Friday, March 18, 2011

Unhinged Dissent

Over at Uncommon Descent, Vincent Torley is not happy with my recent post on Aquinas and Paley.  He had originally given his critique the inflammatory title “Heresy hunter!” – complete with exclamation point, and my picture alongside that of an Inquisitor and his crew “getting medieval” on some guy (William Dembski, I suppose).  This rather left the impression that if you criticize ID on theological grounds, you are akin to Torquemada – which is, needless to say, a little over the top. 

To his credit, Torley has now modified the post somewhat to tone down the rhetoric.  I have, of course, never accused any ID defender of heresy, nor would I.  When a philosopher deploys the reductio ad absurdum, arguing that an opponent’s view leads to a contradiction, he is not thereby insinuating that his opponent is insane or otherwise irrational.  Similarly, when a theologian argues that an opponent’s view has implications that cannot be reconciled with theological premises both sides regard as essential to orthodoxy, he is not thereby insinuating that his opponent is a heretic or otherwise heterodox.  In both cases, what we have is just a standard mode of rational argumentation, viz. the appeal to consistency. 

The same is true of the other alleged examples of my “hyper-orthodoxy” cited by Torley.  Contrary to the impression he gives his readers, I have never claimed, and would not claim, that non-Thomists, or all those who disagree with my construal of divine simplicity or my position on lying, are heretics or otherwise heterodox.  In none of these cases have I condemned those who disagree with me as heretics.  I have merely argued for certain conclusions that I take to follow from premises we share.  (Presumably Torley would not want to accuse Gilson, Owens, Mercier, Knox and the other prominent authors I cited in my post of being “heresy hunters.”  Yet like me, they object to Paley-style arguments and would also object to the retreat from divine simplicity evident in the work of some recent theologians and philosophers of religion, because of the seriously deficient conception of God they take such views to entail.)

Torley also ridicules my view that it is wrong to lie to your children about Santa Claus.  This is, of course, completely irrelevant to the dispute between Thomism and ID theory – he brings it up merely to score a few cheap points with those among his readers whom he knows will respond viscerally to anyone who would take such a view, and who are unlikely know a horse laugh fallacy when they see it.  Certainly he says nothing in reply to the arguments I gave against this form (and all forms) of lying.  He does tell his readers that Fr. John Hardon disagrees with the position I take, but without telling them that there are other influential Catholic moralists who agree with it, one of whom I cited in my post on the subject.  (For what it is worth, Torley’s fellow ID defender Lydia McGrew also agrees with me on this issue.  This too is irrelevant to the issue at hand, of course, but it underlines how silly it is for Torley to insinuate that there is some connection between my views on Santa Claus (!) and my views on ID theory.)

Torley does also make several substantive remarks about my post.  In response to my claim that ID theory doesn’t get you even one millimeter closer to the God of classical theism, Torley presents an argument which is not entirely clear, but which on a natural reading would seem to go as follows:

(1) Human beings, who fall under the genus “intelligent agents,” are “closer to” the God of classical theism than sentient non-rational animals, non-sentient living things, inanimate lumps of matter, etc. are.

Therefore,

(2) The God of classical theism and human beings both belong to the genus “intelligent agents.”

Therefore,

(3) To prove that there is something in the genus “intelligent agents” other than human beings at least increases the probability that the God of classical theism exists.

There are several problems with this argument.   A Thomist could accept (1) if what is meant by it is that there is in human beings something analogous to the divine intellect and will, while there is nothing analogous to the divine intellect and will in sentient non-rational animals, non-sentient living things, inanimate lumps of matter, etc.  But at least from a Thomistic point of view, (2) does not follow from (1), and (2) is in any event false.  For one thing, the fact that we can predicate intellect and will analogously of both God and human beings does not entail that God and human beings are in the same genus, any more than the fact that we can say analogously of both a book and a cheeseburger that they are good entails that they are in the same genus.  For another thing, Thomism claims that God does not belong to any genus in the first place.  Hence the argument simply begs the question against the Thomist.

Torley also suggests that if a design argument could get us to an incorporeal designer, it would thereby get us closer to the God of classical theism.  But that is not the case.  For one thing, angels are incorporeal, but they are, like us, compounds of act and potency and of essence and existence, and thus not divine.  For another thing, Torley’s suggestion seems to commit the same fallacy as his previous argument.  That is, he seems to assume that if we can show that something or other that is in the genus “incorporeal things” exists, then that raises the probability that God exists, since (so the argument seems to go) God is one of the things that falls within that genus.  But again, for the Thomist God does not fall under any genus, not even the genus “intelligent beings.”  Hence this argument too simply begs the question.

(I am well aware, by the way, that some readers are bound to be unfamiliar with the Thomistic doctrines in question.  No sin in that, but until you familiarize yourself with them, don’t presume that you are qualified to judge whether Thomism and ID theory are compatible.)

Torley claims that since Aquinas took the view that living things could not have arisen from non-living matter alone, it follows that he can be said to have given a kind of “proto-Intelligent Design argument.”  Here I fear that we are, as happens so often in discussions with ID defenders, going around in circles.  Yes, if what Torley means is that there is a sense in which Aquinas thinks that life could only have arisen through a divine ordering intelligence, a sense in which God is a “designer,” then naturally I agree with him that there is.  But of course, that is not what has ever been in dispute in the first place.  What is in dispute is whether the metaphysical framework within which Paley and ID theory interpret the claim that life cannot have arisen from non-living matter alone, but only via a divine ordering intelligence, is compatible with the Thomistic metaphysical framework.  And Thomist critics of ID and of Paley hold that they are not compatible.  (I have in an earlier post discussed at some length the precise sense in which Thomists hold that life cannot arise from non-life, and the question of what it means from a Thomistic point of view to describe God as a “designer” has of course been addressed throughout my various posts on this dispute.)

It would seem, then, that I need to add a couple of further points to the four-point summary I placed at the end of my previous post, namely:

5. The dispute between Thomism on the one hand and Paley (and ID theory) on the other is not over whether God is in some sense the “designer” of the universe and of living things – both sides agree that He is – but rather over what exactly it means to say that He is, and in particular over the metaphysics of life and of creation.

6. The dispute is also not over whether Paley (or ID theory) is “heretical.”  Neither I nor any other Thomist that I know of has made such an accusation.

Finally, I thank Torley for his kind words about my book Aquinas.

59 comments:

Leo Carton Mollica said...

Thanks for the post.

I wonder, however, whether your reconstruction of Mr. Torley's argument is charitable. His arguments seems to be more along the lines of

1. ID gets us away from "a lump of inanimate matter" and towards an "intelligent agent" as the ultimate explanation of living things.
2. An "intelligent agent" is closer to God than "a lump of inanimate matter."
3. Therefore, ID gets us to something closer to God as the ultimate explanation of living things.

All in all, though, Dr. Torley's response is rather poor. Since when, for example, has the Bl. John Duns Scotus been a "Doctor of the Church"?

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Ed. Thanks for your kind words. I've posted a couple of updates to clarify the arguments in my post.

Leo: Thanks for pointing out that Duns Scotus was not a Doctor of the Church. That was an honest mistake of mine. I've issued a correction, and I've given credit to you for pointing out my error, on my original post. Cheers.

Ismael said...

ON related news... I wonder of what you think of D. O'Leary's (also an Uncommon Descent writer and ID supported) recent book "The Spiritual Brain" which deals with the mind-body dualism and 'scientific evidence' of such.

Since you are competent on the subject Prof. Feser I'd like to hear your opinion.

Stacy Trasancos said...

Hello Edward, I am a scientist turned homemaker, raising 7 kids with my husband and I recently started a MA program in Theology so I'm new to Thomism but have enough of an appreciation for it to be really impressed with your writing. Like, jumping up and down shouting "YAY" impressed. Thank you! My husband and I have read quite a bit of Fr. Stanley Jaki and loved that. I am not familiar with all the arguments you've made regarding ID but I have a feeling I'm going to agree. Until I do read them I won't comment further except to say that I was disappointed the original picture was taken down...it sounded funny. (!)

Richard said...

Dear Prof. Feser,

Your problem is that you think too clearly for Mr. Torely et al.It is a problem I wish Dr. Torely (and I) suffered from. And certianly, you do suffer because of it -- I've read all of your posts on the ID "controversy" -- it is a real pain in the a-- to have to repeat oneself so often and still get reactions like Dr. Torley's. I agree with Mrs. Trasancos (and many others I'm sure): your work (both books and blog) is truely enlightening. I can see that you're not easily discouraged (you must have learned your remarkable longsuffereing from years of teaching college students), but don't ever give up. Remember, for every 25 benighted readers of your work, there's one who at least understands (again, I say, don't give up!).

Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton said...

I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth; banks are going bust; shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter; punks are running wild in the street, and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it.

We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat. And we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be!

We all know things are bad -- worse than bad -- they're crazy.

It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out any more. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we're living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, "Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials, and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone."

Well, I'm not going to leave you alone.

I want you to get mad!

I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot. I don't want you to write to your Congressman, because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street.

All I know is that first, you've got to get mad.

You've gotta say, "I'm a human being, goddammit! My life has value!"

Billy Blue Boots said...

Why the bashing on Torley?
I don't agree with the man but has he ever been less than gracious?
I wish more people handled themselves like him.

Tony said...

Boots,

Ed's post on Vincent's post IS gracious. Really. Sure, Ed scores an (unnecessary) point in one or two places, but his tone is completely respectful, and much more important (even if it doesn't feel much more important), Ed takes Vincent's argument seriously. Seriously enough to explore it and then respond to it. Ed's post is, by and large, a lot better to Vincent than Vincent's blog treats Ed. Ed doesn't bandy around name-calling like "Feser’s hyper-orthodoxy" that Vincent uses.

Mr. Green said...

Where does Torley say "genus"?? I think that's a manifestly incorrect way to interpret his argument. Clearly, he is dividing entities into those of which intelligence cannot be predicated (rocks, trees, etc.) and those of which it can (men, aliens, angels, etc.). The fact that it is predicated of God analogously obviously does not put Him in the former category! If, then, you believed that life could be explained by the non-intelligent group (raw matter acting according to the laws of phyiscs), and Prof. Torley can show you that that belief is wrong, then on any reading you have moved closer to the truth.

Leo Carton Mollica said...

Dr. Torley:

I see that you have removed your comment, but if you are still paying attention here I would like to thank you for citing me in your correction and apologise for dismissing you as I did in my earlier comment.

Mr. Green:

On the Thomistic view, it is impossible to place God in any category common to creatures and Creator, and whether or not Dr. Torley chooses to express himself in the technical language of genera and specific differentiae is entirely beside the point. By St. Thomas' lights, God is no more a member of the category of intelligent things than He is of any other class, set, collection, or the like. Nor can you salvage your position by placing God in the category of "things of which intelligence can be truly predicated," for the predication of intelligence of creatures and its predication of God just are not the same thing. Analogy is not some sort of extremely refined univocity.

Mr. Green said...

Leo Carton Mollica: God is no more a member of the category of intelligent things than He is of any other class

That makes no sense. Of course analogy is not refined univocity; but neither is it some sort of extremely refined apophaticism.

Peter Youngblood said...

Mr. Green,

While analogous predication isn't identical with apophaticism, it certainly does mean that there are some inherently negative notes included in any predication to God of something that resembles any class of things. To classify God is, strictly speaking, to predicate something of Him univocally predicated of other beings.(It must be noted that this conflicts with the description of God as the Supreme Being; for if God is classified, it means He is merely one instance of that class of being. The only solution is to either deny that the class is a genuine class, or remove God from the classification.)

So, while we speak truly to say that God is intelligent, it is necessary to keep before our minds all the negative notes which distinguish the sense of the word 'intelligent' when used to describe God. Therefore, it is necessary, on Thomism, never to include God in a genuine class of things. If we do so, we are speaking univocally (and wrongly) about God.

Alan Fox said...

Why the bashing on Torley? I don't agree with the man but has he ever been less than gracious? I wish more people handled themselves like him.

Dr Torley, who I consider to to be a uniquely honest and genuine contributor at UD, would make an interesting and amenable dinner guest. I am sure I would enjoy disagreeing with him fundamentally on many issues without rancour. On the other hand, I am not so sure about being cast adrift in an open boat with him and a newborn infant.

Leo Carton Mollica said...

Mr. Green:

Peter Youngblood has explained the matter better than I could myself. (My only quibble with him is that, on Thomism, "being" is not a category.)

Alan Fox:

That, sir, is patent and inexcusable slander, as will be evident to anyone who actually clicks on the link.

BenYachov said...

VJ you are killing me guy!

Killing me!

Oy Vey!!!!

What is that O'Leary woman's malfunction anyway? She seems to know as much about Thomism as Dawkins does. the way she bags on it.

At this point I am so over ID. Naturally it's not heresy to believe in ID just as it's not heresy to believe in Young Earth Creationism. But neither is it heresy to believe in a geocentric universe as some more extreme Trads have been known to do.

But these views aren't going anywhere and Evolution is simply not a threat to Catholicism.

That is all.

Killing me.

BenYachov said...

WTF!!!!!

Alan Fox!

VJ is killing me but you sir are full of S***!

VJ may have some faulty philosophical ideas(not heretical ones) but I do like him(even when he is killing me) & he is Prolife.

You I don't know you and I don't care to know you. You have slandered the man! So Smeg off until you apologize to him!!!!

Anonymous said...

LOL Ben stop being mad, bro. Christ is still Lord and will be forever.

Just sayin'.

Darth Yachovus the Slightly Naughty said...

I am notorious for my anger.

If I was a Sith Lord I would bitch slap Darth Vader and the Emperor.

Just saying.....

PS God bless Anon.

Mr. Green said...

Peter Youngblood: The only solution is to either deny that the class is a genuine class, or remove God from the classification.

I don't know what your definition of a "genuine" class is. But, while arguably imprecise, that doesn't make it wrong to mention God and creatures in the same breath; everybody does it, even Prof. Feser, even Aquinas. If you think the argument under consideration is ambiguous or misleading because it doesn't explicitly say "analogously", well, fine, say so. But I don't suppose anyone who understands that distinction needs Torley to remind them, and anyone who doesn't isn't going know what he's missing. At any rate, there was no explicit claim of univocality there, and I simply don't think that a fair reading can imply one.

Brian said...

I have an unrelated question about the hypostatic union. Is this a good analogy for the hypostatic union: Jake Sully in AVATAR. The person of Jake Sully assumes a new nature (i.e., that of the Na'vi) in addition to his human one. He has two natures but is one person. Is this a good analogy? The one objection that comes to mind is that Sully does not have possession of these two natures simultaneously. Thoughts?

I am trying to explain the dogma to a Muslim.

Leo Carton Mollica said...

Mr. Green:

Correct me if I'm wrong: you are arguing that St. Thomas and Dr. Torley are not in conflict because even the Thomist must admit God into the category of "things of which intelligence can be truly predicated," or "intelligent things," which is all that Dr. Torley requires for his argument. That the intelligence or predication thereof in question is analogous does not alter matters. Is this your position?

Peter Youngblood said...

Leo,

When I said "class of being" I didn't mean "the class of all beings." Rather, I meant something like "particular type of being." I should have said:

"... for if God is classified, it means He is merely one instance of that particular class."

Sorry for the confusion!

Leo Carton Mollica said...

Peter,

Ah, I see! Thanks you for clarifying :)

Mr. Green said...

Leo Carton Mollica: Basically, yes. I'm not rejecting the principle of analogy, or denying that in order to be precise one would have to distinguish between the "intelligence" predicated of man and the "intelligence" predicated of God. (And I think I just read too much into your first reply to me!)

Mr. Green said...

BenYachov overreacted!!!!!!!: Evolution is simply not a threat to Catholicism.

Nor to ID. I get the impression that you think "intelligent design" is opposed to evolution or something, but of course it's not. In fact, it depends upon it. (That's not quite accurate — ID in general doesn't need evolution, of course, but in order to apply it to biology, there needs to be some kind of evolutionary process to be intelligently designed in the first place. What it's opposed to is unguided evolution (which of course, is heretical).)

Leo Carton Mollica said...

Mr. Green:

Thank you for clarifying. I think you might (and only might) be misconstruing the principle of analogy, but a discussion of that matter would probably take the posts off track, so I won't pursue it further.

In any event, I think we can, as I did in my original comment, interpret Dr. Torley's argument in a manner that does not have recourse to categories or genera and thus bypasses this discussion completely. Indeed, such an interpretation seems to me the plain sense of Dr. Torley's post.

Alan Fox said...

@ Leo carton Mollica and Rock

If I have slandered, misrepresented or offended Dr Torley in any way, I unreservedly apologise and retract. I certainly would not wish to cause Dr Torley any offence and regret any such occurrence. Plerase accept my sincere apologies.

Now would Leo or Rock like to point out where exactly this slander took place and if possible quote the offending remarks because I am completely baffled as to what they are referring to.

John Farrell said...

BenYachov,
What is that O'Leary woman's malfunction anyway? She seems to know as much about Thomism as Dawkins does, the way she bags on it.

That needed to be said, and I'm glad you did.

Cheers.

Anonymous said...

That needed to be said, and I'm glad you did.

Ben for Best Poster of 2011.

Michael Sullivan said...

What's wrong with being "hyper-orthodox" anyway? I would remind you that extremism in the defense of truth is no vice and that moderation in the pursuit of consistency is no virtue.

Anonymous said...

As I learn more about the God of Classical theism, thanks in large part to Dr. Feser's books, I'm having trouble reconciling the seemingly impersonal God who is mainly knowable by negatives attributes with the personable all loving Father figure Jesus teaches us of in the Bible. A being who is so loving that He is willing to empty himself and become man. Can someone please help?

Tony said...

I get the impression that you think "intelligent design" is opposed to evolution or something, but of course it's not. In fact, it depends upon it. (That's not quite accurate — ID in general doesn't need evolution, of course, but in order to apply it to biology, there needs to be some kind of evolutionary process to be intelligently designed in the first place.

Well, not really. ID needs SOMETHING there, to be intelligently designed. But each individual species can be intelligently designed without any reference at all to a natural "process" by which the species came to be. And, the entire order of species can be intelligently designed right from the start in the order we see them right now - no development is needed for there to be intelligent designing. I think what you mean, Mr. Green, is that given a historical record of change and development of species out of prior periods when none of the current species existed, GIVEN those changes, then IDer better be an explanation of the intelligence behind the process, rather than merely behind the actual current result.

But, of course, the record is not a historical record at all, it is a pre-historical "record", and is capable of more than one possible interpretation. I personally doubt that we will ever come up with an interpretation (a reasonable one, that is) that completely excludes development of species over 100s of millions of years, but that's a personal reflection, not science. The science about the matter is a theory, and is therefore subject to re-interpretation.

Lee Faber said...

Perhaps you should read some Scotus instead, who held that negations were dependent on affirmations (and as he put it "we do not love negations in the highest degree), priviliged the act of the will (love) over the act of the intellect, and claimed that God "desires co-lovers".

Peter Youngblood said...

Anon March 20, 2011 5:53 AM,

I understand your concern. However, it may help to recognize that the God reached by the arguments of philosophers is only God as known by natural reason. Thus, there are severe limitations, e.g, the largely "negative" predicates attached to Him. Aquinas was careful to recognize this limitation of philosophy, which is why Question I of the Summa is largely about the authority of Divine Revelation. Given that, we should all recognize that God was not content to reveal Himself only through the veils of natural reason, but he went so far as to reveal himself once and for all in the Word made flesh. In other words, what the philosopher has to say about God is not the final word. Rather, that Word that God has spoken from all Eternity, made manifest in Christ, that is the final Word which "dwelt among us" and even now seeks communion with us. What is called for is not merely a response of intellect but a response of the whole person, which is love.

BenYachov said...

@Mr. Green
>Nor to ID. I get the impression that you think "intelligent design" is opposed to evolution or something, but of course it's not. In fact, it depends upon it.

That is not the impression I get from the EXPELLED movie. Many ID people seem to think Evolution somehow vindicates Atheism. As for ID being compatible with Catholicism. Well in principle i can't exclude the possibility might have chosen to artifice various life forms. But the point is he doesn't have too. He can work threw secondary natural causes.

BenYachov said...

Alan Fox
>If I have slandered, misrepresented or offended Dr Torley in any way, I unreservedly apologise and retract.

Go in peace. Anyway now that that is settled VJ is still killing me......Killing me.

BenYachov said...

edit:
Well in principle i can't exclude the possibility GOD might have chosen to artifice various life forms. But the point is He doesn't have too. He can work threw secondary natural causes.

Crude said...

Ben,

That is not the impression I get from the EXPELLED movie. Many ID people seem to think Evolution somehow vindicates Atheism.

I think there are plenty of ID sympathizers who are anti-evolution in the broad sense. But there are also a number of ID thinkers who either think evolution is compatible with ID (Mike Behe, Dembski himself, etc) or whose version of ID explicitly relies on evolution (One great example here is Mike Gene).

I think the problem here is that ID proponents often rail against "Darwinism", and they usually define Darwinism to mean not just evolution, but an evolutionary process that is absolutely unguided in any way. (Not even God knows what evolution will produce, etc.) A definition that a few prominent "pro-evolution" types also subscribe to. (Mike Ruse, Jerry Coyne, etc.)

That's one of the downsides of the debate. The confusing use of terms.

Mr. Green said...

Tony: I think what you mean, Mr. Green, is that given a historical record of change and development of species out of prior periods when none of the current species existed, GIVEN those changes, then IDer better be an explanation of the intelligence behind the process, rather than merely behind the actual current result.

I should specify what I mean by "ID", since (as Crude indicated) poorly-defined terms are responsible for so much confusion in this area. I am referring to ID as the proposed scientific principle by which a physical process can be determined likely to happen by chance or by design. (This is the most relevant and most useful definition, and I really wish anyone who wants to draw (completely legitimate) philosophical implications from the scientific aspects would explicitly point that out, every time, so as to cut down on pointless arguments.)

Certainly, all sorts of things require intelligence that may not be discernible scientifically, or that may not have any scientific process to discern, or that may be demonstrable via philosophy instead of science. But to apply ID to biology, we need a biological process to study, and then we can try to determine whether said process is likely to happen purely by chance (given what we know of how biological processes work). And the only biological processes interesting enough and disputed enough (in terms of chance vs. design) are theories of evolution.


BenYachov: That is not the impression I get from the EXPELLED movie.

Can you cite an example? I don't recall anyone in Expelled arguing for six-day creationism or anything like that. There are many atheists who certainly seem to think that evolution vindicates atheism, but of course that works only if evolution wasn't planned out from the start (as Crude also says, ID-types typically refer to that as "Darwinian evolution", i.e. unguided). Artifice is irrelevant (it comes out of treating ID science under a typical modern view of science, but as Prof. Feser keeps pointing out, any actual science in ID is fine — you can always recast it using a Thomistic view of science).

To say that life did not develop by natural secondary causes is a God-of-the-gaps argument, not an ID argument. There's no miracle involved in shuffling a deck of cards and having them come out exactly sorted by suit and value, but if I did that, you would surely accuse me of stacking the deck somehow. I could have invoked God to miraculously cause cards to change position in violation of ordinary physics, but I bet you wouldn't conclude that — you'd just think I used natural secondary processes to manipulate the deck by design. Similarly, the point of ID is to examine the natural process by which life is purported to have evolved and determine whether those natural process were "stacked" or not.

BenYachov said...

Crude,

You just pretty much summed up what is going on.

The problem is God working though natural processes vs God acting supernaturally.

And or

God guiding the universe vs the universe has no guide.

But philosophically I resist the idea a godless universe would be random. A godless universe governed by quantum super-determinism wouldn't really be random. But then again Darwinism would be meaningless as well.

Alan Fox said...

Go in peace. Anyway now that that is settled VJ is still killing me......Killing me.

There is still the issue of where this "slander" you accused me of resides. I would be most grateful if you could point it out.

Thanks in advance
Alan

Anonymous said...

There is still the issue of where this "slander" you accused me of resides. I would be most grateful if you could point it out.

Yes, someone please spell it out to Alan. He's slow, and it may require finger puppets.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi everyone,

Regarding the issue of slander: forget about it. Water off a duck's back.

What worries me a lot more, though, are remarks directed at Denyse O'Leary, who happens to be a friend of mine.

Maybe I was raised the old-fashioned way, but I was taught that any kind of rude or otherwise uncomplimentary language directed at, or about, a member of the female sex, is ungentlemanly behavior.

For those who are concerned about her knowledge of Thomism: I suggest that sending her a copy of Ed's "Aquinas" (from which I quoted in a recent post on Professor Anthony Grayling), with Ed's autograph on the flyleaf, might work wonders.

Another thing that might help is refraining from expressions of schadenfreude when a Darwinist biologist kicks the ID movement. I know that most Thomists would never dream of gloating in such circumstances, but unfortunately, a few have done so, in Ms. O'Leary's presence. That has upset her, and I know that for a fact.

My two cents.

james said...

"I was taught that any kind of [,..] uncomplimentary language directed at, or about, a member of the female sex, is ungentlemanly behavior."

If a woman wishes to engage in battle on the field of ideas -- and I see no reason why one couldn't or shouldn't -- why should she be treated as if incapable of taking care of herself? If her knowledge is lacking on some pertinent matter, obliquely tiptoeing around it (buying her books!) seems ... counterproductive.

BenYachov said...

>Maybe I was raised the old-fashioned way, but I was taught that any kind of rude or otherwise uncomplimentary language directed at, or about, a member of the female sex, is ungentlemanly behavior.

Then to be consistent she should act like a lady and stay out of a discussion only men should partake in since we are the rational sex & she is a member of the emotional sex.**

(**Of course I don't believe that for a second. I'm not a sexist.)

Also pursuant to these old fashion morals we hold her too does she have either her husband's or Father's permission to speak publicly on these matters?

Alright enough satire. Why does Ms O'Leary have carte blanche right to uncharitably slam guys like Dr. Bechwith, Dr. Feser and Thomists just because they are critical of ID super Paley mojo?

Because she is a woman? Besides both my parent taught me to respect women. I didn't think asking "What's your problem" was the moral equivalent of questioning her chastity or intelligence.

VJ you are still killing me.

BenYachov said...

>Another thing that might help is refraining from expressions of schadenfreude when a Darwinist biologist kicks the ID movement.

Let me be clear. The Atheist Evolutionist criticism of ID is in my experience pure S***! The Theistic Evolutionist sans Thomism criticism is equally s***. Only the Thomists can effectively and rationally critique ID.

Forget Miller! Forget Coyne! It all about Aquinas!

Alan Fox said...

Regarding the issue of slander: forget about it. Water off a duck's back.

But, what was the slander? As I was accused of it, It would be nice to know what it is that I am supposed to have written that was slanderous. Surely this is not unreasonable.

Alan Fox said...

Yes, someone please spell it out to Alan. He's slow, and it may require finger puppets.

Just a link will do. You do know hoe to link, I presume, or could someone else do it?

Alan Fox said...

I thought Christians (even Catholics) claim some sort of moral high ground? It is simple, surely. Someone tosses out a charge of slander. Surely they can support it, can't they?

BenYachov said...

Alax Fox quote"On the other hand, I am not so sure about being cast adrift in an open boat with him and a newborn infant."

Then you link to him critiquing PZ Myers who is morally undisturbed by mutilated fetus.

Where you not implying VJ didn't believe in the person-hood of infants? If not then why are you afraid to be with him in an open boat with one?

The only natural conclusion is you are implying VJ is a danger to babies.

Vincent Torley said...

Alan Fox,

I don't know what it is that you're supposed to have said, either. It sounds like a huge misunderstanding. Anyway, I hope we can remain on good terms, and if you're ever in Japan and feel like having dinner, call me up.

Vincent Torley said...

Ben Yachov,

I think I've figured out what Alan Fox was getting at. If you go to my post at http://www.uncommondescent.com/
intelligent-design/newborn-babies-
not-persons-and-not-fully-human-
p-z-myers/ and scroll down to comments 30, 31, 32 and 35, you'll see that in lifeboat dilemmas, I favored saving the baby over saving some eminent person or some famous artist, I'd save the baby first, any time. I think Alan Fox was just humorously observing that he'd think twice before stepping into the same lifeboat as mine, that's all.

Anonymous said...

I think Alan Fox was just humorously observing that he'd think twice before stepping into the same lifeboat as mine, that's all.

Gracious of you to downplay it so.

Alan Fox said...

Hi Vincent,

You have it exactly right.

I intend to get to Japan one day as I have promised to take a trip with my daughter when I am retired. I will look you up then.

It ever you find yourself in the south of France do likewise :)

Anonymous said...

Alan said: "I thought Christians (even Catholics) claim some sort of moral high ground?"

Nope. Catholics don't claim to be morally superior. However it is the atheists who say that 40 million Americans are 'good without God'. A Catholic following doctrine would never claim to be 'good' enough, we're all sinners.

BenYachov said...

>I think Alan Fox was just humorously observing that he'd think twice before stepping into the same lifeboat as mine, that's all.

In which case I now owe Mr. Fox an apology(& I offer it) & will smeg myself off in penance.

Alan Fox said...

Most gracious, Ben.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

In a nobler age, an eminent person's willingness to sacrifice his life for an infant would have only added to his eminence. Does "women and children first" mean anything anymore!

Anonymous said...

I think that Ed's criticism of ID and VJ Torley's argument betray the fundamental problem of Thomism: dualism.

Once the Aristotelian position that all forms are substantiated in existent objects is taken ---that is, once the realm of Plato's Ideas is eliminated---then what is one left to do with the notion of God?

The only answer is to make God 'transcendent'. While on the surface there appears to be nothing wrong with this at all (in fact, it appears to be no more than a straightforward understanding of God), nonetheless, an infinite distance has been opened up between God and the world. More or less, Ed Feser is simply elaborating upon this 'distance' in this post.

All of this conspires to give us Feser's argument in reverse: i.e., since God is infinitely separated from the world, and since God is an intelligent being, then given that men are 'intelligent' beings, their 'ideas' too are infinitely separated from actual existing objects. Thus the rise of Descartes and Idealism.

Ironically, Thomists are those most opposed to the Idealists; and, yet, to simultaneously maintain BOTH a belief in God and Aristotelean premises, we are forced to requires a completely separate "genus" for God, with the concomitant result being the introduction of an infinite separation between the world of ideas and the world of created objects.

Now, if we accept Thomas' definition of man as a "rational animal", then, clearly, this rationality places us, at a minimum, into the angelic realm. That is to say, man, in his capacity for reason, now participates finds himself acting in an "incorporeal" realm, thus separating himself, as are angels, from the "corporeal" realm. Our rationality--the source of our ideas about anything--becomes, then, "otherworldly": that is, we've now arrived at Idealism, an almost infinite separation of ideas and matter (existent objects).