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OfflineNoteworthy
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Why belief in God is an indirect result of Human neotony
    #11219655 - 10/10/09 10:06 AM (8 years, 13 days ago)

Neotony refers to changes in morphology that trend towards the juvenile state of an animal. In human evolution, neotony has shown itself to be prominent. The human skull shape and facial proportions are much more like a baby chimp's than an adult chimp. The baby chimps are less hairy, and also go through a brief but intense period of learning where they are very open to learning new things.
It has been thus theorised that one of the kick-starting evolutions that directed humans towards being so large-brained and adaptive, was neotonous forces that shifted the adult morphology closer to the infant morpology. I.e. early humans 'retained' the young state of learning for longer, allowing them to learn more concepts and eventually relate enough information to form languages and have a strong grasp of them.

Although I did not hear this said, my own opinion is that the human brain developed thanks to language. Only once there was a society of people speaking languages would there be a significant advantage of having a bigger better brain. Only once your internal conceptions can be articulated can you use them to affect the world. However, once there is a system of language in place for these conceptions, humans can then have conceptions on top of the language. These secondary conceptions cannot be voiced in language but we can say that they are voiced in a 'metalanguage'. Having a better brain, having the 'human' advantage, was the ability to apprehend the common understanding identified in language, and then suprass it with your own advantageous mental skills. Remember, the main advantage of having a larger brain is that you can store a lot more information, which allows you to store more words, and being in the 'infantile brain' stage longer means that you have more time to learn all the words and then to develop your 'metalanguage'. 

Humans have retained their desire to find people who know more than them. People who knew more would have higher status and a greater ability to survive (all things equal in the rest of humantraits). Those who appraised and sought to learn from such people have a higher chance of leeching off that person's knowledge. So we can see there is an evolutionary advantage to appraising and submitting to the knowledge of 'those who know more'.

Now we have humans who believe plenty of stuff. Well think about this, when a human child is brought up, they are contronted with the notion of their parents - providing, loving, the creator, seemingly all knowing (seemingly always knowing more). The more a child was engaged with the teaching of their parents, the more survival advantage they have through most of human evolutionary history. The more personally enthused they were about their place in the family/group, the more they would contribute. This contributive spirit is very important in society.
However, these two factors, being highly receptive to their parents and to the leaders of their society, as well as long periods of learning, mean that people are very susceptible to 'cementing' the paradigm of parent and tribal leaders, essentially the paradigm of the 'higher being'.
With continued neotonous forces, however, there can also be effects whereby children retain their devotion to a 'higher being' even when their parents have died, or when they are the tribal leader (or at least ignoring the status of the tribal leaders).
Adults retain the paradigms that phenomenon in the world are under the control of some sort of higher being. Thus when they become parents they create words and ways of teaching their children about the 'beings that are higher than they are'.

We end up with a situation where the high-status humans have their own 'masters', and, since everyone is trusting in the judgement of the high-status humans(since they know a lot), they all fall to worship these metaphysical masters. Just as sharing a parent binds you as a family - and sharing a ruler binds you in a sort of 'extended family' or tribe - sharing words and ideas binds people as a group. Passionately defending the metaphysical masters, and worshipping them, is akin to the benefit of defending and submitting to your parents or leaders.

Belif in 'God' is so strong these days because humans know so much information and have the world under such control that notions of grandeur, tied in with respect, for parents or leaders, are much more impressed on young humans. This respect sticks with them for life, which means that they look towards their society's religion for guidance (it is their access to the 'higher realm' of understanding). Failing that, they still have some deep intuitive feeling that there is something greater than them, greater than their parents, greater than their leaders, and essentially greater than everything.

The relationship towards parents is essentially just a combination of 'causality' and 'person', the parent being the significant personal cause for almost everything in the child's life.

ps. As for 'metalanguages', they eventually develop into languages themselves, but I will not expound on such views




  If this thread is too long for you, try following this link :mushroom2:


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InvisibleIcelander
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Re: Why belief in God is an indirect result of Human neotony [Re: Noteworthy]
    #11219679 - 10/10/09 10:15 AM (8 years, 13 days ago)

Very interesting idea. I have long thought that god was a substitute for the all protective and powerful pater.


--------------------
"Don't believe everything you think". -Anom.

" All that lives was born to die"-Anom.

With much wisdom comes much sorrow,
The more knowledge, the more grief.
Ecclesiastes circa 350 BC


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OfflineDiaboleros
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Re: Why belief in God is an indirect result of Human neotony [Re: Noteworthy]
    #11219690 - 10/10/09 10:18 AM (8 years, 13 days ago)



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Re: Why belief in God is an indirect result of Human neotony [Re: Noteworthy]
    #11219702 - 10/10/09 10:25 AM (8 years, 13 days ago)

Thanks for this awesome post. I took an introductory evolutionary psychology course last year but the Prof. did not talk about this area.


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"Dude, me 'n my best buddy squirted spore juice into the jars yesterday. Do you think we'll have enough mushrooms for a trip by the weekend? We really want to trip next weekend. Can I eat the cake? Will it make me high? How about if I make a tea out of the cake?" - German Kahuna


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OfflineNoteworthy
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Re: Why belief in God is an indirect result of Human neotony [Re: thepwnzor]
    #11219749 - 10/10/09 10:51 AM (8 years, 13 days ago)

Neotony was discussed in my biology class, it has sadly not featured much in psychology...

As for causes of neotony, I just read wikipedia and it mentions 'paedomorphic cuteness' (cuteness of teh child sort) diminishing agression from other animals.

I personally feel that Neotony comes hand in hand with male's desire for younger women. This, I think, was one of the more important factors leading to the hairlessness of humans. There is something different about scalp hair, and secondarily pubic hair (including underarms), and something that shares qualities of both (facial hair). This could have many causes.

But we know that hairy women often are considered ugly. I think that this is the case because our trajectory of a species has occured hand in hand with that judgement.

This desire for youth may just be a desire for 'unmanliness'. It may be that manliness in many species is associated with 'older' appearence.

Neotony may thus occur because males are more attracted to the least masculine looking females which may be indestinguishable from 'the youngest looking' in many cases.

However it could jsut be a matter of looking younger. In various social animals, a stranger is more likely to be adopted into the family or somehow cared for if it is young. This is probably because adopting young animals increases the genetic information in your group without introducing family rivalries. So perhaps neotonous people were more likely to be cared for and tolerated by their locals.

It could also be something entirely seperate and unpredictable that is the primary cause of neotony...


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InvisibleSilversoul
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Re: Why belief in God is an indirect result of Human neotony [Re: Noteworthy]
    #11219815 - 10/10/09 11:09 AM (8 years, 13 days ago)

It's an interesting theory, but I think it ignores the way religion actually seems to have developed.  The whole concept of this all-powerful father figure God is actually a fairly recent phenomenon in human history.  Some of the earliest religious thought was basically animistic:  they saw the rocks and the trees and the wind as living beings.  There was no real "worship" in the sense we think of it today.  They might have sought to supplicate certain forces, but there was no sense of reverence toward them.  Then from there came the idea that rather than each individual tree or pond being alive, there was the idea of a god of the forest, or goddess of the lakes, etc.  These polytheistic beliefs evolved over time into more and more sophisticated forms, until eventually the idea of monotheism developed.  If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend Robert Wright's book, The Evolution of God.

Anyway, I do agree that there is some connection between religion and language.  Brain scans have shown that people who are religious tend to have greater development in the social region of the brain, which governs language, empathy, social intelligence, and symbolic thought.

Of course, none of this really debunks spiritual beliefs, because correlation doesn't equal causation.  If our brains evolved to understand the world around us better, I don't see why spirituality should just be considered an accidental fluke of that evolution.


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Invisiblemozhual
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Re: Why belief in God is an indirect result of Human neotony [Re: Noteworthy]
    #11219891 - 10/10/09 11:37 AM (8 years, 13 days ago)

I pretty much completely agree up until here:
Quote:

We end up with a situation where the high-status humans have their own 'masters', and, since everyone is trusting in the judgement of the high-status humans(since they know a lot), they all fall to worship these metaphysical masters. Just as sharing a parent binds you as a family - and sharing a ruler binds you in a sort of 'extended family' or tribe - sharing words and ideas binds people as a group. Passionately defending the metaphysical masters, and worshipping them, is akin to the benefit of defending and submitting to your parents or leaders.

Belif in 'God' is so strong these days because humans know so much information and have the world under such control that notions of grandeur, tied in with respect, for parents or leaders, are much more impressed on young humans. This respect sticks with them for life, which means that they look towards their society's religion for guidance (it is their access to the 'higher realm' of understanding). Failing that, they still have some deep intuitive feeling that there is something greater than them, greater than their parents, greater than their leaders, and essentially greater than everything.




Now, I don't completely disagree, but I would propose you should learn more about memetics. These "metaphysical masters" aren't humans, they are the memes housed in skull of every human being. These memes can be a simply as how you greet someone or how you hold a fork, or they can control which human beings you actually view as "human beings" (virtually all religions and creeds say slaying other humans is off limits, hence they label undesirables as non-human/infidels/heretics etc.)

I would also like to point out that there is a major difference in "belief in god" and "belief in belief in god" which needs to be clarified on your part.

And as for "notions of grandeur, tied in with respect, for parents or leaders, are much more impressed on young humans.", not only does this not have much support going for it but most history would suggest that the indoctrination/ impression of young people was much much worse in the past. Most contemporary child psychologists and cultural historians would agree that children today are more cynical and skeptical then ever. While in a few cases this might lead them to reject intellectuality and embrace the suppression of all cognitive function (i.e. become religious), it is rare(if only because of all the other things vying for adolescents attentions these days) in comparison to the whole species. It might seem like religion is stronger then ever, but compared to what? over the last ten years, compared to before 9/11, yes it is stronger. Over the last 100 years? It certainly isn't stronger, more vocal maybe. Over the last 500 years? Definitely not, all available evidence suggests that religion was much stronger 500 years ago then it is now.

"Failing that, they still have some deep intuitive feeling that there is something greater than them, greater than their parents, greater than their leaders, and essentially greater than everything." A rather broad generalization, and again factual evidence would suggest the exact opposite in a lot of cases.

"The relationship towards parents is essentially just a combination of 'causality' and 'person', the parent being the significant personal cause for almost everything in the child's life." Very true in some cases, but even in those cases the parents persistence can drive a child, especially an adolescent, away from the very view they wish them to have.


--------------------
"Nature is like a sculptor constantly improving upon her work, but to do so she chisels away at living flesh." H.K. Bloom

"Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is not omnipotent...
Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent...
Is he both able, and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god." Epicurus c. 300 BCE

"When I brought up the fact that 'No drug is good or bad, they're all just A drug, what someone does with them determines the postive or negative outcome. Look at medicine, those are drugs' Reponse was that 'well medicine solves problems' well so does LSD." -Learningtofly


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Invisiblemozhual
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Re: Why belief in God is an indirect result of Human neotony *DELETED* [Re: Silversoul]
    #11219915 - 10/10/09 11:44 AM (8 years, 13 days ago)

Post deleted by mozhual

Reason for deletion: Misread



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"Nature is like a sculptor constantly improving upon her work, but to do so she chisels away at living flesh." H.K. Bloom

"Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is not omnipotent...
Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent...
Is he both able, and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god." Epicurus c. 300 BCE

"When I brought up the fact that 'No drug is good or bad, they're all just A drug, what someone does with them determines the postive or negative outcome. Look at medicine, those are drugs' Reponse was that 'well medicine solves problems' well so does LSD." -Learningtofly


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InvisibleSilversoul
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Re: Why belief in God is an indirect result of Human neotony [Re: mozhual]
    #11219922 - 10/10/09 11:45 AM (8 years, 13 days ago)

Actually, the word "tend" is enough to indicate that the findings are not universal, but simply that this feature is more prevalent among religious people than in the non-religious.


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Re: Why belief in God is an indirect result of Human neotony [Re: Silversoul]
    #11219964 - 10/10/09 11:53 AM (8 years, 13 days ago)

Actually it make sense to me that religious folk would develope the social part of their brain more.


--------------------
"Don't believe everything you think". -Anom.

" All that lives was born to die"-Anom.

With much wisdom comes much sorrow,
The more knowledge, the more grief.
Ecclesiastes circa 350 BC


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Invisiblemozhual
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Re: Why belief in God is an indirect result of Human neotony [Re: Silversoul]
    #11219970 - 10/10/09 11:55 AM (8 years, 13 days ago)

I'm sorry I misread.


--------------------
"Nature is like a sculptor constantly improving upon her work, but to do so she chisels away at living flesh." H.K. Bloom

"Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is not omnipotent...
Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent...
Is he both able, and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god." Epicurus c. 300 BCE

"When I brought up the fact that 'No drug is good or bad, they're all just A drug, what someone does with them determines the postive or negative outcome. Look at medicine, those are drugs' Reponse was that 'well medicine solves problems' well so does LSD." -Learningtofly


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OfflineNoteworthy
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Re: Why belief in God is an indirect result of Human neotony [Re: Silversoul]
    #11220055 - 10/10/09 12:13 PM (8 years, 13 days ago)

I agree with what you are saying, and The theory is not in contradiction with that. The Neotonous forces affect the state of the brain, and enable systems of sharable knowledge, but the effect of collective submission to a 'higher' entity depends more directly on the share of information within the human structure provided by evolution's neotonous forces. That is why the title says 'indirect'.

As for language's influence (this 'share of information')... I think you can agree that the onset of religious developments from animistic to polytheistic to monotheistic are intwined with developments in language, social structure, and cultural infusion.

A notable stage in history that exemplifies this is the introduction of writing by sumerians and subsequently the significant influence of sumerian legend in later religious trends.

I am not sure about East Asia, but In the Americas, civilisation correlated with intense worship in religious practices and also written languages that come with it.

I would like to know what that book says about civlised animists?


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Invisiblemozhual
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Re: Why belief in God is an indirect result of Human neotony [Re: Noteworthy]
    #11220065 - 10/10/09 12:16 PM (8 years, 13 days ago)

Quote:

The Neotonous forces affect the state of the brain, and enable systems of sharable knowledge


You don't need language, or neotony, to transfer information. Systems of sharable knowledge are already in place, neotony just might possibly create/lead to better forms of information sharing.


--------------------
"Nature is like a sculptor constantly improving upon her work, but to do so she chisels away at living flesh." H.K. Bloom

"Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is not omnipotent...
Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent...
Is he both able, and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god." Epicurus c. 300 BCE

"When I brought up the fact that 'No drug is good or bad, they're all just A drug, what someone does with them determines the postive or negative outcome. Look at medicine, those are drugs' Reponse was that 'well medicine solves problems' well so does LSD." -Learningtofly


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Invisiblemozhual
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Re: Why belief in God is an indirect result of Human neotony [Re: Noteworthy]
    #11220085 - 10/10/09 12:23 PM (8 years, 13 days ago)

"I am not sure about East Asia, but In the Americas, civilisation correlated with intense worship in religious practices and also written languages that come with it. " If by civilization you mean Aztec priests sacrificing 8,000 human lives every day to assure the sun would rise the next morning... :tongue:


--------------------
"Nature is like a sculptor constantly improving upon her work, but to do so she chisels away at living flesh." H.K. Bloom

"Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is not omnipotent...
Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent...
Is he both able, and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god." Epicurus c. 300 BCE

"When I brought up the fact that 'No drug is good or bad, they're all just A drug, what someone does with them determines the postive or negative outcome. Look at medicine, those are drugs' Reponse was that 'well medicine solves problems' well so does LSD." -Learningtofly


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OfflineNoteworthy
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Re: Why belief in God is an indirect result of Human neotony [Re: mozhual]
    #11220096 - 10/10/09 12:26 PM (8 years, 13 days ago)

Quote:

mozhual said:
Now, I don't completely disagree, but I would propose you should learn more about memetics. These "metaphysical masters" aren't humans, they are the memes housed in skull of every human being. These memes can be a simply as how you greet someone or how you hold a fork, or they can control which human beings you actually view as "human beings" (virtually all religions and creeds say slaying other humans is off limits, hence they label undesirables as non-human/infidels/heretics etc.)





Yes but humans spread the memes. The memes are simply the information that is transferring... so yes you can say that any concept at all isa meme housed in a skull... it doesnt matter. What matters is how the memes survive and spread, and a point I was trying to make is that they spread from people with influence and knowledge. Memes don't just randomly flutter around. They rely in factors such as language, familiarity of concept (receptibility), and integration into existing social knowledge.


Quote:

mozhual said:
"The relationship towards parents is essentially just a combination of 'causality' and 'person', the parent being the significant personal cause for almost everything in the child's life." Very true in some cases, but even in those cases the parents persistence can drive a child, especially an adolescent, away from the very view they wish them to have.




I think you are imagining too much of a modern day situation. As with the parts of your post that I did not quote, I respond that you are taking into consideration a bunch of memes that have spread only in the last few hundred years, because of the increasing influence of atheistic noblemen/influential persons.

Nowadays we have a situation where being religious often correlates with the extent to which the stement you quoted in my quote is true. That is, the trends you talk of, the less religiousness today and also the less parentally indoctrinating the culture is, are intrinsically linked phenomenon.


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OfflineNoteworthy
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Re: Why belief in God is an indirect result of Human neotony [Re: mozhual]
    #11220105 - 10/10/09 12:29 PM (8 years, 13 days ago)

Quote:

mozhual said:
Quote:

The Neotonous forces affect the state of the brain, and enable systems of sharable knowledge


You don't need language, or neotony, to transfer information. Systems of sharable knowledge are already in place, neotony just might possibly create/lead to better forms of information sharing.



What information transfer occurs without language?
I can think of immitation... thats about it.


Quote:

mozhual said:
"I am not sure about East Asia, but In the Americas, civilisation correlated with intense worship in religious practices and also written languages that come with it. " If by civilization you mean Aztec priests sacrificing 8,000 human lives every day to assure the sun would rise the next morning... :tongue:




Not sure what youre definition of civilisation is if you do not think that the Aztecs were civilised?


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Invisiblemozhual
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Re: Why belief in God is an indirect result of Human neotony [Re: Noteworthy]
    #11220112 - 10/10/09 12:30 PM (8 years, 13 days ago)

Quote:

As for language's influence (this 'share of information')... I think you can agree that the onset of religious developments from animistic to polytheistic to monotheistic are intertwinedpost-date with developments in language, social structure, and cultural infusion.


The very first Sumerian writings were agricultural harvest and inventory records, not religious.


--------------------
"Nature is like a sculptor constantly improving upon her work, but to do so she chisels away at living flesh." H.K. Bloom

"Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is not omnipotent...
Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent...
Is he both able, and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god." Epicurus c. 300 BCE

"When I brought up the fact that 'No drug is good or bad, they're all just A drug, what someone does with them determines the postive or negative outcome. Look at medicine, those are drugs' Reponse was that 'well medicine solves problems' well so does LSD." -Learningtofly


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Invisiblemozhual
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Re: Why belief in God is an indirect result of Human neotony [Re: Noteworthy]
    #11220115 - 10/10/09 12:31 PM (8 years, 13 days ago)

Imitation and emotion.


--------------------
"Nature is like a sculptor constantly improving upon her work, but to do so she chisels away at living flesh." H.K. Bloom

"Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is not omnipotent...
Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent...
Is he both able, and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god." Epicurus c. 300 BCE

"When I brought up the fact that 'No drug is good or bad, they're all just A drug, what someone does with them determines the postive or negative outcome. Look at medicine, those are drugs' Reponse was that 'well medicine solves problems' well so does LSD." -Learningtofly


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OfflineNoteworthy
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Re: Why belief in God is an indirect result of Human neotony [Re: mozhual]
    #11220122 - 10/10/09 12:32 PM (8 years, 13 days ago)

I imagine the interwining as a sort of web of causal relationship rather than an exact date synchronisation


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Re: Why belief in God is an indirect result of Human neotony [Re: Noteworthy]
    #11220128 - 10/10/09 12:33 PM (8 years, 13 days ago)

You act like human beings would just naturally be slaughtering each other if it weren't for religion, when most available data shows that religion in groups tends to do the exact opposite to outsiders.


--------------------
"Nature is like a sculptor constantly improving upon her work, but to do so she chisels away at living flesh." H.K. Bloom

"Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is not omnipotent...
Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent...
Is he both able, and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god." Epicurus c. 300 BCE

"When I brought up the fact that 'No drug is good or bad, they're all just A drug, what someone does with them determines the postive or negative outcome. Look at medicine, those are drugs' Reponse was that 'well medicine solves problems' well so does LSD." -Learningtofly


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