Friday, May 28, 2010

Davies on the New Atheism

A reader kindly alerts me to this audio file of a lecture on the New Atheism by Fr. Brian Davies, whose views on divine simplicity we had reason recently to discuss. Give it a listen. I would not endorse everything Davies says here about the Bible and evolution, at least not without significant qualification. But his main point is one that cannot be repeated too often: The vulgar, anthropomorphic conception of God attacked by the New Atheists – though also, regrettably, defended by some well-meaning but muddleheaded Christian apologists – has nothing to do with the classical theism defended by the likes of Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas, which has, historically, been central to Christian orthodoxy.

65 comments:

Anonymous said...

It seems fair to say that this talk simply and pointedly confirms Kant's understanding that we cannot fathom the transcendent noumena.

Crude said...

I still have to listen to the whole talk - my headphones are busted, so 30 minute listening stretches don't go over well - but I did scan through it.

My one criticism out of the gates is that Davies makes what I think is a common 'polite theist' mistake regarding the NAs: He struggles to make the NA arguments sound thoughtful and honed and reasonable, but alas, mistaken on a few key points. It's almost as if he's engaging in a kind of reverse strawman - taking what his opponents have said, and then building it up to seem vastly better than it is before taking it down.

Even David Bentley Hart, himself one of those 'polite theists', recently gave up that tact and spoke frankly.

Edward Feser said...

I agree, Crude. As they say in Chicago, don't take a knife to a gunfight. If Dawkins and Co. were decent, fair-minded, intellectually serious men of the Mackie, Sobel, or Quentin Smith stripe, a nice guy approach would be in order. But they are not. They are ignorant thugs, and need to be treated as such lest their views acquire an unearned respectability. Hence the harsh tone of The Last Superstition.

TheOFloinn said...

confirms Kant's understanding that we cannot fathom the transcendent noumena.

Kant? Augustine said the same thing long before Aquinas said the same thing long before Kant said the same thing.

But if we cannot fathom it, we can still skinny-dip in the waves.

George R. said...

Davies is a Thomist who doesn’t have a problem with evolutionism. But the question is: is Thomism compatible with the theory of evolution? I say absolutely not. While St. Thomas himself never had to go up against these evolutionist goofballs in his day, Thomistic and Aristotelian principles, IMO, could effectively be employed today to disprove evolutionism apodictically.

Benyachov said...

Is Mr. George R. channeling Wolfgang Smith?

Just curious.

Neil Parille said...

Theistic evolution appears to be the position favored by the Vatican. Last year there was a Vatican conference on Darwin with 140 guests. None was a creationist or an advocate of ID.

Every catholic exegete I've read on Genesis (admitedly not many) embraces some form of JEDP.

Maolsheachlann said...

In the photo you use, Father Davies looks a bit like Obi Wan Kenobi as acted by Ewan McGregor.

I only listened to some of the talk, but I bet he took a light saber to the NAs.

Anonymous said...

Forget Darwinian evolution for a second (since I take it to be certainly false insofar as it implies materialism about human beings)...I want to consider evolution more generally. Do theistic evolutionists such as Davies and many other Catholics believe that violent predation, parasitism, mass extinction, and other forms of animal suffering were part and parcel of God's "good" creation for billions upon billions of years, long before humans beings ever emerged on Earth to spoil creation via an exercise of their free will, as Genesis is typically taken to be saying? Fossils and other data obtained from archeology do seem to indicate this.

If so, I'm having a great deal of trouble believing that this world is the product of the infinite, inner dance of love of the triune God. On the one hand, we have this exquisite conception of God, yet, on the other hand, we have death, pain, and suffering occurring on vast, unimaginable scales. One view of the world is so overwhelmingly beautiful, the other is so overwhelmingly disgusting. My strong intuition is that these things - violent predation, extinction, parasitism, etc. - can have nothing whatsoever to do with the infinite goodness and love of God as described by Christian theology, but if so, here's the rub: How could such a God will anything but infinite goodness and love, since it is his essence? More specifically, since there would have been absolutely nothing hindering him from willing his essence infinitely at the outset of creation, why all the pain and death before the emergence of human beings? Or was there creaturely free will prior to humanity? Was there some sort of "angelic" fall which ultimately led to Lucifer and his ilk spoiling creation? In the end, I just don't know.

What I do know is that this is the only question that poses a challenge to my Christian faith, and that I'm surprised by the lack of thoughtful responses to this question.

Vincent Torley said...

I've just been listening to Fr. Brian Davies' talk. He certainly does an excellent job of exposing the theological ignorance of the exponents of the New Atheism. However, I have to say that I found a number of his responses unconvincing.

1. Fr. Davies' concession to the New Atheists that the God of the Old Testament is a "less than perfect moral agent" is nothing short of astonishing. The Old Testament is, after all, the inspired Word of God, for Jews and Christians alike. Fr. Davies' suggestion that the so-called "Biblical atrocities" were never meant to be taken literally flies in the face of overwhelming evidence that the early Church did take them literally, as the anti-Marcionite controversy shows. Read, for instance, what Tertullian writes in Adversus Marcionem Book IV chapter 23 ( http://library.marcionite-scripture.info/Tert6.html ) on Elisha sending bears to devour 42 boys who mocked him (2 Kings 2:23-25). See also Aquinas on murder: Summa Theologica II, q. 64, articles 2 and 3 at http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3064.htm#article2 . For my own take on Biblical atrocities, please see here: http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/whybelieve6.html#bible-atrocities .

2. Fr. Davies' claim that atrocities committed by Christians cannot count as evidence against Christianity is surely wrong. Let's suppose, for argument's sake, that Christians had been responsible for killing one billion people in the past 2,000 years, while members of other religions had been responsible for killing less than one-tenth that number. Let's suppose, also, that non-Christians had been responsible for saving just as many lives (on average) as Christians. I would take that as pretty good evidence that Christianity was false. Actually, the truth is the opposite: while Christians have killed millions down the ages, they have saved the lives of billions. But my point is that numbers do count. The New Atheists are right on that one.

3. Fr. Davies talks about how evolution is compatible with Christianity. What about Adam and Eve? Humani Generis still stands (see http://academic.regis.edu/mghedott/humanigeneris.htm , especially paragraph 37). As I understand it, Professor Francisco Ayala has co-authored a paper ("Molecular genetics of speciation and human origins" at http://www.pnas.org/content/91/15/6787.full.pdf+html ), arguing that the population of humanity has never numbered less than several thousand individuals. You can't reconcile that with what the Church teaches regarding the fall of Adam and Eve. And making Adam the head of the human tribe, as Professor Germain Grisez has suggested, won't do the trick either. Stone Age tribes numbered 25-50 individuals, and a population of several thousand individuals would have been spread over an area of thousands of square kilometres, with no way for them to congregate in order to elect Adam as their "delegate."

4. As Anonymous correctly points out, Fr. Davies says nothing about "violent predation, parasitism, mass extinction, and other forms of animal suffering." Were these part of God's plan or weren't they? For my part, I'd go along with what Catholic layman David James Walsh has written in his blog post, "On the notion of a cosmic falll" at http://ipsumesse.wordpress.com/2007/09/17/on-the-notion-of-a-cosmic-fall/ .

5. Lastly, if God's attributes are altogether incomprehensible as Fr. Davies maintains, then I'd like to ask a simple question: why should we love God? Fr. Davies' Deity would leave me cold.

The Phantom Blogger said...

Vincent Torley you may be interested in this.

Here's some pieces here, covering how Catholics can connect Church teachings on a literal Adam and Eve, with our knowedge of genetics.

http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/p83.htm

The Bottom of this page deals with Adam and Eve specifically.

http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/p15.htm

And here's some other's:

http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/p87.htm

http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/p102.htm

All these deals with the topic of Adam and Eve. The rest of the website is a wealth of information on Catholic thought and Philosophy.

Here is the Home page:

http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/

and the link to the Philosophy and Science section:

http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/philos.htm

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Phantom Blogger,

Thanks for the links. As far as I can tell, from looking at the articles, the only way to square the available molecular evidence with traditional Church teaching regarding a literal Adam and Eve is to suppose that the first human beings (or at least their children Cain, Seth and their brothers and sisters) sometimes inter-bred with non-rational hominids that lacked a human soul, and that this was not an uncommon occurrence in the early days of humanity - including after the Flood (assuming it to have been an ancient event that killed off all but eight of the human beings living in the world, at some time in human prehistory when humans lived in a relatively small region of Africa). Thus from a biological perspective, the effective human population size could have been quite large, even though most of these "humans" might have lacked reason. That's certainly possible, but it raises troubling questions all the same.

Anonymous said...

There's alot to say on the subject, but I disagree with anon's thoughts on evolution and evil, particuarily that there has never been a satisfying response to it (at least no more than other problems of evil) . Obviously the evolutionary process involves some evils but certainly no more so than the other natural evils like earthquakes or cosmological blunders that creationists seem to get along with.

I think Humphrey at Quodlibeta made a good blog post about it:

http://bedejournal.blogspot.com/2008/10/chisel-of-death.html

Just Thinking said...

Theodicy really gums up the personal God arguments.

In addition to anons question on evil, I would ask just how it is that (aside from being told in revelation) we know God is personal.

Crude said...

VJTorley,

Just to add in my own two cents...

1) Mostly in agreement here.

2) This is tied up with far more complicated questions, such as what makes a person a christian, what makes a given act a christian act, etc. Not to mention what 'good' or 'bad' acts count as evidence for. But I would agree with Davies that the idea that A) Some people have claimed to be Christian and B) Some of these people dis horrible things, is a tremendously weak claim that Christianity is therefore false on its own. Maybe in the context of a deeper discussion, with all manner of qualifications, something can be brought out of this - but the problem there is the NAs are almost universally shallow on these topics, and they're the ones being discussed.

3) Fr. Davies said Christianity is compatible with evolution, not a specific proposal/view by Ayala, even if it's an evolutionary view. The fact that there seems to have been a tight bottleneck in human origins (Wikipedia cites other views suggesting a low of nearly 2000, and a bottleneck lasting for a very long time) is very interesting when considering Adam and human origins. I'm also not certain Adam would have had to be 'elected' to count as a 'head' of humanity - nor do I think the idea that early humanity interbred with those who were non-human (or some other 'special' situation) is particularly troubling. At least, not moreso than the traditional view of temporary incest.

(My own view on these matters is undecided, and that's in part because multiple views seem to satisfactorily maintain the traditional view of Adam or something near enough - and I agree with the semi-famous quote about how humanity being fallen is the one thing that can be verified by any modern observation of humanity.)

4) Again, I think there are multiple viable answers here. For my own part, I admit to seeing no problem with considering these things part of God's plan - though I'm not really doing that view justice here in a part of a single comment.

That said, I'd object to some of anonymous' view: "Billions upon billions of years" is flatly false. Consider the age of the earth, the origin of animals with brains/nervous systems likely capable of experiencing pain, etc. I think descriptions of pre-human life on earth so often tend to be exceptionally melodramatic, as if everything from bonobo to bacteria would have committed suicide rather than live, if only the thought occurred to them. That's not anywhere close to a true estimation, in my view. (And really, if one takes the view that minds, or minds capable of experiencing pain, arose around the Cambrian era, we're left with the case that the majority of life's time on earth has been spent utterly sans pain.)

I've long had a problem with "theodicy" discussions that rely on, frankly, exaggeration and melodrama. Then again, the problem of evil is no longer a problem that bothers me (To paraphrase another thomist, there are entirely intellectually satisfactory answers to theodicy. Emotionally satisfactory? That's another issue. But my emotions aren't the 'problem' so to speak.)

5) It really depends on the incomprehensibility in question, I suppose. Thomists, if I understand them right, believe God is understandable, but not perfectly, and only by analogy (to put it loosely).

TheOFloinn said...

Do theistic evolutionists ... believe that violent predation, parasitism, mass extinction, and other forms of animal suffering were part and parcel of God's "good" creation

I don't suppose that if species "poofed" into existence by a direct divine act, you would find the objection =lessened.= A lot depends on whether you regard "good" as "fluffie bunnies and butterflies" or whether it simply means that everything attains the end toward which it is directed. A lot of the "Oh, my, nature is icky" argument stems from anthropomorphizing non-rational animals. Disney has a lot to answer for.
+ + +
Fr. Davies' claim that atrocities committed by Christians cannot count as evidence against Christianity is surely wrong. ... I would take that as pretty good evidence that Christianity was false.

Christians have this thing called "original sin," which Dawkins calls the "selfish gene." This means that getting sprinkled does not make you impeccable. Believe it or not, Christians can sin. What a person does is evidence for that person's character; but only if he does is in obedience to the doctrines of his religion is it evidence of the character of that religion.
+ + +
I would ask just how it is that (aside from being told in revelation) we know God is personal.

A cause must have in it something of the nature of the effect, either formally or eminently. Since the first cause is, by definition, the cause of everything subsequent, it is the cause in particular of human reason. Thus, there is in God something analogous to human intellect and will. Since this is what makes us "persons," there is in God something analogous to personhood.

Alternatively, you could set up a meeting with him and get a personal introduction.

Just Thinking said...

*Alternatively, you could set up a meeting with him and get a personal introduction.*

Would you elaborate?

George R. said...

Can someone tell me what "JEDP" stands for?

Alex said...

A question I've been meaning to ask for ages: What's supposed to be "new" about the atheism of Dawkins et al.?

Anonymous said...

Alex,

Argument-wise? Absolutely nothing. The usual justification is that the 911 attacks created a need for "awareness" of the terrible effects of religion, thus the new atheists. That's what is said, but since there is very little attempt to "convince" and LOTS of attempts to mock, I'm thinking the intent was simply to be a smartass.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

I take the "New" in New Atheism to mean "renewed", as in reinvigorated. People like Bertrand Russell gave atheism a veneer of stayed, English respectability–– let's all be gentlemen now, and pass the tea, silly theist–– but New Atheism insists on no gloves as a matter of "Public Service." Not much new in the way of substance, as Anon says.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

As for natural evil and evolution, I think this thread needs a good dose of Fr. Keefe's eucharistic theology. According to Revelation, Creation is IN CHRIST and Christ is in the world IN THE EUCHARIST. The world of natural evolution is not "the real world," as some neutral canvas onto which the canvas was (much less eventually) spilled, but, in fact, the opposite is true: the Incarnation is the axis of creation and the Eucharist is the axis of redemption as a matter of spacetime reality. Cf. Scotus, St. Francis de Sales, and T. F. Torrance, et al. God willed to redeem the very world which seems unsightly to us in the very agency of His Son made manifest in the Eucharist in the eternal now. God did not will to undo or reverse the rough draft of evolved contingency as science describes it, but in fact to suspend that same order from the self-giving of His Son in the One Flesh at Calvary and at ever Mass. Search my blog for more details, I suppose.

Even so, it must be asked: Is an African mantis "evil" for catching and consuming a field mouse? I should say not. Animal suffering is a very slippery notion, and while I hardly wish to come off as a "clockwork Cartesian", I think the likes of Peter Singer's animal moralism is at the exact opposite extreme, and therefore just as untrue. A metaphorical hint of the good order, despite its mortal finitude, may be seen in the way certain Native Americans thanked the animals for their sacrifice of life to the nourishment of brother-man. Decomposition and change are integral to corporeality as we know it, and to art, for that matter, but I should say this hardly raises a moral objection to material finitude as such.

Best,

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

ERRATUM:

"…as some neutral canvas onto which the canvas THE INCARNATION was (much less eventually) spilled…"

TheOFloinn said...

The usual justification is that the 911 attacks created a need for "awareness" of the terrible effects of religion

As opposed to the terrible effects of airliners?

Or the terrible effects of males?

Vincent Torley said...

George R.

In response to your query, JEDP refers to the Documentary hypothesis, that the Pentateuch is a cut-and-paste job - a compilation of work by four different authors, over a span of several centuries: the Yahwist (J), Elohist (E), Deuteronomist (D) and Priestly (P) authors. Personally, I think the evidence for this hypothesis is vastly over-rated, based on dubious scholarship, and question-begging in its secularist assumptions.

If you'd like a collection of critical articles to read on the Documentary hypothesis, you can find some at http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/whybelieve6.html#bible-whowhen .

BenYachov said...

Personally I find the concept Adam & Eve & their children Cain & Seth mating with Un-souled pre-human hominids to be a very compelling opinion. Indeed ancient Rabbinic Tradition seems to me to be a little more plausible with that in mind. Just because we believe in Evolution & take Genesis mostly symbolically doesn't mean there was no literal Adam. In the Talmud (which records the Oral Torah) there contains a passage that says Adam mated with the "animals" in Eden but found none of them suitable mates. Now Christian critics of the Talmud condemn this for promoting bestiality. But that is based on the idea "animals" refers to goats, sheep, Water-cows..etc. What if it's really a reference to un-souled hominids who are genetically like Adam but Metaphysically different? For a full blown analysis

See here

BenYachov said...

In regards to suffering well strictly speaking animal suffering is not morally evil. There are three levels of pain living things may feel. The simple sensing of damage which occurs in lower animals like insects. The second level is the feeling of pain proper as in higher mammals & then the third is the pain felt by beings with rational souls where they perceive of themselves as beings who are in pain and suffering. Only humans can feel pain at level three.

I'm afraid we are commonly guilty of anthropomorphizing animals(that is putting ourselves in the brute's place. To overly weep for the suffering of animals, well one might as well weep for the planet Jupiter when it gets hit by a comet. Not that it is moral to cause unnecessary suffering to animals or to fail to be human to them. But come on they are animals.

Anonymous said...

So, if I embrace a certain version of Thomism which forces me to conclude that some X is a "good" X or the behavior of X is "absolutely good" as long as X attains the end towards which it is directed, must I then go on to conclude that the behavior of, say, the ichneumon wasp, which paralyzes caterpillars and lays its eggs inside them, so that when they hatch, the larvae proceed to eat the caterpillars alive from the inside out, is perfectly "good", since the wasp realized the end towards which it was directed? Or how about when I'm awakened during a camping trip by cries of terror and the sounds of jaws snapping bones and flesh being torn from limbs as one animal is savagely attacked and devoured by another? Or when a great white shark goes chomp chomp chomp on my best friend and makes the waters run red? Can I, in all honesty and with a straight face, call these events "good" or "desirable" simply because the ends of certain creatures have been realized? I cannot. This goes beyond a mere subjective repulsion towards the "ickyness" of nature. I take this to be a genuine horror. I'm just not wired to accept that such savagery could be part of God's good creation.

In Isaiah, for example, we have eschatological imagery of lions eating straw with the oxen and cows grazing together with the bears. And over and over again in the New Testament, we are met with the claim that death is the enemy of God, so it's not as if my intuitions are out of step with Christian theology and morality on this point.

If God is directly responsible for the aforementioned examples, then, although he may exist, individuals would be perfectly justified in deeming him to be a God not at all worthy of worship. And personally, if true, it would leave me cold, and I would rightly seek out a greater God.

(If I'm straw-manning the Thomist position here, please let me know.)

BenYachov said...

>"good", since the wasp realized the end towards which it was directed?

I reply: Wasps don't have immortal rational souls so it can't realize anything.

>Or how about when I'm awakened during a camping trip by cries of terror and the sounds of jaws snapping bones and flesh being torn from limbs as one animal is savagely attacked and devoured by another?

I reply: These are Arguments by Emotion & Sentiment. You are comiting anthropomorphic fallacy in spades.

>(If I'm straw-manning the Thomist position here, please let me know.)

I reply: Big time straw-man! Hey I was very fond of my late Cat Angel but in the end Animals are material creatures only. There is no rational being there that is conscious of itself as a being who is suffering. I guess that's hard for some Atheist types who conceive of humans as material beings only without a rational spiritual soul to comprehend. We humans obviously are beings who are conscious of ourselves at beings who are suffering & naturally if we are thought of as material only we might project our experience unto animals. But this is both a philosophical & scientific fallacy. Animals are not human. Their suffering is not on our level and not morally evil. How can it be? it's just matter damaging other matter? There is no spirit to truly suffer.

BenYachov said...

In "What is it Like to Be a Bat?", Atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel argues that consciousness has essential to it a subjective character, a "what it is like" aspect. He states that "an organism has conscious mental states if and only if there is something that it is like to be that organism—something it is like for the organism." Nagel is an advocate of the idea that consciousness and subjective experience cannot, at least with the contemporary understanding of physicalism, be satisfactorily explained using the current concepts of physics. Thus we cannot really imagine what it's like to be a bat. We cannot know it's concious experience since it is purly subjective on our part.
(Of course that is assuming it really has one if i might interject Thomism)

See Nagel's landmark essay here.
http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/nagel_nice.html

Anonymous said...

Ben

Never get a dog - no animal deserves a companion as unempathetic, compassion-less, and self-important as you seem here.

And since young babies cannot reason and come into nature with the same abilities as puppies, do not work at a pediatric ward - one would be concerned you would harvest their organs as they lie crying in their cribs.

Stay away from animate creatures, please.

BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) said...

>Never get a dog - no animal deserves a companion as unempathetic, compassion-less, and self-important as you seem here.

I reply: Dogs are lovely creatures but they are not human & they have no immortal spiritual souls. Deal with it. We subjectively pour ourselves into our pets which kind of mimics the way God objectively & actually pours Himself into us by grace. But animals are still not human.

>And since young babies cannot reason and come into nature with the same abilities as puppies, do not work at a pediatric ward - one would be concerned you would harvest their organs as they lie crying in their cribs.

I reply: No babies being human have souls thus they are beings with consciousness. Even those babies born with anencephaly have souls. Those who can experience physical pain thus by definition experience it at level three. Making a human baby the equivilant of an animal is foul IMHO as the Father of three autistic children.

>Stay away from animate creatures, please.

I reply: You have no rational or even scientific arguments. Just ad hominem whining, crabing & fussbudgeting. Enough of your channeling of Lucy Van Pelt. Grow up.

Warren said...

Anon,

For what it's worth, I think your Christian instinct to regard animal pain as an evil and a scandal is correct. Whether or not you are theologically correct is a different question, which I will leave to the intellectuals here.

Don't have a Bible in front of me, but my reading of Genesis is that animals (including us) were never meant to kill and eat each other. God says quite plainly that he has given plants to be eaten by the animals and by us. And yet we see this fallen creation about us, that existed long before our appearance in it, even though Scripture is clear that the Fall is due to us. How to square that circle?

I certainly don't claim to know the answer. But have you ever considered that the story of the Fall in Genesis is the description of a non-temporal event? It is portrayed as happening in time, of course, since the early chapters of Genesis are written in the form of a folk-tale. But what if Adam was not (or not only) "the first man" in a temporal sense, but rather something like an Eternal Archetype of Man in a Platonic sense that existed (exists) in the mind of God before the foundation of the world?

Also, there are traditional Patristic ideas - now very much out of fashion - about Satanic interference in creation from the get-go. Such ideas would not even have occurred to the Fathers if they had not reacted to the spectacle of the natural world in much the same way that you are reacting. So take heart. Many others have felt the problem, and yet kept their faith.

Anonymous said...

BY

You better listen to JP II on dog souls - your notion is not omly cruel, but heresy.

Also note the presence of animals in heaven in the Bible.

BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) said...

>You better listen to JP II on dog souls - your notion is not omly cruel, but heresy.

I reply: You are clueless & a hypocrite. I never attacked you. Is this how you treat your fellow human beings? Well at least your kind to animals. Big deal! Hitler was a vegetarian as well.

Anyway Animals have mortal sensitive souls. I never denied that. Humans have Intelligent immortal souls. If you have real proof JP2 taught otherwise I'd like to see it. I won't hold by breath though.

Read you might learn something.
http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/senssoul.html

>Also note the presence of animals in heaven in the Bible.

I reply: Where does it say in the Bible or in Tradition that the animals present in the New Heavens & the New Earth experience the Beatific Vision? Short answer it doesn't.

Nice try.

Anonymous said...

BY

If you are identical with your notions, then my saying "youir notion is cruel and heresy" could be considered personal. I do not like to call individuals names.

JP II, but I'm sure you won't respond to his very words.

http://www.dreamshore.net/rococo/pope.html

I am clueless about New Heaven and New Earth, unless you mean the peaceable kingdom theology ehere the lamb and lion share a beer.

BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) said...

>If you are identical with your notions, then my saying "youir notion is cruel and heresy" could be considered personal. I do not like to call individuals names.

I reply: You also said QUOTE"no animal deserves a companion as unempathetic, compassion-less, and self-important as you seem here."END QUOTE

You beg for kindness toward animals & yet you personally attack your fellow human beings. A human being who is the Father of three mentally handicapped children. I didn't attack you. What is wrong with you?

BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) said...

As to what the Pope said you have given me an essay that mixes the Pope's words with the private opinions of others.

Besides I don't think you read it carefully QUOTE""However", concludes theologian Carlo Molari, "it must be restated that there remains a distinction between the soul of an animal and that of man. According to Scripture the animal is destined to perish. It is mortal by definition, unlike man who continues his existence beyond earthly life."END QUOTE

BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) said...

>JP II, but I'm sure you won't respond to his very words.

I reply: Where does he say animals have immortal souls like those of men? He doesn't. OF course animals have souls. Sensitive souls not intelligent/rational ones.

Anonymous said...

How one's words seem and who they are involve distinct things.

You quote a theologian of the A-T mindset, not JP II.

BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) said...

>You quote a theologian of the A-T mindset, not JP II.

I reply: You have not quoted JP II at all.

Until you show me where he said in this essay animals have "rational/intelligent" souls all you are giving me is bluster.

Where does he say it? Well?

BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) said...

BTW now that I think of it. Humans have Sensitive Souls as well as rational/intelligent ones. Where as animals have sensitive ones only.

Anonymous said...

I believe he is using early O.T. to ground his theology that the souls of all creatures are alike.

This predates the A-T description of a 2-souled cow and a 3-souled man. (And that unfortunate angel on your shoulder who, alas, has but 1 soul).

He did not bring up immortality. Sometimes, to be progressive, a large institution moves slowly and ambiguously. Leaders and CEO's of this big outfits are notorious for couching their message for fear of being understood.

TheOFloinn said...

Anon seems to think that the soul is a substance in itself; but it is a form conjoined to a material in an act of existence. If triangles were alive, Chastek once wrote, "geometric figure" would be its body and "three-sided" would be its soul. Would the three-sidedness of =this= triangle persist if the geometric figure were obliterated?

Even the human soul perishes for the most part, since the human soul includes the inanimate form [gravity, electromagnetism, nuclear, and radiative powers], the vegetative soul [homeostatic, growth/development, metabolic, and reproductive powers], and sensitive [animal] soul [sensitive, perceptive, emotional, and motive powers]. All these perish since they are anchored in matter. The portion of the soul that survives is the rational soul. This does not mean the power to resolve syllogisms. It means the ability to form conceptions [by reflecting on perceptions] and to desire these products of the intellect.

Anonymous said...

TheOF

How is it possible to be so certain of such theological specifics as how all kinds of A/T souls function now and in eternity, but you are not able to explain what is is like to have a oersonal experience of God?

Woppodie said...

"How is it possible to be so certain of such theological specifics as how all kinds of A/T souls function now and in eternity, but you are not able to explain what is is like to have a oersonal experience of God?"

That is like saying "How is it possible to be so certain of fifth dimensional object and flux across them, but you are not able to count all prime numbers?"

BenYachov said...

>He did not bring up immortality. Sometimes, to be progressive, a large institution moves slowly and ambiguously. Leaders and CEO's of this big outfits are notorious for couching their message for fear of being understood.

I reply: So in effect he didn't teach anything that contradicts the A-T narrative. At this point IMHO you are exercising a little bit of wishful thinking. But it is clear to me that your initial claim has no substance.

>I believe he is using early O.T. to ground his theology that the souls of all creatures are alike.

I reply: Catholics historically & unanimously believe doctrine should be formulated using both Scripture & Tradition not Scripture Alone. Thus it seems very unlikely the late Pope (who is a Thomist in his own right) would formulate such a novelty based on the OT alone.

>This predates the A-T description of a 2-souled cow and a 3-souled man. (And that unfortunate angel on your shoulder who, alas, has but 1 soul).

I reply: Catholics believe in the Development of doctrine and not the retrograding of doctrine. I'm sorry but if I read Rabbi Kaplan or Rabbi Ari Khan reason dictates I should understand their words from the perspective of Halakhah(i.e. the Traditional rules of Jewish interpretation). Given that John Paul II of happy memory was a member of the Lublin Thomist school of thought his words logically should be seen in that light & not according to your personal novelties.

BenYachov said...

>your notion is not only cruel...

I reply: I really cannot fathom how the Thomistic view can be seen as cruel(I assume cruel to animals). It seems to me it is a mercy that animals do not have rational souls & therefore do not experience suffering the way beings with rational souls do. This is because their suffering would be metaphysically & conceptually increased by an order of magnitude. Plus add to that animals are not regarded as having an Afterlife because their souls are mortal. That is just insult to injury.
So it seems to me if all that where true it would really make God out to be a monster. A Maltheistic Azathoth like deity who created animals to suffer as we humans do & deny them eternal life to boot. Yikes!

How much better they have mere mortal sensitive souls without intellect so their suffering is no more than matter being damaged by matter. It's a kindness.

BenYachov said...

Of course if I may anticipate a rejoinder. Some smartypants might ask "How would you like it if you only had a mortal sensitive soul & knew you would not go to Heaven"?

To which I reply "Well then there would not really be a `Me' to object to this alleged shabby treatment on the part of the Deity nor would I have an intellect to contemplate that fact".

Warren said...

BY,

I must say that I'm really impressed to see a Thomist who mentions Azathoth.... :-)

BenYachov said...

Cheers Warren.:-)

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

A few links for fresh blood:

"The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil":
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_7049/is_1_61/ai_n31375133/

"Darwinism, Animal Suffering and Theology": http://theologicalscribbles.blogspot.com/2008/11/darwinism-animal-suffering-and-theology.html

Dr. W. L. Craig on Animal Suffering: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7215

"The carnivorous nature and suffering of animals": http://creation.com/the-carnivorous-nature-and-suffering-of-animals

"Creation, suffering and the problem of evil": http://www.answersingenesis.org/tj/v10/i3/suffering.asp

To reiterate what I said about a "Keefian" reading of this dilemma, I would like to say again that "the good creation" is IN CHRIST and is to be judged by its pristine metaphysical origin in Him as the Creative Word, not on the basis of how much animal pain allegedly "preceded" Him. His immanence in the world suffuses all spacetime and is radically and wholly present in the Eucharist, which is itself the human mode of encountering creation, which is an eternally present act of the One God by the One Word in the One Flesh. Christ was not "deployed" after a few million years to "rectify" the "horrors" God was "watching take place." Rather, the animal pain and entropy we are discussing is inscribed in the very Flesh of the Incarnate Word IN THE PRESENT IN EVERY EUCHARIST (which is of course one with Calvary AND with the descent of the Creative Spirit on a chaotic material world). His redemption informs the very world out of which, presumably, His earthly lineage/linemanets evolved, but at the same time, His divine power as the Logos grounds both the creation and redemption of that same world in one act of the One Flesh. That's awfully dense, I know, but, again, you can search my blog (Keefe, Keefian) for more details and, better yet, read Fr. Keefe's _Covenantal Theology_.

Best,

Vincent Torley said...

Codgitator,

Thank you very much for the links. I'd like to ask people for their thoughts on the following issues which were raised in the article, "The carnivorous nature and suffering of animals" by Robert Gurney at http://creation.com/the-carnivorous-nature-and-suffering-of-animals :

(1) Is terror part of God's original plan for His animal creation? I believe Charles Darwin wrote that herds of horses, when surrounded by packs of wolves, whinny with terror - presumably because they know what's coming! Pain I can understand as part of God's plan, but what about terror?

(2) Are grief and distress part of God's original plan for His animal creation? The author of the article writes that elephants show signs of severe grief and distress when their young are killed by predators. Is this grief part of God's plan?

What do people think?

To those who are inclined to deny that animals are capable of feeling such emotions: would you also accept that pets are, by the same token, incapable of enjoying the companionship of their owners (companionship being something even more sophisticated than terror and grief), and that friendship their owners claim to enjoy with them is therefore an illusion - which means that owing a pet is basically a waste of time and a waste of love? What are your thoughts on this matter?

Crude said...

VJTorley,

My own thoughts: To 1 and 2, qualified yeses. Yes, someone can write that horses 'whinny with terror'. I just finished playing a round of Team Fortress 2, where the characters in game begged and pleaded for someone to extinguish them, since they were engulfed in flames. Was there misery there?

Note that I'm not outright denying that there is something going on mentally with a horse or an elephant involving thought, or pain, or possibly other emotions. At the same time, I'm not going to accept that elephants feel grief, horses terror, or animals companionship just because an author is capable of writing that this was their impression, or because even I myself am capable of projecting this onto an animal's behavior. People can project a lot of things - like how earthquakes and volcanoes are nature or earth itself taking revenge against humanity.

But that aside, I have no problem accepting grief and terror as part of God's plan for creation, inasmuch as these things are meant to be experienced yet ultimately extinguished. The alternative is to embrace the idea of a God who would never allow pained, grieving, or terrified creatures into existence to begin with, despite all these horrors being things God could triumph over.

So I'd have to ask a question right back at you: Would you prefer a God who forbade terror and/or grief from ever occurring - despite His being able to, ultimately, soothe and save the terrified and console the grieving - and thereby render such beings as unworthy of existence? Because oddly, that seems to be the vastly less just option.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Victor T.:

Without, alas, replying to your questions specifically or in any great detail, I want to present once more my Keefian-patristic "hermeutical" lens for all such questions. If we (all) don't get clear on our basic theological modus operandi, we're just talking past each other. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that…” heheh

The profoundest meaning of creation in Christian revelation is not that it is an autonomous canvas on which God creates the rest of the world (like an eternal chessboard with movable and interchangeable pieces), but that the Fall was a metaphysical dimension of the creation itself by the primal free defection of Adam, as the metaphysical prime analogate for all mankind (mankind which is, in turn, the microcosmal prime analogate of creation itself). Adam's nature was based on and active IN CHRIST and his sin was therefore against the Logos in the one creation wrought by that same Word. Original sin means that the same metaphysical, and therefore transtemporal, loss of beatitude is active in us in our very constitution, which is also rooted in Christ and thus also an (Adamic) deviation from Him. Hence, original sin is not so much a bill of goods we all sign when we are born, but more like a harmonic/holographic defect in our constitution which reverberates throughout our being and the rest of the world into/out-of which we are created.

The point is that the metaphysical order of Adam-in-Christ determines, in an omnitemporal, universal way, the whole scope of manifest activities in creation (i.e., the concrete horrors and woes we are discussing). You could loosely imagine the problem as being 'metaphysically retroactive', in the sense that Adam's corruption of creation, as its head, extended 'backward' from a metaphysical vantage/pivot point to corrupt all of creation in a secondarily temporal way. In the fundamentalist conception, Adam was created at time t1, fell at time t2, and then everything went to shit as we now know it (t2+n). But a theology cognizant of real archeology and basic biological exigencies (the like of which we are discussing), is enabled to see how the ugly pre-history of the world is a reflection of the immanent (not subsequent!) fallenness of creation in Adam-in-Christ. This does not mean that the Church waited for science to give it a sounder exegesis, but it does mean certain exegeses are much less viable insofar as theology seeks the harmony of all truth. Indeed, in a way, it took various sciences this long to catch up with the patristic, cosmic exegesis of creation, but that is a historical point. The philosophical-theological point of interest is that “the world as we know it”, in its temporal and biological lineaments, is but a function of the world as created in Christ and then corrupted by Adam in a timeless metaphysical ‘instant’. Had Adam not fallen ab origine (metaphysically, not temporally speaking), biological pre-history would indeed look like we seem to want it to look: idyllic and vegan. Since Adam’s fall reverberates in a (rectilinear) metaphysical way for all of creation, however, life history looks much more, well, fallen. This is not to collapse creation in to redemption, but it is to find them both rooted in Christ and the primal “encounter” between mankind in Adam and Christ in Adam.

Does this make any sense?

Best,

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Sorry, Vincent, not Victor!

Anonymous said...

Unlike someone who claims an intimate love relationship with God, but cannot describe anything of it, I can have a deep mutually affectionate life with my dogs, explain what it is like, and be understood by another.

Stephen Webb wrote his book on the theology of the peaceable kingdom in response to his heartfelt companionship with his dog.

Anyone who does noy know that ALL creatures have the same embodied emotions has not studied ethologists like Marc Bekoff and Alexandra Horowitz or biologists like Darwin and Damasio.

JP II had a deep affection for creatures that went hand-in-hand with his phenomenological views of the body and its relatedness to nature. His theology of the body and Merleau-Ponty's focus on the same are inevitable consequences of our shared body structures with all creatures.

Vincent Torley said...

Crude,

Thanks for your post. You asked:

"Would you prefer a God who forbade terror and/or grief from ever occurring - despite His being able to, ultimately, soothe and save the terrified and console the grieving - and thereby render such beings as unworthy of existence? Because oddly, that seems to be the vastly less just option."

You make an excellent point. I guess I would say that if terror and grief can be healed, then they don't make the Problem of Evil insoluble. What bothers me more is the notion of irreparable emotional harm. Two anecdotes about cats will suffice to illustrate my point.

(1) My Masters supervisor used to own a cat. He then acquired a snake - a python, I think. One evening, the snake surprised the cat when it suddenly shot up, towering over the cat. The cat got such a fright that its spine got permanently locked into one position, making it unable to run or walk properly again. The cat, I have heard, was never the same after that - it seemed to have been permanently traumatized by the experience.

(2) A cousin of mine owned a female cat that used to sleep outdoors at night. One night, she was savaged to death by three neighborhood dogs that attacked her from all sides. Think of the cat's terror in its final moments, and you'll see what I mean. What a way to go.

In an earlier post, I mentioned grief in elephants. What if the mother had pined to death, for instance, after the loss of her calf? That would be another case of irreparable harm, on an emotional level.

That's why Codgitator's article, "The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil" at
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_7049/is_1_61/ai_n31375133/ struck me as interesting. Perhaps God can heal these wounds, after all.

Codgitator:

Thank you very much for your last post. What you wrote about the Fall is similar to what Professor William Dembski discussed in his recent book, "The End of Christianity," so it made perfect sense to me. I'm also inclined to believe that the Fall of Adam had retroactive repercussions.

I'd just like to thank Crude and Codgitator for the interesting exchange of ideas.

Crude said...

Vincent,

You're a pleasure to converse with even when someone disagrees with you. Highest compliments to your civility as well as your manner of reasoning.

Incidentally - I also really enjoy your apologetics page. Why isn't it linked off your main webpage? I stumbled across it while googling once, and it seems like you'd want to make it more easily available given the effort you've put into it.

Anonymous said...

"Anyone who does noy know that ALL creatures have the same embodied emotions has not studied ethologists like Marc Bekoff and Alexandra Horowitz or biologists like Darwin and Damasio."

If Bekoff or Damasio were to claim that 'all creatures' have the same emotions, it would be time to strip them of their degrees and remove them from their academic posts. Even supposing that your use of 'creature' is non-theological, but means more or less 'animal,' the claim is still as obviously false as any empirical claim could be. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to believe that ants have the same emotions that dogs, apes, or chickens do -- it seems hardly plausible to maintain that ants have any emotions at all. Nor would any serious theorist of the emotions maintain that even higher mammals all have 'the same' emotions -- even those who (controversially, though you wouldn't know it from Bekoff or Damasio, with their pretensions to scientific authority; but just read a good collection of essays on the emotions, e.g., Solomon's Thinking about Feeling for a sense of the real range of views on emotions) attribute extremely complex emotional states to dogs, for example, would generally acknowledge that there are kinds of emotion that those animals cannot experience because their conceptual capacities are not so developed as humans'.

Your claim is only slightly less ridiculous than the sentimental cry that "all living things feel pain." Plants are alive; there is no reason to think they feel pain. There are reasons to doubt that many animals do, as well. I am extremely sympathetic to your basic point here, but it does you no service to cast it in ridiculously false terms.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

I found the following in a review of _God Is Good, God Is GReat_ at Amazon and thought it stated well the "new" in New Atheism:

"Atheism is no longer simply about `not believing' in a God or an intelligent designer. New Atheism has arrived and it has gone on the offensive. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and others are now not just refuting the existence of God, spirituality, heaven or hell, they are proclaiming the message that to believe in a God, or in intelligent design is irrational and dangerous. The only sure and true `truth' that can be relied upon is science."

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Once again I have 86'd a combox thread! ;)

Matt said...

Incidentally, at least some Thomist as early as the 16th century (if not earlier) believed that lions, etc., would definitely have been carnivorous, even if Adam had not sinned. So...that puts the new problematic of a "pre-lapsarian" animal suffering (?) in some perspective. They posited this theological perspective without any significant threat from "science" or "darwinism" or what have you.

Alphonsus said...

"Incidentally, at least some Thomist as early as the 16th century (if not earlier) believed that lions, etc., would definitely have been carnivorous, even if Adam had not sinned."

Aquinas himself believed this:

"Reply to Objection 2. In the opinion of some, those animals which now are fierce and kill others, would, in that state, have been tame, not only in regard to man, but also in regard to other animals. But this is quite unreasonable. For the nature of animals was not changed by man's sin, as if those whose nature now it is to devour the flesh of others, would then have lived on herbs, as the lion and falcon. Nor does Bede's gloss on Genesis 1:30, say that trees and herbs were given as food to all animals and birds, but to some. Thus there would have been a natural antipathy between some animals. They would not, however, on this account have been excepted from the mastership of man: as neither at present are they for that reason excepted from the mastership of God, Whose Providence has ordained all this. Of this Providence man would have been the executor, as appears even now in regard to domestic animals, since fowls are given by men as food to the trained falcon."
http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1096.htm#article1

Ballcrusher53 said...

Woah. Brian Davies is a Christian right?