William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Physical Anthropology: Peter Kreeft’s Summa Philosophica Part V

Who wants to live forever?

Read Part IV.

Remember, we’re doing summaries of summaries here; only bare sketches are possible. Buy his book for more detail.

Question V is Physical Anthropology. The most contentious question is Article 5. The most fun is 9.

Article 1: Whether all human beings are persons?

Yes, obviously. Even the ones you don’t like, or who are still living inside their mothers, or whom you consider genetically “deficient”, or even those whom you consider evil.

[A]ll human beings by nature are capable of rationality and self-consciousness, even if that capacity is presently undeveloped or blocked, as, for example, in the unborn, the severely retarded, those in deep sleep, and fans of the New York Yankees.

It will be understandable if readers dispute the last example (the Tigers are, as all sane people agree, the team to love).

Kreeft likes the Angels. No, I don’t mean the young men down in LA, but cherubim and seraphim. Angels. Angels are persons too, but not human persons.

The Divine Person or Persons, angels, and possible rational extraterrestrials are examples of other persons besides human persons. “Person” is a broader term than “human” because there are nonhuman persons…

The angels of which Kreeft speaks are not to be found on Hallmark cards or Christmas ornaments, but are instead awesome and frightening: see this video, or (maybe better) this one-minute explanation.

Article 2: Whether all persons are intrinsically valuable?

Yes.

[Consider] Kant’s “categorical imperative,” one formulation of which is to treat all persons with respect rather than use, i.e. as ends rather than means, and this means they are to be treated as having intrinsic rather than instrumental value.

What about capital punishment? Glad you asked. See “Hanging Concentrates the Mind” by Rev. George W. Rutler.

Article 3: Whether man is essentially distinct from animals?

Yes. A common counter is that “[e]very human attribute and activity can be found to a lesser degree among the animals, so that the difference seems to be one of degree rather than kind.” Kreeft gives ten differences in kind between us and our food supply, some of which are (paraphrased):

Animals have no awareness of God or immortality. They are not conscious of themselves as personal subjects; they have no moral conscience. They are instinctual; their languages do not progress (though they may change via evolution). Their thought is concrete, not abstract. They have precepts not concepts. They have immediate intuition but not demonstrative reasoning. They have no technology nor science. They have no sense of beauty for its own sake.

Article 4: Whether gender is more than something social plus something biological?

Yes. And if you are not an academic you will agree with me in shouting vive la différence! Most academics do agree, but are careful not to say so out loud for fear of hurting their chance of promotion.

Interestingly, in “most languages, the word for ‘soul’ is feminine only.”

The word or “soul” is feminine because it is taken metaphysically, in relation to God. To God all souls are feminine; that is why God has always been spoken of as “he” by Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theists.

Article 5: Whether there is free will in man?

Yes. Else I had no choice but to write ‘yes.’ The commonest objection is that there is not, “for nothing can happen without a cause; but a cause determines its effect; therefore all that happens is determined by its cause.” Including thought. Another counter is that if God controls all, He makes us do all that we do.

If free will does not exist, all moral language becomes meaningless. For it is meaningless to praise, blame, reward, punish, counsel, command, forbid, or exhort an unfree agent such as a machine or a “dumb animal.”…

Free choices are not uncaused but self-caused, not undetermined but self-determined. The universal causality and free will are compatible…

The “causes” of free choices that science has discovered are all conditioning causes, not determining causes. Our choices are indeed conditioned by many factors, but not necessitated by them, for we are not merely patients but agents and thus responsible for our actions…

The reason is that the free will can choose to side with the passions and blind the reason, commanding it not to attend to the fact that an act is evil, but only its desirable consequences.

What’s strange is that, here and now in this culture, we have so many seeking to deny what is perhaps the most obvious of all truths. All explanations why happily entertained below.

Article 6: Whether the will is higher than the intellect?

No. The common objection is to say “the act of the will is the cause and the act of the mind is the effect.” Or to suppose that because there is free will, “then the will must be the first cause…else it is not free.”

But neither the will nor the intellect is absolutely higher than the other.

It is true that the will can rule and command the intellect, but it is also true that the intellect rules the will, for the will cannot will anything—an X rather than non-X—until the intellect presents the nature of X and non-X to the will. The will is the efficient cause of the intellect’s act, but the intellect is the formal cause…of the will’s act.

Article 7: Whether the soul and body are distinct substances?

No. Hence it is silly to weigh the body just before and just after death (as has been done) hoping to weigh the soul. But it might occur that since the soul is immortal and the body not, that they are distinct.

[I]f the soul and body were two substances…then the experienced causal interaction between them could not be explained. For a ghost cannot manipulate the levers of a machine, having no fingers; and the atoms of a machine or any other physical thing cannot cause pain in a ghost, who has no pain nerves. The only hypothesis that explains all the experienced data is some kind of hylomorphism. The body is the material (hylè) and the soul is the form (morphè) of the one substance, the person.

Now the soul is the form of the living body:

It is the same single form (soul) in us that (a) gives biological life to the mortal body, (b) performs the actions of sensation and animal appetites and instincts in the mortal body-soul compound, and (c) is capable of reason and free will through its immaterial, spiritual nature.

Article 8: Whether the soul is immortal?

Yes. But didn’t we just say the soul was the form of the living body, and the body eventually (to use a pleasant euphemism) retires? But there are many arguments for the immortality of the soul. Here are only two.

Plato says “that souls give life to bodies, and what gives a power by nature has that power by nature. But what has that power by nature…cannot lose it. Therefore souls cannot lost life.”

(3) (a) The only two ways in which a thing can die are decomposition into parts or annihilation. (b) But souls cannot be decomposed because they were not composed. Souls, unlike bodies, are simple, not compound…(c) And nothing is simply annihilated as a whole. (d) Therefore souls cannot die…

What of the brain? “It is true that while united to the body the soul’s activity is dependent on the brain, but this fact does not necessarily entail the conclusion that the soul cannot also act on its own, even as a man whom we see being carried by a horse may also be capable to walking by himself.”

At this point, and not for the first time, Kreeft uses out-of-body and near-death experiences as examples of the soul’s (let us call it) detachability. Now speaking as a guy who has written a book on the subject of extraordinary phenomena, we are right to be skeptical of these claims. Many are obviously false. But this is not proof that all are.

Descriptions of near-death experiences are often confused. I’m thinking of the neurosurgeon Eben Alexander who recently had one, and wrote in several places how his brain had “completely” shut down, which is what allowed him to see angels spinning about in the clouds. He above all should know that nobody can say with complete confidence that his brain “completely” shut down. Electron microscopes were not inserted to show utter lack of synaptic activity.

But if there were small activity, or even a lot of it, this does not preclude the genuineness of his reports. There are also suggestions (by Susan Blackmore, among others) that near-death experiences are what are to be expected as brains “shut down”, i.e. crap out.

Gist is that there is no, and likely can be no, definitive observational evidence either way. We are left, as always, with faith.

Article 9: Whether artificial immortality is desirable?

No.

[M]any wise old myths like “Tithonius the Greek,” “the Wandering Jew,” and “the Flying Dutchman,” as well as wise modern science fiction stories like Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting, and Robert Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love, all teach the need for death, and the curse that deathlessness in this world would be.

And don’t let’s forget that the gift the Highlander received was mortality (and the power of being a super cool diplomat?). “There can be only one!” One what we don’t know.

It is not true that the “conquest of death would be consummation of the conquest of nature…[because] Man’s task is not to conquer nature, as if she were an enemy, but to care for it and perfect it. Man’s nature is to die; so bypassing death would not be caring for or perfecting human nature.”

Article 10: Whether there is reincarnation?

No. Even though Shirley MaClaine, in one of her many past-life regressions, assured us she was a fat tax collector’s assistant in Byzantium (or whatever), no.

Since the soul is the form of the body, and that the combo is what makes us us (see Article 7 above), we can’t get new biological digs without becoming new people. And then there’s the problem of where new souls come from since some eventually reach Enlightenment. Given enough time, we’ll run out of souls to put into new people.

Kreeft gives more serious arguments, but I have run out of space and your patience.

Read Part VI.


Cosmology: Peter Kreeft’s Summa Philosophica Part IV

Where’s Waldo?

Part III

Remember, we’re doing summaries of summaries here; only bare sketches are possible. Buy his book for more detail.

Question IV is Cosmology. The most contentious scientific question is Article 10.

Article 1: Whether the order in the cosmos is teleological?

Yes. “[I]f objective teleology is an illusion, then eyes are not really ‘for’ seeing, ears ‘for’ hearing, legs ‘for’ walking, or stomachs ‘for’ digestion…”

We cannot confuse the[se] two questions, or reduce either one to the other: (1) What caused this effect? and (2) Why did it produce this effect rather than some other one? Efficient causality supplies the power, but final causality focuses it.

Teleology is not scientific in “the modern sense, since it cannot be detected, verified, or falsified empirically or quantitatively”. But this is nothing. Neither is mathematics scientific, though you don’t hear scientists railing against or rejecting it.

A direction in things might imply God, but a concept “is not refuted merely by claiming that it entails another concept”. We’re stuck with “Why?”

Article 2: Whether the cosmos exists for man?

Yes.

The idea of man’s centrality (in meaning, not in space) is confirmed by the authority of tradition in all cultures, by religion, and even by science (the “Anthropic principle”)…

Kreeft doesn’t distinguish between the weak and strong versions of the Anthropic principle, which we can leave for another day. But it seems the universe is delicately balanced. Pick a force or constant and tweak it even a tiny amount, and life as we know it (i.e. us) would not have been possible. There are so many coincidences like this, that it appears there’s been some designing going on. Designing implies designer, and the only designer outside of time, space, matter, and energy is God (the God of classical theism; one link, among many).

Common fallacies are to assert man’s small stature; but if size matters then bears and even Buicks are more important than us. Another fallacy to say that man evolved by “blind forces”, which assumes without proof that these “blind” forces could not themselves have been designed to do just what they did. A third is to say that because man is only a few hundred thousand years old, he is therefore insignificant. That would make ferns and alligators worthier than us.

The very fact of the universe’s vastness and independence of man gives man an opportunity for awe, wonder, and humility.

Kreeft also gives no word on Fermi’s paradox, which is other scientific evidence that we are alone. The universe is big and old enough to have allowed, like us, other space-faring races to have evolved. They should have been here by now; they are not; therefore the suspicion (not proof) is that they do not exist.

Article 3: Whether the uniformity of nature is a necessary philosophical presupposition of all physical science?

Yes. Uniformity is a metaphysical assumption not a physical measurement. Nobody knows whether gravity works everywhere, because nobody has or could check it everywhere (as in everywhere). In this sense, it and all the other physical “laws” which we believe are unprovable beliefs.

It has not been proved that science is more certain than philosophy. In fact, it is often the reverse, since philosophy investigates unchanging and necessary truths while science investigates the changing world, which is contingent.

Article 4: Whether science presupposes real causality?

Yes. It must, because it can’t be seen. If you think it can, fill a bucket full of it and bring it to me.

Article 5: Whether there are four causes (formal, material, efficient, final)?

Yes.

For a cause is either intrinsic or extrinsic to its effect [X]. If it is intrinsic, it is either (a) what X is, i.e. its essential nature or essence (e.g. a house)—and this is the “formal cause”—or (b) what X is made of or made from: the raw material that was formed, shaped, or determined to be X rather than Y (e.g. wood)—and this is the “material cause.” If it is extrinsic, it is either (c) the agent or origin that made or changed X (e.g. the carpenter)—and this is the “efficient cause”—or (d) the end or purpose of X, whether unconscious or conscious (e.g. to shelter a family)—and this is the “final cause.” Thus for every X, there is (a) that which, (b) that out of which, (c) that from which, and (d) that for which X is.

Article 6: Whether the cosmos is infinite in space?

No. “God alone is infinite, and the universe is not God, therefore the universe is not infinite.” Even if you don’t buy that, you certainly know about Einstein, so I can’t see you disagreeing.

Article 7: Whether time is infinite?

No. “[I]t is improper to speak of times’s past or future, for time is not a thing that continues or moves, but the measure of the continuing of moving of things.” Then this:

Just as there is an absolute beginning of all time which is not in time…so there can be an absolute end of all time. As the beginning term of the continuum of time has an “after” but not “before,” so the end term of the continuum of time can have a “before” but no “after.”

Again, I see few people objecting.

Article 8: Whether time travel is possible?

Yes. Perhaps not materially, only consciously. Sorry, no going back to stop your dad from dating your mom.

[W]e all experience a mild form of time travel (a) in memory, (b) in anticipation, and (c) in telling or hearing stories about other times. In all of these, our consciousness enters into other times, and occasionally does so with extreme vividness…There have been many well-documented cases of people (usually “primitives”) entering other times and places with their consciousness, e.g. “dream time” or “the dreaming” among the Australian aborigines.

Is that any kind of evidence? Chesterton:

All argument against these plain facts is always argument in a circle. If I say, “Mediaeval documents attest certain miracles as much as they attest certain battles,” they answer, “But mediaevals were superstitious”; if I want to know in what they were superstitious, the only ultimate answer is that they believed in the miracles. If I say “a peasant saw a ghost,” I am told, “But peasants are so credulous.” If I ask, “Why credulous?” the only answer is—that they see ghosts.

Kreeft, incidentally (elsewhere) does not argue for blanket credulity (do not subscribe to News of the World). To prove a man superstitious or credulous means you have proven his miracles mundane or his ghosts figments. No certain proof of that, means no certain proof of the other.

Article 9: Whether matter is only a projection of mind?

No. Idealism has been kicked to death long ago and it seems in bad taste to display its corpse once again. “If matter were merely mental projection, it could be changed merely by thinking, and no one would ever have to endure pain or death.”

Article 10: Whether mind is only a projection of matter?

No. You are not your brain, even though it’s a handy thing to have around. After my own heart, Kreeft says:

For all persons are immediately aware of their thinking, whenever they think, since ordinary thinking is simultaneously self-reflective or self-aware. This is data as immediate and indubitable as empirical data, and distinct from empirical data, since it does not depend on sensation and can be purely abstract (e.g. “I think, therefore I am.”).

Of course, all we need is “I think”—the rest is redundant. Only an I can think!

To claim that there are no minds, only material brains, which are like computers, is like claiming that there is no person behind a computer who designed or programmed it. No one would trust such a computer. So why does a materialist trust his brain?

What reason has a materialist to claim his reasoning reasonable? He can’t say evolution, for that either pushes the problem back one level, and we have to ask “Why trust evolution?” which assumes (in the word “trust”) what it sets out to prove (that believing evolution is reasonable), or else it ignores it. To say evolution created a brain is not to say that we are only our brains.

To produce an “explanation” of X in terms of [brain chemistry] X1, and Y in terms of [brain chemistry] Y1, is not yet not have proved that X1 and Y1 efficiently cause X and Y. If they occur simultaneously [say, thinking lights up an fMRI screen], it may be that X1 and Y1 are caused by X and Y. Or it may be that both are caused by a third thing…

(4) The fact a blow to the brain takes away thought does not prove that the brain is the sole cause of thought, any more than the fact that demolishing a microphone makes the speaker’s voice inaudible proves that the microphone was the sole cause, or even the cause at all, of the voice.

A lovely argument, that. Lastly,

If no one can think without a brain, this could be either because (a) the brain is the cause of thought, or because (b) the brain is the instrument of thought, or because (c) the brain is one of the necessary conditions for thought. A necessary condition is not the same as a sufficient condition.

Read Part V.


Scientists Claim Brain Scans Can ID Pre-Criminals

The axe-murderer is #22.

The axe-murderer is #22.

“I’m sorry, sir. We cannot recommend Mr Jones be granted parole,” said the man in the impressive white coat, on which was embroidered his name and the awe-inspiring initials “MD”.

“Why’s that, doctor?” asked the chairman.

“Jones has a beady anterior cingulate. The mark of a clear recidivist.”

The board members peered at Jones, who sat in a chair attempting a sheepish smile. The chairman imagined he could see Jones’s whithered anterior cingulate. Satisfied, he nodded to himself.

“Our patented statistical models, based on the very most scientific functional magnetic resonance imaging, shows Jones has a 95.2% chance of committing new crimes within the next four years. Probably of a highly anti-social nature.”

“Take him away!” shouted the chairman. “Next case!”

Not fiction, ladies and gents. A foretelling of our future. Newspapers and Nature are already excited. Why?

Seems some enterprising doctors led by Eyal Aharoni (and pushed along by Michael Gazzaniga) hooked 96 crooks to their fMRI machine and claimed that the “odds that an offender with relatively low anterior cingulate activity would be rearrested were approximately double that of an offender with high activity in this region, holding constant other observed risk factors.” They published their results in PNAS with the disquieting title “Neuroprediction of future rearrest”.

Wary readers will have noted the all-important fudge words “holding constant other observed risk factors”, which means the new crime-detector is actually a complicated statistical model. How did they arrive at it?

First, they measured the crooks’ anterior cingulate cortexes (ACC) and gave each a questionnaire, sort of like you can find in women’s magazines which ask “What type of animal are you?” Now questionnaires are the basis of much modern science, so we daren’t question them. This one was “a go/no-go (GNG) impulse control task”. Results?

Wait. You would think a study which purported to claim men with beady ACCs are more likely to become recidivists would give us the number of men with beady ACCs who did and did not in fact become recidivists, so that we could compare it against the number of men without beady ACCs who did and did not became recidivists. That way all civilians could tell at a glance whether beady ACCs had anything to say about crime.

Problem was: every man in the study was re-busted (I discovered this only after examining the supplementary data)! The study was therefore also a bust. But when you have numbers, you can play. Like this:

By using hierarchical linear regression, we examined the association between ACC response and the percentage of commission errors in the GNG task. As expected, lower ACC activity entered at step 2 corresponded to a higher rate of commission errors, controlling for variance attributable to age at step 1 (R2 = 0.08, ΔR2 = 0.04, β = −0.21, P < 0.05).

If you can read this standard shorthand, it means the explanatory power of the model after adding ACC only reached the official level of, “You’re kidding me, right?” An R2 improvement of 0.04 isn’t even trivial (the measure goes from 0 to 1, which numbers closer to 1 indicting better models; numbers near 0 should be laughed at). But p-values less than 0.05 are science, so now we know beady ACCs cause one to suffer on go/no-go impulse control tasks.

Just what is a go/no-go impulse control task? Glad you asked.

[A way to present] participants with a frequently occurring target (the letter “X”; occurrence probability, 0.84) interleaved with a less-frequent distracter (the letter “K”; occurrence probability, 0.16) on a computer screen. Participants were instructed to depress a button with their right index finger as quickly and accurately as possible whenever they saw the target (“go” stimulus) and not when they saw the distractor (“no-go” stimulus).

Besides asking the crooks to press a bunch of Xs and Ks, they asked if the crooks were drunks, whether they took a toke, etc. Their race, age, IQ, and a bunch of other stuff were measured. Much of the other stuff was input into a “factor analysis” which spit out factor scores. These scores and the stuff that didn’t go into the factor analysis was all re-input into a survival analysis model, which—finally!—showed that men with beady ACCs were more likely to be re-arrested quicker. A p-value less than the magic number (0.05) confirmed the association.

Now I did this quickly, so I could be in error, but using their data I looked at the variables indicating months to rearrest (MinMonthsDV_noPVs) and beady ACC (dACC_14mm_split) and found a mean 19.5 months to rearrest for beady ACCs and 24.5 months to rearrest for non-beady ACCS. The time-honored t-test (not “controlling” for the slew of other variables) gave a p-value of 0.08, which means not significant.

Which p-value is right? Neither. There is no “right” p-value in classical statistics. You’re allowed to use any you like—including the smallest one.

————————————————————–

Thanks to Al Perrella for pointing us to this.

Natural Theology: Peter Kreeft’s Summa Philosophica Part III

Part II

Back into the fray! Article 3 is Natural Theology. The juiciest articles are eight through ten.

Remember, we’re doing summaries of summaries here; only bare sketches are possible. Buy his book for more detail.

Article 1: Whether natural theology is possible?

Yes. Since you cannot desire what you do not (or cannot) know, you couldn’t desire God if He didn’t exist (see also Art. 5). “And insofar as anything is knowable by reason, it can be the object of a rational science, whether physical, mathematical, or philosophical.” Yes, lads and lasses, theology is a science; indeed, as Newman said, the Queen of them all. When the world was young, it was thought impossible, and it was true, that to receive an education lacking royal exposure was no education at all. It is still true.

How can you study an infinite creature such as God, since we cannot know infinity?

God can be defined negatively. as the non-finite being, the non-temporal being, the non-caused being, the non-potential being, etc.

Playing with infinities is also the daily toil of mathematicians, who would recoil if you were to tell them that because we cannot know the value of the last number, infinity doesn’t exist.

God can be an object of faith or reason. Here’s something you hear all the time: “We now know how this certain protein folds.” We know nothing of the kind, at least if we is taken as all of mankind, instead of a small fraction of highly trained (and gifted) individuals. A physicist can tell his mother a neutrino has mass and she will reply, “Yes, dear” and believe him. One knows by reason, the other by faith. The latter class is always much larger.

(Scientists usually accept this, except for evolution, where ignorance is considered sacrilegious and as justification for verbal stonings.)

Article 2: Whether there is one primary meaning to the word “God”?

Yes. Atheists love to tell theists, “I am almost like you. I reject all the same gods you do. I just go one further.” It’s a good line, if you have a back-slapping fetish, but it is fallacious if used to say God therefore doesn’t exist. It’s also an (indirect) and unfair aspersion against mathematicians. How?

John Von Neumann was asked by a colleague for a proof of some contention. Von Neumann asked which of several theorems his questioner knew, and then proceeded to prove the contention by one or two theorems. There is usually more than one path to the right answer. Or to the partial answer. Just because one religion emphasizes one aspect of God, and a different religion highlights another, does not mean that both are wrong, in the sense of completely, utterly wrong (though of course they might be wrong in part).

Anselm’s definition of God as “that than which nothing greater can be conceived” is “agreed to by Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and even Buddhists and Taoists.”

Article 3: Whether God’s existence can be proved from the concept of God (Anselm’s “ontological argument”)?

No. We covered this before.

Article 4: Whether God’s existence can be proved from the cosmos?

Yes. Kreeft then gives his précis of a Kalam-like argument, which he calls “the Emo argument.” Here is my précis of his précis, which is therefore too short by far.

  1. All matter, time, and energy came into existence, probably at the Big Bang.
  2. “Either this event was caused or uncaused.”
  3. If uncaused, then we have defenestrated causality and Cole Porter was right: Anything Goes. Including, for no reason whatsoever, the popping into existence of Emo, “a large blue rabbit with the name ‘Emo’ tattooed on its tail.” Emo couldn’t have caused his own appearance, neither could anybody have been the tattooer.
  4. “This (Emo) is absurd.” God help you if you disagree.
  5. Therefore matter, time, and energy must have been caused by something outside itself (quantum fields are not outside themselves). Which is to say, God (being itself, “I Am”) created physical existence.

Article 5: Whether God’s existence can be proved from human existence?

Yes. Besides the argument from conscience (we all have one, it came from somewhere, and all agree it should be obeyed; why?), and the argument from intelligence (only something at least equal to our intelligence could have caused our intelligence; and, yes, evolution could have been a tool here), there is the argument from desire.

We all desire perfection, beauty, goodness, etc., and desires can only correspond to real objects (“real hungers entail real foods”), thus the only thing that fits the bill is God. What of unicorns? Glad you asked:

The objects of ideas can be mere potential beings, or mere essences, like unicorns, but the objects of desires are real goods.

Article 6: Whether God’s existence as man’s ultimate end can be proved?

Yes.

If we weigh the idea of God, in the scales of the mind, against all other ideas and ideals that have ever appeared in all the minds of men who have ever lived, this single idea infinitely outweighs all others. For it is the idea of “that than which nothing greater can be conceived,” the idea of an infinitely perfect being. What a dirty trick it would be if all the other ideals we could aspire to were real and attainable and this one alone, the greatest of all, were not…It would indicate not randomness but the existence of a God behind this carefully designed trick, but his name would be Satan.

Article 7: Whether God’s relation to man (“religion”) can be proved?

No. God can be known to man, but mere “knowing is not religion.” It is “not to have a personal relationship.”

Aside: Stalkers also get this wrong, but in reverse.

Article 8: Whether the existence of evil disproves the existence of God?

No. An unhappy guy bumped into me when I was moving a box, which caused me to slip and cut my right middle finger. Just a pinprick, really. But it stung when I washed my hands and again when my dental floss rubbed up against it. Ouch.

On the scale of evils, this rates somewhat below Communism or faulty tenure committees (but I repeat myself). Still, it is evil. Even lower down the scale is the sentencing of thousands of otherwise joyful souls to suffer a third of each day in a “cubicle” (see torture, instruments of). Don’t forget the one everybody leaves out, the philosopher’s favorite premise: All men are mortal.

How could an all-loving, all-powerful God could have allowed evils like these to flourish? Why doesn’t He just drop (antioxidant rich, transfat free, etc.) manna in front of us at regular intervals so we don’t have to move? Shouldn’t our physical lives be unrelenting bliss, all desires satisfied on demand? For anything short of that perfection bespeaks of a deity who is willing to let bad things happen.

[T]he existence of infinitely good God and the existence of evil are compatible because of the existence of time. For an infinitely good God could allow evil to exist in order to bring out of it, in time, an even greater good than could have existed if evil had not been allowed to exist. Evil will, indeed, be totally destroyed, but in its proper time.

Evil is allowed to exist in order to preserve free will…Also, the premise that evil exists is not, strictly speaking, true, for evil is not a substance, but existence is properly predicated only of substances.

Article 9: Whether human free will and divine predestination are logically contradictory?

No. It’s difficult, probably impossible, to write of free will from the point of view of God, who is outside of time. We’re stuck in it, and in a sense made out of it. For us, it is enough to observe we have free will (our intellect understands choices, and the consequences of choices). This observation, incidentally, falsifies all theories which say free will is an illusion (of course!; only rational beings with free will could comprehend illusion; only intellects can comprehend!).

Kreeft puts it in terms of a story, which is under control of an author but which is populated by creatures with wills (or who follow rules). It’s only an analogy, though, because it’s easy to imagine writing a story where a character is made to do whatever we want; and then the character doesn’t really exist except in our intellect. The analogy is not entirely satisfying.

But tough luck. Just because you don’t understand something, doesn’t it make it false (unless you can prove it false; but then you understand it: how much depends on whether your proof is merely demonstrative or constructive).

Article 10: Whether God changes (or is in “process”)?

No. If God at some point changes for the better, he was imperfect; and then if He changes for the worst, well then He becomes imperfect. Perfection cannot change.

God’s love is an act. There are two kinds of act. (1) “First act,” or actuality (as distinct from mere potentiality), does not necessarily imply change. (2) “Second act,” or activity, follows and depends on first act, and implies change in its object, but not necessarily in its subject. An unchanging cause can produce changing effects, and this would entail changes in the relationship between them.

Kreeft doesn’t mention it, but there some who posit a changeable God as a solution to free will. The solution is to deny God knows the future, which is as “open” to Him as it is to us. Ever wonder what tomorrow will bring? So does God in this view. But as there is no predestination, it’s easy argue for free will. The price for this is a radically diminished God who cannot understand what He created. This deity is sort of a superior space alien who one day said to himself, “I wonder what’ll happen if I press this button?” Kind of sort of like Deism.

Read Part IV.

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