Moti Mizrahi’s New Paper: “The Problem of Natural Inequality: A New Problem of Evil”

Forthcoming in Philosophia: Philosophical Quarterly of Israel. Pre-publication copy available here.

Abstract. In this paper, I argue that there is a kind of evil, namely, the unequal distribution of  natural endowments, or natural inequality, which presents theists with a new evidential (not logical or incompatibility) problem of evil. The problem of natural inequality is a new evidential problem of evil not only because, to the best of my knowledge, it has not yet been discussed in the literature, but also because available theodicies, such the free will defense and the soul-making defense, are not adequate responses in the face of this particular evil, or so I argue.

Keywords: free will defense; moral evil; natural evil; natural lottery; problem of evil; soulmaking defense

HT: ex-apologist

About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

  • patrick.sele

    Quote from the paper:

    “Now, since moral
    arbitrariness in the distribution of natural endowments gives rise to unequal
    distributions, which are unfair because they are undeserved, as when some
    (e.g., Albert Einstein) get all the cognitive goods, whereas others (e.g.,
    microcephalics) get nothing, the problem is to say how
    could God—who is supposed to be omnipotent, omniscient,
    and omnibenevolent—allow for this sort of
    natural inequality. In other words, if God is morally perfect, why is the distribution of
    natural endowments so unequal? How could an all-good God be so unfair in distributing
    natural endowments?”

    According to the
    Bible more talented a person is, the more is expected from that person (see
    Luke 12,48). Moreover, a person’s acts are judged according to what the person
    is able to do and not according to the result (see Matthew 25,14-30, Mark
    12,41-44). So, less talented persons are not necessarily worse off.

    Quote from the
    paper:

    “First, all things being
    equal, a person with a life expectancy at birth of approximately seventy years
    has more soul-making opportunities, on average, than a person with a life
    expectancy of approximately four years. Second, in virtue of living
    longer, winners get not only more but also different kinds of soul-making
    opportunities that losers never get. For instance, an infant that dies from
    Tay-Sachs disease at the age of four will never get the opportunity to feed the
    hungry, provide shelter for the homeless, care for the sick, defend the weak,
    and so on.”

    But the infant
    won’t get the opportunity TO FAIL to do all these things, either. In general,
    people who die as infants, i.e. before the age of accountability, are not able
    to sin and, consequently, will never face punishment for their sins. So, in
    this sense they are better off than people who are able to sin and do not
    accept God’s salvation.

    Quote from the
    paper:

    “Along similar lines, some
    might also object that everyone, winners and losers alike, are equally placed
    with respect to the most valuable gift of all, namely, the beatific vision.
    However, there are two problems with this line. First, the beatific vision is
    supposed to be a gift that one receives in another world, not in this world. So
    the extreme inequality in terms of natural endowments and soul-making
    opportunities in this world remains a problem. Second,
    since the problem of natural inequality is an evidential, not a logical or
    incompatibility, problem of evil, we need evidence for the existence of an
    afterlife, heaven, and immortal souls, at the very least, for this objection to
    go through. Absent such evidence, the beatific vision remains a logical
    (perhaps even a metaphysical) possibility that is ineffective as an objection
    against the evidential problem of natural inequality.”

    Here, in my view the
    author inappropriately shifts the burden of proof on the theist. With respect
    to the argument from evil, the theist is not obliged to prove the existence of
    an afterlife, heaven, and immortal souls. After all, the aim of a theodicy is
    not to prove God’s existence, but to refute an argument against God’s
    existence.

    • staircaseghost

      “So, in this sense they are better off than people who are able to sin and do not accept God’s salvation.”

      So your counter to the claim that the gods arbitrarily make some people better off than others is to point out that the gods arbitrarily make some people better off than others?

      • holey spirit

        Knock out in the first round. LOL

    • EvolutionKills

      “After all, the aim of a theodicy is not to prove God’s existence, but to refute an argument against God’s existence.”

      Please explain the logic behind defending a concept that has no evidential basis in reality to actually exist. Until your god is actually proven to exist, then you still have the burden of proof. It’s unfair of YOU to try to move the burden of proof, and just assume your conclusion (that your god exists), then demand that others prove you wrong.

  • Malek

    First, I’d like to apologize for the not so perfect english, and the off-topic post.

    Talk about coincidences! I thought of a similar argument 2 days ago (Though not as much comprehensive).

    Another idea I thought of -which could potentially make a good bayesian argument- is that ruling a country through secular laws leads to generally better results than ruling a country through religious laws. Which is surprising given a certain religion (using the weighted average principle, I think “theism” could used), but expected given naturalism.

    What do you think, Jeff?


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