Saturday, November 06, 2004

Does Evil Come From God?

Why is it that everytime an atheist is set up to be pummelled philosophically, he is always a professor? And why is it that in all these contrived situations, a humble and God-fearing christian student manages to deliver the coup de grace to the delight and amusement of the class? There has got to be a moral lesson in there somewhere.

The letter I received and posted in a previous entry is interesting because it also affords us the chance to observe how the writer of the anecdote attempts to resolve a very difficult philosophical question concerning the Christian God.

IF GOD IS SO GOOD AND SO POWERFUL, WHY DID HE CREATE THE DEVIL?

Now that is a conundrum ain't it? According to one account, the devil was formerly the angel Lucifer who was one of God's favorites. However, Lucifer became ambitious and rebelled against God. Lucifer almost succeeded in his rebellion, able to fully attract a third of God's angels to his cause. Alas, Lucifer was defeated by the remaining loyal angels led by Mikayel (Michael to you) and if we take the cover of Ginebra San Miguel as a guide, we can see that Mikayel himself defeated Lucifer in a manly, errr angelic battle of swords.

Lucifer and his minions were banished to hell but we may presume that a few of his loyalists remained outside of hell because it is still suspected that
devils are the chief reason you and I commit sins. ("No Ma'm, I didn't think of Paris Hilton intentionally during swimming class, the devil made me do it!")

So, ignoring in the meantime the many questions we have about Mikayel and Lucifer, the relevant question is, did God know when He created Lucifer that Lucifer will rebel against Him? If God knew that, why did He create Lucifer? If He didn't know, then God isn't perfect because He wasn't able to foretell the rebellion.

Both answers are equally difficult to explain and faced with enigmatic questions like the above, the Roman Catholic Church always recourses to the formulaic "God Works In Mysterious Ways" thus effectively banishing all logical debate and rescuing the church from answering very difficult questions.

Obviously, the writer of the anecdote is also seeking to answer that puzzle. However, he chose a very different answer and therefore a very different philosopical path. Instead of confronting the problem of a malevolent being created by a benevolent God, the writer chose the alternative of THE DEVIL DOES NOT EXIST.

In this view, there is no such thing as the devil. Evil is simply the absence of good and when there is no good, then what we have is evil. In this view, Satan is but the metaphor for evil but Satan himself does not exist. God exists, but His evil counterpart does not exist. Instead, Satan embodies that state where there is no God.

This contention neatly sidesteps all the problems inherent in the existence of Satan. Because Satan does not exist in this alternative universe, then God is not forced to answer awkward questions about His omnipotence and about His ill-will towards humans. Questions like: "If He loved His flock like a true shepherd, then why did He invent the wolf and the lion?"

However, the bible itself presents plenty of opportunities to prove that the devil coexists with God and that Satan is not a metaphor. In Genesis 3:1-5, a serpent tempts Eve with the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Are we now to say that it is a metaphor tempting Eve? Is a metaphor capable of speaking and tempting? The serpent is certainly not a metaphor for evil because God Himself punished the serpent for tempting Eve. Therefore, whoever the serpent represents in Genesis is not an embodiment of a thing but the thing itself.

Is a metaphor also capable of lifting Jesus to the highest parapet, the highest mountain and tempt Jesus (the son of God) with all the kingdoms of the world and to turn stone into bread?

Satan in Job 1:6 obliges God to test the loyalty of Job. Is this Satan a metaphor that engaged in an idle bet with God? Is God capable of being tempted to play with the life of His servant Job by a mere metaphor? If Satan is the absence of God, how then can Satan exist in the same room as God?

Certainly metaphors are incapable of the actions ascribed to them in scripture. The bible itself has plenty of passages to prove that Satan exists and he is not a metaphor. If you accept that there is a good God from the testimony of the bible then you must also accept that there is an evil God from the same testimony. Bible christians cannot escape from the difficulties presented by their infallible bible by trying to explain it away as a metaphor.

The analogy presented in the anecdote is therefore false and misleading. It attempts to prove a point by comparing it with something we understand and then saying that since the analogue is this then the thing must be this also.

While proof by analogy is a valid proof, it is also a tenuous proof because we still have to prove that the analogy is correct. While we can certainly associate God with light and the devil with darkness, we cannot therefore say that the Devil is simply the situation without God just as dark is the situation without light. The mythological Christian God has properties that are similar to light and the mythological Christian Devil has properties that are similar to darkness but beyond that there is nothing else. It works poetically but not logically and philosophically.

Now let's turn our attention to the next part of the anecdote. Here we see the writer attempting to prove that there is no such thing as evolution. In attempting to disprove evolution, the writer decides to use what he believes is a scientific proof. He must be feeling very smug about himself by now. He must be saying to himself, "Imagine, disproving the scientific theory of evolution by using the scientific method itself! God fearing creatures are really smart!"

Well, sorry to knock you off your parapet but that is exactly what the scientific method is used for. The scientific method is used to disprove invalid hypothesis by discovering the consequences of that hypothesis. I will have more to say about the scientific method in this blog but right now
let us turn our attention to the anecdote and evaluate how the writer has ostensibly employed the scientific method to show that the theory of evolution is incorrect.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present exhibit A:

Student : Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor's brain?

(The class breaks out into laughter.)

Student : Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor's brain, felt it, touched or smelt it?.....No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your
lectures, sir?

This passage is so funny not because the student is correct but because the professor was not able to answer it adequately. Atheist professors must really be moronic judging from this made-up dialogue. If atheist professors are this stupid, then surely no one in his right mind would be an atheist.

How should the professor have answered? Like this:

No one has seen my brain but doctors, medical students and mass murderers have seen that humans have brains. Since I am a human then I also have a brain. Until you show me an example of a human that does not have a brain, I will continue to hold to that Socratic proof: Humans have brains. The professor is a human. Therefore the professor has a brain. Do you have a comparable proof for the existence of God?

The student seeks to disprove the theory of evolution by implying that the professor has no brain. The professor has no brain, therefore the theory
of evolution is false. What kind of reasoning is that? So if the professor has a brain then the theory of evolution is also correct? That manner of proof probably works inside a revival meeting but it cannot work among an intelligent, thinking audience. If fatuous proofs like that are allowed then
perhaps I should also be allowed to prove that:

(a) My cellphone is not a Motorola, therefore God does not exist.
(b) It did not rain today, therefore God is playing billiards.

The manner of the writing already marks the author as a member of a fundamentalist or evangelical church. Fundamentalists are called that because they believe in a literal interpretation of the bible. In their view, if the bible says that woman came out from the sides of man then that is taken as the literal and actual truth. There is no part of the bible that is a metaphor, everything is exactly as written there. The universe was created in seven days and God is so stupid that he put the serpent right near the tree so that he can tempt Eve.

The theory of evolution is therefore a galling theory because one of its consequences is that humans may have evolved from something very primitive. Think homo erectus, or australophithecus instead of monkeys. The bible says that God created man in His image so this theory of evolution is an ungodly and false theory. God is not primitive therefore man did not evolve from a primitive animal.

Unfortunately for the fundamentalists, plenty of observations have confirmed that the theory of evolution works. Let me cite just two examples:

(a) Put a culture of bacteria in a vial and add dosage of antibiotic plenty enough to kill most but not all bacteria. Let bacteria recover from massacre. Repeat procedure. At the end of several iterations, bacteria miraculously become immune to the antibiotic. According to the legend of Noah's Ark, how can this observation be explained?

(b) Before the industrial revolution, London moths are of two varieties, mottled white and dark brown. During the middle of the industrial revolution, the mottled white variety became rare while the dark brown variety increased in number. Using the ten commandments, explain why this is so.

Plenty of people have observed the process of evolution. The theory is valid. Please don't scream on your way down.

5 Comments:

Blogger masterpiece of God said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:13 AM  
Blogger masterpiece of God said...

Your examples successfully prove that [1] bacteria can develop immunities, and that [2] moths that are adaptable and/or more suitable to certain environments tend to flourish, while those that aren't, tend to diminish in numbers (they might even become extinct eventually). They, however, do not prove the Theory of Evolution. Ask any sane Christian and he/she will agree that people can develop immunities and that some animals become extinct (and even more will be so, unless global efforts of wildlife preservation is more aggressively pushed).

Evolution is just one of a number of theories than seek to explain the origin of man (and, perhaps, of the universe as well). Different people have different people why they believe or disbelieve certain theories. Personally, I do not believe in Evolution, but not because "the professor has no brain." I believe in the Creation theory, and I have my rational, logical reasons for doing so.

Refuting the Christian explanation by dissecting selected and isolated anecdotes is tantamount to no less than a straw man argument.

Of course, it's just one man's opinion. I wish to make friends, not enemies. So here's to hoping no personal offense is taken. (BTW, i stupidly mistakenly erased my first comment--it is my first day here at blogspot, so please forgive my ignorance).

4:29 AM  
Blogger jim said...

Interesting blog. I also wonder why the "Does evil exist?" author felt the need to invoke a famous source when the whole story (even discounting the straw man aspects) makes for interesting reading.

However, you mention that the devil and his angels have been sent to Hell. Actually (well, according to traditional Christian Biblical fundamentalism at least), the devil and his crew are free to wander the earth; presumably to interfere with God's chosen people and their activities.

Everything else pretty much follows the rules of physics and bad choices.

The traditional Bible does speak of an end time (ie, the tribulation or second-coming or ...) when Christ shall return and THEN, at that time, the devil and his minions (and, presumably, all who refused to accept the gift of God) will receive their final judgment and be cast into the fiery pit commonly referred to as Hell; which may be nothing more than a location totally separated from God (ie, darkness, evil, etc.).

Who knows. Anyhow, it reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw the other day:

If you're living like there is no God ...

IM4GOD

you better be right! ;-)

7:57 AM  
Anonymous Caleb said...

Your proposed arguments for evolution lack specificity; all you have provided evidence for is the process of micro-evolution, that is, adaptation within a species. No informed Creationist would deny this system.
What you have not properly defended is the Evolutionary Theory as a whole, which includes such illogical jumps as the idea of cross-species evolution (i.e. the spontaneous appearance of new, beneficiary DNA code) and ignores redoubtable obstacles like irreducible complexity.
e.g. If the Theory of Evolution is inherently dependent on generational changes and, thus, the system of reproduction, it is self-refuting. How then did the system of reproduction itself come about? It is a logical fallacy, like saying a house used its existence to create itself.

2:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not going to be original this time, so all I am going to say that your blog rocks, sad that I don't have suck a writing skills

2:41 PM  

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