Do Tummy Aches Disprove God?JOE CARTER
My tummy hurts. Ergo, there is no god.
This argument may be absurd, but it's not intended as a reductio ad absurdum. Although in simplistic form, this enthymeme encapsulates one of the primary atheological arguments – the argument from evil.
This argument is known as the evidential problem of evil, the preeminent surviving form of that argument since the problem of evil has been, in my opinion, adequately solved.
I contend that Rowe's argument is precisely the same as my Tummy Ache formulation.
Let's imagine that all suffering could be converted to a single unit of measurement – suffering measured in Tummy Aches (TA). Let's also say that the range of suffering extends from .0001 TA to 100 billion TA. At what level would we say that suffering has become intense? 10 TA? 100 TA? Obviously, it would depend on the context. In the life of a single human, 100 TA of suffering might be considered intense. But is this the right standard?
Among philosophers, pain and suffering are most often evaluated in relation to individual human experience. Yet if we are talking about an amount of suffering that would disprove God, we should consider it within a larger context, such as the entire universe. On that scale, would 100 TA be noteworthy? Would even 100 billion TA be a considerable amount within the vast expanse of the cosmos?
The necessity of this question is based on the fact that the first premise can only be judged by an omniscient being. When faced with the bare fact that suffering occurs, we are left with the question, "Could the suffering have been prevented without losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse?" Only an omniscient being could answer with certitude, yet Rowe's premise begs the question by assuming that the answer is affirmative.
The theist may find a religious problem in evil; in the presence of his own suffering or that of someone near to him he may find it difficult to maintain what he takes to be the proper attitude towards God. Faced with great personal suffering or misfortune, he may be tempted to rebel against God, to shake his fist in God's face, or even to give up belief in God altogether. [emphasis in the original]
"Such a problem calls," says Plantinga, "not for philosophical enlightenment, but for pastoral care."
Joe Carter. "Do Tummy Aches Disprove God?" On the Square (January 5, 2011).
This On the Square article is a web exclusive of First Things Online and is reprinted with permission from First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life.
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Joe Carter is the web editor for First Things and an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. A fifteen-year Marine Corps veteran, he previously served as the managing editor for The East Texas Tribune and the online magazine Culture11. Joe has also served as the Director of Research and Rapid Response for the Mike Huckabee for President campaign and as a director of web communications for both the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and Family Research Council. He is the co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator.
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