Things Are Bad — Really Bad. Here’s A Tonic

Lately, I’ve been going back and forth with a guy named John Zande (here), a silly man who has a silly theory about how It All Came About. Briefly: in Zande’s (I suspect less than truly sincere) opinion, the universe was created to provide suffering that the “creator” uses as sustenance. The whole universe. All the rocks, and stars and molecules and plants and you-name-it, suffer in order to provide sustenance to this malevolent “creator.”

According to Zande’s silly view, everything, but everything, serves the greater misery of everything else, and of itself. Even happiness and hope. You see, when those things are either withdrawn, or fail to come to fruition, the subsequent despair is all the greater by comparison. Got it?

I posited, and I think, demonstrated, that the opposite is a much likelier explanation. We get used to success, because literally more than 99% of what we do results in success. We’re so inundated in success that when we fail, we’re almost surprised at it. Every little act we do generally succeeds. We breathe and feel better; we change the channel and feel better; we change positions and feel better; we indulge in a hobby and feel better; we eat and feel better; we see our friends and feel better… and on and on and on, to much bigger things.

Most of us generally find work, have generally successful days at work, feed our families, and succeed at doing the things that we define as happiness-bringing.

Yes, there are setbacks, and there are tough times, but generally we do well here in America.

Around the world? Different story. Lots of suffering. Looked at in a vacuum, this could serve to bring about despair. Then we have the good fortune to look at that just a bit, and we find things like this.

Interestingly, here’s a tidbit:

Well done, human race. Well done. At the end of September, the Global Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication convened in Bali and, after reviewing the reports of its member nations, declared poliovirus type 2 eradicated in the wild. This was really only a bureaucratic stamp on a fact: The last case of type 2 polio was identified in Aligarh, India, in 1999. Thanks in no small part to the initiative of the world’s Rotarians — one of those “little platoons” of which Edmund Burke was so fond — polio has been eradicated everywhere on Earth except for two places where those who would eradicate it are forbidden to operate: Afghanistan and Pakistan. That’s the Taliban’s gift to the Islamic world: paralytic polio.

The essay is by the great Kevin Williamson of National Review. Because it’s by the great Kevin Williamson, it’s worth the read in its entirety.

I used the eradication of polio as a fact in defense of my point with Zande. He, of course, replied that the eradication of polio meant that those who would have died from polio, but didn’t, lived longer in order to suffer even more, thereby sustaining his imaginary “creator” even more.

Yep. That was his “logic.”

Oh, here’s another little tidbit from Williamson:

Despite some recent setbacks, including funding troubles after the financial crisis and the emergence of anti-vaccine nuttery in the United States and elsewhere, measles and rubella are next on the hit list. Those diseases will almost certainly be a thing of the past a decade or two hence. [My note: And smallpox has been all but entirely eradicated around the globe. Can there be any doubt that we will conquer cancer, and a vast array of other diseases in fairly sort order?]

Mind you, the amazingly silly Zande will interpret this to mean that the disappearance of measles and rubella will simply contribute to the greater misery of humanity — by again lengthening lives and reducing premature deaths, and therefore leading to ever more millions of people suffering ever more — and further sustaining his wacky “creator.”

Williamson adds a bunch of highly readable additional analysis, and concludes with this:

There is much left to do: We have unsustainable fiscal situations in the Western welfare states, irreconcilable Islamist fanatics originating in points east but spread around the world, environmental challenges, and that tenth of the human race that still needs lifting out of hardcore poverty. But we have achieved a remarkable thing in that unless we mess things up really badly, in 50 years we’ll be having to explain to our grandchildren what a famine was, how it came to be that millions of people died every year for want of clean water — and they will look at us incredulously, wondering what it must have been like to live in the caveman times of the early 21st century.

Take that, preachers of doom and gloom!

— xPraetorius

19 thoughts on “Things Are Bad — Really Bad. Here’s A Tonic

  1. Ha! Believe it or not, Zande both amuses me and cheers me up immensely. I now know that even a talking donkey serves a vital purpose in the world. Only a Divine creator could have such a sense of humor. 😉

  2. So, Polio is the best case study you can come up with, huh?

    Unfortunately for you, this example has already been dismissed. It’s wonderful that man has cured this particular disease, it’s wonderful that man believes he is improving his lot. Affluence and the success it brings is to be celebrated! Are you aware your country is suffering a Type 2 Diabetes epidemic? With wealth and an accompanying diet saturated in sugars and fats arrives the mostly non-communicable diseases of affluence, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, extraordinary cancers, thrombosis, coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, alcoholism, addictions, depression, and a zoo of exotic allergies to the chemicals that sustain all industrialised societies. With affluence also come the debased gifts born of abuse, misuse, and overuse.

    In response to your polio example I recall telling you about Jim O’Neill’s 2014 Antimicrobial Resistance findings. You don’t want to talk about that, do you? Let me remind you of that passage:

    “Drug-resistant infections already kill hundreds of thousands a year globally, and by 2050 that figure could be more than 10 million. The economic cost will also be significant, with the world economy being hit by up to $100 trillion by 2050 if we do not take action.”

    In launching O’Neill’s paper, British Prime Minister, David Cameron, soberly remarked: “If we fail to act, we are looking at an almost unthinkable scenario where antibiotics no longer work and we are cast back into the dark ages of medicine.”

    In India, this “almost unthinkable scenario” is not some future terror to be feared like some ghastly ghoul who might or might not arrive tomorrow, but an immediate hell that is already being lived. Across the gravely overpopulated south Asian continent a “tsunami of antibiotic resistance” is presently killing tens of thousands of new-borns every quarter because once-miraculous cures simply no longer work, and in their 2014 report, The Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy researchers warn of having already found India-specific superbugs such as New Delhi metallo-beta lactamase 1 (NDM1) around the world, including France, Japan, Oman and the United States.

    So, you see, affluence is a wonderful mechanism to inspire greater turbulences. Victories are to be celebrated. In thinking he is winning—be it through awesome medical advancements or a planet wide agricultural revolution—man is in fact throwing himself into heightened states of artfully dressed turmoil: mayhem which could only thrill a Creator disposed to being thrilled at such sweet turbulences. A ship, after all, must be first floated and launched before it can be drowned and sunk. A population must be fattened before it can be starved.

    But yet again, you are purposefully ignoring the greater picture of Creation. Why don’t you consider the 150-200 species of plants, insects, birds and mammals that become extinct every 24 hours? Why don’t you consider the tens of thousands of species on the brink of extinction due to human activity? Why don’t you want to talk about animal suffering? As a good friend of mine wrote:

    “…the industrial revolution has created a hell on earth for most living creatures who are in any way suitable for human consumption or use. We eat them, we skin them, we milk them, we grind them, we literally process them like they are inanimate objects to make more inanimate objects. This is the middle ages as far as animals are concerned. We have filled our world with the suffering of innocents and masterfully shielded ourselves from their screams, so as not to let them lay heavy on our conscience.”

    Are you aware of the state of the oceans? Do you want to know how much arable land we lose every year? And let’s not forget man-made Global Climate Change. Have you ever even read a single paper concerning the economic and social turmoil this will produce? Want to talk about the out of control, unsustainable expansion of the human population?

    Yes, affluence is a wonderful… and that’s before we even talk about the inbuilt ravishes of the natural world. Seems you don’t want to talk about how suffering is omnipresent, present in this world for 2.5 billion years before anything even resembling happiness was ever experienced. As I have demonstrated, insects suffer. They feel pain and they fear it. Plants, as I have demonstrated in the intron MPK4, fear pain. Would you like to talk about the complex anxieties lived by field mice? As professor of psychology at the University of Washington, David Barash noted:

    “Although the natural world can be marvellous, it is also filled with ethical horrors: predation, parasitism, fratricide, infanticide, disease, pain, old age and death — and that suffering is built into the nature of things.”

    Let’s repeat that: “that suffering is built into the nature of things.”

    Indeed, of all predatory attacks on prey it is estimated only 19% achieve a success rate higher than 90%. The great majority of attacks either fail partially or completely, but experts orientated to studying brain functions and perennial anxieties have recorded that this repeated exposure to predatory stimuli produces severe cognitive changes in prey animals analogous to those seen in human patients with acute stress disorders (ASD), and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). [See El Hage, et al., 2004, ‘Impaired memory following predatory stress in mice is improved by fluoxetine,’ Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry Vol. 28, pp. 123 – 128, and Zoladz, Phillip R. 2008, ‘An ethologically relevant animal model of posttraumatic stress disorder: Physiological, pharmacological and behavioral sequelae in rats exposed to predator stress and social instability,’ Graduate dissertation, University of South Florida.]

    What is true then of the natural world is not as Paley and his theologically-minded cohorts and accomplices were wont to believe, happy animals blissfully going about their business unconcerned by a thousand eyes and claws and covetous mouths directed down on them, but rather great assemblies of frantic organisms beset with a sickening pathological anxiety forever working against any possibility of enjoyment, even in those brief times of plenty. [See Catherine Belzung, Guy Griebel, 2001, ‘Measuring normal and pathological anxiety-like behaviour in mice: a review,’ Behavioural Brain Research Vol. 125, Issues 1–2, 8 November, pp. 141–149]

    Does this indicate a benevolent designer? Can you explain this world, this Creation, without an inventive theodicy? Can you explain this word without first proffering an excuse?

    Now, as I have already pointed out, if you want to actually present a coherent, intelligible, adult rebuttal to the thesis you must:

    1) demonstrate (with working examples) that this universe is not a complexity machine tumbling relentlessly forward from a state of ancestral simplicity to contemporary complexity,

    2) demonstrate that complexity does not father a wretched and forever diversifying family of more devoted fears and faithful anxieties, more pervasive ailments and skilful parasites, more virulent toxins, more capable diseases, and more affectionate expressions of pain, ruin, psychosis and loss, and

    3) demonstrate that the very constitution (the design) of this universe is not profound teleological evidence for the mind of a malevolent designer… an architect who so clearly cherishes His anonymity, and has quite purposefully painted Creation in impenetrable naturalism.

    1. Apologies, JZ: I didn’t see this! I’m figuring this is a post you meant to post here.

      Certainly all the “points” you made were addressed in the above-linked post. At great length, I might add. (Which, no doubt, you’ll deny as sneeringly as you can. No power on earth can overcome the denial of the proud man defeated in debate. 🙂 )


      — x

      1. Let me know when you want to actually present hard observational data to back up your position, OK. That is, after all, what we’re waiting for, right?

        I have a post up which clarifies your failures to date. Read it, then you might get an idea how to proceed.

        1. I’ll check it out, JZ — fully cognizant, of course, that you’ve repeatedly tried to get me to disprove your irrational conjecture and out-in-left-field wackinesses.

          I’m not going to say you’re laboring under weird delusions — you simply have a vivid imagination, and have allowed it too much free rein — but your assertions are deluded.

          You’ve demanded “real world” rebuttals to things such as suffering crystals and hurting protozoa — things that are not themselves, real world. Therefore, no “real world” rebuttal is possible. Then, when I decline to attempt the impossible you accuse me of doing nothing.

          That’s just silly. You should cut it out.

          How does one counter deluded assertions? I’ve done so patiently, but you appear to have a great deal of emotional investment in your delusional ramblings. (Remember: I didn’t call you any names, but I am characterizing your delusional ramblings as … well, delusional.)

          There’s little profit to be had in arguing with someone who is emotionally invested in the irrational and the wacky.

          ‘Sides, I’ve already beaten and slapped (metaphorically, of course) your sorry backside up one side and down the other. I’m reluctant to rub it in.)

          In the spirit of good will and friendship, I will check out your post though.


          — x

          1. If you think they’re not real world then by all means present your evidences that says they’re not.

            That’s how this works.

            Rise to the challenge.

            I have presented evidences for my positions, with published papers to back up those things. You have presented exactly, nothing.

          2. Actually, responding to, and taking seriously, irrational tommyrot is, most definitely, not “how it works.”

            However, in your silliness, you have demonstrated how the American polity works, sadly. People engage — loudly, vociferously, and frequently violently — in Stage 1 thinking, such as you’ve promiscuously exhibited here, and American nitwit left-wing politicians leap to proclaim that the ludicrous thinking responds to real complaints and that we must respond to it!!! with real world (sound familiar?) action!

            Then, as always happens, some people actually choose to do an analysis of greater depth, — Stage 2 thinking — they discover that the original complaint was fraudulent, and they publicize it. However, the horse has already left the barn at that point, and a movement is born.

            I have no doubt that you’ll be able to found, or contribute to, crystals-rights and protozoan-rights and plants-rights movements (Stage 1 analysis suggesting that these entities suffer) that will be well underway and producing left-wing tommyrot, long after someone engages in some good, ol’ fashioned Stage 2 thinking and points out that none of these entities possesses anything that could be reasonably construed as able even to house the concept of pain, danger, suffering, or their opposites.

            You will be, however, wrong. Because you’re buried in the irrational flapdoodle you’ve tried to advance here.

            Remember: it doesn’t necessarily do anyone any good to indulge those who’re trying to advance wacky nitwitteries, beyond debunking them, as we’ve done at some length. If you treat irrationalities too seriously, you encourage those same irrationalities.


            — x

          3. If you have a problem with Integrated Information Theory, and think you know more than neuroscientists Giulio Tononi and Christof Koch, then I invite you to present your learned rebuttal to their paper/s.

            Sadly for you, an emotional opinion (which is all you’re presenting here) is valueless. I have presented data to support an idea that suffering is very nearly omnipresent, rife throughout creation, present from almost the very beginning. While I’ll grant you the point that talking about the subjective experience of protons and neutrons is pretty wild, it’s not without legitimate, verifiable support… As I have demonstrated with published papers.

            Have you presented any published papers to support your opposition?

            Of course you haven’t.

            You haven’t presented one scrap of evidence to support your opposition.

            If, however, you wish to only limit your thinking to more complex organic structures, organisms, then that’s fine by me. The thesis is demonstrable along every line of complexity… And that is why it’s so robust.

            Now, to help structure your thoughts, I’ve penned a post just for you, and every other apologist who has failed in the exact same ways you have failed so far.


          4. Oh, about the published papers. I could present to you thousands and thousands of published papers, manuscripts, books, lecture transcripts, all of which present elaborate and complex justifications for histories greatest failure: socialism.

            There are millions of such documents justifying nazism as well. How much credence should we grant these jeremiads in support of failures?

            Published papers are perfectly worthless in such a forum as this.

            Try not to make the mistake of relying on published papers. They’re worthless in this forum.

            I use such documents myself, if and only if, they state something that I agree with better than I do.

            By the way, and by way of small correction, you didn’t present any published papers, you presented a paragraph here, an excerpt there, with the obvious implication that the document containing the excerpts is, itself, credible. And that the author of the document is credible. Sorry, but neither of these things is self-evident from your mere quoting of them.

            You need to understand those very important things.

            It’s impossible to make such assessments in a forum such as this one, that requires fairly rapid-fire responses — while the topic is hot — else the readership (and my stable of writers, I might add! 🙂 ) move on.

            The only valid back-and-forths in such a forum as a blog are your thoughts, and your reasoning to support those conclusions. If you can’t produce such thoughts, as you haven’t, then you’re indicating that you’re not a valid interlocutor, and you’re wasting everybody’s time.

            Oh, there are valid outside sources, but those sources are not obscure “scientists” trying to make the case that rocks are alive, and crystals suffer.

            Again, that’s for this type of forum.


            — x

          5. If you like I can link everything. I was, however, thinking citing every source a bit over-the-top, but if that is what you want, then fine. The thesis in fact cites over 170 published papers supporting every word.

            As for Integrated Information Theory, here is a pdf of a recent paper

            Click to access IIT%20Consciousness-update%202012-%20Tononi.pdf

            Wikipedia has a neat little article on it, and there are plenty of easy-to-read commentary’s in popular science journals.

            Just let me know what else you want me to cite, OK. I’ll be happy to provide you as much information as you like.

            And again, to help structure you next attempts at a rebuttal, I have a post up for you.

            Hope to see you there

  3. Can you provide an answer to the ‘Problem of suffering’ (insofar as it is a problem to theism of a benevolent God) that is more coherent than JZ’s answer to the ‘Problem of good’ (insofar as it is a problem to the theism of a malevolent God)?

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