Thursday, March 24, 2011

Heads ID wins, tails you lose

Having returned to the debate over Aristotelian-Thomism (A-T), “Intelligent Design” (ID) theory, and William Paley so as to answer some recent criticisms of my views on the subject (here and here), I want to devote one more post to the theme before mothballing it again for a while.  ID defender Jay Richards recently edited a volume on God and Evolution.  One of the essays he contributed to it (“Separating the Chaff from the Wheat”) is in part devoted to responding to me.  Like Vincent Torley, Richards is a good guy who makes a serious attempt to respond to my arguments and to show that A-T and ID really are compatible after all.  And like Torley, he fails miserably.

I have always been very specific about the respects in which ID conflicts with A-T philosophy and theology.  It has nothing to do with Darwinism, nothing to do with whether God in some sense “designed” the universe (of course He did), and nothing to do with a rejection of probabilistic arguments per se.  Rather, it has to do with (a) ID’s eschewal of immanent formal and final causes, even if only “for the sake of argument”; and (b) ID’s univocal predication of attributes both to human designers and to God.  The problem with (a) is that it conflicts with the most fundamental metaphysical commitments of A-T – those which underlie the Thomistic arguments for God’s existence, the Thomistic understanding of the relationship between soul and body, and the Thomistic understanding of natural law ethics.  The trouble with (b) is that it conflicts with the Thomistic doctrine of analogy and the conception of God’s nature associated with it.  These are, for the Thomist, non-negotiable; and thus ID is unacceptable.  It’s as simple as that. 

I have found that serious defenders of ID – as opposed to uninformed “culture warrior” types who mouth off in comboxes – either explicitly or implicitly concede this incompatibility.  Steve Fuller is one ID defender who does so explicitly, and advises his fellow ID defenders frankly to acknowledge that their position is theologically incompatible with Thomism.  Another is my sometime co-blogger Lydia McGrew, who in the course of our many past combox exchanges over ID has allowed that ID is committed to a conception of nature incompatible with the A-T conception, and concluded “So much the worse for A-T.”

Dembski, Torley, and Richards also all acknowledge the incompatibility, even if only implicitly.  We have seen before (here and here) that Dembski acknowledges that ID rejects Aristotelian formal and final causes (at least “for the sake of argument”), and that his attempts to dodge the inevitable conclusion that this puts him at odds with A-T only lead him into incoherence.  We have also seen that Torley concedes that ID defenders tend to apply language to God and to human designers univocally.  Dembski, in effect, says “Feser, you are wrong to say that ID is committed to (a) and (b).  Except that yes, it is committed to (a).”  Torley, in effect, says, “Feser, you are wrong to say that ID is committed to (a) and (b).  Except that yes, it is committed to (b).”

Richards is in one respect like Dembski – he concedes that ID theory is incompatible with an Aristotelian conception of the natural world.  But his way of dodging the conclusion that ID is incompatible with A-T is less incoherent than Dembski’s, though only because it is more shameless: He boldly resorts to the “No true Scotsman” fallacy.  Or in Richards’ case, we might call it the “No true Thomist” fallacy.  For in Richards’ view, real Thomism is not Aristotelian in the first place – he assures us that “Thomas… was not strictly an Aristotelian” and that ID’s Thomist critics are merely trying to “force Aristotelianism on him” – so that ID’s incompatibility with Aristotelianism does not put it at odds with Thomism.  You heard it here first, folks.

If this strategy seems absurd, that is because it is.  To be sure, there were in the twentieth century various interpreters of Aquinas who emphasized the non-Aristotelian aspects of his thought.  For instance, Cornelio Fabro focused attention on the Neo-Platonic influences on Aquinas, and Etienne Gilson emphasized Aquinas’s originality.  Richards has evidently been influenced by these interpreters, or at least by the literature their work spawned.  But that work in no way justifies the frankly preposterous claims Richards makes about Thomism. 

For one thing, that Aquinas was influenced by thinkers other than Aristotle (which of course he was) and made innovations of his own (which of course he did) simply does not entail that he was not an Aristotelian, fond though Richards is of this brazen non sequitur.  For another, whether even the non-Aristotelian elements emphasized by writers like Fabro or Gilson are as significant as they claimed them to be is a matter of controversy.  Yet Richards (who is not an Aquinas scholar) does not merely present his idiosyncratic position as one, highly contentious interpretation of Thomism among others; he writes matter-of-factly as if what he has to say about Aquinas were the settled wisdom.  ID’s Thomist critics, it seems, simply hadn’t gotten the memo.  Nor, apparently, did eminent twentieth-century Thomists like Garrigou-Lagrange, De Koninck, Wallace, Weisheipl, Ashley, and McInerny – not to mention countless Thomists of previous centuries, and those of Aquinas’s day who were suspicious of his thought precisely because of its novel Aristotelianism – all of whom labored under the delusion (as Richards sees it) that Aquinas was an Aristotelian.  Ite ad Richards, gentlemen!

This would all be outrageous enough for most writers, but not enough for Richards.  For not only is “Aristotelian-Thomism” bad Aquinas exegesis, in his view; it is theologically suspect, a “key danger” and “error” that Bonaventure had warned us about in Aquinas’s day and which is now rearing its ugly head again in the guise of ID’s Thomist critics.  (“Heresy hunting,” anyone?)

And what exactly is this theological dynamite allegedly lurking within Aristotelianism?  Why it has to do with nothing less than the “immanent teleology” insisted upon by ID’s Thomist critics, Richards tells us.  For Aristotle believed that the world has always existed, and this (Richards says) is why he “didn’t feel the need to resolve the problem of where that teleology came from.”  Plus he didn’t have anything like the Augustinian notion that the essences of things pre-exist in the divine intellect as the archetypes according to which God creates.  By contrast, Aquinas was influenced by Neo-Platonism, and quotes Augustine and Pseudo-Dionysius a lot, and accepted the doctrine of divine ideas, and was a Christian who believed the world had a beginning.  Also, the demiurge of Plato’s Timaeus sounds in some respects more like the God of Genesis than Aristotle’s God does.  And so on, for several pages.

And therefore… what exactly?  Are we supposed to conclude from all this that Aquinas did not believe in immanent teleology?  That certainly doesn’t follow, and it isn’t true either.  Nor does Richards ever really say that it is, or indeed even give any actual argument at all.  He just kicks up a lot of dust, insinuating that somehow or other these diverse bits of theological and philosophical trivia show that Aquinas differed from Aristotle in a way that lets ID off the hook. 

Here’s the thing, though.  Either Aquinas believed in immanent teleology – final causes “built into” the natural world – or he did not.  And if he did, then it doesn’t really matter for the present discussion whether he also believed all sorts of other things that Aristotle didn’t, such as that even immanent final causality must ultimately be explained in terms of God’s directing activity.  For if he did believe in immanent teleology, then even though he was more than an Aristotelian, he was at least an Aristotelian, and that is enough (by Richards’ own tacit admission) to put him at odds with ID.

That he did believe in it, and that he was an Aristotelian, there can be no serious doubt whatsoever.  There is, after all, a reason why Aquinas called Aristotle – not Plato, not Plotinus, not Boethius – “The Philosopher.”  There is a reason why he wrote many lengthy commentaries on the works of Aristotle, specifically, and never devoted as much attention to the works of Plato or any Neo-Platonic thinker.  There is a reason why the notions of act and potency, form and matter, final cause, and the rest of the Aristotelian apparatus absolutely permeate Aquinas’s writings.  Just try to defend Aquinas’s Five Ways, or his conception of the relationship between soul and body, or his account of natural law, without appealing to them.  It can’t be done.  Certainly, these notions are – as I have shown at length elsewhere – absolutely central to the way Aquinas himself defends the positions in question.  The reason Aquinas seems to be such an Aristotelian, and the reason he has always been regarded as an Aristotelian, is that he was an Aristotelian.  Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and not a seven-centuries-old “misinterpretation” waiting to be cleared up by a guy at the Discovery Institute.

Nor can the particular Aristotelian bits that ID theorists especially dislike be plucked out while leaving the rest intact.  Remove immanent final causality from the Thomistic picture of nature and the act/potency distinction goes with it, since a potency is always a potency for some actuality, “directed to” it as toward a final cause.  And with the act/potency distinction goes everything else (again, consult Aquinas to see just how thoroughly this distinction underlies the entire Thomistic system).  That is the reason why twentieth-century Thomists made the affirmation of the doctrine of act and potency the first of the famous “Twenty-Four Thomistic Theses,” and why Pope Pius XI wrote:

The metaphysical philosophy of St. Thomas, although exposed to this day to the bitter onslaughts of prejudiced critics, yet still retains, like gold which no acid can dissolve, its full force and splendor unimpaired.  Our Predecessor [St. Pius X] therefore rightly observed: "To deviate from Aquinas, in metaphysics especially, is to run grave risk.” (emphasis added)

You can insist that Aquinas’s metaphysics sometimes goes beyond anything Aristotle himself says.  (And it does, though it always builds on an Aristotelian foundation, and even the Neo-Platonic bits are secondary and Aristotelianized – see e.g. my discussion of the Fourth Way in Aquinas.)  You can reject that metaphysics altogether.  But to pretend that Thomism can survive such a rejection, that a nod to some vague “spirit of Thomas Aquinas” (Richards’ expression) suffices to make one a Thomist, doesn’t pass the laugh test.

The woolliness of Richards’ general “Aquinas as non-Aristotelian” theme is evident too in his various subsidiary insinuations – and insinuations is all they ever are, for he never gets up to pulling an actual argument out of all the name-dropping and miniature lessons in the history of ideas.  For instance, Richards seems to think it a terribly telling point that Aquinas disagreed with Aristotle about the eternity of the world.  Aristotle thought the world has always existed, and that God has merely kept it moving eternally rather than created it out of nothing; Aquinas, as a Christian, believes that it had a beginning, and that God caused this beginning.  Somehow or other this shows, in Richards’ view, that Aquinas couldn’t have shared Aristotle’s view of immanent teleology, but instead went in for something closer to the extrinsically imposed teleology of the artisan god of Plato’s Timaeus.  Except that Richards is also careful to say that Aquinas doesn’t really adopt Plato’s view either.  His is rather a middle ground position that affirms teleology or final causality that is “both intrinsic, in one sense, but ultimately extrinsic, in another sense.”  And this is all supposed to be absolutely devastating for us Thomist critics of ID.

How?  That, we are never told, nor is it by any means easy to reconstruct an argument on Richards’ behalf.  Certainly it is not news to any A-T philosopher that Aquinas’s position on teleology is a middle ground between Aristotle’s and Plato’s; that is something I have emphasized myself many times – for instance, in my treatment of the Fifth Way in Aquinas (which Richards has told me he’s read!), and in my Philosophia Christi article “Teleology: A Shopper’s Guide.”  And if Richards actually agrees with me that Aquinas does believe in immanent teleology (even if Aquinas also, unlike Aristotle, thinks that immanent teleology must itself be explained in terms of God’s ordering action), then he has effectively conceded the main point between us.

For another thing, though Aquinas does indeed believe the world had a beginning, he rather famously denies both that this can be proved philosophically and that it has anything to do with proving God’s existence.  Rather, he concedes for the sake of argument that the world had no beginning and proceeds to offer his five proofs of God’s existence on that basis (precisely, some commentators have suggested, out of an excessive respect for Aristotle).  These proofs include the Fifth Way – the proof from final causes or teleology.  And that means that the way the existence of teleology in nature leads us to the existence of God has, in Aquinas’s view, nothing to do with whether the world had a beginning.  So why, given all that, does Richards think that Aquinas believed these issues were linked?  Here Richards does not even insinuate an answer, much less argue for one.

Though it is a lesser offense, it is worth noting that Richards misrepresents my own views no less than he does Aquinas’s.  For instance, in response to my charge that ID theory is mechanistic, Richards waxes logorrhetic on the great many senses attached historically to the term “mechanism.”  But he could have spared his readers the history lesson – and the false insinuation that I have failed to use language precisely – because I have always been very clear that what I mean by a “mechanistic” view of nature is, specifically, any view which rejects immanent formal and final causes, even if only in a “for the sake of argument” manner. 

Richards also insists, as if he were contradicting some view I hold, that it is “simply not true” that Newton, Boyle, and other early modern philosophers eschewed final causes.  But what I have actually said is that these thinkers eschewed immanent final causes, while acknowledging that they affirm extrinsic final causes (i.e. final causes or teleology imposed on the world from outside). 

Richards also badly misrepresents my view of the nature of artifacts, absurdly attributing to me a kind of “reductionism.”  For I hold, he claims – ripping some words of mine out of context – that an artifact like a mousetrap (for example) “is ‘nothing but’ a collection of wood and metal parts.”  And he has no trouble showing that this view is absurd, since in addition to the wood and metal there is also of course “a function imposed on them by an agent.”  But what I actually said is that “apart from human interests, the object is ‘nothing but’ a collection of wood and metal parts.”  The words Richards has deleted obviously change the meaning entirely.  And anyone who bothers to read the post of mine that Richards is replying to – as, needless to say, most readers of God and Evolution will not – will see that what I actually claim is that an artifact like a mousetrap is made up of its material parts plus a function imposed on them from outside by a human designer.  In other words, my actual view of artifacts is the very one Richards himself takes, and the contrary of the view he attributes to me.  (Where Richards and I differ is in taking artifacts to differ essentially from natural objects, which have their functions intrinsically.  And here it is Richards, not me, who is closer to reductionism, since in treating natural objects as if they were artifacts he implicitly denies their immanent teleology and organic unity.)

Finally, and again by taking my words out of context, Richards gives the impression that I am a kind of Aristotle worshipper who subordinates Christianity to pagan philosophy:

Feser… has written [in The Last Superstition]: “Abandoning Aristotelianism, as the founders of modern philosophy did, was the single greatest mistake ever made in the entire history of Western thought… this abandonment has contributed to the civilizational crisis through which the West has been living for several centuries…”  Notice he does not say the abandonment of God or the doctrine of creation or the truths of the Nicene Creed, but the abandonment of Aristotelianism…

So, Aristotle ├╝ber alles, right?  Well, no, actually.  For what does the original passage look like without Richards’ ellipses?  Like this:

Abandoning Aristotelianism, as the founders of modern philosophy did, was the single greatest mistake ever made in the entire history of Western thought.  More than any other intellectual factor there are other, non-intellectual factors too, of course, and some are more important this abandonment has contributed to the civilizational crisis through which the West has been living for several centuries, and which has accelerated massively in the last century or so.  It is implicated in the disintegration of confidence in the rational justifiability of morality and religious belief… (emphasis altered from the original)

Richards’ selective quotation gives the impression that I regard Aristotelianism and Aristotelianism alone as the sine qua non of the health of Western civilization.  But as the full passage makes clear, I was talking specifically about the condition of “Western thought,” of the specifically “intellectual” factors behind the decline of Western civilization, while explicitly acknowledging that there were “other… more important” factors too, and that even the intellectual ones are significant in part precisely because of their effects on the status of “morality and religious belief,” including the theological doctrines cited by Richards.  Far from treating Aristotelianism as an end in itself, I was rather emphasizing its importance as an intellectual bulwark against the erosion of sound morality and sound theology – just as Pius X and Pius XI emphasized the role of Thomistic metaphysics (which incorporates and expands upon Aristotelian metaphysics) in serving as such a bulwark.

Richards’ arbitrary redefinition of “Thomism” and his other exercises in sleight of hand are of a piece with the frequently slippery quality of ID argumentation.  To secularists, ID defenders insist that ID has nothing to do with natural theology in general or Paley’s design argument in particular, but is merely a new scientific procedure for detecting signs of intelligence.  To religious believers, they say that ID shows that any intelligent being existing within the material world would itself have to be explained by reference to an intelligence outside the natural order, so that “God’s design is… accessible to scientific inquiry” (as Dembski has put it).  To opponents of evolution, they say that ID provides a devastating scientific critique of Darwinism.  To evolutionists, they say that ID is compatible with evolution, since that might be the means by which the designer creates.  In one breath, Dembski acknowledges that ID rejects Aristotle’s distinction between natural substances and artifacts and his related conception of teleology as immanent to the natural world.  In another, he insists that ID is perfectly compatible with the Aristotelian-Thomistic conception of nature.  One moment ID defenders are telling us that ID constitutes a “new science,” a “revolutionary” new program for biological research.  The next, they are telling us it has much more modest ambitions, amounting to little more than a reductio ad absurdum of certain naturalistic and Darwinian premises.  Sometimes ID is identified with some specific, novel methodology or conceptual framework, such as Dembski’s theory of “complex specified information.”  At other times, any old thing is said to count as ID as long as it affirms “design” of some sort or other. 

In short, ID is whatever the ID defender needs it to be at the moment, given his audience and the imperative to avoid offending potential allies or neutral third parties.  “Heads I win, tails you lose!” – and then off to confront the next opponent, hopefully before the last one (or at least the audience watching the debate) has seen through the flimflam.  As I have always acknowledged, this or that specific point made by this or that individual ID theorist may well have value.  But as a movement, as a would-be school of thought, ID is a complete mess, with no coherent intellectual core to unite its defenders’ various ad hoc pronouncements.  It is, too often, politics rather than science, and rhetoric rather than philosophy.  Plato, whom Richards prefers to Aristotle, had a name for that sort of thing.

148 comments:

Crude said...

Ed,

I'll pass on defending ID for the moment, and simply ask this. What would your response be to someone who said to you, "This (naturally occurring biological thing) looks designed to me. It seems like something indicative of a mind." No irreducible complexity argument, no complexity filter. Just someone's hunch or observation.

Would you agree with them conditionally but frame it in the Fifth Way? Disagree? Does it depend on the 'thing' in question?

Damien S said...

Outstanding riposte Ed. Your case seems pretty tight to me.

Untenured said...

The more I read about these I.D. types, the more their style of argumentation looks like that of the dedicated naturalist. They have a conclusion that they are determined to reach, and their first goal is to say whatever they think they need to say in order to "win". Those quotes with the ellipses removed are just down right dishonest- the kind of maneuver one normally expects only from Catholic bashing fundamentalists.

Mark Duch said...

Dr. Feser -

I've made it "Facebook-official." You've convinced me. I'm an Aristotelian-Thomist. Your books are incredibly coherent and fair, your blog fearless, and as Damien put it, your case "pretty tight."

I am in your debt.

Mark Duch

Michael Sullivan said...

If being an Aristotelian means that you hold pretty much everything Aristotle says, then neither Aquinas nor any other scholastic was an Aristotelian. But if being an Aristotelian means that you accept the broad frameworks of his approach to most philosophical issues, use his vocabulary, employ his concepts and distinctions, start with and engage with his positions, and modify or reject those positions only after careful consideration and argument, then both Aquinas and every scholastic writer after say c.1250 was an Aristotelian. Even Aristotle-suspecters like Bonaventure and avowed Aristotle-haters like Olivi were so Aristotelian that your average 20th-century Analytic philosopher would be pretty hard put to tell the difference between their kind of Aristotelianism and Aquinas'. Basic Aristotelian concepts like the ten categories or the potency/act distinction are just built into the substructure of all scholastic thought. To try to carefully remove the Aristotle from the Thomistic edifice, like Jenga pieces, so that you can turn Thomas into either a proto-Wittgenstein or proto-von Balthasar or whatever, is both impossible and ludicrously absurd.

However, Dr Feser, I'm not sure this is quite fair:

There is, after all, a reason why Aquinas called Aristotle – not Plato, not Plotinus, not Boethius – “The Philosopher.” There is a reason why he wrote many lengthy commentaries on the works of Aristotle, specifically, and never devoted as much attention to the works of Plato or any Neo-Platonic thinker.

After all one reason that Aquinas wrote no commentaries on Plato or Plotinus is that their works weren't available in Latin (except for Meno and Timaeus) and Aquinas never had the chance to read them. He did write commentaries on much of the neoplatonic literature he had access to. There's every reason to think he would have done so for Plato and Plotinus if he got the chance. It's also fair to note that once P. and P. became available in Latin, much western thought made a decided shift in a Platonic direction, just as it shifted in an Aristotelian direction soon after Aristotle became available.

BenYachov said...

ID is hopeless. Sure you can try to claim some complexity in nature seems to imply a designer that is unequivocally compared to a natural human or superhuman artificer.

But it could never be exclusively seen as the True God of Abraham since it could also be aliens or Q from Star Trek.

Alyosha said...

Some ID proponents' insistence on linking ID to Thomism reflect on their admiration to Thomism that they wish to tag ID along with the grand tradition of Thomism.

However, why do they need to invoke Aquinas? They insist pretty much that ID is scientific concept and it is pretty clear that by the claim of scientific nature of ID it is rooted in pretty much what modern science roots itself in, mainly mechanistic view of nature. Of course one way to tag ID to Thomism is to throw away the mechanistic conception and adopt Aristotle's realism as foundation of science which I think you propose in TLS.

I think what is more interesting is that whether it is possible to craft a case against Darwinism from A-T metaphysics. My reading of your books (TLS and Aquinas) does not seem to show your position on evolution except that it is irrelevant to the case of God's existence or in fact in may support it. Does it mean you are A-T Darwinist or at least theistic evolutionist?

I also have one more question. Your books focus on natural theology and I infer from that it is possible to be A-T Jews, A-T Muslim (no matter how weird this sound) and of course also A-T Christian (A-T Protestant anyone)? The question is: why are you the later?

BenYachov said...

OTOH the God of the 5 ways can only be the Classical Theist God who I love with all my heart.

Down with Mechanistic Philosophy!

Down with Theistic Personalism!

Down with the denial of immanent telology!

Down with empiricism alone and the sole means of natural knowledge!

Long live St. thomas Aquinas Doctor of the Catholic Faith by the Grace of Christ Almighty!

Anonymous said...

I used to be sympathetic to the ID cause because I saw them as a group of very dedicated fellows attacking naturalistic superstition. These days, not so much. Sometimes they strike me as plain dishonest.

They need to learn some Thomas.

Anonymous said...

Ben Yachov, your enthusiasm scares me.

Bilbo said...

I guess I fall under the category of "cultural warrior in the combox."

I guess I don't understand the Thomist objection to ID. Given that natural objects have immanent final causality, is it supposed to automatically follow that they will eventually produce living organisms? And if there is no evidence that they would eventually produce living organisms, are we to believe that they will, despite the lack of evidence?

Bilbo said...

Could there be a middle view of immanent teleology? For example, could there be a view that the immanent teleology of the initial moment of creation (the Big Bang) was to produce the right kind of natural objects that would then be formed into living organisms through additional divine direction?

Bilbo said...

As to the problem of univocality: Are Thomists saying that God could not manipulate matter? Or are they saying that God could not manipulate matter the way we do, by applying physical force to it?

If the former, then I can see a potential conflict with ID. But if the second, then I don't see why there needs to be a conflict.

GringoRoyale said...

Bilbo....
don't think I've ever seen you here before.
See your not over at TT anymore.

Bilbo said...

Hi GR, I just drop in to war culturally in the combox, now and then, if it has to do with ID.

Leo Carton Mollica said...

@Bilbo:

I guess I don't understand the Thomist objection to ID.

ID is at variance with A-T because the former regards biological teleology as artificially and externally imposed, whereas the latter regards it as immanent and natural.

Are Thomists saying that God could not manipulate matter?

Yes: God creates by the conjoining of essence and existence, not by the manipulation of matter.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

I think one must distinguish between ID and its defenders, for whether one likes or doesn’t like the latter is irrelevant. After all some really bad characters defend Christianity too. Or perhaps one should distinguish the idea of ID from the political movement of ID. What interests me here are the merits of ID as an idea.

As far I can see there is a weak and a strong version of ID. The weak version is this: It is almost certain that an intelligent species (us) has evolved in the universe by means of natural evolution. It is true that natural evolution can be interpreted naturalistically, i.e. as being a mechanistic, purposeless, undirected process. Let call that later thesis “naturalistic natural evolution” (or NNE for short). So what is the probability that given the initial conditions of the universe some intelligent species would evolve by NNE? There is nothing in science that so much as suggests what that probability is, and that therefore the claim that this probability is high, or at least not low, is *not* based on the science. In other words the weak ID thesis is that NNE is not warranted by the actual state of the science. Therefore, there is nothing in the science that so much as suggests that intelligent life is the result of a naturalistic process instead of the realization of a design, despite New Atheists’ loud claims to the contrary.

The strong ID thesis (SID for short) is that the probability of NNE is low.

These are two related but distinct ideas. Both are scientific theses, for the first makes a claim about the actual state of science, and the second makes a claim about the value of a probability defined entirely in scientific terms.

I think that the weak ID thesis is true as a matter of observational fact. Indeed, to my knowledge at least, no scientist has ever computed the value of the relevant probability, even if only as a gross approximation.

SID is much tougher, for here it is the burden of ID theorists to prove, based exclusively on scientific principles, that the probability of NNE is low. If they succeed they will demonstrate scientifically that it is improbable that natural evolution is a dumb mechanistic process, and thus that naturalism is probably false. Thus, much is at play here. So now, have ID theorists proven SID? In my judgment they haven’t, and are indeed very far from it. At most they have raised some doubts based on ideas such as irreducible complexity. But, first, to challenge believers in NNE to solve an apparent problem does not amount to an argument for SID. And, secondly, some NNErs have risen to the challenge and have shown that suggested cases of irreducible complexity are spurious, thus actually producing some at least weak evidence for NNE and against SID.

Now, should science one day compute the relevant probability it would decide both NNE and SID. Unfortunately, given the nature of quantum mechanics, it may well be the case that the computation of that probability is intractable. But perhaps science can demonstrate that it is scientifically intractable, thus moving both NNE and SID outside of the scientific discourse, which would probably be a good thing.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Leo,

You write: “God creates by the conjoining of essence and existence, not by the manipulation of matter.

Can you please clarify this in the context of natural evolution? Does A-T say that matter is such that it will spontaneously evolve the human species without any directing force by God?

romishgraffiti said...

My interest in A-T is a bit like a Jack Chick conversion. That is to say, Jack Chick is so outrageous that it only piques interest in Catholicism for a fair-minded reader. Likewise, a certain doctor and frequent commentor at W4 is what I'd call my negative moral compass--whatever direction he points, go the other direction. So when he started laying into A-T, naturally I had to order Aquinas for Beginners. :)

Anxious Inquirer said...

Ed:

Re your a) and b):

a) Why can't you phrase ID arguments as reductio ad absurdums? i.e. "Okay, let's pretend there is no immanent teleology; even so, given your own empiricist principles, you should admit that biological complexity is designed." What is wrong with this? You refute his naturalism and then he becomes more open to AT, right?

b) Why is ID committed to this? And even if it is, the argument can again still be phrased as a reductio of naturalism - a naturalist might not hold that if there is a God, univocal prediction of human design attributes is inappropriate.

Brandon said...

Danielos asked Leo:

Can you please clarify this in the context of natural evolution? Does A-T say that matter is such that it will spontaneously evolve the human species without any directing force by God?

Since God is the cause of existence, nothing is done without God; and since He is the ultimate final cause, nothing happens without His direction in at least some way. And A-T leaves the issue open: whether or not this or that can spontaneously evolve depends entirely on the natures of the things involved. Except for noncontradiction, there's no a priori constraint on what kinds of natures God can create, and thus in general one can only find out what, precisely, the natural world can do by looking and seeing. If, however, you mean by 'directing force' an external imposition of some kind, then lots and lots of things happen without such directing force: divine omnipotence is not so limited in its options as always to require it.

Anxious Inquirer,

But a reductio, properly speaking, needs to share all of its principles with what one intends to reduce to absurdity, or the reductio really is a reductio of a completely different position. Do naturalists really accept the theories of irreducible complexity, specified complexity, and so forth, on which ID inferences build? Further, a reductio doesn't commit one to anything positive: even at best assessment, one would have to say that ID doesn't prove any of the claims it makes (i.e., it doesn't show that anything is designed or requires a designer); it just would prove at most the falsehood of one position (by showing that it both denied and implied a designer). This is a point Ed makes elsewhere: all that would follow is that a naturalist would have to stop committing to the things that led to the absurdity, either by specifically rejecting the relevant claims, or being mysterian or else suspending judgment about the topics the claims are about; and some naturalists, like McGinn or Nagel or Chomsky, are in that vicinity already.

Daniel Smith said...

Dr. Feser: "what I actually claim is that an artifact like a mousetrap is made up of its material parts plus a function imposed on them from outside by a human designer."

Ed,

I've been chasing you around from thread to thread trying, with no luck, to get you to comment on Aquinas' statement regarding active/passive potential in pre-existing matter and the distinction re: Life.

It appears to me that Aquinas contrasts the active potential of matter to be formed into something else - an artifact like a mousetrap - to the passive potential of matter to be formed into life - something he says only God can do.

Here's the quote:
"An effect may be said to pre-exist in the causal virtues of creatures, in two ways. First, both in active and in passive potentiality, so that not only can it be produced out of pre-existing matter, but also that some pre-existing creature can produce it. Secondly, in passive potentiality only; that is, that out of pre-existing matter it can be produced by God. In this sense, according to Augustine, the human body pre-existed in the previous work in their causal virtues."

Now, there is no denying that Aquinas is talking about artifacts here when he says "not only can it be produced out of pre-existing matter, but also that some pre-existing creature can produce it", but he seems to also be saying that there is some type of artifact (Life) that only God can produce. When he says "Secondly, in passive potentiality only; that is, that out of pre-existing matter it can be produced by God", isn't he talking about life as an artifact?

Now, I know that this argument is about the human body, but it would seem in principle to apply to all of life. It would seem, (as Bilbo pointed out in another thread), that Life is a property that only God can add to matter. In this sense, Life IS an artifact - because the elements that constitute life do not have the active potential to become life on their own, it must be imposed on them from outside, and this can only be done by God.

It would seem also that this is a possible "middle ground" where ID and Thomism could come together.

So, Dr. Feser, could you PLEASE comment on what you think Thomas meant when he distinguished between active and passive potential and how that applies to the formation of life from pre-existing matter?

Thank you!

Bilbo said...

Leo: "ID is at variance with A-T because the former regards biological teleology as artificially and externally imposed, whereas the latter regards it as immanent and natural."

I'm afraid that doesn't clear up my confusion. Is it possible that God created the parts so that their final cause to be parts of a living organism, but that in order for this to happen someone must put the parts together in exactly the right order? Does this mean that it is not immanent and natural? If not, why?

Are Thomists saying that God could not manipulate matter?

"Yes: God creates by the conjoining of essence and existence, not by the manipulation of matter."

But if the essence of living organisms is not only the properties of their parts, but the right configuration of their parts, it seems that there would need to be a manipulation of matter somewhere, by somebody.

And this seems to preclude any sort of empirical study. We are saying at the outset, "However life originated, it was not by the purposeful arrangement of its parts." But what if it was?

Anxious Inquirer said...

"This is a point Ed makes elsewhere: all that would follow is that a naturalist would have to stop committing to the things that led to the absurdity, either by specifically rejecting the relevant claims, or being mysterian or else suspending judgment about the topics the claims are about"

Sure, but this is still progress. That you are forced to make such moves in order to hold on to naturalism is a cost of believing in it. You smoke the naturalists out of their house and they will flee elsewhere: some to ID, some to AT. So Thomists shouldn't complain. The IDists are helping your cause.

21th Century Scholastic said...

Bilbo,

the "thomistic objection to ID" has nothing to do with the origins of life (many thomists, after all, believe that life has been directly created by God - for various reasons). It has to do with the ID conception of nature.

ID proponents assume a world that is able to "carry on" all by itself (without some entity sustaining it into existence), and a God that intervenes "from outside" to create life and everything. Under a teleological view of nature, this makes no sense; the conception of divine action is dramatically different (the famous "blacksmith vs. minstrel" metaphor).

To clarify further: IDers infer a designer from "specified complexity" in nature, that is, features of the natural world (as some living organisms, the flagellum etc.) too complex to have been "created by chance". This, too, makes no sense to an A-T. Given that (as dr. Feser shows in Aquinas, pp. 113-114) even chance events presuppose causal regularities, there are no "undirected" events or organisms possibly "arising by chance" without direction from God.

Again, this doesn't mean that evolution is true. It only shows that the "argument from design" isn't a good proof of the existence of God, and presupposes a seriously wrong conception of nature.

Tony said...

Bilbo: Are Thomists saying that God could not manipulate matter?

Leo: Yes: God creates by the conjoining of essence and existence, not by the manipulation of matter.

Heavens, Leo, are you saying that God cannot move natural bodily objects through a purely supernatural imposition? The He cannot do miracles? That's exactly what it sounds like, unfortunately.

While it is true that God creates by granting an essence "to exist", it is not like He grabs some existence with His left hand, and some essence in his right, and mashes the two together. Neither the one nor the other "is" before He acts, and both are said of the thing after He acts. Further, it is not like once He made the thing, He is done: in order for the thing to go on existing, God must go on willing that this "thing," of which is predicated both essence and existence, continue to exist.

But He does this much even for the existence of angels. For natural beings, i.e. beings with bodies, God is not only responsible for willing that this essence have existence, but He wills it with respect to some specified matter: when its essence informs some matter, that matter is specified as the body, and that essence begins to exist really.

The question to ask is not whether God can manipulate matter (of course He can), it is whether when He creates (say) a living being, He does so by a special act over and above the natural material and immanent formal and final causes of the prior material beings that immediately precede the new being. Catholic theology answers in the positive for MAN: for each man that exists, he exists not only because of the coming together of suitable material, and not only because of a man and a woman acting to generate a new being with human nature, but God's direct action to bring into being an immortal soul - a supernatural act as such. But other than for man, theology is quiet.

My sense of Thomist philosophy is that outside of man, God's special agency is not needed in the coming to be of any living being from its parents, but would be needed in the coming to be of any living being from something of a different nature.

Brandon said...

Sure, but this is still progress. That you are forced to make such moves in order to hold on to naturalism is a cost of believing in it. You smoke the naturalists out of their house and they will flee elsewhere: some to ID, some to AT. So Thomists shouldn't complain. The IDists are helping your cause.

Only in the same sense that everyone -- including naturalists attacking principles of ID with which Thomists disagree -- are "helping the cause". This is not really 'helping'; it's just an ordinary feature of any dialectical reasoning. By the same reasoning we should count naturalist attacks on ID as helping Thomism because, once the IDists are smoked out, some of them will flee to naturalism and some to Aristotelianism.

Also, even this is the result only at the most optimistic assessment: that is, only if we treat ID purely as a reductio (and I've already noted that it's not obvious how to do so, since what, specifically, is it a reductio of, given that it would have to share all its basic principles with that position?) and not as making any positive claims about the world. But what ID theorists go around saying that, for all they know, things with specified complexity are not designed, it's just that naturalists are commited to saying they are?

Brandon said...

Daniel, you say,

Now, there is no denying that Aquinas is talking about artifacts here when he says "not only can it be produced out of pre-existing matter, but also that some pre-existing creature can produce it", but he seems to also be saying that there is some type of artifact (Life) that only God can produce. When he says "Secondly, in passive potentiality only; that is, that out of pre-existing matter it can be produced by God", isn't he talking about life as an artifact?

What in the world from the actual text leads you to think that any of this has anything to do with treating life as an artifact? Are you assuming that every effect is an artifact? That seems manifestly false: fulgurite is formed out of pre-existing matter (sand) by a pre-existing creature (lightning) but that hardly means that fulgurite is an artifact.

What Aquinas is saying is that some effects in nature are due to the natural capacity for the effect being activated by some already active created cause; and other effects are due to the natural capacity for the effect being activated by God. Artifacts aren't even in view here: what Aquinas is doing is resolving an apparent contradiction in Augustine. Augustine says that human bodies were created by God implanting the causal ability to become the human body in nature, which afterward did become the human body, but this has to be consistent with God's forming the human body out of earth. So Aquinas says both are true: God put the ability to become the human body in the earth but activated this ability Himself.

Anxious Inquirer said...

Brandon,

This is the layout as I see it.

The naturalist says this:

These empiricist/scientific principles (E) are true, an from them we can infer naturalism (N).

Given that, there are two ways of deploying ID.

The more common: E is true, but in fact you should infer a designer (D) from E.

The reductio: Even if E is true (and I'm not saying it is, mind you) then it nevertheless follows that D.

The Thomist can claim that the best account of D is the God of the AT tradition.

Then his argument against the naturalist is as follows:

1. Either E or AT
2. If AT, then ATGod
3. If E, then D
4. If D, then ATGod
Therefore,
5. ATGod.

This also enables me to address your other worry, that nat. attacks on ID help AT (ie. attacks on (3)). It wouldn't because then AT would lose converts coming via (4). (If ATGod, then AT.)

Brandon said...

Anxious Inquirer, you say:

This also enables me to address your other worry, that nat. attacks on ID help AT (ie. attacks on (3)). It wouldn't because then AT would lose converts coming via (4). (If ATGod, then AT.)

But it could very well gain it coming from elsewhere; after all, not everyone comes to agree with Aristotelian thought by following this one very specific line of thought that you've laid out. Naturalist attacks on ID may very well lead IDists who are beginning to be uneasy about the matter to look into more sophisticated accounts of final causes, for instance.

The point, of course, is not that naturalism does help this way (although the line I mention above is one I've known people to follow), but that helping this way is purely incidental to the position involved: it depends on where people are, what their dispositions are, and the like, at least as much as it depends on the objections being raised.

If we take ID in a full positive sense (involving specific theories of specified complexity, etc.), it makes a very implausible via media; the only thing it has in common with Thomism is the position that something or other in the natural world is caused in some way or another by some intelligence or another. If we take it as merely a reductio of naturalism, assuming that it can be taken so, it's not the right sort of argument to serve as a genuine via media in the first place -- at best it serves the function of any and every other argument, namely, as an occasion of thought. This is a genuine value, and it's a genuine value that a Thomist (or any scholastic) would recognize: it's an objectio in need of a reply or a sed contra in need of a clarification. But any non-Thomist argument you can name will end up as one of those two.

Brian said...

This might be a Catholic-specific question, but I might as well ask it since it relates to evolution.

Aren't Catholics bound to believe Original Holiness - i.e., the state of affairs before the Fall in which (1) man and nature are in harmony (2) neither death nor decay afflict nature or man. I can pull quotes out of the Catechism if need be, but these two propositions obviously conflict with natural history. How could God, the source of all life, be the author of death? Seems to me that this is the logic of Original Holiness. So isn't this a pretty big problem for Catholics/thomists?

Crude said...

Aren't Catholics bound to believe Original Holiness - i.e., the state of affairs before the Fall in which (1) man and nature are in harmony (2) neither death nor decay afflict nature or man.

As far as I know, the CCC states that original holiness was the state of man originally. Not a state of nature or a state in relation to nature. I also don't think it's claimed in the CCC that there was no death in nature.

But I could have missed something, so I could use those refs.

Brian said...

Ok, here is the first paragraph, I think, on Original Justice. It describes the harmony between man and nature.

376 By the radiance of this grace all dimensions of man's life were confirmed. As long as he remained in the divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer or die. The inner harmony of the human person, the harmony between man and woman, and finally the harmony between the first couple and all creation, comprised the state called "original justice".

The following paragraph describes how death and decay entered nature, not just man, through the Fall.

400 The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul's spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination. Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject "to its bondage to decay". Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will "return to the ground", for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.

There are probably more paragraphs, but these are the ones that stood out to me. Altogether aside from this teaching, how could God, the source of life, be the author of death, which is what we see in natural history before the Fall?

Finally, there are a handful of Scripture verses which support Original Justice that Catholic evolutionists will have to grapple with, and you guys should be careful about contradicting them or abstracting them. The state of Original Justice is a central strand running throughout the Bible, and unraveling that strand will affect the whole picture. Not to mention, as Catholics, we don't want to contradict Scripture in the first place.

Anyway, I am hoping to find a good enough resolution that is in line with Catholic teaching and respects the Bible. Of course, all of this may just be a misunderstanding.

Daniel Smith said...

Brandon: "What in the world from the actual text leads you to think that any of this has anything to do with treating life as an artifact? Are you assuming that every effect is an artifact? That seems manifestly false: fulgurite is formed out of pre-existing matter (sand) by a pre-existing creature (lightning) but that hardly means that fulgurite is an artifact."

Hi Brandon,

Perhaps my error is that I assumed that by the word "creature" Aquinas was referring to man (or angels.) I did not think of it referring to any created thing (like lightning.)

So, from that assumption, I believed Aquinas was referring to man-made objects vs God-made objects.

"what Aquinas is doing is resolving an apparent contradiction in Augustine. Augustine says that human bodies were created by God implanting the causal ability to become the human body in nature, which afterward did become the human body, but this has to be consistent with God's forming the human body out of earth. So Aquinas says both are true: God put the ability to become the human body in the earth but activated this ability Himself."

Thank you for that clarification.

Let me ask you Brandon, do you believe that this active/passive potential distinction applies to all of life - or just to the human body?

Daniel Smith said...

Brian: "how could God, the source of life, be the author of death"

If I may, God is not the author of death - Man is.

God is, as you say, the source of life.

Man rejected that source.

Hence - death.

The answer to the "problem of evil" will always be some form of the above.

Brandon said...

Hi, Daniel,

If I understand Aquinas's point properly, the distinction applies to every material thing; it's basically the claim that, for every material thing that comes to be, there is a pre-existing material cause, and there is also a pre-existing efficient cause adequate to making it exist. Where the human body comes in is that it is a natural thing that, because of its particular relationship with the rational soul, Aquinas holds that it falls on a different side of the distinction than most other things -- for almost all material things, the material pre-exists and the power to make it exist also pre-exists in creatures, but for some things, no creaturely power will be an adequate cause, so the only adequate pre-existing cause to activate the potential of the matter is God. In the case of the human body it would be because its form is incorruptible and therefore can't be caused to exist as a genuinely human body (as opposed to just a body that looks human) by any creaturely power. The slime of the earth from which the human body comes was created with the potential to be transformed into the human body, but the only cause capable of activating this potential was God, because every human soul is on Aquinas's view directly created.

Brian said...

Daniel, of course I want to believe that, but does that not contradict with natural history? There was death for billions of years before man entered the picture.

Brandon said...

Brian,

I'm not quite sure what your question about original justice is. Original justice is a special grace: it's not natural in anything like our ordinary sense of the word. Aquinas, for instance, is very clear that his view is that everything material by nature dies (and that this is good simply considered on its own because the corruption of one thing allows for the generation of other things); original justice was a special gift that prevented death, not an integral part of nature. Indeed, Aquinas goes so far as to say that it is simply unreasonable to think that animals with teeth and claws didn't use them to kill prey. What he did think happened was that man and woman had special graces as lord and lady of all creation: they were in harmony with the natural world, and the natural world with them, because they had a divinely backed authority over the world -- it conformed itself to their will, not because of nature but because of divinely given grace. I don't see anything in the CCC that is inconsistent with this (although I think the CCC is also clearly consistent with other views than Aquinas's).

In any case I don't see why you think evolutionary theory would have any relevance one way or another to the question of original justice.

Daniel Smith said...

Brandon: "If I understand Aquinas's point properly, the distinction applies to every material thing"

So, if I'm reading you correctly, "passive potential only" just applies to the human body and not to the origin of life?

IOW, the elements of the earth have (in your view) the active potential to become life but not the active potential to become human?

IOW, (again) the earth can produce life but only God can produce man?

Daniel Smith said...

Brian "Daniel, of course I want to believe that, but does that not contradict with natural history? There was death for billions of years before man entered the picture."

Yes, I see your dilemma. Original Justice only makes sense if the biblical creation account is true.

If the biblical creation account is not true, and death was here for billions of years before the fall, then God introduced death and decay into creation with no seeming justification.

Interesting.

Mr. Green said...

21th Century Scholastic: IDers infer a designer from "specified complexity" in nature, that is, features of the natural world (as some living organisms, the flagellum etc.) too complex to have been "created by chance". This, too, makes no sense to an A-T. Given that even chance events presuppose causal regularities, there are no "undirected" events or organisms possibly "arising by chance" without direction from God.

Does this objection to ID centre on its trying to separate teleological stuff (life) from non-teleological? To which the Thomist objects that there is no "non-telelogical", which not only gets you a better argument for God (via the Fifth Way), but ID is hopelessly muddled because it's looking for a distinction that doesn't exist (just in the opposite way from how materialists think it doesn't exist).

I never thought of it quite that starkly before because it misses the point of ID. Yes, we have to work around the misapplication of "teleology", but there obviously is a distinction to be made (and it does seem to apply to life). Of course God directs everything down to the last detail. But the pattern made by falling raindrops is still "random" — that is, in scientific terms, the pattern is not correlated to whatever it is we're considering (e.g. Hamlet). Obviously where each raindrop falls is entirely caused (such as by the position and density of clouds, etc., etc.) and entirely foreknown by God and under His control. But if you see a phrase from Hamlet spelled out in waterdrops on your front porch, you are not going to conclude the water was raindrops.

You could say the waterdrops are a message from God. But you wouldn't. Nor, when every time I shuffle the cards, I get dealt four aces, will you respond that gee, God works in mysterious ways. Likewise, if the development of life is supposed to be uncorrelated to the laws of physics (in a certain way), and yet the evidence indicates that life developed in a way that beat the odds time and again, then the rational thing to conclude is that there is something going on — some correlation or piece of the puzzle that has been missed.

Bilbo said...

21th: "ID proponents assume a world that is able to "carry on" all by itself (without some entity sustaining it into existence),"

This is not true for most ID proponents, who are Christians and believe that God must continually sustain the world in existence.


"and a God that intervenes "from outside" to create life and everything."

ID proponents believe that specific events must have happened at specific times in the universe, in order for life to come into existence, and that this is best accounted for by a directing intelligence. I'll let you decide whether God needed to intervene "from outside" in order for this to happen.

"Under a teleological view of nature, this makes no sense; the conception of divine action is dramatically different (the famous "blacksmith vs. minstrel" metaphor)."

I haven't heard this metaphor before, so it may help us understand our differences. Could you tell me what it is, please?

machinephilosophy said...

A *very* interesting article relevant to this issue and Ed's take:

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/03/what_intelligent_design_offers045251.html

21th Century Scholastic said...

Brian: this, of course, assumes that the "findings" of modern geology are "findings" and not mere interpretations of the evidence (that is, wrong interpretations).

Anyway, the fall could be retroactive, as Dr. William Dembski theorizes in "The End of Christianity".

21th Century Scholastic said...

Bilbo, even for the christian proponents of ID, divine conservation takes at most a marginal role. A mechanistic world, in fact, has no need of being "sustained" into being; that's why most mechanists were deists.

As for the question of divine action: i think it was Peter Geach who said that God is not like a blacksmith which makes a shoe (where the shoe can continue to exist apart from his maker) but like a "minstrel" playing a song. If he stops, the song simply ceases to exist.

To get a better grip of the issue, i recommend reading Dr. Feser's post on classical theism: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/09/classical-theism.html (and, possibily, his books.)

Bilbo said...

21th: "Bilbo, even for the christian proponents of ID, divine conservation takes at most a marginal role. A mechanistic world, in fact, has no need of being "sustained" into being; that's why most mechanists were deists."

Given that a mechanistic world is a contingent world, just as much as a non-mechanistic world, I think your reasoning is rather faulty.

"As for the question of divine action: i think it was Peter Geach who said that God is not like a blacksmith which makes a shoe (where the shoe can continue to exist apart from his maker) but like a "minstrel" playing a song. If he stops, the song simply ceases to exist."

Very good. So if in order to bring the first living organisms into existence, God had to sing a new theme, or a new verse, then we may have a good idea of what ID would look like on the "minstrel" metaphor. Works just as well for ID as the blacksmith metaphor. For as we know, a shoe is a contingent thing, which must be sustained in existence by God.

Bilbo said...

But of course Feser would object and say that thinking that God sings is a univocal error and therefore we cannot use the "minstrel" metaphor, either.

How about the following scenario:

God: Hey you, Michael and Gabriel.

M&G: Yes, God?

God: I would like to bring about life in this universe that I created, but it requires so many specific events that I thought it would be better just to do it separately. Unfortunately, the Thomists have ruled that I'm not allowed to manipulate matter. So I want you guys to do it for me.

M&G: Sure thing God. You tell us how to do it, and we'll do it.

God: There, I hope Feser doesn't object to that.

Bilbo said...

Of course, no need to take me seriously. I'm not really looking for truth here. I'm just a culture warrior mouthing off in the combox.

Edward Feser said...

No time right now to comment at length, but since Bilbo seems to have been really stung by my "uninformed culture warrior" remark, I suppose I should mention that it was not inspired either by him or by anyone else who comments here at my blog. Rather, I had in mind the sort of remarks I tend to see in the Uncommon Descent comboxes, both recently and in the course of past exchanges on this topic.

Mr. Green said...

Bilbo playwrought: God: There, I hope Feser doesn't object to that.

Heh. Of course, that's not really fair to the Profeser because God most certainly can manipulate matter, or create each species immediately over six days, or create an auto-unfolding universe that "evolves" life over eons, or even something that involves the participation of angelic causes.

There are two important points that may help: on any kind of Aristotelian interpretation, life and non-life are both teleological, so there's no problem about how you get "teleology" from a primordial puddle or whatever. Meanwhile, an organism does not get "organized" from the outside (the way a blacksmith imposes the form or purpose of a horseshoe on it "externally" — meaning it is an artifact). Living things are what they are intrinsically, which doesn't mean they cannot be caused by natural, even lifeless causes (they can), but it means that their form is not imposed "from the outside". So you can't determine that life is special in some way by looking for that "outside" cause (the way you can look for the blacksmith to explain the shoe, or deduce the existence of the blacksmith, even though you may not know exactly who or what he is, or why he made the shoe). Those, I think, are the key differences between an Aristotelian/Thomistic/Scholastic perspective and the way ID positions are usually presented. However, I do not see that this in any way invalidates the attempt to ask the sort of questions that ID asks qua science. (They'll just have to be presented in a different way.)

And I take your questions seriously, anyway, because they are serious questions. Thomism is not easy, though at the same time, it is not hard, at least not once you've got used to not thinking in the "modern" fashion that has brainwashed us into thinking the older an idea is, the wronger it is. It just takes some time. Regardless of how interested you are in Thomism per se, I would recommend learning more about it, even just for general philosophical mind-stretching. There are good books on Aquinas by Feser himself, Copleston, Kreeft, and many more, but a very good place to start is with G.K. Chesterton's biography, which contains plenty of philosophical meat, and you probably know that Chesteron is always worth reading anyway.

21th Century Scholastic said...

Bilbo:

Mmm, "contingent" in what sense? In the sense of "needing an explanation" (a la leibnizian cosmological argument), perhaps, but not in the sense of "needing a sustaining cause".

After all, in the modern worldview there are no formal and final causes, and therefore ---> no forms ---> no essences ---> distinction between essence and existence. And without this crucial distinction, you have no "contingent" universe (in the thomistic sense, at least).

21th Century Scholastic said...

"Very good. So if in order to bring the first living organisms into existence, God had to sing a new theme, or a new verse, then we may have a good idea of what ID would look like on the "minstrel" metaphor. Works just as well for ID as the blacksmith metaphor. For as we know, a shoe is a contingent thing, which must be sustained in existence by God."

At this point, how would you distinguish a thing directly created from God from one that is not? If you say, "Complexity Filter", i've got bad news, for the filter presupposes that simple and unspecified phenomena have no intrinsic purpose (which is completely wrong).

Behe's "Irreducible Complexity" argument is better, and (i believe) escapes successfully the criticisms, though i would focus more on the "Irreducible" part than on the "Complexity" one, for the aforementioned reasons).

Brandon said...

Hi, Daniel, you said,

So, if I'm reading you correctly, "passive potential only" just applies to the human body and not to the origin of life?

IOW, the elements of the earth have (in your view) the active potential to become life but not the active potential to become human?

IOW, (again) the earth can produce life but only God can produce man?


I don't recall offhand anything Aquinas says about the origin of life simply speaking, so I'd have to go digging to see what, if anything, he says about the matter, but in this passage, at least, the human body is being treated as a special and unusual case, and it is the only thing in view. I presume on Aquinas's Aristotelian modification of Augustine it wouldn't be the elements alone that would be involved with the origin of living things -- I very strongly suspect, without actually looking it up at the moment, that the elements would only have the passive potential and they would be activated by the celestial bodies, especially the sun (Aquinas, following Aristotle, thinks some very simple lifeforms can be directly generated from certain combinations of the elements by the sun). But, yes, in general the idea would probably be this: the elements would have the passive potential to become anything material, even a living material thing, and other created things, like the sun, would have the active potential, i.e., would be able to activate this passive potential so that they actually existed. But human beings aren't purely material because of our intellect and will, so while the elements can become the human body, nothing short of God is an adequate explanation of the human body's being genuinely human.

Brian said...

Hi, Brandon. My question on Original Justice concerns the following in the CCC:

400 The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul's spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination. Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man. ***Because of man, creation is now subject "to its bondage to decay"***. Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will "return to the ground", for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.


My trouble is with nature not experiencing death nor decay before the Fall.

Brandon said...

Hi, Brian,

I see how you could read it the way you are reading it, but I don't see that there's anything requiring this reading; the Catechism here is just paraphrasing Romans 8:20. Aquinas, for instance, argues that three completely distinct interpretations of this verse are legitimate, only one of which takes it to refer to sensible creation generally; there's no particular need to follow Aquinas on this point, but the point is that there is already a long tradition of interpreting the verse in various ways, none of which are particularly ruled out here, although no doubt some fit somewhat better than others.

Further, you are assuming that the CCC is providing an interpretation; it looks more to my eye like it's just telling the story, which is why this whole section has so many references to Scripture and involves so much paraphrase of Scriptural passages. This is especially important to keep in mind given CCC 390 (cf. also 289), which explicitly warns that in readng the story of the Fall we should expect much of it to be description of the historical facts in figurative language.

Brian said...

Then how should I read the CCC on this? Are there any books on the matter that you have read that lead you to your position?

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

I agree with Mr. Green’s position above. ID is, and is meant to be, a scientific thesis. Why then should it use Thomistic terminology? The fact that the success of ID would have theological implications does not imply that Thomistic terminology is required (even assuming that Thomistic metaphysics is right). After all Thomists do not object that, say, quantum mechanics is not described using Thomistic terminology. Or do they?

So, am I missing something? Where is the problem exactly? Ed writes that IDers “eschewal” of Thomistic terms “conflicts” with A-T’s fundamental metaphysical commitments, but I don’t see how this is possible, given that ID is not a metaphysical thesis. Cooking recipes do not use Thomistic terminology either. Not to mention that many IDers may not be Thomists, and some, for all we know, may not be theists.

As for rejecting the view that God manipulates matter “from the outside” – I wonder if here Thomists are not fighting a paper tiger. After all no knowledgeable theist for the last two thousand years (or at least since John 1:3) believes that matter has some autonomous existence or properties. And I don’t see where the ID thesis requires or assumes that God manipulates matter “from the outside”, given that it does not require or assume the existence of God in the first place.

21th Century Scholastic said...

Mr. Green: I'm sorry, i didn't notice your post. Comboxes sure are messy. :D On specification, see my comment above to Bilbo.

Dianelos: The problem with ID theory is that, just like evolutionism, it is committed to a mechanistic worldview (no final causes intrinsic in nature). When you say "Everything that exhibits specified complexity is the work of a designer, while other phenomena could be the result of chance" you're assuming a worldview utterly devoid of teleology (as Aristotle, and Aquinas after him, defined "teleology").

djindra said...

Dianelos Georgoudis,

As for rejecting the view that God manipulates matter “from the outside” – I wonder if here Thomists are not fighting a paper tiger.

I'd say so. It makes no fundamental difference if God manipulates matter from outside or inside. Both views are teleological. Both are mechanistic. It makes no difference if it's called design, immanent teleology. or final cause. Nor does it matter if final causes are extrinsic or intrinsic. All of these concepts ultimately mean the same thing. Aquinas clearly argued, like ID, that God, and God alone, created the universe. Aquinas does not argue man evolved directly from the natural teleology of mud. But even if he had, the only difference is in timeline. If God inserted a teleology into the essence of mud, that's design. Both views depend on magic. The biggest difference is that ID is more open about the magical connection.

Anonymous said...

djindra is another Fundie Dawkins Drone who dogmatically believes all Theistic belief in any form is morally on the same level as believing in faeries. Then there is his persistent unconscious, unexamined and dogmatic positivism/scientism.

Plus he hasn't read a thing about philosophy & will attack Thomism with every warmed over anti-ID anti-6D-YEC argument he can think of in short warning he is beyond boring.

Mr. Green said...

Dianelos Georgoudis: ID is, and is meant to be, a scientific thesis. Why then should it use Thomistic terminology?

It's not that ID, or any other scientific endeavour, shouldn't use Thomistic terminology. If Thomism is true, then everything should! However, insofar as bad terminology "works", it can be translated into proper terminology. (Or, I suppose, it may be regarded as an alternative terminology that may be translated or not as you desire.) But an actual equation, say, uses mathematical terminology, which is fine to Thomists. It's more the interpretations — and although strictly speaking, the scientific method itself does not depend on a particular philosophy of nature, an actual person cannot do science without having some philosophical interpretation in mind. Again, insofar as that interpretation "works", it will have a Thomistic analogue, but it would surely be more productive to do science with a good philosophy in mind rather than a misleading one. Quantum mechanics is a great example of this — all sorts of nonsesnse beyond the strict science itself is the result of bad philosophy lurking in the background. (For starters, on a Thomistic view, QM isn't even weird; a lot of the (so-called) problems with modern physics are the result of trying to fit the science into a bad philosophy that never worked in the first place.)

The philosophical implications of ID do need to be put into proper (philosophical) terminology, of course. A given conclusion from ID may be able to be translated into a correct Thomistic view; or it may lead to some related conclusion given Thomism; or it may turn out not to make sense at all Thomistically.



21th Century Scholastic: On specification, see my comment above to Bilbo.

Are you referring to "the [complexity] filter presupposes that simple and unspecified phenomena have no intrinsic purpose (which is completely wrong)"? But really that's only half-wrong. The correct translation of "rocks have no teleology but organisms do" is actually "rocks have a certain kind of teleology, but organisms have a different or additional teleology." Which rather obviously is true. That's why we can't say that ID is committed to mechanism (though some of its supporters may be).

Hence my example of the (rain?)drops that spell out a message. We can look at the teleology in the droplets themselves; or we can look at a higher level (the level of the message) and talk about rain falling "by chance". Obviously chance is not absolute in this sense (as in "uncaused" or "without God"), but this is an ordinary, practical way of speaking that everybody uses. Consider Aquinas's example of the man who buries some treasure and the farmer who later finds it when ploughing his field. The burying and the digging up are both entirely caused, directed actions, but it's still correct to say that the farmer found the treasure "by chance" because his deliberate actions were not directed at finding the treasure. Of course, if the farmer walked into the middle of the field straight to where the treasure was and dug in only that one exact spot, we would conclude that his actions were directed at finding the treasure.

Brandon said...

Hi, Brian,

My suggestion is the one I already gave: read the CCC here like it's laying out a summary of the story, which includes a great deal of figurative language, not giving any rigorous theological interpretation explaining precisely what the figurative language implies in non-figurative language; that, in any case, is what the CCC seems to me to be suggesting itself, given CCC 390.

21th Century Scholastic said...

Mr. Green: So, (tell me if i understand you correctly) you're claiming that in addition to the instrinsic design present in nature, God could have imposed an additional design upon some organisms (like humans impose a function on wood pieces, for example, when they build a table)?This seems to be referring to God in a univocal way (like a human designer).

derp said...

Another day, another djindra troll post.

Brian said...

Brandon, the CCC is usually very clear in what it intends. In other sections, it lets you know that this or that is or might be figurative, but there is no such clarification, here. That leads me to conclude that it is being quite clear that neither death nor decay entered nature until the Fall. That being said, it is *just one* sentence, so I think it's a bit silly to decide either way just yet. What do you think? What have you read that has lead you to this conclusion? Can you recommend any literature which might talk about this in more depth?

Mr. Green said...

21th Century Scholastic: ...God could have imposed an additional design upon some organisms (like humans impose a function on wood pieces, for example, when they build a table)?

Well, God could presumably act "like" a human designer; say, he could miraculously levitate pieces of metal and have them come together to form a watch, or send a tornado through a junkyard in just the right way to assemble a watch. I don't see that that makes God univocally a designer, though.

In any case that's not what I'm saying. The final causes in an organism are intrinsic, they're just not the same causes as in a rock. A heart shares inanimate ends with rocks (such as gravitational or electromagnetic tendencies, etc.), but it also has ends of it own (pumping blood). It is perhaps understandable that science takes the bottom level of teleology for granted; without it there wouldn't be any science. But a heart's (intrinsic) tendency to pump blood is something over and above its (intrinsic) tendency to fall down. I imagine that science cannot distinguish between the intrinsic end of an organic heart and the extrinsic end of an artificial heart, but it should be able to identify that some kind of final cause is operative.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Mr. Green writes: “It's not that ID, or any other scientific endeavour, *shouldn't* use Thomistic terminology. If Thomism is true, then everything should!

Surely you don’t mean that. Assume that Thomism is true. Even then scientific textbooks, not to mention cookbooks, should not be rewritten to use Thomistic terminology. The foundational status of metaphysics does not imply that one cannot reasonably describe things on a higher level.

For starters, on a Thomistic view, QM isn't even weird; a lot of the (so-called) problems with modern physics are the result of trying to fit the science into a bad philosophy that never worked in the first place.

Finding a naturalistic interpretation of QM is hard whether Thomism is true or not. QM phenomena, as well as life phenomena (if strong ID is right), have metaphysical implications which happen to cause trouble for naturalism. I really don’t see why people can’t investigate these internal problems of naturalism independently of Thomism. The idea is to find an internal incoherence in naturalism, the way the problem of evil is about finding an internal incoherence in theism. And as atheologians should argue about the problem of evil using entirely theistic concepts and language, so should theists argue about the problem of naturalistically interpreting physical phenomena using entirely naturalistic concepts and language.

21th Century Scholastic said...

Mr Green: that's a good point, i never thought of it that way; but i still doubt that immanent purposes and extrinsic ones (such as those posited by ID theory) may co-exist in nature, and i think it would be better in any case to focus on the stronger kind of teleology represented by thomistic design.

BenYachov said...

>That leads me to conclude that it is being quite clear that neither death nor decay entered nature until the Fall.

Then how did anyone eat anything if plants being part of both nature and creation where impassible and immortal?

Even if somehow 6D-YEC is true animals clearly died before the Fall as Augustine said & predators hunted prey.

Brandon said...

Brian,

CCC 390 is quite clear that the whole of Genesis 1-3 is figurative, albeit a figurative portrayal of primeval events; likewise, the particular sentence you emphasized is quite literally nothing other than a paraphrase of Romans 8:20, which is being taken here insofar as it is Pauline commentary on Genesis 1-3, and the interpretation of it would depend entirely on how one interpreted Romans 8:20, which the CCC doesn't constrain in the least.

Likewise, CCC 289 makes quite clear that the reason for expounding the story laid out in Genesis 1-3 is that it is useful for catechesis in basic truths: creation, fall, and promise of salvation. This is what the CCC is doing all through here (the CCC has a structure; it is not a bunch of disjoined paragraphs to be read on their own). There is nothing whatsoever to indicate that the CCC is clarifying the matter at all at this point, rather than simply laying out what goes on in the highly figurative Genesis 1-3. So the Catechism is quite clear about what it is doing throughout Paragraphs 4 through 7 of the discussion of the first article of the creed (of which the section you quote is part), and is quite clear that much of the discussion is figurative, albeit a figurative description of truths.

Mr. Green said...

Dianelos Georgoudis pointed out: The foundational status of metaphysics does not imply that one cannot reasonably describe things on a higher level. 



Oh, I didn't mean that; just that any philosophical aspect is better described using proper philosophy, of course. An equation should be presented using mathematical terminology, and a recipe using cooking terminology; but any interpretation comes down to your philosophy of science (or your philosophy of cooking!). And of course it should be easier and less confusing to approach ID or QM or any other kind of science with a correct philosophy of science (since even when you're working directly on the equations, some kind of interpretation is always in the back of your mind). But I agree about using ID as a reductio — to show that a mechanistic approach has problems, you would have to try explaining things in that terminology, and then see whether it works or not.

Mr. Green said...

21th Century Scholastic‬ said: but i still doubt that immanent purposes and extrinsic ones (such as those posited by ID theory) may co-exist in nature

Well, I think that the only reason they are described as extrinsic is because ID is generally described using the language of mechanism. I don't see why it couldn't (indeed, shouldn't) be rephrased in a more Aristotelian way to talk about different levels or varieties of immanent teleology. And even if they don't talk that way, I'm not sure how far they could get anyway (sort of as if your colour-terminology used an inverted spectrum: for some things it would work fine; for certain detailed colour analysis, it wouldn't).

i think it would be better in any case to focus on the stronger kind of teleology represented by thomistic design.

Better for what? I'm not even sure the difference between intrinsic or extrinsic ends or between organism and mechanism is "visible" to the scientific method, so it may be moot to ID qua science (though not to ID qua philosophy). The scientific question, and whatever philosophical implications follow from it, are still fully worth investigating on their own; there is an answer to the question one way or the other, even if the answer turns out to be "no, science can't identify 'design' that way", and it's reasonable and proper to look for such answers because they tell us some truth about the universe that God created.

djindra said...

Anonymous,

djindra is another Fundie Dawkins Drone who dogmatically believes all Theistic belief in any form is morally on the same level as believing in faeries.

I don't expect anyone will make a credible case that their theistic belief is on a different moral or intellectual level than believing in faeries. But the current issue seems to be an assertion that design in ID is fundamentally different than design by another name, such as immanent teleology. I don't think anyone has made that case either.

djindra said...

Anonymous,

Then there is his persistent unconscious, unexamined and dogmatic positivism/scientism. ...Plus he hasn't read a thing about philosophy & will attack Thomism with every warmed over anti-ID anti-6D-YEC argument he can think of

Really? Maybe I ought to ask you when you last examined the reliability of your own omniscience.

BenYachov said...

djindra

People here have debated you before. You have nothing to contribute to the conversation. You don't admit to mistakes. You backpedal when called out on your ignorance. You come off as a know it all when you clearly know very little about the subject matter at hand.

Plus nobody here has to prove a thing to you loser. If you want to get off you lazy Fundie New Atheist arse and learn something of the basics about Aristotle & Thomistic philosophy nobody is stopping you. But if you are here to sneer and act like that is the same as rational argument then go smeg off. You can go over to J's blog & have a little circle jerk about how brilliant you both are for not believing in Flying Pasta creatures or whatever.
There are several descent thoughtful and learned Atheists who have posted on this blog. BDK, dgeller and that Hoffman fellow just off the top of my head. You are not one of them! If you are so stupid as to claim with a straight face that Paley's mechanistic teleology is anything like Aquinas then you are as moronic as the YEC plebb who thinks there is no difference between Lamark vs Darwin.

I nominate we should ignore djindra till he does his homework.

These Gnus need a good smack on the nose with a rolled up newpaper till they learn better.

machinephilosophy said...

As I've said before, two links are needed below each comment:
Hide this comment
and
Hide all comments by this user

Problem solved. Too bad facebook is too dense to add this feature to the status and other comment streams. Google is totally lame about it. Must be that nasty collectivism, which degrades everything over time.

Brian said...

Well, Brandon, you have done quite a lot to convince me of your view. May I ask you (and anyone else) one last question: can you recommend a work on theology/biblical interpretation that goes into Genesis with my issues in mind?

djindra said...

BenYachov,

Your ad hominems show the state of your grasp of the issues.

Yes, I do claim Paley's mechanistic teleology is fundamentally the same as Aquinas. They both depend on divine design. They both find a purpose in nature where there is none to be found. That may be a stupid position but based on what I've seen of your tactics so far I seriously doubt you will be able to make a solid case to counter my position.

machinephilosophy said...

How could one possibly know that there is no purpose in nature? Just wondering about the epistemic status of such universal denials, since they never seem to be argued, only claimed by their thumping evangelists.

BenYachov said...

The Troll said

Yes, I do claim Paley's mechanistic teleology is fundamentally the same as Aquinas.

Then you are as stupid as the religious fundie with a 6th grade education who claims Lamark's view of evolution is fundamentally the same as Darwin.

The difference between us is if I stopped believing in God tommorow, knowing what I know I would still think you are a complete idiot for making the above ignorant claim.

As we can see folks by his own admission djindra is not fit to participate in this discussion he has nothing to contribute. He clearly does not understand the subject matter.

>They both depend on divine design. They both find a purpose in nature where there is none to be found.

You have not proven there is no design in nature you just assume it Ad Hoc. Also you conflate Paley's false view of design with Aquinas. Since you can't tell the difference how can you even begin to make a convincing case the universe is void of design via Aquinas?
You can't because you have not learned anything of the subject matter. All you will do at this point is recycle standard anti-Paley arguments no Thomist here believe in the first place.
You are as useless as teats on a bull at this point.

>That may be a stupid position but based on what I've seen of your tactics so far I seriously doubt you will be able to make a solid case to counter my position.

You haven't offered any position other than "Your stupid for believing in gods & flying Pasta creatures blah blah blah...."

You have nothing to offer here. Nothing! You have neither the education nor the intelligence.

So good day. Come back when you have done your homework.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Ed,

I'd just like to say thank you for the tone of your latest blog post. While you definitely pull no punches in arguing for your position, what you made very clear in this post is that the disagreement between Catholics like Dr. Jay Richards and yourself is an "in-house" controversy between Catholics of different theological stripes. I'd just like to thank you for that.

Having said that, I have to add that you misrepresent Richards on a couple of points. First, you implicitly accuse him of quoting you dishonestly - in particular, of claiming that you assert that an artifact like a mousetrap (for example) "is 'nothing but' a collection of wood and metal parts." Not so. I have Richards' book here in front of me. On page 227, Richards quotes you in full:

"Take a few bits of metal, work them into various shapes, and attach them to a piece of wood. Voila! A mousetrap. Or so we call it. But objectively, apart from human interests, this object is 'nothing but' a collection of wood and parts."

So the words "apart from human interests" ARE in the passage he quotes. Even if you think he badly misinterprets you, he does not misquote you on machines.

The real difference between you and Richards on machines, by the way, is that you claim that the function of a machine is, strictly speaking, in the mind of the designer and not in the object itself, whereas Richards claims that the function is really in the machine itself, but incapable of existing on its own except in the mind of the builder.

You also write: "Where Richards and I differ is in taking artifacts to differ essentially from natural objects, which have their functions intrinsically." But on page 238, Richards acknowledges:

"Second, unlike a windmill, an organism seems to be internally directed. It is following an end, its own good, according to its own nature rather than being directed externally as, for example, a tractor, a violin, or an arrow."

Thus living things, at least, possess their functions intrinsically. The real difference, as I see it, is that Richards sees no significant difference between non-living natural objects and artifacts. In other words, he sees no need to impute immanent final causality to non-living matter (although he does not deny it either).

You think that a denial of immanent final causality in natural objects sells God short. I can certainly understand where you're coming from, but as someone told me once, there are two sides to any story. In my next post (this one is getting a little long), I'd like to tell Boyle's side.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Ed,

You criticize Newton, Boyle and other early modern thinkers for eschewed immanent final causes, and allowing extrinsic final causes. But it's worthwhile asking: why did they do that? Here I'd like to quote from Richards on page 244:

"For Boyle, a virtue of the teleo-mechanistic view was precisely that it showed that the physical world depended on an Intelligent Creator. Since matter could hardly do anything on its own, Boyle could argue that nature's manifest design could only be the product of a transcendent Creator. The apparent teleology of nature pointed clearly beyond nature for its source, as it did in Plato, as was not 'immanent' within nature itself, as it was for Aristotle."

Interesting! Boyle viewed the imputation of immanent final causality to matter as weakening theism because it gave too much power to matter, which might lead some to assert that matter was self-sufficient. You, on the other hand, view the denial of immanent final causality to matter as weakening theism because it turns nature into a machine - and hence, something not essentially dependent on its maker for its being.

But what I find interesting is that both you and Boyle argue that the existence of laws of nature points to an Intelligent Creator. As Richards writes on page 244:

"Boyd emphasized that physical laws and properties of matter (he preferred to speak of 'rules' rather than 'laws') are the results of God's will and not his nature, and so had to be discovered rather than deduced from reason. They quite explicitly reflect the purposes of God, and must constantly be upheld by God. 'Laws,' for Boyle, implied and active and independent Lawgiver."

So there you have it. Both you and Boyle agree that God constantly upholds nature, and that nature would collapse in a screaming heap with God's conserving power. Both you and Boyle agree that laws point to the existence of God. I have to ask: is the difference between you so large?

I should mention that Richards goes on to distance himself somewhat from Boyle's position on page 245, where he characterizes it as an over-reaction to Aristotle. Richards argues that we should try to discover who was right by investigating nature. We need to do more science before we can decide whether all natural objects exhibit immanent final causality as opposed to extrinsic.

Would you care to comment?

Vincent Torley said...

Sorry. The phrase "for eschewed immanent final causes" in the first sentence of my last post should read: "for eschewing immanent final causes."

BenYachov said...

>Boyle viewed the imputation of immanent final causality to matter as weakening theism because it gave too much power to matter, which might lead some to assert that matter was self-sufficient.

I don't see how that is possible since in Classic Theism Matter is continuously generated top down and thus in principle can't exist apart from the creator?

Also it's the post-enlightenment philosophy that because it teaches there is no final causality in nature matter is just a brute fact which at best has God as it's efficient cause for it's existence. Said God could in theory cease to exist and the matter he created would go on without him.

Thus I fail to see how this gives more power to matter & less to God. It seems to me to be the opposite.

Ed knows way more than I and can respond.

Cheers VJ!

Brandon said...

Hi, Brian,

Unfortunately, no; as far as I know, no such work, at least of any quality, exists. I mean, there are good books where your issues would be addressed in passing, but I know of none that discuss them at any length.

machinephilosophy said...

Ben, that points to a central issue:

What is the basis for pointing to some aspect of the physical world and saying it all stops at X (or level X)? If claimed without argument, will some materialist-mechanist specify the scientific basis of such a claim?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I do claim Paley's mechanistic teleology is fundamentally the same as Aquinas.

The funny thing is that you claim that they are but offer no argument, and ask others to explain why it is not. Beyond the typical dysteleological canard, you're being somewhat disingenuous here.

Edward Feser said...

Hello Vincent,

Some quick points (I wish I could reply at greater length and reply also to the comments others have made, but I've got no time just now):

1. I did not misrepresent Richards. It is true that he quotes a long passage from the blog post of mine that he was responding to, and that the words in question are contained in that long block quote. But when he goes on to criticize my view as "reductionist," the crucial words are suddenly left out and their relevance to my intended meaning ignored.

2. Whether Aristotle or Boyle is right is indeed a matter of "investigating nature" but it is not fundamentally a matter of empirical hypothesis formation, argument to the best explanation, or the like. For A-T, the reality of final causes, the act/potency distinction, etc. are deeper than that. They are truths of "philosophy of nature," i.e. that branch of metaphysics devoted to investigating the metaphysical presuppositions of there being a world for natural science to study in the first place. And it is the truths of philosophy of nature -- which are more fundamental and certain than any empirical theory, precisely because they are concerned with what any empirical theory has to take for granted -- and not the claims of empirical science, that are the proper foundation of natural theology.

Of course, for A-T, determining which natural phenomena specifically are genuine substances, precisely what their essences are, etc. involves a very large empirical component, including research in physics, chemistry, biology, etc. But the more general claims that there are any substances, final causes, a form/matter composition to material substances, etc. at all are metaphysical questions and not empirical ones.

More on this in a future post.

Bilbo said...

Mr. Green: "Meanwhile, an organism does not get "organized" from the outside (the way a blacksmith imposes the form or purpose of a horseshoe on it "externally" — meaning it is an artifact). Living things are what they are intrinsically, which doesn't mean they cannot be caused by natural, even lifeless causes (they can), but it means that their form is not imposed "from the outside"."

Life as we know it certainly appears to be an organized complexity. And that requires an explanation. If the ability to cause this organized complexity lies in nature, then we certainly haven't been able to figure out how nature does it, and all the evidence suggests that nature cannot do it. Now perhaps God created nature so that it would bring about this organized complexity only once, so that any attempts to figure out how it happened will be fruitless. But then what would it mean for God to create nature so that it would bring it about once? It would mean that God arranged for a very large number of improbable events to occur at a specific time and place. That certainly appears to be an act of design, whether "internal" or "external."

"So you can't determine that life is special in some way by looking for that "outside" cause....

But it's already clear that life is special. The level of organized complexity in life is far above anything we find in the rest of the natural world. What we are "looking for" is the cause, whether "internal" or "external."

" Regardless of how interested you are in Thomism per se, I would recommend learning more about it, even just for general philosophical mind-stretching."

I should, but Feser's arguments against ID tend to dissuade me from thinking Thomism has anything of real value.

"... and you probably know that Chesteron is always worth reading anyway."

Of course.

djindra said...

machinephilosophy,

How could one possibly know that there is no purpose in nature?

If you read what I wrote you'll find I didn't claim to know there is no purpose in nature. I claimed there is none to be found. If you find that purpose please let me know. So my epistemic status is that of a person who tries not to believe in things for which there is no evidence. I think that's solid ground. I wonder if you question the epistemic status of those who argue as if they know there is, indeed, purpose in nature -- and not a philosophically uninteresting purpose which is merely synonymous with more or less arbitrary functions, but rather a "final cause" sort of purpose that's infused with the being of every pebble that lies by the road.

21th Century Scholastic said...

I'd be interested especially in reading what Dr. Feser thinks of the possibility of immanent and extrinsic causes co-existing in nature (or of the "intelligent design as a variety of aristotelian teleology" proposed by Mr. Green).

Bilbo, what about our discussion on the contingency of the world, etc.?

djindra said...

BenYachov,

No. I have not proven there is no design in nature. But, to be trite, those who make extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence. So where is the evidence that this design called "final cause" is built into every atom of the universe? I'm not making that sort of extraordinary claim. I simply claim a rock is a rock and exists on its own without design or purpose or some thinly disguised animistic existence. Mine is not an extraordinary claim. It's a quite ordinary claim.

So how about it. Make a case for your extraordinary claims. Show me I'm wrong. I don't think that's an unfair request. Likely, you will not because there is no point in arguing with someone who refuses to accept dogma found in ancient texts.

And just to be clear, I didn't say I can't tell the difference between Paley and Aquinas. I said they are the same fundamentally. A Thomist builds his house over a basement. An IDer builds his house on a slab. But the essentials of the foundations are the same. I would think an "essentialist" would understand that fundamentals go deeper than slabs and basements.

Anonymous said...

Why is the claim that the universe has a purpose 'extraordinary' and why does it need extraordinary evidence?

Anonymous said...

"Purpose is a result, end, mean, aim, or goal of an action intentionally undertaken."

djindra:
1) intends to show that Paley's extrinsic mechanistic teleology and Aquinas' intrinsic Aristotelian teleology are fundamentally the same.

2) claims that there is no purpose to be found in nature.

If djindra is succesful with 1) by intentionally undertaking his goal of showing that it is actually true that hose two kinds of teleology are fundamentally the same...
Then one has two wonder whether djindra is in nature if 2) is true.

Oh the dilemma...

djindra said...

Then one has to wonder whether djindra is in nature if 2) is true.

If we are talking fundamentals (in the essentialist manner) then my "purpose" is assigned to me from outside. Additionally, as a person among many, my purpose must transcend me. It can't be something I assign to myself. It has to be more like the purpose McDonalds assigns to cattle. Then the purpose you and I might find in my solitary and arbitrary will is an illusion. It's not purpose at all. If we concentrate on me the individual and you the individual, we can find our purposes conflict. So there is no essential purpose in my acts if we're talking of the nature of man. There is no dilemma.

BenYachov said...

>So how about it. Make a case for your extraordinary claims.

What part of “We don’t have prove anything to you loser!” do Ye not understand loser? The subject matter here is Thomistic Teleology vs ID/Paley. Not how do we know God exists or how do we know the universe contains teleology. That topic along with your fundie New Atheist Positivist dogma that empiricism alone is the sole means of natural knowledge vs the correct idea that Philosophy is the primary means of natural knowledge (of which science is a subset) was addressed in Dr. Feser’s Book THE LAST SUPERSTITION. Most of us here have read it and are up to speed.

You haven’t done any homework so you have no worthwhile opinion to offer.

If some evolutionists on some blog are let’s say, discussing Dawkins Neo-Darwinianism gradualism vs Stephen Jay Gould’s Punctuated equilibrium a Fundie Young Earth Creationist doesn’t get to hijack the discussion and make everyone drop everything to prove to him evolution is true to his shifting undefined standards of satisfaction. Nor does he get to heckle them “We all know Evolution is false how dare you discuss it!.

Well guess what? A Fundie New Atheist like you doesn’t get to do the same here. Do your homework and get up to speed on the subject matter.

>And just to be clear, I didn't say I can't tell the difference between Paley and Aquinas. I said they are the same fundamentally. A Thomist builds his house over a basement. An IDer builds his house on a slab. But the essentials of the foundations are the same.

How is that possible? The foundations of Paley are Post-enlightment mechanistic modern philosophy and empiricism. Mixed in with a liberal dosing of either conceptionalsim & or nominalism. The foundations of Thomas Aquinas are Classic philosophy the metaphysics of Aristotle and a healthy dosing of moderate realism.

How can they have the same foundation? They clearly can't.

Really Troll boy, you do not know enough about the subject matter to fake it or for anybody here to take you seriously.

>Likely, you will not because there is no point in arguing with someone who refuses to accept dogma found in ancient texts.

Wow! This loser actually thinks the philosophy of the Classics is nothing more that a set of Ex Cathedra decrees and not profoundly reasoned arguments!

Stop trying to faking it djindra. Nobody here is buying it. Enough of your backpedaling and warmed over anti-ID polemics. Thomists don’t buy it.

What are gonna do now? Shout "Courier's Reply" or are we going to hear more of how you conflate Philosophical reasoning with Dogmatic pronouncement?

Useless as Teats on a bull!

Anonymous said...

Read what is said about the meaning of "purpose" numbnuts.

"Purpose is a result, end, mean, aim, or goal of an action intentionally undertaken."

Even cattle witout Asperger's disease should understand that simple dilemma...

BenYachov said...

>If you find that purpose please let me know.

Reminds me of a lecture dick to the Dawkins gave where he showed a slide of a large red rock out in the Arizona desert and quipped "So why is this Rock here? What's it's purpose? Does the alleged God supposedly like red rocks or is this rock merely the product of random geological forces......etc".

Yeh Troll Boy and Dawk Boy can't get the Paley out of their heads but these questions and Paley's definition of purpose have nothing to do with Final Causality.

Really learn the subject matter before you speak.

derpish derpity derp said...

Even cattle witout Asperger's disease should understand that simple dilemma...

I like where this is going.

Bilbo said...

21th: "Mmm, "contingent" in what sense? In the sense of "needing an explanation" (a la leibnizian cosmological argument), perhaps, but not in the sense of "needing a sustaining cause".

After all, in the modern worldview there are no formal and final causes, and therefore ---> no forms ---> no essences ---> distinction between essence and existence. And without this crucial distinction, you have no "contingent" universe (in the thomistic sense, at least).
"

First, I think our belief that the world cannot continue to exist without God's sustaining power was first rooted in Scriptural teaching, then in Aristotelian philosophy. So whether a Christian is an Aristotelian or a Mechanist is beside the point. The orthodox view is that all of existence depends upon God's sustaining power.

Second, if I understand how the modern worldview came about, initially there wasn't a denial of formal and final causes, but a purposeful ignoring of them in order to study empirically the natural world, by focusing on material and efficient causes. I imagine there was a considerable lapse of time before the denial of formal and final causes became popular. But the modern worldview still has no answer to the question, "Why is there something instead of nothing?" It is incomplete, and the Christian Mechanist knows the correct answer as well as the Christian Aristotelian.

Daniel Smith said...

Brandon: "But, yes, in general the idea would probably be this: the elements would have the passive potential to become anything material, even a living material thing, and other created things, like the sun, would have the active potential, i.e., would be able to activate this passive potential so that they actually existed."

OK, but Aquinas says that something that has only passive potential and no active potential can be activated (formed from pre-existing matter) by God alone. He says that something with both active and passive potential can be activated (formed from pre-existing matter) by creatures.

I think Aquinas' view on whether this applied to all life was distorted by his adherence to the science of his day - which held that some life could be spontaneously generated (maggots from meat.)

I think, given what we now know about even the simplest forms of life, that Aquinas' views on the human body could (and should) be applied to all of life.

Life only comes from life. God is life. Therefore, life only comes from God. It's as simple as that to me.

Daniel Smith said...

djindra: "I didn't claim to know there is no purpose in nature. I claimed there is none to be found. If you find that purpose please let me know."

They haven't found a purpose for the heart yet? No one can find a purpose for lungs, eyes or teeth? Weather cycles serve no purpose? The sun is purposeless? The moon? Wow! What has science been doing all these years if not describing the purpose of all of these things?

Paul Mollica said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leo Carton Mollica said...

djindra:

First of all, please make your contentions clear, since otherwise it becomes all but impossible to argue against them

Second, why do you demand that the teleologist prove that everything is endowed with a final cause? Several finalists would deny that claim; Aristotle, for example, is often interpreted as claiming that only life is teleologically ordered.

Third, rather than coming on and telling us, "Teleologists haven't shown anything!" why not intelligently comment on some of the not insignificant philosophical literature on the subject? I, for one, would find such commentary more persuasive that snide combox remarks about theists believing in magic.

derp said...

@Leo: nice pic, man.

djindra said...

Anonymous,

"Purpose is a result, end, mean, aim, or goal of an action intentionally undertaken."

Are you claiming God acts without purpose? Are you claiming an immanent teleology God designs, manufactures and implements is devoid of purpose? Please clarify.

djindra said...

Daniel Smith,

They haven't found a purpose for the heart yet? No one can find a purpose for lungs, eyes or teeth?

A heart has a function. But don't pretend this function is anywhere near the nature of "purpose" as used around here. A bed has a function. We all know what that is. But what is its final cause? What's its ultimate purpose? Who put that purpose into the bed? Was it man or God? If God, then maybe a bed's purpose is to attract human food for bed bugs.

djindra said...

BenYachov,

The foundations of Paley are Post-enlightment mechanistic modern philosophy and empiricism. Mixed in with a liberal dosing of either conceptionalsim & or nominalism. The foundations of Thomas Aquinas are Classic philosophy the metaphysics of Aristotle and a healthy dosing of moderate realism.

There is a lot of uncritical acceptance of your characterizations. But how true are they? ID depends on miracles. Many, if not all, IDers absolutely deny a mechanistic explanation for life. Those with whom I've had discussions believe miracles happen every day. They certainly do not see themselves living in a mechanistic universe. Their god becomes personally involve in their lives.

Likewise it's simply wrong to group all Post-enlightenment modern philosophy as mechanistic, or even to claim it's strictly empirical or that empiricism is necessarily mechanistic. Certainly modern science is not strictly mechanistic or we wouldn't have The Theory of Evolution and its dependence on chance, nor would we have Quantum Mechanics or Chaos theory. Besides, Thomists have not totally escaped the mechanistic tag. After all, teleology implies a mechanistic end, and immanent teleology implies a pervasive mechanistic "life" to all things.

BenYachov said...

djindra,

So this is you tactic? Pretending Thomism is really mechanistic and you back it up with argument from special pleading?

You are as lame as the Fundamentalist Protestant who claims the Council of Trent really teaches Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism.

Why loser don't you just admit you know know Thomistic Teleology from Mechanistic Teleology from a hole in the head?

It's obvious to everyone here including the ID supporters as well as their Thomist foes.

BenYachov said...

>There is a lot of uncritical acceptance of your characterizations. But how true are they?

If they are not true the burden of proof is on you to show us.
All the experts I read make the opposite claim from you. If you have contrary facts produce them.

But like I said (thought I mangled it because I rushed while posting) Why loser don't you just admit you don't know Thomistic Teleology from Mechanistic Teleology from a hole in the head?

It's obvious.

Your the critic the burden of proof is on you to show Thomism is Mechanistic but that is the same as trying to claim with a straight face natural selection is the work of an external artificer who imposes teleology on something that does not have it by nature.

Internal teleology is compatible with natural selection and Aquinas' teaching on the nature of random events.

BenYachov said...

The story thus far.

So djindra wants us to believe with a straight face after having clearly not studied either Philosophy (classic or modern), philosophy of science, Aristotle or Thomas Aquinas that Paley's mechanistic teleology is fundamentally the same as Aquinas.

Then he backpedals and claims he didn't really meant what he said but the essentials of Paley and Aquinas' foundations are the same(whatever that means).

Now his new weirdness is to claim [all] teleology implies a mechanistic end, and immanent teleology implies a pervasive mechanistic "life" to all things.

He's saying the same thing (which is nothing)because he really doesn't know what he is talking about.

I can deny god(s) tomorrow and knowing what I have learned from Feser, Oderberg, Agnostic Thomists like Kenny, etc that he is full of shit!

This is the face of the New Atheism. Uneducated morons and fakers without belief in god(s).

Give me a real Atheist like a Jack Smart or Sobel any day of the week compared to these Dawkins/Harris/Hitchens losers!

BenYachov said...

SUMMA CONTRA GENTILES
BOOK THREE

Chapter 74

THAT DIVINE PROVIDENCE DOES NOT EXCLUDE FORTUNE AND CHANCE

[1] It is also apparent from the foregoing that divine providence does not take away fortune and chance from things.

[2] For it is in the case of things that happen rarely that fortune and chance are said to be present. Now, if some things did not occur in rare instances, all things would happen by necessity. Indeed, things that are contingent in most cases differ from necessary things only in this: they can fail to happen, in a few cases. But it would be contrary to the essential character of divine providence if all things occurred by necessity, as we showed. Therefore, it would also be contrary to the character of divine providence if nothing were to be fortuitous and a matter of chance in things.

[3] Again, it would be contrary to the very meaning of providence if things subject to providence did not act for an end, since it is the function of providence to order all things to their end. Moreover, it would be against the perfection of the universe if no corruptible thing existed, and no power could fail, as is evident from what was said above. Now, due to the fact that an agent fails in regard to an end that is intended, it follows that some things occur by chance. So, it would be contrary to the meaning of providence, and to the perfection of things, if there were no chance events.

BenYachov said...

[4] Besides, the large number and variety of causes stem from the order of divine providence and control. But, granted this variety of causes, one of them must at times run into another cause and be impeded, or assisted, by it in the production of its effect. Now, from the concurrence of two or more causes it is possible for some chance event to occur, and thus an unintended end comes about due to this causal concurrence. For example, the discovery of a debtor, by a man who has gone to market to sell something, happens because the debtor also went to market. Therefore, it is not contrary to divine providence that there are some fortuitous and chance events among things.

BenYachov said...

[5] Moreover, what does not exist cannot be the cause of anything. Hence, each thing must stand in the same relation to the fact that it is a cause, as it does to the fact that it is a being. So, depending on the diversity of order in beings, there must also be a diversity of order among causes. Now, it is necessary for the perfection of things that there be among things not only substantial beings but also accidental beings. Indeed, things that do not possess ultimate perfection in their substance must obtain such perfection through accidents, and the more of these there are, the farther are they from the simplicity of God. From the fact, then, that a certain subject has many accidents it follows that it is a being accidentally, because a subject and an accident, and even two accidents of one substance, are a unit and a being accidentally; as in the example of a white man, and of a musical, white being. So, it is necessary to the perfection of things that there should also be some accidental causes. Now, things which result accidentally from any causes are said to happen by chance or fortune. Therefore, it is not contrary to the rational character of providence, which preserves the perfection of things, for certain things to come about as a result of chance or fortune.

BenYachov said...

[6] Furthermore, that there be order and a gradation of causes is important to the order of divine providence. But the higher a cause is, the greater is its power; and so, its causality applies to a greater number of things. Now, the natural intention of a cause cannot extend beyond its power, for that would be useless. So, the particular intention of a cause cannot extend to all things that can happen. Now, it is due to the fact that some things happen apart from the intention of their agents that there is a possibility of chance or fortuitous occurrence. Therefore, the order of divine providence requires that there be chance and fortune in reality.

[7] Hence it is said: “I saw that the race is not to the swift ... but time and chance in all” (Sirach 9:11), that is, among things here below.

BenYachov said...

Yeh we can see Aquinas rejects chance no doubt he also denies God is a Trinity............NOT!!!!!!!

It's time to stop making a fool of yourself djindra by make believing you know what you are talking about.

BenYachov said...

>Those with whom I've had discussions believe miracles happen every day.

Do we define Miracles the way Aquinas does (i.e. a Potency that is actualized directly by God who is Pure Actuality sans threw a top down causality threw secondary agents) or according to Hume's faulty Mechanistic definition (i.e. violations of the LAW OF NATURE)?

Makes a difference since Aquinas is not a Mechanist contrary to the claims of some uneducated chuckleheads.

BenYachov said...

I'm spent!

Anon & others can continue to pick on Troll boy. He has enough basic mistakes to go around for everybody.

BenYachov said...

Some helpful links on Aquinas & Random Chance.

http://thomism.wordpress.com/2010/03/19/if-chance-exists/


http://thomism.wordpress.com/?s=Chance+Random

and on Teleology:
http://payingattentiontothesky.com/2011/01/07/reading-selections-from-teleology-inorganic-and-organic-david-s-oderberg-part-i/

http://payingattentiontothesky.com/2011/01/10/reading-selections-from-teleology-inorganic-and-organic-david-s-oderberg-part-ii/

http://payingattentiontothesky.com/2011/01/03/redefining-a-vocabulary-%E2%80%93-edward-feser/

QUOTE"If you think that what Aristotelians or Thomists mean when they say that teleology pervades the natural world is that certain natural objects exhibit “irreducible specified complexity,” or that some inorganic objects are analogous to machines and/or to biological organs, or that they are best explained as the means by which an “Intelligent Designer” is seeking to achieve certain goals, etc., then you are way off base."END QUOTE

Daniel Smith said...

djindra: "A heart has a function. But don't pretend this function is anywhere near the nature of "purpose" as used around here."

I'm not pretending. An object's function usually reveals its purpose.

"A bed has a function. We all know what that is. But what is its final cause? What's its ultimate purpose?"

A bed's final cause is to be something comfortable to sleep on.

"Who put that purpose into the bed? Was it man or God?"

Man.

I think you're making too much of this djindra. Final causality is not some mystic, undefinable quality added to objects "by magic". It's just what they're observed (on a regular basis) to do.

djindra said...

BenYachov,

In regard to your generous quoting of SUMMA CONTRA GENTILES, BOOK THREE, Chapter 74, I should explain something. The chance Aquinas is referring to is not divine chance. It's chance as seen by agents of lesser power such as human beings. So you have badly misused the text. It does not support your case. In fact, it agrees with Paley on his description of chance meetings which often happen when two individuals pursue their own purposeful but separate ends. But God is One, so I am told, so none of this applies to God. I don't see how you failed to understand this. Aquinas is very insistent in this book. From God's point of view there can be no chance. He directs everything towards his end. Otherwise God is imperfect.

BenYachov said...

>The chance Aquinas is referring to is not divine chance.

Divine Chance? What the hell is that? I've been studying Theology for 20 years and I have never heard of such a thing! That's like taking about Divine Muscle tone! Or a Divine Gall Bladder! What you think you can just make up nonsense and expect to be taken seriously?

>It's chance as seen by agents of lesser power such as human beings. So you have badly misused the text. It does not support your case.

I reply: No I have used it correctly your the idiot who is making up his own terminology. Divine Chance? So if God stays out in the sun too long he gets a Divine Sun Tan? So let me get this straight. You clearly are one of those low brow fundie Atheist types who believes God is literally an Old Man in the Sky aren't you?

You clearly have an anthropomorphic view of God. Classic Theologians, Philosophers and most educated people in general have learned think in the abstract by now. So what is your damage?

>In fact, it agrees with Paley on his description of chance meetings which often happen when two individuals pursue their own purposeful but separate ends.

Is that what Paley said? Prove it! You can't just make stuff up (like Divine Chance) and expect those of us who have taken the time to learn about the topic, to take you seriously.

>But God is One, so I am told, so none of this applies to God.

Your the one who claimed in his ignorance chance and natural selection where incompatible with Final Causality. I destroyed your argument. Now your best rebuttal is to make stuff up & nay say.

Why don't you simply admit you don't know what you are talking about? Other Atheists who post hear have done that. Atheists I respect & one of them knows way more philosophy than moi. I don't respect you at all because you are a faker.

>I don't see how you failed to understand this. Aquinas is very insistent in this book. From God's point of view there can be no chance. He directs everything towards his end. Otherwise God is imperfect.

So now you admit Chance doesn't apply to the deity but before you where talking about "Divine Chance"?

You can't fake it here. You clearly haven't done your homework.

BenYachov said...

djindra

This is your brain on Dawkins(i.e. regarding anything he has to say on any topic outside of Biology) any questions?

djindra said...

BenYachov,

Paley: "There must be chance in the midst of design: by which we mean, that events which are not designed, necessarily arise from the pursuit of events which are designed. One man travelling to York, meets another man travelling to London. Their meeting is by chance, is accidental, and so would be called and reckoned, though the journeys which produced the meeting were, both of them, undertaken with design and from deliberation. The meeting, though accidental, was nevertheless hypothetically necessary, (which is the only sort of necessity that is intelligible:) for if the two journeys were commenced at the time, pursued in the direction, and with the speed, in which and with which, they were in fact begun and performed, the meeting could not be avoided."

This is very similar to, if not exactly the same, as the "chance" you quoted from Aquinas: "The multitude and diversity of causes proceeds from the order of divine providence and arrangement. Supposing an arrangement of many causes, one must sometimes combine with another, so as either to hinder or help it in producing its effect. A chance event arises from a coincidence of two or more causes, in that an end not intended is gained by the coming in of some collateral cause, as the finding of a debtor by him who went to market to make a purchase, when his debtor also came to market."

Aquinas got his example from Aristotle's Physics, Book II, part 4. Here Aristotle effectively denies dumb luck. The last sentence of part 6 reads: "Spontaneity and chance, therefore, are posterior to intelligence and nature. Hence, however true it may be that the heavens are due to spontaneity, it will still be true that intelligence and nature will be prior causes of this All and of many things in it besides."

Clearly all three men viewed chance as a human misunderstanding of the nature of the universe.

djindra said...

BenYachov,

At the end of Summa Contra Gentiles, Book Three, Chapter 64 we have this: "Now, by this conclusion the error of the ancient philosophers of nature is refuted, for they said that all things come about as a result of material necessity, the consequence of which would be that all things happen by chance and not from the order of providence."

Obviously Aquinas considered a universe without God to be a world of chance, and strangely, a universe of material necessity to be a place of chance, but a universe of God was one governed and ordered.

So both Paley and Aquinas would deny the "chance" meeting of those two men in their examples was "chance" in God's eyes. We humans call it "chance" only because of our limited knowledge. God does not have that limitation.

It's odd that you keep accusing me of not reading Aquinas when it's so apparent you are not reading or not understanding him.

djindra said...

BenYachov,

You've never heard the phrase, "If by some divine chance..."? Seriously?

I admit the term isn't precise, but it is commonly used and not just by common people.

Plato's Republic, Book IX, Glaucon says that a man of sense will stay out of politics. Socrates answers, "certainly in his own city -- yet perhaps not in his native city, unless some divine dispensation should intervene." That's the Rouse translation. Curiously, the Staussian, Allan Boom, translates "divine dispensation" as "divine chance."

Victor Hugo approves of the characterization that Waterloo was a "catastrophe of human genius in conflict with divine chance."

Herodotus, The Histories, Cyrus: "This is your situation, men of Persia: obey me and you shall have these good things... but if you will not obey me, you will have labors unnumbered like your toil of yesterday. Now, then, do as I tell you, and win your freedom. For I think that I myself was born by a divine chance to undertake this work;...'" (Godley translation).

You claim it's a anthropomorphic view of God. That's odd coming at a site where practically every good human quality is attributed to God.

In the interest of precision I'll elaborate. I used "divine chance" as cause not merely sanctioned by God, but cause that surprises even God. I don't think Aquinas would accept that anything surprises God. I don't think Aquinas would agree his god lets things happen on their own, randomly, without purpose.

BenYachov said...

djindra,

This is the backpedaling part when you pretend you where arguing about something else after having been called out on your ignorance.

>Clearly all three men viewed chance as a human misunderstanding of the nature of the universe.

Maybe you need to define what it is you think you mean by "Chance" because I don't see any clear or coherant definition of it on your part. What you said above could be said about two men in an Atheistic Universe governed by Quantum Super Determinism.

Both Darwin & Lamarck believed in species transformism over long periods of time by natural means. It doesn't logically follow therefore Lamarck believed in natural selection as the mechanism for that process since he didn't. Similarity doesn't imply sameness.

All you have shown is Paley & Aquinas both believed in some form of Divine Providence. How does that prove your weird claim Aquinas was a Mechanist? It doesn't. Aquinas believed nature was imbued with four(efficient, Material, Formal and Final) causes. Paley at best two causes(Efficient & Material). What about this nonsensical phrase you invented "Divine Chance"? Where do Aquinas & or Paley talk about that? Or your weird claims teleology implies a mechanistic end, and immanent teleology implies a pervasive mechanistic "life" to all things?

>It's odd that you keep accusing me of not reading Aquinas when it's so apparent you are not reading or not understanding him.

I did read Aquinas rather all you are doing is merely proof texting Aquinas and compairing similar statements in order to uphold your simple minded claim that Aquinas and Paley where the same. I can find similar statements between the Koran and the Bible it doesn't make them the same.

>So both Paley and Aquinas would deny the "chance" meeting of those two men in their examples was "chance" in God's eyes. We humans call it "chance" only because of our limited knowledge. God does not have that limitation.

I thought I made it clear I believed in Divine Providence? If only your reading comprehension skills equaled your proof-texting skills.

BenYachov said...

>You've never heard the phrase, "If by some divine chance..."? Seriously?

>I admit the term isn't precise, but it is commonly used and not just by common people.

Yeh common people who believe in Evolution say "Gorillas turned into men over time". Which is technically not an accurate scientific description of change by natural selection.

But if I was trying to make a serious argument against evolution(not that I care one way or another. I'm not anti-evolution) I would look foolish using a mere popular convention in a serious technical argument. I don't see where Aquinas has ever formulated a concept of "Divine Chance". Tis silly.

>You claim it's a anthropomorphic view of God. That's odd coming at a site where practically every good human quality is attributed to God.

Unlike you I have read about Aquinas' doctrine of analogy, equivocal& unequivocal language in talking about God. You are taking statements that where either poetic or analogous and treating them in an unequivocal fashion. That is a big no no!

BenYachov said...

>In the interest of precision I'll elaborate. I used "divine chance" as cause not merely sanctioned by God, but cause that surprises even God. I don't think Aquinas would accept that anything surprises God.

No Classic Theist would. You are correct for once. Only Process Theists or Theistic Personists would believe such crap.

>I don't think Aquinas would agree his god lets things happen on their own, randomly, without purpose.

Accept you need to define what you mean by purpose and not conflate it with what we mean by purpose.

If you would get the chip off your shoulder & withdraw your phony ignorant claims about Paley & Aquinas you would find I can be civil to persons of good will regardless of belief.

But I will not tolerate fakers.

BenYachov said...

What was it Leo Carton Mollica said early in the post to djindra?

This......
QUOTE"First of all, please make your contentions clear, since otherwise it becomes all but impossible to argue against them.

Second, why do you demand that the teleologist prove that everything is endowed with a final cause? Several finalists would deny that claim; Aristotle, for example, is often interpreted as claiming that only life is teleologically ordered.

Third, rather than coming on and telling us, "Teleologists haven't shown anything!" why not intelligently comment on some of the not insignificant philosophical literature on the subject? I, for one, would find such commentary more persuasive that snide combox remarks about theists believing in magic.END QUOTE

djindra said...

BenYachov,

You claim. "Aquinas believed nature was imbued with four(efficient, Material, Formal and Final) causes. Paley at best two causes (Efficient & Material)."

Paley certainly believed in "final cause." He approvingly references "final cause" several times in Natural Theology. But there's much more, including:

"There cannot be design without a designer; contrivance without a contriver; order without choice; arrangement, without any thing capable of arranging; subserviency and relation to a purpose, without that which could intend a purpose;"

"I say once more, that it is a perversion of language to assign any law, as the efficient, operative cause of any thing. A law presupposes an agent, for it is only the mode according to which an agent proceeds; it implies a power, for it is the order according to which that power acts. Without this agent, without this power, which are both distinct from itself, the 'law' does nothing; is nothing."

"If, in tracing these causes, it be said, that we find certain general properties of matter which have nothing in them that bespeaks intelligence, I answer, that, still, the managing of these properties, the pointing and directing them to the uses which we see made of them, demands intelligence in the highest degree."

"In one important respect, however, the theory before us [appetencies, which Paley rejects] coincides with atheistic systems, viz. in that, in the formation of plants and animals, in the structure and use of their parts, it does away final causes." -- a doing away with of which he disagrees.

In fact, the whole book is an argument for "final cause."

djindra said...

BenYachov,

>>This is the backpedaling part when you pretend you where arguing about something else after having been called out on your ignorance.<<

In your world your misinterpretation of me becomes my backpeddling.

I said from the beginning that Paley and Aquinas are foundationally the same. I have not changed my opinion. So I'm clueless as to what you mean.

Maybe you think I should make Dawkin's arguments. You've implied that. But I am not Dawkins and I've never read him so I have no idea what you mean by that either.

>>What you said above could be said about two men in an Atheistic Universe governed by Quantum Super Determinism.<<

The issue is how Paley and Aquinas compare to each other. It's irrelevant to me how they might compare to a third party. Let's stick to the determinism implied by Aquinas and Paley and the sort of chance both would deny. You say I can't compare Paley's mechanistic conception of the universe to Aquinas. I think I can compare the two because Paley is less mechanistic while Aquinas is more mechanistic than some here will admit. Both men see God directing the universe. Both see God as omnipresent.

>>Maybe you need to define what it is you think you mean by "Chance" because I don't see any clear or coherant definition of it on your part.<<

Perhaps you should tell me what you find so difficult in the word "chance."

djindra said...

BenYachov & Leo,

>>please make your contentions clear, since otherwise it becomes all but impossible to argue against them.<<

I do think I'm clear but I will try to be more so. In return please refer to what I write, not to what you wish I had written.

>>why do you demand that the teleologist prove that everything is endowed with a final cause?<<

Do you expect me to believe it without credible evidence? If the issue is important to you, and I think it is, you should welcome the opportunity to prove it. Otherwise it seems to me that this site is no more than an exercise in group dynamics.

>>Several finalists would deny that claim; Aristotle, for example, is often interpreted as claiming that only life is teleologically ordered.<<

If someone wants to limit teleology to life, I have no problem sticking to that issue as long as the opponent does likewise.

>>rather than coming on and telling us, "Teleologists haven't shown anything!" why not intelligently comment on some of the not insignificant philosophical literature on the subject?<<

I have.

>>I, for one, would find such commentary more persuasive that snide combox remarks about theists believing in magic.<<

For the record, my "snide" remarks have been trivial compared to what's been shot back. Besides, the "Last Superstition" sets the tone. I realize we're in a hyperbolic age. But if Feser wants to claim atheism is a superstition he can't expect delicacy in return. Nevertheless, you have no idea how many times I've toned down my posts already, not that it matters. I do think any honest person who reads what I've written in the past few days would agree they have all stuck to issues.

BenYachov said...

>But if Feser wants to claim atheism is a superstition he can't expect delicacy in return.

You are a clueless idiot! ‏If you had read the Book(which you clearly haven't) the "Superstition" has nothing to do with Atheism per say but with the abandonment of Classical Philosophy in favor of Mechanistic Philosophy(i.e. New Philosophy, Modern etc). The "Superstition" is the false belief Post-enlightenment New Philosophy has refuted the Classic philosophy. Feser shows that is not true.

Additionally Feser attacks "The New Atheism" not all Atheism. He has many kind things to say about Atheistic Philosophers who are not "New". Just as I might attack Theistic Personalism without pity it doesn't logically follow I am attacking all Theism.

Are you really this thick? Get off your fat arse & read your opponent book before making asinine comments about it!

Why is this simple concept so hard for you to understand?

BenYachov said...

>You claim. "Aquinas believed nature was imbued with four(efficient, Material, Formal and Final) causes. Paley at best two causes (Efficient & Material)."

I claim? It's in Feser's book! It's in the writing of Mortimer Adler! It's known to any expert on Thomism. Any first year Thomistic philosophy student can tell you this! You haven't done any research you have merely proof texted. Any Baptist can do that with a KJV Bible but that doesn't make him a learned Theologian. Proof texting Aquinas doesn't make your silly superficial conflation of him with Paley doesn't make you a philosopher.

>Paley certainly believed in "final cause.etc etc"

Lamarck believed in species transformism over long periods of time by natural means just like Darwin. It still doesn't logically follow that Lamarck was the same as Darwin. Your sophistry is pure rubbish! Paley did not understand Final causes the same way as Aquinas. Live with it! Just has Darwin believed in a different mechanism for species Transformism different from Lamarck(i.e. Natural Selection vs Aquired Traits are inherated). You have not shown Paley believed in Final causality in the same way as Aquinas. You have merely asserted it without proof.

The only likeness between them you have shown is the superficial similarity of both believing in some type of God. Except neither had the same philosophical concept of God or the same underlying philosophy.

>In your world your misinterpretation of me becomes my backpeddling.

You haven't made a single clear coherent argument. You are not a philosopher and your are clearly not interested in learning to think or speak like one.

BenYachov said...

>I said from the beginning that Paley and Aquinas are foundationally the same.

Which makes about as much sense as claiming Darwin & Lamarck are foundationally the same. They are not! Darwin's mechanism for Species transformism was Natural Selection. Lamarck's was Acquired Traits are Inherited. They are not the same they are at best superficially similar.

>Maybe you think I should make Dawkin's arguments. You've implied that. But I am not Dawkins and I've never read him so I have no idea what you mean by that either.

Rather you are like Dawkins in that it is self evident neither of you has actually studied the subject matter you are commenting on & those of us who have studied is are appalled by both your willful ignorance.

>The issue is how Paley and Aquinas compare to each other.

Yes and you have declared by dogmatic fiat they are the same without having studied either of them. Thus your comparisons are worthless.

>It's irrelevant to me how they might compare to a third party.

It's very relevant in that it shows how you disingenuous you are in your treatment of the subject.

>You say I can't compare Paley's mechanistic conception of the universe to Aquinas.

You have not compared them you have conflated them with one another by fiat. Big difference.

>I think I can compare the two because Paley is less mechanistic while Aquinas is more mechanistic than some here will admit. Both men see God directing the universe. Both see God as omnipresent.

Calling Aquinas mechanistic makes about as much sense as calling Aristotle an Empiricist. Or Hume an Idealist and or a Rationalist.
So many levels of stupid!

The superficial similarity that they where both types of Theists is unremarkable. Just like the fact both Darwin & Lamarck where evolutionists is superficial & unremarkable.

BenYachov said...

>I do think I'm clear but I will try to be more so.

I have little hope you will but I will leave room to be proven wrong.

>In return please refer to what I write, not to what you wish I had written.

Except you have not extended that courtesy to Feser, Aquinas or Paley so physician heal thyself. (Good advice even if you deny gods).

>Do you expect me to believe it without credible evidence?

Philosophical Evidence or Empirical Evidence? You keep repeating the same errors and equivocations.

>Otherwise it seems to me that this site is no more than an exercise in group dynamics.

You have at best glanced at a few posts & you haven't read anything of note on Aquinas or Aristotle other then a few proof texts. You are just channeling your anti-ID mojo. You are conflating them because you don't have the slightest idea of how to challenge Aquinas.

Your opinion is crap.

>For the record, my "snide" remarks have been trivial compared to what's been shot back.

boo hoo! I have no sympathy for a Creationist who hasn't studied Evolution trying to take on biology students with his know nothing yapping why should I feel any pity for you pretending you really understand either Aquinas or Paley?

djindra said...

BenYachov,

>>"Superstition" has nothing to do with Atheism per se<<

It's hard to take your word on that. Nevertheless, calling Post-enlightenment New Philosophy a superstition is even worse. I happen to love the USA and our Enlightenment roots. I believe in liberty. I believe science has won the day. So no, Feser does not get points for attacking modernity.

>>I claim? It's in Feser's book!<<

I don't care if it's in Feser's book. He can be wrong. Read Paley. Read Aquinas. Those are primary sources, not Feser.

>>It's in the writing of Mortimer Adler! It's known to any expert on Thomism. Any first year Thomistic philosophy student can tell you this!<<

Any first year Thomistic philosophy student is free to be wrong, and so is Mortimer Adler.

>>You have not shown Paley believed in Final causality in the same way as Aquinas. You have merely asserted it without proof.<<

I was asked for evidence. I was asked to read. I go to primary sources. I repeatedly show the two men thought alike. They even use similar analogies. I uncover the embarassing truth. Once I do this, you conveniently ignore the sources. You don't want to discuss the text. You don't want to counter my evidence with your own. You prefer to send me to secondary sources and see what they say. The truth is, they disagree. And you are switching tactics.

>>It's very relevant in that it shows how you disingenuous you are in your treatment of the subject.<<

That's nonsense. You're avoiding the subject with a tangent.

>>It still doesn't logically follow that Lamarck was the same as Darwin.<<

You keep bring this up but it's a bad analogy.

>>Paley did not understand Final causes the same way as Aquinas.<<

You provide no textual evidence to support this.

>>Philosophical Evidence or Empirical Evidence?<<

It will be hard to argue any case if you ignore what the men wrote.

djindra said...

BenYachov,

It's been fun. I promise I won't bug you for a few days. I really should get some work done.

BenYachov said...

djindra

>I don't care if it's in Feser's book. He can be wrong. Read Paley. Read Aquinas. Those are primary sources, not Feser.

Based on that reasoning I should ignore what Dawkins, Coyne and Gould say about Darwin and Evolution and interpret it for myself and rely on my own armature opinion.

You are neither a logical or rational person. You contradict yourself big time.

You say you want evidence but you refuse to look at any. That makes you a hypocrite too.

BenYachov said...

>I don't care if it's in Feser's book. He can be wrong. Read Paley. Read Aquinas. Those are primary sources, not Feser.

Let me rephrase...so if a first year biology student or someone with no knowledge in science whatsoever who happens to be a Young Earth Creationist tell me there is no scientific evidence for evolution I should just believe him and refuse to read Dawlkins, Coyne, Gould etc?

I should take his interpretations of any "citations" he gives from primary sources at face value and ignore the experts?

This makes sense too you?

Seriously?

BenYachov said...

>It's hard to take your word on that. Nevertheless, calling Post-enlightenment New Philosophy a superstition is even worse. I happen to love the USA and our Enlightenment roots. I believe in liberty. I believe science has won the day. So no, Feser does not get points for attacking modernity.

Your are giving an evaluation (a very inaccurate and stupid one) of a work you refuse to read. That is not rational! Regardless of you beliefs about gods.

>It will be hard to argue any case if you ignore what the men wrote.

But it's ok when you do it? I've ignored nothing. You OTOH are clearly inconsistent and irrational.

BenYachov said...

>I was asked for evidence. I was asked to read. I go to primary sources.

No I asked you to read Feser's arguments(if only so you may be familiar with them. I wasn't demanding accent to them). You have refused and you seem to believe you are still qualified to speak on the subject.

You don't believe in evidence. You are not rational.

>I repeatedly show the two men thought alike.

You showed some undefined similarity nothing more. I showed the same with both Darwin and Lamarck. You gave no rational rebuttal to my argument.

>You keep bring this up but it's a bad analogy.

For example.....

>You don't want to counter my evidence with your own. You prefer to send me to secondary sources and see what they say.

So you reject reading experts? Why don't you simply produce an expert that shows with detailed argument that Paley and Aquinas are identical? Maybe because it doesn't exist?

>You don't want to discuss the text.

Would you want to discuss a Text of Darwin with a YEC who hasn't done any of the relevant background reading?

You are not being rational.

You are a typical New Atheist. An anti-intellectual fundamentalist without god belief. But an anti-intellectual fundamentalist none the less.

BenYachov said...

>It's been fun. I promise I won't bug you for a few days. I really should get some work done.

You have nothing to teach any of us if only because you have refused to learn.

I'm glad you are not on our side. You are as useless as teats on a bull.

Anonymous said...

Dianelos Georgoudis, you said...
what is the probability that given the initial conditions of the universe some intelligent species would evolve by NNE? There is nothing in science that so much as suggests what that probability is, and that therefore the claim that this probability is high, or at least not low, is *not* based on the science.

I'd like to ask you a question:
What is the probability that given the initial conditions of the universe, that the Green Bay Packers would win the Super Bowl last year?

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Anonymous wrote: “What is the probability that given the initial conditions of the universe, that the Green Bay Packers would win the Super Bowl last year?

Assuming the naturalistic interpretation of natural evolution that probability would be virtually zero. As would the probability of humanity evolving.

That’s why I was careful to speak about the probability of the evolution of some intelligent species only. If naturalism is viable then that latter probability must not be very small. For if it is very small, then the fact that we have evolved by natural evolution is evidence against the naturalistic interpretation of natural evolution.

Frater Bovious said...

I wade into these deep waters, filled with great white sharks and killer whales, with some temerity. As I paddle about just off shore I have these observations.

The problem with Intelligent Design is that it is not a science, but rather an attempt to build to suit a philosophy in support of a notion. It seems very nearly an act of desperation on the part of folks that fear scientism has captured the minds of the unwary and led them astray. A pseudo-scientific-sounding philosophy has been proposed as an alternate shiny object to dumbfound these same unwary and bring them back to the fold. The notion then is that we can only argue against one shiny object with another shinier object.

There are many issues – not the least of which is that scientism is also not a science; rather it is itself a philosophy purpose built to defend and advance a world view that does not depend on a creator.

The problem with both philosophies is is in that they are purpose built. They do not arise out of contemplation of the true nature of all things. Rather, they are both manufactured to defend a position. They are both lies in that they miss the point. A developed philosophy should help a person to understand who they are and what it all means. It should go without saying that one does not develop an understanding of “who am I” and “what does it all mean?” by first deciding both, and then cobbling together a framework to support a hitherto unsupported whim.

ID does a great disservice by playing on the same field of scientism, and distracting people from the fact that not only is scientism not science, it is also not philosophy. At their best, both are simply examples of marketing.

machinephilosophy said...

I don't think it's marketing. And I'm not sure about whether it's successful, but I enjoy how much of a monkey ID has become on the back of naturalism.

And to me, who I am and what is all means is already presupposed to some extent in merely questioning those things.