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Category: Philosophy

The philosophy of science, empiricism, a priori reasoning, epistemology, and so on.

October 30, 2018 | 14 Comments

Science Writer Miraculously Escapes Ravages Of Evolution

A science writer at Discover magazine has managed to escape from the clutches of evolution and lived to tell us of it. This Bridget Alex has discovered humans—not her, but humans—have evolved to believe in gods. But, somehow, she did not. Therefore she is not human.

Or if she is, I don’t know if that means evolution is broken or she is some sort of genetic mutant who has evolved not to believe in gods. Since God exists, and since this Bridget Alex has evolved out of believing in this part of Reality, both theories are plausible.

On the other hand, if evolution can cause what we think, or is skilled at tricking us into thinking that what is not so is so, then how does this Bridget Alex know that what she believes is Real? What she believes may be an evolutionary fraud, a genetic trick designed to give her a breeding advantage for the strangely overly sexualized-yet-non-sexual American savanna in which she resides. She may be programmed to spout atheistic nonsense to lure a beta-boy into her bed, a soy boy who will encourage her not to abort her nascent offspring.

Evolution can be cruel.

Incidentally, why is evolution causing so many ladies to kill their own children? We are told evolution provides survival skillz. Yet slaughtering your own selfish-gene carriers would appear to be the opposite of survival.

On the other other hand, that killing is a pattern I noticed, and this Bridget Alex says humans evolved to notice patterns, many of which turn out to be false. Not the patterns she notices, of course. Evolution gave her a pass. So she says. But my patterns are suspect. So it could be injecting drugs to prevent conception and slitting the throats of the wee mites who make it past those chemical gates is providing a survival advantage I cannot see, since evolution isn’t letting me grasp the correct pattern.

I’ll let the true scientists, the folks who know evolution has let their minds alone discover truths, even though it’s evolution that provides the feels about truth, and so nobody would ever know they aren’t being fooled by some impish genes, answer this.

Isn’t science grand?

October 28, 2018 | 1 Comment

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Illumine’s Our Intellect

Previous post.

Some old, and no longer common, objections to the idea God does not illumine us.

ARGUMENTS BY WHICH IT SEEMS TO BE PROVED THAT GOD CANNOT BE SEEN IN HIS ESSENCE, AND THE ANSWERS TO THEM

1 Now, someone will object against the preceding statements. No light that is added to the power of vision can elevate this power to a vision of things which exceed the capacity of bodily sight, for the power of sight is able to see colored objects only. But divine substance exceeds all the capacity of a created intellect, even more than understanding exceeds the capacity of sense. Therefore, the created intellect could not be elevated by any adventitious light so as to see the divine substance.

2 Again, the light which is received in a created intellect is something created. And so, it is infinitely removed from God. Therefore, the created intellect cannot be elevated to the vision of the divine substance by this kind of light.

3 Besides, if the aforesaid light can in fact do this because it is a likeness of the divine substance, then since every intellectual substance, by the fact of being intellectual, bears the divine likeness, the very nature of any intellectual substance whatever is adequate to the divine vision.

4 Furthermore, if this light is created, then nothing prevents it from being created connatural with some creature; hence, there could be a created intellect which, by its own connatural light, would see the divine substance. The contrary of this has been proved.

5 Moreover, “the infinite as such is unknown.” Now, we have shown in Book One [43] that God is infinite. Therefore, the divine substance cannot be seen by means of the aforesaid light.

6 Again, there must be a proportion between the understander and the thing understood. But there is no proportion between the created intellect, even when perfected by this light, and the divine substance, because their distance apart still remains infinite. Therefore, the created intellect cannot be elevated to the vision of the divine substance by any light.

7 For these and similar reasons some men have been moved to assert that the divine substance is never seen by any created intellect. Of course, this position both takes away true happiness from the rational creature, for it can consist in nothing other than a vision of divine substance, as we have shown; and it also contradicts the text of Sacred Scripture, as is evident from the preceding texts. Consequently, it is to be spurned as false and heretical.

Notes And now the counter arguments. The attempted rebuttals above do not carry as much force with us, given that we routinely speak of infinities (in math).

8 Indeed, it is not difficult to answer these arguments. The divine substance is not beyond the capacity of the created intellect in such a way that it is altogether foreign to it, as sound is from the object of vision, or as immaterial substance is from sense power; in fact, the divine substance is the first intelligible object and the principle of all intellectual cognition. But it is beyond the capacity of the created intellect, in the sense that it exceeds its power; just as sensible objects of extreme character are beyond the capacity of sense power. Hence, the Philosopher says that “our intellect is to the most evident things, as the eye of the owl is to the light of the sun.” So, a created intellect needs to be strengthened by a divine light in order that it may be able to see the divine essence. By this, the first argument is answered.

9 Moreover, this sort of light raises the created intellect to the vision of God, not on the basis of a diminution of its distance from the divine substance, but by virtue of a power which it receives from God in relation to such an effect; even though it remains far away from God in its being, as the second argument suggested. In fact, this light does not unite the created intellect with God in the act of being but only in the act of understanding.

10 Since, however, it is proper to God Himself to know His own substance perfectly, the aforesaid light is a likeness of God, inasmuch as it conduces to the seeing of God’s substance. But no intellectual substance can be a likeness of God in this sense. For, since the divine simplicity is not equaled by any created substance, it is not possible for a created substance to have its entire perfection in the same identity; indeed, this is proper to God, as we showed in Book One [28], for He is being, understanding and blessed, identically. So, in a created intellectual substance, the light whereby it is beatified in the divine vision is one thing, while the light whereby it is in any sense perfected within its natural species, and whereby it understands in a manner proportioned to its substance, is quite a different thing. From this the answer to the third argument is evident.

11 Now, the fourth is answered by the fact that the vision of the divine substance exceeds every natural power, as we have shown. Hence, the light whereby the created intellect is perfected for the vision of the divine substance must be supernatural.

12 Nor does the fact that God is called infinite hinder the vision of the divine substance, as the fifth argument suggested. For, He is not called infinite in the privative sense, as quantity is. This latter kind of infinity is rationally unknown, because it is like matter devoid of form, which is the principle of knowledge. Rather, He is called infinite in the negative sense, like a self-subsistent form, not limited by matter receiving it. Hence, a being which is infinite in this sense is most knowable in itself.

13 Now, the proportion of the created intellect to the understanding of God is not, in fact, based on a commensuration in an existing proportion, but on the fact that proportion means any relation of one thing to another, as of matter to form, or of cause to effect. In this sense, then, nothing prevents there being a proportion of creature to God on the basis of a relation of one who understands to the thing understood, just as on the basis of the relation of effect to cause. Hence the answer to the sixth objection is clear.

October 26, 2018 | 25 Comments

The Scientific Ethicist: Mathematics & Logic Edition

As scientism is still with us, this classic post, originally from 14 November 2014.

Can I Skip College?

Dear Scientific Ethicist,

I am a junior in high school and will graduate in the first semester of my senior year. Someday I would like to be a stay-at-home mom. I have no interest in going to college. I feel it would be a waste of money for me to go when I don’t intend to use my degree.

To say my parents are disappointed in me over this is putting it mildly. They have a life planned for me that includes college. I would also like to move away to somewhere where it’s warm year-round, and they don’t like that idea either.

How do I make them understand that this is MY life and everything will be OK?

Uninterested in Idaho

Dear Uninterested,

This is obviously related to the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. Let me quote Wikipedia, “The first part of the theorem, sometimes called the first fundamental theorem of calculus, is that an indefinite integral of a function[1] can be reversed by differentiation. This part of the theorem is also important because it guarantees the existence of antiderivatives for continuous functions.

The second part, sometimes called the second fundamental theorem of calculus, is that the definite integral of a function can be computed by using any one of its infinitely many antiderivatives. This part of the theorem has key practical applications because it markedly simplifies the computation of definite integrals.”

As you can see, the rest follows easily. That’s the power of mathematics!

The Scientific Ethicist, PhD

P.S. See also the first, second, and third laws of thermodynamics in reference to your comment about heat.

Dating Woes

Dear Scientific Ethicist,

The school year has started and many high school girls like me are faced with a similar problem: how to politely decline when a boy asks you to a dance.

Whether it be homecoming, winter formal or prom, some boys go all out and ask girls in elaborate and creative ways. I don’t know what to do in these situations if I don’t want to go with the boy who is asking me. I feel bad saying “no” because of all the work they put into it, and also sometimes there is an audience watching. Should I just go anyway?

Saratoga Teen

Dear Saratoga,

Meta logic is the answer here, especially formal systems. A formal system must have a finite alphabet, a listing of the strict rules of grammar (exceptions aren’t allowed), a specified list of inference rules, and finally a set of indubitable axioms. The latter may be made up because, of course, science has no way of externally checking the validity of any set of axioms.

The point for you, and I’m sure you already see it, is that since you can create this formal system any way you like, the next time to you attend a formal you can act any way you like. Logic guarantees this.

Truly there is nothing more logical than logic!

The Scientific Ethicist, PhD

Social Media Prayers

Dear Scientific Ethicist,

I frequently receive requests via Facebook and other social media sites asking for prayers for people who are ill or suffering a loss. I’m not a religious person, but I would like to acknowledge their pain and extend my sympathy. Any suggestions?

Challenged in Tucson

Dear Challenged,

Have you considered that e is irrational? Every schoolgirl ethicist knows that

e = \sum_{n = 0}^{\infty} \frac{1}{n!} .

Now if e were rational, it would have the form a/b where the two numbers are integers, and where obviously b does not equal 1. Then

2 = 1+ \frac{1}{1!} < e < 1 + (1+\frac{1}{2} + \frac{1}{2^2}+...) =3 .

Well, we repeat a procedure like this, working with infinite series, manipulating this way and that, and we finally conclude that e cannot be rational.

But you can be, using math, logic, and science!

The Scientific Ethicist, PhD

Be sure not to miss other penetrating installments of The Scientific Ethicist. Or send in your questions today!

October 21, 2018 | 1 Comment

Summary Against Modern Thought: You Need God To Know Anything

Previous post.

We’re still on the theme that you need God to see God. Indeed, you need God to know anything.

THAT THE CREATED INTELLECT NEEDS AN INFLUX OF DIVINE LIGHT IN ORDER TO SEE GOD THROUGH HIS ESSENCE

1 For such a noble vision, the created intellect must be elevated by means of an influx of divine goodness.

2 Indeed, it is not possible for what is the proper form of one thing to become the form of another unless the latter thing participates some likeness of the thing to which the form belongs. For instance, light can only become the act of a body if the body participates somewhat in the diaphanous. But the divine essence is the proper intelligible form for the divine intellect and is proportioned to it; in fact, these three are one in God: the intellect, that whereby understanding is accomplished, and the object which is understood. So, it is impossible for this essence to become the intelligible form of a created intellect unless by virtue of the fact that the created intellect participates in the divine likeness. Therefore, this participation in the divine likeness is necessary so that the substance of God may be seen.

3 Again, nothing is receptive of a more sublime form unless it be elevated by means of a disposition to the capacity for this form, for a proper act is produced in a proper potency. Now, the divine essence is a higher form than any created intellect. So, in order that the divine essence may become the intelligible species for a created intellect, which is needed in order that the divine substance may be seen, it is necessary for the created intellect to be elevated for this purpose by a more sublime disposition.

Notes Another way to put this is that you need God to know any truth.

4 Besides, suppose that two things are not united at first, and then later they are united; this must be done by changing both of them, or at least one. Now, suppose that a created intellect starts for the first time to see God’s substance; then, necessarily, according to the preceding arguments, the divine essence must be united with it for the first time as an intelligible species. Of course, it is not possible for the divine essence to be changed, as we showed above. So, this union must start to exist by means of a change in the created intellect. In fact, this change can only come about by means of the created intellect acquiring some new disposition.

Indeed, the same conclusion follows if it be granted that a created intellect is endowed with such a vision from the start of its creation. For, if this vision exceeds the capacity of a created nature, as we have proved, then any created intellect may be understood to enjoy complete existence in the species proper to its nature, without seeing the substance of God. Hence, whether it begins to see God at the start of its existence, or later, something must be added to its nature.

5 Furthermore, nothing can be elevated to a higher operation unless because its power is strengthened. But there are two possible ways in which a thing’s power may be strengthened. One way is by a simple intensification of the power itself; thus, the active power of a hot thing is increased by an intensification of the heat, so that it is able to perform a stronger action of the same species.

A second way is by the imposition of a new form; thus, the power of a diaphanous object is increased so that it can shine with light, by virtue of its becoming actually luminous, through the form of light received for the first time within it. And in fact, this latter kind of increase of power is needed for the acquisition of an operation of another species.

Now, the power of a created intellect is not sufficient to see the divine substance, as is clear from what we have said. So, its power must be increased in order that it may attain such a vision. But the increase through the intensification of a natural power does not suffice, since this vision is not of the same essential type as the vision proper to a natural created intellect. This is evident from the difference between the objects of these visions. Therefore, an increase of the intellectual power by means of the acquisition of a new disposition must be accomplished.

Notes Another—and the same as above—way to put this, is that you need God to know that which cannot be proved.

6 However, since we reach the knowledge of intelligible things from sensible things, we also take over the names proper to sense knowledge for intellectual knowledge, especially the ones which apply to sight, which, compared to the other senses, is more noble and more spiritual, and so more closely related to the intellect. Thus it is that this intellectual knowledge is called vision. And since corporeal vision is not accomplished without light, those things whereby intellectual vision is perfected take on the name fight.

Hence, even Aristotle, in Book III of On the Soul [5: 430a 15], likens the agent intellect to light, because of the fact that the agent intellect makes things actually intelligible, just as light in a way makes things actually visible. Therefore, this disposition whereby the created intellect is raised to the intellectual vision of divine substance is fittingly called the light of glory; not because it makes some object actually intelligible, as does the light of the agent intellect, but because it makes the intellect actually powerful enough to understand.

7 Now, this is the light of which it is said in the Psalms (35:10): “In Thy light we shall see the light,” that is, of the divine substance. And it is said in the Apocalypse (22:5; see also 21:23): “The city,” that is, of the Blessed, “has no need of the sun, nor of the moon . . . for the glory of God bath enlightened it.”

And it is said in Isaiah (60:19): “You shall no more have the sun for your light by day, neither shall the brightness of the moon enlighten you; but the Lord shall be an everlasting light for you, and your God for your glory.”

It is also so, because in God to be and to understand is the same thing; and because He is for all the cause of understanding, He is said to be the light (John 1:9): “That was the true light which enlightened every man that comes into this world” (John 1:9); and: “God is light” (1 John 1:5); and in the Psalms (103:7): “You…are clothed with light as with a garment.” And for this reason also, both God and the angels are described in Sacred Scripture in figures of fire (Exod. 24:17; Acts 2:3; Ps 103:4), because of the brilliance of fire.