Intelligent Design

Tell That To The Mouse

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StephenB takes down a materialist in five words:

Feser:

Take a few bits of metal, work them into various shapes, and attach them to a piece of wood. Voila! A mousetrap.

Attach? Voila? There are millions of ways to attach pieces of metal to wood. Only one of those combinations will trap a mouse. The trick is to arrange those pieces so that they will function as a mousetrap.

Or so we call it. But objectively, apart from human interests, the object is “nothing but” a collection of wood and metal parts.

Tell that to the mouse . . .

Oh my sides . . . gasp . . .

65 Replies to “Tell That To The Mouse

  1. 1
    Joe says:

    Not only the mouse but I wonder how many human fingers and toes have been “caught”? And what about other animals?

    Also I am not sure about the “Only one of those combinations will trap a mouse.” I am sure some human could use metal and wood to make a non-standard (ie non-Behe) mousetrap. There must be numerous ways to configure wood and metal to make a mousetrap.

  2. 2
    News says:

    I still can’t believe I heard this (Barry? Are you sure?): “Take a few bits of metal, work them into various shapes, and attach them to a piece of wood. Voila! A mousetrap.”

    One of the truly serious problems with most people living and working with machines instead of animals, is that they can be guilty of such utterly foolish opinions, despite being intelligent.

    First, no mouse wants to be caught/killed. And he is pretty good at his regular job of pilfering stuff without getting caught/killed. That is pretty much what he does all day and night. The notion that just any old trap arrangement would work would be instantly rejected by anyone who has spent much time living and working with animals.

    It must be an arrangement that the animal cannot “see” as a danger. He can’t work out what is going to happen if he takes the bait. This must be thought out carefully and tested. Otherwise, he’ll find a way to spring the trap and vanish with the prize.

    Like here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqjlBb0to4c

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    BA, actually, AFAIK, Feser is not a materialist but some sort of neo-thomist. KF

  4. 4
    Barry Arrington says:

    KF, I stand corrected. Whatever Feser’s metaphysical commitments are, SB’s take down is still High-larious.

  5. 5
    Dionisio says:

    Let’s put aside the mousetrap, and look at the extremely complex elaborate choreographic cell fate specification, determination, differentiation and migration mechanisms that operate during the human development, where just in the intrinsic asymmetric mitosis, we see all the centrosomes, centrioles, spindle assembly checkpoints, kinetochores/microtubules connection tensions, signaling pathways, the whole nine yards, with gazillion overlapping chicken-egg cases and then we are told with arrogance that all that has nothing to do with design, except the appearance.
    At least in the case of the mousetrap we can figure out how those mechanisms function.
    However, we still don’t understand well how those complex biological mechanisms function, but hear they can’t be the product of design, even though no one can describe how else we got them.
    The more we know about them, the more they look like designed mechanisms.
    Give me a break! Are we humans really that naïve?

  6. 6
    REC says:

    Where did this exchange even happen?

    Google reveals a post by Feser in 2010:
    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.....g-but.html

    So 4 years later, StephenB came up with a zinger?

    ..and Feser is an Aristotelian-Thomist, not a ‘materialist’ in any sense!
    ..and Feser is setting up a point contra reductionism
    ..and whatever the severity of the ignorance of the larger context of Feser’s post…Barry loves the takedown

    ..and Feser has an answer ready: “a falling boulder has that causal power as well, but it is not intrinsically a mousetrap specifically” Perhaps dead mice aren’t the best deciders of logic?

  7. 7
    E.Seigner says:

    @REC

    This website has a history of attacking Feser http://www.uncommondescent.com/?s=feser

    It’s true that Feser’s metaphysical commitments lead him to reject ID, but both his metaphysics and arguments about ID are in the open for everyone to see. Dembski, on the other hand, has very inconsistent and sneaky take on his theory’s relationship with metaphysics, science and theology. The current bosses of this website have descended to simply slap labels like “materialist” or “Darwinian” on every ID opponent regardless of the person’s reasons.

    ID is instinctively unattractive to many for intellectual reasons. The way the theory’s main figures behave makes it also emotionally unattractive. And the movement is rather local, limited to the United States. In Europe and Asia hardly anyone knows and nobody has any reason to care, scientifically or otherwise.

  8. 8
    DavidD says:

    E.Siegnor

    “This website has a history of attacking Feser http://www.uncommondescent.com/?s=feser

    “ID is instinctively unattractive to many for intellectual reasons.”

    I guess that rules YOU out since you are incapable of leaving this forum and are obsessed with coming back here day after day. Perhaps it would be wise for you to try on a new Sock so as to disguise your true identity from all onlookers in view of your arrogant Grand Standing in the above ? You’re the one who put yourself on notice before all eye witnesses. Now I would guess the next move is yours.

  9. 9
    DavidD says:

    I have no idea about the double post here, could moderator erase 9 & 10 [Mod: 10 erased.]

  10. 10
    StephenB says:

    REC

    ..and Feser is setting up a point contra reductionism

    No, Feser has temporarily abandoned Aristotle’s anti-reductionist philosophy and lapsed into Hume’s reductionist philosophy in order to launch an irrational attack on ID.

    ..and Feser has an answer ready: “a falling boulder has that causal power as well, but it is not intrinsically a mousetrap specifically.”

    What does the causal power of a falling boulder have to do with the ontological status of a mousetrap?

    Perhaps dead mice aren’t the best deciders of logic?

    Perhaps a live mouse squirming under the violent pressure of a metal bar and spring understands the objectivity of function better than a misguided philosopher who thinks that the operation of a mousetrap is subjective.

  11. 11
    vjtorley says:

    E. Seigner writes:

    And the movement is rather local, limited to the United States. In Europe and Asia hardly anyone knows and nobody has any reason to care, scientifically or otherwise.

    Hey, I live in Japan. And what about these articles, which suggest ID is spreading in Europe and Asia?

    http://www.spiegel.de/internat.....09712.html
    http://www.theguardian.com/edu.....n.students
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....02896.html
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....60691.html
    http://www.nature.com/news/sou.....ds-1.10773

    And there’s Brazil, too:

    http://www.discovery.org/news/.....world/6031

    Still think it’s an American phenomenon?

  12. 12
    E.Seigner says:

    VJT

    Scientology generates more articles than ID, but has equally negligible presence outside United States. Try harder to beat them.

    From Feser, let’s move on to Sullivan’s views on ID:

    First of all, the ID definitions of “intelligence” seem very unscotistic and unscholastic to me. Consider the following:

    Intelligent Design. The study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the product of intelligence.

    Intelligence. Any cause, agent, or process that achieves and end or goal by employing suitable means or instruments.

    Design. An event, object, or structure that an intelligence brought about by matching means to ends.

    These definitions seem to be designed to lead to the desired conclusion from the outset, but they’re very odd.

    Rather fatal for a purportedly scientific theory, isn’t it?

    Moreover, he holds the loathed “everything is designed” thesis:

    …since any pattern in nature whatsoever is, insofar as it is patterned, intelligible, one might use a metaphysical argument to infer an intelligence: any intelligible in potency, the argument might go, implies a prior intelligible in act, that is, an understanding intelligence. But this applies as much to non-living things as to living ones. The ancients argued to God from the regularity of the motion of the heavenly bodies without examining their structure for complex specified functional information.

    I have been called “materialist” and “Darwinian” for expressing these same views. Let’s apply labels consistently now.

  13. 13
    Andre says:

    E.Seigner

    Maybe we are speaking past each other. I hold that EVERYTHING has been designed by God. EVERYTHING inside this universe is also His. There is however a very important distinction that I have not seen you speak about or try and defend. As a rational intelligent being it seems to me that I have a certain capability to distinguish what natural forces are able to accomplish versus what intelligent agents are capable of accomplishing. I think this is important, because as human beings we want to know things, like CS Lewis said we want to know what reality is like. How do you suppose we can know what reality is like if we can’t separate what minds can do versus what natural laws can do? Would we even be able to contemplate the notion of God if this was not possible?

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    Doan leff orf de Caribbean, mon!

  15. 15
    Joe says:

    LoL! Pointing out Feser’s illogical spewage is now attacking him?

    E Seigner:

    ID is instinctively unattractive to many for intellectual reasons.

    And yet you cannot say what those are without getting soundly refuted.

    ES quotes:

    First of all, the ID definitions of “intelligence” seem very unscotistic and unscholastic to me. Consider the following:

    Intelligent Design. The study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the product of intelligence.

    Intelligence. Any cause, agent, or process that achieves and end or goal by employing suitable means or instruments.

    Design. An event, object, or structure that an intelligence brought about by matching means to ends.

    These definitions seem to be designed to lead to the desired conclusion from the outset, but they’re very odd.

    LoL! No those definitions are not designed to lead to anything but educating people. Saying otherwise exposes an agenda of obfuscation. Also the definition of “intelligence” flows for the standard dictionary definitions so it is hardly unscholastic.

    Why does ES think this person’s spewage is fatal to ID? She never says. She seems incapable of making a case based on logic and evidence.

    If I was a religious person I would be thanking God that ES is not an investigator

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: UD reader EP actually went into his garage [dare I say in the land of the White North where a certain UD News Editor hails from?] and did experiments to contrive a mousetrap across a few hours.

    Turns out, the apparently simple device is a subtle, complex precision contrivance in which very precise arrangements of parts are needed for such a device to work. It is irreducibly complex and full of functionally specific complex organisation and associated information. Victor Co is in no danger of being overtaken by tinkerers banging away and bending coat hangers or the like.

    And, this brings to focus a point noted above.

    Namely, that we live in an era where a great many are induced to believe in Big-S Science [say, with a holy hush], and will only address things that are closely tied to empirical observation. (Not realising the self-referential incoherences in adopting such controlling principles.)

    We must start with people where they are and stay within arm’s reach in our first steps of thought.

    So, ID asks and seeks to answer a simple question with powerful implications: can we, from certain evident and distinctive empirical features of observable things, come to reasonable, well-grounded conclusions about their causal process?

    Yes.

    There are traces of causes that are evident.

    For instance, mechanical necessity leads to low contingency regularities and associated order. Chance linked randomness [of whatever root] shows itself in stochastic patterns that can be reasonably sampled. And, design leads to FSCO/I which is empirically reliable as an index of design and per sampling, is utterly implausible on needle in haystack analysis.

    The problem is not with the reasoning, which is patently inductively cogent.

    It is with consequences once one points to FSCO/I in the world of life and the observed cosmos.

    In a word: ideology.

    We confront deeply entrenced a priori evolutionary materialism which has even dared to self-servingly redefine science and its methods. Begging big questions and undermining the goal of science to seek out the truth about our world in light of observable evidence.

    Never mind its self-referential incoherence.

    And that is the roadblock we face.

    KF

  17. 17
    E.Seigner says:

    Andre

    Maybe we are speaking past each other.

    You mean you and I? We haven’t talked that much, so maybe yes. Barry and KF, however, who label fellow theists as Darwinians are talking past rationality.

    Andre

    I hold that EVERYTHING has been designed by God. EVERYTHING inside this universe is also His. There is however a very important distinction that I have not seen you speak about or try and defend. As a rational intelligent being it seems to me that I have a certain capability to distinguish what natural forces are able to accomplish versus what intelligent agents are capable of accomplishing.

    God created nature, right? Therefore, when God creates, nature is the outcome. And God is intelligent agent, right? If yes, then how do you reconcile these facts with your attempt “to distinguish what natural forces are able to accomplish versus what intelligent agents are capable of accomplishing”? Based on what observations or presuppositions should natural forces be distinguishable from intelligent agents?

    Andre

    How do you suppose we can know what reality is like if we can’t separate what minds can do versus what natural laws can do? Would we even be able to contemplate the notion of God if this was not possible?

    The separation is called objective versus subjective, not natural forces versus intelligent agent.

  18. 18
    Joe says:

    E Seigner:

    If yes, then how do you reconcile these facts with your attempt “to distinguish what natural forces are able to accomplish versus what intelligent agents are capable of accomplishing”?

    So every death is murder and all rocks are artifacts- really?

  19. 19
    StephenB says:

    E Seigner

    I have been called “materialist” and “Darwinian” for expressing these same views. Let’s apply labels consistently now.

    Here you have a good point. Clearly, you are not a materialist and should not be characterized as such.

  20. 20
    StephenB says:

    E. Seigner

    God created nature, right? Therefore, when God creates, nature is the outcome. And God is intelligent agent, right? If yes, then how do you reconcile these facts with your attempt “to distinguish what natural forces are able to accomplish versus what intelligent agents are capable of accomplishing”? Based on what observations or presuppositions should natural forces be distinguishable from intelligent agents?

    Good question.

    ID Presupposition: Some things can be fashioned directly through primary causes and some can be fashioned indirectly through secondary causes. God can use any process he chooses. (Dembski, Meyer, Aquinas)

    Anti-ID Presupposition: Everything must have been fashioned indirectly through secondary causes. God would not create any other way, and I will have it so. (Feser, Collins, Darwin)

    Observation: Some features in nature appear to have been fashioned directly through primary causation, leaving clues which indicate that they have been tinkered with in ways that natural laws cannot explain.

    ID’s response: let’s investigate the matter by following the evidence wherever it leads.

    Anti-ID’s response: let’s not investigate the matter. The evidence may challenge our ideology.

  21. 21
    Barry Arrington says:

    ES:

    Barry . . . however, who label fellow theists as Darwinians are talking past rationality.

    Maybe it’s time for DDD#15: Latching onto an Irrelevancy as a Means to Distract

    OK, I mislabeled Feser and admitted the error. ES now brings it up over and over and over as if that were relevant to the specific issue raised in the OP. It is not relevant to that issue, and I can only assume he continues to harp in it as a means of avoiding discussion of that issue.

  22. 22
    E.Seigner says:

    @Barry

    Stop distracting. Let people have a discussion on the topic.

    StephenB

    Good question.

    Indeed. And this is at least the third time I bring it up. Thanks for trying to answer.

    In your response, primary and secondary causes need defining. Are primary causes equated with will, intent, etc. i.e. “intelligent causes”? If yes, then are you really equating divine cause (God) with human will and intellect, both being primary causes? Is there or is there not, to use ID terminology, a “striking and obvious” difference between natural objects (invariably God-made) on one hand and man-made artefacts on the other?

    It looks to me that among your presuppositions you are ignoring the Aristotelian concept of artefact (as explained by Feser in the blog post), but this concept (namely, artefact) gives tremendous additional nuance to your supposed “Anti-ID Presupposition”, and excludes at least Darwin from there. I don’t know who Collins is.

    Feser’s actual position is that God can create anything, but it would definitely be in full accord with creation in general. God creates nature. In contrast, humans create more or less discordantly with regard to natural order. Man-made creation is artefacts of various sorts and degrees. Man creates artefacts, whereas God’s creation is natural order. To treat natural order as if it were ontologically a man-made artefact is the error of ID theorists, according to Feser.

    I hope you will clarify the distinction of primary and secondary causes.

  23. 23
    Alan Fox says:

    E Siegner:

    Man creates artefacts, whereas God’s creation is natural order

    There you have it. God creates sand. Man creates sand castles.

  24. 24
  25. 25
    Joe says:

    Alan Fox:

    There you have it. God creates sand. Man creates sand castles.

    And Alan creates obfuscations.

  26. 26
    StephenB says:

    Alan Fox

    There you have it. God creates sand. Man creates sand castles.

    From a theological or faith-based perspective that is correct. God creates the raw materials that man can use or not use for design, which in this case, is sand. Thus, the pile of sand delivered by a dump truck was not used to design anything, but the other pile was transformed into a sand castle.

    From a scientific perspective, apart from the aforementioned faith based assumption, it cannot be determined if everything was designed. However, science can draw inferences about those artifacts and organism that leave design clues.

  27. 27
    Mung says:

    E.Seigner:

    Based on what observations or presuppositions should natural forces be distinguishable from intelligent agents?

    Based upon the assumption of materialism.

    You know. Stuff just bumping into other stuff, by chance. Toss in the occasional “natural law” in the requisite nod to actual science. Chance and Necessity.

  28. 28
    StephenB says:

    E. Seigner

    In your response, primary and secondary causes need defining. Are primary causes equated with will, intent, etc. i.e. “intelligent causes”? If yes, then are you really equating divine cause (God) with human will and intellect, both being primary causes? Is there or is there not, to use ID terminology, a “striking and obvious” difference between natural objects (invariably God-made) on one hand and man-made artefacts on the other?

    By primary cause, I mean direct; by secondary cause, I mean indirect. Thus, God could fashion man directly out of the earth’s dust, or He could fashion man indirectly through an evolutionary process. Either way, he is causing man to exist. Since I accept Christian revelation, I believe that God’s intellect and will are involved. Among those things that are striking, I would include the machine-like elements in cells and the finely-tuned constants in the cosmos.I think they stand out as being more than mere products of a law-like process.

    It looks to me that among your presuppositions you are ignoring the Aristotelian concept of artefact (as explained by Feser in the blog post), but this concept (namely, artefact) gives tremendous additional nuance to your supposed “Anti-ID Presupposition”, and excludes at least Darwin from there. I don’t know who Collins is.

    I accept Aristotles distinction between nature and art. Accordingly, I allow that God could have used both nature (indirect causation) and art (direct causation) to fashion His world. It is the art, for the most part, that ID tries to detect. By anti-ID presupposition, I simply mean the dubious man-made rule that God must fashion everything indirectly, or through a secondary process. There is no reason to limit God in that way.

    Feser’s actual position is that God can create anything, but it would definitely be in full accord with creation in general. God creates nature.

    If I understand Feser correctly, he thinks that God created nature to produce man through indirect (secondary) causation. If I am wrong, I am open to correction. In any case, I think that God may have created man using both direct and indirect means. I am committed to neither position. I think we should be open to both prospects. For the record, Aquinas believed that God created man directly and in finished form. Feser would disagree, I think. That is an important thing to disagree about. So much so, that I would say that Feser is not a Thomist in that sense.

    In contrast, humans create more or less discordantly with regard to natural order. Man-made creation is artefacts of various sorts and degrees.

    I think that is true to some extent, though I am not sure about the “discordant” part. Humans do often plan their work and work their plan.

    Man creates artefacts, whereas God’s creation is natural order.

    Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean that there are no similarities.

    To treat natural order as if it were ontologically a man-made artefact is the error of ID theorists, according to Feser.

    It would, indeed, be a mistake to treat the natural order as if were an ontologically a man made artifact, but it would not be a mistake to treat the natural order as if it contained components that are similar to a man made artifact.

    By analogy, it would be a mistake for a doctor to treat a person, who is a composite of body and soul, as if he were a metabolic processor, but it would not be a mistake for a doctor to analyze a person’s metabolism, as long as he understands that his patient is, ontologically, a composite of body and soul.

    Similarly, it is not a mistake for an ID theorist to detect machine like components in a cell as long as he understands that the organism that contains the cell is not, ontologically, a machine.

  29. 29
    E.Seigner says:

    StephenB

    By primary cause, I mean direct; by secondary cause, I mean indirect. Thus, God could fashion man directly out of the earth’s dust, or He could fashion man indirectly through an evolutionary process. Either way, he is causing man to exist. Since I accept Christian revelation, I believe that God’s intellect and will are involved.

    “Involved” or “causal” as in being the actual cause? When you rename primary and secondary causes as direct and indirect, this still does not make the necessary distinction. As a minimum, you need to distinguish between an efficient cause initiated by an agent (also called instrumental causes) and inert efficient causes (let’s call these natural causes). The distinction is necessary for you, if you want to make the point you aim at.

    StephenB

    I accept Aristotles distinction between nature and art. Accordingly, I allow that God could have used both nature (indirect causation) and art (direct causation) to fashion His world.

    Here you are losing the Thomistic (and Feserian) notion that God incessantly sustains everything in existence. This sustaining action is also termed a causal relationship, without which the universe would immediately dissolve.

    StephenB

    By anti-ID presupposition, I simply mean the dubious man-made rule that God must fashion everything indirectly, or through a secondary process. There is no reason to limit God in that way.

    If you understood my point just above, then you understand that this assumed/proposed rule of yours does not apply to Feser. The sustaining action is direct and ceaseless.

    StephenB

    In any case, I think that God may have created man using both direct and indirect means. I am committed to neither position. I think we should be open to both prospects. For the record, Aquinas believed that God created man directly and in finished form. Feser would disagree, I think. That is an important thing to disagree about. So much so, that I would say that Feser is not a Thomist in that sense.

    I don’t think Feser is much bothered about the scientific facts of how man emerged. Metaphysically there are several senses in which God created man directly. God sustains man in existence from moment to moment, so in this sense God is direct cause even now. Feser would find it too limiting to say that in nature you have only secondary indirect causes, and this is what you are saying.

    StephenB

    ES: Man creates artefacts, whereas God’s creation is natural order.

    StephenB: Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean that there are no similarities.

    It means that the similarities should not be overblown or overinterpreted. ID theory is very guilty here.

    StephenB

    It would, indeed, be a mistake to treat the natural order as if were an ontologically a man made artifact, but it would not be a mistake to treat the natural order as if it contained components that are similar to a man made artifact.

    And what is the reliable method of telling the similar components apart from the components that are not similar? Is it the means of attributing some bit-values here and there? And let’s say you find those components in nature that are as if man-made artefacts, then how do you distinguish them from actually man-made artefacts and determine the similar artefacts to be ape-made, alien-made, or God-made? And since everything is ultimately God-made anyway, what is the point of this exercise?

  30. 30
    StephenB says:

    E Seigner

    And since everything is ultimately God-made anyway, what is the point of this exercise?

    Humans can take God-made materials and design other things with them, and they can also refrain from using those raw materials. Thus, the raw material of sand can be re designed or further designed into a sand castle or the raw material can be left in an undesigned heap. So it is with countless other raw materials. It is very easy to detect the difference between the God-made raw materials that have been used for human made design and those which have not. No prior experience or cultural prompting is necessary to make that distinction. When humans design artifacts in this way, they always leave physical evidence that indicates intellectual activity. That same kind of physical evidence can be found in nature, which indicates that another designer was at work. I think that is a good argument.

    On the question of detecting the difference between the presence of design indicators in a sand castle and their absence in an undesigned heap of design, I will spend no more time trying to convince anyone who claims to doubt it. I simply don’t believe them, and I would prefer not to questions their honesty in a public forum.

    You believe that all the raw materials are God made. So do I. However, faith-based statements are empty without some kind of rational justification. Philosophy and science play important roles in that context. ID provides empirical evidence that our faith in God’s creation is grounded in reality and not simply in our hopes and wishes.

    The world’s most famous atheist philosopher, Anthony Flew, came to believe in God after studying ID’s arguments for design. He would not have been persuaded by your belief that God made everything. He wanted evidence and he received it. As he put it, “Super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature.” What moved him was the information found in DNA. Others have been persuaded by the scientific evidence for design in the cosmos, especially the evidence for finely tuned physical constants that are necessary for the existence of life.

    With respect to ID’s methods, I really don’t care to go over that territory again. Kairosfocus has presented the flow chart and outlined every step in the sequence. If you are interested, the information is available.

  31. 31
    StephenB says:

    Here you are losing the Thomistic (and Feserian) notion that God incessantly sustains everything in existence. This sustaining action is also termed a causal relationship, without which the universe would immediately dissolve.

    Oh, I fully agree with that. I am not referring to God’s sustaining power. Yes, that part is always direct. I am referring to God’s creative activity. In that context, I think Feser holds to indirect fashioning or secondary causes. St. Thomas did not. Aquinas was a Young Earth Creationist. Feser is miles away from that position and even claims that Thomistic philosophy requires secondary causes (in the creative context, not the sustaining context) This is obviously wrong. Aquinas believed that God made man through primary (direct) causes, so his philosophy of nature could not possibly have required secondary causality in nature.

  32. 32
    Box says:

    StephenB #28: I accept Aristotles distinction between nature and art. Accordingly, I allow that God could have used both nature (indirect causation) and art (direct causation) to fashion His world.

    E.Seigner #29: Here you are losing the Thomistic (and Feserian) notion that God incessantly sustains everything in existence. This sustaining action is also termed a causal relationship, without which the universe would immediately dissolve.

    E.Seigner, as StephenB points out in post #31, there is an important distinction between “sustaining” and “designing”. “Everything is sustained by God” is not to be conflated with “everything is designed by God”.

    StephenB #28: By anti-ID presupposition, I simply mean the dubious man-made rule that God must fashion everything indirectly, or through a secondary process. There is no reason to limit God in that way.

    E.Seigner #29: If you understood my point just above, then you understand that this assumed/proposed rule of yours does not apply to Feser. The sustaining action is direct and ceaseless.

    Here you seem to reason like this: God sustains everything direct end ceaseless therefore God designs everything direct and ceaseless. IOW you don’t distinguish between God’s sustaining power and God’s creative activity. This conflation seems to be the ground for your rejection of any distinction between primary and secondary causes of design.

  33. 33
    E.Seigner says:

    StephenB

    Humans can take God-made materials and design other things with them, and they can also refrain from using those raw materials. Thus, the raw material of sand can be re designed or further designed into a sand castle or the raw material can be left in an undesigned heap. So it is with countless other raw materials. It is very easy to detect the difference between the God-made raw materials that have been used for human made design and those which have not. No prior experience or cultural prompting is necessary to make that distinction. When humans design artifacts in this way, they always leave physical evidence that indicates intellectual activity. That same kind of physical evidence can be found in nature, which indicates that another designer was at work. I think that is a good argument.

    I thinks this is a bad argument, because unless we’ve seen God make an artefact the way man does it, all we know about God’s creation is nature. Moreover, every man-made artefact decays when neglected. The artefact gradually loses all signs and traces of having been an artefact and seamlessly merges into natural substances. This suggests that the distinctive value of the proposed categories of artefacts and natural objects is rather limited. In the human world (of culture and civilization) the category of artefacts may have some meaning, but nothing beyond. I see no way of inferring any higher designers based on this. At most Martians perhaps.

    StephenB

    On the question of detecting the difference between the presence of design indicators in a sand castle and their absence in an undesigned heap of design, I will spend no more time trying to convince anyone who claims to doubt it. I simply don’t believe them, and I would prefer not to questions their honesty in a public forum.

    And I resent the mischaracterization of my argument as some sort of denial of the difference between a dump of sand and a sand castle. I have not said they are the same. I simply attribute radically less meaning to the difference. Their substance is the same, the shape differs. This is a rational moderate common-sense view of both their sameness and of their difference. All you do is look at the difference and disregard the sameness.

    StephenB

    You believe that all the raw materials are God made. So do I. However, faith-based statements are empty without some kind of rational justification. Philosophy and science play important roles in that context. ID provides empirical evidence that our faith in God’s creation is grounded in reality and not simply in our hopes and wishes.

    Actually, given philosophy, belief is no factor at all for me. In contrast, science, particularly modern science only deals with probabilities and therefore leaves plenty of room for doubts and for insurmountable epistemological gaps. Science only studies appearances. It’s wiser to study presuppositions about appearances and this way more directly get to the fundamental reality.

    StephenB

    The world’s most famous atheist philosopher, Anthony Flew, came to believe in God after studying ID’s arguments for design.

    If I were familiar with his work, maybe I would care, but I have not even heard the name before. So, he was not as famous as you suggest. And without knowing any details I’d suspect the ID’s arguments you talk about were more likely the classical arguments from design, where design is treated as a universal.

    StephenB

    With respect to ID’s methods, I really don’t care to go over that territory again. Kairosfocus has presented the flow chart and outlined every step in the sequence. If you are interested, the information is available.

    That information sucks and blows in many diverse ways. And I don’t want to go over that again either.

    StephenB

    I am not referring to God’s sustaining power. Yes, that part is always direct. I am referring to God’s creative activity. In that context, I think Feser holds to indirect fashioning or secondary causes.

    You would have a point, if Feser understood God’s sustaining power as distinct from creative activity. But Feser would argue that God’s sustaining power is creative activity. Moreover, it’s direct and immediate creative activity. The sustaining power is not a negligible side-aspect of God’s creative power, but the primary aspect.

    In contrast, the aspect that causes things to look “fashioned” is secondary. The reason to prioritize the aspects of God’s creative power this way and not the other way is that this which looks to us like God’s sustaining power is in truth God’s timeless act of creation, whereas the power which causes things to look “fashioned” to us is only a matter of human perception. The sustaining power is God’s point of view, therefore it’s the true act of creation, while the other is critters’ point of view, therefore only seeming creation.

    See how defining the terms and clarifying the background metaphysics is important?

    Box

    Here you seem to reason like this: God sustains everything direct end ceaseless therefore God designs everything direct and ceaseless. IOW you don’t distinguish between God’s sustaining power and God’s creative activity. This conflation seems to be the ground for your rejection of any distinction between primary and secondary causes of design.

    There is a distinction, but it’s construed another way. The kind of creation that makes things look shaped is spatiotemporal and contingent, therefore secondary. The sustaining kind is direct and ceaseless, therefore primary.

  34. 34
    Joe says:

    E Seigner- Read “Nature, Design and Science” by Del Ratzsch. It should cure your ignorance.

  35. 35
    Box says:

    E.Seigner #33: You would have a point, if Feser understood God’s sustaining power as distinct from creative activity. But Feser would argue that God’s sustaining power is creative activity.

    You are probably right about Feser. In an article titled ‘Classical theism’, he affirms your statement about his position:

    Feser: For classical theism, to say that God creates the world is not merely, and indeed not primarily, to say that He got it going at some time in the past. It is more fundamentally to say the He keeps it going now, and at any moment at which it exists at all. As Aquinas says, to say that God makes the world is not like saying that a blacksmith made a horseshoe – where the horseshoe might persist even if the blacksmith died – but rather like saying that a musician makes music, where the music would stop if the musician stopped playing.
    – – [my emphasis]

    So, according to Feser, classical theism conflates God’s sustaining and creative powers. I’m going to ponder over the question if this indeed prohibits making a distinction between primary and secondary causes of design, as intended by StephenB.

  36. 36
    StephenB says:

    ES

    “I thinks this is a bad argument, because unless we’ve seen God make an artefact the way man does it, all we know about God’s creation is nature.”

    Irrelevant to the argument. It has nothing to do with the nature of creation.

    >And I resent the mischaracterization of my argument as some sort of denial of the difference between a dump of sand and a sand castle. I have not said they are the same.

    Sorry if it causes resentment. You have said that the design in the sand castle is undetectable. That is the position that is being lampooned and deservedly so. It is obviously wrong. I don’t believe you when you say that the design in a sand castle s not obvious to you, independent of any cultural preparation. I just don’t believe you.

    That information [kairosfocus flow chart] sucks and blows in many diverse ways. And I don’t want to go over that again either.

    You didn’t go over it the first time. You choose to remain ignorant of the information, just as Feser chooses to remain ignorant of the information. As a result of that choice, you don’t understand ID’s argument. If you had to explain it to a third party, you could not do it. Even so, that does not stop you from trying to criticize what you don’t understand.

    You would have a point, if Feser understood God’s sustaining power as distinct from creative activity. But Feser would argue that God’s sustaining power is creative activity.

    That isn’t the issue. Everyone knows that the process must created and sustained. They are not the same thing, but I don’t want to get into that. We are discussing the nature of the process by which life comes to exist, not the fact that it must be sustained, which no one disputes.

    The nature of the process consists either of direct causation in the form of external design, which is immediate, or indirect causation by way of internal design, which is gradual. That is the difference between art and nature. Feser argues for indirect causation by way of internal causality–nature; Aquinas argued for direct causation by way of external causality–art. They are not on the same page.

  37. 37
    StephenB says:

    Feser:

    For classical theism, to say that God creates the world is not merely, and indeed not primarily, to say that He got it going at some time in the past. It is more fundamentally to say the He keeps it going now, and at any moment at which it exists at all. As Aquinas says, to say that God makes the world is not like saying that a blacksmith made a horseshoe – where the horseshoe might persist even if the blacksmith died – but rather like saying that a musician makes music, where the music would stop if the musician stopped playing.

    Feser usually does a good job of explaining classical theism, but he has erred in this case. God created and sustains the world. Notice that the first word is past tense and the second word is present tense. It is impossible to keep something going that has not first been brought into existence. The creation precedes the maintenance, which means that they cannot be the same thing. Aquinas’ point is that God creates and then sustains. He is not saying that to create is to sustain. God brought time and space into existence out of nothing; He does not sustain them out of nothing.

  38. 38
    E.Seigner says:

    StephenB

    The nature of the process consists either of direct causation in the form of external design, which is immediate, or indirect causation by way of internal design, which is gradual. That is the difference between art and nature. Feser argues for indirect causation by way of internal causality–nature; Aquinas argued for direct causation by way of external causality–art. They are not on the same page.

    It’s precisely the other way. The external causation is indirect, and the internal one is direct. Why? Because natural order is divinely guided and divinely maintained, therefore universal, i.e. immanent to the universe and interdependent with regard to natural entities, not external to them. Natural order is natural to things. To be natural is to be in accordance with divine guidance, and naturalness is not imposed from outside. All medievals argue this way.

    And it’s easy to illustrate. One billiard ball hits the other and makes the other move. This is external causation. If you say this is direct in the relevant sense, then what about live entities, say plants, that have internal tendencies, that develop towards a goal or end? If anything, the causes operating in live entities are even more direct than between inert billiard balls, not indirect.

    StephenB

    God created and sustains the world. Notice that the first word is past tense and the second word is present tense. It is impossible to keep something going that has not first been brought into existence.

    You are using temporal terms, clearly not understanding the concept of timeless creation.

  39. 39
    Box says:

    Feser usually does a good job of explaining classical theism, but he has erred in this case. God created and sustains the world. Notice that the first word is past tense and the second word is present tense. It is impossible to keep something going that has not first been brought into existence. The creation precedes the maintenance, which means that they cannot be the same thing. Aquinas’ point is that God creates and then sustains. He is not saying that to create is to sustain. God brought time and space into existence out of nothing; He does not sustain them out of nothing.

    E.Seigner: You are using temporal terms, clearly not understanding the concept of timeless creation.

    E.Seigner, you are being uncharitable here. Clearly StephenB points out a logical or explanatory priority of creation over sustainment, not just a chronological priority.

  40. 40
    StephenB says:

    ES

    It’s precisely the other way.

    Let me explain it another way. St. Thomas Aquinas was a Young Earth Creationist. Feser’s philosophy leaves no room for that position. In any case, the take home point is that ID does not make any metaphysical commitments.

    ES

    You are using temporal terms, clearly not understanding the concept of timeless creation.

    (From the Universal Catechism):

    God upholds and sustains creation.

    301 With creation, God does not abandon his creatures to themselves. He not only gives them being and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act and brings them to their final end. Recognizing this utter dependence with respect to the Creator is a source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence:

    Clearly, creating and sustaining are not the same act.

  41. 41
    E.Seigner says:

    Box

    E.Seigner, you are being uncharitable here. Clearly StephenB points out a logical or explanatory priority of creation over sustainment, not just a chronological priority.

    Yes, he is – by means of emphasizing tenses in English language, a human construct over universals. Scholastics argue that universals are closer to God and therefore have explanatory priority. Sustainment is eternal and constant, therefore more general or universal compared to the once-upon-a-time view of creation. Therefore I am not granting to StephenB the way he prioritizes.

    StephenB’s catechism also emphasizes the upholding and sustaining action over the once-upon-a-time view. With the latter view, modern people in particular tend to think that God left nature to its own devices after the beginning. StephenB was initially rather full of it, for example when saying “He could fashion man indirectly through an evolutionary process.” Evolutionary process, if it needs constant sustaining by God, is not at all indirect, but the opposite – it’s more direct than “fashioning man directly” and the next moment leaving him to his own devices. (I’m not saying that evolutionary process should be prioritized over the view of creation where things pop into existence, but I am saying that the sustaining action is the primary aspect of creative activity. Human way of creating, such as a potter making a pot and then the pot is given away to various customers, is a very incomplete approximation to the way God creates.)

  42. 42
    StephenB says:

    ES

    StephenB’s catechism also emphasizes the upholding and sustaining action over the once-upon-a-time view.

    Incorrect. Creating is emphasized far more than sustaining. Sustaining is a fact, but it is considered separately and last:

    . CATECHESIS ON CREATION

    282 Catechesis on creation is of major importance. It concerns the very foundations of human and Christian life: for it makes explicit the response of the Christian faith to the basic question that men of all times have asked themselves:120 “Where do we come from?” “Where are we going?” “What is our origin?” “What is our end?” “Where does everything that exists come from and where is it going?” The two questions, the first about the origin and the second about the end, are inseparable. They are decisive for the meaning and orientation of our life and actions.

    283 The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man. These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers. With Solomon they can say: “It is he who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists, to know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements. . . for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me.”121

    284 The great interest accorded to these studies is strongly stimulated by a question of another order, which goes beyond the proper domain of the natural sciences. It is not only a question of knowing when and how the universe arose physically, or when man appeared, but rather of discovering the meaning of such an origin: is the universe governed by chance, blind fate, anonymous necessity, or by a transcendent, intelligent and good Being called “God”? And if the world does come from God’s wisdom and goodness, why is there evil? Where does it come from? Who is responsible for it? Is there any liberation from it?

    285 Since the beginning the Christian faith has been challenged by responses to the question of origins that differ from its own. Ancient religions and cultures produced many myths concerning origins. Some philosophers have said that everything is God, that the world is God, or that the development of the world is the development of God (Pantheism). Others have said that the world is a necessary emanation arising from God and returning to him. Still others have affirmed the existence of two eternal principles, Good and Evil, Light and Darkness, locked, in permanent conflict (Dualism, Manichaeism). According to some of these conceptions, the world (at least the physical world) is evil, the product of a fall, and is thus to be rejected or left behind (Gnosticism). Some admit that the world was made by God, but as by a watch-maker who, once he has made a watch, abandons it to itself (Deism). Finally, others reject any transcendent origin for the world, but see it as merely the interplay of matter that has always existed (Materialism). All these attempts bear witness to the permanence and universality of the question of origins. This inquiry is distinctively human.

    286 Human intelligence is surely already capable of finding a response to the question of origins. The existence of God the Creator can be known with certainty through his works, by the light of human reason,122 even if this knowledge is often obscured and disfigured by error. This is why faith comes to confirm and enlighten reason in the correct understanding of this truth: “By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear.”123

    287 The truth about creation is so important for all of human life that God in his tenderness wanted to reveal to his People everything that is salutary to know on the subject. Beyond the natural knowledge that every man can have of the Creator,124 God progressively revealed to Israel the mystery of creation. He who chose the patriarchs, who brought Israel out of Egypt, and who by choosing Israel created and formed it, this same God reveals himself as the One to whom belong all the peoples of the earth, and the whole earth itself; he is the One who alone “made heaven and earth”.125

    288 Thus the revelation of creation is inseparable from the revelation and forging of the covenant of the one God with his People. Creation is revealed as the first step towards this covenant, the first and universal witness to God’s all-powerful love.126 And so, the truth of creation is also expressed with growing vigor in the message of the prophets, the prayer of the psalms and the liturgy, and in the wisdom sayings of the Chosen People.127

    289 Among all the Scriptural texts about creation, the first three chapters of Genesis occupy a unique place. From a literary standpoint these texts may have had diverse sources. The inspired authors have placed them at the beginning of Scripture to express in their solemn language the truths of creation – its origin and its end in God, its order and goodness, the vocation of man, and finally the drama of sin and the hope of salvation. Read in the light of Christ, within the unity of Sacred Scripture and in the living Tradition of the Church, these texts remain the principal source for catechesis on the mysteries of the “beginning”: creation, fall, and promise of salvation.

    II. CREATION – WORK OF THE HOLY TRINITY

    290 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”:128 three things are affirmed in these first words of Scripture: the eternal God gave a beginning to all that exists outside of himself; he alone is Creator (the verb “create” – Hebrew bara – always has God for its subject). The totality of what exists (expressed by the formula “the heavens and the earth”) depends on the One who gives it being.

    291 “In the beginning was the Word. . . and the Word was God. . . all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”129 The New Testament reveals that God created everything by the eternal Word, his beloved Son. In him “all things were created, in heaven and on earth.. . all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”130 The Church’s faith likewise confesses the creative action of the Holy Spirit, the “giver of life”, “the Creator Spirit” (Veni, Creator Spiritus), the “source of every good”.131

    292 The Old Testament suggests and the New Covenant reveals the creative action of the Son and the Spirit,132 inseparably one with that of the Father. This creative co-operation is clearly affirmed in the Church’s rule of faith: “There exists but one God. . . he is the Father, God, the Creator, the author, the giver of order. He made all things by himself, that is, by his Word and by his Wisdom”, “by the Son and the Spirit” who, so to speak, are “his hands”.133 Creation is the common work of the Holy Trinity.

    III. “THE WORLD WAS CREATED FOR THE GLORY OF GOD”

    293 Scripture and Tradition never cease to teach and celebrate this fundamental truth: “The world was made for the glory of God.”134 St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things “not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it”,135 for God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness: “Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened his hand.”136 The First Vatican Council explains:

    This one, true God, of his own goodness and “almighty power”, not for increasing his own beatitude, nor for attaining his perfection, but in order to manifest this perfection through the benefits which he bestows on creatures, with absolute freedom of counsel “and from the beginning of time, made out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal. . .”137

    294 The glory of God consists in the realization of this manifestation and communication of his goodness, for which the world was created. God made us “to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace”,138 for “the glory of God is man fully alive; moreover man’s life is the vision of God: if God’s revelation through creation has already obtained life for all the beings that dwell on earth, how much more will the Word’s manifestation of the Father obtain life for those who see God.”139 The ultimate purpose of creation is that God “who is the creator of all things may at last become “all in all”, thus simultaneously assuring his own glory and our beatitude.”140

    IV. THE MYSTERY OF CREATION

    God creates by wisdom and love

    295 We believe that God created the world according to his wisdom.141 It is not the product of any necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance. We believe that it proceeds from God’s free will; he wanted to make his creatures share in his being, wisdom and goodness: “For you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”142 Therefore the Psalmist exclaims: “O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all”; and “The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.”143

    God creates “out of nothing”

    296 We believe that God needs no pre-existent thing or any help in order to create, nor is creation any sort of necessary emanation from the divine substance.144 God creates freely “out of nothing”:145

    If God had drawn the world from pre-existent matter, what would be so extraordinary in that? A human artisan makes from a given material whatever he wants, while God shows his power by starting from nothing to make all he wants.146

    297 Scripture bears witness to faith in creation “out of nothing” as a truth full of promise and hope. Thus the mother of seven sons encourages them for martyrdom:

    I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws. . . Look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being.147

    298 Since God could create everything out of nothing, he can also, through the Holy Spirit, give spiritual life to sinners by creating a pure heart in them,148 and bodily life to the dead through the Resurrection. God “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.”149 And since God was able to make light shine in darkness by his Word, he can also give the light of faith to those who do not yet know him.150

    God creates an ordered and good world

    299 Because God creates through wisdom, his creation is ordered: “You have arranged all things by measure and number and weight.”151 The universe, created in and by the eternal Word, the “image of the invisible God”, is destined for and addressed to man, himself created in the “image of God” and called to a personal relationship with God.152 Our human understanding, which shares in the light of the divine intellect, can understand what God tells us by means of his creation, though not without great effort and only in a spirit of humility and respect before the Creator and his work.153 Because creation comes forth from God’s goodness, it shares in that goodness – “And God saw that it was good. . . very good”154- for God willed creation as a gift addressed to man, an inheritance destined for and entrusted to him. On many occasions the Church has had to defend the goodness of creation, including that of the physical world.155

    God transcends creation and is present to it.

    300 God is infinitely greater than all his works: “You have set your glory above the heavens.”156 Indeed, God’s “greatness is unsearchable”.157 But because he is the free and sovereign Creator, the first cause of all that exists, God is present to his creatures’ inmost being: “In him we live and move and have our being.”158 In the words of St. Augustine, God is “higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self”.159

    God upholds and sustains creation.

    301 With creation, God does not abandon his creatures to themselves. He not only gives them being and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act and brings them to their final end. Recognizing this utter dependence with respect to the Creator is a source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence:

    For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made; for you would not have made anything if you had hated it. How would anything have endured, if you had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved? You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, you who love the living.160

    ———————————————————–

    Clearly creating and sustaining are not the same act. Feser is Catholic and so am I. So the Cathechism is the source for deciding which of us is right.

  43. 43
    StephenB says:

    StephenB was initially rather full of it, for example when saying “He could fashion man indirectly through an evolutionary process.” Evolutionary process, if it needs constant sustaining by God, is not at all indirect, but the opposite – it’s more direct than “fashioning man directly” and the next moment leaving him to his own devices. (I’m not saying that evolutionary process should be prioritized over the view of creation where things pop into existence, but I am saying that the sustaining action is the primary aspect of creative activity.

    You still don’t understand the difference between the direct act of creation by which God takes dirt out of the earth and forms Adam vs the indirect act of supervising an evolutionary process that takes millions of years to produce the same persom. The former is primary causation and the latter is secondary causation. St. Thomas Aquinas held to the first way; Ed Feser holds to the second. They are not on the same page. You are trying to escape from the facts.

  44. 44
    E.Seigner says:

    StephenB

    You still don’t understand the difference between the direct act of creation by which God takes dirt out of the earth and forms Adam vs the indirect act of supervising an evolutionary process that takes millions of years to produce the same persom.

    Of course I understand the difference. What I am saying is that the singular act of shaping Adam is in no way primary. You can call it direct all you want, but the sustaining action is and remains more direct and primary. I have not read Aquinas (and won’t, unless quoted at me), but every other scholastic, mystic, and church father views it this way and no one among them views it the other way, so I take it as a given that Aquinas also views it the same way.

    StephenB

    St. Thomas Aquinas held to the first way; Ed Feser holds to the second. They are not on the same page. You are trying to escape from the facts.

    I tend to trust that Feser knows what Aquinas holds: “As Aquinas says, to say that God makes the world is not like saying that a blacksmith made a horseshoe – where the horseshoe might persist even if the blacksmith died – but rather like saying that a musician makes music, where the music would stop if the musician stopped playing.” This is quoted from #35 in this thread, found by Box in Feser’s blog post titled Classical Theism. It’s a valuable intro to what Feser holds and what he thinks Aquinas holds.

  45. 45
    Mung says:

    StephenB:

    For the record, Aquinas believed that God created man directly and in finished form. Feser would disagree, I think. That is an important thing to disagree about. So much so, that I would say that Feser is not a Thomist in that sense.

    Oh please.

    Feser probably also does not follow Aquinas on his beliefs about sperm and menstrual blood. So much so, that I would say that Feser is not a Thomist in that sense.

    How many of these do we need to add up in order to conclude that Feser is not a Thomist in any meaningful sense?

  46. 46
    Mung says:

    E.Seigner:

    And I resent the mischaracterization of my argument as some sort of denial of the difference between a dump of sand and a sand castle. I have not said they are the same. I simply attribute radically less meaning to the difference. Their substance is the same, the shape differs. This is a rational moderate common-sense view of both their sameness and of their difference. All you do is look at the difference and disregard the sameness.

    Great Progress!

    When first asked how you would describe the difference, you seemed reticent to do so. So now you say, they have a different shape.

    So now we can ask, how so?

    What shape does the pile of sand have, and what shape does the sand castle have?

    E.Seigner:

    All you do is look at the difference and disregard the sameness.

    Are you claiming that we disregard that the sand castle is made of sand? Really?

  47. 47
    Mung says:

    StephenB:

    St. Thomas Aquinas was a Young Earth Creationist.

    St. Thomas Aquinas was a Young Earth Creationist because he believed that God created man through a direct act? That’s all it takes to make Aquinas a Young Earth Creationist?

    That’s pretty flimsy.

  48. 48
    StephenB says:

    E. Seigner

    What I am saying is that the singular act of shaping Adam is in no way primary. You can call it direct all you want, but the sustaining action is and remains more direct and primary.

    Frankly, I don’t care what you call it as long as you understand the difference between forming Adam’s body directly and forming it indirectly through a secondary process.

    I have not read Aquinas (and won’t, unless quoted at me), but every other scholastic, mystic, and church father views it this way and no one among them views it the other way, so I take it as a given that Aquinas also views it the same way.

    Every other scholastic, mystic, and church father does NOT view it that way at all. Why do you try to bluff your way through these discussions.

    I realize that facts in evidence mean nothing you, but here is Aquinas’ view anyway. Since you don’t know how to read Aquinas (after lecturing me about him as if you did), he first presents objections to his position, followed by his own views, beginning with the words, “I answer that,” followed by an answer to the objections.

    Article 2. Whether the human body was immediately produced by God?

    Objection 1. It would seem that the human body was not produced by God immediately. For Augustine says (De Trin. iii, 4), that “corporeal things are disposed by God through the angels.” But the human body was made of corporeal matter, as stated above (Article 1). Therefore it was produced by the instrumentality of the angels, and not immediately by God.

    Objection 2. Further, whatever can be made by a created power, is not necessarily produced immediately by God. But the human body can be produced by the created power of a heavenly body; for even certain animals are produced from putrefaction by the active power of a heavenly body; and Albumazar says that man is not generated where heat and cold are extreme, but only in temperate regions. Therefore the human body was not necessarily produced immediately by God.

    Objection 3. Further, nothing is made of corporeal matter except by some material change. But all corporeal change is caused by a movement of a heavenly body, which is the first movement. Therefore, since the human body was produced from corporeal matter, it seems that a heavenly body had part in its production.

    Objection 4. Further, Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. vii, 24) that man’s body was made during the work of the six days, according to the causal virtues which God inserted in corporeal creatures; and that afterwards it was actually produced. But what pre-exists in the corporeal creature by reason of causal virtues can be produced by some corporeal body. Therefore the human body was produced by some created power, and not immediately by God.

    On the contrary, It is written (Sirach 17:1): “God created man out of the earth.”

    I answer that, The first formation of the human body could not be by the instrumentality of any created power, but was immediately from God. Some, indeed, supposed that the forms which are in corporeal matter are derived from some immaterial forms; but the Philosopher refutes this opinion (Metaph. vii), for the reason that forms cannot be made in themselves, but only in the composite, as we have explained (65, 4); and because the agent must be like its effect, it is not fitting that a pure form, not existing in matter, should produce a form which is in matter, and which form is only made by the fact that the composite is made. So a form which is in matter can only be the cause of another form that is in matter, according as composite is made by composite. Now God, though He is absolutely immaterial, can alone by His own power produce matter by creation: wherefore He alone can produce a form in matter, without the aid of any preceding material form. For this reason the angels cannot transform a body except by making use of something in the nature of a seed, as Augustine says (De Trin. iii, 19). Therefore as no pre-existing body has been formed whereby another body of the same species could be generated, the first human body was of necessity made immediately by God.

    Reply to Objection 1. Although the angels are the ministers of God, as regards what He does in bodies, yet God does something in bodies beyond the angels’ power, as, for instance, raising the dead, or giving sight to the blind: and by this power He formed the body of the first man from the slime of the earth. Nevertheless the angels could act as ministers in the formation of the body of the first man, in the same way as they will do at the last resurrection by collecting the dust.

    Reply to Objection 2. Perfect animals, produced from seed, cannot be made by the sole power of a heavenly body, as Avicenna imagined; although the power of a heavenly body may assist by co-operation in the work of natural generation, as the Philosopher says (Phys. ii, 26), “man and the sun beget man from matter.” For this reason, a place of moderate temperature is required for the production of man and other animals. But the power of heavenly bodies suffices for the production of some imperfect animals from properly disposed matter: for it is clear that more conditions are required to produce a perfect than an imperfect thing.

    Reply to Objection 3. The movement of the heavens causes natural changes; but not changes that surpass the order of nature, and are caused by the Divine Power alone, as for the dead to be raised to life, or the blind to see: like to which also is the making of man from the slime of the earth.

    Reply to Objection 4. An effect may be said to pre-exist in the causal virtues of creatures, in two ways.

    First, both in active and in passive potentiality, so that not only can it be produced out of pre-existing matter, but also that some pre-existing creature can produce it.

    Secondly, in passive potentiality only; that is, that out of pre-existing matter it can be produced by God. In this sense, according to Augustine, the human body pre-existed in the previous work in their causal virtues.

    —————————————————————

    I tend to trust that Feser knows what Aquinas holds: “As Aquinas says, to say that God makes the world is not like saying that a blacksmith made a horseshoe – where the horseshoe might persist even if the blacksmith died – but rather like saying that a musician makes music, where the music would stop if the musician stopped playing.”

    Feser is quite good until he comes to the subject of Intelligent Design, at which time his anti-ID bias adversely affects his scholarship. The problem is not what Aquinas says in this one passage, which is evident enough. The problem is in the way Feser interprets it.

    It’s a valuable intro to what Feser holds and what he thinks Aquinas holds.

    I have presented evidence from the Universal Catechsim–the official document of the Church to which Feser and myself are both morally obligated to accept–to show that the act by which God creates out of nothing takes logical precedence over the act by which God sustains that which He has already created. I am not saying that the act of sustaining is not important and vital. Obviously it is. I am saying, and Feser’s Chursh is saying, that the act of Creating cannot be conflated with or subsumed into the act of sustaining. I fuss over this distinction only because Feser’s claim to the contrary is one rationale he uses to attack ID. Otherwise, I would give him a pass since I think he is, for the most part, an excellent author who usually gets is right in his analysis of Aquinas.

  49. 49
    StephenB says:

    Mung

    St. Thomas Aquinas was a Young Earth Creationist because he believed that God created man through a direct act? That’s all it takes to make Aquinas a Young Earth Creationist?

    That’s pretty flimsy.

    You don’t jump to conclusions, you pole vault. I said that Aquinas was a YEC. I didn’t say he was a YEC because he believed in direct creation.

    I characterized Aquinas as a YEC because he believed in direct creation AND because he held that the days of creation were literal 24 days. I am discussing only the former point.

  50. 50
    Mung says:

    StephenB:

    You don’t jump to conclusions, you pole vault. I said that Aquinas was a YEC. I didn’t say he was a YEC because he believed in direct creation.

    You didn’t give any reason for why you said Aquinas was a YEC. Is that the lacunae in your argument you claim I pole vaulted over?

    StephenB:

    I characterized Aquinas as a YEC because he believed in direct creation AND because he held that the days of creation were literal 24 days. I am discussing only the former point.

    Is that what it means to be a Young Earth Creationist?

    I’m just trying to understand. The AGE OF THE EARTH is not relevant, and that’s your criterion for asserting that Aquinas was a YEC? Seems a bit odd to me.

  51. 51
    StephenB says:

    Mung

    Feser probably also does not follow Aquinas on his beliefs about sperm and menstrual blood. So much so, that I would say that Feser is not a Thomist in that sense.

    And you would be right, if that “sense” was significant, which it isn’t. Accordingly, I think that Feser is, for the most part, a Thomist.

    HOWEVER,

    To say that Thomas is systemically anti-evolution, which he is, and to say that Feser is systemically pro-evolution, which he seems to be, then…… do I really need to finish the sentence?

    To say that Thomas is a substance theorist, which he is, and to say that Feser abandons substance theory for bundle theory when attacking ID, which he often does, …..do I really need to finish that sentence.

    What is your answer to these ironies?

  52. 52
    StephenB says:

    Mung

    You didn’t give any reason for why you said Aquinas was a YEC. Is that the lacunae in your argument you claim I pole vaulted over?

    I didn’t claim to give any reasons. I just said that he was a YEC, which is a perfectly legitimate characterization of his position. So, yes, you pole vaulted to a conclusion. For some reason, you are ignoring my main arguments. Why?

  53. 53
    StephenB says:

    Mung

    The AGE OF THE EARTH is not relevant, and that’s your criterion for asserting that Aquinas was a YEC? Seems a bit odd to me.

    Why do you say that the age of the earth is not relevant?

  54. 54
    E.Seigner says:

    StephenB

    Every other scholastic, mystic, and church father does NOT view it that way at all. Why do you try to bluff your way through these discussions.

    I happen to have read a bunch, for example Augustine. I just never got to Aquinas. What I have been reading about Aquinas thus far confirms my impression.

    StephenB

    Since you don’t know how to read Aquinas (after lecturing me about him as if you did), he first presents objections to his position, followed by his own views, beginning with the words, “I answer that,” followed by an answer to the objections.

    Many others write the same way. It’s a tradition at least from Plato’s dialogues, if not before.

    In the text you quote, “immediately” and “not immediately” means something quite different from what you mean by “directly” and “indirectly”. You clearly indicated that by “indirectly” you meant natural formation, but here “not immediately” means participation of any instrumentality, for example angels or heavenly bodies. When God acts on matter and when angels act on matter, the effects would be, for humans, indistinguishable. At best, by mere observation, humans would be able to figure there was something miraculous (supernatural, not merely natural) going on, but would you be able to tell if it was God or angels or demons? And this is the distinction of “immediately” and “not immediately” here. The distinction is not God versus natural formation/chance as you made above.

    Aquinas is making an argument against that the first man was formed by angels or heavenly bodies, whereas you made the argument against evolution. You are not making the same argument. And Feser would of course notice it much better and elaborate on this much clearer than I do.

    Earlier I have already noted that Aquinas, perfectly in line with scholastics in general, sees design as a universal, not as something distinguishable from non-design. Everything is designed. The view that Aquinas supports ID is sheer delusion, but it’s a delusion you are free to have.

    StephenB

    I have presented evidence from the Universal Catechsim–the official document of the Church to which Feser and myself are both morally obligated to accept–to show that the act by which God creates out of nothing takes logical precedence over the act by which God sustains that which He has already created.

    I think you mean here the longer quote from the thing called Catechesis, because from Catechism you quoted briefly and it definitely did not say anything even remotely in the direction that creation ex nihilo takes precedence over the sustaining action. Catechesis makes it clearer that creation ex nihilo is important, but I still see no indication that it would take logical precedence over sustaining the creation. Logically, if creation is out of nothing, then it necessarily follows that creation inevitably needs constant sustaining, and this connection means the two events are on a par, logically equal. This would be logical.

    If you claim that one takes precedence over the other, then the precedence can only be doctrinal, not logical. And whichever one take precedence doctrinally in Catholicism, I am ready to grant you that – as soon as you show me the quote (brief enough, not a whole book page or more). And then I will take it up with Feser to see what he makes of it. I personally am not even Christian, so I don’t care much about the intricacies of this doctrine, but it’s quite important to tell doctrinal statements apart from logical metaphysical conclusions.

    StephenB

    I fuss over this distinction only because Feser’s claim to the contrary is one rationale he uses to attack ID.

    I notice that, and you should take care that it not color your own interpretation of Aquinas. Anyway, I may have come across as a Feser fanboy, but I don’t even hold to the same metaphysics. For example, Aristotelian concept of artefact, which is one that Feser uses to argue against ID, is not a reason for me. I would reject Aristotelian concept of artefact altogether. I have my own independent reasons to reject ID. It’s just that Feser’s logic makes sense, while ID has no logic at all. “ID makes no assumptions about the designer and has no metaphysical commitments.” It’s obviously full of assumptions and commitments.

    StephenB

    To say that Thomas is systemically anti-evolution, which he is, and to say that Feser is systemically pro-evolution, which he seems to be,…

    Only if anti-ID equals pro-evo, which it doesn’t. But I know it does for pro-IDists. And this is another flaw in their logic.

    StephenB

    To say that Thomas is a substance theorist, which he is, and to say that Feser abandons substance theory for bundle theory when attacking ID, which he often does,…

    Aristotle was a substance theorist and had the concept of artefact, which Feser uses to argue against ID. Maybe it doesn’t look consistent with your idea of substance theory, but it is consistent with Aristotelianism.

  55. 55
    StephenB says:

    I have nothing else to say since I have more than made my case. I am a both a Thomist and an ID proponent. There is no reason why someone cannot be both. As far as I am concerned, Saint Thomas Aquinas is the greatest thinker who ever lived. I am with him in most things. ID theory does not rise to his level, but it is useful for out time.

    Ed Feser is a faithful Thomist and an excellent writer. In most respects, he is a sound thinker. For some reason, though, he has no interest in science. He seems to disdain information theory in general, and he certainly disdains ID theory in particular. His master, St. Thomas, would not have agreed with him in this respect. The Angelic Doctor absorbed all the knowledge around him and all that came before him.

    The principles that come from sound philosophy can always be reconciled with a reasonable interpretation of the scientific evidence. We should be leery of those who run away from scientific evidence, and we should always be leery of those who run away from sound philosophy. Philosophy is the more important of the two disciplines, but it cannot stand alone. Feser is wrong to play it that way.

  56. 56
    E.Seigner says:

    StephenB

    Ed Feser is a faithful Thomist and an excellent writer. In most respects, he is a sound thinker. For some reason, though, he has no interest in science. He seems to disdain information theory in general, and he certainly disdains ID theory in particular.

    Or maybe he disdains the way ID theory misapplies information theory. This is certainly my own problem with ID (among others). Feser says: “[Dembski] uses the term “information” (in The Design Revolution and elsewhere) in several different senses and freely slides from one to another without always making it clear which one is supposed to be doing the work in a given argument.” In fact, Dembski does this to pretty much every concept he uses. I have found that equivocations and other fallacies is what ID stands on. Usually scientific theories can be improved by clearing away the fallacies, but ID totally collapses when this is attempted.

    For example, one of my first objections against ID concerned the phrase “detect intelligence”. Anyone familiar with the basic metaphysical division of object and subject (where intelligence is firmly on the subject side) would be unable to use such a phrase, but the ID community here throws this phrase around as if it made sense, scientifically or philosophically or even both. In the course of debates, the worst hunches I had about this phrase got confirmed: ID proponents genuinely believe intelligence can be quantified and “detected” in any object. All attempts to clarify the terms only muddled the issue further. No ID proponent has any real idea what the terms mean and how the process works. And this is precisely the way they like it, because this is indeed what Dembski teaches. Sound thinkers can only disdain this.

  57. 57
    Mung says:

    StephenB:

    Why do you say that the age of the earth is not relevant?

    You’ve taken two positions, both of which are questionable:

    1.) St. Thomas Aquinas was a Young Earth Creationist.

    2.) Anyone who is not a Young Earth Creationist is not a Thomist.

    StephenB:

    Why do you say that the age of the earth is not relevant?

    I didn’t say it’s not relevant. I think it is relevant. I wonder why it is that in your classification of Aquinas as a YEC you’ve failed to state his position on the actual age of the earth. I was pointing out your failure to consider the actual age of the earth in your classification of Aquinas as a YEC.

    Mung:

    You didn’t give any reason for why you said Aquinas was a YEC. Is that the lacunae in your argument you claim I pole vaulted over?

    StephenB:

    I didn’t claim to give any reasons.

    I know. That’s one reason why I was objecting. What was it that I “pole vaulted” over? Your failure to give any reason? Really?

    Stephenb:

    I didn’t claim to give any reasons. I just said that he was a YEC, which is a perfectly legitimate characterization of his position.

    Given that you admit that you failed to present any evidence whatsoever about Aquinas’s views on the actual age of the earth, I fail to see how you have presented “a perfectly legitimate characterization of his position” when you assert that Aquinas was a YEC.

    You have presented a representation of Aquinas as a YEC in which the actual age of the earth is irrelevant. I’m not saying the age of the earth is irrelevant. I’m asking why you don’t consider it relevant.

    Where does Aquinas address the age of the earth?

    In your classification of Aquinas as a YEC, why don’t you think his position on the actual age of the earth is relevant?

  58. 58
    Mung says:

    StephenB:

    Ed Feser is a faithful Thomist and an excellent writer.

    So was I wrong to question your previously stated opinion about Feser?

    StephenB:

    For the record, Aquinas believed that God created man directly and in finished form. Feser would disagree, I think. That is an important thing to disagree about. So much so, that I would say that Feser is not a Thomist in that sense.

    Feser is a faithful Thomist. Or not.

  59. 59
    StephenB says:

    Mung:

    You’ve taken two positions, both of which are questionable:

    1.) St. Thomas Aquinas was a Young Earth Creationist.

    2.) Anyone who is not a Young Earth Creationist is not a Thomist.

    I didn’t argue, not do I believe, that it is necessary to be a YEC to be a Thomist. You misunderstood my comments.

    Where does Aquinas address the age of the earth?

    He quotes, with approval, the words of Jerome:

    “Six thousand years of our time have not elapsed [since the creation of the corporeal world].”

    In your classification of Aquinas as a YEC, why don’t you think his position on the actual age of the earth is relevant?

    I definitely think it is relevant. That is why I brought it up, and why I asked you why you didn’t think it was relevant (not realizing that you agreed that it was)

  60. 60
    StephenB says:

    SB: “I would say that Feser is not a Thomist in that sense.”

    Yes, that is my view. Feser is not a Thomist “in that sense.” That is not the same as saying he is not a Thomist.

    I also said that Feser is not a Thomist “in the sense” that he temporarily abandons substance theory and embraces bundle theory in order to attack ID.

    Mung, you appear to have totally ignored my arguments. That is why I asked you a few relevant questions in order to understand why you seem to be objecting to my comments.

  61. 61
    StephenB says:

    So was I wrong to question your previously stated opinion about Feser?

    I think that Feser is a faithful Thomist with the exception of those times in which he criticizes ID in Aquinas’ name, which really isn’t that often. My disapproval of his irrational stance toward ID, and science in general, does not cloud my judgment about his meaningful contributions to scholastic philosophy. We need to bring more of that back (but not as a weapon with which to attack ID).

  62. 62
    E.Seigner says:

    StephenB

    My disapproval of his irrational stance toward ID, and science in general, does not cloud my judgment about his meaningful contributions to scholastic philosophy. We need to bring more of that back (but not as a weapon with which to attack ID).

    This is kind fo interesting. What are your reasons to approve ID? What makes ID rational or scientific?

  63. 63
    Box says:

    Feser: For classical theism, to say that God creates the world is not merely, and indeed not primarily, to say that He got it going at some time in the past. It is more fundamentally to say the He keeps it going now, and at any moment at which it exists at all. As Aquinas says, to say that God makes the world is not like saying that a blacksmith made a horseshoe – where the horseshoe might persist even if the blacksmith died – but rather like saying that a musician makes music, where the music would stop if the musician stopped playing.

    Feser conflates creating and sustaining. Let’s see how he does it:

    Feser: For classical theism, to say that God creates the world is not merely, and indeed not primarily, to say that He got it going at some time in the past.

    [God did not create exclusively in the past]

    Feser: It is more fundamentally to say the He keeps it going now, and at any moment at which it exists at all.

    [God also sustains at any moment]
    This doesn’t make sense if we are allowed to think of creating and sustaining as two distinct acts. It is not the case that apples fell from trees exclusively in the past, but they taste great always.

    Feser: As Aquinas says, to say that God makes the world is not like saying that a blacksmith made a horseshoe – where the horseshoe might persist even if the blacksmith died – but rather like saying that a musician makes music, where the music would stop if the musician stopped playing.

    Allow me to come up with another comparrison: a thinker who thinks a thought, where the thought would stop if the thinker stopped thinking. Now it is clear that determining what to think – the creative process – is distinct from – the act of upholding the thought into existence by the thinker.
    A simular line of reasoning is applicable for the musician example of course.

    So, I hold that StephenB is again perfectly right when het writes in post #48:

    Feser is quite good until he comes to the subject of Intelligent Design, at which time his anti-ID bias adversely affects his scholarship. The problem is not what Aquinas says in this one passage, which is evident enough. The problem is in the way Feser interprets it.

  64. 64
    Box says:

    Correction post #63:
    It is not the case that apples fell from trees exclusively in the past, [on the contrary] apples taste great always.

  65. 65
    E.Seigner says:

    Box

    Feser conflates creating and sustaining. […] This doesn’t make sense if we are allowed to think of creating and sustaining as two distinct acts.

    Now all that is left for you to do is argue that we should consider creating and sustaining as two distinct acts. I don’t see why we should. Feser sometimes mentions God’s timeless act of creation. I don’t know how strongly Aquinas makes this point (of timeless act of creation), but the seeming conflation of creating makes perfect sense given timeless act of creation.

    Timelessness or eternity is God’s perspective. It’s the human perspective which should recede as soon as divine perspective becomes understood.

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