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Stephen Hawking: Great Scientist, Lousy Theologian

Stephen Hawking was a great theoretical physicist and cosmologist, perhaps the most important since Einstein. It is only right that his remains have been interred alongside those of Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey. He was, furthermore, a person of tremendous courage and perseverance, accomplishing groundbreaking work despite a decades-long struggle with the debilitating effects of Lou Gehrig’s disease. And by all accounts, he was man of good humor with a rare gift for friendship. It is practically impossible not to admire him. But boy was he annoying when he talked about religion!

In the last year of his life, Hawking was putting the finishing touches on a book that is something of a follow-up to his mega-bestselling A Brief History of Time. Called Brief Answers to the Big Questions, it is a series of short essays on subjects including time travel, the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, the physics that obtains within a black hole, and the colonization of space.

But chapter one is entitled simply “Is There a God?” To the surprise of no one who has been paying attention to Hawking’s musings on the subject the last several years, his answer is no. Now, to anyone involved in the apologetics or evangelization game, this is, of course, depressing, since many people, especially the young, will say, “Well, there you have it: the smartest man in the world says that God does not exist.” The problem is that one can be exceptionally intelligent in one arena of thought and actually quite naïve in another. This, I’m afraid, is the case with Stephen Hawking, who, though uniquely well-versed in his chosen field, makes a number of blunders when he wanders into the domains of philosophy and religion.

Things get off to a very bad start in the opening line of the chapter: “Science is increasingly answering questions that used to be the province of religion.” Though certain primitive forms of religion might be construed as attempts to answer what we would consider properly scientific questions, religion, in the developed sense of the term, is not asking and answering scientific questions poorly; rather, it is asking and answering qualitatively different kinds of questions.

Hawking’s glib one-liner beautifully expresses the scientistic attitude, by which I mean the arrogant tendency to reduce all knowledge to the scientific form of knowledge. Following their method of empirical observation, hypothesis formation, and experimentation, the sciences can indeed tell us a great deal about a certain dimension of reality. But they cannot, for example, tell us a thing about what makes a work of art beautiful, what makes a free act good or evil, what constitutes a just political arrangement, what are the features of a being qua being—and indeed, why there is a universe of finite existence at all. These are all philosophical and/or religious matters, and when a pure scientist, employing the method proper to the sciences, enters into them, he does so awkwardly, ham-handedly. 

Let me demonstrate this by drawing attention to Hawking’s treatment of the last issue I mentioned—namely, why there should be a universe at all. Hawking opines that theoretical physics can confidently answer this question in such a way that the existence of God is rendered superfluous. Just as, at the quantum level, elementary particles pop into and out of existence regularly without a cause, so the singularity that produced the Big Bang simply came to be out of nothing, without a cause and without an explanation. The result, Hawking concludes, is that “the universe is the ultimate free lunch.”

The first mistake—and armies of Hawking’s followers make it—is to equivocate on the meaning of the word “nothing.” In the strict philosophical (or indeed religious) sense, “nothing” designates absolute nonbeing; but what Hawking and his disciples mean by the term is in fact a fecund field of energy from which realities come and to which they return. The moment one speaks of “coming from” or “returning to,” one is not speaking of nothing! I actually laughed out loud at this part of Hawking’s analysis, which fairly gives away the game: “I think the universe was spontaneously created out of nothing, according to the laws of science.” Well, whatever you want to say about the laws of science, they’re not nothing!

Indeed, when the quantum theorists talk about particles popping into being spontaneously, they regularly invoke quantum constants and dynamics according to which such emergences occur. Again, say what you want about these law-like arrangements, they are not absolute nonbeing. And therefore, we are compelled to ask the question why should contingent states of affairs—matter, energy, the Big Bang, the laws of science themselves—exist at all?

The classical response of religious philosophy is that no contingency can be explained satisfactorily by appealing endlessly to other contingencies. Therefore, some finally noncontingent reality, which grounds and actualizes the finite universe, must exist. And this uncaused cause, this reality whose very nature is to be, is what serious religious people call “God.” None of Hawking’s speculations—least of all his musings about the putative “nothing” from which the universe arises—tells against this conviction.

May I say by way of conclusion that I actually rather liked Stephen Hawking’s last book. When he stayed within the confines of his areas of expertise, he was readable, funny, informative, and creative. But could I encourage readers please to take him with a substantial grain of salt when he speaks of the things of God?

Bishop Robert Barron

Written by

Bishop Robert Barron is Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He’s America’s first podcasting priest and one of the world’s most innovative teachers of Catholicism. His global, non-profit media ministry called Word On Fire reaches millions of people by utilizing new media to draw people into or back to the Faith. Bishop Barron is also the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, 10-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic Faith. He is the author of several books including Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (Crossroad, 2008); The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (Orbis, 2002); and Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (Image, 2011). Find more of his writing and videos at WordOnFire.org.

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  • The regularities ("physical laws") describing the Universe could not possibly explain the existence of the Universe. This is simply to misunderstand what science does. How so?

    Think of a computer game. In order to play a 3D game proficiently, we need to know how the game environment changes when the character moves and behaves in particular ways. The character you control who presses buttons in the game environment will cause certain things to happen in that environment. Shooting at certain spots will cause other things, such as "killing" a bot. And so on and so forth.

    One can become extremely proficient at a game. Yet, at the same time, one might know absolutely nothing about what makes the game possible to exist in the first place, and why the game environment changes in the characteristic way it does. In other words, one might know nothing about the computer software, CPU's, RAM, or anything else about the underlying machinery of the computer, even though one might be better at the game than anyone else.

    I submit that our science, together with the technology it has spawned, is analogous to playing a computer game proficiently. I submit, that is, that science deals exclusively with the patterns discerned in reality and how the world changes with particular actions on our parts. Similar to the game, science tells us absolutely nothing about the underlying machinery of reality. Science tells us nothing about how or why the world exists at all and why it has the particular physical laws it does. That is what metaphysics deals with. In particular, science could not possibly shed any light on a suitably sophisticated God.

    • Phil

      "Science tells us nothing about how or why the world exists at all " Why should it? Why do you insist on there being a reason? Philosophy knows no more about origins than scientists. By definition it is unknowable. Rather than being honest and admitting you don't know, you invent a god.

      • Ben Champagne

        Because if there isn't a reason, then nothing fundamentally has a reason and all of science is in error. And philosophy knows a distinct amount more about origins than scientists (doing actual science and not philosophizing) can elicit. And how do you prove that 'by definition it is unknowable'? Epistemologically, that is nonsense.

        • Phil

          "all of science is in error." how do you get to that conclusion?
          "And how do you prove that 'by definition it is unknowable'" Simple because origins are outside of this universe. Unless you have some method of getting information from the outside. Outside is the best I can describe conditions before the start of the universe, if it had a start as time has no meaning and so cause and effect don't apply. Therefore unknowable.
          " Epistemologically, that is nonsense." That is a sweeping assertion, based on what? Besides, determining what exists before the universe became is not and epistemological question and probably it is an overlap with ontology.

          • Ben Champagne

            The epistemological claim was only to the quote "by definition it is unknowable"... Which is, in fact, nonsense, that one could know that the origin of a thing can not be understood.

            As far as an overlap with ontology, sure in the sense we are talking about origins, but the epistemology of the quote was the specific thing I called nonsense.

            If a natural reduction can not be taken down to it's irreducible parts, and there is in fact a truly random factor involved in anything, then there is a truly random factor involved in everything, meaning everything we think we know regarding science isn't necessarily true, and it could simply 'break' at any moment, or maybe already is. There would be no way to know! Science works on the foundation of Reason, which is a reductive art about what must be.

          • Phil

            Your point is? So how do you come to have special knowledge of events before the big bang where you can make no assumptions based on logic and physics from this universe.

          • Ben Champagne

            Why do you think that no assumptions from logic can be made? Is that logical?

          • Ben Champagne

            And again, how do you know that you can make no assumptions based on logic before the big bang (or physics for that matter, which is not something I even stated, but would apply nonetheless)?

          • Phil

            Well duh, that is the whole point. You/I or anybody can't make any assumptions.

      • Mark

        Dr. Anders once posed the question this way. If I was out walking my dog and saw a blue orb floating along the path, I'd ask what is that and why is it there? If the blue orb was on the outer edge of our solar system I'd have the same inquisitive response. But if the blue orb is the size of the/a universe, well now it's irrational to insist on there being a reason for it's existence? Why question someone's honesty that is using fundamentally sound philosophical reasoning?

        • Phil

          I think there is a confusion between reason and meaning/purpose. Sure there ought to be a reason as in x produces y but what that reason is, no one can say for the existence of the universe. The god proposal is just a speculation along the many other proposed reasons. But the god people then say without a god there is no meaning.

      • Absolutely no reason why science should. I rather think you don't comprehend my post.

  • I'm sick of hearing in the past couple of weeks that Hawking said that there's no role for God since the Universe can be explained by physical laws alone. How is his reasoning different from the following.

    Let's suppose there were an experiment where a wad of £20 notes was placed on the ground outside. We observe that every single person who see the notes stoop quickly down, put them in their pocket, and furtively look around. So we can formulate a natural law that all human beings act this way. There are certain patterns to their behaviour which always pertain.

    Then a Hawking comes along and says we understand completely why £20 notes, initially lying on the ground, end up in peoples' pockets. It's because of a law which says that when people see a wad of notes they will stoop down and place them in their pockets. There is no need to appeal to any supernatural explanations -- that is there is no need to appeal to peoples' intentions, desires, motivations.

    Obviously this reasoning is utterly asinine. But it's *EXACTLY* the same as Hawking's reasoning! (as well as most scientists).

    • Phil

      Nope, because as soon as someone didn't pick it up the law would be violated. Therefore it is falsifiable and can be tested.

  • Jim the Scott

    I forgive Hawking for denying the existence of God in his book The Grand Design. It does not phase me. However I can't forgive him saying "Philosophy is dead". For such a brillant mind to write such pathological stupidity is for me a major jaw drop.
    The scienfific method is the product of philosophy. Philosophy precedes science and is the bedrock of any good science. Also the view "Philosophy is Dead" is itself a philosophical view and quite an incoherent one.

    • Sample1

      I think what some people mean by Philosophy Is Dead is just that the golden age of philosophy has passed.

      In fact, it’s somewhat of a compliment if you think about it.

      Philosophers have their counterparts as theoreticians in the sciences. But philosophy itself, historically, is all over the place. That’s not to say it’s irrelevant, but it lacks something that interests experimentalists. Namely unity I suppose.

      Mike

      • There is is plenty of useless novelty for those in the gnostic religion posing as "science" to delve into.

      • ClayJames

        Ironically, the same atheists that agree with ¨Philosophy is dead¨ also have the most infantile understanding of philosophy while feeling the need to tackle philosophical questions like the existence of God.

        • Sample1

          I’d have to know the context.

          Are you aware that a majority of professional philosophers are atheist?

          Mike
          https://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl

          • ClayJames

            Dont see how that is relevant. I can guarantee you those philosophers would not say ¨Philosophy is dead¨.

          • Sample1

            Knowing the context is relevant for me.

            Mike

    • Phil

      I very much doubt he would have wanted or needed your forgiveness.

      • Jim the Scott

        I find it hard too, if not near impossible to care. Anyway only God can truely forgive. I was merely being rhetorical.

        • Phil

          Nope not rhetorical, condescending.

          • Jim the Scott

            So what?

      • But he would need God's forgiveness.

        • Phil

          Really? What planet are your from?

          • All fallen people need God's forgiveness.

          • Phil

            No they don't and what does fallen even mean. Surely you need to be somewhere high to fall from? Such nonsense dressed up to sound profound.

          • fallen, what you are and all humans you know, without God and diseased with sin.

          • Phil

            Sounds absolutely ridiculous. What do you base this assertion on?

          • I defined terms for you, dear reprobate. Now what is playing dumb going to solve?

          • Phil

            No you didn't you just came out with a random unsubstantiated assertions.

          • Read what I said again, namely: what does playing dumb solve?

          • Phil

            Read what I said. You made unsubstantiated assertions. Presumed much about my friends and I. Do you expect me to just accept this? It is not me acting dumb.

          • you are a fallen man, specifically you are a reprobate which means you have fully given yourself over to sin and are beginning to degrade even before damnation.

            you do need forgivness. Everyone does, but you are a hair away from very bad things.

          • Phil

            There you go again. Making stuff up and insulting people you don't even know the first thing about. I suggest you have a bit of humility and ask for my forgiveness for your toxic attitude.

          • I am informing you, which clearly you understand as you are desperately trying to ignore what I am saying.

            I know you feel yourself a replacement for God, but no. What a pathetic "god" you make.

          • Phil

            There you go again. Desperately ignoring what I say and making stuff up. I never said or even hinted that I think I am a god. You decided that. I am a human being with human empathy and compassion which you seem to lack in your comments. I have been nothing but polite to you but if I hadn't I would have apologised.

          • you said that people do not need the forgiveness of God, and instead they should ask you for forgiveness. That is a very common expression of pride as you have been showing for days now.

          • Phil

            There you go again making stuff up. I said I doubt if he wanted or needed Jim Scott's forgiveness. How on earth does that translate to people having to ask me for forgiveness? Weird. The only pride is coming from you in your smugness.

          • you specifically asked it of me. you said you do not need to worry about God's forgiveness, that I needed to worry about your forgiveness.

            As I said before, you make a poor "god," especially with your mortal sin of despair here.

            the mortal sin of despair is when your capital sin of pride refuses to admit your faults and wrongdoing. Clearly your faults and wrongdoing are there and you can't deny them, so you go into a deep depression while claiming I am at fault for your own evil.

          • Phil

            There you go making stuff up again. What I said was "I suggest you have a bit of humility and ask for my forgiveness for your toxic attitude" everyday politeness of human to human interaction. A god doesn't enter into it at all. And all you are doing is compounding your made up insults. Not that any of them make any sense. But it does seem like it is a classic case of projection as you seem not to admit your faults and wrongdoing.

          • No, not politeness, you want people to prostrate before you because of your capital sin of pride. you are basically saying I must ask for your forgiveness because I informed you what sin is and that you need salvation or else.

            Therefore you are saying you are above God because how dare I mention Him to you.

            Again, what a poor "god" you make.

          • Phil

            Oh dear, really? In that case, what a poor human being you make.

          • So you have decreed me a poor human being because I worship God and not your ego?

          • Phil

            I guess an apology was to much to expect. Funny how of all the people I come across in this world, those that profess to be religious.are the least nice towards their fellow man.

          • Sample1

            The Catholics I grew up around wouldn’t have pointed to their pulpit teachings for excuses to be dismissive of anyone. Of course the world is bigly and therefore who knows what goes on in dioceses elsewhere.

            That said, I do come across Pentecostals and Baptists (and Trads) taking a “let God sort out the wretched” approach (ie: those they don’t like and are headed for Hell). It’s interesting that some Protestant sects seem to be going through a phase the RCC already went through; an Inquisition-like mentality but without state power.

            I’m reminded of Trad Catholics at the time being upset with JP2’s official apologies. Even if an apology is wrong, it’s core impetus should be respected as civilized behavior.

            But now I’m rambling.

            Mike

          • you mean the least accepting of your error and devilry?

          • Phil

            There you go again, making stuff up.

          • No, you order things in relation to your ego, so you reject things in relation to your ego.

          • Phil

            What does that nonsense even mean? There are some very good books on plain speaking and the art of communication.

          • It means all you care about is your ego, therefore you judge things in relation to it.

            you declare Good people as bad for challenging your ego.

          • Phil

            There you go again, making stuff up. You insult people, don't apologise and carry on with this nonsense.

          • did you not say this already?

          • Phil

            Yep. I will probably need to say it over and over again.

          • So you repeat it like a mantra to block out what I am telling you.

          • Phil

            There you go making stuff up again. A totally wrong and unsubstantiated assertion possibly meant to boost your ego or further belittle me. So yes I will repeat as long as you perpetuate these dishonest statements and refuse to apologise for your offensiveness.

          • It seems you don't even remember what I was saying to you.

    • VicqRuiz

      However I can't forgive him saying "Philosophy is dead"

      That subset of philosophy known as "theology" is, if not dead, at least ossified.

      Look at all the articles and posts here by Catholic theologians who have made a life's work of interpreting and re-interpreting and re-re-interpreting Aquinas and the other scholastics.

      Why are there so few pushing the boundaries of theology, why no new things about God which we have learned in the last eight hundred years?

      • Jim the Scott

        You think Theology is just a subset of philosophy? That is Philosophy is solely a Theistic discipline alone? That is Scientism on crack and anti-intellectual nonsense. Philosophy is for everybody. If you believe the Cosmos is only atoms in the void or matter is all that exists those are Philosophical views.

        • VicqRuiz

          There are many philosophers who are not theologians. There are few if any theologians who are not philosophers. I fail to understand your post, and you obviously did not understand mine.

          The number of really new ideas about God since Aquinas' day seem to have come from the likes of Joseph Smith and Mary Baker Eddy. Pretty thin porridge that.

          • Jim the Scott

            >There are many philosophers who are not theologians. There are few if any theologians who are not philosophers.

            The second part does not seem self evident. There are plenty of Theologians who are not philosophers or professionally trained in philosophy.

            > I fail to understand your post, and you obviously did not understand mine.

            Well it's been six days and I have a 20 minute attention span.

            >The number of really new ideas about God since Aquinas' day seem to have come from the likes of Joseph Smith and Mary Baker Eddy. Pretty thin porridge that.

            As a Catholic why should I care about the errors of heretics?

          • These ones you consider "philosophers" must be like you, desperately searching after novelty as a distraction.

            What new ideas about the Infinite can there be? We are to base ourselves in God, God is not subject to novelty and cute ideas reprobate's use to stave off impending doom.

            Truth is Immutable, Eternal, and Universal. Nothing St Aquinas said was new. If St Aquinas was never born, someone else would have done the same thing.

      • Because Truth is Immutable and infinitely complex.

        Did you think that these things change or that we are just here as a novelty? No, we are learning things about how they are, not just making things up as you do to distract your ego before damnation.

        • VicqRuiz

          Have a nice day, and check your spelling before hitting the post button.

          • Please, intellectual cowardice is embarassing for me to witness. It should be embarassing for you, I doubt you are capable of shame in your state.

            The Truth cannot change and we are not here just to waste time tittering in about novelties. If you can understand the simple repetition involved in learning mathematics, then you can understand the repetition in learning Theology. And Theology is much for strict and complex than mere math,

            All you seem to want is a distraction.

  • Steven Dillon

    I think Barron is spot on until he slips it in there that the nature of the uncaused cause is to be :P I'll continue to challenge classical (mono)theists on this: being is an inadequate way to understand the first principle and leads to a number of absurdities.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Apologies because I'm sure you have made this argument before but I don't recall seeing you pose it this way. What is more fundamental than "to be" and/or what is a better way to understand the "first principle"?

      • Steven Dillon

        Hi Jim, unity or individuation is more fundamental than being. This can be seen by distinguishing between two different units of individuation: 'who' and 'what'. 'What' is repeatable, instantiable, iterable, communicable; it refers to what one is -- viz. their properties, forms of being, etc. 'Who' refers to who one is; it is individual, unique and incommunicable. With that distinction in hand, we can see that "being" is a 'what' -- indeed, the most general 'what', of which all beings partake. Unity without or beyond being is thus individuality without or beyond properties, forms and the like. Theism, I hold, states that there are individuals beyond being; that is, individuals who are so simple, they have no 'whats' -- no properties or forms like a 'divine nature': all that is in them just is them. It'd be a categorical error to try and differentiate such individuals by 'whats' they might have, such as perfections etc.: they are each individuated as the individual they are, but not *through* any properties or forms they have -- their individuality precedes and transcends being.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          That's very well explained, thanks.

          It certainly seems non-controversial to say that, "Theism ... states that there are individuals beyond being; that is, individuals who are so simple, they have no 'whats'". This is how I understand the Thomistic assertion that, "God is not a member of any genus" (certainly not a member of the genus of "beings"). God is, in that sense, beyond being and non-being. However, in asserting that "God is 'to be'", one is not asserting that God is a member of the genus of beings. Nor, I think, is one asserting that God is the genus of being itself. To use a loose quasi-math metaphor, God isn't an element in a set, nor is God a set; God is that which gives rise to sets and elements and makes them possible in the first place.

          Now, you might object that it is confusing to claim that "God is 'to be'", while at the same time asserting that God beyond being and non-being, and that's fair enough ... but don't you run into similar linguistic issues when you state that unity is more fundamental? In other words, in saying that God is a "who", are we not implying -- however inadvertently -- that there is one genus of whos ("elements") and another genus of whats ("sets"), and God belongs to the first genus? And relatedly, when we say that their are individuals (emphasis on the plural) that are beyond being, do we not risk implying -- again, however inadvertently -- that there is a genus of things that are singular and a genus of things that are plural, and God is in the second genus?

          • Steven Dillon

            Thanks for the we'll thought out reply Jim. I'm heading to the field for a few weeks, so I won't be able to respond for a while, but I'd want to say that genus, set and the like are 'whats'. When we come to divine plurality, we have to utilize a radically unfamiliar notion (since it is so unlike our experience): the common "element" by which they are spoken of in the plural is not a 'what', but a 'who'. I'll try to elaborate later!

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Sure, no problem. I look forward to your reply when you have time.

            Just writing down a few more thoughts while they are in my head (no need to reply) ...

            It sounds in that case like "the gods" are the set (*) of all things that are not in any set, where -- in order to avoid absurdity -- the first use of "set (*)" has to be understood analogically?

          • Jim (hillclimber)
          • Steven Dillon

            Hey Jim, thanks for the heads up, I hadn't seen this. At least in my feeds and circles, seems like we're getting talked about a lot more...don't know what's up with that lol.

          • disqus_qiEYodyehW

            jimhillclimber gg

        • Sample1

          Are resurrected bodies material or immaterial?

          Mike

          • Mark

            Yes

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    I agree that, “I think the universe was spontaneously created out of nothing, according to the laws of science.” is just a jaw-droppingly incoherent statement from such an obviously brilliant man.

    But, as for this other quote: “the universe is the ultimate free lunch”, if this is taken in isolation it actually seems to align very nicely with classical theism and Christian doctrine. To say that the universe is a free lunch is to say -- it seems to me -- that the universe is not necessary; it is to say that there is something fundamentally gratuitous about the whole deal. And -- this is the part that seems to me to be missed in much atheist thinking -- gratuity only makes sense as an "extra" on top of a background of that which is logically necessary, a.k.a. God.

    Somewhat relatedly, the notion the the universe comes "from nothing" has always seemed to me to be technically correct on Christian terms, since the universe comes from God and God is no-thing / not a thing. (Of course this depends on how one technically defines "thing").

    • The problem is with the God being necessary part. I don't know these atheists think that this present universe couldn't have existed. Rather, "therefore, God" doesn't follow.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        If this universe might not have existed, then what seems to follow is "therefore, something necessary that envelopes / goes beyond / lies underneath / is the font of / grounds the possibility of this universe".

        • Indeed, and that could be a lot of things.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            But whatever it is, if it is absolutely necessary, then it is correctly referred to as "God". That's just what the word has meant throughout Western intellectual history.

          • I dare say it means far more than just that. Would you call a necessary thing which is mindless divine?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Yes, of course. This isn't just, like, my opinion. That which is absolutely logically necessary is God, full stop. Obviously the Biblical traditions have personalistic ways of reflecting on that which is absolutely necessary, but that's a matter of linguistic and cultural expression. From a philosophical perspective, God is that which is absolutely necessary. It's not controversial.

          • So if fundamental particles were necessary, they would be God? That seems absurd. Is necessity the only trait that defines God to you then? I'm pretty sure many other traits are deemed as essential (being eternal, immaterial, immutable, all-good, all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful etc.).

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If fundamental particles were absolutely, fundamentally, logically necessary, they would be God. As far as I'm aware, no one has seriously proposed that that is true of fundamental particles though.

            Things like eternality, immateriality, etc, go hand in hand with being absolutely necessary. E.g. if there cannot possibly be anything before or after that which is logically necessary, so that which is logically necessary is eternal.

          • The ancient materialists did, as some modern ones do (though the ancients named them atoms, differently from what are now called by that name). I seriously doubt classical theists would call them God.

            Eternality may be a corollary of it. How is the rest?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Insofar as that is true, the ancient materialists were pantheists. It's true that pantheists are not theists in the usual sense because they don't believe that that which is absolutely necessary transcends the universe. Nonetheless, pantheists are still theists.

            How is the rest?

            That's a lot to type. Can you pick just one or two?

          • Not all were. The Stoics yes, but Epicureans weren't-they believed in multiple, finite gods.

            Pick whichever you wish. I don't see how omniscience can be something a mindless necessary being has for instance.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            In order to talk about whether that which is absolutely necessary is all-knowing, we would need to agree on what it means to know, or perhaps what it means to be intelligible. I can maybe propose something, unless you have definitions that you would like to propose?

          • Sure, go ahead. I have nothing at the moment.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, I'm sure there will be objections (from others if not from you), but if given the invitation, I guess I would put forward the idea that knowledge is a type of intimate relationship. More specifically maybe we could say that to know a thing is to be intimately related to its form. If I know the Pythagorean Theorem then I have completely appropriated that formal relationship into my mind, which is as intimate as it gets when it comes to ideas. If I know a person, then I have appropriated that person's story in some intimate way. (The story of a person's life is a sort of "form" of the person.)

            That which is absolutely necessary is intimately related to all things, and is specifically intimately related to the form of all things, because nothing can exist -- not even the forms of things -- apart from that which which is absolutely necessary.

          • Sounds reasonable. However, if something is mindless, it can't know anything, since that also requires awareness no?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I never said that that which is absolutely necessary is mindless.

          • I brought up an example that was though, which you agreed would still be a qualifying one.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            ?? Sorry, I'm not following you. Can you be more explicit?

          • Previously, fundamental particles were given as an example. Do you mean to say they would have a mind?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I see ... Well basically, yes. If elementary particles were absolutely necessary then nothing could exist apart from them, including thoughts, forms, stories, etc. Which means that elementary particles would be intimately related to all thoughts, forms, stories, etc. Which means that elementary particles would be both all-knowing and mind-like.

          • I take it you adhere to Platonic realism?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I guess I believe in something kinda like Platonic realism, but not exactly in the sense of imagining some separate realm of pure form. To the extent that I believe in a realm of pure form, I conceive of that simply as the mind of God, and that's not exactly a separate realm, because every aspect of my material being is intimately connected to the mind of God in every moment.

          • So perhaps a kind of conceptualism? I'm not sure how all that would work if there isn't awareness. Regardless, all ideas don't seem like they would have to exist from the beginning. Does each thing invented by humans exist as an idea first in God's consciousness, for instance.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I don't think temporal beginnings are relevant. Whether inventions come to exist or whether they remain mere possibilities, neither the existing realities nor the possibilities can exist apart from that which is absolutely necessary. So yes, everything that has ever been invented, and everything that might ever be invented, exists in the mind of God.

            Just as I never said that God lacks mind, I also never said that God lacks awareness, so I'm not sure what to make of your comment that my proposal doesn't work "if there isn't awareness".

          • Okay... why?

            It relates to a previous example again, as particles sure seem lacking in awareness.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            But again, if (counterfactually) elementary particles were absolutely fundamentally necessary, then awareness could not possibly exist apart from them, and so the fullness of awareness would have to reside in them. Of course I don't think that is actually the case, but that is the hypothetical counterfactual under which I would consider elementary particles to be God.

          • Why couldn't it? Because every idea must have existed from eternity? I don't see why that is.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Okay... why?

            Because possibilities cannot exist apart from that which is absolutely necessary. Possibilities are grounded in that which is absolutely necessary. That which is absolutely necessary makes possibilities possible. To claim otherwise seems illogical to the point of being ungrammatical.

            To say that all possibilities exist in the mind of God is just saying the same thing in slightly more evocative language.

          • Well, the absolutely necessary of course would make all else possible, but to say everything has to already exist as an idea seems like a leap.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            This gets back to your Platonic realism question ... in saying that the ideas exist in God's mind I don't mean to commit to some sort of Platonic realism. It depends on what one means by "exist". All I mean to say is that all possibilities (including all possible ideas) exist in God. Whether you want to say that the idea exists in God's mind, or just that the possibility of the idea exists in God, or whatever, that's not the sort of thing I have strong feelings about. It gets to the question of what it means for a possibility to exist. I am saying that insofar as possibilities exist (they clearly do exist in some sense) they exist in God.

          • I don't know much about universals, and I've also got no strong commitments there. Though it wouldn't be put the same way, I do see how everything being potentials in the Absolute makes sense.

  • David Nickol

    The first mistake—and armies of Hawking’s followers make it—is to equivocate on the meaning of the word “nothing.”

    I don't think this does justice to what Hawking is saying. I have taken a very quick look at Brief Answers to the Big Questions, so this is a preliminary opinion that I (or perhaps others) can expand on, but I do not read Hawking to be saying that the universe came from nothing while ignoring all the while that the "quantum foam" (or whatever) is actually something. Here is a pertinent quote:

    The laws of nature itself tell us that not only could the universe have popped into existence without any assistance, like a proton, and have required nothing in terms of energy, but also that it is possible that nothing caused the Big Bang. Nothing.

    As I understand it, the positive and negative energy of the universe sum to zero (nothing), hence it popped into existence out of nothing—in that it derived no energy from anywhere—and there was no cause that made the universe pop into existence, just as there is no cause for virtual particles briefly popping in and out of existence.

    There was no before for the universe, since space, time, and energy all popped into existence as part of the universe itself, so it is difficult to say the "quantum foam" (my term, as far as I have read so far, not Hawking's) is the "not nothing" that the universe came from. If there is a timeless "medium" such as quantum foam out of which the universe popped into existence. I find it difficult to say whether it should be considered "something" or "nothing," because it is entirely outside our experience.

    To me, it is not so difficult to imagine something along the lines of "quantum foam" that is outside of time and cannot be said to be the cause of anything.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      But to repeat the point made in the OP, laws of nature are not nothing. Every argument that is structured along the lines of "the laws of nature can explain it all" is incoherent because it is logically impossible for any such argument to make any headway at all at explaining why there are laws of nature in the first place.

    • Phil

      As I understand it, the positive and negative energy of the universe sum to zero (nothing), hence it popped into existence out of nothing—in that it derived no energy from anywhere—and there was no cause that made the universe pop into existence, just as there is no cause for virtual particles briefly popping in and out of existence.

      I'll add onto what was already said. Nothing is just nothing. Nothing is not the laws of nature, vacuum energy, etc.

      So if Hawking really means "nothing" he is in a bit of a pickle rationally.

      -----

      And in regards to virtual particles, there is good evidence that virtual particles are not physical things. As it is argued here that they are simply mathematical artifacts:
      https://youtu.be/ztFovwCaOik?t=791

      The funny thing is this guy mentions them being in "possibility space" which reminds me of an A-T understanding of virtual particles! I also have never seen any evidence that he has ever studied A-T in all his videos.

      In A-T, the virtual particles would not exist in actuality. They would exist in potentiality, which very much real, just a different way of existing. The actuality/potentiality distinction in A-T is pretty key as you probably well know by now.
      So to answer the videos title, actually, yes, virtual particles could be another layer of reality. That of showing forth the distinction between actuality and potentiality that Aristotle pointed out over 2000 years ago...

  • David Nickol

    Things get off to a very bad start in the opening line of the chapter: “Science is increasingly answering questions that used to be the province of religion.”

    I don't think Hawking is being unreasonable here, particularly is the timeframe is understood to cover the period since modern science began. And of course Catholicism still appeals to religion to explain human origins and human consciousness.

  • David Nickol

    for example, tell us a thing about what makes a work of art beautiful, what makes a free act good or evil, what constitutes a just political arrangement . . . .

    This may be a case of fools rushing in, but I do think that science will someday be able to explain a great deal about why many people agree that certain works of art (paintings, musical compositions, sculptures, dance performances) are beautiful. It may well be that AI can learn to recognize what significant numbers of humans regard as beautiful and also to recognize (or even create) works of art that large numbers of people would agree are beautiful. (And by AI, I mean machine "intelligence," not machine "consciousness," although it seems to me machine consciousness is not impossible.) I can remember when it was confidently maintained that no computer could ever beat the best human chess players. Now, the best chess-playing computers are not programmed by humans to play chess, but are given the rules of chess and "figure out" for themselves how to win games.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Predicting perceived beauty is a very different enterprise from explaining what beauty is. You might be interested in Judea Pearl's new popular book, The Book of Why which develops the difference between prediction and causal explanation in a very enjoyable and informative way. (And which also laments that nearly exclusive focus of AI on prediction thus far.)

      Also, what AI, as a technology, can do (or will do) is different than what physical (i.e. dysteleological) science, as a methodology, can do (or will do). Hypothetically, if we can some day create AI that is capable of explaining what beauty is, then that AI will be involved in teleological reasoning, and therefore will no longer be merely doing physical science.

      • What explanation do you see beauty needing?

    • Phil

      There is a thing known as emergent behaviour.

  • >Hawking’s glib one-liner beautifully expresses the scientistic attitude, by which I mean the arrogant tendency to reduce all knowledge to the scientific form of knowledge.

    This is a pretty exaggerated interpretation. Had he said, 'science is the only way to find the answers to anything', okay, call him a scientismist. But he didn't, he made an accurate statement.

    >But they cannot, for example, tell us a thing about what makes a work of art beautiful,

    How do you know this? The neurology of aesthetics seems to be making some ground .

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-neurology-of-aesthetics/

    But since when is "what makes something beautiful?" A question religion answers?

    >These are all philosophical and/or religious matters, and when a pure scientist, employing the method proper to the sciences, enters into them, he does so awkwardly, ham-handedly.

    I wasn't aware theologians got to demarcate what scientists could enquire into. I see no reason to look to theology for analysis on these Issues. Or even why some of them are worth examining, such as "what makes a free act good or evil"

    >The first mistake—and armies of Hawking’s followers make it—is to equivocate on the meaning of the word “nothing.” In the strict philosophical (or indeed religious) sense, “nothing” designates absolute nonbeing; but what Hawking and his disciples mean by the term is in fact a fecund field of energy from which realities come and to which they return.

    I don't see any reason to suggest that Hawking was referencing the nithing "In the strict philosophical (or indeed religious)" sense.

    >Well, whatever you want to say about the laws of science, they’re not nothing!

    No one said they were in the sense you mean. Clearly the intent is to show in a non temporal non spatial state of affairs with no dimensions of space, all of the above can come about without the need of an effecient cause.

    >The classical response of religious philosophy is that no contingency can be explained satisfactorily by appealing endlessly to other contingencies. Therefore, some finally noncontingent reality, which grounds and actualizes the finite universe, must exist.

    This does not follow. It is just as logical to say, The classic response of secular philosophy is that the existence of any entity cannot be explained satisfactorily by appealing to the existence of that entity. Therefore, some infinite contingent reality, which grounds and actualizes the finite universe, must exist.

    • Jim the Scott

      Surely Green you realize by now why Scientism/Positivism is a bankrupt way of thinking? Even if there are no gods.....
      https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/03/scientism-roundup.html

      As Hawking's friend and fellow Physicist (& Atheist) Martin Vrees said of him while he was alive.

      "Stephen Hawking is a remarkable person whom I've know for 40 years and for that reason any oracular statement he makes gets exaggerated publicity. I know Stephen Hawking well enough to know that he has read very little philosophy and even less theology, so I don't think we should attach any weight to his views on this topic,"

      >I wasn't aware theologians got to demarcate what scientists could enquire into.

      It is only fair if they are tresspassing in their domane they get to offer counter criticism and Hawking merits it. I am not put off by Hawking saying there is likely no God. But I am put off by him saying in his second to last book "Philosophy is dead". That is intellectually bankrupt coming from such a brilliant intellect.

      >No one said they were in the sense you mean. Clearly the intent is to show in a non temporal non spatial state of affairs with no dimensions of space, all of the above can come about without the need of an effecient cause.

      Actually Hawking has never demonstraighted that scientifically. It is an interpretation of his theory which goes to show the need for philosophy. At best if Hawking's theory of origins was true it might cast doubt on the Kalam Cosmological Argument (of which Traditional Thomists are Agnostics in terms of belief) but then again it might not. Of course proponents of the First Way laught at Hawking (who we hope laughs back because he now knows better and we hope is happy about it now).

      >This does not follow.

      It pretty much does unless you want to defend the proposition that a caboose can be pulled along a train track by an infinite series of un-powered boxcars. One can have a past infinite series of accidental causes but not essental ones. In an essential causal series it must terminate at a first cause.

      > It is just as logical to say, The classic response of secular philosophy is that the existence of any entity cannot be explained satisfactorily by appealing to the existence of that entity. Therefore, some infinite contingent reality, which grounds and actualizes the finite universe, must exist.

      Which would be like saying you could have a caboose pulled by inifite boxcars which is aburd. You must terminate in inconditional pure act top down even if you have no formal begining to your accidental series which can be past infinite.

      • >Surely Green you realize by now why Scientism/Positivism is a bankrupt way of thinking?

        I didn't look at your link but yes as it has been described I do agree. I think it was a sonething of a strawman to accuse Hawking of scientism in that quote.

        >I am put off by him saying in his second to last book "Philosophy is dead".

        Ok. So am I, but this was not raised by the OP, it my comments.

        >Actually Hawking has never demonstraighted that scientifically. It is an interpretation of his theory which goes to show the need for philosophy.

        How so? Are you saying that these physicists have not determined that "Just as, at the quantum level, elementary particles pop into and out of existence regularly without a cause, so the singularity that produced the Big Bang simply came to be out of nothing (the practical not philosophical nothing) without a cause and without an explanation."?

        > proponents of the First Way laught at Hawking

        Had the First Way been raised as a response, that would be relevant.

        Obviously Hawking did not say that physicists have disposed of every argument for the existence of all god ccnceots .he said science has narrowed the the set of questions to which god has historically been advanced as an answer.

        >One can have a past infinite series of accidental causes but not essental ones

        I don't know about "essential"or "accidental". It's never been effectively explained to me what these distinctions are, or why I should accept them. Unless one has reasonably ruled out anninfunian regress, it hasn't been ruled out .

        >which is aburd

        No more absurd than saying this series of boxcars must terminate in an essentially necessary boxcar that explains it's own existence.

        >You must terminate in inconditional pure act top down

        Why? What sense dies "terminate" have abssent space and time?

        • Jim the Scott

          >I didn't look at your link but yes as it has been described I do agree. I think it was a sonething of a strawman to accuse Hawking of scientism in that quote.

          I don't see how? Hawking calls Philosophy "dead" and thinks Science can solve problems that are properly in the domain of philosophy.

          >How so? Are you saying that these physicists have not determined that "Just as, at the quantum level, elementary particles pop into and out of existence regularly without a cause, so the singularity that produced the Big Bang simply came to be out of nothing (the practical not philosophical nothing) without a cause and without an explanation."?

          Absolutely that is clearly a recycled Humean interpretation of the data.
          Obviously if it's not a philosophical "nothing" by your own admission then it's an actual something. As Anscombe pointed out Hume merely imagined a ball coming into existence without a cause but you really can conceive of it. One can say you have an unknown or even unknowable cause but you cannot have no cause even in principle as that leads to incoherence.

          >Had the First Way been raised as a response, that would be relevant.

          It is relevant in that answering the Kalam argument does not discount all arguments or even the strongest which is how I would stylize the First Way compared to the Kalam.

          >Obviously Hawking did not say that physicists have disposed of every argument for the existence of all god ccnceots .he said science has narrowed the the set of questions to which god has historically been advanced as an answer.

          That is your Brilliant analysis and I salute you for it(& tentatively agree) but I would not give any credit to Hawking. As Vrees said he know little philosophy. He was a genius in physics but his command of philosophy is without.

          >I don't know about "essential"or "accidental". It's never been effectively explained to me what these distinctions are, or why I should accept them.

          It seems rather straight forward to me? I have a father and a son and we are in an accidental causal chain and in principle I could have an infinite line of fathers going back to infinity and I can have an infinite number of sons going into the future. But I cannot have a caboose being pulled by an infinite number of unpowered box cars as that would be an essential causal chain.

          >No more absurd than saying this series of boxcars must terminate in an essentially necessary boxcar that explains it's own existence.

          No sir the box car must terminate in a locomotive to explain the pulling of the caboose. You cannot have infinite unpowered box cars pulling a caboose. This seems rather straight forward. How do you not get this by now? I expect this from Michael. You should know better by now.

          >Why? What sense dies "terminate" have abssent space and time?

          I don't understand your question?

          • >One can say you have an unknown or even unknowable cause but you cannot have no cause even in principle as that leads to incoherence.

            Where is the contradiction? Are you saying an uncaused cause is incoherent?

            > You cannot have infinite unpowered box cars pulling a caboose.

            Of course, because these train analogies are not really helpful. The question isn't about pulling, or steam, combustion, or electric power. The question is whether an infinite series of causes is impossible, or more absurd than an self-caused or uncaused cause.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Where is the contradiction? Are you saying an uncaused cause is incoherent?

            No I am saying a "no cause" cause is or more specifically I am saying a potency made act without something already in act which actualizes the potency is incoherent.

            >Of course, because these train analogies are not really helpful.

            I don't see why not? They at least for me clearly spell out the difference between an accidental causal series vs an essential one.

            >The question isn't about pulling, or steam, combustion, or electric power. The question is whether an infinite series of causes is impossible,

            An infinite series that is accidental in nature is possible. Father to son with no beginning or end. Or you can substitute "Universe" or "oscillating universe" of some fashion. But you would need a first essential cause to cause this all to exist.

            >or more absurd than an self-caused or uncaused cause.

            Uncaused is not absurd. Self-caused is absurd since a thing cannot be it's own act and potency without contradiction. To be "caused" imparts something to another but how can a thing impart what is does not yet possess? Something can be it's own reason but not it's own cause. A "No cause" cause is just absurd. Only that which is pure act can be uncaused but not self caused.

          • >No I am saying a "no cause" cause is or more specifically I am saying a potency made act without something already in act which actualizes the potency is incoherent.

            What is the contradiction in something being uncaused?

            >I don't see why not?

            Because trains are spatial and temporal and material. Ultimate origins are unknown. Prior to the Big bang, there was no time or space, so we cannot use our intuitons about trains to tell us what is likely.

            >An infinite series that is accidental in nature is possible.

            I don't know what you mean by accidental here or why this would be impossible.

            >But you would need a first essential cause to cause this all to exist.

            Why and how do you know?

            >Only that which is pure act can be uncaused but not self caused.

            I'm just not going to buy into the Thomistic dogma of act and potency, essential and accidental unless it is shown to me why these are necessary or even real distinctions.

            So feel free to try. All I've seen in the past is people assuming these or trying to use empirical induction and I see no reason to do so.

          • Jim the Scott

            >What is the contradiction in something being uncaused?

            There is no contradiction if the uncaused thing is pure act. If it's a potency being actualized by nothing in then that type of "uncaused" is a contradiction. It's like trying to claim 0+1=N and then claiming N > 1 by way of analogy.

            >Because trains are spatial and temporal and material.

            It is an analogy not an unequivocal description.

            >Ultimate origins are unknown. Prior to the Big bang, there was no time or space, so we cannot use our intuitons about trains to tell us what is likely.

            That just sounds like an ad hoc dogma saying we cannot apply our reason to reach a conclusion? We need not answer the question of what if anything was "Before" the Big Bang. We need to know what causes our existence here and now and that seems to be Pure Act which we take to be God.

            >I don't know what you mean by accidental here or why this would be impossible.

            I just explained it with my Father begets Son analogy?

            >Why and how do you know?

            Same reason I know you cannot have a caboose pulled by infinite box cars. You need a first cause at the beginning of an essential causal series.

            >I'm just not going to buy into the Thomistic dogma of act and potency, essential and accidental unless it is shown to me why these are necessary or even real distinctions.

            I can't make you think or believe against your will what you don' t want to be true.

            >So feel free to try. All I've seen in the past is people assuming these or trying to use empirical induction and I see no reason to do so.

            Yet you are not as skeptical toward your obvious radical skepticism. Well that is your choice.

          • >There is no contradiction if the uncaused thing is pure act.

            Ok so you do not think "you cannot have no cause even in principle as that leads to incoherence."

            >That just sounds like an ad hoc dogma saying we cannot apply our reason to reach a conclusion?

            No, it wasn't saying that. We use our reason to make conclusions in two ways .One is induction based on empirical observation. We have no empirical observations if prior to the Big Bang so we can't use that we can't extrapolate that it would have been a state of affairs that would act similar to how things are now, because literally everything we have now is temporal and spatial. Ask yourself what an event is with no space for it to happen in and no time. The other way is bald intuition, but again we, or at least I, have a very hard time applying intuition to such a state of affairs. Inevitably my intuition is grounded in Newtonian cosmom, which I already know is innacurate. I have no intuition about this prior state of affairs. So indeed I think it is perfectly fair to say we have no way of placing probabilities on what is was. This is one problemthat Aquinas has, which he can be forgiven for given when he was writing. He made universal conclusions, assuming time and space, something like a Newtonian cismis, was fundamental. The Big Bang and other evidence, shows us they are not.

            >Same reason I know you cannot have a caboose pulled by infinite box cars.

            You haven't shown why one can't. I agree it sounds absurd, but anything infinite is going to engage such notions. But then you imply that some entity of pure act just is, and explains everything else is not absurd. It is to me.

            >Yet you are not as skeptical toward your obvious radical skepticism.

            I am not a radical skeptic. I'm a skeptic. I don't take a position unless there is good reason to. The Aggripean trilema is a real trilema. We have no way of knowing whether the ultimate origin is a brute fact, self-explained entity, or infinite regress. All three, I would suggest are equally counter intuitive. None have been observed.

          • Jim the Scott

            >No, it wasn't saying that. We use our reason to make conclusions in two ways .One is induction based on empirical observation. We have no empirical observations if prior to the Big Bang so we can't use that we can't extrapolate that it would have been a state of affairs that would act similar to how things are now, because literally everything we have now is temporal and spatial.

            I don't need too with the First way since I can for purposes of argument believe our present universe is one in an accidental causal chain of events that goes back to eternity.

            I don't think science can show the Kalam Argument is correct. I am also skeptical philosophy can as well. Thought like Feser I am agnostic on the Kalam? Perhaps that is the confusion here between us?

            > This is one problemthat Aquinas has, which he can be forgiven for given when he was writing. He made universal conclusions, assuming time and space, something like a Newtonian cismis, was fundamental. The Big Bang and other evidence, shows us they are not.

            I don't see how Aquinas arguments are altered by modern views of space time? Act/potency still models it and it IMHO the more rational.

            >You haven't shown why one can't.

            It's self evident like you can show 0+1=X and know the statement X>1 is false.

            >I agree it sounds absurd, but anything infinite is going to engage such notions. But then you imply that some entity of pure act just is, and explains everything else is not absurd. It is to me.

            This is what Atheist philosopher David Stove would call irrationalism. Thought I don't mean that as a personal slight. So don't take it that way. I am critiquing the idea.

            >I am not a radical skeptic. I'm a skeptic.

            Then I withdraw the charge.

            >I don't take a position unless there is good reason to. The Aggripean trilema is a real trilema. We have no way of knowing whether the ultimate origin is a brute fact, self-explained entity, or infinite regress. All three, I would suggest are equally counter intuitive. None have been observed.

            I am going to have to leave it there cause I have to get out the door.

            Peace Green.

    • Jim the Scott

      PS.
      >How do you know this? The neurology of aesthetics seems to be making some ground .

      That is like saying I can figure out the genetic or psychological makeup of Chopin by figuring out how his piano works. It kind of begs the question here. At best neurology will tell us how the Brain acts when we find something beautiful but it won't tell us what make the work of art beautiful itself beautiful.

      This is why science is limited and should not tresspass into Philosophy's shtick. You wind up with absurdities.

      • >That is like saying I can figure out the genetic or psychological makeup of Chopin by figuring out how his piano works.

        No, it's like saying you can figure out the psychological makeup of Chopin by figuring out how his brain worked.

        >what make the work of art beautiful itself beautiful

        I use the term "beauty" to describe an human aesthetic response. This is inherently subjective. If you are advancing a notion of objective beauty please explain why I should accept this as true and what you mean. I don't understand how something can be said to be beautiful absent a subjective human response. I think you would need to show me something that is objectively beautiful. E.g.why i am wrong that Piet Mondrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie is not beautiful.

        >This is why science is limited...

        Neither Hawking nor I siggested that science is unlimited. I suggested that Barron's assertion that what makes something beautiful is beyond the ambit of science was unfounded.

        • Jim the Scott

          >No, it's like saying you can figure out the psychological makeup of Chopin by figuring out how his brain worked.

          No that is dodging my analogy and begging the question. The brain is the piano and Chopin is the person operating the brain.

          >I use the term "beauty" to describe an human aesthetic response.

          Which is not how Bishop Barron is using it. Beauty is a philosophical concept and an aesthetic one. That evolution has programed us to be attracted to things is not at issue.

          >This is inherently subjective.

          It is an intellective concept related to the good.

          >If you are advancing a notion of objective beauty please explain why I should accept this as true and what you mean.

          I am not making some claim like "Objectively Bohemian Rhapsody is the best song ever". I am taking about the good which is the basic meaning of beautiful.

          >I don't understand how something can be said to be beautiful absent a subjective human response. I think you would need to show me something that is objectively beautiful. E.g.why i am wrong that Piet Mondrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie is not beautiful.

          Fair enough. I think Bishop Barron assumes the Thomism of his audence and not all of them are up on the concepts.

          • >The brain is the piano and Chopin is the person operating the brain.

            No, I do not agree with that. If Chopin does not have a brain there is no Chopin, there is no reason to think anyone is any more than their body.

            >Beauty is a philosophical concept and an aesthetic one.

            Explain to me what is left of beauty absent any aesthetic component?

            >It is an intellective concept related to the good.

            No beauty is a human reaction to things we find subjectively beatiful.

            > I think Bishop Barron assumes the Thomism of his audence and not all of them are up on the concepts.

            Exactly. Thomism is wrong and shouldn't be assumed. I assume it was written for his blog, to comfort his readers that science has not proven there is no god.

          • Jim the Scott

            >No, I do not agree with that. If Chopin does not have a brain there is no Chopin, there is no reason to think anyone is any more than their body.

            Well I am a proponent of hylemorphic dualism and I am sensing a bit of materialist monism here in the Force so that is our first impasse.

            >Explain to me what is left of beauty absent any aesthetic component?

            Beauty is the good.

            >No beauty is a human reaction to things we find subjectively beatiful.

            Well I disagree with that since there is a whole body of philosophy of Aesthetics.

            >Exactly. Thomism is wrong and shouldn't be assumed.

            I won't hold my breath waiting for someone to prove that. But we will disagree again.

            > I assume it was written for his blog, to comfort his readers that science has not proven there is no god.

            Science in principle cannot prove or disprove it. To say otherwise is to fall into the error of scientism/positivism. Hawking just really sucked as a philosopher. The man was a certified genius as a physicist but when he strayed out of his field his competence was not evident.

            They say Philosophers make bad Physicists but not as bad as Physicists make as Philosophers.

            Cheers.

          • Now you're just stating your beliefs and opinions. You are entitled to them, I obviously disagree.

            I won't just state my conflicting ones.

            I will suggest that for good civil discussions there was no need for the bishop to descend into polite by snarky ad hominems, calling Dr Hawking glib and arrogant, or for you to express a view that he sucked as a philosopher.

            There are smart and interesting discussions on philosophy of religion, by philosophers. But neither Hawking, nor the bishop are engaging in them.

            We can here though .

          • Jim the Scott

            >I will suggest that for good civil discussions there was no need for the bishop to descend into polite by snarky ad hominems, calling Dr Hawking glib and arrogant, or for you to express a view that he sucked as a philosopher.

            Here is were you are wrong. I have cited Atheist Physicists on this thread who all but agree in principle with Barron. Martin Vrees? Hello?

            The man can't do philosophy. That is self evident. It is not wrong to point that out.

            >We can here though .

            Well Green I don't agree with you on much but I agree with that. Even thought I am a bit of a jerk myself. ;-) . Cheers.

    • Ben Champagne

      "No one said they were in the sense you mean. Clearly the intent is to show in a non temporal non spatial state of affairs with no dimensions of space, all of the above can come about without the need of an effecient cause." And I don't know how you could possibly reach this conclusion in any manner except for offering a brute fact.

      • Maybe, or sone kind of infinite regress. Who knows?

        • Ben Champagne

          Well that's exactly the point. You aren't being logical anymore when you have to toss out absurdities like infinite regresses, and 'who knows?'

          • How is it illogical to say the three abstract options for the Aggripean Trilema are still open? Asking "who knows" because I don't think anyone has a good reason to pick one.

  • Jim the Scott

    This seems interesting. I have a book by Russell. He is a Physicist and a Theologian.

    FINITE CREATION
    WITHOUT A BEGINNING:
    The Spiritual and Theological
    Significance of Stephen Hawking's
    Quantum Cosmology
    By ROBERT JOHN RUSSELL

    https://www.theway.org.uk/back/32Russell.pdf

  • Hawking’s glib one-liner beautifully expresses the scientistic attitude, by which I mean the arrogant tendency to reduce all knowledge to the scientific form of knowledge.

    When you've got something better than science, let us know. I think science's track record has a lot more to brag about than that of faith, tradition, revelation, and so on.

    • MR

      Science is little more than disciplined observation. As if that's a bad thing. Argumentum ad -isms or -istics is just silly demonization. Is that what apologetics is reduced to?

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        Science is a lot more than disciplined observation. You are not doing science any favors if you reduce science to that. Science involves a cycle of disciplined observation, abductive inference to candidate hypotheses, mathematical formalization of hypotheses, deductive reasoning within the mathematical framework in order to derive testable implications, experimental testing to see if those implications are born out in reality, and cycling through all that again and again. (At least, this is what is involved in what we would roughly call "natural science", which is what most people seem to mean now when they just say "science").

        Artists, police detectives, teachers, lawyers, home-makers, pie-makers, plumbers, financial planners, professional athletes, and Starbucks baristas all use "disciplined observation" if they are doing their jobs well. But they don't use that observe -> hypothesize -> formalize -> deduce -> test cycle, and so they aren't doing science.

        So, to say that "some questions are beyond the scope of science" is NOT to say that "you shouldn't bother with disciplined observation", as your comment seems to imply. It is rather to say that the formal learn and confirm cycle that I described above -- as awesome as it is -- is unlikely to help you make headway on certain types of questions.

        • MR

          Yes, yes, but my point is my point. Tacking on -isms and -istics is just a silly attempt to demonize science. There is nothing mysterious or suspect or -ismy or -isticky about those methods [even your additions] . We all employ them to some degree. As Bob said, when you have something better, let us know.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Tacking on -isms and -istics is just a silly attempt to demonize science.

            It is nothing of the sort. Science and scientism are two completely different things, so much so that the latter is detrimental to the former: defense of science -- a defense that we should all want to engage in -- requires one to forsake scientism.
            And as I said in my reply to Bob, no one is claiming to have something "better than science".

          • MR

            The moment you use the term scientism is the moment I know I'm being bullshitted.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            And the moment you abandon the effort to engage the ideas that are actually under discussion is the moment that I assume you just want a soapbox to stand on rather than rational conversation.

          • MR

            The conversation loses its rationality for me when you use terms like scientism.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Given the number of times on these pages that scientism has been explained and clearly distinguished from science, I think that reflects more on your perception of rationality than it does on rationality per se.

          • MR

            And it just strikes me as a ploy to negatively rebrand science when you don't like it. It's like labeling Christianity as Supernaturalism.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, but let's look at the textual evidence in the OP in order to evaluate whether this is merely an effort at re-branding. Here's the one place where I see the term used:

            ... the scientistic attitude, by which I mean the arrogant tendency to reduce all knowledge to the scientific form of knowledge ...

            Is there anything in that quote that can be reasonably construed as a criticism of science? (I would say "no".) Is there anything in that quote that can reasonably be construed as a criticism of scientists generally? (I would again say, "no".)

            I guess I would put it to you this way: what text evidence would you cite to show that the OP is demonizing science? Where in the OP is the validity of the scientific method being attacked? Where in the OP are the deliverances of science being questioned?

            I may or may not object to Christianity being re-branded as Supernaturalism depending on the context and the way the term "supernaturalism" was being used. But in cases where I object I would cite textual evidence to show where and in what sense a false equivalence was being made.

          • Ficino

            Over on Bob Seidensticker's own blog, he posted this: "The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world."

            https://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2018/11/10-commandments-for-atheists-2/

            You started out trying to box Bob into a position of promoting "scientism." As you and Bob S both quoted from the OP, Bishop Barron characterized scientism so: "the arrogant tendency to reduce all knowledge to the scientific form of knowledge."

            Where has Bob S done that? To say that humanity has gained more knowledge through science than it has through theology, which is what I take to be Bob's point, is not a claim that if it's not the scientific form of knowledge, it's not knowledge. Theists like to reduce skeptics' position to a "scientism" that the theist frames as self-refuting, but Bob doesn't take such a position.

            ETA: and I agree with others in this thread that Barron misrepresents Hawking's lead-off claim. "Science is increasingly answering questions that used to be the province of religion" is a different claim from the claim that to be the finding of scientific research is a necessary condition for knowledge.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'm not trying to box Bob into anything. I was responding this request that he made: "When you've got something better than science, let us know." The implication of that request (please let me know if I'm misunderstanding) is that the OP is suggesting that there is something "better than science". And if he thinks it was the intent of the OP to suggest such a thing, then I think he's missing the point, and that was what motivated my response.

            The clarification you suggest based on Bob's website: "most reliable way of understanding the natural world" is potentially unobjectionable as far as it goes, but it begs the question of what is involved in "understanding the natural world". What exactly is the "natural world"? For example, are our first person experiences part of the natural world? If yes, then I don't think that science is the best way of all aspects of the natural world. In any case, the claim needs to be made a good bit more precise if you want it to have any meat on its bones.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            "The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world."

            Subject to further clarification on exactly what that means, let's just say that's true. So then, we can expect a good scientist to have well-informed and insightful views with regard to the natural world, or at least certain aspects of it. But then, the question that Hawking was weighing in on was the question of what (if anything) gives rise to the natural world in the first place. Whether there is something that gives rise to the natural world in the first place is plainly not a question that can be informed by the study of the natural world. So then, we should not expect scientists to have any particular advantage when addressing such a question, which is sort of the point of the OP.

          • Ficino

            Bishop Barron wrote in the OP: "The classical response of religious philosophy is that no contingency can be explained satisfactorily by appealing endlessly to other contingencies. Therefore, some finally noncontingent reality, which grounds and actualizes the finite universe, must exist. And this uncaused cause, this reality whose very nature is to be, is what serious religious people call “God.”

            They have been saying this for millennia. But this contention has been controversial for - maybe as long?

            You wrote: "Whether there is something that gives rise to the natural world in the first place is plainly not a question that can be informed by the study of the natural world."

            I can't endorse the "plainly." I do not know that we know that what you say is true. And I do not know that we have access to any other "world," let alone to something that is not a constituent of any world.

            Meanwhile, I continue to doubt that Bob S is a "scientismist" in the sense that Barron talks about, and I'm not convinced that Hawking was either. Surely people who think that science is our best way to get knowledge about the world ALSO would allow that there are domains in which we get knowledge through other means than research.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'm not convinced that Hawking was [a scientismist] either.

            Maybe not, but the fact that he wrote a book in which the first chapter was entitled "Is There a God?" strongly suggests that he thought his scientific expertise gave him some special competency to address that question. That is at least a "scientistic tendency".

          • Sample1

            Language always evolves. The word nothing simply doesn’t mean what it once meant for physicists. Classical nothing is incoherent or at best theologically mysterious which is typically synonymous with incoherence.
            We’ve all read Krauss, we understand what he means by nothing. He’s forced discussion, good on him.

            Laws of nature. I may be wrong but the laws existing don’t bother me when it comes to the “but that’s not nothing!” retort. Why? Because laws exist in human minds, not nature. I think of it this way: does nature need laws to do science? I don’t think so. Nature does nature, not science. If we could actually do nature, would we really need biology, chemistry, physics? I say no. The latter are human constructions to approximate how nature behaves and we think we are getting close to understanding whatever doing nature is.

            Besides, there are other plausible ideas on offer, namely that there is no beginning, that something didn’t come out of classical nothing but rather something else. Something from something. An eternal reality.

            Now some say God is the author of something, bringing something from nothing. That’s fine. It’s just not a compelling hypothesis for many. The poker tell for me is that religion is always chasing the science. And that’s great, but it also belies a deficiency to my mind. Should the scientific consensus embrace eternal and symmetrical light cones (past and future) religion will be there to say God is the author of that too.

            Meanwhile science is doing the work with religion claiming the credit. Total dick move, but isn’t that what organized religion does? It moves into any human field of inquiry, be it moral or physical and says, “no, no, no, you have to pay our membership dues for your ideas to have validity.”

            The difference today is that scientists can work without the threat of being killed, generally. But the final chapter for religion perhaps isn’t closed. I’d like to see religion police itself and calm down those faiths who still react with violence. Thinking of Islam. That’s a battle front that both science and calm religions can cooperate together on.

            Mike

          • David Nickol

            Laws of nature. I may be wrong but the laws existing don’t bother me when it comes to the “but that’s not nothing!” retort. Why? Because laws exist in human minds, not nature.

            I have a similar view without, admittedly, being steeped in any kind of philosophy. It doesn't seem to me that the so-called laws of nature pre-existed the universe, if it actually popped into existence the way Hawking claims. In fact, it doesn't seem to me necessary to maintain that the laws of nature "exist" at all. When two massive bodies are attracted to each other by the force of gravity, it is not the case that they "obey" the "law of gravity." The laws of gravity are human creations. I suppose one could ask the question why the material universe is such that human beings can successfully formulate "laws of nature." But I think that is a different question.

            Also, the "laws of nature" that apply to the quantum world are different in nature than the laws of classical physics, and when we discuss a universe popping into existence, we're dealing with quantum physics. I am not sure the concept of contingency applies in the quantum realm.

          • Sample1

            Further, while it may seem odd or even nuts that the scant nothingness of the new nothing can result in everything we now observe, it was also counterintuitive or nuts that electrons could exist in more than one place or that time literally slows down at increasing velocity. If people want to discard the new nothingness, it seems to me they have to discard all of modern physics. They are basically saying everything in physics is wrong. I suppose one can hold that view, but it comes with consequences. Classical physics has been quantized, it’s all quantum now (gravity is the hold out but gains are being made).

            If nature has taught us anything in the last century, it’s that she doesn’t care what humans need to be philosophically content.

            Mike

          • So you call the "life-force" in your ego "nature" and it is female? So you are a gnostic worshiping the demon "gaia" now?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Because laws exist in human minds, not nature.

            If that's true than the whole enterprise of physics reduces to an exercise in psychology. I hope that's not true.

            What about matter itself? Does that also exist only in human minds or does it have some independent existence?

          • Sample1

            That is the power of natural law: the evidence does not make the law plausible; the law makes the evidence plausible. -Edward Rothstein

            I really like this quote, I find the subtle twist enormously profound. Maybe others aren’t impressed, having long realized it, but I can be slow so it was appreciated in a fresh way.

            I suppose it matters what you mean by an exercise in psychology. In a certain sense one can’t study anything in nature without also drawing understandings about the human mind, right? But I have no good reason to believe the universe won’t exist if all human minds go extinct. I’m not advocating solipsism.

            I’m not a mathematician but I feel they’ve been left out of the discussion. Many mathematicians feel strongly that nature really does operate mathematically and not in an analogous or metaphorical way, attached to what humans define as math, but that somehow humans are privy to something fundamental about the nature of nature.

            Matter, the definition, exists only in human minds, imo. But there are good reasons to say that matter, whatever it is, exists apart from human minds.

            Mike

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I like your Rothstein quote as well, though I am a bit more equivocal than he is. I would rather say that theory and evidence have to always exist in dialogue (and, to some degree, in tension) with each other. Theory can provide reasons to doubt putative data, and data can provide reasons to doubt our best theories. Neither one necessarily trumps in every situation.

            I'm not exactly a mathematician either, but I have a doctorate in statistics and I have made a living fitting mathematical and statistical models to biological data for going on 25 years now. And I know that in everything I do I assume the reality of the things I am estimating. If there are no real estimands to estimate, then I really have been wasting my time worrying about the quality of the estimates.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Thinking of Islam. That’s a battle front that both science and calm religions can cooperate together on.

            Just as I don't want you to respond to Catholicism as if it is monolithic, neither would I want you to respond to Islam as if it is monolithic. No religion is a close system.

            I lived in a Muslim community in Diffa, Niger for two years when I was in the Peace Corps. I knew several holy Muslims whose faith had clearly transformed their own lives and their communities for the better. I look back now on their devotion to God and frankly I seek to emulate it. Their witness makes me a better Catholic.

            Diffa is very near the geographic center of Boko Haram's activities. What Boko Haram does is despicable, and I know that they do it in the name of Islam. But then one also has to consider the vast majority of Muslims in the area who are opposed to Boko Haram. Those Muslims have put their lives on the line fighting Boko Haram, and have taken in and cared for the swarms of refugees from Nigeria, and that also has been done in the name of Islam. To already be living on the edge of starvation as the residents of Diffa do, and then, against that background, to share what little one has with refugees in need, that almost infinitely exceeds any sort of compassion that I have seen exercised in our culture of "science and calm religion".

          • Sample1

            Nice story. I get your point. Now here is mine. I would have to use a pseudonym, anonymous text apps, and still risk being ostracized or murdered if I lived there because I’m an atheist.

            Calm that shit down.

            Mike

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It's actually not the case that any of that would happen to you. When I lived there, almost anyone on the street who didn't know me would refer to me as "Anasara", which means "infidel". That's "infidel" as in "non-Muslim", whether atheist, Christian, non-descript secularist, or whatever. You and I would be exactly the same boat as far as that goes. It was no big deal to be called an infidel. People were perfectly friendly when they did it, they would do business with me, help me find what I was looking for, give me a drink of water, tell me jokes, whatever. We would even get in some nice, perfectly rational discussions of Islam occasionally. Rational discussion, not death threats. To hear the phrase "Hey infidel" was a lot like hearing the phrase, "Hey tall guy!" or "Hey teacher" (which they also said). The fact that I did not pray five times a day or fast during Ramadan was perfectly obvious. When I carried beer bottles down the street from the local bar to my house (no car, big heavy bottles), that was perfectly obvious as well. It was just like, "Yeah, he does his thing, we do ours".

          • Sample1

            Thanks for the chat Jim.

            Mike

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            You bet Mike. I enjoyed it as well.

          • Ooh, vulgarity, did he hit a nerve?

          • Ben Champagne

            "Besides, there are other plausible ideas on offer, namely that there is no beginning, that something didn’t come out of classical nothing but rather something else. Something from something. An eternal reality." This would still require in all possible cases an original point of potency. Otherwise you are suggesting in all possible cases an infinite regress which is both logically incoherent and a brute fact claim.

          • Sample1

            I reject metaphysical potency. But you’re right, it could be a brute fact. Lots of things are incoherent to me: how dogs perceive the world, why humor works or doesn’t work, radioactive decay. I’m a human who can somewhat find out about how nature works. If someday our scientists figure out some fundamental principle that describes everything, great. If not, oh well. It’s still fun and honest.

            We simply don’t know if valid inferences are impossible in principle. What we do know is that the Big Bang isn’t necessarily the beginning of the universe but it is rather the end of where our current knowledge can investigate.

            Mike

          • Ben Champagne

            I always find this objection comical. It isn't something you can reject without rejecting logic outright, in which case, what are you doing here?

            In ALL POSSIBLE CASES, no matter how you perceive the world to be, no matter how you wish to ascribe science to understanding, no matter whether there is a fundamental intellect behind it all, no matter anything else, you are a being that perceives finity, that requires a fundamental potency to it all. It is impossible to avoid the notion unless you propose that the brute fact of no potency, by way of infinite regress.

            I just don't see how you can propose to reject it without rejecting science and logic entirely.

          • Sample1

            Glad I could make you laugh. I’ve no interest in further talking with you.

            Mike

          • Did he get too close to exposing your error even to your massive ego?

          • A poor philosopher "forces discussion?" No, he reiterates his gnosticism under a new label and you try to use that to justify your gnosticism by popularity.

            Who is this "doing science" that you mythologize about here? Is this the "life-force" you deify in your head to escape your nihilism and then turn off and on at will?

            God is the uncreated, uncontingent Prime Mover. All contingency needs the uncontingent and all creation needs the uncreated. Everything has to begin somewhere, and it begins in God as God made all.

            you rather prefer to deny God and drown yourself in total absurdity because that would get in the way of your capital sin of pride. Really, that is why you vomit out "naturalism," because you refuse to admit anything outside of your immediate sphere of influence.

            The sciences were created by the Church. One cannot study the DIvine because it is uncontingent, and the Church knows creation is not Divine. Secondly, the Church knows all is intelligible as all has the same Creator.

          • MR

            Then you and I see very different things. Throwing about phrases like "scientistic" and "scientism" is the kind of tactic you expect from politicians. Argument of the -isms. "Oh, it's not real science..., wink, wink." I find it disingenuous.

            "...the Supernaturalistic attitude by which I mean the arrogant tendency of Christians to claim supernaturalistic forms of knowledge...."

            It's silly.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            "...the Supernaturalistic attitude by which I mean the arrogant tendency of Christians to claim supernaturalistic forms of knowledge...."

            That doesn't parallel the structure of the statement in the OP. Bishop Barron did not write "the arrogant tendency of atheists" or the "the arrogant tendency of scientists". He is not ascribing the view that he is critiquing to any particular group. He is merely attaching a name to the tendency itself.

          • MR

            Exactly, Attaching a name. Rebranding to demonize. -istic! -ism! It's silly. I don't need to be talking about science and religion to recognize the tactic. Hey, take it for what it's worth. I'm not advocating that you quit using the phrase. It's not like it's a phrase meant to convince atheists so much as it is a dog whistle; and it's a useful flag for me to know what I'm dealing with. It telegraphs the ploys I can expect.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Well, OK, I think at this point we are in the real of interpreting the subtleties of (putative) innuendo, and it's pretty hard to come to agreement when two people disagree on that sort of stuff. I obviously disagree with you, and I guess we just have to leave it at that. Thanks for the conversation.

          • MR

            Yes, I think others can judge for themselves. I think many of them can see through the ruse. Your defense of the tactic is useful. Yes, thank you for the conversation.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            You don't need to worry about hurting my feelings, but just FWIW, that's not a very polite way to draw a conversation to a close. In my closing remark I did not accuse you of defending a ruse.

          • MR

            But I do think you are, and it's a point that I feel needs to be made.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Fine.

            It's just confusing because you thanked me for the conversation, and based on that I assumed you were attempting to be gracious. Graciousness often consist of not making every single point that one thinks is fair, of withholding a bit in the interest of promoting goodwill.

            You can do what you want. I'm just trying to interject a quick lesson in etiquette.

          • MR

            Well, I was thankful for the conversation and several things about the conversation, but, no, I wasn't overly concerned about etiquette. After all, I see you as promoting a deceitful tactic, remember?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Nuff said.

          • Jim the Scott

            Scientism is a stupid way to be an Atheist. If I stopped believing in God I would still conclude all Atheists who believed in Scientism are no better then idiots. I would still believe in Philosophy.

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

          • MR

            Scientism is stupid, period, as far as I'm concerned. It's just made up bullshit. As for me, I'm not an atheist because of anything to do with science. Christianity is what broke Christianity for me. And no atheist I know of believes in the Christian bugaboo word of scientism.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Scientism is stupid, period, as far as I'm concerned. It's just made up bullshit.

            No it is a philosophical view that is incoherent. Some Atheist Philosophers like Rosenberg hold to it and I find his reasoning comical. I remember reading somewhere A.G. Flew at the height of his Atheism during the 50's abandoned it because it is at best trivially true at worst self -refuting.

            >As for me, I'm not an atheist because of anything to do with science.
            Christianity is what broke Christianity for me. And no atheist I know of believes in the Christian bugaboo word of scientism.

            Then I can't help you because I am a cruel a**hole who doesn't care about people's feelings. If you are not equipped with the education to argue the philosophical arguments for the existence of God or the problem of evil then any discussion between us would be futile. Anyway I admire you honesty here admitting your feelings & limitations and will trouble you no further.

          • MR

            No, it's apologists taking a tactic from the same playbook as politicians by inventing some bullshit definition and trying to label your opponent with it. That you even use the term demonstrates either dishonesty or gullibility. If you can't see the difference between what Bob is claiming and your own dishonest labeling, then you know nothing of atheists or science.

            Scientism smacks of blind faith in the same way that your comment of "believing in" philosophy smacks of blind faith. Meanwhile, science holds that knowledge is provisional. Yes, thus far it's the best method we have to gain knowledge. You claim, but cannot demonstrate, another way to obtain knowledge..., you believe in it. But without being able to make a case for it, there's no way to distinguish it from your imagination. Inventing terms like "scientism" is just a dishonest attempt to level the playing field.

          • Jim the Scott

            This is all emotive incoherent gibberish even if there are no gods you have not said anything intelligent here. Not even one thing and I don't care about your feelings.

            Bob is claiming God is a scientific question and I am telling him I am already an Atheist when it comes to belief in such a "god". Go philosophy or go home. Refute the God I actually believe in & not the one you wish I believed in because you are not familiar with it.

            >Scientism smacks of blind faith in the same way that your comment of "believing in" philosophy smacks of blind faith.

            I believe in Science and I believe in Philosophy and I will not change these beliefs knowing what I know even if I disbelieved in God.

            Scientism is not science anymore then Sola Scriptura is the Bible. I am smelling some blind faith here and I am sure it's not me.

          • MR

            I'm not even talking about God, just your dishonest tactic of using dishonest labels to smear your opponent.

            I believe in Science and I believe in Philosophy

            Not even I would say that I "believe in" science, let alone philosophy. You do understand that they don't really exist, right? They're also labels we use to describe complex ideas.

            Scientism is not science anymore then Sola Scriptura is the Bible.

            Yeah, and I'm saying that scientism isn't even a thing. That's what you can't seem to get through your head..., and then you complain about my intelligence!

          • Jim the Scott

            >I'm not even talking about God, just your dishonest tactic of using dishonest labels to smear your opponent.

            Rather your problem is you lack the maturity to accept this very simple premise. You can have a bad argument for a true thing. Maybe there really is no God or gods but maybe Bob's and your arguments for disbelief in them or whatever are just plain crap? As a Thomist I reject ontological arguments for the existence of God. I reject Paley's design arguments. I reject the lame argument "the 2nd Law of Thermal Dynamics refutes Evolution" because it is bogus.

            >Not even I would say that I "believe in" science, let alone philosophy. You do understand that they don't really exist, right? They're also labels we use to describe complex ideas.

            They pretty much exist as intellective concepts of real things. Real experimentation and real rational analysis of the nature of existence and being.

            Scientism is not science anymore then Sola Scriptura is the Bible.
            Yeah, and I'm saying that scientism isn't even a thing. That's what you can't seem to get through your head..., and then you complain about my intelligence!

            >Yeah, and I'm saying that scientism isn't even a thing.

            Then you live on the same make believe alien planet as the fellow with a 5th graders' knowledge of biology who says Evolution isn't a thing. Right next door too invisible pink unicorns and across the street from the FSM. You just deny reality in favor of your own personal dogma. You can be an Atheist or Theist with such a mindset (the problem is the Atheist has convinced himself the mere denial of "gods" somehow makes him meta-rational and logical without actually studying how to think or reason). But why would you want too?

            >That's what you can't seem to get through your head..., and then you complain about my intelligence!

            It is a just complaint on my part. Willful stupidity is silly and not attractive to girls. Just saying son.

          • MR

            Still can't quite grasp what I'm saying, I see. And, I'm the willfully stupid one..., ri-ight. Keep up the dishonest tactics. They're useful.

          • Jim the Scott

            The reason I don't grasp what you are saying is because what you are saying is incoherent taken at face value. It is not a tactic it is just the truth as I see it.

          • MR

            That you can't see that what Bob, Hawking, scientists and atheists claim is not "scientism" is your own, again, gullibility or dishonesty, I don't know which. I leave that and your behavior for others to judge. "Scientism" is a tactic, plain and simple.

          • Jim the Scott

            You are a mindless fanatic at this point son.

            >That you can't see that what Bob, Hawking, scientists and atheists claim

            As if they where all one thing? Thomas Nagel is an Atheist philosopher and he rejects Scientism. Martin Vrees who criticizes Hawking lack of knowledge on philosophy is also an Atheist and a Physicist.

            Geez the bizarre veneration you give these people. It's almost religious.

            >is not "scientism" is your own, again, gullibility or dishonesty, I don't know which. I leave that and your behavior for others to judge. "Scientism" is a tactic, plain and simple.

            No Scientism is a philosophy and Bob obviously latently hold too it otherwise he wouldn't be trying to find lame ways to claim Classic Theism is somehow subject to scientific investigation. Also he clearly implicitly believes only what is scientifically testable can effect our reality which is not a concept ever proven by science. It's a philosophical view and an incoherent one.

            Take my advice. Drop the scientism. Learn some philosophy then formulate philosophically based polemics against Classic Theism. At least you would be interesting.

          • MR

            In other words you're dishonestly labeling Bob (and me) with scientism when that is clearly not true. Bob explicitly stated he is open to other forms of knowledge and expressed willingness to hear you make a defense. Apparently derision is your defense.

          • Jim the Scott

            Let it go son. This conversation is becoming boring. Now go learn some philosophy.

            Geez I am almost missing Michael's lowbrow nonsense.....

          • MR

            Oh, it became boring a long time ago. You have nothing and resort to derision. That should be comforting to Christians who are questioning their faith. Not answers, just derision.

          • Jim the Scott

            I told you " I can't help you because I am a cruel a**hole who doesn't care about people's feelings. If you are not equipped with the education to argue the philosophical arguments for the existence of God or the problem of evil then any discussion between us would be futile. "

            I deride you because you make it easy. You are willfully acting in a foolish matter. Please stop it for your own sake.

          • MR

            You seem to think my feelings are involved here. I'm not the one arguing for the existence or even the non-existence of God. That you haven't been able to speaks to your lack, not mine.

          • Jim the Scott

            If you are not arguing for the existence of God or non-existence then we have nothing to discuss. Yet you seem to want to talk a lot?

          • MR

            Not really, but it's good for others to see your behavior and lack of argument. For someone who supposedly believes in God, you don't act like one.

          • Jim the Scott

            My lack of argument? 8-(

            Bye.

          • MR

            Ranting derision is not an argument. Buh-Bye.

          • Jim the Scott

            Indeed, follow your own advice in the future.

          • MR

            I hold no derision for you; I simply think you've indoctrinated yourself in a belief you know you can't defend so you lash out.

          • Jim the Scott

            The way you project your own feelings on other people is most fascinating.

          • MR

            You talk a lot about feelings for someone who claims to have none. You've basically admitted that God can't be demonstrated. I can accept that. You claim knowledge that can't be distinguished from imagination. I can accept that. But that means you give no reason for anyone else to believe. For me that is the bottom line. There are people reading this who might be struggling with their faith and would love to hear answers from you. When your response is a giant, Fuck You, well, what kind of a case does that make? A useful one if your leaning toward non-belief, I think.

          • Jim the Scott

            You managed to make me care even less with that one. You post this emotive hysterical drivel & some passive aggressive amateur attempts at emotional manipulation and it is just boring. If you are not here to argue rationally I am not interested.

          • MR

            Are you still on? That's exactly what you're doing. You can't make a case so you post this emotive hysterical drivel and some passive aggressive amateur attempts at emotional manipulation. This is apparently your m.o. as is evidenced by pretty much everything you've said to me. Shrug. You were the one to engage me. I've never even claimed that God doesn't exist.

          • Jim the Scott

            You apparently are on.

            I merely chimed in to inform you what Scientism is and you conflated it with Science and claimed it didn't exist & you went down hill from there. Also you contradicted yourself just a bit.

          • MR

            You chimed in to tell me that scientism is a stupid way to be an atheist. A strawman. You demonstrated your dishonesty from the get go.

          • Jim the Scott

            It pretty is like Young Earth Creationism or Intelligent Design is a stupid way to be a Theist. So learn philosophy and stop being stupid.

          • MR

            It pretty is like Young Earth Creationism or Intelligent Design is a stupid way to be a Theist. So learn philosophy and stop being stupid.

            What kind of gibberish is that? Are you drunk?

            This is cult talk. (Well, drunk cult talk, anyway.) As if we have to learn philosophy to know God. Is God so impotent? Are only the philosophically indoctrinated able to find God? A god who loves us and wants us to know him? I want to know if God exists. Others who might be reading this want to know if God exists. It's like you make a mockery of God. You hamstring him to your beloved philosophy. Just like a cultist. You hide behind your philosophy so you don't have to explain why you have no evidence. You give me no way to determine lying, madness, self-indoctrination from a true God. If God existed, philosophy would be nothing to show himself, to show his love to us. You give us no way to determine truth from your imagination. Yours is an invitation to follow you down a rabbit hole of indoctrination. Is God so weak?

          • Jim the Scott

            Nah I just got distracted while typing it. "It pretty much is" is what I meant to type.

            How much time did you waste writing all that hysterical gibberish?

          • MR

            You mean those things you have no answers for? If you can't demonstrate God from your imagination what good is anything you have to say? Yours are the same words as a cultist. Maybe I think more highly of the concept of God than you do. You mute him in an obsolete 13th century philosophy when he's supposedly the Master of the Universe. Your words just don't ring true.

          • Jim the Scott

            You really can't make up you mind? You want to argue the existence of God you don't want too? You claim you aren't arguing while you are?

            You are basically incoherent at this point.

          • MR

            Well, that's only because you've spun off into a state of your own incoherence. Do I think you would give me a straight, honest argument at this point, anyway? No, I don't. I'm just pointing out that you have nothing and act like you do. I've seen the dodges just with Bob. I don't expect anything different.

          • Jim the Scott

            Basically you are barking mad at this point.

          • MR

            If it comforts you.

          • Jim the Scott

            I am indifferent.

          • MR

            Clearly. We can see that.

          • Jim the Scott

            Indeed.

          • Alexandra

            You said:
            "Yeah, and I'm saying that scientism isn't even a thing."

            According to the Hayek center blog,:
            "The modern notion of “scientism” was introduced by Friedrich Hayek and Karl Popper in the mid-1940s, in Hayek’s journal Econometrica."
            Hayek was a nonreligious Nobel prize winning economist. Karl Popper was a philosopher of science and I think a nonreligious agnostic.

            This is secularist philosopher Jurgen Habermas critiquing scientism :
            "The scientistic faith in a science that will one day not only fulfill, but eliminate, personal self-conception through objectifying self-description is not science, but bad philosophy"

            Webster’s second definition of scientism: “a thesis that the methods of the natural sciences should be used in all areas of investigation including philosophy, the humanities, and the social sciences: a belief that only such methods can fruitfully be used in the pursuit of knowledge.”

            Oxford dictionary definition of scientistic: adjective form of scientism

            So yes, it's a thing; although I read more commonly discussed in the 1950s than now. However, I expect with various scientistic (not to be confused with scientific) tendencies among some Athiests, I expect its use is and will become more common again.

          • MR

            And my point remains. Not only is this not the definition that was presented, it's still not what Bob, scientists or atheists are saying or believe. It's dishonest and disingenuous. A make believe definition to detract. Are you telling me that you, too, can't see the difference? Are you, too, clinging to this belief?

          • Alexandra

            Are you still saying scientism is B.S. and not a thing?

            Bishop Barron definition is consistent with that used by philosophers of science:
            So yes, the definition he presented, is using a proper description.

            From Wiki:
            In philosophy of science, the term scientism frequently implies a critique of the more extreme expressions of logical positivism. and has been used by social scientists such as Friedrich Hayek,philosophers of science such as Karl Popper,and philosophers such as Hilary Putnamand, Tzvetan Todorov, to describe (for example) the dogmatic endorsement of scientific methodology and the reduction of all knowledge to only that which is measured or confirmatory.

          • MR

            And tell me, is that what Bob endorses? Is that what I endorse? Hawking? Yes, I call B.S. Do you really not see the distinction? Show me.

          • Alexandra

            Scientism is a concept in the science of philosophy. Yes or no?

            How are you defining scientism?

          • MR

            I don't define it. I think it's a dishonest label, remember? What is your definition and then we'll see if it matches the definitions given thus far, if Bob or I endorse it, and if you're capable of making the distinctions.

          • Alexandra

            Scientism is a concept in the science of philosophy. Yes or no?

          • MR

            It is not a concept of science. You're applying it to scientists and to atheists. Show me.

          • Alexandra

            Sorry. Meant to ask: (Didn't mean to waste your time.)

            Scientism is a concept in the philosophy of science. Yes or no?

          • MR

            And the questions you haven't answered? Because they are key. You're placing a bullshit label on scientists and atheists. Do you deny that? Do you think I ascribe to scientism? If so, show me. Do you think Bob does? Show me.

          • Alexandra

            "You're placing a bullshit label on scientists and atheists."

            Please provide the quote where I do this.

          • MR

            Yes, sorry, I was generalizing. Do you label me with scientism? Do you label Bob with scientism?

          • MR

            Let me ask you something, because for a while I thought you would be different. Do you think I am being insincere?

          • Ben Champagne

            How can you have gone this long and not realized how foolish you sound?

            First, when someone lies, do you call them a liar? Do you need them to call themselves a liar for them to be?

            Second, No one is claiming you, Bob, Fred, Mo, or Curly ascribe to and agree with being labeled a scientismist. It is a derisive term, that's about the only thing you are correct on. Clearly you do not think you are conflating science with other domains of inquiry, mainly logical deduction, but of course you wouldn't without any contention, what normal person would think, absent outside influence, that they are purposely doing it wrong?

            Third, You keep wanting people to answer your questions so you can try to shoehorn them into agreement, when your questions are dishonest outright. No one is accusing you of being a scientismist akin to a scientologist (the latter having a professed belief in the attribution), they are saying that it is very easy for people to misinterpret empiricism as the only valid form of evidence, when it itself relies of logical axioms that are in no way empirically verifiable, and those that make such a conflation are performing, in the moment, with no ascription necessary, scientism instead of relaying science.

            Your exchanges here were painful to read in their ignorance.

          • MR

            Shoehorning is precisely what you are doing, which was my point. It is a derisive term, which was my point.

          • Ben Champagne

            Who cares? The real question is, were they right to do so? Maybe you should take some time to steel man their position and see if you have empiricism wrong before you splatter your ill conceived thoughts all over a thread on a website dedicated to philosophical inquiry.

          • MR

            Look, you all got all pissy over Hawking. He toed the line of science and religion for years and people have always wanted to know, "Yeah, but tell us what you really think." He did. I appreciate his honesty. He wasn't "claiming to do science," he wasn't "lying" and he wasn't wrong to do so. And you all are throwing a hissy fit. Scientism is a pejorative word that is thrown out not because of any actual "scientism" happening. It's used rather to deprecate science and scientists when they say things religious people don't like. Is there the rogue scientist or atheist that makes actual scientifistic claims? No doubt you could dig someone up, but that is never the context in which it's used. It's used to slam real science, scientists--and atheists for believing in scientism, when I have yet to meet one who does. I stand by my assessment that it's a dishonest tactic taken from the same playbook as politicians to brand your opponent with a pejorative label. Is it wrong to do so? I believe so, but your opinion may vary.

          • Ben Champagne

            Do you think me a liar? Because you are accusing me of being a liar, but I don't believe that I am a liar, and apparently that is all that is required for it to be so under your standard. So saying I am employing a dishonest tactic, or 'lying', or 'accusing me of being a liar', is not true because I don't believe it or susbscribe to such a label as liar, so clearly I am not one.

            I believe that is checkmate. You can see yourself out.

          • MR

            I'm not really sure what you're talking about or why you're taking this so personally. My beef was the tendency all over the web to dishonestly call "scientism" as I described above. Have you been doing that? I don't see scientists "claiming to do science" when they are just expressing their opinion. They know their limitations. They're allowed to have opinions. That I'm aware of, for example, Hawking hasn't said, "the science shows that God doesn't exist." The outrage seems to be directed at him just because he expressed his belief that God does not exist. That's not, to use your example, "claiming to do science...." It's not "scientism." My comment was directed at Bob to bemoan the general practice of this dishonest tactic, and four of you rushed out to defend the term, a term you yourself described as pejorative. Do you think it wrong to label someone with a pejorative term when it's not the case? I do. That is my beef. If you're not doing that, then you're not my beef.

          • Sample1

            I’ve tooled around here for some four+ years and have never seen a logical positivist show up.

            Mike

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I don't know about logical positivists, but positivists or verificationists generally have been here in droves.

            How often have we seen someone put forward the retort "Got evidence?", as if that was some sort of clever objection to a proposed worldview? That is the classic positivist / verificationist error in a nutshell. It completely neglects what is illuminated by your Rothstein quote: you can't ultimately have evidence for an interpretive lens; you can only evaluate (and can only define) evidence through an interpretive lens.

          • Sample1

            Well, I was here when the first use of Got Evidence? was used. A former poster, Quine, initiated it when all else failed at conversation. Quine was not a logical positivist. Of the thirty plus atheists who were banned (many in the Great Purge that led to an alternative venue for discussion, which still exists, Outshine The Sun), maybe five used the phrase. None are logical positivists, which is a philosophy linked to so-called scientism.

            So here we are. I’ve seen zero logical positivists in my many years here and you’ve seen droves (though admit they may not have been logical positivists).

            Got evidence is just a request when certain claims are made. Calling it a nutshell error is a bit lazy but if there is context provided when that might make sense, I’m all ears. You know what I’m going to ask now.

            Got evidence?

            Mike, not a logical positivist

          • Ben Champagne

            So what do you call someone who claims to be doing 'science' but instead is just interjecting opinion or claims that are not validated by the work intentionally?

          • Sample1

            Medical quacks come to mind. Those without evidence but instead use faith based modalities. Homeopathy, most forms of chiropractic, goofy cancer cure scams, the list is long.

            In fact, I find a lot of similarity between faith based religions and medical quackery. No offense to individuals here, just a meta-observation.

            Mike

          • MR

            The Intelligent Design folk, I guess. They're the only ones I know who were claiming to be "doing science" in that manner.

          • Sample1

            There may be a time and a place to own the word, though I understand and agree with your reasons for rejection here.

            Have you read, I myself am a scientismist? Quite good. http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/07/25/i-myself-am-a-scientismist/

            Mike
            Yo, Bishop...I think you should read it too. :)

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      No one is saying that there is something "better than science". The point is merely that there is a scope of inquiry that is broader than the scientific scope of inquiry. Scientific inquiry is in a "subdirectory" within this larger hierarchy of inquiry that we use to probe reality. For example, your claim that science has "more to brag about" probably should be turned into a question: "does science have more to brag about?". That is obviously not a scientific question, since it involves the notion of "brag-worthiness" or value judgement. It is therefore a question that is beyond the scope of scientific inquiry. That's no slander against science, and it's no slander against the question. It's a perfectly valid question and we can say something intelligent in response to the question, and yet when we ask and (attempt to) answer that question we are not doing science. The question of whether God exists is, similarly, a question that is beyond the scope of scientific inquiry. Again, that's no slander against science and it's no slander against the question.

      Also, the notion of "track record" that you rely on in your comment touches on the scope of inquiry that we roughly refer to as "history". Do you consider history to be merely a subdomain within science, or would you say that the discipline of historical research overlaps with but is not entirely nested within the discipline of scientific research? (I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other, but I think it's important to nail this issue down a bit. I'm fine with calling history part of science, as long as, in so doing, we acknowledge that we are importing a reliance on personal testimony and a narrative framework that some consider antithetical to "science".)

      • No one is saying that there is something "better than science".

        Many Christians do, but I appreciate that you’re saying that you don’t.

        Scientific inquiry is in a "subdirectory" within this larger hierarchy of inquiry that we use to probe reality.

        I’m talking about evidence-based inquiry.

        The question of whether God exists is, similarly, a question that is beyond the scope of scientific inquiry.

        Is it? If someone wants to argue that God exists but that he does nothing here on earth to give any evidence of that fact, I’ll agree that there’s nothing that science can say, but then we’re beyond evidence, and every comment about God’s existence is just speculation.

        If, by contrast, you want to argue that God exists and he does interact with our world, that’s a scientifically testable claim.

        Do you consider history to be merely a subdomain within science

        History is also evidence-based inquiry.

        • MR

          And Christians hold two books dear that certainly claim that God does interact in the world. And most Christians I know believe he does as well.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          To say that "science" refers to all evidence-based inquiry is to attach an extremely broad meaning to the word, but OK, I can work with that. We need to momentarily bracket that question of what constitutes evidence (e.g. are my interior feelings interpretable as evidence with respect to certain questions?), but that's fine.

          If someone wants to argue that God exists but that he does nothing here on earth to give any evidence of that fact

          If I'm going to adopt your broad definition of "science" (= "evidence-based inquiry"), I will have to backtrack and say that God's existence is adjudicable by science.

          One last thing before I move on to my evidence-based argument: evidence never exists in a vacuum. Evidence can only take on meaning and have consequences within an interpretive framework. Indeed, evidence isn't even a meaningful concept without an interpretive framework. (I hope you will agree?)

          With that said, here is a very minimal interpretive framework that I start from: Something must exist necessarily in order for any possibilities to exist. That is because the very notion of "possibility" is rendered incoherent if there is no encompassing context of necessity.

          And now the evidence: possibilities do exist! My evidence for that is that this natural world is possible, and my evidence that this natural world is possible is the fact that this natural world actually exists.

          Does that count as an evidence-based argument?

          • To say that "science" refers to all evidence-based inquiry is to attach an extremely broad meaning to the word, but OK, I can work with that.

            Don’t bother. That’s not what I said.

            We need to momentarily bracket that question of what constitutes evidence (e.g. are my interior feelings interpretable as evidence with respect to certain questions?), but that's fine.

            There needs to be some objectivity. Your feelings don’t count.

            I will have to backtrack and say that God's existence is adjudicable by science.

            OK

            And now the evidence: possibilities do exist! My evidence for that is that this natural world is possible, and my evidence that this natural world is possible is the fact that this natural world actually exists.
            Does that count as an evidence-based argument?

            It doesn’t count as evidence for God, which is what I’m after.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Does it count for evidence that something must exist necessarily?

          • I have no idea what that's supposed to mean.

            I have little patience for philosophical arguments, I'm afraid. If God exists and he's eager for a relationship with us, I'd like to see simple, easily understood evidence. That's not too much to ask, I hope you'll agree.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            To exist necessarily is to be (absolutely, fundamentally, ultimately) logically necessary. If you don’t know what that means then you don’t know what the word “God” means to educated people.

            The evidence is that the universe exists. What could be simpler than that? And every fiber of your being is lit up with existence in every moment. What could be more personal and intimate than that?

          • Yes, the universe exists.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Well, that is definitely uncontroversial.

            But do you believe that the universe is logically necessary? If so that would mean that the universe is God. I find that to be a respectable position, but it doesn't seem correct to me. Even though I can't imagine nothing, I can conceive of it. There seems to be no logical reason that the universe should exist. It seems like a (realized) possibility, not a necessity.

          • do you believe that the universe is logically necessary?

            Dunno. There is no scientific consensus on what caused our universe or if a cause was even necessary or if nothing is unstable, and so on. I'll get my science from the scientists. I can wait.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I just can't wrap my head around how you can conceive of that as a scientific question.

            In every scientific endeavor that I've ever heard of, scientists begin with the assumption that natural laws exist, and they set about trying to discover them. If there is a physics lab where the principal scientist says, "OK gang, let's try to figure out the natural law by which all natural laws come into existence" ... I mean, I guess I wish them luck, but it seems like a project that is doomed from the start by circular logic.

          • You say, "God answers prayers."

            I say, "Cool! That sounds like a testable hypothesis! Let's test it."

            I can't see where the problem is.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'm happy to defend the idea that God "answers" prayers, but first a point of order:

            I actually didn't write that God answers prayers. As I say, I'm happy to defend the notion of God answering prayers, but I never brought that point up because I think it is neither here not there with respect to the more fundamental point we have been discussing. These conversations generally go better when each participant engages the things that that the other actually writes, rather than imagining what one thinks the other would write, projecting that onto the other, and asking for a response.

            And now one more thing before I get to the idea of God answering prayers. The idea that one would only care about God if He "answers our prayers" seems to me to wildly misguided. If there is something at the absolute depths of reality ("God"), then I want to be in touch with that! I don't care whether I can influence it or not. I want the most profound experience of reality that I can get my hands on, whether that influences the course of history or not. In that sense, I am -- somewhat to my shame -- a child of my generation: world be damned, I'm out here selfishly looking for the depths of experience.

            Now, as it turns out, the God of Christianity -- confound Him!! -- won't give me access to the deepest depths of experience unless I participate in the shaping of history. So that does finally, obliquely, bring us around to the question you raise -- in what ways exactly can I influence the course of history? (And in particular with respect to petitionary prayer, can I influence history in "telekinetic" / spooky action at a distance sorts of ways?)

            Here are some things that the Catholic catechism has to say on that point (in my own words, except where quoted):

            1. God is utterly unchangeable. We can influence the course of history by cooperating (or not) with God, but we cannot influence God. Our petitionary prayers, in particular, do not influence God. We exist in relationship with God, but it is not a symmetric relationship.
            2. "Transformation of the praying heart is the first response to our petition." (CCC 2739) Thus, whatever else we might say about petitionary prayer, its efficacy is mediated not through the transformation of God, but through the transformation of ourselves.
            3. "Prayer and Christian life are inseparable" ; "He "prays without ceasing" who unites prayer to works and good works to prayer." We therefore should not expect prayer to be efficacious if it is not accompanied by our aligned activity in the physical world.

            Now, none of that rules out the possibility of spooky action at a distance sorts of things but it does rather clearly de-emphasize it. In other words, if you are thinking about petitionary prayer primarily as spooky action at a distance sorts of things then you just aren't thinking about it in the way that it has been described in Catholic doctrine.

            And now finally, even if we are just talking about "non-telekinetic" petitionary prayer, where is the evidence that it works? If prayer has any effect, even if it "merely" changes our hearts and thereby influences the way we do our work, that should still be empirically verifiable, right? On that point I can only agree. If there are some groups of people who are praying "more" or "more correctly" than others, there should be evidence that that group of people accomplishes more good in the world in some sense. I think the primary evidence we should expect in that regard is historical, not scientific. If we focus just on the last 500 years or so, I might concede that the historical evidence does not weigh very clearly in favor of Christian prayer. If we focus on the first 1500 years and the definitive role of Christianity in shaping Western culture, it seems more clear to me that, whatever it is that Christians do, it has some a beneficial effect. But that involves cross-cultural comparisons and lots of "what-ifs", all the messy business of history. I find find the evidence strongly suggestive, but there are no slam-dunks when it comes to isolating causal effects in a historical analysis.

          • I actually didn't write that God answers prayers.

            Right. I was using a quotation to illustrate the situation.

            The idea that one would only care about God if He "answers our prayers" seems to me to wildly misguided. If there is something at the absolute depths of reality ("God"), then I want to be in touch with that!

            Then maybe “God talks to us” or “God interacts with us” is more where your interest lies.

            1. God is utterly unchangeable. We can influence the course of history by cooperating (or not) with God, but we cannot influence God. Our petitionary prayers, in particular, do not influence God.

            Well, there goes our experiment.

            But that does seem an interesting tenet. On the one hand, it’s pretty clear that prayers aren’t reliably answered, and it sounds like we’re on the same page. The Church isn’t out on a limb trying to explain why prayers don’t work. But if you look at the half-dozen places in the New Testament where Jesus talks about prayer, it’s pretty much a genie model—ask and ye shall receive.

            2. "Transformation of the praying heart is the first response to our petition."

            Makes sense. Perhaps we’re on the same page that the Protestants make much bolder—and harder to justify—claims about prayer.

            And now finally, even if we are just talking about "non-telekinetic" petitionary prayer, where is the evidence that it works? If prayer has any effect, even if it "merely" changes our hearts and thereby influences the way we do our work, that should still be empirically verifiable, right?

            Prayer works like meditation. And meditation works. I’m guessing we’re in agreement.

            If we focus just on the last 500 years or so, I might concede that the historical evidence does not weigh very clearly in favor of Christian prayer.

            Someone once had the clever idea to test the longevity of British monarchs. Since “God save the king/queen” is a popular “prayer,” these monarchs have far, far more prayers going to God for their health than anyone else in the UK. As you can imagine, the statistics showed nothing special about their health.

            If we focus on the first 1500 years and the definitive role of Christianity in shaping Western culture, it seems more clear to me that, whatever it is that Christians do, it has some a beneficial effect.

            Really? That sounds like a pretty dark period, at least until the Renaissance. If God had a hand in events, it must’ve been a very light touch.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Yes. In fact, in the Catholic understanding, it's not that prayer is like meditation. It is rather that meditation is a form of prayer (CCC 2707, for example). Of course, the goal of meditation in Christianity is understood differently than it is in, say, Buddhism. But, insofar as meditation is defined by methodology and not by the baggage of theory, there is a lot of common ground as well as opportunity for methodological cross-pollination (as developed, for example in the Catholic adventures in Buddhism of Thomas Merton, David Stendl-Rast, and Thomas Keating. (Keating actually died just this past week: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/28/obituaries/rev-thomas-keating-pioneer-in-contemplative-movement-dies-at-95.html).

            We'll have to debate history some other day, but personally I'll take the High Middle Ages over Caesar's Rome any day, and it wouldn't even be close. I feel we've made some progress toward understanding each other's positions and I'm happy to leave it at this for now if you'd like.

          • Thanks

          • Phil

            " If you don’t know what that means then you don’t know what the word “God” means to educated people." So this god is only for educated people eh? That sucks. Which god are we talking about? Seems to be a massive jump from the idea a god created the universe and any one of the religious gods. Totally non sequitur. And then pretending to know the mind of god that is hidden from the ordinary person.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I didn't say that God is only for educated people. God is for everyone. It's just that the ability to recognize in theistic traditions what is meant by the word "God" is limited by education; similarly, the ability to reflect systematically on what one believes about God is limited by education; the ability to articulate one's experience of God and reality is limited by education. However, none of that implies that "the mind of God is hidden from the ordinary person".

          • Jim the Scott

            >I have little patience for philosophical arguments, I'm afraid.

            Then in principle your anti-Theistic polemics are strictly limited to Theistic Personalist views of God and so called "Intelligent Design"(both if which I disbelieve) but you will then have nothing interesting to say to Classical Theists nor can you venture any sort of meaningful polemic against Catholic Classical Theism.

            Any attempt to make a "scientific" case against Classic Theism by definition will be a category mistake at worst or at best a non-starter objection.

          • And we return to my question: Does God make changes in our world? If so, that is a scientific claim that is (in principle) testable by science.

            Some definitions of God imagine that he's off in his supernatural world and doesn't interact (as in miracles, say) with our world. I have nothing to say in response to that because that God wouldn't matter.

          • Jim the Scott

            >And we return to my question: Does God make changes in our world? If so, that is a scientific claim that is (in principle) testable by science.

            Has science proven every change to the world is testable? No it hasn't so I have no reason based on your own Scientism/Positivist standard to believe your assertion without proof. I am afraid no matter how you slice it God in the Classic Theistic Sense is not a scientific question anymore then a Higgs Boson is a subject of archeology. Live with it.

            So your question is meaningless and incoherent even if there is no God.

            >Some definitions of God imagine that he's off in his supernatural world and doesn't interact (as in miracles, say) with our world. I have nothing to say in response to that because that God wouldn't matter.

            You have nothing to say to me because by your own admission you don't understand philosophy and can't address philosophical arguments for the existence of God. Nor can you formulate Philosophical arguments for some competing metaphysical position like Reductionist Materialism or Metaphysical Naturalism. Or even Monism or Moderate Realism vs Conceptionalism.

            You are only fit to polemic some primitive Theistic Personalist divinity concept. You don't know the different philosophical views of God and you mix and match incompatible concepts. Stick to refuting Young Earth Creationism. That is all your fit to do given your clear Scientism. It matter even less to me being a Theistic Evolutionist.

            “There is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination.
            —Daniel Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Idea, 1995”

            You have no philosophy for either your science or your Atheism. So we have nothing to discuss.

          • MR

            So, I guess you have no real rebuttal. Just declare his question incoherent and meaningless? It's not incoherent or meaningless for millions of us. Is your comprehension broken? It's not like God is supposed to be some inert force we have no way of knowing. Supposedly he loves us and wants very much for us to know him. I would like very much to know if God really existed. That shouldn't be a problem for an omnipotent being. Why hide behind philosophy now?

          • Jim the Scott

            >So, I guess you have no real rebuttal.

            Well you have no real arguments....so there you go.

            >Just declare his question incoherent and meaningless?

            It is incoherent and meaningless like the next Young Earth Creationist who challenges you to show an Ape giving birth to a human being and claiming your failure to produce such a thing is "proof" Evolution is bogus. That of course is nonsense. God in the Classic Sense is not a scientific question anymore then the existence of a Higgs Boson particle or String Theory is a question of archeology.

            >It's not incoherent or meaningless for millions of us. Is your comprehension broken?

            Now you are just ranting like a mindless fundamentalist Protestant Christian who believes Dinosaurs couldn't fit in the Ark. You really need to do some more book learning. I don't care about your feelings as an Atheist. You want feelings go talk to a woman or Alan Alda.

            >It's not like God is supposed to be some inert force we have no way of knowing. Supposedly he loves us and wants very much for us to know him. I would like very much to know if God really existed. That shouldn't be a problem for an omnipotent being. Why hide behind philosophy now?

            So you are complaining to me about the "god" you wished existed? Sorry I am an Atheist toward that "god" too. I am a Classic Theist. Polemic the God I believe in not the one you wish I believe in. God by definition doesn't owe us anything .

          • MR

            What is incoherent and meaningless? You're the one making the claim. You're the one labeling Bob with scientism when it's clearly not true. I haven't even made a claim that God doesn't exist.

          • Jim the Scott

            >What is incoherent and meaningless?

            I already said so in my responses to him and you. Making me repeat myself endlessly is tedious. Now off you pop.

          • MR

            Well, yes your responses are incoherent and meaningless when you can't show your beliefs to be any different than imaginary.

          • Jim the Scott

            In the other post you just said "I'm not the one arguing for the existence or even the non-existence of God. " now here you are making the claim my beliefs are imaginary?

            Inconsistence and incoherence. You contradict yourself.

          • You have nothing to say to me because by your own admission you don't understand philosophy

            OK

          • Jim the Scott

            Peace too you..

          • ClayJames

            ¨And we return to my question: Does God make changes in our world? If so, that is a scientific claim that is (in principle) testable by science.¨

            No its not. Science cannot test a supernatural cause.

            If I could really go against the laws of nature and turn water into wine, there is no scientific experiment that you can set up in order to confirm that I have brought about a supernatural change in our world.

          • "I have little patience for philosophical arguments, I'm afraid."

            I'm sorry to hear that. But expressing personal distaste is simply not a good counter-argument. I'm sure you know that.

            Your impatience with philosophy in no way undermines it as a discipline, nor does it refute the philosophical arguments in support of God's existence.

            It would be like me saying I reject the theory of evolution while also telling evolution proponents that, "I have little patience for biological arguments."

            The evolutionist would have good reason to say, "Well, it doesn't really matter whether you have patience for biological arguments. The biological arguments for evolution are either good or flawed, regardless of your personal feelings, and to ignore or belittle them is not to seriously refute evolution."

            "If God exists and he's eager for a relationship with us, I'd like to see simple, easily understood evidence. That's not too much to ask, I hope you'll agree."

            I agree. But God has provided that evidence: the universe. The overwhelming majority of people around the world and throughout history have recognized that the universe is contingent (it didn't have to be) and that it cries out for an explanation, and that the best explanation, or cause, must be God. I can think of no bigger or more obvious bit of evidence than the universe itself!

            You're in the very small minority of people who think there is no simple, easily understood evidence for God, and merely asserting that doesn't make it true.

          • expressing personal distaste is simply not a good counter-argument. I'm sure you know that.

            Agreed; it’s no counter-argument.

            I expect God to be more than philosophically imagineable. I want scientific evidence.

            Your impatience with philosophy in no way undermines it as a discipline, nor does it refute the philosophical arguments in support of God's existence.

            I’ve waded through so many tedious and ill-formed philosophical arguments that sound like nothing but a smoke screen rather than an honest search for the truth that I’ve lost interest in such arguments. But that’s me. Maybe there are honest philosophical arguments that actually do illuminate the God question that I’m simply not familiar with.

            I’ve seen nothing that philosophers have taught us about science lately. Maybe in Greek times. And certainly through “philosophers” who were first scientists. But philosophers as such? You’re more familiar with the field, so perhaps you have some examples.

            It would be like me saying I reject the theory of evolution while also telling evolution proponents that, "I have little patience for biological arguments."

            Because philosophy is the tip of the spear illuminating the God question? That may well be. But there again is the problem in my mind: whether there are good philosophical arguments or not, I want evidence. God belief is too important to rest on anything less.

            I agree. But God has provided that evidence: the universe.

            But this is just a deist argument. A Clockmaker wound up our universe and walked away. Or, it’s an undefined theist argument that applies to Christianity no better than to many other religions (and myriad religions that haven’t been thought up yet).

            And why are we driven to a supernatural explanation? Have we ruled out a natural explanation yet?

            The overwhelming majority of people around the world and throughout history have recognized that the universe is contingent (it didn't have to be)

            But then you have the question of why a perfect God created a world, especially one so messed up as this one. Things were perfect before he did so, so what could have possibly motivated him to pollute reality with so imperfect a creation?

            . . . and that it cries out for an explanation, and that the be st explanation, or cause, must be God. I think of no bigger or more obvious bit of evidence than the universe itself.

            Again, you’ve ruled out natural reasons. Isn’t that premature?

            You're in the very small minority of people who think there is no simple, easily understood evidence for God.

            Hmm. Trying to cobble together solidarity with the rest of the people in the world who believe in the supernatural is an uphill battle. You believers can’t even agree on the number of gods or their name(s). “There is a supernatural” is a pretty small island of agreement, given the sea of disagreement on fundamental spiritual issues.

          • Ben Champagne

            "I’ve seen nothing that philosophers have taught us about science lately."

            Why would you expect philosophers to teach you about science? Do you expect baristas to teach you about ballroom dancing?

          • Why would you expect philosophers to teach you about science?

            I wouldn't. You don't need to make this point to me.

          • Ben Champagne

            So you wouldn't expect them to teach you about science, but you offer your exasperation that they haven't taught you about science lately, implying them invalid in modernity... right...

          • My exasperation is with people who look to philosophers to teach us about science.

          • Ben Champagne

            Which seems comical when the entire point of this article is about people who look to scientists to teach us about philosophy...

          • Mike

            the universe itself. excellent answer. although technically speaking 'existence' would have also made sense.

          • ClayJames

            ¨I have little patience for philosophical arguments, I'm afraid.¨

            I hope this doesn´t come off as too harsh but this is an extremely ridiculous and ignorant statement.

            1. If you have no patience for philosphical arguments then you shouldn´t be in the the ¨does god exist?¨ business since this question can ONLY be answered by philosophy.

            2. If you only rely on science to answer that question then you are not a very good scientist because the conclusion ¨this points to the supernatural¨ can NEVER be a scientific conclusion.

          • 1. Wow--you're really underselling Christianity. God's existence is so poorly evidenced that you must retreat into philosophy? You and I could meet, and I'd have really, really good evidence that you exist. I'm just asking for the same for God, and philosophical handwaving ain't gonna do it.

            2. If God interacts with our world (does miracles, for example), that is in principle a scientifically testable claim.

          • ClayJames

            1. I am a physical being, God by definition is not. Science can definetly be used to confirm my existence, but it cannot prove God´s or supernatural causes. Assume that I could supernaturally turn water into wine, how would you scientifically confirm that I have in fact done this?

            2. No its not. Science assumes methodological naturalism so the conclusion ¨the cause is supernatural¨ is not scientific. As a scientist and theist I am more bothered by fellow scientists in the New Atheists movement not understanding this simple fact than their conclusions about atheism. I do not expect their conclusions about the existence of god to be thoughtful but I should expect them to know the basic assumptions needed to apply scientific thought. Ironically, these assumptions are philosophical in nature which makes the claim ¨Philosophy is dead¨ even more damning.

          • 1. If you could turn water into wine reliably and scientists studied your process repeatedly and concluded that no known laws of science explained it, that would go a long way to showing that the supernatural existed. You'd have changed the number of well-established, well-studied, unexplainable, possibly supernatural examples from zero to one.

            2. Change your definition of "science." You're defining it so that it can't study the supernatural. When God meddles in the natural world, that's the domain of science.

            I don't say that philosophy is dead, just that it's not the tool to use when showing that the Christian God exists.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If you could turn water into wine reliably

            But if you could do it reliably, it would be a natural phenomenon. Nature is defined by replicability / controllability / law-like behavior. The supernatural supposition is precisely that some events are not replicable / controllable / law-like.

          • That's an interesting definition of "supernatural." If I may pursue a tangent, Jesus explains how prayer works about half a dozen times in the NT. He makes no acknowledgement of your not-replicable claim.

            Sure, we both know that prayer doesn't work like that, but that only attacks the reliability of the NT.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I don't think that's just my definition of "supernatural". "Nature" has never been a super well-defined concept, but it seems that it traditionally (e.g. in Aquinas) has meant something like "what usually happens". (Consistent with the "nat-" in the etymology, nature has to do with the trajectory that things are sort of born with, and would follow in the absence of intervention.) And the "super-natural" is just that which is just (extremely) extra-ordinary.

            With regard to Jesus and the NT, could you suggest a specific example that we could focus on?

          • Ficino

            Aquinas in several places says that nature is spoken of in two ways: as any substance or accident; as the intrinsic principle (i.e. origin or first cause) of "motion" (i.e. change). But Aquinas elaborates on this in other discussions, to say that nature has four significations: generation of living things, or their being born, lit. "nativity"; the intrinsic principle of any motion; the matter and form; the essence of any thing (e.g. ST 1a 29.1 ad 4).

            Fran O'Rourke sums up "nature", or physis, in Aristotle as the principle of what has in itself its own source of motion and change, and also the principle of rest. He also calls nature the shape and form, morphe and eidos, of things that have in themselves their own source or principle of movement and change. The nature determines the kind of thing the thing is by definition. The nature is the source of the thing's motion and also the thing’s stable constitution.

            Then of course there is "nature" as a total system of all those things that move and change, along the oft-repeated Aristotelian dictum that "nature" does/makes nothing irrational or superfluous or in vain.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Thanks for that summary. So a consistent thread that runs through most of what you wrote is that of "inherent-ness" (which surfaces in your comment as "intrinsic", and "[having] in themselves their own source"). I would summarize that by saying that the nature of a thing is the way it is in the absence of extrinsic intervention. Then one has to reflect on the fact that "interventions" or things extrinsic to a system are only meaningful if that system / thing is, well ... systematic in the first place, i.e. it has a sort of normal pattern that can be in some sense interrupted or modified. So, the notion of pattern (and therefore the notion of replicability) seems to me to be part and parcel with the notion of nature. Would you agree?

          • Ficino

            Yes, from the A-T perspective what you write above sounds right. The notion of nature tends to overlap the notion of essence, so the pattern idea is consistent with it.

            What you later wrote about the 'Bob' character who alone has the power to change water into wine reliably and repeatedly ... I don't think I can say I find that thought experiment supporting a conclusion that entities other than God can act outside of or apart from the system of nature. Aquinas repeats the teaching of Augustine that when demons seem to change material things, they use hidden "seeds" of nature, which we do not detect. Even demons do not operate outside of nature; they only operate "above" what human nature can do. They can't change the human will but can only influence it, while only God can change the human will in Aquinas. Etc. I don't know whether by "supernatural" in your discussion you were both assuming an extension only to God/ God's operations or also to the operations of immaterial intelligences other than God. Anyway, I am not confident that the "Bob changing water into wine reliably" thought experiment has legs in an A-T POV.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Thanks, your first paragraph is helpful.

            I don't really have a strong position as to how the word "supernatural" should be used now. My aim in this discussion was more to point out that if we are going to use the word "supernatural", then we should do so with an awareness that the meaning of the word has changed over time (most especially during the Enlightenment, when the meaning of "nature" also changed).

            My personal preference would be to not use the terms "natural" and "supernatural" at all, because those have been infected by all sorts of baggage that they were never meant to carry. As much as possible (*), I would propose to speak instead in terms of the distinction between "order" and "surprise" which seems to do a better job at getting at the essence of Biblical "dunamis". I think it is no accident that Pope Francis has said things like, "Our God is the God of surprise" multiple times. It seems to me this is a deliberate attempt to move away from the corrupted "natural"/"supernatural" distinction, and to recover a sense of a living God who will not be reduced to a static order.

            (*) Of course, we need to have bridges to the language of the past, so we can't ditch the "natural" / "supernatural" language entirely. I just think it is not always the most helpful distinction to make.

          • Look at where Jesus explains how prayer works. (It doesn't work that way.)

            Do you need verses?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Yes, I was asking for a specific example to focus the discussion.

          • “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” (Matthew 21:22 KJV)

            “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” (John 15:7 KJV)

            “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.” James 5:14–18.

            “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” John 14:12–14.

            “I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” John 16:23–4. In verse 29, it says: “Then Jesus’s disciples said, ‘Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech.’ ”

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Sorry, I think you misunderstood ... I know how to look up verses in a Bible. Again, I was asking for ONE example to focus the discussion (???)

            Note that there is no mention of the "supernatural" or anything remotely like it in that passage, so whatever Jesus is trying to say there, it doesn't seem to have any bearing on the point that was under discussion. He just says that what one asks in faith will be granted. Whether that granting will occur via natural or supernatural mechanisms and whether it will occur in predictable and replicable ways or whether one's prayers will be answered in unpredictable ways ... all that is left unspecified.

            And, whether we want to assume a "natural" or a "supernatural" mechanism, there is in any case also the question of what it means to "ask in faith" (or, to "ask in prayer" as your KJV translation has it). If one asks for what one selfishly wants and does so while somehow "believing really badly" that God will oblige, is that really what is meant by "asking in faith"? Or does "asking in faith" refer to placing one's trust in God, trusting that, come what may, God will make things right in the end, perhaps in ways that we can't foresee or expect? As you can probably guess, I lean toward the latter understanding. On that understanding, there is no implication of any predictable, controllable, replicable process.

          • Yes, i guess I misunderstand.

            Prayer is supernatural. Jesus says that prayer works (reliably, like a car, for example); we know it doesn't. That was my point.

            "On that understanding, there is no implication of any predictable, controllable, replicable process."

            Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name." That's a predictable process.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Jesus says that prayer works (reliably, like a car, for example)

            No, that was precisely my point in asking for an example. Nowhere (certainly not in any of the examples you provided) does Jesus imply that it works in the predictable and controllable way that a car works.

          • Jesus says, "Ask and ye shall receive." Sounds pretty reliable to me. He doesn't imply it; he just comes out and says it.

            An odd role reversal, no?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I agree that the clear meaning is that God will ultimately provide that which we seek. If your are OK with calling that "reliability", then I am too. But that in no way entails the sort of precise predictability that we would expect of, say, a car. "You shall receive" does not entail "you shall receive what you asked for". It is instead a vague and general way of saying that God will take care of us in the end.

          • I agree that the clear meaning is that God will ultimately provide that which we seek.

            Ultimately? It doesn’t say that. “Ask and you shall receive” is like “Turn on the switch, and the light will come on.”

            Sure, we know that it doesn’t work that way, but that’s not what it says. Give the six or so chapters where Jesus makes promises about the power of prayer to an objective observer and then quiz them about how this “prayer” works. Would they add the “ultimately” caveat even though it doesn’t say so? I don’t think so.

            It is instead a vague and general way of saying that God will take care of us in the end.

            Why is the atheist the one who has to explain to the Christian what Jesus is promising? Don’t see these promises from the eyes of a modern Christian who knows that they don’t come true; see them with the eyes of an outsider who’s never heard this stuff. Jesus is indeed saying that he’s a genie.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            No doubt we are both importing modern baggage in attempt to interpret words that were spoken in another time and place, but from where I stand your baggage seems a lot bigger than mine. You are the one who is taking what seems in context to be a general elliptical statement and interpreting it with a modern precision that seems like it would have been very foreign to the original audience.

          • So "Ask and ye shall receive" doesn't mean "Ask and ye shall receive"? If the translations are flawed, make that clear.

            You said before, "Nowhere (certainly not in any of the examples you provided) does Jesus imply that it works in the predictable and controllable way that a car works." It seems like you are the one who's imposing an agenda, not me. I'm just trying to let the Bible speak for itself.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            To be clear, I don't think you are consciously imposing an agenda. I just think, respectfully, that you are not fully aware of the degree to which you are imposing a modern precise / legalistic / scientific hermeneutic on words that were spoken in a prophetic register. Interpreting the Bible without sensitivity to the context in which it was written is not "letting the Bible speak for itself".

          • I'd ask you to explain this new interpretation--that is, how these verses can't be taken at face value--but we don't even agree on what they say at face value.

            Not much more to talk about, is there?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Agreed, not much more to talk about. We've each said our piece and I'm happy to let the conversation stand as is and let reasonable people judge for themselves.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If you want to play the game of interpreting the translation so literally, how do you get from "ask and you shall receive" to "ask and you shall receive what you asked for"?

          • David Nickol

            7 "Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

            It seems to me just as unsatisfactory to interpret the above as something like, "Ask for something and you will receive something, but not necessarily what you asked for," as to interpret it literally as, "Ask for whatever you want and you'll get exactly what you ask for."

            The saying is short and pithy, and to me it means exactly what it says: Ask and you'll get what you ask for; seek and you'll find what you are looking for; knock at the door, and that door will be open to you. To assert otherwise is to imply that Jesus is employing "mental reservation" and engaging in some kind of verbal trickery (or perhaps crossing his fingers behind his back). "I said ask and you will receive, but I didn't say what you will receive!" In other words, I would say it is mistaken to try to paraphrase the words of Jesus to get at what he really meant.

            The answer may very well be to think of what Jesus said as "prophetic speech," something I know a (very) little bit about from reading various writings by a law and theology professor named Cathleen Kaveny, but I will not attempt to go into it here. But I would say that it is misguided to rob prophetic speech of its power by paraphrasing it to get a "realistic" and literal meaning from it, but it's also not helpful at all to take it literally.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It seems to me just as unsatisfactory to interpret the above as something like, "Ask for something and you will receive something, but not necessarily what you asked for," as to interpret it literally as, "Ask for whatever you want and you'll get exactly what you ask for."

            Well said. That captures the intent of my remarks better than my own words did. I did not mean to imply that Jesus was somehow "being tricky" or that he was speaking in code. I just meant to imply that his statement clearly did not entail:"Ask for whatever you want and you'll get exactly what you ask for" (as Bob Seidensticker seems to think it did.)

            The answer may very well be to think of what Jesus said as "prophetic speech," something I know a (very) little bit about from reading various writings by a law and theology professor named Cathleen Kaveny, but I will not attempt to go into it here.

            I think that's exactly right, and at the risk of oversimplifying, I think that even we modern folks basically get the idea of prophetic speech and can recognize it when it is being used. All it takes is a modicum of contextual sensitivity. Here's an example:

            In one of the basketball games that I coached this last weekend, I told my team at half-time: "WE decide what happens in the second half." They are only in eighth grade. Not the most sophisticated audience. But they understood that -- in context -- I couldn't possibly mean, "We decide every last detail of what happens in the second half". They understood that we wouldn't be deciding whether the other team played zone or man-to-man. They understood that we wouldn't be deciding whether the refs would call this or that foul. They understood (though they wouldn't describe it in exactly this way) that I was using evocative and imprecise language in order to paint a picture of how things should be and provoke a response. That was my CLEAR meaning. My CLEAR meaning was not what you would get by applying a flat / precise / legalistic / scientific hermeneutic. My CLEAR meaning was what you would get by applying a hermeneutic appropriate to prophetic language.

          • You're saying that that's a leap? It seems to me that you're using more words to sharpen what the phrase already says. Was the original really that unclear?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            On the contrary, I am saying it was perfectly clear that when Jesus said "ask and you shall receive", he did NOT mean, "ask and you shall receive exactly what you asked for". I think that would have been perfectly clear in that ancient context. Moreover, I think it is pretty clear even now when one reads the text with a moderate amount of contextual sensitivity.

            In elaborating I want to piggy-back off of some of the points that David Nickol, so please see my response to him there as well.

          • On the contrary, I am saying it was perfectly clear that when Jesus said "ask and you shall receive", he did NOT mean, "ask and you shall receive exactly what you asked for".

            And I disagree. Not much more to talk about, I guess.

          • Rob Abney

            Ultimately? It doesn’t say that. “Ask and you shall receive” is like “Turn on the switch, and the light will come on.”

            In order for the light to come on there are a number of presuppositions such as the bulb being intact, the wiring being connected, the electric bill being paid, the electric plant being operational, etc,,, If you flip the switch and the light doesn't turn on then there are any number of possible reasons that keep it from working.
            In order for prayer to work the only requirement is that the one praying has faith in God. If you ask and do not receive there is only one reason the prayer was not answered, the one praying doesn't trust in God.

          • Re the electric light: I agree, of course. I'm assuming we're talking about the typical working light switch.

            Re prayer: you make a bold claim, and I appreciate your not dismissing what the Bible actually says (unlike Jim). But then this should be repeatable. It should be scientifically testable. I need to see that.

          • Rob Abney

            How could such an occurrence be repeatable? An answered prayer is a unique event, what sort of scientific test could prove that a prayer was answered or not? How would we know if the one praying was trusting God at the time of the scientific experiment?

            Have you ever read this one? It is proof, what level I'm not sure, that a man who trusts in God has his prayers answered. http://miraclesoflourdes.blogspot.com/p/john-traynor.html

          • It's repeatable because every time the true Christian asks for something, he gets it.

            Do you know how many Lourdes miracles have been certified by the RCC? I think it's less than 70. I'm sure more people have been killed while traveling to or from Lourdes than that.

          • Rob Abney

            To be scientific you'll have to have more precision than that.

            What is your point about Lourdes? It seems as if one miracle should be sufficient.

          • Sure, one miracle would be sufficient. I hear of 70 claimed miracles, but how many were actual miracles? Both of us are skeptical of claimed Hindu miracles. Why should I be any less skeptical of claimed Catholic miracles?

          • Rob Abney

            It's easy to find the exacting process required for a miracle to be validated in the Catholic Church or at Lourdes. I have no information to reject or to make an opinion about Hindu miracle claims.
            But we were discussing prayers being answered, and it would be impossible to know how many faithful people have their prayers answered at Lourdes daily.

          • I have no information to reject or to make an opinion about Hindu miracle claims.

            You’re honestly ambivalent about Hindu miracle claims? Hinduism might as easily be a correct supernatural worldview as manmade mythology in your mind?

            But we were discussing prayers being answered, and it would be impossible to know how many faithful people have their prayers answered at Lourdes daily.

            Right. I have no reason to imagine that a single prayer is answered by God or that a single miracle was done at Lourdes.

          • “At Lourdes, you see plenty of crutches but no wooden legs.” – John Dominic Crossan

          • Rob Abney

            No wooden leg involved in the case study I referred you to.

          • David Nickol

            Émile Zola said, “The road to Lourdes is littered with crutches, but not one wooden leg." I can't find any similar quote attributed to John Dominic Crossan.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I know this was mentioned before on this site, but there is a factual rebuttal to Zola, namely, a reported, documented miracle in which a missing leg appears to have been "replaced."

            See this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_of_Calanda

            I am not suggesting we debate its credibility, since the standard objections will always be lodged, unless a miracle in which someone is raised from the dead occurs in the middle of a stadium before one hundred thousand witnesses and is televised on all networks. And then the skeptics will claim the person involved was not really dead.

            But to say no such miracle as a healed amputee has ever been reported is simply untrue.

          • David Nickol

            But to say no such miracle as a healed amputee has ever been reported is simply untrue.

            My message dealt only with the correct attribution of the quote, not its content. It just didn't sound to me like something Crossan would say.

            But regarding Zola's quote, it was specifically about Lourdes. It is still literally true, and it seems to me it retains almost all its force even if there is a reasonably well documented case of a restored amputee from the 17th century. If there is an omnipotent God, I fail to see why there should be two classes of miraculous healings—"everyday" miracles (no longer needing crutches) and "once every several hundred years" miracles (growing back an amputated limb).

            I remain open to the possibility of miracles, and I think most skeptics, agnostics, and probably even atheists do. I think only a small handful of people (a couple of whom post here!) would deny a miracle they personally witnessed.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            No, I realized fully that you were merely addressing the source for the quote. I took no issue with that at all.

            I don't see the force of Zola's claim, though, as being affected by where or when the specific kind of miracle occurred. If any occur at all, then they have occurred. From God's perspective, if it is something that he directly does, I doubt that he cares about classifying the miracles either. The claim by atheists that God never seems to heal an amputee is what is at issue here. Even a single such instance contradicts the oft repeated claim that God never heals amputees, and that this, somehow, implies that all other alleged miracles must not be real.

            As you know, after the medical doctors at places like Lourdes declare that an alleged cure exceeds the boundaries of conventional medicine, theologians examine such cures to see whether they meet additional theological and philosophical criteria such that the cure could be adequately explained by God alone, and that no other cause is possible.

            Restricting such phenomena merely to cases of healing amputees presents the appearance of definitive refutation of all claims for miracles. That is what makes the Calanda "incident" so significant and interesting. While they lack the rigorous historical tests demanded by skeptics, anyone who knows the literature describing miracles in history knows that wonders greater than restoring lost limbs have been reported.

            I confess that, as a philosopher, I prefer not to get into debates over most of these cases. They may be the basis for personal belief, especially of eye witnesses. Still, the objective certitude offered by philosophical science itself is the focus of my own education and experience.

          • OK

          • David Nickol

            It is proof, what level I'm not sure, that a man who trusts in God has his prayers answered.

            You seem to be implying that those who pray for miraculous cures and don't get them must have lacked faith in God, otherwise they would have been cured.

            This reminds me of a high school friend who claimed if you really believed you could do something—his standard example was to walk through a wall—you could do it. We'd say, "Then walk through this wall." And he'd say, "But I don't believe I can do it." But he insisted that if he could somehow manage to believe, he could walk through a wall.

            What happened to the old saying, "God answers all prayers. Sometimes he just says no"? It is at least as foolish, in my opinion, to expect God to answer all prayers of petition by people who have faith they will get what they ask as it is to expect all prayers of petition because Jesus said, "Ask and you will receive."

          • Rob Abney

            You seem to be implying that those who pray for miraculous cures and don't get them must have lacked faith in God, otherwise they would have been cured.

            http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3083.htm#article15
            Aquinas lists four necessary conditions:
            "four conditions are laid down; namely, to ask—"for ourselves—things necessary for salvation—piously—perseveringly"; when all these four concur, we always obtain what we ask for."

          • David Nickol

            things necessary for salvation

            The discussion was about prayers of petition involving requests for miraculous cures and the like. It is one thing to maintain that God always answers the prayers of those who piously persevere in requesting things that are necessary to their salvation. It is quite another to maintain that God always answers prayers for miraculous cures if the persons requesting them "have faith."

            It seems to me your message to people who have difficulties accepting the existence of God is that if they sincerely pray and don't get what they ask for, then they don't and can't "have faith." From my viewpoint, that is almost guaranteed to do real damage to anyone with nascent or weak faith.

          • Rob Abney

            if they sincerely pray and don't get what they ask for, then they don't and can't "have faith."

            My message is that if you sincerely pray that you will get what you ask for.

          • David Nickol

            That is not Catholic teaching, and is not supported by your quote from Aquinas.

          • Rob Abney

            It depends upon what we mean when we say "sincerely pray", my understanding is that it means that the one praying has full faith in God. One who has full faith in God will pray with the conditions stated because he has full faith in God.

            We read this at mass today:
            As Jesus passed by, two blind men followed him, crying out,
            "Son of David, have pity on us!"
            When he entered the house,
            the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them,
            "Do you believe that I can do this?"
            "Yes, Lord," they said to him.
            Then he touched their eyes and said,
            "Let it be done for you according to your faith."
            And their eyes were opened.

            St.Thomas and I don't agree with your terminology about nascent or weak faith. Faith is whole and true or not.

            Now it has been stated (Article 1) that the formal aspect of the object of faith is the First Truth; so that nothing can come under faith, save in so far as it stands under the First Truth, under which nothing false can stand, as neither can non-being stand under being, nor evil under goodness. It follows therefore that nothing false can come under faith.

            http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3001.htm#article3

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I fear you are demanding an interpretation of Scripture that makes it look like God simply fails to answer sincere prayers for things like cures when he has explicitly declared that he will always give to those who have faith that which they request.

            Simple reasoning should lay such an interpretation to rest. Clearly, God is not going to give to someone something that is not good for them, just as a father would not give his razor to a child who asks to play with it just because he asks.

            You may think this an absurd example, but we have to realize that God knows what is truly good for all of us, not only immediately, but in the long run. Do we think we know that truth better than God?

            Clearly, God will give to us solely those things that he knows are truly good for us -- and yes, it is possible that for our very salvation, some loved one must die now, even though we have faith and pray sincerely for their recovery.

            Is the "unanswered prayer" proof that God is not there? Or, are we merely assuming that our estimation of the true good for all involved -- or even a just solution -- is fully within our understanding? Is it not possible that God knows some things that we mere mortals do not? Or, do we exhibit the hubris of insisting that if God does not "handle" every situation as we would judge it should be handled, he is failing to answer our prayers, and therefore, he does not exist.

            Notice that, in the "Our Father," we pray, "Thy will be done." Is this not a clear sign that all prayer, if it is done with full and sincere faith, must rest in the trust that God will do what is best for all concerned? We do not say, "Our will be done, or else, we will not believe you keep your promise to hear and answer our prayer."

            Here is a good analysis of the problem and solution: https://www.gotquestions.org/ask-and-you-shall-receive.html

            Properly understood, I think that a comprehensive and adequate explanation of why God does not always give us exactly what we pray for can be given. In my judgment, it would be foolish of us to abandon faith in God simply because he fails to act in a manner that fits our own limited and often defective understanding of the total reality of our human situation.

            "Ask and you shall receive," is not contradicted by God giving us solely what he knows will be the best answer to our inmost desires. If we truly believe, then we would trust that whatever he does is, in fact and in truth, the best answer to our prayers.

            As an addendum, we must also note that we may not always offer the most acceptable of prayers, because of, say, some selfish defect in our hearts.

          • David Nickol

            Please note that I am arguing against Rob Abney's statement that read as follows: "My message is that if you sincerely pray that you will get what you ask for."

            I am very much in agreement with almost everything you say above. I just don't understand why it is addressed to me instead of Rob Abney.

            Clearly, God is not going to give to someone something that is not good for them . . . .

            I couldn't agree more.

            You may think this an absurd example, but we have to realize that God knows what is truly good for all of us, not only immediately, but in the long run. Do we think we know that truth better than God?

            I agree completely. Jesus said, "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? " Well, turn it around. If a hungry person asks fo a stone, what father (including God) would not give him bread instead?

            and yes, it is possible that for our very salvation, some loved one must die now, even though we have faith and pray sincerely for their recovery.

            I agree completely. Which is why I so strongly disagree with Rob Abney that "if you sincerely pray . . . . you will get what you ask for." I think it is undoubtedly the case that most of us at one time or another sincerely prayed for a dying loved one who nevertheless passed away. My whole point is claiming that sincere prayers are always answered can only cause those who have prayed sincerely for something they were denied to either doubt themselves or God (when they should doubt the claim that sincere prayers of petition are always answered with the desired result).

            As an addendum, we must also note that we may not always offer the most acceptable of prayers, because of, say, some selfish defect in our hearts.

            I agree. But the defect is not necessarily lack of sincerity. I think it is disastrous to try to convince people that if they sincerely ask God for something, God will eventually grant it. It is a recipe for disillusionment.

            The only hope I see of salvaging anything from Rob Abney's assertion is to try to define praying "sincerely" as being wise enough to ask only for those things that are really and truly (from God's point of view) in our best interests. Who is capable of that? Even Jesus said, "Not my will but Yours be done."

            It seems to me especially damaging to make claims to atheists that all one needs to do is pray sincerely to get what they want, since probably everyone knows of heartfelt and sincere prayers that were clearly not answered. If you make a religious claim to an atheist that is clearly false, you are helping to confirm his or her atheism.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            We appear to be largely in tune with one another here.

            As to what Rob Abney intended by his statement, I prefer to let him explain it himself. I suspect that, fully explicated, his own position would not be all that different from ours.

            My only addition here might be to point out that prayers are always answered in the sense that God responds to them in some manner. It just may be that he enhances goodness or justice thereby, but not in the manner we specifically thought should be done.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            "I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name."

            What does it mean to ask something "in Jesus name"? Does it means simply that one says the name "Jesus" like a magic incantation? Or does it mean that, in asking, one conforms oneself to the pattern of Jesus, the pattern of surrendering to God, the pattern, precisely, of foregoing control and prediction and trusting that God will set things right?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            To clarify the 2d and 3d paragraphs in my preceding response: In the absence of a specific suggestion from you, I just took your first example.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            John 16:23–4. In verse 29, it says: “Then Jesus’s disciples said, ‘Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech.’ ”

            John is sort of famous for using irony and humor and double meanings to show how the disciples misunderstood what Jesus was all about. The obvious use of humor begins back in chapter 1, e.g. with Jesus asking Nathanael, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?". Jesus goes on to call him a "man without guile", a deliberate use of ambiguity to say that Nathanael is both admirably pure of heart and kind of a misunderstanding dim-wit at the same time.

            Verse 29 pretty obviously contrasts with what Jesus just said back in verse 25. That contrast seems to be John's way of (for the umpteenth time) showing how the disciples misunderstood Jesus.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            BTW, I believe I am on safe ground saying that the NT does not use any terms that map to map to the modern (distorted) notion of the "supernatural". The closest you come are terms like "dunamis" which means something like "surprising, powerful, dynamic, dynamite-like".

          • So you're saying that the natural/supernatural distinction that's clear to us today wasn't how they saw things back then? I could believe that.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Exactly. My opinion in that regard is informed by what N.T. Wright has written on the subject in a number of places, for example:

            I know that in fact that word ‘supernatural’ has a longer history than this and that, for instance, mediaeval theologians were able to use it in such away that it did not carry the baggage of an implied deism or semi-deism [192] (by which I mean the view which, while sharing deism’s gap between God and the world, holds that from time to time this ‘God’ can and does ‘intervene’).

            Which is taken from : http://ntwrightpage.com/2016/04/05/doubts-about-doubt-honest-to-god-forty-years-on/

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Another related quote from N.T. Wright on the topic:

            The fateful Enlightenment split between the gods and the world has generated a new meaning for words like ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’. It is now widely believed by would-be Christian apologists that part of the task is to defend something called ‘the supernatural’, in which a normally distant divinity invades the ‘natural’ world to perform ‘miracles’ or even, in the Christian story, to become human. But this merely reinscribes and perpetuates the Epicureanism which still serves as the framework for the discussion ... In the ancient Jewish worldview, the one God was not removed from the world, but was mysteriously present and active within it ... And the task of describing, from an emic viewpoint, the mindset and motivation of the earliest Christians is thus one for which the Epicurean worldview is singularly badly suited. And to the extent that the movement of nineteenth-century biblical scholarship was done from within that [Epicurean-ish] Enlightenment framework, in its various forms owing much to Kant, Hegel and later Feuerbach, it was bound to misunderstand and misrepresent what the earliest Christians were about.

            we must understand the radical difference between the ancient Jewish worldview and the ancient Epicurean worldview (remembering not least that one of the sharpest insults a Rabbi could offer to heretics was to call them apikorsim, Epicureans)

            From: http://ntwrightpage.com/2016/07/12/imagining-the-kingdom/

          • David Nickol

            But if you could do it reliably, it would be a natural phenomenon.

            If Bob Seidensticker and only Bob Seidensticker could reliably turn water into wine by, say, mumbling an incantation over it, and no one else replicating all of his words and movements could turn water into wine, I don't see how it could be considered a natural phenomenon.

            It has always seemed to me there are possible empirical tests for, say, the efficacy of the sacraments. For example, one could randomly select 50% from a large group of newborn babies to be deliberately (but secretly) invalidly baptized, and see if the unbaptized people fare any differently in life than the baptized people.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If Bob Seidensticker and only Bob Seidensticker could reliably turn water into wine by, say, mumbling an incantation over it, and no one else replicating all of his words and movements could turn water into wine, I don't see how it could be considered a natural phenomenon.

            I guess I don't agree. That would be law-like behavior, at least within a specified context (the "Bob context"). Law-like behavior within specified contexts is pretty much the defining hallmark of nature. If you want to argue that that wouldn't be a natural phenomenon then what exactly do you mean by "natural"?

            It has always seemed to me there are possible empirical tests for, say, the efficacy of the sacraments.

            I agree in principle, but I see that as a different issue. The understanding of sacraments as proposed by the Church is more or less that they are conduits of ("supernatural") grace into natural systems. So, "that which is being injected" is indeed understood to be supernatural in origin, but the "injection process" (i.e. the ritual administration of the sacraments) is a repeatable and therefore (I would say) natural process.

          • ClayJames

            1. No, that is terrible science. If no laws of science can explain it then we postulate new natural laws or test other natural hypothesis. We also consider the that these laws might have a correlation to certain results but that the law itself is actually wrong and we define new ones and test those. If we can´t find a natural explanation then we hold judgement and keep looking because science requires methodological naturalism. The conclusion ¨this is possibly supernatural¨ can never be a scientific conclusion. The fact that many scientistic atheists do not know this is incredible and you are essentially advocating for ¨god of the gaps¨ reasoning as a scientific principle.

            2. I am defining science the way it is defined, limited to natural causes and effects. If you want to define science to also include that which is outside of nature, then you are now talking about what most people refer to as philosophy and then claiming that philosophy should not be used to answer the question ¨does God exist?¨.

          • 1. And then "God exists" becomes a possible scientific conclusion. Somehow this isn't possible in your mind. Explain why.

            2. What is "nature"? If there is an actor in the Supernatural (whatever that is) that is acting on our world (what we think of as nature), then why isn't that Supernatural just part of the natural world? Science applies to our galaxy, not just the earth. And to the universe. And maybe to the multiverse. Are there other actors? Then maybe them as well.

          • ClayJames

            1. No it doesn´t. ¨I find no natural explanation therefore it must be God¨ is not a scientific conclusion. Science can only point to natural causes and if it doesn´t, then we withhold judgment and keep testing possible natural causes. ¨The cause must be supernatural¨ is not a scientific conclusion. You previously said that if no natural laws can explain an event then this goes a long way to show that the supernatural existed. Do you really believe this is a valid scientific conclusion? This is an extremely unscientific statement that would have prevented us from postulating scientific laws to begin with! Isaac Newton is rolling around in his grave.

            2. Nature is defined as the totality of the physical world and the laws that govern it. God, by definition, is not a physical being and therefore cannot be part of the natural world. If you want to play a semantic game and define ¨nature¨ as all there is, then science would just be limited to the physical part of nature and would not be able to access those causes outside of physical nature. Also, if we are to play this game then maybe Hawking should have said ¨Philosophy is dead because I have defined it to be¨.

          • I'm mystified by this wall that you imagine separating the natural and supernatural. I agree that it would exist in a world where the gods kept to themselves in Supernatural-land, but that's not what you propose.

            If you want to have a definition for science that has a caveat "and, BTW, the supernatural is off limits," great. You've defined things so you're right. But I still don't see a wall.

          • ClayJames

            I want to hear your response to the water into wine example above because it shows this difference in thinking. You said that if someone claims they can turn water into wine, this is then analyzed by scientists and they cannot find an explanation, then it goes a long way to show that the cause is supernatural. Upon thinking about this further, you can´t possibly stand by that conclusion right? How is this any different from god of the gaps?

          • This isn't exactly what would happen if someone did reliably turn water into wine through supernatural reasons?

            How is this any different from god of the gaps?

            Because there's no certainty. I'm simply making the simple observation that this situation--a public contest where many scientists participated and all declared that no current science explained this, like an advanced JREF Challenge--provides way, way more evidence for the supernatural than we've ever had.

          • ClayJames

            Do you think the Big Bang is some evidence of the supernatural because scientists cannot explain its cause using current scientific knowledge?

            Science is full of examples (currently and in the past) of unexpained events and yet, no serious scientist would conclude that this is scientific evidence for the supernatural.

          • The Big Bang doesn't point to the supernatural. Turning water into wine supernaturally would more clearly suggest a supernatural explanation. No one expects water to become wine instantly ... but then it does.

            Let's return to my point: if God causes miracles, that changes our world in a way that science could (in principle) detect. That would be the first step to having science acknowledge the supernatural.

            Or let's consider another example: God just shows up. He's not shy anymore. He happily answers any and all trivial prayers to prove his existence. This is more than "scientifically testable"; it's obvious to everyone. Of course, this could just be smart aliens, but (again) this is way, way more evidence for God than we've ever had in the past.

          • ClayJames

            The Big Bang doesn't point to the supernatural.

            Based on your scientific process, of course it does! You said that if scientists cannot find a natural cause given knowledge of natural laws then this goes a long way to showing that the supernatural exists. You can´t just say it doesn´t point to it because you don´t like the conclusion.

            Turning water into wine supernaturally would more clearly suggest a supernatural explanation. No one expects water to become wine instantly ... but then it does.

            The big bang is a lot less expected given our understanding of the natural world than water (which makes up 90% of grapes to begin with) instantly turning into a fermented grape beverage. You can´t say that an event has a supernatural cause unless that event is expected because it has actually taken place.

            Let's return to my point: if God causes miracles, that changes our world in a way that science could (in principle) detect. That would be the first step to having science acknowledge the supernatural.

            Not if you are following a strict scientific methodology because God´s miracle would be indistinguishible from ¨I can´t find a natural cause and therefore must keep looking for one¨ (which is the correct scientific conclusion).

            I am a theist so I am not saying that one cannot make a conclusion about the supernatural or possible causes in our world. I am saying that this conclusion cannot be a scientific one and therefore anyone who requires supernatural causes to be scientificly confirmed either does not understand scientific methodology or is begging the question.

          • “The Big Bang doesn't point to the supernatural.”
            Based on your scientific process, of course it does!

            “I don’t know” is not the same thing as “must be supernatural.” That’s what some Christians like to say, not the scientists, remember?

            You said that if scientists cannot find a natural cause given knowledge of natural laws then this goes a long way to showing that the supernatural exists.

            We’re wasting our time here, aren’t we?

            To help you get your mind around this topic, consider the JREF million-dollar challenge. Any ability that would’ve won this challenge would give far, far more evidence for the supernatural than anything else would. Of course, that still might not be much, but it’s a start.

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

            Not if you are following a strict scientific methodology because God´s miracle would be indistinguishible from ¨I can´t find a natural cause and therefore must keep looking for one¨ (which is the correct scientific conclusion).

            At least we’re in agreement that God’s miracle would’ve been detected by science.

            I am a theist so I am not saying that one cannot make a conclusion about the supernatural or possible causes in our world.

            Say God finally decides to get up off the couch and make himself known. Why would you believe this? Science and evidence apparently wouldn’t be a tool in your mind, right? And how would you distinguish God from a powerful alien just lying to us?

          • Jim the Scott

            Bob's inconsistent views support "scientific Intelligent Design Theism" a view both of us reject as Classic Theists. Yet Bob is the Atheist here indirectly supporting it? The Irony!

          • Jim the Scott

            Seidensticker is rather dogmatically stuck in his Positivism. The reason I believe, is he has not learned any philosophy so he is in effect limited in his anti-religious polemics to advocates of "Intelligent Design" and other versions of so called "Scientific Theism". He then equivocates and treats all forms of theism as if it was scientific theism.
            But if you own a hammer everything becomes a nail. By definition all his objections are non-starters. Science isn't the only means of natural knowledge. Philosophy is as well and science is based on philosophical presuppositions.

            One need not believe in any God or gods to realize that rational truth. Keep up the good work bro.

          • ClayJames

            I agree with you. I do appreciate his willingness to debate these issues but, in my experience, this mindset that undermines not only philosphy but also science is everywhere in the atheist community.

          • Jim the Scott

            Well said.

    • Jim the Scott

      Scientism is for the intellectually inferior even if there are no gods.

      New Atheists who advocate scientism are the Young Earth Creationists of Atheism.
      https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/03/scientism-roundup.html

      Philosophy is more fundamental then Science. The existence of God is a philosophical question not a scientific one.

      • If you're saying that God causes changes in our world, then that's a claim that is, in principle, scientifically testable.

        Scientism is for the intellectually inferior even if there are no gods.

        Science works--that's all I'm saying. You got something better? I'm all ears.

        • Jim the Scott

          >If you're saying that God causes changes in our world, then that's a claim that is, in principle, scientifically testable.

          Actually you need the Philosophy of Science to determine what is or what is not a scientific question. Second it would involve which views of Theism are we talking about. Now a Theistic Personalist view of God that takes so called "Intelligent Design"(which I reject) seriously would be scientifically testable "theism" but I am a Classic Theist so I am an absolute Atheist when it comes to belief in such a "god". According to Classic Theism, God is a Philosophical question only. To claim a Classic Theistic version of God can be proven or disproven by science makes about as much sense as doubting the existence of a Higgs Boson because you can't dig it up in a fossil record. It is called a category mistake.

          Here read these links so you will get up too speed and not waste my time nor I yours.
          https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/07/classical-theism-roundup.html

          >Science works--that's all I'm saying. You got something better? I'm all ears.

          Of course science works but so what? Digging up fossils works. Just because I cannot dig up a Higgs Boson doesn't prove archeology doesn't work. Physics works, but just because I cannot use a particle accelerator to show natural selection is true doesn't make it not work. Science works but Scientism does not work. See the link I gave in my previous post for the definition and a profession refutation of that brain dead view. Also go read some Thomas Nagel before you bore me.

          The presuppositions of the scientific method come from philosophy which I guess shows Philosophy works. You need the Philosophy of Science to investigate what is or is not a scientific question further proving Philosophy works.

          If you have philosophical defeaters for some standard philosophical arguments for the existence of God or positive philosophical arguments defending reductionist materialism or metaphysical naturalism then bring them forth.

          If you have a scientific argument for or against God I am not interested since any "god" you think you can prove or disprove could not be a Classic Theist God so in principle I am already a convinced Atheist toward belief in such a "god".

          Scientism is not Science. Confusing the two is the mark of an anti-intellectual New Atheist. The only useful Atheists to polemic Classic Theism are philosophers.

          • I am a Classic Theist . . . According to Classic Theism, God is a Philosophical question only.

            Does God answer prayers? This posits a change in reality here on earth and so is, in principle, testable by science.

            To claim a Classic Theistic version of God can be proven or disproven by science makes about as much sense as . . .

            I’m happy to consider the hypothesis that God has no affect on our reality, but then I wonder why anyone would worship this guy.

            If you have philosophical defeaters for some standard philosophical arguments for the existence of God or positive philosophical arguments defending reductionist materialism or metaphysical naturalism then bring them forth.

            I have responded to all the basic Christian apologetic arguments—Ontological, Teleological, Design, Moral, and so on—at my blog. So, yes, I’ve responded. I sense that you don’t want to go there, but we can if you’d like.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Does God answer prayers? This posits a change in reality here on earth and so is, in principle, testable by science.

            Not really, in Classic Theism God is outside of Time and foresees all prayers from all eternity and wills from all eternity which ones He will answer and which He will not in One Single Eternal Act of Will & causes the universe via divine providence to unfold accordingly. So in principle prayers in Classic Theism cannot be scientifically tested. Also all prayer experiments are more properly dubbed "testing for an intelligent invisible genie" and that at best is a dumbed down Theistic Personalist view which I already believe is false.

            >I’m happy to consider the hypothesis that God has no affect on our reality, but then I wonder why anyone would worship this guy.

            This assertion is based on your unscientifically proven claim that only what is testable by science affects reality. That is a philosophical claim and it is incoherent like all versions of scientism/positivism.

            You have also owned up to the fact you do not understand philosophy so we have little to discuss.

            >I have responded to all the basic Christian apologetic arguments—

            That seems unlikely given you are clearly not experienced with Classic Theism. You have a simplistic one size fits all omni-polemic approach it seems? Yeh that never works. I learned it myself as a youth.

            >Ontological,

            Thomists don't believe in the ontological argument. Here is how you criticize it correctly. We will start you out with Descartes before you look up Anselm or Plantinga. I told you silly boy. Non-starters.
            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/04/descartes-trademark-argument.html

            >Teleological, Design,

            Paley's arguments you mean. They have nothing to do with the fifth way.
            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/03/thomism-versus-design-argument.html

            More non-starters. Paley was a joke and not a funny one.

            >Moral, and so on—at my blog.

            The Argument from Evil is different for Classic Theists. God is simply not a moral agent for us and the Theistic Personalists like Craig or Plantinga or Swinburne do believe that He is one which is absurd. I don't have a link but I would recommend the works of Father Brian Davies on God and Evil. Excellent philosophy. Free Will Defense? Plueez! A Classic Theistic God needs a Theodicy like a Fish needs a bike.

            >So, yes, I’ve responded. I sense that you don’t want to go there, but we can if you’d like.

            If you don't feel comfortable staying here then that is Ok. I sense you want out of here. Off you pop then.

          • VicqRuiz

            This assertion is based on your unscientifically proven claim that only what is testable by science affects reality.

            Can I try an analogy here?

            I have confidence that my wife loves me. To the best of my understanding, love is something immaterial, not an interaction of molecules. There is no way to run a blood test for "normal love levels".

            But the way that I know she loves me is in how she speaks, the things she does, and how she presents herself to me and to others. These are all things that we can observe with our senses, and (issues of modesty necessarily taken into consideration) things that are apparent to everyone present, and which can be recorded for future viewing.

            In other words, I can observe, analyse, and explain the efficient cause for the things she does in the real world that demonstrate her love. I can know nothing really about the final cause except that it must exist.

            Much the same for God. I can accept events in the real world without understanding their final causes, but their efficient causes must be open to examination.

          • Jim the Scott

            Nope! The best you can do is what Thomists and Aristotle have done. They trust there senses are real and correctly observe in the mateial world things change and have perminance at the same time and from there we can work out the act/potency distinction.

            Science is the quantative analysis of natural phenomina. God is not a natural phenomina so He is already excluded. God is Absolutely Infinite so he can no more be quantified then a true philosophical nothing can be quantified.

            >I can accept events in the real world without understanding their final causes, but their efficient causes must be open to examination.

            This assumes all natural phenomina can be quantifed using science. I have no science or philosophy to back up this view so I need not accept this hypothesis.

          • VicqRuiz

            I conclude that your understanding is that

            (1) Some natural phenomena can be analysed using the methods of science.
            (2) Some natural phenomena can not.

            Is that correct? If not, please clarify. If I am correct, can you tell me how, upon observing a natural phenomenon or the residue of one, you would classify it as falling into either category (1) or category (2)?

          • Jim the Scott

            I don't do either/or fallacies especially with category mistakes. Thought I am sure you are sincere.

            >(1) Some natural phenomena can be analysed using the methods of science.
            (2) Some natural phenomena can not.

            Rather we don't know the answer to these questions. Are they scientific ones in which case where is your science to back these claims? Or are they philosophical ones in which case what are your reasoned philosophical arguments to justify these claims?

            Here is the problem with your pervious analogy. It’s like saying fossils of animals are made of particles and a higgs boson is a particle so it must be possible to dig one up in a fossil bed and not use a LHC.
            Maybe this link will help.
            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/05/natural-theology-natural-science-and.html

          • VicqRuiz

            If you can give me a couple of examples of natural phenomena which are not properly subjects of scientific investigation (not counting the big bang which is a sui generis event), I'll go away and think about them good and hard, and trouble you no more for now.

          • Jim the Scott

            >If you can give me a couple of examples of natural phenomena which are not properly subjects of scientific investigation (not counting the big bang which is a sui generis event),

            So give you examples other then the ones that exist? Seriously dude? ;-)
            I don't have too IMHO. Here is why. I am not the one making the positive claim God can somehow be subject to scientific observation or the implicit claim all natural phenomina is subject to scientific investigation. Also God is not a natural phenomina so it's a non-starter.

            > I'll go away and think about them good and hard, and trouble you no more for now.

            Peace be with you and thinks for the discussion.

          • VicqRuiz

            Fine, I'll revise my position to "I am aware of no natural phenomenon subsequent to the big bang which is not subject to scientific investigation". Please point me to some natural phenomenon which might change my mind.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It depends on what you mean by "science", right? Usually (not always), people these days reserve the word "science" for stuff that can in some sense be confirmed through experimental replication.

            But on that understanding, the phenomenon of Ulysses S. Grant being a great general (for example), or even a less value-laden phenomenon like Grant being victorious at Vicksburg, is not subject to scientific investigation. On the other hand, I think most people would say that there is nothing necessarily supernatural (or unnatural) about the fact that Grant was a great general and victorious at Vicksburg.

          • VicqRuiz

            That's interesting. I must confess that I did not think of historical judgments as being natural phenomena. Grant's reputation, as that of many other historical figures, has waxed and waned over the decades.

          • Jim the Scott

            Your revision is better. But my further response remains the same.

            I don't have too. God is not a natural phenomenon and His actions would not be natural phenomenon. God is a philosophical question alone. Not a scientific one.

          • VicqRuiz

            It occurs to me that on Christianity, where God's ever-presence is required to maintain every element of the universe's continued existence, that there is no such thing as a "natural phenomenon" in the sense of it not being God-caused.

            If a leaf falls from the tree outside my window, that is every bit as much an action of God as was the reported parting of the sea for the Israelites.

            Given that assumption, your comments are perfectly consistent and everything you have said in this thread follows logically....and the questions I posed are literally unanswerable.

            (edit) And furthermore, science is reduced to the study of "those of God's actions which are predictable and consistent" Would you agree?

          • Jim the Scott

            >It occurs to me that on Christianity, where God's ever-presence is required to maintain every element of the universe's continued existence, that there is no such thing as a "natural phenomenon" in the sense of it not being God-caused.

            You are making up your own terms. The act of causing the Universe/Nature to exist here and now is supernatural but the Universe itself is natural. Everything that occurs within nature is natural since secondary causes are real. Thus natural causes are real. The Supernatural is God actualizing a potency directly. A Miracle is God actualizing a potency that is not natural to a particular essence(causing a fire that does not burn wood for example).

            >If a leaf falls from the tree outside my window, that is every bit as much an action of God as was the reported parting of the sea for the Israelites.

            So you have gone from the error of Scientism to the error of divine occasionalism? Sorry but I am a Thomist & a Christian not a Muslim.
            Here is a new term for you too learn. Concurrentism!

            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2013/01/metaphysical-middle-man.html

            >Given that assumption, your comments are perfectly consistent and everything you have said in this thread follows logically....and the questions I posed are literally unanswerable.

            Except that is not my assumption. But you are close but that only counts in horseshoes. I appreciate you trying. That shows you are trying to address all this seriously.

            >(edit) And furthermore, science is reduced to the study of "those of God's actions which are predictable and consistent" Would you agree?

            Absolutely not. I am not a occasionalist but a concurrentist. I would stay God is not subject to scientific enquiry anymore then the study of Higgs Boson particles or Higgs fields is the subject of Palynology. God in the Classic Sense is the subject of philosophy. But as a consolation prize I will say the Theistic Personalist Deity of so called "Intelligent Design" is a scientific concept of "god". Of course I am a strong Atheist toward that particular "deity" & dismiss it as I would any idiol of Baal or Zeus.

          • VicqRuiz

            The Supernatural is God actualizing a potency directly. A Miracle is God actualizing a potency that is not natural to a particular essence (causing a fire that does not burn wood for example)

            And we've now gotten around to the point I was trying (and very apparently failing) to get to.

            If someone today claims that he has seen a tree on fire and yet not consumed, I can decide to either accept the claim as truth, reject it as a fabrication, or seek some material evidence. How would you respond?

          • Jim the Scott

            >If someone today claims that he has seen a tree on fire and yet not consumed, I can decide to either accept the claim as truth, reject it as a fabrication, or seek some material evidence. How would you respond?

            I don't know I only do natural theology. You would have to talk to people who defend the idea of Miracles and polemic Hume on this topic. If God caused fire that did not burn we would have no scientific way to examine it other then to analysis the un-burned wood and have science tell us "this would does not appear to have been burned?".

            If you think science can somehow detect The Force being present when this happens then you still have scientism on the brain.

          • VicqRuiz

            So does it come down to believing or not believing the witness? I would agree that is so.

            If you can point me to a source explaining "natural theology" and how it deals with the events which other theists call "miracles" I would like to learn more about it. I'm always happy to look into a challenge to my views.

          • Jim the Scott

            >So does it come down to believing or not believing the witness? I would agree that is so.

            I don't know and I don't care. It's not my area of study or interest. Ask someone else.

            >If you can point me to a source explaining "natural theology" and how it deals with the events which other theists call "miracles" I would like to learn more about it. I'm always happy to look into a challenge to my views.

            I might start with Brian Davies or Oderberg.

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/11/earman-and-oderberg-on-miracles.html

    • This is a false choice. There is nothing about science that you have to reject because you think religiously or philosophically. OK some religions might ask you to do that but the form of Protestantism I was in and the Catholicism I embrace in now make no demands that I reject any science.

      Science works but what does it work for? It works to address certain kinds of questions. There are many questions it simply does not work for. We can just assume there is nothing there because science does not work. There is no rational reason to do that.

      It is like saying a closed box is empty because you cannot see inside. Then ignoring the fact that your sense of hearing indicates something is inside. Yet seeing works. So ignore your hearing and assume the box is empty.

      • the form of Protestantism I was in and the Catholicism I embrace in now make no demands that I reject any science.

        That’s fine, but an influential minority in the US do make such demands.

        Science works but what does it work for? It works to address certain kinds of questions. There are many questions it simply does not work for.

        I agree in general, but expand on this. What questions do you have in mind? And what does religion say (with good reason, not dogma) to answer those questions?

        If you want to say that Christianity has an answer to a particular question, I’ll probably agree, but so could any religion. So could a drunk at a party. You need to show that Christianity’s answer is worth listening to (for some better reason than “You’ll be sorry when you wind up in hell!).

        It is like saying a closed box is empty because you cannot see inside. Then ignoring the fact that your sense of hearing indicates something is inside.

        Ah, evidence! Yes, evidence is what I need.

    • Can you justify the sciences through the sciences? Trick question, that would be tautology.

      I will give you a hint, and I have told it to you previously: the Church created the sciences, how did the Church do that?

      • Can you justify the sciences through the sciences? Trick question, that would be tautology.

        You mean, can we use the scientific method to validate the conclusions of science? Yup. Think of all the scientific claims that are validated by the fact that we're able to communicate the way we are now.

        the Church created the sciences

        What's that supposed to mean? The most charitable interpretation that I can come up with is that many scientists were Christian. That's true, but if you have a cause-and-effect connection in mind, you need to make that clearer. When the Muslim world got its act together, it produced some remarkable science and math (500 years ending in the mid-1200s). That's true for lots of other civilizations.

        • So you are using empiricism to self-justify itself? So you once more confirm you have no idea what you are talking about.

          The Church created the sciences. The mohammedans did nothing, though you try to apocryphally give them things because they are your brothers in marxism.

          The sciences can only be founded in the way they were founded. Only the Church understands that creation is not divine (and therefore contingent and study-able), and that we all have the same creator (so all is intelligible).

          • So you are using empiricism to self-justify itself? So you once more confirm you have no idea what you are talking about.

            Lucky me! It’s a good thing you’re here to point out the specific problem in my comment above. Please do so.

            The Church created the sciences.

            Just like that? No evidence? Uh, OK. Whatever you say.

            The mohammedans did nothing,

            The “Mohammedans” during the 500 years of the Islamic Golden Age were making a lot more scientific progress than Europe during the Dark Ages.

            Seems to me that the European scientists who made impressive discoveries just happened to be Christian. If only Christians could’ve made their advances, you’ll need to defend that bold claim.

          • I did point out your problem multiple times over. It's in the quote you cherry picked to respond to even.

            Again, the Church created the sciences. Only the Church can justify the sciences. Only the Church can know that all of creation is not divine, and that all is intelligible. you cannot just take out the rest of my message and argue as if I never said most of what I said just so you can try to pretend your devil worshipping bretheren have any substance.

            Let's quote what I said, with the parts you took out:

            So you are using empiricism to self-justify itself? So you once more confirm you have no idea what you are talking about.

            The Church created the sciences. The mohammedans did nothing, though you try to apocryphally give them things because they are your brothers in marxism.

            The sciences can only be founded in the way they were founded. Only the Church understands that creation is not divine (and therefore contingent and study-able), and that we all have the same creator (so all is intelligible).

            It's like you stopped reading because you realized I pre-refuted you.

          • Again, the Church created the sciences. Only the Church can justify the sciences.

            Uh huh. Very convincing.

            you can try to pretend your devil worshipping bretheren

            Let’s see if you’ve been paying attention. Since I’m an atheist, why is this statement ridiculous?

            It's like you stopped reading because you realized I pre-refuted you.

            I stopped reading because your comment made no sense. Thanks for trying.

          • you are a faithful servant of evil and cover for your own. evil does beget cowardice.

            Again, shall we quote what you left out? Because it does pre-answer you here:

            Again, the Church created the sciences. Only the Church can justify the sciences. Only the Church can know that all of creation is not divine, and that all is intelligible. you cannot just take out the rest of my message and argue as if I never said most of what I said just so you can try to pretend your devil worshipping bretheren have any substance.

            The sciences can only be founded in the way they were founded. Only the Church understands that creation is not divine (and therefore contingent and study-able), and that we all have the same creator (so all is intelligible).

    • ClayJames

      Science has the worst track record at answering questions not limited to the natural world, including those beliefs that presuppose the application of science to begin with.

      • What questions are you thinking of?

      • Sample1

        You haven’t demonstrated what he’s asking for. Churchill comes to mind: democracy is the worst form of governance but it’s better than anything else we’ve tried.

        including those beliefs that presuppose...

        Retreating to metaphysics doesn’t demonstrate what he’s asking for either. Anyone can counter your metaphysics with their own metaphysics and neither would be able to show why one is true and the other is not. It’s a stalemate.

        Methodological naturalism, however, is a tool that can reasonably posit how metaphysical ideas come to be and even how methodological naturalism comes to be; through evolved brains.

        Philosoph-ists and theolog-ists
        are the ones claiming a true reductionist view of reality.

        Mike

        • ClayJames

          Science presupposes methodological naturalism. By definition, methodological naturalism must be limited to natural causes and natural effects. Therefore, like I said, science cannot answer any question that is not limited to natural events. Science itself is full of presuppositions that are not scientific in nature, so to make science the only arbiter of truth is to undermine it before even starting.

          • Sample1

            science presupposes methodological naturalism

            Not really. It was a discovery shown to be useful for models and predictions.

            must be limited to natural causes and effects.

            Maybe, maybe not. There is a difference between methodological naturalism and metaphysical naturalism. Science isn’t saying the latter must be correct.

            make science the only arbiter of truth

            Nope. That’s not what science is about. You won’t learn that from a scientist.

            This reminds me of worshiping Mary. Catholics will say, no you won’t learn that from a Catholic. Protestants learn that elsewhere. Likewise, those who claim things about science (only arbiter of truth) are learning about science elsewhere, not from scientists.

            Mike

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            How was it "shown to be useful", if not by induction? And if it was by induction, do you see the problem with an inductive proof of the validity of induction?

          • Sample1

            Do you think I’ve said something in my reply to ClayJames that is incorrect?

            Mike

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Yes. If I understand you correctly, you are saying that, by reasoning inductively from the data of history, one can infer that methodological naturalism leads to productive lines of scientific inquiry. But reasoning inductively from the data of history is only valid if there are indeed predictable patterns underlying those data, which is an assumption of methodological naturalism. So it seems to me that your reasoning there must be circular. As I alluded to, you seem to be putting forward the inductive proof of induction.

          • Sample1

            a discovery for useful models and predictions.

            Jim says this is incorrect.

            isn’t saying the latter must be correct

            Jim says this is incorrect.

            that’s not what science is about

            Jim says this is incorrect.

            _____

            I was not aware these would be your views.

            Mike

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            None of the statements that you attribute to me are things that I wrote, and you don't seem to have engaged with anything that I actually did write.

            Let me try rephrasing. Methodological naturalism assumes, for starters, that there is something "nature"-like about reality. Specifically, it assumes that there are underlying "natural" patterns that, once understood, will explain why things are the way they are. You say this is not an assumption. You say instead that this belief in underlying "natural" patterns is not a presupposition but is rather something that we have ascertained empirically (a "discovery shown to be useful"). That's the part that I'm saying is incorrect. Our faith in methodological naturalism can't possibly be grounded in an empirical discovery that it is useful, because if that were the case then we would have used methodological naturalism to show the validity of methodological naturalism. Our faith in methodological naturalism therefore comes from somewhere else. It is just a natural faith that we have in the fundamental intelligibility of reality.

          • Sample1

            a discovery for useful models and predictions.

            Jim says this is NOT incorrect.

            isn’t saying the latter must be correct

            Jim says this is NOT incorrect.

            that’s not what science is about

            Jim says this is NOT incorrect.

            _____

            Better?

            Mike

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            This is too hard. Sorry.

          • Sample1

            I know the discussion you want. We’ve had it before. My point is to find some agreement with my original reply. I know you agree that useful models exist, I know you agree that science makes useful predictions. But you are hesitant to start with agreement. I know you think you have good reasons for that.

            David Deutsch essentially goes over this in a TED talk where he asks why our species had such a protracted stagnation of understanding reality for a hundred thousand years. This, despite essentially having the same brain structure throughout that time. What changed with the scientific revolution?

            Bonnette claims that all knowledge comes through the senses. His belief is not good. Your “it’s too hard” reply is correct, I agree, but it’s too hard because I’m thinking that your destination relies on a faulty induction/faith argument.

            Rather than crib Deutsch in a way that surely won’t be as elegant, I suggest you watch his own talk about A New Way to Explain Explanation. I think you’ll like it. Maybe it will even question why you think I think empiricism “is all that”. I don’t!

            https://youtu.be/folTvNDL08A

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            “Hard to vary explanations” sound like “first principles”, universal so unvarying.
            But do you mind explaining how we know other than the senses?

          • Sample1

            It does sound, at first, like first principles thinking; there is nothing horrible about that. But, “hard to vary,” is a phrase asking for much more work to be done than “just” first principles thinking. Maybe it’s ok to say that first principles is analogous to a word or sentence while hard to vary is the book or story about a good explanation.

            Bonnette is too empirically minded for me, at least in one regard: reducing all knowledge to sense only. If you watched the video, Deutsch counters that kind of reductionism with some rationalism. We don’t see bibles. We don’t see nuclear reactions. We don’t see space time curvature. We see light, but not even light as we understand it. Our brains convert light to crackling electric impulses and we don’t see that either. So we have those data that are not derived from senses but rather derived from conjecture.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            I like Dr. Bonnette’s explanation better. Our senses import information from the extramental world around us, and in addition to that initial knowledge is the perception that the extramental world is in motion or changing. Only then can we interpret other meanings.
            Deutsch gave an example of understanding the invisible information from stars by understanding something about their radioactive effects (I can’t quote him exactly), but this involved the sense knowledge and the change in the information.
            I agree that good explanations are needed but those explanations can’t start without first unvarying principles.

          • Sample1

            The point about starlight was attached to a three part explanation about the scientific revolution: accomplishing more in 40yrs than the previous hundred thousand. The point about hard to vary is that it is part of science but more broadly the Enlightenment. Hard to vary encompasses all those tools.

            The sense knowledge you think is there really isn’t. The point being we don’t receive knowledge from our senses about what starlight is. Many myths “explain” starlight but they are not good explanations because they are easy to vary. Bad explanations being easy to vary being the point. If a mythical goddess was deemed responsible for starlight and later it was found that “scientific X” was responsible for starlight, the easy to vary myth could still provide an ad hoc reason for believers: the goddess is responsible for scientific X because that is best for her ethereal gowns to shine, for example. However, the point about the easy to vary model of knowledge is that it stagnated human progress for a hundred thousand years. Hard to vary claims succeed or fail. Easy to vary claims can be prevented (via ad hoc) from failing for the believer, but progress, historically, suffered from that approach.

            To stay with stars, we don’t see starlight for what it is (we cannot see their actual nuclear reactions, etc.) but rather we derive our knowledge about starlight from theory laden conjecture. Theory laden equations are not starlight but we discover what starlight is through them. That’s how we get our knowledge about them. That conjecture cannot be seen by the senses, we don’t see equations in outer space. So that is an example of why the claim that all knowledge comes only through our senses is mistaken.

            A first principle without hard to vary theory laden conjecture isn’t going anywhere and that’s the point. You can attach first principles to easy to vary claims or hard to vary claims. One is responsible for the scientific revolution, with our understanding of reality growing exponentially ever since, the other not so much (to be kind).

            Mike
            Edit done (last paragraph added).

          • Ficino

            The materialist explains a process. The theist then demands to know, not the "how" of the process, but the "why?".

            I am a bit puzzled over just what is the content of this sort of "why?" question about the subjects of science. Sophisticated theists don't baldly demand to hear "Whose purpose is achieved behind this scientific process?" If that were how they directed their question, we might as well just say "Goddidit because He so wills it" and leave things at that.

            Instead, I hear demands that the materialist "account for" such and such a phenomenon; e.g. "account for" why it occurs always or for the most part. Theists will say that the materialist's account of the "how" is unintelligible because the materialist does not "account for" the how.

            I am a bear of very little brain. Can someone set out the criteria on which we know that X has been "accounted for intelligibly?" Do the criteria necessarily include some God Did It premise? what's missing, after an exhaustive, mathematically-expressed theory of the 'how'? Is the missing thing a premise that justifies claims about the future, that the process must always occur so because of some P?

            I'm getting the feeling that a lot of debates I read boil down to desires by one "side" to save a [ruling] place for religiously-slanted metaphysics and desires by the other "side" to keep explanatory assumptions to a minimum. ETA: that sense comes through, e.g., in Bishop Barron's OP.

          • Sample1

            Sophisticated theists don't baldly demand to hear "Whose purpose is achieved behind this scientific process?"

            That’s a good observation. I do hear less sophisticated theists try to claim that scientific processes ultimately show the majesty or glory or awesomeness of their middle-eastern deity. I think what they are doing is taking science for granted and trying to find a place to put their very human sense of being astounded somewhere, anywhere but with people because, well, they are taught that people are fallen. Hell, just the other day an otherwise fit, relatively young male dropped dead playing basketball. His brain received oxygen from educated bystanders performing CPR while others prepared the nearby AED to start his heart with a few joules. In the ED, he was further stabilized and medevaced to a cath lab. His LAD was fully occluded and within hours he was feeling better from what otherwise is known as a widowmaker heart attack. One of the people present said to me, “somebody upstairs was looking out for him.” I wanted to reply, is the catheter lab upstairs or something? but I bit my tongue knowing she would take offense at logic and I would be the one receiving a complaint. I cannot believe people like her behave this way, but alas, I can understand why she is behaving that way.

            Explanatory minimums vs. [ruling] place isn’t really a fair description of the situation. Provisional explanations is a place we have been led to by Enlightenment tools, religious metaphysics was invented to get to a predetermined destination. Or am I misunderstanding your lament?

            Mike
            Edit: ah, I see what you are meaning. Both sides are really different factions of the faith based side. Still, I’ll leave my reply unchanged as your reply could be interpreted that way too by lurkers.

          • Ficino

            Hi Mike, no, my ramblings did not aim to express a belief that scientists who don't invoke A-T metaphysics or the like are "faith-based." I was blathering too incoherently if the above sounded like the takeaway I was aiming at.

            I think your David Deutsch video gets to what I was struggling to express, i.e. the question, what explanatory work is actually being done by A-T metaphysics (or neo-Platonist or whatever)? Deutsch gave the example, if someone's story about goddesses fails to explain the cycle of the seasons, that person can give a different goddess story, no problem. But if the current scientific explanation, based on what we know about spheres rotating on an ecliptic and revolving, must be dropped, then no one would have any idea how to monkey with THAT theory to explain the seasons.

            So, let's suppose premises about hierarchical causal series ordered per se, initiating with an infinitely wise etc unmoved mover, are left out. Where would this leave the sciences? If A-T or other theistic metaphysics is a framework "hard to vary," then according to Deutsch, all of science should have collapsed in theoretical and methodological crisis. But armchair history tells us is that the scientific enterprise didn't get seriously underway UNTIL A-T metaphysics was ignored, definitively in the early 17th century.

            If scientists don't confess that some transcendent, necessary being exists and gives causal power to every change, why are they still able to do science? Heaps of things are explained, accounts are given, without the scientist's having to posit A-T metaphysics. Some scientists who are theists find their religious beliefs can be harmonized with their scientific theories, but It doesn't seem as though any scientific theory needs A-T or similar metaphysics in order to be formulated. How is A-T not explanatorily otiose?

            Edward Feser announces that Aristotle's Revenge is about to come into print. Feser shall prove that all scientists are sub rosa Thomists? If that's his outcome, it doesn't sound like much of an advance over St. Paul's saying that all humans knew that God existed by looking at the things that had been made. But I guess I'll need to read yet another book by Feser to see whether Feser demonstrates that there is epistemological collapse if A-T is not affirmed.

          • Sample1

            Great post! Glad you got something from the vid. Deutsch is a new intellectual hero for me. I’d like to see him start a polemical debate career someday. For now, authoring books will have to be enough.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            To ask how is definitely different than asking why, but the point of the OP is that one of the world’s experts on answering the how questions goes on to give his opinion on the why question. Do you or Sample believe that the why question can be answered by determining how things are explained?
            I, and most Catholics at this site, don’t think that answering the why question tells us how to explain our world.

          • Ficino

            Rob, it took me a while to dig up this reply of yours. It wasn't appearing on the feed on the right side of the screen.

            I'm trying to get a handle on exactly what the "why" question is asking. Put another way, what sort of answer counts as an answer to the "why" question. If Deutsch gives an astrophysicist's equations that explain the causes of starlight, what is left over to be explained? What sense does it have to ask, "But WHY is there starlight?"

            In your second paragraph, are you suggesting that the "why" question is something like "Why is there something rather than nothing"? Because I would think that scientific answers to questions like the starlight question or the season cycle question go a long way toward explaining our world, as you put it. Or are you asking about the realm of practical necessity/ethics and valuations?

          • Rob Abney

            How questions seek material and efficient causes. Why questions seek formal and final causes.

          • Rob Abney

            I’m not arguing against good scientific inquiry and explanation, I’m just noticing that Deutsch relies on first principles and on sense imported knowledge. If he could calculate the starlight without any sort of measurement then he would have a novel approach.

          • Sample1

            I guess I didn’t explain this well or perhaps I took for granted that what I already accept was already understood.

            I guess it’s good you posed this reply.

            Science knowledge is about modeling reality. It’s a map, not the actual territory. Metaphysics claims to know the map. Science only models the map. Any measurement is for making a model. Models can be good approximations for what we experience but there is a reason why decimal places exist for models, they are not 100% recreations of the territory. Unfortunately a claim of 99% certainty often brings out a detractor saying, aha! unicorns could exist in that 1% uncertainty! Well, one is free to believe that that’s a possibility but is that 1% uncertainty always a good reason to reject 99%?

            Equations are not starlight. We don’t sense equations from nature. Starlight is thought to be something but we don’t understand what starlight is just from our senses. You can look at stars all night and you won’t sense what they are. You can look at a bible but you’re not seeing a bible, your brain is making a model of it via light, neurons, and electricity. We don’t talk this way conventionally because of how our history unfolded as a species, but when metaphysicians make noise about sensing something as it is, the science needs to be trotted out to show just why their assumptions about the map/territory problem are faulty from the start.

            By way of different languages, mathematics and physics, we constructed a theory that gives us a reason to say we know what starlight is. This knowledge did not come from our senses. It came from theory laden conjecture that is testable. We use our senses to understand the model that is our theory, but we don’t use our senses to discover what starlight is without it.

            Mike

          • OMG

            Hello!

            Of course we know by our senses what a star is. We first had to see a star to know it was there. Then and only then did we begin to think about its whys and ways.

          • Sample1

            I understand why you think you’re correct so let me try a different example.

            Did the knowledge of objects called black holes arrive through theory laden conjecture or did that knowledge arrive through someone’s senses? Black holes were not observable through our senses when they were theorized. And yet we now have excellent reasons to accept their reality (I think there is a project with a new telescope that will soon give us direct evidence).

            The religious or metaphysical claim that “all knowledge begins in the senses” is demonstrably at odds with the evidence.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            The religious or metaphysical claim that “all knowledge begins in the senses”

            Why do you consider this a religious claim? Do you consider it as man worshipping his own abilities?
            Black holes were theorized based on the difference in expected measurements of mass and thermal energy, meaning extramental measurable objects lead to the conclusion that there was an absence of those objects. You have not given an example that doesn't require sensory input, in my opinion.
            Do you consider the discovery of donut holes to be a purely theory laden conjecture also?!

          • Sample1

            From hubblesite (org):

            Using Newton’s Laws in the late 1790s, John Michell of England and Pierre-Simon Laplace of France independently suggested the existence of an "invisible star." Michell and Laplace calculated the mass and size – which is now called the "event horizon" – that an object needs in order to have an escape velocity greater than the speed of light.

            What we have is knowledge gained through reasoning with minds, not knowledge from the senses. Later Einstein’s GR predicted them too when they still remained unobservable. Knowledge discovered through reason, not just the senses, is all over the place. The Periodic Table is formatted with blanks for elements that are reasoned to exist, and then they were filled after direct evidence. Invisible radiation is all around us but we don’t sense it, we reasoned it exists. Frequencies are all around us but we don’t sense them, we reasoned they exist. Only later were all of these sense evading properties of nature confirmed through instruments.

            In point of fact, there are often good reasons to ignore one’s senses for they can give the illusion of knowledge through incorrect perceptions. When people use radar on boats, it is not uncommon to get two very different perceptions visually: one on the radar screen and one looking out the window. With one’s eyes an obstacle may look farther away than it is. The rule on boats is to trust the instrument, not your eyes. Likewise for pilots, and countless professions.

            Empiricism is the philosophy for knowledge coming from the senses and that is one controversial aspect of the philosophy rejected by many, particularly rationalists. I suspected Bonnette was an empiricist and I’m guessing that’s because of his theology requirements.

            Extramental is something outside the mind. It’s an ad hoc easy to vary rationalization, like Bonnette’s “sensio-intellect.” As science progresses via reason, it seems to me all the old philosoph-ists and theolog-ists are scrambling for new words to retrofit their needs. The opposite of something that is hard to vary. Why do people do this? I have my guesses!

            I said religious or metaphysical claims to cover both. I should have said religious metaphysical or philosophical metaphysical claims.

            Mike
            Edit done, second edit done because I know you enjoy that.

          • Rob Abney

            Do you consider mass and volume to be extramental? Or do they only exist within minds? My guess is that you will try to support the latter so that you can say that rationalism trumps realism.
            I also have to say that you make unfair assumptions when you say that Dr. Bonnette is basing his philosophy on his theology, he’s contributed extensively to this site and it seems clear to me that he supports his theology with his philosophy.

          • Sample1

            I would have to know what you mean by extramental before attempting to correlate (if it’s even possible) that word to mass and volume. My auto correct typed excremental at first but then I found a definition. Outside of mind and intellect. Is that your definition?

            They are assumptions but I don’t know if they are unfair and neither do you unless I missed a conversation you’ve had with him about that. I make these assumptions with good intent, thinking I understand why he defends A-T metaphysics. I’m assuming, fairly, that he believes in transubstantiation which was codified later by Aquinas after the Church accepted Aristotle’s metaphysics.

            If Aristotle’s metaphysics is wrong, which it is, there are centuries of error the Church would have to figure out. Currently the Church is stuck. There is nothing new that can replace A-T metaphysics (though JP tried) so for whatever reason, they are sticking with it. It’s an excellent example of faith over reaching into what it thought was science-like (natural philosophy at the time) and now they are screwed. It’s probably the reason the Church stays away from science now! They don’t like falsification which is inherent to science. Coincidentally, Hurssel, a phenomenologist, uses the word extramental. And JP2 tried to merge phenomenology with Thomism to develop a new philosophy for Catholics. He failed but at least he perhaps saw the problem of sticking with Aristotle. Is that how the Holy Spirit works? Because it looks very human to me!

            Mike
            Edit done

          • OMG

            And pray tell how the process began to be theorized. By observation. How was the thesis tested? Observation. How verified? Observation.

          • Sample1

            The process, like all processes in science, begins with a guess. Structure to the guess is built and then evidence is looked for.
            Mendeleyev, the father of the periodic table, guessed that there should be an element below aluminum in his chart. Nobody knew what germanium actually was before it was discovered in 1886. It was not derived by encountering it, sensing it or anything you’re claiming.

            Do we also acquire knowledge through our senses? Yes. Is it the only way to acquire knowledge? No. And because the answer is no, the philosophy of empiricism is faulty.

            Mike

          • OMG

            Here is a SAMPLE of titles of journal offerings about black holes [Emphasis of ALL CAPS added]:
            1) Astronomers SPOT black hole-powered ‘galactic fountain’
            2) VISIBLE Light Emitted From a Black Hole Has Been DETECTED for The First Time
            3) Science Breakthrough Of The Year Will SHOW Us A Black Hole's Event Horizon

          • Sample1

            Absolutely irrelevant to everything I’ve already explained which you are encouraged to review again. It is exciting though that these types of stars, black holes, are making themselves verifiable through our senses for the first time in unique ways.

            Mike

          • OMG

            I believe you miss the point. The beginning of theorization about black holes was begun by observation. The movement of objects which the hole affected was observed.

            By a STAR was the Incarnate God announced.
            You believe in black holes which you cannot see.
            Logic.

          • Sample1

            No, you are 100% wrong about the origin for the theory of black holes. If saying 200% wrong made sense, I would say that.

            Mike

          • OMG

            I would up-one you if it would make any difference, but my award-winning research mathematician scientist spouse would say I waste of breath.

          • Sample1

            I knew I said 200% for a reason! The other 100% belongs with your spouse, if, that is, she actually read what I wrote instead of what you may have incorrectly told her.

            Ironically, it was maths that was used based on Newton. Your spouse will know who did the math: Laplace. No black holes were observed in the 18th century! Knowledge of them came from pure reason based on equations. Equations are not black holes.

            That there is observable evidence now is irrelevant to the point. That knowledge isn’t only derived from the senses.

            You’re welcome.

            Mike

          • OMG

            Thank you, and have a good day, friend! Thanks again for the butter.

          • David Nickol

            Regarding whether everything comes through sense data, I hesitate to say anything for fear of aiding the "wrong side," but isn't it Catholic teaching that conscience is inborn or innate?

            1776 "Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths."

            I suppose it makes a difference whether this means conscience calls on an individual to do good and avoid evil without telling the individual how to determine what is good and evil, but the use of "law inscribed by God" implies to me that some actual knowledge of good and evil is inborn.

            According to Aquinas, as I recall, Adam and Eve were given "infused knowledge" (which, presumably, included language capable of expressing abstract thought). For those who believe in two "first parents," was not at least some of that knowledge handed down, or was it lost?

          • OMG

            I don't believe I said that 'everything' comes through sense data. Please show me where I may have said this, and I will definitely correct it.

            Looking at a star initiates a process of thinking about a star. Without that initial seeing, one is thinking of something other than what is a star.

            Addendum Edit: "Looking at a star" would be equivalent to hearing someone describe having seen it or reading a description of another's knowledge of it.

          • David Nickol

            I don't believe I said that 'everything' comes through sense data. Please show me where I may have said this, and I will definitely correct it.

            I don't believe I said that you said everything comes through sense data. Why so defensive? I am not attacking you.

          • OMG

            Now that you've proffered a diagnosis, may I suggest we move onto other topics? Or do you have more?

            The question of the interface of natural law, conscience, and Church teaching is interesting, but not one in which I have a decided view. Do you?

          • OMG

            This just now crossed my desk, and I think it apropros:

            "The average man looks without seeing, listens withouit hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of order or fragrance, and talks without thinking." ~Leonardo da Vinci~

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Forgive me for jumping in here, but there are a couple concepts afloat on the thread being ascribed to St. Thomas which simply are not Thomistic teaching.

            First, you mention that "everything comes through sense data." I suspect this may come from an answer I gave to Sample 1, which he misconstrued somewhat.

            Aristotle and St. Thomas and many other classical philosophers do hold that all knowledge begins in sensation. But, that is not the same thing as to say that all we know is what sense data gives us. The authentic doctrine maintains that the intellect is just as present to this sense data as are the senses themselves.

            There is no Cartesian dualism here, where one wonders how the intellect or mind can connect to the substantially distinct body. Hylemorphism insists that intellect and sense powers are powers of the same substance -- a person who both senses and understands sense objects at the same time.

            That is why we speak of sensio-intellective knowledge. Sense knowledge is always had with the intellect aware of what is going on. We sense, we judge, we reason, we form concepts -- all in and through the same substantial oneness of our rational nature.

            So, saying that our knowledge begins in sensation in no way precludes full intellectual awareness of the contents of that sense data. Working with that data, the intellect enables us to intellectually grasp the world around us -- and to reason via metaphysical principles to the existence of a transcendent spiritual world.

            As to conscience, I think the CCC is merely reflecting standard Thomistic thought as well. Conscience, as commonly used, is simply the last practical judgment of the intellect regarding the morality of acts. Do good and avoid evil are "built into" man in that our intellective appetite (will) is ordered to seek good and avoid evil, even in the moral order.

            Natural law is not an innate set of rules infused in us by God. It is man simply using his own reason to come to know the eternal law of his own nature as created by God. Since that knowledge often entails many errors on the part of man acting alone, the need for religious revelation is evident as a corrective supplement to man's natural knowledge of what is right or wrong.

            Again, conscience is NOT an infallible little voice speaking to us telling us what is right or wrong. It is merely a practical function of the intellect telling us what is morally good or evil in a given situation -- guided by principles we either learn on our own, or are taught to us by parents, society, or God revealing. Clearly, there is no infallibility here, save what comes through revelation.

          • David Nickol

            Forgive me for jumping in here . . . .

            Your comments are, of course, always welcome.

            Again, conscience is NOT an infallible little voice speaking to us telling us what is right or wrong.

            One the one hand, sure. On the other hand, I find your description of conscience disturbing. I always think of Huck Finn following his heart when it comes to helping Jim (the slave), doing the right thing and feeling guilty about it (even feeling he will go to the "bad place") because he has been raised to believe slavery is right and good. I have occasionally run across people who opine that Huck is morally culpable for going against his own conscience and helping a slave. I would like to believe that Huck (and people like him) are morally good, and in breaking certain rules they are truly following their consciences, even if they judge themselves to be doing something wrong.

            You seem to imply that there is nothing really innate in the human individual, and everyone must be "guided by principles we either learn on our own, or are taught to us by parents, society, or God revealing." So the only thing the "voice" of conscience seems to say is "Do what is right" without any guidance as to what is right. Come judgment day, will Huck Finn be judged negatively for doing what he thought was wrong, or positively for doing what he felt was right?

            How do we hold some of the monsters of history accountable for their actions (for example, genocide) if they were absolutely convinced they were doing the right thing? Don't we more or less assume there was something inside of them (some small voice of conscience) that was telling them mass murder was wrong? Is there no God-given "content" to conscience?

          • OMG

            Hi David,
            So cool that you use Huck as a demonstrative agent! I know Huck like the back of my hand, so if you are up for it, let's discuss. But tomorrow. Right now I've also had a glass of wine two many.

            Blessings, OMG.
            P.S.: Can we do it on the "soul" OP? This is sometimes unwieldy because of length I think.
            P.S.S.: Just remembered that tomorrow I have book club in eve and volunteer work in afternoon, work in AM. Friday. But let's talk.

          • David Nickol

            I am sure you are familiar with Twain's "notice" at the front of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but I will reproduce it here as a warning to others who might be tempted to comment:

            NOTICE
            Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

            BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR,
            Per G.G., Chief of Ordnance.

          • OMG

            Yes, of course! The notice is typical of Twain's subtle sense of ironic humor. We don't have to look for any plot, moral, or motives. In his book, these items beg for our attention.

          • Rob Abney

            Infused in our hearts, or in other terms the power of our intellect is the knowledge of good and evil which is based upon the foundation of the principle of noncontradiction. Good is being, evil is non-being, Good is the fullness of what is intended for our nature, evil is any deficit.
            This knowledge was infused in our original parents and has been present ever since.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Ethics is a very complex subject and difficult to explain in a thread. It is filled with necessary distinctions. There are a thousand ways to misunderstand.

            Some philosophers have claimed that we have innate knowledge of right and wrong, so that conscience can be trusted to guide us infallibly. It is like God gives us the complete content of moral philosophy, infused like a chip in our brain. But such is not the case.

            God gives us a will that is ordered to the good, including moral goodness. That is, the basic "innate" command is to do good and avoid evil. That is built into us because the good is being as desirable, and the intellectual appetite (will) naturally seeks the greatest good. The intellect itself knows that moral goodness is a good to be sought, and thus, comes the first principle of ethics: Do good and avoid evil.

            But the rest of ethics entails filling in what is good and what is evil. Since being and goodness are one, the primary principle of morality (seek the good) tells us to maximize being where possible. Thus we recognize the inherent value of human life and thus know that seeking the good entails affirming human life where possible.

            All this gets hugely more complex as one goes along, with many questions that can be raised. For example, why do cannibals eat other people? One reason may be that they do not eat just any other people, but only those outside the tribe -- since they think that only members of their own tribe are real humans.

            Yes, we must follow our consciences. But they may be badly formed. Parents and society do hand down to children certain moral guidelines. But some societies have errant guidelines, such as the Aztec human sacrifice.

            I had a grad course in natural law and we could find no common expression of natural law in every society. But what we did find was that every tribe or nation has some laws that correspond to the content of the Ten Commandments in some fashion. For example, while the rules of whom you may have sex with vary from tribe to tribe, all societies have some rules governing sexual behavior.

            Without exhausting the topic, suffice it to say that the key is to develop a properly formed conscience. That is, one that conforms to natural law. Natural law itself is simply an objective reading of human nature adequately considered in terms of which actions aim toward man attaining his last end, which is ultimately union with the Supreme Good, God.

            So, no, we are not born with a set of rules built into our brains that tell us what is right or wrong. But yes, we do have the ingredients in our nature needed to detect the direction of moral goodness and the inborn realization of the moral need to seek the moral good.

            Thus, man can discover through right reason what human nature requires that we do to attain moral rectitude and our last end. Not all men achieve that knowledge on their own, and, even when attained, it is easily lost. Thus the need for divine revelation to offer true guidance as to what is right and fitting for the perfection of our natures.

            As I said, this is too complex a topic for these threads. But we can at least try to eliminate the greatest errors. One of those errors is to think that we have a conscience which is infallible. If we err though no fault of our own, then following out conscience may lead to actions that are subjectively right, but objectively wrong. Our task is to learn how to conform our subjective conscience to the objective moral order which is the true measure of what is right or wrong.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            From a quick scan of Deutsch, I don't think he ever claims to achieve more than high degrees of probability for his knowledge. This is all natural science ever can offer. It falls short of the apodictic certainty attained by metaphysics. But that is another story, which I have treated elsewhere: strangenotions.com/does-modern-physics-refute-thomistic-philosophy

            You accuse me of "reducing all knowledge to sense only."

            This is incorrect. What I have said is something similar, but critically distinct: All knowledge begins in sensation.

            Our knowledge is sensio-intellective. You ignore the role of the intellect in sensation. We not only attain sense objects in sensation, but our intellect simultaneously apprehends the intelligible being in these objects. That is why the concept of being is immediately formed in initial sense experience and how we also immediately know the principle of non-contradiction with apodictic certainty: that a thing cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect.

            I am not responsible for your omitting the role of intellect in our knowledge of the real world that begins in sense experience. Deutsch introduces intellective descriptors in his discussion, but fails to explain where they come from. No one can totally ignore his own intellectual grasp of the objects he discusses. He always is presupposing and applying metaphysical first principles -- first and foremost that of non-contradiction.

            Every assertion affirms the being of what is affirmed and denies its non-being. Otherwise, all statements would be meaningless, since they could also deny what they affirm.

            Every time he gives a reason for his claims he is employing the principle of reason, and every time he claims a cause for what he proposes, he is using causality.

            No, I do not restrict our knowledge to sensation. I am an empiricist in that I insist that all our knowledge begins in sensation. But I do not make the mistake of the sensist who claims that all our knowledge is merely some form of sensation.

            Even sensists are forced to use their intellects in their explanation of how sensation and "brain only" explanations of knowledge work. In so doing, they employ metaphysical first principles, even though they do not notice that they are doing so and even though they explicitly decry "metaphysics" at every opportunity.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            This video has to do with what makes a good scientific theory. It doesn't address the issue of epistemic support for methodological naturalism, which is what you and I were discussing. That's fine. It's a decent video, and I'm happy to discuss it.

            I would like to know how David Deutsch's "hard to vary" principle relates to the episode when Einstein conceded in allowing the introduction of the cosmological constant into his theory of General Relativity. In what sense was that theory "hard to vary", given that the physics community just threw in this fudge factor to make things fit (what they thought was) the fact of a stationary universe?

          • Sample1

            I’m not 100% down with methodological naturalism per se, but it was the way chosen to counter creation teachings in US science classes where it was effective in booting out disguised religion.

            I wasn’t discussing epistemic support for methodological naturalism, that’s what you hoped we would discuss. :-)

            Regarding Einstein. Well, he was behaving precisely as one would expect if science is understood. Conjectures are placed on the table and then they are tested. These are not a priori assumptions like metaphysics, just guesses. Einstein made a happy accident in that case. Yes, it was guesssork but then it was subsequently put through the ringer and eventually, his so-called greatest blunder turned out to withstand scrutiny after all.

            This supports Deutsch’s hard to vary idea. The scientific community cannot currently vary the cosmological constant with a better explanation to take its place.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            that’s what you hoped we would discuss.

            It's not what I hoped we would discuss. It's the topic that you introduced when you claimed that methodological naturalism is a "discovery that was shown to be useful". That amounts to a claim about the epistemic support for methodological naturalism. Anyway ...

            This supports Deutsch’s hard to vary idea. The scientific community cannot currently vary the cosmological constant with a better explanation to take its place.

            His idea is more than just that. His idea is that there is that the defining special sauce of modern scientific theories is that they can't be easily adjusted in ad hoc ways to fit new data. He contrasts this with a hypothetical adjustment of the Persephone myth that the Greeks might have made if they had been aware of the opposite seasonal cycle in the Southern hemisphere. That (hypothetical) adjusted myth would have been a better explanation for the totality of the (augmented) data, but the fact that the ad hoc improvement would have been so easy is what should make us suspicious. I agree entirely with this criterion, but again: the introduction of the cosmological fudge factor seems to have been almost equally easy, so it doesn't seem to me that this criterion so clearly distinguishes modern scientific thinking from pre-scientific thinking.

            Another name for Deutsch's criterion -- or at least a very closely related concept -- is that of statistical identifiability. I am all in favor of identifiability, but in the absence of some historical analysis, I think it's a bit glib to claim that prioritization of identifiability is a decisive hallmark of the Englightenment and the Scientific Revolution. I think it's possible that Deutsch is better as a scientist than he is as a historian of science.

          • Sample1

            It's the topic that you introduced when you claimed that methodological naturalism is a "discovery that was shown to be useful". That amounts to a claim about the epistemic support for methodological naturalism. Anyway ...

            First, the discussion was with someone else, you chose to chime in because...? Rather than agree that MN was a useful discovery you...what? Wanted to discuss epistemological support? That’s your introduction and despite an attempt by me to get a reply to my introduced request, it was ignored. Anyway, I am reminded of this:

            You are insisting on a tight neurotic control of the conversation. Neither of us is meant to have exclusive control of the conversation. It is meant to be a thing alive , and we both see where it takes us. -Jim (hillclimber) 8/24/2015

            I don’t have a problem with your above disqus ethos, it’s great, but budding into an existing conversation, ignoring and introducing something else is going to get pushback from me if I’m going to be charged with something I didn’t do. As an aside, I coincidentally came across this screenshot quote of yours just the other day and thought it apropos now. It was during a time when SN was banning atheists and disqus made some posts irretrievable so I screenshot interesting discussions.

            I agree that his idea is much more than that. Special sauce is how the Tedtalk framed it, ok. What I took away wasn’t a special idea but a context that included the other things he talked about, Enlightenment tools too. It’s a package for me.

            I don’t think it would have been a better explanation, it would have been a longer bad explanation. Or maybe aesthetically better for some Greeks (or apparently you) but not technically a better explanation of the actual seasons.

            The cosmological fudge factor succumbed to the scientific method, and lived. It is somewhat easy to make guesses in science. To add fudge factors. It’s not easy for them to withstand the method unless they are hard to vary. I think for your objection/hesitation to work you’d have to demonstrate an alternate method that would have supported the ad hoc additions of the Greeks as being a good explanation.

            Glib? Huh. Ok. I’ll look into that.

            Mike

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            My apologies for butting in to your conversation.

            I agree with you and with "2015 me": I don't want to perseverate on a topic that isn't shedding light for either one of us. I'm happy to let the conversation go where it will and move on to discussing Deutsch's ideas.

            I would say that if you have two similarly "overgrown" (non-identifiable) explanations and one of them seems consistent with the data and the other one clearly isn't, then the one that is consistent with the data is a better explanation. It might not be a good explanation, but it's still better than a similarly complicated explanation that is inconsistent with the data.

          • Sample1

            Cool.

            I’m not sure how far I can discuss Deutsch adequately. I plan to read his book, The Beginning of Infinity but don’t know when I’ll get to that. Maybe soon. Let me get back to you about identifiability.

            I agree pretty much with what you’ve said. I guess I feel the need to add that because science is a tool that only gives provisional understandings, there could in theory be seemingly complicated explanations that are seemingly inconsistent with the data only to be revisited later and found to be correct all along. That’s what happened with Einstein.

            Mike

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Sure, no argument from me with regard to provisional understandings.

            Thanks for introducing me to Deutsch. Hope you enjoy the book.

  • Jim the Scott

    Hawking was a brilliant Physicist no question about it. But in terms of Philosophy and Theology and making coherent arguments against the existence of God he sucked out loud. Why does that trigger some people? Martin Vrees said as much during Hawking's lifetime and he is a Physicist and an Atheist too. It is possible for Hawking to be brilliant in his chosen field and not have competence outside it.

  • Ruben Villasenor

    "But could I encourage readers please to take him with a substantial grain of salt when he speaks of the things of God?" This is my favorite part. I will remember to adhere to this next time an apologist suggest the cosmological argument, Intelligent Design, The prime mover argument.

    • Jim the Scott

      But an Atheist and Physicist named Martin Vrees said the same thing about him. You can do better for your Atheism then Hawking.

      • Ruben Villasenor

        Hawking was a theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author that happened to not believe in god. He is an atheist because he did not accept the theistic claim that god exist. I have no idea how he came to that conclusion and it has no effect on how I came to my conclusion. I think his opinion on god is just as valid as anyone else.

        • Jim the Scott

          >Hawking was a theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author that happened to not believe in god.

          Indeed I liked him very much.

          >He is an atheist because he did not accept the theistic claim that god exist.

          In other news water is wet my friend.;-) :D LOL!

          >I have no idea how he came to that conclusion and it has no effect on how I came to my conclusion. I think his opinion on god is just as valid as anyone else.

          I can't argue with that. I admire your candor. Peace.

  • Jim the Scott

    The problem with Hawking is that he was a horrible philosopher which is an opinion shared by Atheist and Theist alike who know something of philosophy. He was a great man & I admired him. But terrible philosopher.

  • Jim the Scott

    So Hawking was awesome at physics and sucked at philosophy. But he would have made an awesome rapper. (I love this video. IMHO I think "Hawking" won)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zn7-fVtT16k

  • Ben Champagne

    "Therefore, some finally noncontingent reality, which grounds and actualizes the finite universe, must exist." This can not be demonstrated. While a necessary contingent reality of existence appears to us, this does not preclude that God himself is not a contingent being. It doesn't necessarily rule out Him not being contingent, but to suggest this conclusion is in error. It is only that such a reality or being is necessarily not contingent upon finite existence, not that it is some truly singular reality, which honestly is indefensible.

  • Jim the Scott

    >The classical response of religious philosophy is that no contingency can be explained satisfactorily by appealing endlessly to other contingencies. Therefore, some finally noncontingent reality, which grounds and actualizes the finite universe, must exist.

    Those who deny the above wish us to believe that a caboose can be pulled by an endless series of boxcars with no engines. That is simply absurd. Now the Universe can be past eternal without a formal creatione event. Our present universe can be one in an endless series but it is still contingent and thus to exist here and now required it gets it's existence from something non-contingent which we take to be God.

    From the perspective of Classic Theism if "god" is contingent then there is no God.

    • Ben Champagne

      That doesn't actually follow, except by means of a causal contingency. An irreducible contingent nature can not be ruled out.

      • Jim the Scott

        It pretty much does follow. An irreducible contingent nature is irrational. You might as well believe 0+1=X and X >1 are both true at the same time & in the same sense.

        It is absurd.

        • Ben Champagne

          Why are reductions that are irreducible existing in tandem without cause irrational?

          How does a truly singular being ever amount to more than itself? If God created, then He is not truly singular, in the most reductive logical sense, that is absurd.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Why are reductions that are irreducible existing in tandem without cause irrational?

            You should read up on causality. Specifically the first cause. Because I have a feeling you talking about something different then moi.

            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2014/07/clarke-on-stock-caricature-of-first.html

            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/05/oerter-contra-principle-of-causality.html

            Secondly if you are not making a distinction between an essential causal series and an accidental one then you are wasting my time with equivocations.

            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/07/first-without-second.html

            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2014/03/can-you-explain-something-by-appealing.html

            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/08/edwards-on-infinite-causal-series.html

            >How does a truly singular being ever amount to more than itself?
            If God created, then He is not truly singular, in the most reductive logical sense, that is absurd.

            God is not a singular being. God is Being Itself. The idea God is a singular being is theistic personalism. I am a strong Atheist toward belief in any theistic personalist divinity.

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/09/classical-theism.html

          • Ben Champagne

            I am very familiar with Edward Feser and his works. And again, Feser, like many, are wrong about what CAN be known. It isn't that it is necessarily an impossibility, like an infinite regress, but rather that something lacking an aspectual nature in all but a singular capacity would have no ability to expand beyond a singularity. Which is a problem before one even arrives at the problem of 'no thing'. You seem to want to imply that one can go in the other direction and suggest that such categorizations are wanting because of the 'infinite' nature of God. The problem there is that if God is being itself, then surely the universe and all it's divisible and definable parts would necessarily be of that being, or if you want to claim they aren't, then the boundary of being apart from 'being' gives you an aspectual nature and not truly 'infinite' one of God.

            No matter how you look at it reductively, it does not make logical sense that God is not a contingent being. (And again, I don't mean the half baked unneccesary causal conflation on Contingency of Aquinas and Feser). It doesn't necessarily mean that he is, it just means that if you want to stay within the bounds of logic and reductivism, you can not conclude as much. Just like someone can conclude randomness with no logical means to do so, or 'no thing' creation, or 'metaphysically reject potency', or even reject contingency itself. All of those things can be done, but they can not be done under the banner of logic.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I am very familiar with Edward Feser and his works.

            Kay.

            >You seem to want to imply that one can go in the other direction and suggest that such categorizations are wanting because of the 'infinite' nature of God.

            I make no such implication. I don't believe that? God as God is unknowable. One can know stuff about him such as He is Pure Act and not contingent but what He is as God cannot be known.

            >The problem there is that if God is being itself, then surely the universe and all it's divisible and definable parts would necessarily be of that being, or if you want to claim they aren't, then the boundary of being apart from 'being' gives you an aspectual nature and not truly 'infinite' one of God.

            That doesn't follow unless you are a priori predisposed to equate the universe with being. The universe is a collection of beings who participate in being itself for existence. Why it this hard? One need not be a pantheist.

            >No matter how you look at it reductively, it does not make logical sense that God is not a contingent being.

            That is about as "logical" as claiming 0+1=X and X must somehow be > than 1 because something was added to it. Or that infinite box cars must somehow be able to pull a caboose.

            What you believe seems to be irrational and absurd IMHO. For the Classic Theist either God is not contingent or Atheism. No Theistic personalist "deity" is worth my faith.

            > (And again, I don't mean the half baked unneccesary causal conflation on Contingency of Aquinas and Feser). It doesn't necessarily mean that he is, it just means that if you want to stay within the bounds of logic and reductivism, you can not conclude as much.

            Reductivism is clearly an irrational belief system. Like Scientism, Sola Scriptura, the existence of metaphysical brute facts, belief the world was made in 6 literal days etc.......

            >Just like someone can conclude randomness with no logical means to do so, or 'no thing' creation, or 'metaphysically reject potency', or even reject contingency itself. All of those things can be done, but they can not be done under the banner of logic.

            Now I am confused? So you are now saying your claims are not logical? (Which I would agree with taken at face value) Am I missing something here?

          • Jim the Scott

            PS. I'll say this to you Ben. At least you are trying to make a philosophical argument. So I thank you for that.

    • >no contingency can be explained satisfactorily by appealing endlessly to other contingencies.

      I don't deny it, I'm just not convinced that the only non-contingent possibility is a "god", i.e. an immaterial mind with a passing interest in burnt offerings.

      • Jim the Scott

        >I don't deny it, I'm just not convinced that the only non-contingent possibility is a "god", i.e. an immaterial mind with a passing interest in burnt offerings.

        So you are in fact a Classic Theist you just don't know it yet?
        IMHO of course.;-)
        Feel free to disagree & naturally it goes without saying you may label yourself as you see fit regardless of what I think.
        Cheers.

        • >So you are in fact a Classic Theist you just don't know it yet?

          No I am not, and if you only believe in "something non-contingent" you aren't either.

          • Jim the Scott

            Here is the essence of our disagreement. Because I believe you are wrong here. Belief in the Non-contingent, Pure Act, Being Itself, Unconditional Reality, Ground of Being is the essence of Classic Theism. A magic Cosmic wizard with a white beard can't be truly "divine" as the former.

            Cheers.

          • >Belief in the Non-contingent, Pure Act, Being Itself, Unconditional Reality, Ground of Being is the essence of Classic Theism.

            Which is more than something non-contingent. The number 2 is non-contingent, but it isn't pure act .

          • Jim the Scott

            I don't understand you here? These things are only notionally different from one another as far as I know?

          • No I don't think so. Importantly, for this context, the theist needs to demonstrate that this cause is non-natural, otherwise there is no dispute between theists and atheists. Moreover, Catholics need this cause to possess the attributes of the god they believe in, such as the omnis. Further, they must connect this cause to Christ.

            As I said:
            >I'm just not convinced that the only non-contingent possibility is a "god"

            And you indicated that if I accepted somersome non contingent, I was a classical theist.

            But classical theism goes beyond even the omnis, as indicated by the first definition I could find .

            >Classical theism is a form of monotheism. Whereas most monotheists agree that God is, at minimum, all-knowing, all-powerful, and completely good,[1] classical theism asserts that God is both immanent (encompassing or manifested in the material world) and simultaneously transcendent (independent of the material universe); simple, and having such attributes as immutability, impassibility, and timelessness.[2]

            Again if your definition of a deity us so vague as to include everything non contingent, numbers are gods.

          • Jim the Scott

            >No I don't think so. Importantly, for this context, the theist needs to demonstrate that this cause is non-natural, otherwise there is no dispute between theists and atheists.

            This is as absurd a question as asking what color it is? Does an essential causal chain need to end in something that is pure act? Yes or no? The answer is Yes and we take that to be God and by default God is supernatural. How could a natural phenomena be pure act? That is absurd.

            >Moreover, Catholics need this cause to possess the attributes of the god they believe in, such as the omnis. Further, they must connect this cause to Christ.

            We are dealing with natural theology and one aspect of religious apologetics. You are getting ahead of yourself.

            >I'm just not convinced that the only non-contingent possibility is a "god"

            That is just a personal preference on your part for you definition vs ours. By definition if it is a non-contingent cause it is God.

            The definition you give for Classic Theism is correct as far as it goes.

            >Again if your definition of a deity us so vague as to include everything non contingent, numbers are gods.

            There can only be one Pure Act which is a more precise term then non-contingent which allows for ambiguity.

          • >Does an essential causal chain need to end in something that is pure act?

            No idea. I'd have to understand what those terms mean. Sorry they've never been defined for me.

            >By definition if it is a non-contingent cause it is God

            You are entitled to define what you want as "god". I don't see a demonstration that there is an uncaused cause, or that if there were why the term "uncaused cause" is not a good term or "ultimate cause"? The term "God" entails to me some kind of intelligent agent at minimum, and in terms of classical theism, the omnis, transcendence and so on. Others define "god" as love, or the material universe itself. I find these misleading too.

            >There can only be one Pure Act

            How come?

            >which is a more precise term then non-contingent which allows for ambiguity.

            Not so sure. This all seems very abstract and vague to me. But I suppose that's what you get when you argue from ignorance.

          • Jim the Scott

            >No idea. I'd have to understand what those terms mean. Sorry they've never been defined for me.

            I tried my best to explain it. I am only flesh and blood. Sorry it wasn't good enough for you to provide clarity.

            >>There can only be one Pure Act
            How come?

            Because there can only be one absolute Infinites as one would limit the other and then neither would be truly infinite.

            >Not so sure. This all seems very abstract and vague to me. But I suppose that's what you get when you argue from ignorance.

            Well finer minds then myself will have to take up the slack to try to offer a better explanation.

            I am clearly limited here in that capacity. I don't mind admitting that.

          • >Because there can only be one absolute Infinites as one would limit the other and then neither would be truly infinite.

            There can be multiple true infinities. The set of even numbers is infinite, but so is the set of odd numbers. What do you mean by "absolute" infinity, and why call this Pure Act?

          • Jim the Scott

            You cannot have two infinites at the same time in the same relation. Sets create different relations. Even and Odd numbers are aspects of the same sequential numbers that go from 1 to Infinity.

            As for Absolute Infinity.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absolute_Infinite

          • Fair enough. What is the relation you are talking about with Pure Act?

          • Jim the Scott

            It's all what we take to be God. Anything less then it is unworthy of worship and not divine.

          • >It's all what we take to be God.

            What is?

          • Jim the Scott

            Alright I'm confused? My bad. I thought you where asking me the relationship between Absolute Infinity and Pure Act?

            Hmmm? Perhaps I should have typed "All this is what we take to be God"?

          • >"All this is what we take to be God"?

            All "what" is what you take to be god? I can't understand what the relationship between these is unless I have some understanding of what Pure Act is

          • Jim the Scott

            Then I will have to defer to someone else to try to explain it because I am not sure what it is you don't understand?

            Well we tried. Cheers guy.

          • I don't understand what you are referrencing by "all this" in the statement, "All this is what we take to be God"

            I guess you don't know.

            I guess, cheers?

          • Jim the Scott

            "All this?" means Pure Act, Uncaused Cause, Absolute Infinity are taken to be God?

            I can speak any clearer and I can't fathom why you understand that? It is simple.

          • Right but there is no content to these labels, it's just a vague allusion to one horn of the Aggripean Trilema.

            What is God? The thing that caused the universe, what is that thing? Pure Act, what is Pure Act? God.

          • Jim the Scott

            What is God? That in principle cannot be answered. We can say stuff about God but not what he is. That is the essence of Classic Theism & I wouldn't waste my time on a lesser so called "deity" I could comprehend.

          • Ok. If I don't know what something is, I can't believe it exists .

      • St Thomas was there. He arrived at a proof of God's existence but then did not assume he had proved Catholicism in total. He continued to reason about what we could know about God.

        Think for example about the way love is valued as the highest ideal by almost all humans. This uncaused cause of everything, would it mkae sense to say it has to be something or someone that values love?

        • >Think for example about the way love is valued as the highest ideal by almost all humans. This uncaused cause of everything, would it mkae sense to say it has to be something or someone that values love?

          No, I don't see why an uncaused cause would even have to be intelligent.

          I don't see what this has to do with my comments maybe meant for someone else?

          • The relevance is clear. You are not convinced that the non-contingent thing is God. So you seem to be accepting, at least for the moment, the proof that an uncaused cause exists. You saying it is not God implies it need not have any of the properties that we normally associate with God. St Thomas gets that. He does continue to reason and try and figure out what things we can conclude about this "god." So then it would make sense to continue with St Thomas' reasoning and see where you do begin to disagree.

            Why would such an uncaused cause need to be intelligent? Can an unintelligent cause produce an intelligent effect? It depends on your definition of intelligence. I can write a computer program that can do some things better than me that are related to intelligence. Yet is it really smarter than me or just faster and more accurate?

            Anyway, I don't want to pretend my simple thoughts represent what Aristotelian-Thomistic Philosophy would say. The point is that just because something is not clear to you right away does not mean there is no good reason to believe it.

          • Ficino

            You mean, Brian has good reason to believe it, when it is not clear to him? Good reason as stipulated by you, or by Pope Francis, or by Feser/Davies et al, or ... ?

          • >So you seem to be accepting, at least for the moment, the proof that an uncaused cause exists.

            No, just that there must be something that is not ultimately contingent, I can't rule out this being an infinite regress itself, but if you like, an infinite regress could be considered contingent, I suppose.

            >You saying it is not God implies it need not have any of the properties that we normally associate with God.

            If there is an uncaused cause, for me to accept it is the God of classical theism, it would need more than being an uncaused cause, but all the attributes of the god of classical theism, yes .

            >St Thomas gets that. He does continue to reason and try...

            Yes, but I wasn't responding to Aquinas, but Jim the Scott, who seemed to equate the god of classical theism with an uncaused cause.

            >...and figure out what things we can conclude about this "god."

            Wouldn't it be better to see if you can determine what the attributes of the uncaused cause are, and then see if they match the attributes of the deity in various religions and so on?

            >Can an unintelligent cause produce an intelligent effect?

            I don't know what an "intelligent effect" is, but I see no reason why intelligence can only arise from another intelligence.

            >The point is that just because something is not clear to you right away does not mean there is no good reason to believe it.

            I never suggested this.

  • michael

    Some early manuscripts of Mark lack the word "twice" in "Before the cock crows twice". Zero manuscripts of the other Gospels have "twice" here at all.

    The gospels give different answers to the wording of the second denial and to who it was done to. In one version it is clearly stated as given to the same servant girl as the first, in another, it is directly stated to be different servant girl, and in another, it is stated to be to a man, worded as "Man, I know him not!". In John, the second denial is to multiple people. It is impossible to reconcile these accounts rationally, and it isn't even possible to attempt to rationalize it with the method used to rationalize discrepancies in the death/resurrection accounts. If comparing and contrasting the accounts of Peter's denials in the four gospels doesn't convince you the gospels are not divinely inspired then I imagine not even the discovery of Jesus' dead body would.

    • Sample1

      It’s interesting, that if Jesus actually existed then his remains are buried somewhere. Of course, if he’s only a legend, then no remains. I’m agnostic about his existence. But I am rather tickled to think that somewhere beneath the layers of dirt, his mineral remains are just lying there with tourists walking above, eating Doritos.

      Mike

  • Sample1

    Many thanks to the powers that be who continue to embrace the comment section format for all posted articles.

    I’m curious about the makeup of the SN audience. Is administration interested in offering a poll to collect such data? It can be done through Disqus, but only awkwardly (offering questions, closing the thread, and counting upvotes for instance). But there are quality/accuracy issues with that approach; upvote farming comes to mind. A third party survey seems better.

    At any rate, may I suggest an Admin. top post, or better yet an article, where we can vote on interest (seems simple enough/low time investment) if not an actual survey (more time investment by Admin).

    Mike

  • Sample1

    why there is a universe [of finite existence] at all

    I usually loathe video explanations in place of one’s own words but it’s sometimes necessary. Rather than a scientific reply, here is a short talk between Kuhn and Grayling with the latter offering a philosophical/logical reply to such a question.

    “When it’s not a matter of facts it’s more a matter of logic. What gives meaning to questions is our capacity for answering them”. -A.C. Grayling

    Between the science (classical nothing is incoherent) and philosophy (what makes a question meaningful) I’d say the oft repeated phrase of “why is there something rather than nothing” can be put to bed.

    https://youtu.be/Bds92P1wkZU

    Mike

    • Jim the Scott
      • Ficino

        When I search on the Philosopher's Index for A.C. Grayling, I get 60 hits for items authored by him or reviewed by him. When I search for Valicella, one item comes up.

        • Jim the Scott

          So what?

        • Jim the Scott

          BTW here is Bill's wiki entry.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_F._Vallicella

          He has published over 40 articles and at least two books.

          I only count 37 articles over at Graying's page? So I guess that proves God exists and Atheism is stupid.;-)

          (Geez Ficino I expect better from you)

          • Ficino

            Most of Valicella's articles are in Thomist-leaning journals. I don't see many top-ranked publishers among the publishers of his books.

            Therefore Catholicism is refuted. (heh heh - yeah I know, this actually isn't funny, but still, neither is your snide dismissal of Grayling above)

          • Jim the Scott

            >Most of Valicella's articles are in Thomist-leaning journals.

            Are those goalposts you moving heavy? Also why wouldn't a moderate realistic (who is kind of anti-Catholic BTW) not publish in such journals? I am not suprised Richard Dawkins publishes in journals on the evolution of marine life.

            >I don't see many top-ranked publishers among the publishers of his books. Therefore Catholicism is refuted. (heh heh - yeah I know, this actually isn't funny, but still, neither is your snide dismissal of Grayling above)

            Dude it's your standard here not mine. Sorry if it blows up in your face. Not my problem. Also I dismiss Grayling because of the quality of his arguments on "nothing" and offer Bill's stinging rebuke of them. I don't care what political journals he has published in or how many articles he has published.

            There is nothing more then that (pun intended). Come on Ficino you are better then this? I expect this from Michael.

          • Ficino

            I'm too lazy to cross-check the Wikipedia article on Grayling with the results of a search via Philosopher's Index. I would go with the latter as a source for a professional philosopher's academic publications. As I said, I got 60 hits when I searched for Grayling on there.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I'm too lazy to cross-check the Wikipedia article on Grayling...

            I respect that.

            >I would go with the latter as a source for a professional philosopher's academic publications. As I said, I got 60 hits when I searched for Grayling on there.

            Yeh you search sources that give you the bias results you want. I totally understand. Cheers.

          • Ficino

            Jim/Son, as always, you are a card! The Philosopher's Index has for decades been the standard bibliographical instrument for listing academic publications of professional philosophers.

          • Jim the Scott

            Says who? That is the only Index? That seems rather unlikely. Cheers.

      • Ficino

        I read the linked articles and listened to the video posted by Sample1.

        I note that Vallicella says that, pace the doctor angelicus, one can argue for the existence of God but not prove the existence of God.

        • Jim the Scott

          Well obviously Vallicella uses the term "proof" strictly in a verification-ist sense. One cannot "prove" the presuppositions of the scientific method are valid but one can certainly argue for it.

          • Sample1

            Correct. Scientific axioms cannot be proven and neither can Catholicism’s religious axioms.

            This is news?

            Mike

          • Jim the Scott

            The point is neither needs to be "proved" within the narrow definition to be true.

          • Sample1

            Fair enough.

            When can we talk about proven facts rather than reasoned unproven truths and which method, faith methods vs non faith methods, has the stranglehold on the former? And just why should faith be so weak in providing reliable facts?

            Mike

          • Jim the Scott

            If you followed your own question to it's logical conclusion why trust the scientific method? It is not based on "proven methods" the presupposition are argument based. Now I believe they are convincing arguments like the arguments for the existence of God(in the Classic Sense). So you are begging the question and not applying it consistently.

          • Sample1

            Let’s pick this apart. I didn’t say the scientific method itself is proven, your words not mine. I mentioned facts. Evolution is in evidence. Is that a fact or not?

            Disease is cured by prayer. Is that a fact or not?

            If faith and science are both unproven methods then why does one method have the stranglehold on facts?

            Mike

          • Jim the Scott

            You said "Scientific axioms cannot be proven" thus what is your basis for belief in them? Evidence? Facts? . You can't have any by your own admission thus there must be a method of knowledge we can have apart from the scientific method to know the axioms are true. Evolution is a Scientific question the existence of God is not it is a philosophical question like the truth of scientific axioms.

            >Disease is cured by prayer. Is that a fact or not?

            How does one prove or disprove God forsaw your illness and prayer for healing & from all eternity & willed to grant your prayer or not and in that same single eternal act of will cause the universe to unfold in such a manner so that you recover or not depending on God's choice to heal you or not? You might as well ask me the Atomic weight of the number 6?

            You cannot have your Scientism here EVER. Live with it. Prayer is not a subject of science. Forcus on philosophy and enough of the category mistakes.

            >If faith and science are both unproven methods then why does one method have the stranglehold on facts?

            That is like saying Evolution is not true according to Mathamatics because addition & subtraction or divsion or multiplication cannot show us Animal forms morph over time via natural selection.

            Natural Theology is shown to be true via the philosophical arguments. One cannot mix and match without category mistakes.

            You can't rescue Scientism.

          • Sample1

            Correct. I do not have the belief that scientific axioms are provable. It does not therefore follow however, that facts become unattainable unless, you don’t believe facts are attainable? Are you saying facts are not attainable with that method?

            there must be a method of knowledge we can have apart from the scientific method to know the axioms are true.

            Fine. But what are the facts that flow from your method of knowledge?

            Mike

          • Jim the Scott

            >Correct. I do not have the belief that scientific axioms are provable. It does not therefore follow however, that facts become unattainable unless, you don’t believe facts are attainable? Are you saying facts are not attainable with that method?

            What we are talking about it why we believe things apart from verificationist investigation. We cannot use scientific verification to know the scientifici Axioms are valid and true. But that doesn't mean we can't know they are correct by other means.

            >Fine. But what are the facts that flow from your method of knowledge?

            Rather what philosophical arguments can be brought to bear so we may trust the Axioms?

          • Sample1

            Again, I agree with you about not being able to know if scientific axioms are true. We agree.

            But that doesn’t mean we can’t know they are correct by other means.

            I don’t know if we can’t know they are correct. That’s a slightly different emphasis. We agreed that currently we are unable to know if scientific axioms are true. You mention “other means”. Like what? What other means show or can show that scientific axioms are true?

            I claim reliability, not truth, as far as scientific axioms go. That is to say, I don’t have any kind of faith in the reliability of scientific axioms from which facts flow, rather I have reasonable expectations based on prior evidence.

            What philosophical arguments can be brought to bear so we may trust the axioms?

            No clue. Feel free to offer one. I’d like to examine your axiom, when offered, and see what one can derive from it and whether that would give me a reasonably reliable expectation to trust the axiom.

            I’m not interested in unreliability or unreasonable expectations and I suspect you aren’t either.

            Mike

          • Ficino

            I'm looking forward to more from both of you on this (and from Dr. B and others who may want to weigh in). I think this is a promising avenue of discussion.

          • Sample1

            With all due respect, feel free to, but this is a challenging discussion to do adequately for me. Playing three dimensional chess with others could add to the challenge. It may not, but if the discussion bogs down, please jump in. Of course, I can’t speak for @Jimthescott:disqus

            There are plenty of avenues where I’m planting flags for possible further explorations as perhaps Jim is to.

            What do you think Jim? Personally, I’d like to continue a bit longer with just us two engaging.

            Mike

          • Jim the Scott

            >Again, I agree with you about not being able to know if scientific axioms are true. We agree.

            No we don't agree you can know they are true by philosophical reasoning. You can have a reasonable certainty.

            >I don’t know if we can’t know they are correct. That’s a slightly different emphasis. We agreed that currently we are unable to know if scientific axioms are true. You mention “other means”. Like what? What other means show or can show that scientific axioms are true?

            Then you shoot your science and it's results in the head or reduce it to magic.

            >I claim reliability, not truth, as far as scientific axioms go. That is to say, I don’t have any kind of faith in the reliability of scientific axioms from which facts flow, rather I have reasonable expectations based on prior evidence.

            This is circular reasoning. You cannot know the axioms are true but your science relies on them to produce "facts" that you can know are true?

            Even if you don't except God or gods you must except philosophy otherwise kiss all reason and science goodbye.

            >No clue. Feel free to offer one. I’d like to examine your axiom, when offered, and see what one can derive from it and whether that would give me a reasonably reliable expectation to trust the axiom.

            What I offer is for you to reasonably conclude you need philosophy here. Which philosophy I will leave for you to explore. I have my favorates.

            >I’m not interested in unreliability or unreasonable expectations and I suspect you aren’t either.

            True.

          • Sample1

            you can know they are true by philosophical reasoning

            I might be able to agree with you if we call this a philosophical thesis: “facts can be derived from unproven scientific axioms because an evidence based reliability is demonstrable. Agree?

            Mike

          • Jim the Scott

            No because the term "proof" is ambigious. But you are trying to go at by Philosophy so my job is done.

          • Sample1

            Thanks for the exchange. Have you any questions remaining? I’d be happy to explore further.

            Mike

          • Jim the Scott

            Opps wrong account. ;-)

            I am good for now and thank you. Peace.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            That is to say, I don’t have any kind of faith in the reliability of scientific axioms from which facts flow, rather I have reasonable expectations based on prior evidence.

            But unless you have found a way out of Hume's problem of induction, there is nothing rational or reasonable about basing your expectations on prior evidence. Faith in the uniformity of nature is a natural faith that we all share. That faith is the basis for interpreting scientific evidence and cannot reasonably be defended on the basis of evidence.

          • Sample1

            You’re accurate about induction but it’s challenge at bottom is circularity. Reasonable expectations allow for an uncertainty which isn’t found in religious faith.

            To put it another way, I would say there is an honesty involved with claiming expectations are probably reasonable that is lacking in religious faith. When I sit down in a chair, there is a reasonable expectation that it will support me. That expectation is based on prior evidence having touched the chair before. You appear to label that natural faith instead.

            Is it not a fallacy of composition to compare religious faith and your natural faith to my position? Unless I’m mistaken, faith creeds do not begin with, “I believe in one God, probably, the father Almighty, probably, maker of heaven and earth, probably, of all that is seen and unseen, probably.

            If they do, then I would have to reconsider.

            Mike

            Edit done, spelling grammar.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            uncertainty which isn’t found in religious faith

            I would say on the contrary that uncertainty is inextricable from faith. There is no true faith without uncertainty. For example, if I am absolutely certain that a person will do the right thing, then I have knowledge of what that person will do. In that case it becomes meaningless to say that I have faith in that person, because there is no element of trust, only knowledge.

          • Sample1

            Do you have uncertainty or knowledge about the resurrection of Jesus?

            Mike

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            What I have is uncertain knowledge that Jesus was resurrected. At the same time, I have faith in the power and the goodness of God, and that faith partly underwrites my belief that Jesus was resurrected.

          • Sample1

            Jim: I have uncertain knowledge that Jesus was resurrected.
            Mike: I have uncertain knowledge that elementary particles exist.

            Jim: I have faith in the power and goodness of God...partly underwrites my belief in resurrection
            Mike: I have reasonable expectations that elementary particles exist based on prior evidence.

            It looks like this talk between us is a fallacy of composition. It’s interesting though as I’m not positive this is going to be a satisfactory reply for you. Ha.

            Mike

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Jim: I have uncertain knowledge that Jesus was resurrected.

            Mike: I have uncertain knowledge that elementary particles exist.

            I'm fine with counting those things as roughly comparable for purposes of this argument.

            Jim: I have faith in the power and goodness of God...partly underwrites my belief in resurrection

            Mike: I have reasonable expectations that elementary particles exist based on prior evidence.

            Here you are using rhetoric to exaggerate the difference between what you are doing and what I am doing. The similarity is more obvious if I re-write:

            Jim: I have faith in the power and goodness of God ... that plus historical evidence underwrites my reasonable inference that Jesus was resurrected.

            Mike: I have faith in the uniformity of nature ... that plus prior evidence underwrites my reasonable expectation that elementary particles exist.

          • And what are these "elementary particles?"

            Are they what CS Lewis called the "life-force?" A personal "god" that gnostics use to stave off the meaninglessness of your self-desired damnation, but also one you can ignore when it comes to you sinning?

            The existence of the Church proves the Ressurrction. One like you can deny a lot of things, but what does that do?

            As Chesterton said, those like you deny deny everything but what you have the right to deny: yourself.

          • "knowledge" as in "the knowing" from your gnosticism? As if reality would change depending on what your ego accepts?

          • This is because Faith is basing oneself in God and there is no uncertainty there. you are just trying to tout uncertain try to excuse your purposeful ignorance.

            you think if you hide behind that ignorance, then God cannot Judge you. No, God will Judge you just fine, and for all the evil you are complicit in.

        • Sample1

          I’m of the worldview that faith is immoral. I support this with the claim that human beings have a moral imperative to believe responsibly.

          I am not saying SN Catholics are immoral. What anyone gets right through responsible belief I applaud. We should accept responsible belief wherever it is found. Some may notice this phrasing mirrors the oft repeated claim from Vatican 2 that Catholicism rejects nothing true in other religions. This is too pithy for my standards. What isn’t said is whether truth is reliably found through faith. That’s demonstrably false.

          Faith is for fun, in moderation. But it isn’t a reliable pathway for truth. Responsible belief comes through evidence. To believe something, steadfastly, without evidence or worse, willfully removing oneself from a tool of cognition, is immoral.

          What do you think?

          Mike

          • Ficino

            Some good points but way too much for me to respond to in a combox. I assume you don't equate belief and faith, or at least, belief and religious faith. My understanding is that the latter is held by many to be a ("theological") virtue, while belief is just a cognitive state about a proposition's truth.

            I think we're all agreed that some truths are not justified by appeals to empirical evidence.

          • Sample1

            When I said faith is for fun (in moderation) I’m really saying some unevidenced beliefs (faith claims) result in inconsequential behaviors. We don’t care about those. An argument can be made that “faith for fun” is a gateway way drug for what I’ll get to in the next paragraph, but we can set the “gateway drug” argument aside. Let people enjoy their inconsequential unevidenced beliefs without derision.

            But what are we to think of unevidenced beliefs that result in consequential behaviors? Can we say those are beliefs are arrived at responsibly? If not, is irresponsibility immoral? I’m saying it is.

            Mike

          • Ficino

            Off the top of my head, I'd say the actions that I think you have in mind are immoral. I don't know about the act of faith itself. But to say the actions are immoral of course gets one into a complicated debate.

          • Sample1

            We can avoid the complicated debate about whether specific behavioral actions are immoral or not. The issue I’m raising precedes that: epistemical responsibility.

            Let’s look at fake news. Leaving out blatant deceit which is its own topic, what becomes of globally shared information, our species’ “Deposit of Knowledge” if you will, when algorithms driving web searches have unevidenced input? What results when the latter is reduced or eliminated?

            Which should we prefer? Preferences do exist. The question is, can we claim one is morally superior to another? I’d say yes insofar as our behaviors are driven by beliefs. And if our epistemology for the Deposit of Knowledge is faulty, which it is, do we not have a moral responsibility to correct that? The counter to this could only be an assertion that unevidenced beliefs correct for fake news algorithms.

            Mike

          • Let people enjoy their inconsequential unevidenced beliefs without derision.

            In seriousness, I'm really curious why should we should want to let people enjoy being irrational? That in itself seems completely irrational.

          • Sample1

            That’s a damn good question and I’ve thought of a few different replies but they all have problems to varying degrees. It hinges on how far we drill down into the word inconsequential.

            When I wrote that I was thinking of people of faith who might be called high functioning: those who easily integrate into pluralistic societies without causing violence or negative consequences for themselves or others.

            Mike

          • I think I understand what your saying, and I think that the effort would probably be better spent elsewhere. On the other hand, I also tend to agree with Harris when he says that "there is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable." There can also be social costs to being too hard on people who aren't causing harm.

            Ultimately though, If we care about each other, and want the best world to live in, it follows that we have an epistemic responsibility to hold beliefs that are the most likely to be true.

            We're in a constant war of ideas, and unfortunately I don't think that rationality is winning that war because human are emotional creatures, and not rational ones.

          • Sample1

            I agree with everything you’ve said.

            Mike

          • So those who understand and defend Truth are seen as an impediment to you on the level of mental deficiency? Interesting bit of projection there.

            The Church created all you take for granted and the Church encompasses all things and answers all things. If the Church is so sick as you imply, then why do you accept and take for granted all thins the Church could only create with its knowledge of God and the Truth?

            Would it not be intellectually honest for you to abandon everything the Church created? It would, but you aren't intellectually honest.

            you simply think that you can overthrow God's order and then keep God's order but with you as its master. That is the main delusion of atheism, and it ends one place.

            Do you know where that place is?

          • Ficino

            Herald, I'm not sure what you mean by "*let* people." I can imagine a pretty dark way of construing what you wrote, e.g. if an atheist government decreed that practicing religion is irrational and therefore, decides not to "let" citizens practice religion. But I assume you didn't mean "let" to entail coercive power to stop people from enjoying what the person with power deems as irrational.

          • Herald, I'm not sure what you mean by "*let* people."

            My question is related to challenging irrational beliefs. Should we ignore irrational beliefs, or should we (as individuals) challenge them when people expose them?

            I'm hardly suggesting we should throw the weight of government behind forcing people to be rational.

          • Sample1

            I agree with Herald’s reply about let.

            An atheist government needs more clothing than just atheism to meet your fear. It would have to be asecular or ahumanistic, etc. I don’t think it’s helpful to say things like atheist government absent clarifications, as old canards and tropes find an undeserved space to breathe.

            As it happens, we already do force people to be rational in our justice system and when they aren’t, consequences exist. Would it be justified to say that that forcing is dark and a result of our Christian government?

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • As either Chesterton and Venerable Fulton Sheen said, all humanism is just a form of satanism.

            atheism is gnosticism, and it is gnosticism attempting to disguise itself by ignorance by recruiting fools who cannot and will not know their own views. This is the basis of the same devilry you advocate for that has killed 200,000,000+ "political enemies" and 2,000,000,000+ children

            As Chesterton said, I have my religion and can defend it, my opponent cannot even admit to himself that he has one.

          • Reason is totally blind without Faith. What is irrational about people actually founded in reality?

            Is it just projection in an attempt to make your time on earth worthwhile before damnation?

          • VicqRuiz

            Nigel, you seem to be pretty confident in your knowledge about who will be damned.

            This is in direct contradiction to the teachings of your church. Do you have absolute assurance of your own salvation?

          • Reason is totally blind without Faith.

            What makes you say this, and what do you mean by "Faith"? I notice you've capitalized the word, and I'm not sure why?

            What is irrational about people actually founded in reality?

            I don't understand your question. Can you rephrase this?

            Is it just projection in an attempt to make your time on earth worthwhile before damnation?

            No. What makes you say this?

          • Reading is thought by your intellect without senses. That is totally blind, Faith is the only thing that illuminates it as Faith is founding oneself in God.

            you could also read my whole message instead of trying to get out of it by fisking.

          • Thanks for your non-answer.

            Good day to you!

          • Try reading what I said, there is an answer there.

          • I have no interest in trying to parse gibberish. Which is why I wished you a good day.

          • you can't argue against me so you just sneer and run?

          • How exactly is one supposed to argue against incoherent nonsense?

            You're now blocked. Good day to you!

          • Well try reading my message and addressing what I am saying. It isn't hard.

          • So the foundation for all things and the universe itself is irrational?

            The Church can explain everything and get you back home to Heaven.

            your ego can explain nothing and it can only damn you.

            Do you see the projection on your part?

          • Ficino
          • So Faith (founding oneself in God) is immoral? What?

            Why?

            How do you even have a definition for immoral by your ego alone?

            Do you mean you honestly though you were a competitor or replacement to God, and so you define moral to mean "personally convenient" and immoral to mean "personally inconvenient?" I'm just playing with you, I already know that is your view going by your stated religion.

            you find founding oneself in God to be dangerous because it gets in the way of your delusion of self-apotheosis.

          • Sample1

            Hi Nigel, how can I help? You’ve made multiple replies to many of my posts about various topics around the intertubes. I’m using this post to consolidate us in one place if you don’t mind. It’s generally a Francis friendly environment.

            What, in a sentence, is on your mind? I’ve got some time for you.

            Mike

          • Read my messages.

            That you - an outright gnostic - finds solace in Pope Francis is telling about him.

          • Sample1

            First things first. You’ve never asked me about Francis. You’ve never asked me about Gnosticism. You’ve told me what you think I think. I’ve read your messages. I’ve got time to consider one question. If you have one question, lay it on me now.

            Mike

          • I read your messages and I know your kind well as I deal with you so often.

            I have no need to question you, I already know what o need about you just from reading your evil words.

            My request is that you can the intellectual dishonesty and cowardice and read mine.

          • Sample1

            Well, I’ve never met you and you’ve previously never met me. It’s ideas and claims that usually gets my interest, I hope that’s the same with you. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes challenging to convince the other person (on either side of a talk) that it’s a discussion like that. And then personal affronts are sometimes perceived leading to a breakdown in communication.

            For instance, we could talk about the color blue and probably not ruffle each other’s feathers. But if we talk about religion or lack of religion, we have to be extra careful. Right?

            And then sometimes it’s fair to say certain topics, considering the format, are just too difficult to address cleanly and impersonally. That may be the case with us. But if you’re willing to give it a try, I would be too. If not, that’s fine.

            What do you think?

            Mike, atheist

          • VicqRuiz

            "Nigel" appears to be a drive-by poster of a particularly vicious mien. He's had a couple of goes at me here and I'm about one post away from blocking him. You know what they say about wrestling with a pig.......

          • So I am a "pig" because I challenge your ego? If you feel I hate you, it is only you trying to project your self-hatred onto me.

          • you are trying to get out of reading what I said, clearly it affected you enough to try this silly game you are playing here.

          • Sample1

            You know what we should do? Road trip together!

            Just one rule: the driver (we would alternate) controls the music.

            I’m dead serious. HMU.

            Mike

          • I would prefer not to go with you on trips out to sibera or the middle of the desert.

          • MR

            Siberia? So just another Russian troll.... Figures.

          • Is this all you have?

          • Sample1

            My loss.

            Mike

          • No, the loss for you demoniacs comes later. I am just not falling into any stupid traps here.

          • Sample1

            Falling into a stupid trap would be embarrassing!

            How do you feel about camping? I have all the gear, you bring your own bag and snacks. Sound fun?

            Mike
            PS, I also have a hibachi.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          The Council Fathers at Vatican I considered whether to say that God's existence could be "demonstrated" to another. They decided instead to say that the existence of God could be "known" by the light of unaided reason. (Denz. 1806)

          Saying that one cannot prove to another God's existence is not the same as saying that God's existence cannot be proven. Gabriel Marcel argued strongly that one cannot prove to another in many cases, since to do so would be to get the other person to see the world from your own perspective.

          For example, imagine trying to explain the inner workings of the New York Stock Exchange to an unlettered peasant from Outer Mongolia, say, one hundred years ago. Good luck, especially if you had limited time in which to do it. This would not mean that Wall Street did not exist and function as we know it does. But you could never really explain it to that peasant in terms he would understand.

          Similarly, the Church insists dogmatically that God's existence can be known by unaided reason, but she does not make the mistake of saying that such proofs can be readily understood by all or that you could somehow "force" an atheist to become a theist merely by presenting him with a proof.

          The apodictic force of a proof for God can exist in the intellect of the person who understands it, but this does not mean that another will "get" the same proof. Still, neither does this mean that others cannot study such a proof and come to that same certitude themselves.

          I have myself proposed proofs for God on Strange Notions, which I know to be convincing if one really understands them correctly. Nonetheless, I am under no delusions that all the readers of SN have really read them and come to understand them as I presented them or even that a single one of the agnostics or atheists reading them have been changed into theists!

          • Ficino

            I had mentioned Vallicella. I am not a regular reader of his blog, though I've looked at it from time to time. In one of the posts that Jim the Scott linked, Vallicella writes, " The plain truth of the matter, as it seems to me, is that nothing we know to be true rules out the existence of God. I cheerfully concede that nothing we know to be true rules it in either. Pace the doctor angelicus, one cannot rigorously prove the existence of God. One can argue for the existence of God, but not prove the existence of God."

            Vallicella slides from "rigorously prove" to simply, "prove." I don't know whether this slide matters. In any case, the "to another" qualifier in yours above is not in what I read of Vallicella. I take him to be making a different claim than that which you attribute to Vatican I. Vallicella does not seem to say, "the proof is a sound demonstration of the positive claim that God exists, but you simply fail to understand it." Rather, it sounds as though Vallicella instead is saying that arguments for God as arguments, regardless of how some individual receives them, are strong but not conclusive.

            If you are more familiar with Vallicella's work than I, can you explain his position other than the way I've taken it?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I have not read Vallicella's blog. I do not dispute the accuracy of your reading of what he says.

            But if he is saying that one cannot prove God's existence, he is flatly contradicted by Vatican Council I -- provided the distinction that I described above is understood. Vatican I dogmatically teaches that God's existence can be known by reason alone, although it was careful to avoid insisting that such proofs could be somehow "forced" on another. Still, what one normally takes as the meaning of saying that the proofs are rigorously valid and demonstrative is affirmed.

            Moreover, St. Thomas -- contrary to what you say Vallicella says -- clearly teaches that God's existence can be known with certitude by natural reason. That is the whole point of the first part of the Summa theologiae. Any competent Thomist philosopher knows this. Cf. Summa theologiae I, q. 2, art. 2, c. "Whether it can be demonstrated that God exists?" "I answer that, demonstration can be made in two ways...."

            Since the first book I wrote was on St. Thomas' proofs for God's existence, I am quite comfortable in stating the above.

          • Ficino

            I agree with what you say about Aquinas' views on the demonstrability of God's existence. It sometimes surprises me to see Catholics write that Aquinas does not proffer his Five Ways as demonstrations - as though the move from "demonstrare" in 2.2 to "probare" in 2.3 amounts to abandoning "demonstrare." This is why I was surprised by what I read in Vallicella. But I understand Jim the Scott to say that Vallicella is not a Catholic; I had thought he was one.

            I was not under any misapprehension about the position promulgated by Vatican I over whether God's existence can be known by reason. To the extend that SN may *aspire* to be a philosophy site, I don't consider conciliar decrees as of high relevance, though they are of course from the POV of clarifying Catholic doctrine. But I also acknowledge that SN is not, strictly speaking, a philosophy site but rather, one in which philosophy and various other fields are brought to bear on questions that Catholics and atheists and others discuss.

          • Jim the Scott

            Vallicella is not a Catholic Dr. B. Indeed he is a tad bit anti-Catholic but his philosophical outlook is Aristotillan.

          • OMG

            Vallicella, from maverick philosopher: https://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher_stri/2018/09/my-relation-to-catholicism.html

            "So am I a Catholic or not? Well, I am certainly a Catholic by upbringing, so I am a Catholic in what we could call a cultural or sociological sense. But it is very difficult for a philosopher to be a naive adherent of any religion, especially a religion as deeply encrusted with dogma as Roman Catholicism. He will inevitably be led to 'sophisticate' his adherence, and to the extent that he does this he will wander off into what are called 'heresies.' He will find it impossible not to ask questions. His craving for clarity and certainty will cause him to ask whether key doctrines are even intelligible, let alone true. Just what are we believing when we believe that there is one God in three divine persons? What does it even mean? Just what are we believing when we believe that there once walked on the earth a man who was fully human but also fully divine? How is it possible?
            I distance myself both from the anti-Catholic polemicists and the pro-Catholic apologists...."

          • Jim the Scott

            I am thinking of the times he bashed the Church. Yeh he denies being anti-Catholic (so does James White) but to be fair I accused him of slight (i.e. tad bit)anti-Catholicism. If that is too strong he is clearly contra-Catholic or null-Catholic.

            Bottom line he is not an orthodox Catholic. But he is good at natural theology. So he makes a good left handed witness.

            PS Don't get me started on Bill's lame objections to the Trinity.....

          • OMG

            Even those of us with similar world views sometimes misunderstand what another tries to say.

        • Existence proves God as existence is a created and contingent thing just as you are, and God is the subsistent act of "to be" Himself.

      • Sample1

        A.C. Grayling is called reasonable and competent for his technical work by “maverickphilosopher” but he isn’t happy when Grayling goes after theism.

        I’ll pass on your offer to be medicated. :D

        Mike

        • Jim the Scott

          Well the man unlike Jon Snow does NOT know nothing. That seems self evident.

          • Sample1

            No clue who that is.

            Mike

          • Jim the Scott

            Then I over-estimated your Nerd powers & pop culture Geek Powers. It won't happen again. Cheers.

    • Because nothing is nothing.

      All is created and into gent upon God because God is the uncreated, uncontingent Prime Mover.

      you are trying to get out of answering the question by claiming that nothing is either something or that you are nothing. damnation is nothingness, and damnation begins on earth, so you are personally correct that nothingness consumes you.

      you are saying that nothingness is incoherent because you go by science which is mere observation. One cannot observe nothing, so you say nothingness is absurd.

      Where is your foundation for why this observation is an absolute and what do you use to prove your observation as meaningful?

  • Jim the Scott

    I am greatful for many of the Atheists, Agnostics and religious skeptics here who have tried to argue rationally on this thread & elsewhere(you know who you are). Confronting the actual topics and trying as hard as possible not to equivocate or contruct straw men or fall into other argumentative fallacies is lovely. Just trying to be fair so you can understand as an end in itself. That is a thing of beauty. I salute you.

    Of course I nurse nothing but contempt for those Atheists (& this would extend to theists who do the same) who think Strawmen arguments and non-starters are in anyway effective or rational contra -religious polemics.

    For example if a clever and brillant Atheist formulated a strong philosophical defeater for one or many Cosmological Arguments of the existence of God he would be justified in using it against believers in a creator God or a God who is really distinct from His creation and causes it to exist. But a Pantheist would yawn at him. A Pantheist God is identical with the Universe and as such is not a creator and doesn't sustain the Universe but is really the same as the Universe. So how is a refuted Cosmological argument skin off It's back? A smart Atheist will realize this and either try to formulate philosophical defeaters that presupose a God who is identical to creation or try to argue the Universe is not a God or concious etc..he has a lot too choose from. He might retreat into skeptic mode and demand the Pantheist positivey prove his view? It would be an interesting & intelligent discussion either way.

    Now the moron New Atheist OTOH. The Goofus of the infidel community will do crazy stupid things in response to the above like try to argue if God exists then he must be distinct from creation. Or that the term "God" only means a distinct entity or Being Itself never the Universe. He might then venture into the Pantheists religion and start re-interpreting it in a manner alien to his religous tradition. In short he puts on the hat of a religious apologist to try to convert the Pantheist to Classic Theism or similar non-Pantheistic Monotheism so he can use his contra-Cosmolical polemics against him to make him an Atheist. It is a mess and it's just comic stupidity. My advice don't be that guy.

    Also don't dismiss what I am saying here because I am a Theist and at my worst kind of a jerk. I learned this lession from a kind Atheist. So don't be a Goofuss be that kind Atheist who instructed me in this lession and peace be with you regardless of what you believe.

    • Ficino

      Even though we disagree on many things, I have learned from you on this board and elsewhere, so I'm grateful too, thanks.

  • Ficino

    I first started exchanging comments with Thomists online maybe three years ago now. [edited for brevity etc] Here are some issues that I cannot pronounce are "defeaters," exactly, but they are problems with the Thomist system that I don't think have been solved, though I've seen some arguments that seek to solve them. (Side question: who is the arbiter, who shall pronounce a resolution? We all start with our private judgment, and that's the only starting point any of us has.)

    1. Analogical predication of names of God. [ETA "names" in the sense used by Aquinas, i.e. to include nouns like Goodness, etc., since "nomen" in Latin means both name and noun.] I think this threatens to annihilate discourse. It certainly threatens to render purported demonstrations as no demonstrations.

    2. The doctrine that God's essence is identical with His existence. This contravenes Aristotle. Nothing can have its essence identical with its existence. And to say that God is Existence Itself entails problematic consequences.

    3. A matter about which I have been told, but which I do not have the competence in logic to address in depth: existence is not a perfection/predicate. Perhaps others have more to say on this. But I remain impressed by the statement of a colleague, that Aquinas was one of many who was led astray by the Square of Opposition - on which questions like "Can a unicorn be a fish?" are meaningful.

    4. Difficulties with the Five Ways. I don't enumerate them now except for two: 1) Unmoved Mover/First Cause is in a genus, but God is not, so UM/FC is not religion's God; 2) outcomes in nature do not evidence a "best" in any way we can endorse with confidence.

    5. Creatures cannot have "liberum arbitrium" if the First Mover is the first mover of their motions of will.

    I don't have an alternative metaphysical system to propose. I am just a poor skeptic trying to find his way home among the Panglosses of the world. Heh heh.

    Cheers, F

    • Sample1

      Can a unicorn be a fish?

      Well, the Catholic Church has called some mammals fish to meet ancient Lenten requirements. I saw a sign in the Glastonbury Abbey kitchen explaining why beavers were considered fish along with a few other warm blooded animals that I can’t now recall, confidently (pretty sure another was a barnacle goose).

      Aristotle was pretty good, all things considered, with his animal classifications and understood some mammals were amphibious in behavior.

      So the answer is yes, a unicorn can be a fish if the Catholic Church wants it to be a fish.

      Mike

      • Rob Abney

        So you're saying that Catholics can eat unicorns on Friday?!

    • Rob Abney

      Reply to Objection 1. The reason why God has no name, or is said to be above being named, is because His essence is above all that we understand about God, and signify in word.
      I answer that, This name HE WHO IS is most properly applied to God.
      http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1013.htm#article11

    • Sample1

      Am I far off to guess that we here might be discussing some of those same points as they debated in the 13th century?

      I don’t think it’s far off to guess that but those in the 13th century were unable to debate 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st century points.

      One question I ponder is whether points in the 66th century will be as qualitatively diverse in the centuries immediately preceding it as they have been in the last nine or ten centuries for us.

      Information exchange between organisms evolves. Language without literacy is a place humanity once occupied. The question is what, if anything, will evolve after literacy to exchange information? How will our understanding of reality be affected? Or do we already occupy a state of being sufficient to address anything?

      Mike
      Edit done: spelling

  • Rudy R

    As I see it, there isn’t an equivocation on the physicists meaning of “nothing”, rather, there is a presupposition that there was never not something. Theists have yet to prove that “nothing” was before the Big Bang.

    • Jim the Scott

      Actually with the exception of the Kalam Cosmological Argument(of which I am agnostic as are many Thomist with the exception of Oderberg) all historic Cosmological Arguments presuppose for argument's sake a past eternal Universe that has always existed.

      The point is when Theist is taking about "Nothing" we really mean "no-thing" and not a something called nothing by equivocation. There clearly is an equivocation by philosophically illiterate physicists even if there are no gods.

      God is a philosophical question not a scientific one. No and's, if's or but's. Trying to prove or disprove the existence of God with science and not philosophy is like trying to prove or disprove the existence of a Higgs Boson by digging a fossil record and not using a Large Hadron Collider.

      It's called a category mistake.

      • Rudy R

        My point was directed to the theme of the OP, that is, when you talk about “no thing”, it is not only in the philosophical realm, but is a scientific claim as well, so naturalists (physicists) have a say in the matter.

        • Jim the Scott

          >My point was directed to the theme of the OP, that is, when you talk about “no thing”, it is not only in the philosophical realm,

          It is entirely in the philosophical realm even if there are no gods. When Theists or Philosophers (the Philosopher can be Atheists or Agnostic BTW) talk about "no-thing" they mean total absence of being. Take Everything and subtract it from itself. Not some quantum Vacuum, Hartle/Hawking State or Zero Point Energy or some other Something that is called "Nothing" by equivocation.

          > but is a scientific claim as well, so naturalists (physicists) have a say in the matter.

          They have no say in the matter at all. That is like saying Evolutionary Biologists have a say in the finding of a Higgs Boson & unless one can be dug up in a fossil bed it has no meaning. Science, especially Physics gives us a mere quantitative description of the natural world nothing more. To go beyond that into the qualitative and metaphysical description of the world requires philosophy regardless if you come to Theistic conclusions or not.

          This is Positivism/Scientism (not to be confused with Science)on the brain again. A self referential philosophy that fails the test of itself.
          https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1174/

          If you believe it you might as well tell me you believe the Cosmos was created in 6 literal days and be done with it. That is just as silly.

          • Rudy R

            It’s in the philosophical realm that there was something before the Big Bang. And that opens the door to a natural explanation.

          • Jim the Scott

            It doesn't matter if there was something before the Big Bang. That has nothing to do with Classic Cosmological Arguments for the existence of God(which to remind you all but one i.e the Kalam, the weak one, presuppose a universe with an infinite past). Nor does it negate the philosophical meaning of the word Nothing. Nor does it make God a scientific question. God is a philosophical question.

            Here so you can get on the same page as the rest of us.
            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/07/so-you-think-you-understand.html

            (Also the Ancient Rabbis in their commentaries on Genesis 1:1 concluded "God went on creating worlds and destroying worlds until He created this one". This is not some proof the Rabbis where given some divine revelation on the formation of the planets or past eternal nature of the universe. This merely shows a past eternal universe is not incompatible with traditional western Theism).

          • Sample1

            Rudy is exactly right. Philosophical questions open the door to natural explanations.

            Mike

          • Jim the Scott

            Rudy is 100% incorrect even if there are no gods.

            That is positivism/scientism dogma pure and simple. Such a view is not itself a scientific claim nor can it be defended philosophically without the self contradictions of scientism coming into play.

            The concept of "Nothing" is a philosophical not scientific concept here. You cannot scientifically analyze "nothing" since there is nothing to analyze by definition.

          • Sample1

            Are you 100% sure about that?

            It seems to me that for your claim to have some corrective merit Rudy would have had to say a little more such as: ...and excludes all other kinds of inquiry or explanations.

            Mike

          • Jim the Scott

            >Are you 100% sure about that?

            I am about as reasonably certain about it as I am 1+1=2.

            >It seems to me that for your claim to have some corrective merit Rudy would have had to say a little more such as: ...and excludes all other kinds of inquiry or explanations.

            The question of "nothing" is a philosophical one & not a scientific one. You cannot test "nothing" because there is nothing to test. If you test seemingly empty space for Zero Point Energy or test for particles at the atomic level you are testing for something. Not nothing. Krauss and Hawkings are philosophical incompetents even if there are no gods.

            To determine what is a scientific question does not even involve science but the Philosophy of Science. The idea everything is subject to science is not a scientific claim but a philosophical one and it's incoherence is as predictable as math.

          • Sample1

            You didn’t address my question which might change your answer to my first.

            Mike

          • Jim the Scott

            Then you lost me.

          • Sample1

            Ironically, it looks like you are doing exactly what you claim Rudy to be doing (which he isn’t). You’re not allowing scientific exploration of philosophical questions. You sir, appear to be a believer in philosoph-ism! :-D

            Mike

          • Jim the Scott

            >Ironically, it looks like you are doing exactly what you claim Rudy to be doing (which he isn’t).

            No he is clearly doing it & I am not.

            > You’re not allowing scientific exploration of philosophical questions.

            That is like saying I am not allowing scientific exploration of math questions if I insist 1+1 cannot equal 3. As if some experiment in a lab could cause us to conclude on Tuesdays 1+1=3? Sorry but that is just insane. Science can only explore scientific issues. Naturally you will need the philosophy of science to determine if something is a scientific issue or not.

            Science, especially Physics gives us a mere quantitative description of the natural world nothing more. It does not give us a qualitative one. For Science to go beyond that into the qualitative and metaphysical description of the world requires philosophy regardless if you come to Theistic conclusions or not. Otherwise category mistakes abound.

            How does one do a quantitative description of "Nothing" and by "Nothing" I mean as it is defined by Philosophy? "No-thing" is an absence of being. The only quantitative description you can give is Zero.

            You can't do a scientific analysis on "nothing" as there is nothing to analyze.
            Figuring out the nature of Space/Time or the Quantum Vacuum or Zero Point Energy is not the act of scientifically examining "nothing". You are examining something not nothing.

            To claim you can do scientific exploration of philosophical questions is dogmatic Scientism. You don't agree? Well then the burden of proof is on you. Can you provide me one example of a scientific analysis of a philosophical question? What experiments have been performed on this philosophical question? What is it's chemical composition? Did someone find out the atomic weight of the Ontological argument? What does that look like?

            OTOH what Philosophical defense can you give to justify your proposition
            "scientific exploration of philosophical questions is valid" that would not be subject to the same philosophical defeaters one traditionally employs against Positivism/Scientism? Such as what science can be used to explore this proposition?

            Well Mike? Your move.

          • Sample1

            Are you claiming mathematics does not open doors to scientific explanation?

            I know there are lots of things you want to talk about and maybe we can visit them one at a time.

            Mike

          • Jim the Scott

            >Are you claiming mathematics does not open doors to scientific explanation?

            Where did I say that?

            >I know there are lots of things you want to talk about and maybe we can visit them one at a time.

            I thought we where taking about your claim ""scientific exploration of philosophical questions is valid"?

            At best it's too vague at worst just re-packaged Positivism/Scientism that Rudy seemed to be advocating.

          • Rudy R

            Again, you miss my point. When I state there could have been something before the Big Bang, I’m stating there was never “not nothing”. Theists presuppose there was nothing before something, that is, the default position is nothing and reject the default position as something. It is equally logical to hold the default position of nothing or something, but to reject the default position of something is to take a scientific position, because it is in the realm of the natural. We know the natural world (something) exists, but we do not know “nothing” is even possible and anything more than just a concept.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Again, you miss my point. When I state there could have been something before the Big Bang, I’m stating there was never “not nothing”.

            That is a double negative and can only mean nothing exists. Which is self evidently false.

            My Point is Theists can accept that the Cosmos in one form or another always existed and it doesn't really affect the classic cosmological arguments. Aquinas didn't believe reason or science could prove creation had a beginning. He believed you could only know that by divine revelation alone. So the 5 ways presuppose there was aways a world.

            >Theists presuppose there was nothing before something, that is, the default position is nothing and reject the default position as something.

            You are grossly misinformed and no doubt that being because you have been arguing with too many Fundamentalists. Historically philosophical Theists have always (the Kalam excepted) treated the Cosmos as something that always existed in some form or another. From Philo of Alexandra to Ibn Sia to Aquinas.

            > It is equally logical to hold the default position of nothing or something, but to reject the default position of something is to take a scientific position, because it is in the realm of the natural.

            I don't think so since "Nothing" is not natural. It is beyond nature since no nature exists if we have a true nothing. Of course I am correctly assuming the correct philosophical understanding of nothing as absence of being. So if there is a true nothing before creation (creation doesn't have to be the Big Bang BTW FYI) it is outside of nature. Nature has being while nothing does not.

            > We know the natural world (something) exists, but we do not know “nothing” is even possible and anything more than just a concept.

            You are correct. Our natural knowledge either in terms of Science or philosophy cannot know if "Nothing" is possible before creation. Aquinas and all the ancient theistic Philosophers agree with you. But it is a meaningless speculation to Classic Theists. We are not ID supporters or other clowns who think God is a scientific question. God is a philosophical question alone.

            Cheers.

      • VicqRuiz

        God is a philosophical question not a scientific one. No and's, if's or but's.

        I completely agree with that, Jim, provided that God is considered strictly as an immaterial, spiritual entity.

        However, when the claim is made that God reaches into the natural world to perform actions that affect 3-D space and time, then that claim is properly testable by science and subject to scientific scrutiny.

        • Jim the Scott

          >I completely agree with that, Jim, provided that God is considered strictly as an immaterial, spiritual entity.

          That is what God and I am a strong Atheist in regards to belief in any other such "god".

          >However, when the claim is made that God reaches into the natural world to perform actions that affect 3-D space and time, then that claim is properly testable by science and subject to scientific scrutiny.

          Nope! This is still dogmatic scientism and this assumption of yours that all causal phenomina must be testable is not itself testable or provable. Even in science when we get near the singularity in the Big Bang the Laws of Physics as we know them break down so how can you do science? Science is limited in what it can know about the natural world much less the Supernatural.

          Of course you already admitted God is an immaterial & spiritual entity so further invoking of science is tedious. Formulate Philosophical defeaters or forget it. Your polemics will be doomed to be non-starters.

        • However, when the claim is made that God reaches into the natural world to perform actions that affect 3-D space and time, then that claim is properly testable by science and subject to scientific scrutiny.

          This is not necessarily true, something of which Karl Popper was aware:

          Every experimental physicist knows those surprising and inexplicable apparent 'effects' which in his laboratory can perhaps even be reproduced for some time, but which finally disappear without trace. Of course, no physicist would say that in such a case that he had made a scientific discovery (though he might try to rearrange his experiments so as to make the effect reproducible). Indeed the scientifically significant physical effect may be defined as that which can be regularly reproduced by anyone who carries out the appropriate experiment in the way prescribed. No serious physicist would offer for publication, as a scientific discovery, any such 'occult effect', as I propose to call it – one for whose reproduction he could give no instructions. The 'discovery' would be only too soon rejected as chimerical, simply because attempts to test it would lead to negative results. (It follows that any controversy over the question whether events which are in principle unrepeatable and unique ever do occur cannot be decided by science: it would be a metaphysical controversy.) (The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 23-24)

          The limitation here is that of mechanism, which can be thought of as a way to communicate scientific discovery which relies on the recipient only having competence in the manipulation of symbols according to rules. This isn't actually true as any experimental scientist will tell you, but that aspect of doing science has long been neglected.

          There is a kind of repeatable phenomenon which is not captured by mechanism. One would have to capture this by something like purpose, which is often accomplished in different contexts with different strategies and devices. What tells you that phenomena A, B, and C are connected is not that some differential equation explains them all. Instead, one or more agents are consistently pursuing some purpose and given the variegated contexts, A, B, and C were good choices for pursuing that purpose.

          A more technical treatment of the above two paragraphs can be found in Gregory W. Dawes' Theism and Explanation. Note that he is an atheist and isn't aware of any extant theistic explanations which qualify as explaining anything. However, he rejects the presupposition that all true explanations are mechanistic / nomological. You've given zero reason to require such a presupposition, but I suspect you are presupposing it nonetheless.

  • VicqRuiz

    Are you under the impression that I cannot see a gnostic or devil worshipper? That I cannot see nihilism and marxism? Do you think this is a lazy path to Heaven where you will be "saved."

    I am not the topic and the only thing I care about is the truth. you are the topic, and you have turned this world into a terrible place
    through service to your dark master. Any knavery you use to push world revolution, all because you believe overthrowing God's order will make you into a surrogate for God.

    You don't have any idea who I am or what I believe in. But you can see what I have posted anywhere on Disqus, any time, just by clicking on my name. If you think you can find any Marxism or devil worship there, I challenge you to look for it and post it as a reply to this comment.

    Please, intellectual cowardice is embarassing for me to witness.

    Anyone who hides his own posting history and does not allow responses on his own blog ought to take a good hard look in the mirror before accusing others of "cowardice". Go get stuffed.

  • VicqRuiz

    You are blocked as of now. Obviously you will view this as some sort of badge of honor.

    I have never used the old wheeze "I'd rather be in hell than be in heaven with some of the Christians I know." But in your case, I will make a one time exception.

    Your attitude and language has probably hardened many skeptics against Christianity, and against Catholicism in particular. If your faith is in fact the true one, you will be called to answer for that one day.

    • Eternal suffering is not something to joke about. Do try to escape it.

      My job is to inform, not convince. I only hope my words are hard enough to smash your ego.

  • Sample1

    Who is an excellent theologian and how is that determined?

    Mike

    • Rob Abney

      Off the top of my head, it would be someone who understands what we can know from the natural world and also what has been revealed supernaturally, and how those two ways of knowing interact for reality.

      • Sample1

        Martin Luther is listed as a great theologian in a quick search, with Ignatius of Loyola in the same list.

        But plenty of Catholics think he’s a burning heretic. Can one be a great theologian but also wrong?

        What do you think? Is Luther a great (excellent) theologian?

        Mike
        Edit done

        • Rob Abney

          Here's a booklet discussing Luther https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=7260

          Protestants who idealize Martin Luther urge his supposed sanctity as an argument in favor of the Protestant Reformation. To meet that argument Catholics have no choice but to produce evidence that Luther was not a holy man at all. Catholics argue that one who claims to be commissioned by God to reveal Christ to a degenerate world should himself exhibit a Christ-like life. But Luther did not; and it is inconceivable that such a type of man as he should have been chosen by God to reform the Church of Christ.

          I would say that a great/excellent theologian is also a saint, such as Ignatius, and John Paul II, and Thomas Aquinas, etc..

          • Sample1

            Ok. Only Christian saints are excellent theologians or are the saints in other faiths included? I’m thinking of Muslim saints for instance.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Name a muslim saint and we'll discuss him.

          • Sample1

            Not familiar enough with the Muslim saints to discuss them. Only mentioned because sainthood seemed to your criterion for an excellent theologian.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Who do you consider a great theologian? Do you consider Stephen Hawking a theologian?

          • Sample1

            Hawking was a scientist not a theologian. His opinions about the universe were informed by science not shaped by theology.

            That’s why the title of the OP is a bit strange. He may also have been lousy at a number of other subjects. So what? Had he been a theologian the title would have made sense.

            I think there is a difference between someone who claims to study and know about attributes of deities or divinity (theologians) and those who find no use for those attributes in their own studies. Hawking was the latter. And finding no use in theology doesn’t make one a theologian (lousy or otherwise).

            There are lots of schools churning out theology degrees. I’ve no idea what makes one an excellent theologian. There are lists online of famous theologians, I’m just not sure what makes one theologian mediocre and another excellent.

            Mike
            Edit done

          • Rob Abney

            You asked what makes a great theologian, but it is my opinion that we are all theologians, and we range from lousy to great. We are also all philosophers and scientists, again with the same range of expertise.
            I read the first chapter in Hawking's book, he seems to not know philosophy or theology very well but he feels free to give conclusions about theological and philosophical questions anyway.

          • Sample1

            That’s one way to answer. For me it’s logic doesn’t comport with how we live our lives.

            Are you an electrician because you stripped plastic and wired up an appliance? Am I a skydiver because I jumped off a roof? A carpenter for interlocking a wooden floor? A cardiologist because I’ve given someone aspirin?

            Theologian, scientist, philosopher, are words with top level definitions. If you choose sixth and seventh level abstractions, that’s your prerogative but we’ll find ourselves not communicating well.

            I haven’t read Hawking’s final book and I’m not going to doubt your impression. What I’ve understood from him and others in his discipline is that theology is not needed for the success of his work. In that sense, I don’t see him making conclusions about theology in theology work rather his work conclusively doesn’t need theology anymore than it needs a banana.

            Mike

          • Sample1

            I think what makes an excellent theologian is when other theologians say that their theological work is excellent.

            What’s interesting to me is whether a Muslim or Jewish theologian would place similar values of excellence on each other’s work.

            I don’t see that so much in science where the work transcends opinion into universal fact.

            I suppose one could say the same thing goes on with theology. Perhaps Muslim and Jewish theologies are opinions and Catholic theology is universal fact.

            Is that your position? If so, how would you know when many theological claims pertain to an inaccessible afterlife? This is when faith is needed. In that way it isn’t like science whose work is evident now, at least in principle.

            Mike
            /rambling

          • Rob Abney

            How do you determine that what is evident now in science will be evident again in the future? Probably by using philosophical or theological reasoning, not science.
            We determine that the afterlife is real by using philosophical reasoning to determine that the human soul is immortal, we use theological reasoning to determine what that life will be like.

          • Sample1

            For sure not theology or anything approaching absolutes in philosophy.

            We can say one is educated when he or she admits they know little and the only certainty we have is doubt.

            I’m not one for the idea that from an armchair alone can reality be understood. At some point you have to walk outside and investigate. To date, the tools of science provide a reliability not found in other methods of inquiry.

            Here we simply disagree I presume.

            Mike

          • Sample1

            @rob_abney:disqus

            Or to put it another way, if in the future evolution is discovered that isn’t Darwinian or a star’s orbit doesn’t match predictions that’s not a defeating worry for science because the method’s fundamental principle is that it’s error correcting.

            What would be surprising is if one day angels were found pushing the moons of Jupiter.

            Should that day ever come, I’ll pick up a book on theology.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            What if the sun doesn't "rise" tomorrow, how will science error-correct for that event?
            Theology has it covered already, as we read at mass today:
            MK 13:24-32
            Jesus said to his disciples:
            "In those days after that tribulation
            the sun will be darkened,
            and the moon will not give its light,
            and the stars will be falling from the sky,
            and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

            "And then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in the clouds'
            with great power and glory,
            and then he will send out the angels
            and gather his elect from the four winds,
            from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.

          • David Nickol

            It is at best a stretch to call the above theology. Also, it is basically imagery (apocalyptic and eschatological) popular at the time. It is questionable whether those who used such imagery meant for it to be taken literally. And of course we know that the stars are never going to fall from the sky. Here's an interesting short essay by N. T. Wright that touches on some of the issues.Here's a brief quote:

            The gospel passages about “the Son of Man coming on the clouds” (Mark 13:26, 14:62, for example) are about Jesus’ vindication, his “coming” to heaven from earth. The parables about a returning king or master (for example, Luke 19:11-27) were originally about God returning to Jerusalem, not about Jesus returning to earth. This, Jesus seemed to believe, was an event within space-time history, not one that would end it forever.

          • Rob Abney

            Here's a more excellent theologian commenting on that passage. No need to even consider the non-Catholic "left Behind" philosophy.
            Augustine, de Civ. Dei, xx, 19: For then shall Satan be unchained, and work through Antichrist in all his power, wonderfully indeed, but falsely. But a doubt is often raised whether the Apostle said "signs and lying wonders," because he is to deceive mortal sense, by phantoms, so as to appear to do what he does not, or because those wonders themselves, even though true, are to turn men aside to lies, because they will not believe that any power but a Divine power could do them, being ignorant of the power of Satan, especially when he shall have received such power as he never had before. But for whichever reason it is said, they shall be deceived by those signs and wonders who deserve to be deceived.
            Augustine, Epist., cxcix, 11: For since it was said by the Angels to the Apostles, "He shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven," [Acts 1:11] rightly do we believe that He will come not only in the same body, but on a cloud, since He is to come as He went away, and a cloud received Him as He was going.
            Augustine, de Trin., i, 13: For the vision of the Son of Man is shewn even to the bad, but the vision of the form of God to the pure in heart alone, "for they shall see God." [Matt 5:8] And because the wicked cannot see the Son of God, as He is in the form of God, equal to the Father, and at the same time both just and wicked are to see Him as Judge of the quick and dead, before Whom they shall be judged, it was necessary that the Son of Man should receive power to judge. Concerning the execution of which power, there is immediately added, "And then shall He send He angels."
            https://dhspriory.org/thomas/CAMark.htm

          • Sample1

            I wanted to take this comment as good natured dry humor but I don’t think it is.

            Rob, your reply is amazing but for reasons you may not have intended.

            You’ve got your mind made up. “Theology has it covered,” you said. Why then, even ask me about how science might proceed?

            As Feynman once said, “I’m not frightened by not knowing...I’d rather not know than have answers which may be wrong.”

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            You write as if I'm indifferent to the truth, I'm not. I trust science but not to tell me answers that it cannot know. I trust revelation to tell me answers that I could not know any other way.

          • Sample1

            I know you’re not indifferent to the truth nor do you distrust science.

            But when you say theology already has a hypothetical situation answered and science does not, well that doesn’t exactly harmonize with the first paragraph.

            If the sun didn’t rise that doesn’t mean science doesn’t have an answer. We’d have to collect information about the event. Perhaps then an answer would come. Or perhaps not. But not having an answer doesn’t mean the scientific method is a necessary failure. At that point we say we don’t know and now the work begins. We don’t substitute an answer where there isn’t one. You’re saying you would.

            If you’re saying there are questions not answerable by science, then I’m with you. But the sun not rising isn’t necessarily one of them unless you’re positing a hypothetical to exclude science.

            Then again, if your hypothetical explanation is not scientific, at some point it will take reason to understand and when those reasons comport with evidence, even unnatural evidence, then science will adapt. Until then, it’s just a hypothetical without evidence.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Mike, How will science adapt to unnatural evidence?
            In my view of reality unnatural is supernatural and the only way to know about it is through revelation. We need to know what sources of revelation are reliable, and of course I think we have a reliable source.

          • Sample1

            If angels are observed pushing around moons, we would have to be open to reconsidering current scientific explanations for motion.

            Yes, I know that you believe you have reliable sources of revelation.

            Is it based on authority? If not, how are religious revelations from other faiths rejected?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            If not, how are religious revelations from other faiths rejected?

            Because they are inconsistent with good philosophical reasoning. So they end up being faith alone.
            You'll never observe an angel pushing a moon, if you did then that would be a natural event, angels are supernatural.

          • Sample1

            What good philosophical reasoning exists in Catholicism that is absent outside Catholicism?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Catholic: The world is intelligible and ordered, God intercedes at times with miracles but for the vast majority of events there are natural causes with God as the cause of causes.
            Islam: God intercedes in every event that occurs, He is the cause of every event.

            Consider this book also, https://www.amazon.com/Truth-Religion-Plurality-Religions-Unity/dp/0020641400/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1542772168&sr=8-1&keywords=truth+in+religion

          • Sample1

            Well, your Catholic/Islam example is theology. I was asking about philosophy.

            Or are you saying any philosophy that isn’t interwoven with theology is importantly deficient?

            I think it’s interesting that your church does not have a philosophy. Shouldn’t such a thing be right in the Church’s wheelhouse? I see a couple avenues to take: 1.) It’s hard; 2.) It isn’t needed.

            If 1, why is it hard considering the Church’s supposed power? If 2, then how can the cry of philosophical ignorance among new atheists be warranted?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            That the world is intelligible is philosophical reasoning not theological, or are you just triggered when God is included in the explanation? The reasoning is found in Aristotle's Metaphysics.
            No, I'm saying that any theology that isn't interwoven with sound reasoning is not revealing truth.
            The Catholic church has the duty to use sound reasoning, I'm not sure what you mean that it doesn't have a philosophy, but even the smartest man in the world did not always use sound reasoning based upon his first chapter conclusions, so it seems the Church's power isn't always effective.

          • Sample1

            When I think of philosophy I think of Socrates who taught Plato to question everything.

            When I think of theology, I think of claimed knowledge by revelation where questioning is absent: dogmas.

            The Catholic Church has no official philosophy. Not adopting Thomism officially belies a fear of error. I find that uninspiring for a one true holy church but quite reasonable for a mere human institution.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            In your opinion you cannot question dogma, why not? Many Catholics do, and with sound reasoning they then accept those dogmas as true. But many excatholics don’t just question the dogmas they reject them for various reasons which may be unreasonable. Which dogma do you have questions about?

          • Sample1

            Having a question about an incontrovertible dogma is semantically distinct from an act of questioning an incontrovertible dogma.

            You can falsify this distinction by simply quoting a Holy Father who questions the dogma of the Trinity.

            1. Pope X has questions about the dogma of the Trinity.
            2. Pope Y questions the incontrovertible dogma of the Trinity.

            X is philosophically sound. Y is theologically unsound.

            I hope this clarifies Socrates’ concise principle to question everything and why such an aphorism is necessarily absent for dogmatic Catholic assumptions.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            At what point do you halt the infinite regress of questioning everything, surely at some point you must recognize truth.

          • Sample1

            Well, I’d say you’re doing exactly what I do. You’re continuing to question. Bravo. At what point will you recognize the truth of my modus operandi?

            Questioning everything does not mean questioning infinitely when satisfactory answers are found. I don’t question that my door handle turns right to open. It did that yesterday, the mechanism hasn’t broken, I’m satisfied with not trying to turn left for the rest of its functioning lifespan.

            Accepting something as true has logical/philosophical/theological dimensions and a colloquial/cosmopolitan dimension.

            What I’m not about to do is unconditionally accept as true that Joseph Smith received golden tablets, that Muhammad rode on a Pegasus or that someone named Jesus levitated into the atmosphere and beyond.

            Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

            Thank you for the question.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            I wasn’t questioning, I was stating incredulity.
            But I agree that you shouldn’t question when a satisfying answer is found.
            Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven as a divine being, levitation was not required. You should question your correct understanding of the event.

          • David Nickol

            Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven as a divine being, levitation was not required. You should question your correct understanding of the event.

            What is your understanding of the event? Jesus was by any account a physical being (although perhaps physical in a different sense or way as before his resurrection). If he had not been subject to gravity, he would not have been able to walk. So why do you object to the word "levitate"?

            We know now that heaven is not up, and "ascending" up into the clouds, or through the clouds and on, and on, will not cause you to arrive eventually in heaven. The description of Jesus ascending into the clouds on his way to heaven was written in terms of a cosmology we no longer believe in, and fact know not to be true. So here is a question. What did the alleged witnesses to the resurrection (in Acts) actually see?

            When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

            Is Luke describing something he did not see himself, or perhaps something that nobody actually saw, but nevertheless describing a factual occurrence—that Jesus disappeared from Earth and went to heaven? Or did God actually cause the followers of Jesus to see him rising up into the clouds to conform with their idea of heaven, which we now know to be false?

            Wikipedia says the following:

            Theologian James Dunn describes the ascension as at best a puzzle and at worst an embarrassment for an age which no longer conceives of a physical heaven located above the Earth. The cosmology of the author of Luke-Acts was quite different: his age believed in a three-part cosmos with the heavens above, a flat earth centered on Jerusalem in the middle, and the underworld below. Heaven was separated from the earth by the firmament, the visible sky, a solid inverted bowl where God's palace sat on pillars in the celestial sea. Humans looking up from earth saw the floor of heaven, made of clear blue lapis-lazuli (Exodus 24:9-10), as was God's throne (Ezekiel 1:26).

            Ascension stories were fairly common around the time of Jesus and the gospel-authors, signifying the deification of a noteworthy person (usually a Roman Emperor), and in Judaism as an indication of divine approval. Another function of heavenly ascent was as a mode of divine revelation reflected in Greco-Roman, early Jewish, and early Christian literary sources, in which particular individuals with prophetic or revelatory gifts are thought to have experienced a heavenly journey during which they learned cosmic and divine secrets.

          • Rob Abney

            I find satisfying answers to all your questions in the Summa, third part, question 57. (I posted an excerpt but it was detected as spam).

          • Ficino

            ST 3a 57 extends for over eight pages in my BAC edition. An answer to David from that Quaestio would contain your comments on particular passages, showing how they either provide information that he seeks or rebut his explicit or implicit doubts of the veracity of the story in the gospels/Acts and his criticisms of the traditional doctrine.

            I think David would join me in inviting you to do this. Pasting a link to an online translation of Aquinas, BTW, would not amount to offering an answer.

            Aquinas' conception of the universe differs only in details, not essentially, from that of the author of Acts.

            In 3a 57.4 c, St. Thomas makes clear that he believes that Jesus' ascension was a change in location from a lower to a higher place spatially: "to the extent that some bodies participate more perfectly in divine goodness, to that extent they are higher in the order of bodies, which is a local ordering/ordering by location ("ordo localis"). From this we see that bodies that are more formal (i.e. are constituted more wholly by form with less of matter, e.g. angel compared to bird) are naturally higher, as is clear from the Philosopher in Physics IV and in De Caelo II; for through form, each and every body has a share in divine being, as is clear in Physics I. A body, however, participates more in divine goodness through glory than any natural body does through the form of its nature. And among the other glorious bodies, it is made clear that the body of Christ shines with a greater glory. From which it is a most apt consequence for him that he be set on high above all bodies."

            Aristotle in the passages Aquinas quotes talks about physical location. Bodies that are more divine, like the eternal heavenly bodies, are farthest from earth, which as the densest, composed of earth, is at the center of the universe. "Up" in Aristotle designates the parts of the universe, the heavens, farthest from the center, the earth. Since the glorified Christ has a body and is not a disembodied soul, Aquinas is teaching that his body is in a sphere farther from earth than all other bodies. Jesus' glorious body gets the power to be in heaven or above the heaven from his beatified soul, ad 4.

            Aquinas notes in ad 1 that God is not contained in the heaven but contains the heaven, so there is no part of heaven higher than God. In ad 2 he adds that God creates miracles by which Jesus' glorified body can be in more than one location at one time. The motion upward of Jesus' glorified body is not forced [as would be the case if his body were not glorified], so it's not against nature that his body is above heaven, ad 4.

            One of David's points is that the doctrine of the ascension presumes an archaic conception of the universe. The point made by Dunn in the passage quoted by David is not refuted by Aquinas in ST 3a 57, or if you think it is, you need to demonstrate that Dunn is refuted.

          • Rob Abney

            My discussion with sample1 was about philosophy supporting theology, in your opinion is the Ascension a philosophical or theological event?
            As for David, in my experience he rarely uses Aquinas as a source, he prefers historical criticism.
            If you want to engage here in the combox, I’m glad to, I enjoy reading your comments, but as an amateur Thomist I don’t want to dig into a lot of details if we aren’t planning ongoing discussion.

          • Ficino

            Hello Rob, as far as I know, we don't have reason to think that the ascension was an event. But I'd say that doctrines about it are theological. There is a conception of the physical universe that seems to be held by the gospel writers and commentators through much of Christian history, and as far as I know, much in that conception has been falsified. It doesn't follow that the stories or the doctrine have been falsified; I only fail to see justified grounds for affirming their truth.

            I too enjoy writing and reading about Aquinas, but I don't know if we can pull much else out of the saint's writings that would be material for ongoing discussion about the ascension. I am fine with leaving this at the point of agreement that Aquinas doesn't supply what would be necessary to answer all the question/s raised by David two days ago.

          • Rob Abney

            We do have reasons, good reasons, to consider the ascension an actual event. Jesus speaks of expecting the event and then the event is described in different gospels and then spoken of as fact in Ephesians and Timothy, not too far removed from the event.
            I don’t agree that St. Thomas is incomplete on the subject, he seems to supply the understanding of “how” it could occur. You’ll have to convince me of his deficiencies on explaining where He ascended to.

            thus a heavenly place which is the highest of places is becomingly due to spiritual substances, since they are highest in the order of substances.

          • Ficino

            Hi Rob, my focus in participating in SN is mostly on questions that bear fairly directly on philosophical topics, so I won't get into the NT further, at least not now. As to St. Thomas on the ascension, I understood David to be suggesting that the event is described in ways that presuppose a geocentric universe. You pointed to Aquinas 3a 57 as supplying answers to David's questions, but since Aquinas adopts Aristotle's description of a geocentric universe, I don't think what Aquinas wrote addresses David.

            Are you familiar with Aquinas' teachings about the separated or spiritual substances? His descriptions of them are a meld of Christian teachings about angels and Aristotelian teachings about the unmoved movers of the various spheres of heaven. The piece of text that you quoted is roughly consistent with the world view that Dunn described in the passage that David thought posed problems for a literal construal of the ascension story. Aquinas' description of "how" the ascension occurred is tied to that now falsified (no?) conception of the universe.

            We can of course say that religious language need not be construed literally, and Catholics can say that their doctrines as promulgated by the magisterium and in tradition, not literal construals of particular passages of scripture, are what are normative. But at that point we're squarely in the face of theological claims.

          • Rob Abney

            I referenced the NT for historical evidence not theology or philosophy.
            I've read about the ascension often and other similar biblical events about "going to heaven" and have never considered it or the others to rely on a geocentric view of the universe.
            As I read Aquinas it never occurs to me that he relies on the faulty views of the universe, it doesn't affect his explanations. But I'll be glad to read any problems that you point out.
            I wonder if we read him differently with me being open to him being correct and you maybe not? Was there a time when you were studying him that you saw his explanations as accurate?

          • Ficino

            I brought up Aquinas because you told David that ST 3a 57 answers all his questions to your satisfaction. It seemed to me that Aquinas does not answer all David's questions, because Aquinas shares with the author of Acts a view that Jesus ascended to a physical place "up" as far as you can go from earth. David seemed to be asking, what are we to make of the story, what are the eyewitnesses supposed to have seen, if in fact there is no absolute "up" of heaven in relation to earth.

            I studied some Aquinas in college, but I have delved into him in much greater depth over the last two or three years, since his work has affinities with Aristotle and other figures in ancient philosophy, which I work on. I think that much in Aquinas is problematized by the scientific views that he inherited and on which he relied. People often say, sift out the faulty Greek science and just keep the metaphysical gold of A-T. But take out some of the assumptions of Aristotelian physics, and you really don't have A-T anymore.

            I don't agree that Aquinas' reliance on faulty views of the universe and nature don't affect his explanations. My spiel on ST 3a 57.4 pointed to a case where they do affect his explanation. In other areas I think the philosophy of nature has even bigger consequences for his explanations. It is a lot to go into, but I will give some examples if you're interested in pursuing the point.

            Thanks for the discussion, F

          • Jim the Scott

            You disappoint me Fucino. I expect this nonsense from Sample1 or Michael and the other Gnus but I thought you would know better? You read both Holy Writ and Philosophy from a Fundamentalist & Protestant mindset. It is tedious and I don’t care for it.

            >Aquinas shares with the author of Acts a view that Jesus ascended to a physical place "up" as far as you can go from earth…

            Yeh this invites my standard mocking response. I might have visited it on you originally over at David Armstrong’s blog(I’ve done it here a few times)? It goes as follows “So when the psalmists says the Lord enfolds us in his wings you imagine God is suppose to be a literal Cosmic Chicken?” Yeh only Gene Roddenberry of happy memory was the Great Bird of the Galaxy not the Almighty. Even if Aquinas took up as the literal place where Heaven is I don’t see the problem? You have not explained how up not being a real thing effects the argument you just assume it. You pronounce bad science and avoid giving any philosophy. Bad form sir.

            >I studied some Aquinas in college,

            But clearly no scholastic philosophy. I believe you said so yourself?

            >but I have delved into him in much greater depth over the last two or three years, since his work has affinities with Aristotle and other figures in ancient philosophy, which I work on.

            Yes you can exegete Aristotle and interpret the texts Aquinas cites from him differently then the Angelica Doctor but so what? What does any of that have to do with Aquinas’ actual philosophical arguments? It does not matter if you interpret Aristotle differently then Aquinas or challenge his interpretation. I don't care if you built a time machine went back and go it from Aristotle's mouth what he really meant. Aquinas and the Church are not giving us the divinely inspired infallible interpretation of Aristotle's original meaning or intent. We are giving a philosophical argument for the existence of God. Formulate an actual philosophical defeater for the specific argument or you are wasting everyone’s time. Interpreting Aristotle differently from Aquinas does not add up to an actual philosophical defeater to any of his arguments.

            >I think that much in Aquinas is problematized by the scientific views that he inherited and on which he relied.

            Which is Positivism/Scientism rearing it’s ugly head and like a Protestant arguing Sola Scriptura with a Catholic you can’t let go of it even thought both views are false by their own standard. Aquinas’ philosophy is not effected by science. That is like saying the hunt for a transition fossil is effected by experiments done in a particle accelerator.

            >People often say, sift out the faulty Greek science and just keep the metaphysical gold of A-T. But take out some of the assumptions of Aristotelian physics, and you really don't have A-T anymore.

            That is a positive claim on your part thus the burden of proof is solely on you. AT metaphysics is compatible with all science across the board. Faulty Greek Physics, Newton, Einstein, Heisenberg and even String Theory. How any of these sciences overthrows whatever is changed must be changed by another is a mystery to me? I can’t think of one example. True some silly people might point to quantum mechanics and claim the unknown or unknowable causes of activity in the sub-atomic realm are some “uncaused” natural phenomena of the gaps but nobody puts up with that when the Scientific Theist or ID nutters pull that & I am not going to take that from the other side.

            >I don't agree that Aquinas' reliance on faulty views of the universe and nature don't affect his explanations.

            It won't effect his metaphysics that is for sure.

            >My spiel on ST 3a 57.4 pointed to a case where they do affect his explanation. In other areas I think the philosophy of nature has even bigger consequences for his explanations.

            I think at best you major in the minors or equivocate.

            But you do present a better challenge them some.

          • David Nickol

            Yeh this invites my standard mocking response. I might have visited it on you originally over at David Armstrong’s blog(I’ve done it here a few times)? It goes as follows “So when the psalmists says the Lord enfolds us in his wings you imagine God is suppose to be a literal Cosmic Chicken?”

            Perhaps you have not followed the exchanges between me, Rob Abney, and Ficino from the beginning, which accounts for why you express disappointment in Ficino rather than in Rob. The question to him, in a nutshell, was that given first-century cosmology, could the description of Jesus literally rising up into the sky be a metaphorical way of expressing the truth of Jesus's departure from Earth to heaven, or must we take Luke to be literally recounting an (alleged) eyewitness account of Jesus floating up into the sky and disappearing into clouds. And if the latter, do we conclude that God granted visions based on the erroneous cosmology of the day so that those visions would make sense in terms of the understandings of the day, thereby making them questionable to those in later eras when first-century cosmology was understood to be mistaken.

            As I read the passage from Aquinas that Rob linked to, it is Aquinas himself who is reading scripture literally (and interpreting it in terms of a cosmology that is archaic).

          • Jim the Scott

            My criticism stands and all your response does is remind me of the saying if you scratch an Atheist you find a fundamentalist. Proof texting a single quote from Aquinas means nothing. He sometimes like the others Father (& even the writer of the Book of Revelations himself did it as well) offered multiple interpretations and speculations based on the knowledge they had at the time.
            Now how this over throws Aquinas' A-T metaphysics is still a mystery to me? Ficino must explain. Indeed it is no better then me pointing out the ancient Atheist philosopher Democritus was a flat Earther & trying to infer from that philosophical arguments for materialism or atomism must therefore be illegitimate or wrong. Now I believe they are but not because of Democritus' faulty cosmology. But I use philosophy here & I don't buy into goofy myth some of you all have that science can refute philosophy. Tis absurd.

          • David Nickol

            From my point of view, in any case, you are losing focus and wandering farther and farther from the original topic. To recap briefly, the question was about this passage in Acts.

            When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

            The question was whether one should read this passage as a fundamentalist might, as a perfectly literal account of the followers of Jesus seeing him rise up into the air and disappear into a cloud. Or may it have been meant by Luke himself as an affirmation of Jesus's exaltation and departure to heaven made by concretizing a spiritual truth into a physical scene. One point prompting the question is that the scene is in terms of Old Testament apocalyptic imagery based on a cosmology we know to be untrue.

            Rob Abney responded that Aquinas answered all the questions. If you would like to defend Rob, rather than criticizing Ficino, I for one would welcome your explanation of why Rob was justified in introducing Aquinas's commentary into the discussion.

          • Jim the Scott

            There is no reason why Christ could not have levitated into the air after the resurrection and vanished in a cloud. That doesn't mean we must believe Heaven is literally "up" or that old cosmology is true or being advocated.
            I thank you for your advice but I will continue to criticize Ficino. It's not personal. He is doing a better job of it then some (present company excepted of course).

            Cheers.

          • Rob Abney

            The archaic cosmology is not part of Aquinas’ explanation. Being raised up can have many meanings.
            But here is his answer to the question of where do separated souls go:
            Incorporeal things are not in place after a manner known and familiar to us, in which way we say that bodies are properly in place; but they are in place after a manner befitting spiritual substances, a manner that cannot be fully manifest to us.

          • Jim the Scott

            Well said sir.

          • Ficino

            Rob, where is this from? I'd like to read in context.

            At first glance this quotation doesn't seem to the point that David originally raised, since in what you quote, Aquinas is talking about incorporeal things. But the ascended Jesus had a body. The ascended Jesus is not incorporeal. So this passage does not overthrow ST 3a 57.4, where Aquinas thinks that Jesus' body, with its powers as a glorified body, ascended to a place, the highest in an "ordo localis."

          • Rob Abney

            That is from the Supplement, question 69. You are correct that it is referring to incorporeal things but it seems as if a glorified body is more like incorporeal than corporeal in that it is not manifest to us.

          • Ficino

            Hello Rob, thanks for the reference. Just a note: when citing a work like one by Aquinas, it's customary to cite by section numbers in standard printed editions: e.g. here, 69.1 ad 1.

            I agree with your view above about the glorified body. I think what you say is consistent with what Aquinas says back in 3a 57.4, where Christ's glorified body is assigned the highest place in a hierarchy of locations precisely because of all bodies, it is least affected (or whatever verb we want) by its matter.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am not privy to all the details of the present conversation, but I do note here a disagreement about how best to interpret the philosophical insights of Aquinas.

            One thing I recall being told in graduate school -- and it makes great sense -- is that, if you want to really understand a given philosopher, it is crucial to study under those professors who are educated in his tradition. That means studying St. Thomas under Thomists who know the ins and outs of his philosophy better than anyone simply picking up texts "from outside" and attempting to discern their meaning just by reading the words themselves.

            It is much like the difference between someone who merely tries to read a lot of good books rather than being formally educated in a college curriculum. There are -- or, at least there used to be -- a cultural breadth and depth to formal education that simply cannot be acquired by trying to do it on one's own. So, too, taking one survey course or even a single course in any given thinker and then trying to read all the proper texts on his own does not make one a scholar of that thinker. We really need to learn from those with lifelong familiarity in a given tradition -- a familiarity gained by themselves having studied under others with that same historical thread of continuity linking all the way back to the thinker himself, if possible.

            And yes, the people I studied under, both at the undergraduate and graduate level, did belong to the tradition that emerged from the initial work of the Angelic Doctor himself -- for which I am grateful.

          • Jim the Scott

            On that note. The problem I have here with most of the criticism of Thomistic thought (asside from the obvious category mistakes) is it's like a Young Earth Creationist reading Origin of the Species to "refute" it and he hasn't taken even Biology 101.

            Ficino's nonsense about the First Way being problematic in terms of local motion (the old Newtonian Physics overthrows the First Way Mishigoss or the Five Ways relies on Greek Physics nonsense) seems a prime example.

            I am sure Ficino has some mad skills exegeting Aristotle and giving us a professional analysis of all his thoughts from a historic accedemic point of view including Aristotle's scientifically erroneous thoughts. But his claims to have found "defeaters" to the first way are, well to put it politely, totally wrong.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Just to underline the point you make about the prima via, I refer you to my totally "modern" take on that famous argument as presented in an earlier article on Strange Notions.

            See this: https://strangenotions.com/how-new-existence-implies-god/

            This new form of the argument is consistent with the thought of St. Thomas -- and totally independent of any proper understanding of the Newtonian principle of inertia.

          • Ficino

            Dr. Bonnette, you raise a point that, I agree, is important. People who write in comboxes, for example, that the text of the NT is more trustworthy than that of any ancient author, because we have more NT manuscripts, strike me as like the Thomistic "rustics" or what have you of yours above.

            But - and how often is there a but? heh heh - here we are on SN on a site that invites dialogue between Catholics and atheists et al. It's a rare atheist who has done doctoral studies in scholastic philosophy under professors who themselves are steeped in the Thomistic tradition. So, who has standing to question the assertions of a school, when the individual is not steeped in the tradition of the school? Do Reconstructionist or Reform rabbis have the standing to question the readings that orthodox rabbis may say rest on the oral Torah that was transmitted alongside the written text, when the R or R rabbis did not sit at the feet of sages whose teachers trace their formation back to the oral Torah bequeathed to Moses but not written in the Pentateuch?

            Back in Hellenistic and Roman times, as we know, adherents of one philosophical school would propose arguments to support their decision not to subscribe to the tenets of some other school. here we are on SN, and those non-scholastics of us who cannot do a second Ph.D. in scholastic metaphysics can either just go away or we can state reasons why we are not persuaded, or we can suspend judgment and listen. But if we do this last, we won't turn off our critical faculties. It might turn out that some of the reasons we don't sign on to the system are worth attention on the part of convinced Thomists.

            Thank you for linking some more of your articles about the Ways, esp. the First, and your proposals for new perspectives on them. I've formed some views, which I'll discuss if anyone wants.

          • David Nickol

            But - and how often is there a but? heh heh - here we are on SN on a site that invites dialogue between Catholics and atheists et al.

            I hesitate to say this, and I will not name names, but Strange Notions in practice often no longer invites dialogue. It is a site in which some of the most frequent Catholic commenters can barely hide their contempt (if they even try to) for atheists or even fellow Christians from other denominations. If you read the description of Strange Notions in the About section, it is no longer applicable to most of what happens on the site.

          • Mark

            I appreciate this comment. My suggestion is to block those that don't adhere to the rules. The point is to find healthy dialogue where we all use truth in reason (a universal language of the educated) to challenge the axioms others might have about science and faith. Bashing Mother Teresa or Richard Dawkins for that matter is petty and in poor taste. Whatever said commenter were trying to accomplish didn't happen and it made them look childish.

            I read a lot of the comments and have rarely commented myself. Some of that is out of fear that my lack of mastery of philosophical reasoning will lead to easy dismantling of my suppositions. So I lay in wait for someone with greater sophistication to make a counterpoint. But I have a fascination of the dialogue and I appreciate your (and Ficino's) perspective even though it runs counter to mine often. I also really appreciate your charitable tones.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Nothing prevents someone who is the product of a "Thomistic" background from being simply dead wrong about any point. And that is why all are free to do the best they can in helping ferret out the truth.

            I am just saying that one has a better chance of understanding what is in keeping with the authentic spirit of a tradition or a given thinker when he is attuned to the disciples who have kept historical contact with that source.

            It is just a bit hard to simply pick up a text and read it and take it at literal face value, and yet, be certain that this is what, say, a Thomistic position would be today. The problem is, in part, that St. Thomas himself imbibed scientific principles from his own day that affected some of his conclusions, both philosophical and theological. Those who read him as if he were either always correct or as if his word would be the same today, given our present knowledge of science, risk misunderstanding even what he himself would say if he knew what we know today.

            My favorite example is the text in which he raises the question as to what would have happened had Eve alone bitten the apple, and not Adam. Would original sin have been transmitted to the rest of mankind? His answer is that, since the male is the active principle in the generative act, it is clear that original sin would not have been transmitted.

            Now, obviously, his premise taken from the science of his day is false, since both sexes are equally "active." That does not mean, of course, that his conclusion is false, since a true conclusion can take place accidentally from false premises. But it does mean that there is a lot of reasoning in St. Thomas that has to "fixed" in light of such evident errors. That has been part of the work of subsequent Thomists down through history.

            It does not mean that St. Thomas was likely to err in his strict metaphysical principles and reasoning, but that he certainly is not free from all error -- as some seem to claim.

            Nonetheless, it is helpful to know the history and traditions of those who follow in the spirit of St. Thomas and who respect his basic philosophical principles -- since they are best situated to offer an authentic interpretation of where his thinking would be going, given what we know now from sources beyond his 13th century perspective.

            This, of course, is a far cry from the position of those who dismiss all things Thomistic, as flowing from an archaic philosophy having no relevance to the modern world or to modern science.

            Even if one has not had the opportunity to study directly under those immersed in the Thomistic tradition, we are all seekers of truth and anyone can discover it. So, wrestling with the actual text of St. Thomas is profitable to all of us.

            It is just that we must be careful not to attribute to modern Thomistic thought a literal reading of the texts of St. Thomas, written some eight centuries ago -- as if that reading must be accepted as authentic Thomistic thought today.

            One need not betray the master in the process of assuring that his authentic insights are properly adapted to the present context. Nor should one accuse modern Thomism of holding positions that St. Thomas himself would today reject in light of present knowledge.

          • Ficino

            Thank you, Dr. Bonnette, for your considered reply. F

          • Jim the Scott

            This is not an easy topic by a long shot! I wonder if I bit off more then even i can chew?

            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/05/mind-body-problem-roundup.html

          • Rob Abney

            Here's a question, which way is "up" from earth? Based on a heliocentric view it seems as though He would have to have ascended at night in order to go to the farthest place from earth.
            If I recall your personal story, you converted to Catholicism prior to becoming an atheist; did you study Aquinas while you were a believing Catholic or only afterwards?
            I am interested in other examples, even though he had to rely on the science of his time, I've yet to see where it affects his metaphysics. Thanks.

          • Ficino

            In Aristotle, there is an absolute center of the universe: earth. Moving up is moving away from earth. Moving down is moving toward earth. When nothing interferes, fire moves as far as it can away from earth toward the zone of the moon. Quantities of earth move downward toward the earth at the center of the universe. The natural place of air is below fire; of water, above earth. But because of other powers like those of the supralunary bodies (and the moon itself), the four elements never are separated into distinct layers at rest. Above the moon are the eternal heavenly bodies, made of aether. They are "on" spheres, each moved by an unmoved mover. There seems to be one unmoved mover over all, acc to the end of Metaphysics Lambda.

            I have no clue about the night part!

            I had a wonderful course in medieval philosophy in college, in which we studied Aquinas along of course with other luminaries. The next year I wrote a big paper on Aquinas. I also took other philosophy courses, including Aristotle, but my major was Classics. In graduate school I worked on Greek and Latin with an emphasis on ancient philosophy. I've worked on it ever since. Yes, I became Catholic after college, and eventually concluded that there were not grounds to believe in the doctrines of Christianity, of which I believed the Catholic faith the fullest and true expression. Just in case someone may say, but it's not a religion, it's a relationship! - I came to the conclusion that such a distinction is a marketing ploy.

            As to the science issue, I haven't worked through all this rigorously, but from what I see now, i think that:
            1. despite what Thomists say, local motion is a problem for the First Way;
            2. the ToE problematizes the doctrine that there are essences ontologically and causally prior to individuals;
            3. the Fifth Way is problematized by failures of substances to actualize their potencies fully, along lines suggested by Sample 1
            I might be able to think of other points.

          • Jim the Scott

            >As to the science issue, I haven't worked through all this rigorously, but from what I see now, i think that:

            To treat the Five Ways as scientific claims is a blatant category mistake. You might as well say the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics renders Evolution impossible or some such nonsense and be done with it. Your objections are just as erroneous.

            >1. despite what Thomists say, local motion is a problem for the First Way;

            That is a 100% absurd claim. Motion is a potency being made actual by something already in act. That is it. Nothing more and this modeling can be applied to any type of physics. That is “Motion” for Aquinas and Thomists and I would say Aristotle. Stop pretending it’s physical motion. Your personal dogma that motion is only the anachronistic Greek Physics view of physical motion is willful blindness and an unwillingness to confront your errors.

            >2. the ToE problematizes the doctrine that there are essences ontologically and causally prior to individuals;

            Nope.

            >3. the Fifth Way is problematized by failures of substances to actualize their potencies fully, along lines suggested by Sample 1

            Only if you like Sample1 pretend the fifth way is Paley’s argument for design as opposed to final causality.
            Rob will back me up on this.

            Question

          • David Nickol

            Notice that nowhere did I question the essential truth of the ascension of Jesus. (I am personally agnostic, but I have no problem setting my own position aside temporarily to ponder a question.)

            To say Jesus "ascended" into heaven was certainly not unreasonable in the first century, and even today I think it would be quibbling in most discussions to speak of heaven as "up." However, my question was about the physical description given in Acts in which Jesus is seen physically rising up into the clouds. The question was whether we are obliged to take that as an eyewitness account, and if so, since we now know that rising up into and past the clouds is not going to heaven, what are we to think of an alleged "vision" (Jesus floating up into the clouds) that does not accord with our current cosmology. Were the followers of Jesus given a kind of "show" that they could understand in terms of their own (wrong) cosmology—that is, were they basically deceived in order to convince them that Jesus went into heaven? Or was Luke affirming a truth (Jesus leaving Earth and going to heaven) by describing something in concrete terms that actually could not be perceived by human senses?

            To take another "concretized" concept, are we to imagine that because the Bible refers to Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father, there is a chair (or throne) somewhere in heaven that Jesus sits in, and that God actually has a right hand?

          • Rob Abney

            Does Acts say that He "physically" rises? Or could it be understood somehow as a transfiguration, a transformation to a new dimension? Too bad the cloud obscured the view. How did the two men in white appear? I don't think it has anything to do with cosmology, it has more to do with clouds. We just read this from Daniel at mass today:

            13 “I saw in the night visions,
            and behold, with the clouds of heaven
            there came one like a son of man,
            and he came to the Ancient of Days
            and was presented before him.
            14 And to him was given dominion
            and glory and a kingdom,
            that all peoples, nations, and languages
            should serve him;
            his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
            which shall not pass away,
            and his kingdom one
            that shall not be destroyed.

          • OMG

            So what if the doctrine of ascension presumes an archaic conception! The world was once thought to be flat too, that the earth was the center of the universe, and that by heading west from Europe across the Atlantic would lead to India. So? Who has shown that the 'upness' of heaven is no longer true??? Who knows exactly 'where' a spiritual place exists? Scripture says Jesus 'arose' and he ascended up. What difference does our thinking make when those thoughts oppose words of inspired scripture? I choose Scripture. Others may choose their own definition of heaven, just as some choose not to believe it exists, let alone that it can be located.

          • Ficino

            So what? So it hasn't been shown that the Aquinas quaestio cited by Rob provides an answer to David Nickol's question. Neither does that passage provide reason why a skeptic should take the ascension accounts in the NT as describing an actual event.

          • OMG

            The point is that when a skeptic does not accept God's word as God's word, arguing with him about issues like 'upness' or spatial orientation and position of a spiritual 'place' is absurd when the non-existence of spiritual essence is the skeptic's basic premise.

          • Ficino

            Strictly speaking, a skeptic, or at least a consistent one, would not make an assertive claim that spiritual essence does not exist.

          • Sample1

            What can you tell me about your soul?

            Mike
            Tag me in the new thread if you want to talk there considering it would be more on topic for that OP.

          • OMG

            Although the RCC has never formally defined Islam as a heresy, St. John of Damascene (b. 675) called it so. Orthodox Catholic writer Hilaire Belloc (last century, well regarded historian ) classified Islam the same, so it is a not uncommon view among RCC members today. Belloc reasoned that Islam was not a new religion. Instead, the Prophet Mohammed used much of the basic framework of Christianity while stripping it of other basic dogma. For example, Mohammed denied the divinity of Jesus (seeing Jesus as a prophet but not God) and maintained that Allah was the God of Abraham (hence the same God of Christianity).

            Catholics would probably not consider a Muslim saint a good theologian. Unless he first converted.

    • To my mind, an excellent theologian is someone who thinks well about theological questions. If he does good analysis and even creative synthesis that can be excellent. He might still be wrong. I recall Pope Benedict putting some liberal theologians on the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I think Fr Raymond Brown was one. Anyway, he did not think Brown was right on every question or even on most questions. Yet he recognized him as a great theologian.

      • David Nickol

        I don't think it it is accurate to call Raymond E. Brown a theologian. He was a biblical scholar.

        What do you mean by "liberal"?

        Added later: Better yet, explain what you mean when you call someone a liberal theologian or a liberal biblical scholar.

        • What I mean when I call someone a liberal bible scholar or theologian? Basically that he belongs to a particular school of thought. Obviously words like liberal and conservative don't describe the entirety of anyone's thought but they are somewhat useful categories. To me the question is whether or not he tries to be faithful to sacred tradition and the magisterium. There is another secular tradition with its own dogma-like tenets that many scholars are obedient to. Most sit in one camp or another.

          Most don't like the labels. Certainly Pope Benedict did not like them. He interacted with many liberal thinkers in his Jesus of Nazareth books but did so one by one rather than putting them all in one category. I respect him for that. It takes a ton of time and effort. More than I have. So I take the short cut of putting people in categories but hopefully remembering it is a short cut.

          • David Nickol

            What I mean when I call someone a liberal bible scholar or theologian? Basically that he belongs to a particular school of thought.

            This is not clear to me. Are you saying that a liberal biblical scholar belongs to a particular school of thought, but other biblical scholars don't belong to any school of thought? Or are you saying you call a biblical scholar liberal if he (or she) belongs to a liberal school of thought. If the latter, than what is a liberal school of thought? It is not much of a definition to say a liberal is one who belongs to a liberal school of thought.

            To me the question is whether or not he tries to be faithful to sacred tradition and the magisterium.

            I have owned and/or read many books by Raymond E. Brown, and they all have had at least one of the standard "seals of approval": imprimi potest, nihil obstat, imprimatur. In saying Brown was a liberal, do you mean to imply that he did not try to be faithful to sacred tradition and the magisterium?

            Do you think the biblical scholars responsible for the notes in the New American Bible (Rev2Ed) are liberals?

          • There are many schools of thought in theology. Yet there are often central questions that break people into 2 camps. With the bible it is the question of the supernatural. The bible describes supernatural events. Are you at all open to the possibility that some of these could have actually happened? If so, then you won't have much use for all the theories that desperately try and explain how the Christian story got so full of miracles.

            When it comes to morality a similar divide occurs. Did God communicate morals to people throughout history? If so, then morality cannot really be rewritten in light of new information because God was never ignorant of such information.

            Liberal thinkers tend to be more like non-theists. They consistently see a smaller role for God and a more natural explanation for everything. They may say they believe in God but He does not occupy a central place in their thinking.

            You are right that the seals of approval like the imprimi potest, nihil obstat, imprimatur do not mean as much as they used to. I have heard scholars I respect criticize the New American Bible translators. I have little doubt some of those criticisms are valid.

            Did Brown try to be faithful to sacred tradition? I don't want to pick on him because I have not read a ton of his stuff. Still trying to be faithful can mean just being careful how you word things. Don't explicitly deny the dogma but approvingly reference another scholar who does explicitly deny it. Unfortunately it has been very common for scholars to be clearly liberal and yet stay out of conflicts with Rome.

      • Ficino

        Ray Brown was a priest in residence at my parish for many years. He never in writing nor in speech denied any doctrine promulgated by the Church.

  • They aren't equivocating here, but defining "nothing" differently. I agree though science is not the only way to gain knowledge. My problem with the argument from contingency is that the conclusion of God just doesn't follow from the premises.

    • Sample1

      What’s happened is that classical theism is defining “nothing” incommensurate with evidence. They are being left behind as science progresses.

      Nothing is better defined as a neutral state totaling zero energy. Matter is positive and gravity is negative, cancelling each other out.

      Nothing to see here, this wasn’t the nothing they were looking for.

      Mike

      • I actually agree with the classical definition of nothing, but they say Hawking is equivocating if he's used another one.

        • Sample1

          Then they are wrong.

          Equivocation: the use of ambiguous language to conceal the truth or to avoid committing oneself; prevarication.

          Mike

          • Okay, but it is confusing.

          • Sample1

            Well, I’d rather be confused about something instead of certain about something that could be wrong. YMMV :-)

            Mike

          • It's just difficult when there is another preexisting definition of a term.

          • Sample1

            Well, I’m not sure why that’s a problem. Language evolves. That is indisputable in linguistics. Words change meanings in varieties of ways: semantically, lexical, morphological, etc.

            Atom used to mean indivisible but later evidence showed otherwise. We still have the word atom but it is no longer used as the Greeks once held. And on and on.

            Yesterday’s nothing is like that. It had a meaning for a particular time but like the atom, evidence required us to rethink what is also meant by nothing.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • The problem arises where two definitions exist, with many not aware of one. I don't think this new definition the older (in my opinion, nor should it).

      • Nothing is better defined as a neutral state totaling zero energy.

        If I can say that some futures are more likely than others in this state of "nothing", am I not predicating those claims on "something" which is neither matter nor energy?

        Incidentally, you made me think that one's definition of 'nothing' is probably the negative image of whatever or whoever one thinks is "non-dependently real", to steal a term from a book I'll omit from naming for the moment. Christians deem God to be non-dependently real; some physicists might consider the multiverse to be non-dependently real. If I'm right on this "negative image" thing, then arguments about what constitutes 'nothing' are tantamount to arguments about what necessarily exists—or who necessarily exists.

        • Sample1

          If I can say that some futures are more likely than others in this state of "nothing", am I not predicating those claims on "something" which is neither matter nor energy?

          You might be. I’d just recognize that something, if I understand you—and I’m not sure that I do—as the laws of physics.

          Philosophical nothing (PN) and scientific nothing are not synonymous terms. One is not demonstrable (philosophical nothing) while the other is (neutral state of zero energy). I’m completely put off by all current explanations for PN for this simple reason: a claim is being made for it without having PN to examine in the first place. It’s like talking about something that is not in evidence to talk about. And if PN is in evidence, then that’s something, rendering the claim incoherent, contradictory.

          PN at best becomes a mushy conceptual claim that ultimately ends up in special pleading for God. That is always the result for theistic PN claims.

          Mike

          • Ficino

            Would you say the same of "non-being" that you say of "philosophical nothing"?

          • Sample1

            Not necessarily because non being can be a valid description of something that was in evidence.

            Mike

          • I'm now remembering Lawrence Krauss' YouTube lecture "A Universe from Nothing", where he proposes that the total energy of the universe is 0: positive contributions from matter–energy are perfectly canceled out by negative contributions from gravity. According to your definition of 'scientific nothing', the sum total of all somethings that exist is … 'nothing'. Did I get something wrong?

            As to the mushiness you describe: surely you aren't suggesting that we can completely escape any and all mushiness? There has to be a more precise criticism and I wonder if you make it, whether you'll end up targeting all 'philosophical nothing', or only some.

          • Sample1

            I don’t know if you got something wrong. My first paragraph addressed your “am I not predicating those claims on ‘something’ which is neither matter nor energy?”

            And I replied with the laws of physics. Is that what you meant by “something”?

            PN is mushy. Demonstrate philosophical nothing and you’ve made a contradiction. Claim it isn’t demonstrable and you may as well call it anything.

            What do you mean by nothing? The only coherent definition I’ve found is the scientific one. But perhaps you’ve found a competing one. For the record, I don’t think it can be done. I cannot even conceptualize what PN is.

            The floor is yours.

            Mike

          • I don’t know if you got something wrong.

            My bad, I was going back a comment. If:

                 (1) "Nothing is better defined as a neutral state totaling zero energy."

            and

                 (2) Krauss is right and the total energy of the universe is 0

            then:

                 (3) The universe as a whole is "nothing"

            I think we should doubt that (1) makes a good definition of "nothing".

            My first paragraph addressed your “am I not predicating those claims on ‘something’ which is neither matter nor energy?”

            And I replied with the laws of physics. Is that what you meant by “something”?

            Yes.

            What do you mean by nothing?

            The absence of everything except for that which is "non-dependently real".

          • Sample1

            Well, we have different ideas about the word nothing. Happy to live during a time where some classical concepts are being challenged. YMMV.

            Mike

          • Sorry, I didn't catch whether you agreed or disagreed with the logic of (1) & (2) ⇒ (3).

          • Sample1

            Why would you syllogistically conclude that the universe as a whole is nothing when that’s not the same thing as conjecturing that a closed universe is logically consistent with zero energy? Category error on your part from my point of view.

            You can disagree with me about nothing. And you do. I simply remain unconvinced that classical concepts of nothing are coherent let alone supported by science.

            Mike

          • Erm, that's why I put an "If:" in front of your definition of 'nothing' and Krauss' bit about our universe totaling zero energy. If both hold, then barring some definition of 'neutral' on your part which heretofore has no empirical referent, our universe as a whole is 'nothing'. I doubt most are willing to allow that subsets of 'nothing' can be 'something'. Krauss' conjecture merely needs to be scientifically reasonable to suggest that your definition of scientific-nothing is unreasonable. Unless I have missed something?

            Yes we do seem to disagree on philosophical-nothing; I wonder how many people would agree that it is legitimate to call laws of nature, 'nothing'.

          • Sample1

            I’ve never heard any scientist explain the laws of nature as being nothing. Nobody has that explanation figured out, except for believers who probably claim God or something like a god. Of course, even you should understand why that is seen as not being satisfactory for many. I hope you know, by now, that people like me and those more learned than I am, do honestly strive for good explanations about reality.

            Have you ever really contemplated what nothing is? What does that even mean? You mentioned the removal of everything except what is non-dependently real. That doesn’t work for me. :-)

            Mike

          • Any scientist who logically entails that the laws of nature are nothing has done something slightly different from "explain" that to be the case. You, who I don't believe are a scientist, logically entailed that the laws of nature are nothing when you wrote: "Nothing is better defined as a neutral state totaling zero energy." If the laws of nature are something, then there is something even when you have a neutral state totaling zero energy. "In the beginning there was something—the laws of nature."

            What confuses me is why you have such a problem considering the laws of nature to be "non-dependently real". That phrase was very intentionally wider than some sort of agent-deity. What it presupposes is that in a state of "nothing", we can still say that some subsequent states are more likely than other subsequent states. There has to be some kind of basis for such a claim, doesn't there?

            I guess an alternative is that "In the beginning, anything was possible. Matter–energy did not need to be conserved. We happened to get a universe with conservation laws, but we could have gotten a radically different one." This doesn't seem to be favored by any scientist I know of, but it's a logical possibility. But then we could ask why we should be constrained by what we consider "logical possibility". Anyhow, it's not clear how that alternative creation-story I sketched functions as any sort of explanation. Therefore, it is difficult to see how it can be considered 'scientific'.

          • Sample1

            If the laws of nature are something, then there is something even when you have a neutral state totaling zero energy.

            Maybe, maybe not. Currently we are not allowed to definitively conclude what the properties of the laws of nature are. It’s an open subject pending evidence. Evidence which may or may not be knowable to us. Nature is under no obligation to make sense to minds which evolved to survive on the Serengeti. That we know what we already do is amazing and may have to suffice for now or perhaps forever. Patience.

            Mike

          • I think I've been fairly good in laying out my "ifs" and I think I've poured sufficient skepticism on your contention that "Nothing is better defined as a neutral state totaling zero energy." Now that you've explicitly stated how incomplete our information is, information required to be more confident about how to best define 'nothing', perhaps we should celebrate that "PN is mushy."—or at least, that philosophy did not jump to your scientific definition.

          • Sample1

            PN is not particularly important to me except to sometimes contrast it with scientific understandings of nothing. I imagine it’s of some urgency for others though.

            A neutral state of zero energy is comprehensible. PN hasn’t been shown to be scientifically demonstrable. But it may in the end be helpful to show what nothing isn’t. In that way, we can again use science to bring clarity out of mushiness.

            Mike

  • Phil

    Yet, I'm genuinely considering becoming a Buddhist or something, since I can't seem to get over this problem...

    What attracts you about Buddhism? If you accept Scholastic metaphysics arguments, it necessarily leads to the existence of God. But traditional Buddhism actually forbids the believing of any gods.

    I get the responses to the problem of evil overall, and find them satisfying. Skeptical theism, the free will response, redemptive suffering, and the idea that no suffering is needless seem like reasonable responses for the problem of evil in the present. But, given the likelihood that there had been animals suffering for a few billion years before humans came about, I just can't see how the Thomistic God could exist.

    The simplest response is this is not how it was supposed to be. So true suffering is not how God desires it.

    When human beings sinned for the first time and broke relationship with God, and introduced Original Sin into this reality, we actually understand that that brokenness extended past human beings. All of nature and our material reality was shattered into pieces as well when we turned away from God.

    It also is good to note that human suffering is quite a different reality from non-human animal suffering. We have to be careful to not think that animals suffer in the same way that humans do. There would be a pretty big difference because humans are self-conscious and non-human animals are merely conscious. So they absolutely feel pain, but to say that that is suffering in the same way probably wouldn't be true. Animals aren't self-aware that they are hurting.

    Yes, it is very hard to picture what that would be like because we cannot be simply aware, and not self-aware.

    So maybe this is what Murray and Craig were getting at? We don't deny that they feel pain, but to say that they "suffer" might be to anthropomorphize them too much.

    Does that make some sense?

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      But traditional Buddhism actually forbids the believing of any gods.

      But in regard to Scholastic metaphysics, the issue isn't whether (or which) Buddhist traditions allow for belief in "little g" gods. The issue is whether those Buddhist traditions allow for "big G" God, The Unconditioned. Do you think there are central Buddhist texts that clearly disavow that? (If so, which texts?)

      • Phil

        But in regard to Scholastic metaphysics, the issue isn't whether (or which) Buddhist traditions allow for belief in "little g" gods. The issue is whether those Buddhist traditions allow for "big G" God, The Unconditioned. Do you think there are central Buddhist texts that clearly disavow that? (If so, which texts?)

        I had been under the impression that traditional Buddhist beliefs disallowed belief in both gods and God. But of course, I could be wrong.

        I don't know about more esoteric strands of Buddhism as well.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          That seems to be the general understanding in popular Western culture. Personally I am pretty hesitant to accept that popular understanding. On the one hand, as you know very well, there is considerable popular misunderstanding of what the word "God" means in our mainstream Western traditions. Even many of those who really do "know God" don't "know about God", i.e. many have an underdeveloped ability to reflect systematically on their experience of God and to articulate that experience in a culturally abstracted way. By extrapolation, I think we should assume that popular Western understanding of Buddhism is even less subtle. This is especially true since the importation of Buddhism to the West was largely led by transcendentalists like Emerson who seem to have indulged in creating a Buddhism to their (somewhat anti-theist) liking. Not to mention pop-spirituality books on Buddhism at Barnes and Noble probably tend to sell better if they promote narcissistic Western perversions of Buddhism rather than the real deal.

          I don't mean to imply that I'm this guru who has it all figured out. I'm not competent to really address the question of God in Buddhism in any depth. I'm just in favor of extreme caution before making pronouncements about what is and isn't compatible between Eastern and Western traditions. It would have been a great shame if early Christian thinkers had simply rejected Greek thought wholesale as anathema. I think it would likewise be a great shame if modern Christians foreclose prematurely on Buddhist thought without really engaging in the specifics and doing the careful translational work.

    • When human beings sinned for the first time and broke relationship with God, and introduced Original Sin into this reality, we actually understand that that brokenness extended past human beings. All of nature and our material reality was shattered into pieces as well when we turned away from God.

      I don't know how you came to believe this is true, but what would ever make you think that humans are somehow capable of breaking reality? Such beliefs are absurd, to say the least.

      It also is good to note that human suffering is quite a different reality from non-human animal suffering. We have to be careful to not think that animals suffer in the same way that humans do.

      Why? What makes you think that human suffering is terribly different from the suffering of other animals? We've observed animals with empathy towards suffering, so I don't see what exactly is so different.

      Animals aren't self-aware that they are hurting.

      Do you have a credible source for this claim?

      Does that make some sense?

      I'd say that very little of what you posted makes much of any sense, and seems to be purely theological nonsense, devoid of evidence supporting it.

      • Phil

        I don't know how you came to believe this is true, but what would ever make you think that humans are somehow capable of breaking reality? Such beliefs are absurd, to say the least.

        It all depends on what you mean when you say "breaking reality". Maybe clarify what you mean by breaking reality?

        What I mean is that as sin is introduced into the world, the greater the chaos that is introduced. And this choas extends to all reality.

        Why? What makes you think that human suffering is terribly different from the suffering of other animals? We've observed animals with empathy towards suffering, so I don't see what exactly is so different.

        Self-conscious suffering vs. conscious "suffering".

        Again, try to imagine conceptually how different it would be to simply be aware, but not aware that you are aware.

        And yes, I know, very hard to imagine exactly what they would be like.

        Do you have a credible source for this claim?

        If you mean rational and logical arguments based upon experiential reality, then yes. Here is a paper on the immaterial aspects of thought you could start with: https://www.newdualism.org/papers/E.Feser/Feser-acpq_2013.pdf

        The basic point is non-human animals "perceive" while human animals "conceive". Non-human animals are not capable of abstract immaterial conceptual thought.

        Further, self-awareness, rational conceptual thought, and free will are a trifecta that go together. You cannot have one without the other.

        Humans have all 3, non-human animals have none.

        • Maybe clarify what you mean by breaking reality?

          You stated:
          "All of nature and our material reality was shattered into pieces as well when we turned away from God."

          That to me sounds like breaking reality. You've now further stated:

          What I mean is that as sin is introduced into the world, the greater the chaos that is introduced

          which makes it sound like the actions of humans at some point in the past changed how material reality behaves. We're talking about trillions of galaxies with billions of stars in each of them, and somehow people on one tiny spec in a backwater of the universe somehow changed it everywhere? Give me a break!

          Here is a paper on the immaterial aspects of thought you could start with:

          I was really hoping for something a little more scientific, and better peer reviewed, than a philosophy paper By Feser that is hosted on a site dedicated to propping up substance dualism. I see a lot of assertions in this paper, and no concrete evidence supporting those assertions. But then again, philosophy doesn't really have strict guidelines as to what constitutes good philosophy.

          Non-human animals are not capable of abstract immaterial conceptual thought.

          Again, I'm going to need a credible citation for this claim. My cat knows which pile of food has more food in it and will "choose" the larger pile of food. Clearly my cat has some understanding of the abstract concept of greater than.

          Further, self-awareness, rational conceptual thought, and free will are a trifecta that go together. You cannot have one without the other.

          Humans have all 3

          Depending on what you mean by free will, I do not accept this claim. If you're talking about the ability to make choices independent of antecedents, I don't see any reason to accept this. All of our "choices" are made based upon priors which causally influence our actions. If you mean something else by free will, please tell me what it is.

          non-human animals have none.

          Again, citation needed. How did you determine this?

          • Phil

            Hey, if you can give me evidence of animals conceiving of non-material abstract entities, have at it!

            Until then, I stand by my claim that non-human animals can only perceive (many times better than us), but human animals can conceive.

          • You're the one making the claims.

          • Phil

            You're the one making the claims.

            We are actually both making claims.
            You are claiming that non-human animals can conceive immaterial abstract entities. I am claiming that non-human animals cannot conceive immaterial abstract entities.

            I have claimed that we do not have evidence that non-human animals can conceive of immaterial abstract entities.

            So I have no reason to believe something that we do not have evidence for. That is why I asked for evidence.

          • So I have no reason to believe something that we do not have evidence for.

            Which is fine, until you start trying to build on top of that. Building on top of our ignorance is just more ignorance.

          • Phil

            Which is fine, until you start trying to build on top of that. Building on top of our ignorance is just more ignorance.

            We are supposed to build on top of things that are true.

          • Ultimately, my problem is that you can only know that these are true by actually studying a huge numbers of species, and seeing how they behave. I don't think it's fair to make any statement about other animals, and how self aware they are, or if they have the ability to think in abstract terms, until we actually test them. Given that we know one animal species can, it seems quite likely that other species could.

            This is where the bad news comes in. It does appear that many animals species have some ability to think in abstract terms. Scientific American has an article titled "Many Animals Can Think Abstractly" (I won't provide a link because my post will be marked as spam.) It's an interesting read.

            On the subject of self-awareness, again, we seem to have good evidence that there are animal species, mostly primates, that have some sense of self-awareness. How self aware a species is falls seems to fall on a continuum. We've observed what happens when chimps look in a mirror, and how they behave, and they certainly seem to understand that they're looking at their reflection.

            I don't think there are any other species that have our intellectual capacity, but I don't think that the difference between us, and other species, is all that great either.

          • Phil

            I don't think it's fair to make any statement about other animals, and how self aware they are, or if they have the ability to think in abstract terms, until we actually test them.

            I'm not saying there couldn't be non-human beings that have an intellect and free will, and therefore can reason and can conceive of immaterial abstract entities. But I'm not talking about those animals. I'm talking about the animals that cannot conceive.

            And if we discovered a non-human being that had intellect and free will, would that destroy any of my views or points? Not whatsoever. They would be self-aware like humans and suffer like humans.

            And it's like testing for the existence of unicorns. Do we believe unicorns exists? No, because we have no evidence that unicorns exists. But one day we could find evidence they do.

            Do we have evidence that any non-human animals can conceive of immaterial abstract entities? No. So just like the unicorns, it makes no sense to conclude that they exist right now.

          • I get that you're trying to work with a null hypothesis. I have two problems:
            1. I'm not sure this is actually a good null hypothesis
            2. I don't know how valid it to build upon a null hypothesis. We just assume the truth of the null hypothesis, although we can show it false.

            Our confidence in the null hypothesis is only as good as how far we've tried to falsify it. Building on top of such a shaky premise as "non-human suffering is not like human suffering" seems very dubious to me. You're welcome to make the argument, but don't expect me to accept it.

          • Phil

            Really, the only point I was trying to make is that if something is merely aware and not self-aware it will experience pain in a different way.

            That's the main point to take home to the bank :)

  • Michael Murray

    Michael Murray (via his book Nature Red in Tooth and Claw),

    ???? Ah Michael J not Michael K. So many of us.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    I realize that you are very impressed with what sounds like a breakthrough insight on the part of David Deutsch.

    But I don't think that things are quite what they may appear to you.

    >"One structure existed for a hundred thousand years providing relatively no progress for our species. The other structure, in just four hundred years, well..."

    Not quite so. I would rather say that as long as human beings with human intellects have been around, the "natural metaphysics of human intelligence" has been present. That is, not just for one hundred thousand years, but, according to my research, more like three-quarters of a million years, we humans have been around and known that things are or are not, that they have reasons for being, and that if they don't explain themselves, something else (a cause) must explain them.

    That is not the science of metaphysics, but rather it is merely the natural knowledge that all true men have possessed for three-quarters of a million years about the first principles of knowledge and being. They may not have called them first principles, but they knew them and used them -- just like any little child nearing the age of reason does.

    But it was not until the advent of Greek thought that metaphysics as a science was developed -- just a couple thousand years or so ago. That was the time of initial development by Aristotle and others of the formal science of metaphysics.

    Yes, in the last several hundred years, experimental science branched off from the philosophy of nature with great strides being made in the understanding of the physical world -- but all within the established epistemic limitations of natural science as I explained in the article I cited above.

    Thus the real comparison is not one hundred thousand years to a few hundred, but rather three-quarters of a million years or more to the last couple thousand, wherein true philosophical and experimental sciences made their great thrust forward.

    Put in that framework, the normal distinctions between, on the one hand, philosophical science with its ability to attain transcendent apodictic truths about the nature and ultimate causes of the created world, and, on the other hand, the practical achievements of an experimental science which is ever tied to probabilistic theories about the predictability of associated phenomena in the physical world -- these already well-understood distinctions come into play.

    Nothing really new here. Nothing really earthshaking here. The facts remain, as I stated earlier, that all the claims of natural science still presuppose philosophical first principles that natural science itself cannot demonstrate or defend. Such necessarily-assumed underpinnings of natural science come from, and are defended by, classical philosophy, especially metaphysics.

    Any other allegedly stupendous claims are just more scientism in disguise.

    • Sample1

      Not quite so. I would rather say that as long as human beings with human intellects have been around, the "natural metaphysics of human intelligence" has been present. That is, not just for one hundred thousand years, but, according to my research, more like three-quarters of a million years, we humans have been around and known that things are or are not, that they have reasons for being, and that if they don't explain themselves, something else (a cause) must explain them.

      This supports Deutsch’s idea Dennis. The point being you can have all two million years of hominid metaphysical claims about first principles but without a hard to vary theory, you now get two million years of relative stagnation compared to four hundred years of lightbulbs going off relentlessly. Longer exposure to your position doesn’t look winning.

      You say you won’t be beholden to archaic physics but then you do just that. You cannot predict the cause of radioactive decay. You’re channeling Aristotle and even he would say you can’t eat your cake and have it to!

      They may not have called them first principles, but they knew them and used them -- just like any little child nearing the age of reason does.

      And there would have been no need to categorize them thusly as metaphysical first principles for the dogma of Transubstantiation (forms/accidents/potentials) had not yet been invented. That is the reason for A-T theology. It is also peculiar that an age of reason is even necessary in your god’s plan. What is it today? Seven or eight? Evolution explains why reason is a gradual process but why would a god limit reason, ever? Enter the easy to vary ad hoc explanation [here]. ;-)

      Put in that framework, the normal distinctions between, on the one hand, philosophical science with its ability to attain transcendent apodictic truths about the nature and ultimate causes of the created world, and, on the other hand, the practical achievements of an experimental science which is ever tied to probabilistic theories about the predictability of associated phenomena in the physical world -- these already well-understood distinctions come into play.

      Transcendic apoditic truths are observably synonymous with two million years of stagnation regarding our species’ progress. No hard to vary knowledge with good explanations in sight. Maybe the Neanderthals came close but sadly your transcendic apoditic truth holding hominids did discover murder. Just a joke.

      You do seem to find something of a deficiency, perhaps not the right word, with the evidence on the ground: that science is tied to probablistic theories. That’s not something I worry about even though science achievement has provided me (and you) through technology, the time to worry about it should we choose to! I choose not to and the progress marches onward anyway. This oddity of yours, this prickliness about science, does seem to go against the spirit of Fides et Ratio but maybe you’re one who thought JP2 was a heretic pope for kissing the Koran? That would be consistent and something I could even kinda sorta maybe respect. But it’s probably just your attempt to weaken what you feel is an undeserved respect I accord to hard to vary theories with good explanations. Because that’s holding me back from Jesus? ;-)

      You can claim all you like that facts remain. If they were facts we would have evidence. They are propositions, reasoned from within an easy to vary framework badly explaining, in fact, claims that are contrary to everything we’ve learned through the tools of the Enlightenment.

      Handshake for the exchanges? I do appreciate your willingness to spend time with your readers.

      Mike
      Edit done.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        >"The point being you can have all two million years of hominid metaphysical claims about first principles but without a hard to vary theory, you now get two million years of relative stagnation compared to four hundred years of lightbulbs going off relentlessly. Longer exposure to your position doesn’t look winning."

        This only underlines how badly you misunderstand what I am saying. Largely prior the the beginnings of Greek philosophy in the West, no one called understanding of these basic principles "metaphysical" principles. That is why I pointed out that even little children know them.

        You had no science of metaphysics until the last few thousand years. Your reference to "two million years of hominid metaphysical claims" misses the point that this common sense knowledge of how being works was never considered "metaphysical." Metaphysics, as a philosophical science, comes only at the very end of the time period.

        As to the "novel" demand for "hard to vary theories," this sounds suspiciously to me like simply a way of demanding empirical verifiability in sheep's clothing. It clearly applies well to natural science, but allegedly not to philosophical truths that are not empirically verifiable. This is why I say it is simply scientism in disguise.

        Note how "hard to vary theories" themselves presuppose epistemological and metaphysical assumptions that cannot be scientifically proven, such as the existence of the external world, the validity of sensation as the basis for forming judgments about the observed data, the causal influence of one phenomenon on another, and so forth. If such philosophical truths should be rejected because they themselves fail to be "hard to vary theories," then how do you even articulate your "hard to vary theory" examples?

        You want propositions that can be easily falsified because they are specific enough in physical terms that proving one part of them wrong would prove the whole theory wrong. That does work well for scientific theories -- which is why this is simply another defense of positivism.

        The problem is that by restricting your "falsification" to empirical testing you have presupposed the very method of natural science you seek to prove. Not all knowledge is had through scientific demonstration. In fact, the very claim that scientific demonstration is the sole valid form of knowledge cannot itself be demonstrated scientifically -- as you well know. It is the object of a philosophical proof -- or else, it simply cannot be proven.

        Classical philosophy entails its own forms of absolute demonstration. A truth can be demonstrated or a falsehood disproven by means of logical reasoning -- even though this method does not entail any scientific experiments.

        All you are giving is the standard claims of positivists who point to the "great advances" in modern science as alleged proof that natural science is the only real route to progress in truth. That is why you ignore my repeated pointing out that natural science presupposes metaphysical and epistemological principles and claims that can solely be defended by philosophical means.

        Yes, modern science does give us great advances in our understanding of the physical universe in which we live -- thanks to the philosophical premises modern science presupposes.

        I have no problems with modern science, and certainly none with St. John Paul II. My own initial educational background was in chemistry. But I do know the difference between natural science and philosophical science. The former is rich in new discoveries, but probabilistic in conclusions; the latter is filled with unchanging, but deep and certain, truths. They are like two sisters, each beautiful in her own way, but simply different.

        • Ficino

          "I do know the difference between natural science and philosophical science. The former is rich in new discoveries, but probabilistic in conclusions; the latter is filled with unchanging, but deep and certain, truths."

          Dr. B - Dennis, if I may - you are eloquent, but at least to this blighter, you do not persuade. If A-T were so certain, why was it largely ditched? Among all the professional philosophers I know, maybe two are Thomists. Does everyone else fail to be persuaded because they are too dim-witted, or perhaps, because they just want to sin? People weren't ditching Euclidean geometry in the later thirteenth century, so why did Thomism come under fire if it was just a system of deep and certain truths?

          Over the last three years on various boards, I've pointed out discontinuities between Aristotle and Aquinas. I've pointed out discrepancies within the system of Aquinas himself. And others have pointed to the failure of Thomism to supply unique premises, available from nowhere else, that science must adopt or else undergo methodological collapse.

          Now we're waiting to hear from Edward Feser why scientists need to be Thomists to avoid methodological collapse. Meanwhile, worldwide, scientists of different metaphysical persuasions have a roughly common methodology by which anyone can advance findings in a field, and anyone else can assess them.

          I'm not making a focused point. I am just coming more and more to suspect that the goal in Thomist confrontation with science is to inoculate the claims of Catholicism against what are seen as powerful critiques. But perhaps I am becoming too cynical.

          I read your posts about "newness" and if I can manage it, will try to reply in a way that does justice to them. Just for starters, I took away a claim that "newness" is a property of any change, which newness can only be a creation of God. If that's your claim, we can perhaps discuss it, and if it's not your claim, I'll profit from knowing what instead you are claiming about the newness of any effect.

          Channeling John of Salisbury,

          best, Ficino

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You ask why there seem to be so few Thomists around these days and note that you know only a couple professional Thomists yourself. I don’t know if you have sampled the entire world, but the first question that comes to my mind is, “Do we now determine truth by putting it to a vote?” At one time most noted Northern European philosophers were Kantians. How many Kantians do you know today?

            Are you speaking in terms of Catholic circles, or the secular campus scene? If the latter, English speaking colleges have been dominated by analytical philosophy for most of the last century. Its roots in natural science make antipathy to Thomism to be expected. As for the Catholic schools, Thomistic dominance was deliberately and widely cast aside following Vatican II – not because of intrinsic defect, but because of the influence of secular agendas by those wanting to rapidly change Catholic culture.

            A good example of the latter is the U. of Notre Dame, where I earned my philosophy doctorate in 1970. A deliberate shift to non-Thomistic graduate faculty developed under the chairmanship of Fr. Ernan McMullin in the late 1960s – so that it would be hardly surprising to find few Thomists left there today. This same type of “philosophical shift” was more of a cultural movement that swept most American Catholic colleges out of the orbit of the Magisterium following Vatican II.

            Why do you appear surprised to find “discontinuities” between Aristotle and Aquinas? They are separated by fifteen centuries and vastly diverse cultures. Thomists are well aware of their substantial differences. And as for “discrepancies” within St. Thomas himself, any good Thomist is well aware of those as well. They do not negate the value of his central insights.

            Moreover, I would not personally claim that science will undergo methodological collapse if it does not adopt Thomistic premises. Natural science and philosophy are distinct disciplines. Natural science does very well – operationally assuming certain epistemic and metaphysical first principles – but without having to explicitly adopt a complete philosophical system in the process.

            The only problem I see is that some scientists, especially certain physicists, attempt to extrapolate their scientific method to the domain of philosophy and metaphysics, and, in so doing, become bad philosophers.

            It is one thing to note that natural scientists operationally presume premises that are properly defended by Thomism as true. But it is quite another to say that natural science will cease to function unless it explicitly works out the philosophical underpinnings it assumes in practice. There is no need for conflict here. Thomism does not seek to confront natural science. But Thomism will defend its own principles and theses when scientists – acting outside their own proper field of competence – make philosophical claims that contradict classical philosophical truths.

            If you have read my SN piece on how “newness” implies God, its main theme is that the ongoing changes in finite things necessarily imply the existence of some external source of all that “new existence” – a “source” that has many of the properties we attribute to the classical notion of God. But you will note that the OP also states clearly that a formal proof for God’s existence entails far more complete explanation than was possible in a 2500 word online discussion.

          • Ficino

            As a classicist who works on areas that overlap areas of interest to people in Philosophy departments, I know a good number of people employed to teach Philosophy. Some work at Catholic institutions, many at secular ones, at least one at an evangelical Protestant college.

            Dr. B, when you say that Thomism does not seek to confront natural science, I take it you mean that many Thomists do not seek such confrontation. Now that Edward Feser's Aristotle's Revenge is either out or soon to be out, I infer from what I have read that Feser thinks natural science must work from principles supplied by A-T metaphysics, and that scientists who deny this do not realize that they are in fact cannibalizing A-T metaphysics. But perhaps you do not share Feser's view on this, or perhaps I have misread things written by Feser. I do not assume that if Feser defends a position, all Thomists also defend that particular position!

            -------------------
            ETA: cf. " The Thomistic claim of immanent finality,
            according to which human intentionality is a specific and developed instance of a more generally observable phenomenon in nature, is therefore more conducive to modern scientific assumptions than the supposedly naturalistic viewpoints that see natural finality as the projection of human attributes onto a purposeless natural world." Nicholas Austin, Aquinas on Virtue (2017) 98. Austin is not saying that non-Thomist scientists cannot do good scientific work, but he is claiming that modern science needs assumptions supplied by Thomism. It would seem to follow that he thinks science is "done better," to put it crudely, by including distinctive A-T metaphysical assumptions somewhere in its foundational principles, and it would seem that science would be done badly, or not as well, if those principles are rejected.

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

            As to your article about newness, I did read a two-part, longer article that you linked. I don't know whether we will profit from a discussion. I'll just say that one question I had was, are you treating "newness" as an accident of an accident?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I have pointed out repeatedly that natural science logically presupposes certain philosophical premises and that those premises are explained and defended by Thomistic philosophy.

            One can be an effective scientist without directly addressing those presuppositions, even though he employs them in doing science, for example, by accepting our knowledge of the external world or seeking explanations for all phenomena.

            In a sense, it is not Thomism that confronts natural science, but certain natural scientists who draw false philosophical inferences from their own discipline to attack philosophical theses outside their discipline. I would let Dr. Feser speak for himself on this issue.

            As to the nature of the "newness" my argument for God points to, it might be an accident of an accident, an accident, or even a new substance in the universe. For example, if a new substance comes into being, its newness must be given account. I deliberately reduced the analysis to mere changes in spatial location as an example starting point -- for the sole purpose of eliminating debates over such things as new substances.

            It really does not matter. Any form of "newness" at all is a sufficient starting point for the argument.

          • Ficino

            Your newest and my ETA crossed.

            OK, I gather our understanding of the "A-T metaphysics needed for science" claim coincides. I took Feser to hold that "scientists who deny this do not realize that they are in fact cannibalizing A-T metaphysics." Above, you write, "One can be an effective scientist without directly addressing those presuppositions, even though he employs them in doing science..."

            As to "newness": if someone gives an exhaustive account of the generation or corruption of a substance, or an exhaustive account of some alteration of it, it's not clear to me that there is a remaining property, "newness," that awaits explanation not already contained in the explanation of the generation or alteration. Since everything in space/time is constantly new in some respect, your expl. seemed to me on first reading to entail a kind of continuous creation. But I shall get back to your articles and spend more time with them.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If someone gives "an exhaustive account of some alteration," part of that "accounting" must include an explanation of whatever aspect of reality or existence which was not present in the prior state of affairs.

            Whatever that new aspect happens to be is the "newness" of which I am speaking.

            And no, I am not denying secondary causality here. When a secondary cause produces something new, it itself moves from potency to act in some respect, which entails some aspect of newness to be explained. Since the secondary cause is not itself already in act prior to its acting, there remains a need for some extrinsic cause to actuate the power of that secondary cause itself.

            Edit: Last paragraph added.

        • Sample1

          This only underlines how badly you misunderstand what I am saying. Largely prior the the beginnings of Greek philosophy in the West, no one called understanding of these basic principles "metaphysical" principles. That is why I pointed out that even little children know them.

          I’m hesitant to call your ideas basic, if by basic you mean immutable or fundamental. Do you see an error in describing first principles as inventions of human minds? I think I do see reason as an invention made capable because of evolving brains. I don’t see first principles as something that existed before the arrival of such capable brains. It seems to me for your position to hold together, first principles literally exist apart from human minds. I’m also skeptical that little children know reason in your sense of the word. I think children can develop reason by incrementally adding those components that we say as adults when combined, constitutes a reasoned way of thinking.

          You had no science of metaphysics until the last few thousand years. Your reference to "two million years of hominid metaphysical claims" misses the point that this common sense knowledge of how being works was never considered "metaphysical." Metaphysics, as a philosophical science, comes only at the very end of the time period.

          I can agree about the timeline regarding of when the “science”of metaphysics was invented. I wouldn’t call metaphysics science, perhaps a proto-intellectual thinking activity that had the effect of stagnating human progress is how I’d describe the “science” of metaphysics. I don’t say this lightly. If your metaphysics posits a utopian fundamentalism of thought to be attained, I think that’s a serious problem. This is said because in such a condition, there will be a time when no progress can be made, by definition. John Wheeler once said the challenge or problem for physics is to make all the mistakes as soon as possible (paraphrasing). Such a view invites progress. Had Wheeler claimed a completed physics already exists, then if one adopted that claim, progress would necessarily be over. Like metaphysics, all that would be left would be to operate as functionaries within that system, a rather dismal existence.

          As to the "novel" demand for "hard to vary theories," this sounds suspiciously to me like simply a way of demanding empirical verifiability in sheep's clothing. It clearly applies well to natural science, but allegedly not to philosophical truths that are not empirically verifiable. This is why I say it is simply scientism in disguise.

          And here it’s my turn to say you are grasping what you need to see to make your position immune from criticism. Without a theory, first principles is lame. And some theories are better than others if we are to agree that human progress is a sign of a good theory. Here we come back to theories that are easy to vary providing bad explanations and theories that are hard to vary providing good explanations.

          You want propositions that can be easily falsified because they are specific enough in physical terms that proving one part of them wrong would prove the whole theory wrong. That does work well for scientific theories -- which is why this is simply another defense of positivism.

          I agree only where you agree with me, and it’s pleasant to see that here. However, I am not saying we need propositions in metaphysics that meet scientific standards but what I am saying is if one expects human progress to advance then the absence of falsification in metaphysics likely means that actitivity will not be a partner in future human progress.

          The problem is that by restricting your "falsification" to empirical testing you have presupposed the very method of natural science you seek to prove. Not all knowledge is had through scientific demonstration. In fact, the very claim that scientific demonstration is the sole valid form of knowledge cannot itself be demonstrated scientifically -- as you well know. It is the object of a philosophical proof -- or else, it simply cannot be proven.

          I don’t restrict it, the framework of metaphysics restricts it. Of course not all knowledge is scientific but I will claim knowledge is found through reason and science. Science is not about proving itself right or wrong, it’s job is to test whether there are good reasons for what we claim about reality. So it makes no mind whether or not it can prove itself using science. This claim of yours is a straw man. Proofs are for math and liquor not science. And, I might add, religious metaphysics which is why, I think, being a primary hammer or interest of yours, you seem to forget that about proofs not being in science.

          Classical philosophy entails its own forms of absolute demonstration. A truth can be demonstrated or a falsehood disproven by means of logical reasoning -- even though this method does not entail any scientific experiments.

          By saying “own form of absolute demonstration” you continue the straw man.

          All you are giving is the standard claims of positivists who point to the "great advances" in modern science as alleged proof that natural science is the only real route to progress in truth.

          Again, straw man continuation.

          That is why you ignore my repeated pointing out that natural science presupposes metaphysical and epistemological principles and claims that can solely be defended by philosophical means.

          On the contrary, I’ve addressed this directly. Today I’ve addressed it further by laying out questions about your specific beliefs and why if they are what I posited, I’d have problems with them.

          Yes, modern science does give us great advances in our understanding of the physical universe in which we live -- thanks to the philosophical premises modern science presupposes

          First part agreed, of course. Though I’m not convinced this is important to you in the same way it’s important to me. As for philosophical presuppositions being responsible for progress, well, we disagree as to the origin of philosophy. I say it’s invented and, lacking any theory of a hard to vary good explanatory framework, is impotent. And our framework for hard to vary good explanations is reason and science, inventions of the human mind as well.

          _____
          tl;dr Metaphysical first principles are explanationless without hard to vary theory laden conjecture.

          Mike
          Edit done: last two sentences and some grammar/spelling and the tl;dr

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Clearly, you embrace the typical evolutionist position that the power of reasoning has evolved over time. The problem with that is when can you really trust reason’s judgments? If you could not do so in the past, how do you know when it became trustworthy? And, if its judgments about things like first principles are trustworthy today, why would such judgments have been less true in the past?

            What is really going on here is that you are not addressing the arguments in my OP, but just ignoring them. Show where they are wrong. Step by step. For, if they are correct, human intellectual knowledge is spiritual in nature and never evolved at all.

            If man has a spiritual and intellectual soul, then from the time of the very first human beings – however long ago – human judgments of first principles were sound and immutable. And yes, little children know them pretty fast, since they know you either will give them a candy or not. And that if you give them one, it is because you had it to give. And that if you don’t have one to give, you cannot give it to them. They are not that dumb!

            The real problem here is that you don’t seem to recognize the importance of examining the foundations of science itself. I don’t ask science to prove itself. It cannot. It is the function of philosophy to test the rational credibility of scientific presuppositions, such as: (1) that the external world exists, (2) that the human mind can know it, (3) that things cannot both be and not be, (4) that what fails to explain itself needs an extrinsic explanation, (5) that the human mind is a trustworthy instrument for learning about the cosmos. Nor can you employ natural science as such to validate these sorts of presuppositions of science, since that would entail circular reasoning.

            The assumption that human science is a product of brain activity and that brain activity evolved over millions of years sounds exactly like the “easy to vary” theory which is suited to defend belief in the mythology of materialism. After all, if we cannot find the actual mechanisms that support this thesis in paleoanthropological data, we are free to hypothesize that the missing evidence is missing because it was all too long ago to be empirically verifiable today.

            No, I am not seriously debating that brains evolved over time, but I am saying that the methodology of natural science in no way undercuts the necessary truth of philosophical science, and that those very philosophical truths are needed by natural science in order to make its total system coherent.

            You seem to be making the virtues of metaphysical science into vices. Because it offers universal and unchanging certitudes as well as fairly complete and irreformable systematic explanation of the ultimate causes of the world, this is claimed to be a defect rather than a sign of perfection. Of course, natural science must constantly be making progress, since, by its very tentative and contingent nature, its hold on truth is often ephemeral – and certainly in constant need of improvement. That is fine. For natural science.

            But if you want to reduce all human thought to natural science, first show me where the logical steps of my article are wrong. For, if they are not wrong, then the human spiritual soul has an intellect that does not evolve, and the first true human beings were just as capable of knowing common sense first principles of being as you and I are. And then, the science of metaphysics and the rest of classical philosophy is established on firm and immutable foundations which make for a type of science which is simply different from natural science, but never replaced by natural science.

  • “Say God finally decides to get up off the couch and make himself known. Why would you believe this? Science and evidence apparently wouldn’t be a tool in your mind, right? And how would you distinguish God from a powerful alien just lying to us?”

    Science shouldn´t be the tool in anyone´s mind for a question such as this one. I would look at the reasons that I have to believe this and filter those through all other beliefs that I have regarding reality, existence, epistemology and many other philosophical beliefs in order to come to the conclusion that is most likely true.

    Wow. I guess I have to applaud your honesty. We shouldn't use evidence and logic to evaluate the most important issue of all?

    And Christians wonder why their worldview isn’t appealing . . .

    In other words, Philosophy is not only alive but it is also your job if you are in the ¨Does God exist?¨ business.

    For deciding the most important issue of all, I think I’ll stick with reality and reason, thanks.

    • ClayJames

      Wow. I guess I have to applaud your honesty. We shouldn't use evidence and logic to evaluate the most important issue of all?

      What? I never said this. I said we shouldn´t use science and we should definetly use logic which is part of the philosophical framework that I talked about. I don´t know how you came to this bizarre conclusion.

      For deciding the most important issue of all, I think I’ll stick with reality and reason, thanks.

      The aplication of reason is not scientific put philosophical. Science presupposes the validity of logical conlusions so these cannot be scientific in nature. Your worldview is held together by some extremely strange and juvenile definition of these concepts.

  • Rob Abney

    I think all of your explanations about evolution fall into the easy to vary category.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    Aside from introducing this new concept of "hard to vary" explanations, this is still the just the old debate between evolutionary materialism and classical metaphysics.

    I realize that you are enamored with this new tool that seems to favor materialist explanations of all phenomena, but this tool appears to me to be limited in usefulness to the realm of natural science.

    It does not tell you whether something is true or not. It merely provides a method to make apparent progress faster in natural science.

    The problem is that when comparing evolutionary mechanisms to philosophical claims, the mechanisms often use "easy to vary" dodges.

    For example, if my article demonstrates by reason that universal concepts cannot be explained by neuronal activity, the standard materialist response is that somehow neurons explain it since there is no other material entity available. That hardly addresses the philosophical argument!

    When such immaterial entities as qualia are encountered by evolutionary materialists, we are then told that such properties are "emergent" from the brain -- somehow. Is this not an "easy to vary" type explanation?

    If the universal human experience of free will is pointed to, the response of materialists is that such experience must be illusory, since there is no room for free will in a deterministic material universe. The "easy to vary" type answer is that the experience is merely an illusion.

    >"I’ve no real issue with your five philosophical points. Agreed."

    You explicitly concede above that I have given you five philosophical principles which you accept. But you walk by that fact as if it does not matter. Where did these philosophical facts come from? Does not that matter to you? How do you prove them in science? You cannot do so.

    This is where the realm of natural science ends and true philosophical enquiry begins.

    As to the "development" of reason you describe in evolutionary terms as the beginning of your comment, it is not the development of reason that matters here. It is rather the appearance of the power of reason itself that must be explained by evolution.

    Either we think in terms of being or not. Either we know non-contradiction or not. Either the mind demands reasons or not.

    You say I am an empiricist. But I point out I am not a sensist. I do not reduce all knowledge to sensation and brain activity.

    Since either the mind grasps the concept of being and its implications or not, there can be no gradual emergence of intellectual consciousness as you imply in your "easy to vary" explanation of the alleged "development of reason."

    These are properly philosophical questions and issues which simply are not the province of natural science.

    That is why the "hard to vary" criteria may be of some use to natural science, but is not the ultimately decisive tool for you to use to defeat classical philosophy.

    There remain critical philosophical principles and truths that natural science presupposes and which you still fail to address. Nor have you yet addressed the arguments given by my article demonstrating both the hylemorphic doctrine and the spirituality of the human intellectual soul.

    You challenge my claim that man has such a soul:

    >"That’s a big if, to date, without evidence. I’ve never seen good explanatory reasons to believe immaterial souls exist much less hard to vary explanatory reasons for how the immaterial interacts with the material.

    Well, the "evidence" is in my article. It is in the form of reasoning. Unless you wish to expose your scientistic belief by demanding evidence that must be empirically verified, you will have to address the reasoning in my article.

    But an adequate rebuttal on your part cannot remain purely in the realm of natural science, since a philosophical demonstration requires a philosophical response.

    • Sample1

      Let me get back to you. I’m listening to Deutsch’s audio book The Beginning of Infinity which popped up free in my YouTube feed. I’m going to have to buy the book. Though the material is for the layman and is enjoyably written, it’s too frustrating to absorb it only with audio. Some of the ideas need contemplation.

      Thanks for the back and forth. I’ve really enjoyed it. I hope I can mount a reply worth your time.

      Mike

  • OMG

    Dr. B.,
    I suspect that the length of this thread, coupled with this software, caused my inability to respond to your earlier one to David about sense, knowledge, natural law, etc. After about 30 minutes of diddling, I was able to read your comment but was not able to upvote, so please accept this as that.

    I think the questions David broached are interesting, and I wonder whether you may think it worth an original article. I don't have the skill and ease of language with which to approach the issue, and I would appreciate hearing more from you, particularly about passive and active intellect, from whence arises the intellect, apprehension (again) of a whole, concept formation, etc. etc. to cover David's questioning. Guess that about covers it all!

    FYI: Nicanour Astriaco has an online article at First Things on the recent genetically modified CRISPR twins.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Thank you, OMG. I worry about the technical level of the questions you raise, especially since there have been virtually no comments addressed to the specific steps of the philosophical arguments in my present article. So, I fear that laying out the details of how the intellect forms universal concepts from the phantasm would beget even greater yawns. ;-)

      I must confess, though, that I have, at least for the moment, run out of ideas for new pieces for SN. Not every topic seems appropriate for this venue.

      Your own comments are much appreciated.

      • Ficino

        "... there have been virtually no comments addressed to the specific steps of the philosophical arguments in my present article."

        Sorry, Dr. B, which article? The present OP was by Bishop Barron, wasn't it?

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Now you really have me confused! The article above this comment is an older one by Bishop Barron. But if you click on "Home" the present article appears, entitled "How we know the human soul is immortal."

          Which of us in in reality? Or is it our computer's fault?

          • Ficino

            We are using "present" under different extensions!

            Thanks for clearing up the mystery.

          • Sample1

            I was a little perplexed too during our back and forth when you said the original OP was being ignored by me but now this makes sense.

            Mike.

      • OMG

        Thank you, Dr. B. I understand your dilemma. Consider my request null and void; it arose from selfish motives since I'm only beginning to grip the surface depth of Thomas, so I was hoping for guidance. Never despair of God's answer to prayer! This advent I received two remarkable tomes: Brother Benignus Gerrity and "The Sense of Mystery" - Garrigou-Lagrange translated by Matthew Minerd. The first will help me. The second will help us all, I think. The last few chapters discuss predilection and a spiritual chiaroscuro (nights of sense and spirit). The riddle of the sphinx is posed. The answer is to 'divine' the riddle. To 'divine' is to love, knowing that love is known through the cross. Minerd explains: He who is magnanimous will recognize magnanimity under vilifications and the worst trials. God will enlighten. He has already proven his love.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          I presume you now have Bro. Benignus' Nature, Knowledge, and God, which I have recommended to many, even on this web site. That is great. When you finish it, you will know more than I do about Thomistic philosophy. He distills the central doctrines taught by all the great Thomists of the twentieth century -- the likes of Garrigou-Lagrange, Maritain, and Gilson.

          Moreover, he explicitly says that the book is designed to answer the philosophical errors contained in the likes of naturalism, scientific materialism, and positivism. The only areas not covered are those in the normative disciplines of ethics and political philosophy.

          I suspect you will enjoy this work and make it a standard reference in your personal library.

          Garrigou-Lagrange was, of course, not only a solid Thomistic philosopher, but also one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century. Enjoy.

          • OMG

            Right. I have Nature, Knowledge, and God. I have this vague notion that it may be his only book? It is wonderfully and clearly written. I think you may be incorrect ! I doubt that I should ever know more Thomistic philosophy than you ( at least not here on earth). :)

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Yes, as far as I know, that is Bro. Benignus' only book. In fact, you can see what an intensely comprehensive and solidly written a work it is. I have heard that it was such a concentrated effort on his part that he died not long after its publication.

            As for learning Thomism, I have been teaching free courses in Thomistic philosophy since 2010, following my retirement in 2003. And, in these last few years I have learned many new and deeper insights than I knew even after forty years of university teaching. It is a never ending process. Even some of the skeptical challenges on this web site have forced me to find out things I did not previously know.

            If you are young enough, you have the advantage of being able to continue plumbing the depths of Thomism long after my learning stops -- and God informs me of how little I really knew!

  • Phil Tanny

    Like many atheists, Hawkings seems intent on asking the question, "Which is the better science? Science, or religion?"

    As I see it, this often asked question reveals an understandable lack of insight in to what religion really is. While science concerns itself with trying to establish facts about reality, at it's heart religion is about the effort to enhance our _relationship_ with reality, a very different business.

    The atheist confusion is understandable because religions often make factual claims about reality in the attempt to help us manage our relationship with reality. The atheist confusion is understandable because I'm not sure that even most religious people understand that factual claims made by religions are really just a means to a higher end, enhancing our relationship with where we find ourselves, a very practical agenda.

    To those who say this is just the selling of fantasy I would reply that the notion that any of us are in a position to know whether the largest religious claims are fantasy is itself a fantasy. The idea that the God debate will ever resolve anything, another fantasy.

    Religions should be judged not by whether they can accurately calculate the orbits of planets, but by the degree to which they understand, address, and enhance the human condition. The fact that billions of people over thousands of years have willingly participated in religion would seem to demonstrate that in at least some cases religions succeed at this agenda, and thus should not be discarded in a sweeping manner.

  • Phil Tanny

    It's a shame that Hawkings, a leading physicist, should fall in to such a common trap as asking whether God exists. Forget about his answer, it's the question that is the problem, and Hawkings of all people should have known better.

    The God debate question presumes, typically without any questioning at all by anyone on any side, that the only possible answers to the God question are "exists" or "doesn't exist". Such an assumption blatantly ignores the overwhelming vast majority of reality at every scale, space, which does not fit neatly in to either the "exists" or "doesn't exist" categories.

    The simplistic "exists or not" paradigm is indeed useful in our everyday lives, but it doesn't scale to the infinite scope of the God idea, a claim about the most fundamental nature of everything everywhere.

    What we might learn from the fact that the greatest minds among us on all sides can make such a mistake for at least 500 years is that human reason simply isn't qualified to generate meaningful statements on such enormous questions. It's very unlikely indeed that useful answers will ever arise from such fatally flawed questions.

    However, despair not, for the fact that we don't know and probably can't know may be a gift as such ignorance preserves the magic and mystery which makes life worth living.

  • Ryan Privee

    Didn't Hawking once say there was a God but changed his mind as he neared death?