16 Reasons Why I Believe In God: (9) The Existence of Evil

9:30 AM James 4 Comments

Read this article at its new location: PhiloLogos.net

4 comments :

  1. I feel as though turning to Nietzsche on this matter is a mistake. An appeal to an improper authority figure. Why not an evolutionary biologist? A species that collectively holds compassion for its own kind is much more likely to survive than one that does not. According to many recent studies, such as one at the University of Wisconsin, compassion is an evolutionarily developed trait. It can be viewed in countless other species and is stronger the closer you are to that person. This used to mean intertribal and familial compassion reigned, but a socialization of today's youth produces a considerable amount of nationalism and globalism. Not that humans can't have compassion to those completely different from them. Merely that it is quite blatant that compassion often wanes when you don't know those being harmed. Studies at Emory and Princeton produced similar results, suggested that compassion is advantageous to the survival of Homo sapiens in a communal or tribal sense. Nietzsche can posit his own hypotheses as to the root of human good and evil, but philosophical arguments from over a century ago should not be substituted for modern scientific studies (not taking away from Nietzsche's intellect, of course).

    And you forget that many people do not have this sense of right and wrong. We call them psychopaths. Yet, instead of being proof that God does not exist, or at least a counterexample to your point, we view them as having a mental deficiency. They see the world incorrectly because of a mental health issue. But of course, God wants the world to be good, to be pure. Therefore he does absolutely nothing to omit these violent aberrations from our world. Nothing more than compel his followers to develop a tenuous metaphysical argument to defend this "evil" and "good", oddly reminiscent of events occurring as though they were up to random chance. I understand from your article that you address this in another article which I will read hopefully.

    The Bible doesn't really condemn slavery either, yet I and most other people see it as wrong. But we didn't before. God's doing? No. Shifting social attitudes and a realignment in the political positions of the populace regarding slavery.

    "Good" and "evil" are merely human constructs to explain what they view through their inherited compassionate tendencies and their learned sociological concepts as righteous and unrighteous. Rather than explaining these abstract concepts through religion and philosophy, I believe that sociology and evolutionary biology do just fine.

    Evil exists in an abstract sense. It is not a definable term, yet it is based on each person's own beliefs, background, and culture. We do have universal evils, but this can be explained, once again, by the evolutionary necessity for an affinity for compassion and a repulsion to acts that tear apart communities and tribes such as murder. Many species rarely kill their kin, if ever, and share food. Not because of God, but because of evolutionary necessity. To say that anyone who believes that evil doesn't exist lacks integrity is a mere ad hominem. Evil didn't exist before humans. It won't exist after them. It only exists now in an abstract sense that theologians like to reificate into an actual force that effects future events rather than an interpretation of events that have already occurred.

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  2. Hi Anonymous (this isn't the anonymous high school student again, is it?), your comment almost didn't make it past my respect filter, but I decided to publish it anyway to point out some glaring logical inconsistencies on your part.

    (1) Nietzsche is a great authority to appeal to. Why? Because he is a well respected philosopher, and the question of whether or not evil exists is a *philosophical* question, not a scientific one. An evolutionary biologist, at best, could only tell us why humans *think* something is evil, not whether or not evil actually exists. Science can give us essentially a statistic - "most people think X, probably because of Y." It cannot tell us whether or not X is actually true. Do you see the enormous difference?

    (2) You misinterpreted my comment about those who deny the existence of evil living without integrity. I was not accusing them of poor character. I meant they would not be *whole* - they would be conflicted, frustrated, at war with themselves (hence, without integrity), because they're claiming one thing while living another.

    (3) I never claimed that evil must exist because everyone thinks it does. Thus, psycopaths are not a valid counterexample to my argument.

    (4) It's ironic that you claim the abolition of slavery was not God's doing, since those leading the charge against slavery were outspoken Christians who believed they were doing God's work.

    (5) The Bible does condemn the kind of slavery that went on in the West. Read Exodus 21:16.

    (6) You agree with Nietzsche - you said "'Good' and 'evil' are merely human constructs." That's exactly what he believed. And then he asked the very relevant question, "Why ought we follow human constructs?" Science can't give an answer. Saying "to help the species survive" is no answer. We could simply say, "Why ought we help the species survive? Why not care only about my own personal survival? Why not cause chaos?" As I said in my article, in a purposeless universe, you can never get an "ought" from what is.

    (7) In your view, moral improvement of cultures is impossible. If good and evil are merely human constructs, and slavery was abolished merely through evolving social attitudes, then we could never say our society is *better* now that slavery is abolished. To get "better" means to move closer to an objective standard of good. But, if good and evil are merely evolving human constructs, there is no objective standard to get closer to. Hence, on your view, we could not reasonably say that society improved with the abolition of slavery, only that it changed. It would be like a football player trying to claim his team got closer to a first down, when there are no markers for measurement, and no such thing as a "yard."

    (8) You seem to contradict yourself. You claim good and evil are merely human constructs, and then say there are universal evils. Sorry to break it to ya, but if good and evil are merely human constructs, if evil didn't exist before humans or after, as you say, then it can't be *universal*. Universal means *always true*, whether we believe it or not. Perhaps you meant "universal" in the sense that all humans agree that certain acts are evil. But then your own psycopath example would ironically be a counterexample to your own argument. So, you still contradict yourself.

    (9) After a flurry of anonymous comments today, most of which were argumentative without being thoughtful, engaging, or charitable, I've decided to prohibit anonymous comments on my blog. If you'd like to continue our dialog, you'll have to be brave enough to show your name.

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  3. Hmm. I've been thinking about this for a bit as well. I think Evil is also helpful, since it forces a reaction in a way that goodness does not. Evil is a lens that focuses all you truly believe. http://pgdejonge.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/why-i-am-a-christian-3-evil/

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  4. Loving this series! Thank you!

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