Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Wes Morriston

Second Advisor

Michael Tooley

Third Advisor

Paul Draper

Fourth Advisor

Claudia Mills

Fifth Advisor

Chris Heathwood


In this dissertation I argue that animal pain and suffering pose a greater problem for God's goodness than has been generally acknowledged in the history of the discussion of the problem of evil. I take David Hume's abductive approach to the problem of evil as my model and compare two explanations for the evidence of animal suffering--the hypothesis of indifference and classical theism. I argue that theism is a poor fit with the total evidence--evidence that includes animal suffering. I argue that there are certain features of the world that are surprising on the hypothesis that a perfectly good, all-powerful being governs the universe. Among these features are the pain and suffering of sentient animals, the phenomena of predation, and the mechanism of evolution by natural selection. Given that there is an alternate hypothesis that is a better fit with the data, it is unreasonable to accept theism. Then I evaluate some of the best attempts to diffuse the problem of animal suffering--I survey various theodicies and defenses designed to raise the probability of theism on the evidence of animal suffering including Peter van Inwagen's modal and moral skeptical defense, Michael Murray's neo-Carteisian defense and evolutionary goods defense and Richard Swinburne's animal virtue theodicy. I conclude that each of the theodicies and defenses are highly implausible and, therefore, fail to raise the probability of theism relative to the evidence. I conclude that the prospects for theodicies and defenses are dim. Unless the theist has recourse to some very strong argument for the existence of an all-good God, I argue that it unreasonable to believe in the God of classical theism.