The parent analogy: a reassessment

Jonathan Rutledge

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According to the parent analogy, as a caretaker’s goodness, ability and intelligence increase, the likelihood that the caretaker will make arrangements for the attainment of future goods that are unnoticed or underappreciated by their dependents also increases. Consequently, if this analogy accurately represents our relationship to God, then we should expect to find many instances of inscrutable evil in the world. This argument in support of skeptical theism has recently been criticized by Dougherty. I argue that Dougherty’s argument is incomplete, for there are two plausible ways of construing the parent analogy’s conclusion. I supplement Dougherty’s case by offering a new argument against the parent analogy based on failed expectations concerning the amount of inscrutable evils encountered in the world. Consequently, there remains a significant empirical hurdle for skeptical theism to overcome if it is to maintain its status as a defeater for our reliability when tracking gratuitous evils.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-14
JournalInternational Journal for Philosophy of Religion
Issue number1
Early online date4 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


  • Skeptical theism
  • Parent analogy
  • Evil
  • Dougherty
  • Wykstra


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