114 thoughts on “Plantinga: There’s No Good Argument For Design, But Who Needs One?

  1. Interesting take. I think a lot depends on what we mean by a ‘good’ argument. In some sense, we could formulate all deductive proofs in terms of probability by assigning some a priori weight to the truth of each premise. So for an argument like:
    P1. If P then Q
    P2. P
    C1. Q
    we would ask “What is the a priori probability that P1 or P2 is true?” and then calculate the probability that C1 is true. All Plantinga is saying is that if P1 and P2 are truly basic premises, then there is no justified probability that can be assigned to either of them based on other more basic premises. So the argument is not ‘good’ in the sense that the probability of the truth of C1 depends entirely on the probabilities of
    the truth of P1 and P2.

    But that depends on what we mean by ‘good.’ For instance, the same objection could be made to just about any a priori estimation of probability. I could argue that it is my assumption that there is a 99.9999999% chance that I am a brain in a vat. Does that mean that any argument for the existence of the external universe is not ‘good’?

    Personally, I think that a ‘good’ argument is one that is sound and convincing. Typically, arguments from design try to show that chance or necessity are not plausible explanations for the fine-tuning of the universe. This amounts to a good argument if 1) chance and necessity are indeed not plausible explanations for fine-tuning and 2) the argument makes people realize this. Perhaps ‘good’ arguments are simply those that force people to reexamine their basic presuppositions about reality. We can always stubbornly argue that you cannot compel us to change our presuppositions (perhaps we are brains in vats). But at some point, rational people made in God’s image will begin to question how plausible their stance really is.
    -Neil

  2. Plantinga’s dispute is Bayesian, not syllogistic/deductive. I didn’t want to use that language or try to reproduce his equations in the blog post.

    I think he would agree with much of your final paragraph, except with different language. The ID arguments, he says, are not sufficient to compel a non-theist to change his mind, either in a probabilitic/logical sense or in a psychological sense of being compelled to change.

    Again, I didn’t try to reproduce this in the blog post, but he distinguished design arguments from design discourse, with discourse revolving around basic beliefs; and there is a sense in which the discourse could be taken to be a form of argument.

    I will confess, by the way, that “no good argument for design” in my headline was partly intended to draw traffic. It’s a bit overstated. Not much, though.

  3. “Following detailed and rather technical discussions of both cosmological fine tuning, [Plantinga] concludes that the arguments in favor of design are not compelling. The reason, in an almost criminally shortened version, is that it’s just not possible to assign probabilities to a designer and his actions in the world.”

    Oh? If an eternally existing transcendent intelligence (God) exists the probability that the universe is fine-tuned for intelligent life is 1.0. IMO it is the non-theist, and non-theist alone, who needs to explain the universes fine-tuning in terms of probabilities.

  4. Design is just apparent in the world. We can see it, as we can see that the world wasn’t created intact in its current form just five minutes ago, that our memories are at least somewhat trustworthy, that there are other people (other minds) in the world besides ourselves. No argument that could prove these things true, yet we know them with trustworthy knowledge regardless. These are “basic beliefs:” things we know without having to call upon a string of inferences to support that knowledge.

    They are also basic in the sense that other rational enterprises depend on them: you can’t do history without the belief that the world didn’t just pop into existence and you can’t do psychology or pragmatics without the belief that other people have minds. Does something similar hold for the belief that nature is designed?

  5. I really have to read this book. I’m strongly sympathetic to, if not Plantinga’s view, then something similar to Plantinga’s view as stated here. I’d disagree with him about there being ‘no good arguments’ for design, but at the same time I wonder if one can rationally ‘see design’ and rationally conclude it in the way Plantinga is suggesting here. Does he get into evolution in the book?

  6. Tom,

    Although I’m not particularly knowledgeable on Thominism, Aquinas argument from design starts from the regularity we observe in nature to argue for God. People could deny regularity but it seems to me to be what could be termed a basic belief. The regularity isn’t established by argument. Which is relevant to Mattghg’s comment in that is we deny regularity we destroy science.

  7. Melissa wrote:

    “Aquinas argument from design starts from the regularity we observe in nature to argue for God.”

    I think it is important to find a key or basic question here.

    Leibniz asked, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Many would argue that this is the key metaphysical question. I think it very well could be. However, from an apologetic perspective I think there is another basic question we should ask: “Why is the universe intelligible?” I think this is a better question than asking directly, “Is the universe designed?” Because that question leads to the question, “Is the design real or apparent?” The theist believes the design is real; the non-theist believes that it is apparent. Of course we could ask whether the universe’s intelligibility is real or apparent. The problem is that to do science we have to assume that the universe really is intelligible. In other words, the non-theist can’t rationalize away the universe’s intelligibility like he does with design.

    And furthermore, unlike the design question, I would argue that the theist has an explanation why the universe is intelligible; the non-theist doesn’t.

  8. Good point: “the non-theist can’t rationalize away the universe’s intelligibility like he does with design.”

    Plantinga devotes a few pages to this question, by the way. He’s not the first by any means, but since this thread is about his book I thought I’d mention it.

  9. Clarifying Plantinga’s position on arguments from design:

    The right conclusion, I think, is that the FTA [Fine Tuning Argument] offers some slight support for theism. It does offer support, but only mild support. Granted: this is not a very exciting conclusion, not nearly as exciting as the conclusion that the argument is extremely powerful, or the conclusion that it is wholly worthless. It does, however, have the virtue of being correct.

    He summarizes his position on biological design as follows,

    It is therefore exceedingly difficult to compare P(protein machines/unguided evolution) with P(protein machines/intelligent designer). My guess is that the latter is greater than the former; this just isn’t obvious, however, and it is unclear that the difference in probability is sufficient to constitute serious support for the existence of an intelligent designer.

    [The language of P(x/y) means “the probability of x given y,” or, “how likely is x, if y is true?”]

  10. Melissa:

    Aquinas’ Fifth way is NOT about design–especially the “design” the IDers talk about.

    Tom:

    In your “Further on ‘Why the Debate’ (Intelligent Design and Thomism)” (https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2010/05/further-on-why-the-debate-intelligent-design-and-thomism/) you concede the following:

    “I freely grant that ID cannot prove the existence of an intelligent designer.”

    Thank God.

    You also, in reply to me, concede the following:

    Holopupenko: It takes a human being (i.e., a rational agent) to demonstrate the existence of God (i.e., Existence itself… and it has been done) through philosophical reflection upon sensory-accessible knowledge
    Tom: It seems to me that’s a great description of Intelligent Design… ID amounts to rational agents observing nature, reflecting upon it philosophically, and inferring design. IDers are not hell-bent on introducing ID into science classrooms, of course; that’s an old misconception. What they do want to do is to correct the philosophical reflections already present in science classrooms, and the conclusion that non-design has been demonstrated by the MESs.

    Let’s leave aside the theological, philosophical, and scientific fail that is ID…

    Question 1: While I largely agree with you, would you mind testing that out on the Discovery Institute folk?

    Question 2: The implication works as strongly against IDers as it does against scientistic interpretations: neither should be permitted to introduce their interpretations into biology classrooms. There are better venues for that. So… what is the purpose, again, of the Discovery Institute’s efforts? Don’t they demand we accept them as “scientific”?

    Question 3: I don’t know how to begin with this:

    Plantinga’s specialty is in epistemology, the philosophical study of how we know, and how we know that we know. He applies this to the question of whether we can know that nature is intelligently designed, just by examining it. Following detailed and rather technical discussions of both cosmological fine tuning, he concludes that the arguments in favor of design are not compelling. The reason, in an almost criminally shortened version, is that it’s just not possible to assign probabilities to a designer and his actions in the world. Or, in another condensed form that’s likely to get me sent to jail, the problem is that everyone is bound to see what they expect to see (your chosen prior probability for the existence of God as designer will rule the outcome of the probability equation).

    In the interests of full disclosure, I have NOT read Plantinga’s book. Nonetheless, your assessment seems to reflect well Plantinga’s MO.

    First, crudely put, the proper object (subject matter) of epistemology is “how we know what we know.” True, but note that object is not about the outside world but about the efficacy of our reflections upon it. In other words, Plantinga does NOT look at the objects of the extra-mental world per se but how we reason about these things. This reflects very well the difference between (and unfortunate confusion over) the philosophy of science and the philosophy of nature: the former’s proper object is methodological epistemology, the latter’s proper object is ens mobile, i.e., changeable being… ALL changeable being. That makes ALL the difference in the world. I could further pursue (and criticize) what animates Plantinga’s thinking (including his well-known anti-Scholasticism)… but this is not the place.

    Second, what is problematic is his concession (per the way you present it) that “everyone will see what they expect to see” (distantly animated by his view of human nature–including our capacity to reason–through the false Scriptural interpretation that our natures are UTTERLY corrupt.) Well, frankly, that’s the end of objectivity… and certainly the end of science… and even reason itself, because–at base–Plantinga suggests it’s impossible to know true things about the extramental world. The best we can expect is “probable knowledge,” but even that assertion is based upon knowing something better than dialectically. What is he trying to get away with?

    Well, given his analytic philosophy and prior constraints (animating his epistemology), then of course he sees it this way. Of course he tries to employ Bayesian analyses because he tries to play on the field of the natural sciences… when there’s no need to. He refuses to (or can’t) deal with syllogisms (meaning demonstrations, meaning science writ large) because these are directly and intimately tied with real extramental existents–especially their material components (the premises).

    If you’ve correctly summarized Plantinga’s book (again, based on prior knowledge I think you have), do you think he’s really done our side a favor?

  11. It is a stretch to describe me as a Thomist because the qualifier implies a level of knowledge I definitely do not have. I am also rather ignorant of the full case for ID, of evolution theory, etc. As it happens, in the list of my interests these questions rate fairly low; there are certainly cultural and personal factors at work here, but let’s just say that on this issue I am content to defer to my better ones. With these caveats in place and given that Tom Gilson has practically given me a free pass to shoot my mouth off about things I do not understand (and how could I reject this gift?) here goes.

    1. I first should come out clean and declare that I harbour all sorts of suspicions against evolution theory. By suspicions I do not mean the obvious objections that a Christian has against evolution theory and its *naturalistic interpretations*, but suspicions about the theory qua theory: the quasi-tautological nature of some its basic principles, the lack of predictive of power, the over-abundance of just so-so stories, the holes in the evidence, etc. For all you hardened evolutionists out there, do not bother to try to ferret out the exact meaning of the above objections and then refute them. Some (most?) of them are no doubt due to my own ignorance, but as I said in the beginning of my post, my Faith does not hinge on their resolution. Given that time is finite and that there are questions that interest me much, much more, I simply do not feel the urge to search for the answers.

    2. As far as I can see, the main reason Thomists regularly butt heads with ID’ers is that ID’ers buy into the whole modern mechanistic conception of nature with its rejection of natures or essences, of formal and final causes. If there is no inherent, immanent telos in nature, and given that finalities are virtually indispensible to all scientific talk, you are bound to search them elsewhere. If nature is conceived as a machine, in order to detect design and argue that it is the product of a Designer and not of wholly naturalistic, impersonal forces, you have to appeal to things like irreducible complexity and inferential, probabilistic reasoning, with all the attending problems, including the many gaps through which a naturalist can escape. Also, if the natural world is conceived in the image of a machine — which is after all, an artefact whose purposes are wholly man-made and *extrinsic* to the object itself. To use the stock example, there is no intrinsic, inherent time-telling purpose in a watch; whatever time-telling purposes a watch has are given purely by a chain of conventional, wholly man-made purposes and associations — then the Designer and its relation to the natural world will be likewise conceived after man’s fashion. For one, it is conceivable that God could go away and the universe could still keep on running — which runs afoul of the classical doctrine of conservation, or that creation, as it were, is happening in the here and now with God sustaining every being in existence at every instant. But note also that God can only be intelligibly spoken of as a designer in an analogical way and the way He creates can only be analogically compared to the way we, finite, limited human beings create, or in other words, even if ID arguments were successful the only thing you would get is a lesser God, an occasionalist tinkerer that creates, winds up the machines and then sets them loose.

    3. I am also led to ponder on why I have some sympathy for cosmological design or fine-tuning arguments. Once again, there are no doubt personal factors at work (my background is in physics and mathematics, not biology) but I think there is also something deeper to it. If you try to rerun the cosmological design argument — as presented by W. L. Craig say — on this or that biological fact, you immediately run into God-of-the-gaps objections. These objections loose much of their force in cosmological arguments because the object of discussion is the universe as a whole and the physical laws themselves. There is very little wiggle room for a naturalist to maneuver here, because a naturalist has nothing else to appeal to and finally, will have to posit brute facts, and this is nowhere as obvious as when discussing such ultimate levels of reality as the universe and the physical laws. Dawkins and co. can appeal to Chance and Necessity in biological matters (capitalized and endowed with mystical God-like powers) and get away with it, but if he appeals to the anthropic principle or brute facts when discussing the origin of the physical laws his bluff will be called out. In summary, (one of) the reason why I have some sympathy for cosmological design arguments, even though they have a similar structure to design arguments about biological facts, is because of a whole metaphysical background, and it is *that* background that is doing the real, heavy work.

    And in all this I forgot to say that I still have not read a single book by Alvin Plantinga. A glaring hole in my education that I intend to make up for in the near future (and then again, Hell is paved with good intentions… oh well).

  12. Hi Tom,

    On a related note, I’m increasingly of the view that ID doesn’t really work well (if at all) as an argument for the existence of a designer, but rather as a more sensible, coherent heuristic for approaching biology and evolution once the falsehood of materialism and the reality of design are established.

    To start with, the Darwinian belief that the appearance of design in biology is an illusion, and that natural selection explains this appearance, is incoherent. I won’t rehash it all here (you’ve probably seen me say it before), but if design is an illusion, then the explanation for it must be a psychological one about the flaw in our perception that causes us to perceive biological function when there is none, not a historical one about how that (non-existent) function came to be. It makes no sense to say that natural selection accounts for design, or biological function, if it’s not a real thing to be accounted for. Darwinists want to have their cake and eat it too: they want to say that evolution explains biological function, but they also want to say that it’s mechanistic and mindless, which implies that there is no biological function. Once you realize this, though, there really is no probabilistic question remaining about whether design or Darwin accounts for the appearance of design. The argument is already essentially won. What remains is to fill in the details of how that design was realized, not whether or not it’s real.

    Furthermore, in order for ID to make any sense, it must assume that intentionality is itself an irreducible type of cause, distinct from chance and necessity. If you credit the appearance of biological function to some sort of giant, mechanistic, cosmic robot based on a probabilistic ID inference, for instance, you haven’t really explained anything. You’ve just introduced a vicious regress that can only be terminated by invoking intentionality as an irreducible cause. For the very probabilistic arguments you used to infer the existence of the robot apply to the robot itself, and to any mechanistic entity you may call on to explain the robot, or to explain the mechanistic entity that created the robot, and so on. But once you’ve established that intentionality is real, that it’s not reducible to mechanistic causes, and that it is present in humans and possibly other animals, there is no probabilistic question remaining about whether or not mechanistic, Darwinian causes can explain it or the appearance of it.

  13. Holopupenko wrote:

    what is problematic is [Plantinga’s] concession… that “everyone will see what they expect to see” (distantly animated by his view of human nature–including our capacity to reason–through the false Scriptural interpretation that our natures are UTTERLY corrupt.) Well, frankly, that’s the end of objectivity… and certainly the end of science… and even reason itself, because–at base–Plantinga suggests it’s impossible to know true things about the extramental world.

    (emphasis added)

    It seems to me from what I have read of Pantinga’s (God and Other Minds, for example) is that he is probably concerning himself with the really basic questions here. For example, to do science we need to assume that there is an objective world out there– that is, objective as distinct from my own subjective experience of existence. So, how do we know that there really is an objective world out there? That is a key epistemological question. In other words, I don’t believe that Plantinga, is saying that such knowledge is impossible, but rather he is asking how is it possible? Let’s get real here, if Plantinga really believed that his work put an end to reason that would include his own work in analytical philosophy. I don’t think that is his intent at all.

  14. JAD:

    You first know something exists, THEN you think about how you know it: you’ve made the classical error of putting epistemology ahead of ontology… or at least pitting epistemology against ontology. Second, if Tom’s characterization of Plantinga’s position (“everyone will see what they expect to see”) is correct, and I suspect it is, how is Plantinga’s epistemology able to release him from the confines of his mind and “probabilities” to the outside, real world? Why should anyone accept, based on probabilities alone, that there’s an outside objective world? In fact, it’s NOT an assumption–it’s a fact… but I’m not going to chase that now. I’m much more concerned with Plantinga’s “knowledge lite” vision of reality and WHY he thinks humans can never achieve certain (= scientific) knowledge of that extra-mental world.

    This is no meant as a marketing ad, but to indicate just how serious the Catholic Church is about the importance of science and of human knowledge of the existence of God: the Church teaches dogmatically (i.e., under risk of sanction) that humans can come to a scientific (i.e., = certain = science writ large) knowledge of the existence of God without Revelation. If one takes a skeptical, pessimistic, and narrow UTTERLY CORRUPT view of the capacity for human reason (or if one takes the atheist’s nonsensical notion that our human capacity for reason cannot obtain to the knowledge of immaterial verities since the MESs are deemed to be the epistemic arbiters of ALL knowledge), then it’s curtains for many things… including science. “Thou shall love the Lord with… AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.” It’s fides ET ratio.

  15. I just read through every entry and reference citing Aquinas in Plantinga’s book, as well as other related issues as the text led me… and you can color me unimpressed. First, Plantinga seems to go to great lengths to try to convince the reader that Calvin and other reformers are in the same camp as Aquinas (manifestly not true) or that at least there are only shades or perspectives of differences between them (a weak grasping at straws at best).

    Second, some things he attributes to Aquinas are just flat out incorrect: For example, “The Thomists, following Aristotle, leaned toward necessity in nature. Ockham [Holopupenko’s take: that nominalist fool] emphasized its contingency.” That’s not only incorrect, it’s nonsense. The view of nature as “necessary” (as opposed to contingent) is one of the fundamentally flawed ideas, inherited from the Ancients, that had to be purged from a healthy view of reality in order for science to arise as a self-sustaining human endeavor. The good catharsis of the “necessity” nonsense is attributed mostly to the medieval Schoolmen. Plantinga appears neither to understand Aquinas on this point nor the history of medieval reflections upon the flawed idea of a “necessary [= no explanation required: it just is, a brute fact] universe” (Note: Plantinga provides NO reference to support his assertion.)

    Plantinga also incorrectly lumps Aquinas’ Fifth Way into the “design arguments.” Ugh!

    Plantinga also buys seems to buy into the occassionlist nonsense that God “governs” the world through “laws He created.” (Lot material in the book on this.) Apart from the possibility of the neo-Platonic view that Ideas (including “laws”) exist in the Mind of God, there are no “laws” as “things” out there: there are real, contingent, extra-mental objects with natures that act out those natures, which is another way of saying, they act in regular, predictable ways within the context of their natures… with the exception of rational agents, who can–literally–manipulate or change their natures (e.g., humans can act inhumanely, while tigers cannot act intigerly. ) God never destroys natures, but His Grace perfects them (referring to us) to be what we should be.

    Part of the problem is the nominalism that infected the thinking of the reformers, and part of it is the “plain meaning” Scriptural hermeneutic that jettisons natures in creatures because they’re not, crudely put, “plainly seen.” Well, of course that’s a problem: we use our senses to reason to such immaterial verities. But if one’s world view is opposed to the efficacy of human reason (if one views humans as UTTERLY corrupt), if one launches into multiple tirades against human reason, then one looks crossly at any attempts to “see” natures in things. But, once things don’t have natures, they become nothing more than puppets in the hands of a externalist/occasionlist master puppeteer, and we humans are merely creatures with no real will.

    Isn’t that what Calvin taught… and who Plantinga champions? Total depravity: because of the Fall, every person is enslaved to sin, and people are hence not inclined to love God with their whole heart, MIND, or strength, but rather serve their own interests: all are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so. Can you say puppets? And what happens to justification? Well, it’s then limited to those predestined for salvation. And yet, because he at least has a sense of how repugnant such a view is, Calvin tries in vain to eek out some form of free will… which makes him sound closer to Daniel Dennett than to a true human anthropology.

    The ID movement is significantly infected with such errors. Its proponents seek to reduce God’s Providence in the world to direct causal actions because, while some may accept Darwinian mechanisms, they feel those mechanisms need something to “move” them. (Crudely but not so incorrectly: every movement, every act in the world is a miracle.) That’s occasionalist at its root. This also breeds the false thinking that God’s direct occassionlist acts in the world can therefore be “seen” by the MESs. And, since creatures have no natures, they even more so need a puppeteer to make them act.

    That Plantinga has slowly, slowly been moving away from ID (by qualification upon qualification of his earlier position), and that is to his credit. Yet, he still clings to the externalist “law giver” view of God. That’s too bad, for it opens Christians up to a lot of (some well-deserved) attacks from secularists.

    I qualify what I’ve just written by repeating: I have not read the entire book… but I’ve done some pretty extensive skimming. I may well have missed something (or, to introduce a bit of jocularity, “saw what I expected to see”). If anyone can correct my take on Plantinga, please let me know. This is important: I would like to be closer to Plantinga… but, at least so far, he’s not giving me much to work with.

  16. Isn’t that what Calvin taught… and who Plantinga champions? Total depravity: because of the Fall, every person is enslaved to sin, and people are hence not inclined to love God with their whole heart, MIND, or strength, but rather serve their own interests: all are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so. Can you say puppets?

    Holo, you’ll have to bear with me, because I don’t understand your line of reasoning here. Specifically, how does an unbeliever’s moral inability (unwillingness) to choose to follow God entail that he/she is a puppet? Surely, believing that someone is incapable of freely making one particular choice is not the same as believing that someone is incapable of making any free choice whatsoever. Or do you mean something else by “puppet”? The doctrine of total depravity, at least the way I was taught it, doesn’t mean that fallen humans are unable to do anything good, but rather that fallen humans are unable to choose to “die to themselves” (i.e. place God’s interests above their own) as is required to follow Jesus into eternal life. Resurrection requires a death that we do not have the power to choose on our own.

    And what happens to justification? Well, it’s then limited to those predestined for salvation. And yet, because he at least has a sense of how repugnant such a view is, Calvin tries in vain to eek out some form of free will… which makes him sound closer to Daniel Dennett than to a true human anthropology.

    It should be noted that any Christian who is not a universalist believes in some form of limited atonement. Calvinists believe that Christ’s atonement is limited in scope to the elect, whereas others believe that Christ’s atonement is limited in power, in that it is not a sufficient condition for justification (i.e. some act of human will is also a necessary condition for justification, along with Christ’s death, or else everyone would be automatically saved). All doctrines of atonement are offensive in some way, are they not? If there were such a thing as a non-offensive doctrine of atonement, then why would Paul speak of the offense of the Cross?

  17. Not too long ago I was struck by the emphasis on predestination and assurance in Ephesians. Then I decided to get Aquinas’ take on the book. Not that it has anything to do with this topic, but here is some of it:

    http://dhspriory.org/thomas/SSEph.htm

    Next (v. 4), he [Paul] treats of the blessing of election; he sets forth the advantages of this election because: it is free, as he chose us in him; it is eternal, before the foundation of the world; it is fruitful, that we should be holy; and it is gratuitous, in charity.
    Therefore he states: He blessed us in the same way—not through our merits but from the grace of Christ—as he chose us and, separating us from those headed to destruction, freely foreordained us in him, that is, through Christ. “You have not chosen me; but I have chosen you” (Jn. 15:16). This happened before the foundation of the world, from eternity, before we came into being. For when the children were not yet born, nor had done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election, might stand” (Rom. 9:11). He chose us, I say, not because we were holy—we had not yet come into existence—but that we should be holy in virtues and unspotted by vices. For election performs this twofold action of justice: “Turn away from evil and do good” (Ps. 33:15).

    Then (v. 5) he adds the third blessing, that of predestination in the foreordained community of those who are good. Six characteristics of predestination are sketched here. First, it is an eternal act, having predestinated; secondly, it has a temporal object, us; thirdly, it offers a present privilege, the adoption of children through Jesus Christ; fourthly, the result is future, unto himself; fifthly, its manner [of being realized] is gratuitous, according to the purpose of his will; sixthly, it has a fitting effect, unto the praise of the glory of his grace.
    Hence he affirms that God, having predestinated us, has fore-chosen us by grace alone unto the adoption of children that we might share with the other adopted children the goods yet to come—thus he says unto the adoption of children. “For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons,” and further on, “waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:15 & 23).

    Divine predestination is neither necessitated on God’s part nor due to those who are predestined; it is rather according to the purpose of his will. This is the fourth characteristic which recommends the blessing to us, for it springs from pure love. Predestination, according to [how man] conceives it, presupposes election, and election love. A twofold cause of this immense blessing is designated here. One is the efficient cause— which is the simple will of God—according to the purpose of his will. “Therefore, he has mercy on whomever he wills; and whomever he wills he hardens” (Rom. 9:18). “Of his own will he has given us birth by the word of truth (Jam. 1:18). Unto the praise of the glory of his grace specifies the final cause which is that we may praise and know the goodness of God. Once again this eminent blessing is recommended inasmuch as the homage [it results in] is in accord with itself. For the [efficient] cause of divine predestination is simply the will of God, while the end is a knowledge of his goodness.
    Whence it should be realized that Gods will in no way has a cause but is the first cause of everything else.

    In this perspective, neither can predestination find any reason on the part of the creature but only on the part of God. For there are two effects of predestination, grace and glory. Within the realm of what is willed [by God], grace can be identified as a reason for the effects which are oriented towards glory. For example, God crowned Peter because he fought well, and he did this because he was strengthened in grace. But no reason for the grace, as a primary effect, can be found on the part of man himself which would also be the reason for predestination. This would be to assert that the source of good works was in man by himself and not by grace. Such was the heretical teaching of the Pelagians who held that the source of good works exists within ourselves. Thus it is evident that the reason for predestination is the will of God alone, on account of which the Apostle says according to the purpose of his will.


    By now it must be clear how divine predestination neither has nor can have any cause but the will of God alone. This, in turn, reveals how the only motive for God’s predestinating will is to communicate the divine goodness to others.

  18. Hence the Apostle says that he hath graced us, that is, made us pleasing that we should be worthy of his love. “See what love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; ans so we are” (1 Jn. 3:1).\…\\

    He chose us is the same as to say he predestinated us. And the same idea is expressed in that we should be holy and unspotted as in unto the adoption of children.

    ..

    I have indicated, he says, that grace has superabounded in us and that everything has been re-established in Christ. The same Christ In whom we also are called by lot, not by our own merits but by a divine choice: “Giving thanks to God the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12) because “my lots are in thy hands” (Ps. 30:16).
    To understand this it should be realized that many human events which seem to occur by fate and chance, in reality are arranged according to divine providence.

    ..

    Next, when he says predestined according to his purpose, he writes of the free predestination of God concerning which Romans 8 (30) deals: “And those he predestinated he has also called.” The reason for this predestination is not our merits but the will of God alone, on account of which he adds according to the purpose of him. “And we know that to those who love God, all things work together unto good; to those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

    …..

    I rightly declared, he says of the first, by whose grace you were saved; and indeed, I still confidently say For, in place of “because,” by grace you are saved. “By the grace of God, I am what I am” (1 Cor 15: 10), “being justified freely by his grace” (Rom 3:24). For to be saved is the same as to be justified. Salvation implies a freedom from dangers; hence, man’s perfect salvation will be in eternal life when he will be immune from all dangers, as a ship is said to be safe when it has arrived at port. “You shall call your walls ‘salvation’ and your gates ‘praise’” (Is 60: 18).
    Men receive the hope of this salvation when they are justified from sin in the present, and are thus referred to as saved according to the expression of Romans 8 (24): “For we are saved by hope.” But this salvation of grace is by faith in Christ. In the justification of an adult who has sinned, the movement of faith towards God coincides with the infusion of grace. “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Lk 8:48). “Being justified, therefore, by faith, we are at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1).
    When he next says and that not of yourselves, he clarifies what he had spoken of:
    First, regarding faith, which is the foundation of the whole spiritual edifice.
    Secondly, regarding grace (2: 10).
    He eliminates two errors concerning the first point. The first of these is that, since he had said we are saved by faith, any one can hold the opinion that faith itself originates within ourselves and that to believe is determined by our own wishes. Therefore to abolish this he states and that not of yourselves. Free will is inadequate for the act of faith since the contents of faith are above human reason. “Matters too great for human understanding have been shown to you” (Sir 3:25). “No one knows what pertains to God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor 2:11). That a man should believe, therefore, cannot occur from himself unless God gives it, according to that text of Wisdom 9 (17): “Who could ever have known your will, had you not given Wisdom and sent your Holy Spirit from above.” For this reason he adds for it is the gift of God, namely, faith itself. “For you have been granted, for the sake of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Phil 1:29). “To another, faith is given in the same Spirit” (1 Cor 12:9).

  19. The second error he rejects is that anyone can believe that faith is given by God to us on the merit of our preceding actions. To exclude this he adds Not of preceding works that we merited at one time to be saved; for this is the grace, as was mentioned above, and according to Romans 11 (6): “If by grace, it is not now by works; otherwise grace is no more grace.” He follows with the reason why God saves man by faith without any preceding merits, that no man may glory in himself but refer all the glory to God. “Not for our sake, Yahweh, not for our sake, but for the sake of your name display your glory, because of your kindness, because of your faithfulness” (Ps 115:1-2). “That no flesh should glory in his sight. It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, justice, sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor 1:29-30).
    Next (2: 10), he clarifies what he had said regarding grace. Concerning this he does two things:
    First, he clarifies the infusion of grace.
    Secondly, he declares the predestination of grace (2: l0b).
    There are two essential characteristics of grace, they have already been spoken of. The first of these is that what exists through grace is not present in man through himself or by himself, but from the gift of God.

    The second essential characteristic of grace is that it is not from previous works; this is expressed when he adds created. To create anything is to produce it from nothing; hence, when anyone is justified without preceding merits, he can be said to have been created as though made from nothing. This creative action of justification occurs through the power of Christ communicating the Holy Spirit. On this account he adds in Christ Jesus, that is, through Christ Jesus. “For [in Christ Jesus] neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but a new creation” (Gal. 6:15). “Send forth your Spirit, they are created anew” (Ps 104:30). Moreover, not only are the habits of virtue and grace given to us, but we are inwardly renewed through the Spirit in order to act uprightly. Whence he goes on in good works since the good works themselves are [made possible] to us by God. “For you have accomplished all we have done” (Is 26:12).

    Since “those he predestined he also called” through grace, as Romans 8 (30) expresses it, therefore he adds something concerning predestination, saying, which good works God has prepared. For predestination is nothing else than the pre-arrangement of God’s blessings, among which blessings our good works themselves are numbered.

    [[these two gifts are by faith]]
    The means by which these are given us is by the faith of him, namely, of Christ. “Being justified, therefore, by faith, let us have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5: 1).

  20. Further, from the Suma on the unsaved:

    I answer that, God does reprobate some. For it was said above (Article 1) that predestination is a part of providence. To providence, however, it belongs to permit certain defects in those things which are subject to providence, as was said above (Question 22, Article 2). Thus, as men are ordained to eternal life through the providence of God, it likewise is part of that providence to permit some to fall away from that end; this is called reprobation. Thus, as predestination is a part of providence, in regard to those ordained to eternal salvation, so reprobation is a part of providence in regard to those who turn aside from that end. Hence reprobation implies not only foreknowledge, but also something more, as does providence, as was said above (Question 22, Article 1). Therefore, as predestination includes the will to confer grace and glory; so also reprobation includes the will to permit a person to fall into sin, and to impose the punishment of damnation on account of that sin.

    Reply to Objection 1. God loves all men and all creatures, inasmuch as He wishes them all some good; but He does not wish every good to them all. So far, therefore, as He does not wish this particular good–namely, eternal life–He is said to hate or reprobated them.

    Reply to Objection 2. Reprobation differs in its causality from predestination. This latter is the cause both of what is expected in the future life by the predestined–namely, glory–and of what is received in this life–namely, grace. Reprobation, however, is not the cause of what is in the present–namely, sin; but it is the cause of abandonment by God. It is the cause, however, of what is assigned in the future–namely, eternal punishment. But guilt proceeds from the free-will of the person who is reprobated and deserted by grace. In this way, the word of the prophet is true–namely, “Destruction is thy own, O Israel.”

    Reply to Objection 3. Reprobation by God does not take anything away from the power of the person reprobated. Hence, when it is said that the reprobated cannot obtain grace, this must not be understood as implying absolute impossibility: but only conditional impossibility: as was said above (Question 19, Article 3), that the predestined must necessarily be saved; yet a conditional necessity, which does not do away with the liberty of choice. Whence, although anyone reprobated by God cannot acquire grace, nevertheless that he falls into this or that particular sin comes from the use of his free-will. Hence it is rightly imputed to him as guilt.

    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1023.htm#article3

  21. Bill and Charlie:

    Thanks for your inputs: good stuff. Very unfairly briefly: I’m not suggesting (nor have I) that predestination (or “total depravity”) doesn’t have to be understood, or they are somehow not worthy of attention. Of course they are important. The question is HOW they are understood. But that gets into a proper and authoritative interpretation of Scripture… and that, my friends, is the issue on which we will surely part. Scripture is most certainly NOT an issue of personal interpretation–Scripture itself is quite clear on that point. The question is who or what are authorized to do so, and that authority can only come from a higher authority–not from some “collective” of “like-minded” or “more or less in agreement” human beings who merely claim to have a handle on the “mere” part of Christianity.

    Not to be provocative, but Plantinga is no authority for me; Aquinas is an authority under the umbrella of a larger “keys of the Kingdom” authority. And, I would argue Aquinas has a much healthier (meaning as it influences the state of our souls) understanding of predestination and the “elect” than Calvin, and their differences are greater than their similarities.

    Take the example of God’s Providence: the option I reject is the occassionalist sense in which God is directly and regularly (miracles aside) operating (as an efficient cause) in the world. If one understands God’s Providence in that light, then we indeed are merely puppets in the hands of a master puppeteer, and free will is reduced to froth, and only the elect “get in.” (And, by the way, you guys know that in history that is an error that has been repeated all too often with, at times, horrifying consequences.) If, however, one understands Providence as incorporating created natures actualizing themselves, then free will is surely not reducible in a univocal sense: even brute animals have an analogous “free will” in the sense that they choose, but their choices aren’t moral choices. We, however, have free wills as understood in the context of our natures: we are free to make moral choices. We are NOT free to make choices like: “today I will jump 1000 ft into the air unassisted, fly around like a bird, and land without hurting myself.” It’s not within our human natures to do so.

    Finally, we’ve gotten off topic. What I’m looking for is for someone to address my take on Plantinga’s positions as expounded in his book. Of immediate interest is his slow separation from the Discovery Institute’s understanding of ID. Of wider interest is his take on the dynamics between naturalism and faith. I happen to disagree with his position regarding his worries over “methodological naturalism” vs. “philosophical naturalism.” I disagree, generally speaking, because I believe his approach is incorrect from the get-go (as mentioned above): he accents epistemological navel-contemplation over and at the expense of real-world ontological considerations. To him it’s more important to know how we know objects rather than letting the objects do that talking for us. His approach is an Oliver Twist (thin gruel) take on what Christians can credibly know: it’s pessimistic, it’s overly skeptical, it comes too close to fideism when he rejects (as far as I understand his position) the notion that we can know with certitude that God exists without revealed knowledge. But I could be wrong…

  22. Acts 17:28
    ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’

    Colossians 1:17
    He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.

    Job 34:14, 15
    If it were his intention and he withdrew his spirit and breath,
    all mankind would perish together and man would return to the dust.

    Psalm 104:29
    When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.

  23. Hi Charlie:

    Excellent citations. The question remains, however: do you consider the acts as depicted in those citations examples of direct physically-based efficient causality, i.e., is God operating in the world the same as any other cause operating in the real world? If not, how do you explain those citations? If God’s acts are not physical, just how does He interact with the physical?

    The bigger question is: is God another existent among existents… of is He Existence itself? If the latter, do you understand why we cannot know Him univocally in a positive sense, i.e., do you understand that we cannot predicate of God other things? In other words, you can no more say that God exists than you can God is wise or God is powerful because those would be univocal attributions from contingent existents to God (Existence itself). You must employ these terms analogically: God is not wise, He is Wisdom itself. God is not powerful and neither is He the most powerful, God is Omnipotence itself. The best thing to say is simply: God IS… which is what YHWH means: I AM WHO IS.

    The only thing we can say univocally of God is what He is not: He is not big, He is not powerful, He is not red, He is not a burning bush, etc., etc.

    The modern empirical sciences employ univocal terms and definitions to do their work. Can you then understand why, for among other reasons, ID is such a fail? They’re trying to employ the univocal terms of the MESs to directly infer the existence of God. Talk about belittling God…

  24. Holopupenko, thank you for your last comment and your request for clarification. I wrote much of this before I got down the page far enough to read that. I’ll have to do some editing before I post it.

    First some background stuff. You ask,

    Question 1: While I largely agree with you, would you mind testing that out on the Discovery Institute folk?

    No need. That was an accurate representation. You can check with them yourself if you think I’m wrong on that. I’m thinking you might have that opportunity sooner than I would.

    Question 2: The implication works as strongly against IDers as it does against scientistic interpretations: neither should be permitted to introduce their interpretations into biology classrooms. There are better venues for that. So… what is the purpose, again, of the Discovery Institute’s efforts? Don’t they demand we accept them as “scientific”?

    I think you have a misconception concerning what the DI wants to introduce into classrooms.

    I’m afraid I may be to blame for your misreading, expressed here:

    Second, what is problematic is his concession (per the way you present it) that “everyone will see what they expect to see” (distantly animated by his view of human nature–including our capacity to reason–through the false Scriptural interpretation that our natures are UTTERLY corrupt.)

    I did say I was condensing his views, so much so that it was likely to get me sent to jail. At this point in the OP I was referring quite specifically to one case: persons’ prior probabilities for God, as inputs for Bayesian analysis of arguments for ID. I did not mean that Plantinga says this is universally true for all knowledge. In your comment #18, you once again take it as if that was what I meant (or as what Plantinga believes), but that’s not the case.

    In the context in which he was speaking, I don’t think that’s open to dispute. It’s just true: people’s conclusions regarding ID depend largely extent on their prior beliefs concerning God and nature. If you think there’s something sinister about Plantinga’s motivation for reaching that conclusion, I respond that his motivations don’t materially affect the fact that he’s right about this.

    Of course he tries to employ Bayesian analyses because he tries to play on the field of the natural sciences… when there’s no need to.

    On this you and I part ways. He was addressing a live and heavily disputed question about the relation between science and faith. Should he have said, “The answer is, I don’t need to pay the slightest attention to the sciences?” How helpful would that have been?! Should he have ignored the fact that some scientists claim that science disproves God? Should he have ignored the fact that some theists take an opposing position? Should he have said (pardon my vehemence), “Look, I don’t give a rip about the way you guys conduct that debate, I’ll do it Thomas’s way and you’ll all have to shut up and listen”?

    No. There is a debate going on, and the way to contribute to good outcomes on that debate is to enter into it. Plantinga’s conclusion is that ID proponents and ID opponents are both wrong. That’s your conclusion, too. Why get so up in arms about the fact that he reached that conclusion by means that ID proponents and ID opponents would (potentially) find relevant and possibly even persuasive?

    I’m disappointed in the way you took the Thomas-Ockham necessity/contingency issue out of context. Plantinga is not that stupid. I appreciate your later moderation of your position, in view of the fact that you haven’t read the book. This is also inaccurate, if I understand you correctly:

    Plantinga also buys seems to buy into the occassionlist nonsense that God “governs” the world through “laws He created.”

    My electronic search of the book finds that quoted phrase nowhere in it (perhaps you found it by another means). Now there are places where you can find that conception mentioned in the book, but in most of those cases, Plantinga is quoting another philosopher or theologian, and disagreeing with them. He does affirm the view that God has instituted or established laws, but I don’t see any nominalism/occasionalism in this. I see contingency in it: Plantinga says that God could have made c, the speed of light, something other than it is. But he also affirms that what it is, it really is. If there’s a problem with that, I’d like to know what it is.

    All in all, the main thing to note is that I wasn’t expressing Plantinga’s arguments as much as I was waving my arms and pointing at them. Further, the way he writes is generally in the form of close argumentation, sprinkled generously with familiar-world illustrations, thankfully, but certainly also with point building closely upon point. It’ hard to get the sense of what he’s saying without diving in to it all the way. Maybe someone out there knows how to condense his work, but (as I have already said) that someone is not me. So I caution you against drawing conclusions from what I wrote, and also from doing scattered book searches online.

  25. Hi Holopupenko,

    do you understand … Can you then understand …?

    I’m not sure if I can and do understand you.
    Here’s Aquinas again, though.

    Certain ancient philosophers denied the government of the world, saying that all things happened by chance. But such an opinion can be refuted as impossible in two ways.

    First, by observation of things themselves: for we observe that in nature things happen always or nearly always for the best; which would not be the case unless some sort of providence directed nature towards good as an end; which is to govern. Wherefore the unfailing order we observe in things is a sign of their being governed; for instance, if we enter a well-ordered house we gather therefrom the intention of him that put it in order, as Tullius says (De Nat. Deorum ii), quoting Aristotle [Cleanthes]….

    Wherefore, as the movement of the arrow towards a definite end shows clearly that it is directed by someone with knowledge, so the unvarying course of natural things which are without knowledge, shows clearly that the world is governed by some reason.

    Thirdly, we may consider in the individual the effects of the government of the world; and in this way they are without number.

    Reply to Objection 1. The order of the universe includes both the preservation of things created by God and their movement. As regards these two things we find order among them, inasmuch as one is better than another; and one is moved by another.


    In government there are two things to be considered; the design of government, which is providence itself; and the execution of the design. As to the design of government, God governs all things immediately; whereas in its execution, He governs some things by means of others.

    The reason of this is that as God is the very essence of goodness, so everything must be attributed to God in its highest degree of goodness. Now the highest degree of goodness in any practical order, design or knowledge (and such is the design of government) consists in knowing the individuals acted upon; as the best physician is not the one who can only give his attention to general principles, but who can consider the least details; and so on in other things. Therefore we must say that God has the design of the government of all things, even of the very least.

    But since things which are governed should be brought to perfection by government, this government will be so much the better in the degree the things governed are brought to perfection. Now it is a greater perfection for a thing to be good in itself and also the cause of goodness in others, than only to be good in itself. Therefore God so governs things that He makes some of them to be causes of others in government; as a master, who not only imparts knowledge to his pupils, but gives also the faculty of teaching others.

    Reply to Objection 1. Plato’s opinion is to be rejected, because he held that God did not govern all things immediately, even in the design of government; this is clear from the fact that he divided providence, which is the design of government, into three parts.

    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1103.htm

    Whether God can or does move physical things immediately:
    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1105.htm

  26. Charlie:

    Your response (via Aquinas) avoids answering my questions: you’re missing the point that Aquinas presupposes the reader understands the nuanced differences between univocal and analogous terms. So, when you think you’re reading direct efficient causality as characteristic of God’s actions per Aquinas’ words, Aquinas would respond “no, no, no.” I repeat the question: do you think God operates/acts in the world by means of direction physical efficient causality? Yes or no, and why?

    Think about it this way: when Aquinas says (from your citation): “providence directed nature towards good as an end; which is to govern,” do you really believe inanimate objects are “governed” in the same sense that people are “governed”? The primary analogate (the base line, if you will) for the definition of “governance” comes what is most manifest to us (and Aquinas states this elsewhere): there is a prince (a rational agent) who governs other rational agents who “follow” laws. Well, rocks don’t do that, but in a certain sense they do–NOT in the human sense but in the sense that they have “rocky” natures, i.e., rocks do what rocks do. If you say rocks are “governed” by the laws of Nature, they’re NOT really “governed” and there are no such things like Platonic “laws” out there directing rock traffic. Rocks ARE “governed” in the sense that God’s Providence has created rocks which act per their natures: they cannot act otherwise. We human, on the other hand, CAN act against out natures to become inhuman. For heaven’s sake, every sin is an inhuman act.

    (Digression 1: This is precisely what lies at the bottom of one of the errors of ID: these guys really, really believe as you’ve suggested in quoting Aquinas without understanding what he actually meant: they REALLY believe God governs the behavior of rocks like princes govern their subjects. That, my friend, is a very insidious form of reductionism that you may not be aware of… and it is certainly (while perhaps well-intentioned) demeaning to God.)

    (Digression 2: Perhaps the discussion above sheds light for you on ontological considerations as well: things that exist do NOT exist in the same way: the number 12 does NOT exist in the same way that a carbon atom exists because one is a substance in which accidents inhere, the other is an accident which inhere in substances. This is also a deep, fundamental reductionist error infecting ID. This history from where the error arose in ID is fascinating, and, you know darn well, on this particular issue (the error of considering being a univocal term) why I can’t take Craig or Moreland seriously. Go ahead and read it on page 189 of their text: the number 12 exists the same way a carbon atoms exists for these guys. Really… they really believe that… and it’s nonsense… it is ontological reductionism.)

    Regarding the “do you understand” issue, that was NOT meant in any way to come across as condescending. I apologize if that was unclear and led you to take it that way.

    Tom: in the context of my readings over the years of Plantinga’s work, the criticisms of others leveled against him, etc., I remain pretty unconvinced by the admittedly limited amount I read in his book on line and by a good portion of what you wrote. You know me fairly well by now: I am greatly interested in what animates the thinking of people. I raised some of those above.

  27. Charlie:

    By the way, the second-to-last and last paragraphs you quoted bear out what I said: Indeed God governs “immediately,” but not in the reductionist way to which you seem to hold. If one believes God is directly through physical efficient causality directing the traffic of every single atom in the universe, that person is an occasionalist… and has far more in common with Islamic theology than Christian. God “directs” or “governs” by CREATING things with NATURES, which then ACT OUT their natures per the way He created them. If I’m understanding you correctly in the way that you seem to want to understand Aquinas, it’s VERY degrading not only to God but to humans as well: we are indeed merely puppets, “directed” like rocks are directed. Hence, there is no human free will… hence one’s theology is messed up. I’m sorry, but that’s why Calvin is, in my humble opinion, so messed up.

    Here are the words of Benjamin Warfield, a Calvinist, who unequivocally confused God’s universal causality with a direct, extrinsic, efficient causality that fully controls nature: “For we are controlled, whether we admit it or not. For when we say God, we say control. If a single creature which God has made has escaped beyond His control, at the moment that he has done so he has abolished God. A God who could or would make a creature who he could not or would not control, is no God. The moment He would make such a creature He would, of course, abdicate His throne. The universe created would have ceased to be His universe, or rather it would cease to exist–for the universe is held together only by the control of God.” (emphasis added)

    So, Warfield, a seeming efficient-causality control freak, wants to make God in his own image: a physically-controlling, manipulating, occasionalist puppeteer of a non-god. No wonder Dawkins goes off on such nonsense.

    This is exactly one of the main problems of ID: they look for external MES ways by which God is “guiding” evolution (which is Plantinga’s position, by the way… AND he also errs on the univocity of being), and then declare a false victory: “See, we found Him in the information contained in DNA!!” Oh dear… they completely miss the boat, and don’t even distinguish between information (which IS measurable) and meaning (which is not). God “directs” (per Romans 1:20) through His invisible (i.e., utterly inaccessible to the MESs) attributes things that are themselves invisible to the MESs, namely, natures. But the natures are directly “controlled” or “governed,” they’re created to do their own thing… which is a much more noble expression of God’s omnipotence and omniscience.

    The sooner ID is taken off the table so as not to confuse people with their philosophizing, theologizing, and attempts at science, the better.

  28. Sorry Holopupenko, it is your understanding that is failing here.
    Perhaps that’s my fault, but I thought my points were clear when I highlighted them.

    As pertains to ID, Aquinas said:

    Certain ancient philosophers denied the government of the world, saying that all things happened by chance. But such an opinion can be refuted as impossible in two ways.

    First, by observation of things themselves

    Randomness and chance are refuted by direct observation of nature. That is, by empirical science.

    : for we observe that in nature things happen always or nearly always for the best; which would not be the case unless some sort of providence directed nature towards good as an end; which is to govern.

    Governance is the directing of nature, by God, toward an end. Governance, then, is synonymous with “design”, which you routinely insist cannot be detected and which Aquinas shows here can.

    Wherefore the unfailing order we observe in things is a sign of their being governed;

    It is through their observed order that this governance is noted.

    for instance, if we enter a well-ordered house we gather therefrom the intention of him that put it in order, as Tullius says (De Nat. Deorum ii), quoting Aristotle [Cleanthes]….

    As for whether or not God directly moves things, yes, Aquinas affirms that He does: He actually can and does move bodies. That is not all He does, or how He always does it, but He can and does. I linked to his question 105 for that information.

    Otherwise, I don’t see what your other points about Moreland and Craig and ontology have to do with the issue.

  29. Hi Charlie:

    One final thing: you know over the years my position on ID has changed. You know how I used to jump in DL’s you-know-what for his not understanding (and hence dumb criticisms) of ID. I’ve taken a great deal of time and put in a great deal of effort to understand the pedigree of ID, i.e., those ideas which historically, philosophically, and theologically animate it. It is NOT a pretty picture.

    My travels through this intellectual battlefield remind me about a joke Soviet citizens would direct at themselves: Q1 – what’s a communist? A1 – a person who has read the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, etc. Q2 – what’s an anti-communist? A2 – a person who has read the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, etc… and understood them.

    I’ve gotten to the point where it’s even difficult for me to re-read Dembski, Behe, Meyer, etc.

  30. @ Holopupenko,

    By the way, the second-to-last and last paragraphs you quoted bear out what I said: Indeed God governs “immediately,” but not in the reductionist way to which you seem to hold.

    Those paragraphs from Aquinas:

    ; as the best physician is not the one who can only give his attention to general principles, but who can consider the least details; and so on in other things. Therefore we must say that God has the design of the government of all things, even of the very least.

    But since things which are governed should be brought to perfection by government, this government will be so much the better in the degree the things governed are brought to perfection. Now it is a greater perfection for a thing to be good in itself and also the cause of goodness in others, than only to be good in itself. Therefore God so governs things that He makes some of them to be causes of others in government; as a master, who not only imparts knowledge to his pupils, but gives also the faculty of teaching others.

    Reply to Objection 1. Plato’s opinion is to be rejected, because he held that God did not govern all things immediately, even in the design of government; this is clear from the fact that he divided providence, which is the design of government, into three parts.

    God governs everything, and in some cases He does this through secondary causes. Therefore, sometimes He doesn’t use secondary causes.

    H:

    If one believes God is directly through physical efficient causality directing the traffic of every single atom in the universe, that person is an occasionalist

    God is Spirit, so I’m not sure what it means to say He is a physical. But nobody ever rebutted the idea of secondary causes. Not even Dembski.

    So, when you think you’re reading direct efficient causality as characteristic of God’s actions per Aquinas’ words, Aquinas would respond “no, no, no.” I repeat the question: do you think God operates/acts in the world by means of direction physical efficient causality? Yes or no, and why?

    I was pretty sure I answered this when I appealed to Aquinas in question 105:

    I answer that, God can move matter immediately to form; because whatever is in passive potentiality can be reduced to act by the active power which extends over that potentiality. Therefore, since the Divine power extends over matter, as produced by God, it can be reduced to act by the Divine power: and this is what is meant by matter being moved to a form; for a form is nothing else but the act of matter.


    The fact that secondary causes are ordered to determinate effects is due to God; wherefore since God ordains other causes to certain effects He can also produce certain effects by Himself without any other cause.
    …Wherefore, since bodies are moved immediately by created causes, we cannot possibly doubt that God can move immediately any bodies whatever. This indeed follows from what is above stated (1).

    Therefore, as God can imprint form immediately in matter, it follows that He can move any body whatever in respect of any movement whatever.\…
    God not only gives things their form, but He also preserves them in existence, and applies them to act, and is moreover the end of every action, as above explained.

    But if we consider the order of things depending on any secondary cause, thus God can do something outside such order; for He is not subject to the order of secondary causes; but, on the contrary, this order is subject to Him, as proceeding from Him, not by a natural necessity, but by the choice of His own will; for He could have created another order of things. Wherefore God can do something outside this order created by Him, when He chooses, for instance by producing the effects of secondary causes without them, or by producing certain effects to which secondary causes do not extend.

  31. H:

    Go ahead and read it on page 189 of their text: the number 12 exists the same way a carbon atoms exists for these guys. Really… they really believe that… and it’s nonsense… it is ontological reductionism.)

    In this link, the reference is on page 175 of The Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview.
    http://books.google.ca/books/about/Philosophical_foundations_for_a_Christia.html?id=mPEN_EDiZuQC
    I presume that is the text alluded to.

    What Craig and Moreland said there was that everything that is , in general ontology, shares the general principles of being: that is, it exists, it is an unity, it is true and it is good.
    On page 188 they say:

    If being is not a genus, then what it is for one thing to exist, say the number two, may be entirely different from what it is for a carbon atom to exist.

    not all philosophers agree that being is a genus.

    How do they “exist in the same way”, as Holopupenko says Moreland and Craig have so foolishly averred? By having at least one property.

    Whether William Lane Craig believes in the ontological equivalence of numbers to atoms, what Holopupenko thinks is blatant nonsense, or whether abstract objects even exist:
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5985

    I hope that I’ve been fairly clear, Mac, in opposing Platonism with respect to abstract objects. On both theological and philosophical grounds, I do not think, as the Platonist does, that there are uncreated abstract entities like numbers, sets, and other mathematical objects. (Whether there are created abstract objects, like works of literature and music, is another question; see QoW 9 & 94.) I see Nominalism and Conceptualism as ways of avoiding the reality of such objects. The Nominalist denies that any such entities exist; the Conceptualist reduces them to ideas in God’s mind.

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=9138

    And

    But, as I made clear, neither of these is my reason for rejecting the existence of abstract objects. Rather my misgiving is theological: Platonism compromises God’s aseity (self-existence) and undermines the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo by positing beings which are self-existent and uncreated by God. It implies a sort of metaphysical pluralism according to which God is not the ground of being for everything other than Himself.

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7779

    Or you can hear him:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLo2KJWqgPo

  32. Plantinga:

    “The same goes if you are on a voyage of space exploration, land on some planet which has an earth-like atmosphere, but about which nothing or next-to-nothing is known, and come across an object that looks more or less like a 1929 Model T Ford. You would certainly see this object as designed; you would not engage in probabilistic arguments about how likely it is that there should be an object like this that was not designed.”

    We certainly would say it was designed, but then we have knowledge of real 1929 Model T Fords and their history and know that they were, in fact, designed. We would argue by analogy with a known designed Model T that the Model T-like object was designed.

    Furthermore, we might note that the Model T Ford-like things don’t reproduce, which makes it impossible for Darwinian evolution to produce them.

    ALL of the ID “Would you look at this and say it wasn’t designed?” ‘arguments’ are like this. They invariably refer to something that we know humans did in fact design and they are invariably things that don’t reproduce, which rules out evolution. They basically argue that things we know humans designed are designed.

    In other words, they’re invalid arguments and Plantinga’s example is one of them.

    To show you some of the things that Plantinga should have considered, suppose you land on that same planet and you see a green lizard-like beast that allows you to mount it and guide it where you want to go. Is the green lizard-like beast designed?

    How about if you discover that wild green lizard-like beasts will invariably kill you if you try to mount them and it takes an intelligent trainer months to get them to be pack animals. Are they partly designed then?

    Suppose you discover that those beasts are test tube creations of genetic engineering and that, in fact, every thing about them is designed by the locals and manufactured by them from simple raw materials in a lizard factory. Are they designed then? What if they are exact copies of a natural lizard-like animal? How would you tell if a specific lizard was designed or natural?

    Finally, suppose that one of these creatures produces an offspring. Is the offspring designed or not. What if the offspring’s legs are a little longer than the orignal lizard’s? Is it mostly designed, but partly natural? What if you come back in a million years and the offspring are lap sized furry beasts that purr and catch mice? Are they designed or natural now?

    Dr. Plantinga has constructed an argument that appeals to the emotions, but it’s basically faulty and not well thought out.

  33. CeilingCat,

    I did caution you, did I not, that what you were reading in my post was not his argument, but a pointer to it instead? I did mention that Dr. Plantinga addressed the ways in which the design discourse could be defeated, did I not? I did not explain all that he wrote, for reasons that I gave in the OP, and therefore you unless you’re read his book you do not understand all he wrote, and you have judged in falsely on the basis of inadequate evidence.

    I strongly suggest you read the book before you construct a counter-argument that appeals to some persons’ emotions but is basically faulty and not well thought out.

  34. designed or natural

    False dilemma.

    Returning to my question (post # 5) and the responses to it by Melissa, JAD and Tom (#s 9-11), is the argument (or could there be an argument) something like this:

    Just as the belief that the world did not pop into existence five minutes ago cannot be established by argument but need not be in order to be rational, and in fact is a presupposition of rational enquiry (particularly history),

    and the belief that other people than me have minds cannot be established by argument but need not be in order to be rational, and in fact is a presupposition of rational enquiry (particularly psychology),

    so the belief that nature is the result of intelligent planning cannot be established by argument but need not be in order to be rational, and in fact is a presupposition of rational enquiry, because science presupposes that nature is intelligible and nature could only be intelligible by minds like ours if it were the result of planning by a mind something like ours

    ?

  35. So now Plantinga is moving beliefs about apparent design into the set of beliefs that properly functioning cognitive faculties can just know, and that improperly functioning cognitive faculties miss (due to their impairment)?

    I think this sort of creep was one of the primary objections to RE, raised by his critics – what belief couldn’t be engulfed by and defended with this epistemology?

  36. Hi Charlie:

    In particular @37: I’m going to assume that what you just did was not intentional but done out of ignorance. Apart from my missing (from memory) the page number in the Craig-Moreland text by one page, you are so far off the mark I actually thought (when I first read what you wrote) you were being truly dishonest, i.e., doing so with intent to mislead. The reason I downgraded my sense to one of ignorance on your part is that you brought in other issues that I wasn’t addressing. Here’s the deal:

    If you had not cherry-picked from page 188 what you wanted to hear and actually looked at all three paragraphs PLUS the first sentence of the very next sentence, you would have understood Craig and Moreland hold to the error of the univocity of being—and they state their allegiance explicitly:

    “2.2 Theories of Existence” Given that being is a genus…

    The phrase “being is a genus” is another technical way of saying being is univocal, i.e., that all existents have the same claim to beingness, i.e., that a carbon atom exists in the same way as the number two (my bad: my poor memory recalled “12” rather than “2”). They also assert it in the second sentence of the first paragraph: “Being is a univocal notion that means the same thing for all entities whatsoever.” Trust me, I’ve run this text past philosophers: they’re stunned not even so much at their adherence to the error, but that they try to get away with it in three paragraphs… and they do it with throw-away phrases like, “It seems natural to take being as a genus…” or “we seem to have a uniform notion.” Is that rigor? One philosopher, who has no immediate horse in this race, suggested the textbook never should have been published because of the superficial way Craig and Moreland handled one of the most important topics of philosophy.

    The brevity is what, to a significant extent, makes this so bad: Craig in Moreland devote ONLY three paragraphs to one of the top ten philosophical issues debated over—literally—thousands of years. Three paragraphs. Now that is rigor… not. Look at the rest of their book: they spend pages and pages upon all sorts of interesting questions… and yet on the univocity of being (being is a genus) they spend three paragraphs. Worse still, and in addition to the throw-away phrases noted above, they provide an example of a heap of sand: they employ THE classical example, and yet they (intentionally?) neglect to distinguish accidental unities (heaps of sand or robots) from substantial unities (i.e., true substances).

    Leaving that aside (although it shouldn’t be), we’re not talking about accident unities—we’re talking about, for example, the distinction in the manner of existence between a ball and the color red of that ball: these things—the ball and the color—exist in fundamentally different ways. i.e., they have different claims on existence. If they existed in the same way, then not only can a ball be red, but a red can be a ball. Do you really want to go there?

    Really truly and carefully read through those three paragraphs plus the first next sentence. Really try to understand the terms being bandied about. Pay close attention to, in particular, the way they carefully (meaning: with intent) weave together their words in the first paragraph. Even more particularly, read the third sentence of the first paragraph, and then the first sentence of section 2.2 immediately below. Permit me to isolate those (but don’t take them out of context):

    C&M 1: “… if being is NOT a genus, then what it is for one thing to exist, say the number two, may be entirely different from what it is for a carbon atom to exist.”
    C&M 2: “Given that being IS a genus…”
    Inescapable conclusion: the number two and a carbon atom exist in the same way.

    Indeed, that is blatant nonsense.

    If you don’t understand what they’re saying (or the implications), I don’t necessarily have an immediate problem with that… except insofar as you try to cover your tracks by what you do next. In pretty much the rest of @37 you go off on a tangent, bringing in Craig’s thoughts on Platonism, nominalism, and conceptualism, i.e., things that have almost nothing to do with the univocity of being—an ontological consideration… which, I’m sorry to say, betrays a significant ignorance over these technical terms. I wasn’t talking about—at all—the relationship between Platonism, nominalism, and conceptualism: I was VERY clear that the topic was the error of the univocity of being. And, by the way, Craig is very sloppy even here, and I suspect he may not get the distinction between conceptualism and neo-Platonism. He says: “… the Conceptualist reduces them to ideas in God’s mind.” Huh? That’s neo-Platonism, i.e., that Plato’s “Forms” or “Ideas” don’t exist floating about somewhere in a “more real” world than ours but that they do exist, as kind of archetypes, in the Mind of God. Conceptualism is the theory that universals exist within the mind of a rational agent, i.e., in OUR minds. I’ll leave aside his implied support for nominalism in that portion of the text, but what I’ll say is this: the more I read Craig, the more troubled I become.

    As for your continued implied insistence that you understand Aquinas and I do not, you’re wasting your time precisely because you still haven’t addressed the important distinction that must be understood before cherry-picking interesting parts of Aquinas… AND which cuts to the heart of the univocity of being error: the distinction between univocal and analogous terms. (You also grossly misattributed to me the position that God does NOT operate directly in the world: my point was when and how, not if… which cuts to the problem of IDers who, as occasionlists believe God operates directly all the time.) I have nothing further to say on this.

  37. Charlie, you are misreading Aquinas.

    Aquinas is massive, impressive, towering and labyrinthine. In philosophy, he is a world unto himself. He should not be viewed in isolation as he himself did not viewed his own intellectual heritage in isolation. He accepted Aristotle’s views but he also corrected him by appealing to such neo-Platonic figures like Augustine and the pseudo-Dyonisus. He gives a fair hearing to the muslim Aristotle commentators and then tackles them head on. Just as he corrected and perfected Aristotle, subsequent scholastic commentators have expounded, clarified Aquinas and even corrected him. The first half of the twentieth century has given us eminent Thomists like Maritain, Gilson and Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange and we also have some eminent Thomists nowadays (which I will forego to name). All this to say that to approach Aquinas, or for that matter any other serious thinker, at least the ones with his importance, it may be better to start with his expounders and commentators to get the general synthesis view and only then proceed to a direct reading of his works.

    If you have read enough of Holopupenko’s posts, you will start to get a sense that he repeats, and keeps repeating, a handful of key ideas. This is not to impute any flaw on his posts, quite the contrary, but simply to point out that if the same, sometimes minor but nevertheless pregnant with dire consequences, errors are repeated (sometimes with an historical regularity and ciclycity that resembles an Influenza epidemic), you are bound to see the same retorts repeated again and again. My aim is not to offer an exegesis of Aquinas, but an effort to clear some of the prevailing misconceptions. I will try to explain some of Holopupenko’s key ideas, or to employ his own terminology against him, some of the key ideas that animate his, or more properly said Scholastic, thought. Of course the post that follows is not intended as an explanation of Thomism — there are books for that. I will also restrict myself to philosophical matters, in part because my aim is to promote understanding not feeding controversy, and even then I will restrict myself to a couple of strands (e.g. I will hardly mention epistemological matters). Most of what follows is an expanded version of my post #15 in the current thread, especially point 2.

    All the usual caveats apply: I am not Holopupenko’s sock puppet, the misunderstandings and mistakes are my own responsibility, my knowledge is partial and defective, etc. Contact a lawyer for any liabilities.

    I take as my starting point the question of what is a natural law, for example, Newton’s gravitational law. A natural law is an abstract, mathematical description of the behavior of natural objects that correctly predicts the outcomes of experiments. This line could, and is, parroted by physicists wanting to dodge philosophy, but you may also feel that it answers the wrong question. It is an *operational* definition but it hardly answers the question of *what* exactly is a natural law. It also happens that in a sense, this definition is the correct one, because (and this is one of the points that Holopupenko stresses) there are *no* natural laws in the same sense as there tax laws or traffic laws. When we use the word “law” as in the expression “natural law” we are using the word in an *analogical* sense — this is a technical, highly nuanced term (I myself do not fully understand it), and another idea that Holopupenko keeps repeating. In the Thomist view, all this talk of laws governing the behavior of natural objects is either misleading or right-down wrong.

    In order to understand this, let me take one of the simplest objects in nature: the electron. It has some *essential* properties like mass, spin or charge; it can change in *accidental* ways, like a change in position or momentum, but it can also change in *substantial* ways, as when it goes out of existence by colliding with a positron with a photon as the end result. I have highlighted some words; they belong to the technical jargon of Aristotelian-Thomism (AT for short), but their function here is as carrot to a donkey: to lead you on to the correct view. The electron behaves in the regular, predictable way, as per Dirac’s equation say, be*cause* (no, the emphasis is not incorrectly placed) it has a *nature* or *essence*; it has some *potentialities*, that is, it can change in some specific ways; it also has some *ends* or *finalities* to which it tends to — it has an *immanent telos*.

    Note: if you know physics, then keep in mind least action principles — and these are among *the* most fundamental principles of physics — as they afford one of the most striking examples of the teleological language I am using.

    Note that the above immediately entails that there are ways in which the electron *cannot* change. For example, the electron has no charm or flavor (physicists, contrary to mathematicians, have bought for themselves the privilege of freely scavenging “Finnegans Wake” for their terminology) and thus there is no way in which an electron can change, substantially or not, into a proton. Thus we have a first answer to our question: the natural law, as encoded in Dirac’s equation say, is, to borrow an expression from St. Paul, written in the very heart of the electron. It is not something *extrinsic*, above and beyond the electron governing its behavior — this is an absolutely crucial point to have in mind, as it underlies the Thomistic (and Holopupenko’s) animadversions against ID.

    Before proceeding a word of warning. The above metaphysical description is not supposed to supercede or replace what physicists tell us — by all means, they should keep on doing what they have been doing all along (instead of sophomoric digressions into philosophy or the occasional anti-Christian ignorant rant). Rather, it answers questions that physics, of its very nature cannot answer but *must* presuppose to do its job. It enlightens and directs the aims of physics, giving this most august of all empirical sciences a purpose and a sense of direction — but similar comments apply to *all* empirical sciences, since what we are talking here is about the *philosophy of nature*.

    (to be continued — cue ominous music)

  38. In my previous post I spoke about natures, or essences, and electrons. Similar comments apply to rocks, planets, trees, animals and even human beings: they all have natures or essences, that dictates and delimits their potencies for change, their ends and finalities, etc. A useful contrast — useful because it highlights some of ID’s errors from the AT perspective — is provided by artifacts, or man-made objects. Take a hammer, for example. At its most simple, it is just a block, of stone say, with a handle whose purpose is to hammer, pound or grind down all sorts of things, like nails. But there is nothing *intrinsic* in the specific arrangement of stone and wood that we call “hammer” that dictates that this object has the purpose of hammering or pounding down things. Its purpose or telos is *extrinsic* to it; whatever hammer-purposes this specific arrangement of matter has is solely due to the fact that this aggregate of *matter* with a given *form* has certain characteristics (hardness, for example) that are conducive to its hammer-function. There is no hammer-law *in* the aggregate of stone and wood that dictates that it behaves in a hammer-like way or with hammer-like purposes. The law, if there is one, is solely in our minds.

    So there is a crucial difference between what God creates and we human beings create: God creates natures that act per their essences or form, to fulfill their intrinsic ends or finalities, while we create by rearranging bits and pieces of matter to con*form* (no, the emphasis is not incorrectly placed) to an idea that is held in our minds. If, per absurdum, God were to create a hammer, He would create a substance whose intrinsic nature was that of hammer-ness and who acted out in this or that way to fulfill its telos as a hammer. I said per absurdum, because the idea of hammer is not a determinate, but a purely functional one. Anything with the right characteristics can in principle be used for hammering down, from a rock to our own forehead.

    Of course, the differences in the modes of creation are not restricted to the *what-ness* of what is created but also in the mode of creation. God creates ex nihilo, not out of His substance. And more differences, but finally (!) we are in a position to understand, at least in part, the Thomist criticisms of ID. For suppose we reject the Thomist metaphysical account of natures, whether you do it knowingly or unknowingly, then what mechanism (and the word mechanism is particularly apt in this context as it invokes the neighboring idea of mechanistic nature) can account for the regularity and orderliness *in* nature?

    (1) If you are a materialist, it is indeed a mistery how the regularity and orderliness can be accounted for. The ancient Greek atomists like Democritus held that for change to happen a swerve in the atoms was needed. The modern mechanist view does not add much to this besides some heavy doses of science fetichism, some Humean muttering about regularities in nature and all the illnesses that Hume’s empiricism drags along with it.

    (2) If you are a theist, you can take the extreme Platonist view, replacing Plato’s third realm by the direct efficient causation of God and you end up with occasionalism (another of Holopupenko’s whipping boys); the natural objects are just like man-made artifacts, mere inert machinery being pulled in this or that way by God.

    Let me expand on (2) as it directly pertains to the present topic. Given this metaphysical view of nature, flawed in the eyes of Thomists, the question arises of how to distinguish or detect design, that is, how can we in principle account for the regularity by imputing it to God instead of purely natural forces? What sort of argument could convince the die-hard naturalist if we are to play by *his* rules (and this is another point that the Thomists stress — you have already conceded the all ball of wax to the naturalist)? As far as I can see, you must employ the same empirical, inferential, inductive, probabilistic reasoning and this is why ID arguments take the form they take: appeals to irreducible complexity, implausibility, etc. The point here is not that the IDer’s do not make a plausible case (and then again, the naturalists also answer, at least in *some* cases, in a not totally implausible way), but that this is a game where the rules are rigged in favor of the naturalist in the first place.

    Note: I repeat that IDer’s, as far as I understand their case, do make some cogent points. I said in my post #15 above that I have some sympathy for cosmological fine-tuning arguments and even more so for the Kalam argument — and in this particular point I disagree with Holopupenko. The Kalam can be defended *philosophically* (a Thomist like David Oderberg does it) and while I do not judge the Kalam as strong an argument as the Five Ways, I still think it overall a good argument. Aquinas famously held that the past-finiteness of the universe could no be proved rationally and I will say something below that hinges on this, but truth be told, I do *not* understand Aquinas’ argument (I warned you that my knowledge was incomplete, defective and partial).

    But (2) has other consequences. Suppose for the sake of argument that the naturalist concedes that IDer’s arguments are really sound, cogent and forceful. What sort of *conception* of God do we arrive at? And this is another sore point for the Thomist. Because the God you end up with by running IDer’s arguments based on the empirical sciences is an anthropomorphic God, fashioned at our own image, that creates artifacts instead of natures and then has to tinker with them to get the “right” results, because the purely natural forces that He himself *also* created, cannot do the job correctly. This is why, and the sense in which, Holopupenko continuously harps about occasionalism and puppetry. All natural objects are pieces of inert matter that have to be “directed” by God to do what He desires and this is construed, and rightly in my view, as not only lessening His Glory, but more importantly flat-out wrong.

    (to be continued — cue *really* ominous music)

  39. To finish off, let me try to deflect one or two possible objections — I chose these particular ones because they further highlight other points of the Thomist criticisms of ID.

    If God creates substances that act out to fulfill their telos per their essences, it is clear why the ID project is misguided in the first place, for the empirical sciences will never find God by looking at nature but only natural objects following their inner laws. Thus, in order to establish rationally God’s existence we have to reason beyond the level of the empirical sciences, by an extra level of indirection so to speak, of *metaphysical* verities arrived at by uncontroversial conceptual premises like the law of non-contradiction and premises derived from sense experience: that motion or change (or the reduction of potency to act in the AT jargon) happens, of contingency, of degrees of perfection, of the passive, instrumental orderliness of natures towards their ends, etc.

    Now a Christian could object that this looks eerily close to the Deist conception of God: God created natures or essences, left them to their own devices and now is content to watch passively how they act out. Aquinas would adamantly reject this view. Because if it is true that natures are not mere puppets but have of their own specific, secondary causal powers, the right way to view God is not as *a* being among others, but rather Being *itself* and that his relation to the created order is closer than anything we can imagine, because He maintains and conserves them in their existence, in the *here and now* and at *every* moment of their existence. The created order is like the music played by a violin: it keeps on going while the violinist plays the violin. Creation, as it were, is a continuous act happening in the here and now. If per absurdum, God were to disappear then everything would disappear and Nothing would be literally the end result.

    Now if God is not a being, but Being-ness itself, if He is not a composite of act and potency but Pure Act, if he is not a composite of essence and existence but Existence itself, then it follows that describing Him is a task fraught with immense difficulties. For example, let us take the sentence “God is a person”. Now, it is true that saying that God is *not* a person is univocally wrong, because to say that He is not a person is to deny that He has intellect and will, which is flat-out, univocally wrong. On the other hand, since God is not just a being among other beings, to say that He is a person is not the same to say that I, Holopupenko or Tom Gilson are persons. God is not less than a person, and if He is a person, He exemplifies and embodies person-hood itself; but I feel that my language is being stretched out to the limits of the communicable so I will stop right here. Suffice it to say that we have come full round to the idea that we can only speak of God as a person in an *analogical* sense, not in a univocal or wholly equivocal sense.

  40. Hi Holopupenko,
    Thanks for what charity you used in reading me.
    I have lost my long comment so I will make this short and exclude the quotations.

    Re; reading one or two sentences, or even a few paragraphs. You know me better than that. I read for nearly an hour in their book.
    They do not make the case in the throwaway sentences but they develop and defend it over several pages.

    Yes, they say that being is a genus, and in their development the way that things that exist are the same is to have at least one property
    This is not some grossly ridiculous statement as is implied when you say they claim the existence is exactly the same between the number 2 and carbon atoms.
    This is plainly demonstrated by the fact, as I followed up, that Craig is skeptical about the kind of existence numbers have, and whether or not they have any at all. He does not have these concerns about carbon atoms.
    As for Conceptualism and neo-Platonism, he is a Christian, speaking from a Christian’s point of view and how a Christian might use these concepts – hence, the mind of God.

    As for my misunderstanding of Aquinas, when you explain him to me you can show me how it affected my reading of this:

    Isn’t that what Calvin taught… and who Plantinga champions? Total depravity: because of the Fall, every person is enslaved to sin, and people are hence not inclined to love God with their whole heart, MIND, or strength, but rather serve their own interests: all are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so. Can you say puppets? And what happens to justification? Well, it’s then limited to those predestined for salvation. And yet, because he at least has a sense of how repugnant such a view is, Calvin tries in vain to eek out some form of free will… which makes him sound closer to Daniel Dennett than to a true human anthropology.

    I know you think Aquinas did something better with this, but other than your gratuitous nods toward a history of violence (do YOU really want to go there?) it sure seems he was teaching the same thing.

    As for my “misattribution”, you asked:

    The question remains, however: do you consider the acts as depicted in those citations examples of direct physically-based efficient causality, i.e., is God operating in the world the same as any other cause operating in the real world? If not, how do you explain those citations? If God’s acts are not physical, just how does He interact with the physical?

    You now say what you were asking was about the how and when. But those are irrelevant. Our authority, Thomas Aquinas, already tells us that God does this, so the “how” doesn’t matter (as if you really expect me to answer “how” God acts – especially given all your admonitions about how God is above us). The when, of course, is also irrelevant.

  41. Hi G. Rodrigues,

    Charlie, you are misreading Aquinas.

    That’s sure to be a given, but my points are quite modest.

    You are sure to be right about getting an overview of Aquinas, but, as we have seen, his expounders do not always agree, either. As you say, he is towering, and he is complex.
    Indeed, regarding my friend Holopupenko, I have read hundreds upon hundreds of his posts over a period of probably more than a half decade.

    So, now having read your exposition I thank you for your efforts and your grace. But I do not see where it touches upon what I have said, or in what way I am supposedly in error.

    On the other hand, you say this, about ID:

    And this is another sore point for the Thomist. Because the God you end up with by running IDer’s arguments based on the empirical sciences is an anthropomorphic God, fashioned at our own image, that creates artifacts instead of natures and then has to tinker with them to get the “right” results, because the purely natural forces that He himself *also* created, cannot do the job correctly.

    Here the Thomist’s concern is misplaced due to his not knowing ID. There is nothing in ID that demands a tinkerer. ID is perfectly compatible, as its proponents say, with the design and order being inputted at the beginning of creation and governed providentially. Just as Aquinas shows that the movement of nature toward order shows that it is the product of a rational mind, so do the particulars found in nature. Water is not tinkered with to make it such an amazing compound, so suitable for life, but its suitability points to planning. You can trace the miracle of the wind parting the Red Sea as far back as you want, pointing to every environmental factor and cosmic force you want, but its convergence with the requirements of the situation indicates that it was not unplanned – as Aquinas says, randomness is refuted. This is the same case that Behe, for instance, makes with reference to IC – that God planned the events that give rise to such “artifacts” and saw to it, whether from the creation of the universe or not, that they came about.

    If God creates substances that act out to fulfill their telos per their essences, it is clear why the ID project is misguided in the first place, for the empirical sciences will never find God by looking at nature but only natural objects following their inner laws.

    These inner laws will suffice, as they demonstrate the telos. Demonstrating such a thing, in opposition to a metaphysical randomness is the goal as this, too, indicates the Mind behind the “law”. It is no coincidence that such telos is exactly what naturalism has tried to outlaw.
    Secondary causes are not limited to natures and inner laws, however, since God can use any means and it can be foreordained from eternity. Often we call these secondary causes “coincidences”, instead of merely natural laws.

    God is not as *a* being among others, but rather Being *itself* and that his relation to the created order is closer than anything we can imagine, because He maintains and conserves them in their existence, in the *here and now* and at *every* moment of their existence.

    Completely agreed.

    The created order is like the music played by a violin: it keeps on going while the violinist plays the violin.

    Funny enough, this is Dembski’s simile, too.

    On the other hand, since God is not just a being among other beings, to say that He is a person is not the same to say that I, Holopupenko or Tom Gilson are persons. God is not less than a person, and if He is a person, He exemplifies and embodies person-hood itself; but I feel that my language is being stretched out to the limits of the communicable so I will stop right here. Suffice it to say that we have come full round to the idea that we can only speak of God as a person in an *analogical* sense, not in a univocal or wholly equivocal sense.

    I find you are very clear here. Of course, all language is analogical and metaphorical to a degree. But I see this from the other side, a little bit. God is not a Person like we are persons. He is not a Father like we have fathers. We are not the Bride like women are brides. He is the Father, and our earthly fathers are somewhat analogous to His Fatherhood. They are shadows of what He is. As persons, we are image bearers of His Person. Marriage on earth is a type to point us toward, in some small way, what marriage to Christ is.
    That’s my off-topic view of that, anyway.

    Unfortunately, though, regardless of what current and past Thomists teach, you have not shown me that Thomas did not mean it when he said that:
    God fixed a certain order in things in such a way that at the same time He reserved to Himself whatever he intended to do otherwise than by a particular cause. So when He acts outside this order, He does not change.
    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1105.htm

  42. I’d still like a response to my questions, but I have to jump in here:

    if it is true that natures are not mere puppets but have of their own specific, secondary causal powers, the right way to view God is not as *a* being among others, but rather Being *itself*

    Two questions:
    1. How does this follow?
    2. What does it mean?

    Seriously, claims like ‘God is being itself’ have my coming over all logical positivist-sounding. I haven’t a clue how to make sense of them. But supposing sense can be made of this claim, how does it follow from the view that creatures have intrinsic natures?

  43. mattghg:

    There’s no way someone can explain to you what that means, and how it follows from common sense observations of causality, in a blog comment. Go do some reading on Aristotle and/or Aquinas to understand how that conclusion is arrived at. Ed Feser’s “The Last Superstition” or “Aquinas” would be good.

  44. G. Rodrigues,

    …for the empirical sciences will never find God by looking at nature but only natural objects following their inner laws

    We would more accurately say that it is rational beings made in the image of God that can find things – not the empirical sciences. One of the things they can find is God, and one of the ways they can find him in the general sense, according to scripture, is by observing creation.

    From that I gather that there must be *something* about the created order that points us in the direction of God. Something about the heavens declares the glory of God. Something about the skies proclaims the work of his hands (Psalm 19).

    What is that something and do we “bump into it” when conducting science? I think we do, or at least I think it’s entirely possible that we can.

  45. Hi SteveK,
    I’m not sure if you are supporting this, or had not seen it:

    Certain ancient philosophers denied the government of the world, saying that all things happened by chance. But such an opinion can be refuted as impossible in two ways.

    First, by observation of things themselves: for we observe that in nature things happen always or nearly always for the best; which would not be the case unless some sort of providence directed nature towards good as an end; which is to govern. Wherefore the unfailing order we observe in things is a sign of their being governed.

    Wherefore, as the movement of the arrow towards a definite end shows clearly that it is directed by someone with knowledge, so the unvarying course of natural things which are without knowledge, shows clearly that the world is governed by some reason.

  46. Charlie,

    Here the Thomist’s concern is misplaced due to his not knowing ID. There is nothing in ID that demands a tinkerer. ID is perfectly compatible, as its proponents say, with the design and order being inputted at the beginning of creation and governed providentially

    I thought the point of ID was to show that certain biological structures couldn’t be the result of solely the laws of nature.

  47. Mattghg,

    Aquinas fifth way ( which Holo correctly pointed out is not a design argument but is a teleological argument) is a metaphysical proof beginning with our observations of the regularity of nature. If you deny this regularity is real then you deny science is describing something real.

  48. Hi Melissa,
    Against the “solely by the laws of nature” argument ID is pointing out that laws are descriptions of regularities and, true, the regularities themselves, acting on blind matter and without telos, are not enough to create certain kinds of information. If the regularity does result in the specific complexities observed then that complexity was inputted somewhere else and only brought into light by the regularity, but not created by it.
    As per Behe, this could be designed into the universe via events which could have been inputted into the outworking of nature from the very inception of the material universe.
    An example he gives is the apparent (to him) design behind the earth/moon relationship. Its uniqueness and necessity (in the fine-tuning sense) indicates that it is a planned relationship. But the process that caused it could have been the result of the arrangement of atoms at the Big Bang. If the system warrants a design inference then it is not (necessarily) up to the one making the inference to determine whether this was the case, or whether the event would properly constitute a miracle. This cannot be determined and is not relevant to the inference itself.
    Thus, laws can be carriers of design, but not the ultimate source.

  49. That doesn’t seem to be the way Behe describes his view.

    To decide whether, or by what evidence, it is falsifiable, one first has to be sure what is meant by “intelligent design.” By that phrase someone might mean that the laws of nature themselves are designed to produce life and the complex systems that undergird it. …. In such a view even if we observe new complex systems being produced by selection pressure in the wild or in the laboratory, design would not be falsified because it is considered to be built into natural laws. Without commenting on the merits of the position, let me just say that that is not the meaning I assign to the phrase. By “intelligent design” I mean to imply design beyond the laws of nature.

    ie. When Behe is looking for evidence of design he is looking for the miracles.

  50. Hi Charlie,
    I had not seen that comment. I’ve only skimmed over the comments. I cannot say for sure that I support what you’ve put there because I do not know the context. On the face of it though, it seems to be reasonable and something that I would support.

    I think we all agree, per Catholic Church teaching and per Psalm 19, that God can be known by experiencing the created order. The question I have for the Thomists is, why not through a *specific* way of experiencing the created order – i.e. the empirical methods of science?

    Just because naturalists have philosophically barred the door with respect to telos or God as an explanation, doesn’t mean that this is correct. We all know it isn’t. The most strident naturalist can’t avoid seeing it and talking about it. It’s an illusion they say – ha!

    Now, if we can know something about God by observing the heavens then why can’t we also know something else about him (his telos) by doing statistical analysis or observing IC biological systems? Not that God is IN the heavens. Not that design (telos) is IN the IC biology. But by these things we come to know about design (telos) and we come to know about God.

    I will end this comment with a reminder that I am *WAY* out of my league on this subject. I have more questions than answers. Faith seeking understanding is my motto.

  51. The question I have for the Thomists is, why not through a *specific* way of experiencing the created order – i.e. the empirical methods of science?

    Because the empirical methods of science depend on sensory import. What is it about God Himself do you suggest is accessible to our senses?

    We can “see” (per Psalm 19:1) the glory of God manifest in Creation. But that “seeing” is not sensory seeing. We reason to the existence of God through a posteriori arguments like the Five Ways. ID is most manifestly NOT an a posteriori argument or arguments precisely because it presupposes direct observation of God through the sciences (among other huge problems it faces, and for which it is a big, fat FAIL).

    There is no way one “observes” God through any of the five external/primary senses. In fact, there is no way one can even “observe” ANY concept through the senses. Where, for example, is “the scientific method?” What color is it? How big is it? How old is it? Where is the concept “day after tomorrow”? Could someone please capture if for me with a videocam? Please put a “brittleness” in my pocket. Etc., etc., etc.

  52. Hi Holo,

    What is it about God Himself do you suggest is accessible to our senses?

    I didn’t say it was one way or another. I only said that (per Psalms) that we DO come to know something about God and that one way we come to this knowledge is via the created order. The heavens declare it so the created order MUST have *something* to do with the knowledge we have, correct? If not, please explain where I am wrong because I do struggle with this.

    ID is most manifestly NOT an a posteriori argument or arguments precisely because it presupposes direct observation of God through the sciences (among other huge problems it faces, and for which it is a big, fat FAIL).

    Is empirical science limited to either a posteriori or presupposed thinking?

    If, as you said above, all of us can a posteriori reason our way to God because the heavens declare his glory, then why can’t a scientist do the same while gazing through a microscope rather than gazing at the heavens?

  53. Hi again, Holo,

    Please put a “brittleness” in my pocket.

    Nobody is suggesting that you can do this. It’s something that we reason our way to. Yet brittleness is part of the enterprise of empirical science. It’s not empirical. Why can’t design or telos also be part of that same enterprise?

  54. My son just called me and asked, according to Aquinas, what are the things of faith that can be known by science? It’s for a homework project. Any takers?

  55. I’m reading an excerpt from the fifth article of Summa Theologica. I’m trying to argue in favor of this point: Thomas Aquinas’s logical resolutions ultimately satisfy neither science nor faith. This was the prompt given to me by my professor.

    I was agreeing with the prompt and evaluating it from a modern understanding of the word science until I began to evaluate Objection 3 which states: (I’d read Objections 1 and 2 and evaluated them based on the modern understanding of the word science with little difficulty.)

    Further, things which are demonstrated are an object of science, since a demonstration is a syllogism that produces science. Now certain matters of faith have been demonstrated by philosophers, such as the existence and unity of God, and so forth. Therefore things that are of faith can be an object of science.

    This point caused me to re-evaluate my arguments in light of the possibility that Aquinas and I were using different definitions of the word science. As you can probably guess, evaluating that from a modern perspective makes no sense at all. A syllogism doesn’t produce the systematic study of the natural world, that’s absurd! (In most cases.) It turns out that the archaic definition of science is “any kind of knowledge.” With this in mind, Objection 3 makes sense.

    Hope this makes my challenge a bit more clear. 🙂

  56. Tom:

    Tell your son to look up the “praeambula fidei” together with “Aquinas.” St. Thomas expounded on the fact that, among other things, reason should prepare the minds of men to receive the Faith by proving the truths which faith presupposes. One of those truths which human reason is fully capable of obtaining on its own, i.e., without the need for Revelation is that God exists. On the other hand, a revealed truth that canNOT be reasoned to is the Trinity. Another is the Incarnation.

  57. Tom’s Son:

    A good portion of what you wrote is confused, and your Prof’s “prompt” reveals he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Let’s start with the definition of “science” which is knowledge through causes or mediate intellectual knowledge obtained through demonstration. Science is also an intellectual virtue, i.e., it’s definitely a habit of the mind you should strive to achieve. Given this, philosophy and theology are full-fledged sciences, with their own proper objects (subject matters) of study and their own methodologies, but they are not natural sciences. Hope that helps.

  58. Hi Melissa,
    In fact, it is Behe’s view.

    I suggest that the origin f life is best viewed not as lawlike, but as one more of the long, long chain of anthropic coincidences very, very finely tuned to yield life. In this view the origin of life was a unique event, like the origin of the moon, and was purposely arranged. For example, just as the origin of the moon involved a particular body of a particular mass traveling at a particular speed and a particular angle at a particular time, and so on, so might the origin of life involved an extensive string of particulars. Perhaps a particular molecule in a primeval ocean hit another at a particular angle when, say, a particular hydrogen ion was close enough to catalyze a particular reaction, and the product of that reaction underwent a long string of other, unique, particular events to yield the first cell. Although at the time the molecules may have been following standard physical laws, no law or general conditions were sufficient to cause the origin of life. It was simply a fine-tuned, unique event.

    I am saying the origin of life was deliberately, purposely arranged, just as the fundamental laws and constants and many other anthropic features of nature were deliberately, purposely arranged.

    But the assumption that design unavoidably requires “interference” rests mostly on a lack of imagination. There’s no reason that the extended fine-tuning view I am presenting here necessarily requires active meddling with nature anymore than the fine-tuning of theistic evolution does. One can think the universe is finely tuned to any degree and still conceive that “the universe [originated\] by a single creative act” and underwent “its natural development by laws implanted in it”.One simply has to envision that the agent who caused the universe was able to to specify form the start not only laws, but much more.

    The purposeful design of life to any degree is easily compatible witht eh idea that, after its initiation, the universe unfolded exclusively by the intended playing out of natural laws.

    Michael Behe, The Edge Of Evolution, pp214 -232

  59. BTW,
    Here’s Behe in the exact article Melissa quoted:

    In speaking of “miracles”—relying for rhetorical effect on that word’s pejorative connotations when used in a scientific context—Ruse and Futuyma are ascribing to me a position I was scrupulous in my book to avoid. Although I acknowledged that most people (including myself) will attribute the design to God—based in part on other, non-scientific judgments they have made—I did not claim that the biochemical evidence leads ineluctably to a conclusion about who the designer is. In fact, I directly said that, from a scientific point of view, the question remains open. (Behe 1996, 245-250) In doing so I was not being coy, but only limiting my claims to what I think the evidence will support. To illustrate, Francis Crick has famously suggested that life on earth may have been deliberately seeded by space aliens (Crick and Orgel 1973). If Crick said he thought that the clotting cascade was designed by aliens, I could not point to a biochemical feature of that system to show he was wrong. The biochemical evidence strongly indicates design, but does not show who the designer was.

    I should add that, even if one does think the designer is God, subscribing to a theory of intelligent design does not necessarily commit one to “miracles.” At least no more than thinking that the laws of nature were designed by God—a view, as we’ve seen, condoned by the National Academy of Sciences (National Academy of Sciences 1999). In either case one could hold that the information for the subsequent unfolding of life was present at the very start of the universe, with no subsequent “intervention” required from outside of nature. In one case, the information is present just in general laws. In the other case, in addition to general laws, information is present in other factors too. The difference might boil down simply to the question of whether there was more or less explicit design information present at the beginning—hardly a point of principle.

  60. Tom Gilson:

    I did caution you, did I not, that what you were reading in my post was not his argument, but a pointer to it instead? I did mention that Dr. Plantinga addressed the ways in which the design discourse could be defeated, did I not? I did not explain all that he wrote, for reasons that I gave in the OP, and therefore you unless you’re read his book you do not understand all he wrote, and you have judged in falsely on the basis of inadequate evidence.

    I strongly suggest you read the book before you construct a counter-argument that appeals to some persons’ emotions but is basically faulty and not well thought out.

    That’s the “Buy my book” defense. ‘You can’t possibly understand the sublime reasoning in this book until you send Amazon $15.37 so they download the book to your Kindle app.’

    Well, having read some Plantinga and being underwhelmed, I’d like to know if there’s anything NEW in the book that he hasn’t already published a dozen times before I spend my money and time reading it. Any particulars?

    Meanwhile, does anybody have a comment on the Model T example? Can anybody find a version of this argument that does not ultimately break down to presenting a non-living, non-reproducing and hence non-evolving object already known to be designed by humans and say, “You can tell this is designed, therefore ID?”

    Also, is anybody aware of Plantinga’s poor reputation outside of religious circles? While Googling for some hint of what’s in the book, I couldn’t help noticing that he’s rather miffed because Dawkins doesn’t even mention him in “The God Delusion”. I think there’s a reason for that.

  61. CeilingCat, that’s not a “buy my book” defense, and labeling it that way doesn’t make it so. In order for it to be a defense, there would have had to be something like an argument, followed by a rebuttal, followed by a defense of the original argument. I’ve been very clear that I did not present that original argument.

    Your attack, on the other hand, sounds a lot like, “This guy has a poor reputation so therefore his arguments fail.” Ad hominem, you know, with a touch of “he’s so dumb, I can tell his arguments are wrong even if I don’t know what he’s arguing.” Toss in a little psychological belittling (“he’s rather miffed”) and your case is locked up, airtight—and worthless.

  62. Holopupenko on Moreland:

    why I can’t take Craig or Moreland seriously. Go ahead and read it on page 189 of their text: the number 12 exists the same way a carbon atoms exists for these guys. Really… they really believe that… and it’s nonsense… it is ontological reductionism.

    Moreland’s peer-reviewed book on Universals:
    http://www.jpmoreland.com/books/universals/

    How a Thomist describes and disagrees with Moreland:
    http://www.grahamapologetics.com/pdf/Moreland%20Universals%20final.pdf

    How Moreland reviews Vallicella
    http://maverickphilosopher.blogspot.com/2004/10/j-p-moreland-reviews-my-book.html

  63. Melissa,

    Certainly the belief that nature shows regularity cannot be established by argument (problem of induction), but need not be in order to be rational, and is in fact a presupposition of science. But ISTM that an additional argument is required to show that this regularity requires an underlying intelligence.

  64. @SteveK:

    I think we all agree, per Catholic Church teaching and per Psalm 19, that God can be known by experiencing the created order. The question I have for the Thomists is, why not through a *specific* way of experiencing the created order – i.e. the empirical methods of science?

    Holopupenko has given one answer; I will approach it in a (slightly) different way: what is the decisive argument that establishes (or would establish) Christianity as the Truth? Miracles, specifically the ressurection of Jesus Christ. What is the sort of evidence we bring to bear to establish this? Historical evidence. Is history an empirical discipline? Not in the strict sense, because no particular event (and certainly no miracle) can be reproduced. The methods of history are, of necessity, different from the “hard” empirical sciences like physics. Now, let us look at the sort of arguments that are usually propped up by appealing to the empirical sciences: origin of the universe (with the caveat that the Kalam can be defended philosophically), fine-tuning (from the physical laws themselves all the way down to specific biological facts), the origin of life, the origin of man with its unique rational capability, etc. All these are particular events, and so in a strict, narrow sense they are not amenable to science, because science does not deal with particulars. All the empirical sciences will ever give you is a statement like “given such and such conditions such and such will happen”, a sentence usually qualified by “with probability p”. Still, we could reason in the following way: given what we know, these events are so improbable that it is just implausible that purely naturalistic, impersonal processes could have given rise to it. There are two immediate problems with this reasoning: the “given what we know” and “implausible”. How do we break the impasse? Certainly not by an appeal to the empirical sciences, because it was appealing to them that got us in this impasse in the first place. We need something else.

  65. The closest thing I’ve seen to an actual argument on this thread that being is not a genus (calling the view ‘nonsense’ doesn’t count) is the following from Holopupenko:

    we’re talking about, for example, the distinction in the manner of existence between a ball and the color red of that ball: these things—the ball and the color—exist in fundamentally different ways. i.e., they have different claims on existence. If they existed in the same way, then not only can a ball be red, but a red can be a ball. Do you really want to go there?

    I don’t see how this is an argument. No-one denies that balls and the colour red are fundamentally different things. It doesn’t follow that they exist in fundamentally different ways (whatever that would mean).

    the difference between the existence of chairs and the existence of numbers seems, on reflection, strikingly like the difference between numbers and chairs. Since you have the latter to explain the former, you don’t also need ‘exist’ to be polysemic – Jerry Fodor

    If they existed in the same way, then not only can a ball be red, but a red can be a ball.

    This looks for all the world like drawing grand metaphysical conclusions from linguistic data, which is a Bad Thing to do. The problem is that ‘a ball’ denotes a thing that bears the property of ball-ness, while ‘a red’ does not denote a thing that bears the property of redness.

    Can someone help me out here, or must I go off and read a book to even understand what purports to be an argument of fundamental philosophical significance?

  66. mattghg:

    Of course that’s not an argument–it’s an example. Here’s the expansion on that example: can “redness” exist itself? No. Can a ball–no matter its color exist by itself? Yes. Can you put a ball in my pocket of any color or (within reason) size or age or temperature or etc.? Yes. Can you put a “red” or “10 years old” in my pocket? No.

    That is the example between a substance: sub-stance: that which “stands under” and “supports” the accidents; sub-stance is also that which we under-stand of what an object is AS object. An accident can be predicated of a substance (a BALL is RED); a substance cannot be predicated of an accident (a red is ball).

    Substance (definition): that which is basic and independent in existence, standing under (substans) and sustaining accidents in their being, and a source of activity. Per Aquinas, “substance is essence to which per se existence is proper”. (Essence is a principle of an actually existing thing–not a thing itself–providing a full explanation of the “whatness” of some thing. We know WHAT George Washington was even though he does not currently exist. Substance “has” essence.)

    It is is in the nature of substance to be in every part of a thing as whole and entire. An individually-existing substance (e.g., Holopupenko, this particular, red ball, the white shark that bit my keester) are primary substances. When applied to all members of a group as a universal, it is called a secondary substance (e.g., I am a human being, all the tall leaf-covered things in my back yard are trees, etc.) We know what all the members of a group ARE by means of the secondary substance (universal); we know what individual things ARE by means of the primary substance.

    Those were necessary preliminaries before plunging into your question as to why being is not a genus (i.e., why the notion of the univocity of being is a grave error.) Note: I’m not limiting myself to a mere three paragraphs like Craig and Moreland, and even for this comment in its entirety much more needs to be said.

    Why is being NOT a genus? Here’s one argument (although you should know at an intuitive level Craig is dead wrong to suggest “two” is the same kind of thing (in terms of its claim to the same kind of existence) as a carbon atom): If being were a genus, substance and accident would have to differ in something other than being, but only non-being is other than being, and for substance and accident to differ in non-being is no difference at all. Therefore, since being is not a genus, it cannot be predicated univocally of substance and accident. (Remember: the MESs employ and apply univocal terms to the object they study.)

    If one reduces all things that exist to having the same “claim” on existence, as Craig and Moreland do as they get it from Duns Scotus (Catholic Franciscan) (i.e., NOT the equivocation that this being IS this other being but the univocation that all beings are the same kinds) then univocal terms (i.e., the MESs) are sufficient to describe and provide to us knowledge of ALL existents… with the further implication that there are no immaterial entities. That’s why Craig and Moreland (and IDers) are reductionists: not in the coffee-table-talk sense of the word but at a deeper ontological level. IDers don’t want God to be MES-accessible (that would be WAY silly), but they do want His EFFECTS–including the observed ORDER of the universe, including the order they “see” (but not with the eyes of science) in DNA to be sensory, i.e., MES, accessible. Sorry, but that is just dumb.

    That’s why, for among other reasons, Aquinas’ 5th Way is NOT an argument for design: it’s an argument for explaining the source of all order (i.e., the regularity of the actualization of natures), i.e., the source of the directedness or “teleology” of Nature. IDers, per the implications of what they want, think the “order” of DNA is the same kind of thing as the constituent atoms of DNA, and that therefore order is accessible to the MESs and from which one can access (they hide behind the term “infer”) God through the MESs. They jettison the philosophy for a pseudo-philosophical imposition upon the MESs.

    Then, buoyed partially by the above, the occasionalism comes in: if all existents are the same kind of things, then “two” is the same kind of thing as the carbon atom. Natures are eviscerated from real extra-mental existents… and things become puppets. Look at the way Behe describes–quite seriously–the inner workings of cells: factories, machines, well-oiled mechanisms, etc., etc. Then, realizing how problematic this is, the IDers “qualify” their description by claiming (per Meyer) ‘of course they’re not machines.’ (Note: single quotes means from memory.) Well, okay, let’s throw the flip-floppers that bone and accept their qualification. Does that absolve them of them reductionist mechanistic view of biological organisms. No way, for it is the externalist occassionlist view that God needs to be involved at every step to make descent with modification work. Why? Because they reject natures. Why? Because “natures” are not accessible to the MESs. The Behe quotes Charlie provides at NOT enough: these guys must be pushed on this point: just how do the MESs have access to proximate or distant actions of God? If occasionalist, use the sciences to show us. If non-occasionalist (and Behe seems to be understanding the conundrum he faces) then how are the sciences to “see” that?

    That’s why ID is such a volatile mixture of errors.

    (It’s also why you’re wrong in your latest post, Tom: ID is NOT an absurdum argument, it’s an attempt at a positive argument for something… and it’s a big FAIL. Any argument against the philosophical materialism or naturalism that might be animating Darwinian descent with modification as held by some secular proponents MUST be dealt with on a philosophical level–NOT an MES level. The MESs simply aren’t equipped to do so: if the IDers want to debate the efficacy of Darwinian descent with modification on MESs grounds, then have them produce the science to do so. If they want to debate the inappropriateness of imposing philosophical naturalism upon Darwinian descent with modification, then by all means let them do so… but not in the biology classroom.)

    I will end on a provocative note. Substance itself is utterly inaccessible to the senses, but it is certainly accessible to our knowing about it. Some Reformation “plain meaning” Scriptural interpreters (self-proclaimed “authorities”) rejected the existence of substances and natures because–wait for it–they were not “accessible” (synonym: “visible”) to a “plain meaning” Scriptural hermeneutic. What animated them? They came into the discussion with an unsupported a priori demand: transubstantiation is impossible. In other words, they rejected a Catholic dogma and then interpreted Scripture to fit their needs. (Of course, historically it’s not as simple as that, but the narrative writ large is correct.)

    Similarly, atheists walk into debates bringing along their a priori no-God baggage, and then use science to “prove” their point… or comfort themselves by asserting it’s “very unlikely”. Similarly, IDer’s misinterpret Scripture as supposedly indicating God is accessible to the MESs (they “read” the book of God the same way they “read” the book of Nature, i.e., they apply the univocal nature of the MESs to Scriptural interpretation… why? because all being is univocal to them, right?), and then they do science (not!) to “prove” their point… all while hiding behind the “materialism doesn’t work” mantra.

    That, folks, reflects the pedigree thing about ID mentioned earlier: it’s NOT pretty picture. Ask Francis Beckwith.

  67. Charlie @75:

    That’s right. That’s why IDers (and Craig and Moreland… and I believe Plantinga, although the latter is very careful to not get pinned down) are, per Vallicella, “existence-blind”.

    Our language should reflect what reality IS, not what we want it to be.

  68. Tom:

    Not withstanding the sharp differences in positions and the tenacity by which they’re held, this is a really impressive and fruitful discussion. I have never run across this level of discussion and honesty at any atheist site, for example. Never… and I doubt you’ll ever see this level of commitment and concern for truth at those sites.

    You are, again, to be commended.

  69. Actually, as fine a man and scholar as Beckwith is, do not bother to ask him about ID. He gets it wrong repeatedly.

  70. Interesting.
    Vallicella thinks Moreland is mistaken (it is in no way clear to me that Moreland belongs tot e group in that paragraph referred to as “existence-blind”) yet takes him seriously, does not call his views nonsensical, and accounts him as a very good and one of his favourite philosophers.
    Ed Feser, a Thomist as far as I can tell, calls Craig a great scholar and credits his work in rescuing him from atheism.

  71. Of course that’s not an argument–it’s an example. Here’s the expansion on that example: can “redness” exist itself? No. Can a ball–no matter its color exist by itself? Yes. Can you put a ball in my pocket of any color or (within reason) size or age or temperature or etc.? Yes. Can you put a “red” or “10 years old” in my pocket? No.

    Saying they both share the property of being is not to say that they both share the property of spatio-temporality.

  72. If being were a genus, substance and accident would have to differ in something other than being, but only non-being is other than being, and for substance and accident to differ in non-being is no difference at all.

    This does not make sense to me. They can both have being, belonging to the genus of being, and differ in other ways: universality, temporality, etc.
    You don’t have to remove one from the genus in order to say they differ in some way. This sounds, to me, like saying cats and dogs don’t differ at all unless you remove one from the genus mammalia.

    No way, for it is the externalist occassionlist view that God needs to be involved at every step to make descent with modification work. Why? Because they reject natures. Why?

    There is no rejection of natures, no occassionalism and no requirement that God be involved at every step. Affirming one thing is not denying all the rest. Behe explicitly (an error, in my mind) states that there are actual random events in descent with modification.

  73. NOT enough: these guys must be pushed on this point: just how do the MESs have access to proximate or distant actions of God? If occasionalist, use the sciences to show us. If non-occasionalist (and Behe seems to be understanding the conundrum he faces) then how are the sciences to “see” that?

    The MESs have access to observable facts of nature and they entail logic and explanation. The MESs have access to structures and their components, links, and assemblies. They also have access to previously measured regularities and the inferred abilities of acting forces. In every instance of explanatory science causes are linked to appropriate effects and throughout science causes are eliminated to leave better explanations.
    it is no different in ID and, as all IDers will point out, they do not know that the effects they see are the action, proximate or distant, of God. Every man one of them tells you that science cannot tell you if it is the effect of God or not. Their inference to God is theological and philosophical, not scientific. What they see when they find complexity that appears to outstrip the resources of law/chance acting alone with no recourse to planning that it is the very planning which is implicated.
    From the arrangement SEEN, they “see” an order, and infer a designer.
    Again, this is done in science all the time when the designer can be easily found on this plane of existence. It is only when the designer appears to be the Designer that all these philosophical considerations become stumblingblocks.

    But we know that God is the Designer. We know He affects change, we know He can move matter, we know He has a plan for everything and we know that we are without excuse when we deny Him. So why is the first finding (design is assertible) verboten when the feared implication is already a known fact?

  74. Matt,
    MES = modern empirical sciences.
    I’m pretty sure it was introduced here by Holopupenko and has become an accepted shorthand.

  75. Hi mattghg: MES = modern empirical science.

    Hi Charlie:

    Calling “views” or “ideas” nonsensical or not taking those “views” or “ideas” seriously is not an imputation on the man but on his ideas. Is that a problem? I think Nazism is nonsensical, philosophical naturalism a non-starter, and I think the promotion of homosexuality and atheism is dangerous. Is that a problem? Also, I’m not clear on why you think Beckwith is “wrong”… perhaps because he doesn’t agree with your position? Can you point to examples where he is factually “wrong repeatedly”? I personally partly credit Craig for pushing me in the direction of a fides quaerens intellectum love of philosophy… but I’m not going to accept his errors–especially his grave errors, and I will call him out on those errors.

    Regarding the univocity of being error, I’m going to give it another shot, and I’m taking this from some PPT slides for a class on the history of the development of the ideas of science I’m teaching next semester.

    “Genus” is one of five logical universals (or predicables) that are second intentions (genus, difference, species, property, accident). For example, I don’t think about the concept of “treeness” when I observe a tree because I’m focused on knowing that object: the concept is that by which I know the tree, the concept is NOT that which I know. However, I can focus my attention upon the concept, but that is difficult: I literally have to stop in my tracks and think about my thinking about “treeness”, i.e., I’m reflecting back upon my reasoning to “see” the concept “treeness.”

    Okay, “genus” is the universal said of many things differing in species (please don’t think of this in biological terms but in logical terms), in answer to the question: “What is it?” Example: “animal” is predicated of man and brute, the definition of a man, however, is “rational animal,” where “animal” is the genus and “rational” is the specific difference. So, I could do a mini-tree diagram as follows:

    animal
         rational
         brute

    But now try that with being:

    being
         Peter [primary substance]
         man [secondary substance]
         white [accident, i.e., Peter could be black]
         definition [logical being or being or reason]

    In the first example, the rational and brute animals exist in the same mode, i.e., they enjoy the same “claim” to existence as extra-mental real objects. In the second example, none of the four species exist in the same mode, i.e., they have differing “claims” to existence and hence the direct predication does not work. Therefore, the term “being” cannot be a logical genus.

    So, for example, of course “definition” and “Peter” exist—and this is where I think your hang-up is. But are you suggesting (and, I appeal to your five external senses and your ability to reason) that “definition” shares with or has the same claim to existence as “Peter”? What about “shadow”? A shadow is not even a full being—it’s a non-being in the sense that it’s a privation of a certain kind of being, i.e., light. It is a concept by which we humans wrap our minds around the privation of light, but it is not a self-existing thing in itself. What about “evil”? It is not so much a thing as the privation of good. What about “change”? It’s not so much a thing as it is a “becoming,” i.e., the reduction from potency to act. That things exist is an undisputable given; that they exist in different ways or “modes” is something altogether else.

    Said another way: since being is not a genus, it cannot be predicated univocally of (e.g.,) substance and accident: one cannot claim a man exists in the same way as the color red or the same way as a tree. Nor can the attribution be merely equivocal, which would imply (e.g.,) “odd” number cannot mean the same exact thing as “odd” fellow. Rather, being is predicated analogically of substance and accident, because the meaning of “being” as said of accident includes its meaning as said of substance, but not conversely.

    History: Blessed John Duns Scotus (1264 – 1308) borrowed the notion of the univocity of being from the Islamic philosopher Avincenna. Scotus argued that since “being” can be said of anything that in any way exists (in the sense: whatever exists is not nothing), then “being” should be understood in the precise same sense univocally of everything that exists. Being is then the most universal concept and is presupposed by all other concepts. Yet, apart from what I provided above, here’s the problem: univocity of being implies the denial of any real distinction between essence (what-ness) and existence (is-ness), when, in fact, in all finite contingent beings the essence of a thing is distinct from its existence: we can conceive of what something is without conceiving of it as existing, i.e., we know what/who George Washington was even though he is no longer with us. (The only “being” in which the essence IS the existence is God: I AM WHO AM.)

    Scotus believed—literally—that we never know whether something exists unless we have some concept of what we know to exist… which makes no sense at all given the George Washington example. Aquinas held that when one says “God is good,” God’s goodness is only analogous to human goodness: ‘god is not “good”; God is Goodness Itself. Scotus argued to the contrary: when one says “God is good,” the goodness in question is exactly the same sort of goodness that is meant when one says “Jane is good.” (And, not that “goodness” is a transcendental concept: a thing is “good” to the extent that it exists.) In other words, Scotus really believbed that God only differs from us in degree, and properties such as goodness, power, reason, etc. are univocally applied, regardless of whether one is talking about God, a man, or a flea! Really. I’m not kidding.

    Some nuances in order to give Scotus some credit: he did not consider “being” strictly a genus but did distinguish between degrees (univocal modes) of being. Yet, to his detriment, Scotus did not distinguish between kinds (analogical modes) of being. In other words and to repeat, for Scotus, while God is Infinite (Boundless) Being and creatures are finite contingent beings, they are both “being” in exactly the same sense. In this way, Scotus was true to the Augustinian tradition of the Franciscan Order, and ultimately to St. Augustine’s (neo-) Platonic background.

    I hope that helps.

    Finally, your last paragraph @84: I agree with your first sentence. Of course there is “design” and we know it. What I disagree with is HOW we know. Try Romans 1:20… do we “know” the “invisible attributes” of God through the MESs? I hope not. The IDers are trying to “know” these things positively through the MESs… with the implication (again, refer to my long-winded musings above) that ALL things are known through the MESs… and the atheists and secular scientist salivate in joy on the sidelines. Why can’t the IDers just be honest and admit theirs is a philosophical and theological mission more than an MES-mission, and then enter into debates on that level? Well, I do know, at least partly, why. They’re not strong philosophers in the first place. Whether you agree or not as to whether this distinction is important I’m not going to address except to assert: YES, it is important… but the discussion would talk longer than what I just provided above.

  76. Hi Holopupenko,

    Also, I’m not clear on why you think Beckwith is “wrong”… perhaps because he doesn’t agree with your position?

    Now that would imply that I think I am some kind of infallible authority, wouldn’t it? I bet you didn’t really mean that.

    Can you point to examples where he is factually “wrong repeatedly”?

    Indeed.
    Here’s one example.
    http://homepage.mac.com/francis.beckwith/USTJLPP.pdf

    His errors show in my points below:

    1) Intelligent Design does not posit a tinkerer.
    2) Intelligent Design does not require “gaps” in order to fit God in.
    3) All it posits is a situation in which the hallmarks of design (a mind-product) are evident in the creation and development of the natural world.
    4) It does not put design at odds with Providence, omnipotence or secondary causes.

    5) Intelligent Design suggests that design can be implemented through secondary causes just as Aquinas allows that miracles can occur through secondary causes.

    6) When it talks of “chance” and “nature” in opposition to design it does so on the presumption that these terms are being used outside of the Christian understanding of Providence.

  77. Dr. Beckwith responded and I got to follow-up:

    
I admire your work and witness a great deal, but I don’t think you give ID proponents a fair shake nor interpret them in the best light possible.
If you take Behe seriously, as you admonish, then you take seriously his claim that, however he personally believes design was instantiated, it is entirely possible on his accounting that it was all inputted at the inception of the universe. As theistic evolutionists, including those of the ASA, are fond of saying that God fine-tuned the constants and conditions at the beginning, so does Behe think that events were also fine-tuned. And that when these events play out, and result in such observable phenomena as irreducible complexity and rare-protein binding sites, then conscious planning is at work.
    This is no more special pleading than is the Catholic idea that miracles are compatible with secondary causes.

    Beckwith:
    “”In other words, a condition for the design inference is a gap in the ordinary workings of nature. “”

    The condition for the inference is a phenomena that does not appear to be the product of a random walk through the possibilities. This does require that when we talk of randomness and chance we mean actual randomness and actual chance; not, rather, something that might appear random to our limited view but is actually planned out. This is the chance that is being discussed. When Behe says that natural selection can’t account for a feature if the feature is not selectable this is not gap-thinking, but strict logic. When he says, correctly or not, that the mutations would not be expected to occur time and again, in the proper order, or at the same time, if they were all equally as likely he is not talking about gaps but straight statistics. If there is a bias in such changes toward functionality then that points toward foresight, not blind, purposeless events. The metaphysical baggage of blindness and purposelessness are the claims his project addresses.

    Beckwith:
    “”Do you actually think that anyone is going to find it remotely plausible that the defeat of naturalism rests on ID, but in case it doesn’t work, theism defeats naturalism by some meta-understanding of Providence? You can’t put all your eggs in one basket and then say that you are satisfied with the omelet you are served minutes later.””

    And this is precisely what I don’t appreciate in this tack, or that of other theistic evolutionists, when criticizing ID. Nobody is putting all their eggs in one basket and it is very hard to see how someone could come to this conclusion. This is merely one more defeater for materialists who rely on an argument, supposedly from science (but not), to dismiss design (or, in this case, God). Behe, for instance, was an orthodox Christian believer before he ever started to doubt the Darwinian claims. His eggs are not in the ID basket.

    The argument from design is no more one basket than is the cosmological argument, the moral argument, the transcendental argument, the argument from the Resurrection, the numinous, etc. Some might think these arguments are all weak and point in the wrong direction, some might not be convinced at all, and some might find that one or another of them removes false stumbling-blocks to belief. This is the case for all arguments and all apologetics, not just the teleological argument.

    Neither is it the case that when Behe or Dembski or Meyer find that design is the best inference for the cause of a phenomena that they have outlawed Providence or design for all other aspects of Creation. What they claim is that, by these tools, design has been implicated in a given situation. This says nothing about whether or not God has planned every event or whether or not He is upholding the universe moment by moment. This is the equivalent of answering the charge ‘there is nothing alive in this solution’ by showing with a microscope that there are living creatures – it says nothing about whether or not even more examples of life could be found with another tool or a higher resolution. All other tools are still available and all other baskets are allowed to hold their eggs. This is just one basket and holds just the appropriate eggs.

    (I can privately give you his defence which I am addressing here, if you like).

  78. Hi Charlie:

    I think you’re reading a bit too much into my words: no, I did not for one instant think or try to impute upon you “infallible authority.” Yes, it was a tease, but not in the way you suggest… but that’s okay, isn’t it?

    Regarding Beckwith, I’ll have to follow up on your link–thanks… but in your enumerated list I still think you’re not drawing proper distinctions.

    And for the rest of my comment?

  79. In the first example, the rational and brute animals exist in the same mode, i.e., they enjoy the same “claim” to existence as extra-mental real objects. In the second example, none of the four species exist in the same mode, i.e., they have differing “claims” to existence and hence the direct predication does not work. Therefore, the term “being” cannot be a logical genus.

    The “therefore” does not work for me.
    They do not have to exist in the same mode to exist (as per your own sentence) and, existing, they share existence. As Moreland says, we do not have to say that they exist in different ways, but that different kinds of things all exist.

    So, for example, of course “definition” and “Peter” exist—and this is where I think your hang-up is. But are you suggesting (and, I appeal to your five external senses and your ability to reason) that “definition” shares with or has the same claim to existence as “Peter”? What about “shadow”? A shadow is not even a full being—it’s a non-being in the sense that it’s a privation of a certain kind of

    Moreland covered this in his many more than three paragraphs. He gave his theory of existence, applied it to the questions he sees as necessary, and defined so as to answer those questions. The result is that if we say something exists, no matter how different it is in how many different ways, that what we are saying can be taken to mean the same thing – for ease I will round that thing to be “some property belongs to them”.

    one cannot claim a man exists in the same way as the color red or the same way as a tree.

    It seems you can if you limit what that “way” is and do not take “existence” to entail every detail of that which exists. Since cats aren’t dogs you say they don’t exist in the same way. And since Bowser isn’t Rex they can’t exist in the same way. All that is doing is telling us they are not the same being. But the fact that we say they exist ought to mean something other than “here’s one thing I am talking about” and that claim can be the one thing they have in common, without ignoring the myriad of differences.

    univocity of being implies the denial of any real distinction between essence (what-ness) and existence (is-ness), when, in fact, in all finite contingent beings the essence of a thing is distinct from its existence:

    Why should this be? Is-ness does not encompass what-ness, so why must we agree that one subsumes the other? Why can’t they be independent claims – lots of whats have isness.

    we can conceive of what something is without conceiving of it as existing,

    As Moreland says, conceiving of something does not grant it existence.

    Scotus really believbed that God only differs from us in degree, and properties such as goodness, power, reason, etc. are univocally applied, regardless of whether one is talking about God, a man, or a flea! Really. I’m not kidding.Then this seems to be taking on the characteristic of the genetic fallacy. Even if the concept that being must mean at least one thing came from Scotus, that does not mean that all of his errors come with that concept.

    The IDers are trying to “know” these things positively through the MESs

    They are not. They are trying to show positively through ID that planning and intention are features of the universe. It is a second order question what things they know about God and these attributes are not being discovered via their inference to design.

    Why can’t the IDers just be honest and admit theirs is a philosophical and theological mission more than an MES-mission, and then enter into debates on that level?

    They are honest. Every one of them tells you that the MES do not show them that God is the designer and that, therefore, the MES say nothing about God. The science tells them that design is apparent. And they each say that, apart from this science they have philosophical and theological reasons to believe God is the source of this design. And they know who God is and what His attributes are not from the science but from His Special Revelation.

  80. Hi Charlie:

    I kinda give up… not in frustration, but just because I tried and failed… and I have to live with that. I have to say, you’re forcing me (in a good way) to revisit some issues… and it’s helping to “sharpen my teeth” for a conference tomorrow.

    P.S. Bowser isn’t Rex, but they are both the same ontological (kinds) of beings. The color of Bowser’s fur is not the same kind of being as Bowser: the color cannot exist without the substance Bowser, but Bowser can exist no matter the color of his fur… or how old he is (within the limitations of his nature) or his location or what he’s wearing or what he’s doing or his relation to other dogs or how big he is… To suggest otherwise is (don’t take this incorrectly) to take leave of one’s senses… which means to take leave even of science. I don’t know how else to make that clear, and, no, Craig does NOT consider well the issue of predication… and this is not just me criticizing him.

  81. Mattghg to Melissa,

    Certainly the belief that nature shows regularity cannot be established by argument (problem of induction), but need not be in order to be rational, and is in fact a presupposition of science. But ISTM that an additional argument is required to show that this regularity requires an underlying intelligence.

    Plantinga argues that there some beliefs that are properly basic.

    Here is is an interview where he discusses these kind of beliefs:

    Q. If we accept belief in God as rational on the grounds which you have presented, how do we also know that this belief is true?

    A. You have to think about that in the context of the same question with respect to perception or memory or other minds. Fundamentally, in these cases it is a matter of trusting one’s cognitive faculties, I guess. It seems true. One’s inclined to believe in other minds, one’s inclined to believe in the past, one’s inclined to believe in immaterial objects and many of us are also under certain circumstances inclined to believe in God. I don’t know if there’s any way of getting outside of our faculties in these cases and sort of checking the matter independently. I don’t know how one would do this.
    http://www.leaderu.com/truth/3truth06.html

    In other words, even though there is no way to prove they are true there, are certain beliefs that we assume to be true to rationally make sense of our personally lives and the world.

    For example we need certain properly basic beliefs to do science. Here is a brief list of five:

    1. There is an objective reality.

    2. Objective reality is intelligible and can be rationally understood.

    3. The universe operates according to “law-like” regularities.

    4. Cause and effect are real.

    5. The regularities (or “laws”) according to which the universe operates are uniform across space and time.

    I personally disagree with Plantinga that our belief in God itself is properly basic. (Notice that Plantinga himself qualifies the basic belief in God, noting that “many of us are also under certain circumstances inclined to believe in God.” ) I think, rather, our belief in God is an inference from combination of several other properly basic beliefs– for example our belief in the existence of other minds, our belief in the intelligibility of the universe, our beleif that there is something is eternal and transcendent.

    As far as inferring that the universe’s intelligibility is caused by an
    eternally existing transcendent intelligence
    or mind (God), I would argue that that it is simply the best explanation. What is atheist’s argument for the universe’s intelligibility?

  82. @Charlie:

    Here is David Oderberg, “Real Essentialism”, page 107-108. After showing that being cannot be a specific difference, nor a property, nor an accident, nor a species (in pages 106-107), he goes on to show that there are “serious difficulties with the idea that being is a genus”.

    The second concerns whether ‘being’ is univocal, equivocal, or analogous. If it were univocal it would be like terms such as ‘human’, ‘dolphin’, ‘water’, ‘oak tree’, and so on. All of the things that respectively fall under these terms do so in the same way, for the same reason – they share the essence expressed by each term. Being does not work this way. When we abstract humanity from individual humans, or oak tree from individual oaks, we abstract away the accidents and are left with the essence. We cannot do this with being, since it is heterogeneous: there is substantial being, accidental being, complete being, incomplete being, necessary being, contingent being, possible being, absolute being, relative being, intrinsic being, extrinsic being, and so on. These features of being are not accidents from which we can abstract to form a clear, complete, and homogeneous concept of being. For each and every kind of being, the way in which being manifests itself is essential to that kind (contingent beings are essentially contingent, accidental beings are essentially accidental, and so on). To try to abstract away from these essential features in order to arrive at a concept of being as such is a metaphysical and conceptual mistake, since it is to abstract from what is essential to the kinds of being.

    It might be objected that we do not abstract only from accidents, because we also abstract from specific differences: we can abstract from rationality and consider man only as animal, investigating what humans have in common with other animals that are not rational. But, as I argued earlier, the kinds of being are not specific differences. When I try to abstract from, say, sub-stantiality, I abstract from the entire essence of the thing that is a substance, its being included. What I am left with is not being as such, but nothing. Hence ‘being’ is not a univocal term.

    Nor, however, is it equivocal. If it were an equivocal term, like ‘bank’, ‘letter’ or ‘table’, I could disambiguate it and so form wholly distinct concepts of wholly distinct kinds of thing, as we do with other equivocal terms. But the kinds of being are not wholly distinct: they do have something in common, namely that they are all beings of one kind or another. Were we to think of being as equivocal, we would lose the unity of things, the oneness in the many, just as we lose the diversity in oneness if we treat being as univocal. We must, then, treat being as neither univocal nor equivocal, but as analogous. ‘Being’ is an analogous term, i.e. it is applied analogously to the things that fall under it, just as we can apply the term ‘angry’ to people and skies, or ‘healthy’ to animals and diets. We can, if we like, say that being acts like a genus. ‘Being’ expresses the essence of all beings, but incompletely. It does not differentiate between beings. But it is not a true genus. It does not single out some things from others by what the former have in common with each other but not with the latter. Everything is a being of some kind or other. Contra Hoffman and Rosenkrantz (1994: 18) and Lowe (2006: 39), then, it does not belong on any ontological tree. Being is like a genus but not truly a genus. It is a genus by analogy, and, as it is traditionally called, a transcendental concept.

    D. Oderberg devotes the whole section 5.3 “The analogy of being” to the issue, but the above quotation should suffice.

  83. What he said. Seriously.

    And, Charlie, again: you’re misreading Aquinas. Seriously. Because Aquinas presupposes you understand–and, yes, accede to–@94 and as well as to my earlier attempts. You may, of course, reject this. But then your must sleep in that bed of your making… together with with Craig and ID.

  84. Obviously, this discussion passed by me long ago, but I would just like to ask one thing.

    I appreciate that God is Being itself, Goodness itself, etc. — not just *a* being, *a* good being, etc. — but I have also read writers like C. S. Lewis and Peter Kreeft who affirm that God is both a universal *and* a particular. Is this true, and what implications does it have for the present discussion? (I am not asking anyone in particular…)

  85. Thanks for that G. Rodrigues,
    It’s very clear and a nice read. I like the honesty in the approach, and the statement that “being is a genus by analogy”. Yes, I am quite convinced by Holopupenko, you, and Aquinas that if you accept Aquinas’ terms and reasoning, then being is not a genus. But it also seems no stretch to me that one can reject that proof, and tweak the concept so that being is not merely like an genus, or a genus by analogy, and not be talking nonsense.

    And yes, Holopupenko, it certainly does presuppose that we accept Aquinas. But not everyone does accept his take on every point. And I still reject that it is “nonsense” to define “being” in a manner other than how Aquinas did – towering figure though he is/was. I reject that you need not take seriously anything a professional philosopher has to say because you don’t agree with him on his definition of such a tendentious term. Or that you mock him for this difference even though he clearly offered his definitions and defended their use.

    Do I misunderstand Aquinas? I know you get a charge out of saying it, and it is obvious that I do. I am not alone, nor is he the simplest of thinkers I misunderstand.
    But I understand him well enough to counter attacks like these on Calvin, when Aquinas teaches all the concepts being railed against:

    Isn’t that what Calvin taught… and who Plantinga champions? Total depravity: because of the Fall, every person is enslaved to sin, and people are hence not inclined to love God with their whole heart, MIND, or strength, but rather serve their own interests: all are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so. Can you say puppets? And what happens to justification? Well, it’s then limited to those predestined for salvation. And yet, because he at least has a sense of how repugnant such a view is, Calvin tries in vain to eek out some form of free will… which makes him sound closer to Daniel Dennett than to a true human anthropology.

    That said, your perturbations of my sensibilities with your constant and one-sidedly ungracious snipes at Protestantism aside, I appreciate the effort you’ve made in this discussion to inform and raise the civility bar.
    Thanks, my friend.

  86. Tom, my argument is actually that I have read a lot of Plantinga’s arguments and I have found them to be extremely poor. I’m also far from the only one who feels this way. Planting’s reputation outside of the religious world is pretty low.

    If he has some new arguments in his book, please tell us about them. Amazon has it in Kindle format and I can be reading it in minutes – IF I think it’s worth the fifteen bucks.

    So: 1 What are the new arguments, if any.

    and

    2 What about that Model T? Can you or anybody else find an example of Plantinga or anybody else in the world who makes that argument without pointing at something that is non-living, incapable of evolution and known to be man-made?

  87. Charlie:

    The implications (and outcome) of some of Calvin’s ideas ARE repugnant. That’s not a “snipe.” Aquinas addresses them, yes… and above I CLEARLY stated they’re important. But Aquinas addressing them doesn’t make Calvin’s errors any less serious. That’s not a “snipe.” By doing so, you should understand I’m not “proselytizing” for Catholicism… although, of course, we could always use a few more good real men. 😉 Point one. (By the way, in the tiny bit of follow up I’ve done on your criticism of Beckwith’s errors… umm, I’m not sure I can agree… but give me some more time to read and think.)

    Point two. ID is, whether it’s difficult to accept or not, infected with (among other things) adopting in its background the error of transferring a Reformation plain-meaning Scriptural hermeneutic to the Book of Nature. It’s also infected to a significant extent with a mechanistic view reflected in some deep-seated need to have God externally influencing the development of life, i.e., with occasionalism. That occasionalism is also reflected, to varying degrees, in Reformation thinking… as is the deadly error of nominalism. If one a priori rejects natures, one will look at the world and all objects that fill it accordingly. That’s not a “snipe.” That’s exposing a sacred cow.

    Point three. ID is hurt terribly (as an animating backdrop) by acceding to the error of the univocity of being… because, and I can’t stress this enough, if every existent is the same kind of existent, then all knowledge is MES knowledge. Now, fear of over-generalization notwithstanding, Catholicism via Aquinas (but not via Soctus… who “lost” this battle) rejects that error, while many Protestant philosophers and theologians do not. Are you surprised, then, that the intellectual battle lines happen to be drawn (roughly-speaking) between these two sides. Is pointing that out “sniping”?

    Point Four (although there are indeed more criticisms that I could offer). ID is NOT doing verifiable science… and Darwinian descent with modification does have scientific merit, albeit with some interesting weaknesses. “Verifiable” to IDers is claiming “don’t you see?!?” and then crying over the fact that their publication record (and I’m stating this charitably) abysmal… and then spinning conspiracy theories about not being listened to. (Yes, I definitely and readily concede and agree the “other” DarwinIST side is problematic in its worldview and its nastiness.)

    The overall problem, Charlie, is that the very view of reality IDers cling to is seriously flawed, and the pedigree of thinking animating this problem IS important to understand. That’s not sniping (my tone at times notwithstanding). I actually care very deeply about the detrimental long-term effects the failure of ID will have on certain peoples’ faiths and intellectual lives. At an anecdotal level, I’ve been sensing this for at least several years.

    Fifth, as much as it honestly hurts to say it, I agree with CeilingCat, Plantinga is, for all his erudition, not that well respected outside the choir… as is very much the case with Craig. The latter is an extremely good debater, an erudite individual with a massive command of facts… but he preaches to the choir. Most of the external “respect” Craig has is for his honesty, integrity, debating style, and professionalism. But respect for his ideas?

    Finally, Charlie, if you’ll notice in Aquinas’ style, he is usually not direct in his arguments. He leads the reader to a place where their previously held notion is not possible… and then offers an alternative. His Five Ways are brilliant in that respect, because he ends them roughly, “… Thus, one must arrive at the notion of a Primary Unmoved Mover [Uncaused Cause, etc.], and this everyone calls God.” That’s what I and Rodrigues are trying to do to show you the implications behind accepting the univocity of being: it IS nonsense. Give it a rethink… please.

  88. Tom:

    CeilingCat’s second point is an important one, and it’s one I alluded to way above in my criticism of Craig. The failure to distinguish between human artifacts and natural things makes for erroneous comparisons… starting with Paley, and eventually ending in the mechanization (internal reductionist and external occasionalist) of ID. Also and for the life of me, I can’t understand why Craig and Moreland neglected to draw the distinction in their classic “heap of sand” example between accidental unities vs. full-fledged substances. It is precisely on this point than nominalism can creep in. We ARE free to name artifacts anything we want and to use them (within moral bounds) in any functional way we care to: my pencil can be both an instrument for writing on paper AND a bridge for ants to cross from my desk to my sandwich. In other words, what I name it is what it is: the technical term of art is a “nominal definition.” On the other hand, you can’t really do that for true substances because they have immanent natures with “functions” flowing from those natures: you can not nor ought you use a human being as a bridge (apart from when goofing off with kids) because you’d be denigrating the nature of that human being. A human being is a human being, not ever a bridge… technically called a “real” or “substantive” definition. This is a very, very important distinction, and for Craig and Moreland not to have made it in the very place it should have been made is troubling to say the least.

  89. Hi Holopupenko,
    Sniping? Yes, absolutely. And it is a habit of yours.
    On a thread about ID you launched an attack election, justification by faith, puppetry and so called repugnance. Repugnance and ill-consequences? You really want to internecine on THAT?
    Yes, you CLEARLY stated the importance of election, total depravity (not UTTER, as you incorrectly labeled it) but you did so AFTER I showed that these are also Aquinas’ teachings. What impression would your attack have left if I did not?

  90. Hmm.
    That was draft I was working on. Not sure how it posted.
    Oh well.

    In addition to amending some of my more inflammatory language I wanted to add a little something on Reason. Once again you talk about the sustained attack on Reason, to which effect you often quote Luther. But in doing so you fail to acknowledge what it was he was saying, and what he was reacting to. Like Aquinas, but against the scholastic teaching he sat under, Luther was saying that our faculty of reason is damaged, cannot contradict Scripture, and cannot save us.

    Aquinas (not Luther):

    For human reason is very deficient in things concerning God. A sign of this is that philosophers in their researches, by natural investigation, into human affairs, have fallen into many errors, and have disagreed among themselves. And consequently, in order that men might have knowledge of God, free of doubt and uncertainty, it was necessary for Divine matters to be delivered to them by way of faith, being told to them, as it were, by God Himself Who cannot lie.

    Since man’s nature is dependent on a higher nature, natural knowledge does not suffice for its perfection, and some supernatural knowledge is necessary, as stated above.

    In many respects faith perceives the invisible things of God in a higher way than natural reason does in proceeding to God from His creatures.

    It is necessary for man to accept by faith not only things which are above reason, but also those which can be known by reason: and this for three motives.
    ..
    Reply to Objection 1. The researches of natural reason do not suffice mankind for the knowledge of Divine matters, even of those that can be proved by reason: and so it is not superfluous if these others be believed.

  91. Aquinas = “human reason is very deficient”

    JPII/BM = encyclical “Faith AND Reason”

    Luther = “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things” Greatest enemy? Never comes to the aid?

    Is there a difference?

    If there is a difference, how important is that difference… what does it imply for someone’s world view and about God? Could it not be that if one believes only God can set things right with NO human cooperation (cooperation presupposes that we are somewhat good but still infinitely less so than God), then the view is of humans as, well, puppets… and God is an externalist occassionalist puppeteer? Is it wrong to pose the questions?

    It’s got to do with Aristotle’s metaphor of the arrow: if it’s off just a little at the beginning (because of an overzealous emphasis on one thing at the expense of another), then the arrow will be WAY off the target at the end.

    Apologies for the tone.

  92. Luther:

    “”Reason is God’s greatest and most important gift to man, of inestimable beauty and excellence, a glorious light, a most useful servant in theology, something divine.””


    “”See how well Aristotle can serve theology with his philosophy, if he is understood and applied not as he wished but in a better way.””

    “”The natural light of reason goes this far: it considers God to be good, gracious, merciful, and kind.

    Natural reason recognizes that the Godhead is something great and above all other things.

    Human reason and wisdom itself can come this far, that it concludes, although weakly, that there must be a single, eternal, divine, Being, which has created, preserves and governs all things. When reason considers such beautiful, exquisite creatures both in heaven and earth, governed in such a wonderful, orderly and sure way, it must deny the possibility that the origin and preservation of these things are accidental or spontaneous*””

    “”I believe that I can not, by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, nor come to him.””

    [Siegbert Becker,The Foolishness of God (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1999,]

    Aquinas:

    *Certain ancient philosophers denied the government of the world, saying that all things happened by chance. But such an opinion can be refuted as impossible in two ways.

    First, by observation of things themselves: for we observe that in nature things happen always or nearly always for the best; which would not be the case unless some sort of providence directed nature towards good as an end; which is to govern. Wherefore the unfailing order we observe in things is a sign of their being governed;
    ….

    But no reason for the grace, as a primary effect, can be found on the part of man himself which would also be the reason for predestination. This would be to assert that the source of good works was in man by himself and not by grace. Such was the heretical teaching of the Pelagians who held that the source of good works exists within ourselves. Thus it is evident that the reason for predestination is the will of God alone, on account of which the Apostle says according to the purpose of his will.

    He eliminates two errors concerning the first point. The first of these is that, since he had said we are saved by faith, any one can hold the opinion that faith itself originates within ourselves and that to believe is determined by our own wishes. Therefore to abolish this he states and that not of yourselves. Free will is inadequate for the act of faith since the contents of faith are above human reason. “Matters too great for human understanding have been shown to you” (Sir 3:25). “No one knows what pertains to God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor 2:11). That a man should believe, therefore, cannot occur from himself unless God gives it,

    Moreover, not only are the habits of virtue and grace given to us, but we are inwardly renewed through the Spirit in order to act uprightly. Whence he goes on in good works since the good works themselves are [made possible] to us by God. “For you have accomplished all we have done” (Is 26:12).

    Since “those he predestined he also called” through grace, as Romans 8 (30) expresses it, therefore he adds something concerning predestination, saying, which good works God has prepared. For predestination is nothing else than the pre-arrangement of God’s blessings, among which blessings our good works themselves are numbered.

    Like Aquinas, Luther placed high value on reason and what man can do by it.

    Like the Reformers, Aquinas tells us that we can not merit faith, we can not will it, that it is a gift of God. And that our cooperation and our good works are from God’s blessing and that our ability to do them is by His power. Our very cooperation is from God. – says Aquinas and Luther.

    Is it wrong to pose the questions?

    This is the first time I’ve seen you apply a question mark to anything on this subject, Holopupenko.

    Apologies for the tone.

    Thanks very much, brother.

  93. Regarding the arrow, you must read every theologian and philosopher in the context of what it was he was arguing against. We can’t read them out of their context, or, anachronistically, put our views of the questions back upon them.
    For instance, when Luther argues against free will you have to read what Erasmus was saying of it, and how Luther defined it. What he said of it is the same thing that Aquinas did – that it can not bring us to faith or make us righteous before God.

  94. BTW,
    Contrary to your apology, I appreciate your tone throughout this thread. While I was bristling you were quite conciliatory. Thanks very much for that.

  95. I’m also far from the only one who feels this way. Planting’s reputation outside of the religious world is pretty low.

    This is just silly. First, not just in the ‘religious world’ but in the world of philosophy of religion, Plantinga is very well known and respected – even if people disagree with him. That much is a matter of public record, and not really up for debate – it doesn’t change just because an ex-scientist writing a muddleheaded but popular book on atheism omits his name from his writing.

    Second, if reputation here only means ‘non-religious people don’t find his arguments compelling’, there’s two problems. First, if they did find his arguments compelling then they’d no longer be non-religious people. Also, ‘this philosopher gives arguments and many or most people disagree’ would ultimately cash out to something close to “all philosophers and people making philosophical arguments have low reputations outside of their respective spheres”.

    Regarding the Model T, Plantinga seems to me to expressly reject the idea that believing an artifact is designed requires making the sort of arguments you provide – and at the same time, he doesn’t deny that they are available. So it’s a red herring to say what amounts to ‘The arguments by which we infer a Model T is designed…’ when Plantinga’s case is that arguments aren’t required to justifiably believe in design.

    Likewise, making reference to reproduction, etc, doesn’t seem to work here, since Plantinga – again, as I understand him on this topic – is not (contra some ID proponents) drawing a distinction between evolved and un-evolved things, with those that are evolved no longer being designed. Evolution can be considered as yet another design process, and the mere logical possibility of ‘Well perhaps the evolutionary process is ultimately unguided’ doesn’t itself show design to be false. Similarly, if that perception of design is a basic belief, then there’s no (say) Paleyan argument being given for which that logical possibility can be offered as a reply to. It’s moot.

  96. I’ve just come out of a couple very packed days of meetings and travel. Lots to catch up on here. First impression: Holopupenko, I’m still working through your points as always. Here’s what slowing me down in the process, though: while I’m trying to grasp what your saying about your own position, I’m also having to weed through your misrepresentations of others’. For example:

    IDers, per the implications of what they want, think the “order” of DNA is the same kind of thing as the constituent atoms of DNA, and that therefore order is accessible to the MESs and from which one can access (they hide behind the term “infer”) God through the MESs.

    Your disdain shows through clearly, but in fact IDers are not “hiding.” There’s a character judgment on them there that just doesn’t belong. IDers do not “infer” God; they infer intelligence guidance. It is a minimalist conclusion that they draw, and they are quite clear on that. That doesn’t make it a wrong conclusion.

    Further, you are wrong to conclude they claim (by implication or otherwise) that ID leads to “accessing” God. I can’t even figure out what that could mean in this context, but if I take it according to the most natural understanding, it is clearly wrong. “Access” as a verb usually means “to gain a direction connection with.” No one in ID says that’s what they’re doing, and that implication does not follow from anything they write.

    ID could point toward God in some way, as I wrote in my last blog post, but that’s not “accessing” God.

    The way I read it, Holopupenko, is that you seem so bent on correcting ID’s errors (as you see them) you cannot represent it accurately. Now I acknowledge that I can’t represent your position accurately either, but I’m also not representing myself as understanding it well enough to critique it in such final and absolute terms. Maybe you think you do understand ID well enough to critique it that way, but I think it behooves you to demonstrate that you do, which begins with representing it more accurately.

  97. I think your comment that Plantinga fails to include Stephen Meyer’s information-based ID arguments, and Dembski’s information-based arguments as well (he is the mathematician after all) is a very important point. In “Miracles”, C. S. Lewis considers human rationality, logical ordered thought and purpose, to be evidence of the Designer, arguing that it cannot have a naturalistic explanation. Translating the physical components of DNA molecules into its code and then seeing it as the information it is, is a powerful argument for intelligent design, since information is rationally organized data with purpose. Evolutionists cannot avoid the language of purpose, “Isn’t it remarkable how evolution has created this . . . .” However, as long as there are resources to fund research in self-organization, emergence, and auto-catalytic hypotheses, Plantinga will be correct as a practical matter because the search will continue, unless Science can embrace a pagan god of some type, some strong delusion, to explain what cannot be explained naturalistically, assuming some agreed upon end to the search for an alternative to intelligent design, which would seem to be the underlying spirit to methodological naturalism.

  98. Which caused Coyne to respond, which drew a response from atheist philosopher, James Barham.
    http://www.thebestschools.org/bestschoolsblog/2011/12/17/jerry-coynes-sensus-divinitatis-disappear-to/

    1) Plantinga requires no introduction to anyone with a passing familiarity with the philosophical scene in America over the past 40 years; however, for non-philosophers, suffice it to say that Plantinga is the author of The Nature of Necessity (Oxford UP, 1974), Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford UP, 2000), and numerous other books which, collectively, have probably contributed more than any other body of work to the revival of theism as a respectable position among professional analytical philosophers.

  99. Good response by Barham, Charlie. I didn’t read Coyne’s response. I know enough about Coyne to know that if I did read his response, I would want those 15 minutes of my life back.

  100. I hope that the reader of this note will not judge it to have an exclusively critical goal, but will see it as providing suggestions for a more fruitful A-T understanding of design arguments.

    Response to Feser

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