Debunking an urban legend: "Evil is a lack of something"

todangst's picture

Thanks to Martin at http://www.blogicandreason.blogspot.com/ for reformulating an argument of mine that I've given in the past. I'll use his reformulation:

Now for the story:

The university professor challenged his students with this question: Did God create everything that exists?" A student bravely replied, "Yes, he did!" "God created everything?" the professor asked. "Yes, Sir," the student replied.

The professor answered, "If God created everything, then God created evil; since evil exists and, according to the principal that our works define who we are then God is evil." The student became quiet before such an answer. The professor, quite pleased with himself, boasted to the students that he had proven once more that the Christian faith was a myth.

Another student raised his hand and said, "Can I ask you a question professor?" The student stood up and asked, "Professor, does cold exist?" "What kind of question is this? Of course it exists. Have you never been cold?" The students snickered at the young man's question. The young man replied, "In fact, Sir, cold does not exist. According to the laws of physics, what we consider cold is, in reality, the absence of heat. Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-460° F) is the total absence of heat; all matter becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist. We have created this word to describe how we feel if we have no heat."

The student continued, "Professor, does darkness exist?" The professor responded, "Of course it does." The student replied, "Once again you are wrong sir, darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in reality the absence of light. Light we can study, but not darkness. In fact we can use Newton's prism to break white light into many colors and study the various wavelengths of each color. You cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You measure the amount of light present. Isn't this correct? Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light present."

Finally the young man asked the professor, "Sir, does evil exist?" Now uncertain, the professor responded, "Of course as I have already said. We see it every day. It is in the daily example of man’s inhumanity to man It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world These manifestations are nothing else but evil."

To this the student replied, "Evil does not exist, Sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is not like faith, or love that exists just as result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light."

The professor sat down.

The young man's name ---
Albert Einstein

You know that one? Good. Time to deconstruct it. Let's get started.

First - this story is an urban legend. It never happened:

http://www.snopes.com/religion/einstein.asp

Second - Einstein was a Pantheist, not a theist. Practically an atheist in disguise.

"I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings." Upon being asked if he believed in God by
Rabbi Herbert Goldstein of the Institutional Synagogue, New York,
April 24, 1921, Einstein: The Life and Times, Ronald W. Clark, Page 502.

"It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it." - Albert Einstein in Albert Einstein: The Human Side

Third - The college professor is put forth as an arrogant, dogmatic man who treats science like a religion and views questions from students as a challenge to his worldview. The student is put forth as a polite, honest, skeptic. Again, the reality is that the roles are reversed: while a scientist can be dogmatic and a theist can be skeptical, science itself is skeptical, and religion itself is dogmatic. The emotional immaturity of the professor is a projection of the emotions found in the sort of theist who would actually be inspired by this tripe.

Fourth - Cold is not 'the absence of heat' anymore than "heat is the absence of cold'. Both 'hot' and 'cold' are human references to the motion of atomic particles - "hot" and "cold" are not opposites (is 45 degrees the opposite of -45 degrees?) or the lack of one another, they are both subjective evaluations of the same thing - movement. Movement exists.

Fifth - This Thomistic-Augustinian semantic farce doesn't solve the problem of evil. Since an "evil" act requires human intent, a cognition, it's clearly ridiculous to call "evil" a non entity for this reason alone, but there is yet a stronger reason: as long as a theist holds that 'evil exists', it is a fallacy of basic metaphysics to argue that it 'exists' devoid of any ontology! To exist is to exist as something. Ergo, if 'evil' exists is must exist as something, not nothing.

Sixth - "Evil is simply the absence of God"? - What passage does the theist cite here? This contradicts passages that affirm that 'god' is the omnipotent creator. It also directly contradict: Isa 45:7 - I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things].

Note: some respond by stating that later versions of this passage change the word 'evil' to something else, such as causing disaster. However, to purposely cause disaster is to act in an evil manner, so this 'solution' just moves the problem one step back.

In addition, Rook Hawkins points out that a christian trying to defend this claim through redefinition has a lot of redacting to do:

”Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and evil come?”
(Lam. 3:38).

”...that I may repent of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings” (Jer. 26:3).

”...all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin” (Jer. 36:3).

”I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live. And I polluted them in their own gifts....” (Ezek. 20:25-26).

”For thus saith the Lord; as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them” (Jer. 32:42).

”...shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” (Amos 3:6).

See also: Jer. 11:11, 14:16, 18:11, 19:3, 19:15, 23:12, 26:13, 26:19, 35:17, 36:31, 40:2, 42:10, 42:17, 44:2, 45:5, 49:37, 51:64, Ezek. 6:10, Micah 2:3, 1 Kings 21:29, 2 Chron. 34:24, and 2 Chron. 34:28

http://www.rationalresponders.com/debunking_whitefoxs_website_the_bible_door

Seventh: 'God' is defined in the bible as omnipresent, ergo there can be no 'absence of god' as per the negative trait applied to 'god'. (See my essay on "Omni traits' for passages in the bible that affirm omnipresence.)

**************************************************

Now, let's revisualize the above dialogue rationally. Where major editing is done, the justification is given in (parentheses).

Dialogue with a young theist (longer version)

A philosophy professor challenged his students with a form of the Euthyphro dilema: Did 'God' create everything that exists?" A student replied, "Yes, he did!" (The 'bravely' part is removed: civil disagreement is the very point of philosophy courses, no bravery is required for dissent! Civil dissent is rewarded! Agreement is the death of philosophy, disagreement is its life's blood.)

"God created everything?" the professor asked. "Yes," the student replied. (The 'sir' part is removed: no college student in the 21st century addresses a college professor as 'sir' - which demonstrates that whoever it was that made up the original story never went to college. In addition, the use of 'sir' is just a pretense of 'respect' - it comes off as passive aggressive anger more than anything else.)

The professor answered, "Well then, here's a logical puzzle for you: If God created everything, then God created evil; Therefore, according to the principal that 'our works define who we are', 'God' is evil."

The student became silently enraged over his worldview being 'attacked'. He began to project out his feelings of inadequecy as smugness coming from the professor.

The student then said: "Can I ask you a question professor?"

"Of course," replied the professor. That's the point of philosophical discourse. (The writer of the original story clearly has little experience with a real college classroom. The whole point of a philosophy or theology course is to foster discussion.)

Student: Is there such thing as heat?"
Professor: Yes, the professor replies.
Student: "Is there such a thing as cold?"
Professor: "Yes, there's cold too."
Student: "No, there isn't"

The professor doesn't grin or frown or react with any emotion other than curiosity. After all, he's heard bad arguments like this for more years than the student has been alive. (The desire to see the professors 'smug smile wiped off his face' is just another projection of the feelings of inadequecy found in theists who aren't able to argue their own points well...)

The student continues. You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat but we don't have anything called 'cold'. We can hit 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can't go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold, otherwise we would be able to go colder than 458. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, just the absence of it"

Professor: (Nodding his head in dismay, and working out how many times he's heard this bad logic by now. 100 times?). Do you remember the section in your workbook on semantic fallacies?

Student: ( gives a confused look a dog might make)

Professor: Let me give you a quick review. Both 'heat' and 'cold' are subjective terms... They are what the philosopher John Locke properly called "secondary qualities". The secondary qualities refer to how we humans experience a very real phenomena: the movement of atomic particles. The terms 'heat' and 'cold' refer to an interaction between human nervous systems and various speeds of atomic particles in their environment. So what we 'really' have is temperature.... the terms 'heat' and "cold' are merely subjective terms we use to denote our relative experience of temperature.

So your entire argument is specious. You have not 'proven' that 'cold' does not exist, or that 'cold' somehow exists without any ontological status, what you have done is shown that 'cold' is a subjective term. Take away the subjective concept, and the 'thing in itself', the temperature we are denoting as 'cold', still exists. Removing the term we use to reference the phenomena does not eradicate the phenomena.

Student: (a bit stunned) "Uh... Ok.... Well, is there such a thing as darkness, professor?"

Professor: You are still employing the same logical fallacy. Just with a different set of of secondary qualities.

Student: "So you say there is such a thing as darkness?"

Professor: "What I am telling you is that you are repeating the very same error. "Darkness" exists as a secondary quality.

Student: "You're wrong again. Darkness is not something, it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it's called darkness, isn't it? That's the meaning we use to define the word. In reality, Darkness isn't. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker and give me a jar of it. Can you give me a jar of darkness, professor?

Professor: Sure, right after you give me a jar of light. Seriously, "light and dark' are subjective terms we use to describe how we humans measure measure photons visually. The photons actually exist, the terms 'light' and 'dark' are just subjective evaluations, relative terms... having to do, again, with an interaction between our nervous systems and another phenomenon of nature - this time, photons. So again, doing away with a subjective term does not eradicate the actual phenomena itself - the photons. Nothing actually changes. If we humans tend to call 'x number of photons' 'dark' (while cats refer to it as 'bright enough for me&quotEye-wink those number of photons we denote as 'dark' exist, and they continue to exist even if we do away with the term 'dark.'

Do you get it now?

Student: (gives a look not unlike a 3 year old trying to work out quantum physics)

Professor: I see your still struggling with the fallacy hidden in your argument. But let's continue, perhaps you'll see it.

Student: Well, you are working on the premise of duality, the christian explains.

Professor: Actually, I've debunked that claim two times now. But carry on.

Student: "Well, you assume, for example, that there is a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure.

Professor: Be careful. If you want to place your god beyond the grasps of reason, logic, and science and make him 'unmeasurable', then you are left with nothing but a mystery of your own devising. So if you use this special plead your god beyond reason to solve the problem, you can't call your god moral either. You can't call 'him' anything. You can't say anything else about something that you yourself have defined as beyond reason other than that the term you've created is incoherent. So your solution is akin to treating dandruf by decapitation.

Student: (Gulps. Continues on, oblivious to what was just said) Sir, science cannot even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism but has never seen, much less fully understood them.

Professor: You just said that science cannot explain a thought. I'm not even sure what you mean by that. I think what you mean to say is this: there remains many mysteries in neuroscience. Would you agree?

Student: Yes.

Professor: And, along the same line of thought, we accept that there are things like thoughts, or electricity or magnetism even though we have never seen them?

Student: Yes!

Professor: Recall the section in your textbook concerning fallacies of false presumption. Turn to the entry on 'Category error'. You'll recall that a category error occurs when an inappropriate measure is used in regards to an entity, such as asking someone what the color of a sound is... Asking someone to 'see' magnetism directly (and not just its effects) commits such an error. However, there is yet another error in your argument: your assumption that empircism or even science is based on 'real time observation' alone. This is false. Sight is not the sole means of knowing the world, nor is science merely the study of whatever we are currently looking at. We can use other senses to detect phenomena. And we can also examine their effects upon the world.

Furthermore, you are importing yet another erroneous presumption into the discussion: you are conflating the fact that science is incomplete with the implication that a lack of an answer from naturalism automatically means that your theistic assertion is correct. So you'll also want to review the section on 'arguing form ignorance.'

Do you have more to say?

Student: (The student, continues, mainly unfazed, due to the protection his shield of ignorance affords him.) .... Um....... to view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, merely the absence of it"

Professor: You are really in love with this secondary quality fallacy, aren't you? You are again confusing a secondary quality with the phenomena in of itself. "Death" and "life" are subjective terms we use to describe a more fundamental phenomena - biology. The phenomena in question, however, does exist. Biological forms in various states exist. Doing away with the subjective term does not eradicate the existence of death.

Nonplussed, the young man continues: "Is there such a thing as immorality?"

Professor: (Reaches for an asprin in his desk) You're not going to again confuse a secondary quality for an atttribute, are you? Please... what can I do to help you see this problem?

Student: (Continues on, fueled by ideology and oblivious to reality) You see, immorality is merely the absence of morality. Is there such thing as injustice? No. Injustice is the absence of justice. Is there such a thing as evil?" The christian pauses. "Isn't evil the absence of good?"

Professor: So, if someone murders your mother tonight, nothing happened? There was just an absence of morality in your house? Wait, I forgot... she's not dead... she's just experiencing an absence of life, right?

Student: Uh.....

Professor: You're beginning to see that something is missing in your argument, aren't you? Here's what you're missing. You are confusing a secondary quality... a subjective term that we can use to describe a phenomena, for the phenomena itself. Perhaps you heard me mention this before? (The class erupts in laughter, the professor motions for them to stop laughing.) 'Immorality' is a descrptive term for a behavior. The terms are secondary, but the behaviors exist. So if you remove the secondary qualities, you do nothing to eradicate the real behavior that the terms only exist to describe in the first place. So by saying that 'immorality' is a lack of morality, you are not removing immoral intentions and behaviors, or the problem of immoral intentions and behaviors from existence, you are just removing the secondary attribute, the subjective term.

And notice how dishonest your argument is on yet another level... in that it speaks of morality and immorality devoid of behavior, but 'evil' exists as a behavior, evil is an intent to do harm and an act commited with such an intent.

By the way, are you really trying to imply that immorality or evil are merely subjective qualities?

Student: Gulp! (Reeling from the psychological blows to his corrupt worldview....) Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, professor?"

The professor soothes his aching forehead, and prepares for the 1 millionth time that he will be subjected to the 'can you see the wind' argument.

Professor: What an interesting turn this conversation has taken. Can I advise you to read Brofenbrenner's suggestion against arguing over subjects over which you are uninformed? It's in your textbook. Page 1.

Student: "Professor, since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a priest?

Professor: Interesting indirect comment on the priesthood. But let's leave that aside... We do observe the process of evolution at work, for the process works at this very moment. As for the implication in your argument that one must 'be there' to observe a process at it occurs, surely you realize that we can infer the process through examining the evidence that these processes leave behind? In a sense, we are there when we observe artifacts.

Consider for example the science of astronomy. How do we know about super novas? Because we can observe diferrent supernovas in different stages of super nova, by observing their 'artifacts' in the night sky. The same stands for any historical science. Your mistake here is that you think science is merely 'real-time-observation'. This is a strawman of science. By your logic trees can't grow - after all, who's actually witnessed a tree growing?

Science is both direct and indirect observation... it also allows for inference. If, for the sake of consistency you were asked to follow your own rule, you'd have to concede that we have no evidence tree growth, or mountain formation - after all, I've never actually seen a seed grow into a tree, I've only seen it in stages.

Student: "But professor! You stated that science is the study of observed phenomena.

Professor: No, this is a strawman of what science is... Science is more than just real time observation, we also observe artifacts and make inferences. But continue....

Student: (Responds to this as a goat might respond to a book on calculus) May I give you an example of what I mean?"

Professor: Certainly.

Student: "Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen air, oxygen, molecules, atoms, the professor's brain?"

The class breaks out in laughter. The christian points towards professor, "Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor's brain... felt the professor's brain, touched or smelt the professor's brain?" "No one appears to have done so", The christian shakes his head sadly. "It appears no one here has had any sensory perception of the professor's brain whatsoever. Well, according to the rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science, I declare that the professor has no brain!"

(So much for the student's pretense of respect, clearly his goal is to ridicule).

Professor: You mean, according to your strawman view of science. I am glad that you are here in my class so that I can help you better understand what you criticize. Science is not merely 'looking' at things. Science is empirical, but also rational. We can make inferences from evidence of things that we do see, back to phenonema that we might not be able to directly see. Such as a functioning brain.

And one inference I can make from observing your behaviors here today is that you've wasted the money you've spent on your logic textbook so far this year. I strongly advise, for your own sake, that you crack open that book today, and start reading. From page 1.

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

Books on atheism.

Thanks @ "Evil is a lack of something"

Hey. I'm one of Martin's best friends, and I just want to say thanks for acknowledging this article of his. It's one of my favorites.

 

Cheers, and more power!

 

~Lagim

  Yeah Tod,  I gave this

  Yeah Tod,  I gave this one a full 12 pack of beer wisdom , and said there is no "absence of ", no ZERO, sratching my head , wondering if I was just super dumb !? ....  

 

Tanath's picture

Good article, but I noticed

Good article, but I noticed an error. Evil does not require human intent. A natural disaster that devatstates a population for instance would do much evil, but the disaster has no evil intent. Also, the saying "The road to hell is paved with good intentions," has merit. One can have the best intentions, and still commit evil acts.

----
Faith is not a virtue.

   Define evil, no evil no

   Define evil, no evil no good , how good is good ? how bad is bad ? WAR ? ying yang ! GO FOR THE MIDDLE, Buddha said .... I like that Buddha ...... 

Good and evil are entirely

Good and evil are entirely subjective concepts determined by 'society'. They are usually defined on what allows society to function the best. Of course what is the 'best' evolves over time. Of course some atheists would disagree with that but they are wrong and I am right Smiling

 

Tanath's picture

mrjonno wrote:Good and evil

mrjonno wrote:

Good and evil are entirely subjective concepts determined by 'society'. They are usually defined on what allows society to function the best. Of course what is the 'best' evolves over time. Of course some atheists would disagree with that but they are wrong and I am right Smiling

 

Good and evil aren't completely subjective. They have subjective aspects, of course, but you can't ignore objective reality. Society doesn't determine what is good and evil, though it can certainly have an affect on such. Society determines what it thinks is good or evil, and it determines rules (laws) for behaviour based on what it thinks. I would argue a mainly utilitarian perspective on ethics. What is right or wrong is contingent on the situation, so the fact that ethics can evolve does not imply that something was never truly right/wrong, or that ethics is completely subjective or relative.

----
Faith is not a virtue.

  and the War of Evolution

  and the War of Evolution goes on, The MIDDLE WINS, some buddha said, ......

 SO ? where is the MIDDLE

 SO ? where is the MIDDLE anyway ? Which way is UP !    ???

   I just pretend I AM not

   I just pretend I AM not confused, CAUSE i CAN , what's that tell ya? , ABOUT god !  and RRS RRS RRS RRS RRS !   How is that possible !    smileys know ! HI 

 Good and evil aren't

 

Good and evil aren't completely subjective. They have subjective aspects, of course, but you can't ignore objective reality. Society doesn't determine what is good and evil, though it can certainly have an affect on such. Society determines what it thinks is good or evil, and it determines rules (laws) for behaviour based on what it thinks. I would argue a mainly utilitarian perspective on ethics. What is right or wrong is contingent on the situation, so the fact that ethics can evolve does not imply that something was never truly right/wrong, or that ethics is completely subjective or relative.

 

What are these objective realities?

 

If Hitler had won WW2 genocide in the name of racial purity would have been seen as a  'good' act

Racism and slavery have been justified as 'good' acts due to the wonders of the bible, persecution of gay people is still seen to be a 'good' act by some people.

We judge right and wrong in a democracy by a general consensus, and we judge past acts by that consensus.

A good example of this in the UK is we are refusing to pardon soldiers of WW1 who were shot for cowardice while probably being shell shocked. The justification of this was that was justice in those days even if most people find it very wrong now.

Or an example of where there isnt a consensus, in the UK there is no legal difference between a child murderer and a prison guard who kills that child murder. The criminal penalty is life in jail, there is no legal difference. In the US the prison guard gets paid by the state to execute the child murderer

This will continue to apply in the future, maybe in a couple of hundred years people will look back on us as savages

 

Tanath's picture

mrjonno wrote:Quote:Good and

mrjonno wrote:
Quote:

Good and evil aren't completely subjective. They have subjective aspects, of course, but you can't ignore objective reality. Society doesn't determine what is good and evil, though it can certainly have an affect on such. Society determines what it thinks is good or evil, and it determines rules (laws) for behaviour based on what it thinks. I would argue a mainly utilitarian perspective on ethics. What is right or wrong is contingent on the situation, so the fact that ethics can evolve does not imply that something was never truly right/wrong, or that ethics is completely subjective or relative.

What are these objective realities?

Say what? Objective reality is singular. I'm saying morality has both subjective and objective aspects. A course of action requires both a person to do it, and a situation to do it in. Whether it's right or wrong depends on both aspects.

Quote:
 

If Hitler had won WW2 genocide in the name of racial purity would have been seen as a  'good' act

Racism and slavery have been justified as 'good' acts due to the wonders of the bible, persecution of gay people is still seen to be a 'good' act by some people.

We judge right and wrong in a democracy by a general consensus, and we judge past acts by that consensus.

Again, things are not right or wrong simply by declaration. Society is not the arbiter of right and wrong. Society makes laws based on what it thinks is right and wrong (or should anyway). Sometimes, laws get passed that are not good/beneficial.

 

----
Faith is not a virtue.

 Again, things are not

 

Again, things are not right or wrong simply by declaration. Society is not the arbiter of right and wrong. Society makes laws based on what it thinks is right and wrong (or should anyway). Sometimes, laws get passed that are not good/beneficial.

 

 

Must disagree the only arbiter (at any current time) of what is right or wrong is society.

 

If society determines you are evil and must be burnt at the stake for being a catholic , a protestant an atheist? then that is basically that is the definition of evil at that current time. Totally arbitary. If it isnt what other definition can you use, the bible ? some other secular book?, the ideas of a dead philosopher?

Tanath's picture

mrjonno wrote:Quote:Again,

mrjonno wrote:
Quote:

Again, things are not right or wrong simply by declaration. Society is not the arbiter of right and wrong. Society makes laws based on what it thinks is right and wrong (or should anyway). Sometimes, laws get passed that are not good/beneficial.

 Must disagree the only arbiter (at any current time) of what is right or wrong is society.

You can't be serious. Are you sure you mean what you're saying? If society is the arbiter of right and wrong, then whatever society determines is right, is right. If a society determines something is right and makes laws accordingly, and as a result that society ends up killing itself off, then how could you sanely argue that it was in fact "right"? Trust me, it doesn't work.

Quote:
If society determines you are evil and must be burnt at the stake for being a catholic , a protestant an atheist? then that is basically that is the definition of evil at that current time. Totally arbitary. If it isnt what other definition can you use, the bible ? some other secular book?, the ideas of a dead philosopher?

Hardly. Again, they define what they think is evil. Not what evil actually is. There are reasons why we've evolved out of that. I've already stated that I'd argue a mainly utilitarian perspective. Perhaps you should look it up.

----
Faith is not a virtue.

Evil/good as a real entity

Evil/good as a real entity simply does not exist. If a society definition of right gets itself destroyed then other definitions will replace it in other societies.

So in many ways the definition of what is 'good' is what allows a society to produce the maximum number of quality tanks/warplanes and defend itself. Remember women did not get the right to vote for any silly concepts like 'this is morally correct', they got the right to vote so they would work in the factories making rifles/tanks etc so the men could go out to fight giving that society clear advantages over in survivability over those that dont.

 

 

 

 

Tanath's picture

mrjonno wrote:Evil/good as a

mrjonno wrote:

Evil/good as a real entity simply does not exist. If a society definition of right gets itself destroyed then other definitions will replace it in other societies.

So in many ways the definition of what is 'good' is what allows a society to produce the maximum number of quality tanks/warplanes and defend itself. Remember women did not get the right to vote for any silly concepts like 'this is morally correct', they got the right to vote so they would work in the factories making rifles/tanks etc so the men could go out to fight giving that society clear advantages over in survivability over those that dont.

Numbers don't exist as a "real entity" either. Doesn't mean the concept is meaningless, and certainly not useless. If a society's definition of right gets itself destroyed, then obviously it had a flawed definition! What if we take "society" to be all of humanity? Global society. What then? What you're pointing out, how inadequate societies will die off, is one way ethical standards evolve. They evolve because some standards are better than others. Thus, morality has an objective aspect, because it depends on the situation/environment.

Voting and war are specific issues, and the morality of them is dependent on the context. There's the question of how beneficial or detrimental society determines them to be, and how beneficial or detrimental they actually are. They may not match. It's not the society that is the arbiter, it is nature. To say that any given behaviour is always right or always wrong is wrong in itself. Such thinking doesn't allow for change, and ethics needs to be able to change with the times to adapt to new situations.

----
Faith is not a virtue.

     "Faith is not a

     "Faith is not a virtue" etc etc ,  THANKS YOU  

Hmm... maybe not?

I would disagree with the way you've argued your point... I'm an athiest and i was pretty impressed with the student's argument. It was very clever.


I would not make the distinction between hot/cold as secondary properties and momentum of particles itself. The fact is that there is a limit to how much "cold" is possible but none on how much heat you can acheive. There is also a limit to how little light you can have in any space-time aswell. The terms darkness and coldness themselves describe secondary properties but the state of absolute zero is very real and so is the absence of light. 'Absence' maybe the wrong term to use as it implies a state lacking of but you know what I mean... Dont get into the argument of ontology over nothing, its not a closed debate. 45 degrees is not the opposite to -45... but there is no -45 kelvins which means that for this measurement of heat, it can only be positive. The lack of a positive value is 0. You get where I'm going with this.

I would point out however that using this analogy is not applicable for matters relating to morality. There is a dichotomy between good and bad, there isn't one for what I've just argued for above Sticking out tongue

Great post!
Honestly, when I read Einstein, I believed it... Partly because of the credibility of this site Sticking out tongue
Im happy to debate this but I'm probably not going to revisit this page, site's got my email.

HeyZeusCreaseToe's picture

Good rebuttal

I have seen a bunch of arguments such as these that do exactly what you said by creating a dogmatic authority figure who is completely blown away by a skeptical novice's questions. Total horseshit! That was an excellent rebuttal and refutation of his fallacious argument and argument style. It reminds me of this Pro Christian Anti-Muslim propaganda email my mom sent me from this supposed prison minister. Check it out. It invokes similar horrible arguments and completely unbelievable responses of the authority figure(Imam) and the skeptic(Christian).

allah or jesus?

I'm not saying I'm for Islam, as I think it is worse than the current incarnation of Christianity, but this was just a similar article I thought was interesting.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Yoda

deludedgod's picture

Quote:The fact is that there

Quote:

The fact is that there is a limit to how much "cold" is possible but none on how much heat you can acheive.

The Planck Temperature

Quote:

ont get into the argument of ontology over nothing, its not a closed debate. 45 degrees is not the opposite to -45.

Yes, that would be because the Kelvin scale is a directly proportional measure of the kinetics of particles. Hence, zero Kelvin means no movement and no temperature. It is not possible to have "negative Kelvin".

Quote:

but the state of absolute zero is very real

No it isn't. Absolute zero is a model used in physics to help with the ideal gas equations. Absolute zero is not real. In fact, according to the third law of thermodynamics, absolute zero is not possible. It is possible to get something very close to 0K. It is impossible to achieve 0K.

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

-Me

Books about atheism

light is the lack of darkness

i briefly glanced at this thread and a few of the comments so i apologize if my comment does not properly fit into the thread or relate to the original post. that being said i would like to share the following thoughts...

the argument of evil being the lack of good, as darkness is the lack of light and cold is the lack of heat, can be flipped on its head. one could just as easily argue that good is the lack of evil as heat is the lack of cold and light is the lack of darkness. if i recall correctly, the argument that evil is the lack of good was first put forward by augustine of hipo. augustine was ultimately attempting to answer the question "is God evil?" i do not think augustine's argument is true to reality, and i do think it is still fair for theologians to ask the question "is God evil?" when i was in seminary i was going to write my thesis in response to this question. i was seriously intending on putting forth the argument that God was indeed evil. the rape victim and the holocaust survivor know very well that evil is something more than the rapist's lax of goodness and the mass murderer's lack of virtue. it would be very arrogant to tell those who suffer that they suffer from nothing/the non-existence of good. if evil is the void of goodness then what are Christians to think of the idea of satan and the fallen angels? if evil is the lack of good, the lack of something, then to be pure evil is to be non-existent. if satan and the fallen angels exist then there must be at the very least a mustard seed of goodness in them. if God is the source of all goodness then there must be a mustard seed of God in them. it also follows that there would have to be a mustard seed of good/God in all the damned throughout hell. certainly the self identities of the fallen angels and the damned must then stem from that existing mustard seed of good. with all this in mind Christians must then carefully reconsider the source of hell's torments. is torture the lack of pampering?... of course all this becomes more and more absurd the deeper one digs into it. still, theologians and their students continue to deceive their natural reasoning with their clever toy theoligies. what a tangled web they weave when theologians practice to deceive... if a theist insists on convincing me that God exists, then i must insist on convincing that theist that God is evil. it would be my hope that with the aid of the theist's faith i would be able to point out that God is far more worthy of hell than the worst of sinners. if i could do that then the next step would be to accept the fact that the God of the theist's faith does not exist. augustine did not solve the problem. the question still presents itself. "is God evil?" if one attempts to answer this question with intelectual honestly then i would hope that one would arrive at two possible answers. either A) yes God is evil or B) God does not exist. i choose B, but i think A is also a step in the right direction. if i'm going to hell then God's going with me. if i am given a choice between eternity with an evil God or an eternity without an evil God then i choose the latter. i say all this without any anger or hostility. i say all this with the calm peace of my natural reasoning. i do not fear the afterlife and i certainly do not fear any non-existent evil God. this life is all i've been given so i will live it as best i can and will not worry about problems which do not exist. this is the good news which i will be glad to offer to any theist who wants to share his/her faith with me.

take care,

jp

=)   

"evil be thou my good"

Evil (capital E) as a lack of Good (capital C) can take us back through Plotinus (d. 270 CE) to Plato (d. 347 BCE).

Any falling off from perfection, any attenuation of it, implies some eruption of Evil. Evil as privation is a very old doctrine. Augustine brought Plotinus to bear (acknowledged or not) as it suited him -- and xianity has paid the price ever since. Dubious philosophy turned into fifth-rate fan fiction, theology.

Any god, male or female, worth a damn operates "beyond good and evil" (to use Nietzsche's sparkling phrase).

That is, moral categories do not apply to them.

bipolar2

I think its you who has made

I think its you who has made the error

 

  

Natural disasters aren't evil BECAUSE  they have no intent, unless God does create natural disasters, which again would prove him to be a sadistic bastard. On the other hand, if God doesn't  create natural disasters, but allows them to happen, again he is malevolent. OR if he doesn't create them but is powerless to stop them, then he is not omnipotent.

All in all, either God doesn't exist, or he is a proper asshole. Why would someone create humans in their own image, then chastise and punish them for the very flaws they created, and then, above all, send his own son to earth to die for the sins his creations have commited? what an idiot, seriously.

The problem with your

The problem with your argument is this:

Light and heat are measurable.  You can have a jar of light.  You simply have to trap enough photons within the jar.

Heat can be thought of as the amount of random motion of particles.  The more random motion you have, the more heat you have.  (temperature isn't an amount.  It's a measurement.  You can't have more temperature)

In light of these definitions, the opposite of light (dark) is simply an absence of photons, and the opposite of heat (cold) is simply an absence or lessening of random particle motion. ("Absolute zero" being the point where motion stops)

 

As for the original questin of whether evil exists, I believe it does exist on its own accord, as a choice opposite good.  Absence of good is the same as absence of evil: apathy.  (note that I don't count natural disasters as evil.  Evil requires a conscious will).  This does not, however, disprove God, as the creation of Free Will necessitates Evil. (If you can't choose to do evil, do you really have Free Will?)  God must simply have valued Free Will more than He hates the evil it results in.

Heat and cold aren't

Heat and cold aren't opposites, HOT and cold are opposites.  Hot means a lot of heat, and cold means not a lot of heat.

 

Also, light and dark aren't opposites, BRIGHT and dark are opposites.  When the student told the professor to hand him a jar of darkness, the professor should have requested a jar of brightness.

Point five contracts yourself

It is the theist's position (in this argument) that evil is not an ontic thing. The atheist is maintaining that it is a thing (or otherwise God doesn't have to create it). So if you say that it's illogical for someone to claim that evil exists as a thing, it is the atheist who is being illogical, not the theist.

hmm..

Personally, im a christian, and i believe that God exists and created 'everything' - he didnt create the computer i have but the materials were created and people keep figuring out how to put things together more efficiently ect ect.

but this whole article is really funny, mainly because, it completly skips over the "our works define who we are" part.. this is the reasoning the whole discussion is about.. and yet the 'chritstian' student says nothing....

this principle isnt necessarily true, for one our works usually define our worldy successes or failures not who we are, for example if i crash my car, and fail some test, then im a failure and a bad driver..so i am 'bad' or if i create a cure for cancer then im a hero.. and therefore good? ect. what we do and who we are are two completly seprate things

and because in christianity, your good and bad works mean nothing to God, once you accept Jesus as your savior..to an extent at least.. your saved=you go to heaven.. you sin= you go to heaven, you need to ask for forgiveness.. ect. So once you accept God, he accepts you as his child, no matter what you do.

some religions believe that if you do enough good works and not so many bad works you can live and die happy, but doing good works doesnt make you a good person or a bad person or become who you are.

basically what im saying is that who we are determines what we will do or our works but that doesnt mean we wont make mistakes. thats life. if you catch a 'good' person on a bad day, you may think baddly of them. ect.

personally im a science major in college at the moment, and in my biology class i shut up and learned evolution and ect. because even though i dont believe in it, i know i have to know it and i know that it is at the moment the most rational explanation scientists can come up with at the moment to explain how we got here, because creation is too vague and doesnt make sense in our world as we know it. what i didnt appreciate is that after my teacher acknowledged that if we believe in creationism he isnt trying to change us but we have to know the evolution side to, which i was already prepared to do, although it was nice of him to say it.. he went on and said all the reasons thoughout his lecture about how creationism couldnt be the answer because it doesnt explain anything, yet they cant explain alot of things in evolution either, its not about monkey men it how i came from a bactria, or fish, and why if humans did evlove from monkeys.. why didnt the rest of the monkeys evolve. and the best they can come up with was that it was luck/a once in a universe lifetime event..ect. its not that i dont find it intersting or bbelieve it has valid points, i just dont see why he had to boast about the good parts and skim over the fuzzy parts, but go on about how it had to be right.. i mean he said he believed in it, and he said we didnt have to, so there was really no reason to shove it at us, it offended me at the time, but ill keep my mouth shut, because i wouldnt want to be a bad example of the christian faith because i was at a loss of words in front of others that may not know about God, i dont know answers always look bad no matter who they come from

the student really shows what can happen if you know the right answer but dont know why its the right answer, he really puts christians in a negative light because he doesnt know enough information about his own point and faith or the subject he is even in. what a sad sight.

 

anyways that was just a personal rant but yeah. good extremely funny article. had some great points

Vastet's picture

You clearly weren't paying

You clearly weren't paying attention in that science class. Why didn't monkeys evolve too? News flash: They did. Second news flash: we actually evolved from a common ancestor to apes, not monkeys. Third news flash: that common ancestor is long extinct.
Maybe your teacher is part of the problem, but you admitting that you skimmed over large swaths of text is suggestive that you are the problem.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

Atheistextremist's picture

Yeerrse

Vastet wrote:
You clearly weren't paying attention in that science class. Why didn't monkeys evolve too? News flash: They did. Second news flash: we actually evolved from a common ancestor to apes, not monkeys. Third news flash: that common ancestor is long extinct. Maybe your teacher is part of the problem, but you admitting that you skimmed over large swaths of text is suggestive that you are the problem.

 

Why is it that so many people fail to see that every living species is busily evolving to suit the changing climes? How can we possibly evolve from a species that's right here with us today?

Take me, for instance. I have a giant right hand for manipulating my TV remote and a giant left hand for manipulating my amygdala remote. And a rectangular mouth that evolved to accommodate

an entire block of chocolate. I am an intermediate form. When my left hand looks like Grace Kelly (circa Rear Window), I will have reached completion...

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck

butterbattle's picture

 nicoley wrote:once you

 

nicoley wrote:
once you accept Jesus as your savior..to an extent at least.. your saved=you go to heaven.. you sin= you go to heaven, you need to ask for forgiveness.. ect. So once you accept God, he accepts you as his child, no matter what you do.

I'm not a big fan of the argument from evil, but, so, what you're saying is that God can repent for his evil actions by asking for forgiveness from himself?

Did you read the article?

Quote:
yet they cant explain alot of things in evolution either, its not about monkey men it how i came from a bactria, or fish,

Biologists DO understand the processes in evolution. They haven't acquired enough data to establish the evolutionary timelines for everything, but this is not evidence against evolution. 

Quote:
 and why if humans did evlove from monkeys.. why didnt the rest of the monkeys evolve.

You're really a biology major? I don't believe you. If you are, you're going to flunk out of college. I'm a physics major; you being a biology major and rejecting evolution is comparable to me rejecting electromagnetism. There's a reason it's called the unifying theory of biology.

To answer your question, we did not evolve from monkeys that currently exist. We and other living primates evolved from a common ancestor. So, the "other monkeys" did evolve. In fact, you can't not evolve. They simply don't need to evolve into humans nor do they need to suffer any dramatic physical change. As long as populations of these organisms were virtually independent of one another, their gene pools would be free to diverge. FYI, evolution is not "trying" to evolve organisms into humans because evolution is not some kind of "intelligence," and humans are not some kind of "peak of perfection;" it is a blind, natural, stochastic process. The fact that you expect everything to evolve into humans illustrates that you don't know anything about evolution.       

 

Quote:
and the best they can come up with was that it was luck/a once in a universe lifetime event..ect. its not that i dont find it intersting or bbelieve it has valid points,

Okay, no biology professor would have said that, so now it's obvious that you're full of shit. You want to prove me wrong? Tell me what you know about anything about science. What university do you go to? What classes have you taken?

 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare

Science Reason Rationality's picture

Error!

Error!

What about the tree of good and evil?

That student in the story seemed to just be pulling arguments out of his ass because God allegedly created the tree of good and evil. Unless Christians are willing to admit that story to be false or a metaphorical story of sorts, I think it is quite obvious that the Bible not only fails to refute but clearly states God created both good and evil. And if Christians are willing to admit the story of Adam and Eve isn't true, and more specifically the story of original sin isn't true, then they're left with no foundation which opens a multitude of other arguments.

Nice article and a good

Nice article and a good point presented just one thing bothering me... During the start of the "revised" story you edit for bias against the professor but then during the rest of the text you input bias directed at the christian pupil. Why did you need to do this? The story would more than prove the point without your subjective values against the pupil. Now your article beyond proving that the original is false also proves that you are equally quick to humiliate the opinion and holder as the original writer was. Ad hominem is never a correct method for refuting a viewpoint (It's not a very RATIONAL response either). Lead by good example don't fall into the same depths as those you are tying to combat.

Athene's picture

Response to Glucon

I'm quite happy that this article isn't some feeble polite answer, but an entertaining retort. Not because it would prove more useful in educating this way: You cannot educate someone who isn't willing to value truth over convenience anyway. The Christian in this story is one of the worst kinds of Christians, mechanically repeating the empty slogans he has heard, oblivious of any feedback he gets. He deserves what he gets, and it's hardly even the Professor who is taunting him, but rather the description which contains a little justified condescendence. People like him simply need to be put in his place. After all, they won't treat others with respect for having the better arguments, so at least they shall learn to treat rational people with respect because the latter ones possess the power of exposing the former ones, making them look anything else than impressive. From time to time (like now), I'm reading this article as a relieving compensation after being trolled with unbearably foolish theistic arguments for the millionth time, not unsimilar to the worn out Professor in the story. Many thanks to todangst and the Rational Response Squad at this occasion!

Besides this quite egoistic and low motive of mine, this story is also useful for the sceptic Christians. I'm enjoying close contact with Christians every week, and though these ones are quite peaceful and tolerant, they blindly support pretty disgusting agitators nevertheless. Not out of fanatism, but because their thinking and viewpoints are based solely on charisma and emotional conviction. Even the teenagers are as uninformed about atheism and its arguments as children in a radical sect would be. Therefor, treating these agitators with respect is exactly the wrong way; they rather need to be stripped of their assumed superiority. Not by calling them names or other clumsy means, but by describing and judging their behavior without mercy. They are admired as heroes and supermen, and if you want to reach the mind of a Christian, you must prepare him for doubting these authorities in the first place.

As long as you don't succeed in abolishing the strong emotion of admiration, your arguments will be easy to shrug off as a lack of admiration on your side (e.g. "You haven't met him. If you open your heart, you will feel the strength and the wisdom of his words" etc). If a person valued critical thinking above everything (including relationships to his relatives, friends, social group), he or she wouldn't be a theist anyway. That's why many atheists fail in convincing the religious ones who *are* convincable: These atheists don't recognize that religious belief relies primarily on emotions, not on thoughts. Christians may be bringing forth rational-seeming arguments, but these are not the pillars on which the belief rests.

However, we also have to see that there actually is no alternative to a church if you are looking for a group of people sharing the same values and living as a community. Political ideologies would be the next best thing, but the parties rather focus on specific demands, selfish advantages and opportunistic power-craving instead of a solid fundament which is more important than the differences. In my opinion, that's the main problem in discussions. I even consider scientific findings as much more fulfilling especially in spiritual aspects! But there is no continuous way to share this enthusiasm in Real Life.

So in a sense, the old accusation of atheists being immoral is true in one regard: They aren't unified on a common moral ground, not in that extend that they would team up to share their lives at least one day a week on a regular basis, talking about what moves them, worrying about each other, helping each other. Now of course there are many different kinds of Atheists, but the same goes for Christians, so that's no excuse. And until one cannot offer such a social, intellectual and spiritual support to religious persons, why should they give up the one they have? Even a massively flawed support is better than no one, at least for the person concerned. *This* is the real question atheists should be asking, for until an answer is found, debating religious fallacies lacks its most important reason.

Just my thoughts and experiences.

BobSpence's picture

Non-Theists have a firmer

Non-Theists have a firmer moral ground than Theists, since it is not based on the purely subjective "knowledge" that is all the believer has to justify their ideas, at least insofar they base them purely on the "insights" of religious experiences and the writings in holy texts.

It is also my experience that those who reject religious belied do like to get together socially, more especially when they are in societies where belief is considered the "norm". We value the mutual assurance that we are not individually isolated in seeing so many common beliefs as unfounded, even when we debate on the details.

The various brands of religious belief around the world actually are not particularly unified themselves on many moral teachings, but that does not make them automatically immoral, any more than disagreement on moral precepts among any other group.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology

What is evil?

So what is evil and why is it bad, is it possible that evil is actually good ?

ubuntuAnyone's picture

Life Guru wrote:So what is

Life Guru wrote:

So what is evil and why is it bad, is it possible that evil is actually good ?

Evil...Teh..to ask "What is evil" and "Why is it bad" is more or less the same question. No, evil cannot be good either.

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”

Athene wrote:The Christian

Athene wrote:

The Christian in this story is one of the worst kinds of Christians, mechanically repeating the empty slogans he has heard, oblivious of any feedback he gets. He deserves what he gets, and it's hardly even the Professor who is taunting him, but rather the description which contains a little justified condescendence. People like him simply need to be put in his place. After all, they won't treat others with respect for having the better arguments, so at least they shall learn to treat rational people with respect because the latter ones possess the power of exposing the former ones, making them look anything else than impressive. From time to time (like now), I'm reading this article as a relieving compensation after being trolled with unbearably foolish theistic arguments for the millionth time, not unsimilar to the worn out Professor in the story. Many thanks to todangst and the Rational Response Squad at this occasion!

Ah yes! "mechanically repeating the empty slogans" a most heinous crime indeed. "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" - King James Bible, Matthew 7:3. Now I understand that citing the Bilble with all its horrors and repugnant moral advice might be counter productive on a atheist board but since I myself adhere to agnostic principles I find it useful to "cherry pick" the points I find pleasing. My citation of Matthew pertains to the fact that when you condem the theist for "mechanically repeating..." you also as per the theory of moral universability bind yourself to not perform the same act. Now then the question: Do you hold evidence for all the belifies you hold as fact? The fact that you could gahter evidence or support (or indeed falsify) for your belifies does not count for indeed so could the theist if he should so want. But neither you nor the theist wants (or should want in your current human state) to adhere to this principle for in so doing you forsake the ability to trust the word of another. You would force yourself to reinvent the sum of human knowladge for each person, each generation and perhaps even each temporal location since all your current knowladge rests upon a previous time of ignorance. And should you find yourself cursed to live in a determenistic universe you would find that all statments are "mechanically repetead" statments made neccesary by the previous  state of the system. My point being only this: We all, theists, atheists and agnostics at some point resort to "mechanically repeating empty slogans" it is am I afraid the curse of our limited minds that so must be the case.

I will not defend those who do not seek the truth or those who in it's face shy away for they are truly condemned to the darkness of thier own ignorance. Perhaps the theist in the original tale is one of those but the text does not show this as a fact, it shows a student that tries do defend that which he belivies to be true, and I do not find fault in that. For the stance that Evil is the lack of good is not some tripe or trope that can be brushed aside and even thought it can be shown as false, it needs to be done so. The professor cites Locke's distinction of "secondary and primary sensations" a move that clearly shows the colours of empericism and a move that (even modern) philosophers would question, just by browsing the wiki you can find the counter proposed by George Berkely. All I whish to say is "do not ridicule the pupil nor the argument" for both may show to water the seed which we call truth.

 

I translated this

Just to let everyone know, since I couldn't access the original author's blog, i translated the whole thing to spanish, so I can mail it to the people i know from mexico. It's so cool, i couldn't resist to do it. If you want the translation, or want anything translated from either spanish to english or english to spanish, drop by my blog. I do it for free, to practice.

I oughta say, this was quite

I oughta say, this was quite the enjoyable read. I liked how everything is disapproven with logic.

Author: I thought you

Author: I thought you brought some great theologic pieces to this, but you did stray, as someone said, from an objective rebuttal with they updated conversation and there are plenty of students who do still treat their professors with respect and say sir. Otherwise, I thought it was pretty good. 

 

Okay, so here's my issue. While I do feel that the Christian gives a somewhat reasonable setup for a philosopher's trap, I don't think they really finish it off well with the whole, "Professor doesn't have a mind thing." or whatever. The professor in this argument, woud have undoubtedly not wandered into such a minefield though. My issue is this, both sides argue completely unreasonably that they are infallibly correct. This aggravates me to no end. 

 

Christians believe in God and Christ and that's great, I don't think it makes them ignorant or less intelligent and for us to say they are is smug and gives us little ground to stand on as rational and objective. There is a Christian base that believe in God and Christ and they believe in evolution and other sciences and I don't think this takes away from their faith and neither do they. They believe that these were the processes that God worked through, in a world he created, to make the world as it is now. Whether their belief is superflous or whatever, I can respect their faith. The problem is Christians who blindly reject things based on the claim, "I didn't come from a monkey." Or whatever. Go through the process of the sciences, see what's out there. Maybe you did come from an ape in the distant past, maybe you didn't. Maybe the world is 16 billion years old and maybe it's 14,000 or whatever the number is, the problem doesn't come from learning, the problem comes from blind rejection and a failure to not even look at science. Maybe it will cause you to doubt, but maybe you'll find God in science as many of my colleagues have claimed they did. 

 

So, my other issue is with science. The issue with scientists is...they aren't historians. Guys, the issue with scientists is sometimes you can be just as unfailingly stubborn as the most zealous of theists. Science is a flawed practice that only builds off of recognizing it's ever changing truths and outdated theories. The evolution of the atomic model, the solar model, and the still misunderstood processes of the human body are some of the most common of these changing and evolving scientific truths. The issue is, that every time a scientific discovery is made the science community either fights it, or reveres it as the truth. Well how many times do you have to tout something as the truth only for it to be proved incorrect, or not quite right, before you learn that you're fallible. Now, while there are scientists who get this, there are pieces of the scientific community who either forget, or don't want to say, that their are arguments between factions of scientists who can't even agree WHEN the Earth was formed, before you even get to HOW (I'm talking different theories of celestial structuring, not creation or Big Bang). 

 

Every branch of study, even history, which seems pretty straight forward, is fallible. So, instead of each group pretending like we always are right, we should try submitting ideas with the caption of based on the most recent evidence. The quote goes something like, "Faith is flexible, religion is not.". When scientists come at a theist with their newest truth, of course the theist gets on their heels and defensive and when a theist blindly denies science, it's maddening to someone who has devoted their LIFE to maybe only one tiny piece of a scientific idea. I know my thoughts are utopian and hippie, "Hey man, if we just all got along, man, life would be so simple man.". I just think if the people with their great ideas and beliefs could maybe admit every now and then that maybe they don't have all the answers, it'd be a little easier for their to be a conversation. Maybe even one where the scientist tells the theist that they aren't trying to disprove God, but really they're trying to sate a curious piece of their mind that drives them to look for answers about the world. Then, the theist could say that's really cool, I believe in God and I think that he's got a handle on the world and I find peace in that. I honestly believe in both would just take a breath and not feel like one is a challenge to the other, as you were stating in the updated conversation, it doesn't have to be a dichotomy. 

 

Science remember: Gravity is true...until you throw the apple in the air and it floats away. (hilarious comment by my physics professor.)

Theists remember: IF you believe in a religion of outreach...yelling and putting down scientists by mocking their ideas is not exactly a good form of preaching.

The major difference being

 The major difference being that the student was repeating ones that are false as fact. That makes all the difference in the world.

Actually, a disaster can do

Actually, a disaster can do much harm, but evil definitely requires intent. If that disaster is caused by someone capable of making moral and/or ethical decisions, whether a supervillain or a hypothetical god, then it can be evil. But just as animals can do cruel things without being evil (as far as our current understanding of animal intelligence is concerned), so nature does harm but is not evil.

 

As for committing evil with the best of intentions, that isn't paradoxical either; intent refers to the intent to perform an act, rather than its morality. Just like in English Tort law, one can intend to do something but not intend consequences that follow directly from them. A classic example from the 17th century is a man who threw fireworks into a crowd, not realising that the explosions would be as large as they were; some people were injured, and though the man's intent was not to injure anyone, he did intend to throw the fireworks.

 

So that's it; evil can be inadvertent but must be intentional.

 You should have included

 You should have included something about bacteria and that you can easily observe them evolving. Scientists, as you probably know, have done an expiriment with yeast where the yeast population starts as sing cellular and evolves to be multi cellular. 

 That is not correct. Evil

 That is not correct. Evil must come from a conscious thought of free will. The wind is not evil because it made a tree fall and kill alot of people. And a human without any control over her own thoughts cant be evil either.
But I agree with you; it does not have to be human, it could be a evil God or a smart alien etc. (if we assume that free will exists, and it most likely dont.)

Cheers!

 

Vastet's picture

Evil is subjective. Next?

Evil is subjective.

Next? Sticking out tongue

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

it just goes to who, beliefs have nothing to do with logic,

they are decisions, people make a decision on what life is, and then look out into the world, and find circumstancial evidence, well crafted intellectualism, philosophy etc and use them all the prove a point or support a already held belief.

what has been happening here is just more tired exploration of a very popular universal polarity. the world is full of em.. right wrong, up down, girl guy, big small, best worst..

the real quesion is not what you believe , its why you believe it.

what does it support.

are you, about to die, and need someting to believe in other than anihalition after death?

are you gay, and want to believe  in somethign or a world view that supports your way of life? (even though evolution really protrays gays as a closed loop.. so that doesnt particularly work either.. but i guess anythings better than feeling guilt or shame&nbspEye-wink

are you living a lifestyle that needs you to believe that there is nothign after this, no potential punishment

are you simply wanting the best for your children and thinking well nice people tend to go to church hopefully they will meet nice people.

 

the reasons abound on both sides. rare is it that someone does not have a reason or sponsoring thought in their decidsion.

 

rarer still is teh person who has truley examined both sides, and sought the unbridled truth no matter where it lead them.. science adn its random version of reality, or faith and its intentional creation version or some hybrid or perhaps theory to bind them all.

since there are no words i can say that will change yoru mind anyways (it doesnt work that way), and , nor would i want to as i am encouraging yoru own true self exploration of the subject, and i do not want to spoil it for you. its a good ride.

but i do assure you , you may be scared at times.. as your entire belief structure is genuinely challenged,.. but pursue on. you will eventually find the patterns the un avoidable patterns, teh clues, the path.

 

for your intention is key. strong intentions always have a nack for getting satiated.

 

and when you finally find your beleif you will know that it is truly what you have found other than what you have been told, conditioned into believing, born into believing, or believe simply out of naviete.

 

 

?

Yes morality has subjective and objective aspects if you mean it requires a subject to do it (peson) and an object to do it in (situation).  That's not the philosphical definition of the terms though.  Usually objective means the thing (object) is wrong in itself, for example rape is wrong in itself.  Subjective means that the subject (individual or culture) determines what is wong, for example rape is wrong in one place because the majority has agreed that it should be wrong but could be right in another place if the majority agreed that it was morally good.

You didn't answer the second question.  Was genocide wrong or was it seen as wrong by the people/cultures who opposed it?  By the way, if it was wrong objectively, then the only way to justify that is with a transcendent moral lawgiver.  If there is no God, then morality is just what we agree on, which is subjective morality.

 

Vastet's picture

beyonder wrote:it just goes

beyonder wrote:
it just goes to who, beliefs have nothing to do with logic,

False. Belief and logic are closely tied. People won't believe in something that makes no sense without brainwashing.

"they are decisions, people make a decision on what life is, and then look out into the world, and find circumstancial evidence, well crafted intellectualism, philosophy etc and use them all the prove a point or support a already held belief."

There is nothing circumstantial about the evidence which shows the religions of today are the primitive lies of our ignorant ancestors.

"rarer still is teh person who has truley examined both sides, and sought the unbridled truth no matter where it lead them.."

True, but you walked into a site where we gather, so you're outclassed here.

"since there are no words i can say that will change yoru mind anyways (it doesnt work that way)"

Actually it does. I've personally convinced at least a few people to abandon the lies of religion and join humanity.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

Vastet's picture

I know your side doesn't see

I know your side doesn't see much success with words anymore, but we see more success with every passing year.

"Usually objective means the thing (object) is wrong in itself,"

Wrong. The term objective refers to a truth independent of consciousness. Example: The sun burns.
Subjective refers to a truth dependent on consciousness. Good and evil are subjective, as without consciousness they literally do not exist.
Further proof of the subjectivity of good and evil is found in the fact that no two people will ever completely agree on what is good and what is evil.

"then morality is just what we agree on, which is subjective morality."

Whether or not there's a god, morality is subjective. Until you understand that you'll be crippled in any discussion with any atheist who has any idea what they're talking about.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

Jean Chauvin's picture

Hello

Hello,

I've been writing a book on this subject for years now. I agree with the thesis of the essay.

The notion that evil is the absence of the good started with the Greek Philosophers who caused absence to the negation of the positive.

Cold is the absense of Hot, atheism is the absense of thought, ugly is the absense of attraction.

In the Christian world, Augustine of Hippo was in a cult of the Manicheans which believed that there were two gods (kind of like ying yang) who were both equal, one being perfectly good one being perfectly bad. These gods would battle with eachother on the outcome of the world. Thus tornadoes and hurricanes would occur if the bad god won and rainbows and sunshine would occur if the good god won.

Thus, in manicheanism, evil was NOT the absence of good but an actual intrinsci entity like good.

When Augustin became a Christian, this repulsed him. He did not know Greek and Hebrew and according to Phillip Schaff's history of the church notes that he was NOT a scholar, but rather a thinking.

Instead of actually looking at what the text said, Augustin Reacted Emotionally (like many on here) to the notion and assued the evil was the absense of good. This then kept with Christianity for 1600 years.

The Scriptures according to Christianity convey that evil is NOT the absense of the good.

As far as atheism is concerned though, i thought evil does not exist. I understand there are different denominational views in atheism, but still. I would have thought that it would have been classified in the spiritual. While there are things that are bad, there is no such thing as evil.

But to each their own.

Respectfully,

Jean Chauvin (Jude 3).

A Rational Christian of Intelligence (rare)with a valid and sound justification for my epistemology and a logical refutation for those with logical fallacies and false worldviews upon their normative of thinking in retrospect to objective normative(s). This is only understood via the imago dei in which we all are.

Respectfully,

Jean Chauvin (Jude 3).