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Official Debate: ChadWooters vs Metis
Official Debate: ChadWooters vs Metis
ChadWooters and Metis have agreed to an official debate, to which I will be acting as moderator.

Resolved: Using the ‘Five Ways’ found in Article 1, Question 2 of the Summa Theological, Thomas Aquinas successfully demonstrates the existence of God.

Arguing for the Affirmative: ChadWooters
Arguing for the Negative: Metis

Round 1: Opening Statements (to be posted 7/28/15)
Round 2: Initial Rebuttals (to be posted 8/4/15)
Round 3: Closing Statements (to be posted 8/11/15)

The translation used for common reference will be as given at: http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/aquinas/...sum005.htm
RE: Official Debate: ChadWooters vs Metis
Thank you, Tiberius, for moderating this debate on Aquinas’s Five Ways (5Ws) and creating the forum that makes it possible. And thank you, Metis, for graciously accepting my debate request.

Each of the Five Ways illuminates a specific Divine attribute required for the observable features of the natural world to manifest. Collectively these Divine attributes describe the “God of the Philosophers”. And because believers often refer to God, not by name, but in His Divine capacities as Creator, Sustainer, All-knowing, etc., Aquinas repeatedly employs the refrain, “…and this everyone understands to be God.”

No Infinite Essentially Ordered Series

Aquinas rejects the notion of an infinite essentially ordered series. To understand 1W, 2W, 3W and 5W one must first understand this specific type of infinite regress and why it is impossible.

The members in an essentially order sequence exist because of ontologically dependency. This stands in contrast to a temporal and accidental series. Gavin Kerr illustrates the ontological relationship as (v-->(w-->(x-->y)))  and a temporal series as (v-->w)-->(w-->x)-->(x-->y).*  Remove the unchanged changer/first cause/necessary being and all dependent members of the essentially ordered series disappear. Thus every essentially ordered series is sustained by a first member.

The First Way (1W): Argument from Change

For any given thing, either the propensity to remain the same rules or the propensity to change rules, but not both at the same time.  An oak cannot simultaneously sprout and remain an acorn. Either necessary and sufficient conditions make the oak grow or the acorn remains unchanged. In other words, in order for anything to change something other than itself must actually be present and have the power to make the change happen. Adam cannot borrowed a dollar from Bill, if Bill borrowed it from Calvin, and so on. Every actual pocket has the potential to hold a dollar, but that potential cannot ever be actualized unless there is at some point a potentially empty pocket holding an actual dollar. Likewise, the physical universe, in which all things are subject to change, depends on at least one fully actual thing that was never itself only a potential i.e. that which causes change without being subject to change. Traditionally, this fully actualized thing is called the Unmoved Mover.

The Second Way (2W): The Nature of Efficient Cause

An efficient cause is not temporally prior to its effect; but rather, the cause sustains the effect. For example, water causing the acorn to grow is contingent on the carbon dioxide, oxygen, and hydrogen causing the conversion of electromagnetic energy to stored chemical energy. As such, effects are ontologically dependent on their causes. Since an infinite regress of causes is absurd, intermediate efficient causes causal must terminate at an efficient cause that sustains those intermediate causes i.e. the First Cause.

The Third Way (3W): Necessary Being

Either something is possible, capable of either being or not being, or it must be of necessity. Anyone can see that many things could possibly exist that do not. Meanwhile other things that could possibly exist do. Therefore the existence of any possible thing is contingent on the existence of either something else that is possible or something that is necessary. The chain of contingency linking possible things that do exist is an essentially ordered sequence for which a possible thing cannot serve as the first member. That is because if that thing were possible it might not have been and so now there would be nothing. But there is something. As such those things that are possible to exist and do so rely for their existence on something that is necessary. That something is a Necessary Being.

The Fourth Way (4W): Maximal Greatness

While this is an important argument, I must unfortunately pass it by in the interest of time.

The Fifth Way (5W): Guiding Intelligence

The 5W explains why the laws of nature operate with unerring regularity. For example, an acorn grows into a tree, not a giraffe, and glass does not melt, but shatters, when struck. The relationships between efficient causes and their effects are either necessary or they are not. They must be necessary otherwise the world would be absurd.

This necessity stems from the fact that efficient causes have intrinsic tendencies toward determinate ranges of effects. For example, the tendencies of bricks include resisting compression, transferring mechanical force, absorbing moisture, etc. But Bricks tend not to melt glass, digest yogurt, or bend, among other things. More fundamental bodies like electrons and quarks also tend toward determinate effects.  

Whatever relates the tendencies of non-cognizant efficient causes to their tendencies requires something that abstractly understands which tendencies relate all efficient causes harmoniously in law-like ways, such that specific final ends attain. This is the Guiding Intellect, which, as Aquinas says, “…everyone understands to be God.”


More could be written, and for certain already has been, about the Five Ways. I have confined myself to a basic presentation of the Five Ways, repackaged for sensibilities of modern readers. I wish I had more space in which to elaborate but must let these points suffice.

Thank You.

*”Aquinas's Way to God, The Proof in De Ente et Essentia” by  Gavin Kerr.
RE: Official Debate: ChadWooters vs Metis
Hello all, thanks for taking the time to read this and thank you Tiberius for agreeing to moderate this debate. While my English is usually of an acceptable standard I apologize if some of the points I am about to list are unclear, rushing composing this at 4am along with English not being my first language might lead to some odd phrasing.

At any rate I'll try to keep this as brief and as readable as I can. Aquinas' Five Ways (a.k.a the Quinquae Viae) form a core part of Medieval Christian and Modern Roman Catholic Theology, drawing heavily from the works of Aristotle, Roman Stoic philosophy and NeoPlatonism and it is claimed by these five ways even a pagan or atheist must accept the existence of a First Cause; this being what Aquinas described as God. Despite this fact Aquinas and his Summa has largely been forgotten by most Protestants, the Orthodox of Aquinas' time never took much interest in what he had to say due to the great schism centuries before and it is only Roman Catholics, Lutherans and the occasional Evangelical Evangelist who lists his proofs.

The Summa itself contains a vast treasure trove of theological thinking, it was designed initially to be used as a textbook for a full comprehensive course on Catholic Theology and it continues to serve its purpose well today. When it comes to apologetics however it falls flat upon its face, even in its period of publication several of his points were even condemned by his scholarly peers until it was later taken up with fevour by later Popes. I can see Chad has gone further and presented an exhibition of the infinitely ordered series which I shall address in my rebuttal in more detail but first and foremost, I must express why I feel Aquinas' Five ways cannot be considered reasonable rational proofs.

I.First Way: The Argument from Motion

This argument is fallacious from the outset and poses several more questions while providing no answer. Aquinas concluded that the first mover must be God. However, what motivated God to make the first move? Although motion cannot have infinite regression, this argument assumed that God had been either not moving from infinity or he has been moving ever since. What then is the source of his energy? If nothing can move itself, how then God was able to move himself?
It would be far more reasonable and certainly no less valid an explanation that an impersonal, unconscious force or energy was the first unmoved mover as according to the Big Bag Theory (and the Big Bounce for all you Physics Hipsters out there) all motions, space, energy and matter can be traced back to a singularity at the beginning of the universe. These explanations are more reasonable and supported by measurable and verifiable parameters and evidence such as the rate of expansion of the universe, the cosmic microwave background radiation and the distances between galaxies.

II. Second Way: Causation of Existence

Aquinas was half right when he claimed that anything that exists is caused by another and it's from this thought he forms the assumption that there could be no infinite regression of causes. However, if this assumption is as claimed then what caused God to exist? If nothing can cause itself to exist, how was God able to cause himself? If God has been in existence from eternity, what's so unreasonable for me to claim that the universe too has always existed? This latter assumption is  far more reasonable. Remember Einstein? E=mc2? Yeah, this equation states that matter can be converted into energy and energy can be converted to matter. It is logical to suppose that matter and energy have always been in existence. The universe as we know today might just be one of the many manifestations of metamorphoses between matter and energy. On the other hand, apparent self-causation has been observed in sub-atomic particles in laboratory settings and quantum fluctuations are better models that could explain the creation of particles ex nihilo.

III. Third Way: Contingent and Necessary Objects

In this argument Aquinas tries to make the distinction between contingent or potential beings and necessary or actual beings.  It doesn't work, modern physics has demonstrated that there are really no strict definitions of such things. In a universe as chaotic as ours, things may exist without necessarily being dependent of other things. On the other hand, as demonstrated by Einstein, matter and energy are indeed mutually dependent and their contingency and necessity are reflexive. Furthermore, there are hypothetical situations where backward causation is possible, temporal paradoxes excluded. The best example of this in theoretical physics is absorber theory (also called the Feynman Time-Symmetric theory). The idea is that this is an explanation of electrodynamics that is based on the assumption that a solution to the electromagnetic field equations has to be symmetric with reference to time-inversion or retro-causality.

IV. Fourth Way: The Argument from Degrees and Perfection

I'm trying to resist the temptation to comment upon what Chad has shared above but I must confess I was curious as to what he would share. Of the five ways, this one is often noticeably absent in evangelization and is rarely employed, and for good reason! In this argument, Aquinas attributed all positive absolutes to God as the standard for all things. God is perfection, he is the most beautiful, the most good, the most just, the most wise...You get the picture, whatever quality it is he embodies its absolute perfection.

That's all well and good, but if God is absolute perfection then surely that must also mean he is the perfection of all the negative attributes too? If he's the absolute perfection of justice then it can also be logically possible that God is the absolute perfection of evil. If there are degrees of sadism, then God must be the most sadistic. If there are degrees of madness, then God must be Sheogorath (high five if you get the reference RPG nerds). Hence, the so-called standard of “perfection” in monotheism creates a rather paradoxical and incomprehensible concept of divinity. How can God be the perfection of wisdom but also be the perfection of madness? For a dualistic pantheon this might work and to an extent it does on the matter of evil, Satan is set up as the Prince of Darkness but again he isn't the perfection of it; it's made clear there is a force greater and more perfect than he....

V. Fifth Way: The Argument from Intelligent Design

That's right Americans, this is where your school nightmares started from.

Intelligent design is pretty much a direct rip from Aristotle's concept of Teleological ends and feeds directly into the watch-maker argument. The universe is indeed complex and intricate but as I'm sure all you Dawkins readers know it does not necessarily mean that it requires a designer. Comparing the universe and biological systems to human-made objects such as a watch is committing the logical fallacy known as false analogy. The way the universe and biological systems operate are different from the way man-made objects operate but Aquinas can be forgiven for this mistake, if he had any knowledge of outer existence he would have subscribed to the Ptolemaic geocentric model and was taught from the very beginning existence itself exists to serve us, and that's without all the backing up from a literal interpretation of Genesis.

If a complex object needs a creator or designer, what could be more complex than a super-intelligent, all-powerful God? Who then created God? Does God have a higher God who in turn has a higher God? Aristotle knew himself this was a problem but Greek theology was rather more flexible than Abrahamic; Zeus himself was created by Rhea and Chronus, and even after Chronus' defeat he still himself had three superiors, the Fates (Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos) who in turn had their own superior, the "Unknown God" which you can actually see referenced in the Bible! (Acts 17:23) Contrary to the assumption of an intelligent and purposeful designer, the universe and biological systems exhibit randomness and probability. If the universe and biological systems were purposely designed, then they must not have any superfluous traits.

I could write more but my deadline swiftly approaches and I fear I may have already gotten bogged down too much in the details. Despite that, I think I have succeeded in explaining why the five ways cannot be considered any form of proof of the existence of a divinity. They're certainly theories one could pull out but not one that could be bandied around as bona fide proof in a philosophical academy let alone in wider post-enlightenment western society.

References (I've made and will continue to make an effort to only use works available in English-speaking countries bookstores rather than online journals you might need a subscription to get into)

Bowen-Jones, M, 2014 Oxford International Baccalaureate Diploma Course Companion: Physics . Oxford, Oxford University Press
Carter, R, 1990. God, The Self And Nothingness: Reflections Eastern and Western. 1st ed. New York: Paragon House.

Dawkins, R, 2006 The Blind Watchmaker. London, Penguin
Dawkins, R, 2007 The God Delusion [ebook reader]. Reading, Black Swan
Dennett, D, 2006 Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. New York, Penguin.
Hyman, G, 2012 A Short History of Atheism. London, I.B Tauris.
Morris, B, 1987. Anthropological Studies of Religion. 1st ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Radford Ruether, R, 2002. Sexism and God-Talk. 3rd ed. Denmark: SCM Press.
RE: Official Debate: ChadWooters vs Metis
Elsewhere Metis claimed to have a Masters of Divinity and that he teaches Thomist theology. That boast puzzles me since all his objections have nothing to do with the actual demonstrations found in the Summa.

Against Objections to the First Way

First, Metis asserts that the argument is fallacious but makes no attempt to identify a faulty premise or gaps in its logic. By asking “What motivated God to make the first move?” and “If nothing can move itself, how then was God able to move himself?” he simply restates the ancient dilemma debated by Parmenides and Heraclitus: “How is it that things preserve their being while undergoing change?” Metis ignores the fact that Aristotle solved that dilemma 1,500 years before Aquinas penned the 1W. Aristotle distinguished between what could potentially exist and what actually does and that distinction serves as the foundation for the 1W. As the first member of the essentially order series Aquinas’s Unmoved Mover sits on the far end of the potential-actual spectrum in full actuality. There is nothing into which He could change, thus questions about what changes/moves God and what motivated God to make the first move are meaningless.

Secondly, Metis proposes that an impersonal force could meet all the requirements of an unmoved mover (thereby admitting that an Unmoved Mover is required). Two points: 1) Aquinas calls the Unmoved Mover God, because the UMM satisfies the divine role of Creator and 2) it was never the intent of the 1W to demonstrate the intelligence of the Unmoved Mover. That honor goes to the 5W.

Metis further makes reference to modern cosmology. However the UMM argument concerns what is logically prior to the subjects of modern cosmology. The 1W shows that regardless of whether the Unmoved Mover is intelligent or not, it must be something distinct from the physical universe, since the pre-Big Bang singularity represents the universe ‘in potentia’ and in need of another, the UMM, to actualize.

Against Objections to the Second Way

Admittedly my defense of the 2W in my opening remarks was brief. This may explain why Metis’s attempt to refute the First Cause (FC) of the 2W, sets up a straw man with rhetorical questions like, “What caused God to exist?” These objections are based on a widespread misunderstanding that Metis should, as a M.Div. have avoided. The 2W works regardless of whether the universe eternally exists, fully encloses space-time, or began at a time 0. The FC sustains subsequent causes not from eternity (in kalam-style formulations); but rather sustains them eternally across time. As I explained in my opening remarks, the FC operates at the most metaphysically fundamental level of reality, sustaining every subsequent efficient cause during any given single process. that occurs at any given time.
This interpretation is clearly supported by Aquinas’s statement that the 2W concerns the nature of efficient causes. As such, the 2W rests on a basic understanding of cause-effect relationships. An efficient cause is that which performs the effect as part of a process. The effect is the state of affairs produced during that process. Efficient causes are things. Effects are the resulting actions. What broke the window? A brick. What did the brick do? It shattered glass. The brick was present during the shattering but the shattering depends on the presence of the brick.

Metis suggests that quantum fluctuations are better models for explain the creation of particles. Here he repeats the mistakes of Democritus and Epicurus. If there were indeed an infinite number of indivisible parts (quarks & leptons) popping in and out of a plenum (quantum vacuum) The vacuum does not represent a fully actualized being; but rather, existence ‘in potentia’ and could not serve as the UMM of the 1W.

Against Objections to 3W

Metis’s objection to 3W is “so bad it isn’t even wrong”. No wonder he thinks that modern physics has no strict definitions of the Scholastic terms when he states, “…matter and energy are indeed mutually dependent and their contingency and necessity are reflexive.” Anyone that knows Thomist philosophy should knows the proper terms and how they are used. Potential stands opposite actuality, not necessity. Necessity stand opposite possible, not contingency.

Secondly Metis makes the surprising assertion that “In a universe as chaotic as ours, things may exist without necessarily being dependent of other things.” Since, he provides no examples of fully independent things then I can only speculate.

Against Objection to 4W

Metis’s objection to the 4W can be summarized thus: “If God is absolute perfection then surely that must also mean he is the perfection of all the negative attributes too?”

The very idea that negative attributes can be perfected is absurd. The very notion of perfection is based on how completely something instantiates an ideal form. For example, a yield sign, three dots on a paper, and a piece of spanakopita all, to various degrees embody the idea of a triangle. Anyone can see that some instances of triangles are better examples than others. The worse examples are those that most lacking with respect to triangularity. Negative attributes, like evil, ugliness, and falsity are privations, nothing more than the lack of goods that ought to be present.

Against Objection to 5W

Ready, fire, aim. Metis conflates the 5W with intelligent design. He also conflates the immanent teleology of Aristotle with the extrinsic teleology of Paley. The teleology of Aquinas is more subtle than either. Aquinas accepts Aristotle’s distinction between art and nature, thus he knows better than to compare biological systems, like giraffes, with objects designed for a purpose, like watches. Instead the Angelic Doctor, attributes teleology only to true substances (regardless of whether they are animate or not) and not accidental ones. If Metis wishes to present an objection to the 5W, he would be wise to make an objection to the argument Aquinas makes rather that the argument he wishes Aquinas had made.

Secondly, Metis asks, “If a complex object needs a creator or designer, what could be more complex than a super-intelligent, all-powerful God?” If he was truly a student of divinity he would know that Aquinas demonstrates the Simplicity of God in Question 3 of the Summa Theologica, which is beyond the scope of this debate.
RE: Official Debate: ChadWooters vs Metis
Administrator Notice

Debate Moderator Comment:

Metis' opening statement was flagged by staff for plagiarism, with large sections taken (and reworded slightly) from this article: http://patas.co/articles/opinion/refutin...f-aquinas/

ChadWooters was informed of this but decided to continue the debate as if Metis' words were his own. The staff feel that it is only fair if everyone watching the debate is aware of the situation.
RE: Official Debate: ChadWooters vs Metis
I issued my debate challenge to call the bluff of Metis who claimed to have a superior education, a Masters of Divinity, and deep understanding of the Church Fathers. This claim can be found here: http://atheistforums.org/thread-34816-po...#pid999597

My debate opponent, Metis, violated the debate rules by submitting a plagiarized opening statement, for which I forgave him and allowed to stand. He has now failed to meet the mutually agreed upon timetable. I will consider this second offence forfeiture.

My hope is that Metis’s inability to post in a timely manner is not the result of unfortunate personal circumstances. As for myself, I am not in a position to extend the posting deadline because of an up-coming vacation.

For those who followed the debate, I hope that my points have served to reveal the modern misconceptions about the Five Ways, like those presented by Metis, and thereby show that the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas is as relevant today as it was when it was penned.

Thank You,
Chad Wooters
RE: Official Debate: ChadWooters vs Metis
As debate moderator, I have not heard back from Metis regarding either his plagiarism or his failure to post his rebuttal in time. I will also take this second violation of debate rules as forfeiture of the entire debate, and hereby declare ChadWooters the winner.

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