A classic problem with Christianity is the so-called ‘problem of evil’—that friction between the hypothesis that the world’s creator is arbitrarily good and powerful, and a large fraction of actual observations of the world.

Coming up with solutions to the problem of evil is a compelling endeavor if you are really rooting for a particular bottom line re Christianity, or I guess if you enjoy making up faux-valid arguments for wrong conclusions. At any rate, I think about this more than you might guess.

And I think I’ve solved it!

Or at least, I thought of a new solution which seems better than the others I’ve heard. (Though I mostly haven’t heard them since high school.)

The world (much like anything) has different levels of organization. People are made of cells; cells are made of molecules; molecules are made of atoms; atoms are made of subatomic particles, for instance.

You can’t actually make a person (of the usual kind) without including atoms, and you can’t make a whole bunch of atoms in a particular structure without having made a person. These are logical facts, just like you can’t draw a triangle without drawing corners, and you can’t draw three corners connected by three lines without drawing a triangle. In particular, even God can’t. (This is already established I think—for instance, I think it is agreed that God cannot make a rock so big that God cannot lift it, and that this is not a threat to God’s omnipotence.)

So God can’t make the atoms be arranged one way and the humans be arranged another contradictory way. If God has opinions about what is good at different levels of organization, and they don’t coincide, then he has to make trade-offs. If he cares about some level aside from the human level, then at the human level, things are going to have to be a bit suboptimal sometimes. Or perhaps entirely unrelated to what would be optimal, all the time.

We usually assume God only cares about the human level. But if we take for granted that he made the world maximally good, then we might infer that he also cares about at least one other level.

And I think if we look at the world with this in mind, it’s pretty clear where that level is. If there’s one thing God really makes sure happens, it’s ‘the laws of physics’. Though presumably laws are just what you see when God cares. To be ‘fundamental’ is to matter so much that the universe runs on the clockwork of your needs being met. There isn’t a law of nothing bad ever happening to anyone’s child; there’s a law of energy being conserved in particle interactions. God cares about particle interactions.

What’s more, God cares so much about what happens to sub-atomic particles that he actually never, to our knowledge, compromises on that front. God will let anything go down at the human level rather than let one neutron go astray.

What should we infer from this? That the majority of moral value is found at the level of fundamental physics (following Brian Tomasik and then going further). Happily we don’t need to worry about this, because God has it under control. We might however wonder what we can infer from this about the moral value of other levels that are less important yet logically intertwined with and thus beyond the reach of God, but might still be more valuable than the one we usually focus on.