The alleged ‘Problem of Good’ refers to the fact that if a good God doesn’t exist, then why is there so much pleasure, beauty, and good-will in the world? And aren’t all the good things in the world evidence that an evil god doesn’t exist?
I do think that the existence of pleasure and experience of beauty is indeed evidence against an evil god. I also think that the existence of pleasure and beauty could be some evidence for God’s existence, but we must tread carefully here. The existence of some goodness in the world wouldn’t actually be surprising on the hypothesis of an indifferent deity or a deity that is a mixture of good and evil. So even if goodness makes the existence of God more likely than it would have been otherwise (i.e. not having that specific piece of data), that doesn’t mean the hypothesis is confirmed.
The upshot is that goodness is surprising on the evil god hypothesis and badness is surprising on the good God hypothesis. This is not incompatible with saying that theism and misotheism (evil god) fare worse than some other hypothesis when explaining the fact that the world is a MIXTURE of goodness/badness. It’s not implausible to suppose that neither theism nor misotheism predict a mixture, and it’s true that an indifferent or limited deity would not be a bad hypothesis to explain the data (or worse than classical theism).
But zooming out, an indifferent deity is a sub-set of the class known as ‘indifference’. Indifference includes naturalism, non-supernaturalism, pantheism, etc. Indifference doesn’t predict maximal goodness or maximal evilness. Theism and misotheism do seem to predict these!
Evil god challenge
If we can rule out an evil god based on the existence of so much good, then why can’t we rule out a good God based on the existence of so much evil? At face value, the cases are symmetrical. One might try to argue that we can rule out evil god on the basis of conceptual arguments, however, that doesn’t mean we couldn’t also rule out the existence of a good God on the basis of conceptual arguments. And whether or not one has conceptual arguments, you are still dealing with epistemic probabilities (1); (2).
Another objection to the evil god challenge is skeptical theism…or in this case skeptical misotheism:
We can’t rule out an evil god on the basis of all the good things in the world. That’s because we have no reason for thinking that our knowledge of evils is representative of all the evils there are.
One problem with this suggestion is that it really does seem like the existence of so much good in the world at least lowers the probability of an evil god existing. Secondly, taking the skeptical misotheism route might actually be a reductio ad absurdum of skeptical theism. If skeptical theism means that you must accept skeptical misotheism, then that’s a step too far. Therefore, one should go back and examine skeptical theism because we have an implausible implication. In addition, if one can’t rule out the existence of an evil god based on the existence of so much good (and it appears that we can), then one must try and rule out evil god based on conceptual arguments. But, once again, there are also conceptual arguments against a good God. Thus, skeptical theism by itself isn’t even a total refutation of the evil-god challenge. In fact appealing to our cognitive limitations, as skeptical theism emphasizes, will immunize arguments for an evil god!
One might also try and escape the evil god challenge by appealing to moral arguments for God. The problem here is that these moral arguments must be good enough to make a good God significantly more likely than an evil god. Secondly, there are also moral arguments for an evil god. An evil god explains the existence of moral disagreement better than a good God, and an evil god also explains the existence of psychopaths better than a good God. Thirdly, there are other arguments against a good God. For instance, the argument from divine hiddenness. The result is that even if the existence of a good God gets a boost from moral arguments, one must then also consider arguments like divine hiddenness.
(1) That’s also why it doesn’t matter when some theists argue that theism has a probability of 1. What they are saying is that the objective probability is 1. Even worse, all they are showing is that if (this particular version of) theism is true, then it has an objective probability of 1. And even if theism is necessarily true, that doesn’t mean one is entitled to place their confidence level (in theism) at 1. On the contrary, placing one’s confidence level in a proposition at 1 is irrational. That’s because the implication is that no evidence could/would/should change your mind.
(2) I’ve noticed that debates around God’s existence often get bogged down by prior probabilities. But unless someone is incredibly UNGENEROUS and (irrationally) assigns an epistemic probability of 0 or 1 to God’s existence, then we are still going to have to look at the data in the world.