Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Necessity of Evil

From guest blogger, Caitlin C.

I’m a big believer in needing to experience something before truly understanding it. Little 5 year old me had to try broccoli before I knew it tastes amazing with some cheddar cheese on it, 14 year old me had to try plain broccoli in order for me to realize I love broccoli no matter how it’s cooked. Thinking along those same lines you need to experience the good and the bad in order to understand the difference and work towards what you want/ what will make you happy.
Little 9 year old me had to attend a private religious school and believe in God in order for 10 year old me to decide that religion wasn't for me. With that said, if I had never attended another private school when I was in high school and found it incredibly difficult to make new friends, I never would have realized how much I loved the public high school I attended and how lucky I was to find friends like the ones I had there. If only good existed then the reasons I am the person I am today would never of happened, I don’t think any of us would be the same if we never experienced hard times. I think many people would agree that after we go through difficult times we usually think we learned something from it. Maybe evil is needed for the human race to evolve.

Bare with me since I’m not a theist or a philosophy major.
1.      An all loving, omnipotent God exists2.      An all loving God would create the best world for us
3.      What’s best for us isn't only experiencing good
4.      Therefore, God has to allow evil to exist
This is a response to the general idea that God would never allow a world (like ours) with so much evil to exist (which I previously held prior to this class). Another thought that I have regarding this is that if we were all happy all the time then there wouldn't be a strong meaning to life. If we were all happy there would be nothing for us to look forward to or to work towards. If there was no evil then everyone’s lives would be the same amount of good, and with that I could claim they would be the same amount of happy. Life would be one boring dry flatland.

If I change my perspective and look at this through the eyes of psychology I can come up with a few reasons why the absence of good must exist. I think about what I know about how people bond with one another. I’ve learned that people tend to create stronger bonds while sharing common dislikes or complaints than they do while sharing common likes. I know that when I go through hard times I turn towards my friends more than I do when I go through good times. Maybe the existence of evil has to do with forming strong relationships with our community.

I’m having a hard time figuring out what direction to actually take this paper in.


Michael Dean Hebert said...

This is all fine, it may be true that for any given life we must experience some of the bad to really appreciate the good. I know ice cream would not taste as great to me if I wasn't forced lima beans on occasion. But the problem of evil goes deeper than this, since it is simply true that some people never get to experience the good. A 4 year old with cancer needed that cancer to appreciate the joys of their life? If a child starving in Africa had received proper nourishment they wouldn't have had as much fun doing... what exactly? I know this puts it pretty harshly, but that's kind of the point isn't it. The world can be a really harsh place sometimes (all too often). Every bit of suffering needs to be explained in order to adequately respond to the problem of evil, and while many smaller cases of suffering can easily be explained using the sort of response you suggest, larger cases of suffering like genocide are not so easily brushed under the rug. Were evils that bad necessary for there to be good?

Joshua Adams said...

I understand where you are trying to go with this paper. Maybe one direction you could take it is expand on why there is such a need for evil. Tying in with the need to experience things is also free will I think. Some people never choose to experience killing others, and this is seen as good. So maybe that freedom to choose your own experiences (Kinda like choose your own adventure) is more of what God allows you to do then just forcing you to do something. I really like what you have going here I think you just need to pick one major point about experiencing evil and stick with it.

Andrea Manthei said...

Your paper sounds very similar to my paper and blog post. And I agree with Michael on this one.

So, what you have presented can be a theist response to the problem of evil, or excuse. When bad, evil, things happen and they affect us, the positive spin is that "well god wants the best for us and through experiencing evil things, we can appreciate (whatever) more. Thats how an individual can look at the world around and respond to the things that personally affect them.

But if you look at it on a larger scale, like terminal illness of a being that hasnt experienced much in the world, and genocide, like Michael said. So if you are stuck here for your paper, start to look at the larger instances, but still try and apply your ideas for the smaller scale things. This is where my paper turns, suggesting this is not enough for the theist to explain evil in the world, but feel free to argue against that.

The example you gave of you turning to your friends when you're upset, or making connections with people of the same "sufferings" are things that can be overcome. Consider things that cannot be overcome to see the good, even on an individual level; like some being shot point blank, dying instantly. I would think that we can agree that this is an evil in the world, especially if the dead person is one of complete innocence.

For the paper, you could think about how evils toward the extreme side of the scale connect with this idea, and if you can account for evil, using it. How does this account for atrocities toward the innocent, and what does it mean for death in general and in specific situations?

hope that helps.

Sydnie said...

I strongly agree with Michael's points and also have one of my own. In this argument you say that god is omnipotent. If he's all powerful, wouldn't he be able to make a world such that evil doesn't exist but we still are not bored? Exciting things still happen while not having to endure evil things. Or just as Michael's comment said, god could make it so that the evils people experience are much lesser than what exists now. To me it just doesn't seem like an omnibenevolent being would allow such things to happen if it had the ability to stop it and the foreknowledge of the events' happenings.

Anonymous said...

I caught most of a sermon today by Dr. Robert Thompson. He made the claim that paradise isn't gonna come through a cloud from the heavens but through people. Perhaps thats what free will is all about. Earthquakes, acts of God, disease, etc.: if change is sine qua non to material, as it is spiritual, development, then perhaps some things are unavoidable; however, maybe its a bad idea to place a reactor so close to the Marianas Trench. Accidents: should we be so determined as to never make or encounter these?

Stoehr said...

Another thing to think about: would we really not be able to appreciate good without the bad? I can imagine knowing ice cream is delicious without being forced to eat lima beans first - the sweetness of certain foods is independently noticeable. Does the same apply to good things that happen to us? Would we be able to recognize and appreciate them without the bad? It seems intuitive that we would. Maybe it helps us put things in perspective to experience both good and bad, but I'm not sure if one is necessary to appreciate the other.

Natalie North said...

This is an effort to build up the argument and respond to the criticisms. I contend that we would always think that some thing is so bad that we think it shouldn't exist if God had control over it. For example, if eating lima beans was the worst thing on the planet, we likely wouldn't view it any differently that we view genocide in this world. Consider that when a child has yet to hear about something in the world, they have a standard for the worst thing ever, and only upon exposure to the fact that these things exist can they be considered for the bottom spot. We assess things relatively based on our experiences and out perceptions. It can be argued that what things are allowed to exist would be completely arbitrary, but if any God (whether or not the attributes we attribute to God are truly a part of that God or not, and only assuming that starting from nothing would allow them to make what He believed to be the most perfect world as He conceived it) is accepted as existing, it makes more sense that what things are allowed to exist are those things which necessarily needed to exist in a perfect world.