Saturday, September 29, 2012

Why Science Can't Disprove God

A reply by Father Robert Barron. HT: Bob Prokop

153 comments:

Cole said...

I don't think science can disprove my Higher Power for it didn't create the physical realm neither is it all-powerful. It's transcendent. It's not responsible for the workings of the universe. It's outside the realm of science. To disprove the Christian God all you have to do is look at the physical evidence of natural disasters and tragedies. I guess you could say that this God isn't all loving. That would fit with some interpretations of the Bible where God has a holy hatred and wrath that He pours out on people. Such a God is abusive though. Not my cup of tea.

Victor Reppert said...

Interestingly enough, in debate with some Calvinists, they came out and said they didn't think God loves everyone. God loves the elect, but those he chose to reprobate, well, he doesn't love them.

Syllabus said...

Or, like DA Carson, they split "love" into like four different definitions, and say that God "loves" the reprobate, in that He sends the rain on them as well as on the righteous. But yeah, it doesn't really make an ultimate difference.

Cole said...

Syllabus,

As a former Calvinist, what I believed was that while we are here on earth God shows common grace to all and special grace to the elect. I believed that there was comming a time though when God's wrath and fury would be unmixed with no common grace in it like it describes in Revelation. Nothing but pure holy wrath and fury. This would be God's holy hatred. Such a wrath makes the suffering on earth pale in comparrison.

Syllabus said...

Cole:

Which is one reason why Calvinism is a terribly deficient system.

B. Prokop said...

Cole, you're not "disproving" the Christian God at all - you're simply rejecting the Calvinist God. But Calvinism is not Christianity - it's its own religion. Apples and oranges.

Cole said...

Prokop,


This all-powerful, all-loving, miracle worker could simply set the whole thing up correctly from the beginning like it is described in the book of Revelation. A perfect world. Moreover, He should have created Satan and humans with only the desires for love and no desires for sin. This would make certain that there would be no sin. For with only the desires for love everybody would always want to love each other. There's no need for intense suffering and death when you can perform miracles and it is impossible for you to sin.

Syllabus said...

Bob:

Several of us have been over this with Cole quite a bit, for extended periods of time. I would advise not engaging, but that's totally your call.

Cole said...

Syllabus,

You have not sufficiently responded to what I said. Creating people with a will uninflunced by desires makes our choices irrational. Moreover, if creating people with such a will leads to what we have now then it would be better to create them with only the desires to love so that they will always want to love each other. Such a concept leads to a better outcome than your view of free will and is therefore the better way to go. Your libertarian free will leads to irrational and intense suffering. My view leads to people choosing what they want - love, peace, and happiness, forever and ever.

Syllabus said...

"You have not sufficiently responded to what I said. Creating people with a will uninflunced by desires makes our choices irrational."

Actually, no, it would make them purely rational. And I repeatedly said that choices are obviously influenced by desires, but not solely determined by them, so you're misrepresenting my view, intentionally or non-intentionally. Kindly refrain from doing so again.

"Moreover, if creating people with such a will leads to what we have now then it would be better to create them with only the desires to love so that they will always want to love each other."

There's no way you could possibly logically establish such a premise. You don't possess all the knowledge necessary to make that assessment. However, feel free to try.

"Such a concept leads to a better outcome"

Better as defined by someone who is not in possession of all the necessary information to make that call? Again, that's not something you're in a position to say.

"than your view of free will and is therefore the better way to go. Your libertarian free will leads to irrational and intense suffering. My view leads to people choosing what they want - love, peace, and happiness, forever and ever."

Oy vey. I'll respond briefly, but I don't want to hijack this thread. The briefest way I can sum this up is by saying that a world where there is both ontological/metaphysical good AND moral good is better than a world where there is only ontological/metaphysical good. If our nature is such that we only have the ability to will the good, then we may be ontologically/metaphysically good, but not morally good. Therefore, a universe which contains both agents who are capable of doing - and do perform - morally good actions and "entities" whose nature is ontologically/metaphysically good - in other words, God - contains more goods, and is therefore intrinsically better, than a world which contains only ontological goodness. There are ways to argue against this position, but you haven't gone by them

Besides, free will is, intrinsically, a good thing, regardless of the potential for misuse. One does not call a Ferrari bad because it has the potential to cause a car wreck. Therefore, a world where there is free will contains more goods than a world with no free will. Now, you can certainly say that you would LIKE a world in which there was no free will better, and you're certainly welcome to make that claim, just as I am to disagree with you. But, in the other thread, your objections have been largely based on what you would find more pleasing, or emotional objections. That doesn't make it invalid, but it doesn't make it logical either.

Anyhoo, that's it. I don't want to go around in circles any further if you're not going to put your objections in the form of some sort of argument. In any case, peace man. Have a good Sunday.

B. Prokop said...

Syllabus,

I agree with you on the futility of responding. I mainly posted that just to set the record straight.

Meanwhile, I'm rather disappointed by no one actually responding to the article. I think it makes some really excellent points in an unusually popular and accessible style. One need not be a professional philosopher to "get it", yet it doesn't oversimplify in the least. A difficult feat to pull off, and I think he's done it well.

Cole said...

"There's no way you could possibly logically establish such a premise. You don't possess all the knowledge necessary to make that assessment. However, feel free to try."

This doesn't make any sense. Why would I have to be all-knowing to know this? It's real simple. Since God is all-powerful, all-loving, miracle worker, all He has to do is create a perfect world like the one described in Revelation. Such a world is free from all sin and all sinful desires. The only desires that people have is love. Therefore this makes it certain that all they will ever want to do is love each other. They do what they want to do - love each other forever and ever. Your view leads to intense suffering. Not only in this life, but for some people forever and ever. My view is the better view as people are free from sin. They do what their hearts desire (want) but because there is no desire for sin they will always want to love each other. From the heart. There is nothing but love, joy, peace, forever and ever in my world.

Syllabus said...

Bob:

I've very much enjoyed hearing Fr. Barron's thoughts ever since I stumbled upon his YouTube videos a while back. He pretty much restates here what he's been saying for ages (see his video on Stephen Hawking, for example). The thing is, people don't seem to understand the category confusion that goes on when some scientist starts talking about science ruling out God or disproving God. That would only work if the reasons we had for believing in God were scientific in nature in the first place.

Funnily enough, when I first saw the article when checking my Yahoo, it bore the title "Has Science Ruled out God?" or some such grandiloquent title. When I checked back later, it bore the title "Will Science One Day Rule Out the Possibility of God?". Small little change, I would think. Maybe they were catching on. :)

Syllabus said...

"Why would I have to be all-knowing to know this?"

I wrote what I wrote in response to this:

"Moreover, if creating people with such a will leads to what we have now then it would be better to create them with only the desires to love so that they will always want to love each other."

What I'm saying is that you would have to know the history of the world from beginning to end in order to know this. In order to establish that one story is better than another, you need to have the entire story to examine. I should think that would be obvious.

"There is nothing but love, joy, peace, forever and ever in my world."

As I already explained to you, such a world is demonstrably not the best of all possible worlds. And the world described in Revelation - even if I were to concede that that is talking about the future, which I'll do for the sake of argument but don't believe - that world is only made possible by a prior world involving the ability to choose good over evil. I thought we went over this.

Cole said...


"As I already explained to you, such a world is demonstrably not the best of all possible worlds"


I don't see why not. With everybody loving each other because they want to with no sinful desires whatsoever and no suffering clearly it is. Compare that to your world where people suffer intensly and babies get their toes clipped off with pliars and some suffer forever and ever. Not to mention all the innocent animals that get their limbs broken off and other such things. The world I described is by far the better world and their is nothing wrong with it. It's perfect. Your world is imperfect because libertarian free will reigns there.

Syllabus said...

"I don't see why not."

Then go back and read what I wrote here and in the other threads. A possible world is better than some other possible world if the first world contains more kinds of goods than does the second ons.

"It's perfect."

Again, no it's not. A world can only be said to be perfect if it lacks no good qualities/components/things. Your world lacks good things, as I have elsewhere argued. Therefore, your world is not perfect. It's simple logic.

"Your world is imperfect because libertarian free will reigns there."

Admittedly true. It's an imperfect world, but it's the one we've got.

But really, if you're not going to read what I wrote or take the argument seriously, then let's just stop this now.

Cole said...

Syllabus,

My world has everybody loving each other because they want to. There is no sin or sinful desires in it. No natural disasters and such. It is a world free from sin. Your world has babies getting raped as they are then held over flames and melted. Their skin gets peeled off in natural disasters and such. Not to mention the other things that goes on all in the name of libertarian free will. If you think your world is better then I can't say anything else.

Syllabus said...

My world has everybody loving each other because they want to. There is no sin or sinful desires in it. No natural disasters and such. It is a world free from sin. Your world has babies getting raped as they are then held over flames and melted. Their skin gets peeled off in natural disasters and such. Not to mention the other things that goes on all in the name of libertarian free will. If you think your world is better then I can't say anything else."

Fine.

Syllabus said...

". Your world has babies getting raped as they are then held over flames and melted."

Seriously, though, this just sounds like you're making stuff up for shock value. What reports are you going off of to say that this is happening?

Cole said...

Don't worry about it Syllabus. This world is better than the new heavens and earth. Enjoy.

Syllabus said...

"Don't worry about it Syllabus. This world is better than the new heavens and earth. Enjoy."

If that's what you think I'm saying, then... wow. Serious reading comprehension fail.

Syllabus said...

Anyhoo, time to stop feeding my OCD. Have a good night, Cole. Try to remember that there's beauty in the world. Blessings.

Papalinton said...

Victor
"Interestingly enough, in debate with some Calvinists, they came out and said they didn't think God loves everyone. God loves the elect, but those he chose to reprobate, well, he doesn't love them."

Yes. Also, I imagine Calvinists would regard themselves a part of the elect group simply on the basis of Calvinism being deemed the closest to 'god's truth'.
"Reprobation, in Christian theology, is a corollary to the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional election which derives that some of mankind (the elect) are predestined by God for salvation. Therefore, the remainder are left bound to their fallen nature and certain damnation. This same state of unbelief is also known as reprobation. In Calvinist terminology, the non-elect are often referred to as the reprobate." [All Reference Library]

And for the catholics on this site, I can understand why they would dismiss the Calvinist god, as the fundamental premise for the Reformation was indeed that protestants believed the relationship between Satan and the catholic church was a little too close for comfort.

Calvinist Pre-destination, catholic Pre-ordination; tomatoes, to-mah-toes. Support for both are equally drawn from the same book, the bible:

Against pre-destination: "The Lord is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9) [Of course, the fact that not all do come to repentance - despite God's wish that they would - proves decisively that we are capable of deciding whether to accept or reject God's will. Which of course, is the essence of free will.], and;

"I will not reject anyone who comes to me". (John 6:37) [The rationale God promises to accept those of us who accept HIM. He has made His Overtures. The outcome of our lives - our salvation - is ours to determine. He will help us if we wish Him to, of course. This is what the Scriptures mean when they say we were created in the Image and Likeness of God.}

For Pre-destination "For many are called, but few [are] chosen." (Matthew 22:14, KJV)
and;

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:5 NIV)
and;

"As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables. And He was saying to them, "To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven." (Mark 4:10-12, NASB)
and;

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,..." (Eph. 1:3-5, NASB)
and;

"... but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; ..." (1Co. 2:7, NASB)

and;

"And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed." (Acts 13:48, ESV)

All simply a matter of personal fondness.





Zach said...

"God is, as Thomas Aquinas characterized him, ipsum esse, or the sheer act of to-be itself -- that power in and through which the universe in its totality exists. Once we grasp this, we see that no advance of the physical sciences could ever "eliminate" God or show that he is no longer required as an explaining cause, for the sciences can only explore objects and events within the finite cosmos."

The problem is, starting there, it is so easy to end up with Spinoza's God, which in the end becomes theoretically optional. Is there this additional being sustaining all being, or not? It depends on whether you think that an explanation of being is required, over and above that provided by the sciences. What would such an additional explanatory layer add that would actually be useful or compelling or satisfying or necessary, for hte naturalist?

Shame he never brings up consciousness, the true nail in the naturalists' coffin. No need to start talking about being and all that Heideggarian mumbo-jumbo.

Note I actually do buy into that mumbo jumbo, but because of independent arguments that it is useful to do so, not because of weirdly general questions about being.

cl said...

Carroll's schtick, like Pierre-Simon Laplace's response, are both corollaries to Jeff Lowder's Argument from the History of Science. Their false confidence arises from the fact that they can successfully describe and predict the workings of the universe without mentioning God, while failing to realize that this is irrelevant.

Cole,

A few questions:

1) If your Higher Power didn't create the universe, what did?

2) Why do you believe your Higher Power exists?

3) Are you saying that your Higher Power literally cannot effect any changes in the physical universe?

BenYachov said...

>The problem is, starting there, it is so easy to end up with Spinoza's God.

Only if you abandon classic philosophy for modern and shamelessly commit the fallacy of equivocation.

How can Spinoza's "god" coherently be called Purely Actual since it is identified with the Universe itself as apposed to being merely Being Itself which produces the Chain of being from which comes all the beings of the universe?

Spinoza's god is compatible with materialism but not essentialist hylomorphism.

Those are just the facts.

BenYachov said...

additional:


The universe of course being defined as merely the set of isolanti beings who are caused to exist here and now by Being Itself.

cl said...

Lowder will, of course, deny my claim, but since he refused to discuss the issue any further with me, I don't see that he can support that.

This is really just mass misunderstanding of the purview of science. Lowder mentions Draper's argument from moral agency in support of the claim that science could discover a "supernatural" cause for any given "natural" phenomenon, but Draper's is a philosophical argument, not a scientific discovery. Simply put, Lowder has unfortunately succumbed to a key tenet of the Gnu atheists: that science can discover "supernatural" causes for "natural" phenomena. Since this flatly contradicts several statements from the National Academies, not to mention the very processes of logic and reason, a question arises: why should we accept the skeptic's assertions in this regard?

BenYachov said...

Carroll malfunction is that he doesn't know enough philosophy beyond a limited understanding of modern philosophy.

Granted he knows way more that a Krauss or Dawkins but not enough to be a credible critic of Theism.

The man still thinks Motus is the same as momentum. He still confuses Arsitotle's physics and Cosmology with his metaphysics.

Useless as tits on a bull.

Syllabus said...

"Carroll malfunction is that he doesn't know enough philosophy beyond a limited understanding of modern philosophy.

Granted he knows way more that a Krauss or Dawkins but not enough to be a credible critic of Theism.

The man still thinks Motus is the same as momentum. He still confuses Arsitotle's physics and Cosmology with his metaphysics."

In a way, though, it's a bit worse. Since Carroll is a cosmologist - or at the very least has done cosmology - he should be expected to know something about both philosophical and theological representations of cosmology. Instead, he comes across as your average competent scientist who has read enough philosophy to come across as a dolt when talking with people who know something about the subject.

im-skeptical said...

"Instead, he comes across as your average competent scientist who has read enough philosophy to come across as a dolt when talking with people who know something about the subject."

I find it interesting that scientists are so often ridiculed in these pages for not being educated in philosophy. So why shouldn't they ridicule those who don't have their understanding of science?

BeingItself said...

"Carroll malfunction is that he doesn't know enough philosophy beyond a limited understanding of modern philosophy."

How much philosophy is a person required to learn before he can conclude that the cosmological argument fails? Does Alvin Plantinga know enough?

We have been down this road before.

Ben, your mistake is to equivocate knowledge of philosophy with swallowing all of A-T metaphysics. In your book, anyone who does not accept all of A-T dogma is philosophically ignorant. Which is just ridiculous.

Your favorite trope is to accuse folks of not knowing enough philosophy. But by "philosophy" you mean an arcane belief system that almost no professional philosophers accept. It just makes you look like an idiot.

Syllabus said...

"I find it interesting that scientists are so often ridiculed in these pages for not being educated in philosophy. So why shouldn't they ridicule those who don't have their understanding of science?"

It's not that they're being ridiculed for knowing nothing about philosophy. Knowing nothing about philosophy in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. However, when some scientist begins to shoot off at the mouth about a topic that is properly philosophical in nature when they know very little about philosophy, I think it's valid to say, "Stop, learn something about the subject you're talking about, and then you can speak as an informed human being." Similarly, when, say, a YEC says something stupid like, "How can we have descended from monkeys when there are still monkeys around?", then the scientist has every right to criticize and maybe even mock that statement, since it betrays a complete ignorance of the topic.

When scientists talk about science, they're speaking as experts. When they talk about philosophical topics, they very often speak amateurishly and foolishly. Similar things sometimes happen when philosophers speak on things like, say, history. Criticizing these statements seems to me to be justified. Granted, maybe ridicule isn't called for, but thorough criticism is necessary, and many times instructive. If a philosopher says something stupid about science, they are just as susceptible to and deserving of criticism as is the scientist who does so with philosophy. Does that clear it up?

BeingItself said...

"When scientists talk about science, they're speaking as experts. When they talk about philosophical topics, they very often speak amateurishly and foolishly."

This claim presupposes that there is a sharp demarcation between philosophy and science, which is a claim naturalistic philosopher/scientists would reject,

im-skeptical said...

"When they talk about philosophical topics, they very often speak amateurishly and foolishly."

That, of course gets back to the original topic. What the province of science? A scientist says that questions relating to how the universe got started, or how our consciousness arises may be answerable by science. The theists, feeling threatened, insist that those things belong to philosophy alone. And not just any philosophy, but it has to be _their_ philosophy, as BI pointed out.

"The man still thinks Motus is the same as momentum."

Do you think Aristotle used Aquinas' definition of motion? I think Dawkins was refuting the argument that Aristotle made, not Aquinas.

BeingItself said...

Quine, a naturalist, thought that philosophy was continuous with science. If it wasn't, then it was bad philosophy. A great example is A-T metaphysics.

So to criticize Krauss or Carroll for not buying into A-T metaphysics is to beg the question against naturalism.

Cole said...


1) If your Higher Power didn't create the universe, what did?

2) Why do you believe your Higher Power exists?

3) Are you saying that your Higher Power literally cannot effect any changes in the physical universe?


1. It seems that science is still trying to answer the first question. At this point we don't know.

2. I believe my Higher Power exists because of spiritual experiences. Through things such as cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, A.A./N.A. meetings prayer, and medications.

3. I guess it has some influence on my spirit. This leaves it up to me to act and react. I guess this could cause changes in my brain states. But it's not really the doing of my Higher Power. It would touch my soul -> I respond -> major changes in my brain states. Without my cooperation and concious awareness of my Higher Power not much happens.

Oh! I also like the arguments from morality and the laws of logic to the existence of a Higher Power.

BenYachov said...

>Do you think Aristotle used Aquinas' definition of motion?

It is simply a brute fact motus means the metaphysical description of real change for both Aristotle and Aquinas. for them it does not mean traveling from point a to b except so far as any traveling from point A to B is a form of change.

After all both talk about the motion of the will? Does an abstract will really physically undergo Newtonian momentum?

I think not even if you have a physicalist view of the mind/brain.

Neither where making an argument from physics. Neither was trying to anticipate Newton they where answering Parmenides who taught change wasn't real. Neither was making a scientific description of the universe but a metaphysical description that is valid even in modern science.

>I think Dawkins was refuting the argument that Aristotle made, not Aquinas.

Dawkins is not just an idiot but he is a fucking idiot.

He is conflating Aristotle's faulty ancient physics(which was shared by all the Greeks philosophers include Parmenides or Atheist Materialists like Democretus).

There is nothing intelligent in Dawkins criticism of the 5 Ways. Knowing what I know even if I came to reject God tomorrow my opinion here would not change.

Facts are simply facts. He doesn't even know enough to read Anthony Kenny the premiere philosophical critic of Aquinas.

Syllabus said...

"That, of course gets back to the original topic. What the province of science?"

That which is covered by the scientific method. The empirical, the testable, the repeatable, etc. This isn't terribly controversial.

I would note, further, that because you can't discover whether the scientific method is valid by using the scientific method, there has to be some sort of external discipline or agency that gets you to the conclusion that the scientific method is valid.

"A scientist says that questions relating to how the universe got started, or how our consciousness arises may be answerable by science."

I think that's partly true, but perhaps poorly worded. Science -using the definition given above -is primarily descriptive. It tells us stuff like the valence of an electron, the number of mutations in DNA strands, whether light is blue or red-shifting, etc. And sure, stuff like cosmology and astrophysics can tell you "how" the universe got started, in the terms of what particles were produced by the Big Bang, the precise speed of the expansion during the first seconds, and so on. So it can tell us how the universe got started in the sense of telling us what was there, what it did, how much what was there weighed, etc. There are, however, certain questions about the Big Bang, for instance, that I think science is unable to address precisely because science is a very specified endeavour. Because it only measures the physical, you would need to do more than science to make the statement that there is nothing BUT the physical. That's simply not the sort of thing science can adjudicate on.

Very broadly speaking, I think the problem here is an equivocation. Suppose I find an ice tray in the freezer. I ask, "Why is there ice in this ice tray?" Now, you could give an answer that would go something like, "Well, there are these things called states of matter, and when the fluid that is composed of two-parts hydrogen and one part oxygen falls falls below a temperature of 0 degrees, then you will have the state of matter known as ice." Does that answer the question of why there is ice in the freezer? Sort of, but it's primarily a description of the physical events that lead to liquid water becoming ice. However, an equally valid answer would be, "Because I put the water in the ice tray to make lemonade." That's also an answer as to "why" there's ice in the ice tray. The first is more descriptive, and the second is more explanatory.

Now, it seems to me that this is more or less what's going on when scientists say they can explain "why" the universe exists. They can give an answer in terms of explanation of physical events and properties, and it's an immensely interesting answer and a very useful one. However, it's not obvious at all that because you can describe a thing or an event in terms of mechanism, therefore any explanation in terms of agency is invalid. In other words, saying that there's ice in the ice trays because water turns into ice is true, but it doesn't mean that therefore I didn't put the ice tray in the freezer to make lemonade. When we start to equivocate between these two types of explanations, all sorts of confusions start to arise.

"The theists, feeling threatened, insist that those things belong to philosophy alone. And not just any philosophy, but it has to bwqe _their_ philosophy, as BI pointed out."

I'm not sure what you mean by "their" philosophy. I just mean philosophy in general. If you want to be a metaphysical naturalist, then fine. But that's a philosophical position, and should be acknowledged as such.

Syllabus said...

"Facts are simply facts. He doesn't even know enough to read Anthony Kenny the premiere philosophical critic of Aquinas."

Not only that, but when fellow atheists like Terry Eagleton criticize him for not knowing what the hell he's talking about, he proudly says that he doesn't, and that he doesn't have to read up on those things because he knows they're all bullshit anyway. You'd think someone who's following in the footsteps of Bertrand Russell and Antony Flew as Britain's foremost public atheist would be as thorough as they were, but apparently not.

As a biologist and proponent of evolutionary theory, I take Dawkins very seriously. As a critic of religion and philosophical thought.... well, suffice it to say there are better ones out there.

im-skeptical said...

"As a critic of religion and philosophical thought.... well, suffice it to say there are better ones out there."

I don't disagree with that with respect to philosophical thought. Religion is a different matter. Religion exists whether or not people have a philosophical framework for it. As such, it is reasonable for scientists to examine it. Perhaps it might have been better for Dawkins to avoid philosophical questions. But he and Carroll and others are under no obligation to stay away from questions about the nature of our world, consciousness, morality, the existence of God, and people's belief in God. When theists state that science can't address those things, they open themselves to the same kind of criticism that they direct toward them.

Syllabus said...

"I don't disagree with that with respect to philosophical thought."

Glad we agree.

"Religion is a different matter. Religion exists whether or not people have a philosophical framework for it. As such, it is reasonable for scientists to examine it."

Sure, they can examine it. I have no objection to people who aren't philosophers or theologians analysing religion. But the thing is, Dawkins critiques caricatures of Christianity - in particular, since that's the one I'm most familiar with - that he would never think in a million years smart religious people hold to if he had bothered to do the relevant reading on the subject. In the same way, if I want to critique some are of biology, Dawkins would be very justified to mock me if I presented some churlish caricature of the neo-Darwinian synthesis.

So yeah, Dawkins or whoever is free to criticize religion all he likes. But he should do his homework before presenting, as his grand, central argument, the question, "Who created the Creator?" It's a silly question that has been addressed a thousand times, from Aquinas to Leibniz and to others.

"Perhaps it might have been better for Dawkins to avoid philosophical questions."

Oh, he can ask all the philosophical questions he likes. But he should at least read up a little bit before he does so. Otherwise, he just looks foolish.

"But he and Carroll and others are under no obligation to stay away from questions about the nature of our world, consciousness, morality, the existence of God, and people's belief in God."

I agree, they're not. But not all these questions can be settled scientifically. For instance, how can one determine scientifically whether something that transcends the natural order exists or not, when science by definition deals only with the natural order? Similarly, trying to do morality scientifically runs into the is/ought problem.

"When theists state that science can't address those things, they open themselves to the same kind of criticism that they direct toward them."

No more than I open myself up to criticism by saying that you can't use the Hubble Telescope to find a mitochondria on my dinner plate.

But let's back up: why do you thing - assuming that you do think this - that God is the kind of thing that science could discover?

Syllabus said...

Note: I'm assuming that when you say "science" you mean "natural science", and aren't just using it as a catch-all term for "a way that we gain knowledge". Because that's just waaaay too broad. And by that definition, basically anyone is a scientist.

BenYachov said...

>I don't disagree with that with respect to philosophical thought.

I should also note if we believe Feser and others the question of the existence of God is a philosophical question. He can disbelieve in God all he likes but if he wishes to be a credible critic he needs to learn philosophy to argue the case.

> Religion is a different matter. Religion exists whether or not people have a philosophical framework for it. As such, it is reasonable for scientists to examine it.

Not really that is like asking a biologist to examine string theory. The major component of western monotheism (i.e the Existence of God)is philosophical in nature. Thus they should learn some philosophy.

If only so I don't have to hear their blather about the first way being about newtonian motion.

>Perhaps it might have been better for Dawkins to avoid philosophical questions. But he and Carroll and others are under no obligation to stay away from questions about the nature of our world, consciousness, morality, the existence of God, and people's belief in God.

The same applies to your average Young Earth Creationist with a 5th grade knowledge of biology and a handful of tracts from the CREATION INSTITUTE. They can ask questions like "Doesn't the 2nd Law of theormal dynamics refute Evolution?" or some such brain dead bullshit equivalent to Dawkins on motus. But at the end of the day both Dawkins and the Creationists both look like ignorant morons.

Carroll is slightly better since he knows some modern philosophy. But even then he is without.

>When theists state that science can't address those things, they open themselves to the same kind of criticism that they direct toward them.

One doesn't have to be a Theist to reject Positivism. Anthony Flew at the height of his Atheism in the 50's came to reject the very Scientism philosophy Dawkins picks up on the grounds it is incoherent.

Scientism is not Science & it is not the soul means of knowledge.

PART ONE

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1174

Part two

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1184

Cheers.

Matt DeStefano said...

Ben, your mistake is to equivocate knowledge of philosophy with swallowing all of A-T metaphysics. In your book, anyone who does not accept all of A-T dogma is philosophically ignorant. Which is just ridiculous.

The irony here is that the vast majority of philosophers reject A-T metaphysics (probably even more than reject the existence of God, which is about 3/4). So, Ben's schtick is not only a bad version of the Courtier's Reply, but it takes a minority position of philosophy and acts as if those who don't accept it haven't done their homework.

It's absurd, but if you plug your ears and yell loud enough you'll eventually believe what you're shouting.



im-skeptical said...

"But let's back up: why do you thing - assuming that you do think this - that God is the kind of thing that science could discover?"

I don't think it would be possible for science to discover something that doesn't exist. Science deals with understanding the nature of world. If we can't perceive something or infer that it exists based on what we can observe, we have no basis for stating that that thing exists. If we can, then it is open to scientific investigation. There are many things in science that have been inferred before there was any capability to observe them. The more we learn about the nature of things, the less we need God to explain them.

There's no fundamental reason to think that science won't someday answer questions that theists insist can't be answered by investigation of the material world.

As for the things that ultimately can't be observed or inferred, if such things exist at all, they have no impact on our existence. (If they did, we could infer them.) Such things can't be investigated, so there is no point in theorizing about them.

Matt DeStefano said...

I have no objection to people who aren't philosophers or theologians analysing religion. But the thing is, Dawkins critiques caricatures of Christianity - in particular, since that's the one I'm most familiar with - that he would never think in a million years smart religious people hold to if he had bothered to do the relevant reading on the subject.

I agree that there are people who presented more sophisticated arguments than the ones that Dawkins attacks. However, do you not believe that some people (if not most) believe a version of Christianity that closely resembles Dawkins caricature?

It seems unnecessary that Dawkins' book has to address all versions of Christianity, as it wasn't meant to convince Plantinga, Craig, or any of those others. That's not his audience.




Syllabus said...

"I don't think it would be possible for science to discover something that doesn't exist. Science deals with understanding the nature of world."

That's what science deals with, not what science is. How are you defining science? I'm not sure I can proceed without knowing that.

"If we can't perceive something or infer that it exists based on what we can observe, we have no basis for stating that that thing exists."

How Humean. And what do you mean by "infer" in this case? Infer logically? If that's the case, I think that you can infer the existence of God from external or logical facts.

"If we can, then it is open to scientific investigation."

I think you'll have a devil of a time justifying this premise.

"There are many things in science that have been inferred before there was any capability to observe them."

Sure...

"The more we learn about the nature of things, the less we need God to explain them."

And there's your problem right there. That goes back to the example I gave previously about the two types of answers. What you're basically saying is that, the more we know about how water turns to ice, the less we need the person who put the water in the freezer to explain the ice. Do you see what I mean when I write "category mistake"?

"There's no fundamental reason to think that science won't someday answer questions that theists insist can't be answered by investigation of the material world."

Ah. So what you're basically saying is that everything that exists can be measured by science? How on Earth did you come to that conclusion?

"As for the things that ultimately can't be observed or inferred, if such things exist at all, they have no impact on our existence. (If they did, we could infer them.)"

So basically, what we can't know can't hurt us. To which I'd ask the rather obvious question, how do you know?

"Such things can't be investigated, so there is no point in theorizing about them."

Why on Earth should that be the case?

Syllabus said...

"However, do you not believe that some people (if not most) believe a version of Christianity that closely resembles Dawkins caricature? "

I agree that some people do, sure. I have no data to draw the conclusion that most people believe that, so I wouldn't know one way or the other on that one. But Dawkins also takes on philosophical arguments for God's existence, mangles them nastily, and offers some rather puerile counter-arguments. Then, he pretends like he has refuted them, and thus Christianity. That's what annoys me.

Syllabus said...

"It seems unnecessary that Dawkins' book has to address all versions of Christianity, as it wasn't meant to convince Plantinga, Craig, or any of those others. That's not his audience."

But he does take on arguments that they or people like them offer, and deals with them in appallingly bad ways. That's what I take issue with.

Cole said...

Syllabus,


I think I may have found a solution to the problem we were discussing. Tell me what you think:


All I need to know in dealing with the problem of evil and suffering is that God had morally justifiable reasons for creating a world that now contains evil and suffering even if I don't know what those reasons are. I'm not all-knowing or infinite in wisdom and I can not see all of reality like He does. To say that God could have done it otherwise assumes that the physical laws are not based on any kind of mathematical necessity. But that's hardly the case since the physical laws are based on basic symmetries. Since the laws are based on mathematical necessity then God can't make basic symmetries to be false. For He is a God of truth as well. It seems that God would have set up these physical laws for a universe to naturally emerge. His spiritual laws would likewise be in place for a spiritual universe to emerge as an extension of this process. God can't make a lie a truth, so metaphysical necessity (e.g., truths of symmetry)don't do away with God's ability to make responsible choices. As long as God can choose to meet His divine objectives within whatever constraints he must work within, then His will is not frozen. He is also omnipotent if we look at omnipotence in a narrow sense in that there is no external agency that can prevent him from achieving his goals. Omnipotence doesn't have to mean that God can do the logical or metaphysical impossible.

im-skeptical said...

"How are you defining science?"

- I don't think I am in a position to say definitively what science is. I think that science can be regarded as a form of philosophy. It certainly depends on the application of logic. It has the goal of enhancing our understanding of our world. It may depart from traditional philosophy in that methods have been developed to verify our beliefs (theories) and correct them when we learn more. Thus, it has become limited to things that are verifiable.

"And what do you mean by "infer" in this case?"

- Inference obviously is arriving at a logical conclusion based on what has been observed or known. As with any kind of philosophy, what we "know" depends on the underlying axioms of our belief system. I think science takes a pragmatic approach to things - objects that can be detected or observed are said to exist, the rules of mathematics are accepted, etc.

"Do you see what I mean when I write "category mistake"?"

You're talking about different kinds of causes. Why do you think that science can't address those different causes? Why can't it answer how the water came to be in the freezer? I think you're selling science short. I would add, however that there should be no philosophy other than science. Only the theists ranting about "scientism" want to confine science in such a narrow way.

"So basically, what we can't know can't hurt us."

That's not at all what I said. If something can't be detected and has absolutely no effect on us, it doesn't matter whether it exists or not. How would our lives be changed? For all practical purposes, such a thing might as well not exist. You say you can infer that God exists. If that's true, you must have some reason for making the inference. If the reason is real, then it does affect our lives somehow. So science can examine it.

im-skeptical said...

"there should be no philosophy other than science"

Make that shouldn't

I mean to say that science should not exist in a vacuum.

Syllabus said...

"All I need to know in dealing with the problem of evil and suffering is that God had morally justifiable reasons for creating a world that now contains evil and suffering even if I don't know what those reasons are."

I don't think we can speak of God having moral agency like ours, but let's grant for the sake of argument that He can.

"I'm not all-knowing or infinite in wisdom and I can not see all of reality like He does. To say that God could have done it otherwise assumes that the physical laws are not based on any kind of mathematical necessity. But that's hardly the case since the physical laws are based on basic symmetries. Since the laws are based on mathematical necessity then God can't make basic symmetries to be false. For He is a God of truth as well. It seems that God would have set up these physical laws for a universe to naturally emerge."

Eh? So far as I understand the natural sciences, the physical laws aren't entities, they're descriptive models of the way reality usually functions. So, in order for there to be physical laws, a physical universe has to be there also. But I digress.

"His spiritual laws would likewise be in place for a spiritual universe to emerge as an extension of this process."

I have no information about this one way or the other, but let's suppose that it's true.

"God can't make a lie a truth, so metaphysical necessity (e.g., truths of symmetry)don't do away with God's ability to make responsible choices."

I'm not sure what you mean by responsible choices in this case. God's only "duty", if we can even use that word, is to act according to His nature, which is Perfection. Though I wouldn't really call that a "duty", more a necessity. A clarification might be necessary.

"As long as God can choose to meet His divine objectives within whatever constraints he must work within, then His will is not frozen."

I don't see anything with which I would disagree there.

"He is also omnipotent if we look at omnipotence in a narrow sense in that there is no external agency that can prevent him from achieving his goals. Omnipotence doesn't have to mean that God can do the logical or metaphysical impossible."

Indeed, in classical Christian theology, omnipotence just means the ability to do all that is logically possible.

So, if I've got what you're saying right, what you're asking for is some sort of demonstration of sufficient reasons God might have for permitting this or that bad thing. Is that about right? Just asking as a clarification. Your response will determine my answer,

Cole said...

Syllabus,

I am saying I have found a solution that satisfies me. Because of this solution I have found I now can hold God as being the Creator. My point is that the laws are based on mathematical necessity. As such God cannot make them false for He would be going against His own nature. He is a God of truth. Here, I re-wrote it a bit:


All I need to know in dealing with the problem of evil and suffering is that God had morally justifiable reasons for creating a world that now contains evil and suffering even if I don't know what those reasons are. I'm not all-knowing or infinite in wisdom and I can not see all of reality like He does. To say that God could have done it otherwise assumes that the physical laws are not based on any kind of mathematical necessity. But that's hardly the case since the physical laws are based on basic symmetries. Since the laws are based on mathematical necessity then God can't make basic symmetries to be false. For He is a God of truth as well. It seems that God would have set up these physical laws for a universe to naturally emerge. His spiritual laws would likewise be in place for a spiritual universe to emerge as an extension of this process. God can't make a lie a truth, so metaphysical necessity (e.g., truths of symmetry) don't do away with God's ability to make responsible choices. He cannot go contrary to His own nature. As long as God can choose to meet His divine objectives within whatever constraints he must work within, then His will is not frozen. He is also omnipotent if we look at omnipotence in a narrow sense in that there is no external agency that can prevent him from achieving his goals. Omnipotence doesn't have to mean that God can do the logically impossible, broadly logically impossible or go contrary to His own nature.

Syllabus said...

"I don't think I am in a position to say definitively what science is. I think that science can be regarded as a form of philosophy."

Well, I think it could be. It used to be called natural philosophy, after all.

"It certainly depends on the application of logic."

Right.

"It has the goal of enhancing our understanding of our world."

Right.

"It may depart from traditional philosophy in that methods have been developed to verify our beliefs (theories) and correct them when we learn more."

To a certain extent, I think that's correct. But I think that when you imply that philosophy has no means of verifying our beliefs you're misunderstanding some things. If you accept the laws of logic, and if you construct an argument whose premises are sound, which contains no logical fallacy, which contains no ambiguous term or equivocation and the conclusion of which follows logically from the premises, then you regard such a thing as proven.

And philosophical thought has those same corrective elements within it. For instance, logical positivism, which was a dominant philosophical outlook for a good deal of the 20th century, was shown to be logically incoherent, and thus was discarded in favour of other frameworks. In that sense, as knowledge has progressing, theories have been accepted or rejected.

Now, since you haven't given a definition of science, let me give one, and you can see if you agree with it. Science, as I shall be using it, is defined by Merriam-Webster as "knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method". Is that definition satisfactory?

Syllabus said...

Cole:

The word "moral" aside, I see nothing that I would disagree with in your paragraph.

Syllabus said...

"Inference obviously is arriving at a logical conclusion based on what has been observed or known."

Good. Just making sure we're on the same page.

"As with any kind of philosophy, what we "know" depends on the underlying axioms of our belief system."

In the case of science, these would be the scientific method, the rules of logic, the rules of mathematics, the intelligibility of being, the reliability of our cognitive faculties, etc.

"I think science takes a pragmatic approach to things - objects that can be detected or observed are said to exist, the rules of mathematics are accepted, etc."

Right. But what doesn't follow from that is that anything that science cannot detect does not exist. That's been one of my points.

Syllabus said...

"You're talking about different kinds of causes."

"Why do you think that science can't address those different causes?"

Because the natural sciences only explain things in terms of antecedent natural states. When you get to the first natural state, you either have to take it as a brute, uncaused fact or start looking for an agential cause.

"Why can't it answer how the water came to be in the freezer? I think you're selling science short."

Because I don't think that science, as I defined it earlier, properly deals with that kind of cause. I don't think it's selling science short to say that, any more than it's selling philosophy short to say that it can't give a mechanistic account, in the exact way that science can, of the ice.

And maybe I should reverse the question: why do you think that science CAN give an account of that kind of cause? It doesn't seem to me that it can by its nature.

"I would add, however that there should be no philosophy other than science."

Erm, no. No.

Oh, OK, I just read your correction. Good. Had me going for a moment, there.

"Only the theists ranting about "scientism" want to confine science in such a narrow way."

I don't think it's confining it to say that science deals purely with antecedent natural events. I think it's purely a description of what it does.

And I think, at this time, I should give a definition of what I mean by "philosophy". What I mean when isay that is this, as defined by Merriam-Webster (since they give as good a definition as any): a discipline comprising as its core logic, aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology. Now, while science might have philosophical foundations, and in the broad sense is a type of philosophy, it can't speak to all of the questions that philosophy does. Take for instance just one of the things laid out there: epistemology. In order to do science, you have to make certain epistemological assumptions - your cognitive faculties are trustworthy, the scientific method is valid, and so on. Since science, in the sense I defined it earlier, rests upon these inherently philosophical axioms, science doesn't answer all the questions that philosophy does. It might have implications for certain philosophical systems or positions, but it in itself doesn't have the power to answer all of them.

Syllabus said...

"That's not at all what I said. If something can't be detected and has absolutely no effect on us,"

I would just point out that if the former is true, the latter is unknowable.

"it doesn't matter whether it exists or not. How would our lives be changed? For all practical purposes, such a thing might as well not exist."

I would just point out that "for all practical purposes" and "might as well" is not "does not". But that's only a minor point.

"You say you can infer that God exists. If that's true, you must have some reason for making the inference. If the reason is real, then it does affect our lives somehow."

Sure, the existence of contingent beings does affect our lives. I'm writing this in response to you, aren't I?

"So science can examine it."

In every case? Only if you presuppose that only those things which are natural - i.e., measurable by science, in the way I've defined it elsewhere - are real or have any effect on our lives.

But in this case, science can examine contingent beings - all of us, in other words. It can give an account of their atomic weight, their chemical composition, and the like. But I'm doubtful as to whether science can explain why there are contingent beings - in other words, I don't think science can give a FULL account of why there exist things that do not have to exist (you, me, the Earth, the annoying kid down the street and his skateboard, giraffes, etc.), for the simple reason that if science, by definition, is the measurement of the physical world, and the physical world is a collection of contingent beings, then there may exist some necessary being (which, if you accept that the physical universe is contingent, by nature would be other than the physical world) which science cannot observe.

Syllabus said...

Anyway, that's all for me tonight. I'll check back in the morning.

Syllabus said...

@Cole:

Except for the part that seems to imply that this was the only type of world God could have created. If it means that this is the only kind of world God could have created full stop, then I would have to disagree. If it means that this is the only world God could have created given the other parameters involved, that may be true.

im-skeptical said...

"Now, while science might have philosophical foundations, and in the broad sense is a type of philosophy, it can't speak to all of the questions that philosophy does."

I hope I didn't give the impression that philosophy has nothing to add to our understanding. I think it does. But where philosophy sometimes parts from science is in adopting axioms that have no basis in observable reality. You want to prove that God exists? Easy. Just choose axioms that lead to that conclusion. In my opinion, that's what Aquinas has done. I noted some time ago that the axioms of Thomistic philosophy don't relate to things I can observe in an understandable way. The philosophy is perfectly logical, based on those axioms, but the conclusions don't match observable reality as might be seen by science.

There are different philosophies, and some of them are consistent with what we observe, others are not.

Cole said...

Syllabus,

It's based on the fact that the physical laws are based on mathematical necessity. Since God cannot lie He can not make these truths false. He cannot go against His own nature.

To read about these laws and symmetry go here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symmetry_%28physics%29#Conservation_laws_and_symmetry

cl said...

Matt,

"The irony here is that the vast majority of philosophers reject A-T metaphysics (probably even more than reject the existence of God, which is about 3/4)."

Well, if you ask me, the real irony is hearing you imply an argument from popularity. Among many others. But, if you plug your ears and ignore correction long enough...

Matt DeStefano said...

Well, if you ask me, the real irony is hearing you imply an argument from popularity. Among many others. But, if you plug your ears and ignore correction long enough...

An argument from popularity implies that I'm asking you to accept either atheism or the rejection of A-T metaphysics based upon their popularity. Of course, that wasn't my point here. I should know better by now than to take the troll-bait, but I'll clarify for the innocent readers.

My point was that Ben's version of the Courtier Reply is vacuous and ridiculous. His reply that "they don't know enough philosophy" is absurd, because the people who know most about philosophy (presumably a lot more than Ben) don't accept those positions.

It's like telling people they don't know enough about biology, and if they did that they would reject evolution (although obviously there's much more of a consensus in biology). It's patently absurd.

Crude said...

Matt,

His reply that "they don't know enough philosophy" is absurd, because the people who know most about philosophy (presumably a lot more than Ben) don't accept those positions.

That's inane for two reasons.

First, nowadays philosophers are specialized - someone being a professional philosopher is not guaranteed to have much familiarity with hylomorphism, or even metaphysics generally.

Second, why not report what the number of theists are in the field that deals directly with the arguments - namely, philosophy of religion?

BenYachov said...

>My point was that Ben's version of the Courtier Reply is vacuous and ridiculous.

Gnus Atheists only pull the Courtiers Reply out of PZ Myers arse as an excuse to justify the ignorance.

Nothing more.

For example:

>The irony here is that the vast majority of philosophers reject A-T metaphysics (probably even more than reject the existence of God, which is about 3/4). So, Ben's schtick is not only a bad version of the Courtier's Reply, but it takes a minority position of philosophy and acts as if those who don't accept it haven't done their homework.

So do you wish to defend the idea Dawkins or Carroll have "done their homework" in the area of A-T philosophy? I'd love to see that.

It is simple Matt if you don't know enough about something then logically you can't critique it in any credible way. That's just common sense. Something fundamentalist Gnus lack in abundance. You study philosophy you should know better.

Let's face it Matt. Till you encountered myself, Crude, RS, The O'Flynn or Anglican Thomists like Syllabus you didn't know Theistic Personalism vs Classic Theism from a hole in your head? Did you?

Heck you thought Catholics believed the Bible is clear till I corrected you.

>I agree that there are people who presented more sophisticated arguments than the ones that Dawkins attacks. However, do you not believe that some people (if not most) believe a version of Christianity that closely resembles Dawkins caricature?

Most average people who nominally believe in Evolution believe Monkeys turn into Humans & don't understand the Natural Selection mechanism or they believe that the Big bang was just a very large explosion in space and not a sudden surge of Space, Time, Matter and Energy from either a Hawking/Penrose Singularity or a collapsed Wave Function in a Harte/Hawking State.

Young Earth Creationists attack the popular ignorant folk "science" of the masses.

What you are telling me is Dawkins is no better. He is suited to attack the superstitions of peasants and can't take on anything more sophisticated.

Which is my point as too why Dawkins is pointless.

But hey Matt if you wish to defend "dumbing down" with rants about a Courier reply then go for it.

Crude said...

Ben,

Most average people who nominally believe in Evolution believe Monkeys turn into Humans & don't understand the Natural Selection mechanism or they believe that the Big bang was just a very large explosion in space and not a sudden surge of Space, Time, Matter and Energy from either a Hawking/Penrose Singularity or a collapsed Wave Function in a Harte/Hawking State.

Young Earth Creationists attack the popular ignorant folk "science" of the masses.


Pretty much what I would have said.

The same people who would normally get worked up over creationists attacking 'strawman' versions of evolutionary theory turn a blind eye to attacking strawman versions of theism. And I don't just mean 'attacking theistic personalism instead of classical theism' - even the theistic personalists are poorly caricatured. The fact that guys like Dawkins go the extra mile and ineptly mangle Aquinas' and related arguments is just icing on the cake.

Actually, I suppose that tortured logic being used to defend Dawkins and company can work on just about anything. Argue against the First Way on the grounds that maybe the universe is eternal and not past-finite. Argue against the fifth way on the grounds that you think complex things can evolve. And if someone points out that both of those 'arguments' would completely miss the mark with regards to the first and fifth ways, just huff and say 'Well there are people who think the first and fifth ways are about that. That's who I'm addressing.'

And while we're at it, 2 + 4 = 3, for people who think of 4 as a more elegantly drawn 1.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"As for the things that ultimately can't be observed or inferred, if such things exist at all, they have no impact on our existence. (If they did, we could infer them.) Such things can't be investigated, so there is no point in theorizing about them."

What do you mean by inferred? Aquinas' Five Ways infer the existence of God from very basic empirical facts about the universe.

A basic theorem of Picard is that every first-order differential equation has a (local) solution. So here we have a *deductive* proof (not an inference) of an existential statement about an object that cannot be observed in any reasonable sense of the word. Is there "no point in theorizing about them"? Why don't you go tell that to mathematicians, I am sure they would love to hear your opinions about the pointlessness of their work. More importantly, physicists would be out of tools to do their work.

QM posits that the state space of every quantum system is (the projective space of) a complex Hilbert space. Question: does this object have any extra-mental existence or not? According to the naturalist Quine (and Putnam, Resnik, etc.) the answer is yes. But this object is neither inferred (you can for example, rewrite QM without mentioning Hilbert spaces, e.g. by translating everything into finite order arithmetic) nor observed. So now what?

As an AT metaphysics guy (that "arcane" philosophy that the the "vast majority of philosophers" reject), this is the ironical bit to these discussions: is that these "skeptics" are not just in general philosophically illiterate, they have the shallowest and most naive view of modern science.

"You want to prove that God exists? Easy. Just choose axioms that lead to that conclusion. In my opinion, that's what Aquinas has done. I noted some time ago that the axioms of Thomistic philosophy don't relate to things I can observe in an understandable way."

This is called a circular argument. So I will call your bluff: where is the circularity in the argument? And if it is not a circularity then where exactly is the problem?

And while you are at it, explain to me what is "understandable" about QM postulate that, to take my example above, the state space of a quantum system is is (the projective space of) a complex Hilbert space? Or classical mechanics positing that the space of every classical system is a symplectic (more generally, Poisson) manifold? How can you relate or observe such things. Please do enlighten me.

B. Prokop said...

" The more we learn about the nature of things, the less we need God to explain them."

im-skeptical, there is your problem in a nutshell. You are rejecting a strawman idea of God (the so-called "God of the Gaps").

In one sense, you are wise to do so, since such a God does not exist. We don't need God to "explain" things in the physical world. Such connections come later, after one has discovered and acknowledged God's immanence. Your statement shows that you have mistaken the cart for the horse.

Syllabus said...

"You want to prove that God exists? Easy. Just choose axioms that lead to that conclusion."

I think you're conflating certain things. In philosophy, axioms are things like the law of non-contradiction, the law of equivalence, the principle of causality, etc. Now, if what you mean is that Aquinas chooses premises that lead to the conclusion that God exists, I agree with you. But I frankly don't think he was rigging the game in the way you seem to think that he was.

'The philosophy is perfectly logical, based on those axioms, but the conclusions don't match observable reality as might be seen by science."

In which way, though? Whe Aquinas says something like "motion", he means motion in a highly specified sense. So with other terms he uses. So when you try and impost the scientific meanings of these words, you're likely equivocating on terms.

"There are different philosophies, and some of them are consistent with what we observe, others are not."

And I think that once one properly understands philosophical systems like Thomism, you can see that regardless of their philosophical merits, they are consistent with observable reality. Whether they're true or not is another question entirely.

And, even if one isn't a Thomist, there are still philosophical conclusions that can be tested against observable facts that seem to me to point towards there being something either like Aristotle's Unmoved Mover or that shares much of its characteristics. As I mentioned before, the existence of contingent beings is one of these things. Another is the fact that our brains/minds seem set up to discover truth about the universe and each other, rather than just to give us survival advantage.

Syllabus said...

Apologies for the typos.

Matt DeStefano said...

First, nowadays philosophers are specialized - someone being a professional philosopher is not guaranteed to have much familiarity with hylomorphism, or even metaphysics generally.


Most graduate philosophy programs expose you to Metaphysics (in fact, I would be utterly shocked if someone managed to get a PhD without encountering Aristotelian metaphysics.

Second, why not report what the number of theists are in the field that deals directly with the arguments - namely, philosophy of religion?


The biggest reason for not including this is that self-selection and the subsequent confirmation bias (Helen De Cruz has explored this topic at length over at Prosblogion) arguably play a large role in both studying/specializing in philosophy of religion and evaluating the arguments. It's easy to understand why most atheists don't find philosophy of religion to be a viable field of study and publication.

BenYachov said...

>It's easy to understand why most atheists don't find philosophy of religion to be a viable field of study and publication.

Yes they are largely committed to an unconscious Positivism and kneejerk Materialism thus they reject philosophy in general & seek to replace it with science.
All the while holding the philosophical positions of Positivism and Materialism.

Still even Gnus like Dennett in a rare flash of Philosophical wisdom will say "There is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination."

But your average media popular Atheist spokesmen is not only ignorant of Philosophy but against it.

Hawking says Philosophy is dead. Dawkins & Atkins attack philosophy and Swimburne & Atheist Philosopher Stephen Law argue with them about it.

Krauss gets into an argument with an Atheist philosopher over is silly book & when Krauss debates Craig he poo poo's philosophy.

Let's face it Matt. You are a minority in the Atheist community and you don't even know it.

Or at least those Atheists who are in a real position to challenge Theism coherently aren't the popular ones. Richard Dawkins sells a lot of book. Jack Smart does not.

Comically Tragic!

Crude said...

Most graduate philosophy programs expose you to Metaphysics (in fact, I would be utterly shocked if someone managed to get a PhD without encountering Aristotelian metaphysics.

Encountering? Maybe. Encountering it in a more than a passing way, and largely as a historical footnote? Encountering without bias and misunderstanding? Not quite as likely.

I can point to professional philosophers (no less than the Churchlands) utterly mangling *Cartesian* dualism - which is superficially more accessible given that it's rooted in modern philosophy. The idea that Aristotilean metaphysics doesn't get communicated in any depthful way to most (not all, but most) professional philosophers isn't surprising.

The biggest reason for not including this is that self-selection and the subsequent confirmation bias (Helen De Cruz has explored this topic at length over at Prosblogion) arguably play a large role in both studying/specializing in philosophy of religion and evaluating the arguments.

Helen's exploration was exactly that: she discussed it, but didn't conclude anything. No surprise - it's a complicated subject. On the other hand, Helen's also discussed how there's a general bias against theism in academia, and I'd suggest that the bias has less to do with the arguments and evidence, and more to do with culture and politics.

However, the point remains: among the actual specialists in theological arguments, the theist rate is high - and this weighs against the claim that the arguments for theism generally and Aristotilean metaphysics specifically have somehow been deeply examined and found wanting by all philosophers. It's simply not the case.

It's easy to understand why most atheists don't find philosophy of religion to be a viable field of study and publication.

Complete baloney. If there's one thing modern atheists have made clear, it's that there's no shortage of them who think that talking and arguing about religion for the better part of their lives is not only viewed as viable, but idyllic. And that's only if we're talking about activist atheists, which is in principle not required.

Either way, the above is enough to completely debunk your move here. No, just because someone knows philosophy doesn't mean they're adequately familiar with the arguments and views in question (as Ed Feser has pointed out, some 'modern' metaphysical arguments are, though not in name, intellectually far closer to Aristotilean than modern metaphysics), and the philosophers who we'd most expect to actually be familiar with said arguments and metaphysics are theistic-leaning to the point where you have to imagine a story to explain them away as an entire class.

BenYachov said...


>As an AT metaphysics guy (that "arcane" philosophy that the the "vast majority of philosophers" reject), this is the ironical bit to these discussions: is that these "skeptics" are not just in general philosophically illiterate, they have the shallowest and most naive view of modern science.

Amen!

Syllabus said...

"As an AT metaphysics guy (that "arcane" philosophy that the the "vast majority of philosophers" reject), this is the ironical bit to these discussions: is that these "skeptics" are not just in general philosophically illiterate, they have the shallowest and most naive view of modern science."

Word.

im-skeptical said...

grodriguez,

"Aquinas' Five Ways infer the existence of God from very basic empirical facts about the universe."

I may not have made my statements clear enough. The things in Thomism that I refer to as axioms are statements like "we are good to the extent that we are", and "existence is perfection". If you see those things as something other than axioms, it doesn't change the essence of what I said. They form a logical foundation for the philosophy. But they are not empirical facts. A reasonable person could dispute their truth. That's why they are not included in the axioms that form the logical foundation of science.

"This is called a circular argument. So I will call your bluff: where is the circularity in the argument? And if it is not a circularity then where exactly is the problem?"

The circular argument lies in premises or axioms that presuppose the conclusion. You may dispute that. When you take it as axiomatic that God is the only thing that is non-contingent, and then you make the argument from contingency, you are using circular logic, and you are choosing axioms for the purpose of making those arguments.

Nothing of the sort can be said of how the existence of sub-atomic particles is inferred.

"QM posits that the state space of every quantum system is (the projective space of) a complex Hilbert space. Question: does this object have any extra-mental existence or not?"

Your question doesn't even make sense. What object are you referring to? The multi-dimensional space known as Hilbert space is not exactly an object.

And please don't try to intimidate me with scientific or mathematical jargon.

Syllabus said...

"When you take it as axiomatic that God is the only thing that is non-contingent, and then you make the argument from contingency, you are using circular logic, and you are choosing axioms for the purpose of making those arguments."

I take great issue with that. What the third way presupposes is that there are contingent beings, and that contingent beings require a necessary being(s) to be their ground of existence. Besides, I don't think Aquinas thought that God is the only thing that could possibly be necessary, only that necessary existence was an "attribute" of God. In his words:

"The third way is taken from possibility and necessity, and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence---which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God."

Now, I don't think that this proves EVERYTHING that the theist means when he or she says God, but it certainly proves a very important bit. And as for your implication that more that you think that more than one thing could potentially have necessary existence, I would answer in two ways. First, if you say, maybe, that some other divine figure possesses necessary existence, then I'll just say that that's God under another name, or simply a little slice of what I or others here mean by God. If you mean to imply that there can be more than one thing that exists necessarily, then I would respond by saying that we ought not multiply causes beyond that which is needed to explain the effect - a.k.a. Ockham's Razor. It seems to me that a single, ultimate ground of being is more plausible than a multiplicity of grounds of being, for a number of reasons.

FInally, I'll not this: if you divorce the Five Ways from each other and from the Summa Theologiae as a whole, they only prove and describe bits and pieces of what Aquinas and those who agree with him mean by "God", and provide a very misleading picture of what Aquinas was talking about. It's not easy reading, but it's rewarding, if for no other reasons than being able to adequately and knowledgeably reject the positions.

Matt DeStefano said...

Encountering? Maybe. Encountering it in a more than a passing way, and largely as a historical footnote? Encountering without bias and misunderstanding? Not quite as likely.

You've obviously never taken any graduate-level philosophy courses. Hell, even in my undergraduate metaphysics course we read Aristotle. When I say "encounter", I don't mean "as a historical footnote".

I can point to professional philosophers (no less than the Churchlands) utterly mangling *Cartesian* dualism - which is superficially more accessible given that it's rooted in modern philosophy. The idea that Aristotilean metaphysics doesn't get communicated in any depthful way to most (not all, but most) professional philosophers isn't surprising.

It's telling that you on the one hand accuse the Churchlands (both?) of "mangling Cartesian dualism" (I have no idea what you are referring to here, so I can't comment further) while on the other hand badly mistaking Cartesian dualism as being "rooted in" modern philosophy. Descartes is almost universally regarded as the beginning of modern philosophy, and his dualism is no more "rooted" in it than Socrates' philosophy was "rooted" in Ancient philosophy.

Also, this is just a red herring. Ben's point is that most people "don't know enough philosophy" or "don't know classical theism or A-T metaphysics from a hole in their head". If they did, the implication goes, then they would accept these positions. Of course, most metaphysicians don't accept A-T metaphysics, and a vast majority of philosophers don't accept theism.

Helen's exploration was exactly that: she discussed it, but didn't conclude anything. No surprise - it's a complicated subject. On the other hand, Helen's also discussed how there's a general bias against theism in academia, and I'd suggest that the bias has less to do with the arguments and evidence, and more to do with culture and politics.

"As Alexander Pruss argued in the comment section here, if God exists, philosophy of religion is one of the most important areas of philosophy, but if He does not, it's peripheral. So we can expect a self-selection effect. Combined with confirmation bias, there is an additional worry that theistic philosophers of religion might overvalue the strength of theistic arguments, since theists in general evaluate these arguments as stronger."

I'm not going to chase you down the "theists are persecuted in academia" rabbit-hole. It's a waste of time.

Complete baloney. If there's one thing modern atheists have made clear, it's that there's no shortage of them who think that talking and arguing about religion for the better part of their lives is not only viewed as viable, but idyllic. And that's only if we're talking about activist atheists, which is in principle not required.

Crude, read what I write instead of responding to a straw-man of what I've claimed. My claim is that it makes sense for atheist philosophers to not publish in the area of philosophy of religion. That doesn't mean atheists universally agree that there is no point in "talking or arguing about religion".

Yes they are largely committed to an unconscious Positivism and kneejerk Materialism thus they reject philosophy in general & seek to replace it with science.
All the while holding the philosophical positions of Positivism and Materialism.


I'm referring to the philosophical community in what you quoted from me, not the atheist population at large. Unless you're accusing the general philosophical community of being "committed to an unconscious positivism and kneejerk Materialism", you might want to rethink these sentiments.

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

"You are rejecting a strawman idea of God"

God of the gaps, the prime mover, the ultimate cause, whatever you want to call it.

Syllabus said...

"God of the gaps, the prime mover, the ultimate cause, whatever you want to call it."

The three are not at all equivalent. God-of-the-gaps refers to inserting God to explain scientific phenomena that we cannot explain (Intelligent Design, the favourite atheist example of "those primitive savages used to think that the gods caused thunder, but we now know better", and so on). The other two are derived from logical or philosophical arguments. They're not just scientific bookends. They're only equivalent if you assume philosophical naturalism, which is a position that you would have to justify separately to make that claim.

BenYachov said...

>When you take it as axiomatic that God is the only thing that is non-contingent, and then you make the argument from contingency, you are using circular logic, and you are choosing axioms for the purpose of making those arguments."

Your subconscious Theistic Personalism is showing. You are thinking of God as another being alongside other beings only more uber. Who has all these super-properties compared to the rest of us.

No, we argue things are contingent & that given their nature it is impossible that there are contingent things unless they ultimately derive their existence from something non-contingent which we take to be God.

The thing with Classic Arguments for the existence of God is the Atheist always plays the trump card of "Well how do you know that is God?".

It all comes down to a resistance to learning the difference between Classic Theism vs Theistic Personalism & being a strong Atheist in regards to the existence of any Theistic Personalist so called "god".

cl said...

Matt,

It wasn't "troll bait." If you didn't mean to imply an argument from popularity, then, say what you mean. It's not my fault you chose not to express yourself with the precision you needed.

B. Prokop said...

"whatever you want to call it"

And so be it. It does not matter what words you use, none of these ideas are explanations of how or why the universe works the way it does, but rather conclusions reached by first coming to understand the meaning and implications of "I am who am".

Once again, carts and horses.

cl said...

Crude,

You asked Matt,

"Second, why not report what the number of theists are in the field that deals directly with the arguments - namely, philosophy of religion?"

Duh! Because that doesn't fit in with his preconceived agenda of preaching atheism. C'mon, you know that...

cl said...

I love listening to Matt spout of crap like this:

"The biggest reason for not including this is that self-selection and the subsequent confirmation bias (Helen De Cruz has explored this topic at length over at Prosblogion) arguably play a large role in both studying/specializing in philosophy of religion and evaluating the arguments. It's easy to understand why most atheists don't find philosophy of religion to be a viable field of study and publication."

Has anyone else noticed a distinct absence of anything that even resembles a cogent argument either for atheism or against theism from Matt? All he does is come here and talk down to us with his pro-atheist rhetoric. There's no critical thinking whatsoever in his strategy. That should be telling.

BenYachov said...

Matt writes:
>Also, this is just a red herring. Ben's point is that most people "don't know enough philosophy" or "don't know classical theism or A-T metaphysics from a hole in their head". If they did, the implication goes, then they would accept these positions.

BULLSHIT! Says who? Not I, rather they would either come up with a coherent informed criticism of said philosophy instead of the Strawman bullshit slop they serve up (confusing Motus with momentum or the 5th ways with Paley's nonsense etc), or they might stay neutral or they might convert & believe in it.

Matt just because you have a coherent knowledge of something doesn't mean you automatically accept it. You might or you might come up with a coherent reason not too.

Geez it's not fucking hard!

>Of course, most metaphysicians don't accept A-T metaphysics, and a vast majority of philosophers don't accept theism.

Let me try this since you seem dead set on being obtuse. If you don't learn some specialist critiques of AT you have no hope of holding my interest much less convincing me it is wrong.

Why is this so hard for you?

cl said...

I wish y'all would help me hold Matt accountable to the invalid argument he made in the "defeasibility" thread. It really bothers me that he refuses to take accountability for his own errors but then has the audacity to imply that we're a bunch of deluded folks, and trolls.

People, please boycott Matt until he takes accountability for his errors! I'm talking about how he said that if one's beliefs aren't defeasible, then rational discussion is impossible. That's simply not true.

I mean, if he won't concede error in something so small, why should we waste any further time trying to convince him of error in the larger things? Think about it. You're just getting your chains pulled, over and over and over and over again.

BenYachov said...

>I'm referring to the philosophical community in what you quoted from me,

I am referring to those who argue for Atheism not those who happen to not believe in God.

You are equivocating between the two.


>not the atheist population at large. Unless you're accusing the general philosophical community of being "committed to an unconscious positivism and kneejerk Materialism", you might want to rethink these sentiments.

No I am accusing most popular Atheist activists of this not people who just don't believe in God and don't care if you do or not.

It's not hard Matt.

im-skeptical said...

Ben,

"Your subconscious Theistic Personalism is showing."

I am intrigued by that. I didn't think I said anything that indicates a personal god. Can you explain further?

cl said...

Ben,

"Not I, rather they would either come up with a coherent informed criticism of said philosophy instead of the Strawman bullshit slop they serve up..."

Exactly. I understood your point just fine. I don't think Matt is being willfully obtuse, but he sure does seem to have a very difficult time grasping something so basic. Honestly I think it's a culture-war problem. Like I said, it's not critical thought, it's pro-atheism, anti-theism. It's an intellectual box that is precisely the inverse of the intellectual box he used to be in as a self-confessed fundy.

I see this pattern, consistently, in deconverted fundamentalists. They generally don't shed blind faith for critical thinking, they exchange blind faith for blind skepticism.

BenYachov said...

Also as Crude pointed out there is the philosophical community vs those who specialize in Philosophy of religion. Why equivocate between the two?

>if God exists, philosophy of religion is one of the most important areas of philosophy, but if He does not, it's peripheral. So we can expect a self-selection effect.

The ideal self-selection is those who believe God exists and it can be shown to be true with those who don't & think it is important to argue that case or argue the opposite case.

Popular Atheists like Dawkins are in the later half but they reject the science(i.e. philosophy) that might help them be successful to that end.

Those are just the brute facts.

Dan Gillson said...

Father Brown isn't the first to elide the differences between the Christian God and the God of Theology. He is, in fact, in the good company of the Saints and Doctors of the Church. He can't, however, hide behind the venerable tradition of repressing the inherent discrepancies between the the God of the Bible and the God of the Catholic tradition. In the end, he may be partly right: there may be a being out there whose very nature is the act of be-ing. That this being is the Christian God is a far cry from being established.

Syllabus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
im-skeptical said...

Syllabus,

"First, if you say, maybe, that some other divine figure possesses necessary existence, then I'll just say that that's God under another name, or simply a little slice of what I or others here mean by God. If you mean to imply that there can be more than one thing that exists necessarily, then I would respond by saying that we ought not multiply causes beyond that which is needed to explain the effect"

And still you say that the argument doesn't presuppose God being the one and only non-contingent thing?

Syllabus said...

What Ben is talking about here is not as simple as whether God is "personal" or not. What he's saying - and what I and many of us theists here think and believe - is that there are two conceptions of what we mean by God. One, what Ben calls "theistic personalism", holds that God is a perfect Being, or as Anselm claimed, the greatest conceivable being. This also has the implication that God can have moral duties and obligations as we do, since He is a being among beings. Classical theists, however, hold that God is not the greatest conceivable being but the ground of Being itself - that is, that necessary thing in which all contingent beings have their ground. God, in this view, is not just some being among many, or the greatest or maximally great being among other beings - He IS Being, and all contingent beings simply derive their existence from His essence. An implication of this view is that we can only call God a "person" analogously, in that we are similar to God in that we both possess something that can be called personality, but which is only similar in that both God and humanity relate to "persons". Thus comes the name "theistic personalism".

Therefore, when the classical theist says "God", he is referring to, among other things, that necessary thing in which all beings find their ground. It's not the only thing that they mean, but it's a very important part of it.

BenYachov said...

>I am intrigued by that. I didn't think I said anything that indicates a personal god. Can you explain further?

Didn't you read Feser's entry on Classic Theism vs Theistic Personalism?

Because you question equivocates between believing in a Personal God (which classic Theists define as believing God has Intellect & will analigous to a human's intellect & will) vs believing in a Theistic Personalist "god" which defines God as a disembodied unequivocally compared human mind with perternatural powers. A Super-being alongside other beings only more uber.

do the required reading please.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/07/classical-theism-roundup.html#more

Anyway you said "When you take it as axiomatic that God is the only thing that is non-contingent," that strongly implies you see God as a being who exists alongside other beings. Which is a Theistic Personalist view.

God is not "a thing" or being within reality. He is unconditional Reality Itself that produces our contingent reality and causes it to be here and now.

Go do you homework & in the near future get back to me.

Crude said...

cl,

Off-topic, but speaking of atheists and bullshitting...

You may find this interesting. Read what follows after Bull's question between Linton and myself.

I think this sort of crap - not that specific act, but what Linton unintentionally revealed - is pretty damn common among atheists.

Syllabus said...

"And still you say that the argument doesn't presuppose God being the one and only non-contingent thing?"

Not that God is THE ONE AND ONLY THING that is or can be necessary, only that one of the "attributes" of God is necessary existence, and that there is only ONE necessary ground of being, as per Okham's Razor. Consequently, if I've proved that in order for contingent beings to exist there must exist some necessary ground of being, then I've proved that there exists something that has at least one of the attributes of what I mean when I say God. If someone else worships a God with a different name than the one I worship, but still calls the the ground of all being, I conclude that we're calling God different things, and one of us has wrong ideas about that God, but that we are still both directing our worship - or conversation, to make it less religious - towards the same entity.

Let's put it this way: I worship
the thing that is the ground of all being. I call it God, the Christian God specifically, based upon some other reasons I have. I don't think that there is anything else out there that satisfies the definition of "that which grounds all contingent beings". One reason to think so is that one of the entailments of non-contingency is eternality - that is, existence sans time.

BenYachov said...

God is Goodness Itself not a superbeing who happen to be good and more good than any other being within reality.

Classic theism vs Theistic Personalism.

Be aware im-skeptical I am a strong atheist as to the existence of any theistic personalist "god".

BenYachov said...

Feser latest Blog Post is on Classic Theism & The Avengers!

Awesome Sauce!

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-avengers-and-classical-theism.html#more

Matt DeStefano said...

No I am accusing most popular Atheist activists of this not people who just don't believe in God and don't care if you do or not.

But this point is obvious - of course some atheists have made criticisms that are unsubstantiated and ignorant of the vast philosophical literature on the subject. So have some Christians! But that's not the issue here.

The original point is that your go-to schtick is to accuse atheists of "not having done their homework" or "missing out on the required reading" when they disagree with your position, or criticize a position that you don't agree with yourself. (See your reply to me and your reply to im-skeptical)

But, as others have pointed out, people who have done the "required homework", or the "background research" - many of them much more informed on the subject than you - have come to reject the positions you hold. Clearly, disagreeing with your position is not a matter of "not having done their homework", but of rejecting a certain metaphysics or arguments for the existence of God.

You can understand the frustration of your interlocutors when you immediately respond to objections and criticism with "Read Feser's blog, then you'll understand everything and then we can have a discussion."

People, please boycott Matt until he takes accountability for his errors! I'm talking about how he said that if one's beliefs aren't defeasible, then rational discussion is impossible. That's simply not true.

Every comment I make is followed by a new accusation from you of my: lack of accountability, dishonesty, "Gnu" atheist tendencies, or my dogmatic "ex-fundamentalist" inclinations. (There's probably more, but I've lost track.)

I don't have the time or desire to go through your laundry list of complaints about me. I've made my position on defeasability abundantly clear in my above comments, especially as it pertains to the discussion of religion.


Matt DeStefano said...

Consequently, if I've proved that in order for contingent beings to exist there must exist some necessary ground of being, then I've proved that there exists something that has at least one of the attributes of what I mean when I say God.

This is only slightly relevant, but you seem to have a grasp on the current arguments from classical theists. I've been thinking about the contingent/necessary issue a lot recently, and have re-visisted the criticisms made by philosophers towards this idea that contingent beings require explanation.

Have any classical theists responded to the criticisms by Rowe and Swinburne (a general sketch can be found here
, though reading Rowe's work in entirety is useful - I haven't read Swinburne's complete treatment of the issue) about this move from contingent beings to necessary beings?

ozero91 said...

"But, as others have pointed out, people who have done the "required homework", or the "background research" - many of them much more informed on the subject than you - have come to reject the positions you hold. Clearly, disagreeing with your position is not a matter of "not having done their homework", but of rejecting a certain metaphysics or arguments for the existence of God."

The easiest thing to do in this situation is to provide a link, and perhaps summarize it. Show us a critique done by someone else (who has done there homework) that you think is cogent and accessible.

ozero91 said...

Wow Matt you read my mind.

B. Prokop said...

"I wish y'all would help me hold Matt accountable to the invalid argument he made in the "defeasibility" thread. ... I'm talking about how he said that if one's beliefs aren't defeasible, then rational discussion is impossible. That's simply not true."

cl,

I'm not sure I'm with you on this one (but perhaps I don't understand what you mean here). I had never come across the word "defeasible" before this thread, so I had to look it up. I find that it's a legal term meaning "capable of being invalidated". Good enough - I think I answered the question in the very first comment in the thread below this one. Matt comes back with "someone with a graduate degree ought to have at least a fuzzy idea about what makes their belief defeasible - especially if Prokop, unkleE, and Syllabus have all been forthcoming (although I think Prokop's is a bit ridiculous, but that's another story)" He never gave me a satisfactory explanation as to why he thought I was being "ridiculous", but as he said, "that's another story". (I suspect he didn't like the fact that I was able to answer the question, so his only refuge was ridicule - ridicule that fell flat, by the way.)

But don't you think everyone ought to have some notion of what it would take to make them change their mind about even a deeply held belief?

Matt DeStefano said...

(I suspect he didn't like the fact that I was able to answer the question, so his only refuge was ridicule - ridicule that fell flat, by the way.)

You're right in saying that you answered the question (but wrong in saying that I didn't like it - quite the contrary!), but I wasn't intending to use "ridiculous" in an attempt to resort to mockery. What I meant by 'ridiculous' is that I thought it was way too high of an epistemological bar to set. Why I said "that's another story" is because I suspect we disagree about how reliable we find the Gospels to be historically, and how much confidence we should have in those accounts.

Syllabus said...

re: the Rowe link:

Some preliminary thoughts:

I think that the piece is right in thinking that this does more against the kalam cosmological argument than against, say, the Third Way. This is more or less the same line that Quentin Smith - whom I heartily admire - uses against the kalam, though in far more excruciating detail.

Also, I think Rowe may be equivocating as to the definition of "necessary". What he seems to mean by when he says that matter and energy are "necessary" is simply that it indestructible, not that it is its own cause of existence. He says that because matter persists, it is causally independent, and thus necessary. This strikes me as problematic, for reasons which I can't get into now, as I have class in seven minutes. Ah well, I must away.

Crude said...

But, as others have pointed out, people who have done the "required homework", or the "background research" - many of them much more informed on the subject than you - have come to reject the positions you hold. Clearly, disagreeing with your position is not a matter of "not having done their homework", but of rejecting a certain metaphysics or arguments for the existence of God.

Unfortunately for you, Ben escapes your charge. One only has to look at his past responses to atheists who said they rejected the arguments for classical theism or such and such, while making a proper effort to explain and justify their criticisms. Anyone can see that Ben praises those atheists. In my opinion, sometimes far too much.

Ben has qualified his statements appropriately: he talks about 'some' atheists, he talks about the Cult of Gnu, and he names specific examples of popular atheist activists who self-evidently have no clue what they're talking about.

He does not say 'anyone who disagrees and is an atheist hasn't done their homework'. He says it to atheists... who have not done their homework.

This is timely, because I recently got finished exposing Linton for attacking classical theism (specifically, dismissing hylomorphic dualism) while clearly not knowing the first thing about it. And his is only a case where it ended up being undeniable.

So no, you're misrepresenting Ben's point.

BenYachov said...

>But this point is obvious - of course some atheists have made criticisms that are unsubstantiated and ignorant of the vast philosophical literature on the subject. So have some Christians! But that's not the issue here.

Your full of shit Matt. I don't attack all Atheists I only attack Gnus and I never apologize for it.

>The original point is that your go-to schtick is to accuse atheists of "not having done their homework" or "missing out on the required reading" when they disagree with your position, or criticize a position that you don't agree with yourself. (See your reply to me and your reply to im-skeptical)

Again you are full of shit Matt. Everyone here knows I love rational Atheists who learn the arguments. dguller over at Feser's blog comes to mind. I praise Atheist Philosophers like Jack Smart. I pour contempt on popular gnus & their defenders who don't know philosophy from their own arseholes.

What's with the tribal mentality? You treat any attack on any Atheist as an attack on all of them. You get pissy because we dog pile on Gnus like Dawkins & Co but you tactfully ignore the praise I make toward rational Atheists.

>But, as others have pointed out, people who have done the "required homework", or the "background research" - many of them much more informed on the subject than you - have come to reject the positions you hold. Clearly, disagreeing with your position is not a matter of "not having done their homework", but of rejecting a certain metaphysics or arguments for the existence of God.

You are full of shit Matt & you are mindlessly tribal. I don't defend Jimmy Swagart or ID (thought I might agree with Crude Atheist overeact to them).

I unlike you have standards.

>You can understand the frustration of your interlocutors when you immediately respond to objections and criticism with "Read Feser's blog, then you'll understand everything and then we can have a discussion."

What is more frustrating is you don't read it. You simply don't care about being a good Atheist Matt. You want an easy atheism fighting an easy theism.

I don't believe that way & I couldn't disbelieve that way either.

>Every comment I make is followed by a new accusation from you of my: lack of accountability, dishonesty, "Gnu" atheist tendencies, or my dogmatic "ex-fundamentalist" inclinations. (There's probably more, but I've lost track.)

Cry me a river Matt.

>I don't have the time or desire to go through your laundry list of complaints about me. I've made my position on defeasability abundantly clear in my above comments, especially as it pertains to the discussion of religion.

Grow up son.

Matt DeStefano said...

The easiest thing to do in this situation is to provide a link, and perhaps summarize it. Show us a critique done by someone else (who has done there homework) that you think is cogent and accessible... You read my mind.

:)

I will be the first to admit that "classical theism" is rather new to me. I've encountered Aquinas previously, but I'm reading some of Kenny's work on him currently and am getting a better handle on it. I remember reading in Feser's biographical account of reading Aquinas that he found modern criticisms of Aquinas to be off-target (which Ben seems to echo here), so I figured I would go to the expert(s). I haven't necessarily found Feser's criticism to be substantial - while there are misreadings, I find many of the criticisms to be coherent and poignant.

Most of my problems with classical theism seem to be over the concept of "necessary being". The SEP article on the Cosmological Argument gives four great objections, which I first encountered through Mackie and Rowe.

Crude said...

I should add on.

I think Ben shit-talks a bit much. (I mean, just look at that last post. ;) But no, he does not run around saying all atheists are complete morons who never do their homework. Before dguller, he praised BDK. He praised Stephen Law until the guy basically melted down. No one can accuse Ben of being some kind of theist who thinks all atheists are idiots or corrupt.

BenYachov said...

>Have any classical theists responded to the criticisms by Rowe and Swinburne (a general sketch can be found here , though reading Rowe's work in entirety is useful - I haven't read Swinburne's complete treatment of the issue) about this move from contingent beings to necessary beings?

This is what I mean. This an intelligent question! I'll read it & get beck to you or not.

But I certainly won't respond to it by dismissing it.

Unlike certain people who bag on me for citing Feser but won't read or respond to arguments on his Blog.

I don't know why I bother? Maybe because I think Matt has the potential to not be Linton. I still think that. But he has got a way to go.

im-skeptical said...

Ben,

Let's see if I understand this. I can't refer to God as a 'thing' of some sort without treading on the ground of theistic personalism? I didn't catch that from my reading of Feser. Here's what I did catch:

"To say that God is simple is to say that He is in no way composed of parts."

"These can’t be literal descriptions given that the organs and activities in question presuppose the having of a material body, which God cannot have since He is the creator of the material world."

So I guess I should refer to this god as a 'He", not a 'thing'.

B. Prokop said...

Much better response, Matt. But I'm genuinely curious as to how you think one person can judge how high a bar someone else needs to set for their own beliefs.

That would be like me laying out the case for Catholicism to you, and when you fail to repent and believe, my responding with "You're just being too obstinate!" (rather than me examinating my own presentation to see where it failed to convince)

Crude said...

Regarding the SEP link, yes, Feser and others have responded to it. (That seems to be the one in question.) Really, the link itself mentions other theists giving their response to it, such as Alex Pruss.

BenYachov said...

>I will be the first to admit that "classical theism" is rather new to me. I've encountered Aquinas previously, but I'm reading some of Kenny's work on him currently and am getting a better handle on it.

Perhaps I misjudge you?

>I remember reading in Feser's biographical account of reading Aquinas that he found modern criticisms of Aquinas to be off-target (which Ben seems to echo here), so I figured I would go to the expert(s).

Have you read the bibliography in the back of Feser's books or the Papers he cites? You need that too.

>I haven't necessarily found Feser's criticism to be substantial - while there are misreadings,

In other words you wish to damn Feser while acknowledging him to be right? Like I said you can learn & still not buy it. But at least you are learning.

>I find many of the criticisms to be coherent and poignant.

Criticisms of Aquinas? Feser's criticism? Clarify please.

>Most of my problems with classical theism seem to be over the concept of "necessary being". The SEP article on the Cosmological Argument gives four great objections, which I first encountered through Mackie and Rowe.

Then this is where you need to be not defending Dawkins brain dead shit.

If you can become a rational Atheist I am content! You are a philosophy student after all.

Crude said...

It's worth noting that Anthony Kenny had praise for Feser's book, despite taking aim at Kenny in it.

Dan Gillson said...

I can't believe Ben's condescension of Matt, especially when: 1.) Ben's entire method of argumentation relies too heavily on block-quoting. I hardly think he is capable of writing a discursive argument without it. 2.) Ben makes far too many grammatical and spelling errors to ignore. 3.) Ben is fanboyishly obsessed with Feser.

You have no reason to be condescending, Ben. Get over yourself.

Matt DeStefano said...

Much better response, Matt. But I'm genuinely curious as to how you think one person can judge how high a bar someone else needs to set for their own beliefs.

A quick answer before I head to class: I think epistemic standards are important if we are interested in truth. I don't have a guideline of how to go about setting those standards necessarily (especially not for all situations, historical standards will be different than scientific standards, for instance), but I think that asking for someone to show you the body of Jesus Christ (which would have to be verified somehow by DNA evidence, I presume) is too high of a standard for the falsification of Christianity.

I met a man on the subway about a week ago (true story, and a philosopher's dream encounter) who heard me listening to Tupac Shakur, and told me that he thought that Tupac Shakur was still alive. I pointed out that we had various reports from the media confirming his death, he had a funeral and we could see the grieving of his fans, friends, family, etc. It also seemed to me that there was no rational motivation for Tupac to fake his own death. He said that he wouldn't believe that Tupac was dead unless he saw the body himself.

That's an example of setting the epistemic bar too high. This is justified by the level of confidence that we have in (1) media reports (2) testimony from friends, family, etc. (3) medical reports, etc. While I don't think believing in Christianity is as irrational as believing Tupac Shakur is still alive, I think that Christians often have an over-confidence in the reliability of the accounts found in the Gospel. Matt McCormick's new book actually deals with this issue extensively, which I'm writing a review of for Secular Outpost.

BenYachov said...

>You have no reason to be condescending, Ben. Get over yourself.

I freely admit I can be a dick. I also don't care. Cry about it to PZ Myers.

>1.) Ben's entire method of argumentation relies too heavily on block-quoting. I hardly think he is capable of writing a discursive argument without it.

My response: Yes but unlike say Paps I know what to quote & how to properly use it & I understand what I quote.

Why reinvent the wheel?

>2.) Ben makes far too many grammatical and spelling errors to ignore.

Pretty much. My grammer abnd spekling suck. I try to use spellcheck but I am too set in my ways to improve my spelling.

>3.) Ben is fanboyishly obsessed with Feser.

Not true. I am fanboyishly obsessed with Davies, McCabe, Gilson and a whole host of Thomistic Scholars. Feser just introduced me to it.

So what else ya got, Dan is it?

cl said...

Matt,

"Every comment I make is followed by a new accusation from you of my: lack of accountability, dishonesty, "Gnu" atheist tendencies, or my dogmatic "ex-fundamentalist" inclinations. (There's probably more, but I've lost track.)"

That's all true, except one: I have NEVER said or even implied that you were dishonest.

Since you say you've lost track, if I point you to the invalid argument in question, will you own up to it?

BenYachov said...

@im-skeptical

>Let's see if I understand this. I can't refer to God as a 'thing' of some sort without treading on the ground of theistic personalism? I didn't catch that from my reading of Feser. Here's what I did catch:

I am suggesting you keep the understanding of TP vs CT always before you and know Thomist believe the later not the former.

BTW for the record. I always thought you made a good faith effort to learn about philosophy.

You still have a way to go but then again we all do.

B. Prokop said...

Matt,

I believe you are confusing two very different issues:

1. what would it take for a person to believe something?

2. What would it take for a person to disbelieve in something?

Those are two very different matters.

You may regard the Gospels as an unreliable witness, whereas I am satisfied as to their veracity. But my faith does not rest on the historical accuracy of the Gospels alone. Were they somehow to come into doubt (which I don't see how they could), my faith is not a house of cards which can be knocked down by pulling out a single card. With the exception of the literal historicity of the Resurrection. That is the one, bedrock fundamental, utterly essential foundation to my faith. Disprove that, and there's nothing left. That is why I answered the defeasibility question as I did. It's not a matter of setting some bar too high - that is the bar.

cl said...

Prokop,

Yes, it's a misunderstanding.

"don't you think everyone ought to have some notion of what it would take to make them change their mind about even a deeply held belief?"

Yes, but that's not the point here. The point is that Matt claimed that rational discussion is impossible if one holds to an indefeasible belief. That simply doesn't follow. That's the error of logic I'm trying to get him to see, but he's too focused on my tone.

Dan Gillson said...

Silly Ben: you don't know how to be a dick. You don't have the brains nor the muscle to back it up. You can only lob grenades from behind the safety of a firewall. That's not being a dick, Ben; that's being a coward. You know who else is a coward? PZ Myers. You and PZ are both cowards, Ben.

BenYachov said...

Good to know Dan.

B. Prokop said...

Dan,

Ben (presumably) uses his real name in posting, as do I. Although I often cringe at Ben's over-the-top tone, he's no coward.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"The things in Thomism that I refer to as axioms are statements like "we are good to the extent that we are", and "existence is perfection". If you see those things as something other than axioms, it doesn't change the essence of what I said. They form a logical foundation for the philosophy. But they are not empirical facts. A reasonable person could dispute their truth."

So get off your lazy ass and tackle the argument and its assumptions. Offer a competing account of what act and potency purport to explain, say where they go wrong, etc. something more substantial than vacuous appeals to broad generalities and vague impossibilities that are ultimately self-refuting and undermine science itself if taken seriously. No one is saying that you cannot reasonably doubt them; but by what you say, I suspect you do not even understand them. Ignorance and doubt are two very different things.

"The circular argument lies in premises or axioms that presuppose the conclusion. You may dispute that. When you take it as axiomatic that God is the only thing that is non-contingent, and then you make the argument from contingency, you are using circular logic, and you are choosing axioms for the purpose of making those arguments."

Ok, so you are not familiar with the arguments. Here is some newsflash: the non-contingency of God is not an axiom but the conclusion of the argument. I repeat what I said in my first reply above, but now in a more blunt way: go read a book.

"Your question doesn't even make sense. What object are you referring to? The multi-dimensional space known as Hilbert space is not exactly an object."

My question makes perfect sense as a Hilbert space is clearly *something* because we can predicate certain things about it, prove that certain statements about it are false while others are true, etc. You have two options:

1. You reject the Quine's indispensability argument and claim that it is a mere being of reason. And then you have to give us a principled distinction for why the complex Hilbert state space of a quantum system is a mere being of reason while a quark say, which *cannot* be observed free because of quark confinement is not (*). You then have to explain also how come mere beings of reason (which as the name indicates are as ficticious as novels) can so wonderfully explain and describe reality. After all, there is a reason why a naturalist like Quine felt the need to take a realist stance about the mathematical objects posited by physical theories; he perceived that such a distinction is notoriously very hard to make in a non-question begging way.

(*) last time I checked there was no rigorous full analytical proof of QCD confinement but this is generally taken to be true by particle physicists.

2. You accept that the complex Hilbert state space of a quantum system is not just a mere being of reason, but something with extra mental reality, and then your whole talk about verifiability goes down the drain (which is where it is).

Actually there is a third option: you *could* also say that quarks are just as beings of reason as Hilbert spaces are but then science does not tell us jack about the nature of reality.

"And please don't try to intimidate me with scientific or mathematical jargon."

And why should you be intimidated? As a matter of principle I always assume that the people I am discussing with know as much as I do, even if that might be a tad improbable -- it prevents the making of some very foolish mistakes, like dismissing off-hand the arguments of my opponents with even understanding them.

BenYachov said...

>Ben (presumably) uses his real name in posting, as do I. Although I often cringe at Ben's over-the-top tone, he's no coward.

Hey Bob.

Well BenYachov is Hebrew for Son of James. My name is James as is my Father and his Father before him and my son is James.

I used to be known as Yachov Ben Yachov but I shortened it.

In Red Dwarf venues I am know as Darth Jim Scott.

im-skeptical said...

grodrigues,

"get off your lazy ass and tackle the argument and its assumptions."

Well. let me give it another stab, since what I said before didn't register. The argument from contingency says that there must be an uncaused cause which must be a necessary being. You say that God is the necessary being, but my point is that you can only say that if you assume a priori: that there is only one necessary being, that God is a necessary being.

I see nothing in the argument that requires only one uncaused cause. Aristotle's unmoved mover was not a single being, as I understand it. What if there were multiple instances of the uncaused cause? Would you call them all God? Second, why does it have to be God instead of something else? Why not something else that we wouldn't describe as a god? For example, a timeless multiverse? What if it were some kind of evil anti-god?

You can only conclude that the uncaused cause is God by making those a priori assumptions. That's what makes the argument circular if it is used as proof of God's existence.

That's my vacuous attack. I never said I was a philosopher. I'm just trying to make sense of things. I'll hold off on the rest till later.

Matt DeStefano said...

Were they somehow to come into doubt (which I don't see how they could), my faith is not a house of cards which can be knocked down by pulling out a single card. With the exception of the literal historicity of the Resurrection. That is the one, bedrock fundamental, utterly essential foundation to my faith. Disprove that, and there's nothing left.

If your belief in the literal resurrection is not dependent upon the veracity of the gospels, how did you come to believe it?

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"Well. let me give it another stab, since what I said before didn't register."

Oh it registered just fine. Your response just confirms everything I said. Here are some examples:

"I see nothing in the argument that requires only one uncaused cause. Aristotle's unmoved mover was not a single being, as I understand it."

Wrong; proving that there can be only one Unmoved Mover is actually the easiest and most uncontroversial part of the whole chain of argumentation.

"Why not something else that we wouldn't describe as a god? For example, a timeless multiverse? What if it were some kind of evil anti-god?"

Sigh. You do not know what Unmoved Mover is. No, the Unmoved Mover *cannot* be a timeless multiverse or an evil anti-god.

"You can only conclude that the uncaused cause is God by making those a priori assumptions. That's what makes the argument circular if it is used as proof of God's existence."

Wrong again. God *is* the Unmoved Mover. *If* the God posited by Christianity exists then it *must* be the Unmoved Mover, so assuming that we accept Aristotle's arguments as compelling, the problem has shifted to prove the truth of Christianity, which is tantamount to the proof of the resurrection of Christ, which by the very nature of the case, necessitates a whole different type of arguments.

"That's my vacuous attack. I never said I was a philosopher. I'm just trying to make sense of things."

It is good that you are trying; after all we are all ignorant, except about different things. But your objections do betray your ignorance. I have noted several places where you go wrong, but I have not explained where exactly, because that is work that *you* have to do for yourself if you want to become a knowledgeable critic of serious theism. Note what I am asking: not agreement (though that would be nice too. Grin) but understanding, and you do not have it. So my suggestion is to just sit down, read a book and learn.

B. Prokop said...

Sorry, sloppy writing on my part in attempt to keep things short.

I happen to believe that the Gospels are historically accurate to a very fine degree. No, I don't go so far as to insist that we have the actual words of Christ, word for word. Two reasons for this: 1) Jesus spoke in Aramaic and the Gospels are written in Greek, so at best we have translations of what He said, which are by their nature approximations of the original, and 2) There are undeniable contradictions between the four accounts in minor details. Now I happen to regard these inconsistencies as a strength and not a weakness - as an argument in favor of their veracity. I would be highly suspicious of four allegedly independent witnesses to an event whose stories aligned with each other too neatly.

I guess what I meant by saying "[were] they somehow to come into doubt" was (hypothetical here), if it turned out that some episode within them or a particular saying turned out to be pure invention or embellishment.

Examples: Let's say it could be somehow shown that the dialog between Jesus and Satan in the wilderness did not occur as written. Or that the longer speeches in John were theologically inspired, and were not actually given. I myself am a tiny bit suspicious about the phrase "take up my cross". Said before the Crucifixion, would that phraseology have made any sense to His audience? (But perhaps it is accurate. The Gospels go out of their way to say that the apostles failed to understand what Christ was talking about when He made predictions of His coming death. So even there, in the most suspect of passages, accuracy is entirely possible.)

But I guess what I really was trying to say was that there is a hierarchy of belief - some things are more important than others. In order to be a Christian, belief in a literal, historical Resurrection is mandatory - it's a show stopper. If you don't accept that, you might be religious, or spiritual, or something, but it ain't Christian (at least not intellectually), whatever it is.

My own "litmus test" as to who I personally regard as a fellow believer is, "Can you recite the Creed and mean every word of it? If so, you are my faith brother, no matter what denomination you might belong to." All else is window dressing.

I hope that all made sense. I'm still drinking my first cup of morning coffee.

Syllabus said...

"There are undeniable contradictions between the four accounts in minor details."

Small quibble: I'd substitute "inconsistencies" for contradictions. For instance, the cleansing of the Temple occurs at the end of the Synoptics, but at the beginning of John. That seems more like an inconsistency; a full-blown contradiction would either be an omission of that detail or a flat out denial of it. Or, in another example, if one Gospel were to say there was one angel at the tomb, and another were to say explicitly that there were no angels at the tomb. But that might just be a semantic difference between us.

B. Prokop said...

Yeah, better choice of words.

That's what you get when yer typin' stream of consciousness, Jack Kerouac style.

Appropriately, my "not a robot" word for this posting is "misread".

Syllabus said...

'Appropriately, my "not a robot" word for this posting is "misread"."

And what's with this whole "prove you're not a robot" thing? I find it very sad that there still exists anti-AI bigotry in the world.

B. Prokop said...

It's just self preservation, syllabus. Once we give robots the vote, it's curtains for us humans!

B. Prokop said...

By the way, if Papalinton's comments aren't proof enough that Hell has taken up residence in Australia, get a load of this!

http://vimeo.com/49671213

Syllabus said...

"It's just self preservation, syllabus. Once we give robots the vote, it's curtains for us humans!"

My God, you're right! TO the basement and my tin-foil hat!

"By the way, if Papalinton's comments aren't proof enough that Hell has taken up residence in Australia, get a load of this!"

I dunno, that looks more like the Pillar of Fire from Exodus. So, y'know, maybe there's some divine retribution in order...

im-skeptical said...

grodrigues,

"Wrong; proving that there can be only one Unmoved Mover is actually the easiest and most uncontroversial part of the whole chain of argumentation."

Nevertheless, Aristotle did postulate multiple unmoved movers.

"No, the Unmoved Mover *cannot* be a timeless multiverse or an evil anti-god."

I was talking about the uncaused cause. Nothing in the argument itself implies it has to be God. I'm saying that is your conclusion, based on your a priori assumptions.

"*If* the God posited by Christianity exists then it *must* be the Unmoved Mover, so assuming that we accept Aristotle's arguments as compelling, the problem has shifted to prove the truth of Christianity"

That sort of makes my case. The God of Christianity _is_ your a priori assumption. So you need to prove this without reference to arguments like the one we are discussing here, because that would make them all circular arguments.

BenYachov said...

im-skeptical

You must do your homework. There is no other way.

>Nevertheless, Aristotle did postulate multiple unmoved movers.

I think you are misreading him & misunderstanding what you read.

You have to do your homework or your criticism has no credibility.

see here.
http://www.abu.nb.ca/courses/grphil/philrel/aristotle.htm

>I was talking about the uncaused cause. Nothing in the argument itself implies it has to be God. I'm saying that is your conclusion, based on your a priori assumptions.

You are puting the cart before the horse. Whatever the Uncaused Cause is we take it to be God. If there is no Uncaused Cause there is no God. Nothing
less than the Uncaused Cause can be God.

Again you are channeling your Theistic Personalism.

Did you carefully read the links on Feser's blog I cited?

You must or you become Paps.

>That sort of makes my case. The God of Christianity _is_ your a priori assumption. So you need to prove this without reference to arguments like the one we are discussing here, because that would make them all circular arguments.

That does not logically follow.

I'll leave you to grodrigues whose knowledge of Thomism, Science, Physics and Math exceeds my own by an order of magnitude.

You need to do your homework. dguller does his homework. Be like him do not be like Paps.

im-skeptical said...

Ben

I see that there are different interpretations of Aristotle.

From Wikipedia:
"Near the end of Metaphysics, Book Λ, Aristotle introduces a surprising question, asking "whether we have to suppose one such [mover] or more than one, and if the latter, how many."[26] Aristotle concludes that the number of all the movers equals the number of separate movements, and we can determine these by considering the mathematical science most akin to philosophy, i.e., astronomy. Although the mathematicians differ on the number of movements, Aristotle considers that the number of spheres would be 47 or 55. Nonetheless, he concludes his Metaphysics, Book Λ, with a quotation from the Iliad: “The rule of many is not good; one ruler let there be.”[27][28]"

So he believed that there was a god in charge of it all, but there were different movers for the celestial spheres. This backs up my contention that this unmoved mover need not be your God.

"You are puting the cart before the horse. Whatever the Uncaused Cause is we take it to be God."

You take it to be God. I say it could be something different - something that you would not call God. You don't even consider the possibility. That's because of your theism. It is an a priori assumption.

"Again you are channeling your Theistic Personalism."

No, I'm not. Why do you keep saying that? I didn't even remotely say or imply anything about anthropomorphic attributes of your God.

BenYachov said...

>I see that there are different interpretations of Aristotle.

Here is an explanation from the full article cited by the wiki.

QUOTE"Aristotle was uncertain how many unmoved movers there are. He used two starting points (a)From Reason: he said that if a simpler answer will do, it is better, (b) From Astronomy: he said in Meta 12.6.1073b that the number of unmoved movers,"must be investigated by the aid of that branch of mathematical science which is most akin to philosophy, i.e., astronomy." Astronomy in his day held for many spheres in the
skies. Unclear how many Aristotle thought, probably either 49 or
55. See G.E.LLoyd, Aristotle,The Growth and Structure of His
Thought (Cambridge,1968)pp.148-53
END QUOTE
See here for more details.

http://www.ewtn.com/library/SCRIPTUR/REV601.TXT

Of course Aquinas built on Aristotle and showed why you can only have one pure actuality as the basis of all reality.

For a further exposition on where Aquinas and Aristotle differed on the Unmoved Mover see here.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/11/final-causality-and-aristotles-unmoved.html

>So he believed that there was a god in charge of it all, but there were different movers for the celestial spheres. This backs up my contention that this unmoved mover need not be your God.

Sorry to inform you but even Aquinas spoke of animals as moving themselves or as unmoved movers in so far as they moved themselves by their own volition & nothing external to themselves physically moved them.

He was hardly deifying animals now was he?

In Aristotelian Thought there is the use of the term "unmoved mover" meaning the first celestial mover in a planetary sphere in his concept of physics vs the first/prime mover or First Cause in the Chain of Being(i.e. metaphysics) which was purely actual and Being Itself. The first metaphysical mover that causes all things to exist here and now which we take to be God.

Aristotle of course never talks about there being more than one Pure Actuality.

There is more to the Wiki article. You should read it more closely then to merely proof text it toward you own bias conclusions.

This wiki article should shed some light on your confusion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotelian_view_of_God

As to the one you originally cited.

QUOTE:"Aristotle's "first philosophy", or Metaphysics (“after the Physics”), develops his peculiar stellar theology of the prime mover, as πρῶτον κινοῦν ἀκίνητον: an independent divine eternal unchanging immaterial substance."END QUOTE

The above would be God.

QUOTE:"Aristotle adopted the geometrical model of Eudoxus of Cnidus, to provide a general explanation of the apparent wandering of the classical planets arising from uniform circular motions of celestial spheres.[6] While the number of spheres in the model itself was subject to change, (47 or 55), Aristotle's account of aether, and of potentiality and actuality, required an individual unmoved mover for each sphere.[7]"END QUOTE

The above would be the first movers in a celestial system their existence is caused to be here and now by πρῶτον κινοῦν ἀκίνητον/God.

BenYachov said...

PART TWO
You are equivocating between the unmoved movers which are the first celestial movers in the movements of the spheres in Aristotle's anachronistic Cosmology vs the metaphysical prime mover or First Cause which is purely actual which causes all things to exist here and now including the unmoved celestial movers. The later being "unmoved" in the sense that nothing physical is moving them.

Given the nature of Aristotle's celestial unmoved movers is one of being final causes as "unmoved movers" they are comparable given modern cosmology to gravity. You could say gravity is an unmoved celestial mover in that sense. But of course gravity is not the First Cause, Gravity is a mere property of Mass not something that is purely actual. Gravity is not God.

>So he believed that there was a god in charge of it all, but there were different movers for the celestial spheres. This backs up my contention that this unmoved mover need not be your God.

Your misunderstanding of the nature of the different movers is akin to Dawkins conflating motus/Aristotlian movement/change with newtonian momentum.

The celestial "unmoved movers" require the prime mover what is purely actual(i.e.which we take to be God) to exist in the first place even if God caused them to exist from all eternity without a formal beginning or creation. The prime mover is purely actual. The celestial unmoved movers not so much since the spheres can change thought they could also be eternal.

There are other things as well the First Cause or Prime mvoer is QUOTE" the eternal actual substance substance that's purely actual.”[24]END QUOTE The other unmoved movers where just final causes only not the cause of causes. Not purely actual.

QUOTE"Of things that exist, substances are the first. But if substances can, then all things can perish... and yet, time and change cannot. Now, the only continuous change is that of place, and the only continuous change of place is circular motion. Therefore, there must be an eternal circular motion and this confirmed by the fixed stars which are moved by the eternal actual substance substance that's purely actual.”[24]"END QUOTE

>You take it to be God. I say it could be something different...

Then that is outside of mere natural theology & natural philosophy and is a question of which revelatory religion is the true representative of the Purely Actual First Cause which is taken to be God. But that it is God there can be no question in the area of mere philosophy.

>- something that you would not call God. You don't even consider the possibility. That's because of your theism. It is an a priori assumption.

I solely define God in terms of natural theory sans any so called divine revelations or doctrines as that which is Purely Actual, the First Cause, Being Itself, Subsistant Being Itself, The One, the Ground of Being etc as do the Philosophers.

How then can I not call it God? You OTOH treart God as a singular isolanti super-being who exists alongside other beings within reality. I am a strong Atheist in regards to the existence of such a "god".

>No, I'm not. Why do you keep saying that? I didn't even remotely say or imply anything about anthropomorphic attributes of your God.

Attributes has nothing to do with it you still think of God as a singular isolanti being who exists alongside other such beings within reality. Not as the ground of reality itself or Being Itself.

Even if you grant this isolanti being no "anthropomorphic attributes" unequivocally this alone makes you a Theistic Personalist in my book via the definitions of DZ Phillips, Brian Davies, NN Trakakis and Feser.

God is not a being among beings. God is Being Itself. Learn the difference.

I am getting the feeling you only skimmed my links. Read them more closely then get back to me.

Remember I am a strong Atheist in regards to any and all Theistic Personalist concepts of God. I deal in Classic Theism only.

BenYachov said...

@im-skeptical

BTW did you get a copy of THE REALITY OF GOD AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL by Brian Davies?

The chapter on God as creator & the IDENTIFYING GOD chapter both should both be enough to explain the differences between Theistic Personalism vs Classic Theism.

Now do your homework. I believe in you.

(even Matt appears to be doing homework like reading Kenny)

So get to it.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"Nevertheless, Aristotle did postulate multiple unmoved movers."

Yes, Aristotle does talk about multiple unmoved movers in certain cosmological speculations tied to his outdated and erroneous physical theories. I am not privy to the details, so you will have to ask someone else to fill you in. But the *metaphysical* content can be detached from the cosmological speculations, and the *meaning* that the term "Unmoved Mover" has in the context of theistic arguments is clear (e.g. in Aquinas) and is different from the unmoved movers that you mention. Most important of all, there is a fairly straightforward *argument* that there can be only one such Unmoved Mover. If the argument is wrong then please do enlighten us where exactly the argument is wrong.

edit: Ben Yachov was kind enough to provide the details.

"I was talking about the uncaused cause."

As a matter of logical necessity the Uncaused Cause and the Unmoved Mover must be identical. You probably are equivocating and meaning by uncaused cause something entirely different that the term has within the context of theistic arguments.

"I'm saying that is your conclusion, based on your a priori assumptions."

Yes, you keep saying that. But to borrow from your nick, unless you show where exactly the vicious circle is, I am going to continue to be skeptical.

"That sort of makes my case. The God of Christianity _is_ your a priori assumption. So you need to prove this without reference to arguments like the one we are discussing here, because that would make them all circular arguments."

Have you actually read what I wrote? I will repeat the relevant part: "the problem has shifted to prove the truth of Christianity, which is tantamount to the proof of the resurrection of Christ, which by the very nature of the case, necessitates a whole different type of arguments". So let me lay down the high-level structure of the argument for Christianity in two steps.

1. Rational arguments are adduced that (purport to) prove that God exists, and that, speaking somewhat loosely, He has some attributes, along with few other facts about the soul, the immateriality of the intellect, etc.

At the end of this step, we have only proved that God exists, that is, we have only proved a bare form of classical theism, nothing more, nothing less. No one is claiming that these arguments prove Christianity true. On the other hand, by itself, this is no mean feat: It rules out atheism. It rules out practically every religion with the exception of the great monotheistic ones. In other words, it forms the *background* knowledge needed for establishing Christianity.

2. Now, Christianity comes along and says that the God of classical theism is *more* than what reason can conclude to by its own, unaided efforts.

The first thing to note is that there is no circularity involved here. The problem, for the Christian apologetic, is how to prove Christianity's claims about God. And as I said earlier, this essentially boils down to the proof of the resurrection of Christ (and an argument is needed for why this is so, but yes, there is such an argument). Now the resurrection of Christ, if it happened, was an historical event, and as such it must be proved by considerations of historical nature which are completely different from metaphysical considerations. But even here, the rational arguments mentioned in 1. provide *positive* background evidence to make the case, as they give us *independent* reasons to believe in the existence of God (Who can resurrect), about certain facts of the soul (that make resurrection metaphysically possible), etc.

So to channel Ben Yachov, get to work.

im-skeptical said...

Ben and grodrigues,

Thank you both for helping to clarify things for me. I take your comments seriously, and I am trying to assimilate them onto my understanding. I suppose it's true that I have been mixing up Aristotle's physics with his metaphysics. Still I can't get over my sense that the classic arguments for the existence of god presuppose the characteristics of this God and thus existence itself. I'll have to take a closer look at my assumptions. I did get a copy of the Davies book, but I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but i will soon.

Syllabus said...

im-skeptical:

Good stuff. If you still argue against the positions once you've read the material, you'll at least be able to say that you examined the arguments before arguing against them. Props for that.

BenYachov said...

>I take your comments seriously, and I am trying to assimilate them onto my understanding.

That is such a dguller move(we can even call it a Matt move since he is reading Kenny).

I like that. I can now be happy.

Happy I say!:-)

Seriously good show.

BenYachov said...

>I suppose it's true that I have been mixing up Aristotle's physics with his metaphysics.

One other thing to watch out for when we talk about Aristotle's Metaphysics we mean specifically his Philosophy of Metaphysics.

Some clowns mistake him in His book METAPHYSICS giving metaphysical modelings of his anachronistic cosmology or physics as somehow making his metaphysics dependent on his false physical science.

Sometimes in His book PHYSICS Aristotle talks about philosophy & Gnus make the same mistake.

Well even today there is no hard & fast rule that says no philosophy text can mention physics & no science text can't mention philosophical modelings.

It's a mistake to treat these in such a fundamentalist manner as "Scripture" you prooftext to come to conclusions. You have to read them & yes you must learn the backround of what you are reading.

Anyway good luck.

Cheers.