18 August 2009

Quote of the Week - Epicurus

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
"

~Epicurus

18 comments:

askcherlock said...

He gave us free will. We must look to ourselves for the malevolence which invades our society.

Anonymous said...

He created this society as well as us, who happen to be very flawed.

Reel Advice said...

I'd rather believe God gave us the will to choose from right and wrong. Isn't logic what really makes us humans?

Sam said...

If logic is what makes us human, why do you believe things about 'God' simply because you want to?

Also, if we are the reason for evil in our society, but 'God' created us in his image, then he's still malevolent

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1skepticalbrother said...

Why call him "Him"? Why is anthropomorphic bias so blatantly obvious to some of us and not so with the majority of human beings. Why do some of us see the concept of an all powerful, all knowing, all places at all times and an all loving deity contradictory to the notion of free will, and yet billions of us turn a blind mind to this fact?
I'm not sure, perhaps part of the answer can be found in how we answer another question; In your quest for the "truth", what do you value most, evidence or self-interest?

Nathan Pralle said...

God is the watchmaker; we are simply a cog in the works as is everything. To have evil present and not mitigated is not malevolent, it is simply allowing the watch to tick as it must, for without evil, the watch cannot run.

1skepticalbrother said...

Nathan my friend, let us examine your comment. "God is the watchmaker." Okay, who or what made the watch maker? Watch out now...remember the term, infinite regress! "we are simply a cog in the works as is everything" You're giving human beings too much credit. Hypothetically remove all 6.5 billion "cogs" from the "works" and image the resulting catastrophe...there is none! We need the Earth the Earth does not need us! "To have evil present and not mitigated is not malevolent..." Oh yes it is Nathan. Why are people always engaging in reverse engineering and squaring circles for your omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omni-loving deity. It seems like you're trying to own the obvious human frailty called evil, both ways. "...it is simply allowing the watch to tick as it must, for without evil, the watch cannot run." Again, you are looking at one of the inexorable "design" flaws of humankind and making it "fit" into the Designer's ultimate design.

If it works for you bother, I'm happy for you. For my primitive tastes, you're just trying to prove too much with insufficient evidence. Respect everyone, obey the laws, be more of a giver than a taker...that's how I live my life. Adding the man-made, "supernatural" element to the equation only leads to division and eventual acrimony amongst us cogs!

Peace and Critical Thinking

Nathan Pralle said...

Skeptic: First of all, let me reassure you that I am not simply trying to stick a square peg into a round hole; rather, I am always exploring the realm of the possibles, even if highly improbables might exist in that equation.

In my mind, there may just as likely be a ${DEITY} as not; as you state, if there is, evidence is required and if not, then why the pursuit? Perhaps it is for mere intellectual discourse, perhaps it is something we are wired to pursue. But I am leaving myself open to the idea of that IF there is, indeed, some sort of ${DEITY} out there, then what form and what properties must it exist to fit within the world we know? I don't think the intellectual exercise of this is entirely lost.

As you, I believe that morality and ethics do not necessarily derive from a religous source and we'd all be better off if they didn't. Simply being good, kind, and generous human beings would get us lightyears further than any religion has to date.

That being said, I dive into your commentary:

Okay, who or what made the watch maker? We are stuck on the idea that something must be created or developed because that is what we see, and yet, who created the big bang? Perhaps natural processes brought about a ${DEITY}. Perhaps it always existed.

Hypothetically remove all 6.5 billion "cogs" from the "works" and image the resulting catastrophe...there is none! My wording of "cog" was perhaps too brief and indistinct. Rather, we humans play a part in the whole, although like many species that die out every year, we are not necessarily critical to the entire system. It all depends on how macro your viewpoint is.

"To have evil present and not mitigated is not malevolent..." Oh yes it is Nathan. Not necessarily if evil is a logical component of good. Everything in perspective, correct? Without a sense of evil, we have no reason to believe that anything (god or not) is good, as we have no point of reference. And, going off that principle, evil is dependent on your point of view -- in a very macro view, that which appears very evil may not be as it is serving a larger purpose, or is part of a normal system. I have a hard time believing that there are any "ultimate" evils that are simply bad regardless of context.

For my primitive tastes, you're just trying to prove too much with insufficient evidence. As you state, if it works for you, brother, excellent. My mental grinding on these issues may be for naught, but I believe in the process being worth more than the result.

1skepticalbrother said...

Live long and be prosperous in your "processing" brother Nathan!

Skeptic out.

GeneralX said...

Hi Nathan, I'll just take some of your points if I may.
You say, "We are stuck on the idea that something must be created or developed because that is what we see"
I don't think this is true, I think perhaps it is you that is stuck with this idea.
You say, "who created the big bang? Perhaps natural processes brought about a ${DEITY}. Perhaps it always existed."
Why posit a creator? Perhaps natural processes brought about a big bang, perhaps the the universe has always existed in some form.
You say, "My wording of "cog" was perhaps too brief and indistinct. Rather, we humans play a part in the whole, although like many species that die out every year, we are not necessarily critical to the entire system."
I think a "gog" in a "system" is not a good analogy, I think a small limb of a large tree would be more accurate, we could be removed with little or no ill effect to the remainder.
You say, "To have evil present and not mitigated is not malevolent, it is simply allowing the watch to tick as it must, for without evil, the watch cannot run."
I don't think this watch analogy is good for you Nathan.

Nathan Pralle said...

GeneralX:
You say, "We are stuck on the idea that something must be created or developed because that is what we see"
I don't think this is true, I think perhaps it is you that is stuck with this idea.


My point in this reply was to say that IF we posit a creator, the question, "Who created the creator?" may not necessarily be a hole in the argument.

You say, "who created the big bang? Perhaps natural processes brought about a ${DEITY}. Perhaps it always existed."
Why posit a creator? Perhaps natural processes brought about a big bang, perhaps the the universe has always existed in some form.


Indeed. I was stating the above with the notion that if we were to think of a creator being present, then what conditions might be the case?

You say, "My wording of "cog" was perhaps too brief and indistinct. Rather, we humans play a part in the whole, although like many species that die out every year, we are not necessarily critical to the entire system."
I think a "gog" in a "system" is not a good analogy, I think a small limb of a large tree would be more accurate, we could be removed with little or no ill effect to the remainder.


Exactly. That is more like what I was going after.

I don't think this watch analogy is good for you Nathan.

Not necessarily; while you can't take it too literally, the 'watch' idea, the idea of an entire, autonomous system working by itself without the influence of its maker, is the idea. IF a ${DEITY} is present, given the evidence we have, it's the best explanation for its involvement that I've come up with so far. It allows for tweaks from ${DEITY} yet also allows for operation without influence, which appears to be the status quo.

GeneralX said...

Nathan, if we don't posit a creator deity, What would be different?

Nathan Pralle said...

If we don't posit a creator deity, then this thought exploration is rather moot. Or did I misunderstand your question?

1skepticalbrother said...

Nathan,

Why would an all powerful deity need to "tweak" its creation. If "He" is in possession of all of the "omni's" why would you or anyone reduce "Him" to some type of celestial mad scientist, that has to make adjustments from time to time? Why couldn't "He" have gotten it right the first time around? The watch analogy/idea doesn't work for me because of this anthropomorphic bias. For me, the cosmos is already incomprehensible, positing a deity to explain it only complicates the mystery.

GeneralX said...

Nathan,

Sorry, I will try to be more clear.

Perhaps if your thought exploration did include the scenario where a creator deity is absent (I am assuming this possibility has occurred to you). Then I was wondering, in what way (if any) might the universe appear different as to how you see it now?

For a more materialistic view of the the universe, I very much liked this comment by "Timvincible", posted on a thread at the Guardian.

I hope he won't mind me reproducing it here.

Timvincible
27 Aug 09, 10:32pm

"That is what is truly wondrous about our Universe. It has purely material existence, yet emotions, feelings and values have arisen from it. The Universe has boot-strapped itself from a state of emptiness and meaninglessness to a state where beauty, love and passion exist.

That's all thanks to information; the ability of the Universe to organise itself through its innate properties into patterns that are capable of reproducing themselves, evolving and, ultimately, adapting themselves through their own choices. We are self-aware patterns encoded in protons, neutrons and electrons. Humans give the Universe meaning... but we are entirely of the Universe, not above or beyond it.

And, as far as we can tell, this is all down to pure chance. Far out."


Far out? Indeed, but any more far out than positing supernatural a deities?

Nathan Pralle said...

Skeptic: The tweaks occur because my conception of God is closer to the process theology conception (Whitehead et al) than the traditional "omniscient" god, which posits that God's omniscience exists only insomuch as it can tell all the infinite possibilities of what MAY happen in the future but doesn't actually know the true present until it happens. I like this because it enables 'free will' and compensates for a lot of other problems, such as you have commented. Thus, tweaks may be warranted if it feels like it. Plus, the world may indeed be 'perfect' yet allow for tweaking upon God's whim. That wouldn't necessarily alter the perfection of the world.

It sounds like I'm coming up with a lot of methods of compensating for "big" questions, and I am, but at the same time, big questions are often complex. IF we posit a god, then we start at that point and work the system around that idea. That does not, necessarily, mean that we believe that a god exists at all -- just that we are pursuing a thought-path that starts at the assumption that there is one and we're working out the world from that point.

Again, I don't think the thought process is futile.

General: An interesting question -- how would the world change without a conception of god as the base? Well, it wouldn't, of course. We are working in the area of metaphysics and conceptual philosophy; the study is not so much to change the world but rather our perception and understanding thereof. If we 'discover' a god behind everything, it doesn't necessarily change how everything works. In fact, in the 'watchmaker' theory, it shouldn't -- the system keeps running onwards without intervention. But these are all enhancements to our understanding of the world and anything beyond it.

1skepticalbrother said...

Brother Nathan,

I respect your right to pursue these fundamental questions employing whatever metaphysical constructs you feel are plausible. However, your baseline assumption that starts with a god(s), to me, is analogous to finding bullet holes in a wall and drawing bulls eyes around them and then telling yourself that you've hit the mark.

I prefer to be patient and wait for the slow progression of scientific research. No large assumptions and an adherence to "Occam's Razor."