Monday, February 29, 2016

The Euthyphro dilemma and the arbitrariness objection’: Amnswering Wes Morriston

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God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, had God not
relented would it have been right to kill Isaac since God
commanded it?

Wes Morriston, philosopher from University of Colorado, Boulder, writes an excellent [1] paper against divine command theory and specifically attacking William Lame Craig. The guys over at secular outpost (or as I like to call it, "Kill Bill's ideas) link to that article. Divine command theory in it's simple direct form says that what is good is that which God commands and it is good because God commands it. The paper is very long and covers a lot of ground, I have isolated what I think is one of the  key points and i will deal with just that small but important section: the ground of moral duty as grounded in the divine.

Craig is answwering the Euthyphro dilemma, This is a problem raised by Plato in the from of Socrates question to Euthyphro, " is found in Plato's dialogue Euthyphro, in which Socrates asks Euthyphro, "Is the pious (τὸ ὅσιον) loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?"  [2] The answer Craig takes to it is one I have also argued for years, that the good flows out of God's character so it's neither arbitrary now does it constitute a standard above God.

Morriston takes issue with Craig at the point where he says the good "flows out of God's character.

One might wonder about the phrase ‘flow necessarily from his moral nature’. Does it mean that each divine command is necessitated by God’s moral nature – that God’s moral nature makes it impossible for him not to command what he does in fact command? Or does it mean merely that it is necessary that all divine commands flow from God’s moral nature, where the ‘flow from’ relation is understood in a weaker sense ?Craig doesn’t say.[3]

He's really conflating two different issues here: (1) do all commands flow equally from God's nature (2) could god chose to violate his nature? The question here is still veg because we are talking about Biblical commands? Or, are we talking about the human capacity to be moral itself? The latter is the kjey to the answer. Paul tells us the moral law is written on the heart (Romans 2:6-14). C.S. Lewis shows a great harmony in many Axial age civilizations as far flung as Briton and China. Although there are problems will will bracket them for fn.[4] These similarities of course don't prove divine inspiration but they may indicate that if human moral nature is God given then God's commands must be generally flowing through that basic moral nature and even though filtered through cultural constructs the basic sense of moral goodness grounded in agapic sense of human dignity is possible universally. So the latter "weaker sense" would come closer to the answer, although I would not think of it as "weaker."

But whatever the details, it’s clear that the main point of the claim that God’s commands ‘flow necessarily from his moral nature’ is to head off a familiar objection to the divine command theory. It will be convenient to refer to it as ‘ the arbitrariness objection’. It goes something like this. Either God has good reasons for his commands or he does not. If he does, then those reasons (and not God’s commands) are the ultimate ground of moral obligation. If he does not have good reasons, then his commands are completely arbitrary and may be disregarded. Either way, the divine command theory is false.[5]
That's a fair assessment of the dilemma, and the answer is all moral motions ultimately point to love. God's character is love, thus there is warrant for the assertion that Divine love stands behind morality that God's  commands are neither arbitrary nor are they stemming from a source higher than God. "Those reasons" are bound up in God's character, They are of concern to God because he is love. Obviously they are not "completely arbitrary since they arise out of the same basic aspect of who and what God is. The question about the goodness of reasons is transgression upon the concept of the transcendental signified. Truth is what is and the basis of what is is the ground being ie God). Thus God's reasons are a priori good not because they arbitrarily manufacture good via command but because they stem from the nature of God which is the ground of being. This idea that God's commands are arbitrary ( the "arbitrariness objection") is regarded as an ace in the hole by many skeptical philosopjhers.

Some philosophers think the arbitrariness objection is decisive (Shafer-Landau (2004), 80–81). But Craig thinks his version of the divine command theory is completely untouched by it. To see why, consider the duty to be generous to those in need. On Craig’s account, we can endorse all three of the following claims.

(A) God has a good reason for commanding generosity: generosity is good.

(B) Generosity is good because, and only because, God is (essentially) generous.

(C) Nevertheless, it takes a divine command to turn generosity into a duty for us.
Given (A), it might be thought that there is nothing objectionably arbitrary about God’s commanding generosity. Given (B), the goodness of God’s reason for issuing this command is rooted in his moral nature; it is not therefore independent of God. (C), finally, assures us that it is God’s command, and not merely the goodness of generosity, that raises it to the level of a moral imperative.[6] 
I take issue with the last sentence and with B to which it refers. "Generosity is good because, and only because, God is (essentially) generous." Basically true but it requires some tweaking that zi think matters. It's not just that God is generous so requires that we be generous but that generosity is a of love, it's an expression of love in the agapic sense., The reason It is played that generosity is good only because God is generous is to avoid the prospect of atheists claiming they can be generous without God. Of course that's  begging the question unless it's answering a certain kind of moral argument for God. If God exists it's legitimate to think that goodness flows from God's nature, If there is no God we are just Whistling in the dark anyway. From a purely metaethical standpoint generosity could be grounded in any number of things such as social contract theory, but they would all have a hard time establishing an ought denontologically without going teleological. It would be more certain to assume grounding in God. But switching from answering Euthephro a God argument would change the trajectory of the answers.

"Many questions remain. Could God have failed to command generosity? Could generosity have failed to be a duty ? Just what degree of generosity is required ? And why did God choose to require just that degree of generosity rather than some other ? " If love is the background of the moral universe, as is my assumption, (ala Joseph Fletcher) [7] then the direct proximity of God's will to a specific command might be less important in terms of metaethical theory than understanding the nature of love. In other words, rather than seeking to pin down a list of rules we need to be seeking ways to learn to love people. Of course that doesn't mean it's unimportant that God issues a particular command. Yet the important thing is not keeping rules but internalizing values of the good.

At this point he moves on to a second objection. If God turned around tomorrow and ordered something that is now evil such as eating children would it then become good to do so? Craig says can't happen it's opposed to God's nature.[8] That should be enough for rational people. But if you are an atheist looking to throw a wrench in the works of belief, or a philosopher, no it's not. If you are both well better start looking for that eye of the needle. "Even if such commands are incompatible with God’s nature, isn’t it still true that according to the divine command theory eating our children would be morally obligatory if – per impossible – God commanded it?" It's another version of  can God make a rock so big he can't lift it? The answer I've always given to that is "why should we expect God to do non sense.?"  It's a cleaver question for skeptics to ask because it's a perfect double bind. If we do say "well theoretically if God did command even God would be wrong," we have relativized God's authority. If we say no we relativize his goodness. Either way we make belief in higher power seem silly.

Morriston kind of concedes that the question doesn't make sense and thus it doesn't matter what is said but he still concludes in such a way as to raise doubt with the oblivious:

Remember that for Craig God is, necessarily, a perfect being. If that is understood, then it really doesn’t matter to Craig’s position whether it’s impossible for a perfect being to command such a thing. Why ? Because if a perfect being commanded it, the being would have a morally sufficient reason for doing so; and if – per impossibile, perhaps – a perfect being had a morally sufficient reason for commanding us to eat our children, we should do it. If I am right about this, then Craig’s divine command theory escapes refutation – not for the reason he gives, but rather because the alarming-sounding counterpossibles implied by it turn out to true! 10 What’s so special about being God-like? Given fairly standard assumptions about God’s moral nature, [9]

The real problem is that the skeptics have underrated the scope of God's relation to reality. We are not just talking about the most powerful being. They approach it like the question is "this powerful guy is not like this but what if he was.?" It's not about the will of a powerful guy. It's about the nature of reality and trust and the relationship of that to love itself. Like the rock issue I refuse to believe that truth can be stumped by nonsense. Truth is what is (a simplified version of correspondence theory) and God is Being itself. Love is the background of the moral universe because God is love and God is the basis of reality. Thus if God is love, truth, and being. Thus morality is an extension of the good, and the good is wrapped up with the nature of truth and being. We must understand particular moral codes as best we can having filtered moral motions through culture. There is a reality back there behind it all that can't be cheated by questions like the one about the rock.

[1] Wes Morriston, "God and the ontological foundation of morality," Religious Studies,   Cambridge University Press 2011 (2012) 48, 15–34 f doi:10.1017/S0034412510000740 URL:  accessed 2/27/2016.

 WES MORRISTON Department of Philosophy, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0232 email: Wes.Morriston@Colorado.EDU

[2]Plat, "Euthephro," Five Dialogues, 10a, or see on line copy, see "Euthephro" by Plato,  Translated by Benjamin Jowet, Internet archieve UROL:

[3] Morriston, op. cit. 18.

[4] C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of man: With Reflection on Education With Special Reference to The Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools. New York, NY: Harper One, 1971, 83.
The problem with this is that it's limited to a segment of history from a period known as the Axial age, roughly from the 900 to 200 BC. The term is from Karl Jaspers. It excludes new world, Africa, Russian steppes and times before and after. Bit it is probably the best attempt to show universal moral sense. It does at least show large segments of humanity share similar moral motions.

[5] Morriston, op.cit., 18-19

[6] Ibid. 19-20

[7] Joseph Fletcher, Situation Ethics The new Moraloty.Louisville, Lomdon:  Westminster John Knox Press. 1966,    58.
Fletcher discusses the same dilemma but not by the name "Euthephro." He discusses the nominalist position and argues that modern ethical thinking is nominalist and that is what's wrong with it. That's why philosophers ask questions about this dilemma because they can't ground moraloity in love since they are reductionists and can't understand values.

[8] Morriston, op cit.,20-21

[9] Ibid

Thursday, February 25, 2016

JP Holding, Christian Apologist,needs Help

This is from JP Holding Tekton Apologetics
  I now have a page set up with a Christian version of GoFundMe, at
Please post where you can and ask others to do the same. I have a brief explanation below you can use as you please.

This special edition of the Tekton Newsletter will come out of left field, though the reasons for any delay in reporting the matter will become clear.

In July 2015, 20 members of the TheologyWeb forum were named as targets of a “libel” lawsuit by a former atheist member.\

 So far only one (me, James Patrick Holding) has been served with complaint and summons, and litigation is in process. Of the remaining 19 people, many are vulnerable because of their limited incomes, or because of serious health issues for themselves or their family. The parties include my ministry partner, Nick Peters, as well as several owners and moderators at TheologyWeb. I was targeted first as the most prominent of the group.
An attorney has been hired, and for the past several months has been working on the case. A win for me in court will help shield the other 19 targeted defendants.
 Needless to say, I am not free to share many more details on the matter, other than the obvious point that by fighting the suit, we indicate that we do not believe it to have any merit.

The purpose of this special newsletter is to humbly ask for the assistance of others in defending ourselves from this lawsuit.

Any funds gathered will be used as follows:

1)      To defray my attorney expenses.  Currently we are working on a motion to dismiss the case based on lack of personal jurisdiction (I do not live in the same state as the Plaintiff). My expenses so far have been $7700, of which $600 was covered by TheologyWeb. The uses for the funding are:

To To fund the jurisdiction defense;
To prepare a similar defense for any of the others in the group, should they be served with a suit.

3)      To prepare an alternate defense, should either the jurisdiction motion fail, or should one of us be sued in our own home state.

I have started a page with GiveForward (a sort of Christian variation on GoFundMe) at:

Thank you so much, and I am able to answer some questions about this issue by email if requested.

God bless,


I don't really know the details but thinking back over the years at things atheists have said to me that I might try to sue for:

*my mother was a heroin addict

*I never went to graduate school

* I paid someone or plagiarized my Schweitzer article

*called a liar numerous times

*libeled and  tried to destroy my reputation in a hundred different says

* said my penis is too little (she didn't know)

*claimed that Atheistwach  is a hate site (because it's exposing the hate of others)

*had the site Atheistwatch black listed by some blackmailing premeasure group (their stamp of disapproval as untrustworthy  site is just black mail and extortion)

*that I'm on welfare

I have never seen JP say anything like this I'm whatever it is, is BS/


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The True Christian concept of the Supernatural part 3

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Empirical experience of The Supernatural

The Trace of God,  by Joseph Hinman. This book proves the truth of mystical experience. The article you are about to read is part 3 in an article that proves that the Christian concept of the SN is mystical experience, not ghosts and demons and psychic powers. Thus atheists are attacking the srong concept.

Scheeben deals with the distinction between natural and supernatural faith. Throughout his writings we see this typified in terms of the tendency of the power of God to elevate humanity to a higher spiritual level. This means consciousness as well as habit. He speaks of “supernatural effects,” the effect that the pull of the supernatural has upon the natural. This is why it’s valid to think of the supernatural as an ontology, it’s a description of reality, or what is. Empirically that description tends toward the realization of human consciousness reaching to a higher level as a result of certain kinds of experiences. Scheeben expresses this in terms of “higher nature.” Super nature is the higher nature to which human nature is being elevated.

If the lower nature is raised in all of these respects to the level of a higher nature, and especially if this nature modifies the lower nature so deeply and affects it so powerfully that the limits of possibility are reached; if God, purest light and mightiest fire, wishes thoroughly to permeate his creature with his energy, to flood it with brightness and warmth to transform it into his own splendor, to make the creature like the father of spirits and impart to it the fullness of his own divine life, if I say, the entire being of the soul is altered in the deepest recesses and in all its ramifications to the very last, not by annihilation, but by exaltation and transfiguration, then we can affirm that a new higher nature has come to the lower nature, because it has been granted a participation in the essence of him to whom the higher nature properly belongs.[27]

 He seeks in one point of his work to resolve a fine point of difficulty between the Thomist-Molinist dichotomy. Scheeben didn’t like dichotomies and thus seeks a third way. His solution is to see the natural as a mirror of the divine. The dichotomy deals with predestination, grace and free will. That’s not the issue I want to get off into. For Scheeben the authority of God is the sole formal object of faith. Thus faith is divine both in its source and object.[28] According to this position faith is neither the result of rational self interest nor a consequence of the human spirit. We must not mistake the manifestation in experience for the motive of faith. Faith is the result of obedience to the drawing power and call of God.[29] Nature (Greek Physis, Latin natura) is the realm of life from life, according to Scheeben. Super nature is the overarching principle toward which nature strives:

The whole point is that the life of the children of God is directed to such specific objects and ends as cannot be striven for or attained, at least in a way that corresponds to their loftiness, except by acts of a supernatural perfection, that is, of a perfection unattainable by nature, —in other words, by acts which are kindred and similar to the proper life of God in its loftiness.[30]

We can see in his answers to the Thoamsit/Molinist issue the basis of the claim that Super nature is the power of God to rise us to a higher level. This is how Schebeen construed it. In summarizing Murry speaks of “power which flows from the new nature,” 
That is his starting point(16). One conclusion follows immediately: the new powers which flow from the new nature must themselves be “an image of the divine vital powers”(17), i.e. the specific perfection of the divine vital powers must reflect itself in their working. That is Scheeben’s “Grundanschauung”, on which rests all his theorizing about supernatural acts. In a word, to the divinization of man’s nature corresponds a divinization of his activity(18). And Scheeben is occupied wholly in drawing out the nature of this divinization and its consequences. The immediate consequence, in which I am here interested, is that man’s divinized activity must be directed to objects of the specifically divine order. The essence of Scheeben’s thought is revealed in this sufficiently characteristic passage:[31]
 The passage in Scheeben to which he refers:

If we have truly become partakers in the divine nature, and by this supernature have become most intimately akin to the divine nature.... then we are taken up into the sphere of its life; then the Godhead itself in its immediacy and in its own proper essence as it is in itself becomes the object of our activity. Then we shall know God Himself, illuminated by His light, without the mirror of creatures; then we shall love God immediately in Himself, no longer as the Creator of our nature, but as One Who communicates His own nature to us, —penetrated as we are by His fire, and made akin to Him in His divine eminence . . . In a word, if we become partakers of the divine nature, our life and our activity must be specifically similar to the divine. To this end it must’ have the same specific, formal, characteristic object as the divine activity has.[32

 Murray summarizes again:

This one passage, out of many(20), is sufficient to show how the theory of the supernatural object enters into Scheeben’s system, namely as a consequence of (or if you wish, as a postulate for the completion of) his favorite parallelism between the divine life of God Himself and the life of grace in His creature(21). That parallelism suggests the formula that man’s supernatural activity is “an image of the divine activity”, and this formula in turn commands on the one hand the introduction of a supernatural object (i.e. “God as He is in Himself”), and on the other hand dictates the consistent use of the term “immediate” to characterize the nature of the union with God that is effected by supernatural knowledge and love(22). In this last detail, — that supernatural activity unites the soul immediately to God, — Scheeben’s theory culminates. The idea appealed immensely to him, though practically speaking it merely means that “God as He is in Himself” is the immediate object of supernatural activity. Its contrary is that natural activity effects no immediate union with God, since it reaches God only through the medium of creatures, and not “as He is in Himself”[33]

In all of these descriptions we see one standard concept: that supernature is a life, an experience, an inner relation between the divine and human nature. He says supernture is that which we partake of divine life. Human nature is elevated to the higher level by supernature and this primarily the way Scheeben speaks of supernature. This is what supernature is, the power of God to elevate to a higher level. There is an indication form what is said that “the supernatural” is a level of being above the realm of the natural. That must be the case because the power of God to elevate would surely be centered upon a higher level than the natural. That doesn’t mean that we are free to associate the supernatural with psychic powers and ghosts and unexplained phenomena and anything “x-files” like. The sense that the supernatural is above the nature is an implication of the ontology; the ground and end of the natural would sure be on some higher level in a sense. The more important aspect that all of these writers speak of is “participation” in divine life. Shceeben speaks directly of supernature just that, the divine life in which we are elevated to participate.

The important aspect of all of this in relation to science is that super nature is not some juxtaposed belief in the unseen that has no analogy in the empirical. The experience of being raised to a higher level through contact with the divine life is clearly empirical. It may be a matter of interpretation as to the cause of the effects, but the effects of what is called “religious experience” are certainly empirical. It’s not hard to link those experiences with the divine; the content of them is that of God and the divine in relation to the world. This is what most of those who experiences these things think they experienced.

Atheists segregate reality into realms of natural and supernatural. They so construct the situation as to screen out any sort of evidence for supernatural on the basis that such evidence would have to be supernatural. Pod cast: “Richard Dawkins and AC Grayling discuss whether there can ever be evidence for the supernatural in an unmoderated, unrehearsed armchair discussion. The event was sponsored by the British Humanist Association, and organized as a part of Oxford Think Week by the Oxford Atheists, Secularists and Humanists (OxASH) in conjunction with Oxford Humanists, Oxford Skeptics in the Pub and Oxford Sea of Faith.[34] The major idea expressed is that any evidence for supernatural must be natural therefore can’t really be of any value. The point being that no evidence for supernatural could ever exist because it would have to be supernatural but it can’t be so because we have no evidence to prove that it exists. That’s actually circular reasoning, any evidence that would count against my view is automatically wrong because it counts against my view, therefore, the other sides is wrong because they have no evidence; if it’s not possible to have evidence then why demand any? The assumption here is that supernatural is an unwelcome visitor crashing into a party given by nature at which it’s not welcome. In reality, however, the experiences of which Dawkins writes so fondly, a strange love for nature growing though a child’s fascination with bugs in the grass, is actually a certain type of supernatural.

Richard Dawkins writes about quasi religious experiences of scientists and an extrovertive mystical experience of a Priest who was once one of his teachers, he then builds upon this in undertaking to explain the nature of religion:

An Anglican clergyman, one of my teachers of whom I was fond, told me of the never-forgotten instant that triggered his own calling. As a boy, he was lying prone in a field, his face buried in the grass. He suddenly became preternaturally aware of the tangled stems and roots as a whole new world, the world of ants and beetles and, though he may not have been aware of them, soil bacteria and other micro-organisms by the billions. At that moment the micro-world of the soil seemed to swell and become one with the universe as a whole, and with the soul of the boy contemplating them. He interpreted the experience in religious terms and it eventually led him to the priesthood.[35]
 This is actually a supernatural experience. He identified it as a mystical experience “Much the same mystic feeling is common among scientists…” Yet he places the mystical on the naturalistic side of the dichotomy. In Dichotomizing between what he calls “Einsteinian religion” and “supernatural” religion he consistently identifies quasi mystical aspects with the “Einsteninian.” That’s because we in modern times are led to think of SN as magical thinking, irrational “lala land,” while become more accepting of mystical experience as a naturalistic aspect of consciousness. He shows this in his dichotomy:

 Much unfortunate misunderstanding is caused by failure to distinguish what might be called Einsteinian religion from supernatural religion. The last words of Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, "For then we should know the mind of God", are notoriously misunderstood. Ursula Goodenough's The Sacred Depths of Nature clearly shows that she is just as much of an atheist as I am. Yet she goes to church regularly, and there are numerous passages in her book which seem to be almost begging to be taken out of context and used as ammunition for supernaturalist religion. The present Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees, goes to church as an 'unbelieving Anglican', 'out of loyalty to the tribe'. He does not have any supernatural beliefs, but shares exactly the sense of wonder which the universe provokes in the other scientists I have mentioned. There are many intellectual atheists who proudly call themselves Jews, and observe Jewish rites, mostly out of loyalty to an ancient tradition but also because of a confusing (in my view) willingness to label as 'religion' the pantheistic sense of wonder which many of us share.[36]

The proper term for what he calls “Einstein religion” is “extrovertive mystical experience.” “When any experience includes sense-perceptual, somatosensory, or introspective content, we may say it is an extrovertive experience. There are, then, mystical extrovertive experiences, as in one's mystical consciousness of the unity of nature overlaid onto one's sense perception of the world, as well as non-unitive numinous extrovertive experiences, as when experiencing God's presence when gazing at a snowflake.”[37] It is just as supernatural as any other kind. He is assuming that it's “naturalistic” because he assumes that SN is only other worldly and only involved with a higher realm. He has no data and no empirical basis in study of religious experience to set up this dichotomy.

So my argument is that supernature is God's transformative power, and “the supernatural” (of or pertaining to supernature) is the experience of that power. Since this can be studied empirically. The actual transformative power has been studied in a huge body of empirical scienjti9fic work that focuses upon religious experience.

The Trace of God, by Joseph Hinman, on Amazon. The 200 studies in this book prove that Mystical experience is real, this article just proved that the original concept of SN is mystical experiemce. Therefore, SN is real.

[27] Maithias Jospeh Scheeben quoted in Fairweather (239-240). Fairwether fn Scheeben the version he uses. M.J. Scheeben, Nature and Grace, St. Lewis: Herder, 1954, 30.

[28] Avery Dulles, S.J. An Assurance of Things Hoped for: A Theology of Christian Faith. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1994, 90.


 [30]Scheeben, quoted in Works by John Courtney Murray Chapter II “Natural and supernatural Faith.” Website, Woodstock Theological Center Library. P100 URL: visited August 14, 2012
Mathias Joseph Scheeben on faith, Doctoral Dissertation of John Courtney Murry
Woodstock Theological Center Library.
This volume in the Toronto Studies in Theology reproduces the doctoral dissertation John Courtney Murray, S.J. (1904-1967) completed in the spring of 1937 at the Gregorian University in Rome. From then until now, the Gregorian University archives contained the original typescript of “Matthias Joseph Scheeben’s Doctrine on Supernatural, Divine Faith: A Critical Exposition”. A carbon-copy was incorporated into the Murray Archives housed by the Woodstock Theological Library in the Special Collections Room of the Joseph Mark Lauinger Library at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. John Courtney Murray eventually published the third chapter, modified and disengaged from its original context (1). The complete, original text is published here for the first time.

[3] John Courtney Murray summarizing Scheeben, ibid.

[32] Scheeben quoted in Muarry, ibid, p101

[33] Murray, ibid.

[34] James O’Malley, The Pod Delusion “Richard Dawkins and AC Grayling Discuss Evidence for the Supernatural This week At Oxford. 2/23/2011.URL http://poddelusion.c visited 1/23/2012

[35] Richard Dawkins, “Einsteinian or Supernatural” The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, 5/15/2006. on line source URL: visited 1/23/2012.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Jerome Gellman, "Mysticism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = < />. (accessed 1.25/2016)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The True Christian Concept of The Supernatural Part 2 of 3

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Mathias Joseph Scheeben

The Supernatural was something very different than it is now. This is important because that original meaning, which Christian spiritually was predicated upon, is empirically provable and completely naturalistic and can be shown to be real by simple scientific means. We have to understand the original concept, there are two thinkers who tried to restore the concept to it’s original form and we need to listen to what they tried to say. The first one was Matthias Joseph Scheeben (born, 1 March, 1835; died at Cologne, 21 July, 1888.) His major work was Nature and Grace. [17] Scheeben was a mystic who contemplated and studied divine grace and hypostatic union. He was also a greatly accomplished academic and was a fine scholar of scholastic theology. He studied at the Gregorian University at Rome and taught dogmatic theology at the Episcopal seminary

at Cologne. Scheeben was the chief defender of the faith against rationalism in the nineteenth century. The generation after his death ( in Cologne in 1888) regarded him as one of the greatest minds of Catholic thought in his day. He left three major works: Nature and Grace (1861), The Mysteries of Christianity (1865), and the massive yet unfinished Handbook of Catholic Dogmatics. Among his major accomplishnents were defense of Vatican I's defense of infallibility, defense of religious freedom against Bismark's attempt to control the Catholic Church.
His books were repeatedly republished in Germany up into the 1960s and translated into other European languages, including English (the Dogmatics, alas, only in highly truncated form). Since the Second Vatican Council, though, he has mostly been neglected by theological teachers and students who have wrongly imagined the nineteenth-century Catholic tradition to be a period of anti-modern darkness….The Catholic world of a hundred or more years ago was quite right, I think, to see the Cologne seminary professor as perhaps the finest modern Catholic dogmatic theologian. His writings not only yield rare insight into the mysteries of Christian faith, they draw the attentive reader ever more deeply into the mysteries themselves. Scheeben is more important now than he has ever been. He can teach a theological generation that has sold its inestimable birthright how to restore and renew dogmatic theology.[18
The other thinker is Eugene R. Fairweather (2 November 1920-) an Anglican scholar and translator of Church fathers from Ottowa. MA in Philosophy form University of Toronto (1943) Ordained priest in 1944 and became tutor at Trinity college Toronto same year. He studied theology at Union theological seminary and earned his Th.D. in 1949. He had an honorary doctorate from McGill University. At the time he wrote his article “Christianity and the Supernatural” he was editor of the Canadian Journal of Theology and professor of dogmatic theology and ethics at Trinity College, Toronto.[19] Fairweather quotes Scheeben and bases part of his view upon Scheeben’s.

Fairweather’s view of the supernatural is contrary to the notion of two opposing realms, or a dualism. He uses the phrase “two-sidedness,” there is a “two-sidedness” about reality but it’s not a real dualism. The Supernatural is that which is above the natural in a certain sense but it is also working in the natural. There are supernatural effects in the natural realm that make up part of human life. Essentially we can say that “the supernatural” (supernature) is an ontology. Fiarweather doesn’t use that term but that’s essentially what he’s describing. Ontology is a philosophical description of reality. Supernature describes reality in that it is the ground and end of the natural. What that means is unpacked by Fairweather : an ordered relation of means to immediate ends with respect to their final ends. “The Essential structure of the Christian faith has a real two-sidedness about it, which may at first lead the unwary into a dualism and then encourage the attempt to resolve the dualism by an exclusive emphasis upon one or the other [side] of the severed element of complete Christianity.”[20] He explains the ordered relation several times through paring off opposites or supposed opposites: human/divine; immanent/transcendent; realm of Grace/realm of nature. All of these he refers to as “ordered relations.”[21] If this was Derrida we would call them binary oppositions. In calling them “ordered” he is surely saying one is ‘above’ the other in some sense. They are not necessarily oppositions because that’s his whole point, not a true dualism.

Supernature is working in nature. It’s not breaking in unwelcome but is drawing the workings of nature to a higher level. Fairweather describes it as the “ground and end of nature.” In other words it is the basis upon which nature comes to be and the goal toward which nature moves. Now it’s true that science removes the teleological from nature it doesn’t see it as moving toward a goal but that’s because it can’t consider anything beyond its own domain. Science is supposed to be empirical consideration of the natural realm and is practitioners often profess disdain for the metaphysical while inso doing keep a running commentary on metaphysics. Of course modern science become a form of metaphysics by infusing itself with philosophical assumptions and then declaring there is nothing beyond the natural/material realm. That is to say, when it is dominated by secularist ideology that is the direction in which science is cast. Be that as it may, theologically we can take a broader view and we see a goal oriented aspect to the natural. Supernatural effects draw the natural toward supernature. That is to say human nature responds to the calling of God in elevating humans to a higher level of consciousness. There is another example of the ground and end of nature. Fairweather doesn’t give this example, but I think it applies. This is Martin Luther King’s statement about the “arch of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.” Nothing in nature bends toward justice, if by “nature” we mean rocks and trees but there is more to the natural realm than just those aspects that science studies. Humans are part of the realm of the natural and it is part of our social world that we understand concepts of justice. Due to our own purposive nature we bend the arch of the moral universe toward justice.

Long before Dionysius spoke of huper hamousios “From an early period the concept of 'that which is above nature’ had been seized upon by Christian Theologians as an appropriate means of stating the core of the gospel...” [22] Origen...[185-254] tells how God raises man above human nature…and makes him change into a better and divine nature.”[23] John Chrysostom (347-407) speaks of humans having received grace “health beauty honor and dignities far exceeding our nature.”[24] That view has persisted even in modern times. “In the West the most concise expression of the idea is to be found in the Leonine prayer ‘grant us to be partakers of his divinity who deigned to become partakers of our humanity.’”[25] “In these and a multitude of patristic texts the essential point is just this, that God, who is essentially supernatural perfects with a perfection beyond creaturely comprehension. Nevertheless, supernature elevates human creatures to a true participation in divine life an indwelling of God in man and man in God.”[26] The important point here is that human nature is being raised to the higher level of divine. We can see this manifests itself through the experience commonly known as “mystical.” That I will take up shortly, First, let’s turn to Scheeben to document further the nature of the supernatural. Supernatural is the power of God to raise us to this higher level.

The Trace of God, by Joseph Hinman, on Amazon. The 200 studies in this book prove that Mystical experience is real, this article just proved that the original concept of SN is mystical experiemce. Therefore, SN is real.



[17] Matthias Joseph Scheeben, Nature and Grace, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2009 (paperback) originally unpublished 1856.

[18]  Bruce D. Marshall. “Renewing Dogmatic theology: Mathias Joseph Scheeben Teaches Us the Virtues Theologians Need.” First Things. May 2012. On line version: accessed 11/8/2013
Bruce D. Marshall is professor of Christian doctrine at Perkins School of Theology.(c) 2012 Institute of Religion and Public Life
[19] Editor’s introduction to Eugene R. Fairweather, “Christianity and the Supernatural,” op.cit.

[20] Ibid, Fairweather,.237.


[22] Ibid.

[23 ]Fairweather, ibid (239).

[24] ibid

[25] Fairweather quoting Leonine prayer, ibid.

[26] Ibid
Here Fairweather seemsto contradict Saler who says there is no term in the writings of the so called “church fathers” that could be translated as “supernatural” until Cyril and Dionysius, here Fairweather says the Patristic texts God is suernatural. He is back reading the term based up the concept. The term isn't really used by his pre Crylian examples.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The True Christian Concept of The Super Natural (part 1)

Rose Window Notre Dome de Paris

The Rose was a symbol of heaven in Dante where the Paradisio
is structured on concentric circles like a great rose. Of course God
at the center.

The New atheists constantly mock the SN as though they know what it is. When the discuss it they include anything not naturalistic. The modern conception is that SN is everything from Bigfoot to the resurrection, include g ghosts, UFOs and Psychic Powers. It never occurs to them Christians were using the term before the modern concept of naturalism so it can't just mean everything that[s not naturalistic. Jerry Coyne is an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago. He is also an apologist for atheism. Coyne says something more interesting than than Dawkins does, however, he says that SN could be studied by science.[1] Although, I'm sure Dawkins probably agrees with his reasoning. If SN could not be so studied it would be unreasonable to fault the notion for not having scientific evidence. Coyne asserts that modern science's tendency to set religion aside as belonging to a different order of reality (magisteria) thus being unsuitable is “accomodationist dogma.” [2]

If you’ve frequented this site, you’ll know that I disagree with this stand. I adamantly maintain that science can indeed test the supernatural—at least those claims about the supernatural that involve its interaction with the real world. Indeed, you’ll be familiar with several claims about the supernatural that have already been tested, and refuted : the Genesis story of creation, the story of Adam and Eve, a 6,000-year-old earth, and the efficacy of intercessory prayer, as well as paranormal phenomena like near-death experiences, telepathy, and precognition. If you invoke a form of the supernatural that claims to have real-world consequences, then those consequences necessarily fall within the ambit of science. This means that any type of theistic faith involves hypotheses that are “scientific”.[3]

Of course he wrongly assumes that theistic faith per se includes young earth creationism, healing and the occult. Most versions of faith based upon modern liberal protestant theology would be immune. He also says, “In other words, we can provisionally accept that there is no god because we don’t see the kind of evidence that we should see if god were present (answered prayers, conformable miracles at Lourdes, and so on….)” Keep reading, we are about to see it.

Ironically, I agree with him on one thing, science can test those aspects of the SN that affect our lives, the only problem is the things he names are not SN. He also does a slippery slope by stating we can test those aspects of SN that overlap with nature then asserting we can go all the way and deny the reality of God based upon that. In this chapter I explore the nature of the original Christian concept. Secientistic thinking writes SN out of reality as unscientific, and as superstition. They justify this, as we just saw Coyne do, by pointing to the ability of science to amass a huge fortress of facts while no facts can be found that prove the existence of a Supernatural realm or any Supernatural events, or beings. Yet the problem is that the original concept of the SN was not about any of these things (witches and six day creation), but about human nature and it's relation to divine nature, plus a set of experiences that issue from that relationship. Those experiences are empirical and have been easily documented to exist and to have effects that make them unique. SN is the tendency of divine encounter to raise human nature to a higher level. Here we can understand human nature as both behavioral tendencies as well as consciousness. This means the scientific fortress of facts is predicated upon a concept of an order of nature that did not exist when the term “supernatural” came into being. Therefore, scientistic skepticism is ideological and not scientific; it uses the mystique of science (the illusion of Technique) to interject its own metaphysical assumptions while triumphing over the assumption of a straw man argument.

Anthropologist Benson Saler quotes the great Emile Durkheim in pointing out that the idea of a bifurcated reality made up of an upper real of “supernatural” and a lower real of “natural” is a modern Western concept that begins with modern science. “[the mysterious world of supernatural above the natural] is not of primitive origin….it is science and not religion that has taught men that things are complex and difficult to understand.” [4] Saler points out that this concept of the realm above nature presupposes a ream of nature bound together by natural laws. This is a modern concept brought to us by science. He also draws upon Durkheim, Hallowell, and Richard in support' the use of the term “supernatural” has a long history that proceeds this modern scientific concept. [5]

Therefore, this separation and divison of natural law from that something beyond it can't be the original Christian concept.

The Original Concept of Supernature

All of these objections assume a certain version of the SN. It has become a catch-all for anything non materialistic or naturalistic that scientistic types want to snub without really having to disprove it. Supernatural today means anything from ghosts, Bigfoot, UFO to psychic powers, and angels and demons and God in heaven. Not so with the original concept. In the early centuries of Christian philosophy the original Greek fathers thought of God as transcendent but they did not necessarily conceive of that as “supernatural.” The Church fathers took their notions from the Greeks. “The term 'supernatural' and cognate words in various European languages were employed Long before the rise of modern natural sciences. [6] The school of Miletus (Ionian Greeks) are generally credited with being the first school of critical philosophy. Their use of the term Phusis (roughly translated “nature;” from this term we derive our word Physics.) caused them to be deemed a “physicists” [7] The Stoics had a concept of natural law and materialism. Their natural order would not have been based upon supernatural design. Aristotle viewed the universe working in a rational manner out of necessity rather than design. Ultimately he grounded everything (motion) in the prime mover, but his prime mover was not anthropomorphic and did not design a higher order but worked by necessity. Many ancients had a notion of natural order without a contrasting notion of a supernatural order. “For some the most interesting opposition was conceptualized as a contrast between nature and art...Christian thinkers through the fifth century did not develop theologically significant uses of supernatural” [8]

Saler points out that St. Cyril of Alexandria is a significant exception, using the Greek huper phusin to describe theology of God's grace in elevation of humanity above nature though Christ. He was writing in 444AD around the same time as pseudo Dionysius (500A.D.) who is credited as having coined the term “Supernatural.”. Dionysius was in Syria. Before this time there is found no word that could be rendered “supernatural” used of God's transcendence in the New Testament or in the Patristics. [9] They saw the primary ontological distinction as pertaining to God and creation. Thus while we would classify angels and demons as supernatural in the category with God, apart from natural things, they would classify angels and demons with the created order, blew the level of God as creator. [10]Leading up to the period in which began to emerge terms that would be understood as SN, used by Christian mystics such as Cyril and Dionysius, from the end pf the Apostolic age, the Church faced certain struggles over doctrines with a variety of groups all labeled under the same stigma as “Gnostic.” There was confusion over Chrisatian identity, confussion over the Christianity of Gnostic ideas of dualism between matter and spirit. The Orthodox Church emerged in dialectical relation to the gnostics. Even though they rejected the notion of the evil nature of matter that most such groups taught they created their own dualism with the moral superiority and ontological exaltation of spirit over matter. This forged the way for Neoplatonic Christianity.

Neoplatonism began with Plotinus who died around 270A.D.. Another major figure in the school was Proclus (d.485). that the notion of supernatural really begins to emerge. Neoplatonism is a variation on Platonic thinking that posited a totally transcendent origin of all things. This was a principle, not a personal god. They called it “the one” (a term used by Plato –sort of the “form of the forms”). The one did not create the world dirctly but the world emerged from it through a series of emanations, much like the particulars from the realm of the forms. For that reason the physical realm is not separated out from the one completely and thus the one is emanate within the world. Christian Platonists used hierarchies of angels and what we would call “supernatural beings” in place of emendations. [11] In names such hierarchies Dionysius used, among other things, the term huper hamousios. Hamousios was an important term in the Chronological disputes and the Trinitarian controversy it means “substance” or “being.” God is three persona in one substance. It could be translated essence. [12] Huper might be translated “superior.” It might be “above.” That plays into the notion of a realm above nature. Higher nature. Eugene R. Fairweather concures with Dionysius' use of the term and also points out that John of Damascus (676-749) also used it in the same way (speaking of God in the adverbial form Supernaturaliter). [13]

When various works of Dionysius were translated into Latin by John Scotus Erigena, he rendered it supernaturalis, from which we derive our term “supernatural.” [14]The term was given the Neoplatonic implication of superior substance. Thomas Aquinas preserved the Neoplatonic aspects of the word. God is the first cause who actively and purposefully creates all things, as opposed to the unmoved mover which works unconsciously and of necessity. Moreover, God endows the creatures with their own necessity so that morally each one is an end in itself. [15]Scholastic theology developed the dichotomy of the realm of SN above the realm of nature based upon the distinction between nature and Grace. The centerpiece of that theology is God's free gift of Grace to man in the redemptive act of Christ. This is a gratuity added to human nature and enables a new relationship between creature and creator. That relationship consists of adoptive showmanship and culminates in the elevation of human nature.[16]

The Trace of God, by Joseph Hinman, on Amazon. The 200 studies in this book prove that Mystical experience is real, this article just proved that the original concept of SN is mystical experiemce. Therefore, SN is real.

Part 2


[1] Jerry Coyne, “Can Science Test The Supernaural, Yes!,” Why Evolution is True. (6/27/2012) URL:

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Emil Durkheim quoted in Benson Saler, “Supernatural as a Western Category,” Ethos, Vol. 5, issue 1, first published online 28 Oct., 2009, 31-53 35. PDF URL: (accessed 1/25/2016).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 36

[7] Ibid., 39 Saler draws upon Jeager (1947) in trying to define this complex term, phusis.Basically it means “growth and emergence”

[8] Ibid., 38-39.

[9] Ibid., 43

[10] Ibid. 44.

[11] Henry de Lubecl , Remarques sur l'Hisoire du mot “Surnaturale.” Nouvelle Revue Theologique, (1934) 61: 225-249, 226.

[12] Saler, Op. Cit., 47.

[13] Eugene R. Fairweather, “Christianity and the Supernatural,” in New Theology no.1. New York: Macmillian, Martin E. Marty and Dean G. Peerman ed. 1964. 235-256, 239.

[14] Ibid. see also Fairweather, 239.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid., 48.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Are all Cosmologists Atheists? Answering Sean Carroll (2 of 3)

 photo sean1_zpsfgdmyuzw.jpg
Sean Carroll

Last time I brought up Sean Carroll's "Why Most Cosmologists Are Atheists."[1]  I established that his title is an opinion not the result of research. I showed that his thinking is ideologically inclined; it is revealing in that it shows the atheist ideology of reductionism in action. They create a system of explanation which they claim is complete (it's only potentially complete) and then just assert there can't be anything more. When gaps in their coverage of nature arise they fend them off with atheism of the gaps. In this blog spot I will focus on certain issues, The article is way too long to deal with all of it.

He's going to try show that atheism (which he speaks of as science) is better at explaining the world than is theism. He's setting up the comparisons between science and religion as though atheism is synonymous with science. So he plays science off against religion. Then he reduces reality to his scientific paradigm thus the comparison is between theism and science and the test is which world view best delivers science. Got to be science (science is better at being science than is religion). Of course he passes this off as "the most complete view." It's not complete at all it's a truncated reality that is reduced to one form of knowledge, the form he controls.

world view

He tries to set up a comparison between world views. He hasn't bothered to listen to religious people or study their ideas so he doesn't really understand their world view. This is apparent when he tries to define the terms. He finds the Theistic terminology too variable, too much diversity. There's no nice convent little number crunching to do. As part of his selective comparison he chooses aspects of science that are empirical and display a long standding history of resolution to create the idea that it's such a complete description with no ambiguity. collapses reality into four "elements" (really sub disciplines of physics). (1) formal mathematical structure. (2) Laws of nature that can be described in numbered sequences. (3) "we need boundary conditions which specify the specific realization of the pattern." (4) "we need a way to relate this formal system to the world we see: an 'interpretation.'”

The materialist thesis is simply: that’s all there is to the world. Once we figure out the correct formal structure, patterns, boundary conditions, and interpretation, we have obtained a complete description of reality. (Of course we don’t yet have the final answers as to what such a description is, but a materialist believes such a description does exist.) In particular, we should emphasize that there is no place in this view for common philosophical concepts such as ”cause and effect” or ”purpose.” From the perspective of modern science, events don’t have purposes or causes; they simply conform to the laws of nature. In particular, there is no need to invoke any mechanism to ”sustain” a physical system or to keep it going; it would require an additional layer of complexity for a system to cease following its patterns than for it to simply continue to do so...... According to the materialist worldview, then, structures and patterns are all there are — we don’t need any ancillary notions. [emphasis mime]
Not only are there no causes but n time's arrow. This is wildly amusing because it sounds like Alan Sokal's parody of Postmodernism. [2] Talk about ideology, going to such absurd lengths to deny God. Denying all Cause and effect so as not to have to admit the universe needs a cause.

There are two levels of reality we are dealing with here. The first level is the physical No doubt science (real science) explains that aspect of reality better than does religion because that is not the function of religion. But even that level is far from complete. Carroll tries to suggest completeness but only because he wants to ignore what he can't explain. There are many aspect would could bring up, I will mention three. I am going to makes four criticisms:

(1) abandons Cause and effect

It is ridiculous to suggest that there is no cause and effect. I suspect that he mean s that in a very specialized sense; like when physicists speak of "nothing:" in terms of origin they really don't mean actual nothing. Yet it seems clear part of the reason avoiding cause/effect is to keep from having to admit that the universe needs a cause/ We need to move beyond the dichotomy of prescriptive vs descriptive laws that does not mean, however, that we can abandon c/e. There are clearly consequences to actions, For more see my article on the prescriptive vs descriptive laws. [3]

(2) He glosses over real disagreements regarding such issues

Carroll is not forthright about the diversity of opinion in science. He would have us believe that there is certainty about the physical world (with no causes) but there are major camps that disagree about the issue of causes,[4] The Hume-influenced camp (Humeans) support Hume's view and argue that all we can o is describe correlations because we can't see cause md effect. But scientific essentialists and realists believe that there is cause and effect. Essentially realism means that the aspects of physics such as slingalruty and the phenomena described in physics are real and actually there, while the anti-realists and Humeans have a large variation on the theme that sees these objects as theoretical the result of verisimilitude; the theoretical placeholders for our calculations, in other words, “constructs.” Just to make things more confusing I know atheists with phsyics degrees who style themselves in the anti-realist camp but hwo mock and riedicule constructivists such as Thomas Kuhn. [5]

When it comes to trying to define theism of course he makes it seem chaotic and lack of theological education doesn't help any. He finds the wider world of thought more complex and harder to navigate than he dreamed it's daunting nature s no doubt why he wants to control reality by paring it down to just his methods. He tries to spin the diversity and complexity to make it seem a fault rather the n a virtue. His definition is essentially a big man in the sky:
 I will take it to mean some being who is not bound by the same patterns we perceive in the universe, who is by our standards extremely powerful (not necessarily omnipotent, although that would count), and in some way plays a crucial role in the universe (creating it, or keeping it going, etc.). By a ”being” I mean to imply an entity which we would recognize as having consciousness — a ”person” in some appropriately generalized sense (as opposed to a feature of reality, or some sort of feeling). [6]
He even be bothered to do light reading on modern concepts of God. He's choosing a straw God. There are two major theories about God since the 20th century: (1) Process theology which sees
God as impersonal, dipolar (consisting of a concrete pole in which God is part of the temporal process and a potential pole incehi9ch God is transcendent of time and change). The major thinkers involved in process thought are Alfred North Whitehead who helped Bertrand Russell with Principia Mathematicus, and Charles Hartshorne who brought back the modal argument.[7] The second major theory is the phenomenological ontology of Paul Tillich and the notion that God is the ground of being or being itself. In that view, which is embraced by many major theologians and Vatican  II, God is no0t impersonal but transcends our concept of personhood. In the theology Tillich
god is not "a being' and that Carroll uses that phrase shows not only theological illiteracy but is a major error in Tillichian terms.

The God of theological theism is a being beside others and as such part of the whole of reality. He certainly is considered its most important part, but as a part and therefore subject to the structure of the whole. He is supposed to be beyond the ontological elements and categories which constitute reality. But every statement subjects him to them. He is seen as a self which has a world, as an ego which is related to a thou, as a cause which is separated from its effect as having a definite space and an endless time. He is a being not being itself. As such he is bound to the subject/object structure of reality, he is an object for us as subjects and this decisive for the necessity of transcending theological theism. [8]

(3) Ignores other kinds of questions and other ways of answering them (other kinds of knowledge)

Religion is predicated upon answering the I=big questions, why am I hear, is there meaning in life, Is there a God. These questions are beyond science because they are only tangentially reflated to the workings of the physical world. While science does shed light on aspect's of them it cannot answer them. Hans Urs Von Balthasar (1905-1988) (Swiss Catholic Theologian)is an example of another major theologian who supported ideas about God as being itself and also asked major questions of this type.Balthasar’s overall theological project centers upon the dualities between human conflict with ourselves and our place in being. Examples of the dualities that fascinate Balthasar include: our own contingency and that of the world around us in contrast to the sense of being itself. Our place in being, science can't asked if the question  makes sense.One must do philosophy just to reject it. Balthasar was very emphatic about the personal nature of God [9]
Von Balthasar

Balthasar example of both the sophisticated view of Go0d and the kind of question science can't answer.

(4) Ignores direct counter evidence such as miracles and religious experience.

part 2: A Medical Historian Searches Vatican
Medical historian Jaclyn Duffin finds evidence of miracles
and resurrection searching the Vatican archives. The Empircal
Supernatuarl is not about miracles but mystical experience. Yet
there is evidence that "supernatural effects" my include miracles.[10]
part 3: Medical Historians examine Lourdes Miracles.
In peer reviewed academic journal, medical histoirans find Lourdes
miracles still unexplained.[11]
Of courser the materialists will complain that these things aren't real. They are part of the description of the universe and since there are no physical laws for them to violate the only real argument against them materialists can muster is "I have not see  this," I have, thus materialism does not offer a complete view.

[1] Sean Carroll, "Why (Almost All) Cosmologists are Atheists;" On line resource, Prepared for God and Physical Cosmology: Russian-Anglo American Sean M. CarrollConference on Cosmology and Theology, Notre Dame, January/February 2003. Published in Faith and Philosophy 22, 622 (2005). See also the pdf version. URL:  accessed Feb 12, 2016.
Carroll is at the California Institute of Technology.

[2] Alan Sokal Social Text #46/47, pp. 217-252 (spring/summer 1996).

In the 1996 physicist Alan Sokal embarrassed post modernists by making silly statements such as "physicists no longer think in terms of a world beyond our own minds." The idea that there is no time's arrow or cause and effects the kind of nonsense of which  his parody consisted, The Postmodern began using it as back up then he srung the

[3] Joe Hinman.. "Physical laws: Beyond the prescriptive/descriptive dichotomy,: Religious a priori
no date, Link

[4] Brian Ellis, in Sankey, op cit, “Caual Powers and Laws of Nature” 19-34

[5] Chakravartty, Anjan, "Scientific Realism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .

[6] Carroll op. cit.

[7] Donald Viney, "Process Theism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <>.

[8] Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be. London and Glasgow: Collins, the Fontana library 1974, ninth impression. First published by Nisbet, 1952, 178.

Also see my article "Paul Tillich and The Personal God" Metacrock's Blog, March 14, 2011, URL:

[9] Joel Graver, “a Short Biography,” website:Hans Urs Von Balthasar, an Internet Archieve. URL sighted: (visited 12/3/10).

also see my article "Hans Urs Von Balthasar: Being Itself and The Personal God." Metacrock's Blog
March 12, 2014

[10] Joseph Hinman, "Medical Miracles: Doctors, Saints and Healing: Medical Miracles in the Modern World. ,"  Religious a priori an online resource for Christian apologetics. no dater4

[11] Ibid., "Medical Historians Agree Lourdes Cures are Unexplainable,"

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Are all Cosmologists Atheists? Answering Sean Carroll (1)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

In the previous post I commented on Sean Carroll, astro-physicist and atheist soldier who wave the banner of scientism. He writes an article:Why (Almost All) Cosmologists are Atheists [1] Actually, he offers no data on the views of cosmologists. I offered reasons in the previous post as to why I think the title here is hyperballe. Good data shows that the majority of scientists believe in God [2]  While it may not be true of cosmologists I have no reason to believe it is not. But this is not the real issue. he real issue is that Carroll's arguments are merely ideological/ all he's doing is imposing a naturalistic ideology upon epistemology and then insisting that he has the mystique of science to back  it up. In other word it's just propaganda.

Let's start with his conclusion:

The question we have addressed is, ”Thinking as good scientists and observing the world in which we live, is it more reasonable to conclude that a materialist or theist picture is most likely to ultimately provide a comprehensive description of the universe?” Although I don’t imagine I have changed many people’s minds, I do hope that my reasoning has been clear. We are looking for a complete, coherent, and simple understanding of reality.
That seems ok so far but here's where he wants to wind up:

 Given what we know about the universe, there seems to be no reason to invoke God as part of this description. In the various ways in which God might have been judged to be a helpful hypothesis — such as explaining the initial conditions for the universe, or the particular set of fields and couplings discovered by particle physics — there are alternative explanations which do not require anything outside a completely formal, materialist description. I am therefore led to conclude that adding God would just make things more complicated, and this hypothesis should be rejected by scientific standards. It’s a venerable conclusion, brought up to date by modern cosmology; but the dialogue between people who feel differently will undoubtedly last a good while longer.

The problem is "what we know" means what we know by the methods that I choose, those methods are chosen because they yield the results I want; other forms of  knowledge I do not have to regard. He argues for a self contained paradigm and true to Thomas Kun's theory he absorbs anomalies into the paradigm so as not to admit that they are contradictions and he defends the paradigm like a political regime. My overall argument is that his rejection of theism is ideological not scientific.

In his abstract to the article he makes his purpose clear, that purpose I to rule out belief in God by moving it of the map as an issue. The way to do that is to assert science's role as the only form of knowlege:
Science and religion both make claims about the fundamental workings of the universe. Although these claims are not a priori incompatible (we could imagine being brought to religious belief through scientific investigation), I will argue that in practice they diverge. If we believe that the methods of science can be used to discriminate between fundamental pictures of reality, we are led to a strictly materialist conception of the universe. While the details of modern cosmology are not a necessary part of this argument, they provide interesting clues as to how an ultimate picture may be constructed. [emphasis mine] [3]
Why would we be led to be led to a meticulously materialist view just because we believe that the methods of science can be used to discriminate between fundamental views? It sounds like he is saying that science can determine the truth between differing views. He actually says ifwe believe that it can He's aware that it can't. He knows all he's really doing is just advocating an ideological view point that blinds itself to other possibilities.

As further evidence of his commitment as a solider of atheism he opposes any sort of peaceful coexistence between science and religion:

One increasingly hears rumors of a reconciliation between science and religion. In major news magazines as well as at academic conferences, the claim is made that that belief in the success of science in describing the workings of the world is no longer thought to be in conflict with faith in God. I would like to argue against this trend, in favor of a more old-fashioned point of view that is still more characteristic of most scientists, who tend to disbelieve in any religious component to the workings of the universe.[4]

He disavows any claim to statistical accuracy in the title saying, "The title ''Why cosmologists are atheists'' was chosen ...simply to bring attention to the fact that I am presenting a common and venerable point of view, not advancing a new and insightful line of reasoning." [5] That's a new one, I can make false claims about support because I don't mean them and somehow the fact that I'm advocating traditional views guarantees it's veracity. Talk about propaganda! This "common and venerable view" is outmoded and has been left behind by many in scientific circles. Stpehen J, Guild with his non overlapping magisteria found peace with religion by recognizing that religion and science have different purposes.[6] The National Science Teachers Association echos the same concept that science and religion cover differing domains of knowledge. “Explanations involving non-naturalistic or supernatural events, whether or not explicit reference is made to a supernatural being, are outside the realm of science and not part of a valid scientific curriculum.” [7]

"Essentially I will be defending a position that has come down to us from the Enlightenment, and which has been sharpened along the way by various advances in scientific understanding. In particular, " No scientific understanding has ruled out God. He's appealing to tradition and the emotional investment he's made in enlightenment thinking. "Since very early on, religion has provided a certain way of making sense of the world -- a reason why things are the way they are." I suspect that what he means by that is that religion offered an explanation of the workings of the physical world, such as the river floods because God is mad at us. I have a hard time thinking that Carroll really has a conception of what religion is about.  part of what I base that upon is the the things he thinks beat it out:
In modern times, scientific explorations have provided their own pictures of how the world works, ones which rarely confirm the pre-existing religious pictures. Roughly speaking, science has worked to apparently undermine religious belief by calling into question the crucial explanatory aspects of that belief; it follows that other aspects (moral, spiritual, cultural) lose the warrants for their validity. I will argue that this disagreement is not a priori necessary, but nevertheless does arise as a consequence of the scientific method,

Of course before one can say "X has overcome Y" she/he must know what Y is about. Since science doesn't talk about existential or phenomenological matters one cam only conclude that he must think religion is about explaining where the sun came from and why it rains. This especially so since view he is juxtaposing is cosmology. So he must think that understanding the nature of reality is jus a matter of understanding the cosmic layout, planets and stars.
The essence of materialism is to model the world as a formal system, which is both unambiguous and complete as a description of reality. A materialist model may be said to consist of four elements. First, we model the world as some formal (mathematical) structure. (General relativity describes the world as a curved manifold with a Lorentzian metric, while quantum mechanics describes the world as a state in some Hilbert space.
Complete as a description of reality? That assumes of course that your methods are up to the task of probing all of reality. He speaks of a complete description and yet look at all that he leaves out/, First I refer the reader to my recent essay "can science prove the basis of modern physics?" [8] How can he claim a complete description when it can't tell us what the basic building blocks are made out of? Materialism has to rule out miracles. It will rule them out as a matter of course. That is an ideological imperative. Then in a move of pure circular reasoning it will appeal to it's own authority in declaring miracles to be scientifically disproved. All that really means is that they conflict with the ideological scheme of things. Miracles are a part of my reality. They are paert of other people's observations and have been documented scientifically.[9] [10]Any description of the universe that rules them out without genuinely disproving them is incomplete. Then of course there are issues of phenomenological and existential import.


[1] Sean M. Carroll, "Why (Almost All) Cosmologists are Atheists;" On line resource, Prepared for God and Physical Cosmology: Russian-Anglo American Conference on Cosmology and Theology, Notre Dame, January/February 2003. Published in Faith and Philosophy 22, 622 (2005). See also the pdf version. URL:  accessed Feb 12, 2016.

Carroll is at the California Institute of Technology.

[2] Neil Gross and Solon Simmons, “How Religious Are America's College and University Professors.” SSRC, (published feb. 2007), PDF URL, accessed 9/4/15 The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association for the Sociology of Religion.

They present a bar graph that show about 35% professor's ar elite research universities believe in God with no doubt. About 27% believe but sometimes have doubts. About 38% are atheists. That actually means that 60% are not atheists. True that's not cosmologists but there is good reason to think the majority of cosmologists are not atheists. The most atheistic groups in the study were psychologists (61%), biologists (about 61%), and mechanical engineers (50%), not physicists (among whose ranks cosmologists number). Contrary to popular Opinion, atheists and agnostics do not comprise a majority of professors..."

[3] Carroll, op. cit.

[4] Ibid. "Introduction."

[5] Ibid. all further quotes by Carroll are from this article.

[6]  Stephen Jay Gould. Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life. New York: Ballantine Books. ,2002,

[7] Statement on Teaching Evolution, National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT). Adopted by the NABT Board of Directors on March 15, 1995. no page given, in Three Statememts in Support of Teaching Evolution From Science and Science Education Organizations, A National Science Teachers Association Position Statement (see fn 4) online URL (accesed 1/26/2016)

[8] Joe Hinman, Can Science prove the basis of modern Physics?" Metacrock's blog, Feb. 1, 2016, URL: accessed 2/14/16.
[9] Bernard Francis et al, “The Lourdes Medical Cures Re-visited,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Oxford: Oxford University Press. (10.1093/jhmas/jrs041) 2012 pdf downloaded SMU page 1-28  all the page numbers given are from pdf

Bernard Francis is former professor Emeritus of medicine, Unversite Claude Bernard Lyon. Elisabeth Sternberg taught at National Institute of Mental Health and The National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland. Elisabeth Fee was at National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

[10] Jacalyn Duffin, Medical Miracles: Doctors, Saints and Healing: Medical Miracles in the Modern World. Oxford University Press; 1 edition (November 21, 2008

from Bio on
 Jacalyn Duffin, M.D. (Toronto 1974), FRCP(C) (1979), Ph.D. (Sorbonne 1985), is Professor in the Hannah Chair of the History of Medicine at Queen's University in Kingston where she has taught in medicine, philosophy, history, and law for more than twenty years. A practicing hematologist, a historian, a mother and grandmother, she has served as President of both the American Association for the History of Medicine and the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine. She holds a number of awards and honours for research, writing, service, and teaching. She is the author of five books, editor of two anthologies, and has published many research articles. Her most recent book is an analysis of the medical aspects of canonization, Medical Miracles; Doctors, Saints, and Healing in the Modern World, Oxford University Press, 2009. It was awarded the Hannah Medal of the Royal Society of Canada...

See also Doxa. miracles pages