vendredi 23 novembre 2012

Bucaille and Feser

I never had the distinction of personally meeting Maurice Buccaille, who went on an Oriental journey and converted to Islam. But what he said after the journey is so famous or infamous, that I have been confronted with it. He said that the Bible was scientifically inaccurate but the Quran not only scientifically accurate but miraculously so, in a time when everyone except Muhammed was ignorant. Feser is somewhat the opposite extreme - for Catholicism, or for a sort of Catholicism. He does not quite dare base anything about God on scientific evidence. Both of them - Buccaille by a Muslim repeating his case and Feser by a video - have the distinction, if you like, to have made me loose interest before five percent or so of the discourse was over. That is, I am not sure about the exact percentage in the Muslim's case, but for Feser it was 3minutes 20 seconds when I shut off on a video 1 hour 11 minutes and some seconds more than that long.

Now, Buccaillism involves that the Quran is miraculously accurate about - gynaecology. According to what I heard - of course, I have not read the passage in the Quran myself, but the Muslim who held the conference no doubt had - the Quran states that God first creates the bones of each fœtus and the clothes them in flesh. The Psalmist King David very narrowly avoided saying that, when he said "thou hast clothed my bones in flesh in my mother's womb" - which is of course obviously true if each person is created bones first, but equally true if God creates the flesh first and clothes the bones in that flesh even while creating the bones. Now, to the best of my knowledge in gynæcology (but I am no expert), bones are very much not what is ready first in a developing fœtus. When after this statement of accuracy, exactly where the Quran was stating, according to what he said about it, something which is inaccurate, according to what I know about fœtal development, I left the conference. It was either that or protest, and the only other Christian I knew of there had already left the conference. If more than five percent of the conference had passed, I do not think it was over ten percent of it.

Now, Feser has achieved the same effect of making me loose interest. The video is called Edward Feser & Jonathan Sanford - Science and Faith Conference. The caption is already menacing:

"Natural Theology Must Be Grounded
in the Philosophy of Nature, Not Natural Science

Dr. Edward Feser
Professor of Philosophy
Pasadena City College

Science and Faith Conference
Franciscan University of Steubenville
Depts. of Theology, Philosophy and Biology
December 2 and 3, 2011"

If you want to reference what I watched and see if it gets more interesting after those bad first five minutes (ok, actually only 3:20) here is the link to the thing:

If anything they tend to lead you away from Classical Theism. You may get to a Demiurge, to a being with superhuman intelligence and power with arguments grounded in physics, chemistry or biology alone. But which you cannot get to is "ipsum esse subsistens" rather than a being among other beings. [...] One implication of this is that design arguments, associated with ... William Paley and contemprary Intelligent Design Theory are at best irrelevant to Natural Theology, as this discipline is understood in the Classical Theist tradition, and at worst threatens to seriously distort our understanding of God and His relationship to the world, again, at least from the view of Classical Theism.

I have two or three problems with that.

First: God revealed himself to the Patriarchs as a Being with superhuman intelligence and powers a bit before Jesus Christ said "before Abraham was, I am" or even before he told Moses that his name is "I am". Then again, never ever do the Creationists deny these parts of natural theology.

Second: it is simply not true that these arguments do not pertain to natural theology. They are one of the five ways, with one of the premisses explicitated:

The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.

S Th I, Q II, A III, in corpore.

Third: modern atheism does not exactly deny the conclusion of the first three ways, separated from the fifth way. In that matter of speaking it used to identify per se substistent existence with atoms, until it was found out these could be divided (meaning atom is a misnomer for them), and now either energy (Einsteinian view) or quanta - those of quantum physics have filled in that role. As to first mover, it is energy, forces such as gravity or electromagnetism. As to preservation of "movement or rest" it is maintained to be due to inertia.

The one corrective to an impersonal conclusion for the first three ways of St Thomas Aquinas is this to accept the fourth and fifth ways. And of these, the way of "whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer" is far more clear to unadulterated even modern atheist minds than the way of "Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like", in part because gradations of objective goodness and nobility is exactly denied, in part because hot and cold - the parallel St Thomas uses as explanation - are now regarded as being gradations of kinetic energy of vibrations.

And it is precisely either ID or straight forward Creationism which DOES clearly and unequivocally defend the argument of "whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence".

And we just saw (or if you watched the video: saw and heard) Professor Feser deny the relevance of precisely this argument.

This was of course the drop which maid the cup of my impatience with him flow over, but even before that he gives a little pearl or two of bad logic.

Any argument that successfully reasons from the world to God, must be grounded in premisses derived from the Philosophy of Nature rather than from Natural Science.

[...] I don't mean to deny that Natural Theology is a science. On the contrary, it is the highest science in the Aristotelian sense of science. For that matter Natural Philosophy is a science in the Aristotelian sense of science. But neither Natural Theology or Philosophy of Nature is a science in the modern sense of the term. The sense in which physics, chemistry and biology are regarded as sciences.

[...] Rather it must be grounded in that more fundamental discipline which studies the metaphysical preconditions of any possible physics, chemistry or biology [...]

What can possibly be an accurate metaphysic precondition of more specific scientific data, if it does not repose on an accurate universal induction? And how could such induction be accurate if it, I do not say disagrees with, but actually ignores the data of sciences?

I am far from denying the a modern biologist or phycisist is sometimes badly grounded in Aristotelian metaphysics.

But insofar as he is, he is actually also making bullshit out of his own science. A very typical example, from physics, something science believers could have spared themselves by studying the Aristotelic distinction between act and potentiality:

Drop a little hammer from the height of seven feet onto the head of a man six feet tall. Before it reaches the head, it has fallen - thus moved locally - one foot. He will say "ouch" and be annoyed. I am not telling anyone to drop hammers from higher heights than that. Gilbert Keith Chesterton wrote one story in which a small hammer fell from a Church tower. The guy who dropped the hammer thereby achieved the sad distinction of being a murderer. And on building sites with several stories, where hammers can be dropped accidentally, people are not allowed to enter unless they wear a protection helmet. So, the hammer has acquired a higher and higher capacity to impact until it is mortally dangerous to any person below it.

How does this square with the famous "conservation of energy"? Well, phycisists say "potential energy is being converted to kinetic energy". W a i t ... first off, kinetic energy is the potentiality to make an impact. So, from that it follows that "potential energy" supposedly converted to it is "potentiality to have potentiality to make an impact". Is this even remotely a sensible proposition?

It is only being proposed to defend the proposition that energy is conserved in identical quantity. And, does it make any sense to say you have measured the quantity of the potential energy in any way? Act can be measured. Potentiality cannot, as long as it remains only potential. There is thus not a very good case to state "the potential energy was exactly equal in quantity to the kinetic energy to which it was converted." Any measurings done about the potential energy are measurings about the act of impacting to which it was indirectly converted.

Third, the potential energy of a hammer-if-dropped is not only getting higher as it is carried a few stories upward in a building site or a church tower. It would equally get higher if being held over a ground that was being lowered by someone digging the ground away. It also differs from the potential energy of same hammer if hitting a nail. So, in the last analysis, potential energy is not an aspect of the hammer as such. Yet, somehow the kinetic energy with which the hammer eventually impacts after any kind of fall or hit, is.

And furthermore, there IS something which DOES exist in the hammer, even in Newtonian physics. Mass, yes. Identical whether on the ground or ten stories above ground. Gravitational pull towards centre of the earth - it is actually LESSER precisely in the place where "potential energy" is said to be GREATER. Because ten stories upwards it is so much further away from the earth. Graviation, in Newtonian terms, is inversely proportional to square of the distance, in this case distance from gravitational centre of the earth.

So, yes, before you get to proving God, especially according to first way, you need perhaps to take a step from modern Physics to Aristetelian ... Something. But that something, I reckon, is not just Aristotelian Metaphysics although you find the distinction of act and potentiality there too, you already find it in Aristotelian Physics, as far as I know.

So, if we need to correct modern science with Aristotle, let's do so with a specific view of matters within the scope of those sciences, as they are being practised, and say how within those sciences they are being malpractised. Which is what ID and Creationism both do as regards specifically biology.

But the way Feser put his proposition makes it very much sound as if premisses from the Natural Sciences are irrelevant and only premisses from Philosophy of Nature are relevant, without ever explaining how there can be a valid Philosophy of Nature which is totally independent of exact and well verified facts (not such as evolution or heliocentrism for instance, since not well verified) of precisely the Natural Sciences.

It is actually telling natural scientist: back off, this is not your domain at all, you can neither confirm nor refute anything I have to say, I am not talking to you. And, regrettably but understandably, a Natural Scientist who is also an Atheist will react with a referral to Hume or Kant or Wittgenstein or Russell. Understandably?

Well, he knows these guys are later than St Thomas Aquinas. He is used from his field to regard any later theory more recently accepted as being superior to older theories previously accepted, as in astronomy he regards Kepler as superior to Tycho Brahe, not just in elliptical orbits (which is a true advance on the perfectly circular ones and is accepted by today's Tychonians), but also in not placing the Earth as immobile centre of the entire Universe. Or as in biology, he is used to regarding fixed species as an older and abandoned theory and evolution as the new and true one. So long as you do not challenge what he has to say in these fields, but meekly decline such dangerous debate on the grounds that it is too specialised to be relevant, he is not likely at all to trust you if you tell him a philosopher of the later thirteenth century in Sorbonne is superior to a philosopher of the later eighteenth century in Scotland or Prussia (depending on whether he cites Hume or Kant).

And then he will go back to HIS search for the "ipsum esse per se subsistens", which apparently was not the atom, but might be the Higgs particle. Not forgetting conservation of energy neither ever diminished nor ever created, which involves the conundrum of what "potential energy" means. And Feser lets him get away with that.

Kent Hovind did not let biologists or people measuring "ages" of rocks into the millions or billions of years get away with it. And he is in prison for tax fraud. And his videos are being dissected for short snips that thunderf00t thinks he can easily refute, especially if he does not show the clips in any longer chunks and if he does not give reference to what videos by Hovind he has cited.

Even there, thunderf00t (a scientist and an atheist of the popular youtube community) has actually given some slightly greater support to a specifically Hovind theory among Young Earth Creationists. Or at least an important aspect of it. He made the blunder to say that trees, tortoises and shellfish can all live longer than man, though being exposed to as much background radiation as we. The enumeration is of pretty thickskinned kinds. I think elephants have pretty long lifespans too, as well as rhinoceri (or rhinos). That theory is the water canopy theory.

And a very obvious ally of Feser, one ... who cites the passage from St Augustine which is habitually cited against Young Earth Creationists and Geocentrics, as if opposite positions were very firmly and obviously grounded in experience and reason, opposes Young Earth Creationism on grounds that do disappear if you are Geocentric as well.

The fact is, Scientific Community at large DOES think Evolution and Heliocentrism are proven facts. And their theory of knowledge is not as Thomistic as the one of Creationists and Geocentrics. So, if you accept that from the Scientific Community at large, you are renouncing the Thomistic Epistemology.

Remoti, praeteriti, futuri et absconditi contingentis non est scientia.

And since we need the testimony of two senses for accurate knowledge of anything, far off stars which are ONLY seen in telescopes by that very fact are not a truly proper object of science. In the astronomy of thirteenth century that is supplemented by the rational alternative either they or we move each day-and-night or some further and longer periods, but of earth we DO have two senses telling its immobility, sight and equilibrium, so it must be the heavens that move.

I have actually been at least indirectly in debate with at least one astronomer. Our intermediate, with whom I debated and who consulted him, was a science believer. Through his quotes from the astronomer I know for a fact that one consideration on which they reject Geocentrism is that God and Angels are unacceptable explanations to them.

If you claim to be a Thomist, is God turning the Universe around the world each day, are angels carrying sun and moon as lantern and ball, things that St Thomas Aquinas very certainly did historically believe in, the very explanations that the atheist astronomer found unacceptable, are these things unacceptable explanations to you too?

If so, can you honestly claim to share the faith and the philosophy of nature of St Thomas Aquinas? And if not, what is your problem with saying that it is the modern sciences that are lacking in respect to the epistemological definition of science?

Oh, when we speak of that: you said that Philosophy of Science and Natural Theology are sciences in the Aristotelian sense, but not in the modern sense. You have not at all explained how the modern sense differs from the Aristotelian sense.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Bpi, Georges Pompidou
St Clement, Pope

PS: If you did come to conclusions closer to mine further on into the video, please do tell me at what minute and second I shall start watching. Or for that matter if you come to discussions against my standpoints in a more discussional and veryb much less metadiscussional way. That is if you can identify one of my theses and rationally argue a refutation specifically of that one.

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