META: The problem of "Good vs. Evil"

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Tue Feb 19 00:34:19 PST 2008

On Feb 19, 3:05 am, Jamas Enright <t... at> wrote:

> We are products of physical and chemical reactions, which build up (in
> ways, yes, that we don't understand) to produce consciousness and, at
> least, the illusion of free will. To that end, what we do is a product of
> those reactions, and so we don't "choose" in any higher-order sense of the
> word.

I understand this basic idea-- that we're all machines that only act
according to our programming-- though ancedotal evidence tells me it's
not true.  That's the problem, though, with ancedotal evidence, and
that's why it's not valid for scientific inquiry-- it can't
objectively prove anything.

It's like the question, Does love really exist?  Or is it just an
ingrained desire to reproduce, to survive, to have some kind of
comfort or proximity to other living things?  Harry Harlow aside, it's
not possible to "prove" love.

But I believe in it.  I've felt it.  It's not just endorphines and
dopamine and whatever else.  I believe there is such a thing as a
soul, and emotions-- something beyond synapses and neurons.

To some, that makes me naive.  And maybe I am.

But I still believe in free will.  I still believe that we as human
beings have the capacity to surprise ourselves, that it's not just
programming, that people can act against type and have no idea why
they chose to do something-- but they chose to do it just the same.
(It's the kind of thing you see explored a lot in Sam Shepherd's

I think we're more than just uber-sophisticated machines.  I mean,
look at Mozart.  That music just came swarming out of his head, out of
nowhere.  A computer can never do that.  It can learn, it can even
think, but it can't be a genius and it can't have a sense of humour or
play or fun, it can't choose to be amused.

For me, that's proof enough that there's _something_ there, something
beyond physical and chemical reactions-- something that's capable of
making actual decisions.


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