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Correspondence with Mr. Brad North

Table of contents

1) B. North (2008-Mar-13)
2) S. Jetchick (2008-Mar-15)
3) B. North (2008-Mar-15)

1) B. North (2008-Mar-13)

-----Original Message-----
From: Brad North [bn (put at sign here) monarch.net]
Sent: 13 mars 2008 22:56
To: stefan.jetchick(inquisition)
Cc: jetchick.stefan(jesus-eucharistie)
Subject: atheists


You seem like a sincere person, and I found your reasoning honest,
and that is the human quality I value most. I respect honest thought,
but it seems to me your belief is driving your thought. I really
would like a dialogue with you, because of your honesty. Yet I don't
agree to the terms of your debate, because they are too restrictive,
too self-protective.

Your short version of "the proofs".

First of all: what these proofs are not: "the Catholic dogmas are not
absurd or irrational, but are above our reason": Don't you see what a
logical danger you have created? No reason is possible beyond this
point! You have neutered it with talk of a 'higher reason'. Why talk
to others at this point? This is the main reason your 'proof' has not

The First:
Your assessment is anthropomorphic. All  motion in the universe is
(effectively) mindless, and accidents (mindless movement) are most
prevalent in the universe. This is to understate it.  In fact, the
only 'concious moving' is done by animals (I include us here), and
the projection of this, onto the world you see, is understandable
when done by animals. Random (Brownian) movement is evident at the
molecular level also. The universe is large, and we have only a
smattering of animals on this one little rock (as far as we know, and
we know quite a bit) - so 'intentional movements' are very rare in
the universe. It makes more sense to impart randomness, rather than
intention, to the beginning also. To do the opposite is to seriously
skew the observation. Why would you choose this path, if not for a
preconcieved belief?

The Second way:
This is really no different from the first; it is also
anthropomorphic in the same way. The argument from motion (correct me
please) is not much different from 'efficient cause', which I
maintain has not, as you say, "already been proved". Even if you were
to admit (with erroneous logic) of a 'first efficient cause', why
would you think to pray to it?

The third way:
I'm afraid this is the same as the first two; nothing and something
are meaningless concepts, even in everyday life. Things really don't
exist  - in the way we think of existence - which is necessarily
(because the thought comes from us, as animals) anthropomorphic. I am
aware that this statement (things don't exist)  seems ludicrous, but
many things we have learned about 'existence' underscore this,
especially at the atomic and quantum levels. Does a quark 'exist'? it
is a ludicrous question, so why postulate a simple answer? A possible
explanation: we need to feel this way to be able to carry on.
Anthropomorphic. However, you postulate "the existence of some Being
having of itself its own necessity", but this is a fantasy, by the
way: arguing against your own "efficient cause" argument. This is not
logically reconciled.

The fourth way:
I am starting to see a constant here: again, it is anthropomorphic.
If there was an infinite, perfect heat, we should all be scorched. If
there was an infinite, perfect cold, we should all be at absolute
zero. Yet we are not scorched, nor frozen. And to understand this is
entirely reasonable. Why search for the supernatural? Yet I know,
because I feel the same impulse. There are evolutionary, tribal,
reasons for this; but no reasons in the sense of logical rules.

The fifth way:
You say: "Things which lack intelligence cannot act towards an end".
But natural bodies do not act towards an end; evolutionary
evidence from the world around us shows us how complexity results
from simple, natural processes. The movement from simplicity towards
complexity in nature is not conscious: organic life does not have a
goal, beyond reproducing itself. You imagine a goal, and you imagine
an archer, and this you call God. This does not fit what we see in
the universe around us.

2) S. Jetchick (2008-Mar-15)

-----Original Message-----
From: Stefan Jetchick
Sent: 15 mars 2008 09:15
To: Brad North
Subject: RE: atheists

Hi Brad, sorry for the delay in answering,

>> I respect honest thought

Me too!

>> but it seems to me your belief is driving your thought.

I often make mistakes, so of course it's quite possible that
I've just made another one. Let's look into it.

>> "the Catholic dogmas are not
>> absurd or irrational, but are above our reason": Don't you see what a
>> logical danger you have created? No reason is possible beyond this
>> point! You have neutered it with talk of a 'higher reason'.

As I've said, I respect honest thought, but this is a good
example of DIS-honest thought!

You need to actually read what I write, instead of just regurgitating
your atheistic prejudices.

The definition of the word "dogma" is not: "whatever Brad North
happens to disagree with"! The definition of "dogma" includes
things like the infallibility of the Pope when he speaks ex cathedra,
or the transubstantiation of bread into the Body and Blood of
Christ during Mass, or the elimination of all sins by Baptism, etc.
But the definition of "dogma" does not include the existence of

	"The existence of God and other like truths about God, which can
	be known by natural reason, are not articles of Faith"
	[Summa Theologica, Ia, q. 2, a. 2, ad. 1]

If the existence of God was a dogma, I wouldn't talk about it in
the "Philosophy" section of my web site, and I wouldn't claim we
can prove it scientifically!

>> Why talk to others at this point?

Because fortunately, some of the "others" actually read what I write!


>> The First:
>> Your assessment is anthropomorphic.

OK, let's examine your assessment of the assessment of saint Thomas
Aquinas, to see if it's true.

>> All  motion in the universe is
>> (effectively) mindless [...] the only 'conscious moving' is done by
>> animals

First, that is what is known as a "contradiction". Either all motion in
the universe is mindless, or some motion is not mindless, but both
cannot be true at the same time.

Second, only human persons are conscious animals, strictly speaking.
"Conscience" comes from the Latin "cum-scientia", i.e. "to know with".
When I look at my hand, I see my hand, but I also at the same time
know that I, Stefan Jetchick, exist and am looking at my hand! This
is very mysterious, and the word "conscience" must be reserved to talk
about this very mysterious thing.

When I push buttons on my washing machine, my washing machine reacts.
But my washing machine is not conscious. If my washing machine were
conscious, it would ask itself questions like: "But why do I exist?",
"Is there more to life than washing cloths?", "What will happen to me
when I die?" This also applies to dogs and cats and chimpanzees. If
they were conscious, strictly speaking, they would be reading this debate
on the existence of God. But all they do is react according to their
program, like my washing machine.

>> Random (Brownian) movement is evident at the
>> molecular level also.

Hum, I thought Brownian motion was "the random movement of particles
suspended in a liquid or gas or the mathematical model used to describe
such random movements, often called a particle theory" [Wikipedia].
Actually, that article seems to say Brownian motion mostly occurs at the
molecular level, and is only rarely visible at a higher level. "So, the
pollen particle can be considered as a very large balloon constantly being
pushed by water molecules. The Brownian motion of particles in a liquid
is due to the instantaneous imbalance in the force exerted by the small
liquid molecules on the particle."

At our level, there isn't much Brownian motion to be seen. The
Summa Theologica on my desk just sits there. The trees outside
grow with remarkable order. The cats in my friend's appartment
behave cleverly (and mischievously). And the answer I'm typing in this
reply is certainly not random (well, at least I hope so!).

Actually, come to think of it, you look like somebody trying to
pull their socks up to their armpits, and pulling your tuque down
to your heels!

Conscience is only for persons, i.e. beings endowed with intelligence
and free will, but you try to "pull it down" to the heels of all

Brownian motion is for atoms, but you try to "pull it up" to the
armpits of beings that obviously behave in a totally non-random

>> The universe is large, and we have only a
>> smattering of animals on this one little rock
>> (as far as we know


>> 'intentional movements' are very rare in
>> the universe.

It depends how you define "intentional".

Of course, if you define "intentional" as "knowing fully the end
that is pursued, and willing freely to take the means to attain
that end", then in the visible universe, only human persons
are the cause of "intentional movements".

But if you talk about "finality", then the Principle of Finality
applies to all beings. "Omne agens agit propter finem", "All
agents act for an end":

	Indeed, who says "action" (that by which the agent acts), says
	by definition a certain movement or passage from power to act,
	of whose very nature is determined and specified by its end
	point or term. For example, who says "calefaction" says "heat
	produced"; who says "vision" says object seen: All action is
	a relative being which is understood by its term. Asserting that
	an action exists and that it doesn't have a term, is asserting
	at the same time that it has its determined nature (since it
	exists) and that it doesn't have it (since it doesn't have a
	term): it's a flagrant contradiction.

	But the end, in the sense we've defined it, is nothing more than
	this term which specifies the action.

	Hence asserting that an action exists, and that it doesn't have
	an end; that an agent acts and that it doesn't act for an end,
	is a contradiction in terms. The evidence of the Principle of
	Finality, when well understood, is the very evidence of the Principle
	of Identity".
	[PDP, #247].

OK, that being said, let us return to the actual text we are
discussing. Remember that everything you've said so far (After
"The First") is supposed to be related to Section 4.1 of my
text. But what is quite remarkable (except for those used to arguing
with atheists) is that everything you've said so far is pretty
well unrelated to that Section!

The "First Way" of saint Thomas Aquinas has nothing to do with intentions,
Brownian motion or "Intelligent Design"! Here is Thonnard's summary of
the First Way:

	Everything changes in the universe; but, all changes suppose
	a mover which makes the moved go from power to act, and if this
	mover is itself moved by another, we cannot go back thus to infinity;
	we have to stop at a first mover which is not moved itself and is
	the first immobile mover.
	[PDP, #962]

I fail to see why you're talking about intentions, instead of power and
act! Finality is the topic of the Fifth Way, not the First!

So my assessment of your assessment of saint Thomas Aquinas is: You
need to read more carefully!

I won't read the rest of your e-mail, until you demonstrate that you
are willing to carefully read what I write.

Take care!


3) B. North (2008-Mar-15)

-----Original Message-----
From: Brad North
Sent: 15 mars 2008 13:13
To: Stefan Jetchick
Subject: Re: atheists

I'm going to try and ignore your pointless personal comments and assumptions
about my own philosophy, but your willful misreading of my first comment can't
be overlooked. I know, and indicated, which section of your "Proofs" page I
quoted and responded to ("What these proofs are not"), and you chose to speak
as if I was talking about the "proof" section. When I next referred to the
First proof, I indicated by writing it down. You misread what you wanted to,
called me a fool who didn't read properly, then you call me a dishonest
thinker, when the situation is actually the reverse. You are rude and
condescending to an honest inquiry, and I revise my initial positive assessment
of you.

Briefly, your inclusion of chimpanzees in the same group with washing machines
underscores my argument, not yours. You arbitrarily set humans apart from
animals. Homo Sapiens is essentially the same biological family as chimpanzees
- in fact we are chimpanzees, so you are, effectively, a washing machine with a
website, by your own admission. Any thought processes we enjoy above anything
on the list of things in the universe are adequately explained by brain
physiology. So back to my original point: your preconception about god and man
skews the objective observation of 'motion without intent'. You seem to deny
that you are composed of molecules, as well, and the Wikipedia page you cite
clearly shows that molecules are moved by Brownian motion. The universe is
mostly (if not all) cold space and mindless activity.

Back to Aquinas:

	1) There are events.
	2) Every event has a cause distinct from it
	3) Everything that we observe is an effect of some previous cause.
	4) Since there cannot be an infinite regress of events, there must
	   be some Uncaused Cause.
	5) God exists.

First off, (5) does not logically follow from (4). It is not a deductive
consequence of (4). It is quite possible for (5) to be false even if (4)
should happen to be true.

Why? God as defined by Saint Thomas Aquinas is the Christian God. This being is
in addition to being the creator of the world is omnipotent, omniscient, and
omnibenvolent. There is nothing in the argument that shows that these
properties exist in the Uncaused Cause. Thus, the inference from a first cause
to the existence of God is invalid.

Secondly, the Birthday Fallacy. (1) and (2) imply that there is at least one
causal chain of events, and (3) tells us that all of them have a first
member. This first member, cannot have a cause, otherwise it wouldn't be the
first member of the chain. Thus each chain must have a first member. It does
not follow that every causal chain must have the same first cause. This would
be akin to claiming that everyone who has a birthday has the same birthday. (1)
- (3) do not show that there is just one first cause.

Next, (1) - (3) are inconstant. These premises imply that every causal chain
has an uncaused cause. This means that some event has no cause, which is in
contradiction to (2). They cannot all be true.

(5) - recall that I asked: even so, why pray to it?

I no longer respect the way you approach the topic, so I leave you now to swim
in your pedantic, self-referential hall of mirrors.



Standard end of debate disclaimer ("Why don't you always have the last word in e-mail debates?")

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