3.2.1 The Argument from Imperfection

Regal Divinity

The argument from imperfection is one form of argument from evil. The argument from evil is the argument that the existence of evil in the world is strong, and perhaps even conclusive, evidence that God does not exist. The argument from imperfection is the form of the argument from evil that concentrates specifically on the imperfection of the world, taking the fact that the world could have been better as proof that it was not created by God.

The first task for an advocate of the argument from imperfection is to establish that if God created the world then the world would be perfect. This at least appears to follow from God’s perfection.

The goodness of a creator is proportional to the goodness of that which he creates. A carpenter who makes a fragile table with uneven legs is a bad carpenter. A carpenter who makes a strong and beautiful table is better.

As God is a perfect Creator, then, so God’s creation must also be perfect. If God created this world, it seems, then this must be the best of all possible worlds.

Against this line of thought, objectors argue that there is no best possible world, that every possible world could be improved in some respect, and so that the idea that a perfect Creator would necessarily create a perfect world is false.

The second task for an advocate of the argument from imperfection is to establish that the world is not perfect. This claim, of course, is highly plausible; there are many ways in which it might be thought that the world might have been better. The world might, for example, have contained fewer wars, or fewer unpleasant diseases, or fewer destructive volcanic eruptions. The world, the advocate of the argument from imperfection will maintain, contains multiple defects, each of which establishes at least the imperfection of its Creator, and probably the non-existence of God.

If it is accepted both that if God existed then the world would be perfect, and that the world is not perfect, then it must also be accepted that God does not exist. The argument from imperfection can therefore be summarised as follows:

The Argument from Imperfection
(1) If God exists then he is omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent.
(2) If God were omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent then the world would not contain imperfections.
(3) The world contains imperfections.
Therefore:
(4) It is not the case that God exists.

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