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Eric Hedin on Suffering in a Designed World

Photo: San Francisco earthquake, 1906, via WIkimedia Commons.

Is natural evil an argument against intelligent design? And is human evil more consistent with naturalism or theism? On a new episode of ID the Future, I spoke with Dr. Eric Hedin about his recent article “Thoughts of Evil in a Designed World.”

First, Dr. Hedin discusses the problem of natural evils like earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts, and other natural disasters. He reports that in the last century, the human death toll from such tragedies has dropped as we have learned to mitigate the effects of these natural forces in our lives. Hedin also discusses the impact of sickness on our bodies. “Any complex system can break down,” Hedin reminds us, “because we do live in a world where the second law of thermodynamics applies not just to stars and mountainsides and physical systems but also to our own bodies.” But suffering, tragic as it can be for all of us to endure, is not inconsistent with design.

Capable of Much Worse, and Much Better

Then there’s the other major cause of suffering in life: human evil. If humans are products of an evolutionary process, we’d expect human evil to more or less match what we see in the animal world. But as recent attacks on the people of Israel starkly demonstrate, that is not the case. We are capable of much worse, as well as much better. Hedin pushes back on the argument for determinism, the idea that humans are nothing more than physical interactions and do not have ultimate control over their choices. This idea was recently back in the news when neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky announced after 40 years of research that humans have no free will. But Sapolsky is forgetting something, says Hedin. Humans have the gift of rational override: “We’re not just vulnerable or defenseless collections of molecules that are completely at the whim of influences,” he says. “We have rational control that we can actually will to do something that is contrary to every influence that is affecting us at that moment.” Download the podcast or listen to it here.

This is Part 1 of a two-part conversation. In Part 2 (forthcoming), Dr. Hedin argues that our world is not just designed to support human life, it is also designed for morality too. “Because we can determine what we do or decide not to do, we still have moral responsibility.” Look for Part 2 in early November.

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