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One of my arguments in my God on Trial talk is the argument concerning photosynthesis which I think is a powerful Problem of Evil argument. Basically, when we look at all the suffering in the world, we often forget about the millions and millions of years’ worth of suffering which has taken place on account of carnivorousness.  That is to say, a large proportion of organisms on this world kill other organisms just to merely survive; to exist. The scale of animal death is mind-boggling, as are the units of suffering which animals have had to sustain. To exemplify this, I include below a truly horrifying video. It is just nature, mind, but to see a baby buffalo get torn limb from limb by a pack of lions whilst staying alive for an inordinate amount of time is just horrible. The video is NOT for the faint-hearted. Nature really is red in tooth and claw.

The buffalo takes some 2 hours to die.

http://youtu.be/Dxu8n2iSO58

And, of course, such suffering, in light of an all-loving God, must be seen as necessary for some greater good. Naturalism needs no further entities or complicated ad hoc rationalisation to explain this, but theism has to contrive why this horrendous process is necessary and not gratuitous.

My argument looks at this and says, well God is all-powerful, so why didn’t he just design all beings to photosynthesise? Why couldn’t he just fiddle the figures (or create perpetual miracles) such that all organisms merely needed he sun for energy to survive? If I was all-loving, that’s certainly one option I would take that would be clearly better than the current state of affairs.

But, actually, I would go one step further than that. Why create beings who needed energy at all? Why make this requirement which entails such finitude and associated problems?

Even that can be bettered, surely. Why not create non-corporeal entities at all? Why not just go for ethereal creation?

The next step, though, is a point which I have never seen any remotely decent defence of:

Why not just take all those people who would freely come to love him (God) and create them in heaven?

In other words, let’s imagine 100 people were created. Let’s then imagine (and accept the incoherent notion of libertarian free will for the point of this argument) that only 20 of these 100 freely came to love God. Now it seems that God creates all 100 in the knowledge that most will go to hell, or at least ~heaven. Assuming that some purpose of creation, as is often asserted (as it was at my last talk on this by someone in the Christian Union), is relational between God and humanity, then God’s purpose or want or need appears to be something like testing those to see if they would freely come to love him and rewarding them with heaven (let us ignore the torrent of issues associated with an all-perfect being having wants, desires or needs).

But since he apparently already knows the outcome, he has no need of testing them. Indeed, he can insert memories into these beings such that they think they have really experienced life’s tests, except they haven’t and no suffering takes place.

None of this is logically impossible, it would seem. God could create those 20 people who would freely come to love him on earth, and just bypass the earth testing bit and create them in the reward that is heaven, using his indubitable knowledge. The other 80 people, condemned to an eternity of torment, or as more liberal Christians find more palatable, an eternity away from God or some such thing, are simply not created at all (though God would know the counterfactuals of what would happen if he did create them).

This then means that there would be no actual suffering in creation. It also means that the people who were going to get the reward in the actualised world would get it anyway, sans suffering of anyone else as a by-product of such testing,

This is marginally different to creating a world with just those who freely come to love God, which William Lane Craig tries to sidestep by introducing  incoherent ideas of feasibility. This is going straight for the honey, and there is no decent reason that I, or anyone I have spoken to about this (including theologians), have ever come up with to make this argument invalid.

On this argument alone, I think God is shown either not to exist or not to be all-loving. Especially since any appeal to something akin to a journey or really anything necessary in this world for some kind of outcome can easily be invalidated by memory creation or some such other technique. There is even the idea of philosophical zombies which can be brought in.

No, God could and should have just created heaven with those lucky enough to have warranted entry therein.

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...