Sunday, February 14, 2010

Nature's Dark Side

The Ichneumon (ikˈnyu-men) mother wasp carefully searches the leaves for a juicy, well nourished caterpillar. Upon finding just the right fat, food-processing machine, the wasp will with her long ovipositor deep in the flesh of the unsuspecting caterpillar, leave her eggs, and fly away. But just before inserting her eggs, she will carefully locate the critical bundles of nerves inside her womb-host, stinging those nerves in such a way that the caterpillar is paralyzed, but remains alive. In this way, the wasp larvae will have a constant supply of fresh meat to feed on until they are ready to dig their way out of their hollowed-out host. But there is more! Some innate intelligence working in the wasp larvae instructs them to take care to postpone consuming critical caterpillar organs ... they want their meat alive! So, carefully, they consume the internal parts of the caterpillar in reverse order of importance, leaving the heart until the very end!


An imagined scene from some horror movie? Or the cruel hoax of a sadistic story-teller? No, this is one of a myriad of such regular occurrences in nature. And we who believe in a wise and immutably good God must account for a plethora of seemingly diabolical schemes strewn across the landscape of biology. Did our loving Father create these species to interact in this way? Are these the dirty little secrets of Special Creation? or are these horror-filled anomalies the work of an “Intelligent Designer”?


Some Christians choose to ignore this darker side of Creation. They speak freely of the beauty of the natural world, the grandeur of the mountains, the majestic power of the crashing sea, the glory of the soaring eagle, the elegant beauty of the Stargazer Lily. But they avoid the endless stream of agony, suffering and brutality implicit in the natural order: the parasite, the predator and prey, Tennyson’s nature “red in tooth and claw”. The standard Christian response, that these are but manifestations of the curse, the consequence of Adam’s sin, are hackneyed and obsolete. We now have an endless trail of irrefutable fossil evidence: these brutal horrors of nature precede man by hundreds of millions of years. It has been thus from the beginning!


Richard Dawkins, in his new defense of evolutionary science, The Greatest Show on Earth, retells the habits of the Ichneumon wasp in his chapter entitled “Arms Races and ‘Evolutionary Theodicy’” (page 395). I found the chapter absolutely fascinating. Even the renown atheist recognizes how an understanding of the requisites of evolution offer at least a measure of resolution to the age-old theodicy problem.


It has been my contention for sometime that evolution, properly understood as a part of God’s master plan for the cosmos, actually helps the believer find his way through the thorny issues of the problem of evil, and its corollary, the problem of pain. In building my case, it becomes my burden to confront believing friends with aspects of Creation they’d sooner not think about. It is not a popular thing to do. Some friends are enraged at what they perceive me to be: an agitator, a faith-challenging troublemaker. They fail to see my long term goal: to solve problems of faith.


In truth: evolution, the powerfully-supported science which believers often reject, actually helps to solve theodicy, the #1 stumbling-block which believers typically choose to ignore. But before we can proceed down that path, believers must lay down their resistance to undeniable science, and abandon their denial of the dark underbelly of life. When Christians face these two realities, and consider them side-by-side, they will soon be free to explore fresh answers in the full light of reality!


The sooner this day comes, the better!

88 comments:

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > Even the renown atheist recognizes how an understanding of the requisites of evolution offer at least a measure of resolution to the age-old theodicy problem.

Please quote the words you think do that.

Are they these - "Evolutionary biologists see no problem, because evil and suffering don't count for anything, one way or the other, in the calculus of gene survival." p392

Cliff Martin said...

The entire section entitled "Evolutionary Theodicy", beginning on page 390. Too long to quote here, obviously. But the thrust of the section is that pain and suffering are essential to the progress of evolution. Not only would a heartless economist see the necessity of suffering, but even Dawkins' supposed "beneficent designer" would understand that evolution would not work if the organisms were shielded from pain and suffering.

"Evolutionary Theodicy" is a term I have used myself. I found it interesting that Dawkins uses the same phrase. Obviously, he has no motive to solve the problem of evil. But he does understand that the realities of evolution alter the playing field of theodicy.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > Too long to quote here, obviously.

Short and to the point - "Suffering is a by-product of evolution by natural selection, an inevitable consequence..." p292


Cliff > ... he does understand that the realities of evolution alter the playing field of theodicy.

Please quote the words you think show that's his understanding, rather than your understanding put into his mouth.

How does saying "suffering is a by-product of evolution by natural selection" alter whether a god who caused that suffering could be described as omni-beneficent?

It's still the same old "best of all possible worlds" argument.

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

I am not basing my comments on some isolated extract or a short quotable sentence. As I said, it is the thrust of the entire section. You have not responded to my last comment. How did you understand the first paragraph of that section (page 390) differently than I did?

Start with the phrase, "Evolutionary Theodicy". What does that two-word phrase that mean to you?

Mike said...

Cliff,

I don’t see you as “an agitator, a faith-challenging troublemaker.” I’m a Christian and I agree with you that we have to address these issues.

When I was in my twenties I was an atheist. I didn’t know the answer to “life, the universe, and everything” but one thing I was sure of – Christianity was not the answer.

In my forties I became a Christian. Well, that’s a story in itself. Anyway, I did have issues and continue to have issues reconciling some things about reality (whatever that is) with Christianity.

I look forward to your thoughts on this topic.

Mike

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > How did you understand the first paragraph of that section (page 390) differently than I did?

Please quote that first paragraph for your readers.

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

I'll quote the section (or offer a link) to any reader who needs it. Meanwhile, you do have access to the paragraph, and you are the one discussing this aspect of my post.

I asked you two very straightforward questions. Answer them please.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > Meanwhile, you do have access to the paragraph...

How do you know that I do or do not have access to the paragraph?

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

What difference does it make how I know that?

Deny it, and I will offer you a link. (I will also ask how you have been quoting lines from the book with page numbers, etc.)

Please just answer the questions.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > What difference does it make how I know that?

It's an example we can learn from - you said, as if it was certainly true, that I do have access to that paragraph on page 390.

We can learn if you make statements as if they were certainly true, when in fact you don't have the evidence that they are certainly true.

I have given quotations with page numbers - but not from page 390.

Google books says - "Pages 388-391 are not part of this book preview"

Your certain statement was just another bad assumption.

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

It was not a bad assumption at all. Your grasping is now bordering upon the ridiculous!

You have often demonstrated on this site that you are amply adept at locating book excerpts. I just located the paragraph in question on Amazon. It took my about 90 seconds. Are you asking me to believe that you are not able to do likewise? Or that it was an unwarranted assumption based on your oft-demonstrated internet prowess? I will stand by my "assumption" that you, Isaac, can get to the paragraph quickly and easily if you choose to.

But that would mean that you and I would stick to the topic, instead of journeying down your endless trails of clever little polemic maneuverings.

Will you now answer my simple questions? (or will you instead parse out some logical flaw in the above paragraphs?)

Isaac Gouy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > I just located the paragraph in question on Amazon.

Amazon "Search Inside This Book" doesn't show anything for "Evolutionary Theodicy" on page 390.

Amazon "Search Inside This Book" page 391 says "This feature is currently unavailable. Please try again later." as it has all day.


Cliff > I will stand by my "assumption" ...

How wonderful that you regard yourself as the expert on what texts are available to me.


In these few comments I've so far asked you 3 times to provide quotations that support your statements.

If you can find quotations that support your statements then why aren't you eager to share them?

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

I just now navigated back to Amazon, page 390, with my wife sitting next to me. This time, it took less than 60 seconds. Amazon is equally available to anyone with an internet access. On that basis, I do indeed "regard [myself] as the expert on what texts are available to [Isaac]."

If you can find quotations that support your statements then why aren't you eager to share them?

Do you recall that I already answered this question more than once? Here it is again, from comment #4:

"I am not basing my comments on some isolated extract or a short quotable sentence. As I said, it is the thrust of the entire section. You have not responded to my last comment. How did you understand the first paragraph of that section (page 390) differently than I did?"

Now I will ask you a question. Hopefully you will not dodge it as you have the others ...

How is it that you regard yourself as qualified to question my reading of Dawkins section on Evolutionary Theodicy when you haven't even read it yourself?

[Isaac, if you need a quick tutorial on using Amazon, or need me to help you load page 390, please let me know. I'd be happy to help you.]

I propose that we postpone continuation of this discussion until after you have read the section. Is that reasonable?

Michael Thompson said...

Interesting post Cliff, thanks! some of the things in nature just boggle my mind! How on earth did this relationship with the wasp and the caterpillar even get started! are there any scientific explanations? I have also heard of wasps doing the same thing to tarantulas.

As for the suffering angle, I am not sure it is there, I wonder if suffering is linked to conscienceness somehow.
I am sure they feel pain in some way and instinctivly try to avoid it, but I just don't see the caterpillar sitting there in agony contiplating its fate....oh no, i've been stung! ahhhgg I cant move!!!, oh no! the eggs are hatching!! they are eating me noooooo! aaaaaaaaaaaggggg!

mabye peta would disagree with me on that?

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > I just now navigated back to Amazon, page 390, with my wife sitting next to me

I haven't questioned whether you were able to do so - so your repetition and the mute witness of your wife show nothing.

Remember you are the one calling me a liar.

Were you signed in to Amazon?


Cliff > How is it that you regard yourself as qualified to question my reading of Dawkins section on Evolutionary Theodicy when you haven't even read it yourself?

a) I have read it.

b) You've made a straight-forward claim that Dawkins recognizes evolution offers a measure of resolution to the age-old theodicy problem - as usual the burden is on the person making the claim, you, to show why you think that.

c) Until you show why you think that re-reading the chapter is just a guessing game - is that why Cliff thinks that? is that why Cliff thinks that?

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

Great, you have read the book! Now you can surely answer my oft repeated questions:

1) How did you understand the first paragraph of the "Evolutionary Theodicy" section (page 390) differently than I did?

2) What does the two-word phrase, "Evolutionary Theodicy" mean to you?

Maybe as you work through those two answers, you will begin to see why I suggested that Dawkins posits evolution as offering a measure of resolution to the age-old theodicy problem. And if you really are having difficulty accessing the section on Amazon (I have now done it three times without fail, this last time in even less time), I can wait.

Cliff Martin said...

HI Michael,

I don't know if caterpillars feel pain or loss. I don't know if anyone knows. But we can move up the Animal Kingdom and find many similar examples.

One thing that strikes me about this example is how the whole scenario, with its many necessary elements all lining up, is "irreducibly complex". Surely, an I.D. proponent like Michael Behe would say this affair was designed by the Creator. To which I would respond "What??"

This has the markings of unguided evolution all over it, it my opinion.

Michael Thompson said...

Hi Cliff!

I don't know if caterpillars feel pain or loss. I don't know if anyone knows. But we can move up the Animal Kingdom and find many similar examples.

I am pretty sure they do, I have done lots of naughty "science" experiments in my youth to various little creatures. The question I am not as sure of, is do the suffer pain? I hope not. or I have a serious karma debt! ;-)

One thing that strikes me about this example is how the whole scenario, with its many necessary elements all lining up, is "irreducibly complex". Surely, an I.D. proponent like Michael Behe would say this affair was designed by the Creator. To which I would respond "What??"

Exactly what I was thinking! he might be right, though i am not a proponent of ID as science.

This has the markings of unguided evolution all over it, it my opinion.

What other markings do you see that point to unguided evolution, besides the appearance of cruelty?
It there any theories out there on how this could have happened?

MT

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > accessing the section on Amazon

Were you signed in to Amazon?

Sign out and try.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > Great, you have read the book! Now you can surely answer my oft repeated questions

Perhaps you believe that once you've read a book you have photographic recall of each paragraph - I don't have photographic recall.


Cliff > 2) What does the two-word phrase, "Evolutionary Theodicy" mean to you?

Your question should be - What does 'Evolutionary Theodicy' mean to Dawkins.

"Theologians worry about the problems of suffering and evil... Evolutionary biologists see no problem, because evil and suffering don't count for anything, one way or the other, in the calculus of gene survival. Nevertheless, we do need to consider the problem of pain. Where, on the evolutionary view, does it come from? ... Perhaps grappling with this question is evolutionary theory's own version of theodicy. Why so painful?"

To Dawkins 'Evolutionary Theodicy' means asking how pain could have evolved. (Just as evolutionary biologists previously asked how could the peacock's tail have evolved.)

Even if Dawkins provided a decisive answer to the question of how pain could have evolved, it would not offer "a measure of resolution to the age-old theodicy problem".

Dawkins' 'Evolutionary Theodicy' does not address "the age-old theodicy problem".

Dawkins' doesn't seem confused about that - you do.

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

To Dawkins 'Evolutionary Theodicy' means asking how pain could have evolved. (Just as evolutionary biologists previously asked how could the peacock's tail have evolved.)

No, Isaac. No one ever grappled with hard, philosophical questions about the peacock's tail. But theists and atheists alike have grappled with the problem of pain. Theodicy (as you must know) has to do with justifying God. In Dawkins case, he would of course not be interested in justifying God, but in justifying the evolutionary process, and it's heavy dependence upon pain. And that is exactly what this chapter does.

Even if Dawkins provided a decisive answer to the question of how pain could have evolved, it would not offer "a measure of resolution to the age-old theodicy problem".

Oh yes, it does indeed! Bear in mind, I only claimed a "measure" of resolution. To the theist who accepts evolution as God's method of creating life, Dawkins theodicy shows us why, in the context of evolution, pain is both useful and necessary if progress is to be made. And the way the algorithm works for me, a theistic evolutionist, is precisely the same way it works for Dawkins, the apologist of godless evolution.

Dawkins' 'Evolutionary Theodicy' does not address "the age-old theodicy problem".

Indeed it does, for those willing to think it through! It does so by changing the question from "Why did God intentionally create things this way?" to "Why might God have chosen to use an evolutionary process?" which is a completely different issue, and one more easily resolved in my mind.

Dawkins' doesn't seem confused about that - you do.

No indeed: Dawkins is not a bit confused. And his writing shed considerable light on my own thinking in the realm of theodicy. No, Isaac, I am not in the least confused about that.

On the matter of Amazon, and page 390, I suggest it would be an easier solution if you would simply log on to Amazon. It would take 10% of the time you have already wasted looking for your little "Aha moments". And it might actually be productive to our conversation.

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

To Dawkins 'Evolutionary Theodicy' means asking how pain could have evolved.

On this point, Isaac, you are quite mistaken, and clearly have not properly read (or quoted) Dawkins. In your own extract, you placed an ellipsis just before the linked text. I think this omission will clear up your misunderstanding. Here is your own extract, with an important sentence you left out:

Quoting Dawkins, page 393: Why the searing agony, an agony that can last for days, and from which the memory may never shake itself free? Perhaps grappling with this question is evolutionary theory’s own version of theodicy.

You see, you keep saying that theodicy for Dawkins is merely his explanation of HOW pain evolved. Dawkins himself tells us that he used the term for the explanation of WHY pain evolved; and important distinction.

Does this help to clear things up for you?

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > In Dawkins case, he would of course not be interested in justifying God, but in justifying the evolutionary process, and it's heavy dependence upon pain.

Dawkins is not interested in justifying God - that much is true.

Please say what you think it means to be interested "in justifying the evolutionary process" ?

For example, please show where Dawkins says the evolutionary process is just or good or purposeful?

Please show where Dawkins says the evolutionary process is dependent on pain ?

etc etc


Cliff > ... changing the question from "Why did God intentionally create things this way?" to "Why might God have chosen to use an evolutionary process?" which is a completely different issue ...

Yes that is a completely different issue - it doesn't address suffering or evil.

It's not what you called "the age-old theodicy problem: How can we account for such incredible suffering in a universe purportedly created and governed by a God who is loving and good." (Did you simply forget all powerful?)

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > In your own extract, you placed an ellipsis just before the linked text. I think this omission will clear up your misunderstanding.

Look again! In my own extract, I included the much shorter equivalent question "Why so painful?"


Cliff > Dawkins himself tells us that he used the term for the explanation of WHY pain evolved; and important distinction.

If your reading is that literal you must suppose Dawkins' interest is Geography - "Nevertheless, we do need to consider the problem of pain. Where, on the evolutionary view, does it come from?" p392

Cliff Martin said...

Well, I always know when an debate opponent is loosing his way. Your appeal to geography is laughable, especially coming from you, the master of argumentative literalism!

Yes, I did notice your inclusion of the shorter "Why so painful." I also noticed that you completely ignorned it, and went on to say that Dawkins subject is "How pain?", instead of "Why pain?" If you honestly do not see the difference, or think it immaterial, or think I'm just being too literal, I don't suppose I'll be able to help you any further. I am convinced that you are not trying to understand me. You are just interested in getting in your petty little digs.

You really don’t intend to let go of this one, do you, Isaac.

Isaac > Please say what you think it means to be interested "in justifying the evolutionary process" ?

Why should I do that? So you can pick away at “what I think it means”? Let’s turn it around. You tell me what you think it means. Or, since you’ve read the book, tell me why you think Dawkins used the term “theodicy”. I’ve given my take on that. Your earlier idea that he means only to tell us “how” pain evolved is obviously wrong. Please try again to explain Dawkins’ use of the term.

Isaac > For example, please show where Dawkins says the evolutionary process is just or good or purposeful?

I don’t know where he says that. Did I say he said that??

Isaac > Please show where Dawkins says the evolutionary process is dependent on pain ?

The whole section! Have you read it? That is the point of the entire section! For example, on page 393, Dawkins writes, “Pain, like everything else about life, we presume, is a Darwinian device, which functions to improve the sufferer’s survival ... It remains a matter for interesting discussion why it has to be so damned painful.”

He goes on to show why pain, even extreme pain, is a necessary element ensuring evolutionary progress. Read the chapter!

As for how reframing the questions relates to theodicy ... you can take my word: it does! I struggle with theodicy all the time. Understanding evolution, and its requisite pain and suffering, help! They help me! It is immaterial whether they help you solve theodicy, or whether you fully grasp how they help me do so. But I assure you, they do!

I do plan to write a new post more clearly delineating this point. So it would be better to have this discussion after I do so.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > I also noticed that you completely ignorned it, and went on to say that Dawkins subject is "How pain?", instead of "Why pain?"

why: for what reason or purpose
how: by what means, in what way

"Natural selection is all futile."

For Dawkins, natural selection has no purpose beyond "the survival of self-replicating instructions for self-replication".

For Dawkins, "why" questions about natural selection are questions about "how" something contributes to "the survival of self-replicating instructions for self-replication".


Cliff > You tell me what you think it [interested "in justifying the evolutionary process"] means.

Your claim that Dawkins is interested "in justifying the evolutionary process" doesn't make sense because for Dawkins the evolutionary process is amoral - it's beyond justification.


Cliff > [Please show where Dawkins says the evolutionary process is dependent on pain ?] That is the point of the entire section! For example, on page 393, Dawkins writes...

We can see that on page 393 Dawkins does not write that the evolutionary process is dependent on pain (or anything like that).

Dawkins does write "Suffering is a by-product of evolution by natural selection, an inevitable consequence..."


Cliff > He goes on to show why pain, even extreme pain, is a necessary element ensuring evolutionary progress.

The word "progress" only seems to occur 5 times and not later than page 382.

My guess is that you're the one talking about "evolutionary progress" not Dawkins.


Cliff > how reframing the questions relates to theodicy ... you can take my word

You don't seem to be infallible, so why should we take your word instead of asking for your reasons?

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

You know, all this pettiness really has nothing to do with the main point of the O.P.; and I find nothing in your latest comment worthy of a response. It appears you have not read the book. You clearly do not understand Dawkins' point. You can carry on if you'd like. But I will reserve further comment for discussion that has promise of enlightening, and building. Thank you. Its been fun (sort of).

Steve said...

Cliff,

I "enjoyed" this post, which is to say that I agree this is something important to talk about, uncomfortable though it certainly is.

I respect you and your blog's mission as well as your right to run it the way you like, and I certainly hope you don't take this as an inappropriate slam on one of your "guests", but I'm just going to say it anyway: I don't think any reasonable person could fault you for just ignoring Isaac. Heaven knows if one point of his out of the thousands of his comments might be valid, but no one, atheists included, could really expect you to wade through all his crap, way outside the boundary of your O.P., to find which. Unlike your other atheist frequenters, he's a troll by any definition. Don't feed the troll.

Here in the South we have a phrase: "Don't wrassle with a pig. Ya both jis git dirty, an' the pig likes it."

BrownPanther said...

Bypassing the mire that has been Isaac's detraction, and looking forward to your elaboration in your next post, I still have a question regarding how the evolutionary benefits of pain affect theodicy. I already asked on your facebook, and have had time to let the answer stew. Your explanation helped me see from what angle you're coming somewhat, and I agree that it changes the nature of some of the questions regarding the purpose of evil, but the overriding riddle appears the same to me.
Whether God enacted Evolution or poofed everything into creation (a la I Dream of Jeanie) 6000 years ago, the fundamental dilemma, to me, is that if god intervenes or has intervened in the universe, those actions are subject to scrutiny. That evolution requires so much pain to be successful is just as much a flaw in design as an immediately created system filled with pain. I suppose I could see the difference being between malicious intent and incompetence.
If my unqualified surgeon bought his license with trust fund money and diced me up improperly, my family would most certainly sue for gross incompetence and malpractice. They certainly wouldn't praise him as a surgeon. Even if we set aside the absolute assumptions of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence, in my mind, God carries the same responsibilities according to his position. Whether or not the surgeon killed me through laparoscopic surgery or going to town with a scalpel and rib splitters seems irrelevant when the end result is the same. Whether or not He created a pain-filled universe "just 'cause" or he uses pain to create his universe seems irrelevant to the overarching question. Even if we have no way to sue for gross incompetence, we have the choice not to praise Him in spite of his incompetence. One would think that he could at least live up to the very human Hippocratic oath: "First do no harm..."
In your facebook response to my question, you elaborate by saying "in the context of a cosmic-scale battle, the life and death struggle inherent to evolution not only mirrors the larger battle, but is part of the actual field of battle. Jesus told the story of the wheat and tares, and suggested it was necessary to let them both grow together. Precisely why this is necessary may still be somewhat of a mystery."
This seems like a familiar contribution to the classic discussions, evolution aside. In the end, it's still boiling down to "working in mysterious ways." Knowing you, and honestly having a difficult time believing that the "mysterious ways" cop out satisfies you, I'm going to assume I'm the one still not understanding as completely as I had thought.
I hope you can address this here or in your next post.

Michael Thompson said...

Hi Cliff! I am reposting this comment and question because think it got lost in all the other posts

I don't know if caterpillars feel pain or loss. I don't know if anyone knows. But we can move up the Animal Kingdom and find many similar examples.

I am pretty sure they do, I have done lots of naughty "science" experiments in my youth to various little creatures. The question I am not as sure of, is do the suffer pain? I hope not. or I have a serious karma debt! ;-)

One thing that strikes me about this example is how the whole scenario, with its many necessary elements all lining up, is "irreducibly complex". Surely, an I.D. proponent like Michael Behe would say this affair was designed by the Creator. To which I would respond "What??"

Exactly what I was thinking! he might be right, though i am not a proponent of ID as science.

This has the markings of unguided evolution all over it, it my opinion.

What other markings do you see that point to unguided evolution, besides the appearance of cruelty?
It there any theories out there on how this could have happened?

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > How did you understand the first paragraph of the "Evolutionary Theodicy" section (page 390) differently than I did?

I can take a guess at that now.

You've spent decades interpreting passages from the Bible and my guess is that selective interpretative approach has become your habitual mode of reading.

When I read, I ask what the words mean to the author - and then agree or disagree with what the author has said.

When you read, you seem to ask what the words mean to you and then read the text as if your meaning for those words was intended rather than the author's meaning.


... the thrust of the section is that pain and suffering are essential to the progress of evolution.

The thrust of the section is that neither the outcome we would predict from economic central planning nor the outcome we would predict from a beneficent designer is the outcome we actually see in nature.

Same old Dawkins.

"Does the designer's left hand not know what his right hand is doing? Is he a sadist, who enjoys the spectator sport and is forever upping the ante on both sides to increase the thrill of the chase? Did He who made the lamb make thee?" p384

Isaac Gouy said...

BrownPanther > ... I agree that it changes the nature of some of the questions regarding the purpose of evil, but the overriding riddle appears the same to me.

Yes, before the mire -

How does saying "suffering is a by-product of evolution by natural selection" alter whether a god who caused that suffering could be described as omni-beneficent?

It's still the same old "best of all possible worlds" argument.

Cliff Martin said...

Michael,

I did read your earlier comment, and intended to respond but got distracted. Can you imagine?

My point about irreducible complexity is that the I.D. folks are happy to talk about eyeballs, bacteria flagellum, and other high functioning or beautiful structures; but it is a little more troublesome to credit God with such things as the habits of wasps and their use of caterpillars. In fairness, Behe does acknowledge this kind of dilemma. It is more palatable for me, as a believer in a loving and good Creator, to credit both the beauties and the horrors of life to an unguided process. Dawkins (and others) present a strong case that evolution will, given ample time, produce eyeballs. And Ichneumon wasps.

Dawkins points to several other marks of unguided evolution, many not involving cruelty. Some of these signs involve mechanisms in our bodies that function in a less than optimal fashion. When we trace the history of these mechanisms through their evolutionary development, their sub-par performance makes perfect sense. But if we view them as the work of an intelligent designer, we have to wonder about his competence. A couple of examples come to mind: The human backbone (in which I am feeling some pain even as I write this) is almost universally troublesome. Well, it was evolved in mammals over hundreds of millions of years and used to support a horizontal body. Primates lately began walking upright, and the evolution of the spinal column for vertical support is still in “catch-up” mode. Another example that Dawkins explores at length is the unusual circuitous routing of the left recurrent laryngeal nerve in mammals (the routing is greatly exaggerated in giraffes). When viewed as the result of the reconfiguring of chest and throat structures from fish to mammals, the nerve route makes sense. Again, if it is the result of intelligent design, it seems quite odd.

”It there any theories out there on how this could have happened?”

I presume you are referring back to the Ichneumon wasps invasion of caterpillar bodies. I do not know the answer. But it is common among several species of wasps to use caterpillars as wombs, and there are a number of unique ways in which they do this. So there seems to be an early evolutionary development of wasps depositing eggs in the soft fleshy pupae. Then, the more specific aspects of the Ichneumon paralyzing, leaving the heart for the last meal, etc., would have been later refinements.

Cliff Martin said...

Brown Panther,

I intend to answer your questions (or try to!) in a full post. But with you, I'd much prefer do it in a much-overdue face-to-face visit!

BrownPanther said...

Isaac,

I was trying to return to a productive, substantive discussion, but if I say "you're absolutely right. Point taken. You're, like, waaaaay smart" will you drop it? 'Cause you are, it is, and you SO are.

BrownPanther said...

Cliff,
I'd love that, but your too popular. We never get the chance.

Michael Thompson said...

Hi Cliff
I think Dr. Dawkings is making a reasonable claim when it comes to our defects as a consequence of being an evolved creature. I am not sure how that applies to the wasp/ caterpillar relationship though that seems a lot more like design to me. mabye there is a natural explantation, does Dawkins provide any? I would have no problems with them finding one, I like science and like learning about how things happen.
i don't know how God and "unguided" evolution would fit together, really, I don't know what I believe any more, I thought I was a theistic evolutionist, mabye i will have to rethink some more. I do see lots of things that appear designed, and others that seem random or lucky (if you are a wasp), or unlucky (if you are the worm haha) kind of things~! What would creation look like if it was perfectly designed? sorry so many questions, I like that you make me think, thanks!
MT

Mike said...

“I don't know what I believe any more...”

Michael,

LOL – I like your honesty! I really did laugh out loud too. Because, like I said, I like your honesty. Life, consciousness, the world, the physical universe in general – everything is really so amazing. And some people never really even think about this stuff. That really baffles me (people not thinking about it). But if those people love God and love their neighbor (the 2 great commandments that Jesus talked about), then are they wrong? I’m not saying that you’re saying they are wrong. I’m just throwing that out there in general. Then there are Christians like you, me and Cliff (my impression is that the 3 of us are somewhat similar) who realize that science has really shown a lot about how the universe works, and we want to know the truth about these things. I like Cliff’s forum here.

Mike

Cliff Martin said...

Brown,

I'd love that, but your too popular. We never get the chance. LOL!

Michael,

No, I do not thing Dawkins deals with the mechanisms that evolved the wasp-caterpillar relationship, at least not in this book. I have little doubt someone has thought it through, but I cannot specifically answer your question. I will be offering my own thoughts soon about how God and unguided evolution fit together. It involves setting aside a few assumptions that both believers and unbelievers make about God and his purposes in creating.

Isaac,

One last comment. (Interesting how you presume to know my mental processes so well, btw!)

On rereading the chapter, I now see that I mistakenly read the paragraph on page 390. Your reading is more to Dawkins point. I will point out that this is but a subtext to minor point to the O.P. And I still note that you have never offered your view of why Dawkins uses the term theodicy in relation to his explanations about the place of pain in evolution (page 393). I continue to contend that he is offering a kind of defense of pain, showing how evolution works better with pain (even extreme pain) than if would if it relied on "little red flags". The point being that for evolution to work optimally, pain plays a necessary role. If you cannot see this, and continue to think that Dawkins chapter on theodicy could just as well be describing the evolution of a peacocks feathers, I guess will just have to agree to disagree.

BrownPanther said...

Excuse me. I meant "you're."

Cliff Martin said...

Oh, and that makes a difference? I wasn't laughing at your syntax!

Isaac Gouy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > (Interesting how you presume to know my mental processes so well, btw!)

I don't presume to know that, which is why I wrote - "I can take a guess", "my guess is", "you seem to".


Cliff > I now see that I mistakenly read the paragraph on page 390.

Do you understand how you came to make that mistake in a way that will safeguard you from making similar mistakes?


Cliff > The point being that for evolution to work optimally, pain plays a necessary role.

Again, the thrust of the section is that evolution does not work optimally - your premise is false.


Cliff > I continue to contend that he is offering a kind of defense of pain, showing how evolution works better with pain (even extreme pain) than if would if it relied on "little red flags".

For Dawkins - there is no "evolution works better" or "evolution works worse" because there is no purpose that "evolution" is trying to achieve.

Natural selection is all futile.


Cliff > And I still note that you have never offered your view of why Dawkins uses the term theodicy in relation to his explanations about the place of pain in evolution (page 393).

I don't know - perhaps he wanted to connect his speculations to the previous paragraphs. Those previous paragraphs where he dismissed the beneficent designer.

The quotation marks in the chapter title and question mark in the section title also hint that 'Evolutionary Theodicy' is mentioned so that it can be dismissed.

Cliff Martin said...

Readers who may not have access to Dawkins book can read the following excerpt and decide whether Dawkins uses the term evolutionary theodicy merely so that he can dismiss it:

“... we [evolutionary biologists] do need to consider the problem of pain .... Pain, like everything else about life, we presume, is a Darwinian device, which functions to improve the sufferer’s survival. Brains are built with a rule of thumb such as, ‘If you experience the sensation of pain, stop whatever you are doing and don’t do it again.’ It remains a matter for interesting discussion why it has to be so damned painful. Theoretically, you’d think, the equivalent of a little red flag would painlessly be raised somewhere in the brain, whenever the animal does something that damages it ....
Why the searing agony, an agony that can last for days, and from which the memory may never shake itself free? Perhaps grappling with this question is evolutionary theory’s own version of theodicy. Why so painful? What’s wrong with a little red flag?”
(page 393)

Dawkins here acknowledges that pain is a problem, one which he feels compelled to consider as an evolutionary biologist. He proceeds to offer the reader an understanding of why pain evolved, and how it serves evolution better than a communication method involving less suffering. Pain serves a purpose, and it works better than would a little red flag.

That Dawkins proceeds over the following pages to give a detailed explanation of why little red flags would not be as effective as pain in the evolutionary process is a clear enough indication that evolution does seek and favor those systems which work best or most favorably (which is to say, most optimally). It is what natural selection is all about. And Dawkins does understand this.

Michael Thompson said...

You know, that makes sense, if we could ignore all pain or easily shake it off, it wouldn't serve as much of a survival mechanism, would it?
I hope that is not all there is to it, I am hoping there might be some deeper meaning to it all...

Cliff Martin said...

Michael,

As soon as we plug in the topic of pain and suffering into the Bible, you can be assured of a "deeper meaning to it all". Stay tuned.

Michael Thompson said...

I will! thanks!

Isaac Gouy said...

1) Again, let's put back those first sentences Cliff elided -

"Theologians worry about the problems of suffering and evil, to the extent that they have even invented a name, 'theodicy' (literally, 'justice of God'), for the enterprise of trying to reconcile it with the presumed beneficence of God. Evolutionary biologists see no problem, because evil and suffering don't count for anything, one way or the other, in the calculus of gene survival. Nevertheless we do need to consider the problem of pain. Where, on the evolutionary view, does it come from?" p392

Dawkins here states that theodicy is not a question for evolutionary biologists (dismissed) but "Where, on the evolutionary view, does [pain] come from?" is an interesting question.


2) Cliff > Pain serves a purpose, and it works better than would a little red flag.

Yes, that's a fine one-line summary.

Is it correct that you are no longer suggesting "pain and suffering are essential to the progress of evolution"? (Or do we need to ask whether bacteria feel pain?)


3) Cliff > ... evolution does seek and favor those systems which work best or most favorably (which is to say, most optimally). It is what natural selection is all about. And Dawkins does understand this.

Again, what does Dawkins say "natural selection is all about"?

"Natural selection is all futile. It is all about the survival of self-replicating instructions for self-replication." p392


As-long-as all you mean by "those systems which work best or most favorably (which is to say, most optimally)" is the most competitive individuals -

"Even if the entire population is driving to extinction, driven down by individual competition, natural selection will still favour the most competitive individuals, right up to the moment when the last one dies." p390

moses said...

I think the Ichneumon Wasp is one of the examples Karl Giberson calls "Bad design" that along with the one I suffer from...back pain :-). Another one I recently learned about is phorid flys who attack fire ants.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090719193246.htm

Cliff Martin said...

Yes, Isaac. It should be obvious to all that Dawkins would dismiss theodicy as a theological problem, since he dismisses theology altogether! Duh.

And, by now, it should be likewise obvious to all that he does not dismiss pain as a "problem" which begs for some kind of explanation, or, justification (i.e. a "theodicy") even from an atheist, evolutionary scientist. It is just such a theodicy, "evolutionary theory’s own version of theodicy", which Dawkins goes on to offer. It is this theodicy which I found so interesting ... and personally helpful.

Wow. Can we now lay this to rest???

BrownPanther said...

I would only take issue with the interchangeable use of "explanation" and "justification." I see how pain demands an explanation in the same way that solar radiation or weather or hair color or anything we observe demands an explanation. I don't know that it demands justification any more than anything else though.
I should probably read the rest of Dawkins' book to see what he has to say on in it more detail. He does refer to a problem of pain, but, judging by the elaboration in that excerpt, I don't see any difference between this and, say, the evolutionary "problem" of eye color, cerebral cortex, variance in sexuality, happiness, remorse, etc. The way he describes it, it sounds more like the Question of Pain than the Problem. I'm wondering if this isn't just a study in semantics.

Cliff Martin said...

Brown,

For some reason (you tell me!) Dawkins chose to use the term theodicy, both in the text, and in the chapter title. Now Isaac has said he doesn't know why Dawkins chose the term, but that it seems to him that the only reason to mention theodicy is so that he could dismiss it. This seems to completely miss Dawkins point, in my opinion, as Dawkins goes on to speak of evolution's own brand of theodicy. I'm still waiting for you or Isaac to tell me what he meant by that. Since theodicy deals with questions like why, and sees pain as a philosophical problem (unlike eye color or peacock tails), I think it is completely logical to assume that Dawkins is trying to explain the "why" of pain ... what function or purpose does it fulfill, why (in Dawkins' own words) does it have to be so damned painful.

Yes, I do think he is offering a sort of justification of pain (as the use of "theodicy" would suggest).

In the end, yes, you may be right that this is mostly a matter of semantics. And it doesn't really matter much to me. I just found it interesting that, within the context of evolution, Dawkins could find some support for the idea that pain is useful, and actually helpful to the survival of organisms. Which might suggest that theists (who are ... or ought to be ... interested in theodicy) could start looking at theodicy in the context of evolution, and God's choice to employ evolution in his creative enterprises.

Mike said...

Cliff,

I think I see your point – if God caused evolution, and evolution needs or uses pain (however you want to say it), then that could be the answer to the “problem of pain”, meaning why creatures feel physical pain in the first place. I’m not sure if I’m getting across what I really mean! Anyway, maybe that is the answer to why there is physical pain. At least maybe that is the answer if you want to get as basic as possible. If I’m not making sense, please feel free (anyone) to tell me so!

Mike

Isaac Gouy said...

Mike > ... if God caused evolution, and evolution needs or uses pain ...

... then God caused pain, and we are right back where we started -


"the age-old theodicy problem: How can we account for such incredible suffering in a universe purportedly created and governed by a God who is loving and good."

Mike said...

Isaac, you said,"... then God caused pain, and we are right back where we started - "

Maybe it is "the best of all possible worlds!" Is that not a viable answer?

Mike

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > I do think he is offering a sort of justification of pain (as the use of "theodicy" would suggest).

In Dawkins own words - "...'theodicy' ... the enterprise of trying to reconcile [suffering and evil] with the presumed beneficence of God." p392

Suffering and evil need justification because the presumed goodness of God seems to be contradicted by the suffering and evil we observe in the world.

Where does Dawkins presume something about evolution by natural selection and say that seems to be contradicted by the pain we observe in the world?


"Unlike our hypothetical beneficent designer, natural selection is indifferent to the intensity of suffering - except in so far as it affects survival and reproduction." p395

That isn't contradicted by the pain we observe in the world.

So Dawkins has no need to offer "a kind of defense of pain" or "a sort of justification of pain".

Cliff Martin said...

So, let's try out the straitjacket definition Isaac suggest on a statement Dawkins himself makes.

"... evolutionary theory’s own version of the enterprise of trying to reconcile [suffering and evil] with the presumed beneficence of God"

How much sense does that make? Is Dawkins really that clumsy? Is he suggesting that evolutionary theory must now reconcile suffering and evil with the presumed beneficence of God??

Please Isaac! We all know the basic dictionary definition of theodicy. We all understand that Dawkins dismisses the theological concept of theodicy. But, interestingly, he sticks with the word in his own discussion of why pain evolved, and why it is a superior to other behavior-modification mechanisms. If it is not obvious to you, as it is to me, that Dawkins takes a bit of liberty in his use of the word, than I have no more help for you.

Let it rest!

Cliff Martin said...

Mike,

... maybe that is the answer to why there is physical pain.

Well, not the entire answer. But maybe it is one piece of the puzzle. We would still need to address why such a God as you and I worship might be compelled to employ evolution, and all the pain and suffering that would necessarily entail. And if I can find the words to wrap around the concept in my mind, and the time to type them, my next post may attempt to suggest a possible scenario.

Isaac Gouy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > How much sense does that make? Is Dawkins really that clumsy?

Dawkins didn't write that sentence - you did.

"Perhaps grappling with this question is evolutionary theory's own version of theodicy."


Do you disagree that Dawkins says "... natural selection is indifferent to the intensity of suffering - except in so far as it affects survival and reproduction." ?

Do you have any example of how "indifference to the intensity of suffering" contradicts the pain we observe in the world?

So why would Dawkins need to offer "a kind of defense of pain" or "a sort of justification of pain" ?

Cliff Martin said...

Dawkins didn't write that sentence - you did.

No, Isaac.

Dawkins wrote every word. Did you really not understand what I did? I merely replaced the word "theodicy" with the definition you supplied (again, citing the words of Dawkins).

In my reading of Dawkins, the definition you supplied does not fit the way Dawkins uses the word. I do not deny that Dawkins wrote the sentence you cited. But it is not logical or fair to impose that sentence upon everything he said about theodicy. Obviously.

BrownPanther said...

Cliff,
Maybe my wording was poor. I can't tell you what he means by "evolutionary theodicy" because I don't understand it. I don't doubt that Dawkins says it and means it or that you understand it. I agree with you that he is clearly setting aside the idea of pain as something singular enough to warrant some kind of special discussion, but I'm not understanding why. It's in ignorance that I object. I do want to read the whole chapter and book now.
I'm honestly wanting to understand what makes pain, as an evolutionary device, more significant than any other comparable device.
"what function or purpose does it fulfill, why does it have to be so damned painful?"
I don't contest that this is what Dawkins is asking or that he sees the question as worthy of special consideration. Without the idea of intent in design, I don't understand how any "why"s concerning pain would be anything special or significant philosophically. I'm trying to understand how the question is different from "what function or purpose does sexual enjoyment serve, why does it have to be so damn pleasurable?"

Cliff Martin said...

Brown,

Do you not, as a materialist, deal with the philosophical problem of pain and evil? I have contended in the past that these are not just "problems" for the theist, but for any serious philosophy (e.g. here, second paragraph). I know that secular philosophers have tried (unsuccessfully, in my opinion) to deal with the special problem of evil, pain, and suffering.

In my opinion, any philosophical system is incomplete if it does not consider these issues, and find how they fit into any meaningful worldview. Do you disagree?

BrownPanther said...

I don't think I understand what problem you're referring to. I understand the theistic problem of pain to be contingent on the idea of intent in creation. This is completely absent in my materialist view.
There's what I would refer to as completely separate philosophical problems as a result of pain. How do we live full, happy lives in a world in which suffering is so pervasive and severe? Should we continue to live in such a world? What, if anything, can and should we do about it? What I don't see is a problem posed by the existence of pain itself, which is, as I understand it, the root of the theistic problem. It seems to me to be a fundamentally different question.
Are these the problems that you're equating? What philosophical dilemmas do you see being presented to the materialist worldview by the existence and pervasiveness of pain and suffering?

Cliff Martin said...

It seems to me to be a fundamentally different question.

Yes, the nature of the questions, and of the problem posed by suffering evil, are necessarily different.

Are these the problems that you're equating?

I was not equating them. I am merely suggesting that pain, suffering, and evil have long been problems to solve in all philosophies. Any attempt to find meaning in existence must deal with the part that suffering plays. Hume dealt with this. So did Nietzsche, Hemingway, etc. Maybe the masses can skate through life without taking suffering into account in their blissful ignorance. People who take life and existence seriously (people like you and me) must deal with the fact that suffering plays such a huge role in existence. How do we not all shudder in hopeless despair?

In the Dawkins comments, I see a man who refuses to dismiss this existential issue, a man who has probably long considered the place of suffering in our lives, in our history, in existence. And, in a small way, he is attempting to make some sense of suffering in terms of evolution. Maybe I read more into his comments than he meant. But that is how I understand him. And it encourages me on two levels. 1) He does not merely consign the "problem of pain" to the domain of theists, but accepts the challenge posed by pain in his own worldview; and 2) Evolutionary science suggests that pain is necessary on some levels, that it is an important behavior guiding influence that has passed the rigors of natural selection because its benefits outweigh its drawbacks. And, this being true, the place of pain in evolutionary science may well help both the materialist and the person of faith as they deal with the meaning and place of pain and suffering.

BrownPanther said...

Oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh. I see. I'm pickin' up what you're layin' down, smellin' what you stepped in, rakin' what you're mowin', etc. I agree. I've long held that evolution and neurology in particular are the some of the greatest sources of philosophical and spiritual (in the broadest sense of the word) resolution and understanding in that sense.

Cliff Martin said...

Smellin' what I've stepped in? Hmm ....

Well, anyway, you response gives me all the more reason to look forward to our next hopefully extended visit!

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > No, Isaac. Dawkins wrote every word. ... I merely replaced the word "theodicy" with the definition you supplied (again, citing the words of Dawkins).

Yes Dawkins wrote every word; No Dawkins didn't write that sentence - you did.

And then you ridiculed your own patched together sentence - "Is Dawkins really that clumsy?"


Cliff > In my reading of Dawkins, the definition you supplied does not fit the way Dawkins uses the word.

The definition Dawkins supplied - not me.

Cliff > I do not deny that Dawkins wrote the sentence you cited. But it is not logical or fair to impose that sentence upon everything he said about theodicy.

How could it not be logical and fair to think that the definition the author provides is what he means by a word!

Dawkins says next to nothing about "theodicy".

Dawkins speculates for a couple of pages about "Where, on the evolutionary view, does [pain] come from?"

Not "theodicy".

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > Maybe I read more into his comments than he meant. But that is how I understand him.

You obviously enjoy reading and try to read widely - so it genuinely saddens me that you are not reading Dawkins but instead are reading a narrative of your own.


Cliff > "the meaning and place of pain and suffering"

Dawkins - "... evil and suffering don't count for anything, one way or the other, in the calculus of gene survival." p392

Cliff Martin said...

Dawkins - "... evil and suffering don't count for anything, one way or the other, in the calculus of gene survival." p392

True! in the calculus of gene survival they count not one whit! A rather obvious observation Dawkins makes here. No one that I know of argues with it. Certainly not me. I totally agree that in the calculus of gene survival evil and suffering (as well as love and hate and loyalty and patriotism and happiness and friendship etc.) count for nothing at all.

Thank you for pointing this out, Isaac. I would hate for this salient truth to escape our notice.

However, it is clear enough that when Dawkins discusses (in his own words) the "problem of pain" and when he grapples with (in his own words) "evolutionary theory’s own version of theodicy" he is not limiting his comments to the arena of the calculus of gene survival!

Cliff Martin said...

How could it not be logical and fair to think that the definition the author provides is what he means by a word!

The answer is so simple, I am amazed that you don't see it. It is not fair nor logical to restrict an author to the ordinary definition of the word (which he cites, and which we all know) when that definition does not fit logically or fairly with his own use of the word! It is what I demonstrated to you when I plugged that definition into Dawkins own sentence. It makes no sense at all, precisely because it is illogical and unfair to restrict Dawkins use of a word to the commonly understood meaning, and not allow him to use the word in a slightly different way.

Isaac, this is so obvious!

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > It is what I demonstrated to you when I plugged that definition into Dawkins own sentence. It makes no sense at all, precisely because it is illogical and unfair to restrict Dawkins use of a word to the commonly understood meaning, and not allow him to use the word in a slightly different way.

What you correctly demonstrated was that Dawkins avoided writing a clumsy sentence.

Let's write that clumsy sentence -

Perhaps grappling with this question is evolutionary theory's own version of Theologians [worrying] about the problems of suffering and evil, to the extent that they have even invented a name, 'theodicy' (literally, 'justice of God'), for the enterprise of trying to reconcile it with the presumed beneficence of God.

The clumsy sentence makes sense.

The clumsy sentence makes sense because it only talks about a version of Theologians [worrying] about ...

That can be a version without Theologians and without evil and without the presumed beneficence of God, but still grappling with questions of pain.


Again, this is not restricting "Dawkins use of a word to the commonly understood meaning" - it's letting Dawkins speak for himself.

Dawkins says what "theodicy" means so when he uses the word "theodicy" in the very next paragraph that's what he means by "theodicy".

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > However, it is clear enough that when Dawkins discusses (in his own words) the "problem of pain" and when he grapples with (in his own words) "evolutionary theory’s own version of theodicy" ...

Again, some of those are Dawkins' own words but we need to look at how Dawkins uses those words in the sentence he actually wrote.

I'll spell it out -

"{Perhaps} grappling with this question {is} evolutionary theory's own version of theodicy."

The sentence verb is is.

The sentence verb is modified by the adverb Perhaps.

What is the sentence subject?

"Perhaps {grappling} with this question is evolutionary theory's own version of theodicy."

The sentence subject is the gerund grappling.

"Perhaps grappling {with} {this question} is evolutionary theory's own version of theodicy."

The prepositional phrase with this question functions as an adjective to tell us which grappling.

An object of a preposition (in this case this question) is never the subject of a sentence.

The complete sentence subject is grappling with this question.

You seem to be reading the sentence as though the sentence subject was this question - it isn't, that's the object of a prepositional phrase.

It isn't this question that Dawkins likens to a version of theodicy.

Dawkins likens grappling with this question to a version of theodicy.


Cliff > ... [Dawkins] is not limiting his comments to the arena of the calculus of gene survival!

On the contrary, Dawkins' "intriguing possibility" comments are all about the calculus of gene survival -

"... would such pain-free, red-flag mutants survive better than rival individuals whose brains do pain in earnest? Would they survive to pass on the genes for red-flag pain substitutes?" p394

BrownPanther said...

I was trying to point something out to my cat the other day, but it just kept looking at my finger. Weird. It was annoying and pointless, so I gave up. Thought I'd share.

Rich G. said...

Found this interchange on a LOST forum (Yes, I am a fan of that show)


One of the most basic questions about God is, "If he's so omnipotent, why does he allow tragedy to occur?"

It's a fair question on the surface, but just imagine the alternative. What if God did intervene? Would we ever appreciate anything if we knew there was a complete absence of risk, trauma, or tragedy? What would possibly be our motivation for... well, anything? But more importantly, would we not resent the fact that God was pulling the strings and not letting us have free will?


and this response:


If you're suggesting that I need thousands of children to starve every day in Asia, Africa, and South America or thousands of people to perish in a Haitian earthquake in order for me to "appreciate" my two-story house in the suburbs, that's not an occasion to thank the person who could have stopped the suffering. Just saying.


Followed by:

... said someone living in a country that could easily do much more to stop the suffering you speak of. The point of free will remains intact. We're free to be harmed, and we're free to turn a blind eye to harm we could prevent.

It's still going...

Rich G.

Isaac Gouy said...

BrownPanther > I was trying to point something out to my cat the other day, but it just kept looking at my finger. Weird. It was annoying and pointless, so I gave up.

Your cat knows where you are pointing. Your cat's telling you that what you say is there isn't there.

Isaac Gouy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike said...

"Your cat knows where you are pointing. Your cat's telling you that what you say is there isn't there."

Issac, is some kind of quantum mechanics joke or something? Or maybe I just don't get what you're saying!

Mike

BrownPanther said...

Yeah, I think he's saying my cat is simultaneously dead and alive. I don't wanna look to find out though. At least that's how I understood it.

Isaac Gouy said...

Mike > Or maybe I just don't get what you're saying!

I think the point of BrownPanther's catty comment was that by looking at what Dawkins actually wrote I was missing what Cliff was pointing out.

In reply, I've looked for what Cliff was pointing out in Dawkins' writing, and it don't seem to be there.

Isaac Gouy said...

> > To Dawkins 'Evolutionary Theodicy' means asking how pain could have evolved.

Cliff > On this point, Isaac, you are quite mistaken...

In a way I think I was mistaken - but not in the way you suggested.

Pages 390-392 set out the problem of trying to reconcile the specific suffering, that Dawkins says is an inevitable consequence of evolution by natural selection, with the presumed beneficence of God.

That specific theodicy is called 'Evolutionary Theodicy'.


Then again, the section title is 'Evolutionary Theodicy?' - and maybe the question is whether or not there's any theodicy left in Dawkins' hollowed-out "Perhaps ... evolutionary theory's own version of theodicy." p393.

Just as for Epicurus there is no "problem" trying to reconcile pain with presumed beneficence - because there is no presumed beneficence, the gods are indifferent.

So for Dawkins there is no "problem" trying to reconcile pain with presumed beneficence - because there is no presumed beneficence, "natural selection is indifferent".


"Pain, like everything else about life, we presume, is a Darwinian device, which functions to improve the sufferer's survival." p393

Dawkins isn't justifying the evolutionary process - he's asking the questions that evolutionary biologists ask of "everything else about life".

And, of course, repeatedly saying that what an "intelligent creator might be expected" to have done, was not done.

Mike said...

Brown, Isaac,

Ok, now I get what the exchange was about! *sound of me whacking myself on the side of the head*

Mike

Michael Thompson said...

Check out this video, not only do these wasps do their number on the caterpillars, they totally mess up a whole ant colony in the process!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLvuevf__Ok

Michael Thompson said...

This one brings it to a whole new level, where they don't even paralize the caterpillar, but let it keep on eating, while the larvae drink its blood, then when they are ready to bail, they paralize the caterpillar, then they bust out, then the caterpillar spins a cocoon over the larvae and protects them from other wasps!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMG-LWyNcAs&feature=related

Rich G. said...

Cliff:

I think this is just part of a bigger picture.

When I look at "the balance of nature", I see that there are many organisms that seem to exist solely in order to keep other organisms from overpopulating the place. And they sometimes seem to do it in unnecessarily cruel ways.

Then there are the parasites, some of which have lifecycles far more convoluted than the ichneumon wasps. And these are not confined to just the "lower" lifeforms - there are the cowbird and cuckoo chicks which kill their nestmates in order to be fed by their host "parents".

Yes, nature is “red in tooth and claw”. There must certainly be a positive reason for all that that we don't see.

Cliff Martin said...

Rich,

That "balance of nature" is an expected consequence of natural selection, and ecological niches which beg to be filled. It is a self regulating system (I presume you will agree) as opposed to some carefully calculated and designed balance. So it is not a matter of such a balance, with its necessary predation, being a justification for predation. It is how evolution works. How does looking at this "bigger picture" mitigate the repulsive, and sometimes horrifying particulars of predation and parasitism? Maybe you were not suggesting that some need for balance lessens the impact of these phenomena.

Yes, I completely agree that our shared suppositions about God and his nature make it necessary that there is some "good" arising out of this natural order. My own opinion is that we too often throw our hands in the air, and haven't applied our minds (and the Biblical data) to this question.

gs said...

I'm just passing by and haven't read the preceding comments. Hopefully it's not irrelevant to mention Robert Frost's Design: either the world and its agonies and ecstasies are meaningless, or it's part of the nature of things that evil often has a free hand.

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth--
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches' broth--
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?--
If design govern in a thing so small.


The 'appall' has always struck me as SHOUTED.

shudder