Russell Blackford on the problem of evil

Over at Metamagician, Russell Blackford, analyzing an article by Barney Zwartz, produces a a short but characteristically incisive discussion of the problem of evil. Why does it exist in a world supposedly set up, or run, by an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God?

Now I’m no philosopher, but I’ve read a fair amount of theodicy, and have never seen a good solution to the problem of evil. Either you say that God wants some innocent people to suffer for reasons that make sense only to intellectual theologians (e.g., some of those people simply badly need to suffer; the Holocaust occurred so that Nazis could exercise free will); or you admit that God is sometimes a nasty deity (ok for the ancient Greeks, not so much for Abrahamics); or, if you’re an intellectually honest theist, you admit that you just don’t understand. But if you believe that God is powerful and good, by what virtue do you know those things for sure but don’t understand the rest?

And, of course, the best answer: there isn’t a God, much less one who’s omnipotent and beneficent.

It’s no surprise that the problem of evil has, in the end, driven many people away from their faith. But this is amateur philosophizing. Read Blackford, the professional.

85 Comments

  1. Tom Johnson
    Posted September 16, 2009 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    Wait a minute, Jeremiah.

    How can evil be a “problem” for religion, when you yourself claim the religious engage in evil? Sounds to me like it would be beautiful.

    Methinks I see a problem of hypocrisy within our ranks.

  2. Posted September 16, 2009 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    A great topic to address. What is evil?

    Another good question: What does the word mean to an atheist? Anything?

    I will offer this much on traditional christian ides about evil vs good:

    “So what of Biblical Evil then? What of Satan, the Adversary? The Eternal Struggle?

    I cannot begin to believe in some dark deity and a whole system of demons and subordinate demons and various mechanisms that was put in place to tempt us all to stray from the path of righteousness, all decreed somehow by a supposedly loving God. To me, that is by far more nonsensical than anything from the Brothers Grimm.

    I’m afraid that I can see this Biblical Evil thing as no more than an elaborate story that was concocted for the poor, ignorant people so as to make them properly fearful and to assure that they forever remain properly ignorant, and thus obedient. I can see that this story of Satan and the Horrors of Hell and Damnation was carefully constructed so as to be the stick in a system of so-called carrot-and-stick conditioning that has sucessfully warped the minds of the multitudes. Warped their minds so as to believe that all the world’s problems are due to this deep dark fearful tangible external EVIL that is some orchestrated metaphysical reality decreed by God and executed by Satan so as to both test and tempt us while we’re alive and to punish us eternally after we die, so we’d all better be really faithful in God and not think of the details too much.

    Evil exists, yes. But not the external openly horrific evil of some demonic Satan who wishes to torment us with his hell full of fire and eternal pain. That’s an evil mirage constructed by evil people so as to lead the good astray into their evil fear-based belief system. I see real evil in the internal imbalance of one’s own mind, thereby causing it to misjudge both itself and the outside world enough to do real harm, all the while honestly believing that it is doing the exact opposite.”

    http://saintbrianthegodless.blogspot.com/2009/01/evil-that-men-do.html

  3. Posted September 16, 2009 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    More specifically as to the “Problem With Evil…”

    It’s insurmountable. Christianity has no explanation that will satisfy logic. But then again, they don’t have to satisfy logic. They only have to satisfy their believers. All of whom have given up on logic long ago.

    • Michael K Gray
      Posted September 17, 2009 at 12:02 am | Permalink

      They don’t even have to ‘satisfy’ their believers.
      Neither do the Mafia need to satisfy their victims.
      The Churches and the Cosa Nostra employ the exact same techniques.

      • Posted September 17, 2009 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        I guess that was what I meant, in that ‘satisfying their believers’ is so easy for them since their believers, well, believe. They believe instead of think.
        The only way they can ‘dis-satisfy’ them would be to publically come out and admit that it’s all a scam, which isn’t going to happen, and even if it did most believers would still believe I guess. The well-worn rut would beckon them.

  4. Posted September 17, 2009 at 1:03 am | Permalink

    I am inclined to agree with Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion (chapter 3) where he writes:

    “[The problem of evil] is an argument only against the existence of a good God. Goodness is no part of the definition of the God Hypothesis, merely a desirable add-on. […] for a more sophisticated believer in some sort of supernatural intelligence, it is childishly easy to overcome the problem of evil. Simply postulate a nasty god – such as the one who stalks every page of the Old Testament.”

    One might retort that to most believers “goodness” is indeed a key component of their understanding of God. But in my experience religious believers tend to use “goodness” as a shorthand for “whatever God wants/does” whether it is genocide, stoning, eternal torture or exterminating all life on earth, thus turning a sentence like “God is good” into little more than a meaningless tautology.

    However, my main problem with any philosophical argument against the existence of God, is that it places the burden of proof where it doesn’t belong. Nobody feels any need to justify their lack of faith in Zeus, Thor, the Toothfariy or the Midgard Serpent. That’s how we should . There is only one argument for “atheism”. I think Clarence Darrow nailed when he said:

    “I don’t believe in God because I don’t believe in Mother Goose”

    I can not honestly say that I would not be an atheist if it wasn’t for the fact that the Argument from Evil (or any of the other philosophical arguments against the existence of a supernatural deity) was so compelling. “Atheism” to me simply means sticking with what we do know and demanding a certain standard of logic and evidence before adding something new to our ontology. Occam’s razor takes care of the rest.

    • Posted September 17, 2009 at 1:13 am | Permalink

      Correction:

      In the 4th paragraph it should say:

      “That’s how we should be dealing with all claims about the existence of god(s).”

      • Posted September 17, 2009 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

        Three out of four of your example deities are norse. And just look at your name… You sir, are guilty of theistic prejudice!

        (The midgard serpent is way cool… and Fenris Wolf… Freya… Valkyries chaperoning the battle-slain over the rainbow bridge to Valhalla… and Ygdrassil and the norns… Odin nailed to the tree for nine days just to learn how to read runes… Balder and Thor with his Mjollnir… Loki… I had a parrot named Loki, for his destructive tendencies… Loki of the mistletoe arrow. What a way cooool pantheon. Makes poor Jesus look like a vanilla milkshake.)

      • Posted September 17, 2009 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

        Oh crap, I read “Zeus” and unconsciously converted it to it’s Norse equivalent Odin. So maybe you’re not a Hyperborean bigot after all.

      • Posted September 17, 2009 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

        ……AND I just realized that my norse friend wasn’t the person that posted this. So it’s obviously time to go to bed.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted September 17, 2009 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      I can not honestly say that I would not be an atheist if it wasn’t for the fact that

      IIRC they say that you should be able to cancel two negations in english, due to such an intended linear structure on them. That doesn’t seem to work here: “I can honestly say that I would be an atheist if it wasn’t for the fact that”.

      Is it simply a negation too much/too little, or do you care to draw a Venn diagram?

      • Posted September 17, 2009 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

        I noticed that too, Sir Torbjorn sans umlaut since I don’t know how to type one…

        I once constructed an intentionally quadruple-negative sentence. I reserve it for when I run into a particularily easily-confused type hypochristian opponent…

        “You underestimate your inability to not reason incorrectly.”

        It usualy accomplishes my purposes.

      • Posted September 17, 2009 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

        I once constructed an intentionally quadruple-negative sentence.
        *******
        Or conversely, “I once intentionaly constructed a quadruple-negative sentence.”

        I wouldn’t normally bother to correct such a minor lapsis verbae, but you seem to be the type to care. I’d hate to dissapoint you in any way.
        ;-)

      • Posted September 17, 2009 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

        I absolutely love the Venn diagram image, btw. Very snarky. No, from me that’s a compliment.

        I recently had occasion to tell someone that “Since ignorance is said to be bliss, I can at least say that I envy what must be your perpetual state of orgasm…”

        Whaddaya think? Do I win a “Snarky” award?

        OMG, I’m actually being snarky to you as I talk about being snarky… Shit, I think I feel my electrons morphing into positrons… Ouch. I’m trapped in a calibi-yau multidimensional conundrum vortex… Please do something! Throw me an entanglement or something.

    • Posted September 17, 2009 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

      Oh, a question for you sir…

      “Humes Razor…”

      I get Occam’s Razor just fine, but since I’m not very strong in philosophy I’ve only heard of David Hume. I couldn’t tell you what he believes or thinks. Therefore, can I trouble you to elucidate your cognomen for a poor unphilosophical soul such as myself? Just the juicy parts please… I’ll read up on Hume later on.

      How does your name compare to Occam’s Razor, if it even does; what do you envision it to mean, is my question I guess.

      • TheBlackCat
        Posted September 18, 2009 at 9:59 am | Permalink

        It is technically called “Hume’s maxim”, and it says “That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.”

        So for the 900-foot tall Jesus over New York example, it would be less miraculous that there really was a 900-foot tall Jesus than it would be if everything had mundane explanations (i.e. that a whole city to had the same hallucination, seeing the hallucination in the same place at the same time, and for all the cameras to have had some sort of random event that also recorded something that looked just like the hallucination, etc).

        The problem is that it requires a subjective interpretation of what is more or less miraculous, which is not defined, while Occam’s razor is much more objective.

      • Posted September 18, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        Thank ye kindly.

  5. NewEnglandBob
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 3:18 am | Permalink

    Russell Blackford’s post is a very good dismissal of solving the problem of Evil and the comment by Scott Hedges is an excellent example of how the “New Atheists” should operate. Hedges view is the opposite of accommodationism.

  6. Andrew Alexander
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    In these comments section, I have explained the problem of evil many times, but it has fallen of deaf ears.

    Simply put, for free will to exist, evil must exist. I will explain this more fully if provoked, but please read on…

    Anyhow, how would a freethinking atheist like yourself define evil? Of course, it would be preposterous for a materialist free thinker like yourself to make value judgments such as whether or not some material thing is evil or not.

    The only reasonable position for you to take is something like this: “I, of course, do not believe in any such thing as good or evil. However, the Christians do, and for the life of me I can not figure out how they reconcile their belief in a good and omnipotent God with the existence of evil”.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted September 17, 2009 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      Evil is define by people attributing nonsense to other people, especially things that they did not say.

      An example of this is:

      The only reasonable position for you to take is something like this: “I, of course, do not believe in any such thing as good or evil. However, the Christians do, and for the life of me I can not figure out how they reconcile their belief in a good and omnipotent God with the existence of evil”.

    • ennui
      Posted September 17, 2009 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      As a freethinking materialist reductionist atheist, may I be allowed to give it a lash? I propose that if free will truly existed in humans, then there would be no ‘Problem of Evil.’ Why?

      First, values are subjective, i.e. valuation requires a subject who believes that a particular thing has value. Second, values are shaped by genetics, development, and environment; they have a cause, and display a range of variation because heredity, development, and environments also have a range of variation. Third, the will is an expression of caused, not free, values. Therefore, free will is an illusion.

      Free will implies free values. If you were truly free to change your values at no cost, then nothing could cause you to suffer because you would simply change your values to match your situation. But suffering occurs, hence free will does not exist.

      I’m done poking you with a stick. Have at it.

      • Posted September 17, 2009 at 9:21 am | Permalink

        “Free will implies free values.”
        ————
        How so? Maybe I’m dense but I missed that.

        “First, values are subjective, i.e. valuation requires a subject who believes that a particular thing has value. Second, values are shaped by genetics, development, and environment; they have a cause, and display a range of variation because heredity, development, and environments also have a range of variation.”
        ————
        Aren’t survival-related behavior patterns of universal value to all organisms? So ‘values’ related to species survival, such as empathy for others, seem to be ‘universal’ as well in that they proceed from logic and the nature of life as a social species. Social space alien species would have to also have ‘empathy’ or even ‘love’ as a value or else some other mechanism to allow peaceful co-existence and mutual assistance. Other social species such as honeybees also exhibit behavior analagous to empathy.

        I’ll apologize in that I may well be out my depth in this conversation, as I am not as well-read in the particulars of the related philosophy.

      • Andrew Alexander
        Posted September 17, 2009 at 10:27 am | Permalink

        Ennui,

        I do agree with your proposition that if free will exists, then the problem of evil is diminished. However, as the black cat points out, non-human induced suffering is still a problem.

        However, in my opinion free will does not imply free values any more than free will implies that we can fly if you want to. You see, I believe that right and wrong are as fixed as the laws of gravity. Having free will does not mean that if you jump of a building you have any say in the matter as to whether you fall towards the ground.

      • ennui
        Posted September 17, 2009 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        @ Saint Brian

        How so? Maybe I’m dense but I missed that.

        I defined the human will as the expression of human values. If values are deterministic, not ‘free’ or stochastic, then the expression of those values will also be deterministic, n’est pas?

        As for cooperation, empathy, space aliens, et al, a good start would be to go to Wiki University and read up on game theory.

      • Posted September 17, 2009 at 11:18 am | Permalink

        I defined the human will as the expression of human values. If values are deterministic, not ‘free’ or stochastic, then the expression of those values will also be deterministic, n’est pas?
        ————-
        -Oh. Er, oui. I guess when you reduce it to that it makes sense.

        I’ll look into the game theory link. Thanks.

        *****
        Therefore, free will is an illusion.
        -Not if you define it as free to express your deterministic values and desires.

        You know, it occurs to me that our side, the secular side, loves to define terms to the Nth degree of precision, as we’re doing here with such relish and eficacy, and yet the opposition freely shifts the meaning of these same terms when it suits them, being unconstrained by logic or reason. So it’s hardly fair. We can never reach them that way. We sound silly and pedantic to them, because they’ve been conditioned to see us in that light. What they have been conditioned to believe, they see, regardless of the elegance of the opposing argument.

      • Posted September 17, 2009 at 11:43 am | Permalink

        Just out of curiosity, what would hypothetically constitute a non-deterministic desire or value? One instilled by a god or devil?

    • TheBlackCat
      Posted September 17, 2009 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      I am not sure it was to you specifically, but I did respond directly to this argument once before, and no one even tried to address my question. Maybe you will here:

      How do you deal with non-human induced suffering? Natural disasters, plagues, diseases, birth defects, how do you explain these? They have nothing to do with free will, they strike people randomly who contributed nothing to it happening. Sure you could argue that people living in hurricane-prone regions or earthquake-prone regions should know better, but lots of natural disasters or otherwise terrible things strike places where no one had even the slightest reason to think they would occur. So why would an all-loving god create a world that strikes people down without warning and through no fault of their own.

      In fact, overall I think “the problem of evil” is a bad name, I think it should be called “the problem of suffering”.

      • Posted September 17, 2009 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

        I tend to agree with this. But it’s really the problem of whatever things exist that you’d think your god of choice would not want to permit and would have the power to prevent. I regard “evil” as kinda shorthand for this. It has a bit more oomph than the longer version.

  7. ennui
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    It’s interesting to me how the Problem of Evil has morphed into two distinct flavors over the centuries. Almost no one thinks of Evil as an empowered free-floating Platonic form anymore, which is helpful because there is no evidence for objective evil.

    Flavor #1 is the ‘Problem of Suffering,’ which is used to disprove a simultaneously omnipotent and omnibenevolent god.

    Flavor #2 is the ‘Problem of Sin,’ which is used by the faithful to blame humankind for every perceived ill in the world (free will, dontcha know), hoping to provoke guilt, in order to offer salvation for the low, low price of 10% of everything.

    • Posted September 17, 2009 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      which is helpful because there is no evidence for objective evil.
      ————-
      Your Honor, I submit as exhibit A, the Holy Catholic Church in Rome. The Vatican.

      That’s as close as it gets, I think.

  8. Posted September 17, 2009 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Obviously evil is a problem for religion, but the fact is that Abrahamic religions apparently exist a good deal in consequence of the problem of evil.

    Religion supposedly balance the books between the good and the evil. Originally this was to happen in this lifetime, but that simply wasn’t seen to work. So the afterlife became the place in which the good losers would win, and the evil winners would lose.

    It’s wish-fulfillment, the cosmic Daddy who will make everything all right in the end.

    The logic of a god who ignores the cries of the oppressed and victims of genocide, yet who will make everything right in the end is not at all good. The appeal to the psyche apparently works quite fine, however.

    Glen Davidson

    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  9. Marylyn
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    oh men..please the orginal sources..in short:…at the beginning there was no evil. until wonderful Lucifer decided he was as great as god{?} and decided to become supreme commander in chief. a terrible archangel civil war ensued after which Lucifer was hurled down to hell where he grew a tail. this is how lucifer got his tail and we got evil. so did god. whats the agony?

    • Posted September 17, 2009 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      Yeah! Why the fuss?

      I mean, it’s not as if God could see the rebellion in heaven coming or anything. Lucifer totally fooled the old man.

  10. DamnYankees
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Just wanted to note the The Problem of Evil is only a problem for Abrahamic religious. Dharmic religious have an extremely easy answer – you deserve what happens due to past lives.

  11. NewEnglandBob
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    There are two sources of suffering.

    One source is intentional infliction or infliction due to gross negligence. This is the source that defines evil.

    The other source is the non-intentional. It can be an accident, a disease or a natural disaster. This form is not evil and is the form that cannot be explained if there is a deity which is all powerful, all knowing and benevolent. I consider one animal killing another for food as non-intentional suffering.

    The intentional form of suffering that I defined as evil above is done by free will. There is a choice.

  12. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me the whole idea of gods affecting the world makes evil a problem for theology, whether they are omnipotence and/or omnibenevolence or not. Because you can’t equate evil, a value, with suffering, an emotional state but have to have an agency connecting them.

    [In the real world where people live, there is factually very little suffering on average. Most organisms have no mind to experience suffering with. And those who had acquired them but recently.

    Distributing over likely biospheres with multicellular life form rare makes suffering extremely rare.]

    Theology is digging a itself a bottomless hole, but can’t let go of the shovel.

    • Posted September 17, 2009 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

      [In the real world where people live, there is factually very little suffering on average. Most organisms have no mind to experience suffering with. And those who had acquired them but recently.
      ————-
      Are you speaking about anything with a notochord? Because I’m fairly certain that lesser animals than man experience suffering just fine. We are perhaps the only species to worry about suffering, to be able to contemplate it and thereby make it worse on us, but most animals experience suffering.

      And its tempting to say that say, an amoeba can’t possibly experience it with no nerve cells, but if they can locomote toward a goal, react to sunlight, and move away (sometimes frantically for them) from something that is attempting to ingest them, all without nerves, well then who can say?

      This is my opinion of course. No way to know for sure. But I see your certainty as inaccurate somehow. No offense.

      • Posted September 17, 2009 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

        And speaking about amoebas, how about amoebic slime molds? A bunch of amoebas get together and ‘hold hands’ to form a macroscopic wormlike ‘creature’ several inches long that locomotes toward goals and acts like an autonomous organism. No nerves there either. Pretty cool how they can do that.

  13. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    “whether they are” – whether they have

  14. Marylyn
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    oh lord…animals dont suffer…they pain….wher did you guys go to school

    • Posted September 17, 2009 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      oh lord…animals dont suffer…they pain….wher did you guys go to school
      ————
      Somewhere where they teach you to construct an intelligible sentence. As in, I didn’t even understand what you said.

      If you’re saying seriously, not joking, that animals don’t suffer, then you must be a christian, no? All that rot about them not having souls etc… Sick stuff that gives people licence to abuse animals.

      My dog gets depressed. No, seriously. So given that, I can be sure that at least dogs suffer. And cats. And anything with a nervous system really. And maybe even things without.

      • Posted September 17, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

        A moluccan cockatoo is a social bird, very gergarious in nature.

        They are popular pets.

        But a lot of them tend to die when kept as pets.

        Its not diet, it’s not their restricted cages, it’s not infections…

        Moluccan Cockatoos need approximately two or more hours of interaction, of play, every single day. With other birds in nature, or with their human master in captivity.

        Without it they become suicidal. They kill themselves. They do this by systematically plucking out all of their feathers. It’s really a horrible thing to witness.

        Animals aren’t as unlike us as we like to think that they are.

      • Posted September 17, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

        About the cockatoos:

        If they do not have feelings, if they cannot think, then how in the world do they get suicidally depressed? Just because they’re not being interacted with? Just from lonliness? Because that’s what it is. Lonliness. I used to work for a pet store as a kid. Birds get lonely. Its a fact.

  15. Marylyn
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    whats so difficult to undertsand ??animals pain..humans suffer and also pain…

    • Posted September 17, 2009 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      Oh. See, I really didn’t understand you. You’re in agreement with me. Okay.

      Seriously the sentence was misleading.

  16. Marylyn
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    you are a pain but i dont suffer because of it…get it??

  17. Marylyn
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    insufferable….

    • Posted September 17, 2009 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

      See, again you are being unclear. Are you trying to make another play on the word ‘suffer’ or are you trying to incult me? If the latter than I’ve misunderstood you at least twice now.

      Y’Ever think of taking a few english courses?

  18. Posted September 17, 2009 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    InSult me, not ‘incult.’ Although it may be your intention as well.

  19. Posted September 17, 2009 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Marilyn, I came to your defense on an earlier post. Are you friendly or not? You seem to be trying, repeatedly and unsucessfully, to insult me here.

    And earlier, on the other post, people were disparaging your ability to communicate and comprehend so I spoke up for you… now I’m seeing that perhaps they had a good point.

    Oh well, live and learn I guess.

  20. Marylyn
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    pilgrims’ hands-suffering- that saints-in pain-do touch….dear saint you already are incult-ed..insult you? why? how? because you dont seem to know your basic vocabulary? let me ask you: i have a pet amoeba that likes to get close to the fireplace and of course she burns, is she in pain or it-she-suffers =or nothing..n/a?

  21. Marylyn
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    oh sorry was not aware of what you just told me..this blog is a bit chaotic and cant follow all the “disparaging threads” but thank you saint, no worries, people in these blogs are very acidic and usually not well versed in the idiom, meaning vocabulary..use lots of cliches, but you are different, and i visit because dr frank..oops dr coyne is so smart and gentle except when he gets carried away and send books to a lame california hillside

    • Posted September 17, 2009 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

      How can a hillside be lame?

      Perhaps it is just an affected limp. For sympathy.

  22. Posted September 17, 2009 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    i have a pet amoeba that likes to get close to the fireplace and of course she burns, is she in pain or it-she-suffers =or nothing..n/a?
    ————–
    I bet you keep it in your large intestine…

    Hey, are you secular or a religious person? I’m curious.

    Do try to answer me in the language that I posted the question in please…

    • Posted September 17, 2009 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

      I missed the joke here in time…

      The obvious one, with an intestinal amoeba on the table.

      That you were dysenteresting…

      Damn it.

  23. Marylyn
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    oh dear ..large instestine? what an awful place, imagine dennetts’ instestine. good grief…probably full….or dembskis’.. probably empty, whats so hard to understand about the amoeba?

    • Posted September 17, 2009 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      An amoeba is a lot easier to understand than you are, Marilyn. Stop being intentionally opaque. It’s very impolite, for one thing.

      So you aren’t going to answer my question? Just more verbal chaff? Okay. I’ll talk to someone else, then. Goodbye.

  24. Marylyn
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    c’mon now be a good sport..im a religious secular person:-) you broke my heart

    • Posted September 17, 2009 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

      Well, why didntcha say so? Jeeze…

      There is a point where enigmatic becomes annoyingly cryptic. With no other clues other than your printed, dispassionate word it was impossible to differentiate which side of that fence you were on.

      It is the internet’s fault perhaps. This modality of communication does not allow for facial cues nor judging tone of voice. Thus often things intended as innocuous or amusing come across as rude or bizarre.

      At any rate, a pleasure to be no longer communicating in polyglot semaphore, and hello.

      • Posted September 17, 2009 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

        Also and alas, it is my karmic destiny to break women’t hearts. The universe has chosen to use me in this manner. So at least it’s not my fault.

  25. Posted September 17, 2009 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    I’m likewise. Why else would I select the unlikely appellation of “Saint Brian the Godless?”

    (I see that you still prefer enigma when it comes to answering pointed questions)

  26. Posted September 17, 2009 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    A question then to your religious side. I’ll get to your secular side later…

    When you think of Jesus, is it with hand on leper’s head, compassionate, loving, all-loving in fact, an archetype of empathy and goodness…

    Or does He wield a flaming sword and herald in the Apocalypse?

    Or is he…

    a benign hippy caught in the middle.

    Or a myth.

    Or a disease.

    Or, add in your own.

  27. Posted September 17, 2009 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and fair warning… revert back to sanskrit and I’ll take my business elsewhere. Unless you can be a lot funnier. Funny and insane is cool. Just insane, not so much.
    ;-)

    • Posted September 17, 2009 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

      And don’t answer “A benign loving hippy with a mythical disease and a sword” or I’ll be reduced to going out in the yard and searching for grubs…… If you have any mercy in you, not that.

      • Posted September 17, 2009 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

        And “Jesus is just allright by me” is also unacceptable, sorry.

        Have I left you any good ones?

  28. Posted September 17, 2009 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    A SOLUTION AT LAST!

    The Problem of Evil is…….

    (drum roll)

    That is is not good!

    (I think we can all move on now…)

    • Posted September 17, 2009 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

      That IT is not good…

      Talk about a typo ruining a joke, weak as it was…

      • TheBlackCat
        Posted September 18, 2009 at 10:37 am | Permalink

        Actually, I liked the original much better. Taken literally it is a very good summary of the problem of evil.

      • Posted September 18, 2009 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

        lol! Good observation…

  29. Marylyn
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    after a restful non spleeping night i would like to contribute the etymology online dic. blurb for secular: “c.1290, “living in the world, not belonging to a religious order,” also “belonging to the state,” from O.Fr. seculer, from L.L. sæcularis “worldly, secular,” from L. sæcularis “of an age, occurring once in an age,” from sæculum “age, span of time, generation,” probably originally cognate with words for “seed,” from PIE base *se(i)- “to sow” (cf. Goth. mana-seþs “mankind, world,” lit. “seed of men”). Used in ecclesiastical writing like Gk. aion “of this world” (see cosmos). It is source of Fr. siècle. Ancient Roman ludi sæculares was a three-day, day-and-night celebration coming once in an “age” (120 years). Secularism “doctrine that morality should be based on the well-being of man in the present life, without regard to religious belief or a hereafter” first recorded 1846″ i sympathize, not completely with the last statement.
    nota bene: i apologize fir crytonite, i suggest that people writing in american english are blinded-or paralyzed-by their own semantics, which jeopardizes the outcome or dialogue that was purported. i made this clarification because i mildly suggest that many, including the oldest cheeses, do NOT pay attention, beyond their own meanings.

    • Posted September 18, 2009 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      Are you apologizing for ‘cry tonight’ and in for crying tonight (last night) or is ‘fir crytonite” a species of pine tree? Or what? What? What the hell are you talking about?

  30. Marylyn
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    that was the most hilarious note ever read in front of a screen. even the screen was contorting. well done. what happened is that coffee glued some keys and im getting-was- i for o-so forth….
    i meant to say …” sorry for krypto-nite” which of course is a metaphor borrowed from supermans’ stories. krypto/cryptic so on…awright… lets talk more evil.. shall we? by the way mr russell is very soft dont get why dr coyne quotes him so much..and besides is a catholic-hater

    • Posted September 18, 2009 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      Glad that there was reason behind the apparent madness, lol… I was starting to worry about you.

      I see evil as an imbalance of the mind whereby one is convinced that one is doing good, not hurting others, when the opposite is true. Most evil people are convinced that they are not only good but are of the highest good. Many are convinced that they’re actually doing God’s work.

      • Posted September 18, 2009 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        I’m sure Hitler was convinced that he was only making the world a more perfect place, etc.

        I’ve never heard of a person that is evil and admits it, even to himself. I’m sure they’re out there, but even evil people think the word ‘evil’ is something that applies to someone else, never to them.

        Take Christian Dominionists for example. Heck, take Mike Huckabee. He’s doing evil in the world, all the while convinced that he is the very voice of God.

        It all relates to PRIDE. A truly good person doesn’t go around telling people how good they are. When someone does, you can rest assured that evil has taken hold of their hearts and minds. And preachers are particularily vulnerable to this. It’s such an ego trip to be considered the very Voice of God by hundreds of people, all looking to you for advice etc. That’s a genuine ego-trap for most people. It rots them out from inside.

      • Posted September 18, 2009 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        So by claiming the moral high ground so vociferously, the christian right is in reality admitting that they are in the ‘low ground’ since truly moral people don’t brag about it, they exemplify it in their actions, not their words.

  31. Marylyn
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    here is the comment-saint brian-there is a paper by fletcher and frith nature reviews neuroscience 2009 10: 48-58: “perceiving is believing a bayesian approach to explaining the positive symptons of schizophrenia.”, which succintly states that the unusual-meaning-deranged- perceptual experiences of schizophrenics and their bizarre beliefs share a common disturbance in error dependent updating of inferences and beliefs about the world. this to address your insight about delusions …question: are schizophrenics evil? are evil people-because there are- undiagnosed?

  32. Posted September 18, 2009 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    question: are schizophrenics evil? are evil people-because there are- undiagnosed?
    ————–
    I define evil as intentionally hurting others. If you modify the ‘intentionally’ by being insane, then it can be said that its not their fault that they’re evil, but not that they’re not evil. You can’t call it good, can you? They spread evil, and spread the psychosis to those not yet infected. And many of the people involved, such as say Rush Limbaugh, know it’s bullshit and still knowingly spread the evil around to make money off it. He’s not schizophrenic. He’s an evil asshole.

    • Posted September 18, 2009 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      Its also not their fault that they’re insane.

      Ultimately the ‘blame’ rests at the source of the psychosis. So people like Constantine and Paul.

  33. Posted September 18, 2009 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Constantine was evil. He thought up the lie that keeps on telling itself. He made Macchiavelli look like Dr. Seuss. So from his evil seed he planted in western culture, all this schizophrenia and psychotic behavior, not to mention various neuroses and complexes in the less-affected ones, came to pass. It’s really like a computer virus for brains, as I like to say. Are the infected ones evil themselves? Well, let’s say they’re not. If they’re not evil per se, they are still doing evil unto others. Hurting others. And not accidentally. Intentionally, albeit misguidedly and due to their mental infection. So I might inform a fundamentalist christian that he or she isn’t aware of just how evil they’ve let themselves become. But I’d never tell one that it’s okay and they’re not doing evil in the world just because they’re blissfully unaware of it.

  34. Posted September 18, 2009 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    I just saw on television that only 23% of High School students in Oklahoma know that our first president was George Washington.

    This is completely traceable to religion. Ultimately it is the religious indoctrination that causes people to generally distrust logic and secular knowledge, and so vote in people that apply this to their state, to the country. People that do not vote for better education, people that see no value in it…

  35. Posted September 18, 2009 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    To Marilyn:

    Fascinating discussion but circumstances dictate that I shall no longer be posting here.

    Since I would love to continue this discussion, feel free to click on my name and find me on my own blog if you feel likewise. If not, no hard feelings and see ya.

    That’s all I have left to say, except that its been fun and take care, all.

    -Saint Brian the Godless

  36. William Mc Dowell
    Posted October 2, 2009 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Hi everyone
    The reason why god never stops evil, is because he is in a fight for our souls with evil. Oh we all know that god can stop evil with the click of one finger, but to do that, he would lose the fight to evil, that is why he has asked us all to have faith. He sent is son to teach us, but he also told us that we would be blind and deft to his word. He sent is son as a man and not as a god for the same reason, for to come as a god, would let evil win, and none of you can see this. His son never said once that he was a god, for that reason. Wake up and smell the roses. and just have faith in him.

    • newenglandbob
      Posted October 3, 2009 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      Wow, that could not be more inane. Did your god tell you all this while you wear your tin foil antenna?

      I suspect that many of these ignorant creationist posts are aliases by one person. This person is not well educated and can’t spell or use grammar correctly. Can one of the guest posters or Jerry confirm this?


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