Issues with the Garden of Eden

Discussion in 'Off Topic Area' started by CKava, May 6, 2007.

  1. CanuckMA

    CanuckMA Valued Member

    The omnipotence and omniciense of G-d can also be put in context that G-d knows the outcome of every possible choice we make, but free will still lets us make the choices.

    In Jewish thought, the tree thing is generally seen as a test of free will. G-d sets a limit to see if Adam and Eve will have the free will to disobey. It is still not clear if they passed the test or not.
  2. Topher

    Topher allo!

    But free will fails in its intended purpose - to remove ultimate responsibility from god, which is an impossibility for an omnipotent god, since god would be responsible for everything that can possibly influence a persons ‘choice’ to begin with.
  3. CanuckMA

    CanuckMA Valued Member

    What makes you think thast free will's porpuse id to remove responsibility from G-d?

    When you raise a child, you let the child make decisions. You know what the consequences of those actions are going to be, but unless it endangers the child, you let it make decisions. That is one of the reasons the Prophets so often use a father/child metaphor when speaking about the G-d/Israel relationship.
  4. Strafio

    Strafio Trying again...

    I think he's referring to the "but God gave you free will!" excuses that some theologians come out with as a response to the problem of evil.
  5. CanuckMA

    CanuckMA Valued Member

    'The problem of eveil' is, of course, a construct dependant on your religious bent.

    That's where I'm coming from
  6. Strafio

    Strafio Trying again...

    It all depends on whether G-d is supposed to be perfect.
    If so, the perfect thing would be a yeltzer ra that gave the good motivation without the bad, or a yetzer tov that was powerful/efficient enough to prevent the person from following their darker inhibitions.

    Sometimes Christians will say that God is perfect and we are not.
    We will ask how our imperfection came about if we were made by a perfect God.
    They then say the word 'free will' as if it answers it, but it doesn't.
  7. Topher

    Topher allo!

    That’s all well and good, but the ultimate responsibility still falls to god, since an omnipotent god would be responsible for every parameter of existence and hence would hold ultimate responsibility for everything at can influence any choice we make.
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2007
  8. AZeitung

    AZeitung The power of Grayskull

    Why does a perfect God have to create people incapable of sin? If I were to write a book, I would probably write it with some bad stuff happening in it, even though I'm quite capable of writing a story where the characters act perfectly and nothing bad ever happens to anyone.

    I'll admit, it's not an exact analogy, since the purpose of a story is solely entertainment, but I don't see why God's perfection necessitates that he only create perfect beings.

    And to stick with the above concepts, who's to say that when someone sins that it's necessarily because his "yetzer tov" isn't strong enough that it could have controlled his desires if he had wanted to?

    What if someone says "I understand that this is wrong, but I see the benefits to me outweighing the costs if I commit this act"? Perhaps our limited knowledge and understanding of things on a large scale influences our decisions as well, and it's our lack of omniscience that seperates our actions from those of a perfect being? And can freewill really be said to exist if we have such a powerful impulse to do good that our other impulses cannot overcome it? It sounds like the Jewish view is be that the yetzer tov and yetzer ra aren't the components of freewill, but that our freewill allows us to choose between two equally valid impulses.

    Maybe there's value in suffering, or being able to suffer, and to experience both defiance and acceptance of God's will. Maybe the knowledge of both of those things is a valuable gift. Maybe our "imperfection" is only a transitory part of our current life.

    And does freewill mean that if a, b, c, and d happen, that necessitates that I will do e? I don't think so. I think it means that I can choose to perform actions e, f, g, h, etc. . . and my decision itself isn't a deterministic (or random) function of the events that lead up to it. Can I explain how it works, then? No. Does it make sense? I'm pretty sure.

    I can't explain how you can produce a truly random number, either, but it happens (in quantum mechanics, not in any computer based random number generating method, which all use tables, functions, and inputs). In QM, truly random events take place that have no causal connection to previous values. This is totally different from any man-man "random" number generation process, like rolling dice, or using a random number table, which doesn't really produce random values. The values are deterministic functions of the way the dice are thrown, or the index of the table.

    And despite the lack of causal connection to previous values, in QM, events (measurements of energy, position, etc) still follow definite distributions.

    This isn't the same as free will by any means. The point is, a lot of people like to claim there's some false dichotomy where events must either be random or deterministic. There really isn't. While freewill, as I've defined it, might sounds illogical, true random number generation just as illogical. Even stranger is *true* random number generation (in the QM sense) that follows a well defined distribution function.

    So where does freewill fit in? I'd say it's a third type of thing, neither random nor deterministic and there's no reason that we should say that this isn't allowed and random numbers are.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2007
  9. Strafio

    Strafio Trying again...

    I guess it depends on what you're aiming for.
    If you want drama (and maybe that's what God wants) then you're right.
    However, most Christian theologies (although this may not apply to yours) believe that God hates sin above all other things.

    It necessitates that he creates as he wants and that whatever comes of his creation is his responsibility. If the world is as it is, and God created it the way he wanted it. It means that even if 'libertarian free will' (as opposed to compatibilist free will that determinists believe in) is true, it would not absolve God of responsibility. God chose to give people the kind of free will that made them capable of sinning.

    When I say 'kind of free will' I mean that all free will has limits.
    Let's look at some examples:
    Some will say that they do not have free will to fly like a bird, that some actions a physically impossible, but I don't think that kind of limitation on free will is very relevent.
    A more interesting limit on free will is as follows:
    Technically, I have free will to eat my own faeces yet I will never ever do it. So I have free will to do it but I know that I will never do it. I have been wired to find that too disgusting to contemplate, and I didn't need to be taught this - it is instinctual. If God had made me with that kind of repulsion to sin then I would possibly never sin, all this without changing my free will as technically I would be capable of it. This is the way he wanted me to be, unless he did a botch job in my creation. The only conclusion can be that he wanted me to be sinful, so a theodicy would have to account for that.

    Your point on free will was interesting.
    My position against libertarian free will was partly based on the argument against randomness so I might have some rethinking to do. I've not studied the topic in great detail but I'll probably take a closer look at it someday. I'm still a compatibilist for the moment.
  10. AZeitung

    AZeitung The power of Grayskull

    True, although is it the acts themselves that he abhores or:
    1) the fact that we have chosen to exercize our free will to defy his laws.
    2) the way we are harmed when we sin.

    For 1, perhaps that also means that there's merit in excercizing our free will to follow his laws, in which case, if we're not given the option of sinning, then our actions would lose much of their significance.

    For 2, perhaps part of our intrinsic value is in our capability to choose to sin or not, and without this choice, or lives wouldn't have much (any) more value than any other living thing, and the harm that could come to us wouldn't be as important.

    And I would agree with this. We could say God is responsible for the existence of the entire universe, but given libertarian free will, he wouldn't be responsible for your specific sin at a specific point in time. Sin would be a direct, not unforseen result of his creation, but maybe it's an integral part of the value of "good" in his creation as well (it sounds so cliche, I know).

    Well, some people do eat their own feces. But point taken.

    Let's say there's some objective way to measure how bad particular sins are, and we're programmed with the proper amount of revulsion--so for example, a small lie might not really hurt anyone all that much, but it's offensive to God, so it's better for us not to sin because we love God enough that we don't want to offend him, rather than because it seems so repulsive to us.

    Take for example, the Catholic prayer, the Act of Contrition, which at one point says "I detest all sin because of thy just punishments, but mostly because it offends thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love". So, is it better that we don't sin because it hurts us (makes us feel revolted) when we do, or because we love God and have made a conscious choice to follow his will? And maybe our love for God is something that we should be able to offer freely or withold as well.

    that may or may not be the best argument--perhaps it lends itself to going into an endless cycle of arguments of the sort you made in that passage I quoted above, but at the moment, at least, it seems to work to me.

    Well, some versions of physics don't support my arguments as well as I would like them to.

    The many worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics essentially eliminates randomness and leaves us with only apparent randomness, since we can only experience one world. However, MWI is riddled with its own problems, like for example, that the probability distributions disappear, and you're left with equal probability for everything (this would be very bad for physics).

    But, even though I don't take them seriously, I find claims interesting like those of Wigner (I think it was him) that the laws of physics might not actually be mathematical, but that mathematics is the way our brains interpret them. Who's to say that things that seem logically necessarry actually have to be the way we think, or if that's just the way our brains work. Who knows--determinism, randomness, nature, physics, logic--maybe it all works quite differently than we think it does. I really don't think so, but it's interesting nonetheless. And maybe that's just my poor human brain trying to make sense of an crazy world :D .

    edit: It appears that Wigner never actually said anything so stupid, and it was actually "Hamming's follow to Wigner" which you can read about in

    Many of Hammings arguments, though, it should be noted, are generlly accepted as false and just plain retarded. I can deduce a logical formulation of physics that doesn't conform to that of the real world, despite what he might think.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2007
  11. Strafio

    Strafio Trying again...

    The thing is, when I make a decision I don't make a conscious choice between 'God' and 'not God', or 'Gods law' and 'not Gods law'. To make such a conscious choice you already have to have knowledge of God.

    For this picture to make sense, God is no longer a sin-hating anal retentive, but more of an artist who is building up our experience in a certain way. (this is more in line with modernist theology)
    Even then, much suffering in the world doesn't appear to meet this criteria, much of it seemingly needless, random and generally without value. If everyone had lives like mine then I could agree with you, because where I have 'suffered' it has lead to a character building conclusion overall. There are many people who aren't so lucky.

    This is similar to your point (1) above, that God is disappointed with our choice to disobey him. It sort of pre-supposes that we make a conscious choice between sinning and not sinning. I don't think that such a line can be defended.
    The closest argument I can think of is when we go against our conscience.
    However, this argument would depend on our conscience being an effective guide. First problem with this is our conscience usually only makes us feel guilty after we've done something wrong rather than give us forewarning. A second problem is that a person conscience is more of a guide to 'political correctness' than morality. It reflects the imperitives that have been drilled in them during their upbringing.

    This is very philosophical so right up my street.
    There is a germ of truth in it as there's good reason to believe that we project our way of thinking onto the world. A good example of projection is when you misread a word in a sentence. Your eyes see the word clearly but your 'perception' might read it as another word, a word that it was expecting to come in that kind of sentence. When you look back, you see the actual word as clear as day, but when you earlier perceived it your mind projected a different image. (you would even have remembered it as reading the mistaken word.)

    Some philosophers believe that projection plays an essential part to the way that we see the world, that we organise the world into linguistic concepts, and any description we have of the world will be tainted by our linguistic concepts. (a bit like how a paradigm can determin the interpretation of scientific data within a theory)
    However, the flaw with the quoted arguments might be put as followed:
    What we call the 'real world' is also projected... and the thought of a worldview without projection is unintelligible so any talk of a real world outside our mathematical projection is incoherent. But it might not be. The philosopher Kant talked about 'things as they are' being transcendent and unknowable as all knowledge through empirical methods being subject to projection. He believed the 'structures' of space and time to be the most fundamental projections of all and that the rest of our empirical knowledge depended on them.
  12. AZeitung

    AZeitung The power of Grayskull

    First of all, we have to consider whether or not theres any intrinsic knowledge about things being right or wrong, and if doing good because we consciously know it's good (as opposed to because doing evil would make us feel bad) is similar to doing it because God wants you to. Is choosing something right *because* it's right, as opposed to do it because it makes you feel good (or because not diong it makes you feel bad) just (or nearly) as good as doing it because you believe it's what God wants to be done.

    For example, I've volounteered at a soup kitchen. Would I feel bad if I didn't volounteer there? Not really. Do I think I'd go to hell if I didn't? No. Do I get a huge sense of self satisfaction, or good feelings when I do? No. Most of the time, it sucks because you're basically doing dishes continuously for a whole day and I wish I wasn't there. But I do it because intellectually, I know it's a good thing to do, and that it helps people, even if you don't always feel like you're helping people by washing dishes.

    Second of all, is doing something wrong just as bad if you don't believe that it's wrong, or if you don't believe that God doesn't want you to do it? In Catholic theology, a mortal sin is only a mortal sin if you understand that it's a mortal sin. So willfully violating God's law seems to be an important part of what makes a sin a sin.

    I think you may have missed the point there. It didn't have to do with building character, more the fact that our value as things is that we're a type of thing that can choose right or wrong, and that the capability to only choose good would lower our value--not because we hadn't experienced evil, but because we didn't have the capability of choosing it.

    You do bring up an interesting point, though, because I do think there might be a value in experiencing suffering. However, your argument about suffering is different from an argument about sin, because it seems to apply more to natural disasters than whether or not we actively choose to cause suffering, which falls more under the free will arguments.

    So, if your conscience only influences you (for the most part) after you commit an act, does that mean that the only thing stopping you from committing certain acts in the past, like murder, is was your fear of getting punished by the legal system?

    Surely, at some level, you, and most people would feel that it's wrong to kill someone who's making you angry, and perhaps rationalize it in a certain way--but at least at some level, think it's a bad idea beyond the legal consequences. But whether intellectually, or emotionally, you'd understand that you shouldn't do it, before you comitted the act. You have to understand, in some way, that it's a bad enough thing to do that you shouldn't do it every time someone upsets you. If you didn't understand that it was bad, there would be no reason not to (aside from possible punishment).

    And maybe that's not conscience, exactly, but there's something guiding your behavior that says murder isn't an appropriate response to being annoyed. And this isn't really a response to your second argument, because I can't argue whether it's culturally ingrained or not, but the point is, it guides you before the fact, not after, whether it's a product of your upbringing or innate knowledge.
    I think assuming that the data we have collected, in terms of pure measurements, quantitatively recorded, are accurate, then the universe is actually described mathematically--that is to say, that at the fundimental level, an equation or series of equations guides all of physics. And I don't think this is just because we think mathematically, so we project that description onto the universe around us. Mathematical descriptions of nature consistantly make accurate predictions, whereas non-mathematical descriptions (like aristotelian physics) do not. Is there a non-mathematical equivalent of F = ma, for example? A non-mathematical expression that would allow us to know the path a bowling ball would take if you dropped it off the roof of a building? I doubt it.

    And when you predict the path of a bowling ball, for example, you could stick little pegs in different places, and the bowling ball would hit every one of those pegs. And it would be impossible for anyone to disagree, despite their upbringing, culture, or perceptual filters, that the bowling ball was following that path.

    Yes, I agree, this could all be a product of our human perception, and that the bowling ball and pegs might not actually be touching--it could be some form of mass halucination, and when it comes down to a basic level, there's really no way we can say what is a product of our individual imagination and not--but assuming that the observations we make have actual correspondence to reality in some way that our quantitative measurements are directly proportional to real quantities, then I have a very strong feeling that the universe itself is actually mathematical, and doesn't just appear to be mathematical because we choose to describe it as such.

    I suppose I would tend to agree with Kant, although generally I make the assumption that the knowledge we get through empirical measurements is correct, or accurate measurement of the way things really are.

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