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Randal Auditor | joined 30 March 2005 | 140 posts

Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 28 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

No, it's not.

You claim evolution cultivates the strong willed and the noble. Then, when I bring up my rats and cockroaches example to prove that evolution does not in fact do so you express a fear that humanity is headed the direction of these creatures... that makes no sense. Cockroaches and rats evolved without any evil meddling with evolution, right? So they're strong willed and noble? If not, how is humanity different?

How can evolution be flawed? Because it can only ever favour short-term advantages. Something that will only prove helpful generations down the line will never evolve. That's why our spines aren't suited for walking upright, and will give back-problems to vast quantities of people. That's why our eyes have blind spots. That's why there are tons of genetic disabilities and diseases, people born with defects so hideous they cannot survive for more than a couple of years or decades. Recessive traits survive a very long time even if they're disadvantageous.

A human engineer can improve on problems such as these. Unlike evolution, which is a blind process, a human can see what he's doing, where he's going, what he wants to accomplish. He can attempt solutions far more ambitious than evoltion can, and far more quickly.

And will evolution kill us of because of hubris? Ha! It's not a god or something... we have mastered the food chain. We might be decimated by some new disease, but other than that biological threats are few and far between. (and against diseases, genetic engineering may well prove the prime weapon) Man is far more likely to destroy himself with nuclear weapons or enviromental abuse than anything natural. view post

Best character posted 28 March 2006 in The Darkness That Comes BeforeBest character by Randal, Auditor

Methinks you've missed Akka's lessons. He's conflicted, he doubts, because he has seen where the belief you have the only "truth" leads one. He doubts because he knows that certitude only stems from ignorance.

His dreams have no validity in and of themselves. They prove no more than Proyas or Inrau's religious fervour does. If he believed his point of view was the only valid one, and used the power of the Mandate to enforce that claim, he'd be as bad as the people he despises. He'd be as bad as the holy war.

I admire him, because he has power, yet doesn't let that fact seduce him into thinking he's better than others, nor does it lead him to seek mastery over others. Akka shows that power need not corrupt, and doubt is his means of achieving that. view post

The problem of evil posted 28 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionThe problem of evil by Randal, Auditor

I agree with your points, mostly, save that I do not agree that "good" defined as "god's will" actually constitutes "good" as normally understood or defined by humans.

In fact, I do not see the need for the concepts of "good" or "evil" at all in this case. I'd argue there's merely "god's will" and "opposing god's will", where the former is deemed admirable, and the second is condemned. No good, no evil. No morality as such.

Side note: which one was the ontological argument for god's existence? Is it the one that went "because we can conceive of a perfect god, such a god must exist, because a perfect being would have the quality of existence, else he would not be perfect."? (if so, it's fun but basically nonsensical) view post

Will there be any sequels? posted 29 March 2006 in Author Q & AWill there be any sequels? by Randal, Auditor

Basically, yes. The next series will be called "the aspect emperor", if my info is up to date. But mr. Bakker is writing a non-connected book called Neuropath first, which is in an advanced state of completion iirc. view post

Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 29 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

I think you somewhat missed my points, virus. (but perhaps I didn't state them clearly enough)

Short-term advantages? Some species are nearly as old as the planet itself! I believe you are talking about technology…

By this I mean that a change is only beficial from evolution's point of view if it provides an immediate advantage. If something mutates that will eventually become something hugely beneficial, but doesn't help right now, it will not be retained and the beneficial trait will not evolve.

Moreover, evolution can't take a step back. If something has evolved and is helping, it cannot be replaced from the ground up by a new ability that will do a better job, because that would involve a short term disadvantage to gain a long-term benefit. To take the spine example: it was originally evolved for species walking on 4 legs or swimming. When man started to walk upright, the spine was adapted, but it still wasn't truly suited for bearing the weight of the entire human body, giving humans never-ending back problems. It would have been better to design a new skeleton from the ground up, but that is not possible in evolution. You can't "unevolve" the first spine.

(as for my info on the spine... it comes from a Dutch newspaper article I read some time ago. But a quick google search confirms it, for example [url=]here.[/url:36t243tx])

Additionally, evolution will only solve problems that directly affect the capability to breed. For example, dementia is not a disadvantage evolutionary speaking, because by the time a creature becomes dement he'll have finished breeding and raising his children, so if his brain melts away that's no issue. However, it's quite a big deal for humans who have to deal with their loved ones slowly becoming childlike strangers.

Finally, evolution only works on the long-term. Our modern society is changing so mind-bogglingly rapidly that previous evolutionary advantages are now fast becoming crippling disabilities. For example, growing fat and being lazy are highly advantageous in evolution. If you're fat, you won't starve if bad times come, and it means you use the food you eat more efficiently. If you're lazy, you conserve energy until you really need it. This also means you'll need less food, and are far more capable of survival in meagre times. I need to explain what effect those traits have nowadays...

These defects are the product of bad breeding and nature intended this, She is not wrong. If a species grows slovenly then it will become extinct as deserved.

Bullshit. Those defects are the product of evolutionary flaws, not bad breeding. They're inherent in the human species. Nature "intends" nothing, it is a mindless process. And where on earth do you get concepts like "nature isn't wrong" and "extinct as deserved" from?

Evolution has nothing to do with survival of the "deserving." A species cannot "grow slovenly", it can merely be replaced by a better species, or perhaps fail to adapt to a changing environment. Deserving has nothing to do with this, no more than the moon "deserves" to orbit the earth, or light "deserves" to travel at 300000 kilometers per second.

Please explain how evolution is a "blind" process

Evolution is a blind progress, because it's essentially trial and error. Things mutate, they either breed or they die. If they breed, the mutation is passed along, and continues to breed. Evolution is blind because it doesn't have a goal, it doesn't know where it is going. It's simply a matter of some things working and others not working, without knowing the reason.

Humans have the advantage in this, because rather than relying on random chance to produce the wanted mutation, they can actively search for it. Moreoever, they can make improvements that would never evolve naturally, such as my dementia example.

However, you are right in stating your doubts about human foresight. In many cases, we don't know what we're doing either. But that doesn't mean genetic engineering should be thrown out with the bathwater... it just means we should take care, and not attempt anything too ambitious until we've thoroughly tested simpler procedures.

I was merely pointing out that nature finds a way toward balance. Man should discover and appreciate nature and this balance, since he is a part of it, rather than trying to conquer it. Also, you said yourself that overpopulation has become a problem. How about depletion of resources?

Nature may find a balance, but the fact is that as a species we've overcome this for the most part. There are no longer any predators but ourselves, famine no longer is a risk. (most every famine last century were caused by war, not a physical lack of food. Or they were the work of idiotic leaders like Mao.) Disease isn't a shadow of the threat it posed in the past.

As you rightly pointed out, this has brought it's own problems with it, such as overpopulation and depletion of resources. I'll agree a balance must be found here, but it's not nature's balance. That would involve killing 90% of the earth's population in diseases and famines until we're reduced to numbers the world can comfortably support. We'll find our own way, with solar and nuclear energy to replace the natural resources we've used, with birth control and cultural changes to limit population, with engineering to drain seas and cultivate mountains. Perhaps, one day, we'll even be able to cultivate other planets, and so truly escape all bounds of nature.

When gene manipulation is as easy as making a choice it oversimplifies a vastly complex process. Nature gives us our frailties for a reason, or would you have us be immortal?

No, nature did not "give" us frailties for "a reason." They either are things simply inconsequential to the evolutionary process, or flaws remaining from previous evolutionary steps. Some of our "weaknesses" would indeed have been instrumental in our evolution. If proto-man had been strong and fast with great sharp claws and teeth, he'd never have learned to use tools. And you'd have a point if you said that we're busy wriggling out from under the mechanisms of evolution, and that in doing so we may well be preventing future evolutionary improvements.

But I don't care about any of that. Evolution isn't all that it's geared up to be, and personally I'm not about to wait another few million years for the next evolutionary steps. Humans can do better than natural processes. We're indeed trying to master nature, and a damn good thing that is too! I think we've just about succeeded.
And as for immortality? That too may be down the line, if current theories on cell reproduction and decline prove correct. Not sure we're psychologically fit to handle that, but that's for another generation to worry about.

Anyway, my bottom line would be that you're right to draw attention to risk of human failings messing stuff up, but that given the magnificent possibilities lying before us I do not think that should stop us, merely slow us down to a safer pace. And anyway, we're not talking about changing the entire human species right now, we're talking about curing all kinds of terrible diseases and disabilities by through genetic engineering. Would you truly have us do nothing just for the fear our solution may prove wrong?

EDIT: and you still haven't shown how evolution cultivates the strong-willed and the noble rather than the cockroaches and the rats. view post

Anyone read American Gods, by Neil Gaiman? posted 29 March 2006 in Literature DiscussionAnyone read American Gods, by Neil Gaiman? by Randal, Auditor

Hmm... whilst that was true for American Gods, it definitely wasn't for Sandman. That one only grew in strength towards the end. I'm not into comics for the most part, but Sandman is a work of the highest art.

I also strongly recommend his short story collection "smoke and mirrors." In the short story format, Gaiman's strong ideas are more effective than ever, and aren't hampered by dud finales. Some stories are funny, (chivalry) some are disturbing (babycakes) and some are just so weird in concept you can't help but enjoy them. (bay wolf) view post

Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 29 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

Yes, with "humans have the advantage" I mean that humans can actively search for solutions for specific problems, whilst evolution either needs hundreds of thousands of years to come up with something similar, or may fail to come up with a solution at all because the problems don't directly impact the capability to reproduce.

I mean that genetic engineering would be able to solve problems natural selection never could by itself.

You're right that I probably went too far when I stated that we are beyond evolution now. Got carried away by my argument, sorry. Your comparison of war with locusts is apt, I think.

I do believe that many of the natural constraints of this world have been overcome by humans. In that sense, we are above nature. But the principles of evolution do still apply, albeit at a social level rather than at a genetic level. view post

Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 29 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

Nah, what you said sounds just about right to me.

Dawnstorm: never heard of this Stableford fellow, but it's a concept I've come across in a number of different science fiction novels, though not as the main subject. I'll check this book out if I can find it somewhere. (which isn't a given here.) [/off-topic] view post

Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 30 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

Seconded. I was actually about to propose something similar with "natural selection" opposing "genetic engineering." But yours is even clearer, given that Warrior Poet sees genetic engineering as another form of natural selection.

Warrior priest: I'd never dream of denying evolution is a marvellous system, and gets very good results. But neither would I claim the results are perfect. Humans can be improved upon in many ways, as I've outlined a couple of posts earlier.

So, to take Dawnstorms definitions, I'll state that in my view genetic engineering is a good thing, because spontaneous mutations won't solve our problems, and won't do it fast enough. I acknowledge the risks Virus and Warrior Poet are pointing out, but I don't see that a legitimate reason to stop us. There always is a risk involved in innovation. The Wright brothers ran a pretty bloody big risk when they tried to fly in that ramshackly machine of theirs... but where would we be if they hadn't?

A couple thousand years is a good long trial isnt it, thats why evolution in the long term works better theres time to weed out problems and see what a change in genes effects years later

I disagree with this one, warrior poet. That's not how natural selection works. It doesn't "try" anything out. Either sometimes mutates, or it does not, and if it mutates and it works, it becomes dominant. Whether or not there turn out to be side effects later on. Once a mutation has been accepted, there's no going back, unless a further mutation occurs.

The thousand years aren't a trial period, they're a waiting period. Waiting for the right mutation to come along. view post

Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 31 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

Uh... oops? I noticed I had messed up your name, and went back to edit it... but missed that one, apparently. I suppose warrior-poets are counterintuitive or something. view post

Bad, bad book. BAAAD. posted 31 March 2006 in Off-Topic DiscussionBad, bad book. BAAAD. by Randal, Auditor

The worst book I actually finished was "Emperor: the Gates of Rome" by one Conn Iggulden. It claims to be a historical novel about the life of Ceasar, and is about as accurate on Roman history as David Gemmel's Rigante books. (but with worse writing and characterisation.)

As an amazon review stated: "This book would be comparable to Bernard Cornwell writing about sergeant Wellington winning the battle of Trafalgar." view post

Any Wolfe fans? posted 31 March 2006 in Literature DiscussionAny Wolfe fans? by Randal, Auditor

Yes, I've read quite a lot of Wolfe's work. Book of the new sun, Latro books, Wizard Knight books, There are Doors, Free Live Free, Castleview, Peace, Book of Days (short fiction), probably one or two more I've forgotten. Still have to find the Book of the Short Sun, amongst other things.

They vary wildly in accessebility, style, theme, I've found. Some are fantasy, some more science fiction, others could be described as magical realist if you want to give Scott Bakker a heart attack. Personally, I didn't really enjoy Castleview or Peace, too weird and convoluted and there didn't seem to be too much of a story. Free live Free and There are Doors were fun, if not particularly memorable. I liked many of the short stories.

Of the series, the Soldier books probably are my favourites. They actually were amongst the first fantasy books I'd read, just a year or two after Lord of the Rings. They make for a good introduction to Wolfe, I find. Wonderful atmosphere, and the plot device works. It's just not like anything else you've ever come across, yet it makes complete sense within it's own context. I found the ending unstatisfying, though.

The Wizard-knight books were far more accsesible than Wolfe's previous stuff, and I enjoyed them. Fun play with the conventions of fantasy novels and traditional knightly romances. Even though the main character is from our 20th century, it's a lot closer to the actual medieval books I've read in subject, though of course the style is Wolfe's. Still, I didn't think them as strong as the Soldier books.

The Book of the New Sun was certainly difficult in places, and I had to go back a chapter or two every once in a while to make sure I wasn't missing anything. Even then, I'm sure I missed plenty of stuff, I'll need to re-read them soon. Still, I liked the books, very intruiging stuff. But it never really connected on a personal level, not like Tolkien or Martin or Hobb or Kay do.

All in all, I suppose Wolfe is a more intellectual form of entertainment, and I can see where Ross is coming from about the characterisation and language. Wolfe is more about an intruiging plot and characters that make me think, and indeed about puzzles. I read him because I want to know where he is going with his books and ideas, not really because I can emphatise with the characters. (well, with Latro I could to some extent.)

I'd say that Bakker is not unlike this in some regards. His books too I love mainly because they make me think. However, Bakker isn't nearly as extreme, I'd put him half-way between Wolfe and Martin. Not quite as sophisticated (and heavy going) as Wolfe, but with better plot and characters. Not quite as vibrant in his characterisation as Martin, but far more interesting ideas and concepts. view post

Sex posted 31 March 2006 in Off-Topic DiscussionSex by Randal, Auditor

I never seem to have replied here, so a belated vote: male. (now, there's a surprise, what with my username and all.)

Gierra: I'm not sure I agree with you there. Violence for the sake of it would be boring. And even violence that serves a purpose can be... too much. I personally think Scott approaches the border here, I can see the purpose some violent scenes serve, but I sure don't enjoy reading them.

Sappy endings are the other extreme, of course. But the sappyness of the ending (is that a word?) need not be related to the violence quotient in the book. view post

Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 05 April 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

Cool, didn't know there were people working with this stuff on the forum.

That guideline very sensible, and would I think alleviate some of the reservations people in this thread had.

As for the social divide... that's the cause, not the effect. Genetic engineering will give the upper class yet another tool to consolidate their position, but only because they already have the dominant position. At worst, it will reinforce the existing divide, but I doubt it will create a new one. view post

Poll: What would you be in prince of nothing? posted 06 April 2006 in Off-Topic DiscussionPoll: What would you be in prince of nothing? by Randal, Auditor

That's what surprises me most about this thread... people actually want to be a Scylvendi? What the hell?

I mean, these guys are cruel and savage in any sense of the word, have a society that discourages any form of human affection, regularly go and murder or rape their neigbours. (or both.) They have a lifestyle where you never take a bath, never read a book, are always riding and moving from place to place, looking after herds. Where the weak are despised and the strong rule all. A society moreover that's so traditional and rooted in it's track that nothing new ever happens. Generation after generation, the same wars, the same raids, the same rapes and murders. You can't do anything new.

I mean, even if you admire their "passion and fierceness" of the Scylvendi... wouldn't this schtick get old real fast? view post

Che Guevara posted 07 April 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionChe Guevara by Randal, Auditor

I think he truly was an idealist who fought for the greater good, but I'll never approve of his methods. I think the label hero is unwarranted in this context. "The road to hell" and all.

But I readily admit my interest in and knowledge of the man is cursory at best. view post

Who is most offensive. posted 07 May 2006 in Literature DiscussionWho is most offensive. by Randal, Auditor

I can easily understand people finding the PoN offensive. In fact, that would be the most common complaint people have about the book, I hazard to guess.

First there's the sex. Then the rape. Then the violence. Beyond that we have the treatment of women throughout the series. All these are of course included deliberately by the author, all those serve to make a point, but all those can and will offend people.

Anyone so offended by the series is extremely unlikely to be present at these forums, though.

Anyway, I voted Goodkind because he's just about the only author on the list I've read apart from Bakker. (And even then it only was a short story in the Legends collection. Still, it managed to reach my top 10 "worst ever" list.) Additionally, the man himself can be very offensive in his interviews.

I tried Heinlein once, but I was turned off by the blonde warrior princes with the big breasts who turned up from nowhere to sleep with the macho US marine hero. Going by X-ray, I was wise to call it a day. view post

PON vs MBOF vs ASOIAF posted 10 May 2006 in Literature DiscussionPON vs MBOF vs ASOIAF by Randal, Auditor

People say that about ASOIAF, but if you stop and count the casualties you'll find that only 3 PoV characters are lost, and one of those is still alive, and another of those is... not quite dead. Quite a few supporting characters die, but most of those aren't very important.

Maimings tend to be relatively frequent... but that doesn't result in the removal of the character. On the contrary, it can make them all the more interesting as they struggle to deal with disabilities.

If I were to complain about Martin's attitude towards the characters it would be that he doesn't kill them enough. That is to say, all too often the characters appear to be in grave danger or even dead, only for them to turn up alive and well in their next PoV chapter.

there always seems to be that little something missing and I think it is the lack of real battles. He knows he can't write them well, so seems to either ignore them or just gloss over them and give the results of what happened through other means. But at least he knows his limitations. If he attempted to write them it would throw off the quality of the overall book too much I think.

I would disagree with this too. The battle of the Blackwater for me is one of the greatest battlescenes in any fantasy I can name. It certainly moved me more than anything Erikson ever attempted. Nor is it glossed over, being described from three different points of view in a half dozen chapters.

But it is true that Martin doesn't focus on battles a great deal, and that Feast lacked them altogether. I would call that immaterial, though. A fantasy book doesn't need battles to be good. Some of my favourite fantasy novels have no battles at all, or gloss them over. (Guy Gavriel Kay, Robin Hobb, to name a few.)

I rather think the problem of Feast was lack of plot progression. Sure, tons of stuff happened, but most of it was newly added plotlines. The Faith, Dorne, the Iron Islands, Cercei's prophecy. On a grander schale, the situation at the end of book 4 is more or less the same as at the end of book 3, except in the Iron Islands. Cercei's plot was kinda big too, but it wasn't even resolved in this book. Same for Brienne.

ps. I don't visit the Malazan forums, so I don't know what the opinion on Prince of Nothing is there. But on the ASoIaF boards I've seen it done the other way around, with Erikson being denounced as a pre-school writer incapable of forming a coherent sentence, let alone a plot, and Bakker being hailed as the greatest event in fantasy since greek mythology. There are quite a few Erikson fans as well, but on the whole they're outnumbered by people who prefer Bakker. (most of whom, including myself, have a considerably more moderate opinion on Erikson, I hasten to add) view post

Ian Irvine posted 14 June 2006 in Literature DiscussionIan Irvine by Randal, Auditor

Yes, I did read the "view from the mirror" series.

Whilst it did avoid many of the cliches that harm fantasy, it simply wasn't a very good story, I found. I mean, how many times did either or both of the main characters get kidnapped?

I also found most of the characters to be terribly frustrating. I've forgotten the exact details, though. It's been a couple of years since I read the books, and they didn't exactly inspire me to revisit them. view post

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (first series) posted 25 June 2006 in Literature DiscussionThe Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (first series) by Randal, Auditor

From what I've seen, the Gap series is even darker than Covenant. I've only read the first series though, and that one isn't a great favourite of mine. I find myself agreeing with Brys.

The two books in the gap series I've read so far were much better. The characters outdo Covenant in the being screwed up department, though. They're not even anti-heroes anymore. I really have to find those last three books. view post

Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 01 July 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

I might see how things become more muddled if you add a creator/mother nature/universal source to things. (what, pray tell, is a universal source? Didn't know that one yet...)

But I think this statement is a bit... arrogant. Who decides what is appropriate use of this technology, you ask. But who are you to decide that "we should not look upon those are genetically different as being bad"? We're talking about disabilities here. Not discrimination. We're talking about people for whom it will be next to impossible to lead a normal life thanks to conditions they were born with. People who live a dozen years in pain, and die. Because they had a genetical defect. Does it really help these people to say "you're simply genetically different, that's not a bad thing."?

As for allowing natural selection to take place... why would we want that? Natural selection operates on a timespan of hundreds of thousands of years. Millions. It's neither smart nor reasonable to say such and such problem might be solved by natural selection in 102000 AD. Nor are many genetical defects likely to disappear through natural selection, because being recessive and rare, they are unlikely to prove disadvatageous to carriers of the defect. (who do not suffer from the actual disability)

Yes, our society tampers with the "survival of the fittest" paradigm. The fittest no longer needs be the best hunter, strongest killer, fastest breeder. But this has been going on for centuries. And not through genetical engineering either, but through things like charity, taking care of those to weak to survive on their own. I think most people would agree this is not a bad thing. Moreover, as was pointed out to me earlier in the thread, this does not mean there is no more natural selection. The requirements just have changed. Physical strength or weakness is no longer as important as it used to be, instead the fittest is he who is the smoothest talker, the most accomplished business man, etc.

I think it's cruel and arrogant to state we should "let nature take its course" and let people who had bad luck in the genetic draw suffer and die. There's no reason to suppose that the way things have been in the past is the way things are "meant to be" at all. And when you say we should do this so we do not lose our opportuny to express compassion... well. I am dumbfounded. You are not expressing much compassion here. Let people suffer so you can then show compassion for them? Do you not see the inherent contradiction in this?

As for "creating a monster"... well, I somehow doubt the odds of that happening are very great. This is not a horror movie after all. Why should nature be inherently better than humans? But as you can read earlier in the thread, current gene therapies do not run this risk as they do not actually tamper with inheritable qualities. They just seek to treat the symptoms of disease and disability in the individual, much like ordinary medicine does, though different in its methods. view post

ignorance or enlightenment ? posted 31 July 2006 in Philosophy Discussionignorance or enlightenment ? by Randal, Auditor

I hope that was sarcastic. But even if it was, it's quite the misreading of Gierra's statement.

Thinking some more about it, I suspect what she says is true of everyone with some knowledge of world affairs who's not chronically depressed. Does reading about war and deaths of innocents in Libanon spoil your day? Or does it make you shake your head, reflect on the sorry state of the world for half a minute, and move on with your day/life, like I do? And if so, does it have anything to do with lack of empathy, or is it just a matter of setting your priorities straight? view post

The problem of evil posted 31 July 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionThe problem of evil by Randal, Auditor

her analysis of Mephistopheles kind of pokes a hole in the notion that even "evil" beings think they are doing "good" in some personal fashion.

Does she claim that not all "evil" people think of themselves as doing mostly good? If so, that's rather obvious, I'd say. Obviously there are people who think what they do is wrong but do not care.

Or does she claim that no "evil" person thinks of him/herself as being a "good" person? If so, that's quite the claim to make, and one that seems to be rather obviously wrong, whatever Faustus may have said to Mephistopheles. Many people set out to improve the world only to start a reign of terror. "The road to hell..." and all. view post

The problem of evil posted 04 August 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionThe problem of evil by Randal, Auditor

So, you're saying, and this Midgley is saying, that every so called "evil" person at some level believes himself good? Now I think I understand your argument.

And now I understand it, I will disagree with it.

Certainly, I'll accept that everybody works towards some goal he sees as positive. For himself. But not at all necessarily "good." Take the mercenary, the hired killer. He kills who he's told to, because it pays. He cares not one whit for the morality of it all. Will kill innocents along with guilty, as long as he is paid. He knows this is "wrong" but hey, it pays the bills, right? And it's not as if he knew any of those people, it's not as if he gave a damn about any of them. This man, should he exist, surely does "evil" without any rationalisation or higher objective besides simple monetary gain.

Or take a psycho sadist, who derives personal pleasure from torturing hookers to death. You might call him insane, and he is by our standards. But such a person might very well be aware what he does is "wrong", "evil", and do it anyway because he gets a kick from it.

Now, you might call those motivations (money, personal enjoyment) "an outcome they regarded 'good' or 'right' for them in their own sense". But I think that's stretching. They don't think it's good. They think it's convenient. They're as negative as Mephistopheles, and for the same reason. (I should imagine he too was thoroughly amused by the Faust episode.)

Secondly you might argue that people like I've described don't exist. Well, I can't prove they do. I certainly don't know any. If you think there are no such people, we'll have to agree to disagree. view post

ignorance or enlightenment ? posted 04 August 2006 in Philosophy Discussionignorance or enlightenment ? by Randal, Auditor

Well, I still state you misread Gierra's post. After all, I derived another meaning from it, that was later on confirmed by the original poster as being right, so of our two readings mine would seem to be, to the casual observer... the correct one.

From Gierra's statement it is clear that she is generally content even though she is aware that many other people in the world are suffering. She asks whether that is normal, OR whether that makes her a sicko who takes pleasure in bad things.

You interpreted her as saying "I take pleasure in bad things, does that make me a deranged sicko?"

That is a misreading. And a severe one, I might add. The second sentence is a question. "Does being content equal taking pleasure in bad things?" Had your reading been correct it would have been a statement.

I'll also dispute it's mean to draw attention to a (possible) misreading of another person's statement on an internet messageboard. Many are the flame wars that have started over such inconsequential things, and I for one am always grateful if mistakes on my part are pointed out. view post

The problem of evil posted 06 August 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionThe problem of evil by Randal, Auditor

Would it be possible, Iago, for you to moderate your tone a bit? I have to say, some of your remarks get a bit on my nerves. ("crap on your head") Discussion is very civil here most of the time, and I regret to say you convey a somewhat less civil impression to me. Yeah, you're joking. Still.

Anyway, on Mephistopeles, Lucifer, evil, good, the lot. I readily concede I do not understand what you are saying, Iago. And therefore it's entirely possible I was disagreeing with something you never said. In fact, the point of my previous two posts was to find out what you did mean. You give some interesting examples, but what is your point?

For the record, my thought was that even Mephistopheles would have some sort of positive personal goal in pursuing the destruction of Doctor Faustus, otherwise the whole story wouldn't make any sense. Okay, so the story doesn't really care about Meph's motivation, and you could argue a devil WOULD pursue negativity for its own sake, but in that case it becomes rather irrellevant in a discussion about the nature of good and evil because humans aren't devils and always have some motivation, even such a simple one such as enjoying doing "evil" things. Hence my assumption in my previous post that Meph's motivation was precisely that, and therefore him being comparable to the mad serial killer who kills for the joy of killing.

So, if we want to keep this discussion somewhat meaningful, I'd really appreciate it if you tried to clarify your position. Right now I gather it to be:

"Not every person who does evil believes himself to be good, but every person who does evil does work towards some goal he sees as positive for himself, and doesn't simply indulge in "evil" acts for their own sakes."

As for my point, your analysis is more or less correct. Note that I need not accept the existence of an absolute "good versus evil" axis for it to work, though. Only the person committing the "evil" act and not caring has to believe in it, and acknowledge he falls short. Whilst not caring.
You're right I do believe in non-relative "good" and "evil", though. Not as some shining metaphysical truth external to the universe, but rather as a universal basic sense of right and wrong based on empathy inherent in human nature. (and perhaps some logic) With a lot of grey areas and fuzziness leading to huge differences from culture to culture. Anyway, that's another discussion. view post

ignorance or enlightenment ? posted 06 August 2006 in Philosophy Discussionignorance or enlightenment ? by Randal, Auditor

My guess is you are normal, Gierra.

The guy on the subway being treated badly is near, it involves you directly, and it is something you could change if you wanted to. Therefore you are affected.

The people on the infomercial are far away. You don't know them, you have never seen them. You can't even be completely sure they are what they appear to be. They've probably been selected by the makers of the infomercial to appear as pityful as possible, in an attempt to manipulate you into feeling guilty and sending them money. They're also quite likely beyond your ability to help. Even if you do send money to whatever charity they're endorsing you can't be sure it will arrive, or that it will do any good even if it does. You will not get any reaction if you try to help, you will never see these people again.
Moreover, you know that these people on the infomercial are a couple amongst hundreds of millions living in poverty or distress. You can't get worked up about all of them and have a life left of your own. So, why not pay attention only to those you are close enough to affect?

This would more or less sum up my feelings on similar matters. The latter part perhaps reeks of cynicism, but it certainly doesn't make me a sadist. It's normal. People care about spouse and children first, friends and family second, people in their neighbourhood/town third, countrymen fourth, people in similar countries fifth, people in exotic countries far away last.

I don't know if your feelings on seeing infomercials resemble mine, but I strongly doubt they're informed by cruelty. Not caring isn't cruelty. It's a survival tactic. Desentisation of course plays a role, but only a slight one, because as you yourself said, you do care about injustices and suffering closer to home. view post

Christianity: Revelations posted 17 December 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionChristianity: Revelations by Randal, Auditor

The end of the world has been predicted thousands of times, literally.
The apostles believed (or some of them did) that Jezus would return in their lifetimes. All the early christians believed it would be but a few decades. In the year 1000 hordes of people left their homes to preach the end of days that was sure to come, for example.

The have been millions and millions of prophecies throughout history. Vague words and sentences have been interpreted in hundreds of ways. Who is "the short haired man"? Or what is your "fig tree"? Plausible cases can undoubtedly be made for it to be any of several dozen things.

It's speculation on speculation, supposition on supposition. All in all, it's a castle build on clouds. Even if you believe the bible to be true, there is no reason to believe the end days are just around the corner.

Anyway, I had heard that the whole rapture belief was rather controversial even within christianity, and that it doesn't actually say anything definite about it in the bible. I'd also heard that the rapture theology only arose somewhere in the last century or so. view post

Sorcery posted 21 December 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionSorcery by Randal, Auditor

So, the original question was "have you ever personally seen any form of magic?"

My question to that would be, how on earth is one supposed to recognise magic when one sees it?

Suppose I see something. Something strange, something I cannot explain. Weird lights in the sky, a premonition that turns out to be true, a seemingly miraculous recovery or stroke of luck. How do I know it's magic? And not a passing plane in a cloud, a strange coincidence, selective memory?

As Arthur C. Clarke said, it's impossible to distinguish sufficiently advanced technology from magic. Suppose I saw something inexplicable. Magic, or a passing UFO doing incomprehensible things? (not that I think there are alien spacecraft visiting earth either.)

Now, one can easily imagine demonstrations of magic that would leave very little room for doubt even on the part of the most sceptical observer. But when talking about witnessing the effects of sorcery, we're not talking about New York being transposed to New Zealand, I assume, but rather more mundane occurrences.

So my answer would be that I have never seen any sorcery, and that I suspect that any and all cases that have been witnessed also have alternate explanations that would not contradict everything we know of the laws of nature. But even if tomorrow I witnessed honest to god real magic, I could never recognise it as such because I would not interpret something as magic. Therefore, the question is rather meaningless. The only people who witness magic are those who already believe in it and explain what they see in the context of that belief. view post

Sorcery posted 18 January 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionSorcery by Randal, Auditor

Never saw the movie, but I did browse the book. It showed some clever use of the "appeal to the consequence" logical fallacy. (If I'd accept materialism life wouldn't have meaning! It must be false)

Also lots of Ramtha quotes.

Still, it did have quite some correct information alongside the pseudo-science. Which probably explains why so many people buy into it. view post


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