Religious Studies

The consequential complexity of history and gratuitous evil

a1 New Scholars Society, RR #2, Wallenstein, ON, Canada, N0B 2S0


History is composed of a web of innumerable interacting causal chains, many of which are composed of millions of discrete events. The complexity of history puts us in a position of having knowledge of only a minuscule portion of the consequences of any event, actual or proposed. Our almost complete lack of knowledge of the data necessary to know if an event is gratuitous makes it very likely that we would be mistaken about a very large number of events. The complexity of history, therefore, poses a significant challenge to certain types of evidential arguments from evil that begin with our observations of evils that appear to be gratuitous.

For want of a nail the shoe is lost,

For want of a shoe the horse is lost,

For want of a horse the rider is lost,

And all for the want of a nail.

Benjamin Franklin, 1757