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Can you help but do evil? I do not see how. Do you?
Posted: 21 August 2012 07:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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FreeInKy - 20 August 2012 12:06 PM

Well, that clears it up.

I did my best. Read along and things might come together for you.
We have both sides, agreement and disagreement so far.

That or ask a specific question or two and I will try again.

Regards
DL

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Posted: 21 August 2012 07:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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Greatest I am - 21 August 2012 07:36 AM

Scott Mayers

+ 1

Regards
DL

Of course it’s “+1” from you since he agrees with you. But are we here to figure things out or to form groups?

Can either you or Scott explain to me what the following is supposed to mean?

Scott Mayers - 20 August 2012 08:33 PM

The concept of the selfish-gene is sufficient to be extended to behaviors of all living things.

Genes don’t have behaviour. They are neither selfish nor altruistic, just like they aren’t happy or sad or whatever else. I have no idea what Scott thinks is being “extended” from genes to our behaviour. The term “selfish gene”, a metaphor (!), was coined by Dawkins to explain, among other things, the fact the we can indeed behave altruistically because our genes make it possible. I could go one explaining why genes do that, but maybe I’ll wait for you, or Scott, first to elaborate on the genes extending their selfishness.

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Posted: 21 August 2012 08:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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Scott Mayers - 20 August 2012 08:33 PM

There’s the saying, “Never look a gift-horse in the mouth.” But this saying wouldn’t exist if people truly never had reasons to be suspicious of one’s apparent act of altruism. I remember a friend of mine who seemed dumb-founded about how she kept getting creeps after her in the bar. But upon careful examination, it always seemed to turn out that she began by accepting a drink from one of them. I told her that it was obvious: stop accepting a free offer if you don’t like the person and they won’t bother you.

Advertisers know this well. People are innately selfish. If they weren’t, then apparent “free” offers would never be effective.

None of this makes any sense to me whatsoever. Neither the gift horse proverb nor your advertising example have anything to do with selfishness.

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Posted: 22 August 2012 07:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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George - 21 August 2012 07:53 AM
Greatest I am - 21 August 2012 07:36 AM

Scott Mayers

+ 1

Regards
DL

Of course it’s “+1” from you since he agrees with you. But are we here to figure things out or to form groups?

I am already legions. You will say,—- just in my own mind and you would be right. Reality is still that I am legion.
I just acknowledge fellow warriors.

Can either you or Scott explain to me what the following is supposed to mean?

Only Scott knows but I can opine.

Scott Mayers - 20 August 2012 08:33 PM

The concept of the selfish-gene is sufficient to be extended to behaviors of all living things.

The selfish gene is that which seeks life. Life does not seek it’s worst end. It seeks it’s best end.
All life strives to be the fittest. That is evolution.

Candide.

“It is demonstrable that things cannot be otherwise than as they are; for as all things have been created for some end, they must necessarily be created for the best end.”

I do not like the word created above as it smacks of God. The writer should have used the term, born.

Genes don’t have behaviour.

Yes they do. They behave like switches.
Like all life, it is either on or off.

They are neither selfish nor altruistic,

See above. All life must be selfish. But they are by nature also altruistic. There is no conflict.
You say that genes are not altruistic. The antonyme to altruistic is selfish. You say that genes are not selfish.
I see a miss-use of language but would ask, in some confusion, what are they if neither?

Altruisms is a survival tool. It is more profitable for life to cooperate than to compete.
Cooperation is our survival default position as shown with baby experiments.

just like they aren’t happy or sad or whatever else. I have no idea what Scott thinks is being “extended” from genes to our behaviour. The term “selfish gene”, a metaphor (!), was coined by Dawkins to explain, among other things, the fact the we can indeed behave altruistically because our genes make it possible. I could go one explaining why genes do that, but maybe I’ll wait for you, or Scott, first to elaborate on the genes extending their selfishness.

Genes are expressed or show their interactions through life.
As you wait buddy, ponder your life. Think back to your birth. What was your first instinct?

To be blunt.
To find the breast.
That was rather selfish of you.
Just in life and survival terms that is.
Quite normal.

Regards
DL

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Posted: 22 August 2012 07:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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Genes don’t seek anything and nobody strives to be fittest. Animals and plants (or rather “some” animals and plants, not all) strive to survive and reproduce, among other things, and only the fittest will end up, well, the fittest.

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Posted: 22 August 2012 07:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
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George - 22 August 2012 07:36 AM

Genes don’t seek anything and nobody strives to be fittest. Animals and plants (or rather “some” animals and plants, not all) strive to survive and reproduce, among other things, and only the fittest will end up, well, the fittest.

No plants strive to survive.

Stephen

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Posted: 22 August 2012 08:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
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Don’t do that here, Stephen. I know what you mean and I agree with you, but it doesn’t belong in this thread.

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Posted: 25 August 2012 03:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
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In answer to the topic question:

I would define an evil act as something someone does with the knowledge that it will cause more harm to, than support of, other humans.

This is not a perfect definition, as, for one thing it might let ignorant people off the hook for their harmful behavior.  It could sometimes effectively let people, who know they are causing more harm than support, off the hook, also, as they could feign ignorance or be erroneously assumed to be ignorant. 

Another problem with this definition is that it doen’t address the matter of degree. I guess this problem could be addressed by agreeing that a behavior that one recognizes will only cause a tiny bit more harm to, than support of, others, is only a tiny bit evil.  And a behavior that one recognizes causes horrendously more harm to, than support of others, is horrendously evil.

Because of self interest, and/or due to our emotions, I think that most of us have, at times done behaviors that are (by the above definition), at least, a tiny bit evil.  (Could we have done differently? Technically, given our individual nature, and individual set of life circumstances, up to that point, and the circumstances at the time, no. Can we help but do evil actions in the future? Possibly.)

Societies tend to try to limit (subsequent) very evil acts by punishing them. That can sometimes be a partially effective strategy, but only sometimes and only partially, unless, of course, the punishment is death in every case (and that is not practical and may even be evil, in itself).  (Also, punishment is most effective at suppressing behavior when the punishment occurs immediately following a behavior. That rarely happens. Also systems of punishment can promote the occurrence of even more evil behavior that is done in order to esape or avoid punishment.)

It is a more effective strategy to, primarily, have systems in place that set the occasion for individuals to behave in ways that result in more support of, than harm to, others,  and systems in place that reinforce the behaviors that people do that cause more support to, than harm of, others.

[ Edited: 25 August 2012 03:42 AM by TimB ]
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Posted: 25 August 2012 09:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
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George,

Think of it, our consciousness is simply an evolutionary adaptation to serve the community of all the cells of our body, including the newly necessary ones that create consciousness itself. It’s as if the cells got together to elect an organ, the brain, to interpret a relatively unpredictable external environment to provide them with the nourishment they demand. In order to do this requires induction by trial and error, memorizing, scanning associated memories, and acting. The conscious has built in commands that reward or punish through emotions and feeling in order to motivate a continuous survival for the all the cells. The cells’ self-motivation results in evolving differentiated cells that work at least in its best favor; if it creates a differentiated cell that defeats its self-serving need to survive, then it doesn’t even have a chance to pass on it, nor its friendly created cells. [If self-serving behavior takes a second seat to concern for the other, then the organism neglects its own survival by expending energy and effort to serve the other without concern for intake of its own need.]

From the perspective of our consciousness, we act to increase good sensations and decrease bad ones. This is also selfish. An example to show how this is true is to consider a disease like leprosy. When the immune system is compromised by the disease, it can cause numbness to detect pain or pleasure from the nerves. Because it creates a lack of determining harm, one with the disease may easily injure those numb parts of the body and get serious secondary infections that eventually destroy the body. The disease is like a favoritism to the bacterial organism to the detriment of itself and so is destructive.

So, at minimum, all living things, including plants, behave to favor itself. And this extends all the way up to the conscious mind. You can also reasonably extend this to a community of humans. For example, a community acting in its capacity as such, must favor itself first in order to help other communities.

TimB,

You believe that an evil, or a non-ethical act, is one in which someone acts in a way that causes harm to a larger quantity of people with respect to others. This is the same as saying an ethical act is one in which one acts to benefit the majority over the minority.

Ask yourself this though: if you are alone on an island with Hitler, Stalin, and Charles Manson, and you are faced with a decision to either sacrifice yourself or all three of them, exclusively, you must be implying that your own life’s sacrifice is the better, wiser decision for you to act on?

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Posted: 25 August 2012 10:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
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Scott Mayers - 25 August 2012 09:22 PM

TimB,

You believe that an evil, or a non-ethical act, is one in which someone acts in a way that causes harm to a larger quantity of people with respect to others. This is the same as saying an ethical act is one in which one acts to benefit the majority over the minority.

Ask yourself this though: if you are alone on an island with Hitler, Stalin, and Charles Manson, and you are faced with a decision to either sacrifice yourself or all three of them, exclusively, you must be implying that your own life’s sacrifice is the better, wiser decision for you to act on?

I was trying to come up with a working definition of evil. I don’t know whether I would equate that to ethics. (That is probably another discussion.) I was thinking in terms of the degree of harm vs. support to indviduals as well as the masses (not just sheer numbers of others).

But anyway, IF Hitler, Stalin, and Manson were all alive, on an island in today’s world and had the ability to escape and cause the havoc that they caused previously in their lives, killing them would be the the most non-evil act that I could do, IF that were the only way that I could stop them.

IF we were the last 4 people on earth, or IF I knew absolutely that they would never be able to leave the island, AND IF the conditions are as you required, that either they die or I die, then, by the working definition that I proposed, it would be more evil for me to kill them, instead of dying myself.

However, in that latter condition, I would probably choose the evil act.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 25 August 2012 11:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
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TimB,

You are appealing to a utilitarian view. But imagine a train coming down a track that was headed for a group of five arbitrary people and is about to kill them. Imagine they were tied down or in such a situation that you are unable to help. There is another track connected to this one that runs off in a different direction. On this track, one person is tied down to it and you are at a switch at the junction which you can opt to force the train to alter to this track. Do you flip the switch?

You would say that you should. But what if the intrinsic values of the peoples differed? What if, say, the five people on the one track were just useless drug addicts while the person on the other track was someone you loved or valued?

Another thing to consider is that should your presence in the situation justify you to act or not act? By physically pulling the switch, you and only you are certifying someone’s death. If you did nothing, nature caused while you neglected to act.

To make this a little clearer, imagine that there was a bridge over the track in which a big fat man was sitting on the edge overlooking a single track. You are on the bridge and can act to stop the train by pushing the man so that he falls on the track and derails the train. Assume that a train is coming down the track and that any number of people are on the track. Would you act. That is would you directly cause the death of someone that would naturally be safe in order to save, say, five people? ...or one loved one?

[I originally read these dilemmas in a book on ethics. You can check out the source of this here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

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Posted: 26 August 2012 02:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]
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Scott Mayers - 25 August 2012 11:54 PM

TimB,

You are appealing to a utilitarian view. But imagine a train coming down a track that was headed for a group of five arbitrary people and is about to kill them. Imagine they were tied down or in such a situation that you are unable to help. There is another track connected to this one that runs off in a different direction. On this track, one person is tied down to it and you are at a switch at the junction which you can opt to force the train to alter to this track. Do you flip the switch?

You would say that you should. But what if the intrinsic values of the peoples differed? What if, say, the five people on the one track were just useless drug addicts while the person on the other track was someone you loved or valued?

Another thing to consider is that should your presence in the situation justify you to act or not act? By physically pulling the switch, you and only you are certifying someone’s death. If you did nothing, nature caused while you neglected to act.

To make this a little clearer, imagine that there was a bridge over the track in which a big fat man was sitting on the edge overlooking a single track. You are on the bridge and can act to stop the train by pushing the man so that he falls on the track and derails the train. Assume that a train is coming down the track and that any number of people are on the track. Would you act. That is would you directly cause the death of someone that would naturally be safe in order to save, say, five people? ...or one loved one?

[I originally read these dilemmas in a book on ethics. You can check out the source of this here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem


Look.  Again I tell you I am not attempting to discuss ethics, and to the extent that ethics naturally over laps it only complicates the discussion in which we have no agreed upon definition of evil.  My attempt in coming up with a working definition of evil, is due to my recognition that if we don’t have a working defintion of evil, we are very likely to just talk past each other while discussing it. It doesn’t need to be my working definition, just one that makes sense and we can all agree on. 

But I will attempt to say which would be the most or least evil acts (according to the defintion I proposed) in the ethical dilemna vignettes you present.

If the one is definitely a source of great support to others, and the 5 are a source of relative harm to others, then by my proposed definition, the greater evil act would be to switch the track to kill the one.

(My definition did not include whether inaction is evil.  That seems a valid point to consider. Although this also complicates the discussion further.)

But, by the working definition, (and assuming that inaction can be evil) whether killing the innocent fat guy is a lesser evil would depend on the relative harm or support that he vs. the other people are likely to do should they survive.

And it would be a greater evil to kill the fat guy just to save a loved one, if I not being in jail and the fat guy continuing to live would provide more support for, than harm to, others than my loved one continuing to survive would.

Now I have played your what-ifs to a fault.  Please don’t presume to give me any more.

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Posted: 27 August 2012 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]
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StephenLawrence - 22 August 2012 07:57 AM
George - 22 August 2012 07:36 AM

Genes don’t seek anything and nobody strives to be fittest. Animals and plants (or rather “some” animals and plants, not all) strive to survive and reproduce, among other things, and only the fittest will end up, well, the fittest.

No plants strive to survive.

Stephen

All life strives to survive.
Life certainly do not strive to die.
When your life began, did you strive for thre breast and life or death without it?

Regards
DL

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Posted: 27 August 2012 10:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]
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TimB - 25 August 2012 03:32 AM

In answer to the topic question:

I would define an evil act as something someone does with the knowledge that it will cause more harm to, than support of, other humans.

This is not a perfect definition, as, for one thing it might let ignorant people off the hook for their harmful behavior.  It could sometimes effectively let people, who know they are causing more harm than support, off the hook, also, as they could feign ignorance or be erroneously assumed to be ignorant. 

Another problem with this definition is that it doen’t address the matter of degree. I guess this problem could be addressed by agreeing that a behavior that one recognizes will only cause a tiny bit more harm to, than support of, others, is only a tiny bit evil.  And a behavior that one recognizes causes horrendously more harm to, than support of others, is horrendously evil.

Because of self interest, and/or due to our emotions, I think that most of us have, at times done behaviors that are (by the above definition), at least, a tiny bit evil.  (Could we have done differently? Technically, given our individual nature, and individual set of life circumstances, up to that point, and the circumstances at the time, no. Can we help but do evil actions in the future? Possibly.)

Societies tend to try to limit (subsequent) very evil acts by punishing them. That can sometimes be a partially effective strategy, but only sometimes and only partially, unless, of course, the punishment is death in every case (and that is not practical and may even be evil, in itself).  (Also, punishment is most effective at suppressing behavior when the punishment occurs immediately following a behavior. That rarely happens. Also systems of punishment can promote the occurrence of even more evil behavior that is done in order to esape or avoid punishment.)

It is a more effective strategy to, primarily, have systems in place that set the occasion for individuals to behave in ways that result in more support of, than harm to, others,  and systems in place that reinforce the behaviors that people do that cause more support to, than harm of, others.

That system is already in place. It is called evolution.
In it, the evil we do and have to do is good as individual advancement to the fittest is the goal and nature does not care how much evil puts the fittest in his position.
To evolution that evil is good for the overall system.

Regards
DL

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Posted: 27 August 2012 11:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]
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Greatest I am - 27 August 2012 10:34 AM
TimB - 25 August 2012 03:32 AM

...It is a more effective strategy to, primarily, have systems in place that set the occasion for individuals to behave in ways that result in more support of, than harm to, others,  and systems in place that reinforce the behaviors that people do that cause more support to, than harm of, others.

That system is already in place. It is called evolution.
In it, the evil we do and have to do is good as individual advancement to the fittest is the goal and nature does not care how much evil puts the fittest in his position.
To evolution that evil is good for the overall system.

Regards
DL

Nonsense. (I particularly can’t figure out the 2nd sentence.  Is English your 2nd language?) Oh wait.  I see. You just left some commas out.

Still.  It’s nonsense. Evolution doesn’t have a goal.  It just is.  What we consider to be evil or not evil, doesn’t matter in the process of evolution.  Also, it is a system that works, only, over multiple generations.

[ Edited: 27 August 2012 12:18 PM by TimB ]
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