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“Cosmos” and One More Telling of the Tired Myth

Cosmos

Seth MacFarlane, well known atheist and cartoonist, is the executive producer of the remake of “Cosmos,” which recently made its national debut. The first episode featured, along with the science, an animated feature dealing with the sixteenth century Dominican friar Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake by Church officials. A brooding statue of Bruno stands today in the Campo de’ Fiori in Rome on the very spot where the unfortunate friar was put to death. In MacFarlane’s cartoon, Bruno is portrayed as a hero of modern science, and church officials are, without exception, depicted as wild-eyed fanatics and unthinking dogmatists. As I watched this piece, all I could think was...here we go again. Avatars of the modern ideology feel obligated to tell their great foundation myth over and over, and central to that narrative is that both the physical sciences and liberal political arrangements emerged only after a long twilight struggle against the reactionary forces of religion, especially the Catholic religion. Like the effigies brought out to be burned on Guy Fawkes Day, the bugbear of intolerant and violent Catholicism has to be exposed to ridicule on a regular basis.

I will leave to the side for the moment the issue of liberal politics’ relation to religion, but I feel obliged, once more, to expose the dangerous silliness of the view that Catholicism and the modern sciences are implacable foes. I would first observe that it is by no means accidental that the physical sciences in their modern form emerged when and where they did, that is to say, in the Europe of the sixteenth century. The great founders of modern science—Copernicus, Galileo, Tycho Brache, Descartes, Pascal, etc.—were formed in church-sponsored universities where they learned their mathematics, astronomy, and physics. Moreover, in those same universities, all of the founders would have imbibed the two fundamentally theological assumptions that made the modern sciences possible, namely, that the world is not divine—and hence can be experimented upon rather than worshiped—and that the world is imbued with intelligibility—and hence can be understood. I say that these are theological presumptions, for they are both corollaries of the doctrine of creation. If God made the world in its entirety, then nothing in the world is divine; and if God made the world in its entirety, then every detail of the world is marked by the mind of the Creator. Without these two assumptions, the sciences as we know them will not, because they cannot, emerge.

In fact, from the intelligibility of the universe, the young Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) constructed an elegant argument for the existence of God. The objective intelligibility of the finite world, he maintained, is explicable only through recourse to a subjective intelligence that thought it into being. This correspondence, in fact, is reflected in our intriguing usage of the word “recognition” (literally, to think again) to designate an act of knowledge. In employing that term, we are at least implicitly acknowledging that, in coming to know, we are re-thinking what has already been thought by the creative intelligence responsible for the world’s intelligibility. If Ratzinger is right, religion, far from being science’s enemy, is in fact its presupposition.

Secularist ideologues will relentlessly marshal stories of Hypatia, Galileo, Giordano Bruno and others—all castigated or persecuted by church people who did not adequately grasp the principles I have been laying out. But to focus on these few exceptional cases is grossly to misrepresent the history of the relationship between Catholicism and the sciences.

May I mention just a handful of the literally thousands of Catholic clerics who have made significant contributions to the sciences? Do you know about Fr. Jean Picard, a priest of the seventeenth century, who was the first person to determine the size of the earth to a reasonable degree of accuracy? Do you know about Fr. Giovanni Battista Riccioli, a seventeenth century Jesuit astronomer and the first person to measure the rate of acceleration of a free-falling body? Do you know about Fr. George Searle, a Paulist priest of the early twentieth century who discovered six galaxies? Do you know about Fr. Benedetto Castelli, a Benedictine monk and scientist of the sixteenth century, who was a very good friend and supporter of Galileo? Do you know about Fr. Francesco Grimaldi, a Jesuit priest who discovered the diffraction of light? Do you know about Fr. George Coyne, a contemporary Jesuit priest and astrophysicist, who for many years ran the Vatican Observatory outside of Tucson? Perhaps you know about Fr. Gregor Mendel, the Augustinian monk who virtually invented modern genetics, and about Fr. Teilhard de Chardin, a twentieth century Jesuit priest who wrote extensively on paleontology, and about Fr. Georges Lemaître, the formulator of the Big Bang theory of cosmic origins.

Can we please, once and for all, dispense with the nonsense that Catholicism is the enemy of the sciences? When we do, we’ll expose the Seth MacFarlane telling of the story for what it really is: not scientific history but the basest sort of anti-Catholic propaganda.
 
 
(Image credit: Accesso-Directo)

Bishop Robert Barron

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Bishop Robert Barron is Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He’s America’s first podcasting priest and one of the world’s most innovative teachers of Catholicism. His global, non-profit media ministry called Word On Fire reaches millions of people by utilizing new media to draw people into or back to the Faith. Bishop Barron is also the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, 10-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic Faith. He is the author of several books including Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (Crossroad, 2008); The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (Orbis, 2002); and Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (Image, 2011). Find more of his writing and videos at WordOnFire.org.

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  • David Nickol

    Slate takes Cosmos to task for major inaccuracies in their telling of the story of Giordano Bruno. But as I read the above piece, " all I could think was . . . here we go again." While it makes little sense to say there were (or still are) two opposing forces—the Catholic Church and modern science—and the former fought tooth and nail to stand in the way of any progress by the latter, it is still impossible to whitewash the opposition of the Church to anything that contradicted geocentrism for two centuries after the time of Galileo.

    And although the Church claims to have no problem with modern science, it certainly doesn't accept the majority view of scientists (materialism). According to certain commenters here on Strange Notions, one in fact gets the idea the modern science (or at least a great many modern scientists) are bending over backwards to twist science to deny God, making up crazy notions like the multiverse to fool people out of reaching the obvious and inevitable conclusion that God created and "fine tuned" the universe for our existence.

    The Church claims to accept evolution, but nevertheless requires direct intervention by God to produce human beings, something that neither Darwin nor most of his followers find necessary.

    • ChrisDeStefano

      Hey David,
      My first post here on SN. I always enjoy reading your comments.

      "The Church claims to accept evolution, but nevertheless requires direct intervention by God to produce human beings, something that neither Darwin nor most of his followers find necessary."

      "And although the Church claims to have no problem with modern science, it certainly doesn't accept the majority view of scientists (materialism)."
      I do not see how just because the Church does not agree with the idea of materialism that it is against modern science. I am thinking this because isn't materialism itself more of a philisophical claim? The church seems to be in agreement with the modern concepts and mechanisms described by science from what I can see (i.e. Evolution). It seems to me that there is more opposing philisophical views than scientific ones.

      • David Nickol

        Chris,

        You raise an interesting question. I suppose I would say that it is not necessary to be a materialist to accept modern science, but that it is not accepting modern science to "supplement" its findings with claims that God had to intervene at some point or another where modern science finds no need of an intervention by God. So in the matter of human origins, I don't think it is accepting Darwinian evolution to claim (when Darwinians themselves don't) that evolution can't account for human beings as we know them, and "supplement" the scientific theory by claiming that God intervened to give humans a soul. It seems to the claim that God at some point in evolution infused a soul is very similar to the intelligent design adherents' claim that certain organs are examples of "irreducible complexity" and can't be the result of evolution. Only in this case it is human consciousness rather than, say, the eye.

        The Church seems to me to be saying that science thinks it has explained human origins, but it has not. Evolution is not enough to explain human beings. It is necessary, in order to fully explain human persons, to believe that God intervened to transform some animals into "true" humans by giving them spiritual souls.

        • SJH

          Interesting take. I disagree that they are at odds because, at least currently, I think it is the tendency of the Church to leave scientific questions to science. The Church understands that it cannot answer those questions. It reserves it's authority for philosophical and moral questions. I think this was true in the past as well however I think the lines can get blurred sometimes. When this happens, unfortunately, mishaps are the unintended consequences. Those mishaps become the mantra of opposing forces. Thus the term propaganda is appropriate.

      • David Nickol

        My first post here on SN.

        Welcome to the club! This is the philosophy we live by:

        • ChrisDeStefano

          Can we add to the wording to apply to the office setting?
          Are you coming to the meeting? Are you going to finish the report now??? lol
          Glad to be a part of the club! Thanks for the welcome David.

    • Mike

      Hi David,

      Well put as always. I think from the perspective of the faithful there is (rightly or wrongly) the perception that the Church's standing on issues of science rises and falls with what happened four or five centuries ago. I would admit (as I believe the church has formally) that mistakes were made, but that shouldn't automatically make the church anti-science. I would have been happier if the presentation in the popular culture was more even handed with regard to this topic, yes mistakes were made, but that the church isn't some pre-renaissance entity with regard to science.

      The other issue I have is that I'm hesitant to automatically accept that science has the answers to the questions of why am I here, and what should I do with my life? I've heard too many times that scientists (who are very intelligent) therefore can make moral statements about how everyone should live their lives. Something to the effect of Sam Harris saying that Science can determine moral goods. I might be misremembering, but I'm a little too busy at work to find the exact quote.

      I speak only for myself, but I think it's a mistake in apologetics (or one's own faith life) to look for empirical evidence for God in the manners that others have done here (i.e. God of the gaps, fine tuning, etc). They might be acceptable metaphysical arguments, but it's not science.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      > "The opposition of the Church to anything that contradicted
      geocentrism for two centuries after the time of Galileo."

      I have not heard of this before. Can you elaborate a bit?

      • David Nickol

        I have not heard of this before. Can you elaborate a bit?

        From Wikipedia:

        In 1758 the Catholic Church dropped the general prohibition of books advocating heliocentrism from the Index of Forbidden Books. It did not, however, explicitly rescind the decisions issued by the Inquisition in its judgement of 1633 against Galileo, or lift the prohibition of uncensored versions of Copernicus's De Revolutionibus or Galileo's Dialogue. The issue finally came to a head in 1820 when the Master of the Sacred Palace (the Church's chief censor), Filippo Anfossi, refused to license a book by a Catholic canon, Giuseppe Settele, because it openly treated heliocentrism as a physical fact. Settele appealed to the then pope, Pius VII. After the matter had been reconsidered by the Congregation of the Index and the Holy Office, Anfossi's decision was overturned. Copernicus's De Revolutionibus and Galileo's Dialogue were then subsequently omitted from the next edition of the Index when it appeared in 1835.

        1633 to 1835 is two hundred years. The Vatican stood ready in 1820 to prohibit a book from being printed because it spoke of heliocentrism as a fact.

        I am not claiming that the Church was at all effective in slowing the acceptance of Copernicanism. Just that the official Church stood against it for two centuries.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Why do you say the Church wanted to slow the acceptance of Copernicanism?

          • David Nickol

            Why do you say the Church wanted to slow the acceptance of Copernicanism?

            Because it banned books on the topic. Are you saying the Church was indifferent to whether anyone believed in Copernicanism or not? What was the purpose of the Index of Forbidden Books?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is as if you have surmised the Vatican adopted a strategy: "Let's slow acceptance of Copernicanism!" It is really a question for a historian.

          • David Nickol

            It is really a question for a historian.

            You think we need a historian to tell us what the Church's motive was for banning certain ideas and certain books? I really don't think so! Isn't it quite obvious what the Church wanted to do when it banned all books that claimed Copernicanism was true? Isn't it clear what the Church was trying to do when it executed "heretics"? It was trying to control what information was disseminated.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There may have been little going on beyond people living their lives and reacting to things as they presented themselves in the slow pace back in the day.

            I remember hearing an anecdote that went something like, President Jefferson complained that he had not heard from the Ambassador to France for two years and that if he didn't hear something this year he was going to write him a strongly-worded letter.

            So, why did what happened in 1758 happen and why did the censor do what he did in 1820 and why did the pope reverse his decision? I don't think it is obviously a well-planned delaying maneuver.

        • Danny Getchell

          As I understand it, the heliocentric works were removed from the Index only when observational astronomy had reached the point where stellar parallax could be incontrovertibly demonstrated.

          And if that isn't a God Of The Gaps approach, I cannot imagine what would be.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      > "The Church . . . doesn't accept the majority view of scientists (materialism)."

      I don't see how this is germane. Scientists study the material universe. The views of individual scientists about the philosophical dogma of materialism should have no impact on the scientific work they do in any way.

      • David Nickol

        The views of individual scientists about the philosophical dogma of materialism should have no impact on the scientific work they do in any way.

        I am not sure I can agree with that. On the one hand, the idea of the nonoverlapping magisteria makes a great deal of sense to me, but one problem is that there is sometimes an overlap. The prime example we discuss here on Strange Notions is probably Humani Generis and "our first parents." I have seen arguments from a theologian whom I respect that a href="http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20040723_communion-stewardship_en.html">Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God lays to rest the debate over "monogenism," but it seems most of the Catholics on Strange Notions don't think so.

        Also, I think science can be defined too narrowly (as by Stacy Trasancos) as all measurement and no explanation. There is something that makes me uneasy with the idea of a religious person approaching science as some kind of game with rules he or she must abide by as a scientist while having another set of (religious) rules as a private individual. I am making my way through a set of very challenging lectures on the Philosophy of Science, and when I finish I will no doubt know less than when I started. But one thing I am getting out of it is that (as I see it, anyway) "doing science" is not following a set of well defined rules, nor does it seem possible (to me) to put on your science hat in the lab and your religion hat in church.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I don't think Stacy Trasancos defines defines science as measurement without explanation. I agree with you that people bring everything they have to what they do, with science as no exception.

  • Patrick Tiernan

    I don't think the religion-science discourse is necessarily helped by beginning the piece with a fallacy that associates MacFarlane's atheism with a covert anti-Catholic bias. Similar to the original series with Carl Sagan, the premise of Cosmos was in part to make the unintelligible intelligible not to assert a political undertone. There are facts that are objectively true within the narrative conveyed during the episode (Bruno died for his beliefs which challenged the reading of Scripture as a cosmological guide, etc.) but any popular science show is going to risk telling a metanarrative that overlooks many of the important figures in this piece. Much of the ill-perceived "conflict thesis" came more from fundamental Protestants than Catholics (read Humani Generis and JP II's writing to the academy of sciences). The nuance of a "both/and" Catholic response is much more difficult to articulate and do justice to than oversimplifying the argument.

    • Steve Law

      Surely the point is that Bruno did not die for his cosmological beliefs but for his heretical spiritual beliefs. He was not an astronomer and his arguments for the pluracy of worlds and the stars being suns were pantheistic and mystical, not based in anything vaguely approaching scientific or barely even philosophical arguments. He was the middle-ages equivalent of a New Age kook, and he contributed nothing to scientific understanding (unless we count a lucky hit achieved for all the wrong reasons).

      • Sqrat

        Damn it, Jim, I'm a heretic, not a scientist!

      • Patrick Tiernan

        Sure, I'm not necessarily defending Bruno. But even fewer of the general public know about him than say Galileo. And with the latter, that was more a personal dispute between egos, namely his (former) friend Urban VIII not a generic "religion vs. science" disputation

      • David Nickol

        Surely the point is that Bruno did not die for his cosmological beliefs but for his heretical spiritual beliefs.

        Apparently it is reprehensible to burn someone alive for his scientific beliefs but not for his "heretical spiritual beliefs."

        • Jakeithus

          "Apparently it is reprehensible to burn someone alive for his scientific beliefs but not for his "heretical spiritual beliefs.""

          I don't see him implying that at all. The point is that Bruno's inclusion in the program was not about demonstrating the reprehensibleness of burning someone at the stake, but to make a specific point on the debate about science and religion. To imply that Bruno's death was for scientific reasons, when in reality that was a minor factor at best, is more propaganda than anything else, and deserves to be called out for what it is.

      • Danny Getchell

        Surely the point is that Bruno did not die for his cosmological beliefs but for his heretical spiritual beliefs.

        That's as may be, but if Bruno had been allowed to die of old age, there would be nothing in Tyson's presentation with which Catholics need object.

      • Michael Murray

        wikipedia lists five charges for beliefs contrary to the Catholic Faith. It also lists

        claiming the existence of a plurality of worlds and their eternity;
        believing in metempsychosis and in the transmigration of the human soul into brutes;
        dealing in magics and divination.

        • Steve Law

          Nicholas of Cusa publically argued for the plurality of worlds in the 15th century (indeed he is seen as the main populariser of the concept) and they made him a cardinal. The idea may have achieved notoriety for the catholic hierarchy through it's association with Bruno's religious heresies - like that Mary wasn't a virgin and jesus was merely a skilled magician - and because of the punitive catholic reaction to the reformation in Bruno's time, but it wasn't itself heretical. The idea that the universe was infinite and eternal may have been heretical because it contradicted the biblical account of the divine creation. But these are dwarfed by his other religious heresies.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Nicholas of Cusa publically argued for the plurality of worlds in the 15th century (indeed he is seen as the main populariser of the concept) and they made him a cardinal.

            LOOK!...Over there...squirrels.

            So is it a touch of hypocrisy that is what was going on, is that it?

            So the point of charging Bruno with it was what exactly?

            Were the religious heresies not sufficient for purpose?

  • Brad

    In my opinion the fear is not that some new scientific discovery will come into conflict with the church. The fear is being labeled a heretic, and it wasn't until the modern world dragged the church out of the age when a free or different thinking individual could be burned that the fear of heresy has gone. The bottom line is that in a very real way the church controlled thoughts and actions and occasionally that reality conflicted with science although possibly not to such a degree that people accuse the church for today. Once again it isn't a conflict between science and the church, it's a conflict between the church and being free to think for yourself.

    • Steve Law

      Good comment on this here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godandthemachine/2014/03/dishonestcosmos/

      The narration begins by telling us that in “1599 everyone knew the sun, planets and stars were just lights in sky revolving around the earth.” It was “a universe made for us.” And “there was only one man who envisioned an infinitely grand cosmos.”
      We’re barely seconds into this farrago and we have our first lie.
      “Everyone” knew the earth was the center of the universe?
      Wow, who’s going to tell Copernicus? Kepler? Stigliola? Diggs? Maestlin? Rothmann? Brahe? All of them believed in models of the cosmos that were not considered orthodox, and lived at the time of Bruno. All of them escaped the fire, and indeed weren’t even pursued by the Inquisition. Right here we have the major lie at the heart of modern anti-religious scientific propaganda: the war between faith and science.
      We’re supposed to just assume this ignorant backwards world of the past hates smart people. Tyson himself says it matter-of-factly: “How was [Bruno] spending New Year’s Eve [in 1599]? In prison, of course.”
      Of course! Because that’s what the Church does to smart people! Bad church! Bad!
      Next: “This was a time when there was no freedom of thought in Italy.”
      God, I really hate it when historical illiterates try to read church history through a modernist lens. Let’s time travel back to the great universities of the 16th century and ask those people if there is “freedom of thought”? Naturally, they’d have no idea what you mean. Of course they’re free to think, and debate, and write. That they shared a set of fundamental truths is seen as no barrier to that debate, but the ground upon which it takes place.
      If someone denies that shared ground–a foundation built on Aristotle and the truths of the Christian faith–they will be challenged because they’re striking at Truth with a capital T. They won’t be thrown in jail for it. They will be urged to either prove their opinions or change them. If they refuse, then they may be called before the Roman Inquisition, which also will–in a full court of law with legal protections and evidence–urge them to change their views.
      In the beginning, the Roman Inquisition eschewed torture and execution. As the times grew more tense and heresies were setting Europe afire, from Cathars to Lutherans, their methods became more harsh. They tended to be less brutal than the secular methods of the time (England in particular took torture and execution to astonishing heights of cruelty under Elizabeth I), but they were unworthy of the Church of Christ and never should have happened."

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Supplementing what Fr. Barron said about presuppositions derived from the Catholic faith which made modern science possible, Fr. Mariano Artigas identified three of these: (1) there is a marvelous natural order; (2) we can know this order; and (3) it is good to know this order. Artigas argues in "The Mind of the Universe" that scientists can do their work without ever thinking of these presuppositions, but nevertheless without them they would not bother. He also argues that scientific progress confirms, retro-justifies, and enlarges those presuppositions.

  • D.S. Thorne

    So dominant in popular thinking is mainline Protestantism - with its fideism, voluntarism and anti-science tendencies - that for many Protestantism *is* Christianity. With the result that Catholicism, too, is assumed to be fideist, voluntarist and anti-science. I fear that many Catholics, too, are susceptible to this confusion, and so don't even know to challenge MacFarlane & Co.

    D.S. Thorne, kindlefrenzy.weebly.com

  • Cosmos is actually worse than Fr Barron indicates. He makes it sound like something that is biased but fairly accurate. This claims it gets even the basic facts wrong. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godandthemachine/2014/03/dishonestcosmos/

    • Sean Alderman

      That one is a good article as well. @artursebastianrosman:disqus also links to some good stuff too above. I imagine you were like me, in that I knew from the moment those cartoons started that this was going to be a bunch of hooey, I was just wrong about who the hooey was about. I really enjoyed reading the review of God's Philosophers linked to by Tony Rossi, which gives an athiest's take on Bruno in part of it.

  • cminca

    "Avatars of the modern ideology feel obligated to tell their great foundation myth over and over....."

    Do you really want to get into a discussion about who is following MYTHS Fr. Barron?

    "The great founders of modern science—Copernicus, Galileo, Tycho Brache, Descartes, Pascal, etc.—were formed in church-sponsored universities where they learned their mathematics, astronomy, and physics."

    And Charles Darwin learned about geology and botany while studying theology at Cambridge. Are you going to argue that it was his theological education that lead to "The Origin of the Species" and "The Descent of Man"?

    "May I mention just a handful of the literally thousands of Catholic clerics who have made significant contributions to the sciences.... Big Bang theory of cosmic origins."

    Can we admit that their contributions were outside of their religious duties and not because of them?

    "Can we please, once and for all, dispense with the nonsense that Catholicism is the enemy of the sciences?"

    Perhaps when Catholics stop claiming that all science is the result of Catholicism, and start admitting that there were periods of Catholic history when intolerance for non-scripture based teachings did lead to atrocities we can all look at a more balance view of history.

    After all, Fr. Barron, Giordano Bruno was actually burned at the stake. By Church officials.

    • Michael Murray

      After all, Fr. Barron, Giordano Bruno was actually burned at the stake. By Church officials.

      I thought that the executions were handled by non Church authorities?

      • cminca

        " The first episode featured, along with the science, an animated feature dealing with the sixteenth century Dominican friar Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake by Church officials."

        Was Fr. Barron wrong about that too?

        • Michael Murray

          As far as I understand it (which is not a lot) yes. I thought executions where done by the State not the Church. Wikipedia says

          "He was turned over to the secular authorities and, on February 17, 1600 in the Campo de' Fiori, a central Roman market square, "his tongue imprisoned because of his wicked words" he was burned at the stake.[25]"

          So I would rather say "who was sentenced to be burned at the stake by Church officials".

          Maybe someone else here has a better understanding of how the Inquisition worked. I am partly influenced by James Hannam's book and I think he's a bit soft on the Church.

          • Ignorant Amos

            After they were convicted by the Church, they were turned over to the local government for execution because of religious restrictions that kept ecclesial clergy from actually carrying out the executions.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks. I never understood exactly what the problem was with the Church doing the execution. What's that a quote from?

            Do you know if the sentence was handed out by the Church and the local government just acted as executioner or the Church convicted and let the local government pronounce sentence? It makes little difference to the person being burnt but I'm just trying to get my mental picture of how things worked back then a bit clearer.

          • Ignorant Amos

            The quote is from a wiki page, I've seen it on a number of similar pages.

            Do you know if the sentence was handed out by the Church and the local government just acted as executioner or the Church convicted and let the local government pronounce sentence? It makes little difference to the person being burnt but I'm just trying to get my mental picture of how things worked back then a bit clearer.

            There was no hard and fast set of rules. It depended on the date as to who did what and how it happened.

            From a Catholic apologist perspective, "The Truth about the Spanish Inquisition"

            Most people accused of heresy by the medieval Inquisition were either acquitted or their sentence suspended. Those found guilty of grave error were allowed to confess their sin, do penance, and be restored to the Body of Christ. The underlying assumption of the Inquisition was that, like lost sheep, heretics had simply strayed. If, however, an inquisitor determined that a particular sheep had purposely departed out of hostility to the flock, there was nothing more that could be done. Unrepentant or obstinate heretics were excommunicated and given over to the secular authorities. Despite popular myth, the Church did not burn heretics. It was the secular authorities that held heresy to be a capital offense. The simple fact is that the medieval Inquisition saved uncounted thousands of innocent (and even not-so-innocent) people who would otherwise have been roasted by secular lords or mob rule.

            The whole article can be read at http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=5236

            I'm sure it wasn't all as innocent as the web page makes it out to be...but it is a Catholic source that defends your assertion, so no bias.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks. Sounds a bit like Hannam's God's Philosophers attitude although he was a bit more balanced than that.

            I'm left wondering why the Church just didn't tell the secular authorities to desist on pain of excommunication if they were so against the idea.

            I also rather doubt that "secular" here has anything like the meaning we would give it. Didn't all authority derive from God? Dieu mon droit as my own Queen has on her coat of a arms !

  • Ahh, wonderful, glad you brought this up Fr. I have two things on this.

    Here's how Walker Percy would have responded to the new series:
    http://cosmostheinlost.com/2014/03/19/walker-percy-college-dorm-arguments-sagan-degrasse-tyson/

    And here's what the latest historical research says about Bruno:
    http://cosmostheinlost.com/2014/03/13/cosmos-space-time-odyssey-bruno-history-lies-plagiarism/

  • Tom Rafferty

    To defend the Catholic Church's attacks on its dogma by saying that the scientists of the middle ages came from the universities of the Church is rich. The Church has always been, and continues to be, an obstacle to science. Even with its acceptance of evolution, it places an asterisk by it and talks about "theistic" evolution. This concept has not been verified by science, and, in fact, science explicitly shows its implausibility.

    Yes, there have been many scientists who also have been theists. However, science itself clearly is not compatible with religion.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I see you are a man who likes to make sweeping claims without any reasons or examples or evidence.

      • Tom Rafferty

        Google is your friend. Everything above is easily verifiable to those who are willing to look outside of their present view of reality. I challenge you, and other theists, to do so. "without any reasons or examples or evidence?" SMH

        • Kevin Aldrich

          "Those who are willing to look outside of their present view of reality." There you go again, assuming that no one who believes in God has ever seriously engaged with an atheist's or agnostic's point of view.

          • Tom Rafferty

            Okay, then. Please tell me why you still hold to the view that faith trumps evidence (or lack thereof) in the question of a deity. Thanks.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I have yet to see one reasoned argument from you, Tom. Make one and I'll respond.

          • Tom Rafferty

            See my reply to "Mike", Kevin.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think your reply to Mike (a quote or paraphrase from some guy in Cork?) is chock full of errors. The first one:

            "When religion tells us that miracles happen in the natural world, and science tells us that they don’t, then you have to choose between science and religion."

            Science does not tell us miracles don't happen. In fact, the Church uses scientists to investigate alleged miracles to try to find a natural explanation. See https://strangenotions.com/can-an-atheist-scientist-believe-in-miracles/ This is an OP by an atheist scientist who has investigated over 1400 miraculous claims.

            Since miracles and science are not an either/or, there is no need to choose between them.

          • Tom Rafferty

            First of all, how you define a miracle is important. Are they simply unusual events? If so, then I not only agree, but the unusual happens all the time. If you define them as breaking the laws of nature, then that is a different story and requires extraordinary evidence. In investigating the latter definition of miracle, there has never been a case where all natural explanations have been ruled out by unbiased investigators. Take the miracles at Lourdes, for example. The rate of "cures" is essentially the same as the spontaneous remission of disease found elsewhere in society.

            Food for thought: Why has there been no evidence of limbs growing back or vision of the blind since birth happening?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Fr. John Hardon, S.J., wrote: “In theological language, a miracle is an extraordinary event, performed by God, which can be perceived by the senses and which exceeds the powers of nature.” This is what the Catholic Church means in general by a miracle.

            Monsignor Michele Di Ruberto, the undersecretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, defines a miracle as an “event that goes beyond the forces of nature, which is realized by God outside of what is normal in the whole of created nature by the intercession of a servant of God or a blessed.” This is what the Catholic Church means by a miracle in connection with the process of beatification or canonization. https://strangenotions.com/the-rational-judgment-of-a-miraculous-cure/

            This is another one of your sweeping generalizations which is simply untrue: "In investigating the latter definition of miracle, there has never been a case where all natural explanations have been ruled out by unbiased investigators."

            For an example, see the following: https://strangenotions.com/can-an-atheist-scientist-believe-in-miracles/

            You made the claim, "When religion tells us that miracles happen in the natural world, and science tells us that they don’t, then you have to choose between science and religion."

            You have not explained on what basis science tells us miracles don't happen and you have not shown why it is necessary to chose between science and the Catholic faith.

          • Tom Rafferty

            "It is interesting to note that when the Roman Catholic Church collects data on potential saints, whose canonization requires proof of three miracles, the authorities ignore
            negative evidence. Millions may pray to a potential saint and all but one seems not to have had his wish granted. The Church counts the one who seems to have had her wish granted and ignores the millions who came up empty and died without intercession." (http://www.skepdic.com/miracles.html)

            Two other links:

            http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Miracles

            http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Miracle

            Kevin, if the comment I posted by Nugent on "Mike"'s comment, as well as this and and the rest, does not at least cause a pause for doubt, then I am done.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Tom, I was an atheist for eleven years. When I returned to the Catholic faith, I was under constant attack from my more enlightened graduate school professors. Plus, I've had my bottom handed to me many times here on SN. Your assumption that I have never had my beliefs challenged is totally unfounded.

          • Tom Rafferty

            So, you were an atheist for 11 years. Interesting. What were you before becoming an atheist (and why), why did you become an atheist and why did to return to the Catholic faith? Thanks.

          • Tertius Septimus

            You can change your ideas as much as you want, but truth never changes. Nowadays most people remain religious for lack of proper knowledge (v.g. the number of people saying earth is 5000 yo or "why aren't monkeys becoming human in the zoo"). Most theists are, in fact, agnostics, and most catholics say they are out of habit, never actually reading the bible.

          • Lazarus

            "Truth never changes". "Most people". "Most theists". "In fact". "Most Catholics".
            Well, you certainly did a thorough and scientific survey. You should publish it. Such certainty may at first appear as if you pulled it out of your hat, but I'm sure that most Catholics just say that because they're wrong.

          • Tertius Septimus

            Trust Septimus, he knows you can know.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Truth changes all the time. Yesterday I was a day younger than I am today.

            I'd say, rather, truth is a correspondence a person's judgment about reality and reality itself.

      • Susan

        I see you are a man who likes to make sweeping claims without any reasons or examples or evidence

        Forgive me, Kevin. I am really trying to be fair here but I am at my limit.

        I have spent a considerable amount of time on this site and one of the brick walls I continually run into is that the claims of your church are beyond evidence (but that evidence can be used to bolster your claims).

        Mostly, the catholic position is that your deity hides so as not to violate our ill-defined free will, that it is capital L "love", capital G "goodness", that it knows everything, that it can do anything (although it is subject to the rules of logic which hold it captive, but not the laws of physics, which it created), that it created a universe (whatever "universe" means... it's never defined clearly), and a very short time ago it created sentient life, and a whisper of time ago after torturing and killing sentient beings for hundreds of millions of years, including sending an asteroid to collide with our planet, it created a specific human pair who disobeyed it in the name of the rest of us, metaphorically described in Genesis but Truly (just the silly fundamentalists say that Genesis is true literally) and that in order to love us to bits, and to save us from original sin and to be in relationship with us, it became manifest, cured lepers, sent herds of swine over cliffs to destroy demons, was crucified and resurrected, all with historical documentation that can only leave me agnostic about the existence of the human you claim was your deity and utterly unconvinced that there was anything supernatural about the story.... I'm tired just from typing and I haven't even scratched the surface.

        Either evidence matters or it does not.

        • MattyTheD

          Susan, I think I understand your disconnect. It seems to me that your knowledge of Christianity comes from a blend of pop culture and perhaps lots of uneducated Christians. I don't mean this as a criticism, just an honest question. In forming your understanding of Christianity, did you look into any Christian source material or prominent Christian thinkers?

          • Susan

            Can you tell me what I got wrong?

            What I just typed has come from my discussions at Strange Notions. Are you saying they are uneducated christians?

          • Michael Murray

            Too much pop music ?

          • Susan

            No. I've never liked much pop music.

            I have a problem with bad ideas that survive based on repetition. ;-)

          • MattyTheD

            Is "repetition" the *basis* for the survival of Christian ideas, or the evidence of the survival? I think it's the evidence of the survival and you need to find a better explanation for the basis.

          • MattyTheD

            I can try. But first my question, "did you look into any Christian source material or prominent Christian thinkers?" In other words, did you honestly endeavor to understand this thing that you've concluded can't be understood?

          • Susan

            In other words, did you honestly endeavor to understand this thing that you've concluded can't be understood?

            Yes.

            Now, what did I get wrong?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          You are always at your limit. It must be tiring.

          • cminca

            yoo hoo--Brandon--paying attention? Or applying the double standard?

          • Susan

            You are always at your limit. It must be tiring

            You know that's not true, Kevin. Occasionally, double standards wear me down though.
            I think my point is fair and rather than respond with a "reasoned argument", you make a snarky comment about me.
            I guess we'll leave it at that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Susan, what you wrote was a 250-word, one-sentence, rant. There is a term--I don't remember what it is called--when one just piles argument after argument. That's what you did.

          • Susan

            It's not a rant, Kevin. It's an effort to describe the story as well as I can based on months of discussions here.

            These are some of the claims as well as I can understand them.

            What part did I get wrong?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think the very first claim you make is wrong:

            Catholics say "the claims of our church are beyond evidence."

            I take that to mean you think Catholics think they do not have to provide any explanations, or arguments, or evidence for Catholic claims.

          • Susan

            What evidence can you provide that an omniscient mind exists?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The rational evidence would be all the philosophical arguments for the existence of God, which you reject, and all the philosophical arguments that this God is omniscient, which you reject.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Susan will be in respectable company then..

            I found the [philosophical] arguments [in aid of religion] so execrably awful and pointless that they bored and disgusted me. I now regard "the case for theism" as a fraud and I can no longer take it seriously enough to present it to a class as a respectable philosophical position--no more than I could present intelligent design as a legitimate biological theory. I do not mean to charge that the people making that case are frauds who aim to fool us with claims they know to be empty. No, theistic philosophers and apologists are almost painfully earnest and honest. I just cannot take their arguments seriously any more, and if you cannot take something seriously, you should not try to devote serious academic attention to it.

            -- Keith Parsons, "Goodbye to All That"

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2010/09/01/goodbye-to-all-that/

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Argument from authority?

          • Ignorant Amos

            No, a don't think so Kevin.

            Some more free eduction for you...

            This fallacy is committed when the person in question is not a legitimate authority on the subject.

            http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/appeal-to-authority.html

            Determining whether or not a person has the needed degree of expertise can often be very difficult. In academic fields (such as philosophy, engineering, history, etc.), the person's formal education, academic performance, publications, membership in professional societies, papers presented, awards won and so forth can all be reliable indicators of expertise.

            Now with that in mind, go have a look at Keith Parsons credentials and see whether he has any authority to talk about Philosophy of Religion.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I meant that *you* were making an argument from authority. You are citing an authority on the philosophy of religion to support your claim that Susan is right to reject arguments for God.

            Note that the quote you link to does not provide any actual arguments, just a conclusion, that Parsons thinks the arguments for God are terrible and he's not going to waste his time on them any more.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Dear 'o' deary me.

            I meant that *you* were making an argument from authority.

            You think? What argument in the statement, " Susan will be in respectable company then.." is it I was making?

            You are citing an authority on the philosophy of religion to support your claim that Susan is right to reject arguments for God.

            Was I? So ya say. I was just saying that there are people of expertise that agree with her, or at least one anyway, so she is in grand company.

            BUT!

            Let's just say your wayward perception was right. You are still wrong. Did you even bother to read the link and attempt to understand its implication as regards to your erroneous appeal to a fallacy? Let me break it down..

            1. Person A is (claimed to be) an authority on subject S.

            2. Person A makes claim C about subject S.

            3. Therefore, C is true.

            Written as...

            1. Keith Parsons[A] is (claimed to be) an authority on the Philosophy of religion [S].

            2. Keith Parsons [A] claims "philosophical] arguments [in aid of religion] so execrably awful and pointless...I just cannot take their arguments seriously any more.[C] about Philosophy of religion [S].

            3. Therefore "philosophical] arguments [in aid of religion] so execrably awful and pointless...I just cannot take their arguments seriously any more.[C] is true.

            This fallacy is committed when the person in question is not a legitimate authority on the subject. More formally, if person A is not qualified to make reliable claims in subject S, then the argument will be fallacious.

            Keith Parsons IS a legitimate authority.

            This sort of reasoning is fallacious when the person in question is not an expert. In such cases the reasoning is flawed because the fact that an unqualified person makes a claim does not provide any justification for the claim. The claim could be true, but the fact that an unqualified person made the claim does not provide any rational reason to accept the claim as true.

            Keith Parsons IS an expert and qualified, which means you are wrong to invoke the argument from authority fallacy. Suck it up.

            Note that the quote you link to does not provide any actual arguments, just a conclusion, that Parsons thinks the arguments for God are terrible and he's not going to waste his time on them any more.

            So what Kevin? What has that got to do with him being good company for Susan?

            But, if you went to a doctor with a severe brain anomaly and he said Trepanning is so execrably awful and pointless...even though it is still practised by surgeons and even though it has never been proven to work... I just cannot take their arguments seriously any more. Would you demand the doctor provide you with actual arguments, other than just a conclusion based on his expertise?

            I'm sure Keith Parsons has made his arguments....or at least thought them out, before making his conclusion. But as I said, so what? It matters not to your error.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I *SUCKED IT UP* and crawled to Wikipedia where I read, "The appeal to authority is a logical fallacy[5] because authorities are not necessarily correct about judgments related to their field of expertise.[6] Though reliable authorities can be correct in judgments related to their area of expertise more often than laypersons,[citation needed] they can still come to the wrong judgments through error, bias, dishonesty, or falling prey to groupthink. Thus, the appeal to authority is not an argument for establishing facts. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority

            So, based in this explanation of appeal to authority, claiming Parsons is good company for someone who rejects arguments for God is only as valid as are his reasons. And in the quote you provided, I didn't read any reasons. I only saw claims to what an authority he was. I wrote all these papers. I taught all these classes. I was this fair. I got that sick of the other side. I'm quitting.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Kevin, if you are intent on falling on this sword, so be it.

            Though reliable authorities can be correct in judgments related to their area of expertise more often than laypersons,[citation needed] they can still come to the wrong judgments through error, bias, dishonesty, or falling prey to groupthink.

            Of course they can, they ARE human of course. But you have the problem of supporting the above assertion with evidence. You can't. Because my only purpose in proposing Parsons as good company is his credentials as a Philosopher of Religion, which he has, not the strength of any of his arguments. None of which had been made.

            So, based in this explanation of appeal to authority, claiming Parsons is good company for someone who rejects arguments for God is only as valid as are his reasons.

            No, he is good company because he is an expert in the field of religious philosophy and the opinion he displayed in the quote, regardless of his actual arguments. His arguments are incidental, it is who he is that matters on this occasion. No arguments have been made yet. It is all in the word 'company' ... 'companion' ... 'comrade'.

            Let me use an analogy if I may. Say you, as a person with limited military prowess, were to find yourself alone behind enemy lines. Would you rather be left alone? Be in the company of a like minded person with limited military prowess? Or be in the company of a special forces expert who has not yet displayed their ability, but whom you are reasonably confident has that ability? Not a hard decision is it?

            I only saw claims to what an authority he was. I wrote all these papers. I taught all these classes. I was this fair. I got that sick of the other side. I'm quitting.

            Well, as usual, you have misrepresented the quote. Alas, again, IT DOESN'T MATTER for my point to stand. As an expert, he is good company to have if he is like minded with Susan. His ability, or lack thereof, to make a reasonable argument can come later.

            Now I could have saved myself all this bother and just said I don't recognise your authority, Wiki, over my authority, nizkor, and all this would be moot. But I think it is important to show you what my point is, not what you think it is.

            Incidentally, from your authority, Wiki...

            Also, because the argument from authority is not a logical argument in that it does not argue something's negation or affirmation constitutes a contradiction, it is fallacious to assert that the conclusion must be true. Such a determinative assertion is a logical non sequitur as the conclusion does not follow unconditionally, in the sense of being logically necessary.

            So, the fallacy does not rise or fall on the conclusion of any argument made by the participants, rather their ability not to express any wrong judgements through error, bias, dishonesty, or falling prey to groupthink. I find that rather interesting, and you should too.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            And another philosopher of religion says the diametrical opposite of Parsons:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWjR8C8bKhQ#t=270

          • Ignorant Amos

            Hee! Hee!

            Tu Quoque? }80)~

            Ya just haven't got it yet, ah well, onward and upward.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't know what this means:

            Tu Quoque? }80)~

          • Ignorant Amos

            What?

            Tu Quoque? or }80)~ ?

            Tu Quoque I'll let you find out for yourself giving your obvious ability to search the web.

            }80)~ tilt your head 90 degrees to the left. That is an icon of *me giving you a smiley because even though you seem to me a bit misguided on a lot of issues, I enjoy reading your contributions to the site and I mean no malice in anything I write in our occasional discourse.

            *me? Because of the devil horns, I suspect, many here might think I possess, metaphorically speaking and the goatee beard, because I actually do possess one.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm inviting people here to this "party."

            New Apologetics has graciously offered to host this discussion on rational proofs for God's existence. I've posted a first argument. The reason for doing it off site is because of the
            way Disqus hides comments and only lets you know if someone has
            responded to you.

            Here is the link if you want to dialogue:

            https://www.facebook.com/NewApologetics/photos/a.160444457423911.35426.146577002143990/437384593063228/?type=1&comment_id=1199498&offset=0&total_comments=5&notif_t=photo_comment

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Arguments are not evidence, and we have made it fairly clear (as have many more erudite scholars) why the various philosophical arguments fail. Even the Church admits they fail - inasmuch as the precise details of the deity rely on revelation and not reason.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The arguments are founded on evidence, either empirical facts or rationally discovered axioms.

            The various arguments do not fail any more or less than the counter arguments (at least according to my limited understanding). Every article I've read in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is filled with claims, and denials of claims, and counter arguments.

            The fact that the Church teaches that some things about God can only be know by divine revelation does not mean that the things that can be known about God by reason fail to be known by reason.

          • Susan

            The various arguments do not fail any more or less than the counter arguments (at least according to my limited understanding). Every article I've read in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is filled with claims, and denials of claims, and counter arguments.

            Which makes them flimsly "evidence" indeed for ultimate claims. Such as claims of immaterial, omnisicient minds.
            I'm not trying to be hostile here, Kevin. I am trying to explain what it's like for someone on the other side to listen to you accuse someone of providing no evidence of their assertions.
            I've spent too much time here and resigned myself to the way things are done to not point out what seems (to me, at least) to be so obviously, a double standard.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Shall we discuss some of these in depth? As Susan points out, you yourself note that there is no agreement on these arguments, and you've certainly not offered evidence - just claimed that it existed. Please offer a piece of evidence for this disembodied mind. Explain why it is evidence.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes. If you go to the New Apologetics facebook page, you'll see a discussion has begun.

            Disqus won't let me paste the link her.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            That synopsis was cynical at best that doesn't really understand the both/and concept set down by the Church.
            I just want to generally address something you did seem to pick up on - the difference between overwhelming evidence, and enough evidence. God gives us an indication of his presence if you are open to His existence, and this includes Jesus and his presence on earth. He does not give us so much evidence that we could not employ free will not to believe.
            If an elephant sits in your living room, you can do no thing but choose to believe it's there. This is overwhelming evidence of which you'd have no free will to deny.
            If your mother tells you she loves you, you can choose to believe her or not based on some other factors all of which, if your given propensity was to believe her or not, you would find enough evidence I'm sure of it. Most atheists, I feel, would simply tell their mothers, "prove it."

          • Susan

            That synopsis was cynical at best

            I'm astonished by that response. I am honestly telling you the story as it has been told to me for months and months here. Those are the things people state matter of factly. It is not a strawman.

            doesn't really understand the both/and concept set down by the Church

            It doesn't matter what the church sets down. What matters is that the church is held to the same standards the rest of us are when it comes to supporting its claims.

            God gives us an indication of his presence if you are open to His existence

            This is just a way of stating that if I don't come the the same conclusion you do, I am doing it wrong. And no one here has given me any evidence that they are doing it right. If I don't believe in Yahweh, it is my inadequacy. I'm not "open". Where else would you try that argument?

            If an elephant sits in your living room, you can do no thing but choose to believe it's there. This is overwhelming evidence of which you'd have no free will to deny.
            If your mother tells you she loves you, you can choose to believe her or not

            Yes. Elephants and mothers and free will. I've done enough rounds on this subject. Honestly, I can't do it any more. Except this and I hope to heck I won't take the bait ever again:

            Most atheists, I feel, would simply tell their mothers, "prove it."

            Either provide evidence that most atheists would say that to their mothers or rethink the elephant/mother/free will thing and come back to me.

            It's ironic that you thought I was being cynical.

            .

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          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            My main point was to attack your definition of evidence which I didn't see you refute.
            I think your standard of evidence is "beyond a reasonable doubt" while God's giving you a civil trial standard (51% likely).
            If you have a high enough standard of evidence, then you don't have to believe anything, right? So if I say, well the claims of the resurrection were good enough that eyewitnesses were convincing enough that other people changed their lives to worship Jesus - people who really only had opposite incentive to do so. This is really our basic evidence for Jesus being God and you can call it "not evidence" as much as you like, but what you should really say is that it doesn't fit your standard of what evidence should be.
            If you were a reporter and visited rural Siberia and a small village of 128 people told you that an alien spaceship landed and visited with all of the residents and then took off, would you report the story? What if they had no cameras or artifacts to confirm the event? What if all of them were put on trial and forced to deny the event took place and they decided to die instead of renounce their story of what happened? Would that be evidence?
            We simply hold that you have to be open to believing that God exists, would visit a primitive people, and evaluate their proposition as holding true before you made a decision. You don't just say, "What are the chances that it is true?" you say "Let's assume they're telling the truth, what would that world look like?"

            You can't always evaluate a claim based on it's probability because there are many things that happen that are improbably - sometimes you have to use the method that an improbable event happened and then evaluate the truth of the claim with an open and honest belief that it's true to test if the improbable happened.

          • Susan

            I think your standard of evidence is "beyond a reasonable doubt" while God's giving you a civil trial standard (51% likely).

            Yahweh is giving me a civil trial standard? Yahweh expects me to accept ultimate claims asserted by humans if I can give them a bare pass? Where would you earn those 51 marks out of a hundred? Sorry. None of that makes any sense.

            Time to visit the dragon in my garage.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJRy3Kl_z5E&hd=1

          • Ignorant Amos

            Different claims demand different standards of evidence.

            Were I to say I had a Euro in my pocket, the standard of evidence you would require would be very low. In fact, I'm sure you would just take my word for it. You wouldn't even require me to take the Euro out and show you. After all, there are millions of Europeans with at least one Euro in their pocket. No big deal and hardly of any importance.

            If I said I had a hundred Euro's in my pocket, that would be no great shakes either.

            If I said I had a diamond worth a million Euro's, things would get a bit interesting. My word would be less acceptable. But still, it isn't a completely ridiculous statement. There are, after all, diamonds worth a million Euro's in existence. But I don't think my word would convince you.

            If I told you I had the Cullinan I diamond in my pocket, things would get very interesting. Because even though that diamond exists, the likelihood it would be in my pocket is so remote, even seeing it with your own eyes, you would still doubt it to be the genuine article...in other words, you would demand more evidence.

            Now, lets say I told you I had a diamond in my pocket that was even bigger than the 'Star of Africa', it was mined on the planet Zorg, and brought to me by aliens, but it is invisible and weighs nothing. It can't be detected through any empirical method. One just needs faith that it is in my pocket, then you are getting near the "God is real" hypothesis. Not quite, because as outlandish as it sounds, there might be a planet out there, not named yet, but does have diamond mines worked by intergalactic travellers.

            Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence as the late great Carl Sagan would say.

            You get the picture...51% evidence just wouldn't cut it. Neither would 52%. As it goes, 51% evidence wouldn't cut it for Mo's flying horse, Smith's angel Moroni, or Arthur Conan Doyle's fairies...not that that level of evidence exists, nor does it for your god, but if it did, would you be convinced?

            Would you fly in a plane known to have 51% success rate of flying and landing successfully? Nah, a didn't think so. You can use a computer so you are cleverer than that.

          • Susan

            Would you fly in a plane known to have 51% success rate of flying and landing successfully?

            If you were squeamish about that, you could hitch a ride on my dragon.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJRy3Kl_z5E&hd=1

          • Ignorant Amos

            No thank you missus... dragons tend to attract testosterone laden male Christians with sharp jaggy things intent on proving a point.

          • Susan

            dragons tend to attract testosterone laden male Christians with sharp jaggy things intent on proving a point.

            No problem. My dragon's invisible.

          • Ignorant Amos

            They are the worst kind...but you'll know that already, so I won't preach to the converted. Ever tried getting a saddle on yours?.... }80)~

          • Ignorant Amos

            If you were a reporter and visited rural Siberia and a small village of 128 people told you that an alien spaceship landed and visited with all of the residents and then took off, would you report the story?

            Ever heard of the Miracle of the Sun...there's a doozy for ya.

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

            Pope Pius XII himself witnessed the miracle of the sun from the Vatican gardens and the Pope wouldn't lie...would he?

          • Ignorant Amos

            The term is as a Gish Gallop, named after creationist Duane Gish...and your lack in understanding of the debating tactic extends farther than not knowing what it is called.

            Here you are...free education.

            http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Gish_Gallop

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks for the reminder. I'm not that interested in debating tactics, so my lack of understanding doesn't concern me that much. In this kind of forum, the rhetorical forms I'm most interested in are clarity and brevity.

          • Susan

            the rhetorical forms I'm most interested in are clarity and brevity.

            I thought it was clear enough. I was, trying to encapsulate as well as I could the many often ill-defined and unclear claims of your religion, all assertions without evidence.

            Sorry. Impossible to be brief there. They're not my claims. There are a LOT of them.

            And they are uttered as assertions as a matter of course here.

            "All the arguments for the existence of God" is not evidence. I can't think of any that I have encountered that I rejected outright. Care to show me where I've done that? Where I haven't explained why I couldn't accept them?

            Forget about me. What percentage of philosophers have found these arguments "evidence" of God

            You could go back and reread the discussions to see where people have found them flawed and show some indication that you are willing to consider the problems people find.
            You don't have to do it with all of them. Pick the one you find most convincing.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Forget about me. What percentage of philosophers find these arguments "evidence" of "God"?

            It won't matter Susan, they will ALL be fallacious arguments from authority.

            Irony of ironies is, Kevin was so quick to erroneously claim an informal fallacy, he didn't realise he was committing the formal fallacy of argumentum ad logicam, or fallacy fallacy if you like.

            Furthermore, he doesn't even realise that the arguments being presented by SN are riddled with a bag full of fallacies, including the appeal to authority.

            I bet ya can't guess what authorities he appeals to Susan?....}80)~

            Here's a firm favourite we see here regularly...

            "Appeal to Consequences" or wishful thinking

            "God must exist! If God did not exist, then all basis for morality would be lost and the world would be a horrible place!"

            "I acknowledge that I have no argument for the existence of God. However, I have a great desire for God to exist and for there to be an afterlife. Therefore I accept that God exists."

            There plenty of others though.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Susan, I took your advice and reviewed Kreeft's twenty proofs piece.

            I then chose the first argument and thought it was understandable and pretty convincing (but that could just be confirmation bias).

            Then I read through all the comments looking for devastating critiques of it and was surprised to find none.

            I guess the next step is to go to one of the atheist websites and see what they say about it.

          • Michael Murray

            I haven't read it Kevin but atheist friends tell me Mackie's book is very good.

            http://www.amazon.com/The-Miracle-Theism-Arguments-Existence/dp/019824682X

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thank you for the resources.

          • Susan

            Then I read through all the comments looking for devastating critiques of it and was surprised to find none

            Yes. Hard to respond to twenty arguments. :-) Especially when ath

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Okay. New Apologetics has graciously offered to host this discussion. I've posted a first argument. I'm going to invite people here who have agreed to do this. The reason for doing it off site is because of the way Disqus hides comments and only lets you know if someone has responded to you.

            Here is the link if you want to dialogue:

            https://www.facebook.com/NewApologetics/photos/a.160444457423911.35426.146577002143990/437384593063228/?type=1&comment_id=1199498&offset=0&total_comments=5&notif_t=photo_comment

          • Susan

            Here is the link if you want to dialogue

            Hi Kevin,

            Thank you for the invite. I'm not on Facebook and can't participate.

            Also, I've had it up to here with the argument. I did do my best to consider it and engage in it on numerous occasions before Strange Notions ever existed.

            Michael's link to Q. Quine's "forcing argument" article is highly relevant on this one, just for starters.

            In order to not ignore your effort, I've read the discussion and will continue to drop in as it gets updated.

            I appreciate you stopping to examine the arguments instead of just claiming that they are "reasonable". That is meant in a genuine way and not a snarky one. I have been frustrated in the past when I've tried to engage you with problems with other arguments and haven't felt that you were responding to any of the points.

            I appreciate the effort you're making here.

            Disqus is disqus. I think it would be useful if you tried the same project here at SN. I understand the issues with disqus, but if you start with the article every time, the whole discussion can be viewed.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks for this, Susan.

            I didn't want to think it appropriate to ask Brandon to do an OP on each of the arguments for God in turn, although that is not a bad idea. In some way, that is practically all that matters on the level of ideas for atheists, agnostics, and theists.

          • Susan

            Hi Kevin,
            I have kept up on the discussion you're having over at New Apologetics.

            I wonder if you read Q. Quine's article about forcing arguments and what you got from that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm glad you are looking at the discussion on New Apologetics because it is there for you.

            I reread Q. Quine's post. I agree with his basic point (disproving any number of hypotheses does not prove the last hypothesis standing, especially if the last one has no evidence in support of it).

            Aquinas, of course, does not proceed this way. For every single point he wants to prove in the Summa, he sets out every known argument contrary to the one he thinks is true and then explains the flaw in those arguments after he states and defends his own. (I know you know this based on your appreciation for him.)

            If I understand it properly, Aquinas' first "way" is not a deductive argument. It is inductive, beginning with facts about the world discoverable through observation and then reasoning back to their causes. I guess the crux of the matter is whether there really are causeless events in the universe. The best argument I have seen against this "way" is that there *may be* these at the quantum level.

          • Susan

            I'm glad you are looking at the discussion on New Apologetics because it is there for you.

            I'm not exactly sure what that means. This seemed to come about because I asked you for evidence for an omniscient mind and you replied that "all the arguments for God" were evidence. I disagreed and explained that I hadn't rejected the arguments outright and that I'd like you to address the many flaws that have been pointed out rather than claim the fact that those arguments existed counted as evidence.

            I appreciate the trouble you've taken but the "Unmoved Mover" is not, even if it holds, (and it's not doing that right now) an argument for an immaterial mind. You must see that it's not even close.

            I reread Q. Quine's post. I agree with his basic point (disproving any number of hypotheses does not prove the last hypothesis standing, especially if the last one has no evidence in support of it).

            For every single point he wants to prove in the Summa, he sets out every known argument contrary to the one he thinks is true and then explains the flaw in those arguments after he states and defends his own.

            Known at the time. I wouldn't even know if he set out every argument known at the time as I don't know every argument at the time. But has he addressed all the

            arguments he couldn't have known would come up? Or the arguments that haven't come up yet? Reread Quine's article and make sure you are not succumbing to Sherlock Holmes syndrome.

            If I understand it properly, Aquinas' first "way" is not a deductive argument.

            Interesting. The unmoved mover is generally presented that way, in my experience but it's possible that it's not an accurate representati

          • Michael Murray

            Remember that the burden is on the one who makes the claim.

            Not if they have a sensus divinitas

            http://www.jesusandmo.net/2008/02/22/raft/

          • Susan

            Snurfle.

          • Michael Murray

            I guess the next step is to go to one of the atheist websites and see what they say about it.

            Kevin I was trying to find a place that deals with these. I don't know the person below but he has certainly addressed a lot of them from an atheist perspective.

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/essays/unmoved-mover/

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I've invited Susan to discuss this on a New Apologetics Facebook Page. Unfortunately, Disqus won't let me give the same like to multiple people.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks Kevin.

    • RainingAgain

      Evolution was still a 'theory' last time I checked, and hasn't been verified. It'll do for now, until it's superceded by the next theory. But for a follower of Scientism it has obviously been elevated to the status of dogma. To postulate that science is not compatible with religion is to elevate the human senses and imagination to the level of omniscience.

      • Tom Rafferty

        How do you know there is anything other that the observable universe?

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        You are not a scientist, and do not understand how the term "theory" is used in science. After all, if it was dogma, it couldn't be replaced by the next theory that came along.

        And science and religion ARE utterly incompatible. They are completely incompatible techniques for investigating reality.

        In 500 years, religion has added nothing to our understanding of the universe. In five hundred years religion has not solved a single problem of the human condition.

        Science works. Religion? Not so much.

        • MattyTheD

          "In 500 years, religion has added nothing to our understanding of the
          universe. In five hundred years religion has not solved a single problem
          of the human condition."
          Not a *single* problem? I'd argue that religion has "solved" at least as many problems as have been "solved" by, say, poetry, music, painting, literature, sports, singing in the shower and sharing a good joke. Perhaps the "problems" that interest you are only empirical and mechanical? Personally, I find those problems the least interesting and the least difficult to solve.

          • Susan

            For instance?

          • MattyTheD

            Sure, Susan! For instance, religion, for billions of people, has provided the "solution" to the problem of wanting to know why they exist. (And by "why" I mean "for what purpose", I don't mean "by what physical mechanism".) Okay, that's billions of "solutions" right there. But I'll give you more. Religion, for billions of people, has provided some solution to the question of how they should live (I say "some" because I don't want to rob religion of the mystery that so many of us treasure). For millions of people it has provided solutions to the philosophical problem of evil. To the problem of boredom. To the problem of despair. For many, it has helped to provide a solution to the problem of what to do with their life. Of what values to make central to, say, their marriage. For many it has provided a methodology for helping prioritize their choices. I really could go on and on in this vein. But I'll wrap up with this, probably the most important solution that religion provides - for many people, religion has provided the solution to the problem of not knowing God. There are *many* others, but that's probably enough for a combox.

          • Tom Rafferty

            How has the unsupported assertions listed above added to knowledge? Saying religion gives meaning is no different than saying alcohol gives meaning to a drunk. In both cases, it is a subjective belief or feeling, disconnected from known reality.

          • Michael Murray

            I'd argue that religion has "solved" at least as many problems as have been "solved" by, say, poetry, music, painting, literature, sports, singing in the shower and sharing a good joke.

            That good eh ?

            So not quite as good as good sex. And definitely not quite as good as beta blockers, SSRI's, cognitive behaviour therapy, gall bladder surgery, colonoscopies, contraception that works, glaucoma medication. Just to name a few that I have a personal interest in :-)

          • MattyTheD

            Yes, those inventions are fantastic! I'd happily add many other non-religious "solutions" that crafty humans have come up with: toilet paper, artificial heart valves, whoopie cushions (boredom solution) , the "delete history" button, etc. All good things. Yet, I can't help but notice that as we crafty humans come up with exponentially more "solutions", so many of us still find life to be, well, not quite exponentially more satisfactory. Meanwhile, so many humans (billions?), with or without the money to afford the "solutions" we've listed, would cite their relationship with God as the single greatest "solution" they possess. That doesn't make you "wrong". But it might serve as a reminder that just because *you* don't understand the value of religion, doesn't mean religion has no value. Much like if I don't understand the Russian language, that doesn't mean the Russian language has no value.

          • Michael Murray

            Actually I do understand the value of religion. I just don't think its value has anything to do with whether or not there are gods which is what my atheism is about.

          • MattyTheD

            Well, obviously if *you* don't believe in the existence of a god, you'll attribute the value of religion to other causes. But, just to be clear, that doesn't mean you *actually* understand the value of religion. It just means you have a theory for why *other* people value religion. It seems to me that with no direct, personal experience on the positive value of religion, you must resort to speculation, no?

          • Michael Murray

            Not agreeing on the cause of the value of religion is not the same as not understanding the value of religion. The benefits of a belief system can be studied and understood even though I may think it has its roots in childhood indoctrination and you think it has some supernatural cause.

          • ChrisDeStefano

            "In 500 years, religion has added nothing to our understanding of the universe. In five hundred years religion has not solved a single problem of the human condition."

            Hello Solange,

            In my opinion I would have to disagree with this. My disagreement is that I would assume that following religion has done a great deal to heal the human condition from individual to individual. This is assuming we are talking about the spiritual/emotional well being of the individual. Christianity itself states that by nature men are sinful, and while we are supposed to perfect our virtue in this life, it becomes clear this process of perfection can take a lifetime.

            What is interesting to me is the fact that we can, as humans, make the statement that we are imperfect. Your statement is one that seems to be at the heart of most human beings in that we know there is a "better way" or a higher ideal.

            "Science works. Religion? Not so much"
            I take this to mean that science works to explore the universe and different mechanisms that we find in existence. Certainly science works better than religion here, as it is not the job of religion to study science. So yes science works for what it was made for. However, in my personal experience, religion has far more to say on purpose and why we are here.

          • cminca

            Please tell me exactly what "problem" has been solved by poetry?
            Then please admit that religion has been the source of as many problems of the human condition as it has the solution.
            Problems like intolerance and murder.
            Science helped man develop the airplane. Religion helped turn it into a weapon.

        • Mike

          I can't speak for the other gentlemen you are conversing with, whether or not he is a scientist.

          I'd say this, religion isn't asking questions about the structure and mechanistic details of the physical universe. I wouldn't expect it to solve anything.

          I may be opening myself up, but why not. Tell me why I can't be a faithful Catholic, and a good scientist. How are those two aspects of my life "utterly incompatible". I'd submit that my life is about seeking truth, whether it be about God and the spiritual, or in Science and the physical.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          So, opening a hospital that cares for the sick and injured does not solve a human problem?

      • cminca

        Let's get this straight--Evolution is NOT a theory.
        The FACT is that species evolve.
        What may be a "theory" is natural selection.

    • Mike

      Alright Tom, I'll bite.

      Please give me a contemporary example of how the Church is impeding science. We've previously discussed the problem of adam and eve and original sin vs. the small population of human science estimates existed at the earliest beginnings of homosapiens (I think I have the argument phrased properly) so lets not rehash that one again. Do you have another example? What experiment am I forbidden to run on theological grounds? Note, not moral grounds, but theological grounds.

      I am a believer that the Church and religious faith in general can be completely congruent with science. The RCC even teaches such, see paragraph 159 of the Catechism. While I'll admit fundamentalist religions may have issues with Science the RCC doesn't. We teach and I believe that the RCC promotes science, not simply that they aren't in conflict with one another.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        Stem cell research.

        • MattyTheD

          M., you're right that robust ethics can sometimes be an obstacle to
          science. Are you suggesting that the scientific community would prefer
          looser ethical standards?

        • Mike

          Wrong on two counts. 1.) I could do stem cell research provided that the cells aren't derived from embryos. The vatican even funds such research. 2.) The reason for not doing research with embryo derived cells is a moral objection from the church. I could argue robustly against such research without mentioning God.

          • Susan

            I could do stem cell research provided that the cells aren't derived from embryos.

            You can now.

            The reason for not doing research with embryo derived cells is a moral objection from the church.

            Forgive me if I have grown weary of moral objections from your church as they have moral objections to gay marriage and to contraception (for instance) all based on claiming the existence of a deity with whom they are in communication.

            I could argue robustly against such research without mentioning God.

            I'm sure you could and am happy to consider those arguments. Those are the arguments that need to be made.

            As far as I know, but I am not an expert on the subject, there was a time when stem cell research could NOT be done without embryos. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

            If that is true, then I would be more than happy to hear your arguments against stem cell research under those circumstances. Please understand that I don't think many things are clear cut issues and this is NOT clear cut at all.
            Which is why I think god claims obstruct them.

            I do respect that (among many things) about your approach. That you understand the value of presenting a moral position without bringing in god claims.

            (I also understand that it would probably be off-topic to robustly argue that here. I'm just saying that I am glad you understand the importance of making moral arguments without invoking a deity in which you sincerely believe and I don't think exists. I hope you understand that is meant as a respectful comment.)

          • Mike

            So one of the things I've learned recently is that according to the Church, she could argue for the other moral issues you mentioned without invoking God either. I believe JPII wrote "faith and reason" in the 1990s which said something to that effect.

            So I would like to establish a definition for what it means (biologically) to be alive, and what it means to be a human person. I will define a human person as an individual possessing a full set of DNA (lets ignore trisomy individuals for the moment, its really semantics) with a unique set of experiences. Wikipedia defines life from a biological perspective as follows: "Any contiguous living system is called an organism. Organisms undergo metabolism, maintain homeostasis, possess a capacity to grow, respond to stimuli, reproduce and, through natural selection, adapt to their environment in successive generations."

            A human embryo has all of the following characteristics. Therefore an embryo is a human being. Now, it looks very different, can't speak for itself, or tell us what it wants, therefore it can't consent for any scientific experiments.

            I'd assert that all human beings have intrinsic value due to their humanity. Part of that dignity means a right to live (the most basic human right). Harvesting embryonic stem cells requires destroying said embryo, ergo it's immoral.

            Where am I going wrong?

        • Sean Alderman

          As Mike so beautifully points out, the Church does not object simply to Stem Cell Research. She specifically objects to Embryonic Stem Cell Research. The point is to ask the question of why does she hold this objection?

          The answer is simple. The embryo has all the characteristics of a human being. If you were to map the embryo's DNA, would it be anything other than a human being? If a male and female reproduce at what point do the "parts" contributed from each parent cease to become the parent's "parts" and begin to become the offspring's parts? I'm not expert enough to answer that in scientific detail, but I can answer with certainty that it is very shortly after the the moment of fertilization.

          So the real question is, if you agree that a pig is a pig, even as an embryo, then why do you disagree that a human being is a human being, even as an embryo?

          Is it not true that in the process of harvesting stem cells from the embryo that the life of said embryo ceases?

          What the Church's objection comes down to is whether or not it is ok for a human being to be used as a means to an end. The Church proposes that ALL human beings have dignity and value beyond their individual parts. She proposes that we should defend the dignity of life at all stages from natural beginning to natural end.

          So when does a human being cease (or begin) to be a human being and become something suitable for spare parts? The answer needs to be fairly absolute, otherwise we get into varying degrees of relativistic opinion. I imagine you might bring up organ donation in response, but I would imagine you wouldn't enjoy being forced donating any of your parts while you're a living human being, and that is exactly what is happening in the case of embryonic stem cell research.

          • Mike

            Hi Sean,

            I would agree with what you've said above, but would add one thing. I think there is a legitimate question of when exactly a new life exists, one that we may not ever definitively answer. However, I'm not sure this poses a problem. I would prefer to error in giving an embryo rights a little too soon, rather than error in giving it rights a little too late.

            There were regrettable times in humanity's past that we thought that other races were something other than human based on appearance, and not entitled to rights. While I don't hold this position, I could imagine why someone in the 14th century might think so, given some of the differences between people from various regions of the world. Science demonstrates that we are all the same species, and that just because we look different we still possess intrinsic rights. I think the same with issues of beginning of life, just because someone looks different (small ball of cells, vs. baby, vs. adult) shouldn't impact their rights as a person. If history tells us anything, we ascribe more rights over time, not less.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No, the question is whether or not an embryo is a human being. On this point, people have different opinions; you have yours, I have mine, Jews, and Baptists, and Jainists all have theirs.

            But you are already assuming as settled something which is clearly not settled.

            And the claim that the church defends the dignity of life is a sham, considering their opposition to various end-of-life positions.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is not a *SHAM* but is consistent with everything the Church teaches about the 5th Commandment. The Church opposes direct killing and suicide.

          • @Serafina_Pekkala:disqus wrote:

            No, the question is whether or not an embryo is a human being. On this point, people have different opinions; you have yours, I have mine, Jews, and Baptists, and Jainists all have theirs.

            You have restated my point in regard to relativism. It seems to me that there should be no relativism when it comes to the science of the matter. By relativism I mean that your truth is as equal and as good as mine.

            If in fact, the science of when the cells we all came from become a distinct member of our species then
            @disqus_64YXQ4qmy8:disqus's point is a very good one. Better to error on the side of caution.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            This isn't a science question - that's why relativism doesn't enter into it. But science doesn't claim that an embryo is a human being. We as a species assign rights to our members, and what rights are given when remains the debate.

          • Mike

            THIS IS A SCIENCE QUESTION, its alive and human or it's not. But I haven't heard your side yet, feel free to correct me if I'm mistaken.
            Why isn't an embryo a human being? I argue purely on scientific grounds that a human embryo would be a human being. Full set of human DNA, individual, and individual experiences. I make no distinction between human beings, and personhood. I can't see why anyone would want to do such a thing.

            How would you assign rights? You appear to want to limit (or outright deny) rights to embryos, yes? Why? Usually the Catholics are accused of denying rights to people. I want to grant the MOST basic right, to life. Without such a right, all others are meaningless.

            Once again, all I've heard is a two line no response from you. Lets hear your side!

          • David Nickol

            How would you assign rights? You appear to want to limit (or outright deny) rights to embryos, yes? Why?

            What rights would you assign to embryos other than the "right to life"?

            The "problem" with the right-to-life movement is that, legally, the unborn don't have rights, and it has always been eminently more practical to assume that a person comes into existence at birth, not at conception. For one thing, conception is basically undetectable. For another, most early embryos die. For yet another, a pregnant woman is clearly a human person, and her rights and freedoms can only be chipped away by declaring that she carries within her another human person with full rights.

            It would be extraordinarily difficult, for example, to determine a person's citizenship based on where he or she was conceived rather than where he or she was born. Governments who tried to issue "conception certificates" rather than birth certificates would be setting themselves an impossible task.

            No proposed abortion law that I have ever heard of treats the unborn as persons with rights. If such laws existed, they would be homicide laws, and abortion has never been treated as homicide under our system of law. There would be no way, if abortion were legally homicide, to let off the hook women who procured abortions. They would be at minimum accomplices to homicide and in any fair system would probably be fully guilty of committing homicide.

            It really is not the goal of any "right-to-lifer" I have ever engaged with to pass laws to confer on a fertilized egg or embryo the same right to life as a newborn baby or an adult. In my personal opinion, abortion is a very unfortunate thing. But it would be a nightmare that nobody wants to treat it legally as murder.

          • Mike

            Hi David,

            Thank you for your thoughtful response.

            I would grant an embryo all the rights of a human being. I understand the legal issues you raise, and it's a difficult question to determine whether or not to violate the rights of a woman or an embryo/ unborn baby. For the purposes of this conversation we weren't concerned with abortion per say. We are discussing embryonic stem cell research. As such there is no manner I can see where the rights of a pregnant woman would be in play.

            One of the most amusing legalistic conundrums I run into in the US is that sometimes it seems an unborn baby has rights and sometimes it doesn't. For example individuals have been convicted of murder for killing an unborn baby. I think one should be logically consistent, either it has rights or it doesn't. We can argue which one is correct, but they should be consistent.

            Lastly I want to respond to your comment on many embryos dying before being born. I would say that IF an embryo had rights, we wouldn't deny it any rights to let nature take its course.

          • David Nickol

            I would say that IF an embryo had rights, we wouldn't deny it any rights to let nature take its course.

            Suppose for some unexplained reason, 60% of babies began dying within a few days of being born. Practically no amount of money for medical research to try to solve the problem and save all those babies would be too much. It appears to be the case that about 60% of the unborn die within a few days of conception. How much money is being spent on research to solve the problem of this massive die-off? The Catechism says the following:

            2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.

            I don't see anything remotely resembling this happening, and it is almost certainly shouldn't.

          • Mike

            I'm all ears to how you would propose to do such a thing.

            I see no way how this has any bearing on stem cell research. Active destruction of something we agree to be alive and human is different from what you propose.

          • David Nickol

            For example individuals have been convicted of murder for killing an unborn baby.

            I can't think of any cases, but there certainly are "fetal homicide laws," because they have been promoted and passed by "pro-lifers." The goal is to not to protect the unborn from crime. It is to keep making incremental changes that will result in abortion being illegal.

          • Mike

            See my response to Susan about defining life. Go ahead look up "life" on wikipedia. Find the list of processes that are used to determine if something is alive. I dare you. Find one (one) that an embryo wouldn't satisfy!

            Please, by all means tell me why the church can't defend the dignity of life. We teach ALL life is precious!!!

            Lastly I can't actually believe you are a relativist. If you actually believed such a thing, you would say, well I've got my truth about God, and Mike's got his...and that would the end of it. The very object of trying to argue about the truth of anything means relativism is illogical.

          • Michael Murray

            See my response to Susan about defining life. Go ahead look up "life" on wikipedia. Find the list of processes that are used to determine if something is alive. I dare you. Find one (one) that an embryo wouldn't satisfy!

            It's a living human embryo. Not the same thing as a living human being. M. Solange O'Brien asked

            No, the question is whether or not an embryo is a human being.

            Once you attach the words "human being" to a small bunch of cells you implicitly attach all the legal rights of adult human beings. That may be a reasonable thing to do but it can't be done just be fiat like that. It's the same annoying trick I am doing by calling it a small bunch of cells and making it sound like a toenail clipping. There is a nice discussion over here

            http://lesswrong.com/lw/e95/the_noncentral_fallacy_the_worst_argument_in_the/

            of this non central fallacy.

          • Mike

            In my previous response I asserted one definition for a human being, is an individual with a full set of human dna (trisomy conditions not withstanding) with individual experiences. I can't think why this would be an unreasonable definition. I believe science would validate that a human embryo would satisfy all of those conditions. Furthermore lets assume this is indeed a gray area (which I think is the best one could say based on the science). Even if that were the case I would argue it's better to give an embryo rights in error, rather than take them away in error.

            Lastly I don't know why this is such a big issue bioethically given that there are other avenues that appear to be promising, and wouldn't have ANY bioethical gray areas.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Please, by all means tell me why the church can't defend the dignity of life.

            If your church was consistent you might have a reasonable position, but it doesn't, so you don't. Stop being a hypocrite or I will with draw your status.

            We teach ALL life is precious!!!

            Behave yourself Mike...you eat don't you?

          • Michael Murray

            I would imagine you wouldn't enjoy being forced donating any of your parts while you're a living human being, and that is exactly what is happening in the case of embryonic stem cell research.

            Where is the "you" in the embryo?

            A human embryo is a human embryo. It's different to a fully grown human. This is the heart of the moral dilemma we are faced with. I never think it helps to just pretend the difference isn't there.

      • Tom Rafferty

        When religion tells us that miracles happen in the natural world,
        and science tells us that they don’t, then you have to choose between science and religion.

        When religion tells us that Jesus rose from the dead, and science tells us that people don’t rise from the dead, then you have to choose between science and religion

        When religion tells us that Mohammad flew on a winged horse, and science tells us that there are no winged horses, then you have to choose between science and religion.

        When religion tells us that a person is possessed by an evil demon, and science tells us that the person has a mental illness, then you have to choose between science and religion.

        When religion tells us that humans have a special relationship with the creator of the universe, and science tells us that the universe consists of a hundred billion galaxies, and that’s just the observable universe, each of which has a hundred billion stars like our sun, and you see how insignificant humans on the planet earth are, then you have to choose between science and religion.

        When religion tells us that humans, and only humans, have an immortal soul, and science tells us that humans are just another species of animal on the planet earth, mortal like all other animals, then you have to choose between science and religion.

        When religion tells us that a fertilized egg is a human person, and science tells us that it is a cell a fraction of a milimetre in size, then you have to choose between science and religion.

        When religion tells us that being gay is unnatural and science tells us that being gay is perfectly natural, then you have to choose between science and religion

        When religion tells us that prayer works, and science tells us that not only does prayer not work, but that it can have harmful consequences, then you have to choose between science and religion.

        When religion tells us that religion is good for society, and science tells us that secular societies are far stronger in terms of
        quality of life indexes in a range of measurements, then you have to choose between science and religion.

        But it is not merely in terms of the outcomes of what we believe that we have to choose between science and religion. because what is more significant is the way that we approach these beliefs, and come to these beliefs. Science approaches truth by observing reality, proposing hypotheses and experiments and explanations and predictions that can then be tested, and then
        relies on the outcomes of those experiments. Whereas religion approaches truth by imagining realities based on supposed revelations from supposed imaginary supernatural beings, and ignores the evidence of reality when the evidence of reality contradicts those already-reached conclusions.

        Science knows that we will never reach the truth, but that what we do is gradually come closer and closer to it, by discarding theories that evidence has shown to be inconsistent with reality.

        Religion claims to have already found the truth, and proclaims it based on authority rather than on any evidence, and tries to maintain that illusion, by iignoring whatever evidence contradicts its already-reached conclusions.

        Most significantly, science advances by trying to prove its theories wrong, whereas religion stagnates by insisting that its theories are correct.

        With science, just one inconsistency is enough to rule a theory as being wrong. With religion, any number of inconsistencies can be explained away by whatever theological arguments that theologians choose to come up with.

        Science has no vested interest in any particular outcome to its search for truth, whereas religion starts with the outcome and then works backwards.

        Scientists don’t pray about the truth of their conclusions, or start wars with rival scientists when they disagree, and scientific theories are not protected by blasphemy laws.

        There are so many differences in the method of approaching truth between religion and science that are as significant, if not more significant, than the outcomes, where you have to choose between science and religion, when the two clash.

        (from Michael Nugent in 2013 in a debate in Cork, Ireland)

        • Mike

          Hi Tom,

          Lets take them one at a time. First one towards the end. I definitely pray that my scientific conclusions are valid, so that one goes out the window.

          Second, science searches for the truth, and I would argue that at it's best religion does as well. Science is ill equipped to tell me the meaning of my life, and what is morally acceptable. I'm not degrading science, I practice it as my day job, this is my hobby.

          Third, there is SO MUCH wrong with what you listed above I don't know where to begin, so I'll take a few.

          "When religion tells us that a fertilized egg is a human person, and science tells us that it is a cell a fraction of a milimetre in size, then you have to choose between science and religion." I would full throatedly argue that science would argue that a fertilized egg is a person, and religion only states what the rights and privileges of a person are.

          Neither of us have a youtube video of the Crucifixion and alleged ressurrection of Christ, so we really can't empirically prove it either happened or didn't.

          I have never heard a Catholic say gay people are unnatural. I have never heard a disparaging word about one's sexuality from the church. Just because the Church says what is morally acceptable, doesn't mean it's condeming them.

          Lastly, you didn't answer my original question. What EXPERIMENT am I forbidden from running on theological grounds. I have knowledge and access to just about every spectroscopic technique I can list. Tell me the experiment I can't run on religious (theological) grounds!!

          "When religion tells us that humans have a special relationship with the creator of the universe, and science tells us that the universe consists of a hundred billion galaxies, and that’s just the observable universe, each of which has a hundred billion stars like our sun, and you see how insignificant humans on the planet earth are, then you have to choose between science and religion." So science tells us that the universe is expansive. That hardly tells us that humans don't share a special relationship with the divine. In fact the Vatican has said it is perfectly acceptable to believe that there is intelligent alien life somewhere in the universe. Come back when you have a youtube video of aliens, not conjecture.

          • Tom Rafferty

            Of course you are not forbidden to perform any experiments on theological grounds. I don't understand your point, other than attempting to obfuscate one big point Nugent makes: When science clearly shows a dogma of faith as being very improbable, the Church will not accept it because it would cause the whole structure to crumble.

            The comments from Nugent have not been refuted by you. I would add to his comments the principle of "absence of evidence is the evidence of absence", in the sense that religion makes claims that effect reality (nature), thus can be evaluated by scientific methods. Virtually all claims made by all religions regarding a deity effecting nature have failed to show any impact from such. Please note that we are talking probability, not possibility, here.

            All a science-based thinker can say is that there is no evidence for the supernatural of any sort. We cannot make the statement that there is no supernatural.

          • Mike

            Just because something is improbable doesn't mean it didn't happen. The beginning of the universe might be an improbable event, but here it is.

            How did I not refute them? Science can tell us when life begins (and ends), but not the rights of persons. The Church doesn't teach that homosexuals are automatically condemned. Nugent conjectures that we don't have a special relationship with God within the universe by citing the vastness of the universe. By you're own definition "absence of evidence is evidence of absence" Nugent never claims that there are other life forms in the universe that share a special relationship with God, just that it could happen, to me that's not really evidence is it.

            Next, I don't believe I need scientific empirical, verifiable, falsifiable evidence for all things in life. I have no empirical evidence that I love my wife, should I leave her and end the marriage. I mean I can't measure my love for her, there is no way to scientifically analyze it.

          • Tom Rafferty

            If something is improbable, then what is your justification for belief in such? (knowledge is JUSTIFIED true belief)

            "Science can tell us when life begins (and ends), but not the rights of persons" Correct. Life is a continuum. Personhood is a matter to considerable disagreement. I will not expand on this, as there will not be close to a meeting of the minds on this. Suffice to say, the bottom line is the rights of the mother trumps everything legally IMHO.

            "The Church doesn't teach that homosexuals are automatically condemned." Perhaps not, but it assumes that they have a "disorder" based on a few lines of scripture. Science clearly shows homosexuality is prevalent throughout the higher levels of the animal kingdom, and the whole subject of sexuality and gender is on a continuum and not an "either/or" reality.

            Love, and other emotions, are not in the same category of reality as empirical knowledge. They are emergent properties of higher animals and are based on evolution, social interactions and the individuals experience with his or her object of affection. Show me "wet" regarding water, for example.

          • Mike

            I assert the following, God is not a science question. Therefore God cannot have a science answer.

            While we might disagree on personhood, I'd say this: I would rather give persons rights in error, than deny them in error. Furthermore embryonic stem cell research isn't the concern of a mother, if the embryo isn't implanted within her. Lastly I'd highlight that we agree that the statement listed above, that religion doesn't say a small embryo is alive, science does. Besides, were likely not going to agree on the topic of faith and religion vs. science.

            There is almost no mention of homosexuality in the bible that seems relevant, I don't expect any, nor do I need any to derive what the church teaches. There are many impulses people have that aren't necessarily morally good. I might want to cheat on my wife, and it might be "found in higher levels in the animal kingdom" but that doesn't mean it's correct, or just.

            What evidence do you have that love is merely an evolutionary adaptation.

          • Tom Rafferty

            God IS a science question if you are asserting that such is active in the world. Of course, if you are talking about a deist god, then that is different. To us, a deist god is no different than no god, since it is no actively involved with the world.

            Regarding love, my statements about it are confirmed by observation of behavior of others, thus, is natural. Is it MERELY an evolutionary adaptation? There is no evidence to support the assertion that it is other than such, therefore, to belief it is other than natural is unsupported.

          • Mike

            Ok Tom, tell me what experiment to run how to prove, or disprove God. I'll gladly run it, and we can definitively put this issue to rest.

            I assert that God is not limited by space and time (or spacetime if you want to be technical), and is not limited to the universe. This is the Catholic understanding of God. I can't imagine a way to measure, or quantify God by physical means alone. God rather has to reveal God's self, and we have to decide if it's true or not.

            Ok, lets go back to love. How would I really know that I love my wife? How would I know it isn't something else? I'll be sure to give her a kiss tonight, and tell her I have an emotion predicated on evolution that makes me attached to her, but it's only an illusion my brain plays on me to think that I would love her, and wish her to feel the same about me.

            Why couldn't I assert that my perception of others who claim to interact with the divine be valid, by "observing the behavior of others". They pray and feel love, peace, etc.

            I don't think we want to assert truths based on the number of people who hold them. They are either true or they aren't, and we can either prove them or not. I can't prove God, I don't even try. You can't prove love is only natural. You wouldn't think highly if I said there are 1 billion Catholics, therefore they are correct.

          • Tom Rafferty

            Let me respond to each paragraph:

            Ok Tom, tell me what experiment to run how to prove, or disprove God. I'll gladly run it, and we can definitively put this issue to rest. (I'm not asking you to "run" an experiment and we are not talking about "prove", only evidence enough to support the claim that there probably is an interventionist deity. The theist is making the claim, thus, is obligated to produce the evidence.)

            I assert that God is not limited by space and time (or spacetime if you want to be technical), and is not limited to the universe. This is the Catholic understanding of God. I can't imagine a way to measure, or quantify God by physical means alone. God rather has to reveal God's
            self, and we have to decide if it's true or not. (Another assertion without evidence.)

            Ok, lets go back to love. How would I really know that I love my wife? How would I know it isn't something else? I'll be sure to give her a kiss tonight, and tell her I have an emotion predicated on evolution that makes me attached to her, but it's only an illusion my brain plays on me to think that I would love her, and wish her to feel the same about me. (The source of love, or other emotions, does not change the reality of such. I am not arguing for a lesser value for love if it is just a natural feature of our reality, so you are creating a straw man here.)

            Why couldn't I assert that my perception of others who claim to interact with the divine be valid, by "observing the behavior of others". They pray and feel love, peace, etc. (What you are describing can be explained by psychology and neuroscience. Any reference to a supernatural outside of the knowns, again, is an assertion without evidence.)

            I don't think we want to assert truths based on the number of people who hold them. They are either true or they aren't, and we can either prove them or not. I can't prove God, I don't even try. You can't prove love is only natural. You wouldn't think highly if I said there
            are 1 billion Catholics, therefore they are correct. (I have no argument with any of this. Where did I make the assertion that the number of people believing something as any bearing on the truth?)

          • Mike

            Ok, we're talking past each other.

            Point 1.) you are arguing there is no God, fine, but I'm not interested in that argument at the moment.

            Point 2.) You asserted that religion and science aren't compatible. As you eloquently put it it is on the one making the assertion to back it up with evidence. I dismantled your earlier appeal to authority from the debate somewhere. So, I'll ask it again, why can't I hold to all that we know about the physical universe, and believe in Yahweh? I find it completely congruent to accept that God made the physical world and sustains it, with what I observe scientifically. There is no empirical evidence to either validate or refute it. Therefore it is a metaphysical argument and therefore outside the realm of science to answer.

            Point 3.) I'm confused about your comment about my description of God. How is it asserted without evidence. The Catholic understanding of God is as I described (agreed). If God exists there would be no way to probe God. Therefore God would have to reveal himself. Similarly for the two of us we have to reveal something about ourselves. Then we decide if it's worth believing. I could be a closet atheist whose just here to have fun with everyone and be a general pain.

            Point 4.) Perhaps we are missing each other on love as well. I'll assert that love is immaterial, as are beauty, justice, etc. What methodology should I use to go about determining if each of them are real? Are they just an illusion of my feeble brain? How would I go about determining if an act is just, loving, or beautiful. I believe that would be a better tool bag to discuss Yahweh.

            Point 5.) I wonder if you are familiar with Prof. Richard Dawkins scale of theism/atheism. I would consider myself to be a 2 or 3. I can't prove God exists, but I'm going to live my life assuming that God does exist. I admit I might be wrong about my beliefs but don't have a good reason to change them at this point in time.

          • Tom Rafferty

            You make the leap of faith without any justification and believe in a god who is improbable. I do not accept the claim that there are any god because the evidence is lacking. You are a 2 or 3 on the Dawkins scale, I am a 6.

            You have not justified your faith, only asserted its truth. I challenge you to find any other part of your life where you accept a serious claim without evidence.

            I'm done, unless you begin to have any doubts about your beliefs regarding a god. You may have any last word. Peace.

          • Mike

            I understand your position Tom. I'm sorry if you feel frustrated by out interaction. We disagree on the existence of God, and we might not ever converge, and I'm comfortable with that.

            I note the other day you asked if anyone wanted to interact when you joined here. I am doing my best to do so.

            I'd assert that I love my wife! I have no empirical evidence of such a claim, it can't be measured, and shy of hooking up my brain to a computer it can't be 100% verified. However, I live my life based on the assumption that it is true.

            I still note, you haven't provided any evidence why (in theory) God and science are incompatible. You even admitted my religion doesn't prohibit me from performing science based on theological grounds.

            Lastly, since you claim to have an aversion to assertions without evidence. Your line that got me hot under the collar this morning "The Church has always been, and continues to be, an obstacle to science." No where today did I see you back this up once. If I missed it please let me know. Asserted, no evidence provided. Once again, you made my point that no scientific experiment is off limits on theological grounds (at least none you came up with). How then is the Church standing as a obstacle to science?

          • Tom Rafferty

            Wow, Mike. After reading my comment from Michael Nugent of the incompatibility of science and religion you still are asking me for "evidence?" Perhaps this link from Richard Carrier from about 8 years ago will give you more background. http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2006/11/science-and-medieval-christianity.html Other than that, I have no more to say on the subject.

            Your understanding of what I mean by obstacle to science seems to be a misinterpretation. Of course, anyone can do science, no matter their theological perspective. My point is that virtually every claim on reality made by the Catholic Church has been shown to be unsupported. I have made the following comment on another's comment (can't remember who) and I thought it summarizes the basic reason why Christianity in not probable as a valid world view:

            What is more likely?

            a)
            2000 years ago, god sent his son to save us from the original sin of
            the first two humans, even though science shows that humanity did
            not begin from one couple but from a group and that human behavior is
            not unlike that of other social animals. This savior supposedly
            performed miracles, died and was resurrected. However, there is no independent contemporaneous verification from sources outside of the
            New Testament for any of this story and the New Testament itself was
            written several decades after the time that these events would have
            occurred by people who did not witness any of the events.

            b)
            Christianity began like several other myths circulating before and at
            the same time in the middle east and had the subsequent fortune of
            benefiting from a variety of circumstances to evolve into a major
            presence in society.

          • Mike

            I choose (a). Except that Jesus saves humanity from all sin, not just original sin.

            I'd also say that modern science emerged say 400 years ago, and that Scripture was compiled at least 1500 years ago, with many of the books contained within Scripture being composed centuries earlier. I simply don't expect Scripture to be a science book. I'm sorry to say Tom the examples you gave are simply unconvincing to me.

            Science can not tell us what is morally just, what the meaning of my life is, or any of the other most pressing questions I have in life. Religion does a good job answering religious questions, science does a fantastic job answering science questions, I wouldn't expect them to anything else.

          • Tom Rafferty

            So, you think a) is more probable. Okay.

            You don't expect Scripture to be a science book, but you accept what it says because why? How do you justify your belief? How would you know if you are wrong? Don't such questions stimulate questioning to best understand reality? They certainly do for me, and it changed my life for the better.

            "Science can not tell us what is morally just, what the meaning of my life is, or any of the other most pressing questions I have in life. Religion does a good job answering religious questions ---" So, your religion answers religious questions that do not have answers otherwise. See my first paragraph.

            I'm really done now. Peace.

          • Mike

            Tom, I'm a Catholic, what did you expect my response to be?

            How would you propose I use science to determine what is morally good?

            I justify my faith in God, the same way I justify all the other immaterial things I experience in life. You seem to think I haven't considered what you propose before. Isn't it possible that I've considered the questions you asked and came up with my current answer?

          • Loreen Lee

            I believe there is one supposition made by religion that is not made by science, and that is the eficacy of the belief, (not probable) that consciousness can have an effect on the physical. Indeed, does that not summarize the 'idea' of 'creation'. Science, generally gives us a prospective, to the extent that it increasingly admits the role of consciousness, of forms of epiphemenolosm, even in evolution, where mind, conciousness evolves from physical material beings. To hold the 'religious viewpoint', is a recognition that mind in some way is 'a priori'. Although it is true that the pure reason which is the substance of dogma, entails contradictions when it relies on images to relate to physical reality, the 'ideas/ideals' of that pure reason as presented by atholicism, are in the main more acceptable (to me) than the opposite possible premise of the relevant antimony. As Kant pointed out tthat the 'understanding' cannot explain the ontraictions/paradoxes that reason runs into on a metaphysical level, neither with theories of the cosmos,(science) or theories of purpose, and meaning in life, (religon) we have to accept his conclusion that these problems cannot be 'overcome' except through some kind of faith, i.e. reason unsupported by 'evidence'. The scientist now holds the belief (as it applies to the physical universe and is not just an abstract theory) that there may at one point have been a unified theory which explains the now-existing other four. Christianity, (Catholicism) holds it on faith, the belief that there will be a new 'creation' or a new heaven/earth, mind/body, for instance. After listening to the latest discovery that the inflation of the universe took about a trillionth of a second, I cannot hol that religious 'theories' are any less 'improbable' than that the cosmologists are putting forther with respect to the origin of the big bang.

          • Tom Rafferty

            Loreen, the subject of consciousness is one of the greatest mysteries of existence. The only thing science can say presently is that there is no evidence that there is a disembodied consciousness.

            The same thing can be said about the origin of the universe. Science can only say that our present understanding of the origin of the universe does not necessitate the existence of a god and that mathematics and cosmology have found some suggestive signs of a possible multiverse that would greatly expand our understanding of our reality. Will we ever confirm the multiverse? Perhaps, or perhaps not.

          • Loreen Lee

            Quote: The only thing science can say presently is that there is 'no evidence' that there is a 'disembodied consciousness'.
            Evidence is generally understood as based on physical data. Will look up meaning of 'self evident' in the hope that a definition would be directed to an examination of one's thoughts or consciousness. As far as 'disembodied' can be defined, would it not merely substantiate the distintion between the 'physical' and the 'mental'. Transcendental I understand can be understood within this context, as well as within the context of the distinction between the 'temporal' and the 'eternal'.
            I am merely amazed that the most recent discoveries of the cosmologists sugest to me, anyway, some inference to such an eternal, particularly in the way they describe the relation of time and space, that time becomes more like space etc. and their talk of fluctuations, etc. One comment I noted is that they are beinning to sound like 'theists'!!! Their theories, however,areconfusing to me, in that I relate to Henri Bergson's philosophy which describes time not only to change, phyical, etc. but to consciousness.or 'duration'. Of course it's all a mystery. But writing out these vagarant ideas of mine helps me to process the discrepancies in my thought. Thank you.

          • Tom Rafferty

            You mentioned a KEY word: inference. All of this is hypothesis, conjecture, assertion, etc. Since a disembodied consciousness is foreign to us, evidence of such would have to be extraordinary.

          • Loreen Lee

            I am just a reader of the news, but personally I find some of the hypothesis, conjectures, assertions of the cosmologists to be extraordinary as well. Like - did I hear that inflation occurred within a 'time span' of a trillionth of a second? What do they mean by the fluctuations between time and space that is the evidence on which this theory of inflation is based? Is it the math alone that provides the evidence? Surely, when it comes to possible/parallel universes, although this theory has been booted around philosophy circles for many a year, such conclusions surely are speculative thought ungrounded on 'real' evidence of any particular, real, physical 'evidence'. We haven't 'seen' even 'one' of the multi-verses.
            I am I must confess somewhat amused by this. I 'believe' Christianity developed not only from the Judaic tradition but was a synthesis also of Grecian and Roman pagan thought and philosophic tradition. My humor comes from the speculation that some of these theories put forward by the physicists could hypothetically develop into a new 'religion'......grin grin.
            '

          • Tom Rafferty

            Yes, it all is conjecture. The difference between science and religion, however, is that science understands it IS so, and does not make that "leap of faith." Thanks for the comment.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thank you, Tom. This suggests to me one of the reasons why Kant's philosophy is considered by Catholics to be a naturalization of religion. With respect to his Categorical Imperative, for instance, he proposes that we treat our maxims "as if' we could indeed make universality and necessity the basis of our moral judgments.

          • Tom Rafferty

            :)

          • Ignorant Amos

            Lets take them one at a time. First one towards the end. I definitely pray that my scientific conclusions are valid, so that one goes out the window.

            Let's not play pedantic semantic games Mike, it does not become your status.

            You, Tom, and I, know fine well what Michael Nugent meant.

            Scientists don’t rely on prayer for the truth of their conclusions, or start wars with rival scientists when they disagree, and scientific theories are not protected by blasphemy laws.

            Any better?

          • Mike

            Hi Ignorant Amos,

            You're right, I was probably a bit too snarky this morning. When I read it again, I wished I could take it back, but left it up to acknowledge that I said it.

            I have a status?

          • Ignorant Amos

            I have a status?

            Do you not proclaim to be a man of science? Ergo, you have the status of a scientist.

          • Mike

            I'll take that as a compliment.

          • David Nickol

            I would full throatedly argue that science would argue that a fertilized egg is a person, and religion only states what the rights and privileges of a person are.

            Personhood is a philosophical concept, not a scientific one. Those who believe that a fertilized egg is a person and those who believe it is not can both use scientific evidence to support their claim, but science itself can never prove a fertilized egg is or is not a person.

          • Mike

            On further reflection I think you're right on this one David. I tend to convolute the two. i.e. all human beings are persons. I think I'm comfortable with that definition, from a blending of metaphysics and physics.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I have never heard a Catholic say gay people are unnatural. I have never heard a disparaging word about one's sexuality from the church. Just because the Church says what is morally acceptable, doesn't mean it's condeming them.

            Ah, ignorance is bliss.

            Catholics could find themselves compelled to teach and promote an agenda that is morally wrong.

            https://www.catholic.org/news/hf/faith/story.php?id=49314

            Historically...

            When the Roman Empire came under Christian rule, all male homosexual activity was increasingly repressed, often on pain of death. In 342 CE, the Christian emperors Constantius and Constans declared same-sex marriage to be illegal. Shortly after, in the year 390 CE, emperors Valentinian II, Theodosius I and Arcadius declared homosexual sex to be illegal and those who were guilty of it were condemned to be publicly burned alive.[8]Emperor Justinian I (527–565 CE) made homosexuals a scapegoat for problems such as "famines, earthquakes, and pestilences."

            More recently...

            This promotion of the idea that homosexuality is immoral and can be corrected may make would-be attackers of homosexuals feel justified in that they are "doing God's work" by ridding the world of LGBT people.

            Pope Benedict XVI, then the leader of the Roman Catholic Church stoked this sentiment as well, when he stated that "protecting" humanity from homosexuality was just as important as saving the world from climate change and that all relationships beyond traditional heterosexual ones are a "destruction of God's work". Further, a Vatican official called homosexuality "a deviation, an irregularity, a wound".

            On the plus side.

            While the Catholic Church teaches that same-sex attraction itself is not sinful, homosexual acts are "acts of grave depravity". Homosexual congregation members are to be accepted and not discriminated against, but are asked to remain celibate.

            So that makes it all right then? What is Gods punishment for "grave depravity" then Mike, should one relent to their carnal desires that is?

            Such utter tosh.

          • Mike

            Hi Ignorant Amos,

            Nice to converse with you again. Thank you for the information about the historical portion of your post, I was unaware. I would certainly not wish those who are gay to be executed.

            I would adhere to the current teaching spelled out in the Catechism that you quoted above. I'd say that I know many gay men and women and have no issues with them. I try to treat them as I would anyone else. No one is removed from the dignity intrinsic to all humans.

            I'm not sure we really want to fight about issues of gay people. I'd say for myself (and speaking only for myself) that homosexuals should have legal protection, i.e. hospital visitation visits, the right not to testify against each other in court, etc.

            Lastly, I have no idea of what God's punishment would be for ANY particular sin. I would not want to ever speak for God in such a circumstance. However, as a Catholic I believe in forgiveness and mercy. No sin is unforgivable. I can only speak for myself, but I know I haven't been sinless with regard to my sexuality, and I sincerely doubt any of us have. What was Jesus' quote about lust in one's heart being the same as adultery?... If that's the case the person you describe and I would be in the same boat without forgiveness from God.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I would certainly not wish those who are gay to be executed.

            Indeed, I'd like to think you would go as far as gay people should face no persecution or bigotry at all.

            I would adhere to the current teaching spelled out in the Catechism that you quoted above.

            Which denies basic human rights.

            I'd say that I know many gay men and women and have no issues with them. I try to treat them as I would anyone else. No one is removed from the dignity intrinsic to all humans.

            But your religion does not, seems a bit of a quandry.

            I'm not sure we really want to fight about issues of gay people.

            No? You don't deem gay rights worth fighting for?

            I'd say for myself (and speaking only for myself) that homosexuals should have legal protection, i.e. hospital visitation visits, the right not to testify against each other in court, etc.

            That's mighty big and liberal of you Mike. Does that extend to all things heterosexuals are free to enjoy, such as same sex marriage, same sex adoption, etc.? Or even just same sex sex?

            Lastly, I have no idea of what God's punishment would be for ANY particular sin.

            You don't? Haven't you read the bible then? What about your catechism? The RCC seems to think it knows what the penalty for sinning is.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mortal_sin#Roman_Catholicism

            I would not want to ever speak for God in such a circumstance.

            You just support an institution that believes it can, fair enough. Have a look at this list of mortal sins to see how many you committed.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mortal_sin#Mortal_sins

            However, as a Catholic I believe in forgiveness and mercy. No sin is unforgivable.

            Ah yes, the great get out of jail free card of Catholicism. Handy clause to have I'm sure.

            I can only speak for myself, but I know I haven't been sinless with regard to my sexuality, and I sincerely doubt any of us have.

            If I believed in sinning I'm sure I'd have to agree with you. Certainly, by the list at the link above I'd be stuffed.

            What was Jesus' quote about lust in one's heart being the same as adultery?...

            Indeed, that'll be rule number 9 of the Catholic Decalogue...thought crime...which everyone is guilty of, or if they deny it, they are guilty of rule number 8 on the same list. Both mortal sins. Which, incidentally, same sex sex is also.

            But as long as no sin is unforgivable, everything will be honky dory.

            Of course that puts Catholics on level footing with Atheists when it comes to abiding by the rules. According to Catholics, not believing in God means not having to abide by the rules. But if there is no lasting consequence to abiding by the rules, then Catholics are free to indulge in as much hedonism as they please too. All very complicated.

            If that's the case the person you describe and I would be in the same boat without forgiveness from God.

            Oh I know. A damn decent God you have there. Good job he has mellowed from the OT days when one could get smote for minor indiscretions like burning the wrong incense.

          • Michael Murray

            Good job he has mellowed from the OT days when one could get smote for minor indiscretions like burning the wrong incense.

            To say nothing of wearing those cotton/polyester blends.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I've just been reading Irish Central and I thought I'd give you a chuckle at how an ignorant homophobic Catholic bigot gets his backside handed to him on a platter by New York's Gay Pride march organisers.

            Anti-gay Catholic League president Bill Donohue was left speechless this week when his provocative request to join New York's Gay Pride Parade in June was accepted by the parade organizers.

            Donohue announced on Wednesday that he wanted to march in the 2014 New York City Pride Parade under a banner that would read: 'Straight is great.'

            "The tide comes in, the tide goes out: Never a miscommunication."

            http://www.irishcentral.com/opinion/cahirodoherty/Donohue-applies-to-march-in-Gay-Pride-parade-is-accepted-then-withdraws.html

          • Susan

            Hi Mike,

            science searches for the truth, and I would argue that at it's best religion does as well

            I'm not sure what you mean by "the truth". The scientific method is useful in making clearer and clearer maps of our best comprehension of reality. It goes to great pains to navigate us past our cognitive biases. I'm sure you're familiar with the checks and balances put into place there as you work with them every day.

            and I would argue that at it's best religion does as well

            I would like to hear that argument. How would we know that a religious claim is true?

            Science is ill equipped to tell me the meaning of my life, and what is morally acceptable.

            Agreed. It can inform us by providing evidence that often undermines our assumptions about the world. For instance, when we assume there is "us" and "the animals", it turns out that we are "animals" too and that the sentience and cognition of other animal species are part of a continuum in which humans belong. It also taught us that the universe is a very big place and that the earth is a tiny, tiny speck in timespace. Also, that "race" is something humans see but it's meaningless. This information should inform our notion of "meaning" and "morality".

            Science can't tell you about "meaning" or "morality" but I don't see how religion can either. How can it? The fact that you find meaning in it and base your morality on it doesn't make it true. Is there no meaning or morality without it?

            Neither of us have a youtube video of the Crucifixion and alleged ressurrection of Christ, so we really can't empirically prove it either happened or didn't.

            The same can be said about Mohammed on the flying horse and Smith and the angel Moroni.

            I have never heard a Catholic say gay people are unnatural

            Catholics refer to "natural law" to explain what is wrong with gay people living a life that you take for granted. Imagine for a second that you loved your wife in ALL the ways you love your wife but that you were a woman. Natural law, as catholics have argued it on this web site is up there on the top ten list of circular arguments. It's tragic. Life is short and there's a lot of suffering in this world. Falling in love with whom you fall in love with and everything that goes with that does not cause more or less harm because you are gay. Factory farming and climate change are much more pressing moral issues.

            So science tells us that the universe is expansive. That hardly tells us that humans don't share a special relationship with the divine

            I'm not sure I can disagree with you there. Our tininess is not an argument against our value. It's extraordinary when we look at the cosmos to consider life and human life.

            Life on this planet is expansive compared to human life. What I find highly problematic is that a universe so unimaginably vast was created so that planets could be made that could be populated with species who suffered and hoped and feared and cared for their young and their social and family groups and that they mean nothing to a benevolent creator. It does not add up rationally or morally.

            In fact the Vatican has said it is perfectly acceptable to believe that there is intelligent alien life somewhere in the universe

            There is intelligent life here that is not human, but apparently not intelligent enough. It is intelligence that makes us important? What if the life on other planets was more intelligent by leaps and bounds than we are? Would that relegate us to the status of antelopes in terms of having a special relationship with "the divine"?

            The problem is that there is no evidence for "the divine". It's a word that seems to have meaning but the more I think about it, the less sense it makes.

            In the mean time, there are pressing matters. The planet we live on and our effect on everything that lives on it, including but, not exclusive to humans.

            Religion, at least your religion, is not so bothered with that.

            They choose their issues of "morality" and "meaning" and don't demonstrate that they are any better qualified on the subject than anyone.

            They pick and choose evidence to support their authority and I wonder why anyone should be expected to take them seriously.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        And if the non-existence of Jesus was established scientifically? What would you do?

        • Mike

          Well when you invent a time machine, and have a youtube video of first century Palestine demonstrating that Jesus isn't who he claims to be (and if you're nit picky who the RCC says he is) I would have to change my mind.

          Out of curiosity, how else would you propose such a bold experiment.

          I have yet to hear of one experiment not permitted on theological grounds. I therefore see no reason to propose that currently the church is impeding science one iota.

          You didn't answer me on the stem cell issue. I'm waiting.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Well when you invent a time machine, and have a youtube video of first century Palestine demonstrating that Jesus isn't who he claims to be (and if you're nit picky who the RCC says he is) I would have to change my mind.

            That is the problem Mike. Jesus never claimed anything. I think we are entitled to be nit picky, who gave the RCC authority to to say anything? That's right, the RCC.

            I have yet to hear of one experiment not permitted on theological grounds. I therefore see no reason to propose that currently the church is impeding science one iota.

            That's the fudge. Ethical or theological? Call it ethical and all of a sudden it is not theological. Embryonic stem cell research?...cloning?...

            Philadelphia Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, had urged the House to pass the Human Cloning Prohibition Act and criticized the alternative cloning bill, saying it would "directly involve the federal government in registering for-profit human cloning laboratories and supervising their manufacture of human beings as research material."

            Heliocenticism?...was that the thin end of the wedge?

            Commonly our thoughts of banned scientific research studies run to experiments of the twentieth century or later, where the process involved cruel or controversial practices. But one of the most notable bans to be place on scientific research was characterized more by the cruel practices employed to enforce the ban. Gallileo and his support of a Copernican view of the universe came into conflict with the Catholic Church in the seventeenth century and the ban placed on this research by the Church was enforced through the powers of the Inquisition.

            While the modern Catholic Church cannot be held responsible for the actions of some of its members almost four hundred years ago, this was one of the most significant and public bans ever placed on a scientific research study. In hindsight, it acts as a template for oppressive bans founded in political and personal gain and using an otherwise positive institution as a vehicle for prejudice.

            I would disagree with the assertion "an otherwise positive institution" but never let it be said I only quote biased opinion.

    • Peter

      Louis Pasteur said that a little science takes you away from God and a lot of science brings you back to God. The latest scientific discoveries are overwhelmingly compatible with Church doctrine.

      The Catechism says that God can be known THROUGH his works not BY his works. Knowing God by his works means attributing to God the inexplicable supernatural act of bringing the universe into existence.
      Knowing God through his works means gradually uncovering the naturalistic way in which the universe has come to exist, which is the subject of ongoing scientific discovery.

      The more the universe is found to exist naturally, the less it needs a supernatural cause. Yet, the more the cause of the universe is found to be naturalistic, the more it points us towards God who allows the universe to be created that way.

      • Tom Rafferty

        I see "The God of the Gaps" is alive and well. Please see my comment to "MIke" of a few minutes ago, then get back to me. Thanks.

        • Peter

          I am puzzled why you think I'm appealing to the god of the gaps when in fact I'm doing the reverse which is arguing against the god of the gaps.
          Instead of offering a supernatural explanation to what we don't yet know, I am proposing that science will eventually provide its own explanation.

          • Tom Rafferty

            "--- the more the cause of the universe is found to be naturalistic, the more it points us towards God who allows the universe to be created that way."

            "--- attributing to God the inexplicable supernatural act of bringing the universe into existence."

            (The above are unsupported assertions, thus, are "god of the gaps" arguments)

            "Louis Pasteur said ----"

            "The Catechism says ---"

            (The above is unsupported appeal to authority)

            Did you read my comment to "Mike" regarding the incompatibility of science and religion?

          • Peter

            Again you have it the wrong way round.

            If you read the paragraph again you will note the point I am making is that " attributing to God the inexplicable supernatural act of bringing the universe into existence"
            is precisely what the Catechism does not say.

          • Tom Rafferty

            Okay, I re-read it and I can see the point you are, awkwardly, making. The first quote above, however, certainly IS a "god of the gaps" argument.

            Peter, to avoid talking past each other, I would like to just confine our dialogue to some basis points of disagreement. Here are a few questions for which I would like direct, concise, and cogent answers from you:

            1) Is there anything I can say that would change your mind regarding your faith? In other words, is there a way to falsify it?

            2) Assuming an answer to the above is a yes, how do you view the importance of evidence compared to faith?

            That will do for now. Thanks.

          • Peter

            It is an article of Catholic faith that the existence of God is knowable through his works. Therefore I regret to say that cannot imagine any scientific discovery whatsoever which would point away from God. In this respect I would be grateful if you could suggest such a scenario so that I can evaluate it in terms of whether or not it would affect my faith.

          • Tom Rafferty

            You see, you are repeating the dogma of your faith. The first sentence, once again, is an assertion without evidence. Since it appears that nothing will change your mind away from your faith, I think I will just bow out from dialogue with you. I leave you with a thought based on consideration of probability. Should it stimulate any doubt in your faith, please respond to this comment in kind. Thanks, and peace.

            What is more likely? a)
            2000 years ago, god sent his son to save us from the original sin of
            the first two humans, even though science shows that humanity did
            not begin from one couple but from a group and that human behavior is
            not unlike that of other social animals. This savior supposedly
            performed miracles, died and was resurrected. However, there is no
            independent contemporaneous verification from sources outside of the
            New Testament for any of this story and the New Testament itself was
            written several decades after the time that these events would have
            occurred by people who did not witness any of the events. b)
            Christianity began like several other myths circulating before and at
            the same time in the middle east and had the subsequent fortune of
            benefiting from a variety of circumstances to evolve into a major
            presence in society.

          • Peter

            The dogma of my faith which you claim is an assertion without evidence is paragraph 286 of the Catechism which says that the existence of God can be known with certainty through his works by the light of human reason.

            The Church has maintained for centuries as a matter of doctrine that time has a beginning. All the scientific discoveries up to now have supported the hypothesis that time has a beginning while absolutely none have contradicted it.

            This doctrine is no fluke because it was stubbornly and steadfastly held in the face of constant opposition through the ages from pagan philosophers and, more recently, atheist scientists who claimed that time did not have a beginning.

            Even the best efforts of atheist scientists nowadays to demonstrate that the big bang does not mark the beginning of time have backfired. Any attempt to posit an eternal universe must depend on a beginning to the arrow of time running backwards into eternity, and a beginning to the arrow of time is still a beginning to time itself.

            The importance of this cannot be underestimated or glossed over. If a truth so profound and immutable has been steadfastly proclaimed by the Church for hundreds of years in the face of persistent and bitter opposition, it follows that the rest of the Church's formal teachings cannot be ignored.

          • Tom Rafferty

            You had the last word. Peace.

      • Loreen Lee

        Thank you. This supports my belief that there is truth in Deism as well as Theism, and that even the insights of Spinoza's polytheism can point in the direction of coming closer to 'truth'. Indeed, there is support for not relying on revelation, (in my case I would not trust any personal revelation, for fear of it being akin to some kind of 'madness). Indeed, Chruch advises to avoid unnecessary, or uncalled for mysticism, and although it advises us to be of this world but not of it, It accepts the physical world, (unlike may I suggest interpretations of Buddhism) and indeed prophecises that it's goodness will one day be 'glorified';. This merely to substantiate that in principle the Church is not opposed to the study of the natural, and consequently principled science.

  • I would first observe that it is by no means accidental that the physical sciences in their modern form emerged when and where they did, that is to say, in the Europe of the sixteenth century.

    Fr. Barron's theory: Christianity was necessary for science to get started. (Strangely, Christianity is no longer at all necessary or even helpful to science.)

    My alternative theory: The printing press was necessary for science to get started. (Unstrangely, cheap dissemination of knowledge is still essential to science.)

    Actually, the same is probably relevant to liberal politics. It's a lot harder to stamp out ideas that undermine your power by burning freethinkers alive when their ideas have already been put in print.

    • MattyTheD

      I'm not sure he's saying that "Christianity was necessary for science to get started." I think he's saying that Christianity has within it certain philosophical claims which were key catalysts in the explosion of science. I bet you're also right about the printing press. But Fr. Barron's argument applies there as well. A culture values a printing press, wants to create a printing press, when it values spreading good ideas. The "spreading of ideas" -- in this case evangelizing -- is probably more central to, more defining of, Christianity than any other human system of thought. So it's no big surprise that Christian culture generated a printing press. Nor is it any big surprise what the first printing press first printed.

      • "certain philosophical claims which were key catalysts in the explosion of science"

        So the claims made incipient science boom faster? That has the same flaw, though, which is that the rapid adoption of science in many modern cultures with equal ease demonstrates that those philosophical claims don't actually catalyze scientific progress.

        "A culture values a printing press ... when it values spreading good ideas."

        Recall that the Chinese and Koreans did it first and second. Europe was third. Perhaps it took off slowly in China due to impracticalities in using movable type with character sets more numerous and delicate than an alphabet; after all, Korea replaced Chinese characters with their own alphabet largely so they could use movable type. In any case, a quick Wikipedia-check of the two countries' histories shows that their golden ages of scientific and technological advancement were indeed immediately after the local invention of the practical printing press. In both cases it was sadly brought to a halt by invasions and the poverty induced by subsequent isolationist policies. :( Assuming Wikipedia is correct, these confirmations make me now fairly confident about the historical importance of the printing press to science. And by the same token, it seems I am well-justified in rejecting the idea that Christianity had any special features helpful to the development of science.

  • Seems many have flipped one of the Catholic based premises completely upside down. The science of the past may have said “We know the creator is intelligent, so we can go forward assuming the universe is intelligible.” Today it’s more like “We know the universe is intelligible, so we can go forward assuming there is no intelligence behind it.” It’s like saying we see sunlight, so we should assume that
    there is no sun.

    • Susan

      It’s like saying we see sunlight, so we should assume that there is no sun.

      No. It isn't. We have evidence of a sun and the sun as one source of light and the only source of sunlight.

      Intelligence is a much different thing than light. We must define intelligence and show evidence for it. So far, the evidence indicates that our notions of intelligence are products of the universe, not the source of it.

      Even if we did find that there is an intelligence behind our reality (evidence please), it does not follow that it is an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent intelligence and that you and your interpretation of your church's teachings know what it thinks or what it wants or that it believes in a natural law in which gay people should not love each other, and in which we are imbued with special, unevidenced souls that separates us from all other life on this planet and that we will be alive after we're dead.

      I don't assume there is no intelligence behind it. Claiming that there is intelligence behind it is putting the cart before the horse until you provide evidence that I've flipped things around.

      • MattyTheD

        When he says "it's like", I think he means it's "analogous". Not an "exact match". Obviously, belief in God is not an "exact match" to belief in the sun.

        • Susan

          Yes. I know it is an analogy, Matty.

          I explained why I don't think it is a good analogy.

      • Loreen Lee

        Yes I agree that it can be disconcerting to suggest there is a difference in intelligence and even spirituality been humans and 'animals. I hve heard the rather sad tale, for instance, of a child being very hurt when it was suggested to him that 'animals have no souls'. (By a priest). But to understand even the Aristotle definition of man as homo sapient, places on us a great responsibility. And after all, if there are no 'aliens', (what a presumptious word to direct towards beings that have not yet been 'discovered', when such 'aliens' could alternatively be regarded as intelligibles and truly be angelic. Who is to discount what is possible? Yet, although we are described in Christian literature, as the highest of the animals, and the lowest of the intelligibles/angels, it would be good to be more 'angelic' if this implied being kinder to animals by recognizing a soul within their being, that although it may not live up to rational standards of intelligibility, is often more capable of compassion/empathy of some sort, than is the human who regards such qualities within them as not being evidence of 'soul', and thus by use of reason rather than love regards them as 'alien'. The world is as we see it, I believe is a message from Wittgenstein.

        • Susan

          Hi Loreen,

          I didn't see this until six days later. That happens a lot where responses just seem to disappear. I wasn't ignoring you. I appreciate your contributions and the efforts you make to make sense of things.

      • Hi Susan,
        I believe you’re missing the point and also spiraling off into tangents. The analogy would hold that the sun was not detectable. If we had no way to detect the sun, it would still be reasonable (and responsible) to assume it exists, although we may not know what to call it.
        We often know things by their effects, not by direct observation. If I stumble across a log cabin in the forest, I can assume it was created by someone or something intelligent although the only evidence is the cabin itself. What made the wood arrange itself the way it did? To say it appeared from the forces of nature as a random event would be both unreasonable and irresponsible.
        Now just increase the size of the cabin to the size of planet earth; we will form the same conclusions if we remain objective. Now consider the earth itself, much more complex than a log cabin. What made the matter arrange itself the way it did? Claiming that there IS intelligence behind it is putting the horse in front of cart as is proper.

        • Ignorant Amos

          If we had no way to detect the sun, it would still be reasonable (and responsible) to assume it exists, although we may not know what to call it.

          I must have read that sentence a dozen times. It still came across as ridiculous.

          "If we had no way to detect fairies, it would still be reasonable (and responsible) to assume they exist, although we may not know what to call them.

          Sound reasonable enough?

          We often know things by their effects, not by direct observation.

          That IS still a means of detection. It's the sort of thing being done at CERN. Science makes predictions, then sets about "knowing" them by their "effects".

          Is it fair to say If we had no way to detect Russell's orbiting teapot, it would still be reasonable (and responsible) to assume it exists, although we may not know what to call it?

          If I stumble across a log cabin in the forest, I can assume it was created by someone or something intelligent although the only evidence is the cabin itself. What made the wood arrange itself the way it did? To say it appeared from the forces of nature as a random event would be both unreasonable and irresponsible.

          You can't be serious? The teleological problem? Paley's watch analogy rewritten as a wooden hut?

          Now just increase the size of the cabin to the size of planet earth; we will form the same conclusions if we remain objective. Now consider the earth itself, much more complex than a log cabin. What made the matter arrange itself the way it did? Claiming that there IS intelligence behind it is putting the horse in front of cart as is proper.

          Which sounds a bit like Cleanthes, Ancient Greek philosopher c. 330 BC – c. 230 BC...

          “Look round the world: contemplate the whole and every part of it: You will find it to be nothing but one great machine, subdivided into an infinite number of lesser machines, which again admit of subdivisions to a degree beyond what human senses and faculties can trace and explain. All these various machines, and even their most minute parts, are adjusted to each other with an accuracy which ravishes into admiration all men who have ever contemplated them. The curious adapting of means to ends, throughout all nature, resembles exactly, though it much exceeds, the productions of human contrivance; of human designs, thought, wisdom, and intelligence. Since, therefore, the effects resemble each other, we are led to infer, by all the rules of analogy, that the causes also resemble; and that the Author of Nature is somewhat similar to the mind of man, though possessed of much larger faculties, proportioned to the grandeur of the work which he has executed. By this argument é posteriori, and by this argument alone, do we prove at once the existence of a Deity, and his similarity to human mind and intelligence.”

          Hume's reply...

          If a well-ordered natural world requires a special designer, then God's mind (being so well-ordered) also requires a special designer. And then this designer would likewise need a designer, and so on ad infinitum. We could respond by resting content with an inexplicably self-ordered divine mind; but then why not rest content with an inexplicably self-ordered natural world?

          Or in my own words...

          Something intelligent and complex enough to create a thing as intelligently complex as a log cabin, the Earth, or the universe, for that matter, must be at least as intelligent and complex? Right? So what created this intelligent and complex thing, if indeed, intelligence and complexity are the only things that can create intelligent and complex things?

          • Hi Amos,

            You are very knowledgeable, but also getting ahead of
            yourself with "specificity", and arguments about causation and simplicity. I’m commenting about generalization. If I observe a log cabin, I do not assume it was made specifically by “Paul Bunyan”, but I do go forward assuming it was done with intelligence. If I observe a spec of light flying into my home and folding my laundry, I do not assume it is “a fairy”, but I do go forward with the assumption that there is an intelligence behind it (whatever “it” is). So it is with our minds, our bodies, our planet and the universe.
            Peace.

          • Susan

            If I observe a spec of light flying into my home and folding my laundry, I do not assume it is “a fairy”, but I do go forward with the assumption that there is an intelligence behind it (whatever “it” is).

            You'd have good reason to investigate intelligence if that ever happened.

            Has that ever happened?

          • Michael Murray

            Why would you look at a planet and see an intelligence behind it ? As for our bodies there are no end of reasons why they look like the product of blind natural selection rather than intelligence. Surely you know these: birth canal to small, testicles outside the body, breathing orifice and eating orifice combined, sinuses, lower back ...

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

            I wouldn't mind borrowing your fairy though. Can it wash-up ?

          • Ignorant Amos

            If I observe a spec of light flying into my home and folding my laundry, I do not assume it is “a fairy”,...

            Of course you don't Ben. But as I'm an Irishman, I find that blasphemous. See how easy that is? Thanks for bringing the fairy analogy onto the board, I couldn't have did it better myself.

            We all know that assuming your experience to be the result of a fairy intervention would be a ridiculous assumption, right? Even though so much has been written about fairies and their alleged antics. Fairies just don't exist. So, why would you not assume it was a fairy? Is it because it is irrational? There is no empirical evidence for the existence of fairies? Even though for millennia, people really did believe they existed? Not so much now though, people are better educated and generally not that daft. But, in saying that, many still do believe in fairies, but they are all kooks, right? Except that isn't the case. Intellectual luminance and literary genius Arthur Conan Doyle believed in them. Surely you are not as egotistic to suggest you are far smarter than A.C.D., are you?

            Antiquarians of the romantic era had begun the quest for fairies, and throughout Victoria's reign advocates of fairy existence and investigators of elfin origins included numerous scientists, social scientists, historians, theologians, artists, and writers. By the 1880s such leading folklorists as Sabine Baring-Gould, Andrew Lang, Joseph Jacobs, and Sir John Rhys were examining oral testimony on the nature and the customs of the "little folk" and the historical and archaeological remains left by them. At the beginning of the twentieth century, eminent authors, among them Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Arthur Machen, swelled the ranks of those who held the fairy faith and publicized their findings. In a remarkable "trickle up" of folk belief, a surprisingly large number of educated Victorians and Edwardians speculated at length on whether fairies did exist or had at least once existed.

            For the Irish, especially those involved in the Celtic revival, belief in fairies was almost a political and cultural necessity. Thus, William Butler Yeats reported endlessly on his interactions with the sidhe (Irish fairies) and wrote repeatedly of their nature and behavior. His colleagues AE (George Russell) and William Sharp/Fiona Macleod proudly enumerated their fairy hunts and sightings, and the great Irish Victorian folklorists--Patrick Kennedy, Lady Wilde, and Lady Gregory--overtly or covertly acknowledged their beliefs. Even those not totally or personally convinced, like Douglas Hyde, remarked that the fairy faith was alive and well in Ireland.

            Perhaps ironically, however, it was the Victorian concern with origins, a concern aided and abetted by developments in the sciences and social sciences, that promoted the serious study of supernatural creatures. The same habit of mind that made George Eliot's Casaubon seek a "Key to All Mythologies," and impelled her Lydgate to search for the primitive tissue underlying all life, sent folklorists and anthropologists in quest of explanations for the origin of the fairies--and for the origins of belief in them. Some of those explanations were religious, some scientific, some historical; they ranged from the Theosophical belief in the existence of elementals (the spirits of the four elements) to the argument for a worldwide, prehistoric dwarf population. But all shared a common assumption that the truth of fairy existence could and would be discovered--and by some sort of scientific or verifiable means.

            http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/silver-strange.html

            ...but I do go forward with the assumption that there is an intelligence behind it (whatever “it” is).

            Just not fairy intelligence though? How irrational. I'll be frank Ben, I'd put your experience down to a number of explanations, especially if it was a one off and witnessed by no one else. Something like you had been spiked with Acid and were tripping, or someone slipped you a Micky Finn and you were drunk, or you dreamt it and just forgot either you had folded the clothes, or someone else did. In fact, I'd have to eliminate a large number of more reasonable natural explanations, and then some, before considering a supernatural explanation, that is just me though. But I suspect it might be you too, you already ruled out fairies as an explanation, intelligent and all as they have been described to be.

            So it is with our minds, our bodies, our planet and the universe.

            Indeed, just not fairies. Yet there is as much wishful thinking type evidence for fairies as any other supernatural creator hypothesis. I'd say there is even more, when considering God, or even Jesus.

            Job done.

          • Actually, you first mentioned fairies, and it is good that
            you did because it embodies an elementary blunder that every atheist I talk to makes. A fairy, or flying spaghetti monster, or Zeus would be “one thing among many” if they existed. This means “You + a fairy = more than the fairy” In Catholicism, God is being itself, so “You + God ≠ more than God”. In this sense, there could not be more evidence for God than there already is. Sort of like a fish in the ocean saying there is no such thing as water.

            It would all be wishful thinking if there were not sound
            logic behind it based on what we know about reality. To say the universe in everything in it, from the stars in the sky to the love in your heart, is a mindless accident that designed itself is truly wishful thinking, for one who wishes to avoid the reality of God. In terms of believing in fairytales, never was the shoe so firmly on the other foot.

          • Michael Murray

            I haven't met the atheists you have met but I suspect this is not an elementary blunder so much as a philosophical difference. I at least would need to be persuaded that "being itself" makes any sense.

          • Hi Michael,
            You can call it a philosophical difference, but it's a huge problem in terms of "mindset" and it effects the dialog tremendously. This is why people bring up fairies and other such nonsense. Other Christians I talk to also see God as kind of ghost that floats around the universe (one being among many).

            God as "being" itself helps to understand the logic that he is omnipresent (all places at all times) and how God is simple (not complex). The best explanation I've every heard of God as "being" and God as "simple" is the Tree of Being. Click HERE for more.

          • Michael Murray

            God as "being itself" is to me a meaningless concept up there with "The Tao". Mystical poetry. From that link you gave

            * What makes quarks act like quarks? The most fundamental conditions (time? space? energy?)

            * What would make a unifying field act like a unifying field, and where does this end?!

            It ends at the top of the Tree of Being. Logic demands that it end with one thing that needs nothing else to “act” for its own existence; one unconditioned reality that would be infinitely simple, and therefore completely unrestricted, and therefore unifying in all things.

            This is just so wrong it's hard to know where to start. First it's a statement about the real world by someone who appears to know stuff all about physics. Second it confuses the map with the territory. Third logic demands nothing of the sort. Fourth even if logic did imply there was something at the top there is no reason that the "thing" at the top is any kind of creative or intelligent force.

            This is just another failed attempt to "bootstrap" some kind of God out of nothing by playing games with words. Christian Apologism is full of this rubbish.

            Phrases like "infinitely simple" and "completely unrestricted" are bordering on deepities. If you look at the history of mathematicians struggles with the infinite and the concept of "for all" you will see it is fraught with danger like "the set of all sets". Just putting words together in ways that make grammatical sense doesn't mean they actually refer to something sensible.

            "The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao
            The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.
            The unnamable is the eternally real.
            Naming is the origin of all particular things. "

            At least this is nice poetry.

          • An odd way to brush something off. Human words are limited as to what they can express (finite). We struggle to express the infinite. You have heard the term "I'm speechless". If one wishes to express the love for his family in a few paragraphs, that person will use the "highest" language possible. You can call it a "deepity" or whatever you like. They doesn't make it non-sense.

          • Ignorant Amos

            An odd way to brush something off.

            Human words are limited as to what they can express (finite). We struggle to express the infinite.

            If the words you DO use are not fit for purpose, then why bother?

            You have heard the term "I'm speechless".

            It means being exacerbated to the point beyond description.

            If one wishes to express the love for his family in a few paragraphs, that person will use the "highest" language possible.

            Yes, but that doesn't mean stringing together a pile of words in such a manner as to make the total incoherent and meaningless.

            You can call it a "deepity" or whatever you like. They doesn't make it non-sense.

            I'm glad you know the definition of a deepity. It does make it nonsense though, at least one half of it.

          • Ignorant Amos

            God as "being" itself helps to understand the logic that he is omnipresent (all places at all times) and how God is simple (not complex).

            Your gods presence didn't do those on flight MH370 much favour...probably because they weren't good Christians, right?

          • Ignorant Amos

            This is why people bring up fairies and other such nonsense.

            The irony in that comment is completely lost on you isn't it Ben?

            "One man's trash is another man's treasure"

            Or..

            "One man's god is another man's fairy"

            Or..

            "One man's religion is another man's nonsense"

          • Hi Amos,
            I’m afraid the analogy is lost on you. If one were to say “one man's justice is another man's fairy”, it strikes as an incoherent perception of justice and a bad analogy which will erode any real discussion about justice. Perception is not reality, but it’s important, because perception informs our response to reality.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I’m afraid the analogy is lost on you.

            It must be.

            If one were to say “one man's justice is another man's fairy”, it strikes as an incoherent perception of justice and a bad analogy which will erode any real discussion about justice. Perception is not reality, but it’s important, because perception informs our response to reality.

            What? WHAT?...utter tosh.

            "One man's trash is another man's treasure"

            A statement that can be verified.

            "One man's god is another man's fairy"

            A statement that can be verified.

            "One man's religion is another man's nonsense"

            A statement that can be verified.

            “one man's justice is another man's fairy”

            Incoherent nonsense as you rightly admit.

            Fairies, and other such nonsense regularly brought up, are as nonsense to you as the God concept is to me. That is the purpose of bringing such nonsense as fairies up. I mean, how could intelligent humans believe such nonsense as fairies, right?

            But what about all the "evidence" for fairies?

            http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Fairies

          • Ignorant Amos

            Actually, you first mentioned fairies, and it is good that
            you did because it embodies an elementary blunder that every atheist I talk to makes.

            I did? Where was that then?

            A fairy, or flying spaghetti monster, or Zeus would be “one thing among many” if they existed.

            Ah yes, if they existed...like gods, all X number of them.

            This means “You + a fairy = more than the fairy” In Catholicism, God is being itself, so “You + God ≠ more than God”. In this sense, there could not be more evidence for God than there already is. Sort of like a fish in the ocean saying there is no such thing as water.

            That is just word salad.

            It would all be wishful thinking if there were not sound
            logic behind it based on what we know about reality. To say the universe in everything in it, from the stars in the sky to the love in your heart, is a mindless accident that designed itself is truly wishful thinking, for one who wishes to avoid the reality of God. In terms of believing in fairytales, never was the shoe so firmly on the other foot.

            Conjecture all you want, but where is the evidence? Got evidence?

          • "Got evidence?"
            Yes, but would you allow the evidence into your courtroom? Can we start with witnesses like any court would? How about clues (like the cabin in the woods)? Perhaps your court only allows evidence derived via the scientific method? Consider that we all have "belief systems" or "worldviews" that cannot be proven scientifically, but yet we still go forward with certain premises. Shall we hold that our world is "dumbly" there and "magically" designed itself like in a fairytale, or should we go by what we observe everyday in everyday life; intelligible things require an intelligence behind it?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Yes, but would you allow the evidence into your courtroom?

            Would I allow the evidence my courtroom? Lets just use a standard. Say, a UK courtroom. Can we hold your evidence to the same standard as a High Court?

            Can we start with witnesses like any court would?

            Is that what any court would start with? Witness testimony is renowned to be highly on reliable. It is used as corroborating evidence, not primary.

            Memory recall has been considered a credible source in the past, but has recently come under attack as forensics can now support psychologists in their claim that memories and individual perceptions are unreliable; being easily manipulated, altered, and biased. Due to this, many countries and states within the USA are now attempting to make changes in how eyewitness testimony is presented in court. Eyewitness testimony is a specialized focus within forensic psychology.

            Anyway, I'll allow your witness testimony in, where is it?

            How about clues (like the cabin in the woods)?

            Who built the cabin in the woods? Paul Bunyan, fairies, God, cabin building folk?

            Perhaps your court only allows evidence derived via the scientific method?

            Yep, that'll usually be the minimum standard. You didn't expect hearsay and wishful thinking to be allowed did you? If you are to be incarcerated for life or executed, what level of evidence would you demand from the prosecution?

            Consider that we all have "belief systems" or "worldviews" that cannot be proven scientifically, but yet we still go forward with certain premises.

            You might, not I. "What can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence" ~ Hitchens Razor.

            It's a pity you wouldn't be so forth coming with the premises of Scientology for example.

            Shall we hold that our world is "dumbly" there and "magically" designed itself like in a fairytale, or should we go by what we observe everyday in everyday life; intelligible things require an intelligence behind it?

            Ben, the Teleological Argument has been addressed well a long time ago.

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/essays/unmoved-mover/#design

            Hitch your horse to that creationist cart if you like though.

          • Ben says...Consider that we all have "belief systems" or "worldviews" that cannot be proven scientifically, but yet we still go forward with certain premises.

            You say...You might, not I.
            Are you sure? You have no "philosophy" about the world around you? It's a rhetorical question for anyone.
            Good talking with you (not sarcasm).

  • What I didn't read here was that Bruno was not wrongly tried and killed for proposing a worldview that different from the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

    I just watched the Cosmos piece and I did not see there the view that the Catholic Church is or always has been anti-science. Rather that 400 years ago it claimed authority on such matters and would execute those that differed. I think this was the case.

    I'd never heard Bruno's story before and I feel that I am quite a fan boy of science and the skeptical movement. Neither this episode nor the original series considers it, or defiance to church doctrine as an origin story. Rather, we look back to Ancient Greece.

    I am not and have never been a Christian but I am constantly seeing its tired old myths and origin stories repeated.

    • Susan

      What I didn't read here was that Bruno was not wrongly tried and killed for proposing a worldview that different from the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

      Thank you Brian. There is never much emphasis put on that sort of thing. The fact is that the RCC who claim to be the representatives of an omnibenevolent deity, guided by something called the holy spirit, had this man sentenced to be burned to death because they didn't like what he stood for.

      Now, there is an article about how the catholic church is being picked on because they've always been for science and that we wouldn't have science without the church and not one mention of the fact that the church sentenced this man (and many others) to be burned to death.

      I can't make it past the way they sentenced people to horrific existences and executions. No. They were not alone in that but they claim they are special.

      Also, if they would like to claim that science is dependent on the church, I would like them to cite sources other than apologists. I'm astonished that the idea that there was order and predictability in the world eluded hunter/gatherers and agricultural communities. It did not take a belief in Yahweh to give us predictable patterns and our tendency to extrapolate and make decisions based on those predictable patterns.

      I"m not sure we would have survived without recognizing patterns and predictions based on those patterns.

      I wonder if anyone here who makes this claim is an expert in the history of science or if they're just repeating what apologists say.

      • Ignorant Amos

        I can't make it past the way they sentenced people to horrific existences and executions. No. They were not alone in that but they claim they are special.

        Susan, I take it you haven't heard of the Coventry martyrs?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Coventry_Martyrs#Lollardy_in_16th-century_Coventry_.E2.80.93_the_first_martyrs

        Now here we have a really heinous crime against the fragility of the church.

        These seven Christians were martyred in the year 1519, in Coventry, England, in an area called Little Park. The law they had broken was teaching their children the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments in the English language. Only the Latin Scriptures were considered "holy." The Bible in any other language, including English, was believed "vulgar" and its use labeled heresy.

      • Ignorant Amos

        How about Botulf Botulfsson (died April 1311), from Gottröra, Uppland, was a Swedish man burned at the stake for heresy. His is the only confirmed case of an execution for heresy in Sweden.

        He was accused by the Catholic Church of heresy after having denied that the wine and bread of the communion was literally the blood and body of Christ.

        So nothing to do with science there then?

    • Peter

      You must differentiate between Protestant creationism, whether that be the creationism of young earth creationists, the Intelligent Design of the Discovery Institute or the big bang creationism of William Lane Craig on the one hand, and the Catholic understanding of creation on the other, which is far more subtle.

      Protestant creationism essentially invokes a supernatural cause to circumstances at whichever level, while the Catholic understanding is that the existence of creation can be due to purely naturalistic reasons which are hitherto undiscovered. Insofar as atheist scientists argue for a naturalistic explanation of the universe, in opposition to creationist claims, their position is not inconsistent with that of the Church.

      • When I say Christian myths and origin stories I am not just talking about creation stories. Mainly the story of Jesus.

        • Peter

          If the falsifiable part of Church doctrine is right in that it is supported by science, why would you expect the unfalsifiable part to be wrong?

          • I don't expect the unfalsifiable part to right or wrong. By virtue of its unfalsifiability we will never have anyway of checking and it can never be said to have affected anything in the world other than by asserting it did.

            The Catholic Church is not ideologically aligned with science. If it were it would adopt methodological naturalism and have no problem stating that it is entirely open to been shown all of its doctrine is wrong including the divinity of Jesus.

            Father Barron's piece criticizes Cosmos for telling the true story what the Church did to someone for proclaiming something they disagreed with. The church did not simply point out that Bruno's views were unscientific, not based on evidence and so on. This is because their doctrine was based on a similarly shaky foundation and they would not tolerate anyone saying anything different. The church did not spend

          • The decades after Copernicus investigating his and Bruno's assertions by means of observation and reason. This was because they knew through the inerrant theology that he must be wrong. Well, the Church was wrong. Rather they imprisoned him for years and burned him to death instead of ignoring him or scientifically investigating his claims.

            While the Church does not oppose science and now has no choice but to admit that scientific findings trump it's interpretation of Cosmology from the Bible does not mean that it is a scientific body or meets the standards of science.

            My goodness, do you see how scarce Father Barron's list of scientific clergy is? People make this list because they ran an observatory or were a friend and supporter of Galeleo! As if to suggest the Catholic Church was a friend and supporter of Galileo! the list of non church scientists is, Kepler, Einstein, Bohr, Volta, Newton, Darwin, Hawking, Watson, Crick, Currie, Maxwell

  • skeptic

    Based on what was included in the first episode of Cosmos, let me predict what will not be included in the following episodes. That the Catholic church funded Copernicus' university education, that it was his only source of income through his whole life, and that when he died he was buried in a privileged location in the local cathedral. That when the Vatican found out about his ideas, they sent him a letter offering to pay for the printing if he would publish. That Galileo largely ignored Kepler and as a result Kepler had to depend on church officials and priests for his telescopes. That a Catholic priest organized the first important experimental test of Kepler's Planetary Model. Galileo ignored the experiment, sticking with the Copernican model instead. That using real data and computers to compare the Copernican Model and the oldest of Earth centred models found not much difference between them (the Earth-centred was minimally better than the Copernican model.). That almost every major optical telescope built in the twentieth century was based on a design first proposed by a priest (Cassegrain). Newton predicted that the Cassegrain would never be practical. There's more, but this is a good start.

    • Susan

      Based on what was included in the first episode of Cosmos, let me predict what will not be included in the following episodes

      Based on what I've grown accustomed to in catholic apologetics, here is what they won't mention about Giordano Bruno and their conduct in his trial.

      Some of the charges:

      holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith and speaking against it and its ministers;

      holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith about the Trinity, divinity of Christ, and Incarnation;

      holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith pertaining to Jesus as Christ;

      holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith regarding the virginity of Mary, mother of Jesus;

      holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith about both Transubstantiation and Mass;

      claiming the existence of a plurality of worlds and their eternity;

      believing in metempsychosis and in the transmigration of the human soul into brutes;

      dealing in magics and divination.

      For this, they sentenced a man to be burned alive and cast his ashes into a river. They also "silenced his tongue" before they executed him. Not sure how. This is from Wikipedia.

      Are any of these facts wrong? Any historians out there? I am not asserting these as fact. It's just that the fact that your church sentenced a man to be burned alive is so often pushed aside to complain that your church is falsely described as an enemy of science.

      That should be the least of your concerns about the subject if the facts are accurate.

      • MattyTheD

        Susan, if your list of the charges against Bruno are correct (and I trust/assume they are) is it safe to say the case against Bruno was theological and not scientific?

      • Susan, I think we're all in agreement that a small handful of Church leaders acted egregiously wrong in burning Bruno for his theological beliefs.

        But what does that have to do with science or the cosmos?

        Your comment above makes the exact same error that the "Cosmos" series made. It's nothing more than a blatant attempt to insert a non-scientific smear against the Catholic Church into a conversation about science.

        • Out of curiosity, were those church leaders ever punished for what they did?

          Imagine a group of bishops involved in a state execution of someone for heresy. I imagine that there would be serious consequences from the Vatican. If not, it would appear as though the Vatican would approve of such activity.

          Maybe at the time the Vatican did approve of executing people for heresy. Aquinas thought it was a reasonable thing to do. I don't want to pass judgements on past groups based on the more enlightened ethics of the present, but I'm curious whether it was simply a "small handful of Church leaders" acting on the fringe, or whether the Vatican allowed this to happen without any consequence to those involved.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            From my reading of European history, in those days practically everyone approved of execution for heresy as (at least) a last resort.

          • I find that believable. But then it's not just a small handful of Church leaders who made a mistake. The whole Church made the mistake along with the rest of the world. Given the exclusivity claims of the Church, that's pretty scandalous. Doesn't really belong in a science documentary, but it's pretty scandalous.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I've been thinking about this (not for the first time). I don't think capital punishment is intrinsically wrong and I think it is just under some circumstances. The Church teaches this but also teaches that most executions today are imprudent and so should not happen. (I won't go into why unless you want me to.)

            In those days, practically everyone believed that bad ideas could have bad consequences (that is true enough) and that those in authority have the duty to protect others from those bad ideas (check out the Albigensians as an example of bad ideas with bad consequences for society).

            Whether execution for heresy was prudent then is another question. The Church does not claim her members will be without sin. She also does not claim her ministers will always be prudent.

          • Sqrat

            Whether dealing with heresy by execution or other means of oppression is prudent depends on its effectiveness in achieving its objective, which is presumably to arrest the spread of heresy. While it does not always work, it seems to have been quite effective in wiping out the Albigensians. Regardless of whether it is prudent, is it ethical?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What I mean about prudence is that prudence might call for doing something or it might call for doing nothing.

          • Sqrat

            Right -- with regard to the goal of wiping out the Albigensian heretics, physical oppression up to and including execution seems to have been prudent because it achieved the goal. But was it ethical?

          • Sqrat

            Was the execution of heretics morally permissible, or morally impermissible?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            See my take on it in my reply to Paul Rimmer (below).

          • Ignorant Amos

            Brilliant one Sqrat.

            A "does my ass look big in these jeans" moment. To which we get fudge.

            It's a can't answer truthfully moment because it will be so painful, at least for those of us who are not morally corrupt.

            Six men and one women get burned at the stake for teaching their children The Lord's Prayer and the Decalogue in English, but that is okay because that's how things got done in the 16th century so the Church went along with it because that was the prudent thing to do. Time for a wash.

          • Susan

            Was the execution of heretics morally permissible, or morally impermissible?

            What Kevin hasn't seemed to notice is that all of the atheists he has engaged with here, including you and me, could have, and would likely have been set on fire for expressing what we express on a regular basis on this site.

            That he's not sure that that's a serious problem makes my blood run cold. Not because in theory, it could be about me. But because it could be about anyone at all.

            Including catholics who utter views heretical to other christian sects or to non-christians who are committed to a different "faith in things unseen" from which you can extrapolate any sort of existential and moral claim.

            That's the trouble with faith. NIce enough people like Kevin too often are unable to state the obvious, that it is morally impermissible.

            Not picking on Kevin. No other catholic here stepped in to respond.

            And these are good and decent people for the most part.

            That's what bothers me about "faith". It's so often an obstruction. .

          • Michael Murray

            To borrow from some of the Church leaders recent appearance at the various Royal Commissions into child sexual abuse going on in Australia I imagine the response to burning heretics would be along the lines of:

            At the time we didn't understand this was wrong. We were too concerned about the suffering of the people who lit the fires and should have concentrated more on the victims. We are sorry. Mistakes were made. We have new protections in place. My predecessors handled this badly. We were just doing what our lawyers suggested. I didn't personally ask the lawyers to press for execution. I can see in retrospect that I should have done things differently.

          • Sqrat

            It's odd that Father Barron chose try to refute the "tired old myth" that the Church was or is an enemy of science by focusing on the case of Giordano Bruno. What the Bruno case illustrates is that the Church was and remains an enemy of heresy. Insofar as science is not heretical, the Church is not an enemy of science. Insofar as science is heretical, the Church is an enemy of science. For an example of what kinds of science might be regarded as heretical, see the following article, "What Does the Latest 'Big Bang' Discovery Mean?"

            Fortunately, the Church no longer has the power to send heretics to the stake.

        • David Nickol

          But what does that have to do with science or the cosmos?

          I think it is a little disingenuous to claim that Bruno's beliefs were "theological" and had nothing to do with science. If the Church had made a distinction between science and theology as we understand them today, there would have been no conflict over heliocentrism. Why Cosmos chose to focus on Bruno instead of Copernicus or Galileo is a good question, but the conflict between the Church and the scientific idea of heliocentrism was a very real one, and as I have pointed out elsewhere, the Church banned publication of works presenting Copernicanism as fact for two hundred years until the early 19th century. This is a fact about the history of science that can't possibly be swept under the rug by the Catholic Church.

          I did not see any implication in the Cosmos episode that the Catholic Church today stands in the way of science. But the opposition of the Church to the acceptance of Copernicanism/heliocentrism as a fact is simply part of the history of modern science (and the history of the Church, too). It would be dishonest to leave it out or play it down.

        • cminca

          "a small handful of Church leaders...."?

          Try a whole department within the Vatican:

          "In 1542 Pope Paul III established the Congregation of the Holy Office of the Inquisition as a permanent congregation staffed with cardinals and other officials. It had the tasks of maintaining and defending the integrity of the faith and of examining and proscribing errors and false doctrines; it thus became the supervisory body of local Inquisitions.[31] Arguably the most famous case tried by the Roman Inquisition involved Galileo Galilei in 1633." Wikipedia

        • Danny Getchell

          we're all in agreement that a small handful of Church leaders acted egregiously wrong in burning Bruno

          Brandon, I think you deserve credit for stating this forthrightly.
          Based on some of your earlier comments on Aquinas' stand on the killing of heretics, I didn't expect it of you.

        • Susan

          Your comment above makes the exact same error that the "Cosmos" series made. It's nothing more than a blatant attempt to insert a non-scientific smear against the Catholic Church into a conversation about science.

          Apparently, you didn't read my comment above.

          It was pointing out that catholics seem much more concerned with making the case that they are misunderstood friends of science than with the fact that they set people on fire.

          So, any objective reader can see that it's not a blatant attempt to do anything like what you accused it of doing.

          But what does that have to do with science or the cosmos?

          I think I tried to make this point and it's important:

          if the facts are accurate, how could science thrive? When charges like those can be laid against a person, how could it contribute to a climate of scientific inquiry, whether Bruno is an example of a "scientist" or not?

          I can also say that any system of thought that relies on arguments from authority ("the church teaches...:), that makes ultimate claims that are unfalsifiable, and that encourages "faith" in things unseen is not a friend of science.

          But that was not my original point.

          And your accusation that it was a blatant attempt to insert a non-scientific smear against your church into a conversation about science is just plain wrong.

          How's the weather in Croydon?

    • skeptic

      I'm glad that Bruno is being discussed so intensely. I think he is absolutely key in understanding most church and science discussions. I think it shows that most church and science discussions are about the church and not about science. Cosmology is only a tiny part of science and Bruno didn't seem much of an influence on the most important early cosmologists. Galileo and Newton never referenced him and Kepler actually openly criticized him. We can be thankful here, I don't think that discussing whether planets and stars moved because they had souls would have been very fruitful. If we are going to talk about church and science it would be nice if there was more science.

      Church and science discussions are not about science. One example is how the Copernican model is discussed. If scientists are comparing models you would expect one of them to come up with something like "Statistically, Model A fits the data better than Model B". That simply doesn't happen in documentaries like Cosmos or chat boards like these. This is in spite of the fact that this question was answered for the Copernican Model and the earth-centered Ptolemaic in 1978. The Ptolemaic fit the data better. And if you wanted to ignore the fact that the Copernican model really didn't work any better than any of its competitors, you had serious problems with the theory of heliocentricity. Heliocentricity required that stellar parallax occurs, and that wasn't discovered for another two centuries.

      The point is that everything is 20/20 in hindsight. At the time, things were more murky. TV doesn't do murky, so one shouldn't expect Cosmos to actually properly discuss why there was such a variety of opinions then. If you follow the threads on Bruno, you should also see that there was little interest in science in those postings as well.

  • Peter

    For centuries Church doctrine has maintained that creation had a beginning, despite constant opposition from philosophers and scientists who claimed that the universe was a brute fact without a beginning and therefore without the need for a Creator. Then came the discovery of phenomena leading to the hypothesis of the big bang and the suggestion that the universe did indeed have a beginning, vindicating centuries-old Church doctrine.

    However, there are those who claim that the big bang is not a beginning but a mid-universe bounce between a universe which is eternally contracting and one which is eternally expanding. Nevertheless, even in this case the big bang still counts as a beginning in the sense that it represents the low entropy boundary where the arrow of time begins to flow backward into the past as well as forward into the future as entropy grows in each direction.

    So whether there is only one arrow of time running in one direction as in the big bang hypothesis, or two arrows of time running in opposite directions from a mid universe bounce, the point at which they begin still marks the beginning of time which is perfectly consistent with Church doctrine.

    Atheist scientists and philosophers are wasting their time trying to prove an eternal universe with the aim of disproving the need for God because they misunderstand what the Church means by the beginning of time. They are so busy attacking the Protestant understanding which is that God supernaturally kick-started the universe into existence at the big bang, that they fail to consider that the beginning of time is synonymous with the beginning of the arrow of time which can run in both directions in an eternal universe.

    • Loreen Lee

      Yes I read the most recent reports on the 'beginning', but fail to grasp the idea that the arrow of time can run in two directions. Can you offer any direction as to how/;where I can read more about this. Please note that my level of 'understanding' is not very 'developed'. Thank you.

      • Peter

        Below is an excerpt from Sean Carroll's post-debate reflections on his debate last month with William lane Craig:

        "I wanted to talk about a model developed by Anthony Aguirre and Stephen Gratton. They have a very simple and physically transparent model that (unlike my theory with Chen) imposes a low-entropy boundary condition at a mid-universe “bounce.” It’s a straightforward example of a perfectly well-defined theory that is clearly eternal, one that doesn’t have a beginning, and does so without invoking any hand-waving about quantum gravity"

        http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0301042

        Carroll wants to use the Aguirre-Gratton model to demonstrate that the universe is eternal without a beginning. However, this model relies on a beginning to the arrow of time both forward into the infinite future and backwards into the infinite past.

  • Danny Getchell

    the bugbear of intolerant and violent Catholicism

    I don't think you will find any contemporary Anglicans or Episcopalians who refuse to admit that their church was wrong to execute Catholics for the crimes of advocating Catholicism and conducting Masses.

    A parallel admission on the part of contemporary Catholics would erase this "bugbear" from my personal argumentative notebook.

    It's not that Bruno was burned for reasons that relate marginally to scientific disputes. It's that Bruno was burned. Few Catholics here really seem to get that.

    • It would be nice if in Catholic articles (especially when written by a priest) that take as their starting point a famous incident like this wherein the Church burned someone alive, the authors could spare a few words to agree that people should not be burned alive for their opinions and that the Church was wrong to have done so. It's pretty much the minimum level of decency upon which meaningful dialogue should start. But that minimum is sadly absent here. And yet they are often eager to tell us that we're the ones whose intellectual systems are corrosive of morality.

      • Danny Getchell

        Catholics view it as one of the strengths of their faith that they have a magisterium which provides an intellectual grounding for their beliefs without the need to interpret all of the universe and of history strictly in the light of the Bible, as most Protestants have come to do.

        But the weakness of the magisterial approach is that it makes it essentially impossible to admit of previous errors in doctrine or in practice. Therefore there are few Catholics who will say outright that killing heretics was wrong. They will sidestep the issue by claiming that it was okay to hold heretical beliefs, but not to publish them. Or that it was really the secular government that wanted to punish heresy as a threat to the political status quo, and the Church had no dog in that hunt. I'm sure there are other sidesteps that have been used here, but those are the two that come most readily to my mind.

        Edit - this is one reason I miss Rick DeLano. He certainly had no qualms about endorsing the autos-da-fe and therefore was refreshingly light on the evasiveness.

  • fightforgood

    It just goes to show how tough it is to get two varying minds to find a little common ground.
    There are a lot of things to consider - context, clarity of vision today vs yester-year, and personal responsibility.
    20-25 years ago, there are people on this website who looked at skateboarders as problem children, loitering. Now, many of those same people would probably look differently upon the matter considering what the early 'scientists' of skateboarding have worked through to create courses that take a lot of math and science to build correctly. All the way to working the game into a career for those who came after them.
    It's not uncommon to be wrong at the time when someone jumps out of the box.
    Unfortunately, being on the 'wrong side of wrong' in SOME specific cases, was quite costly for the person. It is a shame, but it's a reality of the 'present', there will always be people who are wrong in their time, because people are not perfect.
    Being a Christian always has been and still is 'wrong' and people are still getting murdered for it.
    But is it 'wrong'? or are Christians the early year skateboarders? Looking back, reality is this is not a religion vs science thing, as we can see in history with Christian scientists.

  • QuietIRL

    I think you missed the point entirely. The show is called "Cosmos" not "A History of Astronomy. It is about getting people excited about science and astronomy in particular. The first episode is about inspiration.

    Here we have a person who had a dream. It was not cold calculating reason or science - which the show explicitly states. This man was so inspired by his dream about the heavens that he faced execution for it.

    The point is that inspiration that the universe can engender is enormous and sometimes even dangerous. The point, again, is to make it exciting.

    In keeping with the theme, the show moves on to the hosts' own personal inspiration - the original host of the show.

    The modern Catholic church and modern science have nothing to do with it and nothing was implied about either on the show.

    The fact that the Catholic church was the prevailing thought police at the time and place is just simple fact. That it plucked the chord of persecution complex says more about you than it does about the show.

  • Cubico

    “Cosmos” and One More Telling of the Tired Myth

    Who is responsible for the unfortunate title of this article.....it is not exactly clear.....is it Father Barron? or someone else......clarity in these philosophical/religious areas would be appreciated. This being a Catholic apologist site.....I would expect nothing else other than unbiased freedom of expression regards various points of view.

  • David Nickol

    . . . . but I feel obliged, once more, to expose the dangerous silliness of the
    view that Catholicism and the modern sciences are implacable foes.

    The debate has gone off in a number of directions, which is fine, but I think it is necessary to point out that (a) Fr. Barron is in my opinion correct that Catholicism and the modern sciences are not implacable foes (although there are occasional tensions) and (b) Fr. Barron is in my opinion incorrect to conclude that the message of the the Giordano Bruno segment in Cosmos was to depict Catholicism and the modern sciences as implacable foes.

    However, since the Church convicted Galileo of heresy and kept him under house arrest, and since Galileo is a towering figure in the history of physics and astronomy—Einstein called him the "father of modern science"—Catholics cannot act as if nothing untoward ever happened.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Convicting Galileo of being "vehemently suspect of heresy" and putting him under house arrest were definitely untoward.

  • severalspeciesof

    Can we please, once and for all, dispense with the nonsense that Catholicism is the enemy of the sciences?

    It may not be in every facet of its history, but to Bruno, et. al. it was...

    Glen

  • Nameless Cynic

    Two things: First, Bruno was an early scientist. Herbalists made discoveries about plants which led to biology; in the same way, early philosophers and astrologers made discoveries about the universe that led to physics and astronomy. Everything has to start somewhere, and our understanding of science didn't burst forth fullblown into a laboratory stocked with Erlenmeyer flasks and graduated cylinders.

    Secondly, Bruno was most certainly killed for heliocentrism. It wasn't the only charge against him; however, not only was it the first, but during the trial, the church drew up eight theories that they deemed heretical and demanded that he renounce them. He wouldn't, and so he was found guilty. And one of those theories was "The idea of terrestrial movement, which according to Bruno, did not oppose the Holy Scriptures."

    It's never a good idea to try and rewrite history.

    http://www.bruno-giordano.net/bio.html

  • We should not find surprise in such inclusions. Sagan, in the original series, stated as fact that Christians had destroyed the Library of Alexandria, which made for quite an anachronism. It just shows that being a great physicist does not qualify one as even a competent historian.

    • Ignorant Amos

      Sagan, in the original series, stated as fact that Christians had destroyed the Library of Alexandria, which made for quite an anachronism.

      Why? Unless you assert that there were no Christians running about Egypt in 391 AD.

      It just shows that being a great physicist does not qualify one as even a competent historian.

      A quick Google shows that Peter John is equally incompetent an historian, but we should find no surprise there among believers.

      John Julius Norwich [Historian], in his work Byzantium: The Early Centuries, places the destruction of the library's collection during the anti-Arian riots in Alexandria that transpired after the imperial decree of 391.

      Edward Gibbon [Historian] claimed that the Library of Alexandria was destroyed by Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, who ordered the destruction of theSerapeum in 391.

      Now Caesar in 46 BC and the Muslims in 641 AD did their destroying, but that still does not make Sagan's statement inaccurate or an anachronism.

      • Ignorant Amos

        At the hands of a Pope no less, Peter John...be careful what ya wish for.

        At the solicitation of Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, the emperor issued an order at this time for the demolition of the heathen temples in that city; commanding also that it should be put in execution under the direction of Theophilus. Seizing this opportunity, Theophilus exerted himself to the utmost to expose the pagan mysteries to contempt. And to begin with, he caused the Mithreum to be cleaned out, and exhibited to public view the tokens of its bloody mysteries. Then he destroyed the Serapeum, and the bloody rites of the Mithreum he publicly caricatured; the Serapeum also he showed full of extravagant superstitions, and he had the phalli of Priapus carried through the midst of the forum. [...] Thus this disturbance having been terminated, the governor of Alexandria, and the commander-in-chief of the troops in Egypt, assisted Theophilus in demolishing the heathen temples.
        —Socrates; Roberts, Alexander; Donaldson, James (1885), "Socrates: Book V: Chapter 16", in Philip Schaff et al., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, II

      • Excellent work disclosing Sagan's erroneous source, which has contributed to the perpetuation of this myth. The Great Library of Alexandria was destroyed by the Romans long before Christianity existed. There was another library in Alexandria at the time of the Christian uprising there. That was destroyed, but Sagan did not make this distinction. He bridged centuries as if nothing had happened in the interim. He discussed the Great Library of Alexandria and blamed Christians, who did not even exist when it was destroyed, for destroying it.

        • Ignorant Amos

          The Great Library of Alexandria was destroyed by the Romans long before Christianity existed.

          The library is famous for having been burned resulting in the loss of many scrolls and books, and has become a symbol of the destruction of cultural knowledge. A few sources differ on who is responsible for the destruction and when it occurred. Although there is a mythology of the burning of the Library at Alexandria, the library may have suffered several fires or acts of destruction over many years. Possible occasions for the partial or complete destruction of the Library of Alexandria include a fire set by Julius Caesar in 48 BC, an attack byAurelian in the 270s AD, and the decree of Coptic Pope Theophilus in 391 AD.

          After the main library was fully destroyed, ancient scholars used a "daughter library" in a temple known as the Serapeum, located in another part of the city. According to Socrates of Constantinople, Coptic Pope Theophilus destroyed the Serapeum in 391 AD.

          There was another library in Alexandria at the time of the Christian uprising there.

          Which was the library of Alexandria at the time of the 391 AD Christian destruction.

          Paganism was made illegal by an edict of the Emperor Theodosius I in 391 AD. The temples of Alexandria were closed by Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria in AD 391. The historian Socrates of Constantinople describes that all pagan temples in Alexandria were destroyed, including the Serapeum. Since the Serapeum housed a part of the Great Library, some scholars believe that the remains of the Library of Alexandria were destroyed at this time. However, it is not known how many, if any, books were contained in it at the time of destruction, and contemporary scholars do not mention the library directly.

          That was destroyed, but Sagan did not make this distinction.

          He bridged centuries as if nothing had happened in the interim.

          He discussed the Great Library of Alexandria and blamed Christians, who did not even exist when it was destroyed, for destroying it.

          It's ironic then, that the Encyclopaedia Britannica fails to mention the pre-Christian Roman involvement.

          The museum and library survived for many centuries but were destroyed in the civil war that occurred under the Roman emperor Aurelian in the late 3rd century ad; the daughter library was destroyed by Christians in ad 391.

          The Great Library was not one building, but part of a campus, and not one building.

          I read another source that Caesar's burning ships only burned houses near the harbour, leaving the library intact. But there is myth and legend for ya.

          In any case, your initial comment was erroneous hyperbole.

          • My point is that Sagan's report specifically left out everything in the middle for the purpose of making it look like it was Christianity was solely responsible for the destruction of what he described as existing before the Roman invasion -- a bias Toynbee was happy to promote in his accounts -- when what he described is not what happened. My main pertinent point was comparing it to the erroneous historical digression in the current Cosmos.

            It seems to me that many scientists simply resent the religious roots of science, so try to separate them more than is necessary. I find no conflict between them myself. If the universality of DNA as the structure of life, and evolution, mean that through his incarnation as a human being God physically unites himself with all he created -- that just makes science and religion both more awesome.

            Neither "Special creation of man" nor all humans sharing one common male and female ancestor contradict any established scientific fact. By the same token, as Joseph Ratzinger wrote in his treatise "In the Beginning .." the Bible was never intended to be a natural science manual.

          • Ignorant Amos

            My point is that Sagan's report specifically left out everything in the middle for the purpose of making it look like it was Christianity was solely responsible for the destruction of what he described as existing before the Roman invasion

            Wow, that is some statement of fact. You can back it up I'm sure?

            Regardless, you could have just as easily have made your point by elucidating the audience here of Sagan's perceived errors. You didn't, you attacked the man's prowess and competancy in history, assuming he did the research himself.

            Question: Did the Pope order the destruction of the temple of Alexandria including the library in 391, regardless of events 4 centuries earlier?

            Answer: Yes

            Sagan was right...end of.

            -- a bias Toynbee was happy to promote in his accounts -- when what he described is not what happened.

            We don't know for sure all what happened to the library at Alexandria, what we do know is, that what Sagan said is true. Christians, under the orders of the Pope, run amok in 391 AD and left a trail of death and destruction.

            My main pertinent point was comparing it to the erroneous historical digression in the current Cosmos.

            And you are making the same mistake as the OP. Stating that Bruno was burned at the stake for other reasons than his scientific views is ridiculous when part of the charge report outlines his heretical scientific views as reasons for his trial, conviction and education.

            It seems to me that many scientists simply resent the religious roots of science, so try to separate them more than is necessary. I find no conflict between them myself. If the universality of DNA as the structure of life, and evolution, mean that through his incarnation as a human being God physically unites himself with all he created -- that just makes science and religion both more awesome.

            Neither "Special creation of man" nor all humans sharing one common male and female ancestor contradict any established scientific fact. By the same token, as Joseph Ratzinger wrote in his treatise "In the Beginning .." the Bible was never intended to be a natural science manual.

            So what? How is any of that relevant to your opening comment?

          • Michael Murray

            all humans sharing one common male and female ancestor

            This could mean two things:

            (a) there is a couple in the past with the property that every line of ancestors from every living human goes back through them

            or

            (b) there is a couple in the past with the property that at least one line of ancestors from every living human goes back through them

            The first one (a) contradicts DNA research. Which did you have in mind ?

  • RanWiz

    The author of the article states the following in the middle of paragraph 2: "...all of the founders [of modern science] would have imbibed the two fundamentally theological assumptions that made the modern sciences possible, namely, that the world is not divine—and hence can be experimented upon rather than worshiped—and that the world is imbued with intelligibility—and hence can be understood."

    THIS IS AN ERROR !!
    One must be very careful of what one takes as assumptions. The second 'a priori' condition above, namely that the world is "imbued with intelligibility" is far from a safe assumption. It may be required for the construct that the world was created by a god, but that is not yet a proven point. If one ASSUMES this point, then proving there is a god is not difficult. Any truly 'materialistic' knowledge system must NOT make this assumption. What is the basis for this assumption? ... Scripture? ... the 'feeling' that it 'has to be so'?
    It has often been said that "assertions made without proof can be refuted without proof." If the author wants to make this really bold assertion, we need to see some proof.

  • Fuzzbuster

    I've watched Cosmos a handful of times. Unfortunately, this show fools the audience into thinking that it is going to be an interesting analysis of cutting edge science, but devolves into boring diatribes that are either anti-religion and/or environmental propaganda. In fact, in every Cosmos I have watched, Neil Tyson can't resist plugging his "global warming" agenda. Somehow, this guy through a boring, convoluted mishmash of psuedo-science and cartoonery can start out discussing the creation of the universe, veer off into lead poisoning and then end with making allusions and warnings about global warming.

    Through out Tyson's seemingly random and nonsensical journey from the earth's creation to lead poisoning and global warming, there are numerous plugs for pro-big government, pro environmental regulation, as well as snipes at those who believe in God and Creation. By the end (if you can make it to the end of one of these shows) you are nauseated, lost and befuddled by Tyson's bait and switch. My final thoughts after each Cosmos is "WAIT! WHAT HAPPENED TO EXPLORING THE SCIENCE OF PARTICLE PHYSICS, THE EARTH'S BEGINNING, BLACK HOLES.......?"

    I am perfectly fine with an honest discussion about what the Bible says about Creation and what various scientific theories say about Creation, but don't try and fool the audience into thinking the show is about the science of black holes and make veiled attempts to discredit religion. What Cosmos really proves is that smoking pot in the quantities that the creators of this show smoke really does damage to the part of the brain responsible for logical reasoning.