Empirical Challenges to the Evidential Problem of Evil

In Shaun Nichols & Joshua Knobe (eds.), Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy, Volume 5. Oxford University Press (2024)
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Abstract

The problem of evil is broadly considered to be one of the greatest intellectual threats to traditional brands of theism. And William Rowe’s 1979 formulation of the problem in “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism” is the most cited formulation in the contemporary philosophical literature. In this paper, we explore how the tools and resources of experimental philosophy might be brought to bear on Rowe’s seminal formulation, arguing that our empirical findings raise significant questions regarding the ultimate success of Rowe’s argument. Such a result would be quite notable within philosophy of religion, since this is considered one of the most formidable arguments against theism. However, further testing is needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn. In section 1, we elucidate Rowe’s formulation of the problem of evil and the intuitions that seem to underwrite it. In section 2, we explore how the tools and resources of experimental philosophy might be brought to bear on Rowe’s formulation, outlining our hypotheses and our methods for testing them before showcasing our results. In section 3, we discuss the philosophical import of our results–arguing that our results, when taken together, pose an initial challenge to Rowe’s seminal argument.

Author Profiles

Blake McAllister
Hillsdale College
Ian M. Church
Hillsdale College
Paul Rezkalla
Baylor University
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