Pain and suffering, like everything else about life, is a Darwinian device which functions to improve the sufferer's survival.

balvinkumar's picture

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The presence of so much of pain and suffering in our life pose a major philosophical and scientific problem. The problem is, how is it possible that all the pain, suffering and death that occurs in the world to take place, if the world is actually under the control of an all powerful and loving God? More specifically, how is our belief in the Supreme Being or the God of all the religions justified in view of all this pain and suffering? The philosophers and theologians call this the “problem of theodicy.” Many great philosophers and thinkers have debated worldwide on the contentious issue of theodicy. Theodicy is a theory which undertakes to justify God's actions and to vindicate Him against the charge that He has permitted pain, suffering and evil to overrun the world despite being all loving and omnipotent.

In my earlier article on the blog ( posted on 23.12.08, I have tried to explain that on the face of human killings and the pain and sufferings that are inflicted on humanity by fellow beings, how can one justify or defend moral evil or the free will that God has given to man. It is believed by many philosophers and thinkers that not only pain and suffering but also evilness is responsible for the development of best qualities of human personality. In the absence of pain and suffering, many qualities such as love, compassion, kindness, generosity, unselfishness would not have developed to the extent we see in people at large. These qualities give strength to man’s character. Human pain serves a divine purpose of good. This is the philosophical reasoning behind the pain and suffering we all face in our life. However, there is another explanation which is scientific based on medical grounds as to why pain is necessary for human survival and nature has chosen this mechanism based on the principle of natural selection and the 'survival of the fittest, of Charles Darwin's evolutionary theory published way back in 1859.

It's very interesting to note that there are people who cannot feel pain and their life span is generally very short. This rare genetic abnormality is called 'Congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis' (CIPA) and in these cases, patients lack pain receptor cells in the skin. People affected by this disease feel no pain and will never understand what pain is. CIPA is caused by a genetic mutation which prevents the formation of nerve cells which are responsible for transmitting signals of pain, heat, and cold to the brain. For this reason, CIPA patients succumb to a variety of complications because of their inability to feel pain like if there is no pain due to internal injury of say knee joint or injury in eyes then this problem will deteriorate and develop serious consequences. There are 84 documented living cases in the US; there are more than 300 in Japan.Richard Dawkins in 'The Greatest Show on Earth' explains that natural selection is indifferent to the intensity of suffering except is so far as it affects survival and reproduction. That's why the process of natural selection prefers the mechanism of pain and suffering in humans rather than preferring those individuals who cannot feel pain because these individuals have far shorter life expectancy. In other words, the principle of 'survival of the fittest' underlies the world of nature in which nature took no steps to reduce the pain and suffering of humans because this was not best suited for human beings.

It's is clear from the above that pain specially the physical one is a mechanism that fits very well in the theory of natural selection and the survival of the fittest. Had there been no pain system in our body and the brain, life expectancy of humans would have been far shorter. Precisely for this reason, pain and suffering is a necessary condition for human survival. Richard Dawkins has very well concluded on this subject by saying that pain, like everything else about life, is a Darwinian device which functions to improve the sufferer's survival. Brain has an in-built mechanism with a rule 'If you experience the sensation of pain, stop whatever you are doing and don't do it again'. This very mechanism is responsible for discouraging those individuals who ignore this rule.

happy together's picture


Reminds me of the post regarding the evolutionary origin of the resistance to pain in

happy together | Thu, 10/15/2009 - 11:42
B-friend's picture

How about an advaitic riddle

By Divine Grace one's greatest suffering is turned into the greatest inside joke between one's self and God. Is it the wisdom of either that is the source of the laughter?

B-friend | Thu, 10/15/2009 - 12:16
madan_gautam's picture


I was the cause of my self bondage.
I am the cause of my self freedom ( in all respect).
I was the same who was playing in ignorance.
I am the same who is playing now freely in subconsciousness .
I found/find no one except mine(in whole universe).
I am everywhere and I am everyone & Everyone is "I".
It was "I" & it is "I",but there is lot of difference in both "I".
Just turn the coin of "I" you will find yourself(in true spirit).

madan_gautam | Thu, 10/15/2009 - 14:20
shailendrasingh4mk's picture

Value of Suffering

Why should we consider this subject. Although we will deal with the subject academically, it is an academic subject, it means purity in your relationship to which we all aspire.Suffering by itself is not sacred, especially. Not many people are profiting from their suffering victims. Clearly, then, we benefit from the experience should do something about suffering.In attempting to fathom without them we are likely to live with them. It is a secret. It is a mystery that we only about.There progress in virtue, with the amount of suffering as a matter of mistaken identity is not read. It is difficult to separate, once people have the mistaken identity. , Certainly has much to do with purity of suffering, but it is not a math equation "Suffering equals sanctity". Think a person should not be! "The more suffering, more holy, I should be getting" Maybe, but maybe not. In other words, those who suffer least from those who have to suffer the most are not sacred. It's what we, the amount that we have experience that makes our coverage within difference.There immediately with three areas are not affected. First check what is sad. Second, why there is suffering in the world. And third, we are suffering is that God sends us to grow in holiness, we can use the offers.

love sms

shailendrasingh4mk | Wed, 10/12/2011 - 22:44