The REAL “Problem of Evil”

[moderator’s note: Nonlin.org produced this at about the same time as his “Miracles” post. I delayed this, so that they could be discussed one at a time. I’m now publishing this one.]

[a note to nonlin – if all of your post is one block, it is hard to add a “more” break. Maybe a short introductory sentence as a first block would make that easier]

  1. “Problem of evil” is supposed to disprove God because,
    • a) A God that is all powerful would be able to prevent evil.
    • b) A God that is all knowing would know that evil happens.
    • c) A God that is all loving wouldn’t want evil to happen and would take needed action to stop it.
    • d) Evil happens.
    • e) Since evil happens, these statements are contradictory.
    • f) An all powerful, all knowing and all loving god cannot exist while evil continues.
    Although short, this argument fails repeatedly:
    • c) A God that is all loving wouldn’t want evil to happen, but would not necessarily take needed action to stop it due to other, higher reasons.
    • d) Evil happens only in a theist universe. The true materialist would not believe in evil, hence this whole argument proposed by him/her would be meaningless and self defeating.
    • e) There is no contradiction given the c. and d. counterarguments.
    • f) Because there is no contradiction per e. counterargument, f. does not follow.
    • g) And f. would not follow even if a. to e. were true, because the conclusion may miss some unspecified additional evidence, such as the fact that the human brain is not good enough to judge God, rendering this and many other such arguments false throughout.
  2. How would we know ‘the good’ without ‘the evil’? We wouldn’t! Therefore Evil is inescapable as experiences are continuously normalized to include good and bad. There’s always a ‘too cold/too hot’, ‘too loud/too quiet’, ‘too much/too little death (who wished historical tyrants lived longer?)’, and so on. Whatever the range, there’s always an extreme good/bad. Cut the range in half and, what was moderate before, becomes extreme. Therefore, God tolerates the [necessary] evil to a certain extent and for a good reason, also as part of the free will deal He offered mankind. For those that say “there’s no need for this much evil”, the question is: “ok, then how much evil should there be?” In addition, the Book of Job clearly explains that it is not up to the lowly humans to second guess God. Those that did not understand this (Nazis, Communists, Eugenists, and many more) have tried to do better than God. But their dreams of evil-free societies invariably turn into nightmares full of evil.
  3. Evil should mean nothing to the materialist because of the determinism belief (despite the clearest experimental evidence that determinism is dead). And this is the REAL Problem of Evil. A problem only materialists should face since, according to any coherent materialist, not only were Stalin, Mao, Hitler not evil, but they also had no choice due to determinism. Yet mankind insists on calling those individuals evil and with good reasons. Seeing this dilemma, some argue for word substitution – suffering to evil – not noticing that the argument would thus go from bad to ridiculous. After all, God let Adam and Eve know ‘suffering’ will happen after the Original Sin transgression, and most people accept “no pain no gain”, hence suffering for a good reward. Others claim evil makes sense in “humanist morality”, clearly forgetting that, as determinists, they shouldn’t have the free will to do anything morally or immorally, just as stones and animals do not abide by any moral standards. Hume got this one thing right: you can’t derive ‘ought’ from ‘is’, therefore good and evil are incompatible with materialism.
  4. Is the concept of Evil just a human “evolutionary” adaptation? That doesn’t work because ‘ought’ was derived from ‘is’. The “original ought-is sin” is when materialists imagine the first RNA randomly happening and then, hocus-pocus, “evolution” with its ‘oughts’ takes over. The second is when we see no evil in the lion eating the gazelle alive, or the wasp turning the cockroach into a zombie food supply, the weasel killing all the chickens, peer violence, or even cannibalism, and infanticide. Yet we see evil in the human behaving like these (although infanticide against the unborn is OK – go figure). We do not need the concept of evil to avoid harm. But, aside from the mentally impaired, psychopaths, and a few hypothetical primitive cultures that supposedly do not know evil, all modern humans including the materialists know and oppose evil. Even communists are for “social justice” and fascists for the improvement of society, eugenists for the betterment of mankind and abortionists for “choice”. Not one of these stands for evil despite killing and persecution of the innocent. All these go to great length to hide, and minimize their evil deeds and often argue that – in fact – their opponents are the evil ones. “Sure, you have to break a few eggs to make omelet, right”? “But that’s not evil” is their argument.
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480 thoughts on “The REAL “Problem of Evil”

  1. phoodoo:
    OMagain,

    Yet you still can’t give any logical reason for why, from a materialist-atheist perspective, one shouldn’t cause harm to others.What does the “right thing” mean.You have no clue.

    Just bluster.

    Personally, like most people, I don’t need a logical reason to follow my conscience (although logical reasons have been formulated to argue that something akin to the Golden Rule is the right thing to do).

    Do you have a conscience? If so, do you think it would disappear if, for whatever reason, you lost your religious belief?

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  2. Nonlin.org: What exactly don’t you understand? Put your finger on that sentence.

    There are several, but let’s start with: “How would we know ‘the good’ without ‘the evil’? We wouldn’t!”, which contradicts the notion of an omnipotent God, because it suggests that God cannot teach us about goodness without us experiencing evil.

    Nonlin.org: And what about the REAL problem of evil? Do you get it at least?

    Most people got it: you confuse atheism with materialism and strict determinism, and now you are taunting people into defending that strawman position. Not going to happen. It’s also clear that you don’t care about learning about anybody else’s real motives, so you ignore all comments correcting your atheist caricature.

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  3. phoodoo: Yet you still can’t give any logical reason for why, from a materialist-atheist perspective, one shouldn’t cause harm to others.

    Because they will then cause harm to you? And that would be, like, unpleasant?

    phoodoo: What does the “right thing” mean.

    That’s a good question. And it’s become quite clear over the years that people who claim some sort of connection to the supernatural or belief have no better answers to that question then anybody else.

    For example, the “right thing” could mean not defending the indefensible. And the “right thing” could be to respond in kind to technical criticism. E.G. the dog. The windows. When it went to it.

    phoodoo: You have no clue.

    I’m doing alright. For example, I’d be willing to be that less people despise OMagain then phoodoo.

    phoodoo: Just bluster.

    Said the guy who can’t say how a decision is made or demonstrate that the FBI use physics all the time but won’t take the claim back either.

    phoodoo: Ha, why would that be sad? Do you even know what you think?

    I’m sad for you.

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  4. phoodoo: Right. As a true materialist, why should one NOT cause harm to others?

    Because we can see what kind of world it would lead to if we did, and we generally don’t want to live in such a world.

    Essentially this is no different from what theists say. Here the theist will typically reason that to do harm to others goes against God’s will or wishes, and so we would be punished by God. And we wouldn’t want to be punished, so we better not behave badly.

    In both cases it’s an appeal to some future consequences for the individual. In neither case is there any guarantee against people behaving badly.

    Just as people have been able to reason themselves into harming others for some perceived greater good, or just pure self-interest, so have they also been able to find theistic reasons for harming others.

    Whether they think of themselves as instruments of God’s justice or carrying out his plan, or what have you, normal everyday people are no less likely to harm others with God-belief. They just find religious rationalizations and scriptural inspiration for their actions instead. Just look at various islamic terrorist organizations to see examples of this.

    So that’s the thing, all these people who claim they believe in materialism, they don’t really.

    This is such a silly apologetic religious people have been brainwashed to internalize when in the real world the non-religious are no more likely to be criminals or shitty people, than religious people are. Contrary to what we have been told for millenia.

    Oh what would happen to society if generally people became less religious? Wouldn’t they all just start raping, stealing, and killing? Well no, in general it turns out they don’t. So since demonstrable reality once again disconfirms and contradicts the pronouncemenst of religious nutters, religious apologists have come up with this fatuous excuse that somehow people are still secretly religious even if they don’t know it.

    They don’t live their lives as if they believe that.

    They live their lives exactly as if they are able to reason about their actions and what kinds of consequences those actions will have for themselves and people they care about.

    I don’t see any way out of this, whether anyone is a materialist or not. Whether we think we want to avoid being harmed by others in a generally violent and unsafe society, or we want to avoid being punished by God.

    Ultimately our actions have to rest on some sort of appeal to consequences and self-interest. Would we rather experience trust, peace, and safety, or anxiety, sorrow, and pain?

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  5. phoodoo: What does the “right thing” mean. You have no clue.

    The same is true for you.

    What is the right thing, and what is it that makes it “right”? Impress me with your theology.

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  6. Kantian Naturalist: This isn’t quite right, or at least it’s phrased in a highly misleading way.

    I just thought it was interesting that Augustine (according to Wikipedia) was an adherent of Mani for nine years and Mani seems to have propounded a sort of Zoroastrianism, the eternal conflict of “GOOD” and “EVIL”. Various forms of this heresy (bogomils, Catharism) seem to have exercised the Catholic church and its inquisitions for centuries. Many folks got to be incinerated. This binary view of good vs evil seems to persist among Christians even today.

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  7. Rumraket: What is the right thing, and what is it that makes it “right”? Impress me with your theology.

    My prediction:

    He won’t commit to an answer.

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  8. phoodoo: Yet you still can’t give any logical reason for why, from a materialist-atheist perspective, one shouldn’t cause harm to others. What does the “right thing” mean. You have no clue.

    I think that’s right, in the following sense: if someone is entirely devoid of empathy and fellow-feeling, so that they can experience no repugnance at causing harm to others, there is no argument which can bring them into adopting the moral point of view.

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  9. Nonlin.org: Then the doctor that performs surgery on you is on par with Stalin? What are you, a cat at the vet?

    I’ve occasionally seen comments here that have been daft enough to make my jaw drop but this ludicrously stupid comment has to be the all-time winner to date.

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  10. Kantian Naturalist: I think that’s right, in the following sense: if someone is entirely devoid of empathy and fellow-feeling, so that they can experience no repugnance at causing harm to others, there is no argument which can bring them into adopting the moral point of view.

    Does that make them evil? Or is it psychopathy?

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  11. Alan Fox: Does that make them evil? Or is it psychopathy?

    I think of evil as deliberating choosing to do something that brings about harm, usually (though not always) because the people being harmed are perceived as less than fully human, or having lives of lesser value, so their suffering doesn’t trigger an empathetic response. I imagine even Henry Kissinger has people in his life who he loves and cares for. He’s evil, not a psychopath.

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  12. Kantian Naturalist: I think of evil as deliberating choosing to do something that brings about harm…

    I’d agree that the most workable definition of “EVIL” should involve the idea of mens rea.

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  13. Kantian Naturalist: …so their suffering doesn’t trigger an empathetic response…

    Explaining or attempting to understand motive doesn’t involve (necessarily) condoning abhorrent acts. Jeffrey Dahmer was a psychopath who needed to be incarcerated whether he was responsible (in the sense that he could have done otherwise than commit them) for his crimes or not.

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  14. Kantian Naturalist: I imagine even Henry Kissinger has people in his life who he loves and cares for. He’s evil, not a psychopath.

    Interesting. I don’t know what the threshold is for achieving the notoriety of being evil nor do I know enough about Kissinger’s political career to make a judgement on that particular individual. Or is there a scale of evilness?

    ETA: I still find it questionable whether either “evil” people or “evil” acts form coherent categories.

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  15. Bruce:

    Does that not imply that the argument from evil only works for people who share your standards (or attitudes) for characterizing acts as evil?

    keiths:

    No, because the only relevant standard of evil is the one held by the theist(s) in question. To take an extreme example, consider a theist who thinks that everything is morally permitted except for tooth brushing, which is evil. The preponderance of tooth brushing in the world creates a problem of evil for that theist, regardless of whether I share their conviction regarding tooth brushing.

    Bruce:

    They can reply that God’s standard is the relevant one; a standard which they aim to follow to the best the human understanding allows.

    That still doesn’t require any overlap with the atheist’s standards of good and evil. My point is to counter the argument that the atheist’s standards have anything to do with the problem of evil, which is a problem for the theist, but not for the atheist.

    Then they have Job’s reply to problem of evil, as per g in OP, to counteract claims that God cannot be 3O. For example, we may not understand why God created beings with free will and thereby made them morally responsible or why just people suffer in this life. But that is a simply a problem with our limited understanding of God’s goodness.

    That fails as a theodicy because it merely establishes the possibility that God has an unknown reason for allowing suffering, no matter how unlikely; it doesn’t establish that such a reason actually exists.

    It also fails the symmetry test. That is, the same logic can be used to argue for the existence of an evil God.

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  16. Nonlin:

    2. How would we know ‘the good’ without ‘the evil’?

    Easy. God could simply create us with that knowledge.

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  17. Nonlin:

    Here’s an example:

    “1. Sam is stealing money from work.
    2. Losing money by theft causes harm to Sam’s employers.
    3. (One ought to not cause harm to his employers.)
    4. Therefore, Sam ought to stop stealing money from work.”

    It’s obvious that theists do NOT derive 3 from 1 & 2. They get this from the Ten Commandments.

    Not all theists are Christians.

    But atheist have only the “is”. Hence ONLY atheists have a problem with is-ought.

    Only atheists who believe in objective morality.

    Also, theists don’t escape the is/ought problem. “God thinks X is immoral” is an “is”. “We ought not do X” is an “ought”. The latter does not follow from the former.

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  18. Kantian Naturalist: phoodoo: Yet you still can’t give any logical reason for why, from a materialist-atheist perspective, one shouldn’t cause harm to others. What does the “right thing” mean. You have no clue.

    KN: I think that’s right, in the following sense: if someone is entirely devoid of empathy and fellow-feeling, so that they can experience no repugnance at causing harm to others, there is no argument which can bring them into adopting the moral point of view.

    I think this is the right answer. Logical reason has nothing to do with it. Our society depends on most people not being complete jerks.

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  19. Corneel: There are several, but let’s start with: “How would we know ‘the good’ without ‘the evil’? We wouldn’t!”, which contradicts the notion of an omnipotent God, because it suggests that God cannot teach us about goodness without us experiencing evil.

    It only suggests you’re just trying to BS your way out. How would you do this?

    Corneel: Most people got it: you confuse atheism with materialism and strict determinism, and now you are taunting people into defending that strawman position.

    All of a sudden no one is a determinist anymore?!? Separating atheism/materialism/determinism/evolutionism is incoherent and doesn’t match experience. Unless anyone can provide a coherent explanation, I call BS on this claim.

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  20. Nonlin.org: Can you enlighten us? If you have a point that is. At least can you cite the small passage that supports your claim? Sorry, no time to read what doesn’t matter.

    Specifically, how does this apply to theists? Here’s an example:

    “1. Sam is stealing money from work.
    2. Losing money by theft causes harm to Sam’s employers.
    3. (One ought to not cause harm to his employers.)
    4. Therefore, Sam ought to stop stealing money from work.”

    It’s obvious that theists do NOT derive 3 from 1 & 2. They get this from the Ten Commandments. But atheist have only the “is”. Hence ONLY atheists have a problem with is-ought.

    LOL. You have the “is” that it is the case that it says so in the ten commandments. Why ought we do what it says in the ten commandments?

    How can you have failed to see this obvious is at the very foundation of your moral system? You have only “is” and it’s not made clear why anyone ought to follow them.

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  21. Rumraket: Because we can see what kind of world it would lead to if we did, and we generally don’t want to live in such a world.

    You can only forecast (“see”) and “want” because you’re God’s creation despite protestation.

    But let’s start with the deterministic/atheistic/materialistic/evolutionist philosophy and see it is inconsistent with “forecast” and “want” and “ought from is” and teleology in general.

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  22. keiths: Easy. God could simply create us with that knowledge.

    And He did. He also gave us Free Will and some chose to do evil which they know and hide (see 4.). And we recognize that as evil.

    keiths: Also, theists don’t escape the is/ought problem. “God thinks X is immoral” is an “is”. “We ought not do X” is an “ought”. The latter does not follow from the former.

    God not only “thinks” it’s immoral. He told us so. And He told us to avoid immoral actions. And that’s the only reason why atheists also agree those actions are immoral.

    “Ought” doesn’t follow from “is” for theists. It follows from God’s commandments if you’re a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, incoherent atheist, etc.

    “Ought” incorrectly follows from “is” only if you actually want to live the atheistic philosophy. But no one other than mentally impaired, and psychopaths live the atheistic philosophy. Because it is insane. As explained in the OP.

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  23. Nonlin.org: God not only “thinks” it’s immoral. He told us so. And He told us to avoid immoral actions. And that’s the only reason why atheists also agree those actions are immoral.

    Why ought we care, or pay attention? How do you get from the IS “God told us to avoid certain actions” to “therefore we ought to do so”?

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  24. keiths:

    Easy. God could simply create us with that knowledge [of good and evil].

    Nonlin:

    And He did.

    Not according to the Genesis account, which says Adam and Eve got it by eating from the tree.

    And if we were created with that knowledge, it undermines your reason #2:

    2. How would we know ‘the good’ without ‘the evil’?

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  25. Rumraket: Why ought we care, or pay attention? How do you get from the IS “God told us to avoid certain actions” to “therefore we ought to do so”?

    As Keith and others have just explained, you just know right from wrong. Everyone does. Why is that?

    Does a tiger know right from wrong? Does a bird? Why not? Why would only humans need to know right from wrong?

    If a tiger eats another tiger young, would we ever describe that as evil? Of course not, we just say that is nature. and we also don’t say, but it is not good for the tiger to live in that kind of a world. He it harms others maybe others will harm it. it would be so much better for the species if it wasn’t mean to others.

    If we really believed in nature selection, and someone wanted to cause harm to others, we should just say, well, I guess there must be some advantage to wanting that. It’s just nature. Nature isn’t bad or good. Why does evil ONLY exist in the context of humans and not a single other thing in the universe? That’s a pretty ridiculous motion for a materialist to subscribe to, and one they totally can not justify based on the premise of nature.

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  26. If a baby bird falls out out cutest and dies, does anyone in the world say, why such evil?

    But if a human baby dies, why do we say evil exists now? If there were no humans would we say evil has been eradicated?

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  27. Thus the only possible way to pay evil exists is if you believe life has some purpose. If you believe humans are somehow special. If you don’t believe that, then you are just being a hypocrite saying evil exists for humans and nothing else.

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  28. phoodoo: What color is the ideal triangle?

    It’s green.

    Now, back to the topic.

    The question is on topic. Do you believe God has free will?

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  29. phoodoo: As Keith and others have just explained, you just know right from wrong.

    You’re not answering the question I asked.

    Why ought we follow what it says in the Bible, or Torah, or Qu’ran? How do you get from the IS of what it says in some book, to therefore we ought to follow it?

    To answer yours: I some times know right from wrong. Other times I am genuinely not sure what is the right answer because the situation is complicated, and I can see a number of mutually contradictory options and viewpoints as equally valid. I can empathize with two opposing parties who both seem to have legitimate reasons for thinking they have been wronged. And some times I am presented with a situation where I just don’t know what is supposed to be right or wrong.
    And it is my experience that most people in the world have experienced similar situations. So you’re simply flatly wrong to say that I or anyone “just knows” right from wrong.

    Just take a simple famous example like the Trolley problem. People will have considerable variation in what they feel is the right or wrong thing to do in that situation.

    Everyone does.

    No, they don’t. Many people don’t know right from wrong in many situations, and there is almost nobody who claims to always knows right from wrong.

    Children generally don’t know right from wrong, and need to be raised and trained to behave in a way we want them to. The rules we set for them, instruct them to follow, and show them with their own behavior, is largely imprinted on them as they grow up.

    People raised as child-soldiers grow up genuinely not thinking there’s anything wrong with just shooting people you are being ordered to. Children who grow up with abuse are significantly more likely to become abusive themselves. Expressions like “I was slapped and beaten as a child and I learned a lot form it, children need to be disciplined, there’s nothing wrong with that” are really not uncommon from such people. Are we to think these are all intrinsically evil and sociopaths, or was it something in their upbringing that made them that way?

    Why is that?

    When I some times know right from wrong, it’s mainly because I have been raised to generally be an empathetic person. I have been taught to try to put myself in other people’s shoes, so to speak.

    Does a tiger know right from wrong? Does a bird? Why not? Why would only humans need to know right from wrong?

    The question is malformed, I don’t think humans need to know right from wrong. Our moral feelings and intuitions are largely due to cultural and childhood upbringing. It may be religiously prescribed to not eat pork or shellfish, or refrain from oral-sex, but you’d be hard pressed to convince me that this is intrinsically known by anyone’s conscience. Moral opinions on these questions are taught, not intrinsic.

    I’m also not persuaded that humans are the only ones that some times have moral opinions. Many animals with complex social structures have some degree of feelings about fairness and behavior. In my experience even a dog seems to be able to feel genuine shame, and many animals exhibit some degree of understanding of fairness.

    If a tiger eats another tiger young, would we ever describe that as evil? Of course not, we just say that is nature. and we also don’t say, but it is not good for the tiger to live in that kind of a world. He it harms others maybe others will harm it. it would be so much better for the species if it wasn’t mean to others.

    If we really believed in nature selection, and someone wanted to cause harm to others, we should just say, well, I guess there must be some advantage to wanting that. It’s just nature. Nature isn’t bad or good.

    Why? Why should we just say that?

    How do you get from the IS “it is like that in nature”, to the OUGHT, “we should do as it is in nature”?

    How do you get from one to the other? You can’t. You cannot logically derive what we OUGHT to do, from how things are in nature.

    Why does evil ONLY exist in the context of humans and not a single other thing in the universe?

    I am not at all persuaded that is true. First of all because I don’t know that humans are the only thing in the universe capable of reasoning and having moral emotions.

    That’s a pretty ridiculous motion for a materialist to subscribe to, and one they totally can not justify based on the premise of nature.

    Which is why nobody does that. It’s a fatuous religious fantasy you’ve made up.

    So now we can go back to the question at hand that you failed to answer and tried to misdirect from:
    Why ought we follow what it says in the Bible, or Torah, or Qu’ran? How do you get from the IS of what it says in some book, to therefore we ought to follow it?

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  30. phoodoo: If a baby bird falls out out cutest and dies, does anyone in the world say, why such evil?

    Yes. I do.

    There actually is a problem in moral philosophy known as the problem of gratuitous animal suffering. Your ignorance of this fact is not surprising though.

    https://infidels.org/library/modern/jeff_lowder/pain-and-pleasure.html
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_animal_suffering
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_evil#Problem_of_evil_and_animal_suffering

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  31. phoodoo: Thus

    You use this word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Nothing you go on to say follows from anything you’ve stated previously.

    the only possible way to pay evil exists is if you believe life has some purpose. If you believe humans are somehow special. If you don’t believe that, then you are just being a hypocrite saying evil exists for humans and nothing else.

    That makes zero logical sense. You don’t have to believe life has some intrinsic purpose to think that there are is evil in the world, or to know right from wrong.

    Also, there are many people who think there is such a thing as evil both for humans and non-human animals and other living organisms. As usual you’re working from some laughably simplistic caricature of what other people think.

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  32. Rumraket,

    Who the fuck said anything about what a book said, I said, you know the difference between right and wrong. Even without a book you know.

    Rumraket: Yes. I do.

    There actually is a problem in moral philosophy known as the problem of gratuitous animal suffering. Your ignorance of this fact is not surprising though.

    https://infidels.org/library/modern/jeff_lowder/pain-and-pleasure.html
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_animal_suffering
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_evil#Problem_of_evil_and_animal_suffering

    So maybe you think we should begin trapping and punishing all animals which are evil to others? Do you know of any governments who are suggesting this? Would it be right to kill all sharks, because really, they are quite mean to seals?

    Bullshit Rummy.

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  33. phoodoo: Who the fuck said anything about what a book said

    It doesn’t matter who said it, I’m asking you the question regardless. YOU responded to me asking for why we OUGHT to follow the IS in some holy book. YOU responded to it.

    It’s right here above. You quote me writing the following:
    Rumraket: Why ought we care, or pay attention? How do you get from the IS “God told us to avoid certain actions” to “therefore we ought to do so”?

    And your direct response to this is:
    phoodoo: As Keith and others have just explained, you just know right from wrong. Everyone does. Why is that?

    If this is not supposed to be an answer to what you quote me saying, why quote me saying it and then write a response?

    It only makes sense for me to point out that you are not answering the question. Are you even aware of what the fuck you are doing?

    I said, you know the difference between right and wrong. Even without a book you know.

    Some times yes, some times no. Let me repeat:

    I some times know right from wrong. Other times I am genuinely not sure what is the right answer because the situation is complicated, and I can see a number of mutually contradictory options and viewpoints as equally valid. I can empathize with two opposing parties who both seem to have legitimate reasons for thinking they have been wronged. And some times I am presented with a situation where I just don’t know what is supposed to be right or wrong.
    And it is my experience that most people in the world have experienced similar situations. So you’re simply flatly wrong to say that I or anyone “just knows” right from wrong.

    Just take a simple famous example like the Trolley problem. People will have considerable variation in what they feel is the right or wrong thing to do in that situation.

    phoodoo: So maybe you think we should begin trapping and punishing all animals which are evil to others?

    No, and you’ve missed the point. There is such a thing as gratuitous evils that are nobody’s fault, like the example you gave of a bird falling from it’s nest and dying.

    Here let me remind you what you wrote:
    phoodoo: If a baby bird falls out out cutest and dies, does anyone in the world say, why such evil?

    You brought up that example and I was responding to that example.

    Which is why I quoted you saying that and giving that response. Contrary to you, I know how to actually give relevant responses to what people write.

    Do you know of any governments who are suggesting this? Would it be right to kill all sharks, because really, they are quite mean to seals?

    Bullshit Rummy.

    Hey turns out you have no fucking clue about moral philosophy, or even what you write on this discussion forum. Have you also found a way to reset your brain and forget the last few hours like Bill Cole?

    See a neurologist asap.

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  34. keiths: That fails as a theodicy because it merely establishes the possibility that God has an unknown reason for allowing suffering, no matter how unlikely; it doesn’t establish that such a reason actually exists.

    I am not following your logical here. I take the argument from the problem of evil as trying to show that a 3O God cannot exist. So if I provide a situation where the argument fails, isn’t that enough to invalidate the argument from evil as disproving God’s existence, at least for that conception of God?

    It also fails the symmetry test. That is, the same logic can be used to argue for the existence of an evil God.

    I think that assumes there is some external standard for good or evil by which we can assess God’s acts. But the theist I have in mind would argue there is no such external standard for God, but rather that God’s acts flow from God’s nature and are thereby always good. Or something like that. It’s basically the false dilemma reply to Euthyphro argument.

    ETA: I recognize that type of theist now has to supply a justification for and description of human morality in that theology while avoiding divine command theory.

    That’s all I’ve got on this. So over to you for the last word in this exchange.

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  35. I see a sort of hierarchy here:
    1) Deliberately harming others for the pleasure of watching them suffer.
    2) Being willing to harm others if that’s the easiest path to what we want.
    3) Being willing to allow harm to come to others to get our way (collateral damage).
    4) Making no effort to determine if others might be harmed while we pursue our own goals.
    5) Being willing to do some harm to others to prevent greater harm.

    I note that the American legal system focuses on the proximate. If you kill one person to save others, you are guilty of murder — no matter how many lives were saved in the process. Similarly, if you do no proximate harm BUT fail to take an action that COULD have prevented harm, that’s legally just fine.

    I once was involved in the design of highway intersections. Statistically, based on enormous amounts of data, we could point to one potential intersection and (say) three possible designs, and know quite exactly how many people would die in wrecks at that intersection for each design. Not surprisingly, the more expensive the intersection, the fewer the fatalities. As a rule of thumb, we could place a dollar value on each life. If we opt for the least expensive, most dangerous intersection, are we more evil than if we spend more?

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  36. Flint,

    If you buy an aquarium, knowing fish bully other fish, you are also evil. This is what it comes down to for the atheist-what kind of God would allow fish to fight, there must be no God. Ask Rummy.

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  37. Flint: BUT fail to take an action that COULD have prevented harm, that’s legally just fine.

    There are some nuances around this.

    I think there are some actual cases where people failed to prevent harm to others, like didn’t remove snow from the sidewalk outside their house, which then was a factor in causing an accident, and they were held partially responsible for that in a court of law. I think the relevant factor is that you are held legally responsible for some thing or area that can potentially cause harm if not properly taken care of by you as the legal owner or caretaker of that thing.

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  38. phoodoo: If you buy an aquarium, knowing fish bully other fish, you are also evil.

    No. Nobody has said that. That’s a deliberate caricature you’re making up. Since I have already corrected you on this misapprehension it’s clear you’re doing it deliberately. Presumably you have nothing substantive to offer so I accept your tacit but obvious concession of defeat.

    Ask Rummy.

    Yes please do, don’t take poodoo’s word for it.

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  39. phoodoo: If you buy an aquarium, knowing fish bully other fish, you are also evil.

    Nobody has to be held accountable for how fish behave for us to recognize that it is possible for fish to suffer unnecessarily.

    I would certainly say that if you knowingly set up your aquarium such that you keep a species of fish that will be harassed and bullied to some unusual extend by other species of fish you keep, and this fish then is feeling an unnecessary burden of stress that you can simply prevent but allow anyway out of lazyness or for your entertainment, then yeah I’d say you’re a crappy person and shouldn’t be allowed to keep live animals.

    I have to note that you seem to be insinuating that you don’t actually care about the well-being of animals.

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  40. Rumraket,

    A caricature, how dare you!

    Why just the other day I punched a cat in the nose for chasing a butterfly. I don’t care if the cat knew if it was wrong or not, evil is evil. What kind of God…

    But then how does the atheist account for this evil? If the atheist says there was never a God, do they also say there is no evil then?

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  41. phoodoo: But then how does the atheist account for this evil? If the atheist says there was never a God, do they also say there is no evil then?

    It seems to me it is the job of people who think an omnipotent, perfect moral agent exists, to explain why there is so much unnecessary suffering in the world. I’d call unnecessary suffering evil. Some animal is being eaten alive right now, and is suffering unimaginable pain, fear, and stress while this is going on. It won’t survive, it will die. The pain it is experiencing might have been useful in making it learn to try to avoid painful experiences. But it’s dying and won’t survive. Yet the pain and fear persists anyway. The animal will die soon, but until it loses consciousness it is suffering uselessly. A pain that won’t teach it anything, from which it will not recover and can’t learn to avoid.

    Now, I happen to recognize that the predator eating the prey, needs to eat the prey to survive. But if I could snap my fingers and make the prey unconscious and stop experiencing that unnecessary pain and fear, I would, because I think unnecessary suffering is an evil. I think any good person would. But God does not. So either God is not a good person, or doesn’t exist.

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  42. phoodoo: Why are you letting the fish off the hook?

    Are you truly unaware, or just pretending to be this blasted? I’m asking because if you’re just acting it’s not clear, and I have to say you play the part of a moral and emotionally stunted person unnervingly well.

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  43. Rumraket: But if I could snap my fingers and make the prey unconscious and stop experiencing that unnecessary pain and fear, I would, because I think unnecessary suffering is an evil. I think any good person would. But God does not. So either God is not a good person, or doesn’t exist.

    And just to add, if I was truly omnipotent, it would not be a challenge to come up with a sort of ecosystem in which sentient animals capable of experiencing unnecessary suffering, wouldn’t have to.

    1+
  44. phoodoo:
    Flint,

    If you buy an aquarium, knowing fish bully other fish, you are also evil.This is what it comes down to for the atheist-what kind of God would allow fish to fight, there must be no God.Ask Rummy.

    You might note that I focused on the avoidability of harm, and on the degree of responsibility we have to prevent or ameliorate harm. I believe we all have such a moral responsibility, and that this responsibility can be knowledgeably and effectively exercised to some extent. I think that if we DO exercise that responsibility, the world will be a better place for all of us.

    I don’t think belief in any gods is required to do so, but I have no problem with such belief provided it does no harm or make matters worse. To quote Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” When I read of the hundreds of pedophile priests and their thousands of victims, it’s hard to accept that faith in their god prevents evil.

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  45. Flint: To quote Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

    Right. This is why I can’t understand why Rummy isn’t calling for the arrest and prosecution of polar bears. Wouldn’t that make the world a better place?

    I can’t understand why the atheist positions aren’t consistent.

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