Theodicy: bad bacteria seen differently (Introduction)

by dhw, Monday, July 12, 2021, 11:02 (102 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID: when everyone has to eat something there is constant warfare. This essay says we are mainly innocent bystanders in the war between bacteria and themselves and other tiny organisms. The article is filled with examples of the battles. Read to be fascinated. My view is a wise God knew this, gave us immune systems an the brains to help ourselves. The 'bad' are not purposeful against us. God wouldn't do that.

dhw: You are quite right to broaden the discussion to everyone. And this leaves you with a God who either directly (creationism) or indirectly (evolution) created bacteria and viruses and everyone else with the freedom to design their own methods of finding food. (You call it constant warfare, but you are forgetting the equally important role of constant cooperation – two very different methods.) The common thread is the struggle for survival, and this goes back thousands of millions of years before humans. Exit anthropocentrism. The problem of theodicy is the existence of “bad” in a world supposedly created by a God who is all “good”. The problem disappears if we jettison both concepts. You constantly protest against any humanization of God except your own, so drop the concepts of “good” and “bad” altogether and substitute the following: your God, whose nature and intentions are unknown, created life forms in such a manner that they could reproduce and evolve into other life forms. Developments were triggered by interplay between living conditions and the intelligence of organisms as they tried to find means of surviving or improving their chances of survival. This process resulted in constant warfare and constant collaboration between organisms, independently of your God. We humans are so far its culmination, are affected just like every other life form by the struggle for survival – viruses and bacteria being just one of many factors - and it is WE who distinguish between “good” and “bad”. God simply created the mechanisms for organisms to do their own thing in a constantly changing free-for-all. We are “part of a microbial narrative” and an even wider narrative to which we make a huge contribution, but it is WE and our fellow organisms that have created and still create the narrative itself – not God. So there is no “good” or “bad” involved.

DAVID: You have arrived at my point of view. We make judgments about good and bad, right and wrong and those judgments require advancing research to known whether the judgments have any validity. Theodicy, based on our judgments is our problem, not God's.

That is not my point of view at all. Yes, we make judgements, but our judgements are irrelevant because – as the article makes abundantly clear – life is not all about us! That is the polar opposite of your insistence that WE are your God’s one and only purpose for creating life! And my point is not that we wait to find out whether our judgements of good and bad are valid, but that there IS no good or bad. If God exists, he devised a system whereby all life forms pursued their own methods of survival. To put it very simply: what’s good for a bacterium may be bad for a human. Your comment below (under “ERVs fight viral infection” sums it up, though in a manner you do not intend:

DAVID: So it turns out viruses can also be good, not bad. My view is God has a reason for everything, and as yesterday's essay shows, we are innocent bystanders in the war of eat or be eaten.

Some viruses can be good for viruses and good for humans, and others can be good for viruses and bad for humans. In the war of eat or be eaten we are not innocent bystanders, since we are the most predatory of all life forms, but we are part of the great free-for-all, in which ALL life forms participate in the war of eat or be eaten. That – as you at last seem to have realized – is what we call the struggle for survival, and it continued/continues, regardless of whether humans were/are involved or not. Your God, if he exists, would have invented the means whereby all life forms evolved as they invented new ways of surviving or improving their chances of survival. This process is what has produced the vast and ever changing bush of life. And this explains life’s history and also solves the mystery of theodicy: there is no good and bad, as I've tried to explain above. God started the process off, and only when we came along did the concepts of good and bad come into being, as we relate all events to ourselves. That is the point made by the article in the limited context of bacteria: “a growing number of studies show that our anthropocentric view is sometimes unjustified”. I am suggesting that in the wider context of “good” and “bad”, our anthropocentric view is always unjustified. In the context of theodicy, this means that what your God created was the struggle for survival – not a mixture of good and bad.


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