Talk:Problem of evil

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The Problem with the "problem of evil"[edit]

The article claims that the argument is logically valid. I contend that this is actually a logical fallacy. How? It fails to take into account that evil is a moral or religious standard. A moral standard cannot exist without a source, that being God (or some higher intelligence). It is merely a thought in the mind of naturalistic human minds. If indeed evil could be more than just a thought and was something that could be quantified by a measuring unit or law of the universe, then my point would be wrong. If we are defining evil by our own standards, then we could be wrong if the source has another definition of evil. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 67.151.186.178 (talk) 18:11, 10 May 2017 (UTC)


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God, not deity[edit]

I have changed the lead sentence to read God, because that is what both sources state. The Stanford Encyclopedia article, goes on to explain that problem of evil does not apply to "deity" because a deity is not necessarily omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. It is WP:OR to make this switch, it changes the meaning, and it misrepresents what the sources are stating. The scholarship on "problem of evil" predominantly uses the word God. Let us stick with the sources. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 12:56, 4 February 2016 (UTC)

Oddly enough, the Stanford Encyclopedia also uses "deity" when talking in very general terms. If we're referring to the problem of evil as applied to the Judeo-Christian god, then "God" is appropriate. If we're talking about the problem as applied to gods in general, then "deity" is correct. As a general rule, we're normally talking about the concept of God, so the bulk of the references will be wording accordingly. But we should still use "deity" where appropriate. - Bilby (talk) 19:52, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
@Bilby: Does it? Here is the first paragraph:
Quote: "The epistemic question posed by evil is whether the world contains undesirable states of affairs that provide the basis for an argument that makes it unreasonable to believe in the existence of God."
Then it moves to the first main section. No deity at all:
Quote from first part of Section 1.1: "The term “God” is used with a wide variety of different meanings. These tend to fall, however, into two main groups. On the one hand, there are metaphysical interpretations of the term: God is a prime mover, or a first cause, or a necessary being that has its necessity of itself, or the ground of being, or a being whose essence is identical with its existence. Or God is not one being among other beings—even a supremely great being—but, instead, being itself. Or God is an ultimate reality to which no concepts truly apply."
The Stanford article is predominantly written with "God" wording (146 mentions), not deity (13 mentions). Later, as I noted above, it does mention deity, but as follows, "Is the situation different if one shifts to a deity who is not omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect? The answer depends on the details. Thus, if one considers a deity who is omniscient and morally perfect, but not omnipotent, then evil presumably would not pose a problem if such a deity were conceived of as too remote from Earth to prevent the evils we find here." Then the article identifies scenarios where, it adds, "But given a deity who falls considerably short of omnipotence, omniscience, and moral perfection, but who could intervene in our world to prevent many evils, and who knows of those evils, it would seem that an argument rather similar to the above could be formulated..." The old lead did not reflect this at all. Per, WP:NPOV, we must "fairly, proportionately" summarize reliable sources. The proportionate and fair term in our sources is "God", not deity. It is OR-Synthesis and misrepresentation of the sources to make the switch. "Could be" with deity implies potentiality, while with omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God concept, the problem of evil "is" a problem. Let us respect community guidelines and WP:STICKTOSOURCE, "without changing its meaning or implication".
Yes, the main article should discuss the "could be formulated" part, for deity, from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and other sources, to be complete. I will do so in the coming days. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 00:51, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
It certainly isn't OR to discuss whether the term deity or God is more appropriate in the article - my feeling is that your interpretation of OR is a little broad. :) With that said, the part in question is:
In the philosophy of religion, the problem of evil is the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil with that of a deity who is, in either absolute or relative terms, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent (see theism)." An argument from evil attempts to show that the co-existence of evil and such a deity is unlikely or impossible if placed in absolute terms. Attempts to show the contrary have traditionally been discussed under the heading of theodicy.
Deity, in this case, seems to work better than God, because at this point we're looking at types of deity, rather than referring specifically to God. After this we narrow it down to "God", as the specific type of deity to which we are referring to. Stanford seems to be following a similar pattern - the only part where it uses deity, like our article, is where it is talking about types of deities, rather than committing to a particular type as it does in the rest of the article. - Bilby (talk) 05:27, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
@Bilby: Indeed, discussing here isn't OR. On the rest, are you implying [1] deity and God are synonymous; or [2] deity and God are not synonymous? Whatever your answer, do you see support for your answer in the Stanford source that we can use for this article? Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 20:16, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
God is a type of deity. When discussing deities in general, we use deity. When discussing the particular deity that is God, we can use God. This is following the Standford approach. The question is whether or not the lead is discussing "deities" in how it is worded, or specifically God. My feeling is that the use in the first line, "the problem of evil is the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil with that of a deity who is, in either absolute or relative terms, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent" is a reference to deities in general, rather than God in particular. - Bilby (talk) 01:10, 9 February 2016 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── @Bilby: Being a type, God is not synonymous with deity, in your opinion. Deity is a (limited) god, in sources such as tertiary sources published by Oxford University Press and others. But this article is not discussing deities in general, it is discussing the problem of evil. We need to stick to what the source is stating, and not imply what it is not. For a compromise, let us split the sentence into two, avoid conflating the two, and thus more faithfully summarize the sources.

Current: In the philosophy of religion, the problem of evil is the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil with that of a God who is, in either absolute or relative terms, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent (see theism).[1][2]
Proposed: In the philosophy of religion, the problem of evil is the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil with an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God.[1][2] While generally discussed in terms of God, the problem of evil can possibly also be applied to a deity who falls considerably short of omnipotence, omniscience, and moral perfection, but who could intervene in our world to prevent many evils.[1][2]

I suggest this change in the lead would go with a better discussion of the second part in the main article. Your thoughts? Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 01:47, 9 February 2016 (UTC)

I do not regard God and deity as synonymous, which is why there is an issue with wording. If they were synonymous, then this wouldn't be a problem. :) The current lead refers to "a God", which was changed by you from the previous "a deity". This seems incorrect. The wording refers to deities in general, and talks about the criteria that a deity would need to possess for the problem of evil to apply. An example of such a deity is "God", which is the specific deity to which the Problem of Evil generally refers, but theoretically there could be a different deity which would also possess these attributes, and therefore would face the problem of evil.
The approach being used here is to start from the general - what sort of deity does the problem of evil apply to (one that is all powerful, etc) and then moves to the specific - how does the problem of evil relate to God.
If I understand this correctly, you are equating "omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent" with God - am I correct in reading that you see any being which is "omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent" as being a God, and not a deity? - Bilby (talk) 02:12, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
@Bilby: If you "do not regard God and deity as synonymous", then we "should not write deity when the source states God" either in this article. But, let us avoid forum-y discussion here on this article's talk page, per WP:TPNO. We just need to summarize what Stanford source and others are stating. What are your thoughts about the proposed language, with an update to the main? Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 02:51, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
I think that you are missing what I'm trying to say. Because "God" and "deity" are not synonymous, when we discuss "God" in the article, we should use "God", and when we discuss deities in general we should use "deity". In the lead, I read the first line as referring to deities in general, not God in specific. Therefore the correct language is "deity". When we refer to the specific deity (or class of deities, if you see any all powerful, all knowing and all good deity as a God), we should use the specific term. This is in keeping with other sources.
Accordingly, what I am curious about is if the line:
"... the problem of evil is the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil with that of a [something] who is, in either absolute or relative terms, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent".
Is that a reference to deities in general, gods in general, or a specific God. My reading is that it refers to deities in general, and then later the article moves to God in specific. That is how it was worded before your change. Do you feel that that sentence s referring only to a specific God? As that seems to be the effect of your change. - Bilby (talk) 05:34, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
@Bilby: There are two sides to this. One side: God is general, deities are a type that general concept. Second side: Deities are general, monotheistic God is a type of that general concept. In the mainstream scholarship, deity is a God. See, for example, page 50 of this, and page 12 of this. With reference to your curiosity, a "God in relative terms" is nothing but a deity, while a "God in absolute terms" is the monotheistic God that the article discusses at length. So, the [something] in your line should be God. Yet, I feel you have a good concern, and we should attempt to clarify that the problem of evil applies both to monotheistic God that is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent; as well it possibly could apply to a deity who is not. I have proposed, above, the use of two sentences. There is no harm in using two sentences, only more clarity. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 12:57, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
No, the Problem of Evil does not apply to a deity which does not meet the criteria of being God, so I don't see much value in the line you are proposing. Yes, there is still a question as to why a non-omnipotent, non-omniscient, and non-omnibenevolent deity does not prevent evil, but it is not a logical problem. What makes the Problem of Evil significant is that it is argued that it is logically impossible for evil to exist in a world where there is an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent deity, thus leading to the conclusion that such a being cannot exist.
Based on the idea that you clarified above, I'm left still thinking that the correct word is "deity". This is especially the case in an article where we discuss Hinduism, Buddhism, Pandeism, Greek mythology, ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. The article explores more than just a God, but also discusses other deities. Which is why I greatly prefer the generic "deity" in the lead. That said, it seems we will not resolve this through the current process. - Bilby (talk) 13:25, 9 February 2016 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── @Bilby: We need to stick with the sources. The problem of evil, in Stanford Encyclopedia source, is predominantly described with the term "God", and it mentions in the passing that the problem "could be formulated" for a deity who falls considerably short of being omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent. The two sentences I proposed above are thus supported by the Stanford Encyclopedia source. The main article, right now, has 200+ mentions of the word God, just 4 mentions of deity/deities in the main article and that too in a unsourced disputed section. So, technically per WP:LEAD, it would be wrong to summarize and insert deity suddenly into the lead sentence, in addition to being WP:OR and non-WP:V. I suggest we take a day or two off, reflect on it, suggest alternate wording, and work together to improve both the main and the lead section. The DRN process is time consuming, best avoided, best only when collaboration has failed. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 13:53, 9 February 2016 (UTC)

Oddly enough, the Stanford Encyclopedia isn't the only source discussing this, and isn't the only manner by which we can determine the wording. We are not copying the Stanford encyclopaedia - doing so would be a copyright violation - and accordingly we need to make decisions as to how we word aspects of the article, in keeping with what the sources say. It is not WP:OR to use "deity" when discussing deities in general, and "God" when discussing a specific type of deity - that is a decision we need to make based on what we say in the piece. The aside Tooley is making in Stanford is not a typical part of the Problem of Evil - he is referring to a similar article in a very, very small subset of situations, not an example of the problem being discussed.
At any rate, this is not a method of making progress. I'll be in a better situation to explore sources soon, and I'll see what I can find to expand the article then. - Bilby (talk) 20:03, 9 February 2016 (UTC)

Footnote 13 to Chad Meister[edit]

This is what Chad Meister writes in his Introducing Philosophy of Religion (p. 134): "Currently, however, most philosophers have agreed that the free will defense has defeated the logical problem of evil." The article as it now stands is misquoting him claiming that "some philosophers agree." I changed this already once, but it's back again. Please edit the article. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Metalimit (talkcontribs) 17:31, 23 March 2016 (UTC)

@Metalimit:, Welcome to wikipedia. While your quote from Meister is correct, the context is more nuanced. Plantinga addresses the inconsistency aspect of the logical problem of evil, by explaining that [1] "superhuman spirits and fallen angels" create tornados, earthquakes, etc, and the natural evil/suffering that so results, and [2] with free will arguments for moral evil. But neither the quote you provide, nor these two support the version, "It is now widely accepted that Plantinga shows that God and evil are logically compatible". This is implying a new conclusion. We should also not limit ourselves to Meister, see WP:NPOV for reasons. I suggest we include views from 1 (particularly Plantinga sections) and 2 (this is a book co-authored by Alvin Plantinga, see chapters 2 and 4 by Michael Tooley, but if you have time see chapters 1 and 3 too as they provide the context). Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 04:35, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
@Ms Sarah Welch:, Thank you. Semantics aside, the claim that "some philosophers agree..." is nevertheless misleading. It is a half-truth. The article as it stands now is not objective, and it should be corrected. English is not my native language so I think it would be better that someone else do the editing. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Metalimit (talkcontribs) 07:14, 24 March 2016 (UTC)

Problem of Altrusim[edit]

There is a section at the end entitled "Problem of Good". It's rather confusing to read. I think that the author was more interested in sounding clever than in being clear and comprehensible.

Perhaps Problem of Altruism should be a separate section. It is a huge philosophical topic in evolution. You can find tons of links with a simple google. I don't have the time to figure out which references are worth including here, but references should be added to the article. There is also an "altruism" wikipage as well as an "altruism (biology)" one. Perhaps we should link to those too. Thanks! Lehasa (talk) 13:54, 3 August 2016 (UTC)

Find sources: "Problem of Altruism" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · HighBeam · JSTOR · free images · free news sources · The Wikipedia Library · NYT · WP reference
@Lehasa: Indeed, that Problem of Good is an old section that needs some work. A brief summary of the Problem of Altruism would improve this article. Please feel welcome to revise and add. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 14:15, 3 August 2016 (UTC)

Repeated removal of scholarly sourced content[edit]

@Kartik.jayan: Please do not remove scholarly sources and their summary, and insert content based on email-lists or non-WP:RS as you did here. Please also do not delete the same scholarly sources by replacing it with content from a non-peer reviewed / WP:SPS book and without citing the page number as you did here. Further, please keep WP:Primary in mind. What are your concerns with the WP:RS you keep deleting, and what evidence is there that this book you cite without page number meets WP:RS guidelines? Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 18:51, 13 December 2016 (UTC)


The page numbers in the reference book "Brahma Sutra Bhasya Of Shankaracharya" by Swami Gambhirananda are: 362-365.

Here are (some of) the problems with the previous version:

1) The quote provided by the previous version, "For that would lead to the possibility of partiality and cruelty..." is actually part of what is known as "Purva Paksha" ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purva_paksha ), which is the OPPONENT'S view that is going to be REFUTED! To state this as the conclusion is simply ABSURD!

2) The statement in the previous version, "verses 2.1.34 through 2.1.36 aphoristically mention a version of the problem of suffering and evil in the context of the abstract metaphysical Hindu concept of Brahman" - is simply WRONG, as the reference verses from 2.1.34 to 2.1.36 do not even contain the word "Brahman" (or "Brahma")! This has been inserted by someone with no knowledge of the text!

3) Another statement in the previous version, "In other words, in the Brahma Sutras, the formulation of problem of evil is considered a metaphysical construct, but not a moral issue." is again WRONG! The commentary of Sankara on 2.1.34 contains the following statement:

dharma-adharma-avapekShata iti vadaamaH .

"We say that these are Dharma (Morality) and Adharma (Immorality)."

The word "Dharma" is the best translation that exists for Morality, so the claim that this is not a moral issue is borderline stupid! If that were the case, why call it "Problem of EVIL" at all?? The commentator Sankara clearly sees it as involving Dharma (Morality) and Adharma (Immorality)!

4) FYI: The Brahma Sutra 2.1.34 also contains the statement:

saapekSho hiishvaro viShamaaM sRRiShTiM nirmimiite .

"...for God ("Ishvara") makes this unequal creation by taking the help of other factors."

The word "God" can be either "Brahman" or "Ishvara" in Hinduism, the former being Impersonal and the latter Personal. Sankara evidently takes "Ishvara" to be the causal force involving the Problem of Injustice!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahman

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishvara — Preceding unsigned comment added by Kartik.jayan (talkcontribs) 02:51, 14 December 2016 (UTC) ──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── @Kartik.jayan: You did not quote sources, but provided your own analysis and interpretation of a WP:Primary text. Therefore, this is all OR, your personal opinion / prejudice / wisdom which we cannot use or rely upon. You have linked to wikipedia articles, but we cannot use wikipedia as source. We must rely on scholarly, peer reviewed secondary or tertiary sources for interpretation, but unfortunately that is what you are removing. I am fluent with Sanskrit, Brahmasutra is aphoristic, and your assertions are strange/mistaken (yes, I know about Purva Paksha). You are wrong about (2) above, just read the page 363 of cited source in the article after that sentence, and you will see "Brahman" word. Our goal here is to summarize the verifiable sources. You have also not provided a evidence of peer review or rationale as to why Gambhirananda's book qualifies as WP:RS. Wikipedia is not Gambhirananda-pedia. Please see WP:RS, identify any that verifiably support what you write, and we can integrate that in into this article. But, please do not delete summary or sources. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 03:17, 14 December 2016 (UTC)

@Kartik.jayan: you allege in (4) above: "The Brahma Sutra 2.1.34 also contains the statement: saapekSho hiishvaro viShamaaM sRRiShTiM nirmimiite". That is simply not true, not verifiable. The Brahma Sutra 2.1.34 is "लोकवत्तु लीलाकैवल्यम्", which is not even close to your claim, it is very different than what you allege. You claim "God can be... in Hinduism", but that is again your OR/wish/opinion/prejudice/wisdom. We must ignore such OR. We must rely on scholarly publication to interpret all this, just focus on summarizing the WP:RS on all this, as best as we can. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 03:39, 14 December 2016 (UTC)


The book that I quoted was Swami Gambhirananda's. There is no Original Research being done by me here! I'm simply quoting a 50-year old English translation of a famous work in Hinduism!

Let me be even clearer here.

1) The previous version contains the QUOTE: "For that would lead to the possibility of partiality and cruelty. For it can be reasonably concluded that God has passion and hatred like some ignoble persons... Hence there will be a nullification of God's nature of extreme purity, (unchangeability), etc., [...] And owing to infliction of misery and destruction on all creatures, God will be open to the charge of pitilessness and extreme cruelty, abhorred even by a villain. Thus on account of the possibility of partiality and cruelty, God is not an agent. — Adi Shankara, Translated by Arvind Sharma"

Guess what Swami Gambhirananda starts the quote with? "OPPONENT SAYS:" - so the above quote that is claimed to Adi Sankara's is actually the OPPONENT'S view that Sankara REFUTES!

2) I stand by my statement that neither Swami Gambhirananda's translation NOR the Sanskrit original of Sankara's commentary on the Brahma Sutras on 2.1.34 to 2.1.36 contains the word "Brahman". The Sanskrit word that Sankara uses in this context is "Ishvara", which Swami Gambhirananda translates as "GOD"! Please consult the Brahma Sutra Supersite at the following link:

https://www.gitasupersite.iitk.ac.in/bs_home

3) The word "Dharma" (as also "Adharma") repeatedly in Sankara's commentary on the Brahma Sutras 2.1.34! It makes absolutely NO sense to claim that, "In other words, in the Brahma Sutras, the formulation of problem of evil is considered a metaphysical construct, but not a moral issue." Because the word "Dharma" in Hinduism DOES indicate a MORAL issue!

4) The only change I make here is that SANKARA'S COMMENTARY on the Brahma Sutra 2.1.34 also contains the statement:

saapekSho hiishvaro viShamaaM sRRiShTiM nirmimiite .

"...for God ("Ishvara") makes this unequal creation by taking the help of other factors."

Again, please consult the Brahma Sutra Supersite: https://www.gitasupersite.iitk.ac.in/bs_home

The word "God" can be either "Brahman" or "Ishvara" in Hinduism, the former being Impersonal and the latter Personal. Sankara evidently takes "Ishvara" to be the causal force involving the Problem of Injustice!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahman

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishvara — Preceding unsigned comment added by Kartik.jayan (talkcontribs) 04:00, 14 December 2016 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── @Kartik.jayan: I am not going to repeat myself, and neither do you need to. You may be a fan or follower of Gambhirananda / Ramakrishna Mission, but we must first establish whether his book is a WP:RS (I don't think so, because RKM publications are SPS and with no evidence of critical peer review). Ramakrishna Mission is a part of Hinduism, but it is not all there is to Hinduism, not even close. If you provide me with evidence that Ramakrishna Mission books are WP:RS, I will reconsider. You have yet to explain why you deleted WP:RS. Simply that you disagree with multiple WP:RS, is inappropriate reason to delete. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 04:33, 14 December 2016 (UTC)