As you might see if you check the comments on my post, "Aquinas and Plantinga, part 1", there has been no comment from Kenneth Hynek about debating the issue. However, he did write a post, “Everything grows clear in the reflections from the Infinite,” where he addresses me:
No doubt the likes of recent commentator Norman Doering will object to the proposition that there is something inherently Christian about the Western scientific notion that rational inquiry will be rewarded with rational information, but it must still be said: at the core of modern science, the belief is still very much alive that it is only by seeking that we shall find, and only by knocking that we will see things opened unto us…and that our seeking will be rewarded with findings, that our knocking will be rewarded with openings.
As a matter of fact I do object to the claim that there is something inherently Christian about the "Western scientific notion" that rational inquiry will be rewarded with rational information. The idea that Rational inquiry will be rewarded with rational information is human, not Christian. I think I can demonstrate the falsity of his claim by pointing out that it was Pagan Greeks who really got the process of scientific inquiry off the ground for the West:
And while the West was slumbering through a scientific dark age after Christian culture had demolished Greek science Muslims had a big contribution to make. And India had some remarkable scientists.
"I have to deplore the systematic manner in which the literature of Europe has continued to put out of sight our obligations to the Muhammadans (Muslims). Surely they cannot be much longer hidden. Injustice founded on religious rancour and national conceit cannot be perpetuated forever. The Arab has left his intellectual impress on Europe. He has indelibly written it on the heavens as any one may see who reads the names of the stars on a common celestial globe."
-- John William Draper in the "Intellectual Development of Europe"
The claim that Western science owes, perhaps its entire existence, to the Biblical underpinnings of Western society is seriously exaggerated to say the least. His claim that supernatural revelation, as registered in the Bible, is germane to science is unsupported.
It was under the influence of the arabs and Moorish revival of culture and not in the 15th century, that a real renaissance took place. Spain, not Italy, was the cradle of the rebirth of Europe. After steadily sinking lower and lower into barbarism, it had reached the darkest depths of ignorance and degradation when cities of the Saracenic world, Baghdad, Cairo, Cordova, and Toledo, were growing centers of civilization and intellectual activity. It was there that the new life arose which was to grow into new phase of human evolution. From the time when the influence of their culture made itself felt, began the stirring of new life.
It was under their successors at Oxford School (that is, successors to the Muslims of Spain) that Roger Bacon learned Arabic and Arabic Sciences. Neither Roger Bacon nor later namesake has any title to be credited with having introduced the experimental method. Roger Bacon was no more than one of apostles of Muslim Science and Method to Christian Europe; and he never wearied of declaring that knowledge of Arabic and Arabic Sciences was for his contemporaries the only way to true knowledge. Discussion as to who was the originator of the experimental method....are part of the colossal misinterpretation of the origins of European civilization. The experimental method of Arabs was by Bacon's time widespread and eagerly cultivated throughout Europe.
-- Robert Briffault in the "Making of Humanity"
Modern science does not depend on the assumptions that the universe itself is rational, only that it is intelligible to rational minds and that is not really an assumption, that was demonstrated long before Christianity existed.
Also, on the blog post where I left my previous comment Kenneth Hynek decided to insult me after he declined the debate while continuing to argue his point:
...when you ask this:Why must a “First Cause” be simple or immutable? And what does simplicity and immutability even mean in this context?
You demonstrate not only that the works of Plantinga and Aquinas are several degrees above your pay grade (I am speaking here of the difference in pay grade between janitor and CEO, in fact), but also demonstrate that your own position — whatever it is — is fundamentally unmoored from a basic understanding of reason itself.
Actually, I think it's Mr. Hynek who perhaps doesn't grasp what reason is and that he has chosen this insult option because he knows he can't explain his assertion that a “First Cause” must be simple and immutable. Though I must confess that I'm no big reader of Plantinga or Aquinas and I often don't have a clue as to why they make the screwy assertions they make.
Instead of dealing with Plantinga and Aquinas he is proceeding on his own into the realm of quantum mechanics. To my assertion that "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," he replied:
Given how little we even understand about the intricacies of quantum fluctuations, your statement is speculation at best, despite your presentation of it as hard fact.
While it's true that I can't be one hundred percent certain that quantum fluctuations don't have emotions or thoughts it's not mere speculation that they don't. After all, Mr. Hynek also can't be sure that the chair he is sitting in doesn't have emotions and thoughts and that it doesn't like the smell of his farts. Would he consider it rational to speculate that his chair resents his farts?
It is rather off the wall to suppose that chairs and quantum fluctuations do have such things. There is simply no good reason, aside from trying to shoehorn in a religious supposition into physics, to assume that a quantum fluctuation has emotions or thoughts. What magical, supernatural replacement for neural circuitry would generate their emotions or thoughts?
In fact, by stating this possibility it is in fact Kenneth Hynek who has demonstrated that it is he who lacks a critical tool of rational scientific thought. That tool is called, rather loosely by its enemies, "the assumption of naturalism," or by its friends, "methodological naturalism."
Does he really want to argue that quantum fluctuations do have emotions and thoughts? Probably not, but he might be trying to claim that they are how God acts in the world.
And while I appreciate that your position is so flimsy to begin with that it requires this kind of sleight of hand, don’t expect me to let said sleight of hand go unremarked upon.
Asserting that quantum fluctuations do not have emotions and thoughts is sleight of hand? Seems like common sense and the assumption of naturalism to me. I could tell Mr. Hynek a lot about the use of methodological naturalism in scientific reasoning, but apparently he can explain nothing about his methods of reasoning.
We know that a quantum fluctuation is a temporary change in the amount of energy at a particular point in space, in apparent violation of the law of conservation of energy. But what does that really tell us? Could a change in energy not be a function of will, albeit a will beyond our ability to comprehend or accurately articulate a description of?
We have ways of testing for mental abilities in animals, perhaps we should have physicists test for this ability in subatomic particles?
In response to my statement: 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. He wrote:
Or I’m talking about something that clunky human language cannot serve to adequately describe, using the clunky human language that is my only means of offering a cogent attempt at a description.
It's not so much, I suspect, a concept that cannot be adequately described as it is an ancient mistake about the source of our mental attributes that religious people refuse to explore rationally. Before neuroscience began to locate mental activity in the brain the ancients assumed that there were "souls" and "spirits" that gave men their mental attributes and animated their bodies. Interestingly, some of the ancient words often translated into soul or spirit in the Bible could also mean wind and breath and ghost. It suggests that the concept of soul and spirit was a biological misunderstanding. The ancients thought that breath, spiritus in Latin, was the force that differentiated a living body from a dead body. Living people breathed, dead people didn't. Breath is a physical event, your breath also exists outside your body momentarily, so spirits can exist outside the body. And you can have spirit possession and invisible ghosts floating about in the air and acting like the wind.
Neuroscience doesn't use the words "spirit" or "soul." Neuroscientists talk about receptors, and neurotransmitters, and electrical circuits, and so forth. Do you think we should go back to talking about spirits?
You assume, I think, a certain blindness to these cosmological forces; from whence do you get this erroneous notion that these forces are in any way blind?
From their statistically predictable regularity. What about the behavior of quantum fluctuations would suggest otherwise?
Could it be, instead, that you feel a deep-seated fear at the idea that things may exist which defy human observation or description?
Maybe you're the one who is afraid?
there’s no way at all we could even begin to have a meaningful discussion, because your position is grounded in several levels of irrationality and unreason. And I, for one, don’t see the need to attempt to forge something meaningful out of something that will only ever rise to the level of a dog’s breakfast.
Well, there you go. He is saying that my poor little god-given brain can not comprehend and grasp the vast mysteries that he understands. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a sadomasochist when I asked why they liked such things. I was told something similar to:
To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.
Just replace the word faith with desire.