Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

A little bad can be very good! Refuting the “bad design” argument.


[cross posted at CEU Insight and Inspiration. The essay is terse and is primarily oriented to high school seniors and college freshman struggling with their Christian faith, but presents the essentials in refuting the “bad design” argument. It links to revised essays that were edited and cleaned up from their original form at UD. The links are for those wanting a far more advanced treatment of the “bad design” argument.]

[for new students of creation science and intelligent design]

Perhaps the strongest argument against the existence of God and against His Intelligent Design of the universe is the fact the world is a real mess. The argument goes something like this:

Someone so smart and capable as God wouldn’t make broken things like this world, therefore since the world is obviously full of suffering and broken things, there is no God.

This is known as the “bad design argument”

Before answering the problem of “bad design” directly, consider whether humans will deliberately design things have some bad built in. Would a human ever do that? If the answer is yes, then it becomes possible to believe that God would also deliberately design things that have some bad in them to achieve an ulitmate good.

If you were designing a game — a sports game, a video game, a card game, etc. — would you design it so that there would be no chance of losing, no chance of having low scores? Would you design a game where people will always be winners? Would you want to play such a game? Would the NFL Superbowl have any meaning if all teams were winners at the end of the season? Would you want to play a video game where every time you played you were guaranteed the highest possible score?

How about a drama, a movie, a play, a novel? Would the characters never face difficulties or challenges? If a story said something like

Chapter 1: Once upon a time every one was happy….
Chapter 2: everyone is still happy, and they stayed happy….
Chapter 75: everyone is still happy, they were always happy and they lived happily ever after.

Would that be a compelling story that you’d watch or read? Would that be the sort of movie you’d wait in line for? Probably not.

Thus, a little bad can be very important for creating ultimate good.

If we need a little bad in order to write great stories of fiction, how much more does it make sense that there is a little bad in this world to make the final chapters of reality all the more beautiful.

If we view God as the great novelist in the sky, these present troubles are only the early chapters in the greatest story every told. The present sorrows will have meaning if the story of creation has a happy ending.

From 2 Cor 4:17, New Century Version

We have small troubles for a while now, but they are helping us gain an eternal glory that is much greater than the troubles.

From 2 Cor 4:17, English Standard Version

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,7


Advanced Topics exploring answers to the bad design argument.

For students of computer science and math:
Shallowness of Bad Design Arguments

For students of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology:
When designed errors are perfect design

For students of music and philosophy of art:
What defines “good” design in the composition of music and the tuning of musical instruments?

I have NEVER understood this so-called argument against God. It fails on multiple accounts: 1. "Bad" design often turns out to be GOOD design after careful, lengthy evaluation and insight 2. "Bad" design is STILL design. It's akin to criticizing the cramped space that I have on a 737 flight and saying that the plane must've evolved because it was designed poorly. All the while, ignoring the marvelous creation that a modern jet aircraft is..OldArmy94
April 3, 2014
12:42 PM

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