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February 29, 2012

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I like Stephen Fry as an actor, andI've watched him host QI many, many times. He shows nothing but contempt for the Christian worldview--or at least what he perceives is the Christian worldview. He has no idea what we actually believe. That's the impression from the program, anyway. The misinformation on the show is astounding, which is ironic, since they aim to bring to light "Quite Interesting" bits of knowledge that have been lost along the way. His comments about ID during one show were especially ignorant--and I mean ignorant, not stupid--his researchers obviously had not done their research.

Another example of the smarmy contempt for anyone who isn't sufficiently "sceptical" in Great Britain (or on the interwebs). They think we're too dense to distinguish between God and Zeus or Cronus or whomever, when in fact the shoe would appear to be on the other foot.

Saying "I don't believe in God or gods" (though they tend to lowercase both just to drive home the contempt) is akin to saying "I don't believe in the existence of your cat, or Heathcliff, Garfield, and other cartoon cats that I saw on TV." Not exactly a like collection of entities.

I don't believe in the existence of your cat, or Heathcliff, Garfield, and other cartoon cats that I saw on TV."

When you claim your cat is an immaterial and all-powerful, all-loving cat. The initial skeptical reaction seems appropriate.

"When you claim your cat is an immaterial and all-powerful, all-loving cat. The initial skeptical reaction seems appropriate."

An immaterial cat is a contradiction in terms and logically incoherent. Fortunately, that's not what Bennett claimed at all.

Sean,

I think an all-loving cat is even more of a contradiction, but I appreciate the stand-up. ;)

Josh,

Way to be completely irrelevant. The point was that to posit a real cat is different from talking about cartoon cats. Lumping them all into the same category is inappropriate, and that is all that I was pointing out. Even those who lived in polytheistic societies, like Aristotle or Socrates, differentiated between those pagan pantheons and the "Prime Mover."

Stephen Fry is a very pro establishment crony and luvvie who has reputation for intelligence but shows he is not very smart. No doubt a knighthood is looming, the world loves it's own.

How can The Fall, which was supposed to happen within the past one hundred thousand years (or as far back as human history can go), explain the gratuitous pain and suffering of the uncountable non-human creatures across the hundreds of millions of years? Bone cancer and venereal diseases have existed for as long as creatures have had the breath of life. And cells have preyed on each other even further into the past.

At most it -might- explain why humans are are capable of moral evil despite God selecting some sentient ape ancestors, and endowing them with a personal relationship to him and fashioning them more in his likeness.

It doesn't explain 'Bone cancer', or the indifference to suffering nature shows. Where's the divine when a cat toys with a mouse? Or when a parasite drills its way into the brain of a vertebrate? What compassion moves avalanches, mudslides, hurricanes and thunderstorms? What kind of love creates AIDS, the Spanish flu or the bubonic plague?

All of these things have a natural explanation in a naturalistic universe. They follow from the execution of blind, indifferent mechanical laws that were put in place with no overarching teleology. Its a contingent explanation to be sure. There's a historical reason why we get bone cancer, and its rooted in the nature of our biology. Things could conceivably have been different.

Its a problem for theists because they have to explain why God could have chosen this world, out of all the possible ones he could have created. IF he is the source of goodness. I don't think the explanation for this can be handled with a shrug of the shoulders and some mumbling about 'The Fall and uh that thing with Satan maybe'.

As for wonder. Apparently the author doesn't believe desires and personal drives exists under naturalism. "I do! But wait, what I meant was that there's no objective transcendent way to decide which desire is the right one" the author will complain no doubt. Perhaps, but that's a non sequitur as to whether you feel awe and wonder. Either you do or you don't. And if you find that awe and wonder is preferable to boredom... and I do believe it can be objectively verified that people tend to do so (rather powerfully), then awe and wonder will be preferable to you over boredom. And this preference I think will give you a reason to seek out things that inspire awe and wonder. It will motivate you to do so. Even if awe and wonder happen by known process X as opposed to unknowable mysterium Y. Whether we have wonder and awe as a result of a materialistic brain functioning as it does, or because of some unexplainable nebulous substance like an immaterial soul has them as 'basic entities', doesn't change anything.

I think the last paragraph is true whether you want to believe it or not.

Leonhard, I'm not sure you understand what we mean when we talk about the Fall. No, veneral disease and bone cancer did not exist before the fall, so have not existed since creatures have had the breath of life. In fact, we don't know when these diseases first appeared in human history. The idea that God chose a sentient ape ancestor is also not a mainstream Christian position. Note, I said mainsteam. It certainly isn't the position taken by str.

As far as the problem of evil is concerned, many people have asked the questions you are asking. If you are truly intererested, then you should do a search on the str website. Many things have been posted here which might help you to understand the Christian position. You might not agree with the arguments, but at least you'd know what they were. They certainly go beyond "The Fall and uh that thing with Satan maybe."

And Wonder--I'm wondering--how you can feel Awe and Wonder--or anything else, for that matter-- with a consciousness that cannot have arisen from naturalistic causes. That's the big question, isn't it? Where does consiousness come from?

And why do we feel this when we look at a lovely sunset, or a newborn baby? Why not when we watch a cat toying with a mouse, or the results of a mudslide? Certainly the cat isn't boring! Of course, if you DO feel awe and wonder at these things, it might give you reason to seek out things that give you that awe and wonder again, and perhaps inspire you to start acting like that cat, and get first-hand experience at toying with something weaker than yourself.

Thanks for the reply Laurie. :)

The first point you made, that there were no bone cancer and venereal disease before the fall, is pretty much factually wrong. We know from the extant fossil record that there's been bone cancer as far back as there have been invertebrates, at least. There are also multiple lines of evidence suggesting that a wide variety of death and suffering inducing diseases have existed long before anything resembling a human came about. In fact bacteria have a history extending much further back into the past history, than any animal.

That human beings are apes, that we are the descendants of apes, just as we are all descendants of any of our ancestors, isn't much in serious dispute anymore. Genetically, morphologically and developmentally, the evidence fits the claim that we are descendants by evolution from ape ancestors, as well as being supplemented by an wide variety of fossils documenting just about every step of development from a common ape ancestor to us. Explaining why all this evidence fits so well if we are not apes will require a long series of ad hoc explanations. I know Stand to Reason's position on this, and its simple wrong.

I would like to point out that it was the author of the above who pointed to The Fall as the explanation for all the evil in the world. I'm well aware that plenty of theodicies have been given by Christians. I argued that it just wouldn't do to wave your arms and mumble about The Fall as if it settled any discussion. At most I think the The Fall -might- explain why human being are capable of evil even though God made us like him.

"And Wonder--I'm wondering--how you can feel Awe and Wonder--or anything else, for that matter-- with a consciousness that cannot have arisen from naturalistic causes."

There's a begging of the question here. You are assuming that consciousness can't come about from naturalistic causes. I, or any Christian for that matter (there are Christians who are materialists with respect to humans), don't have to automatically grant this. Even if I didn't know the answer to this, it would not be enough to point out my inability to give an explanation. Anymore than a Christian is expected to lose their faith if there's a question regarding Christianity they can't answer. If I asked you Divine Foreknowledge could coexist with contra-causal Free Will, and you couldn't answer me, would that be a good counter-argument to Christianity?

"And why do we feel this when we look at a lovely sunset, or a newborn baby? Why not when we watch a cat toying with a mouse, or the results of a mudslide?"

Good question, but its actually a non sequitur to the tiny summarized argument I made. It is simple enough that I do this, and that you do so too. A typical human could in principle be in denial that adventure, good company, doing something they felt is worthwhile, learning new skills and cultivating virtues, making friends, having fun and such things are what would make them happy, or that looking at stars, contemplating theology and philosophy, seeing something amazing like a frozen waterfall or a sunrise, hearing a powerful speech or sermon or a good thing causes them awe. That would just be a case of them being deluded. Like a kid who's convinced that he hates cucumbers, even though he'd love its freshness and taste if he took a bite.

Its also enough for me to say that I don't like to see kittens tortured (neither do you I hope), people suffering, beauty destroyed, pain, depression, murder, fear, fire and stress. I just don't, its part of my nature. The fact that I want happiness and all it entails and I wan't to avoid its shadow, gives me perfectly good reason to find the best way to seek out the best to do this. The question is then, what makes a human such as me happy, and what should a human do to attain it. That becomes the foundation of an objective system of ethics.

It could conceivable be hard to find out what happiness for humans would be. I believe science can study some of it (with some difficulty) and philosophers can argue about the rest (with much greater difficulty). There are epistemological difficulties, but nothing impossible here.

If you're asking me if the system of ethics I will develop will appeal to a monster who wants everything I want to avoid, and avoids everything I seek out. The answer is simple no, and there will be nothing I could say to sway that monster. If I acted as the monster then would, then I would be unhappy, which would give me reasons that would motivate me (unless I suffer from pride) back to my sense and seek happiness again.

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