META: The problem of "Good vs. Evil"

Martin Phipps martinphipps2 at
Wed Feb 20 16:24:44 PST 2008

On Feb 20, 11:32 pm, Tom Russell <milos_par... at> wrote:
> On Feb 20, 9:54 am, Martin Phipps <martinphip... at> wrote:
> > It's just arrogant to think that there's something special about human
> > beings that allows us to make seemingly random decisions whereas
> > animals and robots rely on instinct and programming, respectively.
> I think there's something special about humans, animals, and perhaps
> even plants: it's called "life" and it allows them to do many, many
> things.

It allows us to grow and reproduce.  Natural selection predicts that
our behaviour is geared towards us continuing to do this.

> As to whether humans are innately higher life forms or not,
> I'm ambivalent on the issue.  But let me say this, without a touch of
> arrogance but mucho pride.
> A robot can think, but it cannot _create_.  A robot can "randomly"
> decide things

Neither can we.

> It cannot write a novel or a symphony.

Which is not a random thing.  Both things require a lot of hard work,
as Jamas pointed out.  In principle, there's no reason why a computer
could not do these things but it would have to be programmed to
understand human emotional responses and that's something we can do

> To say there's no distinction between animals and machines certainly
> isn't arrogant.

I didn't say that.  I'm pretty sure my cat doesn't run on
batteries. :)

Look, Tom, to be honest, if you really want to understand why people
behave the way they do then you should probably either take a course
on or at least read a book about psychology.  Then you'd realize that
human behaviour really isn't random at all and is very predictable.
Indeed, those who appear to react in unpredictable ways are usually
labelled crazy.


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