In yet another essay reprising his argument that theists can be good Darwinians (a position I concur with, incidentally), Michael Ruse makes the following comment, based on a book by Karl Giberson and Francis Collins, The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions:
Where I do want to defend Giberson and Collins is over the problem of evil. Let me say that I am not sure that the problem of evil — how could a loving, all powerful God allow evil — can be solved. I am with the chap in the Brothers Karamazov who said that even if everything is good in the end, the cost is not worth it. My salvation, Mother Teresa’s salvation, is not worth the agony of Anne Frank and her sister in Bergen-Belsen. It just isn’t. But I am not sure that biology, Darwinian evolutionary biology, exacerbates it.
Nor am I, but for more general reasons than Ruse gives. The Problem of Evil, as it is usually referred to, is very widely debated and has been since Epicurus (see this excellent article at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy by Michael Tooley). There are all kinds of positions taken, from incompatibilist arguments against the existence of God, through to arguments that this state of affairs is a tradeoff for a greater good that is the best possible outcome. How theists resolve this is to me beside the point; that they must is not. Evil exists, so if you believe in a “tri-omni” deity (omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent), you had better find a reconciliation. I happen to think, as a matter of logic, there is none.
But now consider whether or not Darwinian evolution is incompatible with that kind of theism (there are many others that are not vulnerable to the PoE, in which gods are not one of the tri-omni kind), any more than anything else. For example, if we accept that the universe is not deterministic, and has some irreducible randomness in it, as modern physics appears to claim, then why is Darwinian evolution any more problematic than physics? If we accept the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, is God any more able to know the world than we are? And so forth. All of modern science presents a challenge to tri-omni deities. Hence, weather, subatomic physics, and even logic itself present limitations upon the tri-omni deity. Darwin is at best a local sideshow exemplifying this on the crust of one planet of the universe – essentially Darwinian evolution is almost none of the problem for theism, as it applies to a domain less than 1 part in 1.3 to the power of 41 of the universe, by my calculations.
Moreover, consider this: when you are dealing with exclusive infinities, a single counterinstance is sufficient to make the claim false. If God is all-something and therefore the existence of a single thing is contrary to God’s being that property, then that is enough to show God is not like that. The suffering of one single organism with a neural system gives you the problem. “Nature red in tooth and claw” is just banging on the point. Even if the biosphere were largely harmonious as the older natural theologies insisted, it would not matter. God is not Good if a single worm is in pain, no matter how good the tradeoff. It doesn’t matter if mutations are random when the appearance of quantum foam and the decay of radioactive isotopes is. Complain to Bohr and Rutherford, not Darwin.
So, you theists, stop worrying about Darwin and start worrying about physics, ecology and physiology. Darwin is just piling on. You have bigger fish to fry.