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Does “Atheology” Exist?

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Atheology

In his brief and (mostly) tightly argued book God, Freedom, and Evil, Alvin Plantinga writes:

"[S]ome theologians and theistic philosophers have tried to give successful arguments or proofs for the existence of God.  This enterprise is called natural theology… Other philosophers, of course, have presented arguments for the falsehood of theistic beliefs; these philosophers conclude that belief in God is demonstrably irrational or unreasonable.  We might call this enterprise natural atheology."  (pp. 2-3)

With all due respect for Plantinga, I’ve always found the expression “natural atheology” pretty annoying, even when I was an atheist.  The reason is that, given what natural theology as traditionally understood is supposed to be, the suggestion that there is a kind of bookend subject matter called “natural atheology” is somewhat inept.  (As we will see, though, Plantinga evidently does not think of natural theology in a traditional way.)

Start with the “theology” part of natural theology.  “Theology” means “the science of God,” in the Aristotelian sense of “science” -- a systematic, demonstrative body of knowledge of some subject matter in terms of its first principles.  Of course, atheists deny that there is any science of God even in this Aristotelian sense, but for present purposes that is neither here nor there.  The point is that a science is what theology traditionally claims to be, and certainly aims to be.

Take the Scholastic theologian’s procedure.  First, arguments are developed which purport to demonstrate the existence of a first cause of things.  Next, it is argued that when we analyze what it is to be a first cause, we find that of its essence such a cause must be pure actuality rather than a mixture of act and potency, absolutely simple or non-composite, and so forth.  Third, it is then argued that when we follow out the implications of something’s being purely actual, absolutely simple, etc. and also work backward from the nature of the effect to the nature of the cause, the various divine attributes (intellect, will, power, etc.) all follow.  Then, when we consider the character of the created order as well as that of a cause which is purely actual, simple, etc., we can spell out the precise nature of God’s relationship to that order.  (For Aquinas this entails the doctrine of divine conservation and a concurrentist account of divine causality, as opposed to an occasionalist or deist account.)  And so forth.

Even someone who doubts that this sort of project can be pulled off can see its “scientific” character.  The domain studied is, of course, taken to be real, and its reality is defended via argumentation which claims to be demonstrative.  Further argumentation of a purportedly demonstrative character is put forward in defense of each component of the system, and the system is very large, purporting to give us fairly detailed knowledge not only of the existence of God, but of his essence and attributes and relation to the created order.  Moreover, the key background notions (the theory of act and potency, the analysis of causation, the metaphysics of substance, etc.) are tightly integrated into a much larger metaphysics and philosophy of nature, so that natural theology is by no means an intellectual fifth wheel, arbitrarily tacked on for merely apologetic purposes to an already complete and self-sufficient body of knowledge.

Rather, its status as the capstone of human knowledge is clear.  The natural sciences as we understand them today (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.) are grounded in principles of the philosophy of nature, whose subject matter concerns what any possible natural science must take for granted.  Philosophy of nature in turn rests on deeper principles of metaphysics, whose subject matter is being as such (rather than merely material or changeable being, which is the subject matter of philosophy of nature; and rather than the specific sort of material or changeable world that actually exists, which is the subject matter of natural science).  Natural theology, in turn, follows out the implications of the fundamental notions of philosophy of nature and metaphysics (the theory of act and potency, etc.) and offers ultimate explanations.

Again, you don’t have to think any of this works in order to see that what it aspires to is a kind of science.  By contrast, what Plantinga calls “atheology” could not possibly be any kind of science, and doesn’t claim to be.  For the “atheologian” doesn’t claim to be studying some domain of reality and giving us systematic knowledge of it.  On the contrary, his entire aim is to show that there is no good reason to think the domain in question is real.  You can have a “science” only of what exists, not of what doesn’t exist.  Otherwise “aunicornology” would be just as much a science as ichthyology or ornithology is.  Ichthyology and ornithology are sciences because there are such things as fishes and birds, and there is systematic knowledge to be had about what fishes and birds are like.  “Aunicornology” is not a science, because there is in the strict sense no such thing as a systematic body of knowledge of the nonexistence of unicorns, or of the nonexistence of anything else for that matter.  Suppose someone denied the existence of fishes and tried to offer arguments for their nonexistence.  It would hardly follow that he is committed to practicing something called “aichthyology” in the sense of a systematic body of knowledge of the nonexistence of fish.

Note that I am not saying anything here that an atheist couldn’t agree with.  The claim is not that one couldn’t have solid arguments for atheism (though of course I don’t think there are any).  The point is rather that even if there were solid arguments, they wouldn’t give you any kind of “science” in the sense of a systematic body of knowledge of some domain of reality.  Rather, what they would do is to show that some purported domain of reality doesn’t really exist.
 
 
NOTE: Dr. Feser's contributions at Strange Notions were originally posted on his blog, including this article, and therefore lose some of their context when reprinted here. Dr. Feser explains why that matters.

Dr. Edward Feser

Written by

Dr. Edward Feser is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California. He has been a Visiting Assistant Professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and a Visiting Scholar at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of California at Santa Barbara, a master’s degree in religion from the Claremont Graduate School, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religious studies from the California State University at Fullerton. He is author of numerous books including The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism (St. Augustines Press, 2010); Aquinas (Oneworld, 2009); and Philosophy of Mind (Oneworld, 2007). Follow Dr. Feser on his blog and his website, EdwardFeser.com.

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  • Ladolcevipera

    Take the Scholastic theologian’s procedure.

    Assuming that Aquinas arguments are sound (i.e. that they do not assume in the premises what is yet to be proved) they only prove that there must be a first cause. To call this first cause "God" and to ascribe it various christian attributes does not follow from logical thinking but is a matter of faith. Faith is the apriori that hovers over the scholastic system and compromises it.

    The claim is not that one couldn’t have solid arguments for atheism (though of course I don’t think there are any).

    Of course there are. Take f.i. the problem of evil, of intense human suffering. Either God cannot prevent it, in which case He is not omnipotent and not God; or he is responsible for evil in which case He is not Good and not God. So what kind of God is he?

    • William Davis

      In my view, atheists have great arguments against God, theists have great arguments for God, there are great arguments for all kinds of things. It requires testing to determine which are true (reason alone does not seem to be sufficient, in least in my view) and at this point we have no idea how to test for God.
      Science, for example, has been full of great arguments and theories that seemed plausible, but turned out to be quite false. Here's an example:

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

      • Ladolcevipera

        I know that one. It was a favourite of my former professor of Philosophy of Science.
        I agree with you when you say that there are great arguments for theism and atheism. Theism can never be a matter of science. It cannot contradict science, but it does not depend upon science. Faith is a matter of believing something for good reasons. Even if these reasons cannot be proven they may be rationally justified. "There are more things in Heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy"...

        • Kraker Jak

          Faith is a matter of believing something for good reasons. Even if these reasons cannot be proven they may be rationally justified.

          If these good reasons cannot be proven or rationally justified...I would call that blind faith What is it that you define as rationally justified, or good reasons to believe? You seem to be trying to have your cake and eat it too.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Does natural science prove things or does it provide a rational justification for accepting its findings as true while falling short of proving them?

            The Preambles of Faith in Catholicism provide rational grounds for making an act of faith.

          • Kraker Jak

            Does natural science prove things or does it provide a rational
            justification for accepting its findings as true while falling short of
            proving them?

            Sorry not going to take the bait today.

            Natural Science: any of the sciences (as physics,
            chemistry, or biology) that deal with matter, energy, and their
            interrelations and transformations or with objectively measurable
            phenomena

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Philosophy and theology are sciences too (if properly practiced), and there are plenty of other sciences beyond the natural sciences.

          • Kraker Jak

            Philosophy and theology are sciences too

            I will grant you that...but only in the broad loose sense of the definition.

            Science is the pursuit and application of knowledge and
            understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            ________ is the pursuit and application of knowledge and
            understanding of __________ following a systematic
            methodology based on _____________ evidence.

          • Ladolcevipera

            What is "evidence"?

          • Kraker Jak

            What is "evidence"?

            Evidence of what?

          • Ladolcevipera

            following a systematic methodology based on evidence.

            I was referring to Dilthey's distinction between "Verstehen" and "Erklären". I think English has only one term for both verbs: to understand (I am not familiar with English terminology in this respect). Anyhow, "Erklären" is the method of natural sciences, of law based explanation. "Verstehen" is the method of meaningful understanding, the theory of interpretation (hermeneutics).
            "Evidence" has a different meaning according to whether you use it in the context of natural sciences or in the context of social sciences.

          • William Davis

            Natural science tentatively proves theories until new evidence shows them to be false. Then new theories are developed to explain the new evidence. All theories must make predictions and be falsifiable. Richard Dawkin's "meme theory" is thus pseudoscience as it makes no predictions and is unfalsifiable.

          • Ladolcevipera

            Not every aspect of life is subject to scientific proof. That would be a reductionistic view on reality. It is f.i. not possible to "prove" with scientific methods that a person is loyal, but one might have sufficient reasons to be rationally justified in believing that s/he is. That is a far cry from "blind faith". One could of course be deceived, but that is a risk one has to take. Faith is not an exact science. That is why christians say that they believe in God, not that they are 100% sure that He exists. I think many of them have serious doubts at some point in their lives.

          • Kraker Jak

            christians say that they believe in God

            So do Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Deists, and untold numbers of others...who do not rely on scientific evidence, but in actuality is based on blind faith. The fact that one accepts someone they know as being loyal or loving has nothing to do with scientific proof, ....Loyalty or anything such as trust is not rooted in blind faith but rooted in evidence based on experience with that individual., but religious belief is rooted in blind faith and blind trust.

          • Ladolcevipera

            I think that this comment is not quite fair on believers. You commit the fallacy of hasty generalisation. It may be true that SOME believers accept unconditionally whatever "truth" their religion may present them but it does not follow that this is the case with ALL believers. I cannot speak for Muslims, Hindus etc. but I have christian (catholic) friends who freely talk about their doubts. Many of them are scientists and I think we can safely assume that they have questioned their faith. That is why they say that there can never be a 100% guarantee but they BELIEVE in a God who has revealed Himself in one person: Jesus Christ. They put their trust in his words and deeds. Science is ultimately also a question of trust: we trust that the world is as our scientific method tells us it is. And science works of course. But that may not be all their is to it.
            I do not belief in this christian, personal God, but I give believers the benefit of the doubt. But then I am a friendly atheist whereas you seem to be an unfriendly atheist.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I would surmise (from personal experience) that there are two kinds of acts of "faith" that Christians make.

            Strictly speaking, the primary act of faith is the assent of the mind to revealed truths that could never be known without revelation, such as the Trinity or the Incarnation of Christ.

            Individual Christians also make an act of faith by assenting to truths what could be known by reason but that they personally don't, like the mere existence of God or that, in the face of suffering, God is good.

            I find it is actually easier to doubt that God exists than that he is a Trinity of persons.

          • Ladolcevipera

            I find it is actually easier to doubt that God exists than that he is a Trinity of persons.

            I really do not understand what you are saying here. If you believe that God is a Trinity of persons, you surely cannot doubt that He exists?

          • Kraker Jak

            But then I am a friendly atheist whereas you seem to be an unfriendly atheist.

            Well....good on you brother....Let me rephrase that..you are not far from the kingdom of god, while I on the other hand am bound for perdition.

          • Ladolcevipera

            It is extremely unlikely that either possibilitiy will ever be "actualised". I wouldn't mind meeting you in hell though. You may be unfriendly but I think you are fun!

          • Kraker Jak

            It may be hard to find me in a crowd of that size, as that is where most people who ever lived are going to go according to traditional Christian theology...but I will keep an eye out for someone who looks like a white owl:-)

          • Ladolcevipera

            but I will keep an eye out for someone who looks like a white owl:-)

            I haven't the faintest idea what this expression means. If it is an insult, I'd rather not know. I was just being friendly.

          • Raymond

            Dude, he's just referring to the avatar on your postings...

          • Ladolcevipera

            My avatar is so familiar to me that I completely forgot it. It was only when @Kraker Jak wrote his sentences twice that it rang a bell.
            Btw: I assume that you and Kraker Jak know that a "white owl" is an euphemism for "phallus" (mostly used with regard to homosexual males). I wasn't too pleased, especially since I am a heterosexual women. But this misunderstanding on my part is now solved. Thank you!

          • Kraker Jak

            assume that you and Kraker Jak know that a "white owl" is an euphemism for "phallus"

            I did not know that. Thanks. As you may or may not know, the chess bishop is also a symbol of a phallus hence the funny euphemism for something most boys have done once or twice...."polishing the bishop" Sorry for No offense meant about the white owl.....I was referring to your avatar.

          • Ladolcevipera

            Ah, stupid me! Ah, stupid me! I forgot all about my avatar and completely misinterpreted the "white owl". I'm really very sorry about that. And you really are funny!

          • Ged Eduard Narvaez

            Too much generalization...like saying Kraker believes all of this are blind faith.
            Wow.. i think you're more on that side than philosophers do, unless you can prove it (e.g. St. Thomas Aquinas)..
            And then, you can get off your "blind faith" propaganda

      • TomD123

        "It requires testing to determine which are true."
        This is problematic given the kinds of arguments for and against theism. Take the problem of evil in one formulation:
        (1) If God is all-good and all-powerful, no evil would occur (bc God would prevent it).
        (2) Evil occurs
        (3) Therefore, God is not all good and all-powerful.

        (2) Is an observational truth but it is not something that requires any experiment. (1) Is a conceptual point. Whether or not it is true does not depend on any empirical finding.

        The same can be said about theistic arguments. While arguments for and against theism often rely on observational evidence (they are not entirely a priori), these empirical facts are often uncontroversial.

        Just because science is full of great theories that turned out to be false it doesn't mean that in order to determine whether or not anything is true we need experimental data.

        • William Davis

          Just because science is full of great theories that turned out to be false it doesn't mean that in order to determine whether or not anything is true we need experimental data.

          This statement, of course, depends on your epistemology, and there is no universally compelling epistemology. If I stick with a more skeptical epistemology, my statement stands. If you cannot falsify something, I don't believe you can know it's true. You cannot prove the existence of your God any more than Muslims can prove the existence of theirs simply because you cannot prove the Muslims to be incorrect. This goes for every other metaphysics as well, they are above what is testable.

          • TomD123

            "If you cannot falsify something, I don't believe you can know its true."
            It depends on what you mean by "falsify." If you mean empirically falsify via experimentation, the statement is obviously false as it is self-refuting.

            If you have another meaning of "falsify" I'd be interested in hearing what that is.

            Moreover, whether or not a theist can prove the existence of God (be he a Muslim or a Catholic, they are not different "gods" they are different claims to revelation, nevertheless...) depends on whether or not there are good arguments for the claim that God exists. If there are, then a fortiori your epistemology is false.

          • William Davis

            A good argument always depends on the premises. All arguments for God have premises that can easily be criticized and are generally not prove able. A good argument is not the same a true argument. God could easily solve this problem for us if he wanted to. He could provide evidence, it would be easy for him.

          • TomD123

            You are jumping around now. I criticized your position about falsifiability. I did NOT argue that any argument for God is successful. Rather, I said that whether or not they are is not an empirical matter.

            You may find the arguments for God not compelling. That is fine, I didn't say that they were compelling. All I said was that they are generally not matters where experiments would add anything.

          • William Davis

            Sorry not trying to jump around. Let me stick with falsification. One Christian claim is that God answer's prayer. Essentially all studies of prayer (I can link if you're not familiar with them) show it has no effect on outcomes. These studies have been large and varied. Thus, one Christian claim is empirically false. Or at the very least, God answers prayer at the same rate as chance. These are not frivolous prayers, these were prayers to save people's lives.

            To me, it is a valid question as to why we don't encounter the supernatural in scientific experimentation. These encounters would look like unexplainable anomalies. In science, anomalies almost always result in new theories that explain the anomalies, and then they are no longer anomalies. Reality seems to be highly deterministic at least according to all the testing done so far.
            If God exists, he surely seems to be a God that hides more like a deist God than anything else.

          • TomD123

            That is still jumping around a lot--and changing your story.

            First of all, we were talking about arguments for and against God's existence. You said that these were not falsifiable and therefore they could not be used to establish a conclusion.

            I responded by saying that (i) your epistemic principle that something needs to be falsifiable via experimentation in order to be justified is self-refuting. and (ii) Arguments for and against God's existence are not falsifiable in this way, and but their premises are largely conceptual. I gave the example of an atheist argument for the logical problem of evil. You have yet to respond to point (i) defending your self-refuting epistemic position and point (ii) defending your application of this principle to the arguments for and against God's existence despite me giving you an example to the contrary, namely, the argument from evil.

            Second of all, you seem to be switching your story now, or at least changing the subject. You can't have it both ways: either the view you are criticizing is falsifiable or it is not. You originally said it is not. Now you provide an example claiming that it is. Moreover, you switched the claim you were arguing against. I made no effort to argue for Christianity, and I haven't even given you a reason to believe I am a Christian. We were talking specifically about arguments for and against God's existence. I was challenging your view that they need to be empircally falsifiable in order to be useful arguments which can establish what they set out to. It is impossible to have a discussion if you keep switching the topic into something else and contradicting yourself.

            Third, prayer studies are crap from a scientific perspective as it is virtually impossible to have a control group among other reasons. Note I am not arguing prayer works, only that prayer studies are bogus and that is plainly evident.

          • William Davis

            your epistemic principle that something needs to be falsifiable via experimentation in order to be justified is self-refuting

            I was challenging your view that they need to be empircally falsifiable in order to be useful arguments which can establish what they set out to.

            I think you just don't understand what I'm saying, as you are misrepresenting my thoughts here. A justified position can be justifiable on reason alone, but I hold a "justified" position with less certainty than one I've proven through via attempts at falsification. This is about degrees of certainty.

            You can continue to claim I'm jumping around, but that doesn't really make it so. All of reality is evidence about God if he exists, I was simply giving an example of a testable God claim. Of you respond that this is impossible to test scientifically, I don't agree and the experimentation on many studies was done fairly rigorously. Again all they prove is that either the volume of prayers does not matter, or God only changes outcomes at an undetectable rate. I don't see any other possibility, though I'm not necessarily wanting to get into that here.

            Perhaps this will explain where I'm coming from better. Here is Baruch Spinoza's proof of God, in a nutshell. He shows that there can only be one substance, God. Thus Christian claims of a secondary substance that consists of angels, souls, and God can't be true. I'm not saying Spinoza's right, but his claim seems very justified and even simpler than Aquinas's proof. My only question to you is...if both of these proofs are "justified" how do I tell which one is true.

            In propositions one through fifteen of Part One, Spinoza presents the basic elements of his picture of God. God is the infinite, necessarily existing (that is, uncaused), unique substance of the universe. There is only one substance in the universe; it is God; and everything else that is, is in God.

            Proposition 1: A substance is prior in nature to its affections.

            Proposition 2: Two substances having different attributes have nothing in common with one another. (In other words, if two substances differ in nature, then they have nothing in common).

            Proposition 3: If things have nothing in common with one another, one of them cannot be the cause of the other.

            Proposition 4: Two or more distinct things are distinguished from one another, either by a difference in the attributes [i.e., the natures or essences] of the substances or by a difference in their affections [i.e., their accidental properties].

            Proposition 5: In nature, there cannot be two or more substances of the same nature or attribute.

            Proposition 6: One substance cannot be produced by another substance.

            Proposition 7: It pertains to the nature of a substance to exist.

            Proposition 8: Every substance is necessarily infinite.

            Proposition 9: The more reality or being each thing has, the more attributes belong to it.

            Proposition 10: Each attribute of a substance must be conceived through itself.

            Proposition 11: God, or a substance consisting of infinite attributes, each of which expresses eternal and infinite essence, necessarily exists. (The proof of this proposition consists simply in the classic “ontological proof for God's existence”. Spinoza writes that “if you deny this, conceive, if you can, that God does not exist. Therefore, by axiom 7 [‘If a thing can be conceived as not existing, its essence does not involve existence’], his essence does not involve existence. But this, by proposition 7, is absurd. Therefore, God necessarily exists, q.e.d.”)

            Proposition 12: No attribute of a substance can be truly conceived from which it follows that the substance can be divided.

            Proposition 13: A substance which is absolutely infinite is indivisible.

            Proposition 14: Except God, no substance can be or be conceived.

            This proof that God—an infinite, necessary and uncaused, indivisible being—is the only substance of the universe proceeds in three simple steps. First, establish that no two substances can share an attribute or essence (Ip5). Then, prove that there is a substance with infinite attributes (i.e., God) (Ip11). It follows, in conclusion, that the existence of that infinite substance precludes the existence of any other substance. For if there were to be a second substance, it would have to have someattribute or essence. But since God has all possible attributes, then the attribute to be possessed by this second substance would be one of the attributes already possessed by God. But it has already been established that no two substances can have the same attribute. Therefore, there can be, besides God, no such second substance.

            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/spinoza/

          • TomD123

            I say you are jumping around because I was challenging your claim that "In my view, atheists have great arguments against God, theists have great arguments for God, there are great arguments for all kinds of things. It requires testing to determine which are true (reason alone does not seem to be sufficient, in least in my view) and at this point we have no idea how to test for God."

            Rather than defending this claim, you offer a way that we can test for God, namely prayer studies. I agree I don't want to get into an argument about their validity here, but surely that is jumping around if not contradicting yourself.

            In any case, maybe we are using the word "justified" differently. So let's drop that word. I would argue that apart from empirical testing in an experimental context, certain arguments can be known to be good or bad via reason alone. I gave the example of the problem of evil. The second premise (as I articulated the argument in my first comment to you) is empirical but not controversial and not subject to experimentation. The first premise is entirely conceptual. I have provided a counter-example to your claim that "it requires testing to determine which things are true"

            As for Spinoza's argument, regardless of whether or not it succeeds or fails, it is incompatible with Aquinas's understanding of God. So one of their arguments has to fail. Now, both arguments may compel reasonable people, and their errors (if they have any) may be difficult to ascertain, but there is a fact of the matter as to which argument fails and why.

            Now, it may be the case that Spinoza and/or Aquinas's argument are each falsifiable in terms of empirical testing, in which case, this empirical testing ought to be done and until it is done, we are not justified in believing either argument (beyond maybe having a hunch or something). However, it is my contention that there are at least some arguments for and against God which are not subject to experimental testing and which can go a long way in establishing whether or not God exists. This does not mean that every argument for or against God is not subject to some sort of empirical evaluation. But the fact that some are does mean that you cannot insist on obtaining experimental data in order to have a rational position about the existence of God. The degree of certitude is up for debate.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            As is mathematics. No amount of empirical data will ever prove that pi is irrational. For any round object in the physical world, the ratio of its circumference to its diameter will be rational by definition. In fact, it seems a self-contradiction in terms to say that any ratio is irrational.

            Popper's program was to undermine the reliability of science. It's a shame to see so many on board.

          • William Davis

            No amount of empirical data will ever prove that pi is irrational.

            Of course, you can make a really good circle and make measurements. Pi is only irrational given euclidean axioms. In taxicab geometry (which is quite valid and useful in cities) Pi is simply the number 4

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

            So, i Pi really irrational, or is it really 4?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No matter how "really good" the circle is, the ratio remains an actual ratio, hence ratio-nal.

            In taxicab geometry, there are no circles. There are paths that are analogous to circles, but that doesn't mean statements about them are equivalent to statements about circles. For that matter, what is the "diameter" of such a path?

          • William Davis

            This article makes it easier to discern the diameter

            http://taxicabgeometry.net/geometry/circles.html

            If we measured the circle and found the ratio to be exactly 3, we would know it's not irrational. Inside the axioms of Euclidean geometry, I agree with the proof that pi is irrational, but are the axioms of Euclidean geometry true? In my view, we are working inside a model, and we use the model because it works. In a way, circles don't necessarily exist because they are an oversimplification of reality. No star is perfectly spherical, no planet, even balls aren't perfectly circular. Circles are simply an approximation of real shapes.

          • William Davis

            P.S. I personally like rationalism (your perspective) better, I've just been toying with being skeptical of rationalism lately. Thinking from different philosophies is interesting, even if I'm a bit sloppy with it ;)

          • Michael Murray

            The diameter of a subset C of a metric space is the smallest number which is an upper bound for the distance between any two points of C . Assuming it is finite. In this case the set is the boundary of an open ball of radius r and its diameter would be bounded above by 2r in general and in this particular example the diameter would be 2r.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            That would be the diameter of the circle enclosing the figure. We might agree by convention that this will stand duty as the diameter of the figure as well. But the point remains that mathematical theorems are not demonstrated by accumulating empirical measurements.

          • Michael Murray

            We might agree by convention that this will stand duty as the diameter of the figure as well.

            Everything in mathematics is a matter of definition or if you like convention. What I gave is the usual definition for the diameter of a subset of a metric space.

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

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Sure, but the original contention was that the irrationality of pi is not something that can be established tentatively by empirical data,but with certainty by deduction from the axioms. If you wish to point out that different axioms may lead to different conclusions, feel free; but that is like if someone points out at Inuit is agglutinative someone else comes back saying 'But English is not'.

          • William Davis

            For me, the point of the whole thing is that the truth of PI depends on the axioms being used, and those axioms are independent of external reality. Of course certain axioms yield systems of math that are more easily used to describe reality. Taxicab works better than euclidean when modelling city streets, and euclidean works better in physics. Perhaps math is more of a modelling tool in the human mind than an objective property of reality. Even our best math models are oversimplifications of reality, though they are useful ones.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Even our best math models are oversimplifications of reality, though they are useful ones.

            And to the extent that physics is expressed in the language of mathematics, natural science is also a simplification that leaves out chunks of reality.

            For me, the point of the whole thing is that the truth of PI depends on the axioms being used, and those axioms are independent of external reality.

            Not independent, but abstracted from. Points, lines, number, quantity, and the like were actually abstracted from sense experience. (Abstract means to "pull out.") So are things like prime, symmetry, ratio, etc. These exist in nature regardless whether any human being is around to express them in syllogistic form. That mathematics deals with the abstracted properties of ideal bodies and the physics with the abstracted properties of real bodies should not send us off into realms of Neoplatonic woo-woo with mathematics floating free in the world of ideals nor into the cold dungeons of nominalism in which we simply manipulate symbols.

            For an Aristotelian realist view of mathematics, see a general interest article here:
            http://aeon.co/magazine/science/what-is-left-for-mathematics-to-be-about/

            a more scholarly version here:
            http://www.academia.edu/886258/Aristotelianism_in_the_philosophy_of_mathematics

            and the "stuffed" book version here:
            http://web.maths.unsw.edu.au/~jim/irv.pdf

          • William Davis

            I'll agree with this(for the most part). You'll probably also agree that falsification is a very useful qualification for psychological theories. So much (but definitely not all) in that field has been unfalsifiable, and thus, poor science at the best, pseudoscience at the worst.
            In the end, the question is whether what we abstract is exact truth, or just modeling of reality.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            "Falsification" is simply the Aristotelian syllogism of modus tollens. (P→Q; not-Q; therefore not-P). Modus ponens is (P→Q; P; therefore Q). Natural science is based on a logical fallacy: (P→Q; Q; therefore P.) That is, if a theory P predicts a consequence Q, then theory P is demonstrated. This fails because there might be other theories that also entail Q and you cannot tell from Q which of the theories is operative. That's why science is really messy and there is no one "scientific method," no "crucial confirming experiment." This remains true no matter how many different Q are confirmed. That is the root of Popper's critique of positivism: of the various possible Ps than can account for the same body of Qs there must be some way to thin the turkey herd. So any P→Q where not-Q is confirmed is right out. Current global warming models, for example. However, theories that are not falsifiable are not ipso facto unscientific. String theory, multiple worlds, natural selection and the like are still regarded as scientific.

            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/induction-problem/

          • William Davis

            Many scientists do not regard string theory and multiple worlds as scientific, they are more like conjecture on top of science. This is not true of all scientists of course. Evolution by natural selection is falsifiable, here's a few examples:

            Charles Darwin himself proposed a rather strong test of evolution: "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." [Darwin1859, pg. 175]. This is the basis of claims by various intelligent design writers that various biological structures, such as the vertebrate immune system or the bacterial flagellum, are "irreducibly complex" -- they consist of multiple components that could not develop in the absence of the others. However, these structures have been exhaustively studied in the scientific literature, and scientists have demonstrated entirely plausible evolutionary pathways. See Complexity.

            Famed biologist J. B. S. Haldane, when asked what evidence could disprove evolution, mentioned "fossil rabbits in the Precambrian era" [Ridley2004, pg. 66]. This is because mammals, according to current scientific analysis, did not emerge until approximately 40 million years ago, whereas the Precambrian era is prior to approximately 570 million years, when only the most primitive organisms existed on earth.

            Biologists had long conjectured that human chromosome number two was the result of a fusion of two corresponding chromosomes in most other primates. If DNA analysis of these chromosomes had shown that this was not the case, then modern evolutionary theory would indeed be drawn into question. This "fusion hypothesis" was indeed confirmed, rather dramatically, in 1993 (and further in 2005), by the identification of the exact point of fusion. For additional details see DNA.

            Modern DNA sequencing technology has provided a rigorous test of evolution, far beyond the wildest dreams of Charles Darwin. In particular, comparison of DNA sequences between organisms can be used as a measure of relatedness, and can further be used to actually construct the most likely "family tree" hierarchical relationship between a set of organisms. Such analyses have been done, and the results so far dramatically confirm the family tree that had been earlier constructed solely based on comparisons of body structure and biochemistry. For additional details see DNA.

            Of course some aspects of any theory may be unfalsifiable, but it is definitely something to shoot for. In general what we are discussing is a disagreement within the scientific community, and a pretty big one :)

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The essential unfalsifiability is evidenced by the absurdity of the example. A Precambrian Rabbit, forsooth!

            Given an end result, a clever fellow can always come up with a plausible just-so story, like the Texas Sharpshooter who paints the bulls-eye around the bullet hole. It could have happened this way! Perhaps, but did it?

            Notice the assumption -- and it is only an assumption -- that evolution necessarily proceeds "by numerous, successive, slight modifications." Yet more recent work in genetics has been revealing that due to internal genetic mechanisms, it is often massive, rapid, and particular.

            Sometimes the imaginary pathway runs through intermediate forms that make the organism more susceptible to strokes or some other malady that diminishes its likelihood of reproductive success.

            I have no objection to metaphysical stances, and that is what the Darwinian theory amounts to. Species either evolve from other species or they poof out of nothing. They do not poof. Therefore, they evolve out of other species. Given that, there must be a genetic pathway. But that does not prove that the trail was blazed by "random" mutations and natural "selection."

          • William Davis

            Not much objection here. No doubt natural selection plays a role (this can be gleaned from observation and laboratory experiments), but the "random" part is likely a place holder for a better understanding of evolution, at least, in part.

          • VicqRuiz

            But that does not prove that the trail was blazed by "random" mutations and natural "selection."

            The trail is so full of false starts and dead ends that if there is a designer involved, she must be either a rather dim intern learning on the job, or an out and out jokester.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            But false starts and dead ends are a major problem for the "random" mutation+natural "selection" routine.In what way does nature select for failures? Besides, "false" starts imply "true" starts, which implies a telos, as does "selection," which I don't think you would accept. The argument from incredulity doesn't work for creationists; why should it work for you?

            I'm curious why you think some sort of draftsman or engineer is the only possible alternative to a mid-Victorian metaphysic.

          • VicqRuiz

            It seems to me that the bacterial flagellum either (1) 'poofed' into existence from an indeterminate source or (2) it was the result of mutations+selection or (3) it was engineered. What's your (4)??

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            (4) The relevant mutations are not random, but due to epigenetic factors, cross-transfer, and other mechanisms.
            Once a variant appears, and if it is not ipso facto sterilizing or deadly, the organism uses it in some fashion. This produces the illusion of being "selected" because it is "beneficial".

            There can be natural mechanisms other than the one proposed by a Victorian country squire.

          • William Davis

            Here's one more thought. Is English an objectively correct language, or is Inuit? Both work, though English is probably a more developed language. Inuit could also be developed more over time.

            For more than two thousand years, the adjective "Euclidean" was unnecessary because no other sort of geometry had been conceived. Euclid's axioms seemed so intuitively obvious (with the possible exception of the parallel postulate) that any theorem proved from them was deemed true in an absolute, often metaphysical, sense. Today, however, many other self-consistent non-Euclidean geometries are known, the first ones having been discovered in the early 19th century. An implication of Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity is that physical space itself is not Euclidean, and Euclidean space is a good approximation for it only where the gravitational field is weak.

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

            This is the kind of thing I'm talking about. Euclidean is only a good approximation that works well here in our weak gravitational field.
            We have been using inductive reasoning all this time here on earth, and that fact makes a difference. It's entirely possible that the laws of physics are actually different in the distance reaches of the universe. We cannot know, a priori, without empirical data. This does not mean science is "wrong" it just mean we must be careful about how far we go with inductive reasoning. In this, I think Popper made great points, though perhaps he took it farther than necessary.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Much of what Popper asserted was new and true; but much of what was new was not true and what was true was not new. LOL

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No one made a statement about the "objectively correct" status of English. The statement was that Inuit is agglutinative, which is an objectively correct statement. I noted that it does not contradict this statement to point out that English is not, since the original statement was not about English to begin with. Hence, all the commentary about taxicabs and non-Euclidean geometries do not touch the statement that the statement that "the ratio of the circumference of a circle (as commonly understood) to its diameter (as commonly understood) is irrational" cannot be demonstrated with empirical data, as in the case of science of physical bodies. It really can be a nuisance to qualify ordinary statements like 1+1=2 to take account of situations where these symbols do not have the common meaning.

          • Michael Murray

            That would be the diameter of the circle enclosing the figure.

            That might not be true. Circles in metric spaces have to have centres to define them. The point you want to use as a centre might be missing from your space.

          • Doug Shaver

            Popper's program was to undermine the reliability of science.

            Is that something he said? I haven't read everything he wrote, but I don't find any such claim in what I have read.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Here's an overview by an apparently unapologetic positivist:
            http://ontology.buffalo.edu/stove/500-600.htm

          • Doug Shaver

            I didn't ask whether anyone else agreed with your interpretation of Popper. I asked for something in Popper's own words where he says what you claim he said. If Stove has a quotation of Popper that supports your claim, please link to that page. I'm not going to read his whole book just because you say it proves your point.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Feel free, though IIRC Stove quotes freely from Popper's works. (Also Kuhn and the rest.)

          • Doug Shaver

            I had to read Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions for the first class I took in the philosophy of science. Because of everything I'd read about him, I expected to be enraged, and at first I was. By the time I finished the book, I'd changed my mind about Kuhn, but not about science.

          • VicqRuiz

            No amount of empirical data will ever prove that pi is irrational.

            Correct. But there is always a sufficiently accurate approximation of pi to meet whatever need exists in the physical world. I can build a round dining table, re-spoke a bicycle wheel.............put a space station in a circular orbit, with no need to "prove" pi whatever.

            Similarly, my degree of God-awareness is a sufficiently close approximation to "zero" that it serves me quite adequately in my daily life. My need to "prove" that there is no God is no greater than my need to prove that pi is irrational.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Origen once pointed out that most people lack either the skills, time, or interest to master a subject. For example, most people get by well enough without any use for natural selection or heliocentrism or most other froo-froo. You can get by without mathematics. Well-a-day. That does not change the fact of the matter: which is that mathematical truths are not established with the means of natural science.

            Putting a space station in circular orbit can be done, but one more often winds up with elliptical ones. If you mean Earth orbit, you can even do it with Ptolemaic mathematics.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        As @Ladolcevipera:disqus said below, you can't test for theology. I think you can only "logic it out."

        Natural science only comes in in certain cases. For example, an argument based on fine tuning relies on what natural science says about the initial conditions. Natural theologians use that data to build arguments for God based on it. The arguments presented by Karlo are purely metaphysical.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      It sounds like you have not read the OP or ever even looked at the table of contents of Aquinas' writings if you think Thomas only established (at best) a first mover.

      As far as God permitting harmful forces and evil persons to exist, Aquinas' reasons would include (1) harmful forces are inevitable, (2) the possibility of rational beings refusing to obey the moral law is inherent in non-God persons, and God permits evil because he can bring a greater good out of it.

      This is not to say that I don't think the problem of evil can be a strong one against the God of Catholicism.

      • Kraker Jak

        This is not to say that I don't think the problem of evil can be a strong one against the God of Catholicism.

        No kidding.....an understatement if ever I heard one.

      • Ladolcevipera

        It sounds like you have not read the OP or ever even looked at the table of contents of Aquinas' writings if you think Thomas only established (at best) a first mover.

        Rest assured: I did read the OP but I was not particularly impressed by it. And I have had an overdose of Aquinas, so I know there is more to him than the argument of a first mover. I was simply bored by the argument and waiting for other comments.

        the possibility of rational beings refusing to obey the moral law is inherent in non-God persons

        If that is the case, God is ultimately responsible for evil. Thomas nor any other apologist can explain why a free will that was created good would be inclined to choose something wrong.

        God permits evil because he can bring a greater good out of it.

        I think we can agree that an innocent child that suffers excruciating pains before dying is evil. Can you tell me what "greater good" God has in mind?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          In regard to the inherent possibility (not inclination) of refusing to believe the moral law . . .

          Per Aquinas, this is because human beings, not having the moral law in themselves but having to consult the rule of reason outside themselves, may, when faced with a choice, skip the moral evaluation and just decide to do what they think will get them what they want.

          I think this is what Eve and Adam did. It's what Debbie Boone sang: "It can't be wrong if it feels so right."

          This is explained in Jacques Maritain's "St. Thomas and the Problem of Evil."

        • Kevin Aldrich

          In regard to the suffering innocent child (about the gravity of whose suffering we can only speculate), we can only speculate. Why is not eternal happiness a possible greater good?

          Maybe there are some insights to be gained from the millions of innocent children who have suffered terribly but who have lived.

          • Ladolcevipera

            This is an appalling answer. I hope you do not believe it yourself.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What about it do you find appalling?

          • Ladolcevipera

            That you should even ask this question! I find it repulsive that God would allow innocent beings to suffer in order to obtain a greater good (which greater good?) or prevent an equally bad or worse evil. If God is omnipotent He could easily obtain this good without making innocent people suffer. No "greater good" can possibly justify the daily, intense suffering in/of the world. Saying that "God" uses this suffering to obtain something good, is saying that this "God" is an evil, sadistic being. But then of course your answer will be that we have to blame ourselves for this suffering because we disobeyed God...And that makes him a vindictive being as well.
            I do not think that this is the God of christianity. But then the conclusion must be that If God is good, then maybe in the light of all this suffering he is not omnipotent, but a fellow-sufferer as Whitehead would say. But then the question arises: Is he still God?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I hope you won't put words into my mouth.

            If we can reason to the existence of God and his attributes, as I think Karlo did quite well, or, if we accept on faith the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we have to find a way to account for suffering. Every human being has or will experience suffering and death, not just innocent babies or children.

            How do you know that God cannot permit something to obtain that is against his will?

          • Ladolcevipera

            we have to find a way to account for suffering

            .

            Isn't that cherry-picking? You are carefully choosing arguments which - for a christian - must inevitably lead to the conclusion you absolutely want to be true, thereby ignoring other possibilities that might lead to another conclusion,i.e. Given the obvious existence of evil, God is either not good or not omnipotent. It is this bending and twisting that is implied in "we have to find a way" that makes faith so totally implausible.
            My account for suffering is that the universe is indifferent to our being here. We are finite beings, and all finite beings come to an end. As I said before: Sub specie aeternitatis all is well.

            How do you know that God cannot permit something to obtain that is against his will?

            I must be getting tired (I am at least six hours ahead of your time and had a busy day )because I don't understand the question (grammatically I mean). So I'll skip it. Although...
            how do you know that he is what you say he is? Of course: the Gospel and Thomas... But you convince only people who already believe.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sorry.

            To obtain: to be prevalent, customary, or in vogue; prevail: as in "the morals that obtained in Rome."

            How do you know that God cannot allow some state of affairs to exist that is against his will?

            Christians believe many states of affairs exist that are against God's will. Otherwise we would not pray "thy will be done."

          • Ladolcevipera

            So, if many states of affairs are against God's will, who is to blame for all the evils that occur? And how do I interpret "thy will be done" in this context? Within the framework of catholic faith the answer will probably be that man is responsible for all the moral evil while the evil coming from our natural world (nature, I mean) is simply the result of the laws that govern is. Within this framework, it makes sense. Only it is not my framework.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You don't think that natural evil is the consequence of natural forces and that moral evil is the result of human choices?

          • Ladolcevipera

            Since I do not belief in a God (I wonder why I always use a capital G) creating the world I have no problem in agreeing that natural evil is the consequence of natural forces and that moral evil is the result of human choices. As I said before, the universe is indifferent to our being here and it unfolds according to its own laws, and that means that we have to deal with disasters. As to moral evil, my view of man is not very optimistic: neither angel nor beast. Our moral awareness grows with our progressive insight but it takes almost nothing to throw us back into barbarism.
            It is of course a completely different matter if one situates the problem of evil within the context of christian faith. You know just as well as I do that the example of the suffering child is paradigmatic. It stands for evil that robs a person's life of positive meaning. (BTW: we do not stand outside the child's suffering; although we cannot physically feel its pain we suffer with it because we are capable of empathy).
            As I said before the attributes of God (as perfectly good, omnipotent and omniscient) and the existence of evil are logically inconsistent. I know that I'll never convince you, as you will never convince me. So I think we can only agree to disagree....

          • Kraker Jak

            Since I do not believe in a God (I wonder why I always use a capital G.<blockquote

            Ominous beeping sound from the warning meter.

            I mean ya gotta laugh once in a while Lado.
            Kevin is the go to man to help you on your way:-)

          • Ladolcevipera

            It is not because one understands the intellectual framework within which a religion - or an ideology for that matter - functions that one believes it to be true. So do not worry on my behalf. I have a mind of my own.

          • Kraker Jak

            I have a mind of my own.That is good....I have a mind of my own. I did not think otherwise.... Fine and dandy

          • Kraker Jak

            So do not worry on my behalf. I have a mind of my own.So do not worry on my behalf. I have a mind of my own.

            .
            And a fine one at that. Not worried my friend. You will no doubt hear the early warning beeps and will keep your distance.

          • William Davis

            Maybe there are some insights to be gained from the millions of innocent children who have suffered terribly but who have lived.

            For me, the insight is that God is unwilling or unable to do anything about this, so we should do what we can to pick up the obvious slack. This comment seemed unusual callous for you, I'll assume it didn't come out well. If God's goal is to motivate me to do good in the world, couldn't he have found a better way. Jesus seemed to be very concerned about the well being of children, it doesn't seem to me that he has much control over what happens.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Aren't you a once-innocent child who suffered but who lived? I am. My own children have suffered in various ways. So, I am talking about us.

            That is why it is not callous.

          • William Davis

            Thanks for the clarification. What I'm usually talking about here (obviously you are not) is senseless suffering, i.e. suffering that simply ends in death with no reasonable positive after effect. Of course, I have no desire to get into the problem of Evil here, Happy 4th!

          • Ladolcevipera

            Just wondering. Why do you avoid the problem of evil?

          • William Davis

            It's depressing.

          • Ladolcevipera

            Cheer up. It's a beautiful day!

          • Ladolcevipera

            @William Davis raised an interesting point in his reply to you. I was talking about senseless suffering, mentioning the innocent child as a blatant example of it. You interpreted suffering as an (occasional) lack of health in daily life, not linking it to the suffering as the fundamental condition of the entire creation. Why did you not think of that/omit that? And why is @William Davis avoiding the problem of Evil? He usually isn't shying away from philosophical problems.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Every one of us (unless we are very fortunate) experiences both "senseless" suffering and suffering caused by other human beings (which is pretty senseless, too). Some of us have experienced profound suffering.

            People often point to the suffering of innocent children as an argument against God's existence or goodness or power, yet we are standing outside that child's suffering, making assumptions about it, often with very little thinking at all, leaping to conclusions about it.

            My point is that many of us have suffered as innocent children and are still here. Plenty of us have gone through this and do not find it to be an argument against God.

  • William Davis

    Rather, its status as the capstone of human knowledge is clear. The natural sciences as we understand them today (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.) are grounded in principles of the philosophy of nature, whose subject matter concerns what any possible natural science must take for granted. Philosophy of nature in turn rests on deeper principles of metaphysics, whose subject matter is being as such (rather than merely material or changeable being, which is the subject matter of philosophy of nature; and rather than the specific sort of material or changeable world that actually exists, which is the subject matter of natural science). Natural theology, in turn, follows out the implications of the fundamental notions of philosophy of nature and metaphysics (the theory of act and potency, etc.) and offers ultimate explanations.

    I've seen a lot of Catholics say these kinds of things, but science is based on methodological naturalism. It is, therefore, completely agnostic to any metaphysics or and does not necessarily endorse philosophical naturalism. This is how we can have scientists of all different religions and philosophies, and thus differing "metaphysics" coming together and getting similar results. Pseudoscience strays outside the bounds of methodological naturalism (like ghost hunters and psychic experiments).

    http://chem.tufts.edu/AnswersInScience/MethodologicalNaturalism.htm

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Methodological naturalism is not in any way at odds with the philosophy of nature that Feser alludes to.

      Your link is an attack on "intelligent design creationists."

      • William Davis

        Philosophy of nature in turn rests on deeper principles of metaphysics,

        Methodological naturalism has no metaphysics. You can put whatever metaphysics you want on top of it. That was my point.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          You mean you can put a metaphysics atop methodological naturalism that denies cause and effect and keep doing natural science?

          • William Davis

            I have never heard of a metaphysics that denies cause and effect, have you? Not saying it doesn't exist, as I know more of physics than metaphysics. There are different metaphysics of causation, but none of no causation, that I'm aware of.

            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/causation-metaphysics/

            Of course, causation metaphysics are separate from general "metaphysics" perhaps.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I thought this was Hume's claim to fame?

          • William Davis

            No, he just didn't want to take causation for granted (as most people, including myself tend to do). I'm no expert on Hume, but I just glanced through this article to verify, and he seems to have a lot to say on causation, but he seems to think (and possibly correctly) that causation is inseparable from the way we think about things (i.e. it's in part, a property of mind). He may be on to something.

            In general, most of these philosophers have good reason for their views, in my opinion, that's why I have trouble thinking any philosophy is "true" since so many seem justifiable, if perhaps not equally justifiable.

            http://www.iep.utm.edu/hume-cau/

    • Thanks for this. (The link especially) It has given me some 'sobriety'!!

  • Unbelievable!!! Have I understood what is happening here? Has this apologetic adopted the framework of 'Positivism', thus turning everything in that 'philosophy' 'downside-up'???

    • Doug Shaver

      I have studied positivism. I don't find a trace of it in any of Feser's work that I've read so far.

      • I was attempting to be ironic. Positivism denied metaphysics. This Catholic Positivism denies the metaphysic of the scientific position of atheology. (Checked it out with my former husband, Mike, who came for dinner and has been a long time Communist, and he saw the 'joke' so I don't feel too bad, that I've made a 'blunder'.) Take care.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    I think this is a pretty useful OP in that it presents an overview of natural theology.

    If it were granted that atheology exists, the greatest practitioner of it would be Thomas Aquinas, since in the Summa he presents every argument he knows of against every claim he makes and also shows where they fall short.

    • Joe Black

      And does he explain how his own arguments fall short? They do. And yes, I am daring you to ask me where they do. Anyone who follows this will happily oblige if I don't find the time. I'm not sure if it's by 'reason' or by delusion, but your crowd isn't winning a single debate on the planet. Oh, they're debates? How about any fact of reality? No theology ever got a 1-UP on science. Other way around - Every. Single. Time. For. All. Time.

      For the hell of it, since I'll likely be banned soon.. Kevin, you're bad at this, and if you could look over your history, it would be more than clear how many times you got silenced, not censored. Just plain ol' fashion "pwnt". Your crowd is wrong. The end. Sorry. It's not just you though, don't cry. If any regular posters here spoke their true mind on EN, Amazon, Reddit, FB, you name a social media.. you'd be (or have already, hence your presence here) destroyed until you cannot return because everyone knows you failed to convince them of your fairies. This is a fact. Try it and don't limit yourself to your little circlejerks. You're welcome, I saved you.

      No it doesn't mean your SkyWizard isn't real, but Judaism was wrong at square one. Your idea of a god is even more silly it wouldn't be a thing at had you not killed and indoctrinated ppl the same way ISIS will continue to do. It's gross, beyond any goddamn measure any of you still stick to this after something as recent as the Holocaust. Chosen people.. you weren't and yet that happened.. and how many Christians are persecuted daily that chimes in on your FB or media bookmarks? You're all seriously ill, and the cure is not Jesus; that's part of the illness. Selling you the cure is the carrot.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Joe, you've crapped on my comment.

        • William Davis

          Here the word "crapped" is excessively optimistic ;)

      • We went from debates, to censorship, pwning, Amazon, Facebook, fairies, circlejerks, the SkyWizard, Judaism wrong at square one, ISIS, the Holocaust, and finally ended with carrots. It was a fun ride. Thanks.

  • Thanks for the article. I never thought about the subject this way.

    I think Feser's argument is convincing, and can be readily applied to theology by analogy to mathematics.

    Some mathematicians believe that numbers are real, typically that they exist as some sort of Platonic Forms, or that they exist in the world itself and can be analyzed by themselves via abstraction from real things.

    Some mathematicians think that numbers aren't objectively real. Number are conceptual, mathematics is a game, and the rules for mathematics are arbitrary or motivated by pragmatism.

    Both groups can do mathematics. Both groups are groups of mathematicians.

    The theist who tries to systematically argue for God and the atheist who tries to systematically argue against God are both studying God, and it is not a prerequisite to their study whether they think God exists or not. Both the atheist and the theist are practising theology. They're theologians.

    • Kraker Jak

      whether they think God exists or not. Both the atheist and the theist are practising theology. They're theologians.

      By your definition then , would you be a theologian?

      • When I'm talking here, I think I'm doing theology, but that may be giving me too much credit.

        By your definition then even if you are agnostic , would you be a theologian?

        Only if I did this sort of thing for a living.

  • I don't think theology is science, I don't think it is even philosophy. I think philosophy of religion is philosophy, and philosophy of science is philosophy. You can have a philosophy of anything. But there is no science of philosophy and there is no science of theology. There is social sciences, psychiatry, sociology. There is cosmology and physics, there is biology.

    The claims made by theologians, philosophers and evangelists can be put to scientific processes and held to scientific standards. There is nothing stopping cosmologists from proposing a first cause. But science has not established these things. Calling your philosophy "scientific" doesn't make it so.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      You don't seem to know the original definition of science.

      “Theology” means “the science of God,” in the Aristotelian sense of “science” -- a systematic, demonstrative body of knowledge of some subject matter in terms of its first principles.

      Are you attempting to conflate every form of knowledge under natural science?

      • Kraker Jak

        Theists are always trying to move the markers and redefine many things to serve their agenda.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          That particular marker was set in 500 BC.

          • Kraker Jak

            Your being coy only serves to underline that mantle to which I have already referred.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What mantle would that be?

          • Kraker Jak

            You really do love fishing nes't pas? ;-)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You said you referred to some "mantle."

      • Probably not, I don't know the "original" definition of most if any words.

        "a systematic, demonstrative body of knowledge of some subject matter in terms of its first principles." is not a definition that distinguishes science from say, history, law, philosophy, art, or just about anything.

        We can play games with language all we want.

        Theology is not a scientific discipline, any more than scientology is.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          It is not playing games with words.

          Natural science is one kind of organized knowledge with its own methodologies. Natural theology is another. History and law and literary criticism are others with other ways of doing their work and arriving at the kind of truth it can discern.

          • Yes, but one of those things is science, natural science. It is playing with words to say they are all a kind of science.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That is why we have to know what words mean. Why do you think science is called science?

        • neil_ogi

          morality can not be detected thru scientific endeavors but it does exists.

    • .But these are the 'new' -scientific Positivists! I am attempting some humor here. It's all from Aristotle - don't you see. His First Philosophy, which is Theology, which is Metaphysics, which is the Queen (and I assume the King and the Pope) of all the sciences.

      Am just reading up on Jean Luke Marion, and the new Catholic -theology- Check it out!!!

  • Doug Shaver

    Note that I am not saying anything here that an atheist couldn’t agree with.

    Just as an atheist, I could agree with all of it, sure. But as a philosopher and a wordsmith, I don't.

    For starters, if I want to know whether some body of ideas is a science, I couldn't care less whether Aristotle would have thought it was. In ordinary discourse, the word no longer means what it did to him and his contemporaries.

    Neither do I agree that sticking the -ology suffix onto something is tantamount to the claim that it is a science. Whether Plantinga intended such a claim, he will have to say himself, but I suspect not. I suspect that when he refers to astrology or Scientiology, he is by no means suggesting that he thinks either of them is a science.

    You can have a “science” only of what exists, not of what doesn’t exist.

    There is a risk of equivocation here that we need to be careful about. There is science in the sense of a systematically coherent body of knowledge about some particular area of inquiry, and there is science in the sense of a set of methods used to acquire that knowledge. The second sense is why astronomy, but not astrology, is a science in the first sense. Granted that there can be no science of something nonexistent, the methods of science can still be applied to the question of its existence. There may be no science of Bigfoot or of ghosts, but there is some scientific work that has been done about claims of their existence.

  • neil_ogi

    it is natural for man to wonder how and why he is here. what's the purpose of his existence? therefore he naturally thinks that there must be a 'creator' of some sort. i never encountered in his thinking that he just exists, all he thinks is that someone has created him

  • materetmagistra

    Dr. Feser,
    Your article is a well-written response to a different question. In the paragraph you quote from Plantinga, he defines the term atheology. However it appears you use a slightly different definition. I am not saying your definition of atheology is a poor one. It is just not the same definition Plantinga uses.
    Plantinga uses atheology as a term for the claim that belief in God is irrational and unreasonable. So he uses the "ology" suffix loosely. It does not appear Plantinga intends that atheology has some body of knowledge and which is demonstrable and so on.
    All that is needed to prove Plantinga's atheology false is to demonstrate that theology is rational and reasonable. I have found that this puts a Christian on really solid defensible ground. Especially when you examine the body of evidence for things that atheists have no trouble accepting. Evidence for Alexander the Great, or evidence for dark matter or anti-matter and atheists willingness to swallow these beliefs make them look hypocritical.

    • William Davis

      Evidence for Alexander the Great, or evidence for dark matter or anti-matter and atheists willingness to swallow these beliefs make them look hypocritical.

      LOL!

    • Joe Black

      You know Plantinga shot himself in the dick (or foot) lately, right? He's pretty much a joke now. You can't say too many things that are silly as a philosopher.. because then you're a Feser.

      • Michael Murray

        You know Plantinga shot himself in the dick (or foot) lately, right? He's pretty much a joke now.

        Can you expand on this ?

  • Joe Black

    Will Feser ever get a real job? NoNews Live at 11!

  • Raymond

    "Even someone who doubts that this sort of project can be pulled off can see its “scientific” character. The domain studied is, of course, taken to be real, and its reality is defended via argumentation which claims to be demonstrative. Further argumentation of a purportedly demonstrative character is put forward in defense of each component of the system, and the system is very large, purporting to give us fairly detailed knowledge not only of the existence of God, but of his essence and attributes and relation to the created order. "

    Isaac Asimov wrote a series of stories and novels about a highly rigorous scientific system that could predict the behaviors of large groups of people over centuries of time.

    Didn't make it so.