Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 17

Does atheism have a case with evolutionary computation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re continuing our look today at the work of Glenton Jelbert. We’re still on the science section which many of you know is not my forte. On this chapter, I cannot comment much because I do not claim to understand the science. What I will comment on is a couple of claims that Jelbert makes that I think can be worth discussing.

Jelbert does rightly say that a goal is central to biological evolution. The goal in biological evolution is the passing along of genes with the end result being reproduction, survival, and food. Jelbert in the chapter says he puts the word goal in quotation marks because goal implies an intent.

The fascinating thing about this is that this is something that fits exactly in line with classical theism. When classical theists talk about teleology, they do not mean intelligent design. Instead, what they mean is that things do indeed act towards an end. This does not mean rational things or divine things. It means anything that is created acts toward an end.

Edward Feser gives a summation of what this means here. Too many atheists will be too quick to jump on their own assumptions. Feser tells us we have to drop everything we’ve heard from the modern ID movement and just look at the argument of Aquinas for what it means to him, not understood in light of modern ideas of teleology. I leave it to the reader to go through Feser’s article as he explains it much better than I can and those intrigued can get his books.

What this means then is that if we have a goal in evolution, then we have a basis for the existence of God. This does not mean that evolution is some entity that has this intent in mind. It just means that if creatures tend to, all things being equal, act toward a certain end, then there is a reasonable case for theism.

At the end of the chapter then, we get to another claim of Jelbert’s that bears relation to this. Jelbert is right that the removal of biological evolution would not require the acceptance of a creator. I agree. One could be an atheist even before Darwin. On the other hand, the acceptance of biological evolution does not require the negation of a creator. (If this is so, and I am sure it is, it makes me wonder why we’re arguing this so much.)

Yet Jelbert says something problematic when he says that Robert J. Marks II, his opponent in this chapter, has not connected a creator to any specific claims theists make, then he has not established theism. At this, he is definitely wrong. Suppose we could take the classical arguments like Aristotle did and establish there is some sort of deity, which is what Aristotle did. Even if we don’t know the nature of this deity in connection to an established world religion, we still have a deity. It seems to be a bizarre universe in which we can say a deity exists and atheism is true. Establishing theism does not mean establishing an Abrahamic religion. It means establishing theism. Establishing theism is necessary to showing an Abrahamic religion is true, but it’s not sufficient. Still, it is sufficient in itself to refute atheism.

We’ll deal with chapter 19 when we return.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: The Last Superstition

What do I think of this book by Edward Feser? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

TheLastSuperstition

As I finished this book, I must say I was disappointed.

I was thoroughly disappointed since I knew that when I went on Amazon I could only give it five stars. Just five! If only I could have somehow doubled that number!

Now that doesn’t mean I agree with everything Feser says. I don’t think he would even want me to after just a read of his book, but I do think he argues his case very well and quite humorously. As a Protestant Thomist, there are differences, but with much of his philosophy and metaphysics I am right there on his side.

Feser is quite angry in this volume, and he has all right to be. The new atheists are a symptom of the way that our thinking is going downhill. It is not because we are becoming more scientific. No no no. That is all well and good. There is no problem with that. It is because we are becoming more and more anti-philosophical.

This despite the fact that there are some philosophers amongst the new atheists. Yet when they do any philosophy, the results are atrocious. It would have been interesting to see what Feser would have written had “The Grand Design” come out already and there had been a response to Hawking saying “Philosophy is dead.”

With this anti-philosophical bias coming in, we are rapidly losing our ability to think well and becoming a more and more immoral people. Feser also ties this in with the cultural acceptance of redefining marriage and also about how he considers abortion one of the most wicked of all evils.

Feser also brings in some strong polemics to this. Why? He is responding to the new atheists with what they have been dishing out and it adds a nice punch to the work. It’s hard to not be amused when you read that Richard Dawkins would not know metaphysics from Metamucil or that Daniel Dennett should have realized that anyone walking around saying “I’m a bright!” looks like an idiot. Also noteworthy is being told that the sophists are still with us today except they’re called lawyers, professors of literary criticism, and Michael Moore.

Surprising to most atheists will be the bare interaction with Scripture or church tradition that Feser has. The only place I recall Scripture being used is in a section talking about the resurrection. This is really the only place in the book that emphasizes Christ as well. Why is there so little mention of Christ and Scripture? Because Feser is showing that if all you have is just the tools of reason, you still have more than enough reason to hold to the existence of God and deal with the new atheism. It could be that Christianity is false and the new atheists are still wrong after all.

Readers of this book will also see a sustained argument that gives you a brief history of philosophy and why people like Parmenides, Heraclitus, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas matter. Feser throughout the work shows that the arguments of the new atheism do not hold water and also lack explanatory scope.

Feser also argues that the teleology that Aristotle says exists in reality is inescapable and the more we deny it, the more and more absurd that we become, including describing a couple known as the Churchlands. This is a pair of philosophers who are husband and wife and wish to speak of us as material beings entirely and I mean entirely.

““She said, ‘Paul, don’t speak to me, my serotonin levels have hit bottom, my brain is awash in glucocorticoids, my blood vessels are full of adrenaline, and if it weren’t for my endogenous opiates I’d have driven the car into a tree on the way home. My dopamine levels need lifting. Pour me a Chardonnay, and I’ll be down in a minute.’ ”

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/02/12/two-heads

Feser does point out that as the article says, the Churchlands claim to have shared a lot of Oxytocin over the years, yet I’m guessing this is a claim that doesn’t exactly scream romance. Although, it is humorous to imagine being in a singles bar and going up to a lady and saying “Hey babe. How would you like to have a little Oxytocin tonight?

Feser says that this will be the end result of the thinking of the new atheists. In the end, we will lose morality, we will lose free-will, and in fact, we will lose science itself.

If the new atheists have been looking for a powerful opponent, they have found one in Feser and one who can roll with the punches just as good as they do, if not better. Feser’s sharp wit and powerful argumentation provide a powerful counter to the new atheist movement.

If you want to read the best response I have seen to the new atheists, do yourself a favor and pick up this book. You won’t regret it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters