Micah Redding — humanity, technology & the future

Good is Not Negative

In response to my post on The Problem of Evil, some atheists over at Way of The Mind have been discussing the issue. The relevant argument they've been making is that my reasoning means that there are beings who suffer so much, God should have never created them.

The crucial point here that occurs to me is that "good" is a non-negative value. "Evil" is just the absence of good, it is not negative on the "good" scale. To see how this plays out, let's imagine that we can rank the good experienced by a creature as ranging from 0 to 10 (in reality, good should be measured from 0 to infinity).

Here might be what we would see:

10 - A being which experiences only happiness for its entire life.

5 - A being which experiences a moderate amount of suffering, but also experiences joy and liberal amounts of happiness. Like you and me.

3 - People who contemplate suicide. These people may feel that their current state is so unhappy, they want to kill themselves. But they have still experienced much joy and goodness in their life previous to this thought process. So their existence overall is still relatively good.

2 - People why try to commit suicide, but can't. Perhaps they are in mental hospitals. They desperately want to end their lives, but are prevented from doing so. But they have still experienced much joy and goodness in their lives, prior to their current state. So their existence overall is still good.

1 - A person who is tortured most of their life. There are still glimmers of goodness and joy, but they come rarely. It still is better for this person to exist than to not exist.

0 - A theoretical being that these atheists are postulating, which experiences absolutely no joy or happiness during its entire life.

Now, if there is a person named Bob who experiences some non-zero good, then the benevolent thing for God to do is to create Bob.

If Bob experiences good that is exactly 0, then it is neither benevolent nor evil to create Bob. Bob exerts a net 0 influence on the amount of good in the world.

If there is some person named Tom who experiences good that is greater than 0, and whose existence requires the existence of Bob, then the benevolent thing for God to do is to create Bob, so that Tom may exist.