Wednesday, October 29, 2008

30 Tishri 5769: Ro’sh Ḥodhesh/Internet Day


Worthy cause of the day: “Change military policy about animals”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Atheists read religious texts for charity”: Not quite sure what to make of this. At the very least, this means at least a few atheists are not totally ignorant of what their opponents believe.
  2. “Are You Evil? Profiling That Which Is Truly Wicked”: Summary: Someone is trying to deliberately make an evil computer program, called “E”. The problem with the concept is that evil (and its opposite, good) are essentially matters of opinion.  To quote:
    To be truly evil, someone must have sought to do harm by planning to commit some morally wrong action with no prompting from others (whether this person successfully executes his or her plan is beside the point). The evil person must have tried to carry out this plan with the hope of "causing considerable harm to others," Bringsjord says. Finally, "and most importantly," he adds, if this evil person were willing to analyze his or her reasons for wanting to commit this morally wrong action, these reasons would either prove to be incoherent, or they would reveal that the evil person knew he or she was doing something wrong and regarded the harm caused as a good thing.
    It is correct to define evil in terms of morality, but “morally wrong” can only be defined in terms of a moral system.  Morality, however, is not an intrinsic property of our reality, but is essentially an opinion.  In religions, normally it is the opinion of a deity or other important being which counts.  Atheists and many philosophers prefer their own opinions on which to base their moral systems.  What “morally wrong” means in the context of E is not stated in the article, though considering that multiple philosophers are specifically drawn upon for the definition of evil, I suspect that “morally wrong” is also defined in philosophical and not religious terms.  Considering that there is great variability in what people consider morally wrong (e.g., see the works of Anton Szandor LaVey for truly unusual moral views), no matter how evil appears to its creator, it is bound to be viewed by some as a dismal failure.

    Also, there is the question of whether E can truly be evil.  Since E is designed to act in an evil manner, E’s evil behavior is arguably the fault of its programmer and not its own, thus making E the innocent victim of its programming.  Also, “evil” as a label is usually applied only to sentient beings, such as humans, e.g., we do not usually label non-sentient beings, such as dumb animals, as evil, even if we would typically consider a human who acted the same way as evil.
  3. “Causes of the Collapse”
  4. “Journalism Today”
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Robotic Sculpture”, the purpose of which I do not understand. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and happy new month.


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