Sunday, October 02, 2005

When science fails, then what?

This week I went to see the movie, The Exorcism of Emily Rose. I'd like to provide a brief review of the movie, then offer a few comments on the philosophical issue it raises.

The movie is based on a true story. It concerns the teenaged daughter of a devoutly Roman Catholic family. She experiences a series of mental and physical disturbances which defy explanation. A psychologist concludes that Emily has epilepsy, combined with some kind of psychosis, and treats her with Gambutrol (not a real medication).

Emily takes the medication but the disturbances continue. The family decides that Emily needs spiritual help and they call in the local priest.

The priest attempts to perform an exorcism. Emily stops taking her medication and, some weeks later, she dies.

Clearly the priest did not intend for Emily to die; nonetheless, he is charged with murder. Roger Ebert writes,
What is fascinating about "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" is that it asks a secular institution, the court, to decide a question that hinges on matters the court cannot have an opinion on. Either Emily was possessed by a demon and Father Moore did his best to save her, or she had a psychotic condition and he unwittingly did his best to kill her.
I thought this was a pretty good movie, but its commercial potential is no doubt limited. The Exorcism of Emily Rose falls between two stools. It has some of the elements you might expect to see in a horror movie, but it is also very much a courtroom drama.

In fact the movie falls between three stools (which rather spoils the metaphor). Scott Derrickson, who is the director and co-writer, raises a serious philosophical question. I would put it this way:  When science fails, then what?

Are people obliged to continue with their scientific treatment anyway? Does there never come a time when they are free to opt for an alternative, spiritual (or homeopathic) treatment? This is a real issue that plays itself out in the courtroom from time to time.

Derrickson refuses to provide us with an easy answer to the question. This, too, probably detracts from the effect of the movie, as Ebert points out:
Somehow the movie really never takes off into the riveting fascination we expect in the opening scenes. Maybe it cannot; maybe it is too faithful to the issues it raises to exploit them. A movie like "The Exorcist" is a better film because it's a more limited one, which accepts demons and exorcists lock, stock and barrel, as its starting point. Certainly they're good showbiz. A film that keeps an open mind must necessarily lack a slam-dunk conclusion.
Ebert gives the movie three stars; his readers give it three and a half, which seems about right to me:
  • This is a good story, well told. It is visually effective and held my attention throughout.

  • The role of the defense attorney, which is well acted by Laura Linney, is very interesting. She is an agnostic who can't quite buy Father Moore's explanation of events, but is able to view him sympathetically nonetheless.

  • Derrickson handles the material with integrity. The religious characters are not mocked, and the film does not stoop to sexual exploitation. Emily does not dress in baby doll pajamas to face her demons; she dresses as you would expect a teenager growing up in a religious, conservative household to dress.
Here are my personal reflections on the issue raised by The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

We have gained a great deal from science, but it is a trade-off; we have lost a great deal too. I know this from direct, personal experience. I once had a much deeper faith than I do today, and losing many of my core convictions was an acutely painful passage.

Science has given us hope in the face of many illnesses that once would have killed us. Science has increased our life expectancy dramatically, through means both direct (medical advances) and indirect (e.g. we enjoy improved nutrition due to advances in agriculture).

But the benefits come at a price. Sometimes, science fails. Then what? With the loss of religious faith, we have also lost hope of an afterlife. And we have lost the conviction that suffering can be meaningful — even suffering unto death, like Jesus' crucifixion.

The hope science offers is limited to this world. It cannot speak to a life beyond this one; it cannot set our human lives into a context of meaning. At its best, science knows its limitations. The wise scientist remains agnostic about such ultimate questions, and does not presume to offer an authoritative opinion.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose dares to suggests that Emily died in hope. She continued to believe that her life, and her intense suffering, had purpose.

Such a thing is not possible in the absence of a vital faith.



If you have already seen the movie, and you want to read an account of the true story that lies behind it, you will find one here.

26 Comments:

At 9:42 PM, October 02, 2005, Blogger Heather said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 3:27 PM, October 03, 2005, Blogger CyberKitten said...

One of the things I actually love about Science is that it doesn't pretend to offer an answer for everything. Then again I sometimes find that Science imposes limits on itself that it really shouldn't. Personally I don't think anything (and I do mean anything) is beyond the remit of Science. It's all about asking the right questions and moving forward with an open mind - though not too open, or your brain falls out...!

 
At 8:39 PM, October 03, 2005, Blogger snaars said...

Your comments on the relationship between science and religion caught my attention.

You write about the failures of science and the failures of religion, both in the same context. It seems as though you see science and religion as being in direct competition that only one can win.

Politically, science and religion often come into direct conflict. Idealogically, however, the conflict seems to me to be incidental. That is, there's nothing fundamental to the scientific enterprise that conflicts with religion - rather, it is the conclusions of science that conflict with religious claims of fact. As more and more of these claims are seriously questioned and/or disproven, religious faith is eroded.

For instance, if the Bible said that the solar system condensed from nebular dust over the course of billions of years, then that statement would not be in conflict with science and everyone could believe in both.

So, when science fails to provide an explanation, does that mean we should fall back on religious claims that have already been disproved?

Once you take into account basic physics, human psychology, flim-flammery, and the unreliability of eyewitness testimony, what more explanation is needed?

About meaning and hope: no, science doesn't provide these ... at least, perhaps not the sorts that make a person feel that life is worthwhile.

In your opinion, are hope, meaning, and purpose impossible without religious faith? Why or why not?

 
At 3:14 AM, October 04, 2005, Blogger Juggling Mother said...

"The hope science offers is limited to this world"

yes, but if you truely believe there is only this world, that is enough hope to sustain you through anything.

"we have lost the conviction that suffering can be meaningful"

I disagree. We no longer accept unnecessary suffering as being worthwhile in and of itself, but the "suffering" we all go through to one degree or another during our lives is what makes us, us. Science is constantly trying to prove that we are just a lump of cells, genetically programmed to be one thing, but it keeps failing, and admitting that nature/nurture/social conditions/lifestyle factors all play a part in who we are.

"it cannot set our human lives into a context of meaning"

If you truely believe there is only this world, you have to lead a worthwhile life to have any impact at all. There's no second chances, & the only part of you that will live on is others memories.

On the story though, I don't understand how the priest could be charged with murder. Did he force her to stop the medication? Even if he did, surely her parents were the "responsible adults" in the case, not the priest. as a teenager, she was old enough to understand her own decisions, and the most you could claim was that it was suicide.

 
At 3:26 AM, October 04, 2005, Blogger CyberKitten said...

An important question to ask is: What is meant by 'Meaning'? Is there a meaning external to us or do we give our own lives meaning? The easy option - if you want a 'meaningful' life - is to adopt someone else's meaning as your own by buying into a philosophy, political standpoint or religion. The harder path is to discover your own meaning or maybe accept that there isn't one and just get on with your life.

 
At 9:34 AM, October 04, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

• Heather:
I tried your links, but couldn't find either of the titles you mention.

• Cyberkitten:
Many scientists continue to believe in God, of course, but some scientists actively propogate the notion that this world is all there is.

If that's their opinion, of course they're welcome to defend it and explain the advantages of that worldview. But they shouldn't do it under the guise of science, as if science knows there is no God — no dimension to reality beyond what we can examine under a microscope.

Such questions lie beyond the competence of science, as most scientists freely admit.

On your second comment, The easy option - if you want a 'meaningful' life - is to adopt someone else's meaning as your own by buying into a philosophy, political standpoint or religion. The harder path is to discover your own meaning or maybe accept that there isn't one and just get on with your life.

I can understand why you say that, but I think you have in mind a particular kind of believer. Many people don't think for themselves; they live on borrowed convictions.

I am a believer (see my response to Snaars, below) but I would put myself in your second category — as someone who has agonized over these questions and sought to discover a meaning for himself.

• Mrs. Aginoth:
If you truely believe there is only this world, that is enough hope to sustain you through anything.

I see that as a paradoxical statement. If you believe only in this world, how does that provide hope in the face of chronic pain, for example, or debilitating illness?

If you truely believe there is only this world, you have to lead a worthwhile life to have any impact at all. There's no second chances.

This makes more sense to me, and I appreciate the truth of what you're saying. If religion means opting out from any social responsibility in this life, there's nothing admirable about that.

I don't understand how the priest could be charged with murder.

Thank goodness, a relatively straightforward question! In the movie, the prosecutor plainly felt that the family had been taken advantage of because of their trust in the priest. I think there was a certain patronizing attitude at work: these ignorant rubes don't know any better, but the priest is an educated man.

So the prosecutor established at the outset of the case that the family had turned their daughter over entirely to the priest's care.
Q

 
At 9:55 AM, October 04, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

Snaars:
I'm replying to you separately, because this comment may be almost as long as my original post!

It seems as though you see science and religion as being in direct competition that only one can win.

No. I think in terms of hegemony: the scientific worldview is dominant in Western society. Among the educated and the upper classes (i.e., those with higher incomes and greater social influence), religion is widely regarded as equivalent to superstition.

Of course, the ignorant masses continue to believe in large numbers. So I unashamedly count myself among the ignorant.

Once you take into account basic physics, human psychology, flim-flammery, and the unreliability of eyewitness testimony, what more explanation is needed?

This strikes me as a direct attack on religion. Is that how you intended us to read it?

I don't share your scepticism about eyewitness testimony. My interest is primarily in the Jesus of history, as you know. I believe there is a great deal that can be taken as factual data about Jesus but, in their enthusiasm, early Christians also attempted to depict Jesus as a semi-divine being.

The voice of Jesus, as it speaks to us from the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, & Luke) is distinct from the voice of the individual evangelists or other believers (e.g. Paul). It is perfectly reasonable to accept, for example, that the sermon on the mount accurately captures Jesus' own message. (Even if it wasn't actually delivered on a hilltop, or delivered on a single occasion.)

My faith is rooted in an entirely human Jesus who was a man of faith; who challenged the presuppositions of his contemporaries; who promoted a more compassionate and inclusive religion; who treated women with extraordinary respect; and who expected God to put right everything that is wrong with the universe.

Essentially, he continued the tradition of the great Hebrew prophets before him. I am proud to continue in that same tradition, in my own insignificant way.

In your opinion, are hope, meaning, and purpose impossible without religious faith?

The final sentence in my post says as much, and I regret having spoken so categorically.

Speaking personally — I do not understand how it is possible to have hope, meaning, and purpose, aside from faith in some kind of transcendent reality. Hedonism seems to me the logical point of view if this world is all there is. Indulge yourself; never deny yourself anything. And why wouldn't we put handicapped people to death, or at least sterilize them, so they don't pollute the gene pool? And why wouldn't we use other people for our own pleasure, and exploit them for our own advantage?

And, as I asked Mrs. Aginoth, what hope or meaning survives chronic pain or debilitating illness? — if this world is all there is.

But those are my personal views. I understand that many people believe that this world is all there is, yet they are compassionate humanists, who may make personal sacrifices for the benefit of others (e.g. doctors without borders).

Frankly, I'm not sure their humanism flows logically from their presuppositions. But they are my brothers and sisters in the cause of social justice — hell, they're doing more good in the world than I will ever accomplish — so I can only tip my hat to them.
Q

 
At 10:05 AM, October 04, 2005, Blogger Juggling Mother said...

"If you truely believe there is only this world, that is enough hope to sustain you through anything."

Meant to say "science" instead of "that", meaning the belief in science can be just as strong & just as sustaining as the belief in an afterlife. If you know its only going to be another day/week/month/year until "they" find a cure/traetment, that can be enough to accept the suffering.

 
At 11:13 AM, October 04, 2005, Blogger Juggling Mother said...

Hedonism seems to me the logical point of view if this world is all there is

Why? If this is all there is, it is more important to make this world the best it can be. as I said, if you don't believe in an afterlife (I don't), the only "worth" or point to your life is how you contribute to this world & the people in it, and how (if) you are remembered once you are gone.

i have met many very religous people who live pious & religlously faithful lives, but without any impact on the world around them, believeing that as long as they do not break their faith, or personally do harm, they would go to heaven so who cares what happens to this world in 50 years time.

Whereas us atheists know that this is all we've got. Not doing harm is not enough, we have to actively improve the world for the next generation & the next to give ourselves purpose.

 
At 12:52 PM, October 04, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

Mrs. Aginoth:
I don't feel as strongly about this issue as I'm coming across in the comments. I'm arguing a particular point of view but, as I've already said to Snaars, I recognize that I have much in common with humanists.

But let me take up your point. If this world is all there is, surely I should think only of myself. Or myself and a few colleagues, who will band together like a gang of street toughs to watch each others' backs and use our combined force to get more stuff for ourselves.

If I have a terrible reputation, so what? My reputation will die with me, and everyone who thinks ill of me will soon vanish from the earth, too.

Conversely, if I strive to better the lot of my fellows, my good reputation will perish with me. As for those who thought well of me — their lives will be only a blip in the history of the cosmos.

Why should I have any regard for posterity? If every person's life is meaningless, no matter how many people I help, their meaningless lives cannot add meaning to my life.

Surely the only concern which should govern my conduct is, What's in it for me?
Q

 
At 1:06 PM, October 04, 2005, Blogger snaars said...

Q, to answer your first question: No, I didn't intend any of my statements to be taken as a direct attack against religion. When I asked about physics and flim-flammery, I was thinking about the story reported by the movie, although I realize now I didn't make that clear. It wasn't an attack on religion in general.

We don't know how many of the facts of the case have been distorted or misinterpreted. Many witnesses are unreliable, not because they tell falsehoods, but because what they have experienced is not the truth. Well-meaning, normal people, with no mental or physical illness, can have illusory experiences. This has been studied and well-documented by science.

Many hauntings, possessions, psychic readings, and miracles have turned out to have natural explanations, or have been perpetrated by charlatans and frauds.

Just because science cannot explain one particular instance of something, such as the wierdness depicted (correctly or incorrectly) in the movie, that does not mean that all of science is undermined. We don't have to resort to a belief in the supernatural.

I agree with Mrs. Aginoth. Hedonism does not follow necessarily from atheism.

It all comes down to a question of values. If selfish pleasure is all that I value, then I am a hedonist, whether I believe in God or not.

If I value things outside myself, things which seem to enrich my life, then I may come to see those things as more important than myself. These qualities are oftentimes personified as God(s).

I am a transitory thing, but I can make a contribution to life, goodness, beauty, and other such things, which will last longer than I will.

 
At 2:46 PM, October 04, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

Snaars:
Thanks for the clarification. It's always a good policy to ask a question instead of leaping to conclusions.

Just because science cannot explain one particular instance of something … does not mean that all of science is undermined. We don't have to resort to a belief in the supernatural.

Now it's my turn to clarify my position. I quickly shifted from a discussion of the movie to a discussion of the broader issue raised by the movie.

To be clear, I do not mean to defend demon possession or exorcism. (btw, the movie offers an alternative explanation of the phenomenon — which you wouldn't find persuasive either!)

For me, the critical thing to understand about the movie is that science had failed to improve the girl's condition before they attempted a spiritual cure. But the priest was prosecuted even though the family had opted for a scientific solution first. As I said in the post, that is a real issue that plays itself out in the courtroom from time to time. (e.g. homeopathic cancer treatments.)

In other words, I'm not suggesting that all science is undermined. The only point I originally set out to make is that people may be dragged into court for daring to explore a spiritual or homeopathic solution to their health problems, even after science has failed.

In that respect, I think the movie raises a legitimate issue, even though the specific example (exorcism) is sensational.

I am a transitory thing, but I can make a contribution to life, goodness, beauty, and other such things, which will last longer than I will.

I respect that — in fact, it's beautiful. But who says beauty is better than ugliness, or life is good while death is bad? What is goodness, and how do you make such a judgement?

Whence these values of yours, Snaars? It all perishes together — the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly alike — doesn't it?
Q

 
At 2:52 PM, October 04, 2005, Blogger Juggling Mother said...

"I am a transitory thing, but I can make a contribution to life, goodness, beauty, and other such things, which will last longer than I will."

Snaars, you said it perfectly. I just don't see why belif or scepticism in an afterlife has any bearing in how you view your time in this one. Some people only look internally & others externally.

 
At 3:06 PM, October 04, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

For the benefit of other readers (including you, Mrs. Aginoth), I should point out that Snaars is a philosopher. I'm giving him an unduly hard time, I know … but he lives and breathes this rarified air.

At least, I hope that's how you view it, Snaars.
Q

 
At 3:28 PM, October 04, 2005, Blogger CyberKitten said...

Many scientists do indeed believe in God (or a close facsimile of) and this has, to be honest with you, always confused me somewhat - but I guess that humans have a great capacity to 'double think'.

Science probably cannot answer the question: 'Is there a God?' After all how would you even go about trying to answer such a question? However, science can study religious psycholgy, sociology and anthropology and provide lots of the answers that go to make up the 'big' question of whether or not there is a God. It all depends on the questions you ask and how you go about answering them.

In my experience you are one of the few people who have actually agonised over their belief in God. Many people I have talked to have never questioned what they believe or why they believe it feeling,it seems, that such things are beyond debate. They believe and that's where thought stops. Talking to them on any meaningful level is impossible. Those like you who are more open minded to debate are far more interesting to talk to and much more instructive too.

 
At 3:36 PM, October 04, 2005, Blogger CyberKitten said...

You said: "I do not understand how it is possible to have hope, meaning, and purpose, aside from faith in some kind of transcendent reality. Hedonism seems to me the logical point of view if this world is all there is".. and yet are all atheists hopeless, meaningless hedonists? No, they are not. They can hope and plan for a better world for themselves and their children. Hope is a very human emotion, though not necessarily a religious or spiritual one. Isn't your statement akin to saying that atheists cannot be moral agents because their morality is not backed up by religious conviction? Such an idea is clearly wrong and, I'm sorry to say, rather patronising.

 
At 3:45 PM, October 04, 2005, Blogger CyberKitten said...

Some interesting arguments Q:

"If this world is all there is, surely I should think only of myself. Or myself and a few colleagues, who will band together like a gang of street toughs to watch each others' backs and use our combined force to get more stuff for ourselves."

What you seem to be saying here is that atheistic humanism should lead inevitably to what many people regard as anarchy - the rule of all against all - and yet... European societies which are, by and large, secular have not crumbled into chaos. The reason? Because by nature (a WHOLE other argument) we humans are social creatures. We not only have ourselves to think about but also our families, our friends, our clan etc.. We also know that in an anti-social world we ALL suffer so the best of all possible worlds is a socially cohesive one. Chaos is in no ones interest.

 
At 4:06 PM, October 04, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

Cyberkitten:
Those like you who are more open minded to debate are far more interesting to talk to and much more instructive too.

Thank you!

• … yet are all atheists hopeless, meaningless hedonists? No, they are not.

A point which I acknowledged in my reference to Doctors Without Borders.

Hope is a very human emotion, though not necessarily a religious or spiritual one.

Well said! There is something deep in the human breast that persists in hoping; even, for example, while living in a concentration camp.

Isn't your statement akin to saying that atheists cannot be moral agents because their morality is not backed up by religious conviction? Such an idea is clearly wrong and, I'm sorry to say, rather patronising.

I sincerely regret it if the remark is patronising. If we were having this conversation face to face, I assure you that you would experience nothing but respect from me.

My intention is just to press people on the logical implications of their presuppositions. This is one way to evaluate a worldview. If Christians behaved true to their convictions, what would that look like? And what insight does that give us into Christianity?

Likewise, if atheists were entirely consistent with their convictions, what would that look like, and what insight does the mental exercise afford us?

by nature we humans are social creatures. … We also know that in an anti-social world we ALL suffer so the best of all possible worlds is a socially cohesive one. Chaos is in no ones interest.

This is an interesting argument which I would describe as essentially utilitarian. I think Snaars would approach the issue differently, but he might also affirm what you've written here.

I don't think it's true that chaos is in no one's best interest, but it is true for most of us — the many who will never become "top dog".

Thanks so much for engaging me in such a substantive dialogue.
Q

 
At 4:38 PM, October 04, 2005, Blogger CyberKitten said...

My pleasure Q. Such dialogue is my meat and veg... my 1st degree is in Social Ethics so I really do love this stuff..

"If Christians behaved true to their convictions, what would that look like? And what insight does that give us into Christianity?"

Good question. It says much about how many people who profess to be Christians are actually the 'genuine article'. It also begs the question 'What flavour of Christianity are we talking about here?' Could I live in such a world? Also a very good question - depending as it does on so much else unsaid.

It is certainly hard to imagine an atheistic world - and I've tried (grin). Personally I think that as a species we have wasted so much time, energy and lives on religion - despite the fact that it has produced wonderful art and architecture. Would a world based on Reason be a better one? I would certainly hope so - but I don't think we're going to find out in our lifetimes.

Actually I've always had problems with the Utilitarian approach. 'The Greatest Good for The Greatest Number' has never really sat well with my political beliefs regarding the role and rights of the individual. But hey - I'm a human being and no one said I had to be consistant (or even rational)

Chaos can indeed be used as a temporary method of gaining control. However, once the objective is achieved order is often brutally reinstated.

Happy, as always, to engage in dialogue

 
At 5:27 PM, October 04, 2005, Blogger snaars said...

I agree with cyberkitten's sentiments regarding utilitarianism. Pure utilitarianism ignores the concept of moral rights. Still, it has a lot going for it and I think the best possible ethics would incorporate some sort of utilitarianism.

But who says beauty is better than ugliness, or life is good while death is bad?

I do, it's in my nature to distinguish such things.

It all perishes together — the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly alike — doesn't it?

Yup. To quote Ecclesiastes and The Byrds: To everything there is a season (turn turn turn).

 
At 5:39 PM, October 04, 2005, Blogger aaron said...

Q,
I've been tempted to chime in a couple of times, but have resisted due to my fellow atheists doing a better job of making my points than I could (or at least beating me to the punch). However, one post of yours really got my attention:

If this world is all there is, surely I should think only of myself. Or myself and a few colleagues, who will band together like a gang of street toughs to watch each others' backs and use our combined force to get more stuff for ourselves.(and the rest of that post)

I want to turn this contention around on you -- are people of faith incapable of doing good for the sake of helping others? Every time they give to charity, or hold the door open for a stranger, is it because they believe that they need to do so in order to come out ahead in the afterlife?

Because I help strangers regularly. Sometimes it's donations to charities. Sometimes I stop and give directions to tourists looking lost. Sometimes I simply hold the door open at a public building.

Why do I do it? I presume it's partly because of the way I was raised. But there's more to it than that -- by helping others, we make this world a better place. And since this is the world I live in, and I believe that I'll have no second chances, I want to help make it a better place.

 
At 6:00 PM, October 04, 2005, Blogger CyberKitten said...

I used to have a quote from the Koran on my wall @ work. It read: Cursed is he who leaves the world no better than he entered it. It's a good idea to try and live by.

As Aaron said - this is the world we live in (despite the fact that some - actually many - believe that there is a better one waiting) so it pays us to make it the best one that we possibly can.

 
At 6:38 PM, October 04, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Q

I deleted my first comment. It created a referrer link to my school blog. There are some really crazy things happening there and I don't want my personal blog connected with work right now. Just in case. Cheers!

Heather
The Big Picture

 
At 9:04 PM, October 04, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

• Aaron:
Are people of faith incapable of doing good for the sake of helping others? Every time they give to charity, or hold the door open for a stranger, is it because they believe that they need to do so in order to come out ahead in the afterlife?

There are several reasons for Christians to do good. Coming out ahead in the afterlife is not among them, since the New Testament teaches that life in the age to come is a gift. By definition, a gift cannot be earned — neither by performing meritorious deeds nor in any other way.

The primary reason for doing good is because Christians should strive to conform to God's character in all that we think and do. Jesus says, for example, that God makes his sun to shine on the righteous and the unrighteous, and sends rain on the evil and the good indiscriminately. Because God is the model we strive to follow, we should do likewise.

(btw, rain in this passage is to be understood as a blessing; Israel's economy was based on agriculture.)

Another reason to do good is because our fellow human beings are created in God's image. They have innate dignity and deserve to be treated accordingly.

I realize you're asking a deeper philosophical question, however, which I intend to address in a follow-up post.

• Snaars:
I do, it's in my nature to distinguish such things.

Are you mocking me here? Because this is a real philosophical problem I'm calling to your attention … as I will explain in my follow-up post.
Q

 
At 9:59 AM, October 05, 2005, Blogger snaars said...

I haven't read your follow-up post yet. I want you to know I wasn't mocking you. The comment was slightly in jest (it did cross my mind that you would see the comment as being heretical), but it was meant to make a serious point.

Your question was, "But who says beauty is better than ugliness, or life is good while death is bad?"

One of the differences between us is that you think that the good/bad distinction cannot be made in the absence of God, while I believe that good and bad just are - and that we humans have learned to distinguish the two.

So, while I took your question to mean something like, "where do good and evil come from," I chose to interpret it a little more literally. I am just as capable of recognizing good and evil as the next guy, so ... "Who's to say?" I am.

Sorry the joke fell a little flat. I'm glad you asked about it and gave me the opportunity to explain myself to you and the other readers.

 
At 10:06 AM, October 05, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

Your joke didn't fall flat because I laughed out loud when I read your comment. But the joke was evidently at my expense, or so it seemed to me.

That's OK, it didn't keep me from laughing.
Q

 

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