Soul-Making Theodicies and Lack-of-Character Data

Soul-making theodicies aim to defeat the problem of evil. In broad outline, they argue that moral virtues  (e.g., patience, kindness, compassion, etc.) are among the greatest possible goods, and that God must allow suffering in order to give us the opportunity to develop virtue (e.g., developing patience requires undergoing hardships; developing courage requires facing danger; developing compassion requires experiencing suffering yourself (to empathize) and seeing and responding to the suffering of others, etc.). Therefore, God is justified in permitting evil or suffering in order to allow for these goods.

The problem is that, as John Doris and others have recently argued, there is a robust set of data regarding human behavior that casts serious doubt on the hypothesis that humans have the capacity to develop virtue. And if that's right, then soul-making theodicies are thereby undercut.

It seems to me that the point can also be used as the basis for an argument against theism. For by similar reasoning, theism predicts an arena for free moral choices which in turn serve as the basis of moral development. It's therefore surprising on theism that character formation for virtue is ineffective. By contrast, such phenomena is not at all surprising on naturalism. For on that hypothesis, there is no antecedent reason to think evolution would aim at producing bodies capable of cultivating stable virtuous character traits. Therefore, lack of character data provide at least some confirming evidence for naturalism vis-a-vis theism.

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