The Problem of Evil

Sunday, June 8, 2008

What is it

Many religions tell us that God is perfect: all-knowing, all-powerful, and beneficent.  Why then do bad things happen?  John and Ken discuss the problem of evil with their guest, Michael Tooley from the University of Colorado at Boulder, co-author of Knowledge of God.

Listening Notes

John and Ken start by elucidating why evil is a problem - not just for us, but for God. Is it possible that there is a God that is all-powerful and all-good? If God can do what God wants, and what God wants is to do good, how come there seems to be evil? 

Michael, John, and Ken start by making a distinction between the logical problem of evil and the evidential problem of evil.  John argues that it is logically impossible for a good, all powerful God to exist if there is evil, Ken that it is unlikely that a good, all powerful God exists if there is evil. Ken, John, and Michael then discuss a standard response given to the argument from the existence of evil: the existence of free will. If God gives us free will, does God have to allow evil for that free will to be genuine? As they work out responses to this response to the problem of evil, they explore character building, evils done to and among animals, and divine intervention in extreme cases.

John, Ken, and Michael extend their earlier discussion about conceptions of God and entertain a possibility raised by a caller: if God is not a personal God, is the problem of evil a problem?  Ken then points John and Michael to issues raised by rejecting belief in God altogether: is belief in God necessary for coherent hope for a morally better future? They conclude by discussing the reasons for and against hoping for – and being proactive to achieve – an end to evil.   

  • Roving Philosophical Reporter (Seek to 6:00): Polly Stryker ventures to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco to explore how some believers deal with the problem of evil in their lives.  Ian Shoales the 
  • 60-Second Philosopher (Seek to 50:30): Ian Shoales reports on moral relativism, Anton Lavay, satanism, and Sammy Davis Junior. 

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Michael Tooley, Professor of Philosophy, University of Colorado, Boulder

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