Re: Refuting Aristotle et al (was Re: [asa] Dawkins on the fossil record)

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Tue Dec 15 2009 - 21:57:45 EST

Thanks for this Dave,

You have PRECISELY hit upon what I understand to be the point at issue.

If we assume evolution for the sake of argument then it seems to me that the "first human" (however so defined) would be so close to its parent that said parent could only be "non-human" in an utterly trivial sense.

It is, indeed, the problem of trying to apply the laws of excluded middle and contradiction to a characteristic which admits of degrees.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees this and my confidence in my sanity is partially restored - although I daresay others will still hold out serious reservations :)


> There are a number of problems with Aristotle. For example, try to apply
> the laws of excluded middle and contradiction to "bald" or any other
> characteristic that admits of degrees. Or try to do astronomy on the
> basis that all celestial bodies are composed solely of the quintessence.
> Or try to do chemistry on the basis of only four terrestrial elements.
> It must also be noted that syllogistic (including the additional modal
> logics) is not totally the same as medieval logics, and is quite
> different from contemporary logics (from Frege on).
> As for 2+2=4, it is not necessarily true, for there is modular arithmetic.
> As to a first entity of some sort, it is entirely possible that the
> first one possessing all the human characteristics, by being in a
> breeding group, did not have any offspring with the same complete set of
> characteristics. There has to be a slowly changing breeding group for
> speciation. The logical notion that there has to be a single first does
> not necessarily apply to reality.
> Dave (ASA)
> On Tue, 15 Dec 2009 17:55:19 -0500 Schwarzwald <
> <>> writes:
> Murray,
> Sorry, but this cuts no ice. If Gregory were simply making an appeal
> to the Church fathers such that they or revelation should be trusted
> over modern science... well, I'd have some problems with that, but
> "The year is 2009" would *still* not suffice as a meaningful
> argument. There are problems with trusting revelation over science
> (when the two are actually in dispute, rather than it being a clash
> of philosophies), but the 'modern world' hasn't done anything but
> make that view unpopular.
> But when Gregory is talking about how there must have been a first,
> I don't see him as making a theological appeal. It's a logical
> appeal, one of reason. Along the lines of, "Beings of type X exist
> now. Beings of type X have not been reproducing since eternity.
> Ergo, there must have been a first." That's the sort of reasoning a
> classic greek may have used - but today's date does not change the
> validity of it.
> To give another example: Aristotle is credited with the law of
> identity, of contradiction, and the excluded middle. Old, old
> "laws". Is "It's 2009" anything close to an adequate way to dismiss
> them? Does it even begin to do that?
> Same for math. 2+2=4. You can find as much 'argued' (discovered?) in
> some old, old references. Is the reasoning outdated? Is the
> conclusion now suspect because of the passage of time?
> So the "the world is fundamentally different" line doesn't go all
> that far. Nor does, necessarily, scientific advancement. If tomorrow
> a scientist tells me "2+2=71", he better have more than a
> declaration of "It's 2009" onhand when I ask him to defend his view.
> On Tue, Dec 15, 2009 at 5:32 PM, Murray Hogg
> < <>> wrote:
> Schwarzwald wrote:
> Not nearly enough, Murray. And I'll bluntly say that the
> tactic of refutation by referring to the date is the stuff
> of glaring intellectual weakness. It can be deployed for
> just about any position, even contrary ones.
> The difference in scientific perspective between the ancient
> world and today makes any appeal to Aristotle and the Church
> Fathers problematic in the extreme - particularly when their
> opinion (as it is on the question of the "first" human) is so
> markedly a product of their particular view of the created order.
> Simply citing those authorities as if they can be considered
> determinative in any theological debate is PRECISELY to attempt
> to do theology in a pre-modern intellectual context.
> Let me note, further, that I purposefully used quote marks on
> "refutation." I am aware that simply pointing to a calendar
> doesn't disprove Greg's argument - but it DOES introduce a major
> consideration that has to be addressed.
> So the fundamental point is that our conceptual world is
> fundamentally different from that of Aristotle and the Fathers.
> The only "glaring intellectual weakness" is on the part of those
> who pretend otherwise.
> In that respect, pointing out that there's been 2000 years of
> intervening scientific progress since Aristotle (and 1500 years
> of same since the Church Fathers) is not quite irrelevant.
> Blessings,
> Murray
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Received on Tue Dec 15 21:58:01 2009

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