Thursday, June 30, 2005

Conversations with Angie: Some weakness in the free will theodicy


Usually, the way people attempt to refute the free will argument is to say that God could have created a world where people are free to choose between good and evil, and yet they only choose good. This rebuttal doesn't work, because, as (6) shows, people would not truly be free if they could only do good.

However, this rebuttal does reveal a weakness in the free will theodicy. Just because something is POSSIBLE doesn't mean it is ACTUAL. All it means is that it COULD be actual. So it is possible for God to create a world with free creatures who only do good. If God created such a world, though, it could not be by design. What I mean is that God could not, by an act of his will, cause the world to have free creatures who never do evil. If they never did evil, it would be because of their OWN decision--not God's. So if they HAPPENED to do evil, this would not be a failure on God's part. God can only will to create a world with free creatures--he cannot will them to only do good. I'm not sure if I'm being clear here, so let me know if you follow this.

There's another weakness in the free will theodicy. As I said before, there are two kinds of evil--moral evil and natural evil. The free will theodicy only accounts for moral evil. It doesn't answer the problem of natural evil.

There are some theists who will try to make the free will theodicy account for natural evil. They do it by appealing to the butterfly effect. Do you know what that is? That's basically the idea that everything in the universe is interconnected in a cause and effect relationship. Have you ever heard the story about how a horse shoe was lost because a nail was lost, and since the shoe was lost, the horse was lost, and since the horse was lost, the battle was lost, and since the battle was lost, the war was lost, and all on account of a single nail? Well, the butterfly effect is the same. A buttefly flapping its wings can set off a causal chain that eventually results in a hurricane that wipes out thousands of people. But since the interrelatedness of everything is so complicated, it's impossible to predict how one single event can ripple through the rest of the cosmos. We're doing good just to predict the weather a few days in advance. Some theists will argue that it's possible that natural evil can be caused by our free will acts, and they appeal to the butterfly effect in order to explain how. While I'm willing to grant the possibility, I doubt the plausibility. That is, it's possible, but it doesn't seem likely. However, it only needs to be possible in order to demonstrate that there's no contradiction between the claim that "God exists" and the claim that "natural evil exists." You see, if there WERE really a contradiction, then it would NOT be possible to account for natural evil by appealing to the butterfly effect and human decision.

[deleting some stuff]


Conversations with Angie: Angie on evil and freedom


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