vendredi 11 décembre 2015

Correcting CMI on Aristotle

1) Creation vs. Evolution : Hans Küng is Lousy in Ecclesiology. · 2) What Utter Stupidity in Exegesis, This Modernism! · 3) Stacy Trasancos Gets Condemation of 219 Theses Wrong · 4) Correspondence of Hans Georg Lundahl : With James Hannam on Whether Bible and Fathers Agree or Not on Shape of Earth · 5) Creation vs. Evolution : Dominic Statham and Reijer Hooykaas Wrong on Christian - Pagan Divide · 6) Correcting CMI on Aristotle

Both the Greeks and Hindus also could have obtained their evolution-of-life ideas from even more ancient peoples. Aristotle (384–322 BC) claimed that humans are the highest point of one long, continuous ‘ascent with modification’ of life.

CMI : Evolutionary naturalism: an ancient idea
by Jerry Bergman

Their source: Osborn, H.F., From the Greeks to Darwin, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, p. 54, 1929.

Here is wiki's description of the author:

Henry Fairfield Osborn, Sr. ForMemRS (August 8, 1857 – November 6, 1935) was an American geologist, paleontologist, and eugenist, and the president of the American Museum of Natural History for 25 years.

I'd say that trusting him is like trusting Haeckel. He was deeply involved, and therefore he overdid his parallels to back then more respected philosophers, like Aristotle.

Son of the prominent railroad tycoon William Henry and Virginia Reed Osborn, Henry Fairfield Osborn was born in Fairfield, Connecticut, 1857.

Oh, boy!

His daddy was a dishonest businessman, and THIS is where Protestant Creationists get the idea that Aristotle was an Evolutionist!

And his mentor was a Lamarckian, Edward Drinker Cope. And an uncle was the infamous Pierpoint Morgan.

And he was involved in Scopes trial, obviously on the wrong side.

A good authority on what Aristotle believed? Noooooooooooooo waaaaayyyy!

Aristotle believed his (Osbonr's) family's way of earning money was contrary to nature, because greed, like sodomy, is UN-natural vice. (Both were, by the way, typical of Corinth).

Now, what did Aristotle really believe?

Since his writings are extant, and his Greek is about intermediate between that of Xenophon and that of New Testament, closer to the latter, in matters like πρασσω rather than πραττω, finding it out would presumably not take evangelical scholars too long.

But even when they are opponents of Osborn, they will still cite him on Aristotle!

Now, their source seems to have claimed "Aristotle claimed", but their source does not seem to have given any source for this claim about what Aristotle claimed. What book? What chapter? What page number or what paragraph? These are questions one can ask about standard Ancient Classics, and Aristotle is one. It's like claiming Bible requires rape victims to marry perpetrators (it is actually the perpetrator who is required, the rape victim and her family have the choice), and then not even give relevant chapter and verse from Exodus or Deuteronomy so one can check.

I have not read THAT much of Aristotle that I can refute the claim in great detail. I do know this:

Aristotle divided "animalia" into two groups: "animal rationale" (man, perhaps some of the Greek gods as well) and "animal irrationale" (anything from horse to worm). He considered rationality as a very distinguishing feature in man, and would heartily have agreed with Chesterton that it is less impressive that an ape also has an opposoable thumb, and more impressive that the ape does not KNOW what to do with his thumb the way man does.

Perhaps Osborn was confusing Aristotle with Epicure. The latter believed that civilised man is the product of a long ascent from men anatomically like us, but mentally not distinguishable from the brute beasts, knowing neither language nor agriculture. Obviously, to Epicure rationality was just civilised veneer. Both horses and men have a mentality at all because a certain type of atoms do a certain type of movements in their brains, nothing more to it.

But to Aristotle, the difference between man and beast was fundamental. And even if he was wrong on many things (he believed in an eternal universe - which Epicure did too - and came at least close to believing in his later days what Averroës believed, that true rationality was monopsychic, and men only were rational because of participation in this one reason ... a Hindoo like thought, btw, and as bad as or worse than evolution), one cannot heap all the wrong ideas on him. Like one cannot reproach "Buddha" Siddharta Gautama of promoting a materialistic view of society like that of Marx and Engels.

Somewhat more surprising, Epicure and Democritus are not mentioned in Jerry Bergman's list of ancient precursors of Darwin. Their view of Civilisation was strictly evolutionist (as they believed an eternal universe, they also believed periodic disasters periodically obliterated human civilisation, and humans each time had to start all over from scratch, that scratch being a beast with human body but not yet any human language, and needing to develop it.

Perhaps this goes back to the reason why Karl Marx in his doctoral thesis was in denial about Epicurean philosophy being the one Saint Paul warned against in Colossians 2:8, 9.

Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy, and vain deceit; according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ: For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead corporeally;

Videte ne quis vos decipiat per philosophiam,

So far this could be any philosophy, but it is not followed by an "or", but by an "and", so it is a philosophy specified by what follows.

et inanem fallaciam secundum traditionem hominum,

According to empty deceit according to the tradition of men ... which philosophies were traditional and popular back then? Well, we are a century after Cicero, so the answer is likely still to be Stoics and Epicureans. Obviously Seneca and Epictetus were Stoics. As obviously the Magister Elegantiarum of Nero, who, if he had any philosophy, this Gaius Petronius, obviously had the Epicurean one. So, which of these?

secundum elementa mundi,

According to the "elements of the world". If it had been "the seeds of the world", or "the final fire", one could already be sure it was Stoics. As it is "elements of the world", one may think it is rather Epicurean philosophy, since the "atoms" of the universe and of biology were habitually compared to "elementa" or letters of words by these.

et non secundum Christum:

With this in mind, "and not according to Christ" does not mean in general that Greek philosophy isn't, but specifies one which is very un-Christlike. An obvious candidate is Epicurean philosophy. It encouraged rich men (and it was not meant for poor men!) to live lives in pleasure and self satisfaction. A bit like the Pharisaic "rich man" of the story of the rich man and Lazarus (whose brothers HAVE Moses and the Prophets - i e it was really a question of Jewish observation of Scriptures - but do not believe them - i e do not act accordingly).

Perhaps this preference is due to the Pharisaic family antecedents of Karl Marx?

quia in ipso inhabitat omnis plenitudo divinitatis corporaliter:

With Christ we have the Ultimate truth, this is a good reason for rejecting bad speculations on truth.

This could be taken as a very broad rejection of all philosophy, but equally of the kind of philosophy which is incompatible with this theology. Which is more the case with Stoics and Epicureans (especially) and less the case for Aristotle and Plato (especially).

Now, unlike Christian tradition (going back to Colossians 2), the Jewish tradition behind Marx and possibly also these Evangelicals, has not been rejecting Epicure. At least not totally.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre University Library
Pope and Confessor St Damasus I

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