Math exists, and learning math is hard. If adults know how to do math, and if adults are good, they will do the math for me. I am struggling to do math. Therefore, all adults are evil, or no adults know how to do math.
The Problem With Angry Aliens
In the vein of nothing being new under the sun, the archetypal "problem of evil" has reared its head with such icons of postmodern Earth's brilliance as the great academics discussing the potential implications of as-yet alien non-intervention on Earth. Here's Hawking's theory:
The aliens in Hawking's vision would be much like the malefic beasties in the blockbuster science-fiction flick Independence Day. He describes, "We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach."...which would of course be the conclusion of an esteemed 21st century narcissist from the island of inbred evil, projecting his own lusty desires onto all potential consciousness. Those kind of "contributions" to humanity are, like the Torah, the fantasies of inbred tribal leaders onto the firmament, where beings of indescribable power and timeless essence are assumed to be just as petty and deranged as their subjects, with exactly the same type of earthily-patrilineal death-avoidance fantasies and chattel management strategies as the people they presumably inspired. Hawking, the twisted Moses for a new age, looks into the stars and sees constellations shaped just like his filthy mercantilist forebears; a field of crippling blackness where oversized lightspeed toddlers haven't yet learned to use their ray guns for anything other than boom-boom.
He says that humans should try to avoid alien contact as we colonize space. He states that such contact would be "a little too risky". What would result? He states, "If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans."
It's as fundamental an answer to the question of "Why" as the pus from any other lingering Jenomic infection, polluting thoughtspace with dark terrors and unexplained warnings. And here we are, decades after our abbreviated primeval spaceflight, equipped with telescopes and terrestrial rovers, listening to yet another creditor-priest explain to great acclaim about how logic peaks at tribal resource wars and necessary genocide. (If anything's like "the Borg," it's economics, which has consumed biology and hybridized make-believe disciplines like "business" and "theoretical physics.") Being yet another arm of the military-entertainment nightmare, Hawking sums it up with a reference to one of his friend's alien-invasion movies, Independence Day (which was less about aliens than it was about how good cigars and nukes are, anyway).
The Problem With Bad Aliens
It has long been popular to conclude that there are no aliens, as part of the retro-modern scientific process of recycling old problems such as exceptionalism and flat-earth, and projecting them onto a larger playing field. Recently, scientism's high cardinals have been making like Hawking, and conceding to the numbers (as their evolutionary counterparts will eventually do) that there may be space (sic) among all those trillions for something at least almost as special as our bacteria. We'll focus, here, not on the specific symptoms of the 21st century (such as Dr. Hawking's), but on the general way that humans have approached the idea of aliens.
Theories about alien contact serve humanity as a memetic crutch on par with theories about the supernatural, the former coming now more sharply into play as dwindling levels of emotional intelligence make people more impressed by their current technology. The ancients were intelligent enough to invent bows, but not stupid enough to declare the end of history, despite the truly world-changing nature of the bow and arrow. We stand next to them in shameful juxtaposition, intelligent enough to invent solar cars, but stupid enough to be enthralled with ourselves for it. In the long view, our period is marked by staggering arrogance; we're convinced that our pyramids and our gods are the end of the story, confident that now, by virtue of whichever technogoodie you like, we know everything else there is to know, even if we haven't quite developed the chips or pills to complete the remaining 0.0001% of the epilogue.
When we consider the issue of aliens, then, we approach them as reflections of ourselves: they play a role like patients on House (vomit), popping up at their first meeting with an unbelievably precise understanding of the current social dynamic between the main characters, a helpful-therapist Echo of our emotional struggles (Contact), or an unhelpful reflection of what we know we'd really do to others, if we could (War of the Worlds).
The Problem With Good Aliens
The problem we have with good aliens is the same that we have with gods: if they exist, why haven't they already done our math homework for us? When we're lazy, greedy, and emotionally stunted, we act like Stephen Hawking, and conjure up Old Testament Aliens who can think of nothing better to do with eternity than rape and pillage their way across a series of planets. That assertion is an adult's version of a childish pout; a tantrum thrown to assure Mother that, because she hasn't done your homework, she is an asshole who hates you. This post's initial formulation about math, you may recognize, is the traditional Problem of Evil, e.g., "if an omniscient and omnibenevolent God exists, evil cannot exist."
The Problem of Evil, and the entitled thinker's take on it (that it is indeed a problem), forms the understructure of thousands of years of bad development. Overlords are evil, about which we can do nothing, but for those of us who aren't interested in manifesting evil ourselves, our own answer to the existential question--why do I suffer?--forms a large part of our personal unhappiness and failure to develop. Much like a frustrated child staring at long division problems and hating our parents, we turn in our darkest moments to condemnations of existence, which can't possibly be worth the hell that we're put through to obtain those few moments of happiness (which are themselves tainted by awareness of the general despair and/or awareness of tenuous future happiness/potential for happiness).
So we look to the stars, and clearly, since no advanced civilization has shown up to end genocide, none such exists, anymore than God. There is no omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent deity, due to evil, nor is there a more-knowing, more-powerful, more-good alien force that cares about us, also due to evil.
Learning Long Division
It's insulting to compare this issue to mathematics, because as a human adult, there's nothing more one can possibly learn, particularly if one is cosmopolitan in worldview, educated in earthly universities, or wealthy in earthly goods--right? We think we're so great because we've hit 18 or 45 or whatever, that we're righteously indignant when someone suggests there's more to learn. You already know where this is going--the math example means that this one is about to say that enduring evil is good for us--so bring out the indignation, if that's your game.
The traditional Christian response to the Problem of Evil is "Free Will," which is, unfortunately, bullshit. Not complete bullshit--it's part of the answer--but on its own, it does nothing to solve the apparent "problem." An all-knowing God would be aware that, seven thousand years after he created humanity, a 56-year-old fat white guy would lurk outside a playground, kidnap some kid, commit a brutal rape, and bury the body alive. And the guy might next feel guilty, commit suicide, and go to Hell, but it would've been completely unfair for God to permit/create that chain of events. He could've given the bad guy a heart attack, adjusted chaos theory so that a pizza delivery guy had happened to be near the park at the time due to a wrong address (spooking the perve kidnapper into going home and giving up), introduced a helpful mediator into the perve's life at a young age (causing the same guy to develop differently and never become 100% pervy), or done an infinite number of other variations on "the world" that didn't include that particular rape-murder, which accomplished nothing other than prove that the perve deserved Hell, which God already knew anyway, and which took incredible suffering as well as the life of the victim in order to play out a drama that God already understood.
So too aliens. Any advanced civilization watching Obama cackle around the world starving people and blowing up babies couldn't exonerate itself on some "Prime Directive," because there's a clear difference between (1) saying you're a missionary in 1610 and enslaving the Dominicans in the sugar fields, and (2) teleporting some Palestinian children on board the flying saucer in 2010 to be saved from Nazi 2.0. It would take someone as stupid as Gene Roddenberry or George Takei to compare the two, but then, Americans have always had their own Prime Directive: don't impose your values on Lockheed Martin or the Corrections Corporation of America, but intervene for buttsecks and beryllium spheres whenever necessary.
Either aliens or gods must be distant (not interconnected), evil (implanted with our own qualities), or nonexistent (implanted with our own fears), when we occupy the perspective of whiny kids who would prefer watching TV to learning long division. Why is it so haaaard?
Why, then, evil? Free will, yes, since we cause our own evil, but presuming some power to intervene--whether divine or extra-terrestrial--remains one of our deepest questions, and we continually cite the lack of intervention as proof that, while we may suck, nothing else can possibly suck less, or it would save us. If Mommy could do the homework for us, why doesn't she?
That's not just a whiny question, though. Really, why can't Mommy do the math homework? We never have to learn math if Mommy keeps feeding and housing and clothing us forever, and yes, Mommy wants to have her own life, but when contemplating the rationalized non-intervention of immensely powerful aliens or deities, they don't have the same out that Mommy does, ergo the metaphor breaks down--it no longer makes sense that God can't simply create a perpetual Eden and let us all have a great time. Math could indeed be irrelevant if Mommy were an immortal billionaire.
The resolution is found in the process of teach/learning, which is the only way to develop progressive consciousnesses. Some things do get overdone here, but it takes at least one experience of deep thirst to truly appreciate a drink in all its colors, and before that, it takes a lot of cognition practice before only one experience of thirst is enough to make all future drinks appreciable without being simultaneously dying in the desert. Plenty of people need to repeat and do-over, too, because of the way they find it right to develop.
Hypothetically, a pseudoscientist far away once told this one that developmental staging was a necessary part of expanding the verse, e.g., creating a continual stream of outward-flowing reality fields so that we'd never be trapped inside a fixed system with fixed boundaries, which would necessarily cause everything to be predetermined. Once boundaries are imposed upon reality, molecular ping takes over, meaning that chemical laws can never be violated, and free choice becomes impossible. So, the universe has to always grow, or it dies. He was later proven incorrect, but developmental staging remained infallible (and thank goodness, growth continues even if not necessary in that sense). Some systems condense the first two stages of his home's method into one, so that humans end up being "third" rather than "fourth," though the same information always passes through. But anyway, I know I'm crazy, so for fictional and illustrative purposes only, take a look, and situate yourself:
Stage One: Existence. The establishment of fields which turn nonexistence into existence. In place of true nothing ("Void") becomes vacuum; empty space; an apparent "nothingness" that can, eventually, be perceived as nothingness. Fields establish stuff like light laws and physical laws. The lesson meant to be learned here is that the nature of Void is to yearn; to awake; to create. The raw concept of endless possibility is supposed to be taken away, in the form of the most proto of proto-consciousnesses. As in all developmental stages, we're looking backward to master what was.
Stage Two: Stuff. True light alters fields, producing appropriate particles; stars, planets, et cetera. Massive, incredibly slow consciousness and movement develops, in thrall to the constant pressure to yield to and channel true light. The lesson here is to learn the differentiation of fields; to experience the possession of matter, and grasp again the difference between Void and Light, existence and non, by the comparison of vacuum to star.
Stage Three: Wildebeest. Particles form more complex stuff which begins to develop consciousnesses sufficiently fast to attune directly to the psialtin field, such that the rituals of ritualistic consciousnesses take a direct role in the channeling of light from Void into the realm of physical laws, and transfers thereabout. Amoeba process electromagnetic energies more powerfully, per size, than stars or planets, and are dynamic by comparison; so too goldfish and lizards and wolves. Here, the point is to learn how to be self-aware: to learn to believe that there are infinite patterns in existence, ergo an "individual" is possible. The comparably primitive automated responses of Stage Three minds (say, pursuing a meal, avoiding a predator) begin to coagulate more sophisticated structures getting ready to split off into the psiapin field and thereby acknowledge their own existence.
Like all stages, the dynamism of ritual-consciousness serves many important purposes, but like water spewing out a small hole in a dam while cracks begin to form in the surrounding cement, burgeoning self-awareness promises to tear the dam apart.
Stage Four: Ape. The eternal pressure of true light forms more efficient EM reactors in successful third-stage developers, producing non-ritualistic, self-aware basic consciousness, which understands that it exists, ergo, has accepted the potential of a point of individuality. Now come humans/equivalents, and the manipulation of matter and energy through "choice" differentiates itself substantially from that of ritual ("instinct"). The lesson meant to be learned here is that the earlier-acquired basic consciousness is both independent and not: the difficulty of a fish recognizing itself in a mirror is transcended when a human successfully recognizes itself, but the massive developmental leap incumbent upon the 3-4 transition can result in a high degree of uncertainty for the entity. This is no mistake: an important part of this stage, if not the most important part, is the ability to consciously contemplate seeming mortal death. Awareness of the meaning of "end" is conveyed in a way that can never be understood until you've been strapped into a meat hunk, unsure of how "you" got there, and plausibly faced total extermination.
Living the drama teach-learns the same duality/appreciation as earlier stages, progressively preparing any given point of light for more use. The apparent precious beauty of moments of consciousness, and the keen differentiation between positive and negative sensations, cannot be taught in any other way; without this stage, a point of individuality would lack crucial psiapic connections that barred any future development. (Again, the example of buying a gun versus spending years mastering a martial art, and whether the gun-nut or the monk is more likely to use lethal force when the situation does not so require.) The developing entity, here, is a fragile hybrid between the psialtin and psiapin fields, easily dissociated from physical life through mere large-matter movements.
We see our first glimpse of non-ritualistic loneliness and traces of Void in Stage Four, whereby the process of wrenching ritual-service into aware-service, and the development of cross-field channels, can cause genuinely frightened, honest, seemingly-justifiable solipsism, and a desire for reversion to earlier stages. Here, too, basic choice begins to play its first perceptible role: the fourth stage entity chooses to focus on: (1) stage regression/attempting to destroy or enslave Void; (2) the individual point, or (3) the whole/truelight.
(Stage regression is a failure in its stated mission, but not in the overall process, as throwbacks get their wish, regress, repeat earlier stages, re-learn, and can redo fourth as many times as necessary, whereas both the selfish and altruistic choices have a path forward. Those who focus on the exaltation of the self--the genuinely, fully-aware, non-solipsistic selfish people--know of their eternal connection to the existence of others, and gradually develop their understanding of this integration into a complete worship of their own corner of self-awareness. Those who focus on the exaltation of the verse--the genuinely, fully-aware altruists--are cognizant of their eternal connection to the existence of others, and gradually develop their understanding of this integration into a complete worship of the developmental stages and everything in them.)
Stage Five: Nebula. Reconciling the individual with the whole stabilizes more powerful consciousnesses, which can then become aware not only of the psialtin field (governing large-matter physical laws), but of the psiapin field (governing small-matter physical laws). Light transfers into reality can now be effected, and grow more powerful, without requiring large-scale matter, e.g. what we'd call physical bodies. The now-wholly-psiapic consciousness can then dip into the physical like a hand into a shallow pond, manipulating large matter even more directly than a hybrid entity.
The looming tragedy of death is now usually gone and learned, so here we see our first real glimpse of deliberate stage-planning, including deliberate interference in earlier stages. Humans might try to impress individuality upon animals ("Rocky. SIT, Rocky. SIT. Good boy! You're a good boy, aren't you, Rocky!"), but they do it just for fun, and not usually with a mind to specifically altering lightform development. By contrast, fifth-stage entities understand more of what's going on, so they can alter the psialtin field to the degree of their own light channel, manifesting bodies and toys and "lives," in the furtherance of whatever path they've chosen (self-ish v. all-ish). As proto-self-aware gorillas can enjoy relaxing while eating mangoes more profoundly than can ritually-conscious marmots, Stage Five is for looking back at Stage Four, and discovering (ultimately) that eating all you can eat and fucking all you can fuck in ten-trillion-square-mile space palaces isn't all it's cut out to be.
The lesson for fifth stage entities is that transcendence beyond death can be its own kind of horror. Altruists learn to embrace the Void as the essential cause of true light, rather than seeing Stage One as an "escape" from some kind of evil, while Selfists run out of things to do.
From here, that seems simple enough--done in a sentence--but at Stage Five, the details of the process make it proportionately more troubling than Stage Four death. While you're here in your body, for example, it's fairly easy to talk about stage four (sic, Earthly) cancer, until it's actually your thing, you've been told there will be no more doctor appointments, you realize everyone's just waiting for it to be over so they can stop thinking about it, and you earnestly and privately wish you had more time for _________ (and all while wondering if this is completely and truly it). Similarly, the expanded potential of psiapic manipulations makes it seem like the party really could go on forever, and it's actually more crushing to learn that you have that wrong than to face the death of your very own bipedal meat.
Those who worship themselves find, at Stage Five, that they need that interconnectedness they learned about earlier to seek their true pleasures, and that the paradises they create are illusory and empty, no matter how brilliantly they may design ritual consciousnesses to serve them (at that point, they can't build anything higher than Stage Three, even in groups). Those who worship the verse learn in a deeper way, in Stage Five, that the satisfaction of helping others means leaving earlier stages alone to learn their lessons themselves. At any point Five and "up," it's fair and effective to go back to earlier stages--not as a regression, but as a deliberate service, either to foster selfishness or altruism--but except in very rare circumstances, it's a pointless act to do so without remaking yourself as a that-stage entity, at least for one lifetime. For the Selfish, to go to Stage Four and have superpowers to dominate the less-developed would be about as fun as going back to your old preschool and beating all the little kids at checkers, as they pick their noses and can't read the rules and cry when they forget what color they are. For the Altruists, a similar yet helpful act would be equally wrong/boring, because it would be robbing from the Stage Fours their ability to choose their own path based, not on seeming power, but their own desires inside plausible mortality.
For altruistic Fives (and this one is very sorry for using capitalized numbers as pronouns, but I'm not going to be an ass and say "nebulae," and there's no other more-suitable term here), the choice comes down to their respective philosophy of versal betterment. Because this system is the only way for entities to develop progressing individually-collective stages of lightform transfer, interfering in it would be ruination. It would be unfair, and not nice, not to mention ironically selfish, to steal from someone the ability to learn what you have already had the chance to learn on your own and in your own way. People have imaginations, so any kind of babble can enter the system, and that's okay, but verifiable immortality instantly shatters the entire fourth stage. The selfish would lose fully developed competitors (for the brutal Malebolges where they spend their sixth stage), while the altruistic would rob others of independence, besides forestalling the development of any strong, independent altruism in others.
So if one wants to do it, one does it as a Four--one crafts a hybrid mind, partitions off all higher experience, and becomes a pupil again. There are actually some Four-replaying Fives who try to better develop their sense of selfishness in the face of what seems then, to them, approaching mortality; it's an efficient way to hone their desperate fanaticism for pleasuring themselves, which can't be accomplished if they know it's a ruse without a deadline. Same for altruists, who can use the old re-shock of pending death as a way to be a prisoner reaching out to other prisoners. (Not necessarily faster than any other way, but sometimes, Jenome-infected systems can really use some extra help, because their numbers are way off.)
The Problem of Evil
We return here to the Problem of Evil. Why does Buddha, or God, or aliens, permit evil? It has something to do with Free Will, but not free will in the sense, "Ehh, they do what they want." As discussed above, that would be unsatisfactory bullshit. Free Will is permitted because it's the only way for the process to work. You asked for it; you wanted it; it's the reason for your existence, and will continue to be. You can fit that into almost any belief system, save lazy nihilism. Buddha smiles on people as they develop enlightenment, Christ looks down as people choose between Him and Lucifer, and the alien seeders watch us until we're "prepared" for their intervention, and/or safe to be traveling near their homes.
That's not as far as we go, of course. Even as a hypothetical, the lightspring's flow makes a suitable metaphor for the essential question of human existence. Namely, why does it hurt? Answer: so you'll know what good feels like. Giving someone all the answers to their homework leaves them unable to do the long division themselves, which is why you chose to make yourself do it. Having the answers is good; knowing how to produce the answers when confronted with un-memorized problems is better; knowing how to learn something difficult is even better. Arithmetic leads to algebra leads to trigonometry leads to calculus, as babbling leads to speaking leads to reading. More importantly, the process of learn/teaching itself expands true light channels, developing character in the chosen direction. Forced learning, handed-down learning, just leaves a caveman scratching his head at the smartphone, then trying to use it to sharpen knives.
Check this rickety paraphrase:
If a grand sorceror sat on a high throne and proclaimed goodness and order, he would receive it, but he would receive it from all men, good and bad, based only on his power, and never on their hearts. If he looked inside all their hearts and forced them to bear only good tidings, the tidings would not be their own, for in truth, he would have changed nothing about them, but only made them his minions.So too Yahweh, or Jesus, or whoever else. The "grand philosophical quandary" of the Problem of Evil is so seemingly logical, yet so truly worthless; such a simple puzzle to which to come up with a hundred detailed, purely imaginative solutions. Maybe God, or gods, or a bunch of advanced alien civilizations are waiting for us to grow up, not because they lack the power to grant wishes, but because we wanted to develop into something better, and it's the right thing to do, rather than because it's interesting to watch billions of years of a repetitive TV mystery where He already knows the answers, or because they're busy prowling the universe in space-cruisers in hopes of cleaning out the resources on a few primitive terrestrial planets. It's so phenomenally easy to make water and gold and slaves, anyway, that for Stephen Hawking to think advanced malevolent aliens would be interested in Earth is about equivalent to Frank LoBiondo staying up at night out of worry that Mena Suvari might break into his home and demand immediate rough sex.