If you have followed a link here from rationalwiki, please be aware that this dialog is a response to trollish behavior on the part of Mr. Zande in a number of forums in which faith was discussed by people seriously concerned with fundamentalism, many of whom are trying to heal its impact. As Mr. Zande appeared immune to criticisms from some that he was not contributing to the dialog, I found it of interest to deconstruct his teleology with the goal of creating a single point of reference for future discussion. In other words – “Yes, John, we’ve discussed this before – everybody just look at this post over here.” What was of interest to me was that I actually obtained some value from the exercise – the single axiom differentiating our two strains of “logic” is the existence of the soul.
I would hope, in turn, that Mr. Zande would recognize that he gained from an analysis that reveals the shallowness of his parody. I might encourage him to strengthen it, except that there are far more important goals crying out for the investment of his intellectual energy.
The original discussion follows.
This post establishes a forum for dialog with John Zande. The comment from John was originally posted on my New Physics page, but I am relocating it here because it does not address to material there, but posts his own thesis.
Here is my original comment that explains my frustration in trying to dialog with John, and my characterization of the distinction between our points of view:
You choose not to engage the material on my blog and then accuse me of not presenting a formal rebuttal? Well, if you get to control the axioms and terms of debate, how is that possible? Nobody can counter logical deduction if they are not allowed to challenge the argument’s precepts. That is why I pointed you at my site – to fill in the gaps in your precepts.
But to characterize the distinctions: It is obvious to even the casual observer that human initiative has vastly altered the world from its natural condition. I focus on the improvements, you tend to focus on the costs. My thesis is that the improvements are more significant and reflect a divine agency that is engaged in a slow process of healing. Your thesis assigns a hidden malefic intent that will undermine our efforts. I would argue that your justifications are similar to withholding trust in hospitals because every time you look inside you discover sick people, and even to go further claiming that the sick people actually control the doctors.
Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of power. Time will tell which one of us is right. As I see it, your thesis is disempowering. It saps human will. I have enough experience of the power of love in my life that I have absolute faith in the efficacy of the strength it awakens in myself and others.
John’s reply was (I have added point identifiers below to facilitate discussion):
A formal rebuttal would address the central thesis. Your opening sentence to me on the post in question reads: “The proposition of good and evil is not a functional moral dichotomy.” To which I answered directly: “First up, one must disregard all common concepts of morality. Good and bad are meaningless in this thesis, and any deferral to such terrestrial notions will only create confusion.”
Here I am telling you specifically you must disregard any and all ideas of some dualistic universe where forces of good and bad are locked into some eternal battle. That has nothing, nothing at all, to do with the thesis. I went to great lengths to explain this to you, over and over again, but you simply couldn’t get your head out of this notion.
The problem, of course, is you haven’t even read the thesis. If you had you would know there is no Problem of Good, which is what your entire objection seems to be centred on.
And you continue to make the same mistakes:
“But to characterize the distinctions: It is obvious to even the casual observer that human initiative has vastly altered the world from its natural condition. I focus on the improvements, you tend to focus on the costs.”
No. Again, you have no idea what the thesis even says. You’re just shooting blanks. The Creator is thrilled humans (all life, in fact) tries to improve themselves. A ship must be floated and launched before it can be drowned and sunk. Good and evil do not exist. Good is not something distasteful or hurtful to the Creator. Good is not a wave of dissent, a rebellion growing inside Creation like some determined cancer, a tumour. Good is neither a disease nor a corruption, for good is not the equal and opposite of evil but rather an evil (what we humans would call “evil”) unto itself. It is a flavour of evil, a dialect, or perhaps more accurately, a variation in temperature there to be experienced in those moments when there appears to be a temporary reduction of perceptible suffering.
For this reason, good feels real, distinct, because to both the observer and the one directly experiencing the good, it is. It has a presence, an impression of substance, of form and body. It is valid to the touch and capable of moving individuals in miraculous and meaningful ways, and for those who want to believe it to be true they can easily convince themselves that they see good spawning good. And in a manner of speaking, it can, and does. Good can appear to inspire more good. Grooves can be made deeper, channels widened, but the appearance of good birthing good is, at its heart, an illusion. The shadow cast by good acts and good times can expand, pleasure can build upon pleasure, swelling, but it is not a virtuous growth if its source was evil itself. It cannot be considered excellent or righteous if it comes from the perfect corruption.
“Your thesis assigns a hidden malefic intent that will undermine our efforts.”
No, that is not my thesis at all. Not even close. The Creator does not interfere or meddle.
If you were to address the thesis in a meaningful way (meaning after actually “reading” it, rather than simply assuming you know what is in it) you would have to confront three central points:
1) demonstrate (with working examples) that this universe is not a complexity machine tumbling relentlessly forward from a state of ancestral simplicity to contemporary complexity,
2) demonstrate (with working examples) that complexity does not father a wretched and forever diversifying family of more devoted fears and faithful anxieties, more pervasive ailments and skilful parasites, more virulent toxins, more capable diseases, and more affectionate expressions of pain, ruin, psychosis and loss, and
3) demonstrate (with working examples) that the very constitution (the design) of this universe is not profound teleological evidence for the mind of a malevolent designer… an architect who so clearly cherishes His anonymity, and has quite purposefully painted Creation in impenetrable naturalism.
The discussion wanders around a bit, leading eventually to this response to John’s request:
- The Christian experience (shared by all mature practitioners of every religion) is that the Creator is not distant and uninvolved, but supports the expression of love. (satisfying criterion 3)
- I have offered a model of physics that explains the mechanisms by which this process is elaborated. (satisfying criterion 1)
- The most powerful and influential figures in history have been those that preach that there is an escape from this reality into a realm of infinite possibility. To those that understand spiritual experience, this is evidence of the truth of their proclamations. (satisfying criterion 2)
- My conclusion, stated at the beginning of this discussion, is that this reality is a hospital – a place of healing for a personality infected with selfishness. (satisfying criterion 2)
- That conclusion is backed by my own personal experience including access to spiritual energies that (satisfying criterion 2)
- heal my wounded heart when I engage the brokenness of the world, and
- empower me to offer healing to others.
As I see it, to TOOAIN hypothesis disempowers you. I reject it because I choose to live in joy. I encourage you to do the same.