Some time ago I posted a piece called God Loves Abortion, to which Andy Schueler added a nice piece on conception and the creation of the soul and personhood from a biological perspective. The other day on my Free Will, Heaven and the Problem of Evil video, Honest_John_Law linked this summary by Scott Rhoades, of Lancaster Freethought Society, of an interesting piece by Gregory Paul.
Paul’s abstract to “Theodicy’s Problem: A Statistical Look At The Holocaust Of The Children, And The Implications Of Natural Evil For The Free Will And Best Of All Worlds Hypotheses” reads as follows:
The full extent of the anguish and death suffered by immature humans is scientifically and statistically documented for the first time. Probably hundreds of billions of human conceptions and at least fifty billion children have died, the great majority from nonhuman causes, before reaching the age of mature consent. Adults who have heard the word of Christ number in the lower billions. If immature deceased humans are allowed into heaven, then the latter is inhabited predominantly by automatons. Because the Holocaust of the Children bars an enormous portion of humans from making a decision about their eternal fate while maximizing the suffering of children, the classic Christian “free will” and “best of all possible worlds” hypotheses are falsified.
Scott Rhoades at Lancaster Freethought summarises as follows. The argument closely follows what I originally set out in my God Loves Abortion piece, fleshing it out with further statistics and such:
This is a copy of the talk I gave at the LFS October meeting. I cleaned out my notes and tried to bang it into readable shape but some of it is still a bit clunky since it was written as notes to a lecture and not as a publishable piece. Some of this talk was cut and paste from the study and all credit for the work goes to Greg Paul. As promised I will include a link to Greg Paul’s study at the end.
Theodicy’s Problem: A statistical look at the holocaust of the children, and the implications of evil for the “free will” and “best of both worlds” hypotheses. By Gregory Paul.
Theodicy is a theological and philosophical study which attempts to prove God’s intrinsic or foundational nature of omnibenevolence, omniscience, and omnipotence. In other words all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful. The fundamental dilemma of theodicy is the problem of evil, its continuing existence and God’s apparent inability or unwillingness to eradicate it.
The problem of evil and its implications for free will has long been a problem for the concept of an all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful god. Christians will tell you that god doesn’t prevent bad things from happening because that would interfere with free will. They claim we are free to choose our path and to make choices that affect our lives here on earth and decide where we will spend eternity. This is one of the most common arguments in defense of god allowing evil to exist. Greg Paul’s study looks a little more closely at this issue. It considers the fact that there have been multitudes that have never even got the CHOICE to live the way god commands you must live in order to achieve eternal bliss instead of a fiery hell.
Since the God of the Abrahamic religions allegedly first let his will be known there have been hundreds of billions of conceptions and at least fifty billion children that have died before reaching the age of mature consent. The great majority of these died from non-human causes. Adults who have heard the word of Christ number in the lower billions. If immature deceased humans are allowed into Heaven, then Heaven is inhabited predominantly by unthinking robotic automatons.
What Paul calls “the Holocaust of the Children”, bars an enormous portion of humans from making a decision about their eternal fate while maximizing their suffering. He states that this means that the classic Christian “free will” and “best of all possible worlds” hypotheses are therefore falsified.
The primary purpose for his analysis is to inform those interested in the theodicy problem about the demographic statistics that detail the full extent and causes of suffering and death of immature humans caused by nonhuman agencies over history that are typically labeled as “natural evil”. We can test these hypotheses by examining the statistics of death on earth, and in the alternate proposals regarding the ultimate destination of innocent souls. In other words, Heaven or Hell.
Let’s look at the numbers. Although over 6.5 billion humans currently inhabit this world, the number that have been born since humanity’s first appearance is some 100 billion. The number of conceptions since the appearance of humans is in the area of a few hundred billion. Extrapolating from pre-term loss rates this figure may be as high as, or even exceed half a trillion, or it may be somewhat over half that number.
Conception, Births, and Premature deaths.
Many or most conceptions fail. This is due to failure to implant, reabsorption, mergers, and many other causes. Pregnancy is a risky process that is prone to malfunction. The risk of failure is 50%+.
Natural prenatal deaths are estimated at 300 hundred billion. Even after children are born there are factors such as illness, starvation, etc. that kill many before maturity. The number of infants and older children who die before maturity probably exceeds 50 billion or at least half the total born.
Combining deceased, unborn, infants, and children the estimated prematurity loss is in the area of 350 billion. The number who have lived to maturity approaches 50 billion. That’s an approximate 7 to 1 loss ratio.
Agents of Destruction
War is a killer of children, however war, genocide, forced famines, and the like only account for 150 million plus deaths. Combining induced abortions, infanticide, murder, and war related deaths, the number of immature humans killed by adults is probably 10 or 20 billion. Of the few hundred billion prenatal deaths only a small fraction is due to human moral evil.
None Human Causes
Most deaths in the reproductive tract occur without the deceased ever being aware of its existence or experiencing any suffering. These are predominantly spontaneous abortions. The issue of suffering becomes increasingly serious as children mature and the ability to experience pain and fear rises to normal human levels.
Microbial diseases are the leading cause of death among children by far. Malaria alone has killed around 20 billion. For 99% of human history adults have lacked the basic knowledge base to take steps to protect their children, such as sanitation and water sterilization. Overall childhood diseases have undoubtedly killed tens of billions. A few billion children have probably died due to acute or gradual starvation.
Physical trauma only kills a small portion of children but the toll is probably still in the range of a billion. Floods are responsible for most losses. The degree of suffering from trauma can range from none, which would be immediate death, to as extreme as possible.
Maximal Suffering and Destruction
The situation could not be much worse than it actually is. If prenatal and juvenile mortality and disability were significantly higher than they actually are, then the population wound not be able to grow, and would be at high risk of crashing, leading to human extinction. The level of natural evil has been about as severe as is practically possible.
The Holocaust of the Children
Of the hundreds of billions of human conceptions the large majority died before birth. Over half of the 50 billion born died as children. A portion of the survivors were severely harmed and among children the great majority suffered high and even extreme levels of discomfort, pain, and fear that qualify as torture.
This dysfunctional system can be objectively described as merciless or ruthless. With the number of young humans who have died totaling in the high billions over 10,000 generations, it stands as the great Holocaust of the Children. With the level of anguish and premature deaths being as about as high as maximally possible there is no evidence that prayer, Christian or otherwise, has been anything other than entirely ineffective.
Summary of Statistical Results
This is Paul’s summary of the results in his own words:
“If a creator exists, then it has chosen to fashion a habitat that has maximized the level of suffering and death among young humans that are due to factors beyond the control of humans over most of their history. As a consequence only a small fraction of conceptions have reached the age of majority. The number of unborn and children who have died due to natural causes is literally thousands of times larger than those killed by the actions of human dictators. There is no convincing evidence that a creator has favored any particular population, Christian or otherwise, over others during human history in terms of the natural levels of mortality. Requesting aid from the creator has not been effective despite the tremendous scale of the attempt.”
These are The Main Theodistic Arguments that Paul talks about.
Because the suffering is undeniable, Christian theodicy theory acknowledge that the proposed creator is practicing a form of the perfect ends justifies the imperfect means required to achieve them.
The primary explanations for why god allows suffering and premature deaths are the closely linked “free will” and “best of both worlds” hypotheses. Some claim that the world is not intended to be a paradise, but rather a chance for humans to become more like Christ.
They state that an imperfect world allows the conversion of imperfect mortal humans into perfect immortal souls. The final result is so good and perfect that it is acceptable that AND necessary that natural evil exists. They claim that if there was a lack of natural evil humans would not be sufficiently challenged enough to become perfect and that free will necessitates this challenge in order to prevent humans from becoming nothing more than robots in heaven.
First world countries show us that suffering and premature deaths can be limited by human intervention. An industrialized society is much safer than its pre-industrial counterparts. If suffering is necessary it means that our efforts to limit this suffering could be considered immoral and against the will of the creator.
Need to reach adulthood
A key premise of the “free will” hypotheses is that only those who are mature and mentally healthy enough can make the critical decisions concerning their moral practices on earth which in turn decides their eternal fate.
Those that perish too young or are mentally ill cannot do so. Any person who dies before sufficient maturity is achieved and adequate knowledge gained does not enjoy religious free will.
It’s a basic numbers problem
Most Christians presume that an immortal soul is inserted at conception. If so, then the hundreds of billions who have died before being able to decide whether or not to join the creator for eternity, far outnumber the one in eight that reach the age of consent with adequate mental acuity.
Geography plays a role in this as well. There have been many that have lived and died without being exposed to the teachings of Christ. Of the hundreds of billions conceived and hundred billion born, only about 10 billion of competent adults, less than 3% of conceptions, have been exposed to the knowledge they needed to follow Christ.
If even one person is denied free will then the free will hypotheses is open to serious challenge. Due to the maximal numbers of humans that can be thought of as having been denied free will, the free will hypotheses defense of god’s plan is falsified at its most fundamental level.
Is Heaven Paradise?
If tens or hundreds of billions of souls arrive in heaven without choosing to do so, then the great majority of souls get free access to paradise, which is consequently populated mostly by enormous numbers of the very mind controlled robots that free will advocates decry as a violation of god’s plan.
Of these souls the maximum possible have experienced intense suffering for no reason since they have gained heaven without the opportunity to exercise free will. If countless billions are entering heaven without practical earthly experience, then the premise that suffering on earth is necessary cannot be true.
Also, a pro-suffering argument cannot be applied to a paradise where every soul is perfectly happy. Those that experience earthly anguish attain the same happiness of those that don’t. Past experience becomes irrelevant and earthly suffering is an egregious cruelty, especially when inflicted upon children.
Is the small fraction of adults that earn their spot in heaven worth the suffering of the countless billions who die too young and never get to express their free will in the first place?
In order for future theodistic arguments to be credible, they must account for the Holocaust of the Children including why a perfect and loving creator chose not to provide children with the level of safety needed to attain maturity and utilize free will, and instead allowed or pushed the level of immature suffering and death to its practical limits
Greg Paul ends his study with this sentence:
“The modern Christian consensus followed by billions is so firmly overturned by human circumstances that it very probably is not possible to reconcile the Christian concept of a pacific creator with the state of the universe.”