Paul Athanasius Robinson

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Born
Louisville, Kentucky, The United States
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Influences

Member Since
July 2018


I am a priest of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), ordained in 2006. After three years at my first assignment in Saint Marys, Kansas, I have spent the last ten years teaching at Holy Cross Seminary in Goulburn, Australia. My particular interest is in the intersection of theology, philosophy, and science. In 2018, I published The Realist Guide to Religion and Science to assist Catholics (and others!) to achieve a balanced intellectual perspective on faith/science questions.
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Paul Athanasius Robinson Dear Nicholas,
Though I did read and reference many books, yet there are many more that I would have like to have read and I also know plenty books th…more
Dear Nicholas,
Though I did read and reference many books, yet there are many more that I would have like to have read and I also know plenty books that have more research than my own.

That being said, in order to explain the research that I did, I think I will divide it into three levels. The first level is simply what I and any author is able to bring to the book from the knowledge that he has accumulated in the whole of his life. Each of us has a formation in a given field that makes us something of an expert in that field. For some, this formation is supplemented by having the opportunity to teach. Through teaching, one is able to penetrate a given subject quite deeply.

That is the only way that I was able to write a philosophy book, namely, that I had received a formation in philosophy and had been teaching it for a decade. The core of my book, its deep center, really comes from that formation and experience. In the end, I don’t think that research can be of much value unless the researcher has first received an intellectual formation.

We all have experience of the typical argument on the Internet where one person is throwing a quotation at another and vice versa, but the argument is going nowhere. The fact is that it is one thing to read and quite another thing to assimilate the principles behind what is being read. It is very easy for a person to take a given text as saying something that it does not actually say. When it happens, it can be a sign of a lack of intellectual formation.

Allow me to take a little tangent here and mention that the likelihood of misquoting a text is all the more likely to the degree that a given author is difficult. The Fathers and Doctors of the Church, such as St. Augustine and St. Thomas, are often, for instance, not easy reading. And one of the reasons that I wrote my own book is that I knew that Fr. Jaki is not easy reading, and I wanted to make his ideas more comprehensible to the popular audience.

The second level is an actual research level, reading and researching using books. The books that are read can be primary or secondary sources. Primary sources are those that are at the origin of a given idea or system of thought. I was able to make use of such primary sources—such as Plato, Aristotle, and St. Thomas—in the area of philosophy. But I knew that I did not have time to consult primary sources in the areas of history and science. Thus, I used secondary sources, that is, authors who read the primary sources for you and explain their thought.

For instance, Etienne Gilson provided me a good history of Muslim philosophy in a few of his books. Gilson read Al-Ashari, Al-Ghazali, Al-Farabi, Avicenna, Averroes, and so on, and then told me about their thinking. I did not have time to read those authors (the primary sources), but I did have time to read someone telling me about those authors (secondary sources).

But how, you might say, should you read these books? Well, to be honest, advice on this question is much better given you by Mortimer Adler in his How to Read a Book and Fr Sertillanges in his The Intellectual Life (which I noticed you have on your reading wish list!). There you will find them discussing how to evaluate the quality of a book beforehand, how to take notes on books, and how to organize what you read.

Let me just say that I would underline in some books, take notes on a piece of paper for others, and finally type up a summary of still others. It depended on the quality and importance of the book. If the book contained key ideas that were at the backbone of my own work, I would give it the full treatment. Here are some of those books:
• The Road of Science and the Ways to God by Fr. Jaki
• Science and Creation by Fr. Jaki
• The Modeling of Nature by Fr. Wallace
• Signature in the Cell by Stephen Meyer
• The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science by E. Burtt
• Ancient Earth, Ancient Skies by B. Dalrymple

I think that it is important to take all of the time necessary to comprehend fully books such as these. It does take careful reading and re-reading, because they are not easy.

And let me say that one difficult aspect about research is that you can’t really know which books contain the key information until you have read a lot. You may have to go through ten books on a given subject before you find the one that is the goldmine. That is the one in which you will invest the time of making a summary, while, with the others, you will just jot down notes or useful passages. There were a few times when I would find an invaluable work on a topic after I had written the chapter. If the new knowledge that I gained from reading the book was sufficiently important, I would have to go back and rewrite the chapter.

A third level of research concerns reading those books that can add to the style of the book that you are writing. You may not learn anything new from them, but they make express an idea in an interesting way, or they may make useful of a useful image that can be borrowed. I especially think of Chesterton in this regard. You don’t go to Chesterton for a systematic treatment of a topic, yet Chesterton is eminently quotable. Thus, you can add a bit of spice and character to your book by quoting Chesterton, even if you will not be building the book off his thought.

Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in the day, and it can be painful for readers to curtail their reading. But it is necessary for us to knew when we have researched enough and then stop. Any topic can be researched until the day you die, if you want. But books just don’t get written that way! Once you have a certain knowledge of the literature on the topic and you grasp the subject sufficiently to communicate it at the level of depth you have chosen, it is time to write.

I hope this helps, Nicholas.

God bless,
Fr. Robinson(less)
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Fr François Laisney, former District Superior of the United States and then of Australia, author of Archbishop Lefebvre And The Vatican and Is Feeneyism Catholic?, and current prior in New Zealand, has written a positive review of The Realist Guide on the Angelus website. Among other things, he says the following about the book:

I read the whole book, and truly consider its contribution to the def
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Published on June 21, 2019 17:53 Tags: book-review, creationism, françois-laisney, great-flood, sacred-scripture

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More of Paul's books…
“In today’s climate, it is considered to be rational and
scientific when some material cause is ascribed to the origin of life: lightning, molecules on crystals, aliens who came from non-life. Ascribing a non-material cause to life’s origin, such as intelligence, on the other hand, is said to be irrational and unscientific. Intelligence is unintelligence, because only non-intelligence can be intelligent.”
Paul Athanasius Robinson, The Realist Guide to Religion and Science

“With the Chinese and Indians, mythos destroyed
logos; with Aristotle, logos destroyed mythos; with Aquinas, mythos perfected logos. This is no small reason to believe that Aquinas’s mythos was not mythology.”
Paul Athanasius Robinson, The Realist Guide to Religion and Science

“Krauss seems to think that if he describes how one thing comes from another, probing into smaller and smaller things, he will eventually come to nothing at the bottom of it all, as the cause of it all. But talking about how some things come from other things says nothing about how they can come from nothing.”
Paul Athanasius Robinson

“With the Chinese and Indians, mythos destroyed
logos; with Aristotle, logos destroyed mythos; with Aquinas, mythos perfected logos. This is no small reason to believe that Aquinas’s mythos was not mythology.”
Paul Athanasius Robinson, The Realist Guide to Religion and Science

“Krauss seems to think that if he describes how one thing comes from another, probing into smaller and smaller things, he will eventually come to nothing at the bottom of it all, as the cause of it all. But talking about how some things come from other things says nothing about how they can come from nothing.”
Paul Athanasius Robinson

“In today’s climate, it is considered to be rational and
scientific when some material cause is ascribed to the origin of life: lightning, molecules on crystals, aliens who came from non-life. Ascribing a non-material cause to life’s origin, such as intelligence, on the other hand, is said to be irrational and unscientific. Intelligence is unintelligence, because only non-intelligence can be intelligent.”
Paul Athanasius Robinson, The Realist Guide to Religion and Science

“Of itself, natural selection is a small strip of explanation. When it is used to account for a little part of the body of reality, it does a fine job. But when it is stretched in an attempt to cover the whole of reality—when it is divinised—things quickly become ridiculous.
It is the very nature of the empiricist enterprise to extend material causes so far beyond their own proper domain that they are trying to cover being itself. That the nakedness of reality remains uncovered by such attempts is all too transparent.”
Paul Athanasius Robinson, The Realist Guide to Religion and Science

“We must not confine ourselves to reciting the words [in prayer] with our lips; it is necessary that we should raise to God our mind by attention, our heart by devotion, and our will by submission.”
Vitalis Lehodey, The Ways of Mental Prayer

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