Sunday, October 4, 2015

Why can’t these guys stay on topic? Or read?


Jerry Coyne comments on my recent Public Discourse article about Lawrence Krauss.  Well, sort of.  Readers of that article will recall that it focused very specifically on Krauss’s argument to the effect that science is inherently atheistic, insofar as scientists need make no reference to God in explaining this or that phenomenon.  I pointed out several things that are wrong with this argument.  I did not argue for God’s existence.  To be sure, I did point out that Krauss misunderstands how First Cause arguments for God’s existence are supposed to work, but the point of the article was not to develop or defend such an argument.  I have done that many times elsewhere.  Much less was my article concerned to defend any specifically Catholic theological doctrine, or opposition to abortion, or any conservative political position.  Again, the point of the essay was merely to show what is wrong with a specific argument of Krauss’s.  An intelligent response to what I wrote would focus on that.

Coyne, however, is all over the place.  He devotes his first paragraph to informing his readers about the Witherspoon Institute -- which hosts Public Discourse -- and the “right-wing” political views with which it is associated.  How is this relevant to evaluating the cogency of the arguments presented in my article?  It is, of course, in no way relevant.  So why does Coyne bring it up?  Could it be to prompt his (mostly left-wing) readers automatically to discount anything I have to say before even hearing it?  Nah, couldn’t be.  That would be a blatant logical fallacy of poisoning the well.  And Coyne is, after all, a New Atheist, and “therefore” a devotee of Logic, Science, Evidence, and all things Rational. 

Then there is the title of his blog post.  Coyne summarizes my response to Krauss as follows: “Feser to Krauss: Shut up because of the Uncaused Cause.”  That implies that the reason I gave for saying that Krauss should stop mouthing off about philosophy and theology is that the cosmological argument for an Uncaused Cause is a successful argument and thus refutes atheism.  Hence (it is insinuated) if I have failed to show in my article that that argument really does succeed, then I have also failed to show that Krauss should stop mouthing off about these subjects.

But of course, that’s not what I said.  The reason Krauss should stop mouthing off, I said, is that he has repeatedly shown -- not just in the view of theologians, but even in the view of some people otherwise sympathetic to his position -- that he has a very poor understanding of the philosophical and theological ideas he routinely criticizes.  Indeed, I noted that Coyne himself has said that the arguments in Krauss’s New Atheist book are of poor quality.  Now, Krauss’s arguments would be of poor quality whether or not any version of the argument for an Uncaused Cause succeeds.  And it is that consistently poor quality of his arguments that justifies his critics in saying that he ought to stop mouthing off about philosophy and theology until such time as he actually learns something about those subjects.  Again, whether any First Cause argument succeeds is not what I was trying to establish in my article, and is simply irrelevant to the issues I actually was addressing in the article.

Next, Coyne claims that Krauss gives a good reason why scientists should (as Krauss claimed in the New Yorker piece I was responding to) be “militant atheists.”  The reason is that science is incompatible with “authoritarianism,” with “suppression of open questioning,” or with treating any ideas as “sacred” or “beyond question.”  But the trouble with this “argument” is that it is an obvious non sequitur.  The proposition that we should not treat any idea as beyond questioning does not entail the proposition that there is no God, nor even the proposition that it is doubtful that there is a God.  Indeed, it entails nothing one way or the other about God’s existence at all.  And thus it does not give any support to atheism, militant or otherwise.  The most it shows is that we shouldn’t be dogmatic about any argument for theism, but instead should always be open to hearing criticism of such arguments -- and I certainly agree with that, even though I am not an atheist.  It also shows, though, that we shouldn’t be dogmatic about any argument for atheism either, but should always be willing to hear out criticisms of those arguments too.

Indeed, if anything it is Krauss’s “militancy” which should trouble Coyne if he is really serious about not treating any idea as sacred or beyond question.  How can someone be “militant” about atheism without exhibiting exactly the sort of dogmatism Coyne claims he rejects?  Indeed, since Coyne himself has admitted that Krauss has given bad arguments for atheism, shouldn’t he also admit that Krauss is the last person to be recommending “militancy”? 

Coyne does finally say a little about the actual arguments I gave in my Public Discourse article, but unfortunately the quality of his reply doesn’t improve.  Recall that, in my piece, I had said that the main traditional arguments for God’s existence don’t begin with facts of the sort that fall within the domain investigated by science.  Rather, they begin with facts of a more fundamental kind -- facts about what any possible science must itself presuppose (such as facts about the nature of causality as such, facts about what it is to be a law of nature in the first place, the fact that there exists anything contingent at all -- including whatever the fundamental physical laws turn out to be -- and so forth).  Coyne replies:

But if in fact one construes science broadly, as a combination of reason, empirical study, and verification, yes, existence of God should show up in “scientific” inquiry.  Since it doesn’t, religionists use the word “reason” to encompass a brew of dogma, scripture, and personal revelation.

There are two problems with this.  First, I have myself, of course, never defined “reason” in a way that “encompass[es] a brew of dogma, scripture, and personal revelation.”  Neither does Aristotle, Plotinus, Maimonides, Avicenna, Aquinas, Scotus, Leibniz, Clarke, or any other philosopher who thinks that the existence of God can be rationally demonstrated.  This is merely a straw man entirely of Coyne’s own invention, as anyone who actually knows something about the history of philosophical theology is aware.

Second, Coyne defines “science” so broadly that the arguments of writers of the kind I just cited would in fact count as “scientific” even by Coyne’s criteria, even though they would not be arguments of physics, chemistry, biology, or the like, but instead arguments of a sort that appeal to deeper features of reality than any of those specific sciences do. 

Consider, to take just one example, the Aristotelian argument for an Unmoved Mover.  It begins with the fact of change, which we know via experience -- and is thus “empirical” and “verifiable” -- and argues that we cannot coherently deny that at least some sorts of change really do occur, without at the same time denying the reality of experience itself (where experience is the precondition of the observation and experiment upon which empirical science rests).  The argument proceeds from there to reason to conclusions about the preconditions of there being change of any sort at all.  For instance, it argues that change could not occur without there being a distinction in reality between a thing’s actualities and its potentialities.  It argues that a potentiality can only be actualized by something already actual.  It argues that something’s being actualized at any moment presupposes something actualizing it at that moment, and that the specific sort of regress of causes that this generates cannot in principle proceed to infinity.  And so forth.

Note that I am not actually giving the argument here, because for one thing, like any argument about such a fundamental aspect of reality, it is not the sort of thing that could be summarized in a couple of paragraphs in a blog post.  And for another thing, I’ve stated and defended the argument at length several times in other places, such as in my book Aquinas.  The point for present purposes is just that since Coyne defines “science” as broadly as he does, this argument would count as “scientific” given his criteria.  Hence even if he wanted to reject the argument, he could not do so on the grounds that it is “unscientific.”  He’d have to find some other grounds for doing so.  And the same thing is true of the arguments of writers like Aquinas, Leibniz, and others of the sort I’ve mentioned.

That, however, would require Coyne seriously to study these arguments and find out what they actually say -- rather than glibly dismissing them a priori on the grounds that they are allegedly “unscientific.”  And that is something Coyne has consistently refused to do.  To be sure, longtime readers will recall that, in the course of an earlier exchange I had with him, Coyne declared that he would make the effort to study the arguments of Aquinas.  However, over four years later, he has still not followed this up with any announcement about what he learned.  And that he never bothered actually to do what he said he would do is obvious from the fact that when he does comment on what Aquinas and Thomists like myself think, he succeeds in showing only that -- like Krauss -- he has absolutely no idea what he is talking about.  For example, in this latest post of his he says:

To Feser, the existence of the natural world is itself evidence for God, for he keeps insisting that that world had to have a beginning, and if that beginning was the Big Bang, or even if the Big Bang had a natural origin and there are universes that spawn other universes, well, those, too must have a causal chain that, in the end terminates in God.

But as anyone who’s ever actually bothered to read what I’ve written on this subject knows, in fact I have not argued that the “world had to have a beginning” at the “Big Bang” or at any other point.  And neither Aquinas, nor Leibniz, nor any of the other philosophers whose arguments I have endorsed make that claim either when arguing for a divine First Cause.  Whether the universe had a temporal beginning is completely irrelevant to arguments like Aquinas’s Five Ways, Leibniz’s cosmological argument, Neo-Platonic arguments, or any of the other arguments I favor.  Aquinas explicitly denies -- at the length of a short book -- that this is something a good argument for a First Cause should focus on.  And it is a point that I’ve repeatedly emphasized myself.  I’ve pointed this out, oh, maybe about 1,234 times.  It’s about as well known a fact about my views as any.  Saying that “Feser… keeps insisting that that world had to have a beginning” is like saying “Coyne keeps insisting that New Atheists ought to treat theology with greater respect.”  It’s about as incompetent a summary of an opponent’s position as can be imagined. 

The same refusal to do one’s homework is manifest in some of Coyne’s other remarks.  For example, he writes:

[T]heists like Feser face their own Ultimate Questions: Why is there a God rather than no God? How did God come into being, and what was He doing before he created Something out of Nothing? To answer those, some people might point to scripture or revelation, but that’s unsatisfying, for different scriptures and different revelations say different things. In the end, Feser must resort to the same answer physicists give. When told by rationalists that we need to understand where God Himself came from, Feser would have to respond, “No we don’t. He was just There.” What I don’t understand is how God can just be there, but the universe and its antecedents, or the laws of physics, cannot just be there.

Coyne writes as if I have never addressed such questions, when in fact, and as anyone who is actually familiar with my work knows well, I have addressed them many times and at length.  First, the answers to these questions have nothing to do with “scripture or revelation,” but rather with philosophical argument.  Second, anyone who’s actually bothered to make even a cursory investigation of the relevant arguments would know the answers to Coyne’s other questions.  For example, Leibnizian cosmological arguments claim that things that require a cause require one because they are contingent, and thus could in principle have been otherwise, and in particular could have been non-existent.  But that which exists in an absolutely necessary or non-contingent way not only need not have a cause but could not have had one, precisely because it could not have been otherwise.  Its explanation lies in its own nature rather than in something else.  Aristotelian arguments hold that things that require a cause require one because they have potentialities that need to be actualized if they are to exist at all.  But that which is purely actual or devoid of potentiality not only need not have a cause but could not have had one, precisely because it lacks any potentiality that could be actualized.  Its explanation lies in its own nature as something that is always “already” actual.  Neo-Platonic arguments hold that things that require a cause require one because they are composite or made up of parts of some sort, so that those parts must be combined in order for the thing to exist.  But that which is absolutely simple or non-composite not only need not have a cause but could not have had one, precisely because it has no parts that could be combined in the first place.  And so forth.

The reason why God can be “just there” while a material universe governed by the basic laws of physics cannot, then, is that the former is absolutely necessary while the latter is contingent, that the former is purely actual while the latter is a mixture of actual and potential, that the former is absolutely simple or non-composite while the latter is composed of parts, and so on. 

Of course, someone might want to raise various objections against such arguments, but to think  that Coyne’s questions are serious objections is like thinking that the question “How could one biological species give rise to another biological species?” is a devastating objection to Darwinism.  For of course, the whole point of Darwinism is to show how that question can be answered, so that to raise this question is to miss the whole point rather than to pose a challenge to Darwinism.   But in the same way, the whole point of arguments like those put forward by Leibnizians, Aristotelians, Neo-Platonists, Thomists, and others is precisely to answer questions like the ones Coyne raises, so that to raise such questions is merely to miss the whole point rather than to pose a challenge to those theistic arguments.

Coyne’s other objections are equally feeble.  He asks:

Where from these regularities can one derive a Beneficent Person without Substance—one who not only loves us all, but demands worship under threat of immolation, and opposes abortion as well?

One problem with this is that Coyne simply assumes that arguments for a First Cause fail to explain why such a cause would have to have the various divine attributes, such as omnipotence, omniscience, perfect goodness, and all the rest.  And that is simply false.  All the writers I’ve alluded to give arguments that claim to show that such a cause must have various attributes like these, and I have given such arguments myself in many places.  (Again, see my book Aquinas, for example.)  Coyne offers no reply at all to such arguments, because he is so extremely ignorant of the ideas he is dismissing that he is unaware that the arguments even exist.  Second, what on earth do abortion, eternal damnation, etc. have to do with the question of whether a First Cause argument works?  Suppose someone proves that there is a First Cause who is omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, etc. but does not prove that this First Cause sends anyone to hell or commands us not to have abortions.  How exactly would this fail to constitute a refutation of atheism?  Atheism, after all, is not merely the thesis that there is no God who damns people eternally or forbids abortion.  Atheism is the thesis that there is no God at all.  So, to prove that there exists a God of some sort suffices to disprove atheism, even if it does not suffice to prove the truth of some particular religion.

Furthermore, it is quite ridiculous to pretend that any argument for the existence of God has, all by itself, to prove absolutely everything that some particular religion has to say.  That’s like saying that we shouldn’t accept Darwinian arguments unless they somehow establish the truth of (say) quantum mechanics.  Why on earth should anyone suppose that Darwinian arguments should prove that, since they are not even concerned in the first place with the phenomena addressed by quantum theory?  And in the same way, why on earth should anyone suppose that a successful First Cause argument should tell us something about abortion, when that isn’t the sort of issue a First Cause argument is addressing in the first place?  (And of course, opponents of abortion, and defenders of the claim that there is such a thing as eternal damnation, have other arguments for these claims.  They aren’t trying to do everything when giving a First Cause argument, but are merely addressing one specific issue, namely the existence of God.)

Coyne misses the point yet again when, in response to my claim that arguments for God’s existence begin with what science assumes, he writes: “As far as ‘laws governing the world,’ well, that’s a result of science, not an assumption.”  Well, yes, the claim that the laws of quantum mechanics (say) govern the world is a result of science, not an assumption.  But I wasn’t denying that.  The point is rather that when we ask questions like “Why is the world governed by any laws at all rather than no laws?” or “What exactly is it for something to be a law of nature?  Is a law of nature a mere regularity?  Is it something like a Platonic Form, in which physical things participate?  Is it a shorthand description of the way a physical object will operate given its essence?” -- when we ask questions like that, we are asking philosophical or metaphysical questions rather than scientific questions.  And those, rather than scientific questions, are the sorts of questions that the main traditional arguments for God’s existence start with. 

Finally there is Coyne’s remark that:

For a response to the “Uncaused Cause” argument, and the outmoded notion of Aristotelian causality in modern physics, I refer you to the writings of Sean Carroll… and Carroll’s debate with Feser here.

What can one say to that?  Well, first, since whether “Aristotelian causality” really is “outmoded” is, of course, precisely part of what is at issue between Coyne and me, this remark simply begs the question.  (And I have written a whole book showing not only that the Aristotelian analysis of causality is not outmoded, but that many contemporary thinkers with no theological or Thomistic axe to grind are returning to it.)  Second, I replied to Carroll’s (very poor) arguments in a post over a year ago.  Third, I was quite surprised to hear that I had once debated Carroll, since to my knowledge I never have.  But if you click on the link Coyne himself provides, you’ll see that it wasn’t me that Carroll debated, but rather William Lane Craig.

So, not only does Coyne not bother to read books and articles of his opponents before commenting on them, it seems he doesn’t even bother to read web pages before linking to and summarizing them.

But hey, don’t let any of the overwhelming evidence of his actual record as a critic of theology lead you to conclude that Coyne is not in fact very Rational, Evidence-Based, etc.  He’s a New Atheist, after all, so he simply must be all those wonderful things.  Take it on faith! 

[For some previous journeys in the Coyne Clown Car, see “The pointlessness of Jerry Coyne” and “Jerry-built atheism.”]

126 comments:

Greg said...

Krauss quotes Caroll:

Granted, it is always nice to be able to provide reasons why something is the case. Most scientists, however, suspect that the search for ultimate explanations eventually terminates in some final theory of the world, along with the phrase “and that’s just how it is.”

If that's where the scientists would stop, you better stop there too.

mark said...

The Last Kkrul!

Edward Feser said...

Mark, you're my kinda guy!

Jinzang said...

Indeed. Why bother with all that dusty old philosophy? You should just accept that’s just how it is!

Taylor Weaver said...

Ed, I want to thank you for being discerning with what you allow on here. Sometimes people appear as trolls, And may be, such as Santi or the recent Charlie. You allow the possible problems associated with letting them post and clog up the combox.

Thankfully, you don't allow the rather tasteless last few sexually explicit and puerile posts to stay up long. Not only are they offensive, they are childish and show a lack of ability to read or rationally discuss philosophy, science, theology, or any other important topic/discipline.

Taylor Weaver said...

It's funny how gnu atheists like to misapply the God of the gaps argument onto people like, say, Feser; subsequently the charge is that theologians and philosophers (after applying s strawman) are intellectually lazy. And, yet, stopping inquiry after a supposed theory of everything and resting on 'well, that's just how it is' seems pretty damned lazy to me.

Edward Feser said...

Hello Taylor,

The guy in question is a complete lunatic who has, for years, shown up every few months to post that childish stuff despite knowing that it will be deleted. It would be tempting to leave it up just to show where the minds of some New Atheist types are at, but the trouble is that some people will be tempted to respond to it rather than ignore it, and before you know it an entire thread will be made unreadable. And of course, leaving even just the occasional post from this idiot up is like leaving dog crap lying around in the yard. It's an eyesore that's better removed.

By contrast, the other people you refer to at least try to respond to their opponents with some kind of argument rather than merely hurling puerile abuse. Granted, the arguments are typically abysmal, but that's no reason to take them down. I like to allow a pretty freewheeling exchange of ideas and leave it to readers to decide who is worth having an exchange with.

Taylor Weaver said...

And apparently are also childish enough to try to cyber bullying other commenters. The asshat is apparently trying to troll my Google+ account by posting the same sort of stuff on comments I have left on YouTube. Oh well. These types seem to get their jollies by leaving shit all over the place. Perhaps some day they will mature, but probably not.

Ben Goren said...

Professor Feser, I'll admit I haven't read your entire response to Jerry here. It's quit long, even for long form blog posts.

But that's okay...for the same reason that I wouldn't need to read an entire screed published by somebody promoting a geocentric model of the Universe with a flat Earth.

You see, citing Aristotle's reasoning for why there must be a prime mover has no more bearing on reality than an objection that the Earth can't possibly be spherical because people in Australia don't fall down into the Abyss.

Aristotle knew nothing of Newton, for starters; his whole premise that things required a mover to move them rests on the assumption that, as soon as you stop pushing on something, it stops moving. Ergo, you need a Prime Mover that Moves all the other little movers, or else everything comes screeching to an halt. And his further justification was the well-known ancient abhorrence of the concept of infinity; he couldn't abide the thought of an infinite regress, so he demanded the special pleading that no Super Mover was necessary to Move the Prime Mover. But Aristotle was also working with a number system that had neither zero nor negative numbers, and the working assumption of the day was that it was only a matter of time before somebody would figure out what whole number ratio represented that of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.

Ever since Newton, the entire concept of causality has been thrown into question, and it's been rendered utterly irrelevant by Twentieth Century physics. There isn't any cause that effects a particular radioactive atom to decay at a particular moment in time or for some particle to spontaneously manifest out of the quantum vacuum; it just happens, for no reason whatsoever. And Einstein's famous theory? Relativity? The whole point of Relativity is that two observers in two different inertial frames will see causality swapped in various circumstances -- the person on the left will say that A caused B, but the person on the right will say that B caused A, and both people are right. And, as I mentioned, the mathematical concepts that Aristotle was desperately avoiding are now standard fare for grade school.

I'm sorry that, for whatever reason, you're so caught up in truly primitive baseless superstition that you can't grasp these very elemental facts about reality. But can you blame the rest of us for dismissing out of hand your insistence that the Earth can't possibly be spherical because of Australia?

Cheers,

b&

Edward Feser said...

Professor Feser, I'll admit I haven't read your entire response to Jerry here. It's quit long, even for long form blog posts.

But... [Ill-informed, question begging rant ensues]


Hmm, why do I suddenly miss the obscene troll guy?

Dennis said...

I'm quite astounded by how philosophically unaware or glib both Krauss and Coyne are, and they make no amends whatsoever. Dr. Feser, do you ever intend to write about underdetermination? If you've already written on the different kinds of underdetermination, please let me know where I can find the material.

@Ben Goren

Professor Feser, I'll admit I haven't read your entire response to Jerry here. It's quit long, even for long form blog posts.

Well, the rest of us have to work the old fashioned way before we can say something about a person's blog post/work. By actually reading them.

Ever since Newton, the entire concept of causality has been thrown into question, and it's been rendered utterly irrelevant by Twentieth Century physics.

That's one claim, I'm not sure how it's been rendered irrelevant by 20th century physics. Maybe you think it is, but it's unclear to me.

And Einstein's famous theory? Relativity? The whole point of Relativity is that two observers in two different inertial frames will see causality swapped in various circumstances -- the person on the left will say that A caused B, but the person on the right will say that B caused A, and both people are right.

Nothing you've said here has disproved causation, or rendered it useless, you have be to more explicit than that. There are many ways of interpreting Einstein's theory of relativity, and the reason Einstein's able to mark out absolute space, time and distance, is because of his verificationism. That is, because you cannot measure absolute motion, distance and time, there's no such thing. And if physics for the point of matter, says, "Well, it can't do anything more than that." Then it's not the end of the topic, and it's beyond physics. But again, I fail to see how anything you say disproves the notion of a cause.

Greg said...

But can you blame the rest of us for dismissing out of hand your insistence that the Earth can't possibly be spherical because of Australia?

What's impressive to me is that people whose arguments are just so good feel the need to make up their opponent's arguments too.

Billy said...

"There isn't any cause that effects a particular radioactive atom to decay at a particular moment in time or for some particle to spontaneously manifest out of the quantum vacuum; it just happens, for no reason whatsoever. "

You have said this as though it is just obvious that there is no reason whatsoever, and you seem to think it is just fine that there is no reason whatsoever. Sure, the existence of brute facts is something to consider, but then if at bottom, all events merely occur for no reason, then science breaks down. If an event occurs for with reason, then why is it that science allows us to predict events? If it's all just random events at bottom, then the regularity of events that science depends on breaks down.

Ben Goren said...

Well, I see it's all-or-nothing with you. Very well; I'll leave you with this.

So long as you base your cosmology on theories that were state-of-the-art two and an half millennia ago, you're going to be the laughingstock of the intellectual community. Every argument in favor of some sort of First Cause relies on pre-scientific superstitions of causality -- superstitions that were mostly put to rest by Newton and that simply can't even be coherently expressed in modern scientific terms. Primal causality really is as incomprehensible in modernity as Flat Earth geocentricism, and for many of the same reasons. That's why nobody takes you seriously or bothers with in-depth point-by-point rebuttals; you're out there in la-la land ranting something incoherent about what sorts of oceans the giant turtles would have to swim in to hold up a spherical Earth when the rest of us are passing around YouTube videos of aurorae viewed from the ISS.

If you wish for people to stop pointing and laughing at you -- and I really hope you do -- then you'd do well to start with the basics...such as why Newton was right and Aristotle was worng.

Cheers,

b&

jmhenry said...

Coyne: To Feser, the existence of the natural world is itself evidence for God, for he keeps insisting that that world had to have a beginning, and if that beginning was the Big Bang, or even if the Big Bang had a natural origin and there are universes that spawn other universes, well, those, too must have a causal chain that, in the end terminates in God.

When I read that, I thought to myself: Well, of course, Feser has never argued anything of the sort. But it does kinda, sorta sound like William Lane Craig's argument. So I'm going to be charitable and assume that Coyne just got Feser and Craig mixed up.

And then I got to the part where Coyne linked to the Youtube video that he thought Feser was in, but it was actually Craig. Guess I was right.

RM said...

I could be wrong, but I think experiments have produced variations in rates of decay, strongly suggesting causation of at least some sort.

Greg said...

@ RM

I could be wrong, but I think experiments have produced variations in rates of decay, strongly suggesting causation of at least some sort.

I don't think this is the case, depending on what you mean. IOW, I believe that (say) Carbon-14 decays at the same rate all the time, in whatever environment.

Of course, Carbon-14 decays at a different rate than Uranium.

The latter fact does, in my view, suggest some sort of causation (even if not determination). For why would decay rates be regular and predictable if they were literally groundless and inexplicable?

Bharat said...

Sometimes I wonder how blog posts like Coyne's don't constitute a huge embarrassment for the author. For those that write for a living, there at least seems to be a plausible explanation for an author's lack of understanding of what he is discussing: perhaps he has to produce a certain # of articles per week and the demands are too much for him to meet in a manner that does justice to his opponent's arguments. But for the voluntary blog author, it seems to be far worse. Out of sheer unwillingness, they continue to remain ignorant and act as authorities on subjects they know relatively nothing about. In either case, however, Coyne should be embarrassed so that he actually has the motivation to go learn the arguments of those he disagrees with - or otherwise, cease discussing the subject entirely.

Greg said...

Sometimes I wonder how blog posts like Coyne's don't constitute a huge embarrassment for the author.

Shamelessness and ignorance. He doesn't know what he doesn't know.

Anonymous said...

Ok, these gnu clowns such as Krauss and Coyne have to be paid to act this stupid and ignorant. I mean how else do you explain them making the same mistakes over and over again for years know? It was funny at first, but now this is just sad. I can't believe people actually look up to these fools(granted these "people" are just other internet gnus but still)

Greg said...

For why would decay rates be regular and predictable if they were literally groundless and inexplicable?

What I mean here is just that decay rates depend on what's decaying.

So you can actually level the following objection to an interpretation of radioactive decay according to which it's uncaused: If that is how one has chosen to describe it, then one has not shown that there's any reason to describe it as radioactive decay.

What I mean might be a bit clearer with regard to the claim that there is no cause when "some particle spontaneously manifest[s] out of the quantum vacuum." If people really thought this occurred without cause, they would not say that the particle came out of the quantum vacuum. Rather (I take it), they'd just say that the particle just appeared. Why should a quantum vacuum be interpreted as a necessary condition here?

The Frenchman said...

Ben,


What about actually reading the argument, getting to know the ancient world, and THEN commenting on the argument and the ancient world ?


Cheers, and thanks,

A.J.

The Frenchman said...

New Atheist logic :


1/ Whatever the argument that's gonna be presented, it's gonna be lame as ****.

2/ Therefore, i'm not listening to it.

Feser presents his arguments while the N. A. sleeps.

3/ *Waking up* : N. A. goes back to 1 and 2.

The Frenchman said...

4/ Criticizes the BITS of sentences he heard or completely imagined (because you know... Were these sentences only part of his dream ? N. A. cannot tell).

verbosestoic said...

Ben Goren,

Aristotle knew nothing of Newton, for starters; his whole premise that things required a mover to move them rests on the assumption that, as soon as you stop pushing on something, it stops moving. Ergo, you need a Prime Mover that Moves all the other little movers, or else everything comes screeching to an halt.

Even if this was the thrust of Aristotle's argument -- and I strongly suspect it ISN'T -- Newton wouldn't in any way refute that. The argument would essentially be this:

A - Aristotle assumes that if there wasn't some sort of Prime Mover, everything would just grind to a halt if we stopped pushing on it. But look! We've found empirically that when you push on something, it keeps moving until we push on it in another way and doesn't grind to a halt! How do you explain that, huh, huh?

B - That there's a Prime Mover who keeps pushing on it so that it DOESN'T grind to a halt?

All Newton did there was turn into a law the same empirical observations that you claim Aristotle relies on. He doesn't do anything to overturn the idea that a Prime Mover under YOUR definition would be necessary, let alone the sort of Prime Mover that Aristotle is ACTUALLY talking about.

. And Einstein's famous theory? Relativity? The whole point of Relativity is that two observers in two different inertial frames will see causality swapped in various circumstances -- the person on the left will say that A caused B, but the person on the right will say that B caused A, and both people are right.

This assumes a specific concept of cause, likely one related to time (ie A causes B if A and B occur together and A precedes B). That's not the concept of cause as Aristotle understands it. You can't start from a different concept of cause and say that if we assume that that concept of cause is the correct one then Aristotle's concept of cause is wrong and outdated, as that would be you assuming your conclusion: Aristotle's concept of cause is wrong because his concept is wrong as this one is right. In the post you didn't read, it is made clear that Ed understands that the Aristotlean concept is not the one that others are using, but as he has said in many other posts he thinks that the Aristotlean concept is actually SUPERIOR to the others in many respects. Thus, if you want to be scientific about that, you need to be able to show why what he thinks are benefits of that concept of causation aren't, and that yours is superior. Please, do so.

grodrigues said...

Ben Goren is the empirical proof of the incongruous theory of humor. On the one hand we have smug, condescending superiority, on the other inane, ignorant prattle. Incongruence ensues, hilarity follows.

TheOFloinn said...

The whole point of Relativity is that two observers in two different inertial frames will see causality swapped in various circumstances

Ho ho! Mr. Goren jests. He is a trumpet-player, photographer, and website designer whose knowledge of quantum mechanics and relativity is likely to lie at the same basic fanboy level that most of us have to struggle with.

The principle of relativity was given by Witelo back in the 14th century and used by Oresme to show that the apparent motion of the stars was not conclusive evidence that the stars moved. And as for Newton, did not Aristotle (and after him Aquinas) state that when one thing pushes another, the other thing pushes back -- until you get to something that pushes without being pushed. Certainly, Jean Buridan pointed out that when a mover imparts an impetus (we would say "momentum") to a body, that impetus being permanent, the body would retain the momentum until a contrary impetus would cause the motion to decay or change course. Newton did not spring pristine from the brow of Zeus.

In any case, relativity of observations does not reverse causality, it only reverses the order in which we discern the cause and the effect. And unless one accepts the Humean account that sequence is all we have and everything is simply correlation instead, that is not the same thing. But if correlation were the case, how could we effect the same outcomes by deliberation in, say, atomic piles or lasers? (laser = "light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation." Surely the neutron bombardments or the stimulations amount to causes!) A closer reading reveals that instead of causation, Mr. Goren is appealing to the unpredictability of an individual emission event. But unpredictable is not the same thing as uncaused. Try predicting when and where natural selection will effect the next new species.

Anonymous said...

"What I don’t understand is how God can just be there, but the universe and its antecedents, or the laws of physics, cannot just be there."

What I don't understand is how ThE uNiVeRsE is supposed to even be a good candidate for something to "just be there", if everyone except pantheists (?) denies that it's even a substance.

David T said...

Coyne seems to really have a bee in his bonnet for the Witherspoon Institute. I slogged through his Faith vs Fact and it's a featured bogeyman there as well.

DNW said...


RE Krauss and honor and truthfulness:

Don't know if this has been addressed before, but for what it is worth ...

I was going to go through my history and try and find the exact YouTube video record of this but I'm a little rushed at the moment: Here is a similar link to a rather disturbing insight into some of these people.

[This site came up from a keyword search, I don't vouch for it in particular. You may find a better link by Googling "Vilenkin Craig and Krauss" or something similar.]

http://winteryknight.com/2013/09/23/william-lane-craig-posts-full-text-of-vilenkin-e-mail-misrepresnted-by-lawrence-krauss/


Hard to believe, Krauss pulled this stunt, and imagined he could get away with it.

Daniel Joachim said...

I actually tried to post the link for this post over at whyevolutionistrue, gently suggesting that the visitors over there could judge for themselves whether their hero Coyne did justice to the previous post.

Needless to say, 20 comments have been approved since then, but not mine. God forbid one should allow people to test their prejudices.

A bit ironic. I have never heard of a link to a rival blog with differing opinions being censored in this dogmatic, authoritative combox.

Instead, we have comments like these appearing all over the place:
This is the usual two-step, as Sam Harris puts it “hiding the ball with the articles of faith,” where the Christian jumps into deist mode as it suits him to do so.

Feser’s God, as we know purportedly DID manifest physically, empirically, and gave empirical evidence. Once you are into the realm of empirical claims, you are on the turf of science, and science is the best way we have of vetting empirical claims. If Feser is going to accept the legitimacy of science as he claims, he can’t have it both ways and hold the ACTUAL GOD he believes in off the table.

So either Feser is willing to give up his belief in the empirical claims for his God and thus Christianity, or he’s going to be seen as playing a disingenuous game.


Followed by a brief response: "Agreed", from Coyne himself.

Taylor Weaver said...

I'm convinced that Coyne can't actually read. Or, at least, not process information that he does read. Or, maybe he has a team of gnu atheists that sit around and summarize blog posts, books, and articles for him in a rather horrible manner.

Chrysostom said...

Ben Guron said,

"Aristotle knew nothing of Newton, for starters; his whole premise that things required a mover to move them rests on the assumption that, as soon as you stop pushing on something, it stops moving. Ergo, you need a Prime Mover that Moves all the other little movers, or else everything comes screeching to an halt. And his further justification was the well-known ancient abhorrence of the concept of infinity; he couldn't abide the thought of an infinite regress, so he demanded the special pleading that no Super Mover was necessary to Move the Prime Mover. But Aristotle was also working with a number system that had neither zero nor negative numbers, and the working assumption of the day was that it was only a matter of time before somebody would figure out what whole number ratio represented that of the circumference of a circle to its diameter."

Here you go idiot: http://faculty.fordham.edu/klima/SMLM/PSMLM10/PSMLM10.pdf

Anonymous said...

"Scientists Should Tell Lawrence Krauss to Shut Up Already"...Honestly with a title like that, there is plenty of emotion to go around.

Moderate Catholic Theolgeans should tell Kim Davis to hold her nose and sign the certificates.

Taylor Weaver said...

Kim Davis isn't a Catholic, so I fail to see why moderate Catholic theologians should he instructing her on practice. Beyond that, I would assume it wouldn't fall to theologians, per se, to instruct a lay person directly.

Legion of Logic said...

To Feser, the existence of the natural world is itself evidence for God, for he keeps insisting that that world had to have a beginning, and if that beginning was the Big Bang, or even if the Big Bang had a natural origin and there are universes that spawn other universes, well, those, too must have a causal chain that, in the end terminates in God.

I'm not well versed in Feser's ideas when he discusses his refutation of this Coyne quote. Could someone recommend a blog post that summarizes Feser's views on the matter? I'm far more familiar with the Craig argument that Coyne is apparently criticizing here.

Vincent Torley said...

Ben Goren writes:

"Ever since Newton, the entire concept of causality has been thrown into question, and it's been rendered utterly irrelevant by Twentieth Century physics."

I wonder if he believes that global warming has a man-made cause.

Dennis said...

I hope this is your return. Welcome back, Vincent!

DNW said...



"You see, citing Aristotle's reasoning for why there must be a prime mover has no more bearing on reality than an objection that the Earth can't possibly be spherical because people in Australia don't fall down into the Abyss.

Aristotle knew nothing of Newton, for starters ..."


Well, he knew the earth was spherical: which at least vitiates, if not renders ludicrous, your inept analogy.

Glenn said...

Legion of Logic,

>> To Feser, the existence of the natural world is itself evidence for God, for he keeps insisting that that world had to have a beginning, and if that beginning was the Big Bang, or even if the Big Bang had a natural origin and there are universes that spawn other universes, well, those, too must have a causal chain that, in the end terminates in God.

> I'm not well versed in Feser's ideas when he discusses his refutation of this Coyne quote. Could someone recommend a blog post that summarizes Feser's views on the matter? I'm far more familiar with the Craig argument that Coyne is apparently criticizing here.


In the paragraph after the first Coyne quote following the one you requite above, you will find a link to a post with a slew of relevant links -- the first of which is to "So you think you understand the cosmological argument?", from which the following is excerpted:

- - - - -
3. “Why assume that the universe had a beginning?” is not a serious objection to the argument.

The reason this is not a serious objection is that no version of the cosmological argument assumes this at all. Of course, the kalām cosmological argument does claim that the universe had a beginning, but it doesn’t merely assume it. Rather, the whole point of that version of the cosmological argument is to establish through detailed argument that the universe must have had a beginning. You can try to rebut those arguments, but to pretend that one can dismiss the argument merely by raising the possibility of an infinite series of universes (say) is to miss the whole point.

The main reason this is a bad objection, though, is that most versions of the cosmological argument do not even claim that the universe had a beginning. Aristotelian, Neo-Platonic, Thomistic, and Leibnizian cosmological arguments are all concerned to show that there must be an uncaused cause even if the universe has always existed. Of course, Aquinas did believe that the world had a beginning, but (as all Aquinas scholars know) that is not a claim that plays any role in his versions of the cosmological argument. When he argues there that there must be a First Cause, he doesn’t mean “first” in the order of events extending backwards into the past. What he means is that there must be a most fundamental cause of things which keeps them in existence at every moment, whether or not the series of moments extends backwards into the past without a beginning.

In fact, Aquinas rather famously rejected what is now known as the kalām argument. He did not think that the claim that the universe had a beginning could be established through philosophical arguments. He thought it could be known only via divine revelation, and thus was not suitable for use in trying to establish God’s existence. (Here, by the way, is another basic test of competence to speak on this subject. Any critic of the Five Ways who claims that Aquinas was trying to show that the universe had a beginning and that God caused that beginning – as Richard Dawkins does in his comments on the Third Way in The God Delusion – infallibly demonstrates thereby that he simply doesn’t know what he is talking about.)
- - - - -

DavidM said...

jmhenry wrote: "...And then I got to the part where Coyne linked to the Youtube video that he thought Feser was in, but it was actually Craig. Guess I was right."
Ah, the comedy of errors! Too funny. Poor Coyne - if only Craig and Feser didn't so resemble one another.

DavidM said...

General question:
I've been trying to read Feser's Public Discourse article for several days, but I've been unable to connect to the website from my public university work station. I connected this morning from home with no problem, but again, at the university I can't connect. Is anybody else having problems with thepublicdiscourse.com lately?

Legion of Logic said...

Glenn,

Thank you very much. It finally clicked in my head what the difference was, and the rationale behind contingency and necessity. God being sustaining and necessary, rather than there having to be a chain of events leading from Earth to God. The universe being caused by its nature of being contingent, rather than being caused due to a necessary beginning point on a timeline. That's actually a far more eloquent (and elegant) argument than what I have employed.

Again, thank you very much!

James Chastek said...

Ben Goren,

[Aristotle's] whole premise that things required a mover to move them rests on the assumption that, as soon as you stop pushing on something, it stops moving. Ergo, you need a Prime Mover that Moves all the other little movers, or else everything comes screeching to an halt

You're on to something here, but as stated the premise is false and the conclusion doesn't follow. Aristotle didn't think there was anything outside of fire that was pushing it up or outside of heavy things pushing them down, but he still thought their motion was caused by a first mover (read it for yourself in Physics VIII.4). And even if one denies that an extrinsic mover is necessary for the continuance of motion, it doesn't follow that one is not need for its initiation, as Newton himself insisted. This is why Newton thought he needed a god - a First Mover - to account for the initial conditions of the solar system.

Anonymous said...

Taylor Weaver,
"Kim Davis isn't a Catholic, so I fail to see why moderate Catholic theologians should he instructing her on practice. Beyond that, I would assume it wouldn't fall to theologians, per se, to instruct a lay person directly."

Well if Feser instructs scientists to tell Krauss to "shut up" because Krauss is a militant atheist, why not have moderate theologeans (moral thinkers) tell Kim Davis to "cool it","tolerate it" etc.

These debates with their extremes are great because they underscore the points perfectly. As a thinker, I appreciate both sides in the debate. As a scientist, Krauss is discounting religion when it comes to the pure pursuit of scince in fields like cosmology. As far as medicine and fetal tissue research, I appreciate the religious side.

Atheists also poop the bed when they cite Galileo, Bruno, Copernicus etc. and the "intolerance" of the church. In "those days" few people were literate or advanced enough in their thinking to appreciate those ideas except for scholars in the church. Those later institutions centuries later which housed the great "atheist, rationalist etc." scholars that atheists always cite were founded by religious scholars and thinkers.

What is always missing from these debates is historical perspective and where the church fits into the moral advancement and advancement of human civilization.

Even Bill Maher who is a media darling for atheists, went "deer in the headlights" when Neil de Grasse Tyson was talking quantum reality to him during last Friday's show. To me the quantum reality fits the historical arguments for existense. The moral arguments still need to be brought up to date. Which explains a lot of these bantering arguments that Krauss, Coyne, Feser and others are engaging in these days.

Yves Vannes said...

EF, please don't descend to JC's level of petty meaningless arguments, or in this case in taking them seriously...

He is capable of better reasoning as he has demonstrated elsewhere.

The entire point of his little missive was to provide cover for the undergraduate amaturism of LK.

The intended audience is his lap dog thoughtless subscribers who frame their philosophical views upon what they are spoon fed through the various outlets of pop culture.

Addressing that mob is futile and foolish. Descending to their level is to become as petty and as dissipated as they, again and again, prove themselves to be.

TheOFloinn said...

To Feser, the existence of the natural world is itself evidence for God, for he keeps insisting that that world had to have a beginning

I'm not well versed in Feser's ideas when he discusses his refutation of this Coyne quote.

The arguments that I have seen Feser defend do not require the universe to have had a beginning. In fact, Aristotle believed that the world was eternal and Aquinas, having no philosophical proof otherwise, assumed that it was so. (He regarded it as illegitimate to cite revelation to settle a philosophical question.)

Greg said...

I answer that, By faith alone do we hold, and by no demonstration can it be proved, that the world did not always exist, as was said above of the mystery of the Trinity (32, 1). The reason of this is that the newness of the world cannot be demonstrated on the part of the world itself. For the principle of demonstration is the essence of a thing. Now everything according to its species is abstracted from "here" and "now"; whence it is said that universals are everywhere and always. Hence it cannot be demonstrated that man, or heaven, or a stone were not always. Likewise neither can it be demonstrated on the part of the efficient cause, which acts by will. For the will of God cannot be investigated by reason, except as regards those things which God must will of necessity; and what He wills about creatures is not among these, as was said above (Question 19, Article 3). But the divine will can be manifested by revelation, on which faith rests. Hence that the world began to exist is an object of faith, but not of demonstration or science. And it is useful to consider this, lest anyone, presuming to demonstrate what is of faith, should bring forward reasons that are not cogent, so as to give occasion to unbelievers to laugh, thinking that on such grounds we believe things that are of faith.

The Frenchman said...

I know it definitely isn't about that precise topic of discussion, but... Could someone, any one, tell me where to find a defense of the Teleological Argument ? (The one formulated by Aquinas, of course... Spare me Paley !)

Because there's something amiss in my reasoning : Aquinas seems, to me, in his Teleological Argument, to make a generalization of absolutely every thing that doesn't have knowledge within the universe... From earthly things only.


But i do not fail to realize that Aquinas was an intelligent man !

And that, therefore, the Doctor would have probably noticed that by himself !


Still, he considered the argument as a good one.

Therefore, there... Probably is something i must fail to realize.


Thank you all,

A. J.

The Frenchman said...

Oh, and of course, i'll buy professor Feser's Aquinas as well as The Last Superstition.


I'm just impatient to get to know the argument better, i guess.


I've found only one source on the internet, that actually defends that argument (all the other sources, seem to talk about Paley's Design Argument, they mix up the two, that's a real pity...)

Therefore... I need some help.

George LeSauvage said...

@ The Frenchman (from a descendant of your countrymen):

You will find the discussion of St T's 5th Way in Feser's Aquinas. Your objection isn't really relevant; it concerns final causality in substances with no will or intellect, and would, as Ed points out, hold if there were merely 2 particles orbiting each other. Like the others, it is based on the premise that some things behave so, not that all things do.

The Frenchman said...

Oh... Well, thank you very much !

I KNEW i was missing or misunderstanding something.


And so... Where exactly are your French ancestors from, in France ? :O

I'm curious and i might very well live not too far from there ; who knows ?


Next step : Aquinas.

Daniel said...

For a good discussion of different understandings of teleology it might be worth your while checking out Ed's article, Teleology: A Shopper's Guide.

http://www.epsociety.org/library/articles.asp?pid=81

(God, I miss having the forum's auto-wrap-round coding tech - html linkage is not a fun business)

The Frenchman said...

Thank you very much for that new source !


Have a nice day or night ! (As i obviously don't know what time it is in the US).


The Frenchman.

Daniel said...

Because there's something amiss in my reasoning : Aquinas seems, to me, in his Teleological Argument, to make a generalization of absolutely every thing that doesn't have knowledge within the universe... From earthly things only.

That doesn't matter as what Thomas is really relying on is the notion of Dispositional Properties e.g. brittleness, and if the background ontology and philosophy of nature holds then there are no non-Divine, or at least no material, objects which lack said properties.

Curio said...

Coyne's behavior can only be described as bizarre. How this man got to teach a course in anything is completely beyond me.

Chris Kirk said...

Dr. Feser;

Why should we even bother with Coyne, or Krauss, or Tyson? I admit, for this week at least I'm, um, a skeptic-opponent skeptic: I'm unsure of the value of opposing what *seems* to me as the educated version of a tweet. (Or, as Mom says in *Futurama*'s app "Twitcher", "Ah, here's a Twit now.")

Take Tyson's noxious re-boot of *Cosmos*; it made its splash and now is as the grass, cast into the furnace of That Was Yesterday. Much of this stuff seems ephemeral; too ephemeral to worry about. Nobody can *really* believe that Krauss is correct that scientific practice is atheistic, because no scientist really thinks that way, especially the large proportion of religious scientists. Certainly Krauss' bizarre personal definition of 'atheist practice' in science is any working scientist's common view either of atheism or scientific practice.

I ask this partly as an instructor and someone interested in popular science.

Chris Kirk Speaks

Scott said...

I know I'll have cause to write this many more times, but that shouldn't stop me from saying it now:

As an atheist, I apologize for Jerry Coyne and Lawrence Krauss.

And Dawkins.

And P. Z. Myers.

Scott said...

Oh, no, there are two of us. Hi, other Scott. ;-)

Timotheos said...

@ The Frenchman

I've always liked Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange's treatment of the fifth way in his God: His Existence and Nature. Actually, the book does a good job on the other four ways as well.

Here's the link:
https://archive.org/stream/Garrigou-LagrangeEnglish/God_%20His%20Existence%20and%20His%20Nature%20%28vol.%201%29%20-%20Garrigou-Lagrange%2C%20Reginald%2C%20O.P_#page/n179/mode/2up

P.S. Since Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange was French, and that was the language this book was originally written in, I wouldn't be surprised if you could find a copy in French if you looked around at a couple of your local libraries.

Edward Feser said...

In fairness to Ben Goren, I should call attention to a follow-up comment from him that was stuck in the spam filter for most of the day, and which I only just now noticed and let through. (Scroll way up to the post from Oct 4 at 7:52pm.)

Notice that, for some bizarre reason, Ben Goren thinks that I base my position on Aristotelian scientific ideas that were superseded by Newton. Of course, anyone who has actually bothered to read my stuff knows that that is not the case, and that the relationship between Aristotle and Newton is in fact a topic I have addressed at length in various places (e.g. in the Aquinas book, in my article "Motion in Aristotle, Newton, and Einstein," etc.) And indeed, anyone even just capable of elementary logical reasoning knows that to agree with some things that Aristotle said does not entail agreeing with everything Aristotle said.

But Ben Goren, by his own admission, has not bothered to read even the original post above, let alone anything else I have written. And since he draws precisely the fallacious inference just described, he bases his entire criticism of my views on the false assumption that I reject Newton -- an assumption he could easily find out to be false if only he'd bother reading the things he thinks he has no need to read!

Oh, and then he adds that I ought to worry about being a "laughingstock" etc.

Really, Ben Goren, is some Christian outfit somewhere paying you to try to make atheists look like complete idiots?

George LeSauvage said...

@The Frenchman:

Dad's family (LeSauvage and Robin are the last names I know of) was actually from Guernsey, which is not really France, I know. Mom's French ancestors were from Besancon and Dijon. Named Jaquetot & some others I don't recall. (There's also a bunch of Scots mixed in - auld alliance I guess.)

Greg said...

@ Ben Goren

Every argument in favor of some sort of First Cause relies on pre-scientific superstitions of causality -- superstitions that were mostly put to rest by Newton and that simply can't even be coherently expressed in modern scientific terms.

What's impressive about you, Ben, is that you fancy yourself qualified to speak about "every" argument for a First Cause, despite professing that you have no need to look at them.

It's a bold move to make universally quantified claims about topics you self-consciously decline to learn anything about.

But I guess it's just "all or nothing" with me, isn't it?

TheOFloinn said...

As long as we're talking French... My dad's grandfather, Fernand Ernst Octave Cantrel, was born in Quoeux, Pas-de-Calais, near the Belgian border.

Nemo said...

Ben Goren is not correct about what relativity says. He says:

The whole point of Relativity is that two observers in two different inertial frames will see causality swapped in various circumstances -- the person on the left will say that A caused B, but the person on the right will say that B caused A, and both people are right.

This is not what special relativity says. Yes, there are events A and B such that in one inertial reference frame the time coordinate of A is less than the time coordinate of B, and in another inertial reference frame the time coordinate of B is less than the time coordinate of A. But this can only happen if A and B are separated by a space-like interval, which means that no signal from A could reach B or vice-versa, in which case A cannot cause B and B cannot cause A.

The Frenchman said...

Nice French origins, ya'll ! Especially Dijon ! Lord, THAT's a hell of a beautiful city.


I love the way Feser always answers his criticisms with such a surgical precision, by the way.
Always so precise...
Is that what we call "analytic philosophy" ?

The Frenchman said...

I'm pretty sure it is...

Daniel Joachim said...

""Is that what we call "analytic philosophy"?"

Not really. The word "analytic philosophy" historically has somewhat specific connotations, even though there exist some analytic thomists, such as John Haldane. :)
http://www.iep.utm.edu/analytic/

Super Coyne Fan said...

Nyah nyah na nyah nyah! Got my fingers in my ears! Can't hear you!

Daddy says yer wrong!! An' all my friends think yer stupid!!

(Runs back to tree house)

The Frenchman said...

Oh, ok.


I thought the definition was something like "finding the exact mistakes (either 'hidden' or 'obvious') in any one's reasoning (including your own reasonings ofc), using philosophical tools".

Which enables one to learn from his / her mistakes, thus becoming better at philosophy (in the end).


But i'll check your link out, thank you !


Super Coyne's, you ok m8 ?

Taylor Weaver said...

I like your style, brah.

The Frenchman said...

Why are you always deleting your comments, brah ? ^^

Taylor Weaver said...

For some strange reason it keeps on posting duplicates.

The Frenchman said...

Well that's rather weird...

Ah... Can't wait to buy Aquinas.

T'sinadree said...

I hope this is relevant to the discussion. For those who might be interested, a new book by Roger Trigg discussing science and metaphysics will be released soon:

Trigg, Roger. Beyond Matter: Why Science Needs Metaphysics. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press, 2015. https://www.templetonpress.org/book/beyond-matter.

Daniel Joachim said...

@Frenchman
"I thought the definition was something like "finding the exact mistakes (either 'hidden' or 'obvious') in any one's reasoning (including your own reasonings ofc), using philosophical tools"."

I think what you might have in mind, is just...logic. ;)

Tyrrell McAllister said...

The whole point of Relativity is that two observers in two different inertial frames will see causality swapped in various circumstances -- the person on the left will say that A caused B, but the person on the right will say that B caused A

This is false. As Nemo pointed out, Relativity doesn't say that.

In Relativity, all observers agree about whether B is inside of A's future light cone. If A caused B, then all observers agree that it did. If A didn't cause B, then all observers agree that it didn't.

As Nemo said, some pairs of events have no direct causal relation. These are the events whose separation is "space-like". Let X and Y be such pair. Neither event lies in the other's light-cone. Neither event contributed to causing the other. Now, it is possible for two observers to disagree about whether X or Y happened first. But this is not a disagreement about which caused the other, because all observers agree that neither caused the other.

The Deuce said...

Didn't Coyne once claim he had read The Last Superstition? Even if he'd just skimmed it, he'd have to know more about Ed's views than he does. It's pretty obvious at this point that he was just straight up lying.

Anonymous said...

Ben Goren both here and in the WEIT combox and (amazingly) as a guest poster seems to confuse the abundant usage of adjectives with coherent arguments. Though he claims to be a real individual I am convinced he is simply the post-modern essay generator come to life:


http://www.elsewhere.org/journal/pomo/

hektikpecs said...

Why does Coyne even bother? how can be serious here?


Some of the things he says are so bizarre they beggar belief. Such as saying Feser debated Carroll, when everyone knows it was Craig.

Omer said...

"Well, yes, the claim that the laws of quantum mechanics (say) govern the world is a result of science, not an assumption. But I wasn’t denying that. The point is rather that when we ask questions like “Why is the world governed by any laws at all rather than no laws?” or “What exactly is it for something to be a law of nature? Is a law of nature a mere regularity? Is it something like a Platonic Form, in which physical things participate? Is it a shorthand description of the way a physical object will operate given its essence?” -- when we ask questions like that, we are asking philosophical or metaphysical questions rather than scientific questions."

As usual, another must read post by Professor Feser regarding presumptions of New Atheists like Coyne.

I would also add that science does not explain by one iota why one specific set of laws operate in the universe rather than another set of laws.

The Frenchman said...

Daniel Joachim,


Well... Yeah.

That's probably just "logic" indeed ^^


Omer,

I'm no scientist... But i think you definitely got something, here.

It seems indeed pretty obvious, that science doesn't explain this.

Chris Kirk said...

I *was* a scientist and science teacher in my original field (though truth in advertising, a very small cog in the machine), and I suspect a lot of the trouble with a lot of physical scientists who talk philosophy or theology is that they are used to perceiving rather than reasoning. I used to be able to look at a NMR trace and 'see' the long-range coupling; I used to be able to 'read' an IR spectrum and 'see' the carboxylic acid group. Natural science is about contemplation, and usually our whole experiment is to perceive something. We natter about evidence, but it's more a search for the 'sign' in a technical sense. (Like a plume of smoke that looks just so is a sign of a campfire, and I can just say 'I see a fire on the other side of that hill.)

And so it's tempting for such a type to 'take a look' at a philosophical or theological issue and 'just see' what's wrong, while forgetting such power of sight comes with great experience in a special field, and it doesn't travel well to other fields. I suspect that's what drives the Rumpelstiltkin-like rage of many otherwise intelligent scientists (and people who think like them). "Can't you SEE how stupid you all sound?" they cry. Well, no, it's not about *seeing* at all, in either the narrow or broad sense of the term. But any argumentation looks like mere obscurity of what the poor man can 'see with his own eyes.' IMO.

Many here suggest atheist or anti-theist scientists are lying or dishonest. I have trouble believing that. I doubt even the most egregious examples are outright lying or intellectual dishonesty. When, say, a certain English evolutionary biologist says something outrageous and then tries to pretend to backtrack, even then I think he's just doubling down because well famous people can't be seen to backtrack, what would the world come to? But I'm open to clear examples.

Chris-Kirk

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Krauss,Coyne and co. forgive me for asking this and I feel ashamed to do so but something that Krauss once said a while ago bothers me. He states that if there existed an eternal primordial quantum vacuum which was constantly fluctuating then by chance our universe would arise. If this is the case would the 1st way of Aquinas be refuted in this scenario because if the vacuum was always fluctuating(and since in QM vacuums fluctuate without an external cause, but I do agree that virtual particles are causally dependent on the vacuum to exist and are not uncaused) and the universe randomly appeared then it would appear that the vacuum would be the 1st mover in this sense. More info is here (http://abyss.uoregon.edu/~js/ast123/lectures/lec17.html)

Anonymous said...

Check out these articles:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/search?q=quantum+vacuum+

Cheers,
Daniel

Chris Kirk said...

Anonymous:

An eternal quantum vacuum is something, not nothing.

An eternal quantum vacuum begs for an explanation for its existence.

If you want to say that X just does exist, it's best to come up with an X that is the best candidate for just existing, or needing to exist. The classical God is a much better candidate for a necessary being than the eternal quantum vacuum.

It is quite hard for a lot of people to grasp, but even an eternal being can be caused: not all causes are in a temporal sequence. God is defined (as a theorem if you will) in such a way that He must exist; the quantum vacuum is a poor candidate for being a necessary being.

Chris-Kirk

TheOFloinn said...

would the 1st way of Aquinas be refuted in this scenario because if the vacuum was always fluctuating

Socrates: Tell me, Dionysius, why you keep your hammer in the refrigerator?
Dionysius: I have always kept the hammer in the refrigerator!

Do you suppose Socrates' question to have been answered?

Don't forget: Aquinas assumed that the world was eternal when he made his arguments; and Aristotle believed it was when he first crafted them.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that a QM Vacuum is a necessary being as based on what I've read it can vanish and I do not think it is nothing either, but with regards to the unmoved mover argument I think it does pose some difficulty because if it was past eternal and always fluctuating then it appears there would be no external mover moving it.

George LeSauvage said...

@Chris Kirk:

... the trouble with a lot of physical scientists who talk philosophy or theology is that they are used to perceiving rather than reasoning. I used to be able to look at a NMR trace and 'see' the long-range coupling; I used to be able to 'read' an IR spectrum and 'see' the carboxylic acid group. Natural science is about contemplation, and usually our whole experiment is to perceive something. We natter about evidence, but it's more a search for the 'sign' in a technical sense. (Like a plume of smoke that looks just so is a sign of a campfire, and I can just say 'I see a fire on the other side of that hill.)

And so it's tempting for such a type to 'take a look' at a philosophical or theological issue and 'just see' what's wrong, while forgetting such power of sight comes with great experience in a special field, and it doesn't travel well to other fields. I suspect that's what drives the Rumpelstiltkin-like rage of many otherwise intelligent scientists (and people who think like them). "Can't you SEE how stupid you all sound?" they cry. Well, no, it's not about *seeing* at all, in either the narrow or broad sense of the term. But any argumentation looks like mere obscurity of what the poor man can 'see with his own eyes.' IMO.


I find that a fascinating observation. While it didn't drive me to rage, I do recall when I was a billing-troubleshooter, being frustrated that so many (both above and below my position) were blind to obvious clues as to what was wrong. And I think we all have seen this in our favorite pastimes. (This gap in perception, for instance, leads to many heated arguments at the bridge table.)

However, there are 2 sense of dishonesty here. I agree, I don't think these guys are lying, outright. But there is also the assertion of something as true when one cannot but realize that one doesn't know what one is talking about; "reckless disregard of the truth". And I do think that many, including Coyne, Krauss, and Dawkins seem guilty of this.

TheOFloinn said...

if it was past eternal and always fluctuating then it appears there would be no external mover moving it.

Of course, that's quite an assumption, with Heisenberg, whom we might call "Mr. Quantum Theory," playing tackle:

"[T]he atoms or elementary particles themselves are not real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things or facts."

"[T]he smallest units of matter are not physical objects in the ordinary sense; they are forms, ideas which can be expressed unambiguously only in mathematical language."

That is, these things do not have real existence,but only potential existence. Virtual particles may pop into and out of existence for no reason, but they only do so in mathematical formalism, which makes no room for them. Since causation applies only to real bodies, it is irrelevant what might happen with non-existent potential bodies.

There is further discussion in the Lukacs-Heisenberg discussions, found in Lukacs, The Remembered Past, http://www.amazon.com/Remembered-Past-Historians-Historical-Knowledge/dp/1932236287

Anonymous said...

Dear Ed, while I, as a "thinking" (IMNSHO) atheist/agnostic, have a lot of respect for you and your explanations of Scholasticism, Aquinas, and so on, I've always felt that your style, polemical as it is -- or, hey let's call a spade a spade, you're often downright insulting to my fellow unbelievers -- was unwarranted, unhelpful, and just plain unbecoming of someone clearly as sharp as you are.

But I took the opportunity offered by the links at the top of this post to actually go visit Coyne's website and read his stuff and, more to the point, the comments of his readers -- the phrase "wailing and gnashing of teeth" comes painful to mind -- and Oh how my mind is changed.

I am embarrassed, repentant of my past judging of your tone, and otherwise speechless ... although, let me try to get past that ... at the utter f*cking brain-dead-ness of many of my fellow atheists. How do you not rip out your own eyes to avoid ever again having to look at the incessant, monotonic, sophomoric ranting: "Newton disproved Aquinas", "These days we, unlike Aristotle, understand infinity", "Philosophy has been superseded by Physics"? How do you stay sane when after you say, for the jillionth time, "The Cosmological Argument does not begin with 'Everything has a cause'" you hear the same old reply "Well if everything has a cause, what caused God?"

My bad. No, really. You hereby have my permission to smack them about the head as much as you like. Nay, not permission; I implore, command, and demand it.

The one consolation, for now having seen that which I cannot unsee, is that for sure I have absolute proof that Intelligent Design is hogwash. No intelligence whatsoever could possibly have been involved with the creation of minds capable of such bollox as Coyne's blog-comment groupies.

Klein The Bottle said...

I dislike fanboys and fawning, but:

> Coyne summarizes my response to Krauss as follows: “Feser to Krauss: Shut up because of the Uncaused Cause.”
> That implies that the reason I gave for saying that Krauss should stop mouthing off about philosophy and theology is
> that the cosmological argument for an Uncaused Cause is a successful argument and thus refutes atheism. Hence
> (it is insinuated) if I have failed to show in my article that that argument really does succeed, then I have also
> failed to show that Krauss should stop mouthing off about these subjects.

Sigh. What annoys me most about the above is that it demonstrates that while Feser was able, like me, to spot that Coyne's summary was bogus, Feser, *unlike* me was also able to analyze and then articulate precisely *why* it was bogus.

It is both a joy, and a frustration (because, basically, I'm jealous) to watch a trained philosopher at work, especially when that work involves dispatching a blowhard.

Bravo, Dr. F., bravo! (I hate you :-) )

laubadetriste said...

I wonder whether others may agree, that the observed general warming towards Dr. Feser's style on the part of many commenters, is due more to his having become a better polemicist, than to his having become more gentle, or having been proved correct. When I first read TLS, I was not put off by his tone; rather, I was put off by his mediocre execution of so many promising jokes. I kept thinking to myself things like, "This line would be more forceful if he'd used this other adverb..."

I never think like that these days. And I frequently think to myself, "How extremely stupid not to have thought of that!"

I think Dr. Feser has hit his stride. Soon perhaps he'll deliver a real masterpiece of analysis and bile, like "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses," or like Tynan on Welles: "At this stage of his career, it is absurd to expect Orson Welles to attempt anything less than the impossible. It is all that is left to him. Mere possible things, like Proust or *War and Peace*, would confine him. He must choose *Moby-Dick*, a book whose setting is the open sea, whose hero is more mountain than man and more symbol than either, and whose villain is the supremely unstageable whale. He must take as his raw material Melville’s prose, itself as stormy as the sea it speaks of, with a thousand wrecked metaphors clinging on its surface to frail spars of sense. […] Yet out of all these impossibilities Mr. Welles has fashioned a piece of pure theatrical megalomania--a sustained assault on the senses which dwarfs anything London has seen since, perhaps, the Great Fire.”

Marry sound metaphysics to a style like that, pop some popcorn, crack open a cold one...

Klein The Bottle said...

@laubadetriste:
> ...than to his having become more gentle

This is him *more* gentle!? What was he like before?

laubadetriste said...

:) Why, before he was restrained by Christianity, he was like the Vikings, before they were restrained by Christianity.

I've heard tell of islands far away still scarred by his visitations, where one can see the rubble of telescopes, where periodic tables lie half-buried in the loam, and where in the aisles of great research libraries, methodological naturalists had their conventions violated in a manner horrible to tell...

George LeSauvage said...

Neo-Scholastic Essays and Scholastic Metaphysics just showed up today (along with 2 reprints of mystery stories). Plus, going through a box of books I'd forgotten I had, I found Renard's on Philosophy of Being. A good haul; I'll be busy for a while.

@laubadetriste: You remind me of this exchange:

“Mr Waugh, how you can you say such horrible things, as a Christian?”

“Madam, were it not for my faith I would be scarcely human.”

(And, alas, Welles never did The Whale.)

Anonymous said...

@TheOfloinn
Really? If virtual particles and quantum vacuum are nonexistent bodies then why do people like Krauss try to say that they are uncaused when they say fluctuated to create the universe, and how would you interpret the 1st way in regards to a Quantum Vacuum since it looks like you know physics pretty well.

laubadetriste said...

@George LeSauvage: "You remind me of this exchange: 'Mr Waugh, how you can you say such horrible things, as a Christian?'/'Madam, were it not for my faith I would be scarcely human.'"

I fear that I may have been, as I have been before, too harsh in my criticism. I feel I must add, that some of my best friends are Vikings.

The Frenchman said...

Pfff...

Seriously, why not get to the point ; instead of using figures of speech or whatever you're using ?

TheOFloinn said...

If virtual particles and quantum vacuum are nonexistent bodies then why do people like Krauss try to say that they are uncaused

The word "virtual" is a hint. Besides, it was Heisenberg who made these observations, and he was rumored to be knowledgeable in matter quantal.

Rampant neo-Pythagoreanism is the reason why so many reify mathematical abstractions. Even Hawking has commented that the existence of a term in an equation does not obligate the physical world to cough up an entity to correspond. Worse, since the equations do not contain a term for the cause -- they are descriptions of relationships among the effects -- they assume that there is no cause. Or because the individual events are unpredictable, they are "uncaused." But there is no "time" in Newton's Laws, and it does not predict which apple will fall, nor when.

But we cannot "predict" when and where a person will die; but each time, there is a cause of death.

and how would you interpret the 1st way in regards to a Quantum Vacuum

I wouldn't. The First Way asserts as premise that some things are in motion. It does not insist that everything is. (Quite the contrary.) The "quantum vacuum" more nearly resembles the Aristotelian prime matter: pure potency, not actual. Heisenberg (again) equated prime matter with "mass-energy".

I am not a physicist, but was trained as a mathematician (and practiced as a statistician), and the Plato-Aristotle conflict was much discussed back in the day.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Ed (and everyone),

I just wrote a post on the exchange between you and Jerry Coyne here:

http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/coyne-and-krausss-cosmological-comedy-of-errors/

That was a brilliant response to Lawrence Krauss, by the way, Ed.

Daniel said...

Not wanting to divert attention from Ed's work or anything but the Quantum Vacuum question as put forward by Wes Morriston was raised here* and received a relatively technical answer re the Physics side of things.

* http://classicaltheism.boardhost.com/viewtopic.php?id=65&p=5

Anonymous said...

@TheOfloinn
With regards to the 1st Way and Quantum Vacuum the reason I'm asking this is because a common objection to it as that an eternal always fluctuating vacuum could constitute as an umoved mover due to fluctuations not needing an external cause and I'm trying to seek a rebuttal to this claim and atheist also love to say that since a QV is "scientific" and there is no external cause for fluctuations Aristotle's mover is not required and we could just use this one.

Scott said...

How would something that fluctuates constitute something that doesn't move?

More importantly, why do you need to rebut the claim anyway? As TheOFloinn has already pointed out, the First Way explicitly allows for the possibility that the universe has always existed—indeed, grants it for the sake of the argument.

Scott said...

It further occurs to me that someone might describe a quantum vacuum as unmoved even though it's clearly not immobile if it "fluctuates." The idea would be, I suppose, that it's not moved by anything else.

But in that case we need a rebuttal of the axiom that nothing is reduced from potency to act except by something already actual. It's obviously not sufficient to announce that a quantum vacuum might be a counterexample and/or ask why it isn't.

Klein The Bottle said...

@laubadetriste:
> I've heard tell of islands far away still scarred ... [and] conventions violated in a manner horrible to tell...

So, pretty much your typical Friday night on the streets of Glasgow, Scotland then?

Anonymous said...

@Scott
With regards to the axiom nothing can be reduced from potency to act except by something actual I would argue that similiar to an animal that appears to be a self-mover but is actualized by its parts a QV would fall under this category as the potency to act axiom seems almost impossible to refute and doing so contradicts logic itself.

Scott said...

I don't know what you mean when you (appear to) say that an axiom "contradicts logic itself" in seeming almost impossible to refute. Axioms are supposed to be impossible to refute, not just "almost" but entirely. What would become of logic if the axiomatic Principle of Non-Contradiction admitted of refutation?

As for animals appearing to be self-movers: yes, that's exactly the point; they're not. Some of their parts move some of their other parts. If a quantum vacuum "falls under this category," then you're done.

Jinzang said...

My physics is a little rusty, but I believe a quantum vaccum by itself is not sufficient to serve as a cause, some real particle or field needs to be present for the virtual particles in the quantum vacuum to act upon. So I don't see how the quantum vacuum could serve as a first cause from the stanpoint of the physics involved.

Jinzang said...

And the quantum vacuum doesn't actually fluctuate. Because of the uncertainty principle, the energy at any point has a range of possible values, Some of these values allow results that aren't possibly classically to happen, such as the decay of a nucleus through the escape of a particle from the nucleus. For something to happen, you need s system describable of Schrodinger's equation for it to happen to.

josh said...

"What about actually reading the argument, getting to know the ancient world, and THEN commenting on the argument and the ancient world ?"

The guy said a six page blog post with space between each paragraph was too long to read.

The Frenchman said...

Who's that ?

Mate, i don't think we're talking about the same commenter.

If we're talking about that Goren guy (or something like that), the comment i wrote was appropriate and straight to the point.


Goren was writing about the alleged "hatred of ancient people, when it comes to the concept of something being eternal".

I do not think it was true the least bit, and i take philosophers such as Aristotle (along with many other Ancient Greek philosophers), as proof they did in fact believe the universe was eternal, without any beginning in time.


Goren's comment was therefore ignorant as hell, and an important piece of evidence showing that he knew absolutely nothing about what he was talking about.


But when you criticize something, you'd better first know what it is you're criticizing.

Otherwise, one's comment not appropriate and deserves remarks.

Taylor said...

I think Josh was saying that Goren is probably too obtuse to try to spend the amount of time understanding the context, seeing as how he cannot even spend the amount of time reading a blog post.

josh said...

"that Goren is probably too obtuse"

And presumably too lazy as well.

The Frenchman said...

Oooooh, okay !


Well i really didn't focus on that part of Goren's comment, so, you know... I didn't remember that detail.

I could not agree more.

laubadetriste said...

It is clear that Dr. Feser was onto something big when he reminded folks of the Aristotelian insights of those scientists who pushed their materialism to its logical conclusions, and found it wanting. Also it has long seemed to me that among those scientists who did, and among other thinkers, there is a strong current, now neglected in rather the way that the classical theistic arguments are neglected, that belongs primarily to the German philosophical tradition. It seems one could trace this in biology, for example, from the reflections of Schrodinger, through Marjorie Grene, through Richard Lewontin, and so on. For example, the best precis known to me of the advance of science redounding upon itself and recovering its own beginnings, is Hans Jonas's gem of an essay, "The Philosophical Implications of Darwinism." (Available at www.isnature.org/Files/Jonas_Phil_Aspects_of_Darwinism.pdf for now. 21 pages.) This would be, so to speak, a converging line of evidence, alongside the resurgence of Thomistic thinking. Is there anyone for whom this rings a bell?

DNW said...



" ... Philosophical Implications of Darwinism." (Available at www.isnature.org/Files/Jonas_Phil_Aspects_of_Darwinism.pdf for now. 21 pages.) This would be, so to speak, a converging line of evidence, alongside the resurgence of Thomistic thinking. Is there anyone for whom this rings a bell?
October 8, 2015 at 4:20 PM "

Are you sure that that's a working link?

Brandon said...

I don't know much about Jonas, but reading a few things about his argument in other sources (like DNW I can't access the link), it sounds quite interesting.

laubadetriste said...

This is weird. You're right, I tried the link and it didn't work--but it worked two days ago, so...

I found the link on Google with a capitalized extension (www.isnature.org/Files/Jonas_Phil_Aspects_of_Darwinism.PDF), and it worked again... I don't know.

For what it's worth, I can only say that I think every regular on this blog would get a real kick out of that essay, if they *could* read it...

John West said...

This link should work.

laubadetriste said...

@ John West:

Thank you.

wsread said...

Ben Goren said:
"Relativity? The whole point of Relativity is that two observers in two different inertial frames will see causality swapped in various circumstances -- the person on the left will say that A caused B, but the person on the right will say that B caused A, and both people are right."

This is not true. One will say that A occurred before B, and the other will say that B occurred before A. Causality is not involved.

Dhay said...

grodrigues: Ben Goren is the empirical proof of the incongruous theory of humor. On the one hand we have smug, condescending superiority, on the other inane, ignorant prattle. Incongruence ensues, hilarity follows.

We do indeed: Goren claims with smug, condescending superiority that "Ever since Newton, the entire concept of causality has been thrown into question, and it's been rendered utterly irrelevant by Twentieth Century physics. There isn't any cause that effects a particular radioactive atom to decay at a particular moment in time ... it just happens, for no reason whatsoever."

Ah, a self-proclaimed expert on quantum mechanics who claims there's nothing to cause isotopes to decay with very different half-lives, or for the half-life of each to be stable and measurable with very high precision; no causality there at all, apparently.

And we also see inane, ignorant prattle: Coyne has just posted a maths question -- a crocodile is chasing a zebra -- of a level which, though usually only if you get much better than a mere pass grade, qualifies you to enter university science courses; a number of Coyne's commenters had a go and evidently succeeded; Goren's answer says clearly that he didn't have a clue how to start tackling the question, and doesn't have the maths to even get onto a university physics course: "It depends…is the crocodile African or European, and in which general direction does it fart?"

Goren also inadvertently displays his ignorance of biology: Europe is crocodile-free, excepting zoos, pets, and escaped or abandoned pets about to be re-captured; zebras are found only in zoos.

pck said...

Goren's "math" is something to behold. A while ago he claimed on Coyne's site that there is "empirical evidence" that 2+2 equals 4 because, you see, if you put 2 apples on a table and then another 2 you get 4 apples. And all of philosophy is bs anyway, for this very reason. I was foolish enough to attempt posting a reply correcting the misapprehension, which Coyne rejected, allegedly because of its length. Coyne had no qualms allowing a content-free, twice as long anti-theist rant in the same thread though. Sometimes the facts really do speak for themselves.

Scott said...

pck:

A while ago he claimed on Coyne's site that there is "empirical evidence" that 2+2 equals 4 because, you see, if you put 2 apples on a table and then another 2 you get 4 apples.

Good thing none of them rolled off the table. He could have gone along for years thinking there was empirical evidence that 2 + 2 equals 3.

pck said...

Exactly. And if he sees two clouds in the sky merging into one he will conclude that 1+1=1. Also, never let him watch you make an omelette. All mathematical hell will break loose.