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 Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?

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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Thu 03 Jul 2014, 23:05

@Temperance wrote:
Like Tim, I ought to give up and walk away, but then I'm not Tim.

I don't of myself know what to say or how to counter all this. The arguments on this thread are so lucid, so convincing and so eloquently expressed in such concise and beautifully crafted English. I feel like a bewildered child climbing into the ring to face a savage and determined Tyson.

You see, I find the reasoning, for all its lucidity, conviction and eloquence to be so dreadfully chilling - so hurtful, so negative. Not one kind or gentle word here for all the millions and millions of ordinary, decent people of faith, past and present, Christian, Jewish, Muslim or whatever, who abhor all the deceit, the violence, the  "weirdness", people who have "evolved" trying to make a different kind of sense of what appears to be a senseless and heart-breaking universe. I mean the intelligent and sincere people who are quite aware that in our own times, just as through the ages, it is love of power and control that drives evil men, men who are undoubtedly liars and deceivers - of themselves and others - the men who confuse, deliberately or otherwise, their own will for "the will of God". "That's scripture, boy!" the slave owner or the camp commandant declares, brandishing his Bible or other religious text - "Trust in the Lord, but your ass belongs to me!" (That last is from "The Shawshank Redemption", words to the new arrivals at the prison spoken by that monstrous "believer", the product of the Bible Belt, Governor Samuel Norton.)

How evolution has allowed these vile, destructive creatures to survive and flourish and multiply I do not know, but it seems to me (in my simplicity) that evolution has also allowed others to survive, to keep going, to resist the efforts of the strong to wipe them out. Believers - in face of all the "evidence" - who  keep believing in a power greater than themselves and the evolved human intellect. What is this power that we, with our puny attempts to express it, sometimes refer to as "God"? Perhaps though, it is just something within us, as Christ told us; perhaps, as Golding's character, the martyr figure, Simon, tried to explain of the other force: "What I mean is, maybe it is just us." I trust I make myself obscure.

I can only repeat here something I got from the Rev. Harry Williams, sometime Dean of Trinity College, Cambridge, who was widely regarded as a maverick and something of a crackpot (see Telegraph article below - MM especially please read it). Williams draws attention to the two kinds of truth which face us as human beings. One is what he calls the "outside" sort, which means knowledge of ascertained facts in whatever department of human activity we are involved but which is outside our own personalities. The other kind of truth to which Williams draws (or drew; he's dead now) our attention is the "inside" truth. This is the truth we know inside ourselves, in part intuitively (a dirty word, I know) and in part as a result of experience. Yes, it grows out of fear, disappointment, doubt and pain, as well as out of conviction and a confident intellect. Williams calls this a "theology of the inner self".

What does he mean? What is it in the spirit - the mind - of man which enables him to keep believing, even though it may prove painful and destructive (I'm not talking now about silly snakes and the attempts of ignorant, vicious, fearful men to control their women by violence of one sort or another)? What is the force that drives people to stand up to the powerful bullies and say, "My ass don't belong to you, mister - I'll die first"? That's courage - the light in the darkness and the darkness, time and time again, has been proved to be quite powerless against it. It works. It helps people survive in the face of the most terrible oppression and misery. So what on earth is the problem?

This is usually the point where I apologise for being off-topic, rambling, stupid or whatever, and then come back and delete myself, but Minette tells me such weakness in me grieves her. She's right; I mustn't wobble and delete today, even if I may later edit muddled expression.

I haven't your Tyson intellect, strength or punching power in debate, nordmann; but could I ask, with all respect - and yes, I do mean that -  has it ever, ever crossed your mind that you could be wrong - or not so much wrong, because much of what you say is undoubtedly true - but just too inflexible and rigid in your views? What are you so afraid of? Could it be that there other ways of being, of seeing, of interpreting the world and trying to cope? Because, if we are honest, that is what we are all doing - trying to cope.

Here's something about dear old crazy Williams:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1509496/Father-Harry-Williams.html

His views often caused controversy. "Religious establishments invariably give me the creeps," he once confided to his readers, before informing them that: "Religion is to a large extent what people do with their lunacy, their phobias, their will to power and their sexual frustrations."

Of course he was all for spirituality - our favourite meaningless word - not religion. Me too.  Smile

Temperance,

"You see, I find the reasoning, for all its lucidity, conviction and eloquence to be so dreadfully chilling - so hurtful, so negative. Not one kind or gentle word here for all the millions and millions of ordinary, decent people of faith, past and present, Christian, Jewish, Muslim or whatever, who abhor all the deceit, the violence, the  "weirdness", people who have "evolved" trying to make a different kind of sense of what appears to be a senseless and heart-breaking universe. I mean the intelligent and sincere people who are quite aware that in our own times, just as through the ages, it is love of power and control that drives evil men, men who are undoubtedly liars and deceivers - of themselves and others - the men who confuse, deliberately or otherwise, their own will for "the will of God". "That's scripture, boy!" the slave owner or the camp commandant declares, brandishing his Bible or other religious text - "Trust in the Lord, but your ass belongs to me!" (That last is from "The Shawshank Redemption", words to the new arrivals at the prison spoken by that monstrous "believer", the product of the Bible Belt, Governor Samuel Norton.)"

I think we are discussing here several subjects at once.
First the Darwinian advantage of "religion" and related items. In that I had some as I see now "adaptationist" ideas and thanks to your NY Times article it was confirmed that at least there existed such piste of thought.
Then the abberations due to the and I emphasize "cultural" inheritance of previous times...still seen as right by a nowadays community...
Till now, I agree we have only spoken about the negatives of religious communities...and I admit as you said, if I understand it well, there will always an hiearchy in any organization...so the "churches" don't escape this rule...and that some people in this hiearchy can do evil things as other people use that hiearchy to legitimize their evil acts. BTW: Looking around me to for instance "het humanistisch verbond" (the humanist league?) that league of atheist humanists...they organize exactly as the "churches" even equating the Christian feasts as in the time the Christians borrowed from the heathen feasts...and I guess some in the hiearchy are prone to do the same evil deeds as in the other hiearchies.

But seemingly we have inherited from our anchestors also the positive elements of religion as mentioned and suggested in the adaptative context of your NY Times article and in my humble opinion can that still be positive in our present society...as I understand it from my acquaintances of the "Humanitisch Verbond" they "do" nearly exactly the same as the "churches", all for the good of the community...the only difference they don't believe in a God...they don't believe in revelations...but is that so important? If there is in the universe a "leading principle" or not...and I still find as I mentioned on the ex-BBC, and I see that Ferval says nearly the same, without a comforting God, most humans with no perspective but their own short life see the world cold and bleak...many times leading to hedonist individual asocial pointed pleasure...after all it is finished after this short life...

And I mentioned it already here in one of my messages...is there such a difference in healing people's mind by "religious practices" or by some unproven (only for believers) "homeopathic drugs" or even by placebos? Those "green" doctors not that better than the "wonder doctors" (medecine men?) from inner Africa?

That is my first thinking after reading your message.

With high esteem for all the prose that I read till now from you on this messageboard,

Paul.

PS. Having had a "shunt" preparing for kidney dialysis in the future...three times a week some 4 hours...polycystic kidneys...since birth, as my sister...inherited from our mother...on the list for a donor kidney... otherwise kidney dialysis three times a week till my 100 anniversary...
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Fri 04 Jul 2014, 06:58

I hope you find a donor soon, Paul.

PS I do hope I haven't given the impression that what I choose to call "God" is no more than a sort of celestial teddy-bear, something I cling to when I find myself lost (which does happen fairly regularly) in the Wild Wood. I don't know whether to quote from St. Matthew or Dusty Springfield here.

Perhaps there could be more to it all than this; but who knows?  Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Fri 04 Jul 2014, 07:54

Since you can invent and consistently re-invent "God" to be anything you want it to be then I would suggest not ditching the teddy-bear version out of hand, Temp. It could still be useful (and sounds like one of the nicer versions out there anyway).

Paul, may I add my best wishes to Temp's regarding the body bits. I've a few myself that are now blatantly advertising the lack of an intelligent designer behind their construction so I can empathise to a degree. I could offer to swap you a kidney for a knee (we've two of each) but I'm afraid such deals are frowned upon in the medical profession outside of august bodies such as the Chinese prison system etc. How's your Mandarin?
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Fri 04 Jul 2014, 10:54

You may have wonky knees, nordmann, but you can still deliver a forceful kick to an opponent's shins.

@nordmann wrote:
Since you can invent and consistently re-invent "God" to be anything you want it to be then I would suggest not ditching the teddy-bear version out of hand, Temp.


Yes, I am consistent in my inconsistency, aren't I? But is that always a fault? My alarming tendencies to wobble have always made me very sympathetic to Cranmer whom I have often referred to as the Archbishop of Recanterbury. Cranmer never seemed to know quite what he believed either, but he was still a thoughtful sort of chap on the whole. His only child died just after its birth, yet somehow Cranmer lives on: he was the "only begetter" (sort of - he did have help) of that magnificent piece of literature, the English Book of Common Prayer.

Which has had me pondering this morning the role of the spiritually-minded in passing on, not genes maybe, but ideas: art, music, drama (the first dramas were the ancient religious rituals). May not have been of much practical use to the tribe or clan for survival, but haven't such things - such people - always been revered? Why should that be?

Probably not at all relevant to the thread, but thought I'd mention it.

(Not that Mary Tudor revered Cranmer, of course. He and his ideas were regarded as such a threat she had him burnt.)

EDIT: Just realised that the invent/re-invent comment was probably not aimed at me at all. Never mind. Won't delete this.


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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Fri 04 Jul 2014, 11:07

Temp wrote:
the first dramas were the ancient religious rituals

Margaret Mead was of the opinion that the earliest dramas must have been the imitative reconstruction of hunts enacted by hunters in front of appreciative tribe members and children who needed to learn this skill for later life. The practice has survived right up to today within enough disparate communities around the world to suggest it has always been a pretty universal method. If I had to guess between eating and religion as to which came first I'd be inclined to go with the gastronomical (rather than the gastrological?).
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Fri 04 Jul 2014, 14:28

Oh well, that'll teach me to get my information from "The Clan of the Cave Bear".

But to be fair to me, I did get this from the Encyclopaedia Britannica:


The lack of documentary evidence makes it impossible to determine exactly how theatre began, though it is generally believed to have evolved from religious rituals. It is difficult to decide at which point ritual became theatre. Important clues as to the nature of theatre in prehistoric times can, however, be found by examining the many patterns of drama and ritual that exist throughout the world today.

Real hunting skills would surely be passed on from father to son actually out on the job, not back in the cave, dressed up in masks, prancing around a pretend animal? But who am I to question Margaret Mead?

Point I was so clumsily trying to make was that the "artists" - religious or otherwise - were really in purely survival terms pretty useless people. Yet they flourished as a class, not just tolerated, but actually (I think) given preferential treatment in early societies. Seems odd when it must have been obvious that what they were doing was not really necessary at all, and that often it just wasn't working. Hunts must have regularly failed, whatever the pictures on the cave walls, or however exciting and dramatic the pre-hunt ceremonies had been.

Just musing - haven't a clue about any of this actually.

EDIT: I have been unfair. If Margaret Mead has been mentioned, I thought, no doubt that means she was a committed atheist. How wrong I was. Just looked her up on Wiki and discovered: An Anglican Christian, she played a considerable part in the drafting of the 1979 American Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.

One of her quotes fron BrainyQuote:

Prayer does not use up artificial energy, doesn't burn up any fossil fuel, doesn't pollute. Neither does song, neither does love, neither does the dance.




Obviously an OK lady.


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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Fri 04 Jul 2014, 15:05

Me neither. And I suspect strongly that Margaret was guessing too!
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Fri 04 Jul 2014, 15:12

Please see EDIT above. I apologise for having mean thoughts.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Fri 04 Jul 2014, 16:02

I hesitate to contradict Margaret Meades but I'd guess that these earliest dramas, or spectacles, were men showing off - as usual! "Look, see how I killed the mighty rabbit", much like old soldiers, rehashng their exploits in the pub.
To be a bit more serious, if, as it is often argued, cave paintings and ritual dances were forms of sympathetic magic, is there any objective difference between magic and religion?
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Fri 04 Jul 2014, 16:32

Yet ironically magic and science have always been linked - Faust, the alchemists, the School of Night (aka the School of Atheism 1592) etc.

Didn't Sir James Frazer look at all this in "The Golden Bough"? That was on my reading list years and years ago. I found it terribly hard going. I think he argued that magic and religion were not the same, but that magic, religion and science were all bound together. He was a hugely important influence on many famous writers, but I will have to look him up - I can't remember an awful lot from his magisterial study, except his ideas on the myth of the dying god  Embarassed.  I expect nordmann will give us a resume after the football.  Smile 

EDIT: Here's Wiki for now:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Golden_Bough


EDIT 2: In course of time, the slow advance of knowledge, which has dispelled so many cherished illusions, convinced at least the more thoughtful portion of mankind that the alternations of summer and winter, of spring and autumn, were not merely the result of their own magical rites, but that some deeper cause, some mightier power, was at work behind the shifting scenes of nature. They now pictured to themselves the growth and decay of vegetation, the birth and death of living creatures, as effects of the waxing or waning strength of divine beings, of gods and goddesses, who were born and died, who married and begot children, on the pattern of human life. Thus the old magical theory of the seasons was displaced, or rather supplemented, by a religious theory. For although men now attributed the annual cycle of change primarily to corresponding changes in their deities, they still thought that by performing certain magical rites they could aid the god, who was the principle of life, in his struggle with the opposing principle of death.

J.G.Frazer, The Myth of Adonis from The Golden Bough, revised 1922.


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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Fri 04 Jul 2014, 17:19

These waters may be too deep for me to swish about in but I am curious as to whether atheists accept that moral rectitude - or such of it as they chose to adopt - stems from others' religion? Was    there ever a  society  that developed a moral code with neither  crime and punishment being the spur nor religious reward and retribution?....... the honest ape?
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Fri 04 Jul 2014, 19:07

@Priscilla wrote:
I am curious as to whether atheists accept that moral rectitude - or such of it as they chose to adopt - stems from others' religion?

In short P, answering for myself, no. My morality stems essentially fom the basic principle that one should treat others as one would have others treat oneself. No religion or mystical being need be involved. I find it a rather depressing view of mankind if people really think we all need an imaginary policeman/headmaster/father figure constantly watching us, just to ensure that we always do what we all basically know to be right.

I have never believed in God but I don't think I was a particularly naughty child other than, for instance the occasional bicky stolen from the treats jar. But even at quite a young age, I do recall wondering whether this supposedly stern all-seeing God that others seemed to believe in ... rather than frightening children, shouldn't he be doing more about the likes of Hitler, Stalin, the Moors Murderers, or all the really evil people in the world ... cos he certainly didn't seem to be the slightest bit bothered about their wrong-doings.

@Priscilla wrote:
Was there ever a  society  that developed a moral code with neither  crime and punishment being the spur nor religious reward and retribution?....... the honest ape?

I cannot think of a society that has developed on its own a moral code without the influence of religious retribution .... but surely that's just because of the all-pervasive nature of religion, that almost inevitably gets dragged along as cultural baggage into almost all human society.

EDIT : French revolutionary republican society came close ... since it aimed to base all law on fundamental human rights to life and liberty etc (the Golden Rule again - "treat others as you'd be treated yourself"). Fired up with the ideas of the enlightenment and having just executed the king, God's chosen representative in France, the committee drawing up the constitution specifically excluded God as the fountain of law, although they did sort-off admit to an unknown greater supreme entity. But Judeo-Christian religious law - the 10 commandments and all that - were most definitely excluded as the starting point for formulating the principles of the state, the constitution and the basic premises of law. Of course in time religion did manage to sneak back in, but France remains a staunchy secular state.


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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Fri 04 Jul 2014, 20:39

Did the Ur-Nammu or Hammurabi codes claim any kind of divine revelation as their moral basis or just bring in the gods as the validation of the kingship of their authors?
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Fri 04 Jul 2014, 22:20

Temperance,

you don't know what you have done to me this evening...
"Which has had me pondering this morning the role of the spiritually-minded in passing on, not genes maybe, but ideas: art, music, drama (the first dramas were the ancient religious rituals). May not have been of much practical use to the tribe or clan for survival, but haven't such things - such people - always been revered? Why should that be?"
Had also thoughts about entertainment in bad times to divert society from the horrors of present day to stand and not loose the will to live...Vera Lynn and all that...the German cinema in the middle of WWII...
But then started to do research on the net...
Reading and still reading...





BTW: found some interesting books on Jstor...but if you see the subscribe criteria...university and all that...tried once to subscribe...and as I cannot give a false university name...I will ask the granddaughter or grandson if they can't arrange something for me...

PS: Thanks Temperance for your confort...and Nordmann for the body parts...as I said in the time to Tas Khan: optimist tot in de kist (optimist till in the coffin)...some years still functioning without kidney dialysis (heard from some patient up to 4 years)...some years with dialysis...(heard from 3 years before a donor kidney)...in the meantime invention of growing body parts with your own stam cells...and in the worsest scenario, dialysis till my 100...
Particularly apt for this thread Wink  the Dutch proverb: "Hoop doet leven" (hope is to do to live? hope does to life?)...


Second PS: Temperance for the first time in my life reading the word "shins"
" can still deliver a forceful kick to an opponent's shins."
And thought that would have to be the Dutch "schenen" and indeed looking in the dictionary...
English is so easy, or it is a French word or it is a Dutch word... Wink 

Kind regards and with esteem to you both,

Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sat 05 Jul 2014, 09:48

Thank you for the links, Paul. What a huge subject this is indeed - not one I can really cope with at all.


I think the English expression is: "Where there's life, there's hope."


MM wrote:
My morality stems essentially from the basic principle that one should treat others as one would have others treat oneself.



That's what I believe too, MM, and I fully accept that this is what all the world's great thinkers have taught. Christianity certainly cannot claim the monopoly on this one; indeed Christ did not claim it: he acknowledged that it was the very basis of the old Mosaic law.

The trouble is we just don't do it. I'm thinking an awful lot at the moment about St. Paul's agonisings in his letter to the Romans:

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.  So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,  but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am!



Sin? Bit of a dirty word these days, I know, and hardly relevant on a scientific/historical thread about evolution. But may I explain why I am quoting St. Paul here? You see I'm not thinking of the really big things (not many people are murderers; not many people are what you might call "real" thieves), but isn't it in the ordinary, little, everyday encounters with others that we do not practise what we preach - where, as Marcus Aurelius (blessings on him) pointed out - "practice does not match precept"? We make a mockery of it all "in thought, word and deed" - usually on a daily basis. I can usually bite back vicious, cruel words and I don't often give in to the temptation to thump the people who annoy me, but my thoughts? Do we always treat others in our in our thoughts as we would have them treat us? I certainly do not. I sat with a group of decent, church-going women earlier this week, smiling hypocritically and nodding at the photos that were being passed around and apparently happily joining in the "appreciative" comments. But, even as I thought them, I was appalled at the angry, contemptuous ideas that were actually swirling around in my head. "Shut up. Shut up, you stupid, smug cow. No ones's interested in your endless photos. Why don't you just shut the whatever up?"  Oh, MM, what a wretched woman I am! Good job I was drinking coffee and not anything stronger. (I dread to think, by the way, what the woman in question was secretly thinking about me - probably better that I have no idea.)

A silly incident and hardly a "sin" you might say, hardly a transgression of Paul's "law", but I was experiencing little of what is so optimistically called "fellowship", and I was fully aware that I was loving neither my neighbour nor myself that day.

I have no answer for you about the problem of real, full-blown evil. I wish I did. Who has? I could offer some ideas, but this thread, this site, is not the place to express them. But I have never seen "God" as a policeman, a headteacher, some nasty old man "sternly" watching our human nastiness - someone who gets enormous pleasure from punishing us. Such a "God" is indeed no more than "the bogle of the nursery".

The psychopaths of this world seem to be barely human. I remember an old black-and-white film about a psychopath called "The Twisted Gene", an interesting title, I think. I wonder how Darwin - the theory of evolution - would explain what we call evil? Was Stalin simply the biggest and nastiest baboon on the block? Or something else?

The Ian Bradys of this world are certainly something else. In my deleted post earlier in the week I mentioned a chilling line from the film "Apocalypse Now" (which Francis Ford Coppola based on Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"). The protagonist, Captain Willard, stumbles upon a platoon who are randomly killing anything or anyone they can. Appalled, Willard asks the demented American sergeant: "Soldier, do you know who's in charge here?" The reply is: "Who's in charge here? Oh yes, I know who's in charge."

But we have strayed, as ever, from the OP. But your question about evil - and the evolutionary answer - does interest me. And hopefully it's relevant.


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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sat 05 Jul 2014, 10:58

The question of evil exercises religious minds quite a lot, but for what I would consider the wrong reasons, their focus being of necessity and primarily how to account for its presence in a universe created and monitored by what is meant to be a loving and benevolent entity, at least in religions where deities with these characteristics exist. Other religions struggle also to reconcile evil with divine intent, though in the less personalised formats by which they have defined divinity.

From a more realistic standpoint the concept of evil presents two hurdles to analysis. Firstly, while the basic concept is pretty much universally understood between different cultures with quite different and independent origins the actual definition of what constitutes an evil deed or thought is not so standard at all (and quite visibly changes even within one culture over time). Secondly, and this is true for many concepts grounded in theology rather than philosophy, it is actually protected against meaningful or forensic analysis by those who have an investment - personal or professional - in obfuscation. A behavioural psychologist will iterate over and over again that an examination of "evil" must be conducted within the clinical parameters imposed by sociology, clinical psychology, psychiatry and whatever other disciplines are used to examine the individual as a social being, otherwise the exercise is futile from a learning perspective. And that is just in the case of "evil" associated with individuals. When the term is widened to include whole regimes, cultures and societies then other disciplines also apply such as political science, anthropology and - dare I say it - historiography.

Yet of course while this obvious truth will be acknowledged by most thinking people it will not deter in the slightest glib use of the term in full contradiction of this acknowledgement, as if it has a simply understood and agreed meaning for all audiences, by individuals ranging from the local vicar at Sunday service to whoever fancies himself the next Grand Ayatollah, presidents and prime ministers, and just about anyone too intellectually lazy, dishonest, self-interested, ill-equipped, or even too afraid, to seek or attempt to elucidate a more comprehensive explanation for what they are trying to describe.

We are on much safer ground (attempting to get back to Priscilla's and MM's comments regarding rule of law) when we ditch the term "evil" and replace it with "anti-social" or even "immoral". Organised religions can (and do) claim ownership and origin for these concepts, thereby implying that civic law derives from religious precepts, but the obvious truth is quite different as even a rudimentary examination of the development of civic law globally readily demonstrates. That which offended a pre-European American native with regard to acceptable social behaviour did not fundamentally differ from anyone else, a facet of their civilisation that was frequently remarked upon with some wonder by early Spanish invaders. Variations existed in how a crime's severity was perceived and in how or even if they warranted punishment. However the basic morality governing killing, appropriation of things to which one had no recognised entitlement and the concept of crime itself matched the conquistadors' own, something they even more than we now ascribed to a divine source (and who in the circumstances proved themselves more adept at ignoring too when it suited them).

Regarding civic law as a development from rules formulated for theological reasons is very much like looking down a telescope the wrong way round. Lines of concurrence are misidentified as lines of development and the image that is ultimately lost to the observer is the broader one of humanity itself regulating social behaviour, and with remarkable consistency too.

On a more prosaic level and in direct answer to Priscilla's question - has a society developed a moral code without it being based on either religious precept or a desire to define crime and punishment - then of course the answer is "no" since it is only through these two alternatives that the requirement of a code has been traditionally present. But a moral code is quite a different animal to morality itself, a remarkably sturdy, consistent and obviously intrinsic facet of human behaviour which is even more remarkable (as the Spanish conquistadors were dumbfoundedly forced to acknowledge upon encountering "savages") for having produced sturdy and consistent moral codes.

And of course it almost goes without saying that when societies extend this code into civic law to an extent that sadistic revenge, utilisation of law as a social engineering and control tool, and immorality itself becomes protected and encouraged, then religious faith has often been both the facilitator and motivator for such development. The role political ideology and its imposition plays in this process is well examined and generally understood. The role religion plays however has not traditionally been scrutinised to the same extent.


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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sat 05 Jul 2014, 11:36

@nordmann wrote:



Yet of course while this obvious truth will be acknowledged by most thinking people it will not deter in the slightest glib use of the term in full contradiction of this acknowledgement, as if it has a simply understood and agreed meaning for all audiences, by individuals ranging from the local vicar at Sunday service to whoever fancies himself the next Grand Ayatollah, presidents and prime ministers, and just about anyone too intellectually lazy, dishonest, self-interested, ill-equipped, or even too afraid, to seek or attempt to elucidate a more comprehensive explanation for what they are trying to describe.more comprehensive explanation for what they are trying to describe.


Glib - intellectually lazy, dishonest, self-interested, ill-equipped, or even too afraid to seek or attempt to elucidate...

Mmm, or should that be ouch, if not wow? I'm not quite certain what the appropriate interjection should be. Thank you for your detailed post, nordmann. I'm sure much of what you say is true: there is certainly much food for thought in your interesting remarks. I shall go away and ponder them.


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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sat 05 Jul 2014, 11:53

Sorry, while you were writing I retrospectively extended that list of adjectives as the motive to avoid semantic exactitude varies even more than laziness or fear can account for. Dishonesty plays a vital role too.

We use the term "evil" (and I do too) in order normally to make a point which is not contingent on "evil" having anything more succinct by way of definition than a general meaning of "very bad but with an undefined extra aspect to this badness". It bridges a gap in a sentence without really offering much - the point and actual meaning of the sentence or phrase lying elsewhere. Such semantic laziness, as I have said before, is not always a proof of much except a neutral and completely understandable desire simply to communicate, and the word shares this quality with several others much used in theology. However theology, I have noticed, pretends succinct meaning on these words' behalf - and wilful use of this pretence in my book can only mean intellectual dishonesty.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sat 05 Jul 2014, 12:08

I have made the necessary alterations to my post above.

I am still reeling; in fact I am reeling a bit more now.

I need a drink - of tea, I hasten to add.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sat 05 Jul 2014, 12:26

Surely "evil", and a good many other similarly loaded terms, can never be absolute but is so dependent on local culture and custom that something can really only be truely evil if we all, within own own particular society, agreed that it is. 

Can a rogue man-eating shark be called evil, a tsunami, a plague of locusts, or the ebola virus? Can even Adolf Hitler be called universally evil? Within modern human society most people would say he was, but viewed from within the culture and pejudices already existing in early 1940's German society .... or even, say, medieval English society, he wasn't particularly reprehensible.

In haste ... I need to finish chores.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sat 05 Jul 2014, 12:31

And in fact when one examines its use in the vernacular one finds that even an agreed meaning and application within one's own particular society is more often absent than present.

It might sound trite but semantically an examination of why we should dislike rogue man-eating sharks, a plague of locusts, viral epidemics and Adolf Hitler is much more cogent and pursuable when one utilises the term "anti-social" rather than "evil". Then their common trait which we abhor presents itself quite readily as both understandable and unmysterious, without even having to explore the morality issue at all.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sat 05 Jul 2014, 13:02

I shall always refer to the Holocaust as "anti-social" in future.

I understand the points you are making, but I cannot go along with this. It's clever; it's cold; it's clinical and it terrifies me.

I am responding from the heart and not the head, I know, quite inappropriate in any attempt at argument here. If that makes me glib, stupid, lazy and intellectually dishonest in your book, I honestly don't know what to say. Perhaps you are right; that is always a possibility.

My friend here has - quite angrily - just told me to log off, shut down the computer and give it all "a bloody rest". Probably excellent advice. Giving up - giving in - acknowledging when you're - if not  beaten exactly - but just completely baffled?

I should stick with my Willie Wobbleweapon, my Jean Rhys, and all the rest of the baffled ones who write/have written garbage about all this stuff. Can't do the science, sociology and semantics thing.

This isn't a huff, just despair.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sat 05 Jul 2014, 13:31

The Holocaust is just about as anti-social as anti-social gets, given its intention of eliminating an entire society from the face of the earth.

But I see your problem too - we have adopted use of the term "evil" for situations where the extent of the atrocity transcends the norm in terms of its application, its ability to horrify and appall or even just its novelty. We fail to acknowledge linguistically that society ultimately has developed a morality based primarily on what constitutes the good of society (a "good" individual being one who contributes to that ideal) and therefore also that "anti-social" is actually the key term, especially when as today we have relegated use of "anti-social" to describing behaviour which annoys rather than threatens society. In consequence we have adopted words to fill the void and in this we have been more than encouraged by those who traditionally have adopted the role of moral arbiters within society.

Their motive in doing this, I feel, relates to how society has been traditionally structured. Adoption of language that demonstrates the common and innate morality of a society's members contradicts the requirement for interpretation and arbitration of this morality within a hierarchical system of power. Religion (and I actually believe the term itself is indicative of such obfuscation) dovetails nicely into this structure and systematic control mechanism.

The problem as I see it however is that the language we have been traditionally encouraged to use in these matters, often deflecting from rather than portraying actuality, is one of obfuscation and we now devote a huge amount of effort (as this thread also demonstrates) into simply identifying the drawbacks in using it.


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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sat 05 Jul 2014, 13:34

@Temperance wrote:
I understand the points you are making, but I cannot go along with this. It's clever; it's cold; it's clinical and it terrifies me.

It terrifies me too Temp.

Whilst I might appear, confident, arrogant even, in my accepatnce of the "truths" of the physical world, I am considerably less confident about human society. Scientific truths: the age of the Earth; that evolution explains the visible diversity of current and past life; that gravity works (though nobody can yet quite explain the what, why or how); that light travels, in a vacuum, at a constant limiting velocity (yet again quite what light is ... a wave or a stream of particles) ... all that stuff I accept and can build upon. I want to understand how the universe works ... and so for me it's a regret rather than any fear, that death will be the end of me after my all to brief sojourn alive.

But of the slippery gunk that passes for the "glue" that supposedly holds society together, I am less confident. I am well aware that I, many people, in fact nearly all of us ... are just living on sufferance of the rest of society (and I have little faith in the intelligence of my fellow man). For all the high falutin words of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights (and its shameful inherent acceptance of the right to abuse others ... if only one plays the religion card) ... such grand universal words are as naught if "society" deems otherwise, and so then considers me to be "evil".

EDIT : Crossed post with El Nordo.


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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sat 05 Jul 2014, 14:09

Quite right. Take "homosexuality" as an example. As long as the word "evil" is in the vernacular with all its inherent semantic inexactitude, it can (and often is) applied to being gay. However we only have to look at Latin to see the role this semantic inexactitude has played as a tool of oppression. In Latin the comparative term for something bad which extended beyond the norm was "adversus" (against) or "immundus" (not worldly) as adjectives, or the deed to do evil as "malefacio" (make bad). That was as far as they could go in describing evil, and when it came to identifying and prosecuting people who acted against the common good seemed no impediment to enforcing law or even discussing the morality of the malefactor. Yet given the semantic exactitude of their vernacular terms it was almost impossible to outlaw someone's sexual orientation, or even to identify such orientation as "bad" at all. And guess what? They didn't. A crime which could not be demonstrated to be against the common good or even expressed as such, by definition, was not a crime at all. They had many words to describe misdemeanor and even sexual deviancy from the norm, but none of these linguistically or practically could ever be associated with criminal behaviour or even publicly offensive behaviour. Homosexuality, like some other things (including religious zeal), was of course frowned upon by those who at various times considered themselves more moral than the next person but that was as far as such things generally went, or could go. 

When the bible was translated into Latin the version preferred for the Hebrew רַע (ra'e) was "malus" (bad) but since the Hebrew term often was intended to include the concept of being morally offensive to God "immundus" was the one they often opted for and is the one which in English most often translates as "evil". Nowadays if you look up the etymology of this Latin word (with so obvious a root) you find that dictionaries often include "unclean" and "immoral" without any accreditation for the Latin root words which could have contributed to this meaning. This is known as retrospective accreditation or accreditation through use and you will find it most often in Latin dictionaries when looking up just these "loaded words" (as you called them) beloved of theologians.

In my mind it's just plain cheating of course. When the christian church adopted Latin it adopted the right to retrospectively own its semantic applications, a role it was to effectively monopolise for well over a thousand years until the establishment of universities in Europe. Not something entirely necessary to do unless, of course, one is attempting to translate a Hebrew Bronze Age language and its specific religious application into what was then a modern, sophisticated and universal tongue designed for more secular use. Their main problem of course being that the then modern sophisticated people using it had somehow overlooked the notion that gays, or anyone else for that matter falling foul of Leviticus, might need a superlative form of the word "bad" to be applied to them. In fact they hadn't ever needed a religiously loaded version of "bad" at all.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sat 05 Jul 2014, 14:59

MM, please read this: how Christ - who himself had a "beloved" friend, the disciple who so desperately outran Peter to the empty tomb (read John 20: 1-4 - it's heartbreaking ) - healed  the centurion's servant. "Servant" was probably a mistranslation of the Greek "pais".

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jay-michaelson/when-jesus-healed-a-same-sex-partner_b_1743947.html

You probably know this bit of Walt Whitman already, but it makes me think of you. I understand entirely what Whitman means, believe it or not. How weary I am of it all - atheists, Christians, all the clever, condescending men of both camps - the whole caboodle in fact.


I think I could turn and live with the animals, they are so placid and self contained;
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition;
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins;
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God;
Not one is dissatisfied-not one is demented with the mania of owning things;
Not one kneels to another, nor his kind that lived thousands of years ago;
Not one is responsible or industrious over the whole earth.



I promised I wouldn't post any more on this thread this morning, that I would indeed "give it all a rest", but as nordmann has brought gays and sly words into the argument I felt I had to post the Huffington Post link.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sat 05 Jul 2014, 15:13

That's probably exactly how TH White felt in the run up to WW2, when he abandoned human society and lived as a hermit in the Norfolk marshes. He fled from human society but said he was never alone, immersed as he was in the society of over-wintering barnacle geese.

But I think you miss-understand me Temp, I really do not care whether Christ had a gay friend, was gay tolerant, or was gay himself ... so what?! To me he has little new or meaningful to say one way or the other about most things, and in the end he, if indeed he ever existed beyond just the figurehead for an idea, was/is still like us all: just on sufferance depending on how society bends in the breeze. (And for society's take on that article you should read some of the comments ... if you can stomach the bile!).

And I said I'd never post on religious topics again too.  Smile

EDIT : But Walt Whitman I can relate to. Roll on December when there're are no guests here, just me, the dog and cats, the badgers and wild boar, the over-wintering birds, the bare trees and always the quiet chatter of the river. Now that's bliss. And the Wild Wood ain't half so forbidding when you understand it a bit.


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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sat 05 Jul 2014, 15:25

Fair enough.

And this wasn't meant to be a "religious topic" at all.

Oh well. Hope your courgettes wax big and fat, MM - death to all slugs - and that your walnut liqueur turns out OK. I've never seen walnut liqueur, not even at Fortnum and Mason's.

EDIT: Nice bit of karma here - there was me thinking, "Shut up! Shut up, you stupid, smug cow - nobody's interested in your... Why don't you just shut the whatever up?" earlier in the week - and exactly the same could well apply to me here. The even-handed justice, you see. Seriously, both you and nordmann have made me think hard and long today - always an extremely uncomfortable process, but often a necessary one.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sat 05 Jul 2014, 19:51

@Temperance wrote:
Thank you for the links, Paul. What a huge subject this is indeed - not one I can really cope with at all.


I think the English expression is: "Where there's life, there's hope."
 Thank you very much for your English proverb that is not that far from the Dutch one.
See now that the links I provided are disappeared.
If not fully linked to the original message, they are nevertheless related to the role of art in the evolution of man even in the Darwinian perspective...



And:




And reading your further posts SST I am tempted to say: Don't give up in any case, as you provide us with your thought-provoking questions with incentives that we can not escape and you oblige us to think about ourselves, our society, our culture...

Kind regards and with high esteem,

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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sat 05 Jul 2014, 20:01

@nordmann wrote:
Quite right. Take "homosexuality" as an example. As long as the word "evil" is in the vernacular with all its inherent semantic inexactitude, it can (and often is) applied to being gay. However we only have to look at Latin to see the role this semantic inexactitude has played as a tool of oppression. In Latin the comparative term for something bad which extended beyond the norm was "adversus" (against) or "immundus" (not worldly) as adjectives, or the deed to do evil as "malefacio" (make bad). That was as far as they could go in describing evil, and when it came to identifying and prosecuting people who acted against the common good seemed no impediment to enforcing law or even discussing the morality of the malefactor. Yet given the semantic exactitude of their vernacular terms it was almost impossible to outlaw someone's sexual orientation, or even to identify such orientation as "bad" at all. And guess what? They didn't. A crime which could not be demonstrated to be against the common good or even expressed as such, by definition, was not a crime at all. They had many words to describe misdemeanor and even sexual deviancy from the norm, but none of these linguistically or practically could ever be associated with criminal behaviour or even publicly offensive behaviour. Homosexuality, like some other things (including religious zeal), was of course frowned upon by those who at various times considered themselves more moral than the next person but that was as far as such things generally went, or could go. 



Nordmann,

what one all learns on these boards...


http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/immundus

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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sat 05 Jul 2014, 20:17

@Temperance wrote:
My friend here has - quite angrily - just told me to log off, shut down the computer and give it all "a bloody rest". Probably excellent advice. Giving up - giving in - acknowledging when you're - if not  beaten exactly - but just completely baffled?


Temperance,

don't listen to your friend. This is a discussion forum. We are here all together to seek for answers to your questions. And it isn't because Nordmann can say it that well in his own typical sophisticated way that we can't seek together further for a greater "picture" of these complex concepts as for instance "evil" and perhaps find a more balanced answer about all the aspects of the phenomena?

Kind regards and with high esteem,

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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sat 05 Jul 2014, 22:30

@nordmann wrote:
The question of evil exercises religious minds quite a lot, but for what I would consider the wrong reasons, their focus being of necessity and primarily how to account for its presence in a universe created and monitored by what is meant to be a loving and benevolent entity, at least in religions where deities with these characteristics exist. Other religions struggle also to reconcile evil with divine intent, though in the less personalised formats by which they have defined divinity.

From a more realistic standpoint the concept of evil presents two hurdles to analysis. Firstly, while the basic concept is pretty much universally understood between different cultures with quite different and independent origins the actual definition of what constitutes an evil deed or thought is not so standard at all (and quite visibly changes even within one culture over time). Secondly, and this is true for many concepts grounded in theology rather than philosophy, it is actually protected against meaningful or forensic analysis by those who have an investment - personal or professional - in obfuscation. A behavioural psychologist will iterate over and over again that an examination of "evil" must be conducted within the clinical parameters imposed by sociology, clinical psychology, psychiatry and whatever other disciplines are used to examine the individual as a social being, otherwise the exercise is futile from a learning perspective. And that is just in the case of "evil" associated with individuals. When the term is widened to include whole regimes, cultures and societies then other disciplines also apply such as political science, anthropology and - dare I say it - historiography.

Yet of course while this obvious truth will be acknowledged by most thinking people it will not deter in the slightest glib use of the term in full contradiction of this acknowledgement, as if it has a simply understood and agreed meaning for all audiences, by individuals ranging from the local vicar at Sunday service to whoever fancies himself the next Grand Ayatollah, presidents and prime ministers, and just about anyone too intellectually lazy, dishonest, self-interested, ill-equipped, or even too afraid, to seek or attempt to elucidate a more comprehensive explanation for what they are trying to describe.

We are on much safer ground (attempting to get back to Priscilla's and MM's comments regarding rule of law) when we ditch the term "evil" and replace it with "anti-social" or even "immoral". Organised religions can (and do) claim ownership and origin for these concepts, thereby implying that civic law derives from religious precepts, but the obvious truth is quite different as even a rudimentary examination of the development of civic law globally readily demonstrates. That which offended a pre-European American native with regard to acceptable social behaviour did not fundamentally differ from anyone else, a facet of their civilisation that was frequently remarked upon with some wonder by early Spanish invaders. Variations existed in how a crime's severity was perceived and in how or even if they warranted punishment. However the basic morality governing killing, appropriation of things to which one had no recognised entitlement and the concept of crime itself matched the conquistadors' own, something they even more than we now ascribed to a divine source (and who in the circumstances proved themselves more adept at ignoring too when it suited them).

Regarding civic law as a development from rules formulated for theological reasons is very much like looking down a telescope the wrong way round. Lines of concurrence are misidentified as lines of development and the image that is ultimately lost to the observer is the broader one of humanity itself regulating social behaviour, and with remarkable consistency too.

On a more prosaic level and in direct answer to Priscilla's question - has a society developed a moral code without it being based on either religious precept or a desire to define crime and punishment - then of course the answer is "no" since it is only through these two alternatives that the requirement of a code has been traditionally present. But a moral code is quite a different animal to morality itself, a remarkably sturdy, consistent and obviously intrinsic facet of human behaviour which is even more remarkable (as the Spanish conquistadors were dumbfoundedly forced to acknowledge upon encountering "savages") for having produced sturdy and consistent moral codes.

And of course it almost goes without saying that when societies extend this code into civic law to an extent that sadistic revenge, utilisation of law as a social engineering and control tool, and immorality itself becomes protected and encouraged, then religious faith has often been both the facilitator and motivator for such development. The role political ideology and its imposition plays in this process is well examined and generally understood. The role religion plays however has not traditionally been scrutinised to the same extent.


Nordmann,

pending my comments on your message I did some research on the World Wide Web...

Some preliminary reading about the concept of evil...the opposite of good...?
https://www.interdisciplinarypress.net/online-store/ebooks/evil-monsters-horror/the-wicked-heart-studies-in-the-phenomena-of-evil
Was able to subscribe for download, while presenting me as an independant researcher Wink
http://www.smith.edu/kahninstitute/evil/evil.php
http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195160840.001.0001/acprof-9780195160840-chapter-004
http://gmwilliams.hubpages.com/hub/Perceptions-Projections-and-JudgmentsWhat-is-Considered-to-be-Evil

click on Grace Margueritha Williams to see her credentials.
http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-roots-of-good-and-evil
Interesting as some approach about an innate morality?
http://philosophynow.org/issues/82/Morality_is_a_Culturally_Conditioned_Response

Kind regards and with high esteem,

Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sun 06 Jul 2014, 00:40

Paul, you can't post links to Google Books search results without screwing up the display of the thread - unless you use the alias functiion as described before!!!


Kind regards and with high esteem  farao  

Nordmann.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sun 06 Jul 2014, 15:17

Thank you for your kindly exhortations, Paul, but I really should give all this emotional, off-topic nonsense of mine a rest. What with fretting over nordmann's semantic taunting, anxiety over St. Paul's (and my own) sinful nature and worrying about MM's courgettes, I am utterly exhausted.  Smile 

PS Sorry that Belgium is out. I was so glad last night that England had been eliminated. I was cheering on plucky little Costa Rica and I could hardly bear to watch the penalties. Had it been England, I think I would have died.

Back to the tennis now.


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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sun 06 Jul 2014, 20:31

@PaulRyckier wrote:
@Temperance wrote:
Thank you for the links, Paul. What a huge subject this is indeed - not one I can really cope with at all.


I think the English expression is: "Where there's life, there's hope."
 Thank you very much for your English proverb that is not that far from the Dutch one.
See now that the links I provided are disappeared.
If not fully linked to the original message, they are nevertheless related to the role of art in the evolution of man even in the Darwinian perspective...

http://goo.gl/alx89G

And:

http://goo.gl/9v0APr


And reading your further posts SST I am tempted to say: Don't give up in any case, as you provide us with your thought-provoking questions with incentives that we can not escape and you oblige us to think about ourselves, our society, our culture...

Kind regards and with high esteem,

Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sun 06 Jul 2014, 21:06

@nordmann wrote:
Paul, you can't post links to Google Books search results without screwing up the display of the thread - unless you use the alias functiion as described before!!!


Kind regards and with high esteem  farao  

Nordmann.

Nordmann,

"without screwing up the display of the thread "

Yes I have seen it Embarassed ...on Historum and Passion Histoire they seem to have a trick...

"use the alias functiion as described before!!!"

yes, yes I know you explained it already once to me...forgotten I asked it again to you on this board but you haven't seen my cry of distress...and I didn't dare to ask it a second time...in the meantime on a French messageboard someone explained the trick to me...and it worked...but forgot it again...trying with all kind of parts of remembering....as today...but didn't succeed...you have to understand that old dummies as I are hard to learn all those computer thingies Embarassed...had to phone the grandson and he directed me to an URL shortener...but that isn't quite so easy as the method that you learned to me...

If you want to explain it a last time...? I solemnely promise in front of the whole members' public of this board to save the method on a place I can find it back and I promise to never ask it again...at least never to you...

Kind regards from your respectful Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sun 06 Jul 2014, 21:29

@Temperance wrote:
Thank you for your kindly exhortations, Paul, but I really should give all this emotional nonsense of mine a rest. What with fretting over nordmann's semantic taunting, anxiety over St. Paul's (and my own) sinful nature and worrying about MM's courgettes, I am utterly exhausted.

PS Sorry that Belgium is out. I was so glad last night that England had been eliminated. I was cheering on plucky little Costa Rica and I could hardly bear to watch the penalties. Had it been England, I think I would have died.

Back to the tennis now, but Federer is so boringly efficient.



Temperance,

thank you very much for your warm and humble message. I like your emotional language, which is moreover such elegant English and I am always happily surprized by the humanity which seeps through your sentences.

Hope that you in the meantime will not stop to read my and Nordmann's utterings and will be able to keep your blood pressure under control...and never will refrain from commenting if you want to have your say...

Kind regards from a sympathizing Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sun 06 Jul 2014, 23:23

Nordmann,

"From a more realistic standpoint the concept of evil presents two hurdles to analysis. Firstly, while the basic concept is pretty much universally understood between different cultures with quite different and independent origins the actual definition of what constitutes an evil deed or thought is not so standard at all (and quite visibly changes even within one culture over time). Secondly, and this is true for many concepts grounded in theology rather than philosophy, it is actually protected against meaningful or forensic analysis by those who have an investment - personal or professional - in obfuscation. A behavioural psychologist will iterate over and over again that an examination of "evil" must be conducted within the clinical parameters imposed by sociology, clinical psychology, psychiatry and whatever other disciplines are used to examine the individual as a social being, otherwise the exercise is futile from a learning perspective. And that is just in the case of "evil" associated with individuals. When the term is widened to include whole regimes, cultures and societies then other disciplines also apply such as political science, anthropology and - dare I say it - historiography."

I have perhaps not yet fully "digested" all what I read from the links that I presented in my former message. But nevertheless some preliminary thoughts.

As we are social human beings, essentially developped in the last 60,000 years, we have constantly from childhood on to learn to behave as the cultural standards from our environment show us. And even in the primates, our closest relatives on this world, show already an appreciation of "fairness". If they think they aren't treated "fair" they get angry. The feeling of to be treated fair by their social counterparts in society. From this social fairness comes also feelings of empathy or irritation.  All these feelings can lead to good and evil deeds to each other, as later by greater communities as tribes to peace or war. Each individual and every group has constantly an inner fight between good and evil.
As societies tried to understand what happened with them, some thinkers saw the balance between good and evil (Zoroasterism?)
And each culture developped as such its own standards of good and evil and as you said these standards could be altered over time even in the same society.

Seeking for an innate common human morality coming from the genes...? as a child seems not to have some norms...? and act only from the point of view of his individual advantage...? growing up in their own human social group have to adapt the norms that the social group has learned by trial and error to be the best answer to the cohesion of the group and the best interaction in that group to avoid conflicts that are detrimental to that group...?

In bigger groups there are always "thinkers", who try to provide a frame for this moral interferences? In the time, and you also added to the discussion I was surprized in the book of Peter Brown
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Brown_(historian)
"The Body and Society:Men, Women and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity" to see that "revelation" (yes revelation also used in the colloquial form) to me about a Saint Paulus adapting the Jewish cultural characteristics to fit with the Roman culture of that particular century...some clever Paul to counteract some cultural Roman sentiments to enter easier the Roman way of life...(and my mother, a feministe on her manner, always lamenting about that women hater, that (bloody) Paul)...

Just to say Nordmann, that I don't see why some honest "thinkers" can't be a guide for people, who are struggling as most people with the difficult questions about their existence or the difficult balance between good and evil...? And in my opinion are a lot of revelations from the unknown world, if not all, thought about by great "thinkers", who started to philosophize about the great questions of life...I know you will point to some detrimental excesses...which are on their turn also typical for the human nature...

OOPS and I forgot as the humans have their consciousness, they can alter their "gut feelings" as they see by reasoning what is better for the well being of the group...seeing that if the group is faring well it is also conforting for the individual...and thus altering the culture about good and evil...

And an individual who don't see a task as a social being in the interaction with his family, group or world society is a "dead" creature ("creature" for the embellishment of my sentence)...

Past midnight on the European peninsula, further thoughts are for tomorrow...

Kind regards and with esteem,

Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Mon 07 Jul 2014, 09:06

Yes Paul. The question posed however was to what extent "evil" can be ascribed to genetic causes, and my own question was actually how much "evil" as a concept survives beyond purely subjective reasoning in any case. You are quite correct, I feel, in your outline of choice, educative and reactive mechanisms by or through which individuals can both identify good and bad and then choose to which extreme they will gravitate in given circumstances.

The nub of the issue is defining "evil", as opposed to "bad" (or any other term generally used to describe behaviour on the part of an individual or group which defies or contravenes accepted moral standards). English speakers especially, for various historical reasons regarding how that language developed, have ended up with a very explicit distinction in terms of magnitude between "bad" and "evil", and in particular when they are discussing theological themes. No such distinction exists however in, for example, Norwegian or any other Germanic language which have continued using variants of the Proto-Germanic "andô". Or at least the distinctions must be expressed and justified much more contextually when they need to be made, just as in old Latin as I pointed out also previously.

In Norway the shocking bombing and multiple shootings in July 2011 perpetrated by one individual led immediately to both the actions and the man being described as "ond" and, quite correctly in terms of accurate translation, this became "evil" when rendered in English reports. What might surprise English speakers however is the actual meaning of the word "ond" - literally it stems from the same root mentioned above and from which "ånd" (spirit, soul) also derives. "Ond" therefore quite literally means "inspired". Germanic pre-christian religion obviously incorporated the notion that inspiration in a metaphysical sense could work both ways - to the advantage and disadvantage of those around the inspired person or group. It is not therefore a question of magnitude but of process. A small child in kindergarten who takes a bite out his neighbour will also have the charge levelled against him. Incidental or inconsequential breaches of the moral code are "slem" (bold) but when one is inspired to carry these breaches into acts of socially abhorrent behaviour this is "ond".

No one is ever "naughty" in Norway, I noticed with some surprise when living here first. From the smallest baby to the extremes of villainy anti-social behaviour is described using one of the two adjectives above. The severity of their moral turpitude however is never in much doubt as the words' use implies the need for context at all times. To hear anyone or anything being described simply as "evil" is quite rare indeed. When George W. Bush publicly described several countries to which he objected as "an axis of evil" the term drew shrugs from many in these parts. Its translation "den onde aksen" quite literally means nothing (an inanimate object depicted as animated requires a fuller description not to sound inadequate), even to those who might have shared Bush's analysis of the countries in question.

The serious point behind all this etmology is therefore when it comes to codifying morals and especially when drafting rules and regulations by which people's behaviour will be judged (and even punished). My point regarding homosexuals was intended as an illustration of this. Hebrew contained the semantic tools to label anyone "evil" and accordingly a rule could be clarified and enforced. Latin however had to be manipulated to accommodate the same rule. With English the construct exists again (though only after developing the root word "yfel" from a concept which could just as readily mean "wonky" or "inadequate"). Had this particular organised religion had its roots however in Proto-German or any non-semitic language of the same period I wonder just what rules would have developed? Language and its implications for how we all actually think is important historically, and doubly important when attempting an historical analysis of morality.

PS: I see that these etymological asides of mine are viewed as "taunting" on my part by one valued contributor. I can't see why but I think it might also be best advised to "give them a rest".


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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Mon 07 Jul 2014, 10:14

Mmm. I am trying to work out whether, in my overly emotional approach to all this, I have been unfair to Our Valued Leader. Did I view his very erudite and undoubtedly interesting "etymological asides" as "taunting" simply because a) his command of English is so good and I'm jealous and b) I'm frightened? Possibly.

But the tone is a bit different in the post above and the information about "ond" meaning "inspired" is fascinating. The Norwegian word is spot-on.

Paul's mention of Zoroastrianism links to this, and it makes me think back to Priscilla's interesting comments/questions about Zoroaster when I was being beaten up (joke) by nordmann on the Plato thread. Zoroaster was, I think, the first philosopher to come up with the ideas of two opposing spiritual forces: the good, the evil, the light, the dark. I'm not arguing about words/labels now, but am genuinely wondering why the concept of these two sources for human "inspiration" should have developed when it did and where it did - and why it spread like wildfire. (I'm wondering too about the development of the concept in other, far-flung places who were not exposed to  Persian/Greek/Jewish thought.)

I'll see if I can find my "Golden Bough". Frazer must have said something about this.

PS See, tried to have a huff and couldn't keep it up - just like Tim. His latest huff is pretty serious, though, which is such a shame; he would be such a valued contributor on this thread.

PPS Etymological aside - Zoroaster means "he who can manage camels".
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Mon 07 Jul 2014, 10:24

Phrases like "Our Valued Leader" etc are also taunts, you know. As an intended serious contributor to a discussion it is quite dispiriting (pardon the etymology) to have even serious responses to my comments prefaced by sarcasm so regularly.

Just saying.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Mon 07 Jul 2014, 10:29

And it was in no way whatsoever meant as a sarky "taunt", nordmann. For once you are completely and utterly wrong.

I was genuinely trying to re-enter the discussion and be a little bit more light-hearted about things than I have been recently.

It was a joke, you bloody idiot - honestly. I thought I was the "touchy" one around here? I was actually pathetically grateful that I had been referred to as a "valued contributor".
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Mon 07 Jul 2014, 10:59

Apology accepted  Smile 

Metaphysical attribution of good and bad to external sources must even predate Zoroastrianism, I would conjecture (especially since we are forced to deduce much anyway concerning that religious belief's actual doctrines before the 3rd century CE). However the inclination to look elsewhere rather than within when it comes to taking responsibility for one's actions seems a very common religious theme regardless of the faith in question. And in instances of extraordinary good or bad the temptation to do so must be overwhelming to people ill-equipped to bring any other sort of analysis to bear.

Marcus Aurelius, who grew up surrounded by such metaphysical attribution in which he too was expected to invest, was quite remarkable for questioning its deceptive simplicity however. As an emperor he had the distinct advantage of course in that he also had to accommodate as a matter of course the idea of doing bad things for the greater good. This troubled him, though as a political philosopher not in a strictly moral sense but in the sense that he suspected religious belief in these matters was inadequate a tool for comprehension. For him answers lay within the individual, not in interpretations of divinity. In a sense he was therefore a very unique thinker - even today our tendency to find a source for good and bad behaviour in genes, society or pathology reflects the old Zoroastrian assumptions regarding externalisation which I suspect he too would have rejected. A very under-appreciated philosopher was MA, I have always thought.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Mon 07 Jul 2014, 15:43

@nordmann wrote:
For him answers lay within the individual, not in interpretations of divinity. In a sense he was therefore a very unique thinker - even today our tendency to find a source for good and bad behaviour in genes, society or pathology reflects the old Zoroastrian assumptions regarding externalisation which I suspect he too would have rejected. A very under-appreciated philosopher was MA, I have always thought.


I agree with that; but perhaps that is what Christ meant too when he said, "The kingdom of heaven is within you." The kingdom of hell, too.

I know MA found the Christians immensely irritating (well, the sort he came across probably were), but I suspect he would have got on well with Christ himself. Two quotations, if I may. The first is from Matthew Arnold who said of this great man: "And so, he remains the especial friend and comforter of scrupulous yet pure-hearted and upward-striving souls, in those ages especially that walk by sight, not by faith, but yet have no open vision; he cannot give such souls perhaps all they yearn for, but he gives them much, and what he gives them they can receive."

The second comment I have always liked is from Henry James. Referring to the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius which stands in the Piazza Campidoglio in Rome, James wrote: "In the capital of Christendom, the portrait most suggestive of a Christian conscience is that of a pagan emperor."

But something from the man himself which perhaps offers food for thought for us all here, whatever our "religious" belief or none: this from Book Five of the Meditations. It is number 27:

Live with the gods. To live with the gods is to show them at all times a soul contented with their awards, and wholly fulfilling the will of that inward divinity, that particle of himself, which Zeus has given to every man for ruler and guide - the mind and the reason.

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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Tue 08 Jul 2014, 08:46

The big difference between the Christian version of introspection and Marcus Aurelius's is that the latter assumed all answers, or at least all the worthwhile ones, are to be found within if one makes the effort to find them. Each of us is a potential version of the cosmos in MA's universe. Christianity on the other hand, like Judaism (surprise, surprise), encourages introspection according to received rules and guidelines - the point is to become closer to the logos, not own it. One needs a rabbis' advice and teachings to help guide one. It's a huge difference in basic concept - one glorifies dependency on received wisdom and rewards the pupil with other-worldly promises while the other distrusts such wisdom, encourages self-dependent intelligent inquiry, and sets self-awareness and comprehension up as the only reward, experiencable in this life.

The common-sense view would be that both are hopelessly idealistic compared to actual real world experience - verifiable truth cannot be ascertained through revelation from without or within, however good the pursuit makes one feel - but as patterns for the acquisition of knowledge and truth in so far as they are achievable I know which one I prefer.

And I am pretty sure that neither philosophy has room for self-harming as a desirable course of action (just to include the thread topic in the equation again).
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Tue 08 Jul 2014, 11:06

@nordmann wrote:
One needs a rabbis' advice and teachings to help guide one. It's a huge difference in basic concept - one glorifies dependency on received wisdom and rewards the pupil with other-worldly promises while the other distrusts such wisdom, encourages self-dependent intelligent inquiry, and sets self-awareness and comprehension up as the only reward, experiencable in this life.


But isn't that a Catholic view? Protestants don't think like that - well, I don't. What about "Seek and ye shall find?" Seek is an important verb there - it's not "Listen and ye shall have it all explained to you." And surely MA himself greatly revered the guidance of his Stoic mentors? Guidance is not the same as indoctrination.


@nordmann wrote:
And I am pretty sure that neither philosophy has room for self-harming as a desirable course of action (just to include the thread topic in the equation again).

I'm trying to remember what MA/the Stoics had to say about martyrdom and death. Haven't got time now, but will look it up later.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Tue 08 Jul 2014, 11:36

Temp wrote:
But isn't that a Catholic view? Protestants don't think like that - well, I don't.

Probably, but then Protestantism has a place for sermons too. It's not simply a question of being told what to do, it's believing and accepting that one needs guidance towards an external truth that lies at the heart of Christian faith. Aurelian logic would question why an actual truth requires such external assistance at all. Assistance with introspection is valuable, but the answers lie within, not beyond, and the route to them is personal.

Temp wrote:
And surely MA himself greatly revered the guidance of his Stoic mentors? Guidance is not the same as indoctrination.

Mentors? His gratitude to his tutor Rusticus was not for his teaching but for pointing the young MA in the direction of Epictetus's book which, you recall, began with the very wise instruction not necessarily to believe anything that follows. In his own writings Marcus Aurelius demonstrated through regularly quoting their works that he was open to just about every school of philosophy; Epicurus - as non-stoic as one can get - was his benchmark for ethics, Epictetus for method, Antisthenes for aesthetics, and liberal doses of Chrysippus, Democritus, Euripides, Heraclitus, Homer, and Plato. Pigeon-holing him as a stoic does him a huge disservice (though he has often been in the past, especially by Christian theologians).

MA's take on death was pragmatic; "Death is a release from the impressions of the senses, and from desires that make us their puppets, and from the vagaries of the mind, and from the hard service of the flesh" as well as "Despise not death, but welcome it, for nature wills it like all else." Martyrdom I am less sure of - he is certainly credited with creating enough Christian martyrs, but he also had a pragmatic appreciation of their god, who had assisted him (he reckoned) in his German campaign when he and his cohorts were in a bind.

Aurelian logic denies the reality of nothing. It sets a distinction between "real" and "really real" (gods and other mental constructs being the former, the material benefits accredited to them the latter). Stoicism plays a role in this logic but pragmatism is probably a better term to describe it.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Tue 08 Jul 2014, 11:46

I found the quote I was thinking of first: "It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live."

MA sounds very modern (you gotta begin to live man!) but what he really meant was that a life spent without seeking the truth of things was as if its owner had missed the whole point and had never bothered starting (to learn or to live). Scary stuff for a curious bod like Marcus, and much more terrifying than accepting the nature of things (death being also obviously natural), the precursor to then teasing out the mechanics of that nature. Christians, who obsessed over things which MA found irrelevant and who actually regarded death as a promotion as well as a step towards ultimate revelation, must have really pissed him off big time. No wonder he was tempted to so often give them what they apparently wanted.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Tue 08 Jul 2014, 17:23

@nordmann wrote:
Aurelian logic would question why an actual truth requires such external assistance at all. Assistance with introspection is valuable, but the answers lie within, not beyond, and the route to them is personal.


But that is exactly what I believe. Does that make me some kind of pagan? No wonder I got such stern looks from our ex-curate. And  I have always gone along with this quotation from T.S. Eliot, which he took from the Buddhist philosophy: these lines come at the very end of Act Two of The Cocktail Party: "Go in peace, my daughter. Work out your salvation with diligence." Eliot based The Cocktail Party on Euripedes' Alcestis, by the way.*

But sort of going back to Marcus Aurelius and the topic of the thread - it is not just "Christian theologians" who tell us that the Emperor was a Stoic: the Stanford entry confirms what you say about other influences, but begins:


Marcus' chief philosophical influence was Stoic: in Book I of the Meditations, he records his gratitude to his Stoic teacher and friend Rusticus for giving him Epictetus to read, and in a letter to Fronto written between 145 and 147, he reports reading the Stoic Aristo and finding intense joy in his teachings, growing ashamed of his own shortcomings, and realizing that he can never again argue opposite sides of the same question, as required by rhetorical practice. The Stoic influence, however, does not prevent Marcus from approvingly quoting Epicurus on ethical matters (as Seneca had); in addition to Epictetus and Epicurus, Marcus quotes liberally from such figures as Antisthenes, Chrysippus, Democritus, Euripides, Heraclitus, Homer, and Plato.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/marcus-aurelius/

As a Stoic, Marcus must surely have been impressed by the Christians' remarkable courage in facing death, but he found what I suppose we today would call their "attention-seeking" behaviour distasteful. The early Pentecostal Christians must have been an infuriating bunch - no arguing with them whatsoever, and their "contumacy" was a potential political nightmare. In Book Eleven of the Meditations MA writes:

Happy the soul which, at whatever moment the call comes for release from the body, is equally ready to face extinction, dispersion, or survival. Such preparedness, however, must be the outcome of its own decision; a decision not prompted by mere contumacy, as with the Christians, but formed with deliberation and gravity and, if it is to be convincing to others, with an absence of all heroics.

Another translation I've read gives "tragic display" for "heroics". Either way, the Christian urge to martyrdom clearly did not impress MA. Obstinate, fanatical suicide, rather than the dignified, deliberate, calmly considered "high Roman way of death"? But the Christians did "convince" a fair few onlookers - you have to admit that.

I have emphasized the words which link to what you say in your posts today.

PS My own ancient copy of the Meditations says that this passage may not be authentic, but could be "a later insertion". Apparently the Greek grammar is a bit dodgy for Marcus, but I have no idea about that.

PPS
@nordmann wrote:
Christians, who obsessed over things which MA found irrelevant and who actually regarded death as a promotion as well as a step towards ultimate revelation, must have really pissed him off big time. No wonder he was tempted to so often give them what they apparently wanted.

 Laughing 

Anyone who has had anything to do with fervent Pentecostal Christians will sympathize with that.

*PPPS Not everyone is a fan of the Eliot play. A review of a recent production noted that, badly presented, the mysterious Uninvited Guest can be a bit of a disaster. He unfortunately possessed absolutely no menace, and looked more like a night club comedian than a deus ex machina. Eliot had a doctorate in philosophy from Harvard, by the way.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Tue 08 Jul 2014, 21:46

@nordmann wrote:
Yes Paul. The question posed however was to what extent "evil" can be ascribed to genetic causes, and my own question was actually how much "evil" as a concept survives beyond purely subjective reasoning in any case. You are quite correct, I feel, in your outline of choice, educative and reactive mechanisms by or through which individuals can both identify good and bad and then choose to which extreme they will gravitate in given circumstances.

Nordmann, (and Temperance),

still reading about the consciousness of good and evil in humans...
Found this article from the NY Times about innate morality:
And another article from Paul Bloom...
I liked very much that they also used many times the word "fairness" that I already used in a former message...

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/09/magazine/09babies-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

And still about good and evil...

After all what I read in this thread I am still convinced that the contribution of the main philosophical systems (and  there I include also the so called revealed philosophical systems, as they have in my humble opinion all the indices of great (human) thinkers) are valued contributions for those who want to start to think about the great questions of life as life and dead, the place in the universe, the thinking about good and evil (Nordmann, I don't make this fine distinctions, for me "evil" and "bad" are the counterparts of "good" and yes there is qrey zone of in between (the daily sins  Wink  (I hope that's the right translation)))

I wanted to post it yesterday, but as always a lack of time...
Still about good and evil...
What if there was in the universe a universal consciousness, who is present everywhere in that universe, a result of all composing components between the big bang and the condensation at the end again. If that universal consciousness has also a moral component, an ideal of good constantly tempered by the evil temptations and part of it filters down in society and individuals from our little world, influencing our mind and give us the choice to alter our decisions to good or bad...the angels and the devils...from the revealed religion...? when I was a child I liked the picture of the "guardian angel"...
Nordmann, I couldn't resist Wink . That was my gut feeling of "fairness" towards Temperance...but even after all that, can it be that it is not so irrational after a second read... Wink ?

Kind regards and with esteem for your logical approach to each problem that the contributors "reveal" in this thread,

Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Tue 08 Jul 2014, 22:30

Temperance and Nordmann,

reading all your utterings about Marcus Aurelius and all that and Nordmann's additions of quotes, names and tendencies that I never heard from...I feel very humble with my bit of chemistry that I have studied...even with my six years of Latin humanities all these philosophical subjects were never discussed...perhaps because it was a Roman-Catholic college Wink ...?

I have to say I feel humble in such a company...

But at the end we seem, if I understand it right, to agree that the inquiring curious mind can find some ways of thinking in studying the several searches of other historical "thinkers"...?
Perhaps the only difference with you two or certainly Nordmann that I also reckon the so-called revealed religions (as I still see them as the result of "human" "thinkers") as an interesting basis for my study...and Nordmann, these religions without the human aberrations and without the worldly organisational excesses...just the philosophical common human basics...in comparison...it is not because there are stupid excesses that one has to condemn the whole constellation...

Kind regards and with high esteem to you both,

Paul.
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Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?

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