Friday, August 3, 2012

Problem of Evil

The most often asked question by skeptics, or atheists as an argument against the existence of God is what is popularly known as the Problem of Evil.

The question is that If there is indeed a God who is omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent , meaning, one who is capable of everything, and one who knows everything, and ones intent is good, how can he allow the existence of evil, which we see all over the world every single day.

If we analyse what is Evil, we can simplify it as something that causes hurt. Anything that causes hurt is Evil. The scale can be as large as we see or hear in the news. Sometimes these are acts of nature, sometimes human errors, sometimes intentional, sometimes in error of judgement and so on. Whatever be the cause of these hurtful events, there is human suffering. A God cannot co-exist along with the presence of Evil. This appears a fair argument.

This has been addressed by philosophers and theosophists for a long time. They in general bring in the notion of Free will and Karma to create a consistent world.

Let us look for a simpler explanation. 

For this to become more clearer, we need to perform a 'thought experiment'. Let us assume a world, where Evil does not exist. No hurt to anybody. The omnipotent God lives happily in harmony without any complaint from the skeptics. Since none of us have experience of such a world, we do not easily understand how such a world would be. Since we assume that when there will be no Evil, it will be a very happy world.

In order to 'experience' anything, one has to know what the absence of it is, or an alternative of what it is. If one must have the experience of a pleasant weather, one must know or have experienced an unpleasant weather. Let us assume that we have perfect weather control over a large piece of land, and that the temperature, humidity etc are always in the so called comfort level, all the time. can we say we are experiencing a pleasant weather all the time? One might be tempted to answer yes. But the actual answer is that while we will not be uncomfortable, we will not have an 'experience' of pleasantness. Since we do  not have a reference against which to measure this experience, we would just miss it! Let the weather control breakdown for half an hour, and when its back on, people can be seen experiencing 'relief', they will certainly have an 'experience' of pleasant weather there!

This seemingly simple example, has a profound truth. It is impossible to create experiences in this world without differentiating. The eyes cannot perceive the world if there was just one color! when the only color is blue, then we don't even call it blue! We will not even have a concept of color in such as case! It is the presence of multitudes of colors that makes this world a rich place!

Same with the case of a computer scientist who knows very well that it is impossible to create a meaningful  piece of information with just one symbol say '1'. We need a minimum of two symbols to create meaning! hence the binary 0 and 1. That is the least needed. else everything is a meaningless monolithic blob! So it is with any system. so it is with the world and so it is with life. Since Evil is the other side of Good, life is an inescapable combination of these.

Even the most chilling of the Evils, are of the same nature. The need for a more complex texture in life in order to create that element of differentiation results in more complex Evils. A small 8-bit word can already have 256 variations, imagine the possibility of 64-bit or a 128-bit or a much larger word. Who could tell that all the chocking emotional scenes that are evoked when father  meets son in Finding Nemo are all nothing but zeroes and ones! that's what a few billion bits of 1 and 0 can do! and at times things get 'ugly'.

This of course requires much deeper contemplation, since we in general do not approve hurt and hence do not approve Evil. Once it becomes clear that Evil is inevitable ,not as in a 'hopeless' sense, but just as in the impossibility of experiencing a world without it, God being omnipotent and omniscient and the Existence of Evil do not pose a logical inconsistency.

One may wonder then what is the need of such a world and the place for a God in such a world. You may want to ponder that for a while. That we will address another day!

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