Published Humanitas, Volume XVI, No. 2, 2003

The order and harmony of the universe could be much more easily reconciled with the iniquity of nature (incomprehensible natural calamities) if we were to accept without thought that the universe is accidental and not something responding to a deliberate creative project. The exercise of free will, however, is possible only in the presence of a certain measure of indeterminacy, and this necessarily entails the possibility of unpredictable disaster. It follows, then, in the light of the Anthropic Principle, that, if man is to exist as a subject endowed with free will, the iniquity of nature, pain and suffering must also exist. The latter, it will be argued, are profoundly related to free will, not only because they may stem from an evil use of it, but also because they are the sine qua non for its very existence.


In addition to the evil directly due to human perversity, we also witness the cruelty of nature. In addition to the victims of the ravages of war, we see those afflicted by the violence of hurricanes and earthquakes, or by the malignant nature of innumerable diseases. And it is by no means so easy for the rational mind to accept the many faces of nature itself, the beauty and order of which, according to many, are the expression of a creative divinity.

Unquestionably, the harmony of the universe requires the changing of its parts, and St. Augustine identifies the fundamental human limitation of being confined to a temporal existence as the metaphysical root of all evil. But St. Augustine himself, when recounting the death of Tagaste’s twenty-year-old friend, expresses desperation and an inability to attribute any meaning to it.

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