“Cries of terror and extreme agony rent the night, intermingled with the sounds of jaws snapping bones and flesh being torn from limbs” vividly described Quentin Smith his dark night cabin in the woods experience. “One animal was being savagely attacked, killed and then devoured by another”(Smith 1991, 159).
Self-evidence of this instances of the law of predation, “the natural law that animals must savagely kill and devour each other in order to survive”, according to Smith, is a sufficient evidence that God does not exist.
Smith outlined his probabilistic argument as follows:
(1) God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent.
(2) If God exists, then there exist no instances of an ultimately evil natural law.
(3) It is probable that the law of predation is ultimately evil.
(4) It is probable that there exist instances of the law of predation.
Therefore, it is probable that
(5) God does not exist. (ibid, 160)
Smith robustly defended only premise (3). He deemed, I believe, that if true, this case gives justification to his intuition that God cannot co-exist with such gruesome and horrific evil.
Let us grant, for argument sake, that premises (3) and (4) are true, would Smith be justified in his intuition that it is probable that God does not exist? Is this a sufficient evidence that God does not exist? I don’t think so. It might be true that the existence of God is very unlikely given Smith’s-like background data, but this, by itself, is not a sufficient evidence that God does not exist.
A just-so example to explain why I find Smith’s case unconvincing:
Think of following background data B of a 24 years old Saudi-Arabian man, Hassan: 99% of Saudi-Arabians’ men are Moslem. Hassan’s entire family is Moslem. Considering only B, the probability that Hassan is a Moslem is, unquestionably, very high. Am I, then, justified in holding the intuition that Hassan is a Moslem? Is B a sufficient evidence that Hassan is a Moslem? No. There could be other background data OB, that I am ignorant about, that could reduce the probability of Hassan being a Moslem to nearly zero. If that could be the case, then B is not a sufficient evidence that Hassan is a Moslem. Example: Hassan working with C1 Christian’s Insider Movement. Given OB, though we grant B, it is very unlikely that Hassan is a Moslem.
Theist could, for the argument sake, bite Smith’s bullet, and accept that it is probable, given evil natural laws, that God does not exist, but this, by itself, is not a sufficient evidence that God does not exist.
Smith, Quentin (1991) An atheological argument from evil natural laws. Philosophy of Religion 29: 156-174, 1991 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Cover image: Miguel’s Illustration