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Intelligent Design and the cruelty of nature - Comments

Aguazul's Avatar Comment 1 by Aguazul

To me, the answer is that pain down here is of no concern at all to the beings above this level. They can take no sadistic pleasure in it because it is irrelevant to them -- it is like a story from a distant land. Even for the animal in question it is unpleasant and maybe unbearable, but it is relevant only in the moment, and once it passes or the animal dies, it has no further influence. It is a purely local effect. Even in our own lifetimes the periods of injury or pain become just memories soon after. They may continue to have influence only through traumatic associations, but in that case it is not pain which is the problem but rather emotion.

As I watch my baby son go through teething pains, I wonder why our existence is so uncomfortable right from the start. From a Darwinian perspective, the mechanism works, the pain is irrelevant. From a spiritual perspective, you can take the approach that the pain is a chance for the being to improve its qualities. Whether that is the 'right' answer or not, it is a pragmatic way to make use of an unpleasant stimulus.

I well remember physical training classes as a child, and it made me wonder about the nature of time, why it was 'now' that I was experiencing the pain (I suffered from stitch), and why 'now' was not 'later', i.e. why my experience was so tightly focussed on just one point on the timeline of my life, the one where I was experiencing pain. I still don't have an answer to my question about the nature of our experience of time.

Tue, 15 May 2012 20:11:02 UTC | #941679

godzillatemple's Avatar Comment 2 by godzillatemple

Interesting take on the issue, Aguazul, but that sort of aloof being that you describe seems very far removed (no pun intended) from the loving and caring god that most theists claim to believe in.

Tue, 15 May 2012 21:04:34 UTC | #941688

raytoman's Avatar Comment 3 by raytoman

Don't you know?

God doesn't cause deaths and injuries with volcanoes, earthquakes, wildfires, hurricanes, floods, etc. He is however responsible for all those who survive.

Should his followers die in his "acts of god" then it was because he had other important plans for them in heaven. If unbelievers die, it was his punishment for them believing in one or more of the other 640,000 (approx) gods approx.

Don't you get it? Religious people are irrational and will kill and die to remain slaves to the parasite that is religion. Oh! and they don't decide, they are religious from birth. Parents and the surrounding culture and society who have also been infected from birth, infect them - the secret of the meme.

There are none so stuipd as those who will not question nonsense.

Tue, 15 May 2012 22:22:21 UTC | #941705

Quine's Avatar Comment 4 by Quine

Well, godzillatemple, it comes up quite often. Darwin famously wrote, “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created parasitic wasps with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.”

Tue, 15 May 2012 22:47:40 UTC | #941711

sheepcat's Avatar Comment 5 by sheepcat

My personal favourite sickening religious waffle is the idea that when really bad things happen to you it is just your chance to show how great you are to God by still sucking up to him and not getting down.

Quadraplegic? You lucky guy what an opportunity to show God you can take it.

I have even heard people who are deeply faithful saying they would like God to test them like this which always makes me think "so just go step in front of a car then".

Tue, 15 May 2012 23:11:50 UTC | #941717

BloodywombatTSI's Avatar Comment 6 by BloodywombatTSI

I'm kind of confused about why people are discussing the waffling theists do regarding why God tests us with all this suffering. The question being asked is why a loving God includes the rest of the natural world when the whole point is about OUR sin, OUR free will, and the choices he supposedly hopes WE make. God is after all trying to make a point about sin to us. What does it have to do with the rest of nature? This makes God sadistic, not loving, to include the rest of nature when they lack the supposed free will we have.

I also wonder, even if you accept that there's a reason God includes the rest of nature with all of this suffering, why did God design mechanisms in nature that would presumably have to have been there before sin? It's incredibly difficult to imagine a lion laying with lambs. If you remove the predator and prey attributes of each creature, they no longer are what they are. So before sin, a lion couldn't have existed, which makes the whole premise absurd. Then again, I've brought this up to my family. They don't have an answer because it's "for God to understand" I assume, but they clearly try not to think too hard about it, and forget it was ever brought up the next time the discussion occurs. That's what theists do I've noticed. Critical thinking seems beyond them, at least when it comes to their most cherished beliefs. They believe they will get answers to these questions when they meet their maker in heaven. Right now, we're puny humans who are too stupid to understand.

Wed, 16 May 2012 00:10:38 UTC | #941725

ccw95005's Avatar Comment 7 by ccw95005

It's the old story: Why do bad things happen to good people? And the answer is that an all-powerful and caring god is incompatible with what we see on Earth, and whatever song and dance the religious scholars perform can't explain that problem away.

From a logical standpoint, it's possible that there could be an all-powerful God. It's also possible that there could be a perfectly benevolent God. But looking around, it's not logically possible that we Earthlings have an all-powerful AND benevolent God.

Wed, 16 May 2012 00:27:00 UTC | #941728

BloodywombatTSI's Avatar Comment 8 by BloodywombatTSI

Comment 6 by BloodywombatTSI :

I also wonder, even if you accept that there's a reason God includes the rest of nature with all of this suffering, why did God design mechanisms in nature that would presumably have to have been there before sin? It's incredibly difficult to imagine a lion laying with lambs. If you remove the predator and prey attributes of each creature, they no longer are what they are. So before sin, a lion couldn't have existed, which makes the whole premise absurd.

If they do have an answer to my question here, like for example, "sin caused these traits to appear", they're giving sin a mechanism for the creation of complexities they claim evolution is supposedly incapable of and can't explain. Why don't they just accept that it's evolution and not sin?

Even if they give that insufficient explanation though, it still doesn't answer how a lion would still be a lion before sin.

Wed, 16 May 2012 00:33:01 UTC | #941729

susanlatimer's Avatar Comment 9 by susanlatimer

This is a point that has frustrated me deeply for a very long time.

Claiming that there is a god who created creatures who suffered and died for billions of years before we even got here and who suffer and die by the billions even now,and that this god is an example of moral perfection is, to me, a deeply immoral belief.

Even a young earth creationist has to explain why a god would bother creating these other life forms in the first place and subjecting them to suffering and death if they have no responsibility for sin and no stake in the outcome. It doesn't even seem to occur to these people.

It's such a clear example of how self-absorbed humans can be. And how our delusions so often reflect that.

Wed, 16 May 2012 02:02:19 UTC | #941743

godzillatemple's Avatar Comment 10 by godzillatemple

Darwin famously wrote, “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created parasitic wasps with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.”

Wow, great minds think alike, I guess...

The question being asked is why a loving God includes the rest of the natural world when the whole point is about OUR sin, OUR free will, and the choices he supposedly hopes WE make. God is after all trying to make a point about sin to us. What does it have to do with the rest of nature? This makes God sadistic, not loving, to include the rest of nature when they lack the supposed free will we have.

Exactly.

Wed, 16 May 2012 02:02:33 UTC | #941744

Quine's Avatar Comment 11 by Quine

Also, we hear again and again from former theists that this issue of suffering was the final deal-breaker. Theologians have tied themselves in convoluted knots over this and the associated problem of evil (theodicy), so as to find a way to blame the victim. They have never been able to keep the attributes they assign to their deity, and still keep that deity blameless. It is to the advantage of all who do suffer in this world for us to keep reminding the theists of that.

Wed, 16 May 2012 02:54:09 UTC | #941756

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 12 by QuestioningKat

To me, the answer is that pain down here is of no concern at all to the beings above this level. They can take no sadistic pleasure in it because it is irrelevant to them -- it is like a story from a distant land. Even for the animal in question it is unpleasant and maybe unbearable, but it is relevant only in the moment, and once it passes or the animal dies, it has no further influence.

Godzillatemple, Comment one reveals one explanation. Notice the first two words ---"To me" found in the very first post too! This is the same as saying that this is my opinion. I have no facts to back it up. I made it up because it makes sense in my mind from what I know or think is the truth.

Thank you, Aguazul for your perfect illustration.

If someone is not fully informed of all the details of a situation, they will try to fill in the blanks with what they think is true.

Certainly a good and loving God would not design living beings that would eat each other and cause a slow and agonizing death to others for their own benefit. Certainly a wise, intelligent being would not design a vegus nerve of a giraffe to run the entire length of its neck loop back around near the heart and then travel back up the neck again. A wise engineer would change the design so that it would travel the optimum way of a few inches across.

It is difficult for people to imagine "no cause" because we cannot even imagine the amount of time that has passed for an change to occur. We see the results of the passing of a massive amount of time, but not the effort, changes, adaptations. We see the accumulation of centuries of advanced knowledge. We cannot see thirty or forty thousand years of slow adaptation and advancement. We have nothing to compare the time. We walk into a grand building and marvel at the skill and intelligence needed to accomplish the task, and attribute it to a higher being. Yet many centuries ago, people invented the post and lintel, a relatively simplistic form of construction. Knowledge was built upon and eventually the complexity of knowledge grew. If we reversed time, the primordial soup seems less exciting. How would a God character regulate the behavior of such a simplistic and unruly lot?

I have met several people who recall going to their local university and using a computer that took up the entire building. Then as technology advanced, the size was reduced to a room. They used bulky tape to record information, a lower 'life form" compared to my flash drive that hold 8G. This recordable device is flawed by today's standards, but it was the best thing going. I understand that my first mac was powerful enough to launch a rocket to the moon. This technology was created and manipulated, so we assume the same about evolution. The difference is that engineers and designers today take into account the optimum way to accomplish a task. Nature does not.

Wed, 16 May 2012 03:23:32 UTC | #941759

Ella's Avatar Comment 13 by Ella

In my view, there would be little to be gained in bringing up this sort of argument with a Christian because there is quite a simple, standard response: we live in a fallen world. Basically all the suffering in the world is a result of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. I used to be a Christian and a young-earth creationist (though I wouldn't have described myself as such at the time) and back then I would simply have pointed out that in Genesis 1:29 it's clear that in God's original design all animals were only meant to eat plants – no suffering, no cruelty. The parasitic wasps and whatnot wouldn't have operated as such in God's perfect design. The cruelty in nature is a result of living in a fallen world due to man's sin. And why should man's sin affect every other inhabitant of the earth so drastically? Because in Genesis 1:28 God gives man dominion over everything else. Man is the only creature made in the image of God, for 'His' glory and to have communion with him. Man is special, and everything therefore turns on man's actions and relationship with God. So in Genesis 3:17-19 when God cursed the ground as punishment for Adam's sin, this affected how the world operated for the rest of it's inhabitants too and thus was founded the predatory behaviour that we observe in nature in today's fallen world.

Clearly this is all nonsense but it really is the conversation we would have had if the OP argument had been presented to me when I was a Christian. I always struggled with the question of how a loving, kind, and most importantly, omniscient God could have let the world degenerate from Garden of Eden perfection into the cruelty we see everyday. I was told that there is a difference between God's perfect will and God's permissive will and that the fallen world wasn't what he intended in his perfect design but rather what he permits because of our bad choices. Suffering is therefore a result of our free-will. You can't argue a good Christian out of these ridiculous ideas. And assuming that people who believe these things must be crazy or stupid isn't very helpful either. Inside that world view it does make sense. I always questioned the things I was taught but there was always an answer; not enough to completely squash the cognitive dissonance but certainly sufficient to sustain belief and maintain faith that all the answers would become clear someday in heaven. What got through to me in the end was education. I learnt about evolution in school for the first time when I was about 13. It shook my whole view of the world but because my understanding of it was incomplete at that time I soon managed to reconcile the belief in an old-earth and evolution with my (fairly fundie, evangelical) Christian beliefs. I continued being a Christian for another decade before the cumulative effects of a good education and other life experiences showed me how disconnected my beliefs were from reality. And once it was clear how irrational it all was I was finally able to abandon that belief system.

Wed, 16 May 2012 04:04:21 UTC | #941764

Lynn Ridenour's Avatar Comment 14 by Lynn Ridenour

In response to your question, "Anyway, this is probably the wrong place to ask questions like this, but I'm wondering whether people have brought this argument up with creationists before and, if so, what the response was. Is there a "standard" response to this question, or does it simply get ignored and/or glossed over?"

Believe it not, I've heard this response--that before Adam and Eve ate that damned apple and committed the Original Sin, none of those nasty things were going on in nature--there weren't even carnivores or omnivores and everything had a care-free, long life. Or maybe everything lived forever, I don't know what else got said. I kinda lost interest and wandered off somewhere in a daze.

Wow!

Wed, 16 May 2012 07:09:42 UTC | #941781

Lynn Ridenour's Avatar Comment 15 by Lynn Ridenour

I should have read Ella's comment before putting in my two cents. It's amazing though, isn't it?

Wed, 16 May 2012 07:27:07 UTC | #941783

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 16 by SaganTheCat

Believe it not, I've heard this response--that before Adam and Eve ate that damned apple and committed the Original Sin, none of those nasty things were going on in nature--there weren't even carnivores or omnivores and everything had a care-free, long life.

i knew a fundie who subscribed to this belief. i guess after the fall they all got together for a bit and agreed that the ones with pointy teeth and simpler digestive systems would be carnivores etc

I think the odds confuse many into believing in design. to use an example of something with much smaller odds but extremely long nonetheless, the national lottery.

the odds dictate that an average punter could buy a ticket every week for 5000 years before being likely to get hte jackpot. and yet someone wins almost every week.

naturally a good number of those who win must presume they were fated to, most people who do the thicky-tax believe deep down they'll be lucky one day. most won't but the few that do, not only survive massive odds they also "knew all along".

anything that looks designed by intelligence is in a way. the (relatively) intelligent animal recognising patterns (as it's evolved to do) and comparing them to their own world view sees the design of their own making

Wed, 16 May 2012 11:48:40 UTC | #941810

godzillatemple's Avatar Comment 17 by godzillatemple

In my view, there would be little to be gained in bringing up this sort of argument with a Christian because there is quite a simple, standard response: we live in a fallen world.

I'm still not getting it, sorry. Are you saying that in a "fallen" world God is somehow powerless to intervene? I understand that he can't intervene in human affairs (at least not directly, or often, or reliably), since that would somehow deny us our free will or something. But even if Adam and Eve's shenanigan's in the Garden of Eden introduced death into the world ("nice job, guys -- you broke nature!"), how does that explain why the mechanisms of death in the natural world must necessarily be so cruel and vicious? Why not have a "fallen" world where creatures still eat plants and don't need to kill each other to survive, but where they simply grow old and die instead of living forever?

Did Adam and Eve's sin somehow force God to come up with the cruelest design possible for the "fallen" word? Was it somehow beyond his control and he is powerless to do anything but stand by and watch? So much for omnipotence.

I dunno, the whole "fallen" world concept just doesn't add anything to the discussion as far as I'm concerned. Either you claim that God did, in fact, design the entire natural world on his own (in which case he chose to make it incredibly cruel and is therefore a sick and twisted bastard for doing so) or else he had no choice in the matter (in which case he's not omnipotent and therefore not really much of a God in the first place).

Again, none of this has to do with the cruelty and suffering we inflict on each other while God necessarily stands by so as to not interfere with our free will. That argument at least has a leg to stand on. (although still fraught with plenty of unfortunate implications). But claiming that nature is exceedingly cruel because we live in a "fallen" world thanks to original sin doesn't change the fact that God would still need to have been responsible for designing that fallen world and he chose to make it as cruel as it is.

Wed, 16 May 2012 13:33:41 UTC | #941832

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 18 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 11 by Quine

Also, we hear again and again from former theists that this issue of suffering was the final deal-breaker. Theologians have tied themselves in convoluted knots over this and the associated problem of evil (theodicy), so as to find a way to blame the victim.

There's something fundamentally logically wrong with this whole argument......I've spent years trying to put my finger on it, with great difficulty. Dostoevsky seems to grasp the same point in a number of places.........the conudrum goes something like this :-

OK....so we make the assessment that God can't be a 'good' God because there exists pain and suffering in the world.

The atheist response is to remove God from the equation. Fine.....but that doesn't make the pain and suffering go away. It still exists. And the point is.....if one demands a moral explanation of it from any 'good' God....why does one stop demanding a moral explanation of it in his absence ?

After all, one is making a moral judgement that the world is 'bad'. Did one require the existence of God in order to make that judgement ? No...it's an 'a priori' judgement that comes before one's castigation of God.....and which is the very basis of that castigation.

There is a fundamental logical/moral dilemna there. If you are going to argue that the universe is cold and indifferent and doesn't care...then on what basis do you make the moral judgement that it contains badness that negates a 'good' God ?

I'm not sure I've explained it properly. It's extremely hard to, and only a master of words such as Dostoevsky really gets to grips with it.....though even he fails to find a resolution.

Wed, 16 May 2012 13:45:37 UTC | #941836

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 19 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 17 by godzillatemple

Did Adam and Eve's sin somehow force God to come up with the cruelest design possible for the "fallen" word? Was it somehow beyond his control and he is powerless to do anything but stand by and watch? So much for omnipotence.

These sort of comments exemplify the atheistic logical/moral tangle.......

You can't argue that the universe is cold and hard and meaningless....and talk in terms of 'cruelest possible design '. What people are doing is saying the universe has no morality....whilst at the very same time imparting an 'a priori' morality to it.

Therein lies the dilemna.

Wed, 16 May 2012 14:06:52 UTC | #941842

godzillatemple's Avatar Comment 20 by godzillatemple

There is a fundamental logical/moral dilemna there. If you are going to argue that the universe is cold and indifferent and doesn't care...then on what basis do you make the moral judgement that it contains badness that negates a 'good' God ?

I'm not sure I can fully (or even partially, to be honest) answer your question, but I think it might depend on whether you are talking about "god" as defined in the abstract by theologians or the "god" described in scriptures and embraced by most world religions.

The abstract god is one who is mysterious and unknowable and who does whatever he does for his own reasons, although we are expected to accept that whatever he does must be "good" and "moral" by definition. Your argument goes toward this concept of god. If God defines what is "good" and "moral," how can we argue that anything he created is "bad" or "immoral" since those terms are only defined with reference to god's actions in the first place.

If you look at the way god is actually depicted in scriptures, however, there are numerous descriptions of what constitutes "goodness" and "morality" in his view. "Loving thy neighbor as thyself" is "good." "Committing adultery" is "bad." Similarly, God is described in the scriptures as being a loving god who cares about all his creations, not just man. Since, according to the very scriptures that purport to support the existence of god in the first place, there are clearly defined descriptions of what "good" and "bad" actually mean to God, it is therefore possible to point out the contradictions between what the scriptures say is "good " and how the natural world actually operates.

It is therefore logically possible to state that, since the scriptures state that the world should be one way if there is a god and that evidence shows the world to not be this way, the god described by the scriptures must not really exist.

Hmmmmm... I'm not sure that came out exactly right, but hopefully you get my point. I'm not exactly Dostoevsky either.

Wed, 16 May 2012 14:18:26 UTC | #941844

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 21 by crookedshoes

he who made kittens put snakes in the grass.....

if you acknowledge a creator you run into a very slippery slope on the nature of "his" creation. It dooms the conversation to degenerate into made up bullshit. Only evolution has the explanatory power and rigor to handle such an observation. That is one of the myriad reasons that we are confident in evolution as a theory.

Wed, 16 May 2012 14:25:50 UTC | #941846

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 22 by Red Dog

One thing that struck me over and over again while watching these shows is just how bizarrely improbable life seems to be in so many aspects. Even knowing that every single adaptation is ultimately explainable by the basic principles of evolution, time and again I find myself asking how such a thing could have possibly happened "by chance." Yes, I know that chance just explains the process of random mutations and that everything else is "driven" by the process of natural selection, but the extreme variety of life on this planet and the extremely specialized adaptations do make me understand why a lot of people believe that there must somehow be an intelligence of some sort driving the whole thing.

I'm not sure you have fully grasped the concepts. Once you have life -- organisms that replicate with random variation -- the ever increasing complexity and adaptation we see are not bizarrely improbably at all, they are more or less inevitable -- although there is randomness in the exact shape that adaptations end up taking that things do adapt and get more complex is not "bizarrely improbable" at all. Have you read Dawkins book The Blind Watchmaker? He goes into this in great detail and gives some examples that help clarify the concept such as a simple computer program he wrote that has guided replication and comes up with complex "designs" without a designer.

As for the question about creationists and the cruelty of nature in my experience theists answer it in a number of ways:

1) When we are talking about cruelty inflicted by humans that is "the problem of evil" God gave us free will and humans choose to do bad things.

2) When it comes to the cruelty in nature such as the wasp example they do tend to gloss over it in my experience. The most common answers I've heard is that animals don't have souls so they don't really suffer or their suffering doesn't matter. That and that nature (which they see humans as not really being a part of) was put here by God for humans so again the suffering of non-human animals doesn't matter.

Wed, 16 May 2012 14:36:30 UTC | #941850

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 23 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 21 by crookedshoes

if you acknowledge a creator you run into a very slippery slope on the nature of "his" creation. It dooms the conversation to degenerate into made up bullshit. Only evolution has the explanatory power and rigor to handle such an observation. That is one of the myriad reasons that we are confident in evolution as a theory.

The problem I have is that the fact of evolution ( and it clearly is a fact ) still doesn't answer the questions. It simply raises more questions if one goes a little deeper. For example.....

1) Given that the entire universe runs off mathematical principles.....are we then to conclude that pain and suffering are an intrinsic part of mathematics ??

2) Are emergent phenomena ( such as evolution ) an implicate part of the universe...or does the universe only 'exist' at its most fundamental level ?

Number (2) is actually the crux of the whole issue. It's the physics/biology...whatever.....version of asking whether the universe is even 'aware' that we exist. I use 'aware' in the existential sense of being a distinct entity....not in any mental sense.

Wed, 16 May 2012 15:08:13 UTC | #941854

godzillatemple's Avatar Comment 24 by godzillatemple

I'm not sure you have fully grasped the concepts. Once you have life -- organisms that replicate with random variation -- the ever increasing complexity and adaptation we see are not bizarrely improbably at all, they are more or less inevitable -- although there is randomness in the exact shape that adaptations end up taking that things do adapt and get more complex is not "bizarrely improbable" at all.

Well, this is a little off-topic, but I agree with you 100%. That's why I specifically said that it seems bizarrely improbable (i.e., to somebody who has not fully grasped the concept, which would apparently include anybody who denies evolution in favor of intelligent design).

My point was simply that I can understand why some people might think that the world must be somehow designed by an intelligent being, but can't understand how that belief can lead anybody to believe in a loving and caring designer given how cruel nature is. It would seem that the only logical alternatives would be to believe in a sadistic and cruel god or else not believe in a god in the first place.

Of course, I suppose expecting logic from some people might be too much to ask, eh?

Wed, 16 May 2012 15:20:06 UTC | #941856

godzillatemple's Avatar Comment 25 by godzillatemple

@Schrodinger's Cat: Let me try again, a little more succinctly....

The question as to "why is nature so cruel" only makes sense when asked in response to an assertion by theists that nature was created by a loving and omnipotent god. Without the assertion that there is a loving god who created everything and designed it to be exactly the way it is, nobody would need to "make a moral judgement that the world is 'bad.'" The world would just be the way it was, with no value judgment attached to it.

Wed, 16 May 2012 15:25:22 UTC | #941858

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 26 by crookedshoes

Cat,

In my opinion, cruelty evolved. It is possible therefore it can exist. There is nothing more to it. The universe knows nothing. Mathematics is a tool that man has developed and although it is the truth and describes our basal systems, there are those emergent properties that although probably are describable by mathematics have not yet been modeled and "mathemetized".

Wed, 16 May 2012 15:53:31 UTC | #941859

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 27 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 25 by godzillatemple

The question as to "why is nature so cruel" only makes sense when asked in response to an assertion by theists that nature was created by a loving and omnipotent god. Without the assertion that there is a loving god who created everything and designed it to be exactly the way it is, nobody would need to "make a moral judgement that the world is 'bad.'" The world would just be the way it was, with no value judgment attached to it.

Well....no....that's my whole point. You have to have made an 'a priori' moral judgement that the universe is a rather cruel sort of place, before you can bring any God to trial on a charge of incompetency or downright neglect. It's no different to the sense in which a real life law has to exist first before one can charge anyone with violating it. So in fact you have the cart before the horse.

So one has already made the moral judgement that the world is a cruel place.....without any reference whatever to God.

That's not a bad position to be in at all, because it demonstrates that morality preceded the concept of God. This was precisely the source of Dostoevsky's 'trial of God' argument.

Wed, 16 May 2012 16:48:30 UTC | #941867

Quine's Avatar Comment 28 by Quine

Re Comment 18 by Schrodinger's Cat, yes, it is much to think about. We have joy and suffering because our genes made bodies that replicated better by having joy and suffering to organize action. Those few born without the ability to suffer don't do so well, and neither do the joyless. Our emergent self awareness lets us look into what our genes are doing, and gives us a partial view on how our mirror neurons map the suffering of others upon our own (when that works). It is from visualizing what it would be "like" (in terms of joy or suffering) to be on the receiving end of actions from ourselves and others, that we construct our internal values of "good" and "bad." We then add the concept of volition to that to get "kindness" and "evil."

As for the despair seen while looking into the abyss, I am sure glad none of my ancestors took that too seriously and gave up. We don't know what new capabilities of thought might emerge in our descendants, but we do know for sure that won't happen if there are no descendants.

Wed, 16 May 2012 16:56:02 UTC | #941868

godzillatemple's Avatar Comment 29 by godzillatemple

Well....no....that's my whole point. You have to have made an 'a priori' moral judgement that the universe is a rather cruel sort of place, before you can bring any God to trial on a charge of incompetency or downright neglect. It's no different to the sense in which a real life law has to exist first before one can charge anyone with violating it. So in fact you have the cart before the horse.

Respectfully, I disagree. No a priori moral judgments about the universe are required. As I said, if nobody was making the argument that the universe was created by a benevolent, loving God in the first place, there would be no need to describe the universe as a "cruel" sort of place. In fact, would say that you are the one putting the cart before the horse in this instance.

The universe is neither cruel nor kind. It just is. It only seems to be cruel when viewed through the lens of a belief in a god that purports to be benevolent, loving and kind. Having said that, though, I admit that we as humans have certainly evolved to find certain acts reprehensible and cruel in ourselves and, by extension, in the natural world.

However, none of this really matters. You claim that I am somehow attempting to "bring ... God to trial on a charge of incompetency or downright neglect," and that is simply missing the point of my entire argument. I am not trying to accuse god of anything, rather I am trying to show that the very existence of god (at least the notion of god that creationists espouse) is inconsistent with the evidence of the creation he is supposed to have created. I am trying to point out the fallacy involved in believing in a god who is all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful who created a world which is filled with misery, suffering, anguish and torture at every level of existence.

I am not making an a priori judgment that the universe is cruel -- I am merely observing that the natural world involves a lot of suffering and noting that this is inconsistent with the concept of god espoused by those who claim he created it in the first place.

Wed, 16 May 2012 17:13:49 UTC | #941872

Quine's Avatar Comment 30 by Quine

S.Cat:

1) Given that the entire universe runs off mathematical principles...

That is not a "given." The mathematics is picked by us so that the map makes predictions about the territory. The better and better we do that picking job, the more it gives the impression that the map is creating the territory. I see physicists (especially string speculation physicists) fall into this kind of numerology, often. Feynman warned against becoming enthralled by the mathematical elegance of the model, and emphasized the need to be ready to throw it out when experimental data did not agree.

Wed, 16 May 2012 17:32:22 UTC | #941877