Thursday, March 5, 2009

Aquinas and Plantinga, part 1

As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active power of the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of a woman comes from defect in the active power.
-- Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica

What I'm going to demonstrate in the posts that follow is that modern science has dealt a serious blow to what Thomas Aquinas once thought was sound reasoning. Cosmology, Evolution, quantum mechanics, neuroscience and research into artificial intelligence have shattered many of Thomas Aquinas's first principles and led us to a picture of the universe, and our place in it, that is profoundly at odds with what the ancient theologians thought. Modern religious apologists, like Alvin Plantinga, have not been able to get beyond some of Aquinas's worst errors because Christian theology (and Islamic and Jewish theology) are rooted in and depend on those wrong assumptions and presuppositions.

However, before I get into that, I want to explain why I'm going to be doing this. It started when I was visiting another "So Say We All" Galactica carnival blogger's site, Kenneth Hynek's to be precise, and stumbled upon his post, "On following a religion." I left a comment there and his response finally led to his dredging up of the arguments of Thomas Aquinas and Alvin Plantinga. He didn't restate their arguments, he just pointed to them as an explanation for why he thought his religious beliefs were well founded.

I seriously disagree, but if I'm going to dig through Aquinas and Plantinga yet again then I'm not going to just leave the work on the comments section of someone else's blog. No, I'm leaving a record here on my blog that I, and others, can point to the next time someone brings up arguments by Aquinas or Plantinga. I'll post a link on Mr. Hynek's blog that points here. He can leave links to his blog in my comments section if he really wants to get into this.

If we were to just point to the arguments of others, like Mr. Hynek did, without even giving a coherent summary of those arguments, then we'd fail to communicate our own ideas and reasons. There is already too much writing on the web about this now. Here are just a few of the pro and con arguments on the cosmological arguments for the existence of a God from There's plenty more like it to dig up. Before we can really get into this Mr. Hynek is going to have to point to specific links and explain why he is making bizarre claims like this:

There is the potential for error in attributing certain qualities to the First Cause, which must satisfy (at minimum) two conditions — simplicity and immutability.

Why must a "First Cause" be simple or immutable? And what does simplicity and immutability even mean in this context?

If you think God has mental qualities like "intention," "knowledge," "will," "emotion," "desire" etc. then how can you even imagine those are simple? You're talking about some magical form of human-like intelligence that needs no material substrate and of which there is no example to point to.

Obviously the first thing to do in such a situation is define terms. For example, if you ask me if I believe in God, I’ll usually say "No." However, that's likely to lead to the theist using the most open-ended definition of God he can get away with, like God is the first cause. But if the first cause is merely a quantum fluctuation, then a quantum fluctuation is God. But quantum fluctuations do not have mental qualities, they don't have emotions or thoughts. You may have, by some rules of the game, proved a kind of "god," (a first cause), but you've disproved the concept of God that Catholic theology is founded on.

So we must ask Mr. Hynek, "What do you mean by God?" Even deistic religions must answer it and define the term.

Also, lets settle on some texts if we're going to talk about Aquinas and Plantinga. We're not going to get anywhere if we're reading different writings even by the same authors. I'll be quoting Aquinas from the Project Gutenberg version of Summa Theologica, here:

Part I
Part II A
Part II B
Part III

If forgers and malefactors are put to death by the secular power, there is much more reason for excommunicating and even putting to death one convicted of heresy.
-- Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica

For a sample of Alvin Plantinga's thought process, check out "The Dawkins Confusion" (also on Dawkins' site), "Naturalism vs. Evolution: A Religion/Science Conflict?" and "Against 'Sensible' Naturalism."

If Mr. Hynek wants to get into this then let's start by defining terms and settling on which texts we're going to talk about. Once done then I can move on to giving a simple outline of my arguments against Aquinas and Plantinga. More details will follow later.

That the saints may enjoy their beatitude and the grace of God more abundantly they are permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell.
-- Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica


Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


normdoering said...

What's this?

Two posts with the exact same wording from two different people and with little advertising URLs at the bottom?

Can either of you two explain how that might happen?