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Uneven Book of Natural Theology
on 3 March 1999
Swiburne writes clearly and his arguments for God's existence are interesting and suggestive. In the end, though, they come down to the notion that God is the "simplest" explanation for things we observe in the natural world. It was never clear how postulating the existence of something unlike anything else in experience could be a "simple" explanation of the world. Maybe it's "simpler" just to take the existence of the world as an unexplained fact, a mystery. The discussion of why God allows pain and suffering is the weakest part of the book and is almost a parody of traditional theodicy. At one point in his discussion of animal suffering, Swinburne argues that forest fires aren't necessarily bad for animals because they give them an opportunity to escape danger, which he regards as a "significant intentional act." Since "significant intentional acts" are goods things, it follows that forest fires could be good for animals. This sounds like a joke but Swinburne was serious. The reader wondering why God allows suffering would be better advised to read the book of Job.