Tuesday, September 27, 2011
God the Programmer
Yesterday as I was walking my daughter home from school, my mind wandered and I found myself thinking about the mabul. Specifically, about how unfair it was for Hashem to punish everyone with death. After all, I reasoned to myself, if the product is defective, it’s the fault of the designer! If a computer programmer wrote a program which failed to function properly, it wouldn’t be reasonable to blame the program. Obviously, it’s the programmer’s fault. He messed up somewhere in the code, and he needs to fix it, not yell at his computer.
Then I had an epiphany. Hashem IS a programmer. And the mabul wasn’t a punishment. It was God saving the bits of the program that worked properly and deleting the faulty code so that He could try to fix the program.
Unfortunately, God isn’t a very good programmer.
With this perspective, so much makes sense.
God created the Universe (the program): In the beginning, God created the program. And the page was empty, blankness was on the monitor, and God’s fingers were hovering over the keyboard. And God typed, “Let there be light” and there was light. God saw that the code for simulating light effects was good, and He separated the light effects from the shadow effects. God called the light program “day” and the shadow program “night.” By then it was evening, and He powered down His computer until the morning – this was the first day.
God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omni-benevolent (more or less): He knows everything about the program and can see all of the results of the program (but doesn’t quite know why it’s not working properly); He can change the program as He wishes (but He’s not a very good programmer, so his code often doesn’t do quite what He wants it to); and He wants the ultimate good for the program, that is, for it to work properly (but individual pieces of the program are unimportant in themselves). He cares about and investigates the behavior of each part of the program, and is constantly involved in adjusting it.
There is a wonderful theodicy: Bad things generally are a result of bugs in the program. The plane crashes because of a bug. The little girl emerges from the wreckage without a scratch because God was furiously coding to try to fix the bug.
Other gods are software pirates who try to take credit for the program. This understandably upsets God.
And so on…