Discover more from Rationalist Judaism
I would like to introduce this post with a picture of a smiley face:
What is this funny face? We'll get to that later, but first, let us return to another question that I posed in an earlier post: Why did God create lizard-eating plants? In the post, I suggested that the question is not necessarily valid. God may not have purposefully created the plant; instead, it may be nothing more than a by-product of the evolutionary process that God decided to employ in creation.
This claim caused some consternation. One person protested that "certainly the Rambam believed each plant and animal has a purpose." But I would disagree.
Even when it comes to Torah, Rambam believed that there are unintended consequences. In the Guide for the Perplexed 3:34, Rambam explains that while each mitzvah serves for the betterment of mankind, that is only from a general perspective; there could well be individual cases in which the mitzvah turns out to be detrimental. The Torah must be absolute in its binding nature, which is why exceptions can't usually be made, but this necessarily means that it will not always be beneficial to everyone. Rambam does not see this as presenting any limitation in God's wisdom and power; it's just an inherent drawback of any universal system.
Certainly, then, the same can be true with the natural world. Assuming that God desired to use a naturalistic process that would result in intelligent life, this may result in all kinds of byproducts that were not God's intention. (This is not to say that He did not know that these would result.) As such, it is not necessarily valid to presume that there is a Divine purpose in any given aspect of the natural world. (Note that Rambam also says that various aspects of non-literal Torah stories do not all need to have deeper meaning; they may simply be written to flesh out the story.)
Thus, following Rambam's view, we do not need to presume that there was specific Divine intent and purpose in the development of lizard-eating plants. Or dinosaurs. Or in the smiley face pictured above, which was on the back of a spider that I photographed this week: