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I’m a Direct Descendant of Darwin…and a Catholic

Darwin

"Are you related to the economist?” people sometimes ask when they see my surname. I explain that, yes, John Maynard Keynes is my great-great-uncle—his brother Geoffrey married Margaret Darwin, my great-grandmother. “So you’re related to Darwin too?” Yes, he’s my great-great-great grandfather. Eyes might fall on the cross around my neck: “And you’re a Christian?” Yes, a Catholic. “How does a Darwin end up Catholic?”

The question genuinely seems to puzzle people. After all, Darwin ushered in a new era of doubt with his theory of evolution, and the Bloomsbury Group, of which Keynes was a part, influenced modern attitudes to feminism and sexuality. How can I be a product of this culture, and yet Catholic? The implication is that simple exposure to my ancestors’ life work should have shaken me out of my backwards error.

I’m a product of what Noel Annan called “the intellectual aristocracy”, the web of kinship uniting British intellectuals over the 18th to 20th centuries. In effect, a few families—united by location, shared values, and shared academic interests—enjoyed each others’ company and found spouses within a network of extended family and friends. That in itself creates a culture, and the culture of the “intellectual aristocracy” reflects its origins in freethinking dissent during the British Enlightenment: rational, scientific, academic, agnostic. Certainly this describes my immediate family circle, numbering several Fellows of the Royal Society, a Nobel Prize-winning physiologist, some notable academics, and one “Distinguished Supporter” of the British Humanist Association.

The BHA likes to play up the intellectual credentials of its supporters: it implies intelligent people reject religion. My family represents, in microcosm, the kind of society we should be heading towards, according to the general narrative of Enlightenment philosophy: as we all become more educated, more enlightened by the power of reason, religion should decline. Among my family members religion is seen as an anachronism at best, a pernicious form of tyranny at worst. So where do I get it from?

My mother converted to Catholicism shortly after I was born, having been Anglican prior to that. My parents’ marriage was a mismatch of personalities and values. It was annulled soon after I came along. My mother worked full-time as a single mother, while raising my brother and me in the Faith, attending Mass at Blackfriars in Cambridge. Fortunately, she remained on good terms with my father and the extended Keynes family. If there was any sense in which they saw my Catholic upbringing as indoctrination, or “child abuse” in the way Richard Dawkins has characterized it, I had no inkling of that, except perhaps once when my father asked me what sins a 10-year-old could possibly have to confess. He was a near contemporary of Christopher Hitchens at the Leys School, and a product of the same cultural forces that formed Hitchens’s brand of atheism.

By the time I was in my teens my mother had become a Buddhist. My brother rejected any form of organised religion that contravened his ethic of autonomy. My only link to the Church came through school, St Mary’s, Cambridge, which I left at 16 for college. Away from any contact with the Church, secular values prevailed and I drifted into agnosticism. It wasn’t until my mid to late 20s, while studying for a doctorate in philosophy at Oxford University, that life gave me cause to reassess those values. Relationships, feminism, moral relativism, the sanctity and dignity of human life: experience put them all under my scrutiny.

By this point Dawkins had sparked “the God debate” with The God Delusion, and my great-great-great grandfather’s theory of evolution by natural selection was being used to support the New Atheism. Aware that Darwin himself said, “Agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind” and “It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent theist and an evolutionist”, I followed the debate carefully. Did evidence for evolution necessarily imply atheism?

I was raised to know the evidence. In my grandparents’ home, scientific books and journals sit alongside fossils and family photos. Darwin scholarship is an ever-present topic of conversation at the dinner table. Visiting scholars point out the physical similarity between various family members and the man himself; one observed that Darwin and I share an identical mole on the upper left side of our noses, the exact same spot. Did this mean I had to be, in the words of Richard Dawkins, “dancing to the music of my DNA”?

I read central texts on both sides of the debate and found more to convince me in the thoughtful and measured responses of Alister McGrath and John Cornwell, among others, than in the impassioned prose of Hitchens et al. New Atheism seemed to harbor a germ of intolerance and contempt for people of faith that could only undermine secular Humanist claims to liberalism. Moreover, it could not adequately account for the problem of morality, discussed by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, without recourse to an inherently contradictory argument.

Conflicts, tensions, irresolutions, contradictions: such inconsistencies can be enormously productive for a philosophical mind seeking to understand how and why arguments are undermined. They lead us to truth. If atheism’s claim to the intellectual high ground is bolstered by my ancestor’s characteristic ability to explore and analyse inconsistencies in the evidence, that same family characteristic led me towards a skeptical assessment of what can and can’t be known absolutely. My doctoral thesis concerned epistemology, a branch of philosophy relating to the nature and scope of knowledge, and empiricism, which emphasizes the role of evidence and experience in the formation of ideas. In its concern with how we “make sense” of things—how abstract reasoning is based in bodily sense experience necessarily shaped by physical laws of nature—I apprehended an echo of the Catholic imagination.

Catholicism’s emphasis on physical devotions, enjoyed with childish simplicity when I was little, now made perfect sense. Having been “inside” Catholicism as a child I could choose it afresh with a mature and robust understanding of its role and teaching. I was, in fact, more free to choose than if I had been raised to discern faith—as secular Humanists would have it—at an age of reason.

My journey back to faith was as much a movement of the heart as a thoroughgoing intellectual inquiry. It had to be both: if my ancestors’ lives trouble faith then as their descendant I couldn’t but confront the issues head on. That I freely chose to be a Catholic after much thought and analysis, and wasn’t brainwashed into it, baffles my friends and family alike. I overheard one comment: “But she seemed like such an intelligent girl.” So when people ask “A Darwin and a Catholic?” what they’re saying is that I confound expectations. They expect an understanding of science and philosophy to be incompatible with religious belief. Inevitably, that makes me a target and people want to argue. It can feel unpleasant and unsought but abdicating responsibility for answering those difficult questions is not an option for a baptized Christian.

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire,” said St. Catherine of Siena. I happen to be a Darwin, a Keynes, and a Catholic—and I can’t pretend not to be any one of those things. I can only embrace my calling in its complexity, and use what I’ve been given to help others.
 
 
Originally posted at Catholic Herald. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: CNCAH)

Laura Keynes

Written by

Laura Keynes was born in London and grew up in Cambridge. In 1996 she was judged a WH Smith Young Writer of the Year by Ted Hughes. She then won a full scholarship to study at University College in Oxford University, where she earned her Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) in 2010. She now works as a critic and freelance writer in Cambridge. She's reviewed for the Times Literary Supplement, The Observer, Standpoint Magazine, and The Tablet, and she's currently working on her first book.

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  • Lorr

    Thank you for contributing. It is possible to be intellectual and have faith. They are compatible. Catholicism is infinitely deep on so many levels, and is referred to as the 'thinking man's religion'. To contemplate God and all of creation, on the grounds that we are not here by accident but on purpose, is being open minded. Not, as believers are often called, closed minded. An open mind is necessary to think beyond what can be seen, heard, smelled, and touched, or explained by science. Science, as it progresses with all its organized complexities, speaks all the more of God.

    • primenumbers

      " It is possible to be intellectual and have faith. " - absolutely. To be religious is not to show lack of intelligence, and similarly to be none religious is not to show superior intelligence. I think when we get more into the psychology of belief we'll see that intelligence is essential for maintaining a belief, that the expert ability to rationalize is what sustains belief when it meets confounding evidence.

      Indeed to contemplate on the idea of a God is not closed minded. To be closed minded would be to reject evidence because you disagree with it, not because it's wrong. An open mind reads neither more not less into the evidence than the evidence shows, as any unwary step in either direction leads to premature belief and the believer into the dangers of confirmation bias which will inevitably lead to a closing of the mind to non-confiming possibilities.

      • Lorr

        Thank you for responding. I have had many experiences in my life that cannot be explained by science. These experiences were 'mostly' mine alone, and could not be seen, touched, smelled, and science cannot explain them; other than dismiss them. I do not believe blindly, as I have been accused. Rather, these experiences opened my eyes to a truly loving God, and I thank Him.

        • primenumbers

          I don't dismiss people's experiences. I do think to say that because you think science doesn't explain them, therefore God (or supernatural in general) is rather a leap however, and that in such cases agnosticism ("I don't know the cause of my experience") is the better answer.

        • GreatSilence

          Is it of any significance that other religions regularly report such experiences that lead such practitioners to a similar belief in their deity or worldview?

          • TristanVick

            Similar because we as humans have the same basic psychology? Then yes, that seems to be why others form similar religious beliefs.

            Their differences are a testament to the manmade nature of faith.

          • Dropofclearwqter

            These experiences may not be based on separate religions, but have their source in the one true God despite the diversity of faiths. Those who have faith in the one true God do not recognize other religions, but they do not deny that the holy Spirit would be trying to reach them in their place of faith, to bring them to himself. The differences are not a testament to the manmade nature of faith. The differences only suggest that we are in need of the god who made us, and who is trying to reach us by every means. The fact that we have similar experiences is more a testament to the truth of a loving God, who cannot be anything other than who he is, unchangeable.

          • simonibekwe

            It does appear to me that you are inclined more towards deism rather than christian religion that identify a jesus and a holy spirit as other forms of God manifestation.

          • Dropofclearwqter

            Perhaps there has been a misunderstanding in what I wrote. There is only one God. He is the triune God the father, God the son and God the Holy Ghost. This does not mean that the Holy Spirit is not working diligently through us and other means for conversions. It is in our make-up to seek God. To seek the truth. Does that mean that other religions which are false are not being sought like lost sheep? God gives them experiences to bring them to Him. Saul of Tarsus would never have converted and become St. Paul had God not sought the unbelievers.

    • Alden Smith

      Lorr on that I would have to agree Lorr.

  • Jonathan Watson

    Ms. Keynes:

    You come from a fascinating family. I wonder whether John Joseph Haldane (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Joseph_Haldane) has a similar story to your own, converting from a very (otherwise non-religious) illustrious family. (In terms of your own family, it also produced the actor Skandar Keynes, did it not?)

    Do you ever feel yourself intellectually akin to other converts to Catholicism from famous English families throughout the ages? If so, do you follow or read their works and musings on conversion?

  • Rationalist1

    I didn't think there was any conflict between evolution and Catholicism. With the exception that ensoulment of humans at some time in that past the Catholic Church is agreement with evolution. Kenneth Miller, a practicing Catholic and biologist, wrote an excellent book on evolution "Only a Theory" which I would encourage all to read.

    As to evolution helping the new atheists, the only comment I've seen is that before Darwin (and Wallace's) theory, being an atheist was extremely difficult because of the question of design and is why many enlightenment thinkers, including many Founding Fathers were deists. Evolution made atheism intellectually possible, but as Catholics have shown, it is compatible with religion as well.

    • Rationalist, thanks for the comment, which I mostly agree with. Evolution and Catholicism are not necessarily in conflict. However, that's not what you'll sense reading many atheist writers like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. I believe this is what Laura was referring to.

      • But then, Brandon, from what I've read of them they're mostly addressing their comments re: Religion/Evolution towards "Christianity", for which fundamentalism/Evangelicalism is usually their go-to stand-in. So from what I've seen they're not hitting the Catholic Church with it, but the evangelicals.

        • Rationalist1

          I agree. Maybe Catholics in the pew have different views on evolution (influenced perhaps by some Protestant denominations) but the official Catholic teaching on evolution is compatible with biologists' theory of evolution.

          It would be interesting to know Ms Keynes view on evolution. I assume she accepts evolution and is just commenting on the surprise when people find out the Catholic Church accepts it too.

        • Andre Boillot

          Well well well, look who finally decided to grace us with his presence. Welcome back!

          • BenS

            Since he's been back, the temperature has increased at least 12 millimcgiffins!

          • Thanks! It was a forced hiatus, I'd never willingly stay gone for so long, Andre.

          • Andre Boillot

            What kind of monster...I don't even...

      • Rationalist1

        Ignoring the part where she says the new atheists "harbor a germ of intolerance and contempt for people of faith" she says that the "theory of evolution by natural selection was being used to support the New Atheism.". It's only used to support all atheism, post 1859, as it explains how the biological diversity could arise without resorting to a designer and negating much of Paley's argument from design position.

        In the first chapter of Dawkin's "Greatest show on Earth" he tells of a letter to Tony Blair signed by himself other scientists, Anglican Bishops and Catholic Bishops supporting the teaching of evolution in schools. Evolution is not a divisive issue, at least among Catholics and Anglicans.

        (Here's a link http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2002/apr/07/schools.publicservices )

        • epeeist

          Paley's argument from design position.

          Paley's argument was stillborn. Hume demolished it before it was made.

          • Rationalist1

            Perhaps, but without a definitive physical explanation for the variety and distribution of animal and plant species, it still had intellectual and to this day emotional appeal.

      • Vicq_Ruiz

        It's true that some atheists falsely equate Christianity=Creationism. I used to, but no longer.

        And yes, the Catholic church does not conflict with evolution, but that's part of a long process whereby: as each new scientific theory which supersedes a literal Biblical description becomes generally accepted, the church re-interprets that particular description as non-literal. Sid Collins' long post upthread is a more detailed explanation of this.

    • stanz2reason

      Rationalist... So far as I see it, where evolution conflicts with christianity in general is placing an Adam and Eve scenario onto grounds that require either ignoring it (evolution) altogether like the evangelicals choose to do, or ad hoc-ing into souls being put into people at a specific point in time (or similar claims), which to be fair with those who subscribe to those theories, is not more droll than other fantastical claims. No Adam & Eve, no original sin. No original sin, then why exactly was Christ crucified.

      What puzzles me, and I'm fairly sure we're in agreement here is the false idea that accepting Darwinian evolution is equivalent to atheism. While I'd imagine that the overwhelming majority of atheists accept Darwinian Evolution, the reverse isn't really true, that those who accept Darwinian Evolution are atheists. Perhaps evolution, modern cosmology, and other various knowledge fields might be able to show beyond a reasonable doubt that some religions and religious claims are bogus, that doesn't dismiss god altogether, though it does paint a picture of how he might work should he exist and from that you might be able to speak to gods abilities & nature to some degree.

      • Rationalist1

        I think we are in agreement. The Adam and Eve, orginal sin, ensoulment issue is a major theological problem and with Mark Shea, I just learned advocating polygenisis, multiple Adams and Eves, it becomes very strange. Next if we ever discover alien intelligent life the whole thing will have to be reformulated. Fortunately there is a simpler answer to all this.

        • Loreen Lee

          I put on another blog as well, my experience of reading the thesis that we can regard humanity, in distinction of other species, as 'the individual is in the species and the species is in the individual" in acknowledgement of homo 'sapient', or the ability to 'judge'. This rationale supports my 'belief, both with respect to the analogical basis now attributed to 'gospel readings', (as with Adam and Eve being 'original'), as well as the promise and 'defeat of evil, by conquering it through resisting it not, but rather transcending it, that we attribute to the atonement and its message of the reality of an 'ultimate' transformation. Thank you.

        • Rationalist, I'm afraid you're caricaturing Mark Shea. Please show me where he posits "multiple Adams and Eves."

          • Rationalist1

            "Pius XII left room for the possibility of polygenism in his discussions of human origins and Rome has made more room for it since Pius’ day.
            We are not therefore all descended from one couple.

          • I do not see where in that quote Mark posits 'we came from multiple Adam and Eves."

            Mike Flynn does an excellent job explaining how polygenism is easily compatible with the Catholic understanding of Adam and Eve. In fact, Mark links to this article immediately after the section you quote from:

            http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2011/09/adam-and-eve-and-ted-and-alice.html

          • Rationalist1

            "When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty."

            http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html

          • Christian Stillings

            Did you read the Flynn post which Brandon linked to.

          • stanz2reason

            Good lord, can this Flynn article be the main article tomorrow. I'd love to shred it apart if I can find the time. It'll be messy.

          • Christian Stillings

            You wouldn't be the first one to try. It's not as smooth of sailing as I think you think it'll be, but we'll leave the actual dispute for when it gets posted. Alternately, you could proffer your critique on the original post and see what results; if it's posted here and you still take issue with it, you can post your original critique again here and perhaps some further critique.

          • Sid_Collins

            I think the real problem is that accepting Flynn's polygenesis scenario lays bare the cruelty and injustice (when held to human standards) of the whole creation-sin-salvation narrative. Millions of creatures evolved through the suffering of privation, fear, predation, disease, aging and death, including red-clay ape-men who were THIS CLOSE to sapience, all to produce sapient creatures whose inborn natures predisposed them to turn away from the good and risk hell. So Christ died to save mankind from a predilection inherent to human nature that is the origin or source of sins.

            Flynn's story supposes a God even more distant and indifferent than Original Sin God. Salvation in this narrative--especially starring a woman/mother figure who, what, crushes HUMAN NATURE under foot?--makes no sense to me.

          • I think the real problem is that accepting Flynn's polygenesis scenario. . . .

            I think the real problem is the scenario itself, which is ludicrous.

          • Sid_Collins

            I wouldn't argue with it being ludicrous--but so is the garden-apple-sin-salvation scenario. Flynn's narrative is what it looks like when you try to re-imagine a myth as a realistic account of facts. Explaining how "We have always been in harmony with polygenesis" will provide jobs for theologians for a long, long time.

          • Sid_Collins

            Gosh it sounds really bad when you say "Infants must be baptized because they can't go to heaven with HUMAN NATURE on their souls," doesn't it?

          • Sure does.

            It is about as disoriented a presentation of purportedly Catholic doctrine as I have ever witnessed.

            And believe me, since the Council, I have witnessed some doozies.

          • Ignorant Amos

            It is about as disoriented a presentation of purportedly Catholic doctrine as I have ever witnessed.

            This seems to be a recurring them though. What the Catholic doctrine actually is, and what most Catholics perceive what Catholic doctrine is...why is that do you think?

            "While the Catholic Church has a defined doctrine on original sin, it has none on the eternal fate of unbaptized infants, leaving theologians free to propose different theories, which Catholics are free to accept or reject."

            Limbo has been a hot potato since the imbecilic thought "popped into the head" of some early church theologian, Augustine perhaps.

            The problem here is the ramifications have been profound for the victims. What sort of charitable organisation would put so many of it's people through such misery because it "didn't know", "wouldn't commit" or "couldn't be bothered" clearing up its own mess...that's right, the RCC.

            I'd be interested to know your interpretation of this repulsive idea. Any opinion there Rick?

          • Limbo has been a hot potato since the imbecilic thought "popped into the
            head" of some early church theologian, Augustine perhaps.

            While I don't want to endorse the concept of limbo, it was an advance (of sorts) in Christian thinking. A strict interpretation of Christian doctrine—no baptism, no salvation, end of story—relegates unbaptized babies, including aborted babies—to hell. The idea of God roasting babies for all eternity because nobody baptized them, or in many cases beyond anyone's control, no one could possibly have baptized them—is an odious thought.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I agree that it is one step removed from diabolical, but two wrongs don't make a right. What sort of thought is it for a mother hoping for an eternity in paradise while her baby isn't with here?

            I posted an article on this a couple years back here...

            http://old.richarddawkins.net/discussions/587134-limbo-babies

          • Bravo, Sid.

            If there had been any Catholics around, they would have posted this.

            But you understand the Faith which you reject, far better than they do, who purport to accept it.

            The Flynn Flam is a massively incompetent intellectual Hopeful Monster.

            It perverts both science, and Catholic theology, and serves only to demonstrate the catastrophe called Nouvelle Theologie in an unprecedentedly and excruciatingly gruesome way.

          • Max Driffill

            Rick,
            I'm fairly certain you are a mad man, but I do imagine you would be fun to have a few beers with.
            Cheers

          • Max:

            I am told I am better than I sound.

          • GreatSilence

            I have read this article by Flynn, and I regard it as probably the best argument that can be mounted to keep Original Sin in place. But still, it simply does not work, for reasons touched on here and elsewhere. I must say that none of these gargantuan efforts at getting the theology back in the horse are convincing to me. Have a look at Jack Mahoney's efforts in his "Christianity in Evolution", and he is a Catholic.

            I must say that I am having a terrible time trying to get important aspects like this, like the fact that the biblical Exodus simply did not happen (and its theological consequences) and several other examples to square with my faith. I have always managed to argue and debate myself into a position where the two arguments, for and against theism/Christianity, ended in a draw and from where I could then argue that they were both equally rational / irrational and in that manner keep my faith alive. With these issues, the Original Sin problem in particular, I find that I cannot get to that draw. And it is of huge theological significance. As has been pointed out here and elsewhere, one has to jump through a tremendous number of hoops to be able to get to the need for Redemption.

            As a trial lawyer I am used to a technique whereby one's best argument is often when you can succeed using the other side's facts and arguments. With this specific problem (or a problem to me, at least) I have asked for explanations and reasons from my own Church members, from its own authors and theologians, and Flynn remains the best shot I have come across so far. That is most troublesome, to me, if my own side's best argument is unacceptable.

            I envy people who have that simple, easy faith. Maybe the Calvinists are right, maybe some people are just not destined to believe.

          • I have read this article by Flynn, and I regard it as probably the best argument that can be mounted to keep Original Sin in place.

            Here is an interesting passage from then-Cardinal Ratzinger's book 'In the Beginning…': A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall in which he says the term original sin is "misleading and imprecise." Pardon me reproducing such a long quote here. I could link to it in a number of places, since it is quoted on several sites, but they all use it to "prove" that Joseph Ratzinger was a heretic and consequently not a legitimate pope! I'd rather not link to such nonsense.

            In the Genesis story that we are considering, still a further characteristic of sin is described. Sin is not spoken of in general as an abstract possibility but as a deed, as the sin of a particular person, Adam, who stands at the origin of humankind and with whom the history of sin begins. The account tells us that sin begets sin, and that therefore all the sins of history are interlinked. Theology refers to this state of affairs by the certainly misleading and imprecise term 'original sin.' What does this mean? Nothing seems to us today to be stranger or, indeed, more absurd than to insist upon original sin, since, according to our way of thinking, guilt can only be something very personal, and since God does not run a concentration camp, in which one’s relative are imprisoned, because he is a liberating God of love, who calls each one by name. What does original sin mean, then, when we interpret it correctly?


            Finding an answer to this requires nothing less than trying to understand the human person better. It must once again be stressed that no human being is closed in upon himself or herself and that no one can live of or for himself or herself alone. We receive our life not only at the moment of birth but every day from without--from others who are not ourselves but who nonetheless somehow pertain to us. Human beings have their selves not only in themselves but also outside of themselves: they live in those whom they love and in those who love them and to whom they are 'present.' Human beings are relational, and they possess their lives--themselves--only by way of relationship. I alone am not myself, but only in and with you am I myself. To be truly a human being means to be related in love, to be of and for. But sin means the damaging or the destruction of relationality. Sin is a rejection of relationality because it wants to make the human being a god. Sin is loss of relationship, disturbance of relationship, and therefore it is not restricted to the individual. When I destroy a relationship, then this event—sin—touches the other person involved in the relationship. Consequently sin is always an offense that touches others, that alters the world and damages it. To the extent that this is true, when the network of human relationships is damaged from the very beginning, then every human being enters into a world that is marked by relational damage. At the very moment that a person begins human existence, which is a good, he or she is confronted by a sin-damaged world. Each of us enters into a situation in which relationality has been hurt. Consequently each person is, from the very start, damaged in relationships and does not engage in them as he or she ought. Sin pursues the human being, and he or she capitulates to it.

            I like the idea of a person being "relational," and in fact it is impossible to imagine a person being a person in total isolation from the moment of coming into existence.

          • GreatSilence

            Thank you, I have tried to accept his explanation also, but I still run into (different) problems, like his "sin-damaged world" and a complete absence of any meaningful answer as to why God then created us like this at all. If you pardon the terrible pun, I think the whole enterprise is irredeemable. I have considered the Orthodox Church's approach where original sin is not accepted (the Christos Victor teaching), but while that is a better solution it raises other oddities.

          • It seems to me the idea of "original sin" gets at something real (sort of), but it also seems to me that it is impossible to imagine human beings without that something. It is certainly true that "nobody's perfect," but I simply can't imagine a world in which everybody is perfect, or indeed in which even a few people are perfect.

          • Sid_Collins

            ". . . a complete absence of any meaningful answer as to why God then created us like this at all."

            This is one of the problems I encountered almost 50 years ago when I began to realize the full extent of the implications of accepting the theory of evolution. Polygenesis really is a game-changer, even if you wave your hands and say the Church always knew the Garden of Eden was just a metaphorical fiction. Flynn's account IS repulsive and ludicrous, but then, in the light of our knowledge of biology and anthropology, what did happen?

            The Garden of Eden story portrayed a God surprised by the betrayal of his fondly cosseted human pair. All he ever wanted was for them to live happily with him in beauty and bliss. They foolishly rejected a comfortable, dependent life and rebelled. A great story, and true to the human love of novelty. It also got God off the hook for suffering, no small accomplishment.

            In then-Cardinal Ratzinger's interpretation we get:

            . . .when the network of human relationships is damaged from the very beginning, then every human being, enters into a world that is marked by relational damage.

            So the very first human(s) were created (through evolution) with inherent flaws. Not with just free will but damaged, and created in a damaged world. This makes a great deal of sense when you assume evolution, but it makes nonsense of a loving Father-God. And how does infant baptism figure in that picture? Infants must be baptized because human beings were originally created too damaged for heaven? Not a good image for God.

          • Stevelsn

            What about the "Eve" gene. Our DNA points to a common ancestor.

          • "Mitochondrial Eve" is estimated to have lived about 190,000–200,000 years ago. "Y-chromosomal Adam" is estimated to have lived between 237,000 and 581,000. "Behaviorally modern" human beings date back only about 50,000 years. I think we can rule out the possibility that members of homo sapiens were mentally developed enough 190,000 years ago to do anything that would remotely resemble "committing sin." And going back 237,000-581,000 years takes you back to the time of pre-human ancestors. (Dates are from Wikipedia.)

          • Stevelsn

            The description "behaviorally modern"; what does that mean? I also wonder if such a linear approach to time is the most productive, since God Is outside of time. I have to disagree with you as to our remotest ancestors being able to commit sin. More likely to my mind, man has sinned from way, way way way back. Not wishing to offend, you see, but many of your distinctions, such as pre-human ancestors seem artificial to me.

          • Not wishing to offend, you see, but many of your distinctions, such as pre-human ancestors seem artificial to me.

            Well, no offense taken. They are Wikipedia's distinctions, not mine. :-)

            However, I do agree with Wikipedia. Am I to assume you don't believe in evolution in any form? Because in the theory of evolution, we must have pre-human ancestors. If we go back one generation (your mother), or two (your mother's mother), or three (your mother's mother's mother), we can go back 20,000,000, and back that far, there were no humans on the earth.

            In order to commit a sin, I think you have to know what sin is. That would be a minimum requirement. In Catholicism, it is considered that the "age of reason" is 7 years old (the name given to that period of human life at which persons are deemed to begin to be morally responsible). It follows that until our ancestors reached, by adulthood, something equivalent to the age of reason, they could not be morally responsible, and consequently they could not commit sins. Certainly you would not say that a chimpanzee could commit a sin, would you?

          • Stevelsn

            I certainly believe that the theory of evolution in terms of natural selection is true. Beyond that I'm not certain what to believe. I do believe that however far back you go (to the beginning) God, by whatever process, created the heavens and the earth and all that is. At the point at which man evolved to a rational being he became capable of sin and did. Thus the apple and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil may be the signal of that event.

          • Michael Murray

            I certainly believe that the theory of evolution in terms of natural selection is true.

            Why do you believe this ?

            Beyond that I'm not certain what to believe.

            Not certain what to believe about what ?

            I do believe that however far back you go (to the beginning) God, by whatever process, created the heavens and the earth and all that is.

            Why do you believe this ?

          • Stevelsn

            The process of natural selection is self-evident. Not sure what to believe about the rest of the theory because, I have never educated myself about it satisfactorily. The last questin requires more time than I have right now.

          • Michael Murray

            Surely species change isn't self-evident ?

          • Rationalist1
          • Andrew G.

            Every sexually-reproducing population has a common ancestor, and (separately) common male-line and female-line ancestors, if it has any external limits on growth (e.g. available food). But the presence of one common ancestor does not imply that we are descended from only that person; "Eve" was just one woman in a population of at least thousands, most of whom are also our ancestors.

            The interesting questions about Mitochondrial Eve are not whether she existed (which was mathematically certain) but how long ago and where.

          • Ales Ernecl

            Well, maybe not a couple of human beings...:)But the whole sex thing...:)

          • ""Pius XII left room for the possibility of polygenism in his discussions of human origins and Rome has made more room for it since Pius’ day. We are not therefore all descended from one couple."

            Polygenism is compatible with Adam and Eve, and does not necessitate "multiple Adam and Eves." This was, in fact, the most basic argument in Mark's article, so to suggest he argues otherwise is to misread or misunderstand what he wrote.

    • Lorr

      Was it not a priest, Lemaitre, who first put forward the Big Bang Theory, in a catholic university in Belgium, in 1927? The church and science are not at odds with one another. God created everything, even the ideas and components which give rise science. God cannot be against Himself. And science is just another way of seeking Him.

      • epeeist

        Was it not a priest, Lemaitre, who first put forward the Big Bang Theory, in a catholic university in Belgium, in 1927?

        No, the solution to the Einstein field equations showing a dynamic universe was first produced by Alexander Friedman, a physicist in the Soviet Union. Unfortunately he died before his precedence to Lemaître was recognised, but we now refer to the FLRW metric in recognition of his precedence.

        This is not to decry Lemaître, just to point out that he wasn't the first. Strictly he didn't produce a "Big Bang" theory, he talked about a "primeval atom". The term "Big Bang" was a pejorative one coined by the British astronomer Fred Hoyle.

        • Dropofclearwqter

          Thank you :)

      • Rationalist1

        The first sentence of my comment was "I didn't think there was any conflict between evolution and Catholicism."

  • Rationalist1

    I'm just curious. When I was a Catholic youth I viewed evolution with suspicion especially when our parish priest in Catechism class was so down on it. Later I read more writings of the Church and realized there was not the disagreement that I was taught as a youth. Amongst my Catholic family and friends there still is a tendency to a more literal interpretation of the Garden of Eden. I'm just curious what Catholics in the pew are taught these days and what they believe. (Richard Dawkins in his discussion with the former Anglican primate, Rowan Williams asked this same question about the disconnect with what the bishops taught on this subject and what the Sunday sermons and what the person in the pew believed.)

    • Jay

      All of the Catholic Bibles that I've ever picked up teach not to take the story of creation literally in the sense that they are the actual events that happened, but to take it literal in a spiritual sense. When I've heard priests speaking about it, what they say can be interpreted as literal truth (ie, this is actually what happened) or as spiritual truth (ie, this is what happened on a spiritual level, but it is not what physically happened). Unfortunately, to the average listener many of the priests that I have heard speak of the story of creation probably do sound like they are endorsing a literal interpretation of the story of creation.

      Parents don't necessarily do the best job teaching their kiddos what the Catholic church actually teaches either since they themselves oftentimes don't actually know the teachings (and sometimes aren't that interested in taking the time to find out). Within my last CCD class, I tried to get the kiddos to understand that there are at least some difference between how Protestants and Catholics interpret the Bible by talking about places where Roman Catholics and some Protestant denominations might differ such as how the story of creation is interpreted as well as the miracle of transubstantiation.

      As to what Catholics in the pews believe... ummmm, your guess is as good as mine. Benedict made this "The year of the faith" for many reasons, one of them being the significant lack of understanding of teachings of the Catholic Church among many Roman Catholics. I've met Catholics who take everything in Genesis very literally and those who don't take it that literally.

      From the CCC:
      110 In order to discover the sacred authors’ intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking, and narrating then current. “For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression.”

    • Linda

      I have kind of a funny take on this: at my Catholic high school our Fundamentalist Lutheran science teacher refused to teach us the chapter on evolution . . . so our religion teacher taught it to us instead. :)

      • Rationalist1

        That's priceless.

  • Sid_Collins

    I've commented before that the Catholic Church learned a hard lesson very early, when their sanctions against Galileo just made them look ignorant to knowledgeable people. The Catholic Church will never again take a stand that can be empirically disproved. There is no need. When you define things properly you can create an internally consistent belief system in a realm that parallels the observable universe but does not necessarily intersect with it in any objectively observable way in the present time. Thus you have undetectable souls and a God who follows a policy of hiding from his creation starting about 2,000 years ago.

    That is why devotion to some apparently miraculous events is approved, but not required of Catholics, and why the Church will never officially recognize the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. It is why instances of miracles approved by the Church have toned down considerably since the invention of photography, instantaneous global communication, and rigorous medical diagnostic tests. They will always leave themselves room to explain that if a particular "miracle" turns out to have a natural explanation, well, it's not necessary to the faith for it to have been a miracle.

    The most interesting development I've seen in this direction is in regard to evolution. Intellectual sophisticates in the Church have backed away from the story of Original Sin inherited from one pair of humans. They can see that the science doesn't point to one contemporaneous couple as direct ancestors to all humans. However they are not sharing this change in Biblical interpretation with believers in general. The beauty of the parallel realm comes into play when you realize the Church can always fall back onto the story that God arbitrarily inserted souls into two or more contemporaneous men and women who then proceeded to ruin it for the rest of us. (Were they raised by soulless parents? Did they not have souls until they become adults? Are there humans without souls who descended from their siblings? Never mind; let the theologians argue.)

    The Church has solved the problem of riding out changes in scientific knowledge and will never encounter a fact that cannot be explained while maintaining belief in its utterly untestable doctrine. Ms. Keynes can forge ahead and need never fear bumping up against an insurmountable intellectual obstacle to her faith.
    .

    • Rationalist1

      The ensoulment issue is one I don't think the Catholics have a definitive answer for but the fact that they've ruled out eject polygenism and maintain a unique original couple who then proceeded to sin once human souls were placed in them. I would welcome a elucidation of this by any Catholics here.

      • Sid_Collins

        http://www.ncregister.com/blog/mark-shea/does-evolutionary-science-disprove-the-faith
        Check out the above link for an excellent example of nimble Catholic reasoning demonstrating that "Church doctrine has always been compatible with polygenism."

        • Rationalist1

          Wow. I can't believe that the Catholics would abandon that. Next would come ensoulment didn't really happen, souls just evolved from animal souls.

          • I've been told both by good devout Catholics, that you need to believe in one couple, and that you don't need to believe in one couple, merely ensoulment.

            To my mind, ensoulment is necessary, but God could have ensouled a "tribe" of primates or proto-humans rather than simply two individual creatures.

          • Ben

            If God ensouled a single breeding pair of human ancestors, and assuming souls are hereditary, then that implies the modern population could be a mixture of ensouled and soulless.

          • But if the soul is, in genetic terms, a dominant trait...

            But what are the ethics of inter-breeding with the soulless?

          • "If God ensouled a single breeding pair of human ancestors, and assuming souls are hereditary, then that implies the modern population could be a mixture of ensouled and soulless."

            That's not necessarily true. Catholics believe that God ensouls human beings (i.e. humans after Adam and Eve) at the moment they begin to exist. Therefore if an ensouled human being mated with a soulless homo sapein, God would infuse the offspring with a soul.

            PS. I'm not sure what you mean when you say "assuming souls are hereditary." The Catholic Church doesn't embrace this assumption. Souls are not passed down from parents to children like genes. Souls are directly given by God.

          • Ben

            But if God ensouled "Adam & Eve" (a mating pair of early Homo sapiens, or some earlier species?) that means they had contemporaries - brothers, sisters, parents, friends - who didn't have souls. What if their friends and siblings had children? Did God go on to ensoul everyone born after Adam & Eve? That implies there was a whole generation of children with souls who were raised by soulless parents. Creepy!

            What is the consensus Catholic view of the first ensoulment event? Is there any signature in the archaeological record showing when people started having souls?

          • "What is the consensus Catholic view of the first ensoulment event?"

            There is none, and the Church has never posited one.

          • Ben

            But didn't the Pontifical Biblical Commission issue a decree ratified by Pope Pius X in 1909 stating that the literal historical meaning of the first chapters of Genesis could not be doubted in regard to "the creation of all things by God at the beginning of time; the special creation of man; the formation of the first woman from the first man..."?

            If the first woman was formed from the first man then that would seem to conflict with the idea of ensoulment of two human ancestors from among a protohuman population. And indeed with the OP's great-great-great-grandad's main discovery?

          • Which is van Inwagen's scenario when he deals with the problem of evil.

          • Sid_Collins

            Ah, but souls are in the non-observable realm by definition, so scientists will never be able to find evidence of them. Therefore Church doctrine about them can never be challenged. It's quite clever.

          • Loreen Lee

            How do you define 'soul'!!!!!?

          • Rationalist1

            "How do you define 'soul'!!!!!?" Fiction

          • Well that's an imprecise definition you're using there, Rationalist...

          • Daniel, I'm not sure Rationalist understands the difference between description and definition. You can't describe something as fiction until you first define it.

          • Rationalist1

            It was all the explanation marks. I was compelled.

            Seriously, how can I define something that I don't accept as true. Surely it's up to those who maintain a soul exists to define it.

          • "Seriously, how can I define something that I don't accept as true."

            We do this all the time. I can define what a "flying walrus" is even though I don't think one exists.

          • Rationalist1

            I could formulate a definition but surely it's up to those who maintain a soul exists to define it. Plus various faiths have various definitions of the soul. What is the Catholic one and do you have any teachings on how souls were first introduced to humans during the evolutionary process.

          • primenumbers

            But none of us believe in flying walrus, so we're all in the same boat when it comes to providing a definition. With respect to souls, there are those of us here who believe and those that don't, and given our discussion yesterday you should provide the Catholic definition of soul, not someones own personal opinion on the matter.

          • primenumbers, I never said believing or disbelieving something was a requirement for dismissing it. I said that *defining* something was first necessary. Even though we both dismiss (and thus disbelieve) in flying walrusses, we both agree on what flying walrusses *are*.

            The same holds true for a soul. Rationalist admitted that he could not define what a soul is. My response was that he therefore had no grounds to dismiss it. If you can't define something, you can't reject it.

            Regarding the Catholic definition of the soul, the Catechism gives a good overview in sections 362-368:

            http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s2c1p6.htm

          • BenS

            Even though we both dismiss (and thus disbelieve) in flying walrusses, we both agree on what that flying walrusses are.

            Not necessarily. You might think it's a walrus that has its own method of airborne propulsion, I might believe it's a walrus that someone has hoiked out of a plane. You would call that a falling walrus, I would consider it in flight and using its flippers much like a flying fish or flying squirrel.

            Hence, defining up front what is meant is important lest confusion arise.

          • BenS

            My response was that he therefore had no grounds to dismiss it. If you can't define something, you can't reject it.

            Incidentally, I'm glad you can't reject the notion of a snoozlepatch. This comforts me.

          • primenumbers

            "Flying walrus" is enough it's own definition that we don't need to go into too much more detail on it. "Soul" is a word that means a page of text. (which it appears you're providing, thanks). Although after reading though it, I'm none the wiser actually.... Put it like this - the Catechism isn't exactly clear on what precisely a soul is, is it?

          • TristanVick

            If you cannot define something you most definately may reject it either on incoherence or on the fact that it lacks any justification of a referent.

          • Max Driffill

            I think the problem is that the soul, like the theological concept of free will is quagmire. However I don't think such a thing could be defined anyway. If there is no empirical way to test it, its definition is free to float around, as needed, by the believer.
            What observations do you have Brandon, that indicate souls are real things, and that they can affect us?

          • I would say that you have to have some definition in your mind in order to reject it. In order to say "I have no soul", surely you have to have an idea of what a soul is before you deny you possess one? Else you're not sure whether you have it or not.

          • That being said, it makes sense to leave defining of the soul up to the theist. But now I'm curious as to what you reject when you reject the soul. Being raised Catholic, I'd presume the Catholic definition of a soul?

          • Rationalist1

            I am only matter, there is no supernatural component to my being, mind, body and nothing of me save the physical bits exists after I died (or indeed before I was born).

          • By what empirical test have you verified with certainty that you are only matter?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Catholics are making the claim that something exists which cannot be tested. It's up to those making the claim to establish that it's true.

            We have evidence only for matter.

          • primenumbers

            The theist proposes not-matter (a negative definition) that doesn't tell us what this not-matter is, and then asks us to show that it doesn't exist. We're back to the same problem you outline so clearly above "To refute something--or call it "fiction"--you must first be able to define it."

          • Rationalist1

            Brandon - By the same test that you have used to show that astrology doesn't work.

          • Daniel, good point. It's the same thing I implied above. To refute something--or call it "fiction"--you must first be able to define it. Rationalist wonders how he do the latter, which makes *me* wonder how he can do the former.

          • Loreen Lee

            Looks like I've got an afternoon's reading ahead of me. Wikipedia's presentation begins:

            The soul, in many mythological, religious, philosophical, and psychological traditions, is the incorporeal and, in many conceptions, immortal essence of a person, living thing, or object.[1] According to some religions (including the Abrahamic religions in most of their forms), souls—or at least immortal souls capable of union with the divine[2]—belong only to human beings. For example, the Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas attributed "soul" (anima) to all organisms but taught that only human souls are immortal.[3] Other religions (most notably Jainism)
            teach that all biological organisms have souls, and others further
            still that non-biological entities (such as rivers and mountains)
            possess souls. This latter belief is called animism.[4] Anima mundi and the Dharmic Ātman are concepts of a "world soul."

            Soul can function as a synonym for spirit, mind, psyche or self.[5] (Then Adam and Eve would have had 'souls' possibly before eating of the forbidden fruit')

          • TristanVick

            Definitions are fine as long as we keep in mind the difference between referential descriptions and conceptual descriptions.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thanks Tristan. You reminded me that I missed my course on Bertrand Russell. Checked it out. Don't want to get involved in the debate. I'll just keep it to the simple distinction between what's 'out there' and what's 'in my head'. In other words, I'll do the Catholic thing, and analyse my own soul, hopefully, rather than presuming I understand yours!!!! grin grin.

      • Loreen Lee

        See above. I would not equate 'ensoulment' to the power of judgment to distinguish good and evil. (Which as even Nietzsche said we must 'overcome'......problems here in not addressing the meaning of love and also his 'repeition' metaphysic, (forget correct name) which does not take into account 'transformation')

    • Loreen Lee

      The 'power' of judgment and 'normative thinking', is I believe uniquely characteristics of the human species on this 'planet'. If God had not 'forbidden', then the exercise of free will would not have been 'individualized'. Within this context the movement of development of consciousness, (seen perhaps within a Darwinian context, grin grin) could even be regarded as a 'necessary' progression from the innocence of 'animality' to the 'originality' of 'sin, with its guilt and shame and 'death', both physical (awareness of) and spiritual. Was the world a Paradise Lost (Milton) in a literal sense before the fall, or is this another comparative context whose interpretation can be taken allegorically and comparatively and can also be interpreted as a 'rise' in consiousness, albeit with 'difficult' consequences?

    • Sid, thanks for the very interesting comment. As a Catholic, I find it strange that on the one hand, the Catholic Church is typically critiqued for overstepping her bounds into science (e.g. Galileo), but then on the other hand for distancing herself from definitive judgments about miracles, evolution, and the observable universe.

      It reminds me of a G.K. Chesterton quote, which I'll paraphrase: "If one is simultaneously criticized for being too tall and too short, he's probably the right size."

      I do have an honest question though. You charge the Catholic Church with harboring "belief in its utterly untestable doctrine."

      What do you mean by "untestable"? Untestable according to what measure or method? How would you propose to test doctrines like the belief in a supernatural God or in Jesus' divinity?

      • Rationalist1

        The existence of a soul is fundamentally untestable.

        • Ben

          To be fair, the Assumption of Mary is both infallible Catholic doctrine and empirically testable. We just have to find her bones.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You can't find her bones if she has been assumed into heaven, body and soul, which is what the Catholic dogma asserts.

          • I think what Ben is (rightly) trying to say is that you can partially test the validity of the Dogma of the Assumption through empirical methods. If you can definitively locate her bones, the Dogma would be proven false. This is true and also holds for Jesus' Resurrection.

            Of course this test *has* been applied throughout history--from the first century on, Christian opponents searched for the bones of Jesus. Yet they were never produced.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            How do we know that "Christian opponents" searched for the bones of Jesus? Do we have any reliable evidence of this?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            One of the Gospel accounts says that the Jewish authorities claimed the disciples hid the body of Jesus.

          • Ben

            Yeah, but is there *reliable* evidence?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            To the extent to which the Gospels are historically reliable.

          • Ben

            It's interesting that only 'Matthew', the version that was written last, mentions that the perfidious Jews bribed the tomb guards to lie and say that Jesus's body was stolen by the disciples. It's almost as if most people realised the disciples stole Jesus's body, so whoever wrote 'Matthew' put in a bit that explained why that definitely isn't what happened and it was all the fault of those wily Jews.

            Incidentally, if the body *was* stolen, it would explain why the bones haven't turned up yet, because the disciples would make sure to dump it somewhere out of the way. Maybe we should dredge the Sea of Galilee - seems like the most likely place.

          • Rationalist1

            Ro the best on my knowledge we have no one's bones from the first century/

          • Ben

            Yeah we do: http://www.catholic.org/hf/faith/story.php?id=46681

            Those are *somebody's* bones from the 1st century. Maybe John The Baptist. or some other guy.

          • Kevin Aldrich
          • Kevin Aldrich

            Ugly comment.

          • It's interesting that only 'Matthew', the version that was written last . . .

            Certainly the Gospel of John was written last. Luke was probably second-last, so Matthew was written second (after Mark), not last.

          • Ben

            Well, my faith tells me different, blasphemer.

          • BenS

            Maybe we should dredge the Sea of Galilee - seems like the most likely place.

            Wasting your time. The bones were discovered years ago and have been hidden by the Conspiracy Reknowned Atheists Perpetrate and are stored at our main Temple of Decadance in the hollowed out volcano on Immorality Island.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That's it: you're toast. Fair warning - the black helicopters have lifted off.

          • BenS

            You bloody racist!

            We call them 'ethnic' helicopters these days.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Always a complex question. They represent highly biased sources, at best.

          • primenumbers

            "Christian opponents searched for the bones of Jesus. Yet they were never produced" - um, how would you ever know (or someone from nearly 2000yrs ago) know a particular set of bones came from any certain individual?

            And isn't the lack of bones as much pointing to Jesus-as-myth?

          • Ben

            You could match DNA from the bones against DNA from the Turin Shroud (the authenticity of which I know is not a matter of dogma), or DNA from putative Mary-bones, plus associated archaeological evidence (e.g. if the tomb marker says "Mary Mother Of Jesus Is Buried Here IDST") and at least establish a level of consistency for a particular narrative.

          • primenumbers

            Shouldn't the DNA show divine ancestry on the Father's side though?

          • Ben

            Well, this is why I'm so upset that nobody has ground up the Turin shroud and used it to get a full genome sequence of Jesus.

            I tried an alternative approach to sequencing Christ's Genome but nobody was very interested: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/sequence-jesus-s-dna-to-gain-his-powers?browse_v=new

          • primenumbers, nobody in the early centuries even *claimed* to have discovered the bones of Jesus. That's quite telling considering that even *claiming* to have the bones of Jesus would discredit Christianity, even if you didn't really have them.

          • primenumbers

            Bit of an argument from silence though. And Christianity wasn't really on most people's map back then until it became the official religion of the Roman Empire. And that was too late to really allow any critics to really dig into it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Agreed.

          • Suppose somebody a year, or five years, or ten years, or a hundred years after the crucifixion, claimed to have found the bones of Jesus. Or suppose tomorrow somebody claims to have found the bones of Jesus. How, in the 1st century or the 21st century, could the claim be verified?

            Even if an archeologist were to find the bones of a woman and a crucified man, and there was conclusive evidence that they were mother and son and lived in the first half of the 1st century in Palestine, that wouldn't prove they were Mary and Jesus.

            If one does not take the Gospel accounts to be accurate history, it is quite plausible that the body of Jesus may never have been turned over to Jesus's followers and put in a tomb at all.

          • That's what he's saying. *IF* they find her bones, Assumption refuted.

          • Rationalist1

            If Catholics dispute the age of the Shroud and that can be subject to multiple double blind tests, why would they accept any 2000 year old bones. We can't even find Jimmy Hoffa's bones let along anyone from 2000 years ago.

          • Ben

            The apostles disposing of Jesus's body to fabricate the resurrection didn't have access to a wood chipper, though: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/jimmy-hoffa-wood-chipper_n_3479372.html Or hydrofluoric acid.

            I'd say there's probably more chance of finding Jesus than finding Hoffa.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Nonsense. All they have to do is dig up Fenway Park and there they'll all be: Jesus, Jimmy, and Enoch.

          • Ben

            That's why I'm saying it's empirically testable. I respect Pope Pius XII for putting his (epistemological) money where his mouth is on that one, and making a testable prediction.

        • Untestable according to what measure or method?

          • Rationalist1

            The postulate a test that would verify the existence of the soul or disprove the existence of a soul. It's like testing that the wafer has changed after consecration. There's no way to test it.

          • Rationalist, what I was hinting at was that the existence of the soul is only "untestable" if you arbitrarily restrict that to mean "untestable by empirical standards." Of course this would be to apply the wrong technique. Since the soul is not empirical, it would make no sense to empirically search for it.

            However, the existence of the soul *is* testable through philosophy, logic, and metaphysics, which are the proper tools to determine whether the soul exists.

          • Max Driffill

            Brandon,
            I think you mean discussable. You are not testing a thing in a way that demonstrates it is a real thing. It cannot be established as a fact via discussions.

          • Rationalist1

            Sure. But then so is Jewish concept of the soul, the Hindu concept of the soul, the Buddhist concept of a soul, the Muslim concept of a soul. All of those have been subjected to rigorous philosophic, logical and metaphysical analysis and have passed all their tests. But you might argue that Buddhist don't base their metaphysics on Aristotle and therefore its invalid. Then you have to show why Aristotelian metaphysics is preferable to Buddhist metaphysics (whatever they use).

            Can you posit any reason to accept one rather than another? Why is Catholic metaphysics right but Jewish metaphysics wrong. Do you know of logical error Muslims make or is Hindu philosophy demonstrably wrong?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Actually, it's not - unless you can tell how to adjudicate the various potential claims about souls. And logic is meaningless in this context, in the same way that we can construct models of almost anything - internally coherent, philosophically sound, and metaphysically interesting. But without testing against the real world, we've no way to tell if they are TRUE.

          • epeeist

            in the same way that we can construct models of almost anything -
            internally coherent, philosophically sound, and metaphysically
            interesting.

            Essentially reprising Russell's argument against a coherence theory of truth, "it is perfectly possible to construct a consistent fairy tale".

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          By definition. Which makes it yet another untestable, unverifiable, unprovable theistic assumption.

          • M. Solange, I'm afraid you're making the same basic mistake as Rationalist. You say about the existence of the soul:

            "[It is] yet another untestable, unverifiable, unprovable theistic assumption."

            All three of these accusations are only true if by them you mean the soul is "untestable, unverifiable, [and] unprovable" on empirical grounds. And if that's what you mean, the burden is on you to show why we must use empirical tests to answer non-empirical questions.

            On the contrary, as I point out to Rationalist, the existence of the soul *is* testable (and verifiable, and provable) through philosophy, logic, and metaphysics, which are the proper tools to determine whether the soul exists.

          • BenS

            Does the soul interact in any way, shape or form with the real world?

          • Loreen Lee

            Interesting. This boils down to does consiousness interact with matter. The mind/body question? Creationism? Or Evolutionism? How about such theories as a Darwinian evolutionist epiphemenolism? Or to reverse the argument, how about the evidence they are finding in neuro-science which shows the effect of 'conscious' meditation on the brain? Would this make the relationship between mind and matter a 'two-way street'?????

          • Sid_Collins

            ". . . the burden is on you to show why we must use empirical tests to answer non-empirical questions."

            I think the burden is on believers to show why we must ask non-empirical questions.

          • I think the burden is on believers to show why we must ask non-empirical questions.

            The question of who should bear the burden—believers or nonbelievers—is itself a non-empirical question. And yet you seem willing to argue over it.

          • Sid_Collins

            I enjoy arguing--as I think most of the people who post here do. It is interesting and challenging, and one learns things.

            On non-empirical questions: We each ask various non-empirical questions that emerge from our own life experiences. We enjoy discussing them with those who are so inclined. I'm fairly sure I wouldn't enjoy discussing questions like the existence of God if I hadn't been rather intensely brainwashed into Catholicism from infancy. This kind of discussion would bore my young adult children, who were raised without religion.

            What is interesting is that most believers assume that non-believers owe it to God to ask the right non-empirical questions about his existence and to recognize the "correct" answers. Otherwise--hell. A bit of a burden.

          • Not a burden at all, Sid, since it takes a great deal of sophistication indeed to become enamored of the hilarious notion that only the material exists.

            Most people can;t afford that degree of sophistication- it comes at 40,000 a year average these days- and so remain sane.

          • Max Driffill

            David,
            The burden of proof lies with the party or person making the positive claim.

            If a person comes to me and claims that there is a small population of bigfoot (I know Brandon loathes my use of bigfoot, but man it is useful) living in the Great North Woods the burden of proof isn't on me, work-a-day ecologist to prove their hypothesis false. The burden is on the claimant to demonstrate that there hypothesis is supported and consistent with the evidence. They should make some predictions and do some kind of natural experiment to test these novel predictions.

            Until evidence is forthcoming we can't reject the null hypothesis (that being that there are no bigfoot).

            To think about it another way, consider the burden of proof in a state of law. The default position for a defendant is that of innocence, and the state (the entity making the positive claim) has to prove guilt. The defendant isn't required to prove they didn't commit a crime. If this were the case the state could always rescue its hypothesis by adding a new layer, leaving the defendant perpetually defending herself from each new version.

            This is a methodological question but it is also empirical in the following way. We can compare the two approaches and see which one reliably advances knowledge. There is a clear winner on this front. The scientific method, with it rules about where the burden of proof lies has clearly advanced human understanding in profound ways. The other method leads to entrenchment.

          • "We can compare the two approaches and see which one reliably advances knowledge"

            How true.

            Let us test this excellent hypothesis.

            APPROACH ONE: The cosmos popped out of nothing which, as the smarter folks have come to understand, is actually something. This nothing generates particles all the time- not actual particles, but virtual particles. They are virtual because they both are, and are not, real, at one and the same time. We can prove this with math. Some of the particles become universes. We know this because one did. After all if it didn't we wouldn't be here. Anyone who denies this is just relying on Goddidit.

            APPROACH TWO: God did it.

            It is quite obvious that approach number two opens the door to a reliable advance in knowledge, and that approach number one is, if only slightly, less likely to yield reliable advances of knowledge than, say, an hypothesis of turtles all the way down.

          • Max Driffill

            Odd as approach one is it actually has evidence on its side.
            Approach two explains nothing really. Its as useful as saying "Bob did it."

            I would be fine with approach two, as counter intuitive as it is to me if there was a great deal of evidence that supported it.

            EDIT{But at least we agree on my premise}

          • There is not the slightest evidence, empirically speaking, for either One or Two.

            The relative merits, as you rightly suggest, can only be determined in relation to their utility in advancing knowledge.

            Door Number One leads us nowhere, since it presents us with several immediate examples of fatal self-contradiction.

            Door Number Two leads us to the scientific method itself, which, empirically, arises precisely as a consequence of its adoption, in the magnificently rigorous and elaborated system of metaphysics bequeathed to humanity as one of its chief treasures, by the Holy Catholic Church.

            Excellent hypothesis, Max.

          • Max Driffill

            Brandon,

            On the contrary, as I point out to Rationalist, the existence of the soul *is* testable (and verifiable, and provable) through philosophy, logic, and metaphysics, which are the proper tools to determine whether the soul exists.

            No it isn't. You can entertain the soul as a concept, you can play thought experiments based on given premises. You can discuss the soul. But you cannot prove that one exists with these methods. They are not proper tools that can determine positive truth claims. You can only play with the concept.

            In many ways you face the problem of theoreticians of any field. A good argument and hypothesis doesn't demonstrate the truth of any claim, however logically sound it may be. But in real science, the theoreticians actually want to present their ideas for testing. I can only imagine that the bruising believers have received over the years has left its adherents none too eager to put their most cherished ideas to the test.

            The soul (even if it is real but possessed of the qualities claimed by believers) is merely discussable.

          • Corylus

            All three of these accusations are only true if
            by them you mean the soul is "untestable, unverifiable, [and] unprovable" on empirical grounds. And if that's what you mean, the burden is on you to show why we must use empirical tests to answer non-empirical questions.

            It is a bit more subtle that that, Brandon, not least because the presence of the soul (and other 'paranormal' entities)' is often given as an explanation for empirical experience. N.B. I use the term 'empirical' in its very strictest sense as relating to the data of the senses. For example, the term 'soul' has an explanatory function in relation to sensory experience in that people assume that there is one as a result of certain extreme events (i.e. near-death, out of body etc.)

            So what do we do when the lines blur in this fashion? Well, we go and look for a clearer, less parsimonious, explanation than a paranormal one. ('Paranormal' explanations are intrinsically less parsimonious than 'normal' ones due to that added extra in the term. I am sorry, but there it is!). In the case of the soul and sensory
            experience scientists are working on explaining why we can sometimes feel that we are not 'fitting' into our own bodies. See here, scientists induce out of body sensation.

            Does this disprove the presence of a soul (non-physical,
            invisible, supernatural controlling agent) no of course not. This is where I actually agree that philosophy comes in – we do need that Friar with his blade to cut away the explanations that are not required.

            This is what happened with Darwin, he did not disprove a creator god as an explanation for the diversity of life: he just showed that that her presence is not a necessary one. In fact this is what has been happening with science in general for some considerable time. Those things that we did have only supernatural explanations for (lighting, rainbows, earthquakes etc.) we now have alternative, natural explanations for. When this happens the gods-that-explain disappear like dew meeting the morning sun.

          • Corylus

            Re the notion of ensoulment as being a problem for Catholics in relation to Darwin, I would point out that this problem is not just one we one encounter when looking back and trying to work out when the the magic spark flickered into being, it is also one that we encounter when we look forward.

            Obviously, there is an issue of whether we would be willing to assign the property of having a soul to a possible alien, but there is the less obvious issue of whether or not we would be willing to assign to the property of having a soul to a future person.

            We know that speciation (two or more groups of one species becoming so different that they can breed with other no longer) can occur, and moreover, has occurred in the evolutionary past of humans. There is no reason to rule out in principle the possibility of this happening again.*

            My question to Catholics in this case would be as follows:

            For what race will Jesus have died? One of them? Both of them? Neither or them? When did the spark flicker out?

            Of course, you could argue that the first trump will have sounded long before this process could take place. If you do this though I give fair warning that I shall accuse you of being an evangelical protestant :P

            -=-=-=

            * Yes, you would need a reason for the two groups to be in very different environments for a very considerable amount of time, but this scenario is possible.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        The issue with Galileo dealt with the church deliberately overriding scientific results (and a bit of politics). The complaint currently is that the church fails to use rigorous empirical methods to test various doctrines and miracle claims.

        Entirely different.

        • Sid_Collins

          Actually they do use rigorous empirical methods to test miracle claims if the miracles are publicized. That is why there are few approved miracles. But by definition they cannot test doctrine. Except maybe the Assumption. I'd say that doctrine is pretty darn close to unfalsifiable.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Their canonization procedures look a bit loose.

          • Loreen Lee

            They are both scientifically unveriable and unfalsefiable. That's what is meant by taking them on faith. Can someone explain the criteria that would distinguish miracles from 'revelation'[....

          • While to a large degree I share the belief in science and the search for empirically verifiable truths, it is nevertheless the case that fundamental assumptions of the scientific approach cannot themselves be empirically verified. It cannot be conclusively proven, for example, that if you perform an experiment and get results X, if you repeat that experiment exactly you will get results X again. There is simply no way to prove that. Also, no one can prove that logic works.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No one needs to. The methods of science are used because they WORK. They enable us to create models that explain the world, predict unknown phenomenon, and understand how existing observations are derived.

            Theology fails in these regards.

          • No one needs to. The methods of science are used because they WORK.

            Just because something works doesn't prove it is true. I believe Newtonian calculations are still used for space shots. They work. However, for GPS satellites and calculations made based on them, relativity must be used for them to work.

            Don't get me wrong. If I get sick, I go to a doctor, not a faith healer. But if you want certainty, you can't prove that the scientific method (or logic) ultimately rests on truth, and you certainly can't prove miracles don't occur or that there is no God.

          • BenS

            It cannot be conclusively proven, for example, that if you perform an
            experiment and get results X, if you repeat that experiment exactly you will get results X again.

            But no-one who knows what they're talking about says that you will. What we say is that, based on the evidence gathered so far, we have a high level of confidence that results X will occur again.

            There's nothing saying that if I drop a ball right now it won't shoot off into space - but the huge amount of evidence shows that it will fall to the ground as expected.

            This is still far superior to religious claims that miracles occur. That the vast body of evidence is irrelevant and people really can walk on water.

          • This is still far superior to religious claims that miracles occur.

            What is your evidence that miracles don't occur? It's just an assumption on your part. Science as a discipline doesn't say miracles don't occur. The methodology of science certainly demands that scientists do not pronounce something within their own field to be miraculous. But a firm belief in science and the scientific method does not in any way require someone to believe that miracles never occur.

            It is only by assuming that miracles never occur that you can take the position that miracles never occur. You can't prove it empirically. You can't prove empirically that God doesn't exist.

            Except in certain rare cases (certain Impressionists), I am pretty much a Philistine when it comes to painting. But I know people who can spend hours and hours in museums staring at paintings. I don't feel or understand what they are experiencing to the extent where I sometimes (I am ashamed to admit) wonder if they aren't just being pretentious. But who am I to deny their internal experiences?

          • BenS

            What is your evidence that miracles don't occur?

            Straight on with getting me to prove the negative, eh? I think not.

            A miracle, by definition, is an example of the laws of nature being broken. If you want to use the broader defintion of a god working within the laws of nature then you need to prove the miracle was the work of a god. It's not my place to disprove such assertions. Come on, you should know this by now.

            You can't prove empirically that God doesn't exist.

            I don't need to. I need only wait for you to prove a god does exist before I have to worry about disproving it.

          • A miracle, by definition, is an example of the laws of nature being
            broken. . . . It's not my place to disprove such assertions. Come on, you should
            know this by now.

            If you are going to assert there is no evidence that miracles occur, that is one thing. It wouldn't be true, by the way. There is plenty of evidence. If you are going to assert that there is no conclusive proof that miracles occur, you are on more solid ground. But if you are going to assert that miracles do not or cannot occur, then you have to be prepared to defend that position.

          • BenS

            I'd phrase it as no credible evidence. Most of what theists like to put forward as 'evidence' is utter crap. They also know it's utter crap because should anyone from another religion put forward that kind of evidence for one of their miracles, they reject it.

            That's why we need the scientific method.

          • Straight on with getting me to prove the negative, eh? I think not.

            I've been googling a bit, and I am not finding much agreement with the standard Internet-forum assertion that "you can't prove a negative." Several sources have pointed out that "you can't prove a negative" is itself a negative. Certainly in the realm of science, negatives are proven all the time. It has to be proven by drug manufacturers, for example, that a new drug they put on the market does not kill people, or cause cancer, or make the condition that the drug is intended to treat worse.

            It is relatively easy to prove that certain mathematical equations have no solution.

            Also, it depends on what you mean by "proof." I think you can prove to reasonable adults that Santa Claus doesn't exist.

            In any case, there is plenty of evidence that miracles do occur. You and I may not believe it, but there are certainly things that I have heard about or even experienced about which I would say, "Well, I can't explain it. But I don't believe it was a miracle."

          • BenS

            I've been googling a bit, and I am not finding much agreement with the standard Internet-forum assertion that "you can't prove a negative."

            That's lovely. Be nice if I'd actually asserted it. Of course, I didn't.

            You'll note that I didn't say you can't prove a negative. In many cases, you can. What I said was that it's not my place to disprove whatever assertions you come out with. It's your place to prove them.

            And, of course, by 'prove' I mean that in the scientific sense of showing a comfortably high confidence in, not prove categorically to a 100% certainty. Just before you start to try and misrepresent me again.

          • Be nice if I'd actually asserted it. Of course, I didn't.

            Of course, I didn't say that you said "you can't prove a negative," did I?

            Try not to misrepresent me. :P

          • BenS

            The don't quote me if you're responding to something that I didn't say or Mr and Mrs Smack will have to take a short, sharp trip to Botty town! :p

          • Loreen Lee

            I 'believe' that it was actually the logical positivists that pointed that out. Logos. Ethos. and Pathos, are metaphysical categories that parallel the Truth, Goodness, and Beauty: the Truth, the Way and the Life, held within Catholic Belief. They are thus comparable/identical with metaphysical/transcendental 'truths'. Logic is then, merely the 'empty/tautological' process that describes 'how' the human mind works. I can therefore no more 'prove' the existence of God, (or refute the argument- the antimonies of Kant), than I can prove that there is or is not an invisible cat sitting on the table beside my computer. Kant demonstrated the emptiness of tautology, and put forward the proposition: concepts without percepts/intuition are empty; percepts/intuition without concepts are blind. As science understands, the empirical and the rational have to work together. Applied to religion this would be say the 'life of Jesus, human and divine as presented in the scriptures' as against/or including? what he said, the miracles, and their witness, perhaps (as the witness in some cases appears to me to be at least 'transcendental' - I can't understand miracles'!!!). and the philosophical arguments say by Aquinas. Taken together we can then ask- is there a logic, a rational underpinning our 'faith', even if faith itself is 'beyond reason'?

          • Loreen Lee

            Actually I believe the 'positivists' take the invisible cat a bit further as they would admit they wouldn't be able to prove the existence of the 'computer'....

        • The complaint currently is that the church fails to use rigorous empirical methods to test various doctrines and miracle claims.

          The Church claims to speak authoritatively only on matters of faith and morals. Neither of those can be tested empirically. If something can be demonstrated empirically, belief in it is not a matter of faith.

          Do you consider philosophy a waste of time? If not, why not? Philosophical conclusions cannot be tested empirically.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Not true. The church claims to speak authoritatively on the status of miracles related to canonization. And I agree that neither faith nor morals can be tested empirically.

            I don't consider philosophy a waste of time; but the conclusions of philosophy, like those of theology, cannot be assigned any kind of truth value without empirical testing.

          • Not true. The church claims to speak authoritatively on the status of miracles related to canonization.

            As far as I know, no Catholic is required to accept the Church's judgment about miracles claimed in the canonization process. If I were a Catholic in good standing, and wanted to spend my time investigating and discrediting the miracles claimed, say, in the case of Mother Teresa, I would still be a Catholic in good standing.

            I believe Catholics are required to believe that if someone is declared a saint, he or she is in heaven. But I do not believe Catholics are bound to accept the Church's judgment that in any given instance, a miracle occurred. Catholics are certainly not required to believe in alleged miraculous apparitions, such as at Lourdes or Fatima.

            but the conclusions of philosophy, like those of theology, cannot be assigned any kind of truth value without empirical testing.

            If a philosophical conclusion could be empirically tested, it would not be philosophical.

      • Sid_Collins

        "What do you mean by 'untestable'?"

        "By what empirical test have you verified with certainty that you are only matter?" was your question to Rationalist1. Can we all agree that Rationalist1 has empirical evidence of Rationalist1's material existence? Rationalist1 continually receives sensory feedback that Rationalis1 is interacting effectively with material objects. But the soul is defined in such a way (invisible, not requiring a detectable interface with the material brain, not requiring or providing sensory input) that Rationalist1 cannot possibly devise a test to prove or disprove the existence of Rationalist1's soul or anybody else's soul.

        My whole point is that there cannot, by definition, be an empirical test of something like the existence of a soul or Jesus' divinity. Church doctrine has brilliantly remained outside the boundaries of the material world pretty much since Galileo. I'm not particularly criticizing the Church for trying to weigh in on science. I'm just saying it turned out to be spectacularly ill-advised, and the hierarchy took the lesson to heart. Church doctrine is now the "right size" to avoid being falsifiable. Of course it's also not provable, but that isn't a problem as long as the majority of humans want to believe.

    • "The Catholic Church will never again take a stand that can be empirically disproved."

      >> No empirical disproof of the Holy Office's condemnations of Galileo exists to this day.

      But your point is well taken.

      Catholics seem to care not a whit that every argument Galileo advanced to prove heliocentrism has been falsified by direct scientific observation.

      • Ignorant Amos

        Catholics seem to care not a whit that every argument Galileo advanced to prove heliocentrism has been falsified by direct scientific observation.

        I thought it was the Nicolaus Copernicus thesis, built upon by Johannes Kepler, that Galileo was promoting through his observation using the telescope.

        Catholics seem to care not a whit that every argument advanced in the bible to prove a whole plethora of stuff, has been falsified by scientific observation.

  • Sid_Collins

    I find it interesting that Ms. Keynes' description of her conversion echoes so closely a comment I made yesterday.
    https://strangenotions.com/if-god-is-real/#comment-941792300

    Part of my comment:

    There is also the issue that religious belief is always sneaked in during the time when a child has no critical thinking skills, and is just soaking up unfiltered emotions and worldviews. Unsurprisingly this creates a lot of unconscious feelings about religious beliefs. They leave a mark even when the intellect has rejected the belief. Sometimes the emotions connected with religion "reconvert" the atheist, which relieves the tension caused by the conflict between unconscious longings for familiar beliefs and the intellectual rejection of those beliefs.

    Ms. Keynes' description of her experience:

    Catholicism’s emphasis on physical devotions, enjoyed with childish simplicity when I was little, now made perfect sense. Having been “inside” Catholicism as a child I could choose it afresh with a mature and robust understanding of its role and teaching. I was, in fact, more free to choose than if I had been raised to discern faith—as secular Humanists would have it—at an age of reason. My journey back to faith was as much a movement of the heart as a thoroughgoing intellectual inquiry.

    I very much question whether she was "more free" to choose than if she had never given her heart to Catholicism as a child. Certainly parents have no choice but to model some perspective on the universe for their children. I just think it's better if it's firmly tethered to reality and subject to change by new evidence.

    • Rationalist1

      That was the hardest part for me leaving the Catholic faith. It was wasn't until I read Daniel C. Dennett's Breaking the Spell that a realized that even though I had lost my faith I still had faith in faith and that was all.

      Here in Canada the 80% of people in the most secular province, Quebec, still describe themselves as Catholic even though mass attendance and practice of faith is the lowest in that country. It's very hard to let go of that identity when you have been raised that way.

      • Loreen Lee

        Ah! Rationalist. I'm delighted to find you have a history of Catholicism. I attempted to answer the Adam and Eve dilemna in a comment that precedes this one. My 'attempt'. I was delighted to hear a life story from our host. Mine proceeds from very different 'premises', the Irish Catholic tradition that characterizes the Quebec population, and which is also my 'inheritance'., including all the superstition, guilt and 'submission' to 'legalism'. I rebelled when a priest who was conducting classes in the faith for those in public high schools, was confronted by an objection supporting Darwinism. I was instantly converted. I was a rebel. I actually read the bible during the sixties, something that was not promoted by my childhood dioses, looking for answers. I rationalized the Darwin thesis, especially after learning of analogy, allegory, and moral arguments as the basis of interpretation of gospel, and at a very early age was able to 'reason' that a day could be as long as an eon. I then married a communist, studied the philosophic atheists, (I do have a Speciality on the B.A. level, but I am here to learn). I raised my children, now a doctor and a lawyer, on the basis that they had to be scientific not religious. I was beset in my life, because of an adolescent experience, with a diagnosis of schizophrenis, changed or comorbid with PTSD during my mid-years in the 80's an 90's. After that I began a book, for therapeutic reasons, which can be googled PortalsofParadox, which I may or may not finish. At the moment I am finding these conversations much more 'helpful', in assimilating reason to faith. In the novel, the 'insane' protagonist falls in love with the Voice of Reason, a relationship which brings her much 'difficulty. If the book is every finished I hope to incorporate how faith became a transcendence of reason, a continuation of the need for personal transformation, and growth, and hopefully will incorporate my developing understanding in the 'dialectic' between that which has been created, and creation/'consciousness. This is important to me because I feel there is objectification of personhood within the community, and also much atheist science that is reductionist, although I also feel that Catholicism must meet and not deny possibility of dialogue. Hurray for this blog. .I am hoping that my protagonist will develop, even through what I learn here, to document that Faith, can actually be the 'rational cure' for even 'psychosis'....

    • Dan Li

      As a returnee of sorts, I can say you have some fair points. I didn't convert at the end of some religious experience, or because I was lost on some spiritual journey. I converted to theism because the philosophical arguments for the Existence of God were more robust (or unanswered) than the arguments against them.

      I've read "The God Delusion" & "A Letter to a Christian Nation", but both fell flat against some of the original arguments for God's existence. The arguments in these books were addressed more to the creationist crowd of modern creationism than the classical arguments (which base their arguments not on gaps, but on the coherence of the universe and classic four-causes causality), and the classical arguments on their own held water against whatever arguments were addressed to them by the New Atheist movement.

      If you've the time and haven't read it already, I'd recommend Edward Feser's "Aquinas 101" or his "The Last Superstition" in relation to these.

      • Sid_Collins

        Dan Li, do I understand you to say you were raised Catholic, became agnostic or atheist, and then were persuaded by philosophical arguments to become a theist? I have to say that "more robust (or unanswered)" arguments would rarely carry enough weight to result in conversion without an emotional impetus from something like childhood experiences or an important personal relationship with a believer. I think most of us are most strongly influenced by lived experience rather than inconclusive philosophical arguments.

  • Ben

    Is the fact that she's descended from Darwin AND a Catholic supposed to make me think Catholicism is more likely to be true? That's the genetic fallacy writ large. It's like triple genetic fallacy.

    In other news, the Irish Prime Minister has apologised to the 10,000 women interned in Catholic-run concentration camps from 1922-1996: http://www.itv.com/news/story/2013-02-19/irish-pm-enda-kenny-tearful-magdalene-laundries-apology/

    I would like to see an article on the history of the Catholic Church's Irish concentration camps and child rape camps, please.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I guess I have to take back my comment about how reasonable the atheists are sounding today.

      • Ben

        Why is it 'unreasonable' to point out the historical fact that the Catholic Church ran forced labour camps for women and ran children homes where the rape of boys was systemic?

        If you enjoyed Laura Keynes exploiting the genetic fallacy to pretend that her happening to share some genes with Darwin & Keynes makes her reversion to childhood-indoctrinated Catholicism somehow impressive or persuasive, then by the same token, you must surely also enjoy it when I point out that the Catholic Church preaches about eternal morality but has a history of enabling and covering up child rape, enslaving women, torture and capital punishment, and launching wars of extermination against its theological enemies.

        • Ben, so you propose to refute what you see as a fallacy with....another admitted fallacy?

          • Ben

            I propose to refute Laura Keynes's fallacy by allowing you to perceive the same tactic being wielded by the tribe across the river.

            What argument does Keynes make apart from the fact that it's impressive she's descended from Darwin, yet Catholic?

          • I don't think she's saying it's impressive, but its surprising to the people she meets. She then goes on to explain how, in her personal life, her faith and her intellectual heritage work together, heart and mind, et al.

            Any argument about "She's descended from Darwin and a Catholic therefore...." is inferred, not implied. She's not using her genes as proof, simply as circumstance for her narrative.

          • Ben, I wasn't aware Laura *was* making an argument here. She's simply recounting her personal experiences. Yet instead of engaging them, you've twisted her motives and accused her of 1) arguing for Catholicism and 2) relying on a fallacy. She does neither.

          • Ben

            So with the most charitable possible interpretation, all she's saying is "I'm a Catholic". When it comes to explaining why Catholic arguments convinced her, she gives no detail, except to allege that the New Atheists have "intolerance and contempt for people of faith" (so unlike the tolerance of the Catholic Church, which merely enslaved and burned and waged war against the wrong sort of people).

            If you deleted the material about who her ancestors are, there'd be nothing left.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          It is unreasonable to change the subject and to smear.

          • Ben

            It's not a smear if it's true (which it is). If you don't accept that those things happened then you are no better than a Holocaust denier.

          • What qualifies as a smear is not what is used to smear, but how it is used. If we're running against each other for office, and I put out an ad calling you a bastard, and you are a bastard, I'm still smearing you even though its true.

          • Ben

            I don't think there's any reason why being conceived outside a marriage would make you less fit for office. I think most people would concede that if an organisation is complicit in running concentration camps, that casts doubt on its claims to hold useful moral insights.

            Keynes certainly concedes as much when she says that the New Atheists harbouring "a germ of intolerance and contempt" - a mere *bacterium's* worth - led her to dismiss their arguments. Hitchens seemed like he might be a teensy bit intolerant, so we can dismiss him. The Catholic Church locks up women and children it doesn't like and subjects them to forced labour and rape, but it's 'unreasonable' and RUDE to mention that fact.

          • Ignorant Amos

            The Catholic Church locks up women and children it doesn't like and subjects them to forced labour and rape, but it's 'unreasonable' and RUDE to mention that fact.

            And in violation of the catechism as I learned earlier when discussing "intrinsic evil" on another thread...so the RCC is intrinsically evil by its own lack of virtue...hardly an epiphany I know. But at least the question is settled now.

          • Rationalist1

            Actually in that case you're smearing yourself by by attempting to denigrate someone by a attribute they have no control over.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is unreasonable to just change the subject.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is a smear to take individual issues from various historical periods, distort them, and blame the Catholic Church as a whole for them.

            And to answer each "charge" you so facilely make in just one sentence would require many posts. That is also why it is an unreasonable smear.

          • Ben

            It's not so much "issues" from "various historical periods" as a persistent and ongoing pattern of hypocrisy. I mean, the Magdalene camps ran up until 1993, so they're hardly ancient history. And since they took until now to be fully acknowledged and apologised for, it seems likely that there are equally vile Catholic institutions operating right now in some godforsaken part of the world which won't be exposed until 2033.

            Anyway, if you don't like issues from historical periods, can you explain why the identity of Keynes's great-great grandad is somehow relevant enough that Brandon assigned the short url "/darwin-catholic/" to this article?

          • Rationalist1

            Here in Canada we had our residential schools for native Canadians run by the various churches (last one closed in 1996). Four major churches were implicated in systemic abuse, not just Catholic. Pope Benedict XVI apologized for the abuse that went on in the Catholic schools.

    • "Is the fact that she's descended from Darwin AND a Catholic supposed to make me think Catholicism is more likely to be true? That's the genetic fallacy writ large. It's like triple genetic fallacy."

      Did anyone claim this in the article? Or is this simply implying a straw man?

      • Ben

        She doesn't make any arguments in the article about why Catholicism is true. It's all about her impressive pedigree, and which authors she likes best. There is no argument as to why she believes what she believes. It's ALL the genetic fallacy.

        The closest to an argument I can find is that somehow having been raised Catholic as a child makes it all the more impressive that she has chosen to be a Catholic now: "Having been “inside” Catholicism as a child ... I was, in fact, more free to choose than if I had been raised to discern faith ... at an age of reason."

        Still, it's better that she was inside Catholicism as a child than the (sadly all-too common) inverse.

        • Per above:

          I wasn't aware Laura *was* making an argument here. She's simply recounting her personal experiences. Yet instead of engaging them, you've twisted her motives and accused her of 1) arguing for Catholicism and 2) relying on a fallacy. She does neither.

          • Ben

            You maintain - laughably - that this site is some kind of forum for Catholic/atheist dialogue. If the information in this article boils down to nothing more than "I'm a Catholic", then it adds no new information. There are, regrettably, still 1.2 billion of you.

            But clearly, we atheists are supposed to be impressed on some level that she's Catholic AND descended from our Blasphemous Atheist Antipope, Charles Darwin. Why else would you post this? You think (on some level) that atheists will be impressed enough by the implicit argument from authority that it's worth throwing this out there to try and harvest a soul or two. Obviously you can't justify your attempt to appeal to emotion in explicit rational terms now that you've been called out on it. But that's religion for you.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    I enjoyed the OP very much and read the first 28 comments with surprise (because the atheists are sounding so reasonable this morning, odd).

    That said, in terms of Catholic/atheist dialogue, would I be wrong to characterize this OP as essentially an appeal to authority? Miss Keynes is a member of the atheist/agnostic royalty, is really smart, and is a Catholic.

    My doctoral thesis concerned epistemology, a branch of philosophy
    relating to the nature and scope of knowledge, and empiricism, which emphasizes the role of evidence and experience in the formation of ideas. In its concern with how we “make sense” of things—how abstract reasoning is based in bodily sense experience necessarily shaped by physical laws of nature—I apprehended an echo of the Catholic imagination.

    That is something I would really like to hear Miss Keynes write about.

    • Rationalist1

      I suggeested quite early on the rather than pick red button topics for discussion, pick more that Catholics and atheists are in somewhat agreement on. Makes for, at least a much better discussion.

      (I assume though tomorrow, based upon the SCOTUS ruling, we'll have gay marriage.)

      • That'll be a blast...

      • primenumbers

        Agreed. I've poked Brandon in the comments a few times on an article on epistemology.

        • Just to be clear, Danial himself has already contributed a great article on Catholic epistemology in light of John Henry Newman. Hopefully we'll do more soon, but let's not pretend we haven't broached the topic.

          https://strangenotions.com/real-rational-religion/

          • primenumbers

            Indeed, but there was a bunch of questions raised on that article that I think you said you'd look into for further ones.

          • I agree more can (and hopefully will be) written. But over the last couple days you've implied we've left epistemology unaddressed. I simply wanted to point out that we hadn't.

          • primenumbers

            No un-addressed just under-addressed :-) But really, it's key to everything here. There's no point discussing historicity, for example, unless you have good methods of obtaining historical knowledge, and cosmological arguments rest (if they're indeed valid at all) on good knowledge of the cosmos etc.

            I was (relaxing after a very intense day of work) reading some philosophy last night, and it mentioned the epistemology of Catholics and compared / contrasted to that of more protestant Christians. Of course, when I was CofE, there was never any discussion of epistemology anyway....

          • Loreen Lee

            That's because the Judeo-Christian tradition is based on Ontology, not Epistemology. Heidegger opened up this area digging up Aristotelian concepts/arguments concerning being/Being. I have recently understood why Catholicism rejected Descartes, and then the resulting tradition of Modern philosophy/epistemology.

          • primenumbers

            But saying you know something exists without a sound method of knowing things is somewhat daft. That is why I place epistemology ahead of ontology. From what I understand there's a Catholic / Protestant split on epistemology, but they still have one.

            And getting back to epistemology is, I think, key to understanding the issues of religion and belief (and that's what I'm interested in - the "why" of belief).

          • Hey Prime - I'm curious, what was the philosophy book you were reading that talked about the epistemological divide between Protestants and Catholics?

            This is a question that interests me a great deal - for more on it I would recommend checking out not just Heidegger, but other phenomenologists (Edmund Husserl, Edith Stein, etc.), Charles Taylor (the essay "Overcoming Epistemology" is available online), and Jacques Maritain ("The Dream of Descartes"). Thanks!

          • primenumbers

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism:_The_Case_Against_God mentioned it.

            I looked up the Charles Taylor essay and found it immensely un-readable, as if it had been produced by a "post-modern" essay generating computer program.

            I do tend to favour writings in philosophy that present ideas with a certain clarity, and even though I can often enjoy the ideas of atheist philosophers like JL Mackie, I find their presentation of their ideas to be rather lacking.

          • That's too bad! It's a great read. Although it does use a historical, conversational methodology characteristic of continental thinkers, Taylor (along with Richard Rorty, who he mentions) are a few of the thinkers that have blurred the distinction between "continental" and "analytic", which I think is a good and necessary development in philosophy.

            I've noted Smith's book and will have to check it out. I haven't heard of Mackie, but a quick Google search reveals that Alvin Plantinga has discussed some of his ideas (interesting). Since you seem to lean analytic, some other thinkers you might be interested in are MacIntyre and Anscombe (who apparently trounced CS Lewis in a debate). Both theists, but well-respected. Cheers!

          • primenumbers

            They style is not to say there's not good content in the essay, but that the style is to the detriment of any content it contains.

            Smith's book brings up some different ways of looking at the arguments from others, but JL Mackie tackles traditional arguments rather traditionally :-) It's not the best of presentations, but he does try to present the various back and forth on the arguments so you get a picture of the various plays in dealing with various objections. Unfortunately he's dead, soon after completing "The Miracle of Theism", so we don't have the luxury of reading his responses to the critics.

            Good ideas come from all persuasions - theistic and atheistic. I'll take good ideas where (and when) I can find them. New reading material suggestions is always appreciated.

          • Loreen Lee

            With the question' why?' I believe we're back to 'causes'. Look up Aristotle's proofs of God's existence: l. from motion to a Prime Mover. 2. From contingent to Necessary Being. 3. The First Cause Argument basically. But the real 'why' is purpose; taken metaphysically/religiously as final purpose or ultimate end, or 'reason'. It is thus distinguished from pragmatic life purposes or goals. There are also proofs from personal witness (apparitions and miracles), on the basis of value to Ultimate value, and the Moral argument as with Immanuel Kant. You needn't be too concerned with epistemological 'splits'. Epistemology develops through argument, and thus it is difficult to find philosophers who 'agree' with one another. But if, when, you married, will marry, do you commit to the 'LOVE' on the basis of belief or 'proof'? How in either case would it be epistemologically 'grounded'? (grin grin) Where does the experiential fit into the epistemological. Do you perhaps consider how you have spent the time, ontologically, together? Is love primarily ontological or epistemological?

          • primenumbers

            I don't think "proofs of God's existence" is a valid "why" answer though, because those proofs don't generally seem to work to convince people to believe. That might be the case for some, but that just puts the question back to "why are those proofs convincing".

            Happily married 12 years now - Love is epistemological.

          • Loreen Lee

            Love your answer. You made me laugh! Glad you got back. Can I give the excuse that I was getting tired. Aristotle's causes, the why are four, (epistemological), material, efficient, formal and final, the latter and the first cause being included in his proofs of God's existence. You can google four causes for the whole expo. I have come to the conclusions that the proofs are 'justifications' OF belief, rather than primarily useful to convince the disbelievers! Like apologetics. On Love. You got me thinking. I remember memorizing as a child Aquinas telling us our purpose on earth was to know, love and serve God. Note priority. I also understand that the hierarchy of angels place those that love above those that know. But isn't there a 'state' of 'being in love'. Of course, people that are- can be considered to be a bit mad. So faith, as a state of being, a theological virtue, has to be involved somehow. This merely to illustrate that there is 'some truth' in the thesis that faith is 'above' reason!!!!! Thanks for the dialogue. I am aware of other 'relationships' of knowing to 'bodily love'. I was taught to 'avoid' such (forget name) knowledge in my early Catholic education. I do hope that I've made a bit of a 'point' here though for 'BEING in love'!!!!!! (Edit. It was 'carnal' Knowledge. I remembered).

          • primenumbers

            "I have come to the conclusions that the proofs are 'justifications' OF belief, rather than primarily useful to convince the disbelievers! " - I agree there certainly. I don't think they generally work without a theistic supposition in the mind of the reader, hence I want to really get at what drives this belief in God.

            When I did believe (was CofE) you just believed. There was no reason behind it, not a reason given, and everything was just assumed. The Bible was read from and you listened and there was some assumption that what you heard was true either in fact or in metaphor or both, but never actually explicitly noted. God was just assumed. When it came to leaving belief, it was my own thoughts on the contradictory nature of God that lead me there. It wasn't historicity because I knew not the history (or really even cared) of Christianity. It wasn't the contents of the Bible as although I knew some stories, it hadn't been studied. It wasn't comparative religion for although taught in school, was taught so badly as to be meaningless. And then you come to the realization that in prayer you're talking to yourself, and then belief is gone.

            So I can't say I've made a transition into belief, only from belief to lack of belief, and with that it was the cognitive dissonance of the various contradictory qualities of God, the logical issues that arise from an existing God. I don't think I was aware of formal arguments for God at that time, yet when I discovered them I found they allowed me to formalize my objections better.

          • Loreen Lee

            Gee Primenumbers. You and Rationalist, and myself have a lot in common. I posted an excerpt of my history somewhere on this post. My 'ex' just gave me a book by James Kavanaugh, a priest who made quite a 'wave' back in 1967 when he first published his book on 'why' he was leaving the priesthood. I have publisher if you want it. Basically, and simplistically it was because his search for 'Personhood' did not agree with the dictates, of legalism, money and power, to make the story simple. This is utmost in my quest too, and I am aware that Personhood, is the characteristic of the Christian God, but with definitions that far extend the boundaries of legal and psychological 'personhood'. May I only use the mind-body dichotomy introduced by Descartes as possibly a link to The Will, The Logos, and The Holy Ghost, within a unity that 'beats' the pineal glad of Descartes, at least, because it is a consciousness and not mere brain tissue. One thing I am not is a reductionist! And that might mean, quite simply that I do believe in God, even when I am an epistemological atheist!!!!! as I can identify with all of the arguments, in the antimonies.
            But on the personal quest, I would even be able to accept a conradictory nature within the 'being' of God, within for instance the context of Godel's paradox, that to be complete, and he's talking of mathematics, it would be necessary that there was contradiction.

            I often wonder if anyone would be brave or daring enough to write a psychological study of the 'human' Christ. C.K. Chesterton, I believe, and myself when recently I reread John's gospel, could not help but think of a raving meglomaniac. But that's OK. I 'know' insanity, 'personally', or at least the diagnosis, and laud even Socrates for his 'divine madness'. I have thought often that insanity may be the beginning of another qualitative leap in consciousness, the prelude of another Darwian evolution.

            My purpose is to reconcile my philosophic education and my life experience with Catholic teaching. This in a way is therapy from the results of my upbringing as a Catholic. It is a most challenging, interesting, and rewarding experience. Also want to incorporate 'some' into my book PortalsofParadox, but the more I find enjoyment in talking to people on these blogs, the less work will get done. Personhood is a private, 'personal' thing. Some people say our inner-self- personhood, does not 'exist'. We are, as I explore, in my book in the same position as God, and yes, we too, can be as 'contradictory'.....!!!!

          • Ignorant Amos

            Ditto!....Church of Ireland in my case. How surprised was I when I eventually got down to the nitty gritty of finding out and learning the truth of the nonsense?

  • Ben

    I'm A Direct Descendant of Hitler - And A Secular Humanist.

    I'm A Direct Descendant of Otzi The Iceman - And A Vegetarian

    I'm A Direct Descendant of Pope Pius XII - And An Anti-Semite

    • epeeist

      Yes, I had thought of pointing out that I am the direct descendent of a Catholic boot riveter and an atheist.

      I am not sure what the article was supposed to show, as you intimate there isn't a connection between the two attributes.

      I have to say it sounds, to use Steve Novella's phrase, a lot like anomaly hunting. For all we know all the rest of Darwin's descendants are agnostics or scientologists. Why is the fact that one of them is Catholic of any significance?

      • Thomas Jefferson

        Obviously if one of Darwin's descendants does not accept that evolution is true, the entire theory should be scrapped. Because that is the benchmark for determining if a theory has been proven wrong.

  • OneLoneCatholicGuy

    First, and I think I speak for all men when I say this: Your a lot easier on the eyes than your great-great-great grandfather.

    Second, it's totally possible to be Catholic and have no problem whatsoever with evolution. I myself have no problem with it.

    Evolution is the truth. The evidence for it is overwhelming. It happened, and arguing against it today is silly.

    Jesus called himself "The Truth..." so my thinking is: Whatever other Truth out there may be, whether it be Evolution, or that Jesus walked out of his tomb 2000 years ago, I want to be on the side of it, because that is the side that Jesus himself is on.

    • Second, it's totally possible to be Catholic and have no problem whatsoever with evolution. I myself have no problem with it.

      It depends on what you consider evolution to be. I think it is very difficult (but not impossible) to reconcile Catholicism with the idea that random mutations cause differences in organisms and that natural selection then does its work. If God intended for human beings to exist, how could true randomness be claimed to have been the driving force? Once you have God giving a little nudge here and there to "guide" evolution, it is no longer evolution in the sense that modern science understands it. "Theistic evolution" is not Darwinian evolution. It's not even science.

    • Nick_from_Detroit

      To be a Catholic, one has to believe that God's creation of Adam & Eve was an historical event, that their disobedience of God led to original sin, and that all people are descended from them and inherit original sin.

      Materialistic Darwinian evolution is not compatible with the Deposit of Faith of the Catholic Church.

      • epeeist

        Materialistic Darwinian evolution is not compatible with the Deposit of Faith of the Catholic Church.

        I think you have this the wrong way around, it should read:

        The Deposit of Faith of the Catholic Church is not compatible with Darwinian evolution

        Even though the theory is, like all scientific theories, both contingent and corrigible there is a huge amount of support for it. Sufficient support that we can say that the creation of Adam & Eve as an historical event is false.

        • BenS

          It's incredible the leaping and twisting and slithering that goes on around this subject. It's simple; no Adam & Eve, no Fall, no need for Jesus to redeem, no need for the church.... and yet they've shrugged off Adam & Eve as though it WASN'T a pivotal part of their faith but something that can be ignored when convenient.

          I've seen posts on here throwing up all kinds of silliness. Maybe they were two protohumans taken from their tribe to Eden, maybe they were just the first to be ensouled (and raised by soulless parents), maybe they were made from dust and ribs but then were kicked out to join the protohumans.

          What?

          It's utterly irreconcilable with science but people who otherwise accept the whole theory of evolution just want to go poof MAGIC!* right in the middle of it with no evidence at all. Really beggars belief.

          ---

          *This is a poof noise, maybe a bit of smoke and then some magic. It is not a form of magic only available to homosexuals.

          • Michael Murray

            I kind of liked the version where a black monolith of dimensions 1 x 4 x 9 x 16 x … appears from space and makes the proto-humans into humans. Oh no hang on. That was fiction.

          • epeeist

            It's utterly irreconcilable with science but people who otherwise accept the whole theory of evolution just want to go poof MAGIC!* right in the middle of it with no evidence at all. Really beggars belief.

            Ah, but you don't understand, there are two different paradigms operating here:

            1. The empiricist paradigm, "The evidence is solid, but the theory is unable to explain it. Conclusion, the theory is wrong."

            2. The religious paradigm, "The evidence is solid, but it is incompatible with scripture and the teachings of the magisterium. Conclusion, the evidence is wrong."

          • Evolution is certainly a powerful metaphysical system.

            It has nothing whatever to do with science.

            Science is based on experimental test of anomalies with the intention of possibly falsifying what we think we know.

            Evolution is based on the "conventionalist twist", when faced with anomalies, in order to prevent the falsification of what we have already determined that we know.

            Evolution is metaphysics.

            It should be assessed as such.

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

        • Nick_from_Detroit

          The Catholic Church has been around a lot longer than Darwin's theory of materialistic evolution, Epeeist.

          "Sufficient support that we can say that the creation of Adam & Eve as an historical event is false."

          Not enough support for me. And I say this as someone who used to believe in evolution.
          More people believe in the historic creation of Adam & Eve than believe in materialistic Darwinian evolution. I'm not claiming that this is proof for my side. Only that it proves that your side's "evidence" is not very persuasive, that's all.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Catholicism's evidence isn't very persuasive, either. That doesn't make it right. And science definitely proves that the Adam & Eve as historical figures claim is false.

            What does the age of the church have to do with anything? Slavery as a social norm was around way longer than the church. Does that make it right?

          • Nick_from_Detroit

            Perhaps you didn't read my comment carefully enough, Mr. O'Brien. I suggest you try again.

            "And science definitely proves that the Adam & Eve as historical figures claim is false."

            Science proves no such thing. In fact, the opposite. DNA testing has shown that all of humanity is descended from one female. It was in all the papers.

          • Thomas Jefferson

            Obviously you misunderstand the topic of Mitochondrial Eve as well. Here is a link you can use to try and educate yourself on the subject. (Spoiler alert, this is not discussing Eve from the bible)

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

      • Michael Murray

        Materialistic Darwinian evolution is not compatible with the Deposit of Faith of the Catholic Church.

        Well if you want to claim that the RCC is incompatible with things we know to be true who am I to argue.

        • BenS

          You know, that being the first comment of his I'd seen, I though he was making a pretty reasonable comment - that evolution is not compatible with Catholic thinking and therefore the historical event of Adam & Eve didn't happen.

          It was only your comment just now that caused me to look at it again and then look at his other posts to get some context. He's not saying Adam & Eve didn't happen, is he? He's saying evolution is wrong.

          Oh my.

          • Michael Murray

            That's what I took from here

            Jesus called himself "The Truth..." so my thinking is: Whatever other Truth out there may be, whether it be Evolution, or that Jesus walked out of his tomb 2000 years ago, I want to be on the side of it, because that is the side that Jesus himself is on.

            but maybe I'm wrong ?

          • Ligers and Tygons and bears, oh my!

          • Thomas Jefferson

            Adam and Eve did not happen. It is not possible for two people to reproduce all the genetic diversity we see today. Nor is it possible for eight people to do it later on, after a physically impossible worldwide flood.

        • Nick_from_Detroit

          Well, Mr. Martin, when materialistic Darwinian evolution is ever proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, you let me know, okay?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It is the best theory we have to fit the facts. No data contradicts it; all data supports it. Pretty good track record. The only thing better is quantum theory.

          • Michael Murray

            Actually I'm not Mr Martin.

            You are a bit late to see evolution by natural selection proved beyond a reasonable doubt. It must have been 100 years ago for science and 60 years ago for the RCC.

          • Nick_from_Detroit

            My apologies, Mr. Murray. I must have been typing too fast.

            When you claim that it was "proved," are you referring to the fraud called "Piltdown Man"? Or, maybe you meant "Nebraska Man"?

            And, again, the Catholic Church has never accepted materialistic Darwinian evolution as the explanation as to how life first formed on Earth, nor, how man was created. Sorry.

            God Bless!

          • Michael Murray

            When you claim that it was "proved," are you referring to the fraud called "Piltdown Man"? Or, maybe you meant "Nebraska Man"?

            That's your sum total of knowledge of evolution ? Please read some more/

            And, again, the Catholic Church has never accepted materialistic Darwinian evolution as the explanation as to how life first formed on Earth, nor, how man was created. Sorry.

            Evolution by natural selection has never been an explanation of how life first formed. It has only ever been an explanation of how life became so diverse once it formed. For theories of how it formed you need to read about abiogenesis.

            It's true the RCC has always believed God inserted souls humans. But as souls don't exist I don't regard that as a contradiction to their support of evolution.

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

            In the 1950 encyclical Humani generis, Pope Pius XII confirmed that there is no intrinsic conflict between Christianity and the theory of evolution, provided that Christians believe that the individual soul is a direct creation by God and not the product of purely material forces.[1] T

          • Nick_from_Detroit

            "Notice I never said 'proved'."
            "You are a bit late to see evolution by natural selection proved beyond a reasonable doubt."

            You were saying, Mr. Murray?

            "If you think some 19th century frauds constitute all the evidence in favour of evolution by natural selection you need to read some more."

            These were both 20th century frauds. Piltdown man's fraud wasn't discovered until 1953 (the original "discovery" happened 1912,) so blinded were the proponents of Darwin. They wanted it to be true.

            "Evolution by natural selection has never been an explanation of how life first formed."

            You've never heard of Darwin's "warm, little pond"?

            "It's true the RCC has always believed God inserted souls humans."

            Yes, the Church allows for the belief that the human body developed. But, it doesn't demand that we believe this. Catholics have freedom of thought on this specific issue. In the same encyclical (don't be a wiki scholar) Pope Pius XII also said this:

            "When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now, it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own (Humani Generis 37)."

            This short essay explains the Catholic position better than I am able to in a comment thread:

            http://www.catholic.com/tracts/adam-eve-and-evolution

          • Michael Murray

            Ah 1900s yes you are right. I thought it was late the previous century. I"m still not sure what your point is. Evolution by natural selection is false because of a couple of frauds?

            As for Darwin's warm little pond. So what ? Darwin made some conjectures about abiogenesis. It is still not the case that abiogenesis is evolution by natural selection.

    • Michael Murray

      First, and I think I speak for all men when I say this: Your a lot easier on the eyes than your great-great-great grandfather.

      You don't speak for me. The posters gender and appearance are totally irrelevant to the discussion we are having.

  • AMR25

    Excellent post. As I've moved deeper into my Phd I too have found my faith being re-affirmed. It is entirely possible to be an intellectual, to have faith,to be critical, to believe in evolution. All part of the wondrous complexity of creation.

  • Fr. Walter Macken

    Thank you Laura Keynes for that short and pithy analysis of why faith and reason are perfectly compatible. My own background is literary, my father was Walter Macken the Irish writer who always kept the faith. I did philosophy many years ago and have always been impressed how reason and theology dovetail if you leave them to themselves, instead of imposing conclusions that are no more than pre-judgements. Walter Macken

  • bzelbub

    The Catholic nuns who taught me science as a child often emphasized that evolution and religion went hand in hand, as G-d, allowed us to learn more about ourselves and the world around us. And that the people who only embraced what the Bible said about the creation, would always be only comfortable in that small non-thinking proscription of life.

  • RonMar

    This should put the nails in the coffins of the atheists and other godless, but it won't. They are too hardheaded and convinced of their own intellectual superiority to accept the truth of God. In fact they are too soft headed, mush minded, confused, hurt, angry and incredibly stupid to accept the overwhelming evidence that confronts them each time they take a breath of air.
    I have no idea why they are so intent on attacking believer in God, Christians or Christianity. I have asked many of them for near 3/4 of a century by now, and not a one of them can or will answer the question honestly. No surprise - dishonesty, lying first to themselves is a common trait and behavior of all of them.
    They are free to go to Hell. After telling them once the Good News Gospel message I am through with them. I only want them to leave believers and the children alone. As Jesus warned it would be better for them if they had a millstone around their necks and were tossed into the sea than for them to interfere with one of His so loved little ones.

  • Moira Eastman

    Laura,
    thank you for this thoughtful and personal article. I very much liked it.
    I think it is a terrible pity that many people assume that there is no God (or Higher Power) and assume that science has proved this. Often this assumption is based on no study or research at all.

    e.g. Recently someone I know phoned a fried and said, 'I need help. I have a problem with alcohol'. the friend was a long-time AA member and said, 'No problem. We'll go to a meeting today'. Person 1 attended a few meetings of AA, partly liked and partly hated it, but said, 'I won't have anything to do with this God business' and did not attend again. (Many people in AA do not believe in God, but do accept the notion of a Higher Power.) AA has a fantastic record of enabling alcoholics to stop drinking. I thought it a pity that this person's unquestioned belief that 'Science has proved there is no God', prevented him exploring what could have been a life-saving method. (Unquestioned? I knew him reasonably well. He had never seriously explored the literature on the big questions.)

    Again, thank you. I'll be sending this article on to some friends.

  • Guest

    Laura,

    Thank you for this thoughtful and personal article. I very much liked it.

    One of my favourite books is John Bowlby’s last book. It is a biography of Darwin. (Bowlby, J. 1990. Charles Darwin: A New Life. London and New York:
    W.W. Norton & Company.)
    Bowlby, the developer of attachment theory, the science of the mother-child bond,
    greatly admired Darwin for his exceptional skills as a scientist and for his
    persevering with unpopular findings—for going where the data led him, despite
    unpopularity and peer pressure.
    Your thoughtful reflectiveness shows you are a true descendent of
    Darwin.

    I think it is a terrible pity that many people assume that
    there is no God (or Higher Power) and assume that science has proved this. Often this assumption is based on no
    study or research at all.

  • Teilhard

    Sorry I am late to the party but I just discovered this article. Laura, thank you for sharing your compelling story. I did a blog on this article in the context of the new evangelization in the era of the popularity of the New Atheists.

    http://wp.me/p3pJsV-nP

    Thanks to Brandon, et. al. for creating such a wonderful site!

    Peace,
    W. Ockham

  • Methodological Naturalist

    How can I be a product of this culture, and yet Catholic? The implication is that simple exposure to my ancestors’ life work should have shaken me out of my backwards error.

    How can you not suggest that being raised from a child by a Catholic mother had no stifling effects on your dead ancestors' achievements? That omission is deafening.

    This was an interesting read. Perhaps she'll contribute again?

  • gigglinginthegutter

    Great. Thank you. Nelson Mandela was a shining example of someone - being who God meant them to be and who set the world on fire...

  • Darsow44

    When the title of a column is itself a logical fallacy (i.e. the suggestion that a person's bloodline somehow has bearing on what one chooses to believe), it's not off to a good start. I'm a direct descendent from early primates, but I don't really like bananas.

    • Smith

      It's not meant to make a point. Your argument is a logical fallacy.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        What logical fallacy? Be specific. And the headline sets up a clear implication that the two conditions are incompatible.