Friday, October 10, 2014

John Gideon Hartnett is Wrong about the Greeks

1) St Thomas' Theory of Our Knowledge of Things - Q 84 in a Nutshell, 2) John Gideon Hartnett is Wrong about the Greeks

Relevant paragraph:

In thinking on the nature of the universe and our existence within it, the Greeks developed the philosophies of rationalism and empiricism, two different approaches they believed could determine truth from the world. The former involved deduction, and the latter, induction. No reference to a Creator God was considered relevant.

Definition list
as per his footnotes.
The view that reason is the primary source of knowledge.
The view that sensory experience is the primary source of knowledge.
A type of reasoning in which one starts with specific premises or statements to reach a logically certain conclusion (provided the premises are true); also known as ‘top-down’ logic. This enables one, for instance to start with the general statements of natural law and draw conclusions from them which are certain.
A type of reasoning in which, broadly speaking, particular instances are used to give rise to general principles, such as deriving natural laws from experimental observations. Also known as ‘bottom-up’ logic, the conclusions of inductive reasoning may be highly probable but do not have the certainty ascribed to deduction (e.g. one can observe many particular examples of black crows, but concluding from this that ‘all crows are black’ only requires observing one white crow to disprove it.) Note that in mathematics, induction means something else, and actually uses deductive logic.

The Schools were Pre-Socratics, divided ultimately in Panta Rhei crew ("everything changes")and Zenon ("change is always illusory"), Socratics-Platonists ("the changing reality is a shadow of an eternal one"), Aristotelians ("change is partial"), Epicureans ("change is local rearrangement of atoms"), Stoics ("be thou unchanging in changing circumstances!").

The only outright atheists were the Epicureans, they were also vastly popular along with Stoics - who were basically Pantheists in Cosmology and Pharisees in morals - around the time when St Paul warns against human philosophy. However, this was the Roman Empire.

One can say that rationalism and empiricism were first outlined among these schools, but not that they were two schools. Platonists were rather Rationalist and Aristotelians rather Empiricist when you compare the two. But neither was purely so to the exclusion of the other. And both used both Induction and Deduction.

Pitting Deduction and Induction against each other, claiming Science must be Empirical and Induction based as opposed to Scholasticism who were Rationalist and Deduction based dates to a far later quarrel - that of Bacon of Verulam against Scholasticism.

Socrates probably and Plato certainly believed in a one God who was also probably a Creator or possibly the God of a lower Creator entity - but still a divine one, as Greek concept of divinity goes.

Aristotle believed in a God upholding the Universe in Movement as its First Movement-Imposer, as its First Mover.

The real interesting things about them were not that they believed it, but that they argued rationally for these concepts - in absence of revelation being socially readily accessible (for those ignorant of or prejudiced against Jews).

Aristotle came later to believe that God would have no reason to Create, since the perfectly Blissful, lacking nothing, could have no motive.

But he still accepted there was God, though He did not attribute Creation to Him, but rather an Eternal Motivation of what is most alive in an Eternal World.

When we get to the Middle Ages, we see Aristotle gone really bad in Averroes. Eternal world, world soul, stoic errors. But we also see "Aristotle Baptised" in Sts Albert and Thomas of the Order of Preachers. First Mover, yes, every day God is turning the Universe around us, or rather a little faster than that, since the day is the rotation of the Sun which gets mostly along with that turning but actively lags behind - thanks to an angel moving it - to make it around the stars (along the zodiak) in one year.

The Modern Cosmologist, on the other hand is not so much the Ancient Greeks as Bacon and Newton gone bad. They motivate their anti-scholasticism, sometimes with Judaising anti-Greekness, sometimes with the pseudo-Greekness of Baconising Culture Historians. And amount to sophisticated versions of Sadducees and Epicureans.

The Bible has the answers and quite succinctly says …

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1).

No induction or deduction, just revelation alone.

For revelation to be accepted one has to make deductions. Like:

  • All Scripture is inspired by God.
  • It is written In the beginning God created heaven and earth.
  • Therefore, it is inspired by God, i e true, that In the beginning God created heaven and earth.


  • Whatever God revealed to Moses is true.
  • God revealed to Moses that In the beginning God created heaven and earth.
  • Therefore, it is true, that In the beginning God created heaven and earth.

Revelation also depends on inductions (which according to Aristotle aren't proving, but pointing out). A son leaves his father and comes back, a sheep gets lots, a coin gets lost from jewelry - not only will the father, the shepherd and the woman having lost the coin, when recovering the lost, be glad, they will make others rejoice with them. Hence, so it is with God before the angels - note this, Protestants! "Before the angels: By this it is plain that the spirits in heaven have a concern for us below, and a joy at our repentance and consequently a knowledge of it," said bishop Challoner - clearly an induction.

It is tiresome when Protestants rejecting Scholasticism try to tie down the origin of Atheism to "the old Greeks" who were admittedly roots of Scholasticism. It is tiresome because Atheism has more roots in Protestantism than in Atheism. It is tiresome because Atheists thinking they get the old Greeks better than Scholastics do remind so much of Protestants thinking they get Holy Scripture better than Catholics do, in both cases a usually debased version of an incorrect reconstruction proposes itself as a substitute for tradition - a correct one about Scripture and a corrected-by-Scripture one about philosophy. It is tiresome because they debase both thought and piety. And it gets very tiresome when they do it with an air of social superiority over those knowing better. Oh, of course they do take an air of knowing better too. It does not so much interest me as a track I might have missed, as fatigue me, like spam, when I come across it.

Is it a major point in favour of the Creationist cause, to which CMI is dedicated? No. Is it an underhand way of explaining to me why they are not publishing any of my creationist articles as long as I am a Catholic and a Thomist? Without of course risking to backhandedly recommend me to any reader by mentioning me? Now, being sure of that is much, but seeing it as possible, well, stranger things have happened with networks surrounding me in my life. Which of course makes it even more tiresome. Especially as this is one of the possible openings towards getting a living from my work that are being denied me. Of course, CMI is a ministry, according to their self understanding, I am not part of it, since I am Catholic. But they have already referred to Chesterton, who went Catholic, despite that fact and they have already also published material about Church Fathers from a non-member of their ministry, one South African. Benno Zuiddam by name.

They may hope I stay poor as long as I am no Protestant, and then hope I will become one when getting tired of poverty. And then become a Protestant. I hope that will not happen.

Or, for that matter, it may be they regard Galileo of Pisa and Kepler (whom Galileo regarded as an occultist for saying a force like magnetism from the sun kept planets in orbit, unless by chance O'Floinn - TOF - got it wrong) as sacrosanct, and they like towting their confusion between what Geocentric Catholic clergy did then and what Evolutionist Protestant clergy do now.

Especially as Andrew Sibley did repeat that point the very next day.

St Augustine was Young Earth Creationist and Geocentric. He was against hastily attributing to Scripture a sense which is not its own and which is against proven science.

I know Catholics (David Palm) who will take this latter point of his to mean we must not be Geocentric or Young Earth Creationist. For that matter, Protestants are often doing the same.

I know Catholics like myself who point out that as St Augustine was both Young Earth Creationist and Geocentric, and by the way his Geocentrism helps explanation of Creation week, he was very much not regarding either Old Earthism or Heliocentrism as proven scientific facts on the level of any triangle (if it is flat) having angles equalling together the two straight angles between two directions on a straight line.

CMI takes the rare distinction of combining the two approaches to St Augustine.

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.

All parts agree on this. But we do not all agree if this trumps his Geocentrism and Young Earth Creationism or whether these are more pertaining than this ultrafamous quote as to the subject matters and what St Augustine if on earth would think today and what he might be thinking from Heaven. CMI has now the rare distinction of saying it trumps his Geocentrism but not his Young Earth Creationism. Other Creationist who are not Geocentrics, i e the majority at the present moment or last time I could check about, would think equally about the matters, but usually do not bring in that quote from St Augustine.

Today, CMI did, and since St Augustine was a Geocentric, that is ironic.

On the other hand, it is ironic too when Robert Sungenis and Rick DeLano feel free to quote his geocentric passages extensively, but also to deny (or pretend they do not understand) the point about angelic movers or "all bodies if moved, are moved by the spirit of life". He did, agreeing with St Dionysius of the Areopagus and agreed with by Pope St Gregory, say that.

Sibley has the candour to state:

However, this historical sense allowed room for spiritual agents to act in time. For this reason Augustine’s literalist position does not correspond with the literalism of modern naturalistic science that excludes divine agency.

Now, even more so. To St Augustine spiritual agents are not just acting in time, but doing so on a rtegular basis. Otherwise, to him, nothing would be in movement. Ever, except perhaps a few stoneblocks falling as deep as they can just at beginning of time. Movement is dependent in spiritual agents, not just at miraculous occasions, but always.

But Andrew Sibley is also inaccurate about things.

Augustine recognized the existence of the Aristotelian fixed-earth position, but also noted that there were some Christians in his own time who held that the heavens were stationary, which suggested that the earth must move through the firmament. There were two theoretical views, but neither was properly demonstrated and he did not believe there was any need to spend time harmonizing Scripture with either of them.

The reference for this surprising statement is Augustine, De Genesi ad Litteram, 2.10.23. As we shall see, it is not earth, but stars, that move freely under firmament if it stands still. Even more, there is a connected minor question whether stars move closer to an axis only at the north or whether there is hidden from us (there is, by the bulge of the earth) another axis-point suggesting the firmament moving with the stars is sphaeric rather than discshaped:

De motu etiam caeli nonnulli fratres quaestionem mouent, utrum stet anne moueatur.   About the movement of heaven, pretty many brethren have moved the question, whether it stays [in place] or is moved.
[The emphases indicate that I think St Augustine might these days have been adding some words like "pun intended".]
Quia, si mouetur, inquiunt, quomodo firmamentum est? Si autem stat, quomodo sidera, quae in illo fixa creduntur, ab oriente usque ad occidentem circumeunt septentrionibus breuiores gyros iuxta cardinem peragentibus, ut caelum, si est alius nobis occultus cardo ex alio uertice, sicut sphaera, si autem nullus alius cardo est, uelut discus rotari uideatur.   Since, if it move, they say, how is it the firmament? But if it stays [in place], how is it that the stars, which are believed to be fixed on it, go around the Big Dipper doing shorter circles close to the axis, so that heaven seems to rotate, if there is another axis hidden from us from some vortex, as a sphere, but if there is no other axis, as a disc?
Quibus respondeo multum subtilibus et laboriosis rationibus ista perquiri, ut uere percipiatur, utrum ita an ita sit: quibus ineundis atque tractandis nec mihi iam tempus est nec illis esse debet, quos ad suam salutem et sanctae ecclesiae necessariam utilitatem cupimus informari.   To whom I answer that these things are investigated much by subtle and cumbersome reasonings, so as to really get, whether it be thus or thus: for which to get into and to treat, neither I have now the time, nor should be for these, whom we want to be informed, for their salvation and thenecessary utility of the Holy Church.

So, the unsolved cosmological question which St Augustine refused here to decide on was, is heaven moving as a whole, or are - as he suggests a bit later - just the stars moving under it? I have also refused to be doctrinal here. Except, of course, fix stars cannot be quite attached to the primum mobile if angelic movers of them are to account for the phenomena that Heliocentrics analyse as Parallax and Annual Aberration.

Thomism: Earth is round. Heaven move around it daily, moved by God, stars attached to it, angels guide planets (including sun and moon) eastward in periodic orbits.

Jewish view, with which St Cyril agrees: Earth is flat. Heaven is fixed above it. Stars move, in circle, above it, and some angels (those of planets, including sun and moon) move a bit differently, all westward daily, while periodic orbits are only relative. And the angels doing this are also under God, since He is directing their dance as a conductor and choreographer.

The one version gives the Thomistic form of Prima Via as God being first mover. The other one strengthens the via concerned with intelligent design, since angels performing all that dance without collision and without attachment to a moving firmament gives a closely related proof of God's existence, the one that Josephus attributed to Abraham.

So Prima Via (which is Aristotelic) and Abraham's proof of God are closely related, depend on same phenomenon, the one that gives us day and night, but both interpreted with Earth remaining fixed. If arbitrarily or out of atheism one says this daily movement of or in heaven is merely apaprent and relative to a merely local tellurian movement, one is far away from that proof.

St Augustine does NOT say any of the brethren believing in a locally fixed firmament above the stars belived Earth was moving under it. The obvious suggestion is that stars are moving between it and Earth. That is the Hebrew view : boxshaped universe, Earth as one shelf above abyss, Firmament as another higher one, sun, moon, stars moving westward between them. But, as we saw, he did not favour it over the Greek one. Round Earth, fixed stars firmly attached to primum mobile.

So, Sibley tries - in vain - to dissociate St Augustine from Geocentrism. Not only that, he is similarily sloppy in trying to oppose him to Pagan Greek philosophy on the age of the universe question:

But Augustine also held to an age of the earth at less than 6,000 years old, noting that those works that argued for deep time were ‘highly mendacious’, arising from pagan philosophers. [+ footnote here:] Augustine, The City of God, 12.10, ‘Of the falseness of the history which allots many thousand years to the world’s past’, in Schaff, P. (Ed.), NPNF1–02, ref 6, pp.232–233. See also Zuiddam, B., Augustine: young earth creationist., J. Creation 24(1):5–6, 2010.

Note the difference between what St Augustine was QUOTED as saying, mendacious history, and what Sibley supposes he said, that this arose from Pagan philosophers?

Egyptians had histories reaching back to 40.000 B. C. but no Philosophers. Greeks had histories reaching back very much less far back in time, in fact shorter histories than the Biblical one. Deucalion and Pyrrha (Flood) are not too many generations before the Trojan War in Greek history. And Trojan War is about the time of Eli, Samuel, Saul, probably over by the time King David lived. Some real drastic telescoping had been done. St Augustine did not call that out as a deliberate lie, but probably regarded that as forgetfulness. I think part of the reason for the telescoping is trying to forget about the Hittite Empire, a shame to the Hittites themselves when Hattusha ended, due to the civil war, which was supposed never to happen - and a burdensome memory to subjects due to its totalitarian and over taxed traits.

I am even prepared to think the Trojan War might have been part of the Hittite Civil Wars, and that it was remembered (with all suggestions directly Hittite carefully cut out from the background) because it was ending Hittite unity. Either way, what St Augustine mainly calls mendacious about history is prolonging it beyond that which reaches back to Biblical creation in order to make a show of remembering more than everyone else. And it was Egyptians, not Greeks who did that. Hence, it was not the philosophers whom he called mendacious, Egyptians didn't have them. If you want to know his view about them, go to the relevant passage in De Civitate, where he lets Varro enumerate the different philosophical positions that are possible and says Christians do not support one single of them, but have eclectic positions between them, according to where they fit revelation of God.

Greeks had Plato as a Philosopher supporting Creation in time, and others supporting Universe is eternal: Epicurus because there is no god according to him, and Aristotle because he saw no motive for a perferctly happy God to create or do anything at all. But strictly NO philosopher among the Greeks agreed Earth and Universe had a beginning while giving some philosophic reasoning for this beginning being further back than Bibliocal Creation. They had the clearheadedness to realise this point was either a point in reliable history or, if it did not reach back to creation, a point of an eternal universe having periodic disasters that disrupt historiography too much for records to reach back further than some millennia anyway. So, the word of Sibley are clearly false. I will now emphasise:

But Augustine also held to an age of the earth at less than 6,000 years old, noting that those works that argued for deep time were ‘highly mendacious’, arising from pagan philosophers.

No, once again, the Philosophers were not the culprits. Historians were:

Augustine, The City of God, 12.10, ‘Of the falseness of the history which allots many thousand years to the world’s past’, in Schaff, P. (Ed.), NPNF1–02, ref 6, pp.232–233. See also Zuiddam, B., Augustine: young earth creationist., J. Creation 24(1):5–6, 2010.

And those Historians were not Herodotus or Thucydides, but Egyptian ones.

So, yes, I think CMI is showing an undue bias against:

  • Pagan philosophers. Especially Aristotle.
  • Geocentrism. As when trying to pretend St Augustine (de genesi ad literam 2:X:23) recorded a time when Church was neutral on the issue.
  • And of course Thomism and Catholicism and the Inquisitors of Galileo.

And, since I am for:

  • Pagan philosophers. Especially Plato and Aristotle.
  • Geocentrism. As when seeing a clear affirmation of direct sense perception and a clear proof there is a God in it.
  • And of course Thomism and Catholicism and the Inquisitors of Galileo ...

Since that is so, since I am that, this amounts on the part of CMI as a bias against me, as long as I hold my positions.

Back to Hartnett.

He goes out of his way to attack Thomism. This is doubly misleading. One obvious reason why that is so, is that his attack on the newest fad in cosmology - "baby cosmoses survive or are eliminated by survival of the fittest" - is exactly the same as I would give myself and as St Thomas Aquinas himself would give.

Again, the idea of an actual multiverse, apart from Creation by one and same Creator (the scenario in The Magician's Nephew) includes some reference to astronomical supposed features of this universe (in Lee Smolin, black holes, in Giordano Bruno, each what we would call solar system is a separate universe, with its separate world soul). If St Robert Bellarmine was in any conceivable way over allergic against the Heliocentric hypothesis in the first Galileo trial (not against him, but against a book he had written and which he had a chance to defend), this might be because St Robert had seen Bruno on the stake and seen what Heliocentrism went along with. Plus, even more important, making what shaped the universe some kind of survival of the fittest or elimination of the unfit, is another example of what I had already noted in big evolutionist theory as diagnosed by Kent Hovind, all his senses of "Evolution" from Big Bang to Galaxies to Microbe to Man : replacing the personal wisdom of God with death as wisdom behind shape - or replacing Apollyon/Shiva for God. Here is St Thomas' words:

The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.

Except evolutionists, whom St Thomas hadn't reckoned with, those who call destruction the intelligence behind the non-destroyed order. Like saying that a statue comes to shape because sufficient stone chips are destroyed, flaked off, without any mind behind the shape apart from the chipping off process. I had already seen Dawkins as saying that about biology, now Smolin is saying that about the fine tuned constants of our universe.

Would he be able to say the same about a Geocentric universe?

The reason why Riccioli preferred the proof of God's existence as given in St Anselm, Descartes, Pascal (I think), Leibnitz to that of St Thomas was, Epicurus (who was as much a Geocentric as Aristotle) thought the heavens moved around us by pure chance each day. But, I think Aristotle was a better astronomer than Epicurus. And I think the Geocentrism of Tycho Brahe was very much beyond what Epicurus even could have imagined as arising by pure chance.

Don’t be blinded by big bang blackness coming from the modern god of scientism that is enveloping science today. This blackness or darkness is the lack of light of God’s truth, the result of the rejection of the Creator, who created this universe fully formed and functional, with life in it, within six earth-rotation days.

I totally agree, except for one word. Days are not earth rotations. Corioli etc. are an indication that there is a kind of firmament (which St Augustine overlooked) that God is moving each day around us. From the as far away as the stars to as near as the wind and the water, the Passage Winds and the Humboldt Stream.

Speaking of that, St Augustine when calling creation "one moment" was implying the one moment was seven aspects of one moment (seventh aspect being of course resting from new creations). Not one moment within a creation week. To St Thomas, the one moment preceded creation week - seeds created in the one moment were fastforwarded to fullgrown during the week. That was his way of harmonising St Thomas with the rest of the Church Fathers.

One last thing. John Gideon Hartnett, in his opening "No induction or deduction, just revelation alone" may be supposing that induction and deduction as done by Pagan philosophers could never prove there was a God. For one thing, it did for Plato. Then again, he says so because of overdoing consequences of the Fall, saying "total corruption" precludes truth in philosophy. But even there Reformers cannot be consistent. Let him hear Sibley give a counterexample:

From this Augustinian doctrine, Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper held that the regenerated and unregenerate mind would reach different conclusions about science and the natural world. The Christian mind, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, would maintain a commitment to Scripture and view the present condition of the world as fallen, while the unregenerate mind would not accept Scripture and see the present condition of the world as normal. For Kuyper, though, there were two exceptions to this division; one was in terms of direct sensory observations; the second in terms of use of formal logic such as mathematics. In much of the sciences and in mathematics there could be agreement because of a common grace that is retained by humanity, even in an unregenerated state, but only if there is a commitment to objective truth by all. A belief in common grace then allowed Kuyper to recognize that the non-believer may retain at least some capacity to study the world.

I am sure Abraham Kuyper professed "total corruption" verbally, or he would not have been Reformed, the poor guy, but I cannot see how it fits with the concept here worded as "a belief in common grace".

If it allows us correct study of nature as modern science goes, why can't it allow us correct study of nature as far as Greek philosophy goes? The bias of CMI is unfounded.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Bpi, Georges Pompidou
Seven Franciscan Martyrs

CMI : On the origin of universes by means of natural selection—or, blinded by big bang blackness
by John G. Hartnett
Published: 9 October 2014 (GMT+10)

CMI : Lessons from Augustine’s De Genesi ad Litteram—Libri Duodecim
by Andrew Sibley

Summa Theologica > First Part > Question 2. The existence of God
Article 3. Whether God exists?

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