William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Summary Against Modern Thought: Proving God is Omniscient

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

My predictions were right: attentions flagged. Yet we have to plow through this material. I recall in a course on “Long-memory time series” sitting through a proof that took four hours (spread over two weeks). The destination was unremarkable and the only way anybody knew to get there was through a dense forest. Here the going is slightly easier, plus our destination a lot more interesting.

Be sure to read at least the last Note.

Chapter 47 That God Understands Himself Perfectly (alternate translation)

[3]…A material thing is made intelligible by being abstracted from matter and from material conditions. Wherefore that which by its nature is severed from matter and from material conditions, is by its very nature intelligible. Now every intelligible is understood according as it is actually one with the intelligent: and God is Himself intelligent, as we have proved.[1] Therefore since He is altogether immaterial, and is absolutely one with Himself, He understands Himself most perfectly.

Notes We’re skipping around, but this material is stunningly important for understanding the immateriality of the intellect. Not just of God’s. Ours, too. Our understanding of the essence of material things cannot itself be material. Ask Jack Aubrey would say, “Ain’t you amazed?”

Chapter 48 That God Knows Only Himself First And Per Se (alternate translation)

[3]…It is impossible to understand simultaneously several things first and per se: since one operation cannot terminate simultaneously in several things. Now God understands Himself sometimes, as we have proved.[2] Therefore if He understands something else by way of an object understood first and per se, it follows that His intellect is changed from consideration to consideration of that thing. But this thing is less excellent than He. Therefore the divine intellect would be changed for the worse: which is impossible.

Notes Given the premises, I can’t see even ardent atheists not accepting this. Don’t forget the “given the premises” part. Review, review, review.

Chapter 49 That God Knows Things Other Than Himself (alternate translation)

[2]…For the knowledge of an effect is sufficiently obtained from knowledge of the cause: wherefore we are said to know a thing when we know its cause.[1] Now God by His essence is the cause of being in other things. Since therefore He knows His own essence most fully, we must conclude that He knows other things also.

Notes [1] 1 Poster. Anal. ii. 1. (Aristotle, of course). This one is used in Science, too.

Chapter 50 That God Has Proper Knowledge Of All Things (alternate translation)

[2]…let us suppose that God is the cause of every being, which is clear to a certain extent from what has been said above,[2] and will be more fully proved further on.[3] Accordingly then there can be nothing in a thing without its being caused by Him indirectly or directly. Now if the cause be known its effect is known. Wherefore all that is in anything whatsoever can be known if God be known as well as all the causes intervening between God and that thing.

Now God knows Himself and all the causes that intervene between Him and any thing whatever. For it has been shown already that He knows Himself perfectly.[4] And through knowing Himself He knows whatever proceeds from Him immediately: and again through knowing this, He knows whatever proceeds therefrom immediately, and so on as regards every intervening cause until the ultimate effect. Therefore God knows whatever is in a thing. Now this is to have proper and complete knowledge of a thing, namely, to know whatever is in a thing, whether common or proper. Therefore God has proper knowledge of things, according as they are distinct from one another.

Notes We are accepting, at least for the sake of argument, that God is the ultimate cause of every being. The rest follows immediately. The first paragraph (as always, I added the break) is succinct. Even if you skip the remaining notes, do read the last.

[3] Further. Whatever acts by intellect, has knowledge of what it does, as regards the proper idea of the thing done: because the knowledge of the doer appoints the form to the thing done. Now God is cause of things by His intellect: since His being is His act of intelligence, and every thing acts in so far as it is actual. Therefore He knows His effect properly, according as it is distinct from others.

Notes Which reminds us of George Carlin’s defense in a case of bank robbery, “I’m sorry, judge, I just forgot.”

[4] Moreover. The distinction of things cannot arise from chance, for it has a fixed order. Hence it follows that the distinction among things proceeds from the intention of some cause. But it cannot proceed from the intention of a cause that acts from natural necessity: because nature is determined to one thing, so that nothing that acts from natural necessity can have an intention in relation to several things considered as distinct from one another.

It remains therefore that the distinction among things arises from the intention of a cause endowed with knowledge. Now it would seem proper to an intellect to consider the distinction among things: wherefore Anaxagoras[5] declared that an intellect was the principle of distinction. But taken as a whole the distinction of things cannot proceed from the intention of any second cause, since all such causes are included in the universality of distinct effects. Wherefore it belongs to the first cause, which is of itself distinct from all others, to intend the distinction among all things. Therefore God knows things as distinct….

Notes “The distinction of things cannot arise from chance,” which says it all. The cause must have knowledge, because causes are directed towards an end. As for the rest…

Recapitulation. We started with knowledge our sense impressions gave us: that some things change. Why? Because of some cause. What was the nature of the cause for the per-se here-and-now cause? A First Mover. We proved this First Mover had to be the same for every change. “It” had to have no potentiality, “it” was outside time, i.e. eternal, that this Mover was God. It followed that God’s existence and essence were one, that He had no body or materiality, that God could not be known completely, but was Good, i.e. the basis and definition of Good.

And now, though there are a details to mop up (mostly in characterizing this knowledge), we have finally proved that God knows everything. Omniscience. We assumed Omnipotence, but we have already partly proved that. An amazing string of deductions, no? Yes. We’re moving towards God is Truth, Happiness, and all that. After we mop up the characteristics of God, we prove God is the creator, creating big-bang like, out of nothing (no thing). We look at the soul. And much more!

The best way to review is to scan first the Aquinas’s original writing without my comments. For sticky points, then use my notes.

[2] Ch. xiii.
[3] Bk. II., ch. xv.
[4] Ch. xlvii.
[5] 8 Phys. i. 2; ix. 3.
[6] Ch. xxviii.
[7] D. 3. ii. 5.
[8] Ch. xxviii.
[9] 1 Phys. ix. 3.
[10] Sum. Th. P. I., Q. xiv., A. 11.
[11] D. 2. iv. 15.

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Vatican To Have One-Day “Climate Change” Summit. Why Wasn’t I Invited?

Shakespeare tears

The big round tears coursed one another down his innocent nose in piteous chase.

Here’s the word from the America: The National Catholic Review:

The Vatican is set to host a major conference on climate change this month that will feature leading researchers on global warming and an opening address by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon…

The one-day summit on April 28 will also include participants from major world religions and aims to “elevate the debate on the moral dimensions of protecting the environment in advance of the papal encyclical,” as the papal document is known…

In addition to the keynote speech by Ban, participants will hear from Jeffrey Sachs, a prominent American economist and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Church sources said that leading scientists in the climate change field will also take part.

The official name of the 28 April conference is “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity. The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development“.

The Earth is in little need of protection from us; it isn’t going anywhere. It’s too big. Mankind certainly can’t destroy it, though we can make messes for ourselves which are more and less troublesome. My favorite example came from Alex Epstein’s The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. Seems in China there are lakes of toxic waste produced from the manufacture of iThises and iThats that are causing local residents to fall deathly ill. Hey. If it makes for cheap “devices”, who are we to judge?

About the second goal, who doesn’t want a dignified humanity? The answer is: presumably those folks who purposely act undignified. Right, Frisco?

Good news is the phrase “Sustainable Development”—instead of just “sustainability”, which is nothing but a euphemism for progressive politics. Here’s proof: Sustainability: Higher Education’s New Fundamentalism. Sustainable development means they’re still willing to discuss, well, development.

Anyway, they’re inviting non-scientist Jeffrey Sachs, who specializes in producing dreary ideas. And they’re inviting politicians, a signal of desperation. They’re asking “Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, a top Vatican official who is leading the drafting process of Francis’ encyclical on the environment.”

But they’re not inviting me. (As far as I can tell, only one scientist is coming, and he’s pro-doom.)

It’s not like I haven’t tried to be noticed. Past couple of months, I’ve been waving my hand at places like the Pontifical Academy of Sciences like an over-excited kid in the back of the class, but the teacher still hasn’t called on me. Maybe she thinks I’m a know-it-all.

Which I am. At least in the case of “climate change” a.k.a. “global warming” a.k.a. “climate disruption” a.k.a. etc., etc. Plus, I’m a Catholic, which ought to cut some dry ice (get it? get it?).

I mean, I’m an actual expert. Regular readers know all this, but I repeat it in the slim hopes some newcomer will see it and be triggered (notice my clever use of hip words).

My Bachelor’s and Masters are in atmospheric physics, my PhD (from Cornell) is in mathematical statistics, with one specialty in measuring the goodness and usefulness of predictions (like climate models). I served on the American Meteorological Society’s Probability & Statistics Committee, was Associate Editor of Monthly Weather Review (the biggest weather journal), published in Journal of Climate, and many, many other places. And much more.

Readers know of the recent flap about funding in global warming science. I was one of the people in the cross hairs of the ill-informed, and really uninformable, media and witch-hunting Congress.

Again, et cetera.

There’s plenty of groups which are laboring to create “the” Catholic position on global warming. Biggest might be the Catholic Climate Movement (see this list).

Now, I’ve put the word out to some priest-scientist friends, and have managed to make contact with some big names you’d know if you knew the big names (parse that). But so far, no joy. One named person advised (in effect) that some are hoping nobody notices these pontifical climate statements.

I dread waking up in June and hearing the secular media telling me “The official Catholic position on global warming requires you to believe carbon dioxide is evil.” Talk about brutal labor to correct this!

So although I know most of you are just as lowly as I am, I put this up in case somebody of importance eventually sees it. We can’t let the failed but politically correct science to be the only voice represented.

Update Apropos


Discrimination Is Everywhere!

A seventy-year-old man auditions to play the lead in Model Detective, a film about a Victoria’s Secret swimsuit model who solves beach crime, and he is turned down because he is a man. Sex discrimination. Not only that, but the woman who lands the role must fit into the pre-designed costume, and, while wearing it, must make men swoon. This excludes a wide swath of womankind from consideration. Body-shape discrimination.

Harvard University’s Literature Department needs to fill its chair in LGBTQWERTY Greeting Card Gendered Semiotics Theory. Fluffy, the mouse chaser from the male-dominated Department of Physics, applies for the job and is turned down because Fluffy thinks store-bought greeting cards are inane. Species discrimination.

Middle schooler Witu Lo, who longs to be an airline pilot, applies to Thomas Jefferson High School, in Fairfax County in Virginia, but is turned down because that school has reached their fill of Asians this year. Race discrimination. But the school takes Laquisha Jones because her demographic characteristics are more desirable. Demographic characteristics discrimination.

Country wants to elect a new president and has a choice between Mr Black and Mr White. Many vote for Mr Black because he is not Mr White. That same country, after Mr Black’s term expires, faces a new election with candidates Mr Hombre and Mrs Mujeres, and most decide for Mrs Mujeres because her (natural, non-surgically facilitated) absence of Mr Cojones. Presidential discrimination.

Apple Corporation casts it net for a programmer for its new iPencil, a battery-operated writing device which only writes on paper1 produced by factories Apple owns in the Far East, a product sure to take the world by storm. It decides to hire a person who knows how to program. Python discrimination.

The op-ed section of the New York Times has been light since once its writers slipped into an inner-dimensional vortex produced by publishing one too many logical paradoxes. They print an ad asking for “An op-ed writer who believes discrimination is abhorrent.” The person who wrote the ad also disappeared into the vortex. Paradoxical discrimination.

Clothes make the man, or so Bruce has always believed. He also always believed he would make a terrific nun. Combining these ideas, he had a suit of nun’s clothes made, and every year in May he ventures to the Vatican to be taken in as a postulant. He is repeatedly turned down. Bad habit discrimination.

Ever since he was a little boy, when his uncle, Nasty Jack, took him there, Marty has loved the zoo. So much that he often ventures over the wall after hours. Last time Marty was there, the zookeeper caught Marty misconducting himself with a goat. The zookeeper kicked Marty out. Horned ruminant discrimination.

The sale of adult diapers continues to surge, and that is partly because of folks like John (he prefers Widdle Johnny) Bittle. Widdle Johnny identifies as a six-month old, and demands to be treated like one. He enjoys feedings, bath time, and pooping. Widdle Johnny recently tried to enroll himself in his local Head Start program, putting himself forward as “an advanced infant” but was turned down because he was too old. Age discrimination.

Wesleyan University, a fine progressive institution, has entry requirements for students which insists students meet certain intellectual standards. While reading and writing do not appear to be among these, ability to do well on tests such as the SAT do. Sally, who self-identifies as a female wishing she were a male pretending to be a female, scored only minimally on the SAT, but wanted desperately to matriculate at Wesleyan so that she could study with Professor Hassemänner, famed author of IQ Tests are Racist and Sexist, a work often cited by courts when penalizing companies which try to hire based on SAT-like tests. Sally was turned down. Intelligence discrimination.

Bobby Joe and Joe Bob, southern transplants who claim to be married to one another, run a sign-making shop in the Castro District in San Francisco. Big Sal comes in and asks for some banners to be made up that he can hang at his place of work. They are to read, “Homosexual Sex Is A Sin”, “Two Men Can Only Pretend To Be Married”, and “Keep That Kind Of Thing Up Without Asking For Forgiveness And Boy Will You Be Sorry”. Bobby Joe and Joe Bob refuse. Banner discrimination.

If only we can end discrimination, the world would be a better place!


1The iPencil will only work if the writer also owns an iPhone.


After Gay Marriage…Then What? Guest Post by the Blonde Bombshell

Equality for all!

Equality for all!

It is easy to draw parallels from the constitutional right to an abortion, and the nearly constitutional right to marry someone of one’s sex. These “rights” are not explicitly stated in the Constitution, but clever judges have been able to find that the rights were hiding behind the existing language, just waiting to be discovered after more than two centuries of hide-and-seek.

In the years following the Roe vs. Wade decision, the pro-life crowd did not surrender. They prayed at clinics; they lobbied for legislation; they gathered and marched; they shared their stories. Because of the indefatigable efforts of the pro-life ground troops, abortion is still a lively political issue, and nowhere near being universally accepted and acclaimed.

Gay marriage’s success so far stems from being framed as a civil rights issue. It is difficult for most Americans to disagree with anything that could be considered a “civil right.” And, the Supreme Court will probably come up with some gobbley-gook that sounds civil-righty, looks pretty good on paper, and gay marriage will be the law of the land.

For gay marriage opponents (or rather, natural law supporters), then what? What are the options?

Will people pray outside of gay weddings? Unlikely, and too Westboro Baptist Church. Will people agitate to change state law? For abortion, the allowable age where a fetus could meet its maker is fluid, and where laws can be reasonably made. Where is something similar for gay marriage? One can’t promote a state law stating that parties need to be a couple for nine months before marriage? Ridiculous. The tools used by the pro-life flank seem blunt and useless against the man-created edifice of gay marriage.

The only avenue where there could be some influence is with the church. The First Amendment says right out in the open—and first—“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” However, given the primacy of the religion in the Constitution, this is no guarantee that religion will be protected. Hey, amendments are there to be changed, and at least one presidential candidate has said as much.

There are four potential choices that a church has: go along with gay marriage; go along with it with limits; don’t go along with it and be fined; don’t go along it and go underground.

Some church bodies, the like Episcopalians and the Presbyterians have already thrown in the towel, and are on board with gay marriage. Their congregations are already shrinking, and so what does it matter if they lose a few bigots—especially if they can attract faithful gay couples. For them, it’s a net win.

Or, a church can consider gay marriage the way the Catholic Church considers a mixed-faith marriage. Yes, the couple can be married, but on a side altar or maybe in the rectory in a modest ceremony—no over-the-top displays, no huge guest lists. Some may complain that this discriminatory, but churches usually reserve the right to be discriminatory. And so far, it’s worked out.

Maybe the law will be written so a church is allowed to say “no” to a same-sex ceremony, but for every refusal, they have to pay a fine or lose their tax-exempt status. Similar fines are forcing florists and cake-bakers into the poor house. It is too early to tell if this will be an option extended to churches, but putting a price on the free exercise of religion may be a solution that many would be comfortable with, even if the meaning of “free” is corrupted in the process.

The last choice churches have is to show the world that they are beat: sell off the property and close their doors. They can go underground and fan the flame of faith. Certainly they will have no standing with the government, and they will have to practice in the shadows.

Robert Reno and others have suggested that perhaps churches should just get out of the marriage business and leave it to the state. Capitulation is sorely tempting, but those who give in rarely win.

After gay marriage, then what?

Editor’s note That last question was a challenge. What do you think the consequences will be?

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