Thomas Nagel’s Natural Theological Argument?

Since I should be studying right now and not writing philosophy, I want to make this a very quick post. This is astonishing, in my view, as I think I have found atheist Thomas Nagel making a natural theological argument (or, less provocatively (and more accurately) supporting a natural theological argument) in his book The Last Word (1997).

Consider the following argument:

1. It is more probable than not that on theism than naturalism consciousness (mind) exists, that is, whre “Pr” is “The probability that”, “G” God exists, “N” “naturalism” and C “Consciousness existing” Pr (C|G) > .5 and Pr (C|N) < .5.

J.P Moreland’s two arguments in support of this: (1) Scientific theory virtues apply here and make theism more probable: (i) Naturalness, (ii) Ontological Basicality and (iii) Simplicity and (2) naturalism’s “Grand Story” or “History of the Universe” is necessarily and radically materialistic (which precludes mind at all—only Nagel would perhaps deny this with his teleological account of natural laws (which is still vague and purely speculative (and in this respect ad hoc))).

2. Consciousness exists.

William Lane Craig has pointed out that denying this self-contradictory i.e., an illusion of consciousness (intentional state) is to be in a conscious (intentional) state (basically).

3. Therefore, theism is true.

Thomas Nagel furthers this argument from reducing the problem of “actuality” (of mind/consciousness) to “possibility”: “Since it [ourselves (which includes reason, consciousness and mind] did happen [was actualized], it must have been possible”.[1]

So, here are some new premises:

4. If theism is true, there is an account of the actuality and possibility of consciousness.

(Here are a few stories the theist could tell: (1) There is a set of all possible worlds in the mind of God (on theistic platonism) and God actualizes one that will eventually result in consciousness, (2) God chooses one possible world, makes it actual and eventually performs special intervention in the natural order to bestow consciousness on human persons, (3) God, from eternity past, knows He will create a world and that world will include consciousness (so there is no “set” of all possible worlds, there is just one world God will create from eternity past). These are all accounts of God’s actualizing consciousness/mind on finite creatures; for an account of possibility, this is rather simple: God could withhold creating anything at all and timelessly (or infinitely throughout time) does not create but could, counterfactually, bring a universe (with human persons who have consciousness/mind) into being at will–there is no contradiction in this and therefore this is at least possible).

5. If naturalism were true, it must account for the actuality and possibility of consciousness.

(Suppose it could not explain possibility and actuality but only actuality; theism would be preferable because it is a more complete explanation—and much simpler, to my mind ref. Moreland’s “Simplicity” requirement).

6. Naturalism cannot explain the actuality of consciousness. (From (1)-(3)).

7. Suppose that naturalism could explain the actuality of consciousness (through probabilities).

8. The possibility of the actuality of consciousness has to be explained.

(What Van Inwagen calls a “metaphysical axiom” that “what is actual is minimally possible” And Nagel agrees ref. above quote).

9. If it is not possible on naturalism that consciousness exists (there is a contradiction i.e., matter -> mind), then naturalism cannot explain the possibility of consciousness.

10. If naturalism cannot explain the possibility of consciousness, naturalism is false or must leave out something to be explained.

11. It would be ad hoc to deny the ontology of something because it falsifies one’s worldview.

12. Naturalism cannot explain the possibility of consciousness.

(There is a contradiction: matter only creates matter, not mind (Moreland’s argument that out of matter only matter comes; if mind came, it is logically equivalent to getting something from nothing—Locke agrees to the former half)).

13. Therefore, naturalism is false.

This is a very interesting argument (and I think this 13 line long argument is really three arguments: (1) consciousness is more probable on theism than naturalism, (2) naturalism must explain the actuality and possibility of consciousness and (3) naturalism cannot explain the actuality and possibility of consciousness and therefore naturalism is false). I wonder what people make of this—to me this is deeply problematic for the naturalist.

[1] Thomas Nagel’s The Last Word (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 138.

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What is the Counterpart of Bioethical Ignorance?

Many know about contemporary debates concerning euthanasia (or at least one side of the debate, as is most often what happens). While on this blog I try to make my posts as philosophically analytic as possible, I think there is a peculiar moral intuition that is often captured not merely by arguments, but by real world events which “hit the heart”, so to speak, of human beings on a deep, phenomenological and existential level. Today I received an email from my former philosophy teacher Paul Coates entitled “Another Euthanasia First”; the contents, however, were much to my surprise and distress. It is to this end that I want to display the email contents in full and make a few comments on what exactly is being said.

Here is the post by Michael Cook in full from BioEdge:

“Today is a landmark, of sorts. It marks the first time that a child has been euthanised under contemporary euthanasia laws. Of course, euthanising infants is relatively common, but not children who are old enough to be asked if they really want to die. The death occurred last week in the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium, although it was announced today by Belgium’s euthanasia supremo, Wim Distelmans. His words were very sober and solemn, as befits the occasion, but I suspect that he and his colleagues are quietly happy to see the boundaries of euthanasia spread even further.

Ultimately this is a triumph for out-and-out nihilism, not just Belgium’s inventive euthanasia lobby. Nihilism is a philosophical fad which seems to catching on. Below we feature a report on three American bioethicists who argue the case for population control to fight climate change and a defense of infanticide by a Finnish bioethicist. I’ve also just discovered a new book by South African philosopher David Benatar. In it he argues that procreation is morally wrong because life’s a bitch and then you die (I am over-simplifying, of course.) He concludes his book with these cheerful thoughts:

Every birth is a future death. Between the birth and the death there is bound to be plenty of unpleasantness … Inflicting serious harm—or even the risk of it—on one person, without his or her consent, in order to benefit others, is presumptively wrong.

If I’m right, euthanising a child is not an terminus for Belgian euthanasia, but just a bus stop en route to pure nihilism. What its supporters are trying to eliminate is not just pain, but life itself. What do you think?”[1]

There is a lot to be unpacked here. So, let me make three entry ways as follows:

(1) The relationship between bioethical conceptualization and action

(2) Socio-phenomenological apathy

(3) Nihilism, Moral Nihilism and Bioethical Nihilism

I think that (1)-(3) are ways in which we might approach this post. Indeed, I suspect that these are the most appropriate entry points if the real content of the post is to be interacted with and fully understood. So, let me begin with (1).

The relationship between bioethical conceptualization and action is manifestly easy to detect. If one thought that life is ultimately valueless, one might make no prescriptive moral judgements on oneself or others, and conclude that any action—no matter what socio-political laws might be in place—is inherently amoral, that is, without any moral quality whatsoever. This person might conclude with Dostoevsky with the death of God results in everything being permissible, with Sartre that without God there is absurdity and facticity, with Camus that life is absurd, with Beckkett that “life as meaningful” might be no more than a good joke, with Freud that aggression is the preferable state of human beings for happiness, with Nietzsche that without God the foundation of all goodness and wrongness is thrown into the abyss.[2] One can see that moral prescriptions like “love thy neighbor” on this view is not even wrong—but inherently meaningless. On the other hand, if one sees persons as ends-in-themselves, enriched and infused with intrinsic moral worth, then the way we treat them is valuable as it might—as Christians, for instance—think that moral actions are necessary reflections of God’s holy and loving nature. Clearly, on the former view anything goes. It is here that we bring to mind central passages of the post: “In it [David Benatar’s book] he argues that procreation is morally wrong because life’s a bitch and then you die (I am over-simplifying, of course.)”. It is rather interesting that the following argument is made:

(1) Life is hard.

(2) Therefore, having children is bad. (1).

At first glance, this isn’t even an argument (or at any rate it is just a really bad argument). It simply doesn’t follow that just because life is hard, bringing children into this world is wrong. As my pro-life friends like to point out, when asked “who is your favorite role model?”, a pro-choicer will most often say someone who has struggled and conquered their obstacles and trials. It makes that person a good, hard-working, stoic and archetypal person. Analogously, just because pain is hard to go through, does not mean it is always bad (sometimes we have great lessons to learn from painful experiences). A rather disturbing literary example of this exact point is to be found in the wonderful novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Clearly this argument does not work.

Consider a sub-point: “euthanising infants is relatively common, but not children who are old enough to be asked if they really want to die.” There might be a host of questions to this: What is a non-arbitrary minimum age requirement for a person to consent to their death by lethal injection which is constructed in a framework capturing our moral intuitions? Why is euthanasia so widely accepted, based on obvious, more productive and moral alternatives i.e., palliative care? Why should we think that a child (or even fully grown adult) has the moral ability to choose when they want to die? Does this not presuppose subjectivism, a self-referentially incoherent standpoint? These questions, I think, are not even half-addressed in policy making concerning these issues. Obviously policy makers are not bioethicists, but a good Platonic question is manifest to come out here—should they be?

I have always defined “socio-phenomenological apathy” as an orientation in the world which is apathetic to valuable and meaningful questions i.e., God’s existence. It is rather unsurprising then that this should come up in the context of bioethics because unlike in philosophy of religion, even if one’s arguments are bad, socio-phenomenological apathy is so pertinent to Western culture’s “autonomous” lifestyle, that bioethical questions are of second-order importance and ultimately without conclusive answers. While I regard this is mistaken, many do not agree and think that “science has shown that the unborn aren’t people” or that “life does not have meaning”. While both these claims are false (and the latter metaphysically impossible), it is important to see here the consequences of apathy generally. Apathy requires one to give up their presuppositions and regard any presupposition or proposition as without value. It is not valuable, says the apathetic, to go on in the world worrying about trivial questions i.e., bioethical questions. While this is, of course, problematic (morally and existentially), the consequences are felt when death is the result. Instead of inquiring into the meaning of life, one says “who cares”, and policy makers make policies which allow children to die. Not merely to suffer, but to cease to exist on earth. There is no way to put this philosophically—one must have, genuinely, a cold heart to turn their eyes away from this injustice. But this apathy has a deeper root, namely, nihilism.

Nihilism, moral nihilism and bioethical nihilism all need defining. Nihilism is view that life has no objective and subjective meaning, moral nihilism the view that there are no moral truths and bioethical nihilism is the conjunction of nihilism and moral nihilism (life and morality being worthless). Obviously nihilism is part in parcel of atheistic and naturalistic worldviews—or from their propositions, not always proponents. Since we life in a secular culture, it is no surprise that this is the dominant philosophy of the West. In one form or another, the void of meaning people experience is a reflection of their inner inability to come to terms with reality, that is, the objective reality of value, meaning, morality and so on. Take the following passage, for instance: “What its supporters are trying to eliminate is not just pain, but life itself.” This is an admission of the fact that on atheistic and naturalistic worldviews, since there are no values, pleasure is the best method of achieving a well-lived life (one can see Benthamian and Millian roots here); and, therefore, once pain is all there is left, life is meaningless. This is, I suggest, a reason why bioethical questions have been disregarded, and consequently dying by choice is now legally permissible. It is because our inability to conceptualize deeply into the nature of human persons, their intrinsic value and so on, that we have turned our attention away to those who will now pay the price of our ignorance.

If, like me, one is disturbed by the story given, it is not enough to write and conceptualize—one must put their conceptualizations into action; it is not merely intellectually rewarding, but life saving.

[1] Accessed September 17th, 2016: http://www.bioedge.org/tools/newsletter2013/

[2] All references (in full) can be provided upon request. But to be brief: Dostoevsky, Brothers Karamazov, Nietzsche, The Gay Science; Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism; Beckett, Endgame; Freud, Civilization and its Discontents; Camus, Myth of Sisyphus.

Conditional Probabilities, The Deductive Closure Principle and Issues in Science/Religion

Conditional Probabilities (CP) (P|A/B) and the Deductive Closure Principle (DCP) (If S knows P and P-> Q, P knows Q) are tightly knit concepts which is helpful for considering probabilities in axiomatic theories, especially in science and religion. Suppose that we evaluate the truth of some proposition P. Given axioms, say, A1…An, a person S believes P on the basis of the presumed axioms. In this case, with respect to conditional probabilities, P is probable—more probable than not, that is—given the axioms (and so S accepts P). Suppose, further, that P->Q (Q being a logical entailment of P). It is, then, appropriate to say that given the axioms, Q is more probable than not. I find that this is very significant for understanding many issues found in conceptual problems which arise in science. Here is an example from quantum physics:

  1. Jones, having reviewed the evidence for the Many Worlds Interpretation E1…En, believes that the Many Worlds Interpretation to Quantum Mechanics is true.

Jones, so far as we know, does not rely on any previous axioms in holding that the Many Worlds Interpretation is true. Indeed, Jones can be said to merely make his judgement on the evidence presented to him; however, this might become problematic when other factors come into consideration. For instance, suppose that the evidence in question was inconclusive, that is, didn’t amount to a proof and that, being persuaded by other considerations i.e., some other epistemological hypothesis, Jones decided that the epistemological hypothesis—since it was, let us say, inconsistent with the Many Worlds Interpretation—amounted to rejecting the Many Worlds Interpretation (since Jones had better grounds for thinking that the epistemological hypothesis was more probable than his evidence for the Many Worlds Interpretation. Jones has applied conditional probability in the following way: Suppose A is “Many Worlds Interpretation” and B “Epistemological Hypothesis”, it would mean that for Jones (P|A/B) = 0. Two inconsistent propositions have a 0 probability when taken conjunctively. (To see this consider the proposition “at some time T some object O exists and simultaneously does not exist”, a proposition with 0 probability since it is impossible—logically and metaphysically). So, since the evidence in favor or B is higher than A, he sees it as (P|A/B) < (P|not-A/B) (in the latter case, the probability amounts to 1. Inasmuch as Jones is not being ad hoc here (in denying A on the grounds that he does not like it (and so happens to accept B), Jones is perfectly rational in his conditional probability. Things are not much different when we consider the following case:

2. Sharon, a theist, believes that the Many Worlds Interpretation to Quantum   Mechanics is false.

In a nutshell, Jones is pro-Many Worlds, and Sharon is against Many-Worlds. Let us apply CP and DCP here to see what is at work.

For Sharon, she believes that, where A is the proposition “that God exists” and B “the relevant evidence”, that (P|A/B) > .5. She, then, claims to know A (since, on conditional probability, B is more probable than not). But, since theism—some would argue (and I shall just presume it here)—that the Many Worlds Interpretation is logically inconsistent with A, it follows that A->Q (where Q is the proposition that “the Many Worlds Interpretation is false.” So, given the conditional probability of A on B, applying the DCP, Sharon reasonably believes that A and therefore that the Many Worlds Interpretation is false. The question now arises though: What is the conceptual difference between the case of Jones and the case of Sharon? My answer: nothing at all.

Whether it is a theological hypothesis or an epistemic one, it makes no difference regarding the probability of such statements. If S accepts P on the basis that it is more probable than not that P is true given Q, it does not matter if P is theological or epistemological. Even if one accepts P on the basis that they know some other proposition P* which implies P, if P* is a theological hypothesis or historical or scientific or whatever, it has no bearing on the truth of P itself. If one denies this, it can be for no other reason than begging the question (and I suspect that this goes on all the time). [1]

[1] The latter half of this post could have been “Issues in Philosophy of Mind/Religion, Metaphysics, Logic” et cetera. I just used the quantum mechanical example as an example of a possible area that my speculations could have been relevant.

Can the Objectivity of Morality Be Grounded in Phenomenal Consciousness?

In this paper I will argue that phenomenal consciousness is not sufficient to ontologically ground morality. [1] I will make two arguments for this thesis. First, I will argue that the thesis in question is logically improbable; secondly, I will use the deductive closure principle to make a short argument against phenomenal consciousness as constitutive of objective morality, and thereafter conclude that theism, since highly probable, involves this thesis to be false.

Here is the first argument:

  1. Phenomenal consciousness involves the what-its-like of experience.
  2. Objective morality is experience-independent.
  3. There is no such thing as phenomenal consciousness independent of experience.
  4. Therefore, nothing which can ground morality can be based on experience. (2)
  5. Therefore, phenomenal consciousness cannot be constitutive of objective morality. (1)-(4).

Here is a second argument:

  1. Theism is highly probable. [2]
  2. If theism is highly probable, phenomenal consciousness does not constitute the objectivity of morality (God does).
  3. Deductive closure principle: if S knows P and P->Q, then S knows Q.
  4. Therefore, if theism is true, and theism entails phenomenal consciousness as insufficient to ground the objectivity of morality, it follows that phenomenal consciousness is insufficient to ground the objectivity of morality. (1)-(4).

These are just two reasons I regard this attempt to save the objectivity of morality on naturalism to be unpromising. (Consider as a side argument the following: phenomenal consciousness is more probable on theism than naturalism; theism entails God as constitutive of objective morality, not phenomenal consciousness; therefore, phenomenal consciousness points towards its own inability to be constitutive of objective morality and the truth of theism).

[1] Arguing for phenomenal consciousness as constitutive of objective morality is usually an attempt to save objective morality on naturalism i.e., those denying a reductive ontology. (This is rather strange, though, as most naturalists reject, ontologically, morality).

[2] This second argument is tailored for the person who accepts theism (whereas the first is universal); I do this to reach both audiences (secular and non-secular alike).

A Current Project

This past year I had the privilege of attending and lecturing orally my research paper “Theistic Explanations of the Ontology of Consciousness” under the title “Consciousness, Theism and Explanation”, at the Western Student Research Conference (2016) under the supervision of Dr. Pietro Pirani. In adjusting to first year of university, my time was necessarily limited as my primary goal was to “get the grades going.”

This year, however, I want to do something different.

Since there is no confirmation of acceptance into the Research Conference until one applies, I am not sure this project will be fully realized as I would like it to be. Nonetheless, I find myself content with the endeavor regardless.

I want to do the conference this year on a “minor” project, perhaps on theistic metaphysical systems i.e., William Lane Craig’s. Or perhaps on something like the work of Richard Swinburne (his recent “Mind, Brain and Free Will” (2013), particularly). Another project I am thinking of is reviewing Craig Keener’s 2. Vol. “Miracles.” If none of these, I am very interested in exploring Bryan Metcalfe’s doctoral thesis “Pedagogy of Mythos” (2013) much more in depth. Perhaps even Charles Taylor’s “A Secular Age.” (And of course I am open to suggestions from readers of this blog). Regardless, for this year I am looking to do a minor project.

But, for the following year (2017/2018), my third year in university, I want to write on analytic Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga. Why not this year? Simply this: His corpus is massive. His work on metaphysics, philosophy of religion, epistemology and modal logic is extensive. So, if I spend this year and the next focusing primarily on Plantinga, I think (i) I will have spent my time wisely and (ii) I will have developed enough acquaintance with his work to actually write on his work with a good standing on what he thinks.

So, now, I await a professor who will help me with this project and for my “minor” one this year. Blog posts, then, will follow the writings I am reading and thinking of (whereas before they were relatively all over the place–my usual method of thinking!).

As a side note, I am currently brainstorming a layout for a Bioethics Journal for a Western University club and a possible book based on a Teacher’s guide I co-wrote with Patrick Sullivan on his book “Four Monks Walk Into a Pub.” I would also like to take up a Dostoevsky University Syllabus (U of T’s, for instance), to read more of his stuff (and really committ myself to it). Thus, posting will be relatively infrequent, but I hope my work, while definitely now occupied by reading and studying, will be satisfactory.

A New Approach to the Problem of Evil?

In this very brief paper, I want to share, almost informally, something I have been thinking about for some time. I have thought of a new approach to the problem of evil that I think important, and, naturally, the way in which I have always proposed to think of it. While I say ‘new’, this is definitely tentative as, for instance WLC holds the same thesis (see, especially, his Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (2003)). I am going to briefly state the problem, answer it, consider two ways out of my solution and show how both these options do not work.

Here is how it will work:

Problem: The co-existence of evil and God.

Answer: On the supposition that

(i) it is very likely that God exists i.e., natural theological arguments

one can infer that

(ii) God exists; that is, a being Who is omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good exists

and therefore one can ask the question

What is the probability that God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil given independent justification for the existence of a God with aforementioned perfect moral properties? I would like to think very, very high–this is enough to solve the “Problem”, in my view. 

If it seems paradoxical that God exists simultaneously with evil, nothing follows asides bewilderment. But that is a psychological property of persons–logically there is nothing the matter here, or at least so it seems to me.

I suppose there are two ways out: Either (1) deny (i) or suggest that (2) any instance of evil devalues any natural theological arguments.

The problem with (1) is as follows:

i. (i) is very probable. (See, for instance, the (brief) list of natural theological arguments in Footnote 2 of my essay “Theistic Explanations of the Ontology of Consciousness” here: https://rashadrehmanca.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/theistic-explanations-of-the-ontology-of-consciousness/).

ii. Denying (i) here would be ad hoc.

The problem with (2) is as follows:

i. It is simply highly improbable that an instance of evil makes improbable natural theological arguments. Here is an example (both from WLC):

Kalam Cosmological Argument

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause
  2. The universe began to exist
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause

and

“There is at least one instance of evil”

and therefore

In the Kalam argument (1)-(3) is false. But surely this is mistaken?

Perhaps this is uncharitable and favoring an argument which does not establish God’s moral properties. Maybe it is the axiological argument that is problematic:

Moral Argument

  1. If God exists, objective moral values and duties exist
  2. Objective moral values and duties exist
  3. Therefore, God exists

But surely “There is at least one instance of evil” does not falsify (1)-(3)? Maybe (1) is problematic, but then (2) becomes highly improbable (as WLC argues). The objector cannot deny (2) since there, then, would not be a problem of evil at all. So clearly (i) and (ii) do not work.

So, given God as an omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being, the probability of Him having a morally sufficient reason is very, very high.

Here is the conclusion: Evil is a puzzle, not a problem, psychologically for human persons. (Even if it is a puzzle that causes a problem, it is still psychological). (This is no foreign thought to theists, either. Many theists (including myself) find it difficult to see and experience evil. But surely this does not make God’s existence or moral properties any different). WLC reminds us to reflect on the cross of Jesus, the One who suffered and died for our sake, when we suffer. Maybe Christian theism is the only way out of the puzzle of evil.

The Emotional Problem of Suffering (Evil): Anecdotal Reflections

 

There are many versions of the problem of evil. The basic idea is that the existence (ontology) of evil somehow disconfirms, makes unlikely or makes difficult establishing a being who is omniscient, omnipotent and all-good and loving (a being typically called God). Since the logical version of the problem of evil collapsed with publications demonstrating with high probability the consistency of evil and the existence of God [1], the probabilistic and emotional version stand today. Not to say that this ‘standing’ has much force; rather, the ‘standing’ has to do with the amount of evil and/or the raw feel of evil. Both of these arguments, in my view, do not have much going for them. However, since the probabilistic version involves much review of contemporary literature, I want to focus on—for temporal considerations—the emotional problem. Usually an argument of the form “I do not like x and therefore y” does not carry much weight; that being said, this would mean that the argument “I do not see how God and evil can exist together at all—regardless of any argument” does not have much merit. While the emotional version can be cast in terms of a phenomenological argument or existential argument, the basic idea is that evil has a quality about it which, emotionally, brings about a distain for a God who would allow evil. Now, since this is not an argument—and I am here interested in arguments, not emotional assertions—I want to, instead of “refuting” the assertion, give an anecdote about my experience of the problem of suffering. The problem of evil is, in my view, reducible to the problem of suffering—to some degree; at some point experiences of evil are often seen as experiences of suffering. While not all suffering is inherently evil, I should like to mention an experience of mine this summer which, I think, demonstrates that God is not distant from suffering nor human experience of suffering and sheds light on the emotional version of the problem of evil (suffering).

Late April 2016 came around and I was home from Western University for a couple days before my final exam. I decided that one night, indeed the first night I was back (I think), that I would go to the skate park (I am a BMX rider) [2]. So, not atypically, I went to the skate park and did my usual routine runs at the course. I did some tricks here and there and decided that I was ready to go home. But, before leaving, I thought to myself “Maybe just one more trick?”. And so I did, I went at the quarter pipe performing a trick called a “tuck no hander” and, to my distress, missed the right grip necessary for a proper landing and my back tire, on the way down from approximately 4-5 feet over the 6-foot quarter pipe, my back tire hit the quarter and shot the bars into my chest and from there I fell onto the ground from 6-feet. Startled and disoriented, I got up—full of adrenaline—and tried to “walk it off”, as many bikers suggest doing. I knew something was wrong. But, since I had so much adrenaline in me, I decided to try to bike home anyway. Making it about ¼ of the way home, I was unable to continue. I had to call my mother to tell her I was in a lot of pain.

The story continues with me in the hospital. The prayer was that the X-Ray would show broken ribs or just broken bones (I was very aware of the dangers of internal bleeding). However, a very interesting result came up: nothing was found on the x-ray. So, off to the ultrasound I went for a second time. The second time, however, showed that my spleen was in rough shape; this is put too mildly, I essentially wrecked the bottom of my spleen. I had to options, says the doctor: Either I have the spleen removed or I wait to see if it will heal. So, in being young and nervous for a serious operation, I opted for waiting. The important thing, though, was that the white blood cells did not drop—otherwise I would need a blood transfusion and thereafter, probably, surgery. As the night progressed, my family was at my bedside. I was hooked to strong medication and IV’s which were beside me helping the pain go away. All I could see was a beautiful family around me, saddened by my condition and praying for my well-being. The love I experienced was immense and was a manifest blessing. I did not suffer alone. Continuing, though, as the night progressed, the residence student at the hospital came in and basically gave me the worst news I could get: the white blood cell level dropped. This meant, indeed, surgery. Long story short, I had a splenectomy (removal of the spleen) resulting in thirty staples up my chest with, as the doctor put it, “infinitely many stitches”. I was in the hospital for a full week and in six weeks I was walking and functioning relatively normally—but not like before one bit. During recovery after the surgery, I had to learn to walk well again. I remember, with a freshly woven stomach and immensely weak body, as I walked for the first (or second time), I vomited very hard and loudly. My nurse, who was a blessing to have around, always encouraged me to get stronger no matter what. Indeed, while sitting with my girlfriend at my bed, he said “Rashad, you should really begin walking.” I merely shook my head in distress. He turned to me, and without reserve, said “its up to you, you can sit here and waste away or you can get better.” Wow did that hit me like a ton of bricks! So I always was encouraged to get better amidst a tough recovery. During my stay at the hospital, I met an Italian man who had it, I believe, much worse than I. I will call him “G” for short. Knowing some Italian, I introduced myself and we spoke sometimes. While we did not talk too much, I remember telling him “G, buona fortuna” (goodluck). As I suffered, I was never ignorant that people had it much worse than I.

As time went on, I slowly healed and got back to normal. Now, as it has been almost three months since the incident, I have been working, biking and, obviously, writing. I remember sleeping terribly because I was afraid of the staples moving on my chest—now I am working out and building strength again. I learned many things from my injury, I think, related to the problem of evil (suffering) that I will now explain further. A very easy and emotional response to this suffering is as follows: God allowed this and I did not deserve this. If God loved me He would use His power to protect me given that He knows everything. This statement, while emotionally charged, displays, I think, a grotesque ignorance of who God is and what details I would have missed—had I responded in this fashion.

As I suffered—out of my own free will—I was put beside a loving family who prayed and hoped for my well-being. I was in my bed hooked up to medication which calmed my pain, and I was in the hands of well-trained and loving nurses and doctors (who, employed in Canada, worked for a universal health care system). I had my beautiful rosary beside me through everything knowing Mary, Mother of God was praying for me and, most of all, I know that Jesus was with me. The emotional response misses two crucial missing points that are most appropriately stated here: (i) Jesus died on the cross for our sins and for eternal life and (ii) Jesus lives in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. So while I suffered, and indeed it was not always easy, Jesus never left my side. When I was hurt, when I was in surgery, when I cried in pain, when I recovered Jesus never failed to be beside me. I could respond “why didn’t He stop it?”, but, having called me to baptism this past Easter, I learned something very important: No matter what comes my way, Jesus has given me the most incommensurable good of human existence—knowing Him.[3]

So, in conclusion, as I contemplate the problem of suffering (evil), I wonder if the old idiom (or proverb?) “count your blessings” might be the most important thing to remember in understanding suffering and God’s immense love for all humanity.

[1] See, for instance, Alvin Plantinga’s God, Freedom and Evil. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974. Print. See also William Lane Craig and J.P Moreland’s “The Problem of Evil” in their Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2003. Print.

[2] Here is a video, for fun: http://www.pinkbike.com/video/379843/

[3] William Lane Craig, having dealt with the problem of evil both logically and probabalistically, has done work on the emotional version which ought to be reprinted here. This is from a Question of the Week (#352) on dealing with the emotional problem of evil (essentially); having explained how he (WLC) himself suffers from Charcot-Marie-Tooth Syndrome and keratoconus, he shares thoughts on what seems to him important things to remember about physical ailments which God does not remove immediately or miraculously (and, fun fact, while I was recovering from my splenectomy, I read WLC’s work on this and found it incredibly helpful in understanding my own situation):

“1. Realize that God owes you absolutely nothing. God never promised us a happy and healthy life. Anything we have is a gift from Him. God is just under no obligation whatsoever to give us a carefree life. As sinners meriting only the justice and wrath of God, we have been saved solely by His good grace. If He chooses to give us a pleasant life on this planet, that is His discretion; but if instead He metes out to us a life filled with misery and suffering, that is also His prerogative. God is sovereign, the Lord of all, and we have no claim whatsoever on a life free from illness or pain.

2. Think of what is yours in Christ. In Christ we have eternal life, redemption from our sins, and a relation to God, an incommensurable good. How can we be bitter? Infinite good has already been bestowed on us in Christ. Thus, no matter what we suffer, no matter how awful the pain, we can truly say, “God has been good to me!”, simply because of all that we have in Christ.

3. Be grateful for what earthly goods you do have. At least you’re not blind! Think of all those who are! The next time you’re tempted to feel sorry for yourself, think of all those worse off than you. Think of the people in North Korea, or Syria, or Southern Sudan. How dare we feel self-pity in the face of such suffering? Cultivate a grateful spirit and frequently pause to count your blessings.

4. Understand that God’s strength may be exhibited through your weakness. Yes, soon after becoming a Christian, I prayed several times for healing from Charcot-Marie-Tooth, to no avail. I then came to appreciate the apostle Paul’s words, when he wrote of his “thorn in the flesh” that plagued him: “Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:8-10). Wow! Paul boasts in his physical weakness, for then Christ’s power working through him is all the more evident! May God grant us this same spirit when we struggle with life’s ailments! Those Christians who have condemned your lack of faith only show that they are without understanding. Full physical healing comes only with the resurrection, and at that time you will be healed of every infirmity. Until then we must, like Paul, struggle though by faith.

5. Seek the best medical attention. I sought out the finest corneal transplant surgeon in the U.S. to deal with my eye problems, and now I see the world through the corneas of two anonymous persons who selflessly thought to donate their tissue to medical science upon their death. You don’t mention anything that you have done other than pray to remedy your eyesight, Nathaniel. Don’t listen to those who say that God answers your prayers only through miracles. It’s been rightly said that when we pray about a plumbing problem, then God sends us a plumber. Similarly, God sends us doctors, who have explored the mysteries of His created order to uncover the secrets of health and healing. Take full advantage of what medical science has discovered about the marvelous creation which is the human eye to rectify your problem. If, as with my Charcot-Marie-Tooth syndrome, the problem proves to be incurable at present, then practice the points above. May God’s strength be evident in you!”

Retrieved from http://www.reasonablefaith.org/dealing-with-physical-ailment#ixzz4FU4qYglB July 26th, 2016.