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Being, Miracles, and God: Answering a Reasonable Atheist

Areopagus

In the course of a discussion on my personal blog about the existence of God and of the miraculous, an unbelieving reader (who strikes me as open to reasonable discussion) wrote me to say:

"All I’m saying is that people everywhere demonstrate a powerful desire to believe that there is intervention in the material universe from outside the material universe."

Except that’s not true.  Lots of people also demonstrate a powerful desire to believe there is no intervention in the material universe.  Even many people who believe in some sort of God do this, because they are deists.

The notion that the existence of God provides nothing but unalloyed consolation—and does not also give reason to have deep fear—entirely overlooks the doctrine of judgment in this life and of hell in the next.  It’s just as easy and plausible to say that atheism is the wish fulfillment fantasy.  It’s also just as useless in getting at the question of whether God exists.  Instead of cheap psychoanalysis of philosophical opponents, I think the smarter approach is to look at the philosophical arguments for the existence of God.

"The problem is, even with that open mind, one still has to continue living a life based on some assumptions about the nature of the universe. Do you stake everything on the possibility it was a god, or do you not? The gaps have to be filled with something."

Actually, here’s the funny thing.  Although Catholic thinkers like Thomas Aquinas (and I) certainly accept the reality of miracles, Thomas doesn’t argue for the existence of God from the gaps.  He doesn’t say, “Here’s some exception to the course of nature (like the Resurrection) or some natural process I can’t explain, therefore God.”  He doesn’t argue for the existence of God from the exceptions to the rules.  Instead, he argues from the Rules.  In short, Thomas doesn’t say, “I don’t know how lightning works, so God.”  He says, “Why are there rules?  Why is there anything?  How is it that reality is intelligible at all?”

Notably, Paul does the same thing.  He doesn't say, "I can't explain the Resurrection, so there must be a God."  He argues for the existence of God just as Thomas does, from the ordinary course of nature, not from the extraordinary exceptions of miracles or inexplicable natural phenomena.  Just like Thomas and the Church, Paul doesn't appeal to amazing esoteric events vouchsafed to the few who see Lazarus raised, but to the many who saw him born.  It is daily bread and the underlying laws of time, space, matter and energy that hold it in being—not multiplied loaves and fishes—that Paul says cannot explain itself.  And it is our refusal to consider that which Paul regards as blameworthy, not for mystics who close their eyes to the Miracles of the Sun, but for ordinary people close their eyes to the implications of broad daylight:

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made." (Romans 1:18-20)

The temptation of our age is to say, “Sure.  We can’t answer those questions yet.  But with sufficient advances in science we will someday.”

But no conceivable advance in science will ever answer the questions, “Why are there rules?  Why is there anything?  How is it that reality is intelligible at all?” Those questions are, by their very nature, not “scientific” questions.  Science (as moderns mean it) is the measurement of the metric properties of time, space, matter and energy.  All such science presupposes a metaphysic that is essentially theistic.  That is, it begins with the assumption that the universe has rules intelligible to our minds. You can no more “scientifically” get behind those rules to their source than you can prove that there is no such thing as proof.

But, of course, when you start talking a universe that is fundamentally ordered by rules and of our mysterious power to intellect (read between the lines) of those rules, you inexorably start talking as though the universe is the creation of Mind.  Thomas says, “Yes, because it and we are the product of Mind.”  If you don’t make that presupposition, you can’t do science at all since there is no reason—there can be no reason—to suppose that the universe and your mind correspond to Reason.

Some people think they can get around that by positing a multiverse in which our universe is part of some larger universe that give it its rules and being.  But, of course, that just pushes the question back: Why is there a multiverse? Why is there anything?  And why is the Everything we see contingent and dependent on something else?  How do beings that are always totally contingent (dependent on something else) come into existence?

Sooner or later that points us back to something that is not merely a being but is Being itself: something that simply Is. All created contingent beings participate in and are sustained by the God who is Being.  As Mike Flynn has pointed out, if such self-existent Being could talk, it would say, "I AM."  And by a strange coincidence, that is exactly how the God of some seriously philosophically-unsophisticated semitic Bronze Age shepherds introduced himself to them in Exodus 3.

Now, such a God can, if he chooses, operate outside the normal laws of nature he has created.  And the evidence does, indeed, suggest that he has done so at times.  But Thomas does not look to such evidence to demonstrate God’s existence.  On the contrary, Thomas takes a remarkably evolutionary view of creation:

"Nature is nothing but the plan of some art, namely a divine one, put into things themselves, by which those things move towards a concrete end: as if the man who builds up a ship could give to the pieces of wood that they could move by themselves to produce the form of the ship."

—Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Physics II.8, lecture 14, no. 268

In that, he is following Augustine who also sees creation, not as a series of deus ex machina interferences in nature from a God who tinkers, but as a continuous unfolding of properties invested in nature from the start:

"It is therefore causally that Scripture has said that earth brought forth the crops and trees, in the sense that it received the power of bringing them forth.  In the earth from the beginning, in what I might call the roots of time, God created what was to be in times to come."  [Emph. added]

On the literal meanings of Genesis, Book V Ch. 4:11

So there are really two questions here.  The first—Does God exist?—can be and has been answered by natural reason and does not require special revelation or faith.  Aristotle was able to work it out and lots of others have done so apart from the Christian revelation.

The question of whether that God does miracles is separate and requires faith and openness to revelation.  Like all points of supernatural revelation, it cannot be proven, but all arguments against it can be disproven.
 
 
Originally posted at National Catholic Register. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: USML)

Mark Shea

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Mark Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. He has written more than ten books including his most recent works, The Heart of Catholic Prayer: Re-Discovering the Our Father and the Hail Mary (Our Sunday Visitor, 2012) and The Work of Mercy: Being the Hands and Heart of Christ (Servant, 2012). Many of Mark's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Mark currently lives in Washington State with his wife, Janet, and their sons. Follow Mark through his blog, Catholic and Enjoying It!

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  • Steven Dillon

    Mark: If God were the cause of intelligibility, since cause logically precedes effect, God -- and all his intelligible properties -- would have to precede intelligibility. But, it's not possible for intelligible properties to precede intelligibility. So, God could not be the cause of intelligibility.

    As Thomas and Aristotle recognized, Forms are the things that are capable of being understood. So, all we need for there to be intellibility is for there to be forms. As Aquinas and Aristotle taught, Forms are neither created nor destroyed. Thus, neither forms nor intelligibility depend on God.

    • Colin Gormley

      >If God were the cause of intelligibility, since cause logically precedes effect

      Unless God and his Attributes were one and the same. As Aquinas taught and the Church teaches.

      >As Aquinas and Aristotle taught, Forms are neither created nor destroyed.

      Not really true. A Form does not exist independently without being joined to an act of existence. Angels for example are forms joined to an act of existence. This requires a potential to be moved to an actual. Hence there must be something to do this.

      • Steven Dillon

        Not really true. A Form does not exist independently without being joined to an act of existence. Angels for example are forms joined to an act of existence. This requires a potential to be moved to an actual. Hence there must be something to do this.

        But, this just reduces the argument from intelligibility to the argument from motion. Don't get me wrong, I think you're right: a form must be conjoined with an act of existence, and the argument from motion is sound (though, I don't think it gets us God).

        However, the argument from intelligibility infers God's existence from intelligibility, not from motion. It seems to me that my criticisms show why it's unsound to reason from intelligibility to God.

        • Colin Gormley

          >But, this just reduces the argument from intelligibility to the argument from motion.

          Not sure how. If telos does exist then we must ask where did it come from. That we as humans perceive intelligibility (by perceiving Forms) in things only means that we as humans require things to perceive in order to perceive their Forms.

          >However, the argument from intelligibility infers God's existence from intelligibility, not from motion.

          It's actually the notion that we perceive intelligibility "in motion." Both arguments consider reality from different aspects. It is precisely that things in motion proceed to their final cause that this motion even makes sense.

    • Rob VH

      Your argument is based on precedence but God is outside of time and space. Amazingly, God described Himself as "I AM" at a time when the people could not have known just how deep and far-reaching a statement that was!

  • Bonnie Engstrom

    Thank you for this.

  • David Nickol

    It seems to me we keep getting the same argument in different forms, and it relies completely on the allegedly self-evident proposition that the universe and everything in it are "contingent" and therefore owe their existence to God. But what if you don't find it self-evident.

    As to why there is something and not nothing, the assumption seems to be that nothingness is what one would expect—what there is in the normal course of events—and consequently something extraordinary must account for the fact that there is something. But of course if there were nothing, there would be no one to ask why there was nothing rather than something, and no one to say, "Ah, nothingness. Now this is what we would expect." The fact is, wherever the question is raised as to why there is something rather than nothing, it will always be the case that there is something, otherwise there would be no question raised. It is a little bit like asking, "Why am I me rather than someone else?" or, "Why am I here rather than somewhere else?" Whoever asks the question, "Why am I me rather than somebody else?" is necessarily going to be "me," and whoever asks, "Why am I here rather than somewhere else?" will always be "here." (I am reminded of the book title Wherever You Go, There You Are.)

    Much the same thing can be said about the question of why the universe is intelligible. It is possible, I think, for there to be unintelligible universes, but in those universes, no one asks, "Why is our universe unintelligible rather than intelligible?" There is no one to ask questions in an unintelligible universe.

    • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

      I'm not sure whether an unintelligible universe is even possible. What would it be like?

      • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

        I am not sure this universe is ultimately intelligible. I am out of my depth, but I understand that the "true nature" of the universe is increasingly bizarre. Time and space are not fixed, time may not even be tensed. There very well be 11 tiny dimensions, and so on. The rules and reality we feel we experience may more likely be a product of our own minds.

        • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

          Oh, I agree, maybe not entirely, but completely unintelligible... it's hard to imagine what that would be like.

          • David Nickol

            It would be a universe in which life and consciousness were impossible, I suppose. A universe is for all practical purpose unintelligible if there is no intelligence to comprehend it, even if has physical laws that are as regular as those of our own universe.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            If it's defined that way. But then we wouldn't be here to complain about it.

            Most universes that we can imagine, that have no life, would seem easier to understand in principle than our current universe. In practice, of course, maybe no one will be there...

          • David Nickol

            If it's defined that way. But then we wouldn't be here to complain about it.

            Yes, exactly.

            It seems evident to me that there will never be intelligent life in an incomprehensible universe, because intelligent life could not develop in an incomprehensible universe and ask the question, "Why is our universe incomprehensible instead of comprehensible?" If a universe were truly incomprehensible, I don't imagine life of any kind, let alone intelligent life, would arise there.

            Assuming evolution is the mechanism by which life arises and intelligence develops, it could not occur in a lawless or chaotic universe.

            The reason we can comprehend the universe to the extent that we do is that we evolved to comprehend the universe. We are an integral part of the world we inhabit. That is not an accident. We would not have evolved to ask any questions if the nature of reality (in this universe) were not such as it is. No life would have evolved if hydrogen and oxygen combined only occasionally to form water and could not be relied on to do so invariably. We are adapted to the environment in which we live, because we developed in it and were selected (by natural selection) in part for understanding it.

        • Rick DeLano

          No evidence at all for 11 tiny dimensions, time and space not being fixed, time not tensed.

          Reality is much more intelligible than Theories of Everything.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      >It seems to me we keep getting the same argument [that] relies completely on the allegedly self-evident proposition that the
      universe and everything in it are "contingent" and therefore owe their
      existence to God.

      People are arguing that these are "self-evident"?

      It seems to me that we discover that everything in the universe appears to be contingent and then we reason about whether this must be true of the universe as a whole, and then reason from there to if there must be a necessary being to be the cause of contingent beings.

      • David Nickol

        It seems to me that we discover that everything in the universe appears to be contingent . . .

        Are you saying that inductive reasoning can lead us to the conclusion that everything in the universe is contingent?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I think inductive reasoning tells us that all the things we observe are contingent, since to do so we have to look at actual things not just live in our heads.

          But contingency and necessity are metaphysical concepts and deductive reasoning is what would lead to the conclusion that everything in the universe is contingent, if it is successful in doing so.

          • Geena Safire

            Contingency is a metaphysical concept -- and has nothing to do with reality. Deductive reasoning, especially about metaphysical concepts, often has little to do with reality.

            If you presume that everything that can be seen or experienced is 'contingent,' and then use, as your definition, that everything in the universe fits into this category of 'contingent,' then it is not surprising that 'deductive reasoning' leads you to discover that, by gosh, everything in the universe is 'contingent,' and in addition because (again) of your definition of 'contingent,' that there must be something somewhere somehow of some substantial reality that is 'not contingent.'

            Sorry, Kevin, that's just called tautology.

          • Rick DeLano

            "Contingency is a metaphysical concept -- and has nothing to do with reality."

            >> Actually, it does. This thing is contingent upon that thing; there can be no Geena without her parents.

            " Deductive reasoning, especially about metaphysical concepts, often has little to do with reality"

            >> All valid deductive reasoning from valid metaphysical concepts has to do with reality; in fact we can know physical reality in no other way than by the intellect deriving the raison d'être from the impact of sense impressions.

            We can then deduce: Geena is here, typing and posting. She is contingent, since she cannot have come into existence without the prior actions of her mother and father.

            This is certain reality.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What do you mean that contingency has nothing to do with reality? You are contingent on your beating heart.

            I was answering a question about what kind of reasoning was involved.

            David asked: "Are you saying that inductive reasoning can lead us to the conclusion that everything in the universe is contingent?"

            I wrote "I think inductive reasoning tells us that all the things we observe are contingent, since to do so we have to look at actual things not just live in our heads." If we look at actual things and try to draw a conclusion, that is inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning is the first step.

            Then I tried to explain what kind of reasoning would be used to finish the argument: "But contingency and necessity are metaphysical concepts and deductive reasoning is what would lead to the conclusion that everything in the universe is contingent, if it is successful in doing so." So the second step requires deductive reasoning.

            I didn't offer a proof. I just explained a process.

          • Geena Safire

            First, with all respect, it's still a tautology and IMHO is trivially true. Second, even granting your definition, it is a composition fallacy to claim that, because something appears to be true about most of the things we see, therefore it is true about the universe.

            Third, you wrote "inductive reasoning tells us that all the things we observe are contingent," but there are some things that are known to not be contingent, such as radioactive decay and virtual particles. "Inductive reasoning" can only propose a hypothesis. Further, any attempt at "deductive reasoning" cannot be conclusive because we don't know about contingency in the entire universe.

            Fourth, some things have so many causes that it almost seems trivial to say it is 'caused'; as an example: although weather is, in a way, 'caused,' it is caused by the interchange of a very large number of variables plus a large number of initial conditions.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You've made your point perfectly.

          • Geena Safire

            And that's my last 'word' on the subject! Period! :-)

            Akchully, it's just that Disqus doesn't actually allow one to 'delete' a post. If you "delete" a post from your disqus.com/dashboard, the post remains where you posted it; it only changes the author to 'guest' and you actually lose the ability to edit it at all. So the best policy is to remove most of it -- but you have to leave at least one character, or it won't allow the edit. Thus, the period. After that, you can "delete" it, so it will appear as if "Guest" posted that single character.

            EDIT:
            I had intended to write a philosophical argument about 'contingency,' and I wrote some stuff, but I lost interest in continuing this thread so I deleted it. Philosophy, and theology in particular, have taken a basically good idea and have expanded it far beyond its relevance. I didn't remove my name (via 'delete') because I wanted to express that I was replying with a non-reply. Wasn't it obvious that all this was what you should have divined from that significant period? :-)

          • Paul Boillot

            Kdawg,

            I'm a let you finish, but...

            They've successfully implanted artificial rotary pump hearts which have a continuous flow, and thus no pulse.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            And if it fails, what then?

          • Paul Boillot

            Keviiiin, come on now. I'm not playing your game, I'm just pointing out that

            "You are contingent on your beating heart."

            is factually incorrect.

      • Paul Boillot

        I accept your description of the order-of-operations you take to get from apparent individual contingency to God.

        But they're all logical fallacies.

        First, we don't know that everything we've discovered iscontingent. Second, arguing from the parts to the whole is logically invalid. Third, even if we got to a logically sound premise of the universe being contingent, that would give us 0 information about who/what caused it.

  • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

    It's a mystery, why the universe is the way it is. It's worth trying to find out. But why would someone explore the mystery by starting out with an answer already?

    Why is nature comprehensible to human beings? I don't know. Maybe I will never know. And I'm okay with that.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      >But why would someone explore the mystery by starting out with an answer already?

      I don't follow what you mean about "starting out with the answer already"?

      • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

        Because Shea says:

        All such science presupposes a metaphysic that is essentially
        theistic. That is, it begins with the assumption that the universe has
        rules intelligible to our minds.

        That's saying that you can only accept that the universe is comprehensible if you start out with the answer that "God made it that way." Why start with that answer? Maybe there's a different answer that we haven't found yet. Maybe this answer can be found with science and maybe not. But how does anyone know?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I think Shea may be drawing upon Artigas's THE MIND OF THE UNIVERSE.

          The intelligibility of the universe is a presupposition of science (no one would ever attempt to understand the natural world if he believed the natural world was unintelligible), but you don't need to consider it to *do* science. You just assume it and find it works.

          Artigas argues that science arose in the west (and not in other places) because of Judeo/Christian belief that the universe is an ordered place which can be known by reason.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            If all Mark Shea is doing is making a historical point from Artigas, that's fine. I don't agree with the historical point (seems to me Greece was where science started, it got caught on hold for quite a while, and then a rediscovery of Greece, in part by people like Aquinas, brought it back; but I'm not a historian, and would invite corrections on this point).

            Even if Christianity lead to modern science, that doesn't say whether Christianity is a good starting point for present investigations into the mystery of why the universe is comprehensible, let alone whether it is true.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The philosopher of science Jaki showed how science arose in many places but became stillborn due to those culture's worldview.

            Two questions (1) whether Christianity is true and (2) why the universe is comprehensible are questions for rational investigation.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            I'm approaching both without assuming the answer yet.

          • Rick DeLano

            "Even if Christianity did historically lead to modern science, that doesn't say whether Christianity is a good starting point for present investigations into the mystery of why the universe is comprehensible, let alone whether it is true."

            Really? What other basis could we proceed upon, than the one that got us this far up the mountain?

            So far, the alternatives have led us to a beautiful paradox: the materialists propose a multiverse which can never be the object of scientific investigation, in order to dispense with God.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            The basis of I don't know yet. I haven't yet reached the level of enlightenment offered by the geocentrists, creationists, and UFOlogists. The media's got me down.

          • Rick DeLano

            But there are some things we do know.

            We know that the scientific method is capable of yielding valid discoveries, which in turn increase our power to extend the operational scope and reach of that method.

            The method comes into being in the concrete, historical setting of Christendom, and depends for its power upon the metaphysics it learned from the Catholic Church.

            Substitute metaphysics have led us to the multiverse, an irony if ever there was one.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Was the multiverse in fact proposed "in order to dispense with God"?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I recently watched a popular TV documentary of the multiverse and the advocates claimed their theory just followed from the math.

            However, the multiverse is supposed to explain the cause of the big bang, why our universe is hospitable to life given the impossibly implausible fine tuning our universe just happened to get, and why there is so, so much less dark energy in our universe than there is "supposed to" be.

            Another however, the BVG theorem is supposed to prove that every inflationary universe of any kind had to have a beginning point. So we are back to the problem of what caused the beginning of the multiverse.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            So as far whether the multiverse was proposed "in order to dispense with God," the answer appears to be no.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't know the answer to that.

          • Rick DeLano

            I think so. Paul Davies, an atheist and a cosmologist, puts it this way:

            "For a start, how is the existence of the other universes to be tested? To be sure, all cosmologists accept that there are some regions of the universe that lie beyond the reach of our telescopes, but somewhere on the slippery slope between that and the idea that there are an infinite number of universes, credibility reaches a limit. As one slips down that slope, more and more must be accepted on faith, and less and less is open to scientific verification. Extreme multiverse explanations are therefore reminiscent of theological discussions. Indeed, invoking an infinity of unseen universes to explain the unusual features of the one we do see is just as ad hoc as invoking an unseen Creator. The multiverse theory may be dressed up in scientific language, but in essence it requires the same leap of faith."

            — Paul Davies, A Brief History of the Multiverse

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            This quote is critical of viewing the multiverse hypothesis as testable science, to be sure, and it questions the validity of using the multiverse to explain "fine-tuning"...

            ...but it does not establish that the multiverse was proposed *in order to* dispense with God.

        • Rick DeLano

          Science has to start somewhere.

          In the order of actually existing things, it starts with the notion that the universe is knowable because it is the product of an Intelligent Design.

          Worked for Kepler, worked for Newton, worked for Einstein, worked for Max Planck.

          The atheists are trying to come up with a substitute metaphysic and so far not so good.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            Science has to start somewhere.

            And that somewhere was, what, about 6000 years ago? ;)

          • Rick DeLano

            Significantly less than that.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            God is a very slow learner, then.

          • Rick DeLano

            God doesn't learn.

            We do.

            Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly.

            Funeral by funeral. mostly......

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            Maybe I should wait until then, to be sure. :)

          • Rick DeLano

            Nah. There are plenty of funerals happening now.

            Might as well take advantage of them.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            I'm afraid the only one I would learn this lesson from is my own. How can I know what, if anything, is on the other side, if I don't look and find out? Best to wait until that time (hopefully a long time from now) and then make up my mind.

          • Rick DeLano

            I thought we were talking about scientific knowledge.......

            The only way to know about the other side is to listen to Someone Who has been there and come back.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            And if anyone like that wants to talk to me about it, I assume they'll be able to figure out my address or phone number on their own. Until then, I'll be patiently waiting.

            I don't think most people receive their science education at funerals, although maybe this is a Traditionalist Catholic School thing?

          • Rick DeLano

            It's a Max Planck quote ;-)

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            Maybe he got more out of requiem masses than I tend to. Great minds find inspiration in the most surprising places. My mind is much smaller, and my ambitions far simpler.

            Even if I don't get much out of requiem masses scientifically, the poetry and music can be very nice.

          • Rick DeLano

            "Dies Irae" more than justifies the existence of humans as far as I am concerned.

            Even Sybil gets tossed in.....

          • Andre Boillot

            Rick,

            Is there any chance we can just skip to the part where you get yourself re-banned?

          • Rick DeLano

            You can always launch the campaign, Andre. It's worked before ;-)

          • Andre Boillot

            If by "campaign" you mean your repeated re-posting of moderated/deleted comments, then yes -- you were quite quite successful in shooting yourself in the foot.

          • Rick DeLano

            Didn't hurt a bit ;-)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Andre, This is not even an ad hominem attack on an argument. It is just a personal attack.

          • Andre Boillot

            Kevin,

            It's all about context.

            Perhaps you are unaware of Mr. Delano's glorious history on SN, or perhaps you are not curious as to how somebody that was previously banned (after consistent re-posting of moderated content) has been allowed back under a different profile (itself edit: seemingly another attempt to bypass moderation).

            Either way, I like to think that my question was less an attack, and more a calling out of the mods / preview of what will likely be history repeating itself.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I know who Rick is I have no doubt that Brandon knows who Rick is. So, Brandon must have unbanned him.

          • Andre Boillot

            1) It's a completely different Disqus profile, and given his previous attempts to work around moderation, completely keeping with his MO. 2) He appears to be acting in exactly the same manner as before. 3) I'm going with the likelier of the two scenarios.

          • Rick DeLano

            Nope, I simply stopped by one day while logged into my other disqus and voila!

            Brandon cannot be held accountable for my choice to interpret the continued access as a tacit permission to contribute.

            It's easily dealt with if he chooses to do so.

            What is more interesting to me is why Andre is so eager to silence me?

          • Andre Boillot

            "What is more interesting to me is why Andre is so eager to silence me?"

            It's not all about you, Rick. I'm for equality before "the law". Many, in my opinion much better, contributors have been similarly punished - so if you're allowed to return, I'd like for them to be given that option.

          • Rick DeLano

            I quite agree, even about the "much better" ;-)

            I simply got a new passport. Maybe they can too.

          • Rick DeLano

            Prophecy ;-)

  • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

    I think we all believe that "being itself" is real. Though I note here it is not described as an "act". The question is what do these words represent? To me, being is a concept in human minds. To Christians like the author, here it is a mind, that also takes human form, and has an interest in resurrecting someone in 1st century Palestine. This is where you lose me. I see no reason to accept that "being" is anything more than a concept. The fact that human minds identify patterns does not prove that there needs to be a universe-creating mind that is not a thing.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      "Being" *is* a concept in a mind but it is a concept that describes real things, the *beings* found in the physical universe.

      So, it is more than a concept it is a concept that tries to describe reality.

      Would you agree with that much?

      • Rick DeLano

        We all sense things that exist. We sense the same things animals do. But we have a *concept*- say, "being"- which is not in itself a sense object, but is the intelligible reality we find which subsumes all objects of sense impression.

        They exist.

        They "be".

        "...the object of intelligence differs from the object of sensation and imagination...our intellect seizes, not mere sense phenomena, but the intelligible reality, which is expressed by the first and most universal of our concepts, and which is the soul of all our judgements, wherein the verb 'to be' affirms the objective identity of predicate with object."

        • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

          Yes, both objects and concepts about objects exist. I would agree I have concepts of things I sense and imagine. I do not understand your quote.

          • Rick DeLano

            The quote simply establishes that the intellect- present in men but not in animals- extracts intelligible reality from sense impressions by forming concepts.

            Therefore intelligible reality is not sense objects, or our impressions of them, but the identity between predicate and subject which is a spiritual- mental if you prefer- faculty unique to the human being.

            This is why we live in cities, fly to the moon, and compose fourth movements of the Jupiter Symphony, and our nearest genetic relatives do not.

      • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

        Yes, but there is nothing unique about "being" in this sense. Unsurprisingly we dance around Platonism here. We have a concept of perfect circle, this doesn't mean a perfect circle exists anywhere other than as a concept. We have a concept of banana, and many bananas exist, this doesn't mean the concept banana exists on its own outside our brains.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          If you don't think there is a necessary being outside the universe, must you not believe there is a necessary being inside the universe, maybe the universe itself must be necessary? Otherwise, why would the universe exist rather than nothing?

          • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

            This idea of "necessary beings" is also not what was asserted as god. Rather not a being at all but "being itself". Lets try to stay on topic.

            I am saying that "being itself" refers to concepts nothing else. I can say with confidence that human concepts are contingent on the universe existing and could not therefore be what created it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The necessary being would be God.

            The concept "necessary being" describes the nature of that being. So, again, it is both a concept (in this case in our minds) and a real being, if such a being exists.

            I was trying to say that the universe does require something that *has to be necessary* for the universe to exist (and I think it does), otherwise the universe would not exist. So if an necessary being outside the universe does not exist, then there must be a necessary being inside the universe. And that must be the universe itself. I think that is what people mean when they say, "the universe just
            is."

          • Doug Shaver

            I was trying to say that the universe does require something that *has to be necessary* for the universe to exist (and I think it does), otherwise the universe would not exist.

            You can say it all you want. That doesn't make it so.

  • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

    "If you don’t make that presupposition [the universe is the creation of Mind], you can’t do science at all since there is no reason—there can be no reason—to suppose that the universe and your mind correspond to Reason."

    Two objections. First, evolution is quite good at winnowing out ineffective strategies of recognizing and dealing with the universe. The evolutionary success of reasoning creatures is certainly sufficient to "suppose" at least that the universe and the human mind can correspond through reason.

    Second, on a smaller scale, my continued survival is sufficient evidence that I can at least "suppose" the universe and my mind correspond to Reason.

  • Rob VH

    Loved the quote from Aquinas! That came as a pleasant surprise.

    • bencanuck

      For those who enjoyed the St. Thomas Aquinas quote, he is also pretty evolution-friendly in Contra Gentiles, III, c. 23, n. 7:

      "As we said, since any moved thing, inasmuch as it is moved,
      tends to the divine likeness so that it may be perfected in itself, and
      since a thing is perfect in so far as it is actualized, the intention
      of everything existing in potency must be to tend through motion toward
      actuality. And so, the more posterior and more perfect an act is, the
      more fundamentally is the inclination of matter directed toward it.
      Hence. in regard to the last and most perfect act that matter can
      attain, the inclination of matter whereby it desires form must be
      inclined as toward the ultimate end of generation. Now, among the acts
      pertaining to forms, certain gradations are found. Thus, prime matter is
      in potency, first of all, to the form of an element. When it is
      existing under the form of an element it is in potency to the form of a
      mixed body; that is why the elements are matter for the mixed body.
      Considered under the form of a mixed body, it is in potency to a
      vegetative soul, for this sort of soul is the act of a body. In turn,
      the vegetative soul is in potency to a sensitive soul, and a sensitive
      one to an intellectual one. This the process of generation shows: at the
      start of generation there is the embryo living with plant life, later
      with animal life, and finally with human life. After this last type of
      form, no later and more noble form is found in the order of generable
      and corruptible things. Therefore, the ultimate end of the whole process
      of generation is the human soul, and matter tends toward it as toward
      an ultimate form."

  • Ben Posin

    We have no other universes to compare with our own. We have never encountered reality that doesn't appear to follow intelligible rules. Modern physics isn't as intuitive as Aristotlean or Newtonian physics, and there are some funky things in the universe, but let's leave that aside for now. When you get down to it, on what basis can Mr. Shea claim that an "unintelligible" world is what we would expect if God did not exist? On what basis does Mr. Shea argue that such a universe is something that could ever exist?

    I might summarize a main theme of Mr. Shea's article by saying that Mr. Shea does not believe in God because of unintelligble miracles, but instead because of the general intelligble nature of reality. But I wonder about the effect of apparent miracles on his belief. I don't think the supposed resurrection of Jesus is "intelligble" in the sense that we mean it here, or other miracles that defy reality's rules. In fact, Mr. Shea says he believes in miracles, which seems to be an admission that we don't live in a truly intelligble universe, and suggests that if he saw other miracles/rulebreaking it would likely be seen as a sign of God rather than a sign that God does not exist. If signs of an intelligible universe prove God, and signs of an unintelligble universe also confirm God's existence, well...that seems a little strange.

  • cminca

    Dick Cheney's office planted a fake news story to the NYT. Cheney then went on TV and referenced the NYTs article as proof of his assertion (which was false).
    Seems to me like Catholics used Aquinas as the basis of their theological argument and then cite Aquinas as the "proof" they are correct.
    Sorry--it doesn't work that way.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      > Seems to me like Catholics used Aquinas as the basis of their
      theological argument and then cite Aquinas as the "proof" they are
      correct.

      What makes you say this?

  • Jun

    For quite a time, I've witnessed a new born child, resting on its first crib, so delicate, helpless, dependent on his mother for immediate survival, followed simultaneously by the mother's physical tendency and natural capacity to nourish him for his need. At an instance, I just wonder if that particular scenario, even in that span of time, was 'governed' by some 'mind-less' independent scientific law- I doubted, but rather my intellect drives me to reason out that it was not only 'governed' - but AUTHORED.

    • cminca

      How then do you then explain a mother abandoning their child?

      • Jun

        " A mother abandoning her child" is no longer God's 'authorship'.:))

        • cminca

          A sweet, illogical position.

    • UseYourBrain

      How then do you explain a mother giving birth to a still-born?
      How then do you explain a mother giving birth to a living child with hydranencephaly?
      How then do you explain a mother dying during childbirth?
      Are these horrendous things also AUTHORED?

  • Conrad DiDiodato

    Mr. Shea

    I believe an even greater inducement to give credibility to the existence of God is the very fact of self-consciousness: namely, that the human species can turn inwardly and then back outward to ask the important 'Why' question is just too compelling to dismiss. I can't imagine the neighbor's dog is concerned about more than his food dish. Those who dismiss God as a corollary of a thoroughgoing evolutionism are really not better than the hungry dog.

    I'll call the objects of self-consciousness (a property only humans seem only to possess) the 'transcendentals' of thought that ordinary experience reveals but can't (and perhaps never will) fully elucidate. God is certainly one of them.

    • UseYourBrain

      What you are saying is this : we possess self-consciousness — therefore god. Calling the 'objects of self-consciousness' 'transcendentals' is a clever trick — but it 'certainly' doesn't get you any closer to the conclusion you are trying to draw.