The Amazing Atheist vs. Aquinas: Conclusion

Welcome everyone to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve spent the past few days looking at the YouTuber known as The Amazing Atheist and seeing how badly he misrepresents the arguments of Thomas Aquinas. For the sake of argument, Aquinas could still be wrong, but we can definitely say that TAA is wrong in how he presents the arguments. Today, we’re going to look at this and say “What did go wrong?” and “Why waste your time dealing with someone on YouTube?”

Where did this guy go wrong? To begin with, he’s one of those who thinks that just reading the text is always enough. In modern times, that can happen since we all know the culture and language. When reading a work from another culture and in another language, more study is needed. It could be other reading or talking to a teacher in the topic. I also believe the same is true of the Bible. We will without further understanding read our own culture and meaning of words back into the text.

As a Thomist, I can tell that TAA does not understand the arguments because he raises up objections that show a lack of familiarity. For instance, to say that Aquinas was unaware that existence is the basis for all things is to show supreme ignorance of Aquinas, whose whole metaphysical system was built on existence and its relation to God.

To understand the arguments, you need to know Aquinas’s view of metaphysics and his epistemology. You need to understand Aristotle as well seeing as Aquinas based his system on that of Aristotle. Does this mean a mastery of the topics? No. Not at all. All of us are still growing in knowledge. However, you need to understand that when Aquinas says motion, he means what Aristotle would mean by motion and not by what a post-Cartesian would mean.

Other examples of the ignorance of TAA include the replacing of God with blueberry muffins. At least the so-called Flying Spaghetti Monster would be a creature who would possess intellect. That TAA thinks you can easily replace God with such a concept is quite revealing. Also, he makes the statement often made about an infinite regress. Aquinas deals with this in Question 46. Does this mean I expect TAA to have read the whole Summa? No. However, an interaction also with those who are Thomists prior to his making a video would have cleared it up for him. Instead, TAA makes a video on a topic he does not know anything about thinking that a cursory reading of Aquinas is enough.

Not one Thomist out there would be convinced by this video. Even Anthony Kenny, an atheist who frequently takes on Aquinas’s arguments, would have told TAA that he didn’t know what he was talking about. Well if no Thomist would be convinced, why bother spending a week dealing with the guy?

Because others will be. At a check just now, the video has 67.358 views. No other video I see after that in response comes anywhere near that. Only one that I see crosses 1,000 and I’m not even sure if it’s really a response to that video as much as someone saying he doesn’t care about TAA. Now it could be a lot of those views are strong Christians coming back to debate on YouTube. However, it could be those who are not.

Some of you who are parents might say “Well my son would not search for a video by TAA.” No. Maybe not. However, he could go on YouTube to hear a song by a favorite Christian band and off in the related links section see a video calling into question some aspect of Christianity. He clicks that one out of curiosity and then if he’s further intrigued, like a porn addiction, starts clicking more and more and eventually finds his way to TAA.

If such a boy is uninformed in his faith, as too many are, myself included at that age, then he will not be prepared and will think “Wow. This is supposed to be my champion and this guy has no fear of him whatsoever and he seems to be making some good points!” In reality, the young boy has never read Aquinas and probably never will and will not seek out a counter-response.

There are also the atheists who are watching that video who will think that Aquinas has been dealt with by TAA and they themselves will never read the saint. This is also the case with Dawkins’s hideous treatment of the arguments in “The God Delusion.” I recall at this automatically the person who told me that David Hume had refuted Aquinas by asking the question “Who made God?” If anyone thinks this is a refutation to Aquinas, they only reveal their ignorance. It’s tantamount in his system to asking “Who made existence?”

Thus, I have written this series in the hopes that we will learn what to do more and why it matters. Be ready to research the other side. I frequently debate atheists, but I also have numerous books by atheists that I read. When Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons come to my door, I want to make sure that I not only know my arguments, but that I also know theirs, and I want to know their arguments better than they do. I want to know them so well that if I had to, I could argue for them myself.

Be willing to learn. Most of us don’t have that. We want to act in public as if we’ve read everything and know everything. I assure you Christian, just pick your favorite apologist. That person is still learning. They are still reading. There are still areas they’re studying and things that they do not know. They may be further along in their studies, but they are still studying. As I’ve said, my own writings on Aquinas will be further refined over the years as I learn more and seek to learn even more.

That could require going to a bookstore or a library, and I would prefer you do those instead of relying exclusively on the internet. If you have to, go to a college and take a course on the matter. A Seminary could offer a course on Thomas Aquinas that you could benefit from.

Be sure that education is going on, especially of your children, since unbelief is so pervasive on the internet. Statistics indicate that most children when they leave home, leave the faith also. You don’t want yours to be one of them. Don’t assume basic Sunday School is enough to equip them. It isn’t. Get good books and teach them the arguments and how to think and always allow them to doubt and to question. Do not punish either doubts or questions. Our faith is to be open to the hardest of inquiry. If you punish your child for doubting and questioning, fearing that you will not answer them, that says more about your view of your faith rather than the faith itself.

When you see what is going on in the atheist community with people like this, be ready to take a stand. Now for those who have never debated before, expect to get your tail kicked some. It will happen. Only take that as an incentive to study more. Feel free also to point people like TAA to blogs like this. (I would still love a chance to debate TAA on TheologyWeb on either of the five ways of his choice)

What we have in the video of TAA is tripe that ought to be convincing nobody, but unfortunately several will be convinced. Take a stand today. It is a stand for truth, and it is the truth that will last in the face of any objection. Aquinas told us that since Christianity is true, there can be no objection that disproves it. I believe he was right. Do you? Then live accordingly.

The Amazing Atheist vs. Aquinas: The Third Way

Welcome everyone to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve spent a lot of time lately looking at the YouTuber known as “The Amazing Atheist” and his review of the five ways of Thomas Aquinas. Tonight, we’re going to look at the “job” that he did on the third way and see how lacking it is.

First, his summation of the argument.

#1-Contingent things exist.
#2-Each contingent thing has a time at which it fails to exist. Contingent things are not omnipresent.
#3-So if everything were contingent, there would be a time when nothing would exist, call this an empty time.
#4-That empty time would have been in the past.
#5-If the world were empty at one time, it would be empty forever, a conservation principle.
#6-So if everything were contingent, nothing would exist now.
#7-But clearly the world is not empty
#8-So clearly there exists a being who is not contingent.
#9-Hence God exists.

Let’s see what Aquinas himself says:

The third way is taken from possibility and necessity, and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence — which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.

What Aquinas means by the possibility of to be and not to be is that such objects contain within themselves the potentiality of corruption and can corrupt to the point where they cease to be, that is, cease to be as they are. Keep in mind that for Aquinas, matter only exists when it is combined with form to make substance.

Aquinas says that that which is possible not to be is at some point not. What does he mean? He means that if anything has within it inherently such corruption, it was not at one time as it was depending on another to bring it into being. It is very important to learn what these terms mean and again, I refer the reader to Feser’s guide for an excellent treatment of the five ways.

Aquinas tells us that if all things were like this, there would be a time when there was nothing. Why? Remember Aquinas is open to a universe without a beginning. What he means then is that given infinite time, every potentiality would happen. We cannot speak of an infinite amount of time and that which is possible not happening.

Thus, since everything that is contingent in this way depends on something else bringing it into existence, then there must be something that is not contingent. At this point, the modern atheist can often think “Ah! Well let us suppose the universe is necessary! The third way is refuted!”

Well, no.

Note that Aquinas says that every necessary thing either has its necessity in something else or not. Why? How much sense does this make? What Aquinas means by necessary however is not what modern philosophers mean by talk of possible worlds. What he means is everlasting. As long as something has been, this has been.

Could it be that the universe is the end of the deal then? No. That is because the universe contains matter and matter cannot be the end deal. Matter is pure potential and as was said, it has actuality by being combined with form to make a substance. We could not say the substance is what has always been either because substances are always coming and going out of existence.

Thus, if matter is everlasting, it has to be combined with something else and that combination does not come from itself or it would be the cause of its own coming into existence, which is nonsense.

Now The Amazing Atheist thinks that what Aquinas has forgotten is existence. He tells us about the equipment necessary to make a YouTube video and then says that if you have a hard drive, you can bring back those items that are needed to make a video into existence. Existence itself is the hard drive. It is the universe that is used.

In saying this, he makes the universe the necessary being, which we have said won’t work, but even more embarrassingly, he reveals that he has not read Aquinas at all since he says that Aquinas is unaware of existence as the fallback position. In reality, being, that is, existence as existence, was the central doctrine of Thomistic thought. Only someone completely uneducated on Thomistic thought would make such a basic mistake.

Of course, The Amazing Atheist also gives the same canard of “Well why can’t it be a simple particle? Why must it be a complex God!” This one has been made by Richard Dawkins as well and when someone advances this argument seriously, you can rest assured they have not really read theology and they definitely do not understand Thomistic arguments.

As we said with Dawkins when we reviewed “The God Delusion” and as we said when we reviewed the simplicity of God in the Summa Theologica, if someone will simply read on ahead in the Summa, they will find that this is the very next doctrine God deals with. God is not complex in his being, but rather He is simple. People like The Amazing Atheist and Richard Dawkins and others assume a more materialistic understanding of God which goes against what Aquinas believes. Now you can say Aquinas is wrong in His concept of God, but you must give a reason why his philosophy on this matter is. Aquinas gives arguments for God’s simplicity based on his doctrine of being. Why are they wrong?

Honestly, in listening to this part of the video, I had to laugh when The Amazing Atheist made the statement about existence. Let this be a reminder as we will see later on this week that one really needs to understand the points one criticizes, lest one publicly embarrass themselves.

Tomorrow, we shall examine the fourth way.

The Amazing Atheist On Aquinas: The First Way

Welcome everyone to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’re spending our time now looking at a video by “The Amazing Atheist” where he thinks he’s debunked Aquinas. Last time, we laid down a preliminary and then noted how TAA thinks that he’s smarter than Aquinas by an order of magnitude. (That’s not me saying it. He says it himself in his video of “Thomas Aquinas Sucks.” Be warned he does use profanity.)

Having laid a background for our study, we are now going to see how badly TAA does not understand them.

Let’s look at how he summarizes the first argument.

#1-objects are in motion.
#2-If something is in motion, then it must be caused to be in motion by something outside of itself.
#3-There can be no infinite chain of movers/movees
#4-So there is a first unmoved mover.
#5-Therefore, God exists.

Before we go on then, let’s see if this is a fair summary. Here is what Aquinas himself says in the Summa Theologica.

The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

Aquinas calls this the argument from motion. Remember that as we said yesterday, motion is the actualizing of potential. Aquinas says that our senses tell us that some objects are in motion. What is he getting at? For one thing, he’s making it clear that he needs something itself that is not part of the problem, something that is not being actualized. Second, he is dealing with the problem raised by Parmenides centuries before. How can change be possible? Parmenides was a monist who did not believe in the reality of change.

For instance, imagine something existing. How does it change? Does it change by being or by non-being? It cannot change by non-being, because non-being is nothing and nothing cannot change something. It cannot change by being because that would mean that being is changing into being. Aquinas’s answer to this ultimately was that there were degrees of being whereby things change.

Aquinas also starts with the senses because for Aquinas, knowledge begins with sense experience. He also does this since he is doing natural theology. He is not wanting to say at this point “Well the Bible says such and such.” This is what someone was to use when interacting with the person who did not accept Scripture.

For Aquinas, the putting of something into motion is due to the recipient’s potentiality, whereas putting something into motion is based on the agent’s actuality. The only way something can pass something on to something else is if that something somehow has the power to cause the effect.

You will not freeze something by putting it in fire because fire does not have the power to produce cold. Fire does have the power to produce heat. Two sticks being rubbed together also have the power to produce heat. God has within Himself the power to produce fire if need be as well. Thus, something must exist in the agent actualizing the potential either formally, based on its form, or as is sometimes said “virtually.”

Aquinas also says something cannot be something in actuality and potentiality both in the same sense. Now of course something could be hot and be potentially hotter, but it cannot be both hot in actuality and potentially hot. If it is hot, it is hot. Something cannot be both light and dark at the same time and in the same sense. This is simply the Law of Noncontradiction at work.

In reviewing how TAA describes this argument, he says nothing about what motion is and I have no reason to think that he has any clue how Aquinas refers to motion. One could speak of Newton’s laws of motion, but remember that Newton is speaking as a physicist and about how matter moves, and while Aquinas’s ways can include that, they do not limit themselves to only that.

This is a mistake many modern critics make as they go from metaphysics to physics and think that they’re disputing the metaphysics of Aquinas by arguing physics. Consider it part of the mistaken image that we have that because someone is a scientist, they are automatically an authority on anything that they comment on.

TAA is willing to grant his first and second premises listed above. The problem comes when he objects to the third premise in his way of looking at the argument. This is dealing with the infinite regress.

To begin with, he does not refer to the kind of infinity he is dealing with. TAA’s statement is simply “How does he know? We’re still trying to understand it today.” This is not an objection however. For one thing, it is a certainty as far as I’m concerned that TAA has never read Question 46 of the Prima Pars of the Summa which we pointed to yesterday to understand the kind of infinite regress that Aquinas speaks of.

Why does TAA not mention the two kinds of regresses that Aquinas knew of? It is because he does not know about them. In my last post, I referred to a number of works that one could read to further understand Aquinas. It is likely that TAA knows nothing of any of these people. One would hope he would at least read Anthony Kenny, an atheist critic of Aquinas, and get some idea of better arguments against Aquinas. (Although better is not saying much in this case)

We move on to step four where he says that this one is ridiculous since it contradicts the so-called second premise. What is ridiculous really is thinking that no great thinker throughout the ages who looked at Aquinas’s arguments failed to notice such a thing. In reality, TAA has made a simple mistake that most atheists make when attacking the horizontal cosmological argument. (Remember, this guy is supposed to be smarter than Aquinas by a magnitude)

When you read atheists, their literature will often say that the Kalam argument states that everything that exists has a cause. No Christian writer I know of defends such a premise. They say that everything that begins to exist has a cause. That which exists by nature does not need a cause.

TAA is making the same kind of argument here. Aquinas is talking about an unmoved mover. The unmoved mover is that which is not put into motion as it does not have any potential. This is a being of pure actuality. There is no contradiction as the argument talks about that which is put into motion and not that which is in motion by nature.

As for unmoved, this means unmoved by another. God is the most moving of all because it is by Him that all actuality is possible and he is the fundamental mover. Note Aquinas does not need God to be a first mover chronologically as he is open to a past without a beginning. Note also that TAA refers to the infinite chain again, the chain that he does not know about.

It is no shock that TAA refers to Aquinas as some moron living in the 13th century with no concept of modern science. Again, this is a problem that is frequently made as a metaphysical argument is made to be a physical argument. This is a sad condition many scientists get themselves into in that they can only think about something in scientific terms.

When TAA comes to the conclusion, he asks that even if we accepted everything before, why is it God. Why can’t it be a blueberry muffin?

And I thought the Flying Spaghetti Monster idea was dumb.

To begin with, a blueberry muffin is a material object and that which has some material component to its being always has potential to its being. Also, keep in mind that in order for something to actualize potential, it must exist in the agent actualizing either formally or virtually. Could the TAA tell me what actualizing he expects a blueberry muffin to do?

At least the Flying Spaghetti Monster would be an agent that could supposedly act of its own volition seeing as all living things are soulish to some degree. Plants have a soul that can take in nutrients. Animals have that power plus that of movement. Humans have those powers plus those of rationality. All other beings that are not soulish depend on something else entirely for their movement.

For TAA, a blueberry muffin sounds more plausible than God since he’s seen a blueberry muffin. I’ve also seen blueberry muffins, but I’ve never seen a blueberry muffin capable of creating a universe or capable of actualizing potential or possessing pure actuality. Maybe TAA has a recipe for blueberry muffins he needs to share.

Of course, we could say that if we are basing this on only objects we’ve seen, then we will need to throw out much of science since no one has ever seen many particles that we say are absolutely essential to the functioning of our universe. Does TAA think we need to replace those with blueberry muffins?

TAA says he has never seen God however. So what? Since God is not material in nature according to Thomistic thought, then of course God will not be seen. We only see God in an analogical sense. One will see God much the same way one sees that 2 + 2 = 4. How did we ever get to the point of “I’ve never seen God” somehow counts as an argument?

I conclude that TAA, again, does not have a clue about the arguments he critiques. Of course, he is more than welcome to come to TheologyWeb and challenge me on this if he disagrees.