Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Josh Rosenau lends Hosni Mubarak a hand

Ever since the NCSE's Josh Rosenau made several embarrassing logical blunders in an exchange between this blog and his (see here and here), he has forsaken logical argumentation almost entirely in favor of juvenile insults and the hurling of primitive epithets. It's probably for the best, since his attempts at actual reasoning kept blowing up in his face.

It's probably not a good idea for a reputable science organization to put its credibility at risk by allowing Rosenau to stray far from the office, much less give him an official title, but such, apparently, are the standards now employed by the NCSE (The National Center for Science Education).

My original theory was that one of his parents worked for the NCSE and they took him to work one day and let him play at the desk and Josh started posting on the website, thinking he was a big person now. But, sure enough, when you go to the organization's site and scroll way, way, way down, there it is, a biography of their "Programs and Policy Director," where we are informed that Josh studied the "relationships between Philippine rodent species based on phallic morphology" at the University of Chicago.

Let's hope the Philippine rats he studied are better at operating the particular organ to which Rosenau devoted his undergraduate years than he is at operating a logical syllogism. If not, one could well wonder how the darn things survive at all.

Seriously, you would think Rosenau could at least inject some wit into his invective, but instead all we get this low grade name-calling that no self-respecting elementary school playground bully would be caught dead uttering publicly. Let this just be a lesson to us all: you go studying the male genitalia of Philippine rats as a young college student and the Peter Principle might just kick in early.

One of the epithets that got hurled this way was "logic-impaired." Anyone interested in investigating Rosenau's qualifications to make such judgments should check just several posts down, where he can find this statement: "good logic is only as valid as its premises."

Say whut?

Good logic is only as valid as its premises? Any logic student with a week's worth of instruction in logic could spot the problem in that assertion. Validity applies only to the deductive inference that occurs between the premises and the conclusion. It has precisely NOTHING to do with the premises themselves.

That's just an axiom in the morphology of logic. Even in the Philippines.

In any case, his most recent attack on this blog concerns my previous post on whether Internet access is a "basic human right." I asserted that this kind human rights talk as applied to Internet access was an example of "rhetorical inflation"--one more example of saying something we happen to like is a "right." And I pointed out that there are only two things you could possibly mean by such talk: that it was a part of what philosophers call the positive, written law or of the universal, unwritten (or "natural") law.

The first is civil, and it may or may not be based on the higher natural law. If it is, then it is a civil expression of the second; if it isn't, then it is a mere convention. If the civil law is based on the natural law, then it is a civil expression of real justice; if the civil law is not based on the natural law, then it only expresses a preference we all have and agree to for commanding or prohibiting something.

This simple disjunction, of course, set Rosenau to head-scratching. He just couldn't make anything of it:
First, assuming there is some sort of "inflation" of "rights language" ("rhetorical" or otherwise). Is that so bad? Is the suggestion that people have too many rights?
He then insists it must be metaphysical because it's possible to argue against some laws as conflicting with metaphysically granted rights (whatever that means), and then he doesn't really say how he'd assess that case.
Well, first off, what does "too many" rights have to do with it? The question is what grounds something metaphysically as a right. You don't determine that by going around counting them up. That method may make sense to an expert in the phallic morphology of rodents, but it doesn't constitute a respectable philosophical analysis.
Can we just make everything a right? Then there would be more rights and, under a Rosenauian analysis, that would be all the better. It would also excuse us from having to think hard thoughts, and that would certainly suit Rosenau.

And what does "assessing the case" mean? I asserted that the only ground on which you could criticize a written law is on the basis of a higher law. How else are you going to criticize it? On the basis of another written law? If so, upon what basis do you say the one written law is better than the other?

If you disagree with that, then you are basically saying you don't believe in justice.
Let me say this in the simplest possible way so I can communicate this thought to the NCSE's Program and Policy Director: You can't possibly critique a written law (whether statutory or constitutional) unless you have some perspective outside of the written law itself from which to do it. How do you argue that a written law is wrong unless you have intellectual fulcrum from outside and above the written law?
But perhaps this is too much for Rosenau to intellectually digest all at once, as evidenced by this comment:
I'd start with legal rights, rather than metaphysical ones, because how do you test whether something is a metaphysical right? One of the rights protected in the US's Bill of Rights is a protection of "freedom of the press." The founders thought that was kind of important, and lots of other countries borrowed that concept, sometimes even that phrase, as they created democratic constitutions in the 20th century.
(Yes, I know, this is an exercise in patience). You judge a metaphysical right by a legal right? Now that's a novel idea. You mean all you've got to do to establish a metaphysical right is to write it down and have everyone nod their head?

No. All you've got to is appeal to a group called the "United Nations." As long as the group has this name and it has a lot of countries participating in it (many of which are dictatorships with bad human rights records), their pronouncements are, apparently (in the world of rodent phallus specialists), infallible.
Conveniently for us, the UN crafted a Universal Declaration of Human Rights after World War II, and it was approved without objections by the UN General Assembly in 1948. Egypt voted for it then. The right to a free press is enshrined in it.
Well, I suppose that is convenient for people who don't understand much about natural law and don't apparently want to know much about it. Rosenau is very impressed with the United Nations. It's big. And it has lots of delegates. That gives it more authority than any other organization.

For Josh Rosenau, human rights is a matter of counting heads.

But then comes the real howler:
Though the Declaration is, like the US's Declaration of Independence, not a law itself, it exists to set out the rights that the community of nations agreed to be universal.
What? Is Rosenau saying that the Declaration of Independence simply "sets out rights ... agreed to be universal?" I guess he missed that part about "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..." The Declaration doesn't leave off at social contract theory; it proceeds to invoke God in authorizing its "unalienable rights." And any theory that doesn't go that far (like the various U.N. documents Rosenau thinks came down from Sinai) simply begs the question.

If all you need is a bunch of people getting together and agreeing to something to establish the authority of a human rights declaration, what if something is wrong with it? Upon what basis would you judge it good or bad? Do you form the Super Duper United Nations to make an even better one?

And if you simply employ social contract theory, which theorist are you going to go by? John Locke? Rousseau? Or Thomas Hobbes, who advocated authoritarian monarchy? But isn't this just the problem in Egypt? Authoritarian monarchy (remember, he was grooming his son to take his place)?

This is the whole problem with human rights theorists who refuse to recognize a law above the law: they completely relativize the whole concept of human rights. If there are enough Hosni Mubaraks, then they've got just as much claim to the human rights mantle as anyone else.

Josh Rosenau: Hosni Mubarak's favorite human rights theorist.

Someone text this boy's parents and get his hands off the controls of the NCSE. Quick. Before this gets even more embarrassing.

26 comments:

Singring said...

'If all you need is a bunch of people getting together and agreeing to something to establish the authority of a human rights declaration, what if something is wrong with it? Upon what basis would you judge it good or bad? Do you form the Super Duper United Nations to make an even better one?'

Martin...suppose, for the sake of argument, that a US arm of the Muslim Brotherhood were to win the 2012 elections in a sweep and proceeded to change the bill of rights to incorporate Shariah law based on 'inalienable right endowed by Allah'.

Upon what basis woulkd you judge it good or bad?

Andrew said...

Martin,

Why are you so mean? I hope you have fun with Singring's question because it's exactly the right one.

Steve Billingsley said...

Yeah, that's a hanging curveball if I've ever seen one.

Singring said...

'Yeah, that's a hanging curveball if I've ever seen one.'

Then go ahead...hit it out of the park.

Steve Billingsley said...

Short answer (not a lot of time right now, but will follow up)

I would judge it to be bad.

The basis is natural law, which although it is amenable to religious thought has a long tradition in philosophy dating at least to Aristotle.

What would your basis be?

Singring said...

'The basis is natural law, which although it is amenable to religious thought has a long tradition in philosophy dating at least to Aristotle.'

That's nice. But that's exactly what the Muslim Brotherhood would be claiming for itself as well. If treating women with dignity and respect is a 'natural law' for you, then that's just fine.

But the Mulsims would just claim that their idea of a 'natural law' is valid and that women should therefore be treated like dirt.

So it doesn't make your way of judging it wrong any more valid than theirs, I'm afraid.

That is the crux of invocing some 'creator' or 'metaphysical law' to derive your moral values, because - as Christopher Hitchens likes to point out - if you allow it for one you allow it for all.

Personally, I would reject Shariah law because it is abhorrent to my personal moral standards of minimizin harm. I don't claim that this is some lofty universal moral standard, but at least I can be honest about it.

Simply asserting that your particular idea of what the creator or natural law tells you is right is more valid than what the Taliban thinks the creator or natural law tells them what is valid and right is no more useful tahn me asserting that my personal opinion is universally valid and right.

Steve Billingsley said...

A bit longer answer (still not exhaustive by any means)

When I say natural law, I am speaking of a long mediated tradition that goes from Aristotle, Cicero, Stoicism, the New Testament, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, English common law, Richard Cumberland (specifically his rebuttal of Hobbes)Hugo Grotius, John Locke and much more.

Islamic scholars,in defending Shariah law might appeal to Aristotle (as well as the Quran and subsequent sources) but would not trace the same path as I have above.

You resort to your own individual moral conscience, to which I would make two quick comments.

1. All judgments that individuals make, regardless of the sources that they use are mediated through our own individual thought processes and interpretations. One of the reasons that it is preferable to appeal outside of oneself is to hopefully minimize one's own biases and blind spots.
2. Your own moral conscience did not arise in a vacuum. You take personal responsibility for your judgment, which is good and which we all should do. But you were certainly influenced by some tradition and/or information outside of yourself.

While I appeal to a specifically religious authority (I believe that the natural law tradition which I cite above is consistent with and in fact a providential evidence of God, and by God I mean specifically the Christian God), it does not rule out a non-believer appealing to the exact same tradition.

Mr. Hitchens' statement (if you allow for one you must allow for all)is a bit hollow. The natural law tradition that I cite above sets a specific moral framework which disagrees with much of the framework set out in Shariah law (the example you used of the treatment of women being only one such disagreement)and this tradition has been worked out over centuries and in reality sets out the entire foundation for what is conceived as Western civil society. Beyond even Western civil society, many Eastern traditions appeal outside the self to ancestors and a sense of natural law in a way that arrives at much different conclusions than Shariah law. All traditions make value judgments as to what is superior or inferior.

The example Martin Cothran uses in his original post is an example of a quite shallow and flippant way of making moral judgments without any appeal outside oneself other than a narrow band of popular opinion within a closed group.

Singring said...

'One of the reasons that it is preferable to appeal outside of oneself is to hopefully minimize one's own biases and blind spots.'

This is very true and I applaud your commitment to this principle. However, appealing to 'natural law' is not at all an appeal outside oneself...because what premises one uses to arrive at moral conclusions derived from natural law are completely and utterly subjective. So in fact this is a prime example of going by one's own biases.

At least I have the honesty to admit it.

'But you were certainly influenced by some tradition and/or information outside of yourself.'

And you are not?

'While I appeal to a specifically religious authority '

So do the Taliban. So who is right? Who picked the right God from the stack of deities? How come you are on the side of the 'right' God with the 'right' natural law, and the Muslim Brotehrhood is on the wrong side when you appeal to exactly the same metaphysical principles?

'Beyond even Western civil society, many Eastern traditions appeal outside the self to ancestors and a sense of natural law in a way that arrives at much different conclusions than Shariah law. All traditions make value judgments as to what is superior or inferior.'

Muslims apply outside of the self. So how come their appeal is a false one while yours is not? What's the standard here?

'The example Martin Cothran uses in his original post is an example of a quite shallow and flippant way of making moral judgments without any appeal outside oneself...'

So are you trying to tell me that appealing 'outside of oneself' is inherently superior to appealing to something else?

Say for example a Muslim wanted to stone a woman and I wanted to intervene. He appeals outside himself to Allah, I appeal to within myself, to my personal moral standard - are you trying to tell me that you believe the Muslim would be right to stone that woman simply because he is appealing to something outside of himself?

Steve Billingsley said...

"This is very true and I applaud your commitment to this principle. However, appealing to 'natural law' is not at all an appeal outside oneself...because what premises one uses to arrive at moral conclusions derived from natural law are completely and utterly subjective. So in fact this is a prime example of going by one's own biases."

I am not claiming to remove all subjectivity. But I am using resources outside of myself to hopefully identify biases. It is not foolproof but it is preferable to ignoring the resources that are there.

"'While I appeal to a specifically religious authority '

So do the Taliban. So who is right? Who picked the right God from the stack of deities? How come you are on the side of the 'right' God with the 'right' natural law, and the Muslim Brotherhood is on the wrong side when you appeal to exactly the same metaphysical principles?"

Quote the rest of the statement. One need not appeal to religious authority to appeal to the same tradition I just did. The Taliban may cite some of the same tradition but they are not using exactly the same metaphysical principles. What you are calling "bias" can also be called "judgment" and you are using the same thing when you claim to be using only your own moral judgment.

"'But you were certainly influenced by some tradition and/or information outside of yourself.'

And you are not?"

Where did I claim that I wasn't influenced? In fact, I specifically cite particular influences. This does not lessen my own personal responsibility in making moral judgments, it just acknowledges what should be obvious. What are your influences? Naming them and considering their influence on your thinking is admitting your limits.

How do I know which God is superior out of the stack of deities (to use your phrase)? Ultimately I don't know with 100% certainty. I use judgment just like you do. But the fact of the matter is that you don't know I am wrong either. Even the scientific knowledge that you tout from time to time is provisional and subject to change. Martin might answer that differently than I do, but belief and choice is part of the equation both for me and for you.

"So are you trying to tell me that appealing 'outside of oneself' is inherently superior to appealing to something else?

Say for example a Muslim wanted to stone a woman and I wanted to intervene. He appeals outside himself to Allah, I appeal to within myself, to my personal moral standard - are you trying to tell me that you believe the Muslim would be right to stone that woman simply because he is appealing to something outside of himself?"

I didn't simply state that appealing outside yourself is superior in and of itself. It is acknowledgment that we all appeal outside of ourselves, whether we admit it our not. (Just as I would agree with you that we all use subjectivity to some degree, whether we admit it or not).

The Muslim who, in your example, would wish to stone a woman is appealing outside himself just as you would be in seeking to intervene (rightly so, in my view). You would be using your own moral conscience but that conscience was formed somewhere. You didn't just sit in a sensory deprivation chamber for your whole life and pop out ready to save women in peril.


'The example Martin Cothran uses in his original post is an example of a quite shallow and flippant way of making moral judgments without any appeal outside oneself...'

Again, quote the rest of the statement. The appeal was only to a narrow band of popular opinion within a closed group. The appeal outside of oneself is not what makes the judgment superior. It is what the appeal is to and the content of the resources one uses and the character of the one who is mixing in their own subjective judgment.

Again I would ask you, what influences your own moral judgment?

Josh Rosenau said...

I know it'd be out of place at this blog to get hung up on small details like factual accuracy, but the title of this post is false. If Cothran^H^H^H^H^H^H^H The Family Foundation of Kentucky had even basic literacy skills, the Foundation would notice this statement in the sidebar of my blog: "The opinions expressed here are his own, do not reflect the official position of the NCSE." To claim that my blog post somehow reflects NCSE's position would be entirely wrong, which matches the general theme of the Family Foundation's work here.

Also, The Family Foundation of Kentucky failed to link the blog post in question, which is here: http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2011/02/cut_off_martin_cothrans_intern.php

Singring said...

You raise some very good points, Steve, though I disgree with most of them. I must give you massive props though for admitting that your way contains at least some uncertainty (this is more than I see from most Christians) - I would maintain it contains just as much as mine...but I will answer in more detail tomorrow, the post I had just put together was lost and I'm just not up to writing it all again right now.

Anyway, this exchange is a pleasure.

Martin Cothran said...

Josh,

So let me get this straight: You make statements like the following: "Martin Cothran, the bigoted, anti-semite defending, Holocaust-denial whitewashing, misogynistic, homophobic, creationist, authoritarian, logic-impaired mouthpiece for the Kentucky theocracy movement ..." and you are concerned about my factual accuracy?

I am changing the title of my post upon your correction. Let's see if you've got the integrity to do the same with posts at your blog like the one titled "Martin Cothran defends Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism."

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Josh Rosenau said...

Martin: I appreciate your correcting the title, though you still try to draw NCSE into this to a degree that isn't really sensible or justified.

I recalled our having an extended back and forth about Pat Buchanan's Holocaust denial and antisemitism, in which you defended his antisemitic and Holocaust-denying behavior. I know you don't think he's antisemitic or a Holocaust denier, but the standards I applied are standards that courts have applied, that watchdogs against antisemitism and Holocaust denial use, and that leading conservatives have applied. You can keep arguing the point, but until you convince the ADL, SPLC, the Holocaust History Project, etc., that Pat Buchanan isn't anti-semitic and doesn't dabble in Holocaust denial, I can't see the case for changing the title of a post laying out evidence of Pat Buchanan's antisemitism and Holocaust denial, and examining your attempted defenses of his antisemitism and Holocaust denial.

By contrast, NCSE has nothing to do with the blog post you were critiquing, so your title was never factually correct or logically justifiable, and it's hard to know why you spend at least half this post talking about NCSE and my undergraduate research project from 12 years ago. Must I now attempt to scry the impact of your time as a Taco Bell cook on your views on political philosophy? Or can we just say you devoted half of this post to an argumentum ad hominem (while trying to defend against the claim of being logic-impaired, no less)?

Singring said...

Steve:

'I am not claiming to remove all subjectivity.'

Great. So we both agree that our ideas of what is right and good is coloured subjectively. The question remains as to how much.

'What you are calling "bias" can also be called "judgment" and you are using the same thing when you claim to be using only your own moral judgment.'

Indeed I am...but we are all relying on relative, subjective standards for our judgements. Simply stating that appealing outside of oneself to a moral standard set by God or who- or whatever does not remove subjectivity as it is in itself a subjective excersize. So I fail to see how it would remove or even reduce the element of subjectivity from moral judgements as you claim it does.

'But the fact of the matter is that you don't know I am wrong either. Even the scientific knowledge that you tout from time to time is provisional and subject to change. '

I don't know you're wrong (but that doesn't make you right) and you are correct: scientific truth is subject to change with changes in empirical evidence. But therein lies the superiority of basing judgements on science instead of faith or metaphysical assertions: science can be objectively verified by empirical evidence and testing.

'It is acknowledgment that we all appeal outside of ourselves, whether we admit it our not.'

Simply put: I disagree strongly.

(continued)

Singring said...

'You would be using your own moral conscience but that conscience was formed somewhere. '

Very accurate. But the thing is that a reltive, subjective moral system such as mine is malleable: it can change if I rationally consider arguments for or against a proposition or action. If you appeal to an outside, objective moral imperative, you are removing that flexibility, thsu simply exacerbating the problem.

'You didn't just sit in a sensory deprivation chamber for your whole life and pop out ready to save women in peril.'

I would disgree also. Research shows that most humans have a biologically empathy toward otehr humans that they will act upon in most cases. So to some degree, most of us come pre-packaged with hard-wired moral urges. Whether these are good or bad is anotehr issue.

'It is what the appeal is to and the content of the resources one uses and the character of the one who is mixing in their own subjective judgment.'

So now you are claiming that simply because God says something is right, it is right? Might makes right?

'Again I would ask you, what influences your own moral judgment?'

I can't claim that emotional responses colour my moral urges or 'intuitions', if you will, but for quite some time now I have been trying to adhere to a utilitarion moral code: act towards minimizing harm as far as possible. I constantly fail at it (if I were consequent I would probably give up much more of my possessions to charity that I currently am.). But it has helped me to change my position on a number of issues (for example adoption by same-sex couples, which I used to oppose, but now support).

Francis J. Beckwith said...

Josh, of course, believes that the law in Dover, Pennsylvania that emanated from the school board was mistaken. Why? Because it mistakenly conveyed the nature of science. Fair enough. But in that case another principle is at work, namely, laws ought to be consistent with the way the world really is. Indeed, a noble principle, but one, ironically, that is itself not derived from the law, since it is a normative guideline by which we assess the justice of a law. Hence, even on a matter so mundane as this one, we find ourselves led inexorably to the natural law.

If I understand Josh's position correctly, our minds have a proper function that we violate when we entertain the possibility that there is more to nature than efficient and material causes. But since my mind is part of nature, then i cannot say that it has a proper function, at least according to Josh's understanding of things. This means, of course, that his position undercuts itself, since his critique of dissenters depends on the mind have a final or formal cause that these dissenters have egregiously ignored.

Aristotle, it turns out, was right all along, since even his critics cannot make their first move without relying on concepts integral to Aristotelianism.

Here's the irony in all this: in their successful crusade to unseat Paley, Josh and his compatriots unconsciously conscript Aristotle.

Philosophy is like Michael Jordan: you can't stop it, you can only hope to contain it.

Singring said...

'But in that case another principle is at work, namely, laws ought to be consistent with the way the world really is.'

What utter nonsense. Laws about X ought to be consistent about our definition of X, that is all the case in Dover hinged upon.

If we pass a law that says teaching X in schools is unconstitutional, then someone introduces Y into schools and we can show that Y = X, we can throw out Y.

Its a simple matter of internal consistency within an agreed upon framework. It nothing to do with 'natural law'.

Also, I would like to state for the record that I cannot take anything Francis says seriouly in any way anymore since reading this priceless piece of 'argumentation':

http://www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2011/transubstantiation-from-stumbling-block-to-cornerstone.html

An acorn and a tree are 'substantially' the same, unlike a tree and a desk which are not (yeah, that makes total sense) and that is why it is reasonable to say that bread and wine literally turn into the blood and felsh of someone who's been dead for 2000 years.

This is precisely why (most) scientists laugh at theologians.

Francis J. Beckwith said...

Singring writes:

"What utter nonsense. Laws about X ought to be consistent about our definition of X, that is all the case in Dover hinged upon."

So, if we all define a dog as a three-legged fish, you're suggesting that that is what makes it so. But it doesn't make it so. Dogs are what they are regardless of how we "define" dog.

Ironically, your correction of my account of Dover means that it is not merely a matter of definition, but rather the way things really are. Thanks for making my point.

Second, my comments about transubstantiation--which you clearly do not understand--were written for fellow Christians who already accept certain aspects of our tradition as authoritative. I was not writing an apologetic for unbelievers who doubt not only transubstantiation but even the existence of their own soul.

As for substance--it is a noun, not an adjective. So "subsantially" is not the point, though you probalby don't know that. So, let me explain. When I say an acorn and an oak tree are the same substance, I am saying that they are the same thing, not that they are identical in their maturation, just as the Singring who at age two said, "Dadada I go pooh pooh," is the same one that pens comments on this blog. To be sure, you are the same substance, but you are, of course, not identical in your maturation.

Instead of feigning incredulity when you are clearly out of your depth, why don't you present a counter-argument or confess your ignorance and ask for direction? Even guardians of reason need to do that now and again.

Francis J. Beckwith said...

Oops, I meant to say "adverb" rather than "adjective" in the prior post.

Singring said...

'So, if we all define a dog as a three-legged fish, you're suggesting that that is what makes it so. '

No, I'm suggesting that if we define 'science class' as a class in which science is taught and 'science' as a method for accumulating knowledge by testing hypotheses against physical evidence and measurements, then we can throw anything out of teh classroom that does not fit into the 'science' definition.

Of course you are free to make false analogies all day long. Wasn't it you who once, long ago, insisted that concepts (e.g. definitions) are not physical? Now all of a sudden you make the clownish claim they are physical, just like dogs and fish?

'which you clearly do not understand'

The classic apologist defense line. As predictable as death and taxes.

'When I say an acorn and an oak tree are the same substance, I am saying that they are the same thing, not that they are identical in their maturation, just as the Singring who at age two said, "Dadada I go pooh pooh," is the same one that pens comments on this blog. To be sure, you are the same substance, but you are, of course, not identical in your maturation.'

So Jesus is now a piece of dry cracker and a cup of wine? Is that his current stage of maturation? And here I was, thinking he had been resurrected to join his father (i.e. himself) in heaven. Turns out he's food.

The quality of your argument is such that I might as well simply claim that a barrel of oil and a plastic bag are the same 'substance'. Therefore, lead can turn into gold.

Make much sense? No? Well then maybe you can understand why your argument as to bread turnig into a lump of flesh is...unconvincing.

'were written for fellow Christians who already accept certain aspects of our tradition as authoritative.'

So in other words you just work from a starting point of credulity and intellectual abdication, accept unfounded dogmas X Y and Z as given and then take things from there. You are welcome to do that and I hope you have fun. But don't be surprised if anyone who has a modicum of skepticism ridicules you for doing so.

Francis J. Beckwith said...

Singring:

Again, you make my point. You claim that something does not belong in science class because it is not science. Fair enough. It is the nature of the enterprise and not our willfulness that determines its inclusion or exclusion in the set of practices we call "science." In the same way, Lassie is a dog because of what Lassie is, not because of how we define dog. If that were the case, we could define dog in such a way as to include Sylvester the cat. But that wouldn't make Sylvester a dog, just as defining non-science as science would make it science.

As far as transubstantiation, you really don't get it, and I don't have the patience to catechize you online. Suffice it to say, our belief that the bread and wine literally changes is based on Christ's authority, which is the strongest argument of all, since he is God and proved it by rising from the dead. The nature of the Eucharist is inexorably connected to our understanding of Christ as Lord and Savior. It is a belief that one can not isolate from the whole. Thus, for a non-Christian, transubstantiation cannot be a live issue since you deny the Christ whose authority grounds it. But for the Christian, it is a live issue, even for those Christians who deny transubstantiation. Hence, in that dispute I appeal to in-house resources and texts that we in the Christian world share. Those outside that world don't share it. That's fine. But then why should we listen to you?

Francis J. Beckwith said...

One more thing. When Catholics say that the bread and wine become the flesh and blood of Christ, they do not take on the accidents of flesh and blood, but rather, just the substance of flesh and blood. In the same way, a blastocyst, though having the substance of flesh and blood (because it is a human substance) does not have the accidents of flesh and blood.

It's really a pretty simple concept. I am surprised that someone with your stellar intellect cannot seem to grasp it.

Singring said...

'If that were the case, we could define dog in such a way as to include Sylvester the cat. But that wouldn't make Sylvester a dog, just as defining non-science as science would make it science.'

No, it wouldn't make Sylvester 'a dog' in the sense that it would change his physical properties - but it would change our idea of what a dog is. We can freely change our ideas of what is or isn't a dog, as we have done with many groups of organisms over the past few hundred years. People used to call fungi plants, now we call them fungi. We can call things whatever we like when we pass laws, but we then have to make sure the definitions we use when doing so are applied. As was done in the Dover case.

'It's really a pretty simple concept. I am surprised that someone with your stellar intellect cannot seem to grasp it.'

I seem to grasp the concept better than you do. Maybe it has never occurred to you to think through your little pretzel logic:

In your example, a table no longer has the 'substance' of a tree - it is a table. How do you arrive at this striking conclusion? You say 'if we cut down the tree' it literally ceases to be. So apparently it is physical death that affects the substance of a thing.

But then you claim that a cracker and a cup of wine which have been made thousands of years after the death of Jesus are in fact of the same substance as his body, which has long since decomposed. It makes no sense at all.

The only way to make it work is to invoke magic...that the risen Christ somehow 'beams' himself into the bread and wine every weekend. You are more than welcome to do that. But please - don't expect me to take you seriosuly on anything if this is the kind of stuff you accept intellectually.

'...our belief that the bread and wine literally changes is based on Christ's authority, which is the strongest argument of all, since he is God and proved it by rising from the dead.'

I rest my case.

Francis J. Beckwith said...

S writes:

"No, it wouldn't make Sylvester 'a dog' in the sense that it would change his physical properties - but it would change our idea of what a dog is."

Just as I suspected, you're confusing biological categories with metaphysical ones. If I say, "Lassie is a dog," I say that because I grasp the concept of dog when my mental faculties think about or observe Lassie. The concept is not identical to the word "dog." That is just our linguistic expression of the term that refers to the concept, which is in our minds and refers to the nature of the being we call Lassie We can't change the concept of dog, though we can certainly use a different linguistic expression to communicate the concept.

The concept of "dog" can never refer to Sylvester, though we can use any linguistic expression to express that concept. But whatever expression we choose, it will never refer to Sylvester.

Concerning transubstantiation, you are out of your depth. It is, I know, sometimes difficult to understand things that are outside of your areas of expertise, let alone your imagination. Don't give up. I'm rooting for you.

Singring said...

'We can't change the concept of dog, though we can certainly use a different linguistic expression to communicate the concept. '

These is pure semantics. You simply assert that concepts are immutable, with not a shred of arguemnt to back it up and then build your entire little house of cards on these arbitrarily defined notions as if they told us something about reality simply because you claim they do.

'The concept of "dog" can never refer to Sylvester, though we can use any linguistic expression to express that concept.'

Demonstrate that, please. I know its easy to say, but I'd like you to give me one good reason why I should think there is some nebulous 'form' of a 'dog' that is immutable and absolute.

You're welcome to do that - but until you can give me a single reason why I should think that the concept 'Lassy is a dog' is some immutable, absolute metaphysical fact, don't expct me to take you seriously for one second.

But why am I even arguing? You've already abdicated all intellectual credibility by stating that for you, there is a defeater for any and all rational argument:

Whatever some people wrote about some other person that allegedly rose from the dead (and therefore supposedly makes him a God) is the absolute truth.

I honestly don't know how I am supposed to argue with someone who can proudly state that he believes anything someone who rose from the dead says is true. Never mind the fact that there is no evidence at all that it ever happened.