Optimization is wickedness
July 12, 2014 § 17 Comments
13 Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat.
14 How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it! – Matthew 7:13-14
36 For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul? – Mark 8:36
8 And not rather (as we are slandered and as some affirm that we say) let us do evil that there may come good? Whose damnation is just. – Romans 3:8
Morality constrains action. A man willing to do evil has all the same tactical options that a man unwilling to do evil has, plus the additional immoral tactical options that the good man will not choose. Consider some uncontroversially worthy worldly goals:
- Feeding the hungry
- Caring for the sick
- Defending your homeland from attack
- Rescuing hostages
- Feeding and sheltering your family
- Keeping your marriage together
- Finding a wife
In many cases the most effective or efficient means available to accomplish these ends will be immoral means. Only those willing to do evil in order that good may come of it will choose them.
Therefore, very generally speaking, we should expect morally acceptable solutions to worldly problems to be less than optimal when evaluated in worldly terms.
It further follows that we should automatically be suspicious when it is claimed that a particular tactic is an optimal way to achieve a certain goal. It is possible that the claim is “optimal within the bounds of the natural and divine law”; but, this being the modern world, it is probably a temptation toward wickedness.