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Why would a Christian want to change the world?
Posted: 18 October 2012 01:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 226 ]
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Jeciron - 18 October 2012 12:46 PM

It seems like it’s hard to make an argument from evil without a very concise definition of God.  I think that it’s incumbent upon the believer to put forth that definition, defining God’s capabilities and behavior.  Clearly if God is not subject to logic the existence of evil is no contradiction, without logic there is no such thing as a contradiction.  If God is subject to logic*, it then falls upon the believer to provide a logical premise which explains how evil exists.

Well, maybe we do that, yet the other side claims we’re just making stuff up without being specific about what we’re making up.  It makes it hard to have a rational conversation about it, you see?

If God isn’t good, merciful, forgiving and loving then evil is no contradiction, but why worship a God like that?  If the usual Christian concept of god is being proposed, (i.e. a logical, all knowing, all loving, all forgiving, omnipotent ruler), the existence of evil is much more confusing.  Why do good people suffer?

Good, especially the beginning.  The first step is to figure out how the four attributes you mention fit together cohesively then figure out if one can explain evil in that context—hopefully without the other side dismissing it as making stuff up.

I suppose that the inability to provide a logic for the suffering of innocents does not disprove the existence of God, for it can always be claimed that God’s reasons are incomprehensible to man, still, you’d think a merciful God would have made his reasons for allowing evil clearer to the average person.

Why would we think that?

But what I really don’t see is how the existence of evil in any way constitutes proof of the existence of God.

The argument isn’t that the existence of evil provides an evidence of God’s existence.  It’s that the existence of real moral prescriptives that we can detect implies god’s existence.  Why should an impersonal universe care whether you can detect morality?  What survival advantage do real morals provide, that evolution should favor organisms that can sense it?  Why should we detect morality any better than do fire ants or eagles?

*If God is the supreme ruler, God cannot be subject to anything, not even logic.  If logic controls God, then logic is the supreme ruler and so Logic, perhaps, might be considered to be God.  I kind of like that.

A supreme ruler is a thing, and we take it as true that any existing thing must be free of internal contradiction.  So any supreme ruler that exists must be “subject” to logic.  Yet logic itself is not an existing thing, is it?  Does it give orders?  Is it self-sufficient in the absence of something like a divine mind (let along a human one)?

Ironically, you’re treading close to the absurd definition of omnipotence we thought we’d dispensed with.

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Posted: 18 October 2012 03:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 227 ]
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Well, IMO, if evil exists it is an aspect of an omnipresent and omnipotent god.  That sounds logical to me.
If it were not so, where did evil come from, a seperate entity? Or is evil an emergent quaity of human intelligence? But then, if we are made in “his image” then logically god must also be able to do evil.

Can we please come to an agreement that if there is a god it doesn’t give a damn. If god has no intelligence and ethical motives then god becomes a generic word for an “impersonal creative force” and even as an atheist I can accept that as a valid premise.

Actually Good and Evil are perfectly explainable in theoretical science. The universe is a tensor field with a dual nature where opposites (potentials) are required for a dynamic action. A zero state prime condition is a balance of positive and negative forces.  Even particles have their anti-particles. Good is inevitably accompanied by its opposite, Evil. But ethics are abstractions.
The contradictions emerge when we try to remove universal constants from the equations. This is impossible. To the contrary, if there is a god and god’s laws are immutable, then how can even god break HIS immutable LAWS. He placed them there to begin with. Thus the most generous interpretation of God is that of Impartiality/Neutrality.  God cannot be Good or Bad because IT it does not know what that means. That is a logical contradiction in itself and makes god (all gods) just another figment of Human imagination.

[ Edited: 20 October 2012 01:51 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 18 October 2012 03:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 228 ]
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Well, maybe we do that, yet the other side claims we’re just making stuff up without being specific about what we’re making up.  It makes it hard to have a rational conversation about it, you see?

If one proposes a definition of God on this site, it will be treated as a proposition, or more dismissively as a myth.  In this debate it seems to me that if we are to claim that the presence of evil proves the absence of God, we can only really debate about the specific definition of God which is proposed. I think we’ve agreed, some Gods that might be proposed provide not the slightest contradiction when it is claimed they exist along with evil.  I do think, while the believer must define the God, the skeptics are obligated to examine the proposed God, not dismiss the concept out of hand.

I’m guilty of paying inadequate attention, so you may well have defined your God, or referenced a definition you feel is reasonable and complete already.  Could you point me to it?

The first step is to figure out how the four attributes you mention fit together cohesively then figure out if one can explain evil in that context

I’ll assume that statement is rhetorical, for as a skeptic it is more my role to examine the believer’s proposition, rather than to figure out and posit my own.  I’m embarrassed to admit that it is not clear to me where you’ve done this. 

  I suppose that the inability to provide a logic for the suffering of innocents does not disprove the existence of God, for it can always be claimed that God’s reasons are incomprehensible to man, still, you’d think a merciful God would have made his reasons for allowing evil clearer to the average person.

Why would we think that?

Only because a God embodying mercy might not relish confusion and discord among his subjects.  But, as I’ve admitted, I don’t feel I have a good understanding of the God you’ve proposed. It seems to me, this particular exchange echoes the problem of evil.  If God is merciful, why is it so hard to discern? 

I mean that as a real question and look forward to your answer.


As to exercising and detecting morality:  I suppose I risk being one of those immoral atheists so often discussed.  It seems quite as logical that morals evolved through natural, non supernatural means, but are no less valid or valuable for that; and that the rudiments of morality are not difficult to discern in other species, even though I haven’t studied human or animal behavior in a disciplined manner.  The marked difference seems to be that we, in our sentience, seem to be more consciously aware of moral strictures, although arguably less observing of them.  From what little I know, I would be surprised if an observer could not note behavior within other species that would be analogous to what we think of as moral behavior.  The question I should probably study, (if I only had time), is whether these behaviors exist and show evidence of evolution or natural cause and if such an explanation could be proposed, would it function as well as a predictor as a supernatural explanation.

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Posted: 19 October 2012 12:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 229 ]
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Jeciron - 18 October 2012 03:54 PM

Well, maybe we do that, yet the other side claims we’re just making stuff up without being specific about what we’re making up.  It makes it hard to have a rational conversation about it, you see?

If one proposes a definition of God on this site, it will be treated as a proposition, or more dismissively as a myth.  In this debate it seems to me that if we are to claim that the presence of evil proves the absence of God, we can only really debate about the specific definition of God which is proposed. I think we’ve agreed, some Gods that might be proposed provide not the slightest contradiction when it is claimed they exist along with evil.  I do think, while the believer must define the God, the skeptics are obligated to examine the proposed God, not dismiss the concept out of hand.

I’m guilty of paying inadequate attention, so you may well have defined your God, or referenced a definition you feel is reasonable and complete already.  Could you point me to it?

This thread started with a conception of God and a conception of Christian morality presented by non-theists.  It’s not really up to me to present my conception of God in this case because there’s more than one (and I typically acknowledge that during the course of an argument like this one, referencing the Calvinist view as distinct from some others).  It’s up to the one presenting the argument to choose one suitably close to what Christians believe.

The first step is to figure out how the four attributes you mention fit together cohesively then figure out if one can explain evil in that context

I’ll assume that statement is rhetorical, for as a skeptic it is more my role to examine the believer’s proposition, rather than to figure out and posit my own.  I’m embarrassed to admit that it is not clear to me where you’ve done this.

Again, if I happen to encounter an argument against the existence of god it is not incumbent on me to argue anything about the nature of god.  I can do so if I wish and I can pick any conception of god I wish.  An argument that isn’t directed directly at me or something I’ve written does not require me to bear any burden of proof nor does it require a presentation of my personal beliefs in any way.  In this thread we have skeptics attacking a position supposedly held by believers and also promoting the argument from evil (as an attack on the existence of god).

I don’t mind sharing what I believe, but I don’t favor gratuitously allowing opponents to fallaciously shift the burden or proof, nor do I typically favor acceding to requests that turn into fodder for distraction.

Why would we think that?

Only because a God embodying mercy might not relish confusion and discord among his subjects.  But, as I’ve admitted, I don’t feel I have a good understanding of the God you’ve proposed. It seems to me, this particular exchange echoes the problem of evil.  If God is merciful, why is it so hard to discern? 

I mean that as a real question and look forward to your answer.

Aren’t confusion and discord necessary risks of free will?  I think it’s hard to discern God’s mercy because not believing in God hampers the ability to perceive his attributes.  And those who do believe tend not to think about it clearly for a host of reasons.

As to exercising and detecting morality:  I suppose I risk being one of those immoral atheists so often discussed.  It seems quite as logical that morals evolved through natural, non supernatural means, but are no less valid or valuable for that;

Well how does that work?  Do a serial killer’s morals evolve or not?  What do you do when evolved morals contradict each other? 

I don’t understand how you can evolve a sense for real morals (moral realism).  It sounds akin to a fairy tale to me.  Survival pressures lead us to a moral realist prescriptive against, say, stealing?  Doesn’t that seem counterintuitive?  What if it’s immoral from an ear of corn’s point of view for you to boil it, put butter on it and eat it but right for you to do what corn sees as immoral?  How do you resolve the conflict?  Can we have a moral realism with contradictory prescriptives?

and that the rudiments of morality are not difficult to discern in other species, even though I haven’t studied human or animal behavior in a disciplined manner.

Yeah, we see ants engaging in slavery.  Maybe we need to re-examine that one?  Could a million ants be wrong?  That’s some hefty evolutionary experience they’re carrying.

The marked difference seems to be that we, in our sentience, seem to be more consciously aware of moral strictures, although arguably less observing of them.  From what little I know, I would be surprised if an observer could not note behavior within other species that would be analogous to what we think of as moral behavior.  The question I should probably study, (if I only had time), is whether these behaviors exist and show evidence of evolution or natural cause and if such an explanation could be proposed, would it function as well as a predictor as a supernatural explanation.

I hope you eventually find time for that one.  grin

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Posted: 19 October 2012 02:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 230 ]
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Bryan,
Yeah, we see ants engaging in slavery.  Maybe we need to re-examine that one?  Could a million ants be wrong?  That’s some hefty evolutionary experience they’re carrying.

Herder ants do not engage in slavery. They engage in husbandry. While the ants do not allow the aphids to wander off, they do accompany them from leaf to leaf and protect them from other predators. In return the ants milk the aphids. This is not slavery, it is symbiosis, much as is practiced by human farmers.
Perhaps proof that natural evolution tends to favor cooperation rather than predation. Cooperation assures mutual survival, while predation depletes resources and in turn is depleted by scarce resources, i.e. mutual destruction.

I can clearly see the implication of an ethical principle here.

[ Edited: 19 October 2012 02:21 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 19 October 2012 10:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 231 ]
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Write4U - 19 October 2012 02:17 AM

Bryan,
Yeah, we see ants engaging in slavery.  Maybe we need to re-examine that one?  Could a million ants be wrong?  That’s some hefty evolutionary experience they’re carrying.

Herder ants do not engage in slavery. They engage in husbandry.

Yeah!  That’s what we’ll call it!  You’re a genius.  That other word has too much baggage.
wink

http://www.springerlink.com/content/cj1arl0gqb2amw7h/
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1439-0310.1980.tb01053.x/abstract
http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2009/04/01/the-rebellion-of-the-ant-slaves/

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Posted: 19 October 2012 05:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 232 ]
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Bryan - 19 October 2012 10:27 AM
Write4U - 19 October 2012 02:17 AM

Bryan,
Yeah, we see ants engaging in slavery.  Maybe we need to re-examine that one?  Could a million ants be wrong?  That’s some hefty evolutionary experience they’re carrying.

Herder ants do not engage in slavery. They engage in husbandry.

Yeah!  That’s what we’ll call it!  You’re a genius.  That other word has too much baggage.wink
http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2009/04/01/the-rebellion-of-the-ant-slaves/

Ok, slavery happens. But obviously it is not a very successful strategy.

This rebellion takes its toll on the slave-makers and may explain why the nests of P.americanus tend to be very small. The captives may never reproduce themselves, but they do their part for their relatives back home by crippling the workforce of the slave-makers. These indirect benefits are particularly pertinent to Temnothorax ants because a single colony can occupy many different nests – a family of sisters spread out over a large area. If one nest is raided, it pays to ensure that none of the related nests are targeted later.
Other species use similar strategies to reject attempts by parasites to usurp their parental efforts. For example, cuckoos all over the world lay eggs with varyingly strong resemblances to the eggs of other birds, in an attempt to turn them into unwitting foster parents. Hosts develop sharper recognitions skills and cuckoos develop more strikingly matched eggs. In Australia, this arms race has escalated to the point where the superb fairy wren has adopted a different strategy – it ignores the egg and recognises the young bird, killing it if it turns out to be a bronze cuckoo.
At the moment, P.americanus is on the losing end of a similar evolutionary arms race with its hosts. But it’s an old parasite with a long history with Temnothorax. Achenbach and Foitzik believe that the rebellious slaves are a recent countermeasure against the problem of slavery and the impetus to evolve resistance is now on the slavers. They need to develop counter-adaptations to prevent most of their brood from dying at the jaws of their captives. The war is not yet over.

My observation in #230 stands and your link seems to support my conclusion.
http://insects.about.com/od/coolandunusualinsects/f/antsandaphids.htm

[ Edited: 20 October 2012 01:28 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 19 October 2012 10:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 233 ]
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Jeciron - 18 October 2012 03:54 PM

  In this debate it seems to me that if we are to claim that the presence of evil proves the absence of God, we can only really debate about the specific definition of God which is proposed.

The key points are agreed. All knowing, all powerful and perfectly good.

Such a being would prevent evil if he could. And it would seem that he could.

So theists have to come up with preventions to overcome the problem and these preventions come in the form of logical contradictions. So they claim the best of all possible worlds has to include free will. They claim that evil is necessary in some case for a greater good. So when there is a forest fire, for instance and lots of animals suffer terribly, this is worth the suffering for some imagined and unknown good that comes from it that could not be attained any other way, even by an all powerful being.

Stephen

[ Edited: 19 October 2012 10:22 PM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 20 October 2012 01:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 234 ]
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Write4U - 19 October 2012 05:06 PM

My observation in #230 stands and your link seems to support my conclusion.
http://insects.about.com/od/coolandunusualinsects/f/antsandaphids.htm

Which conclusion is that, specifically?  Does it undermine my suggestion that we should re-examine the morality of slavery given that millions of ants engage in the practice (apparently having evolved the practice as a successful survival strategy)?

By what criteria do we identify moral survival strategies as opposed to immoral ones (without fallaciously begging the question)?

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Posted: 20 October 2012 02:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 235 ]
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StephenLawrence - 19 October 2012 10:19 PM
Jeciron - 18 October 2012 03:54 PM

  In this debate it seems to me that if we are to claim that the presence of evil proves the absence of God, we can only really debate about the specific definition of God which is proposed.

The key points are agreed. All knowing, all powerful and perfectly good.

Such a being would prevent evil if he could. And it would seem that he could.

Apparently there is absolutely no consideration at all that free will can lead to a greater good that would prompt a maximally good being to act to create free will.

Why is that possibility ruled out?  Because it’s impossible?  If it’s impossible then do we get an argument demonstrating the impossibility?

I think with amusement the stir I could create by presenting pro-God arguments with such skimpy support.

So theists have to come up with preventions to overcome the problem and these preventions come in the form of logical contradictions.

Like what?  I keep asking you for an example and you keep avoiding giving an answer to the question.

So they claim the best of all possible worlds has to include free will.

Rather, we ask on what basis we exclude the possibility.  Is there a reason other than it would interfere with your desired conclusion?

They claim that evil is necessary in some case for a greater good.

Rather, we claim that is seems quite possible that’s the case and wonder why the anti-theist argument doesn’t entertain the possibility.

So when there is a forest fire, for instance and lots of animals suffer terribly, this is worth the suffering for some imagined and unknown good that comes from it that could not be attained any other way, even by an all powerful being.

Fortunately we have Stephen who has figured out that there can be no such higher good.  And we can trust him so completely in his determination that he will never ever have any need to cover the point in his argument from evil against the existence of god.

How convenient.

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Posted: 20 October 2012 02:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 236 ]
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StephenLawrence - 19 October 2012 10:19 PM
Jeciron - 18 October 2012 03:54 PM

  In this debate it seems to me that if we are to claim that the presence of evil proves the absence of God, we can only really debate about the specific definition of God which is proposed.

The key points are agreed. All knowing, all powerful and perfectly good.

Such a being would prevent evil if he could. And it would seem that he could.

So theists have to come up with preventions to overcome the problem and these preventions come in the form of logical contradictions. So they claim the best of all possible worlds has to include free will. They claim that evil is necessary in some case for a greater good. So when there is a forest fire, for instance and lots of animals suffer terribly, this is worth the suffering for some imagined and unknown good that comes from it that could not be attained any other way, even by an all powerful being.

Stephen

It’s easy for this atheist….. cheese

God is a human construct, an attempt to set a Universal base-line of ethical standards for human behavior. Unfortunately this results in fatal logical contradictions. Moreover, it does not mean that in the absence of a god ethical standards cannot be arrived at.

Since the Beginning and during it’s entire evolution the universe has functioned in an impartial and neutral mathematical way where ethical considerations such as good and bad have no meaning.  “There is only change.”

Mankind is on its own in this case. We can choose to live within certain self-imposed limits (Good) or we can choose to die by greed and self-indulgence (Bad).

Personally, as an atheist I do appreciate the ethical warnings contained in the 7 deadly sins. But then those are logical and self evident philosophical propositions, which do not require an inteligent metaphysical entity. Just because a religion came up with those ethical truths, does not have anything to do with the extraneous existence of an intelligent entity named God. I find that rather “vain”, even “self-indulgent” ..... cheese
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins

[ Edited: 20 October 2012 02:44 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 20 October 2012 02:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 237 ]
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Bryan - 20 October 2012 01:59 AM
Write4U - 19 October 2012 05:06 PM

My observation in #230 stands and your link seems to support my conclusion.
http://insects.about.com/od/coolandunusualinsects/f/antsandaphids.htm

Which conclusion is that, specifically?  Does it undermine my suggestion that we should re-examine the morality of slavery given that millions of ants engage in the practice (apparently having evolved the practice as a successful survival strategy)?

By what criteria do we identify moral survival strategies as opposed to immoral ones (without fallaciously begging the question)?

When in a hostile environment an organism either adapts defenses or perishes. The slaves turning on the larvae of the masters makes them unsuitable as slaves (red highlighted in quote). This is a major threat to the masters. What are those ants gonna do? This is how predatory evolution functions.
Similarly, the parasitic bird laying its eggs in a wren’s nest. Camouflaging the egg is no longer effective. Just the difference in color of the newborns is sufficient for the wren to kill it. How does the parasitic bird solve that problem?

OTOH, symbiotic relationships such as the herder ant/aphid is beneficial to both species. As described some aphids are no longer able to able to void their waste (honeydew) without stimulus from the ants. Obviously this mutual dependency goes back a few million years as well and seems to function very well, whereas the master/slave relationship seems to be in deep trouble.

[ Edited: 20 October 2012 03:12 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 20 October 2012 11:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 238 ]
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Write4U - 20 October 2012 02:58 AM
Bryan - 20 October 2012 01:59 AM
Write4U - 19 October 2012 05:06 PM

My observation in #230 stands and your link seems to support my conclusion.
http://insects.about.com/od/coolandunusualinsects/f/antsandaphids.htm

Which conclusion is that, specifically?  Does it undermine my suggestion that we should re-examine the morality of slavery given that millions of ants engage in the practice (apparently having evolved the practice as a successful survival strategy)?

By what criteria do we identify moral survival strategies as opposed to immoral ones (without fallaciously begging the question)?

When in a hostile environment an organism either adapts defenses or perishes. The slaves turning on the larvae of the masters makes them unsuitable as slaves (red highlighted in quote). This is a major threat to the masters. What are those ants gonna do? This is how predatory evolution functions.
Similarly, the parasitic bird laying its eggs in a wren’s nest. Camouflaging the egg is no longer effective. Just the difference in color of the newborns is sufficient for the wren to kill it. How does the parasitic bird solve that problem?

OTOH, symbiotic relationships such as the herder ant/aphid is beneficial to both species. As described some aphids are no longer able to able to void their waste (honeydew) without stimulus from the ants. Obviously this mutual dependency goes back a few million years as well and seems to function very well, whereas the master/slave relationship seems to be in deep trouble.

Let’s try this again:  “What conclusion is that, specifically?  Does it undermine my suggestion that we should re-examine the morality of slavery given that millions of ants engage in the practice (apparently having evolved the practice as a successful survival strategy)?

By what criteria do we identify moral survival strategies as opposed to immoral ones (without fallaciously begging the question)?”

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Posted: 20 October 2012 11:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 239 ]
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Bryan - 20 October 2012 02:10 AM

Fortunately we have Stephen who has figured out that there can be no such higher good. 

Rubbish.

It’s all about the probability of what you believe being true.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster could have created the universe, but he didn’t and he doesn’t exist. The probability of this is vanishingly small.

Same goes for the greater good you refer to. And in the case of the greater good, either it exists but could be achieved some other way by God, removing the need for evil, or it simply doesn’t exist, just like the Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn’t exist.

Stephen

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Posted: 20 October 2012 11:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 240 ]
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StephenLawrence - 20 October 2012 11:29 AM
Bryan - 20 October 2012 02:10 AM

Fortunately we have Stephen who has figured out that there can be no such higher good. 

Rubbish.

It’s all about the probability of what you believe being true.

Deductive arguments can’t survive on probabilities.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster could have created the universe, but he didn’t and he doesn’t exist. The probability of this is vanishingly small.

Make up your mind whether the FSM doesn’t exist or whether the probability is vanishingly small.  If you’re going to claim the FSM doesn’t exist then the probability has not simply shrunk down small, it has in fact vanished.

Same goes for the greater good you refer to.

Exactly.  You need to take some minimal care in making your argument.  Figure out whether it’s unlikely or impossible and come up with an argument in support instead of asserting one or the other.  And, above all, don’t assert both at the same time. 

And in the case of the greater good, either it exists but could be achieved some other way by God, removing the need for evil, or it simply doesn’t exist, just like the Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn’t exist.

Stephen

Your argument is incoherent, Stephen.  The FSM doesn’t exist and at the same time is unlikely?  That’s not serious unless the latter is simply a figure of speech.  If the FSM is impossible then I can expect you to argue the point.  If it’s unlikely then you need to deal with the possibility.

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