05 November 2007

Oh look. It's the problem of evil.

There are some really superb blogs over at Science Blogs, and some of the best ones are required reading here. It's hard to stomach PZ's religious blatherings, but he's a gifted science writer and a skilled commentator on developmental issues in evolution. Laelaps is a treasure trove, and Shelley Batts should have won that scholarship; her neuroscience blog, Retrospectacle, is varied and always sharp. And I'm sure that undiscovered treasures are buried in the many blogs I've never visited.

But there are some blogs over there that are little more than the diaries of atheists. Not that there's anything wrong with that (i.e., godlessness): Larry Moran's Sandwalk is one of my must-reads, as is Abbie Smith's ERV, and like many well-informed bloggers who are evolutionists, both are skeptics. Their blogs are important because they're full of serious science, the kind of analysis that is actually more dangerous to creationism and ID than the newsletter fodder that gets pinned up on the walls of the blogs of less thoughtful commentators. If the bosses at Science Blogs haven't already tried, they should beg Larry Moran to move Sandwalk to Science Blogs. And if they're starting to consider a no-growth policy, then they should let Sandwalk take the place of the surprisingly shallow EvolutionBlog of Jason Rosenhouse.

Early on here at QoD, I had EvolutionBlog on my Blogs of Note list, simply because a prominent blog (as evidenced by its presence at Science Blogs) on "the endless dispute between evolution and creationism" seemed apropos. But it's sadly short on science, and long on anti-faith chest-beating. Ooh, but here's something new: the problem of evil.

There are at least two things that I find odd about much of what passes for atheist commentary on the problem of evil. First, folks like Rosenhouse seem to think that every instance of suffering (by humans or giraffes or echidnas or moths) represents a new instance of the problem of evil, as though the problem is magnified with each new meal by a carnivore. Heaping more dead salmon on the pile, it seems to me, doesn't change the basic problem of suffering in God's world. Second, I'm fascinated by the nearly-ubiquitous implication that the problem of evil is somehow linked to common descent. Huh? Humans, including Christians, were quite well acquainted with suffering and natural evil -- on an apocalyptic scale -- long before Darwin scooped Wallace. The problem of evil, if it's a problem for Christianity, isn't linked in any unique way to evolutionary theory.

But there's not much more for me to say, because Scott Carson does it so much better. I've removed the worthless EvolutionBlog from my blogroll, and replaced it with Carson's An Examined Life. (Thanks to John Farrell for the tips.) His latest post, Notes from the Scorecard Department, is the kind of blog article that should make textbook publishers nervous. If you're a Christian, be warned: you may find harsher words there for yourself than for blissfully ignorant bloggers like Jason Rosenhouse. And if you think the question of suffering is a big deal, start with Carson's claim that the Problem of Evil isn't a problem at all. No matter how you come down on the question, take note of the difference in depth of thought and analysis. Rosenhouse:Philosophy :: Behe:Genetics.

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