Short Story: Solving Theodicy for good

Why does God permit the manifestation of evil?

I think it’s probably for the same reason that there are small, well-known bugs in every sufficiently large piece of software: The pain that would be caused by trying to fix the bug would outweigh the potential benefits. See, God is a pretty intelligent fellow. He figured out soon enough that to maximise total happiness on planet Earth, the organisms experiencing that pleasure had to be pretty small. For there had to be many of them and space is limited. So he came up with the smallest possible design that would always experience pure bliss: The unicellular organism.

The first launch was pretty successful: Soon all of the oceans were full of those happy, little critters.

So why not stop there? Why bother to create humans? If you are a programmer you might suspect that almightiness alone might not suffice to protect you from unintended side effects. Like your microorganisms conspiring: Growing together to form angsty teenagers. But no. It was all part of God’s grand plan. The rules of physics were unalterable, so it was inevitable that the microorganisms would someday die, their organic materials sinking to the bottom of the oceans, soon to be made completely inaccessible by new sediment layers. A total waste of resources. 

This is where things had to get more complicated. The microorganisms bootstrapped into complex lifeforms, which ultimately ended up building big planes and cars. Those means of transportation required huge amounts of fossil fuel, which had to be extracted from deep under the earth. After combustion, CO2 was emitted into the air, where a whole army of blades of grass was waiting to convert it back into organic matter. Then, dying a heroic death, decaying and becoming breeding ground for a whole new batch of microorganisms.

It was a very elegant solution, requiring only a few thousand lines of genetic code. Of course, the introduction of more complicated nervous systems resulted in a huge amount of suffering. But you also had to consider that every human was inhabited and consisted of trillions of cells, which was after all a big win in net happiness. And after they had done their job of freeing up all of the CO2 and warming up the climate, they would self-destruct anyway. 

So if you take a look at the big picture, negative qualia are only a minuscule fraction of total qualia. A barely discernible rounding error. It would be really unfair to blame God for any of this.


This short story was inspired by watching this podcast having Joscha Bach as a guest.

I’m currently in the process of writing a novella, so if you enjoy this kind of nerdy thought experiments, then consider subscribing to this blog or following me on Twitter.

And yes, if I ever establish a religious cult, then Jede Zelle meines Körpers ist glücklich will be its anthem.

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