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Featured The “naturalist” Problem of Suffering

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by leroy, Jul 28, 2022.

  1. leroy

    leroy Well-Known Member

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    The “atheist” Problem of Suffering

    The problem of suffering is perhaps the most sound and difficult argument against the existence of God, after all why would God allow for suffering? Theist have proposed many answers, but such answers usually have a high price to pay, and quite honestly I(as a theist) haven’t seen a “good solution” for this problem

    However Atheists / naturalists have the same problem, they can’t explain suffering ether, so I guess suffering is simply a strange thing that nobody cant explain.

    Why Atheists cant explain Suffering

    Well suffering is a complex and useless mechanism so why would it evolve by natural selection? It is true that NS is not the only naturalistic option but none of the alternatives that I am aware of seems to solve the problem.

    Reacting Vs Suffering

    For the purpose of this argument, do not confuse “reacting” and “suffering”Almost all organism react to avoid harmful situations, for example sometimes plants produce a poisonous substance when someone is trying to pull down a tree, clams would hide underground, spiders would bite you, etc, this is a very useful mechanism because it helps organisms to survive and reproduce.

    However there is a big difference between “reacting” (like most organisms do ) and real and actual suffering (where only complex organisms do) a plant doesn’t really suffer, it doesn’t really feel pain it simply reacts………….too suffer is a complex mental state that doesn’t offer any selective advantage.

    So the argument is

    1 Complex + Useless mechanism are not expected to evolve

    2 suffering (as oppose to reacting) is a complex and useless mechanism

    3 therefore suffering is not expected to evolve./ therefore atheist have the same problem than theists


    Sure as a naturalist you can appeal to many excuses, perhaps there is “something” that we don’t know yet about, that would explain suffering, but theist can use the same excuse, “maybe” there is a good explanation for why we have suffering.
     
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  2. Twilight Hue

    Twilight Hue Twilight, not bright nor dark, good nor bad.

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    I think there are both atheists and theists that understand suffering.

    First that life is pain, which is obvious.

    Second the Indigenous saying that you dont own the land but it's the land that owns you.

    We think of pain in a backyard sense that we think we can control it, but the reality remains, its pain that controls us.

    Therin the understanding lays in acceptance.
     
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  3. dybmh

    dybmh Terminal Optimist

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    Human suffering causes a person to focus sharply on what matters most to them.
     
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  4. ChristineM

    ChristineM "Be strong" I whispered to my coffee.
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    Suffering is easy it comes free with the human condition. No god needed.
     
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  5. exchemist

    exchemist Veteran Member

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    This has to be one of the stupidest arguments yet.

    Suffering is not a biologically inherited characteristic of an organism. As such, evolution has nothing to do with it. Evolution is driven by what leads to the greatest reproductive success of the species. Anything else is beside the point.
     
    #5 exchemist, Jul 28, 2022
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2022
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  6. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    No, it is perhaps the most sound and difficult argument against some rather anthropocentric presumptions about God.
     
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  7. Heyo

    Heyo Veteran Member

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    While I agree that there is a problem of a needed explanation, the problem has a different quality for the naturalist. Nature is neither supposed to be benevolent nor omnipotent. So suffering is simply an unanswered question, not a contradiction to dogma. The human brain is a highly complex organ and prone to all kinds of malfunctions. Suffering can simply be a glitch that comes with higher brain functions, biologically acceptable because the benefits override the negatives. Natural selection can get away with "good enough" - unlike a perfect omni god.
     
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  8. Nakosis

    Nakosis Time Efficient Lollygagger
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    Not sure if you have a good understanding of the concept of suffering.
    Suffering is not pain or loss. Suffering is a mental state of the desire of life to be better or other than it's current state.

    For example I recently had surgery where the procedure and recovery were very painful. (For some reason, these days, doctors refuse to prescribe much in the way of pain medication.) I was required to lay in a flat position for 6 hours and not move or change my position. This after a painful surgery, were I was also told I could not move, felt at the moment like endless torture.

    However I knew this procedure was necessary to improve my health. To me it was painful yes, but not suffering because I accepted it as something that was necessary so I didn't want life to be other than what it is.

    Same with loss. When you loose a loved one, you want them to be here with you again. You want life to be other than what it is. Suffering comes when you want life to be different. When you know/can imagine life being something better, something you desire but are unable to obtain it.

    Less intelligent creatures don't have the same capability to imagine all of the possible ways life could be better as humans do. They "suffer" less.

    So suffering happens when you don't accept life as it is. When you want life instead to happen according to your desires.

    Because or our intellect and ability to imagine a better future, we can work to change the world to better meet or desires. Of course the future doesn't always come about the way we wish it to. When we can't reconcile the world that we want to exist with the world that is, that is when we suffer.

    I agree, suffering is a useless mechanism. There is no value to be found in suffering. However it comes about as a by-product of our intellect, our ability to imagine. The greater our intellect, the greater our ability to imagine a better world the greater the capacity we have to suffer because of reality failing to live up to our desires.

    To end suffering for yourself you simply need to stop wanting the world to be other than what it is. You have to stop wanting the world to meet your expectation of what the world ought to be at this exact moment. You can of course still act to bring about the future that you want but when the future becomes the present you have to accept the present cannot be anything other than what it is, pain, loss, these things you will experience but you can end suffering when you accept these experiences could not have occurred any other way than the way that they did.
     
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  9. leroy

    leroy Well-Known Member

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    Ok so if evolution doesn’t explain “suffering” how do you explain the origin of this mechanism ?
     
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  10. leroy

    leroy Well-Known Member

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    Well in the same sense suffering could be a ” glitch” caused by a “higher good” …. My 3yo daughter suffered yesterday because she had to take some medicine, but that suffering was caused in favor of obtaining a better good, perhaps all suffering is like that…….. my point is that if the naturalist can expostulate on “unknown stuff that we don’t understand yet about the brain and evolution” the theist can do the same with God……….both have limited knowledge and both can speculate that new knowledge could solve the problem
     
  11. leroy

    leroy Well-Known Member

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    In this context I am talking about physical suffering, like the pain that you felt in the surgery room……… most organism wouldn’t have felt any pain, in order to have a selective benefit you don’t need to feel conscious pain (complex mechanism) all you need is to react and avoid pain (simple mechanism) … Natural Selection is unlikely to select complex useless mechanisms over simple and useful mechanisms
     
  12. QuestioningMind

    QuestioningMind Well-Known Member

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    It's only a problem if you're claiming that your god is all powerful, all knowing, and all loving. Since no one claims that nature has these attributes, I don't see how naturalism is a problem for atheists.
     
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  13. leroy

    leroy Well-Known Member

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    Well then read the OP and you´ll see why is it a problem for atheists.
     
  14. Nimos

    Nimos Well-Known Member

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    I don't think I agree that atheists have the same problem. It depends on what one means by suffering.

    Because the way I would look at it is how you can look at pain or as a subset of pain. To simplify it, one could say that pain in itself as a "concept" also doesn't offer any selective advantage, so that ought to go as well.

    But a being feels pain as a result of getting hurt, suffering is also something that could derive from pain and getting hurt. Let's say an animal gets attacked by a lion and gets some scratches, but manages to get away, that would then be in pain and might suffer as a result of it and might eventually die. You could argue that this is reactionary as the one that you describe.

    Even if you are born with some disability that causes suffering, the suffering didn't come out of the blue, it came as a result of something going wrong. So that would be reactionary as well.

    So what do you classify or mean by suffering? can you give an example for clarification, of suffering which doesn't have a reactionary cause?

    The reason atheists don't have the same problem as theists have, if we use the same example above with an animal suffering, is that suffering is a result of being hurt or it might be a result of how a predator hunting prey takes place using whatever tools it has. But for a theist, God could in principle have made this process unpainful, so there wouldn't be any suffering involved.
     
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  15. Heyo

    Heyo Veteran Member

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    Only if s/he is willing to sacrifice either benevolence or omnipotence (or both). An omnipotent god could have solved a problem without subjecting sentient beings to suffering.
     
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  16. lewisnotmiller

    lewisnotmiller Grand Hat
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    I don't see the issue.

    There are certain beliefs around God which I cannot reconcile with suffering, but other beliefs around God can reconcile. So even for theists it's contextual.

    What the OP seems to be saying is that a naturalist theory of life can't explain suffering. I'm not sure that's true, but for evolution to be involved in the way being suggested there'd need to be reproductive advantage to be had by not suffering, and there'd need to be enough people with that trait for it to be inheritable.

    Ladies, imagine you're at a club and a dude approaches you who literally can't suffer, and doesn't understand suffering AT ALL.

    More likely to sleep with him, or more likely to think 'psychopath'??
     
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  17. Subduction Zone

    Subduction Zone Veteran Member

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    You appear to be rather confused, again, and are also trying to make up your own definitioins.

    Biologically pain is a very useful mechanism. It drives an organism to retreat from harmful or dangerous situations. "Suffering" occurs when an organism cannot retreat from a pain. There could be several causes of it. For example a gnu may retreat from a lion due to understanding what pain is, but the lion may still catch the prey. The prey will suffer for a while from the pain inflicted at its death. They body is telling it to run when it can no longer do so. Pain is still a useful trait for the species, it is just no longer useful for that individual. One thing tha t people that do not understand evolution do quite often is to conflate individual members of a species with a species in general. I can give countless examples of how pain is a good thing. When you throw a 4 ounce rock into the air and let it hit you on the head you quickly realize that doing the same with a 2 pound boulder would not be a good idea. Pain acts as a warning. People tend to be stupid at times and we need warnings. But sometimes our systems fail. Especially as we get older. So things that use to cause a moment of pain now cause long term or even permanent pain. When we are old we are no longer affected nearly as much by evolutionary drives. We are not going to have more children or be involved in raising them. And once that happens evolution does not "care" about use any longer. In other words, there is no evolutionary advantage to a pain free life after a while so there is no evolutionary drive to have a perfect nervous system.

    Suffering shows that we were evolved and not created.
     
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  18. The Hammer

    The Hammer Fork-Beard
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    Suffering is just a mechanism to point us to the fact that something is wrong, needs addressing, or needs to be changed.
     
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  19. Polymath257

    Polymath257 Think & Care
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    Suffering is a spandrel based on the requirement to have pain.

    Pain is good because it allows us to avoid injury, either by alerting us to damage or to prevent us from doing something that could damage further. it is there to communicate that something is wrong.

    So there very much is an evolutionary advantage to having pain.

    Suffering is simply pain that is not shut off. And, since there is no evolutionary advantage to shutting off pain in every situation, suffering results.
     
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  20. Evangelicalhumanist

    Evangelicalhumanist "Truth" isn't a thing...
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    Reacting requires some means of being aware of what you react to. An adverse reaction is generally the result of being aware of an adverse (e.g. painful) stimulus. Once that mechanism is built, why would you suppose that once you have reacted, you should then become unaware of the stimulus that caused the reaction? For example, the toxin that a poisonous spider injects causes pain -- but there's no particular reason that, once you've withdrawn your hand, the pain should disappear, since the poison is still in your flesh.

    One of the downsides of sensation is that you notice it -- even when you no longer need it. That's not an argument for or against anything.
     
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