Unlocking Wisdom in Chaos: Understanding the Duality of Human Freedom

Explaining the universe in rational terms

Because of the total freedom enjoyed by humankind, there are inevitably many problems or challenges, and it is in meeting these challenges that we develop and advance.

It is said that the entire debate over belief and disbelief boils down to one question: Does logic prevail? Those who are of a disbelieving disposition say that if there were a God, why is it that we see contradictions everywhere in the world? When we observe the universe, we come to the conclusion that throughout the material cosmos, there is a grand design. Yet, in the human world, the picture is quite different. Here, we witness misery, sorrow, suffering, and all kinds of evil. According to the skeptics, this contradiction between the two scenarios—the cosmos and the human world—shows that our world is a bundle of randomness. Although in a partial sense, there seems to be design in the world, when we look at the picture in totality, the design disappears. This negates the argument that if there is a design, there must be a designer.

This contradiction can, however, be explained by making a comparison. When we compare the two ‘worlds’, we discover that there is a fundamental dichotomy. The human world is characterized by the absence of any kind of restrictions. Man has total freedom either to tread the path of ahimsa (non-violence) or to engage in world wars. He can utilize nuclear energy either for constructive purposes or for the development of nuclear weapons. This kind of freedom, with its propensity to encourage chaos and conflict, has the potential to destroy all systems. The case of the cosmos is diametrically opposed to this. Despite its mind-boggling vastness and countless components, we find it entirely ordered by determinism. From the microcosm to the macrocosm, the whole universe functions under tight discipline, that is, according to natural laws. As a result, it has a highly predictable character. It is because of this predictability that we have been able to develop science and technology with precision. The absence of determinism in the human world is the reason for the social sciences not having the exactitude of the physical sciences. For example, while the solar system has but a single definition, political science has almost a dozen definitions.

This difference between our world and the rest of the universe leads us to believe that the scheme of things devised by the Creator differs from one to the other. While the functioning of the cosmos is marked by determinism, the Creator’s scheme for the human world places man in a state of complete freedom. There is deep wisdom in this difference. If we observe the physical world, we realize that the phenomenon of intellectual development is absent from it. In other words, it has remained the same for millions of years. But, in the human world, there are constant challenges, and it is this kind of challenging environment that leads to progress and development. Without experiencing challenges, there can be no creative thinking or intellectual development. When we observe the material world we find order in it, while in the human world there is seeming disorder. But this ‘disorder’ is not a negative but rather a positive phenomenon. The positive explanation for this disorder in the human world is a response to challenge.

Due to this difference, we have to apply two separate criteria to make a proper assessment of these arenas. The cosmos has to be judged by the yardstick of determinism, while the human world has to be judged by the yardstick of freedom of choice. Thanks to its deterministic nature, the material world offered the possibility of creating technology. Without its predictability, we would not have been able to utilize the resources of the material world for industrial development. It follows that in the human world, because of the total freedom enjoyed by humankind, there are inevitably many problems or challenges, and it is in meeting these challenges that we develop and advance. At the same time, regrettably, this total freedom also gives rise to evil.

The problem of evil is not a feature of the material world. It is a phenomenon peculiar to the human world. This ineluctable evil is the price that we of necessity pay for all those developments which have culminated in what we proudly refer to as civilization.

Source: Leading a Spiritual Life

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan is an Islamic spiritual scholar who has authored over 200 books on Islam, spirituality, and peaceful coexistence in a multi-ethnic society.




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