Thursday, August 29, 2019

Risk and reality

The problem of natural evil is a perennial issue in theodicy. There are stock responses. I think some of them are good. But I'd like to approach it from a different angle. 

A fringe benefit of living in a physically dangerous world is that it forces you to take reality seriously. A hazardous environment weeds out inattentive people. 

When life becomes too safe, when people lose their sense of danger because they're used to having buffers that protect them from harm, it's easy to lose touch with reality. It's easy to indulge in make-believe and wishful thinking when you don't have the electric shock of reality to jolt you out of your beautiful delusions and playacting. Take a few examples in our own time and place:

Into the Wild. The movie about a young idealist who imagines it would be a swell idea to spend a winter in the Alaska outback. He goes there unprepared and dies.

• Egotists who die in accidents by taking selfies in dangerous settings. Precariously preached on a cliff or mountain peak. Or with a rhino, grizzly bear, bison, or bull moose in the background–as if wild animals are stuffed animals.

• Progressives who insist that "transwomen" have a right to access shelters for battered women and rape victims.

• Adults who imagine they are animals. And they demand that everyone accommodate their fantasy.

• The antivaxxer movement

• Open border polices that admit people into the country who haven't been screed for infectious diseases.

• Replacing solid waste disposal with composting leftover food, which is a magnet for rats, which, in turn, invites an outbreak of bubonic plague.

• Hikers who only take a cellphone with them. They don't have extra water or overnight gear. If they get into trouble, they assume they can always call for help and somebody in a chopper will rescue them. 

• Hikers who venture into bear country without a high-powered rifle.

• Private pet collectors with dangerous exotic animals that sometimes kill them.

• Immigration policies that induct Muslims into the country, thereby introducing domestic terrorism, honor killings, a gang-rape culture &c. into the host country. 

• People who get too close to dangerous animals in zoos and animal parks. 

• Gun bans/confiscation that leave civilians defenseless against the criminal class. 

A false sense of security fosters moral and spiritual insanity. Living in a dangerous world, where there are no buffers, forces you to be realistic if you expect to survive–much less to thrive. There's no margin for error.

People who become too insulated from danger are apt to be cocky, arrogant, presumptuous, and foolhardy. Paradoxically, natural evil can be a corrective to moral evil. Having beliefs that defy reality is willful lunacy. Real life isn't composed of downy pillows that cushion your fall. False beliefs can hurt you. That's a disincentive to cultivating false beliefs. 

To become increasingly detached from reality is a form of moral and intellectual derangement. Natural evil motivates people to take truth seriously. The pain of flouting reality motivates people to take truth seriously. 

In Scripture, idolatry is a paradigm-case of those who've lost contact with reality and replace it with imaginary constructs. Although the deterrent value of natural evil is limited–insofar as some people are willfully reckless–it prevents other people from plunging off the deep end. Without that objective stinger, subjectivity takes over.   

1 comment:

  1. And if that weren't enough...