Re: [asa] Critical review of Dawkins' Book by the "Liberal Media"

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Fri Dec 29 2006 - 10:18:31 EST

>>> Jim Armstrong <> 12/27/06 9:08 PM >>>writes:
That's not the Jewish perspective that I'm more familiar with. The
Creator does something like creating form through organizing a portion
of chaotic "something", and then assigning functionality (along with a
name). JimA

Ted disagrees.

Jim's view sounds more like that of PLato, in Timaeus, where the "DEMIURGOS"
(craftsman, the same word used in the book of Hebrews for God the creator)
makes the world out of 3 things: preexisting, unformed matter; the form of
the good (a reference no doubt in two dimensions to a prefect square with 90
feet between bases), from which other forms are derived; and "the nurse of
becoming," a sort of potential to be something.

The Greeks saw this as different from the Jewish view, and I think they were
correct to see it that way. The Biblical God was not beholden to uncreated
things with which he had to work. As a consequence of the Greek view that
the demiurgos lacks omnipotence (ie, cannot create from nothing) and has to
work with externally given perfect forms *that can only be imperfectly
imposed on matter*, nature is an imperfect copy of the perfect forms. We
can therefore have only "opinion," not genuine "knowledge" (ie, science =
knowledge), of physical nature; we can however have genuine "knowledge" (ie,
science) of the forms themselves. That is, we can know mathematics, but
only opine physics. There is no "science" of nature for Plato, there is
mere opinion of an imperfectly formed nature that only "copies" the forms

There are also further consequences. As the Hellenistic physician Galen
wrote roughly 500 years after PLato, Moses believed that God could do
whatever he wanted to, whereas the Greeks held correctly (in Galen's view)
that God can only choose the best of the various possibilities that
presented themselves to him. He says this in his biological treatise, "De
usu partium," which I do not have here at home to quote. Boyle picked up on
this very Galenic point in his treatise on the doctrine of creation, "A Free
Inquiry into the Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature" (published 1686 but
mostly written in the mid-1660s), where he strongly affirmed the Hebrew
notion of creatio ex nihilo. As Boyle underscores the point, Hebrew has no
word for "nature" in the sense spoken of by the Greeks (ie, no equivalent to
"PHYSIS"), only words expressing the fact that God created it.


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Received on Fri Dec 29 10:19:49 2006

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