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More Catholic than the Pope?

UPDATE: Since posting this article online, I have received an email from Professor Feser, in which he writes:

I have never accused any ID defender of heresy, and would never do so. To say to a theological opponent “Your views have implications you may not like, including ones that I believe are hard to reconcile with what we both agree to be definitive of orthodoxy” is simply not the same thing as saying “You are a heretic!” Rather, it’s what theologians do all the time in debate with their fellow orthodox believers.

I appreciate this clarification from Professor Feser, and I have therefore changed the title of this post, to make it less inflammatory. (I’ve removed one of the pictures, too.) I apologize for any pain I have caused Professor Feser; however, I should point out that in his latest article, Thomism versus the design argument, Professor Feser wrote: “ID is, from a Thomistic point of view, bad philosophy and bad theology.” Moreover, he approvingly cites Christopher Martin as writing that “The Being whose existence is revealed to us by the argument from design is not God but the Great Architect of the Deists and Freemasons, an impostor disguised as God,” and he later writes that “Paley’s ‘designer’ is really just the god of Deists and Freemasons and not the true God.” I hope the reader will pardon me for drawing the inference that Feser regards Intelligent Design as heretical. If that was not his intention, he really should have said so, very clearly, in his post. I have posted Professor Feser’s clarifying remarks in the interests of journalistic accuracy, and I welcome his statement that he regards the Intelligent Design movement as theologically orthodox.


It’s been a long time since my last post at Uncommon Descent. The reason, for readers who may have been wondering, is that I’ve been working on a very long but interesting post aimed at showing, on scientific grounds alone, that a human embryo is just as important, morally speaking, as you or I. Uncommon Descent readers will find it especially interesting, because it employs a line of argument which will be familiar to people who accept Intelligent Design. I’ve nearly finished that post and it will be coming out soon. Several other posts are in the pipeline, so you’ll be hearing a lot from me in the next couple of weeks.

The topic of today’s post is Professor Edward Feser’s latest article, Thomism versus the design argument, over on his Website. The article makes a number of claims about Intelligent Design argument which are either irrelevant or demonstrably false.

Let’s start with Feser’s main beef with design arguments of any kind whatsoever: “The problem with these arguments is rather that they don’t get you even one millimeter toward the God of classical theism, and indeed they get you positively away from the God of classical theism.”

Here’s a simple question for Professor Feser. Which of the following is closest to the God of classical theism?

(a) An intelligent agent – for example, a human being.
(b) A sentient non-rational animal.
(c) A non-sentient organism.
(d) A lump of inanimate matter – for example, a crystal, an atom or a subatomic particle.
(e) A vacuum obeying the laws of quantum physics.

I hope Professor Feser answered (a). Since he is a devout Catholic, he accepts that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God.

Intelligent Design theory claims that life, and indeed the cosmos, can only be explained as the work of an intelligent agent – i.e. something in category (a). Materialistic atheism holds that the cosmos is ultimately explicable in terms of (d), or more recently (e). Since (a) is closer to the God of classical theism than (b), (c), (d) or (e), then Professor Feser’s claim that design arguments “don’t get you even one millimeter toward the God of classical theism” is demonstrably false.


In his online reply to this post, Professor Feser says that I present “an argument which is not entirely clear” on this point, so I’d like to clarify it. I’m not assuming here that God and human beings belong in a common genus, although the word “category” above may have given that impression. Let’s take Feser’s example of an angel. God is Pure Intelligence. An angel has intelligence, even if (as Thomists would claim) there is only an analogical similarity between God’s intelligence and the angel’s. A lump of inanimate matter lacks intelligence altogether. Since the angel possesses (in some fashion) a perfection which belongs to God and a lump of inanimate matter does not, the angel is more like God than the lump of matter.

Here are a couple of pertinent quotes from Aquinas:

[T]he highest perfection of things required the existence of some creatures that act in the same way as God. But it has already been shown that God acts by intellect and will. It was therefore necessary for some creatures to have intellect and will…

…[A]s we have shown above, God is an intellectual agent.
(Summa Contra Gentiles Book II, chapter 46, paragraphs 4 & 5. Emphases mine – VJT.)

Since an angel is more like God than a lump of matter, someone who comes to believe that the universe was created by an angel is therefore closer to classical theism than a materialist.

I should add that the fine-tuning argument points to an Intelligent Designer who is not only incorporeal, but also outside space and time.


Do Intelligent Design proponents worship a different God?

What about the second part of Feser’s charge, that design arguments “get you positively away from the God of classical theism”? Since Feser is talking about all design arguments here, then his remarks would certainly apply to the fine-tuning argument, which claims that the universe was designed to support life. Since the universe includes both space and time, the Designer of the universe must be a Intelligent Being outside space and time – hence incorporeal. (Readers who may be asking, “What about the multiverse?” will be interested to know that the fine-tuning argument can also be used to show that the multiverse, if it exists, must have been designed too.) In other words, we aren’t just talking about an Intelligence in a higher dimension or “mother universe.” We’re talking about an Intelligent Agent who is genuinely incorporeal. Here’s my question for Professor Feser: in what respect is this a step “away from the God of classical theism”?

Now, if Professor Feser could demonstrate that design arguments require one to believe in anthropomorphic Deity, whose attributes are incompatible with the God of classical theism, then he would have proved his point. The main problem with this claim is that many Intelligent Design advocates are Jews, Muslims and Christians – some of them Catholics like himself – most of whom accept classical theism, which is commonly defined as belief in a God who is transcendent, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and absolutely benevolent. More significantly, classical theists hold that God is absolutely simple in His essence, as Professor Feser points out in a recent article, which entails that God is immutable, impassible, eternal (outside time and space) and identical with His own act of existence. Finally, classical theists maintain that God (who is outside time) continuously sustains the universe in being, so that it could not exist even for an instant without Him.

The charge that Intelligent Design theory is tied to an anthropomorphic conception of God has been made before, and repeatedly refuted. Recently, Professor Michael Tkacz made this claim in a paper entitled Thomas Aquinas vs. The Intelligent Designers: What is God’s Finger Doing in My Pre-Biotic Soup? and again in a revised version of his talk, entitled Aquinas vs. Intelligent Design. I wrote a devastating five-part rebuttal, to which he has not yet responded. In Part Four of my reply to Professor Tkacz, I demonstrate that Tkacz completely mis-represents the theological claims of the Intelligent Design movement, that his charge of anthropomorphism is completely false, and that he personifies Nature in a most un-Thomistic fashion, treating it as One Big Autonomous Agent. Here’s another question for Professor Feser: has he read Part Four of my reply to Tkacz?

Aquinas argued for Intelligent Design

Professor Feser goes to extraordinary lengths to show that Aquinas’ Fifth Way is not the same as the argument from design. He quotes from no less than a dozen authors (including Professor William Dembski) to show that the two arguments are quite distinct. Here’s some news for Professor Feser: I completely agree with him. Aquinas’ Fifth Way is not a design argument.

What I do maintain, however, is that Aquinas, elsewhere in his writings, put forward a proto-Intelligent Design Argument. If you’re a neo-Darwinian evolutionist, then you have to trace the origin of all animals back to single-celled creatures, which in turn are said to have arisen (somehow) from inanimate matter. Aquinas argued, however, that the extreme specificity of the conditions required to form “perfect animals,” due to their high level of complexity, precludes the possibility of their having originated from non-living matter. More precisely: God alone could have produced the forms of the various kinds of higher animals (or “perfect animals,” as Aquinas called them), when they first appeared, as they were too complex and required too many conditions to be satisfied for their formation to have occurred by natural processes acting on non-living matter. In Part One of my five-part reply to Professor Tkacz, which Feser appears not to have read, I even supplied chapter and verse from the writings of Aquinas to back up my claim. I was nothing if not meticulous in my documentation. (Readers who wish to acquire a thorough background knowledge of Aquinas’ argument might like to see here, here, and here as well.) Despite the fact that my refutation of Professor Tkacz has been available online for several months, Professor Feser has made no attempt to refute any of its arguments.


In his online reply to this post, Professor Feser again misconstrues my argument on this pointr when he writes:

Torley claims that since Aquinas took the view that living things could not have arisen from non-living matter alone, it follows that he can be said to have given a kind of “proto-Intelligent Design argument.”

Uh, no. My argument here was not about abiogenesis (for Aquinas, like his medieval contemporaries, believed in spontaneous generation), but about the higher animals: according to Aquinas, the first “perfect animals” (as he called them) could not have originated through natural causes, as they were too complex and required too many conditions to be satisfied for their formation to have occurred by natural processes acting on non-living matter. Aquinas’ argument was explicitly based on the complexity of the higher animals, as I showed in my reply to Professor Tkacz.


Why isn’t there a “Sixth Way” in the writings of Aquinas?

The reader may be wondering why Aquinas did not include his proto-Intelligent Design argument as a “sixth way” in his list of proofs for God’s existence. There’s a very simple reason why: he was contending against hard-nosed hyper-skeptics who maintained that the world – and the various species of animals inhabiting it – had always existed. Proving that some of these animals couldn’t have been generated from inanimate matter would cut no ice with people who believed that these species of animals had always existed – and Aquinas famously held that reason alone was incapable of demonstrating that the world, or indeed any kind of creature, had a beginning in time. Only through God’s revelation in Scripture could we know this fact. Thus Aquinas’ proto-Intelligent Design argument would have been derided as circular by medieval atheists, had he listed it as a proof of God’s existence. Today, however, we know that animals have not always existed: they had a beginning in time. In my online refutation of Professor Tkacz, I showed that Aquinas taught that some physical changes are beyond the power of nature to bring about. These changes cannot have a naturalistic explanation. They must therefore be produced by the power of God alone. Examples include the raising of a dead body, the production of the first human body from inanimate matter and the production of the first animals, according to their various kinds. I also showed that Aquinas held that events occurring outside the order of nature manifest God’s agency in the best possible way, for they manifest God’s power and voluntary agency in a way that is evident to everyone. Were Aquinas alive today, I concluded, he would probably say, “Why aren’t you shouting this Intelligent Design argument from the house-tops?” Well, the Intelligent Design movement is doing its best: the reader might like to check out our Darwin’s Dilemma Web page, which shows that the appearance of dozens of major complex animal types in the fossil record in the Cambrian period cannot be explained as a product of chance and/or necessity: only an Intelligent Agent could have produced them. It does not matter whether you believe that He did it through front-loading (early in the history of life) or by manipulating the genes of simple animals at a later point in geological time; the point is that one way or another, a massive amount of functional information was required to produce these creatures. Since intelligence is the only known source of functional information, Dr. Donald Johnson concludes in his books Probability’s Nature and Nature’s Probability: A Call to Scientific Integrity (see here for the less technical version) and Programming of Life that the probability of unintelligent natural processes producing life or complex animals is exactly zero. Has Professor Feser read these books, I wonder? They’re fairly brief (less than 140 pages) and quite affordable. I suggest that he acquaints himself with the Intelligent Design movement’s recent literature on the subject.

Concluding remarks

Most of my readers will have heard of the phrase, “more Catholic than the Pope.” And if there is a besetting sin which permeates Professor Feser’s writings, it is this: that he characterizes theological orthodoxy in narrower terms than the Catholic Church to which he belongs. Considering that Professor Feser is an ex-atheist, I have to say that I find this rather amusing. Jokes aside, if Professor Feser wants to write about the teachings of his Church, then he is obliged to represent its teachings accurately – which means neither too narrowly nor too broadly. I have to say that at times Professor Feser reads Catholic teachings through the lens of his own version of Thomism, characterizing them more narrowly than the Catholic Church itself does. For instance, in a post entitled, William Lane Craig on divine simplicity, he begins by declaring: “The doctrine of divine simplicity holds that God is in no way composed of parts” (italics mine). Well, it doesn’t. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215 A.D.), which Feser adduces in support of his theological position, says that God has “one essence, substance, or nature absolutely simple.” God is simple in His essence, which means that the God’s indivisible nature is identical with God’s omniscience, God’s omnipotence, God’s goodness, and so on. That’s quite different from asserting, as Professor Feser does, that “God’s eternity is His power, which is His goodness, which is His intellect, which is His will, and so on.” (It would have been helpful if Professor Feser had referenced Professor Jeffrey Brower’s irenic and brilliantly written defense of the doctrine of Divine simplicity (in Faith and Philosophy 25 (1):3-30, 2008), which carefully distinguishes it from the view that eternity, omnipotence and goodness are properties of God, and that God is identical with each of these properties – which is what critics of the doctrine, including Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig, often take it to mean. Unfortunately, in his article, Feser appears to espouse the naive “property” interpretation of Divine simplicity, despite the fact that it is demonstrably absurd, as Brower convincingly establishes in his article.) The Catholic Church’s dogmatic statements on Divine simplicity also leave open the question of whether God’s thoughts (e.g. His concept of a human being, a dog, a bacterium or a sodium atom) are the same as God’s essence. (Since finite beings are essentially complex whereas God is essentially simple, it would be extremely unwise to insist that God’s concept of a finite being is either identical with, or logically entailed by, His essence, as Feser appears to maintain, since he holds that God has no accidental properties – something which the Catholic Church has never dogmatically asserted.)

Another example: in his post on classical theism, Feser castigates “theistic personalists” (such as Alvin Plantinga and Richard Swinburne) for their anthropomorphic language about God: “From a Thomistic point of view, it is precisely because theistic personalists apply language to God and creatures univocally that they are led to deny divine simplicity and in general to arrive at an objectionably anthropomorphic conception of God.” In the next sentence, he grudgingly acknowledges that followers of Duns Scotus (a Catholic philosopher and Doctor of the Church) apply terms to God univocally – for instance, they hold that the word “knowledge” has the same meaning when applied to us and to God, even though God’s knowledge, unlike ours, is infinite – but then goes on to blame the Scotist move away from the Thomist doctrine of analogy for “the moderns’ move away from classical theism.” This is a rather uncharitable claim to make about “a school [Scotism - VJT] of which not a single proposition has been censured, and to which so many highly venerated men (bishops, cardinals, popes, and saints) have belonged,” as The Catholic Encyclopedia puts it here.

[Correction: Although Duns Scotus was one of the most important theologians and philosophers of the High Middle Ages, who was nicknamed the "Subtle Doctor" for his penetrating and subtle manner of thought, he is not officially a Doctor of the Church. H/t to Leo Carton Mollica for pointing this out.]

At times, Feser’s hyper-orthodoxy borders on the comical: he publicly maintains (I kid you not) that it is a sin for parents to tell their children that Santa Claus is real. Hmmm. Here’s what the Catholic Theologian Fr. John Hardon, S. J., has to say about Santa Claus in his book, “The Catholic Catechism” (Doubleday, 1975, paperback edition, page 402): “Circumstances are an integral part of human speech; such circumstances are the time, place, tone of voice, and the persons addressed. Thus what may be verbally contrary to fact, like telling children about Santa Claus, is not lying.” Whom should we believe? I think I’d take the word of a highly respected theologian over that of a philosopher, on a point of Catholic doctrine. Wouldn’t you?

I’d like to close by citing what is by now a common saying in the English language (see here for its historical background): “In necessary things unity, in doubtful things liberty, in all things charity.” Amen to that, I say.

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25 Responses to More Catholic than the Pope?

  1. Thanks, VJ.

    Catholics owe ya. Church currently infested with this crap.

    Thomism gone wrong, in bondage to atheism.

    All that said: What’s all this rubbish about it being a sin to tell children Santa Clause is real?

    Scene from real life, about 1980: O’Leary kid arrives home, shouting, “My friend said there is no Santa Claus. It’s all a lie!”

    I replied: “Did you see how happy your grandma was when you showed her the picture you had drawn as a Christmas present? How happy the checkout clerk was when I shouted back “Merry Christmas”?

    It’s not in any way a lie. Santa Claus is the spirit of Christmas. He lives wherever people let him. And we do here.

  2. So does Intelligent Design theory get one closer to the God of classical theism?

  3. 3

    Holy crap.

    Santa Claus is not real. A lie is defined as saying something that is not true.

    What am I missing here? lol

    I would probably argue though that not all lies are sin. For instance, hiding Jews and lying to Nazis about it as an extreme example.




  4. I’ve looked at Thomism and can’t make any sense of it. To me, it’s just another room filled with smoke (to quote David Berlinski concerning Darwinism).

    But I’m just one of those simple folks who prefers mathematics, physics, and multiple engineering disciplines, from which I have concluded that the universe and living systems are the product of a super-intelligent designer.

    Am I stupid or something?

  5. Hi Ms. O’Leary,

    You wrote:

    -”It’s not in any way a lie. Santa Claus is the spirit of Christmas. He lives wherever people let him. And we do here.”

    I have to say I’m with tragic mishap on this one. While I don’t think it’s necessarily a sin to convince your kids Santa exists, it kinda fits the lie definition. It also leaves an opening for our atheist friends. “If santa doesn’t exists, maybe God doesn’t exist”. I’ve had that said to me.

    (F/N: Just so nobody thinks I’m a total christmas grouch… When I was a kid and asked about Santa, my parents just smiled and nodded. Ma eventually confirmed a Santa-less existence when I was six-ish… she was worried I’d mix Santa with Jesus I think. I’ve been ‘agnostic’ about flying reindeer ever since.

    So, to echo tragic mishap…



    - Sonfaro

  6. What on earth does Prof. Feser make of this?

    “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” Ps 19:1

  7. God must have really big hands, SCheesman.

  8. paragwinn:

    So does Intelligent Design theory get one closer to the God of classical theism?

    So, yes, following the psalmist, (and who is more classically theistic than the psalmist?) ID theory observes the heavens, and studies the work of His hands and thus comes closer to God. For what is the work of hands but design? And what is God’s design if not intelligent?

    What great “learning” can blind a man to the simplicity of this message?

  9. fbeckwith:

    God must have really big hands, SCheesman.

    I’ve been told — large enough to fit the whole world in.

  10. Yeah; even though I’m not an IDist, due in part to his unfair and/or misguided (and sometimes just plain silly) criticisms of it, I’ve given up even reading him, much less trying to discuss anything with him.

  11. paragwinn

    You asked:

    So does Intelligent Design theory get one closer to the God of classical theism?

    Closer, yes. Is an unnamed Designer closer to God than inanimate matter?
    Of course.

  12. Hi Gil Dodgen,

    You are the last person I would describe as stupid. Metaphysics isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so I sympathize with your bewilderment regarding Thomism. Its philosophical mindset is at times very alien to modern readers, but fascinating nonetheless.

    Incidentally, if you’d like a good introduction to Thomism, I can do no better than to recommend Edward Feser’s recent book, Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide (Oneworld Publications, Oxford, 2009). See http://www.amazon.com/Aquinas-.....1851686908 . Although it’s at times very critical of ID, it’s far and away the best introduction to Thomism for the lay reader that I’ve ever encountered.

    I believe in giving credit where credit is due.

  13. vj, I believe in giving credit where credit is due too.

    But I also believe in not giving credit where it is not due.

    The “Thomists” construct a fake reality in which it is possible to deny God as the “factorem caeli et terrae” (maker of heaven and earth),and thus escape the persecution that any real thinker/real Christian/anyone with a serious story that flatly contradicts materialism comes in for these days.

    Accept it, yes. Admire it, no.

    Sure, I defend Thomists, when mugged. I defend lots of people when mugged. But don’t ever ask me what I think of these cowards using Thomas as an excuse.

    The only thing that matters is evidence.

    About Santa Claus: Having seen the absolutely “marvellous” results of government interference in child-raising in my own country, I think people should be free to explain that however they want. Kids get the picture.

  14. vjtorley

    I’ve been working on a very long but interesting post aimed at showing, on scientific grounds alone, that a human embryo is just as important, morally speaking, as you or I.


    I would say that I am looking forward to this except for the phrase “very long”.

    When it comes to blog posts less is indeed more.

  15. Can we now drop the pretense and just declare UD/ID to be religious ?

  16. 16

    Dr, Torley,
    Thank you for continuing to educate us on the issue of Thomism. I guess we conservative Evangelical Protestants are less inclined to lend as much importance to the work of one man, even if that one man is St Thomas himself, who is held in high esteem even among Protestants. I think though that Sola Scriptura dictates that we refrain from any inclination towards any ‘ism.’
    But I do understand the importance that some of the TE’s place on this man, particularly with regard to the 5 ways. I agree that with everything you’ve taught us so far, Thomas would be more inclined toward ID.
    I’m also looking forward to your treatment of the abortion issue.
    In an OT but related issue to that I was dismayed when I read about a woman in England who’s sueing a hospital who failed to provide life saving treatment to her premature newborn, who later died, It seems the hospital has a policy to not provide the treatment to premies at an early stage, as they would have a ‘lower quality of life.’

  17. VJ, great job as usual.

    For those who have not read it, may I also recommend “God and Evolution,” edited by Jay Richards. In this work, Dr. Richards discusses the many problems with theistic evolution, especially theistic Darwinism.

    His exposition about Catholics and evolution is especially illumninating. Among other things, he thoroughly refutes Professor Feser’s account of the relationship between ID, Darwinism, and Thomism.

    Jay Richards is a first class intellect and qualifies as one of the worlds truly great philosophers. No one should miss reading this book.

  18. markf (#14)

    You write:

    When it comes to blog posts less is indeed more.

    With a topic like the rights of the unborn child, I have to cover all bases and respond to every objection I can anticipate. However, if you want the nub of my argument, then you’ll only need to read Part A. I hope that helps.

  19. StephenB (#16)

    You are entirely correct about Jay Richards’s exposition about Catholics and evolution in “God and Evolution.” It’s an excellent book, and I would warmly recommend it to readers at Uncommon Descent. See here: http://www.amazon.com/God-Evol.....0979014166 .

  20. I’m really not all that well acquainted with the whole Thomism controversy, but this quote cited by Fesser,,,

    ‘Moreover, he approvingly cites Christopher Martin as writing that “The Being whose existence is revealed to us by the argument from design is not God but the Great Architect of the Deists and Freemasons, an impostor disguised as God,”’

    ,,, strikes me as being divorced from the ‘complete story’ of Aquinas and what modern science has revealed to us, for not only does modern science reveal exquisite finely tuned design (teleology) from the creation of the universe (which could be tortured to mean Deism I suppose), but modern science also powerfully confirms Aquinas’ argument that God ‘sustains’ the universe which is as divorced from Deism as can be,,,

    “The ‘First Mover’ is necessary for change occurring at each moment.”
    Michael Egnor – Aquinas’ First Way

    I find this centuries old philosophical argument, for the necessity of a ‘First Mover’ accounting for change occurring at each moment, to be validated by quantum mechanics. This is since the possibility for the universe to be considered a self-sustaining ‘closed loop’ of cause and effect is removed with the refutation of the ‘hidden variable’ argument in entanglement experiments. Moreover there also must be a sufficient transcendent cause (God/First Mover) to explain quantum wave collapse for ‘each moment’ of the universe. A cause, ‘first mover’, that does not dissolve into hopeless absurdity as the ‘many-worlds’ argument does;

    Quantum mechanics
    Excerpt: The Everett many-worlds interpretation, formulated in 1956, holds that all the possibilities described by quantum theory simultaneously occur in a multiverse composed of mostly independent parallel universes.[39] This is not accomplished by introducing some new axiom to quantum mechanics, but on the contrary by removing the axiom of the collapse of the wave packet:

    Perhaps some may say that Everett’s Many Worlds interpretation of infinite parallel universes is not so absurd after all, if so,, then in some other parallel universe in which you also live, Elvis just so happens to be president of the United states, and you just so happen to come to the opposite conclusion, in that parallel universe, that Many Worlds is in fact absurd! For me, I find that type of ‘flexible thinking’, stemming from Many Worlds, to be completely absurd as well as completely unscientific!!!

    “As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”
    Max Planck – The Father Of Quantum Mechanics – Das Wesen der Materie [The Nature of Matter], speech at Florence, Italy (1944)(Of Note: Max Planck was a devout Christian, which is not surprising when you realize practically every, if not every, founder of each major branch of modern science also ‘just so happened’ to have a deep Christian connection.)

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: The physical universe is causally incomplete and therefore neither self-originating nor self-sustaining. The world of space, time, matter and energy is dependent on a reality that transcends space, time, matter and energy. This transcendent reality cannot merely be a Platonic realm of mathematical descriptions, for such things are causally inert abstract entities that do not affect the material world. Neither is it the case that “nothing” is unstable, as Mr. Hawking and others maintain. Absolute nothing cannot have mathematical relationships predicated on it, not even quantum gravitational ones. Rather, the transcendent reality on which our universe depends must be something that can exhibit agency – a mind that can choose among the infinite variety of mathematical descriptions and bring into existence a reality that corresponds to a consistent subset of them. This is what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.,,, the evidence for string theory and its extension, M-theory, is nonexistent; and the idea that conjoining them demonstrates that we live in a multiverse of bubble universes with different laws and constants is a mathematical fantasy. What is worse, multiplying without limit the opportunities for any event to happen in the context of a multiverse – where it is alleged that anything can spontaneously jump into existence without cause – produces a situation in which no absurdity is beyond the pale.
    For instance, we find multiverse cosmologists debating the “Boltzmann Brain” problem: In the most “reasonable” models for a multiverse, it is immeasurably more likely that our consciousness is associated with a brain that has spontaneously fluctuated into existence in the quantum vacuum than it is that we have parents and exist in an orderly universe with a 13.7 billion-year history. This is absurd. The multiverse hypothesis is therefore falsified because it renders false what we know to be true about ourselves. Clearly, embracing the multiverse idea entails a nihilistic irrationality that destroys the very possibility of science.

  21. bornagain77, your insights @ are both apt and essential to the discussion.

    The universe must be sustained as well as created. Reason requires it and science confirms it.

    Also, as is written,

    –”The physical universe is causally incomplete and therefore neither self-originating nor self-sustaining.”

    And yes, the multiverse hypothesis is “absurd.”

    And yes, It is nonsensical for Feser to imply, as he does, that good philosophy will conclude a designer, but good science must, nevertheless, come to a different conclusion. This is especially bizarre coming from a “Thomist,” who by definition, should be arguing on behalf of the “unity of truth.”

  22. 22

    It is no marvel that Catholics are pissed off at guys like Descartes and Locke. This is the period in history when the Catholic church began losing its total domination of the academy. All problems in the world must be because there are Christians rejecting the true church. The way to solve it is to get all those Christians back into the mother church, and then everything will be just peachy keen.

    Let’s go back to a time when the Catholic church controlled all doctrine and a large part of the state as well. Let’s see what were the reasons that happened. Oh yeah maybe it was when Locke started talking about social contracts.

  23. Hi tragic mishap,

    Thank you for your post. It might interest you to know that Descartes, far from being a skeptic, was actually a devout Catholic. After Descartes died in Sweden, Queen Christina abdicated her throne to convert to Roman Catholicism (Swedish law required a Protestant ruler). The only Catholic with whom she had prolonged contact was Descartes, who was her personal tutor.

    I’m quite a fan of Locke myself, and I detest the idea of a Church controlling any state. As a matter of historical interest, I’d just like to note in passing that the Maryland Toleration Act of 1649 was one of the first laws in America that explicitly mandated religious tolerance.

  24. 24

    Converts are the most fervent proselytizers.

  25. I’d have stuck with the original title; Mr Feser’s whinning about it was just that.

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