Friday, October 27, 2017

Rowe's Evidential Argument from Evil Against God's Existence

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Linda, in Artifactory, Corktown, Detroit

(For my MCCC Philosophy of Religion class, from William Rowe's "The Evidential Argument From Evil.") 

1. Rowe believes Mackie's logical argument fails, having been defeated by Plantinga's Free Will Defense. Rowe, therefore, does not believe theism is logically incoherent.

2. Instead, Rowe's presents an "evidential" argument from evil against the existence of God. His argument is based on the evidence of:

a) the kind of horrendous evils there are in the world; and

b the amount of such horrendous evils in the world (= gratuitous suffering, or pointless suffering).

3. Rowe's argument is:

i. 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.

ii. An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.

iii. There does not exist an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being.

4. Premise 2 – "This premise is, I think, held in common by many atheists and nontheists... (and even) theists." (Pojman, 202) I think Rowe is correct on this. The controversial premise is P1.

5. P1 – Rowe uses the "Bambi example" as an illustration of the rationality of pointless, or unjustified, suffering. Rowe says we cannot "prove" P1. But he believes it is rational, or reasonable, to believe P1 is true. Even if we can't see that his Bambi example works, surely, thinks Rowe, there are instances of pointless suffering among all the suffering in the world. He says: "The idea that none of this suffering could have been prevented by an omnipotent being without thereby losing a greater good or permitting an evil at least as bad seems an extraordinary absurd idea, quite beyond our belief." (Pojman, 203)

It seems, therefore, "that we have rational support for atheism, that it is reasonable for us to believe that the theistic God does not exist." (Pojman, 203)

6. Rowe calls his position "friendly atheism." This kind of atheism holds that a theist can also be rational in believing in an Omni-God. (Pojman, 205-206) A friendly atheist can believe this even while thinking the theist is wrong.