God.