Daily Archives: February 23, 2011

The Darwinian Problem of Evil

This is a compilation of posts I made at another message board:
Lastly, I saw nothing in your post that explained why god would create a world where for one living thing to live another living thing has to die… and not just die, but die painfully. Because the world he supposedly designed is a predatory one. Animals get stalked, chased, and eaten alive by other animals. And they die cruel, painful deaths. Some other animals starve to death. Others are buried alive in landslides, or burned to death in volcanic eruptions/forest fires.

This is an incredibly sadistic world that has existed for millenia before the first human being came onto the scene. The millions (if not billions) of life forms extinguished in the most brutal of fashions had absolutely no moral bearing on anything that any humans have done today. What moral lesson did any human learn about a cute, wide-eyed baby puppy with fluffy ears 3 million years ago who was evicerated by jackals? No human being was around 3 million years ago.

But according to Christianity god was around. He designed the entire scenario for no other audience but himself.

I am ultimately forced to conclude that the Christian god is the most evil being conceivable. And that's not just rhetoric either. I can't think of any being more deplorable. It gives me the image of a child who takes two roosters out into the wilderness under the veil of night just so he can see the two attempt to kill each other, and with no witnesses around. Sadism for his own personal enjoyment.

Natural selection explains why the world is a predatory one. That's because it's restricted by natural laws and scarce resources. What's god's excuse?

Edit: I forgot to also mention that even in a world without free will, sentient beings could still learn. Free will just means that your actions are deterministic, not the information that goes into those actions. Thus free will seems unnecessary to learn about morality, since free will isn't a necessity for learning. Animals can learn, and even some very rudimentary AI can learn. Neither as far as I'm aware, is said to have free will.


You're still arguing from the problem of human suffering. There's some wiggle room in these types of arguments, but you're not taking into account the billions of years of non human suffering.

Billions of years of suffering by sentient beings other than humans. BILLIONS. Imagine someone stabbing you with a knife making a non-life threatening wound every second for 1 billion seconds. Do you know how long that would last? 1 billion seconds? 30 years. Every second for 30 years straight someone stabbing you. Would you then conclude that the person stabbing you actually cares about you in any way? Would you think that the person stabbing you was a doctor trying to perform some sort of surgery?
No. Any rational person would think that this maniac-stabber is completely and utterly sadistic. Any rational person who starts with the evidence that we have first and then forming a conclusion on the evidence would conclude that the stabber is completely debased. On the other hand, someone who has a presupposed belief in the benevolence of the stabber will of course come to the [completely absurd] conclusion that the stabber is benevolent. Their arguments for the stabber's benevolence would obviously appeal to unknowns (that can never be demonstrated) so that they can give themselves some wiggle room out of the most glaringly obvious conclusion.
Again, evolution by natural selection makes the most sense out of this scenario of billions of life forms suffering. The universe was not made for us, so we (as in, all living things not just humans) have to struggle to survive in our little pocket of the universe. It makes sense that the universe is indifferent to us. The benevolent god idea makes absolutely no sense given the evidence.

But god designed the world so that lions have to crush a gazelle's neck in order to survive. Why would a benevolent god of love design a world like that? Why would god design a world where cute furry baby penguins starve to death in the Arctic? Why would god design a world where worms make burrows out of the eyes of mammals causing intense pain and blindness?

If you assume that god created the entire universe for our benefit, none of this has any rhyme or reason. It's all gratuitous suffering. It's like going to a pound shop and buying a baby puppy and feeding him for a couple of months before throwing him off an overpass into oncoming traffic. Anyone in real life who does that would rightly be considered mentally ill or sadistic. But god gets a free pass for doing the equivalent and worse for billions of different animals for millions of years — and still be referred to as a “god of love”.
Was god unable to make the world in any other way? “Then why call him god?”

There's more to an innocent game of tag than meets the eye. When gorillas play the playground favourite, it teaches them a valuable life lesson about unfairness, social boundaries and retaliation. That, at least, is the conclusion of the first study to observe the primates' reactions to inequity outside a controlled laboratory setting.

Young gorillas often engage in play fights that resemble what children do in a game of tag: one youngster will run up to another and hit it, then run away. The other gorilla then gives chase and hits the first one back


They found that the gorilla that did the hitting almost always moved to run away before its victim started moving. The researchers argue that this means the hitter is expecting retaliation and has therefore learned something about acceptable social behaviour.

“Lower” animals have a sense of justice as well. Justice is really a function of social animals; any grouping of social animals will have a system of “justice”.
So you agree that a world were we see gratuitous suffering is incompatible with the existence of an all powerful god of love? The conclusion from this observation is that an all powerful god of love doesn't exist. You seem to agree with all of the premises but don't want to accept the necessary conclusion.

Let's look at this from a different angle; and corret me if I'm wrong in my assessment.

Say you've been seeing a girl (or a guy? I don't know your gender/preference lol) for a couple of years. You're in a serious relationship and have an agreement not to cheat on each other with a different person. For a couple of months now, you notice your significant other spending more over time at work, is coming home late smelling like cologne/perfume that is not theirs, is starting to be less intimate with you, and seems distant.

One night you notice on his/her cellphone while he/she was sleeping that they got a text message that said “I enjoyed last nite teehee xoxo”.

Now, these observations are consistent with a significant other who is cheating on you. They are not consistent with a significant other who is not cheating on you. I think you are agreeing that these observations are consistent with [a world where an all powerful god of love doesn't exist / the significant other is cheating], yet you want to believe the opposite; that there actually is an all powerful god of love / the significant other has some good reasons for giving all of the telltale signs of cheating.

I'm not in the business of wanting to believe and then living my life as though what I want to believe is true actually is true. That is simply living a delusional life. And I think delusions are bad. I would prefer to see things how they actually are so that if there are things that are wrong with how things actually are, I can make the necessary adjustments to how I go about in the world or to change the world to make it better.

I would rather not stay with a significant other who is cheating on me. I would rather not lie to myself so that I stay faithful to the [in actually nonexistent] loving relationship. I would rather not live on an empty promise.


Posted by on February 23, 2011 in apologetics, cognitive science

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