The argument from evil assumes a divine vantage point. “If I were God, what would I do differently?”
However, this is a deceptively simple, equivocal, and contradictory question.
After all, I can only attempt to answer this question by taking myself as the point of reference. My values. My needs. My duties. My desires.
So what does the question really amount to?
If we unpack it, the question may take this form: “If I were omnipotent, what would I do differently?”
In this version of the question, everything about me remains the same except that I have godlike power.
Of course, this is every boy’s superman fantasy.
Put another way, “If I had a genie in a bottle, what would I ask for?”
Naturally I can think of all sorts of things I might like to have. Maybe my own private island in the Caribbean.
Maybe a wife who looks like Greta Garbo, sings like Joan Sutherland, writes like Christina Rossetti, has a mind like Elizabeth Anscombe’s, &c.
Needless to say, God hasn’t given me any of these things. So God doesn’t necessarily want the same things for me that I might want for myself if I were in a position to wave a magic wand.
Does this mean I’m a religious hypocrite because I might arrange things a little differently if I could do whatever God can do?
But notice that, in this hypothetical, that I’m hardly anything like God. I’m simply a man with one divine attribute.
Suppose we add the attribute of omniscience. Not only am I omnipotent, I am now omniscient as well.
But an omniscient being would not do everything that a merely omnipotent being would do. An omniscient being would know the long-range consequences of every option.
It’s like those time-travel scenarios in which a scientist goes back into the past, makes one apparently discrete improvement, and wipes out the future.
Suppose we add other attributes like wisdom and justice?
The problem with this cumulative procedure is that I lose my personal point of reference. I no longer know what I would do, because the less human I am, and the more godlike I am, I cease to be me. I don’t know what it would be like to be someone else—especially someone with a very different set of attributes. I only know what it’s like to be me, and, by analogy, others of a kind. My fellow human beings.
The question seems to be intelligible when you change one attribute, but leave everything else intact. Yet I can’t relate to my godlike alter-ego. I can’t identify with what such a being would do if I were him, for I no longer know what it would mean for *me* to be *like* him. I wouldn’t be me anymore. My godlike alter-ego would be unrecognizable. Personal alterity instead of personal identity. Not enough continuity to even extrapolate from what I am to what I would be.
So the question is contradictory. It assumes in the premise what it denies in the conclusion. It trades on a radical equivocation of terms by appealing to my humanity while, at the very same time, swapping out my humanity for divinity. It asks me to assume a divine perspective while appealing to my human perspective.
My deified self wouldn’t want a South Sea island, or the wife of my dreams, or anything else uniquely human or male or mammalian or creaturely. There rapidly comes a point beyond which we cannot make any projections from our own experience to an utterly alien experience.
You might as well ask, what would I do if I were a kumquat? How would I feel if I were a starfish?