Monday, August 21, 2006

Barr responds to George and Lee


As I understand them, what they mean by “partial identity” is that some parts of the old body must be identical with (i.e., “one and the same as” or, in philosophical jargon, “numerically identical” with) the corresponding parts of the resurrected body. They grant that it is problematic to suppose that the relevant parts are subatomic particles. They suggest instead that it may be some “parcels of matter, or parcels of matter-energy” or some other material components that get “reassembled” to make the resurrected body. I fear that this does not solve the basic problem with their position.

Suppose a person’s body were to be resolved into its constituent particles, perhaps by being blown to smithereens in a thermonuclear blast. Or suppose it were completely dissolved in an acid bath. Or suppose it were cremated and the ashes scattered to the four winds or dissolved in the sea. Or suppose that by more ordinary means, such as predation and decay in the ground, the same result were achieved more slowly. Then it might well be—and, indeed, doubtless is for countless people who have died in the past—that nothing remains of their earthly bodies beyond atoms and molecules. In such cases, any “material continuity” of the kind envisaged by George and Lee would have to involve the “numerical identity” of or “one and the sameness” of particles. And this runs into, I think, fatal difficulties. (I should note that this applies not only to “subatomic” particles but to atoms as well.)

Either “material continuity” in the sense of composition from some of the “same” bits of matter is a necessary condition of “resurrection” or it is not. I don’t see how it can be a necessary condition for some people and not for others. However, since it seems to be a condition impossible of fulfillment for some people, it cannot be a necessary condition for them, and therefore it cannot be necessary for anyone. George and Lee say, “Our concern in our forthcoming book is to show that belief in bodily resurrection is not incoherent (that it is not self-contradictory, which is not the same as to show that it is true or even intrinsically possible), …” I obviously agree that belief in bodily resurrection is not self-contradictory—indeed, I hold it to be true. However, I think the ideas of “same electron,” “same atom,” etc., in the sense seemingly required by their position, do involve self-contradiction.

Much of his reply, especially on "material continuity," was already anticipated in the last post.

As I noted in my previous post, the “resurrection of physical bodies” conceived of as the “return” of the same “biological structure” (to use the Ratzingerian phraseology) is fraught with numerous severe difficulties.
So is Barr claiming that another kind of body can be proportioned to the human soul, or that the human soul can animate another kind of body? See how much has been lost in rigorous scientific discourse when Aristotelian physics has been abandoned.
George and Lee assert that our having “bodies” at the resurrection “means at least this much: We will be able to walk and talk, see with our eyes, gesture with our hands, etc.” It may mean that, but it may mean something else. I personally am not at all sure that all those elements of our “biological structure” will exist.
Uh, so do we still have a human nature or not after the resurrection? And if we do, is there not a formal identity between the body we have know and the one we will have then? How human was the risen Christ, and did He have all his parts? After all, the risen Christ even ate with the Apostles, even though He had no need to. I would think the implications would be obvious.

If, as St. John tells us, there is no light in heaven of the kind that the sun or candles give, but our sole “light” will be that given us by the Lord, then we will have no more need of retinas and optic nerves than we will have of gonads and immune systems. We will be “changed.” We will put on incorruption. How? I cannot say and dare not try to say.
What is he saying here? Is he being like the Orthodox and claiming that it is "uncreated light"? Let us assume that the light is a created effect--then by what shoddy reasoning is he inferring that we will have no more need of retinas and optic nerves?

I do not think that Christ’s “ascension” consisted simply of his moving in space farther away from the center of the earth while remaining really in this physical universe. I think it was a translation of Christ—not within the three-dimensional space of our world, but into a very different realm whose connection to this physical universe is impossible for us to conceive at present. Perhaps it is this impossibility that is suggested by the “cloud” that enveloped him.

Is Christ in a place or not? If He is not how is that place separate from what actually exists?
Place is a consequence of (or, an accident modifying) substance, and not the other way around.
Is Heaven (where Christ and the Blessed Mother are located) contiguous with the universe? And if it is not, can we speak meaningfully of separation of Heaven and the universe, if there is nothing separating the two? (Just as there really is nothing outside of the universe, not "empty space" because "empty space" is a non-entity.)

I do not see why it is not enough to say what we all must say: that we are inherently corporeal beings, that we will be corporeal beings in heaven (or hell), and that we will be the same persons we are now, so that our corporeality will not be borrowed or extrinsic to us.
So are we just ghosts in machines? Does Barr accept a Cartesian/dualistic account of human nature then?

And one wonders why I rarely grant contemporary physicists the status of "expert."

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