Things which appear to us evil are in fact necessary components of a larger good. If there were no death, the earth would become wretchedly overcrowded. A child who freezes to death in the snow is suffering an unfortunate side-effect of weather which provides the water to sustain millions of lives. God has created the best world that he could (or he could be accused of weakness or deliberate evil). A painting's dark patches contribute to its over-all beauty.
This was a common argument among the "philosophical optimists" Voltaire so strenuously opposed. It is open to many objections.
- This is a circular argument which simply states that things are as they have to be. Since we are positing an omniscient creator, why did he not create a world in which that which is good does not produce evil by-products? Since Christianity maintains that miracles do occur, the argument that the laws of nature require that children who find themselves lost in a snowstorm must necessarily freeze to death is invalid. Since God is said to have intervened frequently in the operation of the laws of nature to reward or punish humans, clearly he could do so on a regular basis. Indeed, the real question is, why does he not do so regularly?
- Who determines what is the larger good? How important is it that volcanoes be allowed to erupt, often destroying the lives of innocent people who happen to live near them? If even the fall of a single sparrow is of concern to God, why should he endorse mere natural phenomena over the continued existence of human beings?
- If this is the best of all possible worlds, why is it so easy to imagine better ones? In any case, the Bible clearly depicts this world as having degenerated after the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. The world is neither as good as it once was nor as good as it is promised to be at the end of time.
- Voltaire ridiculed the painting analogy by saying that he might think a painting beautiful so long as he stood at a distance from it, but that once he had examined those dark patches filled with human suffering, disease, and death, he could no longer view it with the same enthusiasm. In any case, analogy is one of the weakest of all forms of argumentation: darkness is not the same thing as evil.
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