Whether There Is a Hell?

No, says Mills, because none of the 3 theories of punishment he lists, deterrence, rehabilitation, and “separation,” are fulfilled by eternal torture.

Now first of all, there are 4 not 3 theories of punishment, the last one being retribution. The purpose of retribution is to restore order in the universe that was unseemly upset by a crime. A criminal has dared to raise his miserable hand against the holy right of another. He has bitten off some happiness for himself that he does not deserve, despising his fellow men in the process. By violating another’s rights, he treated him with contempt, as filth, as a tool, as someone with no moral standing, not as a man with innate dignity, and so unjustly. Justice demands that the offender’s ill-gotten gains be taken away and that he lose his social status to the same extent to which he viciously took it away from his victim.

Further, “separation” is better called condemnation or protection of society. One is permanently cut off from society as a wicked cancerous cell and “burned” as befits such a incorrigibly corrupt creature. But I’ve written on this extensively before.

Hell features precisely permanent and complete condemnation and not the other 3 theories. Mills objects:

(1) God, after a “sinner’s” death, could return the “sinner’s soul” to a state of nonexistence, as it was before his birth.

(2) God, after a “sinner’s” death, could transport the “sinner’s soul” to a location away from Heaven, but a location wherein he would not undergo pointless torture. (184)

However, (1) is impossible, since human souls or at least the immaterial intellects are naturally immortal. As God cannot turn Socrates into a pig (or vice versa), or make 2 + 2 be equal to 5, neither can He violate the essence of a man and annihilate his soul.

(2) will not work either, because the kingdom of heaven is a world without end. It extends everywhere except hell. The liberties of the blessed to visit any part of heaven, including even its lower but non-hellish regions, are unrestricted. Therefore, if a sinner’s soul ends up anywhere but hell, it will not be truly cut off from the communion of saints.

But why eternal torture? Well, humans can pursue happiness when their nature is intact, pure, and uncorrupt. Now the most general components of man are: will, intellect, and power. The soul is will + immaterial ½ of the intellect. The body is the material ½ of intellect + bodily power. Physical death is separation of body from the soul. It is surely a terrible thing. So, man’s body is already corruptible. But one can, through other-destroying crimes and self-destroying sins, corrupt his soul also. Hence spiritual death, the “second death” mentioned in Rev 21:8, further separates within the soul the will from the intellect. This is infinitely worse but essentially is self-inflicted. The everlasting torment of the intellect that remains is “natural” to a soul so fully corrupted.

The Catholic doctrine of purgatory further argues that while hell is punishment for the sake of condemnation, purgatory can indeed be punishment for the sake of retribution, deterrence, or rehabilitation. Follow these links for the full argument:

Jesus’ Fire and Brimstone Warnings Are Useful;
Two Hells Are Evidence for Universal Salvation;
Arguments for Reincarnation;
Whether the Old Testament Lord Is Evil?

For example, retribution is suggested by: “Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” (Mt 5:25-26)

In short, hell- and purgatory-fire is such a perfect fear-inducing deterrent and stimulus to reform that in the end, it keeps everyone spiritually alive.

Whether Intelligent Design Is a Cult?

Chapter 11 is malicious, venomous, and deeply confused. Based on the book’s content before it, I expected much better from the author.

Throughout, Mills attributes all sorts of sinister and insidious motives to ID theorists:

ID irrationally believes that if tiny errors can be found within Charles Darwin’s 150-year-old body of work, then “Darwinism” will be discredited, and, presumably, Intelligent Design will be vindicated. (228)

Another reason why ID’s supporters refer to evolution as “Darwinism” is that they are embarrassed to state that they reject evolution completely. Rejecting “Darwinism,” however, somehow seems more palatable and less humiliating to those striving to camouflage themselves as scientists. (229)

Despite its pretentious facade of sincerity, there is a surplus of deliberate distortion of fact within ID. (230)

The overriding goal for most of ID’s spokesmen and writers is to be perceived as towering intellectuals by their fellow Republican churchmen. (231)

… the Intelligent Design movement is a congregation of religious fanatics localized primarily in conservative areas of the United States. (254)

And on and on the insults go. While reading this (final) chapter, I wondered whether Mills had snapped and gone off his rocker for this endless barrage of (undeserved) abuse. In fairness to him, however, this is probably a temperamental misunderstanding. Mills must have imagined that the Christian leaders were pompous and dull “authorities,” incapable of rational argumentation, perpetually zealously searching for heretics to hate and persecute who, feeling a threat to their power from “secular science,” hired corrupt scientists to prostitute themselves by defending their absurd dogma with sophistical — but easily shown to be untenable — arguments. I sympathize, I do. Still, why didn’t Mills realize that this description is a preposterous caricature of reality?

No matter. Here I can only reply to the most absurd parts of Mills’ vitriolic polemic on this subject.

First, Mills calls ID a “cult,” (209) because, he says, it conflicts with the literal interpretation of early Genesis. In fact, of course, design theory is a purely scientific framework, a paradigm, if you will. To the extent that it says anything about God, and describing God is far from its main concern, it is a piece of natural theology rather than an article of faith. Its alleged conflict with Genesis is beside the point.

On a personal note, I don’t appreciate accusations of “heresy” (209) coming from an atheist. You, Mills, are not a Christian and not even a theist. What business of yours is the internal debate among Christians about early Genesis? You do not belong to our club and have no say about our private affairs. Nor, in addition, are you even a theologian. So, don’t stick your nose into our business. The whole thing is ridiculous. The Bible begins with “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth…” But Mills denies that God exists. Hence Gen 1:1 is indeed false, but entirely on this atheistic assumption, i.e., for a perfectly trivial reason. It’s like concluding that Jesus is not God because there is no such thing as God in the first place, and therefore no God who can become incarnate. In short, Mills, your artless and unbecoming subversion campaign is noted and dismissed.

ID theorists say nothing about Genesis or the Bible for the exact same reasons why mathematicians or economists say nothing about it in their capacity as scientists.

ID is connected to theology only insofar as theology is the queen of the sciences that makes use of all its handmaiden disciplines. But theology does not privilege any subordinate science; it uses ID just as impartially as it uses physics or psychology.

ID then is not a cult or religious doctrine but a purely scientific paradigm. Even an atheist can, and I think should, pay heed to the design-theoretic research program.

Mills says about the anthropic principle that “the universe was not ‘fine-tuned’ to support human life. Rather, human life — and life in general — were fine-tuned to the universe through natural selection.” (226) But are not the chances that the universe is such that natural selection, assuming the correctness of Darwinism, could work and create humans miniscule? In other words, if any of the parameters of the universe were off by even a tiny amount, natural selection would have had no chance of succeeding in bringing about complex life or any life at all. To that our author responds as follows:

There was no preordained or predetermined reason why the universe had to be the way it is today. …

Theoretically, “life as we know it” could have been “life as we don’t know it” or “life as we can’t possibly imagine it” or “life at another place and time” or “something other than life” or “no life at all.” …

ID’s logical mistake is to assume what it sets out to prove. ID assumes that mankind’s appearance was inevitable. (227-8)

I agree that the anthropic principle does not yield any theistic conclusions, but for reasons different from those adduced by Mills. See my Cosmological Fine-Tuning:

The Good,
The Bad, and
The Ugly.

The reason for ID to pick on Darwinism rather than “evolution,” is that Darwinism is a much more specific term, denoting evolution by random variation and natural selection via “numerous, successive, slight modifications.” For example, ID retains natural selection, arguing that intelligently designed biological systems, too, are tested by how well creatures fare in their survival and reproduction. ID then is intelligent variation + natural selection. An incompetently designed system might fail to confer advantage and be destroyed as the mutants die out. Domestication of plants and animals involves random variation and artificial selection; and future genetic engineering may feature both intelligent variation and artificial selection. Again, there are theories other than Darwin’s such as self-organization of complex structures. Gould’s punctuated equilibrium adopts random variation and natural selection but rejects the Darwinian mechanism of “slight” modifications in favor of “rare and geologically rapid events of branching speciation.”

In short, ID is opposed to Darwinism by arguing that the Darwinian mechanism is not powerful enough to create molecular machines marked by irreducible or specified complexity. But it accepts evolution understood simply as change or even “progress” in terms of mechanical sophistication and complexity of biological structures.

Mills objects in a typically vague manner:

(1) Nature is replete with diverse biological systems spanning the entire gamut from the very simple to the highly intricate — with every intermediate level of complexity still available today for our direct visual observation.

ID’s demand for an all-or-nothing appearance of complexity… reflects an extremist mindset incapable of subtle perceptions of gradation.

(2) The notion of irreducible complexity likewise assumes erroneously that all parts of a system must always have functioned expressly as they do today and that other uses and adaptive advantages were impossible during the lifeforms evolutionary development…

(3) … very few naturally occurring systems or lifeforms are actually irreducibly complex. (225-6)

(1) is deceptive: regarding the molecular machines’ actual construction and work, there are vast gaps.

(2) is yet another promissory note in an apparently endless series by the Darwinian fanatics, assuring us that future research will reveal exactly how various irreducibly complex systems were generated via the Darwinian mechanism. This note was unfulfilled at the time of the book’s publication in 2006 and remains unfulfilled still.

(3) is simply false.

ID then is an inference to best explanation. It is downright foolish and a waste of time to seek Darwinian explanations of the emergence of specified-complex systems.

Well’s Icons of Evolution would not have been written, if the Darwinists had the decency to design school textbooks with some measure of competence. These textbooks are filled with “historical memorabilia” (229) that even Mills acknowledges as fake. I would think that the “true scientific community” should either put up or shut up in regard to this stunning educational failure. I personally blame government schools.

The kalam argument’s crucial premise is that it is impossible to traverse an actual infinite. As such, it appears to be beyond dispute. The Zeno’s paradox invoked by Mills (237) proves, contra our author, precisely that motion is discreet, i.e., that the line between any point A and point B is not divisible to infinity. Hence in moving, objects do not have to traverse an actual infinite. The problem identified by kalam remains.

The only issue with the kalam argument is that we normally understand God as eternal, which is a package of past, present, future, and timelessness united in a perfect Now in which the entirety of the divine life is enjoyed. But eternal existence understood as “simultaneously-whole and perfect possession of interminable life,” seems to permit, a fortiori, everlasting existence, including an actual infinite of the past. It is for that reason that St. Thomas held that the fact that the universe has a beginning is not a conclusion of reason but an article of faith. However, it may be that eternal existence includes the “infinite past” in a unique sense which does not presuppose an actual infinitude of events that must have occurred up until now. For example, it could mean that God comprehends Himself fully, that in regard to self-knowledge even of His own infinite self, He has “been everywhere” and “done everything,” and no aspect of Himself is beyond His intellectual grasp. It could mean that God is secure in His happiness and has no regrets.

Nor is God even more complex than created things (239); on the contrary, God is absolutely simple. And even if we assume that He is not simple, then as Alvin Plantinga pointed out, we are seeking a proximate explanation of specified complexity not an ultimate one; so God’s being complex is irrelevant to the problem, just as the complexity of human beings is irrelevant to explaining the origins of a watch one finds at the beach.

Regarding the “analogies” of pocket watches, computers, and mousetraps to biological systems, it is obvious that Mills does not understand the argument at all.

ID does not “continue to claim that Nature’s organization is evidence of a loving Creator.” First, a creator is someone who creates nature itself. But intelligent design occurs within nature, long after it has been created. A designer need not be the creator; there might be a designer without there being a creator. It’s a complete fabrication that ID theorists (again, in their capacity as scientists) consider the designer “loving.” As far as “Nature’s indifference to humanity” (243) is concerned, imperfect or suboptimal design is not the same as no design. A defective motherboard is designed despite not allowing the computer to boot. A torture chamber is designed despite being used for evil ends.

Mills does not see the contradiction in saying in one place that “of the membership of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, only 7% of its leading scientists believed in a personal God” (233), and in another that

as Sam Harris has stated so accurately, “There is sanity in numbers.” If only one person truly believed in a magical Being, governing the universe from a magical city where our “souls” will fly after death, then this one person would be viewed correctly as indisputably insane. But because a majority believe this tale, the absurdity of the fantasy is undeservedly dissipated. (254)

By that logic, Mills’ “leading Academics” may, too, be considered insane both despite being a majority in their organization and because they are a tiny minority overall.

By adopting materialistic monism and condemning dualism as absurd, Mills is willy-nilly led to conclude not just that there is no God but that there are no human beings, either. Mills finds no fundamental difference between a man and a doorknob.

The reason why Nobel prizes are not awarded for the “discovery of God” (253) is that scientists busy themselves with secondary causes and leave the First Cause to philosophers, who in my view have done a very good job proving the existence of God. But ID says little about the identity of the designer. Perhaps many biological systems found in earth’s creatures were designed by extraterrestrial aliens, surely a secondary cause if anything is and therefore fully within the purview of science.

But enough of this. Intelligent Design has a bright and fruitful future as an independent science.

Enigma of Law and STA’s Fifth Way

Related to my discussion of natural law as explanation, Mills continues:

The true, underlying reason why all objects in the universe attract each other is, to this day, a baffling enigma.

True, Einstein showed that massive objects distort space-time and produce gravitational effects. But why do massive objects distort space-time?

Such questions are still unanswered… (71)

Where Mills confesses ignorance, St. Thomas finds the finger of God:

We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result.

Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer.

Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God. (ST, I, 2, 3)

The phrase “best result” is probably unnecessary, since a billiard ball does not care whether the “result” it obtains is best or somehow suboptimal. It does not rank results or ends from best to worst. Therefore, it is misleading to say that it, as though a human being, “acts for an end,” since it does not choose it.

“Law” is the description of the efficient cause of material objects; it answers the question, “How do things work?” And this description is extremely particular: things work this way and not any other way. Inertial motion occurs in a straight line and not in an ellipse. Proteins fold in their own precise ways and refuse to fold in any other ways.

Now the efficient cause is above the material cause, and as such is an abstraction, an idea, information. Material objects lack an intellect and so cannot contemplate, still less obey, this idea. Hence there must be a mind that directs such objects according to its own ideas of causality.

The “enigma” of natural law thus finds its resolution in the will and intellect of God.

This complements the argument from motion. We discover God both from the phenomenon of motion as such (“first way”) and from the phenomenon of the directedness and specificity of motion (“fifth way”).