• Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

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    • Void L. Walker

      That anyone, ever, would posit that THIS is the best possible world is truly jaw dropping. For me, a “best possible” (Jesus style) world would need to meet three requirements: 1: the absence of suffering/death. 2: God involving himself intimately with the world on a regular basis (why did He just stop appearing to us after the OT?). 3: complete freedom of the will, with ZERO constraints.

      Failing those three, we are left with a world that is a FAR cry from the best one possible. Suffering and death prevail daily, God is about as intimately involved in our world as Santa Clause, and our wills are hardly free. In fact, they are so malleable that even minor brain damage can impact them negatively.

      If we, as humans, truly are the “image” of God (in the mental sense), then is this really too much for a God-image to ask? Would we, endowed with our “God-like” characteristics, not be at least partially capable of gleaning a “best possible” world? Of course we would be, and quite clearly ARE. But when I look around this world all that I see is suffering, imperfect designs of life (to put it mildly), and a truly indifferent natural world that goes about it’s constant motions with utter ignorance of our existence.

    • Void L. Walker

      Also, I really liked what was said about Gods “free” will. Nice takedown!

    • Joe G

      More strawmen. As if you know God’s plan. Are you really that troubled by materialism that you have to make shit up about God?

      • Not at all. You seem to have an inability to comprehend.

        This assumes ontological perfection, unless you think God does not have that.

        On the free will point, if God is morally perfect; perfect in every way, it follows necessarily that every choice that God makes must necessarily be the most perfect choice. Thus God does not have the ability to do other than that which is the most perfect, or at least the only choice can be made is if there are choices of equal perfection.

        This is precisely what theists argue as theodicy. There MUST be a reason for God allowing suffering since God cannot allow gratuitous suffering. Theist use this device as a necessary corollary of God’s perfection to escape gratuitous evil.

        Now let’s pull that across to the creation of the world. Such a choice to create means that God must have chosen perfectly. This can only be measured realistically in one of two ways. Either by outcome at some time in the future, in which case this is the most perfect way to get there (parameters etc); or it is somehow perfect now, in some kind of way.

        In other words, a perfect God, like any prefect creator (painter etc) cannot by definition produce something properly shoddy.

        Now, some theists try to get around this by claiming God does not have foreknowledge of one sort or another. This simply debases God’s abilities and makes her somewhat less than godly, and it also implies that creation is no better than random since God would not be sure of the outcome, but creates anyway. Sort of throwing the ingredients into a pot and seeing how it turns out.

        To put it another way, you can shove your straw man up your arse.

        • Void L. Walker

          Haha, nice. Joe G needs a proper education.

      • Void L. Walker

        Do tell us, Joe, what is Gods plan? You seem quite the authority on the subject, so please, elucidate us.

    • Does this argument rest on the implicit assumption that our universe is not part of a multiversal ensemble, JP?

      • Good question.

        As stated above, if God is perfect (as is usually insisted), then whatever is created must be a reflection of that. If the multiverse happens to be, in some way, the most perfect choice of creation, then this universe, and this world, as part of that, must somehow be valued as being the most perfect choice or actualisation.

        • It could be argued that every possible universe which has unique goods and has (on balance) more good than evils should be instantiated within an ensemble of universes set up by a benevolent creator. Anything less than this implies that some goods are being left out and thus the overall creation could be incrementally improved.

          • Interestingly, I have a theologian friend who has posited, because he has been forced into this corner, that God might have to create every single world that is over 50% of goodness, or whatever value system you are rating God’s perfection on. I think it was expressed by Philip Clayton on Closer To Truth.

            He states that if God once intervenes miraculously, then it creates a huge problem since it would special plead that one instance. God would be inconsistent (and not God) if he intervened in a miracles here, but nor here and here. This impacts the problem of evil. So the assumption is that God cannot intervene which sets aside natural law.

            He says that evil is such a profound problem for god such that something HAS to go: either God, his goodness, or his omnipotence. He settles for redefining God’s omnipotence. This essential limitation, or voluntary giving up of power, circumvents the problem of evil so that free will can exist.

            The problem is, this invalidates the Bible, and even Jesus.

            So, back to the point, I think it is him, though I can’t find the video, who states that God is duty bound to create anything over 50% goodness, on balance.

            I think this contravenes almost every J-C understanding of God, s revealed through the Bible.

          • See Robin Collins here:

            http://www.closertotruth.com/video-profile/Would-Multiple-Universes-Undermine-God-Part-2-of-2-Robin-Collins-/736

            It’s not the one I was thinking but it might be the guy.

    • Luke Breuer

      1. Middle knowledge is not a given; Molinism has its problems.

      2. You assume the realm of possible worlds isn’t full of equally good/perfect worlds.

      3. Josef Pieper argues in The Concept of Sin that sin is acting against our nature, a nature given to us by God, which resurrects Aristotle’s teleological biology it seems. In After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre convincingly argues that morality doesn’t even make sense outside of teleology; without a telos shared by all members of a group, morality is simply a masked Nietzschean imposition of will by the powerful upon the weak.

      4. As to this being the best possible world, see Hating Perfection: A Subtle Search for the Best Possible World. I found it to be a fascinating book.

      5a. You assume that humans and God are the only moral agents. The beginning of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion beautifully explores an alternative, in a way that does not place the good deity on the same level as the evil deity, per binary opposition (dualism of good & evil).

      5b. Jesus’ “only [doing] what he sees the father doing”, raising the dead to life, is a subtle indicator that there is also an evil agent out there. Jesus summarizes brilliantly: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” good = eternal life; evil = eventual death

      6. Your focus on death, even of plants, is good. Christians generally hold that death is not the creation of God, but of Satan.

      7. See Augustine’s privation theory of evil. God creates, Satan destroys. We can side with God or with Satan. For life, or for death. Who gets to tell the story? George Herbert’s A Dialogue-Anthem is simply excellent. Death claims to tell the final story, while Christian claims that Death will ultimately swallow up Death and Death alone, popping out of existence.

      8. Your C) conclusion @ 7:57 does not flow from the premises. This is a gross philosophical error, to assume that this is the only perfect world. You deny 2., even though somewhere earlier you did kinda allow for it.

      ———

      As to 5a., at 8:15 you say (transcribing is annoying; video alone does not promote truth-seeking!):

      God has possibly not created every minute bit of pain and suffering explicitly, but he has created the parameters in which those things could exist and he knows that they will exist and he still does not create otherwise.

      Your entire video is predicated upon a particular view of determinism, which you do not defend, you just assume. You 100% ignore that God could have created first-cause agents, agents whose actions he does not determine and by definition, does not know beforehand. Why? Because God isn’t a first-cause agent, himself. You can’t be angry at a God who couldn’t choose otherwise. Such a God isn’t even a person, but more of a machine—just like us. I hold a different idea of personhood, and therefore a different idea of Godhood. One where freedom exists, not slavery to 100% randomness + natural law.

      It is perfectly reasonable for God to create a construct with true free will, where bad choices can and will be redeemed, in the final equation. Badness will only ever be temporary—it will ultimately cease to exist. True freedom requires the possibility of erring. Remove the possibility of erring, and you deny will as evil, just like Schopenhauer in The World as Will and Representation. Too bad denying will merely makes you the pawn of a tyrant. In contrast, Christianity celebrates “the one who conquers”. Conquers what? Death.

      • Void L. Walker

        With regard to 2: what if we discover intelligent life on another planet, and A: it has no concept of the divine/spiritual, B: it is savage to no end? (I may be misconstruing you here, maybe you mean world in a different way. Even so, your thoughts would be appreciated)

        • Luke Breuer

          Will you respond to the inverted question? If so we can both respond to each other. C.S. Lewis’ spaces trilogy explores the inversion of your question, of what life might be like if there were no Fall.

          • Void L. Walker

            To clarify, do you want me to respond to #2 in your original post?

            • Luke Breuer

              You are asking me to comment on a hypothetical situation in which we find a world that is much worse than our own, with no conceptions of salvation. This would appear exceedingly evil, for God to not provide any hint of a “way out” of suffering.

              In response, I would ask you to comment on a hypothetical situation in which we discover a world where there was no Fall, in which all sentient beings trust God and therefore do not ingest fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: these sentient beings will not have set themselves up as autonomous gods, gods who decide on what is good vs. evil, instead of discovering this line of demarcation.

            • Void L. Walker

              Ah, good question!

              I suppose I would actually end up ASKING instead of answering, in this case. Why was there only a fall on OUR planet? Would not the redemptive act of Christ be far reaching? One would think that such an act of sacrifice, one of God becoming human and living in our shoes, would reach a bit farther than the Earth. This is all speculative (as the question was to begin with). I suppose I’d need more time to answer it fully :)

            • Luke Breuer

              A world in which there is no hope of redemption/salvation/a “way out” of endless savage cruelty, would be evidence that it was a world created by a similar being. Now, we’d also have to ask:

                   (1) did multiple beings contribute to it?
                   (2) is its creator itself created?

              Suppose for example, in line with the Simulation Argument, that we create a simulation of digital, sentient, sapient lifeforms. Could we make it a very evil simulation? If we did, would this be a commentary on a necessarily existing omni-* deity of our universe? The answer to this question seems very important; have you thoughts on it?

            • Void L. Walker

              For some reason, this comment made me recall a question I’ve been meaning to pose to you. Without free will and your concept of first causation, what would be left of your faith? A lot of what you believe seems contingent upon the existence of free will, after all.

              Another question: what evidence could possibly convince you that free will is illusory/false? IF you were convinced, how would your views of the divine and your general perceptions of reality be influenced?

            • Luke Breuer

              Free will appears necessary for agape love (see 1 Cor 13) to exist. A world without this kind of love seems like it would be very dark compared to the one I live in, according to my way of viewing the world. Without free will, it seems inescapable that “what is, is right”. There is no difference between is and ought; there is merely a difference between is and want, ostensibly there so that we will propagate the species. See this clip from the movie Equilibrium. That movie seems to me to be the logical conclusion of there being no guarantee, sans an omni-* creator-god, that emotions are trustworthy. But perhaps I am jaded.

              Before I could be convinced that freedom is illusory, I would need to fully understand the difference between a world with freedom and a world without. Based on conversations with you, Jonathan, and Andy, I’m not sure I can yet really describe the difference. Morality seems irrelevant without freedom; what is left seems like BF Skinner’s Behaviorism. And yet Behaviorism has its Gödel sentence: the behavioral technologists are the ones who get to impose their wills on society. Surprise surprise, BF Skinner was the lead ‘behavioral technologist’. What this seems to reduce to is a society where only a very small number of people have actual freedom of will—which is very Nietzschean.

              In a world where freedom is illusory, I would expect there to be less problem of evil, with all the vigor behind it which presupposes a God who could have done otherwise! Remove that deity and the complaint may lessen in tenor, but do not be deluded: in most people’s minds, it still exists. It simply does not have a nucleation point, and thus stays “in solution”, as it were.

              One response to all this is Absurdism, but I see that as a kind of irrationality, which very specifically denies rationality in the our minds. So on the one hand we believe so strongly in the rationality of the universe that we pour money into the LHC, but on the other hand, we see fundamental irrationality inside the human mind. This is insane. It smells strongly of denial. “I will not accept the logical conclusions, I will not accept the logical conclusions, so I declare Absurdity!” And yet, Absurdism seems plausible if there were no freedom of will.

              Fundamentally though, I’m not even sure we’d be talking about freedom of the will without freedom of the will. I have found it personally to be a hard counterfactual to successfully think about.

            • Void L. Walker

              Firstly, awesome movie :) One of my all time favorites. Can’t go wrong with BALE.

              Secondly, what if free will simply did not exist? I know you partially answered this, but just assume for me that it does not. How would you feel? How would this affect your beliefs? I just wanna know how it would impact you, I guess.

            • Luke Breuer

              One of my favorites, too. I only just noticed that the leader dude was playing his Grammaton Clerics against each other; there were always TWO feeling clerics. It had a very Sith master & apprentice feel to it.

              I’m not sure I can give you a better answer than I have; counterfactuals are hard, yo! I would hold a lot of arguments which atheists and skeptics make to be irrational, emotion-based, untrustworthy arguments. But perhaps even that’s iffy, given Descartes’ Error, which I have yet to finish. It’s very complicated stuff!

              How would it affect you if there were true freedom of will?

            • Void L. Walker

              I do not really believe in true freedom of the will. That is, I don’t think our wills are really free from the prior events/formative interactions that constructed them, but rather are largely determined BY them.

              However, I also do not assert that we are organic robots. Basically, my view on the whole subject of free will is still developing . If we were ENTIRELY predetermined though, I imagine life would kinda be depressing. Who knows, maybe we are and our SENSE of free will is a cognitive safeguard. I really do not know :)

              You have a killer taste in movies, by the way.

            • Luke Breuer

              So what do you mean by “largely determined BY them”? Do you mean the rest of the determining is done by quantum + thermal noise? Given that the universe probably started due to quantum noise, the difference between “initial conditions” and “quantum noise” seems to be: momentum.

              I think that many of my actions are determined by choices and stimuli from years past. The issue is not completely freedom to do whatever I want; it is the very act of constraining my actions that allows me to become skilled at various activities, like machining aluminum! So I’m not sure you’re thinking about “freedom of will” properly.

              Imagine that you are a satellite and you have only a given amount of thrust per unit time that you can apply. If you know enough about celestial mechanics—see the Interplanetary Transport Network, for example—you can apply the right ∆v‘s at the right points, to achieve a final desired position. But you’ve gotta apply them at the right points, else your final position might be way off!

              Freedom of will, to me, is the ability to tell your own story. This isn’t completely free from constraints, but you can compare your ability to tell your own story, compared to the next guy. If the next guy has considerable more freedom, you can suspect that there’s some significant social inequality, ceteris paribus. I might even go as far as to define ‘slavery’, at least in part, as “limiting people’s abilities to tell their own stories”. See George Herbert’s A Dialogue-Anthem:

                                            Christian, Death

              Chr.   ALAS, poor Death ! where is thy glory ?
                        Where is thy famous force, thy ancient sting ?
              Dea.   Alas, poor mortal, void of story !
                        Go spell and read how I have killed thy King.

              Chr.   Poor Death ! and who was hurt thereby ?
                        Thy curse being laid on Him makes thee accurst.
              Dea.   Let losers talk, yet thou shalt die ;
                        These arms shall crush thee.

              Chr.                                                 Spare not, do thy worst.
                        I shall be one day better than before ;
                        Thou so much worse, that thou shalt be no more.

              Who tells the final story, Christian, or Death?

            • Void L. Walker

              What I mean by largely determined BY them is as follows:

              Genes determine hair color, eye color, many behavioral tendencies, have a large impact on sexual preference (and identity, such as transgender individuals), mood, temperament.

              Environment can determine/greatly influence a few of the above (sexual preference and identity especially), but also personality, language, decision making skills, social ability, etc. I could cite many more examples, but see no need to do so.

              Culture, as you well know, does a LOT in this regard. Religious views, what is taboo and what is not, ritual practices, what food is okay and what is just not cool, how to treat woman, how to view gay individuals, what is “normal”, what is not, etc. (really, you can easily lump culture and environment together. I demarcate them only to allow for more breadth of prior causes here). Ultimately, all of the examples I’ve listed either determine certain aspects of us during development, or greatly influence them.

              How, when you grant the above, can human beings be first cause agents like Yahweh? He is certainly not subject to any of the above having ANY impact on his development/formation, because he did not develop or form; He is eternal. So I do not see how us possessing freedom of the will akin to his would follow.

              Much of our creative ability and imagination is based upon A: what we have seen, experienced, and B: how our brains are wired. Once again, Yahweh is up and down a different case.

              Admitting to the above (assuming that you do), how can we truly be capable of first causation?

            • Luke Breuer

              More freedom comes from more knowledge. Jesus says, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” I believe that, wholeheartedly.

              You seem to have skirted the thrust of my question; what is left after one takes away the “largely determined” bit? Is there a shard, a sliver, of freedom left? What’s left?

            • Void L. Walker

              “More freedom comes from more knowledge”–elaborate, if you would.

              I do not believe I skirted the question, I just tend to go off on things (an unfortunate habit). I honestly do not know if there is a shard of freedom left after granting what I laid out in my previous post. Maybe, maybe not. As I said, I’m still learning more about human cognition and the like so I do not yet have a totally solidified means of describing how I view the will. I’m getting there, though :)

            • Luke Breuer

              “More freedom comes from more knowledge”–elaborate, if you would.

              Knowledge is power. Power for what? Power for imposing one’s will. But what is the ‘will’? Suppose that right now, I will some future configuration of reality. What happens if I gain knowledge which says either (i) this future configuration is actually impossible, or (ii) this future configuration is not nearly so good as I thought it would be? It seems that knowledge changes my will—or perhaps, the expression of my will. But this gets dicey. Is my ‘will’ merely the desire for ‘more’? Is that foundationally what my will is? This, I think, would be an absolutely fascinating conclusion. Is the will anything more, than the desire for more?

              [Some] Buddhists and Schopenhauer (in The World as Will and Representation), seem to think that suffering comes from wanting things and not getting them. Curiously enough, the Bible talks about this rather directly!

              What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:1-3)

              [Some] Buddhists seem to think that the only way to avoid this not-getting is to not-want. But what if there is a correct way to want? Would discovery of this correct way constitute a freeing of ourselves, at a fundamental, awesome level? Could that be the most fantastic kind of Good News possible?

              What if there is a way for all first-cause, moral agents to continually get more, and more, and more, ad infinitum? Here, I direct you to this comment and the interweaving of each individual poiēma into a grand unified poiēma. Douglas Hofstadter, I believe in Gödel, Escher, Bach, sees uncomputable numbers as infinitely variable songs. But we can weave certain songs into each other, producing something more grand (see the first chapter of The Silmarillion). Viewed this way, the idea of singing in heaven takes on a whole new, awesome, fantastic, wondrous meaning. All first-cause agents could continually become more, could continually sing a new song, but one that flows from the already-sung notes.

              I honestly do not know if there is a shard of freedom left after granting what I laid out in my previous post.

              I believe this to be an absolutely important question, perhaps one of the most important questions.

            • Void L. Walker

              “I believe this to be an absolutely important question, perhaps one of the most important questions.”

              Why, though? For you, why would this be such an important question? Would it be because much of your concepts of God are contingent upon free will existing to the degree you believe it does?

            • Luke Breuer

              With freedom, there is the possibility that the current situation in the world of haves and have-nots could be changed, that this could happen:

              Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. (Is 40:4)

              John the Baptist sees Jesus as bringing the above about in Luke 3. What does it mean? It means the hills will give to the valleys. It means a world of give, instead of take. It means a world of mutual servanthood, instead of “lording it over each other as the Gentiles do”. Jesus set the tone: “The son of man came to serve, not to be served.” He also gave his life as a ransom for many, a very mysterious statement, but somewhat understandable via the martyrdom of e.g. MLK Jr. and Gandhi.

              Without freedom, the above seems to be an absolutely silly hope. What guarantee do we have from the laws of physics that the above is possible? This seems impossible to know. Why risk death for something impossible to know? Someone recently said that MLK Jr. and Gandhi did not consider the world they lived in worthing living for, which I find fascinating. But why? Surely they hoped that humans could freely bring about a better world?

              Fundamentally, without freedom, the few exert their wills on the many, just like Nietzsche wanted. There is no true denial of freedom; whenever enough denial happens, a tyrant is able to seize power and use all the will-deniers as puppets, as extensions of his/her own will.

              Without freedom, nothing is wrong; things are merely disliked. I have never seen a good world built on like/dislike. After all, who is to say that one like is better than the next? That’s just another like!

              In all this, God is almost incidental; perhaps a deist God is all that would be strictly required. At least, so goes my thinking currently.

            • Void L. Walker

              I actually used to be a Deist. Strange times in my life.

              So basically, do you think that your concept of God would change radically to accommodate the absence of free will, or would the very nature of God (in your eyes) be completely incompatible with this change? If you already feel you’ve answered this that I’m at fault for not seeing it. If so, please point that out to me.

            • Luke Breuer

              Without a deist omni-god, it seems irrational to suppose that my maximal thriving can coincide with everyone else’s maximal thriving. Therefore, without at least a deist omni-god, it seems I should not worry too much if my maximal thriving comes at the cost of someone else’s maximal thriving.

            • Void L. Walker

              Disqus is really starting to piss me off. I think it may have gobbled up my latest response. If that is the case, I won’t be on here for several hours. Can’t take the frustration much more.

            • Luke Breuer

              Compose your responses in a text editor, and don’t delete its contents (or at least use one with an undo history and don’t close the editing buffer (window)) until you’ve verified that the comment went through. I actually use an HTML editor, that allows me to generate a full blockquote html and place my cursor in the middle with just <bl [Tab].

            • Void L. Walker

              Yep, that’s the case. FUCKING…..DISQUSTING. I will reply to you other comment later tonight. ARGH.

            • Luke Breuer

              What did you think of Ultraviolet? Although a bit weird, I kinda liked it.

            • Void L. Walker

              Mila Jovovich. Yummy. That’s what I think ;-) But really, I liked it. Very aesthetically satisfying (in more ways than one!).

            • Void L. Walker

              WOW. I totally misread your post! Hold up for a minute.

            • Luke Breuer

              No worries. :-) Given that you are psychologically capable of apologizing to a theist, misunderstandings become smaller—even funny at times. Sadly, many don’t have this ability—or should I say, freedom? :-p

            • Void L. Walker

              Ha, you made a free will funny :-p

            • Void L. Walker

              HERE is my reply to your earlier comment. I pulled it from the gaping maw of Disqusasaurus.

              “Understanding with what end goal?”

              You already answered this. The end goal most certainly IS survival/propagation. I fail to see how this is depressing or bad, honestly. We survive to reproduce, yes, but look at everything else we can experience! Making love with someone you adore, enjoying a fine meal in the company of people you love, savoring a good work of art, probing the natural world and all of it’s wonders through the lens of science, building meaningful relationships, discussing varied ideas/notions. To me, we have no need of an inherent purpose beyond what I have stated. The world, and life, are beautiful as is. Actually, life is even more so; rare and fragile, yet capable of such wonderful things, including the ability that we possess to explore our own awareness and place in the universe.

              “Do you think this is ok, or ought we try and avoid surviving only at the detriment of others? If you think the latter, why?”

              I most certainly do NOT think it’s just “ok”. Wanna know WHY I think that? Because compassion and empathy were traits that nature selected FOR, to better facilitate our survival. Also, because I was raised to appreciate and respect all life, and that lesson was not aimed from the scope of a religious rifle. I feel strongly about helping reduce suffering because I just DO. I’m a naturally compassionate person. I do not need a “guiding moral being” such as Yahweh, nor a couple stone tablets struck by magical God-lightning, to dictate whether I care. I just care. That’s all there is to it. Nature is often cruel, and yes, sometimes organisms (closely related or not) step upon one another to ensure their own survival. That is just the way it is. Doesn’t mean I have to like it, though!

              Also, I detest when people refer to individuals of faith as “sick in the head”, or “cognitively impaired”. If the reason for attacking someones belief is to open their eyes to yours, how can anything be feted when you start out with an insult? Very cruel. I am not that way, as you hopefully know by now.

            • Luke Breuer

              You already answered this. The end goal most certainly IS survival/propagation.

              So happiness/joy are only important insofar as they help us propagate? Pain/suffering are only important insofar as they hinder propagation? And if they help it, then great? These seem like weird conclusions to me; can you escape them?

              The world, and life, are beautiful as is.

              Loa loa filariasis. Our world contains evil that needs expunging. Unless there is no freedom to do so. Maybe this is just how it is!

              I most certainly do NOT think it’s just “ok”. Wanna know WHY I think that? Because compassion and empathy were traits that nature selected FOR, to better facilitate our survival.

              Who is “our”? The entire human race, or a subset of it that includes you, and perhaps me, since you enjoy talking to me?

              Also, because I was raised to appreciate and respect all life, and that lesson was not aimed from the scope of a religious rifle.

              Why ought you believe what you were raised to appreciate? What if your personal survival were increased by you not risking your life to save someone from being hit by a train? I’m sure I can amplify/alter that situation such that altruism no longer promotes the genes in your body over their competitors.

              I feel strongly about helping reduce suffering because I just DO. I’m a naturally compassionate person. I do not need a “guiding moral being” such as Yahweh, nor a couple stone tablets struck by magical God-lightning, to dictate whether I care.

              I am very glad you are. As to the “guiding moral being”, we ought to be careful to understand the switch from fear-based DCT to derivable DCT or whatever else you can call the New Covenant, e.g. Jer 31:31-34 and Ezek 36:22-32. Or consider Isaiah 58; do you think the Israelites were only to do that stuff because they were told to? This is unlikely. It seems to me that God is rebuking them for not getting it, for not being able to arrange their internal thought-life such as to naturally motivate the external behavior which promotes life.

              But how do you know that your current ideas about how to “care” are the best there are? What if something God does is continually ‘pull’ us toward better/more beautiful/more awesome/etc.?

              Nature is often cruel, and yes, sometimes organisms (closely related or not) step upon one another to ensure their own survival. That is just the way it is. Doesn’t mean I have to like it, though!

              This is the crux. Does it have to be this way? I say no! I say that human freedom can be used to change the status quo! And importantly, I say that the amount of cruelty can be made to trend to zero as t marches forward.

              I am not that way, as you hopefully know by now.

              It is something for which I am thankful. :-)

            • Void L. Walker

              “So happiness/joy are only important insofar as they help us propagate?”

              Essentially, yes. Again, I do not see how this is a bad thing. Many adaptations (including the pleasure of orgasm) are clearly evolutionarily rooted, to enforce a behavior that is advantageous. Does this remove any beauty/joy from them, that they exist to facilitate reproduction/survival of our genes? I say no. Also, pain is in place as a means of averting danger/severe harm. A clever adaptation, but the suffering that it often entails is most unfortunate. These conclusions are drawn from a careful study of evolution and nature. However uncomfortable they may be, I see no way around them.

              “Our world contains evil that needs expunging…”

              I agree with you on this, but how can we expunge the type of evil that I’ve laid out? I mean the genuinely “natural” kind (the variety that has been occurring for millions upon millions of years). Suffering, death, nature “red in tooth and claw”, natural disasters. Did you know that there is a variety of wasp that lays its eggs in it’s host, and the larvae later hatch, only to eat the host alive (slowly at that)? These are all natural eventualities that have been going about their motions for billions of years. Life must adapt, and in order to do that, death is pretty much a requirement. Again, there are things about this that I do not like. But I cannot help accepting them. There is good and bad, both of which are quite natural.

              “Who is “our”?”

              Humanity in general, but other highly social species apply as well. African elephants, chimps, bottle nosed dolphins. Wanna know what they all share with us? Tightly structured social natures that best function when working together as a coherent unit. This is my point: painful though it is to realize (I know you disagree with what I’ve asserted; I mean that it’s painful for me), many of the traits we sing praises of are in place for our survival. Compassion, empathy and the like. Theory of mind, as well. Robbed of these, try to imagine us surviving for extended periods of time in the wild. It simply would not happen! I know my view of reality seems bleak, but I’ve been working on it for over a decade and cannot see another means of viewing nature that even remotely makes sense.

              “Why ought you believe what you were raised to appreciate? What if your personal survival were increased by you not risking your life to save someone from being hit by a train? I’m sure I can amplify/alter that situation such that altruism no longer promotes the genes in your body over their competitors.”

              I believe I was raised to appreciate because I remember my childhood :-P Kinda hard to not realize this when I look back upon it.

              You seem to think that I’m applying what I’ve learned about evolution to moral situations, when I’m not. Evolution GAVE us morality, but that certainly does not mean we should always have evolutionary “goals” in mind when practicing it; morality is highly dynamic, and I’d rather not place it in a box, then lock it away.

              “But how do you know that your current ideas about how to “care” are the best there are?”

              I do not believe I EVER asserted that they are the best. They are changing and evolving. Ultimately, my compassion comes from within. I cannot tell you WHERE, or WHY. It just does. I believe that it is a natural thing, as I’ve said before, and has nothing to do with a belief in Yahweh or any other God. We can always learn to be more compassionate and caring, and many of us do so without the guiding light of a belief in the divine. You really need to research non-human animal examples of empathy to see my point here. Pretty sure elephants don’t pray to Trunkweh :-P

              “Does it have to be this way?”

              We can ALWAYS make attempts to better the world. Many people doing JUST THAT, as we speak, have no religious affiliation. They care because they care :)

            • Luke Breuer

              These conclusions are drawn from a careful study of evolution and nature. However uncomfortable they may be, I see no way around them.

              What if evolution didn’t have to be Malthusian?

              Suffering, death, nature “red in tooth and claw”, natural disasters.

              Are these required for evolution, for the unfolding of more and more beauty and wonder? Or perhaps could intelligence act as a ‘gardener’ of sorts?

              Life must adapt, and in order to do that, death is pretty much a requirement.

              Not all death is gruesome. I was present when one of my dogs died, and she certainly appeared to pass very peacefully. One night she didn’t want ice cream, so I spent some time with her. There was no indication of pain or suffering; certainly I am not omniscient, but I had seen pain and suffering from her before (she broke a leg at one point, not to mention the standard stepping on tail, etc.). Now, death of humans is called ‘unnatural’ in Christianity; see Ecclesiastes 3, and especially v11 and vv21-22 for hints of it. Then look at 1 Cor 15:26, and finally, Herbert’s A Dialogue-Anthem.

              There is good and bad, both of which are quite natural.

              The [Arminian] Christian’s most fundamental claim is that the bad is not necessary. There is another way. There is always another way, another door. (Get the reference?)

              Humanity in general

              Is it? Why isn’t “our” a strict subset of humanity? It’s been that for all of history, and is still that, today.

              This is my point: painful though it is to realize (I know you disagree with what I’ve asserted; I mean that it’s painful for me), many of the traits we sing praises of are in place for our survival. Compassion, empathy and the like. Theory of mind, as well

              Why would this be painful? I think evolution is a mix of goodness and badness, where the badness is not required. And I think evolution of the good kind causes beauty, genetically and memetically. Perhaps there is a better method of successive approximation, but evolution seems pretty good at it.

              Because the people who raised me espouse compassion above all else.

              Whenever I find people who espouse compassion and empathy, I find that they don’t espouse it toward certain humans. Perhaps you are different, but sometimes a decision has to be made: you take a hit, or the other guy takes a hit. Christians are told to decide one way; statistically, others choose the other way. Why? Fear of death, of annihilation, of ceasing to exist forever. Heb 2:15

              You seem to think that I’m applying what I’ve learned about evolution to moral situations, when I’m not. Evolution GAVE us morality, but that certainly does not mean we should always have evolutionary “goals” in mind when practicing it; morality is highly dynamic, and I’d rather not place it in a box, then lock it away.

              It seemed like you were saying that our evolutionary past should guide how we use the tools it gave us. You seemed to say that survival should be our goal, like it is with evolution. But perhaps you could rephrase what you see as our goal? While I don’t want to indicate that it is always a zero-sum game, what happens when it is? Who loses? Who dies?

              FYI, the Bible highly, highly espouses empathy. It also provides an intellectual undergirding of empathy, outlining good and perverted forms of it. See Mt 5:43-48, for example.

              I do not believe I EVER asserted that they are the best. They are changing and evolving.

              Toward what goal, and why did choose that goal?

              Ultimately, my compassion comes from within. I cannot tell you WHERE, or WHY. It just does. I believe that it is a natural thing, as I’ve said before, and has nothing to do with a belief in Yahweh or any other God.

              Josef Pieper, in The Concept of Sin, would argue that compassion is natural, and what sin does is pervert that which is natural, into that which is not natural.

              Pretty sure elephants don’t pray to Trunkweh :-P

              This is a bit weak, since the inverse probably wouldn’t convince you of much. :-p

              We can ALWAYS make attempts to better the world. Many people doing JUST THAT, as we speak, have no religious affiliation. They care because they care :)

              But how do we define “better world”? You realize there are many competing definitions, and perhaps more importantly, many competing paths to get there, right? Hitler thought he was creating a “better world”, as did Mao, as did Stalin, as did MLK Jr, as did Gandhi.

            • Void L. Walker

              “Are these required for evolution, for the unfolding of more and more beauty and wonder? Or perhaps could intelligence act as a ‘gardener’ of sorts?”

              You need to unpack this for me.

              “Why would this be painful? I think evolution is a mix of goodness and badness…”

              Yes, it is. But one must define what constitutes “good” in this context. Actually, could you do just that, please? Your view of evolution is strange to me.

              “Whenever I find people who espouse compassion and empathy, I find that they don’t espouse it toward certain humans”

              Yes, Luke, it’s called being human. Unless you mean to tell me that if someone murdered your wife in front of your eyes you’d be filled with compassion for them (extreme example, sorry about that).

              “Toward what goal, and why did choose that goal?”

              Happiness. Not just for me, but for those I love and hold dear to me. This is, disguised or not, the ultimate goal of every human being. As for why I chose it, need I say more?

              “This is a bit weak, since the inverse probably wouldn’t convince you of much. :-p”

              I believe you did not catch my meaning. I’m saying that knowledge of Gods “moral code” is not necessary for morality to follow. Elephants do not have a “moral guidepost” like Yahweh, yet act as moral/compassionate beings.

              “But how do we define “better world”?”

              For me, that’s easy. A world where suffering, disease, death etc. are minimized through cooperation and effort.

            • Luke Breuer

              You need to unpack this for me.

              Artificial Intelligent selection can avoid a lot of the terribleness that we see when we look at life today and the evolutionary record.

              Yes, it is, depending upon how you choose to define both good and evil; one must define what constitutes both in this context. Actually, could you do just that, please? Your view of evolution is strange to me.

              That which is good promotes life.
              That which is evil promotes death.

              This is at least true when it comes to how we treat other humans. I am undecided about whether it is bad for animals to die at some point. There is also a difference between ugly death and not-as-ugly death. Whether or not there is anything other than attenuated ugly death, I do not know.

              Yes, Luke, it’s called being human. Unless you mean to tell me that if someone murdered your wife in front of your eyes you’d be filled with compassion for them (extreme example, sorry about that).

              Anger does not have to preclude compassion.

              Happiness. Not just for me, but for those I love and hold dear to me. This is, disguised or not, the ultimate goal of every human being. As for why I chose it, need I say more?

              And what happens when that happiness clashes with someone else’s, or with some other group’s? This is where moralities diverge, this is where conceptions of ‘the good’ diverge. Excepting people like Nietzsche, most moralities differ not in their final destinations, but in their paths to those destinations. And we all know that some paths are not paths at all.

              I’m saying that knowledge of Gods “moral code” is not necessary for morality to follow.

              And if God created the world such that physical laws ⇒ moral laws, perhaps via emergentism? I suppose that if we model ‘evil’ as irreversible processes, then all that is strictly required to reverse evil is an outside energy source. But does physicalism—causal closure—threaten the idea of evil always being redeemable? I think it does. Indeed, we tend to think of death as permanent, even though there is no information loss. See here for awesomeness. That which defined your great-great-grandmother still exists in the universe, but has turned into hidden, nonlocalized information, also known as ‘entropy’. Can this process ever be reversed? Only an entity outside a given system can reduce the entropy of that system. So perhaps God is needed, if death is not to be permanent. But you have Death telling the final story, I think?

              For me, that’s easy. A world where suffering, disease, death etc. are minimized through cooperation and effort.

              This is an underdetermined path. Many people are attempting to make the world a better place. But will their current attempts succeed? Do they have any hope of succeeding? If not, then they are actually delusional in their hopes. It’d be like those who keep helping the poor as thousands of nuclear weapons fly overhead. Or perhaps something slightly less dramatic, but similar nonetheless.

            • Void L. Walker

              “That which is good promotes life.
              That which is evil promotes death.”

              By your definition, then, evolution is BOTH good and evil. The problem is, as I noted, death has been mandatory for life as we know it to emerge. Basically, death (eventuated by evil in your definition) is necessary for change. Do you see the problem this presents to you? If you deny this, then you apparently do not accept the theory of evolution as we know it.

              “And what happens when that happiness clashes with someone else’s, or with some other group’s?”

              It just clashes, end of story. I refuse to spend much of the only life I have trying to adjust and tweak certain things in it so everyone can be happy and satisfied. Some people will never really be happy, and there is little we can do to rectify this. I WILL, however, do as much as I can within reason/my abilities to make sure that the people I love are happy and satisfied. If I come upon a stranger or two who I can help, I will do so.

              “And if God created the world such that physical laws ⇒ moral laws, perhaps via emergentism?”

              What evidence do you have that such a thing is even remotely true? I realize you said “if”, but still.

              “This is an underdetermined path. Many people are attempting to make the world a better place. But will their current attempts succeed? Do they have any hope of succeeding?”

              What other options are there, Luke? You can attack this problem from any angle that you like, but at the end of the day it’s just us, what we do, how we interact, when (if) we take the initiative. The world as it is, though, seems a far cry from “best possible” in every regard. We have raped our environment beyond repair, already begun to over populate the world, and STILL treat each other like shit. I wish that none of this were true, but it quite clearly is.

            • Luke Breuer

              By your definition, then, evolution is both good AND evil.

              Yes! See, once more, the beginning of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion.

              The problem is, as I noted, death has been mandatory for life as we know it to emerge. Basically, death (eventuated by evil in your definition) is necessary for change. Do you see the problem this presents to you? If you deny this, then you apparently do not accept the theory of evolution as we know it.

              This may be the Big Lie. Consider what happens when we learn to genetically modify living human beings. Then, death will not be necessary for adaptation. Bacteria can swap genetic material without dying, so we wouldn’t be the first ones to come up with the technology. Is death required? I’m not so sure! It is required with current models, sure. And I think we should keep working from current models, as those will be better than anything I concoct for the foreseeable future and very likely my whole life. And yet, consider what happens if we learn enough and harness enough computational power to simulate universes of digital, sentient, sapient lifeforms. Hadn’t we better try and bring them about in a way that isn’t as “red in tooth and claw” as we apparently arose? Won’t these creatures judge our worth as gods?

              It just clashes, end of story.

              Jesus gave a very different answer than you. He changed the world with his influence. I think he changed the world for the better, and I choose to follow his footsteps. I choose.

              I refuse to spend much of the only life I have trying to adjust and tweak certain things in it so everyone can be happy and satisfied.

              Embedded in this statement is the idea that said “adjusting and tweaking” would not be the most joyful activity possible. I believe that mutual servanthood is the most fantastic way to live, as long as you’re not the only servant. I think one needed to be God himself to do this with everyone else thinking it’s a dumbass idea (see Mt 20:20-28, for example).

              What evidence do you have that such a thing is even remotely true? I realize you said “if”, but still.

              I don’t have evidence, only logic, philosophy, and theology. Even if God could create such that physical laws ⇏ moral laws, physical laws ⇒ moral laws is more rational. It solves the Euthyphro dilemma gloriously. It is the way reality would be constructed if we humans were truly made in the image of God, able to become increasingly like the Trinity.

              What other options are there, Luke?

              Jesus provided one, lived one.

              Frankly, my hope for our species is dangling by a thread.

              This indicates your connection to reality isn’t just “dangling by a thread”. :-p

            • Void L. Walker

              “This may be the Big Lie”

              Not in nature, and certainly not for the development of the many forms life has taken. Human guided evolution would indeed be different, but that is besides the point I’ve been making. You should read Evolution: what the fossils say, and why it matters. Great expose of the generations of death that paved the way for modern life.

              “Jesus gave a very different answer than you”

              More power to the J man, then. I do not believe he was the son of God, and am not even positive he existed (at least not in the manner he was portrayed in the synoptic gospels). He certainly posed some meaningful questions and taught some interesting things, but my interest in him pretty much ends there.

              “Embedded in this statement is the idea that said “adjusting and tweaking” would not be the most joyful activity possibles”

              It is more an opinion polled from extensive experience than an idea. I’ve been there, and I’ve done that. I spent the MAJORITY of my young life trying to adjust certain aspects of myself in order to make others happy. People used to call me “Sunshine Boy” because I was always going out of my way to make people happy (often failing to do so). I do not derive pleasure from this act any longer, and seldom ever did when I was young.

              “I don’t have evidence, only logic, philosophy, and theology”

              Fair enough. This is where we must once again agree to disagree, though. I’m kinda biased towards empirical evidence. (perhaps that is a shortcoming?)

            • Luke Breuer

              Not in nature, and certainly not for the development of the many forms life has taken.

              Certainly. Again, the first chapter of The Silmarillion. Melkor didn’t have to sing.

              I do not believe he was the son of God, and am not even positive he existed (at least not in the manner he was portrayed in the synoptic gospels).

              Several moderately trustworthy sources have indicated that Jesus kicked of the most egalitarian movement the world has ever seen, one which was pinched off by Christians getting in bed with Caesar. Whether or not this is true is something I intend to discover. But if it is true, that is important. Very important.

              It is more an opinion polled from extensive experience than an idea.

              Yep; should we trust “the probabilities”? I’ve met parents of autistic kids who were told by their doctors that their kids would never develop much more than they had, only to take their kids to a studio which allowed the kids to express their creativity, resulting in much more opening up and communicating than doctors ever said was possible. So I trust the experts on one thing: they’ll help explore the things that don’t work. But those experts often want to be arrogant, to claim that they understand reality, to downplay any areas of ignorance. See what some physicists at the end of the 19th century were saying. Nasty stuff! Max Planck said “Science advances one funeral at a time.” for a reason!

              I spent the MAJORITY of my young life trying to adjust certain aspects of myself in order to make others happy.

              That sounds terrible. It is tantamount to saying that only you had to change—everyone else got to stay the same. No, no, no. We all need to bend, toward each other and stretching toward Jesus. As we become more like him, we will both be drawn toward each other, but also drawn to more excellence, beauty, knowledge, and all around general awesomeness. We are each other’s servants, not slaves.

              I’m kinda biased towards empirical evidence.

              The empirical evidence is much better at telling us about what is, than about what could be. Reality just takes too many twists and turns for us to be able to predict too far into the future with any accuracy. Again, see Max Planck’s comment.

            • Void L. Walker

              “Several moderately trustworthy sources have indicated that Jesus kicked of the most egalitarian movement the world has ever seen, one which was pinched off by Christians getting in bed with Caesar. Whether or not this is true is something I intend to discover. But if it is true, that is important. Very important.”

              I’ve studied the issue of Christs existence extensively, read tons of books about mythicism vs. historical, and remain agnostic as to whether Christs even existed to begin with.

              .”Yep; should we trust “the probabilities”?”

              Our knowledge is changing day to day. That is something about science that excites me. What we “know” one day may well be much different the very next. There are some things, however, that I believe we’ve established beyond any reasonable doubt (evolution being a fine example).

              “That sounds terrible.”

              Eh, it wasn’t too bad. What really fucked me up was the isolation I experienced. So, so very much of it. Alone all the time. Kinda knocked a few screws loose.

              “The empirical evidence is much better at telling us about what is, than about what could be. Reality just takes too many twists and turns for us to be able to predict too far into the future with any accuracy. Again, see Max Planck’s comment.”

              So, in your mind, what would be the best means of gleaning what could be? I would add, how could you know that your method is effective?

            • Luke Breuer

              There are some things, however, that I believe we’ve established beyond any reasonable doubt (evolution being a fine example).

              That’s not the way I think about things. Evolution is the best we have right now. That is very different from being “established beyond any reasonable doubt”. This latter perspective is, I think, precisely what caused Max Planck to say, “Science advances one funeral at a time.” And when it comes to stuff like autism, scientists and doctors are doing real harm by going beyond the evidence.

              Eh, it wasn’t too bad. What really fucked me up was the isolation I experienced. So, so very much of it. Alone all the time. Kinda knocked a few screws loose.

              That’s what I meant by “That sounds terrible.”—the effects of doing what you did were guaranteed to be horrible. You made yourself a slave to other people’s whims, instead of finding some common goal you all could work on, with each person playing an equal part and each person contributing his or her uniqueness to the solution.

              So, in your mind, what would be the best means of gleaning what could be? I would add, how could you know that your method is effective?

              My method is, “Whatever it is, it’s probably wrong somewhere.” I try and keep track of all the data, so that the “science dogma” (a term used by a tenured professor at The California Institute of Technology, ranked #1 by random magazines not infrequently) doesn’t keep me from seeing that single data point that doesn’t fit, so that I can examine it to see whether it’s spurious, or whether maybe that dogma is only good ceteris paribus. My method is science as a tool, and not used dogmatically. Many people have very strong beliefs and I think I can navigate reality just fine with some of the same beliefs, but many of them much less strong.

              Did I give you the example of alien abductions? I don’t have the need to deny that they happen; if someone says they were abducted, I wouldn’t be compelled to dismiss them off the bat. Instead, I would simply say that if this person wants me to somehow change how I act or believe based on said experience, he/she will have to provide a good burden of proof. I don’t have to go around the world saying “that didn’t happen, and that didn’t happen, and that other thing didn’t happen”. A lot of atheists and skeptics seem to have a deep-seated need to do this. It’s actually pretty strange.

            • Void L. Walker

              “That’s not the way I think about things.”

              You seem to think this way about both God and Free will though.

              As far as the origin and development of life, evolution isn’t just the best we have. It’s the only game in town. Nothing else can explain the commonalities that we and all organisms share with one another. Also, evolution has IMMENSE predictive power and has shown, time and time again, to be accurate and right on the money where it counts. Unless there’s another explanation for why we share 98 % of our dna with chimps, why we have atavisms in abundance, why the predictions we’ve made regarding the placement of fossils are accurate, etc. Honestly…pretty sure evolution takes the cake here. There are still plenty of questions to ask though, but that’s what makes science awesome.

              I wasn’t saying that my entire view of science and reality follows this certainty. But in my opinion there really are things that, fundamentally, can be considered true.

              “That’s what I meant by “That sounds terrible.”—the effects of doing what you did were guaranteed to be horrible.”

              Isolation had nothing to do with my tendency to adjust for people. It was a byproduct of where I was raised and the way I was “educated”. I would not say I made myself a slave; often, people were wholly unaware of what I was doing. I made the decision to act, and still do not know why. One of the many mysteries of my life.

              “My method is, “Whatever it is, it’s probably wrong somewhere.”

              How, then, can you even be certain God exists? Or that Jesus was the son of God? Or that free will exists?

              Put another way, have you turned this approach on your most cherished beliefs? If you feel you have, how can you be certain you did so without allowing bias to impede your introspection?

            • Luke Breuer

              You seem to think this way about both God and Free will though.

              Do I? Are we renormalizing all beliefs in a person’s belief system in reference to the most strongly held beliefs? If so, then God may be up there, but free will is probably more of a conclusion of other, stronger beliefs. I’d have to think about it for a while to be more clear than this.

              In contrast to many atheists and skeptics (I’m pretty sure you’re excluded), I’m happy to try and think of a world without God and free will, and let others direct me in that thinking. When I try and talk about God existing to many atheists and skeptics, the very discussion appears to ‘resurrect’ strongly held religious beliefs, which results in them bitching and moaning when I say, “Don’t think about it that way, think about it this way.” too many times. I mean, surely if God existed, he would exist according to their preconceived notions, right? Sigh.

              As far as the origin and development of life, evolution isn’t just the best we have. It’s the only game in town.

              This doesn’t render my statement false. I’m actually a bit reticent to support your second sentence. Instead, I would simply challenge ID advocates and creationists of all stripes to show that they can e.g. contribute to technology, science, and medicine. If they can, then I hold that there is some decent ‘truth’ in whatever it was in their brains that caused them to develop said contributions.

              I attended a church with a YEC head pastor (another influential pastor was at least OEC, so variety was allowed), and he gave a sermon making it clear that he was YEC. I went up to him afterward and asked him, “What would you say if people, believing in evolution, were to make medical or technological discoveries which make people’s lives better?” He replied that he would still believe YEC, but that he would allow for there to be ‘truth’ of some sort in the brains of the discoverers. This was a bit of a lame answer, but it was much better than something like “the devil helped them”.

              Also, evolution has IMMENSE predictive power and has shown, time and time again, to be accurate and right on the money where it counts.

              So, I was a creationist for a while, then an ID advocate, and now I think evolution is the best we’ve got. And you seem to be overstating the case a bit. Some of this might be that I take a technologist perspective, and ask, “What is the most interesting problem which we can solve via digital evolution?” The answer is a shockingly small number of problems, which indicates to me that we don’t understand evolution as well as is sometimes advertised. I doubt that when not talking to the public, very many evolutionary biologists make as strong a claim as they do when public-facing.

              It’s difficult to critique what you’ve said here, because of course the evolution has done fantastic things for biology. My wife is a biophysicist; we’ve talked about this quite a bit. On the other hand, what if many evolutionary biologists have been much too enamored of Malthus’ law, over and above e.g. genetic drift? My wife just pointed me to Nature 2013’s Symbiosis leads to diversity, which doesn’t directly come out of Malthus’ law. Indeed, the aphorism, “survival of the fittest” is likely wrong; it should be “survival of the fittest or equally fit“. I can easily see a situation in which a huge portion of how evolution works has been ignored, because of a focus on “nature red in tooth and claw”. Does this criticism make sense?

              But in my opinion there really are things that, fundamentally, can be considered true.

              “Science advances one funeral at a time.” – Max Planck

              Isolation had nothing to do with my tendency to adjust for people. It was a byproduct of where I was raised and the way I was “educated”. I would not say I made myself a slave; often, people were wholly unaware of what I was doing. I made the decision to act, and still do not know why. One of the many mysteries of my life.

              My point still stands. That “people were wholly unaware” is a statement of the incompetence of people who could have known better. Shifting the focus a bit, I think Christians should be more aware of how to help other people than non-Christians (on average), because they believe it is important to “love your neighbor as yourself”, and sacrifice (“pick up your cross”) to obtain this goal. This would include, e.g., understanding depression, alcoholism, and other maladies that are ultra-common. There are many situations in which ignorance is not an excuse. That may be the biggest lie of our age. IIRC, Ayn Rand even got at that in Atlas Shrugged (I liked the beginning of the book much better than the end). Just like driving while drunk is often a lack of sufficiently strong good intention, failure to know certain things is also a lack of sufficiently strong good intention. “All that is required for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.”

              If you truly apply this scrutiny to EVERY single thing, how can you even be certain God exists as you perceive “him”?

              I am simply not “certain”. I don’t need certainty like this to navigate life! We have to make decisions on the best information we have; not making a decision is often making a decision. And so, my responsibility is to know enough so that when the relevant decisions come along, I either already know enough, or can find out enough in the time allotted. I currently model my belief modification as Bayesian inference; Bayesian inference is used in Kalman filters, which are a kind of sensor fusion: you have multiple sensors which are telling you partially overlapping information, and you have to figure out how much to trust each of them, in order to come up with the best estimation of your current state. You can do this even when the sensor data is somewhat contradictory.

              Or that Jesus was the son of that God?

              Likewise, I am not “certain”. It is my best working hypothesis that Jesus was. Predictions that the Bible makes from his Godhood seem verified in my life and in history, but not noiselessly. There is room for error. You’ve gotta go on the best info you’ve got.

              Or that free will exists as you believe it does?

              It seems to better account for observations I’ve made in life than nonfree will. Whether or not “free will” = libertarianism, I don’t know. What I do know is that trying to live life with a contradiction-free set of beliefs is greatly restricting. I got to spend a good deal of time chatting with David Politzer, who won the 2004 Nobel Prize for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in QCD. One of the signs of intellectual maturity, in his opinion, was the ability to hold contradictory thoughts in one’s head without immediately dismissing one of them. Whether or not he got this from F. Scott Fitzgerald is unclear to me. But if there’s one common characteristic of many atheists and skeptics I have encountered online, it is that they are highly unwilling to do this. I find this curious.

              How can you be positive that cognitive biases aren’t at play here?

              Nobody can. Grossberg 1999, The Link between Brain Learning, Attention, and Consciousness, may be reason to believe that consciousness works via a sort of confirmation bias. Maybe we are only ever conscious of phenomena which match a pattern already existing in our brains. This is one reason I wrote Intersubjectivity is Key: I critically rely on other people to ensure that I am not viewing reality in a critically skewed fashion. I do not trust my own judgment as much as e.g. The Thinker. I know I might be wrong, and others might be right. It has happened aplenty in the past, and I’m sure it’ll happen aplenty in the future, especially if I keep trying to expand the boundaries of my knowledge, instead of comfortably talking about only those things I am ‘sure’ about.

              Following your apparent reasoning, there must be something wrong with your conception of God, free will and the like.

              Yes!!! See Exodus 20:4-6. I must be careful to not construct a ‘likeness’ of God (see note 2) and call it ‘God’. There is a reason, for example, that apophatic theology arose. Also see this comment, and especially “‘only a little bit'”, at the end.

              If you feel you have, how can you be certain you did so without allowing bias to impede your introspection?

              I cannot be certain! :-p

            • Void L. Walker

              “free will is probably more of a conclusion of other, stronger beliefs.”

              What beliefs are you speaking of?

              “In contrast to many atheists and skeptics (I’m pretty sure you’re excluded),”

              I most certainly am. I regularly think of reality through the lens of faith, retracing my mind sets when I was a believer. Actually, that’s one of the main reason I’m an Atheist. See, I have a dual perspective here. I was once a deeply religious person who had a very strong, personal relationship with Jesus. When I think of the world in a similar way now (I.E, loving God, free will, Christs sacrifice) it makes even less sense to me. The lack of evidence for christs divinity (and in many cases existence), the problem of evil (which, I’m sorry, is a very, VERY big problem), the lack of free will and fact that our genes and environment play such a pivotal role in sculpting our wills, etc.

              The above contrast that I have, speaking as a former christian, is invaluable here. I can see the world two ways at once. Actually, I like that :)

              “Science advances one funeral at a time.” – Max Planck”

              Yes it does, and that is one of the core reasons that I love it so much. But I would challenge you to study evolution as much as I have. I’ve spent over 8 years doing so, and through this have reached the inescapable conclusion that, while we still debate certain aspects of HOW it happened, evolution HAS happened and continues to do so. Nothing else has the breadth of explanatory power when talking about life (it’s diversity, distribution, etc). There are certainly things that are subject to change, but the underlying facts are in place, and for very good reasons. You should read Evolving: The Human Effect and Why It Matters, by Fairbanks. Another great one that I mentioned is Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters, Prothero. I can recommend many others if you’d like.

              Also, why would we expect knowledge of a biological process to dramatically change the way we view/innovate technology? If you want an example of evolutions power in a similar regard, take a look at how it has advanced our understanding of medicine. Truly mind blowing. We still have much to learn, granted, but that is a very good thing! NOT knowing certain things is what fuels discovery and inquiry.

              “My point still stands.”

              I’m sorry, but we’re at odds here. You would need a much fuller understanding of A: the way I operated as a child, and B: The impact my environment had upon me. I would go into this a bit more, but that would take about a week, solid. VERY convoluted. Still, though, I appreciate your compassion and attempts to understand.

              “I am simply not “certain.”

              At least you can admit this, and I do understand how you would not need certainty in order to navigate life. Remember, I have also been there. Our faiths would have clashed in certain ways, but I had a deeply resonating relationship with God. I can totally relate to you here and I have no desire to call you names or poke fun (unlike a certain “thinker” on here). You have put a lot of thought into what you believe and I respect you as a person.

              “It seems to better account for observations I’ve made in life than nonfree will.”

              How so? In my many experiences, the opposite is true. Perhaps I have a colored perception though, as I have lived with cognitively impaired people. In my opinion, human beings are far from free in the way you believe. You have to realize that prior causes are VERY important here. Even watching a certain type of movie or television show at a young age can contribute to our decisions. For us to be first cause agents, one would need to show exactly how we are somehow exempt from prior causes (which I don’t think is true), otherwise the notion does not hold up. IF, however, you can somehow demonstrate that we are able to escape the chain of causation, you may have something.

            • Luke Breuer

              What beliefs are you speaking of?

              A big contributor is the problem of evil argument. I do not think it would have as much force as it does, if free will were an illusion. This is mostly an intuitive claim. But why do people get so upset, so riled up about it? And they don’t get all happy once you deny freedom or deny God’s existence. The only things those actions do is push the precipitate back into solution. The complaint still exists.

              Another reason is theological: if God exists and has freedom of will, surely he can grant that to his creation, and surely he has, if he has created beings imago dei. To even have a God who is not free seems a bit of an oxymoron. Without freedom, one gets something much closer to Einstein’s God, which is more of a set of natural forces which, according to Einstein, were deterministic.

              Furthermore, it seems terribly hard to deny freedom of the will of e.g. Alexander the Great, the Pharaohs of Egypt, etc. It is much easier to disbelieve in the freedom of the will if one was e.g. a slave in the New World or an industry worker during Industrialization in America. Many people today in the West seem to have little freedom, because life is work and then subpar relaxation. This is definitely worst in the US, due to the incredible amount of work all levels of people engage in.

              There are a lot of ideas that just don’t make sense with freedom of the will, that nonetheless get talked about by people who deny freedom of the will. There is no “good” or “bad” without freedom; all is just “like” or “dislike”. And yet we deeply feel we can go beyond “dislike” when we see sufficiently heinous evil. Why? I know there are other explanations, but freedom of the will seems to be the strongest one.

              Finally, Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Guess what is freeing: understanding why you always do things a certain way, giving you an option to change. It’s happened to me; I have experienced this. Knowledge can truly free one and allow one to plot a new course in life, different from the seemingly infinite loop one was stuck in. Once humans understand a system, they can game it, seemingly without fail. This seems best modeled by freedom of the will.

              I was once a deeply religious person who had a very strong, personal relationship with Jesus.

              What happened to it? Andy and I talked extensively about what the nature of this relationship is; he compared it to the relationship one might have with MLK Jr., or Atticus Finch. If so, that ‘relationship’ could still be alive. So what happened with you? Also, what do you think of What is the history of the concept of a “personal relationship with Jesus”? ?

              The above contrast that I have, speaking as a former christian, is invaluable here. I can see the world two ways at once. Actually, I like that :)

              I have been learning, better and better, how to simulate a skeptic’s view of Christianity. It has helped me discard terrible interpretations of scriptures, instead holding out for much deeper interpretations which match reality intricately. This has been invaluable; so much of Christianity these days—not so much in centuries past—has been made inane. For example, few Christians seem to really know how deep of a friendship David and Jonathan had, because few have those kinds of deep relationships today. Many immediately assume that David and Jonathan were engaged in a sexual relationship, and this seems to be because they assume one cannot have a deep relationship without it being sexual. This is exceedingly sad.

              But I would challenge you to study evolution as much as I have.

              I have studied it a lot. And I will challenge you: suppose we can evolve digital sentient, sapient beings. Might we want to do the best job we can to not inflict on them as much as pain and suffering as we experienced? Might we want to see if maybe there’s a way other than “nature red in tooth and claw” to help them evolve? Otherwise, we become the gods we allege to abhor. God, I think, would have the last laugh if we end up being more terrible gods than he, while blaming him all along.

              One of the main reasons I want you to study evolution more is that it DOES have a notable impact on the way we view/innovate technology.

              I’ve worked on a genetic algorithm. :-) We use ant pheromone algorithms to route traffic on the internet. My skepticism is targeted a bit more carefully than I think you realize. I object to overreaching that scientists generally do when public-facing. It may also be important to note that these days, scientists have to exaggerate on their grant applications, what they think a given research program will accomplish. If they don’t lie, other scientists willing to lie will get the funding. It is a terrible situation, and yet very few seem to care. :-(

              I believe that if you study evolution a bit more you may change your mind about the nature of it. That is, you seem to think that evolution can be a truly glorious, even Godly, thing. I flatly disagree with this. I believe I’ve shown you good reasons why I disagree.

              When I say something along the lines of “evolution can be a truly glorious , even Godly, thing”, I mean evolution with intelligence guiding it, not more of the same. We complain so much that God did not make things less sucky; will we copy his ‘mistake’, but feign ignorance?

              I’m sorry, but we’re at odds here.

              The disagreement really seems to be about whether people should have known better, should have gained knowledge which would have avoided causing you so much harm. If that is the case, I staunchly stand my ground. We are given many, many evidences of what hurts and what helps. We are very good at ignoring them. And then we complain that we don’t have enough knowledge to make the right choices.

              I’ll give you an example. See the statement, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Bullshit. Let’s look at some Bible: “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, / but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18. Or “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, / sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Proverbs 16:24. Or “A word fitly spoken / is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” Proverbs 25:11. Christians should know these and should know how poisonous it is to say that words don’t matter. And yet they are ignorant and stupid and foolish, with no excuse except for laziness, unwilling to engage emotionally with others, and wanting to maintain a pristine little view of the world that cannot be challenged.

              You have put a lot of thought into what you believe and I respect you as a person.

              Likewise! And when you criticize something I say which is vague, I trust that (a) if I try to clarify, you’re usually ok with it—or at least like the clarified version better and say so; (b) you’ll even try and help me clarify if you can. It might be surprising how these little things make all the difference in the world. It shifts the paradigm from opposition to teamwork.

              In my opinion, human beings are far from free in the way you believe. You have to realize that prior causes are VERY important here.

              I forget, did I talk about orbital/celestial mechanics with you? Recall that I see free will as the ability to apply small ∆v‘s. This doesn’t mean a trajectory can be massively changed in a moment. Oftentimes one has to be very strategic, like firing thrusters at Lagrangian points when navigating the Interplanetary Transport Network. This model of free will is very different from most conceptions of e.g. doxastic voluntarism.

              IF, however, you can somehow demonstrate that we are able to escape the chain of causation, you may have something.

              I don’t know if it’s so much “escape” as “subvert”. As to the causal chain bit, check out growing block universe. Our idea of the past fully determining the future isn’t necessarily right; neither can we be sure that indeterminism is fully random, vs. perhaps the very source of freedom.

            • Void L. Walker

              “What happened to it? ”

              I realized that all of the times I was certain Jesus was speaking to me, he wasn’t. Internal monologue is often construed as a voice message system for the divine, falsely so. I still hear what I at one point thought was the voice of God/Jesus, but have learned what it actually is.

              When I lost my faith it honestly felt as though I had been raped, beaten, and left for dead in a gutter. I felt violated and weak. You see, I did not choose to lose my faith, the facts that I became lucid of chose for me. Very hard to explain, especially considering that you’re still a Christian, but (as with my loss of a belief in free will) certainly not a choice. Why would I choose to believe that A: my life has no intrinsic meaning, and B: free will is illusory? I have no reason to dismiss these beliefs; what I currently hold to be true is the very antithesis of comforting.

              “I have been learning, better and better, how to simulate a skeptic’s view of Christianity.”

              I’m glad you’re at least trying to do this :) But a simulation is lacking in several important ways. Until you have actually ceased to believe in something, you cannot fully know what it encompasses. The duality of my world views is powerful in several ways, not the least of which is that I actually see the world in two inherently conflicting ways. It can be rather confusing at times, but I find it to be very useful.

              I’m not attempting to discredit your attempts, but you will never actually see the world through the eyes of a skeptic/atheist. You would have to genuinely stop believing what you currently do in order to achieve this.

              “I have studied it a lot. And I will challenge you: suppose we can evolve digital sentient, sapient beings. Might we want to do the best job we can to not inflict on them as much as pain and suffering as we experienced?”

              Of course! I wholeheartedly agree. The question, then, is why could Yahweh not have done the same with us? Surely God would have some inkling as to what pain and suffering would be like, so for Him to not act seems very wrong. If you truly believe no limitations can be imposed upon Him, why could he not have found a way to alleviate suffering without violating our free will? To claim that he could not is to limit an allegedly limitless being.

              “Likewise! And when you criticize something I say which is vague, I trust that (a) if I try to clarify, you’re usually ok with it—or at least like the clarified version better and say so; (b) you’ll even try and help me clarify if you can. It might be surprising how these little things make all the difference in the world. It shifts the paradigm from opposition to teamwork.”

              You’re honestly not vague all that often, Luke. I think that a large part of the blame falls upon my shoulders here. You approach problems in a different manner than most Christians I have encountered, and perhaps I have been hasty to attach the “vague” label on you.

              I also believe that we CAN communicate better and retract my statement that only you can clarify vagueness. From now on, I will make an honest effort to elucidate you on why I believe you’re vague, when you are. That will facilitate more clear communications between us.

              “I forget, did I talk about orbital/celestial mechanics with you?”

              I believe you did, but what does this really, at bottom, have to do with free will?

              “I don’t know if it’s so much “escape” as “subvert”.”

              Unpack these bags, good sir.

            • Luke Breuer

              I still hear what I at one point thought was the voice of God/Jesus, but have learned what it actually is.

              What was this voice like? Did it do a lot of condemning? Did it help you overcome weakness and/or help you enhance your strengths? Compared to people you know, how does/did this voice compare?

              You see, I did not choose to lose my faith, the facts that I became lucid of chose for me.

              Recall that I do not hold to doxastic voluntarism. That is a radical position that effectively denies that the will has any meaningful ‘momentum’. One way of viewing ‘time’ is to look at how long patterns last; I see some connection between length of time and ‘momentum’, especially when we look into what effects the patterns can have, and how ‘fragile’ they are to being disturbed.

              Why would I choose to believe that A: my life has no intrinsic meaning, and B: free will is illusory?

              Easily: if the answers you were given were shite. I almost lost my faith, because I saw a wonderful-seeming reality being described in the NT with no real-world reification. Then I went to university and encountered a life-altering Christian fellowship. It was student-led, with an older guy who was but a long-time mentor, like a historian. Students had real responsibilities, could truly change the direction of the group, and in the end, every member of the group was equal to every other member. There was no “metaphysical tyranny”; one could easily forget that a given gathering had Roman Catholics, Arminians, Calvinists, Eastern Orthodox, and Quakers. Mt 5:43-48, Jn 13:34-35, Jn 17:20-23 came alive, as did Mt 5:23-24, Mt 18:15-20, Eph 4:25-27.

              In fact, what I currently hold to be true is the very antithesis of comforting.

              I never said my beliefs were comforting. I am a bit of an odd Christian. I grew up “despised and rejected by men” (Is 53:3), and to much less of an extant than one of my close friends. This gives one a very different view of the faith than most. It let me see the evil that lurked within. You’ve read that Solzhenitsyn quotation I like to paste, right? Last paragraph.

              I’m glad you’re at least trying to do this :) But a simulation is lacking in several important ways. Until you have actually ceased to believe in something, you cannot fully know what it encompasses.

              True. But it’s not clear that you have delved into Christianity like I have. One way to describe my approach is that I view the Bible as a giant set of equations, which I am attempting to match to reality in a way that they don’t become fuzzy. There seems to be a tendency to fuzz over texts which are difficult; this results in information loss, and I believe it lets people construct small worlds that the Bible was, in part, meant to puncture. I describe many contemporary Christian teachings as “two dimensional”, and contrast them to “three dimensional” versions that I discover from time to time.

              Take, for example, the Pearl of Great Price. Who or what is the pearl? Many Christians will tell you it is the kingdom of heaven, and that we do the buying. But this does extraordinary violence to the text! And it doesn’t match e.g. Is 43:4. Why do people think that the pearl is the kingdom of heaven? It helps them maintain their view of people as worthless until they are saved by Jesus. This is heresy. I’d highly suggest reading the first three paragraphs under “Problem #2” in A Critical Review of John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart. In them, the reviewer notes how his attitude changed, from a shitty one to a good one. And now we can better understand 2 Cor 5:16-17 and Mt 6:22-23: viewing people according to the spirit allows you to see beauty within even when the flesh mars and obscures it. God sees us as pearls before we confess Christ. We can choose to do the same to others. If we do, the light in us becomes light, not darkness.

              I’m not attempting to discredit your attempts, but you will never actually see the world through the eyes of a skeptic/atheist.

              Correct. But is this a bad thing? Nobody can know what it is like to see things from all perspectives. Intersubjectivity is Key. I’m a bit amazed that I wrote that as my first and only blog post so far; it seems to loom larger and larger as being incredibly important as I continue discussing online.

              The question, then, is why could Yahweh not have done the same with us?

              Perhaps the answer is that there was another being fucking things up. In the vein of The Screwtape Letters and The Gravedigger File, it can be useful to view opposition to one’s goals as an intelligent agency. I claim this is valid, per model-dependent realism. And the better the model fits, the more confident one can be that the picture of the thing might really be pretty accurate.

              Surely God would have some inkling as to what pain and suffering would be like, so for Him to not act seems very wrong.

              How do we know he didn’t act? Again, either (a) God couldn’t have acted differently and we have no freedom of will, or (b) God could have acted differently, but we also have this same freedom of will. I know there is a (c), but I reject it and can explain why if you would like. But you have to realize whether you are assuming (a) no freedom; or (b) freedom, in how you’ve framed that question.

              If you truly believe no limitations can be imposed upon Him, why could he not have found a way to alleviate suffering without violating our free will? To claim that he could not is to limit an allegedly limitless being.

              Ultimately, I think this boils down to two facts: (1) love does not compel; (2) we are made in the image of God and thus exposed to all of reality, not a sandbox or bowling lane with bumpers. Were we lesser beings, perhaps we wouldn’t even be cognizant of pain and suffering in the way we are. Would that be better? I’m not so sure. Maybe it would be better for those who deny freedom of the will?

              You’re honestly not vague all that often, Luke. I think that a large part of the blame falls upon my shoulders here. You approach problems in a different manner than most Christians I have encountered, and perhaps I have been hasty to attach the “vague” label on you.

              Because I trust you, the label doesn’t bother me much. And because you can tell me when I have made progress in being less vague, I actually appreciate when you point out when I’m being vague! :-) I think we both understand that we’re trying to learn from each other in this exchange, even if the only learning is to be able to simulate the other person’s viewpoint better. That, in and of itself, is a valuable enterprise to me. It seems like it might also be valuable to you? Just understanding how other humans think, deep down and not in caricatured ways, seems like its own reward.

              From now on, I will make an honest effort to elucidate you on why I believe you’re vague, when you are.

              Thanks! And let me know if you see how I could better help you formulate your own ideas. I can’t sufficiently explain how wonderful it is to work on developing ideas with someone, instead of in opposition to them. I have spent much of my life developing ideas in opposition, and it is a painful, slow, tedious, annoying process. I can do it, but I very much enjoy when there is an easier way. Thank you for being willing to provide that easier way! I know it takes more energy, but in the end, I think it is much more fulfilling for all involved.

              I believe you did, but what does this really, at bottom, have to do with free will in human beings? We are complex biological machines, so I do not see a useful correlation here. Perhaps I’ve missed something?

              The metaphor was that freedom of the will can be modeled as the ability to apply small ∆v‘s to one’s course in life, with the result that they can build up over time. The idea of Lagrangian points is especially useful, because sometimes one needs to apply only a mathematically infinitesimal force in order to vastly alter one’s ultimate trajectory. This model of freedom of the will very much requires that one make the appropriate course adjustments throughout one’s life. It very much rejects the idea that you can just alter your velocity arbitrarily, in large quantities. The ∆v one can apply is small in comparison to one’s v. Long, protracted, concerted efforts are often required.

              Unpack these bags, good sir.

              That gave me a good belly laugh. :-D My best understanding of freedom of the will is that it can happen via (a) quantum fluctuations; (b) altering the time-evolution of quantum state in subtle ways; this is related to the measurement problem. Both of these methods are what one might call ‘weak’; they start from the extremely small, and can only build up to the large if they are appropriately ‘protected’ from other neutralizing (or randomizing) forces. I believe this ‘protection’ comes via knowledge.

              Very wise people know how to utilize the “butterfly effect”, making very small efforts early on, and maybe giving the evolving process a small ‘nudge’ here or there. When done right, one can achieve spectacular results with seemingly very little effort of the will/strength. Gargantuan efforts of the mind are often required. One can also build up ‘power’ (perhaps ‘karma’?) which can be “used up” at the appropriate times, to make statements and sometimes effect changes. For example, see Top U.S. Scientific Misconduct Official Quits in Frustration With Bureaucracy. The very act of resigning makes a huge statement that could change things for the better. But it’s also very much a risk. Whatever David Wright did to build up people’s conceptions of his excellent character will count toward a positive change; whether it will be enough is for the future to decide.

              The book Hating Perfection: A Subtle Search for the Best Possible World rocked my world, for it explained a model of divine action (which should be contrasted to [occasional] divine intervention). How would Yahweh both interact in the world, but rarely violate freedom of the will? He would do much of it through subtlety. Perhaps the ultimate version of this is God deciding which way things go from a Lagrangian point, where there is no ‘smallest force’ which can change the trajectory of a particle. What if there are Lagrangian points all over reality? I find the possibility fascinating. It would make profound the word ‘weakness’ in verses like 1 Cor 1:25.

              If this model of freedom of the will is accurate, Jesus “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” is one of the most profound statements possible. Jonathan Pearce’s project of identifying all the various ways that human behavior is ‘determined’ is very much a part of “You shall know the truth”. Once humans learn the rules of the game well enough, they beat them. It happens all the time. It makes studying human behavior both frustrating and fascinating.

              This all has incredibly relevant consequences for human–human interaction. How do we respect each other’s dignity? By not compelling, but pointing out ‘Lagrangian points’ for each other, and perhaps helping us go through them so we can make actual, free choices. Compare this to much of our modern culture, which attempts to keep us off-balance and always wanting more of e.g. what is currently being advertised. It is almost as if the modern world wants to keep most people comfortably far away from any and all ‘Lagrangian points’. This way all the little people act in predictable ways and can be kept under control.

            • Void L. Walker

              “What was this voice like? ”

              How can one properly describe this? The voice was gentle, loving, understanding, full of advice. Sound Christy enough for you?

              “Easily: if the answers you were given were shite.”

              Firstly, how would you feel if I said the same of you?

              Second, to the very best of my ability/knowledge, the answers I’ve found are the most effective and clear I can conceive of. I did NOT want to lose my faith. It hurt (much more than you can apparently grasp), and the scars remain. I would never, ever have gone through that hell if it weren’t for convincing enough evidence. In fact, I see no way of EVER going back to any kind of faith at this point. Trust me, Luke, I’ve thought about this a LOT. Telling me that I just didn’t get the right answers or try hard enough is incredibly insulting.

              “True. But it’s not clear that you have delved into Christianity like I have.”

              Perhaps that’s because you’ve never asked? I was a Christian for 12 years and thought about my faith at length. In fact, I thought about it more than anyone else in my entire family. I devoured dozens of books on apologetics, philosophy. I spent dozens of hours discussing EVERY detail you can imagine with friends, pastors, a number of theologians. You seem confused by the fact that, in spite of my previously very strong faith (and very deep understanding of Yahweh), I became an Atheist. Well, I did! I had as deep an understanding of Yahwehs nature as you do, Luke (so far as I can tell, based upon that which you have revealed). I studied just as hard as you and many other Christians, but I lost my faith. Why is that hard to grasp? I simply cannot believe anymore, period. Trust me, I tried to in the past.

              “Perhaps the answer is that there was another being fucking things up”

              Who, Satan? Back we are, right where we started so long ago. You simply cannot call God maximally loving if He created beings capable of enacting first causes. He would be aware of the probabilities of negative actions, thereby making him culpable to a degree. I see no logic in this at all.

              You always retort with “Well, God valued free will. Do you want him to be controlling?” Why is it either or, here? Why must it be either God allowed evil into the world because “free will”, or God is controlling? This is a very limited approach, Luke. An omni being has no limits.

              “Correct. But is this a bad thing? Nobody can know what it is like to see things from all perspectives”

              I never said that anyone could. I said that I speak from a unique perspective, because I have been a strong believer, and then found myself in disbelief. I have a dual view of faith and non faith.

              “The metaphor was that freedom of the will can be modeled as the ability to apply small ∆v’s to one’s course in life”

              Again, to make a claim that human beings are “first cause” agents, you must demonstrate how we can somehow violate chains of causation (environment, genes, culture). If you cannot do so, you simply cannot make the claim that we can initiate first causes.

            • Luke Breuer

              How can one properly describe this? The voice was gentle, loving, understanding, full of advice. Sound Christy enough for you?

              Each of those words—’gentle’, ‘loving’, ‘understanding’, ‘advice’—can be defined terribly, or well. C.S. Lewis gets at ‘loving’ quite compellingly in Till We Have Faces, as well as The Great Divorce. Not all forms of love are equal. Gentleness is a complicated thing; was Jesus being ‘gentle’ with the Pharisees? Perhaps he was; perhaps he gave them the most gentle interaction which gave them the option to soften their hard hearts. Some hearts were softened. Understanding is also incredibly complicated; it gets at the very core of what our “inner lives” are like. Does Jesus approve of everything in the inner life? Does he outright reject some bits? Does he see beauty that is marred? etc.

              Perhaps one way to give me more of an idea, if it isn’t too personal, would be to give me examples of this ‘advice’. Did it, in the long run, promote healing and wholeness? Did it build you up? Did it make you a better person?

              Firstly, how would you feel if I said the same of you?

              If I held shite beliefs, I would want to know. I would like to think that I am past needing to cling to things that are crap. If I hold beliefs which are actively causing me and/or others damage, or if there are beliefs which I could be holding which would promote a better world, I want to know about them. I want to understand them, and probably have someone else help me understand them, by giving me one or two perspectives other than my own, narrow one.

              Telling me that I just didn’t get the right answers or try hard enough is incredibly insulting.

              I’m not aware of claiming that you didn’t “try hard enough”—what did I say that could be interpreted this way? I thought I said that I myself almost lost my faith, and probably wouldn’t have if I hadn’t experienced a group of Christians who made me believe that maybe the NT was onto something. Trying hard enough is not enough; reality has to actually match what’s in the Bible. Perhaps it is a unique attribute to Christianity that a single person cannot bring that reality into existence, unless perhaps that person is Jesus himself. Christianity is intensely communal, not such that individuality is squashed, but such that unity is utterly required.

              Why is it insulting to suppose that maybe you got crap answers? I’ve gotten crap answers. I’ve also been blessed to get some not-crap answers. Neither of these was of my own, personal doing. We stand on the shoulders of giants, not on our own shoulders. If, in life, we’ve been given few or no giants with shoulders worth standing on, we’re going to suffer the consequences, to little to no fault of our own.

              I apologize for saying something that was insulting, but if you do not help me understand how it was insulting, I will have to severely curtail what and how I say things, to minimize the risk of repeating my mistake. I am built differently from many other people, and thus have this tendency to insult when I never intended to. It makes socialization extremely hard, because many people are pretty unforgiving. Fortunately, you are not that way.

              Perhaps that’s because you’ve never asked?

              I appear to have insulted you again; my apologies. Some of the questions you’ve asked indicated to me that there were areas I have investigated a lot that you hadn’t. But perhaps you just weren’t forthright about your own investigations. I will ask more questions in the future and guess less.

              I studied just as hard as you and many other Christians, but I lost my faith. Why is that hard to grasp?

              It’s not so much hard to grasp as there isn’t much to grasp yet. Despite our many comments, I hardly know you! Perhaps this is a way to better understand. What do you find to be (a) the most beautiful; (b) the most life-changing; (c) the most ugly; (d) the most evil bits of the Bible?

              You simply cannot call God maximally loving if He created beings capable of enacting first causes.

              Why? Is a truly free being not worth any cost in suffering and pain whatsoever? This is a very strong position which you are taking.

              Why is it either or, here? Why must it be either God allowed evil into the world because “free will”, or God is controlling? This is a very limited approach, Luke. An omni being has no limits.

              I believe that either God cannot violate the laws of logic, or he wouldn’t, because that would inhibit our ability to understand him and what he has made. If you reject this latter claim, it seems that you’re arguing for a model of cognition that has little to no structure?

              Again, to make a claim that human beings are “first cause” agents, you must demonstrate how we can somehow violate chains of causation (environment, genes, culture). If you cannot do so, you simply cannot make the claim that we can initiate first causes.

              This is not true. We have to accept some “ground level of givens” when doing science, and when understanding life. I am happy to acknowledge that environment, genes, and culture all exert powerful forces on our wills. That being said, people can always transcend the current system, for good or for ill. How precisely they do this is something I don’t think I have to completely understand, in order to make use of. A person can operate a vehicle without understanding how internal combustion works. Folks could use compasses before magnetism was understood.

              Denial of freedom of the will turns all interaction into manipulation. Human society has gone through phases where all interaction was admitted to be manipulation. From After Virtue:

              Writing in the 1170s Alan [of Lille] sees the pagan writers not so much as representing a rival moral scheme as providing resources for answering political questions. The virtues of which the pagan writers treat are useful qualities in creating and sustaining an earthly social order; charity can transform them into genuine virtues, the practice of which leads to man’s supernatural and heavenly end. (171)

              Remove charity, remove the kind of sacrifice Jesus exemplified, and we are merely complicated particles bouncing into each other, with every action justified by the fact that it could not have been different. Those who are in power were fated to be in power. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, just ‘like’ and ‘dislike’. Might is right, for might is all there is. Nietzsche would be correct: all is about the will to power, no matter how veiled it is.

              Maybe the above is correct. Maybe I’m in denial. What I suggest is that I try and build a world based on my conception of the will, and others can build worlds based on their conceptions. Then, we can compare & contrast the results.

            • Void L. Walker

              “Perhaps one way to give me more of an idea, if it isn’t too personal, would be to give me examples of this ‘advice’. Did it, in the long run, promote healing and wholeness? Did it build you up? Did it make you a better person?”

              Yes, yes and yes. It simply FELT divine, by nature. It moved me in ways that few things can. It’s called internal monologue. People of different faiths all experience it, but interpret it as THEIR God speaking to them. I’m sorry, but the idea of anything speaking to us directly is absurd. How could you even begin to distinguish between internal monologue and a dude who’s been dead for 2,000 years?

              The voices that we have in our heads are our own, and that is all there is to it. If you disagree, show me some actual evidence of the contrary.

              “I’m not aware of claiming that you didn’t “try hard enough”

              It was more an insinuation than a claim, on your part. At least that’s what I got from what you said to me.

              “Why is it insulting to suppose that maybe you got crap answers?”

              That you’re even asking me that is incredible. You only believe that my answers MAY be crap because they’re at odds with yours, and you are fairly certain that you’re right (which, by default, renders me wrong).

              “It’s not so much hard to grasp as there isn’t much to grasp yet.”

              Frankly, it would probably take me 5,000+ words to properly convey to you the type of Christian that I was. Trust me, though, I thought through my shit very carefully. More than a lot of christians do, I might add. Unless you honestly believe that your average christian spends upwards of 30 hours a week doing research, discussing theology with a variety of people, etc.

              “Why? Is a truly free being not worth any cost in suffering and painwhatsoever? This is a very strong position which you are taking.”

              As I’ve said (many, many times) before, why should suffering/pain even exist to begin with? Why should either one be a necessary outcome of free will? Completely nonsensical, to be frank.

              “I believe that either God cannot violate the laws of logic, or hewouldn’t, because that would inhibit our ability to understand him and what he has made. If you reject this latter claim, it seems that you’re arguing for a model of cognition that has little to no structure?”

              Why, exactly, would this inhibit our ability to understand Him?

              What I’m arguing for here is this either or scenario that you continually lay in front of me. Either God allows for suffering/evil in the name of free will, or he prevents suffering/evil which in turn makes him a control freak. No middle ground? No alternatives? Once again, this limits God.

              “This is not true”

              Sigh.

              First causation, like God, is clearly what you believe He instilled within us. Several, several problems arise with this. We cannot be first cause agents, Luke! We are an amalgam of priori (genes, culture, childhood experiences, native language, sexual experiences, friendships, traumas, etc). How could we possibly, even remotely within reason, be considered capable of enacting a first cause when PRIOR causes are responsible for our wills? Can you please answer this for me? If you’re going to equate our wills with God (who had no cause), you must face this head on. I’ve not yet seen you do so.

              My tone may have been a little shrill or rude here, if so, apologies.

            • Luke Breuer

              That you’re even asking me that is incredible. You only believe that my answers MAY be crap because they’re at odds with yours, and you are fairly certain that you’re right (which, by default, renders me wrong).

              I’m going to take this as a strong clue that actually my answers are the ones that are crap. I will be taking an indefinite amount of time off from this conversation if not all of Disqus.

            • Void L. Walker

              You misunderstood me, Luke. I never said your answers were crap, I said that you gave me the impression MINE were. I do not see how I said what you think.

            • Luke Breuer

              I was also responding to the “incredible”. As if it was wrong for me to ask such a question. As if I’d have to be a pretty fucked up person to ask such a question. Well, perhaps I am. This calls for deep introspection and reflection on my part.

            • Void L. Walker

              Luke, I’m sorry if I gave you the wrong impression. The truth is, I enjoy going back and forth with you more than just about anyone I’ve encountered online.

              I’ve been meaning to ask you: you have told me that you were (Biblically speaking) “despised” by most men. Would you care to elaborate on this for me? I get the impression (from what you have told me) that you’re like a bad ass half lizard mutant….I need clarification :-p If your reasons for this are a tad more private, I understand.

              Actually, would you like my email address? I can grant you access to the wonderful world of ME, pretty much free of charge. Passing this sort of opportunity up would be akin to declining a check for 5 million dollars.

            • Void L. Walker

              I suppose that if we did indeed have true freedom of the will it would impact me in two major ways. Firstly, I would be utterly elated. I used to believe in DFW, and those were some monumentally joyous days. I felt as though I truly was the master of my own destiny; that I could change the world in meaningful, resonating ways through my ability to deliberate between options A, B, C. I would STILL feel that way today, were I still behind it.

              Secondly, I would pause to re evaluate many admitted assumptions regarding human nature, the meaning of life, how important my choices were in the grand scheme of things, etc.

              I hope that clarifies :) Sorry about my earlier post, I thought you asked me how I would be affected by the absence of free will (that I thought you asked that is puzzling indeed).

              As an aside, I really WANT free will to be a reality. I do. I just do not see any convincing evidence that I could have done B instead of A.

            • Luke Breuer

              How would you know that you could have done B instead of A? Is that knowable?

              Do you no longer feel/think that you “could change the world in meaningful, resonating ways”?

            • Void L. Walker

              That’s just it, we can NEVER know if we could have done A instead of B; to even ask the question seems meaningless to me. In the past, I honestly thought that I COULD have done A rather than B, but that was a different me altogether.

              I do, to a degree, think that I can change the world in meaningful ways. I just don’t think that free will (the variety that you subscribe to) is necessary for that. If you want me to elaborate, I will.

            • Luke Breuer

              That’s just it, we can NEVER know if we could have done A instead of B; to even ask the question seems meaningless to me.

              Ahh, but if we can never know, does that mean (a) it doesn’t happen, or (b) we cannot know when it happens? It seems that we’re more in a position of not being able to justifiably know we have freedom, which is very different from justifiably knowing that we don’t have freedom!

              I do, to a degree, think that I can change the world in meaningful ways. I just don’t think that free will (the variety that you subscribe to) is necessary for that. If you want me to elaborate, I will.

              I would like you to elaborate. In particular, I’m interested in whether you think that your current conception of what is good and what is evil can change, for the better. :-)

            • Void L. Walker

              “Ahh, but if we can never know, does that mean (a) it doesn’t happen, or (b) we cannot know when it happens? It seems that we’re more in a position of not being able to justifiably know we have freedom, which is very different from justifiably knowing that we don’t have freedom!”

              — True, what I meant is that there ARE meaningful questions one could ask regarding whether we have free will or not, and I certainly do not count such a deeply conjectural one such as that among them.

              “I would like you to elaborate. In particular, I’m interested in whether you think that your current conception of what is good and what is evil can change, for the better. :-)”

              — I suppose that my view could be best summed as follows: through the course of our evolution, we have nearly faced extinction a few times. I believe (and there is growing evidence to support this) that altruism, empathy and theory of mind evolved as a means of keeping us closely knit; a more functional, coherent unit is far more apt at surviving the rigors of nature. Essentially, whether we have free will or not, I think we are all capable of doing good things. We can all make a difference in the world, strive for a better, healthier, happier future. Assuming we do NOT have free will, it is still readily apparent that, regardless, we ARE indeed capable of working towards common goals for the betterment of our species. I hope that’s in depth enough.

              As for whether my conception of good and evil can change, I do think so. But not in the way you may want it to. As I’ve said, studying evolution has taught me a LOT of things, one of which being that a lot of the concepts we hold are just that, conceptual by nature. Good and Evil are, in my opinion, natural things. Have you noticed that we deem something good if it facilitates the well being of our peers? We label something as evil, generally, if it acts AGAINST our peers/well being. So you see, the two are socially rooted things. We are a highly social animal, so it really makes sense under a naturalistic light.

            • Luke Breuer

              True, what I meant is that there ARE meaningful questions one could ask regarding whether we have free will or not, and I certainly do not count such a deeply conjectural one such as that among them.

              What are some examples of such “meaningful questions”?

              Essentially, whether we have free will or not, I think we are all capable of doing good things.

              Many conceptions of evolutions have the less-fit dying off, them and their family lines, or more precisely, their genes. Do you think this ‘dying off’ should be accelerated, ameliorated, or left alone? Another way of asking this is, “Who are ‘we’?” History is full of ‘we’s which are a subset of living humans. Many Christians would argue that ‘we’ ought to include unborn but past-fertilization humans. The definition of this word is absolutely critical.

              As I’ve said, studying evolution has taught me a LOT of things, one of which being that a lot of the concepts we hold are just that, conceptual by nature.

              You seem to be arguing isought; if this is not so, would you explain how it isn’t?

            • Void L. Walker

              “What are some examples of such “meaningful questions”?”

              Can we cognitively, experimentally detect when a person decides to do something, and why? I think the most important questions we can ask wrt free will are neurological ones. After all, we are our brains. Free will, if it exists, should be something we can quantify and measure in the brain (unless you’re a dualist?). For instance, I’d love for someone to do a study of the will in a subject suffering from dementia.

              “Many conceptions of evolutions have the less-fit dying off, them and their family lines, or more precisely, their genes. Do you think this ‘dying off’ should be accelerated, ameliorated, or left alone?”

              These conceptions seldom ever apply to members WITHIN a highly social unit, such as us. True, spreading our genes is of the utmost importance, but how we SURVIVE to get to that point is on equal footing. Therefore, understanding the importance of compassion and empathy as well as it’s evolutionary roots is very, VERY important. As I’ve said, we simply would never have survived as a species were it not for these traits.

              “You seem to be arguing is ⇒ ought; if this is not so, would you explain how it isn’t?”

              Apologies, that is not what I meant to convey. What I meant is that our brains have evolved to model the world in certain ways, and those ways in which we model it are pretty much survival based. It is hard to find something about us that is exempt from this general rule of thumb. So Evil and Good (whatever you wish to call them), as I explained prior, are social mechanisms that promote cooperation and survival

            • Nerdsamwich

              It wouldn’t. If there is no free will, I don’t have a choice but to hold the beliefs that I do.

            • Void L. Walker

              Have you looked into determinism much? A lot of what it says about human behavior does not really take away the concept of choice, but rather it limits it in a few ways. Our sense of self and will is a construct of genes, environment, culture. This, however, does NOT mean (in itself) that we are meat robots who have no say in the matter.

              What type of free will to you subscribe to? Or do you have a name for it?

            • Nerdsamwich

              I honestly don’t know. I like to believe that I have a choice in what I’m going to do or think, but if I don’t, I will still have to think that I do. It’s the kind of recursive conundrum that used to keep me up at night, back before parenting made not sleeping a non-option.

            • Void L. Walker

              I think that believing we can do otherwise is important, even necessary, regardless of whether we actually CAN or not.

              When you consider the evolution of our brains/minds, cognitive “safeguards” really make sense. We often feel that we can do certain things, achieve certain things that we simply cannot. Meaning is a fine example of what I’m getting at, in that we seek intrinsic meaning in many of our pursuits (often through a religious lens). Now, it is apparent to me how devoid of meaning (in the sense I’ve laid out) that our lives are, but modeling the world in such a way is conducive to happiness and comfort, which in turn grants us more malleability behaviorally.

              Do you see what I’m getting at?

            • Nerdsamwich

              Indeed. Like I said, the only thing I take on faith is that I can choose whether or not to take free will on faith.

            • Void L. Walker

              Unrelated,, but were you ever a Christian?

            • Nerdsamwich

              I was raised and baptized Lutheran-ish, but Robert Ingersoll brought me to the light, as it were. Why?

            • Void L. Walker

              I just like asking that question to people, it’s a subject of interest to me. I was raised fundamentalist evangelical. It interests me to see how people found there way out of an established system of belief. Robert Ingersoll was quite brilliant, I must say. For me (cliche as it may sound) science led me out.

            • Nerdsamwich

              Although, the Bible did a good bit of the groundwork. I read Job and Kings before a friend recommended Ingersoll, and was greatly comforted by an idea which previously hadn’t really occurred to me: that YHWH was just a story. The truth has set me free.

            • Void L. Walker

              For me the bible was also quite instrumental. In particular, pretty much all of Genesis. Young earth, global flood, confusion of languages. All of which completely at odds with what the actual science says.

              It is odd to have been raised believing something so completely, such as the stories of the Torah. Reality certainly is a bit different.

            • Nerdsamwich

              Eating the fruit is discovering, not deciding. In a world with no Fall, there would be no knowledge of good and evil. Realize that this does not necessarily mean that there is no evil, just that people don’t know it. Dingoes might steal 99% of babies, but the mothers don’t feel the lack, and no one ever thinks to put up a fence, because that’s just the way things are, and who are mere humans to change that? Only after the Fall can humans recognize what is wrong, and therefore begin to do something about it.

            • Luke Breuer

              Eating the fruit is discovering, not deciding.

              I disagree: if you eat something, you integrate it into your being, quite literally. If you only touch it, on the other hand, then you don’t. Notice that Eve seems to have added the “no touching” command; it wasn’t there when God commanded Adam. It could easily be that Adam and Eve were welcome to slice open one of the pieces of fruit and see e.g. that it had no seeds inside, and whatever else.

              In a world with no Fall, there would be no knowledge of good and evil.

              There might be no yada knowledge, but that’s not the only kind of knowledge. One can have knowledge about, like hearing about someone who got shot in the stomach. Experiential knowledge is very different. See the term “book knowledge”, and all that goes with it.

              You could also read CS Lewis’ space trilogy, where he has an inhabitant from Earth talking to an Eve who hasn’t fallen. They are able to talk about evil just fine. I’m sure God would have been happy to tell Adam and Eve about the nature of evil, just like God warned Cain about his raging emotions and where they would take him if he didn’t make the right choice.

              Only after the Fall can humans recognize what is wrong, and therefore begin to do something about it.

              Someone who has never been raped can campaign against rape. And one only needs to do something about evil if there is evil. Suppose that there was evil outside of the Garden of Eden: I’m sure Adam and Eve could have understood it without participating in it, or in any evil whatsoever.

            • Nerdsamwich

              “If you eat of the fruit, you will become as one of the gods, *knowing good from evil*.”-the Serpent
              Of course, it’s an academic distinction; mythology is full of tales of humans stealing power that is reserved for the gods alone, usually being punished for it, sometimes praised for their resourcefulness. The real story of the Fall is one of fear. Elohim were afraid of human potential. “The man has eaten the Fruit of Knowledge. Lest he eat also of the Tree of Life, and become as one of the gods, he must be cast out.” It happened again at Babel: “If they accomplish this thing, then nothing that they thereafter propose to do will be impossible for them. Therefore we will set them one against the other.” Like Sid from Toy Story, the gods became terrified of their playthings. Unlike Sid, they were able to strike out at what they feared.

            • Luke Breuer

              Of course, it’s an academic distinction; mythology is full of tales of humans stealing power that is reserved for the gods alone, usually being punished for it, sometimes praised for their resourcefulness.

              Hey, that’s a neat realization; I’d never looked at Gen 3 & 11 that way. Thanks for making me think new, interesting thoughts! That being said, I disagree in this case. There is good reason to not want to let a being who has called ‘evil’, ‘good’, to live forever. Indeed, any being who refuses to let go of an evil belief needs to ultimately die, because that belief will inevitably cause pain and suffering, the longer said being lives.

              As to Babel, I’ve always understood that as a response to the refusal of mankind to spread out all over the earth. If you read up on ziggurats, you’ll find that one reason for them was to provide safety from regional flooding; example here. But there was another function of them: the priests could refuse entrance to anyone they didn’t like. The ‘military’ design of at least some ziggurats allowed a very small force to repel a larger one, allowing a small force (priests and their guards) a vast amount of control.

              So, while your explanation does fit the evidence, it seems to only fit shallowly. By that, I mean that the explanation ends approximately where you have it ending, while my explanations dig more deeply. This doesn’t mean they are true of course, but I think the possibility of a deeper explanation renders the shallower explanation suspicious on that very ground.

              I would especially challenge you to compare Gen 1-11 with contemporary creation myths, to see where it is similar but also, where it differs. It seems quite rational to me that Yahweh would talk in the language familiar to the peoples of the time, altering only the necessary components to their ideas, and thus amplifying those differences. It would be like reading a child a story he/she has heard many times, but messing with just a few places. The child would know immediately what you have done. It would stick out like a sore thumb. Furthermore, people tend to learn this way—by little alterations of what they knew already—instead of a wholesale replacement of one network of beliefs with another.

            • Nerdsamwich

              I don’t think it’s a narrow reading at all. It was a great epiphany when I realized that lowly man had the power to instill fear in mighty El. All over the OT, there are hints that the God of Abraham is not all he’s cracked up to be, this one is big. How supreme can a being be if it fears its own art?
              “There is good reason to not want to let a being who has called ‘evil’, ‘good’, to live forever.” I agree with you on this statement, but that’s not what’s happening. What’s going on here is independence. Adam and Eve can now see for themselves what’s good and what’s bad; they no longer have to rely on the judgement of the Elohim. They awakened their own sense of right and wrong. They didn’t see evil and call it good. No, for the first time in their short existences, they could look upon evil and know it for what it was. Seems to me that the only being threatened by that kind of awakening is one that is hiding his own lack of goodness.

            • Luke Breuer

              Supposing that, as Genesis 1-2 states, the Elohim created all of reality, then it seems rational to suppose that [it could be the case that] physical laws ⇒ moral laws, and that Adam and Eve had the option to either:

                   (1) discover the moral laws
                   (2) decide the moral laws

              There is no such thing as getting out from under the thumb of the Elohim if the ‘⇒’ holds. They can certainly try to do (2), but it would ultimately bite them in the ass. We can distinguish between ways of living that have a half-life, and ways of living that can truly last forever, perhaps spiraling toward infinity in glorious and beautiful ways.

              Again, if the Elohim created everything and if the ‘⇒’ holds, then there is no ‘freedom’ from the description of the moral laws that the Elohim state, unless they are lying or worse (?), ignorant.

              Do you follow me so far?

            • Nerdsamwich

              I get what you’re saying, but that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that the eating of the fruit is what allowed mankind to discover what is good and what is evil. Prior to that act, they had no discernment, and so were dependent of divine proclamation for such knowledge. “They covered not themselves, for they knew not that they were naked.” Disobeying the command and eating the fruit gave them a moral sense of their own, so that they could tell when divine law might be less than just. None of this gave them the ability to decide right from wrong, just to know it.
              As for the “laws of physics/laws of morals” thing, if that were true, you would be unable to do the wrong thing, any more than you can exceed the speed of light, or be unaffected by gravity.

            • Luke Breuer

              I get that’s not what you’re saying; we are offering competing analyses of the same text. It happens all the time!

              As to “physical laws ⇒ moral laws”, I don’t think your conclusion follows, unless there is no freedom of the will. Despite my inability to define precisely how freedom of the will works, I assert it. The world makes more sense to me with that assertion, than without it. This method of positing properties is not foreign to science; see Bohr’s model of the atom, in which he made shit up to fit the evidence. And guess what; it was useful shit. :-)

            • Nerdsamwich

              Right. Because I also accept the existence of free will, I reject your equivalence of physics and morals. Such moral laws would be, by definition, intrinsically inviolable. We can tell just by turning on the news that that is not the case.

            • Luke Breuer

              Quantum fluctuations can “violate” the conservation of mass-energy for short periods of time. Why not have moral laws which can be “violated” for longer periods of time?

            • Nerdsamwich

              You’d have to postulate(or discover) a “quantum morality”, some kind of incredibly small-scale moral activity. Unless you’re saying that we are the quantum-level moral event, in which case you need to argue for a macro-level.

            • Luke Breuer

              My point was that science has shown that some law get violated, for a restricted amount of time. Why couldn’t there be laws of objective morality which likewise can be violated for restricted amounts of time? This doesn’t seem like a ludicrous proposition to me, but it seems like a ludicrous one to you.

            • Nerdsamwich

              They don’t get violated. There are indeed fluctuations, but it’s a net zero. Particle, antiparticle. Do you want evil to necessarily equal and cancel good? Besides, such fluctuations are random; are you going to argue for randomly fluctuating distinctions between right and wrong? It wouldn’t even be wrong at the time it happened, because of the fluctuation. Quantum mechanics is too macro-incoherent to make the naturalistic fallacy non-fallacious.

            • Luke Breuer

              You are taking the analogy to places I did not intend. My point was to illustrate a law which is ‘broken’ for finite amounts of time. As to the result of the fluctuations being a “net zero”, that is true in the sense of conserved mass-energy, but they can still ‘do’ things; see Hawking radiation, via “virtual particles being “boosted” by the black hole’s gravitation into becoming real particles”.

              What we should really be talking about is information, and whether it is conserved or is growing. An awesome discussion of entropy and “hidden information” can be found at the Physics.SE Why is information indestructable? The highest-ranked answer shows how entropy is hidden information, and how to recover that information. But this merely says no information is lost; who is to say it is not gained? To find more on how it might be gained, I suggest looking at growing block universe. For if all time-evolution of quantum state is unitary, information is neither gained nor lost. For more, see the quantum no-deleting theorem.

              Suppose that free will somehow introduces new information. Who says that this introduction is not governed by certain moral laws, laws which are emergent properties of the physical laws of our universe? I see no reason to conclude that this is highly unlikely. An event which happens in a vanishingly small time is able to cause black holes to evaporate; this gives me sound reason to suppose that maybe there are analogous “temporary violations”, which can nonetheless be used to alter the course of history.

            • Nerdsamwich

              All of this fancy argumentation doesn’t change that you’re arguing for something rather absurd. Almost as absurd as reasoning by analogy to quantum mechanics, which is only understood itself by analogy to all but a very tiny handful of people. And quantum-like effects require a quantum-like structure. There need to be detectable particles of good and evil. If you’re right, it will be straightforward to prove it. Set up a detector. Find the goodron. You’ll make history.

            • Luke Breuer

              Why must I find a particle? Your position seems extremist: either there are no laws, or I have to provide a super-strict, rigorous, scientific model. Why this dichotomy? Why not say, for example, that systems where there is a dictator and peons is more like an unstable atom, which statistically will decay, with time constants placeable on that decay?

            • Nerdsamwich

              Because it’s silly. Dictatorships are the longest-lived form of government on the planet. You might even say that they’re the baseline model of governance. People seem to have an almost visceral need to surrender their autonomy that’s hard to overcome. Look at the various “People’s Revolutions” around the world.

              That’s kind of beside the point, though. You’re arguing that there are actual, physical laws of morality that operate in a quantum-mechanical manner. In order to fit those criteria, said laws would have to describe some sort of “goodness field” that undergoes quantum fluctuation, producing temporary local variances in the good level, causing events to slide “uphill” or “down” on the moral scale, as it were. I’ve already gone well beyond your description, but it’s hard to see where to stop. Do you understand what I’m getting at? If you’re serious about this, be prepared to go all the way with it. If you’re just trying Chopra together a quantum metaphor, don’t. It’s insufferable when Chopra does it, it’ll be insufferable when you do it too. Find a different analogy, if that’s all it is. But if you are talking about a proposed actual physical law of morality, you’d better be prepared to describe how it works, at least to the degree that Newton described inertia and gravity.

            • Luke Breuer

              Dictatorships are the longest-lived form of government on the planet.

              And yet they inevitably fall.

              You’re arguing that there are actual, physical laws of morality that operate in a quantum-mechanical manner.

              No, I did not intend to imply this:

              LB: You are taking the analogy to places I did not intend.

              Do you understand what I’m getting at? If you’re serious about this, be prepared to go all the way with it.

              I don’t see why this is required. The quantum metaphor was to show you how laws can be temporarily violated, and have real effects through this temporary violation; recall that you said:

              Ns: As for the “laws of physics/laws of morals” thing, if that were true, you would be unable to do the wrong thing, any more than you can exceed the speed of light, or be unaffected by gravity.

              To make my criticism more clear: “As for the law of the conservation of mass-energy, if that were true, quantum fluctuations would not happen.”

              Find a different analogy, if that’s all it is.

              I disagree; I inferred a false claim from what you said: that laws always are obeyed at all timescales. This is not true.

              But if you are talking about a proposed actual physical law of morality, you’d better be prepared to describe how it works, at least to the degree that Newton described inertia and gravity.

              When people were first suggesting that reality is rational and increasingly understandable, they could do nothing approaching Newton and his fantastic law of gravitation. That came after a lot of science leading up to it. I’m not doing nothing here; I’ve posed the Phil.SE question How could ‘objective morality’ be known/investigated?, as well as Are there laws which govern minds? No real bites. I’ve read Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue, which is a seminal work on virtue ethics and some of its competitors. I’ve suggested that just as we can research objective reality, that we can also research objective morality. And Sam Harris even sorta-kinda agrees, in his The Moral Landscape.

              Perhaps there is a way I look at this which you might like. Consider the moral/ethical requirements in order to even get capitalism or science off of the ground. One requires, for example, a certain amount of trust, between human beings. Rodney Stark, in The Victory of Reason, outlines how capitalism rose in Europe: crucial was banking by Italian families, who could ensure trust through family ties. So one way to look at morality/ethics is that if we want certain end results, we must obey certain rules to get them. Now just add to this the constant human desire for more, and you can see how any system which does not deliver will be agitated against. Over on WP’s page on Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation, we have:

              Schopenhauer presents a pessimistic picture on which unfulfilled desires are painful, and pleasure is merely the sensation experienced at the instant one such pain is removed. However, most desires are never fulfilled, and those that are fulfilled are instantly replaced by more unfulfilled ones.

              Now, Schopenhauer goes Buddhist, arguing that we ought to will that our wills become weaker. Nietzsche, originally a proselyte of Schopenhauer, later spurned him, developing his will to power. I need to read more Nietzsche, but he can be hard to penetrate.

              Anyhow, it seems to me that it is obvious that certain characteristics of the human psyche, and perhaps as rational agents per Kant, necessarily leads to certain moral laws. Now I’ve actually split those laws into two types:

                   (1) Laws which always hold, like tyrannies inevitably failing.

                   (2) Laws which are like building codes: fail to follow them and what you build will likely collapse after some amount of building.

              Both of these are important. We see (2) in e.g. our attempts to build quantum computers.

            • Nerdsamwich

              “And yet they inevitably fall.” Everything inevitably falls. Governments, societies, ways of life, even mountains. The only constant is change.

              What you’re describing in the latter part of our rebuttal is a system of pragmatism, not objective morality. Unless you have a very different definition of “morals” from the rest of your religious brethren. Are you sure you’re not a Deist, at least? None of the points that you make that make sense are very compatible with theism.

            • Luke Breuer

              Nope, I’m very far from deism. I’m not sure my definition of “morals” differs too much from e.g. Thomas Aquinas. The Thinker has done a lot of studying of popular contemporary religious apologeticists and writers, and found most of the people he read hold to a form of divine command theory he looks down upon, and probably rightly. I hold to a very different form of divine command theory, one which doesn’t exclude natural law. Aquinas and Duns Scotus do as well, from my brief reading. I would also suggest MacIntyre’s After Virtue and Wolterstorff’s Justice: Rights and Wrongs.

              I don’t think I’m advocating pragmatism. Consider, for example, negative index metamaterials. One can only construct such metamaterials if one follows the right laws. One doesn’t have to construct them—humans could have evolved and gone extinct without ever constructing them.

              Similarly, modern science and democracy and egalitarianism didn’t have to be developed. However, if one wants the results of any of these, one must follow the relevant laws—I believe that the answer to Are there laws which govern minds? is a firm “Yes!” Kant thought that the specifics of human psychology are irrelevant to these laws; George Lakoff thinks very differently (see embodied cognition). Either way, if we want certain results, we have to follow the relevant laws. In some case, the relevant moral laws.

              Now I return to Schopenhauer, or Buddhism, or Nietzsche, or any of the many people who have recognize the deep human need for more. Some think the solution to this need is to deny it—for the attempts to satiate the need have caused many bad things in history. The film Equilibrium is about a society which has developed a drug to that numbs all emotion, which also greatly limits the will, in an effort to avoid a fourth world war.

              An objective morality, vs. some system meant to serve some people and de facto enslave the rest, would allow all people equal opportunity to obtain more. Anything which is not impartial (God is impartial) will fail to construct ‘morality’. Instead, it will construct a system of control, like The Matrix.

              Perhaps ‘particle’ in the system of morality is the mind, and specifically, wanting more. This is a force which agitates against any and all inequality, the longer that inequality lasts. Whether or not some potential barrier can be erected which keeps society forever in the zone of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is a big question. It is almost the question of whether God is governing the universe and will eventually bring it to justice, or whether life will be shite for some people, not of their own accord, forever. The Christian believes one way; the atheist probably has more reason to believe the other way.

              In all of this, you can probably accuse me of ‘patternicity’. I freely assent to the accusation that I am looking for order where there may be no order. But if there is no order, the hope of creating a true morality seems virtually nonexistent. If there is a created order, a way for all to sing together and contribute to a single masterpiece, then it seems worth discovering. Different people will be willing to expend different amounts of effort to try and find it; this seems natural and good. The danger is if people are willing to sacrifice others to create their utopia; the Christian’s method is suspiciously different: Jesus died, and told his disciples to expect the same. Christians bought and freed slaves, and rescued orphans left to die via exposure; they did not instigate slave insurrections.

            • Nerdsamwich

              ” However, if one wants the results of any of these[modern science and democracy and egalitarianism], one must follow the relevant laws…” I think you’re putting the cart before the horse. It’s rather that certain patterns of thought and behavior give rise to the structures in question, not that folks aim for the structures, and develop the requisite thought and behavior patterns along the way.

            • Luke Breuer

              You might be right some of the time, but, for example, a lot of thought, discussion, and political theory went into e.g. the US Constitution.

            • Nerdsamwich

              Which was a codification and refinement of the thought and behavior patterns already practiced in that time and place. They grew out of the pervasive dissatisfaction with the old system, and the patterns that supported it. The Constitution, by the way, was the first time in history that a social contract was deliberately drawn up, rather than allowed to grow organically.

            • Luke Breuer

              You seemed to have been alluding to something analogous to unguided evolution; I provided an example more analogous to guided evolution. Or did I misunderstand?

            • Nerdsamwich

              All evolution is guided by changes in the environment. You’re thinking more along the lines of natural vs. artificial selection. Both work, both happen, one just happens whether you’re watching or not.

            • Luke Breuer

              Sigh. Many, many evolutionary biologists and evolutionists (nonscientists who defend the theory of evolution) would retch at your use of “guided by changes in the environment”. See RationalWiki’s Unguided evolution, Why Evolution is True’s What’s the problem with unguided evolution? (also on richarddawkins.net), Evolution News’ Unguided or Not? How Do Darwinian Evolutionists Define Their Theory?—need I find more?

            • Nerdsamwich

              To clarify, I didn’t mean guided toward a goal, unless that goal is basic reproductive fitness. The environment “guides” evolution much like landforms “guide” a river: mostly by being in the way.

            • Luke Breuer

              It would be better to not use the word ‘guide’, in both my opinion, and other people who I would have thought you’d respect. If we dilute the meanings of words, we destroy them and render precise communication exceedingly hard.

              Now let’s return to your statement:

              Which was a codification and refinement of the thought and behavior patterns already practiced in that time and place. They grew out of the pervasive dissatisfaction with the old system, and the patterns that supported it. The Constitution, by the way, was the first time in history that a social contract was deliberately drawn up, rather than allowed to grow organically.

              Evolution does not guarantee any particular goal. It does not guarantee, e.g., a movement toward egalitarianism. Indeed, have you read Jonathan’s recent Why I am going on strike, and my comment? We may well be ‘devolving’ into a two-tiered society. See the myth of progress. Evolutionarily, progress is obviously a myth. And yet many want to see society as evolving toward betterness. Don’t you see how erroneous this view is?

            • Nerdsamwich

              That was my point. The Constitution was a very early step in deliberately engineering a social contract, probably the first such. I can agree that “guide” is the wrong word, but I only brought it up to underscore that “guided” vs. “unguided” evolution is a false dichotomy. It would be more apt to use “natural” and “artificial”.

            • Luke Breuer

              Why believe we can achieve progress, if all the tools given us were only for survival of the fittest/at least as fit? Os Guinness personally described America to me as a “cut flower society”. America is coasting on great decisions which were made in the past, and making a host of terrible ones, now. Progress is not guaranteed. Let me return to an earlier statement of yours:

              It’s rather that certain patterns of thought and behavior give rise to the structures in question, not that folks aim for the structures, and develop the requisite thought and behavior patterns along the way.

              You seem to be claiming that mostly, we’ve either evolved to our current state, or that some other stochastic, unguided mechanism got us here. Is this an accurate representation? That is, maybe there was a little artificial selection in the US Constitution, but mostly there hasn’t been any goal-seeking. This seems like a pretty weird claim to make, so I’m going to ask you to confirm/deny before I continue much.

              Briefly though, I’ll remind you that I claimed that minds want more, and that the laws of physics restrict the ways in which minds can obtain ‘more’, especially the ways in which multiple minds can equally acquire ‘more’. This is a way for moral laws to “show themselves”.

            • Nerdsamwich

              Human cooperation has followed a natural curve, with plenty of slippage and falling back to what worked in days gone by, as you would expect from a society feeling its way toward what felt best. Hunter-gatherers revered the strong and the old, as strength fed and protected the people, and age was proof of good survival skills. Eventually, folks learned to farm, and they began to defer to the strong, feeding them in exchange for protection from outsiders. This rule by the strong slowly crystallized into a formal hierarchy, and has remained our default form of government ever since. Notice how military dictatorships spring up like mushrooms wherever the instability is great enough. In Europe, the Black Death destroyed the labor base that supported the aristocracy, allowing those who worked the land to, for the first time in thousands of years, make demands of their protectors. This set the stage for what would slowly become mercantilism, which undermined the aristocracy even more, by creating a wealthy class who did not depend on ownership of farmland. That got people thinking that maybe their religion was wrong about the equality of man, and that maybe everyone should have rights and opportunities. These ideas grew into the first written social contracts, such as the Magna Carta and the US Constitution. Note that all the while, there have been nations volunteering for the stability of dictatorship rather than the uncertainty of democracy. Self-rule is hard, and a lot of folks prefer the decisions be made for them. Sounds a lot like an evolutionary process, doesn’t it?
              “This is a way for moral laws to ‘show themselves’.” Isn’t this rather begging the question? Your wanting “more” is an ancient survival trait. Those who were too content with what they had failed to store enough food for the winter. They failed to improve upon their existing tools, as what they had was good enough for granddad, so it was good enough for them. Those who were not content, who wanted “more”, as it were, improved their tools to make getting food easier, and stored food that they couldn’t eat right away, for the lean times. These malcontents survived, and prospered, and passed on their discontent. This has been going on longer than Homo Sapiens has existed. Homo Habilis made and improved tools, and in so doing changed himself, starting a cascade of adaptation that resulted in you and me debating philosophy over the Internet. Again, this points to natural selection, not some external moral exigency.

            • Luke Breuer

              That got people thinking that maybe their religion was wrong about the equality of man, and that maybe everyone should have rights and opportunities.

              Huh? You know what Paul wrote on this, right?

              Sounds a lot like an evolutionary process, doesn’t it?

              Evolution doesn’t guarantee progress, it guarantees survival. Evolution doesn’t guarantee egalitarianism. It doesn’t guarantee justice. Why expect these things to pop out? Or perhaps you aren’t—it just sounds like maybe you are.

              Again, this points to natural selection, not some external moral exigency.

              The two are not mutually exclusive.

            • Nerdsamwich

              Evolution doesn’t guarantee survival, it guarantees change. And did you not notice how I pointed out that there is a lot of resistance to justice and egalitarianism in many societies–including our own?
              “You know what Paul wrote on this, right?” Didn’t he write that slaves should be happy with their lot, and serve their earthly masters just as faithfully as they would Christ? He also told people to never have sex. That the celibate(including, conveniently, himself)were morally superior to those doing their duty to the species. Also, that women should be seen and not heard. However, I was speaking more of the Medieval church, which was wholeheartedly behind the divine right of kings(with plenty of scriptural support, I might add), sometimes going so far as to state that a king was incapable of sin or injustice, being divinely anointed. Remember, these weren’t common folk who could read the words for themselves; they had rather to rely on their priests. That tends to be a natural outgrowth of a small cult going mainstream: the hoarding of power by the cult leaders. You’d think that if their claims were true, their deity would do something about the corruption of its message.

            • Luke Breuer

              Didn’t he write that slaves should be happy with their lot, and serve their earthly masters just as faithfully as they would Christ?

              Happy with their lot? I’d like to see that one—1 Cor 7:21 seems to argue the opposite! Paul did said to obey masters as they would obey God. He also said:

              There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)

              Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Col 3:11)

              If you contrast this to Aristotle on Slavery, I think you’ll find quite the contrast. As to Paul not arguing directly against slavery, it seems sensible that he wanted to avoid a repeat of the Third Servile War. How to avoid this? Change the hearts and minds of people so that slavery stops making sense. Isn’t that what the two bits I quoted would do? Don’t they militate against Aristotle’s views?

              He also told people to never have sex.

              You really need to check your sources. Read 1 Cor 7:1-5. “Do not deprive one another”. And be careful with v1; that’s the Corinthians writing in the quotes, not Paul.

              Also, that women should be seen and not heard.

              Once again, you need to check your sources, and especially your cultural data.

              Remember, these weren’t common folk who could read the words for themselves; they had rather to rely on their priests.

              I highly suggest comparing the Roman Catholic Church on this matter to the Eastern Orthodox Church. The latter translated the Bible into the vulgar languages and per Timothy Ware in The Orthodox Church, folks would talk about theology when they went to the butcher.

              That tends to be a natural outgrowth of a small cult going mainstream: the hoarding of power by the cult leaders. You’d think that if their claims were true, their deity would do something about the corruption of its message.

              This is precisely what passages like Mt 20:20-28 and Jn 13:1-20 militate against. As to God doing something, he did eventUally: the Reformation. You probably don’t like the fact that it took so long, but that seems to be how things work. Even in the OT, God let there be a lot of evil kings before Israel got taken into captivity. One way to view this is that God gives humans a lot of chances to stop screwing up. It’s almost as if he’s treating us as adults!

            • Nerdsamwich

              “The two are not mutually exclusive.” …Are you claiming that natural selection is a moral process? I sure hope not.
              All of your scriptural quotes reinforce the view that your document is highly self-contradictory; pretty much any position can be scripturally supported, and then scripturally denounced. Then you get into sectarian differences, and it all goes pear-shaped. It’s almost as if there was no guiding hand!

            • Luke Breuer

              “The two are not mutually exclusive.” …Are you claiming that natural selection is a moral process? I sure hope not.

              More precisely, I would say that natural selection can produce some excellent results—see Nature 2013 Symbiosis leads to diversity—as well as terrible results. It’s almost as if when Jesus said, “I only do what I see my father doing”, he was picking out a subset of what happens on earth, and only calling that subset ‘good’. How much of the “red in tooth and claw” could be removed from evolution by a guiding hand? Perhaps quite a lot. And this is a very important question should we ever start simulating human beings as complex as Star Trek’s Data; see Measure of a Man.

              All of your scriptural quotes reinforce the view that your document is highly self-contradictory; pretty much any position can be scripturally supported, and then scripturally denounced.

              I think the Bible is a kind of Rorschach test. It reveals the heart of a person. What scriptures you choose and what scriptures you ignore demonstrate the kind of person you are. Do you favor Jesus more, or Marcion’s Yahweh? The rubber hits the road with passages like Mt 20:20-28 and Jn 13:1-20; will these be ignored, or believed deeply? Will you return evil for evil, or good for evil?

              If you view the Bible as presenting a “moral trajectory”, you can often pin people to various points along the curve. Some are very much law+authoritarianism, and they will gravitate toward the OT and importantly, certain interpretations of it. If you value egalitarianism, you will gravitate toward the NT, and understand what it says about the kind of character required to support egalitarianism. People are not robots, just needing the right code to run properly! They have wills, and the Bible does a fantastic job of exposing those wills for what they are.

            • Nerdsamwich

              “Do you favor Jesus more, or Marcion’s Yahweh?” I find them both pernicious. YHWH is a vengeful, jealous, petty, murdering bastard, and Yeshua ben Yusuf will torture you eternally for the content of your emotions.
              If you view Scripture as a psychological diagnostic tool, why not leave its use there? Why value it above the Rorschach test, or the writings of Freud? Hell, when it comes to accurate claims of fact, Freud stacks up favorably, I think. There’s just no reason to dig for the miniscule amounts of gold in the mountain of bullshit.

            • Luke Breuer

              I don’t think your miniscule/mountain quantification is accurate. I think you let what you see as ugly bits of scripture dominate your understanding of it.

            • Nerdsamwich

              Most of what passes for moral guidance in that book is silly rules. The best part of the rest is…nigh-incomprehensible enormity. Capricious genocide on Earth, eternal torture hereafter. The advice is largely bad. Look at the Sermon on the Mount: deepities ranging from banal to potentially ruinous. How anyone could read Job and see a good being pulling the strings is beyond me. The single best thing in the whole book is the Song of Solomon, and even that’s kind of ridiculous in its over-the top floridity. The one or two bits that polish up decently do not disguise the turd beneath.

            • Luke Breuer

              Are you using ‘deepity’ according to Dennett’s definition, or Boghossian’s definition?

            • Nerdsamwich

              A statement that sounds profound but, on closer inspection, is intellectually hollow.

            • Luke Breuer
            • Nerdsamwich

              Semantic quibbles aside, I still maintain that any even half-decent advice you find in that book is an example of the stopped-clock principle.

            • Luke Breuer

              Pick a triad and I’ll explain it to you on deeper than the stopped-clock level:

                   • Mt 5:43-48, Jn 13:34-35, Jn 17:20-23
                   • Mt 5:23-24, Mt 18:15-20, Eph 4:25-27
                   • Mt 7:1-5, Mt 23:1-4, Gal 6:1-5
                   • Mt 7:15-24, Mt 13:24-30, Mt 25:31-46

              Each of these triads is routinely ignored; all but the first by both Christians and non-Christians alike.

            • Nerdsamwich

              I could do the same with a litany of horrors, not all of which are to be found in the OT. As I said earlier, spots of polish don’t mean it’s not a turd:
              -Loving your enemy sounds a lot like Stockholm syndrome. Also, is not Satan known as the Enemy? Doesn’t that mean you should love him as you love yourself?
              -“…whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven…” Ever seen Dogma? If true, that could lead to the erasure of reality, through a simple clerical error(pun intended).
              -Non-judgement is a pretty terrible way to run a legal system, don’t you think?
              -Diseased trees can often be rehabilitated; ever hear of a tree surgeon? Even if the tree can’t be saved, its wood is still useful. You claim to follow a carpenter, for fork’s sake. After you’ve made some beautiful hardwood furniture, the scraps can be used to preserve meat by smoking. Anyone advocating throwing a whole fruit tree on a bonfire is an idiot in my book. And yes, I know it’s a metaphor. The critique works on that level, too.

            • Luke Breuer

              With that level of effort to understand things, how do you learn anything? You would die if you tried to do psychology or sociology. You would keel over and expire.

            • Nerdsamwich

              The effort I’m lacking in is the mental gymnastics required to find an overall positive message in that monument to atrocity. I prefer to put in the work to understand things that add value to my life.

            • Luke Breuer

              Refutation by strawman is most definitely a time-honored argument technique. That is what you did in your first three examples. Shall I elaborate? Your last is just weird.

            • Nerdsamwich

              How are they straw men? You provided your triads of biblical exhortations, and I provided examples of bad advice contained in each.

            • Luke Breuer

              Give me any piece of well-accepted wisdom and I can likely concoct critiques in the same spirit as the ones you concocted.

            • Nerdsamwich

              I would say that that says more about what passes for wisdom than it does about the method.The fact remains that the bits I pointed out from your examples were not good advice. You were trying to prove to me that the book in question was a good source of helpful moral instruction, and gave examples to support your assertion. My rebuttal was to show that at least a third of the advice contained in your excerpts was not really very good at all. Two thirds isn’t a bad average, but that’s not the average over the whole book. That’s the average from your hand-picked cream of the crop. If the best you can find is still only two-thirds half-decent, can we agree that there are probably better books out there?

            • Luke Breuer

              Let’s go back and look at your first ‘debunking’:

              N: -Loving your enemy sounds a lot like Stockholm syndrome. Also, is not Satan known as the Enemy? Doesn’t that mean you should love him as you love yourself?

              The difference between rules and wisdom is that wisdom doesn’t nicely ‘live’ in any axiomatic system whereby you can compute what the wise thing is to do. For example, loving your enemy works under the right definition of ‘love’, and as long as the enemy isn’t Satan or other 100% evil spirit. Christianity holds that nobody is beyond redemption while in the flesh. This is gloriously described by Solzhenitsyn (from here):

              It was granted me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer, and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. And it was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains . . . an unuprooted small corner of evil.

              There is always:

                   (1) “[at least] one small bridgehead of good”
                   (2) “an unuprooted small corner of evil”

              Of course, Satan and evil spirits are taken to not have (1). But for those who do have (1), that “small bridgehead of good” can always be loved into greater size. At least, we can make the attempt. The evil in the person may strike out at such loving. Jesus says that it’s worth it to willingly bear these wounds. This is what it means to “love your enemy”. To say that because this doesn’t work for Satan, that the wisdom is bad, is just crazy talk. I can probably do a similar operation on anything that is called “wisdom”. It would prove nothing. It would be useless.

            • Nerdsamwich

              But then the same guy says that every tree that bears not good fruit is taken down and thrown into the fire. What happened to loving it back to goodness? Or at least using the wood for something useful.
              PS: I’d like to see you give that spiel to a battered woman.

            • Luke Breuer

              That is a bit of a mystery. At some point, God does seem to give up on people. That happens in the OT and in the NT. Does this mean we give up after some point as well? There is a kind of easy answer: since we have finite resources, we have to use them wisely. Simultaneously, the Christian must recall that God loved him/her while he/she was still an enemy of God. So the way you “give up” on someone is not to condemn him or damn her, but shift your efforts elsewhere.

              As to the battered woman, loving her husband does not require that she stay with him. This “love your enemies” love is not romantic love. It is a love which pursues the best interest of the other person. One aspect of this would be to communicate to the husband what he did to her.

            • Nerdsamwich

              You think he doesn’t know? It’s in HIS best interest that she just roll over and silently, even gladly take what he has to give. That was the paradigm for centuries, after all.
              With infinite resources, why should God ever give up on anything? Dude stopped the sun to Joshua more time to kill Midianites, but can’t give one encouraging word to a suicidal teen? Priorities. Remember, to a timeless being, those events are simultaneous. I think we can see what wins out, and it ain’t love.

            • Luke Breuer

              You think he doesn’t know? It’s in HIS best interest that she just roll over and silently, even gladly take what he has to give. That was the paradigm for centuries, after all.

              No, I don’t think he knows. Until you’ve experienced a thing yourself, you do not ‘know’, in the same way that the person has you actually experienced it. And if you treat someone like shit, you clearly don’t even ‘know’ in the best way that can be obtained without it actually being done to you. Ideally, we will find a way for people to ‘know’ that war is terrible while war is only a memory, instead of a present-day reality. This, however, will require a high-fidelity imagination (and/or trust); most people do not inculcate such imaginations, and such trust decays over generations.

              With infinite resources, why should God ever give up on anything?

              I don’t know; I’m just reporting what the texts indicate. Those who believe in universal reconciliation think that eventually God will save everyone, ostensibly by using his infinite resources.

              but can’t give one encouraging word to a suicidal teen?

              What? This argument just went emotional.

              I think we can see what wins out, and it ain’t love.

              This is predicated upon one of the two assumptions:

                   (1) God designed all beings to ultimately love him.
                   (2) God will ultimately force all beings to love him.

              If (1), that makes the Holocaust pretty gratuitous in my mind. If (2), that is a different definition of love than given in the Bible (1 Cor 13:5). There is no true freedom in these assumptions. I don’t think I’d want to live in a world ruled by either one of them.

            • Nerdsamwich

              “This is predicated on one of two assumptions:”
              Neither. I was commenting on the actions of God himself, and whether they indicate a loving nature. They don’t. By their fruits shall ye know them, and all that.
              “No, I don’t think he knows” Bullshit. Nearly all abusers were themselves victims of abuse. They know better than anyone what it’s like. It’s just that they only know two ways to be: victim or victimizer. And they’re making sure that they’re not the victim. It might even be that the abuser think that that is how a loving parent or spouse acts, as they’ve never known a healthy relationship. Put that way, it sounds like God.

            • Luke Breuer

              Hmm, perhaps you are right on the abuse thing; you make a good enough case to warrant me checking into the evidence more. Do you have any suggested reading on the matter?

              As to what constitutes loving treatment, I think we just disagree. I believe God has given us a great deal of latitude to act morally or immorally; you seem to think it is only ‘loving’ for him to give us less latitude, to be more of an imposing Sky Daddy. For example, he ought to have prevented Cain from killing his brother. I accept that in this world, God isn’t a Sky Daddy. If that means you’ll reject him as non-existent or whatever, so be it.

            • Nerdsamwich

              Is it non-interfering and freedom-promoting to stop the sun in the sky so Joshua can kill more fleeing Midianites? To curse all the descendants of Adam because one guy made a mistake he was basically created too dumb to avoid? How about hardening Pharaoh’s heart so that he wouldn’t let the Hebrews go, necessitating additional plagues to convince him? That last one is just messed up. None of this points to a being that wants to watch people freely choose to do the right thing. None of this points to a being that is sane, much less loving in any non-spousal-abuse kind of way.

            • Luke Breuer

              What if barbaric people had a barbaric conception of God? What if today, we have a barbaric conception of God compared to people 500 years from now? What if we’ll always be coming to better and better conceptions of God? This is the model I hold to. I suggest checking out Peter Enns’ Inerrancy: I think someone forgot to tell the Bible for a bit more.

            • Nerdsamwich

              That is the most ridiculous thing I ever heard. Those barbarians claim direct experience. For their directly experienced god-concept to be barbaric, it would have to have been an experience barbaric in nature. It makes much more sense to say that man creates his gods in his own image. They have no existence apart from capturing the cultural zeitgeist, as it were. Unless there is some sort of coalesced psychic force that forms a being animated and sustained by people’s belief in it. But in that case, it would be our moral duty to stamp out all belief in YHWH, so that it would die and leave us alone.

            • Luke Breuer

              Why is it so ridiculous? People interpret their experiences based on a psyche that is deeply shaped by their culture and society. We must never forget that Perception is not reality. It’s generally not possible to change a person’s perception by more than some small amount per unit time. To expect God to somehow exempt himself from this restriction poses theological problems. The Christian holds that God is infinite, while we are finite. We will always be learning more and more about him. You seem to be presuming that if an omni-deity existed, he would prevent us from ever being deluded. Is this true? If not, would you defend a modified version, like “God would prevent us from ever being deluded by more than a certain amount.”?

            • Nerdsamwich

              How often do you see a person gently pet a dog and instantly conclude that person is irredeemably evil? Ye shall know the tree by its fruits, shall ye not? The OT is a litany of atrocity committed at YHWH’s behest, when it’s not committed directly by YHWH. When I see a person repeatedly kick a puppy, I don’t think my conclusion is gonna be all that off on the character of said puppy-kicker. Of course, there is a simple explanation for YHWH’s barbarity: said entity is a fictional creation of base and barbarous minds. I’m not sure what it says about modern folk who really ought to know better that they keep trying to defend this imaginary monster as the pinnacle and exemplar of all that is good, but it’s probably nothing especially salutary.

            • Luke Breuer

              How often do you see a person gently pet a dog and instantly conclude that person is irredeemably evil?

              I do not understand how this connects to anything we’ve been talking about.

              Ye shall know the tree by its fruits, shall ye not?

              By what standards are you judging the OT portrayal of Yahweh? (Actually, there are multiple; were you aware of stuff like Isaiah 58?) Here are two examples of standards:

                   (A) standards contemporary to the spatiotemporal context of the OT
                   (B) standards of the West in the 21st Century

              It seems that you are judging by (B). This is a terrible way to judge history; it is anachronistic. But perhaps you think you’re judging by (A)? If so, what work have you done to understand the spatiotemporal context of the OT? What work have you done to understand what social, cultural, and judicial knowledge to which the ancient Israelites had access? For example, while the Code of Hammurabi existed before Israel became a nation (and probably before Moses, assuming a historical Moses for sake of discussion), we’re not at all guaranteed that the ancient Israelites knew about it. Much knowledge of the past has been lost for significant periods of time.

              Of course, there is a simple explanation for YHWH’s barbarity: said entity is a fictional creation of base and barbarous minds.

              What have you done to attempt to falsify this “simple explanation”? How do you know that explanation to be anything other than a just-so story?

              I’m not sure what it says about modern folk who really ought to know better that they keep trying to defend this imaginary monster as the pinnacle and exemplar of all that is good, but it’s probably nothing especially salutary.

              I hope you realize that I am not “defend[ing] this imaginary monster as the pinnacle and exemplar of all that is good”? Please confirm/deny.

            • Nerdsamwich

              Hold up. Are you suggesting that God lives down to the standards of the time? That’s awfully messed up. And impossible for a timeless being.
              “How do you know that explanation to be anything other than a just-so story?” That’s backward. It’s the theistic explanation that is a mere just-so story.
              “By what standards…” Here’s the thing: you can’t anachronistically judge a timeless being. To the god they told me about in church, all events are simultaneous. That’s what omnipresent means. I can judge such a being by whatever standard I have. He was brutal even for the time and place in which they claimed to encounter him, though. He’s always punishing his chosen people with mass murder for things only a few of them did, which they weren’t even aware at the time were against the rules. Didn’t hundreds of thousands die in a plague sent as punishment for incorrectly administering a census? Such behavior is erratic, abusive, insane, and evil.

            • Luke Breuer

              Hold up. Are you suggesting that God lives down to the standards of the time? That’s awfully messed up. And impossible for a timeless being.

              No, I’m saying that how well a given society can perceive God depends on that society. The same goes for how societies can perceive ‘rights’, as is well-described in Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Justice: Rights and Wrongs. I’m saying that God doesn’t magically force perfect conceptions of himself on us, but draws us toward him, allowing us to approach him ever-more-closely, if we want to.

              That’s backward. It’s the theistic explanation that is a mere just-so story.

              Any explanation is a just-so story, until it is tested by attempts to falsify it.

              I can judge such a being by whatever standard I have.

              Well there you have it. God is in the dock, with you judge, jury, and executioner.

              He was brutal even for the time and place in which they claimed to encounter him, though.

              You don’t know this. You just admitted you don’t know this. “by whatever standard I have”

              He’s always punishing his chosen people with mass murder for things only a few of them did, which they weren’t even aware at the time were against the rules.

              Would you cite examples of “they weren’t even aware at the time were against the rules”? I cannot recollect any such examples. As to “punishing his chosen people with mass murder”, that seems to be what happens in reality. Do evil things, millions can die. Now, we can ask whether the ancient Israelites properly perceived God when they had him actually killing those people. That isn’t a given. But I will say this much: if the best way for the ancient Israelites to understand moral cause and effect is to see God as always bringing about the effects, that might be ok. God might be ok to be misunderstood that way, of ‘wrong’ can lead to ‘less wrong’. But perhaps you hate such a conception of God, even though science itself works via going ‘wrong’ → ‘less wrong’?

              Didn’t hundreds of thousands die in a plague sent as punishment for incorrectly administering a census? Such behavior is erratic, abusive, insane, and evil.

              The idea of administering the census was to trust in the power of the nation instead of in the power of God. It was basically an attempt to say, “Fuck off, God, we don’t really need you, except when we want you to give us what we want.” Erratic? No. Only when you cherry-pick and refuse to understand in context. As to your other descriptors, all I can say is that I hope the net effect of all of your actions in reality match the standard you’ve set for Yahweh and Jesus. I think ultimately, we will be judged by the standards with which we judge others (Mt 7:1-5). What we say is irrelevant in the final equation (Mt 7:21-23), it’s what we’ve done (Mt 25:31-46).

            • Nerdsamwich

              How about murdering the people below Mt. Sinai BEFORE telling them that making images of your gods was off limits (*cough*crucifix*cough*)?
              You know, you’d do better to just make up a new name for your deity, rather than try to shoehorn your concept into YHWH’s rather provincial container. The very few straight answers I’ve gotten from you regarding your personal god-concept bear no resemblance to the god of Abraham. If you picked a new name, you wouldn’t have to deal with this kind of argument.

            • Luke Breuer

              How about murdering the people below Mt. Sinai BEFORE telling them that making images of your gods was off limits

              Ahh, interesting point. But I’m just not sure the text supports your gloss:

              When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” (Ex 32:1)

              Paraphrasing: “Fuck Moses and his ‘God’, let’s make our own gods and move forward.” After all the miracles the Israelites saw Moses’ ‘God’ do, don’t you think the people ought to have implicitly known not to, you know, abandon the deity who utterly conquered the most powerful known military force known to exist? I find your gloss to just be a stretch, but perhaps you could convince me otherwise.

              You know, you’d do better to just make up a new name for your deity, rather than try to shoehorn your concept into YHWH’s rather provincial container. The very few straight answers I’ve gotten from you regarding your personal god-concept bear no resemblance to the god of Abraham. If you picked a new name, you wouldn’t have to deal with this kind of argument.

              The reason my conception of God is different from Moses’ conception is that I live ~3500 years later than him (or at least ~2200 years later than the documents we have were written). One of the key doctrines of Christianity has been that God condescends to us. We don’t have to be fully pure or righteous for him to interact with his. God interacts with us even given our foibles, as long as we’re willing to be pulled toward him, from wherever we are. You don’t seem to like this evolving concept of God, even though we have an evolving concept of reality, via the progress of science. Why?

            • Nerdsamwich

              What if I were to tell you that I have an evolving concept of Pol Pot? That time has provided perspective and greater understanding, and that perhaps the Khmer Rouge was the best thing that could possibly have happened to Cambodia? Would you not justifiably think my moral sensor a tad miscalibrated?

            • Luke Breuer

              I dunno, can you do Jesus-like things as a result?

            • Nerdsamwich

              What, eternally punish crimes of thought? Create a ridiculous binary reward/punishment system and then base the outcome on your emotional state at time of death? Sounds like the kind of thing Kim Jong Il would do.

            • Luke Breuer

              What’d you do, find the worst form of Christianity you could and say that all Christianity is like that? Good grief. You’ve been listening to/reading too much Christopher Hitchens, it seems.

            • Nerdsamwich

              Nope, Ingersoll. And unlike ANY sect of Christianity, all I did was take the book at its word. Jesus was the first character in the whole thing to mention an afterlife, and he painted a picture of eternal binary reward/punishment where your ultimate destination depended less on what you did in life, but on emotional states: faith and repentance. He also equated desire with deed, making anger equal murder, and lust the same as adultery. In other words, thought-crime.

            • Luke Breuer

              your ultimate destination depended less on what you did in life, but on emotional states: faith and repentance.

              First, calling ‘faith’ and ‘repentance’ “emotional states” is very odd. Second, how does your view of Jesus’ teaching square with the following?

                  “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
                  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Mt 25:31-46)

            • Nerdsamwich

              Sounds like a binary system to me.One curiously biased against lefties and goats. All kidding aside, what can a finite being possibly do to merit infinite consequence, either positive or negative? No deranged serial killer in history has been so evil as to torture even one victim for more than a few hours, but your Christ, your “greatest possible being”, the best man who ever walked the Earth, would torture most of humanity forever. To quote the internet, that’s the evilest thing I can imagine.
              The NT has a whole slew of contradictory bits about the importance of faith vs actions, but most churches come down squarely on the side of Martin Luther.
              What is repentance, if not an emotion? At the base of it, it’s feeling bad about something you did. Faith, similarly, is a feeling. I think it not at all inaccurate, then to say that according to Scripture, one’s salvation depends mainly on one’s emotional state. Which, as anyone who has experienced puberty can tell you, is mostly a matter of biology, and not under one’s control to any great extent. You can minimize your reactions to unwanted emotional states, but not feeling them in the first place isn’t holiness, it’s clinical depression.
              In conclusion, I have a fun bit of Bible math for you: Any man who hates his brother is a murderer. Any man who does not hate his brother is unfit to follow Jesus. Ergo, only a murderer is fit to follow Jesus. Sounds like a totally awesome, not at all crazy, guy to me!

            • Luke Breuer

              All kidding aside, what can a finite being possibly do to merit infinite consequence, either positive or negative?

              First, not all Christians think that suffering in hell will be eternal. I happen to think (a) hell is locked on the inside (we make hell); (b) the suffering can be infinite in extent and finite in time, via convergent infinite series, like 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + … = 2. Both of these make sense if you yourself wanted to give beings maximum chance to make a different choice, without choosing for them.

              Second, who says anyone merits heaven? No Christian I know of claims that. Heaven is a gift, given via grace.

              To quote the internet, that’s the evilest thing I can imagine.

              It’s easy when you pick the worst interpretation you can find, and claim that said interpretation is what all Christians believe. Or even what most Christians believe. Or what your interlocutor believes.

              The NT has a whole slew of contradictory bits about the importance of faith vs actions, but most churches come down squarely on the side of Martin Luther.

              You really don’t seem to understand this. Sola fide is not about what is ‘important’, it is about what brings about salvation. That is all! It is big, because if salvation is by faith, the church cannot guilt you into being its slave. That’s a social importance; I think the theological importance is even greater.

              What is repentance, if not an emotion?

              Have you never seriously tried to make sense of repentance? Think of it this way. A murderer murders. What, precisely, is it that would make it ok for him/her to re-enter society? Confidence that he/she will be much less likely to murder again. This requires an inner change to his/her being, an admitting that it was wrong to murder and wrong to take the steps which led toward murder. Repentance. It is repentance and the willingness to accept grace and mercy that makes it not important that you suffer punishment. God doesn’t care about making you hurt, he cares about you coming to right beliefs, both about what is, and what ought to be. Repentance is the change of beliefs, and sometimes the change of very deeply held beliefs. It’s not emotional at its core—unless you want to say that all beliefs about what ought to be are ’emotional’? Here’s Merriam-Webster’s definitions:

              intransitive verb
              1 : to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life
              2 a : to feel regret or contrition
                 b : to change one’s mind

              transitive verb
              1 : to cause to feel regret or contrition
              2 : to feel sorrow, regret, or contrition for

              There is definitely an emotional component, but it’s not 100% emotional. It sounds like you’ve gotten very skewed information on this matter; would you care to share what caused you to view ‘repentance’ as you do?

              Faith, similarly, is a feeling.

              Not all Christians believe this! See aRemonstrant’sRamblings’ ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists’ Part 5.2: Foundationalism and Faith, where he both takes apart Peter Boghossian’s definition of ‘faith’, and offers many definitions which have been given over the centuries. How many of those are ‘a feeling’, do you think? Here’s CS Lewis’ definition:

              the art of holding onto things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.
                           – Mere Christianity p.117

              “a feeling”?? Lewis defines it as the opposite! Please stop caricaturing Christianity, finding the worse version you can possibly find and attacking it?

              Any man who hates his brother is a murderer.

              So it’s perfectly ok to hate people and to lust after anyone, just as long as you don’t let thought ⇒ action? I just want to get this straight. Do you think thoughts lead to actions, or not?

            • Nerdsamwich

              Thoughts often do lead to actions, but I certainly don’t have sex every time I think about sex. With today’s advertising climate, I’d die of exhaustion. Sometimes, thinking about doing something that we know is wrong, fantasizing about it, even, can be what makes it easier to keep from doing it. Have you never gained stress relief from the mental image of choking a particularly obnoxious co-worker?
              I find Lewis’ definition of faith lacking, as faith usually involves holding on to a belief in the face of reason and/or evidence. If you had evidence, you wouldn’t need faith. Same for reason. I’m not caricaturing, really. I’m just going by what I’ve observed in actual practice, and what it says on the page in the Scriptures. I just refuse to go along with your practice of cherry-picking only the brightest of the shiny spots, and ignoring the vast gulf between them.
              Once you discard all the heavy Abrahamic baggage, you’ll find your mind so light that your thoughts practically soar, buffeted by the winds of cognitive dissonance. The truth will set you free, indeed.

            • Luke Breuer

              Sometimes, thinking about doing something that we know is wrong, fantasizing about it, even, can be what makes it easier to keep from doing it. Have you never gained stress relief from the mental image of choking a particularly obnoxious co-worker?

              Are these the only, or even best ways to cope? You seem to have assumed that they are. What if Jesus thought that these were indeed ways to cope, but that they lead to a local maximum of human thriving? And what if humans have less control than you are assuming, in preventing constant thoughts like you describe, from being acted out? Adultery doesn’t happen all in one step, for example. It is the result of a long chain of thinking. Do you think second-degree murder (murder of passion) is merely a freak thing? No, it is the result of someone who has demonstrated a long history of not being able to handle extremely strong feelings in the right ways.

              I suggest watching the TEDxGlasgow talk, Gary Wilson – The Great Porn Experiment. This might challenge some of your current notions about how the brain works.

              I find Lewis’ definition of faith lacking, as faith usually involves holding on to a belief in the face of reason and/or evidence.

              Is this ‘finding’ of yours based on evidence, or something else? If evidence, please elaborate on it, and tell me why it is ‘sufficient’ for the conclusion you’ve drawn. In other words: show your work, please. Statements have burdens of proof, and this one is no different from any other.

              I’m just going by what I’ve observed in actual practice, and what it says on the page in the Scriptures.

              Why do you trust that your observations are anything more than anecdotal? The “accident of birth” argument against religious belief (which fails; see Tomas Bogardus’ 2013 Faith and Philosophy paper, The Problem of Contingency for Religious Belief) works just as well against you, unless you have done the specific work required to avoid anecdotal reasoning. Your conception of reality is socially constructed; what have you done to protect against provincial views?

              What scriptures led you to this conclusion? Maybe four or five passages would suffice to demonstrate your point? Have you, for example, studied the history of interpretations of the word often translated ‘faith’—pistis? You realize that words can morph in meaning over the centuries, right? These days, it may be better to translate pistis as ‘trust’ or ‘faithfulness’. It sounds like you are utterly unaware of this fact. Which leads me to believe that your interpretation of the Bible is provincial, both in [culture-]space and time.

              I just refuse to go along with your practice of cherry-picking only the brightest of the shiny spots, and ignoring the vast gulf between them.

              When you try and understand a set of data, do you first focus on the stuff that doesn’t make sense or seems wrong, or do you first try and find a pattern, and then try and account for more and more of the data? For example, take Hubble’s original data. Was he wrong to ignore those points below the x-axis, in drawing his linear fit with y-intercept = 0? I mean, didn’t he cherry-pick his data??

              Once you discard all the heavy Abrahamic baggage, you’ll find your mind so light that your thoughts practically soar, buffeted by the winds of cognitive dissonance. The truth will set you free, indeed.

              But I don’t discard that ‘baggage’. In knowing full-well the barbaric aspect of human nature, and how hard it is to become a ‘better’ society, I have a better understanding of scientific results like the Milgram experiment, Stanford prison experiment, and The Third Wave. Indeed, I’m more primed to believe and even predict the results of these experiments, because of the barbaric bits of the OT. Look at Milgram experiment#Results: the psychology and psychiatry students—supposedly [statistically] better knowers of human nature than anyone else except licensed psychologists and psychiatrists—predicted terribly. Why do you think this might be? I think it is because many people have a terribly rosy picture of human nature, which ignores how humans actually work. The OT, on the other hand, I find to be very realistic. And yet you want to discard it. That’s pretty terrible. That way leads to delusion. Have you ever read about scientists pre-WWI, who predicted how great science would be for humanity? Yeah, try WWI and WWII on for size, plus all the other non-religiously-inspired atrocities of the 20th century. Religion is bad, it poisons everything, eh?

            • Nerdsamwich

              I want to discard it *as a model for how to live my life*. I haven’t said that there is nothing ancient literature can teach us about human nature, what I said is that no one should take it as fact and base their worldview on its morality. Similarly, that is why I reject your treatment of religious texts as data sets to be interpreted and extrapolated from. They are literature. They are not data. At least not about anything beyond psychology and anthropology.
              When did I say that my personal experience is anything other than anecdotal? If I’m having lunch with someone, and I see him mistreating the wait staff and loudly complaining about the presence of small children, I’m going to form an opinion of his character. And I’m probably going to be fairly accurate in that opinion, too. Sure, it’s anecdotal, but it works, more often than not. We all live in a box, and we can’t help but view the world through its windows. I’m just asserting that my box is better constructed. Speaking of assertions, Lewis’ definition of faith is just a bald assertion, so I can feel free to reply to it in kind.
              As for your first point, should all potential therapies be rejected if they contain any potential for misuse? By that logic, I can’t use alcohol as a fuel source or lab solvent, since some people have died of alcoholism. That’s no way to live.

            • Luke Breuer

              I want to discard it *as a model for how to live my life*.

              Then… do so? One thing I’d challenge you to do is make predictions and test them, to get yourself out of the trap of The Unreliability of Naive Introspection. That is, do science on your own psyche.

              I haven’t said that there is nothing ancient literature can teach us about human nature, what I said is that no one should take it as fact and base their worldview on its morality.

              Because you don’t like what happens when they do that? Can you offer any stronger of a reason than you don’t like it?

              They are literature. They are not data. At least not about anything beyond psychology and anthropology.

              As if those aren’t extraordinarily important—probably more important than physics or chemistry or astronomy? Physics isn’t going to prevent genocide, my friend—it actually makes it easier.

              When did I say that my personal experience is anything other than anecdotal?

              Well, you seem unwilling to learn that maybe they are very anecdotal, and not everyone has e.g. the same understanding of faith and repentance as those understandings to which you’ve been exposed. Your statements on those matters have seemed kinda categorical, you know.

              We all live in a box, and we can’t help but view the world through its windows.

              You know that the point of scholarship and science is to make the box bigger, right?

              I’m just asserting that my box is better constructed.

              Do you have empirical evidence to back up your assertion?

              Speaking of assertions, Lewis’ definition of faith is just a bald assertion, so I can feel free to reply to it in kind.

              That’s not how it works. The question is which assertion better matches reality. And, more precisely which reality. Maybe your definition better fits the amount of reality to which you have been exposed. But how much reality is that, actually? Your city/suburban area? The places on the internet where you hang out? Or have you expanded your spacetime horizons by reading history, empirical research (e.g. The Psychology of Religion, Fourth Edition: An Empirical Approach), etc.?

              As for your first point, should all potential therapies be rejected if they contain any potential for misuse? By that logic, I can’t use alcohol as a fuel source or lab solvent, since some people have died of alcoholism. That’s no way to live.

              I’m sorry, but I don’t understand how this is a response to what I said. I was pretty specific and linked to a video that makes it clear that certain thought-patterns cause bad physical effects; you just completely ignored that. Would you like an article to read instead of a TEDx talk? Or are you just not that interested—not interested in what science has to say on the matter?

            • Nerdsamwich

              My point is that everything has potential for abuse. People take narcotic painkillers every day, knowing that they could develop an addiction. We drive cars all the time, knowing that they’re quite dangerous. Thoughts, on the other hand, are not deeds. Intentions aren’t even deeds, unless you’re somehow omnipotent. For the rest of us, those of us who aren’t blessed with everything we want out of life sometimes must needs resort to fantasy. If it relieves stress and makes one less likely to actually do something rash, what’s the problem? I’ve had days where imagining committing violence was the only thing keeping me from doing it. Haven’t you? If not, congratulations. You may not be human.

              “That’s not how it works.” That is how it works. That which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. Lewis uses a non-standard definition of “faith”, and I reject it in favor of one more widely in use: “strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.” Now, to me, “spiritual apprehension” sounds a lot like a feeling. Which is back where we started on that issue.
              “Can you offer any stronger of a reason than you don’t like it?” How about it leads to a society that I don’t want to be a part of? Half of what’s wrong in US at the moment is the result of someone-or-other’s biblically-based morality. Societies that are based even more closely on scriptural principles are even worse. African countries where folks pass AIDS back and forth like a shuttlecock because their religion forbids condoms are an example that springs directly to mind. The more we base a society on Abrahamic scripture, the more we get a terrible place to live. Is that strong enough?

            • Luke Breuer

              My point is that everything has potential for abuse.

              Is the same true of theism, or is it always an abuse?

              Thoughts, on the other hand, are not deeds. Intentions aren’t even deeds, unless you’re somehow omnipotent.

              You’re right, they’re less than deeds. On the other hand, there’s a whole book called Ideas Have Consequences. If you want some science, read Richard Hamming’s You and Your Research, in which he talks about the importance of every brain cycle you send toward science increasing the chance that you will make a major discovery. Well, every brain cycle you send toward lust increases the chance that lust ⇒ action; every brain cycle you send toward increase the chance that anger ⇒ action. Do you disagree with this analysis?

              For the rest of us, those of us who aren’t blessed with everything we want out of life sometimes must needs resort to fantasy.

              How do you know that you “needs resort to fantasy”? How do you know that’s not just a fairy tale you tell yourself, to self-justify? Surely you think theists are telling themselves fairy tales to make themselves feel better?

              If it relieves stress and makes one less likely to actually do something rash, what’s the problem?

              Do you actually know that it “makes one less likely to actually do something rash”? If so, how do you know this?

              I’ve had days where imagining committing violence was the only thing keeping me from doing it. Haven’t you? If not, congratulations. You may not be human.

              I have, and I have striven to do so less and less by replacing this with increasing understanding of why what is happening is happening. That greatly reduces the felt need to be violent. Psychological pain can be transmuted into understanding. Or it can be used to psychologically do voodoo doll stuff. Which do you think is better?

              Lewis uses a non-standard definition of “faith”, and I reject it in favor of one more widely in use: “strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.”

              You know this, how? Where’s the empirical evidence, Nerdsamwich? Surely you have some?

              How about it leads to a society that I don’t want to be a part of?

              That’s still “I don’t like it”, just taken to its logical conclusion.

              Half of what’s wrong in US at the moment is the result of someone-or-other’s biblically-based morality.

              Ahahahaha, someone has drunk the Kool-aid. Tell me Nerdsamwich, did you get this from reading Dawkins, Coyne, Harris, Hitchens, Boghossian, and Dennet? Did they cite any peer-reviewed science to support what they said, which led you to think this? Otherwise, you have Boghossian-faith: “Pretending to know what you do not know.” So Nerdsamwich, where’s the empirical evidence for your claim?

              African countries where folks pass AIDS back and forth like a shuttlecock because their religion forbids condoms are an example that springs directly to mind.

              Ahh yes, because the only difference between African countries and the US is… oh wait, that sentence cannot be finished. correlation ⇏ causation

              The more we base a society on Abrahamic scripture, the more we get a terrible place to live. Is that strong enough?

              It’s plenty strong. It just happens to be unsupported by science. But prove me wrong.

            • Nerdsamwich

              It’s a matter of opinion, to be sure, but I don’t think you’d like to live under a Levitical legal system, either. I mentioned certain problems in Africa as an example of the kind of trouble excessive religion can cause, not as an example of where we’re directly headed in the US. I did not get my perceptions of what religion is doing to my country from reading anything but news. The politicians who, *in my opinion*, are sending the United States to hell in a handbasket are continually quoting the Bible while doing so. They introduce legislation to allow people to ignore the law of the land based on their religious beliefs. They refer to “God’s law” on the debate floor of what should be the most secular place on Earth, the Houses of Congress. This may come as a shock to you, Luke, but I don’t get my opinions from popular authors. I don’t actually even read the work of the gentlemen you mentioned, distinguished though they may be, because I’m already in the choir. I don’t need the sermon.

              “You know this, how?” What do you mean by that? I need empirical evidence for my choice of definition? Or evidence that Lewis’s in non-standard? I copy-pasted my definition from the very first Google result for “faith definition”. It doesn’t get much more standard than that. Empirical enough?
              “Do you disagree with this analysis?” I do. I grew up in an abusive home, and a vivid fantasy life was sometimes the only thing that kept me from snapping and killing myself or someone else. That might not have been the best outcome for everyone involved, but it worked. Besides, I never claimed any of this to be the BEST answer, I just object to Jesus making a capital crime out of a stray thought, or an uncontrollable emotional response. Criminalizing thoughts is the stuff of Orwellian nightmare. Criminalizing basic emotional responses, that we can prevent almost as easily as we can decide not to breathe? That’s just plain sadistic.

            • Luke Breuer

              It’s a matter of opinion, to be sure, but I don’t think you’d like to live under a Levitical legal system, either.

              Why are you bringing in “a Levitical legal system”? Where was I suggesting such a thing? Surely you don’t mean the dichotomy of “a Levitical legal system” or “throw out the Bible except perhaps as a source of very cherry-picked inspirational tidbits”?

              I mentioned certain problems in Africa as an example of the kind of trouble excessive religion can cause,

              Define “excessive religion”. For example, was there “excessive religion” in communist China, especially worship of Chairman Mao Zedong? See the Two Whatevers: “We will resolutely uphold whatever policy decisions Chairman Mao made, and unswervingly follow whatever instructions Chairman Mao gave”.

              I did not get my perceptions of what religion is doing to my country from reading anything but news.

              Do you think this has given you anything close to a good sampling?

              This may come as a shock to you, Luke, but I don’t get my opinions from popular authors.

              And getting them from the news is any better than getting them from popular authors, these days?

              I don’t actually even read the work of the gentlemen you mentioned, distinguished though they may be, because I’m already in the choir. I don’t need the sermon.

              Does that mean you generally agree with Dawkins, Harris, Dennet, Hitchens, and perhaps even Boghossian and Loftus? I say “generally”, not “completely”.

              Or evidence that Lewis’s in non-standard?

              This.

              I copy-pasted my definition from the very first Google result for “faith definition”. It doesn’t get much more standard than that. Empirical enough?

              That is a terrible method. You’re letting Google dictate reality to you.

              I just object to Jesus making a capital crime out of a stray thought,

              Not everyone (a) thinks that it was a capital crime; (b) thinks that what is described is “stray thought”. Even you have been describing lust and anger as more than “stray thought”. This is not “stray thought”:

              a vivid fantasy life was sometimes the only thing that kept me from snapping and killing myself or someone else.

              Criminalizing basic emotional responses, that we can prevent almost as easily as we can decide not to breathe?

              You really see Jesus as doing this? Do you have any idea of how much of Christianity, across spacetime, has an interpretation of the relevant passages which is remotely close to yours? If you don’t have such an idea, would you admit that maybe your interpretation is pretty terrible?

            • Nerdsamwich

              Good point about Mao. It also applies to the Kim dynasty in North Korea. Definitely an example of excessive religion, especially when allowed to control a government. Just goes to show that no being who wants worship is worthy of it.
              “…letting Google dictate reality to you.” Not so, sir. I was looking for the most standard definition I could find for the word “faith”. The top Google result is the most publicly accepted, and therefore “standard”. Besides, if Lewis’s definition were standard, he wouldn’t have needed to write a whole book to get the idea out there.
              “Not everyone…” Maybe not everyone, but more than not. Or did Jesus lie when he described a place of unquenchable fire, into which he would cast humanity’s “chaff”? As for the strayness of qualifying thoughts, is it not written that any man who looks on a woman and feels lust has committed adultery? That’s one of the big ones, right? But we can’t control such emotional responses; lust, especially, is a product of basic biology. It doesn’t matter to me how many of the faithful refuse to acknowledge the horror of their faith. That makes it no less horrible. To me, that makes it worse, that so many convince themselves that such a terrible thing is the greatest of all goods.

            • Luke Breuer

              Honestly Nerdsamwich, I’m not sure what the point of this conversation is anymore. If you trust Google to tell you the “most standard” definitions, then you’re resorting to argumentum ad populum, PageRank version.

              With respect to the lust thing, I don’t know what else to say. I gave you a TEDx talk that showed people were able to dial back the lust and experienced beneficial physiological effects as a result. To say that people cannot tune their thought patterns and emotional patterns is a pretty big claim—are you sure you want to go there? If you merely mean to say that we cannot 100% discipline everything at all times about our brains, that’s a pretty boring claim. So, what specifically are you claiming, in the thought-realm?

            • Nerdsamwich

              It’s not invalid to appeal to popularity when what is at question is the “standardness” of the definition of a word. That is what definitions are, meanings that are popularly agreed on for specific configurations of letters.
              My specific claim is precisely the one you’re calling “boring”. My point is that such a mundane, basic thing is turned by the ministry of Jesus into a crime. A crime so severe that you would do better to blind yourself than risk committing it twice. A crime worthy of eternal torture.
              Who is more virtuous: a man to whom doing evil never even occurs–probably due to lack of imagination on his part–or the one who knows how easy it would be to get his every desire through unethical means, and chooses to do the right thing anyway? Jesus says that the second man is already to blame for the crimes he refuses to commit, just for thinking about them. You and others tell me that this Jesus is the greatest possible human being, nay, the greatest possible being, period. I don’t see it.

            • Luke Breuer

              It’s not invalid to appeal to popularity when what is at question is the “standardness” of the definition of a word. That is what definitions are, meanings that are popularly agreed on for specific configurations of letters.

              I am 100% uninterested in such definitions. The majority of people are idiots, unless perhaps you average their opinions. I don’t say this lightly; I think the smartest have abdicated their responsibility to give of their intellectual gifts to the rest. For example, in Excellence Without a Soul: Does Liberal Education Have a Future? Harry Lewis, a Harvard Dean, talks about how education was shifted from educating to [ivory tower] scholarship. After that, there would be philosopher-kings. Yeah…

              My point is that such a mundane, basic thing is turned by the ministry of Jesus into a crime. A crime so severe that you would do better to blind yourself than risk committing it twice. A crime worthy of eternal torture.

              I have little idea of how you got this from the text. Do you realize that seeing a girl (or guy) and finding her attractive is not automatically lust? Lust is much closer to “If I had all of the powers, I would take her like King David took Bathsheba.”

            • Nerdsamwich

              So, you don’t believe in definitions for words? I’m not sure how you manage to communicate with that kind of philosophy. Unless you’re telling me that you just arbitrarily define every term you use according to what’s convenient at the time.

              “I have little idea of how you got this from the text.” “If your right eye offends you, cut it out. It is better to lose the eye than to burn forever.” Sounds to me like a rather harsh penalty for the passing fancy of an idle glance. I have little idea how you got anything else out of it.

              Now, you’re going to tell me that the majority of Christians don’t believe anything like this. How is that different from my appeal to Google on the definition of faith? Besides, individual’s personal beliefs don’t concern me; I’m talking about official dogma and, most importantly, what the book actually says. Plain text reading, none of this fancy “interpretation” that makes the “true meaning” the opposite of the words on the page.

            • Luke Breuer

              The irony of your post is amazing. On the one hand you insist that definitions are important. On the other hand, you simply go with your interpretation of the Bible, as if the immediate reading which jumps out at you is the correct one. Do you recognize the cognitive dissonance which must be going on in your head?

              Besides, individual’s personal beliefs don’t concern me; I’m talking about official dogma and, most importantly, what the book actually says.

              Do you seriously believe that the first Google result will tell you either (a) “official dogma” or (b) “what the book actually says”? If you want the latter, surely you ought to be investigating the definition of ‘pistis‘, not ‘faith’?

            • Nerdsamwich

              Yes, definitions are important. Like the definitions of the words in a sentence. They combine to give the sentence meaning. A specific meaning. Similarly, the sentences combine to form a paragraph. How many differing interpretations does this one have?
              I used Google for a standard definition of “faith” with which to counter the decidedly non-standard one you asserted. I need not rely on such things for church doctrine; they usually make that freely available on their own sites. Similarly, Google has nothing to tell me about the contents of the Scripture. I can just read it.

            • Luke Breuer

              Why are you working with the English word ‘faith’, instead of the Greek word πίστις (pistis)?

            • Nerdsamwich

              Because I speak English. I think in English, and every sermon I ever heard about “faith” was in English. Besides, I trust the translator for the rest of my Scripture, to not do so in this case would be special pleading. Why are you wasting our time quibbling over a standard definition instead of addressing a point?

            • Luke Breuer

              I belabor this point because you think that you are understanding what Jesus and Paul meant to convey, by your activities of listening to sermons and googling terms. You are engaging in post-structuralism, while thinking you are engaged in . Unless perhaps you’re fully on-board with The Death of the Author?

              I would challenge you to understand the sociology of knowledge, and how there is an incredible amount of “taken-for-grantedness” in a society, constituted by ‘truths’ which may only be ‘true’ because of the social construction of reality. Combine this with the evolution of society from generation to generation, and understandings of entire narratives can morph over time. Even how consciousness works has evolved; see Owen Barfield’s Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry.

              Now, the way I attempt to make sense out of the Bible by trying to motivate what is said in a non-caricatured way that doesn’t make a mockery out of the writers and speakers and redactors. Edward Feser, in The road from atheism, describes the road away from caricatures:

              As I would come to realize only years later, the conception of God I then found so implausible was essentially a modern, parochial, and overly anthropomorphic “theistic personalist” conception, and not the classical theism to which the greatest theistic philosophers had always been committed.

              Why not? Because to read something is not necessarily to understand it. Partly, of course, because when you’re young, you always understand less than you think you do. But mainly because, to understand someone, it’s not enough to sit there tapping your foot while he talks. You’ve got to listen, rather than merely waiting for a pause so that you can insert the response you’d already formulated before he even opened his mouth. And when you’re a young man who thinks he’s got the religious question all figured out, you’re in little mood to listen — especially if you’ve fallen in love with one side of the question, the side that’s new and sexy because it’s not what you grew up believing. Zeal of the deconverted, and all that.

              You’re pretty much just going through the motions at that point. And if, while in that mindset, what you’re reading from the other side are seemingly archaic works, written in a forbidding jargon, presenting arguments and ideas no one defends anymore (or at least no one in the “mainstream”), your understanding is bound to be superficial and inaccurate. You’ll take whatever happens to strike you as the main themes, read into them what you’re familiar with from modern writers, and ignore the unfamiliar bits as irrelevant. “This part sounds like what Leibniz or Plantinga says, but Hume and Mackie already showed what’s wrong with that; I don’t even know what the hell this other part means, but no one today seems to be saying that sort of thing anyway, so who cares…” Read it, read into it, dismiss it, move on. How far can you go wrong?

              You still appear to be in the land of caricatures. I have no interest in that land right now, so if you are going to maintain your current thinking despite what I’ve said here, I will thank you for your time and bid you adieu.

            • Nerdsamwich

              I use no more of a caricature than you do. Have fun.

            • Void L. Walker

              ………

            • Luke Breuer

              When I find myself citing more science than my atheist/skeptic interlocutors, you know something is wrong. When you see me actually trying to do proper literary analysis and the other guy being lazy, you know something is wrong. And let’s not fool ourselves: there is such a thing as poor literary analysis and poor anthropology.

            • Void Walker

              And this matters….how? Especially considering that any time you post a link, or cite some science paper etc. the evidence therein is not conducive to the ultimate longevity of your faith.*cough*

            • Luke Breuer

              I am at a loss for words. The person who allegedly cares about science more than me cites it less than I do. Yep, can’t say much to that!

            • Void Walker

              If you want me to start citing more, I’d be happy to hammer you with links. I’ve just failed to see a good reason to do so thus far.

              Captain presumptuous…

            • Luke Breuer

              Except you butted in on a conversation I was having with someone else. That’s fine, but you’re not Nerdsamwich. But other than that, I’d love some citations—too many and I won’t be able to read them all. But yeah, I’m here to learn. Citations are really important, because they’re intelligently chosen bits of information from a mass of disinformation on the internet and beyond. You know how much crap there is out there and how hard it can be to find the good stuff if you’re not an expert in academia, right?

            • Void Walker

              Ah ha. And you NEVER butt in, right? Hmm.

              Your primary problem wrt discussion is that you don’t have answers to the majority of meaningful questions that I pose, so you unload “citations” as a means of “explaining” your position. I don’t use links much, because I actually have some good answers and would rather convey them without assistance.

            • Luke Breuer

              The “majority”? Hmmm. Let me ask you: if I were to turn those questions around on you, how often would you (a) say it’s a meaningless question in your philosophy; (b) say you don’t know; (c) explain it with “evolution” and move on; (d) do something else? I want to know if I’m actually doing a bad job, compared to what you or another atheist could do. Because maybe I’m not? You’ve put forward the accusation, now shall we pursue it and investigate it?

            • Void Walker

              Gladly, ask me any questions that you want. You may be a tad surprised by my answers.

            • Luke Breuer

              How about we start from that “majority of meaningful questions” you referenced? You seem to have an idea of some set of questions you’ve asked me, and that I haven’t given good answers to the majority of them, so pick from that majority!

            • Void Walker

              Gladly.

              The problem of evil. I ask you, in several different ways, how you could possibly reconcile a maximally loving omni being with natural evil. Suffering, found all throughout the natural world, as well as death. As I write you this, I want you to imagine something. Right at this very moment, a child, somewhere in the world, is dying from severe burns. Imagine the agony that this innocent child is feeling, yet Yahweh values LFW (SELO, yaaay) to take precedent to her well being.

              I’ve asked you many, many times how you can possibly reconcile this, and guess what? You common appeal(s) are: God would not want to interfere with our free will! He would be controlling; this is *EVIL*, or, my personal favorite: “I honestly don’t know. But you atheists don’t have a great model for abiogenesis so HA!”

              You call those good answers, huh?

              Another one that I pose a lot. Why the hell do you continually refer to Adam and Eve as if they actually existed? It does *nothing* for your position when you begin with the apparent assumption that referencing two people who NEVER EXISTED can somehow answer my question.

              Want some more examples? I’ve got a shit load.

            • Luke Breuer

              You just deny that the problem of evil is a problem. You say that’s the way it is. You did no work to answer that. You just denied it as an interesting question. Are you really going to judge me by you denying the question, and then criticizing me when I attempt to give a meaningful answer that doesn’t just appeal to randomness and evolution?

              As to Adam and Eve, mythology is useful for understanding reality. Two books for you: The Literary Mind: the Origins of Thought and Language and Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences. All mythology is is a mathematical structure, a pattern. Some myths can be well-matched to reality, while others not so much. But if you don’t think humans understand reality through story, you’re seriously deluded as to how cognition functions. The Literary Mind, by the way, is based on cogsci research, among other things.

            • Void Walker

              “You just deny that the problem of evil is a problem.”

              Wrong. I *posit* that it is a MAJOR, unanswered problem for the theist. Evil, to me, is a human conception. It is little more than a perception of pain, death and the like. You see it as a problem, realize that not a single, tenable solution has been presented, and stick your head in the sand.

              As for Adam and Eve, once again, it is *not* an effective method, at all. To me, it conveys nothing; rather, it shows, quite clearly, that you do not have a good answer to the question.

            • Luke Breuer

              Wrong. I *posit* that it is a MAJOR, unanswered problem for the theist.

              Let’s go back to what I wrote:

              Let me ask you: if I were to turn those questions around on you, how often would you (a) say it’s a meaningless question in your philosophy; (b) say you don’t know; (c) explain it with “evolution” and move on; (d) do something else?

              Emphasis added this time.

              As for Adam and Eve, once again, it is *not* an effective method, at all. To me, it conveys nothing; rather, it shows, quite clearly, that you do not have a good answer to the question.

              Answer to what question? You’re criticizing me for using myth as a device for understanding reality when stuff like mathematical equations just won’t work [yet]. And you know what? You’re starting to have Dawkins-faith: “belief in the teeth of the evidence”. Why? Because you just shat on the results of scientific research, encapsulated in a book I cited. You didn’t ask any questions, you just plowed on, as if nothing scientific had been presented. C’mon, Void!

            • Void Walker

              How the hell is what I said (a)? It is not *just* meaningless, it’s completely false. I honestly think that you know this, but you’re too proud to admit it, and perhaps a little flustered that you still cannot *effectively* answer questions regarding the problem of evil.

              “Answer to what question?”

              Sigh.

              The one I *just* brought up. Your utilization of Adam and Eve as some obscure form of “answer” to my questions regarding *if* there was a fall, and *when* there was a fall. Appealing to non existent sin catalysts is not working here.

            • Luke Breuer

              How the hell is what I said (a)? It is not *just* meaningless, it’s completely false.

              Ok, that’s fine. I’ll modify:

              Let me ask you: if I were to turn those questions around on you, how often would you (a) say it’s a meaningless/completely false question in your philosophy; (b) say you don’t know; (c) explain it with “evolution” and move on; (d) do something else?

              Better?

              The one I *just* brought up. Your utilization of Adam and Eve as some obscure form of “answer” to my questions regarding *if* there was a fall, and *when* there was a fall. Appealing to non existent sin catalysts is not working here.

              Here’s what you brought up:

              Another one that I pose a lot. Why the hell do you continually refer to Adam and Eve as if they actually existed? It does *nothing* for your position when you begin with the apparent assumption that referencing two people who NEVER EXISTED can somehow answer my question.

              What question? Just re-type it, please?

            • Void Walker

              ” Why the hell do you continually refer to Adam and Eve as if they actually existed?”

              Gah! I’m a compulsive replier, Luke. Lets just stop for now lol

            • Luke Breuer

              Because I don’t want to fill my posts with protocol-words. Then I get accused of being verbose. Really, Void, it’s Charybdis and Scylla. You want me to be precise, but not verbose. If I don’t use protocol-words, you get mad that I make Adam and Eve sound real. Do you really like being jerked around like you’re jerking me around?

            • Void Walker

              Luke….seriously. If you keep replying to what I post, I’ll be up all night. I think I have OCD.

            • Luke Breuer

              I hit you with a quantum Zeno effect beam.

            • Void Walker

              I see what you’re getting at, now. When one has consumed enough vodka, it impedes one’s faculties…significantly.

              From now on, I’ll not complain when you use Adam and Eve in this way.

            • Luke Breuer

              my personal favorite: “I honestly don’t know. But you atheists don’t have a great model for abiogenesis so HA!”

              Yep, that’s my response to: “If you cannot answer this question, you should abandon your theology as a failed enterprise.” Can you see how it is possibly a valid answer to such a statement?

              Want some more examples? I’ve got a shit load.

              Sure!

            • Void Walker

              “Yep, that’s my response to: “If you cannot answer this question, you should abandon your theology as a failed enterprise.” Can you see how it is possibly a valid answer to such a statement?”

              No, its a response to something you *cannot* answer. You realize this, are clearly upset by it, and obfuscate to cover your tracks.

            • Luke Breuer

              Going Andy Schueler, eh? Want to just permanently stop talking? I have no patience for:

              You realize this, are clearly upset by it, and obfuscate to cover your tracks.

              Unless you’re going to obey this:

              Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. (Gal 6:1-5)

              What does that mean? Help me see how my model of reality [1] is wrong, and that your model of reality [2] is correct. What does this require? Quotations illustrating a pattern of what I’m doing, and suggestions for how to change.

              [1] My model:

              Yep, that’s my response to: “If you cannot answer this question, you should abandon your theology as a failed enterprise.” Can you see how it is possibly a valid answer to such a statement?

              [2] Your model:

              No, its a response to something you *cannot* answer. You realize this, are clearly upset by it, and obfuscate to cover your tracks.

              If you aren’t willing to do this, Void, you’re being a Pharisee:

              Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. (Mt 23:1-4)

              I have no patience for such people. They are useless, they are parasites on society, and unless I have to, I will do without them. So pick what kind of person you want to be like, Void. I won’t harbor any hard feelings if you just want to stop talking to me permanently. I will fondly remember most of our conversations, and be thankful for them and all the time you’ve taken out of life to talk to me.

            • Void Walker

              Luke, dude…seriously. I warned you earlier that I was drunk and depressed (or did I mention the booze?). You aren’t talking to me in a normal state of mind. Let’s just do as I suggested and cease discussion for now.

            • Luke Breuer

              Where did you suggest ceasing the discussion? I must have missed it.

            • Void Walker

              Earlier I said that I was in a shit mood, remember? I did not necessarily say that we should cease, I implied.

            • Luke Breuer

              Would it be better to not converse after some hour, in general?

            • Void Walker

              I typically only get trashed 3 times a week. I’ll let you know what days to avoid me lol

            • Luke Breuer

              Ah ha. And you NEVER butt in, right? Hmm.

              I was referring to Nerdsamwich’s and others’ failure to cite pretty much any science. Sigh. Must we really play the game, “let me see if there’s any technical detail the other person got wrong”? I am very good at that game, but usually it leads nowhere. Abso-fucking-lutely nowhere. You know this, right?

            • Void Walker

              I’d love to play it, though….

            • Luke Breuer

              Is feeling good about yourself more important than truth-seeking?

            • Void Walker

              Feeling good, in general, is.

            • Luke Breuer

              Seriously? Making the world a better place takes the back-seat?

            • Void Walker

              I told you I had problems, Luke. Perhaps you should have listened?

            • Luke Breuer

              Who doesn’t have problems? I’ve told you that I’ve gone through dark places as well. We’ve both been through darker places than most. Why not shed the excuses and use science to crawl out of the holes that we occasionally find ourselves in? There’s a wealth of scientific knowledge out there. Don’t you think it’s the solution?

            • Void Walker

              I’m coming around to it, yeah. I emailed you, btw. Gonna crash– later

            • Void Walker

              That was…terse and rude of me, wasn’t it?

            • Luke Breuer

              Ehh, whatever. I know that however terse or rude you get, you can flip around and not be an ass. Few people seem to have that ability. With that ability, much is easily forgiven, in my book.

            • Void Walker

              Good…thank you. I’m gonna peace out for the night. Remind me to respond when I’m sane via email?

      • 1) yes it does. ie the grounding objection, as well as all of God’s creative and personhood issues (ex-temporally)

        2) no, I did mention that

        3) Nature implies some kind of essentialism which I deny. There is no way humans are supposed to be. I disagree with MacIntyre for too many reasons to go into here. Ostensibly, I am a moral nihlist in some senses. It comes down to abstracts and conceptual nominalism.

        4) I actually disagree with the whole premise of my own argument – I am arguing for a Christian position. See here: http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2013/07/14/god-cannot-be-perfect-because-perfect-does-not-makes-sense/

        and here

        http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/09/03/argument-against-a-perfect-being-creating-the-world/

        The whole God creating anything is utterly nonsensical. God concept doesn’t, for me anyway, even remotely get off the ground.

        • Luke Breuer

          You’ve asked me to ping you about comments to which I’d like a response; here is one from a day ago.

          1) How does your critique fare without middle knowledge?

          2) Yes you did, but then you seemed to deny it; see my 8.

          3) That’s fine, but will you grant “some kind of essentialism” to the Christian’s argument, before you critique the argument? Or will you critique it on this very basis? Essentialism seems to be a philosophical position, not an empirical one. Is this true?

          4) If you disagree with perfection, then what concept of perfection did you use in your video?

          The whole God creating anything is utterly nonsensical. God concept doesn’t, for me anyway, even remotely get off the ground.

          Straw men are like this.

    • Void L. Walker

      (I have a feeling that we are experiencing a pre-storm calm, comment wise)

      • Void Walker

        …..my prediction was eerily accurate.

    • Shatterface

      God can’t have free will and be omniscient since omniscience implies he knows everything including what he’s going to do next.

      If he knows what he’s going to do next he’s predestined to do that so not free at all.

    • Pingback: God cannot act contrary to his own predictions and cannot know that he knows everything | A Tippling Philosopher()

    • IdPnSD

      Good video. Very nicely presented. Your book must be good too. But I think you have
      not considered the laws of nature. All answers of your question can be found in
      nature. Nature always gives proof of all its laws and all of your questions.
      Not only that all answers already exist. You just have to research and find
      them.

      To understand god, you have to understand reincarnation. Reincarnation is a law of
      nature and nature gives many proofs to demonstrate that this is a fact. Bible
      had reincarnation, but you probably know that at one time, around 500-600 BC reincarnation was systematically removed from Bible.

      A baby is born, with bullet wounds in the chest and back. Doctors, nurses, and
      parents agree. When the baby learns to speak, at age 2-3, he starts talking
      about his past life. He says in his previous life his name was N, he lived in
      town T, and he was killed by a gunshot wound. The researchers go to the
      hospital of town T and verify the facts from the post mortem records at the
      hospital. This example shows that nature gives the proof that reincarnation is
      a law of nature. There are thousands of such well documented cases all over the
      world.

      Nature also proves that it is the soul that creates the body, and not god. Doctors have
      performed operations on such babies and have found straight line damage in the heart
      and other parts along the bullet path. Thus the soul created the body precisely
      the way it wanted in the present life and exactly according to the end point of
      the past life.

      This shows god did not create any one of us. All of us are created by our individual
      soul. Therefore there cannot be god who is the creator of the universe. You will
      be surprised to know that Vedas do not say that god exists. There was a time when
      Vedas were known all over the world. Reincarnation in Bible proves that fact.

      For all the details please visit the blog site: http://theoryofsouls.wordpress.com/ The book at the blog site is free.

    • IdPnSD

      Checking if you are open to all comments: http://theoryofsouls.wordpress.com/
      If yes, then I will come back, read, and comment.

    • MH2468

      This religion is only based on evidence and logic: http://hill-evidencism.blogspot.com/.

    • Marcus Ashes

      God is not worthy of respect and praise simply for being god, only capable of doing good and being powerless to change that. It’s like praising a dog for being a dog and following it’s naturally programmed instincts to follow a thrown ball. It is a frivolous admiration for a tautology in action. I had this revelation earlier today.

    • Marcus Ashes

      Also if god cannot fail what’s the point of praising him when he succeeds? That’s like congratulating a rock for falling off a cliff and killing someone

      • Praise is as pointless as prayer, which for an omniGod is silly. That a simple reminder can get God to change his mind or do something he hadn’t already thought of doing is nuts.

    • Marcus Ashes

      I mean imagine this scenario.

      God: Human you must worship me.
      Human:Why?
      God: Because I am God.
      Human: But if I was God you would have to worship me.
      God: Yes but you are not. I am. Besides what is your point?
      Human: Well let me ask you did you earn the right to be God somehow? Did you win the title of God one day? Is it possible for you to not be God?
      God: No, no and no.
      Human: Then you are kind of stuck in a position where you are not in control and it would be frivolous for me to worship a being who didn’t achieve Godlike status and who for all intents and purposes was awarded Godlike status.
      God: Hurrrm….

    • Marcus Ashes

      When we worship god we are doing it just because he is god. Not for any other valid and sufficient reasons. I mean yes he is powerful but that’s because he is god. Where is the obligation? Where is the external and secondary justification for worshipping god?

    • Marcus Ashes

      And god may be god but so what. What relevance does a being have just for being what he’s always been without knowing any differently. Like I said it is circular to worship god just for being god. Especially when there is nothing to compare and contrast him too and when there is nothing that poses a threat to god. Was their ever a time when god wasn’t perfect and attained perfection?(whatever that means for an infinite being with no standard to compare to). No so he isn’t worthy of praise.

    • Marcus Ashes

      As well another way of looking at it is god did not set the parameters of his actions so he is not free.
      Suppose you had god in the biblical christian sense and then this god created another being who was equally powerful in every way except that this other being could choose between good and evil. Now in some possible world this being always chooses good (or you could imagine a being that leant towards good more than evil). Regardless, now who would you consider more morally praiseworthy and who is more powerful? An infinitely capable creator who might commit evil still has the power to throw you in hell if you don’t do as it says and would still have total authority.

      • Thanks for your comments, Marcus. I will respond when I get a minute. In the meantime, you may want to check out the category, on the right, of God’s characteristics.

        • Marcus Ashes

          Ok cool thanks

        • Marcus Ashes

          Just a quick question is there a limit on how much I can comment because I don’t want to flood but things have a habit of occurring to me all in one go?

        • Marcus Ashes

          What page are the characteristics on? I’m using my phone and can’t see them on this page?
          Thanks

          • On the sidebar to the right at the top under the search for field is the categories drop down menu.

            • Marcus Ashes

              Ahh cheers

    • Marcus Ashes

      I was considering god’s omnipotence and omniscience and I was trying to think of things that would render both incoherrent. Trying to avoid contradictions and other paradoxes that are questionable at best and have been countered and disproven at worst this is what I came up with:
      Does god know how to invent new knowledge or a new ability?
      Does god have knowledge and memory of doing everything?(I’ll explain this one further below).

      God’s power and knowledge is also dependent on what he has done, for instance can god remember(an ability) what it was like to play a game of baseball with me for any period of time? Does god know what it is like to remember doing this with me at the same time as i remember doing it myself?
      I’m never going to play a game of baseball with god so he will 1. never have the knowledge of it and 2. never have the ability to remember playing it with me.
      You can apply this to any situation or event you can think of and see that god doesn’t have total knowledge or omnipotence.
      Now you could argue god is everywhere and everything but then i would argue well what about god doing it in the form of jesus and interacting with me as himself.
      There is another paradox which I’m not sure has been covered before although I can’t find anything on the internet about it.
      Basically it goes can god create an inextinguishable flame.

      Thank you

    • Marcus Ashes

      I forgot to add there is also
      Can god answer any question of have you done this that etc. and be telling the truth when saying yes?

    • Marcus Ashes

      I also wouldn’t respect a being that could not feel pain at least in any meaningful way because like I said before a true strength is having weaknesses and being able to overcome them knowing you might not succeed. God himself is an arbitrary being with no specific identity or objective right to call himself god therefore does not deserve to be. (It would be circular to say god deserves to be god because he is god or the reason he is god is because he is god.

    • Marcus Ashes

      There are a list of things that god did not create and did not have the free will to create:
      1. All knowledge, including abstract things
      2. Morality itself
      3. Possibility of everything
      4. His abilities/omnipotence

      If god is omniscient then all knowledge including abstract concepts already existed in god’s mind and were already a potentiality/possibility.
      God was always good and can’t change his nature so morality was not created by him.
      The actual possibility/potentiality of everything was there before god created it otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to create it. This leads to an infinite regression if one says god create the possibility because you could ask did god create the possibility of that possibility and so on ad infintum.
      Being omnipotent everything was already possible and achieved eternally for god to have full memory and full knowledge of everything.

    • Jack Johnston

      I think theists would counter this with the teaching from Genesis that the original creation was “good,” and that the curse of mankind because of the fall produced an imperfect world, that would later be able to be remedied because of the sacrifice of Christ, and the subsequent inauguration of the millennial kingdom and the new heavens and earth where all pain and suffering is eliminated. As such, to posit that this is the best of all possible worlds is a straw man produced by philosophical speculation that has an extra-biblical source, and is not a foundation of Christian teaching. I think their orthodox teaching would be that the best of all possible worlds was a once and future prospect, but is not presently the case.

      As for the ramifications in regard to God’s omni attributes, the answers are illusive and seemingly unanswerable. . .