The Creation of Evil

Discussion in 'Abrahamic Religions' started by Justin Swanton, Dec 5, 2016.

  1. Justin Swanton

    Justin Swanton Member

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    There is definitely a problem with the natural world. Lyall Watson put his finger on it in Dark Nature: there are things in nature that can only be qualified as evil. Animals behaving in destructive ways that benefit neither their own nor any other species - cannibalism for example has been documented for every kind of animal that is not strictly herbivore. Carnivores that keep their prey in a constant state of fear, and when they catch them sometimes taking a long and agonizing time to end their lives. Parasites - 10% of all known species are parasites, weakening and even destroying their hosts. Disease, imperfect genetics that creates harmful mutations. The list goes on and on.

    If one accepts that God is the author of all this, how does one square it with his goodness? In the Christian optic God is pure goodness. Goodness in its essence gives of its bountifulness. The Father gives all of his divine nature to the Son. Father and Son in their love for each other engender the Holy Spirit. It's all perfect with no trace of evil. So why is there so much dysfunctionality and outright harm in nature?

    IMO St Paul hints at the answer in Romans:

    18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

    22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.​

    The present condition of creation is linked to the present condition of mankind, one of a fallen nature caused by Original sin. Let me sidestep a discussion on Original sin and cut straight to its consequences. When Adam sinned he set up a disorder in his nature. His intelligence became clouded, easily able to get the wrong end of the stick, his will became wayward, readily inclined to choosing wrong, his passions became difficult to control, and his physical body lost immortality and became subject to illness, injury and death.

    This dysfunctionality in man is perfectly mirrored in nature. Man's moral evil finds a 'fearful symmetry' in the material evil in nature. Men prey on men, animals prey on animals. Men leech off men, parasites leach off their hosts. Animals are not morally culpable - they are just a biological mirror for the wickedness of men. But the goodness of men is also reflected: animals can protect and save those not even of their own kind just as a good man can help a perfect stranger.

    God, knowing what men would become, created nature this way from day one. Briefly, he made the natural world a place where fallen humanity can work out its salvation. It's not hell, but it's not heaven either. There is goodness in this world but it's not a paradise. In mirroring fallen human nature it does its job of providing the ideal conditions for humans to finally reach
    the "freedom and glory of the children of God." In this sense it is perfect.

    That's it in a nutshell. Over to the floor.
     
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  2. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    Okay. It is my belief that the very first thing here is to separate the natural state of man and lump the natural state of the entire rest of the biosphere as two separate, indeed unrelated categories. Indeed I recently made a post, which I will try and find, stating that the natural world is perfect! Which I cannot find anywhere now! I'm thinking it was a post I was in the process of writing, but the discussion had moved on so I deleted it. Aargh!

    So. More to come!
     
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  3. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    I need to give a lot more thought to this post, before replying properly.

    But off the top: what IS evil? A parasite has to take life to sustain it's own?

    Lion thinks zebra looks best on a plate, while zebra thinks lion looks best in a cage?

    So we should start by bringing a bit more clarity to the concept of what 'evil' is.

    A cat torturing a mouse? No. The cat's not deliberately being evil?
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2016
  4. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    You and I have gone back and forth on this one, but I don't remember you starting a thread on the subject. Wish you had!
     
  5. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    No it wasn't a thread. It was a post in one of the recent threads.

    The problem with Justin's comments in the op are based on a fallacy. That being we humans should judge the actions in the animal world through the eyes, feelings and mores of a human. Animals do not do evil things. Not ever. They may do things we humans find abhorrent, like cats torturing mice for chuckles. But is there in that cat's mind the concept of acting evil. The answer is no. Evil is a construct we humans have created on how we view the world. The animal kingdom, and I'm lumping all non-human life in this, do not have the mental constructs we have created for ourselves.

    I have a particular issue with his statements about carnivores. The majority of carnivores do not keep their prey in a state of fear. The majority do not needlessly prolong their suffering. Some carnivores are better killers than others. Tigers and their ilk, it's one crushing bite at the neck and the prey is dead. Tigers are often solitary hunters, they need to make the kill quickly and efficiently. Even when they hunt as a pack, it is one lone individual that goes for the kill while the rest of the pack waits.

    Wolves on the other hand are not as impressive when it comes to hunting. They can wound an animal and keep worrying at it until it cannot fight back any longer. Does this make wolves more evil than tigers? Of course not. Wolves are pack hunters. They don't have the jaw strength of the big cats, so they need to pull together to take down larger prey. Nor are they strong enough on their own to kill the prey instantly. They hunt the best way they can with the weapons nature gave them. And again I have to reinforce that this is with large prey. Wolves primary staple is small critters, where a quick pounce and one bite and the squirrel, rabbit or whatever is dead.

    Another point that absolutely bears bringing into this discussion. We civilized humans don't hunt or kill our own food, haven't for a very long time. But when we were hunter gatherers we hunted much like the wolf pack. Too vulnerable and weak alone, we needed to gather together as a team and bring down big game with puny spears, often following the wounded beast for hours, sometimes days before we killed it. Is that evil? I would still say no. We hunted with the best tools and the best strategies available to us at the time.

    My point, in case I haven't made it clear enough, we have to look at the animal kingdom through the eyes of the animal kingdom before we can even consider whether we have the right to judge them.
     
  6. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    So does that probably rule out deliberate 'evil' amongst non-human beings of the animal kingdom of nature?

    Fact remains that having your throat crunched by a tiger definitely feels like an unpleasant experience, for you?

    A natural being that will not kill, will die. Every breath kills microscopic airborne creatures.

    So: this is our natural life, caused by the sin of Adam?

    So far no 'evil'.

    But it's out there? The real thing?
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2016
  7. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    Christ absolutely identified satan as a liar and father of lies: fear he who has power to destroy the soul, etc?
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2016
  8. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    Yes it rules out 'deliberate evil' amongst non-human beings. Again the very concept of evil is a human construct.

    It has nothing to do with being pleasant or otherwise. Point is carnivores are meat eaters. Which means they must kill meat on the hoof (No McTigers yet to my knowledge) o_O and eat it. That is what a carnivore does. There is no good or evil involved.

    Yep. Death is part of life. Causing death is part of living. I didn't set up the system; just stating how it works. You'll have to talk to the Big Guy Upstairs if you have a problem with this. :eek:

    That's how I see it. A&E (the people, not the TV channel) messed up and the laws of the planet they were thrown into was what God gave us.

    Not in the animal world. In order to have an evil intent a creature must have the capability to understand what an evil action is. Animals do not.
     
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  9. Justin Swanton

    Justin Swanton Member

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    Let me repeat this line from the first post:

    Animals are not morally culpable - they are just a biological mirror for the wickedness of men.​

    It makes as much sense to pass judgment on animals as on a rock that rolls down a mountainside and kills a hiker below. Animals obviously cannot be held morally responsible for behaviour that they are hardwired to do. The question isn't whether tigers are morally wicked for killing prey. The question is why on earth did God create tigers?

    What is good? The classical philosophical definition of good from the POV of being is when something has everything it needs for its own perfection. From the POV of action good is when something helps itself or other beings attain their perfection. Helping others attain their perfection is often synonymous with attaining one's own perfection.

    Evil from the POV of being is when something lacks a necessary element in its makeup. From the POV of action evil is when something damages or annihilates the perfection of other beings or itself. Evil always is or brings about a lack of a due good.

    A carnivore necessarily annihilates the good of its prey to attain its own good. One can argue that this is the balance of nature / circle of life / etc. but from the Christian perspective that doesn't cut it. Why did God set up a natural order in which some species attain their own good by annihilating the good of other species? Why couldn't everything be and act in a purely beneficial manner, as God himself in his Trinity is purely beneficial (if I can put it that way)? The answer is man's sin. If the first man and woman had not sinned the natural order would have been what it is promised one day to be: a setup in which death, disease, predation and all the other material (not moral - material) evils of nature in its present form are absent.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2016
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  10. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hi Justin —
    Hmmm ... not so sure on this one ...

    As I understand it, 'sin' is 'an offence against reason, truth, and right conscience' (Catechism of the Catholic Church para 1849). I'm not even sure 'sin' stands outside of a religious context, in that humanism would define it as other than sin.

    It has been defined as "an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law." (CCC 121)

    Sin, then, is a moral ill, and to be a sin requires the free and knowing assent of the will. Whilst there is an allowance for ignorance, it's not enough to say 'I didn't know' or 'yeah, whatever, sorry' ...

    ... but I'm not sure we can classify nature as sinful, or evil. Nature just is. Earthquakes, tsunamis, even passing asteroids that pulverise a planet, or an ebola-type virus that wipes out the human race ...

    Where things get trick is in how far we accord a rational capacity to animals. Do they comprehend 'good' and 'bad' In those terms? I would say no, or maybe yes, but from a pragmatic aspect. I doubt if they have moral philosophers. But then again, we are learning so much these days ...

    An interesting concept ... or do we read our disfunctionality onto nature?

    My view — the older hands might remember this — is the nature of our cosmos is finite, it's contingent. Stuff happens. It'e entirely possible that a passing asteroid will wipe us all out. It's entirely possible that the only reason carbon-based life forms are here is because a radical 'accident' changed the atmosphere into its current state.

    I'm somewhat Buddhist when I think 'shit happens'. And belief in Jesus is not something to make shit not happen. Saints get cancer, they get hit by trucks, they electrocute themselves doing DIY. I don't think Christianity is the key to a perfect world, I think Christianity is the key to understanding our imperfect state, and that state will not change until the Final Judgement.

    St Paul says: "Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall all indeed rise again: but we shall not all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible: and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption; and this mortal must put on immortality. And when this mortal hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:51-55)

    Taking that as read, this incorruptible world cannot continue as this one, it will be radically different — does everyone get to their optimal age, and then stay there? That kind of thing.

    The way I tend to view it is the walls will go down, the worlds will become permeable, so death will be a transit from one state to another state, but then it can get very esoteric from there...

    In the meantime, Christ is with us, the Holy Spirit in us, but the world turns as it does.
     
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  11. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    As soon as creation began -- as soon as the first emanation of 'the Word' -- it had begun to move away from the self-contained perfection of the great primal One?

    So if there's a 'why' perhaps that's it?
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2016
  12. Justin Swanton

    Justin Swanton Member

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    Creation was never created perfect. The first lion immediately started hunting the first lamb, even before Adam and Eve sinned. Bacteria and viruses were there from day one. Question is why?
     
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  13. Justin Swanton

    Justin Swanton Member

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    'Evil' in this context does not mean sin. Animals do not sin. Evil means dysfunctionality, a way of being and acting that does not correspond to the fundamental notion of good. Goodness is the perfecting of one's nature or the nature of others. Evil, in this context, is the harming of one's own or another's nature by taking away something necessary to it - ultimately by taking away its existence altogether. My point is that it is impossible to equate this kind of evil in nature with the goodness of God unless you posit the retroactive effect of Original sin.
     
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  14. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Thomas Merton?
     
  15. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    Well, without evil everything would be perfect. That would only be possible by all creation returning to THE ONE from whence it came, by emanation, or whatever?

    Say darkness is not the opposite but the lack of light. Still, without shadow, light could not recognise itself?

    Something like that? :)
     
  16. Justin Swanton

    Justin Swanton Member

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    This pretty much fits in with St Paul (quoted in the first post), St John and others on the fact that the present creation is a temporary and imperfect construct destined to be made perfect and permanent in the last day. Its present imperfection is perfectly suited to help us prepare for the world to come. It is emphatically not suited to be a definitive paradise for humankind, no matter how much technology or green awareness we throw at it.
     
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  17. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    So why not create only herbivores instead of tigers? God is all powerful, isn't he? But the question we're asking now is this: Is God wise? Suppose God created a world in which animals didn't consume one another--a world with no tigers. As a result there would be an overpopulation of deer. As a result of their overpopulation, forest growth would suffer. We do not know the unforeseen consequences of a world where there have never been tigers. Take away one domino linked with the entire creation, and once the dominoes fall, creation could appear evermore in a worse condition.

    One could also argue it's the best of all possible worlds, no?
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2016
  18. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    I have always had a particularly difficult issue with this scenario. Why god decided that all the future generations of humankind must suffer the consequences of just two individuals who screwed up seems a grossly unfair, unloving, indeed malicious action. And on top of that this same god decided that all of the natural world would live in a violent reality of kill and be killed, again because of what A&E (the people, not the TV station) did. All the pain, suffering, death, disease, ignorance, etc. of how he set up reality to work.

    And the reason is also an issue with me. God gave A&E (the - okay I ran this joke long enough) the power of free choice, and then when they exercised their god given right to free choice he damned them and all else to the misery and suffering that has plagued our world. If god didn't want them to have the ability to make a bad decision, he should not have given them free will. If he wanted them to have free will, he should have not condemned them and all else forevermore. Not saying there shouldn't have been a punishment, but make the punishment fit the crime! Cause this is the worst case of the punishment being overwhelmingly brutal and unfair compared to the crime in the history of the world.
     
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  19. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    But this is assuming that the divine had a list of punishments to choose from where another scenario could be that the current state is a natural result of turning from the divine.
     
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  20. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    Well, these are exactly the sort of contradictions a literal reading throws up. Where did Cain find his wife? Watching the professionals tie themselves in knots trying to explain that one away is far from enlightening.

    But still, the story of A&E can perfectly 'allegorize' from how the ONE gave birth first to the male (creative) principle, which divided to the female (receptive) etc. The duality allowed entry to the 'third force' etc.
    It's echoed in the Kaballah, the I Ching etc, and it all makes perfect sense that way?
    Imo
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2016
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