THE PROBLEM OF EVIL
By George Thindwa
Quote: Barring that natural expression of villainy which we all have, the man looked honest enough. Mark Twain
For believers, the existence of evil/sufferings poses a big problem. It is inconsistent with their loving, omnipotent, and omniscient God. He cannot be loving in presence of evil. Since, he cannot eliminate evil, he cannot be all-powerful.
Believers trace evil to the misuse of free will; that God gave man the power of free will and men have misused it. (Christian) Believers also assert that evil is because Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. These claims create difficulties because dubious concepts such as free will, Garden of Eden, do not adequately explain the existence of evil vis-a-vis an essentially good and omnipotent creator.
Being omnipotent, he could have prevented the snake from cheating the innocent Adam and Eve. And being perfect forecaster, he could have chosen to create a world without evil. A perfect deity would surely be content with a world free of suffering and could have created a world where free will would not be misused. Free will does not also account for the suffering occasioned by natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, famine and floods where there is tremendous suffering and destruction of living things.
Evil is also traced to the influence of devils, evil spirits and Satan. Tracing evil to these entities is not compatible with the alleged perfection of the deity. Furthermore, the existence of these entities has not yet been convincingly demonstrated. They are assumed to be non physical; their mode of acting in affairs and human minds is vague. These are merely figments of people’s imagination.
The problem of evil is insoluble to believers. In contrast, for Science the problem of evil does not arise. Suffering does not create a theological dilemma. Evil is part of our existence and natural phenomenon; a result of human wrong-doing and processes within nature. It must be studied and understood by scientist to eliminate or reduce it. Scientists have the skills and abilities to do this. Science is called to discover the causes of diseases; geologists to study floods and earthquakes and their consequences and warn us against them while social sciences study and advise on the causes of poverty and its reduction and crimes. We are waiting for discoveries on the Aids cure. Much of science is concerned with coping with the causes of suffering.
Scientific concerns are not like those involved in the theological problem of evil. Science does not fix responsibility for suffering in terms of mysterious purposes nor attributes suffering to some transcendent cosmic person.
But some scientists are also supernaturalists, for whom suffering is both a natural and theological problem. The fact is, they cannot consistently adopt both viewpoints as scientists because scientists cannot assume the reality of causes that are inaccessible to scientific methods. A scientist who tries to accept both perspective must shift from one to the other; being scientific one moment and metaphysical the next or vice versa. It is logically impossible to accept both perspectives simultaneously.