Trans Geek Girl Meets Mundane World

Archive for December, 2017

“Everything Happens For a Reason”

No. It really doesn’t.

It seems like an innocuous statement of comfort, but it has a darker undertone.

“Everything happens for a reason” is an echo of the traditional notion of divine justice. Given an infinitely compassionate and powerful creator, why do bad things happen to good people?

Different theologies and philosophies have come up with different answers, but one of the more pernicious is the idea that divine justice is infallible — that bad things happen to good people because they’re imperfectly good. Some stray act or thought has incurred the wrath, and misfortune is evidence of sin.

While this is a peculiarly medieval way to view the world, it’s one that is also peculiarly persistent. It comes up often in discussions of poverty. If one believes that wealth is granted to the worthy through the invisible hand of the free market, the corollary is that those without wealth are in some way unworthy.

It’s pernicious nonsense. One of the gifts of humanity is the ability to understand cause and effect, but the drawback is an unfortunate tendency to impose causal relationships where none exist (and often invert those that do).

The universe is not that predictable. Our actions and choices can strongly influence the probability of some events, but there is always an element of chance. Often that’s all there is — pure blind chaotic chance, unheeding of the narratives built around it by mere mortals.

Everything happens for a reason? Only if “reason” includes the unpredictable non-patterns of random entropy, a definition so broad as to render the statement meaningless.

In that case, we might as well just murmur “empty platitude” and leave it at that.

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