Monday, October 31, 2011

What If Evil Doesn't Exist?

I'm wrapping up Part 2 of my MCCC Philosophy of Religion class. It's the section on "The Problem of Evil." J.L. Mackie, in his logical argument from evil against the existence of God, writes that there would be no "problem of evil" if "evil" did not exist.

"Evil," in the philosophical discussion, is usually defined as "gratuitous suffering," aka "pointless suffering." If value is added to suffering it is not gratuitous. If the suffering is needed to allow for a greater good to happen or to prevent a greater evil from happening, then the suffering is not gratuitous, but redemptive.

On atheism-as-metaphysical naturalism it seems that "evil" does not exist. Metaphysical naturalism does not contain the word "ought." Science claims to tell us what "is," but one can't get "ought" from "is."

Atheist Richard Dawkins seems to recognize this. Dawkins writes: "In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The unvierse that we observe has precisely the properties we should expetc if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference... DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music."

On Dawkins' version of atheism, "evil" and "good" do not exist. I think he correct, if atheism is true. But this entails that the "problem of evil" is only a so-called "problem," akin to "the problem of unicorns." Because, as Mackie has said, if evil does not exist then there is no "problem of evil." That is, on Mackie's reasoning (as well as Rowe's), the statement Evil exists must be true. Dawkins says it is not. Thus Mackie-type and Rowe-type arguments from evil fail. "Evil" must exist for there to be an argument from evil.

Note that Bill Craig has given an argument from evil for God's existence. It is:

1. If there is no God, then evil (objective evil) does not exist.
2. Evil exists. (Mackie's third premise)
3. Therefore, God exists.

Therefore, on atheism, "evil" does not form an objection to God's existence since it does not exist. For the atheist to think it does would be like accusing theists of being inconsistent because unicorns exist. Atheism has no foundation capable of bearing the word "ought."