So I’m teaching this honors undergrad class on C.S. Lewis and the Problem of Evil here at Baylor. Today we covered parts of “Animal Pain” from _The Problem of Pain_. I must say that well prior to reading Rowe, I was very struck with the problem of animal pain. I regard it as in certain ways much more troubling than the problem of human pain. In fact, it constitutes–and I’m probably not alone here, though at one time it was rare to find anyone who even talked about it–one of the two objections to theism which have any real weight with me, and it bears much, much weight.
In the chapter, Lewis suggests that…
I am tempted by the claim that open theism is in a better position to respond to the problem of evil than is Molinism. Consider some particular evil e1 that has occurred at a particular time t2. A group of innocent German Jews is gunned down before a mass grave they have been forced to dig themselves, let’s say. On the open view, God knew at some time before t2 that e1 would occur. But God did not know that e1 would occur from time immemorial. It won’t be as if God has built e1 into the basic structure of the world, as it appears God does on Molinism. Intuitively, it seems to be easier to defend God’s failure to prevent e1 given that God becomes aware of its forthcoming occurrence at t1 rather than prior to the creation of the world. That, at least, is how it has seemed to me.
Against this intuitive appeal comes the “Molinist Retort”. The basic idea behind it is that whatever resources are available to the open theist to justify God’s permission of e1 at t1 are equally available to the molinist to justify God’s permission of it from before the creation of the world. Presumably the open theist will have to appeal to some kind of balancing of goods contingent upon free will over against the amount and gruesomeness of evils parasitic upon the goods. The molinist can claim to make appeal to these self-same considerations. I think this retort fails.
The standard view of an everlasting God is that God has existed in time for an infinite amount of time and will continue to exist for an infinite amount of time, and a finite amount of time ago, creation sprang into being. Thus, God existed a year ago, a billion years ago, a trillion years ago, and so on. (I think, though I shall not argue for this here, that if one denies God’s atemporality, one should adopt the standard view on pain of believing something theologically much worse, such as that God has a finite age or that creation is infinitely old. So if the standard view of everlastingness is false, then God is not atemporal.)
I shall talk of the universe springing into being a finite amount of time ago rather than its’ being created a finite amount of time ago, to disambiguate between the time of the cause (God’s act of creating) and the time of the effect (the universe’s springing into being).
Problem 1 (Augustine’s problem): Why did God wait this infinite amount of time before the universe sprang into being, rather than, say, making the universe spring into being a hundred years earlier? Augustine records the old chestnut that God was busy preparing a hell for those who ask such questions. His own answer that time began with the universe’s springing into being is not available to the defender of the standard view. One might take a relational view of time on which the question does not make sense–the world where God create a hundred years earlier is the same world. Only a B-theorist can say that, and not every B-theorist can.
Problem 2 (Deliberation and omniscience): Suppose God at t0 is deliberating what should spring into being and when it should do so. But God being omniscient already knows what will spring into being and when it will do so. How can one deliberate over what one already knows?
God created the world to exemplify certain values. Someone who propounds
a design argument for the existence of God probably needs to have something
to say about these values.
Scientists often propound particular models that instantiate a more
general theory. These models are sometimes intended to be more realistic
and sometimes less, but the hope is that by studying them and by noting the
divergence, if any, between model and reality we will learn something
about the relevant phenomenon. Some realistic models will be empirically testable and others will not, and scientists of course have a preference for testable models. Thus, an evolutionary scientist might offer a
more or less realistic model of the evolution of wings. The model may well predict what kinds of fossils we will find. If the model’s predictions are not borne out, this does not in any significant way affect the probability of
evolution in general, but studying the model is helpful, and if the model’s
predictions–assuming it makes some–match observations, so much the better
for the underlying theory.