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Good versus Evil - it's a human thing

  1. Until and unless there is other life found in the cosmos, the issue of good and evil seem to be manifest only in mankind. The rest of what happens in the universe simply is, it is not either good or evil.

    A dingo is not evil for attacking its prey, nor is the the universe inherently evil because it exists.

    It seems that only man can develop a spark of evil that leads to genocides, murders, subterfuge and more.

    So do you think that there is a universal battle for man to make him one or the other? Or is it purely a environmental circumstance that leads some to this path?
  2. Not to sound trite but I believe it is a combination of the two. I believe that man create with the ability to do either good or evil. Now it is a matter of environment and personal choice. But when it is all said and done...everyone makes their own choice, regardless of what may have served as an influence.

  3. The ability is within every man to do either, but circumstance is what drives the decision?
  4. I always considered infanticide and vengeful cannibalism to be somewhat evil, so I don't really agree with your basic premise.
  5. Not really true. When the dingo kills pups sired by another just to avoid competition doesn't that not pass the same smell test for evil? What about the two gorillas that were taught sign language (actually, one was taught by us and that one taught the other)? One of the first things they learned how to do with structured language was use it to lie.

    No man is not unique in this regard, just better at it than any other creature.
  6. Well not wanting to take this topic to religious issues, since I am a retired pastor...I would say that man has the ability to choose between lesser forms of evil...but never really chooses that which is ultimately good. Man will always have something either from within or without that will either, drive, influence or temp his decision...same goes with the choosing of the good...but that is another story.

    Man is never as evil as he could be but neither is he ever as good as he should be.
  7. There is rape, territorial killing, cannibalism and infantcide in the animal world.

    Also I'll put the flame suit on , and say if you believe in an omnipotent God, some of the things he has done could be considered evil.

  8. But is that inherent to the person or is it a learned value?

  9. The dingo has no concept of right or wrong, only what his instincts tell them. SO the question of is it evil really is hard to fit to the circumstance. The other issue with the gorilla could also be conditioned response. If we baited them for food and they figured that as a response to the circumstance, then was it evil or a conditioned response to get something.
  10. OK, I get that as far as the walking to wards or walking away. But still, are some humans not influenced by self? Mother Theresa was selfless, but still acting in the pursuit of what she believed need to be done and there was still a reward to her in another life.

    So you feel that man can be noble but always serves self in the decision making equation tree?

  11. But without a sentient thought pattern and a framework of good and evil, are the acts evil or just instinct? OK, lets frame this a different way. If a human is rasied ferrel, does it have the capacity for good or evil?
  12. Sure. That is what I meant by being influence from within. Man never chooses to do something willie-nillie. There will always be something that helps to influence or determine their choice. But every choice that man makes is base upon self-determination. Some influences, be they external or internal, are more powerful than others. Man has a "chooser" within them but their chooser has a propensity towards the negative rather than the positive unless their is something that helps to influence their will or "chooser."

    Such as?
  13. Is that to say man is inherently evil and must choose to do or be good? Or are some predisposed to be good? To follow that logic through, everyone has some threshold, desire or circumstance that will cause them to do evil. Over the edge if you will.
  14. Soooo....what is 'ultimately good' for man to choose?
  15. Split...

    Appears to be brains issues in some serial killers.

    Clearly child stressors in others.

    Beware the combo in one individual.

    Dr. Stone has a nice book on it--2009 publish.
  16. If you believe God creates natural disasters as punishment, then you would got to believe that God would have no problem killing innocent children who have no control over the adult population.

    Personally I feel God does not play this role, that Natural disaster just happens, and are not a direct punishment from God, however then that means an Omnipontent God simply allows natural disaster, along with mass murders/genocide, to occur. Is a Nazi soldier evil when he allows Jews to die, and he has the abaility to free them?

    Also you get into the heven/hell paradox. God is forgiving yet he is willing to give someone the ultimate punishment, an eternity in Hell. Where is the cutoff? Does every sinner go? If a hungry man steals food to feed a child, if a soldier kills another soldier, if someone is a good man but has doubt, does he go to hell forever? Do Millions of children go to hell every year because they don't believe in Jesus, a fate of eternal Hell simply because you were unluck enough to be born in the wrong country? Is a dictator evil when he imprisions his citizens for not bowing down to him?

    I have a personal relationship with God, and I don't find him evil at all, however my beliefs go way against man-made religious dogma and scripture.
  17. Not to hijack thread but to respond. I agree with this to a degree. Many disasters are just that, natural. But according to the doctrine of Providence God may choose to use a natural disaster in a divine fashion. Hence a judgement. Often this is seen in the eye of the believer.

    Whatever an Omnipotent God allows He in some sense, ordains. If He could have stopped it but chose not to He did it for a reason. That is the mystery.

    From a humanistic position, whatever is deemed "good" for that person at that time, as long as it does no harm to others and no grave harm to himself.

    From a biblical perspective whatever is God's will for that person is ultimately for that persons good. However what may be good for you may not be good for me....There are things such as the general will of God for all people and the specific will of God for certain individuals. IMHO.

    I believe it is God's general will for all people to treat people with respect and dignity...do to them as you want them to do to you. God's specific will for me was to be a pastor (now retired) but for you it may have been a truck driver.
  18. I'm not a truck driver, but my s/n and the song which inspired it make many people think that. :supergrin:

    I was looking for a more general definition of 'good.' God's will, while I suppose is an acceptable answer, is vague.

    Treating other people respectfully and with dignity is a good idea, but is it really a fundamental element of human nature? Is it really what seperates good from evil?
  19. Actually, I'm quite sure the dingo does know when its acting within the realm of socially acceptable behavior (as defined by pack society) and when it's not. Since that is what the concepts of good and evil really are (whats considered acceptable behavior in a given soceity and what is not).

    Once you get past the idea of objective good and evil, it's much easier to recognize that the animal kingdom has these traits as well. They just aren't as well defined or expressed due to their more limited mental faculties.

    That's just what makes the gorilla anectdote so interesting. The gorillas had only ever been exposed to the use of language to relay factual information. If conditioning were key then the conditioning would have been that language = truth, but they figured out how to lie all on their own.

    To extend the story. At one point, one of the gorillas was able to relay the experience of how their mother was shot and killed by poachers in the wild while still young. A memory from before the gorilla had the ability to sign.
  20. Cool! I'm sig worthy! :embarassed:
  21. I like to use my sig line to acknowledge the wisdom of regular folk. :courtsie:
  22. Absolute, utter BS. Animals are well known for being 'evil' at times. Some have been documented to kill just for the fun of it.

    BTW they're just now discovering sociopaths and serial murderers don't have the physical ability to feel empathy. The frontal lobe simply doesn't light up when shown horrific images.
  23. I do not believe in evil. Certainly people do things that I would not. However it has been my experience that people do what seems right to them at the time.

    Even the seriously sick things that some humans do seemed like the right thing to do at the moment for that person.

    For pretty much any situation where you can point to some behavior and say that is evil. I am certain that with some investigation you find some rational behind what the person did. I am not saying the rational will seem rational or sane to you and me. But to the person doing acting it all makes sense.
  24. Killing "for the fun of it" is not evil. They are :"having fun

    Would you feel bad if Went out into the woods and started wacking a new trail with a machete through the grass and undergrowth.

    You are out chopping up living things.... Are you having fun...

    Before you even say it is different..... realize you are bigoted specieist.

    nasty ugly spiders or cute cuddle cats are both animals. Would you feel bad if you backed over either one in your car? You eat cows but how about dogs?

    If you think some animals deserve differential treatment then you are a specieist.
  25. Sorry, not swaying me. People that kill for fun are...also doing it for fun, and to satisfy some inner urge to do so. In my book that is 'evil'. Not my fault you don't believe in a 'higher power'.
  26. there does seem to be a connection between believing in evil and belief in "higher powers".

    I guess in absence of faith I believe that people decide what to do for themselves and are not influenced by either "god" or "satan." (I put those in quotations to include all variations of peoples symbols for divine good and evil).
  27. One is juxtaposed over the other, isn’t it? Many times when people act out, they do so because of defiance of what they perceive God did to them. Others just do so because they have a very limited basis for accepting that harm to others is not an acceptable norm. Still others do so knowing full well they intend to harm and injure, and have no regard for life.

    Society where life is cheap is a danger to all. Look at inner city gang members that were self-raised. No moral compass, they have never been subordinate to someone’s authority. No belief or at least only a distorted belief in a deity, they kill with no remorse or even so much as a thought.

    But they question still remains valid; will anyone eventually get to a point of influence, pressure or desire that they will act out in a way that society considers evil? Look at Donner, party of 32. While it is considered unacceptable to social norms, they actually viewed it at the time as protein that was already perished.
  28. All you're really talking about is things we like ("good") and things we dislike ("evil"). We screw ourselves up by acting on the basis of our ability to distinguish between the two in ways that are not in our best interests ("Bet you can't eat just one!"). In other words, we "eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."

    That fact has no relevance to how many life forms there are in the universe, or whether God created evil, or whether there is a God. And besides, God isn't keeping track of our stupid things - that's Santa Claus who does that. The crucifixion was a prophetic demonstration of unconditional love, not about sin.
  29. Ah, the rub but I would say "yes." I want to be left alone, to live my life as I choose, so I will grant you the same courtesy. However you deem it “good” to come and take what belongs to me and do harm to my family. I deem that as evil. So if you choose to enter my home, uninvited with a knife and try to kill me because I am an infidel you may you are doing a good thing but I think it is evil. Then I am going to shoot you between the eyes and roll your body into the street for the dogs to eat and I deem that good but your family with think that what I did was evil. Maybe. If they think you died a martyr they think it was good but bad that I lived. But I digress.

    There has to be something somewhere that is the line in the sand that sets the stands for what a person believes is good or evil. I may be one’s own belief system, the values of a specific culture or a religious ideology. Which you live by is your choice.
  30. "Good" and "Evil" are man made concepts. Therefore they may only be applied to man.

    Animals cannot be good or evil, they are what they are and they do what they do. Simple as that.

    Children are not good or evil, even when they lie or steal. They simply dont have the inhibitions drivin into their skulls not to do so.

    "Good" is anything we find acceptable or anything we agree with.

    "Evil" is anything which makes us uncomfortable or may be a danger. Or that which we dont understand.

    A snake is not evil, yet its used to portray evil in some cultures, it is also not good yet it is revered in other cultures.

    Good and evil do not exist except in the mind of man.
  31. Or God if you believe.
  32. Good/evil are defined by the culture in charge.
  33. The difference between humans and dingos, in this regard, is intelligence: we are smart enough to (a) come up with more efficient ways to do more "evil" and (b) we have the capacity to give our action abstract, idealized labels like "good" and "evil."

    Both men and dingos do what they do based on pure self-interest, but dingos aren't smart enough to come up with excuses why it's not true.
  34. Even Mother Theresa did nothing, ever, that can't be explained by pure self-interest. Surely you see that this is never more true than for a religious person. One could even argue that a religious person can never be morally good, since all of their actions are based on a belief that they lead to reward or punishment and are, therefore, selfish.
  35. Man is a base animal. Without external influence he, like all animals, will be self-seeking, protective of his own, desirous of what others posess.

    One only has to look at the various Utopian social paradigms to see this. Marxism/Socialism is based on the very wrong assumption that people will do good for goodness sake. Libertarianism assumes that coporations will operate ethically out of some sense of "enlightened self-interest." Neither has ever proven true.

    Our Founding Fathers knew this and Jefferson emphasized it in the Declaration of Independence when he wrote:
    To an extent, Gokyo, I believe, is correct; people behave the way they do because that is what they know (I usually phrase it as "people play the game with the cards they've been dealt). To many, what seems irrational and evil to us is the result of what for them seems rational and just.

    For you movie buffs, think of it as Doc Holiday explained it to Wyatt when he was explaining Johnny Ringo,
    If you want to call that "evil" you'll get no argument from me.

    God (as I understand him) gave us free will in the hope that we would turn to Him and live as He would have us live, just as any parent must eventually turn loose of his child and allow him to find his own way, hopefully in a way that honors and brings joy to that parent.

    He doesn't force us to follow His will for us, but He rewards us for right behavior and our obedience.

    I also do not believe that God makes bad things happen to us, but that He makes the bad things that happen to us have purpose. Humans don't grow (spiritually, emotionally, or morally) from pleasant experiences, we grow from and during adversity. That's the old "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

    Last, is that it is irrational for anyone who believes in God to assign to Him human motives or to seek to understand in any but the most peripheral and superficial ways what He does, thinks, or wants (including me and all of my pontificating).

    As a person of faith, I do not believe that I need to know why, doing while not knowing why is part of "faith."
  36. I digress, but not true. At least not among Reformed Christians who understand that nothing they can do can either add to or take away from their justification. Their actions of doing good for others or self are a result of obedience and gratitude not rewards. May not look different in outward action but huge difference in inward motivation.
  37. Great point! I meant to address that comment as well. I doubt Mother Theresa was motivated by her expectation of reward in the after-life, I suspect she was motivated by her desire to ease the suffering of others out of pure compassion.
  38. Sage words, given that they came out of a Greek some 2500 years ago.

    Similar to the old adage "Is Truth a Perception?" (or Truth Is a Perception); it is sometimes fun and worthwhile to ponder such points. At other times, less so.

    As for "absolutes" in my limited experience, birth, life and death constitute absolute reality (I think); ideas of right/wrong, good/bad and everything grey in between, are cultural conscripts typically based on a concept of treating others as you would have them treat you... unless you're the one firmly in the drivers seat and/or paying the bills, at which times, who cares what others think?

    Still and all, it would be cool to know what elephants, whales and some apes are thinking at times... cats and dogs, less so.
  39. HOw very wrong your understanding of Christianity and faith is. People who are truly motivated by God and their faith; spiritual people, act out of their desire to do as God would have them do, without any expectation of reward above the joy it brings them to do good for others.

    If doing good for others for the pure joy of doing so can be described as being selfish, then the world could stand a heck of a lot more of that kind of selfishness. Some people do good solely because they believe that is why God placed them on Earth. Some people do acts of kindness anonymously solely for the joy of serving others.

    Calling those motivations "selfish" surely stretches the definition of the word beyond all boundaries of reasonability.

    Bren, if you come to the aid of one of your wounded comrades in battle, do you do it for some expectation of "reward" or payback, or do you do it because it is the right thing to do? Do you do it because you care for the individual more than you care for your own safety or reward. Is that being "selfish?"

    Christ taught us "Greater love hath no man then he lay down his life for his fellow man."

    You do that for some "reward" or do you do it because it is the right thing to do? Is self-sacrifice for the sake of others not the quintescence of selflessness?
  40. I had a long talk with my Pastor recently,he informed me I was evil...

  41. so in the entire history of the world, no one has ever performed a selfless act? I find that hard to believe. What of the guy that throws himself on a grenade to save his buddies? Or the guy that gives a kidney to his brother?

    Certainly there have been selfless acts that were done contrary to the preference of the individual.

  42. IMO, it's something inherent....that's learned. I believe the structure is there from birth, a structure that allows one to do what they perceive as being in their best interest, and later in life learned to be used in a way most others perceive as evil. It's when one takes something out of the realm of just being done in one's own self interest, and turns to something done to harm others....whether or not it also serves that self interest....that it's perceived as being "evil". A child who may do something just to serve his/her own self interests is expected to do nothing else, until they learn where the "limit" is It's at that point they are expected to not go beyond that limit. And when they do, knowing the difference..............we often view the act as evil.

    So I believe the structure is there from the beginning, it's how one learns to use it that differentiates between good and evil. And there are many forms of learning what is right and wrong.....unfortunitly for the kids.

    Just my opinion.

    That would simply be your opinion, no?

    While it may be indeed what you believe, not sure that alone would make it a fact... or the way of the world, would it? Many people do see "good" and "evil" as separate and viable entities, in and of themselves. Now, they may be not correct either.....but their believing one way and your believing another supports neither belief system with any facts as I see it.

    Any "proof" of such an assertion would certainly be welcome.
  43. And you think this is common?
  44. Inherent in the person. I grew up in a very poor and tough neighborhood. Some of us grew up always honest and ethical, and some spent most of their lives in jail. It was obvious from about 4 or 5 years old which was going to be which. All had the same environment and all had the same possibilities laid out before them. It was individual choice that made the difference. Go home and study or go break into a house and steal.

    I am sick to death of people wanting to blame everything and everybody else for the failings of certain individuals
  45. If you mean, common among the devout, yes. I see a great deal of selflessness among people who feel called upon to help others.

    If you mean common among humanity, you need to read my prior comment, https://glocktalk.com/forums/showpost.php?p=16201155&postcount=35 , but short answer, no.

    My comment, however, was a direct response to Bren's comment that even Mother Theresa's behavior could be explained by self-interest and reward.
  46. Too some extent you are right, but to some degree nurture also influences how one behaves and how one perceives the world. Within that tough neighborhood, different family dynamics occurred in each house. I suspect that some were alcoholic or drug addicted family members, parents, some had abusive parents, some had apathetic parents, some were single parent homes, some had parents who encouraged their children to excel, some who made a point to raise their children with the certain knowledge of right and wrong and who maybe brought their children up in a "Christian" or otherwise loving environment.

    There are a lot of variables for which one must account before making a generalized statement, but there is no doubt that "nature" accounts for a lot of our behavioral patterns. Some kids are just naturally obedient and well behaved, some are rebellious, and some are just down right determined to act out in bad ways.

    There is no simple answer to the OP's simple question.
  47. Dunno how directly this applies to this conversation/thread, but I've been studying a series titled "The Prodigal God." It takes a look at the prodigal son, his father, and the older brother in the story. I've always looked upon the older brother as a byline in the story, little more. He's actually half the story.

    To make the author's point very briefly, he says that we should not just confess our sins, but also confess our acts of righteousness-because even those acts are generally done in an attempt to be the "good son," the obedient servant of God, in order to gain His inheritance. Hence, the prodigal son AND the good son were both lost, but just in opposite directions. Still equally lost...

    My belief is that we're all born with a predilection for sin, and left without instruction will generally only be "good" when it suits us. Even with God and instruction, we will attempt to serve self first.
  48. Must be a young pastor...I could have told you that in the first 30 secs. :supergrin:
  49. Short answer: Yes, it's a human thing. Because humans are the only species on earth who, regardless of season, environment, genetics or biology can for any reason make a choice to do anything. Whether the acton is "expected", "contrary", "good" or "evil" is irrelevant. Within the realm of possibilities and some annoying physical laws, there's no end to the possibility of a human being to do.....anything.
  50. Yep, only one "perfect" person so far. The rest of us fall short regularly.

    I'm certain if you had asked Mother Theresa if she was a "good" person, she would have said "No." Even Christ took one of his disciples to task for calling him "good," saying that he only knew of one who is good and that is the Father.