Thursday, October 18, 2007

Auggggh, a Philosophical Question

As I’ve said a number of times on this blog, I’m not really into philosophical questions about the existence or non-existence of a god. To me, they’re a waste of time. The very process of arguing seriously against a silly thesis imbues that thesis with a gravitas it doesn’t deserve.

I also hate quoting from the bible, unless I’m discussing ancient literatures. To ask Jews or Christians to justify random thoughts written in their vast collection of non-wisdom seems, to me, a tacit acceptance that somewhere in their screeds there’s a core of truth. I don’t see it: not in a historical sense, not in a scientific sense, certainly not in a philosophical sense, not in any kind of sense that is sense.

But today, I’m going to ask a philosophical question, and I’m going to base that question on quotes from the bible. To be as ecumenical as I can, I’ll use the King James Version as my source.

OK. On the third day of creation, as related in Genesis 1, the character named God creates the dry land and the seas ... and God saw that it was good (verse 10). Later on that same day, the guy works his magic with grass and herbs and fruit trees ... and God saw that it was good (verse 12). On the fourth day, the master magician cobbles together the sun, moon, and stars, and sticks them where he thinks they’ll work best, just the same way you or I would change a light bulb ... and God saw that it was good (verse 17). Next day, he made himself an aquarium and an aviary, and — you guessed it — he saw that it was good (verse 21). On the sixth day, he invented land animals, patent pending. Can you guess what he saw? ... that it was good (verse 25).

This self-satisfied tinkerer was able to distinguish whether or not something was good, and was clearly pleased with himself to have created good stuff rather than non-good stuff.

Fair enough. Let's concede for the time being that the creations were good. Oh, if it had been up to me, I might have made more Carolina parakeets (now extinct) and fewer mosquitoes (now not), but no one asked. If the god of Genesis thought that his workmanship was good, then, because he's god, he must have been right.

But wait a minute. The concept of “good” must be outside his control, apart from him, a quality he recognizes when he sees it.

So here’s my question for believers: What being conceived the difference between good and bad?


Spanish Inquisitor said...

I thought you were leading up to a really hard philosophical question, something on the order of can god create a rock so heavy he can't lift it (which incidentally, one Christian blogger has already answered).

Everyone knows that it was the Flying Spaghetti Monster who created god, so she told god it was good.

OK. That was kind of fatuous, but it's the best I could come up with on short notice.

Russell Hume said...

Euthyphro dilemma? At least, that looks like what you are getting at here.

Reason's Whore said...

I asked a similar question a while ago.

Actually it is answered in the bible, in Isaiah or some such, in which God admits to creating good and evil. I can find the verse if you want or you can google it.

Christians generally argue that without evil, you wouldn't appreciate good as much, or some such nonsense. Of course this doesn't solve the problem of the magnitude and types of evil.

The Exterminator said...

What an intellectual show-off you are. You've certainly come to the right place for that kind of thing. I'm impressed that you recognized the Euthyphro dilemma. Hell, I'm impressed that you can spell it.

Anyway, I've just now ... ummm ... looked it up, and I guess my post does sort of borrow from it. Maybe "steal" is a better word. But, as I said, I've just now looked it up, so I guess that just goes to prove the old adage that two great minds (Socrates' and mine) think alike.

Anyway, no philosopher has come up with a satisfying answer to the question, so I think I'm justified in asking it here in my Plato for Dumfundies version.

The Exterminator said...

Your excellent post -- which I urge all my visitors to read -- deals with the good-evil question. This post, though, addresses a different question: How can Jews and Christians explain that their god seems to recognize some pre-existent "good" not created by him?

You probably recognize it as the ol' Euthyphro dilemma.

Russell Hume said...

Lol. I think of myself as more of a permanently damaged philosophy student who, when he recognizes something he was forced to learn through the traumatic Socratic method, feels the need to instantly regurgitate the term in the hopes of quickly suppressing the nightmares.

That stated, I'm surprised I spelled it correctly too, I almost always get that damn word wrong.

I agree with you, the question should be raised whenever a Christian brings up their "objective" morality and asks us how we justify right and wrong. Of course, the typical response is Euthywho?

John Evo said...

Slut said: "Actually it is answered in the bible, in Isaiah or some such, in which God admits to creating good and evil. I can find the verse if you want or you can google it."

In that case, one wonders why an omniscient being would have to "see" that it was good. He may have had a purpose in creating good and evil, but he should clearly know the distinction in advance and not have to observe it's goodness after creating it.

"I'm an all-perfect being, and I'm going to try my hand at universe building. Hmmmm... I wonder how it will come out? Good? Bad? Who knows? Let's do it!" I dunno... just doesn't ring true.

Exterminator, I'm surprised you were able to see through all the BS to come up with that one. I keep getting stuck at problems like "let there be light, and there was light" and then inventing the stars (including the one most prominently in question) days later. Was that a celestial flashlight, or what?

Russell Hume said...

I want a celestial flashlight . . . .

The Exterminator said...

Wouldn't god have had to create the Energizer bunny before he created a flashlight?

Russell Hume said...

May be it's a flashlight with a manually-charged battery - you know, those ones with the cranks.

PhillyChief said...

He's omniscient, right? So he knew it was going to be good, or that he'd call it good, whether it was or not, before he ever set to doing anything.

So apparently time existed before creation. Did god create this too or did it exist before god? Have they always existed together?

Can anyone explain why an all-powerful being needed to dawdle for 6 days instead of just instantaneously causing everything to happen? Now don't give me "since he's all-powerful, he can dawdle as much as he wants". Another wrench in the all-powerful idea, why'd he need a whole day to rest from this task?

C. L. Hanson said...

Euthyphro, of course!

I'm a bit of a philosophy novice, but your question seemed weirdly familiar. Then when Russell Hume called it the Euthyphro dilemma, I remembered one of my other blog friends wrote about this recently here.

The Exterminator said...

Well, if I've done nothing else in the Atheosphere, at least I've gotten a handful of people to go back and reread Plato. (Note: If this were a Christian blog, I would not have said, so confidently, reread).

Although I sometimes find the viewpoint of Plato/Socrates, particularly in the Republic, to be completely odious, I do think that we atheists can stand to think about real philosophy -- rather than just our opposition to religious claptrap -- every now and then. Plato's works are a great place to start, because they're so much fun.

So hooray for Urethra (as I always referred to it when I was in school, shortly after Plato's death).

Spanish Inquisitor said...

Plato? He's that guy that comes in those little cans, that you can shape into little balls of clay, right? Also known as Mr. Bill.

Sorry, I wasn't following the thread for a bit, there. I'm back on track.

DaVinci said...

I have often wondered about those old mythology books Moses wrote.

If we go back to the early days of Christianity, to the Gnostics, we see perhaps the most fanciful apologetics invented to date. The problem of evil in the world which was created by an all good (Omni benevolent) God has been a stumbling block for theism to only a slightly lesser degree from that of logic.

The Gnostics thought that the world was created by a lesser deity, who was indeed evil. Just look at the OT for proof of that. In keeping with the good triumphs over evil scheme, they attributed Jesus birth to the one true (good) God attempting to reconcile us and save us from this present world of evil. So to the Gnostics, Christianity was never an attempt to subdue the world, it was a way to escape the evils of the physical world. It’s too bad the proto orthodox Christians finally won that battle back then. The Gnostics were a much more colorful group.