Published on March 27, 2016 by

Why Evolution Needs Suffering

In our last video, we looked at why suffering is needed for our own moral and spiritual development. But when we ponder over suffering on a deeper level, we realise that it is necessary for the development of all types of life, be it our personal journeys, or the journey of humanity itself. After all, so many of our advances have come out of a desire to take away suffering. Be it advances in medicine, or technology, without suffering there would be no progress. As the saying goes, necessity is the Mother of invention.

But this doesn’t just apply today- let’s take a trip down the history of mankind to the era of the caveman. Imagine if all our prehistoric forefathers had all their wishes granted, and all their difficulties resolved- would we not still be cavemen? What need would we have for fire were we never cold? If we were never tired or bored from travelling, why bother inventing the wheel?

But why stop there? If we really want to remove suffering from our world, we should try and do it right at the beginning – at the very first step of evolution, with the amoeba. Imagine what little suffering our unicellular ancestors were dimly aware of was taken away. No amoeba could be allowed to out-compete other organisms for resources, for that would involve suffering. No change in the environment could occur, for that might cause suffering. Thus in our unicellular atheistic utopia, there could be no struggle, no survival, and no improved fitness. The same problem would apply wherever we seek to end suffering in the history of evolution. Wherever we try, there and then would the wheel of evolution grind to a crashing halt.

So it seems our atheist friends would have us surrender our very lives to rid us of suffering.  But, whether they realise it or not, what they are truly objecting to is our consciousness -our awareness of losses and gains, which translate into pain and pleasure. Take away that awareness of pain and we would have no means to experience pleasure, either. Suffering and happiness are two sides of the same coin.

To understand this better, we only have to look at the example of parenthood. For many, the loss of a child is the worst thing that can ever happen to them. But that’s only because having a child brings them such indescribable joy. The only way to remove suffering would be by giving up consciousness itself, or by never having anything to lose.

We see then that the existence of suffering is not only compatible with a benevolent God, but compulsory. It plays an indispensable role in our spiritual, moral, and physical evolution. Remove the capacity to suffer, and every aspect of life wilts like a dying flower. Permit it, and watch life flourish towards its true potential. As Mirza Tahir Ahmad wrote, “It is beyond the reach of human compassion to efface suffering without effacing life itself.”


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