Charles Darwin, Francisco Ayala, and the Problem of Evil

Theologians have long struggled with the Problem of Evil — the apparent contradiction between: (1) the existence of evil and suffering in the world; and (2) the existence of a God who is omniscient, omnipotent, and omni-benevolent.

According to Wikipedia, the first known formulation of the problem is credited to Epicurus, who wrote:

Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?”

The traditional defense of an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good deity who allows cancer, infant mortality, slavery, genocide, and all the rest is usually some version of: (a) it’s a consequence of free will, (b) it’s a divinely ordained test of faith; (c) it’s all because of original sin and the Fall; or (d) “Ah, my son, it’s a mystery.” There are other responses, and every believer who is aware of the problem has his own way of dealing with it.

But now, for the first time, we’ve encountered what is to us a new response to the Problem of Evil. It appears in the Badger Herald, a student newspaper produced in Madison, Wisconsin. Ordinarily we ignore such sources, but we were attracted to this article about a speaker at the University of Wisconsin: Ayala: Intelligent design incorrect.

We’ve written before about Francisco Ayala, the former Dominican priest who is now a biology professor, and who speaks against the so-called theory of intelligent design. Here’s his homepage at the University of California, Irvine, and here’s a recent article on him by Scientific American. Our own article, from almost 3 months ago, is here.

Okay, enough introductory material. Here’s the Badger Herald‘s account of Ayala’s response to the Problem of Evil:

“Natural selection is Darwin’s gift to science, his gift to religion,” Ayala said. “It made it possible to explain the dysfunction, the cruelty, the sadism of the way of life rather than the idea of a creator. It’s more the result of natural processes.”

We don’t know if that’s an accurate quote. We suspect that Ayala could express it better, and has probably done so. Nevertheless, we get it. It’s good. Quite profound, actually. It doesn’t entirely resolve the problem, but we appreciate the novelty of Ayala’s insight. Here’s something else from the article:

Ayala said intelligent design is not science because there is no evidence for it; it cannot be researched or tested, and it would make more sense for the theory to be called “Imperfect Design” instead.

But you already know that.

Addendum: A more informative article about Ayala’s Wisconsin appearance is here: Intelligent design has no place in science, biologist Ayala says.

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2 responses to “Charles Darwin, Francisco Ayala, and the Problem of Evil

  1. Ah yes UC Irvine and U of Wisconsin – nothing like refencing a couple of the most highly left wing campi on earth.

    As I recall scripture – did not the almighty admonish those who might put the creation in the place of judging the creator?

    What is evil? If a man with potential for great intelligence a and potential should be born with a cleft palate so that he might have a better chance to find God and not fall to sin due to his own arrogance hence live an eternity in Heaven – what is this against 80-120 years of suffering on earth? What is love and what is evil?

  2. Persncikety Curmudgeon “Ah yes UC Irvine and U of Wisconsin – nothing like refencing a couple of the most highly left wing campi on earth. “
    You do know that they call it the Genetic Fallacy for a reason, right?

    “If a man with potential for great intelligence a and potential should be born with…”
    Now replace the “cleft palate” with any number of horrible diseases/disorders that lead only to a short, pain-filled existence…some of which kill before junior ever gets a chance to anything, much less sin.

    “…a better chance to find God and not fall to sin due to his own arrogance hence live an eternity in Heaven – what is this against 80-120 years of suffering on earth?”
    If I snap your pinky finger, is it made okay if I promise you a Caddy?