Apologetics: December 2006 Archives

More on Dawkins

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I've seen several reviews of Richard Dawkins' latest infantile rant book The God Delusion, most of them by his fellow atheists. Some of them have tried to say something positive but have gone on to distance themselves from some of his rhetoric, some of his arguments, and some of his views. Others have been more critical. Most of what I've seen hasn't been overwhelmingly positive. Even some of the more favorable ones register what seem to me the kind of criticism I find myself writing on first-year philosophy papers, not the sort of thing you should expect of a serious academic, even one so far outside his field as Dawkins is when it comes to religion.

For examples, see reviews by Jim Holt in the New York Times, philosopher Thomas Nagel in The New Republic (unfortunately subscription only), Marilynne Robinson in Harper's Magazine, Terry Eagleton in the London Review of Books, Kenan Malik in the Telegraph, and Gregg Easterbrook at Beliefnet. While I'm at it, there's also my post in response to one of his points and Brandon's post criticizing him on several other issues.

Add to those a new one from Shannon Love, which I very much enjoyed reading, enough to want to post several excerpts that I thought were very much worth highlighting. [hat tip: Mark Olson]

This is the the thirty-second post in my Theories of Knowledge and Reality series. Follow the link for more on the series and for links to other entries as they appear. In the last post, I looked at a vagueness problem that comes up in some of the questions people might ask as part of the evidential problem of evil. In this last post of the problem of evil, I respond to the last of five questions I originally asked in presenting the evidential problem of evil.

E. Even if these questions can all be answered somewhat satisfactorily, we do not have a complete explanation of evil. Isn’t that still evidence against God, if we can’t come up with a complete explanation of the amount of evil, the kinds of evil, the distribution of evil, the depths of evil, the length of time evil occurs, and so on? Explaining some evil helps resist seeing that evil as evidence against God, since it explains why God would allow that evil. But how can that remove all the evidence that the total sum of evil presents against God?

The case William Rowe presents is a deer who suffers and then dies in a forest fire, and no one ever even finds out about it. This seems to be completely meaningless. It does not help the deer. It does not help anyone else. Could God have a reason for such suffering?

This is the the thirty-first post in my Theories of Knowledge and Reality series. Follow the link for more on the series and for links to other entries as they appear. In the last post, I continued looking at responses to a set of questions about particular kinds of evil or ways of evil that come up in the evidential problem of evil. This post contains a detour on one general problem with questions of this sort, before we return to the final question in the next post (which I had originally intended to treat here as well, but I thought each discussion was long enough to deserve separate posts).

Several of the questions I've been looking at have problems with vagueness. I don't mean that the questions are not stated clearly. I mean that they are talking about phenomena that admit of degrees, and the nature of vagueness in our ability to speak about such phenomena precisely will sometimes lead to problems when we ask moral questions about these matters. It will help to restate the general sort of problem, and then I'll identify where the difficulty can sometimes lie.

So it might well be that God has a plan for dealing with evil, and that plan requires things to take a form much more like what we have than would be the case with a shorter period of evil in the world, with much less evil, manifesting itself in much less serious ways. If so, then we have a potential explanation for something more like the kinds of evil in the ways that it does appear. But could God have achieved these purposes without allowing it to be quite so bad? Could the lessons of the Holocaust have been learned without so many people dying or suffering? Could the world have learned what it needs to learn with one fewer instance of genocide? Could the recent tsunami in Asia have achieved whatever good it was supposed to have achieved without quite so many people?



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