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(Taken from Ralph Martin's page with permission to pass around) Ralph Martin | July 31, 2018 Dear Troubled Catholics, I have never seen so many “ordinary Catholics”—who usually never follow or hear about Church news—as deeply troubled as I have seen them in response to the recent revelations about the retired archbishop of Washington, DC. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was asked by the pope to resign from his membership in the College of Cardinals and ordered to live in seclusion until a canonical trial can be held to verify the validity of charges of sexual abuse and harassment made against him. After the first brave person came forward (whose accusations were found credible by the Archdiocese of New York Review Board), more and more followed. The climate of fear among many of our clergy—the fear of being punished or marginalized if they report sexual immorality among their fellow clergy or leaders—is starting to break. Cardinal McCarrick is now known as Archbishop McCarrick. What has been so disturbing to so many people is the fact that there had been numerous warnings to various church officials that he was a homosexual predator, harassing many seminarians, priests, and young boys, for many years, but nothing had ever been done about it, and he was continually promoted. Even after a delegation of priests and lay people went to Rome to warn the Vatican about the situation, he was promoted. Even after a leading Dominican priest wrote a letter to Cardinal O’Malley, nothing was done. Even after lawsuits accusing him of homosexual sexual harassment in two of his previous dioceses had been settled with financial awards, he was still promoted. And not only that, he became a key advisor to Pope Francis and offered advice on whom to appoint as bishops in the United States! One young Catholic mother with two boys who was open to the priesthood for them said to me that she now has grave concerns about ever having one of her sons enter the seminary, given the corruption that has been revealed. Another said she could no longer see anyone joining the Catholic Church, due to such bad leadership. She lamented about the difficulty this presents for evangelization. Another said that seven people from her very small, rural parish had left the parish, because sexual sin is never spoken of and there is almost an exclusive emphasis on political issues. She now fears that even more will leave. Another said that the only way this is ever going to change is if we simply stop giving to the bishops’ national collections and to our own dioceses and parishes’ collections, unless they are led by bishops who are willing to call a spade a spade and govern accordingly. To this day, there are quite a number of “gay friendly” parishes in even “good dioceses,” where those afflicted with homosexual temptation are not encouraged to live chaste lives or offered effective correction, but instead are confirmed in their sexual activity. It seems many bishops are afraid to tackle the local “homosexual lobbies” and choose to turn a blind eye.This past weekend at Mass, the priest giving the sermon was more upset than I’ve ever seen him about the unfolding scandal. The Gospel was about how the weeds and the wheat grow up together and will only finally be separated at the judgment. It was unclear what the priest was actually saying, but we are certainly not called to “enable the weeds.” And shepherds in particular have the obligation to admonish the sinner and remove from ministry those who refuse to preach the truth and who encourage others in wrong doing. Yes, we will always have sin, but as Jesus said, “whoever causes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Mt 18:6). There have been a veritable deluge of articles that have appeared from highly respected lay Catholics and priests saying that “enough is enough,” and we need to stop the cover-ups and get to the bottom of who is implicated in promoting men like this and covering up for them. We do. In 2002, when the American bishops approved their “charter” that attempted to respond to the many cases of priest pedophilia that had come to light by that time, they conspicuously exempted themselves from their “zero tolerance” policy. Many priests have told me that they felt “thrown under the bus” by the bishops, who conveniently didn’t adopt policies to deal with their own tolerance of immoral behavior, cover-ups that allowed the pedophilia to go on for many years, or in some cases, their own immoral behavior. Another disturbing thing about the 2002 Charter is that—despite pleas to not ignore the fact that this is primarily a homosexual scandal, since most of the victims were adolescent boys rather than true children—the bishops decided not to tackle “the elephant in the room.” Could it be because they knew some of their brother bishops/cardinals were implicated, and they didn’t want to face the mess of cleaning it up? Now this refusal to acknowledge the “homosexual lobby,” as Pope Benedict termed it, is coming home to roost. But there’s not just a huge homosexual problem in the Church; unfortunately, heterosexual sin and financial malfeasance are common in many places as well. In some countries, a significant percentage of priests are living with concubines or fathering children by vulnerable women and giving scandal to the faithful, who often know about it. This is the case in Uganda, from which I have recently returned, and in many other countries as well. In these situations, the “protection” of the priests and the frequent disregard for their victims—the women and their children—cries out for justice. And so, once again because of the pressure of lawsuits and the press, the bishops are talking about “developing new policies” that would apply to bishops. As a colleague at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, Michigan, has said: “Isn’t it clear enough from the Gospel that covering up immoral behavior is itself wicked? Why do we need new policies when the teaching of Jesus and the apostles is so clear?” Can the words of the Old Testament prophets and Jesus Himself against false shepherds be any clearer or more devastating? (See Jeremiah 23:1-6; Matthew 23, etc.) The Archbishop McCarrick case may prove to be the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” It may make the bureaucratic, carefully worded, evasive statements that have come from our leaders finally address sin and repentance, instead of the mere policies and processes they typically focus on. Could it be—finally—that the revelation of the long-term sexual harassment of seminarians and priests that never stopped Archbishop McCarrick’s rise in the hierarchy will be so totally repugnant that real repentance may actually start to happen? I have never prayed more for the pope and our leaders than I have in the last several years, and we all must continue to do so. More about that later. Unfortunately, the Archbishop McCarrick case is certainly only the “tip of the iceberg.” The cumulative effect of revelation after revelation of immorality in high places is devastating. First, a number of years ago, a cardinal from Austria was forced to resign over homosexual activity; then, more recently, a cardinal from Scotland resigned over sexual harassment of seminarians and priests; and then the archbishop of Guam underwent a canonical trial in Rome over the sexual abuse of minors; and now cardinals in Chile (one of whom is on the pope’s Council of Cardinals that oversees reform) are under heavy suspicion for covering up homosexual abuse in their country. In fact, the whole bishops’ conference of Chile, acknowledging complicity in not taking seriously reports of a bishop’s cover up of sexual abuse, recently gave their resignations to the pope, and he has so far accepted several of them. The pope himself at first stubbornly backed the appointment of this bishop and dismissed the victims’ pleas as “calumny” and “gossip.” And before we could absorb this news, there was news of an archbishop in Australia getting a prison sentence for covering up abuse on the part of a priest. And just today, as I am writing this, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered the release of a grand jury report implicating more than 300 “predator priests” in six of the eight Pennsylvania dioceses involved in the sexual abuse of minors over many years. Unfortunately, the rot is wide and deep and years of covering up abuse (and the concomitant reluctance to really preach the Gospel and call people to faith and repentance) and its ultimate exposure have injured the faith of millions. How shocking and tragic was it to see tens of thousands of Irish people in the streets of Dublin wildly celebrating that they could now legally kill babies!!!! Just when the Irish bishops needed to speak most strongly on fundamental moral issues, their credibility was destroyed when it was finally exposed that they had covered up abuse for decades. Satan is indeed like that wild boar Scripture talks about that rampages though the vineyard of the Lord because the hedges of protection have been destroyed (Ps 80:12-13). The corruption, ineptitude, and cowardice runs wide and deep, and its effects on the eternal salvation of millions, and the destiny of nations, is devastating. Most recently, Cardinal Maradiaga of Honduras has seen his auxiliary bishop resign over homosexual and financial impropriety, and forty seminarians in his diocese publish a letter asking him to please root out the homosexual network in his seminary. This cardinal is Pope Francis’ chief advisor, the head of his “Council of Nine” that works closely with the pope in bringing about reform in Rome, and is mentioned as a possible successor to Pope Francis. But continual reports of ongoing financial and sexual scandals suggest reform doesn’t seem to be happening. Recently, a male prostitute in Italy published the names and photos of sixty priests who frequent his services—with scarcely any comment from the shepherds. And the homosexual orgy in the apartment of a Vatican cardinal, used by his secretary, was met with a “no comment” by the Vatican press office. And then we hear also of a monsignor in the papal nuncio’s office in Washington, D.C., who suddenly leaves the country and is put on trial in the Vatican for trafficking in child pornography and is given a five year prison sentence. I didn’t plan to discuss this whole situation, but it came up this summer when the thirty priests in my class at the seminary wanted to discuss Pope Francis’ leadership and the McCarrick scandal. We all agreed that Pope Francis has said and done some wonderful things (I teach his Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel in one of my classes), but he also has said and done some things that are confusing and seem to have led to a growth of confusion and disunity in the Church. How can German and Polish bishops approach the question of whether divorced and remarried couples can receive Communion without getting an annulment in opposite ways, and the Church still retain an ability to speak to the contemporary culture with one voice? It can’t. And how long can Church officials speak about the “positive values” of “irregular relationships” until the average Catholic comes to believe that we no longer believe the words of Jesus that fornicators, adulterers, and those who actively practice homosexuality will not enter the kingdom of God unless they repent? How many still believe that there is really a hell and that, unless we repent from such serious sins before we die, we will go there? Have we ever heard from leading churchmen, even in Rome, in recent years, that adultery, fornication and homosexual relations are not only “irregular,” but gravely sinful? Has the creeping “universalism” (the belief that virtually everyone will be saved) so undermined the holy fear of God and belief in His clear word, which has been transmitted faithfully all these centuries and is found intact in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that people have become “understanding” about persisting in grave sin with no fear of God or of hell? Has false compassion and presumption on God’s mercy replaced true love, which is based on truth, and the only appropriate response to God’s mercy—faith and repentance? And what are we to make of the fact that so many of those advising the pope have questionable fidelity to the truth? How can we have confidence in Cardinal Maradiaga as the head of his Council of Cardinals when he is accused of financial impropriety (which he denies); he chose an active homosexual as his auxiliary bishop; and he allowed a homosexual network to grow up in his seminary, dismissing attempts to appeal to him to clean up the mess as unsubstantiated gossip? How can we have confidence in the pope’s main theological advisor, a theologian from Argentina who is most known for his book The Art of the Kiss, or the pope’s main Italian theological advisor, who is known for his subtle dissent from the Church’s teaching in the area of sexuality and who tried to insert texts in the synods on the family that pushed the document in a permissive direction? And how can we have confidence in the recently appointed head of the John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family—an archbishop who commissioned a mural in his former cathedral in an Italian diocese from a homosexual artist who included homo-erotic themes in the mural, including a portrait of the archbishop in an ambiguous pose? One godly woman just asked me last night if it was OK for her to be upset with what was happening. I sadly said yes, of course it is. How can we passively endure such corruption that runs so wide and deep? It is right to make our views known. It is right and necessary. But even more so, it is necessary to pray and offer sacrifices for the Church and her leaders at this time. It is necessary to pray that genuine reform, rooted in real repentance and an embrace of all the truths of the faith, would come out of this awful situation and that the Church, more deeply purified and humbled, may shine forth with the radiance of the face of Christ. But it is going to be a long way from here to there. Grave damage has been done to the credibility of the Church, and more will leave. Grave damage has been done to many of the flock, and reparation must be made; public repentance is called for. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote when he was a young priest, the Church will have to become smaller and more purified before it can again be a light to the world. The Church is going through a radical purification under the chastising hand of God, but already we can see a remnant of fervent renewal appearing all over the world, which is a sign indeed of hope and the renewal to come. And so, what can we do as we continue to pray for the pope and our leaders that God may give them the wisdom and courage to deal with the root of the rot and bring about a real renewal of holiness and evangelization in the Church? »We need to go about our daily lives, trying to live each day in a way pleasing to God, loving Him and loving our neighbor, including the neighbor in our own families. We need to look to ourselves, lest we fall. »We need to remember that even though we have this treasure in earthen vessels (or as some translations put it, “cracked pots”), the treasure is no less the treasure. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater! Baby Jesus is the treasure, and He is still as present as ever and still as ready to receive all who come to Him. And the Mass! Every day, He is willing to come to us in such a special way. Let’s attend daily Mass even more frequently, to offer the sacrifice of Jesus’ death and resurrection to God the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, for the salvation of souls and the purification of the Church. »We need to remember that the Catholic Church is indeed founded by Christ and, despite all problems, has within it the fullness of the means of salvation. Where else can we go? Nowhere; this is indeed our Mother and Home, and she needs our love, our prayers, and our persevering in the way of holiness more than ever. »We need to remember that there are many truly holy and dedicated bishops and priests, and we must pray for them and support them. They need and deserve our support. »We need to remember that this isn’t the first time such grave problems have beset the Church. In the fourteenth century, St. Catherine of Siena bemoaned the “stench of sin” coming from the papal court and prophesied that even the demons were disgusted by the homosexual activity he had tempted priests into and the cover up by their superiors! (See chapters 124-125 of Catherine of Siena’s The Dialogue.) That isn’t to say that we don’t need to take seriously and do all we can in response to the grave scandal we are facing in our time. And yet we need to remember that all this is happening under the providence of God, and He has a plan to bring good out of it. It was even prophesied strongly in Mary’s apparitions in Akita, Japan. Jesus is still Lord and will use the current grave problems to bring about good. And finally, I’m beginning to see why the Lord has impressed on me so strongly in the past year the urgent need to heed the appeals of Our Lady of Fatima. Indeed, as Mary said, “Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them.” Let’s continue to pray and offer sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and as reparation for sin, and let’s pray the rosary daily as Mary requested, for peace in the world and true renewal in the Church. Your brother in Christ,
In his essay “Quantum Mechanics and Ontology” in his anthology Philosophy in an Age of Science,
Hilary Putnam notes that “mathematically presented quantum-mechanical
theories do not wear their ontologies on their sleeve… the mathematics
does not transparently tell us what the theory is about. Not always, anyhow” (p. 161). Yet as Putnam also observes:
reaction to [such] remarks of most physicists would, I fear, be
somewhat as follows: “Why bother imposing an ‘ontology’ on quantum
mechanics at all?... [Q]uantum mechanics has a precise mathematical
language of its own. If there are problems with that language, they are
problems for mathematical physicists, not for philosophers. And in any
case, we know how to use that language to make predictions accurate to a
great many decimal places. If that language does not come with a
criterion of ‘ontological commitment,’ so much the worse for
to say “We physicists are just technicians making predictions; don’t
bother us with that ‘physically real’ stuff” is effectively to return to
the instrumentalism of the 1920s. But physical theories are not just
pieces of prediction technology. Even those who claim that that is all
they are do so only to avoid having to think seriously about the content
of their theories; in other contexts they are, I have observed, quite
happy to talk about the same theories as descriptions of reality – as,
indeed, they aspire to be. (pp. 153-4)
problem is not confined to the interpretation of quantum mechanics.
The metaphysical implications of relativity theory, or indeed of any
theory in physics, is something the physics itself does not reveal.
Then there are more general philosophical questions about science which
science itself does not and cannot answer. For example, what is the
relationship between the abstract mathematical representation of nature
afforded by physical theory and the concrete reality that it
represents? Is there more to nature than mathematical representations
can capture? What demarcates science from non-science? What is a law of nature? Why is the world law-governed in the first place? And so on.
tendency of those beholden to scientism, including professional
scientists who are beholden to scientism, is to dismiss such questions
on the grounds that the only thing worth talking or thinking about is
whether the predictions pan out – which entails positivism, or
instrumentalism, or some other form of anti-realism. And yet, when
pressed about this implication, or when presenting the findings of
science to the layman, the same people will usually insist on a realist
understanding of scientific theories – apparently blithely unaware of
the contradiction. And this is an equal-opportunity form of cognitive
dissonance, afflicting everyone from whip-smart Ph.D.’s down to the
dumbest combox troll.
can’t have things both ways. If you insist that nothing worthwhile can
be said about any matter that is not susceptible of experimental
testing, then you have indeed ruled out of bounds philosophical
questions like the ones just referred to. But you have also thereby
ruled out a realist interpretation of theoretical entities, because realism is not susceptible of experimental testing. That’s the whole point
of the debate between realism and anti-realism – that the experimental
results would come out the same whether or not theoretical entities are
real or just useful fictions, so that the dispute has to be settled on
Indeed, you can’t have things even one
way. For suppose the physicist or the combox troll beholden to
scientism sees the problem and, to be consistent, adopts an
across-the-board instrumentalism. He avoids philosophical issues like
the ones mentioned, and he also refrains from endorsing realism. The problem here, of course, is that even instrumentalism itself
is a philosophical thesis and not a scientific one – again, the dispute
between realism and anti-realist views like instrumentalism cannot be
settled experimentally – so he is not really being consistent after all.
Scientism is simply not a coherent position.
You cannot avoid having distinctively philosophical and
extra-scientific theoretical commitments, because the very attempt to do
so entails having distinctively philosophical and extra-scientific
theoretical commitments. And if you think that these commitments are rationally justifiable
ones – and of course, anyone beholden to scientism thinks his view is
paradigmatically rational – then you are implicitly admitting that there
can be such a thing as a rationally justifiable thesis which is not a scientific thesis. Which is, of course, what scientism denies. Thus scientism is unavoidably self-defeating.
fallacy is simple, and blindingly obvious once you see it. So why is
it so common? Why do so many otherwise genuinely smart people (as well
as people who merely like to think they are smart, like combox trolls) fall into it?
Part of the reason is precisely because it is
so common and so simple. Again, as Putnam complains, even many
professional scientists (by no means all, but many) commit the fallacy.
So, when you call someone out on it, there is a strong temptation for
him to think: “If my critic is right, then I and lots of other
scientists have been committing a pretty obvious fallacy for a very long
time. Surely that can’t be!” They think that there must
be some way to avoid the contradiction, even if they are never able to
say what it is, and always end up doing exactly what they claim to be
avoiding, viz. making extra-scientific philosophical claims.
Paradoxically, the very obviousness and prevalence of the fallacy keeps
them from seeing it. As Orwell famously said, “to see what is in front
of one's nose needs a constant struggle.”
Then there is the element of pride. You have to be smart to do natural science. Combox trolls usually are not very smart, but they think
of themselves as smart, because they at least have the capacity to
pepper their remarks with words like “physics,” “science,” “reason,”
etc. as well as to rehearse whatever science trivia they picked up from
Wikipedia. So, suppose you are either a scientist or a combox troll who
has gotten your head full of scientism. You are convinced that
philosophers and other non-scientists have nothing of interest to say.
Then one of them points out that you are committing a fallacy so simple
that a child can see it. That can be very hard to swallow. And if the
person pointing out the self-defeating character of scientism happens to
be religious, the blow to one’s pride can be absolutely excruciating. “Some religiousnut is going to catch me out on a blatant fallacy? No way in hell! I refuse to believe it!” One’s pride in one’s presumed superiorrationality locks one into a deeply irrational frame of mind.
third factor is that, though the fallacy is pretty simple, you have to
have at least a rudimentary understanding of certain philosophical
concepts – realism, instrumentalism, self-contradiction, etc. – and a
basic willingness to think philosophically, in order to be able to see
it. Now, suppose you not only don’t know much about philosophy, but are
positively contemptuous of it (as those beholden to scientism often
are). Then you are not going to know very much about it, and you are
not likely to be able to think very clearly about even the little bit
you do know. Your prejudices keep getting in the way. You are bound to
be blind even to obvious fallacies like the one in question.
The bottom line is that if you cannot help
doing philosophy – for again, the very act of denying that one needs to
do it itself involves one in a philosophical commitment – but at the
same time also refuse to do it, then you are inevitably both going to do it and do it badly.
clueless reactions I have seen to these simple points over the years
only reinforce their validity. For example, many defenders of scientism
will, in response to the claim that extra-scientific philosophical
commitments are unavoidable, demand that you produce an operational
definition for this or that philosophical concept, or experimental
evidence for this or that philosophical thesis – thereby adding begging the question to the list of fallacies of which they are guilty. For of course, such demands presuppose the correctness of scientism, which is exactly what is at issue.
My favorite response is the suggestion that a philosopher who criticizes scientism has gotten too big for his britches. “How dare you suggest that scientists don’t know everything! How arrogant!” Scientism, it seems, kills irony along with basic critical reasoning skills.
In his recent book Enlightenment Now,
Steven Pinker summarizes some cognitive science research on bias, and
notes that there is a special kind of bias to which those who detect
bias in others are prone. He calls it “bias bias” (p. 361). The idea
is that when you are keen to ferret out biases in others, you are often
blind to the biases that influence you as you do so. As Pinker also
points out, people who are well-informed about a subject are also often
prone to certain biases, precisely because the interest in the subject
that leads them to learn a lot about it also makes it more difficult for
them to be objective about it. As Pinker writes:
paradox of rationality is that expertise, brainpower, and conscious
reasoning do not, by themselves, guarantee that thinkers will approach
the truth. On the contrary, they can be weapons for ever-more-ingenious
rationalization. (p. 359)
also judges, absolutely correctly in my view, that “the major enemy of
reason in the public sphere today … is not ignorance, innumeracy, or
cognitive biases, but politicization” (p. 371). When you turn an idea
into a political cause to promote, with allies to the cause needing to be recruited and enemies of
the cause needing to be defeated, etc., then you are bound to let
reason give way to rhetoric, to lose the capacity for dispassionate
evaluation, and so forth.
factors account for why defenders of scientism are often so dogmatic
and nasty in their dealings with critics, often prone to ridicule and ad hominem
attacks rather than the calm and rational discourse you’d think their
purported commitment to reason and science would commend to them.
Scientism has become a political cause, and those beholden to it tend to
delude themselves into thinking that their loud condemnations of
cognitive bias and rationalization somehow make them immune to these
very foibles. There is no one in greater danger of irrational and
unscientific thinking than the fanatic who screams “Reason!” and
“Science!” in your face at the top of his lungs.
is, by the way, self-defeating in more than just the way already
identified. Consider that scientific methodology involves both the
construction of mathematical representations of nature, and the experimental testing
of those representations. If you think carefully about either of these
components – including even the second one – you will see that it
cannot be correct to say that we can have no rationally justifiable
belief in what cannot be experimentally tested.
is most obvious in the case of mathematics. Even those beholden to
scientism will typically admit that even those parts of mathematics that
do not have application within empirical science constitute genuine
bodies of knowledge. And even the parts of mathematics that do have
application within science operate in part by distinctively mathematical
rules of reasoning rather than being evaluated solely by experimental testing.
defenders of scientism are often willing to expand their conception of
what counts as “science” to include mathematics. But there are two
problems with this. First, once they do this, then they can no longer
consistently criticize philosophical claims for not being susceptible of
experimental testing. For their admission of mathematics into the fold
concedes that there are rational forms of discourse that don’t involve
empirical testability. Second, the thesis that empirical science and mathematics exhaust the genuine forms of knowledge is not itself
a proposition of either empirical science or mathematics. Admitting
mathematics into the science club simply does not suffice to save
scientism from self-refutation.
now to the notion of experimental testing. Obviously, this presupposes
that we have experiences. Now, the fact that we have experiences, and
certain very general features of experience, are themselves known
through experience. However, these particular facts are not susceptible
of experimental testing. The reason is that experimental testing – and in particular, the possibility of falsification
– requires that experience can go in one direction or another. We
predict that it will go in direction A rather than B – that we will
observe this rather than that – and then try to set up an experiment or
observational scenario in which we can see whether this prediction pans
But not everything that
is true of experience is testable in this way, not even in principle.
To take an example beloved of us Aristotelians, consider the proposition
that change occurs. We know this is true from experience. But that does not mean that it is empirically testablein the sense of falsifiable. It is notfalsifiable. For the very possibility of testability or falsifiability presupposeschange. You predict that you will have such-and-such an experience and see whether it happens, and that procedure itself involves change.
You go from thinking “Let’s see if this happens” to thinking “Ah, it
did happen” or “Oh, it didn’t happen,” and either way a change will have
occurred. The thesis that change occurs is, accordingly, not
falsifiable or empirically testable. And yet we know it from
experience, and the very possibility of empirical testing presupposes
it. Any appeal to empirical testability thus presupposes that we
know at least some things that are not empirically testable (such as the
reality of change). Which is precisely what scientism denies. Hence, once again, scientism is self-refuting.
Those beholden to scientism don’t see this because they conflate empirical with experimentally testable.
And these are not the same thing. Again, the proposition that change
occurs is empirical in the sense that we know it via experience, but it
is not experimentally testable or falsifiable. Aristotelian
philosophers like Andrew van Melsen and Henry Koren characterize propositions like this as grounded in “pre-scientific experience.” They are grounded in experience in the sense that we know them empirically rather than a priori. They are pre-scientificin
the sense that science involves empirical testability or
falsifiability, and these propositions concern facts about experience
that are deeper than, and presupposed by, anything testable or
Hume’s Fork famously holds that all knowable propositions concern either matters of fact or relations of ideas. The logical positivists drew a similar dichotomy between analytic and synthetic propositions, and contemporary naturalists often claim that all significant propositions concern either empirical science or conceptual analysis.
These are all variations on the same basic idea, and scientism
typically appeals to one or another of them. But as I have argued elsewhere,
they are all self-refuting. Hume’s Fork is not itself true either by
virtue of relations of ideas or by virtue of matters of fact. The
positivist’s principle of verifiability is not itself either analytic or
synthetic. The naturalist’s dichotomy of empirical science and
conceptual analysis is not itself knowable either by way of empirical
science or conceptual analysis. Like the adherent of scientism caught
in his self-refutation, none of the adherents of these related views has
much more to offer in response than a shit-eating grin.
propositions of mathematics, propositions grounded in “pre-scientific
experience,” and philosophical propositions (such as the thesis of
scientism itself, which is philosophical rather than scientific) fall
into a third (and indeed, perhaps a fourth, a fifth, etc.) category
beyond the two that these self-defeating views are willing to recognize.
as Gilson said, always buries its undertakers. Or it would do so if
those untertakers weren’t so busy burying themselves.
(Lifted wholesale from his blog at http://www.scifiwright.com/)
The signature peculiarity of the modern age that one must explain the obvious to the oblivious.
One must explain the self-evident to audiences to whom evidence has no persuasive power. One must point out the paradox of any belief that blithely contradicts itself to audience to whom self-contradiction forms no obvious impediment to belief.
One must then explain why an untrue statement cannot be just as true as a true one to an audience whose majority claims truth is optional, or insignificant. And, finally, one must explain why one ought not to deceive others by saying false things, or to deceive oneself by believing them, to an audience that is offended by the very notion of honesty.
Surely in every prior generation there were stubborn students, young children, and madmen unable to comprehend the differences between true and false, logical and illogical, virtuous and vicious.
But if there were any in any prior generation preaching and teaching that these distinctions were insignificant or incomprehensible or both, no record has survived.
Skeptics of earlier generations doubted whether or not the doctrines as taught by official organs of orthodoxy, Church and crown and academy, were, in fact, orthodox, that is, faithful and true. Some even doubted if their sense organs carrying the appearances of the world to the senses carried it faithfully, and preserved an accurate picture of the way the world, in fact, was in reality.
But they did not doubt their own capacity to be faithful to the truth. They did not doubt that the truth was worth fidelity. They did not doubt that reality existed.
None upheld the idea that the ideas in the mind of man do not exist; nor the brain of man is a mechanical organ whose operations are approximate and untrustworthy; nor that the brain of man is untrustworthy because it is straitjacketed by evolution to produce psychological drives whose meaning and ends are hidden; nor that the cultures and civilizations of man, as unintentional byproducts of these brains, produce nothing to set one above the other in any scale of progress, nothing to excite the loyalty, and no truths to defend.
This is because no previous generation of skeptics doubted the existence of man.
Let me be clear: the moderns do not wander around saying, “No human life exist.” For one thing, the statement would be too definitive for them. But they do wander around saying “No essential thing renders man different from other beasts; certainly nothing renders man a creature of greater dignity than other beasts.”
The moderns do not doubt the existence of men. They doubt the existence of Man, that is, of an essential property or quality that renders members of the category distinct from non-members. This philosophy of indistinctiveness, ironically, is called Humanism.
Humanism is best understood as the philosophy that man is the measure of all things. In other words, nothing has objective value, but only has value insofar as it serves human survival, sates human want, serves human desires, or flatters human vanity. This perhaps seems a practical and useful philosophy at first, for if something is objectively valuable, but serves no human want, surely the objective value is moot?
This philosophy of humanism is not only impractical, and indeed unworkable, it is inhuman.
It is inhuman for the simple reason that it robs mankind of all dignity. If man is the measure of all things, he cannot be measured. If he cannot be measured, he can neither be above nor below other things; he cannot fall short but he cannot rise above.
The yardstick cannot be used to say whether the yardstick is long or short. It merely is the length it is.
In this case, if man is the measure of all things, then no moral standard has any legitimacy beyond the reach of human enforcement. No one on his deathbed, no one contemplating suicide, need contemplate such a standard, as death puts him beyond all reach of mortal retaliation. Likewise for any act beyond the sight of witnesses. Likewise for any hatreds hidden carefully in the heart where no man sees. If the rich and powerful contemplate the likely reach of human enforcement, the heed to be paid to human moral standards is more limited again.
If all laws are manmade, any law can be legitimately repealed by men.
A manmade law can surely tell a man what other men say you ought or ought not do, but it cannot tell anyone when, if ever, such any given manmade law should be repealed or preserved. A manmade law that said, for example, manmade laws should be preserved even when unpopular or inconvenient is itself a manmade law, and has no more claim to be immune from repeal than any other.
The practical upshot of this allegedly practical philosophy called humanism is that it cannot be put into practice. Of old, it was said that man is wolf to man. We are the main danger to our species; no creature preys on us except us.
But if man is the measure of all things, and if one of the properties of man is that we are predators to each other, then, by that measure, to murder, rape, rob, and deceive is not wrong for the same reason wolves eating rabbits is not wrong. It is merely a predator acting out his predatory instincts for his own benefit and the survival of his bloodline.
This predatory property, it must be said, is not due to some defect in our social institutions, laws or customs, nor something caused by a misuse of vocabulary words with misleading or hurtful implications. It is a fact of human existence that no generation, no race, no tribe and no clan has ever escaped.
If man is the measure of all things, then men himself is neither good nor bad for the same reason that a yardstick is neither long nor short. Likewise, if man is the measure of all things, he is not a creature whose rights and privileges are sacrosanct and inviolate. Men, like other natural resources, are merely presently useful or useless, convenient or inconvenient, as means to achieve survival, sate want, serve desires, or flatter vanity.
The Twentieth Century was marked by the retreat of all Christian considerations from public life, from the academy, the courts of law, the halls of power. The Christian religion devolved from a corporate and organized worship to a matter of private opinion, then to a matter of private taste, then to a public embarrassment. Sodomy came out of the closet and Christianity went into it. We have reached the point where none but the boldest nonconformist is likely publically to admit he had surrendered his life to Christ.
I suspect many a public figure would sooner say he had contracted a loathsome venereal disease than admit he had gone to confession and taken the host. I have seen at least one famous public figure wearing ashes on his head in sign of his repentance who unrepentantly advocates support for abortion and sodomy and much else that sign forbids. So perhaps Christian life is still tolerated in public much as the eccentricities of a lunatic uncle, provided only neither the uncle, nor anyone else, takes the ravings seriously, that is, treats them with dignity.
The promise was made that social justice, freedom and peace and the evolution of the race to utopia could be accomplished by human beings relying on human strength and human wisdom. Modern science could eliminate defective and inferior races, mental diseases, and social maladies such as crime; modern psychiatry could eliminate guilt and neurosis; modern political economics could eliminate the laws of supply and demand as rapidly and thoroughly as modern artists had eliminated the laws of art. Man was the measure of all things, and nothing he conceived in his heart to accomplish could be denied to him.
Instead of utopia, history witnessed the bloodiest century in history. Science, instead of bringing forth a race of Prussian supermen, gave a whole nation over into the hands of subhuman savagery in the form of the Holocaust. Instead of producing wealth and peace, socialism has killed one hundred million souls, and produced poverty, misery, and pollution. Instead of honesty, secularism has given us fake news, fake history books, fake facts, junk science, and an endless nauseating stream of lies from our current generation of countless little Pontius Pilates, who endless ask “What is truth?” and endlessly crucify the one who is the truth.
Humanism turned humans into brutes more dangerous than brutes. Creature without speech and reason cannot organize mass media campaigns necessary for the largescale megadeaths and democides we have been discussing.
Such is the lesson the harsh schoolmistress of history teaches: but the point of the lesson is lost. The modern secular humanist is convinced that Communism failed because it is too much like a religion, and that religion causes injustices and wars, and ergo the sole ingredient needed to abolish injustice and war forever from human existence is to eliminate that religious impulse which has never been absent from human history. This jabberwocky issues from people claiming an ability to think with scientific rigor.
What went wrong with the Twentieth Century, and what is going wrong now, is a loss of the dignity of man.
The Nazis regarded Catholics, gypsies, profiteers, homosexuals, retards, and Jews as subhuman, and so, by the same logic any horsebreeder uses to cull the breeding stock of bad strains, attempted to eliminate all these folk. The Soviets regarded Christians and profiteers as subhuman, and did likewise.
The Europeans abroad and the Leftists in America regard the poor as being unable to better themselves, and the people in general as being subjects of an administrative state, not free and equal fellow citizens whose voice held equal sway with experts and intellectuals. They are not yet as bloodthirsty as to turn on their fellow men as wolves among sheep, but they are clearly willing to introduce endless numbers of wolves into the fold, and to condemn, silence, and persecute those who object.
But what, if anything, in their worldview would forbid the same excesses that their more violent brethren in Eastern Europe a generation past, or the Far East now, who believed all the same axioms and utter all the same rhetoric, saw and see as necessary and laudable?
John Farrel has written a column at his Forbes site entitled "Can Theology Evolve," quoting from an epistle of Jerry Coyne:
"I’ve always maintained that this piece of the Old Testament, which is easily falsified by modern genetics (modern humans descended from a group of no fewer than 10,000 individuals), shows more than anything else the incompatibility between science and faith. For if you reject the Adam and Eve tale as literal truth, you reject two central tenets of Christianity: the Fall of Man and human specialness."
Now, by "literal truth" Coyne undoubtedly intended "literal fact," since a thing may be true without being fact, and a fact has no truth value in itself. I do not know Dr. Coyne's bona fides for drawing doctrinal conclusions or for interpreting scriptures, although he seems to lean toward the fundamentalist persuasion. Nor am I sure how Dr. Coyne's assertion necessarily entails a falsification of human specialness (whatever he means by that). I never heard of such a doctrine in my Storied Youth(*1) though it is pretty obvious from a scientific-empirical point of view. You are not reading this on an Internet produced by kangaroos or petunias. It is not even clear what his claim means regarding the Fall. Neither the Eastern Orthodox nor the Roman Catholic churches ever insisted on a naive-literal reading of their scriptures, and yet both asserted as dogma the Fall of Man.(*2)
Now modern genetics does not falsify the Adam and Eve tale for the excellent reason that it does not address the same matter as the Adam and Eve tale. One is about the origin of species; the other is about the origin of sin. One may as well say that a painting of a meal falsifies haute cuisine. Still, there are some interesting points about the myth of Adam and Eve and the Fall. Not least is the common late-modern usage of "myth" to mean "something false" rather than "an organizing story by which a culture explains itself to itself." Consider, for example, the "myth of progress" that was so important during the Modern Ages. Or the equally famous "myth of Galileo" which was a sort of Genesis myth for the Modern Ages. With the fading of the Modern Ages, these myths have lost their power and have been exploded by post-modernism or by historians of science. Before we consider the Fall, let us consider the Summer. No. Wait. I mean the Summary. ___________________________ (*1) storied youth. Literally. My brother and I wrote stories when we were kids. (*2) Makes you wonder what their actual reasoning was, if it was not some backwoods 19th century American reading an archaic English translation of some Greek texts.
On the Ambiguity of One
Dr. Coyne's primary error seems to be a quantifier shift. He and his fundamentalist bedfellows appear to hold that the statement:
A: "There is one man from whom all humans are descended" is equivalent to the statement: B: "All humans are descended from [only] one man." Quantifier shift
But this logical fallacy hinges on an equivocation of "one," failing to distinguish "one [out of many]" from "[only] one." Traditional doctrine requires only A, not B: That all humans share a common ancestor, not that they have no other ancestors. For example, all Flynn hereabout share a common descent from one John Thomas Flynn (c.1840-1881) but of course we are also descended from other ancestors as well. In my case, that includes a Frenchman from the Pas de Calais, numerous Germans from the upper Rhineland, plus some folks from other parts of Ireland, all of whom were contemporary with the aforesaid John Thomas. If you think of a surname as an inherited characteristic from the father,(*3) it is easy to see how a group of people may have a common ancestor without having only one ancestor. Adam and his friends Dr. Coyne believes the mathematical requirement of a population numbering 10,000 somehow refutes the possibility that there were two. But clearly, where there are 10,000 there are two, many times over. Genesis tells us that the children of Adam and Eve found mates among the children of men, which would indicate that there were a number of others creatures out there with whom they could mate. Perhaps no fewer than 9,998 others. So even a literal reading of Genesis supports multiple ancestors, over and above a single common ancestor. Of course, this is not the usual poetic trope or artistic image of one man and one woman alone in a Garden in Eden, but then popular and artistic conceptions of evolution or quantum mechanics are not always precise and accurate, either. Not everyone has the time, inclination, or talent to delve into such matters very deeply, and the end of art is different from the end of philosophy - or genetics. Yet there may be a sense in which Adam (and Eve) were indeed alone. ________________________(*3) Yes, I know; but historically children took the father's surname. It was a cultural trait that bound the father to the household. Since many fathers today go wandering off after sticking the mother with a kid, there seems little point to the surnaming custom.
The Red-Clay Men
Dr. Coyne makes much of Mitochondrial Eve not being contemporary with Y-chromosome Adam; but these are common ancestors only in the strict male descent or the strict female descent. Doctrine holds only that all men are descended from Adam, not that they descend through an unbroken line of fathers. The same applies to descent from Eve through mothers, although oddly enough, that is not doctrine, for reasons adduced (*4) below. Since mito-Eve and chromo-Adam are not necessarily the Adam and Eve of the story, what difference does it make if they were not contemporary? Adam's father Now obviously, if all men are descended from Adam, then all men are descended from Adam's father, ne c'est pas? At one time, the possibility that Adam's father was a lump of clay was the cutting edge of science. After all, the word adam simply means "red clay." (And still does in Arabic.) When a man dies, his body corrupts, and becomes.... red clay. It was not then unreasonable to early observers of nature that regardless how subsequent generations have been propagated, the first red-clay man came directly from red clay. IOW, the mythos of Adam and Eve employed the best-known science of its time. Were it being originally written today, it would undoubtedly employ the imagery of modern science -- just so people in AD 6000 could laugh at its naivete. ______________________ (*4) I have always wanted to use 'adduced' in a sentence. I may now rest satisfied.
So why Adam and not his progenitor, Bruce?
Evolution points to the answer. Darwin tells us that at some point an ape that was not quite a man gave birth to a man that was no longer quite an ape. He was H. sapiens - or at least he likes to call himself that.(*5) He had the capacity for rational thought; that is, to reflect on sensory perceptions and abstract universal concepts. He could not only perceive this bison and that bison, but could conceive of "bison" -- an abstraction with no material existence of its own. Poetically, we might say that a God "breathed" a rational soul into a being that had previously been little more than "red clay." How long after the red-clay man was formed was the rational soul breathed in? The texts do not say. It may have been tens or hundreds of thousands of years, at least according to one Eastern Orthodox theologian(*6); and Thomas Aquinas in at least one place regards humanity in general as "one man." If there is a God and he did such things, he was not punching a time-clock. Hence, Adam as first man, and not simply first man-like hominid. ________________ (*5) He is actually H. loquens. Jury is still out on the sapiens bit. (*6) Eastern Orthodox. Atheists and other fundies often forget about the Orthodox Church, but it is the second largest Church in Christendom. Together with the largest, the Roman Catholic, they comprise better than 63% of all Christians. Throw in the third largest - the Anglican Communion - and we've got two-thirds of all Christians, well before we get down to the more exotic and idiosyncratic sects. If I want to know "what Christianity teaches," I would be inclined to ask the Orthodox or Catholic churches, as they have near 2000 years of noodling over it. Yet when the Coynes of the world want to tell us 'what Christians believe,' they agitate over the idiosyncratic beliefs of Bill and Ted's Excellent Bible Shack, whose teachings go back to last Tuesday. Go figure. Whaddaya Mean "First" Man? There is an argument similar to Zeno's Paradox of Dichotomy that holds that sapient man arose by slow, gradual increments. That is, arguing from the continuum rather than from the quanta. Now, "a little bit sapient" is like "a little bit pregnant." It may be only a little, but it is a lot more than not sapient at all. There is, after all, no first number after zero, and however small the sapience, one can always cut it in half and claim that that much less sapience preceded it. But however long and gradual is the screwing-in of the light bulb, the light is either on or off.
Modern genetics finds that genetic change may be specific, sudden, and massive due to various biochemical "machines" within the gene. The ability to abstract universal concepts from particular sensory percepts is an either-or thing, no matter how much better developed it might become over time. You either can do it even a little bit or you can't do it at all. So, Adam may be considered the first man no matter how many man-like apes there were on his family tree.
And that includes those among his 9,999 companions. It is not clear how Dr. Coyne envisions the same sapient mutation arising simultaneously in 10,000 ape-men. It is not impossible, I suppose; but it does seem unlikely. So let us default to the sapiens/loquens mutation appearing first in one man and then gradually spreading through a population. Following tradition, let's call him Adam. This in no way contradicts the existence of 9,999 other ape-men with whom Adam is interfertile.(*7) They may have been necessary to comprise a sufficient breeding population insofar as the body is concerned, but they need not have been sapient. ___________________ (*7) You know what I mean.
The Trent Affair
Consequently, what Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice were up to with Lilith among the 10,000 makes no difference, doctrine-wise. For that matter, what Eve was up to doesn't matter much, either! The anathemas of the Council of Trent mention only Adam.(*8) They require belief in original sin and related doctrines; they do not require belief in a factual Genesis myth beyond the simple existence of a common ancestor. (Which is why the church consistently taught that mankind was all one species and all material beings with intellect and will, including hypothetical blemyae and sciopods, were "men.") The anagogical point of the Genesis story was to teach a doctrine, not to relate a history. The truths are not in the facts. Dr. Coyne has discovered that naive-literalists have a coherency problem; but that has been known for centuries. Indeed, St. Augustine pointed it out in the long ago:
"For if he takes up rashly a meaning which the author whom he is reading did not intend, he often falls in with other statements which he cannot harmonize with this meaning. And if he admits that these statements are true and certain, then it follows that the meaning he had put upon the former passage cannot be the true one: and so it comes to pass, one can hardly tell how, that, out of love for his own opinion, he begins to feel more angry with Scripture than he is with himself." -- On Christian doctrine, I.37
Gus Hippo In his book on the literal meanings of Genesis, wherein he extracted multiple literal meanings from different passages,(*9) Augustine wrote:
"In the case of a narrative of events, the question arises as to whether everything must be taken according to the figurative sense only, or whether it must be expounded and defended also as a faithful record of what happened. No Christian will dare say that the narrative must not be taken in a figurative sense. For St. Paul says: “"Now all these things that happened to them were symbolic."”And he explains the statement in Genesis, "“And they shall be two in one flesh,"”as a great mystery in reference to Christ and to the Church. If, then, Scripture is to be explained under both aspects, what meaning other than the allegorical have the words: “In the beginning God created heaven and earth?”" --On the literal meanings of Genesis, I.1.
Note that he regards the figurative [anagogical] sense as the default, and other readings are layered upon this. He discusses how one knows when a figurative meaning is intended, and describes the various figures that are used in both literary and vulgar speech. Thomas Aquinas explains the four reading protocols used by the Church in ST I.1.10 but they go back to the Patristic Age.(*10) ___________________________ (*8) At least when the Church prosecuted you for heresy, she took considerable pains beforehand to spell out just what the heresy was. This is in contrast to modern versions of PC. (*9) BTW, Augie was quite aware of the issue of light existing before the sun; and points out the ambiguity of "evening and morning" on a sphereical Earth. Late-moderns always think they are the first to think of these things. (*10) "Metaphorical" counts as one of the various literal readings. "You are the salt of the earth" depends on the actual, literal meaning of "salt." To say "you are the asparagus of the earth" would not mean the same thing. Fundamentalists often say that by using metaphor a passage can mean anything; but this is simply not so. "You are the salt of the earth" cannot mean "Two pounds pastrami; bring home to Emma." But we digress. Homo loquens
Aristotle illustrated the difference between the sensitive animal form and the rational human form by saying that an animal sees flesh, but a human also sees what flesh is. It is the difference between knowing this bright red crunchy apple perceived by the senses and knowing about "apple" conceived by reflection of the intellect on the many individual apples of experience. And so we might imagine Adam sitting around the campfire after an exciting hunt and remembering the bison they had chased and the moment of truth and he suddenly utters the hunting cry that signifies "bison here!" A cry that is in principle no different from those made by other animals, and possibly his fire-mates look about in alarm for the bison the cry signifies. But Adam has done something different. He has used the sign as a symbol, one that refers to the bison-that-is-not-here-but-remembered. He has become sapient and has invented grammar.(*11) Or perhaps he was just born that way and like any small child reaching seven has just achieved the age of reason. But in all likelihood, his ability to speak in abstractions -- to speak of 'bison' rather than any particular bison -- is coterminous with his sapience.
Alas, none of his fire-mates understand, and he goes through life as lonely as a man who can speak when no one else can listen. He has become the First Politician. It is as if he is alone in a garden (since that is all that "paradise" meant.) For a while, he amuses himself by giving names to all the other animals, but that soon palls. Is there no one else he can talk with?
Then one day he meets a woman-with-words. Perhaps a woman from another band or tribe who has coincidentally received the same mutation, or perhaps someone who has simply cottoned on to what he has been doing. Sometimes an environmental cue is required to activate a gene. Here at last is someone he can talk to. (Perhaps he regrets this later, when she will not shut up. But that is a tale for another time.) The rest, as they say, is history. Later, some of his descendants will fly to the Moon, still chattering away. ____________ (*11) For an amusing take on this, see the Underground Grammarian:
Pleased to Meet You. Hope You Know My Name. Like any animal, the red-clay ape-men were innocent. They lived, hunted, ate, mated, and died, pretty much in that order. What was good was what perfected their ape-manliness; but they did not know it was good. In a sense, they did not know anything. Like perfect Zen masters, they simply did. (See the zebras in the Underground Grammarian's essay, in the previous footnote.) But Adam is different. Having a rational human form in addition to his sensitive animal form, he is capable of knowing the good. As Paul writes in Romans 2;12-16, the law is written in the heart.(*12) God being the author of natures, is in the Christian view the author of human nature in particular; hence the law "written in the heart" was written there by God. But for Adam to know the good means that Adam is now capable of turning away from the good. Thus, when Adam wills some act that is contrary to what his intellect tells him is good, he is acting in disobedience to "God's commands written in his heart." A turning away from the good is called "sin" and, since no one had ever been capable of doing so before, it was the original sin. This is communicated by allegory in the tale of the tree. We can observe this today with children, who mature to a point is when they begin to recognize good and evil. We call it the Age of Reason. Once upon a time, this recognition must have happened for the first time, and not necessarily in childhood. Today's children have parents and an entire society of other sapient beings to serve as examples and hasten the onset; but Adam had no one to teach him, so the realization could have come late. All of a sudden, he knew he had disobeyed the voice in his head, he was naked like an animal, he knew that someday he would die. So death came into the world - not as fact, but as truth. Animals die in fact, but they do not know that they will. They live, as it were, one day at a time; and then one day they don't. "Truth is not just a judgment," writes Chastek, "but an affirmation of how this judgment stands to us with respect to its truth." Death became true when Adam realized it. What a bummer that must have been. He probably invented whiskey next.
And so he was expelled from the edenic existence of the innocent ape-men animals into a world of worries. Perhaps it was literal. How did the other ape-men react to the odd ones in their midst? Evolution proceeds through reproductive isolation. If Adam and the others like him had stayed in ape-man eden, his genes may have been lost in the larger gene pool and never achieved "take-off" concentration. So some sort of secession seems reasonable. Maybe Adam and those he found like him started calling themselves "the Enlightened" or "the Brights" or even just "the Sapients" and this really annoyed the other 9000 or so, who then drove them out as obnoxious little gits. __________ (*11) It is this doctrine that tells us that atheists are as capable of moral behavior as a Jew or a Greek or a Christian. There was even a term for this: the naturally Christian man. But we digress.
Most sin, the old joke runs, is not very original. But supposedly the "sin of Adam" has been inherited by all his descendants. This hardly seems fair. If we didn't do the deed, why should we bear the mark? But this misses the mark. Thomas Aquinas made note that original sin is not a particular transgression, like a crime committed for which one deserves particular punishment, but is the origin or source of such positive sins. It is a predilection inherent to human nature. Doctrine is concerned with the origin of sin, not the origin of species. Hence, "origin-al" sin. The only time Thomas Aquinas touches (in passing) on the origin of species, he ascribes its possibility to the powers inherent in nature itself as created in the beginning:
"Species, also, that are new, if any such appear, existed beforehand in various active powers; so that animals, and perhaps even new species of animals, are produced by putrefaction by the power which the stars and elements received at the beginning."
(We could take that further and say that the physical universe itself existed beforehand in various active powers, like gravitation or quantum mechanics. If only a physicist of the stature of Hawking would be courageous enough to say that in the beginning there was the word: "Let F=G(Mm)/d^2." But we digress.) Tommy Aquino When Thomas Aquinas discusses Adam and Eve, he focuses on Adam. He goes so far as to say that had it been Eve who sinned, we would have no problem!(*13) But how is this original sin transmitted to descendants. Again, do not suppose that no one has ever thought of the late-modern trendy objections before. Aquinas writes:
"Yet if we look into the matter carefully we shall see that it is impossible for the sins of the nearer ancestors, or even any other but the first sin of our first parent to be transmitted by way of origin. The reason is that a man begets his like in species but not in individual. Consequently those things that pertain directly to the individual, such as personal actions and matters affecting them, are not transmitted by parents to their children: for a grammarian does not transmit to his son the knowledge of grammar that he has acquired by his own studies. On the other hand, those things that concern the nature of the species, are transmitted by parents to their children, unless there be a defect of nature: thus a man with eyes begets a son having eyes, unless nature fails. And if nature be strong, even certain accidents of the individual pertaining to natural disposition, are transmitted to the children, e.g. fleetness of body, acuteness of intellect, and so forth; but nowise those that are purely personal"
In ST II-1, Q.81, art. 1 he writes:
"For some, considering that the subject of sin is the rational soul, maintained that the rational soul is transmitted with the semen, so that thus an infected soul would seem to produce other infected souls. Others, rejecting this as erroneous, endeavored to show how the guilt of the parent's soul can be transmitted to the children, even though the soul be not transmitted, from the fact that defects of the body are transmitted from parent to child--thus a leper may beget a leper, or a gouty man may be the father of a gouty son, on account of some seminal corruption, although this corruption is not [itself] leprosy or gout. Now since the body is proportionate to the soul, and since the soul's defects redound into the body, and vice versa,(*14) in like manner, say they, a culpable defect of the soul is passed on to the child, through the transmission of the semen, albeit the semen itself is not the subject of the guilt."
So Tommy has noted genetics, and has rejected Lamarckism, even if he doesn't know about genetics and says "semen" rather than "genes." This is what we might call Aquinas' "genetic" explanation. He identified original sin with concupiscence, hence with selfishness (or "wanting" as the Buddha put it). So he is here hypothesizing a sort of "selfish gene." Perhaps we can find an evolutionary biologist willing to write a book about the selfish gene; though he would likely get the ontology all mucked up. However, Aquinas finds that this selfish gene is not quite sufficient, and adds a bit regarding "motion by generation," and says we must consider the human species as a whole ("as one man") and the sin (or defect) as applying to human nature per se, rather than to the acts of each particular man. "Original sin is not the sin of this person, except inasmuch as this person receives his nature from his first parent, for which reason it is called the "sin of nature."
IOW, the mythos of Adam and Eve still makes sense when read in the traditional anagogical manner, not in spite of evolutionary learnings but because of them. Of course, we must be wary of concordism. Being compatible with consensus science is a tricky thing. Just ask the clerics who defended long-established geocentrism. If it ain't falsifiable, it ain't science; so we must allow the possibility that what we think we know about evolution is all wrong. That is why it is not a good idea to get too chummy with science, since you never know when she'll pack up her bags and leave you holding the bills. __________________ (*13) To this day most crimes are committed by men, and women are more likely to be devout, etc. (*14) the soul's defects redound into the body, and vice versa. Gosh, Tommy said that if you tamper with someone's brain, it will affect his thinking! Who'd'a thunk it. Certainly not late-moderns, who think they alone have discovered that the body affects the soul mind.
An interesting post called "Occam and Atheism" from John C. Wright's blog On the Inadequacy of the Atheist Model I have been asked to explain some of the ways in which the atheist model of the universe is either inadequate or inelegant, hence not the most rational approach to use to explain the facts of reality, nor to answer the deep questions of philosophy. Now, I should say at the outset that a dogma shared by all atheists I’ve met or read to date (I include myself back when I was an atheist) is their unquestioned assumption that disbelief in Christ is a reasonable position, and belief unreasonable. The firmness with which the atheist hold to the assertion of Christian irrationality is directly proportional to the strength of the argument supporting said assertion. In reality, Christians believe in Christ for the same sort of reasons people believe in heliocentrism, Darwinism, bimetallism, monogamy or anything else: the unreflective man believes what he was taught by his parents and elders, and sees no reason to reexamine that belief; the reflective man believes because no other answer is as simple and yet suitable to the evidence and axioms. In my case, I submit that Christianity reasonable because atheism leaves so much either to be explained in an awkward, ad hoc, and unconvincing fashion, or not explained at all. Rigor What? I find myself unduly hampered when addressing subjects of this type with the ignorance, either natural or learned, that modern schooling places in the minds of the audience, so that few even have an idea of what topic is being addressed. The average schoolchild thinks that science somehow, a generation or two ago, disproved the existence of ghosts, and that belief in Christ is a belief of the same kind, long ago debunked. Listing the names of televangelists caught in scandals, or briefly referring to the Dark Ages, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Crusade is a sufficient advertisement to convince a shallow and distracted modern child not to buy the brand of commercial good being offered. Anyone who fails to revisit his schoolchild propaganda (and propaganda they certainly were, not lessons) will persist in such mental predispositions (I cannot call them thoughts or conclusions) for life. Of course, a revisit or reexamination of a long-held belief, particularly one meant to flatter the schoolchild, requires a Herculean effort, a love of truth, and a Socratic level of intellectual integrity: a willingness to follow the argument where it leads, humbly, impartially, without fear or favoritism. This is called rigorous thinking. If you are a public school graduate, it is likely you have never been exposed to rigorous thinking. Allow me to take a moment to describe it, as it is necessary for what follows. Rigorous thinking is thought where one’s axioms are stated, ambiguities avoided, and only conclusions that logically followed are held to be necessarily true. The effort takes for granted the facts on the ground, as these can be independently verified if disputed, and attempts to find an overarching explanation, rule, or pattern which will give meaning to the facts, or, in the case of empirical reasoning, provide refutable predictions of fact as yet unencountered. Rigor requires distinctions be made between empirical and nonempirical reasoning, and that the standard of epistemology appropriate to the subject matter be employed. The conclusions in any field of study cannot be more certain than the field itself admits. Epistemology is the study of the nature of proof and knowledge. Different fields of study use different methods of proof. These methods which cannot be applied outside those fields: one cannot use empirical proofs to support or to undermine metaphysical arguments, for example, or use divine revelation to support or undermine an empirical argument. Now, there are any number of fields where rigor is possible even when precision is not. True precision and apodictic certainty is possible only within fields of pure reason, such as geometry and mathematics. Empirical science does not even attempt to find certainty, merely the best model to explain past facts concerning the measurable aspects of material events and to predict future ones. Economics properly so called is an a priori science concerning the invariant relations present in human action; it is not an empirical science like history. Historical reasoning and proofs are not subject to observation and experience because the past is past. Moral reasoning is based on moral intuitions present in every properly trained conscience, and proceeds by arguing in terms of precedent and hypothetical. Legal reasoning is a subset of this, but which limits itself to matters of written law, folk custom and the pragmatic need for an enforceable public order. Predictive history, such as is promoted by Marx or Spengler, is not rigorous reasoning at all, because no reasoning is possible in this area. And so on for other fields. In regard to certainty, please note that it is the great boast of the empirical sciences that the standard model is overturned in a mental revolution each few generations, as when Copernicus revolutionized the Ptolemaic model, Kepler overthrew Copernicus, Newton overthrew Kepler, and Einstein overthrew Newton. If this boast is true, and I assume all my readers so believe, then the empirical sciences do not even pretend to address ultimate or universal truths, merely to acquire simpler, cleaner and more accurate predictive models. And, by design, the explanations of empirical science exclude all discussion of final causes in nature: empirical science says by what mechanisms material events occur, and never speaks of for what purpose they occur, if any, Fermat’s principle of least time notwithstanding. On the other hand, legal reasoning, as when a jury is debating a man’s guilt or innocence, the question of material mechanism (except in rare cases where, for example, the ballistics of the murder bullet is significant to the case) is not an element of the crime and need not be weighed by the jurors; whereas the question of final cause, that is, intent, is crucial in any case where the state of mind of the accused is an element of the crime or tort, as in murder, theft, or negligence. A man cannot be convicted of murder in the first degree, for example, if the jury cannot be convinced beyond reasonable doubt of his malice aforethought at the time of the murder. But empirical science does not inquire as to the state of mind of the bullet or bludgeon: such a question would be nonsensical. Topic My attempt in this column is to show that the belief that Christianity is based on irrational faith is irrational, by showing that belief in God satisfies Occam’s razor as the most elegant yet robust model explaining the facts on the ground, when compared to atheism, which resorts to unwieldy ad hoc for some explanations, or offers none. Faith and Eyewitness Naturally faith in the promises of Christ, like faith in any promise, is not based on direct experience, since the fulfillment of any promise by definition rests in the future. But, like all promises, the faith is given based on the rational assent to what is probable, based on past performance of the one making the promise, and based on the estimate of what could stop the promise from being kept, if any accident or intervention could do so. In this case, God by definition, having created life to his specification, can make it live again; believing the historical evidence of the fact of the Resurrection makes disbelief in the general resurrection at Doomsday an unreasonable disbelief; God cannot be halted by accident or interference. It is not the reasoning process nor the judgment of trustworthiness which makes a Christian differ from an atheist. The difference is metaphysical. Obviously no atheist disbelieves in God due to God making and breaking a promise to him. It is due to a naturalistic philosophy and a secular worldview which prohibits any investigation of claims of the supernatural, sight unseen. It is not as if atheists examine evidence and then come to conclusions on this matter: not a single atheist, for example, has ever questioned me about my conversation experience, weighed the evidence, inquired of my neighbors and coworkers my reputation for honesty (which is absolutely sterling) or discovered anything, such as a financial interest, which would tempt a man to invent such an unlikely story. The atheists who have commented on my particular case merely asserted that I am because I must be irrational. They are not being cruel and stupid by so saying. Or not on purpose. They merely have faith that the experience of me or any man encountering the divine must be a faulty observation, faulty memory, lie, dream, or hallucination. Such are the only conclusions allowed by their metaphysical stance. The difference between their faith and ours is that we can explain ours. If their metaphysical conclusion is correct, a universal negative statement that God does not exist cannot be certain knowledge. Atheist epistemology cannot account for universals. On the other hand, if our metaphysical conclusion is correct, positive statement that God exists can be proved, and eyewitnesses to that effect (such as myself) can exist. An atheist cannot explain how he can know, not suspect but know, I am mistaken, mad, or lying without taking the time to hear my account and identify the mistake, examine my medical record and discover signs of madness, or hear my testimony and assess my character and reputation. That is the difference between the two. Faith is often misrepresented, sometimes by Christians themselves, as a type of substitute for thought or evidence. Nonsense. Faith is when, once your reason is convinced, you find irrational fears and unseemly doubts clouding your mind, and the memory of miracles and blessing past fade as if sponged away by evil mesmerism, and the hope of miracles and blessing to come is lost. This is specifically a case, no different from a sudden influx of cowardice, or a temptation to intemperance, where a man cannot bring his passions under control of his reason. The reason is convinced for reasonable reason: his doubt, unreasonable doubts, are in rebellion. Fortunately, one of the promises of Christ is the grace, that is, the gift, of fortitude needed to quell irrational or unreasonable doubts. Such is the gift of faith. Reasonable doubts are a separate matter. We Christians are under a positive duty. No lesser figure than Saint Peter says “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” So, far from basing our world on blind faith, we Christians are under a positive duty to explain our reasons justifying our hopes within us. Definitions For the purposes of this column, atheism the positive assertion that the God does not exist, meaning the Christian God. It is not a mere expression of doubt. The positive assertion that man lacks the faculty to determine the question of God’s existence is called agnosticism. Again, it is not a mere expression of doubt. The positive assertion that the supernatural does not exist is called naturalism. The most common form of naturalism is the belief that all reality is or can be reduced to material substance: this is materialism or panphysicalism, but one need not be a materialist to be a naturalist. Naturalism and atheism are often used interchangeably, because the overlap is so great. If there are pagan atheists, I have yet to encounter one: even the famed skeptic Lucretius did not hold the gods not to exist; rather he held that the gods existed in such rarefied bliss that they had no concern for human affairs and did not meddle with the earth for good or ill. Hence, no special term is needed in this discussion for those who do not believe in the various pantheons of pagan gods: a witch who believes that the God of Abraham is fiction but that the gods of Olympos are true would be, for the purpose of this discussion, classed as an atheist who is not a naturalist. Faith I defined above: supernal fortitude divinely bestowed to quell irrational doubts, and to combat the natural but inexplicable forgetfulness of Adam’s race when it comes to recollecting signs of the divine. The belief that the Church must be expunged and excluded from all exercise of political power is called secularism. The word is also used of those who believe the Church must be expunged from every social role, custom, and institution, including nonpolitical institutions, such as marriage or public charities. The belief that all branches of philosophy must be uprooted from their theological foundations and placed on some other, as yet unannounced, secure groundwork is called humanism. The belief that free will does not exist except as an illusion or self-deception is called determinism. There are variations of this philosophy which hold that determinism is compatible with belief in free will, which are called compatible determinism. Those variations are not here addressed: the word determinism in this column is used solely to refer to a philosophy that holds the thoughts and actions of man are determined not by his free will. Because many readers have been training in public schools to avoid thinking at all costs, it behooves me to mention that these are definitions, and not Rorschach inkblots. These definitions equate what is meant in this column by these words, so that one can be freely substituted for the other in the paragraphs that follow. The words do not mean whatever it is you happen to be reminded of, an old song or an old argument with your father, which pops into your head free-association style when your eye falls upon it. Sad experience teaches me that most, if not all, debates encountered among the young are exchanges of free-association reactions to the words of the opposition as if they were inkblots, hence the primary work of the debater is to convince the audience that his opponent meant something other than what was said. (The news has carried this technique to the level of a new and satanic form of art.) Self-Refutation The division between modern and ancient philosophy is the Cartesian method of using extreme skepticism to divide the wheat from the chaff. The assumption is that any statement which cannot withstand infinite skepticism is doubtful; only those that survive untouched are true. Hence, by the logic of Descartes, I know I exist: I think, therefore I am. However, he was unable to go convincingly beyond that point, and so the common sense notions upon which Scholasticism and all previous philosophy was based, such as the idea that sense perceptions were reliable and other people were not cunning wax automatons, fell by the wayside. It is no coincidence that this happened in the Sixteenth Century. The religious scheme of Europe was shattered into two warring camps, a shipwreck from which some goods were salvaged, but not much, and theology was divorced from philosophy, which then withered and died on the vine. Skepticism is useful up to a point. If the skeptic doubts the truth of his senses, the honesty of the witnesses, or the ability of his mind to reach logical conclusions, then all mental processes, skeptical inquiry included, are thrown into doubt. Skepticism is useful up to a point. Beyond that point, thought commits suicide. When a man asks, as a Buddhist does, how to know all sense impressions are not illusions; when a man asks, as a solipsist does, how to now other consciousness exists; when a man asks, as a Marxist or multiculturalist does, how to know one is not trapped in a false system of beliefs or an ideological superstructure so complete that logical reasoning is impossible; when a man asks, as a those who attempt to apply Darwinism to human psychology do, how to know that one’s thoughts are not merely evolved mechanisms meant to preserve the race and therefore not necessarily fit faculties to discover the truth; when a man asks, as the subjectivist does, how to know that honesty is a moral imperative; and, in short, whenever a man asks how to know that truth exists, the best answer is to point out that the statement “truth does not exist” refutes itself. A statement is self-refuting when by its own terms, it can never be true at any time or under any conditions. But then suppose the skeptic says that “a statement that there is no truth is self-refuting” presupposes that logic is valid. How can one prove logic is valid? Again, the syllogism “Your proof follows, granting logic; logic is invalid; ergo the proof does not follow” uses logical validity to make its case, therefore refutes itself. For the same reason, a philosophical conversation is not possible if one does not obey a duty of intellectual honesty. A man who hold himself under no duty to be honest in his thoughts with himself, encountering any question where is natural inclinations do not make it easy or pleasing to him to reach an adverse conclusion, will reach arbitrary conclusions. His self-deception renders his conclusions useless, even to himself, as conclusions. Their only use is self-flattery, and only for so long as he is in the mood to be flattered. For this reason, any doubts cast on the existence or authority of at least one moral absolute is self-refuting. Again, this is a universal and not a particular conclusion. Hence, a man who says that all moral rules are manmade cannot be trusted, even by himself, not to be lying to himself. Law is morality taken into the public sphere. A man who doubts the rights of man, particularly the right to freedom of speech and the press, can be stopped from making such philosophical inquiries in the public sphere if the magistrates conclude his inquiry threatens the public order; and the philosopher who inquires whether some men are born above others, as Socrates did, can be commanded by the laws to drink hemlock, as Socrates did. In a logical sense, it is not necessary to conclude that philosophers have a right to inquire into the question of the rights of man, but as a practical and legal matter, it is. For the same reason, determinism eliminates the possibility of inquiry. A man who, for example, believes that fate or physics or deity or destiny, selects all his thoughts before he is born, and fixed all his conclusions beforehand, cannot trust the outcome of any mental process of deduction or conclusion. His thoughts are not trustworthy because they are not his. His reaching his conclusion is not something he does, it is something that is done to him by outside forces. This includes all mental processes. There is neither truth, nor logic, nor morals, in a deterministic universe, nor even the possibility of any such thing. Such a determinist cannot trust the outcome of his thought process for the same reason you cannot have a debate with a record player. If what the record says is determined solely by the grooves in the record, there is no way to convince the recording to reach a different conclusion and say something else instead. Determinism reverts to first case again: he is a man who says no truth is true, no knowledge is known, no logic is valid, no morals are imperative obliterates the process of inquiry whereby these thoughts can be supported as true. Materialism or panphysicalism is in even a worse case, since it has all the problems of determinism, plus the problem that no symbols can exist in a panphysical universe. If no symbols exist, the words we use to describe the symbol-to-object relation, words like belief and doubt, true and false, accurate and inaccurate, fair and ugly, efficient and inefficient, moral and immoral, also have no meaning and also cannot exist. The statement ‘panphysicalism is true’ refutes itself. Finally, I take it as granted that aesthetics can be learned. I myself, at one time no fan of opera, have learned to appreciate and admired Wagner and Mozart. To a degree, personal tastes differ, but only to a degree. That cannot be the whole story. Aesthetics cannot be entirely subjective to the person, or else there would be nothing to learn when one learned to see beauty heretofore invisible to the untrained eye. Nor can the learning be an illusion covering an arbitrary change in taste, for then something as ugly as can be imagined could be placed in a modern art museum and the audience could force itself to see the ugly as beautiful; after roughly a hundred years of trying, it is safe to say no human has that power. If aesthetics were subjective to the culture, one could not learn to appreciate the art of a foreign culture. If aesthetic were subjective to the race, Caucasians could not appreciate Negro music, nor vice versa but mulattoes could appreciate either. Rather than being racial, cultural, or personal, aesthetics seems universal to mankind. No other animal decorates its tools or makes poems. No tribe of man, howsoever primordial, lacks decoration and poetry. That man both admires the sublime natural beauties where found, and creates beauty for the sake of beauty, which is necessary for his happiness but which fulfills no bodily or natural need, I trust the reader will take as given: sufficient evidence to support this exists in ordinary life that I do not deem it worth the readers’ time to dwell on the point. The Suicide of Thought With these preliminaries to one side, we now see what the facts of the human condition are which any worldview must address and explain, or confess itself unable to explain. Merely by eliminating every philosophy that refutes itself, we clear the underbrush of nearly all modern and postmodern philosophy. Here is a one paragraph summation of the errors of the moderns. It is all the same error, repeated in endless variations: Hume by saying only empirical statements can be proved is making a metaphysical hence non-empirical statement. Away with him. Hobbes by denying the rights of man can and should be admired for the rigor of his argument, but the Leviathan which he himself would erect would order him to drink hemlock just as the Philosopher King of Socrates would have done to Socrates. Off with his head. Nietzsche does not even try to make a rational argument. He asserts in a series of parables and epigrams that it is better to will the truth into being that to follow the truth. Morality is dismissed as an arbiter of virtue, but willpower is elevated in its stead. But a statement that praises all acts of will as imperative negates the possibility of preferring one act of will over the other. If there is neither truth nor goodness the guide the will, the will becomes the mere slave of the appetites, and the superman is subhuman. By his own argument, there is no need to argue with Nietzsche: let us merely will his voice into silence. Hegel and his pursuit of the Absolute by means of contradictory thesis and antithesis seeking synthesis eliminates the possibility of truth by redefining truth as an ever changing plenum. As with Heraclitus, one finds one cannot step into the same stream of dialectic twice. Marx amplifies the error by turning Hegel on his head, and reduces all the history of philosophy to a material dialectic governed by the forces of history. The contents of your brain are reduced to the by produce of the means of production of your world-historical stage of evolution. What is right and good in the era of Feudalism, is wrong and bad in the era of Capitalism, which will be wrong again once the era of Socialism, which is inevitable, manifests itself via the mystic process of material dialectic. Freud introduced the idea that our thoughts and conclusions are influenced by subconscious thoughts, that is, non-thought thoughts, which warp our reasoning powers: of course, if Freud was saying that only because he wanted to kill his father and sleep with his mother, his theory is the byproduct of insane and buried anxieties of which he himself was unaware. Logical Positivism and Existentialism eliminate, for opposite reasons, their own foundations neatly, by making the universal statement that there are no universal statements. Under Wittgenstein, philosophy is reduced to a parlor game of words, with no ability to instruct a man how best to live or how best to die. Lacking a metaphysical foundation, all of their philosophies treat man as a phenomenon to be studied as if by an outside observer, as if here were also one more thing that arose from nowhere, came into being for no reason, changes its nature and essence as external forces dictate, and sinks again into nothingness. But there is nothing an outside observer can see about man which reveals him capable of using his free will and his faculty of reason and conscience to perceive and deduce eternal, universal, unconditional truths. But without the ability to deduce eternal truths, no other truth can be held to be true except provisionally, tentatively, conditionally, and this includes all the truths necessary for man’s reasoning to be trustworthy. Looking at man as if from an outside observer reveals only a bewildered apelike Yahoo, a crooked being whose brain apparatus cannot be proved trustworthy. But if that were the nature of man, the man who studies man, the philosopher, could not exist. He would know no undoubtable assumptions to be his axioms, he would have no assurance of the validity of the rules of logic (for, if eternal truth is closed to the human mind, the rules of logic must be manmade, or else a byproduct of racial psychology) and he could have no assurance as to his conclusions. He names for things would be merely arbitrary labels, and he could never know if the names were accurate. Indeed, all the categories by which human thought occurs, the category of cause and effect, of final cause, of self and other, of accident and essence, valid reasoning and invalid, and, above all, the right reason which divides moral from immoral and imposes imperatives upon the human soul: all these things, without metaphysics, fall by the wayside. It may be possible to deduce an atheist or naturalist metaphysics, but it is difficult. Indeed, I am only aware of one. Objectivism Of modern philosophers, only Ayn Rand, who revived the Aristotelian teachings on metaphysics, ontology, and logic, was able to erect an ethical teaching which comported with pagan heroic virtues. Her ethic was a modern variation of eudemonism, the belief that the good life was one lived according to the dictates of reason. Ayn Rand is so logical, that given her premises, I see no way to avoid her conclusions. She even makes a bold stab at a paramount problem other moderns avoid, namely, how to deduce a moral precept from a statement of fact. While I do not find her argument convincing, it is not one to be dismissed without deep thought. Her argument is that life is the sole originator of value, on the grounds that whatever harms the organism is defined as evil and whatever aids is good. This unfortunately eliminates self-sacrifice as a possibility, or even self-risks such as childbirth or military service, hence cuts against what all men know to be the nature of good and evil. It merely defines selfishness as good, and proposes that groups of selfish men, if guided by right reason, will find mutually beneficial institutions, or else live in heroic isolation otherwise. The fact that men, addicted as they are by original sin to an exploitive mutually destructive form of selfishness, that is, crime and aggression, could not live in her proposed utopia is solved, at least in her own mind, by assuming as an axiom that original sin does not exist. Good men can eliminate evil men merely by allowing the evil to destroy itself. However, if original sin did not exist, then men could indulge in adultery provided all parties agreed, and their emotions could not cause them lasting harm and woe any more than the emotions of the supremely rational creature, the Houyhnhnm, who are the only creatures capable of life in Ayn Rand’s proposed utopia. In her own life the experiment with consensual adultery turned out badly. I dwell on her because of the moderns, Ayn Rand alone makes an error that is subtle and which requires the wisdom of experience to unmask. Even so, I would not dare to say her conclusions are wrong or absurd, merely incomplete. If as John Galt was, all men were born without original sin, altruism would be a pleasure rather than a moral burden, and could not be used a as form of “white blackmail” whereby the whining victims of their own incompetence mooch off the productive members of society. Her conclusions apply to all young and healthy bachelors in times of peace with no human relations to any other human aside from mutually agreed mutually beneficial exchanges of goods and services. The mere fact that this is not the whole of life overturns her scheme, however. John Galt’s own act of Christlike self-sacrifice to preserve his beloved makes a mockery of all his fine speeches. But let us not move too far from the point: Objectivism does not contradict itself in its opening statement the way Hume and Marx and others do. It has a metaphysic, hence a foundation for the other branches of philosophy. Self-Refutation The other modern philosophers, who, ironically, are all held in higher regard by academics and professionals, indulge in one variation or another of the same logical error a schoolboy could penetrate: Hume, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Sartre, and so on, each saws off the branch on which he stands. (Technically, Hobbes does not, he merely argues himself to have no right to make such an inquiry, but then again, technically, he believes in God and argues in favor of a Christian Commonwealth with an absolute monarch.) Each of these, for one reason or another, denies that that reality is real, truth is true, that reason is valid, the morality is good, laws are just, the will is free, that beauty is sublime. But without these seven principles, philosophy is not to be trusted. No doubt even a generous reader who holds that belief in truth and logic are needed for reasoning to be trusted must pause at the proposition that a belief in the objectivity of aesthetic judgments is a presupposition for the trustworthiness of philosophy and science. Nonetheless, the case can be shown easily. Please note that when the Ptolemaic model of the universe, with Earth at the center, and the wandering stars (planets) riding cycles and epicycles of perfect circles in the sky, it was not the inadequacy of the model which brought it into disrepute. An astronomer could predict, using Ptolemy’s tables, the hour of the rising and setting of planets, their houses, conjunctions, oppositions, and so on. It was just that the models of Copernicus and Kepler were more elegant: and Kepler’s ellipses could be deduced from Newton’s even more elegant three laws of motion, which also explains sublunary motion as well. But elegance is an aesthetic criterion, not an empirical one. The predicted motions as seen from Earth for Ptolemy’s model and Kepler’s are the same. It is merely that the calculation of the motions of the planets for Copernicus involves some forty to eighty deferents, epicycles, equants, epicycles atop epicycles, and so on. Compared to Kepler’s three rules, the system is unduly complex. It is unwieldly to the point of ugliness. And so scientists, from that day to this, have used the models of Kepler, Newton, not because Ptolemy and Copernicus are wrong, wrong as judged by the accuracy of prediction, but because the Newtonian model is more parsimonious of assumption, more elegant, and lends itself more readily to ease of calculation: and these are all aesthetic criteria. Unanswered Questions So pervasive is the idea that the Christian faith is irrational, a matter of personal taste or personal reality, that even attempts to debate the question of its rationality are routinely ignored. I once had the misfortune of agreeing to a public debate with an atheist on that point; but instead of answering, or even acknowledging, the argument I was making, the atheist merely asserted that I was making the opposite argument. Let me make this clear: he did not say that Christianity was irrational and my argument (that it was rational) was untruthful or invalid. He did not say that I should be (but was not) arguing that Christianity was irrational. He did not say that I was unwittingly arguing a point whose logical corollary, unbeknownst to me, would prove Christianity was irrational. He said that my stated goal was to prove that Christianity was irrational. It was as if I were arguing geometry, and I said “With this proof, I wish to show that vertical angles are necessarily equal” he were to answer not with a counterargument to show my proof did not follow, but with a simple denial of the argument subject matter: “No, you wish to show that vertical angles are not necessarily equal!” To call the reaction surreal is an understatement. It was a surreal experience. He spent the rest of the debate trying to convince the audience (while I was present, mind you!) that the argument I was arguing was the opposite of what I was arguing. “Wright is trying to prove that vertical angles are not necessarily equal. Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes? He acted like a fussy director in a school play toward a stubborn student who says the wrong lines. However, in the same way that Newton is an improvement over Copernicus, and he over Ptolemy, I submit that parsimony of assumption, ease of calculation, and mere elegance of model give Christianity a clear superiority over atheism in the realm of reason. Let us list the things atheism either cannot explain, or must spun epicycle upon epicycle to explain: First, where did the universe itself come from? If the atheist answers, as he should, that he does not know, here is a matter his model cannot answer. If he says the universe is infinite in age, or the product of endless Hindu cycles, he refutes the Second Law of Thermodynamics, as well as the philosophical principle forbidding an infinite regression of causes. If he says it arose from nothing for no reason, he refutes the foundations not only of science, but of all rigorous reasoning. The principle of no infinite regression says that each cause cannot be the effect of a prior cause infinitely, on the grounds that if no first cause is present, nothing could have set them all in motion. More to the point, nothing defines the motion. An example might make this clear: you see a funicular train, climbing a hill on geared wheels. Each car takes its motion and moves at ten miles an hour, just as the car before it. Climbing the hill, you find the train tracks go entirely around the world, and there is no beginning nor end, and no engine. Hence, not only is there nothing to set all the cars in motion, there is nothing to answer the question of why ten miles an hour rather than five or twenty? In an infinite series of causes, nothing defines the magnitude of the cause. If the atheist must add to his model events that arise for no cause, or an endless string or cycle of universes, they he add epicycle to epicycle. Positing the creation to come from one supreme and unconditional, eternal being obviates all these objections nicely. The question “Since God created the universe, who created God?” attempts to impose the same shortcoming as the atheist model with its infinite regression of causes, or its uncaused first cause, but the attempt falls short: the material universe is filled with change and decay and entropy. It is made of matter, and material things cannot do things by themselves. They must be set in motion. God is a spirit, having the power to set things in motion, and is not a material thing set in motion by another. He is an unmoved mover and an uncaused first cause. If that seems a paradox, reflect that a train engine, a car that is not pulled by a prior car, must seem a paradox to someone who has only seen train cars filing by, and never seen an engine. Second, how does the atheist explain the human ability to grasp and deduce universal, unconditional, and eternal truths? Even an idea as simple as twice two is four has no material or natural component to it. Surely there are objects in the universe which mimic these formal rules: two apples in a box placed with two more apples are four apples. But twice two was four long before the apple tree evolved, or the first carpenter built the first box. The presence of universal concepts and universal truths is baffling to the atheist because, if his theory is correct, there is no supernatural mind or creator-god to establish any universal ideas. Either he embraces nominalism, and says ideas are all manmade, and therefore no universal exist, or, as many moderns do, he dismisses math, morality, justice, economics, aesthetics, as subsections of an empirically based but faulty deduction, disease of language. This again is epicycles: common sense is lost, and the atheist retreating into nominalism has to aver that twice two is not always four, that this appearance of universality is an illusion. The Christian, like the Aristotelian or the Platonist, can posit that ideas and forms have independent existence because they were so created in the mind of God, who can maintain their universality and ineligibility by an act of fiat. The model explains what needs to be explained, and moreover fits with common experience without telling men their minds are sinkholes of self-deception. Third, if God does not exist, the universe can have no mental properties. It is a machine made of particles, but one thrown together without a designer, serving no purpose. If so, when one unintentional byproduct of the machinery of the world is the bewildered ape called Man, the machinery of his brain cannot be designed by a designer for a purpose. At best, the purpose of preserving the man and his bloodline might emerge spontaneously by a statistical elimination of every pre-human man-ape whose brain chemistry made A equal to Non-A, or twice two equal five. But then we have no evidence of pre-human man-apes each with his several systems of non-operative logic and mathematics, and no reason to believe that natural selection would make the twice-two-is-five apes die off quicker than the twice-two-is-four. In sum, absent God, logic is a human invention, or a byproduct of irrational natural forces designing brain machinery to function so as to deceive men into thinking logic is logical. But the relation of formal logic to the real world then becomes unintelligible. Just because “A is A” in our ape-brains, why should “A is A” be true in reality? (Indeed, some modern physicists hold that the law of noncontradiction breaks down when describing subatomic particles, which indeed shows that physicists should not attempt amateur metaphysics, lest they look like fools.) Fourth, if there is no God, on what grounds does morality have any moral authority? Why should I obey a moral rule if I encounter a case where I stand no danger of retaliation, and obeying the rule neither pleases me nor seem a practical way to get some good for myself? Now, to be sure, there are many moral and upright atheists. I was one myself, back in the day. Some sort of argument about the long-term benefits of moral behavior can be erected if the atheist is already a man of integrity who cares about his personal honor, or if he is a coward and frightened of getting caught and punished. The coward (and I am looking at you, Mr. Thomas Hobbes) can only be made afraid of disobeying the law, but not afraid of disobeying the principle which a bad law violates. All moral reason, absent God, can be reduced either to an appeal to pleasure, or an appeal to duty. The former leads to hedonism in the shallow but eudemonism in the noble. The latter leads to stoicism. But in no case is there a superior authority with the legitimate power to call him to account for secret violations of moral principles. If a man is in a life or death situation where morality is of most moment, such as deciding whether to throw himself on a handgrenade or push the nearby illiterate Negro drummer boy atop it in order to save his squad, absent God there is no judge, aside from the man himself in his moment of weakness and panic, to establish a right answer. There is no reward in the afterlife for self-sacrifice if the atheist model is true: hence, in the atheist model, morality has to have a two step system: one which deals with life or death decisions, and one which deals with lesser decisions. An atheist might decide to endure the pain of studying for a test in order to enjoy the benefit of passing the course, but he cannot decide to endure the pain of slaying himself to save another on the basis of such a short versus long term calculus, because, for him, there is no long term. For the Christian, and for most pagans as well, the decision is the same in both cases, because death is not nonexistence. This is not saying the atheist two step morality is necessarily wrong and the Christian one step morality is right. This is saying that the atheist reasons for moral behavior require eccentric epicycles to reach the proper conclusions. To judge from the vast majority of modern atheists, of course, they do not. Even high minded Objectivists condone adultery and infanticide. The lower minded atheists condone, nay, praise and glorify hedonism and sodomy. The atheist of the socialist ilk affirms trespass on property rights to be licit; the Marxist ilk affirms mass-murder. With no God, the moral standard is manmade, and hence men can unmake it. Fifth, the atheist has to explain modern history. The laws of Christian nations are noticeably superior in fairness and justice to those of pagan nations, and so have been throughout history. One need only mention the abolition of the gladiatorial games and the slave trade. Slavery is universal. Torture is universal. Even the Red Indians kept slaves and tortured captives. Christians have also done these things. But only Christians, and no one but Christians, has ever in the history of man outlawed them. The game of moral equivalence and tu-quoque is both illogical and ahistorical. On the other hand, all nations, races, philosophies and peoples have had mass killings. And yet the genocides of the modern age all came from atheists and secular powers. The ghosts of the 150,000,000 killed by atheists in the Twentieth Century alone should give pause to anyone, anywhere, willing to claim that the atheist society has just a firm a claim on the ability to comprehend and enforce a moral standard as a Christian. I can hear someone in the back objecting that these were Communist atheists of backward and barbaric nations in the Eastern world, not the enlightened and happy atheists of the civilized Western word, who favor abortion. The number of deaths of the unborn at the hands of seculars and atheist is of a like order of magnitude. The degeneration of the modern age brought on by no-fault divorce and the sexual revolution is entirely the product of the West following secular, naturalistic and atheistic philosophies. Nearly every social pathology we suffer today, including such remote matters as the deficit spending of the welfare state, ultimately result from an abandonment of traditional Christian mores of chastity and decency. Again, a clever atheist could, without falsifying or denying history, somehow explain how chastity, monogamy, and public decency, including the illegalization of recreational drugs and pornography, can issue from a non-theological basis of morality and law, but I can recall no atheist in the history of the world ever doing so. The fact of the matter is that atheists like sleeping with their harlots, and the majority of them become atheist not through a philosophical weighing of the evidence for and against the existence of God, but because they want to be free from standards of behavior too harsh and too strict for their ungoverned appetites. Again, with no afterlife and no possibility of punishment for wrongdoing aside from what human law imposes, or one’s own conscience, what reason can an atheist give to reject the hedonist motto of eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die? More to the point, the atheist who rejects that hedonist motto, what reason can he give to object to the socialist motto that, since there is no paradise in heaven, we must have a revolution to establish paradise on earth? Because any countless numbers of murder victims, even the astronomical numbers racked up by atheists so for in merely one hundred years, are as nothing compared to the infinite blessings of utopia, are they not? Do not get me wrong. I am sure a clever atheist like Ayn Rand can find a formulation of godless moral reasoning to reach the proper conclusions in this area. It is just that, first, I have never seen such a formula. I have never seen an atheist argument in favor of self-sacrifice or strict chastity. Second, such an argument would require a complex epicyclical set of assumptions, such as a duty to uphold the racial evolutionary destiny, or to serve the purposes of history, or some other jabberwocky to serve as an ersatz god. By contrast, the Christian worldview holds that God has the authority to make moral rules, first as a father of the race, second as the author and maker who made race to fit the rules, setting our nature to be such that moral uprightness is something we naturally crave, third by dint of superior power, fourth by superior wisdom just as a physician knows what is good for us, and finally by the heroism of the Crucifixion, which displayed him by the merit of his works to be worthy of kingship. Every justification needed or imagined to show not only why God has the power to make and enforce moral rules, but also has the authority, which he retained even when he refuses to use the power (see, for example, the ministry and passion of Christ) is combined into a single idea. Sixth, the atheist cannot account for free will. Some, like Ayn Rand, take it as a given. But there is no explanation. The Christian explanation is that men are partly divine, unlike beasts, and can decide and choice and do both good and evil, because these things from the same God who made us, and made us so able. Seventh, the atheist cannot account for beauty or our human need for it. The best argument to be made is to say that certain women look attractive on the basis of the physical characteristics that indicate healthy childbearing physique. It certainly does not explain earrings and necklaces, or dance, or music, or why men are awed at the sight of the stars, or lofty great mountains, pathless oceans, storms and lightning. Why should a lion or a tiger look beautiful to us, when these are predatory animals dangerous to us? No Darwinian just-so story can say why all nations, races, and tribes of man regard the starry heavens as the abode of divine beings. Even modern atheists refuse point blank to believe there are no aliens among the stars. But stars neither aid in the hunt nor aid in the passing along of the selfish gene which is the modern explanation for everything that cannot be explained. And why make up stories? There may be a Darwinian advantage to analogies, or theorems, or summaries of wise sayings. Even Aesop fables might possibly have something a selfish gene can use to replicate itself. But why stories? The Christian answer, once again, has a startling elegance. We were created by our creator to be in his likeness and image, which means, like him, we are creative. Next, the atheist cannot explain the Christian. The Christian can point to many lives which were improved by miracle by Christ: men who gave up drugs to become philanthropists. Everything from missionaries teaching native letters to charity hospital are overwhelmingly Christian. There is not a single story of a man who was on drugs, turned to atheism, discovered the freedom from morality that godlessness provides, and went on to run a charity ward. Not one. If atheism is true, there should be some explanation as to why atheism does not improves lives, but the horrible misleading falsehood of Christianity does. Usually atheists simply deny this is the case, with the same aplomb that they assert Christ never lived, or that his body was carted off my medical students or space aliens or something. They say Christianity made lives worse, and Christopher Hitchens mocks Mother Teresa of Calcutta in a witty yet halfwitted book. I am not counting such dodges here: I am assuming an honest atheist is making an honest attempt to explain the facts his model has to explain to be a valid model. Finally, the atheist attempts to explain the paucity of numbers of atheist throughout all history leads to bizarre and paranoiac conclusions. In order to explain why the brain disease of seeing ghosts, having prayers answered, and the stoicism of the martyrs, not to mention countless miracles witness by countless witnesses, is so universal the atheist is forced to conclude that most men, including men of unparalleled genius like Newton, have not just false beliefs, but absurdly and outrageously false, on the order of believing in fairies of Father Christmas, despite overwhelming evidences to the contrary. This requires him to believe the martyr and saints, men he otherwise would admire, were lunatics and masochists. This requires him to pretend, despite the evidence of history, that science blossoms in non-Christian lands, and is repressed and thwarted in Europe. This requires he pretend someone other than Churchmen did all the significant work to create the scientific revolution, which he has to pretend happened a century or two after it did happen, in order to not give credit to the university system created by the Church, or the astronomical observatories founded. This requires him to say that every man who has seen a miracle or a ghost is a liar, or a fool, or an observer so sloppy in his observations so as not to be able to tell the difference between causality and coincidence. The ad hoc and absurd explanations needed by the atheist to explain the existence of Christendom, and indeed of all world religions, usually verge into the logically absurd. In order for men to be as stupid and easily deceived as to believe that there are gods when there are no gods, then men have to be stupid enough to be atheists. The theory that some special genetic coding allows you and you alone, and your small circle of fellow crackpots, to be free from the religious brain disease that afflicts everyone else in the world, including men smarter than you, is not just an awkward ad hoc epicycle. It is self-flattery to the point of madness, and is logically absurd: why not say atheism is a brain disease akin to autism, making the afflicted victim unable to see the obvious hand of God at work in the world around him? One theory is as sound as the other. While Christians can admit that the fantastic tales of other lands, apparitions and works done by pagan gods, may indeed have happened, or oracles spoken by the Sybil come true, the naturalist atheist cannot admit even the smallest fairy sitting on an acorn, because one iota of supernatural grit will jam the gears of his entire cosmic system of remorseless natural law, and send the whole thing crashing. For the Christian, the world can be more filled with mystery and wonder than even we suspect. For the atheist, it must be smaller. For the Christian, even a small act of grace done in secret, if God sees, will be remembered after the stars turn cold. For the Christian, even the monstrous crime of the worst of tyrants can be forgiven and forgotten. Even the dead can walk again. Even lost loved ones can be found. Peace, happiness, and joy are possible. The Christian world is larger than the world. The atheist world has to be smaller than the world. Historical events, from the resurrection of Christ to the Angel of Mons, have to be explained away as illusions, the deceptions of cunning apostles, or mass hysteria. Why atheism is not explained away as mass hysteria likewise also needs explanation. For the atheist, there is nothing. Life is hard, and then you die. Some people will remember you, but their memories will fade. If you are famous enough to make it into the news, or the history books, people will tell false stories about you, but those stories will fade and fail in time. Perhaps next year a mad scientist will tell you how to upload your brain information into an invulnerable robotic body. The brain information will last as long as the earth, as long as the sun, as long as the energy holds out. What does that matter? On the last second of your life, no matter how many seconds were prior, entropy wins and you die and go into nothingness just the same. Everything is vanity and self-deception. The atheist either faces the inevitability of death with the fortitude of Cato of Utica, or Socrates, and dies without regret, or he quails at the abyss of infinity awaiting him, and rushes back to the raucous music, colored lamps, heady wines, and buxom paramours of the orgy life provides to the fortunate, and embraces the vanity, and flees from all philosophy. For the last thing atheist thought cannot explain is thought. Given that life is so fragile, so unfair, so drenched with evil and cruelty and pointless suffering, and given that death is inescapable, unmerciful, spares no one, ineluctable, and given that all human effort comes to nothing in the end, and that all meaning is arbitrary and manmade to begin, why suffer the burden of thought? You cannot discover the meaning of life nor the secret of happiness, because there is no meaning and no secret. The Christian model is here even more elegant and clear than its normal clarity. God made the world out of an overabundance of love, nor because of any need of his, he who cannot suffer lack or loneliness, but from sheer munificence of love. Man is meant to know, love and serve God, and only this will make us happy, and give meaning to our lives. The atheist lives in a world where there are facts but no truths. Outside of the minds of man, there is no world of the forms, no Absolute, no supernal repository for the right answers to all life’s questions to rest, and no one who know them. By the Christian model, we have the right answer and the pagans have partial or incomplete answers because the man who knows the answers, Christ, told them to us. But under your model, what is your explanation for why you have the right answer and everyone else is wrong? You figured it out? How? You have no more nor less facts than Aristotle or St. Thomas Aquinas. Your intelligence (trust me on this one) was not greater than theirs. And please, in the name of sanity and logic and everything that is holy, do not pull out that old canard that men of old thought gods tossed lightning bolts to fight trolls, but modern men know lightning is a natural phenomenon which operates by Maxwell’s laws. The concept of natural phenomenon, that is secondary causes that operate under their own nature, is a conclusion of Christian theological thinking about the operations of the natural world. The primary causes being divine is not disproved by the secondary causes being reduced to four simple proportions. Nor did the ancient not believe that natural things operated of their own nature. Even a tree without a dryad grows. No, that old canard attempts to make theology sound like abortive physics, when, in fact, not even the pagans of old spoke this way about the gods and their relation to nature. It is both a false statement about the past and the misrepresentation of the argument. The reason why men stopped honoring God has nothing to do with Maxwell, or Galileo, or Kepler, or Einstein. It has everything to do with Darwin, Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche. Science has no enmity with Christ. The idolaters who see science as an ersatz god, who worship science but lack the ability to think scientifically, they certainly have enmity with Christ. In the ancient world, there were other idols, Mammon and Moloch to which the blasphemer weary of goodness and seeking thrills could bow and sacrifice his children. The nature of man and morality, life and death, law and love has not changed. The scientific facts known about the natural world have no bearing on the question of the existence of God, indeed, if anything they cut the other way: we now can have no doubt but that the handiwork of the universe is a work of awe and wonder. Again, I have no doubt the clever atheist can explain his unique position in history and the scheme of the world. (Usually this is done by pretending men who were not atheists, like Gibbon or Thomas Paine, were, and claiming a long tradition of freethinkers. In reality, freethinking is merely the protestant rebellion against Protestants. Atheism, odd as this sounds, is merely a heresy, an offshoot of Gnosticism.) But my point is that this clever explanation will again, I have no doubt, be ad hoc, another epicycle added to the deferent in order to get the theory to match appearances.
The Awkward List To recapitulate: the atheist theory cannot explain the origin of the universe, the nature of truth, the intelligibility of universe through logic, the origin of the laws of logic, the nature of numbers, laws of nature, or the nature of any abstraction, the nature of morality or law, the significance of beauty or it the origin of song and story, the history of man, the history of Christendom, or the existence of theists, atheists, ghost stories, changed lives, or the abolition of gladiatorial games. All these things are unanswered or given complex and unconvincing answers having to do with selfish genes acting unselfishly or life having an innate moral meaning even when it does not. Or something. The Simpler Model Now, at this point, the atheist is no doubt clamoring to ask me of the things in the Christian worldview the Christians cannot easily explain, things like the answer to the question why does evil exist if God is omnipotent and benevolent? Well, I will not bother with that now. For the atheist cannot explain why evil exists in any way. I ask him, if there is no God, and no standard of good aside from manmade musing, why is does evil exist in us and not in the apes? The Christian can give a partial answer: the rebellion of Man against God, both in Adam and in all men who take their form from Adam, severs man from God hence severs man from that natural goodness he knows and craves and yet cannot, while suffering from the moral corruption following that rebellion, of his own power achieve. Why God permitted the matter is still a difficulty, but at least the theory explains how a man can know and will the good, and somehow still do evil. God is the source of goodness of life, and when men moves away from God, he becomes evil and mortal, and further sins further darken the intellect. What can the atheist say? If morality is based on self-interest, why do men act against their self-interest to do evil? If morality is based on long term self-interest, why does a man who knows better act for short term pleasure? If, as Ayn Rand would have it, morality is based on the values needed to secure and preserve life, why do men act in obviously self-destructive ways? Why so suicidal? If morality is based on the habit of obedience to avoid punishment, why do they commit crimes even when they know they will get caught? The Socratic answer that all evil is merely based on false information or bad education must be met with gales of scornful laughter, if not with pitchforks and torches: for if this arrogant little answer were true, then college professors would be paragons of ethical purity instead of the main disease vector of immorality in the modern world. Obama and Pol Pot were both college professors, highly educated men, and both brought more ruin more swiftly each on his own nation than leaders less learned. So, no, the Socratic answer equated evil to ignorance is contradicted by all human experience. If morality is based on instinctive behaviors programmed by Darwin over generations, why is the programming so flawed? Animals commit acts of violence, but not sins. They do not commit moral wrongdoings. The atheist usually answers this challenge by simply denying the reality: there is no such thing as sin and wrongdoing, and men’s beliefs to the contrary are one more illusion our blindly created brain mechanisms continually deceive everyone about (everyone but the atheist, of course). This leads to another question needing another ad hoc explanation, which is, if there is no such thing as sin and wrongdoing in nature, why does everyone of all races of man throughout all time believe in such things (everyone but the atheist, of course). So to the atheist eager to leap up and point out unanswered mysteries in the Christian model, all I can say is, remove the epicycle from your own eye first. Truth is Beauty My point here is not to argue Christianity is true and atheism false. I will thank any uneducated yahoos in the audience not to direct comment toward those points. I am speaking specifically to the argument by the atheist that says the Christian worldview is not based on reason like any other. I am comparing the number of ad hoc and epicycle-like assumptions needed by the atheist model to save the appearances, compared with the common sense assumptions of the Christian. Of particular note is every single ad hoc explanation which presupposes that the human brain actively deceives the human using it, or which dismisses large multitudes of men as gullible fools, or which turns heroes into cads, martyrs into lunatic masochists, geniuses into halfwits. Note again that no modern philosophy, all of which were made in the absence of theology, fails to contradict itself in a blatant way (with the exception of Objectivism). Note also that unlike the theology of Thomas Aquinas, or the philosophy of Aristotle or Plato, the modern philosophies all propose common sense is illusion, and that reality is sharply other than what common sense proposes. Unlike Christianity, the stories told by the modern philosophers are ugly, ungainly and pointless. Again, this ugliness certainly does not prove one model is wrong and the other is right, but it is one more thing that is rather awkward for the atheist philosopher to explain away. For the truth in the atheist worldview is bitter and astringent: it is Lovecraftian truth, truths to drive all but the hardiest cowering back in awe at the magnitude of hostile nothingness the endless aeons of nonbeing, the bottomless chaos of uncaused cacophony, which stands behind the fragile appearances of order and beauty in nature. There should be no philosophers in the Lovecraftian world of the atheists: because truth hurts, demeans, and destroys the meaning of life. They should rightly be called phobosophers. But why? If we were created by blind natural processes alone, and polished by the harsh culling of natural selection, our race should be a suited and fitted to live life as mortal men on earth as fish as fitted to live in the sea. We could not yearn for immortality or union with the divine any more than fish could yearn for outer space. If Darwin is right, the members of our race that see ghosts and regret the passing of loved ones and that deceive themselves with fairytale stories of life after death, we should all have been wiped out by remorseless competition by the more rational and more efficient atheist man-apes, who waste no time with tears or tombs or telling tales of ghosts and gods. Again, the only reasonable atheist explanation as to why evolution failed to make us fit in with the harsh reality of real life is that our brains are wired for self-deception, and, yet again, that leads to the question of why the atheists and them alone are free from the wiring. And as an ex atheist who converted, I’d like to know why I was free of the wiring for 42 years, and then fell so handily back into it, despite being forewarned and on my guard? In the Christian worldview, some facts can be harsh, harsh as hell, but truth itself, the eternal truths of the immortal things, such truth is lovely as a bride, bright as a lightning bolt, sublime and awesome, and so the proper response to seeing the light of truth is love. Our explanation for this is simple and clear: truth, like love itself, comes from God and is God, and he made us to serve and love him, hence to love truth. And we Christians can explain, in our worldview, why scientific theories can be judged on aesthetic grounds, such as the elegance of the explanation or the parsimony of assumptions, and still be known to be true. Because our minds, and the mind of the Creator who created the universe, fitted them to reflect each other. The sad thing is that the final thing an atheist is hard pressed to explain is why he uses and abides by the rules of metaphysics and epistemology that Christians invented in order to create the scientific community and the scientific method, when those rules are ultimately based on Christian metaphysics that no modern philosopher can address or explain. Atheists cannot explain why science can explain anything. We can. Whose worldview is a more complete, robust, and elegant model? We posit the existence of one entity, God, from whom all other truths flow into all other branches of philosophy and science. How many entities and ad hoc explanations are needed to explain godless philosophy, ontology, logic, ethics, politics, aesthetics, history? I lost track at about a dozen.