Wednesday, May 12, 2010

ID versus A-T roundup

Never fear, dear reader, we really are through with the “Intelligent Design” (ID) versus Aristotelico-Thomism (A-T) debate for a while, and will now return to the regular mix of posts on philosophy, theology, breathtakingly reactionary politics and pretentious pop culture analysis. But in response to requests from many readers (well, from one reader anyway), I thought I would put up a guide to the myriad ID versus A-T related posts that have appeared in this space over the last year or so. Just in case there is anyone out there not yet ready to put his fist through the monitor at the very thought of such a thing. Feser’s blog: Where it’s A-T! And all the time. (And no, I refuse to taunt my critics by linking to that other Beck video. Let’s be grown-ups here, people.)

So here it is. For some posts spelling out the differences between Aristotelian and modern approaches to final causality or teleology, see:

Nature versus art




Final causality and Aristotle's Unmoved Mover

For a more formal and scholarly treatment, see my Philosophia Christi article on the subject:

Teleology: A Shopper's Guide

For some posts discussing various modern non-A-T writers who have advocated something like a return to Aristotelian final causality and/or called attention to the deficiencies of a mechanistic conception of nature, see:




For discussion of what is, from an A-T point of view, theologically and metaphysically objectionable about a mechanistic approach to nature and/or about Paley's design argument, see:





Thomism versus the design argument

On Aristotle, Aquinas, and Paley: A Reply to Marie George

And for posts which are aimed even more specifically at ID theory, see:



Cudworth and Fuller respond



Unhinged Dissent

Heads ID wins, tails you lose: A reply to Jay Richards

Reply to Torley and Cudworth

I’ve probably forgotten something here or there – let me know if there are any other posts you think I should include. And as always, keep in mind that many of these posts presuppose themes I’ve developed in detail in The Last Superstition and Aquinas.

30 comments:

Hype said...

Members Only, hypnotizers/
Move through the room like ambulance drivers/
Shine your shoes with your microphone blues/
Hirsutes with the parachute fruits/
Passin the dutchie from coast to coast/
To the man Gary Wilson rocks the most

Edward Feser said...

We're all part of the total scene!

So, get crazy with the cheez-whiz...

Daniel Smith said...

Dr. Feser,

Will you be revisiting the comments sections of any of these posts and aswering new questions posted there?

I hope so. I still have a few questions hanging out there in the "Deus ex machina?" comments section.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Feser any chance you could do a post on the topic dealing with the atheist's claim that science deals with observables and religion with the unseen?

I know that's broad.
Or maybe point me in the direction of a post of yours that touches on this?
Thanks!

Alan Fox said...

@ anonymous

I think scientists would generally claim that science can only detect, observe, measure and study real phenomena. Religion and philosophy are not restricted in any way except by the limits of human imagination. Problems arise only when religion dogmatists make claims that are factually and demonstrably wrong. The age of the Earth would be a typical example.

OT @ Daniel Smith

Hi Dan. I liked your comment at TT:

My thoughts are that ID is wasting time by concentrating on the whole "detecting design" gimmick. It's basically a ruse to get God back in science. We all know that.

Hype said...

"I think scientists would generally claim that science can only detect, observe, measure and study real phenomena."

'Real phenomena'? That sounds like a back-handed comment to epistemic validity of insights derived by the approaches of theology and philosophy.

Because a 'real phenomenon' (we should both hope) would be the rationality (as a true ability) of the human mind. Science assumes this (we should both hope) as well as many other foundational assumptions that science is unable to address.... but theology and philosophy are able to.

With out theology and philosophy you don't have science to focus on its little portion of the observable world.


"Religion and philosophy are not restricted in any way except by the limits of human imagination."

Again, another back-handed comment (though this might be an open handed slap). The methods of science as well as the minds of its practitioners also really only limited by the scope of human imagination.


"My thoughts are that ID is wasting time by concentrating on the whole "detecting design" gimmick. It's basically a ruse to get God back in science. We all know that.".....

Dan said this?
Yikes. Looks about as open-minded as you. Wonder what's his deal with his "hat in hand" approach over here?

Edward Feser said...

Sorry, Daniel, I tend to reply where and when I can as the occasion presents itself (e.g. a few minutes here and there between classes) -- which it often doesn't, which is why questions sometimes go unanswered. Anyway, I've now replied to your questions over at the other combox.

The Phantom Blogger said...

This is from the Wikipedia page on Aquinas:

Creation

Aquinas believed life could form from non living material or plant life, a theory of ongoing abiogenesis known as spontaneous generation:

Quote from Aquinas

Since the generation of one thing is the corruption of another, it was not incompatible with the first formation of things, that from the corruption of the less perfect the more perfect should be generated. Hence animals generated from the corruption of inanimate things, or of plants, may have been generated then.

In your post on the origin of life you said Aquinas belived life couldn't come from non-life, so is the wiki page wrong or is it only addressing a small part of the issue, without understanding it properly.

Ps I would take your Authority over the Wiki page by the way.

Alan Fox said...

The methods of science as well as the minds of its practitioners also really only limited by the scope of human imagination.

Science is defined by reality and vice versa. There is no scientific way of studying imaginary phenomena. Philosophy and theology are not so restricted.

"back-handed"?

Richard A said...

"Real"?!

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. (The Princess Bride, Inigo)

The human spirit (intellect, will) is real. It is not, however, directly detectable by physical methods.

Daniel Smith said...

Thank you Dr. Feser, for your answers in the "Deus ex machina?" thread.

I understand the difference now between an "artifact" and a "creation ex nihilo", but do Thomists hold that every existing thing is created ex nihilo? How does that work?

Thank you.

Woppodie said...

"Science is defined by reality and vice versa. There is no scientific way of studying imaginary phenomena. Philosophy and theology are not so restricted."

So, you are advocating an extremely shallow form of scientism. I would recommend you read the articles our honorable host wrote on the wrongheadedness of scientism before you continue to post; it is either self-defeating or trivially true.

Alan Fox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan Fox said...

So, you are advocating an extremely shallow form of scientism.

No. (At least if you are using scientism as Mike Gene uses the word. One never knows with teleologists. Words can be so slippery!)

I really only came to this site to congratulate Dan on his comment at TT and I can't post there. I then saw the comment above and responded to it. I doubt I shall visit again as it seems a bit less accommodating here than Biologos.org.

hype said...

So Alan,
you came here to cheerlead to someone that posting something unrelated to the topic at hand on another blog that you've been banned from?

That's kind of depressing.

You come here and not-so-subtly mock the epistemic worth of philosophy and theology. Then you act alittle shocked when you're called on it.

I think I know quite well why you were banned from there.

hype said...

"I doubt I shall visit again as it seems a bit less accommodating here than Biologos.org."

You were allowed to post whatever you wanted to and I criticized the content of your post.

Sorry for not being more accommodating. Next time I promise I will not disagree with you, Alan.

Woppodie said...

"No. (At least if you are using scientism as Mike Gene uses the word. One never knows with teleologists. Words can be so slippery!)"

I was using it in the sense of the belief that all true knowledge is scientific knowledge and therefore able to be proven and verified through the scientific method. And
"Science is defined by reality and vice versa." seemed to indicate that. It seems that this Mike Gene guy (who I had to go look up) is using scientism in the sense that true knowledge can only be known through the scientific method (if I am misinterpreting either what he said or what you think he said, tell me.) I was using it in the sense that all true knowledge simply can be known through the scientific method, which you seem to subscribe to.

But surely this is folly, as there are plenty of kinds of knowledge that science depends on that are not empirically verifiable. For example, mathematics arrives at definite conclusions which are irrevocable, whereas science cannot use induction to prove anything so strongly. Even if one attempts to absorb mathematics into science via induction for such things as volume formulas and the like, certain things cannot be proven that way, such as Fermat's Last Theorem. One cannot prove a universal negative through induction, yet mathematics does all the time.

"I really only came to this site to congratulate Dan on his comment at TT and I can't post there. I then saw the comment above and responded to it. I doubt I shall visit again as it seems a bit less accommodating here than Biologos.org."

I think you would find us a bit more accommodating if you actually tried to overtly argue something rather than making backhanded insults, then acting offended when people called you out on it.

Alan Fox said...

Sorry for not being more accommodating. Next time I promise I will not disagree with you, Alan.Well, I appreciate the apology. I am genuinely puzzled why disagreeing is a problem.

I reread my posts and I can't see anything that I would interpret as "mocking". I honestly believe what I wrote and I stand by it.

Alan Fox said...

I think you would find us a bit more accommodating if you actually tried to overtly argue something rather than making backhanded insults, then acting offended when people called you out on it.Well my statement,"I think scientists would generally claim that science can only detect, observe, measure and study real phenomena." was my honest opinion. I use real and imaginary as natural and supernatural tend to get mixed up with natural and artificial.

Alan Fox said...

So what other reality is available to us other than what we can perceive through our senses and the collected recorded shared experience of mankind?

Woppodie said...

"Well my statement,"I think scientists would generally claim that science can only detect, observe, measure and study real phenomena." was my honest opinion."

That may be. Yet when juxtaposed next to "Religion and philosophy are not restricted in any way except by the limits of human imagination." you are clearly implying that science deals with reality, whereas in religion and philosophy people just make stuff up.

Now, I would argue that you are missing out on something critical because of the way you phrased what science deals with. That science can only "detect, observe, measure and study real phenomena" is true, but that does not get one very far. Indeed, it doesn't even get one to laws relating facts, let alone theories for why those laws are. For example, Scientist A says that planets move in circles within circles due to giant crystalline spheres in the heavens. Scientist B says that a force is applied to them by the Sun which constantly causes them to revolve around it. Scientist C says that the mass of the sun warps spacetime so that straight lines through it form loops around the sun. Now, all of these are theories which unite facts, which are gained through methods that deal with real things. Yet not all of these theories are true; I assume that we both subscribe to the third and not the first two. Facts have vindicated the third, but there are an infinite number of theories that explain a finite amount of data.

Philosophy deals with correctly deduced conclusions from correct premises. Now, opinions can vary about what these premises are and whether some method of argument works. Yet deduction is a more powerful tool than induction; observe mathematics (mathematic induction is actually a form of deduction, despite the name).

Religion means different things to different people. I base my religion on historical evidence and philosophic argument, but I know not everyone does.

"I use real and imaginary as natural and supernatural tend to get mixed up with natural and artificial."

This is a problem. If you are speaking about observables and the unseen, as the original anonymous that brought this up was, such terminology, if used in the conventional way, begs the question, or otherwise renders your argument incomprehensible to those who do and have no reason to suspect that you do not.

Woppodie said...

"So what other reality is available to us other than what we can perceive through our senses and the collected recorded shared experience of mankind?"

That deduced from what is available to our senses. For example, dark energy, if it exists, is not immediately available to our senses, yet its availability would have no bearing on its existence. That is not exactly how philosophical arguments work to, say, deduce the existence of God or the minds, but it is similar enough to illuminate the situation.

Alan Fox said...

Facts have vindicated the third, but there are an infinite number of theories that explain a finite amount of data.

Not sure what your point is. Scientific theories are reinforced or falsified by experiment. The key is that experiments are repeatable and open to all to try. Theories that do not fit the facts are discarded.

Alan Fox said...

For example, dark energy, if it exists, is not immediately available to our senses, yet its availability would have no bearing on its existence.

Scientific research has not established the existence of dark energy. It is as yet only a theoretical concept, as is the Higgs boson and indeed alien civilisations. We do not know whether any of these exist. It is a scientific endeavour to look for these hypothetical entities but speculation on their existence remains philosophical.

Woppodie said...

"Not sure what your point is. Scientific theories are reinforced or falsified by experiment. The key is that experiments are repeatable and open to all to try. Theories that do not fit the facts are discarded."

My point is that science must deal with hypotheticals, not simply "real things" as your post indicated you believed.

"Scientific research has not established the existence of dark energy. It is as yet only a theoretical concept, as is the Higgs boson and indeed alien civilisations. We do not know whether any of these exist. It is a scientific endeavour to look for these hypothetical entities but speculation on their existence remains philosophical."

Hence my qualification about its existence. My point was that if it exists, it would be something that could only be proven by laborious deduction from facts, not simply what is in the senses.

But this is all missing the point that I was originally trying to make: the beliefs you espoused amounted to scientism.

Alan Fox said...

But this is all missing the point that I was originally trying to make: the beliefs you espoused amounted to scientism.

Looking here I think you are applying the word pejoratively. I don't expect science to provide moral guidance.

Woppodie said...

"Looking here I think you are applying the word pejoratively. I don't expect science to provide moral guidance."

I am sorry if I misinterpreted you.
"Science is defined by reality and vice versa." lead me to believe that you were turning science into something which encompassed all true knowledge, because if reality is defined by science (as the vice versa indicates), then science encompasses all which is real. I am glad you don't actually believe that, unless you believe there are no such things as morals, which I doubt. Either way, I was not trying to use it pejoratively, although I do loath the philosophy, because that was what seemed to best describe your views.

Alan Fox said...

...then science encompasses all which is real.

I really was only making the limited assertion that science is restricted to reality as a source of investigation. Some of us may wish it were not so but using the argument from personal incredulity, I fail to see how it could be otherwise. Of course my defining reality by whether phenomena are available for scientific scrutiny could also be said to be circular, often the case with definitions.

What is beyond reality?

Are we prisoners of our sensory inputs?

Woppodie said...

"I really was only making the limited assertion that science is restricted to reality as a source of investigation. Some of us may wish it were not so but using the argument from personal incredulity, I fail to see how it could be otherwise."

I really have no problem with this. It is merely the counter-assertion: "Of course my defining reality by whether phenomena are available for scientific scrutiny " which brings us into the territory of scientism. And here again I would recommend reading what our host has written about it before continuing this conversation. But a point of clarification. You said that "I don't expect science to provide moral guidance," but you say that all reality can be studied by science. Do you perhaps mean physical reality, or that morals do not exist?

"What is beyond reality?"

Nothing if you are using it in the common sense of the word, but quite a bit if you are using it to mean physical reality. For example, mathematics.

"Are we prisoners of our sensory inputs?"

To a certain extent, but by using our reason we can deduce the existence of the unheard and the unseen from the heard and the seen.

tz said...

When I discuss Darwinism or some other question, I don't go beyond to teleology, philosophy, or anything else. You would burn me as a Heretic for asking a simple question about observations and data.
An analogy might be if you found a broken body on the sidewalk next to a tall building, I might ask, accident, suicide, or homicide. I would hope you wouldn't launch into a deep A-T lecture about how the question is bad using abstruse technical terms only you and maybe.your grad students understand.
To return to science, I'm the one who points out it might be ET, not God, but the purpose is to expose atheists as rejecting science, or.worshipping and sacrificing to it as an idol instead of employing it. I can't counter science with something at the other end of the building. A screwdriver might be more suited to removing the cover than a hammer, though the hammer might be the proper tool once.the cover is removed.
Before there were atheists, there were deists. Pantheists are still around too.
I can understand Aquinas. He uses simple, clear words. Not argot or.technical terms (or perhaps you need your words translated into English). Our Lord is even better. Even St. Paul.
I speak computerese, and can make people's eyes glaze over. But I can also explain things in simple terms nontechies will understand.
Is your complaint that people don't read your scholarly articles, or that they can't understand the Philosobabble? That they won't spend hours looking up the words that even educated men of the past wouldn't know from a proper education outside the field?
Two people can't communicate when they speak different languages.