Atheist Problem of Evil

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Atheist Problem of Evil

Postby bijane » Mon Aug 29, 2011 3:32 pm

I was talking with someone earlier, not really a debate as such, but they mentioned something about the 'problem of evil', and how it is as much a problem for atheists as theists.
Frankly it's such a blatant corruption of any scientific theory I've heard, but it's incredibly hard to phrase an objection.
Anyway, the argument:

Evil exists, and has for centuries: and yet with the theory of evolution, dangerous traits should have left the human race long ago, so why do people still commit evil?

Whenever I tried to respond to this, they either heard 'evolution is trying to make mankind evil' or 'evolution isn't successful', neither being what I said.
I was wondering if anyone had a good way to phrase an objection to this, I know roughly what to say but they construct too many straw men.
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whether evolution is successful

Postby dobbie » Mon Aug 29, 2011 11:45 pm

Whenever I tried to respond to this, they either heard 'evolution is trying to make mankind evil' or 'evolution isn't successful', neither being what I said.
I was wondering if anyone had a good way to phrase an objection to this,

I always like to shoot my mouth off, and in this case, I would agree that "evolution isn't successful" insofar as we are generally dissatisfied with some aspects of the world. And that would be my response to the religious person.

Of course the theory of evolution cannot, as far as I know, predict what direction the process of evolution of humans should take, or for that matter, what direction the process should have taken. The evolutionists can only look at what has happened up to now, and to try and explain it as well as they can with the up-to-date evidence for it.

Conjecturably speaking, if environmental condictions had been way different, humans might have evolved into some species far better (stronger and smarter) than they are now. But alas we have to settle for what the cards have dealt and muddle through somehow. Ha.
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Postby Skept » Thu Dec 08, 2011 3:17 am

Well, what does he/she mean by "evil" and "dangerous traits"?
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Postby Lausten » Fri Dec 30, 2011 4:24 pm

It sounds like either you are trying to teach what evolution is to someone who doesn't want to learn, and/or reacting to what they say. Both "trying to make" and "not successful" indicate they view evolution as a different form of God, who, according them, is making a conscious effort to steer humanity in a certain direction. You might ask what would indicate success or what should evolution try to make us into.

A first step would probably be to concede that they are right and that evolution doesn't have a great track record. That should help make the conversation less contentious.

My hope would be that you find they are in agreement with the goal. If you both agree evil exists, and that something should be done about it. If the only thing they suggest doing is going to church on Sunday, you might not have much more to say, but more likely they will agree on something like "Thou shalt not kill". You could talk about how that applies to murder, revenge, and maybe, eventually, exploitation of third world countries by corporations. After a bit of talking without mentioning God, you could point out that you derived your values from many cultures, and they probably came from a time when we were more animal like and started realizing that working together was better than fighting all the time.
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Re: Atheist Problem of Evil

Postby DjVortex » Sat Dec 31, 2011 10:30 am

bijane wrote:Whenever I tried to respond to this, they either heard 'evolution is trying to make mankind evil' or 'evolution isn't successful', neither being what I said.
I was wondering if anyone had a good way to phrase an objection to this, I know roughly what to say but they construct too many straw men.


They are falling for the most basic misconception about evolution: That it "tries" to make living creatures "better" somehow (and consequently it can either "succeed" or "fail" at this attempt).

Evolution doesn't "try" to do anything. Evolution is not a conscious process with a predetermined goal or direction. Evolution is a side-effect, an emergent behavior resulting from basic natural laws and interactions. It's no different from any other non-conscious physical phenomenon, such as two moving objects colliding and changing direction as a consequence (the objects do not "try" to change direction and then "succeed" or "fail"; nor do they change direction because that's their "goal" or what they "want" to do; they change direction simply as a result of simple natural laws).

Saying things like "evolution has failed" is a complete misunderstanding of what evolution is.

(Side note: No, I'm not using quotation marks for emphasis above. I'm using them for their intended purpose, ie. quoting and de-emphasis.)
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Postby Fyrebrand » Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:25 pm

I'm in agreement with Lausten and DjVortex -- the person you're talking to has misconceptions about what evolution should have produced, because they seemingly don't have any idea of what evolution is or does. The very idea that "dangerous traits should have left the human race long ago" represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of evolution. It really does sound like they think evolution is a conscious guide, leading life toward some moral or physical ideal -- like the "god" of biology, or something.

There is no "should" in evolution. There's only what is. Humans didn't appear because we were meant to, and we didn't adapt as social or moral creatures because evolution intentionally "pushed" us in that direction. It just so happened that certain traits we had (intelligence, dexterity, social tendencies, etc.) turned out to be beneficial enough that it aided in ensuring reproduction could occur successfully -- and that each next generation would survive successfully enough that it could reproduce, in turn.

Heck, we may not even be the wisest, or most moral species that could have resulted. Maybe things could have happened differently, millions of years ago, and populations could have adapted in some alternative way that would have resulted in beings far more intelligent, responsible, rational, or powerful than we are now. The fact that we humans exist today doesn't make us the "apex" of any honorable endeavor.

The idea that "evil" exists today shouldn't be surprising. As long as certain "evil" tendencies don't result in widespread inability to raise offspring to mating age, those tendencies won't necessarily ever disappear.

"Evil" is as much a problem for biology as it is a problem for physics, chemistry, or geology.

And... frankly, someone who thinks that we could ever get to a point where evil becomes eliminated from society, probably hasn't thought much about the concept of "evil."
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Re: Atheist Problem of Evil

Postby JoeNavy » Tue Mar 06, 2012 8:24 pm

Oh look. It is one of those cute "I don't understand evolution, therefore my God exists" people.

"Evil" is as much a problem for biology as it is a problem for physics, chemistry, or geology.

I think this might be the best short answer.
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Re: Atheist Problem of Evil

Postby Fyrebrand » Sat Apr 28, 2012 3:30 am

Another way to look at it:

Can "evil" people still have babies? If the answer is yes, then don't expect evolution to weed out the evil people.
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Re: Atheist Problem of Evil

Postby atheist_in_a_foxhole » Thu May 31, 2012 5:59 am

"Dangerous traits" are also useful for the survival of a species. No wonder they are still exist in the human species.
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Re: Atheist Problem of Evil

Postby SkyDaddy » Wed Nov 21, 2012 6:49 am

Easy problem.

Evil is a label that we have put on actions that we dont like, usually the actions are anti-social, and when they are not anti-social they are usually things that are not evil (ie gays). Humans are animals, most animals dont have the evolved empathy that social creatures naturally have, some people have a developed with a different twist of genetics and chemistry and as a result are more lower animal-like, sociopathic.

"Evil exists, and has for centuries: and yet with the theory of evolution, dangerous traits should have left the human race long ago, so why do people still commit evil? "


Evolution does not work that way. "Dangerous traits" is undefined, life is dangerous, humans have to be aggressive to survive. Aggressiveness is part of the struggle to stay alive, it helped us to avoid and fight our competition on our way to being the dominant species on the planet. Now that we are all civilized the fight continues because we have a growing population of successful survivors with limited resources and space. You cannot remove the trait of survival instincts without destroying the species, the real focus is on the sociopathic "evil" acts. The way you fight that is by detecting it and treating it before it lashes out. Its a genetic/chemistry deviation from the socially acceptable range which we label as "good".
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Re: Atheist Problem of Evil

Postby sepia » Wed Nov 21, 2012 6:19 pm

If someone calls the argument "atheist problem of evil" I guess he is a creationist confusing evolution and atheism.

Furhtermore the argument misrepresents natural selection. Evil is something cultural. But natural selection works on genes.
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