Concerning the question of “natural evil” or “cruelty in nature” that others have been discussing today, Chesterton writes:
But nature does not say that cats are more valuable than mice; nature makes no remark on the subject. She does not even say that the cat is enviable or the mouse pitiable. We think the cat superior because we have (or most of us have) a particular philosophy to the effect that life is better than death. But if the mouse were a German pessimist mouse, he might not think that the cat had beaten him at all. He might think he had beaten the cat by getting to the grave first. Or he might feel that he had actually inflicted frightful punishment on the cat by keeping him alive. Just as a microbe might feel proud of spreading a pestilence, so the pessimistic mouse might exult to think that he was renewing in the cat the torture of conscious existence.
Chesterton in Orthodoxy.
I have always found the idea of a mouse devoted to Schopenhauer’s philosophy very amusing, but Chesterton’s larger point is germane. The materialist really has no objective ground on which to say life is better than death (or sadism is better than charity). His views on the subject are based on pure sentiment.
And this observation immediately leads us to a great irony: The materialist quite happily sawed off the branch of objective morality; but now he pretends the branch is still attached to the tree and he is sitting on it when he levels his “natural evil” charge against the creator.
Or is it hypocrisy and not irony? It is hard to know. What is clear is that at the very moment the materialist concedes that the term “cruelty” has any meaning other than “I personally object,” his argument from natural evil fails. In other words, “cruelty” can have an objective transcendent meaning only if God exists. Therefore, if one concedes that cruelty has an objective transcendent meaning, one cannot use the existence of cruelty to argue that God does not exist. Nothing could be more obvious it seems to me.