Skip to main content Accessibility help

Natural evil: the simulation solution

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 July 2018

Department of Philosophy, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, L69 7WY, UK
E-mail address:


That natural evils are plentiful in our world is impossible (plausibly) to deny. Why would a benevolent and all-powerful God allow such an obviously imperfect world to be created? I argue that the problem of evil in this form only seems serious and intractable because our science and technology are currently at comparatively primitive levels. Civilizations whose technological capabilities are significantly more advanced than our own will be able to create artificial worlds of their own in a variety of different ways. Given the very real possibility of world-makers who are non-divine, the problem posed by natural evil is very much diminished.

Original Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.


Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

(Exodus 20:3)


Ball, J. A. (1973) ‘The zoo hypothesis’, Icarus, 19, 347349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Banks, I. M. (2010) Surface Detail (London: Orbit).Google Scholar
Barrow, J. D. (1998) Impossibility: The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits (Vintage: London).Google Scholar
Baxter, S. (2000) ‘The planetarium hypothesis: a resolution of the Fermi paradox’, Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, 54, 20102016.Google Scholar
Borges, J. L. (1999) Selected Fictions, Wienberger, E. (ed.) (New York: Viking).Google Scholar
Bostrom, N. (2003) ‘Are you living in a computer simulation?’, Philosophical Quarterly, 53, 243255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chalmers, D. (1996) The Conscious Mind (Oxford: Oxford University Press).Google Scholar
Chalmers, D. (2005) ‘The matrix as metaphysics’, in Grau, C. (ed.) Philosophers Explore the Matrix (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 132176.Google Scholar
Dainton, B. (2002) ‘Innocence lost’, <>..>Google Scholar
Dainton, B. (2012) ‘On singularities and simulations’, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 19, 4285.Google Scholar
Domingo, P. (2015) The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machines will Remake Our World (Philadelphia PA: Perseus).Google Scholar
Feser, E. (2006) Philosophy of Mind (Oxford: Oneworld).Google Scholar
Feser, E. (2014) Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction (Neunkirchen-Seelscheid: Editiones Scholasticae).Google Scholar
Foster, J. (1991) The Immaterial Self (London: Routledge).Google Scholar
Irenaeus, St (1885) Against Heresies, Roberts, A. & Rambaut, W. (tr.), in Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol.1, Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Cleveland Coze, A. (eds) (Buffalo NY: Christian Literature Co.).Google Scholar
Goldberg, N. (2004) ‘Is Aristotle's philosophy of mind functionalist?’, Philosophical Writings, 26, 4765.Google Scholar
Johnson, D. (2011) ‘Natural evil and the simulation hypothesis’, Philo, 14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kardashev, N. S. (1964) ‘Transmission of information by extraterrestrial civilizations’, Soviet Astronomy, 8, 217221.Google Scholar
Lewis, C. S. (1944) The Problem of Pain (New York: Macmillan).Google Scholar
Lloyd, S. (2000) ‘Ultimate physical limits to computation’, Nature 406, 10471054, <>.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Madden, J. (2013) Mind, Matter and Nature: A Thomistic Proposal for the Philosophy of Mind (Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Maitzen, S. (2006) ‘Divine hiddenness and the demographics of theism’, Religious Studies, 42, 177191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Meixner, U. (2017) ‘Substance dualism’, in Nagasawa, Y. & Matheson, B. (eds) The Palgrave Book of the Afterlife (London: Palgrave), 277296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Merricks, T. (2001) ‘How to live forever without saving your soul: physicalism and immortality’, in Corcoran, K. (ed.) Soul, Body, and Survival: Essays on the Metaphysics of Human Persons, (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press), 183200.Google Scholar
Nussbaum, M. C. (1978) Aristotle's De Motu Animalium (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press).Google Scholar
Perrine, T. & Wykstra, S. J. (2017) ‘Skeptical theism’, in Meister, C. & Moser, P. K. (eds) The Cambridge Companion to the Problem of Evil (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 85107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Plantinga, A. (1974) God, Freedom and Evil (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans).Google Scholar
Plantinga, A. (2006) ‘Against materialism’, Faith and Philosophy, 23, 332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Plantinga, A. (2017) ‘Supralapsarianism, or “O Felix Culpa”’, in Peterson, M. L. (ed.) The Problem of Evil, 2nd edn (Notre Dame IN: University of Notre Dame University Press, 2017), 363389.Google Scholar
Putnam, H. (1975) ‘Philosophy and our mental life’, in Philosophical Papers, II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 291303.Google Scholar
Rudder Baker, L. (1995) ‘Need a Christian be a mind-body dualist?’, Faith and Philosophy, 12, 489504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rudder Baker, L. (2007) ‘Persons and the metaphysics of resurrection’, Religious Studies, 43, 333348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rudder Baker, L. (2011) ‘Christian materialism in a scientific age’, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 69, 112.Google Scholar
Schellenberg, J. L. (1993) Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press).Google Scholar
Steinhart, E. (2010) ‘Theological implications of the simulation argument’, Ars Disputandi, 10, 2337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tononi, G. (2008) ‘Consciousness as integrated information: a provisional manifesto’, Biological Bulletin, 2015, 216242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tooley, M. (2015) ‘The problem of evil’, <>..>Google Scholar
van Inwagen, P. (1995) ‘Dualism and materialism’, Faith and Philosophy, 12, 475488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Webb, S. (2015) If the Universe is Teeming with Aliens . . . Where is Everybody? Seventy-Five Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life (Dordrecht: Springer).Google Scholar
Wolfram, S. (1984) ‘Computer software in science and mathematics’, Scientific American, 254, 188203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wolfram, S. (2002) A New Kind of Science (Champaign IL: Wolfram Media).Google Scholar
Zimmerman, D. (2004) ‘Christians should affirm mind–body dualism’, in Peterson, M. & Van Arragon, R. (eds) Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion (Oxford: Blackwell), 315326.Google Scholar

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 25
Total number of PDF views: 118 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 10th July 2018 - 23rd January 2021. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Hostname: page-component-76cb886bbf-4qfsd Total loading time: 0.297 Render date: 2021-01-23T11:13:45.502Z Query parameters: { "hasAccess": "0", "openAccess": "0", "isLogged": "0", "lang": "en" } Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false }

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Natural evil: the simulation solution
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Natural evil: the simulation solution
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Natural evil: the simulation solution
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *