Thursday, May 18, 2017

Atheism Is The Most Intellectually Dishonest Ideology And Among The More Anti-Intellectual As Well

Note:  I fixed the problem with my post below, a result of a bad edit and posting after a sleepless night.  Part of the original got cut out due to the annoying propensity of Windows 10 to select text by itself - I hate that friggin' touch screen feature.  I apparently didn't notice I'd cut it out and the resultant confusion between the two Scotuses didn't jump out at me as I continued editing.  You'll know I've won the lottery when my writing is well edited.  A man who acts as his own editor has a blogger for a client.

Someone asked me if I'd read an article by a Robert H. Nelson,  Does God Exist?  Some Scientists Think They Have Proof.   Which I hadn't,  I'm not especially interested in reading "proofs" of God's existence, especially those based on science, though I'm not as allergic to them as I used to be.  I used to be a purist who noted that science deals only with certain aspects of the physical universe which can be treated adequately by scientific methods.  And that it can't even deal with much, perhaps most of it because the proposed topics of such treatment are too complex or irreducible or inaccessible to treat it honestly with the methods of science.  Though that certainly hasn't stopped people dishonestly trying to subject them to science and getting other such people to peddle it as science to the gullible and willingly deceived.  For completeness, I'll include the observation of Eddington in his Philosophy of Physical Science that any aspects of nature which human beings can't imagine due to biological or other limits of our ability will always elude scientific treatment, something that many scientists just hate to have pointed out but science, no less than any other human study is ENTIRELY dependent on the capacity of human imagination and there is no way for us to imagine anything that might or might not lie outside those limits, and if they don't like that fact, that's just tough.

Anyway, that's how I used to consider the question of scientific "proofs" for the existence of God.  But, then,  in the past sixteen or so years of more intensive study of the use of science by atheists, they go whole hog in claiming that science does something it definitely cannot do, disprove the existence of God, a practice that relies on both the dishonesty of scientists who should know better - though lacking any philosophical knowledge or, apparently, even knowing the intellectual basis of science, most of them don't.  And those who should know and perhaps in some cases do peddle their dishonest wares to those who are definitely too ignorant of both but who consider science as some mysterious oracle of authoritative truth or real, true vessel of reliable durable knowledge.  Though, as pointed out here, recently, if they don't have the math or other knowledge to understand something considered to be "science" they've got to take it on exactly the same kind of authority that people believe most of what they believe they know.  Including those who atheists love to mock for their ignorance.   When you don't know the complex, elaborate arguments and intellectual background of a finding of some declaration of science, you can't know anything about it on the basis of science and must take it on authority.  That the authority you have to take denies that's what's happening and that they aren't exactly the kind of authority they claim to despise doesn't lessen that reality by a single datum.  

Atheists don't so much hate that people believe things on blind faith, it's just a matter of whether or not those things people believe on blind faith are things they like or hate.

I will point out that if their authority isn't believed with total conviction by those without that background knowledge they sure do get mighty pissy about it.  None so much as those who are the most vehement about denying that is the inevitable character of science in the general world.

I did read the article and I have to say that if people want to use the holdings of current science to support their belief in God, they are as intellectually entitled to do that as atheists who use science to support their refusal to believe in God.  I have heard arguments made on both sides and I have to say that though I have major disagreements on religion with some of those making the arguments, such as the brilliant William Lane Craig - the man who Dawkins was too chicken to debate - and the Oxford mathematician John Lennox, they are entirely more honest about what they're doing when they do it than any atheist celebrity I've read or heard in that attempt.  I suspect much of that is due to religious believers believing it is a sin to tell a lie, a contention which is unsupportable by atheism, but, also, that they know they are at a cultural disadvantage and they realize that their arguments have to be tighter and less extravagant in their claims.

As I said, I'm really not much interested in that use of science, though I now think it's as intellectually legitimate as arguing that science disproves God and, in practice, on the level I'd even consider paying attention to, entirely more intellectually responsible, but I was interested on one thing, the celebrity atheist response to it.

I have been preoccupied with the Trump-Republican scandals so I haven't had much time to spend on this but I did check that reliable barometer of atheist high pressure high dudgeon, the University of Chicago.  world's oldest 12-year-old, molecular biologist Jerry Coyne.  And, as predicted, he had a tantrum over the arguments, though made by Nelson in a different article.  For now I'll point out that Jerry, the jerk, doesn't fact check and he doesn't much care if he's accurate or not.  Or telling the truth.  At the very end of his screed - which I will probably revisit soon - he says.

Were I to have written Nelson’s article in, say, the 10th century, my five arguments for God would be Lightning, the Black Plague, Epilepsy, Magnetism, and Solar Eclipses. Now we see that as nonsense.

As his claim is him imagining himself back in the 900s (I wonder if he thought it was the next century).  he would be making arguments for the existence of God on that list of items.  One of them is certainly not something he would have argued in the 10th century, as the Black Death wasn't a phenomenon available for such use because it didn't happen until the middle of the 14th century, so, Jerry's off on that one by 4 centuries, typical but not as bad as much such atheist argument from ahistoricity.

I wonder just what 10th century author he could cite who made arguments for God out of lightening, epilepsy, magnetism or solar eclipses.  He probably has never read a word of 10th century philosophy or theology and could probably not even name any 10th century writers on the topic without googling.  I certainly haven't read everything written of that nature in the 10th century or the surrounding centuries but I'd be surprised if there was anyone in that century who produced any such arguments.  Certainly Jerry Coyne could tell us what he was referring to, though I think if he were honest he would have to say that his view of 10th century theological philosophy is entirely a product of his entirely biased imagination informed by atheist propaganda.

I couldn't name any 10th century theologians off the top of my head, though I have actually read some 9th century philosophy, from John of Ireland, John Scotus Eriugena,  and Alcuin.   Alcuin was famous as an author of a mathematics textbook, among other things and John Scotus was important for many things.  He was considered one of the most educated men in Western Europe at the time and is said by some to have been one of the few men in Western Europe who could really read Greek.  Along with Alcuin he was instrumental in the invention of universities and the rational tradition that eventually led to modernism, including the deity of Jerry Coyne, science.  

On the other side of the 10th century is another Scotus, Dun Scotus a genuine genius who actually did produce a famous proof of God, the description of which I'll post from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

2.2 Proof of the existence of God
Scotus's argument for the existence of God is rightly regarded as one of the most outstanding contributions ever made to natural theology. The argument is enormously complex, with several sub-arguments for almost every important conclusion, and I can only sketch it here. (Different versions of the proof are given at Lectura 1, d. 2, q. 1, nn. 38–135; Ordinatio 1, d. 2, q. 1, nn. 39–190; Reportatio 1, d. 2, q. 1; and De primo principio.)

Scotus begins by arguing that there is a first agent (a being that is first in efficient causality). Consider first the distinction between essentially ordered causes and accidentally ordered causes. In an accidentally ordered series, the fact that a given member of that series is itself caused is accidental to that member's own causal activity. For example, Grandpa A generates a son, Dad B, who in turn generates a son of his own, Grandson C. B's generating C in no way depends on A—A could be long dead by the time B starts having children. The fact that B was caused by A is irrelevant to B's own causal activity. That's how an accidentally ordered series of causes works.

In an essentially ordered series, by contrast, the causal activity of later members of the series depends essentially on the causal activity of earlier members. For example, my shoulders move my arms, which in turn move my golf club. My arms are capable of moving the golf club only because they are being moved by my shoulders.

With that distinction in mind, we can examine Scotus's argument for the existence of a first efficient cause:

(1) No effect can produce itself.
(2) No effect can be produced by just nothing at all.
(3) A circle of causes is impossible.
(4) Therefore, an effect must be produced by something else. (from 1, 2, and 3)
(5) There is no infinite regress in an essentially ordered series of causes.
(5a) It is not necessarily the case that a being possessing a causal power C possesses C in an imperfect way.
(5b) Therefore, it is possible that C is possessed without imperfection by some item.
(5c) If it is not possible for any item to possess C without dependence on some prior item, then it is not possible that there is any item that possesses C without imperfection (since dependence is a kind of imperfection).
(5d) Therefore, it is possible that some item possesses C without dependence on some prior item. (from 5b and 5c by modus tollens)
(5e) Any item possessing C without dependence on some prior item is a first agent (i.e., an agent that is not subsequent to any prior causes in an essentially ordered series).
(5f) Therefore, it is possible that something is a first agent. (from 5d and 5e)
(5g) If it is possible that something is a first agent, something is a first agent. (For, by definition, if there were no first agent, there would be no cause that could bring it about, so it would not in fact be possible for there to be a first agent.)
(5h) Therefore, something is a first agent (i.e., an agent that is not subsequent to any prior causes in an essentially ordered series—Scotus still has to prove that there is an agent that is not subsequent to any prior causes in an accidentally ordered series either. That's what he does in step (6) below). (from 5f and 5g)
(6) It is not possible for there to be an accidentally ordered series of causes unless there is an essentially ordered series.
(6a) In an accidentally ordered series, each member of the series (except the first, if there is a first) comes into existence as a result of the causal activity of a prior member of the series.
(6b) That causal activity is exercised in virtue of a certain form.
(6c) Therefore, each member of the series depends on that form for its causal activity.
(6d) The form is not itself a member of the series.
(6e) Therefore, the accidentally ordered series is essentially dependent on a higher-order cause.
(7) Therefore, there is a first agent. (from 4, 5, and 6)
Scotus then goes on to argue that there is an ultimate goal of activity (a being that is first in final causality), and a maximally excellent being (a being that is first in what Scotus calls “pre-eminence”).

Thus he has proved what he calls the “triple primacy”: there is a being that is first in efficient causality, in final causality, and in pre-eminence. Scotus next proves that the three primacies are coextensive: that is, any being that is first in one of these three ways will also be first in the other two ways. Scotus then argues that a being enjoying the triple primacy is endowed with intellect and will, and that any such being is infinite. Finally, he argues that there can be only one such being.

So, Jerry, where's the argument from lightening and epilepsy and the rest of the things on your list?  I'll excuse you from trying to tease out a reference to the Black Death in the 10th century.  But, what do you base your contention of an argument for the existence of God out of the Black Death on?   You ignorant. bigoted, dishonest, douche bag.

I did look up 10th century philosophers and found I was only familiar with one name, Simon the New Theologian.  Reading about him I found he founded a church named for St. Macrina, the sister of two giants of Christian Theology, Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa.  Gregory of Nyssa, in his fascinating and moving On the Soul and Resurrection, a treatise in the form of a dialogue between him and his dying sister Macrina who he had gone to visit after the death of their brother only to find she was dying.   Macrina, who is famous, among other things for being a very early abolitionist, was greatly respected by her brother who had almost a modern appreciation for her, as a woman, and her intellect. I won't post it but he attributed a rather subtle argument to her based in an analogy to the current knowledge of contemporary lunar astronomy.   (I doubt you know any of that, Dr. Coyne - when I mentioned St. Macrina here as a great and early example of an abolitionist, one of your fellow atheist douche bags could only make fun of her name in response - but I'd bet that John Scotus did as he was greatly influenced by Gregory of Nyssa.  That 9th century theologian was both a far more responsible scholar than you and far more intellectually honest.)

My imagination leads me to believe that Jerry Coyne would think none of that matters including his misrepresentations because he, Jerry Coyne, scientist, speaks for science and speaking for science means never having to apologize for lying about history and other such academic study - yeah, I imagine him as believing that .  But that's only my imagination until I have evidence to support it.

Update:  I should note that Alcuin was primarily a teacher and scholar, though he did write some philosphy-theology I am not aware he wrote a "proof of God".   He did have an enormous influence on the establishment of education in Western Europe, he was instrumental in the monastic movement that led to the founding of the first universities and he talked Charlemagne into attempting to institute universal elementary education in his kingdom.  Something which is under attack in sciency 21st century America.   Alcuin was a very important figure in the history of education.

Also, too, I hadn't intended to publish this piece until later this morning, it was published accidentally, early in a sleepless morning in draft.

Update:  Another of the atheists of Eschaton made a stupid comment about me supporting the people who brought us the Inquisition - the dumb dolly blames that on the Scholastics.  Which is kind of funny because at least one of the authors I cite above, John Scotus Eriugina was condemned by a number of Inquisition era figures for his variance with orthodox Catholic doctrine.  The old Catholic Encyclopedia ends its article on him with this:

Eriugena's influence on the theological thought of his own and immediately subsequent generations was doubtless checked by the condemnations to which his doctrines of predestination and of the Eucharist were subjected in the Councils of Valencia (855), Langres (859), and Vercelli (1050). The general trend of his thought, so far as it was discernible at the time of his translations of Pseudo-Dionysius, was referred to with suspicion in a letter addressed by Pope Nicholas I to Charles the Bald in 859. It was not, however, until the beginning of the thirteenth century that the pantheism of the "De Divisione Naturae" was formally condemned. The Council of Paris (1225) coupled the condemnation of Eriugena's work with the previous condemnations (1210) of the doctrines of Amalric of Chartres and David of Dinant, and there can be no doubt that the pantheists of that time were using Eriugena's treatise. While the great Scholastic teachers, Abelard, Alexander of Hales, St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas, and Albert the Great knew nothing, apparently, of Eriugena and his pantheism, certain groups of mystical theologians, even as early as the thirteenth century, were interested in his work and drew their doctrines from it. The Albigenses, too, sought inspiration from him. Later, the Mystics, especially Meister Eckhart, were influenced by him. And in recent times the great transcendental idealists, especially the Germans, recognize in him a kindred spirit and speak of him in the highest terms.

In case "Freki" doesn't know, the Inquisition began largely due to the campaign against the Albigenses who apparently found some of their inspiration in John of Ireland.  I will say that I'm a lot more in line with his gradualist unversalism than I am the orthodox Catholic doctrine of eternal damnation.  I started reading the Cappadocians a while back and I find their arguments to be convincing as, apparently, he did, too.   These days, unless you're an official Catholic theologian, I would bet that even lots of priests, maybe even some bishops and many everyday Catholics wouldn't be too worked up over someone who believed in universal salvation or what the article calls "pantheism".

Right before that passage in the article in the discussion of his major work, Of the Divisions of Nature, it says.

Eriugena strove in vain to reconcile with Aristotelean empiricism, Christian creationism, and theism. The result is a body of doctrines loosely articulated, in which the mystic and idealistic elements predominate, and in which there is much that is irreconcilable with Catholic dogma.

I've read, somewhere, the assertion that John Scotus Eriugena is both the last of the classical period writers and one of the figures at the beginning of Scholasticism.  I, like Freki and, definitely,  Jerry Coyne am not an expert on the period. Though I've read a bit of several of the authors, as noted above.

I went over that short description of Duns Scotus's proof of God a few more times - the whole thing is very long and complex, too long and complex to go through right now - but the more I think about it the more impressive it is.  I do wonder if the same form of argument using such undeniable premises were used to support the existence of a natural phenomenon if the results would be so clear that it would be considered as proven.  Though I'm not going to try to test that idea.  Not till pollen season and the danger to democracy from the Republican-fascists are over.  That is if I don't die first.

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