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The Zika Virus

Postby Chef Boyardee » Thu Feb 11, 2016 9:00 am

How does the Zika virus fit God's plan? Now we have this new virus that doesn't make most people sick, but screws with the health of fetuses in the womb. Why would God do this? Have babies pissed him off recently?

This sort of thing makes God either look absent or look like an asshole.

So what gives?
Chef Boyardee

Re: The Zika Virus

Postby jimwalton » Thu Feb 11, 2016 9:02 am

t's false to assume that God has done this. There is no rationale that leads you to this conclusion.

If you think God is responsible for everything that happens: (1) that's a false theology, and (2) then why don't you post every good part of your life as credited to God?

If you think God should stop every experience of suffering, you have not considered very deeply the theologies and philosophies of the issue of evil and an omnibenevolent God. These arguments have been rattling around for years and deserve your attention, rather than an, may I say, uninformed rant.

Your post has judged God as guilty before you even asked your question. You are presupposing his immorality a priori, and then building a case on your presupposition.

You probably know that the Bible teaches that human sin caused a great disruption in all of nature. At least one piece of Christian theology is that God has not caused such problems as the Zika virus, but humans have.

Secondly, by what means did the Zika virus come about? Was it some sort of evolutionary modification (in which case God is not to blame), or did it come about through a situation caused by human civilization (in which case God is not to blame). What was its causal mechanism? If you don't know that, you are false to blame God for it.

You asked how the Zika virus fits God's plan. God's plan in the Bible is a plan of salvation, not a plan for everything that happens on the planet. The Bible does not teach robotic determinism, where God mandates and controls every person, event, and atom in the universe.

But it is the teaching of the Bible that the closer we get to the end times, the more nature will start to collapse under the mismanagement of the planet by humanity (Matthew 24.6-7, 21). In actuality, it's more than likely that the Zika virus came from the evolutionary process or from human mismanagement rather than the direct and vicious action of God.
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Re: The Zika Virus

Postby Chef Boyardee » Thu Feb 11, 2016 9:05 am

I agree that Zika virus has evolved from something else. That is really how all life comes about and it doesn't require a god of any sort. And I would also agree the human activity is one environmental factor the may well contribute to evolutionary construction of various viruses.

However, if there really is a god and it is the supposed good god of the bible and general Christian theology, then some explanation is needed. This god in no way can be let off the hook morally speaking. Let's consider the story of the good Samaritan. The good moral character of this story is the one that did what he could to help. The man that fell among thieves was ignored by other passers by including God who himself did nothing for the man.

You could argue that God sent the Samaritan, but there is no indication of that in the story. Jesus gives the Samaritan the credit for the good behavior and the other two the credit for bad behavior. We know that God intervened directly several times on behalf of some folks, but he didn't do so in this case which is the normal behavior as far as God is concerned.

Well, God being can do as he pleases, but there is no good reason to consider that his action, or rather his usual inaction to be moral if he is real and if he is good. Jesus praises the sheep for doing what they could to help those in need, and condemns the goats for not doing what they could to help those in need. In my mind that condemns God who has the means to help, but does not.

Therefore whether or not God directly made the virus is besides the point. He doesn't do anything about it in spite of his supposed power to do so. People die of starvation quite frequently with any sign of manna and quails appearing. People die of shitty water without any sign of fresh clean water gushing forth from a rock. Both of these problems are mentioned directly in the last judgment. We cannot look to a being as a moral example no matter how powerful it is if it will not behave in the most simply moral way whatever it's excuse is.

The doctrinal fact the humans are sinners is not an excuse. There is nothing in the last judgement scene giving goats a by because those in need were sinners.

If God is the all powerful creator, he has ultimate responsibility. God is responsible for this virus induced microcephaly in innocent infants whether or not he made it directly and whether or not the end is near.
Chef Boyardee

Re: The Zika Virus

Postby jimwalton » Mon Feb 29, 2016 7:12 am

> That is really how all life comes about and it doesn't require a god of any sort.

This is a completely different discussion that we won't have the space to dig into right now. And it's a distraction from your post, so let's stick with the problem of evil.

> some explanation is needed

People seem to think that the existence of evil is logically inconsistent with the existence of God. But let's examine it. Is it really self-contradictory? Someone who believes in God believes God exists, he is all-powerful (omnipotent), he is all-knowing (omniscient), he is wholly good, and evil exists. First of all, none of these by themselves formally entail a contradiction.

Some people argue, "Well, a truly good thing (like a good God) always eliminates evil as far as it can." But that's not true either. A doctor who can eliminate the pain in your knee only by removing your leg doesn't forfeit his claim to moral excellence by failing to do so. A doctor escapes moral culpability because he cannot eliminate the evil without also eliminating a greater good. So maybe then we'd want to say that it makes logical sense that a person is not morally culpable in producing evil if he justifiably believes he can produce a greater good that outweighs the evil on by producing said evil; nor is he immoral in FAILING to eliminate an evil if he justifiable believes that he can eliminate it only by eliminating a GREATER good. So it's just not true that a person is only good (or all-powerful or all loving) if he tries to eliminate every state of affairs that he believes is evil.

What about another angle: an omniscient person is only wholly good if he tries to eliminate every evil state of affairs that he can eliminate without eliminating a greater good? Well, no one would claim that evil MUST exist, so we're left with "God can then eliminate every case of evil whatever." But that doesn't follow. There are always pros and cons. We can't assume that every case of evil can be eliminated without possibly eliminating a great good. The argument fails.

This means that any evil outweighed by at least one good is necessary to have a good state of affairs that outweighs it. But this means that an omnipotent and omniscient being could permit as much evil as he pleased without forfeiting his claim to being all good as long as for every evil state of affairs he permits, there is the possibility of a greater good. That is to say, he can permit as much evil as he pleased provided that there was a balance of good over evil in the universe as a whole, which just may be the case. That's a little bit out of our range to evaluate.

So when it comes right down to it, you have to argue that if there is ANY evil, there is UNJUSTIFIED evil, and that ALL of it is unjustified. That's just patently untrue, for good often comes from pain, evil, and suffering. but even if it's remotely possible that all evil is justified, there's still no contradiction with God in the existence of the evil.

But what about the Zika virus in particular? Maybe that's just, as you say, the course of evolution, but God didn't stop it, making God evil. First, you are accusing God of immorality, but if you believe in evolution (and no god), why should you call this evil? It's just life evolving, and can't be identified as good or bad. If there's no god, it's just the next step in natural selection. But we'll even ignore that for now and go on to the real assertion.

I think you would admit that the natural world is dynamic, with a large number of systems that interact, balance, and even depend on each other. Some exhibit characteristics more like chaos (though that is a scientific category of a dynamical system) and other more like order and purpose. It is within these two categories that natural systems cause what you seem to regard as natural evil.

Have you ever tried to balance a broom handle on the palm of your hand? You can do it for a while, but eventually something (distraction, wind, your movements) causes it to become less stable, and it falls. This principle was posited by a meteorologist in the late 60s, who wrote a paper titled, "Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wing in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?" This thought was so important, we now know it as the Butterfly Effect. Even if we had delicate sensors in every square foot of the globe and its atmosphere, we would still not be able to reliably (100%) predict the weather. The "Butterfly Effect" would always be present.

Our world seems to manifest a huge number of interacting chaos systems: weather patterns, electrical impulses, the firing pattern of neurons in the brain, ecosystems, etc. And they behave occasionally in wild ways (the Zika virus). And they result in natural evil: drought, earthquakes, volcanoes, disease.

Should God stop all of that? I contend that a dynamic world in which free creatures can exercise genuine creativity, thereby bringing about truly novel effects, is a better world than a static world. A consequent corollary is that God would want to crate a dynamic world. For instance, since both our circulatory system and nervous system are beneficial chaotic systems, there is strong empirical evidence to say that dynamical systems are beneficial to life. The heart can recover from occasion arrhythmias; our brains can recover from some injuries. In addition, if the brain were static, creativity wouldn't be possible. If the natural system were just linear and status, natural processes (trees, snowflakes, clouds, shorelines, faces) couldn't produce novel outcomes.

Hopefully you can see that while God might have created a static world of nonlinear dynamical systems, eliminating all reason, creativity, and scientific inquiry, and he might have created a world where his sovereignty overrode all possibilities of evil, also overriding all possibilities of good, this would not be a desirable world. Natural science, engineering, and education would be vapid, courage and excitement would be absent. Careful structural design would be meaningless (no earthquake or tornado would ever be allowed to hit a building, and God would stop any building from ever collapsing on a person). Medical arts wouldn't exist, since disease would never harm or kill.

Therefore, God cannot make a dynamical world in which natural evil can't occur. It's self-contradictory, and ultimately intensely undesirable as a form of existence.

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