|Theodicy: God, Tsunamis and Evil||#104||Anonymous|
|The Problem of Evil: A Naturalistic Perspective||#106||K Straughen|
|The Problem of Evil Reply||#107||Anonymous|
|The Problem of Evil – A Final Reply||#108||K Straughen|
|The Problem of Evil – Reply to Final Reply||#109||Anonymous|
GOD, TSUNAMIS and EVIL
(Investigator 104, 2005 September)
"Because they hated
they shall eat the fruit of their way." (Proverbs 1:29-31)
"Distress of nations in
at the roaring of the sea and the waves." (Luke 21:25)
WHO'S TO BLAME?
The 2004 Indian Ocean
tsunami killed an estimated
230,000. Many people blamed God:
Believers in God usually
affirm the following
1 God is omnipotent;
2 God is good;
3 Evil exists.
For a biblical answer we'll have to refer to Adam and Eve. The reader can do this hypothetically or regard them as historical.
Critics also ridicule
They ask, "Why would God save one person but let 230,000 die?"
Tsunamis may follow from:
The 2004 tsunami followed the most powerful earthquake in 40 years, which lifted part of the Indian Ocean.
2 Volcanic explosions
A tsunami followed the Krakatoa eruption in 1883 and killed 36,000.
3 Underwater landslides4 Asteroid Impacts
In one ancient underwater landslide a rock the size of New York produced a tsunami that flooded coasts around the Pacific. (Knight 1999) If the Cumbre Vieja volcano in the Canary Islands erupted it could devastate all Atlantic coasts by a landslide kicking up walls of water higher than any in recorded history.
There is a 1 in 5 chance of an asteroid of 300 to 1,000 metres hitting Earth this century. (New Scientist, September 14, 2002, pp 4-5) A mere 100-metre asteroid hitting an ocean could inundate everything to 20km inland! Ted Bryant, geomorphologist, has found evidence of six great tsunamis on Australian coasts since 4,000 BC. (Jones 2002) One: "came in about 1480 AD…over the headland at Jervis Bay [NSW] which is 130 metres high…"
RISING SEA LEVELS
The Greenhouse Effect
gases warm Earth's climate is starting to raise sea levels:
…the oceans have warmed by
at the surface, and the warming extends to a depth of several hundred
(New Scientist, June 11, 2005, p. 17)
AFTER THE GREAT TRIBULATION
Comparing Jesus' words in Matthew 24:15-28 and Luke 21:20-27 shows the sea and waves will cause "distress of nations" after the "great tribulation".
The "great tribulation" is a period of trouble upon the Jews which began in 70 AD with Jerusalem's destruction and continues until Jerusalem is Jewish again. (Investigator 60) When explaining Luke 21 previously I focussed on global warming. However, oceans can also "distress" nations via tsunamis.
But why does God, if
omnipotent and good,
not stop evil including "natural evils" like tsunamis?
The brief biblical answer is that humans think they can determine good and evil without God and rule themselves adequately without Him. God has distanced himself to let humans prove it.
According to Genesis humans started in the Garden of Eden. The world outside was dangerous but Eden was a secure start until humans could expand safely.
God commanded Adam and Eve
to avoid a certain
tree because, "In the day you eat of it you shall die." (2:15-17) This
2 Adam and Eve need never die – which suggests their immune system could destroy every pathogen and they had self-healing abilities beyond anything known today.
God created humans of unlimited potential, offered guidance against danger, gave them freedom to choose, but reserved for Himself the right to determine "good and evil". (2:16-17; 3:22)
What, then, if humans
chose to determine
good and evil for themselves? To bludgeon them into submission or
consequences would contradict:
- Giving them unlimited potential;
- Giving them freedom to choose;
- Putting them in a universe where decisions and actions have consequences.
They would have to establish their own religions, institutions, governments, laws and ethics – based on all the notions of "good" and "evil" they think up – and experience the consequences.
In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve ate the "fruit" which God said would kill them. The Hebrew literally says, "Dying you will die." The process of dying began the day they ate.
A scientific explanation
whether the human genome allows for unlimited life and health and
any "fruit" can mutate the DNA perhaps by harboring viruses
integrate with it. What is known so far is that genes effect lifespan
Once expelled from Eden humans would have encountered viruses, parasites, chemicals and radiation and cohabited with Neanderthals. All this could further damage human DNA leading to thousands of diseases, cancers, and inherited disabilities.
The Bible says evil is in "the flesh". (Romans 5:12-14; 7:15-20) Today we'd say it's in the genes. Already many genes have been identified that predispose people to conduct the Bible calls "sin".
Since Adam we had thousands of wars, deceptive religions, stupid superstitions, natural disasters, numerous types of government and legal and ethical systems, and ideologies that killed millions. Yet everyone believed himself to be "good" and "right".
The conviction of being "good" and one's beliefs "right" was originally linked to reliance on the Creator. But without the Creator that conviction gets linked to whatever we get involved with – Nazism, superstition, Atheism, cults, terrorism, astrology, cigarettes, idolatry, lies and deceit, paedophilia, whatever.
Everyone who disobeys God, in effect, says to Him, "I know right from wrong better than you; I don't need you." Such attitude cannot be refuted by force but by God responding, "Show me."
What about "natural disasters" like tsunamis and crop failures?
Genesis 41 tells how Egypt, about 1700 BC, had seven years of poor harvests. Famine was defeated because God gave instructions to store up grain during the bountiful harvests.
The lesson of Genesis 41 is: If there was warning – if we had God's guidance as originally intended before humans decided they know better – then natural disasters would not hurt anyone.
Natural disasters are cheap. The single costliest one in the 20th century cost $100billion – an average of $17 per person. The single costliest year was 1995 when all natural disasters cost $180billion (Guinness 2000) – only $30 per person.
If humans were forewarned and also shared the cost, natural disasters would be harmless! They are "evil" because human negligence, failure to predict, and failure to "love your neighbor" make them so.
In the originally-intended God-guided world, humans would either have the technology to prevent natural disasters, or they would have God's warning like, "On December 26 in twenty years an Indian Ocean tsunami will…" With such warning no one need be hurt and costs per person would be minor.
We can generalize this
argument to cover
every dangerous event.
Within the worldwide cycle of humans rejecting God and seeing the consequences, the Bible discusses secondary cycles. Consider Jeremiah.
Jeremiah became a prophet
40 years before
the destruction (586 BC) of Jerusalem. (1:1-3) He declared the
The Jews' rejection of God would have consequences:
The "chastening" and "reproving" occurred by God not stopping what anyone would expect him to stop if He were "almighty". He allowed other nations to plunder and depopulate Judah.
The Jews prayed for help,
"Arise and save
us!" but got no reply:
Human rejection of God to
try out alternatives
also explains much individual suffering. Proverbs 1:24-32 explains:
The New Testament has the story of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15)
The son demanded his inheritance, deserted his father, and descended to such degradation he ate from pig troughs and faced death. But he returned home and his father forgave him.
Similarly, in the
worldwide situation humanity
forsakes God, descends into degradation, and chooses destruction or
The reign of evil can be
compared to a "controlled
experiment". In psychology a controlled experiment is:
The independent variable, when using this analogy to explain evil, is God's absence. God absents himself to let humans demonstrate their "knowledge of good and evil".
The dependent variables are the rules, laws, ethics, religions, governments, institutions and conduct humans present as "good".
In many psychology
experiments the psychologist
avoids his subjects and also keeps them uninformed of the purpose of
experiment. The reasons are:
2 Subjects who know what's being investigated will modify their responses and this will give misleading results.
Applying these ideas to
the question of evil
explains why God stays away and seems not to exist. To obviously
would modify human behavior and prevent humans genuinely demonstrating
their "knowledge of good and evil".
The Bible teaches that human religion, government and morals will lead to the "end of the world". This is the ultimate proof that human ideas of "good" are largely destructive. So what about punishment?
For people who acknowledge
the New Testament has the "good news of salvation" to reconcile
them to God:
For people who accept
Bible has guidance for living the best life while awaiting the end of
For example, after warning that "They shall eat the fruit of their way"
with thirty chapters of counsel!
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
QUESTION: Some people survive danger and call it a "miracle" whereas others die – why?
ANSWER: The Bible presents
God as intervening
in the world when things get too horrible or to fulfil prophecies such
non-obvious so that human
freedom is not compromised by displays of supernatural power. God might
help one person but let others die – because to help one person:
- May fulful a prophecy;
- Lead to an important future good;
- Can often be done non-obviously as if coincidence.
QUESTION: The Old Testament is full of instances where God is active in human affairs. Doesn't that invalidate the "experiment"?
ANSWER: Even in Old Testament times people had alternative explanations. Most people were idolaters and could blame their idols. They also believed in coincidence and nature.
QUESTION: Why do children have to suffer?
- Human "knowledge of good and evil" is tested in every area of life, and from the beginning the arrangement is that adults look after children.
- Most harm to children is preventable by goodwill and better use of the $1trillion spent on war and armaments each year.
- Bible principles for the good of children are often ignored.
QUESTION: Couldn't God, if omnipotent, have created a different universe where no one gets hurt?
Wertheim (1999) says:
If technology with right standards and God's oversight can produce paradise in this Universe why seek a different one?
QUESTION: God, if "omniscient", knew the consequences of Adam's rebellion yet still allowed it. Why?
ANSWER: The Bible ends with humanity at peace with God. A Universe in which humans have rebelled and suffered and then accept God willingly, is better than a Universe in which humans have not learned the effects of rebellion but feel like finding out and must be controlled by force. To achieve the better Universe requires allowing a period of rebellion and its consequences.
QUESTION: The Bible has God declaring, "I create evil." Therefore, why blame humans?
ANSWER: God accepts
- Created/started a Universe where "evil" can happen;
- Created humans with a level of ability that requires His guidance for safe living;
- Permits humans to reject Him and experience consequences.
The test whereby humans
try out their ideas
of "good" has run during Earth's most benign period – geologically,
biologically, and climatically. Consider climate:
Despite enjoying Earth's most benign time to test their "knowledge of good and evil" humans botched it. Thousands of wars! Deceitful religions! Countless crimes! Oppressive slavery! Racism! Failed political systems! Worthless ideologies!
Humans squandered their
wealth in conflict
to enforce false notions of "good" and neglected to factor into their
social, religious, economic and legal systems the cost of climate
asteroid impacts and super tsunamis. Great cities line the coasts where
climate change, or a moderate-sized asteroid hitting an ocean, can
them. In 1996 Australia even cancelled its "space watch" effort!
THREE STATEMENTS CONSISTENT
"Omnipotence" does not include ability to do what's logically impossible like drawing a square circle. (Mackie 1982)
To test human self-rule with God preventing the effects before they occur is like requesting a square circle. It's a contradiction. It's a request to have something – i.e. the proof and the effects – while also requesting not to have it.
The "inconsistent" three
statements we opened
with are answered by excluding from "omnipotence" the ability to do
and simultaneously not do it in the one universe.
Evil is a consequence of human rejection of God, which God permits until it's proved humans need him. If rising oceans lead to "distress of nations" the fault is human for not preventing it – it's their "knowledge of good and evil" proved wrong.
I haven't proved God exists. But by showing that the three "inconsistent" statements are consistent I've removed a major barrier to belief in Him.
For simplicity I've ignored the teaching that human rebellion is part of a wider conflict led by a supernatural agent the Bible calls "Satan". I've also ignored animal suffering but considered it in #65.
When the "experiment" of
good and evil is over:
Boyle, S and Ardill, J
1989 The Greenhouse
Effect, Hodder & Stoughton
Guinness World Records 2000 Millennium Edition, p. 194
Jones, N 2002 New Scientist September 14, p. 15
Knight, J New Scientist Supplement, August 7, 1999
Mackie, L 1982 The Miracle of Theism, Clarendon Press, p. 151
Maxwell, N 2002 Philosophy Now, March/April, pp 22-25
Middlebrook, P N 1974 Social Psychology and Modern Life, Alfred A Knopf, pp 50-51
Radowitz, J V 2005 The Advertiser, July 30, p. 65
Rehn, A 2005 The Advertiser, February 2, p. 22
Wertheim, M 1999 The Sciences, Volume 39, No. 2, March/April, p. 40
Problem of Evil–
A Naturalistic Perspective
Response to Anonymous' God, Tsunamis and Evil (#104)
(Investigator 106, 2006 January)
The situation reminds me of two philosophers who were hotly debating the number of teeth in a horse's mouth. Both sages presented their respective arguments in the most sophisticated and elegant manner, but neither could convince the other of their respective positions.
A farmer overhearing their debate went up to the horse, opened its mouth and counted its teeth. He then laughed uproariously – both gentlemen were completely wrong. The moral of this story is simple: The best way to find the truth is by appealing to empirical facts, rather than through speculations that have no foundation based in reality.
So, what do we know about reality? Science has revealed that the universe, life and mankind arose through the natural process of evolution. There is not one atom of evidence for the existence of God, Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, or any other facet of Genesis mythology.
Genesis is simply a pre-scientific creation story (one of many) that draws its imagery from a common fund of Middle-Eastern mythology. It is no more or less true than the creation myths of the Hindus, Buddhists or ancient Chinese, and to claim that the Bible prefigures in some way the findings of modern science is to completely misrepresent and misunderstand the culture of the time in which it was written.
The Bible is a reflection of ancient beliefs that were current at the time. It. along with all other scriptures. are of entirely human origin, written by fallible men who were limited in their understanding due to the paucity of knowledge in their age.
Because Anonymous has not substantiated any of his core beliefs – the existence of the Biblical god, for example, it is only sensible to consider his views unproven and look for an answer to the problem of evil that is more in keeping with known facts. I Shall now proceed to offer one possible suggestion which is as follows:
Evil exists because the universe does not exist for the sake of humanity any more than humanity exists for the sake of the universe. Nature is non-conscious and therefore non-moral. It just is – a brute fact bereft of intrinsic meaning.
Any theological meaning we find in nature is merely a projection of human desire onto the fabric of reality, like finding patterns in windswept clouds.
Nature has no favourites – it strikes down young and old, god and bad with equanimity, and those who survive disasters do so because of blind luck, or because of their own abilities, the help of others and so on. There is no sound evidence that God can or does intervene in such matters.
Indeed, we humans are a conceited lot – in the past we thought we were the center of creation, that all the universe revolved around our puny world, that we were the pinnacle of the great Chain of Being, just below Heaven's angels. But now we know we are just one infinitesimal bubble in a might sea of stars. Already, hundreds of other worlds have been discovered orbiting distant suns, and this is but just the beginning of our discoveries. Indeed, if god exists, then it probably has better things to do than worry about the speck of cosmic dust we call Earth.
This may seem like a rather bleak philosophy, but in my opinion it is better to face the harsh truth than to believe a comforting improbability such that a celestial father figure who will rescue us at the eleventh hour. When we were children, we looked to our parents to comfort us when we were frightened, to help us when we were sick or injured- to solve our problems. Belief in a saving god is merely an extension of this desire for a larger than life protector.
If humanity is to survive and prosper, then we must look to our own salvation, find our own solutions using reason. The world is too complex for all the answers to be found within the pages of a single book, whether it is the Bible or some other work. If peace on Earth is to be achieved, then it will be done through human effort, if disease is to be conquered, then it will be through human effort, if disasters are to be averted, then it will be through human effort.
With each passing century, we push back the shadows of ignorance – diseases that were incurable in 1900 are now curable, facts that were unknown in 1900 are now known. Terrorism is a threat, yes, but communism has fallen and Europe is largely at peace. Each new problem presents a challenge, but the problems are not insurmountable. Environmental problems are being addressed – alternative energy sources are being explored. I'm not attempting to downplay the problems we face – they are serious, but I think that we have sufficient intelligence to find effective solutions for them.
All evidence points to the fact that we are alone in the universe – no gods, no benevolent aliens whose technology we can call upon. It's a frightening thought for many, and I can understand why some people have a burning desire for the existence of a higher power. But the facts are the facts, and we're fools if we ignore them. If we are to have faith, then let us have faith in humanity in our capacity to overcome evil, in our capacity to solve our problems, in our capacity to live in peace with each other.
Perhaps it's a naive
faith, but I think one
nobler than blind belief in otherworldly things.
The Problem of Evil–Reply
(Investigator 107, 2007
GOD AND EVIL
A former Church of Christ minister recalled on ABC radio his visit, as a young theology student with other theology students, to a care-centre for hydrocephalic children.
The children had huge heads, were totally helpless, and needed constant care. This was about 1961 before treatment that drains the fluid-build-up from the head was available. A doctor asked the theology students, "Well gentlemen, do you still believe in God?"
The former minister said,
"I cannot reconcile
an almighty, all loving, compassionate God with what I saw that day."
PROBLEM AND RESPONSE
In #104 I answered the
common claim that
the following three statements are an "inconsistent triad" and cannot
1. God is love; 2. God is all-powerful; 3. Evil exists.
I could have answered by
attaching an "If"
to much of what I wrote:
Instead of such "If" statements, I used the phrase "according to the Bible". The point is that Adam and Eve do not have to be real for the alleged "inconsistent triad" to be refuted.
And refuted it was. Just
think of analogies
where the desire and power to stop others harming themselves isn't used
– for example, teenagers may make stupid choices but the parents do not
physically restrain them. Even someone "almighty" is limited if he has
agreed to let people make their own decisions.
Showing the three alleged incompatible statements to be compatible does not tell us whether Adam and Eve existed.
Human origins were debated in #86 to #90 where I listed four points in the Adam/Eve story that have scientific support. The Bible is being proved progressively and hundreds of other statements, touching many areas of science, are confirmed. This challenges the claim (#106 p. 33) that "The Bible is…of entirely human origin."
The Adam/Eve story implies there was an edible fruit that degraded the original human DNA. Science is now discovering circumstances where ingested food alters DNA. (New Scientist November 10, 2005, p. 12) Even red wine has an "anti-ageing ingredient" that: "slows ageing by preventing chemical damage to DNA in mitochondria". (February 11, 2006, p. 14) Perhaps this is the beginning of a scientific understanding of the "forbidden fruit".
And does God exist? I
quote again Sir Fred
Hoyle who researched "resonance states" of carbon atoms:
Mr Straughen (#106) hopes humans will survive by "finding our own solutions using reason." That's the origin of human suffering in the first place. Humans cannot work out long-range consequences of their policies or the set of ethical rules of most benefit.
The evidence is that
humans under God's guidance
were meant to live indefinitely in perfect health. Instead they chose
and faulty ideas of right and wrong that produced billions of diseased,
abused, impoverished, deceived and dead.
The Problem of Evil - A Final Reply
(Investigator 108, 2006 May)
Anonymous, in his reply to my views on the above subject, has not presented any sound evidence in support of his beliefs.
Fundamentalists and similar minded people have misunderstood the discovery of Mitochondria Eve, as if she were identical with the mythical Eve of Genesis. This is simply not the case:
According to the analysis, modern humans can trace their genetic ancestry to a female who lived in Africa perhaps 150,000 years ago. (It should be borne in mind, however. that this one female was part of a population of as many as 10,000 individuals; she was not a lone Eve with her Adam.)
Not only did the analyses indicate an African origin for modern humans, but they revealed no evidence of interbreeding with pre-modern populations. (Page 96-97 in Leakey, R: The Origin of Humankind, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London, 1994.)
No anthropologist or paleontologist who understands the issues involved would conclude from these findings that the data lends support to the idea that Genesis' Eve was a historical figure.
What evidence is there
that humans have ever
been gifted with perfect genes that would have (to paraphrase
kept them alive and healthy indefinitely? Whether we like it or not,
and disease are part of the natural order, even existing in the Age of
Dinosaurs, a time well before the advent of our species:
Traditional Christianity maintains that death and suffering arose from Original Sin. Clearly, this can't be; for, as science has shown, these unpalatable facts existed well before mankind evolved.
The idea of the Garden of Eden probably arose in part from early people's ability to imagine Nature in ideal form – an Arcadian paradise free from suffering. Indeed some of the first gardens were developed by the early civilizations of the Middle East – a sanctuary free from noxious plants and animals, a place where the air is scented by gorgeous blooms, where one can relax in the shade of spreading trees, and for a short time escape the cares of the world. The Garden of Eden, in my opinion, is merely an extension of this idea in mythological form.
Evil exists not because of sin, but because the world is the product of non-conscious and therefore non-moral forces. Earthquakes and tsunamis happen because of the geology of our planet. Neither the world nor we have been designed by a supernatural intelligence. Our existence is due to the blind forces of nature, which tear down and build up without regard for the welfare of individuals, nations, or species.
I don't begrudge anyone the right to their beliefs, but hoping that God will intervene at the eleventh hour to save our species form the danger of climate change or asteroid impact is the height of folly. To take the view that humanity can't survive without divine aid, and that such aid will be forthcoming, is to put all one's hopes in the unproven, the implausible, and perhaps the impossible.
The only thing that can
save humanity is
humanity, and if we're not up to the task then our fate will be that of
the dinosaurs. It's a harsh thing to say, but true nonetheless.
PROBLEM OF EVIL:
REPLY TO STRAUGHEN'S FINAL REPLY
(Investigator 109, 2006 July)
My explanation (Investigator 104 & 107) of why an all-powerful God who cares about humans would permit human suffering, is not refuted by Kirk Straughen in his two replies (#106 & #108).
Mr Straughen did not answer my explanation but raised peripheral concerns, which I'll now consider briefly.
In #108 Straughen returned to the topic of human origins, particularly "Mitochondrial Eve", with the claim: "this one female was part of a population of as many as 10,000 individuals; she was not a lone Eve with her Adam."
Human origins, including Adam and Eve, were debated in Investigator 86; 87; 88; 89; 90.
At present we can not identify any peers of "Mitochondrial Eve" – whatever number is estimated will depend on prior assumptions.
Nor did I claim that "Mitochondrial Eve" and Eve in the Bible are one and the same. To prove or disprove such a claim would require their DNA samples, which we don't have.
What I claimed were points
between scientific discoveries and Genesis in the Bible as follows:
Three of the points of overlap were not available 30 years ago. The Bible, however, is gradually being confirmed by science over a time-scale of centuries. This I've shown with numerous examples in over 100 Investigator articles.
From this established trend of ever more Bible statements getting proved we can predict that more confirmation on human origins, the Bible version, is only a matter of time. That's the argument; that's the reasoning. Anything more is, at present, faith not science.
Straughen rejects the biblical implication that the first humans were "gifted with perfect genes that would have kept them healthy indefinitely." He cites evidence of infection and injury in a Hadrosaur (a type of dinosaur).
Dinosaurs lived over 60 million years before humans. Their degree of health is not an indicator of the genetic health of humans! Death and suffering resulting from "original sin" applies to humans, not to animals – see Genesis 2 & 3.
The Bible teaches that all humans descend from two original humans who could have lived indefinitely in health. Today we'd see this as a claim they were "gifted with perfect genes" which became damaged.
The Bible also teaches
that humans can achieve
almost anything, nothing will be impossible, if they were united:
This raises the probability that future gene technology could recreate the "perfect genes" that the Bible implies we began with. Evolution theory does not predict this – but the Bible implies it.
And if an alleged event leaves traces – the traces in this case being the human genome of today – that make the event reproducible it could amount to verification.
Many scientists do now speculate that genetic engineering will eventually produce "super humans". In New Scientist magazine (May 13, 2006) they're called "the incredibles".
Mr Straughen's dogmatism
on human origins
is clearly premature.