One solution often given for the problem of evil is that evil is part of a divine ‘plan’ or ‘harmony’ that we cannot see. In 1734, Alexander Pope expressed this view in his poem “An Essay on Man: Epistle I”:
“All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
All chance, direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony, not understood;
All partial evil, universal good:
And, spite of pride, in erring reason’s spite,
One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.”
For some, however, this answer is unsatisfactory. Evil against children is one example given as a counterargument to this position: why would an all-loving god allow innocent children to suffer? The character Ivan expresses this view in Theodore Dostoevsky’s 1880 novel The Brothers Karamazov:
“I want to be there when everyone suddenly understands what it has all been for. All the religions of the world are built on this longing, and I am a believer. But then there are the children, and what am I to do about them? That’s a question I can’t answer. For the hundredth time I repeat, there are numbers of questions, but I’ve only taken the children, because in their case what I mean is so unanswerably clear. Listen! If all must suffer to pay for the eternal harmony, what have children to do with it, tell me, please? It’s beyond all comprehension why they should suffer, and why they should pay for the harmony.”
Sam Harris, a neuroscientist and philosopher, addresses this problem in a debate with Dr. William Lane Craig at the University of Notre Dame. Watch the video below, and then respond to how Harris addresses this specific aspect of the problem of evil, evil against children. What argument does he make in this debate? What is your response to his argument?
Read the below note carefully before writing your post; responses that do not accurately address the prompt will not receive full credit.
NB: One skill we work on developing in philosophy courses is understanding and summarizing arguments so that we can better evaluate them and respond to them.
Because students often respond to this post without describing Harris’ argument and without providing a valid response (a valid response is one based on reasons, not simply on personal religious beliefs), I have included the example below as an example of how you should structure your response.
‘My friend Cecelia claims that covid is a hoax created by liberals to make Trump lose the election. She defends her claim by saying that nobody she knows has gotten covid, that the deaths being reported are not from covid but from other causes, and that the media is making everything up because the media is liberal. My response to her argument is that covid is not a hoax. Just because she doesn’t know anyone who has gotten covid, that doesn’t mean it’s not real. For example, I don’t know anyone who has gotten malaria, but, plenty of evidence exists that malaria is real. Just because one doesn’t know someone directly afflicted by a disease, that doesn’t mean the disease isn’t real. Her claim that the deaths being reported are not from covid suggests that every doctor all over the world is in collusion to falsely report causes of death. Maybe there are some doctors who would agree to do that, but not every doctor all over the world who has reported deaths from covid. And her point about the media is also subject to the same criticism. It is very unlikely that the media all over the world is liberal and is making up or even exaggerating covid to cause Trump to lose the election. For example, if that’s the case, why would so many people in the media in places like Japan, France, Australia, Brazil, and many other places, all be conspiring to make sure Trump isn’t elected? So, my friend Cecelia’s argument is weak, at best ’
Your response should take the following form:
‘Harris is arguing that x is the case. He defends his claim with these reasons (list reasons). My response to his argument is….(give specific reasons that directly address his reasons).’
Make sure to follow the instructions given in Unit 1 in the Discussion Forums: Protocol and Grading Criteria folder for making specific references to texts, videos, and podcasts; posts that do not make references according to these instructions will not receive full credit.
B-Respond to two students:
From my understanding, Dr. Sam Harris argues about the moral contradiction of the idea that if God is good, why does he allows the evil in our world? Also, how could God be good and allow a high number of childre, which are supposed to have a “pure soul”, die everyday from terrible dead causes, as for example, being abused, tortured or even being the center of a sacrifice? Dr. Harris defends his claim with reasons that says how wrong Dr. Craig is when he claims that there is only one religion capable of saving people from going to hell. Harris mentions the idea of God being evil, instead of good because he allows the evil to happen for reason of something greater in exchange. Dr. Harris says that God has no moral accountability because he is injust and cruel for allowing a human being like a psychopath, for example, to still have a chance to go to heaven even thought this person have committed cruel crimes against children.
Even though his argument is consistent, it is importante to understand that life (soul) was given to us from a source that no one can prove where is it came from. The existance of God is relative depending on the belief of each human being and it is a subject still discussed all over the world. Harris arguments are rich and the fact of Christianity being the most followed religion of the world, gives him the right to question the moral behind God’s reasons to allow evil in the Earth. Finally, Dr. Harris is convincent on the idea where he question the morality of God’s actions.
Harris is arguing that if God is willing to let millions of children die horrific deaths and isn’t doing anything to stop it or isn’t able to do anything to stop it then he cannot be good enough or powerful enough to stop it (1:20). He defends his claim with these reasons, one: how can God punish someone if they were born into the wrong culture and never learned about the “true” religion, they couldn’t have even known about it since they were sheltered from other religions or would be ostracized by their families if they converted to another religion and they would be punished for it even if they were the best of people, even if they were charitable and kind and respectful and helped anyone they came across that seemed to need help. Two: If God is all-knowing and created all these religions and set them so that different cultures would only follow those “wrong” religions, why set a punishment, Isn’t it his fault that they are on that path? isn’t he the one who sent them on that path? why are they being punished for something only he had control over? There is also the matter of if a person is horrible, if they have hurt and killed many people, how can they be forgiven simply because they follow that religion. is it fair that people who are good will be punished in fire even if they haven’t done anything wrong but cruel and awful people are forgiven. third: why is it that people use him being this mysterious being as a response to when people point out the obvious fact that he is cruel(4:20).
My response to his argument is I completely agree with his claim that God is not all good and fair. I don’t think I will ever understand how someone can be punished for what religion they believe in or if they believe in any even if they were the best of people, always helping others and spending their time, money, and effort to make the world better. Why should they be punished and be sent to be tortured in fire when they have not done anything wrong, also why should some who has only ever hurt and caused pain for others be given a paradise for their belief. How is it fair that the one who hurt others is the one who gets rewarded. this is why I completely agree with his claims.
Craig, William Lane. Biological Sketch. 2018.
William Lane Craig | Apologetics | Reasonable Faith . Accessed 30 Apr. 2018.
Harris, Sam. About Sam Harris. 2018.
About Sam Harris | Neuroscientist, Philosopher, & Best-selling Author . Accessed 30 Apr. 2018.
Pope, Alexander. An Essay on Man: Epistle I. Poetry Foundation. no date.
An Essay on Man: Epistle I by Alexander Pope | Poetry Foundation . Accessed 30 Apr. 2018.
“Sam Harris – God is Either Impotent or Evil.” YouTube, uploaded by Skepthick, 30 Mar. 2014. Sam Harris – God is either impotent or evil – YouTube. Accessed 19 Aug. 2020.