Intelligent Design

Let’s See If Graham2 Sticks To His Nihilist Guns

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The commenter who goes by “jerry” writes:

‘What does the term evil mean?’ If we are going to use it, then we should define it . . . I have asked this question several times over the years on this site and so far no one has been able to answer it . . . no one will offer up a definition.

I responded:

OK, why don’t you offer up a definition? Your choices now are: 1. Dodge the question (which is what I predict you will do); 2. Offer up a definition; 3. Say the word has no meaning.

Graham2 jumped in uninvited and responded:

I would pick 3.

Let’s test this. Consider the following truth claim: Torturing an infant for pleasure is evil.

Given Graham2’s statement, he must respond that the truth claim is false. He says the word “evil” has no meaning. He says that the statement is akin to saying “torturing infants for pleasure is mudnelsday, where “mudnelsday” is a made up word without any meaning.

BTW, for those who are curious, jerry fulfilled my prediction by offering a “definition” of evil that is absurd on its face. Under jerry’s definition, torturing infants for pleasure would not be considered evil. Thus, he essentially dodged the question.

I am thankful for both Graham2’s and jerry’s willingness to express their nihilism so candidly on these pages so that we can examine it. (Truly, I sometimes wonder if they are not fundamentalist Christians shilling for rhetorical effect.) We are back where we started. A self-evident proposition is one that can be denied only on pain of descent into absurdity. Both Graham2 and jerry appear more than willing to descend into such absurdity. They do not need an argument. Again, one cannot argue for self-evident propositions. Graham2 and jerry need simple correction, and I will correct them once again.

Graham2: The term “evil” does have meaning, which I am sure you would be the first to admit if you were kidnapped, robbed, raped, shot and left for dead. You would not say of your assailant that in your fallible subjective estimation you believe he might possibly have done evil if only that word had meaning. You would say he did evil, and the word you used to describe your assailant’s actions would have meaning, and the meaning would apply to the evil done to you, and you would be absolutely certain of your conclusion (and correct BTW).

Jerry, torturing infants for pleasure is evil. You are a fool (and a liar) if you say otherwise.

Of people like jerry and Graham2, I believe KF has had the best word.

Those who choose to cling to absurdity after correction, we can only expose, ring-fence and seek to protect ourselves from. And, we can look at the systems that lead people into such confusion and ring fence them too as utterly destructive.

152 Replies to “Let’s See If Graham2 Sticks To His Nihilist Guns

  1. 1
    Graham2 says:

    Barry: I said a lot more than ‘I would pick 3’. Maybe you could display just a little honesty and quote my full reply.

  2. 2
    Mark Frank says:

    Barry

    I notice that you don’t attempt to define evil. You just emphasise that the word has a meaning. I am not surprised you didn’t define it. It is extremely hard to define moral words. In fact I don’t think you can answer the question satisfactorily without understanding how moral language fits into the whole social structure we call moral behaviour. It is, partially, what R.M. Hare called prescriptive language as opposed to descriptive language. You have to consider the role moral words play in the language game of morality (which doesn’t mean it is trivial or flippant). I have tried to explain this here.

    By the way – I asked on the second of the three threads you started on this subject – what absurdity results from denying that the holocaust is evil? I can well understand you missing the question because of the large number of comments but remain interested in the answer.

  3. 3
    wentzelitis says:

    If they don’t think those actions are evil then what’s stopping them from doing those actions themselves? People like that shouldn’t be on allowed the streets let alone be considered fit for debate. Lock up your babies everyone..Graham2 sees no problem with torturing them for pleasure.

    The only way torturing a child for pleasure wouldn’t be an evil act is if somehow the torturer didn’t comprehend that the torturing was causing pain or suffering to the victim or thought that the torturing would somehow lead to the greater good of many others.

  4. 4
    wentzelitis says:

    Example- If you torture this infant then I won’t torture 50 other infants. There. Torturing an infant isn’t evil anymore.

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    MF: There is more than one way to skin a cat, and by pointing out key examples that serve as yardsticks [with the implication that material family resemblance would obtain for other cases], BA has provided sufficient definiteness for discussion. In short, as pointed out already, ostensive definition is legitimate definition. Indeed, I go so far as to say it gives context for precising definitions that attempt to give necessary and sufficient conditions, as these are tested on key examples and counter-examples. Similarly for genus-difference definitions we normally have type cases and key based on characteristic features of examples. KF

  6. 6
    News says:

    wentzelitis, it would still be an evil act. Nothing would change that. The escape of fifty infants mitigates the circumstances,not the evil.

  7. 7
    Mark Frank says:

    I just noticed:

    * Jerry challenges Barry to define evil.

    * Barry responds not by attempting to define it, but by challenging Jerry to define it.

    * Jerry offers a definition.

    * Barry accuses Jerry of “effectively” dodging the question because he doesn’t like the definition.

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Let us look at a responsible dictionary, to see if this is a particularly mysterious or unfamiliar term:

    ______________

    e·vil
    (vl)
    adj. e·vil·er, e·vil·est
    1. Morally bad or wrong; wicked: an evil tyrant.
    2. Causing ruin, injury, or pain; harmful: the evil effects of a poor diet.
    3. Characterized by or indicating future misfortune; ominous: evil omens.
    4. Bad or blameworthy by report; infamous: an evil reputation.
    5. Characterized by anger or spite; malicious: an evil temper.
    n.
    1. The quality of being morally bad or wrong; wickedness.
    2. That which causes harm, misfortune, or destruction: a leader’s power to do both good and evil.
    3. An evil force, power, or personification.
    4. Something that is a cause or source of suffering, injury, or destruction: the social evils of poverty and injustice.
    adv. Archaic
    In an evil manner.
    [Middle English, from Old English yfel; see wap- in Indo-European roots.]
    evil·ly adv.
    evil·ness n.

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
    ____________

    Not exactly esoteric.

    KF

  9. 9
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Re the holocaust, ask those who are concerned about rising holocaust denial what they would have to say about the consequences of asserting, arguing or believing that it was not an evil. The descent into absurdity is increasingly, sadly evident.

  10. 10
    Mark Frank says:

    KF #5

    I agree ostensive definition is adequate for many cases (although it raises the problem of following the rule) but it won’t do the job for moral language because it does not account for the prescriptive element. There is a logical relationship between words like “good” and “evil” and action. To describe something as evil is more than just noting that it has particular features it is also asking or demanding that people prevent it.

  11. 11
    Mark Frank says:

    KF #8

    As I say in my little essay defining moral words in terms of other moral words doesn’t help us understand what moral language means. So the first two highlighted items are of no help.

    Definition 4. Something that is a cause or source of suffering, injury, or destruction

    is more useful, but surely wrong? It is essentially consequentalist. According to this definition Hurricane Katrina was evil and euthanasia is a way of avoiding evil. More importantly it does not make the logical link to action.

  12. 12

    To materialists, words are nothing more than monkey wrenches, an evolved form of feces the hairless apes use to fling at that which displeases them.

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    MF: The underlying implication is always that because of the value of something one ought not to harm or destroy it. To provide cases in point that amplify what that means in no wise fails to provide an adequate yardstick. And, morality is all the way down to worldview foundations, always. However, there is sufficient widespread understanding of what moral issues are in the general context that the yardstick examples are sufficient for purpose without going into formal elaboration of a worldview, why for instance we see the premise advanced by Hooker in light of the Judaeo-Christian tradition and cited by Locke to found modern liberty and democracy, that as one who wishes to be cherished by others, I owe to those who are such as I the like regard, from which basic principles of conduct follow quite clearly for a person of understanding who finds him or her self inescapably under moral government; just think about the appeals to fairness or duty etc we make while quarrelling. Of course, since you acknowledge adhering to materialism, a worldview that has in it no IS that can properly ground OUGHT (and often wishes to substitute a subjectivist or relativistic redefinition), you evidently wish to ring-fence off the term “moral” or “morality.” That itself speaks volumes. KF

  14. 14
    bornagain77 says:

    WJM poetically states the dogmatic atheist’s position (which everyone, except for the dogmatic atheist himself, seems to be aware of)

    To materialists, words are nothing more than monkey wrenches, an evolved form of feces the hairless apes use to fling at that which displeases them.

    Quite a beautiful summary of the situation WJM even if the image it invokes is not. But alas what did we really expect from people who believe the quality of beauty itself to be illusory? Here is a somewhat humorous article detailing the futile attempt of two materialists who tried to reduce the subjective ‘sense of beauty’ to mere material mechanism.,,

    Beauty Evades the Clutches of Materialism – March 27, 2013
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....70321.html

    Though the article was somewhat technical, it was almost comical to read how every approach, in which the materialists tried to reduce the subjective sense of beauty to a mere material mechanism, was thwarted. A finding to which the response “DUH!” comes to mind.

    All Things Bright And Beautiful – poem
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4082996/

    Autumn Leaf’s Laughter – Video – inspirational poem
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4181846/

    Autumn Leafs Laughter
    Oh please do tell us of your secret
    you majestic autumn leaves,of regal red ,and shimmering golden yellow,
    Brilliantly coloring the landscapes of trees.
    Do you dare pass away in a rush of beauty while you are slowly dying?
    Pay ye no heed to all the other deaths so solemnly attended with tears and crying?
    or Does the essence in you somehow yearn jealously for a glorious life to come?
    And you somehow know that death shouldn’t be sad but fun?
    For I truly wish I could die like you and that I knew the secret of your story, so that my countenance should light up and glow as my soul is delivered to behold God,s glory.
    So please autumn leaves which mock death with such defiant belly laughter,
    Do tell us your secret over death so that we may properly enter the hereafter.

    Argument from beauty
    http://www.conservapedia.com/Argument_from_beauty

  15. 15
    Mark Frank says:

    13 KF

    To provide cases in point that amplify what that means in no wise fails to provide an adequate yardstick.

    I think you underestimate the limitations of ostensive definitions. The early part of the Philosophical Investigations is very good on this. An ostensive definition only make sense if you already have a large common understanding. If I point at a ball and declare that is what I mean by “xxx”  – it is of no help unless we know what kind of thing “xxx” is. Should I be taking notice of the colour, the size, how the ball is being used? So pointing to an act and saying that is what I mean by “evil” is of use unless you already have a good common understanding of morality. 

    That is why I say moral vocabulary has to be defined in terms of the social activity, the form of life, which is moral behaviour. Part of that is a prescriptive element – when you call something good you are demanding/asking  people not to harm or destroy it and therefore you are indeed implying that you do not want it harmed or destroyed. However, it is not much help to say it implies that you ought not to harm or destroy it because “ought” is itself a moral word.

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    MF:

    Pardon me but quarrelling is a fairly common behaviour, and is quite consistently a matter of arguing that the other party is in the wrong. Almost as consistently, the response is to implicitly accept the underlying principles but to try to excuse, exculpate or turn around the matter.

    The suggestion that using yardstick examples of evil — holocaust, the case of Anne Frank, the case of abduction, torture rape and murder of a child [in my case I know a still grieving father] or the like — does not appeal to a case where there is a sufficient fund of in-common experience, fails the basic plausibility test.

    We find ourselves governed inescapably by a sense of ought, which we can exemplify and discuss in reasonable terms.

    We then face the issue of grounding ought in a sufficient foundational is in our worldviews. (And note, the sort of cases in view.)

    I submit that (i) evolutionary materialism has no such IS, and (ii) the only serious candidate is an inherently good creator-God.

    KF

  17. 17
    Barry Arrington says:

    Graham2:

    Barry: I said a lot more than ‘I would pick 3?. Maybe you could display just a little honesty and quote my full reply.

    Of course you said a lot more than “I would pick 3,” but none of the other things you said was “I change my mind; I don’t pick 3.” Are you now backing off? Are you not sticking to your nihilist guns?

  18. 18
    Mark Frank says:

    16 #KF

    I fear I have totally lost the thread of your argument. I thought we were discussing how to define moral words such as “good” and “evil”?

  19. 19
    kairosfocus says:

    MF: With all due respect, the issue is to correctly understand evil, that we may better avoid or avert it — as we ought. And, linked to that, to understand that which is morally self-evident (here, especially the holocaust) as a yardstick and plumbline for cases that are harder. KF

  20. 20
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mark Frank,

    You think all of KF’s efforts to define evil are lacking. Well, I will give you the same challenge I gave jerry. You provide us with a definition of evil. Your options are threefold, the same as his:

    1. Dodge the matter.

    2. Admit the word has meaning and provide a definition

    3. Assert that the word has no meaning

    As with jerry, I predict “1.” BTW, I note that you disagree with me when I say that jerry effectively dodged the question. Well, spewing inane drivel and calling it a “definition” is dodging the question, and I will let the readers judge for themselves whether jerry’s blithering in response to the question was a good faith attempt to provide a definition. Your turn.

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: The above has made me have a deeper appreciation of learning inductively from key case studies and how we respond to them.

    In the case of the holocaust:

    1 –> Some 20 million Russian non-combatants, six million Poles (half of these Jews), and altogether six million Jews . . . then we get into the “mere” hundreds of thousands, ten thousands and thousands and hundreds then dozens, were murdered or caused to die simply because they were in the way of their imagined betters.

    2 –> And yet, this is misleading in a profound way, for we are looking back, we are not seeing it the way it was lived.

    3 –> Hitler at the beginning would never have been seen as a man who could lead one of the most cultured, most civilised, most intellectual nations down a road to such crimes almost without parallel. No, he looked like the pol who could rescue his nation, maybe a bit ruthless and shady, but no way did it look c 1933 that c 1945 we would face what we faced.

    4 –> So, he magnetised a despairing nation and gave it hope of being back up on its feet. And out from under what looked like unfair treaty impositions.

    5 –> The fatal bargain was struck: power to the ruthless, surrender of liberties, excusing early wrongs, tolerating tactics of intimidation and the police state in hopes of a brighter future.

    6 –> Then, step by step Germany followed this demonic demagogue down a road that ended in rivers of innocent blood.

    7 –> and, bit by bit, we see how compromises, devil’s bargains, shutting the eye to evident wrong and other enabling behaviour unleashed an almost unstoppable tide of murderous destruction.

    All of this is giving us insights that help us understand evil, evils, and the ways of being enmeshed in evil, leading to the result of evil: destruction, ruin and shame.

    No, I refuse to be pulled away from the point that a key yardstick example is a most powerful means of giving us the understanding of what evil is (and so of shaping precising definitions or at least attempts, and of shaping taxonomies of evil that allow us to see lesser and greater, broader and more specific), and why the attempted denial, distraction or dismissal that such a thing is evil consistently ends in absurdity.

    KF

  22. 22
    kairosfocus says:

    Oops, 5 million Poles.

  23. 23
    Mark Frank says:

    #20 Barry

    I go for 2. Defining a moral word (except in terms of other moral words) is rather difficult which is why I refer you to my short essay here.

    Your turn – which of the three are you going to take?

  24. 24
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mark,

    You don’t disappoint. You say you choose “2” and point me to your essay. But your essay contains no definition of evil. So you really chose “1”.

  25. 25
    jerry says:

    Barry,

    This thread is absurd. I have a long history of commenting on this site. My views are well known to any who have been here for more than a few years. I tend to stay away from religion but focus on the science and logic of ID. There is no one on this site in the last 8 years who is a bigger defender of ID than me. Dembski banned me once because I told him he was doing a bad job defending ID.

    When has anything I have ever said could be construed as a materialist. Yet you and others have said that I am with no evidence at all and a history of commenting that says the contrary. It sounds like it is not just the materialist who don’t like criticism or open discussion on some topics.

    How does defining the only true evil thing as lack of salvation, makes me a materialist? Maybe I have thought this out before and have come to that conclusion. I first got interested in the theodicy issue about 20 years ago long before I knew there was an issue over evolution. I had never heard the term so was curious what it was and why it was considered such a major issue with Christianity.

    So I have been thinking and reading about it ever since. Not continually but occasionally would see what people said on it to see the dimensions of the argument. This is what has led me to believe that all our instances of evil are relative in nature and there is only one true evil, namely lack of salvation. All other instances including the Holocaust are insignificant compared to this.

    This is not saying that the Holocaust is ok or an insignificant event but it tends to cloud our thinking. We are obliged to prevent such events and our failure to do so may be an even greater malfeasance than the actual event. It also focuses on earthly events only.

    That is why I asked the question, why is killing millions more evil than killing one person not because I think it is hunky dory to kill millions but because it tends to divert us from what is really important.

    Also yours and other’s use of the term evil focuses on deranged human beings’ actions where the theodicy issue is that God permits evil by all the horrors that have been unleashed on humans from disease to natural disasters. Ayala’s book on evolution pointed out that the Lisbon earthquake was the turning point in thinking as it tended to focus on earthly issues and the death, injury and impoverishment of humans on earth. It tended to ask how could a God be good and allow this suffering. He must either be an evil God or inadequate God. It is a major argument for naturalistic evolution.

    My point is that we tend not to focus on what is truly evil in an absolute measure and substitute various ranges of undesirable events for humans on earth instead.

    Let me say that evil is the absence of good as a definition. But telling a lie is often an absence of good but is it evil. But if there is an absolute Good, then the absence of that is the ultimate evil or really only evil to focus on. All else pales in significance and as I said is trivial and diverts. How we do that is what drives a lot of us. And if we do it right then these other things which one wants to call evil will be taken cared of. Humans have a poor track record of doing that though but it should not distract one from the ultimate objective.

    Now, do you think that I should be lumped into all these negative comments you have made about me? I could go on but haven’t the time at the moment.

  26. 26
    Barry Arrington says:

    “Your turn – which of the three are you going to take?”

    I choose 2 and adopt KF’s comment at 8.

  27. 27
    Barry Arrington says:

    Jerry: “When has anything I have ever said could be construed as a materialist.” Re-read the OP. It does not contain the word “materialist.” I called you a nihilist, because you gave a definition of evil that excludes almost all acts of evil. And in your comment you provide further evidence of your nihilism:

    “This is what has led me to believe that all our instances of evil are relative in nature.” Saying that everything is relative is the same as saying there is no standard by which to judge anything, which is what nihilism is.

    Then you assert that you are a theist (presumably a Christian), and I have to admit that “Christian nihilist” is something of an oxymoron.

    Then you provide a different definition of evil: “Let me say that evil is the absence of good as a definition.”

    In conclusion, I never called you a materialist. I did not call you a nihilist, but it turns out that you are probably not. You are probably just confused.

  28. 28
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Is this the definition proffered by Jerry that BA is so stringent on?

    [Jerry, 59 in principles thread:] I believe there is only one truly evil outcome. That is the lack of salvation. Everything else is trivial and a distraction

    If this is not his definition, what is?

    KF

  29. 29
    kairosfocus says:

    BA:

    I would supplement Websters at 8 with an insight from the Christian theology I was taught quite some summers ago now, in essence:

    evil is that which is a privation, abuse or perversion of the good out of proper purpose, which therefore ends in harm, damage, chaos, confusion, deception, ruin, destruction and in the end shame. If unredeemed, eternal shame. This being particularly manifest in violation of duty, in violation or abuse of neighbours who are as we are, and in breakdown of stewardship through neglect or breach of trust.

    You will see that his is based unabashedly on a theistic vision of our world as purposeful creation by an inherently good and competent Creator God, who is redeemer and also Judge.

    I could argue from all sorts of directions that will end back at the same point, e.g. start from our notion that we have rights, binding and proper expectations for how we should be treated rooted in our inherent dignity as human beings. This turns about by reciprocity, to we have duties of care and are under moral obligation to one another. Thence, we are under moral government, and so also a Moral Governor. One who is there and is not silent, speaking in the voice of Creation, conscience and more.

    I would argue that morality points to the only serious candidate to be the IS who can ground OUGHT, the inherently good creator God, the root of being, value and purpose in the cosmos. In this context, pivotal first principles or morality are evident from creation and/or are self evident, also speaking from within by voice of conscience.

    I would further argue that worldviews that end in moral chaos and confusion, thereby show themselves fatally cracked at the foundation. Whose name, sadly, is legion.

    Last, but not least, I draw our attention, respectfully, to a key historical precedent, how Locke set out to ground liberty and what would become modern democracy in his second essay on Government ch 2 sect 5, by citing “the judicious Hooker”:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [[Eccl. Polity,preface, Bk I, “ch.” 8, p.80.]

    I find in this an instantly recognisable ring of truth that draws me like a magnet draws a bit of iron.

    KF

  30. 30
    Mark Frank says:

    #26 Barry

    You offered:

    1. Dodge the matter.

    2. Admit the word has meaning and provide a definition

    This is a false dichotomy. I admit the word has meaning and explain in some detail why it is not possible to give a useful explicit definition on the lines of KF’s comment 8. Indeed once you decide which one of the 9 definitions he offers you think is correct I believe I can demonstrate why the definition you have chosen is either false or useless.

  31. 31
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mark Frank asks: “What absurdity results from denying that the holocaust is evil?”

    Mark asked the question in the context of my assertion that the holocaust was self-evidently evil. I said that “self-evident” means “that which may be denied only on pain of descent into absurdity.”

    Absurd means:

    adjective
    1. utterly or obviously senseless, illogical, or untrue; contrary to all reason or common sense; laughably foolish or false: an absurd explanation.
    noun
    2. the quality or condition of existing in a meaningless and irrational world.

    To deny that the holocaust was evil is the same as denying that good and evil exist. To deny the reality of good and evil is to deny that any event has any meaning or significance at all. Killing six million Jews; stepping on a bug – tom-a-tuh, tom-ah-ta. This is the very epitome of a senseless, meaningless, irrational world.

    Of course, Mark is a smart guy, and he knows all of this (and if he denies that he knows all of this he is a liar). I can only suppose that he wants to unpack this a little so that everyone is perfectly clear on it. So, there, it’s unpacked.

  32. 32
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mark Frank: “I admit the word [i.e., “evil”] has meaning.”

    Then tell us what that meaning is Mark. Until you do, I have nothing further to say to you on the subject.

    Prediction: You never will.

  33. 33
    Mark Frank says:

    #31 Barry

    To deny that the holocaust was evil is the same as denying that good and evil exist.

    This is clearly false. I have no doubt that Hitler etc would agree that good and evil exist. It was just in their twisted minds they did not think that exterminating lesser races was evil.

  34. 34
    LarTanner says:

    and if he denies that he knows all of this he is a liar

    In another ages, not so long ago actually, the inquisitor would have had all sorts of ways to extract the “true confession” from the “liar.”

    Thanks, Barry. No need for you to back up assertions and really think through them. If they disagree with you and make an opposing case, they must be lying.

    We all see what and who you are. Pleased to meet you, we’ve guessed your name.

  35. 35
    Mark Frank says:

    #32 Barry

    You have a lawyer’s trick of trying to trap people with neat dichotomies and challenges which turn it from a serious investigation of the subject into a sort of intellectual game with winners and losers. This isn’t a court room. If you are really interested in the meanings of words such as good and evil then I encourage you to read on. If all you want is to score debating points – that’s fine we will stop here.

    Then tell us what that meaning is Mark. Until you do, I have nothing further to say to you on the subject.

    Prediction: You never will.

    I wrote a whole essay explaining why it is so difficult to say what it means except in the circular sense of defining it as “morally bad” or something like that. The closest I can get in a reasonable number of words is something like:

    “When someone says X is evil they are asking or demanding that X (or things like X) be prevented on the grounds that X leads to a specific type of revulsion that we (almost) all share. In most societies for most people this revulsion is a response to intense suffering so X is practically speaking largely coextensive with “leads to intense suffering”. However, societies and individuals differ sharply as to what subjects of suffering create this revulsion and what other things cause this revulsion in addition to intense suffering.”

    But that is hardly useful! So yes your prediction is right. I never will tell you what it means in any useful sense. And neither will you or anyone else.

    You can refute me by giving your definition and demonstrating that it concurs with what most people mean by evil. If it is in KF’s comment #8 then just say which one it is.

  36. 36
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    Morality and evil are two different things and should remain distinct in one’s thinking.

    “Values” are what people value. That’s obvious. Values are prioritized.

    “Evil” is suffering, distress, calamity, “bad times”, etc., without a higher purpose. What determines a “higher purpose” is determined by values.

    “Morality” is relative within societies and it exists to guard against “evil.” There is no essential difference between morality and ethics are the same thing, although often “morality” is used with respect to religiously based ethics.

    What am I missing?

  37. 37
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    Barry: and if he denies that he knows all of this he is a liar

    Come on. You’re better than that.

  38. 38
    kairosfocus says:

    CS:

    Here may help you.

    Let me clip Clarke and Rakestraw:

    Principles are broad general guidelines that all persons ought to follow. Morality is the dimension of life related to right conduct. It includes virtuous character and honorable intentions as well as the decisions and actions that grow out of them. Ethics on the other hand, is the [philosophical and theological] study of morality . . . [that is,] a higher order discipline that examines moral living in all its facets . . . . on three levels. The first level, descriptive ethics, simply portrays moral actions or virtues. A second level, normative ethics (also called prescriptive ethics), examines the first level, evaluating actions or virtues as morally right or wrong. A third level, metaethics, analyses the second . . . It clarifies the meaning of ethical terms and assesses the principles of ethical argument . . . . Some think, without reflecting on it, that . . . what people actually do is the standard of what is morally right . . . [But, what] actually happens and what ought to happen are quite different . . . . A half century ago, defenders of positivism routinely argued that descriptive statements are meaningful, but prescriptive statements (including all moral claims) are meaningless . . . In other words, ethical claims give no information about the world; they only reveal something about the emotions of the speaker . . . . Yet ethical statements do seem to say something about the realities to which they point. “That’s unfair!” encourages us to attend to circumstances, events, actions, or relationships in the world. We look for a certain quality in the world (not just the speaker’s mind) that we could properly call unfair.

    Thus, we see the focus of ethics as a philosophical discipline, and the major challenges to ethics over the past century: positivism deriving from the naturalist worldview, and relativism, deriving from the assumption that what is and what ought to be are effectively the same.

    Consequently, as Arthur Holmes points out, ethics has to address the is-ought gap:

    However we may define the good, however well we may calculate consequences, to whatever extent we may or may not desire certain consequences, none of this of itself implies any obligation of command. That something is or will be does not imply that we ought to seek it. We can never derive an “ought” from a premised “is” unless the ought is somehow already contained in the premise . . . .

    R. M. Hare . . . raises the same point. Most theories, he argues, simply fail to account for the ought that commands us: subjectivism reduces imperatives to statements about subjective states, egoism and utilitarianism reduce them to statements about consequences, emotivism simply rejects them because they are not empirically verifiable, and determinism reduces them to causes rather than commands . . . .

    Elizabeth Anscombe’s point is well made. We have a problem introducing the ought into ethics unless, as she argues, we are morally obligated by law – not a socially imposed law, ultimately, but divine law . . . . This is precisely the problem with modern ethical theory in the West . . . it has lost the binding force of divine commandments.

    The relevance of this comes out as soon as we consider the concept that we have rights:

    If we admit that we all equally have the right to be treated as persons, then it follows that we have the duty to respect one another accordingly. Rights bring correlative duties: my rights . . . imply that you ought to respect these rights.

    All of this circles back to the issue that in a world with purpose, ethics exists and is grounded in the one who gives purpose to the world.

    If one imagines instead that he world is purposeless, then all of this breaks down.

    It is the clash of incongruity that results when our worldview tries to tell us that something like the holocaust cannot be labelled as evil, that what Hitler et al did is not materially different from what say Mother Theresa did, that we begin to run into serious absurdity.

    That absurdity is trying to tell us that our worldview is in radical misalignment with the world as it is.

    But, if there are reasons that lead us to cling to absurdity . . .

    KF

  39. 39
    StephenB says:

    Mark:

    I have no doubt that Hitler etc would agree that good and evil exist. It was just in their twisted minds they did not think that exterminating lesser races was evil

    What moral standard do you use to differentiate between a twisted mind and one that is not twisted?

  40. 40
    StephenB says:

    Mark, in case you are not getting the drift of my question @39, I am asking you to define “twistedness,” a term that you did not hesitate to apply to Hitler.

  41. 41
    kairosfocus says:

    MF: I see your descriptive ethics level discussion of morals, which is not the same thing as what is being asked for, it is two levels too low. And BTW, I should note that in many cases it is not the ethical principle that is in contention but the perceived facts. Once error is corrected on such — e.g. why some cultures have people wanting to be buried alive, disagreement fades. Similarly, We are dealing with a yardstick case, the holocaust. I am sure you are aware that the defense offered by many of those who carried it out was they were obeying the orders of their lawful authorities duly constituted by electoral process. As you are further aware, the counter was that there is a natural, evident law rooted in our nature and dignity as human beings, that is above the errors and crimes of a given state’s leaders. So, in the properse3nse the orders were not lawful, and this was evident to those who carried them out, who must have known they were doing what was monstrously evil — mass murder etc — as improperly ordered by wicked men. Again, we see the importance of yardstick examples, that have ever so much to teach us. KF

  42. 42
    5for says:

    ID takes a beating at the hands of a smart commentator (RDF) and Barry goes on another childish you are with us or against us rant. Coincidence?

  43. 43
    kairosfocus says:

    SB: Good point, the use of “twisted” reflects the perversion-privation principle and definition of evil, and the underlying implication that there is a proper purpose of the mind and power in the state, which was being perverted by evil men. KF

  44. 44
    kairosfocus says:

    5for: Your reporting is twisted from the actual evident truth regarding the exchange. KF

  45. 45
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    KF, except for making the distinction between ethics as body of rules, and ethics as an academic study, nothing you quoted or said adds anything to what I said. But thanks.

  46. 46
    drc466 says:

    Simply put, people who believe in an absolute (God) have no problem defining evil as a concept. People who do not believe in an absolute are unable to provide a defensible meaning to evil, because everything is relative in a materialist world. Yet all but the insane and evil recognize that there are things that are inherently, objectively evil (e.g. bad, wrong, immoral, shouldn’t be done).

    You want a absolutist definition of evil? How about this:
    Evil: Any action, attitude, thought, or event offensive to God and His nature.

    A practical guideline to not being evil? Well, the Law was God’s gift to His people, and part of the purpose of the Law was to help them avoid evil. And the Law is summed up in “Love God” and “Love others as you love yourself”. So, Evil in practice is anything that is not loving of God and/or not loving of others.

    Torturing babies? evil
    Holocaust? evil

    Just because there are times when it is difficult to define whether a specific action is evil, does NOT have any relevance to whether evil exists as an absolute concept.

    A materialist, of course, will not accept any of the above. Without an absolute reference, the word “evil” means nothing.

    So, to Barry’s point:
    1) Humanity understands certain actions to be objectively evil.
    2) Anyone who disagrees that these actions are objectively evil is, by human definition, insane or evil.
    3) Materialists lacking a foundation to define evil must deny that these actions are objectively evil.**
    4) Materialists are, by human definition, insane or evil.

    **Realistically, of course, Materialists are neither insane nor evil. They are, to put it bluntly, inconsistent and illogical. Contrary to point 3, they will agree (or at least understand even if you can’t get them to admit it) that torturing infants for fun is objectively evil. They will also argue that evil is a relative term and has no real meaning. Illogical.

    And so you are left with arguing semantics as seen in the comments above. Because trying to argue with an illogical person can be very entertaining, but is mostly pointless.

    –drc466

  47. 47
    Mark Frank says:

    Stephenb

    Mark, in case you are not getting the drift of my question @39, I am asking you to define “twistedness,” a term that you did not hesitate to apply to Hitler.

    The word combines several elements.

    One I am asserting that Hitler’s views were extraordinarily different from normal human views to the extent that might be regarded as pathological.

    Two I am expressing my person revulsion from those views.

    Three it expresses my confidence that almost everyone else will agree with one and two.

  48. 48
    StephenB says:

    5for

    ID takes a beating at the hands of a smart commentator (RDF) and Barry goes on another childish you are with us or against us rant. Coincidence?

    RDF was refuted at every level, but if you want to address those refutations, you need to visit the appropriate forum. Don’t try to derail this thread with irrelevant subject matter.

  49. 49
    jerry says:

    You are probably just confused.

    Maybe we are all confused. That is part of the human condition. I once was where the consensus on these threads are but have on reflection think that it is a confused understanding. We should be somewhere else. One of the reasons I came back to this site after a couple years of not commenting was to pursue the theodicy issue and see what people said about Meyer’s book. (By the way I was one of the first people on this site to have read Meyer’s book and tried to discuss it. I also have recommended two discussions on evil for people to pursue.

    See my comment on evil here:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-463638
    )

    You continue to misconstrue what I say. For example,

    I called you a nihilist, because you gave a definition of evil that excludes almost all acts of evil. And in your comment you provide further evidence of your nihilism:

    Where did I ever countenance any act or event that you would define as “evil.” How does questioning a superficial understanding of the concept of evil provide evidence of nihilism. I am quarreling over the nature of what the term means and the fact that it tends to be very relativistic in how we apply it. And that relativistic use causes problems. So how does arguing against the use of relativistic terms, show that I am a nihilist.

    I provided an absolute standard and then said that all the instances being used are trivial compared to it. Tell me why that is not a correct understanding. I did not say that any of what you are using as evil acts are desirable or even neutral. They are certainly not. So I think you are missing my point.

    I get the impression that you may not like being challenged on any of this but I have an interest in what I believe is really relevant. I am not optimistic on convincing many on this but until it is done we may all be off on cul de sacs fighting the wrong battles.

    You and others seem to want to paint the materialist into a corner by providing extreme examples of malfeasance and by saying these examples are obviously evil. Ok they are evil in the sense they are contrary to a standard we use, but how would each of these examples compare to the one outcome I said was the only true evil. I think this attempt to pigeon hole the materialist is fruitless since they do not believe in any standard except what may affect their feelings personally or is necessary to get along with their neighbors or reach personal objectives. I think when one has a personal objective of salvation, the ultimate goal, then one’s standards are very different. And often they might be in sync with the materialist but for very different reasons.

  50. 50
    StephenB says:

    Mark

    One I am asserting that Hitler’s views were extraordinarily different from normal human views to the extent that might be regarded as pathological.

    You are begging the question with a synonym, substituting pathological for twisted. You have not yet provided the standard by which you separate twisted/pathological from not twisted and non pathological.

    Two I am expressing my person revulsion from those views.

    But you didn’t express it in personal terms, you expressed it in absolute terms. You didn’t say that you had a negative emotional reaction to his behavior. You said his mind IS (was) twisted. Which is it? Do you think his mind was twisted or not? If so, what standard of morality did he violate with his twisted mind?

  51. 51

    CS said:

    Morality and evil are two different things and should remain distinct in one’s thinking.

    “Values” are what people value. That’s obvious. Values are prioritized.

    You really shouldn’t use the same word to try to define a word. Values are things that people consider to be important.

    “Evil” is suffering, distress, calamity, “bad times”, etc., without a higher purpose. What determines a “higher purpose” is determined by values.

    So, if one values the the annihilation of all “inferior” races, and sets about causing all sorts of evil, as you have defined it, in pursuit of that which he/she values, then the suffering and “bad times” they cause is not evil?

    You seem to be forgetting a necessary component of “evil”: intent Is it “evil” when there is a natural calamity, which we assume serves no “higher purpose”? How does that fit into your system of definitions? What about a person who is building a torture chamber in his basement and his intention is to kidnap children and torture them; are his thoughts, his intentions evil? How so, according to your definitions? He hasn’t actually caused any suffering yet.

    “Morality” is relative within societies and it exists to guard against “evil.” There is no essential difference between morality and ethics are the same thing, although often “morality” is used with respect to religiously based ethics.

    What am I missing?

    What you’re missing is a principle by which one can disagree with what society claims is moral and obligates one to defy such norms even when faced with personal harm & sacrifice. You have also left “intent” and “thought” out of your list of things that can be evil.

  52. 52
    Mark Frank says:

    StephenB

    You are begging the question with a synonym, substituting pathological for twisted. You have not yet provided the standard by which you separate twisted/pathological from not twisted and non pathological.

    Pathological is not a synonym for twisted. It means “involving or caused by a physical or mental disease.” So all I am saying that his views were so different from normal human views they might be regarded as a mental condition to be cured i.e. he was close to being nuts.

    But you didn’t express it in personal terms, you expressed it in absolute terms. You didn’t say that you had a negative emotional reaction to his behavior. You said his mind IS (was) twisted. Which is it? Do you think his mind was twisted or not? If so, what standard of morality did he violate with his twisted mind?

    I used the word “twisted” to combine some factual information – it was so different from normal it was almost nuts – plus conveying my attitude to that abnormality.  It is a common thing to do with words. If you describe something as “funny” you are both conveying factual information and also your attitude to that thing.  There is no need for any standard.

  53. 53
    Silver Asiatic says:

    #47

    extraordinarily different from normal human views

    I think you’re getting closer to definition that is generally shared. The key term “normal”, points to norms or standards. We look at human history and find some universally normal human views.

    Evil: the discrepancy between what is and what ought to be.

    Evil: the loss or deprivation of something necessary for perfection.

    Evil is a privation of the good — so it only “exists” in relation to the good.

    Being itself is a good, so nothing that exists can be totally evil. The greatest good would be the most perfect state of, or actuality of, being.

    Evil is a subtraction of being — as strange as that might sound. Perhaps better, evil takes away what is good — what ought to be.

  54. 54
    Mark Frank says:

    #53

    The key term “normal”, points to norms or standards

    Nowadays the word “normal” usually means “what happens most often” “or what is to be expected” and does not point to any norm or standard. It is quite interesting to plot the history of the word normal and its change from meaning “what ought to be” to “what happens most often”. However, I certainly did not intend to imply anything other than “what usually happens”.

  55. 55

    I wonder which provides the more fertile ground for evil to grow; apathy, or relativism?

  56. 56

    Can’t you just see Mark F and Graham2 being dragged before the court at Nuremburg?

    “Evil acts? Define evil!”

    “Obviously, the court here is refusing to define “evil” or any other terminology pertinent to these proceedings!”

    “Illegal? By what standard? Morals and laws are social norms. We were just going along with the social norms and laws of our peer group!!”

    “It’s all relative. You say potato, I say Zyklon B.”

  57. 57
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Nowadays the word “normal” usually means “what happens most often” “or what is to be expected” and does not point to any norm or standard. It is quite interesting to plot the history of the word normal and its change from meaning “what ought to be” to “what happens most often”. However, I certainly did not intend to imply anything other than “what usually happens”.

    Ok, but that doesn’t really work as an explanation for your reaction against Hitler’s views. You obviously wouldn’t call every case where a person had extraordinarily different views something “twisted” (a term with a negative connotation).

    Even by just looking at physical evil, there’s a standard or norm (health, good-feeling, etc). A condition is pathological not just because it is different but because it has a negative relationship to health.

    In that case, health is the standard; “the good”.

    But there are other kinds of evils other than just physical evil.

    A requirement for intellectual health is a commitment to the truth. The evil related to that would be a willingness to knowingly say things that are not true. Or to consider truth and falsehood to be equivalent values. That would destroy all rational discourse.

  58. 58
    Graham2 says:

    Barry: There is a familiar pattern here: You present an extreme case, then taunt others to agree or they will be lampooned (or banned). I occasionally rise to the bait when the ‘objective morality’ nonsense is waved in front of me, but generally, is it all achieving anything ? Why not devote some space to presenting the latest results of ID ‘research’. Surely all those ID ‘scholars’ out there cant be idle.

  59. 59
    StephenB says:

    Mark:

    Pathological is not a synonym for twisted. It means “involving or caused by a physical or mental disease.” So all I am saying that his views were so different from normal human views they might be regarded as a mental condition to be cured i.e. he was close to being nuts.

    So you are saying that Hitler was twisted and nuts because he was unusual, but not necessarily evil. Does that mean that Mother Teresa, who was also unusual, was twisted and nuts.

  60. 60
    Barry Arrington says:

    Translating Graham2 @ 58: “I got nothin’. Let’s talk about something else.”

  61. 61
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    WJM: You really shouldn’t use the same word to try to define a word. Values are things that people consider to be important.

    I was intentionally stating the obvious. People don’t really need a definition for “values.” Since adding a plural to “value” doesn’t change what we already know about the word. I don’t think anyone disagrees on its definition.

    CS: “Evil” is suffering, distress, calamity, “bad times”, etc., without a higher purpose. What determines a “higher purpose” is determined by values.

    WJM: So, if one values the the annihilation of all “inferior” races, and sets about causing all sorts of evil, as you have defined it, in pursuit of that which he/she values, then the suffering and “bad times” they cause is not evil?

    To the perpetrators it isn’t. However, you and I might disagree with their value-set and set about to attack the core of it. Maybe we would succeed and maybe we wouldn’t. What would you say to an Assyrian marauder in 650 B.C. to convince him that your values were superior as he is about to hack your head off? Or a modern day Islamist.

    WJM: You seem to be forgetting a necessary component of “evil”: intent. Is it “evil” when there is natural calamity, which we assume serves no “higher purpose”? How does that fit into your system of definitions?

    I call that “natural evil.” And I don’t think it is germane to the current discussion. If there is a God, he is responsible for it. If not, then nobody is. What else is there do discuss, except possible divine motives, which I think it beyond the scope here.

    WJM: What about a person who is building a torture chamber in his basement and his intention is to kidnap children and torture them; are his thoughts, his intentions evil?

    More specifically, I would saw that his thoughts have the potential for evil, and will lead to evil if not curtailed. In common speech, saying he has an “evil heart” would be appropriate.

    CS: “Morality” is relative within societies and it exists to guard against “evil.” There is no essential difference between morality and ethics are the same thing, although often “morality” is used with respect to religiously based ethics.What am I missing?

    WJM: What you’re missing is a principle by which one can disagree with what society claims is moral and obligates one to defy such norms even when faced with personal harm & sacrifice.

    What do you offer as The Principle?

  62. 62
    Barry Arrington says:

    Graham2 @ 58: I will tell you why I harp on this issue so much. People like you and Mark Frank genuinely frighten me. And I want to expose your dangerous ideas (which, taken to their logical conclusion, allow for any horror one can imagine) for what they are. I hope our culture will wake up and repudiate those ideas before it is too late.

    You might take succor in the thought that your side is probably winning. You took the institutions 30 years ago; you now probably have a majority in the culture. KF, StephenB and I are probably just fighting a rearguard action, and when the jacked booted feet kick down our doors, and they haul us off to whatever camp has been prepared for wrong-thinking undesirables, you won’t have to worry about us anymore.

    In the meantime, I am going to do everything I can to, in KF’s apt phrasing, “expose, ring-fence and seek to protect ourselves from” you.

  63. 63
    StephenB says:

    Mark

    Pathological is not a synonym for twisted. It means “involving or caused by a physical or mental disease.

    I know what the words mean. I asked you to define twisted, and you used pathological and unusual as part of your definition. So it was fair for me to say you were using pathological as a synonym. In any case, I get your drift. There are no evil people, only crazy people; and crazy people are unusual people. Naturally, that raises the question: Are all unusual people crazy?

  64. 64
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: I think it is getting a bit buried, so let us revisit 28, where I give a description of what evil is:

    evil is that which is a privation, abuse or perversion of the good out of proper purpose, which therefore ends in harm, damage, chaos, confusion, deception, ruin, destruction and in the end shame. If unredeemed, eternal shame. This being particularly manifest in violation of duty, in violation or abuse of neighbours who are as we are, and in breakdown of stewardship through neglect or breach of trust.

    Yes, I know, I know, this is in a theistic framework; one that has no problems identifying evil and its ways.

    Now, think a tad about what it would be like to live in a world where that has been lost sight of. (And yes, there is a text for that — and another one. Not a very pretty one, but a telling one. Time to rethink.)

    KF

  65. 65
    StephenB says:

    Barry @62. You have captured my sentiments perfectly. Thank you.

  66. 66

    What do you offer as The Principle?

    Basically, the same principle appealed to to found the country I live in; self-evident truths (presumed to be reflective of absolutes), and logical reasoning thereof. That gives me the grounds for moral obligation and authority to act.

  67. 67
    Mark Frank says:

    StephenB #59 and #63

    In any case, I get your drift. There are no evil people, only crazy people; and crazy people are unusual people. Naturally, that raises the question: Are all unusual people crazy?

    I don’t understand what you hope to gain by so blatantly misrepresenting what I have written. Anyone can look up the thread and see that I have repeatedly said that “evil” means something and therefore people can be evil. The discussion of craziness only came up because you wanted to know what I meant by “twisted” (not evil) and even then I stressed that there was more to it just the craziness. I said that Hitler was so strange in his beliefs that he might be considered nuts. It obviously does not follow from this that all unusual people are crazy.

  68. 68
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    WJM: Basically, the same principle appealed to to found the country I live in; self-evident truths (presumed to be reflective of absolutes), and logical reasoning thereof. That gives me the grounds for moral obligation and authority to act.

    So is this what people do by default? If not, what do they do by default, in their human nature? Is it something people need to be enlightened about? Or is it self-evident? Is it something that will put one in the “liar” category if they deny it?

    (Disregarding sociopaths.)

  69. 69
    Mark Frank says:

    #62 Barry

    Graham2 @ 58: I will tell you why I harp on this issue so much. People like you and Mark Frank genuinely frighten me.

    Well I am sorry to hear that. It mostly means I have failed to explain what I believe clearly enough. If it is any comfort I find your idealism rather frightening. It has usually been the people who are sure they know what is right who have done the most terrible things. Awful atrocities are rarely done out of selfishness.

  70. 70
    StephenB says:

    Mark

    I don’t understand what you hope to gain by so blatantly misrepresenting what I have written. Anyone can look up the thread and see that I have repeatedly said that “evil” means something and therefore people can be evil.

    I certainly don’t want to misrepresent your position. As a tribute to your appeal for a fair hearing, I reviewed all your comments in greater detail and I now understand your position to be this:

    [a] You think evil exists,

    [b] You can’t define evil,

    [c] Since you can’t define evil, it followd that you don’t know what it is.

    [d] Therefore, you don’t know what it is that you think exists.

    Does that about cover it?

  71. 71
    StephenB says:

    [c] Since you can’t define evil, it follow[s] that you don’t know what it is.

  72. 72
    Mung says:

    [a] I believe God exists.

    [b] I can’t define God.

    [c] Since I can’t define God, it follows that I don’t know what God is.

    [d] Therefore, I don’t know what it is I think exists.

    Does that about cover it?

  73. 73
    Daniel King says:

    Mung @ 72,

    For whom are you speaking?

    If you’re speaking for yourself, thank you for your honesty.

    If you’re being sarcastic, shame on you.

  74. 74
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    People believe all kinds of things. How can you prove your point of view beyond all refutation?

    You can’t.

    Everyone.

    Admit it.

    Can’t we just all get along? (That’s my appeal. But I can’t give any absolute reasons why anyone should follow along. But I hope you do. What else can anyone really say?)

  75. 75
    Querius says:

    So, what is it that must, of necessity . . .

    1. Have more power than God,
    2. But is more evil than the devil.
    3. The super rich think they need it,
    4. The poor almost have it.
    4. And if you eat it, you’ll die?

    🙂

    The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
    – Genesis 2:9 NIV

    Tell me, from which tree are we arguing about?

  76. 76
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mark Frank:

    It has usually been the people who are sure they know what is right who have done the most terrible things.

    No, this is obviously false. The most dangerous people, including the three most prolific mass murderers in history (Mao, Stalin, Hitler – in that order BTW), are those who do not believe there is such a thing as “right.”

  77. 77
    Barry Arrington says:

    Consider the following

    Genocide is self-evidently evil
    The holocaust was an instance of genocide
    Therefore, the holocaust was self-evidently evil

    This syllogism meets is certainly valid in that the conclusion follow inexorably from the premises. But is the argument sound?

    I say that “self-evident” means that if you understand it you understand not only that it is true but that it must be true and to deny it results in absurdity. 2+2=4 is the classic case of a self-evidently true statement. I say that “evil” is a privation of the good, and that genocide is a privation of the good. Therefore, I say the syllogism is sound.

    Now it seems to me that the materialist can say that genocide is evil, and most of them do. But I don’t see how a materialist can say that genocide is self-evidently evil, and some, such as Mark Frank, refuse to do so.

    Therefore, one of two things is true. Genocide is not self-evidently evil or materialism is false.

  78. 78
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    Barry,

    Nobody except for sociopaths thinks genocide (including the Biblical genocides) is good. Everyone thinks it’s evil. Really and truly evil.

    Do you seriously thinks anyone believes otherwise? (Except for sociopaths, in which case, there is no discussion. They are missing a part of normal brain.)

    So what’s your game in all of this?

  79. 79
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    Barry: Consider the following

    Genocide is self-evidently evil
    The holocaust was an instance of genocide
    The Biblical killing of babies was an instance of genocide
    Therefore, the holocaust and the Biblical killing of babies self-evidently evil

    Hey, Barry, we know you think the Holocaust was evil. (So do I.) But why won’t you call and spade a spade and call the Biblical killing of Canaanite babies evil.

    HYPOCRITE!!!!

  80. 80
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    Oh But GOD ITS OK.

    HYPOCRITE.

    Can’t you see how ridiculous your position is.

    You harp and harp and harp on others, and yet you cannot see this HUGE plank in your own eye.

    Killing Canaanite babies: evil or not?

  81. 81
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    How some one can consider the Holocaust “obviously evil” and not consider the slaughter of Canaanite babies “obvious evil” has an obvious DISJUNCT.

    Can I get a witness?

    Come on, Barry, grow up.

  82. 82
    Mapou says:

    I had decided to stop commenting because of the underlying fundamentalist religious views that permeate this forum but this thread is just too much. As a Christian, I can assure you that there is indeed a solid definition of good and bad. It’s a definition that comes straight from the Bible but it is also taught in other religions and belief systems.

    Anything that promotes or leads to unity is good and anything that promotes or leads to disunity is bad.

    It is that simple, folks. This is the reason that Jesus prayed to the Father thus, “Let them be ONE with us, as we are ONE together.” We live in a yin-yang reality. Oneness exists when two complementary opposites (i.e., Father/Son, male/female, left/right, etc. come together. To be good is to be one with everything. Oneness is the mother of all conservation laws in both the physical and the spiritual realms. The law of karma, for example, is based on spiritual oneness. And the law of the conservation of energy is based on the oneness of the cosmos. Why must reality be ONE? That is a different story for another time. Rest assured that there is an explanation for everything.

    I’ll continue to lurk.

  83. 83
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    Well Mapou, I may not agree with all of your “theology”, but I know your heart is good. You have humility. It’s obvious.

    Some people pomp around thinking they know God. Well, they don’t. Not even close. Get some humility, people, and stop pretending you’re some cherub flitting around next to God’s right hand. You’re not. Not even close.

  84. 84
    StephenB says:

    Central Scrutinizer @80.

    Before I defend God’s actions in the Old Testament, I have a question for you: What is your position on abortion?

  85. 85
    Mark Frank says:

    Barry #76

    No, this is obviously false. The most dangerous people, including the three most prolific mass murderers in history (Mao, Stalin, Hitler – in that order BTW), are those who do not believe there is such a thing as “right.”

    Evidence please. Of course it is hard to get inside the head of such people and their views may change over time. But on the face of it all three subscribed to ideologies which they believed justified their actions. Their motivation and justification may not have been religious but it was based on a strong conviction that their principles told them what was right. I would add the caveats that real people are driven by a complex mixture of motives and that eventually they probably ended up driven more by paranoia and the practicalities of maintaining their dictatorship – but a certainty they knew what was right was key – especially in the early stages of their careers.

  86. 86
    Mark Frank says:

    Barry #77

    But I don’t see how a materialist can say that genocide is self-evidently evil, …..

    Therefore, one of two things is true. Genocide is not self-evidently evil or materialism is false.

    That is all you need – the rest of your comment is superfluous. All you have said is:

    If a materialist cannot claim X then either not X or not materialism. Seems pretty watertight to me! But so what?

  87. 87
    franklin says:

    Before I defend God’s actions in the Old Testament, I have a question for you: What is your position on abortion?

    Ah, the ‘have you stopped beating your wife’ gambit.

    Well played!

  88. 88
    Mark Frank says:

    StephenB #70 and #71

    [c] Since you can’t define evil, it follow[s] that you don’t know what it is.

    This doesn’t follow. Defining things in a useful way is often very hard. Consider:

    “green”
    “beauty”
    “mathematics”

    in anything other than a trivial way. For example, it is no good defining green as the colour of grass unless you already understand what green is but have not been able to put a name to it. We could both agree to define “evil” as that moral sentiment associated with the holocaust but that would not go any distance to resolving our dispute about the nature of evil. You will no doubt turn to the dictionary definitions of these words. You will find they are all either obviously wrong or trivial in this sense.

  89. 89
    kairosfocus says:

    Franklin,

    Pardon, but not so.

    In the USA since 1973, some 53 – 55 million unborn children have fallen victim to abortion, mounting at about a 9/11 per day (something that chilled me to the pit of my stomach at the time — I could not but help notice how eerily close the numbers were . . . ).

    Globally, over the past generation, the number is massively more. (I have seen suggested totals that basically blanked my internal screen, I literally cannot believe them absent a detailed count.)

    In addition, in certain places, a huge proportion are of girls, leading to a disproportion of boys born. These matters would constitute the largest case of mass blood-guilt, ever; one that is going on with the sanction of law, the support of major institutions of influence, and more.

    It is even militantly proclaimed a “right” in major quarters.

    In short, there is a highly material question of blood-guilt warped judgement and turnabout accusation designed in material part to deflect serious reflection.

    SB’s question is, sadly, on target.

    KF

    PS: For those who genuinely are troubled and want to explore a cluster of difficult issues, I suggest the 101 here on in context, and onward discussions. The time for village [“New”] atheist shut-up rhetoric talking points is over.

  90. 90

    CS:

    So is this what people do by default?

    No, it’s what people who wish to have a rationally sound foundation for their worldviews do; they first find obvious self-evident truths to work from and with, the denial of which would lead to absurdity, as Mr. Arrington has pointed out. This is not a “default” activity in humans; it is in fact one that requires some purposeful thought and consideration.

    If not, what do they do by default, in their human nature?

    IMO, humans by default simply act and believe from need, desire and emotion. This can lead to all sorts of self-defeating, hypocritical, and irrational views and behaviors. It takes application of conscience, will and reason, IMO, to escape the default human condition make rational sense out of our existence.

    Is it something people need to be enlightened about?

    I guess that depends on how you define “need”, and what purpose the need is moving towards, and for whom.

    Or is it self-evident?

    Some things are indeed self-evident, even if not obvious. Some self-evident things have to be pointed out, but the problem is that people can be so committed to what they already believe that even when the self-evident is pointed out to them, they deny it. Free will can be used to deny anything, even the self-evident.

    A person is either committed to the truth (being brutally honest with themselves), or they are committed to something else – say, an ideology. I have found that many anti-theists are committed to atheistic materialism because they are emotionally charged against the Christian god in particular and historical (and current) religious atrocities.

    That was why I was an atheist for so long – along with the fact that it made me feel intellectually superior to most of the rest of the population. I can understand why people can come face to face with both obvious truths and self-evident truths and deny them because of the emotionally charged a priori commitments they have against theism, and also because it would be too demeaning for them to admit they were wrong.

    Is it something that will put one in the “liar” category if they deny it?

    Is a person lying when they say that 1 + 1 is not necessarily 2? Are they lying when they say there could be a 4-sided triangle? Are they lying when they say that they might not even exist? Are they lying when they say there may be conditions where torturing babies for personal pleasure isn’t evil?

    Even granting charitable interpretation, should a person be given a pass on being called a liar no matter how egregiously they must be deceiving themselves by making statements that are nothing short of absurd?

    If a person says “I don’t know if the holocaust was evil or not”, you and I both know that if they are not consciously being deceitful in the debate, they have used intellectual gymnastics to hide from themselves what their conscience knows without doubt to be true – that the holocaust was evil. In that sense, they are liars, but primarily they are lying to themselves. They must be. To actually not know, in conscience, that the holocaust was evil is being a sociopath.

    So yes, they are either lying (to themselves) or they are a sociopath.

    People believe all kinds of things. How can you prove your point of view beyond all refutation?

    Because a person has an unlimited capacity to deny evidence and argument doesn’t mean they have refuted the argument. Some arguments that have been presented at this site are beyond refutation, even if they have been denied.

    Can’t we just all get along?

    Should we get along with everyone, regardless of what they say or do? Even when they use your “get along” philosophy against you?

    Killing Canaanite babies: evil or not?

    Of course it’s evil.

  91. 91
    kairosfocus says:

    MF:

    Pardon, but the evidence is there all around, this is living memory history.

    On the part of the Marxist dictators, the death toll is well known to in aggregate exceed 100 millions. Such Marxism was premised on atheistical dialectic and historical materialism and led to a cynically nihilist totalitarianism of unprecedented proportions. I suggest you read Havel and Solzhenitsyn etc if you genuinely are unfamiliar.

    In the case of herr Schicklegruber, let me clip the annotated cite I used in what I just linked to Franklin, from Mein Kampf, I, Ch XI:

    Any crossing of two beings not at exactly the same level produces a medium between the level of the two parents . . . Consequently, it will later succumb in the struggle against the higher level. Such mating is contrary to the will of Nature for a higher breeding of all life [ –> an allusion to Evolution as a law of nature, and an indication of his own neopagan inclinations] . . . The stronger must dominate and not blend with the weaker, thus sacrificing his own greatness. [–> the racialist premise against mixing races, never mind the issue of hybrid vigour] Only the born weakling can view this as cruel, but he after all is only a weak and limited man; for if this law did not prevail, any conceivable higher development of organic living beings would be unthinkable.

    The consequence of this racial purity, universally valid in Nature, is not only the sharp outward delimitation of the various races, but their uniform character in themselves. The fox is always a fox, the goose a goose, the tiger a tiger, etc., and the difference can lie at most in the varying measure of force, strength, intelligence, dexterity, endurance, etc., of the individual specimens. [ –> an intended measure of the “fitness” of those best fitted to survive and propagate] But you will never find a fox who in his inner attitude might, for example, show humanitarian tendencies toward geese, as similarly there is no cat with a friendly inclination toward mice [–> the basis for a social darwinist predatory view of relationships between races of humankind] . . . .

    In the struggle for daily bread all those who are weak and sickly or less determined succumb [–> i.e. natural selection as he understood it] , while the struggle of the males for the female grants the right or opportunity to propagate only to the healthiest. [–> That is, Darwinian sexual selection.] And struggle is always a means for improving a species’ health and power of resistance and, therefore, a cause of its higher development. [–> Notice the central concept of struggle]

    If the process were different, all further and higher development would cease and the opposite would occur. For, since the inferior always predominates numerically over the best, if both had the same possibility of preserving life and propagating, the inferior would multiply so much more rapidly that in the end the best would inevitably be driven into the background, unless a correction of this state of affairs were undertaken. [–> NB: this is a theme in Darwin’s discussion of the Irish, the Scots and the English in chs 5 – 7 of his second major work on Evolution, Descent of Man, 1871] Nature does just this by subjecting the weaker part to such severe living conditions that by them alone the number is limited, and by not permitting the remainder to increase promiscuously, but making a new and ruthless choice according to strength and health . . .

    The cynically nihilist corruption of morality, nay the naked amorality in this is patent. The toll for what we see above from 1925 – 6, was a devastated continent and was it 40 – 50 millions dead in Europe because of this demonic madman? (And I here deliberately use the terms the White Rose movement’s Catholic martyrs used in the pamphlets that cost them their lives.)

    Barry’s point is all too apt.

    KF

  92. 92
    kairosfocus says:

    WJM: I ask you to read here on in context — take particular note of the Hitchens-Boteach New Atheist-Rabbi exchange, and then let’s chat. KF

  93. 93
    kairosfocus says:

    MF:

    On definition, the cases you list show the underlying — too often under-appreciated — significance of ostensive definition, especially the question of grass.

    Ostensive definition is fraught with difficulties and an assumed common pool of experience (which BTW is also inextricably entangled in the concept of self evidence), but so are precising necessary and sufficient condition statements, operational statements and genus-difference approaches.

    In that context brief authoritative summaries as we find in responsible dictionaries are quite useful on the whole. (Part of why I cited Webster in no 8 above.)

    Where, finally, there is a serious definition of evil on the table: the privation or perversion of good . . . , which of course implies a purpose to being, which is held a good.

    That is, I am highlighting that a root challenge is the worldview level problem faced by systems of thought that rest on foundations cannot bear the weight of purpose — which leads straight to the IS-OUGHT challenge.

    As a general claim, I assert that worldviews that have in them no foundational IS that provides purpose to being [especially conscious intelligent being] cannot bear the weight of OUGHT, and so run straight into an incongruity with morality, such as good/evil, morality generally, and rights, freedoms and responsibilities.

    Where further, the dressing up of such worldviews in lab coats inappropriately captures the prestige of science for such views, leading to warping of science by ideology. In that context, vicious curiosity lurks, nihilism lurks, abuse of sci and tech in pursuit of deception and evil lurk, and frustration of the freedom of science to follow the weight of evidence where it leads through holding truth as a principal purpose and aim lurks as well.

    KF

  94. 94
    Mark Frank says:

    #91 KF

    I clearly haven’t explained the point because your excerpt supports my case! My point was that idealogies, principles, and being sure you are right, are among the most dangerous things in history (especially when they are mixed with paranoia).

    Hitler had an idealogy – racial purity – which is demonstrated in the excerpt. He did not act to make money, or give himself a comfortable life, or attract beautiful women (although he might have come to enjoy these things as well). He acted out of a principle – one that all of us would reject vehemently but which was sufficient to galvanise a nation. If he or his followers had been more sceptical, less sure they were right, more ready to respond to human suffering rather than abstract ideas, then the world would have been a much, much better place.

    Not sure why you included all the numbers. I am not disputing that tens of millions of people died horribly.

  95. 95
    kairosfocus says:

    MF:

    Ideologies do influence but ideology is another word for worldview that influences the community.

    The real pivot of your assertion is that you stricture “being sure,” by invidious association and by asserting its danger. We were not born yesterday.

    What I showed above was that amorality and relativism on morality are indeed associated with key ideologies that had much to do with the biggest mass murders of all time.

    By contrast, being certain that 2 + 3 = 5; or, more directly relevant, being certain — let’s say it: morally certain — that humans are valuable and have equal worth to be respected through the neighbour love principle, and through justice, are NOT dangers to be grouped with the likes of the amoral and nihilist tyrannies discussed above.

    Pardon directness, but it is blatantly outright irresponsible and absurd to pretend or suggest that “being certain” (especially regarding self evident moral truths such as that the holocausst or torturing innocent children and raping then murdering them are self evidently evil . . . the specific context of this discussion) is a danger to be grouped with ideologies that led to the holocaust or to the Marxist police states and their crimes.

    KF

  96. 96

    I clearly haven’t explained the point because your excerpt supports my case! My point was that idealogies, principles, and being sure you are right, are among the most dangerous things in history (especially when they are mixed with paranoia).

    Hitler had an idealogy – racial purity – which is demonstrated in the excerpt. He did not act to make money, or give himself a comfortable life, or attract beautiful women (although he might have come to enjoy these things as well). He acted out of a principle – one that all of us would reject vehemently but which was sufficient to galvanise a nation. If he or his followers had been more sceptical, less sure they were right, more ready to respond to human suffering rather than abstract ideas, then the world would have been a much, much better place.

    I absolutely agree that there is a case to be made for humbly admitting that one can be in error and for maintaining a certain degree of skepticism. As MF rightly points out, a bit more humility and skepticism is in order especially when you are being asked to go along with that which your conscience tells you is wrong.

    There is a problem that arises, however, when one applies too much skepticism and commits to the idea of the fallibility of their own minds to a degree that will accommodate that which their conscience alerts them to be wrong. Too little skepticism can sweep one up in a false ideology; too much can result in the apathy and acquiescence that allows dangerous and destructive ideologies power.

    The case can be made that Hitler and core, ideological Nazis ran roughshod over a nation not because most people were too ideologically committed to Nazi views, but rather because most of the nation was too uncommitted to any ideology that would obligate them to intervene even at the expense of their own comfort. For the most part, they were willing to turn a blind eye even though their consciences were telling them that what was going on was wrong.

    Yes, it takes someone committed to an ideology to do what the Nazis did; it also takes someone committed to an ideology to do what Miep Gies did in hiding Anne Frank at the risk of her own life. One cannot stand up (and risk their lives and their family & friend’s lives) to a tyrannical ideology without being committed to some other ideology that obligates one to do so.

    The ideology of skepticism and potential error, where one will not even commit to calling the holocaust an obvious evil, is not an ideology that can generate the kind of sacrifice Miep Gies was willing to make.

    Some degree of skepticism and admission that one might be in error is a good thing; too much of it is simply a coward’s way of avoiding making a commitment to what they believe is right.

    There are some things where skepticism is appropriate; there are some things, like the principle of non-contradiction, where skepticism is a self-negating absurdity. Skepticism should never be an ideology in itself; it should only be a tool appropriately and reasonably applied in examining one’s views.

  97. 97
    Silver Asiatic says:

    #94 MF

    My point was that idealogies, principles, and being sure you are right, are among the most dangerous things in history (especially when they are mixed with paranoia).

    If the proposal is that moral responsibilities are “out there somewhere” as abstract principles, then I would agree with your concern.
    But what happens instead is that there are universal moral principles that all humans hold, in general. We see this in every human society through history. Morality is embedded in us.
    From that, principles are derived.

    For me, the debate is about the principles. What source do they have?

    [If he had been] …more ready to respond to human suffering rather than abstract ideas, then the world would have been a much, much better place.

    There’s an abstract principle in your moral concern: “respond to human suffering”.

    That would be the basis of any number of moral norms. Most people would agree.

    Hitler, however, reached a different moral order because he started from different principles (as KF quoted in #91).

    That’s the danger of Darwinian thought. The materialist-evolutionary impulse (aside from determinism and lack of free will) would not “respond to alleviate human suffering”. That kind of suffering is viewed as the necessary default condition of nature, and those who successfully “struggle” against competitors are the survivors and replicators. Darwin argued directly against giving aid to those who are suffering in some cases, because that weakens the human species.

    That’s the way Hitler saw it (just as Darwin did). So, I agree with your view that Hitler had some benefit in mind in his plan and that the Nazi’s thought they were doing something “good”.

    But the community of human beings evaluate that good on a higher moral standard. It’s measured against the “things we can’t not know”. In that, we see (as the whole world does now) that Hitler’s plan was twisted and evil.

    But an individual can take legitimate moral norms and twist them, or misuse them — thinking that he’s doing good. That doesn’t mean that there are no standards or that we don’t know what evil is.

    A final point: We could agree that “being too sure” of being right is a problem, but that still misses the point under debate: “Can we know we’re right at all?”. Those are two extremes. Absolute certainty in all cases about good and evil actions or absolute skepticism about what we know about good and evil.

    We do have absolute certainty about good and evil actions in many universal cases. Evil actions follow from the intention of the person doing them. They’re measured against a reason or purpose for the act.

  98. 98
    Mark Frank says:

    #97 SA

    If the proposal is that moral responsibilities are “out there somewhere” as abstract principles, then I would agree with your concern.
    But what happens instead is that there are universal moral principles that all humans hold, in general. We see this in every human society through history. Morality is embedded in us.
    From that, principles are derived.

    For me, the debate is about the principles. What source do they have?

    I agree with much of this. Morality is embedded in us – I would describe that as being moral is part of human nature – and there is an enormous amount of commonality in what people hold to be right or wrong(although clearly there are large exceptions as well, some of which most people regard as disastrous).

    Principles are derived from this morality. I would describe this as saying principles should be descriptive not prescriptive. They should try to articulate out moral sentiments not tell us our moral sentiments. When they become prescriptive the danger is they become detached from compassion and humanity and lead to horrendous results.

    Given all this, does it matter in practice whether that common core of moral sentiment evolved or was placed there by God?

  99. 99
    Mark Frank says:

    96 WJM

    Good comment. Clearly different kinds of principle have helped people to stand up against tyranny (and these principles have often been religious). I don’t accept that:

    One cannot stand up (and risk their lives and their family & friend’s lives) to a tyrannical ideology without being committed to some other ideology that obligates one to do so.

    It is hard to look into people’s minds but I suspect they stand up against tyranny for all sorts of reasons.

    Nevertheless I don’t deny the role of principles in helping people “swim against the tide”. But how much nicer if the tide had not been there in the first place and that tide is frequently the result of a lack of doubt.

  100. 100

    But how much nicer if the tide had not been there in the first place and that tide is frequently the result of a lack of doubt.

    I disagree with this. The tide is not the result of a lack of doubt, but rather just the opposite. The tide is more likely comprised of the doubtful and the “go along to get along-ers” than it is likely to be populated by the zealous.

    When you consider the kind of committed zealotry necessary to commit atrocities, I think there are relatively few people capable of that kind of certitude. I think most people have far less certainty and would falter and doubt the rightness of such acts. I think “the tide” is mostly populated with average people who don’t have much of a commitment for or against whatever the handful (relatively speaking) zealots at the top are doing.

    I think that it is far more likely that it is the doubtful and unsure that populate the tide in any such scenario than it is likely that the tide is populated by the zealous. People that go along to get along, don’t want to cause trouble and are not committed to any contradictory view, who will at the very least turn a blind eye to what is going on.

  101. 101
    Mark Frank says:

    #100 WJM

    The tide is not the result of a lack of doubt, but rather just the opposite. The tide is more likely comprised of the doubtful and the “go along to get along-ers” than it is likely to be populated by the zealous.

    This is an interesting sociological question. We should accept that in the absence of a rigorous empirical study we are only conjecturing. I conjecture the role of ideology in the tide is two-fold:

    * A small group, possibly one person, is generally an ideologue who initiates and sustains the tide. These are the people I find dangerous.
    * Followers in mass unquestioningly accept ideology as propagated by this group. This makes the idea of the ideology dangerous rather than specific people. You see this in everything from a Nuremberg rally to a lynch mob.

    I admit that another large group – maybe the largest – goes along with the tide because they haven’t the resolution resist it and some kind of principles could provide that resolution. The whole picture is complicated but it seems to me that ideology plays a vital role.

  102. 102
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Morality is embedded in us – I would describe that as being moral is part of human nature – and there is an enormous amount of commonality in what people hold to be right or wrong(although clearly there are large exceptions as well, some of which most people regard as disastrous).

    I agree. The moral sense is there. We could call it “conscience” also.

    Principles are derived from this morality. I would describe this as saying principles should be descriptive not prescriptive. They should try to articulate our moral sentiments not tell us our moral sentiments.

    In articulating our moral views, we’re evaluating them – yes. We have to do that because, although the knowledge of good and evil is in us, we get confused or even have an immoral attitude towards morality itself. For example, we adopt a cruel selfishness in advancing our own benefits at the expense of others. There’s moral goodness in part of that (helping ourselves), but the intention is evil.

    Given all this, does it matter in practice whether that common core of moral sentiment evolved or was placed there by God?

    Yes, it does matter — it’s absolutely essential.
    We agree that a moral sense is in us. But we have to discern what that means. Or as you said, we have to “articulate” it.

    The whole process of doing that is understanding “why”.

    We’re looking for reasons for our moral views. We have a moral sense, awareness of good and evil. We see it in general, universal terms. The classical virtues are good — leading to happiness. The capital sins damage ourselves and others.

    But the question is “why” do we forbid one thing and encourage another?

    We can see that we all have freedom to choose. We can go against conscience. We can make our conscience dull. We can build evil habits, even as a society.

    Even though we have a moral sense in us, we have to review it — and check against its source.

    If the source is evolution — then that’s not fixed. It evolves. Obviously, the Darwinian view is a radically different standard than a view based on God (or a transcendent standard).

    We ask “why” should we do it, or not do it.

    If nature determines our moral outlooks, then there’s no reason to ask why. There’s no reason for outrage. Basically, if morality is a product of natural laws (evolution or chemical or physics), then there’s nothing to discern or to articulate.

    We do some things and we don’t do other things. There’s no moral sense in that at all.

    With a transcendent focal point as the source (God), our moral decisions point beyond natural law. There’s a fixed reason why we choose good and evil. Good acts bring us closer to a goal. Evil acts take us away from it.

    There is no goal with evolution. We can’t accomplish the moral purposes that evolution “wants” from us.

    Evolution doesn’t care if all human life is destroyed. It doesn’t matter if all humanity is left suffering from violence against each other. Evolution might “want” us to do evil. There no sense to this. It’s an irrational basis for human life.

    If evolution created us, evolution might want to destroy us. That would be “good” by evolutionary standards.

    Hitler would be quite right, in that case. Killing unfit people would be a good thing. But maybe getting rid of all humans would be better.

    Some radical environmentalists think that. Humanity itself is an evil. Some have said that if humans were gone from all existence, this would be good (although they don’t apply that to themselves personally).

    That’s what happens when the source of moral sense (embedded in us) is misunderstood.

    If our morality came from evolution, then nature owns us. The reason we’re moral would be for evolutionary purposes.

    If our morality comes from God, then God “owns” us. The reason we’re moral would be for God’s purposes.

    That makes a huge difference, in whatever way a person chooses to accept it.

    When we agree that morality is embeded in us, that is not to say that “morality comes from us”.

  103. 103

    MF @101:

    I agree that it’s speculative – but I think you have it basically right. I can agree with your characterization.

    However, IMO that leaves us agreeing that people basically need a tension between ideological belief and skepticsm/doubt; not so much skepticism/doubt as to leave one functionally apathetic, but not so little as to allow us to go along with or aid dangerous/destructive ideologies.

    I think people should be wary of any claimed “obvious” or “self-evident” truth because of what adopting such a view might lead to, but one cannot let that wariness stand as an inviolate wall between them and the capacity to commit (conditionally) to something as true. That other people might use the terms “obviously” or “self-evident” to spread a message of hate and intolerance doesn’t mean that there are no self-evident and/or obvious truths that we can and should admit to.

    We can and should commit to the principle of non-contradiction. We can and should commit to the core principle that some acts are universally, unequivocally evil. We can and should commit to the principle that we are obligated to resist and fight such evil. Just because some people abuse or err doesn’t matter (other than to make us check ourselves and views): if we commit to not committing because of our fear of error, we are allowing others to do evil. In order to stand up and stop others from committing obviously evil acts, we must commit to the view that what they are doing is wrong.

    I don’t see how one can motivate themselves to stopping what someone else is doing if they cannot even commit to the perspective that what that other person is doing is wrong.

  104. 104
    jerry says:

    Barry,

    Several comments:

    1. Are you going to strike out my name in the OP since it is obvious that none of it is true and does not apply to me? I doubt that you or the other commenters that have attacked what I said are morally superior under your own criteria. There are definitely people who are better human beings than I am but I don’t find any hard evidence that they are necessarily on this site though I suspect there may be a couple. There definitely are several people I have seen comment here whose positions I respect.

    2. What is your definition of evil? I am the one questioning the term but am not using it. You and others use it frequently so the obligation should be on those who use it. The reason I posed the question is because I have been down this path before and have found that no one has a good definition of it. The Teaching Company has a course on evil, 36 half hour lectures. I have been through over half of them before getting my mind glazed over. No where does the author define “evil” clearly.

    He said it was something against the moral order, however, one construes the moral order but that it is also includes the characteristic of intentionally against the moral order.

    I bet if he used a more restrictive definition he would have to eliminate many of the lectures because any such definition would narrow the focus of the course. I found his definition essentially non useable because if I were a nazi, I could point to the Jews, slavs, etc as in our way for a better moral order. Hence these groups were evil. An absurdity but one that I am sure that many of the nazis agreed with. In other words the definition proposed above was extremely relativistic and I found non usable. If a guy giving a course on the subject cannot define it clearly, then maybe the use of the term has problems.

    The word tends to be an all purpose term for whatever one doesn’t like or is dysfunctional or harms etc. In a war, the other side is always evil. How else could you justify the war? Try substituting “bad” for “evil” and one gets the same sense except that “evil” sounds more extreme or intense. It is like evil means “really, really bad.”

    But “bad” describes more than what people have in mind for “evil”. Like the Health Care website is really, really bad. Is the Health Care website evil? Like “bad”, the word “evil” is too generic.

    3. I actually understand your frustration with certain groups of people who express relativistic views of morality. But there are others who have non-relativistic views who we don’t agree with. And these people can be extremely dysfunctional. I would lump the communist and nazis in that category and certainly some religious groups. The Taliban seem to have very non-relativistic points of view but will use pragmatic, often seemingly contradictory tactics to accomplish their objectives.

    We sometimes confuse pragmatism with relativism and others who we disagree with who seem to be relativist but are just being pragmatic about what they think will help reach their concrete objectives. Hitler, Lenin, Mao and Stalin definitely wanted to accomplish something concrete. Then there are others who have noble objectives but their approach is flawed and have actually caused more harm than some of those we call “evil.” Witness the War on Poverty. It has harmed large groups of people.

    4. No one has gotten into the real issue of evil. Namely, is God evil because He permits evil or seemingly commands it such as the Canaanite babies? As I said, my real interest in this is the Theodicy issue and my objectives are just the opposite of nihilism. I happen to believe that my point of views helps understand the issue but for that I was mocked by a few here.

  105. 105
    kairosfocus says:

    WJM (& MF etc):

    Of course, one of the key first self-evident certain principles is as Josiah Royce pointed out, namely that error exists.

    This is an example of the due balance of humility about error and proper certainty where that is warranted.

    Indeed, on inspection we see that E = “error exists” is undeniably true. To see that simply form the conjunction E AND NOT-E, which is necessarily false. Inspecting to see which is the error we see that it is the one that denies that error exists.

    The very attempt to deny that error exists immediately confirms its truth, on pain of absurdity.

    So, we find ourselves undeniably certain that error exists.

    Hence a humbling balance of due certainty and caution that we may err.

    And also, we see that the true danger does not so much lie in the existence of such certainty, but rather in refusing to yield to the right, when corrected. Such stubborn closed mindedness is not equal to certainty, but it has its own name: closed-mindedness.

    Which, patently, is an intellectual fallacy and vice.

    So, instead we acknowledge that there is at least the truth that error exists as undeniably true. So, truth exists as what accurately describes reality.

    Knowledge even in the strong form exists as that which is warranted and certainly true. A fortiori, weak form knowledge exists as that which is credibly true and provisionally but not absolutely warranted, thought he support may be to moral certainty so that we would be irresponsible or absurd in a weaker sense to ignore it. And, since we may be stubbornly in error we OUGHT to — we have a duty of care to — be open to correction towards truth and knowledge.

    Never mind that among morally certain truths is that we are finite, fallible, morally struggling and too often ill willed.

    So the call to virtue of the mind and conscience goes forth.

    Which, again, indicts Hitler and co, and those who were weak — and thus, enabling — in the face of manifest evil.

    Let us give the White Rose martyrs their due voice on this, bought at the price of their own lives for speaking the truth to evil in power:

    WR, II: Since the conquest of Poland three hundred thousand Jews have been murdered in this country in the most bestial way . . . The German people slumber on in their dull, stupid sleep and encourage these fascist criminals . . . Each man wants to be exonerated of a guilt of this kind, each one continues on his way with the most placid, the calmest conscience. But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty!

    WR, IV: Every word that comes from Hitler’s mouth is a lie. When he says peace, he means war, and when he blasphemously uses the name of the Almighty, he means the power of evil, the fallen angel, Satan. His mouth is the foul-smelling maw of Hell, and his might is at bottom accursed. True, we must conduct a struggle against the National Socialist terrorist state with rational means; but whoever today still doubts the reality, the existence of demonic powers, has failed by a wide margin to understand the metaphysical background of this war.

    Can we do any less today?

    KF

  106. 106
    kairosfocus says:

    jerry, I call your attention to what I noted and linked at 92 above. KF

  107. 107
    jerry says:

    kairosfocus,

    Thanks for the link. It is not an issue with me but it seems to be with others. To see my real interests on this topic if you are interested go to

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-463638

    and then follow the discussion between keiths and myself over several comments as we discuss God and evil. I am sorry he was banned. He made a good foil to flesh out one’s point of view.

  108. 108
    franklin says:

    Pardon, but not so.

    Yes, very much so. There is no need for CS to answer anyquestions in order for his/her question about genocide to be addressed.

    If any acts of genocide are self-evidently evil then it easily follows that all instances of genocide are evil including the instances cited in the OT. Unless genocide is not self evidently evil in which case what is self evident about evil if genocide doesn’t fit the bill?

    Asking someone to answer a question before their prior questions are answered is recognized for the obfuscation that these type of questions need to be answered before I answer your question represent. Certainly, no different than me stating that I will answer your questions after you tell me if you have stopped beating your wife.

  109. 109
    franklin says:

    Pardon, but not so.

    Yes, very much so. There is no need for CS to answer anyquestions in order for his/her question about genocide to be addressed.

    If any acts of genocide are self-evidently evil then it easily follows that all instances of genocide are evil including the instances cited in the OT. Unless genocide is not self evidently evil in which case what is self evident about evil if genocide doesn’t fit the bill?

    Asking someone to answer a question before their prior questions are answered is recognized for the obfuscation that these type of questions need to be answered before I answer your question represent. Certainly, no different than me stating that I will answer your questions after you tell me if you have stopped beating your wife.

  110. 110
    kairosfocus says:

    Franklin, have you bothered to read the previously linked discussion? You do not sound like it, so please, read then come back in that light. KF

  111. 111
    franklin says:

    Franklin, have you bothered to read the previously linked discussion? You do not sound like it, so please, read then come back in that light

    I don’t need to read any apologetics to understand that abortion is not genocide (which is the topic of the OP by-the-way) and to predicate a response to previously asked questions on an aside topic is disingenuous at best. Sorry you can’t see that.

    From the apologetics then genocide is self-evidently evil except when it isn’t. Got it!

  112. 112
    Mark Frank says:

    105 KF

    I tried – I really tried – to understand what you were writing – but I failed. Perhaps if you put your comment through one of the many on-line reading comprehension tests until you it down to my level?

  113. 113
    seventrees says:

    Greetings Central Scrutinizer.

    Just my thoughts on what you the issue you are raising. I will begin with the argument on genocide.

    Barry Arrington @ 77

    Consider the following
    Genocide is self-evidently evil
    The holocaust was an instance of genocide
    Therefore, the holocaust was self-evidently evil
    This syllogism meets is certainly valid in that the conclusion follow inexorably from the premises. But is the argument sound?

    CS @ 79

    Genocide is self-evidently evil
    The holocaust was an instance of genocide
    The Biblical killing of babies was an instance of genocide
    Therefore, the holocaust and the Biblical killing of babies self-evidently evil

    If genocide is understood as the killing of a particular group of people, then there is a problem with the premise that “Genocide is self-evidently evil”. Killing any person is not necessarily wrong, like police men killing armed robbers in a shootout. It is only murder which is wrong. I do not know your understanding of the term genocide. But so far, I see it as murder of a particular race.

    Hypothetically speaking, say the Creator of the world decided that particular races had to be exterminated because of crimes He deems deserving of capital punishment. And He asks a particular race to do such a thing. Can one genuinely say it was wrong to mete out capital punishment in this circumstance through this race? Can one call it murder? I know some people will disagree with capital punishment. If so, they can ignore my argument.

    CS @ 80

    Killing Canaanite babies: evil or not?

    Yes, it is evil. But in the sense that it causes damage. Same way as killing an armed robber in a shootout is evil. But I believe you are talking of moral evil.

    If I consider that it is moral evil you are talking about, the real problem, which I agree with you is this: Why the infants, when meting out capital punishment? I cannot tell.

    CS @ 83,

    Get some humility, people, and stop pretending you’re some cherub flitting around next to God’s right hand.

    Deuteronomy 9:6 makes me think differently on this issue.

    P.S: In case I misunderstood you, Silver Asiatic, please correct me.

  114. 114
    seventrees says:

    Ooopps!

    Greetings Silver Asiatic.

    I forgot that I deleted a text you typed which I wanted to use in my first post. Sorry about that.

  115. 115

    A god that provides morality by decree, or by authority, is as guilty of might-makes-right as any human. The only way to avoid “might makes right” is if “what is good” refers to an innate characteristic of god that god itself cannot change, which would then show up in the fabric of whatever god creates.

    Also, IMO, the consequences of immoral behavior would be as sewn into the fabric of reality as gravity, entropy or time. There is no need for god to “punish” anyone for immoral behavior because the consequences are innately inescapable and something even god cannot change.

    But I admit I haven’t heard all such arguments 🙂

  116. 116
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    WJM @ 115,

    Sounds like you believe in Karma.

  117. 117
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Hi seventrees,

    If I consider that it is moral evil you are talking about, the real problem, which I agree with you is this: Why the infants, when meting out capital punishment? I cannot tell.

    I’m not sure if I agree with your view but maybe yes.

    Good and evil are not substances that can be evaluated by themselves. They’re always in a relationship.

    Evil is a lack of perfection — it’s something missing.
    Good is the fulfillment of things. It’s related to the purpose and meaning of things.

    Intention is essential in judging the action. Intention points to purpose or “the reason” for an act.

    So, it doesn’t make sense to judge moral acts from a non-purpose perspective.

    Atheism does allow for moral norms, but the source of those norms is the individual. But the individual doesn’t know where he or she gets the norms, or why. The individual atheist denies an ultimate purpose, thus eliminates any sort of evaluation of acts.

    That’s why it’s difficult to answer an atheist who asks: “Why would God do … whatever?”

    When you ask about God, you have to understand a universe created and governed by God. So you can’t ask about why God does things and expect an answer that fits a purposeless universe.

    God created. If a person is unwilling to imagine that point, then it’s almost impossible to explain what God’s purpose is in various acts.

    However, if a person is willing to imagine that God exists, then imagine that God has certain properties (power, eternity, wisdom), then that God created the world for a purpose, and God created human beings for a reason … then we wouldn’t be stuck trying to judge God’s actions from a finite perspective.

    You have to try to take God’s point of view.
    That means you have to try to understand how radically different God is from yourself.

    And that’s quite difficult for us to do at times (speaking for myself). 🙂

  118. 118
    Mapou says:

    William J Murray @ 115:

    Also, IMO, the consequences of immoral behavior would be as sewn into the fabric of reality as gravity, entropy or time. There is no need for god to “punish” anyone for immoral behavior because the consequences are innately inescapable and something even god cannot change.

    But I admit I haven’t heard all such arguments 🙂

    You are correct. This is the reason that I am a Christian and why I believe that God had to die on the cross in order to save us. God could not do it just by forgiving the world. Not even God can go against karma. Every debt must be paid somehow and that is what karma is all about.

    It all comes down to being ONE with everything. In the end, the law of karma corrects all violations to spiritual unity. There is no getting around it.

    Unity is morality. Unless we can become one with God and everything else, we are doomed.

  119. 119
    seventrees says:

    Silver Asiatic,

    The text of yours I wanted to use was this @ 97:

    Evil actions follow from the intention of the person doing them. They’re measured against a reason or purpose for the act.

    But it seems like I understood you correctly.

    However, if a person is willing to imagine that God exists, then imagine that God has certain properties (power, eternity, wisdom), then that God created the world for a purpose, and God created human beings for a reason … then we wouldn’t be stuck trying to judge God’s actions from a finite perspective.

    You have to try to take God’s point of view.
    That means you have to try to understand how radically different God is from yourself.

    Adding that with the first paragraph of what William J. Murray typed @ 115, it’s logical.

  120. 120
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Central Scrutinizer,

    You ask: “Killing Canaanite babies: evil or not?”

    Here’s my answer:

    (1) Would you consider taking the life of an innocent human child at the behest of an Omniscient Being Who informed you that the child would certainly suffer a fate worse than death if its life were not taken, and Who assured you that the child would suffer absolutely no pain or distress whatsoever in the process of being killed, to be evil or not?

    (2) Would you consider trusting the word of a Being that had given you numerous signs of its claim to omniscience by demonstrating its uncanny ability to foretell future events, to be a reasonable thing to do, on epistemic grounds?

    (3) Would you consider trusting the goodness of such a Being, if it had likewise given signs of the same, by saving human lives on numerous occasions, to be epistemically rational?

    (4) Would you also agree that there is nothing in the Old Testament accounts which explicitly indicates that any of the children killed suffered any pain or distress in dying?

    (5) Would you agree that the act of killing in the scenario described above is quite different, morally speaking, from killing and torturing a child for fun, since the accompanying intentions – namely, to promote what’s best for the child – are different?

    (6) Would you also agree that people in our own time (such as euthanasia proponents) who advocate killing children “to put them out of their misery” err gravely, precisely because, unlike God, they are not omniscient, and do not know what’s best for the child?

    I’ve written at length concerning the Canaanite massacres here: http://www.angelfire.com/linux.....wkins.html (scroll down to “My own thoughts on the slaughter of the Canaanites”) and see also “A final thought”.

    Finally, it pays to keep in mind that good Christians have held differing views on the Canaanite killings. C. S. Lewis, for instance, could not stomach them, and was forced to conclude that although Scripture as a whole was inspired, at least some parts of Scripture were not inspired. If that sounds like a more reasonable position to you, then please, take it.

  121. 121
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Finally, it pays to keep in mind that good Christians have held differing views on the Canaanite killings. C. S. Lewis, for instance, could not stomach them, and was forced to conclude that although Scripture as a whole was inspired, at least some parts of Scripture were not inspired. If that sounds like a more reasonable position to you, then please, take it.

    True, but that can make things more difficult rather than provide a solution. There’s a wide variety of things that people find hard to stomach.

    “The things that I don’t like in Scripture are obviously the non-inspired parts.” 🙂

  122. 122
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    vjtorley,

    (1) Would you consider taking the life of an innocent human child at the behest of an Omniscient Being Who informed you that the child would certainly suffer a fate worse than death if its life were not taken, and Who assured you that the child would suffer absolutely no pain or distress whatsoever in the process of being killed, to be evil or not?

    Where does the Bible say the Canaanite babies were “better off” by being killed? Where does it say they didn’t suffer? Why didn’t the Israelites simply adopt the babies rather than kill them?

    (2) Would you consider trusting the word of a Being that had given you numerous signs of its claim to omniscience by demonstrating its uncanny ability to foretell future events, to be a reasonable thing to do, on epistemic grounds?

    I’ve never met anyone like that. Have you? And I have no empirical evidence that any such being told the Israelites to kill the babies. Or that the massacres actually happened.

    If I did meet some supernatural entity with all kinds of “omniscient” powers and s/he told me to kill babies, I would tell him to go and do it himself. I wouldn’t have any part of it. Would you?

    (3) Would you consider trusting the goodness of such a Being, if it had likewise given signs of the same, by saving human lives on numerous occasions, to be epistemically rational?

    No. I would assume that I was having an encounter with Satan.

    (4) Would you also agree that there is nothing in the Old Testament accounts which explicitly indicates that any of the children killed suffered any pain or distress in dying?

    Where does it say they didn’t suffer?

    What do you think about this?

    “Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us- he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” –Psa 137

    You don’t think those Babylonian babies suffered? You think God was happy about it? Would YOU dash a baby’s head against a rock if your “God” told you to?

    (5) Would you agree that the act of killing in the scenario described above is quite different, morally speaking, from killing and torturing a child for fun, since the accompanying intentions – namely, to promote what’s best for the child – are different?

    No. I don’t consider it different since the Israelites could have adopted the babies, a much more humane and “divine” thing to do.

    (6) Would you also agree that people in our own time (such as euthanasia proponents) who advocate killing children “to put them out of their misery” err gravely, precisely because, unlike God, they are not omniscient, and do not know what’s best for the child?

    I think anyone who advocates killing of children for any reason, including that “God told them to”, errs greatly, and I think the Old Testament account of Israelites killing babies is pure fiction.

    Maybe your God told Hitler to kill the Jews. What if he did? Would the Holocaust still be evil in your eyes?

    I’m amazed at the things people will believe in order to defend the indefensible.

  123. 123
    kairosfocus says:

    Franklin: You just illustrated the fallacy of the closed mind in action. You seem to be so sure you know everything material on the matter that you need not hear what someone else has to say, just smear and dismiss. Just where the spinmeisters want you to be: too angry and disdainful to actually think about what you may have missed. And BTW, what is happening with abortion in our civilisation is not genocide — which is specifically racially motivated, but something else; destruction of it looks like coming on half a generation in the womb so far, mostly on excuses of convenience, with the onward effect of degradation of the value of life through the blinding effect of mass blood-guilt. Start from that. KF

  124. 124
    kairosfocus says:

    CS: I think you too may find reading this (and onward links) helpful. This is indeed a difficult matter with connexions that run as far as the mortality of humanity in general, and cannot be settled in a blog thread with a few simplistic talking points pro or con. KF

  125. 125
    franklin says:

    You just illustrated the fallacy of the closed mind in action. You seem to be so sure you know everything material on the matter that you need not hear what someone else has to say, just smear and dismiss.

    nope. It’s not a fallacy to recognize when someone is attempting to divert the subject with irrelevant ‘have you stopped beating your wife’ questions.

    As you state, abortion is not genocide, from which you and I should be able to conclude that bringing questions of abortion into a discussion on genocide are nothing but a purposeful distraction. It really is that simple. try to do better.

  126. 126
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    kairosfocus,

    I see you didn’t bother to answer any of my questions.

  127. 127
    Mapou says:

    CentralScrutinizer:

    kairosfocus,

    I see you didn’t bother to answer any of my questions.

    You got him. Obviously, neither kairosfocus nor any of the fundies can answer those questions in a satisfactory manner.

  128. 128
    kairosfocus says:

    CS:

    I am not trying to get into a debate because of some of the toxic undercurrents that are at work and which will poison a discussion unless they are faced and addressed.

    Let me highlight just one: veiled, perhaps unrecognised antisemitism.

    Yes, antisemitism.

    As in, there are some serious things out there being said at Christians based on anti-Christian bias or even bigotry multiplied by rage at God, that would have been a LOT more restrained if the objectors were to pause and take serious note that these are specifically Hebraic — Jewish — scriptures.

    If you are not prepared to look a Rabbi who lost close relatives to the Holocaust in the eye and indict him with believing in:

    the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal,. . . pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully

    . . . then, perhaps those who celebrate such, ought to take serious pause before taxing Christians with such. (And that people are acting like this and worse — there is a wretched Atheist Anthem that was recently sung from the same stage that the author of the above, Dawkins, spoke from — should give us very sobering pause indeed.)

    Let me expand, by citing a real-world case “starring” another of the leading “New Atheists” and a rabbi.

    Yes, this is real, and it is a part of my concerns expressed in the discussion I am still inviting you to take time to read.

    Let me clip:

    Rabbi Shmuley Boteach speaks, soberingly, from a heart that has lurched like that [kindly cf. the context]. He wrote in reply to the recent accusation of New Atheism spokesman, the late Christopher Hitchens, that “Torah verses will also be found that make it permissible to murder secular Jews as well as Arabs” in order to convert the West Bank zone of Judaea and Samaria into a radical Jewish theocracy, as follows:

    . . . any Rabbi who was to praise a Jewish murderer would be fired from his post and banished from his community. The Torah is clear: ‘Thou may not murder’ (Exodus 20) and ‘Thou shalt not take revenge’ (Leviticus 19).

    Second, no Biblical story of massacre, which is a tale and not a law, could ever be used to override the most central prohibition of the Ten Commandments and Biblical morality. Murder is the single greatest offense against the Creator of all life and no Jew would ever use a Biblical narrative of war or slaughter as something that ought to be emulated. In our time Churchill and Roosevelt, both universally regarded as moral leaders and outstanding men, ordered the wholesale slaughter of non-combatants in the Second World War through the carpet- bombing of Dresden, Hamburg, Berlin, and Tokyo. Truman would take it further by ordering the atomic holocaust of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. How did men who are today regarded as righteous statesmen order such atrocities? They were of the opinion that only total war could end Nazi tyranny and Japanese imperial aggression. They did it in the name of saving life. Which is of course not to excuse their actions but rather to understand them in the context of the mitigating circumstances of the time. I do not know why Moses would have ordered any such slaughter even in the context of war. But I do know that the same Bible who relates the story also expressly forbids even the thought of such bloodshed ever being repeated.

    (In short the antisemitism concern raised above is not just theoretical, for here we see a case of outright blood libel from one of the top several New Atheist spokesmen that takes advantage of high feelings on the admittedly thorny Arab-Israeli conflict, to slip in the poisoned rhetorical knife. So, it was entirely in order for Dr Torley to conclude by asking Dr Dawkins, who used these texts as an excuse not to debate his anti-Christian claims in his The God Delusion with Dr William Lane Craig: “would you be willing to debate the topic of God’s existence with an Orthodox Jewish rabbi holding such a view [as Boteach’s]? Would you be prepared to look a rabbi in the eye and tell him, “Your God is a genocidal monster”? Or do you also consider rabbis holding such views to be beyond the pale of civilized debate, and would you shun them as you have shunned Professor Craig? “)

    When we can answer to this and detoxify the situation, then a serious discussion can be taken seriously. (And yes, in part the requested reading and onward linked resources and video are a basis for such discussion. For instance, has your heart “lurched”? Why or why not. And, what historical circumstance am I pointing to in saying this, why?)

    KF

  129. 129
    kairosfocus says:

    Mapou, sadly, you failed the test. Why didn’t you have the courtesy to take time to read where I took time to address these issues at responsible length, and in light of many linked issues, before resorting to simplistic chest-thumping stereotyping and namecalling? I ask you to pause and take time to actually read and respond to what I say rather than a strawman of your imagination. KF

  130. 130
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    kairosfocus,

    You asked me some questions and I forthrightly answered them.

    I’m disappointed that you don’t answer mine.

  131. 131
    Mapou says:

    kairosfocus @129, I don’t think you can provide a satisfactory answer. You know why? It’s because you don’t even have a correct definition of evil. Here is the definition you gave earlier, quoting someone else:

    evil is that which is a privation, abuse or perversion of the good out of proper purpose, which therefore ends in harm, damage, chaos, confusion, deception, ruin, destruction and in the end shame.

    It’s a flagrantly self-referential (and thus useless) definition because it is defining one concept (evil) in terms of its opposite (good).

  132. 132
    Querius says:

    “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted.”

    – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    There are some more thought-provoking quotes from him here:
    http://www.goodreads.com/work/.....-1918-1956

  133. 133
    Phinehas says:

    Evil is the absence of God, like darkness is the absence of light.

  134. 134
    Phinehas says:

    WJM:

    A god that provides morality by decree, or by authority, is as guilty of might-makes-right as any human. The only way to avoid “might makes right” is if “what is good” refers to an innate characteristic of god that god itself cannot change, which would then show up in the fabric of whatever god creates.

    I think I agree. For me, this is the most reasonable response to the Euthyphro Dilemma. Good is not about what God commands, nor is there a transcendent standard of good to which God is beholden. Rather, God and good are inseparable concepts. You cannot speak of one without automatically implying the other.

    Also, IMO, the consequences of immoral behavior would be as sewn into the fabric of reality as gravity, entropy or time. There is no need for god to “punish” anyone for immoral behavior because the consequences are innately inescapable and something even god cannot change.

    When I hear Christ talking about not coming to condemn the world because the world was condemned already, this is very much the idea I hear in His words. However, the finishing thought in those same words is very much about what God can change and His plan for how we can escape (or, at least, move beyond) the inescapable consequences. By faith, we can be identified with Christ in his suffering and death so that we endure, in Him, those inescapable consequences. And by faith, we can be identified with Christ in His victory over the death that is an inescapable part of the inescapable consequences. And having been freed from death, by faith, we can be identified with Christ to live out the inescapable consequences of His perfect and spotless life.

  135. 135
    StephenB says:

    Central Scrutinizer, my question for you @84 persists.

  136. 136
    kairosfocus says:

    CS:

    Pardon, I ask for patience.

    Do you yet understand why I have raised the specific context of hearts that have “lurched”? (And why in that context I have asked that you read the unfortunately necessarily extended response to a wide cluster of deeply entangled issues?)

    That reference to hearts lurching is an historical allusion to one of the most tragic of French figures, then General Petain, at the battle that made his reputation, Verdun, 1916.

    The defense and heavy artillery advocate forced to throw away a division every few days by more or less marching boys of 18 to the slaughter in order to save what he could in a vital battle France could not afford to lose at any cost. Standing by the roadside of the Sacred Way, and watching those boys march to the slaughter and a few days later, the shattered remnants limping back with ashened faces.

    War — especially total, existential war with the survival of a people or civilisation on the line — is an awful evil, one imposed by our own wickedness and it is an evil that leads to many other evils. Including, that — given the moral hazard of being human, thus finite, fallible, morally struggling and too often ill-willed, there will always be war crimes and atrocities including on the “good” side — And Mapou, it illustrates aptly how evil is not a thing in itself, but the perversion or privation of something else that leads to chaos, deception, destruction and ruin, namely a perversion or privation of the good. For, success in war requires courage, discipline, self-sacrifice, commitment to stay the course, and more.

    And among the horrors involved, is that war entangles us in a matrix of other evils, forcing us to choose the least of evils. Which is still an evil.

    In turn, that invites cheap propagandists to play dirty rhetorical games as though the real-world limited choices among evils did not exist.

    As in, a couple of ancient Roman insights aptly summed up by of all people, Macciavelli: (i) there is no avoiding war in dealing with determined aggressors, it can only be postponed to the advantage of enemies; and (ii) political disorders are like Hectic Fever, at the first hard to diagnose but “easily” cured, but at length when — for want of prompt diagnosis and proper treatment — the course of the disease is obvious to all, it is far too late to cure.

    As a consequence, any movement, any nation, any civilisation with a significant history is going to be tainted with war and what comes with war.

    And, any civilisation or movement of significance carries within it the seeds of its own destruction.

    My first concern, therefore, as a lifelong student of history, is: the fundamental unseriousness, flippancy and divisive, polarising and ultimately suicidally foolish gotcha rhetoric sophomoric superficiality that characterises far too much discussion of deeply, broadly entangled issues such as this one.

    (And — by way of an example — I watched this play out across the past decade and a half, with the global geopolitical struggle with resurgent IslamISM, a struggle now at the verge of going nuclear. Our grandchildren are probably going to curse our memory for the price that is likely to have to be paid for our Civilisation’s fecklessness in the face of rising mortal peril at the hands of those raised in a culture of hereditary, total and implacable war. [Have you considered the implications of the culmination of the 1,000 year hereditary struggle that is described in Haman’s attempt at REAL genocide, and the counter-move taken by Queen Esther after risking her life? Or of why the Romans found themselves in a lingering death-struggle with Hamilcar’s sons, noting that Carthage was a colony from the same Phoenician-Canaanite culture we are dealing with?])

    In that light, I ask you to scroll up and read Rabbi Boteach’s response to Christopher Hitchens at 128, and ponder the context.

    At risk of being cruelly caricatured, I will comment:

    1 –> A flippant, superficial gotcha rhetorical approach to a difficult and deeply entangled issue is the surest sign that the matter has not been thought through in light of comparative difficulties of live option alternatives. Where the best definition of philosophy is that it is the study of just such hard and fundamental questions. (And there are abundant signs of such superficiality at work.)

    2 –> The terms too often cast into this situation by the likes of Dawkins et al, genocide and support of genocide, are utterly inappropriate. Hence, the significance of Boteach’s reply to Hitchens, and of Torley’s challenge to the likes of Dawkins. If you cannot freely say the same in the same tone to a Rabbi whose family perished in Auschwitz, why are you [speaking generally] casting this sort of talking point and tone in the teeth of despised “fundy” Christians?

    3 –> The new atheists and their fellow travellers are exploiting emotional perceptions and out of context angry at God misreadings of texts, in a context where they have not seriously faced the question of the grounding of morality in light of the only place where the IS-OUGHT gap can be bridged, the foundations of our world, and thus also of our worldviews.

    4 –> That is, we find ourselves inescapably under moral governance, and indeed promoters of amorality are here inadvertently showing the inevitable absurdity of their views by appealing to our moral sensibilities to try to undermine confidence in the only serious candidate for an IS that can bear the weight of OUGHT: the inherently good creator God. (And, moving from the God of philosophy to that of the Judaeo-Christian scriptural tradition, the pivotal case for his reality and nature is the prophesied, fulfilled, witnessed life, service, redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Until that context is taken soberly and seriously, with all due respect, this sort of exchange is little more than a toxic distraction: red herrings, led away to strawman caricatures soaked in ad hominems and set alight with incendiary rhetoric to cloud, confuse, poison and polarise the atmosphere we must all operate in. I therefore suggest a look at the 101 here on. But, some things are serious enough to require a responsible answer and maybe even an introduction for those who need some motivation to take the time to look at the more complex reflection.)

    5 –> That is also why a first, sobering question is: you [speaking generally] here seem to imply that OUGHT is real and binding (if you are not just cynically manipulating moral sensibilities), so, kindly explain to us how you ground OUGHT in a worldview foundational IS.

    6 –> The predictable answer from the unserious is silence on the point, multiplied by diversionary, turnabout tactics. But, until there is a serious answer, there is no right to appeal to ought.

    7 –> In that context, the issues over OT atrocities and similar difficulties, real or apparent, is a reasonable concern for those who have seen the quality of the core moral framework taught in the same scriptures. It is a struggle, like the one over why the same law that teaches thou shalt not kill, sanctions murder with the death penalty and speaks of cleansing the land by that means. (Yet another entanglement.)

    8 –> One of my personal conclusions, is that that painful tension with no easy resolution is intentional. It is there to force us to face and stretch our minds and hearts in ways that prepare us to face hard, hard things with the right attitude. Until our hearts have lurched, deeply wounded, we are not equipped to make the leadership level decisions necessary in a world of the lesser of evils — if we are lucky. We may face the prospect of an end in horror or of horrors without foreseeable end, if we are not so lucky. (Many years ago, I was warned by my father — a practising policy level Economist — not to go into that field, because of the horrific choices that would be forced on me. He cast it in terms of, do 400 die this year, or 800 over the next few years? Think about eating at the table of one forced to make decisions like that, knowing what the real cost of that table was.)

    9 –> So, where do I come out, where should you? ANS: With no easy answer, just some reasonable inferences. As was laid out in the linked. Where, no summary can properly stand on its own. (And will be pounced on by those whose interest is to play unserious and absurd games.)

    10 –> Before I forget, the wider context of moral struggle and growth of a culture is also a factor. Reflect on why the God who says, “I hate divorce,” “for the hardness of men’s hearts,” provides ameliorative regulations instead of the simplistic outright ban.

    11 –> It does seem however that in context some of the ferocious language was in a high-context culture (the simplistic literal meaning is not the full or real story), and served as war rhetoric and a notice to ordinary people get out of the way and/or switch loyalties [don’t forget the Gibeonites and Rahab], isolating the hard core leadership and henchmen who carried forth a destructive culture and proved capable of carrying on a battle to the death for a THOUSAND years.

    12 –> Displacement and replacement of an irretrievably corrupted power-culture that had become a destructive contagion and plague on the earth . . . much as our own civilisation is now fast decaying into as it willfully forgets God. Multiplied, by the equivalent of the dilemma facing a Churchill or a Roosevelt in addressing a bombing campaign under the circumstances. And, the challenge faced by a Petain, sending men to die that a vital nation may live.

    13 –> Again, in the wider context so aptly illustrated in a crucial parallel in the Exodus narrative: Egypt, having refused to heed the consequences of national wrong and the corrections of the prophets sent to it, faced ten successive destructive judgements and failed. Israel, having escaped, faced ten successive tests and judgements, and failed. With one proviso, in pursuit of a long term project of redemption, transformation and blessing for the world, judgement was tempered and a remnant went forward to the next phase in the plan. Indeed, a foreshadowing of similar judgement against Israel hundreds of years later that ended in exile and then onwards restoration.

    14 –> Yet again, in the wider context of the warning to a mortal enemy, destruction in forty days. Heeded, and leading to relenting. And then, we see the prophet’s complaint as to why he tried to shirk his call, and the Divine reply:

    Jonah 4: 1 But it [the relenting of God from destructive judgement, in the face of penitence] displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?” . . . .

    [After a shade vine was made to grow and wither]

    8 When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 10 And the LORD said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

    15 –> Are we more like Jonah, or more like God? Until we reach the latter state, our hearts have not lurched enough.

    KF

  137. 137
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    kairosfocus,

    Perhaps you can answer the simple questions I asked vjtorley.

  138. 138
    Phinehas says:

    BTW, I think that it was a mistake to target jerry as the OP has done. I’ve seen nothing that would indicate jerry believes in nihilism and feel his perspective has been grossly misrepresented. I hope this mistake will be corrected.

  139. 139
    StephenB says:

    CentralScrutiner,

    Perhaps you can answer my question @84.

  140. 140
    StephenB says:

    Jerry, I am well aware of the fact that you are a Christian and that you take the objective moral code seriously. Clearly, you are not a materialist or anything close to it. You are simply an ID supporter who also believes in universal common descent, which places you in a lot of good company. These facts ought to be on the record.

    On the subject of evil, however, I think you are missing the connection between our earthly behavior and our final destiny. On the one hand, I certainly agree with you that the ultimate evil is the loss of one’s soul. I don’t think there can be any doubt of that. Eternal suffering trumps temporal suffering every time. On the other hand, an evil end is always the product of an evil life. The two cannot be separated.

    Sew a thought, reap an act;

    Sew an act, reap a habit;

    Sew a habit, reap a character;
    Sew a character, reap a destiny.

    No one wakes up in hell one day and asks, “How did that happen?” Every day we are tempted by evil influences, evil inclinations, and evil motives. If we don’t recognize these temptations for what they are and do battle with them, we become progressively more fit for hell and, failing any remedial action, will find ourselves one day in that state.

    There are no spiritual planes. We are either becoming a better person or a worse person with each moral act. Vice is easy; virtue is hard. It requires strenuous moral exertion to resist destructive influences, overcome bad habits, challenge selfish motives, and refrain from malicious actions.

    The longer one waits to embark on the road to salvation, the less likely it is to happen. Very seldom does anyone over the age of forty repent and come back to God. The momentum of their continued participation in evil habits makes it increasingly difficult to turn it around, and without the help of God, it cannot happen at all. It is a great mistake to think that all those evil acts, which can rob the receiver of his earthy happiness and the doer of his salvation, are not, themselves, evil.

  141. 141
    vjtorley says:

    CentralScrutinizer,

    Thank you for your comments. In response to your questions: first of all, like yourself, I would certainly ignore any voice that commanded me to kill an innocent human being. While I am prepared to entertain the possibility that God may have asked the people of Israel (a fledgling society) to wage wholesale war on powerful neighboring societies that were depraved from top to bottom and whose practices would inevitably have corrupted Israel had they been allowed to live, no such excuse exists today. Ancient Israel was clearly a one-off situation.

    Second, in answer to your question about why God didn’t command the Israelites to adopt the babies, I suspect one possible reason could be that He knew they were too hard-hearted to take care of them all properly. War in the ancient Near East was a bloody affair, mainly about land and spoils. Any children taken would have been taken for their economic value, and it is doubtful whether the Israelites would have complied with a request to feed and clothe orphaned children unless they could enslave them – which may have led to further cruelty and abuse. So it may have been that God, foreseeing the Israelites’ cruelty, ordered them to destroy the entire population.

    Third, in answer to your question about where Scripture says that the children were killed painlessly, my answer is that it doesn’t. It does, however, say that God is just, merciful and loving, and that He doesn’t punish children for the sins of their parents (Ezekiel 18: 4-5). Consequently, if He did order the death of an innocent person, He must have done so in a manner consistent with His perfection, as an all-loving God.

    Fourth, your quotation of Psalm 137:9 proves nothing, as it does not contain a teaching or a command from God, but merely records the psalmist’s bloody wish for revenge on Babylon. Scripture does not say that God endorsed this wish. The psalm could reasonably be interpreted as a warning that Babylon would be repaid for its sins against Israel – which in no way implies that those innocent people who suffered in the process deserved to die.

    Fifth, I would ask you to consider Jesus’ saying that a bad tree does not bring forth good fruit. Ancient Israel gave us the Judeo-Christian ethic, with its absolute prohibition of infanticide and its condemnation of abortion (a topic on which you have been curiously silent, in response to StephenB’s questions). I don’t know for sure what happened in ancient Israel, but I know they must have done something right.

    Finally, a question for you: do you believe that God could never take the life of an innocent human being, under any circumstances whatsoever?

  142. 142
    jerry says:

    Phinehas,

    Thank you.

  143. 143
    jerry says:

    Stephen B

    Some corrections:

    You are simply an ID supporter who also believes in universal common descent,

    I agree with Meyer. UCD is unproven. It could be true but the mechanism for new species is unknown. If some intelligence intervenes, does that make the new species a descendant. I sort of feel it is a non issue but it is absolutely essential for the materialist. The Cambrian Explosion really undermines it though.

    Remember one of Eliazbeth Liddle’s last threads that she participated on. She was trying to make what Meyer was saying in his new book all about UCD when that was nonsense. It was a consequence of his analysis but far from the main thing. I thought she may be trying to undermine Meyer by doing so because she believed UCD was a proven fact.

    On the subject of evil, however, I think you are missing the connection between our earthly behavior and our final destiny.

    Not true. Never disagreed with that connection. Believe in it wholeheartedly. I want to put in perspective what happens on earth and what happens as a result of our actions here on earth. The only non trivial things that happen on earth are those that affect salvation. Most of the things that affect us certainly don’t seem trivial when they happen though.

    My primary issue is not with human actions but with nature. My issue is can God be called evil or does He countenance or permit evil? I said several times, my interest is the theodicy argument.

    On the one hand, I certainly agree with you that the ultimate evil is the loss of one’s soul. I don’t think there can be any doubt of that. Eternal suffering trumps temporal suffering every time.

    If we don’t recognize these temptations for what they are and do battle with them, we become progressively more fit for hell and, failing any remedial action, will find ourselves one day in that state.

    We are in agreement.

    The longer one waits to embark on the road to salvation, the less likely it is to happen. Very seldom does anyone over the age of forty repent and come back to God. The momentum of their continued participation in evil habits makes it increasingly difficult to turn it around, and without the help of God, it cannot happen at all.

    Don’t agree with you here. I have seen many elderly people who live Christian lives based on Christian values but who never participate in any religious activity and many do not consider themselves a Christian anymore. Most of their actions are based on the training they had as children in their religion. The sad thing is that they think their children will not need the education and training they received. That is where it is breaking down.

    We are in the beginning of the great changeover. It may take a generation or two before it is all gone. Did you see VJ Torley’s survey information on religion? You should read Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart” That will scare you.

    But who knows what the future will bring. Maybe the seeds of a counter revolution is happening some place right now and we can not see it or know it. After all I think you will agree the evidence is on our side.

    Now on to the theodicy issue.

    If all the bad things that happen to people on earth that are caused by nature are essentially trivial compared to the lost of salvation, then can their occurrence be called evil? And can the person who allowed them to happen, namely the Judeo/Christian God, be called evil? If you are interested go to the following link and follow my conversation with keiths down the thread. It takes up several comments but is too long to repeat here. I am sure most will not get this far in this comment let alone read the other thread.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-463638

    I will gladly reply to any feed back. But you should see where I am coming from. And it all came to me while I was teaching advertising to college students.

  144. 144
    Phinehas says:

    Hey Jerry,

    I appreciate how you are looking to view theodicy from a more eternal perspective. I also think that is the right track to take.

    I also tend to view theodicy (especially when faced with personal tragedy) in terms of what I am “meant-to-be.” If a seed had the ability to reflect, I wonder what its perspective of the farmer would be.

    – The evil one who buried me alive
    – The ruthless one who pressed me down and heaped dirt on top of me
    – The cruel one who left me in the dark and walked away
    – The hateful one who returned only to drown me in water
    – The callous one who remained absent while I began to unravel and fall apart

    But is the farmer really evil?

    The problem, of course, is that the seed doesn’t know what it is meant to be, let alone what it takes to help it become what it is meant to be. Surely, we are in no better position to judge our Creator.

    But I think this is very different than judging the nature of the actions of another human being, which I think was more in line with some of the points made by other posters.

  145. 145
    Mapou says:

    kairosfocus @136:

    I realize now that you just love to talk. I am beginning to suspect that you suffer from some type of OCD. People have to wade through your interminable essays (or are they speeches?) only to find that you really wrote nothing of substance that anybody would want to write home about. It’s no wonder this forum is populated by only a few commentators, i.e., the regulars and the fanatics on both sides of the issues.

    And your logic is consistently and blatantly flawed. You remind me of those birds that spread their wings in order to appear bigger than they really are but underneath it’s all fluff. And all along I thought that UD was dedicated to common sense and logic.How did you get to such an esteemed position on this forum? Enquiring minds and all that.

    As an aside, the nonsense I see being regurgitated here is no better than the nonsense being regurgitated at the materialist forums. You are all birds of a feather.

  146. 146
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    vjtorley: I would certainly ignore any voice that commanded me to kill an innocent human being.

    Certainly glad to hear it. 🙂

    Second, in answer to your question about why God didn’t command the Israelites to adopt the babies, I suspect one possible reason could be that He knew they were too hard-hearted to take care of them all properly. War in the ancient Near East was a bloody affair, mainly about land and spoils. Any children taken would have been taken for their economic value, and it is doubtful whether the Israelites would have complied with a request to feed and clothe orphaned children unless they could enslave them – which may have led to further cruelty and abuse. So it may have been that God, foreseeing the Israelites’ cruelty, ordered them to destroy the entire population.

    Almost a good retort, but not quite. Yahweh allowed the Israelites to take the virgin girls and children from surrounding populations after they had done their business in Canaan. That seems to refute your explanation. Or had the Israelites had a change of heart after the Canaan affair?

    Third, in answer to your question about where Scripture says that the children were killed painlessly, my answer is that it doesn’t. It does, however, say that God is just, merciful and loving, and that He doesn’t punish children for the sins of their parents (Ezekiel 18: 4-5). Consequently, if He did order the death of an innocent person, He must have done so in a manner consistent with His perfection, as an all-loving God.

    Or it could be that Ezekiel was a true prophet, and that the Canaanite story was a gloss that was written around the time of Ezra, and that the Canaanite slaughter never happened. (Which is what I think.)

    Fourth, your quotation of Psalm 137:9 proves nothing, as it does not contain a teaching or a command from God, but merely records the psalmist’s bloody wish for revenge on Babylon. Scripture does not say that God endorsed this wish. The psalm could reasonably be interpreted as a warning that Babylon would be repaid for its sins against Israel – which in no way implies that those innocent people who suffered in the process deserved to die.

    Almost a good retort, except that the Psalm 137 a prediction that those who dash the Babylonian babies’ heads against the rocks will be “happy” or esher. That is, in a blessed state. Check out how that word is used throughout the Old Testament.

    Now, take a look at Psalm 135 and 136. Was the (inerrant?) Psalmist in error when he praised Yahweh saying, “Praise Yahweh… he struck down the firstborn of Egypt”?

    Consider this: “This is what the Yahweh Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”

    You can sugar coat it all you want, but it doesn’t sound like Yahweh is concerned with the welfare of the children and babies here.

    Finally, a question for you: do you believe that God could never take the life of an innocent human being, under any circumstances whatsoever?

    Correct. But my foundational views about God are (I’m sure) quite a bit different than yours. I could explain them, but you’d probably be quite bored.

    Anyway, the texts say what they say. And there is no indication in the stories themselves that Yahweh cared about the welfare of the babies. Your explanation that Israel would have abused the babies falls flat given that fact that they were allowed to keep virgin girls and babies from other settlements after they did their deed in Canaan.

    Thank you for the reply.

    P.S. while I have strong views on this subject, and vehemently disagree with you and others here about some of these matters, I do not think ill of you for it, nor cast aspersions on your character.

  147. 147
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    StephenB: Perhaps you can answer my question @84.

    Sorry, I didn’t see it until now.

    What is your position on abortion?

    I think it is acceptable until brain-waves start. After that I am against it.

  148. 148
    Phinehas says:

    Mapou:

    You keep threatening to leave but evidently cannot help but drop bombs on the way out the door. Your personal attack on KF is completely uncalled for and says more about you than about him. I don’t know what has gotten into you other than that a few have politely dissented from your admittedly unorthodox views on a physical God. However, I don’t think you will do yourself any favors by leaving everyone here with a sour taste in their mouth. What is it that you hope to accomplish with the kind of post you’ve written @145 above? If you are determined to leave, please at least leave behind memories of the Mapou who earned our respect instead of undermining all of your past contributions.

  149. 149
    Phinehas says:

    CS:

    You can sugar coat it all you want, but it doesn’t sound like Yahweh is concerned with the welfare of the children and babies here.

    Judging one’s omnipotent Creator is sheer folly. Period.

  150. 150
    Mapou says:

    Phinehas @148,

    I think you got it backward. It is not I who must make a good impression on this forum. It is this forum that must make a good impression on me. This forum has turned into a religious free for all but it’s mostly a fundamentalist Christian forum. I was hoping for a more balanced, more scientific, less dogmatic and less preachy, pro-ID forum. This is not it.

    It’s not all that bad, mind you, but UD needs fresh blood and more creative thinkers who are not afraid to rock the boat, so to speak. I do like the fact that it maintains a steady stream of interesting subjects and news stories. The huge, excessively wordy posts have to go, though. Most of them are boring, badly argued and most people don’t have the time to read them.

    So yes, I’ll be leaving soon but I just thought I would say what’s on my mind. And I always tell it like I see it.

  151. 151
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    Phinehas: Judging one’s omnipotent Creator is sheer folly. Period.

    You assume the text describes my omnipotent creator.

    That’s sheer folly.

  152. 152
    Phinehas says:

    CS:

    It’s not an assumption, it’s an inference. 😉

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