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The Last Superstition

Chapter 1: Bad Religion

Just an outline of what Feser is trying to achieve in the book, along with pithy stabs at the mental capabilities of the New Atheists and secularists. Much of his criticisms I suppose I would agree with. I think there is an annoying dismissal of philosophy, along with a belief that their arguments are great, when they lack rigor, often to the point of being brazen non-sequiturs.

He appears to be comparing something like pop-atheism with whatever he thinks are the most sophisticated defenses of his world view. I think any comparison like this is going to lead to some asymmetries. Comparing Dawkins’ and Dennett’s thought processes to the average Catholic believer would likely lead to the same mismatch in intellectual rigor. Even better would be to compare someone like Michael Martin, or Jeffrey Jay Lowder to almost any Catholic, philosopher, theologian, or the like.

Feser plans to argue that (Loc 531) the war between science and religion is really a war between two philosophical schools of thought- naturalism vs. classical Aristotelianism/Thomism.

Naturalism makes morality and reason impossible, whereas they are intelligible only on the classical view.

Therefore secularism (I guess that is synonymous with naturalism) must manifest irrationalism and immorality.

Although much of the earlier stuff doesn’t really apply to me, his main thesis does. I am a naturalist. Even if all of Feser’s attacks on the New Atheist do not apply to me, this main thesis does.

Chapter 2: Greeks Bearing Gifts

Feser outlines some Presocratic philosophy and also some Plato and Aristotle. Feser defends realism regarding universals. Things like “redness,” “triangularity,” “humanness,” etc. are real, and do not simply exist in our minds. The angles of a triangle, for example, add up to 180 degrees, whether or not minds exist to view them.

Nominalists say that we use the same labels for things, like “red,” but that it is only a name, and there is no such thing as redness, but Feser says that it wouldn’t make sense to use the same labels unless the objects had something in common (namely redness) that leads us to using the same label.

Maybe I need to understand it better, so we’ll see if my view evades any of his objections. When we see many things that appear to be the same color, we can think of what they have in common, abstracted from the objects themselves. The redness is real, instantiated in each object because they are red. They reflect light of similar wavelengths. But the abstracted concept only exists in our minds. “Redness” per se exists in our minds because we see specific things that exist that are Red.

Feser later talks about Aristotle’s metaphysics: Actuality vs. potentiality, the four causes (formal, material, efficient, and final). He is claiming that denying any of the four causes is philosophically foolish, and also that these four causes lead inextricably to God. I suppose that’s next chapter. Also the universals stuff leads to God. So be it. Let’s see the connection.

Chapter 3: Getting Medieval
-What Aquinas didn’t say
Feser lays into the New Atheists, each of the four in turn. Lots of unnecessary though creative insults flung at them. So they don’t get Aquinas. I got it.

Feser could have just listed the wrong things said about Aquinas. No, he doesn’t say everything must have a cause. No he doesn’t make Paley-like arguments from design. Most importantly, Aquinas doesn’t make a scientific argument, but a philosophical/metaphysical one. He’s not arguing inductively from pieces of empirical evidence, but deductively from good premises.

-The existence of God
Feser’s first argument is from universals. Universals, propositions, and mathematical truths can’t plausibly exist outside of a mind, and that mind could not be limited or finite, therefor it must be an eternal and infinite mind. That’s God.

I suppose I’ll have to look back and see why universals can’t plausibly exist outside of a mind, or why we must be “realists” about them. Sure, 1+1 equals 2, no matter what. Why can’t this be a necessary feature of reality? Why must a mind perceive such a thing? In a mindless universe, one rock is one rock. Another rock rolls next to it, and there are two rocks. Therefore God? What am I missing?

-The Unmoved Mover
Change involves a transition from potentiality to actuality. This must come from outside. In the case of a hand moving a stick, we can drill down deeper and deeper to neurons, electromagnetism and gravity and the strong and weak nuclear force, and so on, to see the deeper causes leading to the change.

Eventually we need to get to an unchanged changer. Otherwise all the links in the chain will fail to explain the change. Something must ultimately explain the change. This changer can’t be changed itself, because that would entail something outside of it or deeper than it leading to this change. This is what we call God.

You can deduce more attributes of God by looking at what a unmoved mover must be. Causes can’t “give what they don’t have.” A fire has to come from something that has the power to give it, like another fire, or a spark or something. So God needs to have whatever leads to every power, so he’s all powerful. He needs whatever leads to will and intellect, so he’s omniscient.

And then of course the bad stuff that exists is a “privation” or lack of stuff. Blindness is a lack of sight, good a lack of evil.

-The First Cause
Seems to be basically the same as the argument above.

-The Supreme Intelligence
Here Feser argues from the regularity of the universe or the “Final Causes” of things to God. In contrast to much of creationism, all this argument would need is a single electron, acting as it does. To Feser, when things act as they do, falling, orbiting, burning, etc. in predictable ways, this is them acting so as to fulfill their “final causes.” It is goal directed. It is impossible for things to be directed toward anything without an intellect to hold the end in mind. Therefore God.

This all hinges on the actual existence of final causes, which Feser says some dispute. I’m skeptical as well. But he says that the defense if forthcoming. Okay.

Chapter 4: Scholastic Aptitude

-Natural Law

Feser defends natural law, including from some misunderstandings.

One of the first principles of natural law is that good is to be done and pursued, and evil to be avoided. For humans, the good is whatever tends to fulfill our nature- what helps us fulfill our natural ends.

Humans are made of many capacities. Our reason/intellect is pointed to attaining truth, so doing so is “good” for us.

I’m sort of confused as to what exactly this “good” is supposed to mean, and how it is supposed to bridge the is-ought gap. Feser things that having final causes and natures means that being a “good” human is the same as being a “good” triangle. It is when we most closely adhere to our essences. But still, we can ask why we ought to adhere to our essences, and follow our natures.

God could have made it so that, for example, using our capabilities to their fullest extent makes us miserable. I don’t see anything inherent in natural law that we are intended to be happy. In fact, I’m curious as to how we are supposed to find out what our natures are. How do we know we are essentially a rational animal? How do we know what purpose our parts have, except that they tend to do things a lot? I’ll have to extend this more fully in the future. . .

Feser says it is “obvious” what the natural purpose of sex is: procreation. Why just one purpose? How about pair bonding? Sort of like how hair can be both for warmth, or for beauty. If it is hot outside, one can still use their hair for beauty. Or if one decides, he/she could use a functional, yet ugly, hairstyle. It seems apparent that hair on the head is meant biologically for warmth and/or protection. Would Feser say it is immoral to have hair on the head when it is super, super hot out? Seems like a reductio.

I also wonder if Feser would defend polygymy. It seems to me that biologically, how men and women are different suggests that this could be ideal. This seems to be the real and true way to fulfill our natures.

Feser says that since the final cause of sex is procreation, therefore it is good for us to use our sexual capabilities for that purpose. Using it in any other way “cannot possibly” be good (2753). But once again, perhaps sex can have multiple purposes. And Feser still hasn’t bridged the is/ought gap very well. Nature has created general desires in us, but since situations are different, and human variability exists, sometimes adjustments to nature’s purposes are necessary. Perhaps nature made sex for us to reproduce, but it also made reason in order for us to realize when reproduction is not necessarily wise. Using reason may lead us to think that birth control is a good move.

Bad objection according to Feser: “It is immoral to use your leg to prop up a table!” Feser says this is false. You can use your natural capacities for other things, as long as it isn’t contrary to their natural function.

Bad objection 2: “You can’t perform a leg amputation to save a life!” Feser says this is allowed because the functions of our organs are metaphysically subordinate to the overall purpose- sustaining life and activities of the person as a whole (2815).

Next, Feser says that minor frustrations of nature are not a super big deal. Removing all ear wax may be unwise, but not necessarily immoral. Feser says that when it comes to the maintenance of the species or the well being of others, it is a big deal.

So some potential objections as listed above- I’ll have to learn more to know whether I actually understand:

  • How do we know what our natural purposes are?
  • How do we know what the natural purposes of our abilities/organs are?
  • Why ought we do what nature intends us to? (Differences in current situation from ancient evolutionary situation exist).
  • If frustrating a part’s purpose can be okay because the part is subordinate to the whole, why can’t we thwart nature’s purposes for us to procreate in order to ensure the well-being of the whole? Why not thwart some desires to fulfill higher natural desires?
  • Is there a “natural purpose” to communities or groups? If so, perhaps thwarting some individual natures can better fulfill the purpose of the whole.
  • If nature’s purposes are already fulfilled (humans won’t go extinct), why can’t people use their capabilities for things other than nature’s original purpose? There is no chance that the original intent will be frustrated.
  • Teeth are for chewing and eating, but Feser says we can use it to hold things as well, because we don’t have to constantly be doing what nature intended. Still, holding a nail in the teeth does thwart the natural purpose of eating, if only temporary. Similarly, birth control thwarts the natural purpose of procreation, if only temporarily. What’s the difference?

-Faith, reason, and evil

Faith isn’t belief despite evidence. It is reasonably justified trust in the teachings of the religion and the church and God (2963) (although Feser seems to think it is possible to justify such trust 100%). This trust is warranted because Jesus rose from the dead and is therefore God.

Still, we can’t be certain that such a historical thing occurred, although one could try to make a strong inductive case for it. Because of this, such faith would have to include an aspect of uncertainty. Does Feser agree with this? Plausibly, though I’m not sure.

Feser responds to the problem of evil by saying it is simply an argument from personal incredulity on the atheists’ part. Since we’ve already proven God and that he is perfectly good, we can simply say that perhaps there is a good reason that God allows evil. It’s like the suffering of a child getting vaccine. She won’t understand the reason for the pain, but it’s better in the long run.

I think Feser doesn’t give enough due to an inductive approach. He seems to think that any amount of suffering would leave his all-good God unharmed. This I find going too far. When we have suffering that is apparently unjustified, and leaves no plausible reason for it, that is evidence against it being justified. Enough of this should be very strong evidence against an all-good God. If the smartest person in the world murdered a village full of people (hey, God caused a flood to kill people too), and gave us no reason she did it except maybe “you wouldn’t understand, but I am still good,” then I think that could be evidence against her goodness. If it happened enough, it’s time to send the Navy SEALS.

Chapter 5: Descent of the Modernists

Feser begins by arguing that Aristotle’s views were abandoned for bad reasons.

He next addresses a group of “philosophical puzzles” that he thinks his views can solve, but that modern philosophers can’t. I found this part poorly argued. We’ll take a look at just a few of his solved puzzles.

The Problem of Skepticism:

Feser thinks that the representational theory of mind leads to unsolvable skepticism. How do we know our representations are correct and caused correctly?

Feser thinks that this is not a problem on his view because “one and the same form” exist in reality and the mind. There’s no gap between the mind and reality like there is on the representational theory of mind.

Unfortunately this doesn’t account for how we can make mistakes. Since in reality we can make mistakes, I think that Feser still has to solve this problem. Whatever causes us to make mistakes makes it always possible that we’re mistaken for those same reasons. I can ask of the Aristotelian, “How can we know that our beliefs are caused correctly by the forms?” There is still a gap.

The Problem of Induction:

Without formal or final causality, we lose our reason to predict based on past experiences. But, if we assume things have essences and final causes that determine their actions, we have reason to predict, because they are working toward the same final cause.

Unfortunately, the problem of induction still remains since we can’t infallibly determine what the form of a thing is. For example, maybe something that we think is essentially “green” is actually essentially “grue” (green forever in the past, but blue after 8/4/2015). Feser acts like these problems are solved so easily by his philosophy, but I think he’s ignoring fairly obvious critiques.

There’s more on other topics like morality, rights, and such, which I discussed above. I don’t think Natural Law is a coherent view of morality, and I don’t think it successfully solves the is-ought problem. I think there are also some significant epistemelogical barriers to finding what a thing’s “final cause” or “essence” is, which is what we’d use to determine what is “good” for it.

Chapter 6: Aristotle’s Revenge

Feser talks about the impossibility of consciousness as well as natural laws without things like final causes, teleology, and essences.

I have some trouble figuring out what the difference would be between something having as it’s “goal” to fall, and just the fact that in certain gravitational circumstances, things tend to fall. When we zoom down to the very basic nature of the universe, it seems to me that things must just work “somehow,” perhaps inexplicably. This appears to be the case for teleological explanations as well. Sure, we can say that fundamental particles just have as their “goal” to act in certain ways, but that’s going to just be a brute fact at some point.

Catholic Christianity Part 3- Sacraments and Prayer (How Catholics Worship)

Chapter 1: Introduction to Catholic Liturgy

Guess I didn’t have much to say about this chapter. The rituals are of less interest to me than the morality and beliefs, but there’s still some interesting stuff here I guess.

Chapter 2: Introduction to the Sacraments

Grace has been defined as “an undeserved gift of God”. It is undeserved for two reasons: first, because God is our Creator and therefore can owe us nothing; all good things we receive, beginning with our very existence, are gifts from God’s generosity, not owed to us injustice (5967).

Does the first reason actually follow? I can see how created things can still have rights or deserve things. Creators do have a responsibility for their creations.

Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness” (6097).

What does the church actually do to figure this out? Without an extremely good theory of psychological illness in general, it wouldn’t be plausible to rule it out.

Chapter 3: Baptism and Confirmation

d. The Baptism of implicit desire: “Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity” (CCC 1260) (6220).

Many Catholic theologians in the past have reasoned that children who die unbaptized go to a place of eternal peace but without the vision of God, since these infants have committed no actual sins and therefore have not chosen or deserved hell, but they are born with original sin and therefore cannot enter heaven. They named the place “Limbo”. The Church has never officially approved or disapproved this idea; it is neither a dogma nor a heresy. But most theologians now believe God will somehow get his innocent little ones into heaven. We cannot limit God’s love or his cleverness in arranging for his loving will to be done. God is not limited to any one means (6226).

Chapter 4: The Eucharist

To elicit our free response of faith and trust. Even human lovers do not give or demand proofs or guarantees. God gives just enough light for lovers, who can find him when they seek him, but not so much as to compel non-lovers and non-seekers to find him against their will. The lover respects the beloved’s freedom (6434).

Too convenient. Doesn’t marriage demand a proof or guarantee? And there is at least a guarantee that the partner in marriage exists. This sounds like a totally ad hoc way to dismiss a relevant lack of evidence. Also, when signs are believed to be there, no one says that God violated our freedom. Instead, believers celebrate this as proof. I think it’s intellectually dishonest to have it both ways.

The greatness of the Eucharist is known only to faith, not to the feelings or the senses or the sciences. Its being (reality) is far greater than its seeming (appearances). “The presence of Christ’s true body and blood in this sacrament cannot be detected by sense, nor understanding, but by faith alone, which rests upon Divine authority” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae III, 75, 1), not on human experience (6437).

God does not give us heavenly feelings when we receive the Eucharist for the same reason he does not give us heavenly sights. We neither feel nor see Christ as he really is so that faith, not feelings or sight, can be exercised, trained, and emerge triumphant (6444).

Similar to the problem above. It’s just ad hoc to cover up the perfect consistency with God not actually being there.

Why do Catholics believe this astonishing idea—that what seems to all human perception to be ordinary bread and wine is in fact the body and blood of God incarnate? Because Christ said so! (6576).

Chapter 5: The Sacrament of Penance

Modern Western society is not even pagan, that is, pre-Christian; it is secular, or post-Christian. The difference between the two is like the difference between a virgin and a divorcee (6761).

The scandalous sale of indulgences for money was the abuse that sparked the Protestant Reformation. But the theology behind the Church’s practice of granting indulgences is beautiful and profound. What is an indulgence? It is not a permission to sin but a forgiveness of punishment. “ ‘An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven’ (6931).

Chapter 6: Matrimony

The institution of marriage, and the family that results from it, is the single most indispensable foundation for happiness in all societies and in most individual lives (6975).

If there is a single cause for most of today’s malaise, both religious and secular, it is the weakening of marriages and families. In today’s “culture of death”, only a “countercultural” marriage can succeed. For the message we hear from most modern culture and modern psychology is profoundly destructive of marriage. It is the “gospel” that the happiness of me the individual comes first, before the good of my spouse, my marriage, my family, or my children. It is “the gospel of respectable selfishness” (6978).

I think that’s basically true in the United States. I’d be happy (selfishly happy?) to see more empathy promoted in our culture.

Most marriages will not succeed today without God. There will be tension about “who’s the boss” unless God is the “boss” (6989).

Citation please? As far as I know, secular people have similar divorce rates as theistic ones, although perhaps more divorce than Catholics.

The non-religious view, which has become popular in the modern secular West, is that marriage is man-made, not God-made, and therefore it is whatever we want it to be. We can change it. It conforms to us, not we to it. Thus secularists can speak of “open marriage” (a euphemism for adultery), polygamous, polyandrous, or even group “marriages”, homosexual “marriages”, temporary “marriages”, or even “marriage” between a man and an animal, if they wish (7006).

Polygamy is in the Bible, and I believe it is sanctioned by God.

religious view interprets sex and marriage in terms of man, while the secular view (in our society, at least) interprets man and marriage in terms of sex. Religion interprets sex in terms of marriage, marriage in terms of man, and man in terms of God. Religion personalizes sex; materialism depersonalizes it. Religion sees sex as an image of the divine; materialism sees it as an image of the animal. For materialism, love is a human excuse for sex; for religion, sex is a human echo of divine love (7011).

Citation again? I don’t think many atheistic materialists think that love is just an excuse for sex. I sure don’t.

There are even compelling reasons for the indissolubility of marriage from a purely secular point of view, both from the interest of individuals and from the interest of society. Lovers themselves, throughout history, insist on taking vows that speak the language of eternity (7132).

Euripides said, “He is not a lover who does not love forever.” And even John Denver echoes, “If love never lasts forever, what’s forever for?” Indissolubility is also necessary for society, for no society can endure without loyalty and promise-keeping; and the marriage vow is the first and foundational promise. When half our married citizens break their promise to the person they love the most, why should society trust them to keep their promises to anyone else? (7135).

Catholics are not excommunicated for obtaining a civil divorce and remarriage, but they cannot receive the Eucharist because they are living in adultery, according to the clear teaching of Christ (Mk 10:3-10) (7146).

The deepest cause of sexual promiscuity is that our spirits, made in God’s image, long for the infinite (7167).

The Church affirms that the “unitive” and “procreative” aspects of married love may not be artificially separated, either by artificial contraception or by test-tube babies. Love and life must not be divorced from each other. “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” (7182).

I don’t see a good reason to enshrine these two proposed aspects of married love. Just as the “nutritive” aspect of sweetness can be separated from splenda without immorality, why not also simply have one aspect of sex, depending on one’s aim? Similarly, one may wear glasses for both style and improved eyesight, or for just style. This does not seem immoral, even if the original intent was for both.

“In such cases the Church permits the physical separation of the couple and their living apart. The spouses do not cease to be husband and wife before God and so are not free to contract a new union. In this difficult situation, the best solution would be, if possible, reconciliation”13 (CCC 1649) (7228).

I find this pretty immoral. If one is married out of love, then the partner becomes a murderer, the innocent partner may not remarry. Catholics say it is immoral to find love elsewhere.

Chapter 7: Holy Orders

“Apostolic succession” is a historical fact. Scripture shows that Christ chose apostles and commissioned them to continue his work with his authority and that they in turn ordained successors (7279).

Citation?

When the priest pronounces Christ’s words “This is my Body” and “This is my Blood”, it is Christ who speaks and acts. Only Christ has such miraculous power. That is why the saintly Curé of Ars said, “ ‘The priest continues the work of redemption on earth. . . . If we really understood the priest on earth, we would die not of fright but of love’  ” (7295).

The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry.15. . . The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible”16 (CCC 1577). It is not arrogance but humility that makes the Church insist that she has no authority to correct her Lord (7358).

This logic doesn’t follow. Even if only men were chose originally, that doesn’t mean that women were restricted. Perhaps due to the biases of the time, men were seen as better leaders. Yet now, when women are seeing more equality, it can be just as prudent to have strong female leaders. Did God himself explicitly state that women should never be priests?

Chapter 8: Anointing of the Sick

Chapter 9: Prayer

For whatever means he uses—nature, family, friends, our own talents—it is God who is the First Cause of all life and goodness (and not of death and sin) (7650).

a. All prayers are answered, but often the answer is No because what we ask for is not what we really want, only what we think we want. “ ‘Do not be troubled if you do not immediately receive from God what you ask him; for he desires to do something even greater for you, while you cling to him in prayer’ (7840).

This is a convenient way to avoid any and all falsification. The above is also consistent with prayer having no effect at all.

b. Sometimes the answer is “Wait”, because God’s timing is wiser than ours. God does not follow our timetable. He is a lover, not a train. c. Jesus tells us, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Mt 6:8), but “[H]e awaits our petition because the dignity of his children lies in their freedom” (CCC 2736)—or, as Pascal said, “God instituted prayer to communicate to his creatures the dignity of being causes” (7843).

Chapter 10: The Lord’s Prayer

Chapter 11: Mary

Mary, too, needed Christ for her salvation, just as we do, but she was saved before she sinned, while we were saved after we sinned (8287).

Catholic Christianity Part 2- Morality (How Catholics Live)

Chapter 1: The Essence of Catholic Morality

Catholics do not first decide what to believe, then begin to live morally after that, and then move on to prayer and worship after that. In fact, the order is sometimes the reverse; for the most usual source of a loss of faith is an immoral life, and the most powerful source of a moral life is prayer and the sacraments. The more prayer, the more virtue; the more virtue, the more faith (3021).

This, to me, invites a huge amount of confirmation bias in. It may be unavoidable, but I think the danger must be acknowledged.

The very first words of the section on morality in the Catechism are: “ ‘Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member’ 1 ” (CCC 1691) Nothing comparable exists in secular morality. No other basis for human dignity can rival this: that God has given us a share in his own divine nature (3057).

What is the image of “Catholic morality” propagated by today’s secular world, especially the media establishment, which forms modern minds through TV, movies, journalism, and public education? It is that of a joyless, repressive, dehumanizing, impersonal, and irrational system, something alien and inhuman and often simply stupid (3064).

When the media meet a saint, like Mother Teresa, their stereotypes dissolve and die (3067).

“If God does not exist, everything is permissible”, wrote Dostoyevsky. For if it is only man’s will and not God’s that makes moral laws, then they are as changeable and contingent as the rules of a game. If we make the rules, we can change them or unmake them (3101).

Human nature still exists objectively without God. If secular morality is based off of objectively existing human nature, then morality is not based off of man’s will alone, and is no longer contingent as the rules of a game.

there can be true morality without true religion (3106).

God deserves the credit and the thanks because he is the source of “every good endowment and every perfect gift” (Jas 1:17), especially our natural moral knowledge and our good moral choices. They are ours, and they are free, but they are also God’s grace, for God’s grace turns our freedom on, not off (3118).

in the last few centuries in the West, Catholics have been behaving no differently from the secularized world—and have been steadily losing that world. Statistics show that in the United States, the West’s most religious nation, Catholics murder, rape, commit adultery, abort, fornicate, euthanize, and commit suicide at the same rate as everyone else (3142).

“By their fruits. . .” I think this is a pretty astonishing admission. Not just modern times, but hundreds of years. I wonder how he knows that before that it was different. If there are ancient stories of virtuous Christian brotherhoods, how can we know they are as good as they claimed?

On the one hand, there has been substantial progress not only in science and technology but also in morality: for instance, sensitivity to human rights, the humane treatment of the handicapped, and the nearly universal consensus against torture, cruelty, slavery, and racism. On the other hand, especially since the so-called “Enlightenment”, Western civilization has been increasingly secularized and de-Christianized, morally as well as theologically and ecclesiastically (3181).

It’s nice to see that at least some good things have come along with the enlightenment, and the secularization and de-Christianization are only bad on his view.

What is the summum bonum, the greatest good, the final end, the meaning of life? Of course the answer is “happiness”, for “ ‘[w]e all want to live happily; in the whole human race there is no one who does not assent to this proposition’ (3215).

‘God alone satisfies’  (3220).

It is secular, godless morality that is joyless and dull (3243).

I find effective altruism personally very exciting, and I think the most virtuous humans alive are in line with that movement. They make Mother Theresa look like pretend morality.

Chapter 2:

The typically modern idea is that moral laws are man-made rules like the rules of a game such as tennis, created by human will and therefore changeable by human will. The traditional idea, on the other hand, which is taught not only by the Catholic Church but by all the world’s major religions and nearly all pre-modern philosophies, is that the laws of morality are not rules that we make but principles that we discover (3264).

I’d be interested in why Kreeft thinks that the above modern idea is typical. I don’t really know how representative it is of the average person. I think it is probably not representative of the average secular moral philosopher.

They are based on human nature, and human nature is essentially unchanging; and therefore the laws of morality are also essentially unchanging (3267).

Such a morality is often called a morality of “natural law”. This means two things: (a) that moral laws are based on human nature, derived from human nature; and (b) that they are naturally and instinctively known by human reason (3277).

(“Reason” means more than just “reasoning”; it includes an intuitive awareness of our obligation to “Do good and avoid evil” and of the meaning of “good” and “evil”.) (3278).

I have very low confidence that people really have any decent answer for what “good” or “evil” means. Moreover, I’d wager that there are a variety of incompatible, relatively decent answers out there.

We outlaw things because they are wrong, and they are wrong by their own nature ultimately because that nature is opposed to the nature and character of God (3368).

God created man to be an end, like himself, and all other things to be means for man (1 Cor 3:22-23) (3377).

c. Politicians and businesses must recognize that the ruling purpose of the economy is not power or profit but human welfare (3384).

Whenever we deal with objective reality, subjectively good intentions are not enough. (Are they enough for your dentist? Or for your financial advisor?) So if you say they are enough for morality you say morality is not about objective reality (3430).

In line with effective altruism here. I would like to see this idea more widely accepted.

Because animals are not persons, they should not be loved as persons but as animals—that is, they may be used as pets or clothing or even food (3443).

Pretty big advantage of many secular moral theories over Catholic morality.

Conscience is to good and evil what sight is to color. It is the power of the soul that gives us awareness of the moral dimension, the goodness or evil of human acts (3464).

This does not mean we are not influenced or “conditioned” by many factors that come to us. But our choices come from us. We are not passive links in a chain of causes (3478).

a. The meaning of free will. “God created man . . . a person who can initiate and control his own actions. . . . ‘[H]e is created with free will and is master over his acts’ 2 ” (CCC 1730) “Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. By free will one shapes one’s own life” (CCC 1731) (3498).

So our evil actions are our own fault because we freely willed them. But the credit for our good actions goes to God, because God gave us that freedom. . . wait a second. . . double standard here I think.

b. Free will is necessary for morality. Free will “is the basis of praise or blame” (CCC 1732). If our wills are not really free, morality is really meaningless (3502).

We do not praise or blame, reward or punish a machine (3505).

Chapter 3: Some Fundamental Principles of Catholic Morality

modern people say that morality is always a “complex issue”. G. K. Chesterton explained why: “Morality is always terribly complicated—to a man who has lost all his principles” (3554).

Getting to those principles and figuring out why they’re good ones is definitely complicated. This is a pretty anti-intellectual statement. If morality wasn’t complicated, then it’s strange that there would still be moral progress up to now.

Goods are traditionally classified into three different kinds. Moral goods are only one of three kinds of goods. The other two are useful goods (tools, instruments, anything sought as means to further ends) and pleasant goods (things sought as ends in themselves, as ingredients in happiness: joy, peace, beauty, delight, contentment, pleasure) (3577).

“The morality of human acts depends on “—the object chosen; “—the end in view or the intention; “—the circumstances of the action” (CCC 1750). That is, (a) the act itself, (b) the motive, and (c) the situation (3586).

So with a human act. The act itself and the motive and the circumstances must all be right. You must (a) do the right thing (b) for the right reason (c) in the right way (3612).

If there are three moral rules that are obvious to every morally sane individual and culture, they are probably the following three mentioned in the Catechism: “Some rules apply in every case: “—One may never do evil so that good may result from it” [that is, a good end does not justify an evil means]; “—the Golden Rule: ‘Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.’1 “—charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience” (CCC 1789) (3655).

Sort of begs the question against consequentialism, a pretty common view. Golden rule is also imperfect, but a good start. I also don’t respect everyone else’s conscience. Sometimes they feel strongly about messed up things.

Since this obligation binds us even when we do not want it to, it could not have come from our human will and wants. It comes to us, not from us, and is powerful evidence for the existence of God. Even the atheist treats conscience as an absolute moral authority; for like everyone else he admits that it is always right to obey your conscience and wrong to disobey it (3673).

Failure to take into account alternate explanations for moral feelings, or premoral sentiments in animals. Also, I don’t treat conscience as absolute. Can he cite atheists that do? Can he defend the idea that all or most atheists do? How about philosophically or scientifically informed atheists?

b. Conscience is not infallible. It can err, like anything in us. It can mistake what is evil for good, or good for evil (3692).

c. “A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself” (CCC 1790). We are always obliged to obey our conscience, even though it is not infallible. If your conscience leads you honestly to believe that a certain act is morally obligatory, it is morally wrong for you to avoid the act your conscience commands (3695).

The fallibility of conscience seems to be a good reason to not always obey it. Maybe we should be more careful about our actions if we know our conscience is sometimes going to mislead us.

Chapter 4: Virtues and Vices

“Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called ‘cardinal’; all the others are grouped around them. They are: prudence” [or wisdom], “justice” [or fairness], “fortitude” [or courage], “and temperance” (3758).

Prudence is “the virtue that disposes practical reason” (3763).

“Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor (3766).

“Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good (3779).

The three theological virtues have even more serious opposite vices—more serious because they directly imperil our eternal salvation. a. The knowing and deliberate repudiation of faith is apostasy (3858).

there must be full knowledge that the act is a serious sin (3890).

This is one of the aspects necessary for a sin to be mortal.

Chapter 5: The First Three Commandments: Duties to God

e. “Tempting God consists in putting his goodness and almighty power to the test” (CCC 2119) (4116).

This is a little suspicious. Isn’t it ever worth seeing if God is who he says he is? I suppose some would say he’s already proven himself, but that’s not obvious to lots of people. Maybe only believing Catholics should put God to the test, just like me testing my wife or friend would be a kind of jerk thing to do.

h. “Since it rejects or denies the existence of God, atheism is a sin against the virtue of religion [cf. Rom 1:18]. The imputability” [blameworthiness] “of this offense can be significantly diminished in virtue of the intentions and the circumstances. ‘Believers can have more than a little to do with the rise of atheism. To the extent that they are careless about their . . . faith, . . . they must be said to conceal rather than to reveal the true nature of God and religion’ (4123).

i. “Agnosticism. . . makes no judgment about God’s existence, declaring it impossible to . . . affirm or deny” (CCC 2127). “Agnosticism can sometimes include a certain search for God, but it can equally express indifferentism, a flight from the ultimate question of existence. . . , Agnosticism is all too often equivalent to practical atheism” (4127).

Chapter 6: The Fourth Commandment: Family and Social Morality

Almost always, the secularist ignoring of God and his authority is accompanied by an ignoring of the family, its authority, and its priority over the state (4232).

This example also shows that obedience is not a mark of inferiority. No one ever obeyed the Father’s will more completely than Christ, yet Christ was divine, equal to the Father in all things (4269).

when the New Testament tells wives to obey their husbands (Eph 5:22; Col 3:18; Tit 2:5; 1 Pet 3:1), citizens to obey their rulers (Rom 13:1; 1 Pet 2:13-14), and servants to obey their masters (Col 3:22; Tit 2:9; 1 Pet 2:18), this does not imply a relationship between inferior and superior. Indeed, this misunderstanding is explicitly contradicted: “There is no partiality” (Col 3:25) (4271).

I have trouble seeing how total obedience does not signify inferiority. Also, I find it hard to believe that wives are always, without exception, to obey their husbands. Do Catholics believe that there is no diversity in this aspect?

The three most stable, long-lasting, and internally peaceful societies in human history have been those continuing communities whose basic moral foundations were laid down by Moses (more than 3,500 years ago), Confucius (more than 2,500 years ago), and Muhammad (more than 1,300 years ago). All three of them were based on a very high regard for families and on the practice of continuous moral education (4290).

a. “A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family” (4296).

Gay people aren’t families, nor are people who choose not to have children.

Thus men only, women only, unmarried people, people forced into marriage, people who marry without basic goodwill toward each other, or people who refuse ever to have children all fail to fulfill one of the essential features of a family (4302).

common dignity and worth—follows also from our common origin: “Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all men have the same nature and the same origin” (CCC 1934). This is the real basis for human equality; no other basis (such as human opinion or ideology or consensus) is absolutely secure against changing human notions of “superior” races or “unwanted” groups (4385).

So what was the relationship between Catholics and slavery? Isn’t slavery condoned in the Bible? I find this “unchanging” “absolutely secure” claim to be a bit implausible.

b. It is also “morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote and to defend one’s country” (4400).

These concrete, immediate duties should not be neglected for the sake of abstract, far-away causes that give one the illusion of being very idealistic and moral. Christ commanded us to love our neighbor, not “humanity” (4421).

I agree that immediate duties shouldn’t be neglected, but a service to humanity as a whole can, I think, make more of an impact, and shows true concern over love for only our neighbors.

subsidiarity, according to which ‘a community of a higher’ ” [larger] “ ‘order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower’ ” [smaller] “ ‘order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it’ 2 ” (CCC 1883). This applies especially to families (4427).

the state is necessary not only for law and order but also to provide a safety net of essential human needs like food, shelter, employment opportunity, and basic medical care to those not served by private initiative, individual charity, or family (4439).

The purpose of all public government, taxes, armies, and laws is the happiness of private individuals and families (4445).

A very simple definition of a good society is this: “A good society is one that makes it easy to be good” (4446).

It is a higher and more complete way, based on the essential reality of human nature, not on the changing fashions of any human ideology (4465).

Chapter 7: The Fifth Commandment: Moral Issues of Life and Death

Life Unworthy of Life was the way it was described in the tide of the first book to win public acceptance for this new ethic, by German doctors before World War II—the basis and beginning of the Nazi medical practices (4488).

Seems to be a bit of poisoning the well against a quality of life ethic.

“ ‘Human life is sacred because’ ” [a] “ ‘from its beginning it involves the creative action of God’ ” [b] “ ‘and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator,’ ” [c] “ ‘who is its sole end’ ”1 (CCC 2258). “ ‘God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being’ ”2 (CCC 2258) (4503).

I am invited (though not required) by Christ’s evangelical counsels to turn the other cheek even to the point of martyrdom when my own life is threatened; such personal “pacifism” is honorable. But it is not honorable to fail to protect others for whom I am responsible, especially my family (4539).

“[T]hose who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility” (CCC 2265). But the important qualifier is “if this is the only possible way” (4550).

This could be a defense against those who say violence is justified against abortion doctors. Other Catholics may say that violence is only to be used when it is the only way, and that they prefer peaceful means instead.

Thus the Church’s prudence judges that capital punishment, though it remains a public right if necessary, is not right under today’s conditions (4556).

The other philosophy, the “quality-of-life ethic”, holds that only some, not all, human beings have an inalienable right to life and that some human beings may draw the line for others and exclude them from the community of persons, from those who have the right to life. This same principle is at work whether those excluded persons are unwanted unborn babies, the old, the sick, the dying, those in pain, those of a certain “inferior” or unwanted race, those who have the wrong political opinions, or those who are declared “severely handicapped” because they fail to come up to a certain standard of intelligence or performance such as “significant social interaction”—which standard is always determined by the killers (4597).

To some degree it is true, but I think this ethic also promotes that those in pain or dying should be able to decide for themselves. George Eighmey of Death with Dignity National Center argued that it is the freedom to decide how one ends one’s life that he is fighting for. Perhaps he agrees with euthanasia as well, but with the sick and dying, he is not imposing any decision on them, or taking any right away.

The first is that one of the most fundamental purposes of law is to protect human rights, especially the first and foundational right, the right to life. The second is that all human beings have the right to life. The third is that the already-conceived but not-yet-born children of human beings are human beings (4638).

By human being, I’d say human persons would be meant. Not all cells with human DNA are human persons. Personhood, or something like it, is to me the only reasonable criteria for rights. Presumably if dolphins or other apes have the right mental characteristics, they could be considered persons as well. The Catholics have no reason to endow other animals, no even if they had human level intelligence, with personhood. It would be ethical for Catholics to murder an orangutan as smart as a human.

Thus there are three different kinds of “pro-choicers”: First, there are those who admit that all persons have a right to life and that unborn children are persons but deny that this right should be protected by law (the first premise). This is a serious legal error (4644).

Second, there are those who admit that the law should protect the right to life and that unborn children are human beings but deny that all human beings have the right to life (the second premise). This is a very serious moral error. It is essentially the philosophy of power, of “might makes right.” Those in power—doctors, parents, legislators, adults—decree the right to kill those who lack the power to defend themselves: the smallest, most vulnerable, and most innocent of all human beings. No good reason can justify this decree; a good end does not justify an intrinsically evil means (4655).

Third, there are those who admit that the law should protect the right to life and that all humans have that right, but deny that unborn children are humans (the third premise). This is a serious factual and scientific error. Before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, all science texts taught the biological truism that the life of any individual of any species begins at conception, when sperm and ovum unite to create a new being with its own complete and unique genetic code, distinct from both father and mother (4661).

Kreeft seems to be using “persons”  and “humans” as synonyms. This is certainly disputed. While unborn children are scientifically human, there is a point where a fertilized egg can be arguably said to not be person. This is not in contradiction with science at all. In fact, it is more in line with science than calling a fertilized egg a person, given the science of what gives humans personalities (a brain or at least nerves would be a start).

“Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person” (CCC 2277). This is how we treat a horse: we “put it out of its misery” by putting a bullet through its head, because we judge its life merely by physical, biological standards. It is only an animal. Man is not only an animal (4687).

That’s funny, because the quality of life people would say that we treat horses and dogs better than humans when we show them mercy. Just a mirror image.

“Ordinary care” or “ordinary means” includes such things as food and water and pain relief, as distinct from intrusive and aggressive medical interventions such as respirators or feeding tubes, which are “extraordinary means” and are discretionary, or optional (4691).

“letting die” is not the same as killing. It can be morally right under some circumstances: if there is no reasonable hope of cure. If death is inevitable and imminent, there is no moral necessity to do anything that makes dying more painful (4696).

To weaken the faith or hope or charity of another is a very serious evil. Teachers therefore have a very serious responsibility, especially teachers of religion to young people (4728).

21. The “just war” doctrine No war is just in itself. War is a sinful and barbaric invention. It is murder on a mass scale. But the choice to go to war can be just, if it is necessary self-defense. The aim of a just war (that is, a just “going to war”) is peace. The aim is not taking lives but saving lives: the lives of the innocent victims of aggression. The end that makes a war just can only be peace (4748).

Chapter 8: The Sixth and Ninth Commandments: Sexual Morality

It is no accident that opposites attract, sexually as well as electromagnetically. There is both “difference and complementarity” (CCC 233 3) between the sexes. Men and women are different, by nature and divine design, not just by society’s conventions (4850).

But it’s also not strictly true that opposites attract. Also, statistical differences are not universal differences. This seems to contradict science pretty strongly.

The essence of sex, like any intelligently designed thing, is in its end. Lust, like any sin, must be seen against that background (4906).

Not sure why the original intent of a thing determines the morality of its use. One could design a pair of glasses to aid in seeing, but another person could use them as an aesthetic accessory. Doesn’t seem immoral to me. Further, one could design a gun as an aid to genocide or something maniacal like that. Another person could use the gun for self defense or for target practice. This violation of the intent seems totally moral, in fact more moral. I think the consequences of the use count more than the original intent of it.

Lust divorces the two things God designed to be together; it seeks the pleasure apart from the purpose (4907).

Splenda divorces the two things God designed to be together; it seeks pleasure apart from the purpose (both the nutritive and the recreative act of eating. If we separate them, that is a violation of natural law).

Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,5 tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’6 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity” [that is, they refuse the divinely designed “otherness” built into sexuality]. “Under no circumstances can they be approved” (4942).

They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. . . . [U]njust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (CCC 2358) (4949).

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is such a method. It is much more reliable than the old “rhythm method”, as reliable as “the pill”, has none of the pill’s side effects, and fosters such great intimacy and communication among its users that they have a 1 percent divorce rate as compared with society’s 50 percent (4975).

Would love to see the basis for this. The first claim seems wildly implausible. The second is somewhat believable. (This link makes this claim suspicious. At first blush, the pill seems about twice as effective.)

Even if all this teaching is not fully understood by one’s reason, it should be believed by faith; for being a Catholic means believing the Church teaches with divine authority given to her by Christ, her Founder, and therefore this must include believing some things on God’s authority, not our own (4993).

Large families are another sign of the radical difference between the outlook of the God of life and “the culture of death” (5001).

The Church cannot allow divorce, as almost all Protestant churches do, because she does not have the authority to contradict Christ her Master. “The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble (5019).

It would not be “compassionate” for the Church to allow divorce. The Church forbids divorce precisely because she is compassionate, and knows that divorce “brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society” (CCC 2385) (5036).

You could say also that forcing a bad relationship to stay together brings grave harm to the two people who are prevented from improving their lives, to the children traumatized by an ascerbic relationship, and because of its contagious effect which forces other poor relationships to stay together lest they be looked down upon.

In a society where half of all marriages end in divorce, the Church mercifully locks the exit door to that tragedy (5040).

This seems a painfully naive. Should we really assume that all these marriages are better if forced together? To me that could easily also be a tragedy in a volatile relationship. I find this attempt to frame the issue in terms of mercy somewhat dishonest and upsetting. It is fairly blatant spin on the issue.

Chapter 9: The Seventh and Tenth Commandments: Social and Economic Morality

It is like wine, which is designed by God “to gladden the heart of man” (Ps 104:15) but which is easily abused by man to “sadden” rather than “gladden” (5214).

Could we apply the same ideal to marijuana?

This respect for things in nature is demanded especially by animals, the next highest material creatures after man. “Animals are God’s creatures. . . . By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory.3 Thus men owe them kindness (5223).

On the other hand, though animals have feelings, they do not have immortal, rational, and moral souls; they are not persons. “Hence it is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing” (CCC 2417). And “[m]edical and scientific experimentation on animals is a morally acceptable practice if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives” (5226).

On the one hand, “It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly It is likewise unworthy to spend money on| them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery One can love animals”, but “one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons” (5230).

“God blesses those who come to the aid of the poor and rebukes those who turn away from them. . . . It is by what they have done for the poor that Jesus Christ will recognize his chosen ones (5287).

Effective altruists have an enormous edge over Catholics in this area.

Chapter 10: The Eighth Commandment: Truth

The crucial importance of truth for morality is not generally understood today. People are rarely taught that morality is more than kindness and compassion, more than good intentions, even more than love. For love without truth is not true love (5394).

I’m glad to see this reflected in the religion. I wish there was more stress on this though. I can’t think of Catholics who reflected this as well as the skeptic or rationalist communities.

the categories of “human nature” and “natural purpose” come up as central and indispensable to Catholic morality. They are simple, commonsense concepts, but modern sceptical philosophers have made them unpopular for the first time in history.) (5439).

“—of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them” (CCC 2477) (5480).

Catholic Christianity Part 1- Theology (What Catholics Believe)

Chapter 1: Faith

So “[f]aith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God” (CCC 150). But “[a]t the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed” (175).

First lesson seems to be that faith, at least as defined by the Catechism, is not defined as unwarranted or evidenceless belief. According to Kreeft, faith is really just trust in God, or an assent to what God teaches. This can be based on evidence, not just reason, but also supernatural revelation.

What the Church teaches, and summarizes in her creeds, was not invented by the Church. It was handed down to her from Jesus Christ, God in the flesh (179).

Most Protestants reject all the Catholic doctrines they cannot find explicitly in Scripture—for example, Mary’s Assumption into heaven—because they believe sola scriptura: that Scripture alone is the infallible authority. This is the fundamental reason behind all the differences between Protestant and Catholic theology (217).

Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the living Magisterium of the Church, when it defines dogma, are all infallible (preserved from error), certain (for God can neither deceive nor be deceived), and authoritative (binding in conscience) (253).

The Church condemns coercion in religion: “Nobody may be ‘forced to act against his convictions, nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience in religious matters in private or in public’ ” (262).

Interesting how the Church condemns coercion in religion. What if my conscience is pro-abortion? How about the conscience of atheism? Weren’t people historically forced to change their beliefs?

Only if we believe will we see “the splendor of truth” (Veritatis Splendor). For only when we marry someone do we fully know that person, and only when we accept God’s proposal of spiritual marriage, by faith, will we know the ultimate truth, who is a Person, personally (272).

Non-Catholics who, through no fault of their own, do not believe that the Catholic faith is true can still be saved by the faith in their hearts that leads them to love and seek God. For Christ promised that “he who seeks finds” (Mt 7:8). So while correct belief without faith cannot save anyone, faith without correct belief can (295).

No one can truly say, “I want to believe, but God just hasn’t given me the gift of faith yet, so it’s his fault, not mine, that I’m an unbeliever” (305).

Faith can never contradict reason, when reason is properly used, though faith goes beyond reason. As a result of divine revelation, the Catholic faith tells us many things human reason could never have discovered by itself. But faith and reason are both roads to truth, and truth never contradicts truth (362).

To me, the idea of infallibility, or the idea of believing first, then understanding seems to contradict reason. Assenting to supernatural beliefs based solely on authority seems to contradict reason too. Why not have some tests where faith reveals something we can later find through reason, then we can look and see if faith was correct?

Not only does faith not contradict reason, but reason leads to faith, discovers clues to faith, good reasons for faith. These include: a. the power of the Gospels, and of the figure of Christ met there, to move readers’ souls; b. Christ’s miracles, which continue today in various places throughout the world; c. fulfilled prophecies (Christ in the Gospels fulfilled hundreds of specific Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah); d. the history of the Church: (375).

If this is the case, then it seems strange that we can instead predict a person being Catholic almost totally by whether their parents were Catholic. Among converts, they’ll almost always be the closely related Protestants. Unless Catholics just happened to have all the reasonable kids, this claim is implausible.

The Catholic faith is certain. “It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie” (389).

Except you need to establish that there is a God who cannot lie with perfect certainty. This seems implausible.

(CCC 157). The objective (in itself) certainty of God’s revelation does not depend on the subjective (in our minds) certitude of our feelings or reasons. The object of faith is not anything in ourselves; it is God (390).

God also tests our faith by remaining invisible, so that we must believe him instead of seeing him. He could manifest himself in constant miraculous displays, but he does not do so, for our sake. For more “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (416).

Ad hoc hypothesis. Could be used to explain any level of miracles, or any lack thereof.

No one “loses” his faith, as he loses his watch. Faith is never lost against our will, any more than it is chosen against our will. We choose to believe, and we choose not to believe (424).

This also seems to contradict the experiences of those who value their faith, but find it so deeply unreasonable. I suppose a Catholic could call them liars or deluded, which seems a bitter pill to swallow, but could be true. My own personal experience is a gradual loss of belief. . . not really a force of will, but a slow loss due to lack of evidence, or evidence to the contrary. Kreeft would say that I chose not to believe, which seems implausible from my perspective.

Chapter 2: God

all men by nature know something about God. Scripture itself says so: “His invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:20). We know God instinctively. Children and primitive peoples never begin as atheists (503).

Not sure this is precisely true. I think that something like supernatural agentic beings are pretty intuitive and universal, but I don’t think that an invisible, super powerful, all good creator of everything is inherent in all people and cultures. Thing Roman Gods or Chinese atheistic buddhism/ancestor worship.

Not even moral sceptics and relativists think it is morally good to disobey your own conscience deliberately (520).

I can think of some exceptions. I don’t trust peoples’ consciences when it is anti-interracial marriage. That makes me question the infallibility of my own conscience. I strive to inform my moral intuitions with facts and reason.

God gave his Church the authority and infallibility that is fitting for God’s own instrument; anything less would have been unworthy of the honor of God and inadequate to the needs of fallen man (551).

the reason for the doctrine of the Trinity is similar to the reason for Einstein’s theory of relativity or any other good scientific theory: it alone explains all the data (649).

The reason God is a Trinity is because God is love. Love requires twoness, in fact threeness: the lover, the beloved, and the act, or relationship, of love between them (667).

This seems a little forced. If God is love, then God could solely be the act- unless the lover is also love, and the beloved is also love. One could easily say that just the action is “love.” I think this is somewhat sloppy philosophy, but I can see how it can be convincing to some.

Because God is love, love is the supreme value. Because love is the supreme value, it is the meaning of our lives, for we are created in God’s image (670).

reason cannot disprove this doctrine either. It is not logically self-contradictory. It says that God is one in nature and three in Persons, but it does not say that God is both one Person and three Persons, or one nature and three natures. That would be a meaningless self-contradiction (684).

If by disprove we mean render impossible, then I suppose so. But reason could render the trinity wildly implausible. The existence of a single nature, tri-person has no precedent, and appears completely foreign to almost anything we have experienced. I would consider it to have a negligible prior probability. What else has one nature and three persons?

Chapter 3: Creation

Fewer than 1 percent of all men who have ever lived have been atheists. To be an atheist you must be an elitist and believe that there was nothing but a fantasy and an illusion at the very center of the lives of over 99 percent of all men and women in history (700).

I think this unfairly stacks the rhetorical deck against atheists. There are plenty of things that historically have been common beliefs, but that the modern world has moved past (or should move past). Earth going around the sun, racism, sexism, naive physics (inertia), naive biology (eyes radiate sight rays to see). Maybe there are better examples, but I think most of these were common if not universal historically, and now we have changed our minds, an act that I don’t think is elitist. Also, Christianity was once a minority. At some point, 99% of humans had been non-Christians. Does this mean that the first Christians were elitist?

we are a part of the universe (in fact, the highest, most recent, most complex, and most intelligent part, according to both Scripture and the theory of evolution) (790).

I’m not sure that all of these follow. Evolution goes against us being the “highest.” We are the most recent, along with modern bacteria, frogs, and other apes. Most complex? Not really. Most intelligent? I think so, although I don’t know if that is an evolutionary finding.

c. If God is our Creator, we have no rights over against God, as we do over against each other. How could a character in a novel have rights over against his author? Since we are created out of nothing, we have nothing we can call our own over against God (795).

Controversial view of rights. Some would say that no matter the creator, no conscious being can be owned by another. If some human had the power to create ex nihilo, I don’t think this gives the human rights to abuse the creation. I would consider that deeply immoral.

God had no need to create. He was not lonely or bored or incomplete. He has no imperfections. “God created all things ‘not to increase his glory’ ” [for that is impossible] “ ‘but to show it forth and to communicate it’ (820).

Why did he do it? The motive for this sharing of his glory is pure unselfish love, “God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness” (822).

If the world is any worse off due to evil, then there appears to be a reason not to create. If it is better off, then that challenges God’s omnibenevolence.

“The hierarchy of creatures is expressed by the order of the ‘six days’ ” [of creation], “from the less perfect to the more perfect” (CCC 342). The theory of evolution agrees with this. Like the days of creation, evolution also proceeds in a progressive and hierarchical pattern (846).

If the devil is not real, the Bible lies (for example, 1 Pet 5:8), and Christ was a fool, for he certainly believed in demons and in Satan. (905)

moral evil comes neither from God nor from the material world he created but from our own choices. To find the origin of evil, look not up at the heavens nor out at the earth, but into a mirror. Man brought evil into the world by disobeying God’s good will and law (921).

What kind of free will would justify this? If it is choices are uncaused, then humans are not ultimately responsible. If it is caused, then we can trace the causal chain to God creating it. No combination seems to escape the issue either.

on the question of moral evil we may say that (1) its origin is man’s free will, and (2) its providential purpose is (a) the good of preserving our free will and (b) the good of Christ’s redemption from it (931).

God has free will, yet does not choose evil. Why not humans? If freedom to choose evil makes us better, then why would it not make God better? Free will seems like this black box in which serious issues are hidden.

Chapter 4: Man

when any culture says No to God, it says No to life and becomes what Pope John Paul II has dared to call a “culture of death” (981).

only man is ‘able to know and love his creator.’1. . . [H]e alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God’s own life. It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity” (987).

Catholic meaning of life is to know and love God, to share in his knowledge and love.

Why should we treat these inconvenient and “unwanted” people as our brothers and sisters? The Church thunders the gentle answer: Because they are our brothers and sisters, “in Christ” (1017).

I feel there must be some inferential steps in to link being brothers and sisters to treating someone well. Being a brother doesn’t create in itself the obligation to be treated well. If it does, I think evolution shows that we are in some way all brothers and sisters, along with the other animals. We all came from a common ancestor.

Man is not merely a body (that is materialism). Nor is he merely a soul (that is spiritualism). Nor is he two beings, like a ghost in a machine (that is dualism). He is one being in two dimensions, bodily and spiritual. “The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the ‘form’ of the body” (1042).

Seems to be hylomorphism. I can’t say I understand it yet. What are the implications  that distinguish it from materialism or naturalistic dual-property theory?

The Church does not require us to interpret the creation and Fall stories in Genesis literally, but she does insist that they must be interpreted historically, as something that really happened (1110).

What evidence is there that something like this happened?

This is why secular explanations of evil are not sufficient. “Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure” (CCC 387) (1128).

‘There is nothing to prevent human nature’s being raised up to something greater, even after sin; God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good (1168).

Chapter 5: Jesus Christ

If it really happened, it is the greatest fact that ever entered the universe. If it did not really happen, then it is the greatest fantasy that ever entered the universe of human thought (1241).

Can’t say I agree. Seems a bit of hyperbole.

Tolkien says of the Gospels, “There is no tale that [good] men would rather believe is true.” The unbeliever’s only defensible defense against the gospel is that it is “too good to be true”. Only the hard or despairing heart can look on that face on the Cross, know who that is, what he is doing, what love made him do it, and whose sin made it necessary, without melting (1252).

I can think of a few better tales, like a universalist one with no hell. That would be a bit better.

This one Person has two natures: he is both fully divine and fully human. This is a mystery and a paradox, but not a logical contradiction, not impossible. It is not one person and two persons, or one nature and two natures, but one person with two natures (1263).

the word “God” is used in two ways in Scripture: (a) “God” means the one Divine Being, who exists equally and totally in each Divine Person, (b) “God” also means the personal name for the Father, as distinct from Christ, who is the Son of God the Father (1283).

I’m curious as to how this conclusions was reached. Is there a linguistic reason, or a historical reason? It looks like special pleading, but there very well may be good reasons to conclude this.

As the son of a man is a man, and the son of an ape is an ape, and the son of a Martian would be a Martian, so the Son of God is God (1306).

Son of a carpenter? Son of David?

a. “The Word became flesh for us in order to save us” [from sin and its consequence, eternal separation from God] “by reconciling us with God, who ‘loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation” [atonement] “for our sins” [1 Jn 4:10’ 4:14]; (CCC 457), It is as if the governor voluntarily became a prisoner and went to the electric chair in place of the condemned murderer, to set the murderer free (1338).

That scenario seems deeply immoral to me. Wouldn’t it be better if the prisoner died? Isn’t our eternal damnation simply justice, and not something that is “bad”?

Jesus claims to be not only Savior but the Savior, the only Savior from sin and the only way to heaven (Jn 10:7; 14:6; Acts 4:12) (1373).

There are three interpretations of Christ’s “narrow way” sayings, such as John 14:6 (“I am the way . . . no one comes to the Father, but by me”); a. The Church’s traditional interpretation is Christocentric: one must have faith in Christ to be saved, but that faith may possibly be implicit or unclear or unaware of itself, as with the good, God-seeking pagan. b. The very narrow or fundamentalist interpretation is ecclesiocentric: one must have explicit faith in Christ and be in his visible Church to be saved. c. The very broad or liberal interpretation is theocentric without being Christocentric. It maintains that all who seek God in any way are saved, whether through Christ or not (1376).

Pretty important divergence from Protestantism as I see it. It’s possible for pagans, and perhaps atheists to go to heaven. . . maybe. They have to be God seeking, which could mean many things. If one were to seek the truth, and God is truth, then one is seeking God without knowing it. On the other hand, if God exists, and one seems to seek truth but keeps on moving away from belief in God, then from a Catholic perspective it looks like the person is not seeking God.

The Church does not teach the fundamentalist interpretation (1383).

Nothing more concretely and conclusively proves Christ’s divinity than his Resurrection. No one but God can conquer death (1470).

Aliens? Nanotech?

He promised he would return (Lk 21:27-28), and he keeps his promises(1493).

Chapter 6: The Holy Spirit

What did the world call the first Christians? Acts 17:6 tells us: “these men who have turned the world upside down” (1580).

Everyone knows that love is the meaning of life, life’s highest value, the summum bonum, or greatest good (1601).

I didn’t know that.

saints like Mother Teresa seem so smart and sophisticated scholars so silly when it comes to understanding the mind of God (1613).

Big on appearance, but I am not convinced of her “sainthood.”

To whom does God give the Spirit? And what must we do to receive him? Scripture’s answer is scandalously simple—so simple it is hard for us: “I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened (1637).

Testable hypothesis, like psychics. When one asks and doesn’t receive, in comes the special pleading.

The Spirit. . . ‘will not speak on his own’ [Jn 16:13]. Such properly divine self-effacement” (CCC 687) is remarkable. God is selfeffacing! God is humble! How dare we be proud (1746)?

I don’t find this convincing as a good reason for the Holy Spirit not to be more well revealed. It’s humility, but at the expense of human souls who stand unaware.

Only one merely human being in history was so “full of grace” and of the Holy Spirit in this world that she was sinless and perfectly obeyed the “first and greatest commandment”, to love God with her whole heart and soul and mind and strength(1792).

So free will is compatible with sinlessness.

Chapter 7: The Holy Catholic Church

The fundamental reason for being a Catholic is the historical fact that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ, was God’s invention (1846).

Suppose we had to figure out the right doctrine of the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, the sacraments, Mary, and controversial moral issues like contraception and homosexuality and euthanasia. Who then could ever know with certainty the mind and will of God? How could there then be one Church? There would be twenty thousand different churches, each teaching its own opinion (1854).

The twenty thousand different churches thing appears to basically be the case. Sure, the Catholic Church claims to be the true one, but it has had branches and splits into many different parts.

The authority of the Church was necessary for us to know the truth of the Trinity (1876).

No Christian has ever learned of Christ except through some ministry of the Church (1883).

Why must this be the case? Why couldn’t the holy spirit inspire aboriginal New Zealander’s to believe? That would be a good piece of evidence for Catholicism, if there were Churches that arose independently in different cultures. Unfortunately, it seems to simply follow the pattern of godless cultural transmission.

Vatican Council I defined what Catholics had always believed: that the pope, like the ecumenical (worldwide) councils, is infallible (preserved by God from error) when defining doctrine or morality for the whole Church. He is not personally infallible, but his office is (1911).

Another important thing. The pope is not infallible in everything, only in certain areas, and when proclaiming an “absolute decision.”

a. “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful . . , he proclaims in an absolute decision a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals” (LG 25). b. “The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme teaching office” (LG 25). c. Even doctrines not explicitly labeled infallible can be binding on Catholic belief because “[d]ivine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter,. . . when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a ‘definitive manner,’ they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching. . of faith and morals (1922).

the Church explicitly teaches that many who call themselves non-Catholics are saved (1952).

“[t]hose who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation” (1954).

A “cafeteria Catholic” or a half Catholic or a 95 percent Catholic is a contradiction in terms. If the Catholic Church does not have the divine authority and infallibility she claims, then she is not half right or 95 percent right, but the most arrogant and blasphemous of all churches, a false prophet claiming “thus says the Lord” for mere human opinions (1994).

Seems to cut out about half or more of Catholics. Is this something that Kreeft would want to admit? The Catholic Church drops down to a much more minimal place as far as world religions go.

If anyone wonders which of the twenty thousand different churches that claim to be Christ’s true church is really the one Christ established, this is how to recognize it. Only one church has all four marks in their fullness: the Catholic Church (2072).

Chapter 8: The Forgiveness of Sins

“Sin” means more than merely bad behavior or bad habits. It means a No to God, his will, his law, and his love (2290).

Because we are not born innocent of original sin, only innocent of actual sins. And our original sin leads us to commit actual sins. Our being conditions our actions. We sin because we are sinners, just as we sing because we are singers. Our nature conditions our acts, as an alcoholic’s brain chemistry and chemical dependency condition his act of drinking. This does not mean we are not responsible for actual sins, for the will’s choice is also involved in the act—sometimes a lot, sometimes a little. We ire not determined, but we are conditioned—led, pulled, influenced—by our sinful nature and instincts (2322).

Is there an official Catholic account of free will? I have trouble seeing how libertarian or compatibilist free will would make the above okay. In no case does it seem that humans are ultimately responsible.

No sin is too great for God and his Church to forgive, if repentance is honest. . . . “There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive” (2385).

The popular images of hell—brimstone, pitchforks, and torture—and even the biblical imagery of fire, are not to be taken literally (that is part of what is meant by calling them “images”), but they are to be taken seriously. The reality of hell—eternal separation from God—is much more terrible, not less, than the imagery (2401).

all who seek God with a sincere and honest heart find him, whether in this life or in the next (2492).

So those who don’t eventually find him are dishonest and insincere.

Chapter 9: The Resurrection of the Body

What happens at death is the particular judgment. God infallibly knows and judges each soul as either (a) able to enter heaven immediately, or (b) needing to be purified in purgatory first and then able to enter heaven, or (c) set forever (since our lifetime is over) in unrepented sin and capable only of hell (2657).

Is it possible to escape hell ever? Is death the expiration date on the offer for salvation? Why not leave it open?

The significance of Christ’s Resurrection was not merely that it was visible proof of life after death. The soul was always immortal, a fact always knowable by human reason (2680).

What were the reasons?

If science should ever discover how to make our present bodies immortal by genetic engineering, this would not give us heaven on earth but hell on earth. We would be like eggs that never hatched. We know that smell (2684).

Maybe. . . not convinced. The smell thing is a little gratuitous.

Chapter 10: Life Everlasting

The life story of any individual or community gets its meaning, point, and purpose from its end. So to know what kind of story we are in, to know what is the “meaning of life”, we must know our end. The Church tells us our end. It is one with our origin. In the words of the old Baltimore Catechism, “God made me to know him, love him, and serve him in this world and to be happy with him forever in the next” (2772).

By end, is he saying teleological end? Like the reason a creator had in mind for the thing? If so, this does not seem like it is necessary a purpose worth pursuing. If I was conceived and raised to be a killer or torturer, I think I would still have a reason to act against this end.

The data here include at least three pieces of evidence for immortality: There is, first of all, our universal longing for “something more” than this world can ever give us. A real “life everlasting” is the only thing that makes sense of humanity’s deep, innate desire for “life everlasting”, a desire that is present in nearly all times and places and cultures (2778).

I think this ignores the evidence we have against immortality, like the mind body link. Fewer things are more supported than that destroying the mind destroys the body. Thus no immortality. Even if the three reasons below were evidence for immortality (I think there are good counter-examples), it still suffers from the flaw of understated evidence.

All natural and innate Tdesires of the human heart, all desires that are found in all times and places because they come from within rather than from without, correspond to realities that can satisfy these desires: food, drink, sex, sleep, friendship, knowledge, health, freedom, beauty. The same must be true of the desire for everlasting life (2783).

“Must” overstates the case. I’m not sure that we really do desire everlasting life. I desire not to be hungry. Does that mean I desire everlasting food, and that everlasting food exists? I think this parallels everlasting life. We can account for our desire not to die without presupposing everlasting life. We can account for our desire not to be hungry without presupposing everlasting food. I think an evolutionary/instinctual argument would suffice to take away the pull from this.

A second reason for believing in everlasting life is the data perceived by love. The eye of love perceives persons as intrinsically valuable, indispensable, irreplaceable. If death ends all, if life treats these indispensable persons as if they were dispensable and disposable things, “then life is an outrageous horror (2785).

Argument from consequences? If life is finite that doesn’t mean it is dispensable or disposable (these words add the implication that they are of no worth). That just begs the question against the person who thinks finite things do have value.

A third good reason for belief in everlasting life is the fact that we have spiritual, rational souls that are able to know eternal truths (2 + 2 is eternally 4) and to know the eternal value of love. This at least strongly suggests that we have a kinship with eternity, that we are more than merely temporal creatures (2789).

Can’t say I understand this reason. Saying we have “souls” and that they are “spiritual” kind of sneaks the conclusion in.

Hell is a real possibility because our will is free. If we look into the implications of the doctrine of free will, we will see the doctrine of hell there as a necessary part of the package (2860).

I’d say the implication is that no one deserves eternal punishment, but I await further explanation of free will.

“God predestines no one to go to hell”6 (CCC 1037). The cause of hell is not God but man (2869).

“The [just] wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23). There is no “second chance” after death because there is no more time. Our life-time comes to an end. The time for repentance and salvation is now (2874).

in heaven, we will be perfectly sanctified, with no lingering bad habits or imperfections in our souls. (2925).

So free will and perfection are compatible. Does a soul need to go through some process to become perfect? I think there’s no non-ad-hoc reason that God couldn’t make perfect beings with free will if they are logically possible in heaven.

Philosophy of Mind 6: Functionalism Argument Map

Functionalism: Mental states are functional states that correlate inputs to a system with outputs from it and with other internal states (3358)

Functionalism: Mental states are functional states that correlate inputs to a system with outputs from it and with other internal states (3358)

Philosophy of Mind 3: Substance Dualism

Rather than write out a synopsis, I’m attempting some argument mapping, and trying to use Anki software. Let’s see how I did.

Modal Argument for Substance Dualism

Click for the full view

Worldviews Part 3- Recent Developments in Science and Worldviews

Chapter 23: The Special Theory of Relativity

This theory is “special” because it applies to special cases, in contrast to the general theory of relativity, which applies to much more. The theory is based on the constancy of the speed of light (why do we believe it to be constant?) which states that the speed of light in a vacuum will always be the same. Also the principle of relativity, which states that there is no privileged point of view from which one is at motion and another at rest. Together these lead to the strange conclusion that time dilates the faster you go. The faster you are going, the slower time moves relative to non-moving things. Objects also shrink as they move faster.

Much like Newtonian physics challenged common views of inertia and celestial bodies, the special theory of relativity challenges common beliefs about time and distance.

Chapter 24: The General Theory of Relativity

General relativity is based on two main aspects. The principle of general covariance says that the laws of physics are the same for all reference frames. The principle of equivalence states that the effects of acceleration are indistinguishable from the effects of gravity.

This theory changes our view of gravity in an important way. Instead of Newtonian action at a distance, gravity consists of the bending of space-time as objects move in straight lines. This forces us to take an instrumentalist view of Newtonian physics.

Chapter 25: Overview of the Empirical Facts, Mathematics, and Interpretations of Quantum Theory

DeWitt emphasizes the difference between agreed facts, the mathematical model, and the interpretation:

there are at least three separate issues that should be kept distinct, these being (a) the quantum facts, that is, empirical facts involving quantum entities, (b) quantum theory itself, by which I will mean the mathematical core of quantum theory, and (c) interpretations of quantum theory, which involve philosophical questions about what sort of reality could give rise to the quantum facts (5491).

There are four key experiments that describe the weirdness of quantum theory

The first is the double slit experiment If we shoot electrons toward a barrier with two slits, we would expect different outcomes if electrons act as particles or if they act as waves. There would be two bands if they act as particles, and multiple rows if they act as waves. In this case, the electrons act as waves would.

The second adds electron detectors at each slit. If electrons act as waves, both will go off at the same time when an electron is sent out. Otherwise, just one will activate at a time. In this case, the electrons act as particles would, and activate one detector at a time.

Experiment three uses a photon gun. Photons are fired through a beam splitter. If the photons act as a wave, the wave will split into two, reflect off of two mirrors, and then interfere with each other, not affecting photographic paper where the waves intersect. If they act as particles, there will be no interference- they will travel to one mirror or another, and hit the paper. In this experiment, photons act like waves.

Experiment four adds photon detectors between the mirror and the photographic paper. Here, either one detector goes off at a time, not both. This is as is expected if photons act as particles.

Regarding the math of QT, a few things distinguish it from other models. When using math to describe the motion of a falling boulder, it is non-controversial how each aspect of the equation (time, acceleration, etc.) match reality. QT makes extremely successful predictions, but a great deal of it is hard to match up with reality. It is also probabilistic instead of deterministic.

Interpretation of QT is where most of the controversy comes from. Interpretation is a largely philosophical matter that involves trying to figure out what reality must be like to give rise to the uncontroversial experimental results.

DeWitt breaks down multiple interpretations: including the standard or Copenhagen interpretation, which involves a collapse of the wave function on measurement, the Bohm interpretation, that adds faster than light communication but gets rid of the superposition, and the multiverse interpretation, that gets rid of the wave function collapse. Instead of the wave function collapsing on a single reality, reality continues to be branched out and superimposed, with many branches of reality existing at once.

Chapter 26: Quantum Theory and Locality- EPR, Bell’s Theorem, and the Aspect Experiment

A running question in quantum theory was whether or not a “local” view of reality is true, or a “non-local” one. As far as I can understand, the local view states that nothing can cause or affect another thing without some sort of contact or influence. We can generally say an affect is non-local it occurs faster than the speed of light. Since nothing should be able to do so, such an affect would be non-local.

The EPR/Bell/Aspect trio of experiments help establish a non-local view of reality. EPR is basically a thought experiment about what a non-local event would look like. Bell’s theorem is a way to actually test the assumption mathematically. The Aspect experiments further support the non-local view. The results that we would expect if reality is local do not occur- instead those in line with quantum theory and non-locality occur.

Chapter 27: Overview of the Theory of Evolution

Evolution can be reduced to two major points. It (basically) occurs when there is 1) variation and 2) a struggle for existence (a selection process). DeWitt contrasts this against myths of evolution. The most pervasive, he says, is that there is inherent teleology in evolution, sort of like the classic image of an animal steadily walking more upright until it becomes human. There is no built in goal of evolution. Second myth is that evolution works totally by chance. While chance is an important part, there is also the selection process, and generational changes. Briefly he confronts the idea that evolution is just a theory, and the factual belief that it says humans come from current apes.

There’s a decent exposition on the history of the idea, but I don’t know if it is all that necessary to the major points of the book.

Chapter 28: Philosophical and Conceptual Implications of Evolution

DeWitt first looks at religious implications of evolution. Some thinkers, like Dennett and Dawkins say that any Western Abrahamic God is basically falsified by evolution. There is nothing in the empirical data that would lead us to such a God.

Process theologians like Haught think that evolution elevates God. Instead of some sort of static creation that is made and done, there is a process of universal evolution that continues, instead of just ending abruptly after completion. DeWitt’s major point is that our overall worldviews are extremely important in distinguishing the two interpretations or reactions. Both of these camps fully accept the facts of evolution, but there are considerations that go beyond the facts.

Next DeWitt looks at how ethics may be affected by evolution. There’s some fairly interesting stuff here on game theory and the evolution of morality. But really I think the naturalistic fallacy makes it much harder to take such scientific findings and get to morality with them. Of course Haught thinks that somehow evolution grounds ethics, but it seems like mumbo jumbo to me. A more responsible thinker would describe why, but all I’ll say is that the is/ought gap remains, even through Haught’s thick philosophical cover.

Chapter 29: Worldviews- Concluding Thoughts

Summary of the whole thing.