Monday, August 22, 2011

Aquinas' First Way

I've discussed the cosmological arguments a bit before on this blog, and I've noted a very interesting exchange between Catholic philosopher Ed Feser and Darwinist mathematician Jason Rosenhouse. There is probably more confusion, misdirection, and outright deception about the cosmological arguments for God's existence than any other aspect of the Christian/atheist debate.

First, some basics. There are a number of logical arguments for God's existence. The 'big five' are:

1) The  cosmological arguments (in 3 varieties-- Prime Mover, First Cause, and Necessary Existence)
2) The argument from perfection (Aquinas' Fourth Way)
3) The argument from teleology (Aquinas' Fifth Way, sometimes called The Argument from Design)
4) The ontological argument
5) The argument from Moral Law

The arguments above take many forms, some more rigorous than others, and some of the arguments share structure and may even dovetail. Many philosophers have noted that the ontological argument has substantial commonality with the cosmological arguments, although it does not appear to be so at first glance.

I believe that all of the arguments are valid. 1-3 above are Aquinas' Five Ways. I believe that Aquinas' versions of the cosmological arguments are the most rigorous.

I believe that the cosmological argument, especially in the form of the Prime Mover argument (Aquinas' First Way), is irrefutable.

The cosmological arguments share a structure. They are based on the impossibility of an infinite regress of essentially ordered causes. I'll explain what that means.

It is important to understand that these arguments as formulated by Aquinas are highly structured deductive arguments that proceed from quite specific premises and reach deductive conclusions. Most popular versions of these arguments, even by professional philosophers, misrepresent them, and nearly all atheist 'refutations' of the arguments are aimed at a bastardization of the arguments and have no validity whatsoever. Once you understand the argument, you see that the atheist 'refutations' are nonsense.

The actual arguments are tightly reasoned, and have not been refuted.

Aquinas' First Way


Aquinas' First Way, called the argument from motion, is based on Aristotle's Prime Mover argument, and follows it in all important details.

Its premises are:

1) The universe is eternal in the past.

Now of course Aquinas did not believe that the universe was eternal in the past. He believed that it had a moment of creation. But he did not believe that it could be logically demonstrated that the universe had a finite past, so he assumed that the past was infinite.

Aquinas had the remarkable habit of prefacing his arguments with assumptions that would make it maximally difficult for the proof to succeed. And then he made it succeed.

Notice that the assumption of an eternal past means that the First Way has nothing-- n-o-t-h-i-n-g-- to do with the Big Bang. If you are reading a critique (or defense) of the cosmological argument, and the interlocutor mentions 'Big Bang', stop reading and go on to someone who understands the argument.

People who invoke the Big Bang to refute or defend the cosmological arguments don't understand the arguments at a very basic level.

2) Motion means change. It does not mean translation in space. The latin word for change (motus) historically has been translated into English as 'motion'. It does not mean motion in the sense of movement in space, but in the sense of change of attributes. A green leaf turing brown is 'in motion'.

3) Change in the natural world is hylemorphic, meaning that natural change involves a transition from potency to act. These are technical terms used by scholastic philosophers, and to understand the argument, you must understand the terms:

Act: the actual thing. A crumply yellow leaf is 'in act' for yellow and for crumply. It is not 'in act' for blue, or liquidness, or for a host of other attributes it does not have.

Potency: an attribute that a thing does not have, but could have, under the right circumstances. A green leaf is in potency for yellowness. It is not yellow (it is green), but under the right circumstances, it could be yellow (when autumn comes).

All change in nature is elevation of potency to act. Change is when a thing actually becomes something that it had the potential to become. An acorn changes to an oak tree. It had the potency to be an oak tree, and that potency was actualized.

A thing is not in potency for just anything. An acorn is not in potency to be a cougar or an ocean. And potency only refers to natural change, not man-made change.

4) Cause is by priority, not by time.

Causation in the First Way refers to causation in the sense that something is responsible for holding another thing in existence. It does not mean that one thing necessarily started another.

An example would be a stack of books. The cause of the top book being on the top is the book below it. The cause of the book below it is the book beneath it, etc. This is what is meant by cause in priority, as distinguished from cause in time.

Now the cause of the bookstack in time is another matter : that would be the authors of the books, the printing press, the person who stacked the books, etc. Cause in time is not the cause on which the Prime Mover argument depends.

Aquinas' First Way has to do with cause in priority only, and has nothing to do with cause in time.

5) Essentially ordered causal series vs accidently ordered causal series.

Causes in priority are essentially ordered causal series. Causes in time are accidently ordered causal series (these are technical terms in scholastic philosophy).

An essential series of causes is a series in which the continued existence of all of the causes is necessary for the series to exist. Holding a hammer and hitting a nail is an essential series of causes: the nail, the hammer, my hand, my muscles, my nerves, my spinal cord, my brain must all simultaneously exist for the series to work. Cut the nerve, remove the hand, etc, and the series stops.

An accidental series is a causal series in which the continued existence of all of the causes in not necessary for the series to exist. An example is a family tree. You were 'caused' by your father, who was caused by his father, who was caused by his father, etc. But the causal series can go on even if your ancestors are dead. The continued existence of all causes in the series is not needed for the series to exist.

Aquinas' First Way refers only to essential series in nature, and not to accidental series.

This is Aquinas' First Way:

1) Change in nature is elevation of potency to act.

2) Potency cannot actualize itself, because it does not exist actually.


3) Potency must be actualized by another, which is itself in act.


4) Essentially ordered series of causes (elevations of potency to act) exist in nature.


5) An essentially ordered series of elevations from potency to act cannot be in infinite regress, because the series must be actualized by something that is itself in act without the need for elevation from potency.


6) The ground of an essentially ordered series of elevations from potency to act must be pure act with respect to the causal series.


7) This Pure Act-- Prime Mover-- is what we call God.

Now Aquinas believed this argument for God's existence to be the strongest of his Five Ways. He spent hundreds of pages in Summa Theologica and Summa Contra Gentiles explicating it and showing that the Pure Act is consistent with the Christian concept of God.

You can see that the retort "so what caused God" is idiotic. What Aquinas and Aristotle demonstrated is the need for a Prime Mover at the source of all change in nature. The Prime Mover itself (Himself) must be unmoved. There cannot be infinite regress in an essentially ordered series. The "what caused God" retort is a confession of ignorance of the actual argument. The conclusion (not the premise) of the argument is that there must be an unmoved mover at the foundation of nature. Since nature is defined as 'that which changes', the unmoved mover is supernatural.

Feser's discussion in Aquinas and The Last Superstition is invaluable.  Here's another nice succinct demonstration, and here's another version of the argument by people who understand it.

I'll post soon on each of Aquinas' Five Ways.

57 comments:

  1. RickK said...

    Ok, let's put this in context.

    Thomas Aquinas didn't have a concept of "universe" like we have today. He thought, as Aristotle did, that the stars were something connected to and centered upon the Earth, but that the Earth was clearly the most important thing in the "universe". He had no concept of stars, of galaxies, of stellar evolution or planetary formation. So to him, God was a very immediate, very present creator.

    Aquinas had no concept of plate tectonics or Earth sciences. So to him, as he looked out his window at the hills of Lazio, he considered God to be a very immediate creator of the land.

    Aquinas had no concept of geologic timescales or astronomical distances. We measure things using quantities of "billions" every day: people, data, dollars - but Aquinas probably never even considered the number "a billion" in any context whatsoever. So the idea of "billions of years" would have been as incomprehensible to him as the concept of 11 dimensions is to a non-mathematician today. And the concept of a lightyear or quantum fluxuation would probably have caused Aquinas physical fear.

    Aquinas had no concept of evolution and common descent (something with which even Michael Egnor agrees). So to him, God was the immediate creator of the specific animals, plants and humans on Earth. There were fossils discovered in his day, but there were arguments for centuries that they represented mythical beasts, or were created directly by God, or were natural stone formations that just happened to look like bones.

    ...

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  2. RickK said...

    So in this context, with God almost as close and immediate as the Gods of Mt. Olympus were to the Ancient Greeks, Aquinas had a confident image of "God" as being sentient and directly involved in humanity's well being.

    So it never occurred to him to ask questions like:

    "If all that we see was created by complex, non-sentient, physical forces, what evidence remains that the "First Cause" is/was sentient?"

    "If the First Cause or Prime Mover is a non-sentient, eternal force - do we still call it 'God'?"

    "If some dimensions beyond our immediate senses are eternal, but the time and space dimensions we can directly sense are not, do we call those eternal dimensions 'God'?"

    "Assuming for the moment that the First Cause IS sentient - if it is so remote, and our little world so tiny, that the First Cause is unaware of humanity's existence, do we still call it 'God'?"

    "If the universe is a vastly complex clockwork of physical matter and physical forces, set in motion by an eternal prime mover that no longer influences the universe in any way, then what is 'God'?"

    Aquinas's repeated conclusion "this we call God" is only valid in the context of his day and his understanding of nature, and would not be valid today.

    Then, of course, there is the fundamental fault in Aquinas's logic that Michael tries to dismiss:

    If the universe must have a cause, then why is it that God does not need a cause? Michael Egnor criticized me (in his apparently characteristically scatological way) for explaining the existence of the universe as "shit happens". If there can be an eternal God, why can there not be an eternal regress of causes? To this both Egnor and Aquinas explain the existence of "God" as, well, shit happens.

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  3. I think that Aquinas' proofs of a god's existence were formulated to make believers (such as Michael) feel good about the 'reasonableness' of their beliefs and not to convert nonbelievers.

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  4. Bach, I think in his time, it was simply to make a formal case for God, that could follow Classical Philosophy.

    The number of non-believers were probably too small, and didn't have the same objective as they have today.

    Guess it is just different times.

    Another thing, you can't realllllly reallly convince a person of nothiing. The person has to convince her self, that certain assertions are correct and others are wrong.

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  5. Following my idea that there is no idea without objection... I will object the Way in the most direct manner.

    So the first step to object I suppose is see what is in play here. Logical Rules, Ontology, Epistemology.

    So anything else outside of these will be of course a worthless argument. So The arguments will become worthless if they take as an objection Social Ideas, Takes in consideration Aquinas or the person who talks about the argument, The Objecter's philosophical view or Opinion.

    ________________________________________________

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  6. 1) Change in Nature is Elevation from Potency to Act.

    Now this is a ontological approach of things. The premise takes in consideration that Nature in at play here. So the very first objection would be to to DENY the existence of Nature. That is right XD there is no Nature!

    Let's leave my list of objections Explicit

    *1 - There is no Nature

    The argument hinges on a dynamic. Potency >>> ACT. One way is to break the bridge, and say that Potency can not connect in anyway with ACT. Or disappear with one the members. There is no Potency or there is no ACT.

    *2 - Pontency do not connect to ACT
    *3 - There is no Potency
    *4 - There is no ACT

    So I will try to ... well further the counter-argumentation later.

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  7. 2) Potency cannot actualize itself, because it does not exist actually.

    The denial rule works I think in every argument that takes logic as a rule really XD I mean seriously, unless you are lucky enough to have a person that believes that logical rules DO NOT exist... the Denial Rule will be the first way to counter argument any argument.

    First obvious objection would be to say that Potency CAN actualize itself. And second is that Potency does freaking exist.

    Now notice that some objections contradict the ones I wrote before, so if I take as rules some objections it will destroy other ojections by logic.

    5* - Potency can actualize itself
    6* - Potency does exist

    * Notices that some objections are just ... well lousy really. *

    _____________________________________________

    3) Potency must be actualized by another, which is itself in act.

    *7 - Like Before, Potency can be actualize by itself or by something that is not ACT

    _____________________________________________

    4) Essentially ordered series of causes (elevations of potency to act) exist in nature.

    *8_ Elevations from Potency to act DO NOT exist in Nature.

    _______________________________________________

    5) An essentially ordered series of elevations from potency to act cannot be in infinite regress, because the series must be actualized by something that is itself in act without the need for elevation from potency.

    9* - Infinite regress of potency to act exist

    _______________________________________________


    6) The ground of an essentially ordered series of elevations from potency to act must be pure act with respect to the casual series.

    * this is a rule of the on argument workings so to counter argument this would be to somehow infer rules or models outside the argument*

    _____________________________________________

    7) This Pure Act-- Prime Mover-- is what we call God.

    10* - The pure act can not be identified as God.

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  8. *1 - There is no Nature
    *2 - Pontency do not connect to ACT
    *3 - There is no Potency
    *4 - There is no ACT
    *5 - Potency can actualize itself
    *6 - Potency does exist
    *7 - Like Before, Potency can be actualize by itself or by something that is not ACT
    *8 - Elevations from Potency to act DO NOT exist in Nature.
    *9 - Infinite regress of potency to act exist
    *10 - The pure act can not be identified as God.

    I think this is the list of counter arguments. This argument is far more related to Logic, then other areas of knowledge, so for my pure luck I wont have to work much hahahahaa, to see each of these objections.

    Number 1 _ If we were to say that Nature doesn't Exist, we need to explain then, what is this that we see and relate to.

    So it means that reality either doesn't exist or Nature and pretty much our Universe is not Part of it.

    If reality doesn't exist that nothing exist than who is writing these lines ??? Saying that reality is not real seems to be a contradictory action. Hence I think therefore I AM. Something has to exist, be REAL for real. So the non-existence of reality seems to be logically incorrect.

    Maybe the Universe is not part of reality, and therefore, something DOES exist but it is not the Universe. Now many problems arise here, because there is no way to find out what IS THERE, is impossible! This is pretty much Anti-Realism of some sort. So anything that we do and say cannot relate to reality.

    But still, even if our "reality" is fake, the argument would not be destroyed, it just means that the argument refers to the pseudo-reality, and rather that anything that we do including what you are reading is equality worlthless in terms of Ontology.

    So this obejction remains, however is far from being a strong argument against anything... it is a 50-50 case, and in some school of thoughts, is a completely worthless idea, in others is the rule of the School's Ontology.

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  9. Number 2

    Potency and ACT are separated. But the problem is... Potency would be something that do exists right now, and does not connect to ACT. But potency is what "it might be" not what "it IS." So Potency has to exist in the past and in the future let's say, but no in the present, but if you move to the present+30 minutes, the potency that was there would no longer exist, so Potency exist and doesn't exist depending on where you are on time.

    The obvious refutation would be to say that we are stuck o HERE AND NOW, so for us and for the "present", Potency can never be now. And act becomes a parameter with no cronology. No past and no future. It is as if actions of the past and in the future do not exist. But what we do with past actions? have they disappear after their conclusion?

    This objections break with the past, and with human knowledge, remember these words meanings you learned in the past, actually all meaning needs the past and a possible future TO MAKE SENSE, if Meaning is, than this objection is wrong.

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  10. @RickK:

    ["If all that we see was created by complex, non-sentient, physical forces, what evidence remains that the "First Cause" is/was sentient?"]

    Aristotle was more reserved about the 'sentience' of the Prime Mover. Aquinas went into great logical detail demonstrating that the Prime Mover is also perfectly good, true, intelligent, etc. He wrote extensively on this, and demonstrated that much more could be known about the Prime Mover, and that the Prime Mover understood by logic was rather similar to the God of the Bible. Aquinas observed that the Prime Mover's qualities were supernatural, so we could only understand them by analogy, not directly.

    ["If the First Cause or Prime Mover is a non-sentient, eternal force - do we still call it 'God'?"]

    See above. There are 4 more proofs, each of which looks at God from a different perspective.

    ["If some dimensions beyond our immediate senses are eternal, but the time and space dimensions we can directly sense are not, do we call those eternal dimensions 'God'?"]

    Don't know. But God is Personal, not a dimension.

    ["Assuming for the moment that the First Cause IS sentient - if it is so remote, and our little world so tiny, that the First Cause is unaware of humanity's existence, do we still call it 'God'?"]

    All change in nature is originated by God.

    ["If the universe is a vastly complex clockwork of physical matter and physical forces, set in motion by an eternal prime mover that no longer influences the universe in any way, then what is 'God'?"]

    Deism has nothing to do with either Christianity or Aquinas' proofs.

    [Aquinas's repeated conclusion "this we call God" is only valid in the context of his day and his understanding of nature, and would not be valid today.]

    Logic is still logic.

    [Then, of course, there is the fundamental fault in Aquinas's logic that Michael tries to dismiss: If the universe must have a cause, then why is it that God does not need a cause? Michael Egnor criticized me (in his apparently characteristically scatological way) for explaining the existence of the universe as "shit happens". If there can be an eternal God, why can there not be an eternal regress of causes? To this both Egnor and Aquinas explain the existence of "God" as, well, shit happens.]

    I pointed out clearly in the post that the proof shows that an unmoved mover is necessary.

    There have been very few coherent attempts to refute the First Way. Most have been ignorant b.s. ('what caused God...')

    The most salient effort at refutation was Kant's, who asserted that God was noumenal, not phenomenal, and that logic could not be extended to the supernatural realm.

    Kant was wrong in two ways:

    1) The First Way does not extend logic too far. It demonstrates that there must be an unmoved mover for all change in nature. The logical steps are natural, not supernatural. The conclusion points to something beyond nature, but the logic itself involves natural processes only.

    2) If one asserts that the origin of change in nature is utterly beyond logical analysis and cannot even be invoked, then there is no basis for retaining logical analysis in science. If 'shit happened' to cause the universe, then 'shit happened' to cause the origin of species, gravity, stars, etc. Science evaporates.

    Materialism/atheism lacks a metaphysical basis for science.
    August 22, 2011 7:23 AM

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  11. sorry for the break ...

    Number 3 implies that there is no such thing as potency. IN other words that things do not have the potency to anything. Unfortunately... this is refuted by our experience and probability. Which means that things could have to potency to become something, no doubt about it. So number is most likely wrong.

    Number 4 is there is no act... well we see acts all the time, actually saying that phrase was an act, therefore, ACTS do exist and since acts exist, Number 4 is most likely wrong too.

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  12. @bachfiend:

    [I think that Aquinas' proofs of a god's existence were formulated to make believers (such as Michael) feel good about the 'reasonableness' of their beliefs and not to convert nonbelievers.]

    The Prime Mover argument is Aristotle's, who was not interested in converting people to Christianity.

    Aquinas' development of the proof was in an introductory text for new clergy (the Summa). I doubt that he had any intention of converting atheists, who he considered too few and stupid to bother with.

    Aquinas' project was to demonstrate that there is no logical disconnect between Christianity and reason about the natural world. He wanted Christians to engage nature, and learn about it. Augustine had counseled detachment to some extent, and that belief was rising in Christendom because of the rediscovery of Aristotle and the concern that paganism was on the rise. Aquinas showed that there was nothing in Aristotle's philosophy, properly understood, that was a problem for Christianity.

    Aquinas' baptism of Aristotle was probably the crucial moment in the development of modern empirical science. Roger Bacon (Aquinas' contemporary and the first experimentalist) developed these ideas, and many followed.

    The High Middle Ages was the beginning of the modern world. Aquinas was central to it.

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  13. Number 5 would create a mechanism that Potency has the Power to create Potency, but having the power to ACT on something, transforms potency in act, and the act makes new potency.

    Putting simply, Potency can't act, because it will contradict my initial assumption that potency produces potency. So potency can't act at all.


    Number 6 is the inverse of number 3. But if all potential configurations exist, this world could have no order, it should have at least infinite disorder, so therefore through empirism we know that such potentials do not exist in our Universe.

    Even if we were to imply several MultiVerses, their relation would still be up for discussion so as of this moment this counter argument is really weak. So far at least.


    Number 7 has the possibility for something else to actualize act. So it means that something other than Potency has the power to create Act.
    So a act is about to happen in 2 seconds. This action will noit be produced by the potency of that act. But if the act has no potency of it's own, then it can act at all. So maybe the one that has potency is another act. But still that act would create the potency for the first ACT we talked about would then destroy the assumption. So therefore... this argument doesn't make much sense.

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  14. Number 8 becomes sort fo worthless because of the last explanation. If acts have no potency, then they will likely not occur. So number 8 falls because number 7 doesn't have much sense

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  15. Sorry folks ... was watching a movie XD.

    Number 9 and number 10 I leave to you folks haahahah ....

    I think number 10 is by far the bast objection to this argument. Number 9 is also good but it hinges on something that depends on other stuff. So depending what metaphysical position we are talking about, we just can't accept some of the logical necessities of number 9.


    Sorry XD ... reallly lazy hahahah ....

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  16. Egnor: Aquinas' baptism of Aristotle was probably the crucial moment in the development of modern empirical science.

    You keep asserting that, Mike, but provide no evidence that Thomism is of any use to science.

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  17. Well Scholastic, should have played some importance in the construction of the Scientific thought ( Wastern in this case ).

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  18. @oleg:

    [You keep asserting that, Mike, but provide no evidence that Thomism is of any use to science.]

    The intellectual milieu in which science arose and is practiced is Aristotelian/Thomist. Theoretical science has only arisen in cultures steeped in this tradition.

    Of what use is atheism to science?

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  19. Atheism is a worldview. It is irrelevant to science.

    I am still waiting to see how Thomism is applied in science.

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  20. @oleg:

    [Atheism is a worldview. It is irrelevant to science.]

    Worldviews are irrelevant to science? Young earth creationism (a worldview) is irrelevant to science? Belief in evil spirits living in nature (a worldview) is irrelevant to science?

    The ONLY thing relevant to science is worldview. The fact-driven methodological study of nature is intrinsically tied to worldview.

    I never cease to be amazed at the bizarre viewpoints of athiests.

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  21. Mike,

    We are not discussing atheism. Stick to the subject.

    How is Thomism relevant to science? Give us one example of the Thomistic perspective being useful in science. So far you haven't.

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  22. The definition of science is the fact-based investigation of nature, with a specific method. This is true regardless of the worldview of the practitioner, and in fact science has been successfully practiced by people of many different world views.

    Don't attack oleg because he happens to understand the definition of science.

    We also have names for for various forms of investigation of nature that permit the introduction of non-factual, non-evidence-based causation (like fairies, gods, or midichlorians) - names include pseudoscience and several forms of philosophy.

    Oleg was completely correct.

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  23. Mike said
    "I never cease to be amazed at the bizarre viewpoints of athiests."

    No wonder! The atheist world view requires that nothing create everything for no reason.
    A more empty, feckless world view cannot be imagined.

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  24. Anonymous said Oleg is completely correct.

    I.e. anonymous - whoever that faceless, nameless entity may be - doesn't have a clue what's being discussed.

    All science is based on word views.
    That the inventors of the "scientific method" were all creationists is telling indeed.

    "Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator. In most modern scientists this belief has died: it will be interesting to see how long their confidence in uniformity survives it. Two significant developments have already appeared - the hypothesis of a lawless sub-nature, and the surrender of the claim that science is true. We may be living nearer than we suppose to the end of the Scientific Age." -C. S. Lewis

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  25. @anon:

    [The definition of science is the fact-based investigation of nature, with a specific method. This is true regardless of the worldview of the practitioner, and in fact science has been successfully practiced by people of many different world views.]

    No. Science is practiced only by the acceptance of a very specific worldview:

    1) Objective reality exists
    2) Nature has laws/principles/regularities
    3) It is desirable to discern them
    4) Man can discern them
    5) There is a social/economic/political milieu in which scientific work is feasable.

    This worldview has only arisen in the Christian West. People in other cultures who do science do so by tacitly accepting the Christian West worldview, at least as regards science.

    @Oleg:

    [I am still waiting to see how Thomism is applied in science.]

    The Thomist revolution in the High Middle Ages introduced Aristotelian metaphysics, politics, and ethics, combined with Christian theology and philosophy, to the West. The result was an explosion of science (and economic and politidal improvement,etc)

    In areas outside of science, Thomism is of deep importance. The prinicple of double-effect is the foundation for much of Western law regarding homocide, and Aquinas' distinction between positive law and divine law has been the basis for countless advances in civil rights (Martin Luther King referenced Aquinas extensively in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail).

    In science, as I noted, the entire modern scientific project began in the High Middle Ages (e.g. Roger Bacon) in the 13th century, with the Thomist rediscovery of Aristotle's metaphysics.

    In modern science, Thomist understanding of potency and act and of final cause offer a coherent framework for understanding quantum states and quantum entanglement. Heisenberg understood this and wrote about it.

    [Don't attack oleg because he happens to understand the definition of science.]

    What are you talking about?

    [We also have names for for various forms of investigation of nature that permit the introduction of non-factual, non-evidence-based causation (like fairies, gods, or midichlorians) - names include pseudoscience and several forms of philosophy.]

    Do you mean like the theory that the universe arose and exists without cause, or that aliens are watching us, or that there are no objective laws of nature, or that 'stuff changes and survivors survive' explains life?

    Materialism/atheism is pseudoscience, although I hate to insult pseudoscience in so gratuitous a fashion.
    Oleg was completely correct.

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  26. RickK said...

    M.E. said: "There are 4 more proofs, each of which looks at God from a different perspective."

    Several weak arguments don't make one strong argument.

    The question still stands - if the Prime Mover is so remote as to be unaware of humanity - a concept unthinkable to Aquinas, does everybody still call it "God"?

    Or, if the Prime Mover is a non-sentient force (because Aquinas had never seen a non-sentient force create complex objects in nature, but we see it all the time with evolution, plate tectonics, etc.), would Aquinas or anybody else call it "God"?

    M.E. said: "All change in nature is originated by God."

    If you mean the Prime Mover of a clockwork universe, I refer you back to my earlier questions. If you mean that God is a direct agent of every change in nature, that is a statement of faith, not logic or fact. Evidence supports the assumption that natural phenomena have natural causes - an assumption that for uncounted trillions of observations has never been falsified once.

    M.E. said: "Don't know. But God is Personal, not a dimension."

    Again, a statement of faith - not logic or fact. Tsk tsk.

    M.E. said: "Logic is still logic. "

    Except when it starts with an assumption based on faith. And faulty logic is still faulty.

    M.E. said: "I pointed out clearly in the post that the proof shows that an unmoved mover is necessary."

    No, it doesn't. You and Aquinas may not be able to wrap your minds around an infinite, eternal series of regressions, or around eternal dimensions outside of the familiar 4, or the "uncaused" particle creation of quantum fluxuation, but these and more are explanations which support our modern data than Aquinas's:
    - sentient,
    - omnipresent but undetectable,
    - omnipotent but requiring worship,
    - omniscient but able to make choices,
    - all-loving creator of Hell.

    Let's say there is a Prime Mover for our universe, who was in turn created by a different Prime Mover, who was in turn created by a lineage of Prime Movers ten million deep. This scenario fits Aquinas's logic perfectly until the last conclusion, because he could not determine which one everybody would call "God".

    Logic certainly can't be extended to the supernatural realm - neither do science or logic. And absolutely NOTHING changes if we assume the supernatural realm doesn't exist.

    (why do I keep getting the message that my Google account doesn't have access to this page?)

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  27. Egnor: In modern science, Thomist understanding of potency and act and of final cause offer a coherent framework for understanding quantum states and quantum entanglement. Heisenberg understood this and wrote about it.

    We discussed Heisenberg's post-hoc rationalization here. Neither Thomas's, nor Aristotle's approach provided any insights in the development of quantum mechanics.

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  28. Oh, Michael, one question regarding "The Five Ways".

    Where does Aquinas offer logical proof that the five proofs must all apply to the same entity?

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  29. Gary H. - I apologize for posting as Anonymous, but it is certainly not my fault. I've made repeated attempts to get through whatever is blocking my google account from posting comments on this site.

    But I have to chuckle at the absurdity of "Gary H." complaining that somebody else is anonymous. I don't post my full name either, but I don't make snarky comments about others who choose anonymity on the internet.

    -- RickK

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  30. @oleg:

    [We discussed Heisenberg's post-hoc rationalization here. Neither Thomas's, nor Aristotle's approach provided any insights in the development of quantum mechanics.]

    I'll take Heisenberg's word for it.

    You still haven't told me how 'shit happened' (atheism) provides a framework for science.

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  31. @anon:

    [Where does Aquinas offer logical proof that the five proofs must all apply to the same entity?]

    Aquinas devotes hundreds of pages to that topic in ST and SCG. You need to read Feser or Aquinas himself, or any one of the hundreds of books that discuss this.

    You can only make coherent critiques if you have a clue about Aquinas. You don't.

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  32. Mike,

    I have said, not once, that atheism has nothing to do with the development of science. You can believe in God, or not, and be a splendid scientist. So quit asking me what atheism can do for science.

    It is you who asserts, over and over, that Aristotelean metaphysics is absolutely crucial for science and fails to back up the assertion.

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  33. RickK said...

    M.E said about science: "No. Science is practiced only by the acceptance of a very specific worldview"

    You and Gary have it exactly backward.

    Science is just another way of learning about the world - it is philosophy with a laboratory. Just as there are different methods of glass making, or farming, or doing math - science is just a method of learning how things work. Arab and Western cultures codified it into its (so far) most efficient form, but other cultures did science too - particularly China. Have you read any of Needham?

    But early natural philosophers didn't START with a naturalistic worldview. As you yourself point out, they were ALL religious in various ways.

    A specific worldview didn't create science. The repeated failures of supernatural explanations, and repeated successes of natural explanations dragged natural philosophers, kicking and screaming over centuries, to a law-based, mechanistic, natural world view.

    Copernicus didn't WANT the Earth to revolve around the Sun, Newton WANTED God to have set the planets in motion, Darwin would much rather have found proof that God created the species.

    The worldview that you guys talk about is the result of scientific investigation, not a prerequisite.

    And the beauty of science is that it can be practiced by people with ANY world view. What's more, all it takes is a little solid evidence that the supernatural is actually more than just a creation of the human mind, and science will embrace the supernatural.

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  34. RickK said...

    M.E. said: "You can only make coherent critiques if you have a clue about Aquinas. You don't."

    Calm down, Michael - I asked a question.

    Besides, it is not necessary to read the entirety of a 12-volume tretise on dragons to critique the starting premise that dragons exist.

    The vast majority of theological literature is rendered meaningless when the starting premise of God's existence is removed. Most of falls to the level of angels on the head of pin.

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  35. Michael,

    You're still showing selective ignorance and the propensity to conflate unrelated fields.

    The Universe isn't without cause. You ignore the eternal inflating Universe. Science.

    Alien abductions are easily explained by hypnopompic and hypnognogic hallucinations which in other social environments were misinterpreted as demonic possession or ghosts. Pseudoscience.

    No objective theories is just bad philosophy, like hylemorphic dualism.

    Survivors survive is just a deliberate misunderstanding of what evolution is. Individuals are selected for the number of reproducing offspring they produce in their lifetime, because there are only 3 certainties in life; death, taxes and the fact that you'll distort anything if it suits your purposes.

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  36. Anonymous has just asserted "Courtier's Reply".

    That means he's right, and there is no God. Dr. Egnor you have met your match, for anyone incapable of providing a complete multi-year philosophical education to intransigent atheists by way of a handful of blog comments simply does not need to be taken seriously.

    Why do theists even try, when the atheists have the nuclear option of stating "Courtier's Reply" and walking away in triumph? Why did Aquinas waste his life? Didn't he know that if God made everything then something would have had to make God? Was he so stupid that he didn't even imagine "Courtier's Reply" would nullify all of his work?

    Alas, what more can we expect, really, of credulous Dark-Age retards? But cut Aquinas some slack--he's 800 years stupider than Anonymous, poor guy.

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  37. @Matteo:

    Good points all.

    I must admit that I'm astonished by the deliberate ignorance I encounter. I understand disagreement, but there's a celebration of ignorance on the part of atheists that's creepy.

    Perhaps it's because these guys are bottom-of-the-barrel, cranks in their mom's basement or something, but I see the same willful ignorance in the cream of the crop-- Myers, Coyne, Dawkins, etc.

    The one place I have seen this kind of stuff before is in schoolyard bullie. People who plan to use force, and merely want to dominate, rather than discuss ideas.

    I'm coming around to a very different understanding of atheism than I had several years ago. I now see it as a totalitarian ideology to the core. It is to be fought, not engaged.

    My purpose here is to present the Christian side of things (as poorly as I understand it) to friends and colleagues, who can carry on the fight as well.

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  38. Michael,

    Fair enough. You admit that you poorly understand the Christian viewpoint. That goes along well with your poor understanding of science, philosophy and history, so you're very much an all rounder.

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  39. What the heck ... Monday War XD ?

    Dr Egnor you shouldn't do these kind of things XD it makes people go nuts XD!

    I mean seriously, that are other ways of not agreeing to arguments to God, such as Positivism, or Materialism, or Naturalism. Just say that you philosophical aliance lies elsewhere, and it is beyond simple logic, Which Aquina's argument depend on.

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  40. Mann I spent months discussing Arguments for and against God. Must say it was something sort of fruitless. The atheists and theists had NO freaking common ground to work on.

    God is an emotional question ... even if you believe in Him or not.

    I mean personally I think that God exists. but I dunno... I think to discuss something both sides need to decide what Epistemology we are about to use. Or maybe the Ontological model as an extra ground.

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  41. Having lived on both sides of the divide I can say this with empirical certainty: rejection of God darkens the intellect. If one has the will to seek, know, and love God, then the arguments become crystal clear, absolutely compelling, and atheist objections are easily seen to be beside the point at best, or self-refuting, credulous, ludicrous nonsense at worst.

    Without the will to seek, know, and love God, all bets are off. Intellect and goodwill must both be employed if one wants to see clearly. This is really the point of Pascal's Wager, which the atheists, in their abject darkness, consider to be some sort of attempt of a proof of God. That's not at all what it is, but rather it is an appeal not to be a total dick about the question in order to enable things to intellectually "click".

    Atheists, not wanting things to "click" in a theistic direction, reject Pascal's appeal. They prefer dickitude. They prefer Plato's cave.

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  42. Matteo said: "That means he's right, and there is no God."

    No, what it means is assuming God exists doesn't prove God exists.

    Aquinas tries to reason his way to a conclusion of God, but ends every proof with a statement that inherently assumes a specific version of God. At the end of each proof he says something to the effect of "this entity is what everybody calls God." His proofs depend on assumptions about a God with characteristics that would make sense to a 13th Century reader.

    But we now have the evidence and perspective to introduce many scenarios that Aquinas could not imagine - some of which I've listed. And they are NOT entities or scenarios that Aquinas or most people today would call God. Therefore Aquinas's proofs do not irrefutably lead to a conclusion of something you would call God.

    So even Aquinas's logic STARTED with assumptions of the nature of God. If you remove the starting assumption of God and just follow the evidence, theology loses most of its meaning.

    That's my point.

    Though I've always found the Courtier's Reply amusing.

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  43. One day at the grind and I miss all the materialist histrionics!
    Ah...I missed you guys :P

    Bach,
    you state
    "Fair enough. You admit that you poorly understand the Christian viewpoint....science, philosophy and history, so you're very much an all rounder."; and in doing so you confuse humility with an admission of weakness. This little mix up belies your position once more: pretension. You mean to CONVERT people ideologically by means of a some inferred assertion of scientific supremacy. If they do not agree, it MUST be that they are ignorant or stupid.
    I had imagined a war with windmills, but with that little slip the method is clear: A thunderous noise, and a hope the reader will not peer beyond the curtain to see the Wizard for what he is: just the same as them - in the dark and full of belief and assumptions.


    Oleg,
    I have answered AND countered your INANE question in several ways (as have other comments) and your response has been to ignore my comments in a cowardly fashion; feigning offence and wetting the virtual bed.
    Continue with your display of banality and academic myopia, it is lesson by way of example. You exemplify the modern Monist Materialist hysteria quite well.

    Matteo,
    very well put. Pascal's question is enigmatic to the materialist mind. How they writhe to avoid it!
    The question itself is a brilliant means by which to illustrate the inability of the materialist philosophy to account for the most BASIC and HUMAN experiences we call 'life'. To fail to see the presence and purpose in this riddle must be considered a 'disability' or 'disorder'...maybe genetic?
    LOL
    Or could it be there IS free will?
    'They prefer dickitude.'
    Perhaps it is a choice, then. :P

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  44. I found very funny. None of the arguments for God have as premise God exists. But hey who freaking knows, maybe in some kind of fucked up modal logic coming to the conclusion that if God exists than you have Used God as a Premise and BOOM it is all over XD.

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  45. Actually Arguments for God, take in consideration a certain definition for God and follows from there. If you want to change the definition of God to suit your needs that is your problem XD. The argument simply tries to argument for the Definition of God that Aquinas thought was the Best Definition.

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  46. “The "what caused God" retort is a confession of ignorance of the actual argument.”

    Hardly. The cosmological argument fails to answer the basic question “why is there something rather than nothing?”

    Even if you accept the argument that our reality is the result of an unmoved mover (and I don’t), you are left to ponder what sort of principle compels the existence of this “god”. Our existence argues strongly that a state of nothingness does not exist due to the fact that it could always be described or defined in relationship to our existence. I don’t see any reason why this apparent natural abhorrence of nothingness must necessarily lead to the existence of the Aquinas unmoved mover any more than it would lead to the existence of any other imaginable cosmology. I find it more probable, and thus easier to believe, that nothingness spawned a tiny nugget of inflation field rather than omnipotent and omniscient god.

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  47. @anon:

    [The cosmological argument fails to answer the basic question “why is there something rather than nothing?”]

    That's not the question the ca addresses. The ca asks the question 'what', not 'why'. It demonstrates the need for a Prime Mover. Scripture answers 'why'. Hint: the answer to 'why' is Love.

    [I find it more probable, and thus easier to believe, that nothingness spawned a tiny nugget...]

    "Nothingness' is nothing, so it has no agency and spawns nothing. You guys can's even handle rudimentary logic.

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  48. Anon, the Cosmological argument for that is the Argument for Contingency.

    Seriously ... I realize that the discussion about God always break down in the same place every where in the world XD by the way things are.

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  49. "Nothingness' is nothing, so it has no agency and spawns nothing. You guys can's even handle rudimentary logic.

    II don’t know who “you guys” are, I speak solely for myself.

    Saying “nothingness is nothing” doesn’t really say anything. Granted “nothing” as opposed to “something” is impossible to imagine, but the fact that there is something rather than nothing makes it inevitable that some principle exists that precludes “nothingness”. There can be no doubt that whatever this principle is, it is responsible for existence whether you feel the need to front load existence with God or not.

    Considering I said “Our existence argues strongly that a state of nothingness does not exist due to the fact that it could always be described or defined in relationship to our existence” It should be fairly obvious I was speaking figuratively when I said “nothingness spawned…”

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  50. (RickK posting as Anonymous again because my Google account is being blocked by this site.)

    Anon said: "There can be no doubt that whatever this principle is, it is responsible for existence whether you feel the need to front load existence with God or not."

    Well said.

    And this is where Aquinas's argument fails. Nobody (but sarcastic Matteo) is saying Aquinas was stupid (or a Dark Age Retard to use the language from Matteo's strawman). But Aquinas lacked the perspective we have today.

    Every time he concludes one of his "ways" with "This everybody calls God", his use of "God" is loaded with all the images and expectations of his age. He had never seen anything created by non-sentient processes. He had no awareness of physics, astronomy or evolution.

    But today we're able to envision answers to Aquinas's proofs - answers that fit his logic but bear no resemblance to anything anybody would call "God".

    This doesn't mean that something that people would call God doesn't exist, it simply means when considered in the light of new information, Aquinas hasn't proved God does exist. He's simply proved that, as Anon says, a principle exists that results in something rather than nothing.

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  51. Matteo said: "Having lived on both sides of the divide I can say this with empirical certainty: rejection of God darkens the intellect. If one has the will to seek, know, and love God, then the arguments become crystal clear, absolutely compelling, and atheist objections are easily seen to be beside the point at best, or self-refuting, credulous, ludicrous nonsense at worst."

    Yet there is a positive correlation between healthier societies and higher levels of secularism. And some of the most positive, giving, charitable "religious" teachings are found in Buddhism which doesn't have a "God".

    Matteo closes by calling atheists "dicks", a sentiment which CrusaderREX echoes. I suppose they do this to demonstrate the positive influence of their love of God.

    Well argued, gentlemen.

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  52. Anon.

    If we secularize Ethiopia... how long will it take for them to become rich and wealth???

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  53. Edward and the other sophists simply don't get it. If one points at the sun, and says, "there, that is the sun", there will always be those who mistake your finger for the sun. there are apparently limits to the strength of any argument. none of the objections here, like the absolutely banal one that Aquinas' lack of knowledge regarding plate tectonics renders this argument useless, actually challenge (contradict) any of the author's premises.

    I can't help but feel that the critics of this argument just don't want to believe in God, and are doing everything in their power to delude themselves and others.

    "the fact that there is something rather than nothing makes it inevitable that some principle exists that precludes “nothingness”
    But this is exactly the point Christians are trying to make... The point is that if there were no Pure Act, there would be nothing else. "Ex nihilo nihil fit"

    "Yet there is a positive correlation between healthier societies and higher levels of secularism. And some of the most positive, giving, charitable "religious" teachings are found in Buddhism which doesn't have a "God".

    and yet...the happiest and most content people I know are religious. you're confusing correlation for causation, my anonymous friend.
    the chaos and confusion caused by surrendering to our appetites is not fitting for being with intellects (and also sows discord within our souls), and the mere pursuit of pleasure cannot be the end goal of life, since our mortality means that utilitarian goals will in the end be defeated, and our last moments will be of dreading the lost of happiness, not of having pride in one's own virtues and contributions, or loving and praising God.

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  54. Whoah. That escalated quickly. I think my head is still spinning. :)

    Seriously though, I think this broke down into an arguement over whether religion benefits society.

    I think RickK ha the best response to Aquinas. mregnor, perhaps you could cover proofs that the prime mover is not the Dao( or whatever you wish to call the non sentient prime mover in Ricks arguements). So we have proved their is a prime mover now we must disprove Deist, Taoist and God-knows-what-else-ist views of the prime mover. I look forward to an article.

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  56. ""7) This Pure Act-- Prime Mover-- is what we call God.""

    This is a word game. You can take any random thing and decide to call it "god" or whatever. But that's silly.

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