MacDonald takes down Feser’s theology

Edward Feser, a Catholic philosopher at Pasadena City College, is notorious on this website for touting the Cosmological Argument for God’s existence (short explanation: every contingent thing has a “cause”; the universe is contingent; therefore the universe has a cause; therefore God). He’s equally notorious for claiming that one can’t truly understand this compelling argument without reading at least six books and seven articles, two of which of course, are by Feser himself.  (Go here, here, and here to see Jason Rosenhouse’s refutation of Feser’s arguments.)

If you’re not reading Choice in Dying, Eric MacDonald’s site, you should be. He is a serious man, a former Anglican priest, who knows his theological onions and makes serious arguments against the fatuity of theologians like Feser.  This week Eric has a two-parter on Feser—not about the Cosmological Argument, but about Feser’s book, The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism.

Eric’s first post, “History is not an argument,” deals with several issues, including Feser’s strident and militant anti-atheism, which seems to exceed in vitriol anything produced by the supposedly vicious Gnu atheists. A specimen of Feser’s prose:

One is almost tempted to think that Dawkins’s research for the philosophical chapters of his book consisted entirely of a quick thumbing through of Philosophy for Dummies.  Almost, except for this: Though I haven’t read Philosophy for Dummies, I would not want to insult its author, Thomas Morris, who is a very capable philosopher indeed. . . [76-77]

I don’t care so much about that brand of mockery except that it’s hypocritical to indict the Gnu Atheists without also mentioning stuff like this. More disturbing is Feser’s obsession with the “natural law” of Catholicism, especially when it comes to sex.  Feser sees “natural law” for sex as based on the “final cause” of sex, which, of course, is procreation.  Feser’s prose borders on the salacious here, as if he’s licking his mental lips:

If we consider the structure of the sexual organs and the sexual act as a process beginning with arousal and ending in orgasm, it is clear that its biological function, its final cause, is to get semen into the vagina. That is why the penis and vagina are shaped the way they are, why the vagina secretes lubrication during sexual arousal, and so forth … The point of the process is not just to get semen out of the male, but also into the female, and into one place in the female in particular. [144]

Any form of intercourse that doesn’t aim at procreation is thus immoral:

It cannot possibly be good for us to use them in any other way, whether an individual person thinks it is or not. [145]

This is one example of the immorality of Catholicism. God gave us sex, so the argument goes, to have children, not pleasure.  To subvert that God-given purpose by using contraception is a sin.  Of course, contraception via the rhythm method (now called “natural family planning“) is fine, because you’re not putting an artificial barrier between egg and sperm.  Why this is more moral than contraception has always escaped me. In either case a “potential life” is thwarted, in one case by a chemical or a barrier of latex,  in the other case by having sex when a conjunction between sperm and egg is impossible.  Perhaps the distinction is based on some moral difference between passive abstinence and active intervention, but that makes no sense to me.

Yes, orgasms and sexual pleasure are there to promote the production of offspring, but they were vouchsafed for us not by God but by evolution.  And we regularly subvert evolutionary-derived pleasures.  The love of fats and sweets probably evolved to make us seek out scarce and valuable commodities on the savanna; now we subvert them by going to McDonald’s or Baskin-Robbins.  God knows why our neuronal network evolved in a way that makes us love music, but I’m pretty sure that, despite the assertions of some evolutionary psychologists, it wasn’t directly adaptive.  We now subvert the evolutionary genesis of that network by making music and going to concerts.

The point is that unless you adhere to the outdated dictum of an Iron age book—or, rather, to the living fossils who interpret it—it’s not obvious why it’s immoral for consenting adults to use their evolved pleasure centers to enjoy each other’s company.  There is no “natural law” beyond the ambiguous and confused musings not of God, but of a bunch of old celibates. And if there is “natural law” based on the Bible, does it also tell us that sometimes genocide and stoning are okay? Who determines what part of the Bible is “moral law,” and what part can be happily ignored?

Eric’s second piece, “Argumentum ad verecundiam” (the “argument from authority”) takes on the Catholic Church’s touting of authority—in particular the philosophy of Aquinas—as the arbiter of morality. Here’s an amazing statement by Feser:

… very likely only on the classical Western philosophical-cum-religious worldview that we can make sense of reason and morality. The truth is precisely the opposite of what secularism claims: Only a (certain kind of) religious view of the world is rational, morally responsible, and sane; and an irreligious worldview is accordingly deeply irrational, immoral, and indeed insane. [5-6]

Eric goes on to recount the immorality that has occurred in the guise of Catholic authority, including child abuse and the prohibition of abortion that, in some cases, results in the death of both mother and child.  Some might take issue with MacDonald’s comparison of church policy to Himmler’s rationalization of killing Jews (do watch Eric’s clip of Himmler’s speech: it will raise the hair on your head), but he has a point:

Someone will tell me that this is an outrageous comparison, but I am not so sure. Of course the scale of the horror is not so great, but is the injustice and the horror any less because it happens only to a few? And when does a few become many? Is it outrageous to suggest that there is a resemblance between, on the one hand, a church that would condemn a 9-year-old girl to remain pregnant with twins, raped by her step-father, and excommunicate peremptorily those who took part in the abortion, and, on the other, the callousness of men who steeled themselves to act without mercy to fellow human beings, as the Nazis did? Perhaps nothing will ever equal the horror of the Holocaust — hopefully it will not – but the resemblance does not consist in equality of horror, but in a disregard for the humanity of others in response to the dictates of a belief in some “ideal” tomorrow, some “obvious” truth. Consider the outrageousness of the excommunication of the nun in Phoenix, Arizona, because she approved, in a Catholic hospital, the abortion of a woman whose pregnancy would have led both to the woman’s death, already the mother of children, as well as to the death of the foetus she was carrying. Is it outrageous to suggest that this is evidence of a callous disregard for human rights and dignity, based on Catholic “morality”? Himmler at least had enough sense to know that what the Nazis were doing was morally disreputable, and could never be spoken of, yet the man who stands behind these acts of Christian inhumanity, as well as many many more, is widely regarded with adulation little short of the kind of worship offered by Catholics to the God they believe in.

MacDonald is a treasure, worth dozens of Fesers, and it’s great that he’s using his enormous acumen against religion.

206 Comments

  1. Posted August 13, 2011 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    If it sexual organs can only be used morally for the purpose of procreation and it “cannot possibly be good for us” to use them some other way, then the same goes for mouths: they have teeth, a tongue for detecting flavour and they lead to a hole where the food can fall into your stomach. Therefore, it’s clear what mouths are for and “it cannot possibly be good for us” to use them for kissing. And this guy criticises others on grounds of philosophical naivety?

    • Kevin
      Posted August 13, 2011 at 7:37 am | Permalink

      It makes me wonder if Feser is married.

      I married a Catholic girl and we went to the church’s pre-marital counseling sessions. It was extremely uncomfortable to be in a room with maybe 30 other couples and listen to the priest give the sex talk.

      But what amazed me was what he said about oral sex — he said it was OK for a woman to give oral sex instead of vaginal sex if she wanted to ‘help him out’ during the dangerous times of the month.

      Thankfully, my (now ex-) wife never took the anti-contraception teachings of the church seriously. But neither did she ‘help me out’ with oral sex, either.

      • Grania
        Posted August 13, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

        There’s nothing quite as helpful as sex tips from an ageing virgin, is there?

        • Posted August 13, 2011 at 8:18 am | Permalink

          Unfortunately, far too many of them aren’t virgins, but rather serial rapists. Of children, no less.

          b&

      • dguller
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 4:56 am | Permalink

        Feser is married with six kids, I think. Not that any of this has any bearing upon his arguments.

        • Ye Olde Statistician
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

          It may, however, have bearing on the evolutionary success of his lineage.

    • Jeff Engel
      Posted August 13, 2011 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      It’s even absolutely, inherently, necessarily immoral to, say, put the mail in your mouth for a moment while you need both hands for groceries and opening the door.

      I don’t think anyone has a native moral sense that can make any sense of such “findings”.

      • Max
        Posted August 13, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        And that’s true whether you spell “mail” that way or not.

    • windy
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 5:15 am | Permalink

      What about talking? Even if we give talking a pass, singing can’t possibly be good for us. And Mass is right out.

    • Ye Olde Statistician
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      Actually, the lips are not the mouth, so the parallel fails. The lips in fact are very sensitive regions of touch.

      As for “it’s not obvious why it’s immoral for consenting adults to use their evolved pleasure centers to enjoy each other’s company,” we note that “vulcanizing” neural patterns emerging from the brainstem tends to interfere with neural patterns stemming from the neocortex. That is, habituating hedonism interferes with rational thought. See:
      http://www.pni.princeton.edu/ncc/PDFs/Neural%20Economics/Cohen%20%28JEP%2005%29.pdf

      From the POV of evolution, it’s hard to think of any other end to coitus than reproduction, even if the individuals involved are interested only in pleasuring their own genitals. The genital pleasure is instrumental to the reproduction, which Darwin held as the point of the exercise.

      • Tim Harris
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 4:46 am | Permalink

        Yes, and any modern biologist, as well as any sensible layman, would surely agree with Darwin, but Darwin did not go on to assert that therefore only sexual acts that are taken with procreation in mind, or that have the possibility of resulting in procreation, are ‘correct’ or non-sinful, and nor would most modern biologists and most sensible, and non-Catholic, laymen. You are missing the point, snd surely on purpose.

        • Ye Olde Statistician
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

          Darwin did not go on to assert that therefore only sexual acts that are taken with procreation in mind, or that have the possibility of resulting in procreation, are ‘correct’ or non-sinful

          Actually, he did write that nothing must interfere with the procreation of the better fit human beings.

          • Tim Harris
            Posted August 17, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

            That is not an honest response to my point.

      • Dan L.
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        I’m having trouble understanding your point. You did have a point, right?

        Just a few things to chew on: lips are quite near the mouth, coffee triggers the same sort of effects you mention in your 2nd para, and evolution is inanimate and so doesn’t have anything like a “POV.”

        • Ye Olde Statistician
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

          evolution is inanimate and so doesn’t have anything like a “POV.”

          So much for humanism. The remorselessly prosaic literalism of fundamentalism has triumphed even here.

          • Dan L.
            Posted August 15, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

            I knew you were TRYING to speak metaphorically. My point was that in trying to speak metaphorically you walked right off the metaphorical cliff.

            Or at least it seems that way. Your language makes it fairly clear to me that you’re inserting teleology into evolutionary processes; otherwise, speaking of the “end of coitus” (as in “purpose, thank goodness) and “instrumental” would make no sense in context.

            Reproduction is not the purpose of sex, and indeed can’t be from an evolutionary point of view since a more efficient form of reproduction predates sex in an evolutionary sense. If you insist on reading “purposes” into everything that happens on the natural world then you should google “evolution of sex,” as there are reasons (nothing to do with purposes) that sex evolved and it’s rather more interesting than just supposing it’s for “reproducing.”

            • Ye Olde Statistician
              Posted August 15, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

              it fairly clear to me that you’re inserting teleology into evolutionary processes;

              Not as blatantly as Dawkins; but telos is a purely natural thing. I think you are confusing it with purpose in the sense of human intentions. But all it means is the “towardness” or “for-ness” of a thing. Without final causes, efficient causes become incoherent or are reduced to mere occasional correlation. To say that A causes B “always or for the most part,” there must be something in A that is “toward” B rather than to C, D, or nothing at all.
              + + +
              Reproduction is not the purpose of sex, and indeed can’t be from an evolutionary point of view since a more efficient form of reproduction predates sex in an evolutionary sense.

              a) Reproduction may not be the purpose of individuals engaged in sex; and “purpose” can be a misleading word to the extent it may conjure “intention” in your mind. But what other natural end can it have?

              b) Evolution does not necessarily tend toward “more efficient” (whatever that may mean). The idea that evolution cannot account for sex because it is “less efficient” overlooks the non-specific nature of evolution.

              If you insist on reading “purposes” into everything that happens on the natural world then you should google “evolution of sex,”

              Not “purposes.” Ends or towardness. Purpose may sometimes enter into matters, but can be a misleading metaphor in many cases.

              • Ichthyic
                Posted August 20, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

                “Not as blatantly as Dawkins”

                teleology implies separate meaning.

                exactly what specific independent meaning does Dawkins ascribe to evolution, and exactly how does he word this?

                quotes please, in context.

                “Reproduction may not be the purpose of individuals engaged in sex; and “purpose” can be a misleading word to the extent it may conjure “intention” in your mind. But what other natural end can it have? ”

                you really have no clue, do you?

                hint:

                think in terms of social interaction and group dynamics.

                the sex act itself serves many functions, even in our own species.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted August 20, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

        “From the POV of evolution, it’s hard to think of any other end to coitus than reproduction”

        then you have a very limited understanding of behavior.

        …and you probably don’t know what a bonobo is.

  2. Kevin
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    I think Feser is going to rue the day that he criticized you for reading up on theology based on Eric’s recommendations.

    He’s only got one leg to stand on (Aquinas), and it’s a pretty darn shaky leg at that.

    I skimmed through sections of Aquinas past the Cosmological Argument just to see if there was any more “there” there. There wasn’t. I just loved the section in the Summa where Aquinas devotes long paragraphs to why god create man first and woman second, why he created her out of a rib, and on and on.

    It’s nothing more than someone arguing why the bible myths are to be taken literally at face value.

    • Kharamatha
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 1:07 am | Permalink

      It’s as someone suggested earlier this week: Books are amulets to the faithful. They convince on virtue of being present. No reading required.

  3. Etcetera
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    When I took my theology degree, the pat answer to their stance on no-abortion-under-any-circumstances was that by aborting to save the life of the mother, we are actively taking the decision whether or not to perform a miracle from God’s hands. And if God refuses to perform a miracle, it’s even better since both mother and child are in Heaven. This assumes, of course, both a God and a Heaven.

    • Jolly
      Posted August 13, 2011 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      Of course following that line of thought, their god should strike down the doctors if he doesn’t like abortions. Why is god so lazy?

    • Ye Olde Statistician
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

      Actually, it only presumes that it is objectively wrong to deliberately take an innocent human life. This was also the essence of secular humanism. For example: if Adam is unwittingly driving a bus directly toward a crowd of people, it is permitted to shoot him with a sniper rifle and prevent the tragedy.

      One way around this is to pretend that the target is not “truly human” or reject humanism entirely and regard people as just so much animated meat to me used as means to other ends. Those things became popular early in the 20th century, during the breakdown of the Modern Ages.

      Fact is, only a small percentage of abortions fall under the paradigm of “mother vs. baby.” Most are purely discretionary. Only now, as it becomes clear that many abortions are selectively directed toward eliminating girls, have second thoughts arisen.

      • Tim Harris
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 5:46 am | Permalink

        But what second thoughts have you, or Feser, had? I think you will find, anyway, that most ‘discretionary’ abortions, as you call them, that are aimed at eliminating baby girls are not undertaken in the West, including of course the USA, but, for cultural reasons (that can certainly be deplored) in China and India. So what is the relevance of your remark to the situation in the States? And why should that practice, which we should probably all agree is deplorable, be used as a pretext to forbid abortions in cases where they are necessary to save lives?

  4. Heleen
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    only on the classical Western philosophical-cum-religious worldview that we can make sense of reason and morality?
    What a load of gratuitous Western chauvinism! Any reference to Buddhism or Confucianism in Feser?

    • Max
      Posted August 13, 2011 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      Right. How can Feser say that without reading the six books and seven articles on every other religion (183,000 books and articles) I recommend for him?

  5. Grania
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Feser writes so much nonsense it is hard to know where to start, you’re embarrassed by riches.

    It is strange that all these “first causers” think that it is a perfectly valid premise to insist that because they have come up with a philosophical aphorism, therefore they can assume that everything must conform to it, including physics (of which they know nothing). Oh, except for God. God is exempt, for the very good reason of They Said So.

    As for the Catholic Church and contraception, even they can’t be consistent about it. At times they have decided that sex is about getting pregnant (therefore contraception = bad; rape = ummm, well, y’know); other times sex can also be for pleasure (Feser is dead wrong on this point in fact) so long as it is between a husband and wife. In relatively recent times the Rhythm Method has become acceptable, although not as good as abstinence. As a side-note it is worthwhile reading what the Vatican has to say on the subject of wives in their Humanae Vitae screeds. They’ve decided to come over all defensive of poor women who are made to submit to their insatiable lusty husbands (Yay, Women’s Lib!! er, I mean Abstinence!!). If I were a man I would be heartily offended by the express depiction of husbands as offensive beasts forcing themselves on their wives.

    Where Catholics ask awkward questions about why the rather dodgy Rhythm Method is ok but condoms are not; they get a variety of rather inconsistent, weak and implausible answers. The “no barrier” argument after all doesn’t rule out the Pill or IUDs for example. I suspect that the real answer is more to do with the fact that the Rhythm Method involves a certain amount of enforced abstinence, and there’s nothing that gets Holy Mother Church’s rocks off like the thought of people not being allowed to have consensual sex with each other.

    • Jeff Engel
      Posted August 13, 2011 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      If I were a man I would be heartily offended by the express depiction of husbands as offensive beasts forcing themselves on their wives.

      As a man, I can confirm the hearty offense. It’s common to all three Abrahamic religions, that men are uncontrollably lusty and can be kept from rape only by the strength of a virtuous woman and/or her thorough covering.

      But the insult to men is just a secondary implication of the impulse to control women, to treat their bodies as something morally problematic, and to stigmatize sensual pleasure, while limiting any blame on men for what we do with our bodies, up to and including rape – since we can’t help it.

      Insulting to men and women, dangerous to women, degrading to humanity – the religions of the book in a nutshell.

      • Jeff Engel
        Posted August 13, 2011 at 9:42 am | Permalink

        Oooh, double HTML fail on me! Ugh.

  6. Drosera
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    I haven’t read Philosophy for Dummies, but I’m fairly familiar with Genocide for Dummies, also known as the Bible.

  7. Posted August 13, 2011 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    “That is why the penis and vagina are shaped the way they are, why the vagina secretes lubrication during sexual arousal, and so forth.”

    With a biodegradable wrapper.

    • bric
      Posted August 13, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      Most penises I’ve known also secrete a lubricant during arousal, does that imply a ‘natural’ use of other orifices? I know for a fact that the average erect penis is a pretty good fit in the average rectum, and I strongly suspect a fair percentage of Catholic priests know that too.

  8. Matt G
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Bonobos use sex for purposes other than procreation, why not us? Are these people for real? I never cease to be amazed by the profound weakness of their arguments, and their (willful) ignorance of science.

    • Kharamatha
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 1:13 am | Permalink

      Silly infidel, monkeys don’t have souls. 😛

  9. raskolnikov37
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Isn’t Feser’s argument just a garden variety naturalistic fallacy?
    It’s also been shown that xenophobia, racism, and rape are adaptive and have deep evolutionary roots. I guess Feser would have to agree that these things, being natural, and given divine permission in the Bible, must also be encouraged.
    I’m not sure that Feser really understands the implications of his Church’s justification for its moral system. Or, if he understands, he doesn’t care about the implications. Hence the problems with morality based on authority especially when that authority is a bunch of iron age desert savages.

  10. Posted August 13, 2011 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    That is why the penis and vagina are shaped the way they are, why the vagina secretes lubrication during sexual arousal,

    Wow. And the banana is evidence that God wanted us to eat. Seriously, this kind of just-so reasoning is absolutely juvenile.

    If I may take the salaciousness up just a notch: [that is why] the mouth and anus and hand seem to be shaped the way they are… And lets not forget that finger(s) fit easily into a lubricated vagina. Just because a tab P fits in slot V doesn’t mean we can do nothing else with them tab P or slot V.

    • Jack van Beverningk
      Posted August 13, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      I was about to mention (but you beat me to it) how this entire penis/vagina shape thing closely resembled that silly Ray Comfort’s ‘banana’ proof for God:


      Note that the banana:

      1: Is shaped for the human hand
      2: Has a non-slip surface
      3: Has outward indicators of inward content:
      Green – not ripe enough
      Yellow – just right for eating
      Black – too ripe
      4: Has a tab for easy removal of its wrapper
      5: Is perforated on the wrapper for easy peeling
      6: Has a biodegradable wrapper
      7: Is shaped for the human mouth
      8: Is pleasing to the taste buds
      9: Is curved towards the face to make the eating process easy

      The conclusion: obviously the banana was designed by “Almighty God” for the benefit of human beings.

      • steve oberski
        Posted August 13, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        Ray Comfort forgot to mention that the banana is the result of 10,000 years of selective breeding on the sterile, seedless hybrid of 2 other South Asian wild plant species neither of which was particularly palatable.

        Feser would no doubt find the banana theologically inedible due to the fact that it can only reproduce clonally from suckering shoots and cuttings taken from the underground stem.

        • Dave Ricks
          Posted August 13, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

          If human farmers created bananas, then how do we explain the bananas that point away from our faces, making the eating process difficult? Checkmate, silly human farmers.

          No, wait… the farmers were the scientists?

          The true story of the banana — it must be told. Before the next U.S. Presidential election.

      • Kharamatha
        Posted August 14, 2011 at 1:21 am | Permalink

        “4: Has a tab for easy removal of its wrapper”

        Suboptimal. Split the other end.

        • steve oberski
          Posted August 14, 2011 at 6:38 am | Permalink

          Yes, the way that chimpanzees do it.

  11. Gabrielle Guichard
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Some years ago, as I had been operated on, I could not eat or drink. So, I had a perf that brought what I needed directly into my blood. No one thinks it’s a natural way of being fed. Can a catholic accept to be fed through a needle?

    • Ye Olde Statistician
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

      Certainly.

      • Dan L.
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

        But skin is so stretchy and resilient. Surely it is the purpose of skin NOT to be punctured. So it would seem immoral of me to assent to my skin being punctured since that is so clearly contrary to the nature of skin.

      • steve oberski
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

        How about a Keynesian, Marxist or Tory ?

  12. Posted August 13, 2011 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    The “natural law” of legs is to get you from one place to another, so running on a treadmill is immoral.

    The “natural law” of eating is sustenance, so eating for fun when not hungry is immoral.

    My wife and I aren’t having kids, so I guess our marriage is invalid and immoral.

    • Kharamatha
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 1:26 am | Permalink

      Human legs conserve energy with pendular momentums, so bounding strides are the only good steps.

    • Ye Olde Statistician
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      Actually, on the second point, you are correct. Gluttony is indeed considered sinful, and could result in an “epidemic of obesity.”

      But the first point overlooks the basic notion of perfection of human nature. Human nature is to be a rational animal, and on the animal side that means exercise of the faculties. Exercise is no big deal. (On the rational side, there are also exercises to built one’s strength; the strengths there are called “virtues,” which come from the Latin word for “strength.”) Hence, the aphorism “a sound mind in a sound body.”

      I get the sense from many of the comments that folks don’t understand the whole idea of natural law, since it cannot be compressed into a sound bite. You may or may not agree with it; but at least disagree with what it is, not with what you think it is. Otherwise, you can wind up sounding like creationists going on about the silliness of evolution.

      • Tim Harris
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 5:53 am | Permalink

        ‘Human nature is to be a rational animal’; is it rational, then, to believe in the Christian view of things and to accept that the pope is God’s vicar on earth, and to accept simply because one is told to do so by the church various points of doctrine, that certain books should not be read, etc.? And what is this ‘basic notion of the perfection of human nature’ you pay lip service to? How basic is the notion? What would the perfection of human nature consist in?

        • Ye Olde Statistician
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

          is it rational, then, to believe in the Christian view of things

          Surely more rational than to believe the view of a biologist regarding metaphysics! Note, I did not say “right” or “wrong.” But it is more rational to take the musician’s view of music than to take the view of someone who is tone-deaf.
          + + +
          And what is this ‘basic notion of the perfection of human nature’ you pay lip service to?

          To perfect something is to move closer to the ideal of that something. That is:

          “The classical conception of goodness is that of an entity actualizing itself in accord with (‘towards’) its proper goals. A good beer is one that actualizes what beer drinking aims to achieve: satiety and pleasure. A good brewer is one that achieves good beer. This is why ‘a good beer’ is just as often called ‘a real beer’ and ‘a good man’ is also referred to as ‘a real man’ …. Again: A good bow and arrow is one that actually tends to result in accurate shots. A good doctor is one who actually achieves the goal of a doctor: a patient’s health. A good lion is one that actually achieves the goals of its kind: maintaining its life by obtaining food and besting enemies, propagating its species by procreation, defending its offspring, etc. And so on.

          Since the human telos is to be a rational animal, the perfection of human nature requires that we take on a “second nature” through exercise. The reason consists of the intellect and the volition. The intellect is strengthened by 1) knowledge (of principles), 2) science (of immediate causes), and 3) wisdom (as regards final causes). A smart man knows that a tomato is a fruit. A wise man knows you don’t cut one up into a fruit salad.

          The volition is strengthened by the exercise of 4) justice as regards what is due to another, 5) courage to assent to that which the intellect tells us, and 6) temperance to withhold assent from what the intellect warns us against. The bridge between the two is 7) prudence in selecting the means to an end.

          You post-modern Nietzscheans assert the Triumph of the Will over the Intellect, so that what you want takes precedence over what you know. “If it feels good, do it.” But this requires the rejection of temperance, so that the appetites may be indulged at whim; and this in turn requires the rejection of prudence, since habituated appetites interfere with the neural patterns of the cortex. This disconnects the will from the intellect and makes one less rational, and thus works against perfecting oneself toward human nature in full.

          • Tim Harris
            Posted August 17, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

            I think your remarks are a good example of the sheer infantility of the Catholic mind. The knock-down Sunday School platitudes about ‘prudence’ etc presented in the form of a little moral theorem that can seem profound only to someone who has never seriously addressed moral diffulties or thought seriously for herself or himself about anything, and the unjustified, risible and contemptible assumption that anyone who doesn’t subscribe to these platitudes is therefore a ‘post-modern Nietszchean’ wallowing in hedonism and sin and has no interest in higher things – well, if you want to spend your life in that little cage of platitudes, I suppose you can. I am reminded by your post, and the state of mind it so well exemplifies, of the mother in a poem by Tennyson, ‘with a little hoard of maxims beating down her daughter’s heart.’

      • truthspeaker
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 7:59 am | Permalink

        It’s not that we don’t understand the idea of natural law, it’s that we reject it as ludicrous.

        • Ye Olde Statistician
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 11:08 am | Permalink

          That’s what some people say about evolution! And for the same reason. They don’t know jack about evolution!

      • Ichthyic
        Posted August 20, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

        I get the sense from many of the comments that folks don’t understand the whole idea of natural law, since it cannot be compressed into a sound bite.

        you have that exactly reversed.

        natural law IS a sound bite, that has been masked in so much superfluous noise as to be neatly and deliberately opaque.

  13. Drosera
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    One shudders to think what the Catholic Church would do if it possessed the power it had in the Middle Ages and the technology of today. What Orwell depicted in 1984 wouldn’t even come near to the horrors that this vile organisation would inflict upon society. Eric MacDonald is entirely justified in comparing the inhumanity of the Church, applauded by third-rate philosophasters like Feser, with those of Himmler’s SS. The scale is different, but the mentality is the same.

    People like Feser are not one iota better than the apologists of the Taliban, the SS, or the Communist Party under Stalin. If given the chance, he would strip us of our liberties, destroy our science and culture, and would make us bow to the rule of child-raping priests, who in his ideal society would never have to fear facing justice. The totalitarian mind-set of Feser is amply demonstrated by his belief that he can prescribe what to do (and especially what not to do) in our bedroom (or in the kitchen, or wherever). Religious maniacs are often obsessed with sex, and Feser is no exception. Fortunately, he is just a nobody who writes unreadable books.

    • Kharamatha
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 6:36 am | Permalink

      “*asters”

      Ah, haven’t seen that form in years. Nostalgic.

    • Ye Olde Statistician
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      One shudders to think what the Catholic Church would do if it possessed the power it had in the Middle Ages and the technology of today.

      One need not wonder. We need only look at what they did do in the middle ages. Founded universities, forestalled the omnicompetent Total State, set boundaries on what was permissible in warfare (e.g., defined non-combatants), laid down the foundations for natural science (cf. Theodoric of Fribourg, Robert Grosseteste, Jean Buridan, Nicole d’Oresme, Thomas Bradwardine, et al.) It wasn’t all beer and skittles, and in the end the kings had the Men With Swords, and human weakness appears in all walks of life. But it would be well to examine history empirically and not through the lens of myth.

      • Drosera
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 5:36 am | Permalink

        I seem to recall some small details about persecuting heretics and an institution called the Inquisition. But you will probably reply that the actual executions were often carried out by the worldly authorities, and that the Church had nothing to do with those.

        Funny, by the way, that you mention ‘human weakness’. That is precisely the term used by Heinrich Himmler in the speech that Eric Macdonald referred to, to excuse certain excesses committed by the SS. So, torturing heretics was also a case of human weakness, not official Church policy, right?

        • Ye Olde Statistician
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:52 am | Permalink

          Inquisitio was a sometime thing in the Middle Ages. There was no permanent inquisition. The juridical method emerged in the Late Roman Republic as an alternative to accusatio. It is a distinction we still hold as between criminal law and civil law. Under inquisition, it was no longer the responsibility of the plaintiff to collect evidence, compel witnesses, bring the defendant to court, etc. Instead, these responsibilities were given over to magistrates, as it says in the opening voice-over to Law and Order.

          Torture was sometimes used in testimony because Roman Law was then being rediscovered, and that was the Roman Law. It’s an ur-Renaissance thing. It was used because in medieval law no one could be convicted of a capital crime through circumstantial evidence. One of three things were required: a) caught in the act (i.e., “red-handed”); b) the testimony of two independent eyewitnesses; and c) confession. Since a) and b) were rare situations for capital crimes, there was great reliance on c). The purpose of the torture was to elicit testimony. It was never used for punishment.

          Now, this was the norm of the age: it was used in baronial, royal, and imperial courts. It was not allowed in ecclesiastical courts until quite late, and then only under a mass of restrictions on who, when, how much, etc. They were quite aware of the deficiencies of confessions induced by torture. The manuals – and yes, we have manuals that survive from those times – caution the judges that such confessions must be backed up by free-will affirmations made without torture. (There was also a rule that forbade a second round of torture; but now we see where the potential for abuse by zealous special prosecutors comes in.) We have cases of people in royal dungeons deliberately committing blasphemy in order to get themselves transferred to more comfortable inquisitorial custody.

          Where records survived the sack of Napoleon’s armies, we find that executions were ordered in about 2% of cases. Most cases were resolved with lesser penances or with acquittals. In some cases, the accusers were sent to the stocks for making false accusations.

          One interesting feature: the testimony in a trial was transcribed, all names were changed to Latin pseudonyms, and the transcript handed over to the Boni Viri, a jury of upstanding and reputable laymen. It was believed that an anonymous reading of a written text would preclude prejudices for or against the individuals involved. Modern psychological studies have born this out.

          I know for a group that cries, “Oh No!” when asked to read a “book” this is going out there, but a good summary text would be Edward Peters Inquisition.

          • Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink

            This is exactly what is meant by, “religion poisons everything.”

            I’d like to think that you wouldn’t be a fucking torture apologist if it weren’t for your membership in a death cult. Even if not, it’s the popularity of that death cult that lets you think it’s right and civil to be a fucking torture apologist.

            You know why I’m fuming at this fucking torture apology you just spewed over Jerry’s Web site?

            Because it’s the exact same fucking bullshit that your death cult spews in excusing its nasty habit of raping children. “But everybody was doing it! It’s not our fault! And it wasn’t so bad, really!”

            And you dare proclaim you have an inside line on perfect morality unattainable to others.

            I’d write more, but I have work to do.

            b&

            • Ye Olde Statistician
              Posted August 15, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

              The book I recommended on inquisition was written by a secular historian. It would be well to maintain a more scientific attitude. That torture is evil is a fact — unless of course you don’t believe in an objective morality. As the atheist philosopher Rorty once wrote:

              “For liberal ironists, there is no answer to the question ‘Why not be cruel?’ – no noncicular theoretical backup for the belief that cruelty is horrible. … Anyone who thinks that there are well grounded theoretical answers to this sort of question – algorithms for resolving moral dilemmas of this sort – is still, in his heart, a theologian or metaphysician. He believes in an order beyond time and change which both determines the point of human existence and establishes a hierarchy of repsonisbilities.”
              Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity

              The fact that “everyone does it” does not make it good. If everyone else jumped off a cliff, mothers famously asked, would you do, too?

              But that one does less of it and tries to put safeguards around it and establishes rules to ameliorate its use also should count for something.
              + + +

              The rant against homosexual priests overlooks the fact that the Church never taught chicken-hawking as something good. Alas, in the 1970s, when most of this took place, the psychological consensus was not what it is today and so treatment was different.

              However, by your own standards, you are making excuses for pedophile teachers by concentrating so stringently on the chicken-hawks in the priesthood.

              • Dan L.
                Posted August 15, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

                Paedophiles are not homosexuals you disgusting sack of *****

              • Posted August 15, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

                I’ll be almost as brief as Dan L, lest my fury overwhelm me.

                Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado.

                That is all.

                b&

          • Drosera
            Posted August 15, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

            Ye Olde Statistician wrote:

            “The purpose of the torture was to elicit testimony. It was never used for punishment.

            Now, this was the norm of the age: it was used in baronial, royal, and imperial courts.”

            The purpose of torture was to make people confess to fantastic accusations (pacts with the devil, etc.). That is the moral standard of your Church, which claims to have as its leader God’s representative on earth, and yet, as you say, is not able to rise significantly above the norm of the age.

            You don’t seem to grasp the saying ‘when in a hole, stop digging.’ All your apologetics only serves to reinforce what I wrote above (and what Eric Macdonald wrote).

            • Ye Olde Statistician
              Posted August 15, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

              You can find careful discussions of the matter by historians with no axe to grind here:
              Peters. Inquisition
              Kamen. The Spanish Inquisition

              One rule for prosecuting magistrates was that torture was only allowed if the magistrate had sufficient circumstantial evidence of a capital crime. Conviction was not allowed on circumstantial evidence alone, so unless caught red-handed or impeached by two independent eyewitnesses, a confession was mandatory. To merit execution, you had to be convicted as a heresiarch, not just someone spouting off; abjure; and then get convicted a second time as relapsed. Where we have surviving records, these amounted to 2-5% of cases. I don’t know if the same policy held for other capital crimes, which came usually under royal or imperial courts.

              Pacts with the devil were discounted in the middle ages, which preferred evidence of meetings, public preaching, and the like. Canon episcopi held that witchcraft and such were delusional and, while it was a civil crime, it was not a heresy. Later, after Europe lost its mind after the Black Death, things turned darker. But the witchcraft stuff emerged in the 17th cent.

              • Drosera
                Posted August 16, 2011 at 2:28 am | Permalink

                I’m not talking about ordinary ‘capital’ crimes. We’re discussing the Inquisition here. They were prosecuting people who dared to question the dogma of the Church. For that one could be tortured and burnt alive. That is the depravity to which you Church had sunk and will sink again if given the opportunity.

                And when that happens, there will be apologists like you, superficially ordinary, decent, and intelligent people, who will justify the torture and the murder, or at least turn willfully blind. And they will think that they are morally superior to those atheists who are being rounded up by the religious police, sadistically tortured by a priest, and made to sign a confession for plotting to murder the Pope, which confession will be used as evidence in court; there, capital punishment will be handed out by the religious magistrates, who are seated in front of a huge crucifix. And Uncle Fester will write another book on Aquinas and the Cosmological Argument, in which he ‘proves’ that under Natural Law those atheists are only getting what they deserve.

      • K E Decilon
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:50 am | Permalink

        One need not wonder. We need only look at what they did do in the middle ages. Founded universities, forestalled the omnicompetent Total State, set boundaries on what was permissible in warfare (e.g., defined non-combatants), laid down the foundations for natural science

        And of course, none of those things could possibly have happened without the benevolent guidance of the catlick church? Are you aware that a case can be made that many of those advances were made in spite of the benevolent guidance of the catlick church?

        Do they get credit for the sun coming up every day, up until the time science could explain why that happened?

        We are all familiar with how they laid down the foundations of modern astronomy, for instance, and all the help and encouragement they gave to Nicholaus Copernicus, Giordano Bruno, and Galileo Galilei, for instance.

        and in the end the kings had the Men With Swords, and human weakness appears in all walks of life.

        The catlick church participated gleefully in the game of “Men With Swords”. Given the human weaknesses that permeates that institution to this day, a damn good thing they lost, IMHO.

        But it would be well to examine history empirically and not through the lens of myth.

        QFT

        • Ye Olde Statistician
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

          And of course, none of those things could possibly have happened without the benevolent guidance of the catlick church?

          All we can say is that none of them did happen otherwise. Consider Parens scientiarum, sometimes called “the Magna Carta of the universities,” a Papal Bull asserting the rights of universities to self-govern outside of State control, to decide on subjects, manners of lecture, and so forth, with the single exception of the school of theology.

          We are all familiar with how they laid down the foundations of modern astronomy, for instance, and all the help and encouragement they gave to Nicholaus Copernicus, Giordano Bruno, and Galileo Galilei, for instance.

          Copernicus, himself a churchman, published his booklet despite his fears of ridicule from the physicists and other astronomers because he was encouraged to do so by two cardinals of the Catholic church. The book, dedicated to the Pope, was read by that personage with great interest. It was enthusiastically received at first, but ultimately faded because its predictions of stellar motions were often wrong. According to Steve Oberski, however, his book was useless because it was pure mathematics. Copernicus made no stellar observations himself, conducted no experiments, and relied on the Toledan Tables that had been hopelessly corrupted by generations of copyist errors. His twenty epicycles meant that it was not even computationally simpler.

          Bruno was a Neoplatonic mystic, not an astronomer. He made no stellar observations, wrote nothing even remotely resembling an astronomy treatise. His Ash Wednesday Supper shows that he was not even up to date on then-current astronomical knowledge. http://www.math.dartmouth.edu/~matc/Readers/renaissance.astro/6.1.Supper.html

          Galileo was not the only astronomer in the gosh-wow-look period of telescopic astronomy. There was Harriot, Fabricius, Scheiner, and others, some of whom made Galileo’s discoveries independently and, in one or two cases, prior to. Galileo was a celebrated mathematician. Literally. In those days, that meant someone threw an official celebration for him. On his second trip to Rome, the Jesuits at the Roman College threw the party, read scientific papers in his honor, confirmed all his discoveries with great fanfare. If Galileo had not needlessly alienated the Jesuit scientists by taking the scientifically wrong position in a flamewar over the comets of 1610 (He claimed they were emanations in the earth’s atmosphere) and had not just as needlessly alienated his good friend Pope Urban with insults in the Dialogo, nothing would have happened to him. But one rule is: Don’t honk off a Renaissance Prince.

          It would be well to examine history empirically and not through the lens of myth.

          • Posted August 15, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

            Torture apology, child rape apology, blaming Galileo for his imprisonment…what’s next? Blaming the Aztecs for the actions of the Conquistadors? Did the “witches” really deserve what they got at Salem? Maybe the Jews really were taking over Germany through banking conspiracies, after all?

            Damn, but it’s taking all the self-control I have to not go all BAAWA on you….

            b&

            • Ye Olde Statistician
              Posted August 15, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

              Then maybe you should take a deep breath, maybe put a wet washrag over your face, and address what I actually wrote rather than what the voices in your head tell you I wrote. Or is this sort of misrepresentation what passes for “rational thought” among the “brights.”

              It also might help to consult empirical data rather than resort to such tendentious rants. Read a history or two. Perhaps even a history of the overthrow of the Aztecs! That way you won’t be hemmed in by a handful of stereotypical one-liners.

              • Posted August 15, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

                Then maybe you should take a deep breath, maybe put a wet washrag over your face, and address what I actually wrote rather than what the voices in your head tell you I wrote

                Then who, prey tell me, wrote the following?

                The purpose of the torture was to elicit testimony. It was never used for punishment.

                putrid pack of paedophiles

                My, such homophobia. Alas, the post-modern true believer is inexpert at the use of statistics and so unable to evaluate the scandal in a scientific manner.

                [If Galileo] had not just as needlessly alienated his good friend Pope Urban with insults in the Dialogo, nothing would have happened to him.

                And now you’re all set to pain the Conquistadors as the glorious liberators who brought peace and civilization to the New World.

                Jerry, if you’re gonna let this…so-and-so…keep shitting on the carpet, can we at least use him for a squeaky toy?

                Cheers,

                b&

            • HuntingGoodWill
              Posted August 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

              South Americans? Haven’t you heard that the genocide down there wasn’t so bad, because in return, they were introduced to Jesus?

              What the Church did? The moment the Jesuits came into existence, they spread and tried to burn all books that were published in the host nation’s language, so they’d be able to control the flow of information and knowledge.

              After all, they were Theologians.
              Even more, they were Super-Theologians.
              So not only were they smarter than the rest, by definition, they tried to prevent others from learning.

              The Church, oh man.
              I watched a program in Germany Dawkins appeared in. The other guests were a (silent) Deist and Germany’s leading Lutheran and Catholic.
              I guess it won’t be a surprise for you to hear it; these clowns really claimed to have invented the human rights movement and being solely responsible for the Enlightenment.:)

          • steve oberski
            Posted August 15, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

            Now I don’t recall saying that.

      • Dan L.
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:39 am | Permalink

        Founded universities,

        To promulgate “received” truths. Convenient ones at that. “Infallible” etc.

        forestalled the omnicompetent Total State

        By crowning Charlemagne the emperor of all Europe. Not to mention warming up to the Nazis when it looked like they might actually win. We don’t talk about that much because it’s not “polite.”

        But it would be well to examine history empirically and not through the lens of myth.

        Yes, let’s.

        • Ye Olde Statistician
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

          Founded universities, to promulgate “received” truths. Convenient ones at that. “Infallible” etc.

          You obviously have no clue as to what constituted the curriculum of a medieval university. Try Toby Huff, The Rise of Early Modern Science or Kibre & Siraisi, “The Institutional Setting: The Universities” in Lindberg’s Science in the Middle Ages.

          The subjects taught were exclusively rational: logic, reason, and natural philosophy. (Music was a part of mathematics.) There were no arts and humanities taught. The three graduate schools were: medicine, law, and theology. In the latter, you might find what you seek; although even there prominent texts often emphasized philosophical exploration rather than fideism. (The Orthodox and Catholic churches have always frowned on pure fideism.)

          Never before or since, Grant writes, has such a large proportion of the population been educated so exclusively in purely rational subjects. One of the objections the fun-loving Renaissance grasshoppers and the dour Reformation divines made against their medieval predecessors was that the Middle Ages was too damn logical.

          forestalled the omnicompetent Total State by crowning Charlemagne the emperor of all Europe.

          You are confusing a 9th century Frankish state continually splitting into filial fragments with a Total State. Granted, it was Charlemagne’s objective that the Church be brought under imperial control, but he was unable to pull it off. However, it was only with the Hildebrandine reforms that the Church made its Declaration of Independence and asserted the right to choose her own government, appointing bishops, and the like. White states that with the codification of canon law for the daily governance of the Church, she became the first secular state in the new Europe (in the true meaning of secular) and provided a model legal framework quickly imitated by the Germanic kings then ruling the subcontinent. You have to consider the High Middle Ages, after the Church became independent and before the Kings re-asserted control in the Reformation.

          Not to mention warming up to the Nazis when it looked like they might actually win. We don’t talk about that much because it’s not “polite.”

          Actually, we don’t talk about it because it is not true. Certainly the Nazis were under no such delusion, as we know from captured archives. As much as a third of the Catholic clergy at one time or another was hauled up before People’s Courts. And the Pope was in on the first plot to assassinate the Leader, having agreed to act as an intermediary between Oster’s group and the British and French. I know of no serious historian of the period who says otherwise. Again, a book (Oh noes!) like Richard Evans The Third Reich in Power would be a good starting point.

          It would be well to examine history empirically and not through the lens of myth.

          Yes, let’s

          Then present facts, not myths you found on web sites.

          • Dan L.
            Posted August 15, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

            Fair enough. Care to share any citations? I suspect I can find plenty of legitimate scholarly historical work that at least partially contradict your conclusions so you might as well point me towards your preferred sources.

            • Ye Olde Statistician
              Posted August 15, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

              You can try these.

              Toby Huff. The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China, and the West

              Pearl Kibre and Nancy Siraisi. “The Institutional Setting: the University” in Lindberg, Science in the Middle Ages

              David Lindberg. The Beginnings of Western Science. Ch.9

              Edward Grant. The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages.

              Edward Grant. God and Reason in the Middle Ages.

              Each of these has chapters or sections dealing with the medieval university. The Huff makes a specific comparison with the Islamic madrassa and tangentially with the Imperial College in China (neither of which taught natural philosophy at all).

              Huff has another book, Intellectual Curiosity, not touching the medieval university, about the impact of the telescope in the 17th century in Europe, China, Mughal India, and the Ottoman Near East. It’s also interesting reading.

              Once we stop thinking there’s a monster under the bed, we can examine Aristotle, the Church, the Middle Ages, etc. under the assumption that “people are people” and pretty much act like people in their time and place: good, wicked, wise, foolish, thoughtful, pragmatic, etc.

  14. Jim Jones
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    “The point of the process is not just to get semen out of the male, but also into the female, and into one place in the female in particular. [144]”

    And an angel asks god, “That’s a messy and complicated and trouble prone system you came up with, isn’t it? Couldn’t you improve on it?”

    And god shrugs and says, “Eh, close enough. Like USPS, it usually works OK.”

    Which pretty well sums up all biological ‘design’.

  15. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    I’ve often felt that the Church’s opposition to IVF is inconsistent with its stance on contraception. If the only legitimate purpose of sex is to make little Catholics, then what better way to take all the fun out of it than by reducing it to a clinical medical procedure?

    • Kharamatha
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 6:38 am | Permalink

      So you think you have a better system than Jebus?

    • Ye Olde Statistician
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

      Actually, the objection to IVF is precisely that it is not conception by a mutual act of love. I came to possess my grandmother’s marriage manual – it had genealogical info in the flyleaves – and it made for far more nuanced reading than anything here so far. It also indicated that people in 1910, the (c) date, were expected to have mastered a greater vocabulary than is the post-modern wont.

      It states that the main purpose of marriage is to further the mutual love of man and woman; but secondly that the man and woman must be open to the natural consequences of the act, and marriage is secondarily to form a stable environment for the raising of children. It notes that reproduction per se, while the natural end of the physical act, is not the end of marriage. Mere reproduction can be accomplished lovelessly through rape and other sinful means.

      • Tim Harris
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 6:04 am | Permalink

        It is – I am sorry – contemptible to suggest, as you do, that in vitro fertilisation is loveless and therefore not fundamentally from different from rape. I have people close to me who love each other dearly and have desired children, and since for certain reasons that I shan’t go into, they were unable to conceive a child, they resorted – successfully – to in vitro fertilisation and are now not only happily married, but happily married with children. How can you trot these pathetic and monstrous little homilies so glibly?

      • Tim Harris
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 6:34 am | Permalink

        I should like also to add that you have a pitifully (and doubtless dogmatically) limited understanding of love.

        • Ye Olde Statistician
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 11:31 am | Permalink

          Of course, you would like to add that, as it makes you feel better about yourself. But surely it is not those of whom I write who claim that love is simply glandular secretions and neural synapses.

          I have known many kids – I was one – who played in traffic and had much fun doing so. That does not mean that playing in traffic is a good thing. Besides, you may have just rediscovered the old Catholic distinction between venial and mortal sin.

          • Tim Harris
            Posted August 17, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

            love is ‘simply glandular secretions and neural synapses’: yes, I have come across – once only – that claim, which does deserve the opprobious epithet ‘scientistic’: but you and the person who made that claim, which he supposed was shocking, are in thrall to the supposed division between mind and body, or between spirit and body, so that one has to be denigrated in order to exalt the other. What is wrong with love involving ‘glandular secretions and neural synapses’? Why does that diminish love? It can only diminish love in the minds of those who are infected with the kind of faith that you profess.

      • Dan L.
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:47 am | Permalink

        OK, you’re disgusting. A couple wants to have a child and can’t conceive (presumably they tried the old-fashioned method first). But even though they can’t conceive they want to have a child — some legacy of their love, something to tie them together in love even more strongly. Since they haven’t been able to do it the easy way, they consult experts and spend lots of money to have a zygote created that is then carried to term in the mother as normal.

        Who the heck are you to tell them this isn’t a mutual act of love? They worked together through a serious mutual problem for the very purpose of expressing their love!

        Not to mention that the Catholic church seems OK excommunicating people who are involved with aborting foetuses that result from rape, suggesting that they can’t be TOO dead-set against loveless procreation. I guess they’re only against loveless procreation when it contributes to human dignity instead of detracting from it.

  16. Dominic
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Ah – so even if you are a young man who is asleep & produces ‘nocturnal emissions’, god will be angry with you for not getting out impregnating teenage girls; ‘every sperm is sacred’… do Feser & others REALLY believe that??? It is hilarious – or would be were he not writing this in a post Monty-Python world. I laughed, then reflected that this is a stupid idea he is promoting.

    • Ye Olde Statistician
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      No, Feser and others do not really believe that. You seem to believe that they believe that, and it is easier to come to grips with the phantom inside your head rather than the actual objective beliefs.

      Briefly thus: a sperm by its nature does not have the potency to become a human being. Neither does an egg. Only the fertilized egg develops naturally as a self-organizing emergent system. The requirement to be open – i.e., to accept responsibility – is not a requirement to reproduce mindlessly, as if we were a many-egg species.

  17. llwddythlw
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I have read some of Kenny’s writings on philosophy and religion, and I rather like them. I note, however, that he doesn’t feel comfortable with “New Atheism”, hence his approval for Feser’s approach, while ultimately suggesting that his arguments were fallacious. Kenny himself has said that when it comes to the god of the bible, he’s an atheist, although he remains an agnostic about god as a general concept. I would recommend his short book “What is Faith?”, as it has some interesting points to make about pure philosophical matters such as rational belief and what constitutes evidence. However, in the light of Eric MacDonald’s excellent articles, I am surprised that Kenny would think that Feser has presented the strongest arguments to date against atheism. That sets an incredibly low bar to the level of all the other arguments.

  18. PeteJohn
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Feser’s work is quite clearly an exercise in apologetics. My view is that the discipline of apologetics is worth studying only as an attempt to understand the development and nature of religious thought. Studying it as a viable source of knowledge and undertaking the role of God apologist seems a rather useless career move. Might as well become a Harry Potter apologist, considering that Harry’s story is far more interesting and enlightening than Yhwh’s.

  19. H.H.
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Of course, contraception via the rhythm method (now called “natural family planning“) is fine, because you’re not putting an artificial barrier between egg and sperm. Why this is more moral than contraception has always escaped me. In either case a “potential life” is thwarted, in one case by a chemical or a barrier of latex, in the other case by having sex when a conjunction between sperm and egg is impossible. Perhaps the distinction is based on some moral difference between passive abstinence and active intervention, but that makes no sense to me.

    I attended Catholic high school, and we were taught that the difference is one of effectiveness. See, the rhythm method is extremely unreliable. Even when practiced diligently, the possibility of unwanted conception remains high. And since the Catholic view is that sex must have procreation as it’s primary aim, birth control by definition thwarts the godly purpose of sex. But the rhythm method was considered ineffective enough not to interfere with god’s provenance. God could still “bless” a couple practicing the rhythm method with a child, thus leaving the outcome in god’s hands as is proper. But effective birth control? That means you are making the decision not to have children. This is considered an act of hubris against god, who alone should have the power to decide when a new life comes into the world.

    Historically, the Church made the same argument against lightning rods. Using them thwarts god’s ability to mete out diving judgment, which is again an act of hubris. Humankind is meant to passively accept whatever fate god intends without trying to interfere. Same idea with sex. If you are an unmarried person who wants to engage in sex, you better be prepared to be struck by lightning (i.e. pregnancy), and no fair using a lightning rod! (i.e. effective contraception)

    • H.H.
      Posted August 13, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      Just to further summarize, the Church is ethically opposed to sex without risk or consequences. In their view, sex is supposed to be dangerous. Remove the danger and you remove the deterrent.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted August 13, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      By that logic, wearing seat belts should be a mortal sin. If these Catholics really had the courage of their convictions, they’d be Christian Scientists.

      • H.H.
        Posted August 13, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        By that logic, wearing seat belts should be a mortal sin.

        I may have overstated the case a bit when I said Catholics believe we must not interfere with fate. I think it’s more accurate to say they believe we must not try to avoid the consequences of sin. Sex outside of marriage is a sin so it should have the potential for undesirable consequences, whereas driving is not a sin. However, you’re correct that traditionally god often inflicted his wrath upon sinners in the form of plagues or disease. Curing sick people or protecting our crops from infestations of insects should be considered just as much an assault on god’s sovereignty as using condoms. The only difference is that it’s harder to shame a farmer who just lost a crop to drought than it is to shame an unwed teenage girl who had sex against her parent’s wishes.

        • NoAstronomer
          Posted August 13, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

          Since people created the Internet, apparently in direct contravetion of gods law, please stop using it.

          KTHXBAI.

          Mike.

    • steve oberski
      Posted August 13, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      Pope Leo XII suspended a smallpox vaccination program on the assumption that it altered the natural balance of life and death.

      The Catholic church is also against allowing human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination shots in its institutions. There have been a number of high profile cases in Canada and the US. Apparently reducing the risk of cervical cancer results in increased promiscuity so it is preferred that women die of a disease that is completely preventable.

    • cornbread_r2
      Posted August 13, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      But at the same time other Catholics will denigrate artificial birth control for not being as effective as natural family planning methods — which some proponents claim is 99% effective.

      Also, what could be more unnatural than encouraging women (and women only) to have sex only on those days of the month when they are least likely — hormonally, emotionally and/or physically — to be receptive to the act?

      The only rationalization for NFP that might be justifiable is that it enforces a certain amount of self-denial, but that’s only valid if one assumes that couples are powerless not to have sex if they have a rubber.

    • Posted August 14, 2011 at 5:18 am | Permalink

      When you think about it, sex for reproduction is very Darwinian! Everything in living Nature is about reproduction.

    • Ye Olde Statistician
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

      Historically, the Church made the same argument against lightning rods.

      No, this one is a myth. Benedict XIV supported their use, and St. Mark’s in Venice had one as early as 1766. There was some European prejudice against an American invention, but the real problem was popular fear of attracting lightning. Nollet, a scientist and rival of Franklin, pointed out that if the rod were not properly grounded it would attract lightning but not ground it, making things much worse. The popular practice of ringing bells was condemned by the church as dangerous and superstitious as early as Cardinal Bellarmine in the 17th century.

      Pope Leo XII suspended a smallpox vaccination program on the assumption that it altered the natural balance of life and death.

      This is another myth. In fact, the Papal State implemented a thoroughgoing vaccination program, and while Leo XII’s anti-Austrian position and other actions may be less than admirable, there is no evidence whatsoever that the innoculation program begun under Pius VII was halted by anything other than the disruptions of the Napoleonic Wars. In fact, Benedict XIV had tried to implement a program under the older variolation method in the early 18th cent. The quotation usually bandied about has been traced to a citation of a citation of… of a citation ending with an unattributed statement by an Austrian diplomat hostile to Leo XII (due to the pope’s anti-Austrian policies). In any case, there is no evidence that the long-standing program under multiple popes was suspended.

  20. NoAstronomer
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    “It cannot possibly be good for us to use them in any other way, whether an individual person thinks it is or no.”

    Is this more ‘sophisticated theology’?

    I’m pretty sure fingers weren’t designed for the purpose of typing on keyboards but Feser seems to do it anyway. Immoral bastard.

    Mike.

  21. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    contraception via the rhythm method … is fine

    I heard that the technical term for pairs who practice the rhythm method is “parents”.

    [IIRC, from one of Heinlein’s books. But he was obsessed with sex, so maybe he was on top of such statistics.]

  22. Posted August 13, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    I married into a Catholic family; my mother-in-law had 6 children. My ex-husband & I had 3 children in 5 yrs after which, against his strong protests, I pressured him to sign a legal form giving me official permission to have a tubal ligation and relieving the NY hospital from liability. This regulation was mandated @ a time before women had the right to elect tubal ligation as independent agents and before abortion was legal in the US. At that time, 1967, the closest destination for a safe, legal abortion was the Caribbean, making the option a serious financial burden for many middle-class as well as working-class and poor women. My physician was a Catholic doctor recently immigrated from Italy, performing the procedure as major surgery because the intra-vaginal, virtually non-invasive technique had not yet been approved by the FAA. After my operation, my doctor, who I adored, assured me that he had made a clean, low incision so that I could “still wear a bikini”. Tubal ligation remains a birth control method not approved by the Catholic Church.

  23. Vaal
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    I think Feser needs immediate employment in the new position of “Letting Everyone Know The Final Cause Of Everything.”

    Because, wow, we must be getting a hell of a lot of it wrong, and it’s hard to know where to begin.

    For instance, rocks.

    What is their “final cause” – the end for which they are meant?

    Is it to be, I don’t know..just “hard” and sitting there…being a rock?

    If so, then we had better get to work tearing down all of our buildings, given how we’ve immorally gone about using rocks to their incorrect teleological end!

    Or, were rocks MEANT to be manipulated by us into whatever we want?

    If so, boy there’s a lot of rock sitting around not meeting it’s final cause or intended end. Just how immoral is it of me to pass by rocks on the ground without manipulating them into something else.

    But wait…we can’t go using changing every bit of rock into things we want, like buildings. It seems that a lot of it also is necessary to even hold the earth together!
    Damn! Another possible “end” or final cause for rock.

    Which is it? Please Mr. Feser, end this terrible confusion.

    Then it’s on to male nipples and..oh gosh the list is so long….

    Vaal.

    • Ye Olde Statistician
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

      What is their [rocks’] “final cause” – the end for which they are meant?

      The phrase “for which they are meant” is inappropriate. The telos is natural, not intentional, except insofar as nature is intended.

      There is first the question of whether “a” rock is a Ding an sich, a thing in itself or a part of a thing accidentally produced by erosion, lightning, etc. If we break a rock in half do we have two rocks or two halves of one rock?

      The natural form of inanimate matter has four powers: gravity, electromagnetism (chemistry), nuclear (strong), and radiative (weak). The natural end of a rock, absent other forces acting upon it, is to move toward the center of gravity, minimizing its potential function. It does this whether tumbling down a hillside or sitting cemented into the wall of my house.

      • Kharamatha
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 1:31 am | Permalink

        So too for the “natural end” of a penis, “absent other forces acting upon it”. It does this whether tumbling down a hillside or sitting cemented into the wall of my house.

  24. Richard Wein
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    Feser would have us throw out our scientifically-informed view of the world and return to an outdated pre-scientific view, based on a combination of Aristotle and religious dogma. No thanks.

    • Richard Wein
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 12:07 am | Permalink

      P.S. I forgot to mention the third basis of Feser’s arguments (in addition to Aristotle and religious dogma): unsubstantiated assertion.

      Quoting from Eric:

      Now, remember, when he is talking about ”final causes” here Feser thinks he is talking about the moral foundations of sexuality, so that he can go on to say that, given these final causes — penis into vagina in order to get sperm from male into female — “what is good for human beings in the use of [human sexual capacities] is to use them only in a way consistent with this final cause or purpose.” And this, he reminds us, “is a necessary truth”:

      “It cannot possibly be good for us to use them in any other way, whether an individual person thinks it is or not.” [145]

      This is a common ploy of the apologist. When you can’t show that your central premise is true, insist that it’s a necessary truth.

    • llwddythlw
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 5:52 am | Permalink

      I have to agree. Here’s an interesting quotation from a discussion of Plato between Myles Burnyeat and Bryan Magee.

      “Presumably it was no accident that when the modern scientific enterprise got going, it did so by throwing away the Aristotelianism which had so dominated the Middle Ages. Platonism, by contrast, is much easier to reconcile with the modern scientific enterprise, which is why, I think, Platonism lived on in the Renaissance and later, after the death of Aristotelianism.”

      • Ye Olde Statistician
        Posted August 14, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

        Yet Platonism is idealist where Aristotelianism is empirical. Platonism went well with magic and witchcraft.

        It was not the rejection of Aristotelianism, esp. since scientists continued to employ the basics under other names or labels, or to rely upon them even while denying them. Certainly, Aristotle was wrong about many of his facts and some of his theories; but heck “emergent properties” make no sense under 17th century metaphysical rules, but are not only explicable but expected under Aristotelian rules.

        The scientific explosion was due primarily to the development of mathematical notation, the application of mathematics to the physics of motion, the development of effective or more precise measurement methods for qualities of matter — plus a recovery of population to 14th century levels (so that there were in the 17th cent. as many natural philosophers as in the 14th.) We might also cite printing, which enabled the reference of standard editions and more widespread circulation of new ideas.

        IOW, material causes, not mystical ones.

        • Kharamatha
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 1:33 am | Permalink

          Plato gets far too much credit.

  25. Tim Harris
    Posted August 14, 2011 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    Eric MacDonald’s take-downs of Fester are superb. I was reminded by Fester’s lucubrations, a portion of which I read, of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester’s ‘Satyre on Mankind’:

    Were I (who to my cost already am
    One of those strange, prodigious creatures, man)
    A spirit free to choose, for my own share,
    What case of flesh and blood I pleased to wear,
    I’d be a dog, a monkey or a bear,
    Or anything but that vain animal
    Who is so proud of being rational.
    The senses are to gross, and he’ll contrive
    A sixth, to contradict the other five,
    And before certain instinct, will prefer
    Reason, which fifty times for one does err;
    Reason, an ignis fatuus in the mind,
    Which, leaving light of nature, sense, behind,
    Pathless and dangerous wandering ways it takes
    Through error’s fenny bogs and thorny brakes;
    Whilst the misguided follower climbs with pain
    Mountains of whimseys, heaped in his own brain;
    Stumbling from thought to thought, falls headlong down
    Into doubt’s boundless sea, where, like to drown,
    Books bear him up a while, and make him try
    To swim with bladders of philosophy;
    In hopes still to o’ertake th’ escaping light,
    The vapor dances in his dazzling sight
    Till, spent, it leaves him to eternal night.
    Then old age and experience, hand in hand,
    Lead him to death, and make him understand,
    After a search so painful and so long,
    That all his life he has been in the wrong.
    Huddled in dirt the reasoning engine lies,
    Who was proud, so witty, and so wise.

    And Eric MacDonald’s quotation, if you can call it that, is spot-on: the Nazis were not evil monsters (an assumption that lets us off the hook) but human beings who engaged in precisely the sort of thing that human beings have all too often engaged in, though on a larger and more obvious scale.

  26. Tim Harris
    Posted August 14, 2011 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    Oh, dear, it’s ‘Feser’, not ‘Fester’; I wonder why I got that wrong?

    • llwddythlw
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 6:04 am | Permalink

      Fond memories of the Addams Family?

    • steve oberski
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      Reminds you of a suppurating wound ?

      • Tim Harris
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 4:52 am | Permalink

        I think it must have been the thought of old Aquinas festering away in certain kinds of minds that prompted the mistake – if it was not mere mischief on my part.

  27. pj
    Posted August 14, 2011 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    What’s Feser’s take on post-menopausal women having intercourse? Leads to an awful waste of perfectly good sperm, that. Of course, old women and sex may be a juxtaposition that never even come under his radar…

    • Kharamatha
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 6:44 am | Permalink

      My guess is that he’d get along fine with Governor Ishihara of Tokyo, who frowns upon the selfishness of infertile women who stay alive uselessly.

  28. WhiteHawk
    Posted August 14, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Feser has recently supplied an absolute thrashing of MacDonald at his blog.

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/08/argumentum-ad-himmlerum.html

    Just FYI.

    • Drosera
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 5:50 am | Permalink

      You call that a thrashing? I call it whining.

  29. dguller
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    Just a few comments.

    First, even if the Church was a cesspool of corruption and did not live up the standards that it proclaimed as essentially moral, then that has no impact upon whether those standards exist. To argue otherwise would be like saying that since logicians are not always logical, then logic is false. The existence of an objective standard is independent of whether it is actually practiced. An objective standard is about what OUGHT to be done, not about what IS done.

    Second, Feser is not obsessed with the natural law. He believes that it follows from Aristotelian premises, and that it forms a necessary foundation for morality. He may be wrong about this, but he is clearly not stupid, especially if you have actually read his arguments in support of natural law theory. They are not as ridiculously absurd as presented here. My biggest problem is that function is a flexible notion that is in a constant state of evolution, and that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to identify THE function of something as complex as a human being.

    Third, Feser’s TLS is bitingly sarcastic and hostile to New Atheism, but to complain about his tone betrays an utter lack of self awareness and a clear state of denial. I mean, for Coyne to be all high-minded in his rejection of crude and rude statements means that he does not seem to visit his com boxes much, because I have rarely seen such vicious and hateful comments as here. So, TLS is as insulting as most New Atheist literature, and thus the tone is just his way of doing unto others.

    Fourth, Feser has a reply to this post and MacDonald’s posts on his website, if people would care to check.

    • steve oberski
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 5:52 am | Permalink

      Ah, the Feser Fan Club checking in.

      Does membership include a decoder ring ?

      Yes, the church is a cesspool of corruption but it does indeed live up to the standards that it proclaims as essentially moral.

      What is being argued however, is that the standards are not moral, the behaviour of church is just the result of following those standards.

      One only has to contemplate the putrid pack of paedophiles preaching chastity and poverty while living in castles full stolen art treasures to see this in action.

      And it’s immoral all the way down, every member of the rcc that provides financial and moral support to this organization (and I suspect that this includes you) is complicit in the institutionalized child rape, the active policy of genocide in sub-Saharan Africa vis-a-vis their demented policy against the use of condoms as a prophylactic to prevent aids, the ongoing program to deny women control over their own bodies, the ongoing program to deny homo-sexuals their basic rights as human beings.

      I could go on but you know this already.

      “Natural law” is a label the rcc sticks on it’s bronze age based dogma, call it what you want, it’s still just codified genocide, xenophobia, homophobia and misogyny.

      As your jebus said “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (sorry for using the King James version).

      • dguller
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 7:44 am | Permalink

        None of that addresses the basic point that even if the Catholic Church failed to uphold every single one of its standards, that the standards are falsified. To argue otherwise would be like saying that because logicians are often illogical means that logic is falsified. People often fall short of meeting objective ideals, and that says less about the ideals and more about human beings and their limitations.

        Oh, and I do not have a Jesus, or Jebus, for that matter. I am a liberal atheist, and thus the exact opposite of Feser who is a conservative Catholic. Why the need to hurl insults at people that you don’t know at all?

        I only posted my remarks, because the arguments that were offered seemed to me to be fallacious. I think that if we are going to argue for atheism, then it should be on the strongest terms possible, which means accurately representing the positions of our opponents in the strongest possible terms in order to refute. Straw men are easy to refute, and provide psychological satisfaction, but they do not advance our position at all.

      • Ye Olde Statistician
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        putrid pack of paedophiles

        My, such homophobia. Alas, the post-modern true believer is inexpert at the use of statistics and so unable to evaluate the scandal in a scientific manner.

        • Posted August 15, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink

          Damn. A torture apologist, and a child rape apologist.

          I’ll shut up, now, lest I try to strangle you through the ‘Net.

          b&

    • 386sx
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 6:32 am | Permalink

      Second, Feser is not obsessed with the natural law. He believes that it follows from Aristotelian premises, and that it forms a necessary foundation for morality. He may be wrong about this, but he is clearly not stupid, especially if you have actually read his arguments in support of natural law theory. They are not as ridiculously absurd as presented here. My biggest problem is that function is a flexible notion that is in a constant state of evolution, and that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to identify THE function of something as complex as a human being.

      Well that’s a big problem. The same problem everyone else has. So if it is extremely difficult, if not impossible to “identify” these things, then that makes Feser absurd (and stupid for talking himself into stupid stuff due to religious indoctrination.)

      • dguller
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 7:46 am | Permalink

        Can you explain to me how the brain causes consciousness? Would you say that this is also “extremely difficult, if not impossible”? And if you would agree with this, then does that mean that you are stupid?

        Or is it possible for reasonable people to disagree about certain important matters without either side being idiotic morons?

        • 386sx
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:28 am | Permalink

          Can you explain to me how the brain causes consciousness? Would you say that this is also “extremely difficult, if not impossible”? And if you would agree with this, then does that mean that you are stupid?

          Well okay but I don’t see that as being in a “biggest problem” type of thing. Is that a “biggest problem” thing? Do you have a “biggest problem” with it? Because you said…

          “My biggest problem is that function is a flexible notion that is in a constant state of evolution, and that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to identify THE function of something as complex as a human being.”

          I think that one is a “biggest problem” because it’s stupid. Maybe I’m wrong. 😀

          • dguller
            Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:41 am | Permalink

            I do think that it is a huge problem for materialist conceptions of mind. In fact, it is considered the paramount difficulty in philosophy of mind, the so-called “hard problem”. So, there is a huge problem right in the middle of any materialist conception of mind that appears unsolvable at this time.

            If we were to follow your reasoning, then anyone who still adhered to a materialist conception of mind would be stupid idiots. I doubt that would be your position, and so your reasoning must be rejected as fallacious. In other words, just because there are significant difficulties with a theory does not thereby falsify it and mean that anyone who holds that theory is an utter dolt.

            That’s all I was trying to say.

            • 386sx
              Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:43 am | Permalink

              I do think that it is a huge problem for materialist conceptions of mind. In fact, it is considered the paramount difficulty in philosophy of mind, the so-called “hard problem”. So, there is a huge problem right in the middle of any materialist conception of mind that appears unsolvable at this time.

              I don’t know why you would say it’s a problem. If there’s something unknown then it’s unknown. (I have no idea if you’re exaggerating or not because I dunno about that stuff.) Feser makes blanket truth pronouncements due to religious indoctrination. He doesn’t like having “unknowns”. Dude is brainwashed. He talks himself into the dumbest stuff. So on the one hand we have unknowns, and on the other hand we have pretend land. I’m not following your analogy. (Sorry.)

              • dguller
                Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:51 am | Permalink

                Perhaps some examples of Feser’s blanket assertions would be helpful?

              • dguller
                Posted August 15, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink

                Also, there is difference between “we do not know whether proteins or DNA encode genetic informatoin” and “we do not know how consciousness arises from the material brain”.

                In the former case, we can conceive of what the answer could look like, and a series of experiments that could decide the issue. In fact, that is how the issue that was unknown, eventually became known.

                In the latter case, we cannot even conceive of what an answer would look like. That is what makes it so hard. No matter how sophisticated our models, we inevitably have to make the link between an objective phenomena and a subjective mental event. If you can figure out how to do this, then I would love to hear it.

              • 386sx
                Posted August 15, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

                dguller, you said, “My biggest problem is that function is a flexible notion that is in a constant state of evolution, and that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to identify THE function of something as complex as a human being.”

                Well okay. I don’t even know what the heck it means. But yeah you’re right that’s a big problem. And if someone thinks they can “identify” it, then they’re being stupid. They’re playing pretend. Then you go off into all kinds of other tangents for reasons I do not know.

              • dguller
                Posted August 15, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

                386sx:

                >> Well okay. I don’t even know what the heck it means. But yeah you’re right that’s a big problem. And if someone thinks they can “identify” it, then they’re being stupid. They’re playing pretend. Then you go off into all kinds of other tangents for reasons I do not know.

                The reasons I went on those tangents was to show you that just because a theory has deep puzzles that cannot be resolved does not automatically make that theory or its adherents “stupid” (see: consciousness, problem of). If you can agree with this, then I think our dialogue can come to a mutually validating conclusion.

              • 386sx
                Posted August 15, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

                The reasons I went on those tangents was to show you that just because a theory has deep puzzles that cannot be resolved does not automatically make that theory or its adherents “stupid” (see: consciousness, problem of). If you can agree with this, then I think our dialogue can come to a mutually validating conclusion.

                I’m not sure what that achieves because we can say that about anything at all. I don’t see what the deep puzzle is either, but I perhaps can see some puzzles in the other examples you have given. Perhaps we have reached the point of near solipsism, in which case that is definitely a mutually validating conclusion, by design, i.e. that’s the whole point of solipsism–to have mutually validating conclusions–although usually one party is not as mutually happy as the other. 😛

    • Ye Olde Statistician
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      dguller
      My biggest problem is that function is a flexible notion that is in a constant state of evolution, and that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to identify THE function of something as complex as a human being.

      As I understand Aristotle – and I admit that I am more educated in mathematics and natural science than in philosophy – the telos is not the same thing as “function.” Rather, it is the end “toward which” a thing works. In physics, this is usually expressed as minimizing a potential function; but in animate being it is often somewhat equivalent to the formal cause. Thus, the final cause of a puppy is a dog.

      Wallace states that there are three species of finality: a) termination: fingers grow to a certain length, then stop growing; telomeres divide a number of times, then stop dividing; b) perfection: many examples in morphogenesis where an embryonic feature takes on more and more of the attributes of the final feature; c) intention: where there is consciousness involved. For example, a population possessing a novel feature will by random search, etc. seek out environments in which the feature proves useful.

      You are correct that finality is often multi-dimensional. It is somewhat like the ecological notion of niche, imho.

      It should also be made clear that the nature of any cause depends on the level at which one speaks. The finality of evolution in the broadest sense is “the origin of species.” That is what evolution is “for,” in the sense that on the broadest level this is what evolutionary processes aim at.

      However, at the species level, the end might better be thought of as “greater fitness for a niche.” In that sense, evolution works “for” the perfection of some feature that bestows a selective advantage, though this feature and the nature of the advantage will differ from case to case.

      So in this sense, Aristotle supposed the end of human beings was “to be a rational animal.”

      • dguller
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        Is there a procedure by which one can determine which of a variety of possible ends is THE final end?

    • Dan L.
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      First, even if the Church was a cesspool of corruption and did not live up the standards that it proclaimed as essentially moral, then that has no impact upon whether those standards exist.

      No indeed. But then we ask the obvious question: “What reason do we have to believe that there is an objective moral standard?” If this reason seems to be that “the church fathers say there is an objective moral standard” and if furthermore, those very people promulgating the moral standard do not follow it, what are we to make of the original claim?

      What reasons, apart from tradition, do we have to believe that there IS such a thing as an objective moral standard? (Along with a lot of metaphysical questions: what is the form of an objective moral standard, etc.?)

      My biggest problem is that function is a flexible notion that is in a constant state of evolution, and that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to identify THE function of something as complex as a human being.

      I would phrase this as “‘function’ is a concept invented by human beings to indicate those reasons for which an artifact was (variously) first or most commonly crafted.” In other words, I don’t think there is any reason to suppose that the concept of “function” makes sense outside the limited, parochial thoughtspace of human beings. When we talk about “function” in evolution we’re talking entirely about ends and not at all about means. Is the function of elk horns to prevent serious injury in male dominance contests or to attract mates? The horns were “designed” for neither (they weren’t designed) but they accomplish both.

      Third, Feser’s TLS is bitingly sarcastic and hostile to New Atheism, but to complain about his tone betrays an utter lack of self awareness and a clear state of denial.

      More likely: Feser is bitingly sarcastic and hostile to New Atheism AND complains about tone, so Coyne is just giving as good as he gets. It’s actually astonishing to me how much Feser’s comment sections look like those at Dawkins’s site. If gnus lack self awareness at least they’re not alone.

  30. Drosera
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    And to think that nobody here so far has even complained about the homophobic rant with which Feser opens his book. Gay bashing seems to follow logically from Natural Philosophy a la Feser. He is quite a fine specimen, really worth defending against those nasty New Atheists.

    • Drosera
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 6:00 am | Permalink

      This was in response to 29.

    • dguller
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

      I abhor his politics, but my disgust at them is not sufficient to justify my rejection of the philosophical arguments that he uses to justify his conclusions. If subjective dislike is now the criterion for truth, then atheism is false, because the majority of human beings believe in some kind of religion, and their disgust at our rejection of a deity would falsify our claims, right?

      • Drosera
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

        But Uncle Fester*, sorry, Dr. Feser, derives his homophobia from his philosophy. So you can’t separate his politics (if you can call bigotry politics) from his philosophy.

        Suppose someone claims that the philosophy he adheres to inevitably leads to the conclusion that female genital mutilation is necessary. Wouldn’t you say that this either disqualifies the philosophy or the person’s ability to philosophize? In either case, one can reject what that person writes on the subject without further ado.

        Feser and his acolytes can be dismissed because of the inhumane conclusions they reach. Who cares how they justify them?

        * See comment 26.

        • dguller
          Posted August 16, 2011 at 3:30 am | Permalink

          What if someone’s reasoning concluded that one cannot know the position and the momentum of subatomic particles at the same time? It does not follow that bizarre and counter-intuitive conclusions necessarily mean that an argument has gone wrong. It is usually a pretty good sign that something has, but it is not necessarily so.

          • Drosera
            Posted August 16, 2011 at 6:08 am | Permalink

            No, but when a person argues that his philosophy leads him to homophobia, or to racism, or to endorsing slavery, then I’m no longer interested in the reasoning of that person.

            Feser is not the only philosopher who has written about the Cosmological Argument. As far as I am aware he did not even contribute anything new to it. He is a mere popularizer. So, if I wanted to know more about the CA I would try to find a philosopher who hadn’t disqualified himself for spouting hateful bigotry while claiming that it followed from his philosophy.

  31. steve oberski
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    The emperor is wearing no clothes but Feser want to discuss the nuances of haute couture.

    It’s a waste of time to argue at this level when there is not a shred of evidence to back up his position.

    When Feser antes up some evidence then we can discuss the merits of catholic morality (an oxymoron if there ever was one).

    • dguller
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      I’d recommend reading his “Aquinas” and “The Last Superstition”. They probably won’t convince you — they didn’t entirely convince me — but they should, at least, demonstrate that reasonable people can hold positions that radically differ from your own. In those books, there are a number of arguments provided in defense of his positions, and certainly those arguments can count as “some evidence”. You don’t have to find that evidence compelling, but there’s no need to pretend that it doesn’t exist.

      • steve oberski
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:40 am | Permalink

        What apologetics should I read in defence of Celtic, Norse and Mayan mythology ?

        Has Feser read any of these ?

        Presumably he has as I’m sure he rejects the tenents of those mythologies. Not to mention the thousands of other belief systems that he rejects.

        • dguller
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink

          I have no idea.

          We are talking about Feser, and all I am saying is that if you want to criticize him, then you should read him. If we were talking about Norse gods, then I would say that you should read about them, if you wanted to speak intelligently about them. Like any field, one should make some effort to understand it in order to make justified commentary upon it.

          If you are too busy, or disinterested, then that is fine, but you have to know that whatever you say about the subject at hand cannot be considered to be knowledgeable.

          I would have thought that this is just a common sense principle in any field of study.

          • Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:50 am | Permalink

            The neighbor’s boy says there’s a monster under his bed. How much research must I perform before coming to a conclusion on the nature of this monster, and whether or not it’ll invade my house and eat me, too?

            Personally, I would have thought that it should be obvious that adults spouting well-known and self-evident bullshit should be dismissed as the cranks they are, no matter how fancy the language they use to sell their scams.

            Cheers,

            b&

            • Schleierman
              Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:03 am | Permalink

              Whether the God of classical, Christian theism is in fact comparable to Norse gods and bed-lurking monsters is precisely what is at issue to begin with in the theism/atheism debate, so that to hysterically assert it right at the outset would be to be guilty of flat-out, question-begging bigotry.

              (“question-begging” means “circular,” in case you didn’t know)

              Like dguller, I prefer to argue for atheism on the strongest possible terms.

              • steve oberski
                Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:34 am | Permalink

                Wouldn’t the default position be to discount the claims of xtian, norse and monster under the bed proponents until evidence is provided ?

                As they are the ones making the claims.

                One need not worry if the are “comparable”, except in the sense that none of them have provided a shred of evidence so far.

                If it looks like I’m harping on the request for evidence you would be correct.

                And you seem to be raising the bar much higher for atheists than those whose penchant is to make unsubstantiated truth claims.

              • Posted August 15, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

                Whether the God of classical, Christian theism is in fact comparable to Norse gods and bed-lurking monsters is precisely what is at issue to begin with in the theism/atheism debate, so that to hysterically assert it right at the outset would be to be guilty of flat-out, question-begging bigotry.

                Got any evidence to support the existence of either Jesus or YHWH?

                No?

                You were saying?

                Cheers,

                b&

            • dguller
              Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:09 am | Permalink

              Ben:

              I think that your comment raises a number of interesting issues, because this matter of how to decide when to pursue a particular theory is sufficiently complex as to prohibit simple rules of thumb without any exceptions.

              If we are advised to reject investigating any claim that seems to radically differ from our own worldview, then following this advice would have resulted in missing out on a number of vital scientific theories, because when they were first postulated, they were usually in utter contradiction to the prevailing conceptual framework. Some examples would include Newton’s forces, atoms, and quantum theory. It was only because scientists investigated matters rather than refusing to do so that we have learned as much as we have.

              That being said, there are also numerous examples in our history of wasted time pursuing theories that turned out to be wrong, and numerous examples of individuals continuing to cling to falsified theories due to a number of psychological and social factors that distorted their critical thinking.

              I’m afraid that there is no easy answer to this matter, and it is ultimately a judgment call.

              However, to get back to your example of the monster under the bed. I would look even if I disbelieved in the existence of monsters, because what the child considers a “monster” to be may be different from what I consider it to be. Perhaps what they call a monster is an insect or animal or some kind that has hidden in their room, and is at risk of harming them. Perhaps it is a sibling who is dressed up as a monster and is scaring them. Perhaps it is metaphorical, and they are trying to tell me that there are being molested by a family member. Perhaps they simply need the reassurance of knowing that their concerns will be addressed by the adults in their life.

              For all those reasons, and probably more, I would look. What I would not do, I hope, if I had any respect for the child, is to pretend to look by casually glancing out the window and in the hallway, avoiding the bed altogether. Even if there was no monster at all, that would betray an utter lack of respect for the child, which I think is unfair. I think a single look under the bed would be enough in this case. But the point is that I would look.

              And look, I know that you can come up with a number of possible scenarios where it would be utterly ridiculous and foolish to continue to look, and I can come up with possible scenarios where it would be foolish not to look. We can even come up with historical precedents to back up both possibilities, which agrees with my point above, i.e. there is no absolute rule in this matter.

              I think that it is more reasonable to say that we all have to make judgment calls regarding how we use our time to investigate various claims. However, if we have not looked into something, whether because we looked into something similar and found nothing, or we lack the time or interest, or whatever, then we should be honest and say that we do not know what is going on there rather than grandiosely comment on it, as if we did. So, regarding Norse metaphysics, all I can say is that I know nothing about it, because I have never investigated it, but from the little that I have heard about it, I would be shocked if it were true, but honestly, at this time, I cannot have a firm opinion about it at all.

              • Posted August 15, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink

                A child talking about monsters under the bed is evidence that the child needs parental guidance (or, perhaps, intervention by Child Protective Services). It is not evidence for an actual monster under the bed.

                Humanity has investigated the existence of monsters, gods, ghosts, faeries, and the like for millennia and found nothing. As with fortune-telling and levitation and UFO abductions and Sasquatch footprints and the rest, any claims of such are only suitably treated as the ramblings of whack-jobs and fraudsters unless presented with Nobel-prize-worthy research.

                We’ve looked. There’s nothing there. Pretending to give respect to the scam artists only helps them to perpetrate their scams, and I will not be a party to such deceit.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • dguller
                Posted August 15, 2011 at 11:33 am | Permalink

                Ben:

                >> We’ve looked. There’s nothing there. Pretending to give respect to the scam artists only helps them to perpetrate their scams, and I will not be a party to such deceit.

                I think that what Feser would say is that people have looked for anthropomorphic personalist deities, and not the God of classical theism, which he defends. Certainly, most objections to theism are applicable to a personal God, but they do not necessarily apply to what Aquinas was talking about, for example. In other words, if one looks for X by looking for Y, then can one conclude that X does not exist when they cannot find Y? I don’t think that’s reasonable.

                Personally, I think that there are decent arguments against Feser’s theological arguments, and I do not find his conclusions compelling. That is why I remain an atheist. However, just because I do not find his conclusions compelling does not mean that his arguments are bogus and fallacious. Usually, they turn on premises that deal with issues where there is serious disagreement, such as the possibility of an infinite series, or the need for a real active agent to mediate any transition from potentiality to actuality, for example. There are no good answers to these questions, and like most areas of philosophical speculation, there are good reasons for either side of the question.

                I don’t think that Feser thinks that his books will convince atheists to abandon their position. What he does hope is that atheists can read his books, and see that it is reasonable for some people to accept his conclusions without being moronic retards. I may disagree with his conclusions, but I can see how someone could agree with them, because their intuitions about some key premises differ from mine.

              • Ye Olde Statistician
                Posted August 15, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

                Norse mythology makes no metaphysical claims.

                The cultural role of myth is radically different from things like “news” or “science” or “religion.” A good book on the subject (Oh noes!) is Jan Vansina, Myth as History.

              • Dan L.
                Posted August 15, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

                1. Mythology often makes metaphysical claims.
                2. Norse mythology WAS intimately related to a Norse religion, which also made metaphysical claims.

                One such metaphysical claim is that Norse runes have real magical properties such that inscribing them somewhere has a real world effect (protection, healing, etc.).

          • steve oberski
            Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink

            I’m talking about anybody that makes claims about the nature of reality without evidence to back them up and often in the face of evidence to the contrary.

            This includes but is not limited to Feser.

            Logical arguments are not evidence. There are any number of internally self consistent systems (Feser’s is not one of them) that can make no claims about reality because they are not supported by evidence. Mathematics is replete with elegant theorems that have no connection to reality.

            • dguller
              Posted August 15, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink

              Steve:

              >> Logical arguments are not evidence. There are any number of internally self consistent systems (Feser’s is not one of them) that can make no claims about reality because they are not supported by evidence. Mathematics is replete with elegant theorems that have no connection to reality.

              I think that where metaphysical arguments differ from mathematical arguments is that the former explicitly utilize empirical premises. For example, the premise that to make the transition from potentially X to actually X requires the intervention of an actual entity Y to cause the transition is an empirical claim. It is justified by appeal to numerous empirical examples. That is also what makes this premise possibly falsifiable by quantum mechanics, for example.

              The interesting question is whether one can start with empirical phenomena, abstract from them, and infer more general properties of reality. I myself am dubious about such a procedure, because I believe that one’s conclusions must have some kind of feedback from reality in order to corroborate their validity, and the more abstract the metaphysical speculations, the less feedback is available, and the more speculative the conclusions. This puts me in agreement with you about mathematical truths that have no discernable impact upon the empirical world. I treat such truths as akin to the truth that Harry Potter wears glasses, i.e. consistent with a set of premises, but without any connection to reality.

              Anyway, the bottom line is that if one accepts the possibility of inferring general properties of reality from empirical phenomena, then metaphysical arguments should count as some form of evidence.

            • Ye Olde Statistician
              Posted August 15, 2011 at 11:45 am | Permalink

              Logical arguments are not evidence. … Mathematics is replete with elegant theorems that have no connection to reality.

              Damn. There goes the whole Scientific Revolution down the tubes, since it was predicated on the mathematization of the physics. However, I understand that those unable to do the maths might then say the mathematical grapes were mathematically sour.

              But let us consider something simple, like the irrationality of SQRT(2). Is this a subjective thing? IOW, does its truth value depend on the person thinking it? In that case, some people may conclude one thing and some people another. I grant you that “Oh noes! I gotta read Euclid, etc.!” before you can do anything but take it on faith; but everyone who looks into the matter reaches the same conclusion. It must therefore be objective. But then….

              And if you are using a computer to read this, thank a topologist.

              • Dan L.
                Posted August 15, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

                There goes the whole Scientific Revolution down the tubes, since it was predicated on the mathematization of the physics.

                Did you even read what you were responding to? Your objection is irrelevant. There are infinities of mathematical theories that COULD have described physics so how did Newton, for example, know which one to pick?

                Because they did experiments. The mathematization of physics that (essentially) started with Galileo started because he rejected Aristotle’s arguments about causality from first principles and actually checked: do different weights fall at different speeds? is it actually true that the natural state of matter is to be stationary?

                That last one is a doozy. Newton’s laws of motion are a recapitulation of the fact that matter in motion stays in motion, which is an empirical fact and not a philosophical necessity (Aristotle claimed the opposite was a philosophical necessity, so you see how far those kinds of arguments take you).

              • steve oberski
                Posted August 15, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

                Rest assured, the Scientific Revolution is still safe.

                Paul Erdos, Hungarian mathematician and the subject of the book “My Brain is Open” tackled problems whether or not they had any immediate practical application for the sheer joy of generating another theorem.

                My point was that there are large areas of mathematics that do not seem to describe any physical reality but are still internally consistent.

              • Drosera
                Posted August 15, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

                Cantor’s Continuum Hypothesis has been shown to be logically independent from the usual axioms of mathematics. Mathematicians can freely assume it to be either true or false.

                So which is it in the real world? Is that a meaningful question? If so, then isn’t this proof that you can never discover what the non-contingent aspects of the real world are like through pure reasoning alone?

  32. Ye Olde Statistician
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    (There goes the whole Scientific Revolution down the tubes, since it was predicated on the mathematization of the physics.)

    Your objection is irrelevant. There are infinities of mathematical theories that COULD have described physics so how did Newton, for example, know which one to pick?

    Have you ever read the Principia Mathematica? It is a brilliant work of natural philosophy, reasoning to the inverse square law from first principles.

    Because they did experiments.

    So did Theodoric of Fribourg and many other medievals. The limiting factor was their inability to measure with precision and their lack of a mathematical notation.

    The mathematization of physics that (essentially) started with Galileo

    Nicholas Oresme first applied mathematics to physics, inventing something like analytical geometry to prove the Mean Speed Theorem. And of course Bradwardine taught that anyone who does not know mathematics will never enter the portals of knowledge in the physics. That was 14th century. Mathematics (geometry) was widely applied in optics, e.g., Witelo Perspectiva. The medievals called optics, astronomy, and music “the exact sciences” for this reason. Aquinas reasoned that other sciences were potentially quantifiable, distinguishing a quality like “heat” from its quantitative extension, “temperature.” The Calculators of Merton tried to realize this program, but lacked reliable ways to measure things like temperature, color, etc.

    Galileo used Oresme’s proof of the Mean Speed Theorem in one of his own books (without attribution, of course).

    started because he rejected Aristotle’s arguments

    He claimed to be a better Aristotelian than his rivals and that were Aristotle alive he would be persuaded. Remember, the old Stagerite was an empiricist.

    and actually checked: do different weights fall at different speeds?

    That experiment was first run by John Philoponus in 6th century Alexandria, then lost. Albrecht of Saxony deduced it from first principles in the 14th cent. In the 16th century:

    1543. Benedetto Varchi published a book giving experimental evidence from Francesco Baeto and Luca Ghini contradicting Aristotle’s view of free fall.

    1544 Domingo de Soto, OP, formulated the first correct statement of the law of free fall.

    1552 Giovanni Bellasco noted that a ball of iron and a ball of wood fell to ground at the same time.

    1570 In Opus novum de proportionibus, Girolamo Cardano, demonstrated that two balls of different sizes will fall from a great height at the same time.

    1575 Guiseppe Moletti, Galileo’s predecessor at University of Padua, dropped balls of same volume but different materials and same material but different weights and discovered they hit the ground at same time.

    1584 In Diversarum Speculationum, Giovanni Benedetti, a leading physicist of the 16th century, used a thought experiment similar to Albrecht’s in which two stones of different weight are dropped, attached by a string, then the string is cut.

    1585 Simon Stevin, a Belgian scientist, conducted an experiment dropping two balls, one weighing 10 times the other from 30 feet and discovered that they reach ground at same time.

    1588 Galileo Galilei repeated Philoponus’ experiment rolling balls on inclined planes to show that different weights fall with the same acceleration.

    Science is a continuous effort with far more continuity that people give credit.

    is it actually true that the natural state of matter is to be stationary?

    Yes, it’s called inertia. According to Mach’s Conjecture, this is due to the combined gravitational influence of the rest of the universe.
    Newton’s laws of motion are a recapitulation of the fact that matter in motion stays in motion, which is an empirical fact and not a philosophical necessity

    Actually, the empirical experience was that if you threw a rock it would fall to earth and stop moving. If you rolled a ball it would come to rest. Etc. You can’t blame people for theories totally in accord with their experience.

    In the 14th century, Jean Buridan wrote that a body put into motion would continue in that motion forever unless the impetus were diminished or corrupted by another force. But see next:

    Aristotle claimed the opposite was a philosophical necessity

    Aristotle did not mean by “kinesis” the same thing moderns mean by “motion.” In his schema, kinesis was actualization of a potential, so a growing puppy, a budding flower, and a ripening apple were all examples of motion. The early moderns decided to focus on the much simpler issue of “kinesis of location” for inanimate bodies. In Aristotle’s view, a body in repetitive circular patterns (like the stars) is not “in motion” since (in his sense) it is not “getting anywhere.”

    This accords well with modern physics which talks of “minimizing a potential function.” One example of an attractor basin is to come to rest on a surface; but another is to fall into an orbit. (There are also “strange attractors” in complex systems.) Once these equilibrium states are achieved, it requires an external force to budge them off it. An equilibrium state satisfies Aristotle’s idea of “rest.”

    • dguller
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      I’m sure this relevant historical analysis that clearly demonstrates the importance of actually knowing the history of science will merit the following erudite reply: “Oh yeah? Well, at least we don’t worship a cracker!”

      • Posted August 15, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

        The apologist who penned that self-serving “historical” “analysis” has already in this very thread tried to whitewash the vast numbers of child rapes his has orchestrated — and this in a time when Degollado’s personal protector is still the Bishop of Rome.

        What on Earth makes you think that any of the rest of his sorry ass’s apologies are anything but more of the same propaganda?

        There’s one rhetorical skill this “statistician” is adept at: lying by telling just a little bit of the truth, but certainly not the whole truth. Do, that, and you can put a positive spin on anything — including, as this thread is witness to, institutionalized mass child rape and even Torquemada’s torture chambers.

        If YOS is trying to tell you that, contrary to popular opinion, black is white, you can be sure he’s spinning as hard and fast as Goering ever did.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Ye Olde Statistician
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

          What on Earth makes you think that any of the rest of his sorry ass’s apologies are anything but more of the same propaganda?

          Simple. By consulting the relevant historical scholarship on the subject.

          Torquemada’s torture chambers.

          For a scholarly study of the Spanish Inquisition, see Herb Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition.

          he’s spinning as hard and fast as Goering ever did.

          You’re thinking of Göbbels. Get your argumentum ad Hitlerum right.

        • dguller
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

          Just out of curiosity, what are the “vast numbers of child rapes”? What is the percentage of Catholic priests that have raped children? How does this percentage compare to other services where adults supervise children, such as teachers, daycare workers, etc.?

          I’m just curious, because I really don’t know.

          • steve oberski
            Posted August 15, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

            If you were really curious you would look it up yourself.

            Despite your protestations to the contrary, I think you actually a trolling catlick.

            I am familiar with the breed having been one of them myself and acquainted with and related to a large number of them.

            • dguller
              Posted August 15, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

              You are certainly welcome to think whatever you want about me. I don’t think I’m a troll, and I don’t think that the fact that I’m asking questions to back-up claims makes me one. Do you never ask someone who makes a claim to back up that claim with evidence?

          • Posted August 15, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

            Congratulations. If you’re not trolling, you’ve fallen — hook, line, and sinker — for the propaganda.

            The problem isn’t that Catholic priests rape children at a different rate from the rest of the population.

            The problem is the church’s policy, pattern, and practice of obstructing justice, intimidating victims and witnesses, and collaborating with the rapists to provide them with fresh victims.

            This is all exceedingly well documented, in the newspapers, on the front pages. And the worst of the collaborators is the current pope.

            Reading material:

            http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/the-pedophiles-paradise/Content?oid=1065017

            as well as Googling for Fr. Maciel and “Minnesota priest abuse.”

            And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

            Cheers,

            b&

            • dguller
              Posted August 15, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

              I think that if one is going to condemn any institution that covers up child abuse, then I suppose that you can add American public schools and the Boy Scouts to that list. I await your calls to dismantle these institutions and cast them to the flames.

              And before you condemn me for minimizing child abuse and serving as an apologist for the Church, I am not doing that at all. I utterly condemn all forms of child abuse and anyone who perpetrates it, including Church officials. However, I hesitate to hold the Church to a double standard that I would not hold to other secular organizations that are guilty of the same crime.

          • Ye Olde Statistician
            Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

            Asking for data? You really are out of place here.

            New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, report released 18 May 2011:
            http://www.bishop-accountability.org/reports/2004_02_27_JohnJay_revised/2004_02_27_John_Jay_Main_Report_Optimized.pdf

            [for def. of abuse, see report]

            incidence spiked late 60s; receded dramatically in mid-80s. Ah, the fabled Sixties. 7 credible cases in 2010.

            victims 81% male
            national incidence studies: girls 3x more likely.

            4,392 priests/deacons accused 1950-2002;
            (143 accused in more than one diocese.)
            Rate: 4%

            Rate of abuse accusations in 2001:
            national average: 134/100,000 youngsters against a priest: 5/100,000 youngsters

        • Steersman
          Posted August 21, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

          Ben Goren said: If YOS is trying to tell you that, contrary to popular opinion, black is white, you can be sure he’s spinning as hard and fast as Goering [Goebbels] ever did.

          As a general comment first I have to say that these various threads by Coyne, MacDonald and Feser have certainly generated great amounts of waste heat – though not entirely, some quite mephitic smoke, but no small amount of enlightenment – from both sides.

          But, as to your comment about “black is white”, I’m reminded of a quote of Loyola from one of his “Rules for Thinking with the Church”:

          That we may be altogether of the same mind and in conformity with the Church herself, if she shall have defined anything to be black which to our eyes appears to be white, we ought in like manner to pronounce it to be black.

          One might reasonably discount that to some extent as the consequences of the exigencies of the time – onward Christian soldiers and all that: one can’t very well run an army on democratic principles – but at the same time it does suggest a mental perspective that seems remarkably prevalent even now and largely out of place and that is entirely problematic: seems that what is required now is an allegiance to some human values that should take precedence over the anachronistic and authoritarian structure of the Church, particularly one based on unsound proofs for their god and a dearth of evidence for it.

      • Dan L.
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

        dgullible, the historical analysis doesn’t actually help YOS’s case at all. Instead, it demonstrates that quite a bit of empirical testing was involved with the simple conclusion that mass in motion stays in motion which was exactly my point. You can derive anything you want from first principles — depending on what your first principles are. When you want to make sure your first principals adequately describe the real world you need to do some freaking experiments.

        I don’t dispute any of it except that YOS seems to read Aristotle more charitably than I think is justified, and the assertion that “intertia” is the same as “the natural state of matter is to be at rest.”

        • dguller
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

          You are correct that YOS didn’t seem to demonstrate that without empirical evidence as part of mathematical modelling, the models are just speculation. That’s fine. However, it seems that you got almost everything else in your post wrong, which you seem to agree with.

    • Dan L.
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      Have you ever read the Principia Mathematica? It is a brilliant work of natural philosophy, reasoning to the inverse square law from first principles.

      I’m plenty familiar with the derivation of the inverse square law. It’s true by virtue of the geometry of space-time, which could have been otherwise for all I know. The fact that the inverse square law adequately describes many real-world vector fields is an empirical fact.

      …then a bunch of stuff irrelevant to my argument or even supporting it…

      Science is a continuous effort with far more continuity that people give credit.

      Agreed.

      Yes, it’s called inertia. According to Mach’s Conjecture, this is due to the combined gravitational influence of the rest of the universe.

      No, inertia is not the principle that “the natural state of matter is to be at rest.”

      wikipedia:
      “Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion or rest, or the tendency of an object to resist any change in its motion.”

      Being at rest is not the same as being in consistent motion.

      Actually, the empirical experience was that if you threw a rock it would fall to earth and stop moving. If you rolled a ball it would come to rest. Etc. You can’t blame people for theories totally in accord with their experience.

      Yes, obviously. However, Newton’s laws say, in fewer words, “bodies resist changes in motion.” To get the empirical experience you talk about you can either combine Newton’s laws with friction — OR take Aristotle’s notion of impetus being some substance that runs out as the object moves. One of these is correct and one is wrong. One is based mostly on abstract reasoning and one is based mostly on a long history of empirical discovery for which you so kindly provided the start of an outline.

      Aristotle made a good guess, granted. But when interpreting the writings of ancients it’s rather easy to read them more charitably than they deserve.

      • Posted August 15, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

        Oh, but doncha know? Aristotle proved that John 1:1 is true; therefore, eat this cracker (and pay no attention to the child’s screams coming from behind the curtain).

        Cheers,

        b&

        • WhiteHawk
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

          Oh, but doncha know? Darwin proved that Marxist materialism is true; therefore, let’s all march forward under the banner of Mao Zedong (and pay no attention to the dying screams of 30,000 people coming from the killing fields every day).

          Cheers,

          WH

          • Posted August 18, 2011 at 7:51 am | Permalink

            What the hell are you talking about? I imagine that everyone here is just as much anti-totalitarian as they are anti-religion.

            Or are you just bleating out the old “Baaa… atheism… Baaa… Stalin… Baaa… Mao” argument so beloved of the more stupid Christian apologists.

        • Ye Olde Statistician
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

          No, he didn’t. John was written long, long after Aristotle lived. If you’re going to refute something, try to use empirical facts.

        • dguller
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

          And there it is, the cracker.

      • Ye Olde Statistician
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

        Being at rest is not the same as being in consistent motion.

        Aristotle regarded circular motion as a kind of rest: “The periphery of that which is carried in a circle, always bearing itself in the same way, rests … [and] in a way moves and in a way not.” (Phys., 4.4.212a24, 4.5.212a35) It sounds odd because we don’t use the same categories. When we understand what he was trying to say, we often find him grossly misunderstood.
        + + +

        However, Newton’s laws say…

        Aristotle’s word for the heavens was the aei thein, “the always running.” The concept of inertia (L. “laziness”) came from ibn Rushd and Thomas Aquinas.
        + + +

        Aristotle’s notion of impetus being some substance that runs out as the object moves.

        Impetus came from John Philoponus (not Aristotle), via ibn Sinna and Hibat Allah Abu’l-Barakat al-Baghdaadi to Jean Buridan. Buridan claimed the impetus was permanent and the object would continue forever in the imparted motion unless opposing forces (like gravity or friction) diminished it. He expressed impetus as the mathematical product of weight and speed of the object. We’d say “mass x velocity,” so we see that impetus is what we call “momentum” (L. “motion”).

        The impetus was a theory based on a long history of empirical observation. Buridan stated that it was the only theory then known that accounted for the observed facts. It was substantially correct; but incomplete. It needed to be combined with Aquinas’ concept of inertia.

        The history of science is imho very exciting.

  33. Ye Olde Statistician
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    One such metaphysical claim is that Norse runes have real magical properties such that inscribing them somewhere has a real world effect (protection, healing, etc.).

    Actually, that is not a metaphysical claim, but what we would call a scientific claim. In fact, historians of science have noted the close relationship of magic to natural science during the 17th and 18th centuries. Both deal with the powers of material things: in one, the power is occult (hidden) and in the other the power is manifest (evident). The progress of science was to move things from occult to manifest. Aquinas, Oresme, and others noted this.

    The three-fold division is:

    1. Physics, which deals with the properties of physical objects.

    2. Mathematics, which deals with the properties of ideal bodies.

    3. Metaphysics, which deals with being as such and so with the preconceptions underlying the physics.

  34. Ye Olde Statistician
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Ben
    Then who, prey tell me, wrote the following?

    “The purpose of the torture was to elicit testimony. It was never used for punishment.”

    The authors of books on medieval law. The authors of manuals for investigating magistrates. It’s simply a matter of legal fact — although as in every age you could find people who violated the law.

    “Alas, the post-modern true believer is inexpert at the use of statistics and so unable to evaluate the scandal in a scientific manner.”

    So what is your analysis of the statistics? It’s not enough to have the vapors, fan yourself and ask that dissenting speech be suppressed by authorities. The basis of the scientific method is to get data on the phenomenon. But you claimed that I was “making excuses” for the chicken-hawkers. In what way does the quoted passage do this?

    “[If Galileo] had not just as needlessly alienated his good friend Pope Urban with insults in the Dialogo, nothing would have happened to him.”

    Actually, this is from a letter Galileo wrote to his good friend Peiresc, reporting on some statements by Grienberger and others that most of the Jesuit astronomers, including Clavius himself, were “not far from” the Copernican system. They had been teaching it, after all, as a mathematical method.

    And now you’re all set to pain the Conquistadors as the glorious liberators who brought peace and civilization to the New World.

    Are you making excuses for cannibalistic headhunters who built pyramids of skulls of their sacrifices? Perhaps you also condemn the Cempoalans, Tlaxcalans, and others who helped the Spanish bring down their hated oppressors.

    Or perhaps you only think that events in history are neatly divided between Good Guys and Bad Guys. Wearing different colored hats so you can tell them apart.

    • Posted August 15, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      So what is your analysis of the statistics?

      Statistics?

      Ratzinger personally shielded Degollado from police inquiry, withheld material evidence from investigators, and shuffled him across international borders to avoid prosecution. And you have the nerve to blather about “statistics”?

      Even one such case should be far more than enough to turn one’s stomach and result in a universal call for an international criminal case against Ratzinger, but it’s just part and parcel of standard church practices. We saw it not only with deaf boys in Minnesota, entire villages in Alaska, and all throughout Ireland, but in Ratzinger’s own home country of Poland during his “oversight.”

      You can take those statistics and shove it up your ass. Your beloved church is nothing more nor less than an organized international child prostitution racket for its own members.

      Are you making excuses for cannibalistic headhunters who built pyramids of skulls of their sacrifices?

      And that justifies your beloved church in its gold-fueled genocidal orgy of death and destruction?

      God damn.

      Jerry, how much more of this do we have to put up with?

      b&

  35. Ye Olde Statistician
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Dan L.
    Paedophiles are not homosexuals you disgusting sack of *****

    Of course not. Where did I say they were? The vast majority of cases in the general population are not. (Here is an example of how ignorance of statistical inference can lead to faulty conclusions like yours.)

    As regards the priest scandal, 80% of the cases involved men and teen-aged boys, a practice known among homosexuals as “chicken-hawking” (at least, back in the 60s/70s it was). This is a dramatically different ratio from school teachers, family members, and other groups of perpetrators, where most cases are man-girl or (less often) woman-boy. (Two local incidents here involved woman teacher-girl student. One of the perps was a distant cousin and her punishment was to wear an ankle bracelet and suffer house arrest.)

    Also, most of the priestly cases were not cases of pedophilia, but what psychologists call ephebephilia. The two conditions are sometimes confused in the popular mind, but there is an important scientific distinction. A very good parallel can be made with the fictional heterosexual Humbert Humbert in Lolita. Older men are sometimes attracted by teenagers. If they are older heterosexual men, they are attracted by teen-aged girls. If they are older homosexual men, they are attracted by teen-aged boys. It’s that simple.

    Now repeat after me: “most A in situation X were B” does not imply that “all B are A all the time.” Got that? Good, because the vast majority of homosexual priests did not break their vows of chastity, according to the John Jay report. Do not try to turn a factual description of a particular situation into some sort of universal statement.

    • Posted August 15, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      AND WHAT THE FUCK DOES ANY OF THAT HAVE TO DO WITH THE ACTIONS OF YOUR CHURCH TO SHIELD THE RAPISTS FROM CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS WHILE TRANSPORTING THEM ACROSS BORDERS TO NEW SOURCES OF VICTIMS!

      Damn.

      I better unsubscribe from this thread before I have an aneurism.

      b&

    • ScientificDoberman
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      Statistician, I am an agnostic who leans towards atheism at the moment, but I admire the vast, detailed knowledge of history – particularly Christian history and the history of science – that you’ve demonstrated thus far. That you are able to do all this from memory really tells me something about your intelligence.

      Care to recommend some books that serve as good starting points? I’m mostly interested in getting recommendations for Christian history and the history of science, though if you feel up to the task of recommending other stuff, then of course I’d appreciate that also. Frankly, I am pretty damn tired of being a historical illiterate … wish I’d cared more for the subject in high school and in college, where my focus was exclusively in mathematics and science.

      • Drosera
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

        You would do better to ask YOS to justify some random crime committed by the Catholic Church.

        He’s really good at that (at least he thinks he is.) He must have practiced a lot. But then, there is a lot of material.

      • steve oberski
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

        Sock puppet alert.

        • ScientificDoberman
          Posted August 16, 2011 at 3:15 am | Permalink

          What baseless babble.

          I frankly don’t give a jot that YOS is a theist of the Catholic variety. Granted, I depart from him sharply on that point, but why should his Catholicism affect his competence in areas not pertaining to the philosophical topic of the existence of God, e.g., the history of science? To draw a parallel, why can’t mathematicians like William Dembski know more about mathematics than Jerry Coyne, even if they believe in God and reject Darwinian evolution? And why would it be unwise for me to solicit recommendations from them on mathematical subjects such as differential geometry and number theory?

          What the historical record has revealed so far is a matter completely open to simple, objective verification by any person, theist or atheist; and the simple, objective truth here is that YOS has demonstrated an unusually deep comfort with the facts of Christian history and the history of science that I haven’t really encountered before. Hence I ask him for apt sources on these matters.

      • Ye Olde Statistician
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

        I provided a list to Dan L. Search the string for “Toby Huff” and you should find it.

        Sorry. I don’t have much on Church history, and have not referenced it.

  36. Ye Olde Statistician
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    Drosera
    Cantor’s Continuum Hypothesis … logically independent … usual axioms of mathematics.

    CH cannot be derived or disproven from the axioms of Zermelo set theory. There are many unprovable theorems in math. Tychonoff’s theorem. The Axiom of Choice. The Parallel Postulate. Not everything can be proven; some things must be taken on faith.

    So which is it in the real world?

    If we remove the oddball Axiom of Choice (AC) from the Zermelo axioms and substitute the Continuum Hypothesis (CH), it turns out that while the axiom set {I…X+AC} cannot prove or disprove CH, the axiom set {I…X+CH} can prove AC. So mathematicians generally regard CH as “true-but-unprovable.”

    isn’t this proof that you can never discover what the non-contingent aspects of the real world are like through pure reasoning alone?

    Not within-a-system.

    Gödel’s theorem proves that in any consistent system strong enough to support first order arithmetic [first order logic] there will be true statements that cannot be proven within-the-system. IOW {True}>>{Provable}.

    Lucas deduced from this that the human mind is not a computational system; so it has many interesting spin-offs.

    A particular intuition of mine is that {Provable} is dense in the space {True} the way rational numbers are dense in the reals, but that would depend on the particular topology. What defines AδB where A and B are sentences?

  37. Drosera
    Posted August 16, 2011 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    I mentioned the Continuum Hypothesis to demonstrate that there is no one-to-one correspondence between mathematics and reality. This implies that we cannot infer certain aspects of reality from pure reason alone. We need evidence to determine what exists and what doesn’t.

    “Not everything can be proven; some things must be taken on faith.”

    Yes, like your god. Where’s your evidence?

    • WhiteHawk
      Posted August 16, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      Yes, like your god. Where’s your evidence?

      Well, first things first: What do you mean by “evidence” and what might count as “evidence”? After all, if you are in the position to proclaim that there is no evidence, then you are also in the position to at least describe what evidence is and what it would look like, if it did exist.

      • Drosera
        Posted August 16, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink

        Any phenomenon that by our current standards of science would appear to be impossible would be potential evidence. For example, an amputee growing a new leg within seconds. The Great Pyramid of Cheops hovering three feet above the Eiffel Tower without any visible agency. The stars rearranged to spell ‘Jesus’. A rabbit skeleton in the Precambrium. A frog that would recite the book of Genesis and answer questions about it.

        Now, these could all be tricks (especially the last-mentioned), hallucinations, or natural phenomena that only appear impossible due to our incomplete understanding of nature. But they would be a start.

        I am not aware of any evidence of this nature. Are you?

        • Drosera
          Posted August 17, 2011 at 2:06 am | Permalink

          *** crickets ***

  38. irritable
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    It is worth pointing out that Feser fiercely adheres a theory called Hylemorphic Dualism, derived from speculations by Aristotle and Aquinas.

    What is this theory?

    (1) All sub­stances, in other words all self-subsisting entities that are the bearers of properties and attributes but are not themselves properties or attributes of anything, are compounds of matter (hyle) and form (morphe).
    (2) The form is substantial since it actualizes matter and gives the substance its very essence and identity.
    (3) The human person, being a substance, is also a compound of matter and substantial form.
    (4) Since a person is defined as an individual substance of a rational nature, the substantial form of the person is the rational nature of the person.
    (5) The exercise of rationality, however, is an essentially immaterial operation.
    (6) Hence, human nature itself is essentially immaterial.
    (7) But since it is immate­rial, it does not depend for its existence on being united to matter.
    (8) So a person is capable of existing, by means of his rational nature, which is traditionally called the soul, independently of the existence of his body.
    (9) Hence, human beings are immortal; but their identity and individu­ality does require that they be united to a body at some time in their existence. (see Oderberg, http://www.rdg.ac.uk/AcaDepts/ld/Philos/dso/papers/Hylemorphic%20Dualism.pdf, who concedes that mainstream philosophers regard it as tripe).

    This pitiful, question-begging, conceptual algorithm is held by Feser to demonstrate why only fools, unskilled in serious reasoning, believe in “physicalism” – that is, the idea that everything in the world can actually be reduced analytically to its fundamental physical, or material, basis.

    • Drosera
      Posted August 19, 2011 at 1:26 am | Permalink

      One wonders why Uncle Fester doesn’t accept Aristotle’s theory that all substances are a mixture of four elements: earth, water, air, and fire. Did Aquinas had anything to say about this?

      • Drosera
        Posted August 19, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

        Rather, did he have anything to say about it?

  39. Brian
    Posted August 20, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Wow, Ye Olde Statistician. I wish there were some way I could link up my brain to yours and copy all of the knowledge you have onto my brain. This may sound harsh, but I think it’s deserved: most of the atheists on the blog could stand to learn a lot from people like YOS and Feser. You guys are no-nothings that hide your bluff with a lot of nasty rhetoric and prejudice. It doesn’t look good.

    • irritable
      Posted August 20, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

      Brian, have you read and considered what Feser believes in, as a Hylemorphic Dualist?
      His beliefs are comically silly and unsustainable and have been emphatically rejected by an overwhelming consensus of philosophers.
      And as for nasty rhetoric and prejudice, you simply can’t go past Feser. Vomiting that wonderful, old-fashioned Catholic vitriol.
      Sure, Ye Old Statistician is a polymath and a skilful debater (who can fudge with the best rhetoricians), but those admirable characteristics can’t validate his anti-physicalist arguments.

    • Drosera
      Posted August 21, 2011 at 1:23 am | Permalink

      You have to be a know-nothing like you to fall for the cheap debating techniques (look up ‘obfuscating’ in a dictionary) of Inquisition-apologist YOS and Dr. Feser, whose philophy was already outdated in the Dark Ages.

      • Drosera
        Posted August 21, 2011 at 1:27 am | Permalink

        ‘philosophy’

    • Ichthyic
      Posted August 21, 2011 at 1:49 am | Permalink

      Brian is a little mind impressed by big words.

      Here’s a thought exercise for you Brian:

      What, exactly, did you learn from reading YE Moldy Statistician’s posts?


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