William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Summary Against Modern Thought: God Is Not Made Of Parts

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.

That God, accepting He exists based on the previous proofs, is not a composite object won’t be especially difficult to believe. Except for those who, strangely, believe God is a created (or maybe “evolved”) being. If He was, it begs the question how. And that would immediately bring us back to how anything changes, which must involve the existence of a necessary Being, which is to say, God Himself. Reminder: it simply makes no sense to say things “just happen” or happen “by chance” or “randomly.” There must be a First Cause.

Chapter 18: That in God there is no composition

1 FROM the foregoing we are able to conclude that there is no composition in God. For in every composite thing there must needs be act and potentiality: since several things cannot become one simply, unless there be something actual there and something else potential. Because those things that are actually, are not united except as an assemblage or group, which are not one simply.i In these moreover the very parts that are gathered together are as a potentiality in relation to the union: for they are actually united after being potentially unitable. But in God there is no potentiality.ii[1] Therefore in Him there is no composition.

2 Again. Every composite is subsequent to its components. Therefore the first being, namely God,[2] has no component parts.

3 Further. Every composite is potentially dissoluble, so far as its composite nature is concerned, although in some there is something else incompatible with dissolution. Now that which is dissoluble is in potentiality to not-being. But this cannot be said of God, since of His very essence He is necessarily. Therefore there is no composition in Him.iii

4 Moreover. Every composition requires a compounder: for if there be composition, it results from several things: and things that are several in themselves would not combine together unless they were united by a compounder. If then God were composite, He would have a compounder: for He could not compound Himself, since no thing is its own cause, for it would precede itself, which is impossible. Now the compounder is the efficient cause of the composite. Therefore God would have an efficient cause: and thus He would not be the first cause, which was proved above.[3]iv

5 Again. In any genus the more simple a thing is the more excellent it is; such, in the genus hot, is fire which has no admixture of cold. Therefore that which obtains the summit of nobility among beings, must be in the summit of simplicity. Now that which obtains the summit of nobility in things is what we call God, since He is the first cause, because the cause is more excellent than its effect. Therefore there can be no composition in Him.v

6 Moreover. In every composite thing the good does not belong to this or that part but to the whole, and I speak of good in reference to that goodness which is proper to, and is the perfection of, the whole: thus the parts are imperfect in relation to the whole: thus the parts of a man are not a man, nor have the parts of the number six the perfection of six, nor do the parts of a line attain to the perfection of the measure found in the whole line.vi Therefore if God is composite, His proper perfection and goodness are found in the whole of God but not in any of His parts.vii And thus the good that is proper to Him will not be purely in Him; and consequently He will not be the first and supreme good.viii

7 Further. Before every multitude it is necessary to find unity. Now in every composite there is multitude. Therefore that which is before all things, namely God, must needs be devoid of all composition.ix


iIf A is joined to B, there is A+B not AB, or rather, there is not an indivisible (new) C. If something is composite, it is in potential to being busted apart, to being A and B again.

iiDon’t forget that St Thomas earlier proved that in God there is no potentiality. Maybe it’s not obvious, but from this we deduce that God is not a “life-force”, or evolved being, made of parts. God is not an anthropomorphic being, is not made of pasta or DNA or anything material, even though he can be painted that way. God is Being itself, and Being itself is not be decomposable. Being itself cannot be painted or pictured.

iiiWe have already proved that God, as First Mover or Unchanging Changer, must necessarily exist, or nothing could ever move or change. This why St Thomas says, “since of His very essence He is necessarily.”

ivI find this very pretty. Everything that changes has a cause for the change. A composite is caused to be composite from its parts (somehow). And we’re right back at the beginning. Of course, we must never forget, not everything changes. God does not, because God is not in potentiality.

vThis extra, unneeded argument will probably sound phony, or at least fishy, to modern ears. And anyway, it doesn’t reach syllogistic proof because of the (as yet unproved) premise that the more excellent something is, the simpler it is. Simpler? To moderns, simpler is equated with stupider or that which is less useful. But to St Thomas, it is associated with elegance, beauty, sublimity. This is why he says “the cause is more excellent than its effect.” After all, without the cause, there is no effect.

viAnd here is similar language. A jigsaw puzzle can still be beautiful even though it’s missing a piece, but it hasn’t reached it’s potential perfection, or rather completeness. It may also come as a surprise to some atheists to learn that the parts of a man are not a man. But a man can have missing parts and still be a man, though an imperfect instantiation of one. A few cells which live as a man, though small, is also a man (after all, what are you but a large collection of cells?). That some objects, or people, exist as imperfections does not do away with perfection.

viiIn other words, if God is put together from pieces, those individual pieces are not the perfection—only the whole is. or could be Just like the jigsaw puzzle.

viiiThe good will not be purely in him, because the good would be in the whole which is made of pieces. The good would be in pieces too, as it were. Now this follows: “consequently He will not be the first and supreme good”. This is not a complete argument that God is the first and supreme good. St Thomas is anticipating that claim, which is anyway familiar even to us moderns (that God is Good). Thus, this also is not, at this point, another proof that God is not composite.

ixOkay, fine, But what about the Trinity? God the Father, Jesus-slash-God, God the Holy Ghost? How could God be three in one? How could a non-composite God be a man? Short answer: nobody knows. Not how. But we can know that. And we can only know things like this through faith, through revelation. Because of this, St Thomas does not concentrate on these matters, taking as his subject on those propositions which can be proved via the senses in absence of ordinary revelation.

We still haven’t close to describing God’s essence. We know he’s outside of time (eternal), not in potentiality, and not made of stuff. But that’s it so far. There is much more to come. How much? An infinite amount!

Update Perhaps this is the best ever explanation of the Trinity.

[1] Ch. xvi.
[2] Ch. xiii.
[3] Ch. xiii.

How Do You Care For The Environment? #BecauseICare


If you can’t see it, it reads: “When I drive, I only use 100% organic fuel. #BecauseICare”

How about you? What do you do for the environment?

Update You’re not doing enough. Man to live on melting iceberg for one year to urge climate change action (Video)

Still a tad busy here at WMBriggs.com-land.

The Unexamined Scientific Life


Busy day at WMBriggs.com-land, so only a slight puzzle.

If you want to be a scientist, it is essential—I speak in earnest—to learn the calculus. Indeed, the importance of this branch of mathematics is impossible to overstate. Without it, you will never have more than an imperfect sketchy fractional crude view of any modern scientific field.

But since calculus takes time to master—it is difficult, vast, and subtle—the years spent learning it can be put to better use doing actual science. Anyway, calculus permeates university and even ordinary life. We’ve all seen calculus equations in newspapers, on Facebook, Twitter, everywhere. You can surely absorb what you need as you go along, just by being part of our modern scientific culture

Consider that the subject is on everbody’s mind, it’s part of the daily discourse, it is “built in”, so to speak, to everything. Why, after five or ten years, by sheer osmosis you’ll have had enough of it knocked into your head that you could write books on the subject. Or, if you were feeling especially ambitious and had a free afternoon, you could always read a popular account penned by some science writer—a book or Wikipedia article which hits the highlights.

Could be a waste of time with Wikipedia, though. You could be out doing science instead. Just get on with it!

Latest Threat To Global Warming? In Vitro Fertilization

Certified carbon-free footprint.

Certified carbon-free footprint.

Stop me if you’re heard this one before. An academic, educated well beyond her capabilities, having a lot of free time on her hands, and frightened past the point of rational thinking by the terrifying promises of the horrors which await us once global warming strikes (soon, soon), figures out a way to solve the “crisis”. Her solution is—wait for it—to put the government in charge of making babies!

Ha ha ha! What a good joke!

(Where have we seen this before?)

The commedienne is Cristina Richie from the Theology Department (yes) at Boston College. Her peer-reviewed leg-pulling is entitled “What would an environmentally sustainable reproductive technology industry look like?” in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Richie’s line is that “all of medicine and healthcare should be evaluated in terms of ecological sustainability”, especially the “assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) industry”. What’s an ART? An in vitro fertilisation factory.

ARTs deserve “special ethical attention” not because they are wasteful of human life (many embryos don’t make the cut and are never heard from again), but because they not “only absorb the ‘typical’ medical resources like buildings, medical instruments and intellectual capital, they are unique in that they alone create carbon legacies in addition to having a carbon footprint.” She doesn’t mind the killing, it’s done using electricity that bothers her.

“People who use ARTs are deliberately seeking a carbon legacy (emphasis mine).”

Carbon legacy? She means junior-sized human beings. Babies aren’t people, but carbon-generation machines. Utilitarianism pushed to its logical extreme is always funny, no?

Richie only cares about the factory-made babies, not the kind ordinary moms and dads make (are we still allowed to say “moms and dads” or is that something-or-other-phobic?). Though she does scold that “naturally made children” have an “undeniable impact” on the “environment.”

Babies made through ARTs are “a burden on the already over-taxed ecosystem to support new beings who might not have existed without medical intervention.” Yet how “over-taxed” can it be if Boston College can give Richie a cushy living, free of normal responsibility?

Ever wonder how to sound like an academic? How about this sentence? “Since the 1980s, the field of environmental bio-ethics has made the connection among pollution, carbon emissions and human health.”

Ever wonder how academics can lecture people outside their competencies? How about this sentence? “The impact of climate change on world citizens has continued to receive interest in the medical industry, urging consumption reduction to better the lives of those who currently suffer under conditions of food scarcity, respiratory disease and drought as a result of CO2 emissions.”

Has no one told her that CO2 has not caused any of these things? That, even if the IPCC is right, the apocalypse is still in the future and not yet? And, judging by how strongly her ego is tied to her theory, should we tell her? Breaking the bad news that all is not lost might not go well.

Skip it. Let’s get to Richie’s “solutions.” First, “[t]here is nothing that a potential parent could do, short of moving to another country, to offset the carbon of a biological child.” (She thinks Americans are especially egregious climate sinners.)

Second, banning. “While a moratorium on all fertility clinics would be the most ecologically sound decision in this purview, it is unlikely that established fertility procedures or treatments would be effectively ‘banned’ until global CO2 emissions stabilise.”

Third, “carbon capping.” Richie isn’t an economist, and writes like one who has no familiarity with the subject, which is why she suggests something like the “Kyoto Protocol and make an entire country accountable for carbon emissions, thus forcing each and every sector to examine their consumptive practices.”

Lest you think Richie has nothing solid to offer, she says this, which is true. “ARTs use scarce communal resources such as intellectual research, government funding for development and medical buildings. Natural procreation qua procreation does not. That is, a woman wishing to become pregnant through ARTs has to go to a clinic, visit a doctor and use the carbon-intensive resources of the medical industry.” She forgot to mention IVF can be highly wasteful of human life.

She’s also right when she says, “many fertile people who could become pregnant without any extra resources use ARTs”.

So while the enemy of my enemy might be my friend, and since I’m not fond of IVF you think I might support Richie, it can’t be done for the reasons she offers. For as the man said, the “greatest treason” is “to do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

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