Why Didn’t Jesus Introduce Simple Medical Practices?

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The question came up recently, why didn’t Jesus bring better health science with him when he came? Think of all the misery that could have been spared, even if he had taught people to boil bandages before applying them to wounds.

What if questions are impossible to get reliably right, but for this one I think we can apply Clarke’s maxim: “Any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic.” If Jesus had introduced scientific medicine that far ahead of its time, it would have been regarded as supernatural, without actually being supernatural. I don’t think the outcome would have been as good as some suppose.

Maybe from our vantage point it’s hard to conceive of a world without microscopes, without knowledge of cells in our bodies and cells that are independent organisms on their own. It’s hard to appreciate just how much our generation’s knowledge depends on the past centuries of discovery. When Leeuwenhoek submitted his first microscope drawings of single-celled organisms to the Royal Society they had trouble believing him—and these were scientists, sixteen centuries later. What kind of disbelief would people have felt concerning germs and viruses in the first century?

We all have to assimilate new knowledge into our existing structures. The structures of knowledge in the first century would not have permitted anything even close to an accurate understanding of what bandage-boiling really would have accomplished.

So I think it’s very likely it would have been co-opted into a false kind of religion. Predictably there would have arisen a magic lore around it, a defined magic priesthood, and a set of magic rituals. There would have been blessings required for the boiling-pots: just any old pot you had lying around the house would never do! There would have been arcane explanations, probably associated with the drowning of cold-loving demons.

It would have been totally right on one level: bandage-boiling reduces infection. It would have been incredibly wrong on both the explanatory and spiritual levels.

One might say in response, many cultures have discovered useful medical techniques by trial and error, without understanding the principles beneath. Someone found out that willow bark relieves pain. Eventually it was discovered that it contained salicyn, which scientists refined into salicylic acid and then acetylsalicylic acid: aspirin. It wasn’t until recently that aspirin was understood well enough so that doctors could explain why it works. No priesthood developed around willow bark, though—so why do I conjecture that it would have done so around boiling bandages?

The difference is that willow bark’s effects were discovered by a folk process of trial and outcome. If Jesus had introduced bandage-boiling, it would have come from a teacher of religion. It would have been associated with religion. It would have had religion tied to it almost inseparably. And the true religion Jesus came to bring would have had bandage-boiling contaminating and confusing it.

I suppose if he had chosen to do so, Jesus could have been history’s greatest source of scientific knowledge—although in one man’s lifetime that long ago, it could never have risen above magic-science. Instead he chose to be history’s greatest source of wisdom and life.

Sometimes I wonder whether the current virtual worship of science has led people to think wisdom and life were a bad choice on Jesus’ part.

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113 Responses to “ Why Didn’t Jesus Introduce Simple Medical Practices? ”

  1. Tom,

    I think the questions (original and follow-up) about germ science and hand washing reflect a high degree of cultural naivete. The person who posed the question claims that Jesus should have encouraged “Christians” to engage in the ritual ablutions of Judaism and then criticizes him for the alleged “abandonment” of the same. Well, there were not “Christians” during Jesus’s lifetime in his society, only Jews and gentiles. So when Christianity spread among the gentiles, how could it be Jesus’ fault that they did not adopt the rituals and practices of Judaism?

    Alvin Plantinga talks about the phenomenon of “chronological snobbery” in regard to critiques of the societies portrayed in the Bible. I think this line of questioning is an illustration of what he has so aptly labeled.

    Nonetheless, thank you for so kindly and gently addressing all sorts of questions.

  2. My only question about this is whether it’s in any way deserving of its own thread. Raising the entire hygiene issue is a non sequitur in the context of the previous discusssion. It’s also a non sequitur, bordering on the ludicrous, in the context of Christ’s ministry. It falls completely outside of any expectation that could be reasonably inferred fom Christ’s words or actions.

    Ray is raising this issue as a tactic to take the discussion off course and diminish the excellent apologetic that was being introduced and discussed. I think Ray’s actions on the previous thread violate both the spirit and letter of the discussion policy. Further, it’s a tactic Ray has used numerous times before this.

  3. Jenna –

    So when Christianity spread among the gentiles, how could it be Jesus’ fault that they did not adopt the rituals and practices of Judaism?

    Christianity drew extensively from Judaism – can anyone honestly deny it? Why not washing hands before and after meals, too?

    BillT –

    Ray is raising this issue as a tactic to take the discussion off course and diminish the excellent apologetic that was being introduced and discussed.

    Is there anything I could say or do that would convince you that I meant the question sincerely?

  4. Ray,

    The reasons why I believe that are clearly stated here and on the other thread. But you fail to address them. Then you want try to take the offensive by inferring that it’s I who wouldn’t accept “anything” you could say. Another tactic. Yawn.

  5. Jenna wrote:

    Alvin Plantinga talks about the phenomenon of “chronological snobbery” in regard to critiques of the societies portrayed in the Bible.

    Indeed, why the knee-jerk assumption that the ancients knew nothing about antisepsis? Certainly, the Jews, Greeks and Romans understood the importance of good hygiene. They may have even used, unwittingly pehaps, remedies that had good antinseptic qualities. Our know-it-all interlocutors should do a little homework (googling) before the begin throwing around accusations.

    Frankincense and the other plant-derived treasure given to the newborn Jesus in the New Testament narrative—myrrh—have a long history dating back thousands of years. Though perhaps best known for their use in incense and ancient rituals, these substances—both of which boast proven antiseptic and inflammatory properties—were once considered effective remedies for everything from toothaches to leprosy…The ancient Egyptians bought entire boatloads of the resins from the Phoenicians, using them in incense, insect repellent, perfume and salves for wounds and sores…
    http://www.history.com/news/a-wise-mans-cure-frankincense-and-myrrh

    Try googling willow bark and see what you come up with. It appears that ancient physicians had aspirin long before it’s discovery.

  6. Predictably there would have arisen a magic lore around it, a defined magic priesthood, and a set of magic rituals. There would have been blessings required for the boiling-pots: just any old pot you had lying around the house would never do! There would have been arcane explanations, probably associated with the drowning of cold-loving demons.

    Well, according to a lot of Protestants, it wouldn’t be the first time, I suppose.

    So what you’re claiming is, if Jesus had suggested boiling bandages, we’d have a movement today that rejected the germ theory of disease the way creationists reject evolutionary theory and the age of the Earth?

    On the other hand, people are happy to take poetic language from the Bible, “map” it to science, and claim that it validates their theology. Like “let there be light” = “big bang” and day/age creationism. Or the way that (some of) the Jewish dietary laws are claimed to have beneficial effects, and therefore must have come from God.

    Also, note that you shifted your wording from the title – “Simple Medical Practices” – to the body – “scientific medicine”. I never said that Jesus should have built a microscope in His carpentry shop. Just an emphasis on cleanliness all by itself – like washing hands before and after meals (and bathroom trips), cleaning wounds, etc. – would have done a really staggering amount of good. Especially for infant mortality rates.

    What if, mixed in with the wisdom Jesus spread, He’d more explicitly laid out the philosophical basis for science – God created an orderly universe, and studying it can lead to both practical knowledge and insights into the Mind of God. A bit about testing received knowledge. Just a nudge, or two, but it might have sped up the development of science by a millennium or so. At least shaved a few centuries off the time of 30-40% infant mortality rates in the first year.

  7. The Bible did lay out the philosophical basis for science you describe here. As for the speed of the development of science, how fast do you think it progresses every year?

    Here’s a thought experiment for you. Let’s recognize the first five centuries AD as lost to science because of the dissolution of Rome, barbarian-induced chaos, and so on; so let’s just imagine that science was on a complete hold during those years.

    So let’s make the year 500 our zero point. At that time we had some base level of knowledge. That level is unmeasurable in any real terms, but conceptually we could say that there was some baseline level that we can call 100 SKPs for “science knowledge points.”

    How many SKPs do you think we have in the world now? Does 500 billion (thousand billion) seem at least reasonable, by comparison to 100 in the year 500? Or would you think it’s more like a trillion (10^12)?

    How fast do you think science is growing every year? Using 1 or 2 KSPs as our baseline growth in 500-501, what if science were increasing, say, 15 billion KSPs this year?

    Does that seem somewhat realistic?

    You would probably agree that science builds on science cumulatively. There would be times of faster advance and times of slower advance. At some times its advance would be more plain to see. If it only advanced by 1 or 2 KSPs a year, that would be pretty paltry. If it advanced by 15 billion KSPs in a year, that would be real science going on. That would be science progressing at a rate almost 200 million times faster than it was in the year 500-501.

    If only we could have had science progressing so quickly from the start!

    But we did, or at least arguably so. Take a look at what follows but don’t form conclusions until I say, “Now, here’s my point.”

    Those numbers come by way of assuming a simple 1.5335 percent growth in KSPs each year from 500 until now. Obviously I’ve had to employ the simplifying assumption of uniform growth. But the simple matter is that if people in the year 500 had 100 KSPs and in 501 they had 101.5 KSPs, that would be an almost unnoticeable advance in knowledge from an almost unnoticeable beginning. But at that uniform rate of growth in KSPs, we would be advancing today at the rate of more than 41 million KSPs per day. That’s more than the entire progress of science (under these assumptions) before the year 1350.

    Now, these numbers are not historically checkable but they are at least in the realm of conceivability.

    (If you don’t like my 1 trillion KSPs number for growth in the past year, just change the assumption to 2% growth per year. You’ll get 1 quadrillion — 10^15 — KSPs of growth this year. Our growth in KSPs since yesterday would be equivalent to the sum of all scientific knowledge that had been discovered by the year 1710—even though our percentage rate of knowledge increase would be the same as always. It’s a thought experiment, after all.)

    If our science is advancing at 41 million KSPs per day, that’s pretty cool. But it would only be 1.5335% per year—which would be exactly the same speed at which (theoretically) it would have been advancing from the year 500 to 501, 501 to 502, and every year since.

    Now, can you tell me with complete assurance that knowledge didn’t increase by 1.53% from 500 to 501?

    Again, the simplifying assumption I made here is certainly also a false one. Science is influenced by more than just prior science, but also things like plague, war, rainfall, other intellectual currents, and so on. I don’t think it progressed as quickly (by percentage growth) from 500 to 700 as it did during the reign of Charlemagne (the Carolingian Renaissance), or at the turn of the millennium when there was a mathematician/science reigning as Pope.

    But here’s my point: from today’s perspective of massive science accomplished, and massive scientific progress, it’s easy to look back at earlier centuries and say, “they were doing nothing!” when in fact, in terms of knowledge building upon knowledge, they might have actually been growing just as fast then as we are now.

    Here’s my point in alternate language: chronological snobbery is as offensive as all other kinds of snobbery, it’s just that the victims aren’t here to rise up and call you for the offense.

  8. So what you’re claiming is, if Jesus had suggested boiling bandages, we’d have a movement today that rejected the germ theory of disease the way creationists reject evolutionary theory and the age of the Earth?

    No. What I’m claiming can be discovered by reading what I wrote.

  9. Ray @6,

    Interesting Wiki reference. Even more so given that it has no citation associated with it.

    As for your second link, let’s hit the meat of your argument:

    “Although we can only estimate levels and trends of infant mortality prior to the most recent centuries, it seems probable that through much of human history 30 to 40 percent of all infants born died before they could celebrate their first birthdays.” [Emphases added]

    I know that you have been commenting on Tom’s site for a number of years and, if you are the same Ray Ingles, have commented on First Things for even longer. In my opinion while an obviously intelligent individual, your posts tend to the garrulous and usually to argumentation from the exception instead of from the rule.

    Also, no, I haven’t been stalking you. I just happen to traverse some of the same sites as you.

  10. Check out this graphic. Does it look at all like the way you conceive of science progressing?

    That’s a curve starting with 100 KSPs in 500, growing by 1.5335 percent per year.

    From today’s vantage point, nothing happenes until the 1600s. Nothing. Nada.

    But the curve is rising at 1.5335 percent per year.

    Every year.

    Here’s the way it would have seemed in the year 1600, though. Interesting, no? (Actually, the comparison between this curve and the other one comes as no surprise if you know a little algebra.)

  11. Implicit in the original question appears to be the assumption that (at a minimum) hygiene is important. But it would seem that the original assumption was even stronger than that: (i.e.) hygiene is more important…(than other things that might have concerned Jesus). But let’s look at the things that concerned Jesus more closely?

    It would appear that Jesus believed that suffering and death (i.e., precisely those things that Ray wanted to reduce via hygiene) were very much on Jesus mind. In fact, it appears that he treated his own suffering and death as his raison d’etre (see, for example, John 12:27).

    But here’s the twist: Jesus taught that suffering and death were not a platform for moral imperatives. Rather, they are a means to a new life!! (see, for example, John 12:24, Mark 8:34, and a horde of other verses). After all, we can improve hygiene and medical science all we like, but human beings suffer and die anyway.

    By demonstrating that suffering and death can be the path to resurrection, Jesus made his followers conclude “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55) and that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” ( 2 Cor 4:17)

    Surely the only possible way to quibble about Jesus’ priorities is to miss the point of his ministry, teaching, and life! Instead of focusing on the “band-aid” that Ray castigates Jesus for never addressing, perhaps he should consider the CURE that Jesus provided once and for all for the entire human population — past present and future!

  12. Tom,

    I think that another thing to keep in mind around this topic is the importance of water and cleansing in the imagery and rituals of Christianity, most especially baptism. It is rather naïve to think that all of the metaphors surrounding water were divorced from their physical, hygienic relationships when used with a spiritual significance. This is especially true considering the desert climate of Israel where water is a precious and scarce resource.

  13. Doug, RE: #11

    Thank you so much for this enlightening and inspiring response to Ray. The CURE! I love it.

  14. Bringing in Clarke’s third law is doggone clever, Tom. You could’ve just left it there and dropped the mic.

    Upon reflection, a lot of objections I and other atheists raise could, it seems to me, be fairly paraphrased as, “Why didn’t the God of the Bible do it this way instead of this way?”

    It’s like writing Bible fan fiction.

  15. Kyle, RE. #15

    Please keep in mind that whenever atheists ask the question “Why didn’t the God of the Bible do it this way instead of this way?” it is making the assumption that the atheist has a better plan in mind than God’s. This is what is called chutzpah.

  16. Tom – Cute with the graphs, acting as if they measure something that you admit is “unmeasurable in any real terms” and “not historically checkable”. I’m willing to grant that “science builds on science cumulatively”, but that doesn’t mean that a simple compound-interest model captures anything real about how that progress happens. It’s also not clear that the accumulation of knowledge in general is the same as the progression of science specifically.

    it’s easy to look back at earlier centuries and say, “they were doing nothing!”

    Um, why are those double-quotes there? Where did I say that?

  17. You didn’t say that. I didn’t say you did. A lot of people have said it. I ascribed it very generally for that reason.

    Anyway, read Hannam’s book, The Genesis of Science. Science did not progress at the slow rate many claim it did.

    The curves are parenthetical to the current argument. They show only what they show, and nothing more. The main point is in the rest of the discussion.

  18. Maybe you wish the Bible had laid it out in a more orderly, philosophical, textbook fashion.

    What you’ll find, actually, is that the Bible is more about relationship than it is about philosophy. It’s more about story than it is about systematics. Apparently God considers life and love to be more important than numbered syllogisms. I wish I knew how to match that kind of wisdom here.

    … and yet there is plenty of material there for those of us who like to systematize and philosophize. It’s an amazingly rich and diverse resource.

  19. Matthew 16:26
    For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
    Or “what will it profit a people if they are never sick a day of their lives, yet forfeit their souls”.
    I for one have found some of my closest moments with my Lord come when I am hurting, not when I perceive myself invincible…..
    Robert

  20. If you look at the Jews historically through Mosaic and Levitical law, they already had basic hygiene/medical practices in place. They had so many purification rituals prior to eating, how to prepare food (safely), what they should eat, what they are to avoid, etc. Women were not even allowed in camp during their “unclean” time of the month. God had already set this in place for His people. If you look at it from a scientific manner, the law was basic medical guidelines. God gave them the law. Christ said he did not come to tear down the law, He came to fulfill the law. He came to save us from our sins forever.

  21. Jenna, Kyle –

    Please keep in mind that whenever atheists ask the question “Why didn’t the God of the Bible do it this way instead of this way?” it is making the assumption that the atheist has a better plan in mind than God’s. This is what is called chutzpah.

    That’s a nice sound bite, but it’s mistaken. I’m not commenting on what God said or did. I’m commenting on what people say God said or did. That’s a different thing entirely, and less fraught with logical peril.

    Doug –

    But it would seem that the original assumption was even stronger than that: (i.e.) hygiene is more important…(than other things that might have concerned Jesus).

    Not at all. What I actually said was: “Not once in ~33 years did the opportunity arise?”

    Jesus talked about showing love for the sick by caring for them. Why not nudge people toward some excellent ways of caring for them? People will still get sick, but more of them, especially infants and children, might survive.

  22. Tom –

    You didn’t say that. I didn’t say you did. A lot of people have said it. I ascribed it very generally for that reason.

    I thought I was the one who introduced rabbit trails?

  23. You are. You are right now. The quote relates very specifically to the topic of the post. You didn’t use those exact words, so I didn’t ascribe them to you, but that doesn’t mean they’re irrelevant to the post.

  24. toddes – Yeah, I’ve been on First Things. If you have a better estimate of the rate of infant mortality before detailed records were kept, I’d be very pleased to see it. Estimates are all we can have, but if you think the current ones are wildly off, I’m happy to hear what your arguments are.

    Do you have any reason to think that they were comparable to today, even in ‘undeveloped’ areas? I know of no one who claims that. (Nor do I accuse you of stalking me, so your preemptive defense is a little amusing.)

  25. Tom – Well then, to be very specific, I did not claim that the people of Jesus’ time knew nothing at all, medically or physically speaking, nor did I claim that they did nothing to expand that knowledge.

    As has been pointed out (by me, even!) the Jewish hygiene rituals were already a decent start on things. But Christianity abandoned them, and 1500 years later Christians were noticing the difference in illness rates, and carrying out pogroms because of the difference.

    In this case, Jesus didn’t even have to add anything. He could have just kept His followers from subtracting something of genuine value.

    Of course, there were opportunities to go further, as I’ve pointed out, and those weren’t taken either.

  26. I refer you back to Kyle’s observations.

    It is a dubious quest to seek a God who would do things the way you or I would do them. It is an even more doubtful thing to reject God because he didn’t do what you would have done. The theory is, after all, that God knows more than either you or I.

  27. Ray @ 29,

    The issue isn’t that they are estimates but that your presentation does not indicate such:

    “At least shaved a few centuries off the time of 30-40% infant mortality rates in the first year.”

    From your linked article:

    “In short, nothing so characterized levels of infant mortality in the premodern era as their variability across time and place.”

    Actually, the following seems to belie your claim that SCIENCE ™ has provided any remedy for high infant morality rates:

    “Indeed, late-nineteenth-century cities and industrial towns were deadly locales for infants, where 20 to 35 percent of all those born died within twelve months and where summer epidemics of gastroenteritis and diarrhea turned densely packed neighborhoods into infant abattoirs.”

    Or consider the penultimate paragraph of the article:

    “In sub-Saharan Africa, which each year accounts for over 40 percent of the world’s deaths of children less than five, infant mortality in the year 2000 ranged from a low of 58.8 per thousand in Kenya to a high of 130.5 in Malawi. Similarly, in western Asia, Iran had an infant mortality rate of 28.1 while neighboring Afghanistan suffered a rate of 137.5, the highest in the world. Even in the Americas, tremendous variation still exists. Only a relatively narrow stretch of water separates Cuba from Haiti, but an immense gulf exists between their infant mortality rates. In 2000 Cuba had a rate of 7.7 while Haiti had one of 96.3.”

    It is not a question of religion or science but accessibility.

    However, looking back at the original post, I find your invocation of blind faith to be comical:

    “Just a nudge, or two, but it might have sped up the development of science by a millennium or so. At least shaved a few centuries off the time of 30-40% infant mortality rates in the first year.”

    Can you please apply the scientific method to this “faith” claim?

  28. Tom, RE: #31

    I love this comment. So true. Why would anyone second-guess our omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God? Not I!

  29. Jesus talked about showing love for the sick by caring for them. Why not nudge people toward some excellent ways of caring for them? People will still get sick, but more of them, especially infants and children, might survive.

    The “survival” that you apparently consider to be the end of the matter is temporary, but the “most excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31b) that Jesus preferred to demonstrate (Romans 5:8) was permanent (2 Cor 4:18). “Straining a gnat and swallowing a camel” comes to mind.

  30. At the risk of furthering the continuing side-track, perhaps Ray could explain why, if Jesus could have done a better job “nudging” folk toward “caring for the sick”, Christians pretty much had a lock on “caring for the sick” for centuries? Or is it a la Kyle: that Jesus simply didn’t do it according to Ray’s preferences?

  31. Doug,

    [P]erhaps Ray could explain why, if Jesus could have done a better job “nudging” folk toward “caring for the sick”, Christians pretty much had a lock on “caring for the sick” for centuries?

    Ray is not going to answer your question, Doug, because he has no idea what he is talking about. We know that and so does he. (But apparently he doesn’t know that we know.) So he still keeps wasting peoples time by playing his stupid little games, pretending to know what he does not know.

  32. Compare here and here.

    JAD thinks the problem is that you don’t know what you’re talking about. I think the problem may be that you don’t care to understand, you only want to “throw things” online, as I put it in one of those other comments.

    You are warmly invited to prove us wrong.

  33. Tom –

    I refer you back to Kyle’s observations.

    And I refer you back to my reply to Kyle and Jenna – “I’m not commenting on what God said or did. I’m commenting on what people say God said or did. That’s a different thing entirely, and less fraught with logical peril.”

    It is a dubious quest to seek a God who would do things the way you or I would do them. It is an even more doubtful thing to reject God because he didn’t do what you would have done.

    Of course, once you accept that, literally all bets are off. Even genocide can be justified. There is nothing – literally nothing – that could possibly help you differentiate between a good God that’s beyond your understanding, an evil God that’s beyond your understanding, a purely random God, etc.

    If I’m limited, then oh well. I’ll do my best with my limited resources. And if I can’t understand what God’s up to – if God literally created me too stupid to understand – then I fail to see what alternative I have than doing my best.

    I see things that could have been done that seem obvious to me. I mean, hundreds of millions of babies died because people didn’t know important things. I suppose an unknowable God might take a long view, but I’m a human being and things like babies dying bother me.

    And this omission is from a God that can, allegedly, put incredible subtlety and depth into the Bible. I expect such a God to have rich, synergistic effects on all levels. (Ever read ‘Contact’? The alien signal has multiple levels of meaning, in multiple dimensions.) I admit to an engineering bent, and supposedly God’s the ultimate Engineer (as well as Poet and Pastor and…), but I don’t see any level of engineering elegance in not taking even a few simple steps to help parents save infants.

    toddes – I hereby explicitly grant that I’m going on (widely accepted) estimates, not data verified and recorded via time travel. I also officially grant that the rates of infant mortality have varied over a wide range over areas of the globe and over the course of history.

    I still contend that we have good reason to believe that infant mortality rates are dramatically lower today than in the past, virtually everywhere in the world today, and that access to even basic elements of modern, scientifically-based medical care is the primary driver of that. (Note that I didn’t say at any point that “religion” contributed either way to infant mortality rates, so it’s not clear why you brought that up.)

    BTW, the fact that “late-nineteenth-century cities and industrial towns were deadly locales for infants” doesn’t invalidate the point. Didn’t we go over, repeatedly, the fact that the growth and application of science isn’t linear and monotonically increasing?

  34. There is nothing – literally nothing – that could possibly help you differentiate between a good God that’s beyond your understanding, an evil God that’s beyond your understanding, a purely random God, etc.

    Except, ya know, the understanding that God, if he is indeed that being, *must* be good and therefore *must* not be capable of evil – by definition. You’d think that this would sink in by now, Ray.

  35. SteveK –

    Except, ya know, the understanding that God, if he is indeed that being, *must* be good and therefore *must* not be capable of evil – by definition. You’d think that this would sink in by now, Ray.

    To (slightly) paraphrase Winston Churchill, “However beautiful the [theory], you should occasionally look at the results.” If your calculations come out at genocide, including potentially killing children, might sometimes be okay, then I’d argue something’s gone wrong.

  36. If I’m limited, then oh well. I’ll do my best with my limited resources. And if I can’t understand what God’s up to – if God literally created me too stupid to understand – then I fail to see what alternative I have than doing my best.

    Intellectually it’s not too difficult, Ray. Emotionally it can be difficult, I admit. This limited resource is called your intellect. If you know that God is goodness itself and that God can never sin, then that will answer many questions. The intellect is for answering questions.

  37. Ray,
    You proudly repeat the same error as if that is a virtue. It’s not. Your reply in #40 implies that *you* think that God can do evil. What’s wrong with you?

  38. Ray judges God because:

    hundreds of millions of babies died…

    …but I can’t help but be curious about his position on abortion…

  39. Ray @6,

    “Just an emphasis on cleanliness all by itself – like washing hands before and after meals (and bathroom trips), cleaning wounds, etc. – would have done a really staggering amount of good. Especially for infant mortality rates.”

    Ray @ 30,

    “As has been pointed out (by me, even!) the Jewish hygiene rituals were already a decent start on things. But Christianity abandoned them, and 1500 years later Christians were noticing the difference in illness rates, and carrying out pogroms because of the difference.”

    Edit: Care to substantiate that claim?

    Ray @ 38,

    (Note that I didn’t say at any point that “religion” contributed either way to infant mortality rates, so it’s not clear why you brought that up.)

    You brought up Jewish cleanliness rituals, you brought up Christianity abandoning those rituals, how is it that I was the one who brought religion into the discussion of infant mortality rates?

    Your error is in viewing the cleanliness rituals as being about hygiene instead of being about holiness. You appear to arguing some type of health and wealth gospel: Salvation through hygiene.

  40. Arguing against a God that Christianity has rejected since the beginning is Ray’s specialty.

  41. And this omission is from a God that can, allegedly, put incredible subtlety and depth into the Bible.

    The problem is that you don’t seem to be aware of any of the subtlety, the depth or even the basic message, Ray. Or perhaps I should check myself there and instead suggest in a more charitable fashion that you are not applying your awareness to the objection.

    Jesus didn’t come to make life physically life better. (Though I suppose we could hope that life would improve if we all saw each-other as children of God.) If he did seek to better physical existence then he demonstrably failed (at least in the immediate years) what with all the crucifixions and other martyrdoms that Christians endured. No, he came for something bigger: the redemption of creation itself. Believe it or not that is the claim being made.

    So while I have some sympathy with your objection (as with just about any argument from evil) I also have to remember that you aren’t likely to be moved by the notion of a suffering God or by his mission to restore what is broken. And so I suspect that you are not really interested in anything the Christian message might have to say on the matter and that this is an exercise in argumentation. Therefore you focus on temporal losses (however tragic) as opposed to the eternal gains (however glorious). But please prove me wrong.

  42. 1) God’s divine nature is perfectly good.
    2) God creates/allows/purposes some X.
    3) Some Y follows directly from the existence of X.

    Considering all the possible X’s and Y’s that we’ve seen and experienced, can we ever conclude that these have rendered #1 to be false? No. The fact of #1 is not contingent on anything, it is immutable.

    Will Ray ever get this point?

  43. Evil is our Deficiency of Being (Aquinas?) rather than some positive entity, or, as Tom noted in his recent post: Sin narrows us, makes us smaller.

    All of Man’s reaches into some, any, vector other than All-Sufficiency Himself will, in the end, leave Man in his Privation, in his Fragmentation. Vacuums are, we find, contingent on some larger, wider, reality.

    Our Privation:

    The Whole that is the Singular/Triune Image of God is Man’s final Good. All that is less than that condition, that state of affairs is, on Scripture’s ontological definition, a deficiency of Good, or, is Evil, or, is Lack, Need, Want. The OT finds Man thusly, in the “Outside” wherein the Ceiling over his head rises, at best, to Deuteronomy 28’s fewer wars, less anxiety, more crops, less illness, and some more rain. Sound familiar? Man’s Heaven is Scripture’s Cold Outside. We are, as Tom noted, narrowed by sin, just as, we are, as Aquinas noted, deficient in being. Scripture defines the OT and the Law as something which is to be far, far exceeded, as throughout the OT God Himself speaks into Man’s consciousness of that which is yet to come, some larger reality. Though Love hates divorce, Love regulates divorce in the OT as there just is no cure short of Genesis 3’s Protoevangelium beginning His gestation’s joyful, and painful, actualization within our fractured Time and Physicality in John 3.

    We are, to the end of ad infinitum, relational beings and please permit here a brief bit of imagery to – perhaps – capture Immutable Love’s topography so as to know just what it is we are speaking of when we speak of the Christian’s God: In Him we find the necessarily interpersonal in Being, in Knowing, and in Motion as all that we call Self-Other-Us ceaselessly flows in Him as we find Love’s Eternally Sacrificed Self in delight timelessly pouring-out even as we find in Him Love’s Beloved Other timelessly filling-up as in reciprocity These unceasingly Beget Unity’s singular Us as in Him we find Love’s effusively Triune and thoroughly Singular E Pluribus Unum.

    Knowledge inside our skulls cannot pull That into us, into Man. Knowledge is Good, a Good Tree, only, there is another Tree which Man must first fill himself with if Goodness is to be Whole, if Goodness is to be Unabridged.

    This is what the skeptic cannot fathom, for he makes of Man the means and the ends, and thus Man commits himself to that which is, at best, contingent, finite, mutable. Thus there ever presses upon him that which is Non-Contingent, Infinite, Immutable. Man is thus, necessarily, narrowed, smaller, as Tom notes, or, Man is thus deficient in Being’s depth and width and height. (Aquinas?)

    Knowledge in our skulls cannot help us. Law cannot help us. If I know all things, but am void of Immutable Love I am yet a vacuum. If I keep the Law perfectly, I am yet not perfect. If I trust Him perfectly, I am yet imperfect. Law, that Ministry of Death, is non-entity.

    Something else is in play.

    Whatever function on my end is deemed necessary will never be deemed sufficient. Faith is necessary, but cannot be found, itself, sufficient, and we find in Hebrews 11 the proof of such. Man cannot even rest in that, in “I’m counting on Him totally”. We may knock, and lean, and wait, but, should He not Open, not Pour-Out, we are without hope. Immutable Love, All-Sufficiency, must spread His arms wide, must pour-out, must pour-into, we His beloved. Any other “take” on God/Man just does end incoherent, just does miscalculate. In all Pagan gods, and in humanism, we find precisely the reverse of such ontologically necessary Means/Ends.

    None of it is enough. Just as Trust in the Law yields a vacuum necessarily void of All-Sufficiency Himself, so too, Trust in Trust, Faith in Faith, leaves Man, leaves In-Sufficiency, still in a vacuum necessarily void of God, void of All-Sufficiency. It is not our own motions within commission and omission, nor our own trusting, for all such vectors begin and end within In-Sufficiency. No. It is All-Sufficiency Himself Who must motion, for any vector which does not begin and end within Him cannot bring all-sufficiency.

    All vacuums are, themselves, contingent, and our deficiency of Being is that state of affairs wherein we find the non-entity of Man-In-God, God-In-Man, Amalgamation, E Pluribus Unum. In Christ, and nowhere else that we’ve ever seen, we find such vectors streaming into Man’s consciousness.

    In-Sufficiency, no matter what it does, cannot pull All-Sufficiency into itself. No. All-Sufficiency must pour-out, must empty, must, by debasement, come down, and fill-up In-Sufficiency. The vacuum void of Love Himself must be filled-up with, simply, All-Sufficiency Himself. All else is but the Cold Outside. From the Timeless Immaterial to the bitter ends of Time and Physicality all these lines seamlessly cohere, and therein we find the incoherence of the short-sighted question, “Why must Timeless Love pour Himself out within Time and Physicality?” There is only “One Actuality” and thus all definitions must ever find their contextual milieu within the One Actuality.

    In the only Actuality that there is, the Means justify the Ends:

    How Love ransoms us is by both a necessary and a sufficient means, and, we find, God’s Means are God’s Ends. In Love’s Ontology we find that the Means actually do justify the Ends, just as we find that the Ends actually do justify the Means, for, neither the Means nor the Ends are Man, whereas, All-Sufficiency Himself, Love Himself, is both our Means and our End.

    The Outside, or, the Dark, or, Hell, is Man’s Self in Privation, is Man as the means, Man as the ends, for, whatever is outside of that Singular/Triune E Pluribus Unum is, on ontological necessity, “love-less-ness”, and, therein, we find Man’s Isolated-I, that fierce imprisonment within the Self, void of Other, and, thereby, void of the singular-Us. From such privation, isolation, we discover that God, that is to say, E Pluribus Unum, that effusively singular, that unquestionably triune Self-Other-Us, rescues us.

    All-Sufficiency pours out, is Himself debased, seeks not His Own but instead His Beloved Other, and In-Sufficiency finds himself thereby filled up, and is therein Glorified and in all vectors such that should he look above his head or beneath his feet or within his chest he finds, in all regressions, All-Sufficiency Himself. God-In-Man, Man-In-God. Incarnation’s inescapable geography of amalgamation of Timelessness and Time, of Word and Corporeal.

    The Good News is that Man is not some god’s means to some cosmic tyrant’s ends, but that, rather, Immutable Love Himself makes of Himself both our Means and our End.

    Only in the Ontology of Immutable Love do the Means justify the Ends, and the Ends the Means.

    In Christ we find the fully articulated summation of such Means, of such Ends, for Uncreated Love therein becomes Man’s all in all. In Christ we find the most complete, most robust, most forceful manifestation of the Unchanging God, Who just is Love. In Christ we find Love’s ten thousand strong vectors seamlessly, effortlessly converging, ad infinitum, as there is no story on Earth that is like this one whereby we find Love’s topography fully manifested, that landscape of His effusively Triune and thoroughly Singular E Pluribus Unum from A-to-Z.

  44. Toddes – I put in a link when I originally made the claim. If you like, here’s another.

    You brought up Jewish cleanliness rituals, you brought up Christianity abandoning those rituals, how is it that I was the one who brought religion into the discussion of infant mortality rates?

    Religion itself isn’t against basic hygiene. To take specifically Christianity, obviously the vast majority of Christians today have no religious objections to, say, washing hands. It wasn’t that early Christianity discouraged hand-washing and such, it’s that it failed to encourage it.

    You appear to arguing some type of health and wealth gospel: Salvation through hygiene.

    Nope, I’m just pointing out the side effects of those rituals. Jesus already said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. There’s an opportunity to to differentiate between ritual and practicality right there, come to think of it.

  45. Tom –

    Ray, could you describe for us what you consider to be a good summary of the answer that we are giving you for your question?

    That Jesus was far more concerned about people’s souls than their bodies. Anywhere close?

    Doug – If you want my position on abortion, see here.

  46. A reading from the Gospel according to Ray.

    “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace boil your rags. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world poor hygiene practices!”

  47. I agree that it is not necessarily God’s primary purpose to relieve physical suffering (John 16:33). However, Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) does teach us that it is our duty to come to the aid of our fellow man when we see he is in crisis. Historically this is something the Christians believe that they should do, have done and continue to do. (But unfortunately, more often than not, not enough.)

    From a personal perspective I don’t see how anyone could even doubt that this is a critical part of Christian teaching and belief. Growing up I had the privilege of getting to know a couple missionary doctors who were friends of my parents. I remember one of the doctor’s well because he had several children my age.

    He was someone who as a young man felt called to be a “medical missionary”. After putting himself through medical school, earning his MD and starting a family, he his wife and young children moved to the Philippines where he started a clinic in a poor rural region of Mindanao.
    There was no rich benefactor who paid this doctors salary or funded his work. He was responsible for raising all the money for his work which included the costs of running the clinic. Consequently, he had to return to the States every four years to raise support. That is how my family got to know him.

    Another doctor we got to know worked in Bangladesh. Bangladesh, is even more impoverished than the Philippines. While we didn’t get to know this doctor as well as we did the first I do remember him because of one particular incident. This man was overwhelmed by the number of patients he had to see every day. And, not only was it the number of patients he had to see but it was the fact that every day he had to do a triage. He had to divide up the patients into groups: those who weren’t urgent, those who were and those who were beyond help… After years the constant pressure finally got to him. He had a massive heart attack. Fortunately, because he was at the clinic at the time, his coworkers were able to save his life.

    I remember the prayer meeting where we first learned about this doctors heart attack. By that time he had been evacuated to a hospital in Europe and his prognosis was good. I remember there was a discussion about what he would do next. No one thought that he would be able to carry on with his work. However, a few months later we later we learned he had returned to Bangladesh to continue his work.

    When I was young I took these people for granted. I thought everyone knew people like this. Now that I am older and have seen what the world is really like, these people have become my heroes.

    What motivated these two doctors? I have no doubt that they would say the love of Christ. The ethics of Jesus was based on love… It’s that ethic that historically has had more effect on the advance of medical science than anything else.

  48. Ray @ 51,

    “If you like, here’s another.”

    From the linked article:

    “The official Church position during the Black Death was on the whole pro-Jewish. More than one pope – Boniface, Innocent and other popes (about four had to really contend with the problem) — issued proclamations that the Jews were not at fault and should be protected. The way to salvation did not lie in the destruction of the Jews.”

    Aside from the fact that there is not a single reference provided in the whole article, the gist of the article was that it was mob mentality not official church teaching that resulted in the Jewish persecution. The same holds true of your original Wiki link: mob mentality.

    “It wasn’t that early Christianity discouraged hand-washing and such, it’s that it failed to encourage it.”

    I didn’t realize that the Bible was meant to be a SCIENCE™ book. Again, salvation through hygiene.

    Obviously, hygiene is of much greater import compared to the sins of the “sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, swindlers.”

    “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him follows proscribed cleanliness rituals should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him hand-washing.

  49. I think the real puzzle is not why Jesus did not offer some bland advice on medical dispensations, but why oh why, did he not give Deligne’s proof of the Weil conjectures (see this and that)? I confess, not without some trepidation, that I have no good, honest answer to this bewildering question.

  50. I was just thinking that! Dare I suggest that it’s an insurmountable problem?

    Conclusion: Therefore there is no God.

  51. Toddes – You’re misunderstanding what I’m saying. At no point did I claim that Christianity, or Christian leaders, encouraged pogroms.

    What I said was that “Christianity almost immediately dumped the Jewish dietary and cleanliness laws. So much so that later on, in the Middle Ages, the Jews tended to get sick less from plagues and such”. I was pointing out the significance of basic sanitation, that had such a dramatic effect on survival rates. Jews suffered noticeably less than Christians from the Black Plague. The pogroms were not evidence that Christianity or Christians are evil, I cite them solely as evidence that the difference in survival rates was obvious. Christians wrongly attributed the cause of that difference, but that’s a separate issue.

    I didn’t realize that the Bible was meant to be a SCIENCE™ book.

    I didn’t claim it was, or had to be. But I can’t resist linking to this meme. An omnicompetent God doesn’t have to make compromises, can have all things at once that aren’t actual contradictions.

  52. Ray @ 30,

    “But Christianity abandoned them, and 1500 years later Christians were noticing the difference in illness rates, and carrying out pogroms because of the difference.”

    Ray @ 59,

    “You’re misunderstanding what I’m saying. At no point did I claim that Christianity, or Christian leaders, encouraged pogroms..”

    Keep moving the goalposts.

    You still haven’t answered why basic hygiene is of greater import than those actions which actually separates humanity from God (i.e. sin)?

    “And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

    So, Ray, if Jesus had actually commanded Gentiles to continue to follow the ritual cleansing acts of the Jews, would that have convinced you that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God, or would you have just found another reason to refuse Him?

  53. toddes –

    You still haven’t answered why basic hygiene is of greater import than those actions which actually separates humanity from God (i.e. sin.)?

    If we’re gonna talk moving goalposts, you might want to keep your own hands off them. Go look – at no point have I claimed that “basic hygiene is of greater import than…sin”. I’m willing to grant arguendo that sin is more important than suffering due to illness, even much more important.

    What I have claimed is that (a) suffering due to illness is not of zero import, if the lives of infants are of any import. And (b) God is not restricted to only addressing sin. And (c) by making a statement or two at some point in a ministry of at least two years that it might be a good idea to keep up the cleanliness thing that Jews were already doing, He could have cut down drastically on infant mortality, along with much other suffering due to illness. Instead, as you note, He actually downplayed the importance of washing hands before eating! Why not make a clearer distinction between spiritual harm and physical harm?

    It’s not that Jesus was obligated to focus on practical hygiene. It’s that I can see no reason whatsoever to expend zero effort on it. Heck, all He’d have to do is send the Holy Spirit to tell Paul that, while gentiles weren’t required to adopt the Jewish law wholesale, some of the rituals had practical benefits.

    I would have thought the “Why Not Both?” meme would have made this obvious. Ah, well.

  54. toddes –

    So, Ray, if Jesus had actually commanded Gentiles to continue to follow the ritual cleansing acts of the Jews, would that have convinced you that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God, or would you have just found another reason to refuse Him?

    It wouldn’t have resolved the problem of evil for me. That’s pretty fundamental. But signs that Jesus had access to more information about the structure of the world than a first century carpenter would certainly give me pause.

    If you are, or have contact with, the Architect of the Universe, it seems to me it ought to show. But I’ve never run into a religion that seemed to be founded by someone like that. Indeed, rather the opposite – much of the time, when any religion makes any kind of scientific claim, it’s at best vague and at worst flat wrong.

  55. when any religion makes any kind of scientific claim, it’s at best vague and at worst flat wrong.

    Disputable. But what isn’t in dispute is that when Jesus walked the Earth and when the Bible was penned, the people that he talked to and the people reading the words didn’t think scientifically — and practically nobody did for more than a millenium. That just might be relevant.

  56. Doug – Sure, people didn’t think scientifically back then. But let’s take something simple, like the order of creation in Genesis. Why does it specify the Earth was created before the stars? That flowering plants came before animals, especially water-dwelling ones?

    Those and more are just plain wrong. Sure, science doesn’t know everything yet, and we could have some details wrong in our general picture. But it’s hard to imagine how we could be wrong about the order of those things. So why does the Bible get it wrong? Why didn’t any religion get it anything like right?

    Would people not have believed that Genesis was the word of God if it had specified the correct order? If so, why?

  57. Ray,

    “If you are, or have contact with, the Architect of the Universe, it seems to me it ought to show. ”

    So raising the dead, healing the lame, giving sight to the blind, commanding the storm to cease, walking on water, causing the exponential multiplication of simple foods to feed multitudes, don’t matter? Oh right, these are miracles, which by Your fiat are not possible and so cannot be used as evidence that Jesus was the Creator of the Universe. But if He had prescribed hygiene practices that would have sealed the deal.

    As for your meme reference, I thought it sophomoric and not worth the electrons wasted in its construction much less relevant to the topic at hand. It’s strange that you keep arguing about what God (who you assert does not exist) should or shouldn’t have done.

    “It’s that I can see no reason whatsoever to expend zero effort on it. Heck, all He’d have to do is send the Holy Spirit to tell Paul that, while gentiles weren’t required to adopt the Jewish law wholesale, some of the rituals had practical benefits.”

    Aside from being an argument from ignorance, again, why are hygiene practices of any importance when compared to sin which actually separates us from God? If tomorrow I am killed in a car accident, how does it matter that I washed my hands after defecating? However, if tomorrow I am killed in a car accident, it matters greatly whether or not I have accepted the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

    The scriptures I quoted weren’t about ignoring hygiene practices. Trying reading Matthew 15 in context. It was a response to the Pharisees that eating with unwashed hands counter to the tradition of the elders was a cause of defilement. Jesus corrected them that what defiles us comes from within not through ritual hygiene practices.

    By the by, the link to the POE on your homepage brings up this message:

    Your request to visit this site is denied because the [employer information redacted] has determined that the site or system you are attempting to access has been identified by the U.S. Government as containing malicious content or be part of a system that contains malicious content which may be harmful to the agency’s computers and IT systems.

    So I think I’ll avoid your website for the time being.

  58. toddes –

    Oh right, these are miracles, which by Your fiat are not possible and so cannot be used as evidence that Jesus was the Creator of the Universe. But if He had prescribed hygiene practices that would have sealed the deal.

    Nope. Being able to violate the ‘rules of the game’ is one thing, but another is knowing the details of the rules themselves. Maybe an analogy will help.

    There’s a class of computer games called “Roguelikes”, based on the original game Rogue. Rogue is about the first ‘dungeon crawler’ – the player has to traverse a dungeon full of monsters and traps and magical items and weapons and such. The actual layout and content is semi-randomly generated and different every time, though. A pink potion in one game might be helpful potion of healing, and in the very next game a potion of hallucination. Also, the game doesn’t tell you which weapons do the most damage – you have to figure that out by experience. Players ‘die’ a lot. Survival requires both luck and skill.

    The problem domain is large enough to be interesting but small enough to be tractable – and has been a target for machine learning. Some programs play lots of games and work out the rules over time. They can get as good as the best human players.

    I still play a handheld version, iRogue, from time to time. Took quite a while to work out that the katana does the most damage, followed by the claymore, followed by the two-handed sword, etc.

    Of course, if you can peek at the source code, you can tell right away which weapons have the best stats. There’s no need for you to explore and experiment. You’d be close to an optimal player even without changing the program itself.

    If our universe were like a computer simulation – rules-based, but the Programmer could alter whatever It likes with a Debugger – then sure, the Programmer could do miracles. But the Programmer would also know details of the rules that mere agents in the system – us, in the analogy – hadn’t figured out yet.

    So when I say a religion “ought to show” “contact with the Architect of the Universe”, I’m not really talking about miracles. (Actually, I’m not so fond of miracles as a sign of the divine – messing with the design post facto is a sign the design wasn’t complete from the start.) I mean that it should show unparalleled knowledge of the universe’s normal operation, at minimum. Miracles are an optional extra.

  59. toddes –

    By the by, the link to the POE on your homepage brings up this message:

    I flatly guarantee that’s a mistake. The server that’s running on is – by design – too underpowered and obscure to host malicious anything. It’s only barely able to handle static HTML. The link I gave is actually slightly off, anyway – it should be http://ingles.homeunix.net/rants/atheism/argfromevil.html

    I suspect it’s considered ‘suspicious’ because it’s a dynamic IP address, not a static one, served by DynDNS.com. It’s my home IP.

  60. Ray and others here,

    Is there not something inherently boring about the question, “Why didn’t God do things the way I would have done them?” I can’t imagine why you would think that this was any kind of a valid objection, Ray. Let’s just grant that Jesus didn’t do everything on earth he possibly might have done to prove his deity. He did a lot, and he consistently did it (by the way) in a manner that previewed the coming Kingdom (lots of books on that, but I haven’t read them in a while and don’t have them in my personal library).

    So he chose to do what he chose to do. He did not choose to do what he didn’t choose to do. If we were going to start a thread on everything Jesus didn’t do but could have done, that would be too boring to stay awake for.

    “This generation seeks for a sign,” Jesus lamented, as he went on providing them and they went on seeking for more and more, never satisfied that he had done enough. Today he might say, “This generation seeks for a sign, and conquering death isn’t good enough for them. They also needed me to kickstart the modern era.” Never satisfied. They’re in every generation. In spite of the evidences.

    I propose we all call this discussion off. Ray will never be satisfied. Let’s just stipulate that. He’s not going to change his mind, so let’s not pretend that this is about persuading him. The never-satisfied are in every generation.

    And it’s clear that every argument that he has posed for why we should change our minds runs into his own misunderstanding of the gospel, which means he hasn’t said anything that would even hint of a reason we should change our minds.

    And that state of affairs isn’t going to change either.

  61. Tom Gilson –

    Is there not something inherently boring about the question, “Why didn’t God do things the way I would have done them?” I can’t imagine why you would think that this was any kind of a valid objection, Ray.

    I can’t imagine why you would think that’s my objection.

    We’re talking about a – putatively – perfect being here. C.S. Lewis always felt that there should be a companion volume to The Screwtape Letters that covered angelic advice. But he felt no human could really write it, as “every sentence would have to smell of Heaven”.

    I would expect the work of such a being to be perfect on all levels. No more but no less. Not just on the critical things, but every little thing of least importance too. If perfect doesn’t mean that, then what does ‘perfect’ mean?

    I certainly don’t claim that i could come up with such a work. But if I find gaps or errors in a work, I can be sure that it didn’t come from a perfect being.

    Ray will never be satisfied. Let’s just stipulate that. He’s not going to change his mind, so let’s not pretend that this is about persuading him. The never-satisfied are in every generation.

    Since your arguments haven’t persuaded me, and since they are obviously sufficient to persuade anyone, it must perforce be my fault if I don’t accept them. A pretty straightforward syllogism, sure.

    But syllogisms depend on their premises to be true to reach correct conclusions. That second premise would seem to be critical in this case.

    (BTW, I’ve argued against ID here, but not Christianity per se. I’ve explained why I don’t find it convincing. That’s not the same as posing arguments for “why [you] should change [y]our minds”.)

  62. Is there not something inherently boring about the question, “Why didn’t God do things the way I would have done them?” I can’t imagine why you would think that this was any kind of a valid objection, Ray.

    Then,

    I can’t imagine why you would think that’s my objection.

    Then,

    I would expect the work of such a being to be perfect on all levels.

    How do you know such a being is not perfect on all levels? By discovering things he didn’t do, that you would have done if you were perfect. That’s just another way of describing “gaps or errors” you claim to see in his work.

    I wish I had the same ability to know what I’d do if I were perfect. I’d consider doing it.

  63. Tom –

    I wish I had the same ability to know what I’d do if I were perfect. I’d consider doing it.

    I don’t have to be perfect to be able to recognize errors or omissions. I can’t design a nuclear submarine, but if I see one with screen doors I know something’s wrong.

    But if you’re right – if humans cannot recognize perfection… then they can’t claim perfection has been sighted, and cannot evaluate – either way – claims of perfection that some being might make.

    I mean, it really does sound to me like, (note: not your words, rather how I understand your words), ‘I know there’s a lot of things that don’t strike us as perfect about God’s actions, but we’re not perfect so we can’t tell. We know He’s perfect ’cause He said so, though, and a perfect being wouldn’t lie!’

  64. Ray,

    I would expect the work of such a being to be perfect on all levels.

    Several AT folks have been drumming this into your head for a long time now, so one more time shouldn’t hurt.

    Perfection, in the way you are using the term, is identical to God. God is goodness itself, love itself, etc. You’ve read Feser. Look up Divine simplicity. You don’t have to agree with the explanation, but that doesn’t mean an explanation hasn’t been provided.

  65. The great problem with your last paragraph in #71, Ray, is that for purposes of this discussion at least, you got it from absolutely nowhere.

    Screen doors on submarines? Are you really going to use that as your analogy for how you know that what God might have done 2,000 years ago in a complex and long-term, far-reaching operation whose purpose was primarily to rescue humans from spiritual death (of which you cannot even conceive, apparently) was not quite good enough?

    I don’t know why you aren’t bored with this argument yet. But look at it this way. You know screen doors on submarines are a bad idea because you know what submarines are for.

    When you know what Jesus actually, principally came for, then you’ll be qualified to assess whether he left something important out of that mission.

    So I’m going to call on you to answer this question, an obvious one in this context:

    Why did Jesus come?

    Until you can answer that, you have NO BUSINESS telling anyone he could have done better at doing what he came for.

  66. SteveK –

    You don’t have to agree with the explanation, but that doesn’t mean an explanation hasn’t been provided.

    Actually, no, it hasn’t. At most, there’s a claim that if I study Aquinas enough, there will be an explanation. No concrete references, not even an outline of an argument, just claims that I don’t understand. Even if it’s true that I ‘just don’t understand’, the only thing that would help that would be answering questions.

    Tom –

    Why did Jesus come?

    “[T]o seek and to save that which was lost”. To redeem humanity from sin and (spiritual) death.

    Now, I’ll just refer back to #61.

  67. @Ray Ingles:

    Actually, no, it hasn’t. At most, there’s a claim that if I study Aquinas enough, there will be an explanation. No concrete references, not even an outline of an argument, just claims that I don’t understand.

    This is a response to SteveK prompted by another claim:

    I would expect the work of such a being to be perfect on all levels.

    The curious fact is that the first quoted sentence has a link to a comment of yours in response to a comment by Holopupenko, in which he explains in what perfection consists of, so your claim is not true of *all* the “AT guys”. If by “AT guys” one has in mind the set consisting of me and Holopupenko (possibly Melissa also, but I have the vague memory that she made some qualifications — which I would also make, although mine would be different from hers), so that leaves me as the butt of your comment. What can I say? You got me all figured out; I never argue, discuss, explain, give references or debate. I just snipe and snide, and your bullseye forehead just happened to appear on my sights…

  68. Ray,

    At most, there’s a claim that if I study Aquinas enough, there will be an explanation. No concrete references, not even an outline of an argument, just claims that I don’t understand. Even if it’s true that I ‘just don’t understand’, the only thing that would help that would be answering questions.

    Huh? If you’ve read Feser, as you tell us you have, then you have been given an explanation of, and an argument for, essence and existence being identical.

    So to say that knowledge (in that sense) is identical to power (in that sense), etc. does seem unintelligible. But that is simply the wrong way to understand the doctrine of divine simplicity. Properly understood, the doctrine does not say that power, knowledge, goodness, essence, existence, etc., as they exist in us, are identical. Rather, it says that there is in God something that is analogous to power, something analogous to knowledge, something analogous to goodness, etc., and that these “somethings” all turn out to be one and the same thing. “Power,” “knowledge,” “goodness,” etc. are merely different, analogously used descriptions we use in order to refer to what is in God one and the same reality, just as (to borrow Frege’s famous example) the expressions “the morning star” and “the evening star” differ in sense while referring to one and the same thing (the planet Venus).

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/11/william-lane-craig-on-divine-simplicity.html

  69. G. Rodrigues –

    The curious fact is that the first quoted sentence has a link to a comment of yours in response to a comment by Holopupenko, in which he explains in what perfection consists of

    It’s not just a ‘response’ to Holopupenko, it’s a request for explication and clarification. And all I get in return is references to the first and last paragraphs of H’s comment, which say that atheists are “damaged”, and shouldn’t resort to straw men. But I was asking questions, not arguing. I was pointing out things I don’t follow, and why.

    Melissa referred me to Aquinas, that’s all. (And suggested I do a search with useless results.) When I ask questions, yes, I just get claims that an explanation exists, or else “snipe and snide”.

  70. StevK –

    Rather, it says that there is in God something that is analogous to power, something analogous to knowledge, something analogous to goodness, etc., and that these “somethings” all turn out to be one and the same thing.

    Which makes understanding It, or making any predictions about It, completely impossible, right? C.f my contention in the linked discussion that something atemporal could not in any intelligible sense be termed ‘conscious’.

    But let’s be careful here. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re defining God’s perfection as “completeness” rather than “optimality”, right?

  71. Ray,

    Which makes understanding It, or making any predictions about It, completely impossible, right?

    Not completely. We’re talking about it now. That requires some level of understanding.

    ….but you’re defining God’s perfection as “completeness” rather than “optimality”, right?

    I’m doing neither. What I am doing is pointing out the fact that your comment isn’t true.

  72. @Ray Ingles:

    And all I get in return is references to the first and last paragraphs of H’s comment, which say that atheists are “damaged”, and shouldn’t resort to straw men.

    Stop it, you are not speaking the truth.

    In #6 to substantiate your whining you link to another thread which is a perfect example of why — and I am going to speak for myself only — discussing with you is a frustrating exercise. So the discussion with me went something like this (a couple of steps missing):

    (1) Ray Ingles links to an essay showing that it is perfectly possible to ground morality without bringing God into the picture.

    (2) G. Rodrigues congratulates Ray Ingles on finally seeing the truth of what those “AT guys” are saying.

    (3) Ray Ingles disavows the AT premises that substantiate the grounding of morality.

    (4) G. Rodrigues then points out that, quite obviously, it does Ray Ingles no good to appeal to a self-consciously AT grounding of morality; Ray Ingles has to make his case.

    (5) Ray Ingles just defers to the linked article; the exact words were “I’ll let Miller do it for me, if you don’t mind.”

    (6) Ray Ingles has is feathers ruffled up because G. Rodrigues is just in it for “the amusement”.

    (7) Ray Ingles whines about G. Rodrigues not answering questions.

    (8) In response to (7) and what issued it, G. Rodrigues points out the Fifth Way.

    (9) Ray Ingles asks “Where can I see an argument that a per se infinite regress is impossible that doesn’t rest on the assumption (or intuition, to be as generous as possible, though I don’t share it) that a per se infinite regress is impossible?”

    (10) G. Rodrigues points out, *among other things*, that the Fifth Way nowhere relies on the impossibility of per se infinite regresses.

    (11) Ray Ingles, addressing *none* of the points made, responds “With you, I’m not starting with the Fifth Way. I’m starting rather more fundamentally than that, because it’s something that genuinely puzzles me. You’ve never been willing to answer questions about it, but I’m really asking real questions, not rhetorical ones.”

    No further response from G. Rodrigues.

    Whatever faults I may have — and they surely are many, some of them I am even conscious of — the fact is that, looking back, I wonder why the hell did I humored your crap as much as I did.

    But I was asking questions, not arguing. I was pointing out things I don’t follow, and why.

    Some of your questions are quite dumb — I mean “Which makes understanding It, or making any predictions about It, completely impossible, right?” (slaps forehead) — so yes, the proper suggestion is RTM.

    Melissa referred me to Aquinas, that’s all.

    As far as I remember, Feser does not discuss the transcendentals. I have no good references on them btw, so do not bother asking for them.

  73. Ray,

    Melissa referred me to Aquinas, that’s all. (And suggested I do a search with useless results.) When I ask questions, yes, I just get claims that an explanation exists, or else “snipe and snide”.

    In what way is this:

    http://books.google.com.au/books?id=J2qhHE-6Mn4C&printsec=frontcover&dq=feser+aquinas&hl=en&sa=X&ei=rX51U6-HK8nm8AXokoLgAw#v=onepage&q=transcendentals&f=false

    useless? You should be able to work out from the first linked page where you’re going wrong. Although you have consistently displayed that you were unable to understand TLS and Aquinas is more advanced.

  74. Melissa – That’s much more useful, thanks! My Google-fu is pretty good, but not with Google Books, evidently. I’ll look it over.

    G. Rodrigues – There’s problems with most of the steps, though (3) and (11) stand out. (11) is there because we have a history, and I was referring to things you hadn’t answered before. Why should I have to address all your points if you won’t address mine? As to (3), that’s you not understanding what I’m saying. Even on naturalism, the section I quoted of Miller is coherent. Note the last three sentences in particular.

    And, again, you assert that my questions are “dumb”, and throw a general reference out (or, indeed, grant that you’re not giving me any reference at all). Even if you were correct, such an answer is of zero utility to me. Though it might serve to make you feel superior or something, so it’s got that much going for it, I suppose.

  75. Well, I’ve looked through what’s available about transcendentals in the online sections of Aquinas, and it doesn’t look like it answers my key questions. This thing that is “analogous to power” “knowledge”, “goodness”, etc. seems so unlike how those words apply to us and other ‘contingent’ things that I don’t see how the analogy is at all helpful.

    In any case – hey, G. Rodrigues! You wanna talk about the Fifth Way, I’m willing to do so in reference to Feser’s Aquinas. Feser claims that “it is impossible for anything to be directed toward an end unless that end exists in an intellect which directs the thing in question towards it.”

    I really don’t follow that. The argument seems to be that:

    1. An acorn is directed towards an oak tree.
    2. The oak tree must exist in some sense to cause the acorn to be directed toward it.
    3. An idea can exist in a person, like the idea of a house, which guides the human toward producing the house in reality.
    4. Therefore, “it is impossible for anything to be directed toward an end unless that end exists in an intellect which directs the thing in question towards it.”

    Now, I must be missing something, because this argument doesn’t work. (I’m also rather dubious about proposition #2 there.) Where specifically have I gone wrong? What is a correct propositional breakdown of the correct argument?

    If you want to take things to email rather than here, that’s fine. My email is easily found on my website.

  76. @Ray Ingles:

    You want to know how your rendering sounds to my internal ear? Horrible, just plain horrible. Are you sure we are talking about the same book (*)?. Just read it again and pay attention (to the book, not to me). Here are three hints:

    (1) Final causes are causally eficacious.

    (2) Only what is in act can be causally eficacious.

    (3) Aquinas is not a Platonist.

    (*) Actually, I have read “Aquinas” only once and since at the time I read it I already knew a not inconsiderable portion of the material I sped through it, so my memory of the book is a little hazy.

    note: Prof. Feser gives a more formal treatment in his “Existential inertia” paper, but I do not recall if the paper is available online (I think not).

  77. Ray,
    G. Rodrigues is right, it’s there in the book, “Aquinas”. Some relevant quotes I found.

    1- Still, even if (as Aristotle and Aquinas would hold) the existence of such final causes is obvious and unavoidable, it is very odd that there should be such things, and their existence requires explanation even though that explanation, whatever it is, is not something we need worry about for the purposes of everyday scientific research.

    2- What then of the vast system of causes that constitutes the physical universe? Every one of them is directed towards a certain end or final cause. Yet almost none of them is associated with any thought, consciousness, or intellect at all; and even animals and human beings, which are conscious, are comprised in whole or in part of unconscious and unintelligent material components which themselves manifest final causality. But given what was said above, it is impossible for anything to be directed towards an end unless that end exists in an intellect which directs the thing in question towards it. It follows that the system of ends or final causes that make up the physical universe can only exist at all if there is a Supreme Intelligence or intellect outside the universe which directs things towards their ends. Moreover, this intellect must exist here and now, and not merely at some beginning point in the past, because causes are here and now, and at any point at which they exist at all, directed towards certain ends (otherwise, for reasons examined already, they wouldn’t on Aquinas’s analysis be true efficient causes at all).

    3- Aquinas regards the final cause as the “cause of causes” insofar as it determines the other causes. In particular, for a thing to have a certain final cause entails that it also has a certain formal and material cause and thus a certain nature or essence; otherwise its final cause would not be inherent in it, nor would it be capable of realizing it.

    4- But we have also seen that on Aquinas’s view, for a contingent thing to be real, its essence must be conjoined to an act of existence, that this can only be accomplished by something outside it, and that the ultimate cause of its existence must be something in which essence and existence are identical. It follows that whatever orders things to their ends must also be the cause of those things and thus (given what was said earlier) Pure Act or Being Itself.

  78. SteveK –

    But given what was said above, it is impossible for anything to be directed towards an end unless that end exists in an intellect which directs the thing in question towards it.

    Right, but when I look “above”, I see: “Consider those cases where goal-directedness is associated with consciousness…”. He describes a case, a house in the mind of an architect – ‘here’s an example of a final cause existing in an intellect’ – but I do not see an argument that that’s the only possible way for something to be “directed towards an end”.

    In the case of a house in the mind of an architect, I suppose that’s true. But it’s not at all clear to me that an oak tree must exist in any sense – especially as an idea in some intellect – for an acorn to produce one.

    A bit earlier than that, Feser says “even a simple physical phenomenon like the attraction between two particles would suffice for [Aquinas’] purposes.” Two particles can attract each other, but why does this need an idea in an intellect to make this happen? They might collide, or settle into an orbit, but why does the future collision or the orbit have to exist in any sense for them to attract each other in the present?

    An oak tree is more complicated than the collision of two particles, but I don’t see the difference in principle. A quantitative difference, not a qualitative one. So help me out, explain it to me in the simple case of two particles attracting one another. Why does that require an “intellect which directs”? Or, where is that covered in Aquinas?

  79. @Ray Ingles:

    But it’s not at all clear to me that an oak tree must exist in any sense – especially as an idea in some intellect – for an acorn to produce one.

    Ray, please pay attention: see point 1.

  80. I was talking to SteveK, not you, in that response, G. Rodrigues.

    To you, I would ask for some expansion of point 1. While I can see how a final cause could be efficacious as an idea in an intellect, I don’t see why an intellect must be involved for something unconscious, like two particles attracting.

    Google is, for the nonce, reluctant to cough up the pages involved from Aquinas, though I’ll see what can be done, or perhaps arrange an interlibrary loan at some point. It’d save time if you could summarize, but I confess to doubting you’d do so.

  81. @Ray Ingles:

    To you, I would ask for some expansion of point 1. While I can see how a final cause could be efficacious as an idea in an intellect, I don’t see why an intellect must be involved for something unconscious, like two particles attracting.

    Point 1 (and 2) has to do with the account of causation and are not specific to the Fifth Way, and it is *there* that you have to look for the answer, that is, why Final Causes *must* be real (in short: otherwise, we can make no sense of causation).

    Assuming their reality, and since Aquinas rejects Platonism, and since there is nowhere else to put final causes (that is the whole point of the illustration of the acorn maturing into oak: the oak does not yet exist anywhere in the natural world), you have to evacuate them to the Divine Intellect.

  82. Ray,
    We’re looking to explain the existence of final causes. We agree that they do exist because undirected causes wouldn’t explain the maintained regularity/order we see in nature. Naturalists like to refer to this maintained regularity as being the result of physical laws, but those laws, as causal forces, must exist somewhere in reality – existing now, today.

    We know that the intellect exists and that it has the ability to maintain regularity/order. Where else in the nature would you like to put these final causes – these physical laws?

  83. Ray,

    So help me out, explain it to me in the simple case of two particles attracting one another. Why does that require an “intellect which directs”?

    If there were no causal force that ensured the repeated effect then sometimes the two particles would attract, sometimes they wouldn’t and sometimes they would repel. There’s are more options than that, but you get the idea – there *wouldn’t* be a limited/fixed range of effects.

    They repeatedly attract because some causal force is active. You call that force ‘physical law’, but that law needs to exist somewhere.

    From the book:

    For as with mountains, asteroids, and the like, even if it should turn out that animal species are the accidental byproducts of various convergent impersonal causal processes, the existence of those evolutionary processes themselves would require explanation in terms of final causes.

  84. SteveK –

    If there were no causal force that ensured the repeated effect then sometimes the two particles would attract, sometimes they wouldn’t and sometimes they would repel.

    Sorry, I don’t follow. If we find a particle that’s got a positive charge and a few orders of magnitude more mass, we haven’t found a particularly unruly and willful electron – we’ve found a proton. As Bertrand Russell put it, “…the whole idea that natural laws imply a lawgiver is due to a confusion between natural and human laws. Human laws are behests commanding you to behave a certain way, in which you may choose to behave, or you may choose not to behave; but natural laws are a description of how things do in fact behave…”

    If we find a rock that falls up, it means the “Law of Gravity” needs to be changed. The “law” is wrong, not the rock! I don’t claim – have never claimed – that ‘physical law’ causes things to do anything. I think that ‘physical law’ is a description of what we have observed things doing!

    There’s some fundamental intuition here I’m not grasping. Why do you assume that “sometimes the two particles would attract, sometimes they wouldn’t and sometimes they would repel” if something weren’t holding back their inherent chaos?

    I will shift sideways slightly. From “The Last Superstition”, I know that Feser, after Aquinas, thinks that things like mathematical truths exist as ‘thoughts in the mind of God’. They are fundamentally mental, and can’t exist without some mind thinking of them. But pi exists even when no humans are thinking of it, so such things must be in some other mind, the mind of God. (That’s what I got out of it, anyway; feel free to correct me.)

    But I don’t see that at all. It seems to me that pi, or the Mandelbrot Set, or even 2+2=4, while they can be recognized by a mind, do not depend on any minds for their existence, in whatever sense that existence is understood. Even if no mind at all, anywhere, were thinking of the base of the natural logarithm, e would still ‘exist’.

    It seems to me that the existence of ‘brute facts’ is demonstrated by the existence of such things as mathematical truths, things that ‘couldn’t not be’. God – allegedly – could make an electron become a proton, but God could not make 2+2=3. That’s a fact so brute nothing could change it. Yet I don’t think anyone would say that it’s magical or mysterious why 2+2=4.

    The freezing point of water in one atmosphere of pressure is a such-and-such temperature. Why? Because given what water is, it couldn’t freeze at any other temperature. Given what quarks are and how they behave, it would seem that electrons couldn’t not have a negative charge and mass so-and-so electron volts. My hunch is that the physical regularities we see ‘bottom out’ (if they bottom out – that seems intuitive but human intuition’s been wrong before) in similar things that ‘couldn’t not be’.

  85. Ray, please don’t take this the wrong way, but why don’t you take conversation to Feser’s blog? He has been mentioned here often and I would think that you would stand a better chance of “getting it” over yonder.

  86. @Billy Squibs:

    He has been mentioned here often and I would think that you would stand a better chance of “getting it” over yonder.

    Whatever the suitability of the advice, Ray was already there.

  87. Ray,

    Is 2+2=4 contingent?*

    Is the existence of an electron in a particular place and time contingent?

    There’s the difference between your two facts.

    You place of “bottoming out” needs to be both causal and necessary. Descriptions of the behaviour of contingent things will not help you.

    We reject brute facts because by definition they are unintelligible, as such your explanations that have at bottom brute facts rest on thin air.

    *in my understanding mathematical truths would not be considered brute facts on theism but necessary. They could be thought of as connected to the way God thinks.

  88. Yeah, I’ve seen Ray there in the past. Whether Feser responds or not, there are more than enough knowledgable Thomists knocking around his blog to engage with.

  89. First off, Billy Squibs – I don’t appreciate #92. At all. And if, say, an atheist were to make a similar remark here, I seriously doubt Tom would be okay with it.

    As to 94, Feser’s blog doesn’t have any guidelines as to politeness. While I sometimes find the articles interesting, the discussion ends up being toxic as often as not. For similar reasons, I avoid Pharyngula’s comment section, too.

    Here, people are at least supposedly supposed to be polite and not insult others personally. Imagine what G. Rodrigues or Holopupenko would be like without such restraints. They might ‘jokingly’ compare people to pedophiles, for example…

  90. Melissa –

    Is the existence of an electron in a particular place and time contingent?

    Was I talking about the existence of electrons, or the nature of their properties?

    They could be thought of as connected to the way God thinks.

    Which implies that, if God thought differently, then 2+2 could equal something other than 4. And I’m sorry, I just can’t see that. ‘Two’ as understood in mathematics, and ‘plus’ as understood in mathematics, leads to 2+2=4, period – no matter who might think differently.

  91. First off, Billy Squibs – I don’t appreciate #92. At all. And if, say, an atheist were to make a similar remark here, I seriously doubt Tom would be okay with it.

    I thought it was an interesting way of informing you of the colloquial meaning of the word in the UK and Ireland. You now realise that perhaps up to 65+ million people might just understand the word differently.

    I suppose it was “edgy” in a way. And if I really strain I can perhaps understand why you might feel a bit miffed. So in that regard I apologise for the offence caused.

    But the fact remains that it was not my intent to offend. I didn’t call you a child molester, nor did I expect anyone to consider that you are one. I merely relaid the meaning of the word in a different cultural context.

    Therein lies the joke, Ray.

    Both you and your atheism are incidental to it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_words_having_different_meanings_in_American_and_British_English:_A%E2%80%93L

    As to the second part of your comment – the awful inequality suffered by atheists on this blog. I would suggest two other possibilities that you didn’t mention. One, Tom didn’t read my comment. Two, he didn’t find it worthy of censure because he recognised the intended joke.

  92. Billy Squibs – There are better ways to make such a joke. You didn’t have to phrase it as actually saying “I didn’t realize you were a [child molester]”. How about “Who do you know who’s a nonce?” or “Probably not just for a nonce,” or “I doubt Google discriminates against nonces”, or even, “Not just one nonce, surely”.

    Instead, you went for the maximally insulting version. Apparently none of the alternatives even occurred to you. Or did it really not strike you that linking someone to child molestation might not be suitable for a joke? I’ve been to the U.K. and Ireland several times; I didn’t find that social norms differed that much.

    And Tom should have read your comment, since I reported it via the contact form. We’ll see if he ever responds.

  93. As for the inequalities suffered by atheists, Billy is right: I am doing about four things at once here, and I haven’t been paying much attention to email or blog. (My 11:14 am comment here was about something that caught my eye in passing.)

  94. Let’s just say that Kennedy did misspeak and say I am a doughnut. That wold have been funny.

    You referred to yourself a nonce, Ray. I merely ran with this and informed you about the other meaning. It is the same meaning that readers from the UK and Ireland would likely have first thought of when reading your comment. Indeed, I had to look several times and do some research before I found out that it had another meaning and it wasn’t a spell check error.

    My joke wasn’t intended to be “maximally insulting”, Ray. Though I think you are going to take it that way no matter what I say. But perhaps you will accept my apology for the hurt this has caused. (I don’t apologize for the joke itself because no malice was intended.) Tom can see fit to delete the associated comments if he chooses.

  95. You referred to yourself a nonce, Ray.

    Whoa. Are you seriously telling me you actually never heard the phrase “for the nonce”? Read up and you’ll see I did no such thing. That means “for the time being” and has since the 13th century. I didn’t refer to myself as ‘the time being’! The phrase is at most slightly archaic; by no means is it obscure.

    At least, on this side of the pond. Perhaps its frequency has dropped in the U.K. since the connotations you point out have spread. I still don’t see how you could interpret it as a personal reference, but at least it would make your ignorance of the phrase comprehensible.

  96. Take a seat and steady yourself, Ray.

    Yes. I am seriously telling you that. As I seriously told you in comment #101 and again in comment #106.

    Read up and you’ll see I did no such thing.

    I realise that. Hence my attempt to make a humorous statement.

    That means “for the time being” and has since the 13th century

    Read down to the comments section in your own link and you will see exactly what I mean.

  97. Ray,

    Was I talking about the existence of electrons, or the nature of their properties?

    That does not make a difference. Electrons are contingent, so are any properties they have.

    Which implies that, if God thought differently, then 2+2 could equal something other than 4. And I’m sorry, I just can’t see that. ‘Two’ as understood in mathematics, and ‘plus’ as understood in mathematics, leads to 2+2=4, period – no matter who might think differently.

    It implies nothing of sort.

  98. Billy Squibs –

    I realise that

    So why did you just say – direct quote – “You referred to yourself a nonce, Ray”? You could have said something like, “I chose to deliberately misinterpret what you said as referring to yourself as a nonce.”

    Screw it. I’ll assume you don’t really communicate well with the written word and write it off as a loss.

  99. Oh my! How may more times can one dissect a joke? How can I explain a comment that you have imbued with your own meaning – one that I never intended?

    So why did you just say – direct quote – “You referred to yourself a nonce, Ray”?

    Perhaps I should have said, “You referred to yourself a nonce, Ray, or so it seemed at first glance to at least some of the population of the UK and Ireland”. But all this should be obvious by now given what I’ve written over the last number of comments.

    I suppose you are baffled at what could possibly be going on here – http://www.buzzfeed.com/jessicamisener/31-truly-unfortunate-food-product-names.

    Again, it appears that you are going to take it as a “maximally insulting” comment no matter what I say.

    This is now tremendously tedious.

    Good day, Ray.

  100. Melissa –

    Electrons are contingent, so are any properties they have.

    What part of Aquinas establishes that? Existence isn’t a property. ‘Contingency’ needn’t apply to properties the same way. Or so it seems to me, but if there’s a converse argument I’d like to see it.

    Besides which, it’s not clear to me that the existence of mass-energy is contingent. The conservation laws have been pretty darn good descriptions of what we’ve seen; we’ve never seen it created or destroyed. Mass-energy meets what experimental criteria we could ever come up with for something eternal.

    It implies nothing of sort.

    Well then I’ll need some elaboration of what the “connection” between the way God thinks and the existence of such truths is. I can see how thought could recognize such truths, but not any way it could make them true.

  101. Ray,

    ‘Contingency’ needn’t apply to properties the same way. Or so it seems to me, but if there’s a converse argument I’d like to see it.

    If electrons don’t exist then neither do the “nature of their properties”. Therefore the “nature of their properties” is also contingent, unless you are proposing that the nature of their properties exists independently of any electrons.

    Besides which, it’s not clear to me that the existence of mass-energy is contingent. The conservation laws have been pretty darn good descriptions of what we’ve seen; we’ve never seen it created or destroyed. Mass-energy meets what experimental criteria we could ever come up with for something eternal.

    You’ll need to flesh out how you think mass-energy actually exists and how you think it could be an ultimate explanation, I’m not sure what you’re actually proposing and there’s no point wasting both our time by trying to guess.

    Well then I’ll need some elaboration of what the “connection” between the way God thinks and the existence of such truths is. I can see how thought could recognize such truths, but not any way it could make them true.

    The laws of logic could be thought of as descriptions of the way God necessarily thinks. God is not a creature so I’m not sure what the problem is.

  102.