I haven’t written anything on Outlaw’s Mind this week so far, because what’s the point of that or anything else, after all? But this morning I got an idea in my head that I decided to write an IoZ post about, and so I did that in the time in which I usually would have written fiction. Here’s the first few paragraphs of it, followed by a link to the remainder of the post, in case you’re interested:
To really know you’ve created the best possible universe, you’d have to create them all
I was on my way into work this morning and started thinking about a curious question.
You may be aware of the area of theological inquiry called theodicy*. It deals with the “problem of evil”, though I’m sure that’s an oversimplification. In other words, it deals with the issue that, if God exists, and is infinitely powerful, and is omnibenevolent and omnipresent and omni-whatnot, then why is there evil?
We can leave aside arguments based on notions of free will and just desserts; bad things happen to “good” people in the world, whether through the actions of “evil” people or simply through the operations of the forces of nature. Think of childhood cancers and the like, and indeed, most childhood diseases prior to the modern era, as well as the fact that many children, through no fault of their own, are born to parents who are idiots (this probably describes all children, including mine).
One potential solution to the “problem of evil” is the notion that, despite appearances, the universe in which we live is the best possible one there can be. This idea is caricatured by Voltaire in the form of Dr. Pangloss, but it’s a serious point that is seriously made, and there is a certain logic to it. The notion is that, if things were changed, locally, to make some particular situation better, it would overall make more things worse, by whatever criteria you might happen to choose, and so every bad thing that happens, though it may not have any local good to it, is nevertheless necessary to minimize the evil, or maximize the good, of the universe, by whatever measure happens to be used by the one doing the parsing…presumably, God.
But how would such a God know what the best possible universe was? Such a being is assumed to have infinite intelligence**, as well as infinite power and awareness. We could, perhaps, describe it as a sort of “computer” that is infinite in all dimensions (perhaps an infinite number of them) and with limitless processing power, constrained only to the degree that it does not lead to paradoxes and contradictions, since we must assume—or I do, at least—that logic would apply even to an omnipotent being. Even God cannot actually make two plus two equal five without changing definitions, in which case it hasn’t actually been done.