Friday, September 22, 2017

Thought-free blogs


Perhaps the most vivid manifestation of the cluelessness of New Atheists is their strange compulsion to comment at length on books they admit they have not read.  Naturally, you see this frequently from anonymous doofuses in comboxes, Amazon reviews, and the like.  But what is really remarkable is how often even otherwise intelligent and educated people make fools of themselves by doing exactly what they accuse religious believers of doing – forming an opinion based on preconceptions rather than the actual evidence.  We saw biologist Jerry Coyne do this a few years ago when he devoted over 5000 words across two blog posts to harshly criticizing a David Bentley Hart book he admitted he had not read.  The latest example comes from theoretical physicist Mano Singham at Freethought Blogs.
 
Singham’s target is my new book Five Proofs of the Existence of God, about which he makes some highly critical remarks, despite admitting twice in the course of his blog post that he has not read it.  Here’s my favorite line:

I have not read his new book and so can only guess at these proofs but going by the names that are dropped I can guess that they consist of warmed over versions of the prime mover, Kalam, design, and the ontological arguments.

End quote.  Where does one begin? 

First, the “names that are dropped” to which Singham refers are those of Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas, and Leibniz.  Why on earth would anyone conclude from those names that the book defends the kalam, design, and ontological arguments, specifically?  (I do, of course, defend Aristotle’s prime mover argument.)

Second, not only do I not defend the kalam, design, and ontological arguments in the book, but I have, of course, been critical of each of those arguments here at the blog and elsewhere. 

Third, why would an academic and a scientist who presumably prides himself on grounding his opinions in empirical evidence, avoiding the rationalization of preordained conclusions, etc. want to make a judgment on the basis of a “guess” as to what is in the book instead of actually looking at the book itself?  Even if he just wanted to find out what arguments are actually covered without reading the book, he could do that in five seconds by using the “Look inside” function at Amazon. 

The rest of the post isn’t any better.  Singham writes:

One of the paradoxical signs that god does not exist is how religious apologists keep trying to prove that s/he does exist. After all, no one tries to prove that the Earth exists or that the Sun exists.  Surely the existence of gods should be at least as manifest.

End quote.  What we have here is a variation on what’s called the “divine hiddenness” objection.  And as it happens, I reply to that objection at some length in the book, at pp. 300-304 – which Singham would know if he’d bothered even to skim through the book before raising this objection against it.

Then there’s this remark:

David Hume back in 1779 dismissed the idea that one could prove the existence of a god using rational arguments alone in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.

End quote.  Gee, if only I’d been aware of Hume’s objections before writing my book!  Oh wait… that’s right, I also do in fact respond to Hume’s various objections at some length throughout the course of the book – as, again, Singham would know if he’d bother to take a look at it before opening his mouth.  (By the way, Hume died in 1776, and thus wasn’t doing any “dismissing,” or much of anything else other than rotting, in 1779.  Apparently, Singham can’t be bothered even to read Wikipedia, much less books, but instead “guesses” – as always, wrongly – what it says.)

Singham also objects that “the whole idea of ‘proof’ in the mathematical sense has no place when it comes to establishing empirical facts such as the existence of entities.”  Well, I am not using the mathematical notion of proof, but I do address objections to the use of the word “proof” in the book, at pp. 305-307 – which, once again, a glance at the book would have told Singham.

Singham also complains that “as wags have suggested before, you would not need five arguments for god’s existence if any one of them were really good.”  It’s amazing how many atheists are impressed by this very silly objection.  Consider that any good prosecuting attorney will develop several lines of argument to establish the guilt of the accused, and any good defense attorney will develop several lines of argument in order to undermine the prosecutor’s case.  No one would make the absurd suggestion that either attorney’s case is somehow suspect because he’s got more than one argument!  Or consider the evolutionary biologist who calls attention to several lines of evidence that point to descent with modification – homologies, DNA evidence, and so forth.  No one would make the moronic remark that if descent with modification were real, then one line of argument should be enough to establish it. 

Yet when a theist suggests that there are multiple lines of argument that establish God’s existence, some atheists (namely the “New” type) pretend that this is somehow a weakness in the theist’s position.  Why the double standard?  How did so manifestly asinine a “criticism” ever come to have the popularity it does? 

Could it get any worse?  As always with New Atheist types, it can, and swiftly does.  Singham links to another post he wrote about me several years ago.  And what that post shows is that the reason Singham did not read my book before criticizing it is that, apparently, he does not know how to read. 

Singham quotes from an answer I gave some years ago to a question a reader asked me about how one could argue that the First Cause of philosophical arguments for God’s existence is identical to the God of Christianity.  I responded by summarizing the various lines of argument a Christian apologist should set out, and in what order he ought to proceed.  For example, I said that one should first set out arguments for God’s existence, for the divine attributes, for divine conservation, for the immortality of the soul, etc.; that one should also develop objections to the rival world religions before moving on to the positive defense of Christianity; that one should, only after doing all this, address the question of Christ’s resurrection, the Trinity, and other specifically Christian claims; and so on.  (I have since addressed this issue at greater length in a post from a few years ago.)

In other words, I was simply summarizing how the branch of theology known as apologetics would set out its main topics and lines of argument.

Now, here is Singham’s utterly bizarre characterization of what I had said:

For mainstream Christians, if one is baptized, usually as a newborn infant, you are considered a Christian.  As far as evangelical Christians are concerned, all you have to do is say that you accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior

But is it that simple to be a Christian?  Not everyone thinks so…

Singham then quotes some of the points I made in reply to the reader and then says:

That’s pretty heavy duty stuff.  I would have thought that would have been formidable enough to cause any rational Christian to immediately throw in the towel.  Note also that you are expected to show all these through independent and purely philosophical arguments….

But wait, there’s more!  He then says that to be a Christian, you also have to be able to show why all the other religions are false

So there you go, Christians.  None of that wishy-washy “If you accept Jesus as your savior, you are a Christian” short cut.  That’s for slackers. Get to work meeting all of Feser’s requirements before calling yourself a Christian.

End quote.  In other words, according to Singham, what I claimed is that in order to be a Christian, one has to develop extremely sophisticated and detailed lines of argument that only a very few people have the time, skill, or knowledge for.  Baptism is not enough.

How a person with basic reading skills who is both intellectually honest and not under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or paint thinner could possibly see that in what I wrote, I have no idea.  Again, I was (quite obviously) talking about what an apologist should do, not what the average Christian needs to do.

But then, Singham doesn’t really read things before commenting on them.  He “guesses” what is in them, and goes from there. 

This kind of stuff, it seems, is what passes for “thought” at “Freethought Blogs.” 

Related reading:




116 comments:

  1. I've become increasingly convinced, being an undergrad in college, that almost every self-proclaimed atheist student enjoys burning strawmen.

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    1. Oh yeah, I remember those undergrad days! The grad students were insufferable. So full of themselves, and so poor. I guess their egos suffered from the lack of money, so they tried to elevate themselves over others intellectually.

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  2. Claims about David Hume are almost always canaries in the coalmine when it comes to detecting those atheists who try to be rational by being poseurs, since reasonable atheists usually say sensible things about him and poseurs bungle him. "[D]ismissed the idea that one could prove the existence of a god using rational arguments alone" is not even remotely an accurate summary of what Hume actually does in the Dialogues, as any intelligent reader who actually sits down and works through the book can discover. In the case of the passage he goes on to quote, of course, Singham fails to realize that (1) the Dialogues are dialogues, and thus have characters with different viewpoints; (2) the character who argues what he goes on to quote [Cleanthes] is not arguing that one can't prove the existence of God by rational arguments alone, because almost the entire book is devoted to his own argument for the existence of God; (3) 'rational arguments' and 'arguments a priori' are not in general synonymous phrases; (4) Cleanthes's target is not general but the particular kind of a priori argument proposed by the character Demea (which is usually thought to be a somewhat oddly phrased version of Clarke's a priori argument). Apparently you are in good company, since Singham seems to have drawn on Hume by guessing what was in his book, too. At least with Hume he bothered to read an encyclopedia article before guessing.

    I imagine it is a wonderful timesaver to determine the content of books by what one guesses must be in them.

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  3. Hi Brandon,

    Yes, I suspect that if he bothers replying, it will be to what he guesses I must have said in the original post. (Must have saved him time grading as a professor too: "I didn't actually read your paper, but based on what I guess you had to say, I'd give your paper a C-" etc.

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    1. He replied. Still hasn't read your book. https://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2017/09/23/revisiting-the-question-of-proving-gods-existence/

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    2. He basically falls back on rhetorical clucking, like:
      "The whole idea of proving empirical statements (such as the existence of entities) by arguments alone is not something that would be accepted in science. The existence of entities is established by a preponderance of evidence in support of the existence claim, and that necessarily includes data"

      Only problem with this statement is that not all proofs are empirical. He mentioned mathematical ones, but there are others, for example concerning topics as ethics and, indeed, metaphysics.

      I would add that the FIVE PROOFS DO REST on "data" as they rest on observations of the universe, in part.

      or
      "Carl Sagan said that ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’, a sentiment that predates him but his phrasing captures the idea succinctly."

      Sagan's quote is nonsense, since an extraordinary claim might be backed by simple data that confirms it.

      An example is Einstein relativity.

      --

      Or this pathetic one:

      " If someone actually does come up with a killer proof that really does establish with certainty the existence of their god (as Feser claims to do in his press release), that will surely be big news (certainly bigger than a cure for cancer or even the arrival of a new iPhone) and I am sure that it will be all over the internet, make the newspapers, and will receive massive coverage on TV, the way that major scientific discoveries do. Then I will read it."

      Or maybe it does not really work that way. That's just intellectual laziness...

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  4. The Perry Mason Trifecta: Incompetent, Irrelevant, and Immaterial. And a .250 hitter before the strikeouts started.

    I remember a comment C S Lewis said that many of the atheist attacks he received didn't bother him as a Christian, but did bother him as a former atheist, to see his old allies sink so low.

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  5. One of the paradoxical signs that god does not exist is how religious apologists keep trying to prove that s/he does exist.

    Well, that can't be right, since God rewards us with great amusement at naive atheists, such as this Singham fellow.

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    1. I find it adorable his referring to God with a lower case 'g' and suggesting that it could be either gender. Really, right there, he has showed how intellectually shallow his attacks on theism are.

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    2. I love how he's saying that Feser is arguing for a god's existence, with the assumption that this would work as well for any number of Gods. However, when discussing each proof, he notes why this entails there is but one God - one purely actual being, one neccesary being, and so on. (Where this would be true of none of the pagan gods.)


      I also love the 'I'm slightly familiar with Feser. I read an article by him once.' Yeah, what about his million books? Including Five Proofs, which isn't listed on the side bar! (The outrage.)

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    3. which isn't listed on the side bar!

      Now remedied, Sean, thanks!

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    4. Sean, that's a pons asinorum for many. They cannot get it through there head that we are not talking of Zeus, or anything like that. Analogously, you have those who ask if X and Y "worship the same God". If they are classical monotheists, the answer is, necessarily, "Yes." There is only one to go around. (I do sometimes wonder if some professed Christians are worshiping the same God we do. And I don't mean children and the uninstructed here.)

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    5. I'm sure you would have noticed after your next book. Though, don't release it too soon I'm still trying to play catch up.

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  6. What's ironic is that I would love to see him try and get the *gist* of the Aristotelian argument. Even if he doesn't accept it, it would be great to see someone at least see the typical caricatures set aside and have to critique the real McCoy. Alas, you'd need the patience to read a chapter for that.

    Seeing that he is a theoretical physicist, and seemingly a New Atheist type with the quality of his 'objections', I wonder how he would deal with arguments in the book he has probably never heard of? Sure, he may dismiss the Aristotelian view with 'what caused God?' or Leibniz's argument with arguing for a brute fact. This arguments are known and so typical firing blanks are available as quick responses. But how would he deal with Plotinus or Augustine? I'd say these two versions are basically unknown in that community. But that would also mean there's a lack of caricatures about the arguments! No ready made ammunition here, you may have to think for yourself. And how, exactly, would a theoretical physicist respond to the ideas of composition and simplicity of Plotinus? Considering the heavy use of maths in his profession, how does he deal with Augustine? Is he going to turn around and say something along the lines of; "well sure, but of course nominalism is true! We all know we are dealing with useful fictions here. . . . ". Somehow I don't think that response is coming!

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  7. End quote. What we have here is a variation on what’s called the “divine hiddenness” objection.

    I don't know if it gets that ambitious, it seems to be just:

    God must be a physical object visible to pretty much everyone

    God isn't visible in this way.

    Therefore God doesn't exist.

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  8. "Singham also complains that “as wags have suggested before, you would not need five arguments for god’s existence if any one of them were really good.” It’s amazing how many atheists are impressed by this very silly objection."

    It would be interesting to unpack this a little. You go on to draw a comparison providing evidence for God and firstly law and then science. I think that comparison requires justification.

    In the case of law and science one needs overlapping supporting arguments in order to try to construct a picture of what is going on. If all the data support one other, one has a good model.

    But providing evidence for the existence of God is surely an entirely different matter? If God wanted to make its existence obvious, then surely it would be so? But that's far from the case.

    So I dont think you can dismiss the objection quite that quickly without justification and I'd be interested in your thoughts.

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    1. @ Anon

      It would be interesting to unpack this a little. You go on to draw a comparison providing evidence for God and firstly law and then science. I think that comparison requires justification.

      Ed is not comparing arguments for God's existence to scientific arguments. He is just noting that if the proposal of multiple scientific arguments, on its own, is not a tacit concession that the arguments are not very good, then it is hard to see why the proposal of multiple philosophical arguments should amount to such a concession. Of course, Singham is free to argue that there is some reason we should treat philosophy differently, but until he offers such a reason, there's no reason to assume it's different.

      That there are several arguments for God's existence does not make natural theology an atypical branch of philosophy. J.L. Mackie gives more than one argument for his moral error theory, and philosophers in general give more than one argument for views, if they can think of more than one argument.

      Defenders of scientism might argue that this is indicative of a problem with the whole field of philosophy, but they'd have to do so by saying something about why we should expect the standards of proof to be different in philosophy than in natural science.

      A comparison with mathematics is perhaps more instructive. It is fairly rare in mathematics, though not unheard of, that a proposed proof is contested; in such cases, the dispute tends to be resolved over time, and competent mathematicians who are misreading a proof can generally be made to see that they are misreading it.

      There are still roles to be played in mathematics by the multiplication of proofs. They can sometimes help illustrate aspects of the theorem that are not made as salient by another proof. Sometimes they may require lemmas that are interesting in their own right. Mathematicians also prize the elegance of a proof.

      So even in a field like mathematics, there are reasons to multiply proofs other than doubt in their success.

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    2. Now, I also must confess that I have not read Five Proofs. But I will guess (forgive me) that Ed never says "Even if you don't find any one of these proofs convincing, you should consider the fact that there are five of them."

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  9. This guy and other New Atheist types are always setting up a dichotomy between "evidence" and "philosophical/purely rational arguments."

    Is it not fair to count philosophical arguments themselves as pieces of evidence? I've always thought so. Why limit "evidence" to facts derived from observation of the natural world?

    (Good book/blog post anywhere on the nature of evidence and what things qualify as evidence?)

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    1. There's this by Timothy McGrew. I had it in my bookmarks for a while, and don't quite remember what it's about, but perhaps its relevant.


      I also recall that he, or someone else takes evidence to be roughly a consideration that makes something more likely to be the case than it would be without it.

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    2. Forgot to include the link: http://homepages.wmich.edu/~mcgrew/Evidence.htm

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    3. If more or less likely is the definition they use, then "evidence" is not a relevant concern. You have no evidence that the square root of two is a surd, for instance.

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  10. Dr. Feser,


    What are your thoughts on the argument from logical possibility for God?

    The argument basically states that any possibility is as such only insofar as it is anchored by a reality, and also can only become a reality by something already real. Now logical possibilities are a type of possibility, at least arguendo. They are possibilities at least in virtue of the absolute inhibitor of the laws of logic, and as such there must be something out there that grounds these logical possibilities.

    That something would have to be an absolute reality, and would also have the ability to
    realise / actualise these possibilities as well. It would be necessary and self-explanatory in virtue of being tied to logic, and would possess the various logical possibilities in a way analagous to the way our intellect possesses the forms, which means it is personal.

    It would be a thing that is purely actual, absolutely necessary and has Intellect.


    So, what do you think of that?

    Is this argument just a sub-category of the Augustinian argument, or is this something seperate that I've stumbled upon?

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    1. Pure genius. I'm sure Dr. Feser understands perfectly your dialectic.

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  11. It's sad to think that scientists have such high cultural authority while being so utterly ignorant when they're out of the lab.

    Sadly, the unwitting average person will take the scientist's incompetent diatribes about topics outside his field as truth. Because, "He's a scientist and therefore must be competent to speak about everything!"

    Thankfully, thanks to the work of Dr Feser, more and more people are affirming the truth of classical theism. And more and more theists are armed with powerful ammunition.

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  12. "By the way, Hume died in 1776, and thus wasn’t doing any “dismissing,” or much of anything else other than rotting, in 1779. "

    Singham is referring to an argument by Hume which appears in a posthumous publication of 1779. At worst an instance of inelegant syntax. Certainly not deserving of scathing sarcasm. Looks like straw manning on your part.

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    1. I'm not sure a sarcastic remark should be classed as a straw man in this context, especially when the main reply regarding the comment on Hume has nothing to do with the side note of sarcasm.

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    2. This is an entirely incorrect use of the term 'straw man'.

      The case is also not standing alone; it is one more example of Singham's sloppiness, and that is certainly deserving of scathing sarcasm.

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  13. I had to put on my oven mitts to finish reading this roasting.

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  14. Kind of OT, but there's a post up today at PJ Media by a man named Edward K Watson, which is trying the empirical/probability approach. Something akin to ID, I think. Notably, in discussing arguments he thinks valid and invalid, he omits the classical proofs entirely.

    As close as I can get to sympathy for the gnus, it's the fact that there are a lot of guys doing this, and I can see that it confuses them. (Of course, it's much more congenial to them as well, as they have some understanding of that kind of argument - the only kind they know.)

    I wonder if this would be worth a comment from Ed? Probably not.

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  15. He responded to Ed (I guess he's not happy with Ed's evidence!)

    https://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2017/09/23/revisiting-the-question-of-proving-gods-existence/

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    1. I read to see whether he gave an excuse for or even bothered to mention to the Hume in 1779 remark. He did not.

      "It is true that I have not read the book and, to be quite frank, I have no plans to do so. If Feser and his supporters feel that that disqualifies me from commenting on the claims contained in his press release, so be it. Some time ago, I came to the conclusion that I was not going to learn anything new or useful from religious apologetics."

      This reads like something from Jonathan Swift or some other great satirist.

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  16. Hey Ed, he responded. Worth checking out.

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  17. Just read the "reply" to this. Wow. These guys really don't read, do they? And they truly are blind to the difference between philosophy and empirical science. (If they actually want to dismiss the former, they might just want to make that case, and not go on to side issues.)

    Plus, some people have never heard of the rule of to stop digging. I did note a few comments from regulars here.

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  18. Just read the reply as well. I don't know what to say other than that I feel embarrassed for Singham. This type of person simply has no interest in the truth of the matter.

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  19. Don't mess with The Fes!

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  20. Well, I guess that was a much more graceful response than I had anticipated. But, unfortunately for him, it's still ridden with the standard scientism-type replies which Prof. Feser has dismantled time and time again in the past, either in his several excellent books, in this very blog, or in other places.

    In fact, the only two points he made and which I don't see being regularly addressed by philosophers of religion at large are the one concerning Gödel's incompleteness theorems and that condescending attitude aimed at religious apologetics in general. But then again, at least regarding the former, there's no reason why they should, since (as is usually the case with so many pop commentators that refer to Gödel's work to justify every imaginable thesis and their contrary whilst trying to look smart to unsuspecting audiences despite not even understanding what it actually means themselves), the theorems say nothing of the sort he implies them to.

    As for religious apologists, well, in some sense it is understandable that people whose only exposure to religion happens through contact with the fundamentalist evangelical insanity that is so characteristic of American Protestantism (making us Europeans, namely us Catholics, cringe in horror at what the "Reformation" has managed to achieve) — and which ends up being spread to the entire world through that even more grotesque Hollywood caricature of what Christianity has historically been — might be inclined to believe that that stuff is the real thing. It certainly does not excuse, though, gross ignorance of the very subject about which one spends so much time writing blog posts, let alone books, and of which these gnu-types seem so proud for some weird reason.

    Due to this, unfortunately, it has become imperative of the apologist, philosopher or not, to distance himself from the Ken Hams of this world in the most clear, categorical, and unambiguous way possible, right from the very start, lest he be immediately lumped together with "those silly creationists" by people in bad faith, thus rendering all his subsequent efforts frustratingly useless.

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    1. "As for religious apologists, well, in some sense it is understandable that people whose only exposure to religion happens through contact with the fundamentalist evangelical insanity that is so characteristic of American Protestantism (making us Europeans, namely us Catholics, cringe in horror at what the 'Reformation' has managed to achieve)..."

      Anon,

      As a former Evangelical and current Catholic, I can speak to this. Despite some overlap, Fundamentalism and Evangelism are not the same thing. Fundamentalism actually originated among intellectuals in the 1920s as a "return to fundamentals" of the faith, only to mutate into a sometimes anti-intellectual and ahistorical movement. North American Evangelism, on the other hand, in descended primarily from the various groups of English dissenters, blended with Dutch, German, French, and Scandinavian Protestantism.

      The denomination to which I used to belong, Evangelical Free, was a historically Norwegian and Swedish (it split off from Lutheranism). The church which I attended had Norwegian services into the 1950s. The senior pastors held multiple degrees and were well-grounded in Hebrew and Greek and were orthodox Trinitarian Christians who emphasized the need for sound doctrine and the need to bring historical and cultural context to the reading of Scripture. I find that's not atypical of conservative Evangelical churches in North America, across many Protestant denominations.

      Unfortunately, we have more than our share of "snake handlers," "faith healers," and "prosperity gospel" types, who really had their heyday in the 1970s and '80s and certainly didn't do Christians any favors when it came to stereotypes. Of course, we Catholics weren't doing ourselves any favors in the '70s, either.

      Remember, though, that a simple preacher like Billy Graham helped spread the Good News to many millions across the world and no less than JPII invited him to speak from his own pulpit in Krakow when he was still an Archbishop.

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    2. Excellent and balanced comment

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  21. So disappointed- I looked Dr. Singham up and he's at Case Western Reserve University- the very institution that I currently attend. Must say, I'm not pleased if this is the quality of the faculty they're hiring on now (Good thing it's my last semester :D)
    Excellent Response Dr. Feser.

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    1. Now way! You should anonymously place a copy of Feser's book he won't bother to read on his desk.

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  22. Interesting new book: "Breaking the New Atheist Spell in the Light of Perennial Wisdom."

    Several positive references to "The Last Superstition."

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  23. This was a hilarious, awesome post.

    What I find most irritating about the New Atheists, almost reprehensible, is their condescension. Sure, if you think someone else just has the facts wrong about something, I can respect that; but if you spend every available opportunity flaunting your self-styled intellectual and moral and general superiority to others, wearing your "lack of belief in God or gods" as a badge that entitles you to an extra 30 IQ points, as the New Atheists and their fans characteristically do, then I just can't respect you (at least, intellectually).

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    1. I think Josh Rasmussen made a good point. When you combine disdain with confidence, you're bound to get make errors and fail to think critically. And when you combine that with the utter ignorance of the new atheists types, you get these hilariously incompetent yet smugly confident posts.

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  24. "First, the 'names that are dropped' to which Singham refers are those of Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas, and Leibniz. Why on earth would anyone conclude from those names that the book defends the kalam, design, and ontological arguments, specifically?"

    For regular readers of Dr. Singham, and not of Dr. Feser:

    The "Kalam" argument is from Islamic philosophies of the 9-12th centuries, and was popularized recently by Dr. William Lane Craig (which is to say, not by Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas, or Leibniz).

    The "design" argument is associated with William Paley and the Bridgewater Treatises, and was popularized recently by some creationists and advocates of fine-tuning arguments (which is to say, not by Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas, or Leibniz).

    The "ontological" argument is from Anselm, and received attention recently due to developments in analytic philosophy (which is to say, not by Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas, or Leibniz).

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    1. In point of fact, Leibniz did defend a modified Cartesian version of the ontological argument in his New Essays Concerning Human Understanding. That said, I rather doubt Dr. Singham knew that; I suspect it's more a case of blind luck than any deep knowledge of Leibniz.

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    2. Thank you for your correction, Nathanael. Of course, you are right.

      I think my point stands regarding Leibniz et al. It seems Dr. Singham leapt to the conclusion that Dr. Feser defends certain arguments, merely because he has heard of them, or because they have some currency online, or some such; when in fact those arguments are not generally associated with the authors in question. This is so even though it is true that some of those authors have touched on, or mentioned, or sometimes defended those arguments or others somewhat similar.

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    3. The Ontological Argmuent, or more accurately the Modal Ontological Argument that modern ontological argument that Analytical philosophers of Religion discuss, is from Leibniz (who in term drew it from Scotus).

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    4. It's so long ago I've forgotten. How does Scotus modify Anselm here?

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  25. I can only imagine the scorn Professor Singham would heap upon any theologian or philosopher who treated theoretical physics as Professor Singham has treated philosophy and natural theology. If there is one thing that everyone can agree on, it's the necessity of actually *reading* a book – at least skimming it! – prior to commenting on it.

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  26. Now you have proved god exists you would expect the number of god believers (maybe even catholic god believers) to increase. Let's see how this pans out.

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    1. Why would you suppose this? If I proved that Mary Sue existed, would you immediately fall in love with her? Very few people outside mathematics are convinced by logical arguments.

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    2. In my experience, students who study math are not often logical. Students take too much algebra & not enough Aristotelian logic which should be taught starting around 4th grade as a subject...

      Do we have enough primary, or even secondary teachers who know the subject, let alone teach it, ?

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  27. @stephen castleden: "Now you have proved god exists you would expect the number of god believers (maybe even catholic god believers) to increase. Let's see how this pans out."

    Of course, Stephen meant to say something like, "...you would expect the number of people greatly to increase who are persuaded by Feser's book to become theists (perhaps even Catholics)." For surely he knows that, given contemporary birth rates, etc., "the number of god believers (maybe even catholic god believers)" will in fact increase, and therefore, to judge just by the silly criterion he supplied, Dr. Feser's book is right on the money.

    (I note similarly that, if just one person is persuaded by Dr. Feser's book, then "the number of god believers" will have increased, assuming no countervailing decrease in their number.)

    I hope all of Stephen's standards are so low as his standards for judging arguments, and for judging the sufficiency of his own expression; for his life will be full of modest satisfaction.

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    1. Why in God's Name would I be persuaded to join the Vatican II Church? Why would I grant even a moment's credence to the so-called Pope Francis, who is a perfect heretic, and who, by the way, was capable of accepting with his faux benign face a hammer and sickle crucifix from the Bolivian Morales? When Feser faces the real problems in the Church I will find him more credible. St. Thomas would have intellectually slashed Vatican II to ribbons, and St. Catherine of Siena would have raked Francis over the coals (of course, he has that and more coming to him anyway, probably soon--he's getting on in years).

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    2. If you believe that pre-Vat II, the Church was what she claims to be, what situation are we then in? Did Christ's promise fail?

      There have been plenty of rotten popes, generally falling into the Honorius I group and the Alexander VI group. I don't see that our current incumbent - let's call him Liberius II - is the worst of the lot. One thing that long kept me out of the Church was that, as I was becoming aware of the issues, the Pope was Paul VI - a wretched wimp who almost gave away the store. Yet, when push came to shove, the result was Humanae Vitae, to the outrage of the progs.

      Francis seems the opposite of clear-headed (any virtues he may show seem to be pastoral, in intellectual), but he has after all let down his his side on, e.g., priestesses and transexuals. It ain't over yet.

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  28. I haven't read any books on E=MC2 but I just KNOW its wrong :) Seriously Singham needs to get real and realise that Rational Metaphysics is a branch of Science, just as much as particle physics.

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  29. I see, as one might have expected, the atheist commentators on Singham's blog are nearly as brain dead as he is. Look at the poster John Morales, for example. He is seriously arguing Aquinas said everything had a cause and then arbitrarily exempted God.

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    1. He also tried to score points by implying the term material fallacies is an incorrect way of referring to informal fallacies.

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    2. Once again, the Gnu Atheists prove that they lack any form of 'Rational' thought..

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    3. Really? What does he think makes informal fallacies fallacies? It isn't their form, maybe it's their content - or material? No, that can't be it.

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    4. Maybe it's me, but that post is up to nearly 200 comments, and I can't find a single truly relevant and intelligent one from the atheist commentators there.

      I did like this post though:

      I’ve been speculating today that Feser specifically sent some of his minions to attack Mano because of the connection with PZ — the connection via freethoughtblogs, that is. While a wad like Feser has too many casual critics for him to attack all of them, he’s the kind of angry Catholic who would still be carrying a grudge from PZ’s cracker-nailing a decade ago, and I can easily see Feser targeting anyone who gives him an opening in the vicinity of his enemy PZ.

      I’m certainly not going to Feser’s disgusting blog to see how he phrased it; whether it was some specific statement like “go tell that Freethought idiot what you think of him” or something more general — in which case it’s just our luck that goddy grodriguez, Zob, and whasshisname each independently decided to attack Mano’s relatively modest blog.


      So, he was speculating about this, and thinking of it enough to write a post about it, but he admits he didn't want to take the minute or two to view Feser's post to see what the truth is.

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    5. "Maybe it's me, but that post is up to nearly 200 comments"

      Well, partly it is my fault, having fun rattling their cages.

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    6. There's a Batman joke somewhere in there, but I can't quite make it work.

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    7. Uh oh. They're on to us. They've found out that we do nothing until ordered to by Opus Dei.

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    8. The only thing PZ Myers ever nailed was a box of donuts.

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    9. You made a typo, George, it's "We do nothing until ordered not to by Opus Dei." We are a fractious lot, after all.

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  30. Just a quick side comment - I have been vocal is badgering Ed to get audio or digital versions out for his book. I was so pleased when the digital version came out.

    But in retrospect, that leave a problem for looking up references via page number. I was able to figure out where page 300 was by using the search feature on the words "divine hiddenness", but can anyone suggest a better way of tracking down references?

    Also, Audio has the same problem, but even worse. At most, audio books provide chapters, but the chapters tend to be arbitrary divisions not related to the actual book chapters.

    Cheers,
    Daniel

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  31. I know this is OT, but it's too big a deal to overlook. I suspect Ed will have a comment later.

    https://www.scribd.com/document/359632647/Correctio-Filialis-English

    In my darker moments I feel that, in leaving Anglicanism, I crawled from the ruins of Hiroshima to take refuge in Nagasaki. But that will pass.

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  32. "This kind of stuff, it seems, is what passes for thought at 'Freethought Blogs.' "

    Well, I guess you get what you pay for. Ha

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  33. One of the paradoxical signs that god does not exist is how religious apologists keep trying to prove that s/he does exist. After all, no one tries to prove that the Earth exists or that the Sun exists.

    According to some math experts, there are now 367 proofs for the Pythagorean Theorem. Even if many of these are in some sense repeats in a hidden way, everyone agrees that there are dozens and dozens of distinct proofs for the theorem.

    Somehow, this morphs into a reason to DIS-believe in the theorem. Because, after all, if one "keeps trying to prove" the theorem, one must have real doubts about it. And if THAT MANY people kept doubting it after ALL THOSE proofs, well, by golly the theorem must really be one of those obscure, unprovable things that will forever leave us in doubt.

    Perhaps, when we get up to 500 proofs, though, we will turn a corner and start making it less doubtful? Maybe when we get 1000 proofs, it will actually be proven to be true? Because, you see, having more proofs changes the nature of the proven-ness of the thesis.

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    1. The stupidity of this line of argument is really breathtaking. Many mathematical theorems have multiple, different proofs. To add one more example, the Atiyah-Singer index theorem has at least three different, essentially distinct proofs. And the reason the multiplicity of proofs of theorems is not shunned upon in the Mathematical community, but actually welcomed, is that different proofs communicate different understandings.

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    2. different proofs communicate different understandings.

      Say it, brother!

      Feynman once said something similar: that a physicist always went into a problem with at least two different theories, not because one might be true and the other false, but because each put the problem in a different light and could have different and fruitful interpretations.

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    3. And as a practical mathematician, I frequently seek to establish a specific conclusion through 2 distinct lines of reasoning / computational approaches. Although there is not the same proven-ness to a theorem as there is to a conclusion that "this is the right formula for that situation", having 2 different approaches confirm the result is - like in Feynman's comment - fruitful.

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  34. The discussion over at FTB is a hot mess. I can't tell if their critiques are aimed at Feser's book, or at its press release.

    If they're taking issue with the latter, and - assuming for the sake of argument - justifiably so, why do they not realize that that would hardly constitute a valid indictment of the book itself? It's just a bloody press release.

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    1. Which means in all likelihood that it was written by Marketing with an eye toward goosing sales.

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  35. Anyone know if the book (hardcopy) will be available on Amazon UK in the future?

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  36. Is this at all helpful ?

    http://www.philosophyclass.net/metaphysics101.htm

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  37. New Atheists are simply mentally and intellectually inferior.
    They are Benson from Time Bandits.

    Evil One:
    Oh, Benson... Dear Benson, you are so mercifully free of the ravages of intelligence.

    Benson:
    Oh, you say such nice things, Master.

    Evil One:
    Yes I know, I'm sorry!

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  38. A thought: one might object to the Proof from Eternal Truths by claiming that the necessary mind question had to be something else - let's say the primal mental layer of the cosmos out of which everything else is constituted. This is of course an Idealist variant on Spinozism (a necessary universe theory) and won't commend itself to the Naturalist for that reason.

    One might argue this theory is pantheistic. I am not sure though that the base mental substance of the cosmos need possess agency - awareness yes and intentional directedness.

    (I know Ed offers the argument that any necessary being must be pure actuality, but this is very bound in with specifically Thomist metaphysics. Few critics of the argument will grant those premises + many of those who accept the argument's validity e.g. Welty, Smith and Plantinga specifically reject claims of Divine Simplicity. Even if DS is true I think it’s a mistake for Classical Theists to collapse necessity into simplicity)

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    1. Hmm. More so I wonder if by coupling the intentional object premise of the proof with Panosychism one couldn’t arrive at the conclusion that there must be at least one contingent being in each possible world? Admittedly this is a very strange conclusion - why should an electron be aware of all possible universals and propositions and not a more complex entity like a human?

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    2. "...the necessary mind question had to be something else - let's say the primal mental layer of the cosmos..."

      Mightn't another way for it to go, by incorporating it with the Neoplatonic notion that the nous is the very first emanation? That wouldn't be Spinozistic, would it? And of course, the presence or lack of agency, etc, would have to be developed. As does the initial claim that it "had to be something else".

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    3. Yes, one could do that - of course it would be of even less appeal to the Naturalist!

      Re the 'Had to be something else', a standard atheist way of objecting to a theistic proof is argue that God as conceived by classical theism an impossible being therefore that proof must either fail in some undetectable way or point to the existence of something else (cf Richard Gale's take on the Cosmological Argument in On the Nature and Existence of God where he grants the argument itself is pretty solid)

      Ultimately I don’t think these objections succeed (being a theist and proponent of many of these proofs), but they are more interesting and more of contentious topic in ‘proper’ cutting edge Phil of Religion than ‘what cased God, maximally great islands, the quantum did it’ type objections one hears online and that Ed spends too much time on in his books.

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  39. Does anyone care to explain why Feser thinks the premises in his arguments are known with certainty? Even if the premises are based on metaphysical principles, that doesn't mean the subject is certain the premises are true.

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    1. Could you please elaborate specifically which premises of which arguments you think Dr. Feser thinks are known with certainty?

      Also, did you mean to say premises "known with certainty", or premises which "the subject is certain... are true" (those being two things)?

      I ask because you might have to back up a bit before moving forward some, so to speak.

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  40. I don't interpret Feser as meaning we can know them with 100% certainty. I interpret him more as meaning that they can be known with a high degree of confidence.

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    1. That's not what he means. According to Aristotle and St. Thomas (and Feser), there are true principles that we can and do know, in the full, proper, correct sense of "know", with certainty. They are, for example, the self-evident principles of logic, for example (especially the first one, the principle of non-contradiction), and the principles of math (such as "the whole is greater than the (proper) part). These are not merely known with "high degree of confidence", they are grasped with certainty, and properly so. One indicator of that certainty is that the mind is actually unable to doubt them really.

      In a slightly different way, we also know the conclusions of "demonstrative proofs" that are based on premises that are known with the above certainty, and which use sound, valid reasoning on those premises. If Feser refers to a Thomistic proof for the existence of God as being a "demonstration", this is what he means.

      St. Thomas points out that a truth can be known with certainty "to the wise" and be difficult for others. The fact that some people have not apprehended a self-evident principle does not mean that it is not certain. The fact that some people are unable to grasp a true and valid demonstrative proof does not mean that its conclusion is not certainly known.

      On the other side of the coin, some skeptics mistakenly think that because we are not God and we don't understand the entire universe as a whole and everything within it, we cannot say we know a fact "certainly". Not having divine knowledge is not a proof that we are "not certain" of some truths. When we know a self-evident truth like the principle of non-contradiction, that just is "certain" as applied to human knowing, and asking for divine knowledge is to be looking for the wrong sort of thing.

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    2. "They are, for example, the self-evident principles of logic, for example (especially the first one, the principle of non-contradiction), and the principles of math (such as 'the whole is greater than the (proper) part).' "

      I wouldn't even say I'm absolutely certain of those things. Perhaps, you are speaking of maximal certainty. And not all necessary truths have a probability of 1 if we are talking about epistemic probabilities.

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    3. I wouldn't even say I'm absolutely certain of those things.

      You seem to be conflating subjective certainty (what you are certain of, in terms of how you feel about it, what is sometimes instead called certitude) with objective certainty (the certainty of a judgment, in terms of what is judged). 'I am certain' is not the same as 'it is certain'. The former is irrelevant to questions of proof.

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    4. Since Thomas makes use of analogical predication of properties of God, while Aristotle says that middle terms must be predicated univocally for an argument to count as a demonstration, how are the conclusions of Thomas' Ways etc. demonstrative? It's not clear that they are even demonstrationes quia, let alone demonstrationes propter quid.

      Thomas' analogical predication is not proportional analogy as we find it in Aristotle, because 1) it is not of A : B :: C : D structure, nor 2) do we have knowledge of all the terms. It is like Aristotle's focal predication, which fails to predicate middle terms univocally. And since we do not know what is per se the primary analogate, sc. God, we can't know that the focal predication is justified. It's as though we don't have direct cognition of doctors but only know about medicinal instruments and potions and then try to demonstrate truths about doctors from premises drawn from those. The result fails to be demonstrative knowledge, although Thomas tells us that sacred doctrine is "scientia" and that God's existence is "demonstrabile."

      This is a problem. Anthony Kenny gets at it, but I've only seen in response various claims that Kenny fails to understand Aquinas.

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    5. Adding: I realize that 'God' is not a term in a premise in any of the Ways. Overall, though, it seems a problem to use the above sort of predication in a system that claims to yield 'scientia' and demonstrations.

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  41. If I had time I would do a blog page throwing all sorts of objections at the arguments and the conclusions that supposedly follow*.

    *For what it's worth I think at least three of the five proofs succeed and one of the unsuccessful ones might be workable on weaker premises e.g. all the arguer need do is show that a casual series leading to a purely actual actualizer is possible (this applies too to Thomas First Way).

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    1. which two you think don't work?

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    2. The Aristotelian Proof (and by extent the First Way) may be incompatible with a robust Libertarian account of Free Will. This is an old criticism: soon after Thomas Scotus claimed that animals were self-movers. Notice that when asked about Free Will in one of his lectures Ed responds that Thomas understood Free Will in a different way to the moderns, that is as the freedom to fulfil one's nature unimpeded - this is a stipulate definition that seemingly has quite different consequences to our normal understanding of Free Will. It might - there's certainly Thomists who argue this case - be possible to reconcile Libertarian Free Will with Thomism but from the texts alone it looks disturbingly like Compatibilism

      This defeat will be of little solace to the (typical_ atheist) as the non-random, non-determined account of Free Will under discussion can be used to resolve the Determinism and Modal Collapse problems with the strong PSR.

      (For what it’s worth I think one might be able to run those two arguments solely on the premise that there is a possible world with a casual chain which leads to a purely actual being i.e. a world with only inanimate contingent beings)

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    3. the freedom to fulfil one's nature unimpeded

      As in "free of one's chains," "free fall," "degrees of freedom," and other usages.

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    4. Your point being? That understanding of freedom as freedom from external compulsions is often the one Compatabilists use. If you wish to point out that Ed and Thomas are equivocating between two differences sense of the word 'free' please do go ahead (though even I am not that harsh).

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    5. Just what is the reason we should embrace the libertarian free will position, and strongly enough that it could be used, e.g., against the Prime Mover?

      I ask because this is one of the two things which moved me to A-T in the first place. (The other was the problems with the forms). The problem was that I couldn't see a coherent way to even frame free will in the position I was trying to defend; I kept getting pushed into something like a mystical ineffable impulse which I couldn't see as meaningfully "free", "willing" or mine. Purely noumenal, as it were, if not downright existentialist.

      I also confess I did this through a kind of compatiblism, which I still think is, if not quite true, helpful.

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    6. Oh, yes. You cite two you think fail, but seem to mention only the Aristotelian. Which is the other? I'm guessing the Leibnizian.

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    7. It's not freedom from compulsion, but lack of determination to any particular thing. The way I understand it is:
      1) You can't desire something that you don't know.
      2) Your knowledge is incomplete. Therefore:
      3) Your will is not completely determined to any particular.

      An exception: in standard terms, 2+2=4. Once grasped, this is completely known, and the will cannot withhold its consent. However, if you want world peace, it is unclear of what this consists and how best to achieve it, so the will is not constrained to any particular course of action. Should we achieve peace the old-fashioned way, by annihilating all our opponents? Or is there some other path, perhaps submission to our enemies? What will peace look like when it has been achieved? Ain't nothing more peaceable than a dead man...

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    8. This suggests though that one's freedom is determined by one's by one's belief states i.e. the propositions one holds to be true. If one were to know all of a being's casual history, including psychological history, one would be able to say what they would chose in x circumstances.

      Likewise how would such a being response when faced with commensurate but alternative goods a la Buridan's ass?

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    9. No, I think the PSR Proof is probably the strongest theistic proof there is (really the only way the atheist can seriously challenge it is to argue for the necessary being it proves not being God). You’ll certainly hear no complaints about that proof from me.

      Re Free Will, well there are the standard Incompatiblist arguments that only Libertarian Free Will can make sense of moral responsibility. Also if one takes free actions to be self-explanatory it allows one to side step two criticisms of the strong PSR, namely that the PSR invalidates freedom (not that this would worry a compatibilist) and that it leads to modal collapse.

      Theist accounts must at least allow for Divine Libertarianism or one ends in modal collapse that way (if God has to actualise X world then X world is the only possible world). In connection to this it allows a way for God to deliberate between two equally good but different worlds and so not get caught in Leibniz problem.

      The other proof I had in mind whilst writer was the Thomistic Proof. The specific concept of existence involves so many difficulties (for instance Miller’s account leads to the denial of S5, which most philosophers atheist and theist, think to be the best modal system) that arguing for it is probably a lot more difficult establishing God’s existence.

      On wider note: many theist proofs, particularly the Thomists, ones involve a very specific metaphysical framework, which the atheist can avoid if they are willing to bite the bullet for certain oddities – my panopsychist alternative response to the Proof from Eternal Truths being an example. Theism might be the better rational alternative but it’s not the only rational alternative.

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    10. If one were to know all of a being's casual history,... one would be able to say what they would chose in x circumstances.

      Sounds like my wife. She can almost always say what I will choose. So what? A free choice need not be unpredictable. Nor need it be a random choice. It especially does not depend on third-party knowledge.

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    11. So what?

      So, it goes against the understanding of free will as not being determined by casual history...

      The standard definitions of Compatibilism, Incompatibilism and Libertarianism are quite easy to find online; there's no use for the Thomist to pretend these arguments haven't been had and appeal to parochialism.

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    12. My problem is with the word "causal". Granted, AT understands causation more broadly than the moderns do. The problem remains that the issue with free will is surely the grounds on which we make choices, which gets obscured when we refer to them as "causes".

      And I do not see how having reasons for what one does undermines one's freedom; rather, it is essential to free choice.

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    13. Motives are not causes. No one says a free choice is unmotivated; or that a rational animal suddenly becomes irrational when faced with incomplete information.

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  42. Reading is pretty difficult thing....Atheists are always making claims for being honest but In most of the cases I don't see honesty with them! they are just proud of their ignorance!

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  43. The New Atheists stance seems to be caused by willfulness & less by logic. They seem not to be able to apply the principle of non-contradiction to existing being, which admittedly takes time & patience for most. They don't seem to have the patience & willingness to apply themselves to much more than ridicule.

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  44. Having not read Singham's posting about you, I can only imagine it had something to do with robots. Which is just dumb because your book doesn't mention anything about robots. How could Singham say something like that?

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  45. It’s incredibly frustrating. And when I call them out for this kind of blatant idiocy, I’m the one they’ll call “arrogant” and “unwilling to learn” (even though I was actually an atheist for most of my life and then changed my mind, but nevermind that).

    Cognitive dissonance on steroids.

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  46. "Singham also complains that “as wags have suggested before, you would not need five arguments for god’s existence if any one of them were really good.”"

    This is stupid also from a SCIENTIFIC point of view. To prove that a theory hold you need several confirmations, not just one.

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  47. If someone actually does come up with a killer proof that really does establish with certainty the existence of their god...

    Very few people are ever actually convinced in these matters by logic and reason. That's like presenting a killer proof that you ought to love a particular girl. ("belief" and "belove" being at heart the same word.)

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