God's goodness in the face of natural evil

I am currently struggling with the concept of God’s goodness. I see so much natural evil or evolutionary or design flaws that could be corrected without sacrificing free will. How do I look at something like abortion and image Deo while I know that our current biology spontaneously aborts up to 50 % of all fetuses. I know that our redemption and final destination is in Christ but how do you address this.

(fyi, I love God, have a relationship with Him and have tasted and know His Goodness)

(edit, not up to 90 % but also not personally satisfied with level of research on miscarriage rates within second 0 of conception to 3 days)

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I think many share your struggles with this concept. It can be hard to see God as infinite and then wonder why he can’t do more to get rid or evil in the here and now. I think many take comfort in the thought that there is so much more in the world to come.

Just a question on your stat – are you suggesting that 90% of all pregnancies miscarry? If so, what’s your source for that?

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I share in your struggles as well. The paradox of evil has bothered me for quite some time now. Philosophically it just doesn’t make sense to me. Unfortunately, I have no answers for you but I wanted you to know that you aren’t alone.

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I think it may be roughly half that. This would be for all failures, post-fertilization.

That would be an implantation failure. I’m pretty sure most people would not consider that a miscarriage.

That sounds closer to what I’ve heard.

Not trying to derail the topic – that number just didn’t make sense.

I think the correct figure for spontaneous abortions is 20%. That’s the number cited by Francisco Ayala in his 2008 April 28 article in the New York Times, Roving Defender of Evolution, and of Room for God.

He’s written columns for BioLogos before.

There are only estimates for this, but that number is lower than every estimate I’ve seen. In this 2006 PNAS paper, the authors write “Fetal loss rates reported in humans range from 31% (37) to 89% (38) of all conceptions.” The two citations in that sentence are to papers from the 1980s. I don’t know whether there are newer estimates but I would be surprised if any are lower than 30%.

Note added after posting: Ayala is quoted in that NYT piece as saying that “at least 20 percent of pregnancies are known to end in spontaneous abortion.” Emphasis mine.

You’re right. In the online Intro to Genetics and Evolution course I took they mentioned these stats, but I don’t remember the exact percentage they gave. The researchers had been testing urine in women who were trying to get pregnant. What we can say for sure is that the rate of spontaneous abortion is pretty high.

ah, I understand now why people assumed that the rate I gave was “too high”, I just did not see the purpose of separating those two especially as we have very little understanding of actual failure causes to assume that (it doesn’t really make a difference in terms of the larger idea of natural evil)

Below is a recent analysis of the available data, and I would consider this the current state of the art in our knowledge of this topic. The author expresses strong doubt in any estimate over 70% loss, but places the reasonable estimate range at 40-60%. He is discussing mortality “between fertilsation and birth,” so this would include implantation failure which many of us (cf. @Christy) would not classify as “miscarriage” or even “abortion.”

I think this whole issue illustrates one of the theological/philosophical problems with conflating “life begins at conception” with the idea that a fertilized egg is a human being with a human soul. I agree life begins at conception, but I’m not at all sold on the idea that a fertilized egg is a human with a human soul and human rights. It’s a potential human. If you combine the contention that all fertilized eggs are ensouled humans and children who die before an age of accountability go to heaven, then heaven will be filled with mostly people who never had anything close to a human life, people who were never even conscious in any sense of the word. That seems pretty untenable to me. I am skeptical of the idea that at fertilization, cells are miraculously zapped with a soul. I think “soul” is a construct we use to describe the spiritual dimension of humanity, but we are holistic beings and I don’t think you can divorce it from our embodied existence/biology. How does something without a mind have a soul?

I guess I have never thought of eggs not implanting as a natural evil. I know people who have struggled with infertility, but the “evil” of the situation is more wrapped up in the disappointment and unfulfilled hopes and dreams of the adult humans involved, not in the fact that fertilized eggs are somehow mercilessly killed by fate or nature or whatever.

Death is part of healthy life. The fact that not all fertilized eggs implant was part of healthy human reproduction for millennia before artificial birth control. It kept women from becoming pregnant when they were undernourished or living in stressful conditions. It kept population sizes in a community sustainable. It’s all part of the abundance of nature. There is plenty of room for “failure.” If every acorn grew into a tree, we’d have problems.


There’s a model called the “cost of creation” (a term not of my coinage), which addresses this.

One could argue that Natural Evil makes more sense in a system where it is already presumed that God uses millions of years of the cycle of life and death to accomplish his aims.

In contrast, how do we rightly explain why we think Adam & Eve brought natural evil not only on themselves, but also on everything else (from human infants to adorable bambi-like fawns) that never did anything against Adam & Eve or even against God - - immediately followed up in Genesis and Exodus with:

  1. God personally (not indirectly the Earth or Nature) wiping out millions of creatures (innocent and not innocent) in a global or regional flood. There’s no Cost to Creation in this scenario.

and then followed up with

  1. sending out The Destroyer to kill all first born humans and animals of Egypt, using the same victim criteria as the fabled Moloch, for an equally suspect rationalization! If God had the Destroyer in his pocket for Exodus, he should have at least used something that precise in Genesis - - instead of the general mayhem that a flood creates. There’s no Cost to Creation there either.

In facdt, the Cost to/of Creation really doesn’t work very well in a Young Earth Creationist universe. In that kind of Universe, God’s miracles are complete, absolute and don’t seem to know any limitations of any kind. Perhaps Evolutionists do have a special competency to explain the mystery of Theodicy ?!