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Scientism vs. Methodological Naturalism: Responding to Qu Quine

Augustine

EDITOR'S NOTE: Today's post is in response to yesterday's article by atheist blogger Qu Quine, titled "Straw Man Scientism". Be sure to read Qu's article first.


 

Qu Quine has written a brief but clear description of methodological naturalism (MN), explaining the difference between this scientific approach to knowing and the blind “faith” of Scientism, the idea that only science is capable of putting us in touch with reality.  The difference between the two is simple enough: the latter is an ideological stance, the former is a method, a way of knowing.  Quine asserts that embracing the former does not require embracing the latter, and celebrates the power of MN to demonstrate falsehoods and to create a dependable path for attaining new and more certain knowledge.

To which I say, with profound conviction and no irony, “Vere!” and “Amen!”  In knowing the material world as such, including the living things within it, methodological naturalism is the only useful method of which I am aware. And any attempt to restrain its practitioners on religious grounds or to discard it as scientism would be intellectual violence.  As a theologian I do not want to quell Quine’s celebration of MN, but offer it an appreciative biography.

MN was born when the idea of Nature was born, when Greek philosophers began to discover “the regularity of phenomena as inhering in the natures of things and in the nature of the whole.”  At the very same time was born the pagan critique of religion, best summarized by Cicero’s Cotta in his dialogue “On the Nature of the Gods”: “...the system's coherence and persistence is due to nature's forces and not to divine power.”  This critique had developed over 800 years by the time of St. Augustine of Hippo, who adopted it entirely, as we can see in Book V of the Confessions, where we learn that it was the bad astronomy that the Manichees taught “as spiritual doctrine” that ended his long adherence to their sect.  His words ring with MN as he notes the achievements of the (non-Manichee) astronomers, who
 

“With the mind and intellect...investigate these matters. They have found out much. Many years beforehand they have predicted eclipses of sun and moon, foretelling the day, the hour, and whether total or partial. And their calculation has not been wrong. It has turned out just as they predicted… On this basis prediction can be made of the year, the month of the year, the day of the month, the hour of the day, and what proportion of light will be eclipsed in the case of either sun or moon; and it happens exactly as predicted.”

 
In fact the Confessions breathes naturalism. Even while Augustine recounts his life to God and questions or thanks him for nearly every life-event he remembers, not once does Augustine invoke a miraculous intervention or direct divine activity.  At one point he tells us that he moved to Rome for a career advantage; at another that he went there because God wanted him to meet Ambrose who leads him toward Christian baptism.  Augustine narrates his life “in such a way that the sequence of events related is adequately accounted for, and yet...in such a way that those events are not adequately accounted for.”  God is the reason for everything, but the direct cause of no specific thing.  The message is clear:
 

“The divine action is not an action by a worldly agent, it does not insert itself into the sequence of motives and causes, it does not fill a gap in the account of Augustine's life.  No event related in the Confessions is brought about by a situation inexplicable in terms of natural causes.  Nature is a self-enclosed whole, not independent in its being from God, but a whole whose course is adequately explainable in terms of immanent natural causes.”1

 
Yet Augustine the naturalist becomes a member of the Catholic Church.  Why did he find no obstacle there like the one he confronted in Manicheanism?  Because the integrity of the natural world is a doctrine of the Catholic Church.  This is why Augustine, as genius theologian and bishop, refuses to accept a literalist account of creation, why he posits a rudimentary version of evolution for the emergence of life forms from “the texture of the elements, com[ing] forth when they get the opportunity” (De Trinitate 3.9.16), and why his medieval disciple Thomas Aquinas will teach, paradoxically enough, the “hiddenness of divinity” as one of the two objects of God’s self-revelation (Summa Theologiae II-II.1.8).

God is not one among the things that exists.  Rather, he gives the universe its free existence, and so MN must be the method of observing and knowing the world.  Christian faith need not be invoked to use it, as Quine rightly notes.  But neither is it an impediment to it; indeed, historically it has always been a progenitor of it.

As a final note, the “hiddenness of divinity” is only one of two things God has revealed to us.  The other is the mystery of the humanity of Christ, in which God reveals himself as a human being to recreate the world, “not a mere appearance of a god in the likeness of men but fully present in history as a man, not a divine being peering out through a cloak of flesh, but a man.”2 Here, in the fulfillment of all things, resides the Resurrection, an event not historical in the same way as Augustine’s fateful decision to go to Rome, and the miracles of Christ and the saints, all of which foreshadow and prepare a new creation rather than replacing MN as an approach to this universe.  Quine is right to reject a six-day formation of the earth, but putting the Resurrection in the same category is like putting the chicken back in the egg.
 
 
(Image credit: Timothy Webb)

Notes:

  1. F. Crosson, “The Structure and Meaning of Augustine’s Confessions
  2. Ibid.
Dr. Christopher Baglow

Written by

Dr. Christopher Baglow has a B.A. in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville, an M.A. in Theology from the University of Dallas, and a Ph.D. in Theology from Duquesne University. In July 2009 he began a full-time position at Notre Dame Seminary, where he now serves as Professor of Theology and Director of the Master of Arts Program in Theological Studies for lay students. Dr. Baglow’s first book, Modus et Forma: A New Approach to the Exegesis of Saint Thomas Aquinas, was published in the Analecta Biblica Series of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 2002. His second book, Faith, Science, and Reason: Theology on the Cutting Edge, was published by the Midwest Theological Forum in 2009. Follow Dr. Baglow through his blog, Pelican Connection.

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  • Karie Mitchell

    I was interested in Qu Quine's assertion that "Adam and Eve" did not exist. I do believe that they existed but the facts have been simplified to tell the truth of the story. I think of the newspaper articles which only tell parts of the story - the ones relevant to the reader, but not all the nuances and sidebars and tangential stories that make for the real history. That's how I treat all the stories in the Bible.

    • 42Oolon

      I understand that this is a reasonable way of untangling the apparent ridiculousness of Genesis if you must believe there is some truth to it.

      I would have expected the perfect God to give us at least some of the "nuances and sidebars and tangential stories that make for the real history."

      If a god is going to reveal something of our origins, why do it in a way that will contradict what we later learn of the actual origins? What truth is there in telling us that women come from a man's rib? This seems like a vital piece of information if it is being "simplified". How does it then simplify things to put two origin stories and leave the rib business out of it?

      • "If a god is going to reveal something of our origins, why do it in a way that will contradict what we later learn of the actual origins? "

        He did not do it in a way that conflicts with our current knowledge about the origins of man.

        "What truth is there in telling us that women come from a man's rib?"

        There is deep theological meaning to this truth, namely that man and woman were made from "one flesh" and are thus designed to return to that "one flesh" union.

        "How does it then simplify things to put two origin stories and leave the rib business out of it?"

        I'm detecting here, due to your confusion, that you might be assuming the "rib business" (as you call it) is meant to convey historical truth. But that's not what Genesis intends. Genesis is conveying deep truths about man and God and it does so through figurative--not strictly historical--language. Despite the protests of many Fundamentalist and not a few atheists, Catholics don't read the Bible in a literalistic way.

        • Catechism of the Catholic Church:

          115 According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.

          116 The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: "All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal."83

          • Thanks for the Catechism excerpt, Rick. Just to be clear, I said in my comment that "Catholics don't read the Bible in a literalistic way", purposefully distinguishing between "literalistic" and "literal."

            Catholic *do* read the Bible literally if we understand that word as the Church does (and as explained in the Catechism) as the [plain] meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture. In other words, the literal meaning is the meaning most clearly intended by the original author. Sometimes, then, the literal meaning can in fact involve metaphors or poetry or figurative language.

            However, we *don't* read the Bible literally if by that you're referring to the literalistic approach taken by most Fundamentalists (and many atheists) in which literary genres and styles are ignored.

          • The extremely relevant point, Brandon, is that all other senses are based on the literal.

            There exists an ancient, patristic consensus concerning the interpretation of Genesis One.

            It is that the literal meaning is the correct interpretation.

            There exists not a smidgeon of scientific disproof of this patristic consensus.

            It has fallen out of favor among many Catholics who are not aware of this.

            It remains a *perfectly orthodox* position, within the Catholic Church.

          • stanz2reason

            How might one go about differentiating between what was written as metaphor or poetry and that which was written as a literal description of events? Why couldn't we just say 'the literal meaning is the meaning most clearly intended by the original author' with respect to Christ's life and actions were just an allegorical exaggeration of an otherwise normal guy?

          • Not in the specific case you cite, stanz:

            Catechism of the Catholic Church

            126 We can distinguish three stages in the formation of the Gospels:

            1. The life and teaching of Jesus. The Church holds firmly that the four Gospels, "whose historicity she unhesitatingly affirms, faithfully hand on what Jesus, the Son of God, while he lived among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation, until the day when he was taken up."99

            2. The oral tradition. "For, after the ascension of the Lord, the apostles handed on to their hearers what he had said and done, but with that fuller understanding which they, instructed by the glorious events of Christ and enlightened by the Spirit of truth, now enjoyed."100

            3. The written Gospels. "The sacred authors, in writing the four Gospels, selected certain of the many elements which had been handed on, either orally or already in written form; others they synthesized or explained with an eye to the situation of the churches, the while sustaining the form of preaching, but always in such a fashion that they have told us the honest truth about Jesus."101

          • stanz2reason

            Copy & pasting the Catechisms of the Catholic Church does not address my post. Citing your own doctrine as support for your argument is unconvincing. You're making a special plea for an exception to Brandons notion that biblical accounts, at least in part, are metaphors or figurative.

          • Quite to the contrary, stanz. Your question involves the proper interpretation of Scripture.

            The Catholic Church- that is, the entity which defines what Scripture consists in, and possesses, by direct testimony of Scripture, the infallible means of correctly interpreting it, answers your exact question concerning the literary genre of the Gospels, in such a way that your proposed solution is rejected.

          • stanz2reason

            The Catholic Church- that is, the entity which defines what Scripture consists in, and possesses, by direct testimony of Scripture, the infallible means of correctly interpreting it, answers your exact question concerning the literary genre of the Gospels, in such a way that your proposed solution is rejected.

            I should have been more clear. I was looking for a response that wasn't a textbook definition of circular reasoning.

          • "a textbook definition of circular reasoning"

            But that is precisely what you advance in the first place, stanza.

            "Why couldn't we just say 'the literal meaning is the meaning most clearly intended by the original author' with respect to Christ's life and actions were just an allegorical exaggeration of an otherwise normal guy?"

            >> This is perfectly circular reasoning. Miracles do not exist, therefore the author's intent was to lie about them.

            Take your pick.

            I will stand with the Catholic Church, which presents us thoroughly documented instances of miracles in our own time, as well in the time of Our Lord.

          • stanz2reason

            But that is precisely what you advance in the first place, stanza

            No Dick, that's not what I advanced.

            "Why couldn't we just say 'the literal meaning is the meaning most clearly intended by the original author' with respect to Christ's life and actions were just an allegorical exaggeration of an otherwise normal guy?"

            This is perfectly circular reasoning. Miracles do not exist, therefore the author's intent was to lie about them.

            Which of course is not at all what I said. I made no presumption over the existence of miracles or anything supernatural for that matter. I posed a question asking by what reason does Brandon (who seems to be fine with other people clumsily fighting his own battles) attribute certain biblical passages as figurative and others as more literal and on what grounds does he go about differentiating between the two.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Please consider my reply above. [I don't know how to link to it.]

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In fairness, to Rick, I think he was trying to explain what the Church says the "genre" of a gospel is.

          • stanz2reason

            In all fairness to the rest of the world, he was still using circular reasoning.

          • Hegesippus

            In fairness to the rest of the world, you do not speak for them. Such gross exaggeration is mere polemic.

          • Michael Murray

            To be fair to Stanz he represents the 84% of the population who aren't counted as Catholic by the Vatican.

          • Hegesippus

            So stan can speak for the rest of the world taking a non-Catholic view, whereas any Catholic 'speaking for the rest of the world' against atheism would be wrong, or do you find this equally acceptable?
            Nonetheless, it remains polemic.
            Why does someone so supposedly precise in his reasoning resort to polemical tools?

          • Michael Murray

            whereas any Catholic 'speaking for the rest of the world' against atheism would be wrong,

            Catholic's acting on behalf of all the other religious? Hindu's, Muslim's, Zen Buddhists - that would be remarkably ecumenical. Would you explain to them that they are likely to spend all eternity in hell ?

            And why do you feel the need to take a cheap
            swipe at the Catholic Church with your "counted as Catholic by the Vatican"? With a little reasoning and research, it is clear that once someone is a Catholic, they are a Catholic.

            It's not a cheap swipe. Those numbers I thought come from the The Annuario Pontificio (Italian for Pontifical Yearbook) which is the annual directory of the Holy See.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annuario_Pontificio

            Now I know the Holy See is not exactly the same as the Vatican and if you like I'll edit the post to reflect that correction. I don't need to do the research you suggest as I'm well aware of how the Catholic superstition about baptism works. My reason for highlighting the source of the numbers is that the RCC bases part of its political influence on them. So when they count people who don't support them politically it's a lie.

          • Hegesippus

            The Catholic Church has responsibility for Catholics, just as a government has responsibility for all people in the country.
            Atheists do not speak for non-Catholics. You made a particular point, then turn it into a general statement.
            Also, read up on Catholic teaching on hell and who goes there. Your argument rests upon a statement as erroneous as claiming the earth is flat cos you can't see it from where you're standing. Just because some people claimed it, it doesn't make it true.
            And your very clear snidy claim, regarding Baptism as superstition, is completely unnecessary, against forum rules and a very cheap swipe.
            If you can continue this discussion without unpleasantry, please do so. Otherwise, God bless and goodbye.

          • Michael Murray

            Also, read up on Catholic teaching on hell and who goes there.

            There have been many discussions on this topic. There seems some confusion even on these boards. But I think the consensus is that people who have been given the chance to be Catholics and rejected it are going to hell. There is a minor let out clause that the Church cannot be certain of the actual outcome for any particular person. But the implication is clear.

            And your very clear snidy claim, regarding Baptism as superstition, is completely unnecessary, against forum rules and a very cheap swipe.

            A superstition is a belief accepted without evidence. How does the idea that my Baptism affected me in some way for all eternity not qualify for that epithet ? I don't see how it was unnecessary as I was just responding to your claim that once someone is a Catholic they are always a Catholic. Surely that was a rather snide remark to make to an ex-Catholic like me?

          • Hegesippus

            Try reading Catholic teaching as opposed to fora for what the Catholic Church teaches. Would you ask your mates and a few strangers about a scientific position or go to the experts?

            The word "superstition" is primarily a word that comes loaded with negativity when applied to religious beliefs. You know that. So why rely on this to argue the point? If you don't rely on it then apply Occam's Razor to your rationalisations.

            I could point out that evolutionary theory must be described as superstition as it lacks substantial evidence but I am not going to use polemics to bolster my argument. Can you argue your point without polemic?

          • Michael Murray
          • Hegesippus

            Haha!
            So the earth is flat then!
            Try reading on the subject properly.
            The Independent? No.
            In short, if atheists actively choose to be without God, you will be without God. Would you want it any other way?
            Now go and read the proper version of the Catholic Church's teaching. Google is a good place to start.
            There is no point in going further until you have researched the matter properly. And reading skewed and unbalanced articles about theology in a left-wing liberal UK newspaper is not a good source.
            Seriously, read up on it first, like you would for any other subject.

          • Michael Murray
          • Hegesippus

            Try Catholic Church.

          • Michael Murray

            You still haven't explained why I should accept the Catholic Churches definition of what constitutes a Catholic ? In Australia in 2008 it was estimated that only 14% of Catholics attended Mass. How can the Church count people as Catholic if they don't attend Mass ?

          • Hegesippus

            Baptism is indelible.

          • Max Driffill

            I recently discovered that my mom (excommunicated) and my dad (not even Catholic) still get their names printed on St Mary's parish directory. Neither of them have gone to mass in years, and I don't think my mother considers herself to be Catholic any more. Neither she nor my dad support any significant social issue that is currently vexing the church. They support Obamacare, a woman's right to choose, contraception, equality in marriage, and so on. In what way can this indelible stamp be said to be present? In what way can it be said that they support the RCC?

          • Hegesippus

            Why would an indelible spiritual status ensure support of the Church? I do not understand your logic. The concept of lapsed Catholic is clear, surely.

            A poor analogy is nationality - I could change my legal nationality but I cannot change where I was born. A poor analogy but this is a unique matter.

          • epeeist

            So, you would accept then that Hitler was Catholic, given that he was baptised and although he never took the sacrament after he was 16?

          • Max Driffill

            Hegesippus,
            Is not believing that gods exist, because a person (like myself, and yourself, mostly) finds the evidence uncompelling choosing to be without gods? Or are such persons simply unconvinced?

          • Hegesippus

            No, it just shows that your belief system demands that evidence be supplied before you can have faith.

          • Michael Murray

            In short, if atheists actively choose to be without God, you will be without God. Would you want it any other way?

            Just a clarification. Atheists don't actively choose to be without God. Atheist's are people who hold no beliefs in gods. Usually this is because they have never been exposed to the idea or because they have been exposed to the idea and decided there was insufficient evidence to support it. We are not people have have seen your God and rejected Him or Her.

            So you can draw no conclusion as to whether we would or would not want to be with God if it turns out we are wrong.

          • I don't know why it is so hard to get folks to understand that you can't reject something you don't think exists.

          • Michael Murray

            For some I think it is hard to accept that there are other people who don't believe like them. It raises the possibility that perhaps they might not believe … A bit like how some men who deep down aren't sure they are 100% heterosexual go into the business of converting gays back to the straight and narrow.

            http://exodusinternational.org/2013/06/i-am-sorry/

          • Hegesippus

            Strange leap. Your point? And could you apply that to your own position? Just wondering...

          • Hegesippus

            Playing with words. The meaning is the same. If you are aware of the concept and have rejected it, ergo...

            Why not just explain your thoughts rather than spend more than half a brief post with emotive claims to finding it so hard (sigh!) to convince these inferiors of your claim?

          • epeeist

            I don't know why it is so hard to get folks to understand that you can't reject something you don't think exists.

            Because some people are incapable of seeing anything except as an instance of belief?

          • Hegesippus

            You are given enough evidence in your life to know that God exists, or that the virtues of the unknown God exists. Up to you whether you accept these or reject them.

            If you recognise the concept of God (pretty simple, philosophically) and reject this, then that is active. If you've actively accepted a priori conditions, that you need to apply evidence in the scientific method then you presuppose God (by definition, supreme, thus not subject to anything) not to exist. Actively. Otherwise, you are a passive victim to unexplored reasoning.

            Playing with words simply avoids the issue. The playing with words, looking for an angle of escape is what I find disappointing, personally. I hoped for more from these discussions.

          • Michael Murray

            Well I've just been explaining how the world looks from the perspective of an atheist and scientist. But it seems you don't really want to hear so much as tell us what we think. That would seem to violate Rule 3 of the commenting rules you are so keen on.

            Enjoy your time here. I hope you learn something. Don't expect further responses from me.

          • Michael Murray

            I could point out that evolutionary theory must be described as superstition as it lacks substantial evidence but I am not going to use polemics to bolster my argument. Can you argue your point without polemic?

            Do you seriously think evolutionary theory lacks substantial evidence ?

          • Hegesippus

            If it didn't then it would not be called a theory.

            Nonetheless, you miss my point entirely: the word "superstition" is not an appropriate word here, which you have just proved, however.

          • Michael Murray

            If it didn't then it would not be called a theory.

            Oh dear. Tell me you aren't serious.

            How are you on Einstein's Theory of General Relativity ?

          • Hegesippus

            Deal then.

            You go and read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is a full systematic theology. Google it.

            Now where can I read the full evidence that Evolutionary Theory is a complete and consistent scientific position with no gaps? Link please.

            Sounds only fair.

          • Michael Murray

            I have looked at the Catechism but I had trouble with the first word "God". Seriously I'm an atheist.

            Now where do I find the full evidence that Evolutionary Theory is a complete and consistent scientific position with no gaps? Link please.

            Google it. Sounds only fair.

          • Hegesippus

            You are not serious in this discussion.

            I am happily open to evolutionary theory but I don't have a "superstition" about it having to be true!

            What am I supposed to Google? Give me a phrase...
            If you cannot then I suggest you go and study it properly. Good science requires accuracy.

            And if you cannot read the CCC because you cannot study a position you do not agree with, then avoid all forms of fiction as a literary genre. (Cue snarky comment about theology!)

            Anyway, work to do. If you genuinely want to progress your understanding of these matters, please continue. If this is entertainment merely, then I get paid better elsewhere.

          • Michael Murray

            What am I supposed to Google? Give me a phrase...If you cannot then I suggest you go and study it properly. Good science requires accuracy.

            The difficulty in googling evolutionary theory and evidence is ? OK I'll do it

            http://bit.ly/12NGZmr

            You do realise I hope that people like you and me with out biological qualifications are never going to really understand evolutionary theory. It's too technical for that. All we can do is get the general idea and assess the state of the scientific consensus.

            If you genuinely want to progress your understanding of these matters, please continue.

            I'm here mostly because an invite went out for atheists to come and have real Catholicism explained to them. So I came and it was as unconvincing as anything I'd seen before. I stayed because there are some interesting people here on both sides of the theistic divide. There are also some people terribly confused about what atheism is who I try to inform.

          • Hegesippus

            You've read all of these? Wow. Wiki as a source? No.
            Direct me to an actual article that is clear, succinct and accurate, please.

          • epeeist

            Wiki as a source? No.
            Direct me to an actual article that is clear, succinct and accurate, please.

            You want to try this page instead. It might even help you with what comprises scientific method.

          • Max Driffill

            Talk about presupposition.

          • Michael Murray

            Now where do I find the full evidence that Evolutionary Theory is a complete and consistent scientific position with no gaps? Link please.

            Actually maybe before you google evolutionary theory you might want to think about what a "complete and consistent scientific position with no gaps" is ? I've never heard of one of those. Maybe look here at this article "What is Science"

            http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2013/07/03/what-is-science/

          • Hegesippus

            If your "god" of science has so many gaps...

          • Michael Murray

            Sure science is full of gaps. But look at all the ones we have filled in. It's a bit rude to criticise it when every time you touch the keyboard you are confirming scientific predictions. It works.

          • Hegesippus

            Indeed. And thank the Catholic Church's scientific method which has enabled you to do so.

          • epeeist

            And thank the Catholic Church's scientific method which has enabled you to do so.

            And there was me thinking Francis Bacon was an Anglican.

          • Max Driffill

            Hegesippus,

            What are your questions about evolutionary theory? What areas do you think are not complete and and not consistent? I'll happily answer what I can.

          • Hegesippus

            Supply one article that is succinct, clear and without presumption.

            And why do you call it theory if it is indeed proven fact, as MM claims (without providing such a source)?

          • Max Driffill

            Evolution is a fact:

            We see it in the lab, we see change in form through the fossil record. We see evolution in action in places like the Galapagos (see the work of Peter and Rosemary Grant).

            The Neo-Darwinian Synthesis is the best explanation for that fact. In the same that Einstein's Theory of General Relativity explains the fact of gravity.

            But I asked you what specific problems or questions you had about evolutionary theory, I"m not interested in doing a comprehensive literature research for you. For an over view, I can think of two excellent books for you, one Jerry Coyne's
            Why Evolution is True and Donald Prothero's Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters.
            Coyne is an expert on speciation, and Prothero is paleontologist. Both books will lay out the theory of,and evidence for evolution.
            Enjoy

          • "Evolution is a fact"

            >> Pure metaphysics. Perhaps this might actually begin to verge upon theology.

            Science does not make statements like this, because science *cannot* make statements like this.

            Statements like this are epistemological, or even ontological, in nature.

            The epistemology of the scientific method does not allow for such statements.

            This is additional confirmation that the evolution theory is a metaphyiscal, not a scientific, research program, and that its proponents have long since departed from the scientific method in their research program designed to defend and disseminate their metaphysical world view.

            Nothing wrong with that, of course.

            The problem arises when one dishonestly packages one's metaphysics in a box marked "Science", since it will sell better that way.

          • Max Driffill

            Rick
            If change over time is evolution and indeed it is, then it is a fact. We see, replete in the fossil record this very thing. We see it in the lab in real time. We see it in the field in real time. Then yes evolution is a fact. This is what the evidence indicates, its totally the case that we don't have all the data, and might in fact be wrong about this point, though the fact the organisms change over time seems pretty solid. So in this sense, and this sense alone, we can say, with some confidence that evolution is a fact.
            The Neo-Darwinian synthesis is the explanatory apparatus that best explains that fact. It is subject to revision as new data comes in, or can be totally tossed out if evidence requires it.

          • "If change over time is evolution and indeed it is, then it is a fact."

            >> Indeed. But notice my definition above, which is exactly what the metaphysical program called evolution asserts:

            " mutation plus selection = adequate to explain observed biodiversity"

            It is this latter extension of "change over time" that constitutes the risky prediction of evolution.

            It is challenged regularly by fossil finds such as the one reported below.

            If evolution were a scientific research program, such anomalous fossils would be the subject of experimental test, with the intention of possibly falsifying the theory.

            Instead, they are defended from any such test, as a means of preserving the theory.

            Pure metaphysics.

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2012/02/marys-bones-part-iii-is-evolution.html

          • Hegesippus

            Thank you for your explanations, Max.
            Of course, the concept of evolution exists in all things that are not in stasis. However, too many demand that evolution, as in 'science-alone-is-sufficient', proves that God does not exist.
            Not everyone subscribes to "confidence" in this scientific claim and this is exacerbated by demands that God is dropped because of it.

            My primary interest is Truth. In my limited state, God exists according to the Catholic Church's position, science describes the material world and theology the spiritual. These two worlds are completely intertwined but the two branches of study have their specialisms. Am I wrong in this according to evolutionary theory?

          • Max Driffill

            Hegesippus,

            Let me respond to your points:

            Of course, the concept of evolution exists in all things that are not in stasis. However, too many demand that evolution, as in 'science-alone-is-sufficient', proves that God does not exist.

            I've actually not met many people who think that evolution proves that gods cannot exist. Most atheists understand that there are definitions for god that are not rendered problematic by the findings of modern science. Deism for instance remains fairly safe on philosophical grounds, but there is no reason to accept the deism hypothesis until such time as evidence for it (and the disinterested deity at the heart of such hypotheses) is adduced.

            Evolution as it currently stands does pose very real and serious problems for the biblical literalist. As nothing in science, from Cosmology, to microbiology conforms to the predictions of a literalist reading of Genesis. Now if you want to say Genesis is totally metaphor, then that would be hard to refute, but such a stance would cause problems for Christian theology generally. Though something pleasantly amorphous, and welcoming like Tillich's religion I suppose could be adopted. In any event squaring the findings of science with faith is a problem for the faithful. It need not concern scientists.

            Not everyone subscribes to "confidence" in this scientific claim and this is exacerbated by demands that God is dropped because of it.

            I'm not entirely sure what you mean here. God is not a step that is necessary in our scientific explanations. That is there is no evidence that one has acted in natural processes. Our models work without that assumption. At present, to add gods to our explanation would be to add unnecessary steps, and, crucially, steps for which there is no evidence.

            My primary interest is Truth. In my limited state, God exists according to the Catholic Church's position,
            And you complain about presupposition in evolutionary biology....

            science describes the material world and theology the spiritual.
            Actually theology often tries to craft hypotheses about the physical world too. As when natural disasters are blamed on wicked action of people say, or when discussions of human nature come up. Many Christians believe that theistic evolution best explains evolutionary trends. Theology forever makes claims about the material world. Do you see a problem?

            These two worlds are completely intertwined but the two branches of study have their specialisms. Am I wrong in this according to evolutionary theory?

            I'm not sure evolutionary theory can answer the question you are posing. Evolutionary theory explains biodiversity, and adaptation, and elucidates the evolutionary relationships among species. When studying the natural world, we just don't see evidence that there is any supernatural intervention, or involvement. I'm not sure how theology could be intertwined with the study of nature. Perhaps you could unpack that for me.

          • Hegesippus

            I am unsure what you are claiming regarding "gods".

            However, the rest of your post is dependent upon God being subject to science and evidence. One clear example is claiming I presuppose God in dealing with science - of course I do! God, by definition, created all that science merely describes. God is a being, science is a method.

            You then claim theology crosses over into 'science' and the material world. No, it comments upon what happens in the material world, not in its natural workings. Again, science is a method used to describe normal workings of the material world. Science, being simply knowledge, also includes theology as a subset. It is only recently that some have claimed science to be exclusively of the natural world. Can you prove this is a worthy demand? I have been mocked for stating theology is a science - it is still regarded by some to be the superior science as it deals with the supreme being. Why have many rejected theology as a science? On what authority? Consensus? Is science a democracy?

            Simply evolutionary theory is a branch of materialist science, which claims that it does not need God, does not see evidence according to a priori demands and therefore God is rejected as compatible. Is this accurate? If so, it is clear that Christianity can accept science, where what many call 'science' today rejects Christianity without any reason other than these a priori positions. Simply, nothing is proven.

          • Max Driffill

            Hegesippus,

            I am unsure what you are claiming regarding "gods".

            I simply refer to gods, any gods in this way. No capital g. I do this because, contrary to Christian framing, there are numerous god stories to choose among (even among christianity).

            However, the rest of your post is dependent upon God being subject to science and evidence. One clear example is claiming I presuppose God in dealing with science - of course I do! God, by definition, created all that science merely describes. God is a being, science is a method.

            Then you cannot begrudge other people any pre-suppositions you might perceive on their part. Premises ought to be justified by evidence. Just sayin'.

            You then claim theology crosses over into 'science' and the material world. No, it comments upon what happens in the material world, not in its natural workings. Again, science is a method used to describe normal workings of the material world.

            I am saying that theologians sometimes try to pile on theological explanations for natural phenomena in advance of any evidence for their positions. This is not scientific in that it is adding elements of explanation (making it more complicated) without evidential justification.

            Take theistic evolution for example. Sure a god could have nudged the astroid that ended the reign of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, but there is no evidence that, and so no reason to accept the idea. No planet has been spared astroid and comet impact, physics does all the work without positing any divine hand.

            Science, being simply knowledge, also includes theology as a subset.

            I'm calling shenanigans right there. Science isn't simply knowledge. It is a specific way of investigating problems, that produces a very specific kind of knowledge. From the Oxford English Dictionary: scientific method a method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.

            For more details: http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method

            Theology is not science, it does not utilize the scientific method and in its internal conflicts and heresy hunts bears all the marks of a system of thought that cannot settle matters empirically. It is recursive in a way utterly dangerous to advancing thought in a way that reflects reality. It resembles a modern sociology department in exactly this way.

            It is only recently that some have claimed science to be exclusively of the natural world. Can you prove this is a worthy demand?

            This is not claimed. There is just no evidence that gods involve themselves in the world. Our models work well enough with out divine assumption.

            I have been mocked for stating theology is a science - it is still regarded by some to be the superior science as it deals with the supreme being. Why have many rejected theology as a science?

            Because it isn't science. Sorry you have been mocked, but grow some broader shoulders, and a strong back. You keep being snide about evolutionary theory as well as other things.

            Theology is possessed of no error correcting machinery, and any hypothesis can be rescued by any number of intellectual crimes and misdemeanors simply because problems of explanation can be magicked away. It produces no new knowledge and is merely one bald assertion built on top of another.

            Theology is not a method "consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses."

            This is why it is not a science, superior or otherwise.

            On what authority? Consensus? Is science a democracy?

            Science is democratic in that anyone can do it. But the conclusions of science are not subject to vote. They are either accepted or rejected based on the evidence for or against. Ambiguity is accepted as a major part of the quest to figure the universe out.

            Simply evolutionary theory is a branch of materialist science, which claims that it does not need God, does not see evidence according to a priori demands and therefore God is rejected as compatible. Is this accurate?

            It is not accurate.

            There is no a priori rejection of gods. There is no evidence for their hand in our investigations of nature. That is all. Many of the early scientists were not atheists, now many are (the more advanced one is in science the greater the tendency toward atheism, indeed conventional religiosity tends to plummet with increased education. See Coyne: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1558-5646.2012.01664.x/abstract (this was available for free for a bit, but may behind a paywall now)

            If so, it is clear that Christianity can accept science, where what many call 'science' today rejects Christianity without any reason other than these a priori positions. Simply, nothing is proven.

            The sciences that Christianity seems preoccupied with, simply see no evidence for gods. This is not owing to any a priori commitments, but based on the evidence. There may be gods, but we just haven't confirmed this and so we cannot reject the null hypothesis.

          • Hegesippus

            I hoped for better from you , Max.

            Science: you give me a paragraph on scientific method. No, they are not the same. The word, from Latin, simply means 'knowledge'.
            Therefore, theology is a science, no matter what anti-theologians claim and no matter how many claims you make. You are not arbiter over an ancient and consistent viewpoint.

            And if you lump in gods with God, then you need to consider the vast difference, ontologically, what these would entail before any more sweeping statements are used to brush away Christianity. This is, after all, a Christian website at source. You disparage me in exploring your concept of theory being fact. So, quid pro quo, please distinguish between our distinctions.

          • epeeist

            <blockquoteTherefore, theology is a science

            I have argued that there is no such thing as the scientific method on this board. However, there are many attributes that are common to all scientific theories. This may take me a time to produce, since I am not sure what HTML Disqus will accept, but this list is a précis from Ernan McMullan (who was both a Catholic priest and a professor of philosophy).

            Empirical Fit

            Must account for the the data already in hand, though at early stages of the theory development this need not be exact.

            Explanatory Power

            It must attempt to provide further explanation and not simply save the appearences

            Internal Virtues

            Internal consistency, i.e. no contradictions within the theory or produced by the theory
            Internal coherence, i.e. the absence of ad hoc features, the primary example used here is that in the Ptolemaic system each planet had its
            own set of parameters and these were not linked to the parameters of any of the other planets.
            Simplicity, in the sense of not admitting to the theory anything that does not add explanatory power. The example here would be that of the theory o
            f evolution and the version supported by the Catholic and other churches. The modern synthesis is perfectly adequate, adding an external entity to direct evol
            ution adds nothing to the theory in terms of necessity or explanatory power.

            Contextual Virtues

            External consistency or consonance

            First level consonance, fit with theories in other parts of science, an example here might be that biological processes must not break the laws
            of thermodynamics
            Second level consonance, fit with broader metaphysical principles, for example no action at a distance or no breaking of causality
            Third level consonance, independence of social, political and moral issues and convictions which could be distortive in epistemic terms

            Optimality, in the case of multiple explanations the one that affords the best explanation. This is essentially a restatement of IBE - inference to
            the best explanation

            Diachronic virtues, ones that manifest themselves over the course of time.

            Fertility

            Does it provide explanations over a range of phenomena and not just the ones that it was designed to explain.
            Does it have the capacity to account for anomalies as they arise.
            How well does its causal structure become filled in and elaborated upon over time.
            Does it provide novel predictions and new research programmes (in the Lakatos sense)

            Consilience

            Does it provide unification of different classes of phenomena over time
            Does it bring together domains that were once thought to be dispararate, for example Maxwell's unification of electricity, magnetism and light

            Durability, does it survive the challenge of prolonged and ever more stringent testing

          • Hegesippus

            God is a fact: I am not offering you evidence either. All I ask is if there is no doubts in evolution. Genuine, real doubts. Can you prove any doubter wrong? Or has the myth of evolution become fact due to being repeated so often?
            I shan't be purchasing those books because I study theology and spend my money in that field. This branch of science makes room for evolutionary theory (as a possibility). How about atheism-evolution reciprocating?
            I will gladly, however, read a freebie online if you can supply one.

          • Michael Murray

            I will gladly, however, read a freebie online if you can supply one.

            Maybe this ? Max have you ever read it ?

            http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/evolution/evolution.htm

          • Max Driffill

            Michael,
            This is pretty commendable for a free internet article, and while there are things I would certainly change here and there (its terrible treatment of the scientific concept of theory for instance) over all it is decent enough intro.

          • JDand Co

            How about we take up a collection and buy the books for him. Problem solved.

          • Max Driffill

            Hegesippus,

            You can find them in a library. It might help you to know that Prothero is a believing Christian. But no matter I've identified the problem. You say you want to read something that succinctly explains evolution, and lays out the logic of it. Here is the thing, this is a very large, robust science and you won't find anything satisfactory to your goals (understanding what evolution is, and what Evolutionary theory explains) in a single article.

            I find your stance though, about not purchasing a book or two that could address your questions about evolution troubling. I'm sure many atheists on this site have dropped a few rubles on theology books, or taken a trip to the library to get a book or two on god. That you won't, and that you are as dismissive of evolution as you are, while knowing nothing about it, makes me think that the person who is unserious in this discussion is you.

            The Kindle edition of Coyne's book is 11.04 US, the Kindle Edition of Prothero's book is 17.83 US (though, I would suggest this only if you have kindle on a tablet of some kind because the Prothero book has a lot of pictures, graphs and charts that you would want to expand).
            Or you can take a trip to your local library, and just check them out.

          • Hegesippus

            My local library's clear liberal-secular agenda has been sound enough reason to avoid. Is there nothing online worth reading?

          • Michael Murray

            But the library either has the book or not? Surely you don't think they edit books on evolution by Christians?

            What about here

            http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

            and follow the links on the RHS.

          • Hegesippus

            Sorry, I'll be clear. I don't go in.

          • Hegesippus

            I find it troubling, and objectively more so, that you could not read past the first paragraph of the Catechism yet claim to know what the Catholic Church teaches, using sources such as Independent, HuffPo and wikipedia!

          • Max Driffill

            Hegesippus,
            I don't think this was meant for me.

          • Hegesippus

            Apologies - too many replies, not enough time!

            However, why should it be troubling that I do not go and purchase books on a topic not of my chosen area of study? Surely the internet should suffuce and I can go and purchae as I choose.

            Can I recommend some theology texts for your shopping experience?

          • Max Driffill

            The problem I have with your stance is this. Myopia.

            You have essentially admitted to knowing nothing about evolutionary biology, evolutionary processes, or biology generally. And yet, you snicker through your comments about the "myth of evolution" etc. So we have a faux humble attitude on your part, plus some smug superiority (and you complain about being mocked) combined in what appear to be mutually exclusive positions: I would like to know something detailed and useful about evolutionary theory + I will not go out of my way to learn anything about evolution even if it means going to the library to check out a book for free.

            By all means, recommend away. Most of the atheists frequenting this site have actually spent a great deal of time learning about theology, and know Christianity pretty well. Michael Murray and I are both former Catholics I'm sure there are more.

            By all means, focus on your study area. But don't act like you are open to suggestion. Also, if you are really interested in a decent overview of evolution you could try those books from your local library (inter-library loan if they don't have them.)

          • Hegesippus

            Sorry, Max. You read me very wrong.

            The problem I have with your comment is a common one.

            Exaggeration.

            I know some about evolution; not enough to claim to be an expert, or wish to receive condescending remarks constantly from those who claim to know it all then grudgingly admit that even 'science' does not.

            I have made it very clear that I will gladly read a balanced article on evolution. I will not visit my library. It is very poor, limited and a time-consuming exercise. If you wish to be an evolution-evangelist, then arming yourself with a quality source would be advisable. Do not judge me on my experience of the local library!

            You claim to know Christianity, as a lapsed Catholic, "pretty well". This, i must admit, is a surprise. You have not shown any evidence of this. MM certainly has not and he clearly, on a number of issues, has a skewed and negative understanding. Check the evidence. Baptism is a very low level one.

            Again, exaggeration. I asked for evidence of evolution being more than a theory. Instead, this has become accusation because I won't buy the books or make a lengthy trip to a poorly-stocked library, which I have never even bothered to be a member of. All I ask, Max, is one decent article from a reputable source (not a skewed one, assuming I I am already on-board the atheist bandwagon).

            I was enjoying our (one-sided, you as the wise one) chat. How about a bit of quid pro quo?

          • Max Driffill

            Hegesippus,

            I'm not an evangelist for evolutionary biology. It doesn't need such things. All it needs are people to defend the scientific process from those not doing science but who, for ideological reasons, wish to have their own views taught as science without doing the necessary work. Creationists are no different than Immanuel Velikovsky.

            I have recommended two books to you, and Michael Murray recommended a decent article. You seem to not want what you claim to want. The books I've recommended are excellent primers on a big idea that spans several disciplines of biology. They are are short as they can be to also be reliably comprehensive.

            Sorry your library experience has so disabled you that you cannot find some way to read a couple of books. Again, inter-library loan.

            You claim to know Christianity, as a lapsed Catholic, "pretty well". This, i must admit, is a surprise. You have not shown any evidence of this. MM certainly has not and he clearly, on a number of issues, has a skewed and negative understanding. Check the evidence. Baptism is a very low level one.

            Do tell where Michael and I have gone astray.

            Again, exaggeration. I asked for evidence of evolution being more than a theory. Instead, this has become accusation because I won't buy the books or make a lengthy trip to a poorly-stocked library, which I have never even bothered to be a member of. All I ask, Max, is one decent article from a reputable source (not a skewed one, assuming I I am already on-board the atheist bandwagon).

            What evidence to you want? I could discuss bio-geography with you, we could discuss the fossil record (how we use evolutionary prediction to find new important fossils say), we could discuss genetics, we could discuss how important the Darwinian lens is becoming in the treatment of infectious disease. If you want we could talk about homologous structures and derived shared characters. We could discuss natural selection and our detailed observations of it, as well as the way in which it leads to speciation. All of these lines of evidence (and some more) support both the fact of evolution, and our current successful theory of why it occurs. We could discuss any number of things but you seem to want to limit the response of those you petition for evidence, so you can dramatically limit the robustness of any treatment. Any short treatment of evolutionary biology is going to be inferior to a longer treatment.

            If you are serious, you could try following Don Prothero's website: http://www.skepticblog.org/author/prothero/

            In fact I would recommend this. Don has worked directly with many of the fossils he discusses so he knows his stuff, and to your taste he is a believing Christian. Anyway, the guy is a paleo -fountain of knowledge. And a really nice guy.

            Also, you could try Talk Origins which isn't an atheist website, but a website that explains the particulars of evolutionary biology.

          • A Jehovah's Witness missionary came to my door one day, and while talking to him he asked me, "Do you believe in Evolution?" I replied, "I don't have to believe in Evolution, I can check it."

          • Max Driffill

            Quine,
            Exactly. I don't like the phrase "believe in evolution" for the parity it implies in other "believe-in" phrases. I think evolution is a fact of nature and that evidence supports the modern theory of evolution as the best explanation for that fact.

          • epeeist

            God is a fact: I am not offering you evidence either. All I ask is if there is no doubts in evolution.

            I will use the same analogy as I have done before on this board. You want to make the bar for science extremely high, which is perfectly acceptable. But for your god you want to put the bar on the floor, which is disingenuous.

            Doubts on the theory of evolution? It is a theory with huge amounts of evidence in its favour, it has been critically tested over a century and a half and has passed all of those tests. Could it be shown to be false by, say, the finding of a rabbit fossil in Cambrian rock samples? Of course it could.

            However, what the falsification of the theory show? Merely that the theory was false. It would not show that any other speculation, such as creationism or its cousin in clown shoes "intelligent design" had any merit.

            I shan't be purchasing those books because I study theology and spend my money in that field.

            An introductory set of pages on evolution from the University of California at Berkeley

          • Michael Murray

            Supply one article that is succinct, clear and without presumption.

            What is without presumption ?

            And why do you call it theory if it is indeed proven fact, as MM claims (without providing such a source)?

            It's called a theory because that is fundamentally what everything in science is. Nothing is proved except theorems in mathematics and logic. Scientists develop theories and test them against evidence and revise them. The theories that last are the ones that have more and more evidence in their favour and pass more and more tests. But they still get called theories. The evidence supporting the theory of evolution by natural selection is overwhelming.

            Notice I am saying evolution by natural selection is the theory because evolution is an observable fact. I just assume "evolutionary theory" is a short hand for that.

            Read the Sean Carroll link I gave you. He's a lot better at explaining things than I am.

            You should also listen to Max who knows a lot more about this than I do.

          • Hegesippus

            So why do you demand proof of religious belief if your science is indeed a faith system?

            BTW "presumption" = a priori.

            Your elusive "evidence supporting the theory of evolution" has not overwhelmed me. It hasn't even whelmed me yet.

          • Michael Murray

            I haven't given you any. I'm telling you what the consensus scientific opinion is. That's what counts. Not what you think of the evidence.

          • Hegesippus

            The word "consensus" points to a belief system, not established objective and immutable fact.

          • Michael Murray

            Did I make a claim that sciences gives us objective immutable facts ? It just gives us theories that are far more likely to be true than those discovered by any other method. Look at all the technology you are surrounded.

            Consensus just means that scientist, who are expert enough to understand it, believe that the evidence shows that the theory is true. So there is an element of belief -- belief in the evidence.

          • Hegesippus

            So you cannot ever reject Christian faith?

            And no one is required to believe in evolution?

            And neither position can be mocked (as it tends to be in some circles)?

          • Michael Murray

            Let me say it again. It's about evidence. There are times when the evidence is so tiny it might as well be called zero. There are times when the opposite applies.

          • As Popper so crucially points out, "evidence" in science, that is, "corroborating evidence" counts only if it is obtained as a result of an experimental test of a risky prediction of the theory.

            All other "corroborating" evidence is bunk, and should be tossed immediately.

            Unless one is doing metaphysics, of course.

            Which is exactly what the evolutionary research program is, manifestly, doing.

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2012/02/marys-bones-part-iii-is-evolution.html

          • Hegesippus

            I've c&p-ed because I think you missed my questions the first time:

            So you cannot ever reject Christian faith?

            And no one is required to believe in evolution?

            And neither position can be mocked (as it tends to be in some circles)?

            I am asking absolute questions here.

          • Michael Murray

            I got it the first time. I don't have absolute answers. Is someone absolutely guilty if found guilty beyond reasonable doubt? Evolution by natural selection has a lot more evidence in its favour than 'beyond reasonable doubt'.

          • Hegesippus

            Sorry, you missed them again.

            If you admit science cannot be absolutely sure, how can anyone mock any belief?

          • Michael Murray

            I guess some people think it's OK to mock beliefs that the regards as being 0.000000000000000001 % likely to be true but aren't certain about.

          • Hegesippus

            Is that a precise number of zeroes or are you exaggerating for effect? Evidence, please.

          • Michael Murray

            Exaggerating to try and get my point across that I don't deal in absolutes. You seemed to have having trouble grasping this.

          • BenS

            So you cannot ever reject Christian faith?

            Meaningless. One can both reject and never reject a faith. I can reject your faith utterly because I don't share it. I can also not reject your faith because it's your faith and I don't share it.

            Your claims can be rejected if they have no evidence. Your belief in them cannot - but nor can anyone else's.

            And no one is required to believe in evolution?

            No one is required to believe anything. You're welcome to disbelieve in gravity and jump off a tall building. Let me know how that works out for you.

            And neither position can be mocked (as it tends to be in some circles)?

            I reserve the right to mock any position I find utterly stupid - which involves whole swathes of religious claims. You're welcome to mock whatever you like, but if you're mocking something as well evidenced as evolution (or gravity) then the mirth at such silliness will probably not be directed where you believe it to be.

          • Hegesippus

            So what authority allows you to reserve the right to mock? Are you infallible? Will you mock yourself if proven wrong? I don't want to mock because this isn't a game.

            And if you could ever prove God must have evidence to exist, or he does not and this belief deserves mocking, I would like to hear it.

            Oh, and check the rules of the forum.

          • BenS

            So what authority allows you to reserve the right to mock?

            My own.

            Are you infallible?

            No, but that's irrelevant.

            Will you mock yourself if proven wrong?

            Absolutely

            I don't want to mock because this isn't a game.

            So don't. No-one's forcing you to... or even asking you to.

            And if you could ever prove God must have evidence to exist, or he does not and this belief deserves mocking, I would like to hear it.

            Not sure I follow. Nothing must have evidence in order to exist, however if it does exist (and interacts with the real world) then evidence will exist of this that can, eventually, be found.

          • Hegesippus

            Why are you demanding everything be done your way?

          • BenS

            Show me where I demanded that.

          • Hegesippus

            Have you even considered just one of my statement properly or simply bulldozed through? That is demanding. I have no wish to continue unless you follow forum rules.

          • BenS

            So, you can't show me where I demanded everything be done my way?

          • BenS

            So why do you demand proof of religious belief if your science is indeed a faith system?

            I think you'll find the refrain around these parts is 'got evidence'. Anyway, if you think science is a faith system I suggest you unplug your computer and let it run on faith rather than principles derived using the scientific method.

            Your elusive "evidence supporting the theory of evolution" has not overwhelmed me. It hasn't even whelmed me yet.

            It doesn't need to. To be honest, the scientific consensus couldn't give a monkey's what you think - unless, of course, you're an evolutionary biologist who actually understands evolution and has found a flaw in it? No? Didn't think so.

          • Hegesippus

            So science is electricity?
            Demanding people believe all scientific theory because technology works is not a strong argument.
            If you don't care what I think why did you reply? I have learned nothing from your post other than aggressive sarcasm is not dead.

          • BenS

            So science is electricity?

            Go read a book, you're making yourself sound silly.

            Demanding people believe all scientific theory because technology works is not a strong argument.

            Good job no-one's making that argument then, eh?

            If you don't care what I think why did you reply?</blockquote?

            Because I can. I'd also brush on your reading comprehension. I didn't say I didn't care. I said the scientific consensus wouldn't care unless you understand the subject and have evidence of a flaw in the theory.

            I have learned nothing from your post other than aggressive sarcasm is not dead.

            Probably because you didn't bother reading it properly.

            I taught you:

            1) People here generally don't demand 'absolute proof' they ask for evidence.
            2) Science is not based on faith (or having faith your computer would still work when unplugged would be scientifically acceptable)
            3) The goal of science is not to convince you personally. If you are at odds with the scientific consensus and you have no evidence to support your position then you are probably wrong.

            See. Every day's a school day.

          • Hegesippus

            Sorry, you miss my point entirely on many counts.

          • BenS

            Apology accepted.

          • Hegesippus

            Sweet of you.

            Now stop replying to my posts unless you have something constructive to write. Start your own thread if you don't.

            This was civilised earlier.

          • BenS

            My posts were constructive, they highlighted errors in your thinking. You might not like my tone but that's by the by. As to stopping replying to your posts? I'm afraid that - if you post on a public forum - you're going to attract replies. Don't like people replying to you? Don't post.

            Brandon himself has repeatedly stated that people are under no obligation to post here and to leave if they don't like it.

            I've not been offensive, I've cast no insults and I've responded to your points. For reference, my definition of civil discourse does not include deliberately misrepresenting another's point of view (rule 3 in the posting guidelines for this site). Hence, if you're not going to read what people write and immediately try and twist it to things like 'science is faith', you're failing to abide by rule three and can hardly claim 'civility'.

          • Hegesippus

            Constructive. X
            Responds to my post. X
            Offensive attitude. X
            Read all I have said to know what I was saying logically. X
            Thinks I should happily accept any aggressive stance. Yup.

            You claim to have taught me. No, your posts have reinforced my understanding of logic trumping a priori.

          • (Raising hand)

            Oooooo, I've got one!

            How does evolutionary theory arrive at the date for, say, a T Rex recovered from the Hell's Creek fossil bed in Montana?

            What are the precise experimental means by which a date is arrived at?

            Is it possible that those dating techniques might, conceivably, be falsifiable?

            How could one falsify them?

          • Max Driffill

            Hegesippus,

            This is a common misunderstanding. In science the word theory is not used in the same way as it is in lay language. When you hear phrases like Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, or Evolutionary Theory this is not to be confused with a lay person's use of the word as in, "i have a theory about that.'

            A scientific theory is an explanatory apparatus, a body of hypotheses so well confirmed (via novel predictions and confirmations of these predictions through experiment and observation) that it is much more than a "best guess." It explains a wide variety of phenomena and as I said, is supported by the evidence of tested prediction.

            Amazing fossil finds for instance are discovered using evolutionary predictions to name just one neat way the theory is confirmed.

          • Hegesippus

            My error. And your confirmation can be found where?

            Do all scientists subscribe to the theory of relativity? Fully and without doubt?

            Sorry to ask, but we Christians get accused of depending on faith in God while I am yet to be made aware of actual evidence which removes any doubts regarding evolution.

            To confirm, I am quite open to evolution which admits space for God, which is consistent with Church teaching. When I became a Christian, I had something convince me. I then learned theology. I am open to evolution within a Christian-compatible framework but I lack a source for a convincing position. MM's suggestion led me to a mishmash headed by wikipedia. Umm, no thanks.

          • Michael Murray

            Do all scientists subscribe to the theory of relativity? Fully and without doubt?

            Well you will have to stick with physicists not all scientists. That said I would think all physicists accept that the evidence supporting the theory of relativity is overwhelming with two provisos:

            (1) It's not a final theory and will change if and when they ever get a theory of quantum gravity that unifies relativity and quantum theory.

            (2) There are always mavericks so Rick will no doubt find us a paper on the arxiv that doubts general relativity.

          • Hegesippus

            So that's a "no" then.

            So why should I (and everyone else, scientist or not) trust your "theory" as fact regarding evolution, but not regarding relativity?

          • Michael Murray

            You should believe that relativity theory has not yet failed to pass a test thrown at it. Have you got gps in your phone or car ? That uses relativity.

            http://www.physics.org/article-questions.asp?id=55

            Science is about testing and evidence.

          • Hegesippus

            So every theory in history that has stood for around a century must be true.
            I need something a little more robust.

          • Michael Murray

            Why ? The aeroplanes fly, the internet works, rovers explore mars, planets are detected around distant stars, mri scans find tumours etc, etc. What are you planning to do with this more robust theory that we can't do now ?

          • Hegesippus

            So because things work so far, it cannot be false? Is this a strong scientific argument? So the Ancient Greeks were correct about the world being flat because they never circumnavigated the globe? Can we really make such assumptions? Will people in a thousand year's time definitely not found any evidence that your theories are not true?

          • Michael Murray

            No. I'm saying there are no theories that are proven immutably. But the history of science is that mostly new theories refine and extend old ones. Newtonian gravity still works very accurately in a large number of areas even though it is wrong.

          • Hegesippus

            So what makes evolution theory immune to special pleading then?

          • Michael Murray

            Because science demands people test things and rewards people who knock down other people's ideas by showing they don't fit the evidence. IIf a scientist wants to be the most famous scientist since Darwin they just have to find a significant problem with natural selection.

          • "science demands people test things and rewards people who knock down other people's ideas by showing they don't fit the evidence"

            >> Which is exactly why we see, conclusively, that evolution is not science:

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2012/02/marys-bones-part-iii-is-evolution.html

          • But this is manifestly false.

            The following fossil find represents a clear challenge to Darwin, since according to Darwin, the fossil ought to be as old as the layer in which it was found.

            But there's a biiiiiiig problem.

            The problem represents a clear opportunity to scientifically test Darwin, but the test is not being done.

            Why?

            Because evolution is a metpahysical, not a scientific, research program.

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2012/02/marys-bones-part-iii-is-evolution.html

          • Hegesippus

            And who decides what "significant" is? Consensus? Not very 'scientific'.

          • Michael Murray

            You've not heard of peer-review ?

          • "You should believe that relativity theory has not yet failed to pass a test thrown at it."

            >> False. Relativity (at least in its current, FLRW solutions) requires that the universe exhibit isotropic and homogeneous distribution of matter on the largest scales; that is, there can be no preferred direction in the cosmos, no up, no down, no left, no right, and we are not privileged observers of the cosmos from our location.

            This mathematical requirement of standard model physics is also known under its philosophical moniker "Copernican Principle".

            This has now- as of March 21 of this year in fact- been observationally falsified:

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2013/03/copernican-principle-1532-2013-rip-why.html

            As to GPS:

            GPS constitutes a huge challenge to Relativity, since it involves a clock correction which renders the GPS accurate from one and only one frame- the center of the Earth taken as motionless.

            If an object is moving with respect to the center of the Earth; say, an airplane- then GPS cannot correctly function for that airplane without a clock correction which renders the speed of light c + v for the airplane, in direct and, arguably, fatal contradiction to Relativity.

          • epeeist

            (2) There are always mavericks so Rick will no doubt find us a paper that has not been peer-reviewed on the arxiv that doubts general relativity.

            Fixed it for you.

          • If I found one that was peer-reviewed, would that have any logical connection at all to whether tt was true?

            Would it have been false until it got peer reviewed, and then true afterward?

            Rather more to the point........

            What if peer review was dedicated to weeding out papers that might challenge Relativity, and disgracefully dishonest people on com boxes would trumpet the lack of peer review as somehow related in any way at all to the truth or falsehood of a paper published on arxiv?

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks epeeist. I forget that not everybody knows how minimal is the checking of a paper that appears on the arXiv. Nothing like peer-review:

            http://arxiv.org/help/endorsement

          • epeeist

            I forget that not everybody knows how minimal is the checking of a paper that appears on the arXiv.

            I suspect many people don't know that arXiv is a pre-print server.

          • Here ya go:

            http://mnras.oxfordjournals.org/content/405/3/1940

            Excerpt:

            "The main result of the paper is that quasar light curves do not show the effects of time dilation."

            Peer reviewed and published in MNRAS.

            Got a friend who was finally able to get published in Astrophysics and Space Science, once he came up with a way to make his results fit in to the standard model.

            Expansions speeds up and slows down at various epochs, you see.

            He knew it was bunk, the referees knew it was bunk, but as long as he was willing to stick it in the paper as a possible, and take out certain inconvenient implications for the Copernican Principle.....

            He got published in a peer reviewed journal.

            Now that we know LCDM is not only wrong, but hysterically wrong (this does not mean it isn't the best model we have- it is, barely, though LTB and Milgrom-related models are closing in-but then again LCDM controls the money and the peer review and the tenure)- it is all just a matter of time.

            Peer review has been drastically perverted, as it predictably will be when enough PhD's on enough walls, enough Nobel Prizes are in danger.

            Circle the wagons.

            That's the stage mainstream science is at now.

            A good sign of better days ahead.

          • Here is an amazing fossil find that constitutes a direct challenge to a crucial, risky prediction of the theory of evolution.

            If evolution were science, they would be subjecting this fossil to experimental test, with the intention of possibly falsifying the theory.

            Instead, they are engaged in research to find a way to explain away the anomaly without challenging the theory.

            This is how we know- with certainty- that evolution is a metaphysical, not a scientific, research program:

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2012/02/marys-bones-part-iii-is-evolution.html

          • The question concerning the evidence adduced in favor of evolution (considered as mutation plus selection = adequate to explain observed biodiversity) is addressed by Popper.

            Popper points out that "corroborating evidence" ought to count *only* if it is obtained as a result of experimental test of a theory, undertaken *with the intention of possibly falsifying it*.

            We now know, with certainty, that the evolutionary research program is not based on this scientific approach to knowledge.

            We know, with certainty, that evolution is now a metaphysical, not a scientific, research program.

            Here is the smoking gun:

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2012/02/marys-bones-part-iii-is-evolution.html

          • "But I think the consensus is that people who have been given the chance to be Catholics and rejected it are going to hell"

            >> Consensus is always irrelevant on matters of dogma.

            Once a dogma has been defined by the catholic Church, then that dogma stands until the end of the world, and can never be understood in any way contrary to the sense which the Church intended when it was first promulgated.

            There are several statements of the dogmas relating to salvation, or damnation.

            This one is comprehensive, as to the specific means of *avoiding* hell.

            There is absolutely no way to avoid hell, except to be joined to the Catholic Church before death; that is, to be justified; that is, to be regenerated; that is, to be translated from the condition of original sin, contracted through propagation by every human person; and subsequently to persevere in faith, hope, and charity, so as to die infused with those virtues.

            There are no exceptions.

            Anyone who says that there are is either an heretic, a liar, or confused.

            Here is the dogma:

            Pope Eugene IV, Cantate Domino (1441, ex cathedra, de fide definita):

            "The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not onlypagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the "eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41), unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church."

          • stanz2reason

            Circular reasoning is circular reasoning regardless of whether one is catholic or not. It is not an exaggeration to call it such. I'm speaking for the rest of the world that is not him using the circular reasoning.

          • But the reasoning is not in any way circular, stanz.

            Please notice:

            "the entity which defines what Scripture consists in, and possesses, by direct testimony of Scripture, the infallible means of correctly interpreting it"

            We have two assertions here.

            1. The Church defines what Scripture consists in

            2. The Church possesses, by direct testimony of Scripture, the infallible means of correctly interpreting it

            The first is a truth accessible to reason alone.

            The second is a truth accessible to to faith, but not contrary to reason.

            As to the first point, "the Church defines what Scripture consists in".

            This is an historical fact.

            It does not depend upon any logical assumption whatever.

            It is a simple fact of history.

            The Catholic Church met in Council, the Popes of the Catholic Church issued decrees, and the matter was settled throughout the Church, East and West.

            The second point, "The Church possesses, by direct testimony of Scripture, the infallible means of correctly interpreting it":

            If the US Supreme ourt claims to have the authority to interpret the US Constitution, why, that is absolutely true.

            How do we know this?

            The US Constitution *says so*.

            This is not circular in any way at all.

            It is factual.

            And in exactly the same way, Scripture informs us that the Church, not the Scripture, is the "pillar and foundation" of the truth; as it would have to be, since the Church (see #1 above) pre-exists the canon of Scripture; She defines what Scripture consists in.

            There is a difference, of course.

            The Supreme Court, while it certainly has the *authority* to interpret the US Constitution, is not in any way guaranteed not to make a dog's breakfast out of it.

            The Catholic Church, since She is interpreting not merely a human, but a Divine text, is provided the additional, quite important help from the Author, that She shall never bind the faithful to error in matters of faith or morals, since She will be guided by the Spirit that Authored the Scripture.

            This claim is accessible only to Faith; the atheist is free to point out that there is no way to get to that by logic alone.

            But as to my original statement, there is no circularity of logic involved.

          • stanz2reason

            Divine Authority granted by the text of the text. Text is so because it's divinely authorized. Divine Authority granted by the text or the text. Text is so because it's divinely authorized. Divine Authority granted by the text of the text...

            Etc. Etc. Etc. See where we're going with this?

          • Any authority, granted by any text.

            The Constitution, for example.

            It is a text.

            It grants authority.

            It is historically certain which authority decided what the Constitution consists in.

            It is historically certain the Constitution identifies the Supreme Court as the authentic interpreter of the Constitution.

            Now take "Bible" for Constitution, and "Church" for "authority" and "Supreme VCourt", and

            voila!

            See where we're going with this?

          • Loreen Lee

            Is there any 'reason' why a 'universal' truth cannot be represented as a 'singularity'? Is there any reason to assume a lesser capacity of early man-kind to make such a 'rationalization' in this regard? After all, is not the 'origin' of 'man' an acknowledgment of 'rationality' and/or 'normative thought'? A definition: homo sapient: The species is in the genus. The genus is in the species.....

          • stanz2reason

            "Why couldn't we just say 'the literal meaning is the meaning most clearly intended by the original author' with respect to Christ's life and actions were just an allegorical exaggeration of an otherwise normal guy?"

            Umm... what??

            Is there any reason to assume a lesser capacity of early man-kind to make such a 'rationalization' in this regard?

            Being that I'm not clear on what you're talking about I'm afraid I can't respond properly. I will point out though that the development and use of a formal language along with writing and other forms keeping records is a relatively recent phenomena. Without these tools it's difficult to say how effective any schools of thought would be amongst a group of cavemen preoccupied with hunting, mating and grunting at one another.

            After all, is not the 'origin' of 'man' an acknowledgment of 'rationality' and/or 'normative thought'? A definition: homo sapient: The species is in the genus. The genus is in the species.....

            Ummm... what??

          • Loreen Lee

            Well I just have this 'vision' of these cavemen sitting around with their bones writing a document that they 'visualize' as being the 'word of God', as it deals with metaphysical/theological truths, although they don't yet have the vocabulary to identify the scope of their bone-a-log. Anyway, while they are chewing the fat, (literally) they are aware that they can judge one anothers behavior, and think, I wonder how this got started. Then they think up a story about two creatures called Adam and Eve, to explain what brought them to a state where they find themselves in continual argument and perplexity. They already have an idea of the genesis of this 'evolution', because that was a previous chapter written after the last hunt, when they used the word 'day' instead of 'eon' because their vocabulary is limited.. As they are still basically down to the bare bones of the argument, they are quite happy that the possibility of a story of one man and one woman, would explain why they are in continual disagreement with one another, and feel guilty over sex, and other 'intrusions' of something that seems to happen in the head, but they haven't got around to explaining that yet.

            That's the best I can do

          • stanz2reason

            I think it's far more difficult to chart the evolution of human thought than you realize. Metaphysical thought isn't typically high up in the 'necessary to survive' department. Until we had command of things like fire and basic agricultural skills I doubt anyone gave it much thought so to speak. It's only probably recognizable as such for a few thousand years, after we'd developed language, writing & such.

          • Loreen Lee

            Well, and thanks for accepting my 'humor' in the last comment, the story about Adam and Eve is at least about normative thought, as it deals with the 'knowledge of good and evil'. Whoever wrote this story was aware of this aspect of human nature. It also is metaphysical/or/theological because they have an awareness of 'God' as a unifying and creative will. That's the kind of truth that is the subject of the 'book'. As Cain and Able portray a people who are hunter-gatherers, or what not, the academics who search out the historical nature of biblical texts might now be able to better pin point the story in time. There are a lot of begets in one early chapter if I remember, without much else happening, which suggests that these 'revelations' did not occur often - yes?

          • Hegesippus

            If "Metaphysical thought isn't typically high up in the 'necessary to survive' department," then that suggests divine contact, presumably with accuracy towards the contact regarding that contact.

          • stanz2reason

            No, it suggests low on the priority of things to concern oneself about when issues of survival are at stake. Once things like food & safety are taken care of we're freed up to enjoy things like metaphysical discussions, sports & movies. How in the world this might suggest divinity (who didn't seemed that concerned in eons prior as we we starved and were attacked and eaten) is unclear. Sounds like a case of 'God did it... cause it makes me feel good to say that'.

          • Hegesippus

            A very anthropologically and theologically accurate and rich story, as evidenced by the extent that JPII's theology of the body could develop from it. Can we expect the same from a two page tale from Mesopotamia? Ancient Greece?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            First, allegory doesn’t arise from exaggeration. In an allegory, events are invented to stand for ideas and experiences outside the immediate story. For example, in the Medieval masterpiece “The Pearl,” the narrator laments that he lost his precious pearl in a garden. What he is really talking about is that his beloved daughter has died.

            The literal meaning of a text is dependent on the genre of the text in question. To establish the genre of an ancient text is quite a tricky business, since we can't talk to the author(s) and there may be just a few examples or even just one example of that genre still in existence.

            Unsophisticated readers (which is most of us most of the time) read with their own preconceptions and experiences as a guide. So, I would say, most people who pick up the first thee chapters of Genesis read them literalistically, as if they are meant to be read as a true story from the ancient past. They can be read quite usefully that way. However, as pointed out in other comments, in the early Church some commentators argued for a non-literalistic reading, modern science confirms that Genesis is not a scientific account of creation, and modern exegeses has a lot to say about what the (possibly) many authors were attempting to say.

            In the case of the Gospels, I think the case is overwhelming that the writers were attempting to write history according to the way writers would convey historical events at that time. In other words, the Gospels (and Acts) are historical books but not written in a way 20th century historians would go about it.

          • stanz2reason

            That sounds an awful bit like suggesting the ridiculousness of genesis is obviously not true but the slightly less ridiculousness of the gospels is true becuase I said so. As Christs death was meant to somehow conquer original sin wouldnt our ability to dismiss genesis as an alegorical flourish kinda put a damper on everything else??

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm not arguing that Genesis is an allegory. I don't find Genesis the least bit ridiculous. To me the first four chapters of Genesis are genius-level literature, a kind of myth-like parable which transmits truth.

          • Hegesippus

            Basic study of the language used in different parts of the Bible renders it clear the genre written and therefore the intentions of the author. It's about time this high school understanding is accepted by cosmologically-aware "scientists" arguing that the whole of the Bible is lumped together as either true or false.

          • stanz2reason

            It's 1 genre. It's called fan-fiction. It's as likely to be true as any other tale with magic.

          • Michael Murray

            Cherries, cherries, pick 'em while their ripe !

          • Hegesippus

            Genres, genres, read 'em how authors write!

          • Michael Murray

            Shouldn't it be "read 'em how authors write 'em". There is the problem. Deciding how the authors wrote them.

          • Hegesippus

            So read some experts on it. Start with De Lubac. Or go early with Origen. Or are you an expert already in this area?

            As for grammatical scrupulosity, the accusative does not need to be repeated as it is clearly in context.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            the ridiculousness of genesis is obviously not true but the slightly less ridiculousness of the gospels is true becuase I said so

            Spot on, stanz.

            The mainstream Catholic approach is to evade absurdities in the literal Bible account by liberal use of the "allegory" label.

            This is not particularly more dispositive of said absurdities than is the fundamentalist approach of attacking science wherever it contradicts the literal account.

            I agree with Rick DeLano on almost nothing, but at least he is a Catholic with the guts to try and defend a literal, counter-Darwinian, counter-Copernican point of view.

          • Hegesippus

            Not emotive language in the slightest.

          • Hegesippus

            So allegory has neither meaning or message?
            Baby, bathwater.

          • stanz2reason

            The 'tortoise & the hare'... has both meaning and message. Not a true story. See where I'm going with this??

          • Hegesippus

            So this must apply to Genesis?

            If you're going anywhere, it's more the tortoise!

          • " modern science confirms that Genesis is not a scientific account of creation"

            >> Modern science asserts this.

            Modern science has its own problems, of course.

            I wonder if "science" is even the proper term for a construction which depends for its validity upon the invention of 96% of the mass and energy of the universe in forms which not only have never been observed, but which are, in some quarters, just lately suggested as never being observable at all.

            It is a key insight into the present disasters befalling our beloved Holy Church, that the tottering foundations of modern science are taken as somehow more reliable than the ancient, unanimous patristic consensus on the meaning of Genesis 1-3.

          • "How might one go about differentiating between what was written as metaphor or poetry and that which was written as a literal description of events?"

            Literal description of events: Guy found a crumbled statue in a desert

            Poetic description of events:

            "I met a Traveler from an antique land,
            Who said, "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
            Stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand,
            Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
            And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
            Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
            Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
            The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
            And on the pedestal these words appear:
            "My name is OZYMANDIAS, King of Kings."
            Look on my works ye Mighty, and despair!
            No thing beside remains. Round the decay
            Of that Colossal Wreck, boundless and bare,
            The lone and level sands stretch far away."

            The immeasurable superiority of the second account is an example of why poetry conveys wisdom which is not accessible to the journalist.

        • severalspeciesof

          "What truth is there in telling us that women come from a man's rib?"

          There is deep theological meaning to this truth, namely that man and
          woman were made from "one flesh" and are thus designed to return to that
          "one flesh" union.

          There may be deep theological meanings to this now, as a post hoc explanation to the story, but the idea that a woman came from a rib/bone predates Judaism...

          Glen

          • There may be deep theological meanings to this now, as a post hoc
            explanation to the story, but the idea that a woman came from a rib/bone
            predates Judaism...

            Why assume that the meaning is "post hoc" on the basis that there are earlier versions of the story?

          • josh

            Because it is the most consistent and parsimonious explanation of the evidence. Why posit anything otherwise?

          • Because it is the most consistent and parsimonious explanation of the evidence. Why posit anything otherwise?

            First, there is no guarantee that the most consistent and parsimonious explanation is the true one, especially when it comes to the oral transmission of myths and legends. And second, why is it the most parsimonious interpretation to assume that a symbolic meaning was added later rather than present from the beginning? There is no compelling reason to suspect that the ur-version of the Adam and Eve story did not contain the concept of the unity of man and woman symbolized by the woman being made from the rib of the man.

          • josh

            As Sage McCarey points out above, the old message that we have evidence for is that woman is a secondary, 'helpmeet' creation to man. We don't have evidence that the ancient story-tellers ever talked as though Adam and Eve were fictional characters, nor that the primary message they wanted to convey was the 'unity' of man and woman. I think ancient story-tellers often meant the legends to be taken literally, but they believed there were hidden and symbolic meanings that the literal events conveyed because the had been organized by God or other mystic forces. The idea that the stories only convey symbolic meanings seems to be a modern gloss forced by the advance of real knowledge and skepticism. The fact that the modern interpretations don't match up well with the actual symbols used also shows this. E.g., Eve comes from a rib, secondarily created and is the one who corrupts Adam in the story. That is not a straightforward way to indicate unity. Adam and Eve split equally from a primordial whole would suggest that symbolism.

          • nor that the primary message they wanted to convey was the 'unity' of man and woman.

            Have you read the story recently? Ever?

            The LORD God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman. When he brought her to the man, the man said:
            “This one, at last, is bone of my bones
            and flesh of my flesh;
            This one shall be called ‘woman,’
            for out of man this one has been taken.”
            That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.

            How much more explicitly can the idea of unity be made? Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone—two become one body!

            Also note this little touch, which Harold Bloom takes to be a bit of humor on the part of J (the authorial source), whom he takes to be a woman

            The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him. So the LORD God formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each living creature was then its name. The man gave names to all the tame animals, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be a helper suited to the man.

            God seems to fail in every attempt to make Adam a helper, creating all the animals in the world, but none will do! So he creates a woman, and finally gets it right.

          • josh

            I agree that if you ignore all the salient points you can take whatever you want to out of the story. I'm in fact happy that you are inclined to do so, since it indicates that you don't want to treat women the way they were treated by Abrahamic/Biblical culture throughout most of history. I think you could do this even better by realizing that the story isn't divinely inspired and is just an artifact from an ancient and none-too-admirable civilization.

            As you point out, in the ancient telling, woman is superior to all the animals, but inferior to man. Just as man is given dominion over the animals, and made in God's image, but still (infinitely) inferior to God.

          • severalspeciesof

            Thanks David for pointing this out. When I wrote that I was thinking in terms of how one of the precursor stories was originally told: http://books.google.com/books?id=WPsgAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA11&lpg=PA11&dq=Bedel+Tartars+of+Siberia&source=bl&ots=xIqhL_uqtI&sig=SibvUopnCNta40XVGuYDTMqrGDU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=9U3UUeeAMaqdyQGdqYDYDw&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Bedel%20Tartars%20of%20Siberia&f=false

            Whereby the formation of the woman was from the devil, a wholly different perspective than that of Genesis. I'll strike the post hoc part out...

            I'll blame it on the caffeine (lack thereof) and a painful back situation... ;-)

          • I hope you feel better! My sympathies to anyone who suffers from back pain. I bet we can agree that we were never meant to walk upright!

          • severalspeciesof

            :)

          • Sage McCarey

            The meaning of the story is very, very clear. Woman is subordinate to man. There are so many other creation stories that make much more sense. The ones where a woman (the only one who produces life from her body) creates the world and the people in it.

          • The meaning of the story is very, very clear. Woman is subordinate to man.

            I think that is arguably implicit in the Adam and Eve story taken in its entirety, but not necessarily so in the part about Eve being made from Adam's rib. Adam, after all, was made from dirt. So what does that say about him.

            I don't think we can blame those thousands of years ago, living in a patriarchal culture, for not making Eve a liberated woman and Adam someone who does 50% of the housework.

            It is foolish to criticize any ancient literature for not being written with 21st-century sensibilities.

          • josh

            But isn't it more foolish to try and guide our 21-st century sensibilities with ancient literature? That's the project being criticized.

          • We still read Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, Euripides, Homer, Aesop, etc. You can still use Euclid's The Elements as a geometry textbook.

          • Joe Ser

            It is interesting that a really good source of multipotent, pluripotent, and unipotent stem cells is the rib.

          • severalspeciesof

            It is interesting that a really good source of multipotent, pluripotent, and unipotent stem cells is the rib.

            I'm curious, why do you think this? Why wouldn't this be the case since bone marrow has been known to contain stem cells for quite a while?

            Glen

          • Joe Ser

            The rib is one of the few bones that continue to make red marrow when adult. In addition, ribs regenerate.

        • 42Oolon

          My point is that the rib business, calling it a 6 -day creation, talking snakes, the garden of eden. It is all apparently metaphor and theology. We also only discovered that it was not literal some 1700-1800 years after it was written, with thousands and thousands of Christians believing it to be history.

          None of these things seem to be related to a simple truth. "we are all one flesh". Sure you can imply that from making a story saying that a woman was created from a man. That is also consistent with it being a myth. E.g. the earth and all of us are made out of the dead body of a giant, or Gaia.

          What would be incredible is if God had explained that we were all one flesh by suggesting the actual process he used - evolution. Not only are all humans one flesh, but we are related to all animals and plants, we are stardust with our components created in supernovae. This is all confirmed now but would have been radical at the time, but made a lot more sense.

          • Marc M

            "We also only discovered that it was not literal some 1700-1800 years after it was written..."

            I assume you are referring to the 1700-1800s CE? You might like to read up on the church fathers. Origen rejected a strictly literal reading of Genesis in the 3rd century, and Augustine thouroughly fleshed that concept out in the 5th.

            Someone above argued that the Fathers insisted on a strict, fundamentalist, literalist interpretation of Genesis and that this was the "orthodox" Catholic position, but that's frankly, demonstrably, and simply untrue.

          • To the contrary.

            It is completely certain that an overwhelming consensus of the Fathers accepted Genesis' creation account as literal history.

            To deny this would be to deny that two plus two equals four, since one can count up the Fathers' references to the creation account, notice whether they understand the Days as literal Days, and notice that they do so *unanimously*, with the sole exception of Augustine, who proposes that it might be One Day, and Origen, whose tendency to allegorize Scripture can be recognized as proceeding from his philosophical premises, and not from Apostolic Tradition, since Origen's approach was never adopted by the Catholic Church.

            Since in matters of this importance, truthfulness- especially truthfulness which serves to challenge, discomfit, and force into view the false assumptions brought unexaminedly to the table by all- is crucial, may I say:

            Any assertion that a literal reading of the Days of Genesis was not a unanimous consensus of the Fathers, as that term has come to be employed in Catholic theology to signify a sufficient consensus so as to recognize Apostolic Tradition.......

            Is simply wrong, and can be demonstrated to be so quite easily.

            I simply challenge any one with a contrary view to supply their patristic evidence, and I shall supply mine, and then let us do the math.

          • Marc M

            Ah yes, the Fathers are unanimous, especially the ones that agree.

            Perhaps the Angelic Doctor's point of view would be helpful:

            "There are some things that are by their very nature the substance of faith, as to say of God that He is three and one. . . about which it is forbidden to think otherwise. . . . There are other things that relate to the faith only incidentally. . . and, with respect to these, Christian authors have different opinions, interpreting the Sacred Scripture in various ways. Thus with respect to the origin of the world, there is one point that is of the substance of faith, viz. , to know that it began by creation. . . . But the manner and the order according to which creation took place concerns the faith only incidentally." http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/sc0035.html

            But he was writing in the 13th century, so maybe he had the benefit of our modern scientific sensibilities. Beyond Origen and Augustine, since you're asking for evidence with the caveat that "those don't count!!", you will also find Clement of Alexandria in the early 3rd century who insisted that time was created along with creation, so the "days" were figurative; Cyprian and others who believed each "day" to mean "a thousand years," etc. Even in the first century, Jewish contemporaries of Jesus were writing about Genesis from the point of view that the rejection of a literalistic interpretation was perfectly acceptable. "Journalistic reportage" was not what they meant by "true."

            Are you suggesting that it would have been more reasonable for God to sit Moses down in front of a chalkboard for some basic trigonometry before dealing with the enslavement of the Israelites?

          • "Clement of Alexandria in the early 3rd century who insisted that time was created along with creation, so the "days" were figurative;"

            >> Citation and/or direct quote please (I have seen this one advanced before, and it is highly instructive to determine whether your claim is based on an actual reading of an actual text of Clement, or whether it is lifted from a website that tells you what Clement meant, but not what Clement said).

            "Cyprian and others who believed each "day" to mean "a thousand years,"

            >> Citation and/or direct quote please. This one is a whopper. Wait until you see the actual quote, and wait until you see how it is wrested in the above "summation".

            So far you have advanced two.

            It will be seen that both claims are false, once the actual texts are examined.

            Got any more?

            I have hundreds.

          • Marc M

            Please answer my question first; I want to understand why this is important to you. It's very important to me because frankly there's little difference between embracing a 6-day creation today and embracing a flat earth--both in rational terms, and in what bearing either question has on the truth of the Bible or of Catholicism.

            So do you actually suppose that God ought to have taught Moses some astrophysics? What's your position here?

        • Mikegalanx

          "There is deep theological meaning to this truth, "

          What is wrong with this? That, in fact, it is not true. There may be a deep theological meaning to this story, myth, allegory or whatever, but not to this "truth", because there is no truth here.

          There is a deep theological meaning to the story of Prometheus stealing fire from the gods; there is a deep theological meaning to Samwise sparing Gollum; but there is no truth to any of this.

    • Karie, please see the second part of my comment elsewhere on this thread.

  • stanz2reason

    Nice article. It seems more an affirmation of Q's position than a response to it, but I enjoyed it none the less. A few quick notes.

    the “hiddenness of divinity” is only one of two things God has revealed to us.

    Must I even point out the contradiction of revealing hiddenness? How does a God perfectly hidden differ from a God who isn't there at all?

    Here, in the fulfillment of all things, resides the Resurrection, an event not historical in the same way as Augustine’s fateful decision to go to Rome...

    This is a statement I'd like to see expanded and clarified.

    ... and the miracles of Christ and the saints, all of which foreshadow and prepare a new creation rather than replacing MN as an approach to this universe.

    This is also a statement I'd like to see expanded and clarified.

    • " It seems more an affirmation of Q's position than a response to it."

      Are the two mutually exclusive? Can we respond to others by affirming what they've said?

      We don't *always* have to disagree, you know ;)

      • stanz2reason

        No, not always of course. However what was categorized as a 'response' (which is how the article was billed) was more of a continuance. I'd expect a response to offer more contrast. Not really a point worth expanding on as it's semantic one. Just worth foot-noting so to speak.

    • "How does a God perfectly hidden differ from a God who isn't there at all?"

      Well the primary difference is that the first God exists, even if he is completely hidden. Let's not confuse ontology--the question of God's being--with epistemology--the question of how and whether we can know God exists.

      • stanz2reason

        Well the primary difference is that the first God exists, even if he is completely hidden.

        How might we thing differentiate between the two (a perfectly hidden God vs. one who's not there at all)?

        Let's not confuse ontology--the question of God's being--with epistemology--the question of how and whether we can know God exists.

        The two are related so closely that to question one is to invariably question the other.

        • GreatSilence

          If God was not hidden, and a simple fact, would you love Him? Would that love that you then had have any value?

          • stanz2reason

            My family is not hidden. I have the memory of those I lost even if they're not there. I have no problem loving them nor do I have any problem saying that love is valuable to me. I'm not really sure what your point is?

          • GreatSilence

            You were talking about God being hidden. I know that this is a problem in accepting God, so I was trying to explain to you why God should remain hidden, according to a Catholic point of view. God may argue (and of course we are speculating, as Catholics) that our love given without the possible coercion of God as a brute fact is worth more than love given to a God that is a proven reality.

          • stanz2reason

            I'm still unsure what you're getting at. My position isn't that he's hidden but that he's likely not there at all. I see no reason to spend a moment of my life worshipping a figment of someone else's imagination. If the catholic is looking for grounds to convince or even communicate to someone there version of God, it seems unconvincing to start from the notion that God is so hidden its as if he's not even there at all.

      • 42Oolon

        You may need to read this again Brandon, the author clearly says that
        "God is not one among the things that exists."

        And of course neither you nor the author believes god is completely hidden, do you?

        • 42Oolon, I think you're misunderstanding what Dr. Baglow said. Following the Aquinas tradition of describing God as ipsum esse--pure existence, or the sheer act of "to exist"--Dr. Baglow is not saying that God *doesn't* exist. Existence isn't a property that God does or does not have, as everything in our world can be said to exists or not: God is existence. Or to use Aristotle's language, he is "pure actuality."

          • 42Oolon

            Either it "exists" in some way or does not. It can't both exist and not exist.

            "pure existence" is... existence!

            "Properties" apply to things that exist. Things that do not exist have no properties.

            If God IS existence, then I see no need to call it a "him" or a god. Just say "the existence".

          • primenumbers

            So why 20 proofs for God's existence if we cannot say or "God does not exist"? Of course when you say "Existence isn't a property that God does or does not have" you're right because nothing has the property of existence as existence isn't a property, but neither is it what something or anything is. Existence is a way of saying that something is real and hence is able to have actual properties.

            "Pure existence" - is a rather meaningless phrase, especially because you want your God to be a personal being. I know it you see saying "God does not exist" is nonsense because you define God as necessarily existing, but you must realize that if existence isn't a property (as you rightly point out above) you cannot define God as having the property of necessarily existing.

            So what does this mean.... It means that your notion of God is so incoherent that discussion on whether God exists is pointless. You think it's great to give 20 arguments why God exists, but then when it is shown through argument that God does not exist, you move the goal posts. What this appears to be, as an outsider looking in, is rationalization of the incoherence of existence as applied to your God concept, and quite frankly it's not exactly convincing.

        • Chris Baglow

          By which I meant, "God is not an existent, a thing." And yes, I believe that God can be known only as unknown. Consider this dialogue "On the Hidden God" (De Deo Abscondito) by the medieval cardinal and theologian Nicholas of Cusa. It begins with the pagan observing the Christian at prayer:

          The Pagan spoke:
          I see that you have most devoutly prostrated yourself and are shedding tears of
          love-not hypocritical tears but heart-felt ones. Who are you, I ask?
          Christian: I am a Christian.
          Pagan: What are you worshipping?
          Christian: God.
          Pagan: Who is [this] God whom you worship?
          Christian: I don't know.
          Pagan: How is it that you worship so seriously that of which you have no knowledge?
          Christian: Because I am without knowledge [of Him], I worship [Him].

          • josh

            Very zen. So we have finally come to the point where Catholics abandon a pretense of reason?

          • Chris Baglow

            To say that God is beyond reason is not to abandon reason, it is to profess the Absolute Mystery of God. I want to join Quine in applauding MN which is the use of reason.

          • josh

            It's to say that you haven't reasoned your way to God. You don't even seem to have a reason to assert God, nor a reason why 'he' is an Absolute Mystery (TM). In any other circumstance this would be the point at which you acknowledge that the idea is meaningless or wrong and get on with your life. I thought Catholicism rejected fideism.

          • 42Oolon

            I am honestly unsure what the author believes. A god that is not a "thing" that "exists" but not like "things" "exists"? I am utterly confused now.

            I consider that which "does not exist in the way things exist" to be concepts of non-reality, imaginary or fictional. That which are not things are "no thing", nothing. How else can we use the word "thing"?!

          • 42Oolon, if you're truly interested in clearing up your confusion, and not merely posturing, I suggest reading Thomas Aquinas' classic book On Being and Essence (De Ente Et Essentia). It's fairly short and accessible, and will provide clarity on what Catholics mean when we say God neither exists nor doesn't exist but *is* existence itself.

          • 42Oolon

            I have read excerpts. I may read it more fully one day. But why can't you or the Mr Baglow give me the distinction in a few paragraphs here? Is that not the purpose of the site? Is the nature of God's mere "existence" so complicated? Does it really require reading a whole book? I am not posturing, but I do think you are both equivocating on this word "existence".

            I am sure Catholics all agree that "God exists" but when pressed on what you mean by existence and God, I am told God is not an "existent thing", but part of some other unknown way of existing? I hope I am not mis-characterizing your responses here.

            I am an atheist and one of the main reasons for this position is that I find, when pressed, theists either point to a god-being that conflicts with science (e.g. a 6-day, 24-hour creation process etc.) or they retreat into some paradoxical, vague definition of a "non-thing" that is not existent, but does exist in some way that is never explained in any comprehensible way.

            I cannot believe in something that exists in some way that I cannot comprehend.

          • Do you believe that photons exist?

          • 42Oolon

            yes.

          • Then you already believe in something that exists in some way that you cannot comprehend. I understand your hesitation as an atheist, but I'm just pointing that out. Even in science, we have to admit that there are things that exist beyond our comprehension.

          • stanz2reason

            That doesn't make a lot of sense Stacy. We not only have evidence for the existence of photons, but somewhat of an understanding of what they are and how they function. It's not a case of comprehension.

          • Of course we have evidence, it's called light. But we do not know what photons actually are. We have equations and models that explain appearances. It is definitely a case of inadequate comprehension.

          • stanz2reason

            Light itself isn't really good evidence for the existence of photons, though there is plenty of other evidence available. However, that we do not have full comprehension of something is far different from having no comprehension as the version of God described above. In addition, any physicist worth his weight would not accept a retreat by relegating natural phenomena as an unsolvable mystery and find that an acceptable long term answer. Believers not only accept this position, but for some odd reason think it's a strength to your position.

          • I recommend reading Sir Alfred Brian Pippard's essay, "The Invincible Ignorance of Science." It's behind a pay wall, but he would take serious exception to what you just wrote. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00107518808213766#preview

            I have the document, I think I'm going to cover it on my blog next week if you're interested.

          • epeeist

            I recommend reading Sir Alfred Brian Pippard's essay, "The Invincible Ignorance of Science."

            Which is available here.

            I found it a little rambling, but there are some interesting points in it.

            1. Firstly it would seem to make Quine's point to a large extent in that he is very much against scientism.

            2. Secondly, I would take a small issue with his claims about the mind and physics. Would it be possible to produce a description of mind at the level of physics? Eventually it might, but would it be useful in terms of attempting to determine what the Eroica meant to him? I would suspect not, which is why supervenience relationships are part of the language of the philosophy of mind, this is effectively his "practical dualism".

            3. He seems to be a scientific realist with an almost Kuhnian view of the history of science.

            4. If you do write this up I wish you joy in attempting to come to terms with non-local realism.

          • It does go off course in places. I liked the end, but I keep rereading the rest to figure out how he got there.

            1. Yes!

            2. He seems to say two different things, the mind may be emergent from the brain, but it cannot be. But he's not the only scientist or philosopher to struggle with that.

            3. I don't know.

            4. I may never. Ugh.

          • Michael Murray

            But we do not know what photons actually are.

            Do we even know what "knowing what something actually is" is ?

            I don't think it gets any better than knowing how something behaves.

          • epeeist

            But we do not know what photons actually are.

            No we don't. But that route leads to radical scepticism and the claim that we can't actually know anything.

            But in the same way, can you actually say what your god (assuming it exists) is?

          • 42Oolon

            Please explain how you think photons exist in a way that I cannot comprehend. I have stated that I cannot comprehend how some non-thing can exist without being in space/time. As far know photons are things that exist in space/time.

          • epeeist

            Do you believe that photons exist?

            No, I have lots of evidence that would indicate that photons do exist. In other words, the proposition "photons exist" is justified.

            But of course yours is a category mistake. Photons exist as part of this universe, they are physical. Your god supposedly is not physical or part of this universe.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think the answer to your quandary is one I heard a long time ago, which I didn't like, but have found it to be true.

            "Philosophy should be made as simple as possible, but not more simple than it is."

            That means in its simplest formulations philosophy is still hard work. I think this is because it deals with abstract concepts, they are hard to comprehend, they are hard to hold in your head, and it's certainly hard to hold two or three at once.

          • epeeist

            I suggest reading Thomas Aquinas

            Don't you guys know any philosophers after Aquinas?

          • GreatSilence

            Fesser. Kreeft. There are others.

          • Fesser. Kreeft. There are others.

            Maybe it's fair to call them philosophers, in that they study philosophy. But I think they are explicators of philosophy and apologists, not "working" philosophers like Aquinas, Hume, Wittgenstein, Kant, and so on.

            I have probably brought up Aquinas here many times, but epeeist has at least half a point.

          • GreatSilence

            Of course they are philosophers, David. The fact that they may still be working with the original work done by Aquinas etc does not detract from that. We find the same on the atheist side, where people like Nagel and others are quite rightly regarded as philosophers even though they are working in the shadows Hume et al.

          • This is a somewhat pointless discussion, but Nagel is in an entirely different league than Kreeft or Feser. (Feser has only one s, by the way.) If you were to say Charles Taylor, Elizabeth Anscombe, Bernard Lonergan, John Finnis, or Alasdair MacIntyre I wouldn't quarrel at all. Kreeft and Feser are more apologists and popularizers.

          • GreatSilence

            Their respective talents and skills I will leave for each individual to assess for themselves, but your initial approach was to call into question the very fact whether we should even regard them as philosophers, and that is just quite bizarre.

          • I think even Kreeft and Feser would be taken aback to be the two names mentioned in response to, "Don't you guys know any philosophers after Aquinas?"

          • GreatSilence

            It was a simple question that deserved, and got, a simple answer. He did not ask whether we know any philosophers of the stature of Aquinas, simply whether we know other philosophers. That was answered. But you are right, this is becoming "pointless".

          • epeeist

            but epeeist has at least half a point.

            Two and a half usually, I coach foil, epee and sabre and have one of each in my bag.

          • Touché!

          • Michael Murray

            Which one has the half point ?

          • epeeist

            Which one has the half point ?

            Sabre, it is mainly an edge weapon, though the point can be used.

          • The distinction being made here is, I think, related to the fact that God is not a "thing" because a "thing" is something *created*, an "artifact" if you will. God does not exist as one thing among all the other things He created, but exists apart from all created things....the Un-created, so to speak...

          • 42Oolon

            The author could easily have said God is not a created thing or an artifact. Rather he said God is "not existent [comma] a thing."

            I also see no reason that non-created "things" cannot exist in space-time or be known to us.

          • stanz2reason

            Chris. Thanks for the article & the post. How might one go about differentiating between a God who is entirely unknown and one who doesn't exist in the first place? Are we limiting God to that which we do not know?

          • Chris Baglow

            Sorry for my absenteeism. I'm sneaking in replies while on vacation.

            stanz: Singularity is a good word here. Usually to know "that" is also to know "what." In the case of God, we can know "that" there is a God, but by by virtue of the case we must also deny comprehension of "what" God is. Here's why:

            Every thing "that" we know exists involves knowing, at least barely, "what" it is. But what a thing is always involves its contingency, the fact that it exists "only if" something else exists (even if the something else be simply a scientific law, like gravity). I am not talking about temporal, non-simultaneous causality here (such as a mother causing a daughter, and so on). I am talking about explanatory dependency in the here and now, such as "I exist because of the stability of the proton, the earth's magnetic field exists because the earth exists" etc. Growth in knowledge of any thing is always a fuller comprehension of dependencies of this type - knowing more about what a thing is involves knowing more about its contingencies.

            But there cannot be an infinity of "only if's." The links in the chain of explanatory dependency cannot be actual unless there is pure actuality. There must be a "that" which transcends only-if existence and grounds finite things, are we have an absurdity. And since all comprehension of "what" a thing is involves understanding its dependencies, it must be a "that" about which we cannot use descriptives in any straightforward way. At this point, say God, "to be" subsisting in itself (a translation of Thomas Aquinas' ipsum esse subsistens), Necessary Being, do your best with whatever term best voids your mind of explanatory dependencies.

            I wish could say more, but vacation calls, so I'll give it back to Augustine for the last word: "Si comprehendis, non est Deus" - if you understand what it is, it is not God.

          • stanz2reason

            In the case of God, we can know "that" there is a God,

            Please elaborate how we can know such a thing.

            You dive into first cause points here. I don't feel you're going to sell me on it. There is a huge leap between establishing a first cause (not a certainty, but an option I'd entertain) and that that first cause is God who willfully acted both deliberately and purposefully in creation, that such a being would be capable of understanding, let alone interested in our prayers and/or worship, etc. etc. etc.

            Placing God as being so beyond our comprehension seems the equivalent of throwing your arms up in the air and giving up. Were he to be so far beyond understanding, you would not be able to claim his very existence. By claiming God's existence you're claiming, however small, a bit of understanding, and it seems to follow that would not then be God. In a weird way, the only way for your God to exist would be that he doesn't exist.

            Enjoy your vacation.

    • Corylus

      Must I even point out the contradiction of revealing hiddenness?

      Strip tease artists apparently manage it.

      Oh dear, Ben appears to be having a bad influence on me!

      Seriously though, thank you, Christopher - a clearly written article.

      • stanz2reason

        A strip tease doesn't really reveal anything, though it might uniquely suggest sexuality (or at least the prospect of such) by remaining hidden.

  • Ben

    I wouldn't consider the Ancient Greeks to be methodological naturalists in any meaningful sense. I mean, they had a lot of theories about the natural world, but they didn't bother to verify them with experiments or observation. Aristotle thought that women have fewer teeth than men, and Anaxogoras thought that boys were conceived by the right testicle and girls from the left testicle.

    It's interesting that Baglow's examples of "naturalism" are pre-Enlightenment. Write what you know, I suppose, but it seems like an odd choice to illustrate a discussion of "scientism" with examples from before science got started.

    Catholic moral thinking is "naturalist" in the sense that Aristotle or Anaxogoras were. It tries to draw conclusions about the natural world and human reproductive biology, but it mainly comes up with unsupported theories that, like Aristotle's ideas, are then promulgated for centuries based purely on a bogus air of authority.

    I mean, Catholic theology says gay sex is wrong because sex is designed to create babies. But even in the ideal situation of enthusiastic married barebacking which the Catholic church promotes, only about 5% or so of sexual encounters will result in a baby. Whereas in my long and varied experience of sticking my genitals in people, I've found that 99% of encounters result in an orgasm for myself, and in some cases (more than 5%, maybe as high as 20%) even for my lucky partner. So it seems more likely that God must have designed sex to create pleasure, with babies as an occasional byproduct. Otherwise He'd have made it so that orgasms were rare, but babies very common.

    We're also supposed to believe that sodomy is somehow wrong, even though God put two orifices in the human body that just so happen fit to my genitals just as well (perhaps even better) than the vagina. If God didn't want us to have anal sex, he could easily have designed some kind of safety device that prevents insertion into the anus, like you can put on the power points in your house if you have a toddler around.

    To me, a naturalistic interpretation of the physical world suggests that God loves us and He has gifted us with anal sex as proof of that.

    • "So it seems more likely that God must have designed sex to create pleasure, with babies as an occasional byproduct. Otherwise He'd have made it so that orgasms were rare, but babies very common."

      I'm not sure I agree with this conclusion, give your preceding sentences, but even if it were true it perfectly agrees with the Catholic understanding of sex. The Church doesn't teach that sex is *only* for creating babies. She recognizes multiple ends and thus multiple dimensions: the procreative (babies); the unitive (bonding); and the ecstactic, which can point to heavenly joy.

      Just because babies don't often result from the conjugal act doesn't mean it's not the act's primary aim. A horrible baseball team, for example, has as its primary goal winning baseball games. But even if they only win one game out of fifty, that's irrelevant to whether they're a real baseball team or whether their goal is to win games. The purpose of an act (or a person, or a group) is not necessarily determined (or proportionate to) the frequency that end is achieved.

      • robtish

        But in your baseball analogy, the horrible baseball team is trying and hoping (and failing) to win games. That analogy doesn't really apply to people who having sex and hoping NOT to conceive (whether they take active measures to prevent it or not).

        So I'll rewrite your last sentence to say, "The purpose of an act (or a person, or a group) is necessarily determined (or proportionate to) that end that that is hoped to be achieved." And by that standard, the purpose of sex is far more often pleasure or emotional intimacy than procreation.

      • Ben

        If the guy who designed baseball had designed it so that there was only a winning team in one out of 20 games, then we would probably have reformed the rules of baseball by now.

        Similarly, if God had wanted sex to result in babies, he'd have redesigned the rules to make it impossible for anything else to happen.

        I mean, I can easily pull out at the last minute during sex and ejaculate on my partner's eager, slutty face. If God didn't condone that, he could have designed the sexual act so that if I orgasmed outside of a vagina, some kind of lethal hormone would be released causing me to die or have a headache. And yet he didn't, so I assume he is OK with facials.

        If an all-powerful God designed my sexual responses, then why wouldn't he have closed the loopholes which allow me to experience sexual pleasure without procreation? He could have designed it so that orgasms only happened during sex which resulted in pregnancy, perhaps after some kind of cryptographic DNA handshake, yet He didn't do that. It's almost as if God's an idiot who hadn't heard of the full variety of human sexual behaviour, or at the very least, God was made up by an idiot who hadn't heard of that.

        • Randy Gritter

          So if a person lies a lot then the purpose of speech ceases to be communicating truth? How often do lies have to be told before they change the purpose of speech and make lying moral?

          It seems strange to even think of changing the purpose of anything other than sex. Why should sex be different?

          • Ben

            Well, I don't agree that the purpose of speech is to communicate truth. The evolutionary "purpose" of speech is to communicate information, which may or may not be true.

            Probably early on in the evolution of speech, it was mainly about communicating true information, but even monkey alarm calls can sometimes be used for deception: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19493903

            And with more sophisticated language comes the opportunity to use it for more subtle forms of cheating. See Robin Hanson's "homo hypocritus" model : http://www.overcomingbias.com/2010/03/homo-hipocritus.html

            In fact, due to the prevalence of self-deception, the speaker may believe on some level that what they're saying is true, even if it's false. For example, every time Cardinal Keith O'Brien condemned gays as "degenerate" and "immoral", he probably felt like he was speaking righteously, even though he had a predilection for coercing lower-ranking priests into gay sex, which is less moral by anybody's standards than the consenting gay couples he condemned.

            Of course, since I believe in Enlightenment values where truth is paramount, the purpose of *my* speech and writing is to communicate truth. I don't need to tie myself into knots to justify homophobia or child rape like Catholics do.

          • GreatSilence

            So Ben, your "truth" is true, because you believe in Enlightenment values (whatever they are), but other people claiming to speak the truth are not telling the truth. Got it.

          • Ben

            Well, in my experience, Catholicism is about saying one thing but doing another. Catholics tell us all how gay sex is wrong, but half the priests are gay. Sometimes even the priests who tell us gay sex is wrong turn out to be gay! And although the Church teaches that abortion is wrong and should be illegal, when you poll self-identified Catholics only 14% agree with that: http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2013/07/new-evidence-that-churches-are-completely-out-of-step-with-society

    • Kevin Aldrich

      This is *great*. All of ancient philosophy can be dismissed because of a tooth and a testicle. And Catholic moral theology can be dismissed because penises don't care what body cavities they are put in.

      If we are going to try to understand he meaning of human sexuality, I suggest we start with human biology and account for the unique truth that it takes a man and a woman to form one human reproductive system.

      • Ben

        "This is *great*. All of ancient philosophy can be dismissed because of a tooth and a testicle."

        I must have expressed myself badly. Aristotle wasn't just mistaken about a single tooth; my complaint isn't that he miscounted the number of teeth in the mouth of one woman. He thought (for whatever reason) that women had a different number of teeth to men. And yet some simple observations would have shown him he was wrong. Similarly, Anaxogoras wasn't wrong about a single testicle. He had a theory about sex determination which made testable predictions, but he didn't bother to do the tests (he could have done animal experiments or looked for a counterexample of a man with one testicle who'd fathered a child of the 'wrong' gender according to his theory).

        These failings alone don't mean we can dismiss all of ancient philosophy (I'd dismiss almost all of it for other reasons, but that's another argument). But it does make Baglow's claim that MN was born with the Greek philosophers pretty weird. If you're discussing the triumphs of MN, Cicero and Augustine are not the names that spring to mind. I mean, obviously for Baglow they do spring to mind, because he's clearly studied them in great detail, but generally methodological naturalism is associated with the scientific method, which didn't get going for another 1000 years or so.

        "And Catholic moral theology can be dismissed because penises don't care what body cavities they are put in.

        If we are going to try to understand he meaning of human sexuality, I suggest we start with human biology and account for the unique truth that it takes a man and a woman to form one human reproductive system."

        It looks like you're trying to derive moral imperatives from observing biology. Would you like help with that?

        The point I was making in the above comment is that conclusions from thinking carefully about human biology don't align with Catholic taboos. I mean, God made my penis (according to you), so if he cared what I put it in wouldn't he have designed it to be a little fussier?

        It does usually take a man and a woman to reproduce sexually. But why do you conclude that means God only wants people to have heterosexual sex with a possibility of pregnancy?

        Consider:

        1. It seemed like it was a "unique truth" that it took a ram and a ewe to reproduce sexually and make a lamb until 1996, but it turns out it's possible to make a lamb using cells from two lady sheeps. It's almost certainly possible to clone a human (just unethical) - if somebody took a woman's egg and another woman's cell nucleus and made a baby, would you concede that lesbianism is morally OK? if not, why did God make it possible for two women to create a child? What if there was a documented case of human parthenogenesis? (Reliably documented, I mean).

        2. Not every man/woman combination forms a viable reproductive pair. Sometimes a workable reproductive system is a man and a woman and a skilled IVF technician and some lab apparatus. What was God telling me when he gave me benign testicular cysts which reduce my fertility? Maybe he was telling me that it's OK to fuck around. Chances are, you're probably more fertile than me, so God wants you to have monogamous procreative sex, but clearly looking at the facts of my biology, He doesn't want that for me. And what about people who are totally unable to conceive? Presumably God's plan is for them to have whatever sex they want?

        3. Finally and most importantly, human reproductive biology is the result of a long process of natural selection, and nothing more. If you took methodological naturalism seriously, you wouldn't introduce needless supernatural entities into your analysis of human biology. God didn't design your junk, because He isn't real.

        Hope that helps.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Thanks for responding.

          • Ben

            I haven't defined ought at all, let alone as "whatever it is I want". I mean, even the most perverted and libertine sexual communities emphasise consent as ethically important.

            In fact, if Cardinal Keith O'Brien had been informed of the notions of informed consent prevalent in the BDSM community, perhaps he wouldn't have been such a creepy sexual predator.

            What is your "carefully reasoned moral theology" except trying to derive "ought from is"? Your argument seems to boil down to "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve".

            Also, it's just occurred to me that you don't believe that it takes a woman and a man to form a human reproductive system. It only took Mary and God to make the baby Jesus. Therefore, surely we must conclude that it's OK for a woman to masturbate, because that's a sexual act involving her and God (who's always watching). Sure, female masturbation doesn't *usually* result in pregnancy, just as having sex outside your fertile period usually doesn't. If natural family planning is an acceptable practice, surely masturbating while submitting to God's right to supernaturally impregnate you at any time would also be OK?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It looks to me like you want the kind of sexual gratification that you want. For some reason you want to have an intellectual justification for it. You also appear to want to shock people.

          • Ben

            I haven't "dedicated myself" to sexual gratification, it's just something I am able to admit to enjoying in an adult and responsible way. Once again, you bring up the trope that anybody who's not a Catholic must be a debauched de Sade style sexual adventurer.

            I am willing to own my sexual desires and interests.

            What I wrote above, approaching them as if they were all designed by God, was a _reductio ad absurdum_ of the pseudo-naturalistic Catholic morality. Yes, it takes a man and a woman (and in certain cases an IVF technician or an egg donor with healthy mitochondria) to make a baby. If that fact has some great moral significance to you, then why wouldn't the sexual fantasies and desires of those men and women also be part of God's plan?

            I'm not trying to justify my sexual tastes intellectually, because there is no possible intellectual justification to explain why I'm turned on by spanking a woman dressed in school uniform. None is required. I can't make an intellectual argument that explains why you should be into that too - de gustibus non disputandum. It's probably down to my thoughts and experiences at a certain formative age, and undoubtedly constitutes a misfiring of my Darwin-given reproductive instincts. Luckily there are plenty of women who are into the same sort of thing.

            But if you think God put those interests in me, then surely they must be as much a part of the human reproductive system as blastocysts and fallopian tubes? If I ever father a baby, I'll very probably slap his or her mother's ass at least once during the act of conception (and if you're my son or daughter and you've found this on the Wayback Machine in 2030, I'm really sorry for putting that image in your head and I'm just joking).

            No, it's the Catholic system of sexual morality, with its spurious justifications to anoint a limited selection of acts as "natural", that is seeking an intellectual justification for a particular set of sexual tastes.

            I forget which Strange Notions contributor has a site about his love of tactical barebacking, aka "natural family planning". Supposedly it's moral to avoid getting pregnant by having sex when you calculate you're probably not fertile using your body temperature and the consistency of your vaginal mucus (exploiting medical knowledge unknown to most of humanity throughout history), because that's "natural". But it's forbidden and wrong to take a pill which exploits a similar level of medical knowledge to prevent pregnancy.

            That sort of twisted logic is inhuman. I'd much rather be able to be open and honest about the sort of sexual gratification I want, and find a healthy (or at least consensual) outlet for that, than decide that my sexual interests are so immoral that I need to become celibate and then end up expressing them in an abusive, non-consensual way, like Cardinal O'Brien (the leader of your church in an entire country) or the whole of the Congregation of Christian Brothers.

          • Michael Murray

            Catholics don't have sexual taboos. We have a carefully reasoned moral theology based on the natural law.

            What is the difference between a couple using natural planning methods to allow them to have sex without conceiving versus a couple using a natural latex condom to allow them to have sex without conceiving? None that I can a see and millions of Catholics agree with me. The reality is that the RCC has sexual taboos which is justifies post-hoc by declaring anything it does't like to be a violation of natural law.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So, to reduce your argument to its essence:

            > Atheists think people should get to do what they want if it doesn't harm others.

            > The Catholic Church wants to stop people from doing what it irrationally disapproves of.

          • Michael Murray

            That's about right. Although the ethical position doesn't really have anything to do with being an atheist which just means not believing in gods. I also recognise the Catholic Church doesn't believe it's being irrational. If I seriously thought that someones actions where going to lead to them suffering for all eternity I'd probably want to stop them doing it.

            Perhaps you could argue that I and the Church are both consequentialists. We just see a different set of consequences.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thank you for stepping back from "the Church is totally irrational" cliff.

            Interesting point about consequentialism. However, we are convinced (base on evidence) that some behavior is disordered in itself (regardless of its consequences).

          • Ben

            He said he recognised that the church doesn't *think* it's being irrational. But, you know, it's characteristic of the mentally ill that they lack insight into their condition...

            How do you measure how disordered a behaviour is, and what evidence do you use? Is there a moral entropy which can put a figure on the level of disorder in a human system?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'd respond to your question but I have to go get my meds now and then we have recreation.

  • 42Oolon

    "God is not one among the things that exists."

    I think this is a reasonable conclusion. However, I do not see how he the author then that the god does exist, is also a human in the material world and was resurrected. Lots of work in the existing world for a non-existant god! He seems to be relying on the "paradox" of it to establish some kind of truth?

    • Chris Baglow

      I responded above.

    • Cory

      A clarification on the propositions "God does not exist" and "God is not one among the things that exists."

      "Existence" is used in two different ways (or modes) regarding God and creatures. Creatures (by this I mean any intra-cosmic entity whatsoever) live out their being in the continuum of space/time. They are constantly changing, i.e., leaving behind and assuming new states of being. All of a creature's possible states of being cannot be simultaneously realized. Therefore, creatures do not exist all at once. Furthermore, any given sort of creature (e.g., a man), is limited in the amount of possible states of being it can assume in virtue of being the definite sort of creature that it is (e.g., A man can drink beer(!), but a hydrogen atom cannot; but, a man qua man cannot bond with oxygen to make hydrogen peroxide either). Finally, and related to the previous sentence, the essence or what-it-is-to be of a creature is always TO BE a limited creature of a certain kind, i.e., the essence of a cat isn't TO BE simply, but to be a cat with all of its characteristic properties (please don't take my examples as any sort of argument for the truth of the essentialist metaphysics I am utilizing--that isn't appropriate here--but only as the clarification of a stated position). So, "existence" for a creature connotes (1) mobility (or rather mutability), (2) temporality, (3) limitation regarding possible states of being, and (4) the limitation (or pinning down) of existence by essence.

      For God, none of these characteristics apply. God is eternal, immutable and unlimited in perfection. God's essence (in the sense He can be said to have one) is the unlimited perfection of existence. Here, "existence" for God connotes all of the above. This is in no way meant to point to the "unreality" of God but, rather, his hyper-reality, i.e., He is the source, reason, ultimate account, ground (blah, blah, blah) of everything that "exist" a creaturely mode. I'm not sure that these notions pass or fail on the grounds of coherence (or lack thereof), but rather the function they serve: now, as to why creaturely (or finite/contingent if one prefers) existence needs such a ground, ultimate account, etc. is a distinct, though inseparable question. It may be better suited, however, for another forum/post.

      • 42Oolon

        Does God also or ever exist in space/time, or only in this hyper-reality?

        • Cory

          If you mean by "exist in" that God is a part of an interrelated ensemble of beings or is within or bounded by some sort of environment then the answer would be "no" for both space/time, hyper reality, or any other location for that matter. To say so would be to talk about God in terms of creaturely existence. God is not IN hyper reality; God IS hyper reality--for a poor showing of the reasons why see my post above.

          However, God is omnipresent in creation by his power, similar to the way a cause (or principle) is present in its effect (or that of which it is a principle)--this is how the scholastics, e.g., St. Thomas, usually described it. Since, on this account, God is the primary, sustaining cause of the cosmos, He is, in a way, more interior to every being in the cosmos than those beings are to themselves.

  • Loreen Lee

    I've spent some time since yesterday's post googling both 'straw man' arguments, and 'scientism', attempting to come to terms as to whether I understand what is the 'crux' of the argument in this debate. Yesterday I posted several examples of positions taken that I believed assumed a radical empirical element, some of an 'ideological nature', such as Berkeley's empirical idealism, Marxism, but particularly the reductionism of Dennet and Hofstadter, regarding the possible 'embodiment' of concepts within specific neurons.

    I have found confirmation that these 'hypothesis', are legitimate characterizations of some of the forms 'scientism' can take. This subjective appraisal has not been corroborated.

    So I am left with the problem what specifically the 'straw man' argument referred to. I 'guess' it might refer to a scientist position regarding religious, or metaphysical propositions. If this is a legitimate theory, I believe there is enough evidence to back up the 'reality', that indeed faith positions are often 'attacked' through a misrepresentation of the religious argument given.
    I make these observations, because of the possibility that often in discussion straw man arguments are put forward, often because the subject of the discussion is not clarified, and thus the argument and comments proceed from the needs of the individual to pursue their 'personal' search for truth Often this results in specific positions not necessarily in the context of investigating the particular, (because not clarified) topic which is the subject of the post.
    I say this, because I personally find I have the need to regulate and discipline my remarks with greater 'scientific' observation, and hermeneutic acumen. Please enlighten any lack in my understanding and correct therefore any assumptions I make here that are not accurate, or beneficial.
    I continue to learn in following this blog and in reading all the comments that are put forward. Thank you.

    • stanz2reason

      So I am left with the problem what specifically the 'straw man' argument referred to.

      Scientism suggests that the best and perhaps only valid way to attain knowledge is by relying on empirical evidence.

      This can be and is often misrepresented as the position of claiming that which is lacking empirical evidence is necessarily false. It is also misrepresented as the idea that there aren't alternative ways to attain knowledge in the absence of empirical evidence. Both of these positions can be attacked in ways that Scientism, as noted above, can not. Thus the strawman.

      • "Scientism suggests that the best and perhaps only valid way to attain knowledge is by relying on empirical evidence."

        >>Scientism, therefore, disproves itself, since the statement:

        "the best and perhaps only valid way to attain knowledge is by relying on empirical evidence"

        Cannot be derived by relying upon empirical evidence.

        An example of the fallacy, by subsequent elaboration into a direct contradiction, follows at once:

        "It is also misrepresented as the idea that there aren't alternative ways to attain knowledge in the absence of empirical evidence."

        >> Notice that this directly contradicts the original assertion:

        "the best and perhaps only valid way to attain knowledge is by relying on empirical evidence"

        • stanz2reason

          Scientism, therefore, disproves itself since the statement:

          "the best and perhaps only valid way to attain knowledge is by relying on empirical evidence"

          Cannot be derived by relying upon empirical evidence.

          Which of course it does not. Successful predictions and truth confirmations of countless experiments are themselves then empirical evidence for the overall method's validity. This method has demonstrably shown to be reliably superior to all known forms of knowledge gathering.

          An example of the fallacy, by subsequent elaboration into a direct contradiction, follows at once:

          "It is also misrepresented as the idea that there aren't alternative ways to attain knowledge in the absence of empirical evidence."

          >> Notice that this directly contradicts the original assertion:

          "the best and perhaps only valid way to attain knowledge is by relying on empirical evidence"

          Which again, of course it is not in contradiction. By qualifiying something as 'the best' as I did, implies that there are in fact other means of gathering information.

          Nice try though.

          • " Successful predictions and truth confirmations of countless experiments are themselves then empirical evidence for the overall method's validity."

            >> They are of course not anything of the kind. Your above sentence is a museum-quality specimen of the problem of induction:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_induction

            "Which again, of course it is not in contradiction. By qualifiying something as 'the best' as I did, implies that there are in fact other means of gathering information."

            >> I acknowledge the qualification, and point out that it does not remove the contradiction, since your initial assertion ascribes only the possibility of other means of knowledge, your second thesis affirms the existence of those other means.

          • stanz2reason

            You've shown that you are an expert in copying & pasting text or links and passing that off as a point. One must wonder if you're capable of an original thought of your own.

            Had my claims been that the scientific method provided guaranteed certainty with it's claims your point (or should I say the point of whoever wrote the wikipedia article) would have validity. But of course I never said that. I said it was the best form of acquiring knowledge (as in one of many), not that it's claims were perfect nor guaranteed to hold with perpetuity throughout the universe.

            Still no contradiction in my statements. I've told you why you were incorrect and you remain incorrect. Please say something really worth responding to next time. I grow tired of constantly correcting you.

          • Yes, it is a chore, dealing with sloppy thinking.

            But then again, since it is known to me that you are one of the miracles of this universe, and that you possess within you the ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood by means of the light of reason, I will simply reiterate:

            The induction problem lies at the heart of your world view, and it is a doozy.

  • Joe Ser

    The author uses St Augustine. I would like his take on this - AUGUSTINE AND EVOLUTION

    A STUDY IN THE SAINT’S DE GENESI AD LITTERAM AND DE TRINITATE

    in particular Chapter 9 on Prime Matter - http://www.earlychurch.org.uk/pdf/book_wood.pdf

    • I liked the treatment, although the real problem is the result of Augustine's unfamiliarity with the ancient practice, found in clay tablets of the ancient Middle East, of the toledoth.

      Once this practice is understood, we see there are not two separate creation accounts, but instead one story told to Adam by God concerning creation of the cosmos (Gen 1:1- 2:3), and one story concerning Eden's garden and the Fall (Genesis 2:4b-4:26).

      The author very relevantly points out that Augustine freely admits that his attempt proceeds not from Apostolic Tradition, but rather from his own desire to resolve what he perceived to be difficulties in the text (one of the chief being precisely the difficulty resolved above, by the toledoth):

      "Wiseman has shown that ancient Middle East records were produced on clay tablets (and only rarely the stone tablets referred to by Morris22), using a metal or wood stylus which made wedge-shaped indentations on the damp clay during production. The tablets were then either sun-dried or baked for permanent storage. All this had been known for a century, but what Wiseman points out is the actual textual form of the tablets........

      "The characteristic format is that:

      The record begins straight away, without a heading as title, though in fact a tablet may be referred to by its opening words.

      Each tablet ends with a toledoth statement, referring to what has been written above. It is therefore anaphoric.

      A name in the toledoth statement refers either to the writer or to the owner of the tablet."

      http://creation.com/who-wrote-genesis-are-the-toledoth-colophons

      Genesis 1-2 read in this way resolves the difficulty Augustine imagined to be there because of his unfamiliarity with the ancient Middle East practice.

      Augustine never so much as suggested that he was reporting an authentic Tradition of the Church.

      • Joe Ser

        Are you addressing Prime Matter?

        And I do find Wiseman very compelling as far as the toledoths go.

        • I do not address Prime Matter, although if there is some particular aspect of the author's treatment you would like to identify, I would be happy to do so.

  • I want to take this opportunity to thank Christopher Baglow for writing this response to my article. I was pleasantly surprised to read his glowing recognition of the place of methodological naturalism in our collective quest for knowledge, and thank him for his pointers to the ancient precursors.

    At the end he writes:

    Quine is right to reject a six-day formation of the earth, but putting the Resurrection in the same category is like putting the chicken back in the egg.

    I thought I was careful not to put those in the same category, and apologize if that was not clear. That which is contradicted by physical evidence is in one category and that which is claimed to be miraculous but leaves no evidence to test, is in another. If the Resurrection could be factually tested the way Six Day Creation is, and if it did as poorly, Christianity would collapse immediately. However, it can't be, and won't be unless archaeologists find what they claim to be the mortal remains of Jesus.

    • What physical evidence contradicts a six day creation of the Earth?

      Let's have a good look at whether this is actually scientific, or instead metaphysical, evidence.

      • Ben

        Are you a Last Thursdayist as well as a geocentrist? Amazing.

        • Can you give us the evidence, or not, Ben?

          Whether I am a geocentrist, or a Last Thursdayst, or a Click-My-Heels-Three-Times-and-say-It All Works With Dark-Matter-Dark-Energy-Inflation-and-Multiversist....

          The question stands, above.

          Is this evidence against a six day creation scientific, or metaphysical?

          • Ben

            Well, scientific. The earth is dated at 4.5 billion years by radiometric dating, whereas astronomy puts the universe at about 13.7 billion years based on all the various evidence. So that would seem to rule out a six day creation.

            I'm sure you have an interpretation of the evidence which is compatible with a six day creation, though. I'm guessing maybe it involves interpreting a "day" as something other than 24 hours?

            Or you could use relativitistic inertial reference frames, as you have so successfully to defend the geocentric model to anyone who isn't familiar with Ptolemaic epicycles; maybe 9.2 billion years in the solar system could pass in just 144 hours from the perspective of an inertial reference frame with a very high relative velocity.

            Or you could use modified Last Thursdayism and say that everything was created over six days, but with all the apparent evidence in place to make it seem like the universe had been around for 13.7 billion years.

            Am I close, or do you have something even more ingenious?

          • "Well, scientific. The earth is dated at 4.5 billion years by

            radiometric dating"

            >> Is there any scientific evidence that establishes radiometric dating to be a clock?

            Or is it instead a measure of radioactive decay, extrapolated into a clock by the metaphysical assumptions that:

            1. Radioactive decay has always been constant through time,

            2. Nothing can occur which contaminates the sampled material over the assumed time of measured decay?

            "whereas astronomy puts the universe at about 13.7 billion years based on all the various evidence"

            >> Yes, but the question is, is the evidence scientific, or metaphysical? For example, the astronomers calculate age based upon two metaphysical assumptions:

            1. Redshift is a recessionary factor,

            2. The universe is expanding.

            But we know redshift is also a gravitational factor, and hence also a centrifugal factor.

            We also know redshift is an intrinsic factor, produced directly in labs by reproducible experiment on plasmas.

            Therefore the redshifts can be attributed to other than recessionary factors, and the choice of recession/expansion is metaphysical.

            "So that would seem to rule out a six day creation."

            >> Not on scientific grounds.

            "I'm sure you have an interpretation of the evidence which is compatible with a six day creation, though. I'm guessing maybe it involves interpreting a "day" as something other than 24 hours?"

            >> Day *clearly* means twenty four hours in Scripture. The Church proposes that this might be interpretable in an anagogic or spiritual sense, but the literal sense is absolutely certain.

            The literal sense of "Day" in Genesis 1 is twenty four hours.

            "Or you could use relativitistic inertial reference frames, as you have so successfully to defend the geocentric model to anyone who isn't familiar with Ptolemaic epicycles; maybe 9.2 billion years in the solar system could pass in just 144 hours from the perspective of an inertial reference frame with a very high relative velocity."

            >> First- Ptolemaic epicycles are irrelevant to the question. As Julian Barbour shows, the Ptolemaic epicycles were, in his opinion, the single greatest achievement of antiquity,mion that they constitute an attempt on the part of Ptolemy to mathematically describe non-uniform motion a thousand years before Kepler. He also shows that the equant, deferent, and epicycle resolve perfectly to eliptical motion, and hence, are geometrically identical to it.

            But as to your specific proposal above, I have a friend- a peer-reviewed and published theoretical physicist in two separate areas, by the way- who argues exactly that, and I have yet to see a refutation of his thesis from within the parameters of General Relativity (which he accepts and I do not).

            So- can you refute this? It is a proposal derived from within your own metaphysical world view (I assume you to be a Relativist).

            So far, while I acknowledge your superiority to the generality of contributors here in actually undertaking the demonstration, I would say you are not yet close.

          • Ben

            "Or is it instead a measure of radioactive decay, extrapolated into a clock by the metaphysical assumptions that:

            1. Radioactive decay has always been constant through time,

            2. Nothing can occur which contaminates the sampled material over the assumed time of measured decay?"

            Well, I suppose methodological naturalism does make the simplest possible metaphysical assumption that Occam's razor holds true, and that we shouldn't assume that rates of radioactive decay differed in past times unless we have some reason to do so.

            But let's grant that maybe radioactive elements decayed at wildly different rates in the past. I don't think it's feasible that redshift could be explained by some kind of all-pervading plasma (because plasmas have mass and charge, so that'd be readily observable) or a gravitational force. Certainly, if you can model the universe consistently in a way that everything is spinning around the Earth and redshift is purely centrifugal, you should write to Nature at once. But wouldn't that make the solar system unstable?

            Even granted that, there is plenty of evidence from other branches of science that creation took more than six days. For example, molecular phylogeny techniques suggest that some life has been around for many millions of years longer than other life.

            There are various scientific clocks (time from beginning of life, time from beginning of universe, time from formation of Earth) which all give greatly different elapsed times, based on the minimalist assumption that the relevant processes (gene mutation, radioactive decay, red shift from acceleration, fusion in stars) all happen much as they do today, suggesting that creation was a long process, not six days.

            Maybe the assumptions behind some of these clocks might not be entirely accurate and could have been missed by all the experts in the relevant fields - that's possible.

            But the metaphysical assumption that all the clocks are flawed in different ways, which overlap exactly so that everything from the universe to humans were created in just six days - with rates of genetic mutation and radioactive decay and geological erosion fluctuating by orders of magnitude - is a much bigger assumption than the minimal metaphysical assumption that the physical laws we observe now have always been the case.

            And why would you assume that? Because you're privileging on particular set of Bronze Age creation myths.

            (This is kind of a side issue, but I'm not saying the Ptolemaic cycles weren't a great guess at the time, but if Mars is really spinning around Earth on "crystal wheels within wheels" and describing epicycles through the sky, it would be accelerating and decelerating - where's the energy coming from? Or how come every probe that went beyond Mars didn't hit the crystal spheres? And how come we're not noticing seasonal changes in the weight of the Mars rovers depending on what phase of the epicycle we're in? Epicycles might be *geometrically* equivalent to eliptical motion, but they're not *physically* identical.)

            "But as to your specific proposal above, I have a friend- a peer-reviewed and published theoretical physicist in two separate areas, by the way- who argues exactly that, and I have yet to see a refutation of his thesis from within the parameters of General Relativity (which he accepts and I do not)."

            I am totally willing to accept that the author of Genesis was viewing proceedings from a vast relative velocity. But that doesn't explain why he or she got the sequence and relative timings of events wrong. Seed-bearing plants on the third day, and stars on the fourth day? Birds the day after land creatures? The formation of stars taking 1 "day", the formation of life in the sea taking 1 "day", whereas the formation of land creatures plus humans also takes 1 "day", even though we know these phases took vastly different amounts of time?

            Now I know that under certain relativistic regimes different observers could perceive different sequences of events. So maybe your physicist friend could calculate the series of accelerations and decelerations that could cause an observer to Genesis happening in the order it did. I would love to see that paper.

            But then Genesis 1:1-2:3 says all creatures came first, then humans last, whereas 2:4-25 has it the other way round. I'm not sure even relativity could account for two separate, contradictory accounts.

          • "Certainly, if you can model the universe consistently in a

            way that everything is spinning around the Earth and redshift is purely centrifugal, you should write to Nature at once."

            >> Already been done- the physicist had an earlier paper on a related, preparatory issue published in the January 2013 Journal of European Physics.

            We'll see whether the gatekeepers are prepared to follow the logic of that paper into this one :-)

            "For example, molecular phylogeny techniques suggest that some life has been around for many millions of years longer than other life."

            >> How does it suggest this, exactly? The millions of years part, I mean? Is this a scientific, or a metaphyiscal, conclusion?

            "There are various scientific clocks (time from beginning of life,)

            >> There is no clock "time from beginning of life". We do not know, from life or its examination, when it began.

            "time from beginning of universe"

            >> We do not know "time from beginning of the universe", since the consensus number is derived as a result of metaphysical assumptions which, themselves, are selected preferentially from among other, equally scientific explanations for redshift.

            "time from formation of Earth"

            >> We do not know the time of formation of the Earth, since the consensus figure is arrived at from metaphysical assumptions concerning radioactive decay, which extrapolate present observations into the past.

            Such extrapolations are not scientific, in the face of the following evidence, and the refusal to experimentally *test* it, with the intention of possibly *falsifying* what we think we know in this regard:

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2012/02/marys-bones-part-iii-is-evolution.html

            "which all give greatly different elapsed times, based on the minimalist assumption that the relevant processes (gene mutation, radioactive decay, red shift from acceleration, fusion in stars) all happen much as they do today, suggesting that creation was a long process, not six days."

            >> I agree completely. The question is not whether such evidence exists, nor whether such evidence is consilient, but rather whether such evidence is scientific; that is, whether it ism obtained as a result of an experimental test of a "risky prediction", undertaken with the intention of possibly falsifying what we think we know.

            Thus far you have not advanced evidence that it has been.

            "Maybe the assumptions behind some of these clocks might not be entirely accurate and could have been missed by all the experts in the relevant fields - that's possible."

            >> But that is not the point. The experts might be perfectly accurate in their observations. My question is whether they have extrapolated, based on metaphysical assumption, beyond the scientific evidence.

            It is clear that they in fact have done so.

            This is fine.

            But the extrapolations are metaphysics, not science.

            "But the metaphysical assumption that all the clocks are flawed in different ways,

            >> The metaphysical assumption that they *are clocks* is flawed, and always in the same way.

            *which overlap exactly so that everything from the universe to humans were created in just six days - with rates of genetic mutation and radioactive decay and geological erosion fluctuating by orders of magnitude"

            >> There is absolutely no evidence that genetic mutation is the cause of human beings- all such evidence is metaphysical, not scientific, in nature, as Popper got it right the first time- and the alternative hypotheses- e.g., that the junk DNA is not junk, but instead an inadequately understood part of the process whereby beings are physically generated- has never been falsified by any reproducible experiment.

            In fact, experiment shows the consensus, Darwinian view to have been *falsified* in its predictions concerning this junk DNA.

            "- is a much bigger assumption than the minimal metaphysical assumption that the physical laws we observe now have always been the case."

            >> We agree this is a metaphysical assumption. You advance Occam's razor, itself a metaphysical assumption.

            This is fine.

            But remember that essences also ought not be subtracted beyond necessity.

            The system which proposes the adequacy of the essences mutation plus natural selection has not *shown* itself to be adequate to account for observations, and certain predictions of that system- e.g. junk DNA- have been dramatically and recently falsified by direct experiment.

            ""And why would you assume that? Because you're privileging on particular set of Bronze Age creation myths."

            >> We all have our choice of metaphysical assumption, and of course there is no logical reason that one emerging from the Bronze Age ought to be disfavored on those grounds alone- especially if it has never been scientifically falsified despite centuries of concerted and massive effort :-)

            I grant your excellent point concerning the difference between physics and geometry- *exactly the reason Ptolemy and Brahe were defeated by Copernicus and Kepler*.

            The problem of course is that the triumph was based on a Newtonian conception of gravity, elaborated and subsumed within Einstein's equations, *which themselves have been shown to be drastically wrong on scales larger than a stellar cluster*.

            The game is not over, Ben.

            It is just getting interesting.

            PS: I am not a Relativist, and so decline to defend my friend's very excellent use of Relativity to defend a literal reading of Scripture.

            I simply point out that nothing in the sequence reported by Genesis is falsified on scientific grounds; only on metaphiysical grounds.

          • Ben

            There aren't gatekeepers to blame in physics publishing any more - get your friend to put the "redshift is spin" paper on arXiv.org. Also, please link/cite the preparatory paper.

            We can calibrate the molecular clocks by observing the current rate of mutation for DNA/RNA replication and so on and extrapolating.

            That does make the metaphysical assumption that the laws of physics don't vary wildly over time. But it goes beyond that - since DNA and the associated machinery is physical, I can't imagine how the DNA mutation rate could vary without the underlying physical laws changing, which would have lots of knock-on effects disrupting biochemistry.

            In fact, if the DNA mutation rate somehow went up a million-fold without anything else in biology changing, that would cause complex species to die out because of the sudden weight of accumulated deleterious mutations. So I don't think you can argue that the molecular clock isn't a clock. Unless you're going to deny common descent altogether? Chimps and humans aren't related, they just happen to be similar because God was low on ideas? You're effectively a young-Earth creationist at that point.

            I don't understand your argument that if junk DNA isn't all junk that somehow invalidates Darwinism. Perhaps apparent 'junk' DNA actually exerts some subtle regulatory function, shaped by natural selection. That's been considered as a possibility since I did my genetics degree 15 years ago. How does that invalidate the model that all the agreed "coding" parts of the genome have also been shaped by natural selection? Please cite or link the "experimental evidence" that disproves Darwinism in relation to junk DNA. As far as I'm aware, both sides in the controversy over junk DNA are still neo-Darwinist.

            I think assuming the literal truth of one particular creation myth among many (just because it's the one you're most familiar with) is a much bigger leap of faith than assuming that physical laws were the same yesterday as today.

            I don't doubt that with similar creativity, you could come up with interpretations of science that fail to falsify any creation myth. But why do you believe Genesis as such?

            You haven't addressed my major point that Genesis contains two contradictory accounts of creation, so whatever interpretation you pick, it can't all be true.

          • "There aren't gatekeepers to blame in physics publishing any more - get your friend to put the "redshift is spin" paper onarXiv.org. Also, please link/cite the preparatory paper."

            >> Sure.

            Preparatory paper:

            http://arxiv.org/pdf/1301.6045.pdf

            Current paper on arxiv:

            http://arxiv.org/pdf/1304.7290.pdf

            "We can calibrate the molecular clocks by observing the current rate of mutation for DNA/RNA replication and so on and extrapolating.

            That does make the metaphysical assumption that the laws of physics don't vary wildly over time."

            >> Agreed.

            "But it goes beyond that - since DNA and the associated machinery is physical, I can't imagine how the DNA mutation rate could vary without the underlying physical laws changing, which would have lots of knock-on effects disrupting biochemistry."

            >> I can;t imagine is a metaphysical, not a scientific, assertion.

            Also, the rates need not have changed. Perhaps the junk DNA is evidence of an earlier state of genetic perfection, from which we have fallen, rather than evidence of a bunch of useless junk that has collected over the aeons, and perhaps that fall was sudden and catastrophic, rather that rise being regular and uniformitarian.

            "In fact, if the DNA mutation rate somehow went up a million-fold without anything else in biology changing, that would cause complex species to die out because of the sudden weight of accumulated deleterious mutations. So I don't think you can argue that the molecular clock isn't a clock. Unless you're going to deny common descent altogether? Chimps and humans aren't related, they just happen to be similar because God was low on ideas? You're effectively a young-Earth creationist at that point."

            >> That is exactly the position I defend- I am a biblical literalist, remember? I defend the metaphysical world view that all of the scientists are interpreting the data through a faulty lens- materialist uniformitarianism- and that the correct lens will be Biblical catastrophism.

            Be assured I am willing to be persuaded that my lens is inadequate, should scientific evidence actually contradict my world view.

            The Church has already provided me freedom to depart from a literal reading of Genesis, without contradicting a dogma of the Faith.

            It is only a dogma of the Faith I should beg God for the grace to die before denying, not my best thinking about what the Bible is trying to tell us.

            "I don't understand your argument that if junk DNA isn't all junk that somehow invalidates Darwinism."

            >> If I gave the impression that was my argument, I apologize.

            My argument is that junk DNA was predicted by Darwist theorists to be junk, and experiment has proven this prediction to be false.

            Darwinism itself is not irretrievably falsified by this.

            It is simply an example of a failure of Darwinist predicition in the face of direct experiment; that is, in the face of scientific evidence.

            "Perhaps apparent 'junk' DNA actually exerts some subtle regulatory function, shaped by natural selection."

            >> It certainly exerts at least a subtle regulatory function.

            That much is scientific knowledge.

            By natural selection?

            Metyaphysical assumption.

            "That's been considered as a possibility since I did my genetics degree 15 years ago. How does that invalidate the model that all the agreed "coding" parts of the genome have also been shaped by natural selection?"

            >> It does not falsify this metaphysical assumption, and the earlier literature concerning junk DNA as junk- as completely irrelevant to any question of the genome and its functioning- is available for review.

            "Please cite or link the "experimental evidence" that disproves Darwinism in relation to junk DNA. As far as I'm aware, both sides in the controversy over junk DNA are still neo-Darwinist."

            >> As above- the junk DNA findings do not, of themselves, falsify Darwinism. They simply falsify the prediction of Darwinist theorists that junk DNA would be found to have no effect on the function of the genome.

            "Sides" are irrelevant.

            All the sides are wrong, of course.

            The side that is right, I propose, will be the one which proceeds to examine the scientific data, and construct its experimental tests, from the viewpoint which reads Genesis 1 in a literal fashion.

            That side has no money, no tenure, no peer-reviewed access.

            Yet.

            But we are getting there and we will bring some interesting things to the table.

            "I think assuming the literal truth of one particular creation myth among many (just because it's the one you're most familiar with) is a much bigger leap of faith than assuming that physical laws were the same yesterday as today."

            >> That is a metaphysical choice, and I cordially decline to agree with its validity.

            I believe, to the contrary, that all materialist metaphysics has reached a dead and- in cosmology, in particle physics, in biology- and progress will depend upon thinking the unthinkable in all these fields.

            Of course this is also a metaphysical assumption, the value of which for science will be determined, first, by horning our way into the party, second, demanding a seat at the table, and third, getting beat up just the way everybody else gets beat up, fair and square.

            Hypothesis, crucial experiment, and subsequent evaluation.

            "I don't doubt that with similar creativity, you could come up with interpretations of science that fail to falsify any creation myth. But why do you believe Genesis as such?"

            >> Because I am Catholic. I believe the Catholic Churech has an actual revelation from the actual Creator.

            "You haven't addressed my major point that Genesis contains two contradictory accounts of creation, so whatever interpretation you pick, it can't all be true."

            >> There are not two contradictory accounts.

            There is one toledoth at Genesis 2:4a. This toledoth signifies the conclusion of God's account of creation of the cosmos.

            There is another toledoth at Genesis 4:26. This toledoth signifies the conclusion of Adam's account of the Fall.

            http://creation.com/who-wrote-genesis-are-the-toledoth-colophons

          • Ben

            Sorry I haven't got back to you in a while.

            I'm not competent to check all the physics in that paper, but it doesn't seem to address red shift. If red shift is just down to a spinning universe, it would only be observed in one plane (ie roughly along the equator). It just seems to be saying that you can formally picture the spinning Earth as a fixed Earth with a universe spinning round it, but that certainly doesn't account for epicycles etc.

            Darwinian theorists didn't predict that "junk DNA" was useless - I don't think theorists predicted that most of the genome would be non-coding, and whether the "junk" is more or less functional, I don't think that affects the credibility of Darwinism either way. Plus, I remember that many people suspected that there was some function or structure to the non-coding part of the genome.

            It seems like your major point is that science rests on certain modest metaphysical assumptions. But you make a huge metaphysical assumption that Catholicism is true. Why are you a Catholic? If you'd grown up in a Muslim country, you'd probably be defending the scientific inerrancy of the Qu'ran in the same way.

          • "Sorry I haven't got back to you in a while."

            >> No problem.

            "I'm not competent to check all the physics in that paper, but it doesn't seem to address red shift. If red shift is just down to a spinning universe, it would only be observed in one plane (ie roughly along the equator)."

            >> Nope. It would be exactly the same as we observe now, right down to the redshifts, which are centrifugal rather than recessional.

            It is the entire universe that is rotating, not just one plane, and redshift is a function of centrifugal force.

            "It just seems to be saying that you can formally picture the spinning Earth as a fixed Earth with a universe spinning round it, but that certainly doesn't account for epicycles etc."

            >> It accounts for every motion observed, and there are no epicycles.

            Just a scalar and a tensor.

            "Darwinian theorists didn't predict that "junk DNA" was useless"

            Au contraire..........

            >> "Biologists are racking their brains trying to think what useful task this apparently surplus DNA is doing. But from the point of view of the selfish genes themselves, there is no paradox. The true "purpose" of DNA is to survive, no more and no less. The simplest way to explain the surplus DNA is to suppose that it is a parasite, or at best a harmless but useless passenger." ---Richard Dawkins 1976 (The Selfish Gene, p. 47)

            "they are the remains of nature's experiments which failed. The earth is strewn with fossil remains of extinct species; is it a wonder that our genome too is filled with the remains of extinct genes?"---Susumu Ohno 1972 ("So much 'junk' DNA in our genome," Brook Haven Symposia in Biology, Vol. 23:366-370)

            "Unlike the sequence of an exon, the exact nucleotide sequence of an intron seems to be unimportant. Thus introns have accumulated mutations rapidly during evolution, and it is often possible to alter most of an intron’s nucleotide sequence without greatly affecting gene function. This has led to the suggestion that intron sequences have no function at all and are largely genetic “junk”----Bruce Alberts, Dennis Bray, Julian Lewis, Martin Raff, Keith Roberts, and James D. Watson, Molecular biology of the Cell, pg. 373 (3rd Ed., 1994).

            Bruce Alberts, by the way, is a past President of the National Academy of Sciences.

            Examples could be multiplied.

            "and whether the "junk" is more or less functional, I don't think that affects the credibility of Darwinism either way."

            >> Falsified predictions, I admit, only count in *scientific* research programs, and Darwinism is not a scientific research program:

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2012/02/marys-bones-part-iii-is-evolution.html

            "Plus, I remember that many people suspected that there was some function or structure to the non-coding part of the genome."

            >> Yes. The ID guys made that prediction:

            "From an ID perspective, however, it is extremely unlikely that an organism would expend its resources on preserving and transmitting so much ‘junk'."----Jonathan Wells, “Using Intelligent Design Theory to Guide Scientific Research,” Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design, 3.1.2 (Nov. 2004).

            "It seems like your major point is that science rests on certain modest metaphysical assumptions."

            >> My point is that Darwinism isn't science. Science is a program of research where the intention is to subject what we think we know to crucial, experimental test, with the intention of possibly falsifying it.

            The link above is conclusive evidence that isn't happening.

            Darwinism is a metaphysical research program, where the intention is to find explanations for any anomalies and defend the theory against falsification.

            "But you make a huge metaphysical assumption that Catholicism is true."

            >> That is a theological act of Faith, not a metaphysical assumption.

            "Why are you a Catholic?"

            >> Because Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church.

            "If you'd grown up in a Muslim country, you'd probably be defending the scientific inerrancy of the Qu'ran in the same way."

            >> I grew up atheist in the USA.

          • Ben

            It's certainly true that a lot of non-coding DNA is actually "just a harmless but useless passenger", like Alu elements. But you'll notice Dawkins says it's the simplest explanation (available in 1976), not the definitive one.

            Similarly, the old 1994 edition of MBC you quote says some scientists *suggested* that introns aren't functional, and that's true of many (probably most) introns. The fine detail that some introns are functional doesn't invalidate the general principle of natural selection.

            I'm not that impressed that the ID guy you quote 'predicts' that junk DNA is functional in 2004, when the real scientists you quote are from 1994, 1976 and 1972.

            Intelligent design would predict that EVERYTHING is adaptive and designed by a superintelligence - yet people choke to death every day because their oesophagus and trachea are close together. So intelligent design by a non-sadist is definitely ruled out.

            Moving on to another topic:

            Red shift is observed isotropically . What sort of a "rotation" produces an effect that is the same in every direction?

            If I rotate a bucket by spinning in place, obviously the centrifugal force is produced in a plane. There's no centrifugal component generated upward or down towards the ground. How can a centrifugal force create redshift wherever we look into the universe? That makes no sense.

            And certainly I don't understand how a fixed Earth and a spinning universe makes Mars appear to go back and forwards in its orbit. That's explained by everything orbiting the Sun at different rates, but how your geocentric universe explain that?

            I don't recognise the distinction between "Faith" and "metaphysics". There's only evidence and assumptions you have to make to make sense of the evidence, with the latter best kept to a minimum, in my opinion.

            What is the distinction between a "theological" belief and a "metaphysical" one? Why does being Catholic count as a more impressive theological belief, whereas thinking radioactive isotopes probably don't decay at different rates depending on what millennium it is is mere "metaphysics"?

            You believe Jesus founded the Catholic Church because you're a Catholic, but why do you accept that belief system?

          • Andrew G.

            Radiometric dating is verified against independent sources such as daily and annual growth markings in fossil corals; this depends on the assumption that the long-term change in the length of the day (due to tidal friction) is correctly modeled, but does not require any assumptions about radioactive decay rates.

            The natural fission reactor that operated about 2 billion years ago at Oklo provides additional evidence constraining the possible past variation in radioactive decay rates or other fundamental constants.

            The isochron dating method is not subject to contamination errors, because these would destroy the linearity of the result rather than produce a false reading.

  • Tony Rotz

    In brief, I believe that the Bible chronicles humanities search for God gradually revealed through the Prophets, Hebrew history, inspired writings, and ultimately in Jesus, God made flesh.

    • Corylus

      In brief, I believe that the Bible chronicles humanities search for God
      gradually revealed through the Prophets, Hebrew history, inspired
      writings, and ultimately in Jesus, God made flesh.

      Muslims sometimes say the same sort of thing, just with Jesus in a line of prophets, and an additional chap coming along later.

      They then say it all stops with their new guy.

  • MJ Ferrari

    Excellent article. And this is why violating the natural law brings its own punishment, as day follows night. Examples include the close relationship between abortion and breast cancer for which there is a natural explanation. HIV/AIDS is another example. It is the direct result of the mutation of a relatively benign virus into a malignant one by passaging such as occurs with anal intercourse. Blood clots associated with the use of oral contraceptives are responsible for the death of young women. The list goes on.
    M. J. Ferrari, MD MPH

    • BenS

      Now, I promised myself out of respect for what the site owners are trying to do here that I would not submit a single thing to FSTDT... but damn, does this post make that promise hard to keep.

    • Andrew G.

      Classic example of "false consequentialism" - X is bad, therefore X must have harmful consequences, which we'll invent from whole cloth if we can't find any that fit the bill.

    • Susan

      HIV/AIDS is another example. It is the direct result of the mutation of a relatively benign virus into a malignant one by passaging such as occurs with anal intercourse

      And other forms of intercourse. Also, blood transfusions. What about all those other diseases that don't result from sexual behavior you don't approve of?

      Blood clots associated with the use of oral contraceptives are responsible for the death of young women.

      So is pregnancy and childbirth.

      • MJ Ferrari

        I posted a reply to Susan but am not sure it got through. Please help.