Why does God allow illness?

Research over the years has helped researchers to understand diseases and find cures. One example is leprosy which, if left untreated, affects the person’s nervous system, causing damage to skin, limbs and eyes. Although, leprosy was recorded in biblical times, it was not until the last century that it was found that bacteria was responsible for this condition. Before this, many people considered it incurable and managed leprosy by keeping the infected individual separate from everyone else. However, Norwegian physician Gerhard Hansen’s discovery that it was caused by a particular bacterium (Mycobacterium leprae) has since advanced so that today we use multidrug treatments to cure individuals with leprosy.

Here it is important we consider a different issue about the nature of these constructs within our world. We encountered this in a previous post considering the advantages and disadvantages of gravity. Just as the benefits of gravity far outweigh the disadvantagesso too our understanding of bacteria. Given that humans are dependent on bacteria which affects human health (in quite positive and negative ways) we might question:

‘would humans truly want to live in a world devoid of bacteria?’

Indeed, we might also ask if:

‘bacteria is not part of the way that God has designed this world to operate?

Recent research suggests the survival of each species is dependent on genetic anomalies that enable them to adapt to new or changing environments. So, in a barren area, the giraffe with a longer neck that can reach the highest foliage hanging from a tree is more likely to survive than the giraffe with a shorter neck. If our tall healthy giraffe then mates with another tall-necked giraffe, the offspring will carry the parents’ enhanced DNA, increasingly the likelihood of producing tall offspring who will be able to survive in future droughts.

The observation that species develop at the expense of others has led some to speculate that a specific ‘selfish’ gene exists within the DNA of every surviving species. A gene that selfishly seeks its own genetic construct be advanced at expense of everything else. From this, it is easy to see the problem facing the Divine. If God creates a world that is too tight in its structure, human life might not emerge. However, if God creates the earth in a less deterministic way there is a risk that it will facilitate a variety of other things in the food chain that will also grow and develop. Things that  may cause disease, illness and death – a world in which humans may flourish along with giraffes, bacteria and other viruses – but at a price.

So in summary, if God makes the world too precisely, there is a risk that life might not emerge. However, if the Divine loosens up control of the world, then there is a different risk that other things will emerge that may develop and survive at expense to human life and existence.