Would the world be better with less suffering?

  • Clarifying the question

    Question: The amount of evil and suffering in the world is overwhelming. If God had reduced this amount, either by preventing it through interventions or creating things such that it would never exist, would the world be an objectively better place?

    Relevance: This question plays a role in a number of debates, notably:

“No, after all…
“Yes, after all…
  • We can't see how this suffering makes for a better world

    We cannot see how God's permitting suffering on this scale/magnitude etc. would make for a better world This is relevant because if God existed, we would see the reason.

    But wait,…

    1. As famously put:

      William Rowe (Philosophy professor at Purdue University): “Suppose in some distant forest lightning strikes a dead tree, resulting in a forest fire. In the fire a fawn is trapped, horribly burned, and lies in terrible agony for several days before death relieves its suffering. So far as we can see, the fawn's intense suffering is pointless. For there does not appear to be any greater good such that the prevention of the fawn's suffering would require either the loss of that good or the occurrence of an evil equally bad or worse. Nor does there seem to be any equally bad or worse evil so connected to the fawn's suffering that it would have had to occur had the fawn's suffering been prevented.” [“The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism,” American Philosophical Quarterly Vol. 16, No. 4 (1979): 337.]

    2. For one to not see a reason is not automatically the same as it appearing to one that there is no reason. (i.e. The No-seeum inference might be akin to thinking “I see no flea in this room” significantly supports belief that there is no flea in the room. Alternatively it might be akin to thinking ”I see no good reason for why a chess player would make that move to there is no good reason for a chess player to make that move).
      Daniel Howard-Snyder (Philosophy professor at Western Washington): “noseeum inference is reasonable only if it is reasonable to believe that we would very likely see (grasp, comprehend, understand) the item in question if it existed.” [God, Evil, and Suffering (1999), 105.]
      Stephen Wykstra (Philosophy professor at Calvin College): “On the basis of cognized situation s, human H is entitled to claim ‘It appears that p’ only if it is reasonable for H to believe that, given her cognitive faculties and the use she made of them, if p were not the case, s would likely be different than it is in some way discernible to her.” [“Cornea, Carnap, and Current Closure Befuddlement” in Faith and Philosophy 24:1 (2007): 88.]
      Stewart Goetz (As an example, on animal pain): “After all is said and done, does any one of us have adequate knowledge of the fawn's psychology? Does any one of us know whether a fawn is self-aware and in possession of a concept of itself as a persisting entity that remains self-identical through time? Does any one of us know that a fawn desires the experience of perfect happiness for itself like a person desires this experience for himself? Does any one of us know whether or not a fawn's existence ends with its death?” [“The Argument from Evil” in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (Blackwell, 2009), 494.]