Natural Evils

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

An atheist and a Christian working to straighten a car’s fender.

Bianca: They really did a number on your car. This was from just getting backed into in the parking lot?

Caleb: Yep.

Bianca: Wow. Did you get their licence number, at least?

Caleb: Nope. They took off faster than I could think of what to do.

Bianca: That’s just evil. Do you ever wonder why God lets people like that do things like this to someone as religious as you?

Caleb: If God didn’t let people do what they wanted — good or bad — He wouldn’t be a benevolent creator, he’d be an evil dictator.

Bianca: Sure, God would have to allow humans some freedom to avoid being a supernatural Hitler, but what I don’t understand is why you think God wouldn’t stop natural evils like floods and birth defects.

Caleb: All the things that people call natural evils are the result of natural processes, and those natural processes do us much more good than they do harm. For example, an earthquake might knock a vase off a shelf or put a crack in a wall’s plaster, but earthquakes are a consequence of plate tectonics. If it were not for plate tectonics, the mountains would be worn to nothing by erosion, and they couldn’t hold snow packs to bring water to the valleys during the warm season. Floods renew the soil, forest fires clear up debris, bacteria remove the dead — every natural "disaster" is actually a far larger good than it is an evil.

Bianca: I know that disasters are side effects of natural processes, but how does that get God off the hook? He set the whole system up in the first place, so why didn’t He just make it less harsh?

Caleb: How do you know He didn’t? Maybe what we have is the least harmful environment that it is physically possible to create.

Bianca: I really doubt that. Natural disasters are enormous problems. It can’t be impossible for them to be less severe.

Caleb: You think they’re big problems? Did you know that if you look at all the natural disasters — including diseases, birth defects, environmental dangers, and everything — they only impact about 2% of people every year? That’s a vanishingly small number. Don’t you think that the amount of good the world brings us is worth a little inconvenience to a few people?

Bianca: If I told you that in this country only 2% of innocent people are sent to prison each year, would you say that the justice system is a good one because it helps far more people than it harms?

Caleb: That’s not a good analogy. You can make the justice system better.

Bianca: To a point, but there will always be a certain number of innocent people punished. What I’m saying is that the acceptable threshold of innocent people harmed is far less than 2%.

Caleb: For prison, maybe, but we’re talking here about processes that make our existence possible. Making that 2% into 0% would mean eliminating life on Earth.

Bianca: What about lowering it from 2% to 0.1%?

Caleb: That’s not physically possible.

Bianca: How do you know?

Caleb: Because if it was, God would have done it.

Bianca: Then it must not be possible for this fender to get off of your tire because we’re not making any progress and God sure isn’t helping.

Caleb: Amen to that. I’m going inside to pray up a tow truck.


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Posted on July 22, 2013 at 9:03 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Conversations

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