William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Page 151 of 425

Movies I’ll Always Watch (If They’re On)

This is it! Last day of vacation, girls and boys. To honor doing nothing, here is complete fluff: a list of movies that I will always watch. These are not the only movies I watch, nor the only ones I like: just flicks that if they make an appearance on television (really only TCM) I will tune in to, even if I’ve seen them recently.

As a memory aide, I used the well-organized movie site Films 101. I sorted by year and went from 2010 to 1930, glancing at the entries. My list today would not be the same as the one I might have compiled twenty years ago, which would have been more heavily weighted toward science fiction.

I have been honest: every movie I would always watch is on the list, even the bad ones. But my memory is not particularly good, so if somebody reminds me of a classic, I’ll add it. My journey through the years confirmed what I already believed: that movies are growing less and less watchable. That joy and beauty have been replaced with cynicism and ugliness. And we musn’t forget the horrible intrusion of computers, the use of which is inversely proportional to a movie’s timelessness.

These are only in rough order, crudely sub-grouped by actor, director, or genre.

  • Double Indemnity The origin of the anklet parody in Naked Gun (see below).
  • Top Hat
  • Stalag 17 Ach so.
  • Swing Time
  • The Apartment
  • Shall We Dance Pretty much anything with Fred Astaire, really. Especially Holiday Inn or any movie featuring Edward Everett Horton.
  • Adam’s Rib Or many of the other Spencer Tracy-Katherine Hepburn matchups, esp. Desk Set.
  • Springtime in the Rockies If you haven’t seen these early John Payne vehicles, you’re missing out. Like Tin Pan Alley or The Great American Broadcast. Plus, E.E. Horton!
  • Miracle on 34th Street Perfect. Maybe I should put this first.
  • Witness for the Prosecution Billy Wilder tops any list.
  • Laura The best film noir.
  • The Blue Gardenia Maybe the second best.
  • Grand Hotel Soap opera; Wallace Berry at his best.
  • Road to Morocco Really any Hope-Crosby Road flick.
  • Going My Way Really any Bing Crosby movie, even the poor ones.
  • My Favorite Brunette Really most Bob Hope movies; those before, say, 1950. The ones after that don’t travel so well.
  • The Man Who Came to Dinner Monty Woolley. What? You don’t know this one? What a treat!
  • Mr Blandings Builds His Dreamhouse First seen on channel 50 with Bill Kennedy at the movies. Add in any other early Cary Grant movie, esp. those with Irene Dunne.
  • Casablanca
  • The Thing From Another World The original, baby.
  • The Thing Best remake since The Maltese Falcon
  • Big Trouble in Little China I’m still searching for the alley in SF’s Chinatown.
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still I’ve heard they made a remake.
  • War of the Worlds I’ve heard they made a remake.
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • The Big Sleep You get the idea: add Bogart.
  • The Seven Samurai or most early Akira Kurosawa, especially Yojimbo and Ikiru.
  • The Thin Man Any in this series, esp. The Thin Man Goes Home.
  • Libeled Lady Or any other William Powell-Myrna Loy flick. Got a set of these for my birthday once. Love it!
  • Romance on the High Seas Any early Doris Day; especially Teacher’s Pet (Clark Gable) or Love Me or Leave Me (James Cagney).
  • To Be or Not to Be Mel Brooks remake. Jack Benny better on radio.
  • A Night at the Opera You’re supposed to say Duck Soup, but I won’t. I’ll say Horse Feathers instead.
  • Singin’ in the Rain But I always go to the bathroom in the “Gotta Dance” interlude.
  • The Quiet Man Often heard while watching: “Didn’t you just watch that?”
  • Donovan’s Reef The King of the United States of America.
  • Big Jake Your fault, my fault, nobody’s fault. It won’t matter. I’m gonna blow your head off. No matter what else happens, no matter who gets killed I’m gonna blow your head off.
  • The Searchers Add in Rio Bravo, and maybe any other John Wayne movie
  • Buck Privates Yes, or most any Abbot and Costello team-up.
  • The Sound of Music
  • From Here to Eternity
  • Tora, Tora, Tora! Pearl Harbor is an interest
  • Twelve O’Clock High
  • A Shot in the Dark
  • A Christmas Story The Ovaltine secret-decoder gag was first used on the Bing Crosby radio show, St Patrick’s Day 1947, with Margaret O’Brien sending in boxtops.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life And I’m admittin’ it, too.
  • Switching Channels Yes, one of the many remakes of His Girl Friday, which is herewith on the list.
  • Naked Gun! From the Files of Police Squad Cops and women don’t mix. It’s like swallowing a spoonful of Drano. Sure, it’ll clean you out. But it’ll leave you hollow inside.
  • Hot Shots! If you have trouble hitting your objective, your secondary targets are here and here: an accordion factory and a mime school.
  • Jaws
  • Man of the Century I provided a link since most will not have heard of this.

In addition to these, any old B mystery movie or vehicle featuring a big band or musical with Betty Grable or Alice Faye. Also, movies with James Cagney, Jimmy Durante, Uncle Felix or dancing before “choreography” hit, as parodied by Danny Kaye in White Christmas—a movie which should be added to the list.

Your list?

(Your author, incidentally, says, “I’m seventeen! Plus thirty.”)

Help Wanted With Ideas For Survey About Who Will Win Presidency

It’s the start of the long, last week of summer (and since I’ve spent the bulk of it in San Francisco, there was no summer at all), where most of us will and should be away from the internet. So for those who stuck around, something distracting.

On 31 December 2011 I asked us all Who Will Win The Presidency? To refresh our memories, I said:

My own prediction is Mitt Romney.

I stick by myself.

DAV, Luis, and JH—even 49erDweet and Uncle Mile!—said, and I quote, “Obama will win.” Many echoed this. Only the very, very few, like bob, Joy, and Doug M, agreed with your host and projected Mitt Romney.

Anybody wish to change their minds?

Four years ago I ran a survey in which I asked who would win but also who people wanted to win. My idea was to study the idea of wishcasting. A wishcast is one in which the probability of an event is skewed high or low depending on whether the event is wished for or not. I want to repeat that survey after the Democrat convention, like I did last time.

After the convention, the battle lines are more or less drawn, and opinions roughly set. But it is still a point in time far enough from the election that uncertainty in the outcome is present.

Problem last time was that the survey was picked up by the most satisfied Pharyngula, a Utopian and blogger of limited range but large audience, who linked to it calling me (what is true) a conservative. Unfortunately, a great many of that man’s readers were and are unused to civilized discourse and confused, as many on the left do, a disruption with a valid argument.

Pharyngula’s fans felt that if they voted repeatedly for Obama, and input absurd data, that this would somehow show me a thing or two. It did indeed show me something. I had to throw away all the data from the point at which Myers gave the survey a plug.

But since elections are only every four years, and by definition of national interest, I don’t want to pass up on the chance to do this again, and do it right. As before, this is self-funded, and since I’ve just learned that the lottery ticket I purchased yesterday was defective, the level of funds I can afford to pay to myself is severely limited.

I want to have both Obama and Romney supporters; to have just one side would not be of any interest. Only sincere participants are needed, though. More are better: a few thousand would be terrific. Craig’s List is probably out, as a mechanism to solicit bodies. So are sites like that mentioned above. They have too many, what my old Sergeant used to call, over-zealoused followers.

Given that this is the internet, this may be an impossible task. But all ideas welcomed.

Thanks everybody!

Reasoning To Belief: Feser’s The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism — Part VI: Akin And Abortion After Rape

Stop in the name of the Law!

Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part Interlude, Part IV, Part V, Part VI. Part Last.

Earlier this month, Missouri Congressman Todd Akin uttered these infamous words: “I know it wasn’t rape-rape. It was something else but I don’t believe it was rape-rape.”

Oops, no. Sorry. Wrong quote. Those were actually the words of Whoopi Goldberg spoken in defense of convicted child rapist and film director Roman Polanksi. Goldberg was of the opinion that the little so-and-so (the 13-year-old girl, not Polanski), had it coming. Or something. The price Goldberg paid for her “slip” was exactly nil.

I have it now! What Akin said, in answer to a question of the abortion in the case of rape, was this:

Well you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, well how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.

Not a particularly fluid explanation, and a poor choice with legitimate. What Akin meant was that in the cases of, as Whoopi would put it, “rape-rape”, a woman is less likely to become impregnated than if she has intercourse with her husband. And that even if she did become pregnant as a result of rape, “the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.” Because abortion is always wrong.

Incidentally, it is an empirical, not a moral, question whether a woman is less likely to become pregnant from a rape. The answer is therefore irrelevant to whether it is moral to kill the baby. As in irrelevant. Akin and his many critics, including those who should know better, forgot this. Nevertheless, here is a quotation from one doctor1, showing that Akin might not have been far wrong:

A 1988 textbook, the second edition of “Human Sex and Sexuality” by Edwin B. Steen and James H. Price, estimates a 2 percent pregnancy rate. A 2012 textbook, “Comprehensive Gynecology,” 6th edition, gives an estimate of between 2 percent and 5 percent and states that “in the experience of most sexual assault centers, the chance of pregnancy occurring is quite low.” Estimates depend on flawed methods, with inevitable biases. An experiment to give an accurate figure is, of course, impossible. And does the estimate really matter to the woman who has been raped? Either she gets pregnant, or she doesn’t.

Another tidbit: the woman behind Roe v Wade, Norma McCorvey, who wanted women to legally kill their fetuses, testified to the Supreme Court of impregnations due to rape. She recanted in 1988 and said to the Senate2:

The affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court didn’t happen the way I said it did, pure and simple. I lied! Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffey needed an extreme case to make their client look pitiable. Rape seemed to be the ticket. What made rape even worse? A gang rape! It all started out as a little lie, but my little lie grew and became more horrible with each telling.

One imagines (this was 1973) a young Al Sharpton taking notes. Anyway, back to Feser!

Natural law says rape is wrong. We all, at some level, acknowledge this when we say rape is wrong. And it is absolutely wrong, which means it is always wrong, regardless where and when people happen to be. It would be wrong even if a body of men made rape “legal”—say, in Hollywood, as long as the perpetrator had won one of: Oscar (earned or honorary), Emmy, Tony. A Golden Globe allows only groping.

But why is rape wrong? It is hardly an explanation to say, “Because natural law says it is.” The question is: how do we arrive the morally true principle “rape is wrong” from natural law?

The “nature” of a thing, from an Aristotelian point of view, is, as we’ve seen, the form or essence it instantiates. Hence, once again to haul in my triangle example, it is of the essence, nature, or form of a triangle to have three perfectly straight sides. Notice that this remains true even if some particular triangle does not have three perfectly straight sides, and indeed even though…every material instance of a triangle has some defect or other. The point is that these are defects, failures to conform to the nature of essence of triangularity; the fact that such defective triangles exist in the natural world and in accordance with the laws of physics doesn’t make them any less “unnatural” in the relevant sense.

To change one of Feser’s example in a way I hope he approves of, suppose it were discovered that a gene or genes were associated with rapists: rapists have this gene or genes more often than do non-rapists. This empirical fact would not make rape “natural” or morally right. Nor would we suddenly attend “rapists pride” parades.

Nor would it be plausible to suggest that God “made [rapists]3 that way,” any more than God ‘makes’ people to be born blind, deaf, armless, legless, prone to alcoholism, or autistic. God obviously allows these things, for whatever reason; but it doesn’t follow that He positively wills them, and it certainly doesn’t follow that they are “natural.”…

In the same way, should it turn out that a desire to molest children has a genetic basis, no one would conclude from this that sexual attraction toward children is a good thing, even if the person who has it was able to satisfy his disgusting urges without actually touching any children…

Now I realize, of course, that many readers will acknowledge that we do in fact have these reactions, but would nevertheless write them off as mere reactions. “Our tendency to find something personally disgusting,” they will sniff, “doesn’t show that there is anything objectively wrong with it.” This is the sort of stupidity-masquerading-as-insight that absolutely pervades modern intellectual life, as it has the same source as so many other contemporary intellectual pathologies…For we need to ask why there is a universal, or near universal, reaction of disgust to certain behaviors, and why certain traits count as unnatural even though there is a genetic factor underlying them.

Human beings “have a nature or essence, and the good for them, like the good for anything else, is defined in terms of this nature or essence.” And the “good for us is in fact whatever tends to fulfill our nature or essence in the sense of realizing the natural ends or purposes of our various natural capacities.” Doing what is good “may require a fight against one’s desires and such a fight might in some cases be so extremely difficult and unpleasant that one might not have the stomach for it.”

But can we derive an ought from an is? Yes.

[H]uman beings have a formal cause—their form, essence, or nature—and this formal cause entails certain final causes for their various capacities. So, for example, our nature or essence is to be rational animals, and reason or intellect has as its final cause the attainment of truth. Hence the attainment of truth is a good for us..[T]he sense of “good” in question here is a completely objective one, connoting, not some subjective preference we happen to have for a thing, but rather the conformity of a thing to a nature or essence as a kind of paradigm (the way that, again, a “good” triangle is just one which has perfectly straight sides…).

Given our capacities and the existence of formal causes, “what is good for human beings in the use of those capacities is to use them only in a way consistent with this final cause.” And all this “remains true whatever the reason is for someone’s desire to act in a way contrary to nature’s purpose—whether simple intellectual error, habituated vice, genetic defect, or whatever—however strong that desire is.” Including, of course, a desire to rape.

As Feser says, this “subject requires a book of its own.” He only provides the barest sketch and covers only the most contentious areas. Nowhere does he, nor do I, for example, attempt to show, in complete detail, just why rape is wrong. He shows why abortion is wrong, even in the case of rape. It is the killing of a human life—in a, it hardly needs to be said, unnatural way.

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1Disclosure: I met Dr Orient at the DPP conference where I was invited to speak.

2Interestingly, the linked article was written by a woman who was conceived in a rape.

3Feser used club feet as his example, not rapist. This is my change.

Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part Interlude, Part IV, Part V, Part VI. Part Last.

Unleash The Giant Puppets!

Need a job? Fancy working with your hands? How about this?

Looking for 3 puppetistas to man this giant creepy Romney puppet [pictured below] during the RNC (and beyond). No experience necessary. Must be able to tolerate extreme heat, humidity, chaotic and potentially volatile situations while staying in character and passionately raising hell. Also looking for 2 puppetistas to man a giant creepy elephant puppet as well. Contact me if interested. Serious inquires only.

Why is this puppet smiling?

This was taken from the “RNC Puppetista” Facebook page, a group which announces the following activities:

We will be brainstorming on what we can contribute to a few upcoming puppet & costume opportunities, including but not limited to:
– March on the RNC
– The Roving Radical Dance Party
– Shut Down Bain Capital

Why giant puppets? According to this history, “Puppets are immediate and authentic. Hewn from scraps of cloth, paper and duct tape, they are the quintessential tricksters–court jesters without the court, able to cross boundaries of both opinion and propriety, enabling us to critique society and government with handmade beauty and wit.”

Who better than an academic to tell us more about this. Let’s ask David Graeber, Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London (pdf).

WMB Why the giant puppets, Dave?

DG “As many activists have observed, the forces of order in the United States seem to have a profound aversion to giant puppets.”

WMB It isn’t just the police. They give me the willies.

DG “Often police strategies aim to destroy or capture them before they can even appear on the streets.”

WMB Why do cops hate puppets so much?

DG “Activists are puzzled as to why.”

WMB Did you ever talk to any police about this?

DG “The only extended conversation I ever had with police officers on the subject of puppets…was carried out while I was handcuffed—which if nothing else makes it very difficult to take notes.”

WMB Yet you have just written a 36-page, single-spaced paper on why cops hate puppets. You also theorize about why protesters enjoy breaking windows.

DG “Anarchists…render themselves anonymous and interchangeable…Hence the uniform black hooded sweatshirts and black bandanas worn as masks. The papier-mâché puppets used in actions are all unique and individual: they tend to be brightly painted…So on the one hand one has faceless, black anonymous figures…on the other polychrome goddesses and birds and pigs and politicians. One is a mass, anonymous, destructive, deadly serious; the other, a multiplicity of spectacular displays of whimsical creativity.”

WMB What does all this mean?

DG “[T]heir juxtaposition does, in fact, say something important about what direct action aims to achieve.”

WMB I see. How about the vandalism?

DG “Such acts are anything but random. They tend to follow strict ethical guidelines.”

WMB Is it ethical to destroy property that does not belong to you?

DG “Property destruction…is an attempt to ‘break the spell’, to divert and redefine. It is a direct assault upon the Spectacle.”

WMB What do the N30 Seattle Black Bloc say about this?

DG “When we smash a window, we aim to destroy the thin veneer of legitimacy that surrounds private property rights. At the same time, we exorcise that set of violent and destructive social relationships which has been imbued in almost everything around us.”

WMB What of your own opinion?

DG “Property destruction is a matter of taking an urban landscape full of endless corporate facades and flashing imagery that seems immutable, permanent, monumental—and demonstrating just how fragile it really is. It is a literal shattering of illusions.”

WMB Let’s get back to giant puppets.

DG “A giant puppet is the mockery of the idea of a monument, and of everything monuments represent: the inapproachability, monochrome solemnity, above all the implication of permanence”.

WMB How are these non-momuments made?

DG “There are brainstorming sessions to come up with themes and visions, organizing meetings, but above all,…with small teams in attendance, molding, painting, smoking, eating, playing music, arguing, wandering in and out. Everything is designed to be communal, egalitarian, expressive.”

WMB Didn’t Miami try to ban giant puppets, arguing that bombs could be hidden inside them?

DG “[This] failed, since it was patently unconstitutional.”

WMB Unconstitutional? But aren’t you an avowed anarchist, and thus disavow constitutions?

DG “[Puppets] embody the permanence of revolution. From the perspective of the ‘forces of order’, this is precisely what makes them both ridiculous, and somehow demonic. From the perspective of many anarchists, this is precisely what makes them both ridiculous, and somehow divine.”

WMB Thank you for joining us Dr Graeber.

Reasoning To Belief: Feser’s The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism — Part V

Soul music

Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part Interlude, Part IV, Part V, Part VI. Part Last.

A mistake followers of Aristotle or St. Thomas Aquinas would not make is to gather round a man about to die, a man who is lying on a sophisticated scale, calibrated to measure weight to the fraction of a fraction of an ounce, and make note of the precise weight while the man still breathes, and then jot it down again after the man has gone off to his reward.

The reason for this elaborate experiment, which has been tried, is to measure the weight of the human soul. Before and after, you see.

If either Mr A were resurrected today and witnessed this experiment, or another of many similar designed to catch the moment the soul “escapes” its mortal frame, their reaction would be, in modern parlance, face palms. “Can’t read plain Latin” is what Aquinas would mumble. What Aristotle would say cannot be here recorded, since this is a family blog, but it would not be flattering.

New Atheists appear to have learned their theology, in particular their Christianity, from Hollywood movies. Cinema often shows souls to be wispy material forms; therefore, the New Atheists suspects that is what theologians believe souls are. But since New Atheists are nothing if not scientific, they seek out additional evidence to verify this hypothesis. This evidence usually consists of asking some sad person who just sent a check to a televangelist, “Do you believe souls are material things, like we saw in these movies?” The sad person will say yes, and the New Atheist will rest content, his hypothesis confirmed.

The story is made complete when the New Atheist writes a book in which he sneers and rails at theists’ foolish conception of the soul. Neurology says no soul! The soul is not scientific! He will give a speech to an audience well satisfied with their brilliance and ability to understand the speech, in which he says, “The soul is ectoplasm festishism!” A question will come from the audience, “But sir, what you say is not what theologians believe. The Catholic Church, for example, claims the soul is not material.” The New Atheist will scoff and say, “I will not answer you, you poor pastafarian, because your bible preaches genocide!” Applause, derisive laughter, indexes of self esteem soar. Sigh.

The inability of the New Atheist to focus on what the theologian actually claims about the soul is astonishing. A Dawkins or Dennett will at least try and answer arguments about the existence of God, but he dismisses all arguments about the soul out of hand. “The soul cannot exist, therefore it does not exist” is his only argument, and, boy, does he cherish it.

The soul is not material. It does not have weight. It does not have color. It doesn’t smell or make noise. It cannot be felt. It cannot be seen, but it is not invisible. It cannot be seen because it isn’t a physical substance. Now, if you were a New Atheist and you heard all this, and your only retort was, “Ectoplasm!” we would be right to question your sanity or your intelligence.

Plants have souls. Yes, that’s right: but do calm yourself. I am not going to quote Obi Wan Kenobi. A plant is composed of physical matter, carbon or oxygen and so on, and a form or essence, the shape of a plant and ability to take up water and convert sunlight to fuel. I hope you agree that the material that makes the plant can take other shapes, and not just exist as a plant. Dogs also have souls, i.e. essences or forms characteristic of dogs. This does

not mean that when your favorite fern or dog dies, its soul goes to heaven. It doesn’t go anywhere but out of existence, since like the forms of rocks and tables, the forms of plants and non-human animals are mere abstractions considered by themselves, and have no reality apart from the particular material things they are forms of.

Though there’s lots of interesting things to say about forms, essences, and the like, and Feser devotes much space to these topics, how banal is this definition of a soul? Not much mysterious here; certainly, nothing that is filmable or would cause impassioned opposition.

Humans have souls, too; a “rational soul” which includes “the power to grasp abstract concepts—namely, the forms or essences of things—and to reason on the basis on them, and freely to choose between different possible courses of action on the basis of what the intellect knows.”

Uh oh. There it is. You noticed, didn’t you? Free will. Oh dear, having a rational soul implies free will, or is it having free will implies having a rational soul? But aren’t we made of meat, mere computing machines, just connections of neurons firing at times fully determined by chemical formula? No.

The power of intellect “cannot possibly require a material or bodily organ for its operation.” Why not? Consider triangles: “this or that triangle is a material thing, but the form or essence triangularity is not; snow is material, but the proposition that snow is white cannot be; and so forth. But the immaterial nature of these things entails that the intellect which grasps them must itself be immaterial as well.” And here follows one of my favorite passages, which I quote in full:

Consider first that when we grasp the nature, essence, or form of a thing, it is necessarily one and the same form, nature, or essence that exists both in the thing and in the intellect. The form of triangularity that exists in our minds when we think about triangles is the same form that exists in actual triangles themselves; the form of “dogness” that exists in our minds when we think about dogs is the same form that exists in actual dogs; and so forth. If this weren’t the case, then we just wouldn’t really be thinking about triangles, dogs, and the like, since to think about these things requires grasping what they are, and what they are is determined by their essence or form. But now suppose that the intellect is a material thing—some part of the brain, or whatever. Then for the form to exist in the intellect is for the form to exist in a certain material thing. But for a form to exist in a material thing is just for that material thing to be the kind of thing the form is a form of; for example, for the form of “dogness” to exist in a certain parcel of matter is just for that parcel of matter to be a dog. And in that case, if your intellect was just the same thing as some part of your brain, it follows that that part of your brain would become a dog whenever you thought about dogs. “But that’s absurd!” you say. Of course it is; that’s the point. Assuming that the intellect is material leads to such absurdity; hence the intellect is not material.

Ain’t that a pretty piece of reasoning? Incidentally, it is not only Feser who makes this argument; it is common in many non-theists philosophers like John Searle. Now, “the soul of a man isn’t a complete substance, that is, a man. It isn’t the soul that thinks when a man uses his intellect; it is the man himself who thinks, just as it is the man himself, and not the soul, who grows taller, [etc.] For this reason, it is not at all surprising that human thought should be closely correlated with certain brain events even if it is not identical to any of them…When the [non-material] intellect determines that a certain course of action is the best one to take and the will follows it, the body proceeds to move in a way that constitutes the action.”

Since the human soul isn’t made of stuff, it is eternal. If you draw a triangle on a piece of paper and burn up that paper, the form of triangle does not dissolve in flames. When a man dies, “the soul itself, partially operating and thus existing as it does apart from the body even when informing it, does not thereby die…That doesn’t mean that a human being continues to exist after death, for a human being is a composite of form and matter, and it is only a part of him—the form or soul—that carries on.”

The soul of a human must therefore be present at conception. Yet when the body returns to dust, the form of the body, i.e. the soul, carries on. (Awaiting resurrection of the body, say Christians.) Given that the soul “functions and thus exists independently of matter, it cannot possibly have been generated by purely material processes. And so a complete explanation of it in evolutionary theory is completely irrelevant.” Sorry, Richard.

Since [the soul] is the form of a rational animal, the matter a rational soul informs must be complex enough to sustain those material operations that it relies on in an indirect way, such as sensation. In principle, evolutionary theory could explain how living things got to such a level of complexity that it was possible for animal to exist which was capable of having a rational soul. But the actual existence of the rational soul itself would have to come from outside the evolutionary process.

No surprise what this outside Agency is, either.

The subtitle of Feser’s book is “A Refutation of the New Atheism.” Refute is a strong word, a “success word” as David Stove called it. It means to show definitively an argument is false, with no hope (as we have) of resurrection. The most prominent New Atheist argument is that theists are simpletons, believing only because they believe, folks with no familiarity with logic or science.

Whatever one’s ultimate appraisal of these arguments, the New Atheists’s pretense that a religious view of the world can only ever be the result of wishful thinking rather than objective rational argumentation is thereby exposed as a falsehood, the product, if not of willful deception, at least of inexcusable ignorance of the views of the most significant religious thinkers…[E]ven if, per impossible, their atheism turned out to be correct, they would not have arrived at it by rational means, shamelessly caricaturing as they do the best arguments for the other side, when they are not ignoring them altogether.

Now your task, dear reader, is if you are unhappy with the conclusion of Feser’s main argument is to find some small flaw in my explication of it, or to focus on some aside I made (like the last quotation), and act as if the mistake or detour is the main argument. I bet nobody will notice you failed to attend to the main point.

Next time: natural law.

Update There is some confused talk about “vegetative states” and the soul. Feser anticipated these counter-claims:

[The soul] “leaves” only when the organism dies; and that means death, not severe brain damage, and not a person’s lapsing into a “persistence vegetative state.” Though a person might not be capable of exercising his rationality, it is there nonetheless in potentiality, since the soul—the form, nature, or essence of the living organism—is still there, and rationality is part of this form, nature, or essence. As Plato and Aristotle agree, for something to fail to instantiate a form or essence perfectly does not mean that it fails to instantiate it at all.

Reminder We are all ladies and gentlemen here.

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Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part Interlude, Part IV, Part V, Part VI. Part Last.

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