Is the Problem of Evil Made Worse by the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics?

Emily-Qureshi Hurst
Tuesday 11 January 2022
  1. Introduction
  2. Fields of Study
  3. Discussion
  4. Conclusion

1. Introduction

The weird and wonderful quantum world has captured the imagination of physicists, philosophers, and the public alike. Engagement with the key ideas of Quantum Mechanics (henceforth QM) has generated much scholarship in both metaphysics and ‘science and religion’. The Copenhagen interpretation, however, has dominated this discourse, for the unsurprising reason that it tends to be the version of QM presented in physics textbooks. Yet the Copenhagen interpretation is but one of many interpretations, each of which makes radically different ontological claims (Schlosshauer, Kofler and Zeilinger 2013). In fact, recently, many philosophers and physicists have urged that we abandon the Copenhagen way of doing things. Leading philosopher of physics, Tim Maudlin, argues that the Copenhagen interpretation is not actually a physical theory at all, as it contains neither a clearly defined ontology nor an unambiguously formulated dynamical description of how that ontology evolves. Instead, it just tells physicists to ‘shut up and calculate.’ Thus, Maudlin dismisses Copenhagen as a vague recipe whose reputation in the fields of philosophy of physics and quantum foundations is dwindling (Maudlin 2019, xi). Fortunately, several robust and viable alternatives exist. One such alternative has been rising in prominence in recent years: the Everett interpretation, named after the physicist Hugh Everett III (also called the Many Worlds Interpretation (henceforth MWI)).

In brief, Everettian QM states that there is a universal wavefunction, and when objects represented by the wavefunction become entangled with the environment, leading to decoherence, the wavefunction branches into multiple worlds (Carroll 2021, 119). David Wallace, philosopher of physics and passionate proponent of MWI, argues that the Everett interpretation is profoundly appealing on the basis of its simplicity. It is unitary QM; it straightforwardly takes the Schrödinger equation as modelling the universe; it solves the measurement problem without positing any additional structure, variables, or collapse mechanisms. Proponents claim that when one accepts that the quantum equations, taken at face value, provide an accurate description of reality, a multiplicity of worlds follows. Moreover, these many worlds are inhabited by many versions of us with whom we share a past and not a future. In this theological puzzle I argue that this fascinating, radical, and almost unbelievable possibility is worth taking very seriously. I also argue that taking it seriously means facing the age-old problem for classical theism posed by evil and suffering. The question this puzzle asks is this: is the Everettian picture a uni/multiverse we should expect an all-loving God to create?

2. Fields of Study

2.1 The Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics

2.1.1 Many Worlds Explained

Twentieth century physics underwent a paradigm shift following the introduction of Einstein’s Relativity Theories and Quantum Mechanics. Whilst the interpretation of relativity was a rather uncontroversial affair,[1] the same cannot be said for QM. QM is first and foremost a formal system of mathematics; this formalism has many interpretations, between which we are presently unable to choose given our current technical capabilities. The various candidate interpretations of QM paint wildly different pictures of reality, and this myriad of metaphysics led to an impassioned and lengthy debate between two of the greatest physicists of the day – Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr – as to the correct philosophical interpretation of QM.

Bohr advocated the Copenhagen interpretation which maintained that there is a fundamental, ontological indeterminacy in the physical structure of the universe and the laws that govern it. Einstein, however, refused to accept this conclusion, firmly believing that ‘God does not play dice’, and seeking a more fundamental deterministic explanation for quantum phenomena. At the fifth Solvay conference of 1927, during which Einstein proposed his two slit thought experiment, an exchange of thought experiments was set in motion. (Carroll 2021, 28). This game of quantum chess, in which Einstein devised ever more ingenious thought experiments to unearth inconsistency in quantum theory and to which Bohr responded, continued until their deaths. Though the debate in the twentieth century was dominated by the Copenhagen interpretation’s indeterministic collapse approach and Einstein’s insistence on a so-called “hidden variable” theory which would restore determinism in physics, a third option was introduced by Hugh Everett III.[2] This third option, however, would have to wait some time for its day in the sun.

The Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, initially called “the Relative State Formulation” was advanced by Hugh Everett III in his doctoral dissertation written at Princeton in the 1950s (Everett 1957). By 1973, Bryce DeWitt and Neill Graham had introduced the terminology “many worlds” and compiled an edited volume containing Everett’s full PhD dissertation and several other shorter articles defending the position (DeWitt & Graham 1973).[3] Everett’s theory, in a nutshell, is this: there is a wavefunction of the universe, and this wavefunction obeys the Schrödinger equation. Rather than a measurement event collapsing the wavefunction, forcing the quantum object into a particular state (i.e. position), each outcome in the possible range of outcomes obtains (Albert and Loewer 1988, 197). They obtain, however, in different parts of the wavefunction that undergo a split and cease to interact with each other.[4] These are the many worlds

Wallace identifies two key features of MWI: first, it postulates that the universe is accurately represented by a unitary evolving quantum state; second, it claims that a realist interpretation leads to “a multiplicity of approximately classical, approximately non-interacting regions which look very much like the ‘classical world’” (Wallace 2012, 38). Whilst MWI may prima facie appear to profoundly violate Occam’s razor (namely the simplest solution, all other things being equal, is the most likely), Wallace remarks that MWI actually:

Takes an extremely conservative approach to quantum mechanics. It supposes—as was first proposed by Hugh Everett, fifty years ago—that neither the mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics nor the standard conception of science is in any need at all of modification. Rather: the unmodified quantum theory can be taken as representing the structure of the world just as surely as any other theory of physics. In other words, quantum mechanics can be taken literally. The only catch is that, when we do take it literally, the world turns out to be rather larger than we had anticipated: indeed, it turns out that our classical ‘world’ is only a small part of a much larger reality. (Wallace 2012, 13).

Wallace’s point can be unpacked using the well-known thought experiment “Schrödinger’s cat”, which proceeds in the following way: one imagines a cat locked in a box with a vial of poison that breaks if a radioactive particle decays. The probability of decay in the given timeframe is set at 0.5. Before one opens the box, i.e. measures the outcome of the experiment, textbook QM holds that the particle is in a superposed state of both decayed and not decayed, leading to the paradoxical conclusion that the vial of poison is broken and unbroken and the cat is both alive and dead.

This conclusion follows from the claim that until a measurement event takes place, quantum objects exist in superpositions. According to some interpretations of QM, it is the very act of measurement that collapses the superposition, causing the particle to become either decayed or not decayed, and therefore the cat to be either alive or dead. Schrödinger devised the thought experiment to illustrate the absurdity of applying quantum rules to macroscopic objects, and the problem has become one of QM’s most famous. The Everettian interpretation solves this problem by claiming that the case does not in fact involve a superposed alive-dead cat; rather, it involves a superposition of worlds, some of which contain alive cats and some of which contain dead cats.

In other words, each possible outcome (i.e. decayed/not decayed; dead/alive) actually happens. However, the various outcomes occupy distinct ‘worlds’ which are unable to interact with each other. Whichever state of affairs we observe when we open the box indicates which world we are in, but the other worlds are equally real. As the worlds cannot interact, for those who dwell in these worlds it is as though they do not exist. As Everett explains, “from the viewpoint of the theory all elements of a superposition (all ‘branches’) are ‘actual,’ none any more ‘real’ than the rest … [the] total lack of effect of one branch on another also implies that no observer will ever be aware of any ‘splitting’ process” (Everett 1957, 459; c.f. Bryce 2010, 534). Therefore, though we cannot experience it, each time a quantum system in a superposition becomes entangled with the outside world, new worlds are born.[5]

2.1.2 The Metaphysics of Many Worlds

The metaphysical implications of MWI are undoubtedly extensive, although there remains much disagreement about precisely what they are. Regrettably, a single theological puzzle is unequipped to delve into the nuances of this debate in great depth. As such, we need only note several things that likely follow from the theory, whilst remaining cognizant of the fact that these are highly complicated and contested questions. Nevertheless, what is said here about MWI stands on firm ground, as the following Wallace quotation demonstrates:

Everettian quantum mechanics really is both a many-worlds and a many-minds theory, in the sense that it entails that there are a great many versions of myself, living in surroundings much like my own and interacting with other versions of your self, elsewhere in physical reality. The other worlds, and their inhabitants, are not abstracta, or fictions, or mere unrealized possibilities: if Everettian quantum mechanics is true, they are as real as I, you, and our mutual surroundings. (Wallace 2012, 3).

Debates about the ontological status of these worlds rage on. It seems as though Everett himself thought them real, and that they come into existence when the wavefunction splits or branches. It is this version of MWI that has the most profound consequences for the human condition. As such, it is the most philosophically and theologically fertile. This theological puzzle intends to contend with this, the radical version of MWI, as it is this version that raises the most interesting puzzles. The remainder of the paper proceeds on the working assumption that the many worlds of Everettian QM are as real as our own world, their inhabitants just as real as us, and that they come into existence when the universal wavefunction branches.[6] We now move to the second piece of our theological puzzle.

2.2 The Problem of Evil

The problem of evil is the oldest and most frequently cited argument against the existence of God, and for this reason entire libraries could be filled with literature written on the issue. One might be forgiven for thinking that nothing new can be said about this age-old problem. However, I argue that in the context of Everettian QM this problem is raised in new and interesting ways.

In extremely broad-brush strokes, the problem of, or argument from, evil holds that evil and suffering presents a significant challenge to the existence of the God of classical theism insofar as that God is held to be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good. Evil (and the suffering it causes) tends to be delineated into natural evils that occur as a result of natural processes, e.g. earthquakes, and moral evils that occur as a direct result of human agency, e.g. murder. The argument comes in various forms, most commonly divided in accordance with whether the argument is deductive or inductive. In the former case, if the premises are true then the conclusion must be true. In the latter case, the truth of the premises increases the likelihood of (or increases the evidential basis of) the conclusion. These two tend to be referred to as the logical and evidential problems of evil respectively. The logical problem holds that any instance of suffering is logically incompatible with the existence of God. The argument runs as follows:

              P1. God is omniscient.

              P2. God is omnipotent.

              P3. God is perfectly good.

              P4. An omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly good being has knowledge of all instances of                           evil, the power to stop evil, and the desire to stop evil.

              C1. If God exists, God will stop evil. (From P1, P2, P3, and P4).

              P5. Evil exists.

              C2. God does not exist. (From C1 and P5).

According to this deductive argument, a single instance of evil renders the existence of a God with the properties of omniscience, omnipotence, and perfect goodness, impossible (Mackie 1955, 200).

To refute such an argument, one must deny at least one of its premises. One such attempt is Alvin Plantinga’s Free Will Defence (Plantinga 1975). On this view, evil is the result of humanity’s free will, itself something of tremendous value. Freedom, for Plantinga, requires that the individual has a genuine choice between all the possible options available to them, including the option to make morally bad decisions and perform evil actions. In arguing for this, Plantinga advocates the so-called Transworld Depravity Thesis which holds that there is no possible world in which all perfectly free beings always make morally good choices. In order for freedom to be genuine, there will always be some people who choose evil in some instances.

Evil, therefore, is a necessary consequence of libertarian freedom, meaning God could not create a world in which human beings are free and evil does not exist. At most, God is indirectly responsible by virtue of allowing evil, but this responsibility is outweighed by the good that freedom bestows on the human beings who are able to exercise it. This is an attempt to refute P4 by claiming that an omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly good being has good reasons for allowing evil, namely, to provide humanity with libertarian freedom. Nevertheless, the viability of this response is much disputed, particularly over whether it actually is logically impossible for free beings to always choose good and whether the problem of natural evil is sufficiently resolved. An alternative approach that avoids this discussion altogether is to reject P4 from another angle.

This more general response to the logical problem of evil cites the possibility that God has good (but unknown) reasons for allowing evil to occur. It is best illustrated with an example. One can easily imagine a situation in which a seriously ill child suffers greatly after enduring an invasive operation. That child may wonder why their usually loving and protective parent allowed them to endure so much pain, confusion, and fear. The child’s focus is on the suffering it experienced, but the loving parent knows that the suffering was a necessary means to a far greater good: the child’s life being saved. That the child is unable to understand the parent’s reason does not entail the absence of a reason. Opponents of the logical problem of evil make an analogous case with regard to God which is comprised of one or both of the following claims. First, they claim that some evils are such that their occurrence is logically necessary to allow the occurrence of goods that outweigh them (Plantinga’s defence is one such example). Second, they claim that some apparent evils serve a far greater purpose to which humans are blind.

This position, sometimes called Sceptical Theism, raises the sceptical possibility that human beings do not (or cannot) have epistemic access to God’s reasons for allowing evil. We are too intellectually and spiritually inferior to ever understand divine motivations, so the argument goes, but the theist may trust that the goodness of God will override even the worst possible evils in the end (Adams and Sutherland 1989, 305). All one needs to do to disarm the logical formulation of the problem of evil is to point this out. Sceptical Theism shows that P4 is false, as it states that there might be reasons why an omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly loving God would allow evil. By virtue of the argument’s deductive form, defeat of a single premise is sufficient to bring the entire argument crashing down. Without P4, the argument collapses; neither C1 nor C2 follow. So, Sceptical Theism is sufficient to undermine the logical problem of evil.

Nevertheless, the evidential argument remains a credible alternative. It uses some, or all, of the following claims: 1) particular instances of evil and suffering, 2) particular distributions of it, or 3) the sheer amount of it, as evidence in favour of the atheistic position. With regard to 1), philosopher of religion William Rowe gives the striking example of a baby deer trapped in a forest fire that lays in agony for days before succumbing to death. The deer’s suffering seems to serve no greater purpose; it is a classic example of the intense, ubiquitous, and banal suffering in nature (Rowe 1979, 337). As the theist maintains that the natural world was created by God, suffering in nature is often used as evidence against a perfectly good creator (Swinburne 1978; Peterson 1998; Sollereder 2019, 1-5). Moreover, one might argue along line 2) that many innocent individuals suffer through debilitating diseases through no fault of their own whilst others sail through life with the ease of perfect health. This can be used as evidence that God is either callous or absent. Finally, with regard to 3), one might simply state that the world contains so much suffering that any positive evidence for God is dwarfed by comparison. Examples of this include genocide, child abuse, nuclear and chemical weapons, natural disasters, etc. Though the logical problem of evil is easily defused, the evidential problem continues to raise serious concerns for the viability of theism. In the final sections, I will argue that MWI exacerbates these concerns.

3. Discussion

The Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics raises many metaphysical and moral questions that are yet to receive sufficient consideration in the literature. In the following, I assess precisely why the radical reading of this interpretation of QM exacerbates the evidential problem of evil, and claim that this problem calls theologians to provide a solution that transcends the boundaries of traditional theodicies.

3.1 Horrendous Evil as Maximal Suffering

In their paper Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God, Marilyn McCord Adams and Stuart Sutherland offer insights that help to illuminate exactly how MWI exacerbates the problem of evil. Adams and Sutherland identify a particular class of evils, namely horrendous evils, whose existence raises the most significant objections to the existence of the God of classical theism. Horrendous evils are:

Evils the participation in (the doing or suffering of) which gives one reason prima facie to doubt whether one’s life could (given their inclusion in it) be a great good to one on the whole. Such reasonable doubt arises because it is so difficult humanly to conceive how such evils could be overcome. (Adams and Sutherland 1989, 299).

Adams and Sutherland suggest several examples of horrendous evils, including: the rape of a woman and axing off her arms, child pornography, slow death by starvation, and participating in concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Many solutions have been suggested that mitigate the might of the argument from evil.[7] Adams and Sutherland argue, however, that these standard theodicies fail in the face of horrendous evils as they tend to be both generic and global answers to deeply individual problems. A theist may receive comfort from the abstract idea that evil is not God’s fault as it is a result of human freedom, or that evil allows individuals to develop spiritual maturity, or, on balance, there is far more good than evil. This is unlikely, however, to soothe the pain of a mother whose child has been abducted, abused, and murdered by a violent paedophile, or the survivor of prolonged and brutal torture.

Adams and Sutherland argue that the reason traditional theodicies fail is because they do not distinguish between two equally important descriptions of God. On the one hand, God is described as a provider of global goods. On the other hand, however, God is understood as a loving father who cares deeply about each and every person. (Adams and Sutherland 1989, 302). Generic, global solutions that paint a broad-brush picture of God as a being who creates a world which, on balance, contains more good than evil fail to comfort those who experience such deep suffering their life is not, to them, worth living. Despite the fact that the free will defence is often used as an explanation for moral evil, it would be cruel beyond measure to try to reassure a survivor of child sexual abuse that their suffering was a worthy price to pay for the free will of their abuser. Global solutions do not always work for individual problems; those individuals need a solution grounded in the latter description of God as a loving father who cares about them individually and intimately. But how does this apply to MWI?

Contained within the foundational structure of the Everettian picture is the claim that there are multiple versions of me, each of whom share my past but whose futures deviate from mine at the time of branching. Some individuals will have split from our shared past at very early stages of development, whilst some will have split in the very recent past. This creates a set of individuals who vary from ‘me’ in various ways, some of whom diverge so distinctly that we will have developed very different personalities and grown to make very different choices. Taking these individuals as the set of all versions of me, it must be the case that there is at least one version of me who is living the worst possible version of my life allowed by both the initial conditions and the evolution of the universe according to the Schrödinger equation. This may well, in fact probably will, include participating in horrendous evils. If Adams and Sutherland are right, and I believe that they are, then these versions of me are suffering so greatly that they feel their life no longer has positive value. Could it be that God would choose such a state of affairs? What kind of creator would weave such suffering into the very design of the universe?

An optimistic theologian may wish to turn this problem on its head. They might acknowledge that whilst there is countless more suffering in MWI, there is a correspondingly greater amount of good. For every suffering version of me, there is at least one version living the best version of my life, and countless more living good ones. On balance, then, the distribution of goods and evils is not so different to the world described by non-Everettian physics, and the problem of evil is no greater post-Everett than it was before.

I reject such a response, and my reason for doing so hinges on Adams and Sutherland’s distinction between God as a provider of global goods and a lover of individual persons. Joy and suffering are not morally equal. If forced to choose between curtailing the joy, pleasure, or happiness of one person to stop some other person suffering, our moral intuitions tell us that stopping suffering must always take precedence. As such, whatever benefits befall some versions of me are vastly outweighed by the price other versions have to pay. As a provider of global goods, one might see how a God could choose a design that vastly increases the number of persons who are able to enjoy virtuous, joyful, and fulfilling lives. Yet as a father who loves each individual creature, it seems inconceivable that God would create a reality in which at least one version of every single person is living the worst iteration of their life possible. Suffering, I argue, is grossly engorged in the Everettian picture.[8] Any argument regarding a global distribution of goods and evils ignores the plight of those individual persons who suffer most greatly, recognising only one aspect of the divine nature. The suffering of each individual should be something worth avoiding, not the necessary price to be paid for happiness or goodness offered to others. In the oft-referenced words of Ivan Karamazov, a world that allows an innocent child to suffer greatly in order that some other good is obtained is a world that we should not want to live in.[9] MWI, therefore, seems incompatible with a loving God who cares for each individual and every sparrow that falls (Matthew 10:29).

3.2 The Problem of Evil as a Cosmological Problem

I argue that MWI raises the aforementioned evidential problem of evil in a new and enlarged way. The evidential problem of evil is importantly distinct from the logical problem which rather flat-footedly claims that any evil whatsoever is incompatible with the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent, all-loving God. Instead, as Rowe puts it, arguments against the existence of God on the basis of evil are required to demonstrate not just that evil exists, but that gratuitous evil exists. Essentially, atheism is likely true if “there exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse” (Rowe 1979, 336). Such evil is good evidence against the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good Creator God.

I argue here that MWI does contain gratuitous intense suffering. It seems reasonable to claim that there are other possible worlds that an omnipotent God could have created which do not involve a multiplicity of branching events and the multiplication of individuals (perhaps ad infinitum). At the very least, the existence of the many other interpretations of QM (and, surely, the possibility of many alternative physical theories aside from QM that God could have constructed) give good reason to suppose God was not restricted to only one physical blueprint for creation. In choosing MWI, God constructed a universe in which countless versions of me exist; many of whom are necessarily suffering greatly. Presumably, an omnipotent God could have created an entirely different set of physical laws to avoid this problem altogether.

Following the nomenclature of Robert Russell, this line of argument concerns “cosmic theodicies”, namely arguments from, and responses to, evil that concern the laws and cosmological structure of the universe. Russell argues that those who deny divine responsibility for evils that follow directly from physical laws elevate the problem of evil to one of cosmology (Russell 2007, 124-125). According to Russell, this response cuts no ice for those who claim that God is truly omnipotent. God, as an omnipotent creator, must have had radically free choice over the fundamentals of nature (including the laws of quantum physics). Thus, an omnipotent God could have created another type of universe altogether, in which the cruelties of our own universe would have been avoided.

Cosmic theodicies do not actually solve any problems. Instead, they push those problems back one step. Though God may not be directly responsible for individual instances of suffering, God is indirectly responsible insofar as God created the features of the universe which cause that suffering. God could abdicate responsibility for the suffering of those specific persons who suffer most greatly as their suffering is due, in part, to the branching wave function and not divine intervention. Nevertheless, God does bear indirect responsibility for instantiating a set of physical laws that renders the suffering of some versions of each of us, though it is initially arbitrary which ones, inevitable. If any theist contests this, concluding instead that MWI is the best of all possible worlds (following Leibniz), or that this universe contains necessary disvalues that allow the positive characteristics to emerge (following Christopher Southgate) then the burden of proof is theirs (Murray and Greenberg 2013; Southgate 2008). This is especially so in an Everettian context, as MWI has received extremely little theological engagement up until this point. The central question of this puzzle remains: why would a loving God choose to instantiate Everett-type quantum laws that radically increase the number of suffering individuals, and make it inevitable that at least one version of each of us is living the worst possible iteration of their life?

4. Conclusion

In the preceding paragraphs I have briefly sketched out why MWI presents a serious problem for theism, namely that there will be many versions of each of us maximally suffering, and that this suffering is imprinted onto the very design of the universe. As such, the inevitable evil and suffering experienced by persons in the Everettian multiverse is the responsibility of any God who ordained things to be this way. In my view, this theological puzzle does not yet have a resolution. I hope theologians will be called to respond to this iteration of the problem of evil which, I have argued, is greatly exacerbated by MWI.


Adams, Marilyn McCord, and Sutherland, Stewart. 1989. Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes, 63: 297-323.

Albert, David, and Loewer, Barry. 1988. “Interpreting the Many Worlds Interpretation.” Synthese 77: 195-213.

Byrne, Pete. 2010. “Everett and Wheeler: the Untold Story” in Many Worlds? [electronic Resource]: Everett, Quantum Theory, and Reality, edited by Simon Saunders, Oxford: Oxford University Press. 521-541

Carroll, Sean. 2021. Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime. London: Oneworld Publications.

Craig, William Lane. 2008. “The Metaphysics of Special Relativity: three views.” In Einstein, Relativity, and Absolute Simultaneity, edited by William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith, 11-49. London; New York: Routledge.

DeWitt, Bryce. And Graham, Neil. 1973. The Many‐Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Everett III, Hugh. 1957. “’Relative state’ formulation of quantum mechanics.” Reviews of Modern Physics 29: 454–462.

Hick, John. 2010. Evil and the God of Love. New Ed. / Foreword by Marilyn McCord Adams. ed. Ebook Central. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Lewis, David K. 1986. On the Plurality of Worlds. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Mackie, John. L. 1955. “Evil and Omnipotence.” Mind, 64: 200-212.

Maudlin, Tim. 2019. Philosophy of Physics: Quantum Theory. Princeton, NJ: Oxford: Princeton University Press.

Peterson, Michael. 1998. God and Evil: An Introduction to the Issues (1st ed.). Routledge.

Plantinga, Alvin. 1974. The Nature of Necessity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Plantinga, Alvin. 1975. God, Freedom and Evil. London: Allen & Unwin.

Rowe, William. 1979. “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism.” American Philosophical Quarterly. 16: 335-341

Schlosshauer, Maximillian., Kofler, Johannes., and Zeilinger, Anton. 2013. “A Snapshot of Foundational Attitudes toward Quantum Mechanics.” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 44: 220-230.

Sollereder, Bethany. 2021. “Compassionate Theodicy: a suggested truce between intellectual and practical theodicy.” Modern Theology 37:382-395.

Southgate, Christopher. 2008. The Groaning of Creation. Louisville, London: Westminster John Knox Press.

Swinburne, Richard. 1978. “Natural evil.” American Philosophical Quarterly 15: 295-301.

Swinburne, Richard. 1998. Providence and the Problem of Evil. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Wallace, David. 2012. The Emergent Multiverse [electronic Resource]: Quantum Theory According to the Everett Interpretation. Oxford Scholarship Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


[1] With the notable contemporary exception of neo-Lorentzian Special Relativity advanced by William Lane Craig and others (Craig 2008).

[2] There are many more options that these, but collapse theories, hidden variable theories, and MWI are the three most serious candidates at the present time.

[3] For a more detailed history of MWI, see (Byrne 2010).

[4] A lively debate exists on whether or not the wavefunction splits / branches, or whether all the worlds already exist and are superposed with each other. The nuances of these debates are not within the scope of this theological puzzle. It is reasonable for our present purposes to take Everettian QM as containing branching. The interested reader could turn to (Saunders 2010) for further reading on these issues.

[5] There is much to say about these worlds – indeed, entire books have been written on the subject. Regrettably, further detail is outside the scope of this paper, although the interested reader could turn to the edited volume (Saunders 2010) for many excellent essays on the subject.

[6] For a critique of this position, which the authors call the Splitting World Version, see (Albert and Loewer 1988, 198-203).

[7] Bethany Sollereder helpfully divides leading theodicies into instrumentalist and individual approaches. The former claim that evil is redeemable as it is part of some greater good, and is exemplified in the writings of Richard Swinburne, Alvin Plantinga, and John Hick. (Swinburne 1998) (Plantinga 1974) (Hick 2010). The latter claim that individuals who suffer must find their own compensation, perhaps through union with the goodness of God. Such a view can be found in Marilyn McCord Adams and Christopher Southgate. (Adams and Sutherland 1989) (Southgate 2008). (Sollereder 2021, 383).

[8] When the Many Worlds Interpretation is understood in the realist, radical, splitting sense.

[9] Ivan’s speech in Book V, Chapter IV of The Brothers Karamazov.

Cite this article

Qureshi-Hurst, Emily. 2022. “Is the Problem of Evil Made Worse by the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics?” Theological Puzzles (Issue 5).

Reply to this Theological Puzzle

Disagree with the conclusions of this puzzle? Did the Author miss something? We encourage readers to reply via a ‘Note’ of up to 2000 words. Notes do not need to follow the puzzle structure. See Contribute for more information. An honorarium may be payable.

Contact the author

Emily Qureshi-Hurst
Email: [email protected]