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MoEnzyme
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for good people to do evil things . . .
« on: 2010-01-01 23:21:12 »
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This Youtube rant* polemic query reminded me of the quote Hermit uses in his signature line: With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. - Steven Weinberg, 1999

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWHo95hJkes


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Weinberg

*Thanks to Hermit for vocabulary query.

« Last Edit: 2010-01-03 06:57:31 by MoEnzyme » Report to moderator   Logged

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Re:for good people to do evil things . . .
« Reply #1 on: 2010-01-02 15:24:35 »
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Why did you think of this as a rant?
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With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. - Steven Weinberg, 1999
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Re:for good people to do evil things . . .
« Reply #2 on: 2010-01-02 15:41:35 »
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Quote from: Hermit on 2010-01-02 15:24:35   
Why did you think of this as a rant?



probably not the best word choice. Before a few searches on it just now, I didn't really think of "rant" as necessarily derogatory, but apparently it usually is. I suppose because a lot of people accuse me of that, I assumed it was a good thing. I guess here in the bible belt red state of Texas, I probably shouldn't assume that.

ps. How about "polemic query"?

pps. I think I've tended to use "rant" to refer to my own polemics and just naturally assumed if it's good enough for me, it's good enough for people I agree with. Perhaps I missed the derogatory sense of it because friends would tend to assume I was being self-deprecating instead of literal which isn't unusual for me though unintentional in this case. Words provide interesting revelations that way.
« Last Edit: 2010-01-03 07:17:48 by MoEnzyme » Report to moderator   Logged

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Re:for good people to do evil things . . .
« Reply #3 on: 2010-01-06 10:35:28 »
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I'd like to examine the title quote: "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. - Steven Weinberg, 1999"

What about the Armenian Holocaust (over 1 million killed after WWI)? What about the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia (between 1-2 million people killed in the 70s)? What about the Rwandan genocide (over half a million killed in 100 days in 1994)?
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Re:for good people to do evil things . . .
« Reply #4 on: 2010-01-06 12:38:25 »
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Quote from: David Lucifer on 2010-01-06 10:35:28   

I'd like to examine the title quote: "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. - Steven Weinberg, 1999"

What about the Armenian Holocaust (over 1 million killed after WWI)? What about the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia (between 1-2 million people killed in the 70s)? What about the Rwandan genocide (over half a million killed in 100 days in 1994)?

Other than being aware of these genocides, I can't say I have much knowledge of the cultural details, but I did read up a bit on Wikipedia about the Armenian and Rwandan genocides. The Armenian, Greek and Assyrian genocides which are all three often considered elements of the event conducted by the Turks with some assistance from the Kurds, occurred along religious lines, with the Muslims (Turks and Kurds) exterminating Christians (Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks) within Turkey.

The Rwandan genocide was less religiously, and more ethnically based. The article notes that the Roman Catholic (RC) church forms the largest religious group in the country and that Tutsis in particular are predominantly RC. The article suggests that the RC church had a significant role in promoting ethnic tensions, and while they didn't openly advocate genocide, they failed to codemn it as well with some individuals in the church later convicted for their roles in bloodshed.

I didn't get to check the article references today, so the only real authority I have on these are wikipedia and my general previous recollections from history classes and or media consumption, so that leaves the field pretty wide open for criticism or better information. I also didn't get to the Khmer Rouge article today - but in a brief glimpse which comports with my general understanding from my history classes it seems that had to do with the particularly radical communist movement lead by Pol Pot.

Since the quote doesn't make religion the root of ALL evil, with two out of the three examples having significant religious elements I think the quote maintains some shine of authority on its subject. In the Armenian genocide that's the case. I'd want to know more about the details of RC church involvement in Rwanda, and as best I know religion didn't play any role in the Khmer Rouge.
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Re:for good people to do evil things . . .
« Reply #5 on: 2010-01-06 12:57:49 »
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Quote from: David Lucifer on 2010-01-06 10:35:28   
I'd like to examine the title quote: "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. - Steven Weinberg, 1999"


I think the quote has more to do with moral justification for actions. Genocides justified by religious edicts or sacred texts give the perpetrators moral justification. God is always moral and always right, in the religious view. A "good person" who commits evil acts because god told him to is a good person because he is on the side of god. A person who commits evil acts for other reasons has no infallible deity to make the acts justifiable.

« Last Edit: 2010-01-06 13:25:53 by Debbie » Report to moderator   Logged

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Re:for good people to do evil things . . .
« Reply #6 on: 2010-01-07 01:55:17 »
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Good and evil are moral labels which require a "moral agent", so let us begin by acknowledging that "good" is a deliberate choice to engage in ethical behaviour, and that "evil" is a deliberate choice to reject ethical behaviour. Doing so sustains the tautology,"good people do(ing) good things and evil people do(ing) evil things." Notice that good and evil will occur under this regime, and that the people performing good and evil deeds will be regarded as good and evil respectively. Further, in the absence of intent, there is no "good" or "evil", things just happen, as it is only when we introduce a "moral agent" into the equation, that they will act as above.

So how do we have good people doing bad things, or evil people doing good things? By creating a system which subverts the "moral agents" willingness to consider and choose the ethical actions they would elect if their ability to act as a "moral agent" were not compromised. Religion is such a subversive force, and a very powerful one. This is because when humans invent religions, the religions reflect the humans' situation, ethical system and mindset at the time of invention. Having invented and vested belief in these religions, the religions are interpreted by the humans in accordance to their situation. This is what makes successful religions adaptive, but it also tends to make them nasty, because success means that they reflect basic human imperatives which tend not to be very kind. The fact that a religion is perceived to embody an ethical system, no matter how different from that of the adherent, explains why the religious are able to justify any atrocity (and sometimes the reverse), even when their own ethical sense informs them that they are making the incorrect choice; on the grounds that the particular choice is required by the religion and thus their motivation is beyond human criticism - including their own. This makes their actions a potential consequence of deliberate choice in the face of their personal ethical convictions resulting in a good or evil person performing evil or good deeds respectively.

Are there other forces capable of achieving these results? Tribalism and patriotism of course, usually based on the fallacy that what is wrong for one person to do is right for a group to engage in. Any strongly held delusion can possibly cause this behaviour, but fortunately, outside of religion, tribalism and patriotism, delusions tend not to be widely shared, and as religion tends to draw together the largest groups of the three it probably remains the most dangerous.

Reverting to Lucifer's questions, by way of a small diversion to a more generally known example, asserting, e.g. that the "good" American did not napalm the "bad" Vietnamese child, misses the point that napalming children is intrinsically evil and the child in this situation was not provided the option of making an ethical choice. Any cognitive dissonance comes from the attempt to change the labels to suit the sympathy of the viewer, perhaps to try to assert that the American who chose to act in an evil way was somehow not an evil person. "An evil American napalmed a Vietnamese child" is as true a statement as any other example of an evil person doing evil deeds  and we need not look to religion to explain this. And so too, perhaps, for the rather nasty examples of tribal warfare suggested by Lucifer, or any number of, probably less well known examples of good people doing good things.


Refer also: Church of Virus BBS,General, Philosophy & Religion,Virian Ethics: The End of God Referenced Ethics, Hermit, 2002

« Last Edit: 2010-01-08 08:16:57 by Hermit » Report to moderator   Logged

With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. - Steven Weinberg, 1999
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Re:for good people to do evil things . . .
« Reply #7 on: 2010-01-08 08:24:38 »
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I updated the above to make explicit some thoughts that were not well articulated in the original.

Given that many formal religions have advocated the unconstrained breeding which unless we are both careful and lucky will almost certainly lead to carnage on a massive scale this century as we settle down to serious population reduction or elimination in the long planned resource wars or even should we settle for mere agonizing starvation for billions, I think we can probably conclude not only that those advocating unconstrained breeding because it would lead to this situation were evil, but that given that the results are so evil, that even those who have enabled it by following these religions which advocate such lunacy without thinking of the inevitable consequences were also evil, though less so.
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With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. - Steven Weinberg, 1999
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Re:for good people to do evil things . . .
« Reply #8 on: 2010-01-08 14:29:32 »
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Quote from: Hermit on 2010-01-08 08:24:38   

I updated the above to make explicit some thoughts that were not well articulated in the original.

Given that many formal religions have advocated the unconstrained breeding which unless we are both careful and lucky will almost certainly lead to carnage on a massive scale this century as we settle down to serious population reduction or elimination in the long planned resource wars or even should we settle for mere agonizing starvation for billions, I think we can probably conclude not only that those advocating unconstrained breeding because it would lead to this situation were evil, but that given that the results are so evil, that even those who have enabled it by following these religions which advocate such lunacy without thinking of the inevitable consequences were also evil, though less so.


i have a problem with this. your conclusion suggests that the population increase is because of religion. if one were to think about the matter, science and technology has also succeeded in extending the life span of the world population. is science evil? in fact, breeding leads to the perpetuation of the human species while science can keep an utterly unproductive human being alive if he is stuck to the right machines. surely, you dont think of science as evil?

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Re:for good people to do evil things . . .
« Reply #9 on: 2010-01-08 17:41:43 »
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Quote from: Mermaid on 2010-01-08 14:29:32   

Quote from: Hermit on 2010-01-08 08:24:38   
I updated the above to make explicit some thoughts that were not well articulated in the original.

Given that many formal religions have advocated the unconstrained breeding which unless we are both careful and lucky will almost certainly lead to carnage on a massive scale this century as we settle down to serious population reduction or elimination in the long planned resource wars or even should we settle for mere agonizing starvation for billions, I think we can probably conclude not only that those advocating unconstrained breeding because it would lead to this situation were evil, but that given that the results are so evil, that even those who have enabled it by following these religions which advocate such lunacy without thinking of the inevitable consequences were also evil, though less so.



i have a problem with this. your conclusion suggests that the population increase is because of religion. if one were to think about the matter, science and technology has also succeeded in extending the life span of the world population. is science evil? in fact, breeding leads to the perpetuation of the human species while science can keep an utterly unproductive human being alive if he is stuck to the right machines. surely, you dont think of science as evil?




Hey there Mermaid,

Not to answer for Hermit, and probably not to answer your question either, but I've been mulling over some similar things lately regarding life extension, immortality, and the transhumanist ethics on that. In general for the long term survival of humanity I think its important that human lifespans increase. This is important because it gives the average human a greater time-frame in which each can at least realistically consider the possibility of their existence, and hence collectively this gives humanity greater possibility for long term planning.

Sure this has always been at least intellectually possible ever since we began to undertake history as a worthwhile endeavor to preserve for future generations. However the several dozen years pre-agricultural/pre-modern-medicine humans could reasonably expect to personally live to experience never gave quite the personal impetus which modern possibility provides. And of course the possibility that one's children may conceivably enjoy even longer life expectancy, I find even more crucial to our species collectively grappling with the problems that will inevitably face us if we hope not to soon join the other 99+% of species which already finally faced extinction.

I personally find it a bit of an ironic point to make as one who has never reproduced and has no real desire to even after 4+ decades of life. Indeed, as one who doesn't even have health insurance, fully realizes that I could die any minute and even occasionally finds it annoying that I don't, the irony pours on even a bit thicker. But that's just me. If I do happen to live an extra long time, at least I'll get some fascination in the scientific discoveries we'll make and I'll be sure to waste a lot of whatever time I have left distracting myself with new technologies in the meantime. And while that's probably not ultimately satisfying enough for me existentially to embrace a goal of actual immortality, I'd hate to deprive the optimistic ones who want to chase that as long as possible. I suppose that's my sense of empathy for the rest of the curious world. If you want to live forever, you have my blessing. If you can use my organs after I'm done with them, you are welcome.

As for senselessly flooding the world with excess population along the way, I see that as a different though not completely unrelated issue. Plus I want to leave Hermit with something to address too
« Last Edit: 2010-01-08 17:45:31 by MoEnzyme » Report to moderator   Logged

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Re:for good people to do evil things . . .
« Reply #10 on: 2010-01-08 18:31:16 »
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Quote from: Hermit on 2010-01-07 01:55:17   

Are there other forces capable of achieving these results? Tribalism and patriotism of course, usually based on the fallacy that what is wrong for one person to do is right for a group to engage in. Any strongly held delusion can possibly cause this behaviour, but fortunately, outside of religion, tribalism and patriotism, delusions tend not to be widely shared, and as religion tends to draw together the largest groups of the three it probably remains the most dangerous.

Agreed, so I think a more accurate version of the original quote would read: "In any case you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion, tribalism and/or patriotism."
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Re:for good people to do evil things . . .
« Reply #11 on: 2010-01-08 20:21:31 »
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[Lucifer] Agreed, so I think a more accurate version of the original quote would read: "In any case you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion, tribalism and/or patriotism."

[Hermit] Any strong delusion will suffice. But it does not have the same ring to it.
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With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. - Steven Weinberg, 1999
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Re:for good people to do evil things . . .
« Reply #12 on: 2010-01-09 11:57:01 »
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i am not so optimistic any more. we took wider strides as a civilisation when the average lifespan was below 40. a child has more potential and promise than a 80 year old well maintained/preserved man or woman. as we become older(unless we learn how to completely reverse aging and this includes our brain), we become more unproductive. considering we have only become stupider and more cruel with our science and technology, my enthusiasm about the survival of the human species in the long term is bordering on NIL. there ya go..i have said it.


Quote from: MoEnzyme on 2010-01-08 17:41:43   


Quote from: Mermaid on 2010-01-08 14:29:32   


Quote from: Hermit on 2010-01-08 08:24:38   

I updated the above to make explicit some thoughts that were not well articulated in the original.

Given that many formal religions have advocated the unconstrained breeding which unless we are both careful and lucky will almost certainly lead to carnage on a massive scale this century as we settle down to serious population reduction or elimination in the long planned resource wars or even should we settle for mere agonizing starvation for billions, I think we can probably conclude not only that those advocating unconstrained breeding because it would lead to this situation were evil, but that given that the results are so evil, that even those who have enabled it by following these religions which advocate such lunacy without thinking of the inevitable consequences were also evil, though less so.


i have a problem with this. your conclusion suggests that the population increase is because of religion. if one were to think about the matter, science and technology has also succeeded in extending the life span of the world population. is science evil? in fact, breeding leads to the perpetuation of the human species while science can keep an utterly unproductive human being alive if he is stuck to the right machines. surely, you dont think of science as evil?



Hey there Mermaid,

Not to answer for Hermit, and probably not to answer your question either, but I've been mulling over some similar things lately regarding life extension, immortality, and the transhumanist ethics on that. In general for the long term survival of humanity I think its important that human lifespans increase. This is important because it gives the average human a greater time-frame in which each can at least realistically consider the possibility of their existence, and hence collectively this gives humanity greater possibility for long term planning.

Sure this has always been at least intellectually possible ever since we began to undertake history as a worthwhile endeavor to preserve for future generations. However the several dozen years pre-agricultural/pre-modern-medicine humans could reasonably expect to personally live to experience never gave quite the personal impetus which modern possibility provides. And of course the possibility that one's children may conceivably enjoy even longer life expectancy, I find even more crucial to our species collectively grappling with the problems that will inevitably face us if we hope not to soon join the other 99+% of species which already finally faced extinction.

I personally find it a bit of an ironic point to make as one who has never reproduced and has no real desire to even after 4+ decades of life. Indeed, as one who doesn't even have health insurance, fully realizes that I could die any minute and even occasionally finds it annoying that I don't, the irony pours on even a bit thicker. But that's just me. If I do happen to live an extra long time, at least I'll get some fascination in the scientific discoveries we'll make and I'll be sure to waste a lot of whatever time I have left distracting myself with new technologies in the meantime. And while that's probably not ultimately satisfying enough for me existentially to embrace a goal of actual immortality, I'd hate to deprive the optimistic ones who want to chase that as long as possible. I suppose that's my sense of empathy for the rest of the curious world. If you want to live forever, you have my blessing. If you can use my organs after I'm done with them, you are welcome.

As for senselessly flooding the world with excess population along the way, I see that as a different though not completely unrelated issue. Plus I want to leave Hermit with something to address too
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Re:for good people to do evil things . . .
« Reply #13 on: 2010-01-09 12:35:20 »
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Quote from: Mermaid on 2010-01-09 11:57:01   

i am not so optimistic any more. we took wider strides as a civilisation when the average lifespan was below 40. a child has more potential and promise than a 80 year old well maintained/preserved man or woman. as we become older(unless we learn how to completely reverse aging and this includes our brain), we become more unproductive. considering we have only become stupider and more cruel with our science and technology, my enthusiasm about the survival of the human species in the long term is bordering on NIL. there ya go..i have said it.

Our best chances for long term survival requires a collapse of civilization. Otherwise self-directed evolution will lead to the extinction of biological humans.
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Re:for good people to do evil things . . .
« Reply #14 on: 2010-01-10 00:08:20 »
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interesting. how do you see this 'collapse of civilisation' happening?


Quote from: David Lucifer on 2010-01-09 12:35:20   


Quote from: Mermaid on 2010-01-09 11:57:01   

i am not so optimistic any more. we took wider strides as a civilisation when the average lifespan was below 40. a child has more potential and promise than a 80 year old well maintained/preserved man or woman. as we become older(unless we learn how to completely reverse aging and this includes our brain), we become more unproductive. considering we have only become stupider and more cruel with our science and technology, my enthusiasm about the survival of the human species in the long term is bordering on NIL. there ya go..i have said it.

Our best chances for long term survival requires a collapse of civilization. Otherwise self-directed evolution will lead to the extinction of biological humans.
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