evil is not that complicated, symbolic landscape by rivera, if the forests die

The End of Evil? Neuroscientists suggest there is no such thing. Are they right?

That is the real “problem of evil” (or, to use the technical term philosophers employ for conscious, freely-willed, evil-doing: “wickedness”). We tend to believe it exists: Popular culture has no problem with it, giving us iterations from Richard III to Darth Vader; politicians use it promiscuously (“the axis of evil”). But even religious thinkers continue to debate what it is—and why a just and loving God permits evil and the hideous suffering it entails to prevail so often, or even—if they shift the blame to us (because God gave man free will to sin)—why God couldn’t have created a human nature that would not so readily choose genocide and torture.

This is thought-provoking article for anyone that rises a lot of questions. I paused on this paragraph because of the invocation of Judeo-Christian concepts of free will. It is obvious that we do not have the promised option to exercise free will. In this religious context people have the freedom to choose to do evil or not, but it conveniently leaves out the victims. The deity that promises free will does nothing to intercede when the free will of the victim is taken away. I feel confident that had the victims of Hitler’s genocide or Stalin’s Purges been asked if they would rather not be starved, tortured or murdered they would have chosen not to. Even if there is no such thing as completely free will society is better for acting as though we did when it comes to responding to whatever one wants to call it, evil or wickedness. This may not even be contradictory, maybe it is part of determinism that we do respond to the evil created by humans as though they had choices. The full article goes much deeper into the neuroscience and has some links to further explore the debate.

Antique Diagram of Phrenological Organs for the indication of Character and Mental Abilities – 1828. The entry for the pseudoscience of phrenology at Wikipedia.

As one might expect people have varying views of free will and determinism depending on the circumstances – Experimental philosophy opens new avenues into old questions

Adults showed conflicting results when tested. Given a deterministic universe where every decision is the result of past decisions, people generally responded that no one could be held morally responsible for their actions in such a universe. But when presented with a scenario in which a man in that theoretical universe has committed a particularly heinous criminal act, most test subjects agreed that the man was fully morally responsible for his actions.

One possible explanation for these conflicting responses is that when people are calm and collected, determinism is thought to exclude free will and moral responsibility. Cases that are much more emotionally charged and hit closer to home, however, elicit something different.

“When you present people with an emotionally laden transgression, and if you ask if the person is morally responsible, then people overwhelmingly say that the person is responsible, even if their action was determined,” Nichols said.

With Deaths of Forests, a Loss of Key Climate Protectors

“At the same time that we’re recognizing the potential great value of trees and forests in helping us deal with the excess carbon we’re generating, we’re starting to lose forests,” said Thomas W. Swetnam, an expert on forest history at the University of Arizona.

While some of the forests that died recently are expected to grow back, scientists say others are not, because of climate change.

Compounding the problem of less forest taking up less CO2 is that the dying forest themselves will emit CO2. This is not a problem if you’re a Limbaugh fan or read Reason as though it was an inerrant Bible.

modern art

Symbolic Landscape 1940 by Diego Rivera. Good video by SFMOMA of Rivera with narration by one of his former apprentices – Diego Rivera’s frescoes

I know she can push some people’s buttons, but Maureen Dowd gets the quote of the day on the moral relativism of conservative Justice Scalia – Cooperation in Evil

Scalia, confident in his own infallibility, dissented. As he wrote in a religious journal in 2002, he does not find the death penalty immoral, and he believes that as the “minister of God,” government has powers to get “revenge” and “execute wrath.” He’s clearly more an Old Testament guy than New, or he would know that some prisoners get falsely accused and nailed to the cross (Matthew 26:59-66).