The Probabilistic Argument from Evil
Plantinga (Alvin)
Source: Philosophical Studies, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Jan., 1979), pp. 1-53
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction (Extracts)

  1. Ever since the days of Epicurus there have been philosophers who believed that the existence of evil constitutes a formidable objection to theistic belief and a powerful argument for atheism. We might call those who urge this argument 'natural atheologians'; just as the natural theologian offers arguments for the existence of God, or for the rational propriety of theistic belief, so the natural atheologian offers arguments for the non-existence of God, or for the rational impropriety of theistic belief.
  2. The vast majority of those who offer an atheological argument from evil have held that the existence of evil (or of the amount and kind we find) is inconsistent with the existence of a wholly good, omniscient and omnipotent God. …. What the atheologian must show, if he wants to show that there is a viable objection to theism here, is that on some relevant body of total evidence - his own, perhaps, or the theist's, or perhaps a body of total evidence shared by all those who are party to the dispute - G is improbable.
  3. If he could show that G is improbable on his own total evidence, the atheologian could show that he has a good reason for rejecting theism; if he could show that G is improbable on the theist's total evidence then he could show, perhaps, that the theist is irrational or guilty of noetic impropriety in accepting G.
  4. It won't be of any use, incidentally, for him to show that G is improbable on what the theist and atheologian both know - i.e., the set of propositions S such that A is a member of S if and only if both theist and atheologian know A. Quantum mechanics1, no doubt, is quite improbable with respect to what my mother and Richard Feynman both know; but that's no objection to it.
  5. So the atheologian must show that G is improbable with respect to the relevant body of total evidence, whatever exactly that is. To do this, he would be obliged to consider all the sorts of reasons natural theologians have invoked in favor of theistic belief - the traditional cosmological, teleological and ontological arguments, for example. …

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