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Why did god create viruses?





SpaceInvader75
This question is for people that believe in creationism or intelligent design.

I'm not saying viruses are evil, I'm just thinking that they are clearly destructive, so why would god (or an intelligent designer) create something destructive to life? And if they were not designed, how did they get here, then?
Ankhanu
I think these sorts of creationist challenges are only meaningful if they believe in a god that is all-loving, omnibenevolent, or something like that, where the development of viruses, and other disease vectors, would contradict that characteristic. If a creationist doesn't believe their god is omnibenevolent, well, what's to stop them from creating any vector for pain/suffering?
SpaceInvader75
While it's true that believing in a god that created everything would not mean believing that god is loving or benevolent, I didn't really consider that option. I'm used to hearing statements to the effect of "How can you look around at all these beautiful things and not believe in God?"

From my perspective, viruses are not beautiful. I can't really rule out the the possibility that viruses are intelligently designed if the purpose was population control.
Ankhanu
Oh there's beauty to be found in viruses... and in the grotesque reality that is parasitoids, parasites, predators, and the like. No, it's not pleasant, but it is beautiful. The interplay (arms-race) between the invader/predator and the host, the adaptations to subvert or repurpose existing mechanisms, alter behaviours, etc. are incredible and awe inspiring. There most definitely is beauty.

That said, I see no reason to assume design... but, that's not really the spirit of this thread, I suppose.
rn3324
You think viruses are only destructive on basis of our current knowledge. May be usefulness of viruses will be revealed at proper time. For eg:- Forest fires are destructive and are caused naturally in many cases. However this destruction is essential for some plants to grow and thrive.
Ankhanu
rn3324 wrote:
You think viruses are only destructive on basis of our current knowledge. May be usefulness of viruses will be revealed at proper time. For eg:- Forest fires are destructive and are caused naturally in many cases. However this destruction is essential for some plants to grow and thrive.

Viruses are used all the time in modern molecular and genetic biological work... they're a very handy way of introducing new genetic material into a living cell.
redhakaw
to the TS:

this subforum requires verifiable proof for any idea brought forward.

can you site your evidence that God created viruses. thanks!
nickfyoung
There is a belief that God created everything beautifully and good and after Adam stuffed things up he cursed the ground etc and introduced weeds so Adam would have to work for a change as part of his punishment. Maybe viruses started the same way.
Bluedoll
Ankhanu wrote:
I think these sorts of creationist challenges are only meaningful if they believe in a god that is all-loving, omnibenevolent, or something like that, where the development of viruses, and other disease vectors, would contradict that characteristic. If a creationist doesn't believe their god is omnibenevolent, well, what's to stop them from creating any vector for pain/suffering?
Those are large words for someone that does not believe in God. How can you actually have any kind of rational thought about something you don't understand? You can only assume you understand how someone else thinks and make up fabrications, speculations of what you think someone else might believe in. It is very unsubstantiated. Can you proof any of this or is it just conjectured on your part?

I would write more here but currently under attack from over moderation. Mad

My belief is Godís involvement is one of allowance. Godís moderation does allow virusís the same way God allows religious bible thumping atheists to exist, which is just another virus to society.
spinout
Of course it must be like Nickfyoung writes! The Adam-virus ate the microscopic apple, grew cooooler than the others,,, started singing be-bop, started smoking, riding a harley and had microscopic sex with the female viruses. Then God went mad and punished the Adam-virus and all his clones by having them eating on humans to survive, the eternal punishment... (for those who have not tasted human flesh... It tastes very very bad... Cool )
Laughing

It is more trendy with terraformer creationists I believe. or a mix...
Sylin
Quote:
Godís moderation does allow virusís the same way God allows religious bible thumping atheists to exist, which is just another virus to society.
I think this is a sad statement to make; not a very nice thing to say regardless of one's religious position. Would it have an analogous impact had an atheist said the same to a theist? I would endorse neither statements and it's also not healthy for an argumentation.

Back on topic, I agree that the lack of understanding of A should not perturb our epistemic attitudes towards A. But it is a mistake to assume the lack of understanding from the lack of belief. On the contrary, we form our disbeliefs (or beliefs) when we have new found understanding about something.

It would be more constructive to the original question of this thread if we have a conception of god that we agree upon. In particular, whether or not god (and I suppose it's already assumed that we are talking about the Christian god) created viruses. The topic presupposes a positive answer to this question and there are posts that suggested otherwise, but that also means that there are some things that god did not create.

Other than that, I don't know much about the Christian god, so I have nothing further to add.
Bluedoll
Sylin wrote:
Quote:
Godís moderation does allow virusís the same way God allows religious bible thumping atheists to exist, which is just another virus to society.
I think this is a sad statement to make; not a very nice thing to say regardless of one's religious position. Would it have an analogous impact had an atheist said the same to a theist? I would endorse neither statements and it's also not healthy for an argumentation.

Back on topic, I agree that the lack of understanding of A should not perturb our epistemic attitudes towards A. But it is a mistake to assume the lack of understanding from the lack of belief. On the contrary, we form our disbeliefs (or beliefs) when we have new found understanding about something.

It would be more constructive to the original question of this thread if we have a conception of god that we agree upon. In particular, whether or not god (and I suppose it's already assumed that we are talking about the Christian god) created viruses. The topic presupposes a positive answer to this question and there are posts that suggested otherwise, but that also means that there are some things that god did not create.

Other than that, I don't know much about the Christian god, so I have nothing further to add.


So you understand completely it is reversed. I as a Christian have received treatment on this board that I will describe as abusive. Mad Does this make any comment that I might make less or more healthy? Perhaps yes or no.

In any case, yes back on topic.

I do not agree with the term dis-belief or non-belief. I know it is used all over the internet but I will dispute its use in religious subjects. I can not conceptualize how someone who does not have a belief in God can agree on anything someone would say about God. That is illogical.

The entire idea of saying that we can form a religious disbelief is contraire to having a religious belief. If you do not believe in something then you believe in something else. Stand up to the podium and just tell everyone what you do believe and stop speaking for others. Let them speak for themselves. Stop being rude!
Ankhanu
Sylin wrote:
It would be more constructive to the original question of this thread if we have a conception of god that we agree upon.

This is what I was getting at initially. Yeah, the thread was written appearing to presuppose the Abrahamic god (God, Yaweh, Allah, Jehova, numerous other names)... but even within that context, the believers cannot agree on the attributes of this god, even the ones that give it the same name. Some have this concept that their god is "love", that it only does "good" things, only things that reduce suffering, etc. Others are very comfortable with the less pleasant aspects of the Abrahamic god as presented in the Torah, Bible, Koran, Book of Mormon, etc., including the genocide, intentional, targeted suffering/punishments, etc. For believers in the latter category, the creation of viruses, which through their natural action must cause harm, is perfectly cogent. For those in the former category viruses and other destructive aspects of nature cause a bit more issue, as their creation would serve to increase harm, which an all-loving, non-harming god would abhor. With that in mind, the "problem" of the creation of viruses is really only a problem for a specific subset of believers; that depending upon the attributes of the creator, it may not be a problem at all.

Sylin wrote:
... but that also means that there are some things that god did not create.

Yeah, again, we're still in the issue of defining the attributes of the god being posited. There are believers who believe that all that exists was created by their god, no exceptions, and those who do all kinds of backflips to try and reconcile the problems of creation and naturalistic processes, often allowing things to change or come into being post-creation.


Honestly, the discussion can't go forward until some important attributes of god are agreed upon.
jmraker
God created viruses and us for the viruses to feast upon... it's part of how god works in mysterious ways. Razz

Just saying they'd need non-virus life to do their thing.
Sylin
Quote:
I can not conceptualize how someone who does not have a belief in God can agree on anything someone would say about God. That is illogical.
I will give an example: You and I do not believe in unicorns, but when we talk to someone who believes them, we can all agree that they must at least have a horn by stipulation.

Quote:
The entire idea of saying that we can form a religious disbelief is contraire to having a religious belief.
I agree, and that is also not what I said. I've said that we can come to believe something (or stop believing something) when we gain new understanding/evidence/insights etc.

Quote:
If you do not believe in something then you believe in something else. Stand up to the podium and just tell everyone what you do believe and stop speaking for others. Let them speak for themselves. Stop being rude!
I really don't understand where this is coming from, nor do I meant to be rude in my previous post. I've merely pointed out the standing of this thread and suggested a way in which it can move forward in which Ankhanu also agreed above.
I do not think that it would turn out this way and I seriously regret having made that one single post..

[podium]
Ok, first of all, if one does not believe in something, it does not follow that one believe in something else. The fact that all of us have something we believe in and something we don't is an unfortunate contribution to the success of confirmation bias concerning your if..then statement. If I believe in other gods, my believing so is not because I do not believe in your god.
I am an atheist, but not because I do not believe in your god, or any other gods in any other religion that I am not even aware of. I am an atheist because I do not have a reason for the existence of a god. Me not believing in any particular god is a result, not a cause.

I was not aware that I was speaking for others, and I felt the need to make it explicit here that I am also not currently speaking for atheists. The fact that I am an atheist (among many other things) certainly doesn't mean that I would be speaking for atheists (or for any other things).

I do not wish to stray from the topic any further, so here's what I really think:
You've said that Godís involvement is one of allowance
The TS's question presupposes that god created viruses.
redhakaw's post suggested that he doubt the idea that god created them.
nickfyoung brought up a school of thought that God created everything beautifully and good, and that the bad stuffs were introduced as punishments.
jmraker's post states that god created virus.

I am not saying that I agree or disagree with any of these claims. But these are jointly inconsistent. So I think that you would at least agree that some of these positions are correct (by stipulation), and some are not. Otherwise this god is inconsistent and the original question of this thread will make no sense.
But by your account, since I am an atheist, you do not expect me to have any rational thoughts concerning your god; something that I do not believe in, and perhaps something that I do not understand.
So I would not even be in a position to suggest which one is the case, by reason or otherwise.

I will have it said that I am not interested in attacking your god in particular. But what I dislike the most is inconsistency. This should explain my attempt to call for a conception of god by the Christians to resolve the contradictory views that I see within this thread.
[/podium]
nickfyoung
Then there those who believe that God created everything perfect but we live in a fallen world, ie, sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam, and all the nasties have happened because of that sin.
truespeed
nickfyoung wrote:
Then there those who believe...


You say this a lot in P&R Nick,I think it would be better to give us your opinion.
spinout
This is the responce to the first questions:

Q1, Even creationists do believe in yin/yang. Without destructiveness there can't be the opposite, on every level of cosmos ie even on microscopic level.
Q2, Creationists believe in creation on every level so the question is out of bounds.
truespeed
Bluedoll wrote:
truespeed wrote:
nickfyoung wrote:
Then there those who believe...


You say this a lot in P&R Nick,I think it would be better to give us your opinion.
I disagree with this. I think nickfyoung should be able to write anything nickyoung wants without conforming to instructions by them.


It wasn't a criticism or an attack,I am just interested in Nicks opinion.

The "Them" quote looks like you see it as a "us & them" thing,you could turn every topic into an us & them or...

Bluedoll wrote:

I meant it is rude for an atheist to assume they can understand a religious topic and then speak for a religious group. You said it best yourself, you do not know anything about, what you are speaking of.
.



As a religious person,you could give your opinion.
SpaceInvader75
Quote:
this subforum requires verifiable proof for any idea brought forward.

can you site your evidence that God created viruses. thanks!


I will after you site your evidence that god exists.

Quote:
My belief is Godís involvement is one of allowance. Godís moderation does allow virusís the same way God allows religious bible thumping atheists to exist, which is just another virus to society.


My implied question is "Where did the viruses come from, if God didn't create them (assuming a creationist belief)?" To say that God tolerates them does not answer that question. And, since an atheist doesn't believe in religion, I don't think it's possible to be a "religious" atheist.

Quote:
There is a belief that God created everything beautifully and good and after Adam stuffed things up he cursed the ground etc and introduced weeds so Adam would have to work for a change as part of his punishment. Maybe viruses started the same way.


I am aware of this belief, and it still raises some questions. If everything was perfect, why was there a tree of forbidden fruit, and a snake there?
SpaceInvader75
Quote:
It would be more constructive to the original question of this thread if we have a conception of god that we agree upon. In particular, whether or not god (and I suppose it's already assumed that we are talking about the Christian god) created viruses. The topic presupposes a positive answer to this question and there are posts that suggested otherwise, but that also means that there are some things that god did not create.


My question was indeed referring to the Christian god, since that's the god I was taught the most about.
And, yes, I question how viruses exist, if God did not create them.
SpaceInvader75
Quote:
Others are very comfortable with the less pleasant aspects of the Abrahamic god as presented in the Torah, Bible, Koran, Book of Mormon, etc., including the genocide, intentional, targeted suffering/punishments, etc. For believers in the latter category, the creation of viruses, which through their natural action must cause harm, is perfectly cogent.


But I would wonder, even if you believe in this sort of god, wouldn't you still believe he punishes the wicked and rewards the just? And viruses "punish" everyone.
nickfyoung
SpaceInvader75
Quote:
If everything was perfect, why was there a tree of forbidden fruit, and a snake there?


There is one explanation, which is not my personal belief, that Lucifer was there because he had been tossed out of heaven. Because he overheard God giving dominion of the earth to Adam he decided he wanted it so he tricked Adam into eating the fruit, becoming Satan and now has the dominion of the earth to himself. So the snake was Lucifer, now Satan.
Pippo90
If I looked at viruses from a creationist's perspective, I would think that God created them for a balance among living things to exist.
SpaceInvader75
Quote:
There is one explanation, which is not my personal belief, that Lucifer was there because he had been tossed out of heaven. Because he overheard God giving dominion of the earth to Adam he decided he wanted it so he tricked Adam into eating the fruit, becoming Satan and now has the dominion of the earth to himself. So the snake was Lucifer, now Satan.


I see some truth in theory that there must be good and evil to balance each other, although I don't even think this idea is in the Bible. But I also wonder how an angel can choose to be good or evil (apparently Lucifer did) but man cannot? What is the difference between a man and an angel (other than immortality)? If Lucifer had not been there, would man have not eaten the fruit? Or if he would not have eaten it, was it only because God told him he would die? If so, then man already wasn't obeying out of good intentions? Why is the distinction made that Lucifer tempted the woman and the woman tempted man? If man's nature is to sin, I don't really understand why he needs Satan to trick him into it. If the idea never would have crossed his mind, then wouldn't that imply that man is basically good? Possibly one point of the story was that you are responsible for your own actions, but I still question Satan's role.
Now, that was the first time I've heard man described as Satan, but that is really not too far off from saying that man is sin, I suppose. This line of thinking could possibly explain gnostic beliefs.
redhakaw
SpaceInvader75 wrote:
Quote:
There is one explanation, which is not my personal belief, that Lucifer was there because he had been tossed out of heaven. Because he overheard God giving dominion of the earth to Adam he decided he wanted it so he tricked Adam into eating the fruit, becoming Satan and now has the dominion of the earth to himself. So the snake was Lucifer, now Satan.


I see some truth in theory that there must be good and evil to balance each other, although I don't even think this idea is in the Bible. But I also wonder how an angel can choose to be good or evil (apparently Lucifer did) but man cannot? What is the difference between a man and an angel (other than immortality)? If Lucifer had not been there, would man have not eaten the fruit? Or if he would not have eaten it, was it only because God told him he would die? If so, then man already wasn't obeying out of good intentions? Why is the distinction made that Lucifer tempted the woman and the woman tempted man? If man's nature is to sin, I don't really understand why he needs Satan to trick him into it. If the idea never would have crossed his mind, then wouldn't that imply that man is basically good? Possibly one point of the story was that you are responsible for your own actions, but I still question Satan's role.
Now, that was the first time I've heard man described as Satan, but that is really not too far off from saying that man is sin, I suppose. This line of thinking could possibly explain gnostic beliefs.


To answer your question of the difference between man and angel:

Man was created with a spirit to contain God

Angels are divine beings also with a spirit but does not have a purpose to contain God.


Angels were created as divine beings already
while man was created to receive God's divinity, gradually, as he matures to become divine.

so you see, an angel was created to serve his purpose immediately
while man, needs a lot of work from God, until He can use man.
SpaceInvader75
Quote:
To answer your question of the difference between man and angel:

Man was created with a spirit to contain God

Angels are divine beings also with a spirit but does not have a purpose to contain God.


Angels were created as divine beings already
while man was created to receive God's divinity, gradually, as he matures to become divine.

so you see, an angel was created to serve his purpose immediately
while man, needs a lot of work from God, until He can use man.


I suppose this explanation makes sense. I find the concept that man gradually becomes divine interesting, since I've also tried to understand the concepts of Buddhism. Something in Buddhism seems to relate to man becoming divine (or maybe he already is).
Bikerman
You suppose it makes sense? In what way?
..a spirit to contain God? What sense does that make? What does it even mean?
Angels ...with a spirit .. does not have a purpose to contain God.. You seriously think this makes sense?
Firstly, what IS a spirit?
Secondly what does 'containing God' mean? Accepting it? Understanding it? Being aware of it? Being like it?
Quote:
so you see, an angel was created to serve his purpose immediately
while man, needs a lot of work from God, until He can use man.

What sense does that make? Does God just like making things difficult for itself? How does the notion of God 'doing work' on man supposedly fit with the notion of free-will? What form does this 'work' take? Is man just a potential artefact for God to use?
SpaceInvader75
Quote:
You suppose it makes sense? In what way?
..a spirit to contain God? What sense does that make? What does it even mean?
Angels ...with a spirit .. does not have a purpose to contain God.. You seriously think this makes sense?
Firstly, what IS a spirit?
Secondly what does 'containing God' mean? Accepting it? Understanding it? Being aware of it? Being like it?


I wasn't saying I believed any of that. I suppose the more you examine it, the less sense it makes. Maybe the concept of man becoming divine made some sense, because I can understand "God" more as a part of man than I can an actual separate being. But of course, that explanation supposes that man was not divine in the first place, which is still pretty confusing.

Maybe I shouldn't have my original questions; because I can't really identify with the concepts any of the answers are built on.
Bikerman
There is nothing wrong with the question - don't blame yourself if the answers aren't up to scratch.
Nilout
Viruses are a bit of an enigma. They contain DNA or RNA that are found in all living things. This is packaged in a protein coat.

Despite this, viruses are not usually considered living because they are not made up of cells and cannot reproduce by themselves.

Instead, the virus will inject the DNA or RNA into a living cell, and the cell will make copies of the virus and assemble them so they can spread.

The biblical view explains an important paradox we see in the world around us. It anticipates the complexity that is constantly being uncovered by scientific research; God is an all-wise Creator and would be expected to use awesome design patterns and programming.

It also explains the decay observed because mankind sinned and brought death into the world; the world is now in bondage to decay (Romans 8:20Ė21).

This is an exciting time to be a creationist researcher, as the tremendous volume of scientific research is helping to provide answers to questions that have been asked for decades.
LxGoodies
Nilout wrote:
Viruses are a bit of an enigma. They contain DNA or RNA that are found in all living things. This is packaged in a protein coat.

Despite this, viruses are not usually considered living because they are not made up of cells and cannot reproduce by themselves.

Instead, the virus will inject the DNA or RNA into a living cell, and the cell will make copies of the virus and assemble them so they can spread.

The biblical view explains an important paradox we see in the world around us. It anticipates the complexity that is constantly being uncovered by scientific research; God is an all-wise Creator and would be expected to use awesome design patterns and programming.

It also explains the decay observed because mankind sinned and brought death into the world; the world is now in bondage to decay (Romans 8:20Ė21).

This is an exciting time to be a creationist researcher, as the tremendous volume of scientific research is helping to provide answers to questions that have been asked for decades.

No offense but are you really sure you're a scientist/researcher ? You seem to mix up science and your belief system. Two entities that cannot be combined. You're accurate about viruses in the first two sentences, but the "biblical" followup has no relation with viruses at all. There is even no need for regarding viruses as a punishment. The patient undergoing DNA treatment will disagree with your view and need not to have sinned at all. Viruses have prooved to be quite benevolent,

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22129583.300-origin-of-organs-thank-viruses-for-your-skin-and-bone.html

I guess your negative statements about viruses refer to the title of this topic ? I can't answer a question like "why did God create viruses" because I do not assume that viruses were created by anyone except (20th-21st century) mankind. When talking about the past, why blame a hypothetical entity for a phenomenon that has existed for 300 million years ?

http://www.livescience.com/16015-oldest-viruses-insects.html

Why should there be any reason for a protein, to fold in a specific shape ? proteins can fold in zillions of shapes.. and apparently a few of them fit nicely on certain fragments of RNA, becoming autonomous. Why could that not be a pure coincidence ? It just happens an the phenomenon persists, because it has a self-reproducing quality.

..

..
Bikerman
Nilout wrote:
The biblical view explains an important paradox we see in the world around us. It anticipates the complexity that is constantly being uncovered by scientific research; God is an all-wise Creator and would be expected to use awesome design patterns and programming.

It also explains the decay observed because mankind sinned and brought death into the world; the world is now in bondage to decay (Romans 8:20Ė21).

This is an exciting time to be a creationist researcher, as the tremendous volume of scientific research is helping to provide answers to questions that have been asked for decades.

This is utter utter bilge. The 'biblical view' contains NO information about viruses and pretty much nothing else of any use. What it DOES contain is the sort of misinformation and error that one would precisely expect to read in a set of documents authored in the bronze age - ie a pre-scientific world-view, relying on superstition and false attributions of agency to 'explain' experience.

What YOU perceive as divinely inspired wisdom is nothing more or less than what YOU actually put into it. This is what we see with all similar claims from bible codes to the prophecies of Nostradamus - 20/20 HINDSIGHT. It is a classic example of POSTDICTION - predicting AFTER the event. We have seen this sort of dishonest claim many times on this forum - whether it be claims about the wisdom of the bible, the scientific accuracy of the Quran, the inexplicable pyramids, , or similar bilge. Such claims have been comprehensively debunked, point by point, every time they have been made here.

As for 'creationist researcher' - that is an oxymoron. A true researcher is interested in gathering data to help arrive at new hypotheses, in order to explain observations which current theory cannot adequately model. Creationists already have their explanation - they are interested only in inventing increasingly spurious post-hoc rationalisations for their delusions.

There is also a total misunderstanding of basic design principles here. Good design is not characterised by complexity - rather the opposite. If the universe were really the product of some uber-intelligence then we certainly would NOT see the sorts of inefficient, sub-optimum, over-complexity that is a characteristic of all the life we know of.

For example: what sort of ultra-intelligent designer would create a human eye that has a massive blind-spot, that is sensitive to a vanishingly small part of the available spectrum, that fails routinely - almost ubiquitously - within a normal lifespan, that is alarmingly vulnerable, that projects an upside-down image which requires expensive 'post processing' in the brain to make usable, that routinely results in false perceptions (optical illusions) because of shortcomings in both design and processing *....and on and on. Mere humans can ALREADY design far better than that so why would some sky-fairy be so incompetent?

The same argument applies to a host of features of human (and non-human) biology. These inelegances and sub-optimum solutions are explained PRECISELY by evolution, which requires that biological systems are developments of earlier systems and cannot be imposed as 'clean slate' solutions. This is exactly what we actually see, exactly what we would NOT expect to see from a designed solution, and exactly what we WOULD expect to see from evolution.

Finally, the tremendous volume of scientific research is being done by SCIENTISTS producing millions of peer-reviewed papers in the scientific journals. A quick scan of that same literature reveals that the number of papers supporting or claiming to support a creationist 'model' is somewhere between 0 and 1 (and here's a clue....it isn't 1). Creation Science is another oxymoron.

* A nice example below - squares A and B are the same colour but your 'intelligently designed' perceptions will undoubtedly tell you otherwise.

(for the sceptics - which is everyone reading, I hope - the video below shows the truth of the assertion)
nam_siddharth
SpaceInvader75 wrote:
This question is for people that believe in creationism or intelligent design.

I'm not saying viruses are evil, I'm just thinking that they are clearly destructive, so why would god (or an intelligent designer) create something destructive to life? And if they were not designed, how did they get here, then?


1. God has not created viruses, because he does not exist.
2. Virus is needed for reproduction in many animals (may be humans too) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/viral-gene-appears-crucia/
3. In eco-system all living things are necessary for survival of some other living things.
Bikerman
Indeed, the original question was, I'm afraid, badly constructed. I think most of us know what the intent was - basically a specific example of the general 'problem of evil' which no theistic religion has, to my knowledge, ever addressed adequately. Unfortunately the choice of the virus as the specific exemplar is a bad one because, as already stated, not all viruses are malign to humans, let alone to the wider ecology.
There are many better examples of the unbelievable cruelty of nature that would serve better for this question but, to be frank, theist apologists have made such a terrible job of tackling THIS example that I don't think it is worth the time to compile a better version.
Ankhanu
Bikerman wrote:
Indeed, the original question was, I'm afraid, badly constructed. I think most of us know what the intent was - basically a specific example of the general 'problem of evil' which no theistic religion has, to my knowledge, ever addressed adequately.

I dunno; for several religions it's simply a non-issue. The problem of evil only really arises in more modern religions that are more removed from nature; animistic and pagan religions have no conflict with the existence of evil, and include it as an element of their beliefs, there are entities and deities that embody the principles and actively bring them about, and they're generally on the same level of power/importance as the benevolent deities/force. The duality of nature is a common theme in many religions.
With that in mind the whole "problem of evil" only arises when a religion posits a creator deity that is supposedly all-good, love or what have you with no counterpoint. It's pretty much uniquely Judeo-Christian(+Islamic). The only reason it seems so important is the prevalence of this one tree of religions in modern societies.

Bikerman wrote:
Unfortunately the choice of the virus as the specific exemplar is a bad one because, as already stated, not all viruses are malign to humans, let alone to the wider ecology.

All viruses are destructive to their hosts, though with varying degrees of virulence. At their most benign they are merely subverting energy/resources away from the host, impacting its ability to support itself and compete with other individuals (cellular level context). At the more malignant end of the spectrum they destroy their host in order to spread. Whether they're "positive" or not ecologically depends on a wide array of factors, and value judgements Wink
Bikerman
Ahh...on the first point, yes, I think you are correct. When I said 'theistic' I suppose I was specifically referring to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
On the second point - hey, I'm not going to argue with a biologist on that - I'm WAY out of my field Smile
However.....what do you say to the sort of arguments made here?
Ankhanu
I only read the abstract, but am familiar with some of the concepts that are going to be discussed in the book, and don't think that what I said and what it goes into are exclusive, rather, they complement, despite my commentary being simplistic and glib (you know how I work around here, make simple, glib statement, then clarify Razz ).

As I mentioned, the context in which I was speaking was at the level of cellular function; replicating a viruses takes up cellular resources - ATP, nucleotides and peptides, enzymes, organelle activity, etc. When these resources are being used to build new viruses, they can't be used for the host cell. While the virus might be relatively benign and not "burst" or lyse the cell to exit, it will reduce the cell's own functions. The competitive reduction may be slight, but it is present. It's a little like a low level computer virus that might not be causing any real harm, but it will eat up some CPU clock time and RAM. It might not have much impact, but it does have some impact on performance.

That's not the whole story of virus/host interaction though. The virus can can have other impacts on the host, facilitating horizontal gene transfer, editing genes, etc. Their role in ecology and evolution is pretty great, applying various selective pressures, introducing new genes into host DNA, etc. the role and impact of viruses can shift depending on context or level of organization that you're looking at.
Indi
Ankhanu wrote:
Bikerman wrote:
Indeed, the original question was, I'm afraid, badly constructed. I think most of us know what the intent was - basically a specific example of the general 'problem of evil' which no theistic religion has, to my knowledge, ever addressed adequately.

I dunno; for several religions it's simply a non-issue. The problem of evil only really arises in more modern religions that are more removed from nature; animistic and pagan religions have no conflict with the existence of evil, and include it as an element of their beliefs, there are entities and deities that embody the principles and actively bring them about, and they're generally on the same level of power/importance as the benevolent deities/force. The duality of nature is a common theme in many religions.
With that in mind the whole "problem of evil" only arises when a religion posits a creator deity that is supposedly all-good, love or what have you with no counterpoint. It's pretty much uniquely Judeo-Christian(+Islamic). The only reason it seems so important is the prevalence of this one tree of religions in modern societies.

I don't think it's being nature-based that makes the difference so much as it is having a pantheon of "gods" (or "spirits" or however they conceive of them) that are both good and evil, and of relatively equal power.

Monotheistic religions like Christianity, Islam, and so on are extremely susceptible to the problem of evil because they posit gods that are all-powerful and utterly unmatched. They say Satan/Shaitan/whatever is responsible for evil but that God is powerful enough that he could swat Satan away with a flick of the finger... which leads to the inescapable question: "then why doesn't he?" Trying to answer that is what leads apologists down the rabbit hole with no escape. Or, alternately, they blame the existence of evil on humans, because God doesn't want to "mess with our free will", which leads to even more ridiculous absurdities, like explaining how humans are responsible for earthquakes or asteroid impacts (not to mention the point that it doesn't mess with one's free will to allow them to do whatever evil they please, but shield innocent victims from the effects).

Even polytheistic religions that presume the entire pantheon or most of it is good are susceptible to the problem of evil. You can say the various gods squabble from time to time, but unless they're outright evil that should only lead to minor inconveniences to humans... not widespread tragedy.

It is only the religions that presume there are one or more evil gods - of relatively comparable strength to the good one(s) - that you get a way out of the problem of evil. Then you can argue that the suffering in the world is the doing of the evil god(s), and the good god(s) are doing their best to keep it under control. And the good god(s) can't simply eliminate the evil god(s), because their strength is too close to equal - attempting that war would cause much more suffering than playing doctor to the relatively minor sufferings the evil god(s) cooks up.

Most of those old-school naturalistic and animistic religions are like that. Their "main" gods are powerful, yes... but not ridiculously powerful, and low-level nasty or trickster spirits can do enormous damage while their attention is focused elsewhere.

Honestly, i've always found those old-school religions much more sensible than the popular modern religions. I find most of the big religions today completely moronic, philosophically speaking - their only "virtue" is that they scare the bejeezus out of the adherents (for example, through threats of hell) and centralize power (there's only the one god (or only one main alliance of gods)), so it's easy to drive adherents to work as one. Which, of course, makes them horrifyingly effective - that's why they wiped out the competition. But the old-school religions have much more interesting philosophical logic - for example, worship and ritual becomes that much more important, because you want to keep the attention of the good god(s) focused on you, so the wicked one(s) can't get away with shit. They also have much more interesting stories to tell - i grew up on stories of Anansi the trickster god of wisdom, and loved the stories of Coyote and Raven when I came to North America.
Bikerman
I suppose we can also consider the 'classic' Greek pantheon, which doesn't so much rely on 'good vs evil' deities to my mind, more like deities that are as fallible and as conflicted as the mortals they rule. The terrible tragedies they visit on humanity are the results of political machinations and manoeuvring within the pantheon for the most part....
Ankhanu
Yeah, the nature-based part of my comment was somewhat more correlational than causative and borne of immediate ignorance... I couldn't immediately think of a religion that didn't have some nature-basis or observation that fit what I was saying. Even pantheons like the Greek or Roman still have those concepts within them. That said now, I don't think that religions like Buddhism suffer from the "problem" of evil and don't really have that nature connection. It certainly addresses evil/suffering, but it isn't exactly a philosophical problem for the religion.

I certainly agree with you, Indi, that the non-Judeo-Christian religions of old are far more interesting and that they even hold greater logic or philosophic concepts within their organization and/or beliefs. They can be pretty fascinating
Indi
Bikerman wrote:
I suppose we can also consider the 'classic' Greek pantheon, which doesn't so much rely on 'good vs evil' deities to my mind, more like deities that are as fallible and as conflicted as the mortals they rule. The terrible tragedies they visit on humanity are the results of political machinations and manoeuvring within the pantheon for the most part....

Eh, i've always doubted that the Greeks considered their pantheon as "human" as we do.

I think this idea of saying the Greek gods had human failings is a very Christian perspective - or rather, a perspective that we have only because we are spoiled by our Abrahamic-based conceptions of God. In comparison to the Abrahamic idea of a united, super-perfect god, sure, the Greek gods were very human-like and flawed and contentious. But i don't think the Greeks saw them that way, in practice.

Besides, when you look at the "suffering" inflicted by the machinations in the myths... it's usually not all that bad, and it's usually specifically visited on the parties directly involved.

Ancient Greek religion is a bit off my beat so i can't really speak with any certainty here. I base my understanding of how they thought about their religion solely on my readings of Greek philosophy - not myth. But it seems to me that's the right way to do it. If we were to judge Christianity based on its myths, we'd get the impression that Christians believe their god is insanely aggressive - reigning down massive devastation and judgement at the drop of a hat. But that's not how Christians actually see their god. They see him as more of a grumpy but benign governor, who watches the world with some measure of irritation, but almost never really intervenes except for the rare miracle.

So i base my understanding of how Greeks saw their gods on how they were talked about in non-mythical contexts - like philosophical discussions, or just comments in passing in letters about mathematics and stuff. A good example is Plato's writings about the trial of Socrates - which was ultimately about Socrates leading the youth of Athens away from the gods. Reading the trial description there, i see absolutely no sign that anyone considered the gods to be anything but one big team working as a single mind. I see no sign that anyone considered the gods to have any sort of disagreement with each other, and i see no sign that they considered the gods fallible at all. I don't think they would have agreed with our modern view that they were a cantankerous and flawed bunch.

The other thing i've always doubted is that they would have attributed strife and suffering to godly bickering. That just doesn't jive with the way they talked about the gods in practice. I don't know how they would have explained suffering... but i think they would have strongly objected to the idea that it was the gods' fault.

Remember, Epicurus wasn't talking about Abrahamic conceptions of god when he wrote the trilemma paradox, or monotheism at all for that matter. (Assuming Epicurus was the one who actually wrote it - if not him, it was someone of his time.) He was, in fact, directing the paradox at the Greek pantheon. So while i don't know exactly how the Greeks saw their gods, it seems to me they must have seen them in a way that made them susceptible to the problem of evil.

Ankhanu wrote:
I certainly agree with you, Indi, that the non-Judeo-Christian religions of old are far more interesting and that they even hold greater logic or philosophic concepts within their organization and/or beliefs. They can be pretty fascinating

Oh yes. But as per my comments to Bikerman about the Greek pantheon, i think we have to be very careful talking about these old gods - we have to realize that the way we see them isn't necessarily anything like the way their actual believers did.

In particular, i think we (as in, modern culture) has gone way too far humanizing the Greek and Roman gods. It makes for great stories, sure, but i don't think the ancient Greeks and Romans would have been impressed at all.

Put another way: Have you seen the webcomic Jesus and Mo? It depicts Jesus and Muhammad as just a couple of guys who live together and hang out at a bar, etc.. I think the way we think of the Greek and Roman (and Norse, for that matter) gods today has about as much relation to how they were actually thought of by their worshippers, as Jesus and Mo has to how believers think of Jesus and Muhammad.

Not that that's a problem for just enjoying the stories, of course. But it is a problem if we actually want to try to understand these gods as things that were actually worshipped, and compare them to modern conceptions of gods.
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