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10 Keys on Faith and Science for Christians and Atheists

Science

On one hand, there are marvelous discourses in institutions of higher learning about the ways theology illuminates scientific ideas and, likewise, how science deepens faith. Theologians, philosophers, and scientists come together and talk, even if everyone is not a person of faith. On the other hand, the public presentation of faith and science, mostly on the internet, is a tale of incessant conflict because anyone can pose as an expert on religion or science, despite being nonreligious or never having worked as a scientist.

The following ten imperatives were originally written for a Christian audience to bridge this gap between public pessimism and optimism among scholars. I have replaced some text with commentary for atheist readers at Strange Notions. The original is at National Catholic Register.

1. Profess the Creed in confidence.

To Christians: If you pray “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible,” then your faith comes first. For you, Christianity is not a hypothesis or a theory; it is everything, a pervasive worldview. We do not call some things intelligently designed and declare other things mere random chances of nature, as if nature were not the handiwork of God, but we see everything as a consistently interacting totality, a Creation, including every last particle and force governed by the laws of physics.

To atheists: Of course you do not pray the Creed, but hopefully you can appreciate the logical consistency of an all-or-none Christian worldview. Anything less falls short of a belief in a Creator of all things. If you point that deficiency out to Christians who make distinctions between “random, chance nature” and “intelligent design,” you have a valid point.

2. Know your faith, and let it guide your reasoning.

To Christians: “Dogmas are lights along the path of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 89). You cannot navigate science in the light of faith if you do not have the lights on, so to speak. There are a number of sources for finding Church teaching. Besides the Catechism, Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma and Heinrich Denzinger’s Sources of Catholic Dogma are trusted resources.

Be aware of the hierarchy of truths (CCC 90). Distinguish between infallible dogmas and theological opinions. Most of the discussion happens where theological opinions are proposed and science can increase comprehension. How do we talk about the emergence and evolution of life? How do we describe the unity of body and mind? How do we think about the human person compared to other creatures?

To atheists: The difference in dogma and doctrine is poorly understood. There are certain dogmas that Christians truly cannot deny, for that would logically lead to a denial of other doctrines. Everything derives from the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation. We do not hold true to the existence of the soul, the beginning of Creation, and the miracles of Christ blindly in faith, but rather as a reasoned assent in faith, not unlike the reasoned assent students make when they are taught about atoms.

For me, it came down to a moment of decision where I either chose to take the leap of faith and believe in Christ, or not. The experience has been much like the leap I took to become a scientist, albeit a much more significant one. I entered the laboratory of Catholic faith, so to speak, and tested the teachings of the Church in my life to see what I could learn. I learned to have stronger faith because I learned that the teachings are true, good, and beautiful. But it would not have made sense just watching from the outside. I had to “taste and see” for myself, to gather my empirical evidence to arrive at a sound conclusion. I understand that the lives of the faithful may seem strange to you, as strange as the work of a researcher may appear to a visitor peeking through the door to a busy laboratory.

3. Respect the experts.

To Christians: We are all encouraged to learn about the development of doctrine, but do not to play armchair theologian and promote your novel opinions as accepted teaching. Forego speculation, as that causes confusion. Instead, read the writings of theologians and communicate their work because the modern dialogue needs communicators.

Likewise, respect the scientists. I know; many scientists today are not people of faith, but if you have not designed experiments, agonized over the data, and placed your reputation behind conclusions, it is hard to appreciate what it takes to add new knowledge to scientific fields. Be confident in your faith and read scientific papers, so you will be able to figure out what to accept or reject for yourself. Strive to become an expert and lead others.

To atheists: Christians can learn a lot from atheists who are scientists. I think they should be heard and their points considered. We will not all agree. I hope you can show the same respect for theologians. A confident person can listen to other ideas without fear.

4. Do not be anxious until you find the one final answer.

To Christians: Think of the process of navigating science in the light of faith as a dive into complementary mysteries. Faith and science are two different manifestations of the same reality. When they seem to have conflicting conclusions, it is because our knowledge is not complete. There are many questions that will not have clear answers, which is why they are debated. How much were Neanderthals like humans? In what ways can brain chemistry influence our behavior? What do we make of quantum entanglement?

Just like doctrinal understanding develops, scientific models are provisional. A “provision” is something that supplies a temporary commodity. Scientific theories and models supply explanations until better ones are discovered with more research. As you enter the story of ongoing research, try to understand a variety of opinions. Do not articulate an opinion until you are ready. It is okay to say: “I don’t know. Could you explain what you think?”

To atheists: Ditto, but you probably only deal with the science side of things. Understand that Catholics deal with both reason and faith because we need both to continue our assent in faith, like eagles need both wings to fly.

5. Clarify the kind of proof science provides.

To Both: Inductive proofs widen from details to broad conclusions; they affirm. Scientific evidence can only provide inductive proofs of faith. For example, the Big Bang affirms a beginning in time; it does not absolutely prove the ultimate t=0. On the contrary, deductive proofs narrow from broad statements to conclusions; that is, they confirm. These are, in general, the proofs provided by philosophy and theology. One may argue metaphysically that past time is either finite or infinite. If it can be reasoned that infinite time is highly unlikely, then by default finite time is highly likely.

To Christians: Do not invoke science as any kind of absolute proof of a theological conclusion. The Big Bang, fine-tuning in nature, design in living things, and order in the periodic table are all inductive proofs of the opening lines of the Christian Creed, but only in the same way rainbows, sunsets, and yellow Labrador puppies are proofs of God. Science should inspire awe and wonder because we see it as the study of Creation.

To atheists: We realize that proofs can go both ways. You can invoke science as inductive proof to support a claim that there is no God. You can generate deductive proofs that say it is unlikely that God exists. Christians see those proofs as weak, obviously. People on both sides tend to forget that proofs are like glasses of water. You can set down all the water you want in the fanciest crystal, but you cannot force a person to drink it in. That is why I inject personal perception. Proofs helped me think things through, but granting assent to conclusions was the work of the intellect and the will.

6. Ponder Mars.

To Christians: St. Thomas Aquinas explains in the Summa Theologiæ that there is an order in nature of causes and effects (ST I.105.6). God creates everything and holds all things visible and invisible in existence; He is the first cause, the Creator, not subject to secondary causes such as change and motion in the physical realm. God’s law is the “supreme law.” If there were no other created being with any kind of will and intellect, then the material realm would follow, to the elementary unit, the laws of physics as God designed them—like on Mars.

Physical scientists think within this strictly physical realm. In his 1947 book Miracles, C.S. Lewis refers to nature as a “hostess” (94). If a tomato sauce is invaded with basil, for example, nature rushes to accommodate the newcomer. If the sauce is stirred, heated, or spread on a crust and topped with cheese, physical laws follow suit. If you (like me) prefer not to think of nature as a female serving up munchies, think of matter and energy as the physical medium in which we live. This medium, nature, accommodates the actions of our free will, which is why human life has rendered Earth vastly different than it would have been left to its own devices.

To atheists: You probably view Earth the same as Mars, all a physical reality, or you may think it is real because we think it is real in our minds, a trick of the brain.

7. Assert that humans are body and soul.

To Christians: Beyond the realm of physical matter is the realm of beings with wills, such as angels, humans, and possibly other animals. These beings are movers too. God can move particles, and if it is outside the order of nature known to us, we call it a miracle (ST I.105.7).

In his treatise on the angels in the Summa Theologiæ, St. Thomas Aquinas, referencing (Pseudo-) Dionysius, says that angels are purely intellectual beings or “heavenly minds” (ST I.58.3). Intellect for angels is perfect at once; they instantly know all they are created to know. The good angels choose to will good, so they always do God’s will (ST I.59.2).

We are body and soul. With free will, we can move matter in limited ways. We pursue knowledge by “discursive intellectual operation” by advancing from one thing to another rationally, as we do using the scientific method (ST I.58.3). Actually, the scientific method is a perfect example of how body and soul unite. We take in data with our senses. We process it abstractly with our intellects. We desire to learn more, so we design experiments for further observation.

To atheists: You do not believe in angels. You do not believe in the existence of the soul, so to you we are all bodies with consciousness arising from matter and energy.

8. Be assured that physics cannot explain free will.

To Christians: Determinism is a philosophical idea that all events are determined by strict laws of nature, such that every motion of every particle is preset by an initial state of matter. If you scratch your arm, so the argument goes, you did it because that was the next event your matter and energy were destined to do. If there were nothing except the created physical realm, like on Mars, strict physical determinism would apply. But as Christians we understand that the total system of reality includes both the natural and the supernatural.

To atheists: You are stuck with the problem of free will and how it would break the laws of physics to declare that they think they freely proclaim there is no free will. Christians accept the existence of the soul and, you could say, move on with life. We define free will as a spiritual power, and use our intellects to grow in the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance so that we may strive to reach our fullest potential as human persons. Undoubtedly you see the value in virtue too, even if you do not have the same language for it.

9. Fear not evolution.

To Both: Atoms constitute the matter that makes us up, and every atom in our bodies came from the Earth, whose particles seem to have come from supernovas, whose matter and energy probably came from the earliest moments after the Big Bang. Did you ever wonder what path the ever-fluctuating particles of your body traversed in the last 4.5 billion years on Earth and the 13.8 billion years in the universe? We evolved from the beginning.

Biologically, we see a single evolutionary step every time we see a baby. Evolution is the progression of a series of events by which living organisms accumulate changes over successive generations due to genetic inheritance and adaptive variation. Every child is genetically like its parents but also genetically unique as an individual. As such, every child responds to his or her environment in unique ways, however slight the differences may be. Environments change over time, further affecting genetic expression.

To Christians: Evolutionary science cannot identify a first man, first woman, or original sin committed in a moment, because evolution deals with populations over thousands and millions of years. Expecting evolution to find our first parents is like expecting a bulldozer to find the first two grains of sand on a beach. Not only is it the wrong tool, it is the wrong scientific concept. We do not think of beaches forming one grain of sand at a time. A Catholic can both explore what evolutionary science has to reveal and, simultaneously, believe in the reality of Adam and Eve. What a Catholic, or anyone else, cannot do is expect evolutionary science to find them any more than chemistry or physics can find the exact location of two electrons on your nose.

To atheists: Undoubtedly you do not accept any reality of Adam and Eve and the Do Not Touch Tree, and you have no way to even begin to verify such a story. We know. The fall and original sin are truths of faith that we do not deny, but speaking for myself, I realize that those dogmas are unprovable by empirical methods—unless you count all the mean and evil things people do to each other as empirical proof, in which case those dogmas have quite a lot of evidence.

10. Realize that science was born of Christianity.

To Christians: This is not a claim for bravado; it is meant to inspire a bigger view. The belief that the universe was created by God with an absolute beginning in time and a faithful order is an ancient Judeo-Christian belief forming an unbroken thread all the way back to Genesis. The Old Testament people held a belief in Creation in time. The early Christians defended that belief against the pantheistic ideas of ancient Greek philosophy, even to martyrdom. Today, we need to be absolutely clear about the limits of science. Nothing a scientist says should shake our faith. If a scientist claims we are nothing but atoms, have no free will, or the world is eternally cycling (as all the other ancient cultures did), then we simply do not agree.

If the biblical cultures and early Christianity are taken as the womb that nurtured and protected this fundamental belief about Creation, then the Christian West can be taken as the culture that gave birth to science—upon the works of scholars such as Adelard of Bath, Thierry of Chartres, Robert Grosseteste, William of Auvergne, St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon, Siger of Brabant, Étienne Tempier, and Fr. Jean Buridan who postulated the impetus theory, which was the precursor to Newtonian mechanics.

The revelation of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ taught us the reality of the nature of God and the divinity of Christ. No other religion has ever come close to such a Trinitarian and Incarnational worldview. God is one God and three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Christ is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son who became man. Christ is the Word, the Logos, the reason. And science relies on order. Without faith in Christ, science does not make sense. The beginning of St. John’s gospel has a striking scientific significance: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4)

To atheists: It would be wrong for Christians to use this claim to deny the contributions of other cultures and religions to the growth of science. The claim is complex, but for now, suffice it to say that “birth” does not happen in an instant removed from the rest of the world. Mothers do not say: “Boom! There is a baby. I did it by myself.” When I first read about this claim from the late Fr. Stanley L. Jaki’s books, I was not sure what to make of it. Rather than assuming, I tried to find out what he meant by “science” and “was born.” He had a theory that pantheism and a belief in eternal cycles stifled the development of science as the study of physical law and systems of laws. He searched for data and found it abundantly in the historical record. Historians can be biased, which is why Fr. Jaki wrote extensively on this topic and insisted on original sources as much as possible. Please do not argue against the claim until you understand it.

Dr. Stacy Trasancos

Written by

Stacy A. Trasancos is a wife and homeschooling mother of seven. She holds a PhD in Chemistry from Penn State University and a MA in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. She teaches chemistry and physics for Kolbe Academy online homeschool program and serves as the Science Department Chair. She teaches Reading Science in the Light of Faith at Holy Apostles College & Seminary. She is author of Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki. Her new book, Particles of Faith: A Catholic Guide to Navigating Science (Ave Maria Press) comes out October 2016. She works from her family’s 100-year old restored lodge in the Adirondack mountains, where her husband, children, and two German Shepherds remain top priority. Her website can be found here.

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  • Will

    The fall and original sin are truths of faith that we do not deny, but speaking for myself, I realize that those dogmas are unprovable by empirical methods—unless you count all the mean and evil things people do to each other as empirical proof, in which case those dogmas have quite a lot of evidence.

    Should we count all the violent things animals do to each other? Predator eating prey has been going on for millions of years, homo sapiens have existed for at least 200,000 years. How can we explain the violence before then? Humans have been around much longer than just we sapiens, homo erectus goes back nearly 2 million years and neanderthal nearly 600,000 and there is much evidence that it requires a population of organism to continue evolution, making the Adam and Eve hypothesis in direct conflict with current evolutionary theory. The idea that violence started with the first humans goes against a mountain of evidence from biology. Evolution also explains why we are violent, if we were not, we probably become become extinct long ago. There is some evidence that we actually warred with other humans (homo erectus, neanderthal, homo habilis, ect). We won, of course, but had we not defended ourselves...I'll give us the benefit of the doubt that we were the "good guys".

    • neil_pogi

      predators and preys were designed by the Creator! they didn't evolved, they were designed! the bible explain that in detail why there's a curse on this planet.

      the fact is, humans aregifted with free will. if only preys can protest (ex: why predators are killing and eating us?).they can't blame the Creator about it.

    • Michel

      Perhaps the autor simply meant violence against another human justo forma the sake of it. Nevertheless the tone and message of Génesis is for many many Christians, allegorical

  • Will

    10. Realize that science was born of Christianity.

    Much of the scientific revolution did occur in Christian Europe, but let's just post some relevant contrary information.

    Alhazen was the first to use something very close to the modern scientific method. He was an 11th century Muslim. He could rightly argue that Alhazen "gave birth" to the scientific method.

    Archimedes was a brilliant Ancient Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer. Hopefully everyone is familiar with the Archimedes principle. Later scientists have all been dependent upon the insights of the ancient Greeks, including Aristotle. Science was beginning to be born then, among pagans.

    I see no argument to directly relate the scientific revolution to Christianity.

    No other religion has ever come close to such a Trinitarian and Incarnational worldview.

    Zoroastrianism is the world's oldest monotheistic religion, possibly having it's roots as far back as 2000 B.C. I proposes a dualistic divine nature that explains both good and evil in the world. To me, it has much more explanatory power than an all good God with three parts...the problem of evil isn't a problem for Zoroastrianism. It has it's own problems, of course, but I see no reason to believe Christian theology is more advanced or elegant in any way than Zoroastrianism. The Zoroastrians lost the wars, you see.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Zoroastrians

    Most of the persecution was from Muslims, but Christians did their share.

    • Darren

      It is a simple mistake. It is not Christianity that deserves credit for inventing science, it is white people*.

      * - the original form of this argument, before it became unfashionable to be racist. Still just as offensive, and wrong, as it was then.

      • neil_pogi

        inventing science?

        the book of Job has interesting topics about science.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        That seems totally unfair.

        I am not sure I accept Jaki's thesis, but I can't see why it would be offensive. Isn't it obvious that certain cultural attitudes are likely to hinder science while others are likely to foster it? Isn't it possible to argue about what those beneficial cultural attitudes might be, and how they arose historically, without taking umbrage or hinting at racism?

        It would certainly become offensive if one asserted that certain "races" were incapable of adopting the cultural attitudes that would foster science, but that is very far from anything that Stacy or Father Jaki have asserted.

        • Doug Shaver

          I am not sure I accept Jaki's thesis, but I can't see why it would be offensive.

          I don't find it offensive. I find it absurd.

          Isn't it obvious that certain cultural attitudes are likely to hinder science while others are likely to foster it?

          I'm not sure it's obvious, but I'm sure it's demonstrable. The question is whether the prevalence of those ever was, to a significant extent, different between Christian and non-Christian regions of the world.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            The question is whether the prevalence of those ever was, to a significant extent, different between Christian and non-Christian regions of the world.

            That is the question, and it is an interesting one, one worth debating. My point is, let those who are interested have the debate without throwing around the hand grenade of racist accusations, and without facilely labeling the question "absurd".

          • Doug Shaver

            My point is, let those who are interested have the debate without throwing around the hand grenade of racist accusations, and without facilely labeling the question "absurd".

            I saw no one being accused of racism, and I was not characterizing the question as absurd. I was describing my emotional reaction to a proffered answer to the question while contrasting it with someone else's reaction.

            If there is actually going to be a debate here on this issue, I'm as interested as anyone else in joining it. I know very well how to defend my opinions without making gratuitous personal insults. May I note, however, that this is a Christian forum to which atheists have been invited. I support the administrator's admonition to keep the conversation civil. But considering the venue I don't agree that I'm being uncivil if, when I'm told that modern science, which I regard as the greatest achievement of human history, owes its very existence to the Christian religion, my initial response is, "That's absurd."

        • Darren

          Jim (hillclimger) wrote,

          That seems totally unfair…

          …Isn't it possible to argue about what those beneficial
          cultural attitudes might be, and how they arose historically, without taking umbrage or hinting at racism?

          You will note I called no one racist. I observed the argument advanced is the same argument which was once used to justify, among other things, European Colonialism. The economic, military, and scientific dominance of Europe which had in an earlier age been seen as proof of divine favor, was in a later and less pious age seen as “scientific” proof of the superiority of the white race.

          Is it wrong (factually inaccurate)? The argument is the same, though updated as to the group whom in polite company we can declare superior has changed, and based upon the same correlation-implies-causality error. To carry the metaphor, if science was indeed born in Christian Europe, it was only after gestating for 9 months in pagan Greece and the Islamic kingdoms. To continue the analogy, if Science was born Christian, it emancipated as soon as legally possible to Deism and then at last to Atheism. None of which has a thing to do with the truth of any of the creeds involved.

          Is it offensive? As you suggest, would it not be legitimate
          to compare one population to another on the merits? If humanity can legitimately be divided into races*, surely some will have qualities commending them to tasks of the mind, commerce, science, and governance. If some are more suited to tasks of the mind, then necessarily others are less suited; to them remain tasks of the body, service, physical labor, perhaps entertainment.

          It is very generous of you to suggest those less advantaged cultures can advance their station by simply adopting the ways of their betters. No right-thinking person could take offense to such a proposal.

          *A proposition that I dispute, just for the record.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            The argument is the same, though updated as to the group

            No, the Jaki argument has nothing to do with a group of people. It has to do with a mode of thought, and more generally with a mode of encounter with reality. The Catholic mode of encounter with reality has been able to take root in many diverse cultures and many diverse races.

            If humanity can legitimately be divided into races*, surely some will have qualities commending them to tasks of the mind, commerce, science, and governance.

            I reject this argument just as you do, and I think you know that. I am not talking about some people being better than other people. I am talking about some ideas being better than other ideas.

          • Darren

            Jim Hillclimer wrote,

            The argument is the same, though updated as to the group…

            No, the Jaki argument has nothing to do with a group of people.

            You are rather persistently missing my point. Perhaps I am
            explaining it poorly.

            Jaki’s argument is: X happened in population group Y. Population Y shares property Z. Therefore Z caused X. Birth of Science happened in population group Medievil’ish Europe. Medieval’ish Europe was Christian (Catholic). Therefore Catholicism caused the Birth of Science.

            This is a fair starting point for inquiry. Correlation does not prove causality, but it is a necessary precursor.

            We like to skip the inquiry part, though, and start digging
            up anecdotal support for why our preferred property, Z, really did cause X.

            My attempt was to point out that we have many possible Z’s
            from which to choose. Yes, if we take a sufficiently small slice of time, science was an (almost) exclusively European affair and those Europeans were (publicly) Christian. However, those scientists were also white. They also had penises. They had really bad public health systems. They fought a lot of wars. They had good river transit. They lived where it snowed. (all historically claimed Zs)

            Before our inquiry, every Z should be equal. What Jaki has
            done, and what former ideologues who picked being white or having a penis as the causative Z, is to select her Z from the start and then cherry pick the data to support that conclusion.

            The amusing irony is that science exists as a tool to combat
            our natural inclination to do just that.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I am not missing that point at all, but that is orthogonal to the issue that you and I were arguing about.

            I completely agree that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to draw conclusive causal inferences from history, especially from long-developing historical trends. As I said, I don't know that I agree with the Jaki thesis. I hesitate to say make a stronger statement either way, since I haven't read Stacy's book, but in any case let me say that I presently have no interest in defending that thesis.

            What I do want to insist on is that critics of that thesis present it fairly: as a thesis about ideas and not about people. You say you never threw out an accusation of racism, but then you want on to frame the Jaki thesis as, "The argument is the same [as the racist arguments used to justify colonialism], though updated as to the group whom in polite company we can declare superior has changed". If that's not a backhanded way of labeling it as a racist argument, I don't know what is.

          • Darren

            Jim (hillclimber) wrote,

            What I do want to insist on is that critics of that thesis present it fairly: as a thesis about ideas and not about people.

            I find it curious that you think there is a difference; that “Africans are naturally inferior to Europeans” is qualitatively different than “Muslims are inferior to Christians”.

            You say you never threw out an accusation
            of racism, but then you want on to frame the Jaki thesis as, "The argument is the same [as the racist arguments used to justify colonialism], though updated as to the group whom in polite company we can declare superior has changed". If that's not a backhanded way of labeling it as a racist argument, I don't know what is.

            It wasn’t backhanded slap to Jaki’s argument for being racist, it was a fronthanded slap for being fallacious and ideologically self-serving.

            Still, I appreciate your quoting me. It seems we are at a
            place where we both read the same words and reach very different meanings. My sincere apologies if I have caused any distress and I am content to let the matter drop.

            Best regards.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Hi Darren,

            That is a gracious gesture and I would like to let it drop too, but I'm sorry, I can't let this stand:

            I find it curious that you think there is a difference; that “Africans are naturally inferior to Europeans” is qualitatively different than “Muslims are inferior to Christians”.

            Again, “Muslims are inferior to Christians” is precisely not what is being argued. The argument is that (for example) Islam is inferior to Christianity, not that Muslims are inferior to Christians.

            --Jim

          • Darren

            Jim (hillclimber) wrote,

            Again, “Muslims are inferior to Christians” is precisely not what is being argued. The argument is that (for example) Islam is inferior to Christianity, not that Muslims are inferior to Christians.

            Yeah, if I wanted to drop it I shouldn't expect to do so by flinging a big hot ember like that one into the brush.

            What you have said is an admirable sentiment and I commend you for it.

      • Mike

        white like greek or white like Italian or white like jewish?

    • David Nickol

      To say science was born of Christianity seems to imply that science—in some way or another—is a branch of Christianity, or could not have arisen without Christianity. Does this mean if there is life elsewhere in the universe, they will require Christianity before they develop science and technology? Can we conclude that if there is an alien invasion, the aliens will either be alien-Christians or have alien-Christian ancestors? Based on the science fiction films I have seen and books I have read, this seems highly unlikely. :-)

      • Michel

        It was born from philosophy to be more precise. Although Christiansborg philosophy mayor have influenced how those who developed the scientific method think. I suppose those aliens may have a scientific method with slight differences

    • Phil

      Hey William--

      There are several key reasons why science began to flourish where Christianity was prominent (these are much written about historical points as well).

      Two key reasons for this:
      1) Christianity denied pantheism or any sort of paganism where "gods" were part of nature.
      2) Christianity affirmed the world was orderly and intelligible because it had been brought into existence and ordered by Intellect, the Logos, God.

      If either of these things were not true, then modern science would not be possible.

      Now, this doesn't mean that science couldn't develop apart from Christianity, it is simply that Christianity laid the necessary metaphysical groundwork for science.

      And it did begin to flourish among some Muslims you mention--in the 11-12th centuries--because they held similar beliefs about the world as the Christians at the time in regards to Aristotelian metaphysics and God. Unfortunately, that disappeared quickly as the more traditional view of God and the human person took over within Islam (which is much closer to what we see today within Islam).

      • Will

        Christianity affirmed the world was orderly and intelligible because it had been brought into existence and ordered by Intellect, the Logos, God.

        because they held similar beliefs about the world as the Christians at the time in regards to Aristotelian metaphysics and God.

        As you say, Aristotle is considered important and he was pagan, though I'd agree that simplistic animism might be a problem for science if the answer to every question becomes "the gods did it", though I've known Christians who thought the exact same thing.
        The Logos is also a pagan Greek idea:

        It is a Greek word meaning "a ground", "a plea", "an opinion", "an expectation", "word", "speech", "account", "to reason",[1][2] but it became a technical term in philosophy beginning with Heraclitus (ca. 535–475 BC), who used the term for a principle of order and knowledge.[3]

        Ancient Greek philosophers used the term in different ways. The sophists used the term to mean discourse, and Aristotle applied the term to refer to "reasoned discourse"[4] or "the argument" in the field of rhetoric.[5] The Stoic philosophers identified the term with the divine animating principle pervading the Universe.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logos

        It seems we are completely indebted to the pagan Greeks, in my mind, by what you've just proposed. The stoics, specifically for believing in animating principles (what is science if not studying the animating principles of the Universe). The Greeks weren't animists, of course :)

        • Phil

          I agree 100% that Catholic-Christianity is indebted to the pagan Greek thinkers, most especially Plato and Aristotle. The main reason they became incorporated is because Christian thinkers came to see those two as the most philosophically true and having the greatest explanatory value of how reality actually exists.

          But none of that denies the fact that it was a Catholic-Christian intellectual tradition and culture that modern science grew out of, and not a pagan Greek culture. Could modern science have grown out of a pagan Aristotelian culture, I think so. Maybe not as easily, but that is a purely speculative point.

          So maybe the more clear take away is that Catholic-Christianity is absolutely not in contradiction or at odds with modern science. This is shown forth by the fact that modern science's groundwork and growth was out of the Catholic-Christian intellectual tradition of the middle ages.

          • Will

            I'm curious why you say Catholic-Christianity? You do realize most of the heavy hitters in the scientific revolution were protestant, right?

            Francis Bacon - Anglican
            Sir Isaac Newton - "According to most scholars, Newton was Arian, not holding to Trinitarianism.[9][21][22] 'In Newton's eyes, worshipping Christ as God was idolatry, to him the fundamental sin'.[23] As well as being antitrinitarian, Newton allegedly rejected the orthodox doctrines of the immortal soul,[9] a personal devil and literal demons."
            Robert Boyle - Protestant.
            Tycho Brahe - Lutheran
            William Harvey - Anglican
            Johannes Kepler - Lutheran
            Otto Von Guericke - Lutheran

            Descartes, some other important people were Catholic, but I often see Catholics complain about Descartes philosophy here. Perhaps there is some relationship between the protestant reformation and the scientific revolution that should be explored, perhaps the questioning of long held philosophical ideas and social truths. Hard to say, interesting to think about though :)

          • Garbanzo Bean

            For a good introduction to the development of science in the (Catholic) middle ages, check out James Hannam's book "God's Philosophers". There is an online review of this book by atheist Tim O'Neill that is also an excellent read.

          • Phil

            Hey William,

            The beginnings and groundwork for modern science goes all the way back to the late middle ages (10-12th century). Of course, there could be no Protestants at that time. The scientific method was actually first formulated by Catholics in the middle ages. Roger Bacon who lived in 1219-1294 is considered the "grandfather" of the scientific method (it had already been formulated by his time, but he had so great an impact on it that he has been given that title).

            The Catholic Church did develop the intellectual tradition of the middle ages and founded the university system. The monks stored, protected, and copied books so that information could be saved and passed on.

            There are great Protestant scientists, but it was primarily Catholic-Christians who laid the groundwork simply because Protestant-Christians didn't exist.

            Here are some notable Catholic scientists:
            -Robert Grosseteste (1175-1253): recognized as the founder of the scientific movement at Oxford University
            -Roger Bacon (1219-1294): grandfather of the scientific method
            -Jean-Felix Picard (1620-1682): Seen as the founder of modern astronomy in France; founding member of the French Academy; also a priest
            -Nicolas Steno (1638-1686): Founder of the modern study of fossils; large contributions to anatomy as well
            -Gregor Mendel (1822-1884): The father of modern genetics; a priest as well
            -Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913): Co-discoverer of biological evolution with Darwin
            -Georges Lemaître (1894-1966): father of the Big Bang Theory; priest
            -St. Bede, the Venerable (735): One of the founder of doing modern history; recognized for his history of the middle ages.
            -Galileo Galilei
            -Nicolas Copernicus
            -Louis Pasteur

            So these are just some of the more well-known. There are plenty of lists that can be studied:
            -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Catholic_scientists
            -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Roman_Catholic_cleric-scientists

          • Will

            I agree that Roger Bacon was important, and I agree with Catholics that the claim "the Catholic Church is anti-science" is a false claim, other than a few special cases. Perhaps we can agree that the scientific method started in ancient Greece, was further improved by Muslims and Catholics like Ibn al-Haytham, Al-Biruni, Avicenna, Robert Grosseteste, and Roger Bacon before being put into more explicit and useful form (primarily combined with skepticism) by Descartes, Newton, and Francis Bacon. This is the story we learn in the history books that try not to leave anyone involved out :)

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_scientific_method

            Again, I'm with you in being against downplaying the role of Catholics in science, but not interested in overplaying it either.

          • Phil

            I don't think I could agree more...too much and too little are both equally false!

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          It seems we are completely indebted to the pagan Greeks

          Does the man who sows the barley get the credit for the beer?

          • Will

            Does the man who sows the barley get the credit for the beer?

            He does in part, as there would be no beer without the barley. Usually the credit is given as a monetary payment. The Greeks get full credit for the Logos, of course. It's even a Greek word :)
            I'd go with your analogy in saying that science was born in ancient Greece, but grew up in Christian Europe, with a lot of credit going to the English (Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton are obvious candidates) though many, many people were involved, a community. The universities were critical and there were some ancient Greek universities but they had serious deficiencies from what we know of them.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            There were no universities in ancient Greece. When we think of their schools, think "school of fish," not University of Paris. The Latin word schola means a set of followers of a teacher, not an institution, This is true even if the scholars meet at the same place a lot. Plotinus' schola, for example, had twelve disciples plus a larger number of hangers-on; but you didn't get a degree in Plotinus Studies by getting down with him.

      • Doug Shaver

        2) Christianity affirmed the world was orderly and intelligible because it had been brought into existence and ordered by Intellect, the Logos, God.

        Who was the first Christian writer who said that? Have you got a quotation from him?

        • Garbanzo Bean

          It is a direct implication of the opening of John's gospel: "In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God... Through him all things were made, and without him came to be not one thing that has come to be."

          • Doug Shaver

            I was aware of the Bible's affirmation that God created the world. I am not aware of any biblical affirmation of the world's orderliness and intelligibility.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            The opening of John's gospel is very different from the Genesis account in its emphasis specifically on the world coming to be through the Logos of God. Logos is not merely "word", but refers to the rational, the logical, the intelligible aspect of life and communication. The claim that everything that has ever come to be (both at creation and since) has come to be through the Logos implies that everything in existence, being the product of Intelligence, should be intelligible and orderly.

          • Doug Shaver

            The claim that everything that has ever coming to be (both at creation and since) has come to be through the Logos implies that everything in existence, being the product of Intelligence, should be intelligible and orderly.

            Is that how Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton all interpreted the prologue to John's gospel? And was the scientific work that each of them did motivated by that interpretation?

          • Garbanzo Bean

            You asked Phil for the first Christian writer who said "the world was orderly and intelligible because it had been brought into existence and ordered by Intellect, the Logos, God." I chimed in and said it is a direct implication of the prologue of John's gospel. The fact is, it has been a clear and constant theme of Christian thought that the world is orderly and intelligible because it was brought into existence not merely by a powerful will, but by a perfect and divine mind.
            This was precisely and explicitly why Kepler, for example, pursued to perfection his analysis of the data Brahe had collected. Others had abandoned the idea of the uniform motion of the heavens. Kepler refused to accept that his best precision so far, within 8 minutes of a degree, was good enough. Copernicus also derived his astronomy from his theology.
            ref. James Hannam, "God's Philosophers", which I suggest as reading.
            As for Newton, he says in Principia Mathematica "This most beautiful System of the Sun, Planets and Comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being." His inclusion of the word "intelligent" is significant, and is the heritage of John's prologue.

          • Will

            Newton's views were indeed fascinating. In some of his writing he seemed more interested in alchemy than in the field of physics he basically invented. Of course, his religious views were quite heretical, and some things he did arguably bordered on the occult.

            His inclusion of the word "intelligent" is significant, and is the heritage of John's prologue.

            Where did the author of John get the idea of the Logos?

            It is a Greek word meaning "a ground", "a plea", "an opinion", "an expectation", "word", "speech", "account", "to reason",[1][2] but it became a technical term in philosophy beginning with Heraclitus (ca. 535–475 BC), who used the term for a principle of order and knowledge.

            If the Logos is so important to science, why is Heraclitus not being mentioned, and the Stoics? Why is the Logos not mentioned in the wiki article on the history of the scientific method? Aristotle, Epicurus, and Roger Bacon (Catholic) are given there rightful place, of course. The claim that Catholics and Christianity invented science is simply as false as claiming Catholics have been anti-science. Catholics were important in the progression of some of the ideas, but they started in Greece, and much of Greek thought had input from older Civilizations like Babylon and Sumeria.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            "Logos" is the translation of the Hebrew "dabar", which is used extensively in the Old Testament such as in the phrase "the Word of the Lord came to me", the "Ten Words" (which are the ten commandments), and so on... and would have been very familiar to John. Certainly the change to the Greek added Hellenizing elements, particularly the "intellectualizing" ones.
            Kepler explicitly differentiated his own thought from that of the Stoics regarding the "Logos": he thought they and many Greek schools "confused together the creation and Him through Whom all things were created. But we Christians know to distinguish better the eternal and uncreated Word, which was 'with God' (John 1:1)". - Harmony of the World
            From a young age he saw his work in astronomy as a priestly vocation and covenant, from which he never wavered. He also persevered in exactitude because of his devotion to the perfection expected of that created by and through the Logos. For this reason, he discovered what would be the first three of the so-called "Laws of Nature".

          • Darren

            Garbanzo Bean wrote,

            The fact is, it has been a clear and constant theme of Christian thought that the world is orderly and intelligible…

            Exactly which part of the world being orderly is
            illustrated by Mark 11:23, "Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” or Mark 16:18, “…they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well."

            Was it a clear and constant theme of an orderly world when men whose wives stood trial for witchcraft, upon testifying their wives lay safe within their arms at the times they supposedly were attending satanic masses, were told they held only a demonic entity, indistinguishably disguised? Which divine law of nature was at play when a potion was brewed (Christian baby fat being the key ingredient) that allowed so many witches to fly through the skies of Europe that they eclipsed the moon?

            How was the world’s orderly obeying of the laws of creation being affirmed when Elijah called down fire from heaven to burn the water soaked sacrifice (and the pesky priests of Baal to boot)? Exterminating all the first-born of Egypt? Joshua commanding the sun to stand still in the sky so he could kill more Amorites? World created 6,000 years ago then shortly after destroyed except for two of every animal jammed into a wooden barge?*

            All metaphorical you say? Didn’t actually happen? Fine with me, but was it believed to have happened? Majority of American Christians believe today. Any time before the 18th century, all Christians believed.

            Come to think of it, there does seem to be one ideology that actually believes in an orderly world, proceeding along unvarying rules. This ideology is not well regarded here at Strange Notions – something about unfairly limiting reality to just testable rules (some might call it Determinism) and lacking that cow-eyed wonder at the profound mystery of the cosmos.

          • Doug Shaver

            ref. James Hannam, "God's Philosophers", which I suggest as reading.

            Not saying I don't want to read it. I'd like to. But after reading several reviews, take it his main point is that the Dark Ages weren't as dark as most people think they were. I learned that years ago, and not from Christian apologists, either. That observation, though, does not entail the point we're debating in this thread.

          • Doug Shaver

            ref. James Hannam, "God's Philosophers", which I suggest as reading.

            I've looked at several reviews of it. From them, I gather that the gist of the book is a refutation of the myth that no scientific progress was made during the Middle Ages. I accepted several years ago that the myth was a falsehood perpetrated by Protestants and stolen by historically illiterate atheists.

          • Phil

            The whole scientific enterprise is motivated by an understanding that the world is not God and that it is actually orderly, intelligible, and can be studied.

            This understanding begins with the earliest Christians in the 1st century and continues on to this day because all creation was brought into existence, and is sustained in existence, by reason/intelligence itself, namely, God.

          • Doug Shaver

            If I want to know what motivates a scientist, I will ask the scientist.

          • Phil

            Yes, and my guess is that you will get many varied answers from different scientists these days. What would be even more helpful would be to go back in time and ask what motivated "proto-scientists" and scientists from 500BC up to today. One can study this up to a point in the history of thought.

            But even short of that, one can't deny that it is necessary to hold (or at least unconsciously assume) that the cosmos is orderly, intelligible, and not God for science to be able to be done.

          • Doug Shaver

            I don't deny that modern science started among people who believed the cosmos to be orderly and intelligible. What I'm denying is that any apologist for Christianity has presented a cogent argument for the notion that those people would not have believed that if they had not been Christians.

          • Will

            This understanding begins with the earliest Christians in the 1st century

            As I've demonstrated, this is simply untrue. Again, I think it's fair to say this is the extreme opposite of the false claim "the Catholic Church is anti-science". People with their emotionally motivated reasoning...*sigh*.

          • Phil

            Remember, I'm not claiming that modern science could have *only* arisen out of a Catholic-Christian intellectual tradition and culture, but merely that historians agree that it did.

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm not claiming that modern science could have *only* arisen out of a Catholic-Christian intellectual tradition and culture, but merely that historians agree that it did.

            What else could historians say? At the time and in the place where modern science arose, there was no other tradition.

          • Whiskyjack

            I thought that the Stoics had the idea of logos being the underlying reason or design of the universe. I suspect John cribbed the idea from them.

        • Phil

          Oh goodness, lots of the fathers of the Church in the 2nd-6th centuries reflected on this. The Gospel of John from ~90AD references God as the Logos who created and orders the world. It was already in place that the world was not God, yet orderly and created by God from the book of Genesis, which was written way before the time of Christ. The Jewish people already understood this to be the case, and Christianity is understood as the fulfillment of Judaism.

          St. Thomas Aquinas speaks about this all over. St. Bonaventure, St. Augustine in the 300s, etc...

          I had written something up, then I found this paper which shows it in scripture and the Church Fathers, what a blessing!

          http://www.discovery.org/f/4431

          • Doug Shaver

            I asked for one quotation. You sent me 22 pages of quotations. Please pick one that you think proves your point. Or else, just say, "They all do."

          • Phil

            Haha! I can't say I was expecting you to be unhappy with an abundance of evidence.

            What we do is build a court case for or against the truth value of a claim, so the more evidence the better. Also, no single person ever has the complete truth, so different people getting at the truth from different angles can be much more complete.

            That article is very well organized and easy to read, so take a peak.
            They all point towards the understanding that you quoted above in unique and different ways.

          • Doug Shaver

            I can't say I was expecting you to be unhappy with an abundance of evidence.

            What I'm unhappy with is your lack of cooperation. I asked for something that should have been trivially easy for you to provide, but you gave me something entirely different.

            So, are you now saying to me, "Take it or leave it"?

          • Phil

            I apologize, as I was actually trying to make it easier for you because my response, before I found the organized article, was much more convoluted and confusing! (I apologize if it wasn't easier.)

            The hard thing is this question is best answered with several different sources pointing towards the same thing. But I'll try and throw out a few.

            --------
            You originally asked about the "first Christian writer" who points towards this. So the first who we have written record of who hinted at this would be St. Paul since his letters are less than a generation after the death of Jesus. But know that this develops more clearly over the next 100-200 years, as seen further below:

            1) Paul's Letter to the Romans: "Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead..."

            [Stop reading here if you just want a very early reference to God's ordering of the cosmos.]

            --------------------------

            2) The Gospel of John (~90AD): "In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word (Logos) was with God, and the Word (Logos) was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be."

            3) Athenagoras (133-190AD), The Christians distinguish matter from God: "...even so with matter and God—the glory and honour of the orderly arrangement of the world belongs of right not to matter, but to God, the Framer of matter. So that, if we were to regard the various forms of matter as gods, we should seem to be without any sense of the true God, because we should be putting the things which are dissoluble and perishable on a level with that which is eternal."

            4) Athanasius (296-373AD), Humans can come to know the order of creation in his works, and also come to know something of God through his creation: "...for this cause God by His own Word gave the Universe the Order it has, in order that since He is by nature invisible, men might be enabled to know Him at any rate by His works. For often the artist even when not seen is known by his works."

          • Doug Shaver

            The hard thing is this question is best answered with several different sources pointing towards the same thing.

            Fair enough. We can see whether your selections converge on a common notion.

            Preliminary comments. I am not here attempting to defend the claim that Christianity has historically been hostile to science. I stipulate, at least for the sake of this discussion, that Christianity’s mainstream has accepted modern science. As I understand the issue before us, it is whether we should think it unlikely that modern science could have arisen in a culture lacking certain ideas that are unique to Christianity. I don’t think the uniqueness criterion is nitpicky if Christians are telling us that the scientific revolution probably wouldn’t have happened without them.

            That revolution happened in Europe, not anywhere else, and it began to happen, according to an apparent consensus, during the 16th century. At that time, Christianity was the dominant religion in Europe. That is a correlation. But we all know better than to infer causation from correlation.

            In ordinary discourse, the claim that A caused B can be the assertion that A was a necessary condition for B, or that it was a sufficient condition for B, or that it was both necessary and sufficient. Unless I’ve misunderstood something, nobody here is claiming that Christianity was sufficient, i.e. that any Christian society will inevitably become a scientific society (though I’ll gladly debate anyone who does want to make that claim). The claim at issue seems to be only that Christianity provided at least some necessary conditions for the occurrence of the scientific revolution. Specifically, we are told, the revolution would probably not have happened absent the acceptance, by Europe’s 16th-century intellectuals, of certain ideas historically promulgated by Christianity and only by Christianity. I don’t think these four quotations do much if anything to support that claim.

            For starters, we really have only three ideas being expressed here, since Athanasius is just repeating what Paul said in different words. They both say that we can learn something about God by observing the world that he created.

            Observation is of course a vital part of scientific inquiry, but it is hardly all there is to scientific inquiry, and it’s also in no way unique to science. Lots of unscientific and even antiscientific ways of explaining the world draw their conclusions from observations of the world. It’s not unique to Christianity, either. Plenty of pagan thinkers, including but certainly not only Aristotle, were endorsing learning by observation long before Christianity came along. And let’s not forget the ancient polytheistic Babylonians, who more or less invented observational astronomy.

            Next there is John, who identifies God the creator with the Logos. I pretend no expertise in ancient Greek, but I get it that logos was a rather protean word in Hellenistic Jewish philosophy typically including reason or logic among its connotations. This obviously constitutes an endorsement of reason, but this again falls far short of endorsing science as we now know it. I have seen countless advocates of unscientific thinking claim to be following the dictates of reason. I of course thinking their reasoning is flawed, but that is my point. The flaws in their thinking is what makes it unscientific, and so merely to endorse reasoning is not to endorse science. Furthermore, even reasoning that is logically flawless can be unscientific. You’re aren’t being scientific just because you’re being logical. Yes, some ideas associated with the Logos are necessary for science, but Christianity did not invent the Logos concept. Christianity borrowed it from some Jewish sect, which borrowed it from Hellenistic pagans.

            And finally, Athenagoras warns his readers against conflating the creator with his creation. This looks like an argument against some kind of pantheism. I haven’t known many pantheists, but the few I have encountered seem to be entirely comfortable with modern science, and it is not the least bit obvious to me why they should not be. Pantheism is clearly inconsistent with Christian orthodoxy, but that doesn’t make it inconsistent with science.

          • Darren

            Very nicely said, Doug.

          • Doug Shaver

            Thank you.

          • Phil

            I think you have partially set yourself up for failure here in trying to understand a 2000 year intellectual tradition from a few quotes. I am simply stating what Christianity came to believe about the cosmos from the 1st century all the way to when the scientific revolution was in full swing. As I mentioned, those few quotes merely show that this was already beginning to develop in the 1st century and became a full-out intellectual tradition by the middle ages.

            The claim is a relatively simple one--for a coherent physical modern science to be possible a belief that the world is not God and that it can actually be known/is intelligible is necessary. The Christian intellectual tradition provided those two things, most clearly from about ~900 and after, when Catholic-Christians began developing the scientific method and founding universities.

            We can speculate till the cows come home about whether some other tradition could have led to the same conclusions (why not?), but that is not the main claim being made here.

          • Doug Shaver

            I think you have partially set yourself up for failure here in trying to understand a 2000 year intellectual tradition from a few quotes.

            That is not what I am doing. I think I already understand the Christian tradition very well. I used to be a Christian myself, and I have been studying it in further depth for as long as I have been debating its apologists. What you are now telling me is that my understanding, which is based on a lifetime of study, is in error, and what I am asking for is specific examples of whatever evidence I may have either overlooked or misunderstood.

            The claim is a relatively simple one

            The claim was in the OP: "Science was born of Christianity." The birth metaphor, X was born of Y, ordinarily means that without Y, X could not have existed, and the writer had previously made it clear that this was her intended meaning when she posted a series of articles on "The Stillbirth of Science."

            for a coherent physical modern science to be possible a belief that the world is not God and that it can actually be known/is intelligible is necessary.

            The existence of scientists who are pantheists falsifies that assertion.

            And modern science cannot begin to be distinctly characterized as a belief that the world is intelligible. Protestant fundamentalists who despise modern science will affirm that the world is intelligible. Science is characterized by a number of specific principles concerning the methods necessary to obtain verifiable knowledge about the world, and there is no record to my knowledge of ancient or Medieval Christian intellectuals advocating any of those methods.

            Furthermore, the modern development of science did not require a prior belief in the world's intelligibility. The success of science depended the fact of nature being intelligible, not on the presumption that it would be. Of course, a society antecedently convinced that nature was unintelligible would likely never have attempted anything we would recognize as science. But the initial steps toward modern science could have been undertaken by people who said to themselves: Perhaps nature is intelligible; let's see if we can find out whether it is or not.

          • Phil

            Actually, I think we agree right now more than it seems. The reason being that I am personally not making the "hard claim" that modern science could have only arisen out of Christianity (if the author of this article is actually claiming that, I don't not know).

            One can say that modern science was birthed from Christianity without also claiming that modern science could have only been birthed from Christianity. That would be something the author would need to clarify.

            -----------

            In regards to the intellectual tradition of Christianity, I don't think you would debate that Christianity believed the few things I've thrown out, such as:

            -God created the entire material cosmos
            -The material cosmos is not God
            -God is knowledge and reason itself, and what comes forth from Him in creation is also imbued with reason
            -Therefore, the material cosmos is intelligible and can be known.

            None of these have ever truly been hotly contested claims about Christianity.

          • Doug Shaver

            One can say that modern science was birthed from Christianity without also claiming that modern science could have only been birthed from Christianity. That would be something the author would need to clarify.

            Whatever her exact point, it would seem irrelevant unless she was saying, at the very least, that we moderns should be grateful to Christianity for its advocacy of certain notions that were (a) necessary to the development of science and (b) either unique to Christianity or unlikely to have been encountered in any non-Christian culture.

            In regards to the intellectual tradition of Christianity, I don't think you would debate that Christianity believed the few things I've thrown out, such as:
            -God created the entire material cosmos
            -The material cosmos is not God
            -God is knowledge and reason itself, and what comes forth from Him in creation is also imbued with reason
            -Therefore, the material cosmos is intelligible and can be known.
            None of these have ever truly been hotly contested claims about Christianity.

            I have met few Christians who would disagree with any of them, and I don't regard any of those few as representative of your religion.

          • Phil

            Whatever her exact point, it would seem irrelevant unless she was saying, at the very least, that we moderns should be grateful to Christianity for its advocacy of certain notions that were (a) necessary to the development of science and (b) either unique to Christianity or unlikely to have been encountered in any non-Christian culture.

            I mean, you will have to ask her personally what her exact point was. I'm merely discussing what I've personally proposed above.

            I have met few Christians who would disagree with any of them, and I don't regard any of those few as representative of your religion.

            Sure, and evidence would say that they would be wrong in regards to those beliefs.

          • Doug Shaver

            I mean, you will have to ask her personally what her exact point was.

            I understand that you were not trying to speak for her. That noted . . . .

            I don't claim that I can't be misinterpreting her, but misinterpretation is a risk any writer assumes when they publish anything in any venue. She has the option of monitoring this discussion and, when necessary, posting something to the effect of "That isn't what I meant." I get it that she might not have time because of her familial and professional responsibilities, but in that case it is still her responsibility to make her intended meaning as clear as she can.

            I try very hard to interpret any argument, on any issue, as charitably as I can, but that doesn't mean ignoring context. Considering the context in which I read "Science was born of Christianity," I think my interpretation was charitable enough.

          • Phil

            So I have been reading what has turned out to be very good book thus far--The Victory of Reason--and the author is trying to discover the deepest explanation for the rise of Europe and Western culture and civilization.

            One of the main points he makes in the beginning is most of the advancements that led to the rise were because of an extraordinary faith in reason.

            He then goes on to note that Christianity was alone, in the realm of major religions, in completely embracing reason and logic as the primary guide to religious truth. (Even the major Greek pagan religions didn't embrace Greek reason and logic to lead to religious truth in 100-300BC.)

            And this, I believe, is a great insight that builds upon what I was arguing. If a God who is reason itself created and sustains the entire cosmos, then this extraordinary faith in reason can be justified. If this God does not exist, then it is not possible to justify one's faith in reason.

          • Doug Shaver

            If this God does not exist, then it is not possible to justify one's faith in reason.

            Could I trouble you to tell me, as precisely as you can, what you mean by "faith"?

          • Phil

            Could I trouble you to tell me, as precisely as you can, what you mean by "faith"?

            It's no trouble at all.

            Faith simply means "trust in something". E.g., "Faith in God" simply means "trust in God".

            This same point I made above was stated as such by Alfred Whitehead, a coauthor with Bertrand Russel, who said in a lecture of his at Harvard: Science arose as in Europe because of the widespread "faith in the possibility of science derivative from medieval theology."

          • Doug Shaver

            Faith simply means "trust in something". E.g., "Faith in God" simply means "trust in God".

            Christians trust God to be infallible. If I have faith in anything other than God, must I regard it as infallible, too?

          • Phil

            Christians trust God to be infallible. If I have faith in anything other than God, must I regard it as infallible, too?

            Ahh, and this is where the fun dance of faith and reason come into play! The Christian only puts infallible trust in God if there would be good reason to put infallible trust in God. We ought not put trust in something that doesn't ultimately call for reasonable trust.

            The next obvious question would be, doesn't this presuppose a trust in reason? The ultimate answer would be, a God who is Reason itself is the only thing that can fully explain trust in reason. (I.e., trust in human reason is not justified apart from saying that which is Reason itself is the source of human reason.)

            Obviously, when placing this all in reference to the question of the rise of the natural sciences, as Whitehead stated, faith in the possibility arose from medieval theology because they believed it was true that our reason participates in the Reason of God and we can therefore use reason to progress towards greater truth about reality.

          • Doug Shaver

            Ahh, and this is where the fun dance of faith and reason come into play! The Christian only puts infallible trust in God if there would be good reason to put infallible trust in God. We ought not put trust in something that doesn't ultimately call for reasonable trust.

            I don't see an answer to my question there.

          • Phil

            I apologize if I wasn't clear and direct enough.

            We shouldn't put trust in anything, whether infallible or not, without good reason.

            But obviously these questions are dealing with the deeper epistemological and ontological issues. The point of the book I'm reading is of historical account of the development of Europe and the modern sciences.

          • Doug Shaver

            So, you're saying that unless I believe in God, I can have no reason to trust reason?

          • Phil

            Our trust in reason is unjustified apart from belief in the Judeo-Christian God/the God of the philosophers.

            Of course, one can blindly trust in reason, but I'm not one to put much trust in "blind faith". ;)

            ------

            But as I mentioned above, this point is slightly off from the original point of this discussion which is the historical point rather than the epistemological/ontological point.

          • Doug Shaver

            Our trust in reason is unjustified apart from belief in the Judeo-Christian God/the God of the philosophers.

            Why? You haven't even heard my own justification. What entitles to the assumption that it cannot be a valid justification?

            this point is slightly off from the original point of this discussion which is the historical point rather than the epistemological/ontological point.

            I'm not sufficiently familiar with the relevant primary sources to debate the historical point. I have an opinion, of course, and it's probably obvious what that opinion is. However, I am not in a position to defend it right now.

          • Phil

            Why? You haven't even heard my own justification. What entitles to the assumption that it cannot be a valid justification?

            This is one of those cases where a complete explanation of something cannot end before coming to what philosophers and Judeo-Christians have understood as Reason itself.

            Short of that, "naturalistic" explanations will ultimately devolve into complete skepticism about reason and intelligibility. Some people are perfectly comfortable with that. The problem is many wouldn't accept an "ultimately, it just is" answer on anything but with questions regarding God, which I don't think is good intellectual rigor.

          • David Hardy

            Hello Phil,

            I know this is not a part of our current discussion, but given your last post to me (at the time I am writing this), about seeking the truth, I decided to comment. I am drawing on two quotes from different posts in the same thread.

            Our trust in reason is unjustified apart from belief in the Judeo-Christian God/the God of the philosophers.

            Short of that, "naturalistic" explanations will ultimately devolve into complete skepticism about reason and intelligibility.

            I have encountered many positions in my life, and there are many I disagree with, for one reason or another. However, I find that each has its own internally consistent framework -- no position that is fundamentally flawed at an internal level would be sustainable over long periods and across generations. I have found that, if a position seems self defeating or incoherent to me, but it is held by a wide number of people, I have not understood it on its own terms. I have generally inferred assumptions from my own worldview which makes the position incoherent.

            Therefore, as a fellow person seeking to better understand the truth, I would humbly suggest that, just as you might wish a non-Christian saying that Christianity is nothing but blind faith and a desire for wish-fulfillment might seek a deeper understanding when discussing it with you, you may wish to consider if your understanding of naturalism as nothing but radical skepticism which undercuts reason requires additional consideration. Either many people have embraced this position failing to see this fundamental flaw in it, and in some cases spent their life according to it and never noticed, or you have misunderstood it. In this case, you may wish to consider how your statement (the first quote above) implies your assumption of the existence of God in how you make sense of a position which does not include a belief in God.

            Just a thought, feel free to discard it if you do not see anything in what I am saying.

          • Phil

            Therefore, as a fellow person seeking to better understand the truth, I would humbly suggest that, just as you might wish a non-Christian saying that Christianity is nothing but blind faith and a desire for wish-fulfillment might seek a deeper understanding when discussing it with you, you may wish to consider if your understanding of naturalism as nothing but radical skepticism which undercuts reason requires additional consideration.

            Oh no, I completely agree with you about people not holding things for long periods of time that don't have some coherence to them.

            Naturalism only falls apart intellectually once you dig the very bottom. And most don't dig to the very bottom. And of course, even if there are good reasons for not being a naturalist, there are non-intellectual reasons why one wouldn't give up their naturalism.

            I would never belittle someone who holds something different than I do. I respect them very much even if I may think it is not the complete truth about reality, but we ought not condemn someone for that.

            In this case, you may wish to consider how your statement (the first quote above) implies your assumption of the existence of God in how you make sense of a position which does not include a belief in God.

            The first quote doesn't assume the existence of God. We first must reason to the existence of God. And one way to do that is through this discussion about reason and intelligibility.

            So again, we ought not assume the existence of God. But we can show it is ultimately rationally necessarily to conclude that what we call "God" exists.

          • David Hardy

            I see. In that case, I will respect your choice, and say no more on the subject. I wish you the best of luck on your journey towards truth.

          • Phil

            And many blessings, joy, and peace on your journey as well!

            If you are ever interested in simply learning the crazy thing called Aristotelian-Thomistic thought, I highly recommend this book. Easy and fun to read:

            https://www.amazon.com/Aquinas-Beginners-Guide-Edward-Feser/dp/1851686908

          • David Hardy

            Hello Phil,

            Thank you for the kind suggestion in reading. I looked at the reviews, and it appears the book you linked not only explains Aristotelian-Thomistic thought, but also attempts to answer challenges to it. Am I correct in my understanding that, by your recommendation, you think this book provides a sound explanation and defense of this system of thought?

          • Phil

            Absolutely, it is one of the best that is not at a professional graduate level. (A high level Aristotelian-Thomistic book would be this one: https://www.amazon.com/Scholastic-Metaphysics-Contemporary-Introduction-Scholasticae/dp/3868385444 or this one: https://www.amazon.com/One-Many-Contemporary-Thomistic-Metaphysics/dp/0268037078 )

            Even if you don't agree with the system, it is one of the most held complete systems of philosophical thought in the world, so it's good to know what you may be arguing against.

          • David Hardy

            Hello Phil,

            Thank you again for the additional suggestions. I do have a passing familiarity with this system of thought, primarily through encounters with those who hold it. I am not so much interested in arguing against it as understanding and evaluating it. Thus far, my opinion has been that the system as a whole suffers from a systematic error of treating human specific qualities as universal principals, which in turn prevents the ability to recognize and correct for human specific biases, instead reifying them. However, it is certainly possible that this is a misunderstanding based on the bias within these encounters rather than the system as a whole, or that with a more complete overview of the system these apparent biases will be addressed in some underlying position not stated thus far to me. I will reserve judgement until I complete a reading of the initial book you suggested, and see if a more complete overview of the system and its principles alters my understanding of it.

          • Phil

            Thus far, my opinion has been that the system as a whole suffers from a systematic error of treating human specific qualities as universal principals, which in turn prevents the ability to recognize and correct for human specific biases, instead reifying them.

            Interesting! Could you give a specific example of this problem in action?

          • David Hardy

            Of course.

            As an example, consider intelligibility. I have had people who present themselves as following this school of thought suggest to me that intelligibility must somehow indicate an underlying intelligence. This, because something must have something in order to give it, so there must be an intelligence that gives intelligence to intelligent beings. In addition, it must be present because of things such as the principle of sufficient reason, suggesting that everything has an explaining reason, and so there must be something to be the origin of those reasons, which must have some sort of intelligence for some reason not fully clear to me. There is also the idea of final cause. I do not object to this idea that some things certainly move towards certain outcomes as part of their nature, but rather the generalization of saying that all things do, and the implication that some have made that this implies an underlying intelligence by equating a movement towards a certain outcome to human-like goals.

            Therefore, intelligibility, reason and goals seem to be expanded to a universal level, even though these are things only observed in a very small part of the universe (certain living beings). I would tend to assume that the reason we encounter these things or perceive them is because we are the common factor in our observations. We have the ability to generate intelligible concepts, reasons and goals in encountering the universe. That does not seem to imply that these are universals to me.

          • Phil

            Therefore, intelligibility, reason and goals seem to be expanded to a universal level, even though these are things only observed in a very small part of the universe (certain living beings).

            I gotcha. It seems much of this would be due to a slight misunderstanding of what A-T actually holds.

            Inanimate entities are very different from living and/or conscious beings who consciously pursue certain ends. Inanimate objects do not consciously pursue certain ends, rather they unconsciously pursue certain ends, and this is something which needs to be explained.The A-T merely notes that every single material entity is composed of the metaphysical parts of form (a things nature), matter, efficient causality, and final causality.

            The brilliance of this is it not only accounts completely for reality as we experience it, but the physical sciences are not coherent apart from these 4 things, most primarily form and final causality.

            So the next question comes, why do things seem to act in this unconscious way accord with certain natures in line with "laws" that science is discovering? Oxygen is obviously not consciously telling itself to do oxygen-like things. Form/nature and final causality completely explains this phenomenon.

            The next question is, where do material things get this inner intelligibility that shows itself forth as form and final causality? It can't come from within the material cosmos, of course, as that's the very thing we are trying to explain. And ultimately if we follow reason and logic to its very end we find the answer lies in something which is Reason and Intelligibility itself; which we commonly call "God".

          • David Hardy

            Inanimate objects do not consciously pursue certain ends, rather they unconsciously pursue certain ends, and this is something which needs to be explained.

            I will accept this assuming you are meaning the absence of consciousness, rather than the psychological definition of unconscious.

            So the next question comes, why do things seem to act in this unconscious way accord with certain natures in line with "laws" that science is discovering? Oxygen is obviously not consciously telling itself to do oxygen-like things.

            Herein is the issue. The assumption that a conscious factor must be the base. Why assume that there must be a conscious force creating the structure?

            It can't come from within the cosmos, of course, as that's the very thing we are trying to explain.

            Unless the reasons form a loop and explain each other, or certain basic units of the universe are not caused and so do not have a reason, and/or the human construct of reason at some point reaches a limit on trying to make sense of thing, being sufficient at the scale it developed within, but not sufficient to make sense of everything. Again, the assumption seems to be that reason itself is something present in some objective way.

          • Phil

            Herein is the issue. The assumption that a conscious factor must be the base. Why assume that there must be a conscious force creating the structure?

            I think that is you positing that right now. Right now I merely aimed to show that Reason and Intelligibility itself must be the ultimate explanation for reality as it exists.

            Now, it may be possible to show that Reason itself could not be unconscious. So that could be a good argument in favor of this "God" who is not merely the source of Reason and Intelligibility, but must also be conscious in some way.

            Unless the reasons form a loop and explain each other, or certain basic units of the universe are not caused and so do not have a reason, and/or the human construct of reason at some point reaches a limit on trying to make sense of thing, being sufficient at the scale it developed within, but not sufficient to make sense of everything. Again, the assumption seems to be that reason itself is something present in some objective way.

            And that's the rub, we are trying to explain the material cosmos as a whole. The explanation for the whole can't even in principle come from within the whole. Put another way, you can't explain something completely by reference to the very thing you are trying to explain. That simply ends up being incoherent and circular.

            The only way for complete explanation to happen is an entity with the "properties" of the classical understanding of God. This is why the material cosmos itself can't be "god".

            So God isn't assumed or posited. God is reasoned to through good use of reason and logic.

          • David Hardy

            I think that is you positing that right now.

            I am not positing it, but I may have misunderstood I will return to what you said:

            Oxygen is obviously not consciously telling itself to do oxygen-like things.

            This seems to imply that because it is not consciously creating the effect, a further explanation is required. Hence an assumption that conscious reasons are more basic. EDIT: accidentally posted mid-post - however I may have misunderstood your point.

          • Phil

            This seems to imply that because it is not consciously creating the effect, a further explanation is required. Hence an assumption that conscious reasons are more basic

            I gotcha, sorry if I "missed yer flow" in that response!

            The explanation for inanimate objects being oriented towards certain ends are form/nature and final causality coming forth from that form/nature. The next question becomes, how come material entities have certain natures oriented towards certain ends? And what could completely explain this?

            Both of these are reducible to an inner intelligibility of inanimate material entities. So the explanation for form, and final causality--ultimately this inner intelligibly--is a source of reason and intelligibility.

            We need to explain why material entities have an inner intelligibility--i.e., certain natures oriented towards certain ends--and if this can't, even in principle, come from something within the material cosmos then we have already moved to something which is transcendent.

            Now, figuring out if this transcendent explanation is itself conscious and personal is a further question we haven't addressed yet.

          • David Hardy

            Hello Phil,

            I am going to consolidate both of your posts in my response, as I did not intend to split them. Hopefully this does not create confusion.

            We need to explain why material entities have an inner intelligibility--i.e., certain natures oriented towards certain ends--and if this can't, even in principle, come from something within the material cosmos then we have already moved to something which is
            transcendent.

            Could you explain why something cannot have certain qualities because, at a basic level, the universe simply is of a certain nature? What prevents this or demonstrates it is impossible? Why do qualities have to be provided at a fundamental level by anything? This goes back to the idea that reason may, beyond a certain point, be unable or limited in its ability to model how things are.

            You are assuming that the universe is intelligible so as the be rationally modeled. Well, that intelligibility would itself need an explanation.

            I assume that reason developed because it can usefully model the universe. However, in order to be intelligible, the universe must operate in a consistent fashion. That does not require that the consistency is caused, only that it be present. It could be caused, or it could be inherent, or it could be a current outcome that is true due to the current state of the universe. I don't know, and I am fairly sure no one else does, either, though perhaps you will show this belief to be wrong.

            2) How do you show that reason actually developed to accurately convey truth about the cosmos instead of it only appearing to convey truth? Ultimately this view falls into complete skepticism, which is why an account of reason and truth from within the material cosmos is not possible.

            How do we verify that our reasoning is correct? By seeing if the positions reasoned to are in fact the case. Therefore, in practical terms, there may be no distinction from a position that accurately predicts things through reasoning based on a false model that somehow renders the right conclusion, and one that does so by a true model. Again, this seems to indicate a potential limit in reason. However, this does not encourage complete skepticism in me, where I discard accurate predictions because I allow for the possibility that my model of reasoning could be wrong. It inspires humility in my awareness that I could be wrong, even if my position seems to fit the facts and make accurate predictions. Also, I would add that, while complete skepticism could be a disturbing possibility, that does not make it impossible.

          • Phil

            Thank you for consolidating, I actually usually do that myself with others as well.

            Could you explain why something cannot have certain qualities because, at a basic level, the universe simply is of a certain nature?

            It could in principle be possible that the universe could have a "single nature", but that single nature would still need an explanation.

            The point I'm more getting at is the reason why "oxygen-arranged" matter behaves differently from "hydrogen-arranged" matter. They are both composed of the same basic substance, so what is arranging, unifying, and "telling" these things to act radically different. The A-T says, well of course is the form/nature of the different beings. And the form/nature directs these things towards different ends.

            However, in order to be intelligible, the universe must operate in a consistent fashion. That does not require that the consistency is caused, only that it be present. It could be caused, or it could be inherent, or it could be a current outcome that is true due to the current state of the universe. I don't know, and I am fairly sure no one else does, either, though perhaps you will show this belief to be wrong.

            Would you deny that the Principle of Sufficient Reason is not true? The PSR simply states that everything that exists has a sufficient reason for its existence.

            If you would claim that the universe actually is intelligible, orderly, and able to be modeled then there must be a sufficient reason for it to able to exists as such.

            If one denies the PSR, then one is saying that something can exist whose reasons for its existence are not sufficient. In short, something exists whose reasons for being able to exist haven't been met! Something can exist, which can't exist! (Obviously incoherent.)

            So if the universe is actually intelligible, orderly, and able to be modeled, then there must be a sufficient explanation for that.

            However, this does not encourage complete skepticism in me, where I discard accurate predictions because I allow for the possibility that my model of reasoning could be wrong.

            If you hold that your reasoning could be wrong, you are assuming that your reasoning could be right.

            One cant give any good reason to believe this as any answer you give ultimately relies on the very reason you are trying to prove. (E.g., One may say, "Evolution is oriented towards truth"; well if your intellect and reason isn't oriented towards truth, then one can't give rational reasons to show that evolution is true.)

            This problem only ceases to be a problem if one proposes that the intellect is actually not reducible to the mere material, and actually transcends material reality in some way.

          • David Hardy

            Edit: my computer is having issues, I will try again.

          • Phil

            In regards to the principle of sufficient reason, I will rely on a question that I think is sometimes misunderstood: what is the sufficient reason for God?

            God himself is the sufficient reason for himself. God is a perfect self-trascparent act of understanding. God completely necessarily explains himself. Therefore the PSR is not violated and there is no infinite regress...the buck always stops at God.

            The next question always is, why can't the universe be the sufficient reason for itself? There are many reasons for this, but we can save that for another time.

            If the basic nature of the universe is to organize differently depending on the context, and earlier forms of organization create the context that leads to later forms of organization, then the nature of the universe could be to create diversity and the diversity is explained depending on the context and the organization in which it formed. However, I'm not sure this is the point. More on this below.

            This is a good place to go, keep it simple. Let's assume that the entire material cosmos is composed of a single fundamental entity with a single nature.

            Well, either there is sufficient reason for the existence of this entity and its nature, or there is insufficient reason. If there is insufficient reason for its existence, then it couldn't exist. So therefore, there must be sufficient reason for its existence.

            We then must conclude that there is a complete and sufficient reason for the existence of the entire cosmos composed of a single nature.

            The question then becomes again, could the material cosmos be its own sufficient reason and explanation for its existence? We can breach that question if you have any interest.

          • David Hardy

            Hello Phil,

            I think this is a good place to stop our conversation. I appreciate your efforts to explain this view to me. However, I also feel that you have not addressed my doubts despite those efforts, and the continued conversation seems unlikely to alter this. I think it is safe to conclude that we view the universe very differently and have come to different conclusions about how far reasoning can take us and where in fact it does take us. I continue to think that there is an implicit universalization and reification of human qualities in the A-T stance, based on how you have responded. However, I still plan to read the book you suggested, to see if this causes me to revise my view. Thank you again for the time and effort you have taken in speaking with me about this.

          • Phil

            I appreciate the discussion as well! And know that I am ultimately not in the business of changing people's minds about the truth of reality; I can't change people's minds, they must do it themselves. They are the only one who has the ability to do that. And they must change it based upon following reason and logic where it leads :)

            My goal most of the time is to ask the right questions.

            We have been slowly making our way towards "the big questions", which is exactly what we need to do when searching for truth. Much of the time giving the wrong answer to the right question puts one closer to the truth of reality than the right answer to the wrong question.

            Have a most blessed day!

          • David Hardy

            Hello Phil,

            May you have a blessed day as well, and blessings upon your own journey to truth.

          • David Hardy

            Hello Phil,

            If the basic nature of the universe is to organize differently depending on the context, and earlier forms of organization create the context that leads to later forms of organization, then the nature of the universe could be to create diversity and the diversity is explained depending on the context and the organization in which it formed. However, I'm not sure this is the point. More on this below.

            In regards to the principle of sufficient reason, I will rely on a question that I think is sometimes misunderstood: what is the sufficient reason for God?

            This question is misunderstood because the goal is not to propose that God needs a sufficient reason. The goal is to point out something about the principle of sufficient reason. Unless you assume an infinite regress, the principle of sufficient reason cannot hold true in all cases. Which means that you cannot assume that everything has a sufficient reason, because at some point there has to be a beginning which does not have a sufficient reason. There is nothing in our current understanding of the universe that requires that this the beginning be outside the universe.

            The principle of sufficient reason is a good rule to follow because, at the level of complexity that we exist in, it holds true. That does not guarantee that it is a good rule to follow when considering the basic structure and nature of the universe, especially since we know that, unless there is an infinite regress, it can't hold true at the most basic level, whatever that level may be.

            This position is not incoherent, it is a position that accepts and holds that reason has certain limitations. Finally, the reason I accept that I could be right in my model of reasoning is because, as I said before, it leads to accurate conclusions that I can then verify, but that doesn't guarantee that it is right.

          • David Hardy

            And that's the rub, we are trying to explain the material cosmos as a whole. The explanation for the whole can't even in principle come from within the whole.

            This assumes that reasons are inherent and must be present. However a person could assume that reason is just a developed ability of humans to create an accurate model of the universe within its limitations. With such a view, reason may have limitations in its ability to accurately depict the universe outside of the scale it developed in. In such a view, it is accurate to say that if something has no reason then reason is not able to accurately model it. However that does not discredit reason's ability to accurately model things that it does model well.

            Even if this is not the case, it is not demonstrated that the universe requires an external explanation.

          • Phil

            This assumes that reasons are inherent and must be present. However a person could assume that reason is just a developed ability of humans to create an accurate model of the universe within its limitations.

            Two thoughts:

            1) Saying that reason developed to model the universe assumes that the universe can actually be modeled in the first place. You are assuming that the universe is intelligible so as the be rationally modeled. Well, that intelligibility would itself need an explanation.

            And remember, we are part of this material cosmos. So if the intellect capable of modeling this intelligible cosmos is assumed, we still need to explain intelligibility as a whole. Something which transcends the entire material cosmos is necessary

            2) How do you show that reason actually developed to accurately convey truth about the cosmos instead of it only appearing to convey truth? Ultimately this view falls into complete skepticism, which is why an account of reason and truth from within the material cosmos is not possible.

          • Doug Shaver

            This is one of those cases where a complete explanation of something cannot end before coming to what philosophers and Judeo-Christians have understood as Reason itself.

            That might partly answer my question. Apparently, you start with a worldview and use it to justify reason. I start with reason and use it to justify a worldview.

          • Phil

            That partly answers my question. You start with a worldview and use it to justify reason. I start with reason and use it to justify a worldview.

            Not exactly. I ask the question: what can completely account for and explain the existence of reason and intelligibility?

            By following reason where it leads, the answer to this question then leads to the cosmos-view I have. So I don't assume a cosmos-view, I reason to it.

          • Doug Shaver

            I ask the question: what can completely account for and explain the existence of reason and intelligibility?

            How do you make sense of the question without presupposing reason and intelligibility?

          • Phil

            I might not have been as clear as I could have, that is the question after first accepting that reason and intelligibility are real features of the human mind and the cosmos.

          • Doug Shaver

            that is the question after first accepting that reason and intelligibility are real features of the human mind and the cosmos.

            What leads you to that acceptance?

          • Phil

            Before I get to human reason I wanted to make clear the 3 first principles in my A-T system (they would be akin to the assumptions you are talking about). These are in reference to all reality, not simply the human mind:

            1) The principle of non-contradiction.
            2) The principle of sufficient reason.

            With those two assumptions it is possible to do the following.

            ----------

            There are two belief statements one could hold on this:

            (A) Reason and intelligibility are real features of the human mind and a least part of the cosmos.

            (B) Reason and intelligibility are not real features of the human mind and the cosmos.

            Since (B) is incoherent due to the fact that it is self-contradictory and undermines itself, It can be rejected. Therefore (A) is the most reasonable position to hold as true.

            In short, if we can't coherently hold a belief, then it ought to be rejected. [Obviously someone could say, well aren't you putting faith in reason to get to that conclusion? And the response would be, well, one is reduced to utter silence and complete skepticism when not accepting this conclusion above. And if the goal of a theory is to explain reality, one hasn't explained anything by accepting (A) as true.]

          • Doug Shaver

            Before I get to human reason I wanted to make clear the 3 first principles in my A-T system (they would be akin to the assumptions you are talking about). These are in reference to all reality, not simply the human mind:

            1) The principle of non-contradiction.
            2) The principle of sufficient reason.

            I don’t accept the principle of sufficient reason. If you’re going to argue that I should, you cannot use it as a premise of that argument without arguing in a circle.

            As for non-contradiction, it has to be a starting point for any argument for any worldview, without exception.

            There are two belief statements one could hold on this:

            (A) Reason and intelligibility are real features of the human mind and a least part of the cosmos.

            (B) Reason and intelligibility are not real features of the human mind and the cosmos.

            You’re being otiose. If we accept the principle of non-contradiction, as we must no matter what we’re trying to defend, then we are already relying on reason, no matter what we call it a feature of.

            And if the goal of a theory is to explain reality . . . .

            I believe reality is explained by science, and in science, the goal of a theory is to explain observations.

          • Phil

            I don’t accept the principle of sufficient reason

            Interesting! So you would say that there are some things that exist which do not have a sufficient reason for existing?

            (As the PSR simply states that everything that exists has a sufficient reason for its existence.)

            You’re being otiose. If we accept the principle of non-contradiction, as we must no matter what we’re trying to defend, then we are already relying on reason, no matter what we call it a feature of.

            "Otiose"... I love it! Not only do I get some good philosophical discussion today, but I get to learn some new vocabulary. (And based on my new word learning, something doesn't have to be "practical" to be true!)

            Notice, the assumption I made is that the PNC is a feature of all reality, not simply of minds or intellects. Something cannot be and not be at the same time, place, or in the same respect.

            With that in place, we can then show that we cannot rationally proclaim that the human mind can't reason towards truth while at the same time trying to reason toward that very truth. That would be a breaking of the PNC.

            So it is the PNC that is most primary feature of reality, not human reason. I know, it is weird to think about since we "reason" towards the PNC. The key here again is that the PNC would be true even if humans never existed. The PNC is metaphysically prior to human reason. If the PNC were not true, then human reason could not exist.

            Part of our difference here is that I think you would be more modern or "Cartesian" in putting epistemology primary in your philosophy, while I put metaphysics as primary in an A-T system. The reason for this is for something to do the knowing (i.e., epistemology), something must first exist (i.e., metaphysics, the study of being).

            I believe reality is explained by science, and in science, the goal of a theory is to explain observations.

            Sure, and many do. The only problem with this is science can't explain why or if science is actually possible. That's the job of philosophy.

            I'm pretty sure we've had this discussion before, but philosophy is the fundamental study of how reality exists, while the physical sciences are all specializations. In other words, all the physical sciences rely upon philosophical assumptions and principles to even get off the ground.

            With that seen, it becomes clear that the physical sciences can't, even in principle, completely explain reality if they are relying upon non-scientific principles.

          • Doug Shaver

            So you would say that there are some things that exist which do not have a sufficient reason for existing?

            What I say is that there could be, for all we know. The PSR says it’s not possible. I don’t think the impossibility has been proved.

            the assumption I made is that the PNC is a feature of all reality, not simply of minds or intellects.

            If this is part of your defense of Aristotelianism, you’re smuggling your conclusion into your premises. The PNC is a rule of reasoning, which means it is an abstraction. I don’t accept the extra-mental existence of abstractions.

            Something cannot be and not be at the same time, place, or in the same respect.

            That is what Aristotle said, and everybody seems to assume that the PNC was what he was thinking about when he said it. I don’t claim to know whether he was or wasn’t, but in either case, I don’t consider it a good rendering of the law of non-contradiction.

            we can then show that we cannot rationally proclaim that the human mind can't reason towards truth while at the same time trying to reason toward that very truth.

            Yes, we can show that.

            So it is the PNC that is most primary feature of reality, not human reason.

            That looks like a non sequitur to me. Besides, I have never asserted that human reason is the primary feature of reality, and I can’t even guess what would tempt me to make such a silly assertion. That being the case, even if I agree that this statement was logically implied by what you’d just said, I’d have to dismiss it as a pure irrelevance.

            I know, it is weird to think about since we "reason" towards the PNC.

            It’s a good thing you used those scare quotes, because I don’t agree that we reason toward the PNC. We can’t even begin to reason without the PNC. Without the PNC, there is no distinction between truth and falsehood, and without that distinction, nothing we say can mean anything. Any utterance we could make would be the purest gibberish, semantically null and void.

            Part of our difference here is that I think you would be more modern or "Cartesian" in putting epistemology primary in your philosophy, while I put metaphysics as primary in an A-T system.

            I do believe that no matter what we’re discussing, it is always appropriate to ask: “What do we know and how do we know it?”

            for something to do the knowing (i.e., epistemology), something must first exist (i.e., metaphysics, the study of being).

            We can reasonably assume our own existence and the existence of all the things we perceive in our environment. Then we can start asking about the existence of things we can think about but not otherwise perceive.

            I believe reality is explained by science, and in science, the goal of a theory is to explain observations.

            Sure, and many do. The only problem with this is science can't explain why or if science is actually possible.

            Science is done, and it would not be done if it were not possible.

            That's the job of philosophy.

            Philosophy tries to figure out how, not whether, science is possible.

            philosophy is the fundamental study of how reality exists

            I didn’t get that impression while I was earning my philosophy degree.

            all the physical sciences rely upon philosophical assumptions and principles to even get off the ground.

            Whether we’re doing science or any other kind of thinking, we rely on philosophical assumptions and principles. That is why philosophy is actually very important, notwithstanding that most people think it’s a waste of time study it. And by the way, I used to be one of those people. I didn’t realize until I was in my 50s that I’d been doing philosophy for practically my whole life. That was when I decided I’d better learn how to do it right.

            it becomes clear that the physical sciences can't, even in principle, completely explain reality if they are relying upon non-scientific principles.

            OK. But (A) I’m not claiming that anything can completely explain reality; and (B) you haven’t offered so much as a hint of a reason for me to suspect that the physical sciences are relying on non-scientific principles.

          • Phil

            What I say is that there could be, for all we know. The PSR says it’s not possible. I don’t think the impossibility has been proved.

            I gotcha. The problem with this is if the PSR is not true, then it is equally possible that your very belief that the PSR might not be true has no sufficient reason for existing.

            Therefore, it would be irrational for me or anyone else to take your conjecture very seriously. How do we know that there is rational and sufficient reason for your belief...we don't know and neither would you.

            If this is part of your defense of Aristotelianism, you’re smuggling your conclusion into your premises. The PNC is a rule of reasoning, which means it is an abstraction. I don’t accept the extra-mental existence of abstractions.

            If the PNC is merely a logical abstraction, would you then claim it is possible for you to exist and not-exist at the same time, in the same place, and in the same respect?

            Put another way, the item in front of me can't be round and not-round at the same time, in the same place, and in the same respect.

            The PNC is knit into the very material of the physical cosmos and is a feature of real entities.

            That looks like a non sequitur to me. Besides, I have never asserted that human reason is the primary feature of reality, and I can’t even guess what would tempt me to make such a silly assertion. That being the case, even if I agree that this statement was logically implied by what you’d just said, I’d have to dismiss it as a pure irrelevance.

            If I remember correctly, you did say that you take the capability for good reasoning towards truth as a first principle, or assumption in your philosophical system. A first principle in a philosophical system gets at what is most true and evident because it is that which everything else is built upon.

            Now, it is very possible I misunderstood you. And I do apologize.

            What would be your first principle about reality if it isn't human reason capable of discovering truth?

            You haven’t offered so much as a hint of a reason for me to suspect that the physical sciences are relying on non-scientific principles.

            Just a few philosophical principles that science relies upon:

            1) The scientific method itself (which isn't a scientific theory that can be tested and falsified)
            2) Principle of causality
            3) PNC
            4) PSR
            5) Intelligibility of external world
            6) Capability of the human mind to discover truth

            Most people simply will say, well, science has been so successful so something must be right about it. And I absolutely agree that the evidence from technology and science's successes in general give great support that science is actually getting at the truth of reality. (Obviously appearances can be deceiving, so we actually have to show this is true, rather than merely having an illusion of truth.)

            But then we need to ask, okay, what philosophical principles must be true if science actually works as we are finding it to work. This is what lends us even more support of the proper interpretation of the 6 things I listed above.

            [The interesting thing is that myself, as a theist, many times has more trust in reason and our ability to progress towards a potentially complete understanding of the cosmos (potential being the key word, never an actual complete understanding even if there is the potential). This is what led the Catholic scientists to start on the road of science in the 11th-14th century. They believed the universe actually could be explained and understood.]

            -----------------

            But to head back towards our main discussion of what could completely explain and account of the intelligibly of the material cosmos and the ability of the mind to reason to truth.

            I think the main issue is if one doesn't take the PNC and PSR seriously then that person has left themselves in a state of complete skepticism and I have no reason to take their view very seriously.

            Sure, this may sound silly at first but consider claiming that there is no sufficient and non-contradictory reason for your minds ability to reason to truth. Well if that's the case, you have no reason to trust anything you reason/mind is telling you. And in that case, no one should take you very seriously.

            Unfortunately, falling into an intellectual black hole is the penalty for anyone not holding the PNC or PSR to be true.

          • Doug Shaver

            The problem with this is if the PSR is not true, then it is equally possible that your very belief that the PSR might not be true has no sufficient reason for existing.

            Maybe, but one cannot infer “We should believe it” from “It’s possibly true.”

            Therefore, it would be irrational for me or anyone else to take that conjecture very seriously.

            Yes, if your only reason for taking it seriously was my asserting it. But rationality is about the exercise of reason, which among other things is about logical consistency. If the PSR is consistent with your worldview, then it is rational for you to accept it. If its negation is consistent with my worldview, then it’s rational for me to think it’s possible that the PSR is false. There are some things that rational people can disagree about, don’t you agree?

            How do we know that there is rational and sufficient reason for your belief...we don't know and neither would you.

            The PSR makes an assertion about all of our beliefs. To deny “For all X, Y” is not to affirm, “For no X, Y.”

            If the PNC is merely a logical abstraction, would you then claim it is possible for you to exist and not-exist at the same time, in the same place, and in the same respect?

            I would claim that without the PNC, such a statement could not mean anything, and that any meaningless statement cannot be either true or false.

            If I remember correctly, you did say that you take the capability for good reasoning towards truth as a first principle, or assumption in your philosophical system. A first principle in a philosophical system gets at what is most true and evident because it is that which everything else is built upon.

            I don’t agree that our assumptions are about things that are “most true.” Strictly speaking, truth doesn’t exist in degrees. Probability does, and we have to be careful about thinking that “more probably true” is a way of saying “more true.” And we should never think that just because we justifiably assume something, we can assign it a probability of exactly 1.0.

            We may well begin our reasoning, in some important sense, with our assumptions, but that doesn’t mean the assumptions themselves are forever off the table. We still learn about reality by observing it, and if we observe something that cannot be reconciled with one of our assumptions and if we cannot dismiss the observation as an illusion or other product of human fallibility, then it may be time to revise or discard that assumption.

            What would be your first principle about reality if it isn't human reason capable of discovering truth?

            I don’t have just one. My worldview rests on several assumptions, and I don’t rank them in any order. Besides, assumptions are supposed to be independent of each other. If my assumption B depends on my assumption A, then I’m not really assuming B. I am assuming A and then inferring B.

            Just a few philosophical principles that science relies upon:

            1) The scientific method itself (which isn't a scientific theory that can be tested and falsified)
            2) Principle of causality
            3) PNC
            4) PSR
            5) Intelligibility of external world
            6) Capability of the human mind to discover truth

            All of this depends on how you’re defining “science,” but in ordinary discourse, “scientific method” is just a description of how the people we call scientists do their jobs, and it serves as a means of distinguishing science, whatever we think it is, from all the other ways human beings have come up with for answering questions. We who argue that intelligent design is not science do so by claiming that ID’s practitioners do not actually comply with the scientific method.

            The other items on this list are not unique to science no matter how we define science. Generally speaking, even people who are actively hostile to science accept them, and so if science relies on them, then so does every other kind of human intellectual endeavor. A possible exception would be (6), considering that there are people who deny our ability to discover truth. However, many who think we can discover truth also deny that science is the best way for us to do it.

            we need to ask, okay, what philosophical principles must be true if science actually works as we are finding it to work.

            That is what philosophers of science have been trying to figure out for the past century or so. Last time I checked, they hadn’t reached a consensus, but I don’t recall any of them offering the PSR as any part of their explanation.

            But to head back towards our main discussion of what could completely explain and account of the intelligibly of the material cosmos and the ability of the mind to reason to truth.

            If this discussion is attempting to reach a complete explanation, then I need to withdraw now.

            Unfortunately, falling into an intellectual black hole is the penalty for anyone not holding the PNC or PSR to be true.

            I have repeatedly defended my acceptance of the PNC. I am denying only that the PSR is necessarily true, and I am specifically denying that the PNC depends on it, and you have failed to show any mistake in my non-PSR-dependent defense of the PNC.

          • Phil

            We don't have to continue on any of the stuff below if you're not interested.

            Though as I was falling asleep I thought of one more issue with not believing that the PSR is true.

            If one doesn't believe that the PSR is true, then one is saying that something can exist whose reasons for its existence are not sufficient. In short, something exists whose reasons for being able to exist haven't been met yet!

            Obviously, that should strike us right away as being incoherent, and violating the PNC. So if one believes the PNC is true, than automatically the PSR is also true.

          • Doug Shaver

            In short, something exists whose reasons for being able to exist haven't been met yet!

            Obviously, that should strike us right away as being incoherent, and violating the PNC.

            Only if we assume the PSR. The PSR actually says two things: (1) There must be a reason, and (2) the reason must be sufficient. It does not say, in any version I've ever seen, that if there is any reason, it must be a sufficient reason. If we don't assume the PSR, then we can allow the possibility of something existing without any reason, sufficient or otherwise.

          • Phil

            If we don't assume the PSR, then we can allow the possibility of something existing without any reason, sufficient or otherwise.

            If something exists, and one says there is a reason for something's existence, then it must necessarily be sufficient. (If the reason wasn't sufficient for its existence, then it wouldn't exist--at least if one accepts the PNC.)

            This is why it seems to be quite clear that if one rejects the PSR, one must also reject the PNC.

          • Doug Shaver

            I think we've gotten to the point where we're just repeating ourselves.

          • Phil

            What I was pointing out was if one first accepts the PNC (as you say you do), then it follows one must necessarily accept the PSR.

            In short, if one denies the PSR, then one must also deny the PNC. It's all or nothing.

            (The reason being, as stated above, that one is admitting that something can exist for which there are insufficient reasons for its existence. Which is an obvious contradiction.)

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      I see no argument to directly relate the scientific revolution to Christianity.

      People everywhere have developed rules of thumb and lore relating to physical matters. That does not mean that they went on to devise physical theories to explain them. It was enough to know that if you did X you would get Y.

      Likewise, people everywhere developed mathematics, and hence astronomy. Until the invention of the telescope, the lights in the sky were not conceived as being material places about which physical discoveries could be made; only lights that moved across the sky in predictable -- or almost predictable -- patterns. Astronomy was a specialized branch of mathematics used in astrology and calendar-making.

      In most ancient milieux, the world was conceived as analogous to a living being. (Living beings moved by themselves, and so did the heavens!) The stars and planets were therefore "alive, divine, and influential in human affairs." The idea that trees have dryads and springs have nymphs and that Poseidon is the sea and the sea is Poseidon is something of a stumbling block for a modern scientific outlook.

      Among the "pillars" of the scientific revolution given by Peter Dear are 1) the conception of the world as a machine, rather than an organism; 2) the distinction between primary and secondary qualities; 3) the privileging of mathematics as the language of science; and 4) the use of deliberate experimentation.

      The idea that the world had a creator who was a rational being encouraged the notion not only that the world operated by rational laws, but that these laws were reliable, not merely correlations; and that he "ordered all things by number, weight, and measure" encouraged the notion that rational minds could learn those laws by numbering, weighing, and measuring stuff.

      Perhaps first and foremost was the medieval invention of the University. These were independent, chartered institutions with standardized curricula across Europe. At the masters level they taught almost exclusively on logic, reason, and natural philosophy. Never before (or after) were so large a proportion of a population educated so systematically in exclusively rational subjects. The consequence was that the rational study of nature was embedded in the common culture of Christendom in a way that never happened elsewhere.

      This is the reason why occasional individuals with an interest in nature -- like al Hazen or Chu Hsi -- do not constitute a scientific revolution. While the House of Submission had independent chartered schools, these "madrassas" taught only commentaries on Holy Quran. Natural philosophy was not forbidden, but it was never taught in public. China had the Imperial College, but it focus was exclusively on training potential bureaucrats in writing the six-legged essay on the Classics. Neither was a university as the Christians invented and neither embedded the study of nature in their respective cultures.

      There are a variety of other elements which a comm box does not allow space for. But it is worth noting that our conception of the ancient Greek civilization as supremely rational is largely due to the medievals preferential copying and circulation precisely of the Greek's rational works on mathematics (incl. astronomy), medicine, and natural philosophy. That does not mean that these were the main focus of the Greeks themselves.

  • David Nickol

    A Catholic can both explore what evolutionary science has to reveal and, simultaneously, believe in the reality of Adam and Eve.

    A Catholic can explore what evolutionary science has to reveal, but can a Catholic accept the almost certain conclusion of the theory of evolution—that there was no "first man" and "first woman" from whom all other humans descended? This would be something the science of genetics should be able to establish as true or false, and it appears false.

    Yes, you can invent bizarre scenarios like the ones we have discussed here before, but in order to take them at all seriously, you have to begin with the assumption of "first parents" and get very creative to justify that belief.

    • neil_pogi

      then what is your belief about your 'first parents'?

      can you explain indetails about it?

      • David Nickol

        There were no "first parents" of the human race from which all human beings now alive descended, and there were not even any "first humans" from which all humans descended. As the OP notes, evolution is about populations, not individuals. And populations do not change overnight from one species to another.

        • neil_pogi

          according to evolutionists, evolution began with only one cell first before population..

          • David Nickol

            according to evolutionists, evolution began with only one cell first before population..

            Which evolutionists have said there was a first cell?

            As I understand it, the first cells could have evolved from protocells, which in turn could have evolved from simpler self-replicating molecules.

            Having said that much, I really don't want to continue in an exchange with you about evolution. If you were really interested in finding out answers to the questions you raise, you would long ago have read one of the books that have been recommended to you on the topic. You are, of course, under no obligation to believe that evolution is true, but I think you are obliged to inform yourself about the current scientific views. Instead you raise the same kind of naive questions over and over again and basically ignore the information from those who try to answer you seriously.

          • neil_pogi

            then, how's life began? was it started from a single cell? or not?

            just tell me!

            do you know how a biologists take good care of a single cell in order for it to survive in a day to day basis?

          • Doug Shaver

            according to evolutionists, evolution began with only one cell

            You don't know what evolutionists say. You imagine what they say, and you think your imagination is infallible.

          • neil_pogi

            then, how's life began? was it started from a single cell? or not?

            just tell me!

          • Doug Shaver

            just tell me!

            Why? Are you trying to tell me you want to learn something?

          • neil_pogi

            and why you keep on telling me that?

            just be straight! tell me, in atheists' point of view, how life began!

          • Doug Shaver

            tell me, in atheists' point of view, how life began!

            The atheist point of view has nothing to say about how life began. And you would already know this if you were paying attention to anybody besides yourself.

          • neil_pogi

            ok, then, tell me what are atheists' belief on how life originated?

            or atheists will say: 'we still don't know' all the previous hypotheses, theories are now in garbage bins.

            as for the origin of the universe, 'we still don't know.. give us, at least billion more years to study why a 'nothing' can create a 'something'

            as for the origin of DNA, 'we don't know yet...give us more trillions of years on how DNA evolved from a 'nothing' ...pls

            therefore, you have no rights to declare that athiesm is true!

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      I think Wikipedia gets this right:

      Some theologians believe Pius XII explicitly excludes belief in polygenism as licit. Another interpretation might be this: As we have nowadays in fact models of thinking of how to reconcile polygenism with the original sin, it need not be condemned.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_and_evolution

      It seems reasonable to me to argue that the essential faith content of Pius XII's declaration is simply that all humans are united in their brokenness and their need for redemption. Others in the Church will disagree, but I think this is just an area (like most) where internal disagreement is just an accepted part of the life of the Church.

      • David Nickol

        I have a very strong feeling that "liberals" who want to interpret the story of Adam and Eve metaphorically are not troubled by "conservatives" who want to insist on real, biological "first parents." However, I don't think those "conservatives" would recognize the right of "liberals" to interpret the story metaphorically.

        Also, I don't see any wiggle room in this statement from the Catechism:

        390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

        How could the whole of human history be marked by any event that wasn't at the very "beginning of the history of man"? I don't see how to read this paragraph without concluding the Catechism is saying there were "first parents" who freely committed some act that affected all of humanity.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          Well, I look at it this way. The catechism is meant to be a contemporary guide to a long and complex tradition. It is meant to be a pointer to the deeper "deposit of faith", which in turn is meant to be a pointer to a deeper relationship with God. Therefore, I take what I can use from the catechism to deepen my relationship with God. What I cannot make sense of, what I do not know how to use, I leave aside, maybe coming back to it later. To me, this entails digging beneath the specific words that the catechism uses (after all, catechisms change over time, as you know) and trying to get at the essential truth that it is pointing to. I have already stated what I think is the essential truth underlying that line of the catechism. No doubt other disagree.

    • Michel

      Yes, because Saint Augustine defined how catholics should interpret the Génesis, if they interpret it a different way they are not catholics

    • Phil

      I think the necessity of the harmony of faith and reason is what makes Catholicism such a friend of the modern physical sciences and the intellectual life in general.

      It was stated as far back as St. Augustine in the 300s that if a fact about the universe came to light that was to be believed as true beyond a reasonable doubt and that fact necessarily and directly contradicted an interpretation of Scripture, then one could be led to believe that their interpretation of Scripture was wrong.

      Truth cannot contradict truth. That is what can make this whole journey of seeking the truth of reality so much fun!

      • David Nickol

        Truth cannot contradict truth. That is what can make this whole journey of seeking the truth of reality so much fun!

        Do you believe the entire human race descended from one set of "first parents"? May I be a Catholic in good standing if I believe that there were never two "first parents" who committed some act that resulted in "the fall"? Can the doctrine of Original Sin be reinterpreted in order that "first parents" are not required?

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      I thought a little more about this and wanted to add some further thoughts.

      Personally, I find the "first parents" bit to be problematic, since it does seem to strongly suggest monogenism, but I don't find the "act at the beginning of human history" part to be problematic at all. It seems obvious to me that:

      1. Moral culpability cannot be ascribed to non-human animals (at least not for any of the non-human animals that we know of).

      2. Moral culpability can be ascribed to humans.

      3. Therefore, it seems to me that something, some real event in history, must have happened in between the time when there were no morally culpable animals on the planet and the time when there were morally culpable animals on the planet. Whatever it was that happened, I'd be willing to call that "The Fall".

      To say that this "Fall" was the result of something that our "first parents" did rather than being the necessary corollary of what they had become is to adopt the hopeful stance that our Fallen state is not intrinsic to our being, and therefore can be remedied.

      I'm not pretending that this resolves the tensions that you have pointed out, but I wanted to clarify my own position.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        I am linking below to a paper that has been posted and discussed previously at SN. The author takes both the science and the catechism seriously and provides what I think is a plausible (albeit speculative) resolution. Even if you don't find his suggested resolution to be compelling, I think you will find that he does a nice job of laying out the key issues and explaining what is at stake in the different positions.

        http://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/papers/kemp-monogenism.pdf

        • Neat paper. It seems to jive with John H. Walton's The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, where Walton claims that the ancients just weren't as interested in material issues as functional matters. This may not be entirely accurate, but I would compare that to the contrast between material/​efficient causation (what science studies) and formal/​final causation (what science has chosen to exclude—especially final causation). Very roughly, the ancients were more interested in theological than empirical matters. Probably because they were struggling with theological/​political issues (note that these two matters were not well-distinguished, and probably for very good reason).

          We should really be grateful to how evolution has forced us to face what Genesis 1–11 is most likely meant to convey (a design for peaceful coexistence of creation with no 'original violence' which is fated to be perennially recapitulated). All this focus on biology causes us to demote the moral, ethical, and aesthetic dimensions, even making them out to be little more than epiphenomena, instead of fundamentally designed into reality.

          And yet, I can't help have sympathy for creationists and those who assert Adam and Eve's biological reality, because they're frequently up against those who gussy up political/​theological/​ontological claims with scientific reasoning.

        • David Nickol

          From the paper:

          Of course it may well be a consequence of my view that our earliest ancestors were sinners for continuing to interbreed with the pre-human beings who, if not of a different biological species, were not fully human beings either. The sin involved would be more like promiscuity—impersonal sexual acts—than like bestiality. But the idea that our first ancestors were sinners can hardly be an objection to this theory.

          First, I disagree very strongly that the act of ensouled humans breeding with "pre-humans" would be more like promiscuity than bestiality. I don't see how it could be considered anything other than bestiality. Second, the objection to the theory would not be that our first ancestors were sinners. It would be that God created the human race in such a way that bestiality was absolutely necessary for a viable group of humans to come into existence.

          Also, imagine the sons and daughters of our first (ensouled) parents marrying pre-humans. Presumably pre-humans are incapable of speech or moral reasoning. How were the children of such unions taken care of? The Catholic Church today insists that every child is entitled to a mother and a father, and that same-sex marriage is an abomination. I can't see how having a mother and a father of a different species (even if the two species are only "theologically" different, not biologically different) could be considered superior! At least in same-sex marriage, child rearing is handled by two rational, speaking, loving human beings. Imagine the children of an ape mother and human father, or an ape father and a human mother. It is just truly bizarre! Is that really the way God would have created the human race?

          It seems to me that a much simpler theory to save the story of Adam and Eve would be that God, in the first few generations of Adam and Eve's children, miraculously increased the genetic variations in human offspring until there was enough to support a genetically diverse human population.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Those are good objections David. I got nuthin'. Thanks for your thoughtful analysis.

          • Lazarus

            As we can see from your comment, articles here on SN, and others by eg. Feser and Coyne, the Church has a tremendous amount of work ahead of it in this regard. I'm not sure that the project can in fact be salvaged with much dignity, but I for one would like to see better efforts.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I have to say, the seeming lack of courage of the teaching office in confronting this issue with real clarity is upsetting to me. I understand that there is a worldwide communion of the faithful to think about, composed of people at all different levels of maturity in their faith and knowledge, and I understand that the magisterium has to think very carefully about any sort of definitive theological statement. Still, the slow pace smacks too much of the cowardly political calculations of a worldly institution, and not enough of one that is in continuity with a new creation.

            ... but then I go and listen to a blowhard ignoramus like Jerry Coyne and my faith is bolstered once again ... thank God for atheists :-)

            Lord, to whom else would I go?

          • David Nickol

            It is very difficult for me to see how there could be a "development of doctrine" regarding human origins and original sin that would not fatally undermine Catholic dogma. One example would be the Immaculate Conception (that is, Mary conceived without original sin). It is dogma that original sin is transmitted by "human generation." It is also dogma that it was not transmitted to Mary. The current definition of original sin doesn't really make a great deal of sense to me, but I don't at all see how it can develop into something more in line with what we know about human origins without undermining other bedrock doctrines and dogma. That, I think, is why the Catholic Church in the Catechism still talks of "first parents." Jim the Hillclimber will no doubt disagree, but I don't see how Catholicism can do without two literal "first parents."

          • Will

            Just fyi:

            In two new studies, genetic researchers have shown that about 20 percent of the Neanderthal genome survives in modern humans of non-African ancestry and identified exactly which areas of the human genome retain segments of Neanderthal DNA.

            http://www.sci-news.com/othersciences/anthropology/science-neanderthal-genes-modern-human-dna-01734.html

            Are those of us with Neanderthal genes still ensouled? There is some evidence that Neanderthals were fairly rational, so if rationality is the key to ensoulment...

            If you are interested, this link has better information about who has Neanderthal genes and their effects. There is evidence of psychological effects, interestingly, and only Europeans/Asian have Neanderthal genes.

            In fact, a surprisingly number of snippets of Neanderthal DNA were associated with psychiatric and neurological effects, the study found.

            http://phys.org/news/2016-02-neanderthal-dna-subtle-significant-impact.html#jCp

    • Doug Shaver

      you have to begin with the assumption of "first parents" and get very creative to justify that belief.

      Christianity's apologists have had almost 2,000 years to practice their creativity. They've gotten really good at it.

  • neil_pogi

    quote: '2. Know your faith, and let it guide your reasoning.' - if atheists have faith that morality is not true based on their belief of guideless evolution, i have fear that one day atheists will present to the court that evolution can not know morality and wrong.. and therefore the 'thou shall not kill' will become just a relative and not absolute.

    anyway this just happened in certain communist states before.

    • David Nickol

      When has "thou shall not kill" ever been absolute? Here's a short story, "Man A killed Man B." If "thou shall not kill" is absolute, it seems to me we should be able to conclude from the story that Man A did something forbidden. But you need a great deal more of the story to make any judgment. Perhaps Man A is a soldier in battle, for example.

      • neil_pogi

        the Bible has many stories about murders and killings, even the first recorded murder can be found in genesis where abel is killed by his own brother. God condemned this action of cain.

        what if you happened to kill someone today.. you were arrested and found guilty. are you going to say to the court that 'oh well, i don't believe in the absoluteness of morality, therefore i killed that man'

        will the court listen to you?

        again, i find your argument very disturbing

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    I agree with the first part of point 3: "[do not] promote your novel opinions as accepted teaching", but I really object to the way the next sentence is phrased. I think it is very bad advice in both science and theology to "forego speculation". Perhaps what Stacy wanted to convey is that speculation should be clearly advertised as such? In any case, speculation is extremely important in both arenas!

    Also, "read the writings of theologians and communicate their work" makes it sound like theology should be left to professional theologians. We all should be engaging in our own theological reasoning (what else would be the point of a Bible study group?), just as we all should be engaging in our own scientific reasoning. If Saint Paul showed us anything, it is how to do our own theology, rather than just dumbly passing on what we have learned. Certainly, we should do our own thinking (scientific and theological) in dialogue with recognized authorities, and with reasonable deference to those authorities, but we have to think for ourselves nonetheless. Again, maybe this is what Stacy meant to convey, but I worry that it has not come across that way.

  • Doug Shaver

    On one hand, there are marvelous discourses in institutions of higher learning about the ways theology illuminates scientific ideas and, likewise, how science deepens faith.

    Those are not the only discourses going on, in those institutions, about the relationship between science and faith. Whether those other discourses should be called “marvelous” is perhaps a matter of personal judgment.

    On the other hand, the public presentation of faith and science, mostly on the internet, is a tale of incessant conflict because anyone can pose as an expert on religion or science, despite being nonreligious or never having worked as a scientist.

    Obviously, from the mere fact that a controversy is widespread on the Internet, we can infer nothing about the quality of arguments that are presented. However, the mere assertion of one person that there is no real controversy proves nothing, even if that person has credentials from both sides.

    To atheists: Of course you do not pray the Creed, but hopefully you can appreciate the logical consistency of an all-or-none Christian worldview.

    When I have seen the consistency demonstrated rather than merely asserted, then I will appreciate it.

    To atheists: The difference in dogma and doctrine is poorly understood.

    Not by all of us. Some of us, who have been debating with apologists for many years, have actually been paying attention to the responses we’ve been getting to our objections. For my epistemology, though, the difference has little relevance. When I’m told I should believe something, whether it’s labeled dogma or doctrine, I’m going to ask for a reason. If I get a good one, I’ll believe, and if I don’t, I won’t.

    3. Respect the experts.

    I do, to the extent that they have earned my respect. Whether and how they have earned your respect has no bearing on whether they have earned mine.

    4. Do not be anxious until you find the one final answer.

    Not a problem. I quit looking for final answers a long time ago. It was the assumption that they existed that was causing my anxiety.

    You [atheists] can invoke science as inductive proof to support a claim that there is no God.

    I suppose we can, yeah, but almost none of us does.

    To atheists: You probably view Earth the same as Mars, all a physical reality

    Do you think that’s a mistake? If so, why?

    To atheists: You do not believe in angels. You do not believe in the existence of the soul, so to you we are all bodies with consciousness arising from matter and energy.

    That is true of atheists in general, but the only definitive characteristic of atheism is unbelief in any god. Since neither angels nor souls are said to be gods, any atheist could affirm their existence without contradiction. The fact that almost none of us does reflects the reasons most of us have for being atheists rather than atheism per se. Those reasons, usually but not always, also lead us to doubt the existence of angels and souls.

    To atheists: You are stuck with the problem of free will

    Free will without God is a problem for you. It is not a problem for me just because you say so.

    To atheists: Undoubtedly you do not accept any reality of Adam and Eve

    Right. Because you give us no good reason to accept it.

    10. Realize that science was born of Christianity.

    To put it charitably, I’m not convinced. To put my opinion candidly would likely elicit a reprimand from Brandon.

    Please do not argue against the claim until you understand it.

    You can play all the word games you like. If, in order to make your case, you must redefine “science” and “born” to make them mean something other than what they usually mean, then you render your argument worthless. I have, for a layman, an excellent knowledge of Western history in general and of Christianity in particular. When the “Stillbirth of Science” series was posted, I presented various responses, and no one at the time accused me of any misunderstanding.

    • VicqRuiz

      Not a problem. I quit looking for final answers a long time ago. It was
      the assumption that they existed that was causing my anxiety.

      Worthy of multiple upvotes.

    • Darren

      Well said!

  • Peter

    To Christians: Do not invoke science as any kind of absolute proof of a theological conclusion.

    What's the point of science, then, if not to lead us to God?

    Together with most likely many other sentient races across the seen and unseen cosmos, we the human race have both the capability of comprehending creation and the ability of philosophical reasoning. It is the progressive expansion of the former through science which deepens and enlightens our capacity to exercise the latter.
    In doing so, it leads us more closely and surely to the discovery of God.

    Philosophical reasoning of the past has pointed to the sureness of God's existence. That historical reasoning is now buttressed and enriched with scientific discovery which has made God's existence an even greater certainty. For the first time in centuries, the idea of a first cause of creation sits perfectly well with the discovery that creation has a beginning.

    Furthermore and equally important, the fact that we and possibly countless other races are in possession of these twin capabilities that lead us to our Maker, is in itself a testament to his existence. For why would we be brought into being in the first place with these twin capabilities hardwired into us if they were to serve no purpose?
    In fact, being hardwired to seek out our Maker must be the default position for all sentient races,. It is those of us who rebel against this hardwiring, who wilfully deny its existence and deny our Maker, that deviate from the norm.

  • Paul Brandon Rimmer

    Thanks for the article, and for the food for thought. Especially the last point. Science as the child of Christianity is a wonderful analogy.

    It is a point of great pleasure and pride for parents if their children surpass them. Science has gone further and done far better than religion at discovering reality. The child has moved out of the parents' home. She's surpassed her parent. The Church can be proud to be such a good mother, to have raised such a successful child.

    When the Church becomes old and dies, she can die happy in the knowledge that science will go on without her, that science will hopefully keep fond memories of her, and that science may well have future children of her own.

    • Peter

      When the Church becomes old and dies...

      Wishful thinking I'm afraid.

      2000 years and still going strong, stronger than ever in fact now that science has vindicated her teaching about creation having a beginning, and that creation having a beginning has vindicated her philosophy about the certainty of God's existence.

      • Paul Brandon Rimmer

        I would estimate at least another thousand years for the Catholic Church. But who knows?

        Has the discovery of the big bang resulted in many conversions? As far as I'm aware, very few cosmologists are Christian, compared to the general population. I wonder why that is.

        • Phil

          I'm wondering if the percentage of actively Christian cosmologists/astrophysicists and active Christians might actually be closer than one might think! At this point there are a lot of people who are "practical atheists". They may identify as a Christian but they don't live as if they are a Christian.

          Just taking the Catholic Church in America as an example--

          About 22% of Americans identify as Catholic, about 66 million. About 20% of those Catholics actually attend Mass on a average weekly basis, about 13 million.

          This means if we use average weekly Mass attendance as a benchmark (which there are some who attend Mass who still don't live as a Christian, but we will ignore this), then if ~4% of all cosmologists and astrophysicists in the U.S. are practicing Catholics the ratios are pretty equal.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I'm thinking more about the percentage of people who profess faith in God, in general (for which there are good statistics I know about) versus the percentage of cosmologists who profess faith in God (for which there are no good statistics as far as I know). From the cosmologists I've interacted with, anecdotal admittedly, I'd estimate somewhere about 50% who would say that God probably doesn't exist.

            As for true Christians in cosmology, I wouldn't know how to even estimate it. t'd suspect it's about the same number as true Scotsmen in cosmology. ;)

          • Phil

            Haha!

            Yeah, we get to a point where one could only speculate about this stuff because it is hard to get good data. Though the 50% range probably isn't a bad estimate for cosmology and astrophysics.

        • Peter

          It's probably because many cosmologists still regard the universe as being eternal. They take the universe with its fundamental features - and not God - as the ultimate fact of reality. In support of this, they devise eternal hypotheses such as multiple universes, cyclic universes, time reversal models or eternally inflating models.

          Such scientists are nothing new. They are the descendants of the Enlightenment. But whereas their forebears acted in agreement with the observed evidence of the time, i.e. a static and unchanging universe deemed eternal, they themselves are acting in disagreement with the currently observed evidence which is of the entirety of creation having a beginning.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            Sorry. I don't really buy the conspiracy theories.

          • Peter

            Where is the hard evidence, then, for multiple or cyclic universes, or for time-reversed or eternally inflating ones?

            Is the fabrication of these hypothetical models not a conspiracy to detract observers away from the progressively supported conclusion that creation is not eternal?

            Why, for example, did the atheist Soviet Union encourage its cosmologists to develop eternal universe models if not to debunk the idea that creation had a beginning? Why is this practice continuing in the wider post-communist world?

          • Doug Shaver

            Questions are not evidence for anything. Not even unanswered questions.

          • Peter

            Certain scientists are putting forward hypotheses without any observational support which contradict the teaching of the Church. If they can show that the universe/multiverse is eternal, in whatever manner, they can claim that it is the ultimate fact in its own right, removing the need for God to have created it.

            The gullible and those with a godless agenda may wish to believe this, but I prefer to ask questions. Failure to answer them is evidence that these eternal models are nothing more than mere hypotheses and not worthy of serious consideration. In fact they can be classified as anti-theist propaganda.

          • Doug Shaver

            Certain scientists are putting forward hypotheses without any observational support which contradict the teaching of the Church

            You say so. Name one of those scientists, state the hypothesis in question, and gives us the title of the book or journal in which it was put forward.

          • Lazarus

            One example.

            Michio Kaku (who I see recently found God ;) ) says :

            "It is impossible experimentally to reach the tremendous energies found at the Planck scale. Therefore, the theory is in some sense untestable. A theory that is untestable is not an acceptable physical theory. . . . [Moreover,] not one shred of experimental evidence has been found to confirm the existence of supersymmetry, let alone superstrings."

            Kaku, Introduction to Superstrings and M-Theory, 17

          • Doug Shaver

            And what teaching of the church is contradicted by superstring theory?

          • Lazarus

            For one it is used / misused by Leonard / Mlodinow to argue for the cosmos being created from nothing.

          • Doug Shaver

            Conspiracy presupposes intent, and you are inferring intent from outcome. Just because somebody's theory is inconsistent with your dogma doesn't mean they created that theory for the purpose of discrediting your dogma.

          • Lazarus

            Where did I mention, or even imply, a conspiracy? Have you not read their book?

          • Doug Shaver

            Where did I mention, or even imply, a conspiracy?

            My apologies. I got you mixed up with Peter. He said there was a conspiracy.

          • Will

            Can you name a current atheist scientist who supports an eternal universe model? None do, and it doesn't matter. Aquinas points out that classical theism is fully compatible with an eternal universe as God sustains it, and there is no logical reason why a time bounded universe requires an intelligence behind it. Your conspiracy theory would be interesting if atheists actually held the view you claim, but they don't.

            Perhaps it's really the Illuminati who are behind this propaganda ;)

          • Peter

            Spontaneous Inflation and the Origin of the Arrow of Time:
            Sean Carrol and Jennifer Chen (2004):
            http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0410270

            St Thomas Aquinas was unable prove philosophically that the universe had a beginning. His subtle philosophical reasoning that an eternal universe needed a Creator was insufficient to convince many scientists and philosophers in the centuries to come of the existence of God.

            Why take an eternal God as a brute fact, they argued, when there was no sign of anything transcendent within the universe? Why not take the eternal universe itself as a brute fact?
            And indeed they did, right up to the 20th century.

            The universe being found to have a beginning, far from undermining St Thomas' thinking, actually strengthened it a hundredfold. His hotly contested reasoning concerning an eternal universe was no longer an issue. Far more important was his philosophy about a first cause or prime mover. This sat perfectly well with the cosmological discovery that creation had a beginning.

  • Not much here for atheists really, for example number 7 is just telling us what we believe.

    With respect to Free Will, most atheists I've encountered accept free will, or are compatabalists. I do not hold to any noun of free will, nor do I assert I have the free will to take this position. Whether I a free to proclaim this depends on the facts surrounding my ability to express myself. These facts allow it and I proclaim it.

    Nothing about determinism breaks any laws of physics or logic. It is a perfectly coherent position.

    I can accept that Christianity has influenced the development of science, even that Christian belief was instrumental in the development of modern scientific theory. I do think that saying Christianity gave birth to science is misleading as it ignores the important influences of cultures and individuals hundreds and thousands of years before Christianity as well as the many non-Christians who have been instrumental to science.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    Of course you do not pray the Creed, but hopefully you can appreciate the logical consistency of an all-or-none Christian worldview.

    But it is not logically consistent. I certainly don't find all or nothing worldviews praiseworthy. Our world has many touches of grey.

    Anything less falls short of a belief in a Creator of all things.

    Obviously false.

    If you point that deficiency out to Christians who make distinctions between “random, chance nature” and “intelligent design,” you have a valid point

    I'm not sure what this sentence even means.

    The difference in dogma and doctrine is poorly understood

    If you believe something merely because someone tells you its true, it doesn't really matter what you call it, it is bad practice.

    We do not hold true to the existence of the soul, the beginning of Creation, and the miracles of Christ blindly in faith, but rather as a reasoned assent in faith, not unlike the reasoned assent students make when they are taught about atoms.

    The chasm separating atoms and souls is wide and deep. There are much better reasons to believe in atoms than souls. However, if you want to believe in souls and demons and whatever else, I don't really care. What I do care about is when "reasoned assent" is used to justify bigotry, tribalism and general ignorance.

    The experience has been much like the leap I took to become a scientist, albeit a much more significant one. I entered the laboratory of Catholic faith, so to speak, and tested the teachings of the Church in my life to see what I could learn.

    One is not like the other.

    We are all encouraged to learn about the development of doctrine, but do not to play armchair theologian and promote your novel opinions as accepted teaching. Forego speculation, as that causes confusion. Instead, read the writings of theologians and communicate their work because the modern dialogue needs communicators.

    I'm not sure whether I should be amused by the irony of Stacy's disapproval of religious speculation when religions are founded on wild speculations and flights of fancy, or if I should be horrified by her disapproval of thinking for oneself.

    Understand that Catholics deal with both reason and faith because we need both to continue our assent in faith, like eagles need both wings to fly.

    One doesn't need reason to have faith.

    The fall and original sin are truths of faith that we do not deny, but speaking for myself, I realize that those dogmas are unprovable by empirical methods—unless you count all the mean and evil things people do to each other as empirical proof, in which case those dogmas have quite a lot of evidence.

    I wonder if any theist will point out the flaws in Stacy's methodology.

    Please do not argue against the claim until you understand it.

    How delightful. I remember the still birth series. It was silly then and it is sill now.

  • neil_pogi

    'Realize that science was born of Christianity.' - when will atheists proclaim with glory and honor that 'science can't prove every thing?'

    they make their own science. when science can't prove that a 'nothing' has creative powers, atheists say it has. mind boggling? that's them!

    what instruments are they using to prove that a 'nothing' has a creative power? a telescope? a microscope? or fanciful imagination?

  • MNb

    "hopefully you can appreciate the logical consistency of an all-or-none Christian worldview."
    Mixed feelings. Too many christians who accept this at one hand claim that they accept science and at the other hand reject it. And I'm not only thinking of IDers and other creationists.

    "The difference in dogma and doctrine is poorly understood."
    Granted, it applies to me as well. I don't think that that difference affects my reason to reject any religious dogma or doctrine.

    "not unlike the reasoned assent students make when they are taught about atoms."
    Eh yes, quite unlike - the difference is crucial.

    "to take the leap of faith and believe in Christ, or not."
    I think that the only valid motivation to believe. As a consequence the believer should stop trying to bolster faith with logic, ie deduction. Belief is not the outcome of deduction when it's about the leap of faith and it's intellectually dishonest to pretend it is.

    "I hope you can show the same respect for theologians."
    They'll have to earn it first. Must I really show the same respect for this theology?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacobus_Capitein

    "Understand that Catholics deal with both reason and faith."
    And I thought your decision was determined by a leap of faith, not by reason.

    "You can invoke science as inductive proof to support a claim that there is no God."
    As a 7 on the scale of Dawkins I strongly disagree. Science uses both induction and deduction. It applies induction to empirical data and hence by definition only can be about our natural reality.
    Like I wrote above the problem only begins, as far as science is involved, when faith claims are made that contradict scientific claims. A typical example is the claim (see - I don't care if you call this dogma or doctrine) that Homo Sapiens has exactly two ancestors. Science says impossible. Now what are you're going to do? Changing this faith claim will not show by any means that there is no god, though, which is my point here.

    "you have no way to even begin to verify such a story."
    Genetics refutes it as far as the story is supposed to have taken place in our natural reality and to be historical.

    "A Catholic can both explore what evolutionary science has to reveal and, simultaneously, believe in the reality of Adam and Eve."
    Nope. The latter denies evolutionary science (assuming you mean natural reality). Sorry.

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/09/18/how-big-was-the-human-population-bottleneck-not-anything-close-to-2/

    Here is another one.

    "St. Thomas Aquinas explains in the Summa Theologiæ that there is an order in nature of causes and effects."
    Modern Physics claims Thomas of Aquino erred. Now what? Redefine what cause and effect mean? That doesn't make all the regular god images any less problematic.

    "You are stuck with the problem of free will."
    Not really. Neuroscience will settle it. Maybe the model of the human brain will have room for a meaningful definition of free will, maybe not. You've got this wrong because of

    "Determinism is a philosophical idea that all events are determined by strict laws of nature."
    This idea is actually the mechanical view, not the deterministic. Quantum Mechanics definitely is not deterministic, but still postulates that "all events can be accurately described by strict laws of nature". The character of those laws of nature highly likely is probabilistic (or QM would be in big trouble). The question hence is if the scientific model of the human brain will have "an order in nature of causes and effects" or (partly) not.

    Another fine example of a probabilistic model (and on a larger scale than QM) is

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brownian_motion

    Also note that physics doesn't have any problem with the word freedom. Example:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degrees_of_freedom_(mechanics)

    Add consciousness (as we should when talking about the human brain) and we are well underway. Problem solved - it won't break any law of physics but rather follow from them.
    Or not. Then I'll become a determinist indeed. Given the available empirical data (especially the fact that researchers are capable of predicting human decisions with an accuracy of 75%) I see plenty of room for naturalistic free will.

    "We define free will as a spiritual power."
    Yeah, so does Jerry Coyne. However that's defining free will out of existence (he is a materialist) and hence a logical fallacy. The proper question is: can free will meaningfully defined on naturalism? I don't see why not.

    "Realize that science was born of Christianity."
    Definitely historically incorrect.

    1. Babylonians started to do observational science long before Jesus was born.
    2. Archimedes and Aristarchus of Samos formulated theories based upon collected empirical data long before Jesus was born. They are still relevant today.
    3. Scientists in India and China never needed christianity to do their job.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_science_and_technology_in_the_Indian_subcontinent
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_science_and_technology_in_China

    Also note that materialistic atheism is older than christianity and has two independent origins:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charvaka

    4. In the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries all intellectuals were christians. None of them did any science. Christian "scientists" (I'm not talking scholastics) between 1100 and 1500 CE merely repeated Aristoteles. Byzantium, where christianity was state religion for 1000 years, didn't make any scientific progress except for the invention of Greek fire. This gap of many centuries cannot be explained if science was born of christianity.

    5. Christians did not found the first European university. Muslims did in Toledo, Spain. It's not a coincidence that only a few years after the Fall of Toledo (1085 CE) Bologna got a university. The purely scientific level never arose above the Greek/Roman level of 400 CE. This only changed when Byzantium fell and many more ancient texts spread throughout Europe.

    6. Modern science as we know it only exists since 200+ years, when scientists (thanks to David Hume) decided to neglect all supernatural explanations. It's no coincidence that only since then believers (far from all) started to actively oppose science.
    I don't think this is a particularly hard claim to understand. I do not claim at all that science was born in an instant as you seem to suggest. As almost always in history it was a gradual process with many influences that moreover has multiple origins. I just reject christian privilege. It makes far more sense to say that on average christianity was neutral on science and is today.

    So please don't strawman me by accusing me of the eternal war of science and religion hypothesis. I tried to read Dickson White's book on it and didn't manage to get past the first few sentences.

    "Please do not argue against the claim until you understand it."
    As long as you hardly clarify what your claim exactly is it's impossible for me to understand it. So I won't feel guilty if I attacked a strawman as far as you are concerned - I have addressed the versions of "science was born of Christianity" I regularly meet, which you neglect.

    • Darren

      Bravo!

    • Peter

      Modern Physics claims Thomas of Aquino erred. Now what? Redefine what cause and effect mean?

      This is your response to the claim: "St. Thomas Aquinas explains in the Summa Theologiæ that there is an order in nature of causes and effects."

      In what way did he err? Can you be more specific.

      • MNb

        According to Modern Physics nature is probabilistic. Hence there is no order of causes and effects. For instance the exact time a given radioactive atom will decay doesn't have a cause.

        • Peter

          A radioactive atom will not decay unless it is radioactive? What makes it so? Does it make itself radioactive? Does the radioactive atom with the properties of decaying over an unspecified time create itself?

          • MNb

            What causes the radioactive atom to decay at moment X and not at moment Y?
            According to Modern Physics there is no such cause. Your questions do not change that (btw they are loaded - they presume causality, which is why I won't answer them).
            If you do have an answer (including mathematical model and possible experiments)I suggest you to write an article for a scientific magazine. The Nobel Price for Physics is waiting for you.
            Until then I maintain that there is no order of causes and effects. That you describe some events in terms of causality doesn't mean you can describe all events that way. Thomas of Aquino thought so and hence was wrong.

          • Peter

            The inability to specify the time a radioactive atom will decay applies uniformly across the cosmos, just as the uncertainty principle applies uniformly across the cosmos. They are both fixed laws of nature, fixed in the sense that there is no deviation from the fact that they are unspecified or uncertain.

            These laws apply universally and unchangeably like all the laws of nature. All these laws determine the behaviour of things. They are responsible for the behaviours of all the processes which combined to bring the radioactive atom into being and for behaving the way it does.

            It is absurd to label a phenomenon that depends on the laws of nature causeless.

          • MNb

            "All these laws determine the behaviour of things. They are responsible for the behaviours of all the processes which combined to bring the radioactive atom into being and for behaving the way it does."
            Nope, they don't. Things behave like they behave. All these laws merely describes that behaviour.
            That may be absurd - the probabilistic descriptions also are correct. Causal descriptions are incorrect. That's what matters. Hence Thomas of Aquino was wrong.

            "The inability to specify the time a radioactive atom will decay."
            Unfortunately for Thomas of Aquino and you we totally are specify the probability that the radioactive atom will decay within a give time interval.
            So we can't specify the moment, let alone the cause; we can specify the probability of a given time interval.
            The foundation of our Universe is probability. Einstein was wrong. If there is a god he plays dice. That's not the god Thomas of Aquino worshipped. He was wrong.

          • Peter

            First, who am I to question your dogmatic beliefs?
            However, returning to reason, you say:

            All these laws merely describe that behaviour.

            The laws of nature do not merely describe behaviour; they predict behaviour and hence they determine behaviour. I can predict what will happen to our sun because of the laws of nature. These laws will determine our sun's fate; they are the cause of its fate.

            The laws I have described correctly predict the behaviour of radioactive atoms, which is that the time of their decay cannot be specified, just as they predict without fail that both the position and momentum of a particle cannot be determined.

            There is absolutely nothing probabilistic about it; these laws are rock solid, at all places and at all times. They determine how a radioactive atom will behave; they cause that behaviour.

          • Will

            Laws in physics get violated, because they are simply approximate descriptions of what happens:

            The principle of matter conservation may be considered as an approximate physical law that is true only in the classical sense, without consideration of special relativity and quantum mechanics. It is approximately true except in certain high energy applications.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservation_of_mass#Exceptions_or_caveats_to_mass.2Fmatter_conservation

            Exactly how can the law of Conservation of Mass "cause" anything? In general, all scientific laws of "ceteris paribus" meaning "all other things being equal". Here is a violation of the 2nd law of thermodynamics on a nano scale:

            http://phys.org/news/2014-03-nanoparticle-laser-temporarily-violates-law.html

            Within current physics (specifically quantum field theory) it is correct to say that everything happens is do to interactions of quantum fields, but sometimes clear causation and rules are lost in those interactions.
            What I am saying here is mainstream in philosophy of science, nothing controversial. For a detailed discussion you can check out this link if you are interested.

            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ceteris-paribus/

            None of this, of course, matters as to whether God exists, as far as I can tell.

          • MNb

            Ah, the apologist is confronted with some inconvenient facts and then starts throwing around some wild accusations. Very entertaining. Log and splinter, Peter, log and splinter. But hey - if you call accepting the hard facts dogmatic and sticking to wishful thinking undogmatic, yeah, then I'm dogmatic.

            "they predict behaviour and hence they determine behaviour"
            Non-sequitur and even self-refuting. Many predictions of the laws of nature have made wrong predictions, including causal ones formulated by Newton and his colleagues.
            Also they do not predict at what moment exactly a radioactive atom will decay. So even within your own fallacious logic the laws of nature do not determine the behaviour of that radioactive atom.

            "These laws will determine our sun's fate; they are the cause of its fate."
            Merely repeating your error does nothing to remedy it. It's a strong sign of ..... do I dare to say it? Yes! ..... dogmatism.

            "The laws I have described correctly predict the behaviour of radioactive atoms, which is that the time of their decay cannot be specified, just as they predict without fail that both the position and momentum of a particle cannot be determined."
            Which means that those laws are not causal. Also those laws, as I already pointed out, allow us to calculate the probability that a radioactive atom will decay within a given time interval. Probability. Probabilism. No causality (or rather an extension as causality is nothing but a special case of probabilism, namely with correlation 0 or 1).

            Another example is quantum tunnelling. According to causal physics it's impossible to walk through a wall. According to quantum physics it is - the probability is just incredibly low. There is no cause that tells why one time it happens and all the other times it doesn't. There is no law of nature that "determines" when exactly it will happen. There is only a law of nature that allows us to calculate the probability. Yup - there is that abhorrent (for you) word again: probability. Probabilism. No order of cause and effect.

            You're simply wrong. As long as you don't tell us the cause making a radioactive atom decay at moment X and not at moment Y, as long as you don't tell us the cause that quantum tunnelling happens one time, but not another there is no causal order in our Universe.
            You can deny and repeat it as often as you like, that doesn't make any difference. Unfortunately I think repeating myself boring. If you again don't add anything new in your next comment but merely repeat your error there will be two options left for me: neglecting you or mocking you. The latter is prohibited, so it will be the first.

          • Peter

            Another example is quantum tunnelling....There is no law of nature that "determines" when exactly it will happen. There is only a law of nature that allows us to calculate the probability.

            I never claimed that every law of nature would predict precisely when something would happen. I claimed that the laws of nature include laws which predict that something would happen at an unspecified time or that some things cannot be simultaneously known. Crucially, I claimed that all these laws hold hard and fast in their predictions at all times and in all places.

            Now you yourself have finally admitted it. You claim that there is a law of nature which allows us to calculate probabilities over things that are unspecified or unknown. Such a law predicts that certain things are unspecified or unknown, precisely as I have claimed.

            It does not allow all things to be unspecified or unknown, just certain particular things. Nor does it allow these particular things to be unspecifIed or unknown at random, but at all times and in all places. It is a fixed law of nature, hard and fast, and, as such, it is responsible for the things we observe.

          • MNb

            "I never claimed ...."
            And I never wrote that you claimed that. I claimed that there is no law of nature that "determines" such things.
            You're boring. So I have only one point left. Your example of the Sun's fate is irrelevant and only shows your lack of understanding. The difference between causality and probability only becomes apparent on atomic scale. You might remember that the Sun is a bit larger. Worse, you bringing up one single example that seems to confirm you views demonstrates that you're not capable of scientific thinking. Your example of the Sun's fate is as well described in probabilistic terms.

            It's so simple I'll repeat it one more time.
            What causes a radioactive atom to decay at moment X and not at moment Y?
            What causes quantum tunneling happening one time but not another time?

            According to Modern Physics there are no such causes. That follows from Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. It says that it's impossible to determine exactly both the position and the velocity of a particle.
            Answer those two questions and you're right. Moreover you're in for a Nobel Price. But you can't, which is why you systematically neglect them and hence rely on dishonest semantic games. Boring.
            You may have the last word. I won't read it like I didn't read after your "I never claimed ..." anymore.
            Bye.

          • Peter

            What causes a radioactive atom to decay at moment X and not at moment Y?
            What causes quantum tunneling happening one time but not another time?

            The natural laws that make it so, such as the uncertainty principle. You yourself call it a principle, and by virtue of it being a principle, it is a natural law. Without such laws, the above could not occur.

            What is dishonest is conflating "classical" with "causal" as you have been doing. Modern physics with its laws of uncertainty contradicts classical physics not causal physics. There is always a cause, as the presence of these laws demonstrates.

    • Whiskyjack

      Very nicely done.

  • cminca

    Science was NOT born of Christianity.
    You can say it all you want......doesn't make it true.

    • Lazarus

      Well. If you're going to start using caps then I suppose we should concede the point.

      Speaking of which. Will you concede then that Christianity played an enormous role in the birth of science as we know it? And that Christianity in this sense is not antithetical to science?

      • cminca

        What I will concede is that the post says "Born of Christianity" which indicates a binary state. That before Christianity science did not exist....that without Christianity science cannot exist.

        This would come as news to the ancient Greeks, the ancient Egyptians, the Chinese, and the Aztecs. Not to mention the Muslim Ottoman empire. All of whom were doing science without the benefit of Christianity.

        "Will you concede then that Christianity played an enormous role in the birth of science as we know it?"

        No--I will concede that Christianity was part of the university systems that were exploring science without any particular influence by said Christianity. I will concede that sometimes religious clerics were studying and making scientific advances--again, without any particular influence by said Christianity. Charles Darwin studies theology at Cambridge. Are we to thank the Catholic Church for the Origin of the Species? I don't think so.

        Stacy and the constant harping on about Jaki is like a psychologist who just can't let go of some of the sillier Freudian theories which everyone else has managed to get beyond.

        • Lazarus

          I would share your discomfort with any binary position. But that Christianity played an enormously important role in the birth of science should properly be conceded in my view. And you certainly need not lean on Jaki alone to establish that argument.

          • cminca

            "And you certainly need not lean on Jaki alone to establish that argument."
            That sentence assumes that I believe Jaki has established that argument. That's called "facts not in evidence".

          • Lazarus

            I meant "you" as in "one", a person, people. You can study several other excellent sources to see the argument made.

          • Doug Shaver

            You can study several other excellent sources to see the argument made.

            I don't deny that the argument has been made. I'm just not taking your word for it that it is a compelling argument.

          • Lazarus

            A tremendous number of your posts make that point, Doug. That you do not take our word for propositions. We get it. But you rejecting solid arguments also does not imply that we need to take your word for anything. Your rejection is simple gainsaying, the lazy ease with which atheism seeks to establish itself. Deny, reject, wait for future evidence, relativism. A negative edifice that is never going to really get anywhere.

          • Doug Shaver

            But you rejecting solid arguments also does not imply that we need to take your word for anything.

            I'm not asking anyone to take my word for anything. When I see an argument, I will offer a counterargument if time and posting space permit. If they don't permit, I will simply state my disagreement (or say nothing at all) while admitting that I cannot defend my position at this time.

            In presenting a counterargument, I am stating my reasons for judging your argument to be less solid than you judge it to be. You may then respond by pointing out any flaws you think you see in my counterargument and thus showing my reasons to be insufficient, but you can't do that just by asserting, "My argument is solid."

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Will you concede then that Christianity played an enormous role in the birth of science as we know it?

        No. Christianity could have never existed and I bet we would still have science.

        And that Christianity in this sense is not antithetical to science?

        What about in the sense that Christians reject science in favor of young earth cosmology, creationism, and harmful psychological practices?

        • Lazarus

          Your reply underscores something which I am starting to notice here on SN and on several other cites as well. Atheism is really a very negative stance, and to me it seems as if it is getting more and more so. For all its insistence on facts and evidence and proof it is often little more than gainsaying and denying existing propositions.

          Here we have a fairly strong historical and established case that Christianity played an enormous role in the establishment of science, and yet this simple historical fact is too much to concede for most atheists, at least on the Internet.

          It is no wonder the movement is not growing. You guys really have nothing to offer. Surely the scientific approach entails making concessions where they are due.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Your reply underscores something which I am starting to notice here on SN and on several other cites as well. Atheism is really a very negative stance, and to me it seems as if it is getting more and more so. For all its insistence on facts and evidence and proof it is often little more than gainsaying and denying existing propositions.

            The problem is that the theists are writing long articles that are horribly inaccurate and wrong. It would take thousands of words to correct all the silliness that is the original post. I simply don't have the time. A simple no this is completely wrong is all I really have the desire to type out. If you want better atheist comments you need better material. These sort of articles that we are given ever week or so are pointless. Lately I've just been ignoring SN altogether. This article though was particularly infuriating for its complete wrongness while being arrogant at the same time.

            At EN it took three paragraphs (I could have written three times that) to just to begin comment on why one of Stacy's sentences is wrong. Why would I want to write more? What good would it do?

            http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/2016/06/estranged-notions-10-keys-on-faith-and.html#comment-2721295544

            Here we have a fairly strong historical and established case that Christianity played an enormous role in the establishment of science, and yet this simple historical fact is too much to concede for most atheists, at least on the Internet.

            Are you referring to the Stillbirth series? I would not call that an established case. Or are you referring to something else?

            By the way, Stacy's claim is that Christianity is a necessary condition for science.

            It is no wonder the movement is not growing. You guys really have nothing to offer. Surely the scientific approach entails making concessions where they are due.

            If you want me to concede that Christianity had an enormous influence on science than you will have to make a case. Is Newton responsible for Newtonian physics or is Christianity responsible for Newtonian physics?

            Atheists have plenty to offer. A life free of superstition for starters.

          • Lazarus

            I'm not familiar with the Stillbirth series at all.
            I have more in mind something like "God's Philosophers" by James Hannam. It's a complex argument that deserves a book-length treatment. And there are several other books that really move this argument beyond speculation or apologetics.

            I find it increasingly amusing to see people so focused on facts and evidence simply ignoring those facts and evidence when it suits them. We are all guilty of that, but can we stop wearing the super-hero cape of rationality and the scientific method when we do so?

            To establish that last sentence of yours as accurate you of course need to establish Christianity as superstition. You have not done so, in my view. In fact, atheism has quite a few superstitions of their own. It's of course uncool to say so.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Don't read the stillbirth series. It is bad. It also causes brain damage. I haven't read your book.

            I don't really want to talk about general people. It is too ambiguous. Are there particular facts and evidence that I am ignoring? Now I wear the super-hero cape of rationality and science, because I look very good in it. Just to reiterate - very good. :-D

            Is beating yourself to placate God's wrath and end the Bubonic Plague a superstition?

            What would you consider to be atheism largest superstition? I'm sure all humans have superstitions. The difference is that religion coat them with a veneer of sacredness and untouchability.

          • Lazarus

            Atheism accepts several things on faith, we have dealt with that here on SN. If faith and superstition means accepting something (even provisionally) whilst such proposition has not been proven (yet) by the scientific method, then atheism is awash in it. You accept that the universe had a naturalistic origin, that abiogenesis can, or will be, explained without reference to a creator, that human consciousness is a natural phenomenon, that the only real and true method to arrive at facts are via the scientific method and empiricism and on and on. Even the atheist fallback position whereby science will arrive at naturalistic answers is taken on faith.

            Thrown in dogmatic assertions about how atheism should be understood, it's real content, a few heresies and a few atheist popes with funny hats and you have yourself a modern religion, with all the bells and whistles. Of course, one of its dogmas is that it isn't a religion.

          • Will

            Secular Humanism is almost certainly a religion. One could use the word "ideology" instead but what's really the difference. The same could be said for communism and capitalism, they are both human created works of fiction with no basis in reality. I wouldn't confuse any of this for atheism, as there have been atheists who have been humanists, communists and even Nazis, all of which represent separate religions. Saying atheism is a religion is like saying theism is a religion. Theism encompasses a wide variety of religions, the most simplistic of which is Deism which is a naturalistic religion.
            I don't think anyone in their right mind would deny that Christians played a huge role in the scientific revolution. Certain philosophical views, including a mechanistic conception of nature, were also critical. None of this depends directly on Christianity itself, as witnessed by the scientific success of tons of non-Christians.

          • Doug Shaver

            Are we as free to decide for ourselves what Christians believe or don't believe as you are to decide for yourself what atheists believe or don't believe?

          • Lazarus

            You regularly tell us what we believe and worse, what we should believe. But when we do so there is great offence taken. Do you notice the hypocrisy?

          • Doug Shaver

            You regularly tell us what we believe and worse

            No, I don't think I do. Or were you referring to atheists in general?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Atheism accepts several things on faith, we have dealt with that here on SN.

            And it is almost always an equivocation on the word faith.

            If faith and superstition means accepting something (even provisionally) whilst such proposition has not been proven (yet) by the scientific method, then atheism is awash in it.

            This is not what faith or superstition means. Presently I'd like to deal just with superstition. Superstition deals with causality. It is superstitious to believe that beating yourself will end the bubonic plague. It is superstitious to believe that the stars influence your personality. It is superstitious to believe that faith will move mountains or let you handle snakes. Faith healing is a superstition.
            Given this, what are the atheists superstitions?

          • Lazarus

            I think you have defined yourself to victory, but let's work with that. If superstition deals with causality, and there is then a hope, a purported link between a cause and a result that is, or may be, an unfounded hope or expectation, then the atheist view on the universe being created from nothing by natural causes may well be the biggest superstition yet. There are others.

          • Doug Shaver

            Atheism accepts several things on faith

            Not if we define faith as the catechism defines it.

          • Lazarus

            Atheism is starting to develop a few of its own catechisms.

          • Doug Shaver

            A catechism needs an authority. The Catholic Church has one. We don't.

          • Lazarus

            I agree, but tell that to people like Michael Sherlock and his "The Gospel of atheism and freethought", or David Silverman with his "Fighting God : an atheist manifesto", or Peter Bogossian who gave us "A manual for creating atheists". Read those books and note the dogma, the criticism of heresies, the creation of an atheist catechism. Note the ugly debates John Loftus or Richard Carrier or PZ Myers or Jerry Coyne regularly launches when some atheist steps outside the accepted boundaries and conventions, boundaries defined by themselves.

            Atheism has become that which it hates in Christianity.

          • Doug Shaver

            Atheism has become that which it hates in Christianity.

            That is one way to perceive it. The way I perceive it is that many atheists hypocritically exhibit the very characteristics they so sternly denounce when Christians exhibit them.

            And by the way, have you ever argued that the bad behavior of some Christians cannot be taken to discredit Christianity?

          • Lazarus

            This is not a problem that Christianity has. We admit that we are a religion, that we have dogmas, that we take certain matters on faith. It is atheism that seeks to deny those aspects, against the evidence, while seeking to take the moral and intellectual high-ground.

          • Doug Shaver

            [Deleted because of premature posting.]

          • Lazarus

            You are not accurately reflecting my point on Christianity.
            And we are not, or at least I am not, talking about the difference between belief and praxis. I am talking about the hypocrisy and / or lack of self-reflection that atheism shows in this regard. And I would say that this is true of the majority of atheists and of modern atheism in general. If you personally do not seek to deny those aspects you are in a minority group within atheism.

          • Doug Shaver

            You are not accurately reflecting my point on Christianity.

            Then I'm not getting your point.

            And we are not, or at least I am not, talking about the difference between belief and praxis. I am talking about the hypocrisy and / or lack of self-reflection that atheism shows in this regard.

            You appear to be talking about an inconsistency of some sort. Depending on whom you ask, atheism is either nonbelief in any god or else the belief that no god exists. Aside from affirming that there is a god, or else actually thinking that there is a god, nothing that any atheist can do, say, or think can be inconsistent with atheism. So, where is this contradiction that you seem to be perceiving?

          • Lazarus

            Not a contradiction. A failure or unwillingness to accept the characteristics that I have already referred to, and explained.

          • Doug Shaver

            We admit that we are a religion, that we have dogmas, that we take certain matters on faith.

            1. You can redefine religion however it suits your polemical purposes, but what almost every English speaker means by the word "religion," even metaphorically, is a certain kind of belief system. Even if we must define atheism as the belief that no god exists, you still can't call a single piece of anything a system. And you certainly can't make a belief system out of a nonbelief.

            2. That some atheists express some of their opinions dogmatically is evidence of their humanity. It implies nothing about atheism itself.

            3. If faith is nothing more than belief without proof, then any atheist who claims to be without faith is an idiot. There is no contradiction between atheism and the existence of idiotic atheists.

            It is atheism that seeks to deny those aspects, against the evidence, while seeking to take the moral and intellectual high-ground.

            Atheism denies nothing except that there is sufficient reason to believe in any god. If some atheists claim the moral and intellectual high ground, it is because they are no less human than their adversaries. For the same reason, some Christians claim the moral and intellectual high ground -- and, I would argue, with neither more nor less justification.

          • Lazarus

            I think we have made our points. As always, thanks for the discussion.

          • Doug Shaver

            I think we have made our points.

            Looks that way to me.

            As always, thanks for the discussion.

            As always, my pleasure.

          • David Nickol

            I am talking about the hypocrisy and / or lack of self-reflection that atheism shows in this regard.

            I don't see how atheism can be accused of hypocrisy or lack of self-reflection. No doubt some atheists can be accused of these faults, but atheism is not a body of beliefs or knowledge. In the somewhat the same regard, it might be difficult to criticize Christianity of various faults, but since Christianity does have a body of beliefs and knowledge claims, one could at least say something like hypocrisy is widespread among Christians, which could at least approach being a statement about Christianity itself.

            An example might be materialism (in the sense of consumerism). It would be a remarkably different world if Christianity (or the vast majority of Christians) took seriously what Jesus said about riches. And certain "brands" of Christianity seem even to completely reverse the teachings of Jesus into the "prosperity Gospel." But I don't see how atheism can be accused of doing anything similar. Atheists in some ways fall into a similar category as "non-Catholics"—they have no coherent body of beliefs, even if some atheists set themselves up as spokespersons.

            A Christian can make some plausible claim to speak for other Christians of all Christians, but I don't see how an atheist can set himself or herself up to speak for other atheists except for making some very basic statement about God not existing.

          • Lazarus

            That is a rather naive view, with all respect, David. Have a look at the New Atheists, Atheism+, the Reason Rally, and the books I mentioned in my discussion with Doug.

            Maybe not here on SN, but atheism is organized and can most certainly be perceived as a body where certain trends are established and pursued. I know that this goes against the grain for some of the solo flyers, but the evidence is there.

          • Darren

            Lazarus wrote,

            I find it increasingly amusing to see people so focused on facts and evidence simply ignoring those facts and evidence when it suits them.

            For the record, I am not committed either way to the truth of the OP's argument. My fond appreciation for antibiotics and sewage treatment does not establish the truth of the resurrection any more than my appreciation for finely mixed barley, yeast, water, and hops establishes the truth of monasticism. God bless those hard-working monks, though, credit where credit is due.

            So, I am not invested any more or less if Christianity played an important role in the history or science than whether rampant disease, the quarrelsome nature of Europeans, or the amount of snow falling in Germany was the key factor. The OP's argument, as is typical of simple answers to complicated questions, fails on its merits. I'll not go into detail, but will propose a quick sanity check. If there is something inherent in Christianity (or more specifically Catholic Christianity if I read the OP correctly) particularly felicitous to the development and propagation of science, then a simple plot of scientific progress .vs. Catholic influence will show correlation. We would expect little to no science prior to about 250 C.E., little to none anywhere other than Europe, the greatest advancement between 250 C.E. to 1,500 C.E., a drop in advancement after the Renaissance when Christian dominance first began to wane, and a precipitous drop after the Enlightenment.

            This is not what we see. Correlation may not prove causality, but you'd better at least start with correlation.

          • Lazarus

            Read Hannam's "God's Philosophers" and see for yourself what a convincing case can be presented, including the concerns you raise. Again, I think that the "birth" meant as a sole and exclusive cause is wildly overstated, but I must insist on Christianity playing a huge role there. It is the rejection of this simple fact that makes me shake my head at the strange reluctance by some to concede the bleeding obvious ;)

          • Doug Shaver

            It is the rejection of this simple fact that makes me shake my head at the strange reluctance by some to concede the bleeding obvious ;)

            So obvious . . . and yet the only ones who can see it are those who already believe it.

          • Atheism is really a very negative stance, and to me it seems as if it is getting more and more so. For all its insistence on facts and evidence and proof it is often little more than gainsaying and denying existing propositions.

            I want to push back on this a bit. My observation is that there's a whole lot of false crap believed by Christians, and the disease got bad enough that a pretty drastic cure was needed. I recall a First Things article focusing on the noble role atheists can play and that believers should respect it more, but sadly I cannot find it now.

            The rise of nominalism can be seen in the same way: Christians were obsessed with the will of God, made that the be-all and end-all, and precipitated a nuclear holocaust on philosphical, ethical, and aesthetic reasoning. (I agree with Colin E. Gunton.) The only way to open back up the closed system at the time was to shatter it. Hearts of stone get shattered so that a hearts of flesh can take their place; hearts of flesh can actually change and grow.

            Furthermore, I suggest comparing and contrasting the quality of typical Christian apologetics and typical atheistic attacks on Christianity. I'm not sure the qualities are all that different. If Christians have divine power, where is it? 2 Tim 3:1–5 comes to mind. I don't think our situation is hopeless—here I'm with Jacques Ellul—but I do think what we see should serve as a wake-up call. There is validity to "Physician, heal thyself!", at least when the physician is not absorbing the brokenness of others as I'm told was believed possible in Jesus' time.

            Here we have a fairly strong historical and established case that Christianity played an enormous role in the establishment of science, and yet this simple historical fact is too much to concede for most atheists, at least on the Internet.

            Ahhh, but Christianity also gave rise to atheism, allowing atheists to say that the same things which led to atheism also led to science. I don't want to concede too much to atheists on this matter, but there are an awful lot of arguments by apologists which have grievous errors. Those who are not skilled in distinguishing between what is kalos and what is kakos (Heb 5:14) are liable to reject a thing if it has any ugliness at all. I see this as a call to Christians to step up their game.

          • David Hardy

            Your reply underscores something which I am starting to notice here on
            SN and on several other cites as well. Atheism is really a very negative
            stance, and to me it seems as if it is getting more and more so. For
            all its insistence on facts and evidence and proof it is often little
            more than gainsaying and denying existing propositions.

            Hello Lazarus,

            I wanted to briefly offer a thought on this subject. Atheism might come across as negative, but that is in part because it is generally used as the identifier for a negative position. By that, I mean that, when a person describes a site as "atheist" or a site such as this invites "atheists" to speak at it, the common denominator for those so described is the rejection of a theistic position. By its nature, such sites are likely to have numerous examples of the atheists rejecting or challenging the primary positions being offered. One can talk about "God" or talk about "not God", but either way, the primary idea being discussed is God, and the difference is whether the idea is being presented from an affirmative or negative stance.

            If one wanted a site where atheists took positive positions and explained them, it is unlikely that it would be a site describing itself as atheist. God is not going to be a primarily topic or concern among those that do not believe in God and are not talking with those who do. It would be necessary to find a subject or subjects that those involved do view as being of central importance within their worldview. Trying to find such subjects would also involve some limiting, since there are many worldviews that do not believe in God and also disagree on what is the appropriate paradigm through which one should understand reality. These, however, would be the "movements" if that is the right word for them, and I would suggest that they vary greatly in whether they are growing or shrinking, and in how much they have to offer.

          • Lazarus

            Hello David

            As always, I enjoy your thoughts and it leaves me with much to consider. I have no qualms with your views.

            I do however believe that atheism, as a movement , as an Internet phenomenon, is really a terribly negative proposition. A lot of the arguments are simple denials, calls for proof, punting to future possibilities and so on.

            To my experience of atheism as a negative sales package I must add my perception that quite a body of its internet adherents are really very shrill, dogmatic and quite regimented in their dogmas and rejections of heresies. If you need any examples, have a look at the quite religious spats between Loftus and Parsons, Carrier and everybody, JT and Neil Carter.

            I am of course not saying that these views cannot or should not be expressed. I find solid atheism to be extremely interesting, and I read and enjoy its development. If I was the atheist pope though ( joke, humor, please note) I would be underwhelmed by atheism's showing in recent years.

            While the nones are growing, I would think that atheism itself, in its guises as the New Atheists or Atheism +, is losing a lot of its appeal and attraction. Some of that I would ascribe to its inherent negativity.

            I suggest that atheism's message, while inherently a grim one, can and should be presented in a far more constructive and positive light for it to ever be a really serious movement. If you are still with me so far, how would we assess the atheism that we generally find here on SN? In my view the atheist arguments here very often amount to nothing other than criticism, denial and gainsaying. No positive arguments (or very little) are presented.

            Now obviously that could be a simple consequence of the fact that generally speaking atheism simply denies the probability of a god(s), in which case that would be all the atheist really has in her repertoire. A site like SN simply highlights, to me at least, how vastly different the world views are.

          • David Hardy

            Hello Lazarus,

            I enjoy your thoughts as well. As my post hopefully indicates, I do think that theist-atheist conversations can turn into argument-counterargument, with theists on the side of defending their views, though I do not think this is always (possibly not even often, though I could be wrong), due to either theists or atheists wanting to end up in these positions.

            To my experience of atheism as a negative sales package I must add my
            perception that quite a body of its internet adherents are really very
            shrill, dogmatic and quite regimented in their dogmas and rejections of
            heresies.

            I would agree, but expand this to many people on the internet in general. The format, which takes away tone, body language and other social cues, makes it far easier to misunderstand and be unkind to others, despite the value of being able to speak to others from many different places and perspectives. I think the admonition I have heard about avoiding discussions of religion and politics also has a kernel of truth, since these speak to how people should live and make sense of their lives, and so are deeply personal for many who hold them. The more personal and emotionally charged, the more likely it is to turn negative when challenged, and simply by holding a different view, others can be seen as challenging it.

            While the nones are growing, I would think that atheism itself, in its
            guises as the New Atheists or Atheism +, is losing a lot of its appeal
            and attraction.

            I do not find the New Atheist movement to be supported by what research is available on the effect of religion on people (although it is admittedly hard to study the effect of religion due to the need for this to be in a naturalistic format that precludes causal conclusions). I also find that those who are highly aggressive about trying to bring about the end of religion are, in process, little different that someone of any worldview who is convinced that the problem is that other, wrong (in the eyes of the person) views exist. It is always my hope that a person who expresses his or her views with hostility towards outside views transform to allow for more respectful and collaborative dialogue.

            I suggest that atheism's message, while inherently a grim one, can and
            should be presented in a far more constructive and positive light for it
            to ever be a really serious movement.

            While I would not say the message is inherently grim (and would happy to expand on that if you are interested), I would agree that, ideally, conversation would expand from one position and its counters to an exchange of ideas among worldviews. As I said in the last post, though, this seems difficult to achieve. Perhaps the ideal would be to balance the number of articles that make positive theistic claims with those that make positive claims common in an atheistic worldview. However, finding a consensus among atheists would be as hard as finding a consensus among theists, so it may need to be more focused, and then there would still be an issue of obtaining representative articles.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            If you are still with me so far, how would we assess the atheism that we generally find here on SN? In my view the atheist arguments here very often amount to nothing other than criticism, denial and gainsaying. No positive arguments (or very little) are presented.

            There is just too much wrong with the OPs to do much more than state that it is wrong and offer brief criticism. It all starts with the OPs.

          • Lazarus

            Do the articles not simply state the Catholic view?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I wouldn't say so. I think they articulate a conservative Catholic view, but certainly not the Catholic view.

            I would hope a Catholic could disagree with :

            Of course you do not pray the Creed, but hopefully you can appreciate the logical consistency of an all-or-none Christian worldview. Anything less falls short of a belief in a Creator of all things.

            because the bolded does not logically follow.

            AND

            We do not hold true to the existence of the soul, the beginning of Creation, and the miracles of Christ blindly in faith, but rather as a reasoned assent in faith, not unlike the reasoned assent students make when they are taught about atoms.

            because one of these is not like the other.

            AND

            Forego speculation, as that causes confusion.

            AND

            People on both sides tend to forget that proofs are like glasses of water. You can set down all the water you want in the fanciest crystal, but you cannot force a person to drink it in. That is why I inject personal perception. Proofs helped me think things through, but granting assent to conclusions was the work of the intellect and the will.

            because a catholic could view the proofs as unsound. Even better there are Catholics (thankfully) who aren't nearly this arrogant.

            AND

            Be assured that physics cannot explain free will.

            Why? If a catholic can believe that physical processes can explain the diversification of species, why couldn't she believe that physical processes could give rise to free will?

            AND

            The fall and original sin are truths of faith that we do not deny, but speaking for myself, I realize that those dogmas are unprovable by empirical methods—unless you count all the mean and evil things people do to each other as empirical proof, in which case those dogmas have quite a lot of evidence.

            This is just methodologically wrong and horribly so.

            AND

            Realize that science was born of Christianity.

            This is the Catholic view now?
            These articles aren't the Catholic view. They are something quite different. I'm really not sure what you would have us atheists do.

          • Lazarus

            I really don't understand this ongoing frustration of yours. The examples you mentioned are generally the Catholic view, and I don't expect many Catholics to argue much with them. You seem surprised that we ... hold a Catholic view. I'm really not sure what you would have us Catholics do? ;)

      • I forget if I've pasted this at you; I think you'll like it:

            Medieval theologians engaged in a new and unique genre of hypothetical reasoning. In order to expand the logical horizon of God's omnipotence as far as could be, they distinguished between that which is possible or impossible de potentia Dei absoluta as against that which is so de potentia Dei ordinata. This distinction was fleshed out with an incessant search for orders of nature different from ours which are nonetheless logically possible. Leibniz's contraposition of the nécessité logique (founded on the law of noncontradiction) and the nécessité physique (founded on the principle of sufficient reason) has its roots in these Scholastic discussions, and with it the questions about the status of laws of nature in modern philosophies of science. But medieval hypothetical reasoning did not serve future metatheoretical discussions alone. The considerations of counterfactual orders of nature in the Middle Ages actually paved the way for the formulation of laws of nature since Galileo in the following sense: seventeenth-century science articulated some basic laws of nature as counterfactual conditionals that do not describe any natural state but function as heuristic limiting cases to a series of phenomena, for example, the principle of inertia. Medieval schoolmen never did so; their counterfactual yet possible orders of nature were conceived as incommensurable with the actual structure of the universe, incommensurable either in principle or because none of their entities can be given a concrete measure. But in considering them vigorously, the theological imagination prepared for the scientific. This is the theme of my third chapter. (Theology and the Scientific Imagination, 10–11)

        So much for those Scholastics being useless doofuses.

        • Lazarus

          Wonderful stuf, thank you.

      • Doug Shaver

        Will you concede then that Christianity played an enormous role in the birth of science as we know it?

        Not without seeing far better evidence than I've seen so far.

        And that Christianity in this sense is not antithetical to science?

        The set of religious beliefs that I perceive to be definitive of Christianity are indifferent to science, neither promoting it nor opposing it. Those beliefs are summarized in the Apostles' Creed.

        It is obviously true that many Christians have interpreted their faith in a way that promotes scientific inquiry. For some of those Christians, scientific inquiry is even itself an expression of their faith, akin to an act of worship. But it is just as obviously true that for many other Christians, scientific inquiry is, at least in many specific instances, the devil's own work.

        • Not without seeing far better evidence than I've seen so far.

          Does this excerpt I just told Lazarus about qualify as "better evidence", if not "far better evidence"?

          • Doug Shaver

            I got a 404 error when I clicked on that link.

          • Hmm, somehow #c got deleted. Fixed.

          • Doug Shaver

            Thank you. Response to follow.

          • Doug Shaver

            Luke, not much help there, I'm afraid. When I speak of evidence in this context, I'm thinking of one or (preferably) both of the following, from primary sources or reliable secondary sources:

            1. Statements by the earliest scientists or natural philosophers in which they explicitly credited doctrines unique to Christianity for whatever confidence they had in the orderliness and intelligibility of the universe.

            2. Statements by theologians or other Christian intellectuals, prior to the ascendency of modern science, explicitly endorsing the various methodologies now regarded as characteristic of scientific inquiry.

        • Lazarus

          So - you will only concede Christianity's role here when all Christians accept science? Most?

          • Doug Shaver

            If you tell me that modern science owes its existence to Christianity, I'll assume that you're talking about whatever version of Christianity you accept.

  • Peter

    The idea of Christianity giving rise to science comes from the Christian belief that God is the rational author of nature who in ordered fashion lays down universal and unchanging laws throughout creation. Recognition of such laws, of their order and of their universality and unchangeability, prompted early Christian scientists to be the first in human history to methodically seek them out and discover how they operated.
    In doing so, they developed the scientific method.

    • Or, ancient ideas of a natural order from a Hellenic heritage were finally able to flourish in Western Europe, mainly in protestant countries, that had broken from the suppression of new ideas and free thought as advanced by the Catholic church.

      Moreover, the view that the cosmos obeys unchanging universal natural laws is a naturalist position and position entirely consistent with atheism. It is not a view that fits well with theism which must accept that there is no such thing as "natural" laws unchanging, universal laws, but rules imposed by a deity who can suspend, modify and change them as it sees fit.

      There is nothing in Christianity that requires the forces of nature to act in accordance with unchangeable laws, rather Christian theology is replete with the most important events in history: the creation of the universe, the ensoulment of humans, resurrection, miracles, as being aberrations or suspensions of any otherwise natural order.

      The worldview that advances unchangeable and universal natural laws is naturalism.

      • Peter

        The idea that fixed natural laws come from atheism/naturalism is nonsense.

        You only have to read Jeremiah 33: 25-26.

        • Darren

          That was awesome...

        • Doug Shaver

          You only have to read Jeremiah 33: 25-26

          Right. The Bible says it, you believe it, and that settles it.

          • Peter

            The early Christian scientists believed it and that's what prompted them to be the first in human history to methodically identity the laws of nature and discover how they operate.

          • Doug Shaver

            that's what prompted them to be the first in human history to methodically identity the laws of nature and discover how they operate.

            Because they read and believed Jeremiah 33:25-26? Is that what you're saying?

          • Peter

            Scripture and tradition would have given them a sure understanding of God as universal lawgiver and a confident awareness of universal laws. Inspired by this confidence, they proceeded methodically to identify them and study them.

          • Doug Shaver

            Scripture and tradition would have given them a sure understanding of God as universal lawgiver and a confident awareness of universal laws.

            You may interpret scripture and tradition that way. How do I know that the pioneers of modern science all did?

          • Peter

            Most of them were priests, religious or very devout people.

          • Doug Shaver

            Most of them were priests, religious or very devout people.

            Have all priests, religious, and very devout people always interpreted scripture and tradition as you interpret them?

          • Peter

            Apparently the pioneers of modern science did.

          • Doug Shaver

            What makes it apparent? Have you got a quotation from any of those pioneers where they credit their belief in scripture and tradition for their confidence in universal laws?

          • Peter

            Who needs quotations? The actions of clergy, religious and devout laity as pioneers of modern science speak for themselves. Given their common background, where else would that confidence come from?

          • Doug Shaver

            Who needs quotations?

            You tell me.

            The actions of clergy, religious and devout laity . . . speak for themselves.

            That's what I hear from people who say that religion inspires people to do evil things.

          • Peter

            When was the last time that Christian clergy, religious or devout laity collectively did evil things because of their Christian belief?

            And when was the last time that pagans (e,g. Nazis) or atheists (e.g. Soviets) did evil things because of their pagan or atheist beliefs?

          • Doug Shaver

            When was the last time that Christian clergy, religious or devout laity collectively did evil things because of their Christian belief?

            I'm not saying they ever did. I'm just noting that the people who do say they did talk the same way you do about actions telling the whole story about motivations.

          • cminca

            Peter--
            To answer your first question--one only need look at the cover up of the priest child abuse scandal to answer that question. Bishops hid child molesters in order to protect the Catholic Church.
            As for your second--your position is entirely false. Neither the Nazi's or the Soviets did evil because of pagan or atheistic beliefs. They did it to protect the state from perceived harm. In the case of the Nazis they viewed the Jews as an inferior RACE. The Jewish religion had little to do with it. (They identified converted and non-religious Jews as Jews. They identified Jews based on degree of blood--not religiosity.)
            Neither pagan or atheistic belief had anything to do with it.

          • Darren

            Doug Shaver wrote,

            Have you got a quotation from any of those pioneers where they credit their belief in scripture and tradition for their confidence in universal laws?

            “In the first place we render thanks to God, for the very excellence of the order of His creation.”

            ~ Avicenna, from his Canon of Medicine, standard medical textbook in Europe until the 18th century.

          • Doug Shaver

            Thanks, Darren.

      • Or, ancient ideas of a natural order from a Hellenic heritage were finally able to flourish in Western Europe, mainly in protestant countries, that had broken from the suppression of new ideas and free thought as advanced by the Catholic church.

        This disagrees with a great deal of what I've read in scholarly literature. What are your sources? By the way, the notion of a kosmos in Hellenistic thought involved an order not just of nature, but also society. Fact and value were joined at the hip. This is manifestly not the order which shows up in the naturalism of the Enlightenment.

        Moreover, the view that the cosmos obeys unchanging universal natural laws is a naturalist position and position entirely consistent with atheism. It is not a view that fits well with theism which must accept that there is no such thing as "natural" laws unchanging, universal laws, but rules imposed by a deity who can suspend, modify and change them as it sees fit.

        Pay attention to the metaphorical language: a law is something imposed by a lawgiver. YHWH gave laws. As to the alleged problem with "unchanging unviersal natural laws", see Leibniz's theistic case against Humean miracles and Christian Naturalism. Your objection just doesn't work against all forms of Christianity which can be reasonably called 'orthodox'. In particular, it is odd for a timeless being to need to modify laws intead of build the appropriate potentialities into creation from the get-go. You're infected by Humean miracles. Drop those and the obsolete mechanical philosophy and you'll see your objections vanish.

  • "Understand that Catholics deal with both reason and faith because we
    need both to continue our assent in faith, like eagles need both wings
    to fly."

    Why not just reason? Is faith somehow not reasonable? She describes a "leap of faith" required by Catholicism, what is a leap of faith?

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Do you know through reason that inductive reasoning is valid? Have you nonetheless decided to trust that you can go about your life as if inductive reasoning is valid? If so, you have taken a leap of faith. It is not an unreasonable move, it is just an "areasonable" move. It goes beyond reason.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Accepting inductive reasoning and taking a leap of faith into a religion are not at all similar.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          Accepting inductive reasoning and taking a leap of faith into a religion are extremely similar.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            1) Inductive reasoning is foundational. Religious claims are not.

            2) Inductive reasoning gives consistent answers. Religions give contradictory answers depending on which religion you are leaping into.

            3) Using inductive reasoning is pragmatic and does not contradict other reasoned truths. However, when Abraham takes his leap of faith and prepares to execute his only son he is leaping against reasoned ethical qualms.

            3b) Or in other words, it is reasonable to accept inductive reasoning, but it is unreasonable to make leaps of faith into religions, because there are too many reasons to reject religion.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            1. Foundational to what? Religious claims are foundational in the sense that they shape our basic orientation to reality. How much more foundational can a claim be?

            2. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I suppose my experience is colored by a career working as a statistician with biological data. People bring a lot of different assumptions to the table, look at the same data, and make inferences and projections that are sometimes substantially different. I would say that there is more inconsistency in the religious sphere, but that is to be expected given the normative aspect of religion. Conclusions from the basic sciences generally don't carry normative impetus (and where they do, e.g. with global warming, you start to see exactly the same sorts of holy wars that religions have produced.)

            3. (Speaking from "within the story", and not assuming it to be historical ... ) I agree. I have no idea what Abraham was thinking. That leap of faith does not seem warranted, from my perspective. Of course, I am not privy to the nature of Abraham's experience when "God spoke to him". But in any case, even if that particular leap of faith doesn't seem warranted, that doesn't mean that other leaps of faith might not be warranted.

            3b. I think you are painting with too broad a brush when you speak of "rejecting religion". We'd have to get specific.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            1) Epistemologically. I need rules of inference before I can prove Pythagoreans theorem. I need the parallel postulate before I can show that the angles of a triangle sum to 180 degrees. Rules of inference are more foundational than religious leaps of faith.

            2) Different things. There are multiple sources of error statistical surveys that have nothing to do with induction.

            3) When I hear someone say leap of faith, I think of it as a leap into the dark. A leap beyond and against where our reason might take us. The concept does come from Kierkegaard and Stacy is doing violence to it with her word games.

            3b) Why should I take my leap of faith into Catholicism rather than Islam?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            1. Well, (as you know) the traditional approach is that one's belief in God is grounded somehow in the various preambles of faith. Personally, I go about it the other way entirely. I believe in the preambles of faith because I trust in God, not the other way around. My trust in God is itself the absolute root of my epistemology. My belief in the PSR, in inductive reasoning, all that good stuff, it all stems from my faith in the goodness of God (or, at a more pre-cognitive level, you might just call it my faith in goodness), not the other way round. But that's just me, I guess.

            2. Not that it's material to the point being made, but I don't work on surveys. I work (mostly) with replicated experimental data. Background knowledge and information from various types of (again, mostly) experimental data is integrated via a statistical model, and inferences and predictions are made from that model. The predictions have everything in the world to do with induction, because you are assuming that at least some aspect of the biological process(es) that produced the experimental data will continue to apply in the future context in which you are making the predictions. Another way to say it is that you are assuming that past replicates are exchangeable with future replicates, given sufficient "covariate adjustment" for the differing future conditions.

            3. To the extent that a "leap of faith" is understood to be against reason, I don't support any such leaps of faith.

            3b. If we are really talking about you personally, from what I know, you shouldn't leap in either of those directions at this point in your journey. In any case, if and when you do take such a leap, I wouldn't go flinging yourself in the deep end of the swimming pool right away. I think one tell-tale sign that distinguishes a healthy faith community from a cult is that the healthy community will always allow you to dip your toe in as many times as you want, they will let you play in the shallow end until you want to try out the deep end, etc. You shouldn't have to go in over your head until you are ready. There are many unhealthy cults within Catholicism, of course. I've been lucky to avoid them in my life. But, as for where to dip your toe in first ... beats me! I mean, you've already tried Catholicism, so, try something else for a while, I guess? Taste and see!

          • Will

            If one does not accept inductive reasoning, then one does not think that the sun will come up tomorrow as the only reason to do so is inductive. Comparing accepting the idea that the sun will come up to accepting the resurrection of Jesus along with all of the dogmas is absurd. The problem of induction is simply that inductive arguments never come with a guarantee. To completely reject all inductive arguments would result in paranoid schizophrenia.
            I have nothing against faith, but really?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Its a false dichotomy. Either we are extreme skeptics or religion and induction are on the same playing field. Absurd is the right word.

          • Darren

            Having reasonable confidence that a high-yield nuke, properly placed, will blow the top clean off a small-sized mountain is belief.

            Having absolute confidence that, if you pray really hard, that same mountain will uproot and fly through the air is faith.*

            * and if it doesn't, you must not have prayed hard enough.

          • Hi. (I'm mucking up my nice count of 2440 by posting this but what the....) Your quote: To completely reject all inductive arguments would result in paranoid schizophrenia.

            Yes. I'm taking a chance on being 'incoherent here', as during my last talk with Doug, i definitely have it fixed in my mind, that this results (most often?) from bringing into one's focus disparate elements. But as Nietzsche said, a real paraphrase, - the only way to a higher order is through a chaos....(he was more poetic). So yes, as per the Deleuze book, Schizophrenia and Capitalism, they also point out that this 'going beyond what is known or 'synthesized' can even be a way to 'cope' with capitalism. The artistic way? - may I suggest. So yes, if you can't fit that particular into your given brain registry of memory and imaginative thought you're going to run into some difficulties....but sometimes even with mental illness, it can be the way through the quagmire. as per, for instance. A Beautiful Mind. (The book and film on the mathematician...)

            So the quandary I have with Kant is answered, (for Doug Shaver) at least on a 'high' superficial level. His last book, the Power of Judgment, suggests an inductive reasoning from a particular which may or may not reach a universal.
            Yet it is in the Critique of Pure reason that he introduces The Transcendental Deduction, and also the Analogies of Experience. So as far as I can get with this at the moment, (Doug, are you there) is that the brain? is our reservoir, and language is the overall basis that is a priori. Thus, whether the individual percept, observation, intuition, to be 'inducted' into this 'hall of fame' comes from the external empirical sensations, or from concepts that have already been (like refugees, or prisoners!) documented, (edit: language in some way creates what can be thought to be a priori to experience, perhaps as it is known).

            So it's not just the categories of Kant then, (this is a jump on my part-) that would be THE a priori concepts, but all language, words, etc. generally, as they are incorporated into the systematic organization (well sometimes) of the already 'available Capital'. So, as per Deleuze, the schizo can be a kind of traveler in a strange land, whether it's because of lost memories from trauma, or 'new perceptions' -- (I've got to keep with the humor here) --- which form the 'trauma'. So the on-going crisis (produced by this consideration) will be for me, how to get myself out of this chaos that can be found within the interaction of the inner and external resources/sources of 'experience'... .especially as I have no mathematics to help me. Just the vague 'feeling' that I now do understand why so many philosophers turned to language analysis after Kant, and that yes...I'm learning, and hopefully I'm onto something that will keep me busy and away from these arguments for quite some time. Take care. William.

            But you are taking into account that Spinoza's God, he said, was the only substance, and that mind and matter, (if I can call them that) are but the only two 'attributes' that we 'know' or are 'aware' of within an infinity of what? potentialities, possibilities, actualities...(kinds of attributes?).--didn't go into him 'that' deeply....but I do believe that when he said 'infinite' he was referring to something 'greater' than I could, or would ever be able to 'grasp'.!!! But... I'm not an a-deist!!!!

          • Doug Shaver

            Accepting inductive reasoning and taking a leap of faith into a religion are extremely similar.

            I've done both. I found the two experiences quite dissimilar.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, well, if we are just trading subjective anecdotes, then I've done both too, and I found them to be extremely similar. So there :-)

            Perhaps our subjective differences are explained by:

            1. Perhaps at the time I made a conscious decision to (re-)embrace inductive thinking, I had descended into radical skepticism more deeply than you had when you made the similar movement of the mind, and so it really felt like a leap for me and not for you. I am not picking on you, but I find it really cute that many big tough skeptics who run around these pages, when asked to sincerely doubt induction, say something like, "oh, that's just silly." Yes, doubting induction would lead to something like incoherent paranoia, but that is neither here nor there when it comes to evaluating the truth content. On the typical skeptic's own epistemology, one isn't supposed to just decide what is true based on what makes him or her feel better.

            2. Perhaps my leap of faith into Catholicism was of a different character than your own leap of faith into religion. For example, my leap of faith into Catholicism did not consist of waking up one day and deciding to swallow the whole catechism as a bolus dose. It would have more properly been described as multiple leaps, some of which I am still taking. Not only that, but there have been many "leaps back". It's just that over time, I seem to consistently progress toward greater and greater degrees of trust in what I perceive to be the heart of the tradition. It is almost exactly like the leaps of faith that one takes as one gradually comes to trust another person more and more.

            Anyway, I meant to focus more on the objective similarity rather than the subjective experience. The objective similarity is, again, that neither move is supported by reason. And the objective conclusion is therefore that almost everyone is making a fundamental movement of the mind that is not supported by reason. It is supported by something else, and my question to Brian stands: what is that something else?

          • Lazarus

            Yes,those self-defined skeptics not being skeptical enough. Selective skepticism. Once you start noticing it, it becomes quite amusing.

          • Doug Shaver

            2. Perhaps my leap of faith into Catholicism was of a different character than your own leap of faith into religion.

            That would not surprise me. Depending on how you count such leaps, I might have made three or four into religion over the course of my life, but each was into some version of Protestantism.

            1. Perhaps at the time I made a conscious decision to (re-)embrace inductive thinking, I had descended into radical skepticism more deeply than you had when you made the similar movement of the mind, and so it really felt like a leap for me and not for you.

            I have never perceived my belief in science as a leap of any kind. I don't recall exactly when I read my first science book, but I was probably only 7, certainly not older than 8. I had already acquired (I have no idea how) some rudiments of skeptical thinking, insofar as I was vaguely aware that nothing was true just because I read it in a book (or, for that matter, just because I heard it from a grownup). But what I read in that first science book, and all the ones I read over the next several years, seemed somehow just obviously true, immediately. There seemed to be no leaping involved at all.

            It wasn't until I was approaching adulthood that I started to encounter some credible criticisms of science's epistemology. I was philosophically illiterate at the time (and would remain so until I was approaching old age), but I got the idea that there were some legitimate questions about how science could justify its knowledge claims. I looked for answers off and on for the next several years, but always with the notion at the back of my mind that science rather obviously had to be doing something right. I never got an answer I was entirely satisfied with until I went back to college a few years ago to get a philosophy degree. I had to work on the problem of induction for a couple of my classes, and in due course I solved it -- to my own satisfaction, at any rate, if no one else's.

            I meant to focus more on the objective similarity rather than the subjective experience.

            As I understand "objective," I'm not sure there is an objective similarity. If there were, it would be a similarity that existed independently of anyone's presuppositions and therefore, if perceived at all, would be perceived the same way by all.

            The objective similarity is, again, that neither move is supported by reason. And the objective conclusion is therefore that almost everyone is making a fundamental movement of the mind that is not supported by reason.

            Perhaps we don't mean quite the same thing when we say "not supported by reason." The move we're talking about is the making of assumptions. Assumptions can be unsupported by reason, and maybe they usually are, but by definition, what they are characteristically unsupported by is proof.

            The axioms of mathematics are assumptions in that sense, but I don't think mathematicians would agree that they are unsupported by reason. Even if some did, I would disagree with them. To say that mathematicians cannot prove their axioms is not to say that they cannot justify them, and justification is always, or always ought to be, an exercise of reason.

      • Doug Shaver

        We all believe some things we cannot prove, because we cannot do otherwise. Assumptions are thus necessary. Necessity does not entail virtue, though. We may assume what we must assume, but we are not epistemically obliged to assume anything more.

        • The question though, is how big the set of things is that you have to assume. I find that atheists on the internet generally think that is a very small and innocent set of things. This was a dominant position in philosophy for a long time, and showed up in e.g. Condillac's notion of how humans learn language. Herder showed problems in this and Wittgenstein demolished the simplistic understanding, as recounted by Charles Taylor:

              What Herder is doing, I want to claim, anticipates (and perhaps distantly influences, through many intermediaries) what Wittgenstein does when he lays out the background understanding we need to grasp an "ostensive definition." What Wittgenstein's opponent takes as quite unproblematic and simple turns out to be complex and not necessarily present. Appreciating this blows the opponent's theory of meaning out of the water. (Philosophical Arguments, 83)

          If instead one has to assume a great deal—including stuff like original sin vs. an 'ontology of violence' (I do not mean those to be exhaustive) in one's political theorizing–then atheism starts to look a lot less noble when contrasted to theism. They start having what I might call "political/​theological/​ontological differences".

          • Doug Shaver

            The question though, is how big the set of things is that you have to assume.

            I haven't found an algorithm yet for determining that, but Occam's razor looks like a good starting place to me.

            I find that atheists on the internet generally think that is a very small and innocent set of things.

            I disagree with most atheists on the Internet about a whole bunch of things, especially when we get into political theorizing.

          • Lazarus

            I take it then that you are not one of those atheists who take offence when a Christian wriggles out of an argument by claiming "Well, that is not the Christianity / God that I believe in"?

          • Doug Shaver

            It depends on the context, but I usually don't have a problem with it.

          • Lazarus

            Sure, it just seems unfair at times to hold all Christians, or atheists, or Republicans, to exactly the same set of assumptions, and to then complain when someone tries to distinguish or point out some nuance. I regularly see Christians being criticized for it. I suppose internet discussions are not always most conducive to such distinctions.

          • Doug Shaver

            The Internet is an excellent place to find overwhelming evidence that Christians, atheists, Republicans, etc., are not all alike, but only for those willing to let the evidence change their minds.

          • Of course, there is no need to completely eliminate Rousseau from the discussion - is there? After all, my dear Kant liked him, and Rawls presents a deontological form of theoretical law that is 'after Kant'....so....(I'm addressing several different comments here.)

            1. I read another interpretation of Abraham's sacrifice of Issac, (apart from the Fear and Trembling of Kierkegaard), which suggested the possibility that as this text was written 'after the event' it could simply indicate the time at which the sacrifice of children was no longer deemed necessary, even though there is a possibility that such sacrifice continued for others, (not Israel) based on some evidence of the relation of this procedure to several mountains designated for this purpose, within the context of a much later date. (Sorry. Can't be more specific). This is a far different interpretation than in Kierkegaard's 'Fear and Trembling' where Abraham is compared to someone caught within a state of madness, ...'today?'...

            2. On Kierkegaard, and faith. There are incredible discussions on line.
            The Knight of Faith: From aesthetics, and the pleasures of youth, through ethics based on what, may you allow me to say,would be considered 'external control', to the 'responsible' freedom of the individual, (as per Kant?) and reason? as discussed within the following: http://www.sorenkierkegaard.nl/artikelen/Engels/134.%20Kierkegaard%20on%20faith%20and%20freedom.pdf

            3. Although I am, of course, still thinking these things through, (and I expect because of my difficulty regarding such projects that I shall in most cases have to remain a-gnostic) I am inclined to 'believe?' that what I understand to be a post-modern emphasis on Kant's 'Power of Judgment' might imply that free will, and faith are both based on an intuitive rather than rational choice. -? Some of these philosophers, are objecting to the 'use' of the term: Logos, for instance. (Oh, I intuit the difficulties here!)...I also wonder how the philosophies of Kierkegaard vs? Nietzsche. are possibly operative,(generally?) within this post-period with respect to what is called 'free will'.

            Sure, I'm not a politician 'trumping' my skills, and fears, and generally my choices do not affect/effect too many people. But I read the work of a major psychologist which had the title: "Bad not Mad!' with respect to some current political precedents. And of course, it was noted by Kant, that his rational deontological categorical 'imperative' was after all, merely 'regulative'.....so.... have faith and fear not?

            Yes. I understand. I shall not, have not given 'scare quotes', because surely any possible implications I 'intuit' with respect to the uses of logic in such cases are merely the result of not 'thinking in a linear fashion'. How this happens I know not? Nor do I know whether such uses, or even subsequent questioning of my own logic is a result of either too little reason, or too little 'faith'. Nor do I understand completely the theology let alone any scientific analysis of 'how' - the particular instances of 'faith' can be simply described as being 'beyond reason'...without further distinction or definition of what might, could, should be involved within any categorical analysis........
            Some day perhaps you, or someone, (surely not Grumpf) could explain Kant's Transcendental Deduction to me. Hopefully that would make a difference. I have read so many philosophies surrounding what 'constitutes' free will, and 'freedom' generally. Hegel's freedom is the recognition of necessity for instance. And then of course, the Christian thought that freedom like the theological virtues is constituted as a state of being. I do believe!! however, that 'being' 'constituted' as freedom, would have to be related to or be within the scope of an empirical reality, for freedom...both with respect to the 'will' and to ......Oh! I haven't the words....This is not the place for such 'speculation'... I must learn to think -logically..... Peace!

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I agree that you are not epistemically obliged to believe anything more. However, I think you are epistemically invited to believe something more.

          If I tell you there is a 3D image hidden in a random-dot stereogram, you are not obliged to believe me. But if you choose to believe me, at least tentatively, you might put some effort into re-focusing your eyes to see what is there. You might see something cool. But you don't have to play at all. It's a free country.

          • Doug Shaver

            I was talking about what we should assume, not what we should believe. We cannot reason without some assumptions, but once we have a minimal set of assumptions, I think we should limit our beliefs to whatever reason further delivers to us.

            If I tell you there is a 3D image hidden in a random-dot stereogram, you are not obliged to believe me. But if you choose to believe me, at least tentatively, you might put some effort into re-focusing your eyes to see what is there.

            I might look because I believe you, but I don't have to believe you to be motivated to look. I might be just curious about whether you are telling the truth.

        • Lazarus

          And what is it that we "must assume"? Who makes that call? By what process?

          • Doug Shaver

            And what is it that we "must assume"?

            I have made no effort to compile my own list, let alone one for the whole world. I'm not sure it can be done, or would be time well spent even if it could.

            What I do is, if I discover with respect to a particular proposition that I cannot defend it except as an assumption, I make a judgment as to the reasonableness of anyone's doubting it. If it seems to me that no one can reasonably doubt it, then I will think it reasonable to assume it.

            Who makes that call? By what process?

            I think it's a call that each of us should make for ourselves. As for process, I don't know a good algorithm for judging the reasonableness of doubt, except that if I know lots of people do doubt something, I'm unlikely to think I'm justified in saying that reasonable doubt isn't possible.

          • Lazarus

            That being the case, do you have any theory as to why so many of us are so often attacked for doing just that : making that call on what we must or should assume for ourselves when it comes to faith?

          • Doug Shaver

            do you have any theory as to why so many of us are so often attacked for doing just that

            I can't spell it out in any detail, but it would have something to do with certain errors in reasoning of which we are all guilty because of our human nature.

            At the same time, to say that we're all responsible for making that decision is not to say that we all must be making the right decision.

          • So you DO question, perhaps even logic, then? At the moment I still can't 'elaborate' on what I find both confusing and uncomfortable in the 'break' I now feel I have found in Kant's philosophy. That is, that judgment, (of particulars) 'seems' focused on the empirical, but that the Transcendental Deduction, and the Analogies of Experience, and perhaps all other matters that deal 'directly?' with language, are the subject matter of the Critique of Pure Reason. Does this perhaps suggest that 'judgment' per se is based on intuition rather than language? Surely, surely this is not so...etc. etc.
            So, yes, I'm quite aware that I'm not that Jewish scholar, who Kant said was the only one that really understood his philosophy, but please Doug, don't be too concerned. Hopefully, you will find that when I said that any attempt to fully understand my question, would involve writing a volume of material!!! does not mean that you will 'suffer the consequences' or any further attempt at the humor I find often in the 'fact', at least for me, that logic can indeed be most 'questionable'. (And yes - the scare quote in this instance was most intentional!!). I've been enjoying this discussion. Thanks Doug.

          • Doug Shaver

            So you DO question, perhaps even logic, then?

            Yes, even logic, but to question is not necessarily to doubt. It just means accepting the possibility that I could be wrong. When I say I question everything, I just mean that I ask "Why should I believe this?" and then, with as much good faith as I am capable of exercising, I look for a good answer that does not depend on any assumption of my own or anybody else's infallibility. And once in a while, the best answer is, "I must assume it."

            Of course, I cannot go through this exercise with literally everything I believe at every moment of every day. If I even tried, I would be immobilized from the moment I woke up. I must pick my intellectual battles, as we all do.

          • Thanks Doug. Kant's distinction between 'judgment' (inductive reasoning) in contrast to the introduction of a 'Transcendental Deduction' within the critique of pure reason, or reason unsupported by (may I say) evidence, represents (for me?) the most thorough questioning of the powers of reason, ever taken, and of course, the logic entailed. To ask such questions as to how we can add content to our reasoning, and under what conditions it is possible to 'synthesize' such experience, for instance, is to raise an issue of 'doubt' that far exceeds the parameters of Cartesian skepticism.

            So please understand, I consider the question to be a much broader one than that of any individual's particular response to what can be considered either true or false. I shall continue referring to my own stance, as 'a-gnostic', not only as a recognition that yes...I generally don't 'know', but also because I attempt to keep those positions, points of view that I cannot synthesize within my experience, as merely 'possibilities', rather than denying their efficacy completely. (This can be tricky!).

            So, after all of these years, I finally see a 'real' problem in Kant's Critique. Heidegger addresses this in his discussion of Kant: The Problem of Metaphysics, and as well his examination of Husserl's Phenomenology. So 'the volume' has already been written for me. I do not know whether I have the energy to take on the task of reading through their critiques. But there has been so much happening, particularly since the emphasis placed on the study of language, became a major factor within philosophy and literary criticism. Another book I would like to read is Derrida's On Grammatology, which addresses the criteria of logic from a formal perspective, but also within our daily conversations. as within such uses examined by Aristotle, so long ago. http://philosophy.lander.edu/logic/enthy.html
            I believe it is important, to sum up, to question not only such ability (to argue) as related to the individual perspective, but as well to become more aware of the more general conditions which relate to our 'power of reasoning'. It was thus quite a shock to me, to come directly in contact, with the Humean - Kantian problematic, and to perhaps appreciate it's significance more than I had before, and even possibly- 'for the first time'.....And that perhaps is quite a leap to take for someone with such a limited ability in such matters!!!

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            And once in a while, the best answer is, "I must assume it."

            That is an admirably practical approach, but is it not somewhat inelegant to have one's epistemology grounded in a hodge-podge of seemingly disjointed assumptions? I commend to you the idea that if you first ground your ontology in some fundamental goodness(*) that is external to you, and if you then ground your epistemology in a trust of that fundamental goodness, you will end up with a much more parsimonious and elegant epistemology.

            (*) a fearsome and not-totally-comprehensible goodness to be sure, but a goodness that can be trusted nonetheless.

          • Doug Shaver

            but is it not somewhat inelegant to have one's epistemology grounded in a hodge-podge of seemingly disjointed assumptions?

            Yes, which is why we should we should continually be re-examining our assumptions, revising or discarding them as needed until what is left is neither a hodgepodge nor disjointed.

      • "Do you know through reason that inductive reasoning is valid?" no.

        "Have you nonetheless decided to trust that you can go about your life as if inductive reasoning is valid?" No, I have no reason to trust it is valid either, trust implies evidence to justify trust, and I need to apply inductive reasoning to get that evidence and so on. I just act as if it is true. I suppose I act as if it is true because it is intuitive. I don't see this as "beyond" reason, but non-reasonable.

        This seems to disclose an understanding of a "leap of faith" as that done with no reasonable or any any justification other than perhaps intuition. There is no need to make any such leap for science, and I see no reason for religion or theism either.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          There is no need to make any such leap for science

          I must misunderstand. Didn't you just write that exactly such a "non-reasonable" leap is needed in order to justify inductive reasoning? Are you then talking about some non-inductive form of science?

          • No, what you seem to be advancing is that since we cannot justify induction, all predictive endeavours from opening the fridge to get milk to the large hadron collider, to belief in the second coming are based on this same "leap of faith".

            However, this is not what Dr Transocos is talking about, she is talking about distinct leaps of faith.

            "For me, it came down to a moment of decision where I either chose to
            take the leap of faith and believe in Christ, or not. The experience has
            been much like the leap I took to become a scientist, albeit a much
            more significant one."

            Accordingly, she is not saying all decisions are effectively the same leap of faith because ultimately we have no reason to believe patterns will repeat, but rather, taking induction as a given, believing in Christ also requires acceptance of Christ's reality in the absence of any, or sufficient reason. By contrast, as she has said elsewhere, her leap of faith in science, was "trusting" that the scientists had done the experiments carefully as she could never do them all herself. The latter leap of faith is completely unlike the former and categorically different that that which ignores the problem of induction.

            Clearly, Dr T is on about more than the problem of induction when she is describing her "faith" and leaps of faith.

            In any event the whole reason I raise this is because apologists have time and again advanced a completely different usage of "faith", one that is not "areasonable" or made with no justification or trust as simply accepting that something is the case. Rather they call it reasonable trust, or trust, or, really, simply induction.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            all predictive endeavours from opening the fridge to get milk to the large hadron collider, to belief in the second coming are based on this same "leap of faith"

            No, I don't mean to say that that is the same leap of faith, but I do mean to say that those are both instances of taking a leap of faith. Or, if you think that I am misusing the expression "leap of faith", let's just say that both of those beliefs are, to use your term, "non-reasonable". Neither belief is contrary to reason, nor is either positively supported by reason. There is a valid distinction in that the former belief comes naturally and is almost unavoidable while the latter is not, but the essential similarity that I want to point out is their shared "non-reasonableness". I therefore see this as an answer to your original question, "Why not just reason?" Reason alone is clearly insufficient, and some additional consideration is needed. If you don't want to frame those additional considerations as matters of "faith", fine, but something besides just reason is needed to get us through the day. What is it?

    • Lazarus

      Come on, Brian, why this limited, literalistic approach?
      What shows us, as fact, as empirical evidence, that "reason" alone is the best way of arriving at all truths, at giving meaning to human lives? What if a reasoned faith takes us further, as a lot of us here would argue for? Why settle for this pale, anemic worldview that you guys are selling? What scientific method do we use to show you are correct.

  • Darren

    The fall and original sin are truths of faith that we do not deny, but speaking for myself, I realize that those dogmas are unprovable by empirical methods—unless you count all the mean and evil things people do to each other as empirical proof, in which case those dogmas have quite a lot of evidence.

    Except the doctrine of the fall is not that people are f'ed up and all to often do really horrible things. The doctrine of the fall is that people are f'ed up and do really horrible things, there was a time when we weren't, and that we chose to be this way.

    Yep, lots of evidence for the first one, not so much for the second.

    • Ignatius Reilly

      I have another theory. Maybe the gods just made us like we are without any fall. Fits the evidence as well as Stacy's speculations.

    • This comment is a bit long; the tl;dr is that the very matter you discuss informs what political theory is believed, which greatly influences what political structures are built. One is forced to believe one way or another, and I claim that belief will be 'mythical' in precisely the sense that Genesis 1–3 is seen as 'mythical'. The Christian is merely offering a counter-myth to a particular secular, liberal myth. (When the text was written, it was to counter other myths, e.g. Enûma Eliš.)

      Not all conceptions of original sin say that we chose to have it. Some say it's more like survivors of child sexual abuse: they can will terrible things because of how they learned to survive, and they can even mistakenly see evil things as good because they were required to survive in a terrible environment. Now, fortunately child sexual abuse is uncommon enough in the West that we can call it 'wrong' and have that matter. Contrast this to the India of just a few years ago, where rape wasn't considered 'wrong' enough to successfully combat. (I discourage folks from bringing in Catholic priests at this point; it would be a distraction from my point and will probably get your comment deleted.)

      The idea that "there was a time we weren't" is actually quite important: it means we have the potential to overcome said terribleness, potential which needs to be actualized by someone not-us. Moreover, it suggests that the situation isn't necessarily as dark as Hobbes theorized when he described the need for a virtually omnipotent government to keep humans from being absolutely brutal to fellow humans. Locke did ameliorate Hobbes' position, but he still left us with a very disturbing legacy. John Milbank calls it an 'ontology of violence' and it is just as mythical as original sin.

      The basic idea is that what is good for me will almost certainly conflict what is good for you, such that any 'common good' we establish will be rather small, at least in comparison to e.g. the Greek polis. At one point Enlightenment folks thought differently ("Reason will be our salvation!"), but the reality which ultimately emerged is as follows:

      No one expects that anything called "reason" will dispel such pluralism by leading people to converge on a unified truth—certainly not about ultimate or cosmic matters such as "the nature of the universe" or "the end and the object of life." Indeed, unity on such matters could be achieved only by state coercion: Rawls calls this the "fact of oppression."[36] So a central function of "public reason" today is precisely to keep such matters out of public deliberation (subject to various qualifications and exceptions that Rawls conceded as his thinking developed). And citizens practice Rawlsian public reason when they refrain from invoking or acting on their "comprehensive doctrines"—that is, their deepest convictions about what is really true—and consent to work only with a scaled-down set of beliefs or methods that claim the support of an ostensible "overlapping consensus".[Political Liberalism, 133-172, 223-227] (The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, 14–15)

      According to John Rawls (an incredibly influential philosopher for liberal philosophy), it really is me vs. you, and the State will keep things from getting too bloody. This is a very dark conclusion, a very hopeless conclusion. Rome, Athens, and Sparta gloried in creating something fantastic in the public sphere; we glory in our ability to make and then consume more and more. Now perhaps the public sphere building of the aforementioned inevitably involves too much terrible and we should go with consumerism regardless of how banal it is. Perhaps it is not. Which thing we believe does not seem to be something based on empirical evidence, but something based on a sort of creation myth, a conception of how things really are, of what is thereby actually possible.

      Whether one believes in a Hobbesian 'ontology of violence' will determine what political theory one espouses, which will greatly influence what kind of political structures are built.

    • Peter

      If you take the view that the bible account is symbolic, this can be explained in an evolutionary sense, in the transformation of our ancestors from animals to humans.

      Animals are innocent with no sense of good and evil, whereas humans possess a sense of good and evil and the ability to choose between them.
      At the point of their evolutionary transformation from animals to humans, our ancestors would have acquired the knowledge of good and evil. It appears that they mainly chose the latter and created from that early moment a downward spiral of evil whose cumulation bedevils the world to this present day.

      Only the Church by perennially expressing the dignity of man has prevented mankind from succumbing totally to that vortex of evil and descending into utter depravity, although we came pretty close to it last century with the battlefield massacres, civilian slaughter, systematic genocide and enforced starvation.

  • Doug Shaver

    To Christians: Do not invoke science as any kind of absolute proof of a theological conclusion.

    Excellent advice. Because otherwise, whenever science changed its mind, you'd have to change your theology.

    • Is this why things like "all people are of equal moral worth" cannot in any way be derived from the results of science? (Because those results might change and indicate that feudalism is better.)

      • Doug Shaver

        Is this why things like "all people are of equal moral worth" cannot in any way be derived from the results of science?

        In my judgment, no, that is not the reason.

        [Edited to add omitted "not."]

        • Ok, let's put aside the causal aspect of reasons and ask what would happen if we tried to base egalitarianism in scientific results. Could the results be catastrophic, in the sense of science discovering X which would then overturn the probable truth of egalitarianism?

          • Doug Shaver

            I do not regard moral egalitarianism as a factual truth. I think all moral principles are matters of value judgment, and as such, they cannot be contradicted by any empirical fact.

            More directly to your question: I agree that when people do attempt to derive moral principles from empirical facts, they are courting catastrophe.

            From none of this, of course, does it follow that empirical facts are ever irrelevant to moral decisions.

          • So if theology has to do with matters of value and goodness (things that people care about but rocks don't), then for it to be predicated entirely upon science would be catastrophic.

            The reason I point this out is that I frequently see theology's not-supervening-on-evidence characterized as a distinct liability.

          • Doug Shaver

            So if theology has to do with matters of value and goodness (things that people care about but rocks don't), then for it to be predicated entirely upon science would be catastrophic.

            If theology is nothing more than yet another system of ethical philosophy, then yes.

          • I don't understand how that follows. "predicated entirely on science" ≠ "respects scientific results which are actually 'scientific'"

          • Doug Shaver

            I don't understand how that follows.

            I've been oversimplifying a bit, but if we can make allowance for that, my argument can be summarized thus:

            To base ethics on empirical science is to infer ought's from is's, and this is to invite catastrophe. Therefore, if theology is nothing but ethical philosophy, then to base theology on empirical science is to invite catastrophe.

            Now, I do not agree that theology is nothing but ethical philosophy. No matter how much it has to say about ethics, it also has much to say about other issues. The relationship of the other issues to ethical issues does not make those other issues ethical issues themselves.

            "predicated entirely on science" ≠ "respects scientific results which are actually 'scientific'"

            Agreed. And I have not said otherwise. It is my understanding that the Catholic Church respects scientific results but does not predicate its teachings on any of them.

          • Thanks for the clarification. This is a fascinating new argument for why theology being entirely conditioned on science (as some seem to desire—by implying that not being tied to science invalidates theology) would be disastrous, for theology deals with ethical matters, among other matters.

    • Peter

      For centuries science and theology were at loggerheads concerning the age of the universe and the mutability of matter. Science claimed that the universe was eternal and matter immutable, whilst theology doggedly denied both.

      Since that time theology has not changed its mind at all, but science has.

      • Doug Shaver

        Since that time theology has not changed its mind at all, but science has.

        Yes, science can change its mind, because science has never claimed infallibility, even if individual scientists sometimes think they can't be wrong.

        • Peter

          A great many individual scientists who for centuries constituted the general scientific consensus thought they were not wrong in believing the universe eternal and matter immutable. The immutability of matter was a belief widely and tenaciously held since classical times, lasting for over 2000 years until it was finally debunked last century.

          You talk about science willing to change its mind and never claiming infallibility, yet the historical facts demonstrate otherwise. Belief in the immutability of matter was a millenia-old world view which stood in opposition to Judeo-Christian teaching right up to the beginning of the 20th century.

          Plato (c. 350 BC): "Matter exists. Nothing can come from nothing, hence matter is eternal. We cannot admit the creation of matter."
          Svante Arhenius (1911 AD): "The opinion that something can come from nothing is at variance with the present day state of science, according to which matter is immutable."

          For twenty two and a half centuries science had failed to change its mind and considered itself to be infallible. The discovery that matter is not immutable came as a seismic blow. In the 2000 year battle between science and theology, theology emerged as the victor.

          • Sample1

            Your reply, accurate in details or not, strengthens Doug's comment, not that it was weak to begin with. A million scientists incorrectly claiming X for a million years does not make theology true.

            What needs to be shown for that is a single instance of a theological claim supplanting a naturalistic explanation for a given phenomenon.

            Got evidence?

            Mike

          • Peter

            I've just told you. The naturalistic explanation for millennia was that matter was immutable. The Church claimed for centuries that matter had a beginning. The discovery in the 20th century that matter is not immutable but has a beginning, means that the age-old naturalistic explanation is supplanted by the theological claim.

          • Sample1

            It's remarks like these that makes the consistent silence of the learned authors at SN altogether deafening. Before I remark further, I will let some time pass and see what happens.

            Mike

          • Peter

            No amount of passing time will alter the truth that matter is not immutable and that the fundamental naturalistic assumption which pervaded the greater part of recorded human history is false.

            We live in a new age. No longer is atheism supported by the observed evidence of an apparently unchangeable and eternal cosmos. Nowadays atheism relies tenuously on eternal-universe hypotheses which are unsupported by any evidence at all.

          • Doug Shaver

            No longer is atheism supported by the observed evidence of an apparently unchangeable and eternal cosmos.

            It never was.

          • Peter

            Svente Arhenius, for example, who incidentally is the father of the greenhouse effect and who is quoted above, was an avowed atheist.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Idk - it seems like most of our learned authors agree with his sentiments.

          • Sample1

            I'd be surprised for this particular set of assertions.

            Mike

          • Lazarus

            I don't understand the drama. Peter has stated a quite reasonable view, and now the "learned authors at SN" must do what? Intervene? Correct him?

          • Doug Shaver

            The naturalistic explanation for millennia was that matter was immutable. The Church claimed for centuries that matter had a beginning.

            In the absence of any observable evidence one way or the other, it was your word against ours. And no, "Scripture says so" doesn't count as observable evidence.

          • Peter

            "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
            (Catechism of the Catholic Church 279)

          • Doug Shaver

            Your word. Your scripture. As I said.

          • Doug Shaver

            You talk about science willing to change its mind and never claiming infallibility, yet the historical facts demonstrate otherwise. Belief in the immutability of matter was a millenia-old world view which stood in opposition to Judeo-Christian teaching right up to the beginning of the 20th century.

            There was no reason for it to be otherwise. Evidence contrary to that millenia-old consensus was not obtained before the 20th century.

            For twenty two and a half centuries science had failed to change its mind and considered itself to be infallible.

            "Science" doesn't have a mind to change. Scientists have minds, and they do change them. People who think they're infallible don't change their minds even when they're confronted with contrary evidence.

            In the 2000 year battle between science and theology, theology emerged as the victor.

            Scientific debates are settled by evidence, sooner or later. Theology wasn't offering any evidence. It was offering dogma. You can crow "We told you so" until the cows come home, but we had no reason to take your word for anything.

          • Peter

            People who think they're infallible don't change their minds even when they're confronted with contrary evidence.

            Such as the atheist scientist Fred Hoyle who held out against the big bang for much of last century in favour of an eternal steady state universe. And that is in no way to denigrate him because he was a great astrophysicist responsible for important discoveries.

          • Doug Shaver

            Such as the atheist scientist Fred Hoyle who held out against the big bang for much of last century in favour of an eternal steady state universe.

            Yes. From some of his comments, one gets the idea that he was afraid religious apologists would use it as an excuse to say, "We told you so."

          • Peter

            ..we had no reason to take your word for anything..

            Surely the Church being right for two thousand years in the face of constant opposition to the contrary is reason at least to listen to what she says.

          • Doug Shaver

            When the church says I should believe something, I will ask why, and I will listen to her answer. Then I will decide whether her answer is a sufficient reason to believe. "Because I say so" is not sufficient," and neither is "I was right about the finite age of the universe."

  • You assume all atheists are materialists. While a common position, this is hardly a universal. Also you assume physics cannot libertarian free will, and that this exists to begin with. Neither of these things is shown or even argued for. As for the Garden of Eden story, the problem I personally find is not simply a lack of empirical evidence. Rather, even simply taking it logically it makes no sense. If the two were not meant to eat from that fruit, then the simplest solution would be to never have it there. Thus the blame cannot fall on Adam and Eve, but God. In any case, they are manipulated into eating this by the snake so their blame-worthiness seems questionable. Further, even if they were wholly blame-worthy, how is there justice in punishing all the rest of us for something we had no control over? Catholic doctrine teaches that at least one person was born without original sin, Mary. So we know that the rest could have been given a "clean slate" so to speak. Yet we are denied it. So do not assume the issue is simply one of lacking empirical evidence. You imply that Greek philosophy was pantheistic. This is a strange statement for such a very large body of ideas, whose perspectives regarding the divine ranged from a monotheism not dissimilar to Christianity out into something very like atheism.

    • As for the Garden of Eden story, the problem I personally find is not simply a lack of empirical evidence. Rather, even simply taking it logically it makes no sense. If the two were not meant to eat from that fruit, then the simplest solution would be to never have it there. Thus the blame cannot fall on Adam and Eve, but God. In any case, they are manipulated into eating this by the snake so their blame-worthiness seems questionable.

      It's not necessarily the case that God never wanted Adam and Eve to eat of the tree. That seems to be the case with an Augustinian conception of Gen 1–3, but if one takes what I understand to be the Irenaean position†, Adam and Eve were moral infants and weren't ready to deal with good vs. evil. But one day they would be‡, and part of preparing is to know where you're headed. A danger is that you try to take the easy way out, taking shortcuts.

      As to passing the buck, I'm just not buying it. Adam and Eve reason to trust God, and zero reason to trust the snake. Their desires led them to trust the snake, but we know all about desires thwarting reason. Perhaps that is one of the purposes of the story itself, to teach this lesson.

      † My source is John Schneider's “The Fall of ‘Augustinian Adam’: Original Fragility and Supralapsarian Purpose”; I have not read Irenaeus directly.‡ See theosis, which is the idea that God wants to deify us.

      Further, even if they were wholly blame-worthy, how is there justice in punishing all the rest of us for something we had no control over?

      Is it unjust that survivors of child abuse have a higher probability of becoming abusers themselves? That is, is it unjust that parents can powerfully impact their children? Are the children being 'punished'?

      One way to view original sin is that it constituted a decision to reject solidarity with God and with creation (you cannot get solidarity with one without the other): "Am I my brother's keeper?" Once solidarity is broken, it is everyone's responsibility to restore it and everyone suffers until it is restored. Is that an unjust situation to put people in—that they be born with a moral responsibility?

      • I don't think your analogies really fit. Rather it seems to be described more on the lines of an inherent, hereditary flaw everyone shares. That's much different from psychological damage or breaking divine solidarity. I fail to see how it would be everyone's responsibility if they didn't cause this in any case. There is nothing stopping God from still having solidarity with the blameless, no?

        • Well, I cannot possibly address all the ways "it seems to be described". Indeed, Augustine's influence on orthodox Christianity is huge, and I'm growing to prefer Irenaeus to him where they differ. Augustine's model seems to work pretty well in some cases, but Irenaeus' seems better. I should investigate this more, but the way I do is to find problems like what you raise and then try to make sense of them.

          As to whose responsibility it is, I'm strongly disagreeing with influential liberal notions which say you must not harm others, but you have little in the way of responsibility to positively benefit ('bless') others. I don't think this is a very good way to understand society, although it is easy to understand, as 'bless' can be perverted into 'control'. I think God has given every aspect of creation something unique to give to the rest of creation, and that any part of creation closed off to another part damages both parts.

          With respect to "the blameless", I'm not sure there are any 'blameless' who were good influences on humanity other than Jesus Christ. Just recall to mind those around you who think they can do no wrong, or who are thought of that way by others. Does the world need more people like that? Now, if there are true blameless, nobody of import probably knows, because they're probably giving of themselves to the poor, oppressed, orphans, widows, and strangers (e.g. 'migrants')—and neither demanding nor expecting recognition of this fact.

          • I can't claim to know every way that it's been addressed, but this was the form I've seen it mostly take.

            What has this got to do with original sin?

            By "the blameless" I'm referring to the descendants of Adam and Eve, who are in no way responsible for the act which they committed. I'm certainly not saying everyone is blameless for everything. You are addressing something else entirely, a point that I've never made.

          • What has this got to do with original sin?

            I invite you to review what I already wrote:

            LB: One way to view original sin is that it constituted a decision to reject solidarity with God and with creation (you cannot get solidarity with one without the other): "Am I my brother's keeper?" Once solidarity is broken, it is everyone's responsibility to restore it and everyone suffers until it is restored. Is that an unjust situation to put people in—that they be born with a moral responsibility?

            That should put my second comment into perspective.

            You are addressing something else entirely, a point that I've never made.

            Actually, I think we have different notions of blamelessness. I think a person is blameworthy if [s]he is not fulfilling all of his/her moral responsibilities, and I've put "restoring solidarity" on the moral responsibility list.

          • Okay, but my point was that in the story, only two individuals are responsible to begin with for this break in solidarity, if that is how you describe this. So on what grounds does everyone else then have to suffer for it?

          • Because God didn't design reality to work well if people believe things like "Am I my brother's keeper?" God didn't create reality to work well on a liberalism that says I must not hurt my neighbor, but I don't have to do anything nice for him/her anyway (except perhaps anonymous monetary donations via taxes). Nor did he create reality to work well in a domination scheme, where power is used to control rather than build up (bless).

            To dislike suffering for others' sins is to dislike an interconnected system where "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together." (1 Cor 12:26) We could say that Hell is for those individuals who prefer to stand apart. Perhaps it is also for those who take what was supposed to be unity-in-diversity and turn it into uniformity-without-difference.

            Note that the above is somewhat speculative, in the sense that I'm trying to imagine a 'generative model' which explains what we see in the text. The idea that God wants solidarity seems pretty obvious. "For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live." (Ezek 18:32) Death comes because we wish to compete with one another instead of cooperate; we wish to take instead of give, to dominate instead of serve.

            This might be too strong a statement, but I imagine that every time a person prefers separatedness, tribalness, and blame-shifting to solidarity, is something that reinforces the break in solidarity from which our reality suffers. The break in solidarity has a life of its own and we all too often feed it. Feed it from what? From a corrupt nature which prefers separatedness to solidarity. From original sin.

          • I have no objection to caring for others, and having obligations towards them. However, this is different from the case here I think, in which people are punished for what the others did. As you have cited the Bible, the sentiment can be found that I'm talking about also: "Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin."-Deuteronomy 24:16 Yet we are later then told "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, so also death was passed on to all men, because all sinned."-Romans 5:12 How did "all sin" when it was two very specific individuals (or one, as this verse claims?) who sinned. "Far be it from you to punish the innocent along with the guilty" (Genesis 18:25) Abraham says, yet that seems to be just what happens. The point is to say that the idea of collective guilt from original sin makes no sense.

          • However, this is different from the case here I think, in which people are punished for what the others did.

            What is the difference between being actively punished and merely suffering the consequences of our forebears majorly screwing up and passing that screwed-upness down to us? It might help to note that we learn the difference between good and evil not from some Platonic realm, but from our parents and culture—and perhaps conditioned by genes.

            How did "all sin" when it was two very specific individuals (or one, as this verse claims?) who sinned.

            Because everyone participates in making the fracture in solidarity worse, even if they then work to heal it. That's what was passed down from their parents—whether it was genetically, spiritually, culturally, or socially I'm not sure it matters for present purposes.

            The point is to say that the idea of collective guilt from original sin makes no sense.

            I understand that's your point, but when I run the crank on the solidarity model, I don't see any incoherence.

          • You can't see the difference? In one case, the punishment is meted out as a result of being blamed, specifically as what one deserves. With the other, it would just be an unfortunate side effect of what someone else did. In either case however I don't see how that's justified. Your view about ethics is one that surprises me, but perhaps I've assumed things too hastily. May I ask-are you a Catholic?

            The point is everyone's tainted by the action which they had no part in. What justice is there in that? Absent this, there would be no problem in need of a solution, and regardless it seems like something that only divine action can solve (as the Bible agrees is the case).

            It is incoherent to say that we're all blame-worthy for something we had no part in nor control over.

          • You can't see the difference? In one case, the punishment is meted out as a result of being blamed, specifically as what one deserves. With the other, it would just be an unfortunate side effect of what someone else did.

            Sorry; my point was that the story we tell changes, but the underlying reality stays the same. One might see this as a maturing of human thought: from the idea that all suffering is due directly to the gods punishing you, to the idea that another person's screw-ups can be passed onto you 'unfairly'. Not only will you suffer the direct consequences of the screw-up, but you may absorb the very proclivity to screw up in that way. (More in my last three paragraphs.)

            In either case however I don't see how that's justified.

            I don't think it can possibly be justified on liberalism. I just think liberalism is false, to the extent that it can't handle a responsibility to pursue the best interest of your fellow humans—instead of merely avoiding hurting them. You're probably working off of a scheme of justice which is flatly contradictory to the one in the Bible. I'd be happy for you to articulate it further; perhaps what I write below will give you some ideas for what I need to hear.

            Your view about ethics is one that surprises me, but perhaps I've assumed things too hastily. May I ask-are you a Catholic?

            Nope, I'm a non-denominational Protestant. But I do appreciate Catholics' tendency to think less simplistically about a great number of matters, even if they sometimes go to the opposite extreme.

            N.B. I'm drawing heavily on Emil Brunner's Man in Revolt, as well as the thought of Jacques Ellul (e.g. The Subversion of Christianity) and Alistair McFadyen (The Call to Personhood & Bound to Sin).

            The point is everyone's tainted by the action which they had no part in. What justice is there in that?

            Where's the justice in survivors of child abuse having a higher probability of becoming abusers, themselves? My response is that the notion of justice you are deploying simply doesn't work with our world or the Biblical world. In both, people are able to powerfully influence others for good and for evil, and this involves influencing others' very conceptions of good vs. evil. When your conception is corrupted, you are tainted.

            One alternative is espoused by Pelagius, in his debate with Augustine. Pelagius thougth that we always maintain a perfect grasp on what is good vs. evil, even if we sometimes (frequently) choose the evil. Our sense of up vs. down never wavers. Augustine, in contrast, argued that the very fabric of ethics/​morality we stand on can be corrupted, so that we will what we think is good when it is evil. This is spelled out in much more detail by Alistair McFadyen in Bound to Sin: Abuse, Holocaust and the Christian Doctrine of Sin; he argues that there is an empirical difference between the two views, and that the empirical evidence favors Augustine over Pelagius.

            I would go further, and say that Pelagius' view is terribly damaging to any account one can give for how humans can influence each other. Perhaps being able to shape another's conception of good vs. evil is the most powerful way to impact him/her. Pelagius would remove this from the dyanmics of human relationship. It'd be like taking sharp knives away because while they can be used to conduct life-saving surgery, they can also be used to lethally wound.

            It is incoherent to say that we're all blame-worthy for something we had no part in nor control over.

            The difference between "blame-worthy" and "responsible for doing something to fix the screw-up" seems rather thin to me, in this context. Take, for example, the still-terrible state of Native Americans in reservations in America. The damage done to them was never repented of by Whites, not nearly so. A result is that I benefit while they suffer. Whether or not I inherit the blame for their condition is rather irrelevant; I claim I have a moral responsibility to cancel out the unjustly gained advantage. The instant I fail this moral responsibility, I become blameworthy.

          • Sure, but we're dealing with a story in which it's caused by the action of a divine being, not just "how the universe works".

            As I noted, at some points the Bible agrees with my view.

            I see. As I'm not familiar with any of those, I can't comment.

            I disagree. There is still a difference between deliberate action and unfortunate consequences which don't stem from that. This exists in both. It's also odd to me that you'd distinguish them. Don't you believe that the Bible has a true description of our world (at least to a certain extent)?

            The point is that whether or not either of the views (Pelagius' or Augustine's) can be called correct, it ultimately stems from God. It's really a subset to the Problem of Evil I think.

            An example like the Native Americans (or any other real world one) does not compare to me. I can't think of any that would be really analogous.

          • Sure, but we're dealing with a story in which it's caused by the action of a divine being, not just "how the universe works".

            I think you will find that in Ancient Near East consciousness, there was much less difference between these two things, and often no difference at all. The idea that there is a natural order independent of the gods, in the form bequeathed to us by Enlightenment philosophers and scientists, would have been quite foreign to the ancient Hebrews.

            As I noted, at some points the Bible agrees with my view.

            Just like Aristotle can be interpreted multiple ways, so can the Bible. If we reject stupidity like what I've called the "infinite interpretations hypothesis"—that you can get the Bible to say anything you fancy—then we can investigate whether or not my interpretation of even the passages you cite can be subsumed better under my model, butter under your model, or neither. Note that I don't see the humans in the Bible as having perfect access to morality, so if we see moral improvement over time, that is not surprising. Indeed, one might say that it should be expected if God is actually teaching us anything!

            I disagree. There is still a difference between deliberate action and unfortunate consequences which don't stem from that. This exists in both. It's also odd to me that you'd distinguish them.

            This is a little too succinct for me to really respond to. I will say that I suspect you're too focused on punishment instead of responsibility. This is understandable—the theological heritage of the Puritans and other Protestants focuses a lot on retribution. (For more, see Roger Olson's review of Dominic Erdozain's The Soul of Doubt: The Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx.) If we look at Isaiah's vision before the throne of God we see that Isaiah's sin ("Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips") is quickly dealt with so the mission of speaking truth to power can commence.

            Don't you believe that the Bible has a true description of our world (at least to a certain extent)?

            I believe the Bible is a record of the history of human interaction with God, with all the messiness and misunderstandings which result. In the Bible, God is not just telling us about reality-as-actualized (by human choices), but also potentials of reality which we can choose to actualize in cooperation with God. I think that frequently these are properties which cannot be empirically studied without actually building them (e.g. we must walk by faith, not by sight). This is similar to how a time-travelling scientist would be understood as credible if he brought plans for negative index metamaterials to early nineteenth-century scientists. They wouldn't really be justified in believing him without actually trying to construct what the time traveller claims can be constructed.

            An example like the Native Americans (or any other real world one) does not compare to me.

            Do you not see anyone as actively blameworthy for failing to counter the advantage originally obtained by screwing over their ancestors? This is not blame for screwing them over, it's blame for failing to restore solidarity.

      • David Hardy

        Hello Luke,

        I find this post to have a number of interesting positions, and wanted to offer some thoughts:

        ‡ See theosis, which is the idea that God wants to deify us.

        While I understand this is being offered as a viable alternative interpretation, I was wondering if this is a position you hold. I am curious because several forms of Christianity do view the goal of each human to become in some way deified.

        Their desires led them to trust the snake, but we know all about desires
        thwarting reason. Perhaps that is one of the purposes of the story
        itself, to teach this lesson.

        I would not object to the story as conveying a lesson. However, I think there is also a need for some form of a theodicy in response to the story, since eating the fruit at the time it was eaten could, at least, be said to have been a bad thing, with significant negative repercussions. Therefore, there is still the question of if God had the knowledge, power and ethical inclination to prevent it. Of course, many people find one theodicy or another to be convincing, although I am not one of them.

        Is it unjust that survivors of child abuse have a higher probability of
        becoming abusers themselves? That is, is it unjust that parents can
        powerfully impact their children? Are the children being 'punished'?

        Not unjust, but one could argue that, even if Adam and Eve were somehow equivalent to the parents of every newly born person and so could have such an influence, or that their influence is somehow maintained across all generations, God is also portrayed as a parent (the Father), and one would think that something described as the highest good and the greatest power would have a greater parental influence on new generations. Even humans, with our limited power and influence, have people and organizations that can (although not always) help children who have experienced negative childhood events attain positive outcomes. I would wonder, if this is attainable by human means, why divine means, universally applied, could not have a similar impact and have undone this negative influence after it occurred rather quickly.

        Once solidarity is broken, it is everyone's responsibility to restore it and everyone suffers until it is restored.

        This, perhaps, is where the issue is for me. I believe that responsibility, and especially moral responsibility, always falls most heavily on those with the most understanding and power within a situation. Where a country or company ends up with rampant immorality, I would place more responsibility with the leaders than with the poor and destitute. By this paradigm, God would be far most responsible for the original fall, current sinful state, and for restoring the situation to a positive state. That is not necessarily a problem for some conceptions of Christianity -- Universalism, for example, does take the position that God will ultimately bring about such a restoration. One could also resolve the problem by proposing limits on God's knowledge or power (suggesting knowledge and power itself have limits), while preserving His Goodness. On a side note, I do think that everyone bears a responsibility to restore solidarity where it is broken, but I do not believe in any divine agent that could or should be taking a leading role in doing so, either.

        All of this points primarily to creating a logically coherent form of Christianity, which I think is completely achievable. My struggle has always been finding evidence to support it as more likely than alternative concepts of the nature of reality based on what I observe.

        • I'm glad I piqued your interest! My apologies for the length of my reply, but I'm not sure how to say these things more succinctly—yet.

          While I understand this is being offered as a viable alternative interpretation, I was wondering if this is a position you hold.

          Yep. Agape itself makes the recipient more than he/she/it was before. It is a giving of gifts which enhance. If that process can go on forever with a being able to receive arbitrarily much (being imago Dei), what is the result but deification? Arguably, the serpent in the Garden of Eden spoke a half-truth when it said Adam and Eve would become like God: it was merely offering an invalid shortcut to a proper destination.

          However, I think there is also a need for some form of a theodicy in response to the story, since eating the fruit at the time it was eaten could, at least, be said to have been a bad thing, with significant negative repercussions. Therefore, there is still the question of if God had the knowledge, power and ethical inclination to prevent it.

          Did you mean to include a negative in your first sentence? In the meantime, do you think that God has not merely the ethical requirement to give us a justified warning against doing X, but also (or instead) the ethical requirement to prevent us from doing X? Note that justified warnings allow freedom. I can, for example, decide that the benefit of doing X is worth the cost with the former, but not the latter.

          Not unjust, but one could argue that, even if Adam and Eve were somehow equivalent to the parents of every newly born person and so could have such an influence, or that their influence is somehow maintained across all generations, God is also portrayed as a parent (the Father), and one would think that something described as the highest good and the greatest power would have a greater parental influence on new generations. Even humans, with our limited power and influence, have people and organizations that can (although not always) help children who have experienced negative childhood events attain positive outcomes. I would wonder, if this is attainable by human means, why divine means, universally applied, could not have a similar impact and have undone this negative influence after it occurred rather quickly.

          There seem to be costs for (i) God doing more and humans doing less; (ii) God overriding free will. Both of these seem absolutely antithetical to theosis. So I would reformulate your argument as saying that the costs of both (i) and (ii) are outweighed by the benefits, for at least a significant shift. How does one judge where on the spectrum things would be best? How does one build an imagination on the issue that is trustworthy? I would argue that such an imagination needs to be founded partially in evidence, and partially in a proper notion of goodness. But don't we only have partial access to the latter?

          As it turns out, the process of trying to build such a trustworthy imagination is the same process which empowers one to reduce evil. You come to understand better and better how reality is broken and how to fix it. Indeed, it's as if a struggle with this problem which presumes a solution is precisely the thing required to come to that solution. This pattern isn't so foreign to humans: we presume the rationality of empirical reality all the time. I say we can do the same with presuming the rationality of moral/​ethical reality.

          This, perhaps, is where the issue is for me. I believe that responsibility, and especially moral responsibility, always falls most heavily on those with the most understanding and power within a situation.

          I'm happy with a disproportionate amount of responsibility being allocated thusly; you'll see this indicated in the Bible, with examples being Ja 3:1, Lk 12:48, and Ezek 34. However, I also think it is important not to absolve the "little people" of moral responsibility, thereby depriving them of [meaningful] agency. I saw precisely this happen with the Driscoll affair at Mars Hill Church (the lead pastor left after allegations of his abuse of power hit the news): in comments on Warren Throckmorton's blog, the common refrain was that it was the fault of the leadership and the regular congregants were merely victims. This, in democracy where everyone ostensibly has power over leadership.

          It may also be interesting to note that much correction to evil in the Bible comes from a position of weakness, not of power, traditionally conceived. God doesn't do nearly enough miracles in the OT to be seen as a micromanaging deity; he allows way too much evil to happen, and then all he does is send prophets who can utter words but are powerless to carry out deeds (saving the very exceptional instance, such as Elijah on Mt. Carmel, which was an unmitigated disaster afterward). Jesus is well-known to have entered the world via weakness, growing up a bastard (hmmm, this may be more important than the virgin birth), and finally submitting to the powers that be instead of violently (or magically) overthrowing them. It is as if the [traditionally] powerful are the least likely to repent of sin, and so the weak are the best hope.

          By this paradigm, God would be far most responsible for the original fall, current sinful state, and for restoring the situation to a positive state.

          God did things to try to prevent the fall (he offered the severest of warnings, from the position of being a trustworthy authority who had never caused harm or suffering to Adam and Eve before), and to stem the resulting explosion of violence (see his warning to Cain). I think it's iffy to suggest that because the one with less power screwed up, necessarily it is the one with more power who is at fault. We can debate whether you are suggesting this.

          As to restoring the situation, that's the story of the OT and the NT. My guess is that "what's not to like?" is that God wanted significant human involvement in much of that process. Might this be necessary for theosis?

          On a side note, I do think that everyone bears a responsibility to restore solidarity where it is broken, but I do not believe in any divine agent that could or should be taking a leading role in doing so, either.

          Without a designed world, how do we know that restored solidarity is possible? Given that restoring solidarity has a high cost (we can bracket what Jesus did and just look at human attempts to do this partially), why try to pay that cost if the end result is not actually attainable? In my experience people generally only sacrifice greatly for things they think are possible. A designed world allows for solidarity to be possible (without, e.g., sacrificing millions to bloody revolution). But what are the odds that solidarity is possible "on randomness", as it were? Indeed, it seems that pursuing solidarity forces you to form beliefs about the design of the world, beliefs which aren't necessarily justified by 'the evidence'. That's because solidarity is a potential of reality which can only be properly understood when actualized. Action by faith precedes the collection of justifying evidence. We walk by faith, not by sight.

          All of this points primarily to creating a logically coherent form of Christianity, which I think is completely achievable. My struggle has always been finding evidence to support it as more likely than alternative concepts of the nature of reality based on what I observe.

          The only form of Christianity I see worth pursuing is one which gives you enhanced power over reality, not to merely shape it better to your extant will, but accompanied with a purification of your will so that you can enhance the goodness of all creation. You actually see something related in Star Trek's Prime Directive: giving science and technology to races not morally equipped to handle it can easily lead to their destruction. Why would God enhance our power over reality without helping us to want better things? And if we aren't open to wanting better things, might God be limited in what he can do with us which won't make things worse?

          And so, we have texts like 2 Tim 3:1–5, which make it clear that there are things which appear to be instances of Christianity, but God's power is actually absent. We have things like "our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power" (1 Thess 1:5): actual power is expected, not just hot air. A very sensible reason that power often seems absent is given by Ja 4:1–3.

          My rather dark conclusion, bolstered by Jacques Ellul's Hope in Time of Abandonment, is that God's power is largely absent from the West, at least in any way which would be easily seen by those who are likely to be commenting on internet forums. The reason is that we don't actually want God, we want Grampa Deity, who ignores our foibles and showers us with presents. God would want to deify us, which requires ironing out our kinks. Grampa Deity offers a diet pill instead of prescribing exercise and better eating. For a sociological study on this, see moralistic therapeutic deism.

          But I am not without hope: one of the major time sinks in my life is trying to understand how we don't want God, how we prefer our own desires and our own solutions to the ever-present problems we face. What truths are we not interested in hearing, what medicine are we refusing, what sins do we cling to like teddy bears? The more truth there is in the Bible, the more potential there is for me to make progress in this endeavor. There is also the question of whether God is present experientially, noting that experience provides something over and above mere abstract formal systems. Without that experiential closeness, all the truth in the world would probably be worthless.

          • David Hardy

            My apologies for the length of my reply, but I'm not sure how to say these things more succinctly—yet.

            No need to apologize, I appreciate the time you took with your reply.

            Did you mean to include a negative in your first sentence?

            I’m sorry, I re-read the quote you used, but I do not see the negative, except for the word “negative” which was intentional.

            In the meantime, do you think that God has not merely the ethical requirement to give us a justified warning against doing X, but also (or instead) the ethical requirement to prevent us from doing X?

            It depends on how you conceptualize the situation. I will offer how I conceptualize it. Adam and Eve in the story seem best related to being children – they are easily fooled, lean on their parent (God) for right and wrong, and make mistakes. The tree of good and evil does serious harm when they eat from it (cast from the garden, cursed to toil and suffer in childbirth and to die). I would say that a parent does have an ethical obligation to prevent a child from doing something that leads to serious harm. I would further say that this obligation does not prevent children from having free will (children do all sorts of things outside of their parent’s directives, and many parents give children many benign options). This would change if Adam and Eve could be seen as approaching the level of development that God has (as teenagers relative to adults) and are soon going to leave home (the garden) anyways.

            There seem to be costs for (i) God doing more and humans doing less; (ii) God overriding free will. Both of these seem absolutely antithetical to theosis. So I would reformulate your argument as saying that the costs of both (i) and (ii) are outweighed by the benefits, for at least a significant shift.

            I would not take this position. If anything, I would approach it from the opposite direction – the positive outcomes I highlighted include a greater ability to make personal choices and persevere through hardships. A supportive position from someone who is more capable and mentally
            stable can foster the capability and stability of those who are supported. So, while God might initially be doing more, it would steadily shift towards those being helped doing more, and would be increasing rather than decreasing free
            will. This would be similar to what is seen with effective mental health services provided by humans.

            However, I also think it is important not to absolve the "little people" of moral responsibility, thereby depriving them of [meaningful] agency.

            I fully agree with this position, with the added note that mitigating circumstances would guide my judgment of those caught up in forces beyond their control.

            It may also be interesting to note that much correction to evil in the Bible comes from a position of weakness, not of power, traditionally conceived.

            I would agree to the value of taking a one-down position as
            a way to bring change in a non-confrontational way. It is interesting to think of a God that does so.

            I think it's iffy to suggest that because the one with less power screwed up, necessarily it is the one with more power who is at fault.

            I apologize, after re-reading the quote I see how my words created a misunderstanding. When I say “responsible” I in no way ever mean “fault”. I find casting blame and fault tends to be of little value or use. I mean that I would expect those with the most power to be taking the largest role in addressing the issue, regardless of what role, if any, they have in the problem.

            Without a designed world, how do we know that restored solidarity is possible? Given that restoring solidarity has a high cost (we can bracket what Jesus did and just look at human attempts to do this partially), why try to pay that cost if the end result is not actually attainable? In my experience people generally only sacrifice greatly for things they think are possible.

            I take a very different view (my underlying worldview is strongly influenced by Buddhism, if that helps). I believe any expression of solidarity is a temporary arising, and the breaking of solidarity is equally temporary, and both have a degree of relativity. If a country unifies its populace around a cause, then this might be seen as an arising of solidarity. If that cause is war with another country, it might be seen as a breaking of solidarity, and in any case both unity and war will ultimately pass, and could not be sustained eternally. I would also add that, since the issue is impermanent and limited, the solution need only be impermanent and limited as well. If I have a fight with my wife, then we reconcile, this is a breaking and restoring of solidarity. The fact that it is limited to our relationship, not all of humanity, and that we will both eventually die does not negate the value or that it achieved a restoring of solidarity.

            The only form of Christianity I see worth pursuing is one which gives you enhanced power over reality, not to merely shape it better to your extant will, but accompanied with a purification of your will so that you can enhance the goodness of all creation.

            I agree that a worldview should speak to both how one should influence things as well as being influenced by them in a positive way.

            The reason is that we don't actually want
            God, we want Grampa Deity, who ignores our foibles and showers us with presents.

            On what may be a related note, if someone does not believe in God, but does what experiences that helps him or her grow and overcome foibles and is not just looking to maximize personal rewards, would that invite the presence of God’s power, or do you believe belief in God is necessary?

            But I am not without hope: one of the major time sinks in my life is trying to understand how we don't want God, how we prefer our own desires and our own solutions to the ever-present problems we face.

            I wish you luck in that journey, as it seems a noble aim to me.

          • I’m sorry, I re-read the quote you used, but I do not see the negative, except for the word “negative” which was intentional.

            Yes, I was guessing that you mistakenly wrote the opposite of what you meant. I couldn't quite make sense of it as it was. Anyhow, if there's something you don't think I properly addressed, you'll have to rephrase it.

            Adam and Eve in the story seem best related to being children – they are easily fooled, lean on their parent (God) for right and wrong, and make mistakes. The tree of good and evil does serious harm when they eat from it (cast from the garden, cursed to toil and suffer in childbirth and to die).

            That's actually not clear; note that after Adam and Eve ate, they hid from God instead of repenting. I think the problem is more that Adam and Eve severely doubted the goodness of God and the goodness of creation, not just via listening to the serpent, but also in their again seeki seeking a restored relationship with God. If God never gave them reason to doubt his goodness, then I'm inclined to think that they were not just completely naive children. It's not five year olds who stop trusting their parents and start rebelling; that happens closer to teenage years.

            If anything, I would approach it from the opposite direction – the positive outcomes I highlighted include a greater ability to make personal choices and persevere through hardships.

            If the person wants to hear about the knowledge and wisdom, yes. But we are well-acquainted with people who refuse, despite all of our efforts to help them. Perhaps this is because humans are designed poorly (or yes, not designed), or perhaps this is a logical fact of significantly free moral beings. One can still ask about how much damage such intransigent people ought to be allowed to inflict, of course.

            So, while God might initially be doing more, it would steadily shift towards those being helped doing more, and would be increasing rather than decreasing free will.

            I don't think it's a stretch to read the OT and NT as God trying this, and having limited success. I'm skeptical that in our modern age, we are progressing toward theosis. Instead, I think that more and more people are being taught to be happy with things instead of wisdom and relationship, and as a result are being deprived of effective agency. So I'm skeptical that we've learned how to do things better than God's track record in the Bible.

            I mean that I would expect those with the most power to be taking the largest role in addressing the issue, regardless of what role, if any, they have in the problem.

            But is that what human history demonstrates? Is it the ones who are in power who tend to be the biggest blessing to humanity? Note here that the term 'power' is not unproblematic; the form Bent Flyvbjerg explores in Rationality and Power: Democracy in Practice has "greater power differential" ⇒ "more rationalizing, less rationality". That is, possibly "more power" means you see yourself as further above those around you, in a way that distorts your ability to help them. You'd even be tempted to think that they will always be beneath you, as Aristotle did with slavery.

            I do think there is another notion of power, however. Instead of the primary focus being on maintaining its own position, the primary focus is on giving power to others, on building them up. There is vulnerability to doing this, because maybe others will bite the hand that fed them, with a bite powerful enough to do significant damage because of the very form of power being exercised. This kind of power cannot dominate, cannot merely "stomp out evil". This kind of power must respect other persons and allow them significant free will. This kind of power most definitely can give justified reasons to pursue the good, and offer help for that pursuit.

            I take a very different view (my underlying worldview is strongly influenced by Buddhism, if that helps). I believe any expression of solidarity is a temporary arising, and the breaking of solidarity is equally temporary, and both have a degree of relativity.

            That is a very different view. Some things which are 'failure' under my view are not, under yours. It seems that yours sets a lower bar of what is possible. If yours is a better match to reality, I think that the 'success' of yours will look better than whatever limited 'success' could be obtained in mine. It sounds like there's a way to actually compare the two views, to see which seems more compelling.

            On what may be a related note, if someone does not believe in God, but does what experiences that helps him or her grow and overcome foibles and is not just looking to maximize personal rewards, would that invite the presence of God’s power, or do you believe belief in God is necessary?

            But what is meant by "belief"? If people can claim to believe while showing no evidence of what one would expect from that belief, can people not claim to believe but actually show what one would expect? There is a superiority to reflectively knowing what you believe (it's much easier to grow knowledge and wisdom self-reflectively), but actually having the belief in your character seems to be more important, when I read the scriptures. The quibble here would be that God doesn't just want some minimal level of excellence, but wants an ever-deepening relationship. That would seem to require self-reflective belief. But perhaps that could be obtained by the person meeting Jesus after death and finding him to be the ideal [s]he was seeking all along.

            I wish you luck in that journey, as it seems a noble aim to me.

            Thanks! Based on your comment about "temporary arising", I wonder if you think I'm set on an impossible task? That is, perhaps my success criterion is unreachable, even though I could make temporary progress.

          • David Hardy

            That's actually not clear; note that after Adam and Eve ate, they hid from God instead of repenting.

            Extending the metaphor, many children hide after they know they have done something wrong instead of immediately going to tell a parent -- to my mind, the parent has a responsibility not only to correct but also reassure and support the child. Those that do not often invite a desire to hide things in the future.

            Instead, I think that more and more people are being taught to be happy with things instead of wisdom and relationship, and as a result are being deprived of effective agency. So I'm skeptical that we've learned how to do things better than God's track record in the Bible.

            I agree we live in a culture that promotes consumerism, but there are many people in our culture that come to reject it. On a side note, if God exists I would not judge our efforts in comparison to our or vice versa, since the knowledge and power differential seem to suggest this may not be a fair comparison. Rather, I would focus on what evidence there seems to be of God's role, and what that role is if so.

            But is that what human history demonstrates? Is it the ones who are in power who tend to be the biggest blessing to humanity?

            I was speaking in terms of morality. In practice, many people in power use that power to avoid accountability. Ethically, however, a person with power should take the greatest role in resolving problems in my view.

            I do think there is another notion of power, however. Instead of the primary focus being on maintaining its own position, the primary focus is on giving power to others, on building them up. There is vulnerability to doing this, because maybe others will bite the hand
            that fed them, with a bite powerful enough to do significant damage because of the very form of power being exercised. This kind of power cannot dominate, cannot merely "stomp out evil". This kind of power must respect other persons and allow them significant free will.

            I agree that there is great power in giving, and this is not the sort of power that "stomps out" anything. However, both this power and the power that does seek to stop evil are important, and I would hope that God as conceived of in Christianity has access to both, since both bring good if used in the right way.

            That is a very different view. Some things which are 'failure' under my view are not, under yours. It seems that yours sets a lower bar of what is possible.

            In terms of the bar, is that by the standard of your worldview, or mine? To me, what is, is. There is no point in mourning that something is not if it never could be, nor in being upset if the universe is something that it is. My goal is only to know what is possible, not judge whether it meets a standard in my mind of what it should be possible. Of course, that does not guarantee that I will succeed, and perhaps I do not see possibilities that are truly there. A worldview can both guide and mislead.

            It sounds like there's a way to actually compare the two views, to see which seems more compelling.

            I would be open to trying, if you can suggest particular areas where you would like to do so, although of course we will both likely come away with our own conclusions about what the comparison shows.

            But perhaps that could be obtained by the person meeting Jesus after
            death and finding him to be the ideal [s]he was seeking all along.

            While I only quote the end, that you for the clear expansion on where you stand -- it seems as though the absence of belief may only be a barrier once one reaches a certain point, and is not necessarily a complete barrier to salvation within your view.

            Based on your comment about "temporary arising", I wonder if you think
            I'm set on an impossible task? That is, perhaps my success criterion is
            unreachable, even though I could make temporary progress.

            It depends on how you mean that. First, I leave open the possibility that I am wrong, and your task is possible. Second, even if I am right, your pursuit of deepening your understanding of how to maximize this positive influence as you conceive of it (God) in people's lives and overcome negative influences would still be fully possible, as the task, while impermanent, is to try to improve people, which are also impermanent. I would rather say that the task would provide benefit to you while you persist, and possibly to others who are exposed to your ideas while they are preserved and effectively put the ideas into practice. The fact that the task and its influence would eventually cease to be does not diminish its value. For you, and possibly others who are influenced by you, the task could succeed. For others who do not find the ideas helpful, or never encounter them, the task would not succeed. Hopefully that helps.

          • Extending the metaphor, many children hide after they know they have done something wrong instead of immediately going to tell a parent -- to my mind, the parent has a responsibility not only to correct but also reassure and support the child. Those that do not often invite a desire to hide things in the future.

            Most definitely. We aren't given any indication that God had given Adam & Eve reason to hide. One could investigate why there is the urge to hide; might it be the fear that the consequences will be worse if the error is immediately admitted? Is this fear a "default" setting? Is it only justified when the parents are unnecessarily harsh?

            Rather, I would focus on what evidence there seems to be of God's role, and what that role is if so.

            What would God's actions look like, if his purpose is to deify us? Just giving answers or just nannying us seems like it would be antithetical to theosis. Some more careful balance seems required than is often suggested in discussions which get near the problem of evil. (Meaning I am not particularly adept at such nuance, having less experience with it on this issue.) From some sort of imagination to this answer, one could then investigate how one might detect God fulfilling that role. Skipping ahead, part of deification involves introducing newness to a person's experience, which may show up as a violation of conservation of knowledge. (I'm kind of riffing on Fitch's Paradox of Knowability, here.) Here the definition of 'knowledge' gets weird, as the mere mirroring of extant reality doesn't necessary 'work' with theosis.

            I was speaking in terms of morality. In practice, many people in power use that power to avoid accountability. Ethically, however, a person with power should take the greatest role in resolving problems in my view.

            The reason I brought up observed behavior instead of merely focusing on morality is that when the two clash too much, I suspect that something is wrong. It's easy to have moral systems which just don't seem to work in our reality. And so, I wonder if the notion of 'power' you are employing to say that "more power" ⇒ "more responsibility" is problematic. Maybe the power that is generally accumulated—or at least visible—these days is the wrong type for that moral reasoning.

            However, both this power and the power that does seek to stop evil are important, and I would hope that God as conceived of in Christianity has access to both, since both bring good if used in the right way.

            If might does not make right, what does it mean to "stomp out evil"?

            In terms of the bar, is that by the standard of your worldview, or mine?

            Yours sets a lower bar (only temporary developments of goodness) than mine (a continual development of goodness that is not obliterated from time to time). Either of us could be wrong—you on how much is possible, me that something non-transient is possible.

            I would be open to trying [a comparison of views], if you can suggest particular areas where you would like to do so, although of course we will both likely come away with our own conclusions about what the comparison shows.

            I'm not sure I yet understand how our views differ well enough to do that. Perhaps after some more back-and-forth I'll have some inklings. I do find it fascinating to compare views; my own thinking is so limited when I don't mix it with others'.

            The fact that the task and its influence would eventually cease to be does not diminish its value.

            That's an interesting claim. There's actually related science, in the form of studying whether people will put together Lego sets for money if they're then taken apart right after, in front of their eyes. The result was that people felt that there was less value when the sets were taken apart right after they put them together. Now, this is an empirical claim and not a normative one, so we can discuss whether they are confused to reason this way.

            One potential problem with your reasoning is that people's planning horizons will depend on the positions taken on these matters. I'm also reminded of the great sacrifices made by young British men in the two World Wars, and how they were told that these sacrifices were for very good things. I was told by some Brits that in the subsequent years, the promises did not pan out and a great sense of disenchantment set in. The value of those sacrifices was diminished by what happened after in the eyes of many.

            We can also ask whether the glory of mass industrialization is worth the cost of an impending environmental catastrophe. So I'm really not convinced that your reasoning pans out when applied to a great number of human endeavors. I can see it working here and there, but I have trouble when I try to systematize it.

          • David Hardy

            Hello Luke,

            Sorry for the delayed response, I wanted to touch on a few point that you made.

            It's easy to have moral systems which just don't seem to work in our reality.

            I think there may need to be a balance between what is ideal and what works, so I do not disagree on this point. I would say, however, that numerous factors apply when judging what works: is the problem in the ethical system, or how it is applied, or is it that the people in question are not motivated to apply it, or is one set of examples being used to negate another? I have known a number of people in positions of power who that that power as giving them more responsibility than those below them, and it works very well, and this is not made meaningless by the fact that some people with power are not motivated to act morally, and others are bad at implementing a moral system effectively.

            There's actually related science, in the form of studying whether people will put together Lego sets for money if they're then taken apart right after, in front of their eyes. The result was that people felt that there was less value when the sets were taken apart right after they put them together. Now, this is an empirical claim and not a normative one, so we can discuss whether they are confused to reason this way.

            I do not think that is an applicable finding, although I am not familiar with the study -- taking apart the Lego set would be immediate feedback, which the brain responds to very strongly, while I was talking about a scale that would surpass the lifetime of the person in question. People are aware that their children will eventually die, but this rarely discourages them from seeing value in positively impacting their lives. Psychological research often carries significant risk of being applied beyond the scope allowed for based on the limitations of the design.

            We can also ask whether the glory of mass industrialization is worth the cost of an impending environmental catastrophe. So I'm really not convinced that your reasoning pans out when applied to a great number of human endeavors.

            I am afraid it is only your application of my view that supports short term gain for long term consequence. By my view, natural resources are impermanent, yet we are also interdependent with our environment, so efforts to care for and protect the environment make more sense.

            Perhaps another way to consider this question is to ask: are values valuable for there own sake, and actions meaningful even if the fail to achieve an end? Does it matter that a person values personal fame over the well being of others, or that a person dies trying to protect those they care about instead of walking away and not trying? If a permanent outcome, or even a temporary outcome, is the deciding factor, one could argue that these values and actions only matter insofar as the results they create. As I said before, I think there is a balance between idealism and pragmatism. What do you think?

          • David Hardy

            Based on your comment about "temporary arising", I wonder if you think I'm set on an impossible task?

            Thinking on it further, it may help clarify my view if you know the distinction between relative and absolute truth within buddhism. I would also be happy to offer more on this, if you are curious.

          • This is odd; in reading WP: Two truths doctrine, I'm seeing a merging of two different dichotomies:

                 (A) appearances/reality
                 (B) contingency/necessity

            For (B), § Theravāda notes that "a conventional statement is true because of convention", which sounds awfully like The Social Construction of Reality. We as a society could have chosen a different convention, and then other things would be true. So the contingent is 'just' appearance. The necessary (non-dependent) is reality.

            Now, I'm not sure if this interpretation jives with stuff like "10. The highest sense of the truth is not taught apart from practical behavior," (§ Madhyamaka); here, the concrete, particular, contingent experience of reality is required to learn the necessary, to dig below appearances. But I still worry that the concrete is given less import, that it is but a stepping stone to what I can't help describing as 'abstract'.

            I would love to see a systematic treatment of the appearances/​reality dichotomy, across various domains of thought. This has been a study of mine and I've found stuff in many places, from Charles Taylor's and Herbert Dreyfus' recent Retrieving Realism to Bernard d'Espagnat's On Physics and Philosophy to Owen Barfield's Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry as well as Penelope Maddy's Second Philosophy: A Naturalistic Method. Not to mention how it shows up in the Bible, such as: "But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”" (1 Samuel 16:7)

          • David Hardy

            I'm glad you found the two truths interesting. Since my own view is only one perspective, I will begin with a caveat that not all Buddhists will hold this view, so some of what you read in that article will disagree. The two truths speak of something particular to living beings. The relate to how we understand reality, and divide it into two aspects.

            The conventional or relative truth does have resonances with Social Construction, but it is more than that. It has to do with the way in which people experience things relative to themselves and the world. A chair, for example, includes within its definition that it is an object people sit on -- the relationship we have to it is woven into our understanding of the object. In a similar vein, you could consider a forest, then the trees, then a single tree, then a leaf, then the veins in the leaf. The leaf is a distinct perception from the tree, but the object of the first perception is a part of second one, and so one out to the forest, and these different levels of perception are used depending on what we are focusing on and engaging. Similarly, we infer our opinion or relationship within our perceptions, such as when I am considering a friend or family member that would be a stranger to you, even though it is the same person. This level can also relate to the scale of our existence. The mountains and continents slowly change, but this is at a scale that is far longer than the human lifespan. Due to this, a person might experience them as unchanging, at relative to the person, this has some substance.

            Absolute truth is what Buddhists believe remains when you strip these things away. Strip the levels of useful perceptual concepts, the way of relating and the relationship, and the difference in scale, and what remains is the absolute truth of the nature of reality. Since we live and act at a human and practical scale, relative truth is important to know and use. However, this should never detract or blind someone from the truth that exists beneath conventional truth. Within Buddhism, that things are impermanent, interdependent and innately unable to bring permanent satisfaction due to their nature are some of the core concepts pointing towards absolute truth, but of course, being concepts the are ultimately within relative truth, and only point to absolute truth.

            Hopefully that provides, if nothing else, some additional interesting food for thought on this topic.

      • Darren

        Luke Breuer wrote,

        Is it unjust that survivors of child abuse have a higher probability of becoming abusers themselves?

        I would question whether it was just for the entity who designed the non-material mind of the victims/abusers to have added the rule, "If [Past_Abuse] = TRUE then [Override_Free_Will,_Partial] +1 [Abuse_Others]."

        • In other words, if parents have any bad habits, it is unjust for them to get passed down to their kids. But if they have good habits, it's ok. Does that about cover it?

        • David Hardy

          I am not sure if that is a fair characterization, but then again that may be because I am not sure it would be fair to say that the influences that can lead a person to becoming a sexual abuser cannot also influence them to become something else, or that they override free will. As a few examples, sexual abuse creates traumatic stress, which can negatively influence a person, but also arises out of the impulse to avoid traumatic negative events, which is good. Anger that can turn to predatory abusive behavior can also spur someone to fight back when being targeted by another who is trying to hurt them. Hypersexualized behavior, positive and negative, can arise from learning instincts including modeling and conditioning, which help people learn generally, and the effort to cope with the abuse by finding a way to respond to it. None of which overrides or negates the accountability or choice of those who commit criminal activity. One might say the a person may have impulses, emotions and thoughts that push them in a certain way, but there is still a choice of whether to go that way, or find a different outlet for those mental factors, and some of those outlets are positive while others are negative, and justice only comes into play when a person's outlet is negative to the point of criminal.

          • Darren

            David Hardy wrote,

            ...or that they override free will...

            That would likely depend upon how the meta-physical rules God wrote to govern the operation of the non-material mind actually work and how those rules result in free will. I haven't seen a copy of those rules, yet.

            If I can predict someone's choice before they make it, how exactly is that choice undetermined (i.e. free)?

          • David Hardy

            My apologies, I was not taking a theological free will stance, as I do not believe in God, but rather referring to studies on an internal versus external locus of control, as well as cognitive defusion, and how this relates to accountability and choice. I would relate the acceptance of free will to an internal locus on control and a higher degree of cognitive defusion, and how these relate to decision making.

          • Darren

            David Hardy wrote,

            My apologies, I was not taking a theological free will stance, as I do not believe in God...

            Ah, I wondered why your answer looked suspiciously true.

            I was, of course, arguing as if the SN-beloved non-material mind was a real thing.

            Best regards.

          • What is your evidence of "the SN-beloved non-material mind"? For example, have you seen Cartesian dualism contrasted against hylemorphic dualism? Just the persistence of an object over time in spite of parts of it being swapped out (e.g. creaturely metabolism) requires something other than just a configuration of matter for identifying that object. So some idea of 'form' which is not just 'matter' seems presupposed by thought—unless you think you're not the same person you were a second ago in any meaningful way which transcends the particular atoms in your body.

          • You sound part-gnostic, part-Cartesian when talking about "meta-physical rules" and "the non-material mind". I'm pretty sure Thomas Aquinas held to neither of these things. Given that and his status as a theologian, neither is essential to Christianity. Unless, that is, you have an overly restrictive notion of what 'material' is. But then you'll probably have set up a dogma which discourages certain scientific research (such as Lawrence Krauss' work on a primordial quantum vacuum which is nonspatial and nontemporal).

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            undetermined (i.e. free)

            A free choice is not mechanically determined, but it is determined. It is determined by the person. You can often determine anticipate the choice that the person will freely make if you know the person fairly well.

            EDIT: see strikethrough. Not the word choice I wanted.

          • Darren

            Jim (hillclimber) wrote,

            It is determined by the person...

            As a friendly question, when you say it is determined by the person, what is it that is doing the determining, how does it determine, and just how much influence/bias can exist before the decision no longer counts as free?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            what is it that is doing the determining

            The person. That is my irreducible unit of analysis for answering questions about freedom, in the same way that animals are my irreducible unit of analysis for answering questions about hunger (one can't speak of quarks being hungry, for example).

            how does it determine

            Ideally, through desire that has been yoked to reason (interesting side note: the word "yoga" derives from "yoke", for related reasons that I believe are related to this discussion). To the extent that desire is untethered to reason, the choice becomes less and less free.

            just how much influence/bias can exist

            It seems like in almost any scenario there is some choice available to us, some opportunity to exercise our freedom. A guy in jail can't choose between sitting in his cell and hand-gliding, but he can choose between sitting in his cell and doing push-ups in his cell.

          • David Hardy

            If I can predict someone's choice before they make it, how exactly is that choice undetermined (i.e. free)?

            Aside from the original thoughts, on this question, undetermined and free could be argued as distinct, and raises the question of what is meant by free. One could even go further -- if the choice is constrained, is it free? I cannot will myself to fly like a bird, so that choice is taken from me. I could go get on a plane, but that is a separate choice. Having my choices limited, does that mean the ability to make a choice is constrained? Likewise, if a particular choice is predictable, does that negate the role of the ability to choose it? You could predict that Monday morning I will go to work, and that predication would almost certainly prove true. Does that imply I am not freely choosing to go, or did not choose that line of work?

            To try to answer the question, or offer my answer at least, I lean towards an existential position, that we are more free than is perhaps comfortable given a universe where no choice is unambiguously the right or safe one, and neither constraint in choice nor predictability removes this freedom from us. However, our choices help to create the meaning our life has, and who we are within that life. Therefore, it is not whether we are free, but what we do with our freedom, that seems of the utmost importance to me.

          • One could even go further -- if the choice is constrained, is it free?

            I found the following from Noam Chomsky to be incredibly helpful on this matter:

            younger Chomsky: "While it's true that our genetic program rigidly constrains us, I think the more important point is the existence of that rich, rigid constraint is what provides the basis for our freedom and creativity."Q: "But you mean it's only because we're pre-programmed that we can do all that we can do."A: "Well, exactly; the point is, if we really were plastic organisms without an extensive pre-programming, then the state that our mind achieves would in fact be a reflection of the environment, which means it would be extraordinarily impoverished. Fortunately for us we are rigidly pre-programmed, with extremely rich systems that are part of our biological endowment.(Noam Chomsky on "Education and Creativity", 15:56)

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9PqnWSlt9E#t=15m56s

          • David Hardy

            Hello Luke,

            Thank you for the quote and video -- it is an excellence example of how to flip the assumptions of my question on its head, and propose that some level of constraint is necessary for greater freedom.

          • Have you come across Richard Hamming's You and Your Research? There, he suggests that having less funding in a research lab can cause scientists to be more ingenious and discover things that wealthier labs are less likely to discover. (My wife finds this encouraging in our era of constricted science funding.)

            Perhaps the Enlightenment conceit that it had thrown off tradition and become Free and Rational has something to do with contemporary intuitions on these matters. I'd love to know why our thinking is so bad when it comes to prioritizing negative liberty over positive liberty, freedom of restraint over productive scaffolding. Perhaps the common reaction of rebellion to overbearing and overly restrictive rules can explain?

            I'm reminded of Roger Kimball's The age of discussion, where he explores the idea that "It is difficult for us, the beneficiaries of many centuries of political ingenuity, to imagine with what difficulty a polity of any sort was forged and maintained." What if what is needed at first are very strong rules, enforced more by force than reason, with disobedience being harshly punished? People aren't born with the abilities to be good democratic citizens—the twenty-first century has shown this without a shadow of a doubt. The foundation required is a pretty rigid structure, on top of which one can have fantastic freedom. (We can also question whether only the foundation needs to be rigid; this might presuppose that only a limited 'common good' can ever be constructed, aside perhaps from the value-free domain of scientific exploration.)

          • Darren

            Very nice.

            A relevant Existential Comic

        • Well, without getting into the 'override free will' description, sexual abuse, can be compared to a kind of 'death' of the 'mind'. However, becoming an abuser, does not necessarily result in the abuse of 'others'. Among women, with which I have some familiarity, the abuse is generally directed towards the 'self'. This may be the result of attempts to 'remember' or 'reprocess' the abuse, for many reasons. It is a known phenomena for instance, that prostitutes, (within an economic class) are most likely to have been victims of rape, and even incest for instance.

          There is some onus on the 'victim', to seek out the 'perpetrator' - a phenomena known even within domestic violence situations, as there is some kind of blame the abuser, blame the victim, conflation.... Thus the 'abused' may not only be vulnerable, but this vulnerability can lead for various reasons to behavior that is called 'promiscuous', but would with more understanding be more appropriately put within some category of attempt to find a 'recovery of self' but through repetition, and this inevitably results in some kind of failure, unfortunately.

          So if Free Will, can be defined within this context, the most essential characteristic of same, would perhaps be some form of self-esteem, wholeness, integrity, etc. etc. (I just learned for instance that Church doctrine recommends chastity for all victims of rape, etc. - That actually could be very 'sound advice'. If such were made within pragmatic considerations as well as being motivated by principle. Just thinking here...)

          But I'm not going to apologize for any 'incoherence' in these statements. It seems that I generally tend to reach out to disparate points or evidence in the attempt to widen and to consolidate experience. This perhaps with charity can be considered the basis of discovery or creativity, an alternative to the zero-in in the linear-thought patterns that attempt to prove a specific point. But if you do have a specific point to prove here, I trust and hope that it would not be based on 'personal' experience, but merely, as is often the case, within arguments, some 'fact' taken with some discretion from the impersonal/objective library of discourse, from which the use of the all encompassing 'all' will allow the deduction of a comfortable linear 'proof'..... (Do pardon my humor/irony). Thanks. This comment will leave my Disquis number at 2442. That's a pretty number. Hopefully I can hold it there, at least for a 'wh-y ?-le'!!!

        • This article appeared on Catholic Stand, this morning. I trust I am abiding by the rules in posting the article here.

          http://www.catholicstand.com/men-rape-conversation/

          • Darren

            Thank you for the link, Loraleen. While the article does raise some valid points, sadly it ends up, as so many others do, with victim blaming:

            Furthermore, what has been loosely called
            the “rape culture”, particularly on college campuses, cannot be fully understood and corrected without considering the degree to which sexual liberation
            and the “party culture”, the deliberate encouragement of alcoholic or drug intoxication at parties, contribute to the problem.

            I will disagree. Rape isn’t caused by keggers, short skirts,
            coeducation, or “easy women”. Rape is caused by rapists.

            I present this contrary viewpoint:

            The Missing Stair Analogy

            The linked blog, and the sublinked blog, discuss the problem of rape within the BDSM community and how sexual predators are able to game the system, taking advantage of social cohesion, group dynamics, and differential economic/social/legal/credibility power to hide in plain sight, as the saying goes. It would seem to be
            applicable to any situation where such conditions exist, college campuses and religious communities come to mind.

          • Thanks Darren. I take note of the criteria: "taking advantage of social cohesion, group dynamics, and "DIFFERENTIAL ECONOMIC/SOCIAL/LEGAL/CREDIBILITY POWER". Yes, as in the courts of law, where credibility of any witness in such cases, and perhaps this extends further, has to be seen within such a power differential. The he/she said vs. the she/he said dilemna is paramount.

            So I sent you Tracy's article, just because I thought I might have over emphasized the position of the 'woman' in my previous e-mail. This is really a 'major topic'. Does it fit into this discussion? Perhaps as an example of the limitations based on our limited powers 'to know'!!!

            In the 60's, the women's liberation movement emphasized the importance of a woman's mind over a woman's body- or in today's language, it was against objectification. I have seen several changes in women's liberation, for instance throughout the years. But in the last decade this original problematic has once again come to the foreground, may I suggest, within a more dangerous context. For instance the criteria with respect to life issues has changed considerably, and these and other differences between the two time periods often tend to be almost 'beyond my belief'. This is not the place to discuss such issues of course, but yes, whether taken within a religious or political context---- Power rules......

          • Doug Shaver

            I will disagree. Rape isn’t caused by keggers, short skirts, coeducation, or “easy women”. Rape is caused by rapists.

            I believe there is also reasonable doubt that this so-called rape culture even exists, on college campuses or anywhere else in this country.

          • Darren

            Doug Shaver wrote,

            I believe there is also reasonable doubt that this so-called rape culture even exists, on college campuses or anywhere else in this country.

            Outside of my area of expertise, I am afraid. I am, however, much less likely to dismiss such claims as rape culture and institutional racism than I once was. Using the Wikipedia definition, if no other, then there certainly appeared to be something matching those criteria existing in: The RCC hierarchy up to at least the late 2000's, the Penn State athletic program, numerous contemporary evangelical colleges, and the Greek and athletic programs of early 1990s University of Kansas.

          • Doug Shaver

            Using the Wikipedia definition, if no other, then there certainly appeared to be something matching those criteria existing in: The RCC hierarchy up to at least the late 2000's, the Penn State athletic program, numerous contemporary evangelical colleges, and the Greek and athletic programs of early 1990s University of Kansas.

            To avoid a major derailment of this thread, I'll just put it on the record that I disagree.

  • Darren

    In the words of the immortal Tevye, “Then again, on the other hand…”, an article in Lapham’s Quarterly extoling the superiority of medieval Islamic science and medicine:

    Early Islamic Medicine

    (EDIT - full disclosure, while interesting, I have not fact-checked the article. As with everything, due diligence is advised)

    • With respect to Stacy's reference to science, I submit the following article from New Advent. http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2016/06/determinism-science-commits-suicide.html

      Edit: This comment has been rewritten several times, and it remains I acknowledge but a superficial presentation of 'the problem'. Thank you.
      On the issue of Kant"s Transcendental Deduction and it's relationship to the inductive character of empirical 'Judgments'.

      The question behind this discussion could be phrased perhaps as: "Where or what is the basis of intelligibility or indeed the foundation of our reasoning, considered both as distinct from and/or in relation to what is referred to as faith"?

      I would initially, merely point out that the contradictions found in many conversations do indeed proceed from that scope of 'intelligence' that is called 'faith', within the context of their being 'beyond reason', or should I say (as within Kant's categories), beyond the 'understanding'. Yet, paradoxically, it is within the scope of faith based issues that the most fundamental questions are asked. Whether it be the existence of simplicity, freedom vs. determinism, a beginning or preternatural existence of the material universe, or his fourth category: whether indeed 'God' Is or....these Kantian antinomies can possibly be classified as imaginative or intuitive inductive premises, whether the argument presents a religious or scientific perspective. (This may indeed 'provoke' an argument'!!!)

      When I turned to examine Heidegger's' Kant and the Problems of Metaphysics', I was 'delighted' to find several of my 'conjectures' validated. For some time, (following what someone said was the advice of Godel) I have been considering the importance of circular arguments or perhaps preferably, discussions or searches for answers that can rotate in different ways between different 'points of view'. This idea is described within the post-modern literature as 'circular hermeneutics'. Like the circle between Descartes's clear and distinct ideas and God; between Berkeley's perception of a forest, and assurance that the trees are still there when he is no longer looking because 'God is'; -yes- this reach for a higher 'deductive' intelligent 'source' can perhaps be regarded as an extension of the Copernican revolution as given within Kant's philosophy, for he introduces a similar circularity between the inductive (yes-from initial perceptions or intuitions) that form our immediate judgments (within a grammatical context, in contrast to a formally logically based argument, say), and what, I have yet to understand!... constitutes the foundation of intelligibility within a 'Transcendental Deduction'.

      Yes. The first thing I noticed was that this concept of The Transcendental Deduction is the primary focus of Heidegger's analysis of Kant's metaphysics. It is identified as 'the problematic' of metaphysics. We may say, perhaps, that the problematic as presented by Kant has been reduced to, or identified as belonging within the scope of 'language'. Within a tendency to become poetic, and with an accompanying irony this suggested the thought: "There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so". http://nfs.sparknotes.com/hamlet/page_106.html (Edit: 6/15-16. This from EN on Luke Breuer provides a link to the book. https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Objectivism- And this link gives a good critical review that pretty well sums up my 'discovery' which I am presenting here.
      http://www.friesian.com/bernsten.htm

      There is a lot available on line with respect to this issue, if anyone is interested, or even casually or co-relatively! curious. My search for answers at least gave me some 'satisfaction' that I had become acquainted with the terrain. (Or as per the above article, one of perhaps many many maps...) But, cannot this map and the territory be regarded as consisting of polarities, which according to Derrida form an essential element that defines language? Does not language, as per Shakespeare, as somehow 'a priori' to experience, perhaps include may I suggest all of the entailed, contradictions, limitations, polarities, antinomies of thought that we nominate as existing, not only within the classifications of 'belief' and/or 'faith' but within various forms of even 'scientific' hypothesize?

      It is with a continued 'sense of irony' that this problematic could be thought to question the coherence, consistency, and correspondences found within human reason. Could contradiction be held to obtain as an unavoidable aspect of language? Kant declares that we know not 'the thing itself', per-SE-ity! but only the world as we see it for 'ourselves'. Yet, perhaps, at some future time, through analysis of alternative linguistic structures, the metaphysical problematic as found within the polarities of language may indeed be understood and 'transcended'. Or within the scientific perspective, we may hope that our understanding will 'evolve'.

      For the moment it seems that there is but one choice available: argument is necessary in order to avoid the polarities found in language. Contradiction is overcome through the strict employment of linear thought, which avoids the circularity found in question begging. Yet, without negating the need for good valid argument grounded in 'reality' or sound principles, and the choice of but one element within any given polarity, might it be possible to avoid this either/or exclusion, Yes.. --could the placement of any polarity within the framework of a circularity involve a structural basis that consciously combines as a process or as dialectic - the polarities of reference within a circularity of hermeneutics....or that sense of meaning or significance that provides the content of our understanding within the context of 'life experience'.

      The more I read the post-moderns, the more I wonder if this latter possibility is what they hope will become increasingly more appreciated within language over the centuries ahead. Yet, this hope for better communication is also, I trust, the hope expressed in this post by Stacey. We also have, among the maps and territories such distinctions as a Marxian theory vs. praxis, for instance, or the scientific mathematical and yes, language based paradigms within various relationships to what may be referred to as matter, experience, data, whatever, all within different contexts. When is the circularity within the process of understanding relevant? What are the ways this process can be examined within the faith-reason opposition? How could such distinctions as those between dogma and experience, imagination and understanding, and other concepts be analyzed and actually applied within any given paradigm, and particularly in contrasting ways by groups in opposition?

      Does the problematic of the source, or structures of intelligence, indeed involve a transcendental deduction, as suggested within Kant's vocabulary? Are we fundamentally talking about the question of 'Agency'? What might be the relationship between intelligence and will, within either a theological (personal) or philosophical (external) context? Is it possible to substantiate the 'existence' of same, or does such a question constitute the very problematic of a metaphysic? Could such 'deductions', within specific contexts, involve, or include the recognition, of such possibilities, as various forms of assumption about what constitutes the facts,and in such a way that a communicative process does not necessarily rest on the "I think...therefore you ought.." paradigm. Perhaps.... and/or, either/both and other such presumptions, assumptions, call it what you will, can be found in all areas of communication. Could such 'communicative actions' become cooperative ventures which include both reason and faith, even within a scientifically subjective, or personally oriented paradigm? What are the assumptions within the distinction between the 'objective' and the 'subjective'? Are these merely based on the accepted constructs of language, the conventions we assume to be credible? And perhaps even prior to these considerations, how do we measure or express each and every experience which can be found within our particular and individual sensations and life experience. But....I must stop? I can only ask: Am I dreaming? I wouldn't, couldn't argue 'the case' in any, let alone every case.. Argument can just become too 'problematic'!! Even when I 'look within' - it so often becomes too difficult to find the words... too difficult to find 'the reason'!!! And yet the language governs my thought. The language rules me, and so once again I seek the sounds of silence. Happy Googling!!!!!????
      Edit: 6/26/16. Will continue my struggle to 'understand' Kant's Transcendental Deduction, his description of Apperception, and other 'arguments' found within the first Critique.

  • VicqRuiz

    Hi, Stacy. A question:

    For about twelve hundred years (~300-1500) the Catholic church was far and away the dominant institution in Western educational and intellectual life.

    What would you say were the ten most significant scientific discoveries made during that period???

    • Darren

      Good question.
      The most significant discovery seems to be Islamic Science.

  • VicqRuiz

    Hi, Stacy.

    I asked you earlier this week about the ten most significant scientific discoveries made while the Catholic church was at its zenith of intellectual dominance.

    Let's narrow that down to the period 380 (Theodosius awards the state monopoly to Christianity) through 1517 (Luther picks up his hammer and tacks).

    Can you list those ten discoveries?

    Should we instead shoot for five?

  • VicqRuiz

    Stacy -

    Three??

    • Rob Abney

      Vic,
      You should read Stacy's articles about the stillbirth of science here at SN if you haven't already. Here is a paragraph from one of her articles (From Faith Came Science):
      This idea of impetus was the beginning of physics, exact science, where one discovery generates the next at an ever more accelerated rate. Buridan became the rector of the University of Paris in 1327 and taught there until about 1360. In 1377, his theory was formally proposed by Nicole Oresme (1320–1325) and was destined to be adopted by Albert of Saxony (1316–1390), Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), Galileo Galilei (1564–1642), and Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727). As has, in fact, occurred since the time of Buridan, physics has grown exponentially with new insights, understandings, capabilities, and realms of observation and measurement at almost unimaginable scales of minuteness and grandeur.

      • Darren

        It's almost as if the key ingredient to scientific progress isn't Christianity, it is prior progress. In this case, all the fundamental work accomplished by the pagan Greeks and continued by the infidel Moslems (EDIT with contributions from Asia) which just happened to reach a critical mass after assimilation into Renaissance Europe.

        • Rob Abney

          Have you read her series here at SN, or her book, or Jaki's book? She puts a great amount of reasoning into it rather than simply asserting it. You may have much more information than you can share in a combox in support of your position but she has supported her position with a lot of information. This current article only has one paragraph to support her assertion.

          • Darren

            Rob abney wrote,

            Have you read her series here at SN, or her book, or Jaki's book? She puts a great amount of reasoning into it rather than simply asserting it.

            I have read the SN series, yes. I found her reasoning, such as it is, to be spurious as she appears to have reached her conclusion before having begun her investigation. The irony of her doing so, in pieces devoted to science, was not lost upon me.

            I have little reason to expect her book, or the book which inspired her, to be sufficiently better to warrant the expense and time investment.

          • Rob Abney

            That's a fair answer, you've read her articles and find them non-persuasive, it was the opposite for me, I didn't expect to find any support for her position but I also was reading Truth in Religion by Mortimer Adler, he has a good way of demonstrating inconsistency between beliefs held by certain religions and scientific truths. He, as a pagan, did not find inconsistencies in Christianity, Judaism, or Islam.

          • Darren

            Let's just say that I find her theory about all non-Christian societies laboring under the twin handicaps of, "The cosmos is eternally cyclical, so why bother trying to figure out the germ theory of disease since it will all just reset in 5 billion years" and "My underlying animism renders attempts at determining the laws of motion futile since Jinn and Nerids will make my inclined planes and rolling spheres go shooting off the table in random directions any minute now" both dubious prima facia and unsupported by the historical record.

          • Darren

            On a related note, I am currently working my way through "The Scientists: A History of Science Told Through the Lives of Its Greatest Inventors" by John Gribbin. It is definitely on the popular-science level, which is suitable for such a biographical overview.

            It adds little to this current discussion, though, starting after the 1517 cutoff proposed by VicqRuiz.

      • VicqRuiz

        I have read her past articles here, and like Darren, I find them insufficiently convincing to motivate me to read her book.

        Stacy proclaims, with only the barest hint of qualification, that "science was born of Christianity". If this is true, it seems at least plausible to expect that:

        - there would be relatively few scientific discoveries during the years before the rise of Christianity
        - during the years when Christianity (and perhaps in particular Catholicism) dominated the educational and cultural spheres of the Western world, there should have been a flowering of scientific inquiry and of discovery. This corresponds roughly to the fourth through the early sixteenth century.
        - as the West's educational systems became increasingly secular in outlook, the volume of scientific discovery, being less inspired every decade by the Christian worldview, should have tapered off, perhaps even stagnated.

        In fact, it appears to me that exactly the opposite has been true.

        Mind you, I give Christianity full credit for preserving the works of the great pre-Christian scientific thinkers, without which I am sure the scientific revolution of the sixteenth century forward would have been retarded.

        But to suggest that science cannot reach its full potential unless its practitioners have internalized (knowingly or not) the concept of God enacted at the Council of Nicaea seems to me to be quite an extraordinary stretch.

        • Rob Abney

          Whats your opinion about the idea of impetus that she refers to? She and Jaki claim that no one had ever thought of it before Buridian.

          • Darren

            Buridan’s concept of Impetus is a great example of where Stacy goes wrong.

            The advance of knowledge is an evolutionary process, with
            each researcher building off the works preceding. As Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” (a saying itself embodying the principle as it was largely borrowed from Bernard of Chartres, or so Wikipedia tells me). It is still a matter of debate how this evolution works, slow and steady or fast with periods of stagnation (Paradigm Shift per Thomas Kuhn), but the evolution itself is fact.

            Let us recall that Stacy’s claim is not that science just did arise in Europe, which it arguably did (more later), but that science could only have arisen in a Christian culture and medieval Europe was that culture. This is a much different claim.

            First, when did Science start? As with all evolutionary processes this is a question without a clear answer. We face the Problem of the Heap: a pile of a million sand grains is definitely a heap; a single sand grain is definitely not. But where is the line? If we start with one grain, and add grain by grain till we get to one million, at what point did our non-heap turn into a heap? So it is with science. Buriden’s Impetus was almost Momentum, but not quite. That would require several more iterations, being developed by Galileo (who had it almost right, but thought that objects naturally travelled in very large circles, which nicely explained the motion of the planets before there was such a thing as gravity) and then ultimately Newton before it was actually finished (at least until the birth of Quantum theory at the beginning of the 20th century and its curving space
            and the discovery of the Higgs last year). But why plant our flag on Buriden when he “only” made improvements on the model of Abu'l-Barakat, who himself made improvements on the model of Avicenna, who made improvements on the model of Philoponus, who was improving on Aristotle, etc. In any case, we have a Pagan, then a Christian, then a Muslim, then another Muslim, then back to good old Christian Buriden (then some more Christians, then a flaming heretic, then some Deists, and now mostly Atheists). So from the start we see that whether or not this one particular bit of science was “Born of Christianity” rather depends on which data point you pick, and on the face of it we have no more reason to pick Buriden than Avicenna.

            Second, where is this special conceptual principal that Christianity possessed and all other cultures lacked? From Buriden to Aristotle we have two Christians, two Muslims, and a pagan all thinking about the same thing, all arriving at similar, though progressively more correct, conclusions. Where is this conceptual crippling under which the Muslims and Pagans labored? What is unique about Buriden’s ability to take Avicenna’s work and improve upon it that was not also demonstrated by Avicenna’s ability to take Abu’l-Barakat’s work and improve upon it?

          • Rob Abney

            Trasancos' series of articles address this better than I can but basically she acknowledges that there were advances but that they were "stillborn" and did not develop exponentially until science and religion were in agreement about order in the cosmos.
            You don't agree with her, so where do you claim that science was born, with Aristotle? And just to check for consistency, where do you claim Christianity was born?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I hope that's not what Stacy says. One would think scientists would have a better grasp of basic mathematics

          • Rob Abney

            She and Jaki give a definition of science, its not all knowledge or discourses and it is not mathematics.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            One way of looking at exponential growth is that every X years the population will double. Just for the sake of example lets say that the amount scientific discoveries double ever 100 years and between 700-800 we had 10 discoveries. Than between 800-900 we would have 20, between 900-1000 we would have 40, between 1000-1100 we would have 80, between 1100-1200 we would have 160, and between 1200-1300 we would have 320.

            Point being, if the rate of scientific discoveries is exponential (I don't think it is), it is expected that at some point we will see noticeable rapid growth.

          • Rob Abney

            "When Jaki referred to the "birth" of modern science (exact science) he was referring to the application of mathematics (quantitative aspects) to physics (objects in motion), the change from classical Aristotelian physics to Newtonian physics, or what is known as the Scientific Revolution."

            Can we not consider the scientific revolution exponential growth? I thought it was but that was just my description not hers.

          • Darren

            Rob Abney wrote,

            You don't agree with her,
            so where do you claim that science was born, with Aristotle? And just to check for consistency, where do you claim Christianity was born?

            Per my earlier comment science evolved, so there is no more of an answer to the question when was science born than to when the first human was born or when a sand heap is born. We could say that science evolved from the pre-Socratic Atomists to today. We can draw some more or less arbitrary boundaries and say that science became recognizably science during the Renaissance. If we want a specific year, 1543 is about as good a date as we are going to get with the publication of Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica libri septem, and Trataglia’s Italian translation of Euclid’s Elements.

            Of course the Renaissance was, in general, a turning away
            from the worldview which had held sway in Italy and Europe for the previous 1,100 years, and Copernicus and Vesalius work specifically opposed orthodoxy.

            Christianity? A different conversation, but a similar
            answer. The first task is to be clear about just what you mean by Christianity, as there are many to choose from contemporaneously and historically.

          • VicqRuiz

            Buridan's concept is not trivial, but it's hard to see it as anything more than a deductive thought experiment.

            When I asked Stacy (with no result) about "scientific discoveries", I was thinking about the development of a model of part of the cosmos, one which fits the observations. Example - Erastothenes' measurement of the size of the Earth; example - Harvey's model of blood circulation; example - Kepler's determination that the planets follow an elliptical path.

  • garza45637@mail.ru

    Do not mix up with scince and religion. Religion based on the belief whereas science based on logic. Here is some sort of fact which may help you to understand it perfectly.