Never Children

Never Children June 1, 2016

Never children

This Bizarro cartoon gets at one of the problems with the idea that Adam and Eve were created instantaneously as adults, or even as grown children. For that to have happened, the things that humans normally learn growing up would have had to have been pre-programmed into them. And that creates issues, perhaps especially for those who think that humans were created with free will, and that that is important.

If you want to create intelligent sentient beings while avoiding this problem, creation through an evolutionary process is a good solution. And so far from evolution being theologically problematic, it is theologically helpful for those who understand human beings and our creation in a particular way.

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  • John MacDonald

    Analogously, diseases like polio and cancer were introduced into the human narrative by God to give our species a sense of accomplishment when we eventually cure them. Suffering was intended by God to be our growing pains as a species. As such, while an individual case of cancer seems tragic, curing cancer will be one of the great milestones that our species can be proud of. lol

    • This is the kind of objection that it is common for fundamentalists to give, but it reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of natural processes. It is simply bizarre (and not merely morally reprehensible to envisage a God who lets humans come about through a process of evolution, but has to drive evolution forward by hitting humans with challenges to make that evolution happen. Microorganisms and cancer are both simply natural products of the evolutionary process which also produced us. They have no more moral status than the plate tectonics which make our planet a living one but also produce devastating earthquakes. There is no need to invoke divine interventions to explain them, and no need to view them as having a moral aspect to them.

      • John MacDonald

        Haven’t you heard? God created plate tectonics, as well as hurricanes, tornados and all the rest of the natural phenomena that terrorize us, so we could learn to overcome them through the science of “terraforming.” What a great achievement it will be for our species when we learn to overcome the natural tragedy creating obstacles God created our earth with. God created things like disease and earthquakes so we could learn to overcome them. God may be The Father, but he is even more fundamentally The Teacher: “Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, ‘What do you want?’ They said, ‘Rabbi’ (which means ‘TEACHER’) (John 1:38).” God, as the Teacher, lays these obstacles at our feet so that we may LEARN to overcome them. The key is to see suffering from the point of view of humanity as a whole, not the tragedy of the individual. What a proud day it will be for humanity when we terraform the earth to eliminate earthquakes! What a proud day it will be when, like the weather control systems in Star Trek The Next Generation, we put an end to hurricanes! lol

  • Matthew Funke

    I agree that evolution is theologically helpful, and not just for the informed raising of children. It gives us insight into our own weakness before sin — why we lust, for example, for food and sex — and allows us to work more effectively with God at reducing or removing the intensity of those particular temptations.

    Where evolution gives us insight into our own physiology and psychology, in other words, it can also help us to understand our spirituality.

    • John MacDonald

      Why doesn’t God just miraculously remove our weakness before sin? It’s time for a divine fiat!

      • How would that fail to cause the same problems that creating a preprogrammed adult Adam would?

        • John MacDonald

          Wouldn’t God miraculously curing our weakness before sin simply be analogous to God curing anything else (like cancer in a person)?

          • Weakness is a characteristic and universal human trait that is a fundamental part of who we are. The same cannot be said about cancer.

          • John MacDonald

            If the goal is that we ultimately become reconciled with God, is it really “free will” to say that in your innermost being you want to sin, but can’t. It’s almost a joke that we are created in one way, but for the cosmic highlight reel God set all the rules in opposition! Are we really free to choose if we aren’t really “free” to do so in the grand scheme of things?

          • Matthew Funke

            Maybe. Are we really free to choose if we aren’t free to do everything we imagine the ability to choose?

            For example, if I had truly free will, I could wish myself onto Pluto (with all the necessary life-sustaining technologies) instantly, right this moment. But obviously, I can’t. Does that mean that I really don’t have freedom of choice after all?

            Or does it perhaps imply that we are attempting to make wholesale conclusions about things where our understanding is very, very limited?

          • John MacDonald

            If the grand purpose to life is to become reconciled to God, and one of the great roadblocks to this is our weakness to sin, then it would just seem easier if God would remove this weakness. This may fundamentally change our nature, but so what? Eyes on the goal everyone!

          • Matthew Funke

            Easier, sure. But I can’t claim to know enough about the problem to be certain that ease is important or even desirable, nor that the end would justify the means. (You’re just re-stating your assertion here. You’re not providing an argument.)

          • John MacDonald

            My argument is that a God who had the ability to remove weakness before sin would be morally obligated to do so.

          • Matthew Funke

            I understand that you mean to argue that. What I mean is that you haven’t yet stated a compelling reason to believe that your method is the best one. You’ve not demonstrated the correctness of your method.

          • John MacDonald

            It follows from the conception of God as an omnibenevolent, just God. If you don’t conceive of God in this way, then of course my position wouldn’t follow.

          • Matthew Funke

            Sure. It also might not follow if your method does not produce the most good, even if you posit an omnibenevolent and just God. I’d argue that we don’t have enough information to make that determination.

            Of course, I can’t claim that this way is the way that produces the most good. I just mean to point out that neither of us gets to say, “I don’t have enough information to determine precisely what would produce the most good; therefore, I know exactly what would produce the most good.”

          • John MacDonald

            We may not have enough information to determine “for certain” that God miraculously removing weakness before sin would do the most good, but it seems reasonable to assume that if God did cure weakness before sin, people would be more likely to become reconciled to God (such reconciliation being the greatest good in human life).

          • Matthew Funke

            My experience in the sciences has been that that which “seems reasonable” is often wrong. Human intuition is a poor guide for determining correctness. It’s not that faith is necessarily that good — but I think it pays to lay the cards on the table and admit what we know and what we don’t. I’d argue that we know so little about the real depth and scope of the matter that it would be a mistake to even claim provisional knowledge, never mind “for certain”.

            It may even be, for example, that what is best for each of us individually, or even best for the human race as a whole, is not the greatest good.

          • John MacDonald

            What “seems reasonable” is really all we have to go on. As Socrates said, we always do what it seems to make sense for us to do at the time.

          • Matthew Funke

            He also (in Euthyphro) showed how difficult it can be to come to a reasonable, consistent definition of “good”.

          • John MacDonald

            Plato says about the essence of truth that we have our “guiding perspective,” and we follow the implications of that perspective down the path which it leads, until we reach a block in the road (aporia), and experience wonder (thaumazein) that our guiding perspective has lead us to contrariety, and must hence rethink our guiding perspective. For Plato, this wonder (thaumazein) is experienced by encountering something that is beyond being, the idea of the good (idea tou agathou). “Epekeina tes ousias,” “Beyond Being,” is a phrase from Plato’s Republic 509b. The idea is that what starts out as “real” for us is the guiding perspective that we have (on whatever issue). We explore the implications of that perspective until it leads us into contrariety (Plato repeatedly shows how it happens in the early Socratic dialogues). Plato says the philosopher experiences wonder (thaumazein) when he or she realizes his or her guiding perspective, when followed, leads into contrariety which the guiding perspective can’t resolve. As a result, the guiding perspective must be rethought. For example, it would be like a religious person examining their religious theology to the point they become an atheist. The “beyond being” is the surplus that overthrows the guiding perspective.

          • Matthew Funke

            Well, okay. That’s the Socratic method in a purple nutshell.

            But back to the subject and not to put too fine a point on it, we’re not even discussing how we should act with respect to what seems reasonable to us. We’re discussing how God should act with respect to what would seem reasonable to Him (assuming He exists in the first place), and that’s a very different perspective to consider, and I see no compelling reason to state that we know what that perspective is.

          • John MacDonald

            I imagine our perspective is similar to what’s in God’s heart, since God made man in His image.

          • Matthew Funke

            Maybe so. Maybe not. Exactly what the imago Dei is has been debated for millennia, too, and while there is some interesting conjecture out there, I don’t think the participants managed to nail down anything compelling.

            But if you’re right, it’s interesting to consider what insights correct models of one (imago Dei) might lend to the other (theodicy).

            Anyway. We’re basically piling conjecture on top of conjecture on top of conjecture — the idea that we can know that God exists, that we can understand His perspective, that we can determine the correct action given that perspective, and so on. That all seems a bit thin. YMMV. =shrug=

          • John MacDonald

            So you would say God would have created us in such a way that we would be unable to know His will? Why would God do that?

          • Matthew Funke

            It seems to me that if we understood God’s will perfectly, there’s a good chance we’d have to be infinite. If that’s the case, then we would be God ourselves (if we define God as infinite in contradistinction to humans).

            No matter how remarkable a finite creation is, there will be something it cannot hope to comprehend about an infinite being. That’s what “infinite” and “finite” mean.

            I believe — but can’t claim to know, of course — that we can catch glimpses of parts of it. But even when that happens, we tend not to interpret it correctly. In other words, there’s a lot of uncertainty in the process.

            Why would God do that? I don’t know, but I have some guesses. Maybe it’s part of why faith is required, and maybe faith is required because it levels the playing field (you don’t get closer to God through any particular way you happen to excel among humans — perhaps that exercise in humility is necessary). Maybe the process of incremental, halting, uncertain discovery is important for our individual and/or corporate growth. Maybe He wanted us to be different in some way from Him, and this is part of the way that happens. Ultimately, though, my knowledge of such an answer (or lack thereof) does not imply anything one way or the other about whether or not my description of how the human and divine understand one another is correct.

          • John MacDonald

            Whatever an “infinite mind” might mean, I think god’s “moral compass,” like our “moral compass,” points Him in the right direction, and so would lead him to removing our weakness before sin so it would make it easier for us to accomplish our main goal of becoming reconciled with Him – that is, “if God exists,” which we have no reason to think is true (which is why I’m agnostic).

          • Matthew Funke

            Well, if you believe God has a “moral compass” that guides His actions, you run smack into the Euthyphro dilemma: Does God do things because they’re good, or are they good because God does them? If the former, then is there a law higher than God, and if so, what is it? If the latter, then is there some way we can predict God’s actions ahead of time — and what reason would He have to prefer some actions and not others?

            Generally, theologians have evaded this dilemma by asserting that goodness is God’s nature — that pretending there is goodness as something separate from God is a fallacy. I don’t know exactly how that works, but it seems to be different from the idea that there are things that point God in some direction beyond God Himself.

            However, if you think God put some kind of “moral compass” into man that parallels that nature somehow, we’re still stuck with questions of how well it parallels that nature. Here, it seems to me, one can have differing beliefs, but hard data or ironclad conclusions are tough to come by.

          • John MacDonald

            Morality is relative. We make moral judgements according to our prejudices, biases, etc. It is the same for God because that is how moral judgements are made. If we don’t take a “holier than thou judgmental attitude” but simply allow the phenomena of behavior to appear, it would seem that “Moral Relativism” is a useful descriptor for the foundation of ethics, because it best describes why things like (a) cultural-based cannibalism, and (b) The Romans feeding the Christians to the lions in the arena for the exciting sport of the crowd, and (c) child sacrifice, etc., could occur. From the point of view of our time and culture, these practices are “judged wrong.” But who are we to judge? From the point of view of the people who were committing these acts, they were acting in a perfectly socially acceptable manner. So they are “wrong” from our point of view, but not from theirs. Relativism. Moral relativism is really very simple. Basing morality on “values” is another way of saying moral claims are justified according to their context. In the context of American society, what the terrorists did on 9’11 was evil and wrong. But in the context of the fundamentalist Islam of the terrorists, the terrorist attack on the twin towers was moral and holy. It’s not that one point of view is “correct” and the other is “incorrect,” they are just conflicting worldviews. Recall these images as part of the response to 9’11: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vOJCQr1Now . The truth of a moral claim is derived from its context. The context is not absolute, and if you take away the context the “truth” of the moral claim is gone. The “whole” (context) gives meaning to the part (makes the moral claim “true). Nietzsche pointed this out with his argument about “slave morality” (eg., a slave has to be meek and has no money, so being meek is interpreted as being morally good – “the meek shall inherit the earth, Matthew 5:5” – and the quest for money and its accumulation is morally bad – “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get into heaven, Mark 10:25”) Nietzsche’s point wasn’t that you had to accept his interpretation of history on this point, but rather that people determine what is moral and immoral relative to their point of view, which means their understanding of right and wrong depends on the context (i.e., depends on a person’s biases, prejudices, culture, evolutionary history, etc.). In Philosophy this is known as “Relativism: morality and the hermeneutic circle.” It is like interpreting a text. In order to understand what a part of a story means, you have to consider it in relation to the entire story. You can’t explain the “part” without the “whole.” But this is what moral realism tries to do. Moral realism doesn’t make sense because you can have two equally valid contradictory moral interpretations of the same event. Take the example of rape. We consider rape to be wrong under any circumstance. But the ancient Greeks considered war rape of women “socially acceptable behaviour well within the rules of warfare”, and warriors considered the conquered women “legitimate booty, useful as wives, concubines, slave labour or battle-camp trophy”. Here is a good article that links cannibalism to Moral Relativism: http://www.philosophynow.org/issue82/Morality_is_a_Culturally_Conditioned_Response It’s by Jesse Prinz, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York.

          • John MacDonald

            The video I posted didn’t seem to be the right link, so I’m trying again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-p1LEBAujE

          • Matthew Funke

            All the more reason to think that our perception of how God is good is probably flawed, wouldn’t you think?

          • John MacDonald

            Yep – lol

          • John MacDonald

            There is really no way to know what God has on his mind regarding the desired ethical conduct of humanity, if God exists. What if God is a trickster, warrior God who sent Jesus to preach poverty and meekness, while this was all just a test to see who would remain powerful and rich despite the divine warnings of Jesus to the contrary? Maybe it was all just a divine test to see who had the mettle and fortitude to stick to their guns and make it into a warrior’s heaven.

          • John MacDonald

            (1). There is reason to suspect that the Hebrew God is a warrior God who values conquest and the destruction of enemies: In 1 Samuel 15:2-3, God commanded Saul and the Israelites, “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'” God ordered similar things when the Israelites were invading the promised land (Deuteronomy 2:34; 3:6; 20:16-18).

            (2). There is also reason to suspect the Hebrew God is a trickster God, such as when God approves of LYING when it is done in his cause:

            (a) God rewarded the Egyptian midwives for lying to the Pharaoh.

            “And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men-children alive? And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. Therefore God dealt well with the midwives. Exodus 1:18-20.”

            (b) Rahab was “justified” when she lied about Joshua’s spies.

            “And the woman [Rahab] took the two men and hid them and said thus: There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were; and it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark that the men went out; whither the men went I wot not; pursue after them quickly, for ye shall overtake them. But she had brought them up to the roof of the house and hid them with the stalks of flax. Joshua 2:4-6.”

            “Was not Rahab, the harlot, justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?. James 2:25”

            (c) David lied to Ahimelech when he said he was on the king’s business. (He was King Saul’s enemy at the time.) We know that God approved of this lie, since 1 Kings 15:5 says that God approved of everything David did, with the single exception of the matter of Uriah.

            “David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The king hath commanded me a business…. 1 Samuel 21:2”

            (d) Elisha told King Benhadad that he would recover, even though God told Elisha that the king would die.

            “Benhadad the king of Syria was sick … And the king said unto Hazael … go, meet the man of God, and enquire of the LORD by him, saying, Shall I recover of this disease? Elisha said unto him, go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the Lord hath showed me that he shall surely die. 2 Kings 8:8-10.”

            (e) In the Deuterocanonical book of Tobit, the angel Raphael lied to Tobias, saying “I am Azarias.”

            “Tobias said to him: I pray thee, tell me, of what family, or what tribe art thou? And Raphael the angel answered … I am Azarias. Tobit 5:16-18.”

            (f) Jesus lied when he told his family that he wasn’t going to the feast, but later went “in secret.”

            “[Jesus said] Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast. … But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. John 7:8-10.”

            (g) Even God lies now and then by putting lying spirits in the mouths of his prophets.

            “And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him … I will go forth and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him and prevail also; go forth and do so. 1 Kings 22:21-22.”

          • John MacDonald

            I think morality is objective in the sense that we are responsible for our actions, as opposed to, for example, someone who is mentally ill and is found by a judge to not be responsible for his/her actions.

            I think morality is subjective in what particular actions an ethical system arbitrarily decides are right and wrong. For instance, in our ethical point of view we value individual rights and freedoms. In dystopias like Orwell’s 1984, on the other hand, individual rights and freedoms are frowned upon.

          • Matthew Funke

            That sounds a lot like simply the difference between morals and ethics. Ethics are a set of rules and/or principles created to try to protect morals we believe to be important.

            I also tend to think that morality is a lot like the color spectrum — it exists, but some people can’t distinguish certain hues. Individually and corporately, we all have our “blind spots”, things we simply can’t perceive for whatever reason… but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. If anything, we can all benefit from carefully listening to others, because they might understand something we don’t.

          • John MacDonald

            I think we codify our biases and prejudices and give them the impressive moniker of “ethics.”

          • Matthew Funke

            If we, the creatures who tend towards bias and prejudice, are the ones making the rules, how is that different from what I said? Or *is* it different from what I said?

          • John MacDonald

            I’m starting to get the sense we are not really disagreeing. I’ll give an example of what I mean: The recent massacre in Orlando Florida at a gay night club was HORRIFIC. That assessment is from my point of view. However, there are other points of view. From a radical Islamic point of view, the act may have been considered moral and holy. As an agnostic, it has to be admitted that it is just as likely that (a) there is no heaven or hell, or (b) the shooter is in hell right now, or (c) the shooter is in paradise with his 72 virgins. I think option (c) is a terrible possibility, but my offence at a world view does not make it any less likely. My point is just that the authority behind our ethical precepts are only ever subjective and tentative. And it’s more human that way. My heart goes out to those people who lost their lives in Orlando, but that is just my point of view. Another point of view comes from those who have a radical interpretation of sharia law. Ethics, properly understood, is more like a mosaic of perspectives in constant dialogue with one another, than a melting pot where all the points of difference fall in line with a dominant, tyrannical perspective.

          • John MacDonald

            Framed as a philosophical question, traditional ethics wants to make the leap of faith from “this IS my opinion/worldview,” to “this OUGHT to be everyone’s opinion/worldview.” In reality, the search for an objective ethical system has produced no organized system of divine precepts, but rather an arbitrary collage of opinions/worldview, sometimes coexisting, and sometimes in conflict with each other.

          • John MacDonald

            It seems that the link I gave to the Prinz article also didn’t work, so here it is: https://philosophynow.org/issues/82/Morality_is_a_Culturally_Conditioned_Response I don’t agree with everything he says but he makes some good points about cannibalism.

          • John MacDonald

            Moral Relativism” seems reasonable to me:

            Ethical standards weren’t absolute throughout history. In ancient Roman times, prisoners were executed for the entertainment for the crowd, and it was socially acceptable for one member of a noble family to murder another during infighting. Their society wasn’t better or worse than ours, they just had a different value system.

            To use an analogy, in elementary school teaching, teachers use criteria to judge what mark a child gets on a story. For example, if a child’s story has a strong plot, good character development, and uses vivid language, then they have met the criteria to get a ‘B.’ What absolute or objective criteria do humans use to judge when a behaviour is wrong? Some say the criteria is a variant of the Golden Rule: If you do to others something you wouldn’t want done to you, you realize that you have done something wrong (e.g., If you don’t want to be stolen from, don’t be a thief because you know it’s wrong). But this criteria has not been applied universally throughout history (e.g., the Roman example I gave), and it doesn’t follow from the fact that it has been applied in the past that it will be applied in the future. It varies. To the Aztecs, killing in sacrifice to their deity wasn’t wrong.

          • John MacDonald

            Melancholia is a characteristic and fundamental trait of some people that they deal with their entire lives. Should they not pray to God to cure the depression that plagues them?

      • Matthew Funke

        I don’t know. I can’t claim to know why a lot of things are the way they are. That doesn’t reduce the usefulness of insight into our behavior and reactions provided by evolution, though.

  • So the Garden of Eden is the opposite of Never Never Land. Instead of a place where children never grow up, it’s a place where adults were never children.