Friday, July 06, 2007

Sometimes, neither science nor religion has the answer

In the debates of Creationism and/or Intelligent Design Vs. Evolution, those favoring creation love to find anomalies around the edges of evolution to use as a wedge, to pick it apart- Hell, even though I believe in Evolution as to our physical bodies, I’ve done some of that picking myself . And, of course, those that favor Evolution can easily do the same thing. But sometimes a given anomaly cannot be used by either side; it is a two-edged sword. I’ve been contemplating the question of pain- and cannot find an answer in either philosophy.

Religion cannot answer why we feel pain from disease and internal problems that are not related to behavior- cancer and the like. Some try to say that it’s a punishment, but that won’t wash; as the song says, “everybody hurts, sometimes”, and everybody dies- if it were a punishment, it would imply that nobody is ever saved. Some say it’s a test- but if God knows all, why does he need to test our reactions to cancer? And even if there were some value in revealing our reaction, how does that explain the suffering of animals who cannot by nature sin? In the end, all religions have to fall back to “It’s a mystery.”

But science is no better at explaining such pain. Yes, there is considerable evolutionary advantage to pain from external sources- “Once bitten, twice shy”, but what conceivable evolutionary advantage is there to pain from ailments that are not behaviorally related? Sometimes even a relatively minor internal ailment can cause debilitating pain that renders one non-functional; that’s actually contra-survival. Other diseases that will eventually be terminal, but would allow months or years of useful parenting or reproduction have those years cut short by debilitating pain- again, that’s contra-survival. Even non-fatal ailments can have pain that is inexplicable by evolution, because we heal much faster when carrying out our normal activities, rather than staying bed ridden- and the pain can prevent that from happening... again, a survival disadvantage. Evolution has given us bodies with little or no nerve endings in various places- try pinching the point of your elbow, for example- why was it necessary for us to feel such agony over internal diseases we have no control over?

Doctors, Priests, Philosophers, in three part harmony: “It’s a mystery.”


Chalicechick said...

Perhaps people who are susceptible to illness become to sick to breed?


David said...


Sorry you've been in such pain.

Glad you feel well enough to post.

Even more glad that you've taken your pain and used it as fodder for some philosophy and some speculation.

Keep posting.

Will said...

At the risk of sounding like a cold-hearted bastard, the answer in my mind to the question, "how could a loving God allow such pain and suffering?" has for a long time been that we'll never know. Never know for sure.

So why ask that particular question? It is what it is. That doesn't make it any easier. But wrestling with the question "why?" in our hearts and minds--when there really is no answer to be sure--adds mental suffering onto the physical.

I do hope you feel better--


Joel Monka said...

>CC yes, susceptability to disease would be contra-survival, but what I was pondering was not how easy or hard such diseases are to get, but how much they hurt once gotten. Additionally, although there are always tragic cases of childhood cancer, etc., generally the types of things I was thinking of arrive later in life, after you've done your reproductive duty.

>David, Will, thanks for your kind thoughts and words. As to why ponder such things, well, it's just what I do. Like writing, it's just something I do, and cannot help- even when very sick I still pondered and wrote. What I wrote sucked, but I had to do it anyway. I get spiritually constipated if I don't.

DJD said...

Nature isn't perfect. Maybe pain is supposed to let you know that you're still alive.