PERENNIAL QUESTIONS

Added August 22, 2002

It is apparent from your anti-theistic arguments you believe that Good and Evil do not exist. Great minds, such as Pope John Paul The Second, insist God is responsible for the good in the world, and Satan is responsible for evil in the world. If so, how do you account for their apparent existence?

We will not, here, respond to the unverifiable claim (language), implied, of God's and Satan's existence since the main point of your question centers around whether Good and Evil exist.
      You are making unexamined assumptions about the meanings of the terms, 'good,' and 'evil.'
      This is, therefore, an issue which cannot be addressed properly absent an examination of man's use and abuse of language.
      For billions of years language did not exist before sentient beings and the function we call "intelligence" appeared in the universe; nor were there any meanings including such as we now attribute to terms like 'good' and 'evil.'
      Nothing existed except interacting matter/energy.
      Some sentient beings, in whom brains and nervous systems emerged, at first evolved a non-conceptual awareness of feelings such as pain, sadness, joy, pleasure, fear, anger, needs, and survival responses much as do the lowest of lower animals.
      At some stage during the evolution of the universe, intelligence evolved.
      Eventually the level of conscious thought and awareness of one's awareness manifested itself allowing the emergence of the ability to conceptualize and to value.
      As the ability to develop a language evolved, it became possible for such brain functions to be expressed and communicated symbolically.
      Unfortunately man has conflated symbols with reality and has been overly inventive, artistic, careless, and negligent in the use (abuse) of language.
      In many instances even many of those with the highest degrees from the most notable of universities have shown either an inability or a lack of concern to distinguish between abstract and concrete, denotative and connotative, poetic and literal, artistic and realistic terminology.
      They, along with the rest of the world throughout history, change verbs and modifiers into nouns, for example, evil acts, into "evil," good acts into "good," minding into "mind," valuing into "values," thinking into "thoughts," numbering into "numbers," conceptualizing into "concepts," on without end.
      Then the lesser informed of us attribute some kind of non-physical substantiveness to those nouns.
      The conclusion to be drawn from the above is that the use of functionally abstract and relative terms, in noun form, came to be used, incorrectly, as names for things that in some sense presumably exist other than as the conceptualizing, judging, and imagining that occur in the brain.
      The terms, 'good,' and 'evil,' among thousands of other conceptual terms used as nouns, do not in fact name any thing.
      As Shakespeare said: "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
     They function to describe the conceptual values which man has rightly come to accept and consider necessary and important to the peaceful survival of a cooperating species.
      Lower animals kill and in most instances are not judged to be evil.
      Before cavemen became civilized, it is doubtful they were considered evil by their fellow cavemen.
      After all, like other animals, they too were behaving only as "God" created them to behave.
      Acts that we judge to be evil instill in most of us feelings of horror as do many accidents that we do not judge to be evil.
      When such acts are perpetrated by a cold-blooded professional assassin, he does not feel horror when he performs an assassination he was hired to do.
      We, however, judge him to be evil because of the feeling of horror we experience.
      Eating one's conquered enemy is a horrible, and even disgusting, act to us.
      But, to some past cultures, it was a sign of respect to the conquered and a "means" of absorbing the strength of the enemy.
      In other words HOW the "horrible" event occurs, or in what culture, determines whether it is considered evil or not.
      It is not the event that is horrible.
      Such an event just occurs as do countless "quadzillions" of events occurring throughout the universe.
      It is how an intelligent being FEELS and reacts that determines whether or not an event is conceived to be horrible and/or evil.
      There is no absolute Good or Evil except as a concept in the "minds" of some intelligent beings.
      Moreover, what is a Divine Good, as imagined in the theistic tomes of the world, is radically different from man's individual and particular concepts of good and evil.
      Many professional theists insist that we must not equate man's "good" with God's "Good."
      No matter what occurs in the universe, including man's good or evil, it presumably constitutes the Will of God.
      According to St. Thomas Aquinas, God's Good is Being, and Evil is Non-being, i.e., not physical.
      If Being is equated with "what exists," one has to be extremely careful not to equate the existence of physical things with the "existence" of what physical things do and with one's use of abstract terms to name non-physical "existents."
      To do so is to equivocate the term, 'existence.'
      For instance, a physical brain thinks.
      But, the existence of a physical brain must not be equated with its thinking FUNCTION.
      A dead physical brain, for instance cannot function.
      Mind does not exist.
      But, the brain does function and that is called "mindING."
      It is unfortunate for mankind that it does not recognize the enormous damage created by changing verbs and modifiers into nouns without understanding how to interpret them properly.
      Not everyone recognizes that nouns name concepts, ideas, imagination, fears, feelings, etc., as well as (and even more often than) they name things that exist four-dimensionally.
      If we insist that the concepts of man throughout the history of the activity of our brains exist as other than functions of our brains, then we must agree that all of the "infinite" number of concepts conceived by man (as well as those of some lower-animals) since the dawn of his physical existence, also exist.
      Such "existents" include, to mention a few: gargoyles, flying horses, ghosts, spirits, souls, witches, and the imaginary creations of children, on without end.
     These do not exist other than as functions of creative and imaginative brains.
      Let us reiterate, not even laws, numbers; mathematical, ethical, theistic, and religious concepts existed in the universe before the advent of intelligence.
      If we are to argue that God's intelligence always existed (an unverifiable and unfalsifiable claim) and, therefore, concepts existed before He even "created" the universe, then, it would appear that God is guilty of creating Evil as well as Good, as many theists will attest to.
      In human terms, as such, He is an Evil God.
      Nothing, good or evil, can occur in the universe without His Will and Consent.
      Given all of the above, on the one hand, we are adhering to Anselmian logic that we can think something into existence, and on the other, the logic of Bishop George Berkeley that all existence is but the ideas in God's (non-physical) brain, i.e., "To be, is to be perceived."
      So, if we can CONCEIVE what an ultimate Good IS, as opposed to a good act, a good thing, a good concept; and what Evil IS, as opposed to an evil act, an evil thing, and an evil concept, then, the uninformed draws the erroneous conclusion that Good and Evil must EXIST--implying a SUBSTANTIVE existence.
      Man tends to show little conceptual interest or concern for most events he is aware of that occur in the universe.
      Just as no one worships God, rather, he worships his CONCEPT of a god; also, no one experiences Evil.
      He judges certain, but not all, events that cause him to experience a feeling of horror, to be evil; and good those events from which he derives some degree of pleasure.
      Consider: If or when that function we call "intelligence" ceases to "exist" in the universe, so will such values as good and evil cease to "exist."

1997 by Pasqual S. Schievella