Tuesday, August 03, 2004

The Evidential Argument From Evil

Daniel Howard-Snyder (ed.), The Evidential Argument from Evil
If we grant that there is no logical contradiction in the statements "evil exists" and "God exists," we are left with a powerful objection: the empirical evidence for the former assertion compels us to doubt the latter. Daniel Howard-Snyder has assembled a formidable group of philosophers who, in a chronological series of essays, propose and challenge various conceptions of the evidential argument from evil. In the preface, Howard-Snyder writes,
...I didn't want just another collection of previously published pieces. Rather, I wanted a handful of the very best previously published essays to act as a stage upon which dialogue might progress, a place where new work might be done. However, I also wanted a collection that a student or educated layperson could understand, with only minimal assistance from an instructor or a course or two in basic philosophy (p. ix).

He has succeeded. Because of its chronological layout, the book allows us to see the evolution of the arguments in question--how they change or are abandoned--and, in the end, to realize that the question is far from settled.

The most interesting proposition, in my mind, comes from Paul Draper, who posits the "indifference hypothesis"--that even if an omnipotent, omniscient being created the universe as we know it, on the balance, the evidence doesn't favor its omnibenevolence.

The book isn't easy, but even at its most difficult is well worth the slog.


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