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Can Catholics and Atheists Agree on the Environment?

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Tomorrow (June 18), Pope Francis will release his long-awaited teaching document on the environment and human ecology. With that in mind, I wrote this article to articulate some principles that underlie the Catholic environmental vision, with the hope that atheists can better understand it and perhaps find common ground. I don’t know if these principles have been set out systematically, but in my research, I have uncovered fourteen. My selection of them is my own, as is the order in which I present them. In this article I'll identify and explicate the first six, then we'll cover another eight in my next article.

The first principle is that God is the sole creator and sustainer of the universe. This includes the laws of nature implanted in things. Because God is also good in himself, we can say that God is the good creator.

A second principle is that everything God has created is good. In Genesis, when God looks at the entire creation, including the first man and woman, he sees that it is “very good” (Gen 1: 31). One reason the author of Genesis may have included this is that human beings have a recurring temptation to see physical reality, including the human body, as evil. Gnosticism, Manichaeism, and the Albigensian heresy are three examples.

An axiom of Catholic philosophy is: “All that is is good.” This is to say, everything which has being is good. It is easy to feel that wheat, wine, sunshine, and butterflies are good. But subatomic particles, uranium, arsenic, crocodiles, and killer whales are also in themselves good. Physical evils, such as floods, tornadoes, blizzards, man-eating tigers, and dangerous microbes, are bad for us but good in their being.

The third principle is that part of the goodness of the universe is that it has a design and a purpose. Things have an inbuilt order which we can discover, recognize, and cooperate with. Everything in the universe behaves according to laws, from subatomic particles, to atoms, to molecules, to chemical compounds, to cellular life, to plants and animals, even to the human body. Matter obeys the laws of physics, plants and lower animals obey their genetic programming, and animals follow their instincts. An amazing dimension of design is the potentiality in being. Assuming the Big Bang is correct, everything that exists now is a coming into being of potentialities inherent in the singularity.

In addition, everything in nature acts for an end or purpose. Every human organ, for example, is marvelously ordered to carry out a function: the eyes see, the fingers feel, the digestive system digests, and the sex organs reproduce. All technology is predicated on discovering and using things according to the way they naturally work. When Orville and Wilber Wright understood the physical laws of thrust, lift, drag and stability on three axes, and built a machine which could exploit these laws, they learned to fly. Hence, Artigas argues that modern science and technology have grown from the specific Christian premises that there is a natural order, we can know this order, and it is good to know it (Artigas 29-30). As Feser points out, it is not necessary that anything know its end or purpose in order to act toward it (Feser 35). For example, the human reproductive system produces new human beings without any awareness and it produces human beings, not bonobos, carrots, or lead.

The fourth principle is that the human race is singular and the summit of creation. Man is singular on the earth in that there is nothing else like him. There is no other being in the physical world—at least on planet earth—with a nature which makes it possible for it to exercise reason and free will. This is one of the things we interpret Genesis to mean when it reports that God made man, “in the image and likeness of God” (Gen 1:27). As awe-inspiring as are the number, variety, complexity, and beauty of the creatures of the natural world, humans alone possess oral and written symbolic language, mathematics, art, music and philosophy.

I think it is also true to say that man is like everything else . . . but more. Man is the summit of creation because he holds within himself all the lower levels of the created world. His body is made up of subatomic particles, atoms and molecules, which obey the laws of physics. He is composed of chemicals which obey the laws of chemistry. He is a conglomerate of trillions of cells which act just like all other cellular life. His body carries out all kinds of operations automatically, like plants and animals do. He has a body which has instincts and emotions, like the higher animals. While contemplating the wonders of the natural world, the Psalmist exclaims amazement that God has made man, “little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor,” giving him dominion over all His creatures (Ps. 8: 3-8). We do have god-like powers.

The fifth principle is that the earth is for our use. This principle is perhaps the hardest Christian environmental truth for modern people to accept, although almost no one had a problem with it until about 1960.1 The earth and its creatures exist for us, not us for them. In Genesis, man receives the command to “subdue” the earth. He possesses “dominion” over the animals and is “given” the plants to eat.

Why is it morally legitimate for us to “use” creation? According to the Catholic vision, there is a fundamental difference between human beings and everything else in creation. Human beings have absolute value: we are ends in ourselves. According to the Vatican II Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, man is “the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake” (Gaudium et spes 24). The rest of creation is of limited value: it is a means to an end. This is already seen in God’s mandate to Adam and Eve to subdue and use the things of the earth. In a highly technical explanation of this in his Summa Contra Gentiles, Thomas Aquinas writes, in reference to “subsistent intelligences,” by which he means men, “the good things which are given them . . . are not given them for the profit of any other creature: while the gifts given to other creatures by divine ordinance make for the use of intellectual creatures.” In other words, the gifts which man is endowed with are for his own benefit, not for the benefit of the creatures below him. On the other hand, the good things lower creatures possess are for our benefit (and the benefit of other lower creatures). They are for us; we are not for them. We are not designed to be shark food or malaria hosts, even though we can be those things.

This is why the earth’s ecology is at the service of human ecology and not vice versa. According to Pope Benedict XVI in his January 1, 2010 World Day of Peace Message, If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation (CPPC), “Our duties towards the environment flow from our duties towards the person, considered both individually and in relation to others” (CPPC 12). Note that our duties towards the environment do not flow from any “duties” towards trees, dolphins, the air, or the earth as a whole. For example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) tells us,

[I]t is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing. They may be domesticated to help man in his work and leisure. Medical and scientific experimentation on animals is a morally acceptable practice if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives. (CCC 2417)

On the other hand, an environmental policy or practice that does real harm to people to benefit “the environment” is wrong. For example, some environmental activists hammer spikes into trees to “save” them and to punish the logging industry. If the spikes are discovered, they must be laboriously removed, and they lower the economic value of the trees. If they are not found, they could physically injure a logger or sawmill worker when the saw hits the hard object.

If it is legitimate for man to use creation, may he use it any way he wishes? As we will see later, the answer is no.

This brings us to the sixth principle: Stewardship is man’s God-given mandate to direct wisely the development of the earth. If we look back over the five principles articulated so far, one could argue that the first great principle of the Catholic environmental vision is that God is the good creator of everything that is. The second is that man is God’s steward of creation. The principal of stewardship is also the answer—or at least an answer—to those who (falsely) say Christians believe God has given them license to rape the environment. A steward is not the owner of a good thing but rather the one who is entrusted with its use and care. The owner of the entire natural world is God who has given mankind the order to fill the earth and subdue it. Man’s stewardship imposes responsibilities on him.

Man’s stewardship includes respect for God’s creation. A person’s abuse of creation is wrong because it degrades him and is an injustice to other people on earth and to future generations. However, it is not wrong because of any inherent rights which lower created things possess. Abuse of creation is also wrong because it is a kind of insult to God who has created it good.

Man’s actual practice of stewardship can be seen in human history, which is an astonishing account of man’s dominion over and use of the goods of the earth through discovery, adaptation, and technology. We rightly think of our age as one of an explosion of knowledge and of astounding scientific and technological progress. But the discovery and use of fire, the domestication of animals, and the development of agriculture all occurred in human prehistory.

Stewardship is also not optional. As Pope Benedict XVI points out, God has created the world with a certain “grammar” which includes “giving man the role of a steward and administrator with responsibility over creation, a role which man must certainly not abuse, but also one which he may not abdicate” (CPPC 13). Whether anyone likes it or not, man is master of creation. Therefore, he has a responsibility.

In the next post, I will articulate the final eight principles. After that, if there is interest, I can start applying these principles to specific environmental issues.

Notes:

  1. Here is a link to a fascinating video from 1946 on the coast redwood logging industry. The view presented is one that is fully appreciative of the history, age, majesty, beauty and biology of the redwoods. Yet there is displayed absolutely no compunction about cutting them down because they are useful to man.
Kevin Aldrich

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Kevin Aldrich has a Master’s Degree in English literature and is a certified educator with twenty-four years of teaching and administrative leadership experience in pre-K-12 parochial and independent schools. His students have ranged from kindergarteners through college freshmen with four years of high-school English. He has recently authored the teacher editions for ten high-school theology textbooks in The Didache Semester Series and the eight-volume Didache Parish Program. In the area of character formation he is the author of Teen Virtues and wrote the first two generations of the Families of Character curriculum. In addition to his educational writings, he is the author of fourteen feature screenplays, three television pilots, and four novels. His essay “The Sense of Time in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings” has been reprinted in Tolkien: A Celebration: Collected Writings on a Literary Legacy.

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  • Physical evils, such as floods, tornadoes, blizzards, man-eating tigers, and dangerous microbes, are bad for us but good in their being.

    What practical application does this view have? Since the Catholic view is that Ebola is objectively good but bad relative to humans, can the Catholic view coherently say it would be morally right to cure Ebola, i.e. morally right to pursue a relative good at the expense of an objective good?

    By contrast, the humanist view is that there is only "good for us", and no such thing as "good in itself", so curing Ebola is for atheists purely pursuit of a good, as the destruction of Ebola microbes is for us not the destruction of something with any mysterious objective "goodness in itself".

    • neil_ogi

      evil is created for consumation purposes only. tiger, lion, leopard are designed as predators, and sheep, cattle, giraffe are designed as preys. so we can detect design everywhere, whether be it good or evil

      • George

        So there was predation before Adam and Eve fell? Animals ate animals?

        • neil_ogi

          not exactly true! the bible plainly explain that the cause of evil is transgression of laws. God instituted laws to the first couple (knowledge of the good and evil, for example). and free will. God has told them not to disobey His words or else they suffer the consequences (thorns grow, death)..

          why atheists are so concerned about evil's presence when they don't believe in morality? you can't know evil if you don't know good. anyway, life is just made of 'bags of chemicals.. (according to atheists) then why bother so much if animals ate animals, man kills each other?

          • Raymond

            That's the Phil Robertson argument against atheism - that since we are all bags of chemicals we have no moral sensibility and accept all actions and morally neutral. Except that the true atheist position (IMHO) is that because humans possess sophisticated cognition (which is still based on a chemical and electrical process) we have the ability to choose behaviors that promote harmony and peace because they are sensible activities for the continuance of humans individually and collectively. Activities that promote civilization are why we can have nice things.

            Do you agree with the Phil Robertson atheism story?

          • neil_ogi

            the Bible plainly explain why evil persists. i didn't mention any Phil Robertson's on this subject, to make it clear to you!

            i am asking atheists why there is such concept as morality! animal's 'chemical and electrical process' also exist in their physical body, and why they don't possess any 'moral values' that humans have? yes they have some forms of morality (caring of their babies - so that their 'seeds' will continue to live on).

            quote: 'because humans possess sophisticated cognition (which is still based on a chemical and electrical process)' - so can you tell me how it originated? even if these chemical things are present in the 'morality' processess, what caused them to arrive on it? (it still require a mind)

            quote: 'we have the ability to choose behaviors that promote harmony and peace because they are sensible activities for the continuance of humans individually and collectively. Activities that promote civilization are why we can have nice things.' - then why animals don't have that? why, for example, preys do not 'meet with each other' and call to fight predators? why animals can't built cities, communities? according to evolution, man and animals are of the same 'chemicals and electrical process'? they are just evolved?

          • Raymond

            Because they don't have sufficient intelligence to have civilization. And Phil Robertson's story had to do with atheists not having moral sensibilities so why would they care if someone murdered their family. Did you find his story funny?

    • Kevin Aldrich

      The idea is that everything that has being is ontologically good. Nothing is inherently evil in its being. Lots of people have believed that materiality is bad.

      I think all ideas if embraced have practical consequences as they are lived out. The Albigensian's, for example, saw matter as evil and so rejected marriage, fertile sex, and thought suicide was a good idea.

      • The Albigensians, for example, saw matter as evil and so rejected marriage, fertile sex, and thought suicide was a good idea.

        Huh. Those rejections are non-sequiturs, though, because regardless of what outcomes occur, they'll still be made of matter. A campaign to annihilate matter via antimatter production would be much more to the point.

        On the other hand, an obvious reason to reject fertile sex and endorse suicide is if life is not worth living. I suppose that could be metaphorically expressed as "matter is evil", meaning something like the Buddhist "life is suffering" but without the threat of reincarnation, or, more precisely, an admonition that charitable acts involve minimizing life.

        If that's the case, then, should the Catholic claim that everything is "good in itself", being couched in language that is grammatically simple yet deliberately impossible to interpret in a verifiable way, be understood instead as the opposite metaphor? A strong way to put it, in reverse form to the Buddhist claim, would be "life is joy". The more precise meaning would be that charitable acts involve maximizing life. While it's a very optimistic notion, which can be sweet, in the presence of real suffering it's clearly false, and so it turns cloying and maudlin.

        By contrast, the humanist view is the untheological, common-sense idea that life is worth living in some situations and not worth living in other situations. It's not about minimizing or maximizing the quantity of life for humanists -- it's about filling life with many good experiences and few bad experiences.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          The dualists saw themselves as spirit and matter, with spirit as good and matter as evil. So the desire was to escape matter. This was also a reason many in the ancient world saw the Incarnation as a scandal. God would never take on human flesh, they felt.

          The Christian response, in philosophical language, is ontological good.

          I think your final paragraph is perfectly logical and practical, given your premises.

          I can't follow what you are getting at in your third paragraph, beginning with, "If that's the case."

  • Kraker Jak

    Tomorrow (June 18), Pope Francis will release his long-awaited teaching
    document on the environment and human ecology. With that in mind, I
    wrote this article to articulate some principles that underlie the
    Catholic environmental vision, with the hope that atheists can better
    understand it and perhaps fine common ground.

    I don't understand why SN did not wait for the official release of the document instead of jumping the gun here. Why not wait until the pope barked.
    A convenient distraction from the previous article I admit.

    • They release articles on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I think. :-)

    • David Nickol

      I don't understand why SN did not wait for the official release of the document instead of jumping the gun here.

      To the extent to which Kevin succeeds in the task he has set for himself, he will be providing background for Pope Francis's encyclical. So Kevin is not "jumping the gun."

      • Ryan and David both articulated my precise response.

      • Kraker Jak

        when will you be registering for the RCIA Program?

      • Kraker Jak

        Of course not!

  • Third principle:

    In addition, everything in nature acts for an end or purpose.

    That's always been one of most puzzling claims to me. How can the Catholic assertion of this principle be fitted onto the actual observed world, in which everything acts according to the local forces it currently experiences, with no input whatsoever from future states? Is it just a matter of faith? Is it just a decision to describe the evolution of physical systems in high-level terminology that is useful for daily life but imprecise and misleading at root?

    • William Davis

      Telos seems to be purely a property of mind, not matter or even nature. I found this paper on the subject which was pretty good:

      http://www.bu.edu/cdl/files/2013/08/2012_Kelemen.pdf

      If we want a Telos, it's up to us to provide it. This is technology in a nutshell, reshaping matter to our purposes...we just have to be careful of side effects (like destruction of ecosystems) that are genuinely not in our interests or the interests of our offspring. The telos of keeping earth function needs to be considered as we continue to reshape the world.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      One example, I think, is that the purpose of respiration is to give the body oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. That is its end or purpose, although it can do other things, like blow out birthday candles and help make sounds.

      • That's all fine, except that "respiration" isn't a "thing in nature". (i.e. It's a high-level abstraction in our brains for which the referent isn't a thing. The referent is a class of certain kinds of events occurring in certain kinds of organs.)

        So, at least in this case, it seems you're going with teleology as being a type of high-level description.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Okay, but these events occurring in certain kinds of organs (that we conceptualize as respiration) give the body oxygen and expel carbon dioxide, rather than a billion other things.

  • Ladolcevipera

    "The fourth principle is that the human race is singular and the summit of creation." "The fifth principle is that the earth is for our use".

    It is this biblical image of man together with the principle that the earth is for his use that is (partly) responsible for the instrumentalisation and the abuse of nature.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Didn't the modern instrumentalism and abuse of nature came about from Enlightenment ideas and laissez-faire capitalism?

      • Ladolcevipera

        I agree that the verse "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it" has often been misinterpreted and that the doctrine of stewardship has often been (willingly) overlooked (laissez-faire capitalism).
        The way to Enlightenment was a very long way and was made possible by the "disenchantment" of the world. The "disenchantment" has everything to do with one of the central notions of christianity: incarnation. God became man to redeem the world. Protestantism (and especially Calvinism) interpreteted this as a radical difference between God and the world. If God is totally different from the world, then the world is totally different from God. The result was that the world became separate from God, and autonomous (an object of science).
        The irony is that the sacrality of the world got lost on religious grounds, i.e.by overstressing the transcendence of God.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I would not agree that any Catholic notion of the Incarnation would alienate human beings from the world.

          I think if you ask how the Enlightenment, the notion of unlimited progress, and laissez-faire capitalism arose (and these are not synonymous with science and industrialism), Protestantism had a lot to do with it for the reasons you mention, but those ideas are not part of the Catholic vision.

          Here is something related that Pope Francis says:

          78. Judaeo-Christian thought demythologized nature. While continuing to admire its grandeur and immensity, it no longer saw nature as divine. In doing so, it emphasizes all the more our human responsibility for nature. This rediscovery of nature can never be at the cost of the freedom and responsibility of human beings who, as part of the world, have the duty to cultivate their abilities in order to protect it and develop its potential. If we acknowledge the value and the fragility of nature and, at the same time, our God-given abilities, we can finally leave behind the modern myth of unlimited material progress. A fragile world, entrusted by God to human care, challenges us to devise intelligent ways of directing, developing and limiting our power.

          Personally, though, I wonder why should our goal not be a level of material progress in which every human being enjoys a life as good as a virtuous rich person today?

          • Ladolcevipera

            but those ideas are not part of the Catholic vision

            Yet in his dispute with Galilei, Pope Paul V used the argument that God was not subject to human criteria of truth. Why would God have to follow human mathematics? God is infinitely greater. Human criteria are of no importance. But then, Paul V was not exactly a shining example of the Catholic vision.

            >blockquote>Personally, though, I wonder why should our goal not be a level of material progress in which every human being enjoys a life as good as a virtuous rich person today?
            I couldn't agree more!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I am not familiar with this argument you say Paul V used with Galileo. Do you have a source?

          • Ladolcevipera

            I read it in the transcript of the Farewell Oration (in Dutch) of a professor in Metaphysics, Philosophy of Religion and Philosophy of Culture at KU Leuven. Since it was a speech there are no references. So I used (quite rightly I think) the "argumentum ad auctoritatem". I'll try to contact the speaker and ask what his source is.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks.

            What you think Paul V said sounds to me like nominalism.

          • Ladolcevipera

            Information from professor A. Cloots (KU Leuven): Galilei refers to the argument on the last page of his Dialogo but he puts the words into the mouth of Simplicio (who represents the old view). He raises it at the request of the Inquisition (reference not yet available). We know that the argument comes from the Pope himself by a letter of Niccolini in M. Finnocchiaro, The Galileo Affair. A Documentary History, Berkeley, The University of California Press, 1989, p. 247.
            Also interesting material with regard to this matter: Joseph C. Pitt, Galileo, Human Knowledge and the Book of Nature, Kluwer, 1992 p71.
            Professor Cloots says that Finnocchiaro's book contains other references to this matter but he has to look them up.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You mean this?

            As to the discourses we have held, and especially this last one concerning the reasons for the ebbing and flowing of the ocean, I am really not entirely convinced; but from such feeble ideas of the matter as I have formed, I admit that your thoughts seem to me more ingenious than many others I have heard. I do not therefore consider them true and conclusive; indeed, keeping always before my mind's eye a most solid doctrine that I once heard from a most eminent and learned person, and before which one must fall silent, I know that if asked whether God in His infinite power and wisdom could have conferred upon the watery element its observed reciprocating motion using some other means than moving its containing vessels, both of you would reply that He could have, and that He would have known how to do this in many ways which are unthinkable to our minds. From this I forthwith conclude that, this being so, it would be excessive boldness for anyone to limit and restrict the Divine power and wisdom to some particular fancy of his own.

            That final statement by Simplicico is a far cry from "God was not subject to human criteria of truth. Why would God have to follow human mathematics? God is infinitely greater. Human criteria are of no importance."

          • Ladolcevipera

            That final statement by Simplicico is a far cry from "God was not subject to human criteria of truth. Why would God have to follow human mathematics? God is infinitely greater. Human criteria are of no importance."

            On the contrary! It is cristal clear that the last sentence of Simplicio's statement stresses the absolute transcendence of God. God is not bound by whatever Galileo (and mathematics/science) may say to be the case.
            There is also a much stronger version to support this: "He (= the Pope) replied that Mr. Galilei will be examined in due course, but there is an argument which no one has ever been able to answer: that is, God is omnipotent and can do anything; but if He is omnipotent, why do we want to bind him?" (...) "One must not impose necessity on the blessed God". (Niccolini's Letter in Finnochiaro: The Galileo Affair).
            P.S.: The Pope is Urbanus VIII, not Paul V as I said in my previous comment.
            I am not planning to start a discussion on The Galileo Affair since I know to little about it. I was merely responding to your remark that the Catholic Church never used the argument of God's absolute transcendence. It did. But these were my final remarks with regard to that matter.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I read it as meaning, "Just because that is the best thinking you can come up does not mean that is the way it has to be."

            The idea that truth can be whatever God decides is not a Catholic idea.

  • Jennifer Hartline

    Thank you, Kevin. This piece is so very helpful. It's informative, objective, clear, and simply stated so that even us non-scientists can understand it. :)

  • An atheist is someone who has no beleif in any gods. She may wish to protect the environment for generations to come, or wish to use up resources of the planet recklessly and think we should decline to have any further generations. There is nothing about not believing in any gods that suggests a view to the environment one way or another.

    That said, many atheists will subscribe to the worldview of secular humanism which, I believe does hold to principles of environmental protection, or would result in such positions.

    I would identify as a secular humanist, though I might disagree with some principles or their wording. I can tell you what I think of the principles identified above and why I do support environmental protection.

    1) needless to say I reject the claim that any god exists, so nether I nor any atheists could agree with this. Atheists could agree that the universe was created by an intelligence, but that this creator must be natural and not a deity.

    2) i do not agree that everything is good. I don't believe that anything is inherently good or bad, rather these are ways humans view things, events, and so on, based on our interests and values. But atheists can believe otherwise.

    3) I do not see design in the universe or in elements of it. Atheists can believe in I telling end design, as long as the designer is not a god, or supernatural.

    4) I do not think humans are the summit of "creation", I do agree that humans should be treated as ends in themselves, but not because they were created by any god or have any inherent purpose. One can believe or disbelieve this and still be an atheist.

    5) I do not agree that the earth is "for" our use, I do not think the earth is "for" anything. Again atheists can believe either side of this, as long as any purpose associated is from a natural source.

    I support environmental practices for my own well being and those I empathize with: other humans. I prioritize human life and well-being and value actions taken to preserve our prosperity even if it will not result in direct benefits to myself or other humans that I will meet. My basis for these values and for Catholics who share these values, is another question. By my atheist morality is generally quite altruistic and generous, there is no need to hold a belief in any gods to share these beliefs, or for it to be reasonable to hold these beliefs. I'm happy to engage in that discussion.

    • neil_ogi

      quote; 1) needless to say I reject the claim that any god exists, so nether I nor any atheists could agree with this. Atheists could agree that the universe was created by an intelligence, but that this creator must be natural and not a deity.-- intelligence? i ask you if intelligence comes from 'unconscious' entity like rock. only conscious being has intelligence.
      therefore, atheists believe in aliens and not the God of the Bible.
      what do you mean 'creator must be natural'? i know that atheists now believe that the universe just 'pop' with no need of a creator..

      quote: 3) I do not see design in the universe or in elements of it. Atheists can believe in I telling end design, as long as the designer is not a god, or supernatural.-- then what's the purpose of your creator if life is not designed? then you are pressuposing that the 'design' should not invoke a 'god' or supernatural! and it should be creator that is not supernatural? why not explain your claim? intelligence and design go in harmony with each other

      quote:'By my atheist morality is generally quite altruistic and generous, there is no need to hold a belief in any gods to share these beliefs, or for it to be reasonable to hold these beliefs. I'm happy to engage in that discussion.' -- then where do you think morality originated? from rocks?

      • By natural, I mean non-supernatural, an entity that us naturalistic as opposed to theistic or supernatural. To be clear atheists could believe in supernatural, but non-theistic creation, but this is very unlikely. Generally theism, the view that some causation in the cosmos is not bound by natural laws, is contrasted to naturalism, the view that all existence is constrained by natural laws, (whether we are aware of these is another question.)

        Atheists do not need to believe that the universe popped into existence out of nothing. We can believe that, or in an infinite regress, or a more complex view of time and space in which these break down completely in the very early universe, or simply do not know how or if the universe(s) came into being.

        Certainly if you believe there has been an intelligent design you must believe in an intelligent designer. I do not hold that the universe as a whole, or for the form of the natural world as present disclose evidence of intelligent design. I expect most atheists would agree. However, if one were to believe the cosmos is designed by an intelligence this does not necessarily entail supernatural or theistic design. A race of aliens or hyper-intelligent pan dimensional beings could have designed this universe. This is not altogether far fetched and there is some serious speculation that this universe must be an artificial one. While this is speculation and I see no evidence of it, I would say that we should first explore naturalistic design option before concluding that the designer must have the ability to suspend or modify laws of nature.

        No, I don't think morality originated from rocks, any more than theists believe the universe was created by a sky pixie. I moral system is one I have chosen, based on intuition, observation and reason. I believe the basis for my intuitions underlying my moral values, ie valuing human well being and avoiding harm and suffering for others, evolved

        • neil_ogi

          just to ask you: do you believe that a tiny dot, trillion x smaller than anybody could imagine, bursts and eventually produced a universe, or multiverse? do you think that is a 'natural' occurence? if you believe it was a natural occurence, then support your answer!

          aliens or god (natural) are conscious beings. SCIENCE ONLY DEALS WITH NATURAL CAUSES. what is the difference between God of the bible and your natural creator?

          since your creator is in the realm of the universe, where did they come from? the Bible claims that God is outside of space and time dimensions, therefore He is not inside the physical universe.

          quote:'Atheists do not need to believe that the universe popped into existence out of nothing. We can believe that, or in an infinite regress, or a more complex view of time and space in which these break down completely in the very early universe, or simply do not know how or if the universe(s) came into being.' - then why your top apologist krauss published a book, 'a universe from nothing'?? then if you don't know how the universe started, then you have no rights whatever to proclaim that you have the truth!

          quote: 'Certainly if you believe there has been an intelligent design you must believe in an intelligent designer. I do not hold that the universe as a whole, or for the form of the natural world as present disclose evidence of intelligent design. I expect most atheists would agree. However, if one were to believe the cosmos is designed by an intelligence this does not necessarily entail supernatural or theistic design. A race of aliens or hyper-intelligent pan dimensional beings could have designed this universe.' - there are only 2 competing worldviews : theistic and atheistic, if one view fails the other view automatically wins. the universe is designed because it is fine-tuned to support life.

          aliens, where did they come from?

          God, was even witnessed by thousands 2,000 years ago.

          quote: ' moral system is one I have chosen, based on intuition, observation and reason. I believe the basis for my intuitions underlying my moral values, ie valuing human well being and avoiding harm and suffering for others, evolved' - how do you know ,for example, that killing a fellow human being is wrong? evolution dictates that 'survival of the fittest' mantra is always mandatory?

          • Yes, I accept Big Bang cosmology and I accept it as a natural phenomena. I do not accept it as a supernatural phenomena, because I don't think anything supernatural is real. I have never encountered anything supernatural, I have no credible accounts of the suprenatural, and I do not think the concept itself is credible. The only evidence ever presented for the supernatural is a lack of being able to conceive of natural causes. I have no idea of the origin of the universe, or matter. I don't presume to guess. I am not saying suprenatural causation is necessarily false, but this a far far way from being able to say that it is likely the cause.

            The difference between a natural creator and a god, is that the former does not require the suspension or violation of natural laws. This universe being a simulation, is more credible that it being created out of nothing by sheer will. I have no basis to conclude one way or the other with respect to ultimate origins of the cosmos or of the universe. But I will not assume supernatural causes are more likely because I am ignorant about causation here.

            To be clear, I do not believe there is a "creator", I have no beliefs about the origins of the cosmos. But note that, simply proposing a personal creator that is transcendent does not explain anything or make this speculation any more credible. Ultimate origins of matter is a mystery, proposing existence of something more mysterious just raises more questions.

            Lawrence Krauss wrote a book that explained how the Big Bang can be explained as arising out or empty space, which is not the same "nothing" as we are speaking of here and I grant you that it fails to answer questions of ultimate origins. I don't proclaim to know the truth of this, as mentioned, I am ignorant of any such causes. I have rejected theistic claims in this regard however.

            I disagree that the universe is fine tuned for life.

            I agree that there are claims of witnessing all kinds of gods, dating back several thousand years. I expect you and I would agree that most of these claims are mistaken.

            In terms of morality, I wouldn't say killing a human is always wrong, but it is generally morally wrong because of the harm it does to a human, and a foundational principle of my morality is that harming humans is generally wrong. Survival of the fittest is not a moral principle it is an observation that underlies a biological theory which accounts for diversity of life. My morality is not evolution, rather I believe my moral intuitions are the result of evolution.

          • neil_ogi

            quote: ' I accept it as a natural phenomena. I do not accept it as a supernatural phenomena, because I don't think anything supernatural is real.' - then why you didn't explain it? it's just your claim.

            quote: ' I have never encountered anything supernatural, I have no credible accounts of the suprenatural, and I do not think the concept itself is credible. The only evidence ever presented for the supernatural is a lack of being able to conceive of natural causes. I have no idea of the origin of the universe, or matter. I don't presume to guess. I am not saying suprenatural causation is necessarily false, but this a far far way from being able to say that it is likely the cause' - then why you conclude that the supernatural is not real and yet you proclaim that ' but this a far far way from being able to say that it is likely the cause' ??

            quote: 'Ultimate origins of matter is a mystery, proposing existence of something more mysterious just raises more questions.' - is mystery a natural? if one is to proclaim that a mystery is not subject to explanation, then it should be supernatural! life itself is a mystery, natural causes simply can't duplicate life in the lab.

            quote: 'Lawrence Krauss wrote a book that explained how the Big Bang can be explained as arising out or empty space, which is not the same "nothing" as we are speaking of here and I grant you that it fails to answer questions of ultimate origins. I don't proclaim to know the truth of this, as mentioned, I am ignorant of any such causes. I have rejected theistic claims in this regard however. - but krauss is very confident that the book he just published contains, not only mere claims, but 'scientific' claims. you are an atheist and yet you do not know this? again, every scientists can write a book and pretentiously know the origins issues. anybody can do that, even i can write fairy tales.

            just to ask you, do you believe that a tiny dot created the universe? if so then support your answer, if so, then explain why it is just a natural and not supernatural?'

            quote: 'I disagree that the universe is fine tuned for life' - not only theist scientists are making this claim, but also secular scientists.. then why did you think that the universe is not fine-tuned?

            quote:'I agree that there are claims of witnessing all kinds of gods, dating back several thousand years. I expect you and I would agree that most of these claims are mistaken.' - the Bible is the only book that transforms thousands of lives, from drug lords to cannibals in south pacific islands. thousands of ancient archeological sites have confirmed the authenticity of Bible's claims. even Paul, the ruthless persecutors of early christians became the leading apostle of christ and wrote half of the New testament. skeptics say that the cities of sodom and gomorrah, jericho and tower of babel were legendary cities, and they're proven wrong. you didn't believe the events happened 2,000 years ago (even though there were thousands of witnesses), and yet you believe in events billions years ago (not even had one witness)?? then, you displayed marvelous faith in atheism!

            quote: 'In terms of morality, I wouldn't say killing a human is always wrong, but it is generally morally wrong because of the harm it does to a human, and a foundational principle of my morality is that harming humans is generally wrong. Survival of the fittest is not a moral principle it is an observation that underlies a biological theory which accounts for diversity of life. My morality is not evolution, rather I believe my moral intuitions are the result of evolution.' - so you believe that humans do not just possess 'bags of chemicals'?

            then there was a time when humans kill each others because morality is still in evolution process! so it needs hundreds or thousands of years for morality to evolve in humans? then humans must not exist now because humans are already killing with each other due to survival of the fittest?

          • "then why you didn't explain it [the big bang]? it's just your claim."

            It is a claim of science, that I accept on the authority of the scientists making it, which I have scrutinized to certain extent. I understant that we observe an expanding universe and infer that then at one point, it was much more dense. Big Bang physics is quite advanced, but it is also vurtually not disputed anymore, by anyone, includeing the Catholic Church. I am advised that it fits incredibly well with observation and models. I accept it as true on that basis.

            "then why you conclude that the supernatural is not real and yet you
            proclaim that ' but this a far far way from being able to say that it is
            likely the cause' ?"

            I believe things exist when there is supporting evidence, not just a lack of proof they are impossible. If I had lower standards of proof, I would have to accept virtually all claims, including bigfoot, ghosts, Jesus, the Hindu pantheon, that no material reality exists, that only material reality exists and so on.

            "...natural causes simply can't duplicate life in the lab."

            Not sure I follow you in this paragraph, but as to this quote, I disagree. No one has replicated abiogenesis in a lab. But that doesn't mean it is impossible. We've been able to show how organic chemicals can form from natural causes in laboratories and there are plausible theories as to how life originated from non-life. We may certainly be able to demonstrate and how life may have originated from non-living chemicals in the lab. We've been working on it for only a few decades. The earth had hundreds of millions of years. Can you prove it is impossible? That we "simply can't?"

            Well, I haven't read Krauss' book, nor do I care to defend it.

            "just to ask you, do you believe that a tiny dot created the universe? if
            so then support your answer, if so, then explain why it is just a
            natural and not supernatural?'"

            No, I do not believe a "tiny dot" created the universe. I don't know of anyone who claims this. I also do not believe an immaterial being created it out of nothing. I do not believe anyone or anything created the universe.

            "quote: 'I disagree that the universe is fine tuned for life' - not only
            theist scientists are making this claim, but also secular scientists..
            then why did you think that the universe is not fine-tuned?"

            Again, not accurate, science has demonstrated that some physical constants must be within a very narrow range for the universe to be in the state it is. We do not know if they are this way out of necessity, random chance, or fine-tuned by an intelligence. We have no way of knowing which it is. Until we can rule out necessity or chance, we cannot say with any confidence that it is "fine-tuned".

            "the Bible is the only book that transforms thousands of live"

            Really? The Qu'ran has not? The upanishads have not? Goodness, even Shel Silverstein can make this claim
            https://dlmayfield.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/the-book-that-changed-claires-life/

            "thousands of ancient archeological sites have confirmed the authenticity of Bible's claims" some, perhaps, can you name three? Most events in the Bible have never been confirmed by way of archaeology. Can you point to your source on the Tower of Babel for example?

            If you are speaking of the resurection, there is no evidence of thousands of witnesses, there are a few, disputed accounts of hundreds of witnesses.

            "so you believe that humans do not just possess 'bags of chemicals'?" no I do not believe that. I am human and I posess much more than bags of chemicals. I believe humans are a series of complex chemical reactions. Magnificent ones.

            "then there was a time when humans kill each others because morality is
            still in evolution process! so it needs hundreds or thousands of years
            for morality to evolve in humans? then humans must not exist now because
            humans are already killing with each other due to survival of the
            fittest?"

            Say again?

          • neil_ogi

            quote:'It is a claim of science, that I accept on the authority of the scientists making it, which I have scrutinized to certain extent. I understant that we observe an expanding universe and infer that then at one point, it was much more dense. Big Bang physics is quite advanced, but it is also vurtually not disputed anymore, by anyone, includeing the Catholic Church. I am advised that it fits incredibly well with observation and models. I accept it as true on that basis.' - i don't accept 'facts' that is even accepted by majority of scientific opinions.'. expanding universe doesn't mean that the universe started from a tiny dot! that's merely an opinion. when the eternal universe was proposed then by most majority of scientists, they accepted it as a 'done deal'..and then after several years, it was abandoned immediately because it has violated many cherished laws of sciences..so most scientists, the catholic church and you accepted it (big bang) as fact even though it is not observed directly, yes, you have huge faith in believing that. physics is advance scientific paradigm that is why it is in disagreement with majority of secular physicists who 'believe' in multiverse. multiverse is another tale just to debunk the scientific evidence for fine tuning properties of the observable universe.

            quote: 'I believe things exist when there is supporting evidence, not just a lack of proof they are impossible. If I had lower standards of proof, I would have to accept virtually all claims, including bigfoot, ghosts, Jesus, the Hindu pantheon, that no material reality exists, that only material reality exists and so on' -- the fact that life itself is a supernatural cause and yet you just consider it as natural cause? if so, then produce a life for me (scientists are using their 'intelligence' in order to produce life.. but they all failed, therefore, life is not a product of natural cause. simple as that. Jesus was witnessed by thousands 2,000 years ago. Historical records outside of the Bible exist. Actually it was Jesus who debunked the claims of false religions sprouting all over the world! (gods of the greeks, hindu gods, etc). carl sagan was quoted saying, 'matter is all there is' - then why matter would have to evolve if it was just natural?

            quote: 'No one has replicated abiogenesis in a lab. But that doesn't mean it is impossible. - then demonstrate for me? or your claim is just another 'just so' stories? that's why we experiment things in order to prove a theory! that is wonderful about science!.

            quote: 'We've been able to show how organic chemicals can form from natural causes in laboratories and there are plausible theories as to how life originated from non-life.' - therefore someone has to use his 'intelligence' to produce a life from non-life! it is not a natural cause as you claimed to be!

            quote: 'Again, not accurate, science has demonstrated that some physical constants must be within a very narrow range for the universe to be in the state it is. We do not know if they are this way out of necessity, random chance, or fine-tuned by an intelligence. We have no way of knowing which it is. Until we can rule out necessity or chance, we cannot say with any confidence that it is "fine-tuned".' -- then why stubborn secular sceintists invent multiverse? what's that for?

            the Bible has transformed millions of lives. you just denied that fact.

            quote: '.....some, perhaps, can you name three? Most events in the Bible have never been confirmed by way of archaeology. Can you point to your source on the Tower of Babel for example?' - i already told you: sodom and gomorrha, jericho, tower of babel in bagdad, iraq. the cities of nineveh, gog and magog, etc.

            quote: 'If you are speaking of the resurection, there is no evidence of thousands of witnesses, there are a few, disputed accounts of hundreds of witnesses' - how did you know that there were only 'few' witnesses that witnessed Christ's ressurection? even the roman soldier cornelius was converted to christianity. there were impostors then, proclaiming they have the truth, but were shortlived. while the christian movement, even faced with persecution blossomed.

            quote: '"so you believe that humans do not just possess 'bags of chemicals'?" no I do not believe that. I am human and I posess much more than bags of chemicals. I believe humans are a series of complex chemical reactions. Magnificent ones.' - so can you tell me what are those .much more than bags of chemicals'?? tell me what are those 'series of complex chemical reactions'?? the fact that a single cell contains complex chemical processes, DNAs, etc. Now can you tell me if that 'simple' single cell was ever the product of natural causes?? or you just want to say that 'they' (DNAs, mitochondria, nuclei, etc) just happened to be there'?? or they just 'pop' like the universe!

            quote: 'Say again?' - you didn't understand my statement? or you just don't know how to refute it?

            evolutionists say that the eye just evolve. the evolving eye would be a liability on organism's survivality in the wild. how will it eat? how will it survive? how will the organism live or survive if it is not seeing its food? how will it survive in the game of the survival of the fittest if it still half blind??

          • neil_ogi

            addendum: 'No, I do not believe a "tiny dot" created the universe. I don't know of anyone who claims this. I also do not believe an immaterial being created it out of nothing. I do not believe anyone or anything created the universe.' - did you not know that the big bang started with this tiny dot? there were witnesses 2,000 years ago, witnessed personally the God who created the universe? if you don't believe the universe was created by someone or something, then you must have a believer of eternal universe.

          • You don't need to take my word for the consensus on Big Bang cosmology. You are welcome to check for yourself. But you cannot expect to vociferously reject well-accepted scientific theories and be taken seriously. The theory was by no means accepted immediately. Indeed it was debated vigorously, the name "Big Bang theory" itself comes from scientists making fun of because it seemed absurd. This went on for years and virtually all scientists now accept it because the evidence is overwhelming. It think this is a strength of the scientific method. The conclusions follow the evidence and this means the conclusions will change with new evidence. This is behaving scientifically, critically. It is to be contrasted with other ways of thinking, that will not accept they are wrong in the face of evidence. I would say religions generally fall not this category.

            You have claimed that natural abiogenesis is impossible, but you have not given any reason to think this. Just because we don't know how something happened and science has not yet been able to resolve it does not entail supernaturalism. Scientists do not actually fully understand how bicycles work, this does not mean we should assume supernatural forces are responsible for it.

            Stubborn scientists have not invented multiverse theory simply to account for the fine tuning of the universe. If multiverse theory is true it would explain open questions in quantum mechanics. It is an unsubstantiated theory that still has a minority of supporters in the scientific community.

            What are the series of complex chemical reactions? Digestion, neural activity, cellular respiration and so on. Yes, many cells are created daily by the chemical process of mitosis. What I expect you are asking is if a cell could form from non-cellular organic chemicals. I believe this is plausible, and scientists have plausible, yet unconfined theories of how this might have occurred. Polar lipids forming membranes, that enclose replicating amino acids. You are advancing the fallacious argument that the complex cells and single called animals we observe now, with complex organelles is improbable to have evolved from organic chemicals. I agree, but that is not what is proposed by natural abiogenesis. The first cell would have been far far less complex. It had billions of years to evolve its complexity and into multicellular organisms.

            Again, no one is saying that the universe just popped into existence. Some theists say that just spoke it into existence out of nothing and have no way of explain what god is, how he did this. Others believe that the universe has always existed. Scientists say that they have a strong theory that this universe once was extremely small and dense. What it was "before" this, we don't know OT presume to guess.

            I wrote say again, because I could not understand or follow that paragraph.

            The theory of evolution does say that the eye evolved and have good empirical evidence to back this up. How would blind or half blind animals survive? The same way blind or half blind animal that exist now survive.

          • neil_ogi

            again, the big bang is the most accepted theory by now, after the 'eternal universe' - do you think it is settled down already? remember, nobody has seen how the universe began, so you have no rights to declare that it is true! i praise atheists' imagination.

            quote: 'You have claimed that natural abiogenesis is impossible, but you have not given any reason to think this. Just because we don't know how something happened and science has not yet been able to resolve it does not entail supernaturalism. Scientists do not actually fully understand how bicycles work, this does not mean we should assume supernatural forces are responsible for it.' -- it's been already debunked long time ago that abiogenesis is untrue. nobody has refuted that life is made up of chemicals, etc, interacting with each other. but the problem with these, even though they interact with each other, if there's no 'prime mover' to take over, these chemicals are just still chemicals.

            the Eiffel tower, if explained by natural cause, they will say: 'oh the chemicals of the earth slowly rearrange themselves and most iron molecules are attracted somehow and gradually they form horizontal layers and as time goes by (million years), thru unknown mechanism, and thru blind processes, the Eiffel tower evolved. so do you think that is a plausible explanation? you may don't think so. the problem with atheistic thinkers is they think that non-living matters are aware and conscious of their environment. i would like to say it to you that only CONSCIOUS (ALIVE) elements are able to do some creation and 'evolution'. .. now give me just one example of unconscious element that is able to create and propagate itself.

            so now tell me if the Eiffel tower is the result of intelligence or not?

            quote: 'Stubborn scientists have not invented multiverse theory simply to account for the fine tuning of the universe. If multiverse theory is true it would explain open questions in quantum mechanics. It is an unsubstantiated theory that still has a minority of supporters in the scientific community.' - if fine-tuning properties of the universe is not discovered, multiverse will not 'pop' into the minds of these scientists. so, a theory must be supported by most numbers of scientists? you are dead wrong! theories must be supported by repeatable experiments, observations, and tests, that atheist scientists are afraid of.

            quote: 'What are the series of complex chemical reactions? Digestion, neural activity, cellular respiration and so on. Yes, many cells are created daily by the chemical process of mitosis. What I expect you are asking is if a cell could form from non-cellular organic chemicals. I believe this is plausible, and scientists have plausible, yet unconfined theories of how this might have occurred. Polar lipids forming membranes, that enclose replicating amino acids. You are advancing the fallacious argument that the complex cells and single called animals we observe now, with complex organelles is improbable to have evolved from organic chemicals. I agree, but that is not what is proposed by natural abiogenesis. The first cell would have been far far less complex. It had billions of years to evolve its complexity and into multicellular organisms.' -- chemical processes of cells are possible only if the cell becomes alive. suppose scientists produced artificial living cell, do you think it will 'evolve'? do you think it will have a DNA? so i read again the process of billions of years, as if the cell is able to survive it! think about it. the cell will not even survive for days if it has no food to eat, let alone billions of years!

            there is some species of fish discovered in a cave that have no eyes, then this is devolution. because the eyes would be of no use for these fishes. if evolution is true, then why would the eyes evolve if the organism can survive in the environment?

          • The Big Bang is not in opposition to the eternal universe it was in opposition to the steady state theory. Neither dealt with origins. The controversy arose over the theory of inflation which is part of the Big Bang. Inflation is now widely accepted.

            chemical reactions do not need a prime mover. They need electromagnetism and matter.

            I do not and no atheist thinks that non-living matter is conscious. I would say that the Eiffel Tower was designed and built by humans, because of the properties it has, it is made out of iron fashioned by humans, we have extensive documentation of its construction and so on.

            I am saying that we lay people should defer to scientists, because we lack the education and skills to consider the evidence. We should not go around saying multiverse theory is accepted for the very reasons you describe. It is not verified, it is an unjustified scientific hypothesis. The problem with multiverse theory and string theory is that there is no way to test them so far. Who they are is essentially mathmatical theories that would explain some phenomena. By contrast, theistic design is not even a hypothesis, it is trying to answer a mystery with a greater mystery.

            No, the chemical processes which occur in cells are not only possible, but easily replicable outside the cell. In fact it would seem that last year researchers at the University of Nijemegen have succeeded in constructing an artificial Cell. "Survive it" survive what? We are talking about a time with no life, no predators. DNA is actually a relatively simple molecule consisting of only 4 amino acids.

            Cave fish do have eyes, they are just blind, because this population found a niche in which it was able thrive without sight. From a population that did have sight which was useful in a different environment. A better example is flightless birds, who on islands without predators evolved into species in which the energy expensive flight biology became a burden rather than a benefit. So those born without it actually gained an advantage. When predators were introduced, these species were incredibly vulnerable.

            That's all I have for you. I hope I have given you something to think about and investigate further.

          • neil_ogi

            quote: 'The Big Bang is not in opposition to the eternal universe it was in opposition to the steady state theory. Neither dealt with origins. The controversy arose over the theory of inflation which is part of the Big Bang. Inflation is now widely accepted.' - again, if they are accepted by most scientists, they still don't know how the universe started. period, because nobody was there to observe it happen.

            quote: 'chemical reactions do not need a prime mover. They need electromagnetism and matter.' - chemicals just react with each other, that's fine with me, but chemicals don't create a magnificent organism such as human. so will you tell me, by natural means, how a human organism was created?

            quote: 'I do not and no atheist thinks that non-living matter is conscious.' - that's why i'm asking you in an unconscious entity or element or matter can create something that is designed to serve a purpose. so how a non-living matter 'evolve' into living matter? (pls, no more 'just-so' stories, i need facts)

            quote: ' I would say that the Eiffel Tower was designed and built by humans, because of the properties it has, it is made out of iron fashioned by humans, we have extensive documentation of its construction and so on.' -- so how about the human body? so tell me exactly how a natural cause create it? (again, no 'just-so' stories pls, or it just 'pop'? like the universe? (i'm sorry if i frequently use these words/phrase)

            quote: 'multiverse theory is accepted for the very reasons you describe. It is not verified, it is an unjustified scientific hypothesis. The problem with multiverse theory and string theory is that there is no way to test them so far. Who they are is essentially mathmatical theories that would explain some phenomena.' --of course, atheists scientists will try to invent theories just to nullify theist's claims, even though atheists know them to be false. they try to include it in true sciences. as i said, if the fine-tuning properties of the universe is not discovered, multiverse is not invented.

            quote: 'By contrast, theistic design is not even a hypothesis, it is trying to answer a mystery with a greater mystery.' -- so the universe is not designed, i need you to explain it and not just a claim, pls! atheists, when explaining some things that are hard to be explained, they just say; 'evolution did it' 'chance did it' blind and unguided process did it' How do they know?

            quote: 'No, the chemical processes which occur in cells are not only possible, but easily replicable outside the cell. In fact it would seem that last year researchers at the University of Nijemegen have succeeded in constructing an artificial Cell. "Survive it" survive what? We are talking about a time with no life, no predators. DNA is actually a relatively simple molecule consisting of only 4 amino acids.' -- chemical processess in/outside the cell is possible only if the cell is alive! if the cell is dead, chemical processes will eventually stop. scientists are using the pre-existing cell in order for it to be 'alive'.. literally, according to atheists, death is just an illusion, all matter is alive, and it is follish to say that all matter is not alive..so DNA is just a simple molecule, but you forgot to explain why? can a natural processes create DNA and 4 amino acids?

            quote: 'Cave fish do have eyes, they are just blind, because this population found a niche in which it was able thrive without sight. From a population that did have sight which was useful in a different environment. A better example is flightless birds, who on islands without predators evolved into species in which the energy expensive flight biology became a burden rather than a benefit. So those born without it actually gained an advantage. When predators were introduced, these species were incredibly vulnerable.' --then what's the purpose of evolution? why sea organisms, such as fish, will have to 'move' on land if they are living and thriving in waters? tell me how a fish can move on land if it can't survive a minute or two outside the water? since the LUCA has not yet produce 'population', then how it evolve?

            quote: 'That's all I have for you. I hope I have given you something to think about and investigate further.' -- so you have to investigate further all my questions to you!

          • neil_ogi

            quote: 'Again, no one is saying that the universe just popped into existence. Some theists say that just spoke it into existence out of nothing and have no way of explain what god is, how he did this. Others believe that the universe has always existed. Scientists say that they have a strong theory that this universe once was extremely small and dense. What it was "before" this, we don't know OT presume to guess.' -- Krauss is saying that the universe just 'pop' out of nothing. isn't that unclear to you?

            theists and atheists are believing in eternal entity. you might be asking me 'where did God gets his energy to create the universe?' or i will be asking atheists: 'where did the 'nothing' gets its energy to create the universe?' the problem with athiests explaining it is not supported by laws of sciences. nothing has no creative power, therefore the cause of the universe should be a supernatural one. while the God that theists believe in, is not just a force, but a personal being who is intelligent and powerful. why i believe this? it's because 1. there are intelligent beings existing in the universe. 2. laws govern the existing of the universe 3. design argument

          • Just a general comment that I make in good faith and in the spirit if good discussions about these topics.

            The criticisms you advance are old and surface, which have been disposed of years ago in terms of the discussion between theists and atheists. For example, the question of how the eye could evolve was first raised by Darwin himself and has been answered by science. Take a look at the new Cosmos series (I think episode 1 for an enjoyable explanation).

            I say this because there are actually some much stronger arguments you could be making against atheism. The fine tuning is one of them, but when you put it alongside of denials of evolution and Big Bang cosmology you come off like atheists criticising religion, by saying it is silly because it believes in talking donkeys.

            You comments suggest that you lack a basic education in science as well. Your constant refrain that atheists are absurd because we believe the universe "just pop" is a straw man that actually makes you look pretty silly.

            I would encourage you to spend some time investigating the actual science of evolution and physics before glibly accusing the vast majority of scientists and Catholics of holding silly views about the cosmos.

          • neil_ogi

            just give evidences that: 1. the universe is not fine-tuned 2. the eyes just evolved 3. the universe didn't pop and yet it was believed now by most atheists (krauss, even published a book, 'the universe from nothing') 4. the evolution has occurred.

            i don't need very 'extensiv'e research and studies from the brightest scientists on this planet. just provide evidences. all you do is talk, talk, talk..

            so these scientists are making claims that they happened. but all these are just mere claims. these are another 'just-so' stories (nth times repeatedly)

          • William Davis

            Here's a "just-so" story that's quite good but somewhat difficult. He considers the designer hypothesis and doesn't necessarily dismiss it, but does and excellent job of providing a huge amount of rigor with regard to how to approach the problem. It requires a decent amount of background knowledge, so I hope it's not over your head. I think it's excellent work.

            http://www.anthropic-principle.com/?q=book/chapter_2#2a

            The link if for the first chapter on fine tuning, but he goes into it with more rigor later in the book. I haven't got that far yet.

          • neil_ogi

            so what do you think of the fine-tuning properties of the universe? just 'pop'? laws are coming from the mind only. if you believe laws originate from non-living matter then show even one example of it. i therefore conclude that an Eternal Mind exists. so i debunked atheists' belief that the mind originated from the brain (i wonder who / what made the brain?/)

          • William Davis

            Read it or don't, its all the same to me.

          • While I no one can prove a negative, I can give evidence that the universe was not "fine tuned" for life, much less humans. The vast majority is hostile and fatal to humans, in fact most of the earth is. We don't know why then cosmological constants are so specific, we have no idea how they got this way.

            I can't post links, but just google evolution of the eye and you will find many explanations and videos, including pieces in scientific American, and a video by Richard Dawkins.

            Please refer to the Wikipedia page on the Big Bang and you will see that there is no mention of the origin of the universe but rather that scientists are unable to extrapolate beyond the Plank era. We are clueless as to the origin of the cosmos, just as theists are clueless to their origin of their proposed solution. Krauss has proposed that the Big Bang may have originated out of the quantum space, which theists have criticized him for calling "nothing". If you accept that this quantum space is "nothing" then you really should accept his postulate, as we know that particles to appear out of this all the time. Without them the standard model would not work. Look up "virtual particles" for more info. For the converse, theists believe that there was a state in which this quantum space, even space and time and matter and energy did not exist. But a god, that is none of these, did. There is no explanation for what this god is, other than metaphysically necessary, or what it means to exist or create absent space and time. Much worse we are asked to accept that this being created all matter and energy out of absolute nothing. This is simply an ad hoc and incredible proposal without foundation. We just have nothing to go on to in terms of ultimate origins.

            Evolution occurs now and has for millions of years. It is accepted by all scientists based on a vast collection of evidence from DNA and the fossil record, it is accepted by all scientists. Some of the most striking evidence comes from vestigial alleles which can be found in most organisms. Whales have remnants of hip bones which is evidence that their ancestors were land animals, (not to mention that they and many other animals in the ocean need to breathe air unlike fish.) the DNA evidence is astonishing persuasive as well. You can read Jerry Coyne's "why evolution is true" for a more info. We can actually witness evolution taking place in animals and plants today, for example a microbe has evolved to eat nylon, a synthetic material.

            All you do is talk, talk, talk, too, which is unsurprising, since this is a comment section.

            All humans can do is make claims. Your claim of fine tuning of the universe is based on these same kind of scientific claims isn't it? What is your understanding of these constants?

          • neil_ogi

            quote; ' I can give evidence that the universe was not "fine tuned" for life, much less humans. The vast majority is hostile and fatal to humans, in fact most of the earth is. We don't know why then cosmological constants are so specific, we have no idea how they got this way.' - so how do you know that it is not fine-tuned? you deliberately forgot to explain.

            that's why only the earth is specifically created to sustain/promote life, and i encourage you, and atheists in general, not to 'daydream' that there are aliens to be found anywhere in the universe.

            quote; ' We are clueless as to the origin of the cosmos, just as theists are clueless to their origin of their proposed solution.' --that's why we have to determine who have the best explanation for the origin of the universe.(atheistic explanation or theistic explanation?) i have explained that its origin would not be 'natural' but a supernatural cause. and therefore, you have no authority to credit its origin to the 'majority' of scientists.

            quote; 'Krauss has proposed that the Big Bang may have originated out of the quantum space, which theists have criticized him for calling "nothing". If you accept that this quantum space is "nothing" then you really should accept his postulate, as we know that particles to appear out of this all the time.' -- if the 'nothing' has contained some quantum things, the it is proper to be called it 'something'. a 'nothing' is nothing, whatsoever! the Bible claims that 'out of nothing' the universe was created. even the biblical writers, who were just 'uneducated, no formal education, just farmers',according to atheists, have known that the universe was created by a supernatural agent. i have explained already that both theists and atheists are believers of eternal entities, such as God or aliens. i ask you why atheists believe the DNA is the product of intelligent designer? (although their 'designer' is an alien)

            quote: 'Evolution occurs now and has for millions of years. It is accepted by all scientists based on a vast collection of evidence from DNA and the fossil record.' -- you are crediting again the scientists who are just making mere opinions. DNA has nothing to do with evolution, only atheists interpret this. tell me if the DNA of human will 'mingle' with the DNA of, for example, a rat? fossil records show evidence of 'orchard of creation' and not 'tree of life'.. not even transitional fossils have been discovered, not a single one, or even if there is, it's either a fraud or misinterpretations.

            quote: 'Some of the most striking evidence comes from vestigial alleles which can be found in most organisms.' --does it tell you that evolution has occurred? vestigial organs, like the appendix serves some immune purposes. i don't know why you didn't know this, or it's not mentioned in wiki?

            quote; ' Whales have remnants of hip bones which is evidence that their ancestors were land animals, (not to mention that they and many other animals in the ocean need to breathe air unlike fish.) ' --again, does it say that evolution has occurred? again, how could a fish survive in a minute or two without oxygen in land?? tell me?

            you said that evolution is well-supported by vast majority of scientists.. then why Coyne has to published a book about it? is this a plea? why evolution is not yet 'level up' into the 'laws' of evolution?

          • I didn't say it isn't fine tuned I said I don't know. How do you know it is?

            But both the earth,and the universe are mostly hostile to human life. Why would anyone think they were designed for us?

            We can't pick a best explanation for the universe, we don't have any explanations. A god creating doesn't explain anything, it just presents more questions. You have stated the origin must be supernatural but you haven't given any reasons to accept that.

            Call science mere opinions all you want, and plug your ears to what is evident, it won't change the facts. Humans cannot breed with rats, but we share an enormous amout or DNA with them. Thousands of transitional fossils have been discovered.

            When you say things like there is not evidence of this, and if there is it is a fraud, you really cause me to question how open minded you are.

            Sure the appendix performs some immune function, but it is unnecessary and would kill millions of us if it were not removed. But it is just one of thousands of "mistakes" if we were designed. This is evidence against a design by a perfect deity.

            Fish can't survive without oxygen on land and whales are not fish, they are air breathing mammals. No one thinks fish moved from the sea to land, amphibians did. That said, a number of fish do go onto land from time to time. See the mudskipper, for example.

            Jerry Coyne published a book in response to religious people, who deny one of the best evidenced and accepted scientific theories, and make comments like "the eye could not have evolved" and " there are no transitional fossils".

            Theory is the highest level in science and evolution is as well-established as the theory of gravity or atomic theory. The only people who do not accept it is those who value theology over evidence or who are just ignorant.

          • neil_ogi

            quote: 'I didn't say it isn't fine tuned I said I don't know. How do you know it is?

            But both the earth,and the universe are mostly hostile to human life. Why would anyone think they were designed for us?' ---both atheists and theists scientists say that the universe is fine-tuned.i don't know why you are not updated with this? That is why most of the vastness of the universe is very hostile to life, so that aliens won't not exist. i already told you this. and that only a portion of it (even the portion of our solar system) can support life (the earth),, so i advised you and all atheists here to stop searching for life in the vastness of the universe

            quote: '.We can't pick a best explanation for the universe, we don't have any explanations. A god creating doesn't explain anything, it just presents more questions. You have stated the origin must be supernatural but you haven't given any reasons to accept that' -- if the cause of the universe is natural, then it should follow certain laws of nature (laws of 1st, 2nd, 3rd thermodynamics) but it's not, therefore the universe's origin should be supernatural. there are only 2 competing worldviews about the origins issue. a 'god' is a conscious entity or agent, unlike your 'nothing' which has no creative power. atheists love to say that a 'god' can't be detected in science, in lab.. and yet they can't subject the 'nothing' to lab.. God is outside of space, time dimensions, or i would say that He is beyond comprehension, as the Bible always states about Him.

            quote: 'Call science mere opinions all you want, and plug your ears to what is evident, it won't change the facts.' --nope, science is neutral, the interpretations of it always changes (ex: non-living matter evolve into living matter, obviously, sciences support that only living matter only comes from living matter, and yet atheists are insisting they can happen, which is a no, no.). laws of sciences are facts.

            if all the 'scientific papers' that are 'peer-reviewed' by scientists will be facts (i mean they all pass the observation, tests, etc) then i will accept them..but most or all theories of evolutionists were based on assumptions, and of course 'just-so' stories!

            quote: 'Humans cannot breed with rats, but we share an enormous amout or DNA with them. Thousands of transitional fossils have been discovered.' --it's because we have shared with other living things the same air we breathe, the same food we eat, you could see evidences that almost all the animals have the same respiratory system, digestive system, musculo-skeletal system and so on. because we have a common Creator. can you name at least one transitional fossil?? Lucy from fragmented bones? a nebraska man from a tooth?

            quote: 'Jerry Coyne published a book in response to religious people, who deny one of the best evidenced and accepted scientific theories, and make comments like "the eye could not have evolved" and " there are no transitional fossils"-- why published a book? is that for a plea? if evolution is true, then why it is not elevate yet its status to laws of evolution, the fact that, according to atheists, there were 99% scientists who supported it? if the eye evolved, then there was a time that the retina's status was vestigial. a vestigial organ is a liabilty to organism. so after million years, the schlera evolved, then the lens, and so on. how i wish that organism will survive in the wild due to competition (survival of the fittest)

            quote: 'Theory is the highest level in science and evolution is as well-established as the theory of gravity or atomic theory. The only people who do not accept it is those who value theology over evidence or who are just ignorant' --so you are counting the theory of evolution as facts? but where are the evidences? macro-evolution is not observed unlike the micro. so the theory of gravity is just a theory? so you downgraded the 'law of gravity' it's because its founder is a theist? or you just very ignorant of the facts of science! how many scientists are major Nobel prize winners? theists'

          • " so i advised
            you and all atheists here to stop searching for life in the vastness of the universe" - The point is that life is certainly extremely rare in the universe. Even if every planet in the cosmos around other stars is teeming with life, life would stll be extremely rare given the size of the universe. This is evidence against it being designed for life, much less human life. Whether we search for extra-terrestrial life is irrelevant to the issue.

            "if the cause of the universe is natural, then it should follow certain laws of nature (laws of 1st, 2nd, 3rd thermodynamics)" - certainly not. We already know these laws break down in the very early universe, which is one of the reasons we are clueless on ultimate origins.

            "God is outside of space, time dimensions, or i would say that He is beyond comprehension, as the Bible always states about Him." Wrong, the Bible states God walked in the Garden if Eden with Adam, took on human form and literally died, among many other instances of spacial-temporal. But again, stating god is timeless and spaceless does not provide an answer as to ultimate origins, because now we have an equally, if not more mysterious thing to account for, this creator that just popped out of nothing and made everything out of nothing.

            "(ex: non-living matter evolve into living matter, obviously, sciences
            support that only living matter only comes from living matter, and yet
            atheists are insisting they can happen" life from non-life is NOT what the theory of evolution says. Evolution does not and does not try to account for the origin of life, it accounts for the diversity of life. The origin of life is unknown, but there is an poorly supported theory of abiogenesis, which is life from non life. This is in contrast to theistic genesis, life from a deity which is just an assertion made without any justification or ability to verify and calls for supernatural forces. I do not see any reason to accept it.

            "if all the 'scientific papers' that are 'peer-reviewed' by scientists
            will be facts (i mean they all pass the observation, tests, etc) then i
            will accept them." - you should have higer standards, many scientific peer reviewed papers are innacurate, unless you are an expert in the field you should defer to what the majority of mainstream scientists accept as uncontoversial. This is why you are right to reject abiogenesis, but silly to reject evolution.

            "almost all the animals have the same respiratory system, digestive system, musculo-skeletal system and so on" this is also incredibly wrong the vast majority of species have a completely different respiratory system, digestive system, musculo-skeletal system. Most life is plants, fungus and single celled. Most animals are insects who have completely different systems than we do. Are you just making this up? Or are you a joke?

            Transitional fossils? Here are a three primate ones: Palaechthon, Purgatorius, Dryopithecus, Homo erectus.
            See many many more here: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-transitional.html

            Yes, scientists are able to understand a great deal about species from a few bones. You asked for fossils, not complete skeletons.

            "why published a book?" because the majority fo Americans disbelieve one of the most well-established scientific theories. He did to educate.

            "why it is not elevate yet its status to laws of evolution" because that is not how science works, "law" is a colloquial term, not a scientific one. The theory of evolution is as well-established as it is possible to be in science.

            "macro-evolution is not observed unlike the micro. so the theory of
            gravity is just a theory? so you downgraded the 'law of gravity' it's
            because its founder is a theist" see above.

          • neil_ogi

            quote: 'life is certainly extremely rare in the universe.' --that's why the universe is fine-tuned to life only on earth, so i say it again, the SETI project should stop searching for aliens, your U.S. citizens' taxes (including the taxes of christians who are 90% of U.S. populations) are just going to waste. i wonder why christians are giving in their taxes to this seti project.

            i'll continue....

          • neil_ogi

            quote: '..talking donkeys.'--.. we have encountered the story of a snake tempting Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. actually, it is the devil who did the talking. he is just using the snake.

            there are also stories in old testament about talking trees. even the burning bush 'talk' with moses.

            but it's silly to believe that a 'rock eventually evolve into humans'. a rock talking..because you are questioning talking donkeys, then, i suppose you doubt evolution to be true. to summarize, rock evolve into LUCA, then LUCA evolve into fish...... donkeys.....humans....so rocks talk!

          • Yes, there are stories in the Bible. I do not accept all stories as being true, do you? Especially when they have talking animals in them, I question the veracity of the tale.

            It is silly to believe a rock evolved into humans and no one does believe this. I believe that organic chemicals, which we can replicate in laboratories from non-organic compounds, formed self-replicating cells of RNA. These eventually formed tissues of cells which eventually evolved into multi-cellular organisms.

            Though your tone attempts to ridicule established science in favour or Bronze Age mythology, science is not mocked. I'm afraid it is you who is seeming ridiculous.

          • neil_ogi

            quote: 'Yes, there are stories in the Bible. I do not accept all stories as being true, do you? Especially when they have talking animals in them, I question the veracity of the tale.' --it's already explained this to you.

            quote: 'It is silly to believe a rock evolved into humans and no one does believe this. I believe that organic chemicals, which we can replicate in laboratories from non-organic compounds, formed self-replicating cells of RNA. These eventually formed tissues of cells which eventually evolved into multi-cellular organisms.' --i just summarised evolution, 'from molecules to man'.. so what's wrong with it? of course, you have to believe that a rock (non-living matter) eventually evolve into LUCA (not even explained why it became a LUCA), then donkeys...to man.

            so 'self-replicating molecules' are not made naturally, it needs a very highly intelligent agents (such as scientists) to do the processes. you got it correctly!!

            dawkins explanation about the origin of life, goes like this: '...there was a 'self-replicating molecules'....''' (so it's either eternal in nature, or just 'pop'). lol.

          • Yes, I think you have it. Take it easy.

          • Michael Murray

            then if you don't know how the universe started, then you have no rights whatever to proclaim that you have the truth!

            Stop making stuff up. I am beginning to suspect you use the fact that English is not your first language as a shield to hide your lying behind. No scientists claim they have all the truth. We just claim we have more than theologians.

          • neil_ogi

            quote: ' I am beginning to suspect you use the fact that English is not your first language' - if you want proof that english is just my 3rd language, you can actually meet me here in Manila, the philippines... i am a filipino, and you are wondering a person from 3rd world country who is very interested in evolution/creation controversy, instead of focusing himself to other issues, like atheist china gov't creeping into my country's territory in south china sea? but again that's not the issue

            quote: 'No scientists claim they have all the truth' - that's why evolutionists are trying to discredit the already established 'laws' of sciences (laws of 1st, 2nd, 3rd thermodynamics, genetics, biogenesis, etc) and replace them with their untested, unverified and unobserved pseudosciences to 'fit' their claims. that's why atheists don't believe 'science doesn't prove anything'

            quote: 'No scientists claim they have all the truth. We just claim we have more than theologians' - then for LUCA's sake, you have no rights to proclaim that your dogmas are the truth!. then who have the most number of nobel prize winners? theist scientists are not theologians, as you claimed. although some were theologians like mendel (father of genetics). are you not amazed one scientist, and a theologian in one! that's what i call: very intellectual.

  • William Davis

    Nice article Kevin. We might disagree on a lot, but I think we largely agree on what counts. Taking care of the environment is critical for future generations, so it should be important to anyone who isn't completely self centered.
    The difficulty with environmentalism is agreeing on the best approach that is least destructive to the economy. I think a fossil fuel tax is one logical step, and would work better to encourage innovation and new technology than government subsidies an hand outs. The problem is bigger than just fuel depletion and carbon emissions, but dealing with this is important.
    Even if someone is unconvinced by climate change, running out of fossil fuels is a serious concern for future generations, pushing change in energy is long overdue, but a very difficult problem to solve (though not impossible).

    • HoosiersH8ProgressiveRetards

      I worked for the Indianapolis ZOO in Horticulture and I am the antipathy of an Environmentalist. I still laugh at anyone who believes in Environmrntal Conservation, from the standpoint of 'We must preserve our environment'. Those I worked with couldn't grasp Entropy and other constants that exclude 'Preservation'.
      Having said this, I am ALL for being Wise Stewards of our Environment.

      I actually participated in national and international climactic temperature studies and at the time, early 2000, the evidence was crystal clear: temperatures in cities with populations of 100,000+ are experiencing temperature increases, but the rest of the Earth is gradually cooling in the current cycle: in addition, Earth is entering the phase of its overall orbit where cooling takes place.

      Now, does this discount 'Global Warming' for me? No, but from a Macro perspective, Earth is well within the norms of cyclical temperature fluctuations. Plus, from my learnings at the ZOO, even is the Earth does increase 3-4 degrees F by 2100, we will still be 2-4 degrees below the average temps in Rome during Julius and Claudius's reigns.

      I'm all for new and cleaner forms of energy production, but in my opinion, the fact remains: I trust the Free Market a billion times more than having government bureaucrats throwing money and favoritism at this problem. Humans always seem to find a solution when things get dicey.......lets trust the process that has brought us light bulbs, electricity, cars, jets, ceramics, modern medicine and so on.

      Government pushes with a stick while Capitalism leads with a golden carrot.

    • VicqRuiz

      I'm not necessarily "unconvinced by climate change", but I do view the theories with a few things in mind.

      First, going back to the Club of Rome report and before that all the way to Thomas Malthus, environmentalists have been pretty good at predicting ~15-20 out of the last 0 world-threatening catastrophes.*

      Second, almost without exception, the proposed solutions involve a lot more of politicians picking my pocket, or a lot more of politicians telling me what to do. This gives the impression of a hammer desperately in search of nails, or "solution first, problem second".

      Finally, the most outspoken advocates for drastic climate change "solutions" seem to be celebrities, politicians, and pundits who indulge in personally wasteful, carbon spewing lifestyles that by right ought to cause them to die of shame. God/FSM/Cthulhu help us if they all suddenly decide to come out in favor of murder or arson.

      * Note that I am completely supportive of environmental actions that target direct polluters, who have released things like dioxin, heavy metals, cyanide etc. into the air and water. Free market countries (the USA, Canada, Europe) have done a pretty good job of bringing this sort of thing under control, while countries with command-and-control economies (China, the former USSR) have been dismal failures.

      • William Davis

        I agree. Not only have the salesmen of climate change by incredibly hypocritical, many have been attempting to exploit it for personal and/or political gain.
        Personally I completely ignore the salemen and politicians (now at least, I made the mistake of not being skeptical enough when I was younger), their comments have no value in general. I feel sorry for people who get their information from news outlets, there are so many dramatically better sources of information available. I hope more and more people choose to abandon such garbage for legitimate sources of information.
        All that said, a carbon tax is straight forward (unlike the scam that was cap and trade). Notice that no politician promotes this, but plenty of fair minded business people do. To me it'a completely rational move in the U.S because we have the intellectual horse power to be read leaders in energy, and we sure as hell need the tax money. To me, that makes way more sense than hiking the income tax, though I am a fan of some type of simplified tax system that removes all the ridiculous loopholes and subsidies in our current system.

      • William Davis

        P.S. This paper by a well known Harvard economist is quite good. This is an economic problem too, and economists are quite good at dealing with and weighting uncertainty.

        http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/3693423/Weitzman_OnModeling.pdf

  • Doug Shaver

    Can Catholics and Atheists Agree on the Environment?

    As Brian already pointed out, that depends on which atheists you're talking about. Atheists don't agree among themselves about anything except God's nonexistence. That entails no opinion about that environment.

    If anyone is asking me, here are my responses.

    God is the sole creator and sustainer of the universe.

    Obviously, no atheists is going to agree with this.

    everything God has created is good

    Disregarding the issue of creation, I don't agree that everything is good. I don't believe anything is absolutely good or bad. A thing is good or bad only for some other thing. Some things are good for us humans, some things are bad for us humans, and lots of things are neither.

    part of the goodness of the universe is that it has a design and a purpose.

    Design? Yes, but only metaphorically. Purpose? No, not even metaphorically.

    the human race is singular and the summit of creation

    No, I cannot agree with this.

    the earth is for our use

    Only if, and then only in the same sense that, it is for the use of all other organisms that inhabit the earth.

    Stewardship is man’s God-given mandate to direct wisely the development of the earth

    Whatever we do with the earth, we should do it wisely, and acting wisely entails acting according to certain moral principles. But none of this is true because of any divine mandate.

    Stewardship is also not optional.

    We have the option of acting wisely or unwisely. Whichever we do, we don't have the option of not living with the consequences.

    • neil_ogi

      quote: God is the sole creator and sustainer of the universe. Obviously, no atheists is going to agree with this.' - of course, because the universe just 'pop' ,according to your belief system

      quote: 'Disregarding the issue of creation, I don't agree that everything is good. I don't believe anything is absolutely good or bad. A thing is good or bad only for some other thing. Some things are good for us humans, some things are bad for us humans, and lots of things are neither. - since laws of nature is operating now, i can be sure that all creation is for good benefits. if not for fine-tuning properties of the universe, life will not occur, so i thank God for this.

      quote: 'part of the goodness of the universe is that it has a design and a purpose. Design? Yes, but only metaphorically. Purpose? No, not even metaphorically.- then explain why it is not designed? all you did is claim. if the eye is not designed for vision, then it has no purpose at all! but because the eye is designed specifically for vision, then there is a purpose. i love to hear from you if the eye is not designed.

      quote: 'the human race is singular and the summit of creation.No, I cannot agree with this. - then support your answer. again, all you did is claim.

      quote: 'the earth is for our use. Only if, and then only in the same sense that, it is for the use of all other organisms that inhabit the earth.- of course, the earth is intended to be inhabited by all living creatures. why flowers are so colorful? it's for human's enjoyment. why dogs and cats are created, because they are for our conpanionships

      quote: Stewardship is man’s God-given mandate to direct wisely the development of the earth. Whatever we do with the earth, we should do it wisely, and acting wisely entails acting according to certain moral principles. But none of this is true because of any divine mandate. - then you believe that morality originated from rocks?

      quote: 'Stewardship is also not optional. We have the option of acting wisely or unwisely. Whichever we do, we don't have the option of not living with the consequences.- because God has given you free will

      • Doug Shaver

        of course, because the universe just 'pop' ,according to your belief system

        Ridicule is not argumentation. You are not characterizing my belief system. You are caricaturing it.

        all you did is claim.

        The OP asked a question. I answered it.

        then you believe that morality originated from rocks?

        No, I believe it originated from human beings.

        God has given you free will

        You say so.

        • neil_ogi

          quote: 'Ridicule is not argumentation. You are not characterizing my belief system. You are caricaturing it.' - nope, i just debunked your claims.

          quote: 'No, I believe it originated from human beings. - to summarise, then human beings originated from nothing because the universe and all its contents, came from nothing!!

          quote: 'you say so' - then why you can't explain it?

          • Doug Shaver

            i just debunked your claims.

            In your fantasies.

            to summarise, then human beings originated from nothing because the universe and all its contents, came from nothing!!

            You're not summarizing anything I've ever said.

          • neil_ogi

            you are actually falling away from the true issues.( Ridicule is not argumentation. You are not characterizing my belief system. You are caricaturing it.') you didn't provide any scientific explanation, even plain explanation why the design argument is not really design, just apparent; you didn't provide any explanation why the eye's purpose has no purpose at all.

          • Doug Shaver

            The question was: Can Catholics and Atheists Agree on the Environment? I answered that question.

          • neil_ogi

            you replied to my comment: 'of course, because the universe just 'pop' ,according to your belief system'

          • Doug Shaver

            Yes, and as long as you misrepresent my belief system, it's not worth my time to answer your questions.

          • neil_ogi

            misrepresent your belief system? so you admitted now that atheism is just another form of 'belief system', a religious one.

            i didn't represent your belief system. it's the pseudo-science that is currently evangelized by your lawrence krauss in the internet and social media

          • Doug Shaver

            so you admitted now that atheism is just another form of 'belief system', a religious one.

            No, I'm not.

          • neil_ogi

            yes you are

          • Doug Shaver

            You have obviously made up your mind that you know everything there is to know about atheism.

          • neil_ogi

            You have obviously made up your mind that you know everything there is to know about theism.

  • Fourth principle:

    ...humans alone possess oral and written symbolic language, mathematics, art, music and philosophy.

    Now of course I agree that language, math, art, and music are marvelous things. I agree because I'm human, though, and those are humane things. So it sounds problematic. It's circular insofar as it says that humans are nifty because they do art and art is nifty because only humans do it. It's speciesist begging-the-question insofar as it says humans are the awesomest critters because they do what humans like whereas dolphins only do what dolphins like and owls only do what owls like. So this proposed Catholic principle looks like it's a piece of humanism justified by a mess of conceptual confusion.

    Humanists can simply point out that, being humans, they prefer humane values. Without theism, there's no need to come up with a (probably non-existent) external standard on which to justify humane values.

    I think it is also true to say that man is like everything else . . . but more. Man is the summit of creation because he holds within himself all the lower levels of the created world.

    By that reasoning, nations should be higher than humans, as they contain everything humans contain and they also contain humans, in an integrated whole. And the global biosphere would be atop nations for the same reason again. Now this would indeed be suggestive that environmental concern is a higher value than any humane concerns. But that type of consistent follow-through on the principle is not where the Catholics take it. Why?

    Humanists, again being merely human, use "man as the measure of all things" because we don't accept these faith-based principles which have such inhumane implications.

  • Fifth principle:

    The earth and its creatures exist for us, not us for them. In Genesis, man receives the command to “subdue” the earth. He possesses “dominion” over the animals and is “given” the plants to eat.

    Whereas atheists would typically say that the earth, humans, and other organisms simply exist as themselves - that none of them have been declared by divine fiat to be of an inferior class to another part such that it only gets to exist "for" the other. The Catholic view here, of a strict hierarchy of who gets privileged rights over whom, does seem astonishingly ugly. I can see why it's been increasingly abandoned in recent centuries, as the article noted. Would any of the Catholics here defend this slave-system mentality?

    • bdlaacmm

      Stripped of your rather cart-before-the-horse terminology, I would gladly defend it.

      • Would any of the Catholics here defend this slave-system mentality?

        Stripped of your rather cart-before-the-horse terminology, I would gladly defend it.

        Cart? Horse? I don't catch your meaning.

        In any case, please do. I'm interested to read the defense.

  • This brings us to the sixth principle: Stewardship is man’s God-given mandate to direct wisely the development of the earth.

    I'm curious whether there's any clear Biblical text on which this is based, particularly as the previous section quoted the major texts about, e.g. subduing the earth. Not that Catholics require Biblical text support of course.

    • neil_ogi
    • bdlaacmm

      If you're the sort who's looking for specific texts, rather than an overarching sense of scripture, for the principle, then look no further than Genesis 2:15, where Adam is placed in the Garden "to till it and keep it." The concept of "keeping" is bound up with stewardship and care. If that's not enough, then the story of Noah might be the icing on the cake. Noah does everything in his power to preserve the natural world and prevent species extinction.

      • So would you say that there's no specific divine statement or command as an origin of the doctrine, but rather there's a tradition of drawing carefully chosen analogies to the stories to fit the desired conclusion?

        • Alexandra

          "So would you say that there's no specific divine statement or command as an origin of the doctrine..."

          Yes, there is. "Thou shalt not steal."

          http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a7.htm

          (See especially "respect for the integrity of creation".)

          • What an interesting interpretation! Paragraph 2415 calls harming the environment stealing from future humans. It's a lovely utilitarian sentiment. I wish there was more like it.

            I'll admit, though, that lovely as it is, it's obviously extremely far from common sense interpretation of "thou shalt not steal", not an interpretation one would think of unless looking for a heading under which a desirable sentiment (e.g. the other paragraphs on the linked CCC page) could be fitted into a religious tradition that lacked a clear place for it.

          • Michael Murray

            Or as the saying goes

            We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children

            Not sure where that one came from

            http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/01/22/borrow-earth/

          • Alexandra

            "It's a lovely utilitarian sentiment. "

            No. Utilitarianism is primarily antithetical to Catholicism.

          • William Davis

            The Catholic Church is somewhat utilitarian whether it admits it or not. It prioritizes "being" as the greatest good (which explains the rational behind it's doctrines of contraception, abortion, and end of life priorities). Utilitarian systems that prioritize other things like "happiness" yield different ethical rules. One major divergence between Catholicism and the modern West is that the West values quality of life over just number of lives, but it often defines quality of life in a very materialistic way.

          • Oh, no worries, that news won't burst any bubbles!

            I doubt anyone here would claim that the Catholic moral code meets the strict standards of utilitarianism generally - I only meant that, in this instance, the proposed Catholic principle is beautiful because it sounds like a piece of a utilitarian ethical system. It's perfectly clear to us all that the Catholic moral code is about adherence to commands, not pursuit of the ideal of human flourishing.

          • Alexandra

            Hi Ryan, my response was specific to your calling CCC2415 a "utilitarianism sentiment." Since you say you meant, it "sounds" like it - I won't dispute against an opinion. I am heartened you find the principle beautiful.

            As Kevin's piece demonstrates, the Catholic moral life isn't simply following "commands". He beautifully delineated principles we follow with respect to the environment. The Catholic thus takes a comprehensive approach to the moral life and aspires to virtue.

            We do value "human flourishing"; just in its proper context. As Kevin states: "Human beings have absolute value: we are ends in ourselves."

        • bdlaacmm

          As you said in your original comment, Catholics (of which I am one) do not generally care to reason by "proof verses", but rather by means of the overarching sense of scripture. But that said, one can still find isolated texts to illuminate any particular interpretation. But that's all they'll be - illuminations.

          As you yourself wrote, "In a big complicated collection like the Bible, it's easy to find a story to justify any conclusion one could want." That's why it is generally quite unwise to hang an argument from scripture off of any single text.

          • cminca

            I'm crying "foul"

  • RMW13

    I am unsure why the author sets up a dialectic between Catholics and Atheists on the issue of the environment. Catholic social teaching certainly follows the logic presented here by the author by means of stewardship and the primacy of human ecology. What we battle with environmentalists is not an atheistic viewpoint but multi-faceted one that may or may not be atheistic. First, green radicalism promotes ecocentrism or biocentrism, which espouses that nature is an end in itself. The Compendium of Social Doctrine Chapter 10 paragraph 463 addresses ecocentrism or biocentrism as contrary to the magisterium. Second, we fight against a technological society that believes it can solve all problems (typically caused by technology; e.g. contraceptives in the water) through some technological fix. Often these fixes degrade human dignity by reducing some of humanity to a lower nature. These technologists are frequently associated with a bureaucratic "we know best." Fatalists like Paul Ehrlich, Rachel Carson, and Al Gore look to strike fear into society with a Chicken Little "the sky is falling!" mantra and a message that strict limits are needed immediately or disaster WILL strike. The problem is that their predictions seldom materialize and if they do problems are orders of magnitude lower than predicted. Also their resolutions are usually far-reaching and regressive, oppressing the poorer countries further with regulatory burdens that are unachievable even in first-world countries. Others believe that economics will solve all of our environmental woes because as costs for goods increase substitutes will emerge. While that is fine for private goods, public goods and pure goods do not always fit with economic rationality. These folks also tend to rely on technological fixes as substitutes. Other discourses also compete in this environmental argument. There may be bits and pieces of each discourse with which Catholics can agree, while other parts are antithetical to Catholicism. Just like many other human endeavors - politics, economics, psychology, public policy, etc. - it will not be likely that Catholics can whole-heartedly embrace any partisan side or discourse. We will have to walk the razor's edge, the narrow way, in step with Rome, that upholds human dignity (human ecology).

  • "Assuming the Big Bang is correct, everything that exists now is a coming into being of potentialities inherent in the singularity."
    Doesn't inherent imply that material creation ceased with the creation of that singularity? Perhaps you meant potentialities compatible with the singularity.

  • neil_ogi

    i would say yes, because atheists are humans and created beings too.

  • Michael Murray
    • neil_ogi

      what's wrong if the Pope is meddling with climate change issues? it's part of moral obligation to take care of our precious earth?

      • Michael Murray

        Did I say there was something wrong ?

        • neil_ogi

          then why post it?

          • Michael Murray

            Because it's relevant to the post that we are talking about

            Tomorrow (June 18), Pope Francis will release his long-awaited teaching document on the environment and human ecology.

  • Guest

    Can they? What does being Atheist or Catholic have to do with it? Pope Francis is a Catholic who believe in man made Climate Change for the most part.

    Greg Gutfeld is a conservative libertarian comedian on Fox and he is also an Atheist and a skeptic on Global Warming being man made.

    What does being Catholic or Atheist have to do with it?

    BTW I am Catholic, I love the Pope and I am skeptical climate change is caused by humans.