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The Problem Of Natural Evil, By Luke Gelinas

1264 words - 5 pages

Gelinas introduces his examination of the arguments from natural evil and their replies by noticing that an omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly good being existing in concurrence with the existence of evil appears to be a contradiction. He goes on to state that this inconsistency seems to many to be justifiable in favour of theism through free-will. Free-will dictates that I have the choice of doing wrong or right, and since free-will entails the uncertainty of what I choose to do, God cannot be held accountable for the evil that arises from exercising free-will (Gelinas 2009, p. 533). However, Gelinas points out that the evil that free-will accounts for is moral evil that comes from the human capability to exercise free-will; free-will does not account for the natural evil that arises from processes found in nature. One reply to this criticism of theism that Gelinas discusses is the argument developed by Swinburne. Swinburne states that in order to have free-will, I must be able to choose between doing good or evil. To know how to do good and evil, I must know the effects of certain actions. To gain the knowledge of these effects, it is preferable to be introduced to them through experience rather than in other manners. Gelinas elucidates that at least one individual who is introduced to these effects by experience has to have experienced them in nature without any moral intent, and if these effects are essentially evil in nature, then we can conclude that natural evil is required to know these effects and therefore required to commit the evil. In Swinburne’s argument, since free-will is highly valued, it justifies natural evil. (Gelinas 2009, p. 540-541) In this essay, I will argue that there are some cases where free-will does not justify natural evil.
Natural evil exists as a result of natural processes; for example, there exists diseases like cancers, natural disasters like earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes, and poisonous plants and animals. Humans are capable of bringing about some of these natural evils, but there exist some natural evils that humans are not physically capable of bringing about. Using the same structure Gelinas uses, I will explain how humans are capable of bringing about the effects of some natural evils. For instance, if I step on a jellyfish’s tentacles and experience intense pain, I will associate that action with that effect. After experiencing the effects of this specific action, I can later reproduce the effects by, say, tricking or forcing another individual to step on the jellyfish’s tentacles. I am able to bring about the natural evil of the pain or death associated with stepping on a jellyfish’s tentacles with my actions. Similarly, cancer is another natural evil whose consequences can involve pain and death. However, despite experiencing the evil of cancer and associating with it its effects, I cannot bring about cancer in another individual because I cannot...

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