Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Problem of Evil and the Multiverse

I just finished reading Plantinga's Warranted Christian Belief, and in the final chapter he addresses the problem of evil, and whether it constitutes a defeater for belief in God. One small point he made was very interesting: he suggested the multiverse can actually be employed to address the problem of evil in the same way that nontheists use it to address the problem of our universe having all of the precise properties necessary for the existence of life (which I've addressed here). Quoting Dennett's account of this in Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Plantinga writes

One contemporary response is that possibly "there has been an evolution of worlds (in the sense of whole universes) and the world we find ourselves in is simply one among countless others that have existed throughout all eternity." And given infinitely many universes, Daniel Dennett thinks, all the possible distributions of values over the cosmological constants would have been tried out (p. 179); as it happens, we find ourselves, naturally enough, in one of those universes where the constants are such as to allow the development of intelligent life. But then the probability of theism, given the whole array of worlds, isn't particularly high.

In the same way, then, a theist might agree that it is unlikely, given just what we know about our world, that there is such a person as God. But perhaps God has created countless worlds, in fact, all the worlds (all the universes) in which there is a substantial overall balance of good over evil. In some of these worlds there is no suffering and evil; in some a good deal; as it happens, we find ourselves in one of the worlds where there is a good deal. But the probability of theism, given the whole ensemble of worlds, isn't particularly low.

I suppose one could argue that it's ad hoc to propose a multiverse in order to deal with the problem of evil, but I don't see how it's any less ad hoc than proposing it to account for the anthropic coincidences.

Discuss this post at the Quodlibeta Forum

6 comments:

klatu said...

There is a different way to understand evil. Whether it constitutes a 'defeater' for belief in God or more accurately a defeater for belief in our understanding of God called religion is a better question. All religious understanding is theological. Is theology a valid human intellectual endeavor or does it exist because nothing has been revealed, as the highest of intellectual vanity and pretension? Maybe even a 'trap' for a final judgment? For if that event ever takes place in our time, in the light of considerable numbers of scriptural warnings of false teaching and the interpretations of men masquerading as the 'word' of God, who does and who does not speak in the name of Christ remains unresolved. But as all is theological, a reflection of natural reason and the rather limited wisdom of men, one might wonder is true religion has even started? The fact remains that the promise of the incarnation, the destruction of evil, is unrealized. Religion has been defeated, God has yet to make his will plain for all to understand. http://www.energon.org.uk

Tom Gilson said...

One thing I like about Plantinga: he stands at the top of his field, yet somehow he remains downright sensible.

Tom Gilson said...

Unlike, for instance (if I may say so), "Whether it constitutes a 'defeater' for belief in God or more accurately a defeater for belief in our understanding of God called religion is a better question. All religious understanding is theological. Is theology a valid human intellectual endeavor or does it exist because nothing has been revealed, as the highest of intellectual vanity and pretension?"

IlĂ­on said...

Mr Gilson ... what a "mean" thing to say!

Anonymous said...

More posts please!

redditor brainburger said...

I am afraid I don't see how the multiverse idea makes any difference. Even in our little sigle world we know there is good and evil in different amounts, in different places and times. The multiverse is just a bigger version of the same.